“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I Have

On one hot summer day, I packed up and loaded myself, my rifle and my gear onto a plane for a dusty hot place half a world away. I had given birth just 5 short months before to my second angel baby and my emotions were out of balance to say the least!  I said goodbye to my most prized assets, my family- my husband and our two children, in the name of selfless service to our great nation.  I felt like I had my heart ripped out and torn into little bitty pieces in the slowest most painful way, but I survived.    
I have had this horrific responsibility to tell a handful of wounded Soldiers that one of their best loved comrades was killed in combat. I listened to the cries and shouts of anger from some of the strongest young warriors I have ever met. “How could this be?” “No, not him, anyone but him.” I looked into their eyes and saw a thousand yard stare that I thought was expired with the Vietnam War.Their tear stained faces marred with shock and disbelief still flash into my mind when I hear of another lost.

I have embraced a young mother of a beautiful 18 month old little girl while we wept over her husband’s flag covered coffin.  I didn’t know the Soldier personally, but after dedicating my life for 3 months to the care of his family, I feel like I am part of it now.  I wear his name on my wrist most days as a reminder to never forget the sacrifices that have been made so I can live the life of freedom I so dearly cherish.The ultimate sacrifice is not only given by the one whose life was cut ever too short, but also by the ones whom he loved and will continue to bare the burden of the service he volunteered.

Along-side and intertwined with the mother of a fallen hero, I have told my story of the depths of war to other soon-to-be Casualty Assistants. As I walked up to this Mom we hugged unabashedly and with sincere love in front of four score of battle hardened Army Leaders because I had become part of her family. I helped ensure her baby-boy would get every honor he deserved and went above and beyond what “the book” said I needed to do. I don’t write this because I want glory or recognition; I just did what I would want someone to do for me if the roles were reversed. That day I watched the faces of the Army Leaders twist and twinge at the thought of this hollow duty they could be called to perform while I recounted the days and months surrounding our trip to Arlington Cemetery.  

Now yesterday my husband stands tall in his “super-suit” and boards a plane to a dangerous place. I held my 5 year old son who couldn’t stop crying as he internalized Daddy’s departure and recalled how it felt when just a couple short years ago he lived through Mommy’s deployment.  How do I answer the already posed question, “but what if Daddy dies?” I know what I tell myself to feel better, but what do I tell a 5 year old? Truth be told, I lied. I told him Daddy won’t die—and I sincerely hope I am correct, but I cannot know the future. 
One of my best friends recently sent me a moving story of a child who was complaining to her mother about “everything” that was going wrong in her life. She was failing a class, her best friend was moving away and her boyfriend broke up with her.  Her mother was baking a cake at the time and asked the child if she would like a snack to make her feel better. The child was ecstatic because she loved her mom’s cake!  Mom said, “Okay, darling, here is some cooking oil for a snack.” “Yuck!” said the child. “Well, fine how about some raw eggs or flour?” “No mom, who would eat that?” “I guess no one would purposefully eat them by themselves dear, but when you put these “yucky” things together the right way they make a delicious cake.” 
God works in much the same way. We may not like the taste of what we are put in the middle of, but when we add all of these ingredients together it comes out perfectly and delightful every time. 
This shall be my biggest challenge yet. I did not enjoy living through any of the circumstances mentioned above. No one would. But inevitably I know that only He can get me through, and I’ve read the last chapter of the book—it’s good! When I’m lonesome, He sends me a friend with a hug and I shall continue to lean not on my own understanding and trusting that with Him, this will be a Piece of Cake!  
 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov 3:5-6)
 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13)
 Reflection Question: Are you too busy balking at the individual ingredients to enjoy the piece of cake?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I Mind

Listening to the fireworks the week before the 4th of July has always been fun for me. Independence Day means fests, BBQs and time off from work! It’s summer and in my mind 4th of July should be spent on a lake with something cold in your hand to drink.  The past couple years, especially since serving in Iraq, the 4th of July has held a little more meaning for me. Our independence is not something to just celebrate with parties and friends, but to reflect on the cost to give and uphold that freedom.

This year especially, it reminds me of those enormous sacrifices.  Just after fireworks went on sale, I was talking to a church friend of mine at a birthday party. He didn’t look himself; so being me I couldn’t help but ask what was up with him. At the time he didn’t want to talk, but later during the party he opened up. Rick, who suffers from PTSD, was having a tougher time that usual sleeping due to the fireworks – and since the war tours he’s lucky to sleep much at night without the bangs. The exploding sounds bring on flashbacks, anxiety attacks and nightmares that would send you screaming out of the theater if it were a motion picture. Rick’s sacrifice is invisible to the naked eye, but to those of us who have the honor of calling him friend, we can see how real it is for him every single day. His mind is much like a minefield; he doesn’t always know what will set off a mine, but when it does, it’s hard to recover from.

This Independence Day I am celebrating one short. My dear husband is serving with the Army in support of OPERATION NEW DAWN (AKA OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM) and missing out on the freedoms he and I have sworn to defend. It is a daily struggle to be apart, to know he is missing out on his children’s lives and on enjoying time as a family. The physical struggles of being the only one to clean up the house, or make dinner or warm the bed are mere rain drops compared to the hurricane that wreaks havoc on my mind. My best friend isn’t here to comfort me when I’m having a lousy day or cheer with me when I something exciting happens. I cling to the few minutes we get to talk on the phone, and feel so empty again when we have to hang up. It’s like my glass is half empty—and I’m a glass is half full kind of girl!  

The battlefield of the mind is not new, as a matter of fact, it’s as old as time really. Even while God was literally walking with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Eve was attacked in this ever important battleground, her mind. The enemy fed her half-truths and played on her fragile emotions and now we must all realize the consequences of her losing that fight.

It’s likely that you too are being attacked on the battle ground of your mind in some way. Whether you realize it or not, you hear lies, and half-truths that you need to actively combat. It’s not passive. This is not the place to say, “It’s all in God’s hands.” YES, we know how the story ends, God is victorious and Jesus returns to earth… but right now, in this firefight, this battle, this WAR we are called to serious Action!

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Eph 6:10-17)

Be, Put on, Stand, Struggle, Take up, Extinguish—these are ACTION Verbs!

If we don’t take action, the way God has called us to, we will lose the battle. The war is already won, but the battle is ours to take. God has given us the tools, the strength and the might, but we have to use them. They don’t use themselves. Just as Joshua had to lead the Israelites to take the Promised Land by force, God has our own promised land ready for us. We must stand up, endure the struggle, and take what is promised us.

For me that means when thoughts of despair, self-loathing or other negative thoughts come into my mind, I know that is my sinful nature or the devil feeding my battlefield with ammunition. My best bet is to put on my Heavenly Armor and fight back! Wield my sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (aka: what my Bible says) and believe God, not the devil.

Reflection Question: Have you packed up your Sword of the Spirit? Or are you using your sword to defend your Promised Land from God?

Sunday, July 3, 2011


I love the times in my life when I feel God, when I hear Him and when I can specifically convey His message to those around me! That is exciting, fulfilling and awe inspiring. Watching someone take something I’ve written and apply it to their life the way God intended is one of the coolest experiences!

I have heard from some of my greatest and some of my most surprising readers that they truly appreciate my transparency and real world perspective on the “God stuff”. That is what I want to be: notably honest about who I am, who God has made me and how I see eternity. Most of the time, I can see so much eternity in ever day life, I can’t help but write it down. Without even trying, I see God’s hand at work through the Holy Spirit opening my spiritual eyes. That part is so easy and natural for me. Just type or write out what the Eyes of My Heart are seeing. It has got to be really funny to see me hard at work when I don’t have my netbook handy, pecking  out an entry on my iPhone that I just can’t help but get down and saved.

In the silent times, the valleys, the trough of the roller-coaster, so to speak, it’s much harder to be excited, to trust God and to listen. Everything else makes so much noise and pulls my attention elsewhere. It’s in these times though, that I learn the most about my character. From my perspective I have a looooong way to go.

“[We] have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:4b-5)

When I don’t have to work at it very much, I listen to God and bask in the enjoyment of His craft. I am less likely to sin: gossip, unholy thoughts, profane language, etc. while I’m enjoying the spiritual peaks. During those valleys, the Devil likes to coax his way in to my life, slowly as not to be noticed. Sneaky sneaky like, he puts thoughts of entitlement, dereliction of duty,  depression, anxiety, anger, rage, and disappointment into my head, like they are always there… like they Should be there. These can become strongholds for the Devil in my life, and this is where capturing EVERY thought and matching it up to The Living Word of truth is so very important.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)

“[The Devil] was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

My relationship with God doesn’t suffer when I don’t hear from Him, it suffers when He doesn’t hear from me! He sets eternity in each of our hearts; it is up to me to seek Him out. It’s not about a feeling I get or motivation or even inspiration. IT is about my relationship with the Holy Trinity, and the devotion I commit to that no matter the season of my life. Having this kind of relationship should not be the “top of your priority list”. It should be a part of Every aspect of that list; vitally integrated into every facet of our lives from the mundane to the once in a lifetime.

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matt 6:33)

“I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.” (Isaiah 55:6)

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  (Luke 12:31)

Reflection Question: Is your relationship with God on your priority list? Is it the top? Or is He part of every priority?