Thursday, December 28, 2006

An Angel for Christmas

Last Monday, M and I hopped a flight to New York to get to the hospital to see baby Abigail before it was too late. Nothing could have prepared us for what we would see when we got there. (I tell you only because you need to understand this to understand the blessing God would give us in the midst of all the pain we would experience…) When I walked into the room, I took only a few steps before I ran the other way, out of the PICU and into the waiting area where I fell apart. In that moment, it made sense to me why everyone in my family who I’d spoken to earlier that week shut me down every time I expressed the hope that she could still get better. She no longer looked like a swollen sleeping baby in a coma. She no longer moved her eyes and mouth as though to cry. That adorable wincing face that gave us so much hope was now so still. She was skinny, positioned in an upright position, her head was bandaged and bleeding through, her eyes were partially opened, her skin was so dry. She looked so sick, as though she had given up too.

We stayed there until 3 in the morning, holding her hands, talking to her, saying our goodbyes. My other little sister painted her nails with pink polish. She had promised the baby over and over that she’d give her manicures when she got older and realized that this was her last chance. My sister Michelle was so strong. “She’s tired; she’s ready to go home,” she said.

The next morning M and I arrived at the hospital and sat with Michelle and Abby. After the rest of the family arrived, the doctors asked us to leave the room. Abby’s heart rate had begun to drop. She was telling us she was ready to go. They wrapped Abby in her favorite pink blanket and put on a little pink hat to cover her bandages and Michelle held her. Her husband sat beside them. The family sat out in the waiting room crying while my uncle watched the monitor and let us know what it said until it was turned off. The doctor who’d cared for Abby since the night she was brought in came out and said, “She’s gone.”

One by one we were called into the room, but eventually we were all in there together. Walking back in could not have been more different from the morning before. Our sick little baby had become an angel. Her face no longer looked thin and sad. It seemed to glow. It was as though peace had just come over her little body. I would be lying if I said that I’d ever seen her look more beautiful than she did after she passed. It was God’s gift to us. Rather than remembering how sick she looked, I knew we would always remember how angelic and at rest she looked.

Never in my life have I seen something so small touch so many lives, that even the doctors and nurses were crying after Abby passed. They all took turns with the rest of my family making the sign of the cross over the baby's head with oil and consoling my sister who was still holding her on the bed that Abby had laid on for exactly one month.

The greatest gift for me was when she was placed in my arms one last time. All that time she was sick, I grieved that I’d gotten so little time with her. I never imagined I’d get to hold her again. Holding her in my arms one last time and kissing her little face gave me more comfort than I could ever put into words.

After leaving the hospital to go home and prepare for her funeral and burial, which would take place 5 days before Christmas, I couldn’t understand why I felt this overwhelming sense of peace about everything. I knew it wasn’t coming from myself. I trusted that Abigail was happy in the arms of Jesus.

The next few days were very hard. Saying goodbye is never easy. We mourned not only for our dear niece, but for my sister Michelle. She had changed her life so much because of this baby and I knew our loss could not compare to what she was going through. When a child dies, a parent doesn’t just lose a baby, but all the hopes and dreams they had for that child and for their own life. I do believe that God has a purpose for this loss, but it’s still hard to come to grips with.

M and I made our way back home to be with his daughter for Christmas, even though neither of us had much celebrating in us. How do you explain death to a 6 year old? I just told her that God needed an Angel and couldn’t find a baby more beautiful than Abigail Rose and so He took her home. She just nodded and smiled.

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<3...Abigail Rose...<3
Forever in Our Hearts
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Friday, December 15, 2006

What My Heart Still Doesn't Know, But Head Believes...

Abby is gone. All that’s left of her is an empty shell. That is what the expert from NYU, who went to the hospital to evaluate my precious niece and give my sister a second opinion, told my family earlier. There is nothing left of her. All those moments when it seemed that she could hear our prayers over her, all those times she opened her sweet little mouth and winced her face trying to cry, might just have been involuntary reflexes. All this time we thought she was fighting, she was only sleeping. She might already have gone home to be with God.

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I never wanted to believe that. Even now, my heart will not accept it. How can that be true? How can she be gone when we only got to keep her for such a short time? We never got to hear her laugh or see her take her first steps. We’ll never get to know what kind of child, what kind of girl, what kind of woman she would have been. She’ll never know how wonderful and beautiful and tragic this world can be.

All I have left are a few precious hours engrained in my mind, when I held her in my arms and felt amazed at how much love I could feel for something so small.

Today, my sister got to hold her baby for the first time in four weeks… minutes before they told her that her baby was gone. Instead of planning Abby’s first Christmas, she is planning her funeral.

There are just no words…

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Waiting For God. An Update on Abigail

I remember when I arrived at the hospital the Sunday before last, I opened my Bible trying to make sense of what was going on, hoping to land on a verse that would bring me comfort and understanding. For the next week that I was in New York with my family, I tried my hardest to push that verse aside. The verse was Isaiah 57:1-2: “The righteous pass away; the godly often die before their time. And no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For the godly who die will rest in peace.”

Clearly, I could not imagine that God would take this precious little one who never had a chance to walk upright, let alone sin, before we had a chance to know her, before she had a chance to grow up and learn about this world or His word… I could not fathom it, though it rested heavy on my heart in the days that followed, and still does.

God has not taken Abigail. She is still with us, though how much alive she is, and what is left of her is still a matter of so much speculation.

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Yesterday, my dad called with new that Abby was showing signs of some improvement, though she was still so deep in her coma. Today, there is new news, news of such a different character. The bleeding in Abby’s brain has worsened. One of her doctors has told my sister that Abby is paralyzed. Another said it’s not conclusive but there is little evidence that it’s not true.

There, Abby waits in her coma. What comfort does she have? We do not know if she can hear her mother’s voice or if she heard our prayers over her, our pleas for her to get better. All this time it was a comfort to me to know that even if she could not hear, God could. I struggle with why He does not answer. I know He is sovereign. I try to hold my head up high and wait patiently for God. But this is so defeating and we are crushed by the weight of this.

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Why does God choose not to heal? I'm sure that any member of my family would bear any suffering if it could bring this little one back and restore her. Isn’t that how much God loves us? That He died to save us? How I wish that He’d have mercy on this shattered family, on this broken child. How I wish He'd heal her. I trust in God’s power… I just wish His will was the same as mine. There is no way for me to tell. My hope is all that sustains me and it seems to fade so fast. I know God is faithful and I put my trust in Him, even if His will should be to "spare" Abigail in a way different from what we hope and pray for.

Still, we hope and pray.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Giving Thanks; Needing Prayers....

At this time last year and for every year for as long as I can remember, my grandmother and I sat and cut celery for the olive salad, spiced our homemade stuffing with fresh sage, mixed our sweet potato balls, and prepared the mixture for the manicotti we’d roll the next morning. This year, we sit vigil. There are no preparations to be made. We just wait for news to come. Thanksgiving this year will not be like the Thanksgivings of years past. Tomorrow we will be thankful not for the bounty of food we lay upon the table but for what little hope we have to hold onto. Thankful that our precious Abigail Rose is still with us. That she is still alive and that our family is together. There will not be turkey, but there will be thanksgiving…

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Three days ago, the morning after my birthday, M and I awoke to a call from my sister telling us that her 26 day-old baby was in the hospital in critical condition. How could we have known that by the time we got to NY after a 5 hour bus ride that that little angel would have had 3 cardiac arrests and be fighting for her life? How could we have anticipated that she would be hooked up to all kinds of machines, that a ventilator would be breathing for her, or that within three days her brain would swell so badly that she’d be in a coma? There is nothing that can prepare a person for a sight like this. The sight of my sister, helpless, broken down, asking the same question that everyone has asked every hour, everyday since this happened – a question that no one can answer or understand: Why? Why does a thing like this happen? Why does God allow such suffering? I have never known pain like this.

Everyone sits around and cries until they are too numb or tired or frustrated. A family that has never really prayed, whose religion has always been so textbook, is now asking God for help and answers. But they don’t come soon enough to make anyone content. Abby’s life is in His hands and the future is so uncertain. The doctors take care not to give us too much hope. They are so grounded in the reality of their science that they forget that our God is bigger than this. It’s just a matter of whether or not He’ll choose to move in the way we hope He will. And how we hope…

I have never wanted anything in my life the way I want to see that precious baby wake up, open her eyes, stick out her tongue at me when I sing… just for one moment to hear her cry. Just to see her again in her mommy’s arms. Right now, she is so absent from her little swollen body… But I know God is present even if Abby seems so far from us. And I thank Him for every minute I have with my family, even when we are at odds with each other and our stress and fear and frustration lead us to lash out at one another…. I thank Him for every minute I can look at that little girl and remember what it was like to hold her in my arms, and picture the way she brought such joy to her mother’s eyes, the way they both lit up like her little glow worm.

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This year, Thanksgiving will not be about eating. We won’t come together as a family at the dinner table we’ve eaten at for the last 26 years. But we will come together…

Please keep my sister Michelle and her husband Shawn and my whole family in prayer this Thanksgiving and thank God for those who are in your lives, even the littlest lives that we sometimes take so for granted.

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Please pray for Abby….

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Twenty-Five (Happy Birthday to Me)

Today, I turned 25. Yes, it’s true, I’ve made it halfway through my twenties. Guess it’s time to start planning for retirement, checking out the local assisted living facilities, and saving up for that hip replacement I’ll undoubtedly need! OK, so maybe 25 is not THAT old. Today, though, I feel like a dinosaur. Truly, Barney has nothing on me. Except that he’s fat and purple…

For whatever reason, no birthday has hit me like this one has. I guess it just caught up with me, how fast time has flown by. My twenties are a blur to me. I hardly remember them. And here I am, 25, married, a stepmom (not evil, fortunately), living far from home, almost half-way done with my first year of law school... Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was planning my Sweet 16 and praying to get as far away from high school as quickly as I possibly could? Well I did, but it just happened so quickly! Fortunately, there are no regrets. I’m where I belong in every sense of the word… only I’m “old” now.

I feel… grown up. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. (I’ll try now to stop offending those of my readers who are not as “young” as I am (sorry!!)) In truth, since I got baptized in August, I’ve felt like a different person, probably more myself than I’ve ever felt before. And that’s a little scary because I can’t help but wonder why it took so long to figure all that out. It was all in God’s time. My desires have changed, my heart has changed, my outlook on life, all of it has changed… matured, I’d like to think. For the first time in my life I’m happy; I’m settled. I am content with where I am and what I’m doing. I know God has me in his grip. He is hard at work. So many wonderful things are happening all around me…

My wonderful husband just found out he’ll be playing guitar for our (mega-)church. God has brought him to a place where he can use the talents he’s been given to serve Him the best way he knows how. My baby sister is a mom now, growing up too, and I’m an aunt to this precious little child. I am so blessed to have godly friends in my life who encourage and inspire me everyday and push me to be the godly woman I so want to be. In 25 short (long?) years, God has brought me to a place of peace I never thought I’d reach. Through all my doubt, He was so faithful.

I am old now, so I’d like to think that makes me “wise.” I am grateful.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Loved By God

I am a sinner. I am so far from perfect. Never have been, and quite certain that I never will be. Yet, I am loved by God. Though sometimes I despise this body that I so often take for granted, I am told that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I have read that suffering and physical pain produce patience and perseverance but, so often, I’m too bound, too selfish, too caught up to be made wise. I’m such a stubborn girl. And though I’ve been such a reluctant student, I’ve received such divine instruction. I’ve gained so greatly from the lessons I too soon forget. Only to have the nerve to question why I’m at a loss again, as though there’s anyone to blame but me. I’m so forgetful. So ungrateful, it would seem, for all that I’ve been shown -- for the trouble God has pulled me through, for the reward I could have never earned.

It’s so hard to comprehend the love of a God that I have never seen and only known.

What could I have done to deserve the love of One who is more perfect than I’ll ever comprehend, when I’ve done nothing but disappoint and reject and forget, time and time again? And there’s the truth: The answers not a thing. The same conclusion, once again, comes down to that cold sentence: “It’s not about me.” It’s all about Him and His Grace: a Love, a Forgiveness that I could never deserve – not even if I had 100 lives to live.

And sometimes the burden seems too much to bear. How could I live up to that, knowing I’m so apt to fail? [I can't.]

“All men sin and fall short of the glory of God.” That’s little comfort to me now. Yet, whether we glorify Him or not, He’s still there watching, loving, providing. His hand is steady, though we’re so easily moved. He remains willing to widen the road beneath our feet if we should lose our way in a world where there are so many lost. He seeks to find them out.

How could I ever express the gratitude I feel for a Gift no works of mine could ever match?

I can only try to live a life that's worthy, knowing I’m so certain to fail, certain that in any case, through anything, He’ll love me still.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Just Married... <3

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52 days ago, at sunset, Friday, August 11, 2006, M and I became one in a Christian wedding ceremony before God on Grace Bay Beach in the Turks & Caicos Islands. It was a night more perfect and romantic than I ever could have dreamed of. It was straight out of a fairy-tale and my groom was more handsome than any prince I could have imagined as a little girl growing up. The wind and the sounds of the ocean were our music. The sunbathers standing far down the beach and clapping loud enough for us to hear it when we kissed were our witnesses. And the setting sun lit up the sky brighter than any candles. It wasn’t the big fancy wedding I had once envisioned but it was more than I could have ever hoped for: to be marrying my best friend, the person who knows me and understands me and accepts and loves me better than anyone in this whole world, the man who has my whole heart, who helped me through the toughest times and darkest days of my life, who stood by my side through so much more than any man ever has, my other half, my partner in crime is now my partner for life. I am the luckiest girl in the world.

There was so many times in my life that I wondered if I’d ever get to this point. Where I am truly, 100% happy and content with my life. Still, there are problems with health, which never seem to go away, but where my heart is concerned I know it is in able hands. In M, I’ve found more than a husband. I’ve found peace. And I see now more than ever why marriage is to be like our relationship with Christ and his to us. If M and I can love each other this much, how much more does God love us? He has been so faithful!

Still, I know that there will be times when our marriage will suffer trials. It already has in the 2 short months we’ve been married and I truly believe we are stronger for it and will be, come what may. In such a short time, I’ve become a wife and a step-mom, a law student and a newly-baptized Christian. It amazes me that given my past mistakes, God has brought me this far and continues to increase my joy. Nothing I could ever have done could make me worthy of such a reward as His gift of salvation, as the glimpse of heaven I have in my beautiful husband’s deep blue eyes. How could I ever put to words how grateful I am to be where I’m standing? I can't.

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Still, I try... <3

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Healing is Slow

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Has it really been five years since my beautiful New York City was turned into a war zone? Though I’ve watched the images replayed countless times, they still cut to the bone like they did the first time I saw them. They still produce the same shock and fear. It’s hard not to get angry.

I just got off the phone with my younger sister, who lost someone she loved that day. It’s no easier to talk about it now than it was then. The wound is still so fresh. There are still no words. She got off the phone just a moment ago, before the moment of silence at 8:46. She couldn’t speak anymore. She’s married now and has a baby on the way that will be born next month. She decided to go to work today to avoid watching the news, which I’ve been doing all morning.

They’re reading off the names of those lost now and I wait for the names of those I knew, people I went to school with, relatives of close friends, people whose bodies were never recovered, like my sister’s boyfriend. For five years those families have suffered. Has there been any healing? It’s hard to say.

New York has been built back up in these five years but the towers no longer stand and never will again. Soon it will be a memorial, something a lot of New Yorkers fought against. In many ways, it has gone back to business as usual – some might say that that’s a tribute to those who died, that we carry on - but has anyone forgotten? Maybe some have. We are no longer united as we were in the days and weeks and months following the attacks. There are no longer American flags streaming from every front porch and every passing vehicle. Politics have taken over again, dividing us. Americans have forgotten how our President stood with the people of New York and vowed to make the terrorists hear from us. I haven’t.

I’d like to believe we are still in the process of making them hear. In the meantime, all we can do is pray for those who are still suffering today as they suffered five years ago and hope that there will be retribution and peace for them someday. The healing comes slowly, but eventually it will come. (Won't it?)

However hard it is to recall or put into words, I know I’ll never forget. I doubt any of us touched by that day will.

The second moment of silence has just passed...

And the memories of that day rush to my mind. Walking in the door after running through the streets to get home. My family answering the door in tears . We almost collapsed right there. But mostly, I remember those days following 9/11, when my family and I all sat together and watched the news for nearly 24 hours at a time. We sat and cried together, talked together, watched the countless childen holding up "missing" signs on the news, begging for their loved ones' return. I felt so fortunate to be with mine. Up to that point in my life, I don't think I ever felt more love for them as I did in those days.

What a reminder that day was and will always be of the need to tell those we love how much we love them -- especially when we think of how many people likely died without ever being able to do so... I'm glad I was able to today.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Finally Back & Ready for the Next Adventure!

These last few weeks have been a complete whirlwind and unfortunately it took me away from blogging for some time. It was surely the longest I've ever gone without checking in, so I apologize for going MIA on those who follow! As some of you know from the prayer requests blog, my oral surgery (to get out all 4 impacted wisdom teeth in mid-July) did not go very well at all... I ended up missing the last 3 of my 4 weeks left at the organization I've loved working at so much over this last year and a half... and that has all wrapped up now.

M and I also just got back (last night) from vacationing in the Turks & Caicos Islands - the most beautiful place I've ever laid eyes on and possibly the most beautiful place on earth. To put it simply: if heaven were a beach it would surely resemble Grace Bay. As for the airport situation (which, began on the morning we were scheduled to leave) I'd rather pretend we didn't have to fly to get there... I think that should say it all!

This has been an incredible week in my life... and it's only getting started. I start law school the day after tomorrow! The time for relaxing is past (and too quickly at that) and the time for hard work and major stress (I'm sure) is at hand. But my faith is in God that I will be able to succeed at George Mason, and I remind myself often of something Kristin said in the comments section of this blog many months ago.... that God puts desires in our hearts' for a reason. I have to believe that He will give me the strength and perserverance to do the best I'm capable of, come what may.

When I think about the girl I was a little over a year ago, I feel like I am recalling a photograph I saw once that's date I can't remember. Something I remember briefly, that is gone from me. God has surely raised me up from times of trouble and He has surely blessed me immensely in this last year! The gift that M and his precious daughter have been to my life have meant more to me than I could ever put into words - though I've tried to time and time again... I reflect on where I've been and where I'm going and I know that I am standing exactly where I need to be... with M by my side and a future that we can only imagine before us. (When we are baptized together on August 20th, my joy will be complete). And the words to that hymn that is sung at Frontline so often ring so true now... "It is well with my soul." Wherever the road leads...

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Friday, July 07, 2006

A Short Vacation

"Once in a while you have to take a break and visit yourself ." - Audrey Giorgi

It’s not something I’ve done in a while, it seems. I’m so easily distracted these days by the mundane tasks that often amount to so very little in the big scheme of things. How easily do we become so enveloped in the things we have to do that we forget the things we need or want to do like give ourselves a moment of quiet or say a silent prayer?

In these last couple of days - as the last few weeks at my job before I head off to law school wind down absent a decrease in day-to-day stressors - I’ve been planning my escape. Not from my job – or even from Virginia, necessarily – but from “it all,” I guess. (I think we all need that sort of vacation sometimes.) That’s why this quote struck me as it did when I visited the Christian Women Online Magazine to read more about their In “Other” Words feature, which I hope the other women in this blog community will consider participating in.

In the last week, I’ve been busy orchestrating the details of a last-minute trip to New York with my fiancé and his daughter to celebrate my sister’s wedding as well as a trip to Turks & Caicos (in August) to get some much-needed and well-deserved (I think) R&R before the stress really piles on. As my workload has increased along with unavoidable anxiety about the future, my blogging has been reduced to sporadic entries, the last of which has nothing to do with myself, really. What do I really care about Superman anyway? I’m trying to work out a budget while signing my soul away in student loans and planning for a May 2007 wedding for which funds remain a question mark while trying to learn how to be a step-parent and preparing to be a wife and not lose my mind or patience or sense of peace in the process. Sometimes, I think I need to lose myself in the things that don’t matter just to stop thinking about the things that do. Introspection can be wearing.

But maybe Audrey Giorgi had a point… So I took a moment to think on her quote. What does it really mean to take a break and visit yourself? I think it means to do the things we bloggers (male and female alike) do whenever we sit down to empty our minds/souls of our thoughts or burdens or ideas. We visit ourselves. We take time to really examine our conscience without the added burden of resolving all worries or conflict or solving all problems. We just allow ourselves for however long to be still; we just allow God to look at us.

This is not to suggest that God is not ever-watchful. But sometimes, it’s nice to just resign to the quiet of your own mind and let God look at you. Rather than trying to conjure up some eloquent prayer or find the words to thank Him for everything you can bring to light or apologize for, just letting your words be few: simply clearing your mind for a while and resting in the peace that you are Saved no matter how dire your circumstances may be.

One moment of un-interrupted quiet may be the best vacation there is….

I’ll certainly test it out in Turks & Caicos. :)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Truth, Justice and All That Stuff: Superman Returns

The Summer movie season has officially begun with the release of Superman Returns, the blockbuster that hit screens this past Wednesday. Having grown up watching the series, I felt compelled to rush out and see it. The fact that the newly cast Man of Steel was very dreamy indeed and in some ways resembled the late Christopher Reeve was also a plus. Yet, in my haste, I missed some warning signs that may have changed my mind…

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For a movie that is based on a comic book star who has for more than 50 years been believed to be an American hero and icon - and one that opens on 4th of July weekend - the movie lacked something a bit telling about it’s producers: anything American. For an American hero, the lack of references to the United States, absence of a single American flag and total lack of patriotic underpinnings was a bit disturbing, though the film did provide many throw backs to the original series in non-conventional ways.

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Truth be told, Superman Returns is a lot of fun, albeit a bit corny. Yet this corniness is part of what makes it so fun and funny. The movie reminds us that although this is a hero we have known - and who has not changed - for years and years, it is still a man in tights who flies. As has been reported in many magazines asking the question “Is Superman Gay?” Superman is a bit…. daintier than you may remember. Perhaps, a little lighter in the loafers. He’s not as masculine and far from as manly as you might remember, but he’s still a far cry from either members of the Ambiguously Gay Duo of Saturday Night Live. Yet, he is still faster than a speeding bullet, durable beyond comprehension and as strong as he ever was. As for Clark Kent – who did not enter into any phone booths this time around, much to my dismay - he is a lot nerdier than you might remember. This makes for an interesting viewing and provides some good laughs. At times it is just silly and at other times endearing. I found it very enjoyable (politlcal grudges aside).

The special effects are at times very gripping and at other times very clearly CGI. Superman, when wearing his tights, has an almost angelic glow that is obviously computer generated, but it helps to distinguish him from the geeky Clark and give a little more plausibility to the implausible idea that no one realizes that the two are one in the same. Though, be careful to note, there is one person who almost seems to…

Superman Returns is a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is a far cry from Spiderman on many levels, but still suspenseful and enjoyable enough to warrant seeing - if you can get past "all that stuff..." Let me explain...

When I left the theater, I couldn’t wait to call my dad, whom I feel obliged to call whenever I see some film we both watched when I was growing up (King Kong, Star Wars, etc.) Not expecting the response I would get, I called him to tell him that he would love the film. “You actually went and saw that movie?!" he said to me with a bit of hesitation and shock. “What do you live in a bubble out there in Washington DC? You haven’t heard about what they did with that movie?” I couldn’t imagine what he was talking about.

Of course, for those of you who are familiar with the news item, my dad was referring to the interview given by the writers of the film in which they defended their reasoning behind removing any American references to the American icon in the film. Yet, though the lack of American paraphernalia was obvious, I had missed the throw away line that summed it up. For those of you familiar with the man in blue tights, you may remember his catch phrase: “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” Well, I’ll let you read what the writers had to say about that (as featured in the NY Post article entitled “Man of Stuff”):

June 27, 2006 -- SUPERMAN'S motto, "Truth, justice and the American way," has been rewritten in the new "Superman Returns" to "Truth, justice and . . . all that stuff." Jeannie Wolf reports on that screenwriters Mike Dougherty and Dan Harris wanted to avoid outdated jingoism. Dan: "I don't think 'the American way' means what it meant in 1945." Mike: "He's not just for Metropolis and not just for America." Dan: "He's an alien, from Krypton; he has come to Earth to be kind of a savior for this world, not our country . . . And he has no papers." Mike: "What would happen with the immigration laws we have now?" Dan: "I'd like to see someone kick him out!"

Sadly, an anti-American or liberal bias is to be expected from Hollywood filmmakers nowadays. However, one would think that given what an institution Superman is in this country that they would have given more deference to tradition. When dealing with iconic films like Star Wars, King Kong or Superman, you would think that the filmmakers would realize the need to take care not to go to far. (If you remember, in Spiderman 2, the filmmakers practically dedicated the film to this country, featuring a scene where New Yorkers rose up with great patriotism to fight back against Spidey’s enemies.) In this case, I’m sure many fans will see Superman turning his back on his roots and his country as nothing short of a sacrilege. That Superman no longer stands for the American way is a put-off beyond measure and one that leaves me wondering if I would have seen the film if I’d heard of this before.

So does the anti-patriotic take on one of the most patriotic figures from the last 50+ years warrant skipping out on this fun Summer film? For my dad, it will. And for other Americans, I suppose that is to be seen.

Superman is rated PG-13 for some intense action violence.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Nan Plans...

“Man plans and God laughs.”

That was what a mentor of mine once said to me. I remember being a little surprised by his statement because he was an atheist, but I agreed that in some ways he did have a point. We plan and plan and plan our lives but we forget that nothing is guaranteed, not even tomorrow.

This week, I’ve learned all too well what my mentor meant - though I doubt that God is as sadistic as the adage implies. If anything, I think it’s more of a chuckle than thunderous amusement.

When I was very young, an endocrinologist told me that I would have to have a baby very young if I ever wanted to be a mother. I couldn’t have been much more than 10 years old and my parents had taken me to see him only because I was very short for my age – something I never really grew out of, no pun intended. It was an irresponsible statement to make to someone so young and impressionable and not one I fully understand even to this day. Needless to say, I grew up with the irrational fear that I’d never be able to have children. It was almost as though my fears spoke it into being true.

After much speculation and several years of treatment for endometriosis - something the vast array of doctors I saw were not even positive I had, I decided I’d had enough. There was no real evidence then that suggested that what that callous physician had said would come true. Yet, that (combined with large doses of hormones I received and several unrelated surgeries on my spine I underwent) did not stop me from tumbling into a pit of depression so deep that I’d only recently managed to climb out of. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust God. It was that I didn’t understand why His reasoning would be so contrary to what I deemed, “common sense.” I’ve always believed that I would make a great mother…

“My daddy is going to marry N and they’re going to have a baby and I’m going to have a sister,” V announced to a perfect stranger at the bus stop a week or so ago. I looked down at her and pressed my lips together and nodded. “Or a brotherrrr,” she sighed.

She couldn’t have known why my face had changed the way it did. She couldn’t have suspected that I had just found out days earlier that evidence had finally surfaced to support the case the vast array of doctors had made. For three weeks after the tests (which the technician clued me in to without the doctor present), I was filled with fear that everything I thought I’d overcome was coming back to haunt me. But the doctor never called to give me the results. No news is always good news, I reasoned. Finally, I called and scheduled an appointment, determined to hear an explanation of the results from someone authorized to tell me. That appointment was this morning.

The whole train ride, I felt really proud of myself for brushing off my fears. The doctor would have called if something was wrong. The technician must have misinterpreted what she saw. I was going to have a beautiful family with M and V would be thrilled. God wasn’t really going to allow this to happen to me after everything that’s happened and I had been foolish to worry. That was the lesson I was going to learn.

Nan planned…

I guess that’s why I was surprised when the doctor confirmed my wildest fears and left me in an even more certain limbo than I’d ever been before. Although she officially diagnosed me, she explained that it would be years before I’d be able to have the necessary surgeries to determine whether or not I’d be able to have children. I’d have to be married and trying to get pregnant for at least a year before the insurance would pay for it, she explained - noting that I was just starting law school in a month and a half and explaining that given that, it would be at least 4 years before I’d be eligible for the necessary tests. That would leave me a year away from 30 before I’d even have certainty – and who’s to say I ever will? I am grateful my faith is strong.

With all the recent planning for my future: my career, my wedding, my life, I had forgotten that no matter how much control I think I have, some things are out of reach and nothing is guaranteed. Some things have to be left up to God. And while there is comfort in that, there is still fear. I don’t want to become bitter or resentful. I don't want to be angry at God. In this case, it seems that what I want is beside the point.

“My times are in Your hands…”

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Rules of Engagement

Yesterday, my fiancé and I had a meeting with my soon-to-be step-daughter's lawyer. "When are you planning to marry?" she asked innocently enough. So I told her. "Next May after finals." After chewing the end of her pen for a beat, she offered, "Well why don't you just elope now? Honestly, the best thing to do would be to get married immediately and save yourselves all the hassle." I must have been a little stunned because she seemed to watch me for an eternity as I stared blankly back at her before she spoke again.
"Why are you waiting anyway? Oh, let me guess, it's your first marriage and you want the big church wedding, right?" she said cynically. "Trust me, in the end you'll end up spending so much money for a little piece of paper you'll wish you hadn't. Better to just go ahead and get it over with now – involve [step-daughter to-be] - and then have a big wedding next year when you want it."

Had she just referred to my impending vows as little more than a technicality? Was she equating my starting my life with M to nothing more than a signed document? In an instant she had whisked away all romantic notions and left me with little more than a legal strategy designed to best resolve the conflict regarding M's ex. She had also given M a better excuse to support his joking about us running off to some island and getting hitched. Now when M text messages me during the day asking me if I want to get married after work, I'll have to take his suggestions a little more seriously. (P.S. M: you don't really stand a chance!)

With all the media attention swirling on the value of the institution of marriage, the lawyer's comments did not come as that much of a surprise. For so many, marriage has lost it's appeal or relevance or value. Though her suggestions were well-intentioned, it was still a bit unsettling. But what struck me more than anything was a fear that my views on the world would too be forever reduced to that of legal technicalities and reasoning. Can law school really strip me of my values and romantic notions about life? Can the challenges of the curriculum and pressure of the Socratic method really challenge my faith and lead me to doubt?

Have you followed this blog long?! :) I wouldn't count on it! Even if I should become more argumentative, I'll still be me. And for the first time in my life I'm really OK with that.

As for the lawyer's advice, in the end I'll have to do what's right for me, M and my precious V. Needless to say, theres more than a piece of paper involved. Regardless of what others see.

I see... possibilities.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I Am...

I AM: passionate and persistent, small but strong, someone who puts my foot in my mouth a little more than I should, not afraid to be who I am

I SAID: “You want me to write it down? What do I look like?!” (while getting lost in VA), “"I’m still in the sink” (while texting at the hair salon), "Right now my pinky toe and my big toe feel like they are being held for questioning... 'I swear I don't know anything'" (after walking around in a pair of too small stiletto heels).

Peace in my life and for those I love, and not much else.

I could fix everything that’s broken and take away others’ pain. (big dreams, I know… but they’re supposed to be…)

I MISS: Midnight rides on 3rd avenue with my girls eating food in cars parked outside of peoples’ houses like we’re concealing a crime. Holding my sweet little step-daughter to-be in the pool (the only time I can actually lift her up). Not having to pay bills – but who doesn’t?
I HEAR: The sound of 5 economists working in close quarters: nothing but pages turning and keys clacking (mostly mine).

What my crazy black lab and fat boston terrier are doing right now.

Getting so worked up sometimes. In the end, it’s rarely ever worth it.

I AM NOT: One to hold my tongue when I know the answer.

I DANCE: Not as much as I used to but whenever I can.

While my fiance’ strums his guitar and I scribble out lyrics that don’t quite work yet.

When I can’t take it anymore.

I AM NOT ALWAYS: As strong as I’d like to think I am.

I MAKE WITH MY HANDS: the best meatballs besides my grandma, “Ma.”

I WRITE: Whenever I need to get something out of my system, good or bad.

I CONFUSE: others? I dunno… myself sometimes. When I look at a map definitely.

A driver’s license and it’s about time.

I SHOULD: Start waking up earlier in the morning. I’m such a bum sometimes.

I START: At least 10 projects a day.

I FINISH: Every book in about a week, except “Just Exchange: A Theory of Contract (The Economics of Legal Relationships)” blahhh

I LOVE: with all my heart and no hesitations...

KC and Corry, Kristin, Audrey, Pia and PinkLetterLaw

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

On Being Content & Worrying

“The funny thing is I’ve never felt this content in a relationship before,” a good friend said to me as she sat picking apart long greasy fries and sipping diet coke from a short straw.
“It’s scary, isn’t it?” I asked as I knowingly smiled back at her and nodded.

And it got me thinking… Why is it when a relationship finally reaches the critical stage of comfort that we begin to freak out and question everything? Why is it so easy to become discontented by contentment and doubtful when there’s no indication that we should be?

What is it that makes comfort so uncomfortable for so many people?

If there’s one thing my girl friends have in common it’s that they never want to put too much stock into anything – especially a new fling. (A Coach wallet, a Louis Vuitton purse, and a new line of Mac makeup - maybe, but never something as uncertain or potentially permanent as a relationship!) So, of course, I was surprised when one of my best friends who’d flown solo for as long as I’ve known her announced that she had since become someone's girlfriend. As do most twenty-somethings, she went through the initial stages: cautious interest, experimental flirting, and a testing of the waters so-to-speak before she dove in head first. And much to her surprise, she was actually happy. Yet while happiness was easy to relish in, it was a sense of contentment that launched a sea of red flags. (As the saying goes where women are concerned: if nothing is wrong, find something wrong.) Eventually something will go wrong along the way, won’t it? Sometimes it's easier to have faith in that -- and often safer.

For women (I can’t attest to how men think and doubt they usually can either where matters of the heart are concerned), when you reach a level of comfort in a relationship, it can only mean one of two things: you’ve either found a good thing and the feeling is mutual or you’ve seriously deluded yourself somehow along the way and are in for a crash landing. If there is one thing a girl wants to avoid like plague it’s a false sense of security – better to have none at all. Fortunately for the girl in question, it doesn’t seem she’s wandered into such territory and I think that things might very well work out as she hopes. Yet, by entertaining doubts, she’ll unnecessarily hold back somehow or fail to enjoy what she’s found as fully as she might otherwise have.

For trust to grow – like anything else – time and patience are required. Perhaps it is best to remind ourselves that those initial feelings of comfort do not always blossom into the type of contentment that can last a life-time. But we should still take heart in knowing that time will ultimately tell. I’ve learned that to a large degree in the last year.

With M, I’ve found a contentment I never thought possible – and I don’t think I quite realized just how much until I had this little chat with my friend last weekend. I’d been so busy trying to keep up with work and wedding planning that I hadn’t left myself time to worry – at least not about anything other than which reception venue to choose or which cake design I liked best. In the interim, I’d been too busy just enjoying my life with M to allow my mind to wander. For whatever reason, when I nodded my head and offered my opinion on the matter, I felt surprisingly mature and it just hit me that I was exactly where I needed to be in my life. That I was living proof that there doesn’t have to be fear in love. That things really do work together for good.

Sometimes, I think I’m too busy to realize how blessed I really am. I’m glad I took the time today…

...have you?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Would it Be Better To Forget?

Lord knows I’ve tried on several occasions and in many different entries to write about the value of our pasts. And still, that does not keep me from retracing the same arguments in my mind and wondering whether or not it’s an absolute truth.

And it got me thinking… Does the pain of our past always serve some purpose? Or should we instead be seeking “eternal sunshine of the spotless mind” by deciding to forget?

For those of you who have seen the movie (I highly recommend it by the way), you may already know where this is going...

If it were possible to forget the past, if it we were somehow able to erase the painful memories entirely from our recollection, if we could manage to wake up tomorrow believing it was nothing more than a bad dream who's details we cannot remember – would we? Should we?

Everyone deals with heartache differently. Some of us learn and grow in spite of (or because of) the things that previously hindered us and others harbor negative feelings and emotions until they turn cold. For those of us able to look back and push aside the bitterness and see the bigger picture, even the most tumultuous past can seem like a blessing. If we hadn’t been where we were, surely, we wouldn’t be where we are. But there are still some people who are forever trapped in the past, who cannot help but relive their mistakes time and time again. They cannot go forward. They cannot move on because instead of looking ahead or up, they are forever looking back. They are bound to stumble. I’d like to think there’s a happy medium, but I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum. I know how difficult it is to find the middle ground. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of faith and more than anything it takes time. Healing comes slowly.

For years before I met M, I lived life in the shadow of a past I couldn’t out-run. I decided before I was 21 that I had, had my shot at happiness and had ruined it and I made up my mind that every future attempt at love would fail. And it did! I saw to it. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy that I would not admit to as I sabotaged one relationship after another reminding myself that nothing would repair my broken past. Regardless of the steps I often took in spite of myself to move on, I was too wrapped up in the things I could not change. I couldn’t forgive myself. Even when I thought I was moving on, I was just running in place. And it’s sad to say, but it took facing the demons of my past in the most confrontational way possible before I finally put it in perspective. It took almost losing everything to realize everything I had right in front of me.

It took time. And it was not long before I started to see M for the gift he was intended to be in my life -- a realization I would not have been able to come to had it not been for the contrast with my past. And it brings us back to the same line of reasoning: that we could never appreciate the day without the dark of night and we could never know what is good without first knowing the bad. Yet, for those who have not yet seen the day or stumbled upon the good, it may seem ludicrous. The pain of the past may be nothing more than painful. Yet, there is still hope.

If we can look back even on the bad times and remember some spark of happiness, some shred of a memory when we felt joy, then we have something to look forward to. (Those of you who saw the movie may be remembering that one moment that the main character tries to hang on to, which makes the painful past worth remembering.) If we could just believe that God will not let us settle, that the best is yet to come. If we could pinpoint all the times we were low and God pulled us up. If we could realize the truth: that God hasn’t put us here to punish us or keep us down and that sometimes, down is the only place we can look up from, it would be easier not to look back. It would be easier to see the past as a piece of the puzzle, as a thread in the tapestry. It would be easier to trust that someday we will understand the reasons that have been concealed.

If we don’t remember where we’ve been, how can we know where we’re going?
I’m glad I know now. It was a lesson worth learning.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Entertaining Doubts

“Cannot you not hear? Cannot you not see? And if with words You could change the way things are arranged Surely you'd be speaking, speaking no change

The music was blaring through the apartment as I made my way around it cleaning up from last weekend’s events. It was a song on a CD that I had listened to countless times, but for whatever reason it felt like it was the first time I was really hearing it.

“Oh and I pray, my prayer's not heard. Could it be your death, death to mortal words? Oh, and see her pain, and drain and drain. Could you be deaf, and blind my friend?”

In spite of having always known that Dave Matthews Band was secular, it had always moved me to hear these objections to faith put so plainly. Despite being a Christian long before I was introduced to DMB, these were notions I had also struggled with. And listening to the songs reminded me of how difficult it often is to understand a God we cannot see and not always understand. For whatever reason, the music deepened my faith because it clarified for me how necessary blind faith often is.

The song in particular used an example of a suffering child that the singer believes God could save if He wanted to. Because nothing is done to spare the child or ease it’s pain, the singer concludes that there is no God and if there is, He is not a loving God.

“Oh, so I'm praying all at night. And I wake up praying the whole daylight. I pray to you, and hear my request. I ask of you to save this baby Oh, look at the girl. Awful inside, is cancer-eaten, is life-deprived. And if so by who? Could it be you?
I see no need for a baby's wisdom for you.”

This is the classic disconnect between the unbeliever and faith. It is two-pronged. It’s the argument that on one hand, if we are to believe that there is a God we must accept that He is indifferent at best and on the other that if there were an all-powerful God who could correct the situation, He would, so there isn’t one. Listening to the lyrics of DMBs songs, these notions are clearly illustrated.

“If at all God’s gaze upon us falls it’s with a mischievous grin, look at him

The problem of pain, as C.S. Lewis wisely noted is one that plagues the believer and nonbeliever both. Even for those who love and accept God, it’s sometimes impossible to come up with an explanation when we witness needless suffering or unspeakable tragedy that seems to serve no purpose. It is at times difficult to trust that God is working when we cannot see it and accept that in order to allow free will, the problem of pain must exist. Yet in order for us to make choices, we must be given a range of possibility, we must be allowed to make bad choices that hurt others or ourselves as well as good choices that help others, otherwise we’d be no better than puppets.

Yet, rather than blame the people who sin, we blame the God who allows us the choice. We reason: if He could fix it, He would. But if He did, it would rob us of what makes us human: the ability to decide, to believe or not to believe, to sin or not to sin, to help or to hurt, to do good or evil. It is entirely our decision whether or not we trust Him and put our hope in the notion that all things will work together for good, even when we cannot imagine how.

But the point of this entry wasn’t to try and explain it away or make excuse. It wasn’t to try and re-iterate the finer points in C.S. Lewis’ masterpiece or dabble in philosophical reasoning of my own. It wasn’t the concept of God’s indifference that struck me when I listened to the song that prompted me to write this blog. It was the notion that I hadn’t considered: That if we suffer when we witness pain and tragedy, how much more does God suffer BECAUSE He could change it?

At any moment, God could rearrange any situation (as the singer in the song requests). But it would contradict who He is and who He made us to be if He were to pull the strings, interrupt our actions or prevent consequences. Our actions and decisions would be meaningless. We would be playthings instead of people. Instead, God must sit by and watch us destroy ourselves and each other knowing that He had the power to prevent it but could not. It would be the end of the world as we know it. Instead, God must watch the creations that He loved enough to give such limitless possibilities to go astray. I can imagine that if it hurts us to hear about, it hurts Him a great deal more.

So why not scrap the whole thing? Why not stop the world as soon as a tragedy occurs?

I’d like to think it’s out of love. That in spite of our misdeeds, God finds a way to use pain to reach us, to teach us, to perfect and improve us, and that He works to comfort those who suffer through no fault of their own. And that, I guess is where faith comes in. Though every now and then I’ll hear the words to some familiar song and entertain my doubts for just a moment before realizing how fortunate I am to know the truth.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Surely, He is watching.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sometimes it Takes a Storm

Why does God move so quickly for some and not for others? Why does He sometimes come as a “still small voice” and at other times “in the midst of a storm?”

Not too long ago, my life was a very different thing. One broken relationship followed after another and I was left cold, downcast, and unable to pray. Rather than “seek up,” I had chosen a course for myself that I knew was wrong. It had become an idol for me. In spite of various warnings, I was determined to have it my own way. I was fortunate that God had better plans, even if it took a storm to reach me.

I had been too stubborn to head the whispers, and in truth there were plenty of shouts I also disregarded. Yet, although I’d given up on God, He’d not given up on me. In the end, it took having my heart broken for me to be healed in the way I’d been seeking for so many years. Everything that I’d been holding on to, every past regret and resentment, was ripped away from me in one fell swoop. The lesson was great, but I was not a willing student. Though the method of instruction seemed so harsh, I was grateful once I understood its purpose.

Sometimes we have to fall in order to find the strength to stand.

I was grateful that God lifted me up from those trying times and am grateful still that I stand stronger now in faith. God rewarded my faithlessness and used my adversity to redirect my path. He taught me that I had to love Him first – and myself – before I could love somebody else. In spite of my impatience and strong will in the past, He was quick to bring someone into my life who I could share my faith and life with. There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t thank Him for being harsh in correcting me, though it certainly took some time before I was able to.

When things are going well in our lives, it’s easy to forget God. In the beginning, we thank Him for providing for us in whatever way we desired, but over time, we focus more on our provision than its source. And if that provision gets taken away, we are the first to accuse God of being faithless. (I know, because this was my initial reaction to the turmoil that I so vaguely described above.) We take issue with Him though we seek to understand the greater purpose. We ask “why?” Sometimes the answer is obvious and we ask only to express our frustration and other times we ask from the depths of our doubt trying to make sense of what we cannot comprehend. Sometimes we won’t get an answer. We wait for God.

Yet, I’ve no doubt that in these times of trouble, God is present and is speaking. Whether as a still small voice or a raging storm, He is working. All we can do is remember His faithfulness and trust that in every adversity there is some lesson He is crafting, if only we would be patient to receive it. We need only prepare our hearts.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

"The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord… A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." (Proverbs 16:1&9)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Secular Message Christians Should Hear

“There are plenty of people in the world who believe in something and fail to live up to it at times.”

That was the blunt – and surely, the only redeeming – message of last night’s episode of House, the Fox drama about the brilliant, but deeply flawed physicist Dr. Gregory House, who is more prone to popping pain killers than providing any personal comfort to any of his patients during the course of their mysterious illnesses. Last night’s episode should have come as no surprise to anyone familiar with this character or the state of the media’s secular worldview. House does not believe in God and when he comes in contact with a possible miracle, he is hell-bent on proving that there is always – undeniably - a rational explanation for anything that can happen in this life. For those of you not familiar with the program who could give a care less about anything Fox network has to say about God or faith or medicine, please bear with me, I have a point to make. (If you could bear my soap opera references below, I trust you’ll find this equally relevant. One can hope!)

The patient that House comes into contact with is a 16 year old boy who claims to hear the voice of God. As per usual on Fox and any other network approaching such a delicate subject as devout faith, the boy was made out to be more of a cartoon character than a human being and more of a nut than a Christian. This is not surprising. What, after all, has the secular media to offer to debate in the Christian community? More than we realize, I think.

While Christian programming is popular among those who subscribe to the Christian belief system, it is often inaccessible for those who lack faith or spiritual maturity. They are left to get their lessons on God from secular programs that pretend to be religious such as 7th Heaven, which – although it was a program depicting the family of a pastor – was careful not to make any references to God or prayer throughout the course it ran. As a Christian, I sometimes feel it’s important to be familiar with what messages the secular media sends out, if only to be able to rebut the false notions that are presented. I was eager to see how House would frame the issue, though my hope that it would sent any message of redemption dwindled as the program progressed and the main character seemed to become more possessed than convicted.

To sum up the story (so I can finally reach the point I promised earlier) House makes a list comparing his victories to God, and another doctor on the staff who himself is no beacon of morality makes a comment that hits a nerve. He tells House that the reason he cannot believe in God is because that would mean he’d have to admit that he is not in control of everything, that he would have to believe that at any moment, God could exact his will and leave the good doctor paralyzed and incapable of changing the situation. In effect, he tells House that he would have to admit he’s been playing God and give up the power he’s assigned himself. And it hit me that this is a struggle we all go through when we begin to lean on faith, and for a moment I hoped that the character would realize the relief that would come of admitting it’s not all in his hands. But sadly, the story does not end here. It turns out that the “miracle” was actually nothing more than a fraud on the part of the 16 year old boy who in truth had herpes after engaging in pre-marital sex. House concludes that the boy is little more than a hypocrite and the other doctor makes the statement that appears at the top of this blog. That people falter, that people can have beliefs and still fail. Perhaps, not the redeeming message that one might have hoped for, but a start, nonetheless.

And - although it unfairly charecterized Christians - it got me thinking. How often do we really live up to what it means to be a Christian? How often do we behave in ways that diminish other’ perceptions of our faith or cast doubt on the strength of our convictions and then turn around and discuss God? We all fall short, but we still try to send out the message of hope and salvation to a world that is waiting for us to stumble, hungry for more material for late night skits. The example in House is a bit obnoxious and barely conceals it’s skepticism of Christians, but perhaps there is something to be learned from it. We have a duty to respond with love even to criticism and hatred in spite of the fact that we are incapable of leading the sinless life that Christ did. We have a duty to go beyond preaching to the choir and engage those who need better instruction than Oprah’s proselytizing about intolerance or redemptive messages from primetime dramas. We have a duty to admit that we are not perfect but to try our best to live the lives we should. To be an example. (If only it were as easy said as done!)

In admitting our shortcomings, I think, we better glorify a God that does not fail or fall short.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Is there a ONE? Buying into the Lie

Everyday, millions of people are bombarded with ads for dating services such as and eHarmony. They all claim that their unique program can help you find the “one” you are “meant to be” with. With so many singles out there searching for their other half, it got me thinking. Is there really a ONE?

This week, I find myself home sick again, and at one o’clock this afternoon a soap opera that every woman in my family has watched religiously since before I was born, came on the air. The plot lines had barely changed since the last time I’d watched. The characters were still wrapped up in webs of lies and were scheming relentlessly as ever. They were all trying to rearrange their situations and did nothing short of manipulate every one around them so they could get back their one “true love.” In these endeavors, not a single character had any respect for marriage or regard for the truth. They were morally bankrupt to the extent that their driving force was only to reclaim a lost love no matter what the expense to other families. One character repeated the cliché “true love conquers all,” even though it was clear that if true love was what they saw it to be, it surely had failed them.

I remember growing up watching this show with my mom when I was just a little girl. I grew up wishing I could have a marriage someday like Bo and Hope, wanting for someone to come rescue me at every turn like John and Marlena. For those of you who’ve had the misfortune of watching “Days of Our Lives” or ever had the delusions that a soap-opera romance was possible, you know what I am talking about. And it got me thinking, that THIS is exactly what’s wrong with the world. We’ve somehow all adopted the soap-opera mind-set. Deep down, we all want the fairytale. Whether or not we’ve yet resigned to the fact that life is seldom like that, deep down we are all dreamers to some degree.

How many housewives sit home everyday watching programs such as this while their husbands are at work, wishing to themselves that their marriage had the passion or drama as their favorite soap couple? How many husbands are needlessly belittled or undervalued because they cannot live up to the hype that their wives are absorbing day after day? Forget about the Young and the Restless, whatever the age of these viewers, deep down they are all wanting for more, believing the lie that romance, passion, danger and adventure are all there is to life. And when they have to undertake the mundane tasks of preparing supper or washing the dishes or getting the kids ready for bed, their hearts are growing colder, their minds are wandering, their situation seems more and more helpless. These are the real Desperate Housewives.

No one ever told them that the honeymoon eventually fades into the lull of everyday life, that marriage has it’s share of suffering, that the 24-7 soap-opera romance is impossible once the realities of life set in. That’s why people take vows for richer or poorer, sickness and health, good times and bad. Because it won’t always be exciting or fun, it may sometimes be unbearable. Yet the plots of these daytime dramas don’t show that part. When the marriage gets tiresome, when the passion fades, it doesn’t mean it’s time to tackle the problems that have weighed it down, it means you’ve settled down with the wrong person. It means your spouse is not the one! And if you are with the wrong one, then the right one must be out there somewhere, and it’s your duty in life to make sure that you find that one. The vicious cycle goes round and round and I’ll bet my bottom dollar that few of the women who undertake this attitude in real life ever find true happiness. They will always want more. They will always think they’re missing something. They’ll continue to buy into the lie like a sick addiction.

So is there really one person out there for each of us? In a world as big as this, it’s hard to imagine that it’s possible, and it does seem like an awful lot of work, doesn’t it? I do believe that God has a plan for each of us and so I do think it’s possible that there is someone special out there suited for each of us, but I guess there is no real way for us to ever find out, is there? We can either make the most of what we have, or we will be fated to the circular path of Sammy Brady, trying, scheming, manipulating and lowering herself whenever necessary to get the “man of her dreams” which, I assure you, varies from month to month.

Life with M has its share of problems from time to time. Surely, there are days when it feels like a fairytale but there are still days that bring their problems and challenges, but that’s just life and part of the process is learning to get through the hard times and making the most of the good times. Thinking that we can be happy 100% of the time or that any impasse means it’s the end of a good thing can only bring pain and regret. And I’m not a big fan of either.

Surely, we all eventually must realize that there’s more to life than candlelit dinners, spontaneous getaways and long walks on the beach. Though those don’t hurt either… "Like sands through the hourglass..."

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Greatest Lesson

Every now and then, I wonder: Where is my walk leading me? Where am I going and am I staying the course God intends for my life? There are times when it feels that I’ve drifted so far off track that there is no going back. There are times when I feel like I’m just standing still, too stubborn to care. And there are times when I feel like I’m walking so strong in my faith that the fiercest storm couldn’t move me an inch. But what troubles me most is the lack of consistency. And this is where I struggle.

Today is Good Friday, the Christian holiday that remembers the day Christ was crucified. We label it good because in fulfilling His destiny, Christ saved us. Earlier this week, we celebrated in rememberance of the Last Supper, when Jesus broke bread knowing that it would be the last time He’d be with His closest companions before facing crucifixion. Did Jesus wonder these same things that have occupied my mind today?

I think that we often overlook one of the greatest lessons of Christ’s journey to the cross. Though we spend Easter focusing on how Christ conquered even death to free us from sin, there is another story that I try and focus on. And it’s the one that is easiest for me to relate to most times, as I’ve certainly never had to bear any burden as great as His! It’s the fact that Jesus wept.

When Jesus prayed in the garden and asked God to let the cup pass from His lips, He too was shaken and confused. I’m sure He was thinking of how much He’d miss his family and friends. I’m sure He was somewhat afraid. Nevertheless, in spite of that moment of extreme honesty, when He poured out His heart before God, He immediately acknowledged that He would do His Father’s will no matter what. There are few of us that face difficult commands – though they pale in comparison to this - with such grace and less still who vow to do God’s will no matter what it means.

I wish I had the wisdom that I often lack. And I guess that’s all part of the journey for a Christian. Trying to walk as He did, trying to be strong and good as He was. But the sad reality is that we will all fail. We will all fall short.

But the good news is that it doesn’t matter, because Christ’s blood, which was shed on the cross, washes away the stain of sin on each of us, no matter how deep and dark that stain can be.

On Sunday, we will shout “He is Risen. He is Risen, indeed,” and I will remember that even our Perfect Savior had moments of doubt and despair. And I will trust that God will guide me through, even the difficult times. He’s certainly gotten me this far!

God's Grace...

Monday, April 10, 2006

Healing for a Broken Heart: More Than Words

“Healing for a broken heart.” That - for what it’s worth - is the most common search that brings newcomers to my blog every month and has been ever since it was first launched. Ironically enough, it was my search for that very thing that prompted me to start this site back when I did. I thought then that if I could put all my rants and ramblings – however incoherent they can be at times - out there in one place for others to respond to, I would be able to sort through the confusion in my heart, I’d be able to unload some of the baggage of my past and leave it behind, regardless of the fact that it would undeniably be preserved somewhere in the blogosphere for others experiencing similar circumstances to stumble on from time to time. And in so many ways, it’s worked.

But the question I find myself asking is whether or not I ever really answered the question I posed for myself – whether or not I ever got it “all figured out.” And I realize now that there are seldom times when we really do have anything all figured out, but I’d like to say, it’s definitely given me some insights.

How many times has it been said that “time heals all wounds?” It’s the ultimate cure-all. Just wait, sit tight, have patience and time will take care of the rest. What about: “This too shall pass?” Is there a grandmother on the planet that hasn’t fallen back on this turn of phrase? But how many times have we heard it said and rolled our eyes before reasoning away as to why it didn’t apply to our specific situation? (“You just don’t understand…” / "It's easier said than done.") Was grandma really just trying to shut us up and force us to move on with our lives rather than cry in our coffee? Or was there actually something at the heart of what she was saying?

After countless failed attempts at happiness, relationships with shelf lives shorter than skim milk – long-distance, short-distance, hardly-any distance scenarios that never seemed to work out, going from fearful to fearless and back again in a matter of months, it certainly seems I’ve run the gambit and shored up for myself a wealth of life lessons before I found a way to make it work with the right person. And if I learned anything it’s that it takes a lot more than time to heal old wounds – though time is certainly a factor. It takes perspective. It takes wanting to be over the past, being ready to give it up and get back up again. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of prayer.

So maybe there really is no prescription out there to be found. Maybe the search terms entered will not yield anymore of a cure-all now than the clichés I referenced earlier. But sometimes, that's just life. And it’s like anything else. Some of us can fall down and get back up again without a whimper, others are more fragile and require some time before they can get back on their feet, and sadly there are some that fall and never walk again. But the key isn’t to just let time pass and rely on that alone to make all wrongs right. It’s to acknowledge that time has passed, realize what has changed and accept the things you can’t control, allow yourself the necessary time to grieve, but find the stregnth to carry on, to try and be prepared to fail again, and keep a positive outlook that - of all things and as corny as it sounds - there will be “a better day,” even if it’s not tomorrow. So even if it seems it only comes full circle to another list of to-do’s, another stockpile of comforting words that do not yet seem to apply, it may not matter at the end of the day, if it gets you through. One day at a time.

I’ve learned to trust God with the things I can’t control and take responsibility for the things I can. It’s been a long battle and I’ve fallen away more times than I can recall, but in the end - no matter what the outcome - I’ve something much stronger to fall back on than mere words, a source of comfort and strength more enduring than the most ancient of adages. And my heart goes out to those who stumble and fall, and find themselves broken, never knowing the enormous healing power of a little faith. I can only hope to share it in these feeble entries. And pray that those who search for healing will also find it.

Friday, March 31, 2006

I'm Not Sorry (Nan's Apologetics)

After receiving a comment posted by an old friend on my last blog, I got to thinking… When I first started this blog, I meant for it to be a collection of my random musings on day to day things – a place to vent and share some of my “wit and wisdom” – and engage in what I love to do more than anything, which is writing. Initially, I’d started two blogs: one as a personal blog (Nan’s Rants) and the other as a Christian blog, which some of you might remember. As the year took some unexpected changes, it became very hard to divide myself up. Why did I want to pretend to be something I wasn’t by excluding who I really am from what I put out there for the world (or whoever happens to end up here) to see? Why was I willing to compromise? Who really cared if my blog exposed me for the believer, the hypocrite, the sentimental fool that I am?

Apparently, there were some people who did.

When I became a Christian – or shall I say, when I left my Catholic roots behind and understood completely what it meant to be saved – I lost a lot of so-called friends. Though they’d always known I loved God – based on whatever understanding I then had of Him – they decided that what I’d become was tantamount to having joined some cult or having been brain-washed. This was also the case when it came to my Italian family, who believed that I could not change my religion anymore than I could change my nationality. It was a little heart wrenching. I was still the same person. I still had my sensibilities and sense of humor in tact – or at least I liked to think so – I wasn’t harassing people on trains or holding signs in the street or doing anything out of character. I was simply sharing my walk with Christ. That was a little too much for a lot of people in my life to understand.

And so they gradually disappeared from the ranks of my friends and the true friends, who all along knew me as a person and understood my heart, stuck by my side. This is not to say that all my friends are Christians or conservatives or even (gasp) Republicans. I have had a lot of libs and dems and even atheists for friends. I have never based my idea of friendship on whether or not they support one party or another or oppose abortion or hate President Bush. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, I reasoned. I refused to be intolerant – not even of the people who became intolerant of me.

I spent a lot of time managing two blogs thinking I had to be two people – thinking I had to please those people who didn’t share my faith. Thinking I couldn’t maintain my sense of humor or self if I included my reliance on God or prayer. I was wrong for doing so. For whatever it’s worth, this is who I am and it’s always been who I am. And I’ve been fortunate to enter into a community of bloggers who I can be real with, regardless of the judgment or criticism that often trickles in.

I’m not going to apologize for who I am and what I believe to anyone anymore. I’ve never asked anyone else to. I’m not going to close my mouth and refuse to speak what I know is true to keep anyone from judging me or challenging my beliefs. If that’s not the tough persistent – albeit sometimes argumentative - Brooklyn girl who swore to never compromise coming out, I don’t know what is.

This has always been me. And I’m not sorry.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Our Day in Court: A Voice for V

The judge rubbed his temples and looked down at his desk intently, as though the resolution to the problem would somehow appear before him if he fixed his eyes long enough. "I just don't know that there is a solution," he said, finally, "it's obvious that there is no way to make peace between the two of you." M's ex just stared at the yellow legal pad placed before her attorney. I felt my eyes growing colder towards her and forced myself to break my stare. I felt like one of those people in the movies, who jump up in the courtroom and insist on being heard before breaking out into a monologue. It all seemed so stupid. I understood what the judge was feeling.

At the beginning of the hearing, M's ex's attorney claimed that M had brought this action without good faith, insisting that she and her client had done everything possible to avoid refusing his visitation a few weeks ago. She talked such a web of words that I - who knew the truth - almost believed her. It's not so much that lawyers lie, I realized, it's that they know just how to twist the truth to favor their clients. It seemed that she would be successful. And then M - who I've never seen represent himself before, though he's done so throughout this long drawn-out battle over his daughter - opened his mouth to speak. And everything he said, destroyed the web the ex's attorney had crafted. The judge found her guilty.

"Do you want me to put her in jail?" the judge asked M rather seriously. I held my breath. "Is that an option?" M said jokingly, before he said "no." "That's usually what we do in these instances," the judge said again displaying no amusement. I thought of how eager his ex was to have him thrown in jail when he called her to beg to see his child. Thought of what a lesson she would learn having to go through what she'd put him through. Thought of how hypocritical the whole system is that a woman gets to walk free when if M had done what she'd done, the cuffs would have been on him in an instant without so much as a question thrown in his ex's direction.

The counselor rose to speak. "I'd like to be heard," she said before she was. She told the judge that she believed the ex was trying to keep the child from seeing M. Explained that she had let her know that "if she was looking for a counselor to manipulate, it would not be her," which ultimately led to her being fired from the case. The reason told to V was that the counselor "said bad words to her mom." "If any bad words were said," the counselor continued, "those were them." She told the judge that V loved M and was very happy spending time with the two of us and that the concerns the ex presented to her were unfounded. The judge seemed amazed. "A counselor just came in here and told me that one parent is trying her hardest to refuse visitation to the other," he said in the ex's direction, "it's not common for a counselor to come in here and say those things." It was then, I think, that he realized the complexity of the problem.

He reminded both M and his ex that they would have to deal with each other for 13 more years, given V's age. It hurt my head to be reminded. "That's a long time and a lot of money that will be wasted arguing in court," the judge said, "money that would be better off in a savings account for college." M's ex didn't raise her eyes. She just continued staring at the yellow legal pad that she'd been scribbling on so furiously during the arguments made by M and her attorney. Her eyes were glazed over but I saw not a hint of remorse.

How do you make peace with someone you are not permitted to speak to? I wondered, referring to the protective order that is in place until this summer. And then the judge did something unexpected, he decided to give V a voice of her own. He assigned a guardian ad litem to the case - an attorney to represent V and her best interests. "It's sad that it's come down to this," the judge said, "but it's the only thing I can think of unless you two can learn to get along." There was a long pause before he dismissed us. Perhaps he too was waiting for the moment that would have happened in the movies where the ex jumps up and waxes poetic in her apology and swears to be a better mother and stop the fighting. In reality, that moment never happens. It just ends with a small group of people filing out of a small courtroom quietly and passing each other in the halls without a word.

The counselor came over to M and me and gave us a gift for V. She told us that she thought the counselor ad litem would help M greatly and assured us that any other practitioner would be able to see the same things she saw. She wished us luck before she left. I felt sad knowing we'd probably never see her again.

"You realize you could have had her put in jail?" I said to M, half-joking, trying to lift the mood. "I know," he said half-smirking, "but if she denies visitation again in the next year, the judge won't ask me my opinion." I felt myself growing more cynical.

So it all amounted to a year of cooperation (hopefully) and a voice for V. I guess there was some victory in that. Peace would have been a bigger aspiration. The movie ending would have been a better outcome. Perhaps 3 years of law school will cure me of these false hopes. Perhaps, a Juris Doctor will cure me of being so naive.

Until then, there is still hope.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

So a Laywer Walks into a Bar....

Last night I watched a movie – a very very lame movie – entitled “A Murder of Crows,” which is pretty much about a lawyer with no morals (redundant?) who passes off a book about killing lawyers as his own and gets framed for the crimes when the book turns out to be true. The movie – a very very lame movie – had a few funny things to say about lawyers.

In any case, I’ve been a little distracted lately with work (strange, I know) and I’ve been in need of some amusement. So, I’ve undertaken finding as many good lawyer jokes as I can. We can all use a good laugh – and why not some self-deprecation? As I certainly will need to be used to hearing a few years from now. So, feel free to add on to what I’ve found here… and laugh, if you like. We can all use a little more love and a little more laughter. I’m spent right now and copying and pasting is all I can manage. Enjoy!

How do you help a lawyer from drowning?
Take your foot off his head!
What do you call 5000 dead lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?
A good start!
What do you have when a lawyer is buried up to his neck in sand?
Not enough sand.
What is a criminal lawyer?
A Doctor and a Lawyer Were Attending a Cocktail Party
A doctor and a lawyer were attending a cocktail party when the doctor was approached by a man who asked advice on how to handle his ulcer.

The doctor mumbled some medical advice, then turned to the lawyer and asked, "How do you handle the situation when you are asked for advice during a social function?"
"Just send a bill for such advice" replied the lawyer.

On the next morning the doctor arrived at his surgery and issued the ulcer-stricken man a $50 bill. That afternoon he received a $100 bill from the lawyer.

You’ll Never Have to Go to Jail
A man who had been caught embezzling millions from his employer went to a lawyer seeking defense. He didn’t want to go to jail. But his lawyer told him, "Don’t worry. You’ll never have to go to jail with all that money.

And the lawyer was right. When the man was sent to prison, he didn’t have a dime.

What do lawyers do after they die?
They lie still.
Why do you bury a lawyer 600 feet underground after he dies?
Because deep down, he’s a really good guy!

What's the problem with lawyer jokes?
Lawyer's don't think they're funny, and no one else thinks they're jokes.

Glad I can still appreciate them!

Monday, March 06, 2006

God at Work (My Exciting News!)

After being sick all week and being sent home from work Friday morning, I was feeling down. As I pulled the blanket up to my neck and laid down my heavy head, I focused on the coming days and thought of how wonderful it would be to spend time with M and his daughter, who he was scheduled to have for the weekend. My mind went back to the conversation we’d had the night before.

I’d asked him if he thought it was God’s will for us to be together and whether or not it could be considering he and his ex divorced. I told him that I loved him enough to want what’s best for him and that if there was any way he could make his family work again, I’d step aside and be happy for him and V. (Scary, but I really meant it.) M assured me that he’d tried everything he could and that I was his family now. I got online and started blogging about it, hoping to get some feedback on Christian remarriage. I hit the publish button and refreshed the page when the phone rang. It was M.

His voice was raw and I could tell he was distressed before he even finished the sentence. The sound confirmed for me what I’d feared all day. He wasn’t getting V. His ex decided to go against the court order and had called everyone in his family to let them know that M wasn’t getting his daughter. M had only one option – to go there with the sheriff and have her given to him – something he did not want his daughter to have to go through. He seemed resigned to the idea that there was nothing he could do to fix the situation. Considering everything he’d been through this past year – and all the underhanded things his ex did to keep his child from him, I felt really proud of him. I went back and deleted my entry.

The weekend wasn’t long enough, but it was quiet. We both moped around all day, talking about what V would be doing if she was there. This morning, I came into work with a headache, feeling a little defeated and down. M and I talked a little more about setting a date for the wedding and I went into work feeling calm but wishing I was someplace else. When I got to my desk there was a red light on the phone – a message that had been left on Friday morning, after I was sent home. It was the Dean of Admissions from the law school. I’d been accepted!

Had I been in on Friday, I would have known then. While I was home sick, God was at work.

In an instant, my day was transformed. From the depths of my doubt, I was completely thrown. I was overjoyed. Just when it seemed that God had forgotten and the future was uncertain, He was more than faithful. (I am so blessed.)

This should make planning our wedding a little harder, but at least now we’ll have a schedule to work with, at least some aspect of our crazy lives will be settled. And I cannot wait. I cannot wait to start law school. I cannot wait to marry M. And I cannot wait until all these custody issues are ironed out and V is no longer torn between the people she loves. We’ll be going to court in the coming weeks to try and settle this. I know it will be a long battle, but today reminded me where we need to put our hope. I know that in the spaces between that are filled with only worry and fear and doubt - when God seems silent – He has not turned away. He is working.

And I’ve no doubt that His work in this situation has only just begun.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

And On and On the Battles Goes...

"All's fair in love and war," but what about when a child is involved? Where do you draw the line?

After what was a wonderful weekend last week with M's daughter V, we had a week filled with phone calls from her telling us both how much she missed us and couldn't wait to be with us again next weekend. Then M got a call last night.

It was from the counselor.

For those of you who have followed this blog for a while, you might remember the extreme's M's ex went to, to try to keep him from seeing V. We had prayed and prayed and finally the judge allowed M to see his daughter with a counselor supervising. The counselor spent time with the 3 of us for 5 weekends and observed nothing but what she called "positive things." So she went to court last month and told the judge -- which was what led to unsupervised visitation and allowed us to have V last weekend at his parents -- and the judge was pleased. M's ex was not. She and her lawyer (M can't afford one and the court forced him to pay for her's) came into court with all kinds of lies about V being very distraught about my and M's relationship, about it being inappropriate for me to be around V, about M needing to be supervised, etc. The judge didn't buy any of it. It seemed that M had won.

Last weekend it seemed that the nightmare had finally ended and order was restored. V no longer had to sneak messages to M to tell me she missed me, she could get on the phone and say it herself. She was clearly happy - his ex had to see that. It seemed that the battle was over.

Until M got a call from the counselor letting him know that his ex had filed a complaint with her employers, accusing her of not doing her job correctly, of V not being able to communicate with her -- because V is "terribly distraught" about everything. (Which the counselor conceeded to us that she knows is a lie.) The court ruled last time that we need to check in with the counselor at the end of every visit V has with us (every other weekend) but now what will happen seems unsure. Fortunately, she has decided to stay on the case - in spite of the letter - until the next court date, to try to protect M from losing his visitation should his ex find a counselor sympathetic to her position. (She admitt that before she met M - from what his ex said - she expected him to be a rat and was surprised that he "had no tail" when she met him.)

And so the battle rages on, and what is at stake is more than "ownership" of an entity once shared in marriage, it's a little girl, who has more love than anyone I've ever met for everyone involved. How long will this continue and how many more times will this child be hurt before peace can be made?

I can only pray it will be soon.