Fingerprints of Independence

Unless you’ve been to Washington D.C. to see the Declaration of Independence with your own eyes, you might not know it has somebody’s fingerprint ink smudge on it. I know, insensitive right? How dare you—whoever you are—put your grubby fingers all over the most precious gift of liberty ever bestowed upon the civilized world.

I wouldn’t blame any proper American for responding this way, but with respect to the circumstances, we ought to cut the guy some slack. For one thing, the Declaration of Independence that is on display in the National Archives Building is one of several original drafts. It’s not as if he soiled the only copy extant. Secondly, chances are high that, as the Continental Congress was accustomed to doing, he had to pack up the Declaration in a hurry and flee from the threat of the British Army. And, of course, we can’t leave out the most important detail surrounding this whole discussion: Some guy literally left his fingerprint on THE Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson and John Hancock left metaphorical fingerprints on the document, but this guy actually impressed a part of himself, unique to him and him alone, permanently onto one of the most valuable documents in all of history.

Nothing illustrates the beauty of America’s Independence Day better than this. The fingerprints of unknown individuals helping to shape a nation are what America is supposed to be about. American liberty was not won by the efforts of a few famous founding fathers, but by the life-long commitments of billions of normal people. How many signers of the Declaration can you actually name? What about the Constitution? Can you list more than five vice presidents or Supreme Court justices? The goal is not to shame you because you are not a history scholar; I want to encourage you because you are a history maker. No one is arguing against the influence of any revolutionary framers or anyone who has served in public office, yet when even their names go unremembered, why do we continue to ignorantly attribute the success of the United States to a handful of faces carved in a mountainside or etched onto currency?

America was built by the unknown for the worth-knowing. An unrecognized founding father named Button Gwinnett signed the Declaration of Independence so that Abraham Lincoln could one day sign the Emancipation Proclamation. The patriot laid to rest at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier sacrificed his life so that Rosa Parks could one day refuse to give up her bus seat. Slaves labored to construct the White House so that one day Michelle Bachmann and Hilary Clinton could have a shot at sitting in the Oval Office. The fingerprints of the unnamed masses lay beneath the thin layer of recognizable individuals and milestone accomplishments that highlight history textbooks.

No one will ever know the name of patriot who left his fingerprint on the Declaration of Independence. But just down the road from where that document rests is a memorial dedicated to the man who penned the words of the Declaration; every Fourth of July, fireworks illuminate his tribune, and people speak his name with respect and awe. To some, we build monuments, and to others, we give honor by imitating their courage and patriotism and by walking down the path of freedom they laid out before us. Immigrants. Descendants of the Pilgrims. Welfare families. Trust fund babies. Criminals. Religious ministers. Farmers. Wall Street brokers. Republicans. Democrats. Privileged women of color. Low-income white men. Single dads. CEO mothers. United by freedom and empowered by liberty, these are the ones who bring independence to life through the way they live their day to day lives as Americans.

All are equally American, and all have equal claim on the American Story. Whoever you are, whatever your narrative is, if you use the privilege of your liberty to make a way for others to find their own freedom, if you celebrate every day you wake up an American as Independence Day, you, too, will surely leave your fingerprints on America’s legacy.

Written by Savanna

Image credit

Three Dads, One Day

Father’s Day signifies something different for every father and child. For many, the day presents precious moments of reflective acknowledgement and expressed appreciation. It can be a time of community in which we have the opportunity to place ourselves in our Fathers’ shoes, to momentarily see our small worlds through their eyes.

Eager to understand how and why Father’s Day is so important to us, I asked some fathers in my Church community some questions about fatherhood and how they felt about Father’s Day.

[Me]: What’s your favorite part of being a dad?

[Dad A]: I’ve loved watching my kids grow closer to God. I’ve loved watching them use their skills and talent to glorify Him!

[Dad B]: My favorite part is the privilege and opportunity I have to father three human beings. I get the chance to disciple them so that they’ll become people who will carry the same legacy.

[Dad C]: When I get to teach them God’s ways and see them following His leading.

[Me]: What are your favorite memories of your children? Do you have any particular parenting experiences that you value most?

[Dad A]: Family holidays for sure. Fishing in Southern England with my kids was one of my favorite things to do. We’d spend weekends and summers laughing together on the beach, climbing rocks, and catching crabs.

[Dad B]: Summer vacations! We got to spend quality time together as a family.

[Dad C]: I think my favorite part was the whole thing: seeing them grow into the people they are now. I love thinking back to the days when they were still dependent on me. They’ve changed so much and have different personalities! I can’t believe how much they have overcome. They faced so many challenges when we moved here to the United States.

[Me]: What do you consider to be your strengths/strong-suits when it comes to being a father?

[Dad A]: I’m not sure if I have strong suits.

[Dad B]: I believe my strength is my ability to meet them at their level. I can be their Dad and their friend at the same time.

[Dad C]: I’ll do whatever it takes to protect my kids.

[Me]: What do you consider to be your shortcomings/areas of improvement when it comes to being a father?

[Dad A]: I have lots of those! I think one thing in particular is that I don’t think I tell them I love them enough.

[Dad B]: My weakness is definitely my temper!

[Dad C]: My weakness is that I don’t want to see my family sad. And I’m really good at spoiling my kids too!

[Me]: Finally, is Father’s Day special to you? If so, why?

[Dad A]: It reminds me of my solemn responsibility to be a Father to my children and it connects me back to the fatherhood of God in my life.

[Dad B]: It feels so special to get all of the attention for a day. You get to feel like you’re passing on a legacy to your kids – especially the love of Christ!

[Dad C]: It’s a time to reflect upon what I am lacking in as a Father, a time to receive my family’s affirmations, and a time to mend and evaluate my shortcomings.

Week after week, I watch these fathers invest their time, love, and wisdom into the lives of their children. I cannot help but think of how privileged we are to have such guardians. I know many do not have the opportunity to experience the protection, guidance, and friendship of an earthly father; but we are all blessed to have a heavenly Father. And if such delight can be found in the love of a human father, how much more in the divine love of our gracious God!

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:11 (ESV)

Written by Jeka

Image credit: Jeka Santos

The Caravan Outside Campus

It is the dead of winter. Normally, I would be at home with my family recovering from the holidays, but not today. I am at school—or, more accurately, at work. My on-campus job has called me in to cover a shift, just for a day or two. I am more than happy to comply, and not just because I prefer to keep my job. Since I’m only going to be at school for two days, my parents have granted me control of one of the family cars, which is a rare treat that I fully intend to enjoy.

Like a true rebel, I am going to go off-campus and pick up a nice Chipotle burrito with the hour I have off for lunch. (So edgy, I know.) I hop in my dad’s little silver Accord, adjust the hedgehog ornament hanging from the rearview mirror, and back out of the parking lot, feeling like a real grown-up. As I coast to a stop at the edge of campus, I’m singing with the radio, and all is right with the world.

I look to my left, and I see a few cars heading in my direction. Being the overly-cautious driver I am, I decide to wait for them to pass, since there’s no one behind me to scold me with a blaring horn. It isn’t until it’s too late that I realize how slowly they’re driving and how many cars there are. They’re all in the right lane, hazard lights blinking out of sync with one another.

Baffled, I look up the street to determine the source of this slow-moving party, and one car, ominously long and black, stands out from all the rest. Red, white, and blue fabric flaps from the car’s roof. Suddenly, I remember the last time I attended a DBU baseball game, when the entire stadium dropped everything and paused to quietly stand at attention as, in the near distance, a trumpet played a long, sad song. I remember the one thing I constantly forget about the Dallas Baptist University campus:

Its next-door neighbor is the Dallas/Fort Worth National Cemetery.

I freeze. Breathing too loudly no longer feels appropriate. One by one, the cars in the caravan pass by, the passengers barely giving me and my hedgehog a passing glance.

Reality crashes down on me as I realize that someone in this caravan sacrificed everything for the freedom I was relishing just a few seconds ago. Without that person, I might not have the funding to attend school. I might not have my job, which is a work-study position. Without this person, I might not be able to take off at my leisure and go as I please. Without this sacrifice, I might not be able to choose from a plethora of restaurants just a few miles down the road. I might not have a car at my disposal. I might not even have a driver’s license. Without this person’s willing and selfless sacrifice, nothing I am doing at this moment, none of these little things I rarely stop to consider, would be guaranteed.

In a daze, I realize one of the cars is coming to a stop, and I see the driver kindly wave at me. I shake my head and gesture at them to keep going, and they acknowledge me with another wave. Part of me wonders why they would risk making the drivers behind them mad for stopping, but then I remember why they’re all here. That one person is not the only one who has given up everything for my comfort. Their friends and family do that every day. Even now, as they lay their friend and family member to rest, they care for strangers more than they care for themselves.

The last of the caravan is a pair of police motorcycles, red and blue lights glaring. They wave at me as if to thank me, and I wave back as I prepare to drive away. I can see them in my rearview mirror as I turn onto the street, disappearing around the bend. My focus goes back to the road, but now I’m praying instead of singing as I go.

Thank you, Lord, for the freedom I have in you. Thank you for the freedom you give to all who ask, and for the freedom you have blessed our country with. Thank you for the men and women who defend that freedom every day. Thank you for being with them, comforting them, and loving them. Thank you for giving them the strength to keep going when everything is falling apart, when they want nothing more than to wrest control from you. Thank you for this person’s life; whoever he or she is gave everything in love, just as you did when you sent your Son. Thank you for that courage and that sacrifice. Thank you for the friends and families, and their willingness to give up something so precious to them. Continue to be with those who are grieving today; you are the only one who can truly ease that pain. Help them appreciate the freedom you have offered every one of us, and help me never to forget that again.

Based on a true story

Written by Catherine

Image credit: Carole Sampeck, used with permission in honor and memory of Adrian Sampeck

DIY Gifts to Wow Her on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day, a time in early May, has been dedicated to celebrating the mommies, mothers, mamas, and moms across the nation for many years. Anna Jarvis, Mother’s Day founder, dedicated her life to honoring the great women who’ve endured much hardship for their children while continuing to be poised and graceful (History.com staff para.1). For the women whose love for their family is so unique, moms deserve a day dedicated to celebrating them in a spectacular way. Here are a few ideas for D.I.Y. gifts to wow any mom on Mother’s Day.

diy charm bracelet

First on the list of gnarly gizmos and gadgets is a D.I.Y charm bracelet. This simple yet elegant gift is gentle on the pockets, easy to make, and still very personal to that special lady. To make this charm bracelet, you will need a chain, jump rings, a lobster claw clasp, and a few meaningful charms. You can add as many or as few as you’d like and still achieve a one-of-a-kind look that will make Mommy smile. This gift will also allow you two to grow and improve the gift over time, as the charms can be updated and multiplied with time. As she sports this sweet act of love around her wrist, she will always be reminded of your appreciation for her as will everyone else.

diy spa in a jar

Source

Help Mama soak away the stress of being a mom, amongst other things, with a D.I.Y Spa in a Jar and D.I.Y Scrubs. To create a scrub your mom will love, take a small container, some white or brown sugar and pair it honey, olive oil or coconut oil, and a few drops of an essential oil she likes. After using this delicious-smelling concoction, she will have skin to die for! To fashion a Spa in a Jar, simply grab a large mason jar and fill it with those D.I.Y scrubs, lip balm, a face mask, and any other helpful trinkets for relaxation. Next, decorate the jar with some of her favorite colors and a nice ribbon. She will definitely appreciate the lovely gesture from you and the reminder for her to treat herself.

cheeseburger sliders

Finally, go the classic route with a spectacular Mother’s Day themed meal. Rock your mother’s taste buds with some fabulous flap-jacks, sausage, and an omelet the size of your head. For the moms more inclined to heartier meals, home-made-bacon-and-cheese-burger sliders would be a great choice. If you’re more of a Pizza Roll microwaver, simply make some fresh lemonade and chocolate covered fruit for a mouth-watering reaction.  My mom will be receiving a Spa in a Jar as well as a tasty Mother’s Day meal. Whatever you decide to make, or try to make, your mom will love and welcome it.

Show her a little gratitude with these cute and easy D.I.Ys. Remember, there is no judgement if you go crazy with hearts in these D.I.Ys as long as you have fun in creating them and use them as tools to show just how much you love and cherish your mom, mommy, mama, and mother.

History.com Staff. ” Mother’s Day.” History.com, 2011.

Written by Ashley

Header image credit

Easter Every Day

Easter, considered to be the most significant Christian holiday, has come again. Filled with bunny rabbits, oval-shaped chocolates, and wild Easter egg hunts, the occasion holds more than just the short-term blessings of joy and happiness; Easter gives us a chance to celebrate and receive once more, with grateful hearts, the eternal blessings of hope, peace, faith, and love. Two thousand years ago, a Jewish man, the son of a carpenter, hung fragile and exposed on a cross. It may have seemed somewhat insignificant to the onlookers, and even today many groups, communities, and nations believe it to be so. But to the Christian, Easter commemorates the life-changing gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of the world’s Savior, Jesus Christ.

Although this celebration occurs only once a year, Christians all over the world honor Christ’s sacrifice daily. The cross is the core of the Christian faith and Christian living. It not only grants all of us a way into eternal life, but restores our relationship with our Creator. Christians, those who have accepted God’s wonderful gift, now share life with Him every day, abiding in His delightful and sweet presence, alongside Him who is a constant helper, companion, protector, and friend. With the promise of His continual presence and a glorious inheritance, we can know that God has abundantly blessed us both here on earth and in life after death.

For Christians, these truths about God’s promise of blessing hold the energy to transform our lives day by day. Firstly, knowing that God waits for us in Heaven, gives us tremendous hope: hope enough to stand when life knocks us down; hope enough for us to see the light when we feel that the darkness is closing in; hope enough for us to keep walking even when storms are headed our way. Because the cross proclaims that this life is substantially brief and momentary in comparison to the eternal glory to come, we can have joy in all circumstances. Secondly, because God has gifted us with His unceasing presence, we can constantly speak to Him, present our requests to Him, and intercede for others on their behalf. He has promised to hear us. God sees everything and generously supplies all of our needs. He has promised to carry us through every single day.

Therefore, Easter, unlike many other holidays, far transcends its bounds of one week in the springtime year after year. Instead, it permeates each and every second of a believer’s life. Outside of charming Easter decorations, blissful fellowship with family and friends, and overflowing Church services, the true joy to be found in Easter is grasped in the stillness of the mundane, in the repetition of work and routine, and in the times of defeat, struggle, and pain. The cross is worn on millions of pendants, displayed in thousands of windows, and stuck on the bumper of countless vehicles but its reach is far beyond a worldwide festival. It holds the weight, power, and glory to give hope in every situation, to shine light into every circumstance, and to remind us of everlasting love every day.

Written by Jeka

Image credit

Silly Love Songs

“Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. And what’s wrong with that? I’d like to know” (McCartney, verse 1). Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday. It represents something beautiful: love. Love seems difficult to define and to obtain. Sometimes it acts like an emotion, while other times it’s a choice or even a fated destiny. Love can even take different forms linguistically, being defined as either a verb or a noun. Personally, I think that love can have different meanings to different people at different times. In fact, one of the attributes of love I am fondest of is this sort of graceful, catch-all nature it seems to have.

Valentine’s Day has come to be known especially for its representation of romantic love. I’ve always thought that a romantic kind of love was magical. Once upon a time, I was a little girl swooning over Disney princesses as they danced with their princes. Now, I’m an adult with a heart that bursts with excitement as I watch the people around me fall in love, get married, have children, and grow in love day by day. I definitely want to get married someday. I think of marriage as a friendship you’ll never lose and a chosen partnership for life. You choose a person and that person chooses you. Comedian Ray Romano described his own marriage this way: “You wake up—she’s there. You come back from work—she’s there. You fall asleep—she’s there. You eat dinner—she’s there. You know? I mean, I know that sounds like a bad thing. But it’s not” (Raymond, episode 9).

real-heart-hands

Love can also take a much simpler form than a lifelong partnership with a husband or wife. Love can be found in a single act taken by one person on behalf of another. For an example, the week or so surrounding finals last semester was a rough time for me. During my Sunday morning church service that week, I was all but exhausted mentally and physically. An older married couple who are members of my church came to see me after the service to tell me that I’d been on their minds lately and ask if there was any way they could pray with me. Their coming to me and asking to pray communicated so much love to me in that moment; it was exactly what I needed, and it reminded me of God’s everlasting love for me.

Sometimes love is in the thought that one person expends for another. It really can be the thought that counts when it comes to love. In recent years, my siblings and I have begun exchanging little Christmas gifts. It’s my idea because I like buying ridiculous things for my brother and sister. My sister outdid me last year, though, when it came to thoughtfulness. She told me a week before Christmas that she’d picked out my gift and that it was not what I’d asked for. Naturally, I was worried and even a little annoyed. After all, my sister likes to think things through her own convoluted mental processes. She has even told me on several occasions that she cannot predict what I’ll say, do, or want in any given circumstance. On Christmas Day, she presented me with a radio adaptor that would let me play music from my phone through my car’s radio. She remembered that I didn’t have an auxiliary plug in my car and that my grandmother had gotten a Wow Hits 2007 CD stuck in the player years before she gave it to me. She took the time to think about what I really wanted and gave me a stellar gift I still use to this day. When I opened it and realized what she’d done, I felt remembered, considered, and loved.

Love is multi-faceted, easily felt, and always better in excess than in lack. Valentine’s Day gives me an extra reason to celebrate the love of all the wonderful people around me. Love, in all its forms and with all its facets, is a trait to be cherished. It is more than silly love songs; it is the very core of Jesus Himself.

Written by Becca

McCartney, Paul. “Silly Love Songs.” Wings at the Speed of Sound, Capitol, 1976. “The Lone Barone.”

Everybody Loves Raymond, created by Philip Rosenthal, performance by Ray Romano, season 3, episode 9, 1998.

Image credits: Header image, Heart-shaped Hands

This is Not About New Year’s Resolutions

Is anyone else sick of New Year’s resolutions? What I would like to know is why people feel compelled to wait an entire year to make positive changes in their lives. Ecclesiastes 3 says that there is “a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.” It is so easy to get caught up in day-to-day business and forget what a precious gift time really is. It’s also easy to constantly plan ahead or get stuck in the past, depending on one’s personality, but what if we spent just as much time, energy, and thought processes on today – the here and now – and how we can impact those around us? What would that look like?

What if we viewed the first day of every month the same way we view the first day of the year? This would allow for more specific, tangible, realistic goals while promoting accountability. Suddenly, there aren’t 365 days to forget about the goals of New Year’s Day because the new month’s day, if you will, arrives in roughly 30 days.  A shorter timeline promotes accountability by requiring immediate action. Then, before you know it, it’s time to refocus, plan, evaluate, and celebrate once more!

For example, some of the most common New Year’s resolutions involve diet and exercise. Which seems easier: going on a 365 day diet and exercise program or a 30 day program? How about devoting three weeks to healthy living, taking a fourth week to treat yo self, and then getting back on track for the next three weeks? Not only does that seem much more sustainable, but it involves a more tangible, realistic goal that can be reached and celebrated before being repeated. Avoid discouragement and frustration this year by frequently setting good, short-term goals. And always celebrate with fireworks.

Written by Carilee

Image credit