Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Ashes, Ashes... We All Fall Down"

A pastor friend of mine decided to give up coffee for Lent. To the average coffee drinker, I’d say this, “Are you sure… I mean really sure you want to do that?” but to this particular friend I said, “Are you insane??? Holy crap… What are you thinking???” He loves his coffee… I mean LOVES coffee! I am not lying when I say… he even drinks coffee when he is preaching.

His response to my “Holy crap” statement was so perfect. He basically told me that even though for him it was a big deal to give up something like coffee for Lent… when comparing his sacrifice to that of Jesus’ sacrifice for us… giving up a thing like coffee was no big deal. His answer, as perfect as it was, as right as it was… was like a dagger to my heart. Oh, I am so selfish. I support my friend with all my heart in his commitment and sacrifice to give up something he loves to celebrate this season… this beautiful season of sacrifice. Because of him I decided to give up something myself for Lent. This is my first time EVER fasting from something for this season. It might sound silly, but I gave up Facebook. Trust me, that is a sacrifice for me. It’s like digital crack. In addition, I decided that every time I think about Facebook in any way – I’m going to stop what I am doing and talk to God. I think I’ve spoken to Him about 35 times already… and it’s only 1:22 on Ash Wednesday.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve lived my entire life… a Christian childhood, destructive youth and early adulthood as well as into my new life of salvation in Christ without knowing what Ash Wednesday really meant. Now, don’t get me wrong… I’m sure along the way in all the years of Christian parenting, church services, Sunday school, confirmation, youth outings and more recently lots of Bible reading, Christian study and Jesus based recovery work… someone… probably many people have told me what Ash Wednesday was all about but for whatever reason, I forgot, or didn’t listen (probably the latter) so I ended up here at 37 years old ignorant of the meaning and purpose of Ash Wednesday.

This morning, Ash Wednesday of 2010, I decided I was going to educate myself a little… so here is what I learned. Ash Wednesday is supposed to be a day of fasting and repentance in preparation for the season of Lent. In Lent we go through the stages of Christ’s sacrifice for us…. we pause at Good Friday for reflection then rejoice on Easter as we are reminded that the war has already been won. I knew some of that already… here’s what I didn’t know…

The ashes of Ash Wednesday are what make it so significant. It’s not that it’s cool to walk around with a black cross on your forehead or that there is any medicinal advantages to the ashes. The ashes actually MEAN something. Ashes were a sign of deep mourning in the old days. It wasn’t regular old mourning though… dusting yourself with ashes was a way of expressing sorrow for YOUR OWN sins and faults. Job 42:6 says, “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." Wearing sack cloth was similar. It was a way of admitting wrong and repenting. I can’t really think of a way we signify that in today’s world at all, other than… pointing at someone we don’t like and saying “It wasn’t me!” (that was a joke). Oh wait a minute… that’s exactly what Ash Wednesday is, DUH! Wearing ashes, choosing to fast (from at least one thing) in an effort to admit our wrongs and sins to our Lord. It has always been about that, I just didn’t realize it! And those ashes… they weren’t just scooped up out of your pastor’s fireplace. Did you know that the ashes used on Ash Wednesday are produced by burning the palms used on the prior Palm Sunday? I thought that was a particularly interesting fact and I wondered how many churches really still do that.

Ezekiel 9:3-6 says this… “Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, "Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it." As I listened, he said to the others, "Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary." Based on this, there have been a bunch of Ash Wednesdays I should have been slaughtered for not taking the time to get “marked” or grieve appropriately for the horrible things I myself and society do everyday.

I’m sure there is a lot more to the meaning of Ash Wednesday… but those were the basics I found that satisfied my thirst for knowledge on the subject. I thought I was so clever when I had the idea to name this article “Ashes Ashes… We All Fall Down”. I actually did a little giggle to myself about it because it seemed so perfect. Ashes will sure remind me from this day forward of how flawed I am… how no matter what I do I will always fall down. Thank You Jesus for Your obedience to Your Father. Thank You for Your sacrifice for such undeserving people. And thank You for showing me that even if I were the only person on the planet… the only being to have ever lived… You still would have done it… You love me THAT much. You’re right, Joe… coffee ain’t nothing!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Radio Experiment

I am one of those people that is truly affected by music. Music has always been an important part of my life. I had major reconstructive surgery to my face after being hit by a car while riding my bike at the fresh young age of 10. As therapy, I learned to play the flute to gain control of my mouth again. In addition, I played competitive piano for years. I learned to play the saxophone, and the baritone and even had a short love affair with an oboe (double reeds and I didn't get along well though, so that had to end). I was in marching band, concert band, concert choir, show choir, took voice lessons to widen my God-given alto voice into that of a soprano, even participated in State. In college I was first chair flute in the community orchestra, which was unheard of for a freshman. I was talented mostly because I practiced a lot and I used that talent daily in an attempt to enhance my world. It was one of the only things in my life I had any control over… an instrument. I think that’s why I liked it so much. In addition to playing and being part of music, radio play was also an important part of my existence. So much that if I want to remember a specific piece of my past, all I have to do is think about what song was my favorite at the time. If I listen to that song, it's almost like a time machine that transports me right back with all my senses fully aware of what it was really like in that moment. Simply put, music invades my soul.

My life took a turn after college. Truth be told, I made the turn… it was a conscious choice and it wasn’t a good one. My participation in the making of music stopped abruptly… and then I never ever got it back. Like the old saying, if you don’t use it, you lose it. All of that time and effort, all of that talent and commitment amounted to nothing as I let it slip away by not choosing to stay connected to it. Funny, it was when I let go of tuning my instruments that I began to realize just how out-of-control my life really was.

Radio play stayed an important part of my life though. Here are some musicians that bring back STRONG memories for me: the Monkees, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, INXS (I went into a deep depression when Michal Hutchinson died), Depeche Mode, Jon Secada (I was sure I was gonna marry him), Sarah Mclachlin, Fuel, Limp Bizkit, NSYNC (yes, embarrassing but true - I was totally in-love with Lance... very funny now), … just to name a few. My first book was written while listening to only one album… “The Long Road” by Nickelback. I called it the soundtrack to “Desco.” I can’t even tell you how many times I listened to that CD… I mean… the entire book was written to that, and how long does it take to write an entire book??? Good memories and ones I’d like to forget are tied to music… I’d be happy to never have to hear the song “Hanging On a Moment” ever again! Booze really was not my friend. Sometimes I’ll hear that song in passing and it makes me cringe… but it’s a great reminder to who I never want to be again.

Since getting sober, my relationship with God has strengthened to the point that He is the most important relationship in my life. Just like with music, it’s real easy for me to stay in my comfort zone with God and only surround myself with Him…listening to the same CD over and over again, never venturing outside of my favorite album (I’ve been known to listen to the same CD for over 6 months at a time). One of my spiritual mentors taught me how important it is to keep myself open to the whole world, and not live my life in a God shaped bubble that only includes people who are also in a relationship with Him, or at least searching for Him. We need to stay relevant, knowing what’s going on the world, experiencing the challenges and reality around us to be able to truly share God’s love with real people in this very real world. Maybe it’s because I’ve been work in recovery so much lately, but that is no excuse, but I noticed several months ago that my world has slowly become focused only on my favorite artist… God. My world is filled with mostly just Christians. Along with that I noticed that my music life has changed to primarily spiritual, praise and inspirational music. It is rare that I listen to secular radio play. Part of it is that I have become a lot more comfortable with silence these days… so I’m not listening to as much music as I used to. When I do have music playing, I want to use that time to focus on God and give Him the praise He deserves. I have come to really like Christian contemporary music… it keeps my mind in a better place, and I need all the help I can get keeping this head under control.

I’ve been wondering how I can make some changes in my life to try and branch out a little bit… as to not just live in a Christ shaped bubble. Two weeks ago I decided to start listening to regular secular radio again. I considered it an experiment. I wanted to see how reducing spiritual sound waves affected my life… if at all.

At first, I listened to mostly talk radio. I found it quite interesting how different the topics of conversations I was hearing on the public airwaves were compared to my normal everyday conversation ear shots. I wasn’t shocked by any means to hear all the cursing, name-calling, talk of casual sex, affairs, strip clubs, boozing, drugs or racism. It didn’t shock me at all, what it did was reminded me why I stopped listening in the first place! But there is a lot to be gained by listening to the insanity of what’s accepted in today’s society. I mean… how could I ever speak with any intelligence about what’s happening in the world if I completely shelter myself from it. For example, when the movie “It’s Complicated” came out, I decided there was NO WAY I was going to see it. The previews basically seemed to show how it encompassed everything that is wrong with our society today. To me, it looked like an abomination to God’s Word… absolutely wretched. I started to hear people talk about what a great movie it was. WHAT?? But how could I possibly have a conversation with them about the message of the movie if I didn’t go see it? No, if I choose not to go see it, I’d have to keep my mouth shut. If I wanted to speak intelligently about the wrong or the right messages in it, I’d have to see what it was really all about. But I digress.

At the talk radio commercial breaks I began switching to music stations and found myself enjoying a good combination of familiar tunes and brand new ones. I have to admit, I was kind of digging it. Jammin’ in my car, remembering the good ole days… soaking in the new lyrics and rifts. Good times! You just gotta love a good love song, I mean really. Who can resist a hot-blooded musician pouring out his heart and soul to the woman of his dreams, telling her how he doesn’t want to miss a moment of her existence. How he wants to breathe her in and keep their love alive forever and ever, always feeling that hot touch and racy beat between them. Yes… good stuff! Made me remember the days when my hubby and I first met. I began to reminisce. And with each song, more reminiscing of things once part of my life.

All in all my secular radio experiment wasn’t going badly at all… until one day I was listening to another one of those good rock tunes about love and I noticed that my heart actually ached for a moment. It was an ache I hadn’t felt in a very long time. A thought raced through my mind, “Why isn’t my love still like that? Why doesn’t my husband love me with that hot-burning-can’t-live-without-you kind of desire? I deserve that, don’t I?? I’ll never have that again, will I?...whoa is me…”

WHOA NELLY!!! Back the truck up, Wendy. I literally slapped myself across the face – hard. What the hell was wrong with me??? I was slowly sliding into a fantasy world I had fought my way out of a long time ago. I did NOT want to go back there! Radio love is NOT real love, just like movie love is not real love. Real love is… well, real love is exactly what I already have with my husband. It doesn't get better than what I have!!! Not that it's easy or perfect... but it's just as it should be. I’ve had that other stuff, that fake love that’s all about stomach butterflies and nervous energy, “When is he gonna call me?”, “If I sleep with him, will he love me more?”, "Yes, I love watching football!!!" "I love all the music you love dear" “He is so perfect… he will never let me down…” crapola and that is all it is… CRAPOLA! Why the heck was my mind trying to trip me into this trap? It was this darned music I was listening to! As I told you before, music invades my soul… it seeps into my heart and mind… it has the ability to change my mood and make me FEEL, or think I’m feeling a certain way. For me… I have to protect myself from the unrealistic fantasy world that society loves to pass around through music and visual means. I’m sure most people don’t have a problem separating music (or other media) from reality… but me… I gotta be very careful. One night during my radio experiment, I had a very un-cool dream about ‘something’… and the devil would have LOVED for me to wake up and smile about it, comb through it in my mind and embrace it. Instead I laughed at him and called it what it was: an invitation to temptation. Good try idiot, but no thank you. FLICK!

My radio experiment is now over and I consider it a success. No, I’m not going to shut secular music or television or talk radio out of my world, but I sure am going to be careful how I use it… and how I limit it. My mind is so impressionable, and as I said before, I need all the help I can get staying focused on the important things in life. Being a musician used to provide me with a way to feel control over my out-of-control world, and what I’ve learned is that listening to music is a good way to hand control over… to society… or to God. I choose God... society is a train-wreck!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

A Stray

We are a dog kind of family… but I really didn’t want to have another dog for awhile after little Tori passed away. Mostly because I had done such a poor job raising her that she was unruly and not much fun in the last years of her life. There was a part of me that just didn’t want to fail another animal, as well as a part of me that just wanted to be lazy.

But if you are a dog person… you are a dog person. I was finding myself feeling an intense emptiness in the house when I came home alone. Another thing I noticed was just how messy we are. Crumbs galore have collected a lot quicker than ever… so I’ve been vacuuming A LOT more.

It hit me one day… we should get another dog! But I kept it to myself hoping the feeling would subside. But it didn’t and finally I spoke to my hubby about it. We talked about getting a dog who needed to be rescued rather than getting a puppy. After thinking on it for only a day or two, we decided to go for it.

First thing I did was look online at www.petfinder.com to see what all was available. Wow… there are a lot of dogs out there needing a good home!! I couldn’t believe it. After reading and reading… I narrowed it down to about 20 dogs. From there we did some research on the breeds and were able to narrow it to about 10 and from there filled out paperwork and made calls to see what I had to do to meet the pups we had picked. Only four of them were available to meet quickly… not that we were in a huge hurry but… we were feeling ready and were motivated.

I ended up planning to meet only 3 dogs. I wondered how I would know which one was the right one. My mother told me, the dog really picks you in most cases. In between our appointments, Brett and I went to the local animal shelter to see what was there too. I was surprised to find only 3 adoptable dogs were there. When I walked in the room, over 20 dogs were barking at me. The officer showed me over to the 3 that were adoptable. Of the three, two immediately began barking and jumping up at me in their runs. And then there was this third one in the middle, who just sat there as pretty as could be, looking up longingly and patiently to be noticed. Not a bark, not a whimper, just a stare. I think she knew the moment she laid eyes on me I was going to bring her home.

Having lived with a jumping, barker for 18 years… this non-barking, non-jumper really grabbed my attention. We took her out to the run outside and spent some time with her. She already knew how to sit and walk on a leash and I had no idea if she was housetrained (but I guessed she was since usually that is the first thing you teach a dog, before sit – ya know?). We left her there… but I called my husband at work and said, “I’m taking you to meet Ms. No Name when you get home.”

He met her at 5:00 and after only being with her for 10 minutes or so my husband, the man who almost always thinks ahead, plans and makes solid decisions said, “Let’s get her.” So we did.

Let me tell you, she is something. A real dream. Completely trained and sweet. She is protective and kind, gentle but playful. Awesome with my son and she really likes me a lot, too (smart girl). She’s not perfect, needs some further training but for the most part… she is a dream – whoever had her before us did a way better job with her than I ever did with Tori. I feel like I don’t deserve her.

As nice as this all sounds… there is a very sad side. A part that made me cry. While we did bring home an awesome dog, and saved her from the concrete, fenced in, cold dark place she had called home for over two weeks… there were so many other dogs out there that I couldn’t bring home. I felt this tremendous guilt over NOT picking the two that were housed right next to her. I mean they were cute, and they just wanted attention. They had done nothing wrong… yet I essentially rejected them. And what about the two other dogs I had actually met and spent time with? Why weren’t they good enough? Why hadn’t I picked them? Weren’t they deserving of a good, loving home too??? Call me a wimp, call me a sap… but this made me cry. My husband said, “We can’t take them all Wendy, we have to do what’s best for us,” as he patted me on the back lovingly. That is the truth, but that is the hard part… it feels so selfish. We didn’t pick the beautiful but hyper boy because he was going to be too much to handle and we didn’t pick the rough around the edges shepherding dog because she was a little too aggressive (and it didn’t help that she was covered in mud and smelled really, really bad). We picked the nice, pretty, gentle, quiet, easy-to-handle dog - the easy pick. Oh, the guilt. I knew I would feel that guilt after I made my decision. The fear of having to make that choice was one of the reasons I didn’t want to deal with getting another dog. It seemed easier not to have to choose. It seemed easier to live without the love of a dog than to have to accept one and reject all the others. But in going through with the decision-making process, I did come out on the other end having helped... at least one. I couldn’t help them all, but I helped one. And I have to remember, helping one is good. My heart and my house aren’t big enough to properly care for more than one.

Maybe it’s because I work in recovery that I let this guilt get to me. I mean, my experience has shown me that even the hard to handle and aggressive ones are completely deserving of a chance. In fact, when given the chance… the hard to handle and the aggressive ones can become just as gentle and obedient as the easy pick. But with us humans, it’s a choice to embrace the decision to try to get a chance and change (which ironically seems like the hard way but only makes life easier in the end) or to stay the same, never have to make a decision, never put ourselves up for rejection, never change or give ourselves a chance at a new life… to stay stray. Dogs don’t have that kind of free will… they rely on us and we get to pick which ones to keep and which ones to toss away and make stray. Maybe that’s why the decision hurts when it comes to dogs.

I am so lucky to have a God who doesn’t act the way I do, a fickle and judgmental owner of a meager pet. I am so lucky to have a God whose heart and house is big enough for all of us. I mean, aren’t we all just a bunch of stray dogs who, for whatever reason have lost our way from time to time??? Haven’t our sins left us caged like animals waiting for someone to come in to the dimly-lit room and rescue us??? But, God isn’t going to walk into the shelter and judge who He is going to bring home with Him based on who barks the least, who is able to control their jumping spirit the best, who is the cleanest or who smells the sweetest. No!!! He sees so much deeper than that. He knows our hearts and loves all of us equally. He treats us as sons and daughters and welcomes us into His grandest room without even asking us to wipe our feet. Okay so, I will probably wander away again, a stray who has found a great home with only my stupidity to blame for leading me astray again. I will probably pick up the scent of temptation and follow it in oblivion until I’ve gone so far off the path that I have no idea how to get back home. But rest assured, He will be there… watching for the strays. Ready to gather me up again and take me, all of us, home. If you’ve ever been a stray, you know what I’m talking about. And if you’ve felt God’s grace wash over you, then you know it’s better than a flea dip. It’s probably the best thing to ever happen to you. But, the first part was opening yourself up to be rescued. If you had kept wandering around out there and never let Him near you, He couldn’t have done His magic.

Maybe you’re a stray right now? Or maybe you’re in denial about being a stray. Either way, it’s not real fun. It’s lonely and things just keep going wrong. No matter how hard you try, it all just falls apart. There is an emptiness that you can’t explain… you’re friends don’t fill it, your spouse doesn’t, your home and possession don’t do it… nothing fills it. You’re just out there wandering aimlessly just like a stray, but nobody can tell because, “you’ve got it together, baby.” Well, there is only one thing that fills the void and completes the life of a stray… a good owner.

I like to think of God as my owner. I came to Him broken hearted baring my soul, pouring my pain and emptiness out at His feet hoping He would take me in. I begged Him to rescue me, and He did. Even now, I know I bark too much, I’m unable to contain my excitement at times, and yes – I’m even stinky every now and then, but the day I accepted Him as my rescuer, He did all the paperwork. He signed a contract of ownership of me. He even had me micro-chipped immediately so no one could ever take wrongful possession of me ever again. The loyalty of a stray to their new owner is almost unbreakable, but the love of the ultimate Owner is completely immeasurable… and totally fulfilling any void anyone could ever have, even a stray that goes astray. “…God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Acts 10:34-35 I will leave you with this thought, as scary as it is to make changes in life, in order to embark on the greatest relationship of your life, you must be willing to make the choice to accept One... and reject all the rest.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Window Seat

Someone recently asked me to think about some hard questions… why would a loving God allow tragedy to occur? If God is so powerful, why doesn’t He keep bad things from happening to good people? The purpose of combing over these questions was to prepare myself for the type of doubt that I will inevitably be faced with as I try to share Jesus with others. These questions are hard… even for people with tremendous faith in God. One of my spiritual mentors says, “If you knew what God knows… you wouldn’t doubt what is happening right now for even a nanosecond.” In theory, it’s easy to say I know all things happen for a reason and God’s plan is to bring them together for His glory in the end. Since we humans can’t see His plan, we can’t fathom His reasoning. And then there is the topic of free will, but that would be a whole other article. I’m not going to kid myself for a second though; I am fully aware that if a tragedy were my very own, for example - the loss of my husband or child… I could only hope that my faith would be strong enough to say, “It’s God’s plan for the best” and mean it. The truth is… I don’t know how I would feel. I can’t imagine it, and I don’t want to think about it. I said some prayers for God to help me figure out how to answer those types of questions.

A few days later, I had a vision that I shared with a group of ladies I trust. I knew I trusted them when I told them because let’s face it – most people would probably laugh at me as soon as I uttered the phrase, “I had a vision,” much less keep from busting as I told the story that followed, but they were awesome about it. True friends.

There was an airplane, packed full of at least 200 passengers. But it wasn’t a run-of-the-mill flight… something had gone terribly wrong and the plane was on a very quick downward descent. And I’m not talking about the kind of descent that would result in a gentle water landing… oh no… this was a hold-onto-your-seat-cushion-and-kiss-your-butt-goodbye kind of descent. The people on board were panicked, screaming and crying… they knew what was to come. In my vision, I saw a person rise from their seat and begin to speak to everyone on the plane. This person spoke with great eloquence… telling all within earshot of the gift of Jesus and how it didn’t matter what they had done in the past, or how long they had believed… that God’ kingdom was for everyone and all they had to do is believe. The person continued by asking the people if they would consider opening their hearts and souls to the Spirit. Ask Him to help them believe and accept God’s grace and love. The end of life as they knew it was not as important as the beginning of the life they could have in eternity with God.

I began to cry… even though it was only a vision. The words that this person spoke were so beautiful and true. And somehow an idea came to me… of God’s reasoning in this particular situation. Of the 200 passengers on board, only a few of them were true believers in Christ. Another handful were in various places on their spiritual walk… mostly just testing the water but not really committed to it. The rest… the majority of them were people who had no interest in God. They knew of Him, but were sure God didn’t have a place in their life at all. God, being all knowing as He is, already knew the ending of each of these people’s lives. He knew that it would take a major event to open their minds up to the possibility of Him. He knew that this was the situation they HAD to be in to save their souls. So He grasped the opportunity. He put the right words in the right person’s mouth and the result of which was… these people… the ones who God knew had no hope at eternal life with Him heard the words, opened their hearts, the Spirit came to them and… BAM! They were granted eternal life right before their death.

My tears increased as I sat in awe of this thought. I imagined the heartache and pain of those left behind in the wake of the disaster; husbands without wives, mothers without daughters, friends without their cherished confidants. It’s natural for those people to only see the tragedy in the death toll, and feel the gut wrenching emptiness that death presents to us on a silver platter. But what about the mercy and beauty in God’s perfect timing? What about the fact that our God is so loving that He doesn’t care how long we’ve believed… as long as we do?

So, the vision was over, or so I thought. I cleared my crying eyes and took a deep breath. Then I realized… the person who spoke on the plane of God’s open arms was… me. I rejoiced at the thought that God could use me in that way. Then some doubt wandered in, I asked myself if I would have the courage to stand up and say those things. I wondered if the right words would really come to me? After some thought I knew the truth and I told myself, “Yes! I would do that for God, I would stand up no matter how afraid I was and be that person!!!!” And then I realized… I had a flight in 3 days. On top of that, my child was flying with me. If this vision was for real… it would not only mean sacrificing myself… but my child.

Now, I don’t know how you feel about visions… I’m sort of on the fence myself. I’ve had some come true and some not. This one, all I can say is I was afraid of it. The thought occurred to me to cancel my trip, but I quickly realized that was the devil… messing with me. More than likely, this whole vision was the result of my prayer about how to answer the hard questions. And, it also was an opportunity to put my faith in action. I decided, I was getting on that plane no matter what. In fact, I was getting on every plane I ever needed to get on for the rest of my life. If God has this plan for me, I wasn’t going to run from it. I was reminded of the story of Jonah. God would put me right where He wanted me no matter what – it was up to me how much I kicked and screamed about it. In making the decision to trust God, I realized I had shut down the devil’s plan to make me a doubting coward. I laughed at him… he he he… sucker! Then I proceeded to tell my few trusted friends about it, just in case it happened… they would know.

I’m not gonna lie, I was nervous as I walked through the next two days. I had this strange yet calm feeling that I might not be around any longer. I rejoiced at the thought of being in heaven… then felt sad for my husband and how that would effect his life… and the thought of my son… ah, a dagger to my heart. But I looked to God and said… send me, I trust you.

The morning of my flight I got up and took my shower. Got dressed then went to brush my teeth. As I looked in the mirror, I said a prayer in my head. “God, if this should be my last day on this earth, let me be the best example for you I can be in everything I do…”

BAM!!!!

Shouldn’t that be my state of mind ALL THE TIME??? Shouldn’t that be my desire regardless of a vision or fear of impending death?? I mean, vision or not - this could be my last day... tomorrow could be my last day... who knows when it's gonna happen!!!! It was at that moment I felt like I understood what God was trying to teach me. Live everyday as if it’s your last… live every moment as though you can’t take it back… don’t let opportunities to do the right thing, share the truth or just be nice slip away!!! WOW!!!! Sure I’ve heard all that before, but this was something different… this was me going through the emotion of it all.

Okay, so I was still a little bit nervous about my flight… less nervous when I realized I was sitting in the window seat while the person in my vision was sitting in an aisle seat (phew). But there was an awful lot of turbulence on that flight, more than I had ever endured before. In the end, I sighed a giant sigh of relief once I made it to Virginia. And I was proud that I had allowed my faith to grow instead of chickening out… but mostly I felt enlightened by God and so encouraged by the way He not only answered my question but also showed me His heart. We truly never know His reasoning and we will never know what happened in those moments right before the tragedy. All we can do is believe that The Creator of the universe loves us and knows what He is doing. I have no doubt He wants every single one of us by His side in the end. A few days later, I realized I still had the fight home to contend with… but it was all good.