Thursday, October 4, 2012

Once Upon A Time (S1, Ep2): The Thing You Love Most

Henry watched as the clock started working again at 8:15 once Emma decided to stay. Others notice it too as they are going about their day the next morning; including Regina. She heard the clock chime as she was confronting Henry about his Fairy Tale book that she had been looking through; some of the pages were missing. Though, she considered it no more a threat than Emma; until she notices that Emma's car is still in town. She pays her a visit at the hotel; bringing her a basket of apples from her tree as a parting gift for her drive home. Emma says that she's decided to stay for a while to make sure Henry is ok. Being threatened by Regina has made her all the more determined to stay. Regina assures her that he's fine and has been in therapy. "Don't underestimate me Ms. Swan," Regina says."You have no idea what I'm capable of."

Later, Henry is walking with Emma on his way to school and tells him that their mission is to break the curse and he code names the mission "Operation Cobra". He says that time has been frozen until she got there and that everyone has forgotten who they are and are walking around in a haze. He shows her the missing pages from the book (that show her as the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming) and says that his Mom should never see them and know who she is. Emma talks to Henry's teacher, Mary Margaret, as he goes into school and learns that Henry believes her to be Snow White. She asks her where she can find Henry's therapist and she goes to see Archie.

Emma talks to Archie about Henry and his Fairy Tale obsession. Archie voluntarily gives Henry's file to Emma so she can read about things for herself. He urges her to be careful about labeling him as "crazy" or "destroying his belief system" because it's how he deals with things. He calls Regina when Emma leaves and says that he gave her the file. Later, Graham (the sheriff), shows up at Emma's door with charges that she demanded Henry's files from Archie and took them by force when he refused. He arrests her and takes her back to jail. However, Henry brings Mary Margaret with him to bail her out after he learns from his Mom what happened. Emma promptly decides to go to Regina's and pay her back for the frame job by cutting off a part of her prized apple tree. She says if she comes after her again, she'll come after the rest of the tree and tells her the same thing Regina told her earlier: "You have no idea what I am capable of."

Emma returns to the hotel and Granny informs her that she received a call that reminded her that there was a city ordinance "no felons rule" that prevented her from staying there. Emma begins gathering her things while Regina is busy gathering the apples strewn about the yard and telling Graham that she wants Emma arrested for what she's done to city property. He confronts her about the set up and she denies it while threatening to take away the sheriff position that she gave to him in the first place. He says that he could arrest her again, but that the two of them will just keep going back and forth and that the one who would ultimately get hurt is Henry; no matter how much she insists that all of this is to protect him. Regina calls Emma over to her house to talk and make "peace." Henry overhears Emma expressing her concerns to Regina about his inability to distinguish fantasy from reality and that it's "crazy." Henry runs off and Emma realizes that once again, she's been set up.

Emma goes to Mary Margaret's to pay her back the bail money. Mary Margaret can see that she's distressed and invites her in to talk. Emma says that she thinks she should leave, but Mary Margaret says that that's the very reason why she should stay. She knows that she cares about Henry and asks her "who will protect Henry if you won't?" Emma decides to go find Henry at  his therapy session with Archie and she explains to him that she doesn't think he's crazy, but that the curse is. She says it's a lot to believe in, but there are a lot of crazy things out there so maybe it is true. Regardless, she tells him that she told his Mom what she needed to hear and that one has to trick the evil queen into thinking that they are non-believers and throw her off the trail. She agrees with him that the pages he showed her are dangerous and she throws them into the fire. Henry brightens up and tells her that he knows she is here to help him. She assures him that nothing will stop her from that.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gold comes to see Regina as she is surveying her apple tree once again. He tells her that he just seen Emma and Henry strolling around together and that if she had a problem with Ms. Swan, she should have come to him for help. She said she wasn't in the business of making deals with him anymore and he asks about which deal she was referring to. He then mentions the fact that he had arranged for her to have Henry and then complimented her on her name choice, "However did you pick it?" She questions him as to whether he wanted Ms. Swan to come to town and insinuates that finding Henry was no accident. Mr. Gold plays innocent and excuses himself; but not before saying "please" and taking a bite of one of her apples.

Looking back into the Fairy Tale World, we are shown what happened in the time leading up to the curse. Regina had made her vow of destruction; and planned to accomplish it through a dark curse. Though, she traded it away for Maleficent's sleeping curse (which failed) and needs to get it back. The mirror, and her father, warn her that Maleficent is not going to be happy to see her. The Queen remarks, "Since when do I care about anyone else's happiness but mine?" She decides to go and see Maleficent anyways and get her curse back. Maleficent reminds her that the curse is no longer hers and that it can't bring her loved one back from the dead and to consider the comfort of a pet, like the pony she has, instead. "The only comfort for me is Snow White's suffering," Regina says. Maleficent continues to withhold it from her and says it's a monstrosity and that whomever created it makes even the two of them look "moral". At last, Regina can wait no longer and she overpowers Maleficent with her magic; playing on the fact that Maleficent would save her pet when caught in the warpath of the magic. "Love is weakness, Maleficent. I thought you knew that," Regina says. Maleficent waits for Regina to take her life, but she tells her that she's her only friend and spares her. Maleficent pleads with her not to use the curse: "There are lines even we shouldn't cross. All power comes with a price. Enacting it will take a terrible toll. It will leave an emptiness inside you; a void you will never be able to fill." Regina takes it and says, "So be it."

Regina needs the locks of hair from the "darkest souls" and summons some fellow villainous creatures to give her what she needs. The only other thing she has to add is the heart of something she treasures; which she has the heart of her prized steed. However, it proves not to be effective. Her father says it's for the best, and that "Revenge is a dark and lonely road. Once you go down it, there is no heading back." Regina claims she has nothing to go back to and decides that she will have to go see Rumplestiltskin; the one who gave her the curse. She tells him that it's not working. He says she sounds as worried as Snow and Charming who are fearful of it. He tells her that nothing can stop it except for their unborn child and warns the queen that "no matter how powerful, all curses can be broken" and that "their child is the key." Regina demands to know what she did wrong, and of course Rumplestiltskin insists on a deal first. He demands comfort and a good life in the land that follows and that if he should ever come to her for any reason, she has to heed his every request and do whatever he says, "so long as I say 'please'". She tells him he won't remember anything anyways and agrees. He proceeds to tell her that the heart of a steed isn't even close to good enough. "This is the curse to end all curses" he says. "Great power requires great sacrifice." He tells her the heart must come from something far more precious..."the heart of the thing you love most." She insists what she loved most died because of Snow White. "Is there no one else you truly love?" he asks. "This curse isn't gonna be easy. Vengeance never is, dearie. You have to ask yourself a simple question: how far are you willing to go?" Regina tells him that she is willing to go "as far as it takes."

Regina tells her father what she has to do and he realizes that that means his death. He tells her that she doesn't have to do it and to move past it. Regina insists that Snow's very existence mocks her, is eating her alive, and that Snow must be punished. Her father says, "If the price is a hole that will never be filled, why do it? Stop worrying about Snow White and start over. We can have a new life." Regina claims that all her power and everything she built will be gone. Her father tells her that "power is seductive, but so is love. You can have that again." Regina sobs and says she just wants to be happy. Her father assures her that she can be and that they can find it together, but that the choice is hers. Regina thinks for a moment, "I can be happy; just not here. I'm sorry." Sadly, she does the unthinkable and he falls to the ground.

Regina once again tries to reenact the curse and this time, she apparently succeeds. She then puts a rose on her father's grave with the name "Henry" on it.


I mentioned in the previous blog that I wasn't intending to make these entries that long. Though, for the benefit of those who haven't seen the episodes, I've decided to keep on recapping them as best as I can. If you've already seen them (and want to skip the details) just read the stuff that I post here at the end.

The theme in this episode is obviously "revenge." As anyone with any experience knows, revenge definitely isn't as simple and sweet as one hopes it will be. It takes from you more than anything you hope it will give. True satisfaction and relief (from the pain that caused the need for revenge) is found in the healing power of forgiveness. However, this is something that a lot of people (like the Queen) do not understand. Happiness isn't brought about by causing other people to suffer. Attempting to make other people "pay" for the wrongs they have done never achieves the results we desire. It never fills that "void" and it only creates a thirst for more that is never satisfied. The cycle of pain only continues and more layers of pain and suffering are added. Things continue to spiral out of control until, ultimately, you destroy yourself (and often other casualties around you that you never intended). Indeed, there are some lines that shouldn't be crossed. Revenge will take its toll and come at a terrible price. While seeking to make others pay, we will be the ones that end up paying. That is why God urges us to forgive, love our enemies, and overcome evil with good; allowing God to avenge us and deal out justice (Matthew 5:42-44, Luke 6:27-35, Romans 12:19-21).

Hate is a powerful and destructive force. I think just about anyone can concur with that. However, the ones that call good "evil" and evil "good" are the most dangerous kind (Isaiah 5:20-21). It's a scary thing when those that act out of spite think they are acting out in love. In an effort to protect what's "ours" and avenge, we forget what the essence of love truly is. In 1 Corinthians 13, love is described as a virtuous thing; full of patience and kindness. TRUE LOVE protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres, and is unfailing. What love does NOT do is envy, boast, or delight in evil. It's not prideful, dishonoring, selfish, angry, or unforgiving. Therefore, it should be clear which way is better. One path is full of life, promise, and fulfillment. The other, a dark road that poisons the heart and is full of death and destruction. Is it any wonder that vengeance doesn't ever make one feel any better?

Like the quote from Rumplestiltskin, "Great power requires great sacrifice." That applies to either path. To truly love unselfishly and unconditionally is a powerful thing that does require great sacrifice (like Jesus' sacrifice for us on the cross). Likewise, sacrifices are made in the quest for vengeance as well; which are usually far more unpleasant and aren't worth whatever "power" they may bring. To love or to hate; which truly profits more? A clear head and a good heart are needed to tell the difference. Think (and pray) before you choose/act; for one's words and actions have the power to hurt or heal. They are truly life and death decisions.

Grace and peace to all of you! May God grant us all the wisdom and virtue to make good choices that enhance and enrich our lives; not destroy them. God bless you!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Once Upon A Time (S1, Ep1): The Pilot

"Once upon a time, there was an enchanted forest filled with all the classic characters we know. Or think we know. One day they found themselves trapped in a place where all their happy endings were stolen. Our World. This is how it happened...."

These are the opening words that begin the pilot episode of the "Once Upon A Time" series. Our minds have been conditioned into believing that the fairy tale world is filled with bliss and happy endings. Apparently, this isn't the case. Now, we are going to learn the bigger story about the stories we know "or think we know."

The episode begins with Prince Charming; who is rushing to find Snow White. He finds her dead, and begs the dwarfs to allow him to say good-bye. He gives her one last kiss and and true love's kiss awakens her. They are both stunned and relieved. Snow White exclaims "You found me!" The Prince says, "Did you ever doubt I would...? You never have to worry. I will always find you!" What follows is the royal wedding (as to be expected). So far, the fairy tale is just as we all remember. Then, comes the "catch." The evil queen arrives and she vows: "Soon, everything you love, everything all of you love will be taken from you forever. And, out of your suffering, will rise my victory. I shall destroy your happiness if it is the last thing I do."

The months pass and the royal couple is now expecting a child. They also continue to wonder and worry about the Queen's threat. Snow White insists on visiting the imprisoned Rumplestiltskin to see what he may know about what is to come. Prince Charming reluctantly agrees and they go to see him. Rumplestiltskin is all about making deals, so he insists on knowing the name of their unborn child (Emma) in exchange for what he knows. He tells them that "the queen has created a powerful curse; and it's coming. Soon, you'll all be in a prison, just like me, only worse! Your prison, all of our prisons, will be time; for time will stop. And we will be trapped someplace horrible; where everything we hold dear, everything we love, will be ripped from us, while we suffer for all eternity,...while the queen celebrates, victorious at last! No more happy endings." Snow White frets about what can be done and he says that the only one that can do anything is the child she is carrying. He tells them that the child is their only hope and that they MUST get her to safety. Then, on the child's 28th birthday: "The child will return. The child will find you, and the final battle will begin!"

As the royal couple, and various other characters, try to determine what their game plan is, the blue fairy comes in with an enchanted tree and says that if fashioned into a vessel, "it can ward off any curse." She commissions Gepetto to the task. However, she says: "The enchantment is indeed powerful, but all power has its limits, and this tree can protect only one." It is decided that the pregnant Snow White will be the one who is saved since her child is the one that is predicted to save everyone from the curse.

Gepetto works on the tree diligently and finishes the wardrobe. Meanwhile, Snow White unfortunately begins going into labor; and right as the curse begins to descend upon their world. Emma is born and they wrap her in a blanket with her name on it. Snow White insists that the Prince take the baby and put her in the wardrobe. She says that they have to have faith that she'll come back for them and that they have to give her "her best chance".

Prince Charming literally fights his way to the wardrobe (the palace has been invaded by the Queen's men). He puts the baby inside the tree and she disappears. The Prince is happy as he lies there slain by one of the Queen's guards that assaulted him. Snow White hobbles into the room and cradles the Prince in her arms; whispering to him and kissing him. The Queen arrives and hovers over them; assuring Snow White that she won't remember any of it. The Queen is angry and slightly worried when Snow White informs her that her baby "got away" and tells her "You're going to lose. I know that now. Good will always win." The Queen smiles and says, "We'll see about that!" as they disappear into "someplace horrible....where the only happy ending will be MINE!"

Now, we go to the real world where we see a little boy who is traveling through the city holding a book. It's obvious that he's on some sort of mission. He finally reaches his destination, which is the home of Emma Swan. She is a bail bonds person and had just gotten home from an eventful night. It's also her 28th birthday; and she's celebrating it alone. She has no family or friends and is basically a loner. As she's blowing out a birthday candle on a cupcake, she hears her doorbell ring. After the boy confirms her identity, he announces that he's her son. He begs her to come home with him to Storybrooke. On the way, Emma notices his book of fairy tales that he insists are true; and that she's in the book. She says to to him that he has problems; problems that he says that she is going to be the one to fix.

When they arrive in Storybrooke, she notices the clock in the middle of town. The boy (Henry) explains to her that the clock never moves and that time is frozen. He says that the evil Queen has sent all the characters of the book into the real world and that none of them remember who they really are. Also, no one can try to leave the town or bad things will happen. As he's' telling Emma about these things, Henry's psychiatrist shows up. Archie (aka Jiminy Cricket) probes Henry as to where he's been and Henry dances around the issue and minimizes the truth of the matter. Archie assures him that, "Giving in to one's dark side never accomplishes anything." He then informs Emma that Henry is the mayor's son. Emma promptly takes him home to the mayor, Regina (aka the evil Queen).

After talking with Regina and getting Henry settled back in, Emma decides to head home. She sees that Henry left his book in the car right as she swerves to avoid hitting a wolf in the middle of the road and crashes. She wakes up in the Storybrooke jail where Regina is begging the Sheriff to find Henry, who has gone missing again. Emma offers to help and they search his computer history and find that he used his teacher's credit card to find his birth mother. They question his teacher, Mary Margaret Blanchard (aka Snow White), about Henry's whereabouts. She doesn't know anything, but it's discovered that she was the one that had given Henry the book of fairy tales because she thought he was lonely and that the stories might give him "hope" for a "happy ending." She suggests to Emma that she should go look for him at his "castle", which is an old playground.

Emma finds him right where Mary Margaret suggested. Henry keeps telling Emma about her destiny and that he understands that she gave him up for adoption in order to give him his "best chance"; just like Snow White did for her. She is still in denial about it. She tells him that she is in no book and is no savior; but that she did want him to have his best chance. She explained that when she was a baby, she was found on the freeway and then ended up in the foster care system. She tells Henry that his life with his adoptive mother can't be all bad and that he has a good life. Henry tries to assure Emma that her parents didn't abandon her; that they were saving her from the curse and that that's just where she "came through". He begs her to stay for just a little while. She finally takes Henry up on his offer. She decides to stay for a week after Regina coldly threatens her and tells her to stay away from Henry and leave Storybrooke. As she is settling into her room at Granny's Bed & Breakfast, the town clock begins ticking. Additionally, Mr. Gold (Rumplestiltskin) runs into Emma as he's collecting rent from Granny and tells her to enjoy her stay.


If you're still reading, let me apologize for the already long blog. However, knowing the basics and foundation of the story is very crucial, so this first blog of the series is obviously going to be the longest one. Though, why am I spending such an extensive amount of time to blog this series when you can obviously read recaps elsewhere online, buy Season 1 for yourself, or watch it on Netflix? Well, as explained in my previous blog entry, this series has a lot of spiritual truths woven into it (whether it was intended to be there or not). Therefore, I just want to share the things I see in each episode so that it might encourage you to think about the Biblical truths of God's Word that are nestled into this TV series meant for our "entertainment." 

God is our "Prince Charming." He is always in pursuit of us and has been since He first created us. He will "always find us" and likewise, we should be seeking Him too (Psalm 27:4-8, Psalm 105:4). He is love and life to us and endures forever (1 John 4:8, Psalm 136). He sustains and saves us (Amos 5:4, Psalm 119:88, John 3:16, James 4:8). We are His bride (Revelation 19:7, 21:9, 22:17). In Him, we have eternal life; our "happily ever after."

Of course, we do have our adversary (1 Peter 5:8). Satan has always sought to ruin God's good and perfect plans (John 8:44, 1 John 3:8). Satan thinks he's high and mighty, but he's nothing and WILL be destroyed (Isaiah 14:11-13, Revelation 20:10). No matter what happens, everything works out for good for those that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). It's true; good ultimately always wins! The perfect world that God created did become cursed, but Christ's sacrifice is what has overcome that curse (Romans 5). That tree (the cross) is where our Savior redeemed us. His sacrifice saved us all and He is coming back for us to take us home where we are meant to be (John 14:2-3). One day, we will escape this temporal "horrible place" where we don't belong; which Christ has already overcome (John 16:33, 1 John 4:4, 5:4-5).

God's Word gives us hope for a happy ending, and that's because the Bible is no fairy tale book; it's TRUTH! The Bible tells us who God is, who we are, and where things are going. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). We have to keep clinging to our faith (Hebrews 11) because in the end, those are the ones that will be saved (Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:13, Mark 13:13).

This world is full of struggles. It's terrible, foreign, and full of pain and troubles. We don't always know who we are or what we're meant to do and we wander around in our own "Storybrooke". We all have to pursue and accept our destinies. We are meant for great things (Ephesians 2:10) and sometimes we feel like Emma (or like Moses or Jonah) and we want to deny or run from our calling. We think of all sorts of reasons why we can't do what we're meant to do, or say it's meant for "somebody else" and we bury our talents (and heads) in the sand (Matthew 25:14-28). It's hard to embrace the big picture sometimes, but we overwhelm ourselves instead of just focusing on the baby steps. Maybe we should just focus on the small choices; the little things that we can decide to do "today" that will eventually work up to the bigger choices of "tomorrow". Maybe we can't walk in such big shoes right away, but we'll grow into them. It's a journey, and it all starts with one step of faith. We have God's Word to encourage us, as well as others who are on the same journey of faith with us (Hebrews 10:25). Together, we help each other stay strong and persevere.

Grace and peace to all of you as you live your lives to the fullest! Take advantage of this one life that you have to live and make it your "best chance", because you won't get another one! Seek, find, and walk in the faith we were all meant to discover and possess! It will be rewarded! God bless you all!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Once Upon A TV Show...

Television. It isn't what it used to be. Today, most programs that you see are tainted with so much profanity, violence, and sexual references that there is little (if anything) to gleam from the programming. Most of what we have are crime dramas, distasteful sitcoms, and goofy reality shows. Whatever happened to some of the shows we used to love; the ones that were suitable for family viewing and often had themes of faith and family values? Well, if you can catch the reruns (or buy the series on DVD) you can still watch shows like that. My personal faves include "Little House on the Prairie", "Full House" (and not just because John Stamos is in it), and "Family Matters." I grew up on these shows, and there were always good things to observe and learn from them.

If you're like me, maybe you don't watch very much TV anymore because they just don't "make them like they used to." You stick to the re-runs and DVD collections, and maybe occasionally check out a new show to see if it's any good. However, it just doesn't compare with the kind of media we grew up on. However, an exception rolls around every now and then. I have come across just such a show. My friend, Kaitlyn, often tweets about the shows that she watches and I noticed how much she raved about the show "Once Upon A Time." Despite her insistence, I adamantly refused to give the show a try. While the genre did appeal to me, I had no desire to begin liking a new series that would probably end up getting cancelled should I decide that I liked it (my friend, Shane, understands this "curse" as well ha ha!). However, her incessant tweeting piqued my curiosity to the point where I decided I would check it out.

I went online and began watching the first episode. That was all it took! Everything about the series is absolutely captivating; the characters, costumes, sets, musical score, special effects, and most surprisingly, the storyline! It was a welcome surprise from ABC/Disney; I have been losing faith in their ability to provide true family entertainment for a long time!

The thing that I enjoy most, which is what has stirred me to blog, is the spiritual and Biblical themes. This show brings up so many scriptures, Bible stories, and spiritual concepts to my mind as I watch it. It reminds me a LOT of how C.S. Lewis used Narnia to teach those sorts of things to children. I can see the same theme at work in "Once Upon A Time" (whether it's intended to be there or not). The premise is that the evil queen places a curse on the fairy tale world. The characters are all sent to the "real" world to a town called Storybrooke. No one remembers who they really are or what has happened to them and the little town/characters go about their lives frozen in time. They are waiting for the the daughter of Prince Charming and Snow White (who escaped the curse) to come and rescue them and break the curse. Throughout the series, we see everything unfold; in addition to viewing flashbacks of the fairy tale world and how everything came to be (and in relation to the characters and their histories). It's fascinating how each episode toggles between the real world and the previous one and shows how things transpired with the characters both then and now. There's always some sort of "theme" to each episode, and it's very deep and thought provoking!

It didn't take long for me to want to begin blogging the episodes. I didn't get around to it as soon as I would have liked, so I decided to wait until the series came to DVD so I could watch them again and take notes. The second season begins September 30th, so I am HOPING to get the first season episodes blogged BEFORE then (and then blog each week's episode soon after it airs). I'll do my best, but I might be a little behind lol. ;) At any rate, it WILL be done eventually (and I hope you all will enjoy them - especially if you're as big of a fan of the show as I am!).

So, while they may not make them as good as they used to, they sometimes come pretty close! God still moves in various and mysterious ways; including the media!! Keep your eyes and heart open!! You might be surprised! God bless you all!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Remembering Grandma

Today, our family and friends said good-bye to Kate (Grandma) Sauers. As much as we miss her, and already feel the void, we are happy that she is home with Jesus.

Grandma's brothers, Jim & Jerry, shared a few words at the funeral. Uncle Jim made a point of strongly emphasizing her faith and the fact that she was a prayer warrior. My Grandma, and her siblings, had gotten this trait from their mother; my great-grandmother, Marie Zerkel. Faith is the strongest thread our family has. It's what binds us together and makes us all as caring and close as we are!

Uncle Jerry shared with us a few stories of Grandma; many of which were humorous and showed everyone a side of her that we sometimes forget. He made us all laugh when he joked about her lead foot and how she must be a distant relative of a race car driver. He also mentioned her love of sports; particularly IU and Notre Dame. It immediately reminded me of the time my Dad, brother, and I were in the beauty shop where she cut hair and we were all watching the Colts game. We were glued to the TV and she had paused with her comb and shears that she had been using to cut my brother's hair. The Colts either made a touchdown or did something really awesome, because I remember Grandma throwing up her arms and yelling "YAAAAHOOOO!!" It totally shocked me and makes me smile/laugh even still! She was rather excited and animated lol!

I also shared from my heart as well. Here is what I read:

It hasn't even been a week since Grandma went home. Yet, it already feels like the whole world has changed now that she's not in it. Everything about her was so unlike anyone else. She always made everything better and as close to perfect as possible. Even yesterday, I was looking at all the food that had been carried in for us to eat. I thought about what Grandma might have made and how we all would have praised her for how tasty it was. No one makes food like Grandma. Everything she made was delicious; even if she insisted that it was somehow flawed. She was a perfectionist, and no matter how perfect her work always was to us (or how much she went above and beyond to make it that way) she always made a point of telling us how she could have made it even better. She always had those interesting cooking tips and tricks. Though, as the saying goes, she was often imitated but never duplicated. It doesn't matter how well you can follow Grandma's way; it's never going to be as perfect as when she did it.

Food wasn't the only thing she had tips for. I remember watching her pack a suitcase. She handled each item with care and was placing tissue paper in-between everything. She told me this was to keep the clothes from wrinkling. She always did things I would never have thought to do and they all seemed to be such smart and sensible ideas for making the most of things and saving time. I told her that she needed to write a book for me that was filled with little things like that; as well as her recipes and special things that she did that I would never think to do on my own. Of course, she always downplayed these things as not being all that special. Maybe she didn't really get that the bigger picture was that we wanted to keep all those tiny little details (that she paid so much attention to) going on for as long as possible.

Extending her memory is as important to us as it was for her to extend the life out of everything. There wasn't much that she didn't save for a later use or for a keepsake. After all, how would she make a instrument case for my flute if she hadn't saved the extra material that she had leftover from making my peach bridesmaid's dress for my Dad's wedding? While all my other fellow flutists were buying flute cases from a gal that was selling them, Grandma was making me one that was unlike any of theirs. It was denim; and the lining inside was that peach satin. Of course, Grandma added "extras." She added a star on the outside, as well as a pocket, and my initials were in gold glitter. Priceless! Of course, that was always Grandma's way; from hems to haircuts, she could do it all! She was always there to make, mend, and create things; for special events, or just because. Whether it's a dress, blanket, curtains, birthday cakes, or whatever else that needed taken care of, she was there to make sure it got made or fixed.

It seemed like a cruel thing to happen that after all those years of lending her faithful and helping hands, one was taken away from her. I can't imagine how discouraging it must have been to not be able to use your hands for all the things you used to do; including all the simple every-day things that we take for granted. Yet, I don't think any of us heard her complain about it much. She persevered with her faith and always had an incredible will to survive. No matter what challenges she faced in life (even at the very end) she never gave up. She wanted to keep being there for everyone the way she always had; no matter how much she had slowed down. Though, I suppose that was what it took for her to finally take a break and let us do for HER for a change. Although we could never repay her for everything she has done for us, we were always more than willing to try. Even now, she continues to give so much to us as we remember everything that made her who she was and how all of it flowed from her heart of faith. Her faith gave life to her and she shared that life with us. Our reward is the fruits of her labor and the impact that she will forever have on us; as well as the bonus of being with her again if we cling fast to the faith that she so cherished. She is now receiving her reward in heaven right now; where everything is new, perfect, and lasts forever. I can only imagine how she might object to not doing enough, just as Jesus would be assuring her that she did. Can't you just hear him say, "Kate, your work was done unto me. Therefore, it was perfect. It's absolutely good enough and the results will last forever. Now, you can finally rest after a life well spent. Well done, good and faithful servant. Welcome home!"

We miss you, Grandma!! We hope you're enjoying heaven! No one will ever be able to take your place here, but we'll do our best to carry on in your absence. We love you and thank you for all you have done and all that you are! You have fully blessed us with a multitude of beautiful memories and remembrances. You have left your mark on all of us, and the world! You'll never be forgotten! Amen.

These memories are only but a few of the MANY I have of her; both growing up and in recent years. My more recent ones are of how she thought to give me birthday money back in July (and particularly since it was my 30th, she wanted to make sure she did something). As always, she was thinking of others rather than herself. There she was, taking the time to think of me and sacrificially give me something when she was so under the weather. I used that money when I went down to Indy for Sarah's bachelorette party and we all got pedicures. In fact, that nail polish is still on my toes almost two months later. Yes, it's chipping and some of it is barely there....but I think of her when I see those purple sparkles and I just don't want to take it off yet. At the very least, I think I'll have to find that same OPI nail polish so that I can redo them often and think of her every time.

My other really fresh memory is of her helping me out so much with the kids (particularly Gianna) when the kids and I moved back home two years ago. Gianna started pre-school, and Grandma helped pick her up during the times my Dad or I were still at work and couldn't make it. I always hated to ask, but she was always more than willing. She always said how much she enjoyed picking up Gianna and that she loved having that time with her. Of course, Gianna somehow managed to get Grandma to buy her milkshakes from McDonald's, but it made Grandma all too happy to spoil her little sweetie with a treat. It made me think of all the times she took us grand-kids through the drive-thru for a happy meal or some kind of special treat. Yep, if Grandma wasn't making us some of her yummy food, she was giving us our next favorite: fast food!

Grandma was always spoiling us! She never thought she did all that much for us, but she did! I remember how she told me about an occasion where she bought new shoes for my cousin, Veronica, because hers were so worn out. Her sister, Valerie, wanted new shoes too. Grandma told her that hers were still good and that she really didn't need any. However, those tearful, pleading, Precious Moment eyes of  hers melted Grandma's heart easily and little Ta-Ta got some new shoes too. ;) I believe Grandma also bought me a pair of shoes too after my Mom, brother and I had to stay with her a while when our house was being de-fumigated (skunk got in the crawl space. It was horrible lol!). Not only did she get me new shoes (since my other pair had absorbed some of the smell) but she laundered so much of our things and picked me up from school (despite my mother telling me not to call Grandma to come and get me) when I discovered that yet something else I was wearing wasn't quite free from the smell. Someone would notice it during first period study hall (but thankfully, no one ever knew it was me or I would have never lived it down lol!) and I would quietly find a way to say I was sick, excuse myself, and go to the office to call Grandma to rescue me lol! 

As kind and generous as Grandma was, my cousins and I also knew that Grandma's wrath wasn't something you ever wanted lol. We often laugh about how she would get after us for being too rowdy in the basement, or disobeying safety orders by climbing the trees or wandering through the corn fields. As much as Grandma loved us, she wasn't opposed to getting out the yardstick if we really pressed our luck! I remember how Veronica and I unrolled a bunch of toilet paper once. We got caught, yelled at, and watched as Grandma carefully rolled it back up so it wouldn't be wasted lol. I also remember how she nursed my bloody nose after my cousin Katie took a toy vehicle and hit me with it (to which Grandma yelled, "Wayne, take her to bed!" I'm sorry, Katie, but I will never be able to forget how you were kicking and crying in mid-air as Grandpa held you by the arms out in front of him lol!). Grandma told me the correct way to make it stop was by pinching and holding my head down. I had always held it back, but despite my objections and skepticism, we did it Grandma's way (and of course, it worked much better).

She also wasn't afraid to get after Grandpa. We all know how ornery HE is! ;) I'm sure this will be one of the odd things that we (and Grandpa) will miss quite a bit. Who can forget how she would roll her eyes at him, or get after him for being goofy?! One of my favorite phrases was, "Wayne, cut that out!" Grandpa and Grandma may have acted like Frank and Marie Barone from "Everybody Loves Raymond" sometimes, but we all know they care about each other deep down. They have been together over 60 years and poor Grandpa is taking the loss much harder than any of us ever thought he would. Please, keep him in your prayers (and that he will finally see to it that he will welcome Christ into his heart so that he can be with Grandma like he wishes).

I still have many more memories that I would love to share, but I'll stop. Feel free to comment and add your own stories if you'd like! If there's one thing Grandma did best, it was smiling and laughing (ohmigosh, I'm soooo going to miss that big smile and that special laugh of hers!). She always made me laugh; especially when she would squeeze my knee as a kid and make me giggle. "There's that wooden leg!" She would say lol. Anyways, you know how much Grandma loved sharing stories; and sharing every detail...right down to the year, day, and even day of the week (and sometimes the hour) that it happened lol!! God bless you all as we remember Grandma! Thank you for your love and prayers!! 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Remember Me Not?

One's memory is a very complex and precious gift. Over a lifetime, we store away so many different memories and experiences that make us who we are. Some of them are memories that we want to cherish forever and never forget. They are the moments that made us say, "I wish this would never end." Then, there are the memories we would rather not remember. They are the memories that are connected with some kind of negative experience that is laced with sadness, pain, humiliation, or something with an unpleasant undertone.

Have you ever wished you could forget (or even completely erase) a memory; maybe even a cluster of them? Have you ever wished that your recollection of an event, or a person, could totally vanish from your mind? I know I have! I doubt there is a single person out there that hasn't felt that way at one time or another. We all have people and things that we would like to forget. Wiping out the memories would mean wiping out whatever pain was caused.

That is the concept behind the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Joel and Clementine (played by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) have apparently had a rough relationship. Clementine elects to have her memories of Joel erased. When he finds out about this, he elects to do the same. However, in his dream-like state during the procedure, he decides he doesn't want to let her go. He realizes that his decision was a hasty mistake and that even though it may hurt to deal with the memories, there are a lot of things he doesn't want to forget. Whether they were good or bad memories, they impacted him in some way that helped shape his life for the better. So, he tries everything he can to thwart the process and preserve what he can before the memories are gone.

Even though the procedure apparently worked on both of them, there seems to be a mysterious void that they can't explain. I suppose that that feeling of awkwardness and uncertainty would be maddening. I think we all have those moments where we feel like we should remember something or someone and can't. It's a very odd feeling when you feel like there is some kind of missing piece, but you don't know what it is. It's even worse if it's staring you in the face and you don't realize it (or realize it too late).

I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn't seen it, so I won't delve into it any further. All I will say is that you simply HAVE TO watch this movie! It's amazing, deep, thought provoking, and has a few surprises in it! It definitely has a lot of food for thought!

The thoughts I'm chewing on are probably the things that most people will be thinking to themselves after watching it. If erasing memories were a possibility, would I want to do it? Who or what would I want to erase? Is it even a wise idea in the first place? Who would I be and how would I be different if I did? I'll bet it would cause more problems than the ones I would think I was getting rid of (or hoping to avoid).

Wouldn't it be frustrating to not remember what made you who you are? It's hard enough to understand why we think, feel, and act the way we do. Imagine how much harder it would be to figure yourself out if you were missing some discarded pieces that would have given you insight into what molded you into who you are now!

It all boils down to pain. That's the only reason someone would want to forget something is because of heartache. Yet, forgetting or erasing something doesn't mean that it never happened. History can never be blotted out or rewritten. It happened. Period. And what is the purpose of history; any kind of history? It's to learn from it. More often than not, the hardest (but most valuable) lessons were the ones that came with a lot of pain. Was it unpleasant? Sure. Will it be worth it? Always. Even as I write that, I feel that I am lecturing myself. These past couple of years have been the most painful ones of my life and every day that I wake up, I have to remember that it's all real and that no amount of sleep can erase it. The reality of things plays out in my dreams at night sometimes. The sad part is, one can't just dismiss it as "just a dream" when it's just as real when you wake up. It's terrible when you feel that you can't escape a nightmare. Though, even if I could be like Joel or Clementine, it wouldn't change anything. My life would still be how it is, even if I couldn't remember how I got to this point. The only difference would be not remembering WHY I felt the way I felt; and it still wouldn't change anything in my personal history. The other downside would be the inability to learn from my experiences; both triumphs and failures. It would likely impair my ability to make better choices in the future and lead me to repeating my mistakes, creating fresh pain and regrets, and wishing I could erase all of that too.

The two verses that jumped out in my mind as I soaked in everything from the movie were these:

Jesus told them another parable: The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.  The owner’s servants came to him and said, "Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?" "An enemy did this," he replied. The servants asked him, "Do you want us to go and pull them up?" "No," he answered, "because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn." - Matthew 13:24-30

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28

In our lives, there are going to be lots of weeds. It's unavoidable; whether the weeds appear on their own, or they have extra "help" from an enemy. However, there is good seed as well. If we focus on the weeds, we are going to uproot the wheat. There's a silver lining to every cloud, right? A bad apple doesn't have to spoil the whole bunch. You don't have to throw the baby out with the bath water. Is this one old saying too many? Ever stop to think why there are old sayings (and why they continue on)? It's because someone somewhere learned a good lesson; and that lesson is being passed on. If we are wise, we'll learn from our mistakes; as well as the mistakes of others. THAT'S how we'll avoid the pain that we'll later wish we could forget!

NEVER FORGET that everything works out for good. That's His promise. There is a purpose that we have all been called to. The weeds and the wheat will both be there throughout our journey. Gleam what grain you can and don't let the weeds get you down. Don't dwell on them; toss them out when the time comes and feast on the harvest of good things! Grace and peace to all of you!!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Depth Behind "Rolling in the Deep"

"Rolling in the Deep" is probably Adele's most popular and well-known song; as well as popular and well-known in general. Most can probably sing and recite the lyrics easily. Whether it's because people connect with it (or simply because they've heard it so much) there are many reasons why it's as beloved as it is. Though, like many songs, many probably sing it without really considering the depth or the weight of the words. 

Adele's music and lyrics have always resonated strongly with me. I ponder the meaning behind each song and relate to each one in some way. The songs she writes are the result of the experiences she has had (most of them involving tragedy in a relationship). It's no mystery as to why I can personalize her songs in a way that fits my own unique circumstances. "Rolling in the Deep" is one that I have heard and sung countless times. Though, I have some fresh insight and understanding into the words. 

Like everyone else, I have seen my share of loss in relationships; whether we're talking friendships or romantic connections. Each loss has varied in degree. Some were no big deal while others were absolutely unbearable (and haunt me even still). Without going into detail, I'll just say that something triggered "Rolling in the Deep" in my mind. I really started thinking about each word and how it did (or didn't) apply to current and past situations. It has been so long since I have bothered to blog anything, but this seemed like some powerful insights that needed to be shared. Someone out there besides me needs to read this: 

"There's a fire starting in my heart; reaching a fever pitch and it's bringing me out the dark...." This describes the moment where you know there's a fire inside that is reaching it's hottest point to where it's undeniable. It burns so hot and so bright that it brings you out of the dark (denial) you've been in. You wake up and say, "finally I can see you crystal clear." The truth is as clear as day and brings out a lot of those fiery emotions; whether good or bad. There's usually a lot of rage directed at the person who wronged you: "go ahead and sell me out and I'll lay your ship bare. See how I'll leave with every piece of you. Don't underestimate the things that I will do!" The feeling of anger (and sometimes revenge) cries out at the injustices that might have occurred. Betray me and I'll betray you. Take from me and I'll take you down with me; and if you don't think I will, you're underestimating me. 

There are usually many more emotions that follow. There are stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Those stages are clearly evident in the lyrics as she goes from getting out of denial to being angry. Then comes the bargaining and depression as she reflects on the hurt: "The scars of your love remind me of us they keep me thinking that we almost had it all. The scars of your love they leave me breathless I can't help feeling...We could have had it all, rolling in the deep. You had my heart inside of your hand, and you played it to the beat." What once were memories become scars of what was. You can't believe it and it takes your breath away. You play the "what if" game of what was and what could have been. You could have had it all; rolling in the depths of what you shared. Your heart was in their hands and they played you. 

The grief stages continue to cycle and more anger surfaces: "Baby, I have no story to be told; but I heard one on you and I'm gonna make your head burn! Think of me in the depths of your despair. Make a home down there as mine sure won't be shared." Often times, that hurt turns into hate and you long to make a person's "head burn" (or ears burn, as the saying goes). You talk about them to your friends and maybe even gossip and spread rumors. Sometimes, we leave our own role out of it and only focus on what "they" did wrong; and hope with all our hearts that they will hurt a lot more. We hope they're tortured by our memory as we strive not to be tortured by theirs. We shake our fists and say: "You're gonna wish you'd never met me. Tears are gonna fall; rolling in the deep." We may wish we had never met them too, but our hurt has us wishing even more that they regret what they've done because if not, they soon will as we make it miserable for them. May the tears fall as they think about all they had and could have had! 

Then, comes the sort of "acceptance" part: "Throw your soul through every open door. Count your blessings to find what you look for. Turn my sorrow into treasured gold. You'll pay me back in kind and reap just what you sow." This, by far, is the most positive and healing element of the whole process; the anticipated result of the journey of pain. It's the point where you let go and wish them well. You hope that they put their heart into the next "open door" that they come across; counting their blessings in every good and bad experience. Eventually, they'll find what they're looking for (as will you, if you do the same). The sorrow that turns into treasured gold are those precious nuggets of wisdom that you mine from each painful experience. It's not all for nothing. If they (as well as you) can gleam something from all the mess, you realize it is not a waste if you can learn from their (and YOUR) mistakes. You have to sift through a lot of filth to find the gems. Then, you finally realize that the greatest "revenge" doesn't come from creating MORE pain. The "sweeter" revenge is forgiveness and finding peace; and finding out that they have found the same. That's how they "pay you back in kind" if they (and you) have shown remorse for the wrongs committed. The rewards are reaped indeed (Psalm 126:4-6James 3:18). Consequences will also be reaped should you continue to ignore the gold and sow trouble (Job 4:7-9Proverbs 22:8Galatians 6:7-8). 

This song has been such a good lesson and illustration for me; for not only the recent incidence but for past ones as well. Yet, my big heart has always been a double-edged sword. My willingness to give the benefit of the doubt (and see the best in people despite some obvious faults and/or "deal breakers") often blinds me from accepting the reality of who people are. I am no Oprah fan, but this is probably one of the truest things I've ever heard her say: "When people show you who they really are, believe them."  Accept it and then deal with it accordingly. Yes, people can and do change, but it's THEIR choice. The only one you can change and make decisions for is "you." Make a decision to stay away from those that are divisive, toxic, and even dangerous. Sometimes it means saying good-bye when you realize that no matter what you do, they will never do what it takes to make their own right choices and they cause nothing but trouble (Titus 3:9-11). 

We all hope to find those rare and "deep" people that we can count on. Those that truly are, hold them close! Cut out the "shallow" ones from your life and learn to treasure every good and bad experience and turn it into an opportunity! May you all roll in the depths of God's love, wisdom, grace, and forgiveness! Grace and peace to all of you!