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.
One of our favorite family vacation sites is a beautiful beach community located in an adjoining state. We like to go there during the “off season” when few tourists are around. Though the ocean water is a little chilly, we enjoy swimming in an indoor pool. Also, there’s a lazy river that surrounds the pool and holds a special appeal for our kids. They’ve tried to swim against its current over the years, only to be carried in the opposite direction.
Last year, as we were headed to my sister’s house on Christmas Eve, my husband and I picked up a few last-minute items at a large grocery store. My musings on the variety of shoppers populating the store on this special night turned to dismay when I headed past an aisle where Christmas items had been stocked only days earlier. Gone were the splashes of green and red. Now pink and red heart-shaped items for Valentine’s Day filled the shelves.
Although we’re 5 years apart, people often confuse me with my older sister. From the staff at my favorite coffee shop to my sister’s nursing students, we have many stories of people who try to ask me a medical question or who talk to her about writing. The mix-up seems humorous to us, because we don’t see the similarities that others view so clearly.
I enjoy driving at night and seeing the warmth of a well-lit house permeating the velvet darkness around it. Regardless of what the neighborhood may look like in the daytime, the contrast of the light in the night makes even the least attractive places appear inviting. Flip the image, though, and a boarded-up house on a sunny day becomes an antagonistic sight, even to the most tenacious of visitors.
I was 7 years old when I was first exposed to pornography. Some kids had found it, and I naively agreed when they offered to show it to me. In today’s digital world, the stakes are much higher. More than a frozen picture in time, the power of video erodes what little innocence remains in our world.
Today was a day of gladness; tonight has been difficult. A seemingly small event had unleashed a torrent of emotion in me. The day before, my husband and I had received difficult news. Being stirred with faith, during the daylight hours I had grabbed on to the inexplicable determination and joy God placed in my heart—even in that difficult place. As the day turned into evening, though, I didn’t feel victorious. I felt lonely, discouraged, and frustrated.
My husband and I often must act as referees while moderating the differences between our two offspring. They focus on what makes them different instead of what unites them. We frequently remind the two that they need each other—something that’s hard for them to see.
As a kid, I enjoyed helping my mom in the kitchen— especially when it came time for our holiday baking. One tool that fascinated me was the sifter. My mom stored it in a large plastic bag that kept it clean and caught any remnants of flour dust from previous projects. Turning the handle, I’d watch as the heavy clump of flour met with the metal pieces and screening to become a soft, light product.
Our recent move to the country has been an adventure in many ways. The stars are amazing in the open sky, bugs and spiders exist in abundance, and well water tastes pretty good. Recently, my son’s friend was visiting from the suburbs and we explained to him how our well works. My husband and I both paused as we considered how it symbolized a spiritual truth. The work crew had drilled down deep into the ground through the bedrock and didn’t stop until they reached water.