Once Again, A Memoriam

The following post is a reblog of my initial response to the shootings in Aurora earlier this year. Once again, my heart is aching with the same sentiments. Oh, America, what has happened?

Retro Wishes, Childhood Dreams

“Be home before the streetlights come on,” was the summertime rule in my house. Growing up in the small town of Plymouth, Michigan, during the 80’s was a real-life Sandlot experience. Between the large park around the block, the gas station with the Slurpee machine down the street, and the “downtown” movie theater only a quick bike ride away, my friends and I spent the bulk of our summers outside.  We rode bikes, climbed trees, flew kites, and built lemonade stands. Our parents knew that if we weren’t swimming in Jamie’s pool, we were probably in our tree forts in the park. We didn’t have cell phones or Ipods; we were blissfully entertained by the song of chirping crickets, the light show of dancing fireflies, and the tinkling sounds of the ice cream truck.

A school shooting wasn’t even a figment of my imagination. 

Today, not only do I mourn the loss of innocent life in Sandy Hook, but also the loss of the childhood innocence of a generation. Our children are growing up with the morbid possibility of school shootings, theater massacres, and terrorist bombings. The TV violence of the 80’s has become real-life breaking news. My heart is heavy.

Fighting the Darkness

It’s time for us to stand up for the future of our children, to champion the cause of preserving the innocence of childhood. Our country is not lost; there are still families who eat around a table, children who play in parks, and parents who diligently teach ethics and morals. We have not slipped into the reckless abandon of a lawless society; rather, we have parents, teachers, leaders, and civil servants who protect order and preserve peace.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.  ~Ambrose Redmoon

It is the duty of us all to promote courage within our society. We all have influence. I influence people you will never meet and vice versa. It is our civil responsibility to fight the darkness that is slowly descending upon our nation. Our children depend on us to preserve their childhood. Their childhood memories are weighed in the balance of our willingness to stand up for what is right. The cause of morality needs champions.

There isn’t enough darkness in all the world to snuff out the light of one little candle. ~Robert Alden

Morality Rises

This weekend, rather than going to see a movie or a ballgame, why not spend time with your family. Hug them a little tighter, tell them a story of courage in the face of fear, show them a memory of your own retro childhood. Be a child’s hero this weekend. Fly a kite, build a fort, read a book. Let’s make morality rise in our country once again.

The families of the Sandy Hook shooting victims are in my prayers.

Eye Life: Living in the Eye of the Storm

In Florida, there are basically three seasons: Summer, Not-So-Hot Summer, and Rainy Season. This week, the eyes of countless weathermen have been watching the skies south of Florida as Tropical Storm Isaac makes its way toward our coastline. At the time of this writing, it is still a Tropical Storm and has yet to hit Puerto Rico. They predict that after passing over the Dominican Republic and Haiti, it will either slam into Florida’s western coast or gain speed in the Gulf of Mexico with a nebulous track toward the as yet undetermined southern states. Needless to say, the husband and I will be buying water and saltines tonight.

I’ve always loved storms. Even as a child, thunder and lightning only brought excitement and wonder. I think it may be because I grew up in a house not too far from railroad tracks; the feeling of thunder in a shaking house still reminds me of a train coming, never the possibility of the destruction from an impending storm. As a child, thunder was “God’s bowling league” and lightning was only “gigantic lightning bugs.” What can I say? I was an imaginative little tyke.

Travelling in Tampa Bay this weekend is going to be limited at best due to the Republican National Convention. It’s one of those weekends where staying home in pajamas is a delightfully rational idea. However, now that TS Isaac is in play, it’s an even better idea.

Defining the Eye of the Storm

According to ehow.com (you’d be amazed at how many sites didn’t have a usable definition of ‘eye of the storm’), “A hurricane (tropical cyclone) is a giant rotating storm with winds of 74 to 200 mph and heavy rain, which can cause high tides and waves. It is in the center of this activity that the eye of the storm is formed, an area clear of storm. The eye of the storm can be slightly cloudy or clear resulting in limited to no precipitation. If you were to stand directly in the center of the eye of the storm, you would notice that the weather is calm, there is a slight breeze and there is no precipitation. Blue skies are seen in the daytime and the stars at night. When viewed from helicopter, airplane or satellite, the eye of the storm appears circular.”

Living the Eye Life

In the eye of the storm is shelter from all-encompassing weather; in the Eye Life is shelter from all-encompassing worry. 

Life is hard. Sometimes it feels that the storm is too big, the resources to small, the trial too large, the escape hatch too far away. If we are to successfully navigate this thing called life, we must live in with the storm in view. The Eye Life. To me, it’s ok for the storms to rage, the winds to blow, I have an anchor safely secured in the eye of the storm. We should live inside the storm tethered to our anchor, affecting change upon our individual Eye.

My anchor is my family, my faith, my worldview. The world does not revolve around me; on the contrary, sometimes I feel as if the world is passing me by with people moving on into grand futures and me staying here, faithful about my duties. Working at a college does that to a person, I guess.  I do not live by focusing on my surroundings, but upon the stabilizing influence of my mentors and my faith. If I veer too far from my anchor, I enter proverbial “inclement weather” and lose my stand by shaky footing.

Stand upon the rock of your convictions, the resolution of your faith, the stability of your family and support system, and the balancing of your fear. Join me in living the Eye Life. 

Is today a day to gather strength from the storm –
a day to to learn life lessons for the next battle?
Or is today a day to sit by the fire
and watch the storm rage outside?
Either way, the storm is just life.
Give thanks for all of Life.
– Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Stand Fast: An Homage to Courage

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.  It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.  ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

This blog is going to be different from my regular, issue-driven posts. In this piece, I want to pay homage to courage by revisiting several unconventionally courageous people of the past.

Harriet Tubman (1819-1820) Born into slavery, yet the symbol of the American freedom movement. Leaving her husband behind, Harriet escaped from slavery in 1849. Because of her courage and concern for her fellow man, Harriet Tubman began working as a Conductor on the Underground Railroad, a secret system of homes and safe havens across the Southern States. In 1850, when the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, her work became even more dangerous, but she did not stop. She simply moved to Canada and continued “conducting” slaves to freedom during trips back to the States. Over the course of her life, she helped over 300 men, women, and children escape the bonds of slavery.

Irena Sendler (1910-2008) What can be more courageous than laying down your own life for those who cannot save themselves? Irena Sendler, known as “the female Oskar Schindler“, saved over 2,500 Jews during World War II. This unsung heroine withstood torture from the German army when interrogated to give up the locations of thousands of escaped Jewish children. By courageously standing up for persecuted children in Nazi Germany, Irena Sendler became an unsung hero of world history.

John and Betty Stam (Martyred in China, 1934) Leaving family and friends behind, twenty-somethings John and Betty Stam moved to China to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As some of the first missionaries to find their way to Tsingteh (today, Jingde) in South Ahhwei, China, the Stams quickly immersed themselves in the culture and lives of the people within the walled city. While tensions in China rose, the Stams continued to go about their daily lives, courageously believing in God’s will. A Communist attack upon the city ended in the brutal martyrdom of the couple, but in a miraculous act of divine preservation, their baby, Helen, was spared and safely conveyed to her grandparents. Even today, thousands of people are continuously inspired to live courageous lives because of the Stam’s.

Unknown Rebel (July 5, 1989 – Tienanmen Square, Beijing, China) Virtually nothing is known of the lone man that opposed the entire People’s Liberation Army of China. Staring down an army of advancing tanks pretty much defines courage, don’t you think? Yet, history has recorded nothing of this man. Some people believe he was a protesting student; some believe he was a passerby who decided to take a stand. All we know is that he was an unarmed man wearing a white shirt who was willing to stand against oppression.

There is nothing left for me to add to this list of courageous individuals. I cannot improve upon the testament of their lives. Thousands of heroes dot the pages of history; we have only to learn from their passion, grow stronger from their courage, and faithfully emulate their stand for personal convictions. If we, as 21st century citizens, stand up to the tyranny of fear and oppression, we will be counted with these unsung heroes. I’m willing to stand up and be counted. Are you? 

Fighting the Darkness: In Memoriam of the Batman Shooting Victims

Like the rest of the country, I was shocked and disheartened this morning as I heard the news of the “Batman Shooting” in Aurora, Colorado. As news commentators cry, “What is this world coming to?” and “How did this happen?”, I am asking myself another question: What kind of childhood will my children remember?

“The youngest reported victim is a 3-month-old, who is said to be doing fine at University Hospital, where 20 patients, including nine in critical condition, are being treated. Another victim is a six-year-old being treated at Children’s Hospital, where a total of six victims were taken. Their condition wasn’t known. Victims were rushed to six area hospitals overall.” ~CBS News

Retro Wishes, Childhood Dreams

“Be home before the streetlights come on,” was the summertime rule in my house. Growing up in the small town of Plymouth, Michigan, during the 80’s was a real-life Sandlot experience. Between the large park around the block, the gas station with the Slurpee machine down the street, and the “downtown” movie theater only a quick bike ride away, my friends and I spent the bulk of our summers outside.  We rode bikes, climbed trees, flew kites, and built lemonade stands. Our parents knew that if we weren’t swimming in Jamie’s pool, we were probably in our tree forts in the park. We didn’t have cell phones or Ipods; we were blissfully entertained by the song of chirping crickets, the light show of dancing fireflies, and the tinkling sounds of the ice cream truck.

A movie theater shooting wasn’t even a figment of my imagination. 

Today, not only do I mourn the loss of innocent life in a Colorado theater, but also the loss of the childhood innocence of a generation. Our children are growing up with the morbid possibility of school shootings, theater massacres, and terrorist bombings. The TV violence of the 80’s has become real-life breaking news. My heart is heavy.

Fighting the Darkness

It’s time for us to stand up for the future of our children, to champion the cause of preserving the innocence of childhood. Our country is not lost; there are still families who eat around a table, children who play in parks, and parents who diligently teach ethics and morals. We have not slipped into the reckless abandon of a lawless society; rather, we have parents, teachers, leaders, and civil servants who protect order and preserve peace.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.  ~Ambrose Redmoon

It is the duty of us all to promote courage within our society. We all have influence. I influence people you will never meet and vice versa. It is our civil responsibility to fight the darkness that is slowly descending upon our nation. Our children depend on us to preserve their childhood. Their childhood memories are weighed in the balance of our willingness to stand up for what is right. The cause of morality needs champions.

There isn’t enough darkness in all the world to snuff out the light of one little candle. ~Robert Alden

Morality Rises

This weekend, rather than going to see a movie or a ballgame, why not spend time with your family. Hug them a little tighter, tell them a story of courage in the face of fear, show them a memory of your own retro childhood. Be a child’s hero this weekend. Fly a kite, build a fort, read a book. Let’s make morality rise in our country once again.

The families of the Batman shooting victims are in my prayers. 

Life’s Greatest Loss

Last week, a friend of mine posted a shocking quote in her facebook status that has sent me into a whirlwind of deep, introspective thought. While it is fascinating, it stands as a stark contrast to the societally accepted norm of reactionary emotions surrounding the event of a death.

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live. ~Norman Cousins

This quote can be interpreted in many different ways; quite possibly, it is translated differently for each individual. To me, the fundamental definition of this quote is that my greatest personal loss did not occur when a battle with cancer ended my Dad’s life in 2003. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live. Very simply: the mountain of his death is irrevocably written upon the landscape of my past, but it should not define the outlook of my future.

Real Life Inspiration

Not nearly an expert on coping with death and loss, I’ve drawn upon the life of a childhood hero, Corrie tenBoom. A Dutch woman living in the Netherlands during World War II, Miss tenBoom and her family risked their lives to help Jewish refugees escape invading Nazi troops by hiding them in a secret room built in the walls of their home. Their activity was discovered and Corrie and her family were sent to various concentration camps. Her father, sister, brother, and nephew died as a result of their imprisonment, but she survived and was released due to a clerical error in Ravensbrück Prison. Before her sister died, she said, “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

Imagine that. The unfathomable torture received in Ravensbrück, and she still knew that God was in control. While at times it is difficult to bear the loss of my father, it is in no way comparable to the ever-present suffering of the tenBoom family at the hands of their captors. My Dad suffered greatly during his battle with cancer and I would never belittle his courageous survival, but we all know that prison camps held unspeakable horrors. Despite all of that, Corie and her family had somehow figured out that death is not life’s greatest loss.

When she was a little girl, Corrie asked her father about death:

I burst into tears, “I need you!” I sobbed. “You can’t die! You can’t!” “Corrie,” he began gently. “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?” “Why, just before we get on the train.” “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”~excerpt from The Hiding Place, by Corrie tenBoom

Real Life Application

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live. To respect those we love, to hold their memory in our hearts, to live in honor of their memory is to go forth into the future with abandon. It is not living in the past or dwelling on the loss. We must choose to exist, to conquer, to “be” despite the pain, despite the loss, despite the tragedy. Loss is inevitable; living within its imprisonment is a choice.

So, I guess this blog is a charge to you who have lost. It is an encouragement and a challenge to not lose a single moment of possibility. To take the pain, the heartache, and the loss and morph it into resolution. I know my Dad would be so pleased with where I am in life. I know he would love my husband, encourage our dreams, and champion our goals. Yes, I would like to consult him for advice, but I know what he stood for and how he responded to adversity; he lived an example for me to follow. I choose not to dwell on the fact that he is gone; rather, I choose to capture my moments, embrace the possibilities, and strive for excellence. By doing so, I will honor his memory. We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.  ~Kenji Miyazawa

The Power in a Sunrise

As many of you know, my beloved Dad lost his battle with cancer in November of 2003. Being the ultimate Daddy’s girl that I am, I still wrestle with the empty space he should inhabit and dreadfully miss his presence in my life. He truly was my hero; he traveled the world slaying corporate dragons, kissed my Mom in front of my brother and I, cooked amazing Sunday dinners, and made sure that no monsters were living under the beds. I wish my husband could have met him, that he could have seen my brother graduate from college and marry the girl of his dreams, and that he could be with my Mom in her empty nest adventures.

During one particularly tear-stained night not too long ago, I set my pen to paper and wrote a quote that I like to think is encouraging. I was inspired when I considered that the long nights end in the sunrise. There is a cleansing that arises with the golden rays of dawn. I thought I would share this quote with you today.

May we never look at the burning horizon and forget that it travels on into the breaking dawn; that just beyond its reach is a land waking up to conquer a new day. In the midst of the night season, may we always remember that the long night will not tarry beyond its allotted moments, but will quickly surrender itself to the golden rays of dawn. ~© Jessica Burchfield

Over the last 8 years, I have found that yes, it is perfectly ok to break down. In fact, when talking to people that are going through similar situations, I encourage it. The bottling up and suppressing of emotions is never a healthy practice. We all need the healing that comes with the tears. Sometimes surrendering to the loss is just what you need to move on, yet again.

But then comes the morning.

I love beginnings. What are mornings, but new beginnings? During one of my elementary/junior high years, a teacher made us choose a poem to present before our speech class. I don’t remember what poem I chose, but I do remember that a classmate chose The Land of Beginning Again by Louise Fletcher. This was my favorite stanza:

For what had been hardest we’d know had been best
And what had seemed loss would be gain
For there isn’t a sting that will not take a wing
When we’ve faced it and laughed it away,
And I think that the laughter is most what we’re after
In the Land of Beginning Again.

So, here’s to all of you that are struggling in the season of shadows. Here’s to you that have long been dwelling in the “night.” Here’s to us that have awoken from the darkness, only to find the golden beams of a bright new day–a day that holds the promise of beginning again. Here’s to the sunrise.

We can only appreciate the miracle of the sunrise if we have waited long in the darkness. ~Author Unknown