I'm a generation X-er. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the Shock and Awe headlines of March 2003, are the acts of war I remember. And as close to home as the 9/11 attacks and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan have been to me, no one close to me has lost their life in the battles of the past 16 years. Memorial Day could easily become the symbolic start of summer for me and nothing more. But I'm a mom of teenage boys, and I hear the news headlines and appreciate American history and the value of human life too much to let that happen.
For me, remembering those who have lost their lives serving in the military means intentionally remembering when I don't remember. It means purposefully reflecting on what it means to me that I live in a country where over a million people have given their lives in combat.
My 12 and 14 year old sons know war mostly in terms of first person shooter games (something I'd rather they never knew). They hear headlines and know the story of 9/11. For them, the history of war is glamorized.
My point is, neither I nor my sons know the impact of loosing someone we love to war. So I decided to have the boys use Google to calculate the combat deaths from every U.S. military conflict. Once they added all those lives up, they had come up with 1,243,493 sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers given for us.
We never knew one of them.
Their lives and deaths weren't glamorous. They weren't perfect. They weren't Marvel comic heroes. But they put themselves in harms way in the moment they lost their lives on a mission to protect this country from the evils of foreign oppression and dictators. Without them, the country my sons and I live in may not exist. Both they and I need to take the time to remember those we don't remember so we can foster gratitude and soberness and thoughtfulness about this country and our roles here.
I asked my boys to write either a poem or essay... some sort of reflection on the 1,243,493 souls who gave their lives in military combat for the freedom of citizens of the United States.
Connor, my 14 year old wrote an essay, "Why These Lives Matter To Us." Ryland an acrostic using the words MEMORIAL DAY. Me, a blog. Our stopping to think and reflect on these lives with our words is important. It's a way to honor the ones remembered. Even when we don't remember.
While writing this over my Twitter feed came a tweet about the book The Things Our Fathers Saw: The Untold Stories of the World War II Generation is on sale on Amazon for $0.99 in the kindle edition. We'll be reading some of that tonight too.
As a Christian, my ultimate homeland is not the United States of America, but I want to be a blessing to her and honor those who laid down their lives for sojourning Americans like me. I also want to be a sober minded, serving citizen and a mom who passes thoughtfulness and gratitude and the gift of remembering on to her kids.
How are you intentionally remembering the 1,243,493 today?
I want to be a better writer. I've decided to challenge myself to a series of writing prompts, which I plan to post here.
Writing for me is a way to digest life. Reading what others have written is like going out to dinner. Journaling is like making my own meal. Writing publicly on a blog is like having everyone over for dinner. I want to have my own food truck/catering biz- freelance? And maybe even my own little hole in the wall restaurant- book? If I am going to reach those goals I need to sharpen my culinary, uh-hem, writing skills. No more margarine. Time for real butter. Maybe the challenge of writing prompts will help me refine my menu.
Today at Valley Life Church Surprise, the guy who leads the team that helps people get connected at the church, Michael, preached about the second commandment from Exodus 20.
It always hits me when I'm at church how strange we are. We Christians. I mean what we do on any given Sunday in most Christian church gatherings. We sit and listen to someone proclaim truths gleaned out of reading a book that is thousands of years old. Our souls sing... hence for many raised hands, eyes closed, tears flow. We sing songs about God's sovereignty and power and grace and love and we sing amazed. We eat bread and drink juice and remember Christ's sacrifice. We confess our sins and weep over them and rejoice at forgiveness and the help we find in the scriptures and each other. I mean, I don't know first hand what happens in gatherings of Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists, but from what I read and hear, these religious gatherings are more like corporate prayers. Memorized prayers and chants. But not adoration in singing and proclamation of God's self-sacrificing, heart-changing love. And for the irr-religious, its even more weird what we do. A morning spent singing songs of praise to the unseen God for an act done in history 2000 plus years ago that has changed the course of life for a millions of people from the inside out, causing them to no longer live for themselves but for the One who died for them? Why? Why not just clean the garage. Or binge on Netflix. Or work on your golf game. Why do all that stuff?
Listening today to the comparison between the God of Israel and the multiple gods of the peoples Israel lived amongst (and got entangled with) I realized thousands of years may have passed, but the God of the Bible and his people still stand out in a world full of idols as different. And we still get entangled in idol worship. John's closing sentence at the end of 1 John is a relevant and needed message that we shouldn't pass so easily over: Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
The God of the Bible wants all of me. My heart. My affections. My love. He has given himself to me in covenant love. No easy access idol that makes me feel good about myself for a little while should ever get between God and I.
I start my online Introductory Algebra class on Tuesday. I have no idea how this will work, but I am anticipating lots of hair pulling and frustrated Facebook posts. Hopefully at the end of summer I can test into the math I need to get into the BSN program.
Math is my nemesis.
I've been writing, well since I was about 5. First just letters, then short, three word sentences without punctuation, then onto complete sentences and paragraphs. By seventh grade when I had Mrs. Spicer for English I was writing essays and stories and poems and loving it. In between there around the age of nine I started journaling. For me, writing has been a way to process my thoughts, feelings and circumstances. When Jesus became real and beautiful to me at age sixteen writing was the way I processed what I was reading in the Bible and the conflicting feelings I was experiencing as an insecure girl wanting to find my place in the world. I wrote a play for my youth group and more essays and poems and filled a few more teddy bear and flower decorated journals.
Between those early teen years and now I have married, graduated from nursing school, labored two sons into the world and moved several times. In between those words are years of trials and joys. Some too hard to speak about. All digested in the writings of my private journals. Also in there somewhere I discovered the blog. I had no idea. Up till my discovery of Blogger all my writings were private letters, journals, poems and word docs. As women in my church, close friends and family encouraged me, I began to blog more.
In the past 10 years or so of blogging I have been introduced to the endless voices in the public square. It's quite overwhelming actually, the volume of published content by anyone and everyone on the internet. A simple google search on any topic will give you pages and pages of links from the famous and professional to the stay-at-home-mom who managed to squeeze in a half hour of blogging in her day full of household management tasks and human-raising efforts. (A thought-provoking article here about the tsunami of un-governed writings and teachings available on the internet for the consumption of the church and it's implications.)
In the beginning of my blogging efforts I set out to promote my blog- reading other blogs, commenting, participating in mommy-blog contests, etc. And then my marriage took a dive into troubled waters. During that time I stepped away from public writing and became aware of my mixed up priorities and the praise-seeking sin at the root of all my efforts. Writing had ceased to be a tool for processing life. It had become an obsessive exercise to be known. I hated finding that out about myself. But it was the beginning of dealing with a besetting sin that was dragging me down on my race of faith.
As I returned to meditating on God's words more and processing what I was finding there in private journals, I slowly returned to selectively writing on my blog again. This time with a decision not to self-promote or to check stats or seek comments, but just to offer in a public way my meditations on God's word and life with a prayer that it might encourage someone out there.
Writing for me has never been an identity or profession. To me, calling myself a writer because I write is sort of like calling myself an eater because I eat. It's a fact. Big deal. Writing is the way I chew on life and digest it. Ignorantly I've sort of thought everyone does that. Having two sons who don't enjoy reading or writing like I do has taught me that not everyone experiences life best with books and ink and words. Not everyone feels a sense that heaven might smell a lot like the intoxicating paper pages scent of Barnes and Nobel.
Somehow, the process of digesting life that is so necessary for me has encouraged others. I've been told it's a gift. I haven't thought of it that way. But listening to others and hearing God say, "Do your part in the body of Christ! Use your gifts for the good of the body," (my paraphrase of Romans 12:3-8), I have started to take more seriously the stewardship of a gift God has given me to process the Word and the world in writing for the purpose of pointing others to him. I want to do this while thinking of myself soberly and less. For me this means beginning to submit public writings not just here on my blog at my will, but to men and women in the church (worldwide) who can help me steward this gift for the good of the church and God's glory.
Desiring God has been a source of much encouragement to me in my walk with Christ and so was the first venue through which I have submitted a couple articles and have been so humbled to have published there. The decision to submit writings to editors and people who give feedback and criticism and sometimes just a simple rejection opens me up to learning to take this gift God has given and start stewarding it for the multiplication of his kingdom. I'm excited to learn. I really don't feel comfortable calling myself a writer because I need to write. But I do feel comfortable calling myself a glad and happy servant of my Servant King Jesus to the people he loves!
I mean, I am a nobody. Really. There are plenty of famous and much better writers out there. But, I am a cell in this body. And maybe it's just another cell or two that needs to fight off some invading sin or needs help to lift it's spiritually-anemic head. If that's one of the ways God wants to use my life I say a hearty, "Yes!"
If you're reading this I'd appreciate your prayers that I would seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness and forget about myself and be more others minded for their good and God's glory in my writing. Pray that I'd learn to use writing as a means of building up the church and bringing God glory.
May God build up his people, even with a world-digesting writer/eater cell like me.
Yesterday being Mother's Day, me being a mom and a having a mom and knowing moms and women who long to be moms and/or grieve the loss of their children, it was a day full of thoughts turned prayers.
Yesterday also being the last Sunday in a series on marriage at my church, and me being married and knowing firsthand the unique kinds of trials marriage brings, it was a day of reflection turned worship.
About a week ago I read Psalm 27 and it grabbed me. I've been mulling it over ever since. One particular verse has me thinking about my one thing.
One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
What's the one thing I am asking God for and seeking after? One thing. Mostly its been for my marriage. Or my kids. The two things yesterday hit on. When I read Psalm 27 I hear the writer exclaiming that in the midst of fearful troubles and rejections, his one thing was a triune request: To be in God's presence all his life, to see the beauty of God and to be able to talk with God and may requests of him. If I'm honest at first reading I feel like that's just out of reach. How can I say my one thing is all about God when my kids are struggling and I'm exhausted and my marriage is so troubled? How could the Psalmist say this when danger and fears and rejection by his own parents surrounded him?
As I listened yesterday to the preaching of the message that God has ransomed us from slavery to sin and idolatry, like Hosea ransomed Gomer, the mental image of the Son of God crying out, "I buy you back! I buy you with my own life!" while I was shamefully sold-out to sin flashed through my mind. I heard 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."
And then Psalm 27 started making more sense. There's only one thing I really need in the midst of fears and suffering: Christ. If he didn't buy me back to God I would never be able to run to him as a refuge. I wouldn't be able be in his presence daily or see his endless beauty or talk with him and seek his answer.
In the midst of parenting trials and marriage troubles, where fears and the pain of betrayal and rejection and sins threaten to destroy, the one thing I need more than anything is Christ. And when I lift my eyes off this storm around me and believe the promise that he his with me, and dwell on the beauty of his glory, and seek his face and his counsel, everything is set right. The storm may rage, but with the psalmist I can say:
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
I read a post of Facebook the other day where a mom was telling her adult kids what she really wanted for Mother's Day. In short: Time with them. I agree. Being a mom myself I feel the exact same way. But since we're far apart and don't spend as much time together as we both would like as moms, I wanted to take a minute to tell you, and the world just a few of the reasons I'm so thankful that God made you my mom.
#1 Your songs.
Now that I'm a grown up and have spent years pursuing my own walk with the God of the Bible, I realize there are a lot of messages I swallowed growing up that weren't so Biblical. Some things taught as truth were just misunderstood. Some were mis-taught. Enter grace. And hymns. No matter what I learned about God and life that wasn't so right growing up, what I learned right I heard in your singing. When you sang the words, "I need thee every hour..." you taught me dependence upon the grace found in Christ. When you cried out in song around the house, "Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, help me stand." You taught me to cry to God and not pout to myself. When I heard you worship at bedtime, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me..." You taught me to awe at the salvation found in Jesus. Your singing planted truth in my soul mom. And now it has sprouted and grown into it's very own tree, planted by the same streams of water out of which my soul sings with you, "And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own. And the joy we share as we tarry there. None other, has ever known."
#2 Your brokenness
Mom, honestly I used to wish you weren't broken. I used to wish, with you, we had a neat, tidy, healthy family. I wanted a yellow house with a picket fence, two happy healthy parents and siblings who got along too. Who doesn't want that? But brokenness has come upon us all. Even those I thought had that picture perfect family. And it's through the brokenness in your life that I have learned to see God's miraculous way of making beauty out of ashes. I used to be angry with God for the brokenness I saw everywhere and in my own life. But the beautiful masterpiece God paints by taking the very cracked up thoughts and emotions, bodies and relationships we all live with everyday and out of them painting a whole new Christ-imaging life makes the beauty of that Norman Rockwell life I had in my head look like a 5 year old's water color. God has painted Christ-exalting majesty and glory out of your broken life mom. Christ in you is beautiful! Through you Christ has shown himself to me as the Great Physician who has come not for the well, but the sick, like me. Through you, he has made me to know him as the great bearer of burdens. Because you have turned to Him, time and time again, I have learned to see myself and others as broken people in desperate need of the love of Christ.
#3 Your creativity
Paper dolls cut out of any piece of cardboard or paper on hand. Marbles and Jax. Stories that should be written down and printed as captivating children's books. Biscuits to die for. Your interest in our lives and your creativity and handiwork drew us as children to you. Your creative, happy, liveliness was Jesus in you causing the little children to come to him. And he is still at work in you drawing your grandchildren. God has given you the gift of touching the hearts of young children mom. Your love of life and interest in investing in the young souls around you has forever changed the course of many lives for God's glory.
#4 Your diversity
In a small town where everyone was a shade of pale and most people spoke red-neck English, you were a wise woman with a world-wide awareness and a vision for honoring the diversity of God's people in every tongue, tribe and nation. Before we could even speak, you were hanging cut out magazine images of babies with different skin-tones on the wall next to our crib. When Cabbage-Patch dolls were all the rage, you bought your white, freckle-faced children black Cabbage-Patch dolls. When people of darker pigment came into our our town and didn't speak much English, you welcomed them into our home and learned to make tortillas from scratch with them. In a culture that was ignorant to it's xenophobia, you were planting the truth that in God's world there are peoples of all cultures, pigments and languages. And that's a beautiful thing!
A Woman To Be Praised!
That's only four reasons out of many for why I thank God every day that he made you my mom! I celebrate you mom. I want to pass onto my children the gifts you've given me. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman like you mom, who is in awe of Christ Jesus our Lord, is worthy to be praised for generations to come! May God bless the work of your hands mom!
I love you,
Your Lil' Toad
I've decided to move over to WordPress at SheilaDougal.WordPress.com See you there!
( photo credit ) Every Sunday when I get to go to church I leave with something from God's word pressing on me. Every time. But I...
Wedding Day- Sept.4, 1993 Connor's birthday- April 1, 2003 During our first separation and pregnancy with Ryland- Novemb...