Monday, August 29, 2005

Life on a Stick

When I was little my mom used to take me to the pier pretty often. Not that we lived close to the beach, just close enough that the pier was one of those "What do you want to do today?" destinations. We'd walk all the way from one end to the other, stopping along the way to look at every trinket in the window. If I looked over the edge, I could see tiny surfers like dots in the water. It felt pretty close to magic to be walking right above where the waves were crashing.

Saturday afternoon I took my first trip to the pier as a parent, with my son. As Jon and I walked along pushing Isaiah in his stroller, I felt like everything had shrunk, like there wasn't much here to see. Cheese on a stick was just about the most magical thing I could find. That is, until I looked at Isaiah's face. His eyes were wide around as he tried to take in every image. I paused to think about what this must be like for him, all the colors, the voices, the music and the aroma of tasty treats. Suddenly, the magic was back.

I know why God said we should "become like little children" (Matthew 18:3). Kids are impressed by the smallest of things. They pay attention to details. They're not cynical, like adults. Children immediately recognize the beauty that is everywhere. Just sticking your tongue out to feel the wind is enough to spark wonder and amazement. The colors on the spinning kites create an entire rainbow fantasy world. Everything's bigger than life because everything's bigger than you, and it's exciting.

It's really easy to lose that excitement when you're stuck on the freeway or waiting in line at the market or on hold with customer service. But I bet if you just take a look around, wherever you are, in a quick second you can find something that will lift you out of the mundane. Like a spider on the ceiling or shivering leaves on a tree. And if you just can't escape that jaded trap, go buy yourself an ice cream cone. Make it two scoops, two different flavors. Say yes to whipped cream and a cherry. Let it drip just a little down your thumb. Forget the napkin, wipe your face with your hand. Savor every drop.

When you take that last crunchy bite, I dare you not so smile.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Balance, Part II

Funny how God always knows when you need to hear from Him. While I've been struggling to figure out how to juggle my responsibilities at home, at work and with The Shining Light Fund, He's been preparing to speak to me and show me that He's there, He's listening and He's waiting for me to release it all.

Yesterday we spent the day at the original First Born Chapel, the place where the spiritual heritage of my husband's family was born. Jon comes from a family of ministers and it all began with Granpa Fillon at a small white church in Torrance. When the congregation outgrew that building, they moved to the church in Lomita that we attend today, where I met Jon and where we were married.

I found myself listening to stories about the old church with a huge smile on my face. It was a joy to watch everyone experiencing the warmth of remembrance. It also brought back to mind the vivid memories that I have of my own grandmother, ever on her knees in prayer on behalf of her family. This is the foundation upon which I was raised and I can now pass on to my son.

Then this morning, as we entered our church for morning service, I was handed a bulletin, just as I am every week. Sometimes I read it all the way through, other times I look just for the scripture reference for that week. Today I opened it up to read the following:

Anxious soul, God is saying to you today, "Be still and know that I am God." And there's a reason He's saying it. Your activity, when born out of anxiety, actually prevents Him from showing Himself strong on your behalf. That doesn't mean you're to be passive or lazy; it just means you're to do whatever He leads you to do without running ahead of Him in the energy of the flesh. It also means you're to submit to Him first, then slow down and wait. In other words, make sure you have a sense of peace to go along with the ideas He's given you. Ask Him to reveal to you His will in the matter, then "be still" and acknowledge that He's God, He's in charge, He knows what He's doing. Learn to trust Him without always demanding to know what He's going to do, when He's going to do it and how He's going to carry it out.

Until you really embrace that God is the vine and you are a branch, you'll keep trying to do things that only God can do - like blessing yourself, promoting your own ministry, solving your own problems and answering your own prayers. Or worse, you'll try to cover up for Him because you think He's not doing it fast enough or in the way it should be done. Give it up! Try less and trust more. Jesus said, "I am the vine and you are the branches." All you have to do is stay connected.

It's not up to me to be the glue that holds all the pieces together. I just need to play my role. And when bad things happen, which they will, it's not the end of everything. If I fall or if I fail, I have only to stand up again and take the next step with some added wisdom. And that's not so bad. That just makes me a person, and if I'm not mistaken, that's exactly what I was meant to be.

Thanks for listening.

Friday, August 19, 2005


I'm having a hard time finding it lately. Sorta relates back to my post about time. Too much to do and no matter how much I work, I feel like nothing gets done. It feels yucky and sad and while everyone else thinks I'm doing a fantastic job, the thing that really matters is what I think. And that's not so fantastic.

Right around here would be the place where I start the uplifting and enlightening part of the program. That program has been interrupted for the moment. Nothing major, just feeling blah. I need some focused prayer time and I need to learn to encourage myself. Don't get me wrong, I love encouragement from outside sources as much as you do, but it doesn't mean anything if I don't believe it myself.

The house is quiet. Time for bed. Time to reconnect.

Thanks for listening.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Do Me a Favor

I was in the market with Isaiah the other day, checking out the Level 3 Gerber foods (yes, he's chewing already) when I experienced what seems to be a common occurence in many supermarkets. It's happened to me countless times before and, Lord knows, it will happen to me many more times in the future. But I still can't figure it out.

My husband will laugh when reading this because he knows it has been my biggest pet peeve for many, many years. I even remember hating going to the market with my mom when I was a kid, and I think it could be directly related. It's not like the shopping carts require super-human strength to push. And it's not like touching the edges of the store shelves will cause electric shock. So why, I ask, is it so difficult for people to pull their carts over to the right when they are:
1) browsing through items on the shelf?
2) having a casual conversation with a friend they just ran into?
3) drooling on their shirt while staring into space?

I relate grocery shopping to driving. There is a reason why we have road regulations that keep us driving on the right side. Hard as it may be to believe, there are OTHER PEOPLE on the road and I'm guessing that those people need to get somewhere, just like you do. Not to mention that it prevents head on collisions from occuring all the live-long day. You don't get to just weave all over the road, stopping in the middle for no reason. The same should be true in the grocery store.

The best part is that when faced with this situation, after saying excuse me and smiling doesn't work, I may elect to move the other person's cart just enough for me to squeeze by. And it never fails, they look at me like I am the piece of 10 day old gum they found on the bottom of their shoe. Shame on me for wanting to actually want to complete my own shopping.

I realize this may seem petty. But life is short and I really don't want to spend most of it trapped behind your cart while you choose between your two favorite brands of long-grain rice.

It just hit me that we need milk. I think I'll head to the drive-thru dairy.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Two days ago, I picked up the phone and heard the grief-stricken voice of someone very close to me say, "Carrie, I'm losing my baby." Suddenly everything around me grew dim and I fell to my knees in tears. After hearing those words, it's really hard to hear anything else. We talked for some time, holding each other through phone lines and wondering how we had arrived at this place. At that moment, it was not certain yet, there were still blood tests to be done the following day. As of yesterday, the news was not good.

I've heard from literally thousands of women, all over the world, in very similar situations. Routine ultrasound, baby is measuring small, no heartbeat. They experience temporary physical pain and, most times, lifelong emotional scars. After hearing this story so many times, one would think I'd get used to it, but it never gets any easier to hear.

It is especially difficult in this case because the Mom is one of my dearest friends and, after I married Jon, she became my cousin. She is the avenue that led me to my home church where I met my husband and dedicated my son. When Elena died, she crocheted two tiny blankets for her - one that I keep at home with all of Elena's things and the other that was laid over her tiny body when she was buried. And she has since become a valuable part of The Shining Light Fund, entering all of the orders that we receive for mother's bracelets. She has always been a compassionate soul, an encourager.

Now, she needs my encouragement. Even though I have gone through a loss myself, it's still hard to know what to do or say. I mean, I know all the things NOT to say. My mind is moving so fast and I just blurt out all the things that come into my head..."Can I go with you to the doctor?" "Do you want me to come over?" "Call me anytime." These are really all just excess words to say, "I'm helpless." "I'm sorry." "I love you."

I know that everyone will be okay. But today, I'm sad. And that's okay, too.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Most people think that love just happens. Quick and easy, like in the movies. "Oops, we're in love!" But really, love takes work. Not the kind of work that is tiresome and tedious. It's the kind of work that's fulfilling and builds your confidence. Those same people think that the work is done to change or adjust something about the other person, but it should be work that you do to yourself. The way I see it, you're constantly learning and this learning is applied to your relationship to make you better equipped as a true friend and partner.

I have to say that yes, I know all of this from my own experience. I'm fortunate enough to have a partership with my husband that is based on a foundation of faith and love. I never expected to find this. My extended family has its fair share of divorce and separation so maybe I thought it couldn't happen. But it did. I find myself connected, physically, emotionally and spiritually, to a wonderful man who is still my best friend, who still makes me laugh until the tears come and who works equally as hard as I do toward our marriage. It's not just acceptance of who I am - he truly appreciates and encourages who I am, the whole package. From what I've seen, that's pretty rare and I thank God everyday for allowing me to know this kind of love.

Happy Birthday, Jon. You are my treasure.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Something Out of Nothing

We've all been there. You're in line somewhere at a store or something and you happen to be right behind the person who feels the need to cause a scene. And it only happens when you're in a hurry to get someplace. So you wait, like a good little consumer, and you look off to the left and right, pretending not to notice what's going on. The scene gets longer and louder and you're left wondering, "Is it really worth all this commotion?"

I'm in line at a drive-thru today and the woman in front of me is placing her order at the speaker. She ordered one Chicago Dog with just onions and peppers and another Chicago Dog with chili. Sounded pretty normal. Here's where it started to get interesting:

Woman in green minivan: "I have a coupon."
Employee at window: "What is the coupon for?"
Woman in green minivan: "It says I get a free order of french fries with any Chili Dog."
Employee at window: "So you want two Chicago Dogs and one Chili Dog?"
Woman in green minivan: "No, I only want two hotdogs."
Employee at window: "So you want one Chicago Dog and one Chili Dog?"
Woman in green minivan (clearly irritated): "No, I said I want one Chicago Dog with onions and peppers and one Chicago Dog with chili."
Employee at window (pretty confused): "But your coupon is for a Chili Dog, so do you want a Chili Dog?"

The plot thickens.

Woman in green minivan (just plain mad): "I ordered a Chicago Dog with chili on it, so that makes it a chili dog."
Employee at window: "Ma'am, a Chicago Dog is different from a Chili dog. You ordered a Chicago Dog, but your coupon is for a Chili Dog. Would you like me to add a Chili Dog to your order so you can use the coupon?"
Woman in green minivan: "NO! I ONLY WANT TWO HOTDOGS! I want one of the Chicago Dogs with chili on it, so that's a Chili Dog."

At this point I'm thinking, we could be here 'til dinner time. And then I'm thinking, does this woman even understand what she's saying? I mean, if her Chicago Dog/Chili Dog concept worked in other aspects of life, we could all go out and manipulate anything that we don't want into something else that we do. Sort of like The Matrix...what you're seeing in front of you isn't what it appears to be at all. What sense does that make? If it walks like a Chili Dog and talks like a Chili Dog...

Sometimes it just fascinates me that people have the energy to create unnecessary chaos. I don't know about you, but my life throws me enough curveballs that I don't need to add to the excitement. Especially over a coupon that's gonna save me less than a buck. It goes back to my thought about contentment. But I think some people don't want to be content. They thrive on the drama. Maybe it breaks up the monotony. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

I'm not sure what finally ended up in the woman's bag when her green minivan sped off, but I'm pretty sure after all that ruckus, whatever it was didn't taste very good.

Thanks for listening.


One year ago today, it seemed like any other day. I was about 20 weeks along in my pregnancy with Isaiah, feeling pretty good and looking forward to seeing the doctor (moreso, the ultrasound) for a checkup. Things had been going well so far and I was anxious to get another look at the little one that was jumping around inside me. But this would be no normal checkup. By 7:00pm, I was laying in the freezing surgery prep room at the hospital, Jon holding my hand, both of us praying that this baby would be ok. Please, God, keep this baby safe.

That was the first day I really felt that we might lose this baby, too. I remembered all of the e-mails I've received from women who have lost two, three, four or more babies. I didn't want to think that that could be me. I didn't want to live that pain all over again. Please, God, keep this baby safe.

The surgery went fine, no problems. I spent the next three months laying on my back, feet up on two big pillows, fighting against gravity. Anything we could do to keep this baby inside was fine by me. I was literally nesting, giving the baby a chance to grow. Please, God, keep this baby safe.

After surgery, months of bedrest, a few scary trips to the hospital, delivery 8 weeks early and a month spent in NICU, we had Isaiah at home. He was small but very strong. He had made it, our little astronaut. Thank you, God, for this amazing gift.
Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Joy from the Sorrow

If you are looking for evidence of a miracle on this earth, point your gaze toward Arlington, Virginia. There, little Susan Anne Catherine Torres was born yesterday weighing 1 pound 13 ounces. Her mother, Susan Torres, suffers from cancer. She has had no brain function and has been on life support since May. Yet, her weak and fragile body allowed her baby daughter to grow and develop for three months. And while the family grieves because the elder Susan probably won't live very much longer, they also rejoice because Baby Susan is doing well and will hopefully live a long and full life. Beauty from ashes. Life from no life.

My heart was most touched by Baby Susan's father Jason, who quit his job to stay near his wife and baby and slept in a recliner chair in their hospital room. It's my guess that Jason knows, as many of us do, that his parenting began far before his baby girl was born. And where else could he be...this is his family. How bittersweet to be there to share in the first precious moments of his daughter's life and the last precious moments of his wife's.

If you can find a quiet moment in your day today, say a prayer for the Torres family. I know I will.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, August 01, 2005


On this day, three years ago, she came. So unexpectedly, she came. There was little time to prepare. We waited and we cried. And we prayed that maybe she wouldn't come because we knew she'd have to leave very quickly. We never expected her to come so soon. But she did.

After she came, everything was different. Sometimes the days seemed longer. Most times it felt like something was missing. But in the emptiness she had left us a small light. It shone for us and guided us through each day. We never expected that she would share her light with others. But she did.

Now, three years later, everything is different. The days go by so fast. Most times life feels so full because her light has filled us up to overflowing. Others, from far away, have seen her light and they pass it on to still others. The light grows and gets brighter. And even though she's not here, she sees it from where she is and she smiles. We never expected her to touch so many lives. To bring hope to so many hearts. But she did.

Happy Birthday Elena, my baby girl. And thank you for who you were, for who you are, for who you'll always be. You forever have my love, admiration and gratitude.