Tag Archives: Michael Armijo

The Eye Of The Beholder

Michael Armijo

It was a warm yet windy day filled with strong sorrow. The air reflected a deep sense of respect as people gathered to say goodbye to a friend whose spirit had left the earth.

As everyone gathered, the vibrant, wooden casket lay atop the ground as the family huddled closely around. The youngest, a young man, gazed at the casket while tears flowed from his swollen eyes. He walked up and laid his cheek on the rigid, shiny, wooden box, as his white-gloved hands gently caressed the top of the last home his father’s body would ever have. He laid gentle kisses on the top of the casket, as his unconditional love was reflected in front of all those who watched. A gentle whisper was heard a row back, “Did you see that? How sad.”

When I heard those words, I felt something deep inside that disagreed; something that didn’t see the message of sadness when the boy showed his emotions. Instead, I saw an act of love. A love so strong, it displayed the true meaning of unconditional love. Something deep inside that didn’t care if the world looked on or what people felt. A feeling of purity, of joy, and of strength.

I believe the old saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I believe we all see life in certain light, and sometimes, in certain darkness. I also believe that when we express the darkness which surrounds our lives, it spreads like a contagious and cancerous disease. It attaches by simple contact, clings like a dependent child, and deteriorates in a short amount of time.

I’ve learned that opinions are only perceptions of a person’s immediate thinking, and reflections of someone’s inner self. What we see is usually what we feel, what we feel deep inside. Without realizing it, we express past experiences, deep histories, insecurities about our future, and we reflect the perception of our own lives.

I also believe that when we see life in its darkest hour, we have the opportunity to see life through the brightest light. For some, it’s a short path traveled to a place inside that holds our mind hostage from our heart. For others, it’s a level of confidence that sits deep within that’s been damaged by a careless act from another.

I believe that the true meaning of life can only be understood through the light of beauty and the inner joy that sits deep in our hearts. I believe the vision of what will come can only be seen through the eyes of a believer. I feel the truest form of emotion can only be felt when a person can feel the presence of a higher power, a stronger entity, something or someone greater than themselves.

I understand that life is not always what it is expected to be. It changes moods like a spoiled child. But I also understand that life can be what we want it to be; all we have to do is apply our hearts in front of our minds. Following what we truly feel, not what we think we see, is the only way to put aside our petty angry thoughts and our insignificant bitterness. Because just as the young man who helped bury his father, the tears that flow from our swollen eyes are tears of love that can only be seen when beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Make Your Backyard Extreme

By Michael Armijo

Extreme Backyard Designs is located at 2330 S. Vineyard Ave. They can be reached at 909.930.6111 or online at http://www.extremebackyarddesigns.com.

Companies come and go, so longevity is key when you’re modifying your home, both inside and out. Extreme Backyard Designs is a testimony of longevity as their family run business has been designing outdoor entertainment centers with name brand components for over 20 years.

“A key component to staying in business so long is to treat people the way we would want ourselves to be treated,” said James Deeley, founder of the family business. With so many years in business, you not only get quality products, you also gets years of experience of getting things done correctly and creatively.

Extreme Backyard Designs can provide custom Barbeque islands, outdoor fireplaces, fire pit tables, spas, patio furniture, and many other items all wholesale to the public.

“We are college and trade school educated and enjoy the interaction and satisfaction of transforming backyards into a family’s personal oasis,” Deeley said. “Since we buy at such a large volume, we always have monthly specials on our website.”

The Extreme Backyard Designs staff are the most knowledgeable and friendly people in the area, as they are centrally located on the corner of the 60 Freeway and Vineyard, right across from the newest Kaiser building.

“We believe what makes a business thrive is to provide the best quality components, a superior level of customer service, while providing an affordable price,” Deeley said.

Serving all of Southern California, Extreme Backyard Designs is located at 2330 S. Vineyard Ave in our neighboring city of Ontario. They can be reached at 909.930.6111, or you can view their website at www.extremebackyarddesigns.com.

The Great Pretender

By Michael Armijo

I remember dressing up like batman, the little Kmart suit with the plastic mask. I remember watching SWAT and grabbing a stick like it was my machine gun. I remember trying to lift the car because I wanted to be Steve Austin, the 6 million dollar man.

You would think it was healthy to give your imagination a chance to flourish, to enhance your creativity. However, without proper guidance, explanation, and influence, you never realize the difference between reality and fantasy. Without that, the lines of reality are blurred, so you embed in your mind that when life seems difficult you can act like a child and become someone you’re not.

I remember being stressed to a point that I felt I could no longer take it. So I went out, drank, and became someone I wasn’t. I pretended to be someone that didn’t exist, someone I never was and never could be. I reverted to my child like instincts and put on that Kmart batman mask, and I picked up that SWAT stick while trying to lift that car. I became the great pretender.

While acting like I was a college scholar, a big shot in my company or a racing car driver, I really felt alive. I felt like a complete human being because my mind was hungry to be complete, like a child wants to become a super hero. My lies were my super power and my reality was my kryptonite.

So as I pretended throughout my life, I liked the escape of not being who I was. Abused and neglected. Deceived and tormented. Tortured and ridiculed. Worse off, verbally accosted and left to play violent and damaging tapes of lies and pain. Pretending was an escape, which helped me not only overcome the pain I had been suffering but allowed me to feel like I was normal for a while. It made me feel as though I was a human being. Something I’ve been looking for so many years.

These incidents happened so quickly and many years have passed. However, today the memories are still haunting.

Today I will embrace my desire, to be something I’m not, to be someone who makes me feel complete. Someone who helped me wear a mask for so many years. Today I am still, deep inside,

The Great Pretender.

My Fear Cycle

By Michael Armijo

While attending a Labor Day barbecue, I sat and talked with a group of interesting friends. As we shared our lives, one person mentioned that they were in training to be a therapist. When asked about how they were doing, they shared some points that I thought were interesting. The biggest question was “why do couples divorce or break up?” There were many reasons, such as money, age, frustration, lack of confidence, etc. But one point she shared grabbed me by the heart of my spirit.
“People don’t realize that we all have a ‘fear cycle’. What happens within our lives, especially as we get older, something happens to tap into that fear cycle”. And then she went on….. “We sometimes mistake someone triggering our ‘fear cycle’ as a change of heart or as a personal attack. This can ruin a marriage or a relationship unless you are aware of what’s going on.”
Our “fear cycle” includes unpleasant memories, traumatic instances, painful scenarios, lost love, and many other life impacting, unwanted experiences.
This concept intrigued me as I’ve never heard of it before. I’ve never heard about such a thought process. This cycle can include fears of abandonment, pain, fear of the unknown, misunderstandings, loyalty, anger, and so on.
I have experienced many of these, so in retrospect, I can see how so many have tapped into my “fear cycle”. I completely get it. It wasn’t their fault. It wasn’t mine. It’s a behavior that I must understand in order to not let it impact my life.
Understanding this has taught me a few things about myself: When I get depressed I feel awkward and lonely. I feel abandoned. And during these particular times within my life, I feel I’ve been attacked by family or friends. But I now understand that something or someone is tapping into that “fear cycle”
I believe that when you’re aware of something, you have a better chance of either understanding it, controlling it, or beating it all together. I believe in fate. God put me here for a reason, and he’s put me through many things for a particular reason. More importantly, as I struggle through life, I have a better understanding about what transpires because I try to understand it, figure it out, and then fix it. And most importantly, as I am spiritually attacked, and when incidences cripple my soul, it confirms that something or someone out there is trying to stop me from making a substantial difference within my life and the lives of others. This tells me that I am of value. An enemy would never attack anyone unless they feel threatened. I am a threat to the negativity of life because I hold special abilities.
The bible reminds me that I do not have to be prisoner to my “fear cycle,” that my spirit can take me somewhere else. “Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking. Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest! I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness.”

Psalms 55:5-7.
So, without sounding over religious or over spiritual, I will admit that I will continue to pray and ask God for guidance. I will continue to push myself through the bad experiences, the painful memories, the poor decisions, and the hurtful people who continually try to hurt me. Because I will acknowledge and protect through prayer and faith the biggest obstacle that constantly tries to interfere with my life: my “fear cycle”.

Lost Love

By Michael Armijo

I stood there in the courtyard, and waited.  Her little eyes, her bright smile, her warm hugs…I was waiting for them all.  It would be just a few minutes before that bell would ring, it would be just a few minutes before my little love of life would run out smiling, wrapping her arms around me proclaiming, “Daddy, I love you.”

The bell rang and I stood there.  I watched; I waited.  I sought her out, but she didn’t show.  Hundreds of kids ran by and I made eye contact with each and every one of them.  There wasn’t a chance that she would’ve gotten by me.  My mind knew what she looked like, what she resembled, and all her characteristics.  I was like a machine, scanning the crowd, like a robot with a mission.  I was waiting for someone who made my life complete, who I had given my heart to, who I trusted with my feelings, my spirit, my life.

After most of the children passed me by, I felt a sensation of panic.  I felt a sense of fear.  I was afraid that I had lost one of the only people in life that I knew loved me, unconditionally, and now, who would be there in the end?

When I felt that panic, when I felt the fear of losing someone I really loved, I wondered why. Why did I feel so fearful?  Why was I so afraid?  Why did I feel such a sense of panic?  And then I remembered what had happened.

I remembered my mother, my father, my family.  I remembered how much they loved me, how they took care of me.  I remembered giving my 8-year old heart to those who I thought I could trust.  And then I remembered how one day my life changed.  I still don’t recall how, and I still can’t understand why, but for some strange reason, when I was growing up my life was filled with love and joy, and then one day it was all taken away.  All that I knew as a child, all that I trusted, was ripped from my heart, and then ripped from my soul.  And no one explained why.

After the inconsistency of that environment, I found new love from girlfriends in high school.  And then they too, like my family, left me, and took parts of my heart with them.  I remember, at 16 years of age, standing in the aisle of Sav-on, stocking shelves, while tears poured from my eyes.  I was hurt, I was devastated, and I was alone. Again, someone whom I had given my heart to had taken away a piece of my inner self.  And again, they left without a word.

It took so long for me to love again, to fully trust people, but somehow I did. I began to give my heart, or what was left of it, to others whom I felt I could trust.  I slowly began to rebuild my life, or so I thought.

The way I felt that day so many years ago when I couldn’t find my daughter, when that sleeping giant of fear woke up and looked around – I remembered the pain, and the sorrow and I remembered how much love hurt.  I guess that when I waited for her, those feelings of abandonment returned, and I was afraid of losing yet another love in my life.  I didn’t have much heart left to lose; I couldn’t stand to go through what I had experienced so many times, and so many years ago.  But I faced those demons of fear and abandonment and grew from my pain.  I simply refused to let my past interfere with my future.  I had worked too hard to let irresponsible acts of yesterday interfere with what I had built for today. That day, I found my daughter, and I faced my fears.

As each day passes, I thank God for the opportunity to feel feelings and emotions that some people will never feel.  I thank God for being able to enjoy my life with a smile and a hug.  More importantly, I thank God for allowing me to understand that someday I may lose the ones I love, but not to fear, because today is the day I will enjoy their presence, their love, and their joy.  And when they’re gone, I will still make wonderful memories, so that I can remember that God has given me a beautiful place in my soul – free from past pain, free from fear and abandonment, and free from lost love.

 

The Eye Of The Beholder

By Michael Armijo

It was a warm yet windy day filled with strong sorrow. The air reflected a deep sense of respect as people gathered to say goodbye to a friend whose spirit had left the earth.

As everyone gathered, the vibrant, wooden casket lay atop the ground as the family huddled closely around. The youngest, a young boy, gazed at the casket while tears flowed from his swollen eyes. He walked up and laid his cheek on the rigid, shiny, wooden box, as his white-gloved hands gently caressed the top of the last home his father’s body would ever have. He laid gentle kisses on the top of the casket, as his unconditional love was reflected in front of all those who watched. A gentle whisper was heard a row back; “Did you see that? How sad.”

When I heard those words, “how sad,” I felt something deep inside that disagreed; something that didn’t see the message of sadness when the boy showed his emotions. Instead, I saw an act of love. A love so strong, it displayed the true meaning of unconditional love; something deep inside that didn’t care if the world looked on or what people felt. This was a feeling of purity, of joy, and of strength.

I believe old proverbs and words of wisdom, and I believe we all see life in certain light, and sometimes, in certain darkness. I also believe that when we express the darkness, which surrounds our lives, it spreads like a contagious and cancerous disease. It attaches by simple contact, clings like a dependent child, while deteriorating in a short amount of time.

I’ve learned that opinions are only perceptions of a person’s immediate thinking, and reflections of someone’s inner self. What we see is usually what we feel, what we feel deep inside. Without realizing it, we express past experiences, deep histories, insecurities about our future, and we reflect the perception of our own lives.

I also believe that when we see life in its darkest hour, we have the opportunity to see life through the brightest light. For some, it’s a short path traveled to a place inside that holds our mind hostage from our heart. For others, it’s a level of confidence that sits deep within that’s been damaged by a careless act from an irresponsible adult.

I also believe that the true meaning of life can only be understood through beauty and joy that sits deep in our hearts. The vision of what will come can only be seen through the eyes of a believer of life. I feel the truest form of emotion can only be felt when a person can feel the presence of a higher power, a stronger entity, something or someone greater than themselves.

I understand that life is not always what it is expected to be. It changes moods like a spoiled child. But I also understand that life can be what we want it to be; all we have to do is apply our hearts in front of our minds. Following what we truly feel, not what we think we see, is the only way to put aside our petty angry thoughts and our insignificant bitterness. Because just as the young boy who helped bury his only father, the tears that flow from our swollen eyes are tears of love that can only be understood when beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Another Planet

By Michael Armijo

Sometimes I attribute it to the way I was brought up; other times to the way my time has been spent.  Either way, deep within my spirit, there is a little piece of me that constantly whispers to my soul, “You don’t belong here.”

When I hear the word, “dysfunction,” I am reminded of my life growing up – rather the way I perceived it while growing up.  To me, this feeling seems to go far beyond just an upbringing.  This feeling sits deep within; an instinct that I don’t belong.

The feeling seems to linger like a vulture waiting for carrion to arrive so it can be fed.  During moments of weakness, I sometimes feel like prey.

One of my theories is that I just might be from another time.  Or, it could be that I can see a light that others cannot.  Maybe I have been misled about life because no one has bothered to convince me that life is what society says it should be.  Whatever the reasons, I just can’t seem to shake the feeling.

It’s a bit difficult not understanding your existence, not knowing the answers to puzzling questions and second-guessing major decisions and successes.  It’s not easy feeling ill-at-ease during happy times – wondering if I really deserve what I’ve earned, or waiting for bad news to follow good. The questions I have about life haunt me, and I carry a heavy heart.

I know that somewhere, at some time, I’ll be able to find the answers I’m looking for.  I’ll find the reasons behind my feelings.  I have hope that I do belong to this galaxy called Life; that I really do belong to the realm that understands why I feel the way I do.  When this day comes, I will finally feel at home.  I will feel deep within my heart that I am no longer from another time; a far-away land.  I will stop hearing the negative emotions whispering to my soul.

But then again, maybe I just need to come to the realization that I am from another planet.  And that it’s okay to be so.

One Year Of Love

By Michael Armijo

 

There’s a song by Queen called, “One Year of Love,” that brings me peace. The lyrics say, “Just one year of love is better than a lifetime alone.”

I’ve chosen to apply this song and this philosophy to my life and to the passing of my friends.  At times, I have chosen to sulk and miss those who were close to me, but are now gone.  Now, I reflect on how lucky I am to have had many years of love, instead of “a lifetime alone.” I am very fortunate to have such beautiful memories when others have none.

Today marks the anniversary of the death of one of my closest and most loving friends. I can cry about missing our past, or I can remember how fortunate I am to have had so many years of love and friendship. I choose the latter.

It’s during these trying times that our abilities and our philosophies are tested. I believe that how we spend these times of pain and reflection is a testament to how appreciative we are for that love and friendship. I also believe if we do sulk and wallow in pain, then we are, in a way, insulting that friendship. We are ignoring that love. The people that we love throughout our lives are placed there for a reason. We are fortunate to have such experiences and wonderful memories.

So today, I will not insult the love I received from these individuals. Today, I will appreciate that I was fortunate enough to have such valuable and priceless relationships given to me. It’s just like giving a gift to someone.  When you receive a gift, like a jacket or a warm scarf, you wear it and it comforts you when you’re cold and alone. You have that feeling of warmth and memory of their thoughtfulness with you. When that person is no longer in your life, do you throw out that jacket or scarf? Or do you keep wearing it and using it for as long as you can?

My friendships and loving memories should be the same.  I will not discard them and throw them out by being hurt and feeling sad. I will not sulk and wallow in selfishness. I will not abandon those wonderful and priceless times that enhanced my life and contributed to the success that I worked so hard to achieve and deserve. I will remember those precious gifts that were given to me and I will continue to wear them to warm my heart and comfort me during cold and lonely times.

So, today I smile. Today I enjoy. Today I remember and cherish those wonderful gifts of friendship that were given to me. And I will be thankful that I will, once again, have “one more year of love.”

Home Alone

By Michael Armijo

 

The holiday season brings many positive memories, but it can also remind me of the painful ones, too. The season is filled with family and friends, but when they are gone the pain of their absence has a tendency to sink in.

Friends have reminded me that you cannot live in the past, but I remind them, “The absence of those close to us who have passed away isn’t in the past, it’s in the present.”  Since they were always around to share their love, their absence leaves our hearts aching for their presence on a daily basis.

There are mile markers:  the first summer they weren’t here to share with us; the first Halloween they weren’t here to dress up in a costume I could make fun of; the first time I didn’t receive the usual Thanksgiving invite; and the first Christmas I didn’t have to go in search of the perfect gift.

Now, on this New Years Eve, I will struggle without the “I love you, man” drunken phone call exactly at 12:01 am.

Every year for the last 17, I was privileged enough to have someone in my life who shared those things with me:  their life, love, passion, experiences, hope, and feelings.

I know today is a new day, and I believe that I am not alone. But when those who share their life with you and give you the feeling that they will love you regardless of your many faults, failures, and shortcomings leave this earth, you cannot help but feel their absence. A piece of you that had confidence and support is now gone.  An entity of your life’s confusing and rollercoaster-like existence is gone.

It feels like your dysfunctional life is like a puzzle, with some critical pieces missing.  So you try to find those pieces through other relationships, through new loves and old friends; through random acts of kindness and honesty.

But sometimes it feels like those pieces – which you’ve worked so hard to replace – have somehow deteriorated; vanished; dissolved in your hands.  You’ve tried to stop it, but it became physically impossible. You’ve tried to “will it” differently; “wish it” to reverse. You’ve tried to close your eyes and wake up from a bad nightmare. But each day that bad dream again becomes a harsh reality.

So I call each day, with or without friends, a day at home. Those that were loved and lost had earned a place in my heart; a room in my self-fabricated, non-dysfunctional home.  But now that they’re gone, I feel a bit lonely, and a bit to myself.  And I just can’t stop that feeling that I was left completely by surprise, and left to feel Home Alone.

 

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

By Michael Armijo

 

I remember a story I once read, it goes something like this:  A frog was sitting by a pond one day and a woman walked up and asked, “What’s wrong, Mr. Frog?  Why are you so glum?”

The frog went on to explain, “I was once a handsome prince, but an evil witch put a spell on me. Now I’m a frog until a beautiful woman kisses me and breaks the spell.”

The young woman, feeling compelled to help, leaned over and kissed the frog on the head. She waited for a few minutes and then said, “What happened? You’re still a frog.”

The frog turned to her and said, “I’m only going to explain this to you one more time….”

The moral of the story is, if you believe you are beautiful, then that is what’s important.  You may not have the ability to change frogs into princes, but if you believe you can, what (or who) else matters? If others are unable to see your beauty, that is on them.  What matters is that YOU believe in your own beauty.

A physically beautiful individual can sometimes be uglier than any other, as they are morally and ethically unattractive on the inside. But an individual with great morals and a loving heart will forever be changed in spirit and transcend all that society says is beautiful.

Beauty depends on what you are seeking, and is truly in the eye of the beholder.

Green Eggs and Ham

By Michael Armijo

I’ve looked at society and the everyday human being, and I’ve come to a conclusion: I just don’t understand.

I don’t understand why some people act the way they do. They insist on playing games with others and sometimes, so adamantly, they convince themselves that life really is the misery that they proclaim it to be. They think that their position in life gives them the experience, knowledge and power to pick and choose whom they’re going to benefit.

Recently, I had an experience with someone who had the authority to make life easier for others. On the day that I was dealing with this person, she decided that particular day was not a day that she was going to help anyone. At some point in our conversation, she decided she would not be granting me any wishes. Her logic was, “Too bad.” She made a choice that because of who I am, I didn’t deserve anything from her; and I, in turn, had no choice but to suffer the consequences of the misunderstandings that were evident.

I understand that there are protocols in life, and procedures are put in place to reduce errors and increase productivity. But I also understand that there is an immeasurable element that structure, protocol, and procedure sometimes need to take a back seat to. It’s a measure I call “human compassion.”

We don’t always hear the answers that we want to, but “too bad” ranks right up there with “can’t” and “impossible”. I believe it’s not what you say in life, it’s how you say it. There is a way to communicate with kindness and integrity, and still get the point across. When we forget kindness and compassion, we sometimes lose our spirit.

Regardless of these misunderstandings in life, I still believe in wonderful things. At this time of year, especially, I still believe in the purest goodness of humanity. I still believe in the childhood premise of a handsome prince charming coming for his beautiful princess. I still believe that a gentle kiss can awaken a deep and lonely sleep because of the love behind it. I still believe in the big man in the red suit who brings toys to children on Christmas Eve.

And just like those bedtime stories of my past, I believe in happy scenarios with wish-like endings. I believe the quite convincing Sam I Am, when he tells me that that there is deliciousness in the taste of “Green Eggs and Ham.”

Perhaps we need to believe in people and human compassion more, so there are more philosophical Green Eggs and Ham moments in our lives.

 

Proud of Myself

By Michael Armijo

 

I remember closing my eyes, trying my hardest to embrace the way I felt. I wanted to burn into my memory the feeling of enchantment that overwhelmed me. I wanted the way I felt that evening to last a lifetime.

It wasn’t just dinner and cocktails with some co-workers. It wasn’t just a significant evening for someone special, a celebration of achievement. The evening meant more to me than it did to the person being honored. It was an evening in which I was proud to be included.

With my wife in my arms, I memorized the melody of the song as we slowly moved over the shiny, wooden dance floor. A glance out of the window provided a beautiful view of the city. A look around the room at people I respected and admired filled me with tremendous pride. I will never forget how it felt to be present and included that night.

When I tried to recall the last time I felt this way, it took me back to the 7th Grade. I remember failing all my classes and my teacher, Miss Contreras, helped to change my perspective. She told me that I deserved to be number one; that I deserved to be the best and to feel proud of myself. What she said worked, because I found the path that led me to becoming Student of the Year, along with top grades and a place on the honor roll.

Unfortunately, that feeling was taken from me. Abuse and neglect took those happy moments from my life and traded them for sadness and pain.

Over the years I’ve worked hard to overcome those hard times and make a positive difference in the lives around me. Just as Miss Contreras did for me, I’ve tried to help people find their own path to personal worth, encouraging people to live the life of an achiever; showing people that it can be done.

Because of who I was and where I’ve been, helping others and making a positive contribution has aways meant so much to me. I’ve always dreamed of feeling the satisfaction of making a difference – without conditions or ulterior motives. I’ve waited for the day that I knew my accomplishments were worthy of my intentions.

And that evening – an evening I will forever hold dear in my heart – I stood there with peers of mine whom I respected, with the woman I’ve loved for nearly 30 years, and I felt proud of my life. With a tear in my eye, I realized I have made a difference in the lives around me.

And just as I felt when I won that 7th Grade Student of the Year award, I had earned a feeling that no one could ever take from me. I found the path to fulfillment for what I’ve done with my life, and realized it was okay to feel proud of myself.

 

Something Is Missing

BY MICHAEL ARMIJO

One lesson in life that has stuck to me was a lesson in a psychology class. Pavlov showed his dog a ladle of meat sauce and the dog salivated. He repeated that action, eventually showing the dog the same ladle without the meat sauce. The dog continued to salivate. He called this “condition stimulus.”

I know that many times this condition has given me pleasure, and many times pain, as I’ve sought out unhealthy scenarios because I’ve been in uncomfortable but familiar situations. I did not have the opportunity to enjoy the invisible “meat sauce”.

One particular condition for which I haven’t been able to change the stimulus is the condition of death. I have unfortunately lost eight friends within the last two years, and two of those friends I had spoken to every day. I miss them both terribly.

Recently, one of my friends who had passed had a birthday. I thought about him and his family for days. I had been able to cope until someone many of us know unexpectedly lost his wife. The shock and permanency brought me back to the day my friends had passed; the horror was left for me to experience once again.

My question has to be: what does one do to forget? What’s the key to letting a piece of your life go; a piece of your daily routine? How do you forget the “meat sauce” for which you salivated with happiness and contentment?

It’s those times that were good and abandoned without reason that bring confusion. You are left to wonder, what’s next?

I know that death is a place that entertains no visitors, and answers no questions. It has no pity on any child. It steals like a thief in the night.

I will continue to seek the truth behind the confusion death leaves us with. I will try to understand why we feel the way we do. But during this quest for understanding, I will always be left with the feeling that death came and took something away. We will be left forever feeling that there is just something missing.

 

Just A Thought…

BY MICHAEL ARMIJO

Is Social Media really Anti-Social Media? With the advent of “smart-phones” our communication styles have perhaps become less intelligent. With everything from a lack of actual conversation to cyber bullying, Social Media may be ruining many lives.

Social Media is the apple, and we are Adam and Eve. With it, we’ve tasted the truth; we’ve been empowered. Do we think we are God-like, making our own rules; defying purity; defying morality? Were we ever emotionally equipped for the rapid advancement of the Facebooks, Twitters and Instagrams of this world?

There are now consequences for what we believe is acceptable, according to what the majority of a ‘conversational’ thread dictates. It is sad that our individuality is being convoluted by our need – our greed – to be accepted, loved, and “liked”.

Our need to feel right socially has become our weakness. God said the beast will try and destroy us; could the “beast” be technology? “It” is surely behind this weakness, encouraging some with immorality and introversion. Man created technology, not God. And with this obsessive socialism of technology, could man be unknowingly destroying man? Are we so ‘social’ that we are missing out on society?

Just a thought…

 

Serving Satan

By Michael Armijo

Many years ago, while sitting in the audience at EV Free Church in Diamond Bar at the start of a new year, pastor Mark Hopper asked a very thought provoking question: “What are you going to do to minister God’s word to others this year?”

At first, I felt that showing up to church was enough; I’ve given up time and energy to be here ‘missing out’ on the rest of life so that I can pray to God and be a good person. This was a lot for me, so why should I do more than that for God?

And then I remembered all the things I did before I found Jesus: I lied to my fellow man; I became drunk with wine and spirits; I invited others to join me at the bar to get drunk; I had lust in my eye; I was envious, dishonest; and the list goes on. I was telling people, by my actions, that I was proud to be a sinner. And I subconsciously asked them to follow me.

It was at that time I realized something. Practicing all those sins really meant that I was serving Satan. I was promoting his sinning ways, and when I did it in front of others, I was encouraging them to practice sin, too. I was looking for victims who were lost to come join me in my debauchery, depression, and lust. I didn’t mean to do it intentionally, but it was intentional because I was practicing sin, over and over again.

So what’s the difference between serving Satan and serving God? Why shouldn’t I serve God? Why not be proud to be a Christian by practicing his word, praying openly in public, and answering the phone, “Praise the Lord.” Why not invite friends to church instead of to a bar? Why not spread the word about life, love, and the pursuit of Jesus? Why not?

Today I serve God’s word. Today I practice God’s love. In 1 John 4:18 I read, “Love is Fearless.” Today I love my children without fear. Today I love my wife without fear. Today I love my past without fear. Today I love my God without fear. Today I am no longer a prisoner, because today I no longer serve Satan.

Redemption

BY MICHAEL ARMIJO

 

One day, my friend told me a story about a freshman in high school named David that touched me so deeply. This is what I call, Redemption:

David saw a kid named Ron walking home from school. It looked like Ron was carrying home all of his books, which was strange because classes aren’t all on the same day. He thought to himself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.” But he shrugged his shoulders and went on.

As he was walking, David saw a bunch of kids running toward Ron, knocking his books out of his arms and tripping him. Ron’s glasses went flying and landed in the grass. When David handed the glasses to him, he looked up he saw this terrible sadness in Ron’s eyes. Somehow he felt his pain.

David said, “Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.”

Ron looked at him and lowly said, “Thanks.”

There was a slight smile on Ron’s face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. David helped him pick up his books, and as it turned out, Ron lived near David. They talked all the way home and Ron turned out to be a pretty cool kid.

Over the next four years, Ron and David became best friends. When they were seniors, they began to think about college. Ron decided on Georgetown, and David was going to Duke. They knew that they’d always be friends, and that the miles would never be a problem.

Ron became valedictorian of their class, and had to prepare a speech for graduation. David was so glad that he didn’t have to get up there and speak.

On graduation day Ron looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. All the girls loved him. David was just jealous. He could see that Ron was nervous about his speech, so David smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” He looked at David with one of those looks (that really grateful one) and smiled.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began.

“Graduation is a time to thank those who have helped you make it through those tough years; your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach…but mostly, your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I’m going to tell you a story.”

David looked at his friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day they met. Ron talked of the day he had cleaned out his locker. He talked of how he was distraught about his life. He talked about how lonely he was. So lonely, he had planned to kill himself that weekend. But he didn’t, because his new friend unknowingly stepped in. He showed kindness. He showed compassion. He showed, by his actions, that life is worth the struggle. Ron looked hard at David and gave him a little smile.

“Thankfully, I was saved,” David continued. “My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.”

David heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told them about his weakest moment. He saw Ron’s mom and dad looking at him and smile with that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did David realize its depth.

It was then that David realized how important it is to never underestimate the power of one’s actions. With one small gesture you can change a person’s life – for the better, or for the worse.

The most compelling element about the story of Ron and David’s friendship is how it relates to so many lives. Personally, I’ve hoped that somewhere within my past that I’ve been a “David” to someone I’ve met. And what fills my spirit with even more emotion is that I know I’ve felt like a “Ron” many times. What perplexes me is that I don’t know which role I’ve felt more often.

Someone once said, “Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.” To so many, each day, this is true. I’ve always valued my friends with depth and sincerity. I’ve always believed in the importance of being friends, and the importance of having friends.

As the story continues, it emphasizes that there is no beginning or end. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is mystery. But today is a gift. This reminds me that giving the ultimate gift of friendship is what I call the inner spirit of your heart, and that gives us the true feeling of redemption.

Who Determines Our Path?

BY MICHAEL ARMIJO

While driving one day, I noticed a young man sitting on a park bench. You could tell he was in despair, the way he was just sitting there, staring at the ground. He looked like he had given up.

The man was wearing a muddy shirt, dirty tan pants, a large trash bag that he used as a backpack, and a pair of almost unrecognizable tennis shoes. His hair was filthy and matted, and he sported an untrimmed beard that looked as though it had been chopped in sections with a dull pair of scissors.

He sat there as though he had no place to go. His head hung down; his eyes seemingly entranced on the ground. The scene reminded me of a small child, bored, thinking he didn’t have a friend in the world. I could see hopelessness and sadness in this man’s demeanor.

As the cars sped by on the street, the man got up and walked in a slow-paced journey to nowhere. Had he stepped into oncoming traffic, I would have been horror-struck, but not surprised. It would have appeared as though another tragic life had ended without a cause, without a clue, and without a care.

He didn’t look angry, but had he been I could have imagined him attacking. Why not lash out at society if you don’t care what happens to you? Why not “get even?” This is a sad logic, but as one who watches the news, its today’s reality.

As I looked at the man, I wondered if society had failed him; but how much truth does that hold? How responsible is society for the ones that are lost? I believe we have to ask ourselves, who determines our path? Who maps out our life? We’ve heard so many excuses about responsibility through blame and denial that we allow ourselves to label our lives as dysfunctional. And then we wonder why we turn out differently than others.

After the experiences I’ve had in life, I now believe we are the creators of our own destiny. We determine where we go, who we are, and who we become. After pointing the finger at society for too long, we need to take responsibility for ourselves. HOWEVER, I will add that as parents, we ARE responsible for providing an honest and fair life, a loving and caring environment, a responsible and healthy example, and a thorough and extensive education for our children. Of course, we shouldn’t condemn ourselves if our children do not turn out the way we had hoped. As human beings, there comes a point in time where we need to look ourselves in our own eyes and say; “I honestly did the best I could, with no regrets.” Why wish for the chance to do things over, when that is not a possibility? You can only change who you are right now, and move forward doing your best.

I believe that there will be a day of judgment. And on that day we will be forced to look into our own souls and really see who determined our path. So to that young man on the park bench, I hope you are happy with your path.

 

The Love Of My Life

By Michael Armijo

I once saw a young couple walking together, and their interaction made me pause for a moment and admire them. They looked often into each other’s eyes, and the world seemed to stand still for them. All time seemed to cease and the love between them flourished. It was like watching two birds soar through the sky in a synchronized motion; in true harmony. They were on the same flight, in pace, within the same realm of mind, emotion and feeling.

I believe that in life, you earn the love you have, with your intentions and your actions. You earn the right to love and be loved. If you have not earned love because of what you’ve done in the past, you still have a chance to be deserving of this gift. You ask for forgiveness, first to your God, and then to yourself. Once you believe you are forgiven, your heart will be open to receiving love.

I don’t believe that God has intended us to make the journey of life without profound love; with that feeling where you think, “Being with this person and knowing their smile, their touch, and their love just for a moment, is worth more than a thousand years of living without it.”

When you find that kind of love, you nurture it – forever – so that your hearts become one. For the times you don’t feel as one, you have to remember that love isn’t fading, but the distractions of your insecurity, problems, and other weight-of-the-world issues are simply blurring your vision. True love, well taken care of, will persevere.

I have this love; this ‘love of my life’. I have loved her since I met her, and every moment in between. I have been loved in return, and it has given meaning to my life that I once felt I had no right to expect. But no one can every take that from me, and I have no regrets.

If you have that love, earn it; nurture it. Like that young couple, find your synchronization and harmony. Find the purity and honesty that it is all derived from. Experience that kiss that says, ‘I love you, I trust you, and life is richer because of you.’ Find the love of your life.

 

The Power Of A Child

BY MICHAEL ARMIJO

 

We go through life and we grow, we build, we conquer, we reach our successful arenas; our niche in life. We overcome things we never dreamt we could possibly overcome. We accomplish the impossible. Then we reflect and feel this power about ourselves, the power of controlling our lives and accomplishing what we need to. We feel strong and purposeful; in control of our own destiny.

And then one day, by an act from God, a 60 pound, 4 foot 1 inch person rips away every sense of power that we’ve worked all our lives to obtain.

I’ve felt helpless at times in my life, but have always felt that I could overcome anything life gives me. But strength, intelligence, and endurance cannot compete with certain elements that come into our lives, seemingly as an act of God. Only God could show us how love can make us feel powerful…or powerless.

When her tiny voice cried out I could hear the weakness in the tone. She looked frail, lethargic, and felt much warmer than she should have. I could sense the virus creeping into her weak little body; she lay exhausted and motionless as her fever climbed to 102 degrees. My child was sick.

Motivated by strength I rise to the occasion and I’m determined to stay by her side and make her well – for as long as it takes (but deep inside I feel afraid and helpless). Intelligence kicks in and I start the bath water running and carry her to the cool water.

Feeling even more helpless as her fever hits 104 AFTER the bath, I call for help. The fear escalates as the paramedics take my child away and I follow them to the hospital. As doctors and nurses attend to her my eyes fill with tears. I spend a sleepless night at her bedside.

I sit slumped over in a chair next to her bed, head in hands, exhausted. My mind starts wandering, and I begin to wonder, is it worth it? Is the responsibility of this little person too much? Does the giving, sharing and loving balance out with the worry and fear?

And then, I feel this soft little touch on my hand as tiny fingers try to interlace with my own. I hear this little voice whisper, “I love you, Daddy.” I feel the tears run down my cheeks and I’m overwhelmed with relief. I look up at my girl and see a hint of a smile, reassuring me that she is better. That little ray of sunshine feeds my soul, and I’m feeling better, too

As she feels stronger, I feel stronger. I embrace my child and feel some of my power being restored and I begin to understand. The moment she was born I relinquished all of my power to her. She is the source that can bring me to the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows.

And so it is with children. They motivate us, give us strength, and show us the power of love. They are worth every worry, every tear, every laugh, and every moment of our time. The power of a child is the power of love.

 

 

Why Remember?

By MICHAEL ARMIJO

 

I once read a story about a 9-year old boy named Travis, whose mother died at home one day. Without telling a soul, little Travis covered her body with a coat and he placed sheets of notebook paper over her face. He learned to fix his own meals – mostly frozen pizza, cereal, and soup – cut his own hair, and attended school without fail. He did this for over a month because he was afraid he’d be placed into foster care if anyone found out his mother passed away. The mother’s body was eventually discovered by family friends. Travis begged them not to call the police.

When I read this story I was moved to write about it from my perspective. A friend asked me why I sought out areas in life that are so traumatic, so emotional, and so powerful. He asked me why I seemed to focus on elements of life that are painful, emotional and disturbing. “Why remember,” he asked.

It amazes me what life brings you. It’s like an old, enormous tree that sits in your neighborhood. One day it catches your eye and you tell yourself, “Gee, I never noticed that huge obstacle in front of me before.”

Although that tree has been there throughout your life and you’ve had to go around it most every day, you just never really looked at it. You’re so busy trying to survive that the small detour has become a part of your life, your routine.

I kind of feel that my emotions are like that tree; I’ve driven past them for so many years without really paying attention. I kept wondering why it took so long to get anywhere productive; why life was such a hassle for me. And then one day, for some reason, I finally noticed this tremendous obstruction in my life that I was going around and avoiding over and over again. I became fed up and decided I wasn’t going to avoid it anymore – I was going to drive right through that humongous tree of emotions.

It was never my plan to have to go and examine the landscaping of my life. I thought I was supposed to follow the path that was laid out before me. But somewhere along the way, I developed a source of confidence that somehow convinced me that the path laid out before me was vulnerable to manipulation. I realized that I could change where I was going and how I was going to get there.

I believe there are experiences in life that give you freedom and confidence, but sometimes you end up in a stagnant period where you have to take a moment to sit back and reflect. And during this reflection you might sometimes feel resentful of the circumstances that are before you. You might realize that someone in your life planted seeds that grew into this enormous tree that distanced you from the success you feel you deserve. And somehow – although you feel as though you never intended to water those seeds – this enormous tree has grown, survived, and even thrived in your life.

When you realize this, you might have a tendency to be angry or resentful of the irresponsibility of someone else’s sowing. You can’t change what has happened in your life, and that in itself can be an obstacle preventing you from going forward. It’s puzzling why we remember those horrible situations that have scarred our lives with darkness and pain. But as my dear friend said to me in a simple question, “Why remember?”

After hearing those two words I realized I had no answer real for that question. I then felt compelled to just let the darkness go and try to remember how great life really is. I can appreciate that although the huge tree may have strong roots, with a little work I can uproot the unhappiness.

And just like Travis, who used a few pieces of notebook paper to cover a painful sight, hoping that no one would discover it, we can ignore the obvious, or use those pages to write a new chapter in our lives. A chapter that will include a new path – right smack through that enormous tree.