The Day the Drycleaners Held my Clothes Hostage and My claws Came Out

AmberOBrien"

It all started innocently enough. My husband was out of town, so I took over the dry cleaning for him as this normally was something he took care of. We had been using this dry cleaner for over 20 years which is owned and operated by an Asian couple who still struggled with English but have faithfully worked to run their own business year after year.

The female store owner recognized me but she didn’t seem interested in small talk. “Phone number? ” She demanded in broken English.

I gave her my husband’s cell. She seemed irritated when it didn’t work.  Next, I next gave her my cell. It didn’t work either. I then gave her our old home number that we don’t use anymore.

I just wanted to drop off the clothes. I gave her my husband’s cell again.

Then she started to ask me something that I couldn’t make out. She seemed offended that I didn’t understand her and as her frustrated rose  she walked away from the counter. When she came back, I asked if I could pick it all up by Saturday (3 days later) as we both were going out of town on Monday. (I didn’t realize how early at the time) This is the first time I’ve ever asked for a specific day, but I needed the dresses for the convention.

“can’t do that “, she said stubbornly.

“Ok” I said bowing down…” How about early Monday?”

She said 8am. Problem averted I thought. I’ll just pick up the clothes early Monday even though they are closed on Sunday and the clothes would most likely be done on Saturday. It’s fine, I thought. She must have been having a bad day.

Chatting with my husband later that day, he informed me that we were leaving early (like 7am early on Monday).

“No!”  I thought. I need to go back and face this bitter, unhappy women?  I need to ask her for a favor? I started to make a game plan as I drove over. I would ask her nicely after I give her the old phone number that she still has in her computer. I would apologize and take blame for not knowing what number was in her system. And if she wasn’t able to help me? I would ask for the clothes back and have them cleaned at our hotel.

“Hello”, I smiled as I walked in.

“clothes are not ready” she barked out without a smile.

“I know” I said still smiling “I found out from my husband the number you have in your computer . I’m so sorry as it is a 20 year old number.” She put it in as I waited to ask her for my request.

“So I just realized that we are leaving at 7 am on Monday morning. I was wondering if I could please pick up the clothes on Saturday?”

“No..can’t do that”

“Then can I have my clothes back?” I countered.

“No…they all mixed up back there…I no can find them”.

I tried to remain calm but part of me was thinking of calling for backup. Like 911 backup. I could feel the tension rise as my face felt flush and the claws in my hands started coming out.

“Can’t you use the numbers on the receipt to find them?   I inquired. “Those are my property”.

We were at a standstill. My clothes were now held hostage and like two cowboys in a western film we both had our hands on our weapons. And so  I tried a different tactic.

“20 years”.  I said with pleading eyes and a questioning voice.

She just looked at me …we both had our paws out, claws ready.

So I then tried my last resort plan.  I made a threat.  “If you don’t help me, my husband won’t come here anymore.”

She agreed that I could pick them up at 5 pm.

“Not one minute earlier”  she said.

And then she gave an explanation of her frustration in rapid execution, but I could only make out the phrase, “it is smelly back there.” ..then she turned around and with her back to me she put up her right hand in a “never mind you wouldn’t understand” wave.

“You both work very hard,” I said…she didn’t turn around.

Driving  away my heart grew increasingly sad and heavy. I would receive the clothes earlier and I didn’t need to call the police; but I started to put myself in her shoes and the Holy Spirit began to convict me.

Continue reading “The Day the Drycleaners Held my Clothes Hostage and My claws Came Out”

Man….does Jesus love us women. #2 Woman caught in Adultery

AmberOBrien"

IMG_8191MA31590921-0002#2    The Women who met Mercy (The Women caught in adultery)

Hi Sweet Sister….so glad you could join our discussion as we study another dramatic interaction of Jesus and a woman.

Exposed. She stood alone after being ripped from a bed of passion and placed in front of a crowd of judgmental religious leaders.  She was a pawn used to bring down the meek prophet Jesus.   Imagine yourself in her place as she stands confused, embarrassed, humiliated and scared to death.  Her heart must have raced as her adrenaline rose causing her to seek to “fight or flight”.   However,  she was as trapped as the man Jesus who was writing in the sand.

This unnamed woman did not seek Jesus out as did contemplative Mary (Woman #1) who sat at Jesus’ feet.  She was caught committing Adultery and thrown into a group of religious leaders who were jealous of Jesus and trying to put him into a “no win” position.  Let us study another way that:

Man…………………………..does Jesus love His women. 

Let’s start at the beginning in the Gospel of John chapter 8: 1-11.

  1. Where did Jesus go the night before this dramatic interaction? What do you think Jesus was doing there?

He left his disciples to be alone. Perhaps he was praying for wisdom as to the next days’ events? Spending time with His Father God as Mary modeled for us in Chapter 1?

2. Where is the “Man” caught in Adultery? Does the law require the man to be stoned as well?

Read Deuteronomy 22:22-24. Since these leaders and Elders asked for Stoning it appears this woman was a betrothed virgin.  So the man should have also been stoned.  It is a mystery as to where he was during this confrontation. He certainly was not defending her.

She stands abandoned, betrayed and alone.  But is she alone? Are we ever alone as daughters of the King? Have you ever felt accused by others? Attacked and misunderstood?  Write down what happened and how you felt.

  1. What women in the New Testament (she is related to Jesus) could have been stoned?

Yes…his own mother….Mary could have been stoned…should have been stoned (according to the law)  if Joseph choose to expose her in the same way.

Since the woman (Mary) was pregnant the child would have died as well.

How would this world be different if Jesus had died in Mary’s womb?  How would you and your world be different?

Meditate on this awhile.

God intervened with Angels (messengers from God) to save Mary and the son of God.

Who would intervene for this women….?   

  1. What was Jesus writing in the sand?

A. Names ? Read  Jeremiah 17:13  Some scholars believe that he was writing names in the sand….

A medieval tradition was the latin, “ Terra Terra Accusta” which means the earth accuses earth.“Those that turn from the Lord will be written in the dust, because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of Living water.”

What is the opposite of being written in the dust?

Exodus 32:32 Moses begs the Lord the Lord to forgive the Isrealites or blot his name from the Book of Life.  The Lord Replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.  In Psalms this is referred to the Book of Life. In Psalm 69: 28 David sings about his enemies and asks, “ May they be blotted out of the book of Life and not be listed with the righteous.”

B. The 10 commandments?

Some scholars believe he may have been writing out the sins of the elders or perhaps the 10 commandments.  Exodus 31: 18  “When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.”

Perhaps Jesus wrote with his finger the commandment,  Thou Shalt not Kill. Weren’t they all guilty of this command?

In the book of Luke verse 20 Jesus states “But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.”

What a powerful symbol for the religious leaders to see him writing in the sand. Quietly, the leaders are reminded that the 10 commandments were written by the finger of God. Now, Jesus is writing out commands.

Could he be writing out the two commandments that all the law and prophets hang on? Matthew 22:37

Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  Love your neighbor as your self

Were they being loving toward this woman? toward Jesus?

Do you think they realized that the Kingdom of God was upon them?

If Jesus is God made flesh, than is not Jesus the finger of God?

C. Comfort for the frightened woman?

One of the sweet sisters thought perhaps that Jesus was writing out something to comfort the woman.  This certainly would align with the kindness and love shown the woman after they all leave.

Perhaps he wrote words similar to those found in Isiah 41:10

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, yes, I will uphold you with my Righteous right hand”.

To counteract the words of her accusers:…..”adultery” “sinner” “harlot” “condemned” etc.

5.  What  do you think Jesus might have written?  _______, __________,________________.

Jesus states, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

Why do you think they all walked away?  Why the elders first?

Who is the only one who is without sin? The only one who can forgive sins?

________________________________________

So this passage does not tell us what the woman physically did immediately after her accusers left…….

6. What do you think she must have done if Jesus forgave her and said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, from now on do not sin any more.”?

Sweet sister….I imagine her falling to her knees in relief and gratitude.  Kissing the feet of Jesus and thanking Him for defending her. I believe she repented and decided to turn to Jesus and turn away from sin.

Read Psalm 51….such a beautiful and powerful song of Repentance.

Read slowly over verses 18-19

“For you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept. My sacrifice is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart.”

Do you need to turn from a sinful choice and turn toward Jesus? Are you “all in” or are you still sitting on the fence? What do you need to leave behind that is preventing you from following even closer to Jesus and his holiness?   Will your name be written in the dust as one who turns away from the Lord or will your name be written in the book of Life as one who turns toward the Lord.

He waits patiently for you and I to offer our broken, humbled hearts at his feet.

 

Man………………………….does Jesus love us women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Wake Up Call

AmberOBrien"

Four years had passed since I’d last seen Annie and her daughter, and as she approached me, my heart froze, halting between joy and trepidation. Children’s laughter filled the air during the annual family carnival hosted by my preschool, but all I could focus on in those few moments was my last interaction with Annie. I was overjoyed to see her, yet I feared our reconnection might be marred by the fact that I had fired her years ago. Was she angry with me? Was she here to confront me about what had happened? How much had changed in the time since I’d last seen her?

Annie had worked in the infant room of my preschool. Not only did she lovingly care for each infant in her classroom, but she cared for her room as a whole. She loved a clean classroom and the order it provided; she meticulously cleaned each item and table, and continuously tidied up to keep the room spotless. Her daughter, Jenna, thrived in the preschool, as well. Jenna’s father had died in a car crash soon after she was born, leaving Annie a young, single mom. We joked how Jenna was Annie’s “Mini-Me” as they looked so much alike. She was a diligent and determined young woman who took great pride in her work and I was glad to have her as an employee.

After a year of teaching in the infant room, Annie was faced with another tragedy. Her best friend suddenly died of an aneurysm and her world spun out of control. Her focus shifted from her classroom as she processed this new grief on top of her older grief. Instead of working through her grief, Annie put her efforts into attempting to numb the pain. Noticing she was struggling, I invited her into my office and tried to encourage her to join a grief group, but she was not yet ready to face her grief head on. She was trying to outrun her pain, and it was wearing on her. She increasingly called out of work, and on the days she did show up her co- teacher ended up doing most of the classroom duties. My heart ached for her, but as the owner of the preschool, my main responsibility had to remain the children, and providing them with the best care possible. I was torn. I had compassion for Annie and her situation, but I also had compassion for the children in her care and her co-teacher. I wrote her name in my prayer journal and prayed for her each morning. I hoped and prayed that she would find healing some way. That she would learn healthy ways to handle her grief. That her weariness would lift. That she would return to us, the focused, caring, diligent teacher we all knew and loved.

Then, another teacher reported Annie had nodded off during the children’s nap time. This is a major violation of my school’s policy. My director brought her into my office to discuss our concern. On a Thursday afternoon, I told her that she needed to make some changes in her personal life and to take Friday off and come back in Monday with a fresh start. I also had to inform her that if it happened again I would need to fire her.

She came back in Monday, and I was hopeful that she had made some positive changes. But a few days later when the children were resting she dozed off again. As the owner and lead supervisor on site, I knew what I “needed” to do, as the safety of the students must come first.  However, asking Annie and her daughter to leave was the last thing I “wanted” to do. I invited her in and told her that she needed to leave immediately. Annie was very quiet and did not dispute that she had fallen asleep. She calmly picked up her daughter and left the building. My heart grieved as she walked out the door. The last thing I’d wanted to do was send her off when I knew she was grieving, but I knew it was the right decision for the school. For years, I questioned my decision. I wondered if I had failed her. I wondered what had became of her and Jenna.

And so four years later when she stood before me, I was filled with mixed emotions. I was so happy to see her and her beautiful Mini-Me. I was relieved and overjoyed that they seemed to be doing well. But I couldn’t help but wonder how she was feeling toward me now. I couldn’t help but wonder how my decision had impacted their lives.

As Annie and Jenna approached,

Annie looked me in the eye and said, “Thanks for the wakeup call.” 

She wasn’t angry. She didn’t blame me or my staff. She was grateful. We hugged and caught up and she and Jenna returned to the carnival.

I was blessed with the opportunity to rekindle a relationship with Annie and to learn more about what was happening during that time. She confided that she felt her life was falling apart and felt lost. She had settled into a toxic, abusive relationship and had lost the will to fight for herself. Instead of heeding my advice for a grief support group, she continued to let her world spin out of control, staying out late with friends and not getting enough sleep. I learned that Annie struggled with being alone at night and was prescribed medication for anxiety that had made her excessively tired during the day. She shared her sorrow at being fired from the place that she loved so much, but that it served as a much needed wakeup call. Unsettled by being asked to leave, Annie was driven to start fighting for and taking responsibility for her happiness, step by step. She found new friends, a new boyfriend, and a new job as a nanny. Annie told me,

happylife

While you can’t control what happens to you, you can control what happens next. If you want a happy life, live a happy life.”

Annie’s words of gratitude felt like a spring rain after a dry, cold winter wait. I was grateful that my tough decision had positively impacted her life. How many employers have an employee they have fired come back and thank them? I was grateful for the confirmation that sometimes tough love is needed in tough situations. I no longer questioned myself and wondered if I failed her. I rejoiced in knowing that she had taken control not only of her grief, but of her life and her own happiness.

As I shared with my husband my interaction with Annie, we both felt that we would like her to come back and teach in our school. I am a big believer in second chances, and knew in my heart that Annie had more than earned hers. We called her and asked if she would like to come back to work for us. Providentially, the family she was working for was moving to Florida. She used this opportunity to return to our school as a long term substitute. She came back full of joy and energy and the hard work and dedication we had initially seen those years ago. Soon, she was back to being a full time teacher. Her first year back, Annie won Teacher of the Year. She has now been with us for three years and I am grateful to have her.

Who would have thought that letting her go was the wakeup call that would bring her back? Only the God of wakeup calls and second chances.

When You Wake Up Regretting Your Choices From The Night Before…

AmberOBrien"

Dear Sweet Sister,

I heard that you woke up regretting your choices from the night before. I have been there sister ….many times.  We try to blame someone else, make justifications and excuses …..and then the agonizing guilt when we finally admit that we made an unholy choice and disappointed our Holy God.

It we truly don’t want to make the same mistake again and grow from this then we do need to feel that pain for a short while. For God loves you and I so much that He wants us to grow in holiness and learn from our mistakes.   Name your sin and find a bible verse that deals with it so you will be better prepared next time. (google it:) What should you have done differently? What will you do next time to avoid a similar situation or outcome?

Now the good news………..

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Our sin is  like a drop of water in the Ocean of God’s Mercy………………Mother Angelica   

Our sin is like a drop of water in the Ocean of God’s Mercy.

Compared to God’s ocean of Love and Mercy, your sin is just a drop. Think of how huge the ocean is…water beyond what your eyes and mind could ever comprehend.  Now try to comprehend Mercy and forgiveness that is beyond what we could ever deserve. A forgiveness that erases our sins as if they never existed.  So write your sin down and tell God that you are sorry. If you are at the seashore write it in the sand.  If you are catholic arrange to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.  The key is to acknowledge your sin.

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If we acknowledge our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.

1 John 1:9

Do you need to apologize to a friend or family member? make restitution? Even though we are forgiven, sometimes we need to show that we are sorry. Ask God for wisdom and help with this…courage too.

Now rejoice!  You are forgiven.

God asked Mother Angelica, as she stood by the ocean after throwing back a drop of water that had landed on her arm….

“Can you find it now  ?”

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Walk sweet sister as one who has been forgiven much and then offer that same generous mercy to all those around you.