241 years ago, fifty-six men signed their lives and fortunes away while affixing their signatures to the Declaration of Independence. Many suffered for that act, but they never looked back.
We had proclaimed our liberty from Great Britain. We had the groundbreaking idea that all men were endowed by their creator with rights that could not be taken away. And because of it, the world would never be the same.
Independence day is one of my very favorite holidays. And after coming back from a missions trip, I view it in a new light. Guys, we have so, so much here. So much to celebrate. Don't take it for granted. Thank God for how He has blessed our nation. And than pray that He would turn back to Him.
We have a freedom here that the rest of the world does not have. Don't ever let it be taken away.
Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.
Okay, anyway, on a lighter note. . . ;) I wrote a short story for the Fourth, and I'm sharing it here. Hopefully you enjoy it, and I pray you have a blessed Independence Day Celebration!
July 4th, 2017
Jana hiked her backpack further up on her shoulder and took a small step forward to keep her place in line. Everyone around her was speaking Spanish, and even after studying the language for a year, it took her a while to figure out what was being said.
The bright lights of the international airport buzzed overhead, and as she looked around, a twinge of sadness hit her. I’m gonna miss it here.
You couldn’t live in a place for nearly four months, and then simply leave. No, it affected you in ways you never would have imagined.
She swiped at the hair that insisted on coming loose from her ponytail. You’re gonna miss this, you’re gonna want this back, you’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast.
The country song from her playlist ran through her mind. In fact, it hadn’t stopped running through her mind all week. When she first arrived in Mexico for the short term missions trip, she couldn't wait to get back to the states.
And now… now she wished she had treasured her time a bit more.
The person in front of her stepped up to the counter, and Jana took another step forward, pulling her suitcase behind her.
Apparently, this guy had been through this before. He showed the passport to the woman, placed his suitcase on the scale, and in less than two minutes he was making his way toward security.
“May I see your passport please and your boarding information?” The lady at the counter had her hair pulled back into a bun, but a smile lit her red lips, and her voice was cheerful behind the thick, spanish accent.
Jana handed over her passport and the folded slips of computer paper she had printed the night before with her flight registration. “Oh, wait, I have the departure thingie.” Janna dug through her carry-on while the woman watched her. Drat this thing. I knew I should have kept the paper with my passport.
At last her fingers located the folded slip of paper she had been given when she went through customs after entering the country. “Here. The lady told me you’d need this, too.” At least, she hoped that was what the woman had said. Her spanish had been so fast Jana had only managed to pick out the words “keep” and “departure”.
“Ah, yes, very good.” The lady took it from her and made a few more changes to the screen in front of her. Jana watched, hoping everything would go smoothly. She wasn’t sure she could handle something going wrong.
The woman pointed to the scale. “Suitcase, please.”
Jana hoisted it up and set it atop the scale. It weighed right under twenty-two kilograms, and she breathed a sigh of relief. While she had weighed it before she left, there was always the chance that the scale wasn’t correct. And She didn’t have the pesos to pay the extra money had it been over the designated fifty pounds.
As the suitcase was whisked off to the black conveyor belts, the woman behind the counter handed over a white slip of paper. “Here is your boarding pass. Thank you for choosing United Airlines.”
Jana smiled and hoped she said something acceptable. She could feel her heart rate return to normal as she headed over to security.
She had made it through that without any problems. God, help the rest of the trip to go as smoothly.
Security went without a hitch. In fact, it was the easiest checkpoint she’d been through. A smile lit her face as she took a seat in the waiting area. American security was about ten times as thorough as this had been. I bet once we get to Houston they’ll put us through security again, there. She didn’t see them trusting the Mexican security.
Settling down into a chair she glanced at her watch. It was 7:50, and the plane took off at 8:30. So she had about twenty minutes till boarding began.
Closing her eyes, she rested her head back against the seat. She was tired. Waking up early had never been her strong suit.
As she lay there, thoughts and memories came pouring back through her head.
What would it be like to go back to the States after having lived her for a good amount of time? She knew there were many things she;d never look at in quite the same light again. And she would never take fresh, running water and indoor plumbing for granted.
She smiled to herself. God, thank you for the freedom and blessing you’ve poured upon our nation. Of course it wasn’t perfect. Far from it. But America was so very different to any other country in the world.
Her thoughts strayed then to Andrew. He’d been overseas for nearly six months now. She wondered what it would be like for him to be back in the states. Though, she had no idea when he was due back.
She missed him. Yet, it had been good. They left within a week of each other. Him to some undisclosed area in the middle east, and her to Mexico. It had helped. A lot. She wasn't at home moping him, wishing he were there. They had both been out on their own. They had both seen new places, and had their eyes opened to a different way of life. A way most of the world still lived in.
I lived the life of a missionary, he’s been in the military. One thing was sure. Neither of them were going to be the same people they were when they left.
A yawn worked its way up her throat and she brought up a hand to stifle it. Lord willing tonight she’d be back him in Nebraska. Just in time for the Independence day celebration the town hosted every year.
Well, I definitely understand freedom a lot more than I did last year at this time. They had it so, so good. And that was something she’d never take for granted again.
“Flight three-twenty-seven to Houston, Texas boarding now.” The voice sounded over the loudspeakers, and Jana jerked her head up. Had twenty minutes really already gone by?
Gathering her carry-on, she sat on the edge of her seat as first boarding group one, then two was called. Then, at last, boarding group three was given permission.
Making her way to the end of the line, she waited as one by one the people were led outside to the waiting plane.
As she stepped out into the early morning sunlight, she squinted her eyes against the rays of sunlight. The sun was coming up on the other side of the airport, and the planes and trucks were framed in shadows. Like silhouettes, rising from the ground. Attempting to paint a portrait against a barren backdrop.
Her breath caught in her chest. It’s so beautiful. The mountains rose in the distance, their tops free of the cloud cover for a rare moment. Grabbing her cell phone from her pocket, Jana snapped a quick picture before continuing on her way to the plane.
It was small, and only a few steps were needed to step inside the plane. The male flight attendant greeted her at the top with a, “Good morning and welcome aboard.”
She smiled and nodded, returning his greeting.
As she walked past, she sent a quick glance inside the cockpit. The instruments winked back at her, their dials and buttons lighting up the panel. One day, she thought. One day I’m gonna sit in there and fly. Though, who knew just when that would be. Perhaps she could convince Andrew to take her up for a spin when he got back. The plane he’d purchased just before he left still sat patiently in the hanger. And being an air force pilot, the little bit of aircraft would be no difficulty for him.
She slid her way sideways through the narrow aisle between the seats. Seat A9. The way this plane was situated, she’d get a seat by herself on the left side. She smiled. Single seats were the best. There was nothing more awkward than trying to sit next to a complete stranger.
She took a book from her bag, and then slid the rest of the bag into the overhead compartment. That done, she stepped down and ducked her head as she slid into her seat. They really don’t make these too well for tall people.
Settling into the seat, she reached down the the seat belt and slid it across her lap, securing it with a click.
Looking around the seats in front of her, she could see the flight attendant closing the door to the ground. Good, we’ll be in the air soon.That was her favorite part of flying. The way the wheels left the ground, taking you higher, and higher still. It was a feeling all it’s own. Something you couldn't experience any other way. And she loved it.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard flight three-twenty-seven in route to Houston. The flight deck door has been closed, and at this time we ask that you turn off all mobile and cellular devices, or switch them to airplane mode. Please stow all laptops and tablets into the overhead compartments. You may continue to use your phones and lightweight devices on airplane mode. Please be sure your seat belts are secured and the fold-out table in front of you is secured for takeoff. Thank you for choosing United Airlines, and we hope you enjoy your flight.”
By the time I get home, I’m gonna have that speech memorized, Jana thought. Not that she minded. Hearing the speech meant she was flying, and that made up for any speech she had to listen to.
A moment later the plane began to move toward the lone stretch of concrete. Then, it began its ascent. It whirled down the runway, the scenery whizzing by faster and faster. And then, all in one, glorious moment, the ground relinquished its grip on them, and the plane was airborne. The concrete fell away beneath them as they rose toward the blue of the heavens. The mountains and city below grew smaller and smaller, and Jana took a picture of it as they turned away from it all.
With that behind her, she settled back to rest and attempt to read. She had two hours before she;d be back in the States.
The American flag has never looked so good. She hadn’t realized just how much she missed her country until she came back. It was like stepping back into a room where you knew everyone after being in a place filled with strangers.
Security had taken a while, as had customs. But everyone had been smiling and welcoming her back, and she couldn't keep the smile off her own face. She was back in time to celebrate her country’s independence.
What could be better than that?
According to her ticket, she had a six hour layover before the flight would take off at 4pm. She looked at her watch. It was eleven thirty. Well, I’ll grab a bite to eat and then head to the flight gate. There she could try and get some shuteye. For some reason, she had never been able to sleep in an airplane.
“We regret to inform you that due to weather conditions, United Flight three-sixty-three to Omaha, Nebraska has been cancelled. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Please bring your tickets to the United Airlines counter located in Terminal B and we will be happy to help you with anything you may need.”
Jana stayed in her seat, stunned. My flight has been canceled? Suddenly, the night that she had so looked forward to seemed to stretch out in front of her like a long, dark, road with no light in sight. She was in Houston. She didn’t know anyone here. Where would she spend the night? At the airport?
As the questions swam around her head, she brought up a hand to massage her neck. "What am I going to do?” Sleeping in the airport was an option, but she wasn’t sure it was the best course to take. Her constant headache throughout the day had already reminded her how her body reacted to too little sleep.
Around her, passengers made their way to the United ticket desk, exchanging their boarding passes for new ones.
Letting out a deep breath, Jana slipped her phone from her pocket. “I guess I’ll have to see what dad says.”
She wasn’t aware she had spoken out loud till she heard a voice behind her. “Is something the matter, ma’am?”
Turning around, she caught the khaki of the man’s jacket, and felt her face flush. Great. She had been caught talking out loud to herself in an airport. By a man in the military, no less. She shoved her phone into her pocket and avoided his face. “No, I’m okay.”
She hoped that would be the end of it. She didn’t need to make anymore fool of herself than she already had.
“Sis, it’s gonna be okay.”
Sis? The way his voice softened … she whirled around, whipping him on the side of his cheek with her braid. “Andrew?” The word came out in a whisper. If she was wrong, she was never going to be able to forgive herself for mistaking a soldier for her brother.
But the grey-green eyes and the teasing grin that met her gaze told her that she wasn’t imagining it. Somehow, they had ended up at the same airport, on the same day, at the same time.
With a squeal she jumped to her feet, not even caring when her bag fell off her lap and the contents spilled out onto the floor. A moment later, Andrew’s arms went around her, and she buried her face in his shoulder.
“Well, it’s good to see ya, too, sis.” Andrew’s voice was close to her ear, and she could hear the laughter in it.
And it was so good to hear it again.
At last he let her go and she stepped back. “But what are you doing here?
He shrugged. “My tour was over. So I shipped back yesterday.” He tweaked her braid and then brushed it over her shoulder. “But I didn’t expect to see you here. We just came in off the last flight and I happened to walk by as you were talking to yourself. Otherwise, I might never have seen you.”
He was here. He was really, truly here. Suddenly, the cancelled flight didn’t matter much at all, and the possibility of spending the night in the airport was no longer an ominous undertaking.
Andrew was here. And if he was here, everything would be fine.
“So, what were you gonna call dad about?” Andrew asked as they took a seat.
Call. Putting a hand to her pocket to be sure her phone was still there, Janna suddenly darted up and ran back to the other side of the seating unit, picking up her bag and stuffing its contents back inside, checking to be sure her passport and I.D. were still there.
Thankfully they were, and she lugged the bag onto her shoulder and returned to sit by Andrew. “My flight was cancelled.” The words were said simply, without the weight of responsibility she had felt earlier. Andrew would take care of it.
“I know. Mine was, too.” He grinned. “Looks like we’re stuck here together, doesn’t it?”
As he looked at her, Jana took the time to study him. He looked the same as she remembered. His eyes still twinkled down at her, and the grin that he so often wore settled on his lips.
He sat back against the edge of the seat and dropped an arm around her shoulders. “Well, looks like we'll be spending the night of the 4th together here. What do you say we go and find a bite to eat, and while we’re doing that, you,” he reached down and tweaked her nose, “Can tell me all about this missions trip. “
Jana wrinkled her nose and ducked, then smiled. “Sounds perfect. But before we do that, you should call mom and dad. Or I should at least. To let them know I won’t be in tonight.” She would have a to wait another day to see them again. She’d miss it, but at least it’d give her time to catch up with Andrew.
“Wait, I gotta better idea. Smile.” Andrew whipped out out cell and snapped a picture, and then sent it via text message. “There. I let them know we were delayed, but that we would be okay. And I let them know I was watching out for ya.”
At that, Jana elbowed him. Always making himself out to be the hero.
He stood and swung his backpack onto his shoulder, and then reached down and picked up her back. Suddenly, he doubled over. “What in the world you got in here, Jan? All the bricks you could fit?”
Standing, Janna swatted at him, missing when he ducked. “Books of course. And two of them got left at customs in Puebla. Be thankful. And I never said you had to carry it.” She reached for it, but he quickly swung it up out of her reach. “Nope, nope, I got it. Come on, let’s find something to eat.”
It was late. Most of the occupants in the waiting area had either drifted off to sleep, or left to spend the night in a real bed.
Andrew and Jana sat near the window, their faces being lit up by the colorful array of fireworks that sparkled outside. Andrew sat with his chin in his hands, while Jana leaned against him. The lights lit up the city of Houston, and there, in the airport, Jana suddenly felt so very small. So many people out there. Yet God managed to get Andrew and I together on this special night. She leaned further against him, resting her head on his shoulder.
He slipped an arm around her shoulders, but his eyes didn’t move from the lights. The normal twinkle was gone from his eyes, and replaced with a sober expression.
“Andrew?” She cocked her head to the side. “What is it?”
Hearing her, voice, he turned and smiled. “I was just thinking of how very blessed we are.” He leaned back against the chair. “After being gone, coming back to America and seeing the freedoms we have, seeing how much we have. How much God has blessed us…” He trailed off, then cleared his throat and spoke again. “It sure does make me proud to be an America.”
Jana nodded. She knew that feeling. So many people didn’t realize just how blessed they were here. It was a country like none other on the face of the earth. They had freedom to seek the gospel, without any fear. Freedom to seek any other religion without fear.
They could come and go as they wished, and whenever they traveled, there was the feeling of having America behind you. Knowing that, whatever happened, they would do their best to make sure you returned.
The police here weren’t bought, and justice was still the reigning law. Fairness ruled the courts, and Constitution still upheld the freedoms of the citizens.
The Declaration of Independence still proclaimed “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." And only in America were all men known to be created equal, and endowed by their creator with unalienable rights.
It made Jana feel proud to be an American. Even though they were far from perfect, they still had a country that many longed to run to. Because of freedom.
“Happy Independence day, Bro.” She whispered, before letting her eyes drift close.
She felt Andrew press a kiss to her hair, and then say, “Happy Independence day, sis. And may God bless America.”
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.