Why this Christ Follower is over Christmas…

Christmas 1987.
I was seven and I was very aware of some things going on in our home.
I knew that we were very poor, not destitute, but only one missed day of work from it.
I knew that my dad was worthless in the fiscal department, making him my Momma’s third child.
And I knew that Christmas was stressing my momma out.
I watched her whole demeanor change shortly after Thanksgiving. She went from being okay to being depressed. Her “can-do” attitude transformed to the “give-up” attitude. And at seven years old, I knew why: She had no idea how she was going to afford presents for my sister and I. She was going over her bills in her mind thinking of which one she could skip, even though she knew the snowball effect from it would devastate the delicate ecosystem of “getting by” that she had designed. She didn’t have credit. Daddy had ruined that for her long ago…right along with her pride. She couldn’t ask her family for help either because they all needed the same. So, there she was, depressed, working her fingers to the bone, wondering how the hell she was gonna give her little girls something for Christmas. And as much as she tried to pretend everything was okay and as much as she tried to hide her tears….I knew.
And as much as she had tried to redirect the true meaning of Christmas back to the priceless birth of Jesus, her family had already bought into the secular aspect of it.
Three days ago, I stood in a store in front of a lady, waiting for her to ask my friend and I, “can I help you?”, but she couldn’t put her phone down long enough to bother. I stared at her with my aggravated eyes, not bothering to listen to what she was saying to the person on the phone. I thought to myself, “I’m gonna ask to speak to her supervisor as soon as she puts that phone down”, but then I saw it. I saw the look in her eyes. It was a look of panic and stress. It was a look of defeat that I had seen before and I knew. I knew because I had seen that same look every year in my own Momma’s eyes at this time. Then I begin to listen to what she was saying, right in front of me, to that person on the phone, “but sir, I cannot send any money until after the first of the year”, “yes sir, I understand, but I just can’t send anything until then”. I wonder which bill she wasn’t paying to buy presents for her family? I wonder if she even knows why we celebrate Christmas? It didn’t look like much of a celebration to her. She looked like she couldn’t wait for the holidays to be over. I wonder if anyone has ever told her that it’ll be okay if you don’t meet the standards of the world? I wonder if she knows that it’s okay to just give love? I wonder if she knows that just meeting the basic needs of her family should be gift enough for them? I wonder if she realizes that every time she looks at the gifts she gave her children, she will think, “that toy was my light bill money”? I wonder if she knows that she’s already bitter about this season? I wonder if she knows that her children will still love her even if she doesn’t get them the latest and greatest gadget? I wonder if she knows that the smiles and appreciation she will receive after the gift is given, will be temporary?
I wonder if she’ll ever grasp the real reason of it all…
I wonder if she knows that every good and perfect gift comes from Him?

It’s the expectation that I’m over. It’s the fake, “it’s-better-to-give-than-receive” bull crap saying that people tell themselves as they swipe that overused credit card, that I’m over. It’s the pressure to meet the standard that I’m over. I’m over it for the people that can’t bare that pressure. I’m over it because my Buddhist friend and my atheist friend both have freakin Christmas trees up in their homes. What exactly are they celebrating? The spirit of giving? I’m over what it does to hard working people like my momma and the lady behind the counter.
I’m over the secularized version of Christmas. Over. it. Don’t do it. Don’t buy into it. Don’t let your kids buy into it.
If your Christmas has become anything other than the celebration of the birth of Christ, please, please, redirect it. I’m not saying, “don’t buy gifts”. I’m saying, “don’t buy into the pressure of meeting the standards of what the world has made Christmas”.
It’s free.

Alligator Mouth

I’ve let my alligator mouth overload my tadpole rearend about a hundred times in the last few weeks concerning our place of worship.
Okay, a hundred times is a bit of an exaggeration…more like twice, but still.
And my heart aches and I cringe every time I think of what I’ve said and how I’ve mishandled the issue.
I’ve torn it down even further, with my alligator mouth.
And, so here I am, begging for forgiveness, embarrassed, angry, and humbled all at the same time.
And then God gives it to me:
“Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the alter of The Lord that had been torn down”.
1 Kings 18:30
I read that verse and one word grabbed my attention: repaired.
Elijah was repairing the alter for sacrifice after the people that were intended to use it had torn it down, because they didn’t need it anymore…they were serving idols.
Repaired equals restoration.
Elijah restored it.
He placed twelve stones representing the tribes of Israel there at the alter in the name of The Lord.
And then…
Fire fell.
So, I’m reading this and I must ask myself a hard question:
What idol am I serving that is tearing down my place of worship?
I can very easily answer that…
I’m self serving.
And as a counselor I cannot begin to tell you how that makes my insides feel…but the truth is the truth.
And as a follower of Christ, I know nothing in this life is about me.
One good thing about the truth…it’ll set you free.
And that’s why He came, so we would be set free…

Lord, thank you for knowing my heart and for your forgiveness and for your revelations.
Thank you for restoring your church unto yourself.
Lord, let me not tear it down any further with my words or deeds.
Lord, help us repair it.
And Lord, let your holy fire fall down.
Amen.

My today is his yesterday.

“My today is his yesterday”. 

That’s what my friend said to me about her husband who is serving a tour of duty in Korea. 

What a beautiful revelation of time. 

Time. 

It’s what both plagues and blesses the military spouse. 

It surrounds every aspect of our military lives.

How long will he be gone? 

What time is PT? 

How long will we be stationed here? 

When are you coming home? 

When is the next four day? three day? 

Training holiday? 

What time is it there, where he is? 

What day is it there, where he is? 

What major mile markers will he miss during his time away? 

Holidays? 

And when you know he’s leaving, you count the months, the days, the hours, the seconds and you absorb them as much as you can. 

And it’s the same when he returns: You countdown time. 

How many more years until he can retire or get out? 

Time. 

It’s something no one can escape. 

It’s something no one should take for granted. 

And I am so thankful and humbled to know that I serve a God that knew me and my husband before the foundation of time. 

My God, who remains the same yesterday, today, and forever. 

I serve a timeless God. 

And I pray that you do too. 

 

 

 

 

Memorial Day

It’s fast approaching and unfortunately for us, we have added three more names to our list of remembrances and they’ve all three been since the beginning of the year. 

My friend who lost her husband only 3 short months ago has one major concern: That people will forget her. Obviously, that’s preposterous to me, but I understand. 

His name flashed at the bottom of the screen for a brief second and life moved on. 

But, she’s still in the interim of grief and a new normal. 

A normal, that really will never be normal again. 

And she’s right…that’s a sacrifice that should NEVER be forgotten. 

So, this Memorial Day:

Enjoy that barbecue and the extra day off, but DO NOT forget why you have it. 

Explain to your children why we have it.

Pray for the families that have lost their soldier.

Remember them, always.

Thank them. 

And if you are blessed enough to know one of these families, send them a note. 

Let them know that you haven’t forgotten them and that you never will. 

That old man, with his WWII hat on, with all the badges, sit down and talk to him. 

The Vietnam Vet, the one who came home to a country that maybe wasn’t so nice to him…talk to him too.

I bet he knows a few names on The Wall.

And the young guy missing a limb…talk to him.

Let’s make an effort to remember on this upcoming Memorial Day.

Let’s never forget together.  

 

 

Military Ceremony & FLAG ETIQUETTE

In my years as an Army wife, I have attended more military ceremonies than I can recall.

There’s a beauty to them, that I love.

Recently, I attended a ball for my husband’s unit.

I love standing beside him as he stands at attention, as he salutes, as he works his way through the ceremonial rituals.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand as our Nation’s color’s are presented”.

I stand and wait for the cue of my husband because I know that he knows which way the flag will be brought in.

He turns to face the back of the room, standing at attention.

I turn, AND PLACE MY HAND OVER MY HEART.

We watch the flag enter with the color guard as the drums are rolling.

It’s beautiful, as it gently flutters in the breeze from being carried.

As it passes, we turn with it until it makes it’s way on stage and I stand there with MY HAND STILL OVER MY HEART.

And I keep it there until the presenting of the colors ceremony is finished.

I look around and I only see a handful of wives doing the same as me.

I gasped as I saw some of them talking!

HOW DARE YOU TALK DURING THAT!!!

YOUR HUSBAND LAYS HIS LIFE ON THE LINE FOR THAT FLAG!

AND IT’LL BE THE LAST THING YOU’RE HANDED IF HIS LIFE IS TAKEN DEFENDING IT.

So, please…please, please, please show some respect for your Nation’s Flag.

If it passes you in a parade: PUT YOUR HAND OVER YOUR HEART AND FOLLOW IT BY TURNING YOUR BODY AS IT PASSES AND DO NOT TALK.

If it is being presented or retired by the color guard: DO THE SAME THING LISTED ABOVE.

If you are unsure: AGAIN, DO THE SAME THING LISTED ABOVE.

And for further information concerning our NATION’S FLAG: click here.

Thank you for your time.

 

His Hands

Image

His hands…they’re my favorite. 

They’re big and strong. 

Callused from hard work. 

Gentle. 

Firm. 

Quick. 

Slow. 

I pray for those hands…

to be a blessing. 

to protect. 

to be protected. 

to be used for the kingdom. 

to lead our family and to lead his men.

to dial my number, so I can hear his voice. 

to type an email, so I can read his thoughts. 

to write me a letter, because he knows I love those unexpected things.

I pray for those hands as he picks up his bag to leave. 

And I pray for those hands as they embrace me upon return. 

“Praise the Lord, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle. He is my loving ally and my fortress, my tower of safety, my rescuer. He is my shield, and I take refuge in him. He makes the nations submit to me”. -Psalms 144:1-2

 

 

Civilian Friends, Listen Up!

Something you should understand, as a “civilian”, about your military spouse friends:

Time is our most precious asset with our spouse, so if it can be spent with them, instead of you, please understand and do not get offended. REMEMBER our husbands do NOT work a regular 9-5, so we don’t get to see them everyday. One day we can give you all of our attention and the next, we can’t. It’s not you. It’s nothing personal. It’s our life. Be excited for us when our husband returns. Don’t get your panties in a wad because we can’t meet for lunch or hang out on the weekends as much. Again, it’s nothing personal. It’s a priority thing. And we are not using you as a distraction while our husbands are gone, either, so get that out of your head. We want to be friends with you, but we want you to understand our lifestyle and respect it. And if we make it through all of this and we find ourself geographically separated from you, don’t forget us.

 

 

 

The Morning After

Naturally, we congregated and there we sat, the morning after, still in a daze.

Confused.

Shocked.

Remembering.

Grief etched on our faces and heard in every word spoken.

God?

It’s hard to see You through this pain, this grief, this wailing wall,

this interim.

This interim of time between grief and heaven.

Because we all feel it, right? At some point or another, we are in that time. That time of in-between.

Remember in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John the day after Jesus dies on the cross?

In Matthew, it just says that the priests (the same priests that yelled “CRUCIFY”) went to Pilot to have the tomb where He lay, sealed and guarded.

That’s the only account of the in-between Jesus dying for you and the resurrected Jesus to give you life more abundantly.

What did the disciples do?

Well, we know they congregated, because on the third day, resurrected Jesus was among them.

I bet they were the same as us: dazed, confused, shocked, grief-stricken, wailing, hopeless.

Remembering.

Questioning.

Still following, but maybe struggling with the follow.

Waiting.

Waiting for the in-between to be over.

One of my most favorite verses in the Bible: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint” Isaiah 40:31.

Some versions use the word “trust” instead of “wait”.

They that trust.

They that trust in the in-between, shall renew their strength.

So, whatever you’re in-between…

Sickness.

Deployment.

Terrible twos.

Marriage woes.

Divorce.

Finances.

Grief.

Trust Him.

Wait for Him.

Hope in Him.

Sometimes it’ll be hard.

But, keep on keepin’ on.

Because you know what?

On the third day…

He rose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The boy.

You just gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.

He has hair!

What a blessing, as not all babies have hair.

He’s so small. Fragile.

You nurse him. The bond is strong.

You thank God for him.

His first smile is saved just for you.

His face lights up when he sees you.

Your voice is the one that calms his cries.

You hear his first word “da-da”. His happy sound.

You know he really meant to say “ma-ma”.

You hold him and you hold him tight.

You rock him to sleep.

You change him.

You bath him.

You feed him.

You pray for him.

You love him.

You watch him grow.

Toddling turns to walking.

Walking turns to running.

Boys are active!

You chase him.

You entertain him.

You teach him.

You sing to him.

You answer him.

You watch him.

You play games with him.

When he falls, you pick him up.

Clumsiness turns to confidence.

Words come easily.

Up, up, up he grows.

He’s too big to pick up when he falls now, but you’re there anyway.

When he’s sick, you nurse him back to health.

His body is changing.

His voice, deeper.

You are proud of the man he is becoming.

You protect him.

You watch out for him.

You continue to nurture this growing child into a man.

You squabble, a little, but he respects you.

He does what you ask.

And before you know it…it’s time.

It’s time to let him go and be a man.

It’s time to let him live his purpose and fulfill his destiny.

Reluctantly, you let him go.

You watch from afar, now.

And he goes.

He soars.

He does everything and more than you ever dreamed.

He’s healing the sick.

He’s raising the dead.

Demons tremble in His presence.

He’s The One.

He’s prophecy fulfilled.

You always knew He was.

But, you still expect to see Him toddle around the corner.

Your son, the Son of Man.

Here to save us all.

But, you hear the rumors.

You hear the threats.

You feel the tension.

You don’t understand because He’s the one.

He’s the one they’ve been wanting.

He’s the one they’ve read about.

He’s the one they’ve waited on their whole lives.

He’s here, flesh and blood, He’s here!

He’s the one, you know He’s the one.

The Angel told you He was.

And He’s yours.

Blessed.

That’s what they said when they knew you were carrying Him in your womb.

Blessed?

Blessed to see the very lives He came to save, curse Him?

Blessed to see them beat Him?

Blessed to see Him near death?

Blessed to see Him nailed to a cross?

Blessed to have your heart ripped out of your chest?

Blessed?

Blessed to hear Him speak to you as He died?

Dear woman, here is your son“.

John?

You don’t want John!

You want Him!

Why doesn’t He just do what you know He can do and come off that cross?

It is finished“.

And you watch them pierce His side.

Haven’t they done enough?

He’s gone.

Pain. You feel pain.

The grief is too great to bare.

They drag you away from Him.

You’d stay there forever.

Blessed?

This isn’t blessed.

But He’s the one.

You know He’s the one.

Blessed?

It doesn’t feel like you’re blessed.

Not in the way you want to be.

But you knew.

You knew.

Deep down in your soul…you knew.

He had to die.

Time is standing still, as you remember.

You remember the runny nose that you wiped clean.

You remember the rocking of the babe to sleep.

You remember picking Him up.

Holding Him.

You remember every detail of His tiny face.

You remember every detail of His man face.

You remember searching for Him when He was a boy and finding Him in His Father’s house.

You remember later depending on Him.

Dear Woman, My time has not yet come“.

Remembering brings waves of grief.

Grief turns to despair.

Despair turns to angst.

You didn’t think it was supposed to be like this.

You mourn.

You groan.

You long for your son.

Death is so final.

This cannot be the end.

Blessed?

 

 

They come to interrupt your grief.

He’s what?

What do they mean “He’s not there”?

Where is He?

Risen?

Wait.

What do they mean?

Risen?

He’s not there?

 

Confusion turns to understanding.

Understanding turns to joy.

You smile.

You rejoice.

He said “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up“.

That’s what He said!

Yes, of course, He’s Risen!

Blessed?

Yes, now you understand.

Yes, blessed.

Blessed as the vessel that gave life to The One that would give His life for all.

Yes, blessed.

Blessed to see Him fulfill every scripture.

Blessed to know He is risen.

And yes, blessed to see Him die, though the grief was overwhelming.

Blessed to be a part of a life that would change the World forever.

 

 

 

 

 

The Return

It’s early, might as well get up.

You didn’t sleep anyway.

Maybe, somehow, you’ll be able to hide the bags under your eyes with makeup.

The coffee is percolating, you’re alone, and you glance around your home.

You spent all day yesterday and the day before making sure the house is spotless.

No random piles of clutter are to be seen and there’s not a dust bunny in sight.

A slow smile forms on your lips and there are butterflies in your belly.

It’s gonna be a good day!

Food has no taste, but you eat a little anyway to sustain you.

You get through your morning routine as time takes an eternity to pass.

You spend extra time getting everything just right with how you look.

Make-up is perfect.

Hair is perfect.

Not a hair on your legs.

Outfit is hot!

You check yourself one more time in the mirror…

and there’s that smile again.

The one you haven’t seen yourself make in a very long time.

And off you go for the longest ride ever.

Miniature flag in hand.

Welcome home poster in the other.

A smile so big, happiness is undeniable.

Excited chatter is everywhere, but you hear nothing.

You’re scanning the crowd waiting on a glimpse…

a glimpse of the one you haven’t seen in too long…

a glimpse of the one you gave your heart to and promised forever…

a glimpse.

Eyes. Meet.

You run.

Powerful embrace.

Tears stream.

The return kiss.

Two smiles, instead of one.

And you think…

“Finally, he’s home”…

No more restless nights.

Worry diminishes because he’s flesh and blood in your arms.

No more single parenting.

No more alone.

And no more waiting…

The exhilaration that you both feel is almost too much to bear.

He’s home.

Praise the Lord.

He’s home.