Simple story with a profound lesson. Much of our frustration and anger in relationships comes from our feeling of entitlement or getting attention (and even celebration) for something we have acheived. So the lesson? It's not our party. The entitlement, attention, and celebration can and should always be given to Jesus.
That being said, I have been around friends and family for two and a half weeks. It has made me aware that while it's not our party, it doesn't mean we don't need recognition. We need those around us to testify to the goodness of God in our lives; whether that is pointing out blessings we take for granted or ways that we have matured. Both are credited to Jesus, yet it encourages us to hear it. Strange isn't it?
After several grueling rounds of Bendomino, Nana gets everyone's attention so that they will get Papa's attention (they are both deaf, a simple "Hey!" just won't do). We do, he attentively turns to her, and signs, "What?" She responded, "Hi....I just wanted you to look at me so I could say hi."
It was beautiful. A smile and hello. Little things that so many of us take for granted. I thought about how much I would love a smile and hello face to face with my dear husband.
To answer your questions: yes, it's hard to be without Kevin for another Christmas, yes, we're ready for this tour to be over, yes, our sons miss their father. However, God has been supremely gracious to us during this time and we are thankful. So please, don't pity us, rather consider the things you have taken for granted: maybe it's a smile and hello, but perhaps it's something much greater like a King in a manger 2,000 years ago.
It is nearly Christmas so I thought I would share some of my favorite things about the Christmas season:
- Wrapping presents
- Making new memories with old friends
- Hot chocolate, Peppermint Mochas, and Spice Tea
- Being with family
- Addressing cards (but not licking the envelopes)
- Eating my mom's cooking
- Hearing the story of Jesus' birth again and again
- Singing Christmas songs (as loud as I want)
- Decorating the tree
What are some of your favorite things about this time of year?
The series that our pastor is doing is called, "Carols of Winter". He defined carol for us as involving song and dance. And illustrated through Mary's Magnificat that God beckons us to sing and dance in the midst of times in our lives that are as dry and cold as winter.
Here are the lyrics to the first verse of a carol which since that night putting up the tree has left me in awe:
A few years ago a dear friend of mine sacrificed her Tuesdays and Thursdays so that I could finish my Bachelor's degree: she watched Davis nearly all day long. During that time Davis became good friends (even if they were only wee babes) with her daughter who is about the same age.
Last night we had the chance to swing by their house so that Davis and Sage could play. They watched part of a Scooby-Doo movie, dressed up like super-heroes, and then with ten minutes left until we needed to head home, they started playing Hide-n-Seek.
Sage hid first, and before Davis's eyes were even closed, she was hidden and shouted to him,
"Count to one!!!" The beauty of being young: the fun of hiding, the anticipation of waiting, and the sheer joy of being found!
I snuggled with him and reminded him that the wind couldn't come inside and that it wouldn't hurt him. He suggested that maybe we should pray, and so he did, eyes to the sky he sincerely asked, "God, can you make it not be so windy?" Then laid back down beside me, I asked if he wanted me to pray for him too and he did. I prayed that he would get good rest and that he would know that he's okay even if it's windy. Moments later, the wind died down and Davis looked at me and exclaimed, "God heard our prayers!"
Indeed He did hear our prayers and I was humbled. God doesn't need for us to pray what we think we should, He wants us to pray honestly. Isn't that what David did? It's God that changes our hearts and even our prayers to be what they should, we don't have to pretend with Him.
Davis had a friend over to play, and inevitably it came down to picking sides: who would be the bad guy and who would be the good guy. The neighbor friend finally resigned to being the bad guy and he explained in vivid detail what his side looked like and when it was night and very dark, that's when the bad guys would come out.
The darkness is unknown. There is a sense of uneasiness when you are in the dark. You are not in control in the dark. You cannot see in the dark. Hence, the fear.
One day Davis was talking about the sun and how cool it is, I took the opportunity to tell him about how the Bible tells us Jesus is called the Light of the world. I began to think about all of this in elementary terms: being scared of the dark, and explaining to my 4-year-old why they call Jesus the Light of the World. Our hearts are filled with darkness, and nothing we conjure up can bring light to it, only the Son. Only the Light of the World.
"Can you talk a little softer?" And I walked out of the room, deflated of every ounce of steam.
"Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you.....Jesus Christ and the American Soldier. One died for your soul; the other for your freedom."
We drew names for gift giving, which can make someone (me, maybe) a little nervous. It's something like this that tells you if people really listen when you're talking or if they're the least bit observant of your interests.
This is what I received. Yes, I realize that this is a picture of a picture, so my amateur Nikon isn't going to capture the glory of this photograph (and I do mean glory, look at the way the sun is shining through the trees), but I had to try.
I found that initially the traits I thought of were unique because of the relationships I have with others. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend; and I do all those things in a way that is unique to me. Indeed, God has made each of us and in the same way our fingerprints are one of a kind, so are our personalities, but it is in being with each other that those differences come alive.
Someone who genuinely cares for the people in his congregation.
Someone who listens intently, no matter how many people are waiting.
Someone who really talks to Jesus when he prays at the pulpit.
Someone who walks and talks like a real person.
Someone who loves his wife and sons deeply.
Someone who grapples with the deep truths of the Bible, and encourages me to do the same.
The responsibility of being a pastor is undoubtedly challenging: the tasks are numerous, the issues are eternal. I am thankful, grateful, and appreciative of our pastor, because while to many that list looks idealistic, those are traits of the man who gets up to preach nearly every Sunday at our church.
Part of the chorus says, "the more I see the less I know, but I know one thing, I love you." He intends it to be a love song, and so I obviously thought of my husband: there is so much truth in that single lyric. We have had an adventurous five years of marriage, many times not knowing what the next step of the journey would hold for us. Despite all the challenges and unknowns there was one thing I was certain of and still am: I love him.
I've found that often things in our relationship translate or parallel to my relationship with Jesus (because I am part of the Church and the Church is the Bride of Christ). Franti's lyrics were true even here: the more I see, it is truly the less I feel that I really know, but the sure thing for me, the constant is Love Himself. And it is His love in Kevin and me that enables our love to be consistent. Thank you Michael Franti, for a lesson in loving.
So the colonel briefed everyone on several issues at hand: the return dates of the Soldiers, reintegration training, block leave, etc. then opened it up for questions. Someone was really concerned that our Soldiers weren't going to get turkeys on Thanksgiving. He assured them that they have guaranteed every Soldier will get some real turkey on Thanksgiving. Still in concern, someone asked specifially about those on the smaller posts. He said the Dining Facilities of the larger bases (FOBs) will cook the turkey and push them out to the smaller posts.
Get ready Soldiers, turkeys will be pushed out soon!
"But what is it?"
"We can talk about it later, okay?"
Later was only ten minutes when we were in the car on our way home. Communion is incredibly symbolic and therefore difficult to explain to a four-year-old who understands things literally not symbolically. We have had to go to the airport a few times and each time Davis watches for the blue and white sign to know which way to go. This was my starting point: a symbol. After understanding this concept we moved to the very special dinner that Jesus had with his disciples before he died on the cross.
In the end, he actually understood that the bread and wine are symbols of Christ's body and blood. I explained that Jesus told us to eat that same special dinner often to remember all that he did on the cross. He asked when the special dinner was and when Jesus died. I gave him a rough number and he was amazed that the Church (which is God's people) has been eating that same special dinner for that many years.
Some media sources are saying that there was a fight, or altercation with the IA soldier and one of our own prior to the incident, while this gives reason to believe in a tension between our Soldiers and the Iraqis, and supports the wave of negativity running through the news about the war in Iraq, it's just not true.
It was an isolated incident with a disgruntled IA soldier. Our Soldiers were on a dismounted (not in vehicles) patrol when the Iraqi approached and opened fire. Some people just don't like their jobs. How many times have we referenced the phrase, "disgruntled postal worker"? Too many. Yesterday at Target, Davis and I both were very friendly to our cashier yet she didn't crack a smile, she didn't even make eye contact.
The difference is, soldiers have weapons. Instead of pounding his fist, he pulled the trigger. Was he held responsible for his actions? Yes. Will our Soldiers be alert for other situations that may arise like this one? Yes. Is this something we should expect to happen on a regular basis? No.
So, I pulled up a chair to the tiny table and had lunch with eight 3 and 4 year olds and one of the teachers. To my amazement I had a great time, and learned a few things too. Nothing profound, in fact, they were all really simple things. However, when you do this job called motherhood 24/7 sometimes you get caught up in behavior and forget about life, even for your four-year-old.
the things I learned:
- less scolding and more laughing
- if you're not eating, put your hands in your lap (brilliant!)
- you've gotta eat either a fruit or a vegetable
- no seconds until you've finished what you have
- talk positively about food
- treat mistakes as mistakes, not as grounds for discipline
Those are just a few. Thank you SW Childcare Center, and more specifically, Mister B for reminding me of the joys of meal time.
One of the challenges of being a spouse of a deployed soldier is you are responsible for two roles. For me that happens to be mom and dad; Disciplinarian and Nurturer. It was amazing to see the difference in Davis during the two weeks that his Daddy was home, and now that I'm taking over that role again, I'm seeing the decline in his "boyhood" and an increase in his shrill screams. Overall, he really does well, but some days are just harder than others. Today has been a hard day for Mister Mommy.
This morning, Davis was awakened by having to throw up. He was screaming and finally came into my room with puke on his neck and part of his shirt. Consequently, he's spent a lot of time on the couch and in the bottom bunk sleeping. After a nice nap, he tried to come down and play, but he said, "I think I still need to be upstairs." And up he went. I thought I heard something so I started for the stairs, when I heard him singing, "And the grass is green and bow to Jesus, bow to Jesus, bow to Jesus." I stood quietly and listened to his song. Too often Davis is an example to me of the attitude I should have: singing about the greatness of God despite how I might feel.
This morning when we opened up our blinds, they were towing cars out of our parking lot. Davis and Ronin watched intently as all the big trucks moved in and out of our lot. Even though we've had breakfast and cartoon time, both the boys end up at the window watching the big trucks. I think it might be that way for most of the day.
If it's not enough that we have the freedom to vote, take yourself and your "I Voted" sticker to Krispy Kreme today and get a free doughnut or to Starbucks for a free tall coffee or to Ben and Jerry's tonight from 5-8 for a free scoop of ice cream! Happy voting!
In America, everything is within reach: a new car, a promotion, a new house, a vacation, and because of it so many of us seem to be discontent with where we are. Nothing is ever enough.
It seems that we love to claim our nation has a democratic system until there's something we don't like, then we have a dictatorship and there's only one person to blame: the President.
Pride is a terrible thing, C.S.Lewis calls it the great sin. It is pride that feeds our discontent with the current status of our lives and at times our government because we feel entitled to something or someone better, when in fact we deserve nothing.
Change is inevitable and constant; so it will come, regardless of what candidate takes office. What kind of change are we prepared for? Is it possible to turn away from pride and put our emotional energy into supporting a nation which has given us freedom millions cannot even fathom?
"My face?" Which made me laugh even more.
"No, just you, I love your singing. It makes me laugh."
Davis is doing his typical form of adjusting and that means lots of discipline, several spankings, sneaking downstairs after bedtime, testing his limits and my authority, blatant disobedience, stealing toys from Ronin, and the list goes on. However, in the midst of all his rebellion, Davis has moments of poignant sensitivity; when he detects that I am sad, he is quick to comfort me. Ronin is still his typical self: laid back, always seeking adventure (without caution), but now he is ecstatic to see Kevin on TV reading a story.
At 4:43am, Kevin called. He will be heading out soon to start patrolling again. We had a wonderful conversation, and it wasn't until after we hung up that I realized it is exactly that: the disconnect, that creates the ache for all of us. Eighteen days was enough. Enough to settle into what is normal: waking up together, eating together, talking together, laughing together, playing together, sleeping together, everything together. And in a moment at the airport, it's just like hanging up the phone. Family (and even more so, marriage) is so much like a constant conversation that separation breaks apart. There is still union and cohesion, but it is strained and a challenge to maintain.
So, we pick up the journey again of staying connected despite the disconnect.
Today, when he woke up, he quickly let me know he wanted down by leaning over to the point he almost falls out of my grasp and saying, "Down, down, down." I usually shut all the upstairs doors as we head downstairs, so they were all still open. Ronin rushed into our room, looked at the bed, and said, "Da-da?" A brief pause, then again, "Da-da?" That's where he had met Kevin most mornings that we were home, but not this one.
In that moment, my heart swelled, how can sorrow and joy mingle so easily? I miss my husband, and the boys miss their Daddy, yet in the same breath, I am overjoyed to know even our littlest is aware of his absence.
Early this morning (4:45 am) we took Kevin to the airport to say goodbye, again. This time only for three months (give or take). Davis attempted to make himself feel better, he said to me in the car, "Maybe something silly will make me happy" and then he started spouting off nonsense words and we shared a soft giggle, but then he said, "No, silly things aren't making me happy, I just want Daddy."
I shared the sentiment, and later when I saw Ronin instinctually grab his brother's hand for help, I prayed that I would be the same. Not just today, but as I walk through life when I know I can't make it down a steep step, I hope that I will instinctually reach out and grab a hand for help. Sometimes it means you won't fall, but sometimes it means you fall together.
A wonderful and gracious friend has watched our boys twice already and she noticed that Davis was incredibly well-behaved (even better than normal). The second time was even more obvious. She hesitated telling me at first, because she didn't want to dishearten me. However, it did quite the opposite. His behavior is a direct result of Kevin being home.
Kevin had to spank Davis once: for outright defiance, Davis was anticipating only having Daddy as a pal and not as an authority while he was home. It fills me with joy to know that nearness to his Father produces in him better behavior. I'm sure you can already see the parallel, right? We are the same with our Father in Heaven, time with Him, nearness to Him produces in us right living.
Davis will no doubt go through another difficult season once Kevin returns to Iraq, and I'm not excited about that, but we are making plenty of joyful memories to hold onto through the next three and a half months.
In the end, we had to take the boots off so he could put his jeans on and the boots back on and he put on his shirt too.
And there you have it, our little buckaroo. He was so excited about the whole thing he had to go show our neighbor, who shared in the excitement and put on his own cowboy hat that Reagan gave him.
This one is just for fun, because I like it.
Then, I found the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, which gives extensive lists and graphs for the casulaties and fatalities of the Iraq War. I was trying to find something that was accurate and comprehensive, and it was there, complete with names, dates, causes of death, and the places they died. Names have faces and faces have families. As I scrolled slowly down the list I wondered what they tell us in the heat of this political mess. But they can't speak, instead, thousands of others will take the liberty they paid for with their lives to talk about the war, to ridicule it, to blame our leaders for it, to say it's unnecessary, or we shouldn't even be there, and on and on. Making a mockery of their service and at the same time making it harder and harder for those still on the ground, still risking their lives, still trying to protect the lives of innocent Iraqi citizens. But too many of us can't see beyond the small scope of our own individual lives and consequently we don't foresee the reprucussions of the things we say or do.
This calendar has been on our wall for 9 months now. We have faithfully marked off the days, and now, there are so few until Kevin finally comes home (for leave, 18 days, then he goes back). We have actually been apart now for 10 months because he was gone all of December (and that's not included on the calendar), which means we are just 2 months shy of a year.
Many people say to us, "I don't know how you do it." My response is usually, "I don't either." But if I'm really honest, it's the grace of God. Because of who He is, we can have peace despite the many challenges that come with deployments. Right now, looking back, it seems incredibly overwhelming, yet we're here--and we're all still mentally stable! In fact, our marriage has grown, our dependency on Christ to meet our needs has been strengthened, and my trust in Jesus to take care of Kevin, me, and our boys is deeper than it has ever been.
No, my Dad is not a big fan of Thomas the Train. Today, this book came apart. We have had it since '06-ish. Davis fell in love with the book one day at Borders, I read it to him several times there, we bought it (it's only $3.25), and then I read it many more times to him through the course of the past couple years. Some would have said it was time to say goodbye to a book that falls apart, some would have given it away or maybe just put it away. Me? No, because tucked away inside me are traits of my father that you cannot see, like the habit of not giving things away, or throwing things away because you just know you can fix it. Such is the case with Thomas's ABC Book. When Davis realized that Ronin had torn it apart, he looked at me with such a sad face to deliver the news. I didn't even flinch, "No worries, Davis, we can fix that!" Out came the packing tape (the beauty of packing tape is that it's clear, so you can't always tell that something has been repaired) and I fixed it up. Thanks, Pops.
In all the joy, I have been convicted: is this not the picture of how I should be waiting expectantly for the return of Jesus. The promise of His coming should enable me to walk through life with a joy immeasurable. The thought of seeing His face should excite me to no end. And I should be living in such a way that I am always preparing for That Day. For too many of us the day-to-day grind of life fills us with apathy, we forget our purpose, and live without a joy that is available and abundant. I also know that there are many of you who have never been away from your spouse for ten months and can't imagine what a reunion after that amount of time must be like. I encourage you...imagine. He is coming, and it will be a more beautiful reunion than any other!
Our neighbors gave us this house and we've been having fun in it ever since. Davis likes climbing around on top and Ronin likes saying "Hi," "Eh-oh," and "Bye" to whoever he's imagining is on the other end of the phone. Davis also pretends to make ice cream and serves it out the side window. If you ever come by, be prepared to pick up your order.
I am pretty amazed at his affinity for things that are "real" that he can play with, it doesn't matter what it is, it's better if it's the real thing. It didn't take too long for it to hit me that I am no different. To me it's better to have the real thing: Dr. Pepper is better than Dr. Thunder (the Sam's choice version), Sugar is better than Splenda, a haircut at a salon is better than at Supercuts, and the list could go on, but the point is the same I have a sense that there is more value in things that are genuine (it's even true of non-tangibles). It's also true of life in Jesus, that is where real life is, it is where we will feel truly human, because only in Him will we be fully functional.
While in Oklahoma last week, we got a new car, obivously there's a story/explanation, but maybe that will come in a later post. For now, here's a picture (thanks Nissan) of our new car--except ours is black, the Nissan Rogue, it's definitely a step up from our Honda, which served us well: it had 223,500 miles.