One year older…

(I wrote this 12/17/12)

When December began I started doing something most people do the month of their birthday; counting down until the exciting day or in some cases the dreaded day of growing one year older. I continued to count down the days to my birthday until three days ago when tragedy struck our country. Shock, fear, grief and even anger grew in our hearts. Emotions swelled as we continued with the flow of the Christmas season. I wasn’t able to calm myself and actually wrap my mind around what had happened until the next day. And that’s when God took hold of me, gently by the hand, and pointed out some things I needed to identify. He made me question the way I had been living.

 

Why have I been given sixteen years of life? Why the months, weeks, days, hours, minutes that God has given me one more breath? The answer was clear: God has a plan for me. A broken vessel, a mound of clay. But the questions were not through.

 

Have I used those valuable moments to fulfill that plan? Have I been furthering God’s kingdom? Have I been bringing God glory? Have I been blessing His name in the hard times? Have I thanked him enough for His daily blessings, big and small? I began to plead with God that I would not take my life for granted. I want to live my life with no regrets and fully, no matter how long it lasts. I want to live my life for Him, counting the blessings, even if they come with pain.

 

So today I want to re-dedicate my life to Him, whether it be a few more days, months, sixteen or even eighty more years.

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In Memory of Pearl Harbor…

Jackie walked to the mailbox on a bright summers day and finally found the long awaited letter. She dropped all the other letters on the table inside and quickly opened the letter unfolding the paper inside. Her son, Timmy wrote of the weather and some good friends he had made. He then wrote, “Mom, I’ve been thinking a lot about dad and the life that he lived. He gave his life for others. That’s why I’m here today.” He signed off, “You are what I’m fighting for. Love from your son, Timmy.”
She held the letter close to her heart, remembering the first letter she had received 26 years ago from war. It had been from her husband, Edward off in France. He too had written about weather and friends. Even though Timmy could barely remember his father, Jackie saw Edward in everything Timmy did. Oh, how she hated him fighting in a war so far from home, but he knew what he was fighting for.

She sat down at her desk pulled out some paper and wrote to Timmy as she prayed. She wrote that she loved him; of how proud she was of him fighting for freedom, how brave he was and what a good father he’d be someday. She folded up the paper, placed it in an envelope and on the front wrote, Be Safe. After that night she wrote every night just like she had years ago.
As summer slowly changed into to autumn and autumn into winter, Jackie prepared for Christmas. She knew it was going to be a lonely this year, but nothing could have prepared her for the news to come.
She had to shovel a path to the mailbox the snow was so thick, but she had waited a long time for a new letter to arrive that deep snow drifts weren’t going to stop her. When she opened the mailbox and looked inside she saw one letter that looked like it had traveled a long way. She opened it right then and there not even taking the time to go to the warm house to read it. The words stung her worse then the bitter cold she was surrounded by. The writer of the letter was named Josiah and he explained that he had been fighting alone up on a hill, shots were ringing out all around him, and bombs were exploding. Then Josiah was shot down. A man came back for him and though the man was captured he set Josiah free. That man was Timmy. Timmy asked Josiah to write to his mother and Josiah swore he would.
Jackie fell to her knees and prayed Timmy was living. She then picked herself up walked back to the house and sat down at her desk like she did everyday. She kept writing each day. Jackie kept on hoping and believing.
Then two years later a car pulled up running over all the dry leaves on the ground. Jackie knew who drove that kind of car and she fell to the ground. Out stepped a captain who ran over to Jackie.
He said, “Mom, I’m following orders from all of your letters and I’ve come home, safe.” And there in his hand he held all of his letters from war.

(A story I wrote inspired by the song “Letters From War” by Mark Schultz)

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11 years ago…

On Monday Shannon was just a college student; on Tuesday her life was changed forever.

It was 10:15am as she was walking out of her classroom checking her cell phone messages. The first one was from her mom checking in on her. When will she stop checking in on me? Shannon thought. The last message started out with a huge bang and continued on with loud background noises while a man spoke anxiously, “Hey, Reilly, it’s your brother Arsenio. I know you haven’t heard from me in a long time, but, well, things have changed. I forgive you and I am sorry for not doing this sooner, I truly am. I am afraid this will be me last contact with you.” There was a pause as the man searched for his last words, “Reilly, I love you!” There was another aggravating pause before she heard an explosion and the message was over. Shannon was confused; her name wasn’t Reilly, and she had no brothers. Surely this man had the wrong number, but Shannon couldn’t just delete the message. Someone named Reilly was out there needing to hear these words from her brother.

“Shannon!” Her best friend Jamie was yelling in a quavering voice. She ran up to Shannon and held both her arms, shaking. “Have… have you heard…” She broke down into sobs.

“What’s wrong Jamie? Tell me,” Shannon held Jamie close to her.

“Come back to your dorm room with me.”

“Jamie, this can’t take too long, I have a class to get to.”

“You will forget about your class after you see.”

“When I see what? Jamie stop playing games. What is the matter?” Shannon was getting frustrated.

“Turn on the TV,” Jamie said as she reached for the door to the dorm rooms. Together they raced up the stairs and Shannon quickly unlocked her room. Jamie ran over and turned the TV on, sat down on the couch and hid her head in her hands. What flashed before Shannon’s eyes came fast and unreal; the New York twin towers had been hit by airplanes and were now crumbling to the ground. She barely heard what the reporter had to say as the twin tower scene switched to the pentagon crash. She felt numb, the college was right outside New York City. Am I safe? Is our country under attack? Are we in danger? Questions started spinning around in her head when her cell phone rang. She automatically answered it not really wanting to talk to anyone.

“Hi,” she said quietly.

“Shannon, Honey, are you okay?”

“Yes mom, I’m fine,” as soon as Shannon answered she burst into tears, “who would dare do such a thing?” she yelled into the phone. “Who would dare?”

When she was done talking to her Mom she remembered the phone call she had missed and suddenly something dawned on her, this man might have been in one of the twin towers. She quickly looked at her phone to see what area code he had called from; New York City.

The next week was a whirlwind. Shannon spent all her spare time in New York City trying to track down any news about Arsenio or his sister Reilly. It felt like she was trying to do the impossible. Until, she saw his name exactly a week after 9/11. She was walking by the same intimidating wall of thousands of faces she had walked by everyday that week. The amount of missing loved ones was staggering. Then she saw it, Arsenio’s name. It was the first time she saw his picture and it crushed her heart to finally put his name to the face of a real person. Under the picture it said: Missing if found please call (123) 112-2334. Shannon instantly pulled out her cell phone and dialed. What was she going to say?

A female answered, “Hello you’ve reached real estate agent Reilly Hall. How can I help you?”

“Hi,” Shannon weakly said, “My name is Shannon and I have some information about your brother Arsenio I think you should know.”

“How do you know my brother?” Reilly quickly responded.

“Well I don’t know him very well, but it’s a long story. Are you in New York?”

“Yes I am, until this Saturday.”

“Can we meet at Penny Park?”

“Sure, sounds like a plan. Can you be there in 20 minutes?”

“Okay, see you then.”

“Bye.”

What am I going to say to her? What do I say to a grieving sister? Shannon quickly made her way to the Park taking Arsenio’s picture with her. She got to the park 2 minutes late and immediately a middle-aged woman rushed up to her recognizing the picture in her hand.

“Shannon, are you Shannon?”

“Yes, you must be Reilly.”

“What is it? What do you have to tell me?”

“I have a phone message that was meant for you. Here listen.” Reilly was about to question Shannon more, but took the phone from Shannon’s hand and listened quietly. Her jaw dropped open. When the message ended she collapsed onto the ground Shannon sat beside her and rapped her arms around her. Reilly never understood why Shannon got the message, but Shannon knew God makes no mistakes and brought the two together for a reason.

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*Story and Pictures are by Riahjoy. Please do not take without permission. Thank you.