Big Ship

On a recent cruise that my husband and I took, we visited San Juan, Puerto Rico. We didn’t stay very long, we docked at about 6:30 am or so, but we had to be back at the ship by 1:30pm. We returned to the ship at 1pm just to be safe.  Our ship was scheduled to leave the port at 2:00 pm.

Right at 2:00 pm, I heard the ship’s horn. Slowly (so slow that we couldn’t even tell that we were moving) we backed away from the pier, then we stopped. It must have felt like an eternity because I heard the woman in the other stateroom ask her husband, “Is there something wrong with the ship? We’re not moving!” It took nearly 15 minutes to turn the ship in the right direction but we finally were on our way, going ever so slowly out of the bay.  About 25 minutes later, we were out to sea and on our way to the next port.

The incident reminded me of our lives. Sometimes our progress seems so slow that it doesn’t even look like we are making any progress, or our progress just stops. Other times we go backwards when we should be going forward; and when we try to readjust and correct our situation then our progress seems so slow and we get frustrated.

The thing is, positive change takes time. If we’ve been doing something for most of our lives, we can’t expect to change “overnight.”  If we “backslide” then we need to make a correction and continue going forward. Don’t give up and don’t get frustrated.  Be patient with yourself.

If it takes a “long time” to turn a big ship in the right direction, then it will take a long time for us to turn our lives in the right direction.  Just remember that all things are possible with God!

Copyright © 2018 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

 

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Pongo

Today I said “good-bye” to an old friend, a family member, actually. I remember when I first met him. My husband brought him home as a late birthday gift. They said he was a puppy, but he was at least 7 months old, if not older.

I was disappointed because he wasn’t an actual puppy, but then after about a week or so he got sick. He developed a huge lump on the side of his neck. It was some kind of a dog disease. The puppy farm that sold him to my husband said that they could take him back and give us another dog, but I was afraid they would kill him. We kept him and he got better.

Over the years my children grew up with their new “brother.” He had the terrible habit of humping visitors. It was embarrassing, but it was funny at the same time. I guess it was a sign of dominance? Hard to believe a little Yorkie/Jack Russell dog would want to dominate people who were 20 times bigger than him.

He entertained my children with his ability to high jump and his speed in running. They remember the time he tried to pick a fight with the huge dog across the street. Pongo knew that he would lose the fight so he ran away as fast as he could and got bit on the rear end in the process. The vet said he was “lucky”—if he wasn’t such a fast runner then the other dog would have bit him on the neck and he would have bled to death.

I remember watching Simba, our cat, teasing Pongo. He didn’t mind—sometimes he teased him back and they would chase each other around the house.

The past few years we’ve noticed that Pongo slept more. He no longer jumped or ran, and lately he’s been struggling to walk. About three years ago his eyes started to cloud, and now he couldn’t see anymore—he bumped into furniture, the door, and the cats. The past couple of weeks, he had urinated in our bedroom during the night—he used to “tell” us when he needed to “go,” but he stopped letting us know.

This morning my husband took him to the vet. I struggled with that. I read an article recently (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/time-euthanize-pet/story?id=19456241) and it asked two questions: Does the pet still like to play? Does it seem happy?

I took a picture of him this morning, and I don’t know if he’s happy anymore, and he hasn’t played in such a long time (he was at least 18 and a 1/2 years old now).

ImageMy husband just called. He was with Pongo as the vet put him to sleep. I am crying and tears are streaming down my face as I write this. I will miss that little dog, but as silly as it sounds, I have hope that I will see him again. As one of my favorite seminary professors said—all dogs go to Heaven: “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself…” (2 Cor 5:19). The “world” means everything in the world, including animals. This gives me comfort.

Copyright © 2014 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Divorce

I remember watching a movie where a man continued to see his stepson even though he and his wife were divorced. The man’s daughter asked why, and he said, “You divorce wives not children.” What a great statement.

I lived with my mother and stepfather so I didn’t get to see my father much. Looking back, I wondered what my father could have done to make me feel like I was still a part of this life:

  • He could have called me every day. I didn’t hear from my father much. Since he was in the Navy, he was transferred to various ports— San Francisco, Florida, then Italy. Not only did he transfer to different places, he also remarried.  It would have been great for him to call me for a few minutes—ask how my day was, tell me that he loves me, say “good night” to me, etc. If we still lived under the same roof then he would talk to me.
  • He should visit me more often or allow me to visit him. When my father was stationed in San Francisco, we saw him at least once a month but when he moved farther away I never saw him. We could have visited him during the summers, but we didn’t. I realize that after he remarried, he couldn’t leave his wife to see us but he could have paid for plane tickets for us to see him.
  • Even if he couldn’t call me a few minutes every day then he could have set aside time to talk to me every week. Even if we had nothing in particular to talk about, it would have been good to hear his voice and to hear him say that he loved me.
  • He could have sent me letters or cards with meaningful words. I don’t remember receiving any mail from my father. He would send gifts every now and then but it would have been more special if he had included a handwritten note with it. 

I am thankful that my children were raised in a home with both their parents, but having a home with both parents under the same roof is becoming rare; even so, children still need to feel loved by both parents. Divorce or remarriage should not prevent parents from expressing love for their children. Parents should never divorce their children. 

Copyright © 2013 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Being strategic

I had a crush on my husband (before we were married) when I was engaged to another guy– for me it was “love at first sight.” We had the same class at Ft. Sam Houston and we even shared the same lab table.

My future husband had no idea how I felt about him, and I don’t think he really knew “I existed.”  After I broke off my engagement with the other guy, I started to be more strategic about “accidentally” bumping into him at social situations.

One of those occasions was on Easter morning. My roommate woke me up and said that there was an egg hunt. I asked her who would be there and she named several people, including my husband. I immediately jumped out of bed and got ready.

I remember signing up for a flag football game just so I could be near him. To my delight, we were put on the same team, I really didn’t know how to play so  he had to tell me which side of the field we were on and in which direction I was supposed to run. Then after the game, we actually had a conversation!

I like to reminisce on these events because it makes me remember how much I wanted to be in my husband’s presence.

Then I thought about God and how I don’t always put the effort to be with Him. “…you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4: 29). “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:25).

If I can put so much effort to being with my future husband, then I should put even more effort to being with God. Just as I was strategic to be close to my husband, I need to be strategic with my time to be with God.

Copyright © 2013 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

“Forks in the road”

I sat down today and thought about all the “forks in the road” that could have led to a much different life for me. 

Some of these “forks” were faced by my parents and others were the ones I faced, but each one resulted in where I am today. 

The major “fork” that my parents had was to stay married or get divorced. When I was a child, I imagined what it would have been like for them to stay together— my mother wouldn’t have married my step-father and my life might have been more stable. I used to spend a lot of time wondering what that might have looked like. Now I know that it was just a waste of time. 

One of the “forks” I faced was to get sterilized or not get sterilized. I chose to get sterilized after four children and two miscarriages. There are days when I regret that decision and I wonder what it would have been like to have more children. The days I spent mourning my decision was also a waste of time. 

Sometimes we make bad decisions and sometimes people make a choice that we just have to “live with.” Even though we replay these things in our heads and wish that we can go back in time and do things differently, we can’t do anything to change the past. 

I used to have a lot of guilt about the “forks” I had taken, but I realized that God had allowed me to take these various paths. If I wasn’t supposed to take them then He would have done something to prevent me from taking them. 

Sometimes the path is difficult and full of heartache, but even then I have to realize that it’s the path He wanted me to take. I can’t waste my time thinking about things that “could have been” because there’s a reason why I was on that path and not on the other. If my mind and heart are elsewhere then I won’t be alert to what I’m supposed to see and experience. 

I had a very difficult childhood because of the “fork” my parents took, but looking back I think that experience has made me more aware of the issues that some children and teenagers face when in a similar situation. I want to tell them to cling to God no matter how bleak their circumstances are at the moment; and I want to encourage them to never give up, to look up and to look ahead. 

Although I regret some of the “forks” I had taken, I need to stop feeling guilty and sad.  I think discouragement happens when we focus on our past and lose sight of everything else.  I need to “look up” and “look ahead”— to fix my attention on God and to concentrate on the future. 

“For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds success in store for the upright,
    he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just
    and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just
    and fair—every good path.
For wisdom will enter your heart,
    and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Discretion will protect you,
    and understanding will guard you….

Thus you will walk in the ways of the good
    and keep to the paths of the righteous.” 

(Proverbs 2:6-11, 20)

Copyright © 2013 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Keep improving!

Yesterday my husband and I ran a 5K—it was to benefit the local food bank. I was a little worried about it since I hadn’t ran this whole week— I was swamped with work (told a week or so ago to have 14 slide presentations completed before I leave for vacation, plus I had two courses I had to manage. I stayed up late almost every night to complete the work). All I could do was try my best.

I had little hope that I would exceed my time from the last 5K (31:12). I chose the fastest song I had and I played it repeatedly during the run. I remember feeling my lungs starting to burn and my legs began to feel heavy. People ran past me—an old man, a 9-year-old girl, an old woman, a guy with a stroller, and then a woman with a small dog. I felt so pathetic. I had no idea how fast (or slow) I was going, but I just kept going. 

I tried to remember the mistakes I did in my last run so that I wouldn’t do them again— I tried to use my abdominal muscles to pick up my legs, I kept my back straight, and I ran fast down the hills to make up for the time it took to “run” up the hills. Instead of focusing on how tired I was getting, I thought about my form and what I could do to improve it.

Finally, I came to the 3-mile point—the point where everyone “gives it their all,” but the problem was that I had already given it “my all” that whole time. As I got closer to the finish line, though, and I saw the time on the clock, I told myself that I needed to go faster— every second counts. I didn’t know my exact time when I actually crossed the finish line, but afterwards I saw my time— 29:30— my personal best.

This morning I realized that I was only 31 seconds away from clocking in at 28 minutes and some seconds.

There is always room for improvement. Even as a Christian, we never get to the point where we can say that we’ve “made it”— “Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain… for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God” (Revelations 3:2, NASB); “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit…” (Romans 12:11, ESV). There is always something about our way of thinking or doing that can be changed, and there is always something about God that we can discover. Keep improving!

Copyright © 2013 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

“Stuff”

A few days ago I had a mammogram. This morning I got a phone call from the imaging center telling me that they found some kind of mass and they need to do a different mammogram. She explained that if it still looked like there was something there then they would have to do an ultrasound.

I was calm when the person on the phone relayed all the information to me. I didn’t say much, just “Ok.” She paused then asked if I had any questions (maybe she was expecting a different kind of response from me?). I asked her when was the soonest day I could make an appointment, and after choosing the day she made the appointment and I ended the call.

A while ago I received a similar phone call. My reaction was not the same as today’s—I was upset, scared, and confused. Cancer runs in my family, so my immediate thought was—“it’s cancer.”

After seeing so many deaths since then, I have no real reaction. My thought is that God has control over life and death—I can’t make myself live longer than what God has authorized for me to live. All I can do is ask Him to give me a little more time on earth, but He’s the One who will decide if I leave or if I stay.

I’m not sure if my reaction has anything to do with my reading through Ecclesiastes. I started the first chapter a couple of days ago. What runs through my mind now is, “Everything is so meaningless.” I can understand that sentiment— many people work hard, sacrificing time with their spouse and/or children, just so they can accumulate “stuff.” Others think about the “stuff” they want and don’t have.

“Stuff” doesn’t matter— what matters is making an impact on your loved ones, like taking the time to hear what they are thinking, and just getting to know them again.

I remember going blueberry picking in Alaska when I was a child. After all the berries had been gathered, I stayed in the kitchen to watch my grandmother make pies. I also remember going on camping trips to the lake with my grandparents and my cousins.

I want to give the same kind of memories to my own children and grandchildren. Even though she is only 3-years-old, I have made cupcakes with my granddaughter a few times now because I want her to remember that special time she had with her grandmother.

Having “stuff” can’t replace “being there” with someone, and wasting time on wishing for “stuff” means that less time is spent with those you love.

I don’t know how long I will live— none of us really know. I just want to make the most of my life while I am still living and spend as much time with my loved ones as possible.

From Ecclesiastes 9:1-3, 5-7, 9-10, “Even though the actions of godly and wise people are in God’s hands, no one knows whether God will show them favor. The same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether righteous or wicked, good or bad… There is nothing ahead but death…

The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered. Whatever they did in their lifetime—loving, hating, envying—is all long gone. They no longer play a part in anything here on earth. So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this!

… Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun… Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave,there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom” (NLT).

So the bottom line is, know God, enjoy life with those you love, and stop worrying about “stuff.”

Copyright © 2013 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti