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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are ghosts?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you get unwanted spirits to leave you alone?  

Option one: you can ask them to leave:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course it did.

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

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

I needed this one thing to happen before I could find love

As I looked around at the thousands of students who filled the huge astro-dome during chapel at Liberty University (a Christian college) where I attended, I sighed loudly as Dr. Jerry Falwell (the Chancellor) exclaimed, once again:

“All you students, look around!  Find your husband or wife here at Liberty!  There are many opportunities to get to know other young people here!  Look around and start dating!  Young men, find your wives here! Young women, find your husbands here!  Take advantage of this time!”

I scowled and looked around.  I was half way through my senior year, and I could feel the pressure mounting to “find my husband.”  Seated next to me were my college besties: all beautiful young women, happily dating, all well on their way to marrying their boyfriends soon after college.  I kept looking around and noticed several good-looking young men that were certainly date-able material, some of whom I knew personally. The only problem was that they were not asking me out.

I looked around some more, and spotted the guy I had my heart set on.  When our eyes met he averted my gaze, which painfully reminded me that he was still not moving past the “let’s hang out all the time and I will take all the same classes as you and be study partners and great friends with you, and come over to your house all the time and study until midnight with our knees touching under the table” phase of our relationship.

“But what if I am not meant to find my husband at college?” I whispered, probably too loudly, to one of my friends. “What if I am supposed to meet him later?”

“I don’t know Heather,” my friend said kindly. “But I know God has someone for you.”

I had asked one version or another of this question since I became teenager, and had been subconsciously asking it for several years now. The question that constantly churned deep down in the pit of my soul, was this:

Will there ever be someone for me?

Before I tell you how my time at college ended and whether or not I “found my husband at Liberty,”  (spoiler alert: I did not), I need to briefly tell you my back story as it relates to dating and men.

And trust me, it will be brief.

Did you know that the way a girl dates a boy ties directly back to the relationship she has with her father?  Yep, it does.  Unfortunately for me, I did not have a very close relationship with my dad and had also been sexually abused by two other men (one a member of my own family) which left me with the following reality:

I struggled with low-level feelings of rejection as it related to men and also distrusted them on many levels (and also had a low-level anger thing going on as well), thus creating “walls” and a “guardedness” with most men I encountered (except for older, fatherly men with kind eyes).  I was also very insecure inside (but hid it skillfully) and was hyper-vigilant about finding a boyfriend. And to top it off, I depended heavily on the approval of others to make me feel good about myself.  

Another negative contributing factor in all of this was that I was (and still am) a natural born tom-boy with a low voice (think Lauren Becall) and I have a very blunt, direct personality (that has tamed a bit since I’ve matured).  I am also very tall.

So between my internal issues of rejection/walls combined with my lovely external masculine vibe, I didn’t get asked out very much, either in high school or all through college.

Many of my girlfriends would encourage me with the following: “Heather, you’re very pretty and you have a really cool personality, but all the guys are intimidated by you! And they’re shorter than you, too.”

So that’s what I told myself through high school when I never had a flower delivered to my desk when they were passing out carnations for various holidays (like Valentine’s Day) or school fundraisers. That’s what I told myself when my date for the prom rejected me two days before the actual prom and lied and said he couldn’t attend, but then I saw him later that night with a group of friends, driving around.  That’s what I told myself and all the way up through my senior year in college as one by one, my friends all met their husbands and began planning out the rest of their lives. That’s the reason, I reassured myself, that the guy I was majorly crushing my senior year was keeping me squarely in the friend zone.

“He’s intimidated by me.  I’m too much of a woman for him,” I justified to myself many times.

But underneath the whole “will there ever be anyone for me” question was a much deeper query the sat like a hot potato on top of that one.  The question was this:

What’s wrong with me, that nobody ever chooses me?

That question stayed with me as I moved to the DC area to “start my whole career thing” after college (you can read about it here).  I was waitressing at the time, and for reasons I cannot explain, things started to shift in the atmosphere for me with the opposite sex, in a good way.

Suddenly, it was like a light turned on and all the guys began to notice me.

Many of the men I worked with (fellow waiters) started to crush me, ask me out, or just make innocent comments. One day I noticed two of them chatting and staring at me.  One them said dreamily “everyday!” while looking directly at me.  I asked him what “everyday” meant.  The other one chimed in with a goofy smile and said: “we both agreed that you get more beautiful everyday, Heather.”

Yeeks.  Male customers would even make comments and told me many times that I looked like Madonna or Sharon Stone (or a combination thereof). I found it funny when men would look at me quizzically and say “you look like someone, a movie star, but I can’t place it.”  I would say bluntly (because, remember, I’m blunt):

“I look like a younger combination of Madonna and Sharon Stone.” And they would say excitedly: “Yes!  That’s it!”

Even the men I worked with at GOPAC (as an intern) in DC started to notice me and ask me out. So while something changed and all of the sudden I began to be noticed and yes, even asked out on dates, I was not super excited about the guys who were asking me out. I would often remark to my friends: “Why can’t I meet a good, cute, nice, smart Christian guy who will ask me out?”  They didn’t understand it and neither did I.  The other challenge was that although I must have been changing on the outside because I could see the evidence of it, I was the same insecure girl on the inside who feared rejection and put up walls of distrust around men.

I was in a bind.  What to do?

How do you change a girl from deep within? How do you take a deeply insecure girl who fears rejection and turn her into a confident woman who doesn’t need the approval of anyone to feel good about herself? How do you change a girl who thinks she needs a boyfriend to complete herself or to prove that she is worthy to be loved?

And how does this same girl ever find a good guy?  Someone maybe she can marry?

These were the questions that I took into my mid twenties.  So, I took these questions to the only Person I knew who could actually answer them.  I took them to God.

God began to answer them with His gift of deep inner healing, but like all good things, it was was a process that took some time.

First, God started a healing work in my mind. I listened to a bunch of cassette tapes by Dr. Charles Stanley about rejection.  The basic gist is that many people are rejected as children (think funky family or absent/abusive father/parent) or adults (think divorce, affairs) and it changes them in bad ways. He explained that rejected people have a whole slew of issues that they need to be healed and set free from. Not only that, they have a “rejection vibe” that can negatively impact other people.

I listened with rapt attention to all of his cassette tapes.  It was like he was describing me to a freaking TEE while he lobbed one truth-bomb after another into my brain. The bottom line, he said, is that we need to get our identity (the core of who we are, the core of how we feel about ourselves) NOT from anyone else in this world, but from GOD.  And that we need to truly believe what HE says about us in this written word, the Scriptures.

So what does God have to say about me?  God says I am chosen, dearly loved, bought with a price, his beloved daughter, his creation, I have a purpose, he is with me, he loves me, and my eternity is secure in him.  He will never leave me, never forsake me, and will always love me. He loves me so much he sent his Son to die on the cross to effectively pay for my sin.  And he is in control of all aspects of my life, including whether I meet a man to marry (or not).  Once those truths started to sink in, I began to be more set free in my mind and in my way of thinking.

After my mind began to transform, God promptly set out to heal my heart.

Ironically, it started with a phone conversation with my mother.  I was telling her about an upcoming Christian weekend retreat I was about to go on.  Sadly, because of all of my issues, I often combined my spiritual growth and development with the hope of finding a boyfriend at these events.  As I was musing about the retreat, I wondered aloud to her: “I wonder if I will meet a good guy on this retreat?”

She said the following to me: “Heather, I believe you are too dependent on finding a boyfriend.  You are looking to a boyfriend to make you feel complete, and worthy to be loved.  I think you need deep inner healing.  I will pray that God heals you this weekend.”

Drop the mic.

I was stunned for a moment as her words landed like a missile in my soul.  I said goodbye to her and sat quietly on my bed.

“Fine,” I said with a bit of an attitude (I forgot to mention that I also had a snarky attitude back in those days).  “Fine.  Ok Lord.  If my mom is right, and I need to be healed, then fine, heal me.  Amen.”

I went on the retreat, and to make a long story short, there was a time when the Pastor prayed for healing and for the Lord to do a work among us.  As I sat there singing “Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me,” the weirdest thing happened.  It was like there was a HUGE tear drop hovering above my head, filled with gallons and gallons of water (from years of supressed hurt and pain) and all the sudden, it was like God took a little pin to it, POPPED it, and it completely burst all over me and spilled into the room.

I started crying, and I couldn’t stop.

I was so embarrassed. 

Now if you know me, you know that I am one strong girl.

I am like Margaret Thatcher strong.  I do not cry and I barely get misty-eyed, especially back in those days.

Well, all of my “I am so strong” b.s. was flushed down the toilet in that moment as I sat slobbering all over the ground. I hastily left the room found an empty stairwell outside and cried my guts out for about 40 minutes.  I cried for my lost relationship with my father.  That experience alone I can only describe as supernatural.  It was like my life was flashing before me as it pertained to my dad, and all of the hurt and disappointment I had suppressed over the years came out in a flood.

I cried for the abuse I’d received at the hands of two men. I cried for all the rejection I had ever felt from men (and women). I cried for never being chosen.

I cried a very, very ugly cry.  It was not attractive.

I was a hot mess.

After I settled down, I got up and went to bed.

The next day, I felt FREE.

All I can say to you, My Dear Reader, is that for whatever reason I was completely healed from all the hurt and pain I had experienced up until that point.

I felt happy, confident, set free, sure of myself, deeply loved by God, and fulfilled.

It was amazing!!  God had answered my prayer (and my mom’s prayer).  I was healed!

Well, pretty much at least.  I have come to learn that if you are born and raised in an environment where you experience ongoing feelings of rejection, it’s pretty hard to get 100% healed.  I still walk with a limp.  But I’m about 95% there.

Back to the story.

I headed into my 25th birthday still very much a single young lady. Sadly, back in those days I thought 25 was old (it’s not) and I began to feel that pressure mounting once again.

So on the night of my birthday I prayed a simple prayer, and here it is, word for word:

“Dear Lord.  Today is my birthday.  I am now 25 years old.  Honestly, Lord…from 0 to 25 has been pretty shitty.  Can you please make it better from here on out. Please, Lord? In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

(Yes, I used a bad word in my prayer. What can I say?  And hindsight is 20/20 and I had a lot of great things happen to me from 0-25, and it wasn’t all that bad, and some parts were very good.  But I was having a hard time turning 25, so that was the prayer I prayed that night.)

Well, for whatever reason unknown to mankind, God decided to say a resounding YES to that simple, eloquent prayer. Because not three weeks later I was talking to a girlfriend who told me that she had a GREAT guy she thought I should meet.

I asked her to describe him to me and everything she said clicked with the “list” I had developed in my head (and on paper too. Yes, I made a very long list of things I wanted in a husband, which I will briefly talk about later.)  She told me he already had a great job as a statistician, he was super nice, a God-fearing man, deep, and kind.

“What is a statician?” I asked her with confusion, not even knowing how to properly pronounce the title of his job.

“You know…statistics.  He is super smart and has his PhD in statistics.  And He’s cute too!  He has the most beautiful green eyes!”

She asked if I wanted to meet up with him on blind date and I found myself saying yes!

So a few days later this same guy named Erik called me up one night and we talked easily for about an hour.  I noticed right away he was a great conversationalist, was funny, and had a sexy phone voice.  But what I loved most about him was that he seemed to be a completely normal guy.  He asked me out on a date and…drum roll please…we went!

So here we are on our first official (blind) date and I found myself doing the “check list” thing.  You know the check list thing.  Is he polite to the waitress and not oogling her and does he leave her a good tip or is he a cheap bastard (cuz there ain’t no way I’m marrying a guy who isn’t a good tipper as a waitress myself)?

Thank God, Erik passed all of those “checks.”

Here’s another one: does he look directly into my eyes and do the ping pong thing with conversation or does he only talk about himself?  Thank goodness he was a great conversationalist and kept the conversation mostly on me.

And the list went on. And honestly, he was passing “my list test” with flying colors.

About mid way through the meal I began to think that, although he seemed like a great guy, and a solid Christian, and had his stuff together, that he wasn’t my “type.”  And that maybe we could be great friends.  Maybe a best friend, big-brother type of thing.

But then something weird happened.  I asked him an innocent question.  I asked:  “So, do you think you will get married one day?”

And he looked straight at me, straight into my soul actually, with his kind and beautiful green eyes, and said with such conviction and confidence:

“Absolutely.  I’m built for marriage.”

We just stared into each other’s eyes for a moment.  That’s when it happened: a tiny little spark of attraction tingled in my heart and formed a brand new synapse in my brain.

We had a great first date and went out on our second date.  But then while we were driving he said the following to me:

“Heather.  I want to tell you something.  If I ever, ever say anything that hurts your feelings or is rude or unkind, I want you to tell me,  because I want to apologize to you, and I want to make it right with you.  So please always be honest with me.”

I immediately looked out the window and mouthed “Oh My God” silently out the window.

I turned to him accusingly and said: “how did you know to say that?  Have you been listening to Focus on the Family?  Did you read a book about what to say?’

He looked at me strangely.  “Ummmmmm, no.  I don’t listen to James Dobson but I hear he’s great.  And no, I didn’t read a book.  It’s just the way I am.  Because it’s normal and the right way to be.”

So that’s how our relationship started. As I began to get to know Erik, I began to see what an overall great guy he really was.  And he kept saying and doing all the right things.  Things that were very kind, generous, and good.  Things that healed my heart some more and started to renew my confidence in the male species.

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One of our very first dates, and the first photo we ever took together.  Erik took me hiking, of course!

Case in point: I took Erik home to meet my parents for Christmas. He hit it off with everyone and was great with my entire family.  My little brother Joe (who was nine or ten at the time) asked him to please come into the basement with him to play laser tag, and sure enough, 40 minutes later, Erik was still in our unfinished musty basement playing with my little brother.  Finally they came up all sweaty and tired and plopped on the couch.  My little brother sat on his lap and hugged him with his legs opened up in a long bear hug.  Erik hugged him right back.

Joe then said something so sweet:  “Erik —  I love you!!”

My little sister was within earshot and hotly retorted: “Josiah, you have only known him for three days.”

“I know.”  Joe said simply.  “Even though it’s only been three days, it feels like love.”

And… that pretty much sums up my dating relationship with Erik.

It felt like love. 

He showed me love when he paid off the rest of my school loan after we had only been dating a short time. (I had worked my butt off through school and paid for the whole thing all by myself, but he paid off the last chunk.)

He showed me love when he bought me a car because he was sick of me driving around old “crap cars” that weren’t safe.

He showed me love by supporting my career on Capitol Hill and telling me things like: “Heather whatever you want to be later, if you ever want to run for Congress, I will support you!”

He showed me love by paying for all of the dates we ever went on and taking me fun places that I never could afford or would even consider had I not known him.

He showed me love by hearing my rejection stories and accepting me and healing all of the wounds that weren’t quite healed.  Although God laid the foundation and put up the beams of healing in the home of my heart, I felt like Erik was the drywall and paint and decor.  God used an imperfect tool, Erik, to continue the healing work that God wanted to complete through a human agent.

And then one hot and sunny Saturday in May, with all of our friends and family surrounding us, he showed me love by making a commitment to spend the rest of his life with me.

We were married on May 6, 2000 and we will celebrate 18 years together this coming year!

And Erik still continues to show me love.

First, he is an amazing dad. This was something I deeply wanted in a husband and had to have.  I told the Lord many times to “not bother” sending me a husband unless he was also going to be a fantastic father.  And Erik is a fantastic father!  Sometimes I actually have a feeling of relief wash over me I see him interact with our kids.

As he loves our kids, he is also loving me.

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Erik is a great dad. He spends a lot of time planning great hiking trips for our family! And…he does all the cooking on the trips, which mom loves!

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He continues to show me love by being ridiculously generous with me. Once a year he sends me away on a “mommy vacation.”  And he doesn’t send me to a Motel 6 in a random place.  He sends me to the Caribbean.  He sends me to Colorado to go skiing. He sends me to Vegas to see all of the sights.  He goes a little cray cray in the area of generosity.  Sometimes I feel like it’s God’s lavish, Kingly, outlandish love that he shows me through Erik.  It doesn’t seem fair.  I feel bad and never put that stuff on Facebook because I don’t want to seem like a braggart or make others feel bad.  But he is very generous with me and always has been.

And finally, he continues to show me love by being the same man I married years ago.  He never changed into what I feared the guy I married would change into: a psycho.  He is the same good, laid-back, kind, steady, loving, smart, God-fearing man I married 18 years ago.  He only gets better.  A bit more soft around the middle perhaps, 🙂 but he is the same great guy I met over 20 years ago.

Do you remember how I told you I had made a long list of things I wanted in a spouse? Years after marrying Erik, I was digging through old papers and came across the list.  As I read through the list my first thought was how anal and weird I was back then to have to write such an exhaustive list of “what I had to have in a husband.”

I also laughed at some of the things that were on the list.  Things such as “He can’t be cheap, or be a cheap tipper.”  And “he can’t be a perv.”

But then, as I read through the list in its entirety, I sat there in stunned silence.  Literally 95% of that list described Erik.  Erik made all of the “Top 10 Most Important Things” portion of the list, and had none of the “25 things he can’t be” portion of the list.  And he made 50 out of 55 of the other things on the list too!  (I told you I had issues back in the day.)

As I looked at the list, and then looked at Erik as he played with my daughter Claire on the floor one day, I started to cry.  I thanked the Good Lord in Heaven for providing me with a wonderful husband and father in Erik.  And yes, Erik is like a father to me too. In fact, he is a father to almost everyone he meets.  He is just built like that.

So the one thing that needed to happen before I could find love is that I had to be healed of my fear of rejection. That fear consciously and subconsciously blocked me from finding love.  The most awesome part about this story, though, is that through my journey of deep inner healing I was able to receive not one, but two kinds of love: the genuine, kind, steady, generous love of a good man.  And the rock-solid, never changing, unconditional, sacrificial, all-encompassing love of God.

I am thankful beyond words to have received both kinds of love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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A bit more wrinkly around the eyes, but happily married after 20 years of hanging out!

Closing note: one of the reasons I write, and am so open about all of my issues, is to help other people.  If you think you might struggle with feelings of rejection, here is a Youtube video which is a summary of Dr. Stanley’s series on overcoming feelings of rejection: here. Also, here is the Father’s Love Letter.  It really helped me to process through some of my feelings of rejection and to believe the truth about myself.  Thanks for reading!

The Choice That Saved My Life — (my birthday story)

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My mom — pregnant with me. She wasn’t invited to graduate with the rest of her Senior class because of her ‘situation.’

It was the winter of 1972, and my mother Linda, a beautiful 17 year-old girl with long black hair and green eyes, was set to graduate Salutatorian of her senior class in just a few short months. Because she had already completed the credits necessary to graduate, she was able to finish her senior year in January, but was still planning to officially graduate with her fellow classmates and even give her Salutatory speech in the spring.

Linda had the whole world at her feet: a great family, a handsome and great boyfriend (Mark) whom she’d been with for nearly three years, college in the fall, and great friends.  Until one day when her whole world changed.

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My young mom (18) and dad (20).

That day came when her period, which she was expecting for some time, never came.  She had heard that  Planned Parenthood, located downtown, offered free pregnancy tests, so she nervously drove to their facility.   Once there, she took the pregnancy test, which confirmed her fears:

She was pregnant.

Not only did Planned Parenthood offer free pregnancy tests, they also offered counseling.  She met with the counselor who told my mom that, due to her young age and because she was still in high school, that she should get an abortion.  The counselor also explained that although abortion was illegal in most of the U.S., it was legal in New York state, and that my mom should consider this option.  My mom left the clinic that day with her head buzzing with questions and her heart pounding with anxiety.

What to do?

Back in early 1972, getting pregnant in high school was extremely rare.  And there was certainly an element of shame and embarrassment that went with it. After telling her boyfriend Mark about her pregnancy, they both decided that they would like to keep the baby and possibly get married.  But first, they had to work out an opportunity to confess to her parents that she was pregnant. She knew that her parents would be distressed by the news, as their family was a moral, church-going family.  Although they were clearly taken aback by this disclosure, the only comment was made by Linda’s father was this:

“Nothing like this has ever happened in my family!”

After Linda revealed the news, her parents decided to go to their Presbyterian Minister for counsel and support.  Linda’s mother, Inge, was also this Pastor’s secretary, so it was easy to set up an appointment with him.  A few days later they met with their pastor and told him of their daughter’s pregnancy.  They asked him what they thought her daughter should do, and what advice they (as her parents) should give to their daughter.

After hearing their story, their pastor told them: “Linda is young, and she is very smart.  She should go to college.”

He paused for effect:

“In my opinion, she should get an abortion.”

My grandparents were shocked at his advice, coming from someone they considered a religious leader. Abortion was something that was only heard about in whispers, and no one they knew had ever had one.  My grandparents strongly disagreed with his advice, and went home confused and frustrated.  After my mom talked further with her parents, they all decided that it would be best that she should not seek an abortion, but rather that she would get married to Mark, set her college education on hold, and have that baby, even though her whole future lay ahead of her.

The spring rolled around and my mom was not even invited to her own high school graduation, or to give her speech.

Then one hot summer day my now 18 year old mom, her new husband, and her parents, all checked into the local hospital in Syracuse, New York, and eventually delivered a healthy, blond-haired baby girl weighing 9 pounds and 4 ounces.   They named her Heather Lee.

That baby girl was me.

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I can’t say it was easy for my mom to have a baby at 18. She proceeded to have another baby (my sister) two years later, but it was a difficult marriage, and my parents divorced a few years later.  She was able to squeeze in a one year degree to be a Medical Secretary, and she indeed pursued that career for many years as a single working mom.  It was very hard during some portions of my childhood for each of us.  Years later, my mom remarried and had two more kids, and now she is working as a nurse.  Things all eventually turned out really well, and through it all she never regretted her choice to have me, and neither have I.  🙂 To read more about some of the struggles my mom (and I) went through, click here.

As for me, I grew up, got my undergraduate degree, then my Masters, had a wonderful career, met an awesome man, got married, and become the mom of three great kids, with one adoption on the way.  In a strange twist of fate I ended up working for a leading pro-life Senator, working on pro-life policy.  (You can read about it here).

In another interesting twist, I actually had a chance to talk to that same pastor (who recommended my abortion) several years ago. I basically told him that my grandmother (his former secretary) had recently passed away, and then transitioned to tell him that I disagreed very strongly with his very sharty advice he gave to my mom and grandparents many years ago.  (Actually, I was very kind and just told him respectfully that I disagreed with him, and that I was very happy to be alive.) We got into a weird debate/argument on the phone and he told me that “abortion is God’s will because it can naturally happen anyway,” (in other words, a miscarriage) and other things I won’t go into here. I honestly wasn’t looking for an argument, I just wanted to state my case.  I guess somewhere deep inside of me I wanted him to apologize to me.  To say something like “wow, I”m so sorry for the advice I gave to your mom’s parents, because, duh, if they had listened to me, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation right now.  I am so freaking sorry about what I said and did.  Can you ever possibly forgive me?”  But he didn’t.  I think he felt defensive, so he was somewhat curt with me.  The call didn’t give me the closure I was looking for, but I felt he needed to hear from me, as one of his Pastoral Advice Survivors.

I wonder how many kiddos are not here because lots of good Presbyterians listened to their Pastor during his 30 year tenure.

Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if my mom had made a different choice.  Would Erik even get married?  He is a super picky guy.  One of his friends said he was like an oil-change service, with an 18 point check- list of what he needed/wanted in a future girlfriend or wife.  What about Claire?  Who would have adopted her?  And Logan, we almost didn’t even get him in the first place.  What if he was being raised by his birth-father right now? His birth-father who has a criminal record, by the way.  How would he turn out?  And what about Khloe?  I’m pretty sure she would still be stuck in a Ukrainian orphanage, just waiting to age out.  I don’t believe she would do well out on her own.  And those are just four people in my immediate circle.

I believe God has a purpose for each of us on the face of the earth. We are here not just for ourselves, but to help and serve and to love other people.  Every human life matters and every human life is meant to interconnect with other human lives!  We all need each other. Maybe your story is supposed to intersect with mine, and vice versa.  And what we do makes a difference, even if we can’t see it.  Please read this post for more encouragement: Small Things with Great Love.

I will close with one final story.  Many years ago, Erik and I hiked up to the top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire.  I was about to turn 30 years young and was feeling “depressed” about “getting older.”  (HA.  Foolish person.)  Anyway, I was up on top of Mount Washington in the restaurant on top of the mountain, and my eyes wandered over to a list of people, mounted on the wall.  This is not an ordinary list: it’s a list of all the many people who have died up on Mount Washington.  This mountain is surprisingly very dangerous and is said to be the home to the “world’s worst weather” and has winds that have been recorded up to 231 miles per hour!  As I read through the list, I noticed something specific:

I noticed the ages of all the people who died. Their ages were varied: fifteen, eighteen, ten, twenty, twenty-five.

So many young people had lost their livesSo many young people who died on the mountain who never reached their 30th birthday.

That was a reality check for me.  Ever since seeing that list, I am grateful, rather than depressed, whenever I hit another birthday milestone.

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Just a small portion of all the people who have died on top of Mount Washington.  Many had never reached their 30th birthday.

In closing, I am so very glad my mom chose to have me despite the sacrifice and difficulty that choice brought into her life.  And I’m glad this story had a happy ending (as I know that not all stories like this do).  And I just have to add, as I get older and older myself, I absolutely LOVE having such a young and healthy mom.  She is a volunteer firefighter, full time nurse, and she and my step dad run a homestead.  She is a super busy and active grandma. As for my dad — he is still going strong and healthy.  He retired from full-time work but still works part-time.  He is a wonderful grandpa and makes his family a priority.  It’s great to have such young parents.

So mom, if you are reading this post, thanks for bringing me into this world and giving me a chance at this thing called life. I am super happy to be here!  I love you!

Happy Birthday to me!

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P.S. from Heather : I know abortion is the most controversial issue of our day, and lots of people have strong opinions on either side, and lots of women have experienced abortion.  My intention is not to judge, cause hurt or pain in someone else, to make someone angry, for you to unfriend me on Facebook, or for you to send me a scathing text.  My intention is to share my own story as it pertains to this difficult topic.  Perhaps it can help someone out there, or plant a seed.  It is not my intention to cause division. And remember, this is only a story…my own story.  Finally, I welcome all comments!!  Even comments that have a different perspective.  But I just ask that we all respect each other as we comment.  Thank you for reading.

P.S. from my mom: Even though I was so young at the time, and I did not come to have a personal relationship with Jesus until several years later, I was still able to recognize the unfairness of depriving my baby a chance at life so that I could go on with my own life undisturbed. The choice I made did lead to hardships and difficulties that I would not have experienced otherwise, but I feel that these problems were used by God to develop my character and also to make me see my need of Him.  So I am grateful that I gave the gift of life to Heather!  As are Erik, Claire, Logan, Khloe as well as her many friends and extended family members.  It is heartbreaking to me to think of how many relationships have been lost to abortion, and that is part of the reason why I have been involved in pro-life work ever since I became a Christian.  Thank you for reading our story.

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So thankful my grandparents did not accept the advice of their Minister.

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Me, today.

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Happy birthday to me!



Blue Collar Girl Trapped in a White Collar Marriage

I want to take you back to the 1970s and 80s and reminisce about what it was like to grow up somewhere on the spectrum between poor and blue-collar in upstate New York, where I grew up.  Back to the days when it was common to see a 1971 Plymouth Baracuda cruising down the streets of Syracuse, windows open, driven around by a guy in a dark blue uniform with a name-tag, blasting “Free Bird” or “Stairway to Heaven.” Maybe there’s a cigarette dangling from his dirty/greasy hands, hands that are hard to get completely clean.

Maybe there’s a little blonde-haired girl in the back seat with him, looking out the window, hoping the smoke will stop blowing into her face.

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Me, as a young girl.

That little girl was me, and I want to share with you my perspective of what it was like to grow up in a blue collar single-parent family — both the good and the bad— and what I have learned since then.  I will also share how I have changed (or not) since transitioning to a white collar marriage several years ago.

Here is my super quick back-story:

I grew up the child of a single working mom after my parents’ divorce at the age of four.  My dad worked at a local car manufacturing company and we didn’t see him very much because he was always working (overtime, double-time, and other terms his union negotiated for him), and did not consistently seek out a relationship with my sister and me. There were also some dysfunctional elements of my childhood in the mix as well.  My single mom was poor, and we (my sister, mom, and me) survived on her small secretary’s salary.  Child support was very low back then so I always noticed how hard she struggled.  Our small family of three drove around in a brown pinto and didn’t go out to eat much because we couldn’t “afford it.” On hot summer days, we would beg my mom to stop at Arctic Isle (the local ice cream stand) for a $1.00 soft serve ice cream cone and the answer was always “no, it’s too expensive, we have ice cream in the freezer at home.” My mom was very cheap and often said no to buying almost anything that wasn’t a necessary item.

Not having a lot of money growing up made me take a good, hard look around me and make some serious inner vows. Vows such as:

“I will work really hard, go to school, and make good money so I won’t have to struggle.”

“I will marry an awesome guy and we will NOT get a divorce.”

“And if don’t get married, fine.  I will do really well in my career.”

“I will show everyone that I am not a loser and will make something of myself.”  (Not sure exactly where that one came from, but I think it stemmed from some deep-seeded self-confidence issues.)

With those inner vows in the back of my mind, I started babysitting at 11, worked my way through high school and college (clocking in between 20 and 30 hours per week as a waitress during college), and then landed a professional job in my early 20’s.  I eventually got married and ended up in what I call a white-collar marriage. On a side note, I was also very picky about the guys I dated, making sure I wouldn’t end up with a “creep,” a “perv,” or a “loser.”  Bottom line?  I didn’t go on many dates.

Below is just a portion of the more difficult aspects of growing up in the poor/blue collar income bracket. Perhaps you can relate to some of these?

  • …First, I remember all the CIGARETTE SMOKE.  Smoke in the house.  Smoke in the car.  Smoke in a tree.  (How can that be?) I have so many memories of just sitting in front of a various TVs that sat perched on the green living room carpet, watching maybe Star Trek, Evel Knievel, or Scooby Doo while someone smoked behind me in an easy chair, reading a newspaper. Growing up in a smoke cloud gave me (subconscious) permission to begin smoking myself very part-time through high school and college.  I finally quit in my early 20s.

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I am a proud survivor of years of second hand smoke.  I began smoking part-time in high school but quit in my early 20s.

  • …We MOVED a lot.  I have many fond/not so fond memories of various apartment buildings, houses we shared with other friends, and yes….I even spent some time in the coveted trailer park.  I will never, ever forget how tiny those little trailer bedrooms were, and the trailer closets were ridiculous.  On an up note, I was able to share a house (different units) with my best friend Hillary, who was also in a single-parent home, which was awesome. We also lived in the same apartment building a couple of times.
  • …We had NO MONEY.  I heard “we can’t afford that” about 1000 times.  Want to stop at McDonalds?  Nope, not gonna happen.  If you want money, you had to get your butt off the couch and go earn it, all by yourself.  So that’s exactly what I did. I have never stopped working and to be honest, it’s so strange for me to not work in a way that earns an income to this day (more on that later). I am still so grateful that my grandparents were so generous with my sister and me — they provided everything from new Trapper Keepers for back to school (remember those?), to new clothes and shoes, to very generous Christmas gifts.
  • …As mentioned above, I didn’t see much of my DAD. Early in life, I developed some father-figure issues and ended up crushing a lot of older men, and men in positions of authority over me. However, I did appreciate his hard work ethic.  He even built our house from scratch and much later, my mom moved back into it and still lives there to this day. We now have a great relationship (as adults), but again, he wasn’t around much growing up and that was hard for me.
  • ….Finally, I struggled with some TOUGH EMOTIONS.  I often felt ashamed of my clothes, house, and cars.  I felt insecure and unworthy of love.  I feared rejection.  There were some things that happened that caused some deep wounds, that I have (thankfully) since healed from.  But they were very hard to go through at the time.

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Yes, friends, that is a beer in my hand 🙂

But growing up blue-collar was also a blessing in many ways.  Here are just a few of the positive elements of growing up in a blue-collar family:

  • First and foremost, I developed an amazing WORK ETHIC.  I have no problem with doing “real work,” “physical work,” and “working with my hands.”  Because my grandfather was in the farming business (he built silos) and also we lived near a farm, I actually have helped neighborhood kids with their farm chores.  I have also actually picked the following: rocks in a huge farm pasture/field, tomato horn worms off of tomato plants,  and weeds from my mom’s garden.  I mowed the lawn consistently (when not living in apartment complexes). In fact, I still happily mow my own yard here in Suburbia while my neighbors watch me curiously from their windows.  Bottom line?  I am not lazy and I’m not afraid of real work.
  • Secondly, I KEEP IT REAL with no BS.  You will always get the real deal from me. I will always shoot 100 percent straight with you.  I don’t like to lie; it makes me uncomfortable.  The only lie I will tell you is if you ask me directly if you look fat in that dress, and if you do, I will feel bad, and I will lie and say no.  You have been warned.  But that’s about the only lie I feel okay about.  Sorry not sorry.
  • Thirdly, I will never be pretentious. I will never think I’m better than you.  I will always treat everyone THE SAME.  And I will always be generous.  I will always over-tip waiters and waitresses, and I will always say “hi” and “thank you” to all the people who make my life easier.  Why would I be snooty with waitresses and maids?  I actually did both of those jobs for many years to earn a living.  Those are my peeps.

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Having fun at one of the restaurants (the Ground Round) I worked at during college.  I sometimes clocked up to 30 hours per week waitressing during school.  Growing up blue collar gave me a kick-butt work ethic.

  • Lastly, I developed an appreciation for the CLASSICS, and no I’m not talking about classical music or classical home-schooling eduction.  I’m talking about Classic cars and classic rock, baby.  Whenever I go back to Syracuse I still see folks driving around in a classic car blasting classic rock.  I just went to one the Eagles’ final concerts last summer before their lead singer passed away.  It was a blast!  (see photo below.)

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    My dad owns five classic (muscle) cars purchased in the last ten years.  These were the cars I grew up around.  I want one.

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His Plymouth Baracuda.  My appreciation for classic cars came from my dad.

So what have I learned since “moving on up” to a different income level?

First, I actually really appreciate money and where it came from.  It is a blessing to actually have some of it.  But here’s the deal: I never want to rely too heavily on money or grow accustomed to being upper middle class.  Why?  Because I developed a deep financial insecurity early on. I know deep in my heart that you can have money one moment, but then the next moment…POOF! It’s gone.  And then you are back to square one. So I decided to not even leave square one in the first place.

Secondly, I am still cheap (especially with myself) and don’t like to spend money.  I still clip coupons (if I feel like it, because coupons are really a pain), and try to limit my children’s material possessions so they don’t become “spoiled.”

Thirdly, I still feel weird about not working outside the home in a way that generates an income. I still feel a little bit like a “moocher” even though my husband assures me he is fine with me being a stay at home parent.  I do plan to work again when my kids are older and after our next adoption, but I would prefer to work part time.

And on that note, I think that’s one of the best things money will buy you: options.  I have the option of working part-time rather than full-time down the road. Our family has the option of spending our money on nice vacations (we have created memories for our kids and have taken them to some nice places). We have the option of buying my kids sneakers exactly when they need them, rather than waiting until the next paycheck comes in.

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There is one thing money can buy: precious time with your family!  We do spend money on making memories with our kids, for sure.  Above, Claire and Erik enjoy fishing in a back-country lake in Utah.

Fourthly, I have learned that money doesn’t buy happiness or inner peace.  However, it does buy time and convenience.  It’s either time or money.  Either you spend the time on something and save the money, or spend the money on something and get back some of your time.  So in that way, it’s a lot easier to exist in a white-collar world.

Finally, the number one reason I believe God has blessed us with a little bit of extra income is a. because God is good and He just chooses to bless us in this particular way, b. we both worked very hard to get here, c. to afford to adopt our children, because adoption is expensive, and d. so we can be generous with other people, and also with ministries and other worthy causes that need financial assistance.

Bottom line?  I believe money is a gift to help support and enhance human relationships and to support worthy causes.  If you have money, chances are, God wants you to help others in need.

So why did I choose the title of this blog?  Honestly, I’m not really “trapped”in a white-collar marriage per se, but I feel as though I really don’t belong some elements of this world, deep down.  One night we spent time with another couple who are also in our income bracket.  Both the husband and wife were very cultured and came from solid families, and they had lived all over the world.  Both of them had PhDs from prestigious universities.  As they shared about their childhoods and current successful careers, I felt like I just couldn’t relate to them.  I felt like I had to impress them with something about my life, but I just couldn’t think of anything to say.  I also didn’t feel like I could be completely myself around them.  (Qualifier: most white-collar folks are super, duper nice and not pretentious at all. Maybe they’re a lot like me and didn’t grow up that way. But if they did grow up with wealth, they seem to have a certain self-confidence about them that poor kids lack.  I think I sense this subconsciously and feel I cannot relate.)

In closing, Oprah Winfrey once said that obtaining money just makes you MORE of something.  So if you are kind, you become more kind.  If you are generous, you become more generous.  If you are an arse, you become more of an arse.  I agree with her assessment.

Since transitioning income brackets I have become the following:

More cheap (with myself)

More generous with others

More unpretentious

More hard working 

More efficient with my time 

More grateful for money, but knowing it’s limitations

I am grateful to be where I am today, but I will never forget where I came from.  My childhood made me into the person I am today, and I am grateful for all the lessons it taught me.  Blue-collar workers truly do make the world go round, and I am proud to be counted among them.

So if you see a suburban woman driving around a really nice convertible, blasting the Eagles, drinking coffee from a coffee mug from home because she didn’t want to stop at Starbucks because it’s too expensive, all the while thinking about how she needs to mow her lawn when she gets home, well…that would be me.

I’m teetering between the two worlds, not really fitting into either one at this point.

But that’s ok, because that old saying is true:

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

So while I may be in a white-collar marriage, I’ll always be the same blue-collar girl, deep inside.

Peace out.

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Off to the Eagles concert with my dear friend Ragan!

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PS: Stay tuned for a future post: Raising Blue Collar Kids in a White Collar family.

Thanks for reading!!

steps of faith -a 9/11 story

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Written by guest blogger, Felita

It was May 2001, and I was attending Glory Tabernacle, a non-denominational church in Washington, D.C. A young friend of mine, Henry, came to me one day and said he felt the Lord was calling him to do a prayer walk around the Washington, D.C. mall, every weekday morning at 6:00am, beginning June 1st.  He asked me to join him in this venture.   As a woman who always struggled to get up early and pray, my initial thought was, “there’s no way!” To my surprise, however, I answered him with a resounding “yes!” In my heart, I knew something was happening. I felt compelled with an urgency and even an excitement that was not from me.  Despite my fear of not being able to wake up early, I had to answer the call.

When June 1, 2001 arrived and my alarm went off at 5:15am, I laced up my sneakers and groggily headed out to the Washington Mall.  Henry asked several others from our church to join us, and we had an excellent turnout that first day.  Henry explained that we would meet at 6 am between the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol. We would seek God for His direction and guidance and pray from our hearts. Other than the start date, Henry did not have a timeframe in mind. We would continue to pray until we felt the Lord release us. As I recall, there was no real agenda or direct plan. We would gather and pray as we were led by the Holy Spirit.

So what did we feel led to pray?  We prayed for the protection of our nation, our nation’s capital and it’s leaders, and the protection of our city. Although we didn’t understand it at the time, we really had a burden for the District of Columbia and we were obedient to the prompting of the Lord.  As we walked through the center of the city praying, we could clearly see the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and the Washington Monument, among many others landmarks.

For over three months,  I never missed a day of prayer.  Some days as many as twelve people showed up, and some days it was just Henry and me.  Rain or shine, many or few, we showed up and walked around the Mall every day for over the entire summer of 2001.

On September 11 we met at six am like normal, walked and prayed, and then departed for our regular work days.  Just two hours later the unthinkable occurred — the largest terrorist attack in our nation’s history.  That one event would change everything.

The next day, September 12, we met again as usual, however, D.C.  was on lockdown and we could no longer meet in our usual location.  As we looked around at the small group of folks that had gathered, it dawned on us that God had used our small group in a mighty and powerful way. The Lord revealed to us that through our prayers and the doubtless prayers of many others, that the terrorists were not able to enter our nation’s capital on September 11th. They got as close as the Pentagon, which is just a stone’s throw away, but we firmly believe they could not enter the city of Washington, D.C. Why?  Because D.C. had been bathed in prayer for several months prior to that most unpredictable and undesirable event.   Satan and his weapons of war were not allowed to enter.

Reports later indicated that one of the airplanes that crashed in rural Pennsylvania was headed for the U.S. Capitol and the one that hit the Pentagon had targeted the White House. It’s hard to imagine the devastation and turmoil that would have happened had they succeeded in hitting their actual targets. Indeed our nation’s Capital was spared. It was all so surreal.

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Not long afterwards, Henry shared that he felt we were released from our prayer initiative.  We felt like we had done the job that God had given us to do.

And ever since those early mornings during the summer of 2001, I have always been able to wake up early and start my day with the Lord.  It is no longer a struggle.  How could it be?  I saw the power of God so very clearly in my own life!

Even now, almost 15 years have past, and it still amazes me how the Lord works in such awesome and miraculous ways. In closing, I am reminded of a Bible verse which I think sums up our experience during the summer of 2001:

“Every place where you set your foot will be yours.” Deuteronomy 11:24

(side note: All photos were taken by Heather at the Newseum, Washington, D.C. May 2016.)

A long awaited mother’s day

At 30 years of age, I was happily married to my wonderful husband Erik yet also working crazy hours on Capitol Hill. After my boss lost his Senate seat and I lost my job, Erik and I decided it was time to start a family.  But you need to know something right out of the gate:  Erik and I cannot have biological children.  I will document our journey with infertility in a future post.  This post is about how we became parents for the first time through the miracle of adoption!

We chose a Christian adoption agency that specialized in domestic infant adoption. This agency also ran a home for young women who had become pregnant. The birthmothers are allowed to live free of charge, receive training on parenting and adoption, and they receive a free college education. At the end of the program, they decide whether to parent their child or place them for adoption, which about 50% do.  We filled out a ton of paperwork and started a home study (which is a huge paperwork to-do list to prove that you are good people and not crazies). We also had to select parameters for the birthmom. More on that later. I also started an adoption scrapbooking album, which I hated, since I’m anything but The Crafty Lady.  “The Album” is what the social workers show to birthmothers so they can choose adoptive parents. You place tiny little pictures of your life into an album hoping to make a good impression on a young scared teenage girl you have never met.    Over time, we completed all of the paperwork except for The Album and sent it over to our agency.  We were excited and couldn’t wait to become parents!

That’s when all the setbacks happened. In addition to financial set-backs, we experienced a series of mini-health crises that Erik and I had to work through, including a cancer scare. I was trying to go as fast as I could but something kept slowing down the process for us.  It was infuriating and humbling. I remember praying “Lord, your will be done, not mine” many times during those months of delays and set-backs.  I think waiting is one of the hardest trials anyone can face.

Erik and I were required to attend a Weekend Adoptive Parent Training Program put on by our agency.

One session was very helpful to us in a spiritual context. The speaker basically said that God uses two unfavorable situations (infertility and an unexpected pregnancy) to bring unspeakable good – a baby placed in a loving home.

Another session dealt with the question of “Which Boxes Should You Check on the Birthmother Form?” That session was a kick in the gut. Would we accept a child from a mom who smoked pot or did other drugs, or drank alcohol during her pregnancy for example? Would we accept disease x, y, and z for example. Excruciating choices. With every box you fail to check the potential adoption pool grows smaller. What we really wanted was a child conceived in the back of a car from two young people who were maybe away for the weekend due to their sports championships and wanted to get back to taking their entrance exams for MIT as soon as possible (while not disrupting their volunteer activities of course). I did not see a box for that one however.

I remember sitting in that meeting and thinking “this is completely unfair, God! Not only can we not have our own biological children, but now we have to take a huge risk with respect to our future baby?”

“Trust God, He is with you and will guide you. He loves you and your future baby.  And check boxes!!  The more boxes you check, the more birthmothers we can present your album to,” was one take-away of the training weekend.

After much prayer, Erik and I decided to check more boxes than we would prefer. Here are the ones we checked:

Birthmother experienced —

  • No prenatal care
  • Drank socially
  • Drank heavily
  • Light Drug use
  • No birth father information
  • Pregnant as a result of a rape or incest
  • Smoked regularly

A couple more boxes I can’t remember. I think the ones about poor mental and physical health.

There were also boxes about the mental and physical health of the baby. I can’t remember the boxes we checked, but I remember that we were trying to be as open and full of faith as we could be.

With every box we checked a little piece of me died. I dreaded the thought of something going wrong, all because I was trying to exercise some level of faith in God. “God, please don’t let me down!” I remember crying out to Him.

Selfishly, we also hoped that the other couples in the group (there were about 18 couples hoping to become parents) would be too scared to check some of those boxes. You get to know the other couples, and grow to like them, but it is also sort of a weird competition.

Then you wait.

Unlike pregnancy where a baby shows about 9 months later, we could wait a week or we could wait a year. We had to be ready to become parents at a moment’s notice.

Our waiting came to an end soon with one very brief phone call.

I had completed and mailed The Album. I’ll never forget the call that came in.  “Hey Heather, this is (insert social worker’s name), how are you?  Well, I literally just received your album – it was just delivered to my desk a few minutes ago.  It looks good.  Hey, I’m heading over to the hospital right now.  A young woman who was referred to us just delivered a baby girl.  I’m going to show her your album. And because of the boxes you checked, you’re one of only a few albums that she will be reviewing.  Have a great day!”

After I hung up the phone I just sat there in awe. “No…there is no way this is going to be our new baby.  This is just a fluke, it’s too sudden.”  I thought.  But a little tiny feeling of hope was born in the pit of my stomach.

The next day we received a call from our social worker. Apparently, the birthmother didn’t like “any of the families.”  Hmmmm.  Later, when presented with the albums again, she decided that Erik and I seemed “okay.”  But she wanted to have a phone call with us before she went further. We also drove down for an interview. Imagine this, the most important job interview ever. Being interviewed by a young girl explaining to her why we should raise her child. The interview went well however and we hit it off immediately.  So far, so good!  The one thing that concerned her was that we seemed ‘too Christian’.  She was concerned that we would shove Christianity down her baby’s throat.  Erik and I wrote her a letter and assured her that we would raise her in the Christian faith, but the choice of embracing that faith would ultimately be her decision alone, just like it is for every person.  It was a tense few days while we waited for her to respond.  But one day a random package arrived on my front door step.  Curiously, I opened it up.  Inside was a sweet photo of a baby girl with a note beside it, from the birthmother, asking us if we would consider being the parents of her baby girl.

I was home alone at the time and remember screaming, jumping up and down and yelling: “We’ve been chosen!! We’ve been chosen!! We’ve been chosen!!”  I immediately phoned Erik at work and told him the good news.

Although Erik and I were overjoyed at being selected, we were concerned as well. The birthmother did not know she was even pregnant with her (our) baby until she was more than 8 months pregnant.  And she only had about one week of prenatal vitamins!  I couldn’t understand how a person could not know they were pregnant until I watched several episodes of, you guessed it, “I didn’t know I was pregnant.”  🙂  Our other concern was her alcohol consumption. We found out that, due to the fact the she didn’t know she was pregnant, she partied every weekend and consumed large amounts of alcohol.

But we trusted God with the outcome as we believed this little girl was supposed to be our kiddo.

We heard from our agency that the baby was indeed very healthy and alert and bright. I spoke with her foster mom (who later became our very good friend) and she assured me that this baby girl was doing well and right on target! This is a story for another day, but these wonderful couples take care of these babies until they are placed for adoption. They love them and raise them and then they say goodbye. Our 3-month old was already sleeping through the night! Cha-ching! We are still in touch with Claire’s foster parents and have even vacationed with them. They are our extended family now. Claire spent a weekend with them just 2 weeks ago.

Finally, after years of marriage, many baby showers attended with forced smiles, patiently waiting, going through a bunch of hoops that other people don’t have to go through to become parents….the day came when we drove down to our placement ceremony.

A Placement Ceremony is when the Foster or birthmom “places” your baby in your arms for the very first time. In that moment, you officially become parents! It is a significant moment filled with great joy for us, as well as great pain for the birthmom.

I will never forget the first moment Claire, as we later named her, was placed in my arms. When I first looked at her she was sleeping peacefully, and my first thought was “what a beautiful baby girl.”  A few moments later she opened up her eyes and just looked around.  She had this “knowing” look in her eyes, like something in her world had completely changed.  My second thought was “wow, what a smart little baby!”

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Erik and I just looked at each other in amazement. At long last, we had become parents! With only a few weeks of notice we had much to learn.

A couple of closing notes. First, I’ve often wondered why Claire’s birthmother didn’t even know she was pregnant until she was almost full-term.  It turns out that our birthmother chose not to tell a single soul about her pregnancy or adoption plan.  Due to our birthmother’s shame/embarrassment at being pregnant, I have often wondered if our birthmother may have chosen to abort Claire had she known earlier.  Whatever the reason, I am so glad that she didn’t know she was pregnant and that she chose adoption because we are incredibly blessed to be Claire’s parents.

With respect to the alcohol consumed during pregnancy and lack of prenatal care — by the grace of God, Claire was protected from any fetal alcohol effect. She’s as bright as a star and as cute as a button.  Everybody loves her and she is truly a gem of a kid!  I know this sounds crazy, but I am actually glad that we couldn’t conceive our “own” children, because we would never have received Claire, and Claire was meant for us and we were meant for her.

Claire just celebrated her 12th birthday.  She’s athletic, super smart, and social. She even started babysitting and wearing a little sports bra (she will kill me later if she reads this blog).  How time flies!

I am eternally grateful for her birthmom choosing life for Claire and making that brave choice to make an adoption plan.

And I thank God for his perfect timing and perfect selection. We couldn’t be more happy with the outcome!

Claire bear we love you forever!

Love, mom

PS: Note from Claire: She says hi to all of you.

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