Private Eyes are Watching Me

Taking a Closer Look at my Fears and Dreams as a Surveillance Investigator

Yep, that’s me, pretending like I am good with a video camera. It’s actually quite challenging to hold a small camera steady and zoom in and out quickly and effectively. I am still getting used to it! That little camera holder is a must though! So are my binoculars. I am wearing a hat because I have not showered yet. Why bother? I am sitting in a hot car all day. I’m also dressed like an athletic soccer mom because soccer moms look more normal and less suspicious. Want to learn more about my job and what it’s teaching me about myself? Read on!

It’s 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I drive into a sleepy suburban neighborhood.  The sun is shining and the birds are chirping.  It’s going to be a beautiful and sunny day!  

Too bad I will be sitting in my car all day.

The first thing I notice about the neighborhood is that there are no mature trees.  Shady spots are great to have for less glare, less heat, and more blending.  I slowly drive my elderly, nondescript SUV past the subject’s residence and quickly check to see if his vehicle is present.  

Unfortunately, there are no vehicles parked in his driveway.  Could they possibly be in his garage or did he leave already?  

I don’t know.  

A pit of doubt begins for form in my stomach.  Does the subject even live here? He has another recent address on a utility report.

As I turn from looking at his house, I see a man walking his dog who is already eyeing me suspiciously.  I can almost see him whipping out his phone and taking a picture of my license plate later, so I make a mental note to call the local police and let them know I will be working in the area today, but not be too specific with an exact location. 

I drive around a little more and try to find the best spot to park my vehicle to conduct surveillance, but then notice a “no parking this side of the street” sign and inwardly groan.  I pull a u-turn and try to find a less obvious spot to park my vehicle on the same side of the road as my subject’s residence, but not too far away, because I need good quality video.  I will have to pull a fast and stealthy u-turn in the event he becomes active and I need to “conduct mobile surveillance” (fancy phrase for following him in his vehicle).

I check my video camera and make sure I have the date and time stamp working properly. 

Finally, I ease the front passenger seat back, so that if a nosey neighbor walks past me, they will be able to look through to the other side window and not be able to easily see me sitting super upright in the driver’s seat.  I am thankful that at least I found one mature tree and that I have decent tinting on my windows.  

A new walker lady is heading straight towards my vehicle.  I shrink back into my seat, turn off my car, and hope she walks right on past me without looking in.  

I breathe a sigh of relief as she briskly walks past, engrossed in whatever she is listening to on her Air pods.

I settle back and take a long, cold stare at my subject’s garage, front door, and windows.  I watch and wait for even the slightest hint of activity.  I might wait for eight hours, or I might wait for 8 minutes.  The moment I take my eyes off that garage and front door is the moment I miss something interesting that I should be getting on video tape.  Good quality video tape is very important in the world of surveillance investigation.

I am finding that this part/full-time job is hard, interesting, boring, complicated, exciting, satisfying, and nerve-wracking at times.

This new career field is two years in the making and very different from my former career of working on public policy/politics in the public and private sectors. Blame in on Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, or the TV show Hunter back in the 80s, but for whatever reason I have always been interested in figuring sh*&%$^t out in general, and PI work specifically.

I’m finally giving PI a try!

But here is where things take an interesting twist: 

What I thought might be a means to an end (gaining my PI license) has turned into something more than that: God is using this job to show me that I have many unhealthy fears that are subtly ruling over me.  I believe He wants to change me into a person who is not ruled by fear, able to let things go more easily, and is comfortable with less control, more change, more imperfection, and the unknown.  

But before I get into all of the introspection, below are a few things I am enjoying about my job as a surveillance investigator:

  • I am paid to spy on people and determine the truth about a subject.  My job is to record (and hopefully videotape) the activities of people who are alleging that they are unable to work.  Do they claim to have an elbow injury that renders them incapable of work, yet they have a job lifting boxes out of the back of a van?  Do they have a landscaping truck parked in their driveway yet claim to have a back injury and are getting paid worker’s compensation by another landscaping company?  I try to figure out if people committing insurance fraud, among other things.
  • I am learning a ton about the PI world and investigation in general. From finding information about the subject on public sites, to figuring out what a recent utility report means, to learning how to successfully perform mobile surveillance, etc.
  • I have learned the importance of living an honest life.  My job is to prove the truth. Sadly, so far, most of my claimants have not been truthful.  One man was walking with a visible limp due to a knee injury. Good for you bro!  Seems like working would be hard for you.  But most people I surveil seem to healed of their injury yet are still enjoying free money (and some are working other jobs).  This position makes me so grateful for the simple and honest life that I live.
  • Speaking of reports, I have learned how to write them!  More than that, how to serve a subpoena, how to read a comprehensive report, how to use my MacBook Pro and iPhone to my advantage, how to use Wondershare, how to use a covert camera disguised as a key fob, and the list goes on.  Do I love this tedious technology work?  Nope, not at all.  In fact, I hate it!  But it’s been good for me.  Using my brain in this way has made time go slower for me and it’s good exercise for my mind.  
  • There are great and helpful men out there!  Although my manager is a woman, I work with all men.  All of them have been so wonderful and helpful.  I have one co-worker who will literally read through all of my cases and help me figure things out.  Another one taught me a lot of little nuances that have been very beneficial to me when conducting mobile surveillance.  One sat with me on the phone for probably two hours trying to help me to figure out Wondershare.

So while I am thankful for the good things about this job, there are many more difficult aspects of this job as well.  I will not be writing about the difficulties of the job in this post, but rather, how this job exposes my many areas of weakness, most specifically my discomfort in the area of uncertainty and loss of control. Here are just a few areas of fear that I am currently becoming aware of:

Fear of a loss of control

I asked a very seasoned Surveillance Investigator what he loved about his job and he said “it’s different everyday.” You know what?  I am learning that I like things to be the same, so I can feel more in control of the situation, and so that I can navigate my job better and be more successful. 

This feeling of a loss of control is the hardest part about this job for me.  For example, I have no way to control what my subject does, his level of activity, or whether or not I will be able to obtain him performing various activities on video.  I can’t control if my subject drives his BMW 110 mph on the highway and quickly loses me struggling to keep up in my somewhat elderly SUV, or if he loses me in traffic due to a slow driver in-between us.  I can’t control if my subject’s version of “being active” means he goes to three different drive-through windows and then zooms right back into his garage, never to step one foot outside and I obtain zero video footage.

I am finding that the less control I have, the more anxiety it produces within me.  I kept noticing how my “stomach felt off” for several months before making the connection that I was just very anxious due to the lack of control I had over my job.  

Fear of the unknown  

This fear is the twin sister of the fear of loss of control.  If you don’t know what your subject is going to do that day, or if he is even actually living at the address you are surveilling, how can you feel confident and comfortable in your job?  Once your subject enters his vehicle and takes off, you have no idea where he is going and how far he will be driving.  He might even drive out of the state!  In our field, you need to “stay on your subject” even it means driving to a soccer tournament in Missouri. Yikes!

Fear of my own incompetence

This job has exposed that I have perfectionistic tendencies and that I don’t like learning a new job because it makes me “feel stupid.”  I have made many (usually) minor mistakes which I find embarrassing.  Although I have worked many part-time jobs over the years, this is my first almost full-time professional job in many years.  I am finding that I am behind the technology of our modern era, and in need of a major upgrade on all of my professional skills. 🙂

Fear of bosses

I like my boss and she’s great at what she does, but I sometimes find her style of communication to be difficult to read.  The way she communicates sometimes makes me “feel dumb” as she can lack grace or a sense of kindness as she communicates with me (or at least that is how I am perceiving her to be).  As a person who uses the smiley face emoji when I communicate via text in order to keep a positive vibe, this is hard for me.

Fear of wasting my time with this job  

I am also learning that it will be very hard for me to eventually get my PI license in the state of Illinois were I live. Why? Because I have to work full-time for one to two years (depending on how much time they knock off for my eduction) with a licensed PI firm or individual before I am even eligible to sit for the difficult PI exam. I am learning that surveillance investigation is one of the only ways to gain that investigative experience that I need before the exam. The other way to gain investigative experience is to latch onto an individual local PI (or local PI firm) who will train me on different forms of investigation and give me cases under their direct supervision.  I already tried that route and found it not feasible, though I am still open to going this route should the opportunity present itself. The bottom line is that if it turns out that surveillance investigation is the only way for me to gain the experience I would need, I don’t think I will be able to do it because I have been struggling with scoliosis my entire adult life, and sitting in my vehicle for long periods has been terrible for my back, legs, and overall health.

I sure hope that this job will not be a huge waste of time. But honestly, I have learned so much about both PI and myself that it will be worth it no matter what.

Fear of letting things slip with my kids

I am finding that the more hours I spend working, the less time I have for my husband and kids, and the management of my home (i.e. housework, which never dies). I find this to be stressful and the running to-do list in my head is always sending me mental text reminders.  I am always thinking about things I need to catch up on when I get home and how to connect with my kids.  I know every working mom knows how I feel and my troubles are small potatoes compared to some.

Which leads me to a conversation I had with my husband the other night.  

The other night Erik asked me if becoming a PI was my dream.  He said “if this is your dream, I will support you all the way.  If this is not your dream, it’s taking up a lot of time and it’s a strain on the family.  Time is flying and we are not getting any younger.  Figure out your dream and do it!”

Maybe his words were not that direct, but his words pierced directly into my heart.  He is correct.  If becoming a licensed PI is not ‘in the cards’ for me, or it’s too difficult for me to obtain in this season of life, then what am I doing?

His question led to other questions.  Here are four more:

If this job will not lead to my dream, why continue?

But what if I don’t know what my dream is?

Is PI work simply a part of a broader dream?

God, can you please show me what the heck my dream even is? And quickly please, because my back hurts.

One “potential dream” I have had in the back in my mind for many years is in the form of an idea to run for a political position one day.  I am currently doing nothing to advance that goal. Recently, the Alderman who lives in my neighborhood, whom I am friends with and have supported and worked for in the past, recently won her seat to our city’s Mayor position.  Good for her!  She encouraged me to apply for the Alderman position as she had to appoint one to take her place.  To make a long story short, I was not selected. Not getting selected threw me off and made me question what I am doing right now and whether or not this job is where I am supposed to be.  

So while I am waiting for further clarity, here is what I do know:

I am making progress on my many issues of fear, control, people-pleasing my boss, and more.

I am mainly doing this by asking myself deep and probing questions such as:

Heather, what are you really fearing?  What is the root?

Why are you trying so hard to stay in control?

What is the absolute worst that can happen if you cannot maintain control or you mess up in some way?

These questions have helped me to realize that my root fear of loss of control deals with my discomfort with not being good at something. That root boils down to a fear of rejection and my desire for acceptance from other people. I then apply what God would say about that fear.

God’s truth is that He loves me, He accepts me without any condition, He will help me, He is with me, and that He will work all things together for my good (even a job loss).  The worst that can happen in my job is that I will get fired and someone will completely reject me. I am trying to be comfortable internally with that possibility, even if it never happens.  

I can already tell a huge difference in my life since starting surveillance work over a year ago. I am no longer stressing out about things I cannot control. I just do the best I can and then pray about all the other areas that either don’t get done, don’t get done well, or that are above my pay grade. I can only be in control of myself. Everything else is not really my problem.

I can give everything else over to God and trust that He loves me and is working all things together for my good and His glory. Even when I think I have some level of control, it’s only a veneer anyway.

I will experience more peace if I do my best, and trust Him with the rest.

The bottom line of this post is this: I really don’t know where this job is going long-term, but I do know that it is being used in my life right now to change me into a more chill and relaxed but still a marginally Type-A person with goals and dreams, who is still trying to figure it all out. 🙂

In the meantime, if you see a nondescript car just sitting in your neighborhood with tinted windows, and it seems suspicious, it could be me just sitting there while I try to evaluate my life, my fears and my dreams. 

So come on over and knock on my window (everyone else does!) and say hello!

I probably need to use your restroom and stretch my back anyway!

_______________________

When It’s (not) Your Time to Go: A Closer Look At Beating Death

I can’t believe it has been 21 years since the Final Destination movie made its debut.  I enjoyed watching probably three of the five movies (FD2 was my favorite) and I used to clip and save miracle survival stories from newspapers and kept them in a file.    

The movies reveal humanity’s innate desire to be in control of all aspects of their life, including their appointed time of death, and even whether or not that appointment can be moved to a later date, or avoided altogether!

Lots of freak accidents that ended badly in these movies. (photo credit: final destination movie)
Watch out for them log trucks! (photo credit: final destination 2 movie)

This post is a shallow dive of all things related to time of death and whether or not it can be moved to a later date.  I also take a peek at a few of my favorite miracle survival stories, near death experiences, and one recorded instance of someone beating death in the Bible.

I will start this post with a personal story, add in some other amazing miracle survival stories, and then dig into the topic.

My mother in law Irena had already survived the horrors of WWII as her homeland of Latvia was invaded by Germany and Russia in 1941.  She and her mother had to flee Latvia and navigate through war-torn Europe, miraculously surviving many near-death experiences. But this particular story found her many years later in a hospital room following back surgery and, due to the fact that the surgery left her injured, she was allowed to stay at the hospital for a few more days rather than being discharged to recover at home.  In her words:   

“As it was, *because of the spinal injury* I was in ICU when it happened, 4 days after surgery.  I see now that God foreknew (of course!) and made all things things work for good. I had finished breakfast and felt good. Nurse had gotten me up in a chair and set me in position to look out over the skyline. It was a beautiful sunny day. And my heart slowed to where it stopped completely.”

Irena actually died right there in the hospital, but thankfully, the staff jumped to action and performed CPR on her, reviving her.  Had she been at home recovering on her own, she would have died.  

God used a very difficult part of her story (a spinal injury during surgery) to keep my mother-in-law in the hospital longer than she otherwise would have been, so that she would be revived when she suddenly died.  
In those few moments of death she had an encounter with God who assured her it was not her time to go.  Irena returned to her body full of peace, believing that God still has a plan for her remaining on earth.  

After the experience, Irena stated that “submission to God’s will brings peace and  is the key to receiving His greatest blessings.”  

Like Irena’s story above, the following amazing survival stories illustrate the same concept: when it’s not your time, it’s not your time.

And miracles still happen!

Boy Survives Lake Erie Plane Crash (9/4/2007)

One night a couple was sitting out on a Lake Erie beach, just enjoying the quiet evening.  Out of the night sky they noticed a plane’s taillight plunging into the Great Lake.  The man immediately hopped into his rowboat and frantically rowed out to the approximate place he had seen the lights disappear.  After 15 minutes of rowing around in the dark, a small hand appeared on the side of his rowboat.  He then pulled out a soaking wet seven year old boy, who had miraculously survived the plane crash.  The boy matter-of-factly told him his brother and dad had just perished, and the only reason he had survived is because his seat belt broke during the crash. (source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/boy-survives-lake-erie-plane-crash/)

Miracle Baby Torn From Womb in Truck Wreck (12/21/2000)

A pregnant woman is involved in a serious truck accident, flies through the truck windshield, is dragged underneath the truck, and is found dead on the highway.  Her baby is found beside her, outside of her womb, still connected to the umbilical cord.  The baby is perfectly healthy and only bears a scratch on his knee.  (source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2000/12/21/baby-torn-from-womb-in-crash-survives/27c0dac6-21e8-4172-95c9-11533d8f96d1/)

Tot Survives Five Days after Car Crashes, Mother Dies (1/28/2003)

A toddler survives five days by herself on little more than crackers (no water) while huddled near her dead mother inside a wrecked car amid freezing temperatures outside of Phoenix, Arizona.  A passing motorist just happened to see the wrecked vehicle, which was partially hidden behind some trees and down a ledge. They found the shivering toddler inside the vehicle. (source: https://www.eastvalleytribune.com/news/tot-survives-5-days-after-car-crashes-mother-dies/article_f3ff5dd2-d8e8-57dc-a64e-c568d1409d6d.html)

Illinois Pilot Walks Away From Plane That Landed Itself (12/12/97)

A pilot, overcome by carbon monoxide fumes, blacks out while flying his small airplane. Said plane flies itself via autopilot for 250 miles, until it runs out of gas, and then lands itself in a snowy field.  The man suffered a broken arm but woke up alive and puzzled, having not realized he had passed out while flying, or that his plane had self-landed. From the pilot: “If the plane hadn’t run out of gas, I probably would have had 30 more minutes in the air before I had died.”  

Crash Survivors Say ‘Prayer in the Water’ (5/11/1999)

Picture this: a plane takes off from an island off the Australian coast during a pounding rain storm and is more than five miles from shore when it crashes into the ocean, killing many on board.  However, there are six survivors who manage to swim to the surface, where they prayed together in the water and swam towards the shore in total darkness.  The small group swam against strong currents, jellyfish, shark-infestation, and blinding rain with only two life jackets between them.  Five of the six survivors finally made it to shore after six hours in open water.  One of the survivors was a pastor who, while treading water, called out to the small group of survivors right after the plane crashed and proclaimed: “if any of you have a faith in God, I would like to pray with you.”  Everyone prayed! (source: https://www.deseret.com/1999/5/10/19444749/5-survivors-tell-of-plane-crash-ocean-ordeal)

Before we dig into the meat of this post, I just need to make two points regarding the possibility of a fixed time of death. 

First, if you believe in a loving God, then you know that He is ultimately in control of everything, including when you are born and when you will ultimately die.  There are certainly things you can do within the context of free will which will lengthen or shorten your life.  For example, a person who commits suicide would have lived longer had he not committed suicide. A person who dies of lung cancer from smoking would not have died in the same way or at the same time if he had not smoked.  God allows much flexibility and free will within the context of His ultimate control over the universe.  

Second, there are at least four verses in the Bible that speak to a time limit we all have on the face of the earth, and the most compelling one comes from the book of Job, chapter 14 verse 5.  It says: a person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.  Also Psalm 139 states: your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  (Also check out Acts 17:26 and Ecclesiastes 3:1-2.)

There are five points I want to make about the topic of beating death, and I will start with what near death experiences reveal to us on this topic.

What near death experiences (NDEs) reveal about beating death, heaven, and hell:

I recently finished an amazing book called Imagine Heaven (link here:  https://www.amazon.com/Imagine-Heaven-Near-Death-Experiences-Exhilarating/dp/080101526X/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Imagine+heaven&qid=1616615937&sr=8-1) which has numerous miracle survival stories in NDE form.  Some of the men and women telling their stories were clinically dead for as little as a few minutes to as long as eight hours. Eight hours!  The author summarizes the whole of NDE experiences on page 26 of his book.  Here is an excerpt (I have cut and pasted for ease of reading):

“It begins with a dying man or woman.  He finds himself no longer in his physical body but still in the immediate surroundings.  He sees the spirits of deceased family and friends.  Then a being of light appears, brighter than the sun, who is described as uniquely and supremely warm and loving.  This loving being asks questions communicated through thoughts, leading him to examine his actions, often including a living replay of his entire life. Afterward, he encounters some sort of boundary, seemingly the border between earth life as he knows it and eternal life.  

But at the edge, he discovers he must return to earth because it is not yet his time to die.  He protests due to the feelings of peace, joy, and love he is experiencing but somehow finds himself back in his physical body and continues to live (paraphrase).”

Additionally, approximately 23% of NDE stories take the traveler in a different direction and they have a more hell-like experience.  There are a few variations of these horrific experiences, and this is a summary of the least reported variation: “the last type of hellish NDE usually involves feeling locked or trapped in a dark pit, cave, or under the earth, often accompanied by a putrid smell like feces, sulfur, or death. Demonic or evil creatures are often involved.” One NDE survivor had this to say: “Hell is a pit and there is darkness, but there is also fire.  I was in a place that the Bible refers to as outer darkness and it is not pretty.  Some people may just want to laugh this whole “hell business” off, but it is real.” (page 228.) 

Does prayer play a part in life extension?

There was one man who beat his time of death in the Bible, and his name is King Hezekiah (and to be precise, there were more people including Lazarus and Jesus who beat death in the Bible as well, but not in this specific way).  His story is told in Isaiah chapter 38 and also in 2 Kings chapter 20.  Here is a portion of his story:  

In those days, Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, went to him and said: “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die, you will not recover.”  Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Isaiah returned and said: “The Lord says, ‘go and say to Hezekiah, thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.”  

According to the King James Version of 2 Kings chapter 20:3, this is what King Hezekiah prayed:  “I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight.” And Hezekiah wept sore.

Beseech is defined as to beg for urgently or anxiously.

So here we have at least one biblical example of someone begging God to extend their life, and God granting that request.  

When God says no to extending your life (Jesus’s example):

God doesn’t typically say yes to a time extension on a person’s life.  Did you know that Jesus himself actually asked his Father if he could bypass his death on the cross not once, but three times?  God said no to that request, but his divine “no” paved the way for millions of eternal souls to be fully reconciled to God through the forgiveness of their sins. 

Sometimes God says no for reasons we may not understand at the time.  During King Hezekiah’s time extension, a son (Manasseh) was born to him who later became king immediately after Hezekiah’s passing.  Unfortunately, Manasseh became Judah’s most wicked king. All the hard work and good changes his father had made were erased under his son Manasseh’s reign.  Like the butterfly effect, the extension of Hezekiah’s life certainly had its downsides. 

On a personal note, I have had several close friends die of cancer.  I prayed earnestly (as did they and many other people) and God declined to extend their life.  Does that mean God will never answer a prayer for more time?  Not at all, and I close this post with the one true life example I heard with a Hezekiah-like prayer many years ago. 

Last point: God may say yes to a time extension just so that a person may come to know Him personally and have a relationship with Him. 

What happens when we die anyway?

This question could take two blog posts, but here is the gist: again, it depends on what you believe but either you go into the ground and that’s it, or your spirit transitions to eternal life -either in heaven or hell. Here is a little incentive for belief in life after life: many NDE stories report a “being of light filled with love” who greets them when they arrive in heaven.  NDE accounts have been studied extensively and offered as proof of spiritual life after physical death.  There is an eternal home waiting for those who know Jesus Christ as Lord.  The ones that reach heaven want to stay because it is so incredibly beautiful, loving, and filled with an indescribable joy. And the “being” (it’s Jesus by the way) that loves them perfectly is there too, as well as many relatives who have passed.  All departed friends and relatives whom they encounter are reported to be “in their prime” physically and very much happy and filled with joy. 

Going to heaven is the mother of all “taking the red pill” analogies and most do not wish to come back to earth (many would like to stay but are torn because of their loved ones).

How to beat death for real:

Jesus came to die on the cross and atone for the sins of mankind, so that through repentance and faith in Him, we can all have eternal life.  Jesus himself beat death.  Here’s the kicker though: he did not actually “beat” physical death – he beat eternal death.  He paved the way for everyone to experience eternal life!   

John 11:25-26: Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

1 John 5:13: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Two last stories before we close which perfectly blend both delaying our time of death if it’s not our time to go, with a Hezekiah-type prayer for more time.  Both of these concepts are possible with God!

Tom Papania was a high ranking mafia leader who answered directly to Paul Castellano (the head of a prominent mafia family) in the 1980s.  One day Tom had an encounter with a pastor who led him to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Tom was completely changed and left the mafia.  Unfortunately, Paul Castellano put out a contract on Tom’s life but by some miracle, that contract was never fulfilled. Later, while Tom was in prison, he met the three assassins who were hired to kill him and who attempted to take his life many times.  These three professional hit-men relayed to Tom that they had come to his home many times, set up remote controlled bombs under his bedroom window, and attempted to detonate them.  Strangely, the bombs would never detonate.  The three men would then test them later and they would very easily detonate.  They would repeat the process several more times, but not one bomb ever exploded.  

God had a purpose for keeping Tom alive, and it had something to do with the three men.  In addition to a thriving ministry, Tom led all three men to Christ, and each ended up leading many more men to the Lord.  (To listen to his amazing story, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ng_wf89jQBQ.  The part about his assassins is found at the 1:25 minute mark.)

Finally, my friend shared a story about how his mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer but had outlived her doctor’s diagnosis by ten years.  After she had finally passed due to the cancer, her family decided to clean out the attic and found some of her old journals.  They started to randomly leaf through her journals when they came upon a prayer detailing her terminal diagnosis. They read more of her prayers and were stunned to discover this one:

“Please Lord, give me ten more years to live.”

They looked at the date of the prayer recorded in the journal, and then compared it with her date of death. 

The date of the journal entry was exactly ten years before she died.

“I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight.”

_____________________________________________

PS: Below are the five articles I used for this post that I clipped so many years ago! And a bonus at the end!

What I love about this story is that this brave man (Chuck Herndon) just rushed into his rowboat and rowed around for 15 minuets in the dark in open water, hoping that a miracle would occur. And it did! Of course I feel badly for his dad and brother who perished in the crash, but glad this little seven year old made it out.
Even law enforcement called this a miracle story. A person cannot survive more than three days without water.
I clipped this article while I worked on Capitol Hill and showed my boss, Senator Bob Smith. He was such a great guy he would actually write little comments on almost everything I gave to him and then he would give them back to me, to let me know he read them and cared. He was and is a great guy.
Love that the paper actually said “Miraculous Survival.” Can you imagine swimming five miles in the pitch dark through shark infestation, jellyfish, and strong currents? I can’t. Glad they made it out. Several did not.
I agree! The man who survived won the lottery!
Bonus! My cat sat on the articles while I was working! ha

Never saw Final Destination?  The popular movie series can be summed up this way (Wiki): 

All five films center around a small group of people who escape impending death when one individual (the protagonist of each film) has a sudden premonition and warns them that they will all die in a terrible mass-casualty accident. After avoiding their foretold deaths, the survivors are killed one by one in bizarre accidents caused by an unseen force creating complicated chains of cause and effect.

What I am telling myself at the start of 2021

2020 was a hard and unnerving year for many. 2021 is starting out even worse with the events of the breach of the Capitol building, the overall uncertainty for many with the integrity of the election, a potentially worse strain of COVID along with much loss of life, palatable division in the land, dealing with kids at home all the time, and the list goes on.  

I have been texting and messaging with friends and family over the last several weeks about the events of November 3rd and beyond in an attempt to keep up with the latest news regarding national events and otherwise. I don’t think I have ever watched so many youtube video clips or viewed so many twitter screenshots in my entire life!

I believe what I am looking for in these texts and messages is a sign that everything is going to be ok. That 2021 will be better than 2020.  

Scrolling through Facebook the other day, I saw the following meme (or is it GIF?) that made me laugh out loud and yet revealed an underlying nervousness about the start of the New Year:  

I think the above meme reveals what many people are now questioning: will 2021 be another difficult and uncertain year?

Before we dive in, I have just one qualifier. This will not be a political post, but rather a reflective post to point myself back to what really matters. I would ask that you keep your negative comments to a minimum and try to be open to hearing my heart speak.  

The following post is about what I am telling myself truly matters at the start of 2021. If you would like to hear what I have to say, then feel free to read on.

For me, what really matters is this: 

Do I know and trust God? And am I living in such a way that pleases him?

Right after the events of November 3rd, I texted a friend and asked him for his opinion on what would happen in the coming weeks. He skillfully transitioned the text away from the election and on to what really matters. This was his response:

“But take heart, God is in control. And if we are nearing the end, then things will get a lot worse. But in the end, we shall stand before him and none of this will matter.”

I sat there for a moment with his last sentence and let it sink into my soul:

But in the end, we shall stand before him and none of this will matter.

His text reminded me of an interview I did with my friend Marla on how to be prepared for emergency situations. I was really digging her out on practical ways to successfully survive the Zombie Apocalypse (which sadly doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore). I think my question was indicative of my need for security, and for definitive answers.  

Instead, Marla gave me a non-answer.  Or rather, a God-answer. Here is the short exchange:

Me: “Marla, let’s talk The Walking Dead.  End of the World.  Zombie Apocalypse.  What then?”

Marla: “Honestly, you’re a goner.  I mean, there is nothing you can do for that stuff.  It’s going to be chaos and mayhem.  And you have the Lord; like….that’s it (and really, what more do you need?).  Your days are numbered; he knows when your end is going to be.” 

I remember sitting with that response as well; her words sinking into my soul.

You have the Lord.  Like that’s it.  And really, what more do you need?

So what am I telling myself during the beginning of 2021?  The same thing I told myself all throughout 2020: 

I have the Lord, and he is all I need. I will stand before him in the end.  

As some of you know, I have worked in politics for most of my adult life, minus my stay at home parent tenure and the last two years as I have transitioned into a career in private investigation. Like every person reading this post, I have survived both Democrat and Republican presidencies.  I plan on surviving again (and actively praying for) the next administration.

I recall the time immediately after George W. Bush had won the White House and also had Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate.  I was working on Capitol Hill at the time as a Senate staffer, and watched as many Republicans were elated and popping champagne with the winning hand they had been dealt. The champagne continued to flow until May 24, 2001, when Vermont Republican James Jeffords shocked his colleagues and the nation by announcing that he would leave his party to become an Independent and would caucus with the Democratic Party.  His action returned Democrats to the majority.  Never before the 107th Congress had party control formally shifted within the course of a two-year congressional term. (word for word source: https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/unforgettable_107th_congress.htm#:~:text=The%202000%20election%20also%20produced,breaking%20vote%20on%20organizational%20matters.)

Right after Jeffords announced his party switch, I remember sitting outside and feeling depressed.  

Guess what? That was 20 years ago.  And I survived all these many years later.  

Here are the principles I am keeping in mind as we begin 2021: First, I am called to love God above all else.  Second, I am called to love my neighbor/family/friend/enemy as I love myself.  Finally, God is in control of 2021, even if things seem out of control.  He is a stronghold in the day of trouble.  

Here are a few verses I am dwelling on as we begin this new year:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul…love your neighbor as yourself.  Matthew 22:37

The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. Psalm 103:19

So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Romans 14:12

So given the fact that God is in control, am I trusting that he is in control of what is happening in our country and praying for things that need to be prayed about? Am I letting fear rule over me?  

And in the vein of loving my neighbor — instead of disagreeing with someone on Facebook, am I praying for them?  Am I kind to them?  Do I reach out to build a relationship with them or just leave a comment to prove a point?

I remember sitting down with a family member this past summer and asking him what he thought about COVID and all the ongoing uncertainty of 2020.  I was surprised at what he said:

“I think this is a time for repentance.”

Perhaps that is true!

The other night I woke up with a burden to pray for our country and all of the events transpiring.  I felt led to read out of the book of Nahum (of all random books), and here are the three verses that stood out to me:

The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.  The Lord is GOOD, a stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.  But with an overwhelming flood He will make an utter end of its place, and darkness will pursue his enemies.”  (Nahum 1: 3, 7, 8)

I think people don’t realize that God sees all and will eventually judge all.  He will judge the wicked in his time and in his way.  Maybe we will see the results on earth, maybe we won’t. 

All I have is here and now. I am reminding myself that the most important thing is that I know and love the Lord, and my ultimate confidence comes from God. He is an ever present help in times of trouble!  And I will stand before him in the end.

Presidents will come.  Presidents will go.  Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer will eventually retire.  COVID will eventually end (God-willing).  American life may or may not go back to “normal.”  

Maybe you feel that the election was stolen. Maybe you feel that the election was free and fair, and there are a bunch of people trying to undermine the process. No matter where you stand, I still say this: God is in control and has the last word, even with respect to the election.  We can certainly pray and put our trust in him.

For those who are feeling confident, I say to you: do you know the Lord?  Is it possible that God is using the difficulty and uncertainty of these times to open your eyes and draw you to himself and show you that you need him?

For those who are in despair, I say to you: do you know the Lord?  Is it possible that God is using the difficulty and uncertainty of these times to open your eyes and draw you to himself and show you that you need him?

Things could get a lot worse before they get better. 2021 could be more difficult than 2020.

But guess what?  I am choosing to trust!  I will trust the process and trust in God!

So cheers to 2021!  Why?  Because I have the Lord, and my confidence and hope come from him.  In the end, I will give an account of my life.  He will give me the strength and grace to get through whatever may come. I need to focus on what I know I can and should do: love God and love people.  And trust in him!

And that, my Dear Reader, is what I am telling myself. 

And in the words of my dear friend Marla:

You have the Lord.  Like that’s it.  

And really, what more do you need?

__________________________________________________________________________________

To read Marla’s post on emergency preparedness, click here: Interview with a Preparedness Expert/Mom

To read about ways I am finding peace during uncertain times, click here: The Purge, Preparedness, Prayer and Prophets – Finding Peace during uncertain times.

Looking for something a little lighter to read? Here is the story of my unique journey to Capitol Hill many years ago: From the valley to the hill (part 1). By the way, this was my first published blog post!

“The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.” Psalm 103:19

God Speaks! How to (imperfectly) hear the indirect/subtle voice of God – Part II

Is it really possible to hear the actual voice of God? I believe that it is, and this is part two of a short series on how to actually hear God’s voice. If you missed part one, where I write about ways God speaks more directly, click here: God speaks! I believe God can speak “directly” using the Bible, a clear voice in your mind, an audible voice, and a slightly brighter thought, among other more obvious methods of communication.

God also speaks more indirectly, or subtly, using a vast array of different methods, and this post will only be a skim and a summary, and I will probably fail to mention several categories.  My personal favorite ways of hearing God’s more indirect voice include answered prayer, music, books, peace or lack thereof, and God’s beautiful creation. So let’s get started!

God speaks to us through creation. This is probably my favorite way of hearing the subtle voice of God.  For me personally, whenever I marvel at something beautiful in creation (like a sunset or mountain view), deep praise rises within me and I find myself wanting to thank and praise God for his awesome creativity. I believe that God speaks in creation to both prove his existence and to display how awesome he is!

Yes, this is Finding Nemo. What is so cool about tropical fish is that when the light is shining directly on them, they glow! You can really see the amazing color patterns that make them each so unique.

One time on a mommy vacation, I went to a beautiful tropical island for a few days. One afternoon I had some time to do some snorkeling right outside of my hotel room and saw the most beautiful tropical fish underwater. When the sun was shining on them, they lit up from within and the colors were so beautiful and striking. I kept noticing how perfectly the colors coordinated on these small creatures.  But then these beautiful little fish would travel into the shade and their colors would no longer shine; they would become dull. I could not see their beauty.  In that moment a thought popped into my head: “Heather, you are like these fish.  You need my light shining through you so you can shine brighter for me.”

We went camping this past summer in Wyoming and pitched our tent on this gorgeous lake. Every morning I awoke to this beautiful view! God speaks through creation. I believe what he is saying is “I exist! Check out my beautiful handiwork!”

God speaks through blessings and answered prayer. God will show how much he loves us by blessing us with really cool gifts.  A few years ago my childhood bestie, Hillary, was dying of terminal cancer. I had taken her to a Heart concert where we were enjoying the opening act from the nosebleed section.  Hillary was an atheist but very open to talking about God, and we had discussed prayer and “signs from God” quite a bit. It was announced that there was a “front row seat” contest which we promptly entered from our phones.  Hillary turned to me and said “Heath, you should pray and ask God to let us win this contest!  That way we can see if he exists!” 

“Oh no!” I thought secretly to myself.  God does not always answer our prayers in the manner and timing we would prefer!  However, I decided to give it a shot and bowed my head and said a prayer that God would bless us with front row seats.  Sure enough, we won the contest!  We had one of the best times of our lives rocking out in the front row!

Hillary challenged me to pray that we would win front row seats to a concert we attended together. I prayed. We won!!

Hillary received Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior two weeks before she died. The moment she bowed her head and prayed with me is one of the best moments of my entire life.  She’s now in heaven where I believe she is praying for me and watches over me.  I can actually feel her prayers from heaven!

God speaks through Christmas:  Have you ever really stopped and listened to traditional Christmas music?  We all glibly sing Christmas hymns without really focusing too much on the lyrics, but many of the songs clearly and unmistakably share the good news of the arrival of Christ Jesus!  Let’s look at a few verses of some of the more popular songs:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!  Let earth receive her King!  Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing!

Oh holy night, the stars are brightly shining.  It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth!

Hark now hear the angels sing, a King was born today.  And man will live forever more because of Christmas day!

Every year for about a month, people all over the world can hear God speak to them about the good news of Jesus, whom he sent to save the world from their sins and so we can have access to eternal life in heaven!

God speaks through unlikely means, including pain. Sometimes God speaks to us in our distress as a way to draw us to himself and so that we will turn to him for comfort and help, and maybe save us from something that is coming up in our future life.

God also speaks through loneliness. I believe what God may be saying is “I know you are lonely. I see you! I love you and I want you to know how much I love you! Open your heart up to having a relationship with me. I will fill up those lonely spots. I see your tears. I have created you for a purpose. I have a plan for your life!”

(By the way, the short paragraph above was not in the original draft. I just added it. I believe someone needs to hear it. Maybe it’s a person contemplating suicide. Why did I write it? It was a thought that would not go away.)

God is also a huge fan of speaking to us in unlikely and unusual ways.  There is even a passage in scripture of God speaking through a donkey! An example of God using unusual methods happened to my mom back in the early 1980’s.  At the time, she was a single mom of two young girls who happened to be a firm agnostic.  She was absolutely not looking for God, but you know the rest!

One day, as she was reading a book by Edgar Cayce, a secular clairvoyant and prophet, there was one sentence that stood out to her about Jesus Christ. Cayce said that Jesus Christ had fulfilled prophecy.  In that moment, my mom says a voice spoke directly to her and said the following: 

“Linda, I exist.  What are you going to do about it?”

That one sentence launched her on a spiritual journey where she eventually came to a place where she ended up believing not only in God, but also in Jesus Christ.  God used an unlikely book to change her life and the lives of her two little girls.  One of those little girls grew up to be a non-famous blogger of this post you are reading.

God speaks through everything: God speaks through other people, technology, books, all forms of media, music, movies, Internet blogs, the weather, dreams, visions, accidents, pain, coincidences (I call them God-winks), blessings,  circumstances, and the list goes on. Another indirect way of God speaking happens to me when I go to church or listen to a sermon online.  Suddenly, the pastor will say something that hits close to home and applies perfectly to what I am going through. 

Here are a few more ways that God can speak to you…

  • You will feel a peace
  • You will feel restless
  • Your way will seem blocked
  • Your way will open up 
  • You will have a burden for something
  • Answered prayer
  • Unanswered prayer
  • An idea that won’t go away 
  • A “divine appointment” with someone
  • One word (or number) that keeps coming up 
  • Something unusual or miraculous that happens
  • Someone will tell you about Jesus Christ 
  • You will feel a conviction of sin

Here is the bottom line of this post: God speaks more than we realize.  He usually speaks a bit more indirectly, although for newbies he actually tends to be more obvious. God will draw people who do not yet know him with both his love and his conviction of sin. He will always be consistent with his word (the Bible). God speaks to everyone a bit differently. It is a process to learn how to hear his voice. 

Here is a hint I learned the hard way on how to hear from God. First, pray and ask God to speak to you.  Wait a moment.  If nothing happens, go about your life.  After awhile, something will happen. It may be a voice, a thought, a circumstance, a blessing, or your mom will say something completely random that applies to something in your life.  You will stop in your tracks and say to yourself, “Wait, was that God?”

Yes, it was!  If you are not sure that God exists or even if he cares about you (or the rest of humanity), why don’t you say a prayer, asking him to reveal himself to you?  And then sit back and see what happens.  Give it a little time and don’t give up.  Keep knocking!  He will answer!

I want to close with a personal story that illustrates the concept of God’s indirect voice.

The blog that you are now reading is over four years old, but it really started nine years ago with an idea that would not go away. The idea was this:

You should start a blog.

That’s it. It was not even spoken in the King James Version. 🙂 I’m not even 100 percent sure the thought was from God. But the thought would not go away. I argued with myself for about four years before I began to pray about it. What stopped me from writing? I was afraid of failure and rejection. I was afraid that not even one person would ever read any of my posts.

This “loser blog” has now received over 15,600 views! I am grateful and humbled for everyone who has visited. My stats are very small potatoes compared to so many well-known bloggers, but my continual hope is that a seed of truth and faith will be planted in each reader that finds themselves on the pages of permission2speakfreely.com.

God is speaking! Be open to hearing his direct and indirect voice. He loves you!

Be open for surprises too!

You just might find yourself rocking out in the front row of one of your favorite bands!

___________________________________________________________________________________

If you missed part one, where I write about ways God speaks more directly, click here: God speaks!

God speaks through sunsets: “Another day has quickly passed. Time is flying. Think about eternity!”

God speaks! How to (imperfectly) hear God’s direct voice – Part I

God speaks both directly and indirectly – directly through his Bible (pictured above, the small purple book), his audible voice (rare), and clear thoughts to our mind, among other ways.

Several weeks ago my husband found himself in a pickle: he could not locate his inflatable camping mattress anywhere.

He asked me if I had seen it and I told him I had not. Being the Godly wife that I am, I sweetly asked him:  “Have you prayed about it?”

No, he had not.  Typical male not asking for directions.  

He bowed his head and said a quick little prayer asking for God’s location services. Within a matter of moments, an answer came back in the form of a clear thought in his head:

“The mattress is at your office underneath your desk.”

He couldn’t believe it. Why would his camping mattress be there?  He did not even remember bringing it to his office. 

He grabbed his keys, got in the car, and drove to the office.

Sure enough, he quickly located his camping mattress, right where God told him it would be.

When he returned with his camping mattress in tow, it got me thinking: 

Does God really speak to us like that – so suddenly and directly?  I know that for me, God usually does not. 

This post is my attempt to help you, my Dear Reader, to hear the actual voice of God. If you have followed my writing, I am a fan of both qualifiers and bullet points.  Bullets help my brain to think properly, and qualifiers are excellent ways to include many angles and possible outcomes.  They are also great outliers of information that need to be considered when forming an argument or thesis. 

A few qualifiers in bullet form before we get going:

  • First, I do not pretend to have a corner on the market for hearing the voice of God.  I would say I am fairly sure I am hearing from God about half of the time.  The following post is a summary of what I have learned over 30 plus years of being a Christian and wrestling with this topic.
  • Second, in my experience, God tends to be more indirect rather than direct. It is extremely rare to hear a loud, booming, audible voice from heaven – although it’s not impossible.
  • Third, if you do not yet have a relationship with God, the number one thing He will be speaking to you about is that he loves you and would like to have a relationship with you. 
  • Fourth, God speaks a bit differently to each person.  He is more subtle with me; he may be more obvious with you.  God may give you amazing visions and dreams in the night.  He may give me nudges and slight impressions. Try to be open to the unique ways he may speak.
  • The Bible says that God is our Shepherd and his sheep (his children) will learn to hear his voice. We have to believe that God wants to speak to us because He is a communicative and loving Father, Shepherd, and King.  It is a process to learn to hear his voice.
  • God desires us to walk by faith, and not by sight. I suspect that this is why he speaks to us in more subtle ways. God tends to speak to us in a still small voice because he wants us to work at our relationship with him, and that means working at learning how to hear his voice. 

God speaks directly and clearly:

The following are several examples of ways God can speak more directly to each of us:

Audible voice: This is how everyone, at first, believes God is supposed to speak to people. I quickly googled “hearing the audible voice of God” and apparently, according to one study, up to 10 percent of Christians have reported hearing God’s audible voice. I have never experienced this and it is my understanding that this is a very rare experience.  Let’s look at the life of Jesus himself.  There are only two recorded instances of God speaking audibly to Jesus in front of other people. On the first occasion, Jesus is being baptized by John the Baptist and is on the cusp of beginning his earthly ministry.  Suddenly, a voice is heard from heaven proclaiming:“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) God again audibly spoke later in the book of Matthew saying the same thing, but added in a command:

“Listen to him!”  

So although it is possible to hear God’s audible voice, it is not very likely.  However, there are several other ways that God tends to speak to humanity.  

Through the Bible: I believe the number one best way to hear God’s voice is to actually read his word to you – the Bible. Not sure where to start? Start with the book of John or Mark in the New Testament. They will both give you a bottom line version of Jesus and his earthly ministry.  When God speaks to me using the Bible, a verse or two will leap off the pages at me and will impact me more than the other verses.  That, or a specific word will stand out to me.  Oftentimes I get a “fragment of a verse” in my head.  When I look it up in the Bible, it is extremely helpful and encouraging and very applicable to some situation.  I believe this is God’s way of speaking to me through his word.

The Bible is a very special book.  When you open its pages, you are handling the medium — the physical object — that God will use to speak to you.  There are other objects out there used by people to communicate with the spirit world: the Ouija board and tarot cards being two examples.  These other objects are all counterfeits and poor substitutes for trying to satisfy the spiritual connection that we all long for.  

But the Bible is God’s.  It is somehow alive and works mysteriously when you read or listen to its pages.  There is a verse in the Bible that speaks to this:

Hebrews 4:12, NIV: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

In my many years of reading testimonies of men and women who have come to believe in God and Jesus, they cite something along the lines of the following thought:

I opened up my Bible and read it, and discovered that it opened me up and read me.

Clear voice in your mind: Sometimes God speaks to your spirit in clear sentence form, as he did with my husband at the opening of this post. This has happened to me probably seven times in my life.

I just finished The Phantom Prince, written by Liz Kendall, Ted Bundy’s former girlfriend back in the late 60’s and 70’s.  One story from Liz’s daughter Molly uses this principle.  

One night Molly found herself in a dangerous situation with Ted.  She writes: 

“At that moment, having seen a physical change in the naked man who was no longer my trusted friend Ted, I started to hear something.  Maybe hear is the wrong word; it was like an invisible typist was typing inside of my head.  The words came out as knowing.  Somewhere deep inside me this quiet presence was feeding me instructions on how to remain safe: “Laugh and smile.  Act as if nothing is wrong.  Tell him you love him.  Tell him this game has been really fun but that you are tired, and you would like to go to bed now.”

Molly survived Ted Bundy that night no doubt due to the mysterious instructions that came to her so suddenly out of nowhere, and she attributed this voice as being from the Holy Spirit himself. On a side note, I studied serial killers and wrote a three-part series on my research.  I read many stories of women reporting a “voice in their head” warning them to ‘not do this, do that, go here, don’t go there’ type of thing. I believe that this is the voice of God attempting to help and protect them.

Still small voice/slightly brighter thought:

Another way that God speaks to people is by putting thoughts in their mind. The thought will always be consistent with God’s word. You’ll never have God telling you to go out and murder somebody, for example. But how do you know it is God speaking to you and not your own human thoughts?  This is probably my number one challenge but this is what I have come to believe paraphrased from a book I read:

The thought will tend to be a little brighter than all your other normal human thoughts. Think of your human thoughts as a 40 watt lightbulb. God’s voice tends to be an 80 watt lightbulb that will pop into your head. The thought will bring you peace and a sense of knowing.  

God also speaks in a small voice to your heart.  It will be quiet but you will hear it.  I know that these two ways seem opposite (a brighter thought and a quiet voice) and I will admit I have not quite figured this out yet.  But both seem to be true.  

In conclusion, my amazing friend Ragan (who is the Editor in Queen of this blog, along with my husband) once had a beloved cat that went missing for over a month without a sighting.  Ragan prayed day after day with no apparent result.  Sadly, Ragan had to move to a different home and was in the process of doing that. One day, she was on her way to a doctor appointment when the Lord spoke to her and told her to go back to the house. Ragan obeyed the still small voice and pulled up to the house.  She was delighted to see her missing cat waiting for her on the front porch!  Her cat was suffering from either a snake or spider bite and was badly wounded. She rushed him to the vet. Ragan later surmised that he was unable to come home because he was recovering from his wounds.  

What I love the most about this closing story is that God showed how much he cared about both Ragan and her kitty cat.  God spoke to Ragan with both a still small voice and a blessing.

God is speaking!  Let’s lean in and take a listen.  

For God does speak—now one way, now another—though man may not perceive it. Job Chapter 33: 14

Stay tuned for part II of this short series where I reveal ways that God speaks more subtly and indirectly.

God speaks in a wide variety of ways indirectly – including speaking through his creation! Yes, that is yours truly,
enjoying the beautiful view. In part II, we will dig into the indirect voice of God. Stay put!

The Purge, Preparedness, Prayer and Prophets – Finding Peace during uncertain times

the purge
The Purge Movie – there was one night that felt a little bit Purge-like for me. (PC: The Purge Movie)

Sunday night, May 31, 2020 is a night I will never forget.  

It was a beautiful and carefree summer evening. Our family was celebrating my son’s 12th birthday and we were having a small celebration with some good friends who live in our neighborhood.  The kids were enjoying what I call “old fashioned 80’s play” somewhere in our neighborhood (probably on bikes), while the parents enjoyed a glass of wine and grilled chicken in the back yard. The isolation, low-grade fear, and compartmentalized depression brought on by COVID19 seemed far away.

A little after dinner, I decided to quickly check my email and saw the following message from a member of our neighborhood HOA Board (of which I am a member):

Neighbors,

We were contacted this afternoon to ask the HOA Board to alert all residents of a credible threat of criminal activity in our neighborhood and surrounding region tonight.  Please take extra care and caution for you and your families and DIAL 911 in the event of any emergency.  (I have tweaked the email message for privacy purposes.)

What?  I scrolled through more of my emails and found this from our Alderman (city council woman), who also lives in our neighborhood:

There are several credible threats throughout this city tonight.   I am trying to be responsible and taking these threats seriously and warning my residents.   I apologize that I will not be responding to anymore emails as my phone is ringing off the hook and I have tons of people to contact.  

A feeling of low grade fear came into my stomach just then – and it reminded me of the the movie “The Purge.”  If you haven’t seen “The Purge,” here is the trailer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0LLaybEuzA).  In a nutshell, it’s a movie about one designated 12-hour night where all crime is legal.  According to the movie, this one night of evil and violence is used for the good of society by bringing about low unemployment, safety, and security the rest of the year.  The movie follows one family as they hunker down in their home for the evening. 

As I was sitting in my back yard and feeling a little bit purge-like, my 16 year old daughter came home from riding her bike with all the other kids and said: “mom, we saw strange cars I’ve never seen before with people I’ve never seen, driving around our neighborhood. Is something happening?”

We took the party inside the house but we were all on edge.  The adults whipped out their phones, trying to get more information about what was going on near our hood.  It was then that I noticed a car just sitting in front of the house next door to us (which was vacant), as well as a police cruiser parked on the side of the road.

Just then my phone vibrated.  It was a text from a friend who lives fifteen minutes to the west of us.  The text said: “be careful – mobs heading your way tonight.”  

How did he even find out?  Word travels fast.

A little later we wrapped up the party and settled in for the night. My husband and I stayed up past midnight, just watching and waiting.  I found myself peeking outside, looking for anything strange or unusual.  I prayed for the safety of our home, neighborhood, and surrounding region.

Thankfully, there was no criminal activity that night in our neighborhood or the next, despite a city-wide 8 pm curfew the next evening.  However, there was criminal activity in our nearby small city.  Many businesses and properties were damaged or destroyed. 

A few weeks later, at our HOA meeting, I spoke to the husband of the Alderman who lives in our neighborhood and I asked him about the infamous night of May 31st.  This man is a slightly older guy and I didn’t immediately peg him to be up on popular culture, so I was frankly surprised when he turned to me and blurted out the following:

“You mean the night of The Purge?  Yes, there was a real and credible threat to our actual neighborhood.  My wife was targeted specifically.  We had two U.S. Marshalls guarding our neighborhood and our home.”

Wow!!  Later I learned that similar events were happening both locally and all over the country.

This leads me to the reason I am writing this post, which is a diversion from what I normally write about.

I believe there is a real possibility that ‘events’ could occur in the very near future, events which will be very difficult for us individually, as families, and as a country. I feel like I need to do my part to alert my readers to this very real possibility so that they can get ready in the way that works best for them.

These potential events include, but are not limited to, both man-made and naturally occurring events, such as the following: 

Civilian unrest that spreads to suburban or rural areas (my story, for example), violent protests over who wins/loses the election (or how long it takes to decide it – I am thinking of the 2000 Gore v Bush election and hanging chads but worse), a rapid rise in COVID cases and the after-effects for both the sick and the well, some sort of power struggle over the Presidency, or an EMP that wipes out society, to name a few man-made options. 

There are also naturally occurring phenomena such as an asteroid hitting the earth (see this link for one that NASA completely missed but came super close: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/asteroid-makes-the-closest-earth-flyby-a-space-rock-has-ever-survived/), earthquakes, volcanos, tsunamis, etc.

Thinking about the above makes me feel anxious. This is what I am doing about it:

Prayer:

This is the number one thing I have been doing with more intensity for several months now.  I am praying about our election, praying that the injustices against the black community will get corrected, praying that bad cops will be removed and good cops will be protected, praying that we will have unity as a country, and praying for protection for my family and friends.  I am praying for the end of COVID. I am praying for spiritual revival in America.  I am also praying that fear will not control me during this uncertain time and that I can be a light in the darkness.  I am praying against Satan and praying that I will keep in step with God and share His love with other people. 

If difficult things are ahead for our nation, I want to be a lifeline for those in need.  In order to be a lifeline for others, I need to get my own house in order.

Preparedness:

I am personally acting as though we will need to be (stuck) in our house for three months this coming fall or winter, and I am attempting to get as organized as possible in the event that this happens.  In addition to attempting to maintain three months of food in my home (easier said than done) and checking on our city water supply, I am stocking up on things like batteries, gasoline, fire wood, dehydrated food, powered milk, toilet paper, and the list goes on. We also ordered security cameras that we can easily monitor from our phones, ordered a deep freezer (which is constantly delayed), and ordered ahead on our child’s medication. A quick word on water: you can only live three days without water!  Although we have city water, we have a backpacking water pump and I just ordered Life Straws for the kids (you can find them on Amazon).  My husband periodically complains about the number of Life Straws that continue to arrive.  🙂

I try to do two things each day to get prepared.  As I sit here writing this post, I think of my precious kitty cat Quinny Chi, so I am remembering to stock up on her food. I am also experiencing severe dry eye right now, so I am thinking about eye drops and nighttime eye ointment.  I have two teenage girls (plus me!) who will need tampons and pads over a three month period as well (no pun intended).  

A few last points on preparedness.  First, it’s a a gradual process (in my view).  Just do a little bit each day.  Second, I am not very good at it! What I intend to store, we eat!  Batteries get used, toilet paper silently disappears, and medication runs out.  I just do the best I can.  Third, sometimes I grab extra things not for myself, but for some imaginary neighbor in need (in the future).  I want to love my neighbor in case bad things happen.  

Prophets:

I have been following a pastor out of Kentucky named Dana Coverstone, and I will post all four of his videos below.  He has been having dreams with a “prophetic tendency” which reveal that very difficult times are ahead for our country.  One of his prophetic dreams has come to fruition (at least for the months of March and June).  In the dreams, he sees a calendar that is slowly flipping pages, with a finger pointing to different months (specifically March, June, September, October (especially the 31st), November, and the winter months of 2021).  After the calendar flips to a certain month, he has disturbing visions about what may be ahead for our country, and the words “brace yourself” is what he has been hearing in his spirit for many months.  This pastor believes that these dreams are a warning from God of what may be ahead.  He then urges everyone to pray and get prepared.

I have no idea if what this pastor says will come true, and there is a very real possibility that he is not hearing correctly from God.  It is also possible that God, being very merciful, will respond to the prayers of His children and “change his mind” on the coming events displayed in these dreams.  However, it is also possible that God may be allowing difficult things to happen and attempting to warn us through this particular pastor.  To watch his first video, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jnh5jV3nJyM.  God often allows difficult things in order to bring people to an awareness of their need for Him. God uses difficult things for our (eventual) good and for his glory (Romans 8:28).

Peace:

While personal preparedness and prayer are certainly helpful, at the end of the day my peace comes from my own, very real relationship with God the Father.  He is in control of my life and the lives of my family members (and friends).  I know where I am going if and when I die, and I can trust in Him because, by nature, God is good.  I want to have peace so I can be a light for my family and to help those in need.  If I let fear rule over me, I am no longer acting in faith and will be less helpful to myself, my family, and others in need.

Dear Reader, if you do not have a relationship with God, consider turning to Him during this uncertain time.  God loves you! If you turn from your sins, Jesus will forgive you and the Holy Spirit will come and live within you.  Jesus will help you, guide you, and give you peace. If things get crazy, He will be with you and give you the grace and resources you need to navigate whatever is to come!

In closing, I hesitated to write this post for many reasons.  I fear being wrong and I fear being trolled for the way I worded this post. But even if nothing happens and we all go back to our normal lives soon, I still believe that preparedness, prayer, and a deep peace stemming from a God who is in control and loves us very much is not such a bad thing!  

“A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”  Proverbs 22:3 NLT

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

Here is Pastor Dana Coverstone’s first video from June:

The video for October and then for December 2020:

Stop Ghosting Me! How do deal with unwanted ghosts and evil spirits

Have you ever experienced a ghost or come into contact with an evil spirit?  I sure have, from the ghost who walked up the back staircase of my aunt’s house in the middle of the night, to a spirit who was in my attic for several months, I have definitely experienced many bizarre and ghostly encounters over the course of my life.

During the COVID quarantine, I found myself listening to ghost podcasts while getting things done around the house, and realized that many people have also seen ghosts or have come into contact with something unexplainable and perhaps paranormal.  After listening to months of said podcasts, I found myself pondering the following questions: 

  • Do ghosts exist and if so, what are they? 
  • How do you get them to leave your house (or your life)?  
  • And what about malevolent entities (I call them evil spirits or demons); how do you deal with them?
  • Can ghosts/spirits attach themselves to items you may bring into your home?
  • Can ghosts/evil spirits attach themselves to animals?
  • Where does our spirit go after we die, and why is this important?

I cannot tell you the number of stories I heard where people’s lives were disrupted or destroyed because they were experiencing something ghostly or malevolent in their lives or homes, with little to no recourse.

This post is my attempt to help people get rid of things that go bump in the night so they can stay in their own homes and restore some peace and sanity back into their lives.

So let’s gather around the proverbial campfire and start telling some spooky stories, and after that we will get into the weeds.  

Ahh, a summer-time campfire. My friend took this picture in June as we were telling interesting stories around it. You can almost see a ghostly figure (or an angel!) rising up in the flames!

The first story of the night comes from my friend Kristen, and it involves antique children’s furniture (which I have learned is a big no-no as many people have bad experiences with this, FYI).  

Ghost Boy (Kristen’s ghost story) and the Haunted Staircase (my story):  

One day my friend Kristen went to an estate sale and bought some antique children’s furniture, but after cleaning the furniture and bringing it into her home, “Stranger Things” started to happen.   

The first night, she woke up to what she thought was her young daughter sitting on her legs on her bed.  She then felt the child stand up.  Kristin sat up in bed and reached for her child, only to find nobody there.  The next morning she contacted two mutual friends who had purchased items at the same sale; one said she was also experiencing weird things in her home, and the other had a disturbing nightmare, where children were being tortured and murdered. 

The next day, Kristen’s young daughter approached her and told her a little boy named Jameson had been “talking to her heart” and that he had something happen to him that was “really bad.”  Her daughter proceeded to put her hands on her own throat to denote strangulation. “Mommy,”  she said, “Jameson told me there were chains, choking, and laughter – the bad kind of laughter.”  Kristen was alarmed but stubborn; she didn’t want to believe there was a connection to the cool antique furniture she had just purchased and the ghost boy who was communicating with her daughter.  The next day she experienced the last straw: Kristen’s daughter started having screaming nightmares from which she could not awake.  She then reached out for help.

Kristen asked her father-in-law (a pastor) to come to the house to pray through it. She also contacted me and my friend and we also came through the home and prayed that God would remove the evil spirits/ghosts. Finally, feeling like that just wasn’t enough, she removed all the items from her home and her husband burned everything in a bonfire.  Her husband, previously skeptical, commented to her that “whatever was attached to the furniture made the biggest, strangest fire I have ever seen.”  

After the great burning of the furniture, and the prayers of everyone who came through the house, all was back to normal and peaceful again for Kristen and her family. 

I, personally, would stay away from children’s antique furniture. I have heard too many stories. :/ (P.C. Pinterest)

I (Heather) also have a quick ghost story that I will share with you.  A number of years ago I stayed with my aunt and uncle who live in Massachusetts and who claim they are haunted by what they believe is a friendly ghost.  One night their baby son started to cry and I heard what I thought was my aunt coming up the back staircase to comfort her crying son.  After hearing several footsteps up and down the very loud and creaky staircase, I was surprised that the baby was still crying.  It gradually dawned on me that I had experienced my first encounter with the ghost!  Although I was very afraid, I got up to comfort the baby and prayed over him and his room and he promptly went back to sleep.  

I will always remember the way the baby laid down, tucked his little hands underneath his chin, and closed his eyes immediately after my prayer was finished.  

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Evil in the Attic and the Haunted Hotel (my two evil spirit stories):

Another time, many years ago, as Erik (my husband) and I were trying to fall asleep, we would hear what sounded like many squirrels scurrying around in the attic.  The sounds were consistent and annoying, but we were lazy and tired so we let it go on for many months. One day, Erik’s brother Ed came for a visit and Erik and Ed did some work up in the attic.  While they were up there, I asked them to look for any evidence of squirrels and report back.  They came down later and said: “nothing – no squirrels.  And no sign of anything else.” 

That night as we were in bed trying to fall asleep, the racket started up again.  I looked at Erik and said: “those stupid squirrels!”  Right then a thought popped into my head: ‘those are not squirrels.’

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks: could that possibly be a demon, messing around up in the attic?  Then another thought flashed through my mind: I never anointed the attic.  

Let me briefly explain.  Upon moving into the home, I walked around and prayed over every doorway and window in our home – as well as our property line – and touched some olive oil to the tops of all the doors and windows.  I prayed for God’s protection in our home and for all evil spirits to leave, in Jesus’s name.  However, I had failed to anoint the attic because I didn’t realize we even had one at the time. 

I then looked up toward the attic and prayed the following prayer: “Lord, I don’t know if those are squirrels up in the attic, but if they are not squirrels, can you please make whatever it is go in Jesus’s name?” 

Immediately there was a very loud bang that filled up our entire bedroom!!  It was so loud that Erik and I jumped up in our bed in alarm!  We both looked at each other for reassurance and said: “you heard that, right?” After that huge boom there was complete and utter silence.  

The attic was as quiet as a mouse for the next nine years we lived there. The next day I promptly anointed the attic. 

We lived in this house for ten years and it was great!!! Except for the first nine months or so!

My last demon (or ghosts, I’m not sure which) story took place just a few years ago as I was staying in Florida during a weekend getaway.  It was around 7 pm and I was watching TV in my hotel room alone.  All of a sudden I heard a commotion coming from the closet in my room.  The closet was about ten feet away from my bed, near the front door to the room.  I heard loud noises coming from the closet and could see several hangers moving back and forth violently on their own.  This went on for a few moments and then died down.  Of course I got up to investigate and found nothing in the closet (and the room next door was empty). Although I wasn’t sure what was going on and what made the hangers move on their own, I commanded the spirit to leave in Jesus’s name nonetheless.  All was peaceful after that.

I have had many other demonic issues in my home over the years – from sleep paralysis, to strange noises in my bedroom, to a “black bat” that my daughter would see in the corner of her room, to the watcher at the top of my landing that my daughter and my cat would see – all of these incidents were dealt with the same way; by making the evil spirits leave in Jesus’s name, or just by asking God (through prayer) to protect our family and make the spirits leave our home.

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Evil attached to animals: Haunted Horses (Dave Appleby’s story)

Dave is my friend who helps people be set free from demonic oppression.  He always has great stories! (You can learn about his ministry here http://www.spiritualinterventions.org/, and read a fascinating interview with him here: https://permission2speakfreely.com/2017/08/24/confessions-of-an-exorcist/)

From Dave: several years ago, I was asked to do a “horse cleaning.”  Somehow a woman got my name and contacted me about coming over and praying over her horse barn and horses.  Her brand new, expensive cutting horses (horses that work with calves) were terrified to be in the horse barn.  They would stand with their heads facing outside through the Dutch doors all the time.  When the doors were open, they would run to the far corner of the paddock and would not return to their stalls unless they were dragged.  They would not eat and were obviously terrified in the barn.  

The woman told me that one of her friends had seen some dark figures moving between the stalls in the barn.  While I had never worked with horses before, I decided to give it a try.  My colleague and I drove over to her ranch, met her, and was given a tour of the horse barn.  Like she said, both horses stood with their heads facing out into the paddock.  It was a rare brutally cold windy day in February.  After warming up after our tour we started to work our way through the barn, stopping at every stall and commanding in the name of Jesus that any demon/evil spirit that was in the stall leave.  We then asked the Holy Spirit to come and bring His peace.  

After cleansing four or five stalls we came to where the first horse was standing, head turned away from us.  I said the same thing that I had said over each of the other stalls.  When I did, the horse turned completely around, put his head up to be caressed, and then started to eat.  The owner said in shock, “His eyes are different.”  The second horse, meanwhile, was still standing in the next stall with his head out the window.  I did the same thing with exactly the same results.  The horse turned around, put his head up so it could be stroked, and then started to eat.  Whatever had been tormenting these two beautiful creatures was gone.  The owner reported a few days later that the horses seemed a bit disoriented the next day (a common experience among people and, apparently horses as well) but were absolutely normal in the following days.  

So as these stories and many others illustrate, there are many people, homes, and even animals that experience unwanted entities. And yes!  Many people experience a haunting that moves around with them!  In other words, an entity that stays with them no matter where they go in life (I heard many stories to this effect).  

But before I give my perspective on what to do, we need to figure out what we are dealing with.  And please bear in mind that this is only my perspective; feel free to take it or leave it.  

What are ghosts?

After months of listening to ghost podcasts (Real Ghost Stories online and Paranormal Mysteries among others), searching the internet, watching ghost hunter-like shows on TV, reading Nancy Drew books :), and reading the Bible (yes, the Bible has one legit ghost story), I have come to the following conclusions about ghosts: 

  • Yes, many are evil spirits or demons – some are demons purporting to be a departed human spirit but are really not, and in some cases, they are an evil spirit that was previously attached to the person who has died.  Sometimes it’s not a ghost at all but just an actual evil spirit who is attached to you, your property, or your possessions.  And yes!  Demons can be attached to objects and enter your home that way.  The Bible says that demons prefer to attach themselves to something or someone and do not like to just wander the earth.  There is even one story where Jesus himself says that demons will return back to their same house with “seven spirits more wicked than themselves” (Matthew Ch. 12). And while we are on the topic, Jesus was the first legit exorcist and constantly removed evil spirits from people’s lives in order to both help people who were tormented, and also to prove that he was the actual Messiah.  
  • There are some that are actual ghosts, but I would refer to them as departed human spirits sent down from heaven in order to help or encourage someone, or in the case of the one story in the Bible (I Samuel ch. 28), to give a warning or a rebuke. I heard several stories where immediately after someone died, someone saw the spirit of that person or dreamed of him or her. I don’t have a huge problem with this scenario if it doesn’t lead to a long-term haunting and it does not cause fear or dread.  And just to be fair, I heard stories where people had ghosts in their homes that did not seem to scare or bother them.  I just know that I, personally, would not want anything in my home unless it was sent from Heaven above.  
  • I heard a few stories about astral projection, where a living person used the powers of the occult (Satanism) to separate their spirit body from their physical body and terrorize someone without the other person knowing that it was an astral projected spirit.  
  • Finally, some stories are not the result of ghosts or demons, but have a logical explanation.  It just might take time to figure out what is really going on.  And some stories do not fit into a neat category and are simply labeled “unexplained.” 

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Before we can get to the “how to deal with spirits” part of this post, we need to figure out what happens to a person’s spirit after they die.

What happens to a person’s spirit after they die?

I would say this depends on what you believe.  I believe in the Bible, which says that, after a person dies, they stand before the Lord and give an account of their life.  If that person has received forgiveness of their sins and knows and loves Jesus Christ and has allowed Jesus to be their Savior and Lord, they will enter heaven for all eternity.  If they have not, then they will not be able to enter heaven and will either cease to exist (not standard Christian theology but leaving room for this possibility) or will enter hell for eternity. 

The Bible does not say that departed human spirits come back to the earth and haunt people, places, houses, or animals.  

However, if you don’t believe that the Bible is true, then consider the words and stories of those who have actually died and come back from the dead.  I recently finished an amazing book called Imagine Heaven by John Burke, who interviewed over 100 people who experienced a near death experience, or NDE.  Here is a short blurb about the book on Amazon:  

For decades, Burke has been studying accounts of survivors brought back from near death who lived to tell of both heavenly and hellish experiences. While not every detail of individual NDEs correlate with Scripture, Burke shows how the common experiences shared by thousands of survivors–including doctors, college professors, bank presidents, people of all ages and cultures, and even blind people–point to the exhilarating picture of Heaven promised in the Bible.

(for more information on this book, or to order, click here: https://www.amazon.com/Imagine-Heaven-Near-Death-Experiences-Exhilarating/dp/080101526X/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3D2IK5IECIR20&dchild=1&keywords=imagine+heaven&qid=1596059181&sprefix=Imag%2Caps%2C194&sr=8-2)

Bottom line according to the NDE-ers: departed human spirits do not seem to float around down here on earth – haunting, helping, or harassing people who are still alive (from all of the testimonies I read). The NDE-ers who head in an upward direction report either seeing loved ones who have already passed, Jesus himself coming towards them with great love oozing out of his eyes, colors they have never seen before, amazing music playing in the background, etc. OR conversely, going down down down to complete and utter darkness, with demon spirits mocking them, scaring them, and doing very bad things to them, etc. I did not read testimonies of people who were able to wander the earth for a period of time without heading in one direction or another. Just sayin’.

Please feel free to check out the stories themselves for further information (link above).

How do you get unwanted spirits to leave you alone?  

Option one: you can ask them to leave:

If you are not a follower of Jesus Christ (Christian), here is an option for you that I would not believe had I not heard several stories that affirmed this approach.  Many people sense a ghost and actually say something like this in the direction they believe the ghost is lurking: “Hey, I know you are here.  But you are really scaring me, and you need to leave.  So please leave.”  For whatever reason known to man, this method can actually work.  Many people have reported a peaceful home after asking a spirit to leave.  In my humble opinion, this method works better if the ghost does not seem to be malevolent.  You can also try getting help from a pastor, deliverance minister, or by cleansing your home (more on this in a moment).  

Option two: you can command them to leave (in Jesus Name):

I must qualify this and say that this method will only be effective for followers of Jesus Christ (Christians).  I do not recommend this method unless you are a sincere follower of Jesus. 

If you are already a believer in Jesus Christ, God gives you the authority to command the demons to leave you in Jesus’s name.  Luke 10:19 says this: “I give unto you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and to overcome all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means harm you.”  

You can cast the demon out of your home in Jesus’s name, and it will go away, because it must obey the name of Jesus.  You can say something like this:  “Whatever is bothering me at night doing this and that (fill in the blank), or whatever is attached to me, or whatever came into my home or is attached to this or that (fill in the blank), I rebuke you and command you to leave me and my home in Jesus’s name.”  The spirit will/should leave you in Jesus’s name.  However, if the spirit doesn’t go that easily, try this….

Option three: you can cleanse your house or ask for help:

Again, if you are believer and follower of Jesus, I would recommend anointing your house with olive oil (the tops of the windows and all of the doors, and then the four corners of your property line) and commanding all evil spirits to leave in Jesus’s name.  Pray that God would seal your home with his Holy Spirit and not allow bad spirits to enter.  Then pray that God’s peace and the Holy Spirit would fill your home. You can also call your clergy person or a deliverance minister and have them go through your house to cleanse it of ghosts and evil spirits as well.   And to be fair, even if you are not a follower of Jesus, many people have cleansed their homes with some success (there are many methods I learned).  You would have to google these options for yourself.  

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I will leave you with one final thought and one last story before you go:

Final thought: you never have to stay in a scary situation – there are things you can do. That ghost that you are experiencing might be a demon, and God may be using this experience to open your eyes and draw you closer to Himself.  Remember – God loves you!  And He wants to help you, you just need to ask.

Final story: my daughter Claire kept complaining about the “large black bat” that was in the corner of her bedroom that scared her. I let it go for a few days, thinking it was her imagination.  But after a week or so with no relief, I waited until she was fast asleep and crept into her room and looked right at the corner in her room where she said the “black bat” was lurking, and told the demon to get the hell out of my house, in Jesus’s name!

Later, I asked Claire about the bat and she said simply, “Oh, it flew away mom!”  

Of course it did.

And finally, Kristen’s own words, as she reflected on bringing the haunted furniture into her home:

Although what happened to me was probably one of the scariest times in my entire life, I am overall grateful for this experience as it has taught me that demons really do exist, that there is power in the name of Jesus, and that when I was in that fearful situation, God sent people to help me.  Also, this experience was a real turning point for me in my own walk with God and I can now look back and see how it was used for my good and the good of my family.

Trailing spouse – there is hope for you

Moving is hard, but things will get better

About a year after we moved halfway across the country for my husband’s job from DC to the Chicago area, I was having coffee with my real estate agent in our newly remodeled kitchen. We were discussing the move and how hard it was for me, and how I was still completely focused on helping my kids adjust and very busy getting our house remodeled.  I confessed I was still struggling to find my purpose here and lamented that it was difficult to make kindred-spirit friendships.  In a moment of self-pity, I said the following:

“I feel like there is nothing in this move for me.”  

I waited, wondering if she would come back with a corrective/judgmental  comment. Instead, she looked at me with sympathy in her eyes and said the following:

“Yes, it’s always harder for the trailing spouse.”

“What – or who – is the trailing spouse?” I asked her, not realizing that someone in my shoes had an official title.

She explained it this way: “Well, it’s usually the wife, to be honest.  And she is trailing after her spouse.  Usually she moves because her husband got a new job in a new area.  And after they move into the new home she is socially isolated and has no real friends.  And she is trying super hard to help her kids adjust and be a cheerleader for her husband, and to handle all the details of the move and potential remodeling and everything else, but she ignores her own needs to support her family. It’s very hard for her, but she keeps it hidden.  She is still grieving the loss of the move, and there are many losses.” 

Her statement was spot-on for me.

The trailing spouse is defined this way from an article I found: 

Trailing spouses, usually women, end up doing a vast amount of emotional labour, not just for their households and their children, if they have them (helping teenagers adapt to new countries or dealing with toddler jet-lag), but for themselves. In the rest of my life, I’m used to being independent, interesting. I have hobbies. This trip, I’m the addendum, the afterthought.

So yes, moving can be very hard for the trailing spouse, especially if she didn’t want to move in the first place (like me). However, there are many benefits to moving, and my goal for this post is to give hope to those who are faced with an upcoming move, or have recently relocated and are still hating it. In order to write a better post, I read one really good book on moving, conducted some internet research, and consulted with two of my very best friends, Ragan and Sandie, who themselves have moved several times and have experienced the pros and cons of moving, many times over.

I also need to add a qualifier, because not every move is an unwanted move. Many people may be excited to move because they are….

  • Moving to a better home in the same general area,
  • Moving to be closer to loved ones (family, friends), 
  • Moving to a warmer weather climate from a colder one,
  • Moving to a welcoming built-in community (think church, military, or school community with casseroles and deep friendships upon arrival)
  • Moving as a person who loves new adventures or thrives on change

And one more qualifier: I realize that trailing spouses can also be men, and there are a lot of single men and women who also may face an unwanted move. Although I wrote this article for wives who are trailing after their husband’s jobs, please hang with me as I believe there will be something in this blog post for you, too.

So let’s dig into the why…why moving is it so hard for the trailing spouse (and for everyone else, frankly), and then we will discuss the eventual benefits of moving.  

Ah, this moment…when the moving truck arrived. It all suddenly felt very real.

I am going to highlight just three bullet points on the difficulties related to moving, as there is already much written on the topic of why moving is so hard for everyone on the planet.  

First, moving is one of the most stressful life events, on par with divorce:

From the decluttering to the packing to often being a single parent for months before the move (as in our case), you will feel like it’s all on you,  because honestly and sadly, much of it is.  You will have to hold down the fort at your current home, pack it up, put it on the market and keep it perfect, all while you look frantically on-line for a new one. 

One article had this to say:

“Research has shown that moving is more stressful than divorce. Personally, as someone who has moved 17 times in 15 years, I can agree with this 100 percent. Studies have consistently reported that moving is one of the most stressful life events because the amount of tiny details involved in moving to a new home makes a lot of people feel hella bajiggity. British energy company E.ON conducted a survey of 2,000 people, and six out of 10 people cited moving as the most stressful life event with divorce or a break up coming in second.” (source: https://www.bustle.com/p/moving-is-one-of-the-most-stressful-life-events-a-new-study-says-but-here-are-7-ways-to-make-it-suck-less-11832166)

While I am not here to debate the stress level of moving vs. divorce, let’s just agree that moving is incredibly stressful.  

Second, moving is a grieving process with many external and internal losses:

For starters, there is saying goodbye to your family, friends, home, and your neighborhood. It’s also the loss of identity and potential job for the trailing spouse,  loss of a beloved church or house of worship, and loss of all familiar things. It’s like walking away from the warmth and comfort of a warm blanket into a blinding blizzard without a coat.  It’s dealing with fear and anxiety but lacking the regular resources and comforts of coping that you are familiar with.

And this brings me to grieving. Our American society is not very good at this, but in order to effectively move, and then restart your life in a new area, grieving is an important component of our human development and eventual healing. There are five stages, and all of them need to be felt and dealt with properly (and not stuffed deep inside, because you are strong).

Thirdly, moving  is overwhelming (before, during, and after the move):

From Sandie, as she discusses just one aspect of her to-do list: Every state has its own set of rules and protocols, visits to the DMV, driver’s license renewals, and in some cases professional license renewals.  To continue my teaching career, I had to apply for licensure in each state. It took time, money, classes, and patience.  It can be a daunting task to reestablish yourself professionally.  Not to mention navigating where to shop and find the best deals near you.  

Although moving is super stressful, hard, and expensive, there is always a silver lining to every dark cloud.  Below are just a few of the upsides of moving that I have discovered over the last almost two years:

Moving is a clean-slate for your schedule:

I honestly enjoyed this small benefit right away: after the boxes were unpacked, I had almost nothing to do except drive my kids around and figure out design choices with respect to our remodeling projects. I enjoyed not having the usual demands on my time and decided to be very careful and deliberate about what commitments I added back in.

From Sandie: We live in busy times.  Life’s demands pull for our time and our attention.  Usually we have too many commitments on our schedule to manage, but moving gives us a chance to reprioritize. Without restraints on our time, it allows us to be in the moment, to slow down to savor that cup of coffee, read that book, or just take time in the solitude to mediate.  Busyness can rob us of joy.  A clean slate allows us to choose our paths of joy.  Tired of having to run somewhere every night of the week to a commitment? Then don’t, just say no.  I’m reminded that saying no to the good things allows you to say yes to the best things.

Time will go slower because everything is brand new:

Did you know that time moves more slowly when your brain is trying to figure out new things like a new area or a new job?  It sure does.  That’s because your brain encodes new experiences only, not boring and routine ones, and over-represents new experiences, thus making them seem longer.  In essence, when you move, everything is brand new and time slows down.  Here is a post I wrote about this topic.

I strangely enjoyed not having everything figured out already, and I savored all of the many new experiences, sights, smells, and tastes of our new home and area.

It’s a clean slate for your friendships:

After you move away, that change alone will clarify your true friendships and weed out the ones who were not meant for you long-term. As far as making new friends, I was able to decide who I wanted to be friends with in my new area. I was forced to go out of my comfort zone and pursue and invite women into my life, which I have definitely tried to do, as I am a very relational person.

Another blogger summed up another angle of friendships and moving this way: “Focus on the reality that you are not leaving friends and neighbors behind, merely extending your friendship group as you meet new people and develop new relationships in the community.”  (source: https://www.movingmindsets.com.au/emotional-impact-moving-sarah-godfrey/)

And technology helps tremendously with keeping in touch with old friends, and especially for my teen girls who can very easily keep in touch with all of their old friends from DC.

You may find better career (or ministry) options in your new area:

Sometimes moving gives you career options that you never would have where you currently live. As for me, I have always been interested in a career in law enforcement but went another direction in college. After we moved, I started to re-imagine my career as a Private Investigator.  A few months ago, I was connected with a wonderful Christian PI who helped me to navigate the complexity of breaking into the PI world. A couple of months ago, I was able to get a part-time entry level job in the PI field (with his help), conducting residency checks and surveillance for local school districts. I don’t think I could have done this work in the DC area.  In addition, running for Congress or another government position has always been in the back of mind.  DC is saturated with go-getter-government-types, and I believe it would be very hard to win a government seat in that area.

Moving builds character and personal development in many areas:

Moving forces you to broaden new horizons, face fears, be a pursuer, wait patiently, soul-search, look at the agenda going on inside of yourself, mourn losses, deal with loneliness, reach out to new people, and heal.  Moving is much like a much-needed workout.  It might be painful in some ways, and you hate doing it, but it’s super good for you in the long-run.  

And it’s true; I have definitely grown as a person after this move.

Moving builds spiritual development:

Again, this is much needed for most of us. An excellent book on the topic of moving had this to say:

What is God trying to teach me through all of this?

Security does not come from a house (or any other thing, for that matter).

Real security comes only from trusting God.

To grow as a person, you need to move beyond your comfort zone.

Spiritual growth comes in learning to depend on God to meet your needs.

People, places, and things should not be held too tightly. They can keep you from embracing what God has planned for you.

(Source: After the Boxes are Unpacked, Susan Miller, page 17.)

I would say that for me the above rang true, and I would add: moving strips me of things I find security in and helps me to focus more on the two most important relationships in my life: God, and my family. Every single time I moved, much good has come from it, both personally, and professionally.

And spiritually!

Moving is good for your kids:

Dear mama, this will be one of the hardest parts of the move and therefore I will not even attempt to sugarcoat it.  Here is my advice to you: as hard as it is, try to stay calm and positive and point your kids in the direction of “seeing the good” in the move.  Tell them you will go back and let them visit their old friends (and then do it!).  Tell them they will be able to keep in close touch with their friends through technology.  You can be honest with them and let them know that you understand how hard this is for them, but try to keep your kids on the same team as your husband and you.  

I know it’s very hard to watch your kids struggle and face difficulties during the move, but like a butterfly coming out of its cocoon, your kids need some difficulties in life to develop them in well-rounded ways. Moving teaches them (and you, mom) how to make new friends, be flexible, learn new social skills, embrace change, and be open to new adventures. I know that some kids really struggle with moving, and I encourage you to dig into ways you can help your kids to adjust to a new home, school, and life. Technology is a huge help! Our kids regularly keep in touch with many of their old friends through various Apps and video games, and my kids are all doing much better almost two years into this move.

You get to explore a brand new area:

Lastly, you will (most-likely, unless you are moving to Siberia) greatly enjoy exploring your new area. We have loved visiting the Ocean (Lake Michigan), and Chicago is an amazing city with so much to do! Wisconsin (within driving distance) has lots of lakes and, believe it or not, boasts the Water Park Capital of the World (or at least the US).

Chicago has an amazing aquarium!!
My parents came to visit us last fall! We did the famous architectural boat tour (highly recommend).

I want to close this post with two current challenges (for me).

First, I am still struggling with the move in the area of making deep friendships.  Yes, I have made a couple of good friends, but I am praying and hoping to make more.  Second, I am still working on being content, joyful (happy) and grateful for moving and in every area of my life.  The move has forced me to turn to the Lord and develop a deeper relationship with Him and my family.  God has tested me in the area of contentment and trust.  I am clinging to Romans 8:28, where God promises to work “all things together for the good” in my own life, and for His glory. “All things” includes this move. God allowed it and He will work it for my good.

In closing, I am happy to report that almost two years into the move, things are going much better and my “winter of discontent” is now over. I am starting to “see the good” in the move, both for me and my family and especially my husband, as his former company (the one we left and moved away from) is now completely dismantled. There are many good things about the Chicago area (sans the weather) and all of us have made a few friends and are enjoying the area and all it has to offer. I definitely have less commitments so therefore I have more time, and I love my new PI job that I never would have been able to land in the DC area.

I will end this post with some advice given to me from my dear friend Ragan, a military spouse, who has moved eight times in 15 years:

There is no doubt that moving is a pain (and honestly, I hope I have many years to come before I have to do it again), but I also know that attitude and perspective are critical. The motto of the U.S. Marine Corps is Semper Fidelis meaning “always faithful.” The motto of the U.S. Marine Corps spouse is Semper Gumby—“always flexible.” We have no choice but to be flexible as we know we are “likely” posted in a duty station for two to three years. I try to jump in with both feet immediately. Our first goal was always to find a church and get involved as quickly as possible rather than visit several over periods of months to find the “perfect” one.  I went to events and did my best to connect with other wives in my husband’s command.

I made memories, and most importantly, I made life-long friendships. I toured other countries, hosted many friends and family members, and lived as if I were going to be there forever. Sometimes we can be short-sighted or feel sadness at always having to uproot and so we guard and protect our hearts. I trust there is a time for this, and I know that it is natural for us to do so as well. But I also know the joy of going all in and reaping the benefits of vulnerability and effort.

As Heather shared, I too am a trailing spouse, and I never trail alone. I bring family with me. I bring friends with me. And most of all, God is with me. I hope to keep growing in maturity all the time, and the pressure cooker of a move sure is a good way to test that.

Amen! May we all (including myself) grow in the area of flexibility, being deeply rooted no matter what, being open to change and adventure, and being content and joyful in every area of life, including a move!

So trailing spouse, there is hope for you!

Because you never trail alone.

_______________________________________________________

PS: Below, check out the pics of all the wonderful friends and family (in no particular order) who have come to visit us since we have moved (including my parents pictured above)!

Our great friends Erin and Caleb and their kiddos came to visit! Chicago is such a great city!!
One of my very best friends Ragan and her son came to visit! I have known Ragan for 21 years!!
My awesome sister Jessie came to visit!! It was so great to have her!
My wonderful friends Amy, Amy, and Jonalee came for a visit! Check out the Ocean View in the background!!
We have enjoyed having a few neighborhood friends over and have actually become good friends with the ones pictured! Great peeps in our new hood!
Erik’s family came to visit us for Thanksgiving!!
Erik’s (my husband’s) brother Ed was our very first visitor!!!
We have really enjoyed our new kitchen and have been able to do a bunch of orphan hosting in our new house cuz we have lots of room!
My two nieces (Lauren and Kristen!) came to visit, plus some other good friends for Erik’s surprise birthday party!
As soon as we moved, we checked out the new area. Here we are up in Kenosha, WI, enjoying the awesome view. Moving meant a lot of good, quality time with my kids.
We went to our very first CUBS game with some new friends! Ryan was the contractor who remodeled our kitchen and basement. He saw me every morning – gross and without make-up -for a year!! So we naturally became friends with him. 🙂

For further reading: https://www.mymovingreviews.com/move/why-moving-is-hard/

Excellent book on this topic: After the Boxes are Unpacked by Susan Miller. Here is an amazon link (just a link; not an affiliate link): https://www.amazon.com/After-Boxes-Unpacked-Susan-Miller-ebook/dp/B012P62Z5Y/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1ZWJ0YIPZGCTJ&dchild=1&keywords=after+the+boxes+are+unpacked+by+susan+miller&qid=1587505536&sprefix=After+the+Boxes+are+u%2Caps%2C318&sr=8-1

Are Ouija Boards a Doorway to Communicate with (evil) Spirits? My Ouija Board story

A Stranger Things Ouija board, available on Amazon. If you decide to play with a Ouija board, just be prepared that stranger things may indeed happen to you! (PC: Amazon)

Did you ever play with the Ouija board as a teenager at a slumber party? Or find one in your grandma’s attic and give it a try? Or did you walk past a Stranger Things version of the board at Target and pick one up out of curiosity? How about making one from scratch using a pen, paper, and deodorant cap and then seeing if it would work at a Christian summer camp?

Before I start this post, I need to add a qualifier:

My Ouija board story is not that compelling.  Rather, it is interesting – as are most stories about the paranormal.  

Also – this blog post is divided up into five quick parts.  First, my story.  Second, the short history of Ouija boards.  Third, a question: are Ouija boards innocent board games or sinister gateways to spirits?  Fourth, the bottom line on evil spirits.  Finally, closing thoughts and advice to parents.

My Ouija board story:

When I was 13 or 14 years old and in the beginning of my teenage rebellious stage, my parents sent me to a weeklong Christian summer camp in upstate New York called Delta Lake Youth Camp.  One afternoon, a few (also rebellious) friends and I were were huddled together in our cabin, staring down at a hastily assembled Ouija board made with a sheet of paper and an upside down deodorant cap.  I had quickly written out the alphabet and then put “YES” in one corner and “NO” in the other one.  

We were good to go. 

One girl, Paula, stood to the side with a frown on her face.  She was the oddball sincere Christian girl stuck with a bunch of not-as-good girls in a small cabin.  

And although I had been warned that Ouija boards were a doorway for the devil himself, my curiosity got the best of me and I found myself across from a friend with the planchette (aka deodorant cap) between us, asking innocent teenager questions. 

“Does Derick like me?”  I asked the board.  Derick was a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy at camp that I had a crush on.

I had two fingers on one side of the deodorant cap, and my friend had two fingers on the other side.  For a moment, nothing happened.  Then slowly, the cap between us moved to YES.

“Did you move it?”  I asked my friend who was playing with me.  She nodded no, with wide eyes.

We asked it more questions, with the board moving on its own each time.

“See, it works!” I told my friend Melanie, a skeptic.

I then asked it another question: “who do you want to play?”  (Meaning, who of us girls – and there were about six of us – would the Ouija want to interact with?)

Immediately the board sprung to life and spelled out P – A – U – L – A.  The cap moved so quickly and with such force – completely on its own.  

We all turned to look at Paula, who turned as white as a sheet and then abruptly left the cabin.  After that, we felt compelled to stop the game, as we were all thoroughly freaked out.  Later, both Melanie and I regretted our decision to interact with the board and never touched it again.

Quick history on Ouija Boards:

Ouija boards started out as Talking Boards, as a way for grieving families to communicate with their dead loved ones.  According to Wikipedia:

As a part of the spiritualist movement, mediums began to employ various means for communication with the dead. Following the American Civil War in the United States, mediums did significant business in presumably allowing survivors to contact lost relatives. The ouija itself was created and named in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1890, but the use of talking boards was so common by 1886 that news reported the phenomenon taking over the spiritualists’ camps in Ohio.[12]

Science debunks the Ouija board and credits it to involuntary movement (with studies to back this up), however there is much anecdotal evidence and witness testimony to support the claims that Ouija boards are a tool to communicate with spirits.  

Are Ouija boards innocent or sinister?

Before I give my personal thoughts, below are two opinions from men who regularly interact with the paranormal and have heard hundreds of Ouija board stories.  To my knowledge, these men are not overly religious and are only forming their opinions based on stories they have heard firsthand, or their own direct knowledge.  

Tony Brueski, the popular podcaster of Real Ghost Stories Online (I am a subscriber!), was asked his opinion of Ouija boards during a facebook live webcast, and he said the following: “No- don’t go for it. It’s one of the those things where things could go horribly wrong very quickly, and it’s hard to know what may actually end up happening with your situation. So I would never suggest using it.” (October 20, 2017 Facebook Live, 18 minute mark.) Tony has heard close to 200 Ouija board stories on his thousands of podcasts.  He stated in another podcast that only 1 in 200 Ouija board stories he has heard are beneficial to the participant. (To hear a very compelling Ouija board story from Tony’s podcast, click here:  http://www.thegravetalks.com/the-devils-board/)

Another popular ghost hunter who has his own TV show (Ghost Hunters), Jason Hawes, had this to say about the Ouija board: “You’re asking something to enter you, and you’re opening yourself up to a world of trouble.  You’re asking something to use you as a puppet. I would never open myself to it.”  (source: https://kslnewsradio.com/1913712/ghost-hunters-biggest-fear-has-nothing-to-do-with-ghosts/)

Below are three (legitimate) Amazon reviews of Ouija boards for your consideration:

Okay so I bought this because I don’t believe in all that spirit or ghost talk type of junk. But I can honestly say so many crazy things was happening in my house after we open it up, we didn’t even play with it!! THINGS DISAPPEARED AND REAPPEARED more than once my husband thought I was lying until he dropped his lighter outside and couldn’t find, followed by the next day his lighter was sitting on the kitchen table! Wtf!!!! (Key Martin, Reviewed in the United States on December 9, 2018.)

Listen, I bought this thinking I could use it to talk to my grandma. Instead, I made contact with a demon that openly admitted to wanting to hurt me. Since purchasing and using the board, the span of less than one week, I have been scratched twice, my sister and I have both heard knocking, I heard breathing, tapping, and knocking tonight alone. Also, my sister left for college and obviously turned her light off but I saw when I left my room that it was still on, 12 hours later. This thing worked but is no joke. Also, DO NOT PLAY ALONE!!! This allows easier manipulation and possible possession.  (ExoticShawol reviewed a product · Aug 5, 2017.)

And just to be fair and balanced, here is one five star review:  I was a skeptic to be honest. But with just a little practice my daughter and I were able to speak with dead relatives in no time. Knowing that those who have passed are still around and we have a way to contact them has been amazing. Just be careful, sometimes bored spirits will try and pass themselves off as people you know just to mess with you. If that happens, just know that you will likely have to move to a new house, and in some cases they may follow you and you may need to seek out a professional to help with their removal.  (DavidDoesReviews Reviewed in the United States on July 29, 2018.). (Heather’s note: ummm – and this was a five star review?)

My opinion: I believe that Ouija boards can be/are definitely doorways for an evil spirit to communicate with you.  I truly believe that we were interacting with a demon that day many years ago at our Christian camp.  

“But what about using the board to communicate with dead relatives?” one may ask.  There is a very long answer to this question, but the short one is this: I do not believe you are communicating with your dead relative, but rather with an evil spirit who is purporting to be your dead relative.  I think there is a small place for human spirits to come down from heaven for a specific reason (at God’s command and for God’s purposes), but interacting with you through a Ouija Board is not one of those reasons.  More on this in a future post.

The Bottom line on demons/evil spirits:

I have been a committed Christian since my teen years and have studied this topic extensively. Here is what I have learned about evil spirits: 

Evil spirits cause fear, distract, destroy, divert, discourage and overall deceive a person so they will never have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Evil spirits/demons are underlings of Satan and do his work, and they can oppress both Christians and those who do not have a Christian faith.

Anything you do to open up a doorway to them is a very bad thing that you should overall avoid.  If you open up a door to them, there is a remedy to close that door, and no, it’s not pointing the planchette to “goodbye” and other ways people say is the proper way to rid yourself of the spirit.  Here it is: first, try prayer.  God is a very loving and merciful God.  Ask God to help you to get rid of the evil spirits you have let into your home and into your life.  You can also consider repenting of your sin of interacting with demons and receive God’s forgiveness.  Then pray that God will make the evil spirits leave you, in Jesus’ name.  If you are already a believer in Jesus Christ, God gives you the authority to make the demons leave you in Jesus’ name.  Luke 10:19 says this: “I give unto you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and to overcome all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means harm you.”  

The bottom line of ridding your life of evil spirits after playing the board?  Pray to God to help you to get rid of them.  Then get rid of the board.   

Closing thoughts and advice to parents:

I do believe that interacting with a Ouija board opens a doorway of some kind for evil spirits to not only interact with you, but then potentially lead you down some path either towards more paranormal involvement, or – worst case – the spirit will think he has the right to set up shop in your bedroom at night and harass and terrify you.

If your teenager asks you what you think of the Ouija board, tell him or her to run for the hills.  If you find out they have been playing with it, ask them how they are doing with that, and ask if they have sensed any changes in themselves or in the home since they began playing with it.  If they say yes (or no!), walk them through the above steps.  And then help them to stop.

Remember, evil spirits want to cause fear, or distract/discourage someone away from turning to God (or turn someone from more closely following God).  By contrast, remember Jesus’ words: “The thief (Satan and his evil spirits) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life – and and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

If you are looking to interact with a spirit, why don’t you consider interacting with the Holy Spirit through prayer?  Ask God to come into your life and reveal Himself to you, speak to you, and fill your life with His goodness and love. Read the book of Mark in the Bible.  It’s short, sweet, and to the point; it gives the bottom line of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  

So leave that sinister Ouija board at the Amazon facility (or Target) where it belongs, and warn your kids not to play with it at their friends’ slumber parties – or at Christian summer camps.  

You will all be much happier and safer for it.

__________________________________________________________

PS: this video shows objects moving on their own and many other scary things – all because people chose to use the board!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lszt7kmEDNw

PSS: do you have a Ouija Board story?  I’m sure yours is way more interesting than mine.  Feel free to share it below!!!

From Latvia: "No, you cannot adopt." (An update on our adoption situation)

Stalled.

The word I would use to describe our current adoption situation.

I quickly googled the definition of “stalled” and this is what comes up on my Iphone:

To stop running, typically because of an overload on an engine.

Stop or cause to stop making progress.  

The second definition definitely applies, but the first one I find intriguing and wonder if there is some truth in that one, too. 

Quick backstory: we are an adoptive family with three kids – two teenage girls and one tween boy.  Our first two kids we adopted as infants from the United States, and the third adoption took place eight years ago in the middle of the coldest winter on record in Ukraine as we adopted an eight year old girl from an orphanage in Poltava. After several years of adjusting Khloe into our family, we decided to begin the process of our fourth (and hopefully final) adoption of another boy.  We decided to adopt from the small baltic country of Latvia, because Erik’s entire family is from Latvia and his grandmother has an amazing WWII survival story, which you can read about here:  https://permission2speakfreely.com/2016/11/29/escape-from-latvia-annas-story-part-i/

Because Erik’s parents were born in Latvia, I was able to obtain my husband’s Latvian citizenship (which in itself took several months to obtain).  We had heard that being a Latvian citizen would allow us to adopt a younger, healthier child.  

So, three years ago we turned in all of our paperwork (which took months to complete) to the country of Latvia and waited for a referral of a young boy between the ages of 4 and 7 (Logan was 8 at the time).  We were told by our adoption coordinator that we would receive a referral of a little boy in the next few months. Yay!  We were excited and hopeful. 

This is what we all looked like over three years ago – at the beginning of our adoption process from Latvia!
And this is us this past summer (2019). Still no adoption! (And time is flying my friends!)

However, as the months flew by, our excitement turned to frustration which turned to uncertainty until finally two full years passed without a referral.  So we decided to change and expand our criteria so that it would increase our chances of adopting.  We allowed for an older child with additional special needs, and said we would also take a sibling group.  And then all of our paperwork expired and we had to do it all over again.  But still nothing.

So after three years of waiting, it has dawned on us that we entered the Latvian adoption waiting pool at a time when they weren’t really letting foreigners even get into the pool in the first place.  They basically stopped us as we were dipping our toes in the water and said: “we want to keep the younger, healthier Latvian kids in Latvia and we don’t want you to adopt them, so get out of the pool.”  

Here is what we also learned:  due to several reasons ranging from staff changes, to more emphasis on kids going into foster care (and once they enter care they cannot be adopted internationally), and an overall sour attitude about foreign adoptions, Latvia has become a very difficult country to adopt from (also see my P.S. for even bigger, more drastic changes on the horizon).

That brings us to January/February of this year (2020) as we received even worse news: in order to get back into the waiting pool for a referral, we now had to do several more hours of in-person training because Latvia refused to allow us to be grandfathered in from the old regulations (even though technically we should be).  

Our adoption agency argued and pleaded with the Latvian ministry, but they would not budge. 

So I asked my adoption coordinator if we could give them an ultimatum of sorts.  We wrote them a letter asking them the following: if we agreed to do the 40 hours of additional training, would they give us a referral of a child or a sibling group?

To my shock and horror, they wrote back saying the following:

“We are so happy that you have chosen to adopt from Latvia, however, due to the popularity of our domestic adoption program, no, we do not anticipate you getting a referral of a child any time in the near future.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and went into a shock and denial stage.  I have finally worked through all the stages of grief and yes, the tears have flowed:  

Tears of frustration for all the time, effort, energy, and double paperwork that turned out to be for nothing.

Tears that my kids are more than three years older and still no little brother.

Tears of sadness because we really wanted to adopt a little boy.

Just a small portion of all the paperwork I have done over the years – all for nothing. 😔

And while we are on the topic of disappointment, I am also disappointed that all of our orphan hosting we have done over the last few years has yet to lead to an adoption. In a quick nutshell, we have hosted several kids over the last few years from Latvia and Ukraine, and for a wide variety of very legitimate reasons, our hosting experiences, while super worthwhile in many ways, have not yet led to a path towards an adoption.  All is not lost as I firmly believe that hosting is a wonderful experience and ministry to the kids without parents. For more information on our experience with hosting kids, click here: https://permission2speakfreely.com/2019/04/17/orphan-hosting-and-hosting-to-adopt-ten-things-you-need-to-know/

However, it’s still disappointing that many people have been able to adopt through orphans hosting, but for some reason our family has not.  

One of our past host kiddos gets lots of love from Erik- which he desperately needed. Hosting is an awesome thing!

All of this bad news has me getting very introspective and trying go figure out why God has not allowed us to adopt yet.  Here are some guesses:

Maybe Logan is not ready.  

This summer he confessed to me that he “doesn’t want a brother.”  I asked him why and he said that he is jealous of the concept of a brother and doesn’t want to share mom and dad’s attention or love with anyone else.  Interestingly, with most of the boys we have hosted, we have seen some jealous behaviors come out in Logan, but after a week or two, he has taken most of them under his wing and really enjoys spending time with each of the boys we have hosted.  He always cries when they leave!  

UPDATE: Logan prayed last night for a little brother for the first time!

Possibly Khloe needs more time to adjust and change before another adoption takes place.  

To say that her adoption and adjustment was difficult is the understatement of the century, but Khloe is doing much better now.  Yes, she struggles with anger and attachment issues, but overall, things are much improved.  Could it be that she needs more time to heal and to change? 

Our adoption of Khloe was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But it’s been 8 years and she is doing much better.

It’s not God’s will for us to adopt any more kids.  

I have considered this too but after many years of praying and even “not praying” for a long period of time, we still have a strong desire to add more kids to our family.  We are in good mental and physical and financial health.  I am always praying the “May God’s will be done” type of prayer over this situation.  But right now, we are both in faith and desire to add to our family. 

Maybe we are supposed to adopt from a different country or from the U.S.

We are very open to looking into the country of Columbia.  We plan to host a boy or sibling group this summer.  All the kids who participate from Columbia in the hosting program are free and clear for international adoption.  I am also in the process of doing research on adopting from the foster care system.  This is a process which will take some time, along with about 40 hours of additional training.  I have been open to adopting locally from the start but due to many factors, we went in a different direction.  

It is getting much harder to adopt internationally.  Adoptions are down something like 80% over the last ten years.  Maybe it’s nothing personal, but we are just wrapped up in an overall general statistic.  

However, that leads me to right now.  How am I supposed to respond to this unfair situation?

I am learning that with all seemingly unfair situations, I have to both look back at the way God has been so good to me in the past, and then look around at the good that is happening right now.

Look around

We hosted Lasma, who is now 19 years old, from Latvia.  I never would have been looking into orphan hosting from Latvia had we not been trying to adopt from there.  Now I consider her my daughter and she constantly calls me her mom. I tell her all the time that she is a great kid and that it’s so unfair that she had crappy parents because she deserves so much better.  I am so glad we met Lasma and again, we never would have met her had I not been dialed in to Latvia.  I am glad that she is our new “adopted” daughter!

Lasma, our Latvian daughter! We love her and so glad we met her through hosting!

We also met Nina who is a wonderful ten year old from Ukraine.  I can’t say much about this situation but we are quietly working on a plan to adopt her in the future!  We will keep you posted!

Logan and Khloe have been developing and maturing and growing.  Maybe they were supposed to do that for a lot longer than I would have preferred!

Look Back:

I thought it was unfair that I had such a difficult childhood, but I realize that it made me into the strong and resourceful person I am today.

I used to struggle because most of my friends didn’t have to work the hours I did to pay my way through college, until I learned that working so much helped me to develop a very strong work ethic that has stayed with me to this day.

I used to struggle that I never had a boyfriend, until I met my awesome husband and then was relieved that I didn’t have to deal with losers my whole life waiting for him.

I used to think it was so unfair that Erik and I struggle with infertility, but then I look at the faces of my beautiful children and realize we weren’t meant to have biological children for some reason, because the kids we have were meant for us and we were meant for them.  

It seems unfair that I wasted so much time on trying to adopt from Latvia, but then I realized that my time is God’s time. If this is how God wanted me to spend my time (which I think was a waste), then I need to be ok with that.  Maybe someday I will understand.

In conclusion, God is in the middle of this unfair situation.  Why did He allow it?  Why didn’t He prompt Latvia to let us know to move on with our lives years ago? I have no idea.  God is writing the story of our family, and we are smack in the middle of a difficult chapter. But I know at the very end of the day, it will work out the way it’s supposed to and I will have peace and joy as I look over the faces of all the kids he has brought into my life, both the ones we have adopted and the ones we have hosted.

And that, my friends, is the latest on our adoption situation.  Please pray for us!

UPDATE: 

It has been over a month since I originally wrote this post and two things have happened since then.  One, Latvia came dangerously close to shutting down all international adoptions.  Not just ours, but all international adoptions.  Latvia is in the process of “figuring things out” with respect to international adoption.  I guess I don’t feel quite so bad that they rejected us.  

Second, the coronavirus – it has literally shut down the world.  First, of course, I pray for the safety of the world as well as all of my Dear Readers. Second – I cannot imagine the impact that COVID19 will have on adoptions – both locally and internationally.  I am praying a very general “God, please help us to complete our family” prayer without a lot of specificity and just trusting that He is bigger than any country closing or any horrific virus descending.  We hope to host from Columbia this summer while we continue to check out local options.  Thanks for reading!  Stay safe out there everyone!  3/23/2020