Praying for New York

•March 23, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I am, in many ways, still a New Yorker. Living much of my childhood growing up through adolescence with my family at four places of residence in Westchester County (area code 914), a number of dorms and apartments on Manhattan’s upper west side during my collegiate years at Columbia, then two suburbs “upstate” as an Engineering college graduate and “yuppie” working for NBC at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, I at times find myself listening again in a “New York State of Mind” as Billy Joel sang and performed it live in concert midtown at Madison Square Garden years ago. In my dreams, I can remember commuting on the Metro-North’s New Haven, Harlem and Hudson River Lines to and from Grand Central Station, walking briskly amidst the masses through various passageways emerging onto my workplace up to the office at 30 Rock with a corner view overlooking the skating Rink and promenade of Rockefeller Center.

This week, inevitably reminiscing times together in the City with my late beloved sweet Melissa who was born and raised in western New York, I am praying fervently on my knees in my heart and soul before the throne of grace for Christ’s compassion upon the people of New York. As I read and hear of the plight among peoples there and elsewhere, may the unfailing steadfast loving kindness, protection, patience, persistence, perseverance and providence of the Holy and Anointed One who heals us be upon wholly and dearly loved ones in time of need. O Lord, in your tender care and mercy, ….

A man walks through the nearly empty Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan on March 14.
(Jeennah Moon for The Washington Post)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/03/21/shutting-down-city-that-never-sleeps/

Entry 22: Not My Own Words

•March 5, 2020 • 1 Comment

Entry 22: Not My Own Words

I don’t have any words of my own today. Nor have I had many to share these past several days. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about Momma every day since the last time I had the words to convey my thoughts. The time has escaped me. It’s March now. I’m so swamped. I have less than a week until the 10 year anniversary of her death. I’m…I’m not ready. I’ll be too focused on preparing for qualifying for quizzing, too preoccupied studying for school, too busy memorizing 70 stupid digits of pi for Precal. I don’t know if I can do it all.

But I’m not alone in this grief. Amidst all the busyness, I came across the posted poem above…
I don’t have much to say about it. But my dear sister’s beautiful words resonate deeply with my own outbursts and sorrows for the loss of our Momma. I can’t wait to see her in a week. I just hope I’m not too focused on other things to cherish her presence in this hard time. Please be praying for me this week ❤️

-Sara Joy

Day 21: The Early Readers Bible

•January 29, 2020 • Leave a Comment

“I remember two Easters ago, Momma and Daddy gave me an Early Readers Bible. Momma always helped me with some words or names. (There are some hard names in there!) We would do it every night. When my mom was available (which was mostly every night). That was a time we spent alone together. It was mom and daughter time to me. I felt really great because I love Bible stories, especially the kind that were in my Early Reader’s Bible.

-Sara Joy”

This entry quote doesn’t really need much else explaining. Momma took the time to sit down with her daughters, in groups and one on one, to discuss God’s Word with us. I got that Early Reader’s Bible when I was four. Momma read me the stories until I could begin reading them out loud myself. I was contstantly inquiring and trying to decipher the words that were unfamiliar to me. I seem to recall specifically asking Momma about Nebuchadnezzar and shadrack and meshack and abendigo. I was fascinated with the weird spellings and the miraculous tales and the pictures on the page. I was a passionately curious kid. Some of that energy has carried on into my adolescence. I still find myself yearning to immerse in His Holy Word. Sometimes I fall short of that desire in favor of other things that take less effort, but my passion still shines through. I love reading and taking in and analyzing and challenging myself to apply what I’ve learned to lead a better Christian life. Bible quizzing has furthered how well-versed I am in the New Testament’s text, but the boundaries can always be pushed further. I’ve thought about pursuing a major or minor in biblical and theological studies, and even if I don’t, I will almost certainly want to take those electives. This passion of mine probably all started with that very book. Momma understood the importance of “teaching them young.” I’m thankful for the time she took to be with me at the start of my journey. Today, I still carry her sentiments with me as I continue on this neverending path of getting to know more and more about my Lord, and just like Momma did with me and everyone else she met, I hope to share that ultimate story – that ultimate REALITY – with anyone who I come across along the way.

-Sara Joy

Help Seek Guidance

•June 15, 2020 • Leave a Comment

God, I need Your help. I can’t fix these problems alone. Help me to understand the situation, and then to seek Your help and guidance in resolving the challenges before me.

Day 20: Christmas Decorations

•January 15, 2020 • 1 Comment

The Christmas season is pretty much over. The twelve days of Christmas ended last week, students are going back to school, and the vast majority of adults are heading back to work. That holiday spirit that accompanies Christmas melted away with the snow (in Indiana at least). With a heavy heart, families are beginning to take down their various Christmas decorations from their hooks on the wall and their places on the mantelpiece. For the Espiritu house in New Castle, I never put up those decorations in the first place.

December is a hectic time for the Espiritu house. Early in the month, I have a major bible quiz for which I have to prepare, and by the time that’s over, final exams are in full swing, and I’m swamped for the remainder of the quarter, especially since this was my first semester of mostly college-level classes. Dad is overwhelmed with Advent season preparation for multiple churches, and it can sometimes feel like there’s not a second of rest. Classes didn’t end until the 20th, and I was exhausted by the end of it. Honestly, I wasn’t feeling the happiness of the holidays until my family got here. By the time they did, however, it was too late to make the house nice, and I felt like I hadn’t done my part to make the place feel more festive. Thankfully, our big celebration was in Lansing at my sister’s house this year, so most of the pressure was off.

    Even though I didn’t feel that pressure, every time I walked through the unadorned rooms at the end of every monotonous day, I couldn’t help but wish I had the time and energy to deck the halls of my house with boughs of holly and make it look a lot like Christmas. Momma was never much of a decorator, but she did her best to make her house feel like a home. Truthfully, even though in the last ten years my sisters and I have tried to maintain that sentiment, every year since Momma’s death it feels less and less homey to me, especially in the past two years without any sisters around. 

    When my sisters are around, though, my heart is full, and I feel like I’m in my childhood home again, and ultimately I know that matters more than any trees, lights, or holly that I could put up in their absence. That doesn’t mean I didn’t wish it was different, though. Every time I have to motivate myself to face that never ending task of trying to keep up with chores, or every trip or tour I take in other people’s places that are filled to the brim with decor – those are some of the times that I miss Momma the most. 

-Sara Joy

Day 19: Music and Praise

•January 12, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Sunday January 10, 2010

7:40am

(from my perspective)

“Amazing Grace was my favorite song. I used to like to sing it while playing. When Momma would hear me sing spontaneously, she would smile and say, ‘My, what a great singer you are!’ Momma LOVED having her home filled with music and praise!”

Throughout the twenty-four hours that the Espiritu sisters were all in one place this past New Year’s Eve Extravaganza, one thing was for certain: there was a COPIOUS amount of music and praise. As we got ready for family pictures, we jammed to pop songs of the decade at the top of our lungs. At points throughout the celebration, one or two of us would spontaneously break into song. As we rang in the New Year, we put our arms around one another and harmonized to Auld Lang Syne, a sister tradition that has lasted even when one or two sisters can’t be there. In the morning, the early risers sat at the table, did devotionals, and lifted our hearts together in praise to God with soft melodies and sweet harmonies. Then, if that wasn’t enough, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to put on a private family concert of sorts at my brother-in-law’s church. Dad played piano, Jon was on drums, Tabitha did flute and joined in with the rest of the sisters on vocals. It wasn’t for show, it wasn’t meant to be perfect, and it wasn’t for anyone else but us and Jesus. I’ve missed performing with my family, and it was a blessing to be able to sing praise music with all of them for the first time in several years.

Music was a huge part of Momma’s life, too. She composed and wrote songs with my dad way back in the day. She taught the kids in children’s church numerous hymns and worship songs. She had albums upon albums of Christian praise music stocked up at home. She taught her daughters several tunes to help them remember things from countries of the world to historical figures to verses of the Bible. She supported her daughters in choir and band. She put the little ones to bed with lullabies using her sing-songy voice (though I’m told that she was a bit pitchy). She woke us up with tunes of boisterous joy. She closed her eyes and lifted her hands up in worship during church. You could see her love for Jesus radiating off her every time she did so. She loved to incorporate music into our everyday lives.

Momma also would have loved all of what happened at the New Year’s celebration a couple of weeks ago. She would have smiled at all of us being silly as we danced and sang and had fun. She would have marveled at how each of her daughters had been blessed with varying levels of musicality. She would have been thankful that we could all come together to use those talents to praise the living God. And, as it says in the journal entry above, she would have LOVED having her home filled with music and praise.

-Sara Joy

Excerpt from Psalm 98

Day 18: Six and a Half

•January 10, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Fun fact: I used to be a weeee bit more obsessed about half-birthdays than the average person. I remember making a big deal out of the halfway mark between this age and the next. From January 9th to July 9th of every year, I would no longer simply say, “I’m five!” when people asked me, but rather, “I’m five and a HALF!” or, “I’m almost six.” January 9, 2010, was no different. I woke up that day, and as soon as I looked at the calendar and realized the date, I perked up and boasted to my sisters that I was now six and a half. The next day, January 10, was also a special day – it was MOMMA’s half-birthday! She used to always tell me that I was an early present for her 43rd birthday. On the night of Momma’s 49th half birthday, she was feeling a bit stronger, so she and I celebrated by sneaking in treats to her room, though Momma couldn’t eat any of them. I sat on her bed, her oxygen tank next to us, and we played games and laughed together until I had to head to bed. It was a sweet memory and one that I remember from time to time, especially when these two days roll around.

Yesterday, I turned sixteen and a half, but I didn’t even realize it until the end of the day. Half years are hardly anything more to me now than an arbitrary and irrelevant addition to an age that I’ll still be for six more months. But a person turning six and a half does have some significance to me now. Over the past few years, as more and more little kids with loving parents I know turn that fateful age, I find myself thinking about how when I reached that stage of life, I was about to lose my mom. I think about how much character those children have, even though most of them haven’t yet hit first grade. In just two years, my eldest niece will also reach that point in her life, and I already love who she is so much. This bittersweet thought is yet another reminder to me that while I may have been young when she died, and while I may not remember her very well, she still loved me with all her heart. Even at six and a half, I was still the sassy and silly and spunky and sweet Sara Joy that I am today, and Momma knew it.  

-Sara Joy

Day 17: Anonymous Christmas Gifts

•January 8, 2020 • Leave a Comment

“Hello!” “Hallo!” “Ni hao ma!” “Ciao!” “Konnichiwa!” “Jumbo!” “Namaste!” “Privetstviye!”

Priscilla and I messed with the buttons on our new gadget, watching as the little kids on the map lit up as they repeated their messages back to us. The Kids Around the World See ‘n Say globe spit out random factoids about the language and culture of each country. It must have been looping for several minutes before Tabitha got so irritated that she confiscated the annoying toy. I have no idea why this particular memory is so vivid to me, but I still remember most of those greetings today. The person who gave me that present really must have known what they were doing.

There we were, surrounded by all sorts of new toys and gifts, a lot more than usual. For some reason, we were given cabbage patch dolls, hot chocolate, sweatshirts, memory boxes, journals, and more that day. We didn’t know to whom we should say thank you for there were no tags on any of the presents. I, of course, didn’t question this; I just kept on pressing those buttons and eating up all the information and playing with my brand new stuff with a smile on my face.

It turns out that all of those little trinkets were given anonymously to the Espiritu family by people in my community and beyond, people who knew Momma and our family. These people didn’t just give us material gifts and silly little toys for the little ones for Christmas to lighten up our lives during hard times; they also blessed us with acts of service, transportation, home-cooked meals, home visits, messages and letters, or even a simple yet powerful prayer. I remember it all happening as a kid, but it didn’t click for me until much later that the reason behind all of it was because of my sick mother. My six-year-old self only reaped the benefits of those blessings. Now, however, I can see just how much my family was surrounded by such wonderful people in our time of need – back then and even now.

Today, my sixteen-year-old self wants to say to all the people who reached out a helping hand during my family’s time of grieving, no matter how big or small the deed, no matter where in the world you are, and no matter if I know who you are or not – thank you. To those who still help and pray for me and my family today – thank you. To those who never even knew my Momma and yet continue to contribute to my healing journey – thank you. From the bottom of my heart…thank you. I love you all.

“Goodbye!” “Auf Wiedersehen!” “Zàijiàn!” “Ciao!” “Sayōnara!” “Kwaheri!” “Namaste!” “Dasvidaniya!”

-Sara Joy

(Yes, I did have to look up how to spell most of these. Some of them I really only knew the general sound of the word haha.)

Day 16: Gingerbread Houses

•January 7, 2020 • Leave a Comment

December 29,2009

4:30 am

“It sure looked like you had fun making the gingerbread (graham cracker) House Village. I like that you were the Nursery for the Church. It tells me that the children of the village are important – and they ARE! Jesus said to His disciples – “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them, for such is the Kingdom of GOD.” -Momma

——————————————

I love you, Sara. The only thing I would have changed about the memory is that I could have been there to help you and that we could have had it taped to view again like we were doing with the old home videos yesterday.

I love you, Sara Joy!

-Momma”

If I remember correctly, my cousins, sisters, and I all collaborated on a big gingerbread house (that was probably way less impressive than I remember it being). Being the babies of the group, Priscilla and I were confined to one small area at the corner of the so-called masterpiece. Priscilla made a Rich Man who donated to the orphanage and gave him a twizzler scarf, and I used the icing, pretzels, and gumdrops to make a door to the nursery of the church. Meanwhile, Momma was in and out of the fun, too weak to help out that much. She wrote this entry early in the morning before anyone else was awake, most likely because she couldn’t sleep. 

Again I’m painfully reminded of how for three months, she was dying with the knowledge that her daughters would soon be entering a world without her there, and her youngest would barely remember one with her in it. While this may be true, it’s still clear to me by these words that I have a Momma who loved the children of God, who loved ME, and who wished she could have been there to see me become my own person. And even though she’s gone, I’m thankful that her loving spirit still surrounds me as I grow up without her. I often come back to the words inscribed in her own handwriting, “I love you, Sara.” It is a reminder to me that Momma wasn’t just a figment of my imagination, that she wasn’t just my sisters’ mother. She was my mother, too. And somehow, I can find comfort in that.

-Sara Joy

Day 15: New Year’s Eve

•January 1, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Dear Momma,

I know you would have loved our family time yesterday. The day started off with some kinks – leaving late, traffic in the snow for an hour, even heavier weather conditions for others. But you know us – nothing ever goes just as perfectly planned in the Espiritu clan. But we all made it to Michigan safely nonetheless.

When we got there, I got to glam up with my sisters for a family photo. LydiaGrace showed me what contouring looks like, Christina straightened my hair, and I wore lipstick for one of the first times. It was really nice to listen to music and chill with my sisters as we made ourselves pretty (though I know you would say to all of your daughters that we’re beautiful without all the makeup 😊). Then we went downstairs for a sister photo in the snow and a family photo inside. It’s hard not to miss you each year when we take these photos and you’re not in them.

Then we opened all our Christmas presents! It’s always a joy to open them with family and the little ones. I used to be the baby of the family who got to choose first and pass out presents and help unwrap. But not anymore! I think Sapphira and Adelaide had us covered. Each present was gifted and received with love. I’m blessed to have sisters who love me and know me well.

After that we watched a family classic – While You Were Sleeping – while the little ones and their parents played Uno in the other room. Later we’d play games like Code Names and Apples to Apples. But as I watched other couples cuddle on the couch and enjoy one another’s presence, I’ll admit, it was hard not to feel a twinge of sadness that my boyfriend wasn’t there. But I heard your voice telling me that I’m still overjoyed to be with my fun-loving family whom I don’t get to see that often and that I should push sad thoughts of him aside to enjoy myself to the fullest.

Then came the Cup of Blessing, one of my favorite withstanding New Years traditions in the Espiritu Family. It’s a moment of fellowship and vulnerability and real talk and raw reflection. I love hearing about my family’s year, most of which I haven’t been present in their lives to experience with them. It was a moment for me to open up about a few things. It took a lot of courage, Momma, but I think you’d be proud. I got to tell them about the happy things in my life, too, especially my newly budding relationship with Tyler.

We all miss you, Momma. Throughout all the joy this season and this time together brings, many tears were shed. I felt the pain of others; I felt others feeling my pain. Together with the rest of my other sisters, we gathered around a sister who has gone through so much this year, all without a mother there to dry her tears. 2019 has been a roller coaster of emotions for all of us. But at the end of the day, we’re all there for each other in your absence.

It’s hard not to wish you were here, but Happy New Year all the same, Momma! I bet the party up there is like no other, even though I’m not sure if time and the New Year is that relevant in Heaven haha. Thank you for instilling in all your children the importance of togetherness. We’re all this close because of that unbreakable bond you told us we had all those years ago. I love you, Momma. Happy Holidays in Heaven! 😊😊

-Sara Joy