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One morning, I tried a sample of skin cream my dermatologist had given me, and, as soon as I slathered it on, my skin began to burn. Next came the intense itching, and finally, an outbreak of acne. 

I called the dermatologist’s office, and told the on-call doctor I was having an allergic reaction to the sample. He said, “It’s probably not an allergic reaction. Everyone who starts with this cream has some mild irritation.” He proceeded to tell me not to worry and to start using the cream again a few days later.

I thanked him, hung up, and set about doing the things I knew would alleviate the pain: take Benadryl, put an ice pack on my cheeks, and drink lots of water. Far be it from me to correct a doctor, but his advice was unhelpful, so I didn’t heed it.

The next day, as my skin was peeling off my face in patches as if I’d been severely sunburned, I thought, What was the disconnect here? Was it just that doctors don’t believe patients? Men don’t believe women? The younger generation doesn’t believe older people?

It reminded me of the time I’d hired an animal control company to capture a groundhog. The young man arrived to set up what he called an “inescapable” trap, and, each time he’d set it up, he’d catch the groundhog, then lose it again. 

I called the owner of the company and told him the groundhog had escaped four times. “Impossible,” he said. “That trap is iron-clad. No way any animal can get out of it.” Far be it from me to tell a business owner he’s off-base, but I had video of the groundhog breezing out of the metal trap like a teeny Houdini.

I went back out to the yard and said to the young man, “The owner says the trap is impossible for a groundhog to escape from. Why does this keep happening?” 

The young man said, “Well, I’ve done this job for a number of years, and set this trap a number of times, and this is really hard to explain.”

At that moment, it occurred to me: Zero is a number. He’s done this job for zero years. He’s had zero training. And he captured zero groundhogs that day. What a life lesson this was for me!

When it comes to what’s happening in your life, you know the deal. 

When somebody tells you that your experience didn’t happen? They’re denying your reality. They can talk all day long, but if you aren’t getting what you need out of the situation, you’ve got a right — even an obligation — to show them the door. Wish them well on their journey…and may it be far away from you. What was it the Bible says about not being a clanging cymbal?  We don’t need noise without substance.  We need those who see and hear us.

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Have a Mary Little Christmas

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