I love that Charles Stanley says ( not to discourage attending church),“ Why go to church and spend an hour and walk away with nothing? That’s a bad investment. But what about spending an hour and having God pour truth into your life.”
Church can be like a party where you don’t know anyone there so you may end up feeling more lost, more alone.
Or it can be like attending a concert to a musician that you don’t know the music.
The best way to get to know a new musician is to listen quietly or dance silly in your own home, before experiencing the big concert.
You would not attend a concert to Death Cab for Cutie, if you knew none of the music, so why would you go to church if you don’t already have a relationship with God?
How do you get a relationship with God? Well like listening to new music, you play around with it.
So how do you start listening to this NEW ARTIST and dabble in His music? I’m gonna make it easy; start with Proverbs or with the Psalms. I started reading the Psalms when I was sad and the Proverbs when I needed direction.
Then once you experience God on your own, there’s nothing better than being in a big community of other “concert goers” who love Death Cab for Cutie, or God, just the way you do.
Make yourself some chicken soup, relax and put your feet up, grab a Bible, and ask God to speak to your heart.
And Listen to the Whisper Within.
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8
Last weekend was New Year’s Eve. I had a fantastic time celebrating with my friend, Marji, yes in our PJs.
We toasted, giggled, and planned for the year ahead; trips we would possibly take, men we would maybe date, and adventures we would perhaps partake in.
So tonight as I sit in my pjs, yes once again, I am scrolling through Facebook and as expected, my feed is filled with New Year resolutions.
Here are some examples :
-This is the year I’m going to meet my husband.
-This year I’m gonna start my own business.
-I’m going to lose weight.
-I’m going to exercise more.
-I’m gonna get my health back on track.
I…I…I So many I’s!!!
Why do New Year’s resolution fail most of the time?
Because of the I’s!
I have to admit, several years ago, when I was a single mom and my ex became a paraplegic, I believed that willpower, guts, and sheer strength would get me through any trials. I used the Bible verse, “ I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” like armour going into battle.
The problem was the emphasis was on I, not on Christ who gives me strength.
Why did I decide or why do we decide to take the knife in our own hands and attempt to carve out life on our own?
Through time, I learned to say or more realistically, look up and yell at God ,“ I need your help! I’m lost! I’m sad!”
Once I learned to ask for His help,my life may not have gotten easier, but I didn’t feel alone. God was with me.
So you may be thinking, “Well great! Good for you! But I don’t have a faith in God, in fact I don’t even know how to begin? How to let God in?”
Stay tuned for a follow-up blog …can’t wait to share HOW!
But for now, I DO know, going it alone never works because eventually we all get tired, lonely, sad, exhausted, and we need help.
And I have learned this secret, “With God all things are possible!” Matthew 19:26
I have to admit that this morning, getting out of bed, I was not feeling my normal silly joy, but instead was overwhelmed from a night of listening to sirens warning of evacuations for potential mudslides.
I got out of bed and looked up at the ceiling and said, “Ok!God, let’s do this!”
I started my workday, called a few clients, and then decided to call a special client, my brother-in-law.
Before I called, I pulled up his profile and looked at his age, and thought,How is Doug going to be 60? Wait! If Doug is going to be 60, that means my sister is going to be 60.How is this possible?
An image quickly flashes through my memory of a perfect summer day watching my sister Debbie ride bareback her horse,Blazer.
Recalling that memory, I thought, if Debbie was 16 then, I was only 12.
I grabbed my cell phone, tapped my sister’s name and within seconds, we were reminiscing about the good old days.
I hung up the phone and thought, I am going to be 56 next month. Ugh!
I walked to my bathroom and put my hair in pigtails to feel like I was twelve years old again.
I continued working, the rain blew over, and the sun came out. My work day is completed. I look over at my office partner and say, “Kipper time for a walk.”
As I walk down the rain soaked sidewalkI thought,I am not getting any younger. What am I waiting for? When am I gonna start living my purpose?
What is my purpose? To be the best financial advisor? No!
Maybe it is my age speaking or maybe it’s a brand new start to a brand new year? Or maybe it is the realization of friends, family, and clients who have passed this year.
But whatever it is, I want to be silly Lisa who had this contagious joy to share the JOY of JESUS!
What is your purpose? Please comment! Love to hear!
“For God is at work within you, helping you want to obey him, and then helping you do what he wants.” Philippians 2:13
This past weekend, I attended my church retreat in the Santa Monica Mountains.
It was beautiful, fun, and restful. As I made new friends and visited with familiar ones, I felt like a kid at camp, sitting on a log, roasting marshmallows on a stick.
Even though I was filled with bliss over the weekend, I admit that yesterday, as I washed my dinner plate, I thought, Ugh! Why do I feel the funk creeping back in?Ugh! You are alone.
I dried my dish and thought of the demographics of the retreat attendees. Married! So many married couples!
I looked out the window and up at the sky and said, “You know what is going on? Let me keep focused on all the good you bring me. Drown negative thoughts and restore my silly, child-like joy.”
Today, as the light filtered through my sheer curtains, a smile covered my face. Morning! I love that God does not allow my hiking boots to get stuck in the mud but gives me clean fresh boots every morning. And like a kid excited to go hiking at camp, I strapped on my backpack, hopeful, for the new day.
I worked and then looked at the clock and thought, 10 o’clock. Time for Kipper’s walk. But before I did, I heard the whisper, call the box office. So, I did!
“Hello! I’m looking for tickets for a Death Cab for Cutie?”
“We have one ticket left in general admission, and we take no phone orders.”
I looked at my officemate and said, “Kipper, let’s go! Time for a walk.”
Kipper must’ve anticipated my excitement because I was not prepared for a run, but Kipper was on a full pace and had me not skipping but jogging down the street in no time.
Eight blocks later, I walked up to the ticket booth and said, “Is that one ticket still available?” It was meant to be. A credit card was handed, I snapped a picture and then sent a text to my favorite concert junkie saying, “Guess who is going to Death Cab for Cutie?”
Tarah, my daughter, responded, “cute.”
As I walked home, I tipped my hat and threw a smirk up at the sky, you do hear me!
1 John 5:15 “And since we know that he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.”
Yesterday, my daughter who is now twenty-five (How is that possible?) asked me to find a picture of her on the first day of Freshman year of high school. With all the back-to-school posts on Facebook, is it possible she is getting sentimental?
As I dug through boxes, I found this little girl.
I examined my 2nd grade “picture day” photo and remembered how I worried about being ugly; recalling being teased and given the nickname “The Bucktooth Beaver.” (Kids can be so mean!) As I looked closer at the photo I also remembered what my Second Grade teacher, Mrs. Succop called me too, Jesus Little Lamb. I grabbed my phone and texted her the picture and wrote.
My beautiful teacher~ I look at thislittle girl and remember being so worried about the mean girls making fun of me … I worried I never would fit in. But because of your love, showering me with the love of Jesus, I stopped worrying and started wondering, wondering about our Savior, and start wondering more about Himthan myself.
The next day she responded telling me it was a privilege to love me and a gift to see really young ones who the world did not know or value.
Her response got me thinking, when did we replace wonder with worry?
What do you worry about?
Will I get the right job? Will my kids get the right job?
Will my kids go to college?
Will my family stay healthy?
What do you wonder about?
Think back to your childhood…
What did you want to want to be?
What did you wonder?
Was it, would I get picked for the recess kickball game?
I admit I was boy crazy since first grade. I wondered if I would get to sit on the bus next to Eric Berg for the field trip.
Close your eyes and think back to maybe the summer of 1981? or 1985? What songs were playing on the radio? What color was your bike that you rode around the neighborhood with your best friends until dark? Did you wonder what high school would be like? Or who you would go to Prom with?
With a new school year starting and none of my children in school, I do think time is passing so quickly.
I am older and my dad is eighty-nine, so I do think about or wonder when he will die. I don’t worry since I know he will go to heaven and enjoy a new life of wonder.
As I am writing this, I am looking at my 2nd grade picture, buckteeth and all, and remembering and thanking God for my sweet teacher, who made a difference in my life, and helped me wonder. ( Yes, you teachers DO make a difference!)
God does not want us to worry but to wonder. I would love to hear what you remember about your childhood. What did you wonder?
About a week ago I received a sweet card that stated :
May you receive abundant blessings in return for the special way you expressed His love.
It was from my dear friend Kris, thanking me for time she and her beautiful daughter Jenna spent at my house over spring break. She enclosed a picture collage of our few days together.
I reread the personalized message she wrote and then notice this Bible verse.
I was welled with tears of joy. I recalled what one of my Santa Barbara friends said to me when I questioned, “Why here? Why Santa Barbara?”
Her response was, “Because everyone who comes to your house, you will bless and tell them about how God has blessed you. I am renaming your house THE BLESSINGS HOUSE.”
As I pondered this further, I sat on the ground with legs crossed, looked up at the sky and asked, “Is this it God? You bless me so I can bless others?”
Waiting for God to answer, I remembered sitting unknowingly next to a pastor on a plane ride and he stated, “You know Santa Barbara is one of the most unchurched places in America… I think that’s why you are here.”
I whispered Is it God ? You bless me so I can bless others?
So, this blog is not about God blessing me with a cottage by the beach, even though I am grateful for that, it is about a much bigger blessing and purpose.
The purpose is share the love and joy of Jesus…And there is not a better time than now, with Easter around the corner.
Who can you bless? Who can you invite to Easter service? Who needs to know the why your heart is filled with joy, stuffed like a plastic Easter egg with chocolate?
It is not too late. Share the blessing.
“ I will bless you… and you will be a blessing.” Genesis 12:2
Sit down and pour yourself a cold glass of lemonade or your drink of choice, because this one is worth a little indulging and sipping slowly.
I have to admit, a few weeks ago the thought of turning fifty-five did not sit pretty with me. One night, while laying in bed, I looked at the ceiling and yelled, “Come on God. Fifty-five and single. It’s been twenty years. How much longer?”
I waited for an answer but heard nothing . I bit my bottom lip and then lowered my head in defeat, “Well, if you’re not gonna bring me the husband, can you at least restore my joy because I gotta admit THIS HURTS ?”
I turned off the light and went to bed.
The next day, as I took in the smell of my lemon and oranges trees in my backyard, I lowered my eyes, shook my head, and thought why do you yell at God, when he has blessed you so much ? Get over yourself Lisa !
I picked a lemon and then a basketful.
As I sat the basket down on my kitchen table, I thought of the old saying, “ If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
I decided to make some lemonade. With a quick Evite, a guest list, a “lemon-squeezy, easy-peasy” birthday celebration on the calendar, I felt like a little girl with pigtails, skipping through the rest of my day.
As the lemon-themed birthday party drew closer, I thought more and more about the whole, lemon to lemonade theme in my life.
For those of you who don’t know my story here’s the quick sour lemon recap: twenty years ago, I went through a divorce, months later my ex became a paraplegic from a snowmobile accident, his second wife sued me for their accident, I was a broke single mom with no child support, our home with burglarized, and years later I suffered with Lyme disease.
Who would think that would be the easy part of my story? The last several years, in ways I am not ready yet to disclose, life handed me a brand new fresh bag of lemons.
Yes! More sour ! I have to admit I am so grateful for this extra helping of sour lemons. Why? Because through it, God drew me closer to him, rid me of my self-reliance, humbled me , and lowered my pride. Yes, I have retired my sassy pants!
I don’t move until God tells me to move. But when God moves, HE REALLY MOVES!
Remember, I wrote that I yelled at God to restore my joy? Boy! Oh boy ! Did he ever !!
Not only , did I have a fabulous birthday party surrounded by friends who love me…
but received a email from the bakery uptown that I won the princess cake.
God is good ! God is great! He is at work all the time, even through our hard seasons of sour lemons.
Life may be sour but I know this to be true, God has blessed me with good friends and no sugar is needed. Friends make life sweet.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For you know, the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Tonight I sat on my front porch, talking with my Chicago friend, Chris.We talked about being “empty-nesters.” Her last son left for college this week and my kids have been out of the nest for awhile. She questioned , “We raised the kids. They gave us purpose but what is next?”
We bantered for awhile,laughing about filling our days with work, pickleball, yoga, swimming, bible study groups, etc. She then said,“ Lis, I’ve read a book about when people had near death experiences, the stories are similar about Jesus telling them to love his people.” She continued, “so maybe our purpose is everyday to get up and ask God to show us how to do that.”
I quickly agreed saying, “Yes, during Covid, before I got out of bed, I would say, “ Show me what you want me to do God and I’ll do it .”
Chris and I made a pact, to ask God every morning that question and then tell each other how God uses us during the week.
So I’m taking this further ….
What if more people did this? What if YOU, asked God,“Tell me how you want to use me today ? Show me how you want to use me God?”
-Maybe it’s just smiling at someone at the grocery store.
-Being kinder to the difficult co-worker.
-Listening to a friend
I do believe, if we ask God to show us, to open our heart, open our ears to REALLY listen, to open our eyes to REALLY see others; He WILL use us to REALLY LOVE others!
I would like to challenge YOU, YES YOU, to be the “WHAT IF” in your community.
I would love to,next week, hear how God used YOU!
Open your heart. Open your eyes. Open your ears and listen to what God whispers to you. The Whisper Within.
Psalm 119:13 “Just tell me what to do and I will do it, Lord.” TLB
It has been over a year and half since I traveled by plane. I am sure many of us feel the time lost. I close my eyes and rest my head on the headrest and a soft smile covers my face. I can’t wait to see my children. My family. My dad. I’m going home.
My mouth twitches Is Chicago home?
My lips seal like an envelope. Home?
Quickly images of my Fourth of July backyard party fill my head. I recall giving a toast to my friends, all gathered around my table. In the toast, I reference the movie Under the Tuscan Sun starring Diane Lane as Francis.In the movie, she gets divorced, buys a run-down house in Tuscany, and in moment of weakness, confesses to the realtor that she is sad but wants a wedding and family at this new house; that she was tired of being alone.
I quietly smile recalling telling my friends how at the end of movie, the realtor tells Francis, “I think you got wish.” She smiles, “ You’re right. I got my wish.”
My heart is full as I recalled telling my friends that having my table filled on the Fourth of July brought me so much joy that I feel like Francis from the movie. I got my wish! I continued to say that I had been praying for twenty years for a husband but if I met my husband in Chicago I would not be here and through all the trials and tribulations, God orchestrated a life better than I could possibly imagine and that it was only possible through him.
The evening went on, we prayed.We ate. We danced with sparklers like little kids, and yes, we watched fireworks. The night was magical.
Near the end of the night, my friend’s husband, John, gave me some parting advice, “ When you go back to Chicago, keep your eyes down. We don’t want you finding your husband in Chicago, unless he is willing to move to Santa Barbara.” I remember smirking.
I hear over the intercom, “Please prepare the cabin for takeoff.” I look out the small oval window and see palm trees kissing the blue sky and think Thank you God for unanswered prayers. You knew me better than I knew myself.
Are you willing to wait on God and trust him to provide for you ?
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
Two weeks ago, on Easter, I gave a testimony of my faith. I debated on whether to share it or not. Last night, while tucked in bed, reading the Bible,I got my answer.
“But how shall they ask him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? ” Romans 10:14
I took my pen and wrote in my journal ,”Why would I keep this a secret?”
My mind quickly jumped to the second grade song I used to sing, “Hide it under a bushel? NO! I’m gonna let it shine! ” This song is about telling people about Jesus.
So in my second grade spirit… here’s my five minute testimony of how God has made a difference in my life. My testimony starts around the eight minute mark. May you discover the JOY of Jesus.
Today is Good Friday. This past week, I walked by this cross several times and thought of Jesus and his ultimate sacrifice so that we, as Christians, may have eternal life. Jesus was the ultimate example of suffering for your friends.
The story while it is quite familiar, always amazes me, that even Jesus suffered so greatly that he could not carry his own cross but needed help. Simon, helped carry Jesus’ cross.
Who helps carry your cross?
Ultimately, we all have the opportunity to go directly to God in prayer but we also have each other to help when our sufferings are too much to bare alone.
Who helps carry your cross? For me, I know. They are just a prayer or text away.
Are you willing to put the heavy cross on your back and carry it for a friend? Are you willing to sacrifice comfort to be a comforter?
Happy Good Friday! There is no Easter without the sacrifice.
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 NLT
Today was not exactly a good day. I may not have children playing ball in the house but I do have Kipper, my rambunctious German short-haired pointer. Her energy definitely overflows her dog bowl and today was no different.
As I am working from home, I see her pacing the floor, stalking a small object, and then springing into action. I think to myself, What is she trying to catch? And then I see it. A fly.
My eyes divert back to my computer screen until I hear a crash. I walk into the next room and see Kipper’s eyes, telling half of the story.
Guilty! I question my puppy thinking she can answer and then survey the room.
Ugh! A cracked window!
I roll my eyes. Great! I walk back to my computer and quickly Google, window repair.
Within an hour, a glass repair man arrives, an estimate is received, and then a story.
“Lisa, you were so nice to work with. I am so thankful that God brought me to your house today. You see, I have six children and fifteen grandchildren. One was just born the other day. Do you want to see him?”
He scrolled through his phone and proudly showed me. “This is Samuel, named after the prophet.” He continued on, “Truthfully I don’t want to be doing this. I want to be a pastor, administer and pray for those with health concerns.”
I responded,”If that is your desire, God will honor it. It’s Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.(ESV)'”
The man openly started crying and then he grabbed my hand, and started praying, “Thank you God for Lisa. Please Jesus, I want to be a Pastor…”
The prayer was over. He gave me hug and headed out the door; leaving both of our hearts cracked open.
It has been four years that I became sick with Lyme disease. I have tried to stay patient and daily stay in the joy but the last few weeks seem like a long, drawn-out Chicago Winter, filled with endless days, weeks and months of snow, gray, and bitter cold with no sunshine in sight.
But just like Groundhog Day, after a long Winter spent in a cave; this past week I saw some light. Yes, a new doctor.
She reviewed my new labs and uncovered some hidden new facts to work with.
Sitting in her office, I felt like a bursting daffodil popping through a light Spring snow as I lowered my chin and said, “I WILL get better. God loves me. He sees me. He will heal me.”
She responded, “Oh, Yes, Lisa. I love your faith. I am a believer too.”
My lips sealed tight. “Ugh! My faith is all I have… My friends and my church in Chicago have all been praying for you ; let my doctor have wisdom.”
I saw her face become flush.” Wow, I am so grateful for you.”
My eyes watered, ” No, I am SO grateful for you.”
She walked me towards the door and hugged me .
I looked at her with soft eyes and said, ” I love that you hugged me .”
“I love hugs too, Lisa. First I will take care of your health and then I’ll help you with the husband.”
I backed away, cocked my head, and asked, “The husband?”
“Yes, the husband.”
I walked outside and made my to my car and questioned, Why did she say, the husband?
And then tonight, as I walked my neighborhood I saw a quaint hotel setting up for a beautiful outdoor wedding.
I wandered through the white chairs, bookmarked with lavender and ivy. Wow, simply beautiful.
As I a strolled through the adjacent garden, with tables adorned with white linens and peonies, I looked up the sun, Maybe this was why I moved to Santa Barbara … health and who knows maybe a husband?
I felt the wind whisper … IT IS COMING! Health and a Husband.
I feel it. I know it. Patience.
God’s timing is perfect. He has the plan.
“Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble and prayerful always.”
Happy Independence Day! Are you taking advantage of your freedom?
Happy Fourth of July. As I walked by flag-adorned lawns this morning, my thoughts brought me back to our forefathers. They fought for independence and to not be held hostage to England. They wanted a fresh start, to escape. My mind jumped like a cricket on the grass as I recalled a time I wanted to escape.
This was fifteen years ago:
As a single mom,with money being tight, the kids and I rarely ever ate out. But tonight I did not have the energy to cook, so I took the easy way out for a change and ordered a pizza. Parking the car in front of Jake’s Pizza Parlor, it should have been a routine pick-up, but it was anything but routine. Walking in with Jake and Tarah, looking at the cashier, I said, “Hi. I’m picking up our pizza.”
“Okay. I’ll be right back.” Then I saw it on the wall. As the man walked to the back of the store, I saw it clear as day—a flyer that read:
“ John, a thirty-seven-year-old police detective, is paralyzed from the waist down after a February snowmobile accident in Wisconsin. He is a fourteen year veteran of the department, battles escalating medical costs from his permanent spinal cord injury.
On April 6th, a benefit will be held.
Smack dab in the middle of the flyer was John’s picture in black and white. As the pizza guy laid the pizza on the counter, Jake, tugged at my jeans and pointed at the flyer, and asked, “Mommy, why’s Daddy’s picture on the wall?”
Suddenly, I lost my appetite.
As I was fumbling through my purse trying to pull out my wallet, I caught the pizza guy looking at me, dumbfounded. His face was stone cold. He glanced down at receipt outside the pizza box, then looked up at me.
Jake always demanding answers to his questions. He tugged at my jacket and once again asked, this time a little louder, “Mommy, why’s Daddy’s picture up there?”
The pizza guy looked at the picture then into my eyes. I did not say a word. He quickly covered his mouth with his hand and closed his eyes ever so briefly. Looking down at Jake, then at me, almost right through me, his eyes offered condolences. He then pleaded, “Please just take the pizza. It’s on us.”
I did not know what to say except the obvious, “Thanks.”
By nature, I don’t play needy, but needy was being dished my way and it was a very deep dish, indeed.
Back then, I felt held hostage to my life in Schaumburg. I needed to escape. I hated that my life, my story, was plastered around town. The only escape I could afford as a single mom, was a short ride around the bend to South Haven, Michigan. In Michigan, my monkeys and I were free and happy.
That was my story but I like our forefathers I opted for a different ending. I decided to dump the bitter “tea” and start drinking coffee. Are you free or are you held hostage to your “England” and to your past? Is it time to dump the tea and start drinking coffee?
Don’t wait until you hear the loud boom of fireworks to claim your freedom. God’s loudest directions are through his whispers. What is God whispering to you? Believe and trust the Whisper Within.
I looked at the rearview mirror. Umm, my boy. He gets it. I’m doing my best to just hold everything together with a safety pin. First the divorce. Then the accident. Their dad, my ex is a paraplegic. And now I’m broke. When does it end?
I pulled through the library drive- thru.
“Hello. I’m picking up movies.”
Across the way, I see a Harry Potter movie poster in the window. Only $3.69 a rental. Nope, sorry Blockbuster; the library is free.
The library clerk handed me the movies. “Ok kids, just one more stop.”
We entered the red dot store. Oh boy, not the dollar bin.Stick to the list and only the list! The basket was filled, but then a wheel came off my cart.
“I want gum.”
“Stop it Tarah! You can’t have any.” He straightened his baseball cap and grabbed her hand.
“Buuutt I waaanntt it.”
“Tarah. No. Mom’s in line. We need to go.”
“But Jake, there are Pokemon cards for you.”
I pushed the cart to the side and got out of the checkout line.
“It’s okay, mom. I don’t need anything.”
I dropped to my knees, folded his little body into mine and whispered, “I love you, Jake Gunnar.”
“I love you too, Mommy.”
“You’re my good boy.”
Inches away, this Hallmark moment was contrasted. Keds were stomping and pigtails were beating the tile floor.
I scooped Tarah up, pushed back my cart, and in one big swoop, threw her on my hip. “Well, we’re out of here.”
I waved my point-finger in Tarah’s face. “That was not nice.”
“Yeah, Tarah. You know Mom can’t buy that stuff. Gosh!”
“Okay. Jake. That’s enough.”
I started the car, turned on the radio and cried. Help me, God. Life should not be so rough. I looked in the rearview mirror.
“Mommy, are you alright?”
“Don’t worry, Mommy; ‘God will meet all your needs.’ Philippians 4:19.”
I looked over my shoulder. “What did you say?”
“God will meet all your needs. It’s our memory verse this week.”
It was It’s a Wonderful Life moment.
“Daddy, teacher says every time you hear a bell ring an angel gets his wings.” And George exclaimed, “That’s right! That’s right!”
I closed my eyes, wiped my tears, and squeezed his hand. “That’s right. That’s right. Thank you, Jake Gunnar.”
“No problem, Mommy.”
I backed up the car and looked up at the clouds. Nothing gets pass you. God had the small details of my life and used my own little boy to teach me the biggest lesson.
That was fifteen years ago, and today, just like that moment, is HUGE!
Fifteen years ago, I went through a divorce, months later my ex became a paraplegic. I struggled trying to raise two little kids. I spent nights at the kitchen table teaching math while trying to balance a dwindling checking account. The calendar was always packed; even when bank account wasn’t. I never thought I would survive those years, let alone, ever see the day come when my children would graduate college.
Well, today is that day. Through the grace of God, WE did it.
Yes, Jake worked his butt off at Purdue. I worked my butt off teaching him, saving for him, and paying for his college. But God did his part too. You see, God gave me enough strength. I heard him whisper, “I got you, Lisa. Now get out of bed and do it.”
And God did bless my little engineer, with the gift of math and science. Funny, to think seventeen years ago, I saw his gift ( see the video) and today, Jake is a Purdue University engineer graduate. And if you are wondering , yes,I cried like a baby .
God really does have the plan. Can you trust the Whisper?
“ And we know that all things work together for good, for those who love God.” Roman 8:28
Do you get nervous telling your best friend bad news?
Do you get excited to tell your best friend the good news?
Who do you call when you need the really hard advice ?
Yep, a best friend !
This is how I talk to God … like a best friend .
When my ex had a snowmobile accident leaving him a paraplegic and I, a single mom, was headed for financial ruin with two little kids in tow … I yelled at God ,”Do you see me ? I need your help … come on !”
When his second wife sued my home owners insurance for HIS accident AND won … I looked up at the sky and yelled,”THIS ISNT FAIR … Show me ,you’re with me .”
When my kindergarten girl was banging her head on Target’s floor because she wanted gum but a tile away was soft hazel eyes saying,”I don’t need anything Mom ,” I silently begged with tear-filled eyes ,”Come on God ! Life shouldn’t be so hard … I need help!”
And years later,when my business grew, I allowed my lashes to fall as I saw my picture in Chicago Magazine as one of best financial advisors in Chicago ,”This was ALL YOU, God .You rescued me.”
And when I walk on the beach and look up at the sky ,”YOU did this . You brought me here .”
So on National Day of Prayer, I’m challenging you .
Don’t go anywhere special .
Don’t think of the right words.
Don’t arrange a special time.
Talk to your best friend .
Tell him ….
I lost my job.
I feel my life is going nowhere.
I love my life.
Like a best friend, he wants the real you … the good, the bad ,and the ugly.
Some of you may say, “I pray but I don’t hear answers back .”
Well, I do find, the time I do hear answers ,are when I’m quiet .
Not praying in a pew in church .
Not praying in bed before I close my eyes .
But in nature ,walking .
And yes ,my daily walks on the beach are my best conversations with God . I simply say, “So here’s what’s going on ..”
My friends say I’m like Batman and I have a direct signal to God.
I don’t know about that, but I do know, as I walk ,a quiet calmness comes over me that can be only described as the Whisper Within…
Hope you,too, can hear the whisper.
“Don’t worry about anything but pray about everything and you will feel his peace .” Philippians 4:6
Yep, we all do it , but mine is a bit tricker than just dragging the bins to the curb . I live on a hill .
So one bin down . Then I’m down . And then the garbage is spread on the sidewalk like a Thanksgiving feast in reverse .
Light blue Converse are sprawled and a set of work boots come walking .
” So you must be my new neighbor …”
” Yep, I’m Lisa .”
” I’m hearing Chicago or New York … can I help you ?”
“Nope . I’m fine .”
” Definitely Chicago. Stubborn .”
A crooked smirk is thrown and a strong hand pulls mine .
“So, why here ,Chicago girl ?”
” I wanted the simple life .”
” The simple life ? Don’t you know that Santa Barbara is heaven on earth ? There is even a secret stairway that will take you to a view that’s just like heaven . It’s right up the hill .You should wander .”
A fire . An evacuation. A mudslide . An evacuation . Yep, this is paradise .
But a few months later, I wandered, step by step . A secret stairs led to a secret park . I took in the view .
The beach. The mountains . The sun setting over the horizon .
Wow,this is heaven on earth .
A deep breath in . A deep breath out. Time to go .
Step by step I walked down the cobblestone walkway .
A glance. A smile . And then a story . Her white locks drew me in .
“Hi Lisa . I’m Nan. So nice to meet you …. You’re from Chicago? I grew up right outside Chicago in LaGrange . I moved here when I was sixty- seven after my husband passed .Why did you move here, Lisa ? Did your husband get a job transfer ?”
” Nope . I’m single .”
I leaned down and pet the Cocker Spaniel .
” How old are you , Lisa?”
” I’m fifty . ”
” You’re just a baby . I’m ninety . Do you know the secret to being happy ? Get a dog not a man . ”
I leaned in and hugged the white locks.
So … say hello to Kipper .
I prayed for companionship and God brought me a dog . Next time I yell at God ,I’ll learn to be more specific in my prayers .
Have I given up on love ? Heck no ! It IS coming .I will be patient and wait for the real thing. God knows my heart and will fulfill my desire .
In the meantime, someone or something has to keep this Chicago girl warm during a BRUTAL Santa Barbara Winter.
” Take delight in the Lord and he will give you your heart’s desire .”
A follower commented,” Your faith and perseverance are impressive…I should add impressively optimistic for Cub’s fan.”
I responded and then he private messaged me.
Dan: Had no idea you had this in you when we worked together.
ME: We worked together? Help me I’m getting old…
Dan: Yep, 27 years ago at Canon in Downers Grove.
What? Now I need the story…
ME: How did you find my blog? How did you know it was me?
Dan:One of my buddies and I were talking about one hit wonders and the song “Rock Steady” came up. I searched it and came up with the Whispers as the group that sang it. When I searched “The Whispers”, I believe your website came up before I hit the letter “s” in Whispers. Out of curiosity, I clicked on the link. I thought I recognized the name Lisa Riehm, as someone I worked with at Canon. I have a really good memory for names and faces, I thought your face looked familiar. I went to the photos and when I saw the Hinsdale South HS photo, I knew it was the young lady I worked with at Canon.
Who would guess? Twenty-seven years and two thousand miles apart, two co-workers would reconnect.
“Since the Lord is directing our steps why do we question everything that happens along the way?’ Proverbs 20:24
Strange coincidence, maybe? But it does make you wonder. Doesn’t it?
I laid my scissors on the table and looked around the garage; empty boxes and paper tossed about.
The last box .
I open it up and found what I have been searching for ; a journal from my Florence vacation. I brushed my hand across the supple suede, lifted it to my nose and breathed in the leather, like an aphrodisiac luring me in .I open the pages; exposing the crisp creamy white, begging to be defiled .
I laid the journal off to the side and stared at the last table in the garage to be let go . Why didn’t I leave this a month ago at the curb in Westlake? There is no room for this in Santa Barbara.
A smirked crossed my face as I remembered what a friend said while packing me, “Nothing significant from your past can go to your future?”
“What d’ya mean?”
“Come on, Lis. You wonder why you don’t have a boyfriend? You still have your old bedroom furniture from Chicago. Let it go.”
With a quick press of the app, I uploaded a photo and tagged it. Free. I let go of my past and opened up my future.
I glanced down at the journal on the table. I turned the page. Time for fresh start. This is saved for something special.
And just like the last unopened box …Maybe, just maybe, God is saving the best for last too. It may be what I was looking for all along.
God has written my story already. I just need to be patient and let him fill the pages.
“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was written in your book.” Psalm 139:16
Disclaimer: the blog is longer but like the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series at the bottom of the tenth inning ,this blog ( hopefully ) will not disappoint . Pull up a chair, pour your favorite beverage, and get ready to enjoy the extra innings.
I am analytical to a fault. I guess it is habit of my day job being a Certified Financial Planner®. I love to crunch numbers and thrive on spread sheets. I have been called endearingly “Mrs. Right Now” – Yes, I like to “ get it done” and check the box but as a planner I have learned sometimes the plan changes without your permission, as did my own plan.
Here’s the quick “After the Game” recap for those of you who were not an active viewer of all my strike outs and losing seasons.
Fifteen years ago, I went through a divorce, months after, the father of my children became a paraplegic, I struggled financially raising my two little kids as a single mom, was sued by his second wife for his accident, survived a home robbery, and now have been battling Lyme disease for the last few years. It was not the easy pitch I wanted.
Like a suffering Cub’s fan, I would quip, “Well, there is always next year.”
As I waited for my winning season to begin, I dug deep, played hard, and trusted that someday God would grant me a victory.
I had my sights on always winning my ” World Series” and to not settle for ordinary.
Six years ago, Pastor Hudak, my Chicago pastor, when I was advising him on his pending retirement said, “ How long ago was John’s accident?”
I rolled my eyes, “Nine years ago.”
“How have you stayed single, Lisa? You really are spectacular.”
Biting my bottom lip to fight back the tears I said, “It hasn’t been easy. I think God has forgotten me.”
Putting his hand over my shaking hand, he said, “Oh, Lisa. He hasn’t forgotten you. He has big plans for you. Your husband is not here. He is where you are going to be. “
Shaking my head , I asked,“Where am I am going?”
With a comforting smile he said, “You love to run on the beach. I think you are moving to the beach someday. He’s not here. He’s there. It’s coming.”
Well today, like for the Cubs, is a HUGE day. Tonight, the Cubs are headed to the playoffs after winning the World Series last year and I am getting ready to wave my W banner too.
About two years, I jumped from Chicago to California. And like the Cubs, just making it to the playoffs, this was HUGE. But my dream was to live near the beach and win my own “World Series”.
For the last six months, I spent most weekends looking for a home by the beach to call mine.
The season seemed so long. I would lose securing a contract to buy, one house after another even when my stats were good. I bid over market. I would throw in a letter of “pick me” hoping a bunt would advance me across home plate. Sometimes even God intervened. When I was the only team playing or bidding on a house, he would give me information, to back out of the batter’s box.
God did not allow me to wave my W flag but taught me patience instead. He loved building the excitement through defeat. Running the bases to be tagged out as I slid into home plate was not the fun I signed up for but I learned to dust of the dirt, wrap up my scrapes and wait for the right pitch or house.
What if the Cubs swept the Indians in the World Series? It would not have been as much fun. Instead God allowed the heavens to open up, come pouring down, and create a rain delay. Why? Because he loves the dramatic.
And boy, I have had enough drama to fill a good series.
So today, the Cub’s playoffs begin and through my numerous “a swing and a miss” times a bat, today I am crossing home plate. When God moves; he moves…. And quickly. It wasn’t long after the rain delay in Cleveland that Cubs became World Series Champs. And the same for me.
Yes, I am realizing my dream. I am moving to the beach and as some call it, “Santa Barbara, heaven on earth.”
So maybe my pastor was right. My husband wasn’t there… but maybe he is here. It’s coming.
Doing a walk-through of my house, my real estate agent quipped, “Lisa, there are two sinks in the master bathroom…. Maybe he is coming.”
With a giggle I replied, “Great. I’ll just spit in one and keep the other warm for him.”
The Cubs waited one hundred and six years to win the World Series. I have waited fifteen so what’s another season?
Time to quit checking boxes, be patient, and wait for God to orchestrate the surprise in His dramatic fashion.
Hebrews 12:1 “Let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us.”
Whatever your current situation … kick back, pour yourself a cold one, and enjoy your view. Trust that God’s timing is always perfect. Go Cubbies!
As you head into your work week, can you be like Polly and accept the easy cracker?
I used to love the sweet taste of ice cream but lately salt is what my body craves. As I dove in the salt water pool today, I caught a mouthful of salt in my mouth that awoke my senses.
After a few laps, my memory recalled another sweet or should I say, salty memory.
I was not in a pool swimming laps but walking laps at “Home of the Hornets”, that’s right my old high school alma mateur, Hindsdale South, with my friend , Mary Flanagan.
Let me take you back to July.
As Mary and I walked around the hurdles of the track field, reminiscing about classes and crushes, we passed by some young boys who just finished soccer practice. One sweaty boy, called out to us, “Hey, would you like a Saltine?” Mary and I stopped in our track.
I blurted out with a side smirk, “What? Is it laced with something?”
The lean athlete responded, “Come on. I’m eating it.”
The optimism of his youth lured me in or maybe with each step towards him I was losing some of my cynicism and willing to become like him, open and carefree
Mary and I walked over and each took a cracker.
We chomped on our Saltine, almost spitting as we laughed and we walked away.
I felt like I was sixteen again, wearing my cheerleading skirt and cheering for the big game. Life was easy at sixteen. It still can be …
Career, relationships and life should be that easy or do they feel like you are running the hurdles?
Funny, in high school I was more individual participant; long jump and gymnastics were my events; but maybe high school was preparing me to be an entrepreneur. I excelled when I don’t have to rely on the performance of others.
Ask yourself where do you excel?
Is your best event a relay race? Do you excel jumping hurdles and the difficult course? Or is your race more like the fifty-yard dash to accept the easy cracker as a reward at the end of the race?
At sixteen, I was probably more the sweet girl but this week, I realized being a little salty is a good thing. Or maybe I am like my favorite ice cream, peanut butter and chocolate, the perfect combo of sweet and salty.
But maybe I don’t have to be salty or sweet. Maybe through a sixteen-year-old boy offering me a cracker, I can learn to accept the easy.
There may be hurdles in life but be willing to walk around them otherwise trying to jump over the hurdles you may end up with road rash.
This week, can you accept the easy cracker that God is offering or whispering to you? Honor your saltiness.
Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
“Blessed is he who is kind to the needy.”—Proverbs 14:21
My eyes were captivated with the water fountain eight floors below. As I gazed out my floor-to-ceiling windows, I caught my reflection and smoothed out my navy blue suit. It had been so many years that I had been out of the business suit that I was not sure the suit would suit me anymore. So many questions filled my thoughts. Will I be able to fit in at Waterstone Financial Group? Will my co-workers like me? Respect me? How about the clients? Will they accept me? Can I do it all—be a mom and full time financial planner? How do I use the copy machine? Where’s the bathroom? From the complex to the simple, the questions all seemed overwhelming.
“Do you have a minute? Can I come in?”
“Yeah sure, Steve”
“So how is it going for you so far, Lisa?”
“Good. I’m glad. I know I really don’t know you, but I’ve heard good things about you.”
“Yes, just a little bit. I’ve heard you’re very smart and good at what you do.” He paused and then slowly added, “But, more importantly, I’ve heard that you have a caring heart.”
“Thank you. I’m flattered.” I felt a mild blush color my cheeks.
“Lisa, I was wondering if I could ask you a favor?”
“There’s a little old lady up in Rockford whose husband has recently passed away. She’s called several times to another Waterstone representative but is not getting a return call. She needs help reregistering her account to reflect her husband’s passing. I know there really is no money in it for you, and that it is a good hour away, but I was just wondering if you would be so kind? She really could use the help.”
Without hesitating, I responded, “Of course. I’m happy to help.”
“Thanks, Lisa. And, if I haven’t told you already, as the president of Waterstone, I’m happy to have you on board. You’re a good addition to the office.”
As he walked out my office door, I thought, this whole work thing just may be… good.
Saturday came, and I was so busy getting acclimated to the new work environment that I almost forgot it was my birthday. After an hour drive, I made the left-hand turn that brought me straight into a trailer park. I thought to myself, Well, this is not the normal office visit for most CFPs®, but what would Jesus do? He always said to be humble and help the poor and widowed, so I guess I am being called to do both.
Upon arrival to Marilyn’s trailer home, I took a deep breath. Alright, if this is where you want me, God, so be it.
Who am I to question God and his motives?
At first glance, I came to the conclusion that Marilyn was a sweet old lady. She was wearing a blue flowered house frock dress, a navy blue long sweater, and slippers. She made no pretense on her appearance or who she was but simply greeted me warmly, “Hi Lisa. Thanks for coming out. Did you find my house okay?”
“Yes, thanks, Marilyn. No problem.”
Pointing to the kitchen table she continued, “Is this okay? Can we sit here?”
“Yes, this is fine.”
“I know I didn’t know your husband, or you, for that matter, but I’m sorry. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy.”
“No. It has not been easy, but thank you.”
“So, Marilyn, I printed off a copy of your last statement; here it is.”
Taking out her reading glasses, she took the folded copy, peered at it and said,
“Yep, that’s about right.”
“Looks like you and your husband had a trust, with both of you as trustees.”
Chuckling, she added, “If you say so; all of this confuses me.”
Her face started to deflate like an innertube. She let the tears flow down her cheeks.
I leaned forward, reached out, and covered her hand with mine. “You’re going to be alright, Marilyn.”
“I don’t know. I’m alone, and I’m not sure if I can even live on what I have.”
Putting my CFP® hat on, it was time to ask the hard questions. “So, you are concerned about how you’re going to live? Let’s talk about it, Marilyn. My job is to help you live and be happy. Is it okay to ask you some questions, so I can see if I can help you?”
“So, let’s start out with what you spend; do you have any idea?”
“Yeah, kinda. My place here is paid for, so there is no mortgage. Ummm, let me go get my bank statements. That will tell me what I spend.”
“Yes, that’s the best place to start.”
As Marilyn made her way to a back room, I took a quick glance around. Her “happy abode” mirrored a typical elderly lady’s home, with plenty of knitted afghans and dollies in sight. Nothing looked like it had been updated in years, but I am sure she was comfortable in her humble surroundings.
“I think I found what you were looking for.”
Sitting down a little closer to me, she put down the bank statement on the kitchen table.
I nodded. “Yes, that will help.”
Putting on her readers she said, “Let’s see, it looks like I spend about three thousand dollars a month.
“Okay. That’s a good start. Do you know what income you bring in Marilyn?”
“What do you mean, Lisa?”
“Well, do you receive Social Security payments?”
“Ya, I know I used to get around $2500 when my husband was alive but now, I think it is half the amount since I won’t get his anymore, will I?”
“No, Marilyn, I’m sorry. You get to choose either his or yours, but not both.”
“Ya, that’s what I thought. So, if that’s the case, how am I gonna live?”
“Umm I am not sure. So let’s see, we do have these investments…” I showed her a copy of the most recent statement. “We could have the dividends paid to you as an option but that won’t make up the difference. We may have to start selling some of the investments to give you additional income.”
“Oh, no. My husband said never to sell any of the investments. He always said to hold on to them. It was our rainy day money.”
“But Marilyn, I know your husband would hate to see you like this, worrying and all.”
“I’ll manage, don’t worry, Lisa. Why don’t you just help me get my husband off the account for now? I’ll worry about everything else later.”
“Okay, Marilyn, if you insist. We’ll start there. By any chance, do you have a copy of Burt’s death certificate?”
“I do. I’ll be right back.”
As Marilyn made her way to the back room again, vibrating sounds emanated from my purse. Leaning down, I pulled my cell from the side pocket. Glancing at the screen, I spotted a text from my friend, Chris: ‘Hey, Lis, are we still on for your birthday? Dinner and a movie?’
I quickly typed back…Yes. I think. I’m in a meeting. It’s taking longer than I thought. I’ll text when I’m finished.
As I put my phone away, Marilyn walked in the room, dragging her feet, almost tripping on her slippers. “Here, Lisa. Here is the death certificate.”
“Okay, Marilyn, I need you to sign this form stating that you want to be listed as the only trustee of the trust. Sign right here, Marilyn.”
I noticed her hand shake a little. I was unsure if it was nervousness or arthritis.
Marilyn signed on the line and then slid the paper over to me along the oak wooden table.
“Good. That will be updated on Monday.”
“Lisa. Thank you. You were kind enough to come out. No one would even return my call.”
“It’s okay, Marilyn. I think this is how God has called me to serve.”
“Oh, Lisa, I don’t really know you, but I feel lucky to have met you. It is rare to find someone who truly cares.”
“Thanks, but I have to admit I’m a little worried about you. How are going to survive?”
Marilyn put both her hands on the kitchen table for leverage and then pushed her chair away from the table. “I’ll be right back.”
Her house dress swayed from side to side as she made her way to the back room.
What’s she up to now?
As she made her way back to kitchen table, I noticed Marilyn not only had a white shawl covering her shoulders but a stack of white papers, about six inches high, covering her forearms.
Releasing the papers to me she asked, “Do you think these could help?”
I took the stack of papers and placed them on the kitchen table.
“So, will they help?” Marilyn asked with round eyes.
I looked at the stack in front of me and realized they were not just any papers but stock certificates of AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon.
“Marilyn, where did you get these?”
“Burt always had them in a box under the bed. He said just keep them. They were for a rainy day. So do you think that maybe they are worth something? That they could help me?”
“Oh my goodness. Yes, Marilyn.”
I quickly pulled up Bloomberg on my phone and researched stock quotes to obtain price information. Taking out my calculator, I did some quick estimations on what all the paper in front of me equated to. A million dollars’ worth of stock? Not believing my eyes, I added the certificates up one last time. “Marilyn, these stocks are worth about a million dollars.”
“What?” Her eyebrows shot up in shock.
“I said that these stocks are worth a million dollars. Marilyn, you’re a millionaire.”
“Are you sure? It can’t be.”
“Yes, I’m sure. You’re going to be fine, Marilyn.”
Her face became flush and her eyes began to water. “Oh my God! I don’t believe it. Burt always said to save the box for a rainy day.”
“Well, Marilyn, today it’s not raining. It’s pouring!”
I went on to explain the formalities of how I would reregister the physical stock certificates into book entry form, start paying the dividends to her in cash, and establish a direct deposit so that her income worries would be no more. She would have a comfortable and secure retirement.
When all the business was done, Marilyn walked me to the door and hugged me. “You truly are a gift.”
“Today’s my birthday. You were my gift, Marilyn. I was happy to help.”
Driving out of the trailer park, I shook my head, looking at my humble surroundings. Who would have thought that this is how the day would turn out?
I guess I should never question how, when, or where God wants to use me. Heck, I am sure even the stable owner never thought his barn would be the birth place of Jesus… and, like that miracle, today felt like a miracle too, delivered for a sweet old lady, named…. Marilyn.
As the old saying goes, it is better to give then to receive. No birthday cake or presents were needed. This birthday girl adorned a giant smile, and not even a party hat would make her outfit more complete.
A year ago, as I was about to move from Chicago to LA a friend said, “ Pollyanna, you are too kind . You will be eaten alive. No one in Los Angeles is nice.”
Well a few Sundays ago, my friend was proven wrong. I was sitting at The Malibu Farmer’s Market enjoying a Greek salad, like my grandma Genevieve used to make, when an unkempt man approached me. He sat down at my table and said, “That looks good. I am starving. Do you have any money so I could buy one?”
Before I could answer, a gentleman approached the table and said, “If you’re hungry, I would be willing to share my sandwich.” The homeless man, got up and walked away.
I asked the kind stranger, “You want to join me?”
For the next two hours Robert and I shared stories like old friends. He told me a miraculous story about a life- threating car accident when his car was hit by a twenty -five foot truck and spun like a carnival ride gone crazy. He remembers not much more until he was surrounded by dozen or so white coats. The head of trauma said, “What God do you pray to? Because he or she really loves you. Protection shields are covering you that we’ve never seen before. It is a miracle you are alive.”
My open-mouth response was, “Wow.”
Robert continued to tell me that the over the next couple of months, his bruises never had a chance to heal since that was only the first of three car accidents!
We continued to share stories and then he asked me, “Do you know what Schomer means?”
“Yes, but it also means to guard, watch, or preserve The way you embraced that stranger you have spiritual kindness about you.”
I blushed with embarrassment, “I did nothing~ you were the one intervening.”
We laughed as kindred spirits until it was time for him to head back home. As Robert stood up from the table he said, “Lisa, I want to tell you one more thing. I wasn’t planning to come here today but something nudged me, last minute, to turn into the farmer’s market.
I said, “We were supposed to meet. That is how God works.”
Robert walked away and I thought, here is a man who has suffered so much but he is sympathetic to the homeless, shares his gentle spirit without restraint, and lifted up a stranger. Robert was a gift that afternoon, like an angel.
Hope is right front of you. You have to be willing to open your heart or invite it sit at your table.
Hebrews 13:2 “Don’t forget to be kind to strangers, for some who have done this, have entertained angels.’
This Midwestern Pollyanna knows that I am home. I have become me. I have arrived in the city of Angels.
Romans 12:6 “We all have different gifts, according to the grace of God given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in portion to his faith.”
Ever have one of those days when everything seems so unclear? That everything seems to be a wreck? That there are no answers and you are lacking direction? Well, I seem to be having one of those days… or months. Honestly, I have been having a year like that. Today was no different. The last month or so between, the harassment, the burglary, the investigation, my neighbor Joe dying, life has been simply exhausting. Not to mention I am buried at work, since it’s tax time. But am I complaining? No. Well honestly, a little bit.
What makes matters worse is that it is typical Chicago winter. Cold, dark, dreary, lacking sunshine. Basically the weather is reflecting my spirit, simply depressing.
Every day, I get out bed and force myself to find the joy. Joy in the little things, like a hot shower, a morning run with Hunter, a good strong cup of coffee, yoga, and finally flannel PJs at the end of the day.
Today though I have an unquenchable desire to know why? Why has the last couple of months been so difficult? Why I am forced to “suck-up” the crap and just “deal?” Has God left me alone to struggle and why do I feel like Jesus on the cross when he said, “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?” Does He think I thrive on chaos? That “happy” Lisa can just take it?Does God even see me anymore?
It always seems like in the shower I do my clearest thinking and praying. I turn the shower on, waiting for it to get to the right temperature, boiling hot. As the scorching water runs down me, it resembles a baptism; baring my naked soul to God.
I have no shame in my aloneness. I expose my frustration out loud to God.
Screaming accusingly at God, “Where are you? Do you even see me anymore? Give me something? Show me something? … I am begging you, (and then louder for extra emphasis I yell) I AM BEGGING YOU, SEND ME HOPE…SOME SIGN that I am NOT alone!”
And just like Eve, I covered myself up in a towel, embarrassed that I was contemptuous toward God and gave in to a pity party. I brush off my silly request to God, head off to work, and go through the motions of getting by another day without the answers I deserve.
The day passes slowly and I decide that nothing would come of any good today. How could I effectively counsel and provide answers when I lacked answers in my own life? Today I was worthless.So I left work early, headed to the grocery store to pick up a couple items. Little did I know a typical grocery shopping trip would not be ordinary but extraordinarily bizarre. In the express check- out lane, I lug the forty five pounds of dog food onto the conveyor belt and then gently place the dozen of fresh baked chocolate chips cookie alongside. As I look forward, standing in front of me is a middle-aged, African-American woman, heavy set, with deep, dark eyes strikingly wearing an orange and red- designed turban. Some would describe as Aunt Jemima or Mrs. Buttersworth. She looks distinctly at me and quickly references my two items. In a strong, Nigerian or African dialect she comments and points to the dog food and cookies,
“You need to keep the dog happy and the kids happy.” Then adding in a creeping undertone, “You need to keep the dog fed so he can baaark at the burrggllars.”
I looked at her, dead straight into her eyes, and start nervously laughing, “Ha, well that didn’t work. I was robbed in December. The silly dog did not do anything.”
Without hesitation she reaches over and squeezed my right arm and while still gripping my arm she unnervingly slowly whispers, “That’s because he KNEW the burglars.”
I felt a spine-tingling sensation rush through my bones. Startled and shocked I questioned, “What? What did you say?”Not wavering in her strong conviction, “I SAID… that’s because He KNEW the burglars.”
“Ok… Now that’s crazy.” I declare.
She uncannily continued, “Do you believe in JEESSSUUS?
“I do. I have a strong faith in Him.”
Nodding her head up and down, “Gooood. Gooood. Now… what you need to do… is go get the BLOOD of Jesus and mark your doors… and get Satan out of your house…” Then gripping and squeezing my arm again with her right hand while waving emphatically her left arm, looking straight through me like she could see my soul, in a ghost-like mystic hiss adds, “ because that SATAN he’s a liiaarrrrrr, I tell you. HE’S A LIAR!”
Those words giving me chills and instantly I felt a shiver rushing through me, goose bumps suddenly forming. Feeling a little creeped-out, but at the same time intrigued by this mysterious woman? I carefully scrutinized her face, her demeanor, her body posture, any clue I could grasp to speculate and evaluate, who was this strange woman? As she walked away, I took one more calculated gaze in her direction hoping to get some kind of answer to what just occurred.
As the young, fresh–faced, check-out boy, started scanning my cookies, he looked at me, shaking his head, he blurts out, “What the hell was that?”
I laughed; shaking my head, “I have no idea…”
Before I could finish my sentence, the mysterious woman appears by my side, grabbing my arm one more time, and with a spine-chilling raspy voice murmurs her warning, “Don’t forget…the dog KNEW the burglars…You need to get the blood of Jesus to keep Satan away because…The devil he’s a LLIIAARR. He’s A LIIIAARR.”
Turning to walk away she looks back one final time at me almost jeering, “ Now…you have good day, you hear?”
If I wasn’t freaked out before, now I was. I felt like I was in the middle of some paranormal activity movie, but in the check-out lane at the grocery store. I finish checking out. Dazed, I kept hearing the hypnotic voice taunting me. What was the meaning of that alarming and unnerving encounter? Was she a psychic seeing my disrupted past? Or was she clairvoyant and predicting and sensing another unfortunate future incident?
Then I recall my morning plea… “Send me sign…do you even see me?”
Was this a sign from God? Was he showing me that he sees me? I don’t know exactly what or who that was but it definitely was some strange connection whispering to me….
Today, I needed to take a break from work. Coffee wasn’t the drug I needed to get rejuvenated. I knew a walk would do the trick after stepping outside and feeling the warmth of the sunshine on my face. Heading around the corner, I saw a man standing on a driveway looking in my direction.
He said, “Hi. Are you taking a meditative walk?”
Looking at the stranger I asked, “Excuse me what did you say?”
As he walked around his carpet cleaning van, coming closer to me, he repeated the question, “Are you taking a meditative walk?”
I admitted my truth, “Yea. I needed to relieve some stress.”
He says, “What I do is look up at the sky and ask for help, His Ever Lasting Presence.” He then added, “You know how to restart your day? Hugging.” Without hesitation the man leaned and wrapped his arms around me.
After a few seconds I pulled away and with a gentle smile said, “Thanks I needed that.”
The older, weathered-looking man glanced back at me and asked, “What’s your name?”
“Lisa, and yours?”
“Nice to meet you meet you Pete.’
The stranger confidently added, “Lisa, our paths crossing was no coincidence. It was God knowing we both needed a hug to restart our day.”
As I stepped back to examine the worker all I could say was, “Wow.”
He then added, “I know, kinda crazy getting advice let alone a hug from a complete stranger.”
Silently I laughed and with a smirk added, “No, you obviously don’t know me. I hug and talk to strangers all the time.”
With an inviting smile Pete added, “Me too. You see I am trying to turn over a new leaf. I spent time in jail and daily I am trying to do good, even in small ways.”
God has the small details in our life and can use anyone to make a difference. You just need to be open to it and keep looking up for HELP, His Ever Lasting Presence. Do you have a story that a complete stranger made a difference? Feel free to share in the comment section below
I call it the gift. The gift is my unadulterated skill to fall asleep anywhere, anytime…within minutes. I embrace my talent without any shame. I could be on a plane and before the pilot can announce, “Prepare for take off, ” I am already sound asleep, mouth wide open like a big mouth bass, letting the drool dribble down my chin like a hook is stuck in the back of my throat. This was my gift… until unexpected about a year and half ago, the Grinch appeared and robbed me. And just like a wide-eyed Who from Whoville, I was left with an empty stocking hanging on the fireplace mantel with only the Grinch’s stench left behind. No, I take that back, he filled my stocking with an expected present… insomnia. Continue reading →
A few years ago, I had a day as surreal as a Stanley Kubrick film. As I dug in my purse for change to pay for my Heath bar, a stranger behind me laid a dollar on the counter, purchased my candy bar, and told me to “Pay it forward”. I turned to him, dumbfound and quipped, “Thanks.” I walked away, savoring the sweet taste of chocolate, and shook my head in disbelief.
Later that afternoon, I drove down Schaumburg road, and made my way into the snow-covered parking lot of a laundry mat. I pulled my laundry baskets out of my trunk as the bitter wind punched my cheeks. Why did my water pipes break this week? Why did my life have to be this hard?
Within minutes the washing machines were jammed with my dirty clothes, but it was my emotions that were burst and soiled. In the next thirty minutes, I watched my clothes being tossed against the glass round window, flopping around without any clear direction, mirroring my haphazard day. Just then a wind gust blew the door open and a lady dressed in red flannel PJs bottoms and a black wool coat, walked in. Within seconds she was crying with despair,
“Thunder and Lightning ran out of gas and are stranded.”
“Who are Thunder and Lightning?”
Between broken sobs she continued,” They are my twin girls.”
“Really? Thunder and Lightning? Where do they go to school?”
“Schaumburg High School. They are Sophomores. They are track stars.”
Lines on my forehead formed like an EKG read-out,” Oh, are they? I have a sophomore girl at Schaumburg, too. Her name is Tarah.”
“You do? Maybe my girls know her. They are on the track team and are wicked fast… but they need help. Do you have any money for gas?” She pleaded, “I am a single mom. Please can you help me?’
Her eyes melted my soul like whip cream on hot chocolate. I reached in my wallet and took out a ten-dollar bill. “I am a single mom, too. This is for your girls.”
She hugged me like a momma who just found her lost child at Disney World,” Thank you. Thank you.”
I watched her walk out of the frosted glass door and disappear into the blizzard. I dialed Tarah on my cell.
“Tarah do you know any girls called Thunder and Lightning at your school?”
“Yeah, mom. They are track stars, why?
“Never mind… I’ll see you in a bit.”
Pressing the end button on my cell phone, I looked up at the ceiling and laughed as I thought of the gentleman who said, “pay it forward.” I felt an unnerving stillness come rush over me like a gentle brook streaming over a rock.
As I left the laundry mat, the snow continued to fall making the roads slick. I stopped at a stoplight right by Schaumburg High School just as a car skidded into me tapping my bumper. As I walked to rear of my Murano, I saw a nervous chubby cheeked face looking down at the dent and then his hazel eyes quickly darted to meet mine. With his corners of his mouth turned down he uttered, “I, I am so sorry,” As he tugged at grey knitted cap, he lowered his head and closed his lips like a trap. Looking up at the rosy cheeks I asked, “Are you hurt? Are you ok?”
In confusion, he replied, “Yes. I am fine.” Looking down at the silver dented bumper and then up at the boy, “Well, it’s only a dent. No one was hurt. Forget about it. Just be careful.”
His hand brushed to push his mocha colored bangs to the side and added,” Are you serious?”
I nodded. “Yep.”
“Thanks. I just got my license and my dad would kill me.’
I shuffled through the snow-covered street and made my way back into my SUV right before the light turned green. As I sat for a moment, I realized that I was given the gift to” pay it forward.” not once but twice. I released my right foot from the brake pedal and pressed the gas pedal down. As I drove into the intersection, I looked up at the sky and smirked knowing that angels were probably smirking too.