Why I believe all animals do go to heaven

The first true loss of a loved one I experienced was on February 25, 2004 when my precious baby, Princess (though rarely called that as we are big on nicknames in our family), suddenly had to be put to sleep at the young age of seven years old. It was one of the hardest things our family ever had to go through, and to make matters worse, my dad was deployed to the Middle East for four months the very next day. We were absolutely sickened by the loss of our beautiful animal we rescued from the wild in Clarksville, TN.

When we took her to the vet on that fateful afternoon, we said our goodbyes to the cat who was struggling for her life. I was out of control crying, petting her for the last time, as the vet and my parents all gathered around her one last time. “In a few minutes, you will close your eyes to sleep, and Jesus will come take you. He will take you home, sweetheart. Do not worry. You will be fine,” I told her, repeatedly.

“Say hello to our precious Jasmine,” my mother added. Jasmine was their baby that they had adopted before I was born, who had died of a seizure two days after his 13th birthday in 1999.

We were all crying as we watched her be taken to the back room where my parents joined the vet one last time. My sister and I waited in the waiting room, sobbing.

After we came home that afternoon, we were a grief-stricken family who could not even bare to look at her food and water dish, or even one of her many hairs she left behind on the carpet. I prayed out loud through my tears, “God, please tell me where she is. Please let me know if she is okay.”

The next day, I awoke to my find my mother sitting in the living room with her Bible and some coffee. She had tears streaming down her face and she said, “I’ve never done this before, but this morning, I randomly opened the Bible and at the top of the page, was this verse,” and she handed me the Bible, opened. Sure enough, there at the top was this:

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. -1 Corinthians 15:44, ASV

I looked at her wide-eyed as that verse stood strong at the top of that page. She told me, “Can you believe that? If it has an earthly body, it also has a spiritual body!” We both smiled through our tears, but still weren’t entirely convinced just by the one verse. Later that day, she told me that she had come across another verse as she began to research God’s view on animals some more.

Right before Genesis states that God created humans, it says that he created animals, both in the sea and on land as livestock.

God made every one of them. Then he looked at what he had done, and it was good. -Genesis 1:25, CEV

God created animals before He created humans on the sixth day, and He looked at those animals and saw it as none other than “good.” He gave them an earthly body, so that they may also have a spiritual body, and He saw their creation as a blessing to the earth. How wonderful to know that our God truly cares for our animals! And not just our domestic animals, but also our whales, lions, and fish!

Later on after we had discovered these two Biblical references relating to God’s creation of animals, my mother came to me holding a small book titled something along the lines of, “What Heaven is Like,” with colorful, water-colored painted illustrations and one-liners on each page on what the author believed heaven would be like. It was one of those small gift books available near the register at Barnes and Noble, or perhaps a book you’d consider as a stocking stuffer. Nothing too intense, but also not a child’s book. Just a simple account of what someone’s dreams of heaven. I read the book aloud next to my mother on the couch, crying as we turned each page, struggling through every sentence. Throughout the book, there was one constant illustration, though subtle on each page. It was of a young girl with light brown hair, holding a calico cat. Every page contained this illustration even if the words on that page weren’t conveying anything about animals, there was the little girl in the corner, or in the background, holding her calico cat. I smiled a little as we approached the last page and read the last line (I wish I knew what it was but I can’t remember), and we both looked at the girl with her cat again.

“That’s you, Taylor,” my mother said.

“And that’s her,” I replied, more tears starting to come down my cheeks.

“Wh… wh… when did you buy this?” I struggled to say, realizing what God had revealed to us for a third time.

“About six weeks ago,” she said. She never buys little books like that and never really buys books, period, because she’s a big library-goer for her source of reading.

I looked at her and said, “That’s it, she’s there, I know she’s there.” God had told me through these two verses and this beautiful book that our Princess was in the hands of our Lord, free from all illness, suffering, and destruction. She was fine, and she would be waiting for me at the gates of heaven when I arrived.

And you probably won’t believe me if I told you this, but after we closed that book, I don’t remember us crying anymore about her sudden death. We were comforted with an overwhelming peace that she was in the hands of the One who created her, and that made it all the better.

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My Senior High Prom Experience, Part 2

Continued from part one. If you missed it, please redirect.

Before I get into some oh-so-exciting details of the actual prom night, let’s rewind a few weeks and explain, in my own words (from my very own Live Journal) what was happening. We’ll start with April 28, 2005. Two weeks before prom. Now, I am going to tell you that I cannot remember exactly what happened on this night, but I can say that I came home in tears around 11:00pm (my curfew, if you’d like to call it that) and wrote the following:

who the hell was i kidding?!
myself obviously. something’s changed. he doesn’t like me anymore. i am certain of it. his behavior tonight made it evident to me that he doesn’t want anything more to do with me. THANKS.

Now, fast forward to May 3, 2005. We are now a mere four days until prom. I once again, came home in tears around 11:00pm and wrote the following (which has been edited to suit PG audiences):

SCREW GUYS.
SCREW EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM.
BECAUSE I HATE THEM ALL.

today, things hit rock bottom just as i predicted they would. i think this is a new record. this one lasted for about … one month and three weeks. i’ve been waiting for this slippery slope to start, and damn did it start last week. and wow, it hit rock bottom today and almost turned ugly but i walked away from it. i’ve had just about all i can take of this. really. right now i’d be JUST FINE if i never saw another guy again. i’m sick of their up and down insensitive bull crap, i’m sick of them acting like they want nothing to do with me, and i’m just sick of them period.

that’s it. i’m done.

Again, don’t ask me what happened because I cannot remember. This was the last I spoke of Ray in my journal before prom. And I remember, specifically, I worked a closing shift the night before prom at Panera, and I was sweeping the floor and talking to another girl co-worker about how I pretty much didn’t want to go to prom anymore and that things with Ray and I had gotten really bad, really fast. She said something to me that I still remember to this day: “Taylor, do not let him ruin your prom.” So I did just that. And you’d never know just how boiling mad I was inside by just glancing at the pictures.

Above is me outside on our beautiful lanai minutes before the chariot arrived. I had gotten my hair done and had the most perfect dress that I had tried on months before that I was able to track down thanks to The Other Courtney all the way in Potomac Mills in DC! (Oh and if you could not tell, I was not wearing a bra and I certainly did not need one!)

Away we go, inside of Ray’s precious, over-the-top, Mustang with a gigantic spoiler on the back. Note that I am (and probably he was too) laughing at both of my parents who were taking more pictures than at the first pitch at game one of the World Series. We drove to Kelli’s house, where a white limo with red ‘runway’ carpet awaited us. I still admire Kelli greatly for her confidence she displayed that day–she was the only one in our prom group who did not have a date. Yet she looked amazing!

Above is Kelli and me in the limo, on the way to the botanical gardens where we decided to take our group pictures. Ray was sitting on the other side of me, for that particular second. Little did I know that that second would be the only time he sat next to me in the limo. Later, I believe it was after dinner or even after pictures, he sat next to another girl in our group, who was my friend Tyler’s date. He proceeded to ride with his arm around her while I sat in the corner alone. Steam blowing from my ears? No way.

Above is our family photo. From the left we have Tiffany (Tyler’s date, a freshman in high school at the time), Tyler, myself, Ray, Jaime, Matt, Kelli, Chris (who had already graduated from high school the year prior), and his girlfriend Kelli. I was extremely pleased with how our pictures turned out and I would not trade that location for anything!

Above are the girls from our group on the dock outside of the restaurant we chose to eat at in downtown Tampa, Jackson’s. The sunset that evening was absolutely unreal, and we were thrilled we were able to capture it while so dressed up. Ray sat next to me at dinner, but was more interested in talking to Tiffany than he was talking to me at the table. Ignored by my own date at dinner? Never, ever.

The photo above can sum up our entire evening once we arrived at the dance. I remember when we arrived at the venue, the Italian Club in Ybor City, we walked up a set of stairs, and at the top was a boy I had liked since the beginning of senior year, but nothing had ever become of it, despite our apparent mutual interest in one another. His date, who was a freshman in college, snagged him as a prom date in early September 2004. She broke the “cardinal rule of prom asking” and asked someone else to their prom that was not her prom! Once we arrived into the ballroom, I honestly do not remember dancing with Ray at all except for maybe two songs that were slow songs. (And we all know they played more than two slow songs the entire night!) He was literally no where to be found, but I was told by others that he was with Tiffany for most of the night. That would mean that Tiffany’s date, Tyler, was left alone as well. Heartbreaking.

For many seniors, the actual dance portion of prom is just the beginning of the evening. People get hotel rooms, go to the beach, go to after-parties, and usually don’t come home until the next morning. This was the first and only night of my entire life that my parents literally told me, “I don’t care when you come home.” To this day, even when I go to their house at Christmas, they still have never muttered those same words to me. I could not tell you how happy I was to not have a curfew for the first time in my life. We got back in the limo around 11:30 or so, and I do not for one second remember sitting next to Ray. I do remember, vaguely, seeing Ray next to Tiffany in the limo as Tiffany lay her head on his shoulder. The steam was rising at this point and it was harder and harder to keep it inside of me. So, where does the limo take us after prom?

Sonic.

I remember vividly climbing out of the limo, Ray and Tiffany already way ahead of me, and some of the girls saying things to me, like, “we can’t believe what we’re seeing.” Neither could I, gals. We ordered ice cream at Sonic, and I sat at a different table than Ray, conveniently because he and Tiffany had already snagged another.

After the limo took us back to Kelli’s house, where everyone’s cars were, I was not going to be a bit surprised if Ray decided to go somewhere with Tiffany instead of me. It crossed my mind that I wondered how I would get home and if Kelli’s parents would have to take me. But Tiffany and Tyler jumped into his ’68 (I think?) Mustang and Ray and I jumped into his and we all went our separate ways. It was around 12:30 at this point, and I wasn’t ready to go home yet, but since the group had decided to split, I suppose we decided to each just do our own thing. Ray decided to drive us out to the “country” out by Fishhawk Ranch, which was a new development that was literally in the middle of nowhere. There are a lot of back country roads where he liked to take his Mustang “racing” late at night. We drove up to a new neighborhood off of one of the roads that was still under construction and he put the car in park and said, “OK, let’s make out.”

Now, pause the story for one second so I can say one thing: at this point in my life, I had still never kissed anyone. Okay, play the story again.

My thoughts were, “Oh my gosh, maybe he actually wants something to do with me now?” followed by a “oh no, please God do not let this be my first kiss…forced and awkward like this is.” We sat there, with the car running, not really saying much, and then a few minutes later, he puts the car in reverse and peels onto the country road surrounded by “Emo Field” on one side, and farm land on the other. He drove down these roads, zig-zagging all over, and said nothing to me. We were in silence for a good ten minutes or so, before we reached an intersection near civilization where he said, “Okay, want to go home now?”

He made a left turn and continued toward my house, and as we were turning off of this two lane road, he spoke again. “I’m going to miss you when you go to UCF next month.” My eyes darted back and fourth and I’m sure my mouth was at least partially opened. You’re going to miss me? I thought. Your actions have displayed the opposite in the last two weeks. I scrambled for words again and said, “Well, I’m having a going away party that you can come to,” and he didn’t really have much of a response to it other than, “maybe.” I also said something along the lines of, “I won’t be too far away.”

We pulled into my driveway and I still have the image burned into my head of what the clock read at that moment. 12:59. Seriously?! Prom night, my parents don’t give me a curfew, and I get home before 1:00am?! I told him thank you for the evening and got out of the car to punch the code into the keypad to open the garage door. Before the door was even halfway open, he was already gone. He didn’t walk me to the door and I don’t even remember if he so much as pulled into the driveway. I could not believe that the evening was finally over at such an un-Godly early hour.

My co-worker’s advice worked. I did not let him ruin my prom, despite his actions. This was my prom, and I was determined to have a good time. And girls that have yet to reach their senior year and have not yet experienced prom, all I have to say is this: it’s okay if you don’t have a date, and if you do, do not let him ruin your night. You will be so glad that you didn’t let a high school boy control your happiness.

My Senior High Prom Experience, inspired by ‘The Other Courtney’

This was me in my senior year of high school, when I believe I looked my best:

Would you believe me if, after seeing that picture, I told you that I have never, to this day, been asked to a dance (that would be homecomings and proms) in my life? Well, believe it. Because it’s true. No boy ever asked me to homecoming, no boy ever asked me to prom. The reason? Who knows. (Boys who knew me back then, please, enlighten me, because I would love to solve this mystery) But once prom season approached, I started panicking as I realized: I may not get asked to prom.

Sure enough, the months and weeks went by during my second half of my senior year and as of March 30, I still had not been asked to the dance set to take place on May 7. I can’t recall how I started talking to Ray, but we had taken a slightly-more-than-friends interest in each other during the second half of the year. Ray was, at the time, a junior at my high school and also attended the same church. He had always been popular with the girls, but for some reason, he started showing me attention and I responded. He had met my parents at church a few times and my mom was thrilled that “finally, a Christian boy was paying attention to me.” She threw out the suggestion that I ask to him to prom, and I laughed in her face. Me, a girl, ask a guy to prom? Ha. Then my friends reminded me that if I wanted to go with him, I would have to ask him because it was my prom, and I was the senior, not him. The unspoken rule of prom-asking states that someone who is not a senior cannot ask another senior to their prom. Therefore, it was in my hands. Excellent. I had hardly even been on a date at this point in my life, let alone did I have experience asking any boy anything. Tick tock. Time was running out.

Ray and I would usually walk out to the parking lot together after school. We’d talk about our days and he’d occasionally hold my hand and hug me goodbye. We hadn’t gone on any “dates” at this point, but I was waiting for the opportunity to ask him to prom before someone else took my chances of even going to prom away from me. After chickening out one Friday after school, I asked him if I could stop by his house after work (in my Panera get-up, of course) because we needed to talk and it couldn’t wait. (Excellent, I know) So, the story went down like this, as archived in my very own journal dated April 2, 2005:

wow um, so today … was quite a day. after blowing two chances i had clear in front of me … i finally did it. i asked a guy to prom. holy freaking cow dude, i’ve never been so nervous in my entire life. AHHHHHHHHHHHH! so it was by far the scariest thing i’ve done in my entire life. so we were sitting there, outside on the truck for a while talking about mindless stuff, and then he’s like, “soooo … you said you wanted to talk to me. what was it about?” and i was like, “oh. um. that. yes…” and i bit my lip b/c i couldn’t think of anything to say. that, and my stomach was FILLED with butterflies. i felt like i was gonna throw up dude, i saw it happening. so i just sat there … not saying anything, looking up at the tree tops … b/c i was so freaking nervous, my palms were like waterfalls, my mind was going in about ten different directions and i was scared out of my freaking skin. so finally i was like, “so…i don’t want to go to prom with kyle. i don’t like kyle … like that. i don’t want to go with him. and, it’s not like i ask guys to the prom everyday. and it’s not like i get asked to the prom everyday, sooo … i think that…” and he was like, “you want to go to the prom with me?” and i was like, “yes. will you go to prom with me?” and he was like, “yes, i will. i just have to ask my mom…” then my mouth dropped and i was like, “…do you think … she would say yes?” and he was like, “yeah, i’m pretty sure she will.” and BAM. the butterflies were gone. nervousness almost gone.

So I came home and did a face similar to this one:

Ray and I started seeing each other more, going out on some dates in his ridiculous, over-the-top, pimped-out silver Mustang. It was a fun car to ride in, but it was rather embarrassing sometimes that he insisted on backing in to every last parking space, including the first time we went to Steak-N-Shake. This continued for about a month or so, and then things between Ray and I started to go downhill. Little did I know what was in store for us, having prom just around the corner. I remember nearly calling off having him as my date, but I decided to stick it out since I had been the one to ask him, and we already had everything paid for–tickets, reservations, dresses, tuxes, hair appointments, and so fourth. But little did we know what was in store for us on that lovely evening…

Scoping out possible picture spots the morning of prom

…to be continued.

To my love

Happy “Second One Year” Anniversary!

To my supportive, caring, and amazing man in my life, Ryan. I am beyond blessed to have you back in my life for one whole year. I am so happy to soon be able to start our new lives together in the next few years. I was the most miserable being without you for seven months, but now I truly count it all as joy. It was a trial that led you to believe I was on the one for you, and made me realize (very quickly) that you were the one for me. There is no other man that could make me a happier or a better woman than you. I am thrilled to celebrate the day we met again, April 15, 2010, with you tonight. You mean more to me than any amount of tears I could cry or words I could write. I love you.

“He is altogether lovely. This is my lover, this is my friend.” -Song of Songs 5:16

New Found Good in Humanity

A few weeks ago, while I was in the middle of my “Becoming, Being, and Leaving Greek” series, I had an amazing thing happen to me that I have enjoyed telling others because it has really strengthened my belief that maybe there are some good people left in the world.

As I have previously mentioned, money for me is tight almost all the time. I don’t make much at my job that I have and after benefits and taxes, I take home less than $1800 a month. I’ve become diligent in the last few months, however, cutting down my spending to, well…non-existent.

But there’s one exception: Starbucks.

I have to have Starbucks every day. It is a terrible addiction that I wish I hadn’t ever developed, but working an 8am-5pm job Monday-Friday slowly drains my energy. So, I’ve limited my spending to the necessities: rent, gas, car payment, bills, and coffee. I reached the “Starbucks Gold” level in less than a month after activating a gift card I received for my birthday. I am at the same Starbucks every day, where the employees know me by first and last name and my drink right down to my specifications to the point to where it is ready before I even reach the register (if there’s a line). A few Saturdays ago, however, I went to a different Starbucks a few miles from my house. I entered the drive-through line, after an indecisive, half-in-half-out Land Rover decided to leave the line. I ordered a drink for myself, my boyfriend, and a small chocolate donut. The total was $7.67 and I pulled forward, ready to pay with my reloaded Starbucks card. I noticed the car in front of me was a silver Accord with some old decals from UCF on the back window. I had my excited-in-all-drive-through-lines Jack Russell in the car with me who was bouncing around the passenger seat and dashboard eager to receive his milk bone treat when we reached the window.

I pulled up to the window after the Accord, and my drinks were handed to me right away. I started to hand the barista my card when she said, “She just paid for you.”

My mouth was gaping as I grabbed the drink. “Wh-what? What?”

“She just paid for your order,” the barista said, smiling.

“The whole thing? Are you serious?” I said.

“Yes, the whole thing. Does he want a treat?” the barista asked.

“Ye-yes please! Get out of town! I can’t believe she paid for my whole order!” I took the treat from her and gave it to my dog who swallowed it nearly whole.

“It happens a lot here. People doing random acts of kindness I guess,” she said.

“Are you serious? I can’t believe it,” I said.

“Yes, if I see her again, I’ll let her know what a smile she brought to your face,” the barista said as I started to drive away.

The whole ride home, I was hoping to see the silver Accord going in the same direction as me but I never did. I got back to my apartment to find my boyfriend waiting for me. When I told him what had just happened, his first response was, “You’re kidding.”

I shared the great news on Twitter with my followers. One response was, “On purpose or an accident?” It was most certainly on purpose and I cannot express how impressed I was by that lady to pay for my entire almost eight dollar order.

Since I started supporting myself fully a little over a year ago, I’ve learned more than I could explain about money. I still have a lot to learn about it though, unfortunately. But, more recently, I’ve learned the value of one dollar. I’ve learned, through paying all of my bills every month and literally leaving my checking account down to cents, just how much every cent and every dollar is worth. And, yes, I realize that $7.67 is a lot to spend on coffee for two people, but I like it to be my contribution sometimes!

I don’t want to say that this lady “picked the right person to pay for,” because that sounds selfish, but I believe that she did pick someone who was more than appreciative of what she did for me. I feel like a lot of people would have said, “Oh thanks,” and not thought about it much after that because it’s not a big deal to them. And I’ll admit, too, that though I was raised to be appreciative of anything anyone does for me (even driving me places or holding doors open), I am even more grateful since I’ve started supporting myself fully.

I’ve been challenged by pastors in church a few times to pay for someone else’s order at McDonald’s or Starbucks, but I haven’t actually done it before. This may sound selfish (again), but sometimes I think to myself, “Why would I want to do that for someone when people treat other people the way they do?” I guess you can say that over the years I’ve developed a mentality that most people are not good at heart. Most people wouldn’t turn in a wallet they found on the street bursting with cash. Most people wouldn’t pick up a dead animal in the road or even break for one. At least, not anymore.

But this lady proved me wrong. It turns out, there are some good people left in the world.

I’d like to challenge anyone who reads this to pay for the person behind them at Starbucks, or McDonald’s, or even at a sit down restaurant pay for the table next to you. Even if you never see the person’s reaction, remember that they may be someone who was eternally grateful for one small thing you did for them that made their day.