2B and the Pregnant Pilot

November 20th, 2017. Salt Lake City, Utah.

My attention is being lured by a rowdy leaf blower outside my hotel window. You guys should know by now to expect nothing more than my distracted writing. I should close the window, but the cool air slipping through is the perfect contrast to the 90-degree heat suffocating the room. Plus, it’s just enough noise to make me feel preoccupied.

Today was early. Disrespectfully early. I was out of bed by 2:30 a.m. for a 4 a.m. showtime at Newark. I’m convinced that early mornings need to be illegal: they’re non-functional. Despite my unwillingness to participate, I put on my best fake smile (and a face full of makeup) and headed out. No matter how bad the day may seem, an opportunity to turn it around will always present itself. And to be honest, it hasn’t been a bad day, 4 a.m. is just 4 a.m.

I ended up running into two strangers who made my day worthwhile. There wasn’t anything particularly special about these individuals, I just liked them. One was a female pilot (which is always a treat), but get this: she was pregnant! I don’t know why, but I found it both, intriguing and supremely precious. She’d just entered her third trimester and was positively beaming. She made me proud for many reasons, some I think I’ve yet to understand. Her glow was contagious and being around her made me cheery.

On the same flight, I served a 93-year-old woman at 2B. I’m terrible at guessing peoples age, but for sure she looked to be in her late 70’s. She stood patiently in my galley waiting to use the lavatory. Something in her demeanor told me she had grown use to waiting a long time ago. I busied myself putting away dishes and tidying up from the breakfast service, but the stale, wordless air seemed a bit awkward. Maybe because I’m a talker who wasn’t in the mood to talk. Nonetheless, I didn’t want to appear rude or standoffish. “Are you from Utah?” I inquired in a friendly tone. Of course she was hard of hearing. I repeated myself three times before the conversation took off. Once it did, I was glad I had asked. She has six children, eight grandchildren, and 25 great-grandchildren. I stood in shock. How amazing it must be to stand before three generations of one’s lineage. Her wrinkles turned upward with pride. I caught a glimpse of her eyes and wondered what tales were locked away in their depth. She told me– wait, can I give her a name? She obviously has one, but I didn’t think to look. Let’s call her Rose. Rose told me that she was originally from Utah. Her husband had fought in WWII and she moved to Boston with him right before he left. There, Rose resided with her love for 73 years. She didn’t say so, but I’m assuming her husband has since passed. “My son has been begging me for years to come back to Utah to live with him.” So there she was, headed to Salt Lake City to start a new chapter of her life at the very place it had begun.

The variety of life I’m exposed to is what I love most about my job. A question I was asked during the interview process for this position comes to mind.

Why do you want to be a Flight Attendant?” 

I knew I couldn’t say for the travel benefits, so I made something up. Or so I thought. My response was that a job as a Flight Attendant would provide me the opportunity to step outside of my own world and see life through the eyes of others. I told them that I thought it would make me less selfish and more selfless. Little did I know,  that’s exactly what would happen. I’m learning to let go of myself: my ideas of how life should be. Exposure to the countless ways of doing life has inspired me to give myself to God a little more each day. It has taught me that I won’t ever be in full control and that things will not go as planned. And I’ve learned to be okay with that.

I wonder how many disappointments Rose has endured during her 93 years of living. How many times has her heart been broken? How many times she felt like dying? I wonder if she was ever someone like me, looking into the eyes of someone like her. I wonder if Sara, the pilot, dreamed of flying planes when she was a little girl. Did she ever suspect that baby number two would be gently pressed against the steering wheel of a plane hidden and protected perfectly in her mommy’s tummy? I wonder if she planned to be pregnant at 35 years old, or if she saw herself pregnant at all.

So much of life involves the unexpected. People like Sara and Rose remind me that no matter how beautiful or tragic life may seem at times, it is possible. Moreover, that each of our journeys involves discovering just exactly what it is.

 

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Is Good, Enough?

 

What does it mean to be good?

Dictionary.com defines good as: morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious.

This definition provides more synonyms than it does meaning, but it’s an accurate reflection of how our society defines the ambiguity of this pesky four letter word.

I was having a conversation with a coworker and fellow believer a few weeks ago regarding the relationship between God and man. Though we agreed on most matters, the few ideas we differed on were astonishingly canonical. It’s interesting how shared belief doesn’t necessarily denote the manner in which that belief is carried out from person to person.

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One of our major disagreements raised the question of whether human beings are innately good or evil. I held that we are naturally corrupt, while she was of the persuasion that we are intrinsically good beings, who sometimes do bad things. We were equally astounded by our opposing views. With gentle ears and open minds, we delved into discourse, determined to reveal the true heart of man.

From a biblical standpoint, if we are naturally good, why did Jesus have to die on a cross for our sins? If the capability to be good resided in us naturally, God would’ve never allowed for the torment and agonizing death of his son. Jesus’ sacrifice was a raw depiction of our inability to prove ourselves worthy by our own might. Yet, God did not create us as slaves and has therefore given us the liberty of free will. But look at how we have squandered it: malice and destruction have all but swallowed the soul of humanity.

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How can a people who are only upright when it pleases us, assign an inexorable definition to a word so far removed from who we are? Is a monkey more adept at being a horse than a horse itself? Our idea of good is ultimately an attempt to imitate what God so inherently is. We can’t possibly qualify ourselves to define what it is to be good over the God who gave definition to the word by his very existence.

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We exist in a culture that promotes the idea of living your truth. In this iteration of reality, good and bad become relative to the individual, the situation, and the emotions surrounding them. As humans, our idea of good is based largely on personal experience. Too often, we use our feelings to define reality: a slippery slope indeed. It’s no longer a matter of right or wrong, only what feels best. This mentality encourages open interpretation for virtually every aspect of life, regardless of how unfounded our truths may be. Emotions are erratic, changing as often as our circumstances, and are therefore inept to be the foundation upon which we build our lives and beliefs.

A woman who cheats on a physically and verbally abusive husband: good or bad?

A terrorist who blows up a building, killing fifteen hundred innocent people: good or bad?

An 18-year-old boy who sometimes skips class, but makes straight A’s: good or bad?

A prostitute who was sexually abused as a child: good or bad?

A person who pays for one movie at the theatre, watches three, but gives money to a homeless man on the corner: good or bad?

Various aspects are taken into consideration when deciding whether we believe someone to be good or bad. But is it really our place to make judgments? It’s both impossible and exhausting. Some would argue that doing something wrong doesn’t necessarily make someone bad. Yet, there are those who’d argue the opposite. There are also individuals who contest that morality is possible without God. I can attest to there being atheists who have good morale. Whether we accept it or not, we are all creations of God, so naturally, we carry some of his spiritual DNA. It’s like having an estranged parent who you hate and disown. That person is still your parent and no matter how much you detest them, there are ways about you that come from them because you are of them. In the end, no one knows our hearts like God. He knows that we are flawed to our core and unable to escape our own sinful nature.

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Human beings were dually created: a spirit and a soul. The spirit is the part of us from God and the soul is the carnal (or human) arch nemesis.  They work against one another, seeking completely different lives. The spirit is righteous and is naturally inclined to function as such, while the soul is intent on giving into all pleasure, indulgence, and sin. We’ve two options: restlessly wrestle between spirit and soul our entire lives or release them both to God and ask him to make us righteous in his name, through his grace and through the practice of his word.

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So no, good is not enough because it’s humanly impossible. But it doesn’t have to be: God’s salvation is free, we only have to accept it. He is the beginning of any and all good we could ever hope to be.

 

After the Pain

From hurricanes to earthquakes, and now the threat of a volcanic eruption in Indonesia, the past few months have been rough. When I look at the obliteration of islands, the flooded and powerless cities, and the debris of buildings that once stood tall, I can’t help but think of humanity: we too are broken, without light, and flooded with confusion. The physical destruction surrounding us is a reflection of the festering wounds erupting within us. It’s as though everything has come to a head all at once.

The most pressing concern is figuring out how to move forward- physically and emotionally- after the pain. The obvious answer is for us to bind together and restore productivity to the affected areas. Donating food and supplies, sending money, and volunteering are just a few ways we can each help aid the restoration process.

Yet, I wonder if there isn’t a less apparent answer buried beneath the pain and rubble of these disasters. After hurricane Irma struck The Virgin Islands, I reached out to a close friend of mine from St. Thomas. My heart broke at her distress. I’ve never been good at having the right words for people’s pain, but this time was different. Although my heart ached for her suffering, I felt compelled to offer encouragement. Hope in the face of tragedy isn’t easy but it is necessary.

The irony was that the day I texted her happened to be September 7th. It marked three years since my brother had passed. As I wrote her, I thought back to that day. I’ve yet to feel as hopeless as I did in that moment of my life. Everything was falling apart before me and I felt powerless to stop it. Those days were dark, but in retrospect, I realize that it took a storm destroying my life for me to allow God to restore it. As I poured out my sincerest words of hope to my friend, one word rose above the rest.

Rebuild.

Though it may seem difficult to see it as such, these disasters have given us an opportunity to rebuild structurally, spiritually, and sociologically. God’s grace is bigger than any storm and if we make the choice to walk this arduous journey in it, we will come out on the other side better than we were before. There’s a song I love by Bri Babineaux called, My Everything. The main chorus of the song says,

If I lost everything and didn’t have anything, and you were the only thing, I’d still have everything.

It’s what I pray for myself and for our world. In my few years on this earth, I’ve yet to find anything or anyone as sustaining as God. He has kept me in the midst of it all, the same way I know he can keep those of us affected by these natural disasters.

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Matthew 7:24-27 says:

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

I’m not making light of the devastation that has taken place. I am in no way trying to dictate how people should feel. Quite frankly, I don’t know how I’d feel had a hurricane come and taken away my loved ones and security. I want to reassure us that though this may feel much like an end, it doesn’t have to be. It’s an opportunity for a new beginning. A chance to relocate our homes to God’s heart. If we lay a solid foundation of faith, love, and trust in God, our homes will never be destroyed again.

Even the thunder and the wind obey
At the command of my Father, Father
I set my feet upon Your mighty name
So let the rain fall harder, harder
So take my everything, my flesh and blood
I’ll lay me down on the altar, altar
I am forever covered in Your love
So let the rain fall hard

 

-I Am Yours by Lauren Daigle

In the same way that many are without lights and resources physically, we are without them spiritually. These disasters are a literal illustration of what plagues us spiritually and culturally. A wake-up call reminding us that we are not nearly as in control as we believe ourselves to be. We are in such a state of confusion and questioning, we don’t know what to believe. Our foundations are breaking under the pressure of worldly influence and we’re turning over all the wrong rocks to find happiness. So many things sound and feel right, look good and seem okay, but the problem is we have no foundation to test these beliefs.

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We’ve grown too accustomed to living in the dark. Now is our opportunity to plant ourselves on an unshakable foundation. Bad things will continue to happen, and there’s no guarantee that we can always prevent them. But if we put our faith in God, everything around us could crumble and we’d remain because we have been planted in the Lord.

 

 

 

Is this when?

 Is this when I write?

When I feel most uncertain? When my mind is plagued with what if’s?When for no reason, I want to curl into a ball and drown my thoughts in tears?

I’m choosing to write right now, not because I want to, but because I have to learn how to exist outside of my emotions. If I had my way, I’d be watching youtube videos to distract me from the choking fear of inadequacy. I’d be doing anything to suppress the seed of doubt threatening to take root in my mind.

Instead, I’m here. Feeling worthless, but here nonetheless. Before I began writing this, I went to my Bible. I’m doing a plan on the bible app that teaches ten habits of intimacy with God. I’m two days behind, so I read for September 29th. The lesson spoke about learning to live out every moment of life walking in God’s grace. I dismissed the reading thinking, “Yea, yea, grace. I don’t want a devotional, I want help.” Despite my impatience, I continued on to the scriptures that supported the reading. Nothing stood out until 2 Corinthians 12:9 was offered for review.

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Reading this verse was both affirming and hopeful. But more than that, it opened my eyes to my own frailty. I’m embarrassed at how easily I was led astray from my identity in God. I’m thankful I was granted the strength to seek a different strategy against this attack instead of wallowing in the devil’s lies about me.

Even now as I write, I’m beginning to feel the weight of this emotional attack being lifted. I understand now that it was a test to see if I could stand on God’s word and reassure myself against a psychological attack from the enemy. I didn’t think I could. I was prepared to retreat into my usual hiding place and wait for the assault to pass. But grace.

I turned to God and referenced who His word proclaims I am. My spirit smiles because I know that God has made me victorious in this battle. And along with it, He has blessed me with the vision to see a spark of something I rarely acknowledge in myself-

Growth.

 

 

 

Run Forrest, Run!

Before I had any business watching it, Forrest Gump became one of my favorite movies.  Although the content was too mature for my age, I always found Forrest easy to understand. He was simple. He made me feel better about my inability to comprehend why life was sometimes the way it was.

It came on television the other night, and even though I’ve seen it a hundred times, I couldn’t help watching it again. I came in at the scene where Jenny and Forrest had reunited in Greensboro. She stayed for a while, then- in true Jenny fashion- left unexpectedly. Heartbroken, Forrest did what Jenny had always taught him to do.

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Forrest ran for, “3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.”

As I watched the nationwide coverage and acclaim of his run, something struck me:

How ridiculous it was that a throng of people followed a man cross country on a run that had no clear intention or path. Reporters probed Forrest for answers as to what his run signified: world peace, women’s rights, the environment, animals, or nuclear arms?

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Though Forrest’s run lacked a profound why, people were inspired by his uninhibited and audacious spirit. Supporting someone with an unknown cause can be a wonderfully dangerous inspiration. Seeing individuals take extreme measures to better themselves gives others the courage to do the same. The problem arises when we rely too heavily on the journeys of others to fuel our own lives. When Forrest announced that his rove was over, his followers were distressed by the sudden decision. “Now what are we supposed to do?” one man called out.

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It’s beautiful to be motivated by the lives of others, but it’s not fair to invest everything we hope to be in the life of someone else. Yet, that’s exactly what those people did to Forrest, and it’s what we do to one another. We see what looks like happiness, wealth, or success in the lives of others and attempt to replicate their actions in hopes of biting off a piece for ourselves.

We follow blindly behind people and movements we know little about just to feel something that halfway resembles happy. The problem with this type of lifestyle is that it’s full of emptiness. Those people who followed Forrest on his run never came to know why he did it.

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Forrest’s journey was to run until his past was far enough behind him to move forward. It was for him to discover who he was in that iteration of himself.  What I love most about his passage was that it wasn’t until after Forrest returned home that he realized his why was indeed profound.

That’s exactly how life works at times. We don’t know why God allows us to go through certain hardships, but there’s always a reason. One that is exclusive to your journey, who you are and who you ultimately have the potential to be. Your why.  Yet, if we exhaust our lives trying to find ourselves on someone else’s path, it only leads to added unhappiness.

I know sometimes we just feel like running toward anything with a remote promise of happiness; anything that will take us away from where we are. I get it, but that’s when we have to be most vigilant because that’s when our spirits become clingy and susceptible to misplaced inspiration.

My goal isn’t to devalue the splendor of inspiration. On the contrary, my hope is to uphold it, to encourage us to apply it in a way that is beneficial to our lives.  It’s great to be heartened by someones actions and to even be encouraged to go a similar route. However, we shouldn’t base our decisions on what makes someone else happy.

You’re you and I’m me. What moves me may not drive you. What motivates you may not encourage me. We’re each on our own way, yet how wonderful it’d be for our journeys to cross paths. Maybe there’s something you can teach me. Perhaps there’s something I can give you. Maybe inspiration is a collision of two paths- or ten, or five million- meant to give hope, wisdom, and love so that another would be willing to war on against a world intent on their defeat.

The Secret to Staying Young

 

Let’s start this off with a confession:

I use anti aging cream. Don’t worry, it’s the cheap stuff- for now. But still, is that bad? I mean, I am just three years away from thirty. Besides, I’m improving my adulting skills by being more proactive. I spend most of my time on airplanes where the air is dry and the oxygen is thin. It’s my responsibility to protect my skin from shriveling up like a raisin, right?

Alright, that was about 40% true. The remaining 60% sadly, lies in complete vanity. I don’t want to get old. And if I must, I certainly don’t need the evidence of wrinkles to prove it.

Nowadays though, we see more people embracing and being proud of their age, which is the way it should be. Unfortunately, I’m not that wise.

I’m in line with everyone else trying to catch the first ship out to Never land. Botox, plastic surgery, hair plugs (do people still do that?), and younger partners are just a few of the extreme measures we take in an effort to retain our youth.

Let me make clear, I don’t personally engage in the aforementioned activities, but I can certainly understand how easy it would be to fall prey to these practices.

The truth is, we’re growing older with each setting sun and there’s no way to stop it. Our lack of crows feet and smooth skin can no more rescue us from what actually needs saving than a topical cream can kill cancer. The sickness is within.

Our exterior is just that: A shell that houses our most precious jewels. But if the treasure rots, what is there to protect? Our bodies become useless. Yet we choose to focus most of our upkeep on our physical selves. L’Oréal’s latest under eye night serum cannot treat a withered spirit.

Our spirits are as strong or tenuous as we make them. In order to build their strength, we must feed them that which will encourage growth and resilience. If fed junk, such as anger and guilt, they begin to eat away at themselves and become emaciated.

From the moment we enter this earth, life becomes a toilsome journey: loss, addiction, betrayal, and self-hate are only a few potential struggles we face. Under the pressure of such circumstances, weak spirits are likely to break.

Our physical age will inevitably increase, but there’s nothing more exquisite than a spirit unaffected by age. One who has seen its share of hardships yet remains unblemished in its faith.

I know it sounds impossible. It’s certainly not easy, but with conscious effort, a lot of practice, and of course God, it is achievable. I don’t have all the answers to maintaining a healthy, strong, and youthful spirit, however I do have a few tips to get you started.

Let it go.

Stop dwelling on people and circumstances you can’t change. It only stands to further frustrate you. If someone has wronged you and you’re still bitter about it, you’re punishing yourself for their error. I’m not suggesting that you excuse their behavior, instead I invite you to release them to God. Once you release them, you also free yourself from feeling like you have to exact penance on them.

Surround yourself with positive people.

The company you keep has a major influence on your outlook on life. Be intentional about the people you surround yourself with. Make sure your friends are adding positivity to your life and not encouraging negativity. The normal rigamarole of life is stressful enough, you need people to bring the joy out in you at all costs.

Don’t neglect the little things

It’s easy to overlook the simplest parts of life because other aspects are so overwhelmingly complex. But it’s important that we find a way to always recognize the little things in our lives that make us smile. Our sanity depends on it.

Keep the Faith

I could elaborate endlessly on the importance of remaining faithful, but instead I’ll leave you with a snippet of lyric from a song I love.

Hold on to hope if you got it
Don’t let it go for nobody
They say that dreaming is free
But I wouldn’t care what it cost me

Song of the Week, “If I Don’t Have You,” by Love and the Outcome 

Listen here! 

The lyrics to this song are what pierces my heart. They speak severly to the struggle of man making the choice to follow God or the world, and sometimes trying to find the middle ground of the two.

There is no middle ground.

God hates what the world loves. What humans see as wise, good, or worthy paints a completely different picture than what God sees as important.

We can’t serve both. We cannot be obsessed with worldly possessions and esteem while still devoting ourselves to God. We pray to God and ask for success and riches, but God has called us to greater. He has called us to seek him so that we may know his true will for our lives. He is not found in fortune or recognition, God is found in our humbleness, our servitude, and our generosity.

Remember the parable of the man who had obeyed all of God’s laws, but was unwilling to give up his riches to follow Him? We, in many ways are that man. We want to covet our earthly possessions while we wait for our heavenly reward. The thing is, in order to claim what God has for us in heaven, we must abandon the treasures of this world, even while we are yet in it.  We should be expecting our riches in heaven, not making preparations to make this earth our home.

Matthew 6:19-21 says :

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

It’s easy to become distracted by the glittering treasures of this world. In the grand scheme of reality though, those things are worthless and will perish. Furthermore, they distract us from seeking God, from glorifying his goodness, and pursuing the lasting treasures that He has for us.

If there is anything in our lives that is hindering us from pursuing God whole heartedly, we need to take it to Him in prayer and ask him to remove those impurities.

My favorite line in this song is :

How can I say I love you to someone I don’t know?

We can’t fully love God if we don’t know Him. If we don’t crave to sit at his feet and learn more of who He is, how possibly then, can we mature in our love for the savior?