"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown

"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Believe in Hope - A Post by My Sister

I haven't been able to write a thing about those precious children. 

Not a thing.

I just haven't gotten the words out right and I believe if there are to be words shared for these children, for these parents, for the teachers and families ... they must be perfect. My sister sent me something last night and I asked if I could share it. Thanks, Em.

I believe in hope.

You know, as I sit here tweaking the midterm my students will take Thursday, my heart and my mind and my spirit keeps going to Connecticut. I’ve never been there. I’m not even confident that I could point it out on a map. But right now Nightline is doing an in-depth report on the troubled twenty year-old who has changed countless lives forever. And I’m sad.

As a woman who has dedicated her professional life to educating teenagers, I’m sad. As a mother to five living children, I’m sad. But as a mother to one precious deceased son, I ache. I ache for those mothers with a closet full of gifts that will never be opened in the magic of Christmas morning. Those grandmothers, staying with their grieving daughters, who fell to the floor sobbing this morning as they pulled from the dryer play clothes that will never be worn again.  I ache for those fathers facing a powerlessness no man can be prepare himself to feel.

And yet—I still believe in hope.

My favorite song in the whole, wide world is a quiet, simple Christian song called “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.” While I treasure each word, each note, each inflection, this is the part that makes God real for me: “How deep the pain of searing loss. The father turns His face away. As wounds which mar the chosen one bring many sons to glory.”

How deep the pain of searing loss.


And yet—I still believe in hope.

The answer to this tragedy may or may not be stricter gun laws. It may or may not be armed policemen at every school. It may or may not be increased awareness of and understanding about mental illnesses. But the answer to this tragedy is hope.

Hope that one day soon this common humanity that we’re all feeling will “stick” and we’ll do more to really care for each other. Hope that peace and kindness replaces “lose ten pounds by Valentine’s Day” on our resolution lists. Hope that I’ll get to do laundry for all of my kids for as long as I live.

“For this I know with all my heart. His wounds have paid my ransom.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Coffee" Talk

To the Spouses of the 7-10 CAV Coffee Group:

Tonight (in my bright pink, footie pajamas) I spent too much time saying things that weren't even remotely what I wanted to say. 

It came out jumbled and confused and not even the slightest bit eloquent. I couldn't begin to put into words what I was feeling in my heart. If I could, I would like to try again.

K, it seems fitting that my last coffee would be at your house since your first was at mine. I have known you for the least amount of time but you are one of a very small handful of people that I instantly knew would play an important role in my life. You have been a listening ear from the get-go, a guide, a role-model, a calming force. You filled a void that so many of us were greatly needing. Thank you for allowing me to learn from you. Thank you for being present. Thank you for the guidance and joy I know you will continue to bring.

When I left my "family" at Fort Campbell, I never thought I could have those same friendships again.  When I came to this post, I thought that statement was to be proven true ... and then I came to this unit. I have been overwhelmed by the intense love and respect and care of every single one of you. The friendships made in this life ... well there just isn't a comparison. I have held your babies, watched newer spouses grow. I have seen some hard, hard times that have been pushed through. We have shared meals, Thanksgivings, football. Shared wine. Shared tears and I couldn't be more grateful for the strength you have passed along to me. 

I have watched very good friends leave this unit and to J, and L, and C, and my very best, B, the very short time we had together is something I will always cherish. I think our relationship to one another is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of camaraderie and I am grateful for every time we had together. That last picture will be framed in the next house. I can promise you. 

M, I said tonight that I know you will take care of these families that I am trying to learn to call "yours" rather than "mine". That transition and "passing-on" will be the hardest one of all for me. There are so many young spouses wanting so much to be guided and led and shown how to thrive. They are such an awesome group of women. Incredible. They have taught me so much about myself and about who I want to be. They have done so much to define who I am. They will test you, and challenge you, and you will be better for it. You will be a better leader because of who these women are. They are strong and eager and willing to serve. They are what I am most proud of. 

S, I was so worried about not being able to say what I wanted to say that I almost didn't get it out at all. You have been my "proving it wrong". You have been a force of good that I needed to see and learn from. You have been respectful of my decisions, encouraging, and guiding. You have allowed me to see how hard what you do can be and you manage it in a way I cannot understand. You are what the families of this unit need most. You are present and open and welcoming. You have handled absolute ignorance with grace and poise. You have offered a friendship that has been a challenge for me to understand and accept. You have been the epitome of what it is to mentor. You have never hesitated to step in and explain what I had not yet experienced for myself while always encouraging, always guiding. You have listened to some of my biggest worries and have acknowledged them rather than belittling. I cannot thank you enough for that. The idea of not having you so close is difficult to process. "Thank You" is not enough.

Leaving this unit marks my C leaving combat arms. It marks a major change for our family. Your loved ones will remain. I have been honored to stand with you. I have been honored to fight through with you. I have been humbled by the goodness surrounding every single one of you who steps up to serve. I am grateful that our families will continue to have you beside them. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to know you and share in your journeys. Day in and day out I am reminded of how very blessed I have been by you ladies. I hope that I have given back at least a portion of what you have given me. Words are not enough.

This life is full of comings-and-goings, comings-and-goings. Time goes by too quickly - much too quickly. There is always more to do, more to finish, more to start. Good-byes never get easier. Leaving never lightens the heart. But there is a comfort in knowing how small our world is, how intertwined our paths really are. 

Thank you for building so much of who I am. Thank you for being the good, for finding the joy. Thank you for your kindness and comfort. 

"I'll see you when I see you. And I hope it's someday soon."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

One in Ninety

 I am richly blessed in my family and in my friendships. Richly blessed.

Yesterday was a difficult day for C and I. I cried my makeup off not once, not twice, but three times. I was a splotchy, puffy mess. I just couldn't get through saying it without the tears coming. Not once. I cried every single time.

For much of the day I really was in complete shock. 

Total shock. I just ... I understood the reasoning. I did. I agreed with what she said. I just. couldn't. grasp. it.

It truly, truly, never entered my mind. Maybe somewhere in the back of it when the head-banging started but not really - more so just that I knew that that happens sometimes in these children. I still don't know exactly what I think about it. I don't think I will until we know more.

There are just moments when you don't understand why things come to be. That is where I was for much of yesterday. I just didn't understand why this was happening.

One blessing came so great and unexpected I cannot explain it. It just isn't mine to tell. But it never ceases to knock me to my knees how quickly goodness can come during a difficult time. Some things fall into place in a way you never could have known. Things make sense. The world makes sense - for at least a moment. 

It brought a comfort and a hope and a relief I cannot explain. It was just what I needed, just when I needed it. 

1 in 90 military children receive the diagnosis. 1 in 90. 

That really is such a big ... small ... that's so many kiddos.

Eli is being evaluated for autism. 

I don't ... 

We don't know anything yet. I don't think I ever reached anger. I hate having another thing that we don't know but it never reached anger. I don't think I ever made it past shock. 

I just kept thinking about the Cystic Fibrosis testing Eli went through. About how we never saw that coming. How we never expected that first result that called for weeks and weeks and weeks of further testing. I felt like I was punched in the gut when Dr. T called us after that first round ... I can still remember that exact moment. 

And it was when I was explaining that feeling to my sister that she reminded me what exactly it is that we are facing. That if this is our new reality, it will be a life-change, quite possible a major life-change, but that I won't be worrying about whether or not my baby boy will need a lung transplant some day or if I would outlive him (the nightmare I had again and again during that testing). That if it was between the two, this we can handle. This will not take my child's life. This is something that there are resources upon resources to help my son work through this, to help us work through this. This will force me to learn patience (which I greatly lack). This makes me cherish the time Eli spent cuddling on my chest this morning all the more. This makes me value every single word that comes out of his mouth - even though they are hard to understand and most often single words and not sentences, but, goodness, I will take them.

I have seen the mothers of these kiddos and I have been awed by their strength and their patience and their determination. I have wondered how they do it. I knew when reading a very special message sent from someone that has molded so much of who I am, that that strength comes from fierce, unconditional love. That determination comes from the promise every momma makes that child the first time they hold them in their arms - that we will protect them against every harm.

Whatever comes ... and we were told this process will most likely take some time because he is so young ... he is our baby. He's my lil' Eli. He walked early. He climbed early. He has always been our little "challenge". He has challenged our patience. He's smart and mischievous and has forced me to be more vigilant and attentive. I have questioned myself as a mother. And I hate saying that but I have questioned repeatedly what I am doing wrong. Why I can't always communicate. Why I just can't calm him down.

This may not be this. It could be me. It could be something else. We'll see what they say.

There is no place He takes us that we cannot thrive. No challenge we face that cannot be overcome. No change in our life that doesn't allow for a positive change in us.