Dear Caged One (From Someone Who Loves You Series)

Ever wonder why there are boundaries in your life? Are they there because someone enjoys seeing you get frustrated? Maybe someone is unhappy and wants you to be unhappy too, keeping you from all the fun things on the other side? Or maybe because they don’t want to bothered by you? Or maybe it’s an unfair challenge they want you to conquer?

Or maybe boundaries are there to keep you safe. Safe from the 15 steep steps going down to the first floor. And from the large white rambunctious dog down there that could accidentally hurt you.

Instead of looking at where you can’t go, turn around and look at where you can go. Like to the things to climb on and the big box of toys to play with and the books to look at. And the person up there with you who is always ready and eager to hold you and love you and play with you.

All you have to do is turn around.

Always,

Someone who loves you

 

 

Psalm 16:5-6 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places., and I have a delightful inheritance.

 

Do you hear God speaking to you in these letters? If so, it’s no coincidence.  As I write to my new granddaughter, I can hear God speaking to me. And my prayer is that you can also hear Him speaking to you for He loves us even more than I love my granddaughter.

It’s Not Always About You

Part 1

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Moxie looked up at her owner with eyes full of questions. What’s going on here? Who is that hyperactive newcomer running all over the place? Why was he brought into her world? What is she supposed to do with him? Was she supposed to be playing with him? Showing him where the food and water bowls were? Helping him settle down somewhere? Or instead was she supposed to learn something from him?

Not getting an answer from her owner, she looked back at the intruder. He was still running from one room to another stopping to sniff different items from time to time. That wasn’t too bad. But what was bad was the ear piercing high pitched bark he would make at unexpected times in the middle of all that running. And, even worse than the barks, were the sniffs. She had accepted his initial sniffing which all dogs do to acquaint themselves with other dogs, but apparently this small runt had not been satisfied with that. Or maybe his brain was too small to remember anything because every so often he would come charging up to her to begin the sniffing ritual all over again. And Moxie had no ideas left on how to handle it. She had tried being friendly, but he didn’t seem to want a friend. She had tried ignoring him but that didn’t stop him. She had tried growling softly, warning him to leave her alone, but he didn’t seem to understand that. She had looked to her owner for intervention but, even though her owner was watching, nothing seemed to change. So Moxie did the only thing left she could do – she hid. She found a safe place far enough from the small nuisance not to be noticed, but close enough where she could keep one eye on him. She didn’t trust him and she didn’t want any surprise attacks like he had done to her friend Acey. She kept her other eye on her owner, silently asking that something be done with this crazy guy and feeling bad that she wasn’t better able to handle him.

Part 2

The tired woman looked up to her Lord with eyes full of questions. What’s going on here? Who was that homeless young man running up and down 11th Street with his dog? Why was he brought into her world? What is she supposed to do with him? Was she supposed to be providing him with transportation and money? Showing him where the food resources were? Helping him find a place to stay? Or instead was she supposed to learn something from him?

Not getting an answer from God, her thoughts went back to the restless man. He was still running from one place to another stopping to check out different people from time to time. That wasn’t too bad. But what was bad was the heart piercing rude comments he would direct at different people at unexpected times. And, more personal to her than the rude comments, were his pleas to her for help. When he had first approached her, she had accepted his initial questions which were typical of the questions all people ask to acquaint themselves with other people, but those questions had quickly turned to requests for help. She told him she would do what she could but apparently this guy had not been satisfied with that. Or maybe his brain was too messed up to remember anything because every so often he would suddenly begin pleading for help all over again. And she had no ideas left on how to handle it. She had tried being friendly, providing what help she could, but that wasn’t enough. She had tried ignoring him after directing him to other resources, but that didn’t stop him from texting her. She had tried warning him subtly to leave her alone, but he didn’t seem to understand that. She had looked to God for guidance but, even though she knew He was watching, He wasn’t saying anything. So the lady did the only thing left she could do – she hid. Since she was leaving town anyway, she made sure he knew so he wouldn’t have any reason to keep asking her for help, but she monitored a few facebook groups where she could keep one eye on him. She didn’t trust him and she didn’t want any surprise attacks like he had done to others. She kept her other eye on the Lord, silently asking Him to help the man and his dog and feeling bad that she wasn’t better able to handle the situation. Should she have done more? Should she be doing more even now?

“Not everything is about you.”

“What?”

“Have you considered that this is not about you? Think about Moxie.”

The lady thought about when she had recently agreed to dog sit a puppy for a friend. The puppy had come in with all his puppy energy, charging around the house curious about everything, stopping to chew or sniff whatever caught his attention. After his owner had left, this puppy had looked for her, stopping to bark from time to time as if calling out to her, then running around the house searching again. Moxie, one of the lady’s dogs, had kept looking from the puppy to the lady then back to the puppy again as if wondering what was going on. The lady had watched as Moxie accepted the puppy’s sniffing, at least for the first few times. She had watched as Moxie tried unsuccessfully to play with him, and then had watched as Moxie tried to ignore him. “It’s OK, Moxie,” she had said. “The puppy is not going to be here long. He just needs a place to be for a while.”

“So, was the puppy there for Moxie’s benefit?”

“No, it had nothing to do with Moxie.”

“Who was this all about, then?”

“It was about the puppy.”

“Right. It was about the puppy and his needs. Not about Moxie at all. She didn’t have to do anything. Yet her presence, especially her willingness to let the puppy sniff her, added to the puppy’s socialization. So even though you didn’t bring the puppy into Moxie’s world for her benefit, Moxie did play a small role in the puppy’s social growth.”

The lady nodded. She could understand that.

“It’s the same with you and the homeless man. It wasn’t about you. It was about him. I allowed him into your world for his benefit. Your presence, especially your willingness to help, added to what I’m working in and around him. You played a small role in what I’m doing.”

But then God smiled teasingly.

“But you know I am the Master at multitasking. And although this was for the man, I am using it for your good too. Now get some well deserved rest, my daughter, and leave the man to me.”

And so she did.

God Loves Stupid Too

She sighed and headed back to her car. Only one shark tooth in all that surf. Sure she unexpectantly got lots of conchs and olive shells she planned to paint and start hiding around town to encourage people as they slowly worked on getting their lives back together after the hurricane, but her goal every time she went to the beach was to find shark teeth. Usually she found at least three but today? One. She’d have stayed longer but the fading light of the sunset made identifying small black objects in moving water impossible.

“Well, that’s just as disappointing as this whole weekend has been,” she thought as she approached her car and began digging in her bag of shells for the smaller waterproof bag that kept her key and phone safe from splashing waves. Nothing she had done that weekend had had the result she wanted and this shortage of teeth fit right in. At least this time she wouldn’t lose the tooth like she did the last time she had gone to the beach. That time she had found six teeth, slipped them in her zippered pocket as always for safekeeping, then discovered later that the pocket had had a hole. After triple seaming that pocket, she knew the tooth in her pocket may be lonely but it wouldn’t be going anywhere.

She pulled out the key and slid it into the key hole on her car’s door. Or tried to. It wouldn’t fit. Must be upside down. She pulled it out, flipped it and tried again. Still didn’t go in. “Wait,” she thought slowly, a disturbing thought beginning to enter her weary mind. “My car key has matching sides so it doesn’t matter which way I insert it.” She looked closer at the key. Her house key! If her house key was here, then her car key would still be in the car! She must have taken the wrong one when she removed her car key from her key ring, not wanting to take the chance that the electronic key would get wet.

She stared at the key again. Now what was she going to do? The park was closing, her husband was at work about 30 minutes away. She had no spare keys hiding under her car. But, she did have her phone. And her adult son was at home. She quickly dug it out and called her son. No answer. She left a voice mail to call her back. Then she called her husband.

“I’ll try to get off work and be there as soon as I can.”

“OK,” she told him. “I’m going to walk to the front entrance where the gate is because you’re going to need the gate code to get in. Or I can just give it to you now… nooooo. The season pass with the gate code is in the car. I’ll have to walk to the front gate. Maybe there will be a ranger or someone who can give it to me.”

She hung up, put on her sandals, which just happened to be in the bag because she had uncharacteristically forgotten to leave them in the car when she had arrived hours earlier, and began walking. Fog was mixing with the growing darkness, making it even harder to see. With no street lights, she decided she might need to walk the mile to the front gate a little faster to get there before it got completely dark. Surely there would be lights at the ranger station there.

As she walked, she remembered the time she had seen an alligator on that same part of the road and wondered if there still alligators living in the swampy areas that bordered both sides of the road. She hadn’t seen one in years, but that didn’t mean there weren’t any.

Suddenly a loud grunting sound came from the swamp on her left. What was that? Gator? Her husband had once told her that gators made grunting noises. Do gators chase people? Maybe, if they were hungry enough. And maybe their food source had been impacted by the hurricane last fall as most everything else had been. Her eyes big, her chest tightening, she picked up her pace.

Another grunting sound. Then another. It seemed to be keeping up with her as she walked. Was it following her? When she heard it the next time, it seemed a bit softer, further away. Good, maybe it had given up.

Just as she began to relax, a very loud grunt came from her left making her jump. She just knew it was almost on her! Or was that a different gator? How many gators were there?

She walked even faster, wanting to get to the comparative safety of the entrance booth and hoping the grunting things didn’t see her change in speed as a challenge. The grunts kept coming and she began listening for a splash to alert her that one had left the water to come after her. No, she thought. There wouldn’t be a splash. She had seen enough TV movies to know how silent they could be when stalking. And how fast. She also knew that turning around to look always ended in disaster in those movies, but she couldn’t help it. She had to turn around. She had to know if something was crawling up behind her.

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A quick look brought relief. Nothing. But it was short lived as another grunt sounded nearby. Hurrying again, she thought God was here. God could protect her. But would He? He didn’t always intervene in natural events. And it was her fault she had locked her keys in the car. “God?” she prayed. “Will You keep me safe?” She felt no reassurance, heard no words of comfort. She wished, not for the first time, that she had more faith. She shouldn’t be worried. She should know God was in control and looking out for her. But knowing what she SHOULD be thinking didn’t help her feel better.

As she walked in the growing foggy dark, she racked her brain trying to think of someone else she could call. Someone closer. Someone who might know the gate code so her husband could get in when he got there. She DID NOT want to have to walk all the way back down that road to get her car. Then she remembered Connie! She lived just a few miles away and she camped there frequently so she must have the gate code. But a phone call and a text got no result. Giving up, she hurried on.

It was getting so dark now that she could barely see the road. The grunts seemed to have stopped and she thought they may have given up and gone after easier prey. But she didn’t slow her pace. She needed to get to the light at the entrance just in case a new gator got interested. The gate was a hundred yards from the swamp and she doubted a gator would go that far out of the water.

As she hurried, thoughts of falling entered her mind. What if she tripped over a crack or small branch or something? She could sprain her ankle and not be able to walk. Don’t hungry predators go after the injured? As if to answer her, another loud grunt filled the air. This one was so loud, and seemed so close, she forgot about being careful and began the fastest power walking she could. She knew her knees couldn’t handle running anymore. Neither could her lungs. She’d be out of breath within minutes! No, power walking was the best she could do.

Finally she saw the entrance light. As she left the swamp behind her and entered the light, she began relaxing. She had made it. At least she had made it this far. She still had to figure out how to get the bar blocking the entrance to rise so her husband’s car could get in when he got there. Waving at the infrared sensor didn’t work. She could partially lift it manually. That would have to do, she thought. Maybe when he got there she could force it just high enough to let his small car get through and hope she didn’t break it.

She walked around to the front of the entrance booth and was even more relieved to find two rangers still there. The park had been closed since dusk so they should have been long gone. She quickly went to the side window and knocked. Would they answer her or ignore her since it was after hours?

The second time she knocked got their attention. They told her they were just closing up but when she told them what had happened they were kind enough to take the time to write down the gate code for her. Good. She wouldn’t have to chance breaking the automatic gate bar. She also mentioned the grunts she had heard and asked if they were gators.

“No, probably not,” they answered. “They were probably deer.”

“Deer?” she questioned. “Deer make noises?”

“Yes. Just a minute,” the lady ranger at the window said as she opened her phone and tapped a few times. “Here, listen to this.”

A video of some deer came up along with a high pitched noise. “That’s a baby deer,” the ranger told her.

A slightly deeper sound came from the phone. It sounded a lot like what she had always thought were birds calls. “Nope, that’s an adult female deer.”

Then she heard the grunting. The same grunting that had chased her for almost a mile. “That’s an adult male looking for a mate.”

“Really? I had no idea deer even made sounds,” she told the ranger, feeling a little relieved that she hadn’t actually be stalked by gators. But not much, since deer can be dangerous too and deer were all around her at this park, even here at the gate.

She watched the rangers lock the booth door and drive away. She was alone. But at least she was in the light. She sat down and watched as mosquitoes began landing on her. She hoped none of them carried any of the diseases the city had warned everyone about earlier that morning. She wished she knew someone who was nearby besides Connie, who had not returned her call. She would feel better if she had company, and even better if she could wait in a car and not get eaten by mosquitoes. Then she remembered a small group of her friends who stayed busy delivering donations throughout the county. Maybe one of them was nearby. She texted them and got immediate responses. They couldn’t come but would find someone who could. Texting helped her not feel so alone and she was grateful they were so readily available but where was her husband? Was he able to get off work? Was he on his way?

And then he was there! She wasted no time punching in the code to lift the gate, getting in the car, and, settling back in the seat, finally breathing a sigh of relief. As they drove the mile back to her car, she told him about the noises and how spooky everything was. He was just as surprised to learn deer made such loud sounds and reassured her that he had prayed for her all his way there because he knew how spooky it would be for her.

Later, from the safety of her home, she contemplated her experience. She had prayed that God would keep her safe. And she had been safe. But would she have been safe even if she had not prayed? Probably. So where was God? He did not keep her from locking her key in her car. He had not flooded her with peace. He had not spoken reassuring words to her.

But He did…

… arrange for her sandals to be in her bag so she didn’t have to walk the mile barefooted.

… keep the rangers there long enough to give her the gate code

… prompt one ranger to take the time to share a video explaining the grunts

… show her the loyal support of her friends as they texted online

… gave her husband a job where family came first so he could easily get off to come rescue her

… keep her bladder quiet so she had no need to use a bathroom while she waited

“So,” she thought gratefully. “God was there all along.”

And then another thought hit her. “Oh no! How could I be so stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!”

When she had pulled her car key from her key ring that afternoon, she had taken her house key with her on the beach, locking her car key in the car. But it never dawned on her until just this moment that attached to her house key was the electronic key for her car! She had had a key to her car all along!

She didn’t know whether to cry, scream, or laugh! That was probably one of the stupidest things she had ever done. But God still loved her and was there for her anyway.

What would her husband say when she told him? Would he be upset having to take off work? For the needless trip? Maybe it’d be best not to tell him. No. She knew she had to tell him.

“Um, you know how I locked the car key in my car and took my house key with me down to the beach?” she began.

“Yes,” he answered.

“So… attached to that house key was my electronic key…”

“So you had a key all the time?” he asked, eyebrows raised.

“Yes,” she admitted, waiting for his reaction.

And then he laughed. “That’s funny!” he said.

“But I feel so stupid.”

“It was just a mistake. I bet God is laughing too!” he said.

Tears filled her eyes as she received his warm supportive words. “He’s not mad. He doesn’t think I’m stupid. Maybe God doesn’t think I’m stupid either. Maybe He let it happen because of everything He knew He could teach me through it.”

“Yes, My daughter. You don’t always have to feel Me or hear Me to know I am with you. It’s a fact, not a feeling. I let you go through this because you needed to be reminded. Walking through the foggy darkness, thinking something is out to get you, is a lot like how you feel navigating insurance and contractors. No matter how stupid you feel about some of the things you decide, I work all things for your good. I could have just told you, and I’ve tried, but an experience like this shows you in a much more powerful, unforgettable way. And remember, just as you had the key all along, you have Me whether you realize it at the time or not.”

And she could feel His delighted laughter rising in her heart, filling her anew with His amazing love.

You Call That Help? (from a dream – totally symbolic)

Was it a cavity? Did she need to have a tooth pulled? Braces? She didn’t know. She just knew there was something wrong with her teeth. They didn’t hurt, but she could feel something was off.

She had tried everything she could. Brushing, flossing, rinsing – nothing seemed to help. So she decided to take the next step and scheduled an appointment with Dr. Worldlee. Dr. W was considered the best around for his expertise and patient care. Surely he would be able to fix the problem.

The next week she was nervously sitting in the chair, white napkin clipped around her neck, waiting for Dr. W to arrive. A glance around the room revealed an assortment of posters advertising treatments for different tooth problems. She had had to bring her baby when the babysitter cancelled at the last minute and could hear him through the open doorway, babbling with the receptionist.

“Good morning!” Dr. W said cheerfully as he walked through that doorway. “How are you today?”

“I’ll be a lot better,” she smiled. “as soon as this is over.”

“Relax. It’s going to be OK. You’re in good hands,” he said as he glanced at the x-ray on the computer monitor. “Hmmm….”

“Hmmm?” she asked, her eyes getting big. Hmmm’s are never good.

“Oh, not to worry. It seems your x-ray shows something is off, but not in enough detail enough to show me what it is. But I know what will give me that information.” He opened a cabinet door and pulled out a dark jar. The label was too small for her to read so she watched carefully as he opened it. He reached inside and wiggled his hand a little. When he pulled his hand back out, there were several brown bug-looking things crawling on it. He plucked one off, then shook the rest of them back into the jar, replace the cover, and returned the jar to the cabinet. With the bug still grasped with his fingers, he approached her.

“Open up,” he said. “This will give me more information.”0226190724 (2)

Clamping her mouth shut, she shook her head. She had heard of this “treatment”. After swallowing it, that little bug would burrow itself inside her in order to provide more information which would be displayed on the dentist’s computer. But she had also heard that that wasn’t the only information the bug provided, and that once a bug was inside a person, it frequently led to more complications which sometimes became life threatening.

“Don’t worry, it doesn’t bite,” he reassured her. “You probably won’t even feel it.”

She shook her head again. “No, thanks.”

“You really need to,” he said, a bit more seriously. “Everyone does, sooner or later.”

“Not me.”

She tried to get out of the chair, but the dentist pushed her back down as he motioned to someone outside the room. She knew he was recruiting help. One way or another, by cajoling or by force, she knew he was going to get that bug in her mouth if she stayed in that chair. But how could she escape?

“Wait!” she cried out, keeping her teeth clenched together. “I’ll do it. “But.. But…” She tried desperately to come up with a logical reason to leave the room. “But I need to go get some water first.” She motioned to the water fountain behind a large lady making her way towards them.

“You don’t need water. This will just glide down your throat.”

“Yes I do. I have a very strong gag reflex. I have to have water to swallow anything or else I will just throw it back up. It will just take a minute.”

“I’ll get you some water from this sink.”

“No! I mean no, I need the water to be cold. Like the fountain water in the waiting room.”

He looked suspiciously at her but agreed to let her get up. She walked to the fountain, pulled out a cup, and began filling it. As she did, she glanced at the front desk to check on her baby and gasped. He wasn’t there! Where was he? What did they do with him? Then she heard his cry. It was coming from the little room she had just exited. She threw the cup down and ran back into the little room in time to see the dentist attempting to put something in her son’s mouth. She knocked it from his hand, grabbed her son from the receptionist’s arms, and ran from the room. She made it all the way to the front door sighing with relief as she reached out to push the door open. But before it opened, the large lady grabbed her and began pulling her back towards the little room.

“It’s OK,” Dr. W said as he walked up. “We can do it here.”

She shook her head, keeping her mouth tightly closed, knowing if she didn’t, he would take advantage of any opening he saw. She looked around for help from the other people in the room, but they were pretty much ignoring her. Those that watched seemed more interested in watching the drama than in helping her.

All of a sudden, her baby let out a scream. Startled, she turned her head just in time to see the large lady’s hand move away from the baby’s arm and the dentist slip a bug in his mouth. She quickly stuck her finger in the baby’s mouth, pried the bug out, slung it to the floor, and stomped on it. Picking up her foot, she saw the bug still moving so she picked up a nearby statue – a really heavy one – and smashed it down on the bug. Then she raced for the door, got it open, and escaped into the fresh air outside.

The last thing she heard before the door closed behind her was, “That won’t hurt it. You can’t get rid of it that way.”

She ran to her car and tried to unlock the door but the baby was struggling to get down and she dropped the keys.

“I’m sorry. Let me help.”

She jumped. It was Dr W! He had followed her outside. She tried to back away but he apologized again. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I was just trying to help. Here, let me hold your son so you can get the keys and unlock the door.”

He wasn’t holding anything and sounded so sincere that she agreed and handed her baby to him. She bent down to retrieve her keys, inserted one into the lock, and turned it. As she heard the click of the door unlocking, she turned back to the dentist and her son just in time to see Dr. W hold a syringe full of a brownish liquid above the baby’s eyes. As quickly as she could, she knocked the syringe from his hands, but not before he was able to hit the plunger. The baby wailed as the brownish liquid filled his eyes.

She grabbed him from the dentist and ran back inside to the water fountain and began filling and emptying cups of water into the baby’s eyes. After a few minutes, the baby calmed and she stopped splashing to look at it. His eyes were red and swollen.

She walked back outside where the dentist was still standing near her car. She yelled, “Now I’m going to sue you! Just wait until you hear from my Lawyer!”

He answered softly, “I don’t understand your resistance. I was just trying to help.”

“Yeah, right,” she said angrily. “You call that help? Your kind of help just makes everything worse. I’m going to the One who can really help. A real Healer.”

After securing her son in his car seat, she got into the driver’s seat and turned on the car engine. She had to get to the Doctor as soon as possible. No telling what damage had been done to her son’s eyes. But she knew if she got there soon enough, the Doctor would know how to heal it.

This Doctor knew how to heal anything. And no need to make an appointment. He was always available.

She smiled. Yes, the Doctor would know what to do. If only she had gone to Him first. So much distress could have been avoided. Well, next time, she vowed, she would.

 

Ultimately Everyone Has to Clean Up Their Own Backyards

She hadn’t looked into her backyard for years now. She knew her dogs had been using it and so expected it to be somewhat nasty but it probably wasn’t all that bad. After all, it’s a big yard and most of her dogs were quite little.

One day she glanced that way and just knew it was time to clean it up. She called together the other four people who she provided for and talked them into helping her. It helped that she offered them ice cream and Pepsi. They ate their ice cream, drank their Pepsi, picked up the tools they would need, and disappeared through the back door. All but one that is. One found things that needed to be done in the house that kept her too busy to make it outside. She was disappointed but let it go. The other three were surely hard at work.

She gathered her supplies – plastic bags that she’d use to protect her hands, garbage bags to put the poop in, trowel to pick up the stuff up with, and her basket with her ice cream and Pepsi to nourish her when she got tired – and joined the three in the backyard. As they saw her, they each began making excuses and leaving until she was alone. Alone to handle the piles of poop that lay scattered throughout the yard. There was a lot more than she expected but she knew what she had to do and got started.

She walked across the yard about ten yards and found a huge area filled with many varying sizes of poop. This is where I’ll start, she decided. She had barely begun when 013119043228229someone called for her attention. A well dressed lady and her daughter were standing on the nearby patio. She tried to answer their questions but they couldn’t understand. They began walking across the yard heading to a small shed in the corner where they would shop for homemade items. She worried about them stepping in one of the messes but again had trouble getting some sign of understanding from them. She didn’t want to be seen scooping up the piles of poop so she considered going inside. She would just continue to ignore the mess. But no, she really couldn’t. Not when her yard was open to people coming to look at the handmade stuff. She had to clean it up.

She thought about the four people who she had thought would surely help her, especially since she took care of their needs. But they evidently didn’t buy into the reciprocal nature of giving.  She looked back at the poop surrounding her and an amazingly calm resolve filled her. She would clean it up no matter who saw her or whether anyone else helped her because she knew ultimately everyone had to clean up their own backyards.

“Need some help?” whispered a Voice she knew so well. She closed her eyes and hugged that Voice as she whispered back, “Yes, please.”

She got back to work and was surprised at how fast the cleaning went with Him to keep her company. And she discovered that as she worked on some piles, other piles seemed to disappear on their own.

“Thanks,” she whispered.

“Glad to help,” He whispered back.

As they continued to work together in comfortable companionship, she thought, “Well, maybe we don’t have to clean up our backyards completely by ourselves. I may not be able to count on other people helping me when I need it. But I should have remembered there is One I can always count on.”

 

(Based on a dream, December 14, 2018)

Malformed Pieces

“Uh oh,” she said as she picked up the next tiny plastic piece. “This one won’t fit.” She dropped it into a growing pile of malformed pieces and picked up another one. “Perfect!”

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Usually the repetitive task of fitting the tiny pieces into their places on the sticky grid gave her mind a chance to relax as it daydreamed about problems and goals. But this time as she placed the well shaped piece carefully on the grid, a thought interrupted her wandering mind.

“When you don’t let God trim off your rough edges, you won’t be able to fit into His design as well. Not only won’t you fit within your boundaries, you will bother those around you.”

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She stopped to consider that. “It’s true we all have baggage we bring into our relationship with God, things from the past we hang on to even though we no longer need them just like this tiny piece still has a piece of its manufacturing process attached to it. And I know I fight each time He wants me to let go of something. Maybe there’s a bigger picture to Him wanting to trim me. Maybe sometimes it’s not so much about me as it is about His bigger picture,” she thought, freshly determined to be more cooperative the next time He starts trimming.

She got back to work, still musing on the importance of being trimmed. Then another thought entered. What about all those other pieces in that pile of malformed pieces. There’s more than one reason a piece can’t fit correctly on the grid.

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She picked up the black piece. Totally misshapen.

“Like when we refuse to let God do anything in us. We are still saved – still a piece – but pretty much useless in the design.” She thought about what she had been like when she entered her relationship with God, and she was very glad she wasn’t anything like that anymore. Transformed was a very real fact in her life, unlike that poor piece.

And the tan one?

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“Hmmm,” she thought about the two pieces clinging to each other for a few minutes. “My relationship with Jesus is a very personal one. When I walk with Him, I have to do it alone. It’s just me and Him. He wants me to cling to Him, not anything else. He can surround me with others just like each of these pieces are surrounded by other pieces, but I cannot insist on having someone in the same place I’m in. It just doesn’t work.”

She put the malformed pieces back into their pile and picked up the next perfect tiny plastic piece. As she placed into the design, she breathed a prayer.

“God, form me to fit the spot You have chosen for me. Help me to let go of what holds me back so that I can become part of Your big, amazing design.”

And her heart swelled with peace and contentment, knowing God heard her prayer.

 

(Disclaimer:  I am not promoting this brand of diamond painting. Actually, there’s another brand that I find superior to this one, but this was the only brand that had this specific design and so I went with it.)

The Unicorn on the Ceiling Fan

She sat back in the recliner thoroughly enjoying the chance to relax in the silence of her daughter’s almost empty house.

She thought about her life the past month – the devastation to her whole town by the strong almost category 5 hurricane, the maze of insurance claims she and her husband were having to navigate, the abundance of contractors wanting them to sign away their benefits, the multitude of needs being posted each day by desperate people, the crowds and long lines at the few stores that had managed to reopen, the mountains of debris along every street, the power lines still laying on the ground in areas where linemen have not yet had a chance to work, the horrendous traffic as residents and volunteers and contractors try to get from place to another, and her growing need to be in more than one place at a time. She wanted to be at home helping her husband deal with all the decisions that had to be made and working towards restoring their home. But just as much she wanted to be here with her daughter with her new baby while her son-in-law was working out of town.

As she thought, her eyes wandered around the room, taking in the drawn shades providing privacy, the assortment of baby furniture, the black and tan dog energetically chewing on a rawhide bone, the small porcelain unicorn sitting on the ceiling fan, the beautiful new teal area rug, the…

WAIT!  Was that what she thought it was?

She looked back at the ceiling fan.

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Sure enough, there was a small unicorn sitting right up there just above the revolving blades.

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She stared up at it. What was it doing up there? Who would have put it up there? It’s so out of place it was hard to believe that it was actually there. It should be on a shelf, or on a dresser, or even on a window sill. Certainly NOT on a ceiling fan!

And then she thought how much that little unicorn was like answered prayers. We think we know where the answers should be, but many times we will find them in completely startling and unexpected places, often surprising us with God’s sense of humor.

She chuckled to herself as she thought about how amazing her God continued to be. No matter what struggles and decisions she was facing, no matter how bad things looked around her, He always managed to find a way to make her smile. And frequently in the most unlikely places – just like that unicorn on the ceiling fan!

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Restoration

 

I don’t think I want to do this. It’s too much work.

Yes, it is a lot of work.

What if I don’t do it? What if I just let things stay as they are?

You won’t be happy.

But I can live with it.

Sure. You could if you insisted.

I mean, what’s wrong with living with some damage? It’s easy enough to cover it up.

The problem will still be there.

But if I can’t see it, I can easily ignore it and get on with my life. I don’t have to spend a great amount of time and effort on fixing what I don’t see.

What about the damage you do see?

It’s not THAT bad.

Really?

OK, so it does look bad. But I can learn to ignore that too. After all, no one expects everything to be perfect.

It’s not about perfection. Restoring what’s been damaged makes your life so much nicer and more comfortable. And getting to the root of the damage prevents further damage from occurring.

But there’s so much stuff that has to be moved. IMG_20181102_091158658

Yes, there is a lot of stuff that has to be removed.

And it’s soooo much work! And inconvenient and uncomfortable.

Yes, it is. But it will be worth it.

I guess you’re right.

I always am.

So, who do I get to do the restoration?

Me.

You?

Yes.

How can you fix all those things?

I have my ways.

Are you miraculously going to fix everything? Even the roof and siding?

Roof and siding?

Yeah, that’s were the most visible damage is.

That’s not the kind of damage I was talking about.

You’re not talking about the damage to the inside of my house?

Nope.

What kind of damage are you talking about then?

The damage to the inside of your heart.

Oh.

Silence

I don’t think I want to do this. It’s too much work…

When Walking Gets Hard

Walking used to be easy. In fact, it was so easy, she pretty much bounced with each step. She loved to  listen to the birds and watch the  squirrels scurry about as she walked.

But after a long time, she noticed it was getting harder and harder to walk. She no longer had a bounce in her step. Each step took deliberate effort. It felt like she was walking into a strong wind. But there wasn’t any wind. Or like she was wading through deep water. But there was no flood.  So what was slowing her down, making her work so hard to keep her forward momentum? She had no idea. All she knew was that she had to keep moving if she wanted to make it back home.

Much more time passed, and she was still struggling. In fact, it was now so hard to move it took all her concentration. She had no interest in the birds or squirrels. Each step took every ounce of determination she had as she slowly forced it forward. She held her arms up in front of her as she bent forwards, hoping that by shifting her center of balance, she could get gravity to help move her forwards. But even her arms took effort to keep them in front of her.

Bent almost double now, sweat pouring from her body, she wondered if she should just quit. It would be so easy to stop moving. Staying in the same place wouldn’t be so bad, would it? It was nice here. She thought of her home. It was nicer than where she was, but was it really worth the effort? What if the effort cost her more than she had? What if she died trying to get home? What good would her home do her then? Maybe staying in this place was best after all.

She had just about stopped moving when she heard a whisper coming from deep within her. No, not quite a whisper. Just the hint of a voice, really. So quiet she almost missed it. “Keep going,” was all it said. But with the voice came a strong sense of longing to finish this walk and get home – a feeling that someone was watching and cheering her on. Not understanding but willing to trust it, she started moving again.

It took tremendous strength and even more willpower to take the next few steps. She was so tired, she could think of nothing except shuffling her feet forward one inch at a IMG_20181009_074336724time. But after a time, she realized she was getting stronger. She could see muscles in her arms and legs where previously there was only flab. And her feet were beginning to move a little easier. Instead of an inch, she was able to go several inches with each step. Then a whole foot at a time. It was like as she got stronger, whatever had a hold on her began to break off piece by piece. Soon she was able to straighten up and walk with her hands swinging by her sides again. Moving quickly now, she was delighted to see her home come into view.

As she turned into the driveway, she noticed she was once again bouncing with each step. Squirrels scampered around the nearby trees that lined the long driveway. And she heard a bird singing somewhere over her head.

Sighing with pleasure, she was so glad she had not given up. Yes, all that effort WAS worth it! She was home!

Bella – Epilogue 

Bella spent many days visiting the lake. No matter how often or what time she arrived, she would find God there. And no matter how many questions she asked, He always answered them patiently. Some answers were clear and easy to understand, others were a bit vaguer.

“Why did You tell me You were Pastor Toby when I first met You?”

“If I had told you I was God, what would you have done?”

She thought a moment, then laughed. “I’d have run as fast and as far as I could to get away from You.”

“That’s why. I meet people where they are. I reveal only what they are ready to hear.”

“What is this place? This church that seems bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside?”

“Kind of like spiritual life. From the outside, life with Me often seems small and contained when actually it’s very much the opposite.”

Bella nodded with understanding.

“And why does Your back yard look so different to me than it did to that lady who saw a forest?”

“Because each of you have a totally unique relationship with Me. What you see and experience is based on who you are and how I made you.”

“OK, I can get that. What I can’t understand is how this place can be two things at once. Or more likely thousands of things at once.”

“I’m not bound by your laws of physics. I’m beyond any law.”

“But… thousands??”

“I’m big,” He said with a shrug. “Thousands is nothing to Me.”

“So if You’re that big, how can You take notice of something as small as me?”

“Because of all the things I’ve created, I love you the most.”

Bella smiled. Amazing, she thought, that this God could love her this much. Little did she know how much her God really did love her. That would be revealed to her at another time, when she was ready. For now, she was content to sit His presence, soaking up His love, and learning all she could each day.

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The End

 

Bella stories:

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really Part 1 Part 2

Bella part 6   9  10  11 12  13   14  15   16

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