Missing 411: A pebble in my hiking boot

A closer look at people who go missing under perplexing  circumstances in our national parks and beyond

This is me and my husband after recently SAFELY returning from an amazing 27-mile hike behind the Grand Teton Mountain range in Wyoming this past summer – August 2022.
Whoops!!! We actually camped at a Missing 411 hotspot last summer. Erik and I took our three kids plus our two host kids from Ukraine to Hell Roaring Lake in Idaho, that little black dot you see right there. Nothing happened and all was well, but good to know for the future! What is a Missing 411 hotspot? Find out below. (Map credit: David Paulides)

Hikers, campers, hunters, and many other smaller groups of people are going missing under unusual but similar circumstances in our national parks and elsewhere.  

Some of the missing are later found in places that are seemingly impossible to get to or are many miles away from where they vanished, while others disappear into thin air, right in front of their families or friends, and are never seen again. In a few of the cases, boots are found wedged in fences, but the person remains missing.  Very odd.

For the following post, I have spent several hours researching the topic of Missing 411 in order to give you the bottom line of this phenomenon. I give credit for most of my research to David Paulides, a former police detective who has studied this issue for many years. 

So tighten up your backpack and welcome to the world of high strangeness, outdoor edition. You will never see the woods (and pretty much your life) the same again after this post. 

Missing 411 started out as a rabbit hole that quickly developed into a pebble in my hiking boot metaphorically. I love to go camping, hiking, or just being outdoors in general. The cases I reviewed are very strange, and I started to have fear and anxiety when thinking about the great outdoors. Not good. I decided to do a deep dive into this topic, in order to be able to have a sense of peace that allows me to continue to enjoy the great outdoors in all of its many forms, for decades to come.

The post you are reading is the result of this pebble, which is now (thankfully) removed from my boot!

Quick disclaimer: this article is a bit longer than my usual posts because I wanted to be as thorough yet as bottom-lined as possible. Feel free to grab a cup of freshly pumped water from the lake, Gatorade from your water bladder, or instant coffee made with your camp stove before you begin!  I promise this post is interesting and well worth your time, though.

In order to illustrate the basic gist of missing 411, I thought it would be fun to listen in on a compilation of conversations between myself and my husband Erik as we are discussing our upcoming backpacking trip (which we just came back from). For context, Erik and I have been hiking and camping in remote, forested locations all over the country for 25 years annually. Sometimes we hike just the two of us, and sometimes we bring our kids. We plan to continue this tradition as long as possible, and the research I am about to present to you will hopefully help all of us to enjoy nature for decades to come.

Missing 411 – a conversation

Me: Hey hon, do you know where we will be hiking this summer?

Erik: Yes, I am thinking we should redo the same hike we did behind the Grand Teton mountain range in Wyoming. 

Me: Ok, I need to look that up and see if that’s a missing 411 hotspot.

Erik: What the heck are you talking about?

Me: Several hikers, backpackers, campers, and many others, have gone missing for several decades under very mysterious and unexplainable circumstances.  They tend to disappear in clusters.  For example, Yosemite National Park is a huge missing person hot-spot.  I’m not sure what clusters exist in Wyoming. 

Erik: (Looking at me with skepticism) Babe, is this one of your conspiracy theories?

Me: Nope, it’s been investigated thoroughly and documented by a former police detective; he has written 11 books. This detective, David Paulides, has even gone back to several locations and re-investigated. He has interviewed witnesses, pulled police and national park reports, and obtained original newspaper articles. These are actual and documented cases of those who have gone missing. He also produced three documentaries; one involved missing children, and one was about missing hunters.

Erik: So, you’re telling me that people go missing under weird circumstances while they are hiking and backpacking? People go missing all the time in the woods because they go off-trail. How are these cases different?

Me: For starters, I am not referring to those who go missing and who are later found alive. I am talking about people, even kids, who seemingly vanish into thin air and then are found alive several miles away and up an elevation that is impossible to get to. Or, they are found dead in impossible places.  Dogs cannot track them, or they track them and then suddenly lose the scent.  It’s almost as if people are being lifted off the ground, hunted, or carried away.  David Paulides doesn’t really know what’s going on, and he doesn’t give a theory, but he thinks it could be multi-factorial and possibly paranormal.  Also, he really can’t be a conspiracy theorist because he doesn’t give a theory. 

Erik: Babe, most of these cases are probably foul play or animal attacks.

Me: Nope, he rules out both of those aspects.  He even rules out mental illness or those with suicidal tendencies.  These are definitely different cases and highly unusual.  As I said, it’s almost as if they vanish into thin air. Some of it could definitely be the human element, as there may be some strange and creepy mountain men along the Appalachian Trail. There also may be serial killers who are targeting young men who are found dead in bodies of water with high levels of a chemical, GHB, in their bodies.  

Erik:  Wait, there are young men found dead in bodies of water?

Me: Yes, there is a whole book written about this called Missing 411, A Sobering Coincidence. 

Erik: (long, drawn-out sigh).  So, what are you saying? We should never go hiking again?

Me: Not at all.  I refuse to let this change us, and I refuse to be afraid of the woods.  However, there are definitely things we can do.  

Erik: Like what?

Me: For starters, let’s not camp at Hell Roaring Lake again. You know the lake we camped at last year with five kiddos.

Erik: Why not?

Me: Because of the word ‘Hell.’  In fact, there is a connection between some of the clusters of disappearances and names of mountains, trails, cliffs, and areas that have the word Devil, Spirit, Ghost, Death, and Demon, etc. For some reason, people go missing from places with some connotation of the word ‘devil.’  I think it might have something to do with Native American land. 

Erik: (Eye roll) Now you’ve lost me.

Me: Babe. I am serious.  David Paulides wrote a whole freaking book on this. It’s called Missing 411, The Devil’s in the Details.

Erik: Sheesh.  Ok, so what do you want to do?

Me: We can go, but let’s be prepared. For example, let’s purchase and bring Personal Locator Beacons. That’s a very easy first step.

Erik: Ok, I will do the research. What else?

Me: Check the weather right before we go.  For some reason, there is a lot of weird weather events associated with these disappearances, like heavy rain, snow, and fog. 

Erik: Got it. Anything else?

Me: For starters, let’s not separate. The point of separation is a common denominator for these disappearances. The number one thing I am going to do is pray for God’s protection, and I will bring olive oil and anoint our campsite with it, like in a circle. Also, we need to tell Ed (Erik’s brother) when we will be going into the backcountry and our hiking route, and when we will be exiting. Oh, and we should bring some sort of personal protection.  I guess bear spray will have to do.  

Erik: Hon, you are a nut.  That’s a lot of stuff to do.

Me: Honestly, we could probably do nothing and be fine.  We have never had one weird thing happen to us in 25 years, except that one time in the Vidawoo mountains, also in Wyoming. And please know that I am not afraid of anything. I believe we will be fine if we do nothing. But the number one thing we can do is pray. Pray that God will keep us safe.  And if anything weird starts to happen, like the woods going silent, or a feeling of fear or dread, or a bad smell, or a voice or a scream, we should pray out loud right then and there. Also, we can command any evil spirits to go away in Jesus’s name. But for practical purposes, we at least need a personal locator beacon and letting people know when we will be out of the woods, and which hiking route. And a weather check. And sticking together. 

Erik: That’s still a lot but it sounds doable. Got it. Is it only hikers who go missing?

Me: No, sometimes it’s berry pickers, sheepherders, farmers, children in their backyards, and many other subgroups, unfortunately. 

Erik: Sorry, but some of this is hard to believe.

Me: I get that.  It gets even more bizarre.  Do you know that there have been several cases of small children disappearing from vehicles, many of which are actually locked?  One boy disappeared from a car out in the middle of the desert.  He was with his uncle who went over a hill for ten minutes, and when he returned, the child was gone. There were no tracks and no scent. The child went missing for one week. He was eventually found seven miles away, up a sheer cliff.  It was impossible to get to unless you had climbing equipment.  The boy was found alive and unharmed after seven days, yet it’s not possible to survive more than three days without water.  

Erik: This whole thing is weird.

Me: I know, and I’m sorry.  By the way, are there ay weirdly named lakes, mountains, trails, or cliffs we plan to camp out at along our next hike?

Erik: Yes. We plan to hike up to the Death Canyon Shelf on the first night.

Me: What the actual heck?

Erik: We can try to look at another camping site location before we get there.  But in order to keep our route going, we should try to hike in ten miles on the first day. And plus we hiked there before and it was really cool to see the whole valley. Do you remember spying on those other hikers with our binoculars who were setting up their camp?  That was fun.

Me: Yeah, that was fun (pauses for several moments). You know what? Let’s do it. Let’s camp on Death Canyon Shelf. We have God, who is the creator of heaven and earth and our Heavenly protector. We are going to be fine. I am not going to change my life over this.

Erik: Sounds good to me.

___________________________________

Spoiler Alert!!! Erik and I just returned from our backpacking trip safe and sound, and you can read about how it went at the end of this post. However, our conversation above pretty much sums up the missing 411 phenomena, and my basic response to it. But here are a few more bullet points for you to chew on before we get into a few cases, and then my analysis as to what is going on. But first, a few pictures from our recent hike:

The missing 411 common attributes:

The following common elements of the missing 411 phenomena are cut and pasted from a reddit user xofiate.  He/she did a great job summarizing the issue, and I edited it for ease of reading.

  • People who go missing usually do so in national parks, around large (or small) bodies of water, or near boulder fields. They also disappear in clusters.  ( my note: I would also add that there are many subgroups to this main list, such as ranchers, sheepherders, farmers, children, and people who are not located in national parks, such as people who disappear from their properties or yards.)
Photo and map credit: David Paulides. Here is the map of the U.S. showing all the missing 411 clusters. I admit it’s difficult to see specifics but it’s good for the general idea.
  • People from both ends of the intellectual and physical spectrum go missing (e.g. people who are physically disabled and cannot walk long distances, as well as individuals who live extremely active lives and are very fit).
  • If the missing individual is found alive, they usually have memory loss about the entire event. (my note: Children sometimes tell weird stories about how they went missing involving animals who seem to either protect them or threaten them in some way). 
  • If the missing individual is found deceased, the cause of death is almost never determined, often seeming as though they died without a cause at all. Medical examiners usually write that they died from “exposure” if they do not have a better answer to give.
  • The missing are found in areas that seem difficult–if not impossible–to reach by foot, or in the time that has elapsed, such as a child being found many miles away in just a matter of a few hours. A common example is children as young as 2-3 going missing and being found in high elevations.
  • The missing are found in an area that’s been searched by Search and Rescue (SAR) teams numerous times over a period of days (usually a week or longer). Sometimes they’re even found on the trail that’s used to access the area they’re searching, almost as if they’re placed there intentionally in order to surely be found by SAR. 
  • A lot of cases involve people who go missing for a week, but only died a day or two prior to being found, which begs the question of where they were during their time missing as well as what happened to them.
  • Shoes: the shoes tend to go missing, either just one or both. Many people are found in bizarre places at high altitudes or in tough terrain, and their socks or the soles of their feet don’t have a spec of dirt or wear on them. This is true for children too. (my note: for some reason, shoes play a role in this phenomenon.)
  • Search and Rescue dogs will be unable to pick up a scent, or if they are, they’ll follow it a few feet and then begin acting bizarrely (for example, they’ll circle and then sit down). This is not common behavior for SAR canines.  Speaking of dogs, animal attacks are ruled out by experts. Paulides will not investigate a case where an individual has a known history of mental illness. He usually won’t investigate cases where there’s a likelihood that this person left and disappeared of their own accord.
  • Investigators do not find any tracks nine times out of ten. If they do, they seem to stop inexplicably and lead nowhere, as if the person just vanished into thin air. 
  • My note: David adds a few more categories from his Missing 411 Idaho book, and here they are in summary form: technological equipment that doesn’t work properly, sometimes it appears the person has fallen or has been dropped, dreams or psychic visions of where people are located are sometimes a factor, and some of the missing people are of German descent. 
  • To me personally, these are the most interesting elements: first, professional trackers will not be able to locate any tracks from the missing individual. Secondly, the distance traveled and height achieved is impossible in many cases involving children. Thirdly, the socks and shoe element: many are found with no shoes on, but their socks are completely clean. Scratches: many who are found alive are found with multiple scratches. Also, the clothes: they are missing in whole or in part, and sometimes young children have clothes placed on them backward or inside out. Clothes are also found neatly folded in some random place in the middle of nowhere. (source: Missing 411 Idaho page 11.)

Now that you understand the common attributes of missing 411, let us dive into FIVE interesting cases.

Case number one: A boy goes missing on Mount Shasta, states that his “other grandma” led him into a cave:

Quick note: I am putting this story first because this is one of only a handful of stories I have ever found where somebody actually remembers something more substantive when they come back alive

For the following story, please bear in mind that this child is three and a half years old, so it will be easy to discount his tale. I would totally discount it if clear-minded adults came back with believable stories with clear memories of what happened, but that is never the case.  Unfortunately, we are only left with children’s stories that seem fantastical, or extremely confused adults who can’t remember anything.  Pick your poison.

On October 1, 2010, a family (who decided to remain anonymous) went camping on Mt. Shasta in California. This family consisted of a mom, dad, a three and half-year-old boy, and his older sister who was six. On this evening, they were all sitting around the campfire. The sister would say she looked over at her brother, looked away, and then looked again, and her brother was gone. The panicked family called the authorities and began a massive search. Five hours later, they find the young boy laying in a thicket on a trail that had been searched multiple times. Everyone was so excited to have the boy back that they just celebrated and did not really investigate what happened in the first place (a common practice in these cases). 

About three weeks later, the boy was talking with his grandmother Kathy (whom he had nicknamed “Kappy”) about the night he disappeared. He surprised his grandmother with the following strange sentence: 

“I don’t like the other Kappy.”  

His grandmother asked him to elaborate, and the boy told the following wild tale: 

He stated that while he was camping (the night he disappeared), he saw Kappy waving to him to follow him, so he went with Kappy. The “other Kappy” led him up a hill and to a cave where there were “spiders and women’s purses.” He said he turned to look at Kappy, and her head was glowing. The other Kappy kept asking him questions and was getting frustrated with his answers.  The other Kappy told him to leave and pushed him out of the cave.  He was found later in a thicket.  He told his father the exact same story as he told his grandmother, but the father discounted the story as too fantastical (another common theme). 

The strangeness didn’t end there. Kappy shared her own strange camping story which took place one year earlier, also on Mt. Shasta. She went camping with her friend and kept seeing very creepy “glowing red eyes” watching them from the woods all night long. They discounted it as animals, and Kappy went to her tent and her friend went to his camper. The next morning, Kappy is outside of her tent with a cut on the back of her neck. Her friend is also outside of his camper, face-down, with a cut on his neck as well.

(source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPvAKS7b1d4)

Case number two: Climber disappears off of a rope on the side of Mt. Rainier:

In 2010, Eric Lewis (a 57-year-old very experienced mountain climber)  was out doing a technical climb on Mount Rainier, which required he and his two friends to be tethered together on the same cable. All was going well until Eric’s two friends noticed that Eric was not catching up with them on their climbing route. They drew the climbing rope up to them but noticed that the rope had been cut! They called out to Eric, but no answer.  They decided to descend the mountain rapidly because they thought that maybe Eric was in trouble. It had just snowed so there was freshly fallen snow.  When they reached the bottom of the cliff/mountain they were hiking, they looked for Eric’s tracks but found none. Also, the only footprints on the mountain (from the three climbers) were all going up.  Eric’s footprints were not observed going down the mountain, in fact, they appeared to just stop. As they were searching for Eric, they discovered an ice cave 200 feet down and away from their climbing route which would have been very hard to get to. There were no tracks leading into or out of the cave.  Deep inside the cave, they found Eric’s gear but no Eric.

They have never found Eric’s body to this day.  

(source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPvAKS7b1d4)

Case number three: Three-year-old boy found after seven days in the desert on a ledge that was impossible to get to without climbing gear:

This is probably one of my all-time favorite missing 411 stories, and it takes place back in 1939. Three-year-old Lawrence Sullivan and his uncle head out to the Nevada desert because the boy’s uncle wants to scope out a gold prospecting site. Lawrence is instructed to stay in the vehicle. When the uncle returns to the car about ten minutes later, the door is open and Lawrence is gone. There are no tracks leading away from the car, and the uncle calls out to his nephew, but no answer. Remember, this is in the middle of the desert, so the uncle can see for miles. He calls authorities and a search ensues. For several days, they cannot find the boy until they call in an expert native American tracker. This amazing tracker picks up Lawrence’s trail several miles away and then loses it. He sees a very steep rock face and uses climbing gear to ascend the side of the mountain. He crests a very tiny rock ledge and, lo and behold, there is little Lawrence, still alive! But what is even more astronomical about this story is that his little neck is wedged carefully into a tree branch, pinning him there. He is alive after seven days without food or water (presumably).  (source: Missing 411 North America and Beyond, page 115.)

How did he get up to a ledge that is only possible with professional gear?  How did he stay alive for seven days when a human cannot live more than three days without water?

This is from Mr. Paulides book: 

There are several instances in my books where I write about a child that is found bound by a tree or in a position among branches and bound so tight so they cannot move. It almost sounds as though they were placed in that position to ensure they couldn’t move until found. This totally ensures their safety. 

(source: Missing 411 North America and Beyond, page 115., or click here: https://archive.org/stream/davidpaulidessmokymountainmysteries/David%20Paulides%20-%20Smoky%20Mountain%20Mysteries_djvu.txt)

Case number four: Georgia surveyor disappears without a trace; boots are found wedged in a nearby fence:

Christopher Tompkins was a surveyor in Georgia. The story goes that he was out working with three other coworkers in line formation, and unfortunately for him, he was the last in line. One moment his fellow coworker is chatting with him up ahead in the line, and the next minute, Christopher is gone, and he is never seen again. Here is the strange twist: they found tools and pocket change on the ground where he was in line, and one of his boots was found wedged in a nearby barbed-wire fence.  Several months later someone found his other boot also in a fence less than one mile away.  

Nobody knows what happened to poor Christopher. 

I found this article on Medium, which explains the case nicely, and also lines up with my own personal missing 411 theories: https://medium.com/the-mystery-box/the-unsolved-and-very-mysterious-disappearance-of-christopher-thompkins-923c7e6eaa5f.

Last case: Six-year-old boy survives for 11 days with no food, water, clothing, or shoes after going missing while berry picking: 

I will end the story section with this tale which happened very close to my house (in Northern Illinois) back in 1919. Six-year-old Henry Nutter was out picking berries with friends when he went missing. Ten days passed without finding Henry. On the 11th day, Henry was found miles away in a thicket. He stated he had not eaten or drunk anything for 11 days (impossible), and doctors confirmed this. The boy had no clear recollection of his 11 days of wandering and was found naked and without shoes. (Missing 411, the Devil’s in the Details page 120). 

The above stories are just a sample of the thousands of missing 411 stories available. I have read two and heavily skimmed one of the 11 books in this series. Many of them seem repetitive, and honestly, some are not that exciting.  But they are all weird for sure. 

What is really going on with Missing 411?

Unfortunately, nobody really knows, and the man who has spent thousands of hours investigating these cases also does not know. This is what David Paulides has stated: 

“I have never proposed a theory or a hypothesis about what is happening to the people I present. This is my 11th book; the road to get to this place has been cumbersome and enlightening, but I still don’t know what is happening.  There are no facts to support what is happening to the missing people I write about. If I had a theory about what is happening and could support it with facts, you’d read about it right here.”  (Missing 411 Idaho, page 23.)

Although we don’t have any complete and ironclad evidence, we have plenty of clues and common elements. Most of the clues of what is really going on come from people who come back alive and can give some sort of explanation. The challenge with this is that many people don’t remember what happened, or their stories seem implausible. Many who go missing are actually young children and involve animals of some sort, as there is a subset of missing 411 involving young kids and animals that seem to protect them. There are also a few cases in which a person mentions something about being in a cabin in the middle of the woods.  

In one case, a three-year-old girl in 1868 vanished abruptly from Northern Michigan and, while people were out searching for her, a very large bear-looking animal burst out of a thicket, and they found the girl alive within the thicket. The girl stated that Mr. Wolf took her there and fed her berries and played with her. In 1955, a similar story happened in Montana when a bear literally scooped a two-year-old girl out of her tent as witnessed by several of her siblings. They later found the girl alive and well two days later only 300 yards away from the camp in a crudely built den. She stated that Mr. Bear fed her berries and cuddled her (scooping kids, cuddling kids, and feeding kids, are not typical bear behaviors FYI).

Sometimes the animals seem to be threatening, however.  Three kids disappeared and were found alive way up the side of a mountain.  They claimed that a gorilla-like creature was stalking them and trying to hurt them, so they hid behind a fallen log.  

What is really going on with Missing 411? My analysis:

Based on my own research, I have divided the possible theories behind Missing 411 into a Missing 411 Pizza.  There are ten slices of pizza in the box, and to be honest, seven out of ten of them sound bat-shite crazy.  

No matter how you slice it.

Slice number one: the human element. People are kidnapped by a stranger or family member, or taken by a serial killer, mountain man, or some other bad person in the woods and/or in or around people’s properties. Although this is the most “normal sounding” theory, it will only account for a small percentage of cases. 

Slice two: Some government or well-funded private entity is taking these men, women, and children for some type of experimentation and/or for some larger purpose, known only to them. These people or groups are using advanced technology that is unknown to the larger population to kidnap some people in unusual ways for some purpose. Possibly, the ones that don’t match their criteria are returned. 

Slice three: We have no idea whatsoever.  This would include people disappearing by their own volition yet did not display any tendencies to indicate this propensity whatsoever beforehand.  This would also include cases that have since been solved since the publication of Mr. Paulides’ books. This would also account for people being harmed or taken by other people. 

A brief story: a farmer with 13 kids went missing one afternoon after telling his family he would be right back as he had to chase down some cows that had gotten loose.  He was never seen again.  After I did a google search of him, I learned that, although his family had no idea what had happened to him, this farmer was a gambler and had just been out the night before gambling. The theory that the family came up with is that perhaps he was taken by force by a disgruntled gambler. So, if it were me deciding which cases to leave in and which cases to exclude from Mr. Paulides’ books, I would have excluded this one. Thus, the human element is definitely a factor in some of these cases, but not all of them.

It’s almost easier to stop here because you will feel like a normal, sane person. 

______________________________

The next several slices of pizza contain extra gluten and anchovies and will be very hard to swallow. 

Slice four: People disappearing via UFOs and aliens.  I cannot speak to this, as I have not researched this angle. I am also not sure if UFOs are just demonic spirits purporting to be aliens, as evil spirits do the same thing when they are purporting to be ghosts and departed human spirits (I did a whole post on it; see link below). But because I am not sure, I remain open.  In a few of the cases, lights have appeared in the sky, distracting people, and then someone goes missing. I have not read that many accounts of people who see a spacecraft in the sky and then someone goes missing immediately afterward. I have not read reports of people seen floating up in the air into a spacecraft, either. If the UFO and alien angle is true and plausible, it is possible that aliens are taking individuals and studying them. In my estimation, the ones that they deem sufficient are kept (like the really smart ones, or the very athletic ones), and the ones that are lacking are returned and later found alive (dazed and confused).  Many disabled people are also taken. Perhaps they are studying the person’s disability? I have no idea, as I am not a believer in aliens and UFOs at this time. 

But the idea is that intelligent, technologically advanced creatures not of this world are involved in taking some people and returning others, sometimes in the same place that has already been searched many times over. 

UPDATE: as of the time of this publication, David Paulides just announced that he is releasing a new documentary: Missing 411: The UFO Connection. Here is a link to the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZrq11wbarU

Slice five: People disappearing into portals and vortexes. I can only speak briefly about this theory.  If you google “skin walker ranch Mr. Ballen,” the story goes that the original rancher who owned the property observed a portal open on his property and a creature emerged. The portal then closed. I have heard a story where two hikers went out on a hike one day and one left the trail to use the restroom, and that hiker disappeared right before the other hiker’s eyes. Could he have accidentally stumbled into a portal? I have no idea. I recently listened to a story of a man who was running early in the morning on a trail and found a portal in the woods. He snapped a picture of it on his phone.  Many will look at it and say it looks fake.  I have no idea. 

Slice six: People disappear via something carrying them away either on foot or in the air.  I would say that, based on my research, this is about a quarter of the pizza. I have no idea if it’s a creature on foot or in the air, (or a flying saucer) but searchers usually cannot find footprints of either the person, or another animal (or creature), or the perpetrator.  In addition, Mr. Paulides has stated that the number one profile point in all missing 411 cases is the lack of a scent trail.  To me, this indicates that slice six has some credibility.

Slice seven: People disappearing via animals that do not display typical animal behavior. This would include bears, wolves, eagles, other large birds, and possibly Bigfoot. I would like to add that this, too, is somewhat unlikely as trackers do not normally find animal tracks where humans have gone missing. Heck, they don’t even find human tracks. Also, I know there is huge speculation as to whether or not big-foot-type creatures even exist.  However, since young children report animals being involved in their disappearances, I cannot rule it out. For example, in one case a young girl claimed that an eagle took her into its nest. She was later found alive, way up high on a mountain. Last note on animals: death by animal attacks are actually quite rare, and there are usually many signs that an animal attack has taken place. Mr. Paulides rules out any cases that appear to be animal predation. 

Slice eight: People who disappear because they are lured deeper into the forest and then disappear due to the deceptive efforts of fairies, or faeries (which are the evil form of fairies). I have not researched this much either because it lacks plausibility (in my opinion). However, the idea is that ancient supernatural forest creatures lure unsuspecting people into the forest, take them into their world, leaving doppelgängers behind (or not). One story I read documented a young girl who disappeared right off the main hiking trail while she was hiking in plain sight with her large group. A witness said he observed her turn her head and leave the trail. She was never seen again. Did she see something that caught her eye? In another case, a young boy disappeared and was found in a hard-to-reach place alive. He reported that either a person or a creature lured him deeper into the woods in a playful manner.  He also talked about a creature who kept him safe from other animals. 

Slice nine (and the slice you are going to choke on): People who disappear due to evil or demonic beasts who are lurking in the woods. This would include werewolf-type creatures or dog-men, demonic winged creatures, probably most cryptid animals, and other evil beasts.  This would also include people, usually involved in Satanism, who shape-shift into half-human, half-demonic creatures.  I will touch on this in a future post.  And for those Bible-believing Christians out there who may think I am making this stuff up, demonic or evil beasts are actually found in the Bible (Ezekiel 14:15 and elsewhere). 

Last slice: A theory I have not even thought of would be this last slice. I am sure there are many other theories of what is going on that I have not researched or come across. 

Before we close, I would like to opine for a moment on the human element and demonic creatures, as I have spent the most time researching these elements.  

The Human Element and Missing 411:

I have been hiking and camping in the backcountry for 25 years annually and I can tell you, there is no serial killer or kidnapper lurking out on a hiking trail, miles inside a park or forest. I did a deep dive into serial killers years ago, and I will leave links at the end of this post. The bottom line is that most serial killers are lazy and efficient, and use their vehicles much of the time. They are not in good enough shape or clever enough (or willing to put in the amount of hard work) to hide and stalk people in the middle of nowhere, several miles deep into the woods and up a huge mountain. They like to look for easy targets.  An alert hiker at 10,000 feet in great shape who is out several miles on a difficult trail is not an easy target.

There could be mountain men or homeless men in some sections of the country that cause trouble (the Appalachian Trail for instance). There also could be a serial killer targeting young men found in bodies of water. There also could be bad guys lurking in very popular and very busy campgrounds with quick access to a road. And yes, kidnappers could be at work in some of these cases way up high on that mountain. But by and large, missing 411 cannot be attributed solely to the human element.  

The human element could definitely count for one slice of this crazy pizza, though. 

Demonic Beasts and Missing 411:

It’s possible that demonic creatures are involved in these disappearances.  One of the things I do while cleaning my house is listen to podcasts and YouTube channels where people tell their own stories of weird things happening in the woods involving demonic beasts or creatures.  Normal people like you and me, and also people who have credible jobs such as police officers, park rangers, FBI agents, border agents, and men and women in the military who claim to see a number of unusual beasts. The beasts include but are not limited to, werewolf-type creatures, deer that stand up on two legs with glowing eyes, goat-men, skin-walkers, strange creatures in bodies of water, and yes, even a few large and unusual creatures with wings. I know it sounds absolutely crazy, and I realize my reputation as a normal, credible, intelligent person is on the line.  

But when you hear about an FBI agent who is conducting surveillance on a business, who is called in by other agents because they are seeing a werewolf creature near the property they are surveilling and this FBI agent sees the exact same creature, then you start to wonder. 

And when multiple park rangers write in and tell their own terrifying tales of seeing very large, very evil-looking beasts out in the woods, you start to wonder.  

In order to bring it a little closer to home, I have a quick example.  I live in the greater Chicago area, and it was well documented that a few years ago, over 100 people (including police officers) saw a large, black, moth-man-type creature in many locations around the Chicago area, including some sightings in downtown Chicago as well as suburban forest preserves.  

I live right near a forest preserve myself! Here is just one article on this phenomenon, so you know I am not making this up: https://www.vice.com/en/article/paqv9z/mothman-sightings-in-chicago

Now here is the kicker: in many of the stories I am hearing and reading, the woods actually go silent right before they see a bizarre or evil creature.Many also report the same common elements as people reported in my previous blog post about those who go almost missing in the woods. 

It always starts with the woods going silent, and then it balloons from there.  The same common elements are as follows: a feeling of dread or of being watched, scary noises, bad smells, surroundings change, weird sounds, new trails, dogs scared, and glitches in time. 

I have previously told you all that at the first moment of the woods going silent, or anything else that seems scary or off, to pray aloud right then and there.  

Pray that God would stop anything bad that is about to happen and make all evil things go in Jesus’s name. 

When I wrote the first post on this topic, there were no scary monsters being seen because the people got out of the woods on time. But, according to many eye-witness reports of people running into these evil beasts, all of the same things are happening as they did in my prior post.

Before you freak the hell out, there are absolutely things you can do.  And it begins and ends with God’s protection and with prayer. 

What you can do:

First, you can do your own research on this topic to decide if it’s worth it for you to take any additional precautions.  If you are too lazy or busy, let me do the research for you and take my word that there is an element of evil paranormal going on in the woods and elsewhere. I would say that this evil has not yet spread to suburbia or the city, but definitely in the country and the woods, places where I have grown up, and places I love to visit.  If you are going into the woods to do some hiking, camping, or backpacking, research and purchase a personal locator beacon.  Also, watch the weather, tell people where you are going, keep your kids in the middle of the line of hikers, stick together, watch out for bodies of water, avoid playing hide and seek in bolder fields, and bring some sort of protection.  

But the most important thing you can do is pray that God will guide and protect you out in the woods and while you are out and about.  If something feels off, or the woods go silent, pray aloud right then and there that God will protect you from whatever weird thing is about to happen.  Pray that all evil will go away, in Jesus’s name. You can also anoint your campsite with oil, almost like a circle of protection.  Pray that God will keep you safe and alert from all forms of evil, whether human or otherwise. 

It is my hope this is your main takeaway from this post!

I will FINALLY close with an update on our recent hiking trip. 

Erik and Heather DO NOT go missing in the Grand Teton National Park:

Besides struggling with whether or not we should have planned to hike the number of miles we were set to accomplish each day, and comparing ourselves with the hikers in their 20s who were sprinting past us on our trail, our hike went off without a hitch!  No woods going silent, no winged demonic creatures, no bad smells, no feelings of dread, and no going off trail. We saw some animals but they didn’t have any small children tucked in their furry arms! We also saw three deer who didn’t stand up on their hind legs and walk around!

While we felt prepared in general, we never even purchased a personal locator beacon. We stayed together the entire time except twice. We noticed boulder fields all over the place.  We renamed the Death Canyon Shelf (where we were camping) the Life Canyon Shelf or Shelf Life for short.  We enjoyed God’s beauty the entire time. I will leave some photos at the end of this post for your enjoyment and as a small reward for almost finishing this article!

Finally, and most importantly, we prayed and invited God into our hiking trip, to guide and protect us.  I am so glad that we did.  Because He did!  

The sunset on Life Canyon Shelf. It was unbelievable and well worth the ten miles in!

I am ending with this lame story on purpose.  Because most likely, nothing will happen to you out in the woods or out on your property line in the country.  Nothing will happen to your son as he plays in your backyard. Nothing will happen to you when you are out picking berries, walking through a creek bed, playing in a boulder field in Yosemite National Park, or camping at another hot spot. Heck, you could probably hike up Mt. Shasta and see a UFO fly into the side of the mountain and be fine.  

You could probably ignore this entire post and be okay.  

But caves?  Nope, nope, and nope.  Stay far away from caves.  

In summary and to wrap up this post, there is a small but creepy subsection of people who go missing under strange but strangely similar circumstances in our nation’s national parks, forests, and other more “normal” places (such as backyards – sorry moms). 

You can ignore everything I have said and probably be fine, but maybe this topic will become a pebble in your hiking boot.  

But now that you know more about it, why not stop, take off that sweaty boot, and remove the stone?

And while you are crouching down, take a moment to check out your surroundings. Can you hear the wind and the trees and the birds and the insects? Then all is well. Keep on hiking. 

But if the woods suddenly go quiet, you still know what to do. 

______________________________________________________________

To instantly view all of my hiking pictures, skip this short section and scroll down!

To read my prequel to the missing 411 phenomena, click here: https://permission2speakfreely.com/2021/11/11/the-woods-went-silent/

To watch one of the Missing 411 Documentaries for FREE, click here:  https://youtu.be/zEA9-mEOZtA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2jKIHw3cUI – Dave Paulides discusses a giant bird who acted aggressively towards people. 

My deep dive on serial killers starts here: https://permission2speakfreely.com/2017/10/20/protecting-our-girls-from-serial-killers-part-i/

Here is the post I wrote about ghosts: Stop Ghosting Me! How do deal with unwanted ghosts and evil spirits

To order Missing 411 books (do not order from Amazon) or follow David Paulides on youtube, click here: https://www.canammissing.com/page/page/8396197.htm

Two quick cases involving hikers who were the “last in line” that I did not include in order to shorten this ridiculously long article:

Geoffrey Hague was a 16-year-old boy scout who disappeared in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  He had lagged behind his hiking group and said he would wait for another senior scout to catch up to him but went missing.  Here is the strange thing: they found his backpack in the middle of a river on an island, but no Geoffrey.  Articles of clothing inside the pack were found on the nearby rocks as if someone was taking inventory.  Unfortunately, this young boy was later found slumped near a tree with no socks and only one boot on. Even though his backpack had food and a sleeping bag, somehow this boy died covered in snow.  Bear in mind, this boy was a member of Boy Scouts and had been trained in wilderness survival.

30-year-old George Penca went hiking in Yosemite National Park with his church group on a very popular trail and was lagging behind.  The group made it back to the parking lot without George.  A massive search ensued and George was never found. The trail he was on was one of the busiest in the park.  (Missing 411, the Devil’s in the Details page 28)

The Missing 411 Idaho map. Map and photo credit David Paulides. We camped right in the middle of the state where you see that little black dot. Right near that big orange cluster. :/

Now FINALLY onto some eye candy, mountain style!

One super happy camper! Why? Because I am not afraid! 100%

Calling All Angels – What I learned about Guardian Angels after I met my own

“I need a sign, to let me know you’re here.  All of these lines are being crossed over the atmosphere.”  

The first two lines of the 2003 hit song by the pop rock band ‘Train’ have always resonated with me. I often feel like God could perform certain functions to make himself more obvious to humankind. Perhaps God could stop a school shooter in a way the public could see, declare himself in the midst of an amazing cosmic sign in the sky, or interrupt a newscast with a major announcement. But what if God chooses more subtle, almost invisible ways of interacting with people? What if each person on the planet actually had an invisible being who was by their side every step of the way, from the moment of conception, all the way through natural death, as a representation of God? These invisible beings were charged, by that very same God, to help, guide, protect, and love them in every way imaginable throughout the course of their lives? 

The Bible declares that angels are ministering spirits meant to serve those who are inheriting salvation (Hebrews 1:14), and that angels ‘will guard you in all of your ways,’ (Psalm 91) among many other verses in the Bible that discuss these heavenly beings. However, I recently read two books that filled in a little more modern day detail about angels, and I will share what I discovered with you in a moment. But first, a story about the one time in my life where I believe I met my own guardian angel.

One night I prayed the following simple prayer: “Dear God, can you please somehow show me my guardian angel tomorrow? In Jesus’s name, amen.”

Looking back, I don’t remember what specifically prompted me to pray that prayer, but perhaps I wanted some kind of sign from God, so that I would know that what I was believing about God was actually true, and that I did have an angel that was guarding me every step of the way. 

The very next day after I said that prayer, I took the metro into Washington, D.C. and proceeded to exit the metro station. Suddenly, an African American woman approached me and loudly asked: “Excuse me!  Do you know where ____ is?” The destination she was referring to was located in the general Washington D.C. area, and I knew exactly where it was. I politely told her where to go, she thanked me, and then we both went on our way.

I proceeded to my office and was almost there when suddenly an older man approached me and asked: “Excuse me! Do you know where ____ is?” I told him where to go, he thanked me, and then he turned and walked away. Around 12 noon or so, I took a lunch break and walked outside when yet another random person approached me and asked me for directions.  This time, my radar was up and I studied the person more intently. I began to wonder if maybe these men and women were somehow angels presenting in human form. 

Later, I was heading out of my office building and walking toward the metro, when a young, shorter, handsome man in a long dark trench coat, who was several feet in front of me, loudly yelled out:

“Excuse me!” I stopped dead in my tracks, eyes wide. I slowly approached him and he slowly approached me. “Do you know where I can find ______?”  He stared straight into my eyes, and I could almost detect a hint of mischief in them. I gave him directions, but then paused a moment. I was just about to blurt out: “Are you my guardian angel?” But I didn’t.  He thanked me and then walked away. This is the part where I am supposed to say: “and then when I turned around to look for him, he was gone.” But I never did turn around to take that one last look.

As I departed, I recall musing at the time that in ten or more years of working in downtown Washington D.C., I had never had anyone, ever, ask me for directions.  Not even one person (and many years after that as well). And secondly, I remember smiling and thinking to myself: “I think I just met my angel.”

This is me and my former boss, Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire. This photo was taken right around the time I believe I met my personal/guardian angel. Loving my suit and super conservative hair-style!

Are angels among us?  I absolutely believe so! And I believe that every single human on the planet has one. In this post, I will take a closer look at the various roles and responsibilities of these mighty spiritual beings. Make sure you read all the way until the end of this post, where I share a compelling personal story that involved my daughter Claire when she was just a baby, immediately after we adopted her. 

So now let’s take a few moments to figure out a few things about angels (and this is what I have learned about angels since that day in Washington D.C.). 

Angels Attend:

Angels guard and protect people. The following story is a true account from my close friend from college, Jennifer.  Jennifer’s tale is taken word for word from a voice text she left me on my phone when I asked her to share her angel stories with me: 

From Jennifer:“We were riding in the boat on Lake Anna (a lake located in Northern Virginia), and my son Tyler was on the inner tube being pulled by the boat. I was nervous the whole time because he was only four years old. Suddenly, Tyler popped out of the inner tube I saw an angel pop up out of the water and catch him, and hold onto him. So I saw the head, the shoulders, the arms and the hands. My second angel sighting occurred when I was 19 years old and was driving down Arlington Avenue and this big box truck just started backing up into the street and I didn’t have time to stop. I closed my eyes and then looked up and saw a huge, probably 9 foot tall, angel. The angel was probably as tall as the box truck.  I would say he looked like a younger man, maybe late 20s, with shoulder length hair and a thick, flowy robe, with big strong arms and hands. The angel held it (the truck) there so that my car got by safely.”

The second true story was told to me during my freshman year in college by my roommate Cherith. This event occurred to her close friend, a boy who was living in Africa with her while she and her family were doing missions work. This is probably the most compelling angelic encounter I have ever heard about. 

From Cherith: “My friend and his father were out fishing in a slow moving river in Africa one afternoon, when suddenly, a very large and aggressive crocodile rammed up against their canoe and overturned it. The boy and his father were suddenly thrown overboard.  The crocodile proceeded to drag the young boy down to the bottom of the river. The boy, holding his breath, recalled seeing the crocodile begin to roll him along the bottom of the river, which is what crocodiles do to their prey as they prepare them to eat. Suddenly, a bright light appeared and two strong arms grabbed him by the shoulders.  The boy looked up and saw a large and powerful angel, dressed in a bright white robe, who pulled him straight up out of the water, very quickly. The angel then pulled him through the water to shore and then disappeared. His life was saved that day, due to efforts of this amazing angel sent from God.

In the book “He came to set the captives free” by Dr. Rebecca Brown, a woman that eventually left Satanism had an interesting twist on God’s protection in the following story:

“It was during that last visit to California that one of the incidents happened that started me on the road to accepting Christ, started me questioning Satan’s claim to be more powerful than God.  As we arrived at the edge of the property, we could go no further. The whole area was surrounded by huge angels. The angels stood side by side holding hands. They were dressed in long white robes and stood so close together that their shoulders touched. They had no armor or weapons. Nobody could get through them, no matter how hard we tried. Any kind of weapon used merely bounced off of them, doing them no harm. Suddenly, their countenances changed and the fierce look from their eyes made all of us fall backwards onto the ground. A very humbling experience, I may add. I will never forget, as I sat on the ground looking up at them, one of the angels looked into my eyes and said to me in the most loving voice I had ever heard:“won’t you please accept Jesus as your Lord?  If you pursue the course you are taking, you will be destroyed. Satan really hates you, but Jesus loves you so much that he died for you.”

Elaine then noted that their entire group had to leave because they could not get through that wall of angelic protection.  She concluded the story with the following: “I doubt the family ever knew of the battle going on outside of their house. They were completely protected!” 

Angels Assist:

I recently read two books by Blake Healy (The Veil and Profound Good) that have changed my perspective on angels and their role in our lives. Blake has a very unusual gift and can actually “see” into the spiritual realm, meaning he can see ghosts, demons, angels, even Jesus Himself; anything that is invisible is seen as plain as you and I can see regular things. Blake claims that angels are much more than “guardians,” but more like personal attendants who are constantly assisting and loving the person they are assigned to, and actively demonstrating God’s love to their person through their entire life (including conception).

In his first book, The Veil, he reveals the different kinds of angels he has “seen” over the years, including protection angels. He notes that many of them stand near the front door of people’s homes (or at church), looking far off into the distance, with their main mission seemingly to offer a 24/7 security presence for the humans who are present inside that particular dwelling place. Blake notes that these angels are symbolic of the all-encompassing protection of God. There are also worship angels who take a great amount of time to prepare a room where a church or worship meeting will be held (or even just a gathering of believers). They are often seen floating above the room with bowls in their hands, bowls that hold different colored liquids symbolizing different properties of blessings that God would like to bestow upon those people who choose to come to that gathering. For example, Blake notes that green liquid often symbolizes healing, and it is often poured out on the group while they are worshipping God. Personal angels are your guardian angels, but so much more than that.  Blake states the following: “this angel is more like a resourceful personal assistant…I have never met anyone with more than one, and I’ve never met anyone without one.” Personal angels sometimes resemble the person they are matched with (for example a blond girl matched with a blond female angel who resembles her). As stated, they serve as a representation of God’s love and help for their person throughout their life. Additionally, activation angels seem to activate some kind of major power from God, but one particular angel needed Blake to accompany him to a certain residence before it could release that power. Blake noted that the angel led Blake to a house which was dark and depressing. The angel sent a bolt of lightning into the house, which lit it up with God’s light and love and some kind of heavenly power. 

I much prefer this image of Michael the Archangel than of the cute little cherub angels that are sitting around, playing harps. Angels are awesome and powerful. More powerful than the Devil and his demons. (Please see end of post for photo credit.)

Once, a “deep heaven” angel appeared to Blake and presented God’s plan as it pertained to Blake’s life in the form of a scroll. The scroll showed lines moving based on the free-will choices he had already made and that he had yet to make over the course of his life. This angel showed him that God allows human free will but is still in control of the entire mother board. This angel was consumed in fire and difficult to look at.  Blake saw a glimpse of God’s perfection and holiness while he gazed at this being. I will leave a short video clip at the end of this post where Blake tells this story himself.  It’s very fascinating. 

Finally, angels perform menial tasks. One day Blake noticed an angel quietly picking up small folded sheets of paper after a church service. He inquired about the task the angel was performing. He learned that the angel was gathering up all the unspoken prayer requests that were not prayed for at church that morning, because “God wanted those requests too.”

I want to speak for a brief moment about worship angels, which are the angels that show up at church and perform tasks there to benefit the people and also to worship God. Blake’s perspective is the reason I show up for what I call “physical church.”  There is so much good stuff going on in the spiritual realm at church, things that directly help and benefit me and my family, and I want and need as much of it as I can possibly get. At physical church, worship angels pour many liquids down on the congregation that directly help each person in attendance. They also dance and perform many other tasks, for both God alone and also the people who are present.  

For me personally, I believe angels lift burdens off of me while I am at church. For example, I often enter church grumpy and moody.  I am somewhat bugged by the happy and smily church greeters that are in my face when I walk in the door. But a funny thing happens while at church. By the time church is over, I am in a much better mood, filled with more faith and encouragement. I often leave church feeling that God is good and in control, and that I can trust him, even if the message had nothing to do with any of those aspects of God. 

The bottom line is that I leave church feeling much less burdened, and much more joyful deep inside. I believe that it’s because of these angels, and because of God.  Angels point back to a good and kind God who is always loving and helping us.

My takeaway?  Go to physical church.  It will help you. 

Angels Announce:

Another role and responsibility of certain angels is to make announcements.  Sometimes the news is outstanding, other times not so much. The Christmas story contained a very positive and amazing message of Christ’s birth, taken out of Luke 2:10: “the angel said to them: don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, a message that will fill everyone with joy. Today your Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in David’s city.” 

Before the literal end of the world, angels will appear in the sky one last time and urge everyone to turn to Jesus Christ, before the end.  I refer to this as humanity’s “last call” of sorts.  This “last call” is for everyone left on the earth, so that every person on the planet has one more chance to worship God and receive Jesus Christ as Savior, before the end comes. The end is very bad, and God is very good, thus this one last chance.  From Revelation chapter 14:6:

6 Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

After the good news is announced, a second and third angel delivers the not so good news, which is more like a strong admonition, including urging mankind to not worship the anti-Christ or receive his mark on their forehead or hand. The anti-Christ is the person who rules the world and acts all God-like before Jesus Christ returns a second time.  

In other passages of the Bible, these special heralding angels point out individual traits of the people with whom they interact. When an angel appeared to Daniel, the angel stated that Daniel was “highly favored” by the Lord. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, Gabriel declared that Mary was “highly favored, and the Lord was with her.” When an angel appeared to Zechariah, the angel said, “Do not be afraid, for your prayers have been heard.” As a person who has prayed for several things for many decades without an obvious answer from God on many of these categories, this brings me great hope.  

I will close with a personal story and one final point about angels. 

Angels Acknowlege:

About two days after we adopted Claire, I was feeding her a bottle of formula and rocking her in a rocking chair located in our family room. I was a brand new mom and absolutely loving it. Claire was only three months old, but already advanced for her age and was smiling and interacting with me in a wide variety of baby ways. On that particular day, Claire was enthusiastically consuming her bottle when suddenly, she stopped feeding and just opened up her little mouth, all the while staring intently at something up on the ceiling. Her eyes were open wide and she looked excited! I looked up at the ceiling but saw nothing. I looked back down at her and noticed that she had since broken into a very wide smile and stared at the ceiling with a smile on her face for several minutes. She seemed to be following something invisible with her eyes. I watched as her eyes moved slowly around the ceiling for about five minutes. After that, she resumed her bottle feeding.

Claire did this for several days in a row, until one day, she just stopped doing it and then never did it again. I asked God about it and this is what He said to me: “She is watching the angels who worked so hard to get her into your family. The angels are celebrating!”

Baby Claire, on her Adoption Day! It was pretty much right after we got her home that she started to stare up at the ceiling, watching what I believe was an Angel that must have been entertaining her in some way, and also celebrating her arrival into our family!

I think it’s worth celebrating the fact that angels even exist in the first place and are always helping us in ways we cannot see. Angels are awesome! But they simply mirror a God who is awesome as well. 

So like the title of my post, Calling All Angels, I think what I learned most about researching this topic is that the angels are already here among us, and helping us more than we will ever know.  

And that it’s ok to ask God for a sign, to let you know He’s here.

____________________________________________

PS: Please feel free to leave your angels stories below in the comment section! Or feel free to comment on Facebook! Here is a story my friend Nina shared with me right before publication:

And yes, I strongly believe in angels. In 1991, I was in a car accident. My super-heavy-like-a-tank old Volvo hydroplaned and I was headed straight for a utility pole. The car tipped over on the driver’s side and my face was about 6 inches from the ground. Suddenly, I felt a force righting the car, just before it hit the pole. The car was totaled, but I didn’t have a scratch on me. Only a powerful angel of God could have lifted that heavy car up! (Also, I have a healthy respect for Volvo engineering, and since then, have only driven a Volvo.)

For further reflection and clicking on links:

I still love this song, Calling All Angels, by Train: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaG9SDxwPBg

For Blake Healy’s book about seeing into the spiritual realm: go to amazon.com and enter Blake Healy The Veil paperback. I highly recommend this book!

Here is a link to Blake’s interview with the angel who helped him to understand God’s will as it pertained to his life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPyQ4UA-tUs

For Rebecca Brown’s book, He Came To Set the Captives Free, go to amazon.com and enter He Came to Set the Captives Free by Rebecca Brown. Again, highly recommend.

If you struggle with that story about the crocodile in Africa and think it’s made up, I found this short article on the many crocodile species found on Africa: https://www.activewild.com/list-of-crocodiles-in-africa/

To read a much more comprehensive and biblically-based book on angels, read Billy Graham’s book.  In it, Billy Graham states the following: “Yes, angels are real. They are not the product of your imagination. If we had open spiritual eyes we would see not only a world filled with evil spirits and powers—but also powerful angels with drawn swords, set for our defense.” Go to amazon.com and enter Angels by Billy Graham.  It’s only $7 bucks!

The picture of Michael the Archangel was screen-shotted from David Bonagura Jr.’s twitter post. The original painting was completed by artist Leonardo Montoya.

Thanks for reading!  If you could like this post, comment, (or comment or like under Facebook), I would be incredibly grateful as it helps with the algorithms.  Appreciate!

The 1980s called; they want their rebellious teenager back!

 Why going rogue didn’t work for me, but Jesus did

I want you to hit rewind on your VHS tape that has already been taped over twice and reminisce about the 1980s with me.  Feel free to pour yourself a huge bowl of Count Chocula cereal using only whole milk, plop down in your grandmother’s plaid Lazy boy chair in her unfinished basement, and take a listen.  

That awesome decade brought us the following: the Berlin Wall fell (1989), the Chernobyl nuclear power plant blew up (1986), serial killers made a more obvious debut along with scary movies such as Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Ronald Reagan ruled and reigned (1981-1989), and Journey released their timeless hit song “Don’t Stop Believin” (1981).

It was also the decade where millions of kids walked or rode their bikes home from school and watched Scooby Doo on their wood-paneled TV sets that rested comfortably on tufted green carpets.  After Shaggy pulled the ghost costume off the bad guy and the show ended, these resilient kiddos jumped up off their gold-checkered couch and actually turned the TV channel knob over to Growing Pains starring Kirk Cameron.  Kirk’s image was scotch-taped to their bedroom walls thanks to Tiger Beat magazine.

On lazy afternoons, these 80s kids would look forward to their manual telephone ringing on the kitchen wall and picking up the receiver, not even knowing who was on the other side. They were delighted when it was their best friend calling. They would proceed to stretch the telephone cord all the way down the slightly musty cellar steps and have a hushed conversation with their bestie, plotting and scheming about when they could get together and whose house they would spend the night at. They were secretly planning the fun and slightly bad things they were going to do later behind their parent’s backs.  

Suddenly, a very faint “click” was heard on the phone line. Little brother was quietly listening in on the call from the cluttered spare bedroom! After discovering the little brat and yelling at him from the cellar, the plotting and scheming would continue. 

Or maybe that was just me. 

These phone calls were just the start of my newly formed covert rebellious streak.  

My best friend Jennifer and me at 14 years old. We would plot and scheme on the phone, and then buy matching sweaters. We also lit our eyeliner with matches before we applied it directly onto our lower eye-lids for a more dramatic effect. 😁

But I get ahead of myself.  

Before I became a rogue teenager, I was a fairly innocent young child from the 1970s, being raised in a completely non-religious household.  And my first contact with God and religion did not occur in its purist form.

Me and my sister Jessie!
Jessie and me today…with a fun photo filter!

My first brush with organized religion occurred after I was newly formed in my mother’s womb.  My mother Linda became unexpectedly pregnant with me at 17 years old and was advised by Planned Parenthood staff to abort me.  She then, along with my father, confessed the pregnancy to both sets of parents.  My mother’s parents immediately sought the advice of their Presbyterian minister who, after listening to their imminent problem, blandly stated the following:

“Linda is very young and very smart.  She should go to college. She should get an abortion.”

My mom, dad, and four grandparents rejected this advice and I was born later that year, much to the dismay of my mother’s Presbyterian minister who received a pretty direct phone call from me 35 years later.  Two years after I made my debut, my younger sister Jessica (Jessie) was born.  My parents were very young and not ready for marriage, and sadly their marriage ended after four years. This started a chain reaction of various hardships that stayed with me throughout my childhood and teen years.  These hardships included, but were not limited to, not having a close relationship with my father, my mom being materially poor, being raised in a single parent household, constant feelings of rejection and insecurity, and experiencing two divorces. 

There were many good things about my childhood as well, and I am eternally grateful for all of the ways we were blessed and provided for. I want to give a special shout out to my mom, who gave my sister and me a very stable childhood filled with love and blessings.  My four grandparents also stepped up to the plate and supported us financially and emotionally in many ways.  My dad also came around later, I had a good relationship with both my step-dad Bob and step-mom Mel, and I truly loved my three half-siblings which came along as a result of a my extended family.  Finally, my mom’s best friend Becky had two kids and I was best friends with her daughter Hillary.  Hill and I grew up together from age zero to 12, and we enjoyed many fun adventures together throughout those formative years. 

This is a quintessential 1970s photo.

Yet it was right in the middle of these early years mixed with good and bad that God decided to enter my world. 

God first showed me how much he loved me through the friendship and example of a Catholic nun.  Although my mom considered herself an atheist and pitied people who had to lean on any religion, she enrolled my sister and me into a small Catholic school (Cathedral School) because it was close to her job site in downtown Syracuse, New York. During my first grade year, I made a connection with my teacher, a nun named Sister Patrick Joseph. We had a special bond and she loved me very much (and I loved her).  Sister Patrick Joseph instilled in me that God loved me very much, He created me to be a beautiful little girl, and that I was very special to Him and very deeply loved. The highlight of attending Cathedral, besides my friendship with my special teacher, was that I won a school-wide writing contest in the first grade. The title of my book was “God and Pennytress the Easter Bunny.”  It was a huge honor as this writing contest included the entire school consisting of kindergarten through 5th grade students. 

My second brush with religion occurred via an old church bus trolling through our poor, sketchy neighborhood in the south-side of Syracuse.  This church bus drove kids up the road about three miles to a small town called Nedrow, where the good news of Jesus Christ was presented in a Vacation Bible School format.  One day during the church class, I remember a woman teacher talking to me about Jesus Christ, and how He was God’s one and only Son.  She told all of us that God loved us and wanted to have a relationship of love with us.  The seeds about Jesus had already been planted by Sister Patrick Joseph, so I remember bowing my head and praying, asking Jesus to come into my heart and my life, to forgive me and to be my Savior and my Lord.

Our house on Matson Ave. (above), and the church where I came into the family of God (below).

It was around this time that God also started to quietly work in the life of my mom.  At the time, she was an atheist/liberal/feminist who used to make fun of Ronald Reagan.  Her good friend Bonnie would send her letters and share God’s love with her, but she had no interest in the “religious parts” of the letters and would gloss right over them. 

One day as she was reading a book, she had a profoundly transformative experience. From my mom:  “I was looking into New Age religions when I read Edgar Cayce, a clairvoyant ‘prophet’ who was popular with New Age seekers.  In one of his books, he was discussing how Jesus’ birth, ministry, and death fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies, written hundreds of years before He was born.  I suddenly realized there must be a God for that to have happened, and my mind was completely transformed.  This was confirmed by the fact that almost immediately, I called my friend Bonnie to tell her what had happened, and she followed up by sending me Christian reading materials to study.”

That experience eventually led her to a belief in a loving God and His Son, Jesus Christ. She slowly and steadily grew as a new Christian, and our little family of three started attending church. This was also during the era of “Jesus Music,” and I have many fun memories of riding around in our car, listening to Keith Green music. Later, she met and then married a wonderful man named Bob, who became my new step-dad.  

Although Bob was and is still is a great guy, I had a real problem with authority figures back in the day and wanted to rebel against bosses and rules, therefore our relationship was somewhat rocky for many years.  I also developed a tough, rebellious exterior due to hiding all of my insecurities and fears of rejection.  And although I was slowly growing in my new faith in God, I was also being pulled away by the world and the pressure to appear cool and be accepted by my peers. 

This brings me back to the beginning of this post, where I began my rogue streak. For the next few years, I continued to rebel against my parent’s rules and my new Christian faith.  Sometimes it was as mild as riding my bike all over Onondaga valley with my best friend Jennifer and not telling anyone where we were going or what we were doing.  I look back over those years and I am grateful for God’s protection, as Jennifer and I were constantly alone and doing things away from our parents at 14 years of age. 

Most times, the rebellion was hidden and fairly mild. Other times, the rebellion was more pronounced.  For example, a few of my Christian high school friends and I would change our New York State driver’s licenses and go up to the Syracuse University (SU) bar scene (we would call it going to “the hill” for short) and fake-ID our way into various SU bars.  Even though we were a mere 17 or 18 years old at the time, we would dance, drink, and meet up with and sometimes make out with guys we literally just met (speaking for myself here, I am not sure what the other three did).  

However, one time I followed a young SU student named Andrew back to his Greek frat house.  This was really bad because I actually left my group of three friends and went off on my own with a man I had just met. Nothing bad or scary happened that evening but looking back, this was very foolish behavior.

I also told little white lies to my parents about my whereabouts and would attend underage drinking parties (who didn’t back then?) and concerts without their knowledge or consent. I also worked at a Christian summer camp and would sneak cigarettes, sneak out of my cabin at night and meet up with other kids sneaking out, and sneak wine coolers off campus in the middle of the woods.  

There was a lot of sneaking around back in those days.  But it was around this time that I realized that going rogue wasn’t really working for me; here are the three reasons why.

First, going rogue did not leave me happy, peaceful, or set free

This realization ironically began at a well-known bar at SU.  

I remember one night my friends and I were drinking and dancing at a bar called “Maggie’s.”  All the young college kids were very drunk, sloppy, sweaty, slimy, and dancing in a very provocative, sexual manner.  I looked at my friend Marla, and said the following: “this whole bar scene is kinda gross.  And everything about this place starts with an “S.”  The girls are dressed slutty (I probably was too), the men are sleazy and sexual, the place is sloshy and sloppy and smoky, everyone is sweaty and shiny and dancing in a sexual manner, and it stinks in here!” 

She laughed at me and we continued to dance to “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC. 

I was also not deeply set free inside, mainly because I was not happy deep inside. I think the greatest lie of rebellion is that it will lead to a great sense of personal freedom and happiness.  I found the opposite to be true, because I became a slave to my own desires and agendas.  I become aggravated if anything tried to mess with my freedom.  For me, it was more about being extremely self-centered and wanting to do whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it.  

I have learned since that time that Christianity is all about loving God first, and loving and serving others after that.  If you do those two things well, God will bless you and give you the internal freedom and peace you are truly longing for.  

In addition, I felt like there was this invisible force that was keeping me from fully rebelling.  I went right up to the line of right and wrong and peered over the edge, but something was holding onto my t-shirt, not letting me slip over the edge.  

Big hair, don’t care. Me and my high school besties getting ready to fake-ID our way into a bar on The Hill. And to be more precise, we just changed the date on our driver’s licenses with a very sharp pencil. 😂
I’m still friends with all of my high school buds, including Marla, above!

Second, I realized that as I aligned with rebellion, I was aligning myself with Satan and his demons and away from God and his angels

This is the part of this article/post that will make you want to check out mentally because it sounds weird, but hang with me for a minute and you will see what I am referring to.  

At around 16 years of age, my best friend Jennifer’s older brother Jeff handed me a book and said: “Read this book; it will change your life and you won’t be the same.”  As I was an active member of the “yeah whatever” club, I promptly dismissed him until I opened up the book and read the first ten pages.  I was hooked. He was correct: the book completely changed my life, and stopped me in my tracks.

The book was called “He Came To Set the Captives Free” by Rebecca Brown. It is the true story about a young doctor named Rebecca Brown who ministered to over 1000 men and women who were active members of their local Satanic group, but wanted out.  The only problem with Satanism is that it works much like Hotel California, in that you can definitely check out anytime you’d like, but you can never leave.  However, Rebecca was the most bad-ass Christian I had ever heard of  or read about (I thought most Christians were weak and boring) and through the power and authority of Jesus Christ, she successfully led these men and women out of Satanism and into a very real relationship with Jesus Christ.  She also became friends with one of the top witches in the United States and got her out too (an impossible task).  

The stories she told blew my mind and made me realize that Satan and his demons hated me and wanted to destroy me.  They were thrilled when I rebelled against God and my parents. They wanted me to do bad and risky things late at night with no protection.  They wanted me to hate God and doubt his love and goodness.  

After reading about the invisible world of angels and demons and how real they actually were, I realized that I wanted to align my life more on the side of God and the Angels for the rest of my life. 

Third, Jesus worked for me instead

The final and most important reason that going rouge didn’t work for me is that Jesus worked for me instead.  I began to grow as a Christian during the summers of my teenage years working at Christian summer camps.  There were many chapel services and friendships that God used to draw me to Himself.  My high school growth spurt led to my college growth spurt, and here I am today. 

The gospel means “good news.” God loves you and me so much that He sent His son to die on the cross for our sins, so that we can have a relationship of love with him, and to experience eternal life. I choose to be a Christian because God has drawn me to Himself with His love, and He has been faithful to me over the years.  Here are just a few ways God has been faithful to me:

  • During my youth, God provided many blessings and also some hardships, in order to shape my character and humble me.
  • When I was a young adult, God showed me that my identity, the very core of who I am and how I felt about myself, was incorrectly placed.  He revealed to me that I am unconditionally loved and accepted, and that He is in control of all aspects of my life.  And then He healed me of my deep-seated fears of rejection. 
  • God also provided a wonderful and fulfilling career on Capitol Hill, doing meaningful work, as well as a wonderful husband Erik, whom I married at 27 years of age.  He blessed Erik and me with three wonderful (yet challenging, I must be honest) kids, through the miracle of adoption.  
  • But probably the most important reason I continue to stick with God is because I am free, peaceful, and happy deep inside.  I enjoy a deep sense of security and peace that the world or any other human relationship cannot provide.  I have peace knowing that God is in control of every aspect of my life, that He is good, and that I can trust Him implicitly. 
  • There are many other benefits to having a relationship with God.  Please see the highlights located in the Bible verse I will leave below. 

So as I look back over the 1980s, I have many fond memories of good moments with my family and especially my mom and sister Jessie, dancing all crazy with my high school besties, riding my bike all over the valley with Jennifer, going on little adventures with Hillary, Grandma Inge buying me Nancy Drew books and an Orange Julius at the mall, and consuming a lot of unhealthy sugary cereals while watching the launch of MTV on my vintage couch with a large green ashtray beside it.  😁👍

But the best thing I received from that awesome decade was that it solidified my relationship with God and Jesus Christ.  Jesus loves me, forgives me, heals me, redeems me, and satisfies me with good things so that my youth is eternally renewed. 

So please don’t stop believin’ in a loving God who will set you free big time and give you eternal life!  

Thank you for reading my Never Ending Story all the way to the end.  

Try not to accidentally tape over it.

Later, dude!

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits – 

Who forgives all your sins

And heals all your diseases

Who redeems your life from the pit

And crowns you with (His) love and compassion

Who satisfies your desires with good things so that 

Your youth is renewed like the eagle’s…..

Psalm 103

Photo credit from my friend Juli, who was also my friend in the 80s. 😁

Russia Little Crazy, But it’s OK

An update on our adoption from Ukraine 

My family and I have been communicating over video-chat with Nina and Masha, two orphans we love from Ukraine, ever since the Russian invasion which occurred during the month of February, 2022.  We have hosted both girls several times in our home and, most recently, have experienced the Russia/Ukraine conflict through their eyes. 

In this post, I will share with you the current situation of Ukraine through the eyes of the two girls and our adoption coordinator, an update on our adoption journey, and a personal update from yours truly. 

But first, the necessary quick back-story.  We were first introduced to Nina over two and a half years ago when we watched a 24 second video of her on youtube. Nina was a nine year old orphan who was available to be hosted through an international hosting program. As we were already set to host a little boy from Ukraine through this program, we decided to add her into the mix at the last minute as well.  My husband and I were drawn to her cute and spunky spirit, and our hosting coordinator described her as being a strong fighter and a “great kid.”  We fell in love with Nina and decided to host her again and again.  We also met her younger cousin Masha who is like a sister to her, and decided to host her as well (Masha is not available for international adoption at this time).  We flew to Ukraine and met with Nina and Masha’s family and connected with Nina’s grandma (also named Nina) and extended family.  And then more than a year ago, we decided to start the very long and tedious adoption process from the country of Ukraine.    

Our family vacationed in Idaho last summer, and Nina and Masha are seen front and center.
We took a back-packing trip this past summer and had a great time! The kids had a great time playing Phase 10!

Adopting from Ukraine is nothing new to us.  Ten years ago we brought home our adopted daughter Khloe from Ukraine.  We started a blog about our journey (https://erikandheatheradopt.wordpress.com), and Khloe wrote an entire post by herself, found here: My Adoption Story (by Khloe, Age 13). On this most recent trip to Ukraine, we brought Khloe back to her home country and even visited her orphanage with her. Some of her teachers were still there and remembered her well!  It was a great trip.

The Russian invasion from the perspective of two children we care about:

We have been in contact almost daily with the girls and have observed the war through their eyes.  Below are just a few of the highlights of what we learned while talking with them:

  • When the invasion began, all the orphanage kids noticed it, but they tried to just go about their lives.  However, school stopped for them a few days into the invasion and they really had nothing to do all day long.  They might play outside briefly, but they were mostly inside, playing and watching movies. Thankfully, they had electricity, food, and water at their orphanage.  
  • As the invasion progressed, they had to sleep downstairs in their little musty cellar that doubled as a bomb shelter.  It was terrible, cramped, and cold, and some of the kids got sick being in the cellar every night.  The official city bomb shelter was 6 km away from their orphanage and not accessible to them. 
  • Their mid-sized city experienced the shelling of buildings, which kept the children and caregivers awake at night. There were also air-raid sirens almost nightly. 
  • Nina is a very even-keeled child, which is one of the things I love about her. One day I called and asked her how the night before had been for her and the other children. In her broken English and breezy way, she explained to me the following:  “Last night there was boom boom.  Russia little crazy, but it’s ok.” 
  • Finally, after much work, prayer, texting, advocacy, working with our adoption coordinator, and learning on the fly how things are done in this unique situation, Nina’s entire orphanage evacuated Ukraine and were safely transported to a city in the European Union (EU).  They made it safely to the Polish border, stayed one night in a hotel due to the efforts of a Christian ministry, and then were on their way to the next country.  Their current residence is like an institution/school/camp. According to Nina, the food is good, there’s still not a lot to do sometimes, they are doing on-line school for about two hours per day, they all get time on their phones, they go outside and play, do some activities, and are in bed by 10 p.m.
  • We are all extremely grateful that the kids made it safely out of Ukraine.  To all of the people who prayed during this time, I want to personally thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Personal thoughts with regard to the last few weeks:

It was a huge effort to get the kids out of Ukraine and evacuated to a safe location within the EU.  I cannot begin to describe the number of hours spent by myself as well as other prospective adoptive moms, all trying to figure out a plan to evacuate the kids.  However, at the end of the day, the Ukrainian government ended up evacuating the orphanage and then directed them to another facility in the EU. I have never been in a “crisis situation” in my entire life, but it was a crisis for me to see the images on TV, hear that the city in which the girls were located in was getting bombed every night, and that they were unable to leave due to mostly bureaucratic reasons (this is a long story that I hope to share at a later time). 

It was a crisis for them, for us, and the entire world to watch on TV. I was extremely stressed.

Apparently, the bus drivers transporting the kids and caregivers were getting texts from loved ones back in their hometowns and wanted to dump the orphanage kids and caregivers out on the side of the road near the Polish border so they could return to their families back in Ukraine.  However, after some back and forth, some other buses came from Poland and transitioned everyone into new buses, and everyone made it safely across the border.

As far as my adoption coordinator goes, it is my understanding that she was getting bombarded with texts and calls around the clock.  Hosting parents as well as prospective adoptive parents continually wanted her attention as they were understandably stressed and scared about the well-being of the children they loved and had developed a relationship with. She also received texts and calls from hosting and adoption agencies, requests from government officials, and the list goes on. She worked relentlessly to get the kids out of Ukraine and out of harm’s way.  As far as I know, she was successful and all of the kids in her portfolio of responsibility are out!  However, as of the time of this writing, this woman is hunkered down in Ukraine trying to survive the war. 

Update on our adoption journey:

Right now our adoption is squarely on hold, and Ukraine is not allowing their orphaned children to travel to the United States.  At this time, Ukraine is only allowing EU countries to provide care and housing for these children. There are reportedly approximately 300 children with some connection to American families (in various stages of the adoptive process), and many of them need temporary care during the war.  Our family, along with several other American families, are advocating the they be able to temporarily come to America to be with the families that love them.  75 Members of Congress have already pledged their support by signing a recent letter from the Congressional Adoption Caucus here calling for the immediate unification of Ukrainian children to their host/pre-adoptive families.  Several of us prospective adoptive parents have also retained a law firm which is working on our behalf with government officials, encouraging them to work with Ukraine to accomplish some goals on our behalf.  For me personally, I am hoping that Ukraine will still somehow work on our existing adoption (even though they said they would not), as well as allow Nina and Masha to travel to the United States, even temporarily.  Please pray for that if you feel inclined!

I will share one brief action item in the P.S. section if you are interested in helping us out.

Before I share my personal update, I want to add that my struggles are nothing compared to what the country of Ukraine is experiencing.  I cannot even begin to imagine the hardships, death, and displacement of millions of Ukrainians at this exact moment. I am only one person who is experiencing the war through the eyes of two girls we care about.  

Like every other person on the planet, I have been glued to the TV over the last few weeks and praying fervently.   I am qualifying what I am about to share and admitting that my hardships are small potatoes compared to what the people of Ukraine are facing on a daily basis.

Personal update:

I vacillate between a calm peace, knowing that God is ultimately in control and on the throne of the Universe and in charge of everything, and also a feeling of despair at the thought of not being able to adopt Nina ever due to circumstance beyond my control.  Erik and I are caught up in a very difficult situation that is so above our pay grade that it’s hard to put it into words.  The thought of all the time spent (or possibly wasted) on a very long and tedious adoption physical work journey (I don’t call it paperwork anymore because that is so demeaning to its complexity) makes me want to pull my hair out in frustration.  Especially since this could be our second failed adoption (our first failed adoption took place here: From Latvia: “No, you cannot adopt.” (An update on our adoption situation)).  

It feels like we have been on a “failed adoption journey” for about seven years now.  So frustrating!

Along with feelings of frustration, there is also sadness at the prospect of not being able to adopt Nina, at least in the immediate future. We were just on the phone with Nina yesterday who informed us of two things.  First, she misses us and wants us to come to visit soon.  Second, that Masha, who is only nine years old, “got married” to a boy in the institution yesterday.  This government institution is fine as a temporary place to care for children, but kids belong in families that love them, will guide them, will nurture them, and protect them. 

Nina is already 12 years old and time is ticking!  We hope to still be able to bring her into our family.  If things work out to eventually be able to adopt Masha (who is currently not available), we are open to that as well.

Which leads me back to the title of this post.  

Russia little crazy…

Yes, it is.  And it’s frankly scary to watch.  I remember the night when the news was reporting that shelling/bombing was occurring at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.  Thank God that blew over, but with the President of Russia either needing an off-ramp and not finding one (at least as of the time of this writing), or not even wanting an off-ramp in the first place as he just wants to take over parts of Ukraine, I am nervous about what he might do out of desperation.  

But it’s ok…

It is only ok because God is in control and on the throne.  I believe that God is good and according to what he has promised in Scripture, He works “all things” both for our good and for us to be more like his son, Jesus (Romans 8:28).  I have to believe that God will eventually work all of this for some sort of good, both for the country of Ukraine and Russia, as well as for Nina and Masha and the other children, and also for us.

In addition to praying for Ukraine, I have been giving everything over to the Lord, including our adoption of Nina and any other child that I may wish to add to our family.  I have also prayed the “prayer of relinquishment” which I learned about years ago.  I am praying something like the following: “Lord, I give Nina over to you.  We would love to adopt her.  Nevertheless, not our will, but your will be done.” 

I have also been praying that God would heal me of my sadness over this situation, and I believe that my healing journey has begun.  I now have an inner peace that I didn’t possess during the months of February and March.  My peace stems from the fact that God is good and in control, and that he loves those girls so much more than I ever will. If it’s God’s plan for us to adopt Nina, then He will make a way for this to happen.

If you feel so inclined, please pray for us. And do the one action item listed in the P.S. section. But prayer is more important.

I am also constantly praying for the people of Ukraine and that this conflict will end as soon as possible.

And, I never thought I would say this, but please pray for world peace, too. 

Thank you for reading this post and for following along on our long and arduous journey.

We are in the middle of a really hard chapter of the story right now, but we are trusting that there will be a happy ending in here somewhere. 

“I am still confident of this, I will see the goodness of God in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13

__________________________________________________________

P.S: I could really use your help. On April 7, 2022, we are hoping to blitz the U.S. House and Senate with calls and letters from constituents asking for them to put pressure on the State Department to please work with the Ukrainian government to allow 300 pre-adoptive children (a very small fraction of the orphans in the Ukraine) to be able to come to America on a temporary basis.

Here is what you can do. First, go look up your one U.S. Congressman (or woman), and then look up your two U.S. Senators. Second, find their phone numbers and call them (see text below for what to say), or look for an on-line contact email form for the three of them. They all have them. In the subject heading, write: State Department matter pertaining to Ukrainian orphans. Then, in the content section of the email, write something like the following: Dear Congressman or Senator ______________, Please work with the State Department to encourage the Ukrainian government to allow approximately 300 children with some connection to American families (in various stages of the adoptive process), many who need temporary care during the war, to be able to travel to America on a temporary basis. 75 Members of Congress have already pledged their support by signing a recent letter from the Congressional Adoption Caucus calling for the immediate unification of Ukrainian children to their host/pre-adoptive families. I am only asking that you allow this small percentage of Ukraine’s orphans to be reunited with the families that love them until things stabilize in Ukraine. We know personally of one American family who are caught up in this situation, but there are at least two hundred, and they would love nothing more than to bring the children they love into their home, even for a short period of time. Please consider this request, and kindly send a reply to this email. Thank you!

You can send them a link to this blog post and feel free to write to them anytime after April 7th, 2022. I truly appreciate your support. God bless!

“The Woods went Silent”

Stories of people who go (almost) missing in the woods under very strange circumstances

(#Missing411 backstories)

Many backpackers, hikers, campers, dog walkers, hunters, etc. go missing in the forests (and national parks) under strange circumstances. Still, others go almost missing in the woods. After they safely exit the woods, they tell roughly the same story. Read on.

When I was a teenager, I worked at a Christian summer camp/resort, located in the rural foothills of the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York. One night very late, like 2 a.m. late, several of us teenage kids snuck out of camp and found a dirt road out in the middle of the woods, where we proceeded to engage in some underage drinking. We were all sitting around in a small circle, just talking and laughing, when suddenly, an extremely loud and terrifying scream split the quiet night air just off the path where we were all huddled on the ground. 

It was the most terrifying moment of my entire life!

The scream, or shriek, was so loud, long, intense and creepy that our entire group spontaneously lifted two feet off the ground and flew off the path, away from the scream. We tumbled down a small incline and landed together in a heap.

As we were all crying and freaking out in a little clump together, we were left with the following question:

What the hell was that scream in the woods?

We never did figure that out, but I remember that the scream was a sound like I had never heard, it was too long and loud and other-worldly to be an animal, and it was definitely not a human scream. There were no footfalls preceding the scream, or after the scream took place. Looking back, I believe it was supernatural or paranormal in nature.

Fast forward to my adult years. I love the outdoors and my husband and I have been backpacking to very remote, forested locations for 25 years annually. For the last several years, we have also brought our three kids out with us into the middle of nowhere for our family’s annual three day, two night backpacking trip.

We camped at this lake last year (2020) in the beautiful state of Wyoming!

And although we have never had any major problems in the woods, I was shocked to learn that there are a disturbingly large number of hikers, campers, and people just out walking their dogs or hunting in the forests near their home, who either go missing, or almost missing, in the woods under baffling circumstances

You can learn all about this phenomena by googling Missing 411 and David Paulides.  He has written several books available on his website (https://www.canammissing.com/page/page/8396197.htm) and produced two documentaries. David is a former police detective who was approached by a forest ranger several years ago about very strange disappearances in the woods.  Many of these disappearances occur in National Parks (where we regularly hike!) and in clusters around the United States (in other words, disappearances will occur in the same general area). These disappearances also share common traits, such as the person who goes missing has some sort of a vulnerability (like a physical disability), and bad weather events often accompany these disappearances. 

To be clear, I’m not talking about missing hikers who go off trail and end up lost in the woods, who are later found.

Instead, I am talking about people who are right in front of their loved ones one moment, and then the next moment they vanish into thin air, never to be seen again.  Or, they are found many miles away (sometimes alive, sometimes dead) from their last location, in a place that is absolutely impossible to reach.  Or, even more eerily, not a trace of the missing person is ever found, but their clothing is found months later in a random cave in a place that is extremely difficult to get to, several miles from where they were last seen, folded into a neat pile (please see my P.S. at the end of this post for more information on this). 

In one story, a 12 year old boy disappeared after telling his dad he was going to change his socks and shoes after they got wet. He proceeded up a well-marked trail a short distance to get back to his boy scout troop and his tent, and was never seen again. His one wet sock, and only his one wet sock, was found extremely far away, wedged into a crack between two boulders. 

And that’s just one story among hundreds of similarly bizarre and eerie stories that make no sense and leave us all wondering what is going on in the woods.

In a future post, I will write about Missing 411 stories and give you my take on these events.  But in this post, I want to write about the other very real phenomena of people who go almost missing in the woods.  

Just like with Missing 411 stories, these eye-witness stories share common attributes that cannot be ignored.  

Consider this post the prequel or back-story to the Missing 411 stories.

In order to illustrate the common themes that I have heard (and read) countless times (based on internet searches and multiple podcasts I listen to), here is just one story that I believe encapsulates the common attributes of most of these almost missing stories. I have bolded the commonalities for ease of reading. 

Almost Missing Stories:

The following stories are retold by Nic Ryan on his Paranormal Mysteries podcast #66 (and others), found here: https://tunein.com/podcasts/Paranormal-Podcasts/Paranormal-Mysteries-Podcast-p990107/. 

This particular story comes from a reddit user named u/cacophonica who lives in the state of Missouri. 

“The minute I stared trekking through the creek bed, my pit bull Fatty started whining. I ducked under the trees, shushed Fatty and stopped to listen to the woods surrounding us. I heard nothing. I heard literally nothing. No wind, no snapping twigs, not even any birds. Then, I began to feel really weird. I can’t really describe it as a gut feeling, but suddenly my body felt very queasy and over sensitive, and worse, I had the distinct feeling that I was being watched. Fatty was scared and trembling. Call it being an edgy teenager or anything else, but I felt this strange pull into the woods. There was no sound but I felt like something was calling me, luring me deeper into the woods. I walked forward, aware that my dog had firmly planted himself at the fallen trees. He was shaking all over and yelped at me as I walked away, but he didn’t come with me. He also didn’t leave, which I believe potentially saved my ass that day.

I left Fatty behind and eventually got to the part of the creek that I had never been to. It was a clearing with a ring of trees surrounding it, with the creek stretching far ahead and going around an unseen corner. The sun hadn’t moved and it was still silent. I stood in place for a minute and considered turning around. The clearing was creepy and felt devoid of everything. I felt like if I walked around that corner, which was just about 100 feet away, that something terrible would happen. It felt like something was just waiting for me to walk into it, unsuspecting.

I took a couple more steps, and suddenly I heard my dog yelping frantically behind me. He kept lunging forward, but wouldn’t move any distance forward. I finally realized that something was very wrong. I turned around again to look back at the clearing. It was pitch black outside. I shit you not. Seconds ago the sun wasn’t even close to going down below the horizon, and now the stars were out. No sun. No light.

I stared hard at the trees around the corner, seeing nothing but elongated shadows. I heard a twig snap. All of a sudden my ears started to ring, and panic flooded my entire body.

I whipped around and shot back towards the fallen trees, sprinting towards my dog. He was snarling and barking like mad, and when I ducked under the trees, both of us sprinted back towards the house.

The entire time I felt like I had death on my heels, and Fatty never once ran ahead of me, staying right at my side the entire way back.When I made it home I checked the clock. During a walk that usually took ten minutes, I had been gone three hours

To this day I have never felt so prowled upon in the woods. I don’t know what wanted me in the woods that day. I didn’t see what it was and it said nothing to me, but I ignored every natural instinct I had to run until it was almost too late. My dog being there may have been the reason I didn’t wander deep into the woods of (Seligman) Missouri and succumb to someone or something in the dark. I have never told anyone in my waking life about this.”

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From another reddit user called uclathemach, and also recounted in Nik Ryan’s Paranormal Mysteries podcast #66, comes an experience that happened on a camping trip with his youth group in the state of New Hampshire. At the end of the two day trip, he took a walk by himself down a hill to an area with a make-shift archery range, in order to tear it down. He made a pile of garbage to bring back to camp, and was about to head back, when he says that all the sounds in the forest just suddenly ceased, as if a curtain of silence had just fallen down behind him. He then says that he could sense some sort of a humming sensation.  He goes on to relay the following:

“For some inexplicable reason I had snapped my head to the right, and noticed there was an area with thinner brush, like an opening, and I started walking toward it, like I was being drawn. I could feel the pull to go deeper into the woods grow much stronger.  Looking ahead, the woods were in deep shadow, with a strange group of four trees about 75 feet away, lit by a shaft of light, beaming at an angle from above. The light was a very strange golden color. The bases of the trees were glowing, in a beckoning way, with the rest of the woods in shadow, and the trees lit up.  The compulsion to investigate the four trees was almost overwhelming. The thought of “come see; come quickly; come right now!” was insistent.  My head was pounding, like a headache without the pain. As I was about to take another step forward, another separate feeling from the depths of my being started screaming at me to stop immediately. In an instant, viscerally, I knew that despite how enticing this call was, if I proceeded forward towards those trees, I would be lost to the world.”

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The following three mini-stories are the highlights from longer stories written in by eye-witnesses and then retold via Nic Ryan’s Paranormal Mysteries podcast.

“The trail markers suddenly disappeared, and a wall of silence fell on the forest. The silence was broken by a large, startling snap! There were trees I didn’t see. Certain plants that I know for sure that weren’t there before. My eyes started to fixate on a particularly un-nerving dark section of the forest. Every alarm bell in my head was pinging. My senses were not working anymore. Whatever light was in this area seemed to bend around this central point, somewhat like how a cloaking device works. It was a minor distortion, but enough to make it strangely obvious. I then noticed how I hadn’t heard a peep from the forest this entire time, and I was feeling very cold. I couldn’t shake the feeling of impending doom.”

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“That was when things began to feel very weird. I no longer felt uneasy. But instead, I felt this deep peace, like I was asleep and dreaming. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and climbing the mountain, but it was like I was in a trance, not making the decision to continue, but instead, being drawn upwards. We kept walking in total silence. That sound (like a drum-beat) was pounding and getting louder. I looked at the (water) falls and felt an intense longing to continue on further up the mountain. We were still for such a long time, until finally my cousin said “I think if we keep going, we don’t ever come back.”

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“So I’m taking pictures of wild horses, and I hear “hey, come here,” seemingly to come to the right of me.  I look and that part of the forest is deeper, and I couldn’t see anything standing or hiding that way.  Sky (the writer’s dog) on the other hand heard it and jerked that way in the lead.“Come closer, this way!” I focused myself to look through the trees and long grass and there was now a simple stone path that weirdly didn’t have any grass or growth around it. But I could clearly see a cobbled path. So, Sky and I started making our way down the path.  I didn’t notice anything at the time but I could hear Sky whimpering and nothing else.  It was like all the other sound was muted. I was in some weird sort of haze. “Just a bit further,” a woman’s voice whispered to us while giggling. Sky then shook me out of my trance by stopping, putting her hackles up, and growling at something. I shook my head and suddenly the haze and confusion disappeared.  We were still on the path, but I had a very weird sense of dread starting to creep over me and we ran back to the clearing.“Come back!” A woman screamed at us, as it seemed to follow and echo around us. We made it to the clearing and back to the cabin. We were only in the woods for what seemed like an hour. But it was now 9 p.m. and I have no recollection of the missing time we had encountered” (Nic Ryan’s Paranormal Mysteries podcast number #128)

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“One night I was heading back from an after-school walk, when I heard someone say my name.  “Johnny come here!” It was like my mom’s voice, but distorted.  I wasn’t far from the cabin, so I assumed maybe she was calling out for me.  So, I rushed home but once the house was in view, I stopped. I noticed that the sound was still going but was angry now. “Johnny, come here, now!” I knew then that the voice was not my mom’s.  I could have sworn I heard crunching leaves behind me but I turned around and nothing was there.”  (Unexplained Encounters podcast: (August 5, 2021 podcast).  Source here: https://www.audible.com/pd/Darkness-Prevails-Podcast-TRUE-Horror-Stories-Podcast/B08K57L776)

As you can see, the above stories have common threads of weirdness that some have encountered in the woods. And here are those similar threads, in bullet-point form (as I love bullets):

  • The woods will suddenly go silent
  • Your dog (or animal) will start acting weird, stressed, or scared.
  • You feel like you are being watched. You will also feel dread or fear.
  • You may feel confused, locked in a strange trance, or under a spell.
  • Your surrounding will seem “off.”
  • A new path that you have never seen will suddenly appear.  
  • You will have a strong sense, or even an overwhelming urge, to explore deeper into the woods. 
  • You might take a few more steps, but then something will stop you.  
  • After you exit the woods, you will encounter the problem of lost time. 

Let me get into detail about a couple of the common attributes above that I believe are important to highlight.

The forest becomes strangely silent:

I realize that the forest can and will go silent if a large predator is in the area (like a cougar, bear, or wolf, etc.).  I am not saying that this is not the case at times.  In those events, there are still a few sounds to be heard (like crickets, the wind, etc.).  And usually, there are no other mysterious occurrences that go along with this silence. I am talking about a creepy, all-encompassing silence that brings along several other mysterious signals with it. 

Your surroundings seem off or strange:

Here are just a few of the occurrences based on several stories I have heard. The trees or the surroundings will look or act strange; for example, you may notice new plants you have never seen or a beautiful tree in the middle of a clearing that looks particularly enchanting. You might notice a bad odor, for example the smell of blood, matted fur, sulfur, wet dog, rotting corpse, etc. You might hear a strange sound like a low and deep growl, the snapping of a twig, a whistle, a baby crying, a person whispering, or a drumbeat.  You might even hear a familiar voice calling to you from the woods (the voice of your wife, mom, friend, sister, husband or your camp counselor. I have heard all of these and more).

Something will stop you:

I believe this is the Spirit of God who is trying to protect you. Or at the very least your own gut instincts trying to protect you. Maybe you get scared. Maybe the bark of your dog pulls you back to reality.  Maybe you develop a sense of sudden clarity about the insanity of this moment. Maybe God speaks into your spirit and tells you to TURN AROUND AND RUN. In one of the stories above, the young camper had the impression that if he kept going deeper into the woods, he would be “lost to this world.” Lost to this world is the exact phrase that kept pinging around in his head, so he decided it was time to turn back.

Lost Time:

Once you safely exit the woods, you might experience the real and unexplainable phenomena of lost time.  Lost time is, in a nutshell, not being able to logically account for the amount of time something takes compared to what it normally takes. For example, walking your dog on a trail you have walked many times which normally takes you one hour, after the bizarre event, will take you four hours to complete. You will have no logical recollection of that time period.  

Before we move on to what is going on and what can be done, I will summarize the common themes for ease of remembering: 

Woods Silent/Dog Crazy/Dread or Fear /Being Watched/ Weird Trance/ Can’t Think/ Trees Strange/ Bad Smell/ New Path/ Twig Snaps/ Name called/Feeling Drawn/Something Scary/Something Odd/Something Alluring/ Don’t Keep Going/Turn Around/Yay You’re Out/Lost Time.

What is really going on in the woods?

Before I give my theory, consider the following: David Paulides (the police detective I mentioned earlier) does not give an answer or opinion of what he thinks is happening with respect to all of the Missing 411 stories he has investigated over the years, but he theorizes that something is hunting or stalking these missing men and women in the woods. I just ordered two out of seven (or nine) books he has written so I can’t wait to figure out what he has figured out.

But after listening to and reading countless almost missing and missing 411 stories, I believe that this is a paranormal/supernatural/spiritual problem and needs to be handled using spiritual methods. Sure, be cautious.  Sure, bring a rifle. Sure, bring a map, compass, extra flashlight, extra food, extra water (or water pump). Do what you need to do to feel safe.  However, if this is a spiritual problem, which I believe it is, then these items I just listed, while wonderful, will not be enough.

There are two power sources in this universe; the power of God, and the power of the devil.  I believe that in some of these cases, people are being lured, stalked, hunted, frightened, or just plain watched and observed by demons or demonic beasts or someone using evil methods in the forests and beyond.  I also believe that in some of the cases, it is the work of a serial killer. However, for those cases that occur in the middle of the woods, I believe that the chances of a serial killer lurking and waiting 12 miles off grid is extremely rare. I will get more into all of this this in my next post.

What can you do?

My first suggestion is to pray.  Pray that God will protect and help you and/or your family (or friends) before you head into the woods. Pray specifically that God will protect you from the evil one and his evil spirits. Secondly, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, there are additional things that you can do using the power and authority of Jesus Chirst. You have the authority to rebuke demons and make them go in Jesus’s name. You can also anoint your campsite with olive oil or even cooking oil and pray for God to seal and protect your campsite. 

And now that you know the first sign of trouble (hint: the title of this blog post) pray out loud right away if things start to get weird. 

I plan to write a follow-up post on Missing 411 stories, and I will get more into practical advice at that time. I will also dig into demonic creatures and what they are. Did you know that demonic beasts are actually a very real thing and there are Bible verses about these creatures?  Unfortunately, it is true. 

My goal for writing this post is not for you to never set foot in the woods again.  I love the forest, and I love hiking! I plan to keep hiking well into my 90s if I am able. My desire is that you continue to enjoy the woodlands but be kept safe while you do so.

And to be clear, I think it is a very rare and unusual thing to have any of these weird supernatural events occur on your family’s backpacking trip, or if you are out walking or hunting in your woods. 

However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that we are living in very strange times.  Things are changing rapidly and many things that were once considered “normal” are gone, and our “new normal” is here. 

I would rather be prepared for any event. I hope you feel this way as well. So please, keep on enjoying the beauty and serenity of the deep forests of the U.S and Canada and beyond! 

But my one take-away for you is to ask God to protect you before you venture into the woods. And if something crazy starts to happen, stop right away by praying out loud, right there in the middle of the forest.

Pray something like this: “God please protect me from whatever weird thing is happening right now. In Jesus name, Amen.” That’s it!

Stunning. This is why we go!
This past summer (2021) we camped at Hell Roaring Lake in the Sawtooth mountains of Idaho.

I will close with a story that I believe illustrates the direct intervention of God in an almost missing story. 

The quick backstory is as follows: a young boy became lost in the woods near his home in Europe. This boy had played in these woods his whole life and knew them like the back of his hand.  He had a feeling that something was compelling him to go deeper into the woods. He then heard what sounded like crashing branches and it sounded like something heavy was walking around. He writes:

I was praying while searching my way around desperately. Something in my head was screaming at me to turn around, and I listened.  And what I am about to tell you, it’s true, but it’s going to sound very bizarre. When I turned, I saw a man in a white long dress, with long white sleeves and dark hair. When I saw him, I felt even more of a sense of relief. It was like I was safe as long as he was here. He raised his hand and pointed to the left of where I was standing. “That way?” I said.  He nodded.  I looked at where he was pointing and back at him, but when I tried to face him again, the man was gone. Scared out of my mind, I started running in the direction he pointed and, five minutes later, I broke through the trees. When I was finally out, I realized I was on the opposite side of the forest. Somehow, in that short time, I had walked several kilometers in the wrong direction. I made my way back home and later told this story to my grandma, and of course she told my parents, who were not happy about what I did. For a long time, I was not allowed in the forest. However, when I did tell my grandma about the man, she looked at me, and said that maybe it was my guardian angel.  (Unexplained Encounters podcast, number 207.)

I think that Grandma could be right!

Let’s all stay safe and continue to enjoy the forest!  

And if the woods suddenly go silent, you know what to do.

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UPDATE: I have just released (as of October 6, 2022) my brand new Missing 411 post, which is the next post in this short series! What is happening with hikers, campers, and normal everyday people who go missing under strange but similar circumstances? Find out here: Missing 411: A pebble in my hiking boot

Common elements of Missing 411 from Reddit user xofiate:

  1. People who go missing usually do so in National Parks, around large bodies of water, or near boulder fields.
  2. People from both ends of the intellectual spectrum go missing (e.g. people who have intellectual divergencies or disabilities go missing, as well as individuals who work careers as scientists, etc).
  3. People from both ends of the physical spectrum go missing (e.g. people who are physically disabled and cannot walk long distances, as well as individuals who live extremely active lives and are very fit).
  4. If the missing individual is found alive, they usually have memory loss about the entire event. Children sometimes tell weird stories about how they went missing. I recall one where a toddler went missing on a rather cold night and somehow survived. She claimed a wolf fed her berries from the palm of it’s hand and that’s how she survived.
  5. If the missing individual is found deceased, the cause of death is almost never determined. Often seeming as though they died without a cause at all. Medical examiners usually write that they died from “exposure” if they do not have a better answer to give.
  6. The missing are found in areas that seem difficult – if not impossible – to reach by foot, or in the time that has lapsed. Such as a child being found many miles away in just a matter of a few hours. A common example is children as young as 2-3 going missing and being found in high elevations, such as mountains, 2,000 ft in the air. Sometimes the children have their clothes on backwards or inside out, and their parents claim that they can’t even dress themselves yet.
  7. The missing are found in an area that’s been searched by Search and Rescue teams numerous times over a period of days (usually a week or longer). Sometimes they’re even found on the trail that’s used to access the area they’re searching. Almost as if they’re placed there intentionally in order to surely be found by SAR. Search and Rescue teams are meticulous about their searches.
  8. A lot of cases involve people who go missing for a week, but only died a day or two prior to being found, which begs the question of where they were during their time missing as well as what happened to them.
  9. The shoes tend to go missing, either just one or both. Many people are found in bizarre places at high altitudes or in tough terrain, and their socks or the soles of their feet don’t have a spec of dirt or wear on them. This is true for children too.
  10. Search ans Rescue dogs will be unable to pick up a scent, or if they are, they’ll follow it a few feet and then begin acting bizarrely. They’ll circle and then sit down. This is not common behavior for SAR canines.
  11. Investigators do not find any tracks nine times out of ten. If they do, they seem to stop inexplicably and lead nowhere, as if the person just vanished into thin air. Animal attacks are rules out by experts.
  12. Paulides will not investigate a case where an individual has a known history of mental illness. He usually won’t investigate cases where there’s a likelihood that this person left and disappeared by their own accord.

Hope you enjoyed your rabbit hole for the day and thanks for reading and your ongoing support!

Mountain sunsets are the best!
After we ‘safely made it out the woods’ this past summer, we immediately sat for a family photo shoot!
Our three kids and our two host kids from Ukraine!

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.

Several years ago, I was traveling with my three kids from the Washington, D.C. suburbs, where I lived at the time, up to Syracuse, New York, to visit family.  I was driving in my Acura SUV on Route 81 North, through the very high hills of the Scranton area of Pennsylvania.  I was driving about 65 mph down a very curvy mountain road when suddenly I rounded a blind corner and observed with horror that traffic had come to a complete standstill and in only one lane of traffic. I immediately slammed on my brakes and narrowly avoided hitting the car in front of me.  After my initial feeling of relief, another emotion quickly emerged and this exact thought entered my brain: “If an 18-wheeler rounds the bend after me, I am toast.”

Unfortunately, that is precisely what happened next.  I looked in my rearview mirror and noted with horror that, indeed, a large “Mack truck” as I used to call them was literally right behind my car, traveling at a high rate of speed.  It all happened so fast that I didn’t have time to react, so I just shut my eyes and braced for the worst.  Within a second, I could hear what sounded like loud pressure being released from the truck and could see huge plumes of smoke rising to the right of my car as the driver of this 18-wheeler barreled past me probably going 50 mph on the service lane, slamming on his brakes the whole time. 

The truck eventually came to a stop, traffic began to move, and I breathed a major sigh of relief and kept driving to Syracuse. I immediately prayed and thanked the Good Lord above for protecting me and my three kiddos that day on 81 North. 

It wasn’t my time to go that day, I am so very thankful to still be here. 

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!

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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!