Archive for December, 2010

A WINTER STORY

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

          As I write the snow is coming down heavily.  Although I am grateful to be safe in my own home, out of the cold and blowing snow, (and hours away from shoveling the steps and making a path in front of our house for ourselves and our friends/neighbors)…I must admit that I’m a little bored. 

          I shouldn’t be.   My husband is downstairs, where he has  settled himself in for a day of football, and I am ready to pursue my favorite pastime: writing.  Everybody has a special gift from God to keep them going, and I am very grateful for mine.   I hope you enjoly my story, which is true.  In fact, it is not even exaggerated in the least. 

          About thirty years ago, long before I had three adorable grandchildren, even before I was the stepmom of two bright and active teen-agers and the wife of their wonderful father, my husband, Manny, I was married to Nicky, a kind and highly intelligent man, whom I was privileged to share twenty-one years of my life before heart disease and an aneurysm took his life quite unexpectedly one night in 1987.  This story took place at a time when Nicky took me to my job at a middle school on the South Shore, where I had a position as a seventh and eighth grade English teacher.   When a new language teacher began to work at the school, she and I spoke to each other a few times in the faculty lounge and learned that we didn’t live very far from one another.  When she heard that my husband was driving me all the way to the South Shore, she and I considered an interesting and profitable arrangement.  Nicky could drive me to her house, and she and I would travel to school together.  Then, whenever possible, she would drive me to her house, where Nicky would pick me up.  She would charge me a reasonable amount, to which we both readily agreed.

          Things were good at first.  In fact, everything went rather well until the heart of winter when we experienced the first blizzard of the year, which was very much like what we are experiencing today in New York and along the eastern seaboard. 

          The day didn’t start off as a blizzard, however.  It wasn’t even snowing, as a matter of fact, but the meteorologists were right on target.  They had predicted a  huge snowstorm later in the afternoon.  But we all know that the promise of a snowstorm would never be sufficient to keep workers away from their jobs.  In fact, I remember going to work, even in blizzards.  I went by car, by bus, or by railroad.  As long as the roads were determined to be passable or public transportation was in service, I would go to work.  So this day, when it hadn’t even started to snow yet, my colleague (Let’s call her Anita) and I were off to school.

           The snow started to fall at around one o’clock in the afternoon.  I tried not to even think about it because I still had more than two hours of work before Anita and I could begin the  ride back to her house.  I forced myself to concentrate upon the children I was teaching and the curriculum.

            Finally, it was time to leave.  The last bus had left, and I had spent ample time at my after-school supervisory post.  I met Anita outside her room and we walked downstairs and out of the building together.  We made small talk until we reached her car.

          First, we worked together to clean off her car, which was piled over with snow.  When we were finished, we left, both of us hoping and praying that weather conditions would get better and allow us to get home safely. 

          The first half of the ride went fairly smoothly, but as we got closer to Queens, conditions got worse and worse.  I had my doubts as to whether we would ever get to her house at all, much less in one piece.  But we did!

          As soon as we both got settled in her house, I used Anita’s home phone to call Nicky.  There were no cell phones then, so I had to wait until he came back to our house to finally get him in.  His words were not very encouraging.

          “Honey,” he said.  “I’ve just been to the area a little past Bayside, and the police wouldn’t let me through.  ‘Too many snowdrifts,’ they told me.  I actually tried to get past them through another route, but they caught me and told me I had to go back again on the other side of their barricade…or else.  I don’t know what to tell you, honey,” he continued.  “Don’t panic.  We’ll find you a way home.  I’m going to keep calling cab companies, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.  Now give me your friend’s number.”

          I gave Nicky Anita’s number and sat down on her kitchen chair in a rather dejected state.  I told Anita what had just transpired, and she said encouragingly, “I’m sure something is still running.  If not the cab companies, the trains or the buses.  You’ll get home.  In the meantime, have some hot cocoa,” she added.  “I just made it.  It’s nice and hot.  Here,” she continued, “have a shortbread cookie with it.”

          Nicky called back in forty-five minutes.  “No cabs afre operating right now,” he said sadly.  “And I checked the Long Island Railroad and the bus companies.  Nothing is running there either.  This is one of the worst blizzards this city has ever had.  I’m so sorry, honey, but I thank God it’s Friday afternoon, and the beginning of mid-winter vacation.  There’s no work tomorrow…nothing to worry about on that score.”

          Great, I thought to myself sardonically, but since I didn’t want to upset Nicky, I said, “That’s all right, sweetie.  You did everything you could.  I’m sure Anita will let me spend the night.”

           Anita agreed and showed me to the guest room.  When her husband got home later that night, we all had dinner together.  Except for being nervous. I had a fairly decent night.

          After breakfast the next morning, I called all the cab companies again.  They seemed to be all digging out.  Then I called the Long Island Railroad.  No trains were going out in Queens for at least another day or two.  The buses weren’t running either.  Again, I was stuck.

          The problem was that Anita and her husband, Jeff (I changed his name, too), did not want me to stay a second night.  The only explanation I could get was that they were trying to conceive a baby, and they didn’t want to miss a day of the vacation to do so.  Therefore, they did not want anyone else in their house.  I had to go.

          But where was I to go?  I turned to Anita and said, “I will pay you whatever amount you like to let me stay until cars, buses or trains start to run again.  If I don’t have all the money now, you can call my husband, and he will promise to bring you a check or cash, or whatever you want when he comes to pick me up.   But please don’t send me out into a blizzard.  I would never do that to an animal.”

          “Don’t be so melodramatic,” she said.  “The snow is starting to taper off, and the snowdrifts aren’t that bad.  I’ll walk you around the corner to the nearest cab stand.”  I remember her putting on her cross-country skiing boots  in preparation for olur trek around the block.  Thank God I was wearing boots, at least.

          It was then that I started to pray.  “Please, dear God, help me,” I kept repeating, much like a mantra.  “Please help me.  Let me get home.”  Over and over, I kept repeating those phrases, my hands all perspired from nerves, my breaths irregular  and my heart beating fast and furious.

          With my book bag,the incredible snowdrifts and my extreme emotional state, I could hardly walk, but Anita was enjoying the trek.  When we reached the cab stand, which, of course, wasn’t operating, she said,”If you can’t get a cab, I’m sure that candy store owner over there will let you stay overnight.”

          “You’re not going to leave me here?” I asked with panic in my voice.

          “You’ll be just fine,” she said. 

          It was then that Anita spied a van coming in our direction.  I was too distraught to notice anything.  I remember her going up to the van and asking the man and woman in the car to please take me as far towards my home as they could.  Listening nearby, I was trembling with fear and foreboding.  I did not want to drive in any car during these impassable conditions, but especially not in the vehicle of  complete strangers!

           Despite my trepidations and the extreme weather conditions, I had no alternative but to accept their kind offer to drive me to Flushing Hospital, where they both worked.

           Not only  did it seem like a miracle that this one car was able to pass through the snow-covered streets with drifts when even some police cars were abandoned, but it was remarkable that they were so calm and tried to calm me down by reassuring me that everything would be all right and by engaging me in small talk.

           No police cars stopped this couple, and in about a half-hour, we arrived at Flushing Hospital.  I then remember the man turning to the woman and saying, “We can do one better for you, dear.  I think we can get you much closer to your home.  ”

          I was speechless!  As in a dream, I watched as they drove closer and closer to my little house in Malba (where I lived at that time).

          I looked at them in disbelief as they left me less than a block away from my house.  Before I got out of the car, I thanked them profusely and said, “No amount of money could adequately compensate for what you did for me, a perfect stranger, but could you accept something?  Anything that you say, I will be glad to give you.  If I don’t have it all with me now, I’ll send it to you,” I said.  “I promise with God as my witness.”

          “We don’t want your money,” the woman said gently as she turned to the man.  “Just do a good deed for someone.”   ( Now, thinking back, I picture the movie,”Pay It Forward,” because that was exactly what they wanted me to do.)

          ” Thank you,” I repeated as I clumsily left the van, pocketbook and book bag in tow. 

          Once I saw my Good Samaritans turn around, waving all the time, I walked slowly towards my block.  Neighbors who were shoveling came up to me as soon as they saw me.

           “The roads are impassable.  We’re all stranded,”  some said.

           “I just came from Little Neck,” I explained as a group of neighbors looked at me incredulously. 

            “It must be a miracle,” another neighbor said as he somewhat mockingly began to bow down.

            “Whatever it was,” I said, “I’m very thankful to see you all again.
             I smiled at the neighbors as I continued to walk to my house.

             When I finally reached my door, my husband was astounded.  “How did you get here?” he asked like the others.  “Before I told him the story, he kissed me and said, “I was so afraid for you.  I thought I might never see you again.  You have no idea of what they’re saying on the news!”

             Yes, it’s been at least thirty years since I lived through the events I just narrated.  This experience may not have been a miracle, but it was certainly an answer to my fervent prayers.  I believed with all my heart that Jehovah God would help me get home that night, and He did. 

          “Moreover, without faith, it is impossible to please( Him) well, for he that approaches God must believe that He is and that He becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking Him.”

                                             Hebrews 11:6

          As a postscript, Anita left our school the end of that year.  I must admit that I told my woeful story to a number of my friends, and word must have passed around, making it uncomfortable for her.  But according to her, she had found a better job in another district, and she was pregnant.

            My Bible study tells me that God often uses us as tools to help one another, however,  and he gives us “power beyond what is normal” to cope with the many difficult challenges we all have in life.  (2 Corinthians 4:7)

             I believe that God helped me , and he answered my prayers. That is my personal feeling.  So always have faith and trust in God’s love.    This is a true story.  

            Be careful in the snow today and tomorrow morning! 

          Until the next blog,

         Cheryl

A Message of Love and Peace

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

            For many people the holidays and the approaching New Year bring a mixed bag of emotions.  When one has lost a loved one and feels all alone, the joy of the season provides a painful backdrop.  Sometimes, those prone to depression feel worse than ever  about themselves and exaggerate their problems, faults and inadequacies. 

            In 1987 the holiday season came while I was mourning for my father, who had just died in November of an aneurysm and for my husband, Nick, who had died in August of 1987 of a massive heart attack.  In addition, I was doing my best, singlehanded, to care for my mom who was recovering from a stroke she had suffered  three days before my husband died.  It was a sad and chaotic time for me, and when well-meaning people wished me “Happy holidays” and “Happy New Year,” the words became discordant and painful.

          Even though I wasn’t of the Christian faith at that time, I wanted to spend Christmas Day with my mom, but Christmas Eve was a time that we would both spend alone.

          I remember looking at a picture of Nick when he was eighteen and had just graduated from high school.  I would stare at that picture and then look at more recent ones, and I would feel my eyes moist with tears.  I would have wanted to share my feelings with my dad, but he had died after aneurysm surgery just a month before.  My mom could barely endure her own problems, let alone mine.  So I was left with my loneliness and depression since I could not burden friends with my sadness at what was supposed to be a time of great happiness for most people.

          My husband and my parents had always been loving and generous, so, as silly as it may seem, I had bought weeks before presents for myself that I thought they might have bought for me if they could have.   I even had wrapped each and enclosed cards with beautiful thoughts that they might have written to me (since they all always knew what to say to make me feel good.)  As I opened each gift with my two Doberman Pinschers and my Russian Blue cat next to me, I thought of my husband, my dad and my mom before the stroke.  I cried more than a little, but the seemingly foolish scenario of opening the presents and reading the cards, combined with picturing them in my  mind, made me feel closer to them and not so completely alone.

          Years later, when I became a Bible student, I learned that we are never alone.  Not only are the angels always close to those of us in need, but God Himself is with the distressed souls who need him.  And what are we all but living souls reaching out to our Creator for love and hope?

          A year later, I had already met a wonderful man, divorced for several years, and the father of two nice teen-age children who loved him very much.  When we were married a while later, I became a step-mom, something entirely new for a person who had never had children of her own.  

       Although my life has often been challenging, it has been very joyful, too, especially so since my step-son’s three beautiful children were born from 2000 to 2005.  Now their ages are 10, 8 and 5.  Being their grandmother has brought me the greatest happiness I have ever known.

        Of course, I miss my late husband, a kind, sweet and often very funny man, who could make you  laugh, even if you felt like crying.  Certainly, I miss the wise, loving advice of my dad and my mom’s love and valuable help over the Years (Mom died in 1992), but my life has gone on, and God has blessed me many times over.  When I pray to Him, I know He listens, and eventually, if my prayers coordinate with His Will, they are answered.

           Human beings like us are often short-sighted.  We’re downright myopic.  In many ways, we cannot even see a few feet ahead.  But faith can help us to overcome that myopia.  If we trust God, we know that things will get better if we are patient and just believe.  Those whom we loved and lost will one day be resurrected and reunited with us.  If we are negative about ourselves today, God will pave the way for us to see ourselves one day the way he sees us with all our wonderful potential.  The Paradise on earth and God’s government in heaven with Jesus as King and the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation as his co-rulers is not far away.  All we need is faith in God’s message in His amazing “letter” to us, the Holy Bible.

           I am writing this blog today because I want you to feel hopeful, whatever your situation may be.  Life changes each day.  Einstein reminded us of that in his brilliant theories, but our faith will make us feel that truth  in our hearts.  Whatever is bothering you will be resolved eventually  if you work at it and pray to God.  If you’re lonely, it is a temporary state.  If you lost someone, you will find that person again in a far better place.

        Right now, have faith in God and in the future.  Remember the meaning of faith in Hebrews 11:1.

       “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstation of realities though not beheld.”

         May God bless all of you.

         Until the next blog,

                                              Cheryl

HONOR AND RESPECT

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Dear Readers,

        I want to write today about a topic that impressed me. It was the theme of a wonderful article that I read yesterday, (based on the December 13-19 contribution to the October 15, 2010 Watchtower) and discussed with my congregation this afternoon: honor and respect. 

        The Apostle Paul says in Romans 12:10b:  “In showing honor to one another take the lead.”  We might wonder why it is important to take the lead and how we can do so.

        Have you ever wondered what the origin of “honor” is?  Actually, according  to the Hebrew word for “honor,” it means “heaviness.”  In other words, a person who is honored is “weighty” or amounting to something. It is interesting that the very same Hebrew word is translated “glory.”  That shows the high regard towards the person being honored.  Also, the Greek word that means “honor”  implies esteem, value and preciousness.

          When youreally reflect on the meaning of “honor,” you realize that “respect” comes first.  “Respect” conveys your attitude or view of a person while “honor” relates to how we actually treat a person.

          Now, why do we want to respect our fellow human beings?  Let’s begin with the realization that humans were created quite differently from other creatures on the earth.  Humans were created in God’s image.  (James 3:9)  Psalm 8:5 tells us:  “You also proceeded to make him a little less than godlike ones, and with glory and splendor you then crowned him.”      Therefore, God has given man a measure of dignity, glory and honor.  It follows then, that if we treat another person with dignity, we are acknowledging the source of human dignity, God Almighty.

         Having respect and honor for one another is especially important today.  We live in a basically insensitive world, where many people do not care about hurting the feelings of another.  There are many rude, uncaring people out there.    Expressions of appreciation, praise, respect and love help to give us the strength to keep going along the road to life eternal with joy and inner strength. 

          Although we need encouragement and love ourselves, it is important to give these same gifts of strength to others.  We can achieve this goal of giving in a variety of ways, and they are all not difficult.  We can give of our time to others.  Perhaps, they need us to listen to them discuss their problems, hopes, misgivings and even fears.  Even though we’re all busy living our own lives, if we truly want to, we can find the time to help others.  And while we are helping, we should remember to give  that person who needs us our complete attention.  Just a few minutes can do a great deal, but if you can spend more time, that’s even better.  We should also remember that giving honor to others includes, not only relatives, close friends and fellow believers in our faith, but every person out there who needs us, whatever their station in life may be at the moment.  Jesus did not give only to those in high positions in life.  He gave of himself to whoever needed him.

             Reflecting upon this lesson of giving respect and honor to others helps us to realize that we are all important and can have a positive effect on others if we choose to do so.  When we get a little depressed and doubt our own importance in this vast wsorld, we should remember the potential power of our good words and deeds, based upon God’s Spirit within us.

Until my next blog,

                                                           Cheryl

Thank you all for your comments.

Monday, December 13th, 2010

            It has been a real pleasure to read all of your comments.  I will try to reply personally whenever time permits.  Thank you for taking an interest in my posts and expressing your opinions regarding them.  Whether we agree or disagree, the interaction is very positive, I believe. 

           I am presently writing a novel from the viewpoint of a step-parent.  My step-children are grown now and approaching middle age themselves, which, of course, makes me feel rather old.  But in today’s society, the fifites, sixties and even seventies are still strong, productive years.  Why, there are celebrities who are active and fruitful well into their eighties.  I believe that George Burns was on television and in the movies even into his nineties.  So in comparison, I am really not old at all.

           In the scheme of things, I have been most fortunate.  My step-son and step-daughter are both intelligent, talented, moral and ethical individuals who have grown up to be model citizens.  Of course, as normal human beings, they have faults because no one alive has already achieved perfection.  According to the Bible, it would take a thousand years living under  paradisaic conditions for us to attain perfection.  (Revelation 20:1-10) 

           Being a good and happy step-parent is quite a challenging job.  You have to be an extremely confident and secure  individual who does not let situations and people get to him(her.)  Also, a step-parent would be a good deal happier if he(she) had a child or children of his(her) own.  Why are these qualities important in a step-parent?

           In the beginning, step-children will most likely resent the step-parent on some level.  Putting myself in the place of a step-child,  I can surely visualize how I might have felt if my parents had gotten divorced or one of them had died and the other had decided somewhere down the road to get married again.  It would have been very hard for me, to say the very  least.  As much as I might have liked and respected the step-parent, I guess it would have taken decades to feel really close to him(her).  It would have been hard for me to say, “I love you,”  and even if my father or mother had died, it still would have been difficult to call the step-parent “mother” or “father.”  I imagine I would have called the step-parent by his(her) first name instead.

           That is why I consider it so important for the step-parent to have a child or, better yet, children of his(her) own.  Then, it wouldn’t  hurt so much when the biological parents are called “mom” and “dad,” and you, the step-parent, are called by your first name.  It wouldn’t matter so much because your own children would be calling you “Mom” or “Dad.”

            Also, there are many loving moments when the step-child and the biological parent exchange that beautiful “I love you” endearment.  At such a moment, there is an awkward silence for the step-parent, which would not be so bad if the step-parent’s child or children were there to tell him (her), “Mom, I love you.”  But, of course, if he(she) has no biological children of his (her) own, the step-parent stands alone like a fifth wheel.

           For me, the saving grace was the moment that my step-son and his wife had their first child, a beautiful little girl, who was followed by two equally charming and beautiful siblings.  Thank God, I became close to them, and their “I love you, Grandma,”  made up for all the previous pain of feeling left out, sometimes rejected and occasionally even yelled at by the adult children and their spouses.

            Yes, it’s hard for both the step-parent and the step-children, probably because divorce and death are both unnatural whden you think about it.  God wanted husbands and wives to work out their problems, and although it is not always possible to do so, it is also true that some couples don’t try hard enough to rekindle what they once had.  Also, God, the Father, wanted Adam and Eve and all their posterity to live forever in the earthly paradise that He had created for them in Eden.  It is only because of their disobedience that sin was created and sin led to death.  In a future post, I will talk about Jehovah God’s way of rescuing us from death, which you can find in Genesis 3:15.  That Scripture speaks of a “Seed,” and the wonderful identity of that “Seed,” I’m sure you can all guess. 

            Anyway, I have become a happier step-parent because I am now a proud grandmother of three, who have never thought of me as a “step-grandmother.”  God works in mysterious ways; doesn’t he?

           Hang in there, step-parents!  It gets better if you keep loving, hoping and,  most of all, praying.

           Until the next blog,

                                                            Cheryl

Building a Relationship With God

Monday, December 6th, 2010

          Welcome to my website.  I hope that you enjoy today’s blog and gain a great deal of information from it.  It is based on a public talk that I heard today, entitled “How Do We Get To Know God?” The lecture was given at a kingdom hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

          I agree that there are several ways in which we can enrich and continue to develop our relationship with God.  Of course, if we feel that we do not have much of a relationship with God at the present time, following these steps can help us to achieve one.

          1)  Through reading God’s Word, the Bible, we can begin to see God as a Person with characteristics and qualities.  Also, nature reflects God’s personality as well.

         “For His invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable.”

                                                                       Romans 1:20       

         2)  Imitate His qualities.  See how His qualities work. 

         3)  Develop a personal relationship with God.

            Genesis: 18:18, 19 says:

            18 “Why, Abraham is surely going to become a nation great and mighty, and all the nations of the earth must bless themselves by means of Him.  19) For I have become acquainted with him in order that he may command his sons and his household after him so that they shall keep Jehovah’s way to do righteousness and judgment in order that Jehovah may certainly bring upon Abraham what he has spoken about him.”

          Jehovah has gotten to know Abraham as His friend, a man of faith and obedience.

          “Then Abraham approached and began to say:  “Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked?”

          The above is a fascinating conversation between Abraham and Jehovah, which displays Jehovah’s readiness to listen, the freedom of speech that he allows Abraham, and His humility. It is a conversation between two people who have gotten to know one another.

4)  Acknowledge a relationship with God (knowledge of God), and exercise it.  We begin to possess real knowledge when we exercise that knowledge.  Yet, the old saying does apply here.  “When you don’t use it, you lose it.”

        Let’s look at Hosea 4:1.

          “Hear the word of Jehovah, O sons of Israel, for Jehovah has a legal case with the inhabitants of the land, for there is no truth nor loving-kindness nor knowledge of God in the land.”

          If we are to have true knowledge of God, we must keep exercising that knowledge.  We lose the ability to speak a language if we lose it.  We lose our agility at a sport if we don’t play that sport regularly.  In the same way, we lose whatever knowledge of Jehovah that we have gained if we don’t exercise it.

Hosea 6:3 says:

     “And we will know, we will pursue to know Jehovah.  Like dawn, his going forth is firmly established.  And he will come in like a pouring rain to us, like a spring rain that saturates the earth.”

    In the above Scripture, we see that Jehovah has gotten to know Abraham as His friend, a man of faith and obedience.

1John 2:3

     “And by this we have the knowledge that we have come to know him, namely, if we continue observing His commandments.  Ask yourself to what extent you are doing this.

Daniel 11:32 (second half)  “But as regards the people who are knowing their God, they will prevail and act effectively.”

Isaiah 11:9

“They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.”

         We see that people today should be living in the fulfillment of God’s Will.  An important part of that is helping people to know Jehovah.

          So these four ways to know Jehovah, the father, should be followed each day.  It takes patience, humility, hard work and immense love, but if we do our best to achieve a warm and loving relationship with our Creator, it is indeed possible, and nothing else comes close in being worth all the time and effort. 

I hope all you readers feel closer to God and feel more hope in the future.  Keep reading the Bible.  That is the most important way to gain knowledge of God and to thereby achieve eternal life in Paradise.

Have a wonderful week.  Until the next blog,

Cheryl