Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Choose Life

This month, we remember and honor the Sanctity of Human Life in a special way. My mom sent me a writing challenge, to write a poem about choosing life. I thought about writing about babies or moms or terminally ill people, but last night I decided to just write about me, and my daily choice to live. I hope it is an encouragement to you - whether you struggle with the value of your own life, or you wonder if there are other lives that are too small or weak or insignificant to value.

"Here we go again, God,"
I breathe as my alarm starts to ring.
"I don't know if I can do this thing called Life today..."
I lie still,
blinking awake because I can do
nothing else.
I wait in the semi-light of dawn
and wonder what this day will bring.
"You can choose, you know,"
my Father whispers to me.
"I always let you choose to live today or not.
Consider your choices,
and choose what is best."

The sharp pain in my hip
and the tingling in my foot
Forecast a day of stiffness
and swelling.
I take a deep breath
Wheezing and rattling
And know my tasks for the morning will be
Coughing and breathing.
I want to stretch my arms and my back,
But this blanket and gravity
hold me fast.
Glaring across the room,
I weigh whether it would be better to
Lay in this bed or
sit in that wheelchair.

My attendant - my friend -
opens the door and lets herself in
And sits in my chair,
quietly waiting.
She's giving me a choice, I realize.
She loves me and knows me,
And is letting me choose
to start my day.

I think a little more about my aches and pains,
And then I think about my patient friend,
Whose joy and kindness warm my heart.
I think about how beautiful musical poetry
Awaits in my CD player.
I think about Hannah and Kelsey and Pam
And how these friends will make me laugh today.
I think about my international students
Who will come to my home and call me "Tee-cha!"
I think about my African and Burmese teenagers
Who will make me crazy in the best possible ways.
I think about all the mysterious and thrilling adventures
Holding their breath, just waiting for me
to sit up and start the day...
And who cares about pinched nerves when
I have a Burmese baby brother named Sammy
Who gives me sloppy wet kisses?

Life isn't measured in pain, but in joy -
And the joy of the Lord is my strength.
Life isn't dependent on weakness, but on power -
And his power is made perfect in my weakness.
Life isn't defined by problems, but by purpose -
And He works in me day by day to fulfill his good purpose.
It isn't about what I can't do, but about what God can do -
And He can do all things.

It is a choice -
to give up or to have faith,
to despair or to hope.

And today, I choose life.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Celebrating Hanukkah

Last night, some friends and I got together to celebrate Hanukkah. Yes, we know it isn't that time of year. Yes, we know it lasts eight days, not one night. And yes, we know we aren't Jewish. So why did we do it?

Well, we did a Passover Sader last year, and really loved learning from the tradition about the symbols from the Torah and how they point to Jesus. It was a fresh reminder to us of our faith and hope and salvation. We love how the Jewish holidays serve to help them remember God's faithfulness and his mighty acts throughout history. And we, as followers of Jesus, ought to take time to remember these things as well.

During the actual holiday time, we were all in different corners of the world, so we decided to do it once we were all together again, and planning to gather for eight days in a row became too complicated... hence the one night, several weeks too late. So, not really knowing anything at all about Hanukkah, and knowing that not every detail would be strictly orthodox, we decided to try it anyway and see what God would teach us in our attempt.  So Hannah and Brie did the research and preparations, and the rest of us showed up...

Brie made the kosher brisket and latkas that were the feast, with freshly cut fruit. We each had a paper Star of David, and on the back, Hannah wrote the Hebrew version of each of our names. Kevan read the history behind the celebration of Hanukkah during the meal. After dinner we said the blessings together, lit the candles of the menorah, and sang a song of praise. Later on, we played the dreydel game and had leftovers from the meal.

In this Hanukkah experience, I learned that it is a celebration of the miracles and wonders of God. The only purpose the candles are meant to serve is to remind us to give thanks to God for the great things he has done. It was beautiful to have the light catch my eye often throughout the evening, causing me to pause and say "thank You," over and over again.

It makes me want to look back through my life, and my family's history, to pinpoint and mark the calendar with momentous times like this. But even then, it is important for me to remember that God's faithfulness is as constant as the sun, his mercy is new every morning, his love endures forever. Every day is a chance to celebrate his goodness and power!

"Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has kept us alive, and has preserved us, and enabled us to reach this time."

*Photos taken by Brie Elliott and Kelsey Crook!