Seemingly unaware of leaflets littering the sidewalk and placards dotting the corners of the intersection, the pedestrians around me continued their normal pace of life on this national election weekend. As a foreigner, I saw a distinct similarity between the smiling faces of the candidates staring from their two-dimensional advertisements and those from my home country. All promised change and hope.
Beauty isn’t skin deep—not for the believer or for those who don’t know Jesus. A movement to see beauty in women of all shapes and sizes and the call to reject the false standards of entertainment and advertising continues to grow. From marketing campaigns using larger-sized models to local groups teaching young girls to be confident without wearing makeup, the message is clear: You are beautiful and you are powerful . . . simply by being you.
As I greeted my friend, I asked, “How are you?” She immediately began to wipe away tears. Burdened with loneliness, she had watched as countless younger friends had married over the years—but she had not. As two more were set to wed soon, she wondered why she remained alone. Her heart’s desire remains, but as each year slips by, her fears of growing old alone intensify.
Finishing up a long day’s work, I pressed the touch screen on my computer one last time and saw a date that was very familiar. Just like that it hit me: Today is my dad’s birthday. Quickly my thoughts went to my mom. Widowed 20 years ago, my mother is a living testimony of God’s provision and strength for those who come face to face with life’s hard unpredictability.
Starting as dancing droplets on the windshield, the rain increased in intensity as we drove down the road. My husband turned on the windshield wipers but then quickly turned them off. He did this over and over. When I looked at him quizzically, he explained that the passenger side wiper had stopped moving in sync with the one on the driver’s side. Turning them on long enough for both to move would have resulted in them striking against each other.
Taking his dark, weathered hands in mine, we bowed to pray. As a custodian (him) and as a teacher (me), our different life experiences intersected in my tiny office this week. His mother had been sick for some time, and the disease that had previously been confined to one area had now spread to her entire body. Confident of God’s ability to heal, we prayed for Him to restore her body—and we also asked for the miracle of comfort that supersedes death. Tonight, her son sits by her bedside and knows he will soon have to say goodbye. For now, anyway.
Our family truly enjoys the thrills and adrenaline rush found in taking amusement park rides. One recent ride we braved included a 170-foot drop. During the intense ride, I lost my bearings at one point and had no idea where we were headed. I was no longer in control, but simply hurtling down a twisting, turning track.
My name is Regina, and I’m a recovering perfection addict. What’s funny is that I willingly—and ironically—cover the mistakes and failures of others. But when it comes to the standards I set for myself, I can be ruthless.
Five years ago, in a burst of renovating energy, my husband and I decided to install tile flooring in our kitchen. Cold to the feet on winter mornings, hard on the joints year round, but easy to clean, tile was our choice again when we moved a year ago. Enduring the heavy traffic through our house, its strength has proven unyielding—even to the point of being ruthless when anything breakable happens to fall on it.
My husband and I recently saw a friend we hadn’t seen in a while. Standing outside the gym where he worked out, he highlighted the facility’s offerings. His words revealed his sense of ownership of the exercise facility. Though he wasn’t a financial stockholder, he had found identity, purpose, and a place to belong amid the mats lined with barbells and other strength-training equipment. This place had become his community and a big part of his life.
As I watched the news of a commercial flight that had been downed by a missile last year, my heart sank. Why would people wantonly take the lives of 298 people? Why? This small, three-letter word sits at the root of all our experiences with pain and suffering. It lingers, and sometimes even haunts to the point where faith and understanding collide in crisis.
Having proceeded with my fellow teachers to our seating for our school’s graduation ceremony, I was amused to find I was sitting directly behind the band. Just 18 inches stood between me and some skilled trumpet players. I wondered how my ears would fare after the first few measures of “Pomp and Circumstance.” And later I stood in wonder as we began a congregational hymn. I couldn’t hear myself singing, however. Only the sound of the majestic brass instruments resonated off the church walls.
Sitting on my back porch in the waning daylight, I enjoy watching as patches of gray, red, and blue flit through the air. Busy wings then grow still as the birds alight on my newly acquired feeder. A few years prior, thieving squirrels stymied my efforts to feed these feathered wonders. Moving its location and even oiling the pole was not enough to keep the wily rodents from robbing the birds of the seed. Then, a friend introduced me to a spring-loaded feeder that closes if anything heavier than a bird lands on its ledge.
Snuggled in blankets, we settled in for one of the worst ice storms our usually temperate climate had ever experienced. Roads had been closed, schools cancelled, and citizens warned to stay safely inside their homes. With our power out, we cooked pizza rolls in the fireplace, watched movies with our reserve computer battery, and slept under layers of blankets to keep warm. In the middle of the night, however, I awakened to loud intermittent cracking sounds. Layers of ice and snow had taxed the boughs of the tall trees behind our house. Unable to bear the burden, they were taking turns crashing to the snowy ground below.
I remember when someone on our church ministry team responded with disbelief upon discovering that my husband and I have disagreements. But I didn’t back away from sharing that we—like any family—had to work through conflict to relate better. Being spiritually mature doesn’t mean we’re exempt from challenges or failure. And it also means being honest, not trying to hide behind a squeaky clean façade.