The Right Time

Sometimes we don’t have the benefit of knowing when our words or actions affect someone else, and sometimes we can’t see how or why things happen.  This post is about a chain of events that has affected me deeply- where everything happened at the right time; so perfectly that I know it’s more than coincidence.  This post may get lengthy, but I do hope you take time to read it.

I saw this rainbow when I stopped at the store at just the right time
I saw this rainbow when I stopped at the store at just the right time

I’ve wanted to write this post for nearly two weeks, but I couldn’t figure out where to begin.  Now I’m thinking it simply wasn’t the right time because more has happened since the initial events I wanted to write about.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, I sat in church as the pastor delivered one of the most dreaded sermons: giving.  It has to be one of the most uncomfortable topics to discuss, both for the pastor and the congregation.  I have sat through many of these sermons, and frankly, have found some of them to be offensive and condescending.  I felt differently this time, though.  I heard the right words at the right time.  The thought came to me that I should write and let him know.  Just as quickly, I told myself that was crazy talk because of our history.  Here’s a brief summary:

I won’t go into a lot of detail because my kids could possibly get their noses out of their games and come across this blog, but earlier this year, after I filed for divorce and other things didn’t convince me to change my mind, my husband scheduled a counseling session for us with my pastor- behind my back.  He isn’t Christian and rarely attended church, so I saw it as manipulation (also concluded by other things he’d done.)  I went to the session, but felt forced into it.  The pastor affirmed that divorce is wrong and made a comment about how my hardened heart would cause me trouble in the future.  I was upset because I felt unfairly judged, but I continued to attend church, however, avoided the pastor when possible.

Still, for nearly a week, my thoughts drifted to the pastor’s words from the giving sermon.  On Saturday night, I wrote an offering check to give on Sunday.  I then penned a hand-written note to the pastor and folded it around the check before sealing it in the envelope.  In this note, I admitted that I had been thinking I would give an offering once my credit card bills were paid and I wasn’t living in a house I couldn’t afford and I now realized that this showed my lack of faith in God.  That check was a symbolic leap of faith to show that I was finally putting my trust in God that He would provide.  I also wrote that I didn’t really feel welcome there since the counseling session, but the money was for God not the church.  I wrote other things- a full page, in fact, but I can’t remember exactly what.

To my surprise, I received a letter from the pastor.  I don’t check my mailbox often, but I did on my way to work on December 9th (over a week after he wrote it.)  In this letter, he told of how he’d been discouraged because the offerings once again didn’t meet budget.  Some of his exact words:  “I said to myself, “You know, I’m not going to preach on giving anymore because it never makes a difference.  I don’t know how people can take it so lightly.  Then I read your letter.  Wow! It didn’t raise the offering any, but it reminded me of the real truth that it is God’s money and He always provides.  Your letter was like the voice of the Lord to me.”  He then assured me that I was welcome there and to let him know if I needed financial or emotional support.

I teared up.  My words reached him at just the right time.  And the knowledge of that reached me at the right time as well.  I would never ask for a handout, but knowing emotional support was available came as a relief.  He ended the letter instructing me to be at ease and know they were here for me.  Life didn’t feel nearly as heavy.

That is where I first thought this post would end, with the message that we should never shy away from complimenting or showing love because it could very well be a case of the right words or actions being delivered at the right time.  But like most late-night infomercials, life said, “but wait… there’s more!”

The same day I read the letter from my pastor, I got home from work to find a pallet of pellets sitting by my front door.  (Pellets are a type of fuel made from recycled wood products and sawdust and are packaged in 40-lb bags.  I use these in my pellet stove to heat the house.)  I searched the plastic wrapping and found the store phone number and called because I knew there was a mistake.  The woman looked up my information and said, “aw, that’s so sweet…. all it says here is ‘gift.'”  I asked if she was serious and she said, “sweetie, someone gave you a $300 gift, be happy.”  I was, but I still cried.  I have no idea who did this, but I hope they know how grateful I am. I’m able to keep the house a little warmer, which is good for my younger son (that is another post.)

This is what a pallet of pellets looks like after I unloaded it into my garage
This is what a pallet of pellets looks like after I unloaded it into my garage

The gift of heat came at the right time.  Knowing I have what I need to heat the house until at least mid-January lifted a huge burden.  My house has been on the market since before summer and I’d been told winter months are slow for real estate, so I settled in for a long winter.

A few days after that generous gift, an offer came on the house – it’s now in escrow.  I found another (much smaller) house and she accepted my offer.  Inspections are next week.  It’s all happened so quickly and it’s a blur – especially during the holidays, but it’s all happened at exactly the right time.

Last week, I qualified for a home loan.  Even with the worst-case spousal support payout to my soon-to-be-ex, I qualified.  More relief.  As I was reading through the required documents, I saw ‘divorce decree’ listed.  The loan officer confirmed that the final decree was needed to fund the loan.  Trial is scheduled near the end of January, and my new house is scheduled to close the beginning of February.  If my house would’ve sold during the busy summer season, I wouldn’t have been able to get a loan.  I didn’t know that.

All of this is proof to me that even if things don’t happen on my time, they do happen at the right time.  It’s also shown me there is comfort in loosening my white-knuckle grip on control and trusting that God will provide.  I have a feeling that as I learn to share more freely, I will experience some positive life-changing side-effects.

If you’re reading this, it means you survived this lengthy post.  Thank you for not giving up!  I will keep up with blog reading as best I can, but the next month or so will be really crazy for me.  Just know, it is only temporary 🙂

Have a beautiful Monday and I hope you enjoy the blessings of the season!

Living (Fiction)

8-31 Leap

Two months ago, I had an epiphany of sorts… a life-changing moment that happened in the midst of the ordinary.  In the timeline of our lives, it isn’t often we can identify those moments at the exact time we breathe them, but here’s the story of my moment.

I sat on the sun-baked rock clothed in Capri pants and a t-shirt.  I didn’t hike to the waterfall to jump in; I came to clear my mind and watch the crazy people leap into the murky unknown.  And the pool of water had turned an icky shade of brown after the last monsoon storm.  My mind never slowed as it ran through all the things that could go wrong.  You could slip off Lloyd’s Log and bust your head open.  I mean, the log was probably named for Lloyd after he did just that.  Lloyd’s body could have still been there for all I knew.  The old log could break and impale you as you plummet into the water.  You could over or under-shoot the leap and break your legs on rocks jutting out that are obscured by the muddy brown pool.  You could belly flop and drown after the wind is knocked from your lungs.  The list went on.

I held my breath every time a child leaped from the carved log and exhaled each time their head bobbed back to the surface.  In between, I’d shake my head and wonder why the parents didn’t protect their children.  If I had a child, I would never let them do something so dangerous.  I scanned the dozens of people around me and tried to match the offspring.  I grew bored with the game when the string of unmatched jumpers grew too long for me to manage.

My attention turned to the children and the way they would just jump, arms spread wide, legs tucked, into the unknown.  They had no fear.  I wondered what it was like to not be restrained by the shackles of consequences.  How did it feel to experience flight, even for just a few seconds before plunging into the water?  I puzzled over how an anyone could jump without knowing for certain it was safe.  But they did.  Some hesitated, but eventually they leaped.  I imagined their eyes squinted closed, but still, they jumped.

I looked down at my faded brown pants and the realization came to me:  at least they came prepared to let go.  In that moment, I saw my street clothes as an outward representation of my abundant supply of fears.  A more alarming thought surfaced:  I breathed, but I didn’t live.  

On impulse, I unlaced my shoes and set them beside me.  I peeled the damp socks from my pale, hardly-seen-sunshine feet.  I stood and took a deep breath before walking toward the water.  I gasped as the shock of cool water met my hot skin.  Thigh-deep in the unknown, I considered turning back.  But I’d gone this far.  I continued until my feet no longer touched the bottom, then I swam toward Lloyd’s log.  I shimmied up the submerged log and crawled up the crudely-carved stairs.  With shaky legs, I stood on the last step.  Things that could go wrong began to cloud my mind, but I jumped before they could paralyze me.

I didn’t hit my head on the log.  The log didn’t crack and I didn’t break any bones.  Lloyd’s corpse didn’t reach up and pull me under.  I wasn’t afflicted with flesh-eating bacteria.  The silt washed off my skin in a warm shower.

The thing is, my outward appearance is no different than it was before, but the moment I leaped from Lloyd’s Log with my arms stretched like a bird in flight, I lived.

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This story is fiction but was inspired by some real thoughts and introspection that I’ve had.  At church on Sunday, they talked of faith.  Faith is often believing in something we cannot see or prove, and trusting that the outcome will be for our good.  Fear is the exact opposite of faith. When there is fear, faith is a risk.  Like the character in this story, I tend to see all the harmful/dangerous things that could come from any given situation.  I recognize that I need to lean on my faith more.

Still, I did not leap into the nasty murky water from a carved log. There are certain things I couldn’t work past… like, where do all these beer-drinking people go to the bathroom?  Oh, I knew….

Baby steps 🙂

Beyond The Fog

We don't always see where we're going, but we have faith we'll get there
We don’t always see where we’re going, but we have faith we’ll get there

Faith isn’t walking into a fire, certain you won’t get burned.  Faith isn’t blind, either, but it does mean facing the unseen and the unknown with the conviction that we are not alone and the experience will somehow sculpt us into a new version of ourselves.

Faith is easy to proclaim, but when it comes down to it, it can be really hard to live by.  It’s kind of like putting on a blindfold and running down a busy street (if the street is in Phoenix, this would be insane.)  In our minds, we recognize the dangers- we could stumble into a light pole, wander into traffic, get hit by a bus, fall into a ditch… the list goes on.  Would you have enough faith to do this?

When adversity hits, my tendency is to obsess over the facts, mentally travel the possible actions and their consequences, and then I make decisions accordingly.  I rush in and “do” something.

To me, faith is the ultimate trust.  Kind of like running down a busy street blindfolded.  Faith is relying on something other than my own abilities.  Faith is believing that there is hope even when all the evidence I see says otherwise.

What is faith to you?

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If you’re looking for fiction, please stop by next week.  I plan to have a response to another one of Emilio Pasquale’s amazing photos.  Hope you’ll check it out 🙂

Between Faith and a Hard Place

02-20 Steeple

I recently found myself at a crossroads of sorts; sandwiched between my faith and a desire for freedom from my circumstances.  For many crushing weeks, I’ve wrestled with the rub of choices (mistakes) I’ve made. I’m coming to terms with my life being an “is what it is” situation, for now. I don’t see hope when I look forward, but I’m trying to have faith that God has more planned for me than what I can see. Some days it’s harder to have faith than others, but I take each day as it comes.

In the depths of all-consuming darkness, I came to a realization: rather than focus on what’s missing or what should be, I need to turn my attention to what I already am. It occurred to me that I’ve never depended on anyone to provide me with happiness, so why would I allow someone to steal it from me and disrupt my inner peace? My answer: I shouldn’t- and I have to change this.

I have obligations to keep.  Most of the time, the weight is too much to bear and I want to just sleep, but I can’t allow this to immobilize me any longer.  I can’t let my future to be so burdened by past mistakes that today is lost. In this moment, I see my life is worth more than that. Tomorrow, I may be snared once again by the trap of what isn’t, but I will try to refocus and remind myself that my success/failure is not dependent on only one aspect of my life.

I’m still surrounded by uncertainty, but if my state of mind holds, I hope to return to more regular writing – once a week for now. Thanks again to all the wonderful people (both online and in person) who have encouraged, prayed and otherwise helped me during this low period in my life. You are special to me 🙂

Set Free (Fiction) – Emilio Pasquale Photo

The photo below provided by Emilio Pasquale.  The story I wrote inspired by the photo follows…

An Emilio Pasquale Photo
An Emilio Pasquale Photo

She thought she’d find an ally in her sister, but as they engaged in a stare-down, it became obvious to Elaine that she’d miscalculated. Her stiffened legs and a crick in her back warned she should quit. Clearly, more than a laminate table divided them. Yet, she refused to show signs of wearing down. I inherited Dad’s stubbornness.

“She’s getting older. I think the stress of the trip will be too much for her. Please, convince her not to go,” Elaine said, mindful to keep desperation out of her voice. Jackie would never admit it, but they both knew she had more sway with their mom. It’d been that way from the beginning, when Jackie almost died the day she entered the world fifty-eight years ago. It took adulthood and having kids of her own for Elaine to forgive her for that.

Jackie snorted. “We’re all getting older, Elaine. There’s no way she’d not go.” She dunked her tea bag several times with the back of her spoon. Her mouth pressed into a thin line and a frown creased her eyebrows.

Three soggy tea bags rested on the saucer beneath Jackie’s cup. All spent. That’s how Elaine felt. After two hours, neither had budged. If the conversation translated into chess, it would be a stalemate. In their defense, there wasn’t much room for compromise; it’s not like they could half-way go.

Elaine shook her head. “She gets so upset. Besides, the Alzheimer’s has progressed to the point she doesn’t understand much anymore.” She hesitated before adding the root of her concern. “I have a bad feeling about it.”

Jackie smirked. “Another premonition?” She crooked her fingers in air quotes as she said premonition.

“Nothing specific; just a feeling.”

“Look, you know as well as I do she hasn’t forgotten that house.” With the back of her hand, she brushed her graying bangs off her forehead. “I don’t know why, but she has to visit that place on Halloween every year.” Jackie sipped her tea and set her mug back on the paper coaster. “If you won’t go, I’ll take her by myself.”

Elaine recognized the determination in her younger sister’s eyes. Just like Mom’s. “You can’t drive until your seizures are controlled.” She sighed. “Fine. I’ll drive. We’ll leave at noon so we can get there before dark. That house is darn creepy at night.”

Jackie laughed. “That, I’d have to agree with.” She pulled out her wallet. “I got this.” She dropped a ten on the table to cover the muffins and beverages.

After she slid out of the booth, Elaine left another few dollars to compensate for monopolizing the table for so long.

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