A Broken Shell

The trek to the beach was long; the sun peaked high on a cloudless day. The AC was set on high—it felt good. It felt like a typical summer day in Wisconsin—only it was April in Florida—a thousand miles from home. 

We parked and set out towards the beach. The smell of salt lingered in the air as waves filled the silence gaps between the voices of fellow tourists. 
“Charlotte*, take a pic of me next to the palm tree.”
“Uh okay sure.” My friend snapped a photo of me with my Polaroid. 

We trekked our way towards the ocean. The sand squished and sprawled beneath my feet, making it harder to walk. Sand sprinkled its way into my flip flops irritating me even more so I took them off, daring my way across barefoot. The sand was hot, as if the sun was trapped in the tiny little grains. Finally we found an open spot not to far from where the dry sand kissed the wet.


I dropped my backpack on top of the beach blanket and ran towards the water, my feet sloshing on the wet sand into the edge of the water. A big wave crashed against my legs as if trying to push me over. Seahells were pushed forward before being pulled back with the current. My hand swooped down and grabbed a tiny, broken, cream-colored shell. Though it wasn’t a perfect shell, I decided I wanted to keep it. Eventually with a lot of searching and avoiding huge waves, I did find many nice and even some “perfect” shells. 
It’s funny how when many folks go to the beach some are  looking for shells to keep as souvenirs or whatever given reason. Some folks are okay with a few shells whether they be perfect of slightly chipped. Some folks won’t settle for anything less than giant, perfectly shaped shells. 

I spent a good chunk of time picking at different shells looking for small ones and big ones, and even keeping a few broken ones because of their coloring. I’d let the ones I didn’t want slip between my fingers and plop back into the ocean.

It’s funny how in life we pick and choose our relationships much like these shells. We search and search for those “perfect” and big shells, yet there are imperfectly perfect shells slipping between our fingers simply because they’re slightly broken. We don’t want the broken ones because they’re not as pretty to look at. And they’re typically more fragile. 

After my ex and I parted ways, I felt stuck like the tiny shell at the bottom of the ocean. Just being pushed and pulled by the currents of life on occasion but mostly just submerged there under water. I liked being at the bottom where it was dark and cold—yet I could still see steaks of light that gave me pieces of hope here and there and on occasion I got swept up to the surface—if only temporarily. Though I preferred to be half buried under the cold sand, because I was broken. And useless. No one wanted me. 

Jesus doesn’t look at us like that though. He doesn’t care if you’re the giant shell or the tiniest broken speck of a shell. He can use all shells for a specific purpose.
He scooped me up and carefully held onto me—because He knew I was fragile. And he searched for other broken pieces to put me together again to create what He saw as a whole person. Granted I’m still originally that broken, tiny shell but made whole because of Him. 

He can do the same for you. He can bring you to the surface and put that tiny shell of yours back together with other pieces. Granted you will never be the same as you once were. But you’ll still be made whole again. And even more beautiful and unique than you were before. 

*indicates name change

Advertisements

Wind and Terror: A Hurricane Story (part 3)

Friday Night: [Journal entry] Dad talked with Linda and Tia. Tomorrow we are gonna go to Adjuntas to check and see if the travel agency will be open and get some flight info there. This gives me a little bit of hope. God please make it so! Tomorrow, tomorrow—it’s only a day away.

Saturday I awoke at 7:30am—a half hour before my alarm was to go off. Excitement and hope radiated throughout my body. Okay. Gotta pack my suitcase. Today is the day. After packing my suitcase, I greeted my dad and Tia. Tia had prepared some coffee and breakfast. I was anxious to get to town. I was anxious to get info. I was anxious to go home.

IMG_6867
“…we saw just a hint of the damage that had taken place…”

Linda showed up about 9am or so…much chatting went on between everyone. Finally the time came when we were to go to Adjuntas; Pecas drove. The trek down the mountain to the small town was usually a half hour drive, that day it took an hour. We weren’t even two minutes down the road when we saw just a hint of the damage that had taken place—power lines down and across the roads, trees brushed to the side to clear a narrow but drive-able path.

IMG_6883 (1)
“They looked like giant twigs that were stuck in the ground.”

We continued on down, though the destruction didn’t get any less; it got worse. Looking down towards the valleys that were literally green and luscious just days prior were now stripped of everything. They looked like giant twigs that were stuck in the ground. We got to maybe the halfway point when we came across a literal one lane path in the road. So we sat…and waited…and waited some more…maybe ten minutes and like thirty cars later, we were finally able to make our way down through the path, along with our train of around twenty to thirty cars. After what felt like an eternity, we finally made it to the small, cramped town. Upon noticing that basically every single building was boarded up, we were extremely disappointed to see the travel agency no difference.

IMG_6885
“…like thirty cars later, we were finally able to make our way down through the path…”

F#@$!#  B^%%$#!t.” My dad screamed into the busy but quiet air.
“Well…now what are we going to do?” I questioned out loud, not expecting an answer.
“I don’t know, Honey. But we are going to go home by Monday. Let’s go find Pecas.” Thus began our slow ascend back to Tia’s…it took longer since we had a few extra stops to make.

IMG_6873
One of the stops we made was at the Panaderia store; across the street from it these folks had to dig their driveway back out. 

When we finally weaved our way back to Tia’s house, a cloud of disappointment hovered over me. Dad talked with Tia and Linda about what they were going to do next. I trudged myself around between my bedroom and outside, burdening a great deal of anxiety.  I sat on the ground, while Asevache used me as a chew toy (my arm never felt so loved!). When lunch was made I had only a few bites of the rice and postale. What are we going to do?

What felt like hours later, but perhaps only maybe an hour, my dad came up to me. “Okay. Listen to me,” he got his usual serious face on, “Tomorrow we are gonna go to San Juan and go to the airport. We will take Linda’s car. They are going to be flying planes out maybe on Monday I think is what they say. We gonna find out all the information we need. I don’t care if I have to buy more tickets, I’m not worried about that. I wanna go home, and we gonna go home.” By this point it was twenty-four hours after we were supposed to say ‘Sayonara’ to Puerto Rico…yet we were still there held as a prisoner by the storm’s devious hands.

A couple more hours pass and Tia begins making dinner for us. Then afterwards, we took Abuelo back to his house. Now he lives the opposite way we go to go to town, so I’m sure my dad and Tia were just as curious to see how the road looked going this way. Trees toppled over as if they were made out of wet pieces of cardboard. There are two small bridges that go over really tiny creeks, and both of them were completely covered in water. It was a dramatic change to say the least.

IMG_6918
“There are two small bridges that go over really tiny creeks, and both of them were completely covered in water.”

At Abuelo’s house, we walked around to see what damage had occurred—which was hardly anything. One tree had fallen over and my uncle’s work shed just fifty feet from the house barely remained standing. Abuelo’s house stood strong and untouched. My brother’s house next door ended up getting some shingles knocked off on the porch portion of his house, but nothing else was hurt, not even his car. And then, my dad, though he had a lot of pain in his leg, suggested we go and see Noel (his brother) and Coca’s house (which essentially is across the street, but one has to climb up a steep hill to get there). Noel and Coca’s house was pretty much destroyed. Though the walls stood firm (as they should, they’re cement), the roof had been completely plucked off like a Band-Aid and tossed somewhere far away; 90% of everything they owned was destroyed by rain and unusable. A short while later we went back to Abuelo’s house and then went back to Tia’s.

IMG_6909
“…90% of everything they owned was destroyed by rain and unusable.”

My dad and I were outside, not so much talking as we were watching the sky and listening to the night creatures croak out their songs. My dad gasps.

“There’s a plane!”

“Where?” He points towards the southeast. A tiny yellow speck glittered in the sky. Dad ran inside to go tell Tía, who came outside to look. They talked. I felt hopeful. Very hopeful. After a bit, we saw another one. Tía went back inside and I followed to look at my phone. I knew that I wouldn’t get any text messages and it was essentially useless, but still I turned it on. I scrolled through my messages, wishing something would change. Dad came in to tell me he saw two more planes. That was four so far. We went to the back area and stood and watched them fly towards the west. In total, we saw nine planes. Just as we were watching the last one, I linked arms with my dad. “This means that they’re trying. This means we have something to look forward to tomorrow.”

That night, I didn’t fall asleep until 2 or 3 in the morning. I was too anxious and too hopeful about the following day.

Wind and Terror: A Hurricane Story (part 2)

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Are you there God? I’m here…still. I pause. Hesitant to go on. I’m tired. Sleeping is the only time where I’m not worried. Yet here I am…awake. Not afraid, just worried. Can you please make it so we can leave tomorrow? I wanna go home. It’s Thursday night, a day after the storm. The song “Say Something” has been on repeat inside my head all day now. Finally, as if on command, my body falls back into a deep rest. My eyelids drop down until I shut out the darkness with more darkness.


When I awoke on Wednesday morning, the storm had already started.  By that point it had been going on for hours. My Tia had prepared breakfast for all of us—sandwiches warmed in a pan and coffee. Tia was able to run the generator for an hour, although by doing so they discovered water dripping through some of the lights—meaning it could potentially be unsafe to run the generator at all (it wasn’t started again until Friday). Afterwards, I went and napped.  I was awoken again for lunch, which was lukewarm sandwiches and lukewarm juice.

IMG_7148
“The wind whistled…Rain fell in heavy drops onto the cement driveway…” [screenshot from video]
The wind whistled through the cracks, as it thundered against the house, as if it was trying to pry its way in. Rain fell in heavy drops onto the cement driveway where it would slither its way towards the road in streams. Everyone was just sitting around mostly silent (except for the occasional small talk), rustling about trying to be comfortable in the uncomfortable situation. I watched and listened, as I was unable to communicate with anyone other than my dad; I felt so alone. Throughout the day I just bounced between sitting on my bed in the dark, to reading in the living room, to watching the storm, to reading in the kitchen.

I wasn’t scared. No. Anxious is a better word for how I felt. Anxious for how this would affect our trip home. Anxious for how this would affect our communication even more. Yet despite my feelings, the wind howled on, unaware or perhaps uncaring for what lay in its path.

Finally, the time came when we could all go to bed. I lay there silently, staring towards the dark wall. Waiting for the next day to come. Are you there, God? It’s me…again. I cry out into the blackness that had engulfed my entire room. Wind rattles and shakes the trees outside, causing a whooshing sound against the window shutters. I’m nervous about how our flight is going to be affected. A tear slides down alongside my nose and into the corner of my mouth. I try closing my eyes, but they sting from crying. I open them again, and stare ahead into the night.

After a few hours of aimlessly lying there, the wind suddenly was letting up. The storm that whistled and banged outside began to cease. As quickly as it came, and as long as it lasted, the hurricane was over. I hear another bang outside. My eyes close as if the tiredness that wasn’t there suddenly overwhelms my body. And sleep.

IMG_6840 (1)
“…her lemon tree in the back [was] broken, her shed was ripped up and twisted, several other trees in the back were pushed over…”
Thursday was inspection day. I awoke to my aunt making fire outside my window (as it was next to the back porch), cooking us breakfast and making coffee. My dad and cousin Pecas were going around finding decent scraps of wood and bringing back my Tia’s cardboard banana boxes to keep the fire going. All around outside my dad and I walked around looking at everything that was broken. My Tia’s cement wall and her lemon tree in the back were broken, her shed was ripped up and twisted, several other trees in the back were pushed over, her papaya tree in the front yard was shredded. Banana tree leaves littered the ground like a thick carpet.

 

IMG_6857
“My Tia’s cement wall and her lemon tree in the back were broken…”

But Tia’s house stood strong, barely damaged (except a few paint spots that sagged from the drenching rains) just like my aunt’s faith and strength. She continuously hummed “Alleluia” as she worked throughout the day to fix what Mother Nature had broken. My two cousins and their wives went back to their house, which was just across the street essentially to go and fix up their house. Word from my cousin staying with her brother, Pecas was that my Tia’s stretch of road was blocked to town from either direction. Basically we were stuck there, not that we would go anywhere even if we had wanted to.  I mostly shoved my nose in a book the rest of the day, to keep my mind preoccupied about my flight home. Tia had heated some water for all of us to be able to bathe ourselves; that night was the first night where I could take a quick sponge bath, and how glorious it felt indeed.

Friday: [Journal entry] Our flight was supposed to leave a half hour ago. But here I am…stuck. Anxious. Annoyed. I’m fearful about work. I’m fearful my mom will be waiting for us, but we’ll never come. I feel so alone, except for the licks I get from Asevache (my Tia’s puppy).

IMG_6855
Asevache: Tia’s Puppy

I have faith that God will take care of us…yet I question. Why couldn’t we have known about the hurricane a day earlier? I would rather not have come had I known. Ironic though, isn’t it? I always wish to have so much time, and here I am, with so much time, and now I’m wishing I could be home, where I have little to no time for anything. God, is this your way of showing me how much time I’ve wasted…You wait for me, but sometimes I ignore that time that’s given to me. Now you’ve given me time, as if saying “See…now you have time.” Grandpa has been here since Monday. He has been asking since Monday night when he is going home. The answer is always the same—we are in a critical condition, it will be some time yet. He feels out of place I’m sure, being that he’s blind and can’t walk anywhere without assistance. He can’t talk to anyone because everyone is outside. I sit with him but I can’t talk to him. He misses his son, Isidro, who lives with him and cares for him. He misses his dog and chickens I’m sure. He’s lonely; him and I are alike in this given situation….Why is it raining so much today?

Whistling down
it plops, in multitudes
splashing on the hard cement.
A puddle, dirtied by
red clay, welcomes the new
drops, tossing rings to the side
as it does suddenly a wind whips it
in swirls
causing a mist to swell.
It falls harder, as if the clouds
cry harder,
just like the tears on my face.

Wind and Terror: A Hurricane Story (part 1)

Are you there, God? It’s me…again. I cry out into the blackness that had engulfed my entire room. Wind rattles and shakes the trees outside, causing a whooshing sound against the window shutters. I’m nervous about how our flight is going to be affected. A tear slides down alongside my nose and into the corner of my mouth. I try closing my eyes, but they sting from crying. I open them again, and stare ahead into the night.

Oh where do I go from here? And then suddenly, the wind let up. The storm that whistled and banged outside began to cease. As quickly as it came, and as long as it lasted, the hurricane was over. I hear another bang outside. My eyes close as if the tiredness that wasn’t there suddenly overwhelms my body. And sleep.


The day the hurricane was announced was the day my flight arrived in San Juan. September 16. A Saturday. The sun beamed down on a cloudless day, allowing the heat that had already saturated the air to feel immensely thicker. My uncle and dad conversed back and forth, I listened. I was always listening, trying to grasp at the few Spanish words I could filter out between the words I didn’t know. A few hours later, after a full day of travels, we finally pulled in my Abuelo’s driveway. I greeted my Abuelo and Tia with a peck on the cheek—a typical Puerto Rican greeting. Some more conversation, where I pretended to understand more than I actually knew, and then we drove back to my Tia’s house.

More conversation. I think my dad and aunt were talking about all that was new since our last visit, 2 years prior. I caught on they were talking about trees, and dogs, and at some point chickens. Finally, my aunt signals it’s time for bed, and after only a few measly, uncomfortable hours of sleep on the airplanes, I was more than okay to find a bed to sleep in. Frogs screech out their “co-kee” sounds all around outside. And after maybe 20 minutes of reading, I found myself reading the same sentence more than once…after maybe 20 minutes of reading, I found myself reading the same sentence more than once…I found myself reading the same sentence more than once…

Then blackness.

I was greeted the next morning by sticky heat, dogs barking, and people talking loudly. A knock on my door, “Angel. Time to get up, okay.” My phone declared it was 9 o’clock. So 8 o’clock in Wisconsin.

It was a typical vacation day for me in Puerto Rico. It consisted mostly of reading and enjoying the little bit of sun that I could handle while my cousin and a few other guys were working on slicing the banana plants to fit them in a box (my aunts husband was a banana farmer, and she still continued the business with her son after my uncle passed away).

IMG_6822
On our way to Lares; 3 days prior to Hurricane Maria

The next day is when my aunt, dad, and I went to Lares a town about half hour away. My dad had to get something at Walgreens, and so my aunt said we should just make a day out of it. We stopped at a place to get food; I ate arroz (rice), bistec (steak), and pescado (fish), and then we went to Walgreens. Sometime during that afternoon after we got back from Lares, I went to go use my dad’s phone and discovered it had no service. Hmmm. That’s strange.

“Dad, your phone isn’t in service.”
“What do you mean?” And I showed him. He said something about it to Tia and the conversed back and forth a few minutes.
“Auntie says that there is supposed to be a hurricane to hit on Wednesday.” He looks at me with concerned eyes.
“What? Well, dad, how is that going to affect our trip home?”
“I don’t know, honey.” And I felt a bit nervous thinking how this could affect our flight home, and how I had no way of communicating with anyone to let them know. As serious as I thought it was, to me it seemed like it wasn’t as big of a deal for my family. My cousin Pecas (his nickname which means freckles) was chuckling and saying, “You’ll see things flying in the air.” My thought process was how they handle things so differently than the United States. It’s like they already knew and accepted that they wouldn’t receive help from the mainland, and would make the best of the situation and what was thrown at them. The rest of the day I was numb.

IMG_6835The next two days were preparation day. We went to town to get gas. The lines were long. We waited maybe 20 minutes for gas (which to me was crazy), which in reality was nothing compared to after the hurricane. At home, I watched my aunt and cousin take boards and covered the glass windows and front door. I wasn’t sure what to do. So I read and watched and listened.

Tuesday night, my aunt and I shared a room, while my dad shared a room with Abuelo, and my two cousins and their wives each had their own room. We boarded ourselves up—all the shutters were closed and the back door was latched. The power was still on, the heat was still strong, but the darkness encompassed all around. I stayed up as late as I could to avoid sleeping, because sleeping would mean that the storm would come. But sleeping meant I could avoid the day; sleeping would make the time go by faster. Finally after a couple hours, my aunt came out and beckoned me into the room to go to bed. That would be the last time I’d see electricity for the next 5 days.

Define Relationship

One of the hardest goodbyes I’ve ever had to experience was right before the beginning of two summers ago, when my ex and I parted ways. Despite the fact that we were on a break for awhile before then, as I watched him drive away, a deep pain twisted my stomach like someone punched me. It was in that moment I knew that we would never be more than acquaintances ever again. Sure we talk when we see each other at church events, but neither of us go out of our way to have a conversation with one another.

It was hard. And to be brutally honest, I don’t even know why. In the end, there was nothing but constant fighting and emotional drainage. I was jealous of his time he barely gave to our relationship. I was jealous of all the girls he would secretly talk to when I would be sitting there wondering why he wasn’t responding to my messages, and I was hurt that he would talk about me behind my back to these girls not only telling them lies, but bashing on some of my personal medical issues. Not that I was perfect either. In the end I probably could have tried harder; I felt justified in giving nothing because I felt like I was getting nothing.

That summer, though it was painful and lonely, it was probably one of the most rejuvenating summers yet. For the first time in a long time I discovered who I was as a person. I learned what kind of qualities I look for in people—whether it be a friend or partner. And my true friends revealed themselves.

Since my breakup I’ve embraced the whole single status. It’s fun. I can go out with friends and not have to worry. I can go days without having to text or call a specific person and not have to worry. But it’s also lonely. I see many of my friends getting engaged. I watched two of my friends get married a couple months ago, and I have two more friends getting married in about a month. I’ve also been browsing Facebook and see so many posts about expecting. There are days where I ask myself “what am I doing wrong?” I wonder if there is someone out there this exact moment wondering the same exact thing. I question if God’s plan in my life includes me finding someone special.

A little over a year ago, I wrote a blog about living life with the “single” status, and how even in the end if that’s what I’m meant to do then so be it. Granted, I would love to find a special someone, but I think that even if I didn’t, I could be happy. Because my purpose in life isn’t to get married and have children (goodness, I’m at point in my life where I don’t even know if I want children), my purpose in life is about serving Him and bringing others to Him.

Relationship is defined as, “an emotional or other connection between people.” I had this relationship with this person, while my relationship with God was diminishing. Into a line. A thin, thin line. I started skimping (yes that’s a real word) on my prayer life. I avoided subjects about faith or God, because I was afraid that someone would know and say, “Hey, you aren’t even that religious.” Oh sure. It was easy to continue to dress and look all “churchy” but it was hard to utter the simple phrase, “Thank you, Jesus.” One of the easiest goodbyes I was experiencing was saying, “Bye” to Jesus. The One I shouldn’t have been waving off.

When I finally bid goodbye to the person in my life that was hindering my relationship with God, that’s when He started mending my heart. The healing process was beginning. And honestly, I’m still healing. My heart still has stitches on it from where the words of my ex slashed into me. Even though I do feel the depths of loneliness more often than not, I know that it’s not in my best interest to have someone in my life at the moment. Because I’m still learning and growing with Him.

In the end of my relationship, it wasn’t love that I felt, it was numbness and convenience of having someone. I wasn’t giving because I wasn’t getting. Loving someone is about giving your best and not expecting anything in return. And if two people love each other, they’ll give consistently as much as they will receive consistently.

In the end, I was just settling because I felt like I wouldn’t have anyone. And that’s something that no one should ever do. Settling because one is afraid of living the rest of their lives partner-less is probably one of the least satisfactory things in life. One of the best things I’ve ever been told is, “There are worse things than being single, and that is being in a relationship, and wishing you weren’t.” So maybe for now, I’ll keep my relationship status as, “Single, but still hopeful, but not too hopeful, more like a casual hopeful. But also okay if I’m forever single.” Don’t ever settle for less than what you’re worth. Because you are worth MORE than gold.

The Orange Flowers

The white moon glows bright tonight; its pale face glaring down through a cloudless sky. My feet make a shush sound as I tiptoe my way across the dew layered lawn, and I spread my quilted blanket out. The air is drenched in chilly fingers, but I refuse to let myself feel anything but numb, and clench my teeth tight as I stare up at the black space above. The stars wink back at me.

The first time we planted flowers I was five years old. I had begged you for weeks to buy me the orange flowers because orange was my favorite color. Every time we went to the store I pointed at the orange flowers that were purposely placed near the store-entrance to entice kids like me who loved flowers, and you’d shake your head and say, “No, Little Chicken. Not today.” And I’d pout my lips and cross my arms for the next five minutes and stomp my feet as we continued on, until we would go down a random aisle and I’d see some other orange thing that peaked me interest. The final day I asked, we went through our usual routine, but then at the end we went back to the front of the store and you told me to pick my favorite one. So I picked the biggest ones I could find. They costed $4.72. 

We went home, and you took me to where you kept the gardening tools and shovels. “Little Chicken, there’s more to flowers than what you see,” and you handed me a garden claw and trowel, and you grabbed a shovel. We carried these tools to an area in front of the house that was secluded off with a brick line, and was overrun with grass and weeds. You began digging in the mess, and that’s when you taught me two important lessons: the first was about God, the second was that nothing get’s done without hard work.

“We have to first get rid of these weeds because if we don’t, then we can’t plant these beautiful flowers. We can’t just pull out enough where the flowers will go, because then the weeds would choke out the flowers and the flowers will die.” You continued to dig up massive globs of dirt held together by the roots of the weeds. 

“You have to shake the dirt out. To do this you need to grab a hold of the base of the weeds and start shaking slowly, as more dirt falls out then you can start shaking harder to get more out.” You say this as you show me how to do it. 

“Why can’t you just shake really hard at first?” I question. You smirk, as if you’d knew I’d ask that. “Well Little Chicken, because if you shake too hard at first, then the weeds break off and you’re just left with a massive ball of dirt and roots and then it’s really hard to get the roots out. Now you try.” And I grab one of the globs you dug up and shake it like you showed me. 

“We shake the dirt out because that’s the good stuff we want to use for our flowers. We get rid of the weeds because that’s obviously the bad stuff. Sometimes God does this to us. We all have weeds in our lives, nobody is weed-free. And those weeds take root in our lives. When we’re ready to allow flowers to take root in our lives instead of weeds we allow God to start digging at us, and to start pulling those globs of weeds out of our lives. At first, He is gently shaking them out a little at a time and then He will shake us more vigorously, until at last the weeds come out and all that remains is the foundation that we need for a beautiful flower to blossom out of.”

We continued on, you digging and stopping every once in awhile to help me shake the dirt out of the weeds. After three hours, we finally finished weeding and planting and watering the flowers. It’s one of the few memories I’ve cherished as I grew up, because although you could have done something in an hour, you chose to spend three hours on it to teach me a valuable lesson, one of the many you taught me throughout the years. 

I can’t help but think of those flowers now as I look up at what He created, and wonder what lesson I was supposed to learn after you took your own life. Too many questions and not enough answers ring inside my head, but the stars don’t provide any answers.

“You got my attention, if that’s what You want,” I say between chattering teeth. A breeze brushes my face that has a sweet aroma of flowers. Tears of shame and anger glide down the side of my face, I’m full of frustration because I know you’ll never come back.

“You never taught me how to be strong from a death, and that’s not fair,” I say in hushed voice.

The orange flowers grew back the following year, but years later they eventually died because I stopped tending them as I grew older. You never yelled at me, nor told me it was my fault, but I knew that deep down inside it pained you to see the mass of weeds overtake the arrangement that we worked so hard on. Eventually, you went through and planted Daisies and orange Tulips; they still grow there. 

It suddenly hits me, the day you took your life was your final lesson for me: life is too short to waste. Life is too short to live in the shadows. And even though you never fully allowed God to remove some of the weeds in your life, it’s important for me to live life to the fullest. Sometimes God speaks to us in mysterious ways, and even though I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again, I know what I have to do while I’m here on Earth     plant flowers.

Waiting for the Sweet Tea

Tonight I was really thirsty. Thirsty enough that I had a headache, thirsty enough my mouth was dry. And sweet tea sounded really good. So I put my kettle on the stove to heat the water, and I pulled out my black tea. “Oh how thirsty I am…maybe I should just get a glass of water.” But my thought was, if I get a glass of water, then I won’t be thirsty for my sweet tea that I’m making. So I waited. Longest 20 minutes of my life. I waited for that water to heat up. I waited for my tea to brew. Then I had to prepare my tea with sugar, add some ice to a glass. Pour. Sip. Two glasses later, I was satisfied with my drink. And had I just grabbed a glass of water, that sweet tea probably would not have tasted as good, because I already had a different taste in my mouth, and my thirst would have already been partially quenched.

Now I went on about that story to bring it back to the other night…

I had went out with a few of my girlfriends for a late night dinner date after work. Maxine* and I have been best friends since we both were wee toddlers, and I befriended Bailey* in high school. Bailey had just broken up with her boyfriend, so she needed to be out. I was full of several emotions upon hearing about this breakup, one of which was saddness because I knew she was dating this lad for a few years, but I was also full of excitement because I know she has a bright future ahead of her.

The night my ex and I had a talk before we decided to go our separate ways, I was torn. I hate hurting people. But I knew deep in my heart that our relationship wasn’t right, that something about it just wasn’t settling my stomach. And it seemed that we both were so unhappy. When I opened my mouth, all I could muster out was “I think we need a break,” and the look in his eyes was gut wrenching. We stayed friends for several months (and we still talk to each other once in a blue moon), but the hardest time came when my car broke down, and I had to rely heavily on him to take me to work, and ultimately a ride back home for the summer once the school semester was over. Watching him leave after we unloaded my car, felt like a jabbing metal wire twisting inside of my stomach. There was a brief hug, but that really pulled the trigger inside my brain that we were truly over. And I missed him. It took me all summer to work on getting out of the habit of wanting to text him. One long summer. But eventually God healed my broken heart, and I realized that I need Him more than a man.

Now, I can’t say that my relationship was a mistake, because had we not dated, I wouldn’t have gone to school at UWGB, where I met many dear friends that I have now. And I wouldn’t have befriended several great families from the church up there. But, as I was waiting for that sweet tea, it got me to thinking about relationships, and how so many young women and men are so thirsty that they grab the first glass of water they can get to without really realizing that it wasn’t water that they wanted, but maybe it was a glass of sweet tea that they wanted in the long run. Why do so many young people settle for something that won’t satisfy them? It could be perhaps that they are impatient to wait for the water to boil and the tea to brew, or possibly, young ones feel that drinking that glass of water first won’t affect how they handle the sweet tea after.

Unfortunately, it does make a difference. A young person waiting for the water to boil and the tea to brew, means that they will be way more satisfied once it turns out to be delicious, ice cold sweetness in the mouth. They aren’t hesitant in wanting more, until that tea is completely finished. Think about it this way. When anyone has leftovers of anything, they typically put it in the fridge. Sometimes, though things get moved and shoved allllllll the way to the back of the fridge, on the bottom shelf. Then it begins to stink. If one doesn’t fully wait for the sweet tea, and just fills up on water until the sweet tea is done brewing, then that person will  just bottle up what’s leftover and put it in the fridge, and possibly that sweet tea will get shoved in the back on the bottom. Sometimes, if one isn’t careful and patient enough to wait for their sweet tea, they don’t always treat it like it’s the most satisfying drink around. And really, is sweet tea completely satisfying, when the taste of water was there first?

Bailey* although she is probably not the happiest in the present time (or maybe she is, I don’t know how her relationship was), I know that if she continues to wait, that her drink will come around. Maybe he’ll be sweet tea, maybe he’ll be a hot coffee Boston style, but ultimately I know that she’ll find hers. I know that I look forward to seeing who/what God is brewing for me. And for every young person out there, stop grabbing the first drink you see, wait for the sweet tea, because it’ll be worth that quenching wait.

 

*indicates name change