Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Parable of the Prodigal Son (And His Older Brother)

This is a classic parable that many Christian students learn in school, myself included.  However, it always annoyed me.  Clearly there was something wrong with me if I was disagreeing with Jesus.  Then I realized that I just needed to think.  I needed figure out what we meant.

So we know that there was a man who had two sons.  The elder of the two was loyal and the younger one was...well, for lack of a better term, "misguided".  The younger brother takes his inheritance early, spends it foolishly, and then crawls back to his father embarrassed and begging for forgiveness and mercy.  The father welcomes him with open arms, throws a party and rejoices. 

Okay, I understand that.  Jesus is saying that the father is like our Father, the Lord, and the younger brother represents all of us here on Earth who sin.  Even when we reach our lowest point, as long as we seek him and ask for forgiveness, He will not deny us.  That makes sense.  Here's where it got me...

The older brother is angry that his younger brother gets a party.  He had worked hard for his father his entire life; never betraying him and doing what he was told.  Yet he received not a single celebration for his labor and dedication.  When he questions his father about it, his father replies that they must rejoice because his brother had been lost and then was found again.

Yes, it's great that the younger brother found his way back, but I agreed completely with the older brother.  If I had been in his shoes, I would have been jealous.  Unfortunately, jealousy is an ugly color on everyone.  We are told as part of The Commandments not to covet what someone else has, which can be a difficult and seemingly impossible challenge at times.  Looking at this parable from a narrow-minded, selfish perspective makes the brother's anger understandable.  But there's a bigger picture.

The older brother was being pessimistic.  His brother had finally returned home and he was worried about fairness.  He should have been right next to his father rejoicing.  But why wasn't he?

I think that the older brother represents those of us who believe that we are good people and have led faithful, Christian lives.  None of us want to relate to the "bad" younger brother because most of don't view ourselves as "bad" people.  We lead our lives in the good,holy manner that we do because it is what we believe and what we know is best, yet we don't want our efforts to go unrecognized.  The brother felt the same way.   This makes him more realistic as a character.  However, that doesn't make him right.

Jealousy brought out the ugly side of this older brother because he was competing with his younger brother.  He was keeping track of all of the good that he had done throughout the years and then turned around and his younger brother was celebrating because he had "won".  His brother had cheated.  He didn't deserve the feast and the fattened calf.  Why should he be rewarded?

Well you see, the older brother will be rewarded...just in a different way.  I believe that his reward comes in the Kingdom of Heaven; which, let's be honest, is greater than any fat cow and a party. 

Jesus was describing two types of people:
1. Basically good people who trip every now and again
2. People who have completely lost their way
These situations have a common ground: none of us are perfect.  The only unblemished character in this parable is the father, and since the father represents the Lord, he can get away with being perfect.  Though known of us here on Earth can avoid sin, this parable offers us hope.  It's okay to stumble as long as you get back up, admit to your mistakes, and ask for forgiveness.  God wants to be there to hug us when we return to Him.

So whether we are younger or older, we are all brothers (and sisters) and children of God.  He is our savior, and He will rejoice for us when we are found again and again.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Time Flies

So I purposely waited to do this post so that I could fit in all of the activities I took part in this week.  It was that reason, or because I'm getting good at procrastinating.

Sunday, July 10 Sela and I FINALLY celebrated our birthdays. (Mind you, this was nearly a month overdue.)  I received a cover for my Kindle along with money for my Kindle account.  But I'm not obsessed with it or anything...I just use it all the time and take it with me everywhere, but that's all...
Sela got cute little girl outfits, a little pony, and a camping edition for her Sweet Streets.

That's my Kindle paraphernalia...and Brenna creepin' in the background.

Sela displaying one of her cute shirts.

We had a birthday cake in the shape of a castle with a plethora of Disney princesses surrounding it. :)

Things happened Monday and Tuesday, I just don't remember what they were besides working.  Speaking of which, my brother Ian got a job at my place of employment.  Much to his dismay, we now have the opportunity to work together! :)  His first day was that Wednesday, but I wasn't scheduled to work that day.  I had requested off to spend a day with Jordan. :) 

That day was our 9 monthsiversary, and since I did not give him a graduation present, I decided to treat him to a day at the Fun and Only Cedar Point.  It wasn't too busy, and we rode all of the good rides including the Raptor, Mantis, Meanstreak, Gemini, Maverick, Wicked Twister, Millennium, and the Dragster.  Unfortunately the Windseeker, the newest ride, was not up and running so we didn't get to experience that.

Funny story...

So we rode the Maverick which kind of takes some quick twists and turns and my phone decided to go flying out of my pocket and into the graveyard of lost belongings.  I was pretty upset when I first discovered this, but it was pretty fortunate timing.  I was due to get my phone upgraded anyway, so the only thing that sucked was losing my contacts and pictures.  But the contacts were obtainable and the pictures weren't priceless.
Then we rode the Meanstreak where Jordan had placed his Pittsburgh Steelers hat under his leg for safekeeping, only to forget and leave it in the seat.  It was gone when we went back to retrieve it.  It was his favorite hat. :(  Did I mention that we forgot the receipts for our tickets which prevented us from getting in and then had to drive home and back before the day even started?  Yeah, that happened too.

However, the day was great. :)  We wanted to go to the Drive-in later in the evening and had time to burn before that, so Jordan took me to the Huron lighthouse.  I had never been there before, but it was wonderfully fun.  We documented the experience.

Whoa...that's a pretty big butt.

It's so sunset-y! :)

To the Lighthouse! :)

Jordan being Jordan ;)

God makes some wonderful things. :)

Piggyback ride :)

Then Thursday rolled around.  And part of my childhood came to an end.  I went to the midnight premiere of the final Harry Potter movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2. 

It was a momentous occasion.  I dressed up for it.

I got off work by 10:00 and then showered, threw on some comfy sweats, and headed to the theater where I waited in line with other fanatics.  There were witches and wizards with their wands and robes and dyed hair.  (Yes, a boy actually dyed his hair red like Ron Weasley for this premiere.  It was intense.)  My friend Kailyn and bought the tickets a month in advance and we decided to go with 3-D.  It was totally worth it.  The effects were awesome, the movie was enthralling and entertaining.  It was a great end to a powerful series.  I was not disappointed.

Friday was a 10 hour work day that it is not worth discussing.  It was a long, pointless day.

Saturday was a treat.  We went to the Blossom Center to watch the Cleveland Orchestra perform the music from the Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl while also watching the movie play out.  It was amazing.  The orchestra was spot on and at times I forgot that it was live and not part of the movie.  We were seated outside in lawn seats which was fun; especially with the little Berckmueller children who accompanied us.  They were hilarious.

I finally met my roommate on Sunday!  Her name is Alison and we got along pretty well.  It turns out that she plays softball, and planned on playing club ball in the spring.  I was happy about that.  Alison, my suitemates Mary and Hannah, and I met up at the Strongsville mall where we browsed/shopped for dorm stuff.  It wasn't awkward at all like I feared it might be and we are all easy-going.  We picked out a fuzzy lime green rug to go in the middle room and Mary got a purple one like it to go in her and Hannah's room.  It was very fun and made me that much more excited to go to Ashland! :)

I only have a few weeks left before I'm thrown into the adult world, but I think I'm ready.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Getting Back on Track

So I haven't exactly posted anything since March...where to begin? 

Okay, April:  April 13th was my brother Ian's 17th birthday.  He now is legally able to watch rated 'R' films and drive with more than one non-related person in the vehicle.  Super.  (Note: I do not have proper documentation of this moment because he is not apt to having pictures taken.) 

Moving onto May: I took 3 A.P. tests (still waiting for the scores to come back!) in AB Calculus, Psychology, and English Composition and Literature.  Fingers crossed that good scores will get me out of a few classes at Ashland!  I also went to Prom at Lyman Harbor with Jordan and my friends Kailyn, Ryann, and Elise plus their boyfriends.  That was one of the best nights I ever had. It was wonderful to see everybody at their best and to just feel beautiful. 
Elise and Mike, Ryann and Scott, Myself and Jordan, Kailyn and Drake

The girls :)

And the boys... :P

The classic double tree picture

Jordan jumping into the lake...unsuccessfully

The girls with our Prom King, Quintel! :)

After Prom was awesome too, with volleyball, karaoke, a mechanical bull, and that really silly game where you stand on a podium type-ish thing and try to knock your opponent over using a padded stick thing.  Awesome description, I know. 
Jordan jamming out to 'Firework'

Kailyn and Elise busting out 'Livin' on a Prayer'
(They had begged me to join them, but I wasn't quite that delusional.)

The mechanical bull; which turned out to be not as rambunctious as expected

Jordan and Scott beating on each other

Also, EVERYONE won prizes at the end which I found to be very awesome.  I followed that with a bonfire at Jordan's and by then I was utterly spent.  By the end of the month of May, I also attended the graduation parties of Kailyn, Ryann, and Jordan. 
Softball season had ended at this point.  Our season was less than successful; far less.  Our record is not even worth mentioning.  However, there are a few softball-related things that are worth sharing:  I hit my first home run (over the fence), I made a diving catch as a catcher, I earned the Scholar Athlete Award, the Austin Shadle Dedication Award, and the Golden Glove Award for best defense.  Despite our losses and rough season, I was happy with this kind of recognition.  It made me feel that my efforts did not go unnoticed.

Then June rolled around.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Talk about eventful.  First off, I graduated with honors and was also inducted into the 'Hall of Excellence'; a very prestigious honor given to three students in the entire class.  For that, I felt proud and honored.  Graduation day was June 5, which turned out to be a very nice, sunny day.  I am blessed to have the father that I do, who drove to my house and back to retrieve the tassel that I had forgotten.  The ceremony went well (besides the hillbilly-esque hooting and hollering that went on when names were called) and the speeches were moving and well presented/expressed.
Mi familia

Ryann, myself, and Kailyn

The Duncan/Berry brood making funny faces

Continuing with June, my sisters Larissa and Brenna gave me a graduation gift shortly after the ceremony: a cowboy hat and tickets to go see Brad Paisley at Progressive Field!  I was pumped! 

My camera inconveniently died before the show, but it was amazing and so fun.  I knew nearly every song and serenaded to Brenna.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Sela (my young blonde twin) had her birthday on the 13th and turned 11 years-old.  She and I have yet to celebrate our birthdays with a party, but I'm sure that will happen soon.   I had a birthday as well, turning 19 on the 18th which was the day we planned to have my graduation party.  That was such a success.  A threat of thunderstorms had been discouraging me for a week, but the weather could not have been better.  It was warm with a slight breeze and perfect for playing volleyball, nukem, and swimming.  My Uncle Ray and Aunt Mary Jane have a wonderful set-up in Monroeville and allowed us to celebrate there with them.  The road to their house was under construction, but everyone seemed to get there just fine with the signs we made telling them to keep going.
Jordan presented me with the beautiful gifts of earrings with my birthstone and a silver necklace that has the dangling charms of a cross, heart, and key.  I love them dearly and wear them often; almost every day.  Another fond present I received was a Kindle from my Grandma Berry.  I never imagined that it would be so addicting!  It definitely refreshed my love for reading.

And I am finally all caught up and made it to July!  Yesterday was Independence Day, where I walked in the parade supporting the 'Duncan for Mayor' cause.  If you weren't already aware, my significant other's father is running for mayor of Norwalk.  I pushed Judah in the stroller for most of the way.  It was more fun than I expected.
 Lydia, Jordan's younger sister, had the idea to take my camera and take pictures of everything that she saw.  This is just a very small sampling of the flattering moments that she captured.

I found this to be very entertaining and also interesting as a way to see what kids like to photograph. 
I took a few pictures of my own as well.
Myself, Jordan, and Judah :)

Joey and Micah playing with the giant fan in their mudroom

Sela and Jordan at my Grandma Berry's pool

Mara and Jordan
The day was filled with card games, corn hole, great food, family and friends and ended with beautiful fireworks lighting up the sky and watching the movie 'Independence Day' with Jordan and some of his family.

Hopefully, this giant collage of activities brings everybody up to speed on my life. :)