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.

Societal Honesty: Do You Really Want to Know?

Some people will not tolerate emotional honesty in communication.  They would rather defend their dishonesty on the grounds that it might hurt others.  Therefore, having rationalized their phoniness into nobility, they settle for superficial relationships.  ~Author Unknown

According to the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, “On March 15, the television show Primetime Live with Diane Sawyer focused on honesty in everyday life and asked Michael Lewis, PhD, to tell the truth about lying. “Socially acceptable lies form the glue of our society,” explains the researcher. Lewis believes that lying is a very common activity evident everywhere from presidential politics to international affairs. “In a single day, most of us lie a minimum of 25 times and by age 2 to 3 years, 70 percent of all children lie very well,” he says.”

Wow. Really? I generally consider myself an honest person. Being brought up in a Christian home, I was taught that “honesty is the best policy.” I learned the lesson that a lie only gave way to a punishment, normally of the “tanned backside” kind. I’m thankful that I was taught to be an honest, upright citizen, despite my childish willpower to hide the truth. But this blog post isn’t focused on lying about where-you-got-that-orange-Faygo-in-the-fridge-when-Mom-told-you-not-to-go-downtown {story for another time!}, this post is about one of the socially acceptable lies we tell each other every day.

“How are you doing today?” We all ask and answer this question numerous times each day. Whether it is in line at our favorite coffee shop, greeting co-workers in the office, talking to family members, or simply passing an acquaintance in the hall, more often than not, we answer with a lie or expect a short generalized reply. And, to tell the truth, do we really want to know? Are we really interested in the answer or do we expect the nondescript “Fine, thanks!” as we walk by? Are we a society of habitual liars? If we base our answer upon the University of Medicine/Dentistry, I guess we truly are.

Making it Personal

Over the past nine months, many people have asked me how I’ve been feeling. Maybe it’s just me, but 3x a week physical therapy generally means that you’re still in quite a bit of pain. Surgeries aren’t fun. Yesterday, my physical therapist said that I’m looking at six months before the intense pain starts to go away and a year until it becomes bearable. Lovely. Just what I wanted to hear.

I hate being negative. I loathe the defeated spirit that I constantly battle. I’m not perfect; I wrestle with post-surgery depression and the feelings that I’ll never again be able to lift my arm without pain. Unfortunately, my line of work generally requires heavy involvement from shoulders and I wonder if there will ever come a day when I go without my faithful Ibuprofen. I desperately want to play my piano, but know that I am not strong enough to play even a simple song without pain. All of these facts run wild inside my head when I try to figure out how to respond when asked how I’m feeling.

The Flip Side

Despite the pain, I’ve learned that “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” (Ben Franklin) I have come to realize that without the pain of recovery, there will be no strengthening. If I don’t push through the pain, the muscle soreness, the bone aches, I will never reach the level of mobility that I desire. Truly, no pain, no gain. Without struggle, no battle is won. I relish the recovery because I will be stronger when it is done. I will play my piano again, I will complete a work day without pain medicine, and I will be able to lift my arm with minimal pain. These things will happen… I just have to keep doing what I know is right, push through the pain, and focus on the finish line.

In the midst of all of the conflicting emotions of ground won and lost through physical therapy, I realize that I am actually quite blessed. I have a wonderful doctor and therapy team. I woke up this morning and got out of bed. My eyes see, my ears hear, and my mouth speaks. I have use of both my arms–my shoulder hurts, yes, but I have two working arms. My knees still work and my feet carry me where I need to go. I have a family that loves me, friends that support me, and a job that pays my bills. I breathe clean air, live in a city where people vacation, and love the man God made for me. 

So, I’ve decided that when someone asks me “How are you doing?”, I will answer, “I am blessed.” Now that, is being completely honest. 

“I asked God for strength that I might achieve. I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey. I asked for health that I might do greater things. I was given infirmity that I might do better things. I asked for riches that I might be happy. I was given poverty that I might be wise. I asked for power that I might have the praise of men. I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God. I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. I was given life that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am, among all men, most richly blessed.” ~Author Unkown

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

Love Like Crazy: Reflections from a Song

From the moment I heard Lee Brice’s song Love Like CrazyI was captivated by the story of a lifetime of Crazy Love. The song tells the heartwarming tale of a couple celebrating 58 years of marriage and how they kept their Crazy Love alive. It reminds me of my grandparents and brings a smile to my face as I remember hearing the stories of how they met, fell in love, and lived out their own version of ‘happily ever after.’ 

My first experience with Crazy Love was at home. One of my most vivid memories of sacrificial love was a seemingly insignificant act by my Dad. Because his job demanded an endless schedule of international travel, he was overseas for a good portion of my childhood. One summer, he was scheduled to be gone for an entire month, setting up a telecommunications network for a company in Chile. After two weeks had passed, my Dad surprised Mom and I by showing up for a quick weekend. I remember being shocked that he was home, but he explained that when the option arose to take a vacation trip to Antarctica for the weekend or fly home to see us, he chose us. If my Dad had chosen the Arctic cruise, he would have reached his goal of travelling to every continent. Rather, he chose time with his family. To a seven-year old, choosing to come home rather than visit penguins defined Crazy Love.

Later, I watched my Mom care for my Dad through his horrible battle with cancer. Nothing epitomizes Crazy Love like supporting a spouse through sickness. Sacrificing her own schedule and plans, my Mom became the nurse, the comforter, and the supporter to a man slowly dying of cancer. To this day, she wrestles with back pain from the countless times she physically supported his weight. The night he passed away, she said, “Goodbye, my Love! You’re with Jesus now!”, but she still carries that Crazy Love in her heart. Crazy Love transcends death.

Lifetime Crazy Love isn’t old-fashioned… it still exists. Whether it is choosing between penguins and family, supporting an ailing spouse, or texting “I love you” at random times throughout the day, Crazy Love is possible. It takes commitment, perseverance, and a dedication to keeping the fires burning. Since my husband and I have only been married for a year and a half–we’re still writing our Crazy Love story–I plan to emulate the strong marriages around me, to guard my marriage with passionate resolve, and to exemplify the characteristics of true, enduring love found in I Corinthians 13.

To me, Lifetime Crazy Love is an attainable goal.

They called them crazy when they started out.
Said seventeen’s too young to know what love’s about.
They’ve been together fifty-eight years now.
That’s crazy.

He brought home sixty-seven bucks a week.
Bought a little 2 bedroom house on Maple Street
Where she blessed him with six more mouths to feed.
Now that’s crazy!

Just ask him how he did it; he’ll say pull up a seat.
It’ll only take a minute, to tell you everything.
Be a best friend, tell the truth, and overuse “I Love You!”
Go to work, do your best, don’t outsmart your common sense.
Never let your prayin’ knees get lazy,
And love like crazy!

They called him crazy when he quit his job.
They said them home computers, boy they’ll never take off.
Well, he sold his one man shop to Microsoft,
And they paid like crazy.

Just ask him how he made it,
He’ll tell you faith and sweat,
And the heart of a faithful woman,
Who never let him forget.

Be a best friend, tell the truth, and overuse “I Love You!”
Go to work, do your best, don’t outsmart your common sense.
Never let your prayin’ knees get lazy,
And love like crazy!

Always treat your woman like a lady.
Never get too old to call her baby.
Never let your prayin’ knees get lazy,
And love like crazy!

They called him crazy when they started out.
They’ve been together fifty-eight years now.

Aint that crazy?

Salt and Light: Wading through the Rubble

Christianity and Biblical living have seemingly taken a huge blow today as a well-known “super church” announced the forcible departure of their pastor due to “a sin that has caused him to forfeit his right” to be the internationally-idolized figurehead of the movement. Yet again, I find my blog being driven by a current event. I apologize, but I felt this was too far-reaching to ignore.

Many years ago, I had my own “difficult” experience with the institution in question. This experience caused my family to depart from its ranks. Yes, I’m choosing an intentionally vague description of my personal experience. I truly believe that I would never be the person I am today without the experience/departure, my family would never have been as strong as we are, nor would I have the courage to simply rest in my belief system. I’m able to stand taller, live better, and dare more because of that experience… dare I say, in spite of that experience? The past is the past; I chose to focus on how I live today because it will affect my tomorrows.

This blog will not attack the institution in question, nor will it champion the cause of departure from the movement. I simply want to go on record about what I believe I can do in response to this tragic circumstance.

Salt and Light

Having lived in a foreign country–one that entirely rejects the beliefs of Christianity–I’ve come to realize what being a Christian means to me. It means making a difference. It means personifying the admission of the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for you.” It means being able to give an answer when people ask you how they can persevere through their pain. It is an all-consuming, all-encompassing, daily pursuit of right and honest living. By no means is it perfection; it is striving for grace. It is coming to the end of yourself and fully relying upon the only One who can make a beautiful mosaic of the broken pieces of your life.

Christianity is a calling to be salt and light. Salt changes the flavor of food; therefore, Christians should change the “flavor” of their surroundings. Light gives direction, courage to take the next step, and safety in the dark. Likewise, Christians should be able to assist those who seek to be illuminated by the Light of the World.

“Being salt and light demands two things: we practice purity in the midst of a fallen world and yet we live in proximity to this fallen world. If you don’t hold up both truth in tension, you invariably become useless and separated from the world God loves.” ~David Kinnaman

I believe that I, as a Christian, should make a difference. I should be bold enough to stand up for what I believe, have the courage to explain why I believe it, and the wisdom to know when my actions speak louder than my words. This internationally known pastor has ceased to effectively communicate salt and light. His actions are in direct opposition to his teachings; therefore, he is not a good example of being salt and light.

Being salt and light is a momentary thing. It is a constant battle to consistently portray salt and light characteristics. It is a life-long pursuit, not a once-in-a-while jaunt. Just as one decision has ruined the life of this pastor and his family, a single, solitary moment can define greatness–as seen in the courage of one man’s decision so many times before.

Wading through the Rubble

Adlai Stevenson wrote of Eleanor Roosevelt, “She would rather light candles than curse the darkness, and her glow has warmed the world.”

In response to the as yet undisclosed sin that spurned this blog entry, I say, “Good for you, church. Rather than sweeping this under the rug, you confronted it, brought it to the authorities, and left it in the hands of the justice system. Good for you.” I am of the firm opinion that the justice system was put in place for our protection against people like this. No man is above the law.

As a Christian, I choose to reaffirm my dedication to the quest for grace and the pursuit of a moral life. Yes, I’ve stumbled along the path a bit, we all have, but today I again choose a momentary pursuit of upright living. I choose to make decisions based upon the moral compass instilled in me by my mentors. I choose to let my actions speak louder than my words: to be the “living epistle”, if you will. I choose to live and breathe my faith. I don’t identify with a man, I am a child of the Man who was the Son of God.

Out of the ashes of this circumstance, may we find the courage to stand upon our own principles against the darkness.

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? 

Objects in the Mirror

Due to my car accident in January, I have been avoiding driving. My husband would argue that this is a classic case of my bad diving habits catching up to me, but I choose to believe it is in direct correlation to my recent accident and the ensuing, lingering injury. When I do drive, I’m overly conscious of cars entering my lane, misused (or unused) blinkers, speeding summer vacationers (living in Florida isn’t always fun), and inanimate objects on missions to collide with my freshly repaired vehicle.

While sitting at a red light on my way to work minding my own business, I looked in my side mirror to see a barely-legal brunette applying what looked to be a second coat of mascara on her already made up face. “As long as she is behind me” used to be a valid argument… that is until a Toyota 4-runner rear T-boned me in the Target parking lot. She reached for eye liner, causing the wariness and anxiety to exponentially grow in my chest. Once again, I looked closer at the mirror and saw “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” Surprisingly, I smiled.

No longer was I anxiously watching a twenty-something apply another coat of makeup; I was mentally transported to a Father’s Day several years ago. Father’s Days are never good days for me. Long story short, my Dad lost his battle with cancer in 2003. On that particular rainy evening, I was sitting at a stoplight, on my way get a much-needed cup of coffee at my favorite Starbucks, when a quick glance into my side mirror changed my perspective forever.

A beautiful rainbow was suspended above the saying, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” 

Rainbows echo promises. Not only promises of Biblical proportions, but also reaffirming, stabilizing promises of new days, ends of tunnels, and smiles after tears. That night while sitting at a stoplight I was reminded that my Dad was just a whisper away, that one day I’d see him again… on a day that was much “closer than it appeared.” You may think it is a stretch, but I was encouraged. Because of that encouragement long ago, I was blessed today.

Taking it a Step Further

It’s the little things in life, isn’t it? The little reminders of a blessing discovered, a smile given, a dream realized. Don’t ever forget to look in the mirror of life; not just to see your reflection, but to reflect upon what has gone before. My past has made me who I am today. The battles fought and won have made me a stronger person. The people I’ve “lost” along the way will one day be found again in my home beyond the sky. The broken hearts, the broken dreams, and the broken promises have only served to mold a masterful collage, more beautiful from its healing than a pristine, undamaged, un-characterized whole. I wouldn’t change a thing.

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something has suffered damage and has a history it becomes even more beautiful.
Barbara Bloom

What in your mirror is closer than it appears?

Musings Spurned by Dieting

Perseverance, dedication, consistency, resolution. These ideals have been floating around my head this week, desperately trying to latch hold of and vanquish my inherent laziness; a mental turmoil resulting from the self-inflicted diet plan that has transformed my life. Since I am hardly able to achieve release from warring words without pouring them onto a page, I will attempt to explore these similar concepts in today’s oh-so-tardy blog adventure.

First, the definitions:

Perseverance: the steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
Dedication: the state of being dedicated. Awesome.
Dedicated:  to devote (oneself, one’s time, etc) wholly to a special purpose or cause; commit wholeheartedly or unreservedly.
Consistency: steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, purpose, form, etc.
Resolution:  the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose or intent; determined.

We see a pattern emerging from these definitions (other than the use of the root word in each definition). All four concepts include the existence of a clearly defined purpose. This is true in every aspect of life; without purpose and direction, we falter on a course that has no goal, vacillating between possibilities and reality.

The Heart of the Matter: Purpose

What is your purpose? The singular purpose that created this post would be the desperate need to slim down and lose the first-year-of-marriage plump. As many of you may know, diets stink. The one I’m on is relatively easy, but in the end, it’s still a diet. My goal is to lose 25 pounds. It is achievable, and I’m well on my way to that number. (6 lbs as of today!) Weight loss is my purpose; but the bigger picture strains to be observed.

Let’s consider a maritime adventure. Without a directional medium, whether a compass, sonar, or a chart, the captain would be lost at sea, in imminent danger of rocks, currents, and shallow waters. He must possess perseverance to reach his destination, dedication to commit to the safety of his crew, consistency to adhere to the charted course, and resolution to achieve his purpose. If he lacks one of these traits, the voyage would be susceptible to a number of perils. Without purpose, a ship will not reach a prescribed destination. The philosophical genius, Seneca said, “When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”

Further, without purpose, a goal cannot reached, a skill will not be acquired, an achievement cannot be unlocked, a dream does not reach fruition. Not only in this diet endeavor, but also in the intersecting crossroads of my existence, I strive to have purpose. To exist fully within the framework of a goal; to consistently press toward the mark; not to lose sight of the majestic possibility of the finish line. In my work, I strive to complete publications that adequately reflect the fascinating subjects I interview. In life, I seek to please my Audience of One, ever grasping for the victor’s crown. In love, I yearn to be the companion, friend, and help-meet that I was created to be for my Honey, endeavoring to make him perfectly content.

Purpose: what is yours?

We all possess the thunder of pure fury and the calm breeze of tranquility.  If it wasn’t for tomorrow, how much would we get done today?  Whatever your purpose… embrace it completely.  Get lost in the clouds every now and then so you never lose sight of God’s wonder.  ~Paul Vitale