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.)

God, Why Don’t You Answer?

“There’s a disturbance down south,” they said.

No problem. There’re always disturbances in the tropics, she thought as she went about her normal, everyday activities.

“The disturbance is now a depression,” they said.

That’s fine, she thought. Depressions are nothing. And besides, it’ll probably go towards Texas like so many others. Not likely to come here to Panama City.

“The depression is now a storm named Michael, and will probably hit Northwest Florida as a possible category 1 hurricane. Not too likely, but it might happen,” they said.

Okaaaay, not really a threat, but something to watch, she thought as she took her daily walk around her neighborhood.

“The storm is intensifying. It will hit Northwest Florida as a category 1 hurricane in a few days. Start preparing now,” they said.

Hmmm, she thought. I guess I should pick up loose objects outside to keep them from blowing away. But still no big deal. We’ll probably only get a little bit of wind and some rain, like all those other hurricanes that have come this way.

“Michael is now category 1 with signs of strengthening. Everyone in Northwest Florida should be preparing now. Watch for updates and start making plans in case you need to evacuate,” they said.

Evacuate? No, not for a cat 1 storm. But what if it gets to cat 2 before it gets here? “Lord, should we leave?” she prayed but got no answer.

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“Michael is now category 2. Its pressure is dropping signifying that it might possibly strengthen to a category 3 before making landfall somewhere between Pensacola and Apalachicola.  Storm surge will be 4-6 feet. Find out your zone now and listen for mandatory evacuation orders,” they said.

This is getting serious, she thought. Maybe we should leave. “Lord,” she prayed again, “what should we do?” She thought she heard, “leave”, but she wasn’t sure so she asked God to tell her husband the same thing. Her husband, watching the latest update, said, “We’re going to stay. Our house is built to hurricane code. We’ll be fine.” OK, she thought. It wasn’t God.

“Michael is now category 3. There’s nothing out there to slow its growth. Storm surge is now forecasted to be 6-8 feet. Zones A, B, and C are under mandatory evacuation notice. Do not delay. This storm is dangerous. Get out now,” they said.

She quickly looked up her zone. Zone D, but so close to C that part of her backyard was actually in Zone C. Should they leave? Could their house flood? “No, it didn’t flood during the last cat 3 storm, it won’t flood now We’re fine,” her husband said. “God, should we leave?” she prayed again. Again she heard, “Leave” but this time a sense of panic accompanied it. That’s not God, she thought. God doesn’t panic. Besides, if that was really God, why wasn’t her husband getting the same message?

“Michael is approaching category 4. If you can evacuate, you should leave now. The storm surge can kill you. The winds will make catastrophic damage and might kill you,” they said.

“Are you leaving?” her daughter texted from two states away.

“No, we’re staying,” she texted back.

“ARE YOU CRAZY???”

“We’ll be fine. We’ll stay in the under-the-stairs closet when it gets bad. Our house is well built.”

“I’ll be a nervous wreck all day,” her daughter texted back. “Be safe!”

“Are you leaving?” her siblings wanted to know.

“No, we’re staying. We’re not in a flood zone and besides, who would take us in with our 3 small not-housebroken dogs, a larger senior dog who can’t get around well, a grown son with stitches in his leg and his large dog who eats smaller dogs.”

“We’ll take you in,” her brother immediately texted back.

She went to talk to her husband. “Should we leave?” They prayed together, but neither got an answer. Why isn’t God answering us? She couldn’t understand. “God why don’t You answer when we really need to hear from you?”

“We’ll stay,” her husband said. “We’ll be OK.”

She felt at peace about that decision. Peace is of God, she thought, so maybe that’s His answer. She was more relieved than apprehensive because she really didn’t want to leave. Also, once they left town, it might be days if not weeks before the roads were cleared and opened for them to be able to return.

She went to bed and fell asleep quickly but was jarred awake around 1 AM with the shrill alert sound on her phone. She got up and checked the forecast.

“It’s a strong category 4 and will probably be a 4 when it makes landfall. But there is a small chance it can increase to a 5 by landfall,” they said.

Ok, she thought. We might weather a 3 or even a weak 4. But a strong 4/5?? But we decided God said it was OK to stay. Did we get that wrong? Or was that just us because we want to stay?

“I’m leaving,” her son told them as he packed his electronics and dog. “Let me know what you decide.”

Her son leaving? He never panics! And he was so sure just a few hours earlier that staying home would be safer than being on the road with all those other evacuees. Should we go, she and her husband wondered. They prayed again together. Still no answer.

“God, I wish I could just hear your answer clearly. Only You know what will happen to our house.”

In spite of the peace they felt about staying, they decided to leave. They scurried around packing the most important things, not knowing if anything would be left when they returned. As she looked around her house, overwhelmed with the decision of what to take and what would be OK to lose, she ended up taking very little.

Tears streaming down her face, not wanting to leave, she drove north on the now empty road. Beside her were her smallest dog, some blankets and pillows, and her computer. Behind her was her husband with the other two small dogs and the larger senior dog, along with tubs and boxes of important papers, clothing, dog supplies, medicines, and other essential items. Before long the senior dog had a seizure, due to stress, they thought, and she was tempted to turn around. But she didn’t and several hours later they arrived at her brother’s house.

Several hours after that, Hurricane Michael slammed into her home town, with winds just two miles an hour under a Category 5 hurricane.

The following day, she read every Facebook post, watched every hurricane update, trying to get some news on the condition of her neighborhood, especially her home. Was it still standing? So many houses were not. The stress of not knowing was worse than finding out her house was gone, she thought. “God, is our house still standing?” she asked. Again, no answer. Why isn’t He talking to me, she wondered.

The day after that, someone posted a photo of the flood in her neighborhood. As she studied the photo, she stopped. What was that in the background?  She looked closer. It was her house! And it was still standing! Relief flooded her, replacing the stress that had just minutes before filled her. This photo was a gift from God, reminding her that God was always listening even when she couldn’t hear any answers.

Three days after the hurricane hit, she was able to return home. Her house was not only standing, but there was no severe damage and no flooding. If she had stayed, she’d have been fine. So maybe that peace was God’s answer all along, only we didn’t recognize it, she thought. Maybe by not answering, He was allowing us to make the choice, knowing we’d be safe no matter which choice we made.

Bella – part 17 Today is the Day

Bella woke with a start. She had a strong sense that there was something dangerous she needed to do. Something important. What was it?

And then she remembered.

Today was the day she would confront Pastor Toby. Was she ready?

Heart thumping loudly in her chest, she got up and went into the bathroom. Staring at her reflection in the mirror, she wondered if she was brave enough to go through with it. Or was it being stupid? Maybe she should just forget about it and accept it like everyone else seemed to have done.

No! She had already been through this and the decision had been made. She would go confront him today no matter how bad it might turn out. She thought about the possibilities as she got dressed.

  1. He was an alien and would feel threatened by her knowledge and she would end up imprisoned somewhere in that weird church.
  2. He was an alien but would deny it and she would be dismissed as having a great imagination.
  3. He wasn’t an alien and would laugh at Andy’s joke on her and she’d end up a fool.
  4. He wasn’t an alien and he’d seriously question her sanity and she’d end up in a mental hospital.

She didn’t like any of those scenarios so she created one more, one she hoped would happen: He was an alien and her threat to take what she knew to the media would be enough to make him pack up his church and leave the planet. Without the secrecy, there was no point in him being here to observe anymore. And she might actually come out of this a hero.

Bolstered by the thought of saving the world, she took one last glance in the mirror, saluted herself, then left her apartment.

She was surprised to see how empty the sidewalks were. Being early morning, she’d have assumed at least there would be many people heading to work. “I wonder where everyone is,” she mumbled. It felt weird to have the sidewalk all to herself and she hurried the few blocks to the church.

As she walked, a tiny voice inside her whispered, “What about his love for you?”  She had forgotten about that. She let herself remember how accepting he was, how loved she felt in his presence. And how much she longed to spend more time with him. Then another thought filled her mind. She only felt that way because he used some kind of alien technology on people to brainwash them feel that way. It wasn’t real. Shaking her head, she pushed aside all thoughts except the one about confronting him.

When she got there, she found the church door open, as if waiting for her arrival. She squared her shoulders and marched through the entrance, across the foyer, and up to Pastor Toby’s door.

Again, she found the door already open. “What’s going on here?” she wondered, eyes IMG_20181005_154132429darting around. Was everyone hiding? Did they know what she was about to do and wanted to watch the show? Not seeing anyone, she cautiously entered the living room.

Now what, she thought. Do I wait for him or Jude to arrive, or do I go looking for him?

As she stood there, just inside the door, she heard singing. It was a different song, but the same singer. No doubt about that.

Not knowing what to do, she listened to the soul-stirring music coming from somewhere down the hall. Although she couldn’t understand the lyrics, she felt drawn by the melody, like it was calling her and making her feel safe. And courageous. Like it was encouraging her to do what she had come to do.

Taking a deep breath, she crossed the room and entered the hallway. Where should she look first? The kitchen?  Isn’t that where Pastor Toby spends a lot of his time? And it was breakfast time so where else would he be? The garden, maybe? Since the kitchen was on the way to the garden, she decided to try it first.

But when she got to the kitchen, it was empty. Not even food cooking on the stove. Maybe he’s not up yet, she thought. Maybe I should just go.

But the soft sound of a song from that sweet unseen singer drifted into her mind, and she was filled with the sense that something exciting was about to happen if only she kept looking.

 

Bella stories:

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

Bella part 6   9  10  11 12  13   14  15   16

Dear Brave One, (from Someone Who Loves You Series)

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Dear Brave One,

It’s so hard to watch you hurt as you struggle to grow. Your face all red and grimacing reveals the battle going on inside you. Your body is fighting to get rid of the things that don’t belong in there. Be strong, Little One, and let them go. I know it hurts sometimes but you don’t need them.  And you will feel so much better once they are gone. Can you feel my hand on your back, supporting and encouraging you? Probably not, but that’s OK. I’m here whether you know it or not. I’m not going anywhere.

Always,

Someone who loves you

 

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

These letters have double meaning. On the surface they are letters I’m writing to my new granddaughter. But deeper down I hear God telling us the same things.  As you reread them, replace the greeting with your own name, and the closure with God’s name – and get to know the great love God has for you!

Dear Sleepyhead,

Dear Sleepyhead,

You are so cute I can’t take my eyes from you as you sleep here in my arms. Hours go by as minutes – and still I don’t have my fill of you. I wonder what you are dreaming about, and if you feel the incredible love I have for you. Do you hear me as I whisper to you? Can you feel the strength of my arms keeping you safe as you sleep? Somewhere inside you, I think you do. For when you grow restless in your sleep, all it takes is a few pats to settle you back into the deep, restful sleep you need. And knowing you trust me to watch over you fills my heart to overflowing. I treasure each and every moment I get to spend with you.

Always,

Someone who loves you

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

These letters have double meaning. On the surface they are letters I’m writing to my new granddaughter. But deeper down I hear God telling us the same things.  As you reread them, replace the greeting with your own name, and the closure with God’s name – and get to know the great love God has for you!

Dear Hidden One (From Someone Who Loves You series)

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Dear Hidden One,

Maybe most people can’t see you there, moving in the darkness that surrounds you, but I can. You are so beautiful! And I love you so much already!

You probably think that where you are is all there is in life. But you are so wrong. There is so much more to life than you can imagine, and I can’t wait to share it with you. Although most of the time you seem content in your small dark place, I wonder if you sense there is more.  I see you stretching out your arms and legs, testing the walls around you. Do you ever get frustrated with those boundaries?  Or do you know they are there to keep you safe until you’re ready to join me in the light?

Always,

Someone who loves you

 

These letters have double meaning. On the surface they are letters I’m writing to my granddaughter. But they are also letters God is writing to you. Reread them, replacing the greeting with your own name, and the closure with God’s name – and get to know the great love God has for you!

 

 

But Fleas, God?

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Fleas!  Not just one or two or ten or even twenty. But thousands! They covered the kitchen floor like sand giving the floor a polka dot look. Only these polka dots moved. Hopping, jumping polka dots.

She looked through the open door with disbelief. Where had all these fleas come from? They hadn’t been there when she had left early that morning. How is this even possible?

No way could she stay there that night. She would have to go back to her mom’s house. But first she would need to get a few items.

She looked the other way – towards the living room. Are the fleas on the rug too? How was she going to get to her room to pick up a change of clothes and the other things she would need?

Taking a deep breath, she dashed across the living room, down the hall, and into her room. She grabbed an armful of clothes then ran into the bathroom for her hair brush, deodorant, toothbrush, and toothpaste. The rest could wait. Calling her dog to follow her, she ran back down the hallway, across the living room, and outside. After tossing her clothes into her car, she looked down at her legs. There were hundreds of fleas crawling and jumping around on the lower part of her jeans. She slapped at them trying to knock off as many as she could. She looked at her dog. Poor puppy – there’s got to be just as many crawling all over him. He’d need a bath first thing when they got back to her mom’s house. She got in her car and drove back across town.

“How can God do this to me?” she wailed as her mom helped her out of her jeans, which still had dozens of fleas happily hopping around. She had only just started following Him and didn’t really know what to expect, but knew this was not it.

“God didn’t do this,” her mom answered.

“They why did He allow it? He’s supposed to be taking care of me! First I can’t get a job, and now this! It’s like He’s playing some kind of joke on me. Well,  ha ha. This is NOT funny!”

“Calm down. It’ll be all right.  Why don’t you go away for a week or so while the exterminators bomb your place.”

“Where would I go? I don’t have any money. No job, remember?”

“Your dad is renting a small house while working out of town this month. Why don’t you ask him if you can stay with him?”

Of course he said yes, so she packed up the little she had and drove the 200 miles to her dad’s temporary place. All along the way, she cried and complained to God. Tears running down her face made driving hard, but she couldn’t seem to stop the flow. “I don’t know why You are allowing this,” she cried. “You promised to take care of all our needs. I can’t get a job, and now I don’t even have a home. Some care.” She felt neglected – like she wasn’t worth His attention much less His intervention. But if this was what following Him would be like, then so be it. After what He did when He saved her, after dying for her, she wouldn’t turn back. no matter how bad it got.

By the time she got to her dad’s place, she had begun to feel just a little better. A week of rest away from everything would be good for her.

The next day, the landlady, who happened to live next door, came over to meet her. As they talked, the lady explained how she had run a home day care in the little house but had hurt her back and was looking for someone who’d be willing to take over.

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing! All she had to do was move here – and she would have both a home and a job! Better than just a job – she would have her own business!

Later that night, she humbly closed her eyes and got quiet before God. “Thank you,” she finally managed to say. “I’m sorry for not trusting You. For complaining and accusing You of not taking care of me. And all along You had been arranging something far better than I could imagine. But fleas, God? Someday You’ll need to explain that to me. For now I’m just happy and grateful to be here, and awed at what You did for me, even when I was being a brat. You are amazing!”

Hey, God, are You there?

She sat in the rehab room watching her dad pretend to be sleeping. After five hours, she was tired and bored. Other than a few breaks, when her dad had left for therapy and when he returned, and when her sister had called, she had sat in the not quite comfortable chair and played games on her iPad while he did his daily computer tasks then slept. Now it was dinner time and she was all gamed out. Not having anything else to do she decided to call God.

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“Hey, God, are You there?”

“Yes, right here.”

“If I could see You, right here in the rehab, what would I see?”

“You would see a man, bending over your dad, whispering words of love, and waiting patiently for a response.

You would see a man, sitting next to you, covering you with strength and peace as we keep watch.

You would see a man, walking up and down the hallway, greeting the residents with encouraging words and gentle hugs.

You would see a man, standing near the employees, arm across their shoulders. providing support and wisdom as they need it.

And you would see that man doing all those things at the same time for I am not limited by time or space.”

Wow! What an amazing God!

Yet how many of those people know that He is doing all that, she thought. Especially those who don’t know Him yet? Hmmm… maybe that’s where she comes in. Maybe she should show them by doing  physically what God is doing spiritually. After all, that’s what Jesus did while He was on earth.

“Whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” John 5:20 NIV

  “It is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” John 14:10 NIV

So maybe, she thought, she should change her question a little.

“Hey, God! Will You show me what You are doing so I can do it too?”

And they both smiled.

The Open Window

“You’ll like this one,” her husband told her.

She wasn’t so sure. House hunting had turned out to be more time consuming and exhausting than she had expected. Between her job and her kids, she could barely squeeze in the time that looking at houses took. And, as much as she wanted to move out of their cramped trailer, she just wasn’t happy with the houses she had seen in their price range. So she had turned the bulk of the house hunting over to her husband. He and the realtor had already spent countless hours searching and touring houses – back when it all had to be done in person – and only involved her when they needed her opinion on the more promising ones.

“Actually, there are two houses, so if you don’t like the first one, we can go look at the second one,” her husband told her as they dropped off their kids with his mom and headed across town.

“Oh,” he added. “They are both a bit over our price range, but I think we can swing it.”

She turned to him. “How much over?”

 

“Don’t worry,” he responded. “It’s not that much.”

“How much?” she asked again.

“$150,000.”

“That’s not a little bit! We agreed we couldn’t go over $100,000!” She frowned. “This is a waste of time.”  What was he thinking? They were already counting pennies each month with the mortgage they were paying now. How in the world could they afford something that would be so much more?

“Let’s just go look at them for comparison. I really like them.”

Sure enough, the first house was so much better than any other house she had looked at. It had all the features she wanted, including a room upstairs that she could make into her private retreat. Then they went to look at the second house. As they pulled their minivan into the double driveway, she looked at the large two story brick front house and thought, “No way!”

Walking in the front door, she was blown away with the balcony overlooking the entryway and living room, and the large open floor plan. White walls were a welcome contrast to the dark paneling in their trailer, and there were large windows everywhere, including the floor to ceiling bay window in the living room.

“I love it,” she told her husband.”I could definitely be happy living here. But we can’t afford it.”

 

“We’ll see,” her husband said.

As they backed out of the driveway, she told him to stop for a minute so she could take a picture of it like she had done with the previous houses. She pushed the button on the door to roll down the window, stuck the camera out into the darkening winter air, snapped a picture, then pushed the button to raise the window. Only the window wouldn’t go up. She tried several times, then turned to her husband.

“It won’t go back up,” she said in frustration.

“Don’t worry. I’ll check it out. It’ll be too dark by the time we get home so I’ll look at it tomorrow.”

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She worried anyway. All the way home, shivering as the cold air from the open window blew over her, she worried about how much it would cost to fix it, and where they would get that money.

 

“Don’t worry, he told her again. “God will provide. Besides, it will probably be fine in the morning.”

 

He was right. In the morning, the window worked fine.

“It’s a sign from God,” he said.

The following Sunday they asked some friends to pray with them about the house. Should they let it go and stick to their price range like she thought? Or should they buy this house and trust God to provide the mortgage payments like her husband thought?

During the prayer, one of the friends said they believed the minivan window being stuck open was a sign from God, that He was giving them an open door – in this case, and open window – to the house even though it was way more expensive than she thought they could afford. “Trust God,” the friend said.

“See, I told you,” her husband told her.

So feeling she was walking on and would probably end up drowning in deep water, she signed the papers along with her husband, and moved into the house of her dreams.

Month after month God did provide although she couldn’t figure out how. Looking at their finances on paper, there was no way they should be able to make the payments. Yet they always did. She felt like she was living in an ongoing miracle!

Over the years, she would frequently stop and look around at the house – this gift from Him – and her heart would fill with gratitude to the amazing God who not only gave her more than she could have imagined, but gave it to her in such an amazing way!

P.S. For the rest of its life, that minivan window never got stuck again.