The Whisper Within

" Believing that God powers strange coincidences and the journey that lies ahead."


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“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?”

“Pretty good.”

“Good. I’m glad. I know I really don’t know you, but I’ve heard good things about you.”

“You have?”

“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?”

“Sure.”

“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?”

“Sure.”

“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.

 


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  nigeriaRomans 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.”

February 2013

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….


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lisa buck tooth

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I was different but not in the normal way that one wants to be. My first recollection of this was in second grade. I was not pretty by normal standards in fact my nickname was “Buck Tooth Beaver”. Kids can be so cruel. If I couldn’t be the “pretty girl” at least I could be the “smart girl” or “nice girl”. At times it was very painful to be teased, but at other moments I knew it was NOT who I was. I knew deep in my soul that I was special. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Succop told me so. (God bless her, wherever she is today!) She wrote on my report card,” You can truly tell Lisa has Jesus in her heart through her words and actions. She is Jesus’ little lamb.” (I think my mom still has that report card today if you want to see it! Ha!)

Mrs. Succop had the kindest spirit and inspired me to have a caring heart. She was an example of a servant and I wanted to be like her. Years later, as a CFP®, I take my calling to serve very seriously. I am blessed to serve wonderful clients who have trusted me through the good and bad times of the stock market…. And some downright UGLY times.

Sometimes you have to go through a little ugly to end up prettier on the other side… Growing up on five acres in rural Chicago, my dad taught me and my three siblings that horse manure made the crops grow. Sometimes you just have to dig deep, shovel the sh##, and be patient and the garden would flourish. Same can be applied to investments. Even though last August the market stunk like manure; the DJIA was around 15,400 but if you dug deep and did not abandon your crops, a year later The DJIA(8/29/16) closed at 18,668. History has shown that some of the ugliest sectors, the year following can be the best sector. Will this be true for oil investments?

Patience paid off for my clients this year and patience also paid off for the little eight year old, “buck tooth beaver” . I embrace the hard lessons. God sometimes brings us through the tough times, to build trust. As a CFP® I am thankful my clients have learned to trust me and know that eventually things do turn around…and I am thankful for those mean girls too. They gave me the motivation to work harder, be smarter, but most of all, just like my childhood days shoveling manure in the barn, they dished me the crap… so I could blossom. I learned the hard lesson that with the right amount of “crap”… eventually everything would be smelling like roses.

…Romans 8:28 “And we know God works all things for good for those who love him.”… EVEN The Bad stuff!

So what is your ugly story? How did your “bad” turn to good? Where did patience finally pay off?

You can follow my blog at http://www.thewhisperwithin.live


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Misery To Ministry… Just Another Sleepless Night.

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. insomnia-math-skills Continue reading