The Anchor for Our Souls

“We will not hide them from our children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.”  Psalm 78:4

boat2

I read the email while spaghetti boils over on the stove and garlic bread threatens to burn in the oven. My neck tenses and an ache settles deep within my stomach and heart. We are three months away from our next move with the military, and I’m not ready.

A glitch in our housing arrangement at our next duty station. A longer than expected wait for our home. A list of temporary apartments attached at the bottom of the email. I can’t bare to click it open.

What seems too good to be true ends up being just that.

The dominoes begin to fall. I allow my mind to run alongside them.

A longer wait for housing means our son’s last summer before going away to college will most likely be spent in a hotel or navy lodge.

Our dog will need to be shipped off to stay with a family member.

The thought of living out of a suitcase for an extended period of time exhausts me.

oceanbeauty

One email opens a pit of panic so deep, I fall hard and fast.

I throw dinner on the table and retreat to my bedroom for a quick moment to pull myself together.

I am aware that my family’s climate heavily depends upon my attitude and a frazzled and anxious me does not make a peaceful home.

Before I can talk anyone else off the ledge, I need to take a step back and anchor myself to a firm foundation.

I go to the only place I know to go. I don’t have it in me to make it all happen. I need an anchor that can steady this rocking boat and promise safety amidst the strongest of storms.

oceandestin

I know this anchor. It has proven strong and faithful. This anchor is sure to steady me in the most tumultuous of seas.

Recognizing God’s hand in our past, and confident of His hand in our future, is that anchor.

We are mandated to remember the mighty hand of God in our past.

To recall his mighty deeds in days by gone, and remember his miracles of long ago.

To not only remember what the Lord has done, but also to share His mighty works with the next generation, our children, and our children’s children.

We have a history to remember.

We have a responsibility to etch the handiwork of our God in to the hearts and minds of those who come after us.

Our God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He will not fail us now. Our past has proved it. Our future relies upon it.

This anchor is trustworthy and connects us to hope beyond our circumstances.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the only true anchor for our souls. He is the One who knows all things, and He is faithful to walk with us through all things.

We must be deliberate in slowing down, moving toward a posture of trust, reliance and remembrance.

When the anchor is entrenched deep into the sea bed, only then is the ship stable.

This anchor keeps us from floating aimlessly out to sea.

We rely upon its dependability, having full confidence in its ability to protect as we move forward in to the great unknown.

Then and only then can we face these uncertain times with godly certainty.

oceanevening

“For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.” Psalm 117:3

“May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children.” Psalm 90:17

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77:11

 

Advertisements

Twenty Years and Eight Rings Later…….

beauty

It happened for the first time two months after our wedding day. A new puppy, a snowball fight and my husband’s new wedding ring lost forever, slipped off in to a pile of freshly fallen snow in the backyard of our first home together.

It happened again at church in Texas, and a locker room in North Carolina. It happened on a ship in the Middle East and an office in Singapore. And my absolute favorite, twenty years and eight rings later, his most recent ring sits jingling underneath the transmission of his suv, taunting us on our date nights…….hiding just far enough out of reach to require dismantling the entire transmission and undercarriage of his vehicle to retrieve it.

His wedding rings are scattered around this globe like a trail of breadcrumbs, a testimony that “We Were Here.” We joke and laugh and purchase them at Walmart now and I have thought long and hard about making him get a wedding ring tattooed on to his ring finger.

But for now, I watch him fiddle with that Walmart wedding ring in the dark movie theater and thoroughly expect it to go rolling down that sticky floor in to the never-to-be found again abyss.

It has come to be a standing joke in our family. Each holiday a new wedding ring, and with it a prediction of how long it will last. How long this one can hold on!!!

And isn’t that the game society plays with our marriages? Surely the past has predicted the future and if marriage is anything like these wedding rings, it is sure likely to slip off and disappear in to the night without much of a notice.

track

We all look enviously at that one eighty year old couple that strolls through the neighborhood, hand in hand, with years and years of togetherness trailing behind them, and we wonder at the probability of it all.

Will we be just another statistic? Will our marriage be able to withstand the pounding of the next unknown struggle?

So I pray. I pray for this marriage and those blooming around us. I pray for the military marriages that struggle under the weight of it all and the new marriages that haven’t faced the fire yet.

We may fear the struggles that will most assuredly come to the foot of our marriage, and wonder how we will fair under the pressure, but if we look at the value in these struggles, and cling to the One who brought us together, He can indeed use the struggles to make our marriages stronger and more solid.

Because we know that spiritual growth takes place through persevering in difficult times.

We know it is possible to come out of the fire stronger and knit together tighter than before. God can use all of our marriage; the good, the bad, and the ugly, to make us stronger, wiser, and more complete in Him, if we allow Him the room in our marriage.

How is God using the reality of living with an imperfect person to teach you how to grow in patience and understanding?

How is God using your marriage to teach you how to love?

ameliaisland

 

The Day That Changed Our Lives Forever {and the making of a military family}

nyc2

It was September 11, 2001. I had just tucked my little one in to bed for the night and had settled in to our air-conditioned office for some focused language study. We had moved to Thailand just a few months before and I was working hard to learn a language with five tones and characters as foreign as hieroglyphics.

Then the phone rang.

We turned on our television and watched in stunned silence as buildings collapsed, planes fell from the sky, and the Pentagon burst in to flames. The world cracked open like an egg, and once scrambled, we knew it could never go back to the way it was.

For countless days after, we stayed glued to the television, our language school closed and embassy on high alert. We cried along with survivors as they told of the triumphs and tragedy of that day. We watched as the CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, become so overcome with soul-deep grief at losing 658 employees, that it was palpable; his grief reaching through the tv screen and squeezing the very breath out of me.

nyc4

And just like that, our world would never be the same.

I am reminded today, that our family is  here because of what happened there.

We were moved to action. To follow through on a plan that was always THE plan but hadn’t been that day’s plan.

Spurred on to stand beside the men and women defending the memories of those lost that day, and every day since. To show and share the unconditional love of God to those serving in our Armed Forces.

That day did not defeat us. Out of the rubble and toxic fumes, a resolve rose up amongst the American people. What I remember most of that day, was not only the stories of loss, tragedy, and terrorism, but a story of hope, healing and uniting as one Nation.  That day we saw the worst of humanity, and the best in each other.

For a brief moment in time, there were no sides. No lines dividing us as Americans. We were one, grieving and grasping at healing together.

We stood up for our neighbors and assisted strangers. We gave blood and money and time, without reservation. People poured in to New York City to help rescue and recover.

We heard stories of heroism and bravery, sacrifice and love.

May it not take a tragedy of such proportion to bring out the best in us yet again.

nyc3

Today, as we remember, may we give the benefit of the doubt to our neighbor.

May we comfort those who mourn.

May we speak gently in to the lives of those around us.

May we generously pour out our resources for the good of others.

May we pray holding hands.

May we recognize the good in each other.

May we fully appreciate the freedoms we enjoy because of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our Nation.

May the world see our best today as it did that day!!!!

The Great Game Changer

DSCN0903

In many ways it made perfect sense for her to get in that car with him. By all (earthly) standards, her marriage had reached its end.

They had fought the day before he left. Hard and loud and the words they spoke had a finality to them. Their home had become a tunnel of dark tension, and silence hung heavy from its rafters.

Then he boarded that plane with his rifle and his Marine Battalion and they both breathed a sigh of relief.

What do you do when you know your marriage is hanging by a thread and you’re so glad he left?

For six months you live life without him and you think it’s not so bad. Actually it’s a whole lot better than bad. Because a ceasefire has ensued, and the physical distance brings much needed relief. Like a cool compress on a fevered forehead.

After he left, she exhaled, shook off the remnants of a failing marriage, and went in search of a balm to heal her aching heart.

Because how do you grasp hold of hope for change when you have lived in the same mess of a marriage for 15 years?

We sat in that sports bar and I watched as she sized up her options. Because when a woman is cut deep by the words of a man, she thinks the only thing that will heal that wound, is “better” words from another man.

So she went in search of that better man offering, well, better!!!

And I dug deep for words that would make her stay. I searched for words that would send her home alone, with the hope of a new beginning with her husband. I spilled over with words that, I prayed, would make her see the possibility of change in her marriage.

But in the end the only change she really wanted was the change that came with a new man.

Because exhaustion overwhelmed her and cutting her losses seemed like a pretty healthy option.

After all, how do you fight for something you are not sure you really want to keep?

DSCN0896

I stood on the platform watching this train wreck happen before my eyes. I watched as she left emails and letters unanswered from her husband, and spent more and more time with the man that would make it all okay.

But it wasn’t okay.

Because what she went in search of could only come from One source. And that source was most definitely not found in the arms of another Marine.

No one can fill the void in our heart that is meant only for God to fill.

That God shaped hole that exists deep within our souls; that yearning for unconditional acceptance and a love worth dying for; those deep soul desires can only be filled through a relationship with the One true God.

DSCN0906

We may cram and tug and stretch to make people and things fill that void, but in the end it is a puzzle piece that just won’t fit.

Sure, we can puff up a man until he temporarily fills that void. And for a while, he rescues us from that crippled marriage, and promises us the white picket fence and unending love. He bloats with pride at this new role he takes on, but soon he deflates under the weight of it all.

Because that white picket fence eventually buckles under the storms of life, and his love doesn’t seem so pure.

And eventually we are left with the same void that started us on this roller coaster.

No one person truly rescues like the One True Rescuer.

The One who rescues us from this earthly life and promises us eternal life and purpose.

The One who rescues us from ourselves and our misguided choices, and gives Himself in exchange for us.

The One who can change a heart and bring life back to a dying marriage.

The One who fills that void with a love that is pure, unselfish, and never ending.

This One is a game changer. He takes our leftovers; the crumbs of our life tried on our own, and, if we allow, transforms them into the most succulent of feasts.

He is the One who can weave the threads of our marriage into a triple threat, strong and solid; He is the One who can bring change to a marriage that has been stagnant for 15 years; and He is the One who will fill a heart with desire to see this marriage succeed.

Now that is a love that makes perfect sense!

428

These Are My People {and when you don’t want to let them go}

 

Take-comfort-by-Holley-Gerth-e1399003276493

http://holleygerth.com/free-words

We did life together for almost three years. We walked each other through three deployments, and babysat and fed each other’s children when we got sick.

She loved me through four miscarriages, and was there when my husband couldn’t be.

We talked each other through the unknown hours during that night mortars were raining down on our husband’s base over there.

We saw when the other was teetering on the edge with the weight of this military life, and we  pulled each other back to safe ground.

And then it all changed.

We received orders to Italy, and they received orders to stay put. And all of a sudden she stopped returning my calls. I would see her in the parent pick up line and she would walk the other way. Invitations to family cook-outs and girl’s night out went unanswered.

And it hurt!!!

After cornering her at a basketball game, it finally poured out of her. The deep hurt and pain she felt in my leaving, she thought it less painful to say goodbye now, like ripping a band-aid from a deep wound.

Twelve years later I sit at a table full of women who I have grown so very fond of. And I am amazed at the richness of relationships found here. Because I recall my reluctance to leave our last duty station and those friendships formed there. I remember the extent of my exhaustion upon our arrival here and the daunting task of making new friends.

See, half a world away, I had just left some of the deepest friendships and soul sisters I had ever had. And I didn’t think I could do it again.

But as I sat around that Cracker Barrel table, I was reminded that these are my people.

Military spouses!

Women who have walked the path I am on. Women who know what it is like to give birth while your husband is at sea; women who know what it’s like to be torn from a place you love; women who understand the trauma of making and then leaving good friends.

I am most at ease with these women because with every story and hardship, one of them can say, “I’ve been there.”

And you feel not quite so alone. They offer you hope, that if they made it through then you can too.

And I am so grateful these women chose to open their hearts and lives to the possibility of friendship. Because we all understand one of us will be leaving soon. Yet each woman around that table invested and took that bold step to potentially make a friend for life, with full knowledge of the hurt that happens when friends leave.

We can tire and we can hide. We can nurse our pain and miss our besties. But in the end, we must get back out there and invite that new neighbor over for a cup of tea. We must join that bible study or mom’s group. We must connect with that friend of a friend over coffee.

Because we just might find a friendship sweeter than all the rest.

strawberries

The Ultimate Homecoming!!!!

homecoming2

My husband has been gone a mere two weeks and I am consumed with homecoming preparations. This military lifestyle has a way of bringing out the Special Events Coordinator in all of us.

It doesn’t matter if they have been gone two weeks or a whole year…..favorite foods are prepared for their arrival, spring cleaning sweeps through our homes, and upgrades to their favorite chairs and wardrobes take place; all in preparation of their homecoming.

homecomingnashville

Those left behind have elaborate ways of counting down to their loved ones homecoming~~paper chains and jelly beans in a jar, calendars marked black and a date far off circled in red; even a new I-phone app to countdown the seconds, minutes, hours, days until our loved ones arrival home.

homecoming

So this Easter season as I prepared for my husbands return home, my mind clings to Jesus and His promise to us as He approached His death and resurrection.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14: 1-3

What happened on the Cross made it possible for us to one day experience the ultimate homecoming~~a homecoming that Jesus is preparing for us; to a place where fear no longer exists, evil has been exiled, and tears are no more. A place that is filled with God’s presence.  A place that I picture to be snippets of  my favorite places and things~~~plump rolling hills peppered with Autumn leaves that never die, the sound of gentle waves tumbling on to warm sand, and the smell of lilacs, coconut, and fresh cut grass.   But until that day, we can only imagine.

We can only imagine the homecoming He is preparing for us!

Because of what Jesus did for us yesterday, we have hope for today (and every day after)!!!! 

aliveeaster

 

Conquering the Clutter

IMG_4135

Here in North Florida, the “cold” weather (okay, you must first know that I consider 40 degrees extremely cold) has subsided and we have our first sunny, 70 degree day of the Spring Season. There is nothing like cranking up the music, throwing open your windows on a Saturday morning and digging in to the cracks and crevices (or numerous junk drawers that overtake your kitchen) of your home.

Today, with broom in one hand and a big green garbage bag in the other, I set out to conquer the clutter we accumulated in the last year and a half (I am amazed at how much we can accumulate in such a short period of time).

IMG_4139

Most military families have a natural “purging” cycle and it usually coincides with the PCS move. Well before we receive Orders in hand, I can usually be found digging through the boxes in the garage, passing along pretty dresses that no longer fit my girls, and making numerous trips to Goodwill.

There is something freeing about getting rid of all the junk, isn’t there? Of course, it doesn’t start off as junk. Like those shot glasses from the 2004 Supply Corp Ball, or those ten copies of Orders we needed to carry with us on our last move. All those beautiful finger paintings from our children’s preschool days….ah the mess!!!!

IMG_4141

And can I ask you….what are we to do with broken sticked American flags? These are the things I hang on it, because I don’t know what to do with them.

Can I make some suggestions as you undertake the de-cluttering of your home? And I offer these suggestions to you as one who has carted boxes of expired strawberry jello from one Continent to the next, I kid you not. For any of you who have lived in places like La Maddalena Italy or Singapore as I have, you understand the hoarding tendencies of those who shop at said Military Commissaries. Never knowing when you might see the next delivery of Hershey’s syrup, one tends to hang on to expired products long after the FDA deems them safe for consumption.

And so, as you can see, I am by no means an expert and still I offer these tips:

***don’t be afraid to throw things away
If I am being honest, my husband gets very nervous when he sees me with green garbage bag in hand, and he secretly scurries around the house hiding all of his prized possessions, petrified that I might consider his old baseball jersey today’s trash. But, people, the garbage is your friend. Or better yet, give gently used items to Goodwill or the Vietnam Veterans of America, Pick Up Please program, that aids American Veteran’s AND they pick up donations right from your home. How much easier can it get??

The Fruits of my labor

The Fruits of my labor

***Say it with me….if you haven’t used it during your current duty station, there is no reason to take it to the next
I have, currently sitting in my garage, a box that spent the last (almost) two years in said garage. Before that it was in long term storage for three years while we were overseas. Before THAT, I’m pretty sure it sat sitting in yet another garage in Virginia. In it, is a glass jar of sharks teeth that my son and I collected on a North Carolina beach (4 duty stations ago), some power cords that I’m pretty sure connect to our long gone VCR, and mini blinds that I think once belonged to my grandmother. I think I am emotionally ready to make the Sunshine State its final resting place.

***shred, shred, and shred some more
All those orders, welcome packets, bulletins from Change of Commands, retirement and re-enlistment ceremonies. We could wallpaper a house!! All I can say is….shred!!!

***Here is a great tip a friend of mine shared with me. I personally have not followed through on said idea, but do as I say, not as I do, and all that!!!! Take pictures of your child’s artwork, penmanship and other sentimental paperwork that you want to save and file them on your computer. What a great way to capture their hard work while throwing away what could end up being boxes and boxes of tracings of their cute little hands, made in to turkeys.

***Be honest! Are you really going to read that favorite Novel for a second time? This is my weakness people, so I am talking to myself. If I had it my way, my home would look more like a library than a place to call home. But books collect dust and don’t usually get read a second time. Some of course you will not be able to part with. But that great beach read from last summer? Pass along for one of your friends to enjoy!!!! I love sharing great books and they make great gifts for friends recovering from illness or for your friend moving to the other side of the world who needs a good book (or two) for that 21 hour flight!!!

IMG_4142

So there you have it. My not so perfected way of conquering the clutter! It sure does make you feel like you’ve accomplished something. And to reward my very productive day, I am going to sit down with a big glass of milk and a sleeve of thin mints, flip on my pre-recorded episode of Chicago Fire and enjoy the sound of my husband power washing the house!!! Hey, I did my part!!!

Welcoming One Hero HOME

The Florida sun painted the cool morning sky bright pink.  And I knew it was a day made for dreaming.

A day to see the good.  To see that people really do care and we really do know how to take care of our own.

IMG_4109

We were welcoming one wounded Warrior home.  Home from two tours in Iraq, where he suffered combat related injuries.  Today, this Warrior would receive a home for his children and that of his late-brother, who was killed in action a year before he himself was injured.

In August 2012, Bank of America made a commitment to make available to non-profit organizations and local government programs, up to 1,000 properties for military veterans and first responders. Bank Of America is well on it’s way to fulfilling this goal by donating over 900 homes to date.

And today Sergeant Steven Miner and his family, with the donation by Bank Of America, in conjunction with Military Warriors Support Organization, received the keys to their new, mortgage free home.

IMG_4116

And later the same day, I sit at my daughter’s school, tears staining my cheeks as the entire First Grade belts out with their whole hearts…. “And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me, and I gladly stand up, next to you and defend her still today, cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God bless the USA.”**

And I think of Sergeant Miner and of his friends and military family, who have sacrificed more than these first graders can imagine.  And I am thankful that there are still men and women today willing to “stand up, next to you and defend her still today…”

Because we have something worth fighting for.

And every day men and women come home from “Over There,” with less than what they left with.  So today, I watch as we give back a piece of the American life that this Warrior fought so hard to keep.

Today I am reminded, even amongst the remnants of war…..there is still good in this world.

And today, the sun shines a bit brighter on the Miner family.  The birds chirp a bit louder, flowers smell a bit sweeter, and renewed hope and joy fill this family’s home!

IMG_4119

**(taken from Lee Greenwood’s song, “God Bless the USA”)

For the Teen in your life who has everything and only Needs HIM

fortheteen

We have all been there.   Wandering the Mall aimlessly with a list of names who hold a place in your heart.  And how do you buy something adequate enough to say “I love you.  You matter to me.  You matter to God,”  without actually saying the words?   And what do you buy for the teenager who can’t see beyond the peer pressure and the next four years?  What do you buy that will matter for eternity?  Let’s face it, there are some things money can’t buy!!!

So I had this idea.  This idea to get my nephew’s bible and go through it and highlight some key verses for the issues facing a teenager these days.  I was unable to pull this off, so I decided to put together a list of categorized bible verses that I then made in to book marks.

Click here to get the printable.  

Because the best gift we could really give is the gift of God with Us.

IMG_3987 IMG_3986 IMG_3990

Going home and what happens when our kids don’t know where that is

DSCN0852

Home.   A four letter word that brings to mind different things to different people. For some, “home” is the place they were born and raised, and couldn’t wait to escape. For others, “home” is a place they yearned for all their lives, but never got to experience. And yet, for many others, “home” is a place of comfort and safety, a place they always belong, and can always go back to!

For the military family, “home” can be a confusing word. For many, “home” is where the US Military sends us, right? Home has more to do with people-present than present-location.

The question most people ask when meeting for the first time is, “Where are you from? Where is home?” I am quick to answer this question, since my identity has been laced up and tied to a small coal-mining town in Northeastern Pennsylvania most of my life.

homecolors

This summer I got the chance to go “home” after being overseas for three years. Home to the place I was born and raised, to the roads I learned to drive on, and the shops I learned to work in. To crisp, cool country air, open windows and roads as narrow as shoestrings; to the smell of fresh earth in my mother’s basement, and memories at every stoplight.

So, it surprised me when, a few nights in to my visit, that peace and familiarity of home sparked a panic inside me that bubbled up and grew to monstrous proportions. As the night turned deep black and the house grew silent, my heart seemed to beat out of my chest as I panicked about these things……

Would my children ever feel the safety and comfort of coming home to a familiar place?

How would my children ever answer that question, “where is home?”

The realization that my children will never come home and run in to their eighth grade science teacher at the grocery store.

They would never get to revisit the locations of their earliest memories, and never come back to their childhood home(s).

I succumbed to these troubling thoughts and nursed and cultivated them deep in to the night.

As morning light peeked around the bedroom curtains and shone on the sleeping faces of my children, the Lord poured out comfort and hope in to this mama’s fretting heart.

DSCN0854

“I tell you the truth,’ Jesus said to them, ‘no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come, eternal life.” Luke 18: 29-30.

And my mind turned from thoughts of sacrifice and what-my-children-don’t-have, to the things my children do experience that make up their own unique identity.

The fact that they feel at “home” in many different locations.

The fact that they can visit six different locations within the US and three Overseas, and feel “at home.”

The fact that they are educated on other cultures and traditions and still manage to hold on to their own.

DSCN0952

And I breathe a little easier.

And I release my children in to the care of our Lord, as all parents, military and non-military alike, do.

And so I set out that cool, summer day to show my children where I first learned to dip ice cream, and swim with them in the same waters I learned to swim. I showed them the house I grew up in and the hills we made snowmen on.  And a little thread of my memories tie around their heart, tugging them back to this place. And my home becomes a bit of their home.

After all, home has more to do with heart-strings than brick buildings.

DSCN0774