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Life's Little Lessons

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." – Emile Zola

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military

the places I cannot afford to visit 

In my prior life, I was a sales representative  for a company that awarded its performance team with luxurious trips. I could sit here and name all the different countries I’ve traveled to and all the five-star resorts I’ve stayed at but I won’t. I will say this, they all have something in common:

On my own, they are not places I could afford to visit.

Fast forward to this life, not a lot has changed. I still travel but lately it’s been to military bases to see my kids and I rarely frequent airports and seldom hail cabs but one thing transfers from one life to the next and remains consistent and true: I still can’t afford to visit certain places.

Location is just about everything, ask any realtor. Location location location. Is it high traffic, high population…what is it’s draw that determines its value and worth? To each person, that answer may be different. What I am looking for may be different from what grabs your attention, that’s why it’s so important to ask yourself what’s important to you. If you don’t, you’ll end up somewhere that’s important to someone else and you’ll find yourself in a location that is miserable at best.

Ever been to the beach with someone who hates the sun and the sand? Miserable.

Our daughter called today from the Navy’s boot camp and it’s been over a month since I’ve seen her. As we all stood in the kitchen, gathered around my phone, I felt sadness taking up space within the room. I not only felt it within me, but I heard it in her voice. It’s Christmas. Her brother, who is a Marine, is Home for a short leave, and it’s her first Holiday Season away from us. The phone call was a happy one despite the underlying sadness but when the call was over, I turned to my husband and cried.

I felt sad for several hours afterwards and I realized my location wasn’t really the best. I was slipping, and my mood was beginning to match the weather…cold and dreary.

As a feeler, I often hole myself up in some shack, dodging bullets and trying to stay out of the enemy’s line of fire in the worst parts of town. I truly pick some of the worst locations to camp out in, within myself. These shacks have given me the illusion of safety even though the foundation was crumbly and I knew it. If safety’s my goal, I most certainly have found myself hiding out in some of the most unsafe locations.

My mind or my feelings left unchecked tend to wander and create scenarios that aren’t even accurate and I end up assuming the worst. I do not recommend this. AT ALL. It’s really not fair to you because it creates such heartache and agony and it most certainly is not fair to the other person. Want to talk judgement? Assume something, anything, about another and there you have it.

I’m recognizing the feeling I have are normal…it is more than ok to be sad. I AM allowed to miss my daughter. I AM allowed to be angry over situations. I AM allowed to not agree.

It’s when I choose to stay sad and angry. It’s when I choose to care more about being right than being in relationship that gets me into trouble.

Can I really afford to visit these locations?

No. The answer is vehemently no. I cannot afford to. Visiting leads to wanting to stay. There is comfort in old friends and sometimes, hanging around old friends leads to holding onto old habits…I have to choose the higher thought.

So yesterday, as much as I missed our daughter and as much as I FELT sad because she is not home, I chose to think of how proud I am of her. She recently passed all her physical fitness tests. She is strong in both mind and body. I focused on all the friends she’s making and how lucky they are becuase she is packed full of maturity and wisdom and loves havng new expereinces through people. I chose to think of any other thought except the sad ones and slowly but surely, my mood shifted.

I’ve been practicing this in every area of my life, not just with my children. I’ve been packing up my bags and (sometimes begrudgingly) putting my feet on another path even though my thoughts and feelings tell me it’s ok to stay in my shack because it’s justified. I recognize there are places within myself I want to go, but they are places…memories or thoughts, that elicit negative feelings and pretty much put me in a bad mood. I want to bring healing there. Why? Because I know Jesus does.

I absolutely believe He chooses the higher…

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

I’ve often said that perspective is a superpower and it is. One of the greatest revelations of my life is: I can choose my thoughts and think things on purpose. What the hell? Did you know you are THAT powerful? In other words, I don’t have to just think about whatever falls into my mind. Just because I think it doesn’t mean it is true. This was a life-changing revelation for me because as Proverbs 23:7 says, As he [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he. SeriouslyWhere the mind goes, the man follows.

Friends, there ARE places you and I both cannot afford to visit. Quick jaunts here and there can be exciting and they can feel good and right but be careful about dwelling there too long, especially without proper perspective.

Merry Christmas! Choose to think the very best this Holiday Season of the people in your life. Choose to forgive and forget.

Choose to love…

You may not always want to but I think you’ll find if you don’t, you’ll find yourself in a place you ideally don’t want to be.

Set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things… (Colossians 3:2 AMP).

 

What You Are Looking For?

For those of you who are friends with me, you then know that our two oldest kids recently enlisted and our serving in our country’s military. And for those of you who don’t, you may have been spared because I am THAT Mom. I never thought I would be but I am and it is my mother’s fault. Her endless championing and cheering me on is in my DNA. She always showed up to everything and was proud…REGARDLESS. I hope I can be even half of who she is.

When our son went to bot camp for the Marines, he was lucky enough to leave on the same day as three other boys from our town…all the same age and all from the same school. And because he was lucky, as his mother that made me lucky too because I instantly had three new friends. MoM’s, or now known as Mother of Marines. The day they all left for Parris Island, we exchanged phone numbers and instantly began a text group where we cried together and asked questions and shared what we knew. The first month, maybe two of boot campy was the worst for me. I remember crying all the time and praying more than that. I knew what the Drill Instructors were most likely having to do to make a Marine out of my son and thought of it made my heart sink on a regular basis. My but MoM’s…they were my lifeline.

During this time, I also joined a Facebook group specifically for family and friends of young men and women at Parris Island all graduating on the same date and in the same Company. It was such a helpful group, the administrators were all MoM’s or Marine Veterans themselves and they shared so much helpful information. Another lifeline.

BUT.

There was this one MoM. I just couldn’t even…

Friends, it was painful.

Every time her face came through my feed, my brain hurt. I’m just being honest. I did not want to think ill thoughts of her but I did. AND I LOVE MOST ALL PEOPLE.

Most.

She talked about her life. She made videos about what she learned at Church. She shared the most ridiculous Meme’s and talked incessantly about nothing to do with The Marines. It drove me crazy because this was a support group/information page to help families through boot camp and here she was using this page as her own personal platform.

Long story short, it ended sort of badly for a bit. I posted and asked publicly for clarification on the group’s purpose and I became to some the party pooper of the group. Militant? Yes, I can be obviously but she was majorly breaking the rules!!!! So in the end, TO SURVIVE, I blocked her after she made fun of our boys going through the gas chamber. She thought it was hilarious that they would get sick and wig out and was CONVINCED they would ALL laugh one day.

Can I just tell you how much I prayed THAT day?

The whole thing has never really sat well with me till recently. First off, I do not enjoy blocking people and making them nonexistent to me. It actually bothers me quite a bit and I am not quite sure why but it does. Second, I needed to better understand, besides being ANNOYED, why this woman rubbed me the wrong way. Seriously folks, the other 900 members of this group all kept it professional. It was about our recruits, our questions, needing help, wanting prayer or having a bad day because we missed our kids. It was not about US and about OUR HAIR or about the WEEKEND TRIP WITH OUR HUSBANDS. 

One day last week I was washing dishes. My hands were in the sink and all of a sudden THIS dropped into my consciousness, “She wanted friendship. You had friendship and wanted information but she wanted friendship.”

I have stared with a blank look before, many a time, but never have I felt I stared so blankly. Like a street pigeon at the sink blinking a way, that was me.

It was true. I had my MoM’s. I had my family and my friends who were amazing. I literally got on that page to get as much information as I could since I was new to this whole thing and I was terrified and excited and I was like a sponge absorbing it all. I did not NEED anything more than what I wanted, at least not from that page and the people in it. However, her need was different.

Sometimes our prayers don’t really get answered right away. Sometimes the revelation we seek comes to us at the most random times, like at the sink when your hand are immersed in hot, soapy water. But they always do and that day I prayed when my son was experiencing the gas chamber, I prayed to see her heart because I was so frustrated at the sight of it. I had stopped long ago seeing her for WHO she was because she became a thorn in my flesh that I could not quite get out. I didn’t really want to see her heart, but I knew with my head it was the right thing to pray and obviously now looking back, this was a me thing and had nothing to do with poor !^%&#)!  *(**%@

(Names have been change to protect the innocent or maybe characters have replaced letters to mask my swear words. Take your pick).

I am convinced Jesus showed me heart, that she longed for friendship and a family and lo and behold, the Marine Corps is just that. Did she go a little too far? Yes. Unquestionably. But her heart longed, it craved to be seen and to be heard. When I saw all of this last week, I became softer around the edges where I had been a little rough.

 

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  – 1 Samuel 16:7

 

It is easy to get caught up in what people say or do, sometimes I even get tripped up over words never spoken…things I THINK should be said but aren’t. I know not to focus on what I see and hear but my flesh often burns if I don’t so I give in to make myself temporarily feel better. But is a temporary band-aid because heart knows better.

I know what I was looking for by joining that group in that particular season of my life and here I am, walking along without any other military Mom’s to cry with or text or ask questions as our daughter is at boot camp for the Navy. She left all alone almost two weeks ago so Navy support groups ARE my lifeline for connection. I find myself being a bit more friendlier, a bit more personal and not so information focused. There is a purpose and a season for both. I know what I need and I hope in the future, I can remember to look at the heart of person I just don’t get, that I would seek to understand them better, even if we are both looking for different things.

sober

It’s a short distance from the recruiters office to our house but the silence heading home made it feel as if it was twice as long of a trip. We are now five days out and reality is settling in.

Sergeant Hall stood before four families and spoke in detail as to what to expect over the next few days and weeks while our boys are at boot camp. He was thorough and answered all questions with kindness and I appreciated his desire to prepare us. However, his details and tips left my imagination wander as it pleased and my brain began playing games with my heart. The next thirteen weeks? I cannot fathom what Tristan will endure. As a mother, as MY sons mother, the recruiters words were daunting because I know they will soon be a reality. I had known boot camp was one of the hardest endeavors EVER, but sitting and listening to our sons Marine recruiter share honestly and openly as to what to prepare for left a very large lump in my throat that only crying freed.

Sober. 

My Grandfather served in the Navy and my Uncle Dick, the Army. Outside of that, we have no military experience as a family except we proudly stand, we honor, we show respect and more times than not, my husband pays for an enlisted service man or woman’s meal. Our reality is pushing us far beyond prepping for summer camp and college. Those are both HARD things but this is going to be a new way living life for us all and that realization is sinking deep within my soul and I find myself grasping for something known in a world of unknowns and my hands fumble.

Sober.

Maybe it’s all just a little real because our oldest daughter also enlisted (just six days ago) and will serve in the Navy. She ships off to boot camp FIVE days after our sons graduates from his. My children are giving my heart a run for its money because we will endure twenty-two weeks of back-to-back boot camps and from there…well, I’ll think about that another time.

And maybe it’s because I haven’t slept well over the last week because I’ve allowed my brain and my heart to wonder and worry over details and tips I have no clue of and maybe, just maybe it’s because just days ago I had the honor of shaking the hand of Marine Sergeant Zachary Stinson who is a hometown hero that served our country in Afghanistan in 2010. Google him please if you want to know what honor and integrity look like. That hand shake drove it home fast and hard. This is all increasingly real because men like Zach are real. They are not just actors in some movie. They are someone’s son and at one time he showed up for boot camp, willing and ready to serve like the rest.

Just like his younger brother is now…with my son.

Sober. 

I realize the lump in my throat that only crying frees has been the same lump I’ve had when I rise to my feet and summon my heart to stand at attention before our great flag and the men and women who represent it. It’s the realization that many have paid the tab for me and have never forwarded me the bill and for that, I’m indebted. It is sobering knowing they showed up scared but brave and gave their all and here I sit, in my house, seemingly unaffected with relatively no clue of the cost. But today I realize the cost, even if in minuscule ways. Maybe all mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers and loved ones understand the cost a bit more as they prepare to say good-bye…I know I do and I haven’t even begun to cross the threshold that most have.

My sobriety brings with it a large range of emotions and I know that’s ok. I am letting them come and go and I tarry on. I am proud most minutes, but I would be the world’s biggest liar if I said I haven’t been found in the kitchen crying over small things because the big things feel too great to bear. It’s loves great weight and it’s heavy. Period. Sobriety brings with it the knowledge that though love is heavy and hard, it also bears ALL things, believes ALL things, hopes ALL things, and endures ALL thing. It is where I choose to live from. Everything we encounter in life…every person and every situation is an opportunity to be both a teacher and student…learning WHO love is, being WHO love is and the great thing is, we don’t necessarily GET TO CHOOSE which we will be. Teacher or Student? We become what is needed.

Sober.

My great commisssion is this: Live and love today, as fully and purposefully as you can. Letting go in life is continual and I don’t believe it ever gets easy. If there is anything I could tell young mama’s in the thick of raising up littles, it is this: Don’t waste your time away wishing they’d grow up so you can have some semblence of the life you knew before kids back. Being a parent is one of the greatest gifts God has given so pour into your kids when they are small and then step back as they grow, mature and independently think and act. Give them room to become WHO they were created to be. Give them freedom to make mistakes and victoriously march ahead and cheer them on as loud as you can during BOTH with every ounce of LOVE in you.

Becuase there is so much love in you and leting go is what we’re to do.

Love covers all, this I will hold onto and you should too no matter what stage of life you are in. Love will cover my son and his friends. Love will remain with me and go with them and will teach us ALL in between our time together how to let go, stand back proud and cheer loud, FOR one another.

It is what Love does. Love abides in us, for us, through us TO them. It’s the great circle of life and I choose gratitude in each and every season.

 

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