The Whisper Within

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


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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 …cheerleading

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.square-crackers1-640x480


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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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tri

I consider myself a fierce competitor personally and professionally. I am athlete that would rather hobble to the finish line than quit.

In my triathlon days, my performance was eighty percent training and twenty percent affected by outside factors; rain, heat, wind, and sometimes potholes.

I have learned that outside factors are out of my control and can affect work, projects, and even love. This past week I faced resistance in several areas of my life. It was like I was competing in a triathlon. I finished the swim course with ease but as I jumped on my bike I encountered a pot hole and then a flat tire. In one situation, I was accused of using my “flowery disposition and “spirituality” to my advantage.

Wow, naïve of me to assume that kindness and a willingness to serve would be a disadvantage and  attempt to kick me back to the start line.

I jumped off my bike, threw it over to the side and decided to run to the next course – the next event. Even though I am solid solo competitor, this was not an individual race but more a relay race requiring team participation. Yes, a group project and unfortunately I had an unwilling team member. The finish line kept being moved. It was time to stop at the water station and take a break.

Maybe it was time to quit asking. Quit knocking. Maybe God was allowing the resistance. Maybe God was telling me that I was taking on too many projects.

I have always said, “If the road you are on is filled with potholes, it is God’s way of saying the path under construction. Do not remove the orange cones and road blocks. God will direct you to a smoother path. You just have to be prepared to take his detour.”

Maybe the answer was no because God was clearing the potholes and leading me to a easier course.

Psalm 27:4 “I will wait on the Lord.”

In work, are you frustrated? Without purpose? Are you in the right job? Best work environment? Or does something else garnish your talents?

In projects, are you facing resistance? Is something not going smoothly?

In love, is the relationship not connecting? Is it too much work? Are values not aligned?

We live in an imperfect world but God’s timing is perfect.

God has changed me over time. I no longer run instead I walk or hike. I can’t bike since I am used to flat Chicago streets, not a hilly California course. Throw me in the pool – there I will swim like a dolphin.

In work, projects, but especially love, find your joy. Allow the easy. Know when to stop for water, change the course, or stop the race all together. Not every finish line needs to be crossed.

What is God telling you? Wait on the Lord and he will whisper to you.

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