Saturday, March 28, 2020

Viral Insights

No, this isn't a post about the virus per se. You've been inundated with blogs, messages, and emails about it, and I'm not going to tell you anything you probably already know. 

However, being one of the few that can actually work through the quarantine/shutdown, I've noticed something quite extraordinary. But let me backtrack a little here.

I work as a courier. I drive all over the city and surrounding suburbs, and when this virus hit, we got slammed with deliveries. So I was working longer and harder than I had been in a very long time. 
Most days before the shutdown, the streets were empty except for the traffic. Tech was blamed for the lack of kids playing and family time outside, and I was the loudest gal protesting on that particular bandwagon. So when the quarantine happened, I expected less traffic and even fewer people.

Wrong.

Neighborhoods were active with family bike rides, walks, joggers, and oldsters with their caregivers out for some fresh air and sunshine. Neighbors and family members were still taking precautions concerning social distancing, but all were having conversations and enjoying being together- as long as they were six feet away or more, that is.

Not many people were using their tech. Some loners were on their phones, but most were out and about chatting with each other. Yes, they were under caution, but most of the burbs weren't on shutdown- not yet. But it did surprise me just how many people were outside- especially kids.

The tech should have kept everyone inside...right? Phone games, texting, videos, movies, computer and console games were all excuses to stay inside; yet parents were constantly wanting kids to go out before the virus- remember those conversations?

Parent: Hey kids! It's gorgeous outside! Why don't you stop playing on your phone/computer/TV and go outside to play? Go for a family walk? Ride your bike...do something!

Kids: NOOOOOOO! It's too hot/cold/sunny/shady/whatever outside! I wanna stay in and play the game I just downloaded- and then I have to text my friends about it!

And now that we're on quarantine?

Parent: Why don't you stay in and play some video games, text your friends, or watch a movie? Everything's closed so you can't go anywhere.

Kids: NOOOOOOO! All this stuff is boring and I want to go out with my friends! We can bike or walk around the block and just hang out...

All parents of the universe: SIGH...

Gotta love the irony.

So tech isn't why we've become so reclusive. We had a reason to use it to remain inside, yet we didn't. We went out. 

That's when it hit me.

It was busyness that kept us socially separated. And when we were forced to stop being busy with what we thought was life, we actually found out that that wasn't what life was all about after all!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Families were spending time together. Pets were getting more walks and longer playtimes. Kids were playing and being more active outdoors. Gardens were being tended, lawns mowed and neighbors were chatting. The best part?

People were happy.

Once this viral mess is over, I hope it positively changes lives. We've surrounded ourselves with so much to do, we forget we can slow down. Most times we choose not to. Only when everything is shut down do we see what a truly good life really is!

Enjoy the free time you now have, and pray for those that still need to work to keep the virus at bay. Let God show you that it's okay to rest, slow down, and spend time just sitting in the sunshine. 

And when this is all over, remember to take time out of each day to slow down and breathe.

I pray you all to remain safe and healthy, and that God blesses you in many unexpected ways during this quarantine!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Messiah Mindset

Sometimes I wonder why Jesus was called the Messiah. But when I broke up the word into syllables, I realized it made perfect sense.

Mess- I- Ah.

He saw the mess, said to Himself 'I need to fix this', and all of us exhaled a collective sigh of relief. Ah...

Well, we were supposed to exhale in relief. But noooo, we had to go on being human and keep messing with things, not trusting that He fixed everything. 

Humans are so like that, aren't we?

Many of us have gotten so far from His mindset that only a rare few truly understand where God wants them to go, what to be, and how to be to get there. We struggle to see God's plan for us instead of enjoying the ride.

I know I do because I'm too busy straining in my seat to see behind me or what's coming over the next hill. I don't always enjoy the ride. But I'm getting better at it.

Trials are trials for a reason- and sometimes we aren't meant to see those reasons right from the get-go. In fact, most of us won't see all the blessings we've had until after the trial is over! The year 2020 will be a 'year of vision' as the great 'They' say, but let's face it; most of those visions will either be hindsight (where we were), or foresight (where we're going)- not where we are at the present moment. 

And the present is where the good stuff is- even during the bad stuff.

You know that phrase 'you can't have your cake and eat it too'? I never understood that saying! It seems so silly, right? How can you eat the cake if you don't have it, and how can you have the cake but not eat it? 

Does this phrase mean that you're not truly enjoying the cake until after you ate the whole thing? You didn't savor the moment, so now you're left with a plate of crumbs, icing, and regrets? 

Image by modi74 from Pixabay

Interesting. 

But I bet when no one's looking, you licked that icing and crumbs off that plate, didn't you?

Now you're living in the moment, tasting the bare remnants of something that could have been enjoyed fully a few bites ago.

I want to enjoy my cake while I eat it. I know you do too. We've just forgotten how.

We're caught up in a fast-paced world full of distractions, and we forget that it's okay to slow down and put away the gadgets, turn things off, and go sniff a rose or two. Or enjoy that cake with the super yummy frosting.

I've had to relearn things I used to know- slowing down to read a book, pause when you smell freshly baked bread or a mown lawn, listen to the birds chirping outside and just be. To clear my mind and listen to what God has to say. It's not always easy.

What is God telling you?

Maybe you're to rest. Perhaps you're to hit the pause button and help someone. Hear what someone is actually saying, not just the words they say. Maybe He's giving you a new road to walk. Whatever it is, God is going to fix things and put you back on the right track. His track.

I want to encourage you to slow down and breathe deeply. Take in those wonderful scents. Hear the birds chirping in the distance. Taste that cake and enjoy it. 
Because the Mess is fixed. 
I can savor the present moment.
Ah...




Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Deeper End- A Spiritual Attack

You know you're headed in the right direction when the devil jumps on you with both feet.

It started with a desire to change. Not for the New Year, but to make all-around changes for the better. Since we considered changing the way we lived with our stuff, why not delve a little deeper and try to change the way we lived on the inside too?

So I bought a book that I thought would help me understand my role as a wife, mom, and also support my husband in his ministry.

Well, Mister Pointy Horns didn't like that at all and decided to take action. 

On Christmas morning. 
Early morning. 
Like 3:30 a.m. 

Boo-Boo, one of the three cats that adopted me (I was his favorite) felt something was up, so he started yowling at my bedroom door. This was a peculiar yowl, loud enough to wake only me, so I opened the door and gave him a cuddle (because he would not leave me alone and wrapped about my legs like a bolo), then I shut the door and went back to bed. 

I opened my eyes. Something was wrong. The room had an odd feel to it. My clock, which glows like a light blue sun normally, was darker than a black hole; there was a sense of anti-light about the darkness. It was a darkness that filled me with dread. Something was in the room with us.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Oh, not today, Buster, I said to myself. I'd had a bad day at work yesterday, and was itching for a good fight. I stood and roared at the shadows that loomed near my bedside; Get out of my house! I yelled silently, I bind you in Jesus' name!

The entities shifted but didn't leave.

Surprised, I tried again. I bind you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, get out of my house- leave my family and my cats alone!

But they didn't leave. I looked about frantically for something to help.

I reached for what I thought were white crosses at the head of my bed, but when my fingers touched them they were just crosses of paper with no power about them. I had a flash of thought- false prophets- before the crosses fluttered to the floor behind the bed.

Out of the corner of my eye, a man who was my husband but wasn't my husband was crouched next to me by the bed, playing what looked like a wooden flute, elaborately carved into a cross. 

That had to be what I needed! He only got two notes out before I snatched it from him and held it out to the shadows, trying to bind them a third time, using the words I was always taught to use. 

It seemed to work. The power had lessened and they seemed to leave. The cross-like flute and my husband disappeared. I climbed back into bed to pray.

I woke up abruptly. The clock was still swathed in anti-light.

Something was dragging me across the bed towards it. No hands, just a force. I turned to see a shadowed entity against my wall with giant fire-filled eyes, mouth agape in silent rage.

I was being pulled toward it. Hard

My fingers clawed the sheets. I needed help, and I needed it now.

Another flash of thought- through Me, not you. 

Then it hit me. I'd been trying to disperse these entities through me- I bind, my house. I. Me. Myself. 
I cried out for God to take over and protect me.

Someone grabbed me around the waist, pulled me to the opposite side of the bed and held me tight against him with one arm. I knew it was my husband-not-my-husband. God had sent Someone to protect me. 

I'd felt the shadows lurch back in surprise to the opposite side of the bed. There was a very pregnant pause. Then I'd heard the Someone speak in a different language- Mas ven aviku.

I had no idea what that meant (or what language it was), but he wasn't talking to me- he was talking to the shadow. It sounded like a warning.

And the shadow left.

I woke up back in bed. My clock display shone bright blue against the very quiet, very peaceful darkness. I squinted as it blared the time- 5:03 a.m. I remained stock-still, listening for anything that would tell me this wasn't a dream, that the fight was really over. 

My husband was asleep beside me.
Boo-boo meowed at the door. This was his regular 'time for breakfast, so feed me' meow. 
Dawn was coming. 
Christmas was here.

I picked up my cellphone and immediately sought a language translator.

To this day I still don't know what aviku means. But the first two words translated best from Spanish to English.

More come.

The Being had warned the shadows that more will come. More what? Beings? Angels? And what does aviku mean? Was it the name of the shadow? The only Aviku I could find was a character in a game. Oddly enough, the character was a demon, and it was known by another name- Defiler of Souls. Yikes!

When I read the translation, I felt as if an army was surrounding my house, protecting us. I couldn't see them, but I felt them, and that was all I needed. God has sent His army to protect me and my family. 

The shadows were gone.

I picked up the book I'd bought and started reading. What was the book you might ask? The Resolution for Women, written by Priscilla Shrier, based on the movie Courageous. It's a study not lightly taken, but I wanted to read through it first before delving even deeper to improve my spiritual life. I'm almost finished it, and I believe this book will help me grow into a better servant for God. In fact, it already has!

I'd like to make one thing clear- I don't think buying the book itself was the reason I was attacked. I believe it was because I'd finally made a choice to change myself for the better- not just for my kids and husband but for God, and this book would indeed become a big influencer in my spiritual life. 

Any spiritual improvement sets the devil on his ear...er...horn, and he'll do his best to stop it whenever possible. This is usually when adversity rears its ugly head and the battle becomes a bit harder for a Christian. So if you feel the weight of life on your shoulders, let go of the 'me, myself and I' floatie you're holding onto and dare to swim in deeper waters- because God is the best lifeguard, ever!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Speck Had Legs

It's been a long four months.

Things started out simple enough. A small series of bites we thought were spiders hiding in the deepest nooks of our extremely comfy couch. At least until one afternoon when a friend was over and I noticed a small speck on my shirt.

I went to flick it off, and it moved. The speck had legs.

Baby spider, I thought to myself. You know, one of those little reddish ones that are harmless. But this one wasn't red, it was brown, and it was flat, not like those harmless little spiders.

I held out a small section of my shirt and asked my friend (who can see up close better than I) what the belegged speck might be. He told me "That...is a baby bedbug."

And the three-month decimation quest began. 

First, we studied up on bedbugs and their uncanny abilities to hide. I've done research before on pests (another tiny enemy, the flea), and found a solution that was both cheap and easy to execute, as long as I was diligent. But I'll be honest- fighting bedbugs was one hundred times worse than anything we've ever tried to conquer on our own before.

This blogger was their favorite buffet item on their menu. It wasn't long before I was bitten all over my arms and legs because each bug can bite up to five times each. And they itch like crazy. Some people don't notice, but I happen to be gifted with sensitivity to these critters, and at night I would wake up to the feeling of being crawled on and bitten.

I was like some weird kind of superhero- or supervillain, from the bedbugs' point of view. From a dead sleep, my eyes snapped open, hand whipping around to snatch the little bugger from behind my back, and cackle in maniacal glee as I flushed his/her butt merrily down the toilet. 
I stripped the blankets and top sheets off and frantically searched for more intruders before they went back into hiding. I was even fast enough to catch a few by hand, in the dark before my husband woke up and blinded me with the end table light. 


(Image by TyrusTime from Pixabay)

Sometimes I would win, most times I would lose- and we both lost any chance of a full nights' sleep. 

One of my clients had bedbugs and they opted for the heat treatment- not only did it cost a small fortune, but it also wrecked the walls of her apartment. So many others went the Do-It-Yourself way, and we decided that would be best (and cheapest) for us- after all, we had that flea thing beaten...right?

Life Lesson 1,027: Fleas ain't bedbugs.

Bedbugs love soft fabrics, carpeting, rough wood, and paper. Yes, paper. We found them in unwrapped toilet tissue, an open box of unused envelopes, printer paper, and wrapping paper. I had to ditch an entire lifetime supply of Christmas wrap because it was in a box in our bedroom near my side of the bed. The box was infested with them.

Bedbugs like to be close to the food source- us. Per online and exterminator recommendations, we sequestered ourselves to our master bedroom and the first floor of the house during our DIY treatments. Anything more than six feet away from us was not infested- though we treated the entire rooms we occupied. Rooms we stayed out of were not affected at all!

It wasn't easy.

Any cushioned furniture or rough wood items had to be bagged up and tossed. We lost our couch, the desk, desk chair, mattress, box spring, and mattress board inserts to these insidious little creatures. 
All clothing had to be washed, dried and bagged fresh from the dryer into trash bags, tied and sealed, then stored in a non-infested room. We kept some clothing out to wear, but it was also bagged, sealed and hung in a high spot, away from the floor and carpets.
Anything else had to go in sprayed boxes and stored after being checked and cleared for bedbugs, including books. Remember what I said about paper? Yeah. They like books too. Most of them were cleared and the ones that weren't were tossed.
The mattresses were wrapped in thick plastic and sealed until we could get a new/used mattress and proper bedbug-proof bedcovers.
Regular shoes were heat-treated and put up high on racks, away from the floor. Other shoes were heat treated and stored in plastic trash bags and sealed, then stored.
Nothing was donated- let's make that clear. Everything that had a chance of having bedbugs was bagged and tossed despite its condition- we didn't want anyone else having this issue!

We tried sprays. Two types, in fact. The only one that worked well was a product called DeFence, and that works on bedbugs only if freshly sprayed. Otherwise, it's great- it kills everything else creepy-crawly.
Diatomaceous Earth and baking soda mixed together helped but wasn't fast enough to kill them before they bred. And they can hatch every six to ten days.
Oils deter them, but don't kill them- it just makes them climb the walls and get into other things. Great if you don't have them (they won't come in), but not-so-great if they're already hiding in the carpets.
Carpet cleaning was the best way to get the majority of them, but not all of them. I stopped being a bug buffet was when we bought the carpet steam cleaner.
Heat gun- Great for treating non-dryer items like shoes and luggage.
Dryer heat- this is the best way to get rid of live bugs- they die from heat above 120 degrees for a period of 20 or more minutes. 

For three months, our days looked like this:
Get up, remove the sheets and bedding for heat treatment and/or washing, including pillows. Heat-treated clothing from the night before was put on after showering, and shoes weren't put on until it was ready to go to work. 
Any items that were worn for work (fanny pack, jackets, etc. were tossed in the dryer and put up high or bagged and not put on until we left for work.
The rooms were sprayed every 6 days, vacuumed every three days, and steam cleaned each week.
Clothing is washed, dried and bagged daily.

We were exhausted.

Even after all this (and healing up quite a lot thanks to the steam cleaner) every once in a while we'd see another one; sub-adult, but still alive. We just couldn't fight them ourselves anymore. We had to call a bedbug specialist. 

The exterminator we found does a gas treatment and a spray treatment. One day was all he needed to kill them all- including the eggs- and all we had to do was clear everything we could from the affected rooms. No heat treatments and it was non-toxic to our cats when the house aired out. And it was a lot cheaper than heat treatment. We did research on his technique and the gas he uses and decided it was worth it. 

I waited until at least two weeks passed after treatment before posting this blog, just to make sure they are gone for good. 

Gems of Bedbug Knowledge:

  • One pregnant bedbug is all it takes to get infested.
  • Bedbugs hatch every 6-10 days. 
  • Every time they have a blood meal, they hide and molt into the next stage. 
  • They have 7 stages- egg, first to fifth larvae (sub-adult), and adult. Bedbugs are about the size of a rice grain. They are flat, round and gold/light-brown colored with a dark dot before feeding, while fed bedbugs are larger, longer, completely dark brown or black and more spear/teardrop-shaped.
  • Females can lay an average of 5 eggs a day- about 500 in her lifetime.
  • Bedbugs love fabric, carpets, paper, and unfinished wood- including the inside of drawers.
  • They like being near their host- usually no more than six feet away. Mattresses, carpet, and soft furniture are the most common places they infest.
If you find you have bedbugs:
  • Get an exterminator that does the chlorine dioxide treatment right away. One day vs. three months of DIY isn't worth it.
  • Treatment is cheaper than DIY in time, money, and especially effort.
  • Make sure everything is washed and heat-treated before you leave the house to prevent spreading.
  • If possible, sequester your family members and pets to as few rooms as possible to prevent spreading to the entire house. Bedbugs won't stay in rooms where there isn't any food. (This will save you money on treatments as well!)
  • Don't go into other homes for visits or work until your home is treated- if this can't be prevented, shower and make doubly sure to heat treat and bag everything you wear and carry (yes, including purses, wallets, shoes, etc.) taking them out right before you leave your house.
  • If you know someone with bedbugs, tell them about the chlorine dioxide treatment. 
  • Don't treat those who have bedbugs like they have the plague. They need your support- not your disdain!
We are so thankful and grateful to everyone who helped us with the GoFundMe we posted to help hire the exterminator. We couldn't have eradicated them without our superheroes- you

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Soar, My Little Bird

It's done. My daughter is living the college life in New Hampshire.

We turned it into a three-day trip, using the time to visit with family as well as having a rest stop before the final leg of an eight-hour drive. Her dorm room move was quick and easy, and soon we were on our way back home.

I didn't ugly cry once.

At first, I began to wonder why I wasn't the teary-eyed mess I expected myself to be. Part of me wondered what was wrong- didn't all mothers cry when their babies went off on their own? Before I considered myself a client for the looney bin, my husband sensed my trepidation and simply stated: "You're not crying because you know she's ready for this." 

Oh. 

He was right- she had been testing her wings long before the drive to a new life of learning. In fact, she was so busy with high school and working a part-time job we hardly ever saw her for the past few months. She was ready- and apparently, so was I.

When we arrived home in the late evening, the house seemed quieter. Smaller. Weariness from the trip caught up with us, and after being inspected by all three cats when we walked through the door, we went to bed.

Several times during the next few days I caught myself looking for her, calling for her, and even bought her grapes to snack on when I went grocery shopping. I promised I wouldn't call her for at least her first day- helicopter moms aren't cool, so the college staff warned. So I tried to find other things to do while I snacked on grapes.

My cell rang with her special ring tone. She called me! We had a lively conversation as she introduced me to the faceless comrades around her; amused tones of greeting from her new acquaintances and roommates as they headed towards the dining hall. After hanging up, I realized something.

I didn't just love that kid- I liked her. I really enjoyed listening to her tales and hearing all the latest news and antics of college life. 

She had since called me several times to tell me about her day, or when she's feeling overwhelmed, or just needed a little prayer to calm her nerves. It's good to still feel needed by your kids- but not-so-needed that they fall apart when you're not right there next to them. 

Soar, my little bird. I take great joy in watching you fly for the first time.



Okay, now I'm crying a little.

The relationship is changing. Growing. Maturing. I hope she still calls me for prayers and updates regularly throughout her four-year stay. In the meantime, I'll eat her grapes and smile when I think of her. 

I really miss you, kiddo!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Perspectives and Payback

Have you ever had your perspectives shattered- but in a good way?



I've been reading a very interesting book called Predictably Irrational. One of the studies in this book completely blew my mind concerning my walk with not only God but other people in my life.

We can all agree that God wants a relationship with us. We can also agree that business and personal relationships don't always mesh well unless established from the get-go. 

How would you feel if this were you in these three situations?

You're a businessperson having a non-paying friend as a client. You charge a large amount for your high-quality, expensive work, and the friend agreed to pay- until he found out what the charges were. Now he won't pay for the completed job and you're out not only wages (and the wages of others under your employment) but the cost of supplies as well. 

You help a friend move. When you arrive, you see they hired movers but the friend still wants your help as well. You see them pay the movers, and though you did just as much work, your friend gives you a 'thanks' and shuts the door without offering you anything- not even a meal- for your help.

You have a dear friend who needs help doing something you do exceedingly well. Out of love, you help them for the entire week, taking time away from family to help out your friend. After everything is finished, she fishes out a moldy penny and hands it to you. "Thank you so much for all of your help! I just wanted to pay you back with this."

How would you feel? Angry? Hurt? Unappreciated? How would this affect your relationship with them in the future?

How many times have we treated God like this? I know I have. Many times. 

Ouch...right?

In the first situation, God made us a deal- 'Believe that Jesus is my Son, and you're in. Spread my word, read, pray and praise My name and we're all good. I've already done all the work for you.' Most people (including unbelievers) act as the client did, accepting the blessings until they had to take action- then walking away without doing their part.

In the second situation, God is invited only when needed. He helps us out of a situation, and we thank Him and shut the door behind us- until we need Him again. Yikes. 

That last situation is probably the worst because God doesn't want payback- He wants a relationship. Our meager offerings are much like that not-so-shiny penny. He made everything we have, so giving Him back something He already made is kind of silly when you think about it! All He wants is for us to believe, talk about Him to others, read, pray, and praise Him. That's it.

So why is it so hard to do this? Because we (I'm really talking about myself here) are too busy/tired/whatever to take time out to let the Big Guy know we love Him, and we are truly thankful for all that He has done. 

We have to stop accepting the blessings and walk away. 
We have to stop asking for help, then close the door afterward. 
We have to stop handing Him moldy pennies.

I'm definitely talking about myself here.

I hope I've helped you see your walk with God a little differently. Maybe you do none of these things. maybe you do all of them. Seeing situations from different angles helps us understand Him more. He wants us to get closer to Him. He loves us more than we can ever understand.

Thank You, Lord, for helping me understand more and more each day about You. I'm truly thankful and grateful for all You've done!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

When God Steps In

Have you ever felt like you were in a rut but were just too complacent to get yourself out of it?

Me too.

I'm at a point where I'd love to quit my job and spend time creating my new business, but making that leap is just too much to contemplate when there are finances at stake. Especially when those finances are funding the new business classes!

My husband is in a similar rut at work, but his issue is health related. Work and be sick, or not work and...you get the idea.

We are both well-rutted people. Both of us working on starting a new life in our own at-home businesses, but just not enough oomph to get the ball rolling.

You pray to God for a solution. You pray for blessings. You pray for relief and healing. Sometimes He listens, and sometimes He does something super-duper scary.

God steps in.

I'll be honest here. I'm not always thrilled when God decides to step in. Most times it scares me witless- only because He tends to make me uncomfortable.

Very uncomfortable.

This time, things will be more uncomfortable than they've ever been. But sometimes you have to get to a certain degree of uncomfortable before you will move your butt from where it's sitting.

I have a job. It's part-time, but in a perfect time slot where I can still see my husband before we both go off to work, and I'm back home to see the kids, make dinner and do mom/wife stuff. I'm tired but satisfied that I've done what I'm supposed to be doing at the end of the day to keep food on the table and the house intact.

Until yesterday, when my customers and the pharmacy folk I work for were whispering about changes that will affect my job. These changes will determine if I can afford to work much longer with this company. Similar circumstances happened the first time I took this kind of job- one that had me laid-off and rehired by another company within an hour. Ugh.

As for my husband, he will have a lot of decisions to make concerning his job. I can't say for now, but his apple cart will definitely be shaken if not toppled altogether. 

So much for comfortable ruts.

God came in and just yanked the pillows from under our heads, shook the mattress and said: "Time to wake up and smell the glory, people!"

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

We were obviously taking much longer to get started than God intended. But you don't dare ignore that overly cheerful call of reprimand, because God might just do a lot more than shaking the mattress.

When God steps in, you better pay attention, Buster, or no blessings for you!

I'm still scared witless. The unknown is a scary thing. Is there a monster or a stuffed bunny under the bed? I won't know until I stick my head down there and look. God is with me- so why am I still scared?

Because I'm not the one calling the shots, and I know it.

But I can control what I do with my time, so my husband and I had a good heart-to-heart talk, and got down to business- literally. 

When not working we are working on our businesses- one bite at a time. Yes, there is a time for rest, but there isn't time for complacency- not when God has given us a wake-up call.

Has God ever stepped in when you got a little too comfortable? I'd love to hear your stories!