18 April 2013

So Proud

I drove to Boston today to take one of my daughters to catch a train at South Station. I wasn’t sure what to expect, driving downtown. I knew Boylston Street was still closed, as well as Copley Square, but I don’t drive in Boston every day, so I didn’t know how it would impact us.

Turns out it didn’t. Traffic down I-93 into the city at 10:30 in the morning was a piece of cake, and it was a beautiful, sunny day, to boot. We zipped through the tunnel and popped out right in front of the station, as always. And as always, it’s not that simple – we have to sort of drive around our elbow to actually GET to the station, but after driving it about a thousand times, I finally have it down.

When we came out of the tunnel and sat at a red light, the street corner had cops in protective gear, holding some big, serious looking guns. I was taken aback for a moment; and then I smiled. I felt safe. Boston cops are bad-asses, and add a semi-automatic rifle (or maybe automatic, for all I know) and they become MAJOR bad-asses.

We found a $7-per-half-hour garage (typical) and walked the block to the station. Inside was business as usual, other than the incredible police presence, which again, was wonderful.

After my daughter was safely on the train, I jumped back on the highway. I scanned the radio stations, always happy with the huge variety on the airwaves when I go to Bean Town. But rather than peppy driving music, I was fortunate to catch President Obama’s speech at the Memorial Service for the tragedy at the Boston Marathon.

The transcript for the speech is here: President Obama Speech

Or watch the entire speech here: Video of Obama Speech

I strongly suggest watching it or reading it, if you didn’t get a chance to hear it or see it live.

I just want to say that I was moved by that speech. I’m not a fan of the president and I don’t agree with his politics (nor his tendency to inappropriately politicize so many of his speeches) but I have to hand it to him today – he totally hit this one out of the park. It was a phenomenal speech that captured the significance of the occasion, rallied the people of Boston, and encouraged steadfastness and patriotism in America.

The attack at the Marathon was a grievous thing to us all, because as the president said so eloquently, “For millions of us, what happened on Monday is personal.”

And then he put salve on the wound with these words: “You’ve shown us, Boston, that in the face of evil, Americans will lift up what’s good. In the face of cruelty, we will choose compassion. In the face of those who would visit death upon innocents, we will choose to save and to comfort and to heal. We’ll choose friendship. We’ll choose love.”

Lastly, he empowered the city of Boston and the nation at large, by spurring us on to be strong and to press on: “That’s why a bomb can’t beat us. That’s why we don’t hunker down. That’s why we don’t cower in fear. We carry on. We race. We strive. We build, and we work, and we love -- and we raise our kids to do the same. And we come together to celebrate life, and to walk our cities, and to cheer for our teams. When the Sox and Celtics and Patriots or Bruins are champions again -- to the chagrin of New York and Chicago fans -- the crowds will gather and watch a parade go down Boylston Street. And this time next year, on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever, and to cheer even louder, for the 118th Boston Marathon. Bet on it!”

Yes – BET ON IT.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Copyright © 2013 - Paulla Estes

15 April 2013

Tears for the Boston Marathon Tragedy

Like the rest of America, I’ve been glued to the TV all afternoon and evening. If, by some miracle, you haven’t heard about the explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon today, Google it. Perhaps like me, you heard about it early on, only moments after it happened. I read it on Twitter before I saw it on the internet news. And since then, I’ve been in tears.

Because it’s happening again.

When the Oklahoma City bombing happened in the mid 90s, I had babies at home and I hardly watched TV at all. I knew about it only vaguely, and was horrified about what little I knew. But I didn’t cry.

When the Columbine High School attack happened in the late 90s, I was in shock. I stared at the TV, held my kids a little closer, and wondered about such a strange and faraway thing happening on American soil with American kids. But I didn’t cry.

On 9/11, I froze. I babbled. I watched endless amounts of TV and I was dumbfounded. Like the rest of America, I couldn't believe it happened to us. I still can't. It changed us forever. But I didn’t cry.

Over the years there have been many more horrific stories of mass murder in one form or another: massacres at restaurants, in malls, on college campuses, in grocery store parking lots, in office buildings, in theaters, and most recently, in a lovely little elementary school in Connecticut. Somewhere along the way, as I watched horror after horror on TV, from the safety of my small town Maine home, I began to cry.

It started as a small gasp with a few tears leaking out. Over the years, with so much terrible news, the tears came more freely. My husband told me to quit watching the news when the tragic things happen. He told me I watch too much. Perhaps I do. But some part of me feels that I have to watch. Other than pray, it's the only way I feel like I can, in a sense, do something for those people - those tragic victims who have lost loved ones in the worst possible way. I want to be there for them, to hug them, to cry with them, to scream with them. But I am here, tucked away in Maine, and they don't know me. So watching their pain and crying from afar is the only way I can do that.

And now Boston.

My heart is breaking once again today as I watch the video coverage of the injuries, the mayhem, and the tears falling all over Boston. All over America.

I sit in front of the television, captivated, not wanting to look at the horror, but unable to look away. I wince, cry, even shield my eyes from the images of blood, smoke, and of the people running and screaming. Yet I peek through my fingers. I must look. Helpless at home, it is the only way to “be there” for those unfortunate people on the scene. Out my window I see the same sunshine and blue-sky day that is huddling over Boston. This time, for me anyway, it was much closer to home. And this time, I can’t seem to stop crying.

I find myself asking God, why. Why?! Why is this world such a mess? Why do these random acts of violence keep happening? Who would do this? What is this world coming to?

I watch my friends on Twitter and Facebook. They too are in shock, grieving, questioning, hurting, and they are frightened. I am frightened. Who will be next? Will it be us? What about my family, my friends? Is there any place that’s safe anymore?

And soon, when the dust from the latest tragedy begins to settle, we will all take a deep breath and try to carry on with our lives. We will have to find a way to cope. A way to move on, to find comfort, to heal.

One of the questions many folks ask at times like this is, Where is God? How could God allow this? Those people weren’t doing anything wrong. They were coming together as a community, celebrating, enjoying a beautiful spring day and some friendly competition. Why would God allow this? Because, after all, if God is in control, as many of us believe he is, that means he could have stopped this.

He could have stopped Columbine and Newtown and 9/11 and the movie theater massacre in Colorado. He could have stopped Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, and the countless tornadoes that kill people every year. We could go on forever with that line of thinking. He could have stopped the atrocities of Saddam Hussein and of Hitler. He could have stopped all the child molesters and rapists. He could have stopped so much of the pain.

But the problem comes with the issue of free will. God gave us – all of us – free will. He gave our world the freedom to be and to choose. With those options, one of the options is to choose evil. It’s a simple concept, yet incredibly layered, complicated, and hard to understand. Many people say that that’s not good enough, and why should we trust a God who is so hand’s off? I don’t have a good answer for them.

For me, there is comfort to be found in God’s presence. That’s it. That’s all there is. From our limited perspective, he doesn’t seem to be intervening much these days – at least not on a big scale. Yet, who’s to say there wouldn’t be many, many more tragedies if God weren’t intervening?

The Bible tells us that even when God isn’t intervening, even when he allows those hard things to happen, he is still with us – for comfort, for peace, for hope. Anyone who knows him and knows his word and knows his truth, knows about that presence. An ever present help in times of trouble. That’s what he tells us. I’ve had experience enough to know it’s true. I’ve also had experience enough to know that this won’t be the last time I’ll wince and cry and ask why. So I keep going back to God – the only thing that makes sense in this senseless world.

But in spite of the peace and comfort he gives, I still keep crying. I know he is here. I know he is in Boston. I know he is with those who are hurting, suffering, and who have lost loved ones. I know he gave us each other, and made ordinary people into heroes today. I know that and it brings me some measure of comfort.

But I still can’t stop crying. And he is here, grieving with me.

Copyright © 2013 - Paulla Estes

09 April 2013

Sunny Day

Yesterday we had a delightful spring day on the Maine coast. This just one day after meeting a family in church who was visiting from South Carolina. They commented on how COLD it is here, and how in South Carolina, everything is blooming and has been for quite some time.

I told them that Maine is so cold, we never actually make it to spring. The trees begin to bud and then suddenly, BAM - it's fall, the leaves are gone, and it's winter again. They looked at me in horror and went scurrying back to the South as quickly as possible.

Yep, that's what you get at this time of the year when 50 degrees feels positively balmy to us, and you come here and tell us about how WARM it is at your southern home. Those are fightin' words!

Anyway, yesterday my daughter and I were running errands in Bath, and she was taking the opportunity to practice driving, as she will soon take the test to get her drivers license. As I mentioned before, it was an incredibly sunny day, and on a whim, we decided to drive down to Popham Beach. I was wearing clogs, she was still in her work clothes, and we didn't even have a camera, but to Popham, we went.

We both had our phones, and even though they take lousy photos, you can get the idea from these:

It was so sunny and beautiful. And yes, it was cold - so what? It's only April. It was 50 degrees, windy, and the sign on the gate post at Popham said the water temperature is 40 degrees. Any wind whipping of that water has GOT to be cold.

I commented something along the lines of, why don't we do this more often? The beach is positively perfect right now. We saw a total of five people, three beach chairs, and we parked right near the trail to the beach. When we come back in June or July, there will be traffic, parking issues, and of course, all those other people.

I mean, tell me honestly, doesn't that photo of all those empty picnic tables just warm your heart?


Ok, well nevermind then.

Copyright © 2013 - Paulla Estes

02 April 2013

Easter Sunrise

On Easter morning, we made one of our favorite short hikes up Bradbury Mountain near Freeport for the Easter Sunrise Service. We missed it last year because the weather guy told us it was going to rain. It did NOT rain.

This year a spectacularly clear and sunny morning was forecasted. And lo and behold, that's what we got.

We arrived at the base of the mountain about 45 minutes before sunrise. It was clear and cold. And dark. Flashlights could be seen bouncing along the steep wooded trail in front of us and behind us, as hearty early risers made their way to the top. When we reached the top, a small crowd was already gathering on the flat rock at the summit. There, we put down our red fleece blanket and sat down facing east.

Not long after the service began, the sun peeked over the horizon.

Easter Sunrise service makes Easter special for me in a way I never knew it could, as I never did this while growing up. Seeing old friends, singing praise songs about the resurrection, shouting "He is Risen!"; it puts everything back into the proper perspective.

Afterward, we walked back down the long way (which is only about a mile, at most) and went home to breakfast... and of course, chocolate. :)

Copyright © 2013 - Paulla Estes