I heard an interesting thought on the radio today: “Sometimes God sends a Goliath into your life to help you find the David in you.” It can be frustrating to see others who are seemingly living without a care in the world, breezing through life. Meanwhile, we try to live within God’s will and are barely able to stay afloat, weighted down by an endless stream of trials and challenges.
We know, however, that “there is no respect of persons with God,” and those whose lives seem effortless may, in fact, be going through much more than we know. We also tend to play the comparison game with others, while God views each life as unique, and treats them as such. He knows just how much we can handle, and His timing is impeccable. He sends trials to get our attention, strengthen us, or give us the opportunity to reassess our lives and our purpose on this earth.
The Goliaths in our lives, those seemingly insurmountable challenges that drain us of energy and push us to our limits, are designed specifically for us. They can seem unfair, and they can be heartbreaking; but if we face these trials with patience, God can bring out the best versions of us. In Him, we’re truly capable of anything; and we will come closer to fulfilling God’s ultimate plan for our lives, which is larger than any trial or success we can comprehend.
“But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10
Image 1: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/447404544205100568/
Image 2: https://www.pexels.com/search/flower/
There are times in life when we’ve been full speed ahead, caught up in our daily responsibilities and forgetting the true purpose for which our Creator placed us on this earth. In our distracted state, we disappoint him. Our prayers too often consist of hurried requests in times of desperation, when what he really deserves is our wholehearted disclosure, trust, and love.
In moments like this, I remember all the ways I’ve fallen short, all the wrongs I’ve tried to right, only to realize the futility of my attempts. After trying to do everything on my own, I remember I have the power at any time to give him control. So I shift gears, turn my attention to him, and let him take the pain and replace it with joy. It’s never too late, because every second, the Ruler of the universe is watching and waiting for us to stop, listen and let him take our mistakes and leave them in the dust of our past.
Image 1: https://www.edmunds.com/fuel-economy/five-myths-about-stick-shifts.html
Image 2: http://sonia-says.com/kurt-vonnegut-quote/[Top]
I was looking at a few pictures of downtown Winchester I have in my collection from working on Through the Eyes of A Veteran, and realized I have pictures of the same scene spanning 124 years. Call me a history dork, but I thought I would share them with you.
This picture was taken in 1882 during a circus parade. It’s looking south from what is now Piccadilly down Loudoun.
This photo is a little lower in quality, mostly because it was taking during a blizzard in 1899. Can you see the shape of the buildings? It’s the same scene.
This was taken in 1974 after the renovations were finished converting the former two-way street into a walking mall. Again, you can see the shape of the buildings with The Floor Shop on the right.
I took this from my car because I’m a wimp and it was too cold to get out. It’s a good thing there wasn’t anyone behind me, because clearly I should be turning left. It’s a slightly different angle, so you can see the large building on the left and just a little of The Floor Shop sign on the right.
It’s amazing how time changes things. In this span of 124 years, we see more than a lifetime of alterations to this simple street. Yet, to God this is just a blink of an eye. It’s amazing to think of all that He has seen. Time is relative to Him; it helps us remember the big picture, and that He is bigger than all the streets and historical buildings that make up this ever-changing world.
Image 1 and 2: Stewart Bell Jr. Archives. Article from The Winchester Star. “Loudoun Street Mall, A Place to See and Be Seen, Over Four Centuries. Published May 20, 2013.
Image 3: Photo by Joe Nowell for the Winchester Evening Star. “Loudoun St. Mall.” November 19, 1974.
The 14th of February has traditionally been set aside for couples. Although I usually enjoy this holiday, with its plethora of sugar and hallmark endorsements, in the past it seemed many would forget the other forms of love that deserve celebration, those that would incorporate the whole population.
Recently, I have come to see a change in the general view of Valentine’s Day, love, and all that these entail. Valentines are passed around classrooms, and families exchange small presents, but often we forget what we are celebrating: love. It comes in all forms, levels and emotions. Typically, Valentine’s Day has celebrated eros, or love that holds physical attraction at its center. Phileo, the love we feel for friends, tends to last longer and grow over the years. The love we feel for family, storge, also increases over time and gives us more of a reason to celebrate every year. It’s a natural, protective love. Agape is by far the strongest, most powerful love. It’s unconditional and everlasting. Many strive for it, but find it difficult to achieve. It’s the love God has for us, and is unselfish, sacrificing and enduring.
So in all of its forms, love is the reason we celebrate on the 14th, and this encompasses every human on earth, because every person is loved in some way. So bring on the sugar-induced comas and cheesy heart-shaped candles, because everyone is included this holiday.
Image credits: 1-http://www.imageslist.com/2014/01/images-of-couples-in-love-part-4.html
The lines are blurred.
The weave of thoughts
lie vacant and entwined.
The days and nights
meld into one:
a tomb within the mind.
tapestry of sorrow
and hope still holds
the events of life.
…the story still unfolds.
There are few novels that successfully combine courtroom drama, romance, and insight into human nature. In his novel Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson highlights all these and more in a tale of war, jealousy, prejudice and deceit. This combination was intriguing to me, so I thought I would share the most interesting elements of this tale.
The backstory is a history of friction between Kabuo Miyamoto’s family, who are immigrants from Japan, and Carl Heine’s family, who are of German descent. Despite this, Kabuo and Carl become friends in the small fishing town of San Piedro, Washington in the 1930’s. The onset of World War 2 breaks this friendship apart despite Kabuo’s service in the United States military. The feud between the two families is magnified when, 20 years later, Carl is found dead in the ocean and convincing evidence is found for Kabuo’s guilt. Not until the reader is given a picture of that fateful day, through both flashbacks and a succession of courtroom deliberations, do they find out whether Carl’s death was an accident or Kabuo’s deed.
The love story that intertwines this courtroom drama occurs between the characters of Kabuo’s wife, Hatsue, and Ishmael Chambers, a journalist covering Kabuo’s trial. The two fall in love as teenagers and hide their relationship. They are caught, and because it was a time when interracial marriage was looked down upon, they are forbidden to see one another. Twenty years later, unmarried and still in love with Hatsue, Ishmael finds a document that proves Kabuo’s innocence and could set him free. His true love is proven when, after much deliberation, he shares the truth with Hatsue and the jury on the morning they were to find Kabuo guilty of murder.
Ishmael’s struggle with this decision is reflected by Guterson’s poignant imagery. When Ishmael views the “reckless water, the frenzied wind, the snow, the downed trees, the boats dashed against their sunken docks . . . it occurred to Ishmael for the first time in his life that such destruction could be beautiful” (428). This reflects the beautiful yet destructive love Ishmael has for Hatsue. In his desperation to get her back, he considers not coming forward with the proof that could free his nemesis. Wanting only for her to be happy, he eventually tells the truth and moves on with his life.
Guterson writes comprehensively on themes not typically dealt with in modern literature, such as jealousy, the battle with time, and man’s insignificance. It was widely understood on the island of San Piedro that “only insofar as he struggled successfully with the sea could a man lay place to things”(39). The hard-working fishermen who spent long hours on the waves are the heroes of this small town and are admired for their bravery and patience as they toil alone on their boats. Ironically, Carl Heine, the burly, seemingly indestructible German, loses this struggle when he is thrown overboard and his boat demolished by the wake of a freighter. This portrays one of the underlying themes of Snow Falling on Cedars, man’s frailty amidst the larger reality of the ocean, time and a life fully lived.
Guterson, David. Snow Falling on Cedars. Vintage Books: New York, 1995. Print.
There is a resilience that emanates from most young children. Whether physical or emotional, they find the strength to rebound from an injury or plight, happier and stronger than they were before. Although it would seem we are born with an innate will to be the happiest, best version of ourselves, many are predisposed to depression, which lessens this resilience and makes recovering from difficult circumstances more challenging. The following recounts a woman’s lifelong struggle:
Sad and exhausted, on a night in 2016, a woman sat alone; she hoped that one day she would find that strength within. She lacked that seemingly innate ability to cope with the constant, confused struggle within her mind. She tried to be a better version of herself, that person who was so full of life, instead of hating everything she had become. But time was the enemy.
Every day it became harder to find the will to try, the energy to pick up the fragmented pieces of her mind and the sad thoughts that covered her like a thick blanket, suffocating the joy from existence. So she counted down the days, waiting- and all the while grasping for the strength to pull her through.
Sad and exhausted, on a night in 2042, a woman sits alone; she wonders what could have been if she had found that strength within herself. She lacks that seemingly innate ability to cope with the constant, confused struggle within her mind. If only she could have been a better version of herself, that person who was so full of life, instead of hating everything she had become. Time had been the enemy.
When someone is battling depression, often the only ammunition against time is the support of those around them. Even though it is a difficult illness to understand, the simple act of being there for them can mean the difference between a bleak existence and a life filled with hope and renewed strength.
Depression is an illness that is nearly impossible to define or explain. The causes are a combination of family predisposition, surroundings, and life events. Sufferers fight a mostly silent battle, and are a largely misunderstood, yet often talented, group of individuals. Joshua Wolf Shenk’s novel, Lincoln’s Melancholy, is both educational and moving; it outlines Abraham Lincoln’s life and how he faced depression with determination and courage. His entire adult life was spent on the roller coaster of emotions that accompanies this illness.
Depression affects a surprising number of people. In 2005, at the time of Shenk’s research, he notes that 100 million people a year are affected by depression. That number has risen to 350 million today. He also points out that in the year 2000, “about a million people worldwide killed themselves- about equal to the number of deaths from war and homicide that year put together.” One would think, due to the prevalence of this issue, that there would be a better understanding of the inner thoughts of those afflicted. Education is a great tool for those providing emotional support, since it helps to understand the viewpoint of the sufferer. “In the midst of a depressive crisis, the question ‘What’s wrong?’ can be infuriating, because the answer, in the depressive’s mind, is ‘Everything!’” There aren’t always straight answers or immediate alternatives, which can be frustrating to those trying to help. Most of the time, simply the act of letting the person know you are there for them is helpful.
It helps to see how Lincoln harnessed his negative emotions and used them as ammunition against supporters of slavery, and against those who doubted his ability to preside over a nation. Even though negativity has its downfalls, such as changes in sleep patterns, loss of appetite, and decreased energy, many people have learned to use their emotions to focus their energy on one goal. This coping mechanism often brings great talent to light. Lincoln’s oratorical skills, Edgar Allen Poe’s verse, and Heath Ledger’s movies are all examples of this. One common misconception is there will always be an outward sign as to whether a person is suffering from depression. Many individuals have concealed depression, in which they have learned to hide their depression by overcompensating with outward optimism, burying themselves in work, or simply denying its existence.
The depressed state often comes not only from negative emotions, but from a lack of positive ones. The imbalance of chemicals denies the sufferer the ability to derive pleasure from things like family, friends, hobbies, or the view of a sunset. Shenk notes psychiatrist’s Emil Kraepelin’s findings, who wrote that depressives “see life as ‘a burden which they habitually bear with dutiful self-denial without being compensated by the pleasure(s) of existence.’”
Even those who are grappling with these emotions have a hard time understanding what they are going through. In a day when depression was still a complete mystery to most of the modern world, and viable treatments were nonexistent, Lincoln managed to grasp some understanding of his psyche.
He was able to relate to a poem by William Knox, as he notes a few of his favorite lines:
“Yea! Hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
Are mingled together in sun-shine and rain.”
Lincoln leaves us with his own words, which truly reflect his inner battle, and show the conflicting emotions so many humans struggle with today:
“The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Shenk, Joshua Wolf. Lincoln’s Melancholy. A Mariner Book, Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston. 2005. Print.
image 2: www.shenk.net[Top]
One of the hardest things for many of us to do is to wait. A conversation with my wise significant other about my inability to stand still instead of rushing into the next thing on my agenda led to thoughts on the subject. He commented on this as one of our most challenging habits to break. Consequently, many people will arrive at the end of their lives with a checked off “to do” list and very few memories of the life that occurred between the pencil marks.
There is certainly nothing wrong with confidence, ambition, and the desire to be productive. The problem is that true contentment is hard to find when we jump from one goal to the next, forgetting that life happens in the moments we least expect. It’s harder to make big decisions about life or the next step if we are still buried in present goals. If we never stop, all we see is what is right in front of us. Sometimes it helps to take a breath and a step back, and look at the big picture. If we take time to look at our lives and the decisions we make, we will be more content, whether we are moving forward in our next endeavor, or simply enjoying the current season life has brought us.
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Semisonic
I was digging through my old cassettes the other day to find some to use for a craft. Curiosity got the best of me, and I couldn’t help listening to one of the mixed tapes my best friend had made for me circa 1999. I popped it in my Chevy’s neglected cassette player, and found it was a horrid mix of Backstreet Boys, Vitamin C and NSync. Despite this, as I listened, I found myself in a simpler time. As I drove through the town I grew up in, I realized few things remain unchanged. The landscape and buildings are different, most childhood friends have moved away; most notably, I have a husband at home and a kid in the back seat. As I look in the rear view mirror, I remember that though not much has changed on the outside, I am also very different than I was the last time I listened to this tape.
The world can change so much in a mere 17 years; to consider how much it has changed since its inception is unfathomable. It’s amazing to think, that with everything else changing around us, God is always the same. He has watched everything from numerous wars and the division of continents to the alteration of governments and styles. The sounds of 90’s boy bands assailing my ears was worth the reminder that through it all, He remains the just, loving, and omnipotent Being who loves us despite everything—our pride, indiscretions, and substandard taste in music.