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A Mid-Summer’s Afternoon

Dreams have a weird way of blending truths.

This afternoon, my sister and I were riding around town in our ancient Plymouth Voayager from ’94, the special 10th anniversary edition. It’s a lush dark green. My sister was in the back seat as I drove to some thrift stores looking for various items.

At one stop, we were pretty freaked out by this older man who was trying to open the door of our van and when he was unsuccessful with the door lock, he reached into the partially open window to try to start the car and unlock the door from the inside.

It made us extremely uncomfortable, but eventually I found the words to stop him, inform him that he was confused— we later saw that he has the same van, so he thought this was his car. We were all embarrassed.

At another stop, we met up with my dad. He is an older gentleman, somewhat heavyset, and hobbles with a cane’s assistance ever since his stroke a few years ago. He then drove us for the rest of the afternoon.

He loves to drive us in that old van. He says he enjoys the scenery as well as our company, which for some reason is always more intimate in the cozy comfort of the old van. No one else can hear what you say to each other while driving, so my sister and I always share our thoughts, emotions, and whatever random topics might seem relevant at the moment. Driving together is our bonding time.

At one stop, we saw that they had free watermelon slices on a table, and while dad was waiting for us in the car, my sister and I contemplated carefully which was the juiciest, largest, and reddest slice. It was a very warm afternoon, threatening to turn unbearably hot, but not just yet. How our dad loves watermelon! We thought it would be a nice little surprise for him.

When we got back to the van, he promptly began to cruise down the road, fast enough to keep a nice, steady breeze floating through the old, un-air conditioned vehicle.

In the relaxed, warm summer afternoon, we told him about the man that scared us earlier. We told Dad that we would rather he come back from the dead like this and visit us anytime– it was much less creepy and a lot of fun!

See? That’s what I mean– a number of truths are blended together here, such as:

We always enjoyed our personal drives together in the van, in which the A/C didn’t even work, my dad loves watermelon, he walked with a cane several years ago due to his stroke, my sister and I enjoy finding treats for my dad…and that he died less than 2 months ago.

The cruel lie here is that he came to visit.

As much as I enjoyed my afternoon with my dad in dreamland, it was only a dream. The dead cannot borrow their corpses to visit the living. A sweet and at the same time cruel vision; I dearly miss those days when my sister and I could cruise through the city with our dad. As I awoke this afternoon from such a pleasant dream, the pain, sorrow, and tears started to well up in me again as I realized that he was not truly here with me, and that I will not see him again for a long time, not until the day I see God.

I wish dreams like this never have to end.

Savoring this Moment.

I am writing so that I may never forget.

Today, my little girl turned 21.

In days.

I just now finished rocking her to sleep, and my mind began to fantasize about her future. And then I realized this is the last time I will be able to hold her like this when she turns 21.

I take in her sweet little round nose, her bulging cheeks, her downy, dark brown hair.  I notice that there are slight curves on the edges, framing her face…will she have curls someday? Her green summer onesie has white polka dots, which accent the milk stains left over from her lunch.I  notice that her face is so different now from the day I met her, even though that was only 21 days ago. How much she has already grown!

Perhaps rocking her in the glider as she laid in my lap may seem like an everyday, and therefore insignificant, event; however, it is one of those small moments that I am taking to mark in my memory. One small detail of her babyhood that I will not allow time to rob from me.

Because the next time she turns 21, she will not be a babe of 21 days, but a young woman of 21 years. She will not be falling asleep in my lap as I rock her to sleep, as I marvel at her tiny, animated facial expressions that flash across her face, offering just a glimpse into her infantile dreams. No– she will no longer possess the total innocence that she has now. No more crying for food, no more holding my finger with pudgy little hands. She may even be married by then, and no longer belong to me.

So I will hold onto this moment because I know how time flies, and she will only be the sweet little baby that I now love and can hold in my hands for a little while longer. And I want to cherish each moment that she is.

Friends that passed, Friends that last

Technology is a wonderful thing. It makes it so much easier to keep up with our busy lives– cell phones, computers, the Internet…the list is infinite. The part that concerns me is that maybe technology is making life too convenient. Too easy.

Personally, I usually stay busy. School, work, activities, paying bills and errands only begin the list of distractions in my life. Pretty soon, I will be adding taking care of a baby on top of everything. I am sure that I am not alone. I believe that the majority of people have a similar lifestyle that is dictated by what we have to do, and other things we want to do for ourselves.

How does this on-the-go life affect our relationships? Recently, I have read about, heard a sermon about, and saw billboards about our friendships. These things made me think about all the friends I have ever had. Grade school, then high school, now college… Unfortunately, many of the friends that we talked to every day have somehow disappeared throughout the years. How does this happen to people?

Eventually, we fill up our schedules so much that we do not give time to our friends. We have all of our Technology to do the work for us. Work. Yes, maintaining a friendship takes work! I think that is what too many people do not realize until it’s too late. We need to be a friend for others, listening to them, sharing and making memories with them, helping them through the tough times. Now, we have Facebook to keep in touch with friends, so that we do not have to personally spend our precious time on our “friends.” We send them a message from time to time, check their page to make sure we know what’s the latest news in their life, probably more to satisfy our own curiosity than to genuinely check on them to see how they are and if we can help them in any way. Unfortunately, however hard it is to admit, the people we merely contact via the Internet or text message and other various means of technology, we are not contacting FRIENDS. They are our CORRESPONDENTS. People we message. Talk to. Merely correspond with.

How many of your correspondents would give their life for you? How many would help you in time of need? All 279 “friends” online? Only 100? 10? 2? None?

Do you know who your true friends are? I mean the people who you can count on, and that they can depend on you, too. The friends that will still be friends when you no longer see them daily at school or work or at the community center. Do you have any?

I must admit that I am just as guilty, which is the reason I got to thinking about this. I have neglected many relationships in my lifetime, as I am sure most people have. I have several people in my life that I truly can rely on and they know I am there for them, too. God forbid that I might ever become so busy for these few important people who have done so much for me that I would ever be unable to spare them a few hours of one day to spend with them. But I am only a sinful human being, and I make mistakes. I still feel regret over losing some friends in the past because I have overfilled my schedule and left no room for them.

If you value something in your life, you give it time. You spend hours watching your favorite TV shows, or working on improving a skill. You devote time to a hobby or to a significant other. If we can give time to all of these things, we should also be able to give time to the people in our lives that we value– people who are eager to give back to you.

Do not neglect your true friends. It is so easy with the American bustle of life, which seems to refuse its citizens any free time. But the truth is, you choose where your time goes. You can choose to let your relationships wither away, or to nourish them and watch them bloom. Technology is indeed convenient for keeping in touch, but do not allow your entire friendship to depend on that. Spend personal, face-to-face time with your friends, and you will develop relationships that will enrich you for a lifetime.

Secrets Revealed: How to Have a Content Life

With all the turmoil in today’s world, sorrow and pain resound loudly across the globe. How can anyone avoid being drained of all of their joy and contentment when tornadoes, famine, disease, loss, heartbreak, death, hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorism, persecution, and war penetrate everyone’s personal lives?

Life indeed is unfair and cruel. Good and evil people alike suffer pain in copious ways, and when they do, many soak themselves in self-pity. What happened to happiness and where can it be found?

The truth is that the “secrets” I am about to share are not meant to be secret at all. They are readily available for anyone who takes the time to search for them. To be content, you must have everything and be able to do everything.

Some people think that having everything means obtaining all the clothes, money, possessions, and relationships that you possibly can in one short lifetime. However, those that strive to obtain everything this way find that they still feel discontent as they sit with their things, reflecting on their lives. So how does having everything bring contentment?

The key is that Christ IS everything.

When you have Christ in your life, you lack nothing. You have the reassurance that all of your needs will be met. You can be content knowing that although there is pain here on Earth, you will have eternal joy in a perfect paradise, since YOUR name is written in the book of life. Someday you will be with God in Heaven, and have everything you need, and you will find no sorrow there. You have all you need as long as you have salvation in Christ which brings you life everlasting in Paradise.

The second part is to be able to do everything. Doing everything does not mean that you always get your way, or that you can accomplish incredible feats or break records, or land the job you are fighting for. A serious problem confronts those who believe that they can be content this way: Simply, no one is strong enough to handle all of life’s challenges on their own. We need help.

The apostle Paul sheds light on what motivates him and helps him hang on to his contentment “whatever the circumstances” in his letter to the Philippians chapter 4. He praises God and rejoices with fellow Christians even while he is imprisoned and in chains.

Paul states,

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him [Christ] who gives me strength.”

This comforting excerpt from the Bible explains that no matter what life throws at you, whether it be losing your job or loved ones, whether you fall into bankruptcy or if you are forced to beg on the streets, or if disaster takes all your earthly “valuables,” or whatever may befall you, You are able to DO EVERYTHING with the help of God. To have Jesus is to have everything, but it is also to have the strength to overcome every single challenge that you encounter. God will give you what you need to survive the trials of this world if only you trust that He is in control and you don’t have to be. What trouble we would be in if we had to plan and coordinate all the intricacies of our complicated lives! We lack the ability to orchestrate all the little details in our lives and make sure that everything coincides smoothly together. I am glad that all I have to do is trust God and go along for the ride.

In summary, in order to always have true contentment in the midst of this world’s sadness, one must ensure that their happiness is independent of their surrounding circumstances. When you face hardship, you will still have the joy of knowing God is providing you with all you need. When you experience grief, you can be assured that God has something greater in mind for you and has an eternal, pain-free home waiting for you. This world can and will take what you value, who you love, and replace them with sorrow. But as long as Christ is your true source of contentment, you will never be without joy. No one can ever take the love of God away from you– EVER. In Christ you have everything, and you can do everything. So fear not, and go forth through this life with confidence knowing that you are not alone and never will be.

Will Work For Food

On our way to watch the holiday fireworks, we decided to stop at the local Speedway for some sandwiches to accompany our strawberries and chips…somewhat of a last-minute picnic idea. I liked the idea of enjoying a late snack while watching the sky ignite with bright colors, underlined with the still, reflective lake underneath, safe on our blanket in the grass. We have so much to celebrate: the most obvious being this wonderful country whose birthday we were observing that day. Thoughts of appreciation for my loved ones with whom I was about to enjoy the evening picnic filled me with warmth and excitement. How blessed am I to have such a supportive family in this beautiful land of the free.

As we pulled up to the gas station, we saw a scruffy older man holding a sign saying, “Will work for food.” Living in a big city, my first reaction is always filled with skepticism since so many people pose as beggars, just looking for free handouts. After all, begging does bring in a few hundred dollars a day sometimes. What great pay for just standing around asking for money!! However, upon closer examination, I saw this man was old and he did not have the physique to labor the way some of the con artists do. This poor man seriously was willing to work, even though his body was old and frail. Furthermore, he was not asking for handouts. He wanted to work…he wanted to earn his food honestly. Not only that, he was wanting food. Not money, just food. I began to wonder how long it might have been since his last meal. . .

When asked if he might like a sandwich, he didn’t seem to respond at first. When asked again if he’d like anything from inside, the old man mumbled “hot dog.” That was it. I couldn’t believe that’s what he really wanted. A hot dog?! How unfilling, unsatisfying, and cheap. But nonetheless, we went inside, bought him two hot dogs, a large gallon of water in hopes it might last a while in this dreadful summer heat, and a Hershey’s bar.

When we came back out, we gave him the food we bought for him and he only took it and muttered something about not wanting to touch us. Personally, I would not have been offended by the grime on his bony hands or the smell of the summer sweat, but he seemed self-conscious of his appearance.

I only interacted with him for a few moments, and I wonder what impact I might have made in that short amount of time. I may never meet him again, but he certainly has made an impact on me. I got to thinking about how sad it is that this world is so full of corruption and deceit…and because of that I hesitate to help people holding up signs for help. Many of them are indeed cons, but others are genuinely seeking the loving hand of a fellow human being who will stop long enough to lend them aid. How many people die of starvation because we turn a blind eye? How many do not have anyone to cherish or call “loved ones” the way I had been thinking of mine just moments before I met him?

I believe that everything happens for a reason, whether big or small. It was part of God’s will for me to meet that man this past Independence Day. Maybe it was to remind me that we are indeed ONE nation, and we should all work together in unity to survive. God has made and loves ALL people, and that includes those whom we overlook and despise. For that man, there was no family to watch fireworks with, no picnic to enjoy, no compassion to be found. I pray for him, and those like him, that God would open the eyes of those who have been blessed with much to share their gifts with those who have been given very little.

Thank you God for this nation, my family, and for my freedom, and for meeting all my daily needs. May I never become so preoccupied with my own blessings that I fail to see that you have given me more so I can share with the less fortunate. Open my heart to be generous and compassionate, and help us all to see that we are all people whom You love and all citizens of one nation. Help us all work together and help each other as brothers and sisters of this beautiful land you have given us. Bless our nation. Amen.

Thank You God, For Everything

Amidst the chaos of this life, it is so easy to overlook the true blessings God is sending. I was inspired to write this poem upon realizing that I do not appreciate the gifts I’ve been given nearly as much as I should.

Thank you God for rainy days, for that means food is growing,
For this crowded room which with Your gifts is overflowing,
And for frustrating traffic—for at least I have a car.
Thank you for my tired body; I’m able to work hard.

Thank you, Lord for college debts, for we have education,
Thanks for ills that remind me that you are my salvation.
For family arguments for I have family to love,
And for trials testing me to trust in You above.

Rising costs of food will teach me to appreciate
And thank you for this old, old house where at least I am safe.
Thank you for my sleepless nights as Baby keeps on growing,
And stressful mornings as my husband to his job is going.

Thank you God for blessings that I often fail to see
For I am distracted with this life’s small difficulties
Teach me, Lord, to trust in You and see the best in all things—
For in each trial that you send you also give blessings.

(c) 2010

The Countdown Begins: See You Soon, Baby Girl

I have found that having a baby changes everything– and she’s not even here yet.

For one thing, morning has been redefined. No matter how I try, I cannot bring myself to alertness during “normal” morning hours. Waking up shortly before noon has become routine, and when the clock chimes 1:00, I am mentally still in morning mode. But how can I help it when my baby is up ALL night long, twisting around and stretching my abdomen in ways I never thought possible? Maybe she is practicing what she knows is the typical baby sleep schedule. Although in my opinion, she has it pretty down-pat.

For the few collective hours I do actually sleep, I hardly find it restful. Even rolling over in the middle of the night has become a chore. I can’t just unconsciously turn into a new and more comfortable position. Now, I must leave dreamland to reposition my multitude of surrounding pillows as well as this mountainous body. If this waking happens around 3 or 4 AM, I find that I am hungry, but have already used up all of my energy in relocating this huge mass that I now carry all the time, with no reserve to get up to feed myself. I truly have found the meaning of “sleeping like a baby:” waking up hungry every few hours of the night.

The house’s appearance has also changed. Open space has been replaced with baby toys, a crib, bassinet, playpen, clothes and other miscellaneous baby items waiting to be put to use. We are still attempting to “baby-proof” the house, but I keep imagining new and infinite ways our little one could get into something and hurt herself. Of course, being a first-time mom, I suppose I will have endless worries about just about everything, and I will have to face the fact that I cannot protect her from everything.  But I do not have to think about that just yet; she is safe inside me– for now.

Please don’t get the wrong impression: I have loved being pregnant so far. I have to admit, I cried when I first found out that I was pregnant, but only because I am so young and I felt as though my new husband and I were still adjusting to each other and to married life, when suddenly parenting was thrown into the mix much sooner than we had planned. But once I pushed those fears into the background, I found myself daydreaming about what our new baby would be like. Would she be tall like her dad? Would she have talents in music, art, or sports? Would she be intelligent? Whatever she might become, she will always be our daughter. Our child. What a privilege to have been hand-selected by God himself to support and guide this little person and teach her all about the world we live in and the one yet to come. Yes, I have felt ill, tired, stretched, and in pain for the past 8 months, but these annoyances are only temporary and will be forgotten once I see those big, round eyes and pudgy fingers reaching for mine. My discomfort now only makes me more aware of our fast-approaching meeting and increases my anticipation.

The biggest change of all is that we are already in love with this little baby, and she’s not even here yet.