Stories

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I started reading to Andrew at bedtime again. His response to books and reading has become more ecstatic, and he’s been picking up books, flipping through them, and touching the pictures himself. I know reading from infancy is important, but I fell into the trap of believing the stories I read to him were doing nothing for him. Thankfully now, he’s been asking, in his own way, for stories.

We read one of his first books, one of the three stories I read to him before falling into the trap. “The Feelings Book” by Todd Parker has abstract, bright pictures that look similar to child’s drawings. They are simple, clean, and espressive. Back then, I knew that reading the same story to Andrew several times would boost his intelligence, so I read it to him everyday. Sometimes several times a day, trying to get him to touch and see the pictures.

Tonight, I was reluctant to pick it up again. I was tired of the story. I never thought I would feel this way. But I chose it, and read it to him.

As soon as I opened the book, I saw the line, “Sometimes I feel afraid” over the picture of a little mouse beside a large cat. I hesitated before reading the line. I instantly thought of my mouse, April, in her cage by the bedroom door.

She’s aged much worse than my previous five mice. The others became decrepit over time, their backs arching and fur shedding, then one day, laying down in their favorite places to sleep and die. They moved slowly, sniffed more frequently (their little noses and whiskers would jitter), and they spent long hours in the same spot day by day. April, though, is deteriorating. Her eyes are sunken and bruised, her spine turns to one side, and she hobbles on uneven feet. She can barely lift her head, and I have to move to water bottle to her every few hours so she can drink. She remains in her pile on food and feces. To clean her cage, I have to move carefully. To touch her, I have to barely brush the tips of her fur. She’s the last of my mice. She was always the most sweet, the most welcoming and compliant. It seemed so cruel she was the last to die, alone.

Sometimes, I wish she would die, just so she doesn’t have to suffer and live alone anymore. I hope to find her like my first mouse to pass away, Poppy, who crawled into my hand when her time had come.

But I’m sorry to say, I’m reluctant to touch April. I keep thinking she’s ill or infected by the way she looks. I’m nervous to catch something from her if I stroke her to comfort her with a bare finger (I’ve been using cloth gloves, the same ones I used to pick her up when she would squirm and I thought she would nip me).

She used to try to curl up and sleep with three of my other mice, the ones I got (including April) after my first two, Poppy and Misery, passed away. But the females all found ways to fight each other, and April would have to rest with them one at a time, usually with Bandit. When I separated them, and Bandit and Sarset crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I eventually brought aging Vheissu to her cage. April stayed with her until the last moment, when I carried Vheissu’s body from the cage.

Tomorrow, my husband and I are attending the memorial for a friend. I had only met him twice, but he was so kind, genuine, and sincere. We were in a group of mutual friends, and he remembered me from the first time we met among the same group. I saw what a good friend he was. I didn’t know he was dieing until I saw a post on Facebook that he had gone septic and was in the hospital.

I prayed for his recovery, but felt like I was hitting a wall. I prayed and prayed, and my words almost felt stale. Then, I whispered, “Lord, if You Will for him to come Home to You, please make it painless and sweet.” Rest descended onto my soul, and I knew that our friend’s death was approaching.

He had been deteriorating for weeks before the morning he passed away. I met with one of our mutual friends who said the last time he saw our friend, he was in a bed, barely able to move or speak. He was dying then.

How does it feel to know your death is close? Or the death of something, or someone, is close? Almost peaceful, but static with so much lost opportunity. I think of the times I could have seen my friends while I was in school, spending an evening with them instead of picking up more time at work or watching TV alone in my apartment. I could have trained April to sit comfortably in my hand, or gotten her a friend to be with her during this time (I know I can’t have any more mice, and thought April would go quickly and quietly like the others, so I thought a new mouse would outlive April and I would have to continually buy mice to replace the ones I lost). I could have spent the last 5 months reading every night to my son, putting him to sleep with stories rather than overhearing the TV or a song on my phone.

How much more do we gain from life when we realize there can, and will be, and end to it. We don’t have endless time to waste, but an amount to use. To love, to be, to do what we’re meant to do.

And truth, however difficult it may be, is made sweet when we realize it, and accept it to be.

Flames

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My husband and I have started spending our evenings outside on the back porch. Andrew falls asleep soon after dinner, and we sit beneath our bedroom window with coffee, our phones, and a burning candle.

Today, the candle refused to light. The torch flame fanned out around the burnt wick, and the fire sputtered as it kissed the melted wax. The flame finally caught, and grew for a moment before sinking and dieing. It was so small, it didn’t even leave a smoke trail.

I wondered at the nature of fire, how it passed on from flame to flame, and it needs a hospitable environment in order to grow and roar. That it needs to be large and strong to stand against wind.

We spent the evening in the basement today. The cats were crying for most of the day and I missed them. I planned to prepare for my morning tutoring session, but found several missed emails from volunteering and a call back for a job I applied to last night. I finished responding to the emails and preparing for tutoring within an hour, but I still felt the stress of the rush. I searched my computer and phone for work to do, not realizing I had free time to write.

Yesterday, I talked to my husband about my financial concerns. I told him my ideas for a small etsy business, my hopes for the magazine I started with friends, my Masters degrees and how I wanted and planned to use them, the jobs I applied to and the ones I had to turn down, and how I really didn’t know what I wanted to do anymore. After I shut down some of his suggestions, he told me I should consider career counselling.

I decided that I needed to mingle with ideas before knowing if they are right to pursue or not. The statement felt liberating, but in a flighty, unstable way. I had no boundaries or scaffolding for growth. There was only open possibility with no direction forward.

My flames of passion pass so quickly from one to another that they rarely have time to develop. I invest my whole self, my time and attention to an activity, idea, project or person, then tire and I want a change.  I forget my writing, my goals, my pets. My loves become misnomers that are secondary to priorities. And priorities become whatever  will most immediately upset people.

My goals are slow and need ample time to grow. And when my passion strikes them, the flame burns out so quickly.

I know I need to stay focused, but I keep falling prey to pressures.

Thankfully, I have a husband and family who support my dreams. It seems the pressures I feel are based on real situations, but nothing that is actually threatening. Maybe the fear is in my mind. Or maybe it is misdirected, and I can look forward to the day it doesn’t burn up passions, when it will move around my dreams and disappears in a soft sputter and smoke.

To Hide

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I’ve been wondering why I haven’t posted lately.

I have drafts waiting for completion, ideas that die within minutes, and whatever I write to post feels so farce. I don’t know where my true thoughts and feelings lie, and I’m wondering where the beauty is in the confusion.

I recently had a revelation that disturbed and shook me.

Lately, I’ve been hiding. And I remembered so long ago when I didn’t want to face my true thoughts. Back then, I encouraged myself to just keep living — things would turn out good soon. Now, I keep myself busy. I pursue everything, enjoy all my aspirations, to keep myself from thinking.

In both instances, long ago and now, I avoided writing. I wondered if my writing tutoring sessions, emails and social media posts I made for volunteering, and reading submissions for the magazine I started with friends would fulfill the need. I crammed words onto a Google document and told myself it was writing. I found words that sounded correct, but when I saw them and read them in my voice, they sounded clunky, stiff, and untrue.

I participated in current events and confessed secrets, everything I believed needed to be said or I wanted to explore, but I hadn’t faced my fear. I wasn’t bold.

Writing is thinking for me. It does more than record my memories and thoughts, help me to ponder and reflect and discover. It opens answers. It helps me process. It forces me to face the truth.

Even now, I have the television running. The silence I need to clearly hear the words, feel them resonating in me, is still a too heavy and frightening burden to carry. I’m typing this directly onto the webpage though, something I’m usually too frightened to do for fear that when I see it again, I’ll cringe at what a mess it is.

But I don’t want to wait another day and let more time pass between me and a step in the right direction.

Ordinary

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My neighborhood saw several birthdays in quarantine.

First was our neighbor’s grandson’s birthday. The family sang and ate cake on the front lawn. They talked behind masks and stood far apart, holding their breaths to eat a piece of cake. A girl ran through the group with the birthday boy. They stopped to watch my husband and me walk past them on the far side of the street. We were pushing Andrew in his stroller. I pulled my mask down to wish the boy happy birthday.
I last saw this family years ago. Their teenage son (now the grown father of the boy) was racing down the street in his Jeep. His father was watching him from the porch. They looked so different on the front lawn that I didn’t find them when I looked for them among the family members.
A few days later, the house next to them had a birthday. Blue cardboard letters that spelled HAPPY BIRTHDAY stretched across their lawn. A cutout of balloons and a cake stood between the words. Later that day, the family’s friends drove past in a birthday drive-by. All the cars honked their horns as balloons waved out of their windows. One young man on a motorcycle performed a wheelie in front of the house before speeding away.
My birthday was a week away. Even though several families were celebrating birthdays this way, I hoped to have the same traditions for mine: cardboard letters, a lawn party and a drive-by. They were sweet and seemed like a lot of fun.
I usually avoid following trends. I’ll watch popular shows months or years later, ignore high-traffic ads, and will scroll past posts on social media if they already have a few hundred likes. I hate cliches and falling into a rhythm like everyone else around me. I embrace the unique, fresh, and surprising — I found I learn best and more from these.
The new quarantine birthday traditions appealed to me though. Implementing a popular idea seemed to show the birthday person that he or she wasn’t forgotten during a time of social distancing. Loved ones noted how other families were celebrating, and they wanted to bring the tradition to their home. And in a way, these trends seemed more personal and intimate than before the quarantine. They spoke to the family’s ability to notice what was happening in their neighborhood, and to share it in their own homes.
Birthdays were no longer private affairs, but special days, almost like holidays. The individual families were eager to invite the neighbors and passerby’s to join in the fun.
When my birthday arrived, I knew it would be quiet, and I was somewhat glad. I was working on the website for a literary magazine I’m starting with my sister and friends, and really starting to enjoy the process. I welcomed a day at home doing what I wanted to do.
I woke with a sore shoulder (an old ailment called to life by carrying around my surprisingly heavy 3-month-old), and it throbbed throughout the day. My husband and I had to stop playing Munchkins halfway through the game because of the pain.
Andrew was also out of sorts that day. He woke at 4 AM and couldn’t fall asleep again until 8:00. My husband and I were exhausted and frustrated that the sleep training we worked so hard to develop had no effect on my birthday. But my mom and husband were as patient as ever, and took turns carrying and soothing him so I could rest.
They also arranged a few surprises.
When I came downstairs, they asked me to close my eyes as I stepped out the front door. I honestly had no idea what was out there. I opened them to a pair of large balloons flanking the door, and the backside of cardboard letters spelling HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMANDA on the lawn. I ran to it barefoot, loving my name posted beneath the tree. The other birthday signs on my block didn’t have names. Mine was the first one. I watched out the window for most of the day to see how many people looked at the letters or honked in greeting.
I loved my sign, I loved taking a picture in front of it. I loved that others had done this before, and I was joining them in this way of celebration. I loved that my family knew what I wanted even though I didn’t ask for it.
The next surprise was a visit from two people. The first was my best friend. We had chatted over video calls and frequent Facebook messages, but we hadn’t seen each other in person since my wedding last year. And before that, we had spent almost a year apart.
When she came, I expected us to be talking for hours on end as we usually do, but I was so hesitant. I couldn’t think of anything to say, and when I did speak, I was incoherent and frankly, boring. I blamed the lack of sleep and early morning, but I realized the disconnect was in my sociability.
I hadn’t spoken to my friends much since Andrew was born, and I used the quarantine and my newborn as excuses to remain distant from everyone. I love my friends dearly, and started to regularly communicate with them after my birthday, but I had thought I wanted ample time away from people in general. Maybe it was from constantly being with a baby who needed me. Maybe I wanted to escape a sense of responsibility.
I had lost touch with my best friend, my soul mate, and was so embarrassed by the social distancing I had taken upon myself during the mandated quarantine. I had marked resting as remaining distant.
The goal of rest is not to remain stationary, but to refuel for work — purpose. Yes, I and other introverts (many of my friends included) require time alone, sometimes in silence. But I thought I could complete more work in quantity and quality if I remained distant. Sitting beside my best friend, struggling to find words to say, made me realize how wrong I’d been.
When she left, I sent her home with sushi and pork buns, and texted her a thank you for coming over. By the time the second visitor arrived, I was alert and craving time with people.
The photographer who shot our engagement photo session (when my husband officially proposed!) and our wedding came over to take family portraits of my husband, me and baby. I was surprised to have this birthday professionally captured, but I was glad to see her, and thankful for the pictures I could show Andrew later about our family celebrations during COVID.
I talked at ease with her, and my best friend was able to greet her before she left. We organized cupcakes on a covered table outside, and I showed her the balloons and sign on the front lawn.
I later went inside to have dinner, and when I went out, the table decorated with objects I saw out the corner of my eye. My attention was on Andrew and if he was warm enough in a blanket.
A fire truck was tucked behind some trees down the block. I wondered what had happened at our poor neighbor’s house, and I watched it between conversations.
Then its light began to spin, and it moved to the corner of our block. The siren wailed. A line of cars followed, a colored trail of balloons and honks coming toward us. “Happy Birthday Mandy!” my mom said behind me.
I watched the video of the drive-by later that night with my husband after Andrew had gone to sleep. I had thought I was frantic and shocked and completely unsure of what to do as so many beloved masked faces drove by. But in the video, I was graceful, waving and greeting everyone with the pink crown on my head. I watched the last car arrive with one of my best friends from high school riding in the front seat. The sign she made for me hung out the window. I walked up to give her a hug. The gesture appeared effortless on camera. I glided across the pavement to her when in person, it felt like I was fumbling.
My mom had invited the procession to a party on our front lawn. Talking to loved ones in person again, and finally meeting one of my new in-laws in person, was like walking through a beautiful dream. And it was perfectly captured in the photos our photographer took. She caught my moments of surprise and joy, and even though I felt so insecure about my appearance that day, I could see the times throughout the drive-by and the party that I had forgotten my insecurities and simply enjoyed the joy.
I felt like I was walking in the place of my neighbors, seeing and feeling the surprise they had. Yet, the feeling tingled with newness. Yes, everyone was doing this to celebrate birthdays, but I had never celebrated a birthday this way. I had seen a new way of people loving and remembering me. My birthday was a day of celebration for everyone, not just for me and the people in my house.
I knew as soon as I saw it coming down the block that the firetruck was in memoriam of my grandfather. He and I celebrated our birthdays together since they were only two days apart. During our last birthday together, we were sitting beside each other at a round table with my parents, sister and Grandma at the revolving restaurant above New York City. He was having a rum and coke and I was drinking a cocktail. Fog covered the city, but I could see the black-windowed buildings and a concrete structure outside a window. He was asking me about school and where I wanted to teach. I was so confused about my future that I didn’t want to talk about it, and focused on the moving view that continued showing the same things in circulation.
It had been two years since he passed away. He was a volunteer firefighter, one that went down to the city during 9/11. Inhaling the debris of the collapsed second tower was what took him from us in September 2018.
Last year, I made a small toast to him with an oversized margarita. This year, I shouted with pure joy as the sound of his memory came toward me. Even though the fireman driving the truck didn’t know me, I waved to him. He smiled and waved back.
A couple friends asked me about the drive-by later that night, saying they wished they were able to come. Some called to video chat. I couldn’t believe how much my mom and husband had done to organize it, and how they knew exactly which people to invite. Even the ones states away or ones too busy to come.
I missed seeing their faces, and as I read text and Facebook messages, I read the words in their voices.
I went to sleep as I usually do — very late after hours of writing and working while my husband and Andrew sleep. But the time I typically spend alone at my computer I was with my mom and husband, and Andrew was asleep in my husband’s arms. I didn’t go up to bed until after 10:00 — usually I turn in around 7 unless I have my class.
All of us together at that time of night was unusual — new. And it crackled with purpose. We still glowed with the celebration, and through the fatigue, we were eager to be together talking, encouraging each other, and offering insight.
I felt a new drive to rekindle the old times we had sitting and talking together. A time that felt cliche and overdone back then. I would go upstairs early to write, read or play computer games. When I thought the only way I could find newness and inspiration was on my own.
I was humbled on my birthday, without being struck down or humiliated. I learned that the past can return fresh and alive, and that welcoming socialization into an introverted lifestyle makes the time alone purposeful. What seems overdone and cliche on the surface may offer something unique, and each experience, no matter how ordinary, is worth sharing, preserving and cherishing.

Carried

affection baby black and white carrying

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When I was pregnant, I didn’t feel the weight of my son for about 6 months. Around that time, I struggled to find a comfortable sleeping position, stand up from sitting, and walk up stairs. I often heard pregnancy described as carrying a baby, and the meaning of it didn’t occur to me until my son felt heavy. 

To carry has a range of definitions: to support and move someone/thing from one place to another; to support the weight of something; the distance a ball travels before reaching the ground in golf; to endure; a place between navigatable waters through which boats had been carried. Someone can carry a gun, and a store carries supplies. 

While carrying my son, I nourished him as he grew enough to to be born. He was safe in the womb, learning how to flex his fingers and toes, smile, swallow, and inhale fluid into his tiny lungs. 

We saw in a 3D sonogram that he tried opening his eyes, waving away the stinging fluid around them. He tried over and over until he fell asleep. 

The first thing he did after he was born, before he even cried, was open his eyes. He glanced up at me when he heard my voice. He turned to my husband when he spoke. He was finally able to see and do everything he practiced in the womb — his lungs learned to breathe air, his motions are more defined and purposeful, and he can follow objects and people as they move in front of him. His body was ready for the world after the nine months inside mine. While I carried him, he learned. 

But to nourish my son, my body was slowly being depleted. I took a variety of vitamins and changed my diet to have more vegetables and carbs. Even then, I had severe vertigo and sometimes had to spend entire days sitting. People warned me that my teeth would be changed after the pregnancy. “The baby takes all your calcium,” they said. They also said it was good that I was having a boy. “Because the girls steal your beauty.”

Early in my pregnancy, my mom found my baby album. It began with photos of me when I was born, swollen red mouth open in a cry, thin spry arms flailing, little legs bent and lifted. The pictures moved into my first photoshoot, then my mom’s baby shower. I recognized my godmother, Aunt Mary, near the table that held the cake. She was setting out plates and utensils as my mom smiled at the camera. I saw my Nana and Grandma, their hair dark and faces young. The album ended with cards from the shower and a photo of my mom posed with her hands tucked under her belly. Her smile was warm and genuinely happy. She still carries that smile.

Each of these women has planted something in me that I still carry — hospitality from my godmother, resilience from my Grandma, acceptance from my Nana, and genuine love from my mom. They nourished me with their unique forms of love, and it has shaped me and how I enter into the world.

They all have carried my early years in life outside the womb and my early days of motherhood, when I was sad and overwhelmed with the dread of being an unfit, undeserving mother.

In high school, a speaker came to our Wednesday chapel service to teach us about the love of God. He used the story of a friend who was abandoned by his mother at a young age and spent his life looking for the love he had lost. On the day he became a Christian, he encountered someone who offered to pray for him. “God,” this person prayed, “love this man as a mother.” And in that moment, the love he had searched for poured over him. 

His father loved him deeply, but his love was different from the one God presented that day. He was nourished in the dry portions of his soul, uplifted where he was down, and life breathed into the dead parts of him. His love was made complete. 

Children can certainly thrive in a masculine, fatherly love, but to know the love of God, this man needed a mother’s love to feel whole. 

God’s love makes us complete. His Spirit nourishes us, shelters us and carries us. We grow in Him, practicing a new way of life that we can bring out into the world to love others. In Him, we move, live, breathe and have our being. Much like a baby inside the mother who carries him.

But unlike a mother, God is never depleted when He carries His children. His Grace, Mercy, Hope and Love become more profound, vivid, and powerful the more we lean into Him. 

Jesus says to cast our burdens onto Him and for us to carry His yoke, for it is light. He calls us to pick up our Crosses, carry them and follow Him. The only way we can do this is to come to Him as the source to our everything, our Savior of mind, body, soul and life. To be in Him. To be carried by Him as we carry His Spirit in us.

My favorite picture of my son was taken days after he was born. My sister, his godmother, is holding him, her face turned down toward him, and Andrew’s face wrinkled and eyes squinting. The crocheted cat hat my friend’s mother made pressed on his head. He’s hunched and leaning completely on my sister. She’s cradling him close, one arm around his back to steady his head and a hand on his abdomen to keep him from falling.

I love this picture because I see how safe Andrew is in his godmother’s arms. He’s relaxed in the photo, even if he appears a little confused. My sister carries him confidently, supporting his weak points, and a few pictures later, Andrew is still on my sister, but he’s in a deep sleep. 

He slept often before he was born. On days when I was able to walk frequently, I was sometimes worried about how still he would be. Andrew doesn’t enjoy sleeping now, and we have to coax him for a few hours before he can go down for the night. I was so frustrated at first, until I realized he just wanted to be close to someone he trusts. 

We all can only lay down to sleep voluntarily when we are at peace. When we feel safe. Andrew sleeps best when he is carried, his head nestled against our necks and his chest against our shoulders. There he finds peace, safety, and love. 

Easter

IMG_3251Easter was quiet for us. We called my sister in the city and my mom made dinner. We dressed Andrew in a button down and bow tie, and had a similar outfit ready when he needed a change.

In the morning, my mom put on a live feed of the St Patrick’s Cathedral mass, and we watched as the bishop spoke to empty pews, and the ceremony occurred in a quiet cathedral. I tried writing about the day in the afternoon, and as the week went by, I wondered what reflections I had for Easter.

Easter — the day Jesus rose from the dead, conquered sin and death, and returned to Heaven to prepare a place for His beloved, the children of God. That morning, He approached Mary Magdalene, who thought He was the gardener come to tend to the tomb, and she went to tell the disciples that Jesus was alive. Peter, James and John ran to the tomb, found the folded cloths, meaning Jesus would return, and met Jesus on the road, but at the time, they didn’t recognize Him. That night, Jesus came to them, Thomas touched His hands and side, and Jesus had a final meal with His disciples, redeeming Peter after he denied knowing Christ before the crucifixion.

Twice, Jesus didn’t reveal His identity right away to His followers. Or they simply didn’t recognize Him, and the Holy Spirit had to reveal Jesus’ identity to them. And He spent the day with His friends — even though they would have eternity together in Heaven, He wanted to be with them on Earth. Maybe for them, because they would have to wait longer to see Him again, and they were entering into a completely new life.

New life. We celebrate that every Easter and every spring. That’s why baby animals and eggs are prevalent on that day. But what if the new life is a new way of living, a new purpose, a new drive that compels us into a different direction.

So in that silence and ease, there is a call for new dedication to Him. Since then, I’ve heard His Voice every morning calling me to meet with Him. He’s given me hope in my gifts and drives. Jesus met with His followers in preparation for them to begin their new lives in Him. He stayed for the day, surprised them, redeemed them, and spent time with them for their benefit.

The Day Between

shallow focus photo of pink ceramic roses

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I hadn’t thought about what happened before Resurrection day before midnight on Easter morning. My husband and I had just put Andrew back to bed and the idea suddenly came to me then. I had decided to play a computer game instead of writing, and had the dreaded feeling I had missed out on something magical.

I’m sure the disciples were thinking the same thing. They were probably going over the past three years trying o figure out where things went wrong. I wonder if they briefly remembered what Jesus said, that He would be killed and rise from it.

On the day Jesus died, a great darkness came over the land. An earthquake shook the temple and the veil guarding the inner sanctuary was torn top to bottom. The Pharisees and other religious teachers asked the Romans to remove the bodies from the crosses before Shabbat, the Sabbath. When they went to break Jesus’ legs, they realized He was already dead. They drove a spear into his side to make sure, and the disciple John, remaining close by with Mother Mary, saw “blood and water” run from the wound.

Joseph of Arimathea asked the Romans for Jesus’ body to bury, and Mary Magdalene, Mother Mary, and other women prepared the body for burial. A boulder was rolled in front of the tomb and a guard set throughout the night so Jesus’ followers wouldn’t try to steal the body. They remembered that Jesus said He would rise from the dead in three days.

Saturday His body lay in the tomb.

Passover celebrations continued, overlapping with the Sabbath, the day of rest. The day was so significant, that religious leaders didn’t want the Hebrews doing anything that resembled weekly work, even making mud for it was used to make bricks.

The day of rest came between the death of Christ and His Resurrection. The Sabbath was a day of high respect, and is traditionally celebrated from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Jesus’ body was taken down from the Cross, and lay in the tomb as the Sabbath was observed.

Jesus said that the Sabbath was for man, when the people had believed that man was created for the Sabbath. It was a day to rest — rejuvenate, remember and celebrate. Celebrate one’s life with God and how God was working and remembering His people.

While learning about the death and resurrection of Christ in Bible class, my teacher, a devout Christian and woman in sync with the Holy Spirit, told us that the day Christ took on the sins of the world sparked a celebration among the angels in Heaven. They knew that mankind was saved in one final sacrifice sufficient to cover sins for generations. And the Son of God would be raised on high because of His sacrifice.

I wonder why the disciples forgot or didn’t understand Jesus saying He would rise from the grave in three days when His enemies remembered and feared. Maybe the reality of His words was hidden from the disciples until the appointed time, when Jesus would reveal Himself to Mary Magdalene and 500 other followers, and their joy would be insurmountable in the face of their doubt and sadness. Maybe His enemies were made to remember so they would know that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, all-powerful and all-worthy.

Maybe it is all right that the disciples could look back on that Saturday and see that they could have celebrated. Because regardless, God didn’t withhold the celebration from them on Sunday morning.

Inheritance

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For the past five years, my sister remembered International Siblings Day and posted a picture of us to celebrate. Today, I remembered first, and enjoyed a swell of pride as I chose a photo of us as young children, wrote a caption and posted it, then wrote a post for my two sisters-in-law.

Writing a post about Good Friday hadn’t occurred to me — I usually spent it quietly, attending an evening service and remaining contemplative throughout the night, but missing the services today threw me off rhythm, and I didn’t think about the significance of the day until later as my husband and I were putting our son to bed.

Andrew has grown significantly over the past two months, but he’s still so small, especially in our arms. I watched Andrew cradled against my husband’s shoulder, and I wondered at the two holidays falling on the same day this year.

Jesus died at 9 AM the day after Passover. In the services I attended, the pastor reminded us that today was somber and frightening for the disciples and followers of Christ. They believed all was lost, and perhaps, that leaving their families, jobs, and entire lives for Him was in vain. The disciples locked themselves away, afraid to go out in public for fear they would be killed. They isolated themselves until the Resurrection.

Thankfully, my family and I haven’t encountered COVID-19 the way others have. We’ve had scares, and we’ve been so afraid of contracting it and infecting Andrew. Our days are spent in isolation, like thousands across the world, as we left jobs and familiar ways of being to remain safe inside and apart. And too many are sick in isolation, and every time I hear of another person being lost, dyeing alone in a hospital bed, my heart breaks. Being alone has taken on a new meaning this year. It’s no longer lonely. It’s either life or death.

Matthew and I haven’t seen his family since COVIS-19 hit the US. With a newborn at home, we’ve been paranoid and extraordinarily cautious. Andrew has only seen a handful of family members, and as he grows and changes, we are more dismayed that the rest of our family can’t meet him in person for a long time.

I thought about my sister often, remaining at her apartment in the city because she wasn’t able to make it home before the epidemic turned serious, and my sisters-in-law who haven’t had a chance to meet Andrew at all except for a video call when we brought him home.

In Romans 8:29, Paul calls Christ “the firstborn among many brothers and sisters,” and that God calls His children to be “conformed to the image of [Jesus]”. I had contemplated Christ as Savior and Sacrificial Lamb at moments during the day, but since thinking about my siblings, I wondered at Jesus as the firstborn Brother of God’s children.

According to an article on Bible.org, the reference to Christ as the “firstborn” meant He would be distinct and supreme among God’s children, yet, He shares His glory with us. “The idea of brother means community and sharing in Christ…all of this being targeted under the…purposes of God.” In ancient times, the right to inheritance was determined by blood relationships — who is biologically next in line, and who is related by blood and birth.

On Good Friday, Jesus made it possible for us to be relatives (children) of the Father by His Blood. Romans 8:17 says those in Jesus are “heirs: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” We share in Jesus’ Inheritance — life, love and truth everlasting — even though He did everything to have it.

I long for the day everyone can feel safe to be with loved ones and no one has to face the fear of suffering or dyeing alone. When we can leave our isolation into a world that feels fresh and new again, and the hope of new life after this pandemic can finally begin.

4/4/20

inspirational quotes on a planner

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3 years since my last post.

I have written three different entries since visiting my blog again, one for each day.  They all cover my hiatus — my reasons for being afraid to write, special events, and how I’ve come back to this blog — and I’m tempted to overlook the dates and post as if I had never left.

I realize, though, that I’m doing what I usually do when I’m in trouble. I try to make up for the mistake and state my reasons for choosing it. I stated my regret for not posting on 4/4/20, three years since my last post — the date that held so much meaning because four is the number of creation and new life, two the number of companionship, and three the number of God. I noted how, despite missing that special date, there is, indeed, still new life — a new life of committing to writing. I wanted anyone reading this to know that I was much too afraid to write, especially journal, over the past year, and that now I’m back. I went into long soliloquies about the healing power of writing (oh yes, I’ve seen the light! My love has saved me! I’m back and I’ll never leave!).

Then I wondered, why don’t I just do it — write.

Sometimes writers need to write about writing, but for here, I found that I just needed to be honest. The three previous drafts were pretentious defenses, and what’s more, they refused to speak the truth. I discovered that writing is listening, and the listening becomes easier the more one writes.

There is a special joy — a relief — to speaking a simple truth. One without defenses, explanations, reasons, or complications, and just being said. I’m realizing that I can explore my hiatus rather than search for the reasons behind it. And when I explore, the reasons come — clear, raw, bold and true.

So though 4/4/20 is indeed a special date, it didn’t hold the truth I needed to realize. I had to see that I didn’t have to be afraid anymore — I could choose to listen. And though writing is painful at it’s best, and most times a terrifying act, it tames the fears that try to hold back the truth we so easily hide within ourselves.

Reasons for Snow

selective focus photography of white petaled flower plant

Photo by Alissa Nabiullina on Pexels.com

Yesterday, the pastor of North Point Church talked about the dangers of the fear to step out. He referred to the passage in Matthew of Jesus walking on water, and how Peter hesitated, but followed Jesus onto the waves. If Peter had been too afraid to step out, he said, he would have missed out on something God wanted to do.

I listened to 13 Reasons Why during the drive from residency to home, because I was tired of the music on my phone and didn’t want to fiddle with my iPod. A common theme throughout the book was Clay’s fear of stepping out to help Hannah; he was afraid to tell her how he felt about her and defend her. He didn’t realize how much she wanted and needed his help until he listened to her suicide letter in tapes. Her last moment of wanting to stay alive was when she connected with Clay, told him to leave, and he didn’t look back when he knew he should have. She was too afraid to reach out for help, and he was too fearful to assist when she didn’t ask. And that led to her suicide. 

I remember the times when I knew I should have acted: to call or text a friend when I had decided to be alone, to switch into reverse when a driver in front of me sped backwards, and to say yes to a request. I didn’t respond because I told myself it wasn’t my job and wasn’t my business. It may not have been, but God was asking me to do something to prevent something else later, to speak to someone who wasn’t listening, and to be of extra help because someone needed assistance. I close myself off like the people in Rosie’s Diner when Hannah was assaulted in a corner booth; she was able to defend herself and fight Tyler off, but knowing that no one came to help her, even if she drove them away, told her that no one would ever come for her, no one would care, and she was alone. One small act does inspire another, and all small acts collect like snowflakes into a snowball that keeps rolling to the end of time. 

I want to bring the Rock that stops the rolling, for someone to stand on. I know I’ve needed that for myself, and rely on it when I feel the ground under me become soft and absorbent like snow. God will always have His Will completed. But I feel like sometimes He has to take a roundabout way to avoid my act that stands in the way of whatever is building or growing, and the blessing is delayed because I refused to move. Or that blessing cracks, and still comes, but not as complete and full as originally intended.

But God is good. He erases our faults, mishaps, and sins under snow, so when the grass grows again, it’s more green and lush and thick than before. And there will be no other way to say that the soils of our failures produced the most beautiful flowers, than to say God has done this.