No Regrets Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Nicholas McFadden scaled the six-foot privacy fence with ease. Glock in hand, he surveyed his surroundings and hit the ground running. Stone pavers wrapped around a covered pool in the center of the yard, and benches with built-in flower boxes curved around a fire pit to his left. A pergola arched above the outdoor kitchen. He jumped the two steps of the deck. The only blind spot was to his right.

Backing against the house, he cautiously moved along the wall before stepping out, gun ready to fire. All clear. Returning his weapon to the holster, he felt beneath the planter for the key. Nothing. Had his boss been wrong about the hidden key? Or did Capri get here first?

Nick pulled out his tools to pick the lock. His hands shook. His heart pounded. He tried to insert the metal in the lock and missed. He leaned his head against the glass pane of the French door. Focus, man, focus. It’s only another day on the job.

Taking a deep breath, he calmed the adrenaline rushing through his body. Glancing over his shoulder, he laughed at himself. The short dash across the yard hadn’t caused this. It was the anticipation of seeing her again. From the moment he had heard her name—Brittany Fitzpatrick—his heart had been racing.

Get a grip, McFadden, she’s just a woman. No! Not just any woman. She was his angel. The only one to make him believe in love. Love! Where had that come from? He mentally smacked himself on the back of the head. Love was a word for fools. More like lust at first sight. He smiled. Lust, no doubt about it.

Get your head in the game, McFadden. You won’t be any good to her if you’re dead. Nick glanced around the yard. Nothing like standing here and making himself an easy target for Capri’s goons.

He forced all thoughts of the past out of his mind. In less than a minute, he jimmied the lock and slipped in. Brittany, Brittany, Brittany, why don’t you have an alarm system? You would think the granddaughter of a judge would have more sense.

He pocketed his sunglasses, locked the door, and looked around. Open floorplans made his job so much easier. Other than the closed doors, the kitchen island created the only blind spot between the back and front entrances. Gun drawn, he looked over the countertop. No mystery guest.

He ran his hand down the quartz countertop. Had she made breakfast here? Nick took a deep breath, filling his lungs with the same air she’d inhaled. There was a hint of vanilla and something soft and feminine. Not the same scent he remembered. He rolled his eyes. Had he really thought her house would smell like cocoa butter?

To his right was a small alcove. A cushioned bench curved its way beneath the bay window. A half-empty cup of coffee and a newspaper sat on the table. His eyes lingered on an open Bible. Strange.

Cautiously, he opened each door: pantry, bathroom, and garage. He barely glanced at the baby blue sectional sofa on his way to the front of the house. To the left of the front door was a closet, her study was to the right, and at the back of the room, a single French door led to her art studio. Down the hall was a bathroom between two bedrooms, each with French doors leading to the deck. He paused, hand on the doorknob of what was surely her room. His heart skipped a beat when he entered the master bedroom. One glance at the bed and visions of what almost happened between them flooded his memory. He backed out. Nick leaned against the wall, taking a deep breath, before speaking into the microphone hidden in his watch, “All clear,” he whispered, and hurried to the safety of her study.

“Wish I could say the same,” his partner Miles responded. “A few minutes after she left the Maryland Institute of Art, she picked up a tail.”

“Man, why can’t this ever be easy?”

“We’re about ten minutes away from you.”

“Okay, I’m ready for her.”

“After the rough time you had in Mexico, I’m surprised you took this job.”

“You know me…”

“Right. Always first in line if there’s a pretty woman involved.”

Nick harrumphed. If you only knew.

The sheer curtains in the study gave him a clear view of the street. Nick cursed under his breath.

“What?”

“Capri has his boys sitting a few houses down.”

“You sure?”

“Of course, I’m sure. I’d know Tommy’s old Camaro anywhere, and I bet George is with him. Who does Capri have trailing Brittany?”

“Anthony and Dino.” Miles said a few choice words before continuing, “Guess your pal Vincent figured this would be a quick grab and go. If he’d known you were on the job, he would have sent his A-team, not his goof squad.” Miles chuckled. “Can you imagine what Capri is going to do when he finds out you’ve taken her right out from under his nose?”

“I plan to be long gone before then. Tell me again why I’m here. Wouldn’t it have been easier to pick her up from work?”

“Too many people at MICA. You know full well the Capris have no problem killing innocent bystanders. Plus, Carl and her grandfather think you’ll have more than enough time to allow her to pack a bag…”

“What! Are they crazy?”

“Her normal routine is to go for a run about a half hour after getting home. That’s your window to get her out of there. Any longer and they’ll get tired of waiting and come in after her.”

“Half an hour is more than enough time. She knows I’m here, doesn’t she?”

“Her grandfather is taking care of telling her.”

“Good. I hate surprises.” Nick glanced around the study. Bookshelves lined the wall behind her desk and her artwork hung on the opposite side of the room. A painting of a woman kneeling in prayer with Jesus standing in front of her, His hand on her head, caught Nick’s attention. Had she gotten religious? Two framed photographs sat on her desk. He picked up the family photograph and traced the outline of her face, whispering, “Brittany Fitzpatrick.” It’s time to finish what we started.

“Ever since Carl mentioned her in the briefing, I’ve had the feeling I’ve heard her name before. Do you remember her?”

Ignoring Miles’ question, Nick said, “We’ll be going out the back door. Make sure it’s clear.” Nick muted the microphone. No need to have Miles hear their reunion. He studied the photo. Age had not erased the sweet innocent look that haunted his dream. It had been years since their brief interlude. Ten years and plenty of unfinished business between them.

Beside Brittany stood her cousin, Carissa Hathaway. The two of them made a striking contrast—Carissa the green-eyed blonde, and Brittany the blue-eyed brunette—though their looks weren’t what set them apart. Even in the picture, you could see the difference. The scheming Carissa, and the sweet…

No! He wouldn’t let those innocent blues deceive him again. Brittany had the look of an angel, but he knew firsthand she could be every bit as cunning and conniving as Carissa. He put the photograph down. “This time, sweetheart,” he said, watching her red Mustang pull into the driveway, “I’m prepared for you.”

Was he? Then why was his heart pounding? He turned from the window, no time to wonder; in a few minutes, he would be face to face with his angel. Or his demon.

 

Stepping from her Mustang, Brittany glanced around. Ever since she’d left school, she had an eerie sensation of being watched. Although she hadn’t seen anyone following her, she couldn’t shake the feeling. She palmed the small canister of mace attached to her key ring. Roland Park was a safe neighborhood, but it didn’t hurt to be cautious.

Brittany grabbed her briefcase, purse, and the stack of art folders then hurried up the walk. A gust of cold air blew her long hair into her face and threatened to rip the folders from her hands. Her tights felt frozen to her legs. She should have pulled into the garage. At least it would have protected her from the wind and prying eyes. She scrutinized the few cars parked down the street. Stop being a paranoid baby.

She fumbled with the front door key and heard the inside phone ring. Entering the house, she slammed the door shut with her butt, and quickly locked it. Dropping her briefcase by the door and the folders on the hall table with her keys, she rushed to the telephone.

“Hello,” she said breathlessly. “Hello?” The only answer was a dial tone. She checked caller ID—her grandfather. She would call him back in a few minutes, after her nerves calmed.

What’s wrong with you? She double-checked the lock before hanging her coat in the closet. Peeking out the glass panel beside the door, she glanced up and down the street. Nothing. As she turned from the door, the nape of her neck tingled. Maybe instead of a run, she ought to start grading these art projects. It would be much safer.

Eyeing the mace, she said a silent prayer. Dear Heavenly Father. You’ve taught me to trust my instincts… so if you’re trying to tell me something… now would be a good time!

Picking the mace up along with everything but her purse, she took a deep breath. At the study, she pushed the door open with her foot. A few steps into the room, she heard a movement behind her. Panic spun her around; dropping everything but the mace, she sprayed wildly and lunged for the door which clicked shut behind her.

A man’s arm came down around her, pinning her against him. His other hand grabbed hers as he fought for control of the canister. The spray hit her face. Brittany screamed. Her lungs were on fire. The canister dropped to the floor.

She gasped for breath, tears streaming down her face. She couldn’t open her eyes. Her attacker held both her hands firmly in one of his. There was no escape. Suddenly she was lifted from the floor. Her legs kicked, but it was as if it didn’t even faze him. She barely registered the opening of the study door, and then they were running. Fear like nothing she had ever felt gripped her. Where was he taking her? Please God, not the bedroom!

A quiet voice in her spirit whispered, Be still.

A calm settled over Brittany. God was with her. The attacker released his hold on her hands. As he put her down, she lunged away, hitting something hard, she reached out, feeling for a way out. She was in the bathroom; the door was to her right. Could she escape? His arm came back down around her, pinning her between him and the sink. She heard the faucet, and then felt his hands splashing water into her face. “Keep this up until the burn stops.”

Confusion swirled through her. Why was her abductor being nice?

The man pulled her hair away from her face. “I’m sorry, angel.”

Brittany’s heart constricted, whether from fear or excitement, she couldn’t tell. She recognized that voice. She forced her eyes open. Glancing into the mirror, she couldn’t trust her vision. “Nick?”

He grinned. “Wasn’t sure you would remember me. It’s been a long time.”

“Has it?” She tried to calm her pounding heart.

“Ten years, four months and…”

“You know how long it’s been?” she sputtered in surprise.

Nick winked. “I never forget unfinished business.”

The last time they were together, they had almost… Brittany watched color flush across her cheeks. His body pressed up behind her. She shut her eyes. His closeness made it impossible to think. She tried to move away, but his arms were around her, his hands holding hers.

Nick stepped back. He reached for the soap. “Wash the mace off your hands and face.” He went to the second sink and did the same. “Do you always carry mace inside your house?”

“Why are you in my house?”

“I’m rescuing you.”

Brittany cringed at the sight of her red face and swollen eyes then glanced at Nick’s reflection in the mirror. “Looks like the only person I need rescuing from is you!”

“I’m sorry.” Nick’s hand brushed hers and a spark sped straight to her heart. He jerked his hand away, but his gaze held. Gingerly, he placed his hand on her elbow, guiding her out of the bathroom and back to the study. A few steps from the window, he stopped and pointed. “See that car a few houses down? Inside it are Tommy and George, Vincent Capri’s men.”

Brittany involuntarily touched her shoulder. The bullet Vincent had meant for Nick had hit her instead. She thought after saving Nick, he would have forgiven her, but he hadn’t. “What makes you think I need rescuing from someone sitting in a car?”

“They’re waiting for you to go for your afternoon run. Once you do, they’ll start to follow you, and when you turn the corner there are two others waiting to grab you.” He glanced at his watch. “We only have about twenty minutes before they get restless and come looking for you.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because I know how they think.” He guided her back toward the door, “We have to go, before they get tired of waiting.”

Brittany jerked her arm away. “What do they want with me?”

“Haven’t you been listening to the news?”

She shook her head.

“The Capris were released from prison this morning.”

“Impossible.”

“Well they’re out and the first thing on their agenda is revenge.” Nick looked at Brittany. “They vowed to make your grandfather pay for their heavy sentencing.”

“An idle threat.”

Nick picked up the photograph of her parents from her desk. “Your parents were killed by a family member of someone your father sent to jail, and you talk about idle threats.” Putting the picture back, he continued, “Capri’s men are sitting right outside your door, and unless you want to hang around to see how idle that threat is, I’d advise we get out of here. We’ve wasted too much time already.”

Backing away from him, she said, “How do I know you aren’t with them? You break into my house and attack me.”

“Whoa, you attacked me. I just defended myself.”

“You were hiding behind the door. What did you expect me to do? Turn around and say, ‘Hi Nick, nice to see you’?”

He laughed. “I wasn’t hiding. You opened the door, as I was about to—” He touched her arm, “We need to get out of here.”

She took a step back, hitting the wall. “I’m not going anywhere with you!”

“Why not?”

“The last time I saw you, you were making a drug deal with Vincent Capri and now I’m supposed to believe you just happened into my house to save me from him?”

He pointed to the bulletproof vest with PSA written across the front. “If this isn’t proof enough that I’m with the good guys, then you probably won’t believe this either.” Reaching inside his bomber jacket, he pulled out a leather case. With one easy motion, he flipped it open, and handed her his Private Security Agency’s badge. Brittany studied it front and back. She knew how easy it was to get a fake ID. But a vest?

“Happy?” Nick placed his hands on the wall beside her shoulders. Although he wasn’t touching her, he had her pinned. She could barely breathe. The rich warmth of his expression was straight from her dream. He gently ran a finger down her cheek to her lips. She closed her eyes. This wasn’t the Nick she had fallen in love with.

She smacked his hand away. “Don’t touch me.”

His arm came down on her shoulder. “Time’s a wasting, and we need to go.” He guided her down the hall. “I have orders to let you pack something. I recommend doing it quickly.” Pausing at the door to her bedroom, he added, “I believe this is your room.” His eyes ran the length of her, taking in her sweater dress, tights, and ankle boots. “That dress is very becoming, though you could do without the tights.” A soft smile crossed his lips. “It’s a shame to cover up…” He laughed. “Never mind. Unless you want to climb the fence in your dress, I would advise you change.”

“Why would I be climbing the fence?”

“It’s not like we can walk out the front door now, can we?”

“I’m not undressing with you in the room!”

“That’s not what you said ten years ago.”

“A lot has changed in ten years.” She glared at him. “I’m not the same foolish child.” Someone needed to tell her heart that. It felt like the same foolish heart.

Nick laughed. Sitting on her bed, he nodded toward the bathroom. “Change quickly. We have to go.”

Grabbing her clothes, she entered the bathroom and slammed the door.

“Hope you grabbed something comfy. It’s a long drive to your family’s Colorado estate,” he called out, loud enough for her to hear through the door.

Brittany quickly changed into black yoga pants, a long blue sweater, and white t-shirt. Coming from the bathroom, she asked, “There’s no place safe between here and Colorado?”

She tried not to look at Nick lying on her bed. She had dreamed of this day, prayed for this day, but not like this. In her dream, he swept her off her feet, told her he loved her, and they lived happily ever after.

He checked his watch. “Five minutes to get out of here. I’ll help you pack.” He rose from the bed. “What’s this?” he said, picking up a book from her nightstand. Brittany bolted across the room, grabbing for it. Nick laughed and held it over her head. “Hot book, huh? Let’s see.” He opened it at the bookmark and his mouth fell open. He scooped up the photo booth pictures taken the last day they had been together. “You still have these?”

“Obviously.” She tried to grab them.

He held the photos over his head. “Any reason why you use them as your bookmark?”

“No!” How could she tell him in every book she read, her hero had his face? Not that she needed the pictures to remember what he looked like; the vision of him was branded forever into her heart.

“Interesting.” Putting the photo strip into his jacket’s inner pocket, he said, “We’ll finish this later.” Looking at his watch, he added, “Get your overnight bag. Now.” The house phone rang. “Don’t you have a cell phone?”

She started toward the ringing. “Of course I do, but I forgot to turn it back on when I left school. It’s probably my grandfather again.”

“You can call him from the car.” Nick rolled his eyes. “He was just going to tell you about me.” He rushed her out of the room and back into the study. A quick look out the window confirmed Capri’s henchmen were still waiting. “Ironic, isn’t it? Every time we meet, Vincent Capri is involved. Just think if you hadn’t blown my bust…”

“So, you haven’t forgotten?”

“Forgotten! I almost had him red-handed, until you showed up.”

Brittany put her hands on her hips. “How was I to know you weren’t a lifeguard, but a D.E.A. agent?”

“What were you doing there anyway?”

“Instead of condemning me, you should be thankful. If not for me, you’d be dead.” Brittany backed out of the study.

Nick punched the air. “Idiot.”

“What!”

Nick pointed to his earpiece. Unmuting his microphone, Nick grabbed Brittany by the hand. “Let’s go.”

Brittany reached for her purse just as the front door shattered. Nick spun, pulling her behind him.

“McFad—”

Nick fired. The gunman fell backward, blood spattering everywhere.

Brittany threw her hands over her mouth, trying not to scream. Her purse fell to the floor. Nick’s arm wrapped around her waist, half lifting her, and made a dash to the kitchen. “Get behind the island as fast as you can.” They were almost there when the back door flew open. Nick shoved her behind the island and started firing.

Brittany cowered in fear. Please God, help us.

She jumped when Nick touched her arm. “Let’s go, sweetheart.”

“Is it over?”

“No, this is just the beginning.” Nick paused at the back door. “Miles, where are you?”

“Chasing after Anthony. Not sure where Dino is.”

Warily, Nick checked the backyard before taking Brittany by the hand and leading her from the house. Brittany froze as they started down the steps, panic rising at the sight of another dead man. She wanted to scream, but nothing came out.

“Brittany, look at me. Look at me.” He lifted her face. “Don’t look at him.” He wrapped his arm around her, shielding her from the body. Pushing her in front of himself, he said. “Run for the fence.”

She took off, Nick right on her heels. Before he could boost her over the fence, someone yelled, “Look out!”

Nick pushed her to the ground. She watched in horror as the man fired and another man fell through the covered pool. Nick gave the man a quick nod of thanks and she saw him raise three fingers. Were there more?

He helped her up and over the fence. No sooner had he cleared it, than another shot rang out. Nick threw his arm around Brittany, his body sheltering her as they hid behind a woodpile. Crouching in fear, Brittany never stopped praying. Somewhere above the pounding of her heart, she heard the faint sound of a siren. Thank you, God, for sending help.

“Let’s go before Vincent calls in reinforcements.”

Brittany tried to calm the hysteric sobs in her throat. “The police are coming. We’ll be safe now.”

“You’re safer with me.”

“Am I?”

“No time to argue.” Nick grabbed her hand and started to run. She stumbled. “Need me to carry you?”

She shook her head. Not missing a stride, he wrapped his arm around her waist. She had no choice but to run with him.

“The car is just beyond this yard.” He gave her a reassuring squeeze. “You’ll be safe then.”

She stared at the gun in his hand. Fear swirled through her. Please God, protect us from all harm.


Hello God, Can You Hear Me?

 

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Introduction to Hello God, Can You Hear Me?

With billons of voices calling out to God, how is it conceivable He can hear me? I don’t know how, but I know He does.

When I was twenty-eight-years old, I was involved in a car accident. The woman who hit me was in a hurry to get her brakes fixed. As she sped down the windy country road, she couldn’t see that around the curve there were three stopped cars. She plowed into me with such force the backseat slammed into my back. I was in the car alone, and yet I felt a hand on my chest preventing me from flying through the windshield (this was before seatbelts were required). For the next five years I was unable to work. Pain became my closest friend.

At the time, I was a single mom. Suddenly, I was not only unable to work, but also in unimaginable pain. Belonging to a good church is truly a blessing from God. The women of Reisterstown Bible Church cleaned my house, did our laundry, and fixed our dinner. The men picked my son up for church and took him on outings so he wasn’t stranded with me.

The accident happened in October. November was a hard month, but the bills were paid. Then comes December. There was no money for bills or food, much less Christmas presents. A month before the accident, I had a Christmas Around the World party and sold so much I was able to get everyone on my Christmas list a present, including a bike for my son, for free. My sister, Sharon, and brother-in-law showed up with a Christmas tree. I was short one hundred dollars for rent. A Christmas card arrived from a friend’s father with one hundred dollars in it. God was truly taking care of everything.

Of all the amazing things that happened during that time, there is one miracle that stands out more than anything else. I was out of bread and milk and had no way of getting it. I was trying to figure out what I would give Ben for breakfast or put in his lunch for school, when someone knocked on the door. My friend Marge Streicker stood there with bread and milk. She actually apologized for not being able to do more. Until the day I die, I will always see her as the angel who bought me bread and milk. Her simple act of kindness showed me that God really does hear my voice in the billions of voices crying out for Him.

 

Holes in the Heart

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Like storm clouds rolling in the loss of a loved one whether through death or simply someone walking away, leaves us feeling like there is a hole in our heart.  It is so easy to allow the dark clouds to take control, but once that happens, fighting your way out of the darkness begins to feels like an impossible journey.

The first time I felt the toil of death I was six years old. The sense of sadness I felt when my Mother told me my Great-Grandfather died is something I remember to this day. I knew I was never going to see Big Papa ever again. I’ll never forget when I would run by him on the porch and he would grab me with his cane pulling me in for a big hug. Little did I realize at the time with each hug he was planting tiny seeds of joy in my heart. It’s been over fifty years and still thoughts of him fills me with love.

The second hole in my heart came when I was eighteen, my cousin, who was also eighteen, died. I can still hear my screams as I sunk to the floor sobbing my heart out.  Allen and I were part of the infamous six, the six oldest cousins, whose adventures are still talked about by the younger cousins today.  One of my fondest memories was when he was visiting for a week.  Now Allen was a city boy, and we were the country cousins.  One night my youngest brother and I had gone to the animal auction, with my fiancée.  We came home with a calf, a pig and some rabbits, which by the way, we put at Allen’s feet in the living room, you should have seen the look on his face.  When my fiancée started back out the door Allen jumped up dodging animals he ran to the door half laughing half afraid of the answer, “what’s next a horse?”  “No,” we said, “eggs.” We laughed so hard tears ran down our faces.

Through the years there have been many holes left in my heart some by death but some just from goodbyes.   When my first husband left our son and I, it was devastating, so much so that for the next four years I was in a very dark place.  I was so angry with God that I wanted nothing to do with Him.  My saving grace was my son Ben who, from the moment of his birth, has bought joy to my life.  I would do it all again just to have my son.

My dear Aunt Kitty, oh how I loved her.  She would come to visit, and it didn’t matter how many kids were spending the night she always let us crawl in bed with her and cuddle.  Even with more than ten kids in the bed she never complained.  She had plenty of love to go around.  And boy could she tell a story.  It didn’t matter how many times she told the same story each time was just as funny as the first time.  I miss her dearly.

Fifteen years ago, my husband kissed me goodbye, said I love you, went to work like he did everyday only this time he didn’t came back.  A massive heart attack claimed him in an instant.  His death sent me wheeling back into a dark place.  Once again, God had blessed with me my saving graces, Sarah and Luke, my shining stars, oh how blessed I am.  When I think of him, I just look at my two wonderful children and thank him for the love he gave me.  When I married Jerry, Ben was ten, he took Ben as his own, giving him the love of a father, and never treated him any different than he did his own flesh and blood.  Family was so important to him.  He honestly thought we were the Cleavers, living the perfect life.  The hole his death left in my heart felt like a crater.

My dear beloved Dad, I miss him so much.  In all my life I have never met a more compassionate loving man as my Dad.  When he said he loved you he meant it for life, no matter what you did to him he loved you unconditionally.  After almost thirty years of marriage, my parents divorced.  My mother remarried, my Dad never did, he loved her to his last breath.  When my stepfather got sick, my father took him and my mother to all their doctor’s appointments.  He would put my stepfather in a wheelchair and wheel him all over the VA hospital, because it was too much for my mother. He was the man who would give you the shirt off his back or his last piece of bread; he figured you needed it more than he did.   No matter what was going on he was always there for us, I would call him crying about something and his words of wisdom were “Everything will be OK.”  It always was.  He always carried mint lifesavers with him, because he said they cured anything that ailed you. If I love half the way my Dad did, then those in my life are truly blessed.  He never thought material things were important, family and friends were his treasures.  His legacy of love is beyond priceless.

I was blessed to have two wonderful stepfathers, Chris and Dewey.  My mother found not one but two men who had no children of their own, but willingly and lovingly accepted my mother’s family with open arms.  Now that is no small feat; my parents had five children, thirteen grandchildren and twelve great-grandkids.  To know both men were to love them, I miss them both.

May 2, death took my cousin Eddie, he was one of the infamous six.  Eddie always had a smile on his face even in the face of cancer.  Even though I rarely saw him once we grew up, when I did see him the bond we shared was still there.  I will miss him dearly.  But the love I feel for him will never die and when we get to heaven he will be waiting with that same happy smile.

On May 21, my mother, sat down on the sofa and went to sleep, never to wake again.  What can you say about a mothers love, that you don’t already know?  For me it was gingerbread on cold winter days, hugs, kisses, and her unfailing love.  Every Christmas we would all bake cookies, those wonderful cut out cookies.  Boy did she have patience.  As teenagers she always allowed us to have parties, she always made sure there were snacks and drinks, moved the record player into the dining room, moved the furniture around so we had plenty of room to dance.  But the thing she did that will always stand out to me was, she would make my sister and I a new pair of bell bottom pants for the party; we never had to wear the same outfit twice.  Let me tell you she made us some wild looking pants.  We were thrilled.  As a grandmother, she never said no to babysitting, it didn’t matter if she was already babysitting for someone else she would say bring them over.  Every Christmas she continued the cookie tradition with all thirteen grandkids they would go to her house for a night of baking cut out cookies.  I made the mistake of one year offering to help her.  A migraine later, I told her she was crazy, she laughed and said it was fun.  I never made the mistake of offering to help again; instead I dropped my kids off and snuck out the door.

The last few weeks have been rough, I feel like the black clouds of doom have covered me and I can’t get out.  I find myself apologizing over and over again for being negative.  The trouble with being negative is once you let it in, it takes over.  I know that the only way to rid yourself of negative thoughts is with positive thoughts, but for two weeks I felt like I was on the losing end of this battle.  Losing my mother has reopened the loss of my dad, a hole I have avoided for years. Thinking of him, I can hear his voice saying “Everything is going to be ok.”  I want to scream “no it’s not.”  But I knew my Dad would just say “Yes it will.”  Slowly as I started thinking of my parents, the holes in my heart started to fill with love.  I could hear my Dad saying “love you girl.”

Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends have all touched my life and left, leaving holes in my heart. They are gone, but their love is not.  As I think of Big Papa

I realize the hole in my heart does not hurt; instead the love he gave me for that brief time fills the hole with so much love, like a rose blooming in spring.  If I can still feel the love of my Great-grandfather fifty four years later, how much more will I feel the love of my parents who year after year poured out their love to me.  Those holes they left in my heart are not empty; they are filled with loving memories.  It’s a wonderful legacy to leave someone a heart filled with love.  How awesome is it that throughout their lives they were leaving deposits of love to be cashed in whenever the hole starts to appear.  Each hole is no longer dark, growing inside is a beautiful rose planted by them to grown and replace the hole in my heart.

As I go though this life, the best I can hope to do is plant tiny seeds of love along the way.  And when I am gone, those seed will blossom into a beautiful rose in your heart dimming the ache you feel.  So today, tomorrow and every day after I will do my best to fill your life with tiny seeds of love. To all my family, friends and everyone reading this, I give you this rose to fill a hole in your heart.  You are loved.

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Defeat Depression With God’s Love

Everything is great. Your life seems to be on the right track than like a lurking monster you are broadsided by depression.  Sounds of laughter are replaced with thoughts of suicide. Friends are replaced by loneliness. All you want to do is crawl up into a little ball and die; you struggle with reasons to live.  Feelings like those around you would be better off without you fill your every thought.  That is just where Satan wants you to be.  He wants you to be defeated; he wants to stop you from achieving greatness.

John 10:10 – The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: (KJV) Depression is a tool used by Satan to stop you from completing your life’s purpose.  What better way to throw someone off track than to turn off the lights.  You must be destined for something great; otherwise, the devil would have no time for you.  Think about it, why would he bother with you if you were not a threat to him.  If you really were worthless, if no one really cared about you, if there was no reason to live, why would Satan torment you?  You would be no danger to him.  He would just let you go on your uneventful way.  But none of that is true.  You are worthwhile. You are loved. You have a purpose in life. And what a great one it must be to have Satan trying to torment you into defeat.  Stand up to him, call on the name of Jesus.  Fight the darkness with light.  He cannot put out the light of God no matter how hard he tries.  You are strong, you are worthy of happiness, you are destined for greatness.

Do not think you are weak for falling into the snare of depression. Do not think that God thinks less of you.  He loves you and is standing beside you just as He did for Elijah, David, and Job. They were great men of God. They all had seen first-hand the miracles of God, and yet they fell victim to depression.  Why?  Because Satan wanted to stop them and the best way to do so was to prey on their human emotions.  Can you defeat the demons? Yes! Can you do it alone? No! Call out to God ask Him to send the Holy Spirit to guide you back into the light.  Pray to be surrounded by positive people. Pray as if your life depended on it.  God has chosen you for life.  John 10:10 – I am come that they might have life, and that they might have [it] more abundantly.(KJV)

Your life has meaning. God never would have created you if it wasn’t true.  In your darkest hour God is there for you just like he was there for Elijah, David and Job.  You are loved beyond words.  Pray for the darkness of depression to be touched by the hand of God.  He is mightier than any enemy and is longing to guide you into the life He planned for you.

 symphonysky

Jewelweed the Miracle weed

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Seeing pictures of Adam and Eve naked in the garden my first thought is they obviously were not allergic to poison ivy. For those of us who are poison magnets we know we can’t even go outside without long sleeves on, much less be naked. Since poison is evil, and before sin there was no evil, I am safe to say there was no poison in the Garden of Eden.  Poison is just another reason to groan, Eve why did you eat that apple?

Growing up I wasn’t much for playing outside. All I had to do was walk out the door and the poison ivy and oak plants would perk up.  I could almost see those little devils rubbing their leaves together; laughing here she comes let’s get her.   I truly believe they must have had darts aimed right at me, because as much as I looked out for it, I always seemed to get it.  Taking the shortcut through the woods to a friend’s house meant a week of recovering from the wickedness of poison ivy.  The joy of running barefoot though the grass was followed by a week of itching misery.  Every year I would miss at least one week of school due to one if not all of the poison.  I would get it so bad I couldn’t see, much less hold a pencil.  Life outside was not fun.  I cannot begin to count the times I cried or hid in my room, due to poison ivy and oak.

Poison sumac is in a class all by itself and wickedness does not even come close to describing the effects it has on the body.  Sumac hurts from the inside out, and even prescription medicine doesn’t help. Two weeks of agony is what you get with or without medicine. How many times have I asked God why poison? Why me?  Why oh why hasn’t modern medicine come up with a cure?

Little did I know that the cure was right in front of me.  Growing beside the poison is a wonderful plant called jewelweed.  God as always supplied the need.  “And my God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:19 (American Standard Version).  When evil comes upon us, God will always provide a way out.  Had I known that precious weed was a miracle cure I wouldn’t have mowed it down year after year.  Thankfully, God has patience with me and knew that eventually I would discover His wonderful gift so He allowed it to grow back year after year. So when you visit me and the driveway is lined with what you think is weeds, know that beautiful weed is a gift from God.

And what a gift it is. Jewelweed not only stops the pain, but also prevents you from getting it.  If you think you might have been exposed to poison just pull some jewelweed up break the stem and rub the area with it.  You won’t get poison.  If you already have poison, cut the pieces up and cook them until the water is orange.  Let it cool then apply to the area, it will relieve the itching and promote faster healing.  The left over liquid can be frozen in an ice cube tray for later use. The cold jewelweed cubes will sooth your skin. Or you can drink it like a tea, I have not tried drinking it yet.  The coward inside of me hasn’t gotten the courage to do so, but I’m told it works wonders from the inside out.  You can also make it into a soap, which I have done.  You can find me selling my little gift from God at local craft shows.

The most amazing thing to me is how God can use a simple weed to bring relief to an itchy achy miserable body.  Can you imagine how much more He can do to a spirit looking for relief.  No matter what evil may have formed against you, know this that God has a plan in place to see you through it “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” Isaiah 54:17 (KJV)

Good and evil live side by side just like the jewelweed and the poison.   Like unseen poison sin can creep up on us marring our souls with festering sores.  The soul that aches feels defeated, but that is not how God wants us to live. Like poison to the skin so is sin to the soul.  God has sent a cure His name is Jesus and He longs for us to be whole, to be joyful. Call out to God, ask Him to open not only your eyes but also your heart to the wonders He has bestowed upon you allow the relief of an aching soul to be healed by the miracle of God. The answer may very well be staying right beside you.

 

Perception

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Perception

Life is all about how you perceive things.  Take a dandelion; is it a weed or a flower?  Some will shout out it is a weed, while others see a burst of sunshine, sent to brighten your day, and will call it a flower.   I for one believe it is a flower.  When I was a little girl, I loved picking dandelions.  They never lasted long but there was great joy in handing my bouquet of love to my Mother.  Maybe it was because I could pick as many as I wanted and never was yelled at for picking them all.  After the delightful ball of angels replaced the flower, I remember how much fun it was to blow the little angels all around, knowing that where they landed another dandelion would miraculously appear. Aww the sheer delight when a patch of dandelions were discovered, as if they had made their own special garden in the middle of nowhere.   The wonders of childhood, how easy it was to see the beauty and not the weed, to embrace the world with such openness.   How sad it is our perception becomes clouded as we grow older.

 

If only I could have kept the perception of a child, not only for flowers but also of a world filled with love.  When singing “Jesus Loves Me”* filled my heart with joy. When there was no doubt the words were true, after all the Bible told me so.  I stood up and sang the words straight from my heart every word sung with conviction and belief.  I didn’t try to figure out why Jesus loved me, He just did.  The simple faith of a child is the true example of unconditional faith.  Somewhere along the road that simple faith became complicated.  My perception changed. My heart says Jesus loves me, but my brain says how is that possible?  He has seen my sins. He knows my thoughts. He has seen every time I slip back into the tidal wave of defeat.  How is it possible that Jesus loves me?

After all, He knows the thoughts swirling through my mind on my two hour drive from work.  Like the thoughts I have for that driver up ahead, who refused to let me in, just so they could be one car ahead.  As I glanced out my window my heart is full with delight, for there alongside the road in the middle of DC is a beautiful patch of dandelions.   A tiny burst of sunshine, sent to brighten the ride home.   Once again my heart is filled with the feeling of being loved.  “Jesus loves me still today, Walking with me on my way, Wanting as a friend to give Light and love to all who live.”*

Yes, Jesus loves me; He showers me with gifts every day; my children, grandchildren, friends and family, a magnificent sunrise and sunset, flowers and birds.  My job and yes even that four-hour round trip drive each day to work and back.  The whole truth of Jesus’ love is, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.(Romans 5:8 NIV)” He knew before He got on that cross, that I was a sinner, that I would have doubts about my unworthiness.  Yet His word tells me over and over that His love is unconditional.  His love will never change; it’s my perception that clouds the way.  The perception of looking at love through my eyes and not the eyes of the Lord.  So, with the simple faith of a child and the knowledge of an adult I will embrace the love that is freely given to all who except it, the undying love of Jesus.  With that love comes freedom, for What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 NIV).

I pray that you too will embrace the love of Jesus with the heart of a child.

http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Jesus_Loves_Me/

Jesus Loves Me  Bill & Gloria Gaither

Lordstrom

Lordstrom

For most of my life, I have struggled with negativity.  After my husband died, negativity became my closest friend.  That all changed one dreary morning when God handed me a gift on the rays of the rising sun. The soft golden colors brought comfort to my aching soul. From that moment nature has been my strength.  Though I face my problems with a positive outlook, I often find myself slipping back into negativity when it comes to thoughts about myself, or my past.

I never thought that I was a prisoner of my past or that I was being held captive by negativity, until I took Beth Moore’s Breaking Free* bible study.  According to Beth, “A Christian is held captive by anything that hinders the abundant and effective Spirit-filled life God planned for her.”  Wow, what a powerful statement, one that shone a light on my bondage to my past hurts.   Last night while watching Beth Moore’s video she started talking about this wonderful store called Lordstrom.  Where everything you need is there for the taking and it is free, you just need to ask for it.  On the way home I started thinking how wonderful it would be if there really was a place called Lordstrom.  A place where I could walk in and ask the Lord for whatever I might need and He just handed it to me.   If there was a place like that, why haven’t I ever gone there?

Maybe because I have been spending way too much time at the devilmart, next door.  Other than the bright neon sign flashing welcome, there is nothing nice about the devilmart .  When I open the door, the smell of yesterday’s sins, decaying memories, and rotting negativity hit me in the face.   I reach for the railing and descend the dark staircase.  Not a place I care to spend time in, nevertheless, I do.  I know my way around so well I don’t need much light to find my way.  There stored on the sagging shelves are every sin, every negative thought, everything bad that has ever happened either to me or by me. I go to the “stupid shelf”, and reach for the first time anyone called me that.  It was the first day of first grade.  The teacher asked who was eating lunch.  I raised my hand, she asked for the money, I said, “I don’t have money, I’m going home for lunch”.  She informed me that I was only to raise my hand if I was staying at school and buying lunch from them.  The little boy next to me leans over and whispers, “You are stupid.”  It would not be the last time I was called stupid, this shelf overflows to the floor.  There are other shelves filled with hate, disappointment, anger, resentment…  Behind the shelf I hear a voice “pick another,” followed by an evil laugh that echo’s throughout the room. The voice fills me with fright.  I look for the door; I need to escape.  How can I? After all this is who I am.  I shiver as hopelessness fills me.

I hear another voice, this one fills me with warmth, this isn’t who you are. Follow Me.  I follow the voice out into the sunlight, there before me is a beautiful building, more like a palace than a store.  The windows glisten in the sunlight, flowers line the sidewalk made of gold, the door opens, and I enter Lordstrom.  There are shelves filled with gems of every kind, a river flows from the bottom of a cross and curves its way throughout the store, the water bubbles to overflowing, wetting the golden floor.  There is a garden filled with beautiful flowers, a bench sits by the river, my childhood Bible is opened on the bench. A cardinal flies by and a butterfly lands on my shoulder. What is the meaning of all this?

This is who you are my child. The river is every ounce of love that has ever touched your life, starting with My love.  The garden is your place of refuge, the bench where you can rest. The Bible so you can hear My voice. The gems are every good thing you have or will encounter. That room in there is filled with every person who has touched your life in a positive way.

Cautiously I enter the room; it was overflowing with family, friends even people I didn’t know.  I look at the faces some I am not surprised to see, others I wonder about, like the little boy from first grade.  Why is he here?

You have forgotten he also whispered you are pretty.

As I look at the faces, I start to remember all the wonderful moments I have shared with each of them. I am filled with such awe.  The only other time I have felt so much love was the day I accepted Jesus as my savior.  I was eight years old, sitting in the second pew from the front with when suddenly my heart was filled with an overwhelming sense of warmth and love so intense I was unable to remain in my seat; powered by the love of the Lord I walked the aisle to salvation.  Today standing on the floors of gold I once again am filled with that same love a love I have shoved to the corners of my heart.

I am filled with amazement at the wonders Lordstrom’s holds, a room brimming with blessings, a room full of angels who fight my unseen battles, a room filled with hope. The most wonderous thing is that standing in the center is my Lord and Savior Jesus, waiting to answer my needs; I just need to ask.  At the door of one room is a crystal bowl filled with mustard seeds.  I picked one up.  “What is the meaning of all of these?”

Each one of those are from a time when that is all the faith you had, and I answered your call of faith. 

I grabbed a handful, my heart filled with thankfulness.  This place is amazing why have I never known of this place.

Because you have chosen to dwell in darkness, to believe the lies of the evil one.  Look around this is who you are.  Everything you need is right here for the asking. When the evil one threatens you with thoughts from the past, reach out for Me, resist the darkness “Then your light will shine like the sunrise; your restoration will quickly arrive; your godly behavior will go before you, and the Lord’s splendor will be your rear guard.” Isaiah 58:8

I glance at the mustard seed so tiny in my hand I quickly rush from Lordstrom back to the door to the devilmart.  With a smile, I place the tiny seed into the lock of the door.  Lord, I don’t want to ever enter this place again, part of me believes I can do it, and yet there is still a part that is unsure.  I have so long dwelled in darkness that I know this will be hard to fight.  But I have the faith of a mustard seed so I know that with you I can defeat the darkness and live in freedom and light.  Thank you God for growing this mustard seed into a tree blocking my entrance into darkness.  I am ready to embrace the freedom that love brings.

This morning I woke with a heart filled with joy.  Happy memories flood my brain.  It is amazing how remembering good memories can erase the hurt from the past. For every hurt there are a dozen loving moments, it is those I choose to embrace.  No longer is the negativity of the past controlling how I feel.  Jesus loves me, God forgives me, and the Holy Spirit is here to guide me into peace, as I forgive those who have hurt me.  With forgiveness comes freedom with freedom comes love.

I thank God and Beth Moore for guiding me to Lordstrom and I pray that I too will be able to guide you into your own Lordstrom.  A place within your heart where you can sit and talk to Jesus, a place of freedom from past hurts and sins, a place where all your needs are met with abundant love.  All you need to do is open your heart and walk in.

Beth Moore Breaking Free