Tuesday, May 12, 2009
This particular "story" is something that's been mellowing in the back of my mind for awhile, I call it an allegorical fairytale but really you can read it as fluff..or not, it's up to you.
Without further ado.....
"resoLute Outright forgiVeness Everlasting"
Once upon a time, not so different from now, in a land not so unlike this place, there lived a king. This king ruled over the whole land and his kingdom was comparable to none, his subjects adored him and all the other kings of other lands came to inquire upon his wisdom. The king’s son, the crowned prince, was a perfect, handsome man, his gentle spirit could win over the hardest of hearts, yet his strength as a warrior was known throughout the entire world. He also loved to write music and composed songs about all the wonderful things in his father’s kingdom. The prince desired to find a bride, a woman that he could lavish his great love upon and serenade her with his beautiful music. His father, the king, was grieved that his son felt lonely and thus he devised a plan to find a suitable girl for the prince.
One day, the king sent out couriers to the entire land saying, “The king desires to find a bride for his son, all single women in the land are eligible for the match, come to the castle as soon as possible.”
For the next few weeks, both the king and his son sat at a window of the castle the overlooked the kingdom and they waited and waited for the parades of women that would come to accept the invitation. However, not a single woman came; no one accepted the offer from the king. Perplexed, the king decided that perhaps the women of the kingdom were so secluded maybe they hadn’t heard about how perfect and loving his son was, or of the life that they could live inside the castle. So the king told his son to ride his horse through the city and proclaim his desire to find a bride. Obediently, the next day, the prince saddled his horse and rode through all of the cities. He personally talked to several of the women, allowing them to see his deepest longings and to know his heart. Once again, the king and his son waited by the window of the castle and watched for someone, anyone to arrive and accept the prince.
Finally, after several weeks, the prince noticed a tiny dot on the road that led to his castle. As the dot drew nearer he realized that it was a woman that walked wearily towards him. Ecstatically he ran out to meet her in the middle of the road. Once he approached her, he realized that she was a simple servant, she was poor and tattered, her clothing reeked, and her hair was full of bugs. She carried large bundles of garbage and filth that she clung to and would not release even after he had brought her into the castle. The servants in the royal courts were astonished that her feet were even allowed to touch the marble floors, surely she couldn’t be a candidate for marriage to the prince! But the prince was immediately enraptured by her; it was almost as though he didn’t see any of her outward filthiness. He brought her to the greatest room in the castle and allowed her to feast in the royal banquet hall. He even wrote beautiful songs for her and spent hours everyday simply singing to her and gracing her with his presence. Slowly, she began to love him as well and as her love grew, her beauty began to show itself. The prince helped her throw away the bags of garbage she had brought to the castle and then clothed her in beautiful dresses of silk. She was papered everyday by hordes of maids that catered to her every whim. She spent much of her time with the prince, basking in his love and listening to his music.
It didn’t take long for the woman to accept the prince’s offer of marriage and soon the kingdom heard of the elaborate ceremony that took place. For months afterwards, visitors of the castle would remark about how in love and beautiful the couple was, and it was clear to everyone that the prince adored his new princess. No one was more aware of this love than the princess’ former suitor. A conniving old man, the suitor had once deceived the woman into loving him, he had no feelings for her, but since she had left him to seek a marriage with a prince, he was outraged. He had bought her for a high price when she was younger and by all rights she belonged to him. His reputation would not be tainted by the wayward heart of a woman, he vowed. A plan took form in his mind to steal her affections away from her husband.
Early one morning, the princess was taking a walk through the palace garden when she noticed a shiny object hidden among the roses. Curious, she picked it up and discovered it was one of the items she had brought to the castle. It was a worthless piece that belonged with everything else she had thrown away at the urgings of the prince. Her first thought was to throw the object into the castle’s furnace, but something drew her to the entity that she couldn’t describe, a longing for what she had thrown away. She tried to forget this feeling, but for days she was plagued by a nagging desire for things she had left behind. This desire soon developed into a terrible homesickness that overwhelmed her. Day after day she was unable to eat. Night after night sleep eluded her. The prince did everything he could to cheer her, he played his wonderful music and pampered her with finery, but she became increasingly distant towards him. Finally, driven with worry, the prince rode his horse to a neighboring kingdom in hopes of finding a doctor that could cure his beloved.
In the prince’s absence, the old suitor showed at the door of the princess’ suite. At first she was horrified to see him, but he spoke gently to her and soothed her fears. Cunningly he spoke about her place of birth; he exalted her old country and brought up stories of days gone by when he had won her love. He held her hand and beseeched her to listen to his heart’s yearnings. He told her wonderful things about how much he cared for her and that she belonged away from this kingdom that had spoiled her. Already bewitched by thoughts of her homeland, the princess forgot how harsh and perverse her old life had been and willingly she gave in to the ideas of grandeur her suitor provided. Suddenly the desire to be free of the kingdom was so great that the princess urged the suitor to take her away and to not stop his carriage until they reached her homeland. The suitor, triumphant in his victory over her emotions, granted her wish.
For three years, the prince searched vainly for his bride. For three years, he grieved publicly. There wasn’t a village in the entire country that he didn’t send scouts with messages of love and warmth for his lost wife and terror upon the individual responsible for kidnapping her. The palace halls were lonely, cold and echoed with the wretched notes of the prince’s new songs. Nothing soothed his desolate heart. Finally, hope arrived one day in the form of a messenger bearing news that a woman had been spotted who matched the princess’ description. The prince left hurriedly with the messenger; at long last he would find his lover and bring her back to the kingdom where she belonged!
The messenger led the prince to the middle of The Wastelands where a lonely, decrepit tower stood. Within this tower, the princess worked as a slave under the hand of her conniving suitor. She had always been his slave. The only time she had ever escaped his clutches was when she was with the prince. Now she was back to do his bidding, and she worked raggedly trying to please him.
The castle was guarded by a hideous beast of the Darklands. The giant creature resembled a dragon and its breath alone was too much for most men to handle. The prince was well trained with the sword however and prepared to fight the beast. His men tried to dissuade him, but he stood firm and challenged the beast. For three days they fought continuously until both were bloodied and exhausted. Just when it seemed like the creature might be able to kill the prince, he drew a last bit of strength from his love for his wife and managed to plunge his sword into the beast’s chest, effectively paving a way to enter the castle.
Overcome with a rage for the suitor and a love for his bride, the prince climbed the steep walls of the tower to the solitary window at the top where the princess was locked away. Joyfully he leaned into the window, ready to rescue his love, but when the princess saw him she slapped him across the face and screamed at him to leave her homeland. The prince was hurt, but he was too blind with love to listen to her biting words, instead he reached out and embraced her in an effort to comfort her troubled soul. The princess frantically struggled from his arms and breaking free she shoved him with all of her might towards the window. Shocked with rejection the prince had no time to catch himself and he fell tumbling out of the window, all the way to the ground below.
For centuries afterward, there would be tall tales, rumors, songs, and speculations about what happened next, but really no one knows how to explain the truth. Admittedly, there are many things in this world of which this humble storyteller knows not, but these things are often the most wonderful mysteries given to us lowly beings. For certain, the power of love is one of these mysteries which will never be solved. It was this power that was able to break through the dark magic of the princess’ captive stronghold. You see, she was unaware of the evil spell her suitor had put over her, but it ravished her soul and shackled her mind. She was deceived by the very comforts and desires she had chosen. She had let the dark magic weave it’s way bit by bit into her mind until it consumed her. Dark magic is strong and terrible, however it has one weakness, it can not stand against unconditional love. For love is the strongest emotion given to the world. It was with this ardent love that the prince, with his dying breath, whispered his last song to his bride:
“In good times or not, in life or in death,
I’ll love you as long as I draw each breath.
There isn’t a moment or action you do
That could ever make me stop loving you.”
His words, though feeble, tore through the invisible cloak of darkness that enveloped the fortress. With a shriek the evil suitor was thrown off his tower by an unseen hand and he fell to his death, leaving behind a cloud of sizzling, black smoke. In an instant, the princess’ eyes were opened and the spell was dropped. She stood up straight and breathed deeply for the first time. She felt restored and joyful beyond comprehension! Furthermore, her whole appearance became transformed. No longer did she look beaten or ragged, now her hair shown like finely spun silk and her face glowed like the sun. So complete was her joy that she didn’t even remember what she had done to her husband until she climbed down from the tower room and saw his mangled body on the ground under the very window from which she had pushed him. Her happiness quickly dissolved into a heart wrenching, inconsolable grief. The princess fell to the ground beside him, pulled his lifeless form to her chest, and wept uncontrollably.
This is not the end of the story, though it should have been. For all stories come to an end and that end is directly related to the decisions we make as our stories are written. However, sometimes the Great Story-Teller likes to add a few twists of His own, things we would never consider or dare to imagine. This particular story is one of those instances.
The princess had been kneeling on the ground sobbing for a very long time. How long she was not sure for time no longer had any meaning for her. Long after the sun had sunk to its nightly resting place, exhaustion finally came to the heartbroken young woman and she fell asleep cradling her husband. As she slept, she dreamed of the king, her father-in-law. In her dream he embraced her and they wept together over the loss of the prince. She repeatedly asked his forgiveness which he quickly gave; after a moment, he turned her face towards his and whispered, "This is not the end, only those who ignore their broken condition miss the richness that comes with redemption. My kingdom has no room for sorrow, nor time for arrogance; will I ever leave something unfulfilled?”
Suddenly alert and confused, the princess awoke. There was no time to think about what the dream had meant for she realized that she lay alone on the ground, the prince’s body was missing. So great was her distress that she didn’t notice the subtle song playing lightly on the wind until it increased in volume. It was the prince’s song, the same song he sang as he died and it flowed from his very mouth. Indeed, as the sun rays shown brighter in the sky he appeared to her in the morning mist. Startled, the princess fell to the ground and watched him approach her, still singing his song:
“In good times or not, in life or in death,
I’ll love you as long as I draw each breath.
There isn’t a moment or action you do
That could ever make me stop loving you.”
Her surprise turned to fear as she realized what had happened, but before she could gather the strength to run, he was kneeling beside her, taking her face in his hands. She fell into his arms and he continued to sing until his voice grew hoarse with emotion. “The greatest gifts of my father’s kingdom are love and forgiveness” he whispered into her ear, “there is nothing greater nor will there ever be, not even death. I love you deeply, and so I have freed you, but it is your decision now. Will you return with me?”
Monday, December 8, 2008
Friday, July 4, 2008
"So, how was your trip to Peru?" I've gotten this question an uncountable amount of times from everyone I know, but I'm always at a loss of how to answer it. How do you sum up an unbelievable ten day trip in a few sentences? I can't do it. I can't convey what it was like seeing the destruction following a disaster that most of us in America never even heard about. I can't tell you what it was like working with children who own nothing but still love to share what they have and to give acceptance and love freely. I can't describe what it was like to see first hand how blessed my life is or what it felt like being surrounded by literally hundreds of beautiful, starving children who wait for their turn to receive a meager meal that was to last them for the whole day. Not to mention the extremely fun parts of the trip, like taking a harrowing ride through the city in three-wheeled "beetles", or flying through the desert in a dune buggy, or speedboating in the Pacific! I look back on that extended week and I can hardly believe it happened. Just two weeks ago I was in the desert, shoveling dirt, longing for a warm shower, and spending time with some of the most loving people I have ever met. It seems very surreal.
In order to keep this update from becoming a short novel, I will summarize the main points quickly. Our church sent 54 people to Peru (a mix of adult leaders and teens from our youth group) to help with post-earthquake relief efforts. We spent most of our time building houses in Ica, and then went to Lima to help with a feeding program there for a day. By the end of the trip we had built three houses, started two more, raised money for another, moved rubble from the streets, and got to experience the amazing program (started by one man) that feeds almost 12,000 children everyday! We went to two of the feeding sites that day and helped pass out meals to the children. We also visited the school this man also started that offers opportunities for the poorest of the poor to recieve an education. Everyone at the school was unbelievably welcoming, the children lined the sidewalks and wanted to shake our hands, give us hugs, and practice the few English words they knew. Someone from our group said, "Wow, I feel like we're celebrities or something!" This made me sad because it was true, they were treating us like celebrities when really I respected them so much more than they should ever respect me. The faith of some of the people we met blew me away. There are so many stories that I could share! I don't have the space to run through them all, but I simply have to tell you about a little girl named Melissa that we met in the village we were working in...
Towards the end of the week, a small group of us were shoveling a pile of rubble off the street in front of the school. We were taking a break when a tiny, dark skinned girl waddled over to us and handed me a letter. A friend and I were trying to read it, but our Spanish only extended so far, luckily one of our translators was standing nearby and told us that the letter basically introduced the girl as Melissa and she was 2 years old. It went on to say that she was cold at night and had become sick because her family didn't have the money to finish her house. It asked if we could please help her. We found Melissa's mother who told us that she suffered from bronchitis and the medicines she needed had absorbed most of the family's funds and as a result they were unable to build anything better than a thin-walled shack to live in. Because we were short on time, there simply wasn't any way for us to build this family a house. We prayed for them, but most of us longed to do more. The next day, Steve (our missionary leader) "happened" to meet up with three bricklayers looking for a job, and by collecting $5 from every member of our group we were able to pay them for their labor! When we left the village, the house was progressing quickly. It's almost impossible not to look at a situation like this and not see the hand of God. It's just so amazing.
Undoubtedly, the hardest part of the trip was saying goodbye to the children of the village. During the week they loved to help us at the worksite and play with us. Many times they would run over, grab our hands and lead us to a game of volleyball or soccer. They loved to tease us, teach us, and learn new things from us. Though most of us couldn't speak Spanish and none of them spoke more than a few English words, we felt like there wasn't even a language barrier. As one of my friends said, "Love truly is the universal language." The day we left i think I received more hugs then than I ever have in my entire life! I was such a mess. I didn't want to leave these sweet angels. I wasn't the only one. One of my friends was crying so hard that one of the village boys asked her why she was so sad, she answered it was because we were leaving, to which he promptly replied, "don't be sad, i'll see you in heaven!" They were so different from any children I have ever known, it was unbelievably hard to say goodbye.
Being home now for a little while has allowed me to process the trip a little more and to really acknowledge all I have been blessed with. I realized that I have not had to really depend on God for a whole lot in my lifetime. I wondered how strong my faith would stand if I was in a situation like many of the people we met. I also really wanted to make others in this country understand how good they have it. America disgusted me for a few days immediately after I got back, but then I realized something...it's not what we have, but what we do with what we have. So I stopped viewing my comfy life as a curse, but as what it is, a blessing that I should learn to use for God's glory.
I'd love to tell you more and show you pictures and such, don't hesitate to ask : ).
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Yesterday, I was being all studious and working on a perfectly procrastinated-til-the-last-minute paper when I heard strange noises coming from outside my window. Imagine the sound of a sword hitting a tree repeatedly...anyway, I look out my window and right below me Chad is attacking the ground with a shovel. Not too weird-except the "ground" was moving. Yeah, it wasn't dirt, it was a snake. Not just any snake, a copperhead! As in poisonous! And it wasn't just one, there were three! THREE! So, as you may imagine, being the hater of all things legless I had a mini freak-out moment. After that I just let my brothers be all manly and kill the nest of slitherers. How many people can say that a nest of copperheads made residence in the garden next to their house? I wish I couldn't say that....eww.
But anyway, this reminded me of an instance a few months ago in the winter when another critter happened to call our house home.
To make a long story short, we ended up closing Caleb's doors and opening his window, then we turned all the lights off and Caleb slept in the parent's room. We all learned something that night. #1. Flying squirrels don't just live in Australia, and #2. If a family member complains of swooping rodents falling on them in the night...it might be a good idea to believe them.
So I'm off to encounter other strange animals (hopefully not the legless ones!). On saturday I'm waking up at the literal crack of dawn and truckin down to the Outer Banks, NC with my WHOLE family. Can't wait! We all decided to sell one of our kidneys to pay for the gas : ). Then thursday I'll be driving back early with a friend and we're packing up for PERU! So I'm going on a three week hiatus for now. Ciao! (or should I say Adios?)
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
After overcoming my fear of reaching into the unknown, I set to work scrubbing hardened cheese sauce from the refrigerator in the snack bar. Whoever invented nacho cheese needs to work in a snack bar some time. That orange, sticky artery clogger gets EVERYWHERE. After cleaning out my locker last year, I was not surprised to see it sticking to the hinges of my locker door. Yummy.
There will be another week or so of "reconstruction" work before the pool is ready for business. I promise you that by then the water will be clean, the animals corralled, the snack bar scrubbed, and the hot nacho cheese bubbling in it's full, cholesterol-ruining glory. Soon I get to sit on my raised gold and blue throne, surveying those under me as I soak up some rays and mentally practice my "Baywatch" run...oh, and protect your children of course! : )
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
It was funny how very different the graduations were though. Messiah had a graduating class of somewhere around 700, I had a graduating class of 4. We had to wait a good hour or two before Chad's name was called and even then I had to scope him out with the (extremely nifty) telephoto lens on his camera, which caught his esteemed capped, gowned, and hooded back as he walked across the stage. My family tried to convince me to wear his graduation garb to my own, but I declined. While his ceremony took about three hours until it was all said and done, mine lasted less than an hour. We had a couple speakers, some of which were previous alumni of our homeschool group (which was nice). Chris and I both sang a song, and it was just nice and personal. So even though I didn't go through the traditional senior year that most people do and I didn't graduate Magna Cum Laude as my brother did, and I still have some college classes to finish, it's the thought that counts. I'm looking forward to next year!
Saturday, May 10, 2008
"Can we define what "cheesy" means? Does cheesy mean the gift is over the top or oozing sentiment? Wouldn't that make the entire idea of Mother's Day cheesy?
A long time ago I spent an entire day drawing a picture for my mom. It wasn't one of those perfectly painted portraits that some budding artists manage to create for their mothers. No, I possess no artistic talent, not an ounce. For this project I gathered my crayons and colored paper and drew flowers, hearts, and whatever else I could accomplish with my favorite strawberry-red crayon. The card said something along the lines of "Dear Mom, you're great and you do lots of stuff. Thanks, I love you!" Is that cheesy? Yes, probably.
Not quite so long ago I tried to create a watercolor mother's day card in art class. Turns out that I used too much water so my picture smeared together. Since class was almost over I quickly turned the smear into an abstract work that Picasso himself would be very proud of. To make up for the cover, I wrote a decently long note inside that basically said the same thing all my cards said, "Mom, you've always been there for me. I love you." Would this be considered cheesy? Yep.
Last year, in true teenage form, I waited until the absolute last minute. My mom had to work evening shift during Mother's Day, which meant that she wouldn't get home until around midnight. I really wanted to do something for her so I consulted my trusty sidekick (Google) and began to print out random poems about mothers, inspirational maternal quotes, and a short segment from Little Women about mothers. I meticulously cleaned the kitchen (one of Mom's number one pet peeves is returning home to a dirty kitchen) and arranged the printed pages on the counter. This didn't look very snazzy, as you could imagine, so I added some candles. It still lacked something...ah, chocolate! I sorted through my desk drawers until I found the perfect piece of Guiradelli, added a few slices of apples (as I now think about the healthy factor) and viola! Mother's Day surprise! So was that random? Yes. Cheesy? Most definitely.
If the scale of cheesiness runs by measurements of cliched one-liners and sappy notes, then I've definitely failed as a daughter, I'm about as cheesy as an enchilada. However, whoever decided cheesy was bad? Perhaps people we love need to hear the cheesy stuff every now and then, no matter what you might think. Everyone needs to know that their work is appreciated and means something. Who works harder than our mothers? Shouldn't they deserve the same recognition?
So this Mother's Day, forget trying to avoid the "cheesy" gift ideas. Don't bypass Hallmark because all the cards are cliched. Don't skimp out altogether because you can't think of an idea that's not "good enough." Here's a cheesy thought for you, all gifts are great if they're given from the heart!
..and if this still doesn't help, chocolate is always good!"
Happy Mother's Day!