Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I Gave My Life Today

I was looking through my Blogger blog at some old posts and found this one. I originally posted this on November 9, 2005, after giving blood earlier that day.

I've donated many times before, willingly and happily. I've never had any complications arise nor have I ever felt any ill effects (except once when I didn't eat beforehand and thus felt quite light-headed afterwards - my fault, not theirs), so when Mom told me she had signed me up to give blood (knowing I wouldn't mind) I was all for it.

We had a 1:30 appointment today and we arrived just in time. After going first to the bloodmobile (where they told us we had to "register" before we came there), we went into the office building and waited for about 30 minutes. Mom got to go, and I sat in a room full of people I didn't know. Not a good situation for me, but fortunately I had a book to escape to.

Finally, after another 15 minutes (or more), I was called to the "bus." Wouldn't you know it? I had to wait some more. Not so long this time, only about 5 minutes. Then I had to in for their little interview they do. Not a big deal, normally. Well, today my blood didn't drop. What I mean is, when the man took a blood sample from my pricked finger (yeee-owch! I can handle the big needle with no problem, but not the little ones for some reason), he put it in a special liquid. If the blood drops to the bottom of the liquid, then there is enough iron in the blood. As I said, my blood didn't drop. It just hung out there at the top. I sat there thinking that I wouldn't be able to give blood because I didn't have enough iron!

He decided to spin the blood and based on that we would continue. Apparently, you need a 32 count of something to be safe, and after he spun my blood, I had a 43. So I was safe there. Don't ask me what the numbers mean.

So next came the questions. Before, I've always done them on my own, then the interviewer would either go over them with me or just check to make sure that I had answered them all. They've cut out the first step. Now, they just ask them. I told the guy straight off the bat that the answers to all the sex questions were "no." He said okay, but he still had to ask them. I guess he's required by law or something. Whatever. The answers were still "no."

We finished and I went out to the main area where the lady (we'll call her a nurse for lack of a better term) awaited me. After all the preliminary stuff, she began to prep my arm. She had no problem finding my vein (I have good veins) to mark it. She then went to help another person who was finishing his pint. She came back to me and when she was ready, she stuck the needle in my arm - and missed my vein. She missed! Come on, people! I have good veins. No one has ever missed my vein. I shudder to think of it even now.

Anyway, she half pulled the needle out, re-found my vein, and pushed the needle in. The sensation I felt was something I had never felt before and never want to again. It wasn't painful so much as it felt like an invasion. It rippled through my entire body and back to the entry point in less than a second, but it felt longer. I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. The nurse noticed and apologized profusely. I could tell she really felt bad, so I didn't have the heart to make a big deal about it.

The whole pint took 5 minutes. The clock was right in front of me, so that's how I know. All of that waiting and hassle for 5 minutes.

So now you ask me, why do I do this? Well, in Leviticus, it says that "the life of the flesh is in the blood." (Lev. 17:11). In John, Christ said, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friend." (John 15:13). So it's a bit literal when you look at it this way, but I do believe it's Biblical. After all, Christ also said, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12). Christ gave His blood for us that we might live. Knowing that, how can I not donate my little pint every 56 days if it might mean saving someone's life?

(All Scripture references from the New King James Version.)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Each of Us has been Given a Gift

This past week I have watched a lot of movies. In our family, we have a general policy to not watch movies except on the weekend, but these past two weeks we've been lax. Of course, it doesn't help that NetFlix has such a quick turnaround. Or that my not-so-little-anymore brother, who is home for Christmas, has chosen the next 20 or so movies to come. Or that there are movies in the theater that we really want to see - like Eragon.

But all these movies go by the wayside if they have no purpose than to entertain. There seems to be a trend lately for movies to tell more than a story that makes you laugh, cry, or sigh - docudramas, if you will. They want to tell you what happened in an historical sense, whether from personal accounts or known historical facts. Take Bobby, for instance. I haven't seen this one, but I saw an article in The Oregonian that the filmmakers for Bobby have taken their actors and have spliced them into actual footage from when Bobby Kennedy made his speech.

I like these kinds of movies, mostly because they bring history to life in a way. I've always loved history. I remember standing in the fort at Fort Larned in Kansas and placing my hand over a signature that a soldier had carved in the sandstone building back in 1863. I still get chills over that. When I was in college, I actually debated whether or not I should major in history. I didn't, but that doesn't matter right now.

I especially like films that have certain spiritual undertones to them. A few years ago, there was a film that took the world by storm. You've probably seen it - The Passion of the Christ. This movie focused on one event in the life of Christ - His death. This year we have another film that does the same thing. The Nativity Story is the story of His birth. My family and I went to see it this last Saturday, and I was very moved by it.

There was one scene that struck me in particular, one that really made me think and made me ask myself several questions. Mary and Joseph were invited by a lone shepherd to take a rest from their journey to Bethlehem. Mary's pregnancy was quite obvious by now, and the shepherd told her that she bore a gift. He had no idea of the significance of his comment, but continued by saying that his father had told that each person had been given a gift. When asked what his was, at first, he said nothing, and then he said that his gift was hope. Hope of that which is to come.

I recognize that this scene is a fictional account because we don't have anything to tell us who Mary and Joseph saw on the road or where they stopped or anything like that. But I still feel the power of that statement. When this same shepherd came to see the newborn Christ, Mary looked at him and said, "Each one of us has been given a gift."

Each one of us has been given a gift. God gave a village girl the gift of life. He gave a man in Portland, Oregon, the gift of telling her story. Somewhere, God has given someone the gift of using her story to bring another to Christ. What gift has He given you?

Monday, December 11, 2006

When Bees Attack

My brother saved my life last night. Big, brave, strong Thomas who thinks that being afraid of wasps is a silly thing. It's really not, but who's thinking about such things when your life is in danger?

Ok, ok, my life may not have been in danger, but I really am afraid of wasps and bees, and all other related insects. Why? Because I've been stung before. Yes, indeedy. It's no picnic, let me tell ya.

The first time I was ever stung, I was about 13 years old and I had just finished mopping the kitchen floor. It was our habit to just toss the dirty water over the side of our deck onto the bark. Well, that day was a nice, sunny day. It was mid-summer, and I was anticipating going to the county fair that night. We lived in a sleepy little town in southeast Kansas, so the county fair was a big thing. A very big thing.

Anyway, I banged my way through our back door with the mop and bucket of dirty water to the side of our deck. I blissfully squeezed the excess water out of the mop, and blithely tossed the buckets contents over the side. I turned to set the bucket down, and when I straightened up, I screamed. Yes, it was loud and it carried throughout the whole neighborhood, as I found out later to my chagrin.

So why did I scream? You know those big black and yellow bumblebees that fly in lazy circles around your flower garden? They look harmless, and even kind of cute at times. Well, the one I met on this occasion was not cute. In fact, he was mad! I'm talking kamikaze-mad, and he was preparing to dive-bomb my face!

Apparently, he had been minding his own business, gathering pollen to take back to his hive, when he was suddenly drenched from antenna to stinger with dirty, soapy, stinky water. Now, looking at it from his point of view, you can probably understand why he'd be angry. I mean, he was probably going to go to the fair that night, too, and he wanted to look his best. Yeah, okay, maybe not, but no one really likes to get wet when they aren't expecting it.

So here is this angry bumblebee heading straight for me. I scream and flap my arms around, trying to get him away from me, but he was determined. Next thing I know, this incredible pain exploded into my brain. The source? The end of my nose. He had found the most embarrassing place to sting me!

By that time, my mother was there and trying to get me into the house while at the same time trying to keep my 3-year-old brother (yes, the aforementioned Thomas) inside away from the killer bee.

Suddenly, I felt more pain in my side. The little bugger had somehow ended up inside my shirt and stung me on my side - twice! I yelled this time, and my mother tried to rip my shirt off of me to get the bee out. Well, I didn't want anyone to see me without my shirt, so I tried to keep it on. In the meantime, the bee got out and stung my mother on her hand, and she flung him outside. I calmed down as soon as the door was shut, but that event traumatized me for the rest of my life. I can still see the big, black puff buzzing straight for me. *shudder*

The second time I was stung was not nearly so dramatic. I was much older by this time (about 24 years old) and I was working at the gift shop/concession stand at Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, Idaho. Somewhere nearby, there was a yellow jacket nest, and they absolutely loved to some into the concession stand and eat up anything sugary. If I had a soda from the fountain, I even had to cover the end of the straw, because the yellow jackets would crawl down the straw to the soda! We ended up putting Skittles in a cardboard tray with a little water on them to keep them occupied, though that didn't always work.

By that time, I had gotten over my fear (I thought, anyway), and I was able to tolerate them somewhat. Then one day, I felt something on the back of my arm, and thinking it was a fly, I brushed it off. Bad idea. A sharpness pierced through my consciousness and I gasped aloud. The customer I was helping showed a bit of concern when I explained what happened, but I tried to downplay it.

A few days later, the exact same thing happened. So at that point I had two yellow jacket stings - one on top of the other. By the next morning, the whole back of my arm was swollen and itched terribly. I had hives. My roommate, who was susceptible to allergies, gave me some ointment to cut down on the itch and another friend gave me some Benedryl pills, which knocked me out so thoroughly that I was late to work the next morning at a different job. Fortunately, when my boss found out what happened, he was very understanding.

When I got to the gift shop that afternoon, my boss from there was working. She told me that another girl who worked there had been stung on her tongue! She had been eating a sucker and didn't realize that she was sharing it when she put it in her mouth. I was definitely glad that hadn't happened to me.

Ever since then, I have been extremely wary of insects of that nature. When I saw the wasp just inside the window last night, I didn't want to take any chances. Fortunately, my brother took pity on me, and he killed that big, mean, wasp. Brave boy!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Beneath the Counter

The sound of fists banging on the door reverberated through my ears just as the counter scraped back into place over us.

"Police! Open the door!"

I heard the bookstore owner, Mr. Praski, walking to the door. Each step was careful as if he didn't want to knock dust into our eyes. The neighbor who had warned us stood still beside the counter. I could feel his tension seeping through the cracks between the floorboards.

Little Aron whispered something to Mama. She shook her head and placed her finger against her lips. Papa had his arm around Irina, whose eyes were so wide with fright that all I could see was white. Bogdan sat beside me, scowling at his hands in his lap. Even as I watched, he balled them up into fists. My heart skipped a beat and I reached over and placed my other hand over his. He looked up at me, and I could see the anger glinting in his eyes in the dim light. We stared at each other for a moment, then he smiled ruefully and I could feel him unclenching his fists. I started to breathe again, but I could still see Bogdan's anger. I knew it would only be a matter of time.

I heard the counter scrape above us, and everyone froze. I felt Bogdan's hands ball up again and he tensed, ready to spring. The trapdoor lifted and we saw Mr. Praski, his relieved face beaming over us. "They've gone! Come out and have some supper."

Papa laughed, and it almost sounded as carefree as it used to. He stood up and grabbed Mr. Praski's hand. When we were all out, Mrs. Praski and her daughter, Magda, shooed us into the kitchen for a hot meal. In spite of the Praskis' kindness, Mama's face was still white and Papa's eyes were shadowed. The time beneath the counter had marked us all. Who knew that by the summer's end, we would spend time there every day, hiding from the Germans?

I helped Magda with the supper dishes. Papa and Mr. Praski smoked their pipes as they looked at some books from the store. Mama showed Mrs. Praski a new embroidery pattern while she stroked Aron's head as he slept in her lap. Bogdan and Irina played chess. Bogdan glanced up at me and smiled, but the edges of that smile were bitter. I smiled back, but I knew my heart wasn't in it.

I turned to Magda. "Why would you help us? Your family could get into so much trouble!"

Magda smiled at me. "It is what Christ would have us do."

"Huh." I swiped a dish with a towel. "Most Christians I've met call us Christ-killers."

"Oh, Edyta!" Magda shook her head. "Jews didn't kill Jesus! Our sin did."

"Our sin?"

She nodded and put the plate she was washing down. "You see, God commanded the Jews, as His people, to make sacrifices for their sins, using an unblemished lamb, right?"

I nodded. Though my family didn't strictly keep to the law, we still celebrated the Feasts.

"Well, God wanted His people to see that they needed to atone for their sins through blood, but even keeping the law and doing all the sacrifices weren't enough." She smiled again. "So He sent His Son to be the final sacrifice for our sins, and not just for the Jews – for the whole world!"

Wonder began to seep into my soul. "So He really was a great Man."

Magda laughed. "Well, He was God! While He was here on earth, He set the example for all of us to follow. How can we do any less?"

Her words sank deep into my heart, and as we waited beneath the counter each day, I contemplated them. Every day, Magda told me more about Jesus. One day, several weeks later, I accepted His sacrifice for my sins.

Two days after that, Magda made her own sacrifice. Every year, I tell my children about Magda. I tell them I wouldn't be here if she hadn't followed Christ.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Something different...

We're trying something different here. I don't know how this will work.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Friendship Surprise

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Wren. I know, quite an auspicious beginning, isn't it? I mean, as beginnings go, this one is pretty generic. Ahem. Anyway, on with my story.

Wren moved with her parents to a small town in southern Idaho where she enrolled in the local junior college and began attending classes in the fall. Because neither Wren nor her parents could actually afford her tuition, she applied for federal aid and was accepted. That fall, not only did she start her college education, she also started a work-study in the college's main computer lab.

The first semester went well. Wren excelled in her classes and developed hands-on experience with basic computer software (now outdated!). That was also when she gained her first introduction to the internet, without which you would not be able to read her story. Nevertheless, that's unimportant right now.

During the second semester, she started working at the computer lab one night a week. Shortly afterwards, she noticed a certain young man would come in to use a computer. Now this guy was weird. She had seen her share of weirdos, but for some reason this one stood out to her and she couldn't put her finger on why. One thing that really bothered her was that he always gave her what she thought was a dirty look whenever he came in. She didn't realize that her thoughts were clearly written on her face and he saw it every time he came in.

One day, Wren went to visit her friend, Tonya, at Tonya's workplace – The Christian Bookstore. She had met Tonya in their French class and they struck up an immediate friendship through their faith in Christ. While Wren visited with Tonya, she noticed one of the employees crouching in an aisle and straightening books. It was that same guy! The one from the computer lab!

Wren turned to her friend. "Tonya, who's that guy?"

Tonya leaned over the counter to look, and then sat back on her stool. "That's Jon. He's a little weird."

"Tell me about it!" Wren grimaced a bit. "He comes into the computer lab at school sometimes. He kinda creeps me out 'cause he's so weird."

"Oh, Jon wouldn't hurt anybody." Tonya assured her friend. "He just likes to keep to himself."

"Hm." Wren's mind was spinning with thoughts. If this guy's working at the Christian Bookstore, it stands to reason that he's a Christian. If he's a Christian, then he really must not be as weird as she thought. But then, why did he always give her such dirty looks? "Well, I need to go, Tonya. See you in class tomorrow!" With a wave to her friend and another curious look at Jon, she was out the door.

The next time Jon came into the computer lab, she watched him as he talked with a girl sitting beside him. To Wren's chagrin, she realized she had been misjudging Jon. Now that she knew a bit more about him, she saw him in a different light. Why, he actually seemed pleasant! Wren buried her nose in her book the rest of the time Jon was there.

One Sunday night, several weeks later, Wren was at church waiting for the college group to start. She was sitting at a table near the door, chatting with friends, when who should walk in? That's right, it was Jon! Uh, oh, thought Wren. Please don't come over here! That means I have to be nice to you. She pretended she hadn't seen him until he found a seat at a different table. Whew! Got out of that one—for now!

Jon came every Sunday night after that. Wren grew used to seeing him, and even spoke to him on occasion, but she never felt comfortable enough to have a real conversation with him.

The group decided it was time to have their first retreat. The pastor was able to book the same retreat center the men's and women's groups used. Both Wren and Jon went. The retreat was fun as well as spiritually enlightening and thought provoking for Wren. She rededicated her life to God with great joy. When the group returned to the church that Sunday afternoon, it was announced that there would be no regular meeting that evening. Jon and Wren happened to be standing by each other at the time.

Jon turned to Wren as he picked up his duffel bag. "Now I don't know what I'm going to do tonight. I just want to keep fellowshipping!"

Wren grinned. "I know what you mean! I want to stay, too." She stooped to pick up her sleeping bag. "I'm tired, though. I didn't sleep at all last night, so I'm going to take a nap when I get home." She glanced up at Jon. "See you next week?"

"I'll be there."

"Cool. Well, see ya later, then!" She smiled and headed for her car. What a nice guy! I want to get to know him better.

That evening, the phone rang, jarring her awake. Probably for Mom or Dad. She closed her eyes to rest some more.

"Wren!" Her mother's voice made her eyes snap open. "Phone for you! Some guy name Jon."

Jon? Calling me? Wren dragged on a cord to bring her phone closer. "Hello?"

"Hi!" Jon's voice sounded a little bit too chipper. "Did I wake you?"

Wren rubbed her face a little. "Um, yeah, but that's okay. I needed to wake up, or else I won't sleep tonight." She rolled to her back. "So. What's up?"

Jon grinned. She could here it in his voice. "Well, I'm bored."


"No, seriously. This weekend was such a blast that I don't want it to end. I wanted to talk to somebody about it, so I called you." He hesitated. "That's okay, isn't it?"

Wren sat up. "Sure, it's okay! You just surprised me, that's all."

His relied came out in a sigh. "Oh, good. So. What did you think of this weekend?"

Wren smiled.

Sometime later, they were still talking. They had found so many common interests that Wren wondered why she hadn't talked to him before.

Finally, Jon said, "Well, I probably should let you go."

"Oh, Um, okay."

"Do you realize we've talked on the phone for two hours?" he asked.

"Has it really been two hours?" Wren looked at her clock. "Wow, I guess it has been."

"Yeah. I should go. It was great talking to you."

"Yeah, same here."

"Okay. Well, can I call you again?" he asked.

"Sure. Can I call you?" Wren smiled as Jon chuckled.


"Cool." They each waited a few seconds, then she said, "Well, bye!" and laughed.

He laughed, too. "Bye!"

So began the friendship of Wren and Jon.


This is a true story* about my best friend, Jon† and me. That phone call was the first of seven (so far!) years' worth of phone calls, visits, walks, talks, huffs, complaints, laughs, VeggieTales, movies, pizza – well, everything! We've endured many sly winks and nods about our relationship, even outright speculation—from our parents, no less! So far, we are living proof that you don't have to be married to your best friend.

* My memory is a fallible thing. The events are as true as I remember them. The dialogue may have been dramatized a bit simply because I don't remember exactly what was said. Jon could very well read this and say, "I don't remember it that way!" If he does, appropriate corrections will be made. Otherwise, this is it!

† His name has been changed because I wanted to protect his privacy somewhat. The person who asked me for this story knows his real name, anyway.