The Dryer Parable

During our extended dryer illness,
James realized that the dryer that I own and the one that he owns
are nearly the same make and model.
Since he is living at my house right now,
and his dryer had also been making a funny sound in his apartment before moving back home,
he began contemplating using parts from both machines to create a working single model.
He has never worked on a dryer before,
but decided to take a look at it.

And by “take a look at it,” I mean
he googled dryer schematics,
did some heavy research on forums
and began taking both dryers apart.
I’m pretty sure that he spends as much time doing research on a repair
as he does ON the repair, when he dives into the uncharted  territory of a new job.
Disassembled dryer

He made major renovations inside my dryer.
His dryer had two heating coils, but the heat reflective pan wouldn’t work in my dryer.
So, he altered the pan in my dryer to accommodate both coils.
He had to switch out the blower on my dryer
but it vented in the opposite direction of the original.
This required major repositioning of the blower and the venting system.
These are only two of the problems that he explained to me
while the drum of my dryer sat in my kitchen
and I waited for him to finish the job
in his spare time (which is slim).

My dryer drum ... in my kitchen

He got the dryer running.
It worked well …. for a few weeks
before something inside began to make noise again.


My memory is sketchy on some things, but I’m pretty.sure that my dryer was purchased new
around the time that Joy was born.
That would make my dryer around fourteen years old.
Considering that it worked hard for a family of five for at least ten of those years,
(with folks moving out and staying out … or moving out and back in during the last four)
it is no surprise that it has simply … tuckered out.
And James’ model was nearly the same age. 


James - working on my dryer

After James decided that the appliance was truly broken beyond repair,
a thought occurred to me.

James has no training in dryer repair, but he was willing to work to figure out how a dryer operates.
He did all the right things … as far as he could tell.
He looked up the schematics from the maker.
He read about problems and sounds and symptoms to isolate the problem(s).
He took time to seek wisdom from people with greater experience.
He asked questions and listened to answers.

But, he was using parts from two failing … worn …. broken appliances
to try to create a working model.
Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world .... We … broken people …  do the same …  all the time.
We try to find ways to repair our broken hearts
through another broken person.
We search for the perfect person  who loves us
rather than the one we can best serve.
We date and  break up and date and break up. We search and hunt and watch for a soul mate.
We marry and divorce and remarry again .. and again.
We find ourselves bewildered because we think we have control and our actions should be enough.
Like on the dryer repair, we work, remove, replace, reposition, and redirect … to no avail.

In reality, there is only one way to create a beautifully operating instrument
from bits of broken … wounded … dated … and worn on this earth
and that is through God who knows our hearts and loves us anyway  ….
through Christ who redeems us and fills in our gaps … caulks our cracks …. and smooths the roughness …
through God’s Holy Spirit who fills us and walks with us … guiding and leading ….
strengthening weak places, shining light into dark corners ….

Our dryer is dead and gone. There is no plan for  James or I repairing it.
Our hope of fluffy, sweet clothes from that machine has been removed.
In fact, we put our home and our own lives in danger from trying to get THAT machine
to do something that it is no longer capable of doing.

But, there will always be hope  for you and I in the spiritual realm.
We live in a broken world … but our inner world need not be a shambles.
We cannot fix our broken hearts with another person … no matter how much they love us.
The only way to operate on this earth without completely falling apart  …
is through the power, energy and wholeness offered us through God alone.

Legos and a Teachable Heart

The bedroom that James once occupied has a massive, wonderful closet.
When James moved, he took most of his things … but he left behind one full top shelf of toys, games
and containers of Legos.

James has been very open with me in the past
about his fear of our home catching on fire.
Most people say they would try to save their photo albums first.
He has always told me,
“If our house catches on fire, I’m saving my Legos!”

Because life has been dramatically rearranged of late,
I am in need of the shelf space that is currently home to his Lego collection.
So, I pulled the containers down
and requested that he take them to his apartment.

My son's Legos

It is bittersweet to know that some time in the not-so-distant future,
he will find a lovely bride … marry …
and then become a father.
I’m praying for the day that his own children will play with these bricks and blocks.

When he was potty training and near three years old, I would give him a tiny Lego set as a reward for staying dry for three or four days, building to a week or more. I made a little chart and posted it on the fridge and checked off the days.  Those first sets were quite small. Most were vehicles of some sort with 20-40 pieces. There was one condition to him being allowed to play with them: he had to put the set together according to the instructions first. After that initial building, he was free to play with them in any way he wanted. Many men think that instructions are written for operators to consult when you hit a snag. I wanted him to learn the value of instructions and begin with them rather than resort to them when in frustrated or desperate.

Heads and helmets

He kept his Lego direction booklets and even sorted them in three-ring binders according to the theme of the set ….

… and  chose to sort Lego pieces for easy accessibility.

Today, he can fix anything he sets his mind to repair. He amazes me. He will research parts, figure out problems and commence to any repair he chooses to tackle. He can google any snag he hits and figure out the inner workings of most any machine. He has taken his car engine apart several times and repairs computers for a living. I’m so proud of him for finding value in looking “elsewhere” for help and direction. Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world ....

Because this is life ….
and this is humility.
The person who often says, “I know. I know,”
is not a teachable soul.
The man who turns to God as a last resort
and o.n.l.y reads the “instructions” when he hits a snag
lives a life of desperation.
The woman who thinks she has no need to ask for help …
will find herself lonely and lost.

We all need help.
We all need direction.
We all need support.

The person who is not too proud to admit that need …
to ask for instruction  …
to confess when they just “don’t know”
is the one who finds support, direction and friendship.

I want to have a teachable heart. I want to remember to read the instructions first. I want to be the quick to say,
“I made a mistake. I’m sorry.”

My man/child has taken another step.
He has very few things here in my home that belong to him.
But he has taken with him the most important: a teachable heart.

He moved! He moved!

I love the original Winnie the Pooh movie.
And when I hear myself say, “He moved!” I use Rabbit’s voice and inflection.
Remember when Pooh was wedged in Rabbit’s door because he filled his belly with honey
and his tummy became so full and rotund that he couldn’t exit Rabbit’s den?
After weeks, rabbit leaned over and pushed Pooh’s toosh and “He BudGed!”

The difference between rabbit and me is that my words are not “He budged!
my announcement is, “He moved! He moved!” ….
But, trust me … I have the SAME enthusiasm!!

(found at 1:39 in the video, if you would rather not watch the full clip)

I am SO thankful that my son has moved out …
but not for a reason that you might immediately expect.

I ADORE this man. He is kind and thoughtful, slow to anger and speak. He is funny beyond measure with a wit that is quick and dry. He is smart and can figure out how to take apart and/or put together almost anything. His Google-search skills are absolutely crazy!  He has a real relationship with God and a heart for people. He fully understands software AND hardware. He is concrete and abstract. He is creative and detailed.

Not long after most of the boxes were packed and moved,
the front door swung open wide
and my man/child stepped inside

*spoken slowly, and firmly with intention on each word*
“Do you  K.N.O.W  …..  how much sponges cost??!!”

James walked in and immediately began a monologue.
The only thing missing was the soap box.

“All those years, you asked, ‘Please use an old sponge’ …. “P.l.e.a.s.e use an old sponge’ ….  but I would just stop at the sink and take the sponge from the counter rather than going to the container in the utility room to find an old one when I was working on my car and needed one. WHO KNEW that sponges cost over A BUCK a piece? Seriously, Mom? I went to the store the other day and started to buy a pack of sponges. The pack was … like SIX BUCKS … and had …. like FOUR SPONGES in it and I’m thinking, ‘WHAT? SIX DOLLARS for S.P.O.N.G.E.S??’ “

And my mother’s heart swelled.

For almost a year and a half I tried to get him to move out. I LOVE my son, but it was time for him to be on his own. He turned 23 this summer. He has a car and a motorcycle and a good job. Glory has been gone for several years, but James? He was in no hurry.

He didn’t always do what I asked of him … when I asked. But, he was a grown man so I didn’t feel I could discipline him. Paying me rent just wasn’t enough. There is more to “pulling your weight” in a household than simply offering money. The only way he would figure out to keep a house running
would be for him to have to run his own.

And so, I gently pushed. I gave him a few ultimatums
that I caved upon.
It’s hard to stand firm
when you are standing alone.

But, he finally made the leap.

He found an apartment in the same apartment complex as his sister. It’s so exciting to me that they are so close. For years, they did not get along. But, when they began life guarding together, they became friends. And each year since then, they have become more and more close.




They talk almost every day. They visit each other. Glory will say, with a *sigh,* “I love my brother. He’s my best friend.”  And you can see it all over her face. She means it.

James stops by to pick up packages that are delivered here (he’s always working on some sort of repair to his car) and to check on Smudge from time to time.  I knew we all called Smudge “James’ cat” … but I didn’t realize that Smudge would have also called himself James’ cat. Since moving out, the Smudge-man is quite lost. He follows me around the house. He follows me up to the park where I stretch before a run. I have to “shoo” him home before I leave the park … lest he follow me further? He meows at me when I enter a room. He finds me to ask for attention by walking across the desk or jumping into the chair where I may be seated. This is WAY out of character for him. I didn’t realize just how much attention James gave him … until he left the house. I know he misses James.

Last week, James stopped by and
upon leaving said, “I had no idea
how much I took for granted.”

That’s really all I needed to hear.
Those are the words that I have been waiting for.
He now realizes there are many more details
to running a household
than he previously realized.

I’m so thankful that James has moved out.
I’m thankful because I didn’t want him to go from
my house into marriage without an “in between” where he would learn
how to be in charge of his home with all the responsibilities involved there.
I’m thankful because he’s learning to appreciate things
that he has taken for granted.
And, yes, I might also be slightly thankful
because he’s not here to bump down the air conditioning thermostat in the summer.

Hiding places

There by the front door is a little vignette that includes a plant stand of begonias that bloom almost year round, a lovely little metal snail, a handy small rake and an ancient pitcher that has poured water, tea, milk and lemonade for decades.

I have these little groups of favorites all over my home, each item represents something special … each holds a memory, wish, hope, dream or prayer. Each item has symbolism. I see life this way … God speaking through the things,  the people and the words He allows to cross my path.

I’ve mentioned before that my grown-up people
have smoked cigarettes.
I don’t like it, but they’re grown.
I am certain that I still do things today that my own parents do not like.
If they don’t find displeasure with me, it is only because they don’t live in close enough proximity
to feel my every thought, experience my motive and see my actions.
(Don’t get me wrong here. I am not disrespectful of my parents and do not intentionally disobey them ..
but I know that I wouldn’t please them fully if they saw my life in full swing all the time.)

James is my least neat child. He doesn’t put things back and he doesn’t clean up behind himself. If he were to read this, the hair on the back of his neck would stand up … but while he’s gruffing, there is a spoon on the counter beside the microwave and there are dishes in and beside the sink that were not there when I went to bed. The driveway is full of car stuff – parts, repair tools, and cleaning supplies-  that have been there off and on for weeks and the bathroom is always littered from end to end, floor to counter with …. stuff.

A huge frustration for me is James’ continued habit of stuffing cigarettes into little-almost-hiding places. He uses the ivory ceramic pitcher on the front porch as an ashtray. I agreed that this would be fine, if he would just keep it emptied so that it won’t make the entryway to our home
smell like an ashtray.

Even with an established “ashtray” in an accessible place, he continues to tuck cigarettes into corners … even there at the front porch …. less than five feet from the agreed-upon disposal spot.

I always say that mercy is my weakest character trait. Yet, I tend to forgive, forgive, forgive
even for irritating habits like this.
I’ve asked this man/child over and over not to tuck his lighter and butts under the back porch deck stairs.
I’ve asked him not to put his cigarettes out on the brick work of our home
and leave little black ash circles here and there.

I’ve asked him not to drop his butts in the yard or on the street.
But, he forgets ….
he disobeys ….
he disrespects me
…. he chooses to do what he wants to do rather than what he has been asked.
And THEN he gets irritated when I remind him that he is not honoring my requests.

And when I get upset …
when my feathers ruffle …
when the hair stands up on the back of MY neck …
my sweet, gentle Lord reminds me
of my forgetfulness …
my hiding places …
my intentional disobediences …
and I am humbled.

I break His heart.
I know it.
We all do.

I go to Him and ask for His help …. I lay my toys on His table and I take a step back.
I wait and I wait and I wait  ..
and then
in my impatience,
I step up to the table and offer ideas and suggestions
from my limited knowledge and shallow perspective
on how to restore and repair
those things that He knows intimately, thoroughly, fully.

There must be some balance
between grace and mercy for wrongdoing
justice and discipline for disobedience.

I have to admit to you
that I’m pretty good at drawing the line in the sand …
but I fail at figuring out
what to do with the man/child
who chooses to step across the line
and then gets angry with me for drawing it.
Praise God, that He has no such problem
figuring out what to do with me
when I disobey.
My desire is that I draw a little closer to Him each week … day …  moment
that I might hear His voice,
heed His leadings
and hurry to obedience
with humility and a contrite heart.

Praise God for vignettes
that tell me stories.


James has done this to me for years.
I try to take a photo of he and Glory
and he gives me one goofy face after another.
Usually I end up with 19 silly shots of James
and one awesome one.

And I guess, if I was honest,
I get 18 great shots of Glory
with James being goof-monster beside her.
when she finally does something weird –
like puts her hands over her face in frustration –
he flashes those beautiful pearly whites,
twinkles his eyes
and I snap.
The ONE good one of him
and SHE’S at the end of her rope.
I think he realizes what is happening
and THAT’S why I FINALLY get a good one of him.

But these two? Put them together
and the best I can get is
one silly face after another
and them *BAM!*
They’re done.
“Nope! No more, mom. That’s it. We’re done! Sorry!”

Glory worked a double shift so she wasn’t able to join us
for last night’s Montclair swim meet.
James came to cheer on Joy –
who sported sharpie under the eyes
to make her look “intimidating” like a football player.
It’s working, right??

So, this is what I got from
my oldest and my youngest …
the Comic Relief
and the Stage Queen.

They really make me belly laugh. hard.
and often.

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This slim flowerbed area that lines the back of our home has been an eyesore since we moved in. Through the years, we talked about cleaning it up and doing all sorts of things … but, none of our “visions” ever came to fruition. You can see from the photo below that the area was sort of catch-all for bikes and lawn refuse trash bags, recycling and more.  Our trash cans also sat in the same area, lined up against the wall.

Not so long ago, I acquired a second kayak and I had an idea for a storage rack for our boats. We had some gently used wood  sitting in the yard that we used to construct a frame.  While I tried to get things going, I’m just too afraid of power tools to do the job. I just don’t have the upper body strength to control these powerful, heavy machines (and I’m afraid of the noise, to be honest)  I don’t do chainsaws or big power tools like saws.

So,  I got out all the equipment, set it up and asked for help.  And my man? He stepped up to the plate and did an a.w.e.s.o.m.e  job. Not only did he make the cuts for me (with the big, loud, scary saw), he put the whole rack together (the wood is pressure treated and is very dense and hard.)

It probably took him about four hours total … basically a Saturday morning and he was finished.

The book “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman sits on my bookshelf.  I’ve had it for years and never taken the time to read it. None-the-less, I know a bit about its content from years of hearing bits and pieces. While I’m not sure of the language of each of my family members, I do know that James’s is not “Acts of Service” (but that is definitely my strongest language .. and I’m pretty sure James’ may actually be “Words of Affirmation” as he uses few words and a lie can absolutely devastate him.).  I wish there was some way to e.x.p.l.a.i.n to him how m.u.c.h it means to me when he takes on jobs like this.  And he’s always so pleasant as he works.  It makes me proud and so very thankful.

He tried it out to make sure that it is strong! It sits out of the way, under the eaves …

and it is placed so that one of my boats pokes his little head out in front of my kitchen window so I am always reminded to get out and get on the water … to have fun! (Something I don’t do often enough … probably because I’m always busy thinking my “acts of service” are loving on people when I should take more time to play!)

We added some landscaping timbers that have now been “nailed” into place and some pinestraw for ground cover. I’m telling you, it looks SO nice.  Now that spring has returned, I hope to put a coat of paint on the framework to keep it strong and make it look nice.

I am so thankful for my man.  He works hard and does a great job!  Whether he’s helping me wash the cat, building a boat rack or working on his car, he stays at a job until he figures it out.

Thanks, James, for the boat rack
and all that you do around our home
and for others.
I love you
and you’re awesome!!

Anybody want to paddle? Let me know! I have two boats.
We could hit the water any time!!

No longer a threat

He’s had to handle more wood lately
than he would prefer.

When we first looked at our house, this pine tree was green and healthy. When we closed on the house a few months later, pine post beetles had taken its life. Its needles were brown. Slowly, it lost all of its needles and then its bark. In the last six months, it had begun to lean.

I’ve done a great deal of praying over and for trees of late.
I’ve prayed to find one.
I have prayed “thanks” for gifts from one.
And I have prayed   for healing from the damage caused by one.

This pine? I have prayed that … when it falls …. it would NOT fall on someone’s home. It was tall enough that it could have easily done great damage to “the party room” (our mother-in-law suite).  And I wasn’t absolutely sure, but I thought it might possibly be lofty enough to land on a neighbor’s house.  In its glory, it might have been tall enough to hit the deck attached to our backdoor neighbor’s house, but, as it has lost needle and limb, I now realize that its stature wasn’t quite to venture out of our own yard.

After years of being a threat,
she’s finally down.

We’ve had about two weeks of windy March weather intertwined with rain and storms. I guess she finally became so water-logged and heavy that a medium wind toppled her.

And, praise God, the only damage she did was to our neighbor’s fence which will be easy to repair.

To be honest, I will pine for her lost standing and remember her sweet presence in our yard.  Being a lone, tall tree towering over the canopy of other greenery around meant that she was often a springtime home to woodpecker babies. And our neighborhood Red-Shouldered Hawk was often seen lighting upon her bare limbs that reached into the azure. Both Pileated and Red-Headed Woodpeckers dined on delicacies that made a home in her timber.

I know that it isn’t healthy for other trees when a pine is overcome with beetles. But, the cost to fell her body was over $1,500. No amount of saving effort allowed us to make it all the way to that goal before some other pressing need popped up to usurp that money.

So, I just prayed.

And James continues to be his amazing-self. He is my son not my husband, yet does the things that a man of the house should do. He steps up to the plate and does what needs to be done. There are many tasks that I can take on, but wielding a chainsaw is NOT one of them.  James has been in the yard several days now, cutting, moving and hauling away this tremendous tree.

Thanks, James, for being awesome.
And thank you, Lord, that this pine is safely down.
I guess, in T.H.I.S case, (as opposed to THIS one) I prayed “specifically enough.”

Breakfast and a Kitty

This was my view through the den bay window this weekend. It makes me smile. James’ new car (a replacement after THIS one was totaled) and Glory’s sweet car were both on the street. James’ says he’ll never park in the driveway again. ever. Glory parks on the street because she can zip in and zip out a lot faster.

It was so nice to have Glory home some this weekend. As she stood in the kitchen and rambled on about a dozen things, I felt myself begin to smile. I said, “I miss you.” I thought I might just melt into a puddle. I did well, though.  I cried just a minute, and then regained my composure. I really do miss her.     a lot.

She spent most of the day Saturday with us.  I love it when she shows up and I’m able to pamper her in some little way. Her roommate has gotten miffed with her and basically told her that she doesn’t want to speak to her anymore. Yes, they have a lease for an apartment until July. *awkward* It seems as though Brier is part of the problem,  so, in tears, Glory brought Brier “home.”  It crushed Glory to bring her home.  She was literally sobbing as she walked into the house, cat carrier in hand.  At least once a week she texts me some photo of this pampered cat to say how much she loves her.  She puts status updates on Facebook like, “It’s completely unnatural for someone to love their cat as much as I do mine,”  or “Brier and I are chillin’ and watching a movie on the couch.” I think that I’m most proud of the fact that she was willing to give up her cat … though she’s not asking the same of her roommate (who also has a cat).  They share the lease, so each has equal responsibility, but my girl was quick to do the difficult thing. I’m proud of her.

So, I asked if she was hungry for breakfast after she got Brier settled in. “Yes ma’am,” she replied.   Hmmm…… what could I create for her … how can I pamper this dear child that I miss so?

I head to the kitchen. I cook some bacon and place it on an antique plate while French Toast waffles cook in the waffle maker.  With a strawberry sliced and waiting to be the final touch, Glory confides in me:  “Ya know,” she begins, “Alex tried to get me to take you to Sunrise Grille for breakfast or to bring you a yummy muffin from Sunshine Bakery.”  “Really?” I ask, wondering where this is going.  “Yep,” she continues, “but I told him ‘No way.’  If I brought you something you wouldn’t make me a special breakfast with fresh squeezed orange juice or some yummy something with powdered sugar sprinkled on the top and garnished with pretty fresh fruit.”

In a moment, I hand her the plate and a silver fork.
I am thankful that she’s home for a visit to be pampered
and she immediately takes a photo to send to her boyfriend.
“See?” she texts him, “She made me breakfast.” *insert big cheezy grin*
Yes, she knows me.
Wow. I feel like a sucker.
And ya know what?  I’m perfectly okay with that.

Oops! Not “that” roof, Lord

At some point … in the not-so-distant future, I will have to replace the roof (shingles) on my home. We had a really large limb fall back before I was a single-mom in this home. It ripped the gutter off the back of the house and took some siding and some of the soffit with it. Of course, I took photographs.

I called our insurance company. I asked a battery of questions … the way I always do … about insurance rates, if we chose to pursue having the company cover the damage etc. I was trying to decipher if we should just make the repair or allow/ask the insurance company to get involved. I didn’t really want our insurance to go up and I wondered if it would be better if we just handle the repair on our own.

I received several quotes on the repair. One roofing guy even told me, with a *wink,* he would give an elevated quote and then charge  $1,000. less so that the insurance would cover everything and I wouldn’t have to pay the deductible. In my heart, I knew this guy was being dishonest and he really gave me the willies. *shudders*

After receiving the quotes, we chose a different company to do the repair work. I called the insurance company back and they said that I needed to submit photographs before we could file.

We had a computer crash after the limb crash … and we lost two years of photographs … including the limb-on-the-roof shots.

Within less than a month, State Farm sent us a note that said that they had done a “drive by” of our home. They said our roof was in “disrepair” and we had … I think it was … six weeks to fix it or we would lose our insurance. Well…. our roof has never LOOKED bad. It’s NOT in bad shape. And the little bit of damage that was caused by the limb was on the BACK of the house, above the deck. They would have to enter the backyard and walk all the way around the house and UP onto the deck to see the damage. A “drive by” would NEVER have shown any trouble. In fact, we keep our roof exceptionally clean, keeping the valleys leaf free even during fall.

So,  State Farm canceled our policy. We had to change insurance agencies and now, thanks to the quotes, I have the knowledge that a new roof will cost me  between $10,000. (with a *wink*) and a gazillion dollars (either figure is out of my price range).

So, what have I done? Well, I continue to keep the valleys clean. James has repaired the only real damage to our roof (a small hole, maybe 3.5″ across? … from another limb … another tree … another storm … another day). And I’ve begun to repair the area where the gutter fell and ripped away some of the soffit/fascia board.

And I’ve started to pray. Ya know, five dollars and ten thousand dollars are the same as a gazillion to God. So, I’ve prayed that a limb would fall on the roof and insurance would cover the repair.  And I’ve prayed, of course, that nobody would be injured when the limb falls.

I’ve held onto the fact that I believe that MY doing the right thing (as opposed to being dishonest and letting some slimy *winky* guy be dishonest with the insurance company) would please God. I cling to the fact that the insurance company did us wrong to cut us off when I was trying to do the right thing.  I know God loves us when we do the wrong thing and He forgives and has mercy … but I also know that He is pleased when we do the right thing. So, I’m holding out that, in the long run, I will have plenty of money to cover the roof – or insurance will end up doing it for me.

James called me last night as a rainstorm neared to tell me that a large limb had fallen over his bedroom.  It hit the roof of our house, but he couldn’t see any damage. And part of the limb
…. hit his car. He bought this car about four or five months ago. He’s added special headlights and a new exhaust system. The limb crumpled his roof, ruined his seat, and shattered his glass. Another limb hit the front and dented the hood. At the least, the glass, roof (which has a sunroof which will be added cost), hood and seat will have to be placed and then the car will have to be painted.

Honestly, it’s probably not worth as much as all that work will cost. Hondas hold their value … but that’s a stretch! So, insurance will probably call it a loss.

Ya know what I thought when he called me, trembling and telling me about the limbs?

“Lord, that wasn’t the roof I was talking about!”

BUT, hey …
nobody was injured
and “the” roof is being repaired/replaced!!!

Not that I didn’t already know this lesson,
but I am gently reminded
to be careful what you pray for

when you pray