The Day After

I remember the day of September 11th when time seemed to freeze on the image of those two proud, tall, and shining buildings crumbling to the ground.  I remember the image of people running with anguish on their faces and their bodies covered in ash.  I remember people begging for their loved ones to be found.  I remember wondering how humans could have so much hatred in their hearts that they would choose death over life.  I remember the day of September 11th.

But…it is the day after September 11th that I remember as well.  I remember waking up, running to the television, and desperately hoping for a little good news.  I remember praying and pleading that more survivors were found over night.  I remember laying on the couch in a fetal position sobbing over the strangers whose lives were gone, feeling the heart-break for the families, and knowing that life would never be the same.

I remember getting ready for work, hopping in my car, and driving as if in a quiet trance.  Going to work after such a tragedy did not even seem right.  I was in graduate school full-time while working part-time at a pizza cafe, so asking people if they wanted cheese on their salad, pepperoni on their pizza, or a refill of their drinks seemed so trivial compared to the visions blasted on every television screen around.

I remember being annoyed by a group of ladies who seemed to be completely oblivious to what had just occurred.  They were laughing, telling stories…you know….just having a “girls’ lunch” while the rest of the folks in the restaurant spoke in hush, softened voices.  I wondered if they were purposefully ignoring the news or if they did not see how that fateful day affected everyone.

I’ll admit that growing up in the middle of America caused me to get a little used to things happening far off in the big cities or on the coast-lines.  This time though was different.  I remember calling my mom and telling her, I think life in America will never be the same again.”

Out of my own ignorance or false sense of security, or whatever it is one might call it, I never really thought an attack would happen to us.  But, it did.  I also knew that it was now just a matter of time before we would be headed off to war.  To be honest, this broke my heart and scared me a little as well.

Yes, I remember the day after September 11th.

Road to Joplin

Day 2 with Joplin flag

This weekend I had the privilege of riding in a cycling event called the MS 150.  Every  year hundreds, if not a thousand or so cyclists make their way to a small town in southwest Missouri to complete a 150 mile bike ride.  This is done to bring attention and raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis.

This was my third year riding in this event.  I always seem to walk away from it with a great sense of accomplishment.  It is also quite humbling to be cheered on at the start line by people who live daily with MS.  This year, a woman with MS said to us, “When you get towards the last few miles and your legs are burning, just remember me saying Thank You.  Just remember that you are riding for many of us who cannot.”  Then, at the finish line, the same man every year, bound to his wheelchair, holds his hand out with a medal dangling from it.  As one reaches for his or her medal, the man gently says “thank you”.  It is quite humbling and I hope to ride in future 150’s.

This year though had even more of an impact on me, but for a different reason.  This is the first year that the ride took us back to Joplin, MO after the deadly tornado which claimed the lives of so many in May 2011.  Last year, the ride had to be rerouted and completely taken out of the Joplin area due to the devastation of the storm.  I had been there about a week or so after the tornado struck, and was silenced by what I had seen.  Cars with windshields blown out laying on top of each other, buildings that looked like they exploded by the force of a bomb, houses upon houses crumbled up like sticks, and trees stripped completely down to the bark.  It was shocking.  Just shocking.  The city I live in is close to Joplin and we are so lucky that the storm did not rumble its way towards us.

Although my work has taken me back to Joplin a few times, I usually do not drive through the area where the destruction took place.  This year, the MS committee planned the route specifically to take us through some of the path of the tornado.  Before I entered this area, my legs were screaming, my mind was off in some other place, there was pain tucked right in between my shoulders, and I was ready to be done.  I had been in the saddle for about seven hours, and my own “saddle” was telling me it was time to get off.

However, this changed when I entered the area where that beast of a storm stole normalcy from the lives of so many.  The few trees that survived were mangled.  Their bare branches looked like hands reaching towards the heavens in desperation.  Others bent over, all leaning to one side; yet, fresh green leaves bushed out from whatever spot they could find.

As I got closer to the eerily flattened area where houses once stood, I thought about the families and children who once lived there.  I imagined kickball being played in the streets, children swinging from swing sets, families walking their pet dogs or washing their cars.  All of this wiped clean.  Sure, there were new houses being built and definitely the vision of new growth could be seen, but I just kept thinking about how much destruction took place on those grounds.  The names of streets had been painted on the roads.  The ground was completely stripped of grass. There were partially crumbled buildings still being torn down.  It just went on and on.

As I drew nearer to the “end” of the destruction zone, I became overwhelmed with emotion.  I thought about the mothers who lost their babies, the babies who lost their daddies and mommies, and all the others who never woke again on this Earth to see the sun rise.  All I could think was “so much destruction, so much despair.”

But there in that moment on my bike with nothing but my own thoughts, I realized, or at least was reminded, that the Lord is not a god of destruction.  He is not a god of devastation.  He is not a god of despair.  He is the God of regrowth, rebirth, restoration, and life.  He lifts up our heads.  He carries us through the storms.  He gives us life.

The next morning as 800 or cyclists gathered around to start day two of the cycling event, small Joplin flags were handed out to each of us.  We placed them in our helmets, on our bikes, or held them in our hands as we rode through part of what was named “Memorial Miles”.  With just the sound of wind, the breathing of fellow riders, and the hissing-like noises from spinning our wheels, we rode in silence in honor of those killed by the Joplin tornado and in honor of the courage it has taken for the city to rebuild.

This year the road to Joplin became more than just a cycling event that I love to participate in.  Yes, it was done in an effort to support those struggling with Multiple Sclerosis.  However, I left the event with Joplin on my mind.  This weekend turned into a reminder of the blessing of health, of love, of family, of home, and of our incredible Heavenly Father who restores, renews, and leads us to Life.

Two Blog Awards

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you so much to Steve at Words to Love By for nominating my blog for the Traffic Raiser Blog Award and the Super Sweet Blogging Award.  The “nod” is very nice and I really do appreciate it!  The name of his blog basically says it all.  We could all use many words to LOVE by!  I encourage each of you to check it out.

I’m going to cheat a little though…hope that is okay.  Instead of nominating what would be a total of 28 blogs for these two awards, I just want to say thank you for taking a little bit of time out of your days to read my blog posts.  I also want to encourage fellow bloggers to keep up the great work of writing.  I’ve read so many wonderful blogs and continue to be inspired by people, their lives, their stories, their missions, their grief, their creativity, and their faith.

Just this week during a conversation with a co-worker, I reported that it has been really good to see how many people are “out there” in the blog world sharing their stories, encouraging each other in their faith, reaching out to the least of these, and walking towards a life that is closer to God and gratitude.  I am also amused by the wonder of creativity and ability as evidenced by the incredible writing, drawing, and photography that has crossed my path through these past few months of blogging.

Thanks again to Words to Love By for nominating me for two awards.  I sincerely appreciate it!

Blessings to all!

few words, big meaning

I thought I would share my son’s prayer the morning before we walked out the door heading to his first day at Kindergarten.  It has been a few weeks since he said this prayer, but it still lingers in my mind and on my heart.  I asked him if he would like to say a prayer for his first day at school and he said yes.  I waited for his cue to see if he wanted me to say it, but instead, he chose to lead.  It went like this:

Dear God,

Help me to make good choices at school.  I want to be good.  Help me Lord.

Amen

The prayer was straight to the point, had few words, but so meaningful.  He knew what he wanted.  He simply asked for it.  He stated his desire to be good.  He acknowledged his need for the Lord to help him.

I think a lot of us adults could learn a lesson or two in this…don’t you?

Life in a Fish Bowl

Here is a brief part from my memoir I have stored away on my computer.  I am getting closer to making a decision about trying to publish it, but in the meantime, I am finding that parts of it inspire me to write blog posts that are not necessarily even related to my story at all.  This section is part of chapter two where I talk about the medical aspect of what occurred, as well as, my stay in the hospital.

There was an aquarium on the pediatric unit at the hospital that housed a Newt.  When I was able to, I visited Newton (not sure if this really was his name or if I called him that on my own) just about every day.  Our eyes would make contact, and I would stare at him in his fish bowl world wondering what he was thinking.  I wished I could have jumped in the tank with him and swam around to escape.  I too had people staring at me probably wondering what I was thinking or if I really understood what had happened.  My hospital room had become my own fish bowl.

Although this is from a section of my story about the time in the hospital, I cannot help but think that we are all living in “fish bowls”.  We tend to watch each others’ actions and form opinions based on how others are swimming around.  When sad times make their way into life, we sometimes stand by and watch the reactions of people.  Often, their reactions affect our responses.

What if instead of just standing there on the outside of the “tank”, we would all make a more committed effort to jump in and swim around a bit with those who are going through a difficult time?  I wonder how many people could be eternally impacted if Christians would walk alongside people we differ from, or people who are grieving, or lonely, or homeless, or orphaned, or guilty, or addicted, or whatever else makes us think we are on one side while they are on the other.

I know it is cliché to say “what would Jesus do?”….but seriously, “What would Jesus do?”  His life, as written in Scripture, depicts a Savior who walked with people most of us would stray from.  His love is for everyone….everyone.  We are all living life in a fish bowl.  We watch others, and more importantly, others are watching us.  I think it is time that Christians (including myself) stop wading in the shallow end of the pool with only those we are like, and jump in head first with those we are least like.  After all…”What Would Jesus Do?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” – John 13:34