Friday, December 14, 2012

If Only

You never got to watch me grow
To see my sweet sixteen
You never got to let me know
How to be his lady-queen

You never taught me how to act
Or helped me learn ballet
And so I wonder, just right now
Where we would be today...

If only you'd held on, Grandma
If the cancer could subside
I'd ask you for advice, Grandma
If only you hadn't died.

I could ask which color suits my eyes
Hear your finest cooking tips
Learn how to sache any which-way
Hear stories straight from your lips

I'd gladly trade my holiday angels
For the one I had in you
It's fun to imagine what it'd be like
But I'd prefer if it were true:

If only you'd held on, Grandma
If the cancer could subside
You could hold my girls, wearing lace and pearls
If only you hadn't died.

(Written for my Grandma Darlene. She was a spectacular woman who I only had the honor of knowing for the first eight years of my life. I wish my daughters could have met her...)

Friday, November 30, 2012

What They Don't Know WILL Hurt Them

The other day, I was talking to my Daddy about the trips he used to take to Northern California. He went up every summer for a few years, and I believe he was pretty popular, because he knew people who could supply marijuana to him. It was the seventies, after all, and he was never without company. At thirteen (if I heard him right), he had more suppliers than most grown adults. Our conversation hit a bit of a wall there for a second... it was kind of a shock to me that he would have such exposure to drugs, especially at the young age of thirteen. Not that I thought he had an innocent life growing up... I just didn't realize it happened to him so young.

Then I started to talk to him about the trips I'd taken up North. Thinking I'd already told my father about it, I abruptly said, "Yeah, at that seminar thing you sent me to for a week, some dude put his hand down my pants."

"What?" my dad said. It was clear he was holding it in... under that "What?", a "WHAT???!!!" was dying to come out.

"Yeah... I was just sitting and talking to him, with a pillow in my lap, and he stuck his hand down my pants."

"What'd you do?"

"I was in shock. I was embarrassed. I thought, 'How did I ever give this guy the idea this would be OK?' so I froze. Finally he said, 'So, how do you feel right now?' and I said, 'I....'m feelin' pretty uncomfortable right about now.' so he took his hand away... and I got up and moved away from him."

The look on my Dad's face said that he wanted justice served. "Did you tell anyone?"

"No... I was embarrassed, I felt ashamed."

 My Dad looked so hurt... like I'd just ripped his heart out. Or at least, that's how it felt to me. "That's what they do, honey... they make you feel like you did something wrong."

"You know what made it even worse, dad? His first name was the same as yours."

I could tell my Dad wished he were there to protect me. He probably thought, in that moment, that he shouldn't have sent me on that trip. I felt awful for not telling him sooner, and apologized to him. "It's OK.. I just wish I'd known." he said.

I wish he'd known, too. It seemed a weird thing to tell my parents about at the time, but when I finally did tell him, I wanted to dig out his information (we got a packet with everyone's addresses on it afterward) just so my dad could get some kind of closure on it. So we both could. Plus, it woulda been great to hear my Daddy givin' a kid a hard time over the phone, or even better - drivin' up to punch him in the face. haha. Just sayin'...

I mean, don't get me wrong: it didn't scar me or anything. It was an almost-isolated incident. There was something similar that happened earlier that week and freaked me out more... although it was a lesser issue. We were doing a "trust-building exercise" (oh, the irony!), with everyone crowded around, and someone kept touching me. I had NO idea who it was because I was surrounded by people... THAT freaked me out. And again, I was too chicken to tell anyone. I'm sure it was the same kid who (what do you call it? molested?) me, now that it happened.

Now that I'm a mom, I wonder if anything like this will ever happen with my own kids. I pray not... it's unbearable to think about. I hope that they would have the confidence in themselves to know that they are not at fault, and that they can (and SHOULD) come to their parents. What I don't know WILL hurt me... I'd be fooling myself to think they'll tell me everything, yet at the same time: oh, how I wish they would!

Have you ever kept something from someone for years, and then revealed it to them? How did they react? Do you wish you'd told them sooner?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Captivating Filthiness

Wild. Messy. Uncontrollable. Frustrating. Thankless.

These are all words I'd use to describe what it's like to work with kids, whether they're my own or not. And judging by the baby bans that have spread throughout hotels, airlines, restaurants, and even grocery stores, many feel that they just aren't worth all the trouble.

As a mother, it feels like when I step into a grocery store or even my own church with a squawking child, the stares of fellow shoppers (or members of the congregation) are saying, "Keep them silent! If they make noise, you must be an AWFUL parent."

This is the thing... I don't get why kids aren't allowed to make some noise. They're KIDS. I make noise when I'm excited, don't you? It was interesting, when I was working my first few years at the job I have now (which I call my new, old job): we had training meetings with a psychologist/speaker and we were working on an exercise she gave us, being very noisy. Suddenly the speaker piped up and said, "Do you hear how loud you're being right now? Learning is loud. Yet we tell kids all day, "Be quiet!". It gave me a good little chuckle, knowing I'd done that to kids already. She constantly asked us to put ourselves in our kids' shoes... and it really opened my eyes. They go to school, constantly being told what to do, and not being allowed to direct themselves as far as free play until lunchtime (and even at lunch, there is no imaginary play that involves anything pseudo-violent, such as "army" or other games that we, as kids, got to grow up playing). Then, if they have daycare or something of the like afterschool, they have another 3 or more hours being told what to do and where to go. They come home starving, just in time for dinner, and then maybe some TV/video games and bedtime. I say TV and video games because by the time they come home, it's dark out.

When I was a kid, life was imaginative and wonderful; even when things were going crazy in my home life. I got to play outside, let out my energy, and daydream. My parents weren't overbearing, and they didn't hover over me to watch everything I did. I wasn't constantly supervised by adults, and of course, I got into trouble sometimes. I realize that this day and age is different from the one I grew up in (technology is so prominent, it seems hardly anyone gets out anymore), but I still think it wouldn't hurt to take some time to let kids be kids... not to excuse bad behavior, but just to lighten up a bit and stop taking them so seriously. Eating candy once in a while won't turn a kid into a diabetic... if we let them free play a little, they're not going to kill each other...

I know a lot of people don't want to deal with kids. I don't agree with them, but I can sort of understand where they're coming from. It's just easier not to be exposed to loud, muddy, snot-covered wild things that hop around like a bundle full of energy. It is easier.

But aren't most of the worthwhile things in life just a little bit difficult?

There is beauty in the painstaking things. I believe this as a mommy, and as a child care provider. And I hope you believe it too.

What messy, difficult things are you intentionally taking part in? When you feel like giving up or think you're not making a difference, what keeps you going? Please let me know in the comments section, and have a wonderful day!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Scottish People and Bullying

My husband is related to a very famous Scot with a common last name, and recently received threats on a new profile he'd created with his name. A Scottish man warned my husband (on facebook) not to harass his son (by the same name, but a different spelling as my husband's) anymore... and he did so in no uncertain terms. My husband was initially upset, then he thought it must have been spam. He replied to the message, in the off-chance that someone may have gotten him mixed up with someone else, saying that he was an adult, not the twelve-year-old that some others on his profile had mistaken him for.

My husband is very proud of his Scottish heritage (as it should be), and we recently got to see the movie "Brave" with our two daughters. They love the movie, and my oldest pretends to be Merida. I found the movie absolutely hilarious, and started to become curious about it. See, in the movie, there's one young man who is very difficult for us Americans to understand... so in an attempt to discover what he'd said, I stumbled across interviews with the character's voice actor. He made a comment in one of his interviews that Scots are "messy"... and I loved that. It made me think of my husband... extremely passionate, and, well - messy. This Scotsman who contacted my husband seemed the same way: although we didn't know what had happened to cause his angry response, I could tell that there was something more at the heart of it. 

When I came home, I checked my husband's profile (at his request) and found that the man promptly apologized... a very sincere, kindhearted apology, and explained his situation. His son (again, having the same name as my husband, but a different spelling) had moved away, but was experiencing intense bullying in his new town. The poor kid! I don't know him, but everyone deserves to be at peace in their environment.

Bullying is a real epidemic lately, it seems. I think it starts with pride... kids think they're somehow better than the other kids, and rather than accepting one anothers' differences, they cruelly point them out as faults. I don't think I struggled with bullying growing up (other than picking on my own siblings), but I did sometimes think I was better than others. Humility can be a beautiful thing... and it is like healing balm on a wound. If only more people would embrace one another rather than judging, and be unafraid to apologize to one another (as beautifully modeled by this Scottish father), the world would be a far better place.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why I'm Thankful For Facebook

I was hesitant to write this (because it seems so typical of blog posts around this time of year), but I feel it's more important for me to be grateful than to be original (especially since hardly anything is truly original nowadays).

Therefore, I'm going to list the things I'm grateful for. It may not be profound, but simple gratitude is enough.

I'm thankful for Scotland, because my husband is Scottish, and he's proud of his heritage. I'm thankful for my husband, who has been there for me through everything, including my recent hernia surgery. He's the best caregiver I could have asked for; both gentle ("Go to bed and get some rest") and firm ("SIT DOWN and quit doin' stuff!").

I'm thankful for my children. I'm thankful that they are shining lights to me, despite the shadow that neurofibromatosis tries to cast on things. I'm glad that they are here with me, and that I am able to help them by fighting for them to make it to their appointments.

I'm thankful for facebook. Not only do I have some amazing friends, but I also recently connected with my uncle on facebook.

You see, when I was eight years old, lots of changes came to my family all at once. In the same year, we moved 2 hours away, my grandmother died, and my uncles came to stay with us. One of our uncles was just out of prison, and the other had a very tough time grieving my grandma's death. Before she died, my uncle Darren started to behave differently, but it was further aggravated by her death. He began talking to himself and sounding paranoid. As an eight-year-old, I didn't quite understand. I didn't know why he would stand in the same spot all day, muttering to himself. Finally, my mom got him to sit down... and so he sat all day. He only got up for food and to relieve himself. I didn't understand why, when I asked him to do his "Donald Duck voice" which I cherished, he responded with a heart-rending, "I can't do that anymore." The anguish in his voice penetrated even my young, naive heart, and I chose not to ask him anymore... because I didn't want to hear him in so much pain again.

My mother was concerned for my uncle, and she debated over what to do. Finally, one day, she gave him an ultimatum, believing it would be a wake-up call to him. "Get help or get out," she said. She was sure that if it meant he had to leave, he would get help instead. She didn't realize how deeply his paranoia went, and was shocked and saddened to see him pack his things and be gone that morning. From that point on, we saw him maybe once... and then never again for eight years. All we knew was that he was homeless somewhere, in Orange County. Through that time, I forgot all the negative, unpleasant aspects of what was happening to Darren, and remembered only the good, and the fact that he couldn't do the Donald Duck voice.

Finally, when I turned 16, we decided to check and see how he was doing. We were worried he may not have even made it all those years, but we inquired at a police station and after he was cited for jaywalking, they let him know we were looking for him, and he agreed to meet us. We drove to see him in anticipation: my dad, mom, uncle Dean, sister, and brother. When we saw him, we were pleasantly surprised by how good he looked. Dean commented that Darren looked even better than he did, which was true (Dean had lost a few teeth since Darren last saw him). I had always loved Darren's gorgeous dark, curly hair, and it was dark and curly as ever... and he looked clean and well-fed.

We were so excited to see him. My dad said, "Where do you wanna go?" and Darren responded, "I could use a drink."

They chose to take him to a pizza parlor, since they usually serve alcohol in big pitchers for their customers. Unfortunately, the place started to get crowded. It was then that I was reminded of what it was like at eight, all over again. Darren, who had appeared completely sound of mind, began to mutter to himself. Dean told Darren, "Don't listen to them, man... listen to us. We're your family, and we love you." We then took Darren to a bowling alley, hoping that leaving the crowds would be good for him. He didn't do much better there, though, because as my mom sat in the bar with him, she heard Darren telling the voices, "I can't do that... she's my sister!".

My mom and dad decided it would be best to tell Darren goodbye at that point, and we all told him we missed him and loved him, giving him hugs. My dad made sure Darren had a phone card and some money (just in case) and we left...

Since then, I have wondered about him. Through the years, any time I've run into a homeless person, it feels like there's a gaping void in my heart there... it's like I'm looking at Darren. People have commented before on how kind and generous I am to the homeless, but it's not true. In reality, I'm being quite selfish. I feel an intense need to help the homeless, because I fervently hope that someone, somewhere, is taking care of my uncle. Those people have stories... lives they've left behind. It frustrates me that, sometimes, people don't see or care about that.

When I was young (perhaps ten), I had a dream that I was on my street, getting ready to take the bus to school, and I spotted Darren. He was holding a stack of packages, quickly walking somewhere. "Darren!" I called out, but he didn't answer. I wasn't able to get to where he'd been with the packages until later... and by then, he'd already gone. He left behind that huge pile of Christmas presents for us, though... one for each one of us. These gifts weren't just any gifts, though: they were spectacular, expensive, thoughtful gifts. It was as if he knew exactly what everyone would want for Christmas. In the dream, I was thankful for what he'd given me, but I was so saddened that I couldn't just be with him. I didn't know why he left those gifts there, without a word, but I so deeply felt like I wanted to give up everything he'd given me... just for him instead.

This year, I finally got that gift. He is not with me in person... but I can talk to him. I can call him up on the phone. I can finally KNOW where my uncle is... how he's doing... instead of wondering.

And for that... for THAT, I will always be grateful.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Stupid Mistakes

Have you ever been called a name? Did you actually LIKE any of your nicknames? When I was a teenager, I purposefully wallowed in my Dad's lap, completely preventing him from being comfortable when he was watching his show. In exasperation, he finally yelled, "Get off me, you MOOSE!" The name stuck. For some reason, I just loved that he called me a moose. It fit, too. To this day, I'm rather clumsy and ungraceful.

The word Christian was originally meant as an insult to believers. The phrase meant "little Christ", and it was to be a mockery. Of course, followers of The Way picked up on it, and decided to adopt it themselves, much as early Americans would adopt the "Yankee Doodle" song, centuries later.

I love being a Christian. I love the meaning of the word. The thing is, I am AWFUL at being a little Christ. Ask me about my life, and I can give you countless instances of where I failed to radiate the love and joy of Christ, or cowered behind an untrue, "agreeable" version of Jesus.... a Jesus better suited to the liberal masses. A Jesus who isn't Jesus at all, but a false idol; a caricature of the true, intensely loving and intensely zealous Jesus who was Truth and Love all at once.

When I want to take a stand for Truth, I slaughter the masses with my cold, impersonal, and unloving remarks, and when I want to model love, I stand idly by while others destroy Truth. It's a terrible fight: how do I stand for truth in love, and how do I love in truth?

I recently had the chance to do the right thing. Actually, I had several. A friend of mine was mentioning another friend of mine (in a somewhat negative way), and I COULD have kept my mouth shut. I could have ignored what he was saying, and chosen to stay out of it. After all, it didn't really have anything to do with me. Instead, I chose to tell him something that only helped reinforce his poor opinion of my other friend. See, this other friend had done something that hurt me. I SHOULD have gone to her and said, "Hey, this hurt my feelings," but instead I was quiet about it. I spoke to her about it, but I didn't tell her the truth of how it made me feel. I was worried she'd react negatively to me, and that she'd be angry at me, so I stayed out of it. (You heard right: I stayed out of it when I should have said something, and I got involved when I should have stayed out of it.)

I KNEW I did the wrong thing. I knew immediately that I should not have opened my mouth and said things about my friend. In fact, I was awakened at night by this nagging feeling that I'd made a terrible mistake and that I needed to apologize to the man I told for getting involved. After all, the Bible says we are to be peacemakers. What I said created more strife, more tension... not more peace. Yet I couldn't call him at 12 am... so I waited. And when I waited, I forgot. There was so much going on... so much filling my days, that I didn't think to apologize... until night, again, when it would be too late. This went on for almost a week, and I finally saw my friend again. I was going to apologize to him, but I decided to do some things first. Besides, he looked busy.

By the time I saw my friend again, he had talked to the woman I'd told him about, and she left. I don't think I'll ever see her again. There were a lot of things that went into their parting, but I can't help but feel responsible for it all. God tried to give me ways out of it... the guilt I'm feeling right now. But I was always too busy, too forgetful... it was always too late and someone was too busy. I have asked God to forgive me for my stupid mistake... but I'm going to miss my other friends.

I know it's too late now, but I think I'm going to apologize to my guy friend tomorrow. It won't change anything, but at least I'll have finally said what I should have said weeks ago.

I need to strive to be more of a Christian. I need to find that line... the line between truth and love. I need to learn to listen to that still, small voice inside of me, telling me to be a peacemaker, and not to open my mouth every time I'm inclined to do so. I'm going to get better at this: I have to. That's why I'm putting it out there right now... because I need to be held accountable. I need to remember the times when I fall short so I can  be less likely to make those mistakes again. And also... writing about it seems to heal the pain a little, as if perhaps someday, my friend will see this post and know that I am sorry for the dreams of hers that were crushed that day.

Have you ever felt like you missed the mark in your walk with God? Have you ever known you should do something, but you didn't? Why didn't you? How did you handle it? Leave a comment and let me know.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I wanted to post it NOW. :P

Why is it so tiny??? Darn.

Oh well... hopefully you guys can read it... it's big on my computer. lol

Adventure Acrostics

Soo... I started doing this new thing I call "Adventure Acrostics". I take someone's name, and I make a story out of it. I've written a few so far (one for my friend Aimee, one for my sister...) and they are SO MUCH FUN! My sister had recently asked my talented anime artist niece to do a commission of herself and her boyfriend as Poison Ivy and Batman... so hers is batman-themed. She liked it a lot. I'm thinking of doing more... for Fiverr, maybe. I'm a little hesitant because I don't know how much to say I'm willing to do (how many letters is my limit? How much gimp-ing should I do?), but I think it'd be fun, if I could pull it off. I was going to do a sample on Fiverr (using fiverr as the acrostic) but I don't know how to personalize it. Hmm.

What do you guys think? I would TOTALLY put my sister's on here, but it has her full name and I'm not sure she'd like that. I guess I could do a blogspot version... I'm gonna give it a Walking Dead theme, since I'm in that kinda mood right now. Gonna try to go off Season One so I don't spoil it too much for anyone. :)

 Battered and bruised, Rick kept thinking about the bicycle girl zombie he'd seen in the park.
"Lori, Carl... where are you???" he wondered aloud.
 Only silence.
 Groans soon replaced the quiet, and he knew it was time to move again.
"Shoot!" he said to himself, as a hoard came his way.
 Pulling out his gun, he shot several of them, but the noise of the shots alerted more.
"Out of ammunition," he moaned, frustrated and worried.
 There was only one strategy left for Rick Grimes: use blunt force on them and hope for a miracle.

Hey... I should find a picture to go with this. Maybe I will... and post it later. :)

Friday, November 2, 2012

I'm Gonna Wreck It!

I am a discourager.

It's probably contrary to what most people would say of me. See, I make every effort I can to encourage others, especially my more supportive friends. I find myself pouring into their lives with reckless abandon.. I'm unable to see them or hang out with them, usually, so instead I choose to do it via facebook. Lots of my friends say, "You're so sweet!"

They have no idea.

They don't realize that in my head, I am constantly degrading myself for every little perceived failure (and there are a lot of them). I'm not sure if this is something women do in general, or a side effect of having a personal history of depression and a family history of mental illness. I'm not sure what ingredients go into it, but I do know how it makes me feel.

Here's an example. Yesterday, my daughter and I were talking as we got ready for our "Mommy-Daughter (speech therapy) Date". I can't remember why, but as I was leading her by the hand, I said, "Don't you trust your Mommy?" I was frustrated with her (probably because she was asking a lot of questions I'd already answered), and I didn't pay attention to where she was going and she ran into a rearview mirror in a car. Right in her bad eye. RIGHT after I'd gotten onto her case for not trusting me, I lead her into a mirror. Wow. Mom of the Year award, anyone?

I don't do her hair cute. It's a good day if I brush it out. I don't bake bread from scratch (in fact, for years, I didn't even make dinner... someone else made it for me). I can't sew on a sewing machine and I get irate far too easily with my kids. My house is usually a disaster and I snap at my husband if he even remotely seems to hint that I've done something wrong. Stress gets to me in a ridiculously vast way, and if my husband hints that I ought to do something, I snap at him because it's easier to do than hate myself for a full three hours because I disappointed him. I am SO worried about disappointing him. In fact, I feel like I somewhat conned him into marrying me, and I need to do all I can to "save face" and keep him from leaving me (he has never done anything to make me feel like he'll leave: it's my own paranoia).

SO imagine how it felt to me, knowing that my husband requested two and a half weeks off work for my hernia surgery. I felt loved. I felt cherished. I felt... like I didn't deserve it. Yes... I still struggle with this frustrating self-loathing that I'd hoped I killed as soon as my teen years had passed. I think of my job, which I love, and my wonderfully sweet boss, and I think to myself, "They must secretly hate me there. I don't do my job right. I'm a lousy employee." The truth is that I stress far too much.

In fact, I'm sort of nervous about this surgery. Not only am I nervous I'll be in pain, or how hard it's gonna be not to pick up my kids (not to mention no driving for two weeks!), but I also think about how bored I'll be. How will I ever survive not stressing myself to the point of frantic panic?

I watched "My Sister's Keeper" the other day, and I came upon a realization: I am high-strung. I'm almost as bad as the mom in that movie! I related with her and cried as she freaked out about her kids. The thing is, though... my kids aren't dying. They have a condition called NF that CAN be fatal, but it hasn't affected them too much.

So why do I freak out so badly? And will I be able to check myself through prayer, before I wreck myself?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Life Gone Awry

The prison cell was dark and dank. It smelled of urine. The small, hard cot on which she attempted to sleep at night was full of fleas or bedbugs (she couldn't tell the difference, and really, did it matter?) and the thin blanket could not keep her warm at night. The wardens constantly harassed her, reminding her of her crimes and making sport of her for it. Aury never suspected that her life would turn out like this... but then, she was never really good for anything in the first place.

Aury grew up in a small town full of drunkards and womanizers. Many of the women had turned to prostitution or adultery to try to fill the emptiness in their lives. Looked at as pieces of meat, the women thought they might as well make some money while they were at it. The men were bawdy and wild, so the women followed suit. Kids were left to fend for themselves, as parents were usually too hung over to deal with them. At least, that was her experience.

The only group that didn't wear their wrongdoing like a badge on their arms were the preachers, whose crisp cleanliness stood in stark contrast to everyone else. Now that she was in the clink, they reminded her a lot of the wardens. No one could hope to breathe in a church like that, for fear of contaminating the preachers' air. (Not all of them were actual preachers, but the straight-laced believers had earned the name by condemning others and quoting conveniently-intolerant scripture.)

When her dad started hitting her, and before she knew better, Aury tried to go to the preachers. They told her that she must have done something wrong, and insisted that she pray about it and find out where she was to blame. Aury was just seven at the time, and was horrified that it'd been her fault. As she grew older, she searched her soul and did everything she could think of to please him, trying to treat him as the father he should have been rather than the one he was. After a hard day's work for her father, she brought him his slippers. He hit her. While her mother was drunk and passed out, she prepared his dinner (and burned herself in the process). He saw the burn on her arm, called her a “stupid, mangy dog,” and hit her. Aury went back to the preachers and told them what had happened. She said she didn't think it was her fault after all, and they quoted scriptures at her about how evil begets evil, and that everyone will be repaid for their crimes. She tearfully stormed down the steps of the church and vowed never to go to that awful place again.

Aury abruptly laughed, thinking back to Joshua. She'd met him at school when she was fourteen. By that point, she'd already headed down her path in life. She did drugs with her friends every morning before school, and laid down with any young man who took an interest. It always left her feeling more broken, but she didn't care. By that point, she wasn't sure she wanted to live anymore. She was secretly hoping the drugs would take her life.

Joshua sat down in her class one day, beaming with a smile that could light up the room. It was his first day, but he already had friends following him around. The girls noticed him too, but he was aloof, in a good way. Girls in Aury's town were always treated one of two ways: noticed because a man wanted someone to hit, or noticed because a man wanted someone to lie with. Joshua's way of dealing with girls was respectful, so of course he wanted them to feel comfortable. From his first day, Joshua was very involved in class. In fact, he corrected the teacher a few times, which impressed Aury and made her stifle a laugh. The teachers were awestruck by his knowledge, and began asking
him questions. It was one of the most enjoyable things Aury had seen in her entire life.

As Aury got to know Joshua, she realized he was genuinely nice. He was the first person who truly cared about her, and they became fast friends. He was a believer, but his beliefs differed from those of the Preachers. Although Aury was part of another scene, and sometimes felt like he didn't understand her, they stayed close through the years, and with all of the changes that they went through. The Preachers' kids (Aury's other friends called them PITS: Preachers In Training) hated Josh though, and it puzzled Aury a little. Josh was a really good guy, and you had to be perfect to join their club. Josh was more perfect than anyone Aury had ever met.

Josh didn't seem to like the PITS either, though. He corrected them (the best-performing students in the school, since none of them were drunk or doing drugs most of the time) and called them proud hypocrites. They didn't like that too much, but it thrilled Aury to hear them spoken to like that. No one else dared question them. She felt bolder when Josh was around, in a good way. It felt like, if he was around, nothing could hurt her. He always knew just what to say. She knew that he cared about her well-being, and didn't want her to continue hurting her body with her awful habits, but the drugs seemed to help her forget about her life. She didn't
want to remember that her dad was never there for her, and that her mom constantly manipulated and demeaned her. Bad habits helped her forget her hard past, but they made way for a hard future.

Aury scoffed. It was her habits that got her into this mess. She'd dropped out of high school and started working the streets. As she continued using, she needed a stronger fix. She used all of her money on drugs, and they became all she thought about. The withdrawals were torture, and she spent sleepless nights trying to solicit customers. She never thought herself pretty, but as the drugs got more intense, her appearance suffered. Aury soon found that no one wants to sleep with a drug-addicted prostitute. She wasn't the only girl selling herself, and many of them held up better than she had.

She was shaking one night, sweating through her eyeballs and desperate for a fix. She walked through the rundown streets for hours, and stopped at a closed liquor store. She knelt on the ground, by the front of the store, head down as she panted for her drugs. When she lifted her head, she saw a drug dealer acquaintance she knew as Jerry and offered the only thing she could give him: her body.
No one wants you, crack whore!” he spat, smiling a grin that said he wished her dead. She weakly approached him, repeating her offer. He ripped off her dirty clothes and laughed at her nakedness. Then he brought out his heroin syringe and waved it at her. He saw the desperation in her eyes, and his lit. “This could be fun...” he said to himself. He humiliated her by having her get on her hands and knees and bark like a dog. He made her urinate on herself and eat rotted food from a nearby garbage can. Finally, she asked for the syringe. He held it out of her grasp, saying, “Wanna know why I made you bark like a dog? Because that's what you are, Aury. All you'll ever be.”

He turned and began to walk away. Aury snapped. She jumped on his back and clawed at him, punching him with an anger that multiplied her strength. She tried to grab at his syringe and he spun, unknowingly knocking his pistol from his pocket. He grabbed her off his back and threw her down on the ground. He backhanded her face and spit on her. “Trash,” he said. Once again he turned to walk away. Aury hated him with all her being. She spotted the gun, and before she could think, she watched as her hand reached for it and aimed it at his heart, pulling the trigger. She gasped as he watched him double over, touching the wound and examining the sticky deep red stain it left on his hands. She stumbled away from him, the shock of what she'd done registering as her footsteps pounded in her ears.
“You just killed a man, Aury!” she thought, “What are you gonna do now???”She tried to outrun the terror that seized her throat. Grateful that no one had been around to see her, she hoped that he didn't have any family or friends who would come looking for him. She told herself that it would be alright; that killing him was understandable, given the circumstances. Yet she found that every time she tried to sleep that night, she woke with a start, panting and slick with perspiration despite the cold temperatures. Through the night, she'd had about twenty nightmares in which she died a grisly, gruesome death. In her nightmares, Jerry''s family sought vengeance for her death, and he personally haunted her sleep that night. Finally she gave up efforts to sleep, huddling and shivering through the night in her thin coat.

It didn't take long before people started looking for her. She'd been caught on surveillance tape outside of the liquor store. A warrant was put out for her arrest, and the video footage was everywhere. When officers finally found her, bringing her in for questioning, she hung her head and walked with them. She suspected that one of her former friends had seen the video and gave her up for a reward, but the sliver of betrayal didn't matter now. What mattered was that she had blood on her hands, and nothing but cold, hard justice would bring peace to the situation.

She looked down at her hands now, imagining them covered with blood. She was awaiting trial in her cell; the prosecutors didn't want her to be able to run anywhere. “I'm dead,” she thought to herself. “No one's gonna care about posting bail or getting a life sentence for a scourge on society like me.”

The thoughts within her heavy heart were interrupted by the clack of the warden's dress shoes as he strolled to her cell.

“You have a visitor,” he said gruffly. “Must be here to say goodbye.” Aury winced. Even the wardens knew she didn't stand a chance.

But wait, did he say a
visitor? “Are you sure it's for me?” she said, eyes narrowed.

“Look, I don't care if you ever see another living person. But there's some guy out there askin' for you, so find out who it is or just rot in here till they make their verdict!”

Aury's blood ran cold.
Could it be one of Jerry's relatives? Would they be seeking vengeance before the trial? What was she going to say to them? She wrestled with her choices, but ultimately decided to face the man who had come to see her. The warden yanked her down the hallway to the visiting room once she'd relented. It had been her fault that his loved one had died; the least she could do was provide closure. If he hit her, he hit her. She was just going to die anyway. Her body went rigid as she steeled herself for whatever was through those doors.

But to her surprise, when the door to the visiting room opened, a smile greeted her. A sad, genuinely compassionate smile, shining from Joshua's face. It only took an instant for her to lose her brave composure, and she almost ran to him, weeping loudly and melting into her best friend's arms. For the first time since she'd met him, she became aware of how great the divide between their lives and personalities. He constantly helped others, while she used them. He gave generously to those who had need, while she stole from them. After high school, he chose to become a doctor (healing others), and what did she do? Kill a man for a cheap fix. Suddenly, it was as if he were a parent figure, and she, the misbehaving child. The effect his presence made on her was all at once overwhelming.

“I'm sorry, I'm so, so, sorry...” she began, crying in his arms. “It happened so fast...” she stopped, realizing that though it happened quickly, she was fully aware of what she was doing the day she chose to kill a man. Yes, her hatred had gotten the better of her, but it was still
her hatred. Had she the wherewithal and self-control to contain her anger, she would not have acted so impulsively. If I were more like Josh, she thought, I would have given him a blanket instead of a gravestone.

Josh was already comforting her, though, stroking her hair in his best-friend way, and “shh-shh-shh”-ing her. He politely waited until she was through crying. Then, he gently started to whisper. “It's OK, Aury. I know you've had a hard life. Your Dad, who was supposed to protect you, beat you senseless, even after you'd done your best to make him proud. Your mom was never around, always sleeping with other men instead of your father, hoping someone would give her a feeling of self-worth. They destroyed your perception of what a relationship should be like. Remember when you used to come over to get away from all of it?”

“Yeah, I do,” said Aury, eyes glassy at the remembrance. “I rode my bike all the way to your house in the middle of the night. I threw rocks at your window, and after you woke up, we would just sit outside talking.” She realized that they were sitting the same way they used to, all those years ago. For a moment, it was like being fifteen again. She stared at his arms folded across his knees, which were pulled up to his chest. That was as high as she wanted to look; it was like he could look into her soul, and she didn't want him to see the ugliness there. Despite herself, she stole one glance into his eyes. His were full of love. She looked away, embarrassed by the genuine care that she never felt she deserved. “You always help me feel so much better, just by being there” she brokenly whispered, after a long pause.

“For feeling as good as you say you did, I didn't seem to help much,” he said softly.

She felt like she had to have an answer for her actions. “Well, of course you did... I mean... as much as you could. You come from good stock. Your parents are perfect, as far as I can tell. A person as messed up as I am tends to want to stray away from perfection. Makes me feel worse. But, like I said, you had a great life. Of course you turned out okay. You're the first good thing that ever happened to this town; must be nice to be a hero.”

“Do you think I actually like living here, after all these years?” Josh asked, emotionally charged. “Do you think my parents kept me here for the great neighborhood? I stayed here because I
wanted to stay, Aury. Because I care about the people here, even if they don't care about themselves. There's so much pain here...” His words were choked, voice thick.

For the first time, Aury realized that Josh could have gone anywhere to pursue his doctoring profession, but he chose their wretched town. Anyone in his right mind would have moved away, but he stayed.
Why on earth would he stay here?, Aury asked herself. Afraid of the answer, she remained silent.

As if in answer to her question, Josh spoke again. “It was for you, Aury. I stayed for you. I care about who you are, and who you could be if only all of these awful things hadn't happened. If only you were strong enough to make it through in spite of them. I wanted to be there for you, in case you ever needed my help. Only you didn't seem to want my help... you seemed content to be miserable.”

“Content to be miserable?” Aury's voice was high-pitched with disbelief. “What are you talking about? What options did I
have, Josh? It's not like I could just forget what happened to me. It would have been impossibly hard to do that!” As she spoke, Aury knew it would have been hard, but if she'd really wanted to, it would not have been impossible. “And now that I'm a murderer, caught on tape, I'll never see the light of day again! What point is there in dreaming about the past when I have no future?”

Josh paused for a moment, considering her words. “So...” he started again, seeming to choose his words carefully. “If you had another chance - a chance to live life to the fullest in
spite of the hard hand you've been dealt - a chance to live as generously and lovingly as you could -”

“Like you?” she asked, without a hint of sarcasm.

He humbly acceded. “Like me. Would you?”

“Of COURSE I would. If I valued your friendship more, I probably wouldn't even be in this mess.” Her face grew hot as she felt warm tears made their familiar path down her cheeks. “But what good is it, to think like that? I have nothing to show for my life but a dead man and this broken, addicted body of mine. Just before I killed him, he said, 'You're a dog, Aury. No one wants you.' I shot him because he hurt me, and because I wanted a stupid fix. But all this time, I've been hurting
myself, and I didn't even care.”

“Time's up,” the warden said, reaching for her.

I'll miss you, Josh!” she said, throwing herself into his embrace before the warden could lift her off her friend. The warden tossed her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes as she reached for Josh, the only true companion she'd ever had. “Tomorrow is the day of the trial,” she thought to herself, “I'm never going to see him again.”

As Joshua slid out of sight, Aury felt herself go limp. When she reached her cell, she stared into her own hollow, dead eyes. Though only twenty-five, she looked aged. Her once-shining, blonde hair hung limp and dark with dirt around her shoulders. She hadn't had a good night's sleep in who knows how long, and the purple bags under her eyes proved it. Her eyes themselves were red and bloodshot, and her skin was dry and worn-looking. Her lips parted in a thin line; she was a shadow of her former self. “If I ever thought myself ugly before,” she realized, “it was nothing compared to this.”

She fitfully tried to sleep, but of course, that was impossible. Tomorrow, everyone would decide her case. “I'm sure the jurors are sleeping well,” she thought bitterly, “No one will lose sleep on my account. I deserve to die... ”

Early in the morning, the wardens came for her. They brought her into the courtroom, where her orange jumpsuit stuck out among the professional suits and polished, career-oriented individuals. They were all in place when it was time for her to walk in, and even the glow coming off her jumpsuit couldn't mask the shame as she felt all eyes on her. She didn't want to, but she found herself looking at each one of the jurors and audience members as she entered. Her eyes lit as she discovered she was not alone with her accusers. “Joshua!” she thought, “He's still here, supporting me...”

She sat down, and right away she knew it would be a miracle to get out of this alive. Allegations were thrown at her from all sides, and even her public defender was so halfhearted, it was obvious her life didn't matter to him. When a motion was made to review the video evidence taken from the liquor store, her heart sank. After a short recess, everyone in that courtroom would see the terrible thing she'd done in secret... from start to finish. They would watch as she offered her body, desperate for drugs. They would see her allow him to undress her, and grovel on the ground like a dog. They would be in spellbound horror as they viewed her merciless killing of a man who hardly laid a hand on her.

She averted her eyes when the TV was wheeled into the room, focusing with all her might on a nondescript piece of lint on the carpeted floor of the courtroom. The jury's reactions were worse than she thought they would be. In fact, there was such an uproar that she began to fear for her life. She felt a hand on her arm, and as she struggled against it, she caught a glimpse of the liquor store video. It showed Jerry (the dealer) spitting on the ground, turning and walking away. It captured, with perfect clarity, as the gun was grabbed from the ground, and the trigger pulled by a familiar hand.

There was only one problem: It wasn't hers.

The person pulling the trigger was Josh.

Aury couldn't believe her eyes. Her best friend; the most perfect person she'd ever known; was pulling the trigger. He was the one who stumbled away, full of disbelief. “What is going on?,” Aury thought, “He's never done anything wrong... I'm the screw-up!”

Before she could comprehend what was happening, or even determine its reality, she was being dragged out of her Defendant's seat, and Josh (who they'd spotted in the courtroom) was being put into it. She locked eyes with him in one agonizing moment, as they passed each other. Even now, though full of pain, his eyes held peace. Hers were frantic, full of questions. It was as if no one even remembered she killed Jerry. There was a swift and immediate call for justice, and the jury convicted Joshua on the spot. Aury had been yanked forcefully from the courtroom, hysteric. Her screams echoed through the halls as she screamed, “I am guilty! It was me!” Her throat grew sore and raw, and a metallic taste rose in her mouth. She'd screamed until she tasted blood, trying to make them understand. The bailiff just brushed her off, saying, “You can't stick up for your friend; he's on videotape!” It didn't matter that she was the one wearing prison orange, or that Joshua had never been known to hurt a fly. They tried him and found him guilty. He was barred from having visitors, so Aury couldn't even help him. He'd been sentenced to death, and the date of his execution would be tomorrow.

Aury was in a daze that day, but after discovering that she'd had a purse on (along with a wallet full of money), she checked into a hotel and eventually succumbed to sleep. That night, Aury dreampt that she visited Joshua in prison. “What's going on, Joshua?” Aury asked, frightened.

“Another chance,” he said softly, reaching his hand through the bars and touching her hand.

“Another chance?” Aury was confused. “I-” Then the memory came flooding back.

“If you had another chance - a chance to live life to the fullest in spite of the hard hand you've been dealt - a chance to live as generously and lovingly as you could -”

“Like you?” she asked, without a hint of sarcasm.

He humbly acceded. “Like me. Would you?”

Aury inhaled sharply as she began to grasp what had happened. “You took my place?” she said, “Why would you do that?”

Joshua gave a slight shrug of his shoulders and answered, “The greatest love people can show is to die for their friends. I've always wanted to help you, Aury. I'm so glad you've finally accepted it.” He kissed her hands as she slipped from the dream into reality.

As she took in her surroundings, she awoke in a beautiful hotel room, comfortable and safe in a warm bed. The room was fragrant with the smell of fresh flowers. Sunlight streamed in through the curtains, giving a golden glow to the walls. She thought of Joshua, and how he had slept through the night in that cold room, on a rock-hard cot that reeked of urine. Before she had even opened her eyes that morning, Joshua had been executed by lethal injection. Aury wept tears of sorrow and gratitude.

Joshua hadn't been able to fix/rewrite all of Aury's life. Her past was the same. She was still the daughter of an abusive, alcoholic father and an impulsive, shameless mother. She was still the girl who had made terrible choices, and she still felt a pull toward those choices... but that didn't matter anymore. Joshua had given her something beautiful: a second chance. Awful choices no longer held her captive.

She didn't know how he did it, but Joshua saved her. He took her punishment.

Aury would not allow Joshua's sacrifice to be in vain. She cleaned up and started up a program for at-risk kids, sharing her (now-honest) income to create a clothes closet and pantry for poor families in the area. She found that she had a hunger for the Bible, and even returned to church. To her, it didn't matter if the Preachers looked down their noses at her. She was surprised to find that there were a few genuine believers there, who loved the way Christ did: the way Joshua did. In fact, many of them were Joshua's friends. Being in their company was like having Joshua there with them again, and she was grateful to be surrounded by so many true friends.

Her parents had already passed away and it was difficult for her to do, but she finally forgave her parents. She knew Joshua would want it that way, and how could she deny him when he'd already shown her so much grace?

For the rest of her days, and to the best of her ability, Aury fulfilled her promise to Joshua. She lived a life of love, and gave generously, not because she had to, but because she was able to. She spent the rest of her life giving hope and peace, and she never regretted it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Least of These (and it's an Autobiography)

Some people are normal from birth. In the womb, they do all things expected of them, and when the time comes, they turn over and ready themselves for the (surely) frightening experience of being born.

I, however, am not normal people.

When anyone else would have been prepped in the standard (upside-down) position for birth, I refused to move. I couldn't be bothered by all that stuff, and so my mother was forced to have me C-section.

Yep, I'm stubborn. And uncomfortably out of place everywhere I go. But hey, it grows on a person.


Before my beautiful sister was born, my parents used to sell marijuana. It pretty much paid for their wedding, and a lot of nice things for me when I was little*.

That all ended, though, on one fateful day.

Mom was breaking up her hash on the floor, getting ready to weigh it. She turned around for just one moment, and when she turned back to me, my cheeks were puffed like a chipmunk's.

You can imagine what went through mom's mind as she popped the hash from my cheeks.

I seemed fine... until dad came home. If you have ever had a child, you will know this makes perfect sense. Kids seem to wait until the absolute worst moment to get crazy.

Anyhow, I started to become VERY drowsy, eventually getting to the point where my eyes remained closed no matter what. My dad held me up to the bright bathroom light. My eyes were still shut, but I smiled a wide, doped-up smile.

Finally, mom and dad decided to take me to Emergency to get my stomach pumped or something. They concocted a nice lie about how I must have ingested it while they were at a party. Of course, CPS would still need to come and check things, but whatever they did in ER fixed me up (ish, since I contend that my brain is still not quite to standard...).

Mom and dad (ever conspiratorial) came up with a plan to deal with CPS as well. "If things started to go bad, I was gonna sneak out the back door with you and Dad would meet up with us later," Mom said. The visit went fine, "And from that day on, we decided NEVER to sell anymore."

Gee, thanks, mom and dad. Couldn't have thought of that before your kid lost brain cells???

*(Not that I condone it in any way... I'm just sayin' what mom would tell you if she were writing this post)


When my sister did come into the world, I was thrilled. Though not even two full years older than she, I determined to be the BEST big sister ever.

Turned out I wasn't the only stubborn one, though.

One day, my mom was on the phone, and I started screaming at the top of my lungs. Mom ran outside, to find me barely holding my sister back from running into the street.

"You saved her life!" Mom says of that day.

All that heroism, and how'd she pay me back in our teen years? Hatred. Sheer hatred.

Come on people, I'm kidding! But her grump-hormones weren't a joy to be on the receiving end of... I can promise you.


Five was a huge turning point in my life. Not really, but I do remember it better than some other years.

My baby brother was born. (Good thing, too, since he took the edge off my sister's attitude.)

I started Kindergarten. Mrs. Matsumoto.

I met my first best friend, Elaine Eliff.

I learned how to spell my name (and I was proud! Jennifer is a whole eight letters long!)

I became decidedly insecure. Whilst wearing a dress on the jungle gym one day, a boy looked up and said "I see London, I see France, I see Jennifer's underpants!" I ran away and cried. From that day on, I've always tried to wear shorts under skirts/dresses. Yes, even at twenty-something. There was another time, when I was getting a profile of myself drawn (you know, where they bust out the black construction paper and draw a chalk outline of your silhouette?) and my mom had put my hair half-up, half-down that day. My hair looked so poufy in the picture... I hated it. When my sister got her profile done, it was perfect (of course).

I started doing long-distance hugs. Run-of-the-mill hugs were fine, but what if you suddenly decided you wanted another hug, after mommy had already dropped you off to kindergarten? No worries... just go up to the gate nearest to her, and hold your arms in a perfect circle, while leaning your head on your shoulder (that gives it an added effect).

I got my first boyfriend... and I couldn't stand him. His name was Ronin McLawski, and he followed me around everywhere. I probably would have liked him too, except that I was already in love with the teaching assistant (his name was Ryan) and the fact that Ronin terribly mistreated my sister, who adoringly toddled after him whenever he came over. One day, we were over at his house, watching Beauty and the Beast. Afterward, Ronin tried to kiss me. I could tell he was going to, because he had this look in his eyes. I was terrified, and tried to reach for the doorknob like Belle does in the story... but unfortunately, I was much shorter than Belle... so I awkwardly reached up around where my armpit was and he figured out what I was doing. He shut the door and said, "Oh no you don't!" and leaned in to kiss me. I was utterly creeped out, so I turned around, flung open the door, and ran into the room where my mom was. Of course, I didn't want to have to tell her what he'd done (it was embarrassing!) so as soon as I reached the living room, I walked. That's how us smooth kindergarteners do.

I had my first brush with peer pressure. There was a kid in our class who ate paste (no joke). He tried to get me to eat it, too, but I told him no. I've since forgotten his name... bummer.

I couldn't bridle my emotions, even back then. We had a craft (something involving Red Hots and icing... I think we were making a turkey out of our food). Mrs. Matsumoto had given us instructions NOT to do something, and I either didn't hear her or didn't listen. She scolded me and I cried. She was such a good teacher though... she took time to comfort my silly self. :)

Let me be clear about my family, though... no matter what I say, and no matter how crazy things got for us, my mother was the best momma ever (she had some struggles, but don't we all?) and my sister is amazing, even if she was moodier than Little Lady Katie from Animaniacs (if you don't get the reference, look it up. Pure hilarity). :) My dad and brother are both epic too, although it seems in my story, there's less criticism toward the males in my family. haha.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fun Parody to "Rise and Shine"... Lazarus' Story

(To the tune of “Rise and Shine/Children of the Lord”)
The Lord found out that Lazarus
was sickly, sickly
Lord found out that Lazarus
was sickly, sickly
Had to get there
very quickly, quickly
'Cause love never fails.

He walked, and walked, but Lazarus
still died-y, died-y
Walked, and walked, but Lazarus
still died-y, died-y
Laz was wrapped in
strips of white-y, white-y
But love never fails.

Laz laid in his tomb
for four long days-ys, days-ys
Laid in his tomb
for four long days-ys, days-ys
(Mary thought Jesus was
a little lazys, lazys)
But love never fails.

Jesus came down
and said to roll the stone a-wa-y
Jesus came down
and said to roll the stone a-wa-y,
Martha said, “He's
really stinky, no wa-y!”
But love never fails.

“LAZARUS, COME OUT!” said Jesus,
so loudly, loudly
“LAZARUS, COME OUT!” said Jesus,
so loudly, loudly
Laz came and scared the
entire crowd-y, crowd-y
'Cause love never fails.

Laz was unwrapped,
and Jesus hugged his friend-y, friend-y
Laz was unwrapped,
and Jesus hugged his friend-y, friend-y
Love beats the grave and
Is never end-y, end-y
'Cause love never fails.

So rise, and shine,
and give God the glory, glory
Rise, and shine,
and give God the glory, glory
Rise and shine and
Go tell the story, story:
That love never fails.

Maggie's Story

“Hey there, big boy – you lookin' for a good time?”

I flashed him a brazen smile – one that would fully convey my loathsome intentions. As a lion might smile shortly before sinking its teeth into its prey, I smiled. I'd brought many a “mighty man” to his destruction and I reveled in it. The sheets I meticulously laid upon my bed, perfumed with aloe and cinnamon, were useful implements of their sorrow. I considered myself a modern-day Delilah, whispering in men's ears, enticing them into sharing the very secrets I'd use against them.

They loved me, or at least they loved me at first. However, I hated them with the same measure of passion that drew them to me. Long ago, I'd promised myself to make their lives miserable. I would do what it took to lure them, and from that point on I became cold and emotionless. Nothing could break my icy stare, though many a fool had tried. They pleaded with me (oh, how I loved their pain!) to “become that seductive temptress I met on the street”, but nothing, not even blows to my face or threats to my life, could convince me to do so. Every time, I started out sweet as honey to them and became as bitter as gall. This was the punishment I issued to these sick curs, and I savored every unsatisfactory moment. This was my game, and I was the ultimate victor. Some might wonder how I was able to play this game as long as I did, but don't we all know that there is no end to idiots in this world?

“Hello, what's your name?” I looked up, startled that any man would bother asking my name. My name never mattered, my services did. I knew my place. I was a piece of meat to those men, nothing more. It took me a while to respond, and for a minute, I thought I'd forgotten my own name.

“Maggie,” I told him, not before eying him suspiciously to see if this was a joke.

To my surprise, his eyes were sincere. There was something different about this man. He was affluent, intelligent. He was much older than most men I'd led astray. Rather than asking me how much I charged, he asked me about my hopes and dreams; my delights and wishes. It was soon clear to me that he wasn't interested in what I had to offer, he was interested in who I was. We spent hours in conversation, and over the next few weeks he showered me with gifts and luxuries I could never have gotten otherwise. He was very quiet about his life, which didn't bother me. This was obviously a very private man. I quickly fell in love with him, and the first night I spent with him was the first time I ever let myself feel. I wept that night in his arms, and his kisses soothed me.

One day, he asked me how I became a prostitute. Any other person asking me this would have received a look of indifference and silence, but I trusted this man, and him only. I began telling him about my life.

“When I was a child, I reasoned as a child. My parents were very devout and I believed their stories of the Mighty God of Israel. We spent time at the tabernacle every chance we got, offering sacrifices to our Holy God. My parents were very careful to obey every new regulation that the Pharisees came up with, in the hopes that they too would be considered worthy to worship in the tabernacle. When I grew older, I longed for adventure. I wanted to know why all of the rules were in place, and what purpose they served. I started to question the Pharisees and none of their answers made sense to me. I tried to speak to my parents about this, but they were unwavering in their dedication.

“The veil of the Pharisees had been lifted from my eyes, and I realized that they had no compassion. For a year, I watched as they drove away widows and orphans with their sophisticated rhetoric. They always had a reason to deny a beggar the bread he needed. In synagogues, with plenty of men watching, they bestowed upon others the greatest charities in the loudest voices they could muster, but when I watched from windows, invisible to their eyes, they were cruel and harsh. Yet their rules and regulations were chains that bound me to my mundane, joyless life. I would not live this life in which my only hope was to adopt the Pharisees' standards. Finally, after coming home from the tabernacle, my mother began to lecture me about my disrespect toward their beloved Pharisees. I stood ready to fight my battle out, once and for all.

What are you, blind, mom? How could you not see what fakes they are? They use God as an excuse not to do what He commands them to do! Everything is 'Corban' to them, even the help that God says to give parents in their old age!”

You will not speak of a man of God like that! Not in THIS house, not anywhere, Maggie. Have I made myself clear?”

The only thing you've made clear is your steadfast faith in an arrogant man who thinks he IS God!”

“He is a MAN OF GOD, and you will address him as such!”

If HE is what God is like, I want no part in your sacred, Holy God!”

As soon as I'd said this, I felt a sharp sting on my face and watched as my mother's hand went to her mouth in dismay. If her objective was to shut me up, it worked: my sarcasm was promptly silenced when I realized that my own mother had slapped me in the face. She hadn't laid her hand on me for years, and then only to correct her young child.

It was obvious that she felt badly about her impulsive act. She started to say something, tears welling up in her eyes, but I closed my ears to her as I stormed off to my room. So what if she wanted to apologize? I wouldn't give her the satisfaction. At least now I had nothing to hold me back from leaving this awful place forever.

“That night, while my parents were sleeping, I tiptoed into their room and took their money. I went out through the window rather than risk the sound of our heavy door awakening them. When I got outside, I sprinted down the streets, delighted that I would finally be able to make my own rules. My life of adventure had begun, and there was no one to prevent me from living how I saw fit.”

For a moment I reconsidered telling my story. It was too painful, and what did it matter what happened then? There was nothing I could do to change it and nothing I could do to forget it. I looked at him, ready to give an excuse as to why I couldn't finish, but when I saw the love and compassion in his eyes, I softened. Try as I might, there was nothing that could prevent me from telling him the whole truth of how I came to this hard/difficult life.

I sighed. “Anyway, when I took my parents' money, I didn't realize that I would need more than that to survive. I had no family ties as far as anyone else was concerned, and I had nowhere to call home. I stayed outside the first few days, but after a while the harsh weather began to wear me down. A group of young men approached me and offered to provide a place to stay. Their eyes were so compassionate when they looked at me – what a simpleton I was!/how naïve I was! – and I went with them to a small inn. I was full of gratitude for their show of generosity, but I did not know that it was just that – a show.

“They waited until I reached the back of the room, walking in behind me and asking me if I found the room accommodating. When I answered them, an evil that I had never before seen entered their eyes. They walked slowly, but purposely toward me with a disgusting, terrifying look on their faces. I tried to escape, but they held me down. I tried to fight them, but they fought harder. I screamed, but no one heard. I begged, I pleaded with them, but...”

My sobs broke through and flooded my entire body. I could not finish. The pain I'd suppressed and denied for years came surging back, and it was all I could do to keep from melting into a mass of wailing flesh. He put his arms around my neck and ran his fingers through my hair. Slowly rocking me back and forth, he calmed me.

Finally, he broke the silence, saying, “Oh, dear Maggie... what did they do to you?”

“Raped,” I managed to squeak out, my voice nearly gone. “Raped, beaten, left for dead.”
I cleared my throat. “So now you see why I live this way... the most valuable thing I had to offer was violently taken from me, so there was no point in pretending like it wasn't. There was no way I could go home now, even if I wanted to. What would my parents think? Thus, I resolved to continue this life, if for no other reason than to spite and trap the kinds of men who forced this upon me. No man could really want a woman who had been raped anyway.”

“What makes you say that? A man could-”

My anger and frustration got the better of me as I cut him off: “Are you saying this to pity me? To somehow make me feel better for what has happened? I may just be a prostitute, but I remember my teachings. How is what happened to me unlike what happened to Tamar: Absalom's sister and David's daughter? Every day, these last words haunt me: 'And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom's house, a desolate woman.' Why should I be any different?”

There was a long, aching pause that followed my question. He looked torn between two different situations, two different answers to my question. With tears in his eyes, and not without a hint of regret in his voice, he said, “Maggie, you've read the wrong part of the Tanakh. If you'd read the book of Hosea, perhaps your captivating eyes would have seen what mine see so clearly.”

That was all he needed to say. I yielded to his embrace without a word. What can a woman say when she's gone a lifetime knowing she was disposable, only to find herself in the arms of a man hinting at marriage: the one act which proclaims, “I can't live without you!”

I didn't know it then (or perhaps I did know, just not fully) but that day was a turning point for me. As impossible as it sounds, I tried to find a more respectable way to live. It wasn't easy, but he was worth it. I was intent on letting him know that he made the right choice. I knew I could never deserve him, but I would make him as proud to be my betrothed as I could. I didn't get very far, however. No one would forget who I was...

One day, after Hosea (that was my nickname for him, after our talk) had visited me and we spent the night together, he got dressed and was about to leave when I heard some commotion outside my door. Men's agitated voices in low tones came roaring through the walls, and before I had a chance to clothe myself, they burst into the room. Immediately, Hosea grabbed me, and I was so grateful that he loved me enough to protect me. It took me some time to realize why he had grabbed me. He wasn't defending me, he was taking me to them!

I woke up from my dreamlike state and made myself realize what they were saying.

What are you doing here, Ezekiel?” a young, zealous man had asked Hosea.

With her? The prostitute​?” His tone was incredulous. I couldn't believe he called me that... he hadn't ever spoken to me with anything but tenderness in his voice, but oh! How quickly it had turned to disgust! - “I just saw her in here with a married man – I barged in here to speak to him about his lack of judgment before he made this dire mistake, but he fled out the window and down the street!”

Is that so? We were told that a married man of your likeness had been visiting her regularly. Are you saying that you are not the man?”

What would I want with her? Only an utter BUFFOON would fritter away his time with a wicked harlot! I am a temple guard of good standing, and I love my family dearly.”

He had a family? A wife and children? For the first time since hearing him speak of me so coldly, I agreed with him. What WOULD he want with an empty, no-good prostitute like me when his life had been so blessed?

I silently chided myself for not knowing better when he continued, “You men know me better than to accuse me of such things.”

Do we?” The young man scowled at Ezekiel and would not back down. I had a feeling this may not be the first time they had challenged one another.

Ezekiel paused, and I saw a glimmer of terror in his face, but it quickly shifted to a look of cunning. I then found that the terror had come upon me, threatening to steal my breath as I waited for his reply. “If I were lying to you,” he said in a slow, calculated manner; “would I be bold enough to do this?” With that, he roughly grabbed me by the hair and shoved me outside. The sun glared accusingly at me, and the fragrant bedsheets that had accompanied me as I crushed men's dreams were now my only protection from the condemning, prying eyes of those on the street.

A loud rumble surrounded me as I realized that even more men from the temple had been waiting outside. They taunted and jeered at me, yelling coarse words disguised in a pious pity for my “profane lifestyle”. All the years I had thrown myself away came screaming back at me, and the light of the day greater contrasted the age of darkness within my heart. The blinders of sin had been torn off as I was prodded like a heifer to the slaughter, and I fully realized the futility of my actions. Who was I to think a man like Hosea-Ezekiel loved me? I adored him with every good thought my brain could muster, and esteemed him as I had never esteemed anyone, yet I could never be worthy of him. All of my dreams lay shattered along the road I walked to the temple that day, and I knew deserved every ounce of what was coming to me.

When we arrived at the temple, the clamor of the crowds shamed me further. I raised my head just enough to see where I was going, and saw a group of men talking with one another. Hosea roughly grabbed my arm with his left hand – the same hand with which he had, moments earlier, tenderly caressed my face before showering me with gentle kisses – and forced me to stand before the men. The revulsion on their faces spoke for them, but as Ezekiel spoke, they turned to their unattractive leader without uttering a word.

Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone...”

I heard nothing else from him, as my thoughts grew louder than his voice. Stone me..? My Hosea would stone me? I sank to the ground in utter sorrow, wailing uncontrollably as my tears formed a river under my head.

How could I have forgotten? The Law was written upon my young heart by my parents, but the harsh cruelty of the world had erased it from my memory, until now. I was not only going to be scorned and mocked today, but today would also be the day of my death. I would never have spent time with Ezekiel if I'd known he had a family – or would I have? Was I so desperate that I didn't care who lavished their affection and attention upon me? I loved him, oh, I loved him, and I would never think of pouring greater woe upon Hosea's wife and children by telling anyone our secret. I would die with love in my heart and a closed mouth, and it would be the only honorable thing I'd ever done.

My thoughts were interrupted by a gaping silence as the men, and Hosea, waited for their Teacher's reply. I'd heard some hasty footsteps before as some temple guards rushed to provide every man with a stone for me. The Teacher was writing something in the dirt next to me, but I dared not raise my face to him. The silence seemed to last an eternity, but then he said, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

Disbelief at what I had heard overwhelmed me, until I heard the stones dropping around me. I flinched with each sound I heard, sure that someone would ignore the Teacher's words. Ezekiel's shadow was the first that disappeared, but soon it seemed as if everyone had gone. Finally I gathered the boldness to shift my gaze upward. The Teacher and I were left alone. "Woman,” he said, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

In a feeble, weak voice, I managed to reply, “"No one, sir." Who was this man?

"Then neither do I condemn you," He declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

As I stood up, still in shock, I caught a glimpse of what he'd written in the sand:
You know, as well as I, what you have done.”

I walked the long road back to my parents' house that day, tears in my eyes and grateful for this mysterious man and his compassionate ways.

That was only the beginning of my story; only a portion of what He did in my life. I was swept away by a humble carpenter, in a friendship that I had never before experienced. Did I love Him, you ask? Of course I loved him... I loved him as a child trapped in a burning home loves the man who snatches her from the flames. I loved him as a drowning victim loves her rescuer. His love was so pure and complete, so perfect, that there was no need or desire for any tainted counterfeits. I will love my Lord with the same purity, affection and dedication that he has shown for me, and a may my worship of Him be as a fragrant incense.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Friendship is Magic (No really... it is)

There are many aspects of life that I would consider beautiful. From the way the flowers bloom to less obvious things, like the grace it takes to kick a ball so it will go straight into the air (there are kids at my school who can do it AMAZINGLY), art is everywhere. Sometimes, you just have to look for it.

In the Bible, it calls the fellowship of believers the "body of Christ". When I was young and hormonal, I found myself comparing my own talents to other members of the body, growing jealous and bitter because I did not possess their gifts. Now that I am older (and hopefully wiser), I have learned how much beauty there is in diversity. I may not be a great singer, but my friends Rosa, Kathy, Erin, Jasmine, Sarah, Hannah, and Nathan are. I may not be a wonderful dancer, but my friends Dustin, Anthony, Lauren, and Julie Ann are. I only know a bit of ASL, but my friends Karisa and Daphne are both very talented at it. I have teacher friends, librarian friends, theatre friends, stunt friends (pirates rock!)... When I really stop to think about it, it's like I'm in the middle of an Armour hot dogs commercial: "Tough friends, sissy friends, friends who climb on rocks."

I DO feel as though God has given me a talent for writing, but it's a lonely thing to be the only person you know with that ability. He has given me friends to come alongside me in that: Dylan and Bethie. We share story ideas with one another and write them together. When one of us writes a story, we make sure we read it and give critique on how to improve. It's a support system I would not have if I spent all my time envying their talents (by the way, they ARE rather good... and both younger than I am, so they have more years to build their craft. I know they're gonna be famous some day). :)

As humans, we are prone to mistakes. One of the mistakes I've seen repeated in my life is a frustration and jealousy toward people who are better than me at something. But really, if I would have spent less time focused on my own feelings of inferiority and more time realizing how AWESOME it was that God gave me friends with such diverse, spectacular talents... well, I'd have kept more friends, for one, and for another, I would have felt a lot more joy.

As a wise pony-show once clearly demonstrated, our differences are our strengths. The more differences there are, the more beautiful a friendship can become. I have friends who have very different interests and life-views than I do, but I appreciate their insight into things that I never would have considered. In fact, my buddy Star recently changed my mind about John Cena. Not being a wrestling fan, I thought he was just a meathead (and said as much), but she let me know that really cares about kids and has probably made more wishes come true ("Make a Wish Foundation") than any other celebrity. I never would have known that, were it not for her. Now I've got all kinds of respect for the guy.

Through the years, the thing I've learned is that it's far more fun to celebrate with people over their accomplishments than spend the day sulking at their party. What fun is that? And it wins you no points with people, either. Who wants to be around someone who's a bummer all the time? If I could just go back in time to tell "Past Jenn" these things... hey, I know we have some Doctor Who fans out there... anyone think you can hook me up with some time-travel opportunities? I'll be your frienddd...