On Easy Street (or so it appears)

I turned twenty-nine last month. It feels like twenty-one was a mere week ago, but oh yeah… that was eight years ago. As I soon approach thirty, I’ve been thinking about a few things. About life, that is. Particularly the cards I’ve been dealt in this hand of life. And perhaps, to some, I’ve been dealt some bad cards.

I never lived anywhere longer than two years growing up. I was always–or, every two years or less–“the new girl.” Yet, there are people who live in the same house their entire lives, from the moment they’re brought home from the hospital until the day they leave for college. They grow up with the same people, same friends, and never have to worry about being “the new kid.”

I never was asked to a dance in high school. In fact, I had to ask someone to prom (which was barrels of fun, let me tell you) to avoid going stag (which, looking back, maybe wouldn’t have been the worst situation in the world). Yet, there are people who asked me how to ask my friends to dances in high school (you know, what is the biggest scene they could make in front of the whole school to surprise one of my girlfriends? Thanks, bud).

I never had a boyfriend until I went to college. And once I turned eighteen in college, oh how the tables turned for me. Quickly. Yet, most people were experienced daters or perhaps serial monogamists by the time they reached college.

I endured heartbreak, after heartbreak, after heartbreak in college. Perhaps it was my own fault most of the time, and perhaps I spent too much time juggling boys and not enough time juggling my classes/grades (yes Dad, I’m aware of it now), but regardless–I was heartbroken time, and time, and time again. Yet, there are people out there who have never had a broken heart. (If you’re one of those people, you dodged a serious bullet.)

My husband broke up with me after we had been dating just one year. We were apart for seven months. Fully, 100% apart and broken up. Then, we got back together after seven months of not even so much as speaking, and we’ve been together ever since. Yet, there are people who meet people they could possibly marry, and yet, they stay together, rather than break up. Imagine that!

It took me five years to get paid to do, full-time, what I’ve wanted to do since I was ten. Five years of working in the plus-size section at Nordstrom, five years of answering a phone at a financial company, five years of asking people, “Do you want refried or black beans with that?” for a living, one year of being unemployed during those five years, and five years of working for free or little pay (pennies, really) to do small freelance jobs on the side. Then there are people who are offered their dream jobs right out of college. Who didn’t graduate during the worst recession in modern history. (Yep, there’s that.)

It’s like those people who get pregnant without even “trying” while others try for years without ever conceiving.

Not that I would know anything about that. But, you know. People. It’s how it is.

I can’t compare my life with others, but lately, I just can’t help it. I can’t help but wonder, why do some people appear to have life on Easy Street, while the rest of us are jumping from tiny rock to tiny rock about to explode over a pit of lava? (Yes, I’m thinking of that scene in Aladdin.) Why do some of us work hard for that promotion that will never happen, while others appear to have a promotion handed to them without even trying?

And that’s where I’ve developed my theory. Perhaps this is me just trying to make myself feel better, or make excuses, or whatever you want to call it–but maybe the reason for all of this is that we, as humans, are only given what we can handle. That is, God doesn’t give us situations, circumstances, unemployment, dead-end jobs, heartbreak, whatever, because we can’t handle them, but He gives these things because we can handle them. Things He knows we can not only handle, but we can overcome. Not only can we overcome these things, but maybe we’ll be blessed for the endurance. So if there’s something we can’t handle, He won’t allow it to happen. But if it happens, that means we can handle it. And if we can handle it, that means we’re stronger in the end.

And maybe we’re better because of it.

 

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This Isn’t What I Planned to Write

I know I said I’d be back here writing over a month ago, and I had every intention of doing so. I planned on writing the answers to some “thought-provoking questions” as an outlet for myself, and anyone else who may have stumbled upon it. I planned on perhaps writing a review of a book I’m currently reading (and should be done with by now). I planned on writing about a recent episode of Dateline or 48 Hours.

I wasn’t planning on writing about another tragedy happening close to me. The third–or fourth if you count the DC Sniper attacks–I’ve been personally effected by since 2001. I’d hesitate to say it’s becoming a trend every few years, but I’d also be lying if I didn’t say I’m noticing a pattern.

Maybe it’s a pattern with me–wherever I am, these things follow. Or wherever I go, there’s some sort of anomaly that happens while I’m there. Or maybe I’ve been in some of the worst places in recent years of this country at the worst times. Or maybe God has slowly, over the last fifteen years, revealed to me His heart, His feelings, and His love for what He’s created. Everything and everyone He’s created.

Because let’s be honest: I was angry after 9/11. I was angry at bin Laden. I was angry at al Qaeda once I grasped what had happened to our country at just fourteen years old. I mean, the organization attempted to murder my own father that day. I had every right to be upset. I had every right to want bin Laden, and the rest of them, to suffer the way so many innocent people did on that day. I, like most Americans, was upset and stripped of my innocence when it comes to this world and the people in it.

I was angry at the DC Sniper just a year later. Living in his area of attacks, I was angry I wasn’t allowed to walk off the bus without being escorted by a policeman every morning. I was angry we couldn’t even pump gas without being covered by a tarp and feeling the need to always be moving because we had no idea if he was staring at us through the barrel of his sniper rifle.

I was angry with Cho after he murdered a friend of a friend, a former classmate, at Virginia Tech in 2007. I was angry that anyone could ever point a gun at that sweet girl (let alone the others also killed) with the intention of killing her. I was angry her life was cut so short when she could have been so much more in this world. I was angry he decided to go down, taking his own life, along with 30+ others for no sensible reason.

And today, I’m angry that there are people out there who are suffering. I’m angry that they’re suffering because their loved one is gone for, once again, a reason that doesn’t make sense to us. A reason that, perhaps, could have had a different outcome if maybe, just maybe, that person had not spent so much of his life suffering himself.

And I feel angry that whatever was going on in this man’s life, he chose to go out the way that he did. Once again, a miserable person has dragged down more than fifty people as a result of his own unhappiness, his own feelings, and his own agenda.

Right? Isn’t that what it comes down to? I look at this man and I see so much unhappiness, so much hatred, and so much darkness. And I have to wonder what brought this man to this point. What happens in a person’s life to make them want to evilly laugh as he killed innocent people begging for their lives in a bathroom? What was so awful within his heart and mind that he decided this was the way to go?

Seeing the response from this community over the last two days, I’ve realized something. And perhaps I’ll be chastised for saying this, but I’ll say it anyway. It’s sad to me that this is what it takes for a community to come together and define ourselves as “one” and to say and show we “love” one another. This is what it takes for us to pray for each other. So what were we doing before? Where was this love and unity prior to Sunday? Where were the prayers for all of those suffering before this attack–perhaps even those suffering who committed such acts? I wish it didn’t take the loss of fifty innocent lives in our community for us to take a step back, see the big picture, and love each other, accept each other, and encourage each other. I wish we did this anyway, without a tragedy catapulting us in this direction.

So after the dust settles and we find ourselves back in our usual routine, feeling whole again after that hollow, carved-out feeling disappears beneath our skin, may we remember what it felt like in these days to love, accept, and pray for one another. And maybe we will feel inclined to continue to love, accept, and pray for each other every day. Because we will never know how much someone could be suffering inside and could use some love, acceptance, and prayer from complete strangers.

“For what you intended for evil, God intended for good.” -Genesis 50:20

It’s Been Awhile

While talking with a coworker a few days ago about our personal blogs and recent (or, not-so-recent) writing endeavors, I realized it’s been nearly a year since I’ve written anything in this blog, which is unacceptable. Even then, it had been a while since I wrote anything before my last post, which was written more for cathartic purposes than anything else.

In any case, now that I’ve been confined to a strict budget (hashtag life goals happening, now), and am not supposed to be doing anything that costs money (saving, rather than spending, is our new motto—and I’ve never been a saver), it may be time for me to get back on the saddle and start writing again, since it’s free for me to write in here. What I am going to write about, I’m not entirely sure, but I’d love to start perhaps with these 365 Thought-Provoking Questions to Ask Yourself This Year. I’m not one to put myself out there much on the internet, but I figure, at this point, my readership is so slow with my lack of posting, why not put myself out there a bit and perhaps spark some more interested readers and gain some new perspectives?

And who knows, maybe I’ll throw in a few Dateline/48 Hours/true crime posts as well. Since, um, one of the accused parties in one of my posts actually found me post-jail release and wanted to talk about the “holes in my story” and “the truth.” (Never thought that would happen, but I guess I’m not surprised.)

Heartbroken

It had just rained. Steam rose from the pavement. As soon as I walked out of the air-conditioned building, I felt as though I had walked into a rainforest.

This is a frequent feeling in Florida, especially after rain falls. I walked along a boardwalk situated just feet above a damp, swampy marsh and reached a deck on the end, looking onto a lake. The sounds of frogs and birds played as the hum of the freeway could be heard in the distance. I sat down, alone, on the damp wood staring at my phone, waiting to hear the fate of something I’ve earnestly and whole-heartedly prayed about for the last twenty-five months.

With every slight blow of the wind, droplets fell from the trees and onto the screen of my phone. And every minute or so, each verdict was read, leading up to that final moment: the sentence. Life in prison without parole or death.

Tears streamed down my face as I said out loud, “Please Jesus. Please.” Please God. Don’t let them do this. Don’t let them give this precious man a sentence of death.

As someone who has, for a long time, been a strong supporter of the death penalty, I have never so badly wished for a life sentence. But for some reason, from the moment I first saw the picture of this man in the grainy survellience tapes released by the FBI, I have wanted nothing more than to see him turn his life around, even if it is in prison, and feel remorseful while being redeemed by the blood shed by Jesus. I have wanted nothing more than to see this man in heaven one day, and to be able to call him my brother for eternity.

And that’s what I’ve prayed. Nearly every day for the last two years and one month, I have earnestly prayed for his man, for his heart, for his soul, for his mind, for his family–for everything, all to lead up to his eventual faith and salvation in our one true God and His Son.

My thought process was: if Dzhokhar (“Jahar”) spends his life in prison, it will essentially buy him more time on this earth, thus more time to make that turn and receive that redemption he so desperately needs. If he dies, unchanged, that’s it. There are no second chances. He needed all the time he could get to remain on this earth, and if that meant life in prison, then that’s what he would get.

I have almost always taken the side of the prosecution in every last case I’ve ever studied, followed, and read. For crying out loud, I almost went to law school to become a prosecutor so I could personally play a huge part in helping convict these criminals who, by all accounts, I believed certainly deserve death for what they’ve done (should it be a capital offense). And even though this man has done heinous, awful, terrible things, I never once believed the death penalty was justified for him. Not for a second.

People often ask me, “Why him?” Why do I feel so strongly about wishing the best for him, when my past shows I always want “the worst” for others? I don’t have an answer to that, because all I can say, without a doubt in my mind, is God has placed this tremendous love for him within my heart. God has placed it within me to pray for this man, to pray for his salvation, and to pray for his redemption. Because if we’re being honest here: I have never wished that for a convicted criminal until now.

God has shown me, over the last two years, just a small fraction of a percentage of how he feels toward people like Tsarnaev, like Emwazi, and like bin Laden. He’s shown me a small portion of the love He feels for these people and the sadness He feels when they have not only rejected Him, but they’ve caused pain and hurt onto so many others undeserving of it. He’s shown me His desire for all of His creation to come to Him, no matter what they’ve done on this earth. There is nothing He won’t forgive, whether it’s placing a bomb at a marathon, killing three innocent people including a child. Whether it’s cutting off the heads of innocent prisoners solely for your own selfish “religious” purpose. Whether it’s flying commercial airplanes into buildings, killing thousands of people. It does not matter. God forgives it all, and to Him, there is no “worse” sin than another. It’s all the same to Him, no matter how trivial we may think our “little sins” are on the “scale of sin” we as humans have conjured up in our heads–it’s all the same to Him.

And that’s where I have a serious problem with the “earthy punishment justification” this world and this country, especially, has developed in recent years, especially living in a world so saturated with terrorism. Because the fact of the matter is this: all sins are the same to God; He has no scale. Our punishment as humans for all of the sins we’ve committed in our lifetime is death. So who are we, as a society, as humans even, to say one sin is worse than another and therefore, justified to kill another human being because they’ve reached “the top of the sin scale”? Who are we do that? Who are we to decide someone’s sin is worth paying for with their own life?

So there it was. The sentence, at the end of the twenty-four page verdict form: death.

I cried out to God, “No. No. NOOOOO!” I screamed. I fell to the ground, my body draped over my legs. I struggled to breathe I cried so hard. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t believe twelve men and women had unanimously decided it was appropriate that this man–this precious man, created in the image of our God–would pay for this horrific crime with his life. How could this be true?

My face was covered in mascara and eyeliner. I tried to wipe it away, but it didn’t matter. Perhaps the heat and the moisture outside was quickly baking it into my skin. Shaking with fear, sadness, and struggling to breathe, I walked down the boardwalk, back into the building, unable to control my sobs. “No, no God,” I kept saying. “He can’t die. He can’t die for this.”

But according to the verdict from that jury, he will. After everything. After all of my prayers, my cries to God, my begging Him to instill some love and compassion into those jurors — it just didn’t happen.

Through this journey God has called me on, and I’ve followed Him, I’ve met others who feel the exact same love in their heart for Jahar as I do. People who, all over this country, all have the exact same story. Just like me, they didn’t choose this; God chose them. God placed this love, passion, and desire within their hearts just as He’s done for me. I remember one of the first things one of them said to me after we “met” was she thought maybe the death penalty is what Jahar needs to bring him to salvation, out of sheer desperation, being imminently faced with death with an execution date looming over his head. While I agreed, I never believed it would come to that. I never believed he would get the death penalty because I had believed all this time he was going to be spared from it. And now–it is what he’s facing. Maybe it will be ten years from now, maybe it will be twenty years from now, and maybe I’ll never know his own fate until I die myself, but I will never stop praying for his redemption, forgiveness that comes through our Father, and most importantly: his salvation through Jesus.

Chicago

Last weekend, we took a trip to Chicago and Champaign-Urbana for my husband’s cousin’s wedding. It was my first time walking out of Chicago-Midway airport and we had a wonderful time. Thank you so much to my in-laws for taking us along! I’m so blessed to have married into such a great family.

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An incredibly sad time for my Tory Burch flats. A walk around the grounds turned into this. So, so terrible. Trash the dress photo shoot? More like, trash the shoes. Luckily, they cleaned up well!