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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

The Commissary and Coffee

They call them “rumors”, but I personally feel they should be called “threats”.

Threats to take our retirement away, threats in pay cuts, threats to close commissaries, threats all around.

And now, I guess it’s just a matter of time based on what I read here…because I see NO WAY the commissary can stay open with a $1 billion dollar hit!

I drive exactly 30 minutes to grocery shop at our commissary.

I go for the savings.

I got tired of the drive a while back and decided to shop at Publix, which happens to be a few miles from my home, just to see how big the difference would be and to make sure the gas I was using to drive the 30 minutes was worth it.

I have never been so embarrassed in my life!

Why?

Because I walked away from the cash register and told the cashier to put everything back.

My budget allows me to spend NO MORE than $250 at one time on groceries per paycheck. That is completely feasible for us and solely based on shopping at the commissary (come to find out). My Publix trip was at $335 with the conveyor belt full of what was left when I walked away. That was FOUR years ago.

Publix, yes I know, is a more expensive grocery store, but the convenience was enticing.

I’ve tried Wal-Mart as well. Didn’t work out there either.

My absolute favorite purchase at our commissary is Chock full o’ Nuts coffee. Why? Because it’s the best damn coffee that has EVER tickled my taste buds! It is smooth, creamy, and I would pick it over a $5 cup of coffee any day of the week! It’s A-MAZ-ING!!! Why everyone doesn’t drink it, is beyond me! Because I promise—if you are a coffee drinker and you try it just one time, you will NEVER look back!

Moving on…

At Publix, it’s $10.99 per 11.9 oz can and sometimes $11.99 and Publix is the only place around here that sells our brand.

At the commissary, it’s $6.99 (for the same sized can) and SOMETIMES, they will put it on sale for $5.99!!!

SAY WHAT?!?

AND rarely, and I mean VERY rarely, I will find a coupon for it and OMG at the savings!!!

Yeah, I know, it’s just coffee.

But WE LOVE coffee and not just any coffee…we LOVE CHOCK FULL O’ NUTS!!!

That’s our thing.

When my husband is home, our most treasured times are spent sipping coffee together before the sun comes up and the kids get out of bed. I could never formulate words for how important that time is to us…and it’s all centered around our cups of coffee.

But, when the commissary closes, we will still spend our mornings together drinking coffee, but it won’t be the same. Why? Because we won’t be able to afford the brand we love. I bare minimum buy as it is and I meal plan to a fault. If the commissary closes, our lifestyle will drastically change. There will be no way I will be able to maintain our $250 budget not shopping there. So, we will have to readjust and see what we will need to give up. House? no. Car? no. Phones? no. It’ll be little things like cable and coffee.

And you know what pisses me off the most about it?

This article right here.

Congress spends about $2 million on coffee and pastries—and that was written LAST YEAR!

If the commissary closes, it will give me so much comfort to know that my tax dollars are being spent on THEIR coffee, while I will no longer be able to afford mine—said NO ONE EVER!!!

This is ridiculous.

OUR MILITARY MAKES UP LESS THAN 1% OF OUR POPULATION!!!

LESS THAN 1%, CONGRESS!!!

And you cut the commissary budget?

And our COLA?

And possibly our retirement?

And we get a pay cut?

How about you pay for your own damn coffee and pastries!?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

25 Life Hacks for the Military Wife

1. Buy a drill: Learn how to use it.

2. Familiarize yourself with resources: both military and civilian (MyCAA, Pell Grants, WIC, AER, counseling services, Child and Youth Services, etc). P.S. There should be NO SHAME in taking advantage of assistance if you need it—your husband works for the government, so if anyone deserves it—your family does!

3. Meal plan. Endless resources can be found for this on Pinterest. Ramen noodles are NOT a meal plan…like, EVER.

4. Date Night. Prioritize this with your man. Husband gone? Do yourself a favor and date night with some other wives whose husbands are also gone. It does your soul some good to get out of the house and have adult conversation.

5. Budget. Teach yourself how to make one and discipline yourself to stick to it.

6. Contingency plans…because you never know when you may have an emergency, so make some plans in the event that you do. These include (but are not limited to) babysitting, pet sitting, house sitting, what to do if your car breaks down, sink stopped up, etc.

7. Learn to change a tire.

8. Boundaries. Get some if you don’t have them already…and that goes for family too! You don’t need everyone up in ya b’ness.

9. The commissary/PX/where your husband works is never a good place to wear pajama pants. Actually NO WHERE in public is a good place to wear those. Get you some jeans—put them on!

10. GPS—will be your best friend! Familiarize yourself with your surroundings: go explore your town. Learn short-cuts. Recognize that everything looks the same on post, so work that GPS—work it real good;)

11. See someone with nice hair? Ask her who her stylist is. You NEED to know this. Ombre is pretty, black roots are not.

12. Tricare. Did you know you don’t HAVE TO BE SEEN ON POST (even if you live on post)? Did you also know that not all ailments (despite popular military physicians beliefs) can be cured with motrin and hydration and that feelings can be expressed without a diagnosis of depression? Learn it. Make it work for you and yours.

13. Yellow ribbons? Take them down. This isn’t 1940. People don’t need to know half your heart is in Iraq. People are crazy. (This goes for your cute bumper stickers, as well).

14. It probably wouldn’t hurt to learn some basic self-defense—just sayin’.

15. The weed whacker doesn’t work itself…neither does the lawn mower (or, budget pending, you could just pay for that service).

16. Hydrate! I know I just said that that wasn’t a cure for everything, but this military life will lend you a lot of sweat and tears…so, drink up! FYI, the sweat and tears are totally worth it:)

17. Unless otherwise decided upon, major purchases while your husband is deployed are rarely a good thing. Save. Save. Save. Wait. Wait. Wait.

18. Participate in FRG, but if you CHOOSE TO NOT participate, don’t run your mouth about it.

19. “Daddy’s gone” is not an excuse for bad behavior from your child. You’re going to be a single parent—like, a lot—so learn to deal with issues together and separately. Will emotions run high? Yes. Are there going to be times where your child/children is off the chain? Yes. Learn and teach some coping skills and you’ll get through it—or sit in the middle of the floor and cry (whatever works). If your emotions are out of control, chances are your child’s will be too.

20. Basic sewing skills could save you a ton of money. Patches come loose, so does velcro.

21. Your husband’s rank is his—not yours. PERIOD.

22. Patience is a virtue and you might as well accept needing it because “hurry up and wait” will be your life’s motto until your husband retires. So, I will tell you like I tell my kids (and myself, sometimes): Find your patience. Is it in your pocket? Get it back out and put it on.

23. Network. Strike up a conversation. Make some friends. Don’t trudge through this alone.

24. Invest in yourself. Take a class, decorate a cake, run, paint, journal, do something.

25. Pray.

 

Ten Commandments of the Military Marriage

A few years ago, our Sunday School class watched a series by Ed and Lisa Young.

In the series, they discussed marriage and they made a list entitled “The Ten Commandments of Marriage”.

It was a pretty good list and can be found here.

But, it didn’t really cater to the military lifestyle, although they are still applicable to your marriage: nevertheless…

This inspired me to write the Ten Commandments for the Military Marriage.

1. Flee from temptation: Guard your hearts. 

(inappropriate friendships, flirting via text or facebook, pornography, chat rooms, any type of sexual material, and wives: if you can’t face the reality of your life not being  a romance novel or movie or equivalent in some manner, then please do not read or watch those types of things…it’ll distort your standard).

2. Do not go AWOL on your marriage.

Our divorce rates are higher than civilians. Don’t believe me? Google it. I’m not here to speak statistics to you, though. If you live it, you know it. You’ve had to fight to stay together before. Hell, you’ve probably had to fight to WANT to stay together. Fight for the want and DO NOT give up. Don’t leave.

3. Know your place in the chain-of-command. 

Wives, you are NOT the commander-in-chief. Husbands? Let God be your commander-in-chief and you be the VP. Husbands, YOU will be held accountable for your family. Wives, you nurture. Husbands, you lead. Realign yourself in those positions and do not get out of order.

4. Communicate! 

I remember when the war first kicked off, communication was pretty much nonexistent—that’s rarely the case anymore, so use what you have to communicate, whether e-mail, skype, yahoo messenger, snail mail, whatever….but, USE your words, people! Use morse code if you have to! And if you’re home together, don’t waste your precious time being sulled up over stupid, petty things that won’t matter in the big picture of life!

Lonely? Let your spouse know, so they can fill that void! Angry? Talk it out. Scared? Pray. Pray together. Have an expectation that isn’t being met? Does your spouse even know about the expectation? Not unless you tell them!

Keep your communication lines open. Be honest with one another.

5. Set a COA–uphold it! 

(Course of Action)

Set standards and family guidelines and uphold them when you’re together and when you’re geographically separated (i.e. finances, sex, quality time, etc).

6. Be disciplined!

I believe one of the most appealing things about the military is the discipline that comes with being involved within it—whether one wants to admit it or not—people crave discipline. Oh, how easy it would be to not be disciplined! An apathetic attitude isn’t that hard to achieve or maintain. But, listen, marriage is hard work! You know that. SO, to achieve the results you want (successful marriage), you have to be disciplined and you have to be willing to sacrifice the easy for the hard, sometimes. Quitting is easy—but keep your goals in sight! Be diligent, work hard, and don’t give up!

7. Pick your battles!

Lord, help us all to do this. Help us to realize that we are not in control!

The reality for us military wives is this: anytime you say “goodbye”, could literally be your last goodbye. You don’t want that goodbye littered with bickering that wasn’t necessary. By no means am I suggesting that one ignore major issues, but I am asking that you not nag your spouse to death over little things.

8. Embrace your time together and use it wisely.

Enjoy each other. Enjoy family time. Go on a picnic. Plan a vacation. Make memories. Take pictures and take a lot of them. Wives, make memories with your children while your husband is away so that when you’re old and gray, you can share them with him. Husbands, make an effort to spend quality time with your spouse and children—the war will still be there when you go back and if it’s not? Good.

9. Be willing to seek assistance if needed. 

Sometimes, you need a third party to be a deliberator. Sometimes, you may need a bit of counseling. Sometimes, you just need to fall on your faces before the Lord. Sometimes, they come home different. Sometimes, your feelings may change. Whatever the case may be, the military offers many resources to combat what’s going on. Pastors and Chaplains are wonderful resources. Find a resource and make an effort to get the help you need.

10. DO NOT TAKE EACH OTHER FOR GRANTED! 

You are a vapor.

Life is precious and we are not promised tomorrow.

The risks are high for our military service members. Hold them tight. Laugh together. Love together. Be passionate for one another. Do not become blasé towards each other. Time is all you have and there’s never enough of it.

 

On a Friday Afternoon…

“He’s a Christian”. Those words aren’t spoken very often from my husband when describing new members of his company. That uncommon phrase immediately piqued my interest about this new member, so I inquired further and found out that this man was married with kids, where they came from, and what job he had.

The military loves social functions, so it didn’t take long for me to meet this man and his family.

His wife and I hit it off immediately.

We found it easy to talk to one another. Her family and my family share the same morals, goals, and priorities.

And not very long into our relationship, we decided to become best friends. Yes, we literally discussed it. She was having issues with her best friend at the exact time I was having issues with mine and she said (jokingly, but seriously) “Let’s just be best friends” and I laughed and said “YES”! 🙂 And then we were—still makes me smile.

Our friendship is easy—as friendships should be. We don’t have to talk everyday. We don’t have to see each other all the time. There’s no pressure in our relationship, but when we do get together, we pick up where we left off. Conveniently, our husbands feel the same way about each other.

I attribute our friendship with helping my marriage. Why? Because their marriage is so solid and they face many of the same issues we face as a military family. They embrace their military lifestyle and meet issues head on with God at the center. I attribute our friendship with helping our family dynamics. Why? Because they have MANY children and we only have two and I find myself freaking out about the smallest thing—but they build their children up and allow them to be who they are without trying to conform them and it is beautiful to us and a wonderful example of how a family should work. We admire them.

She has inspired me in many ways: to start a Bible study, to write, to be confident, to treat my man with respect and to create a safe place in our home.

We love each other. For. Real.

Their last child is named after me and recently, we were standing in my front yard, all talking, and we made retirement plans to all stay together after this military gig is over for us.

But on a Friday afternoon, only a week after planning our future, my phone rang:

Me: Hello!

Her: Lila, I need you to come to my house, right now. He’s gone.

Me: I’m on my way, but what do you mean, he’s gone?

Her: They are here, in suits, telling me that he’s gone.

Her man, her soulmate, her husband, literally plucked from this earth in his prime.

Just like that.

Gone.

Jesus help me.

Even now, a few weeks later, there are still no words.

What do you say to your best friend, who has been your voice of reason and comfort so many times when her husband is gone?

Nothing. You say nothing.

It’s not okay.

There are no words for grief like that.

None.

There’s no comfort you can offer.

None.

You’re just there. You listen and you pray. You pray hard.

With eyes clinched tight and a voice that shook, I heard her say: “God, please take this cup from me”.

Jesus.

When there were no words, there were groans—grieving groans that wrench the soul.

Holy Spirit come.

Grief is a cruel, cruel thing.

But, God.

He heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds.

He defends and sustains them.

He hears their cry.

He restores them, making them strong, firm, and steadfast.

God is good.

One day, my friend will share her testimony…giving praise to His name.

He has a plan.

Praise God!

Please, intercede.