Our Hearts

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.  – Joel 2:12-13(NIV)

God looks at our hearts; not the outward trappings we use to fool other people. God wants my heart broken so that He can pour out His grace, compassion, patience, and love.

My soldier may be in my heart, but God must HAVE my heart. When I offer my whole heart to God, He will treat it as a priceless treasure, and everything that is in my heart, including my soldier, is also held gently in His wonderful, gentle, loving hand.

God says in the book of Joel that He will not send calamity. That’s a promise I can trust in today. Anything that happens is under God’s control, and my soldier and I are both safe in His hands.

Whenever my heart feels heavy I will remember the words of this prophet and return to the LORD my God, for He is gracious and compassionate.

 

Lord Jesus, through the gentle prompting of the Holy Spirit, please help me to act with a pure heart today.  Protect me from the evil one who tries constantly to turn my view inward and my heart black, and help me to focus on Your purity and love.  If my soldier is feeling heavy-hearted today, please comfort him and allow him to feel You presence, too.

 

Advertisements

Seeing God

“Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him” (Luke 24:31a NIV).

Walking through the woods early one morning, I was earnestly searching for deer. I was hoping to catch even a glimpse of what I consider to be one of God’s most glorious creatures, but this day, though I was looking, I was simply not seeing. My eyes scanned the forest, but saw no deer.

Suddenly it occurred to me that we sometimes look for God in this same manner. Seeking, scanning, even perhaps looking right smack at Him, and yet, still missing Him completely. I wondered if this happens because we have not spent enough time training our eyes to see Him properly.

Maybe if I came to the woods early every morning, I would be better at spotting the deer I knew had to be there! We must focus our eyes – as well as our hearts and minds – to see God as He wants, not as we expect Him to be.

Just as that thought finished forming in my mind, there she was – a large, lovely doe – standing still, very near, watching me intently.

God, too, is right there with us, ever-present, watching, waiting patiently for our eyes to fix upon Him. Sometimes we need to simply be still, and focus.

Lord, help me to stand still, even if only for a few moments today. Long enough to calm my thoughts and fix them, and my eyes, upon Your glorious face. Allow me to see what it is that You want me to understand about Yourself today. Whatever my soldier faces this day, allow him to see You, to feel Your presence, Your power, and Your protection, so that he can know how much he is loved – by both of us!

 

Bronze Star w/ V-Device

My soldier is a recipient of the Bronze Star with Valor Device, the fourth highest combat award given by the Army, and often reserved for officers or deceased.

Very early on the morning of July 4th, 2009, the Taliban launched a brutal attack on a Command Out Post Zerok in the remote mountains of Afghanistan. That day changed all of our lives forever.

There were some cowards that day. At least one officer hid for the entire battle. My soldier and many others in his unit were stop-lossed, the involuntary extension of a service member’s active duty service under the enlistment contract in order to retain them beyond their initial end of term of service (ETS) date. These young men should have already been back at home with their loved ones. Some, like my soldier, were not officers. Yet, on that morning when the bombs and bullets began dropping, a few of these brave heroes valiantly stood in the gap and held the day.

That day my soldier crawled through broken glass, cutting his arms and legs terribly while taking fire in order to deliver needed weapons and ammunition to his men. He ran from point to point back and forth across the compound, directing the men and supplying them with first aid, water and ammunition all the while being shot at by the enemy. He carried a mortally wounded comrade across the compound under fire to find the medics. He assisted the medics. He administered first aid to other wounded men as he found them. He crossed open ground to secure the compound main gate that had been blown open by a truck bomb. He stood and directed fire for his men while bullets flew past his head. One of his men later wrote that at one point he looked up to see my soldier standing, “like George Washington crossing the Delaware” while bullets whizzed past him. As he was attempting to smother a fire in the mortar pit, another soldier threw water on it, exploding the burning white phosphorus supply, leaving my soldier’s lungs badly damaged. Refusing to quit, he continued to lead his men, until at long last air support arrived and the Taliban were finally driven back. Even then, feeling that the enemy would strike again in the next few days, he steadfastly refused to be flown out to the hospital Germany, and instead chose to stay with his men.

When this team finally returned to their home base, an awards ceremony was scheduled. The Commander did not attend. The cowards who shirked their duties that fateful day did not attend. With little fanfare, my soldier was pinned with the Bronze Star with Valor Device, the fourth highest combat award the Army bestows. One would think it would have been deemed more of a big deal for the entire base, instead, it was virtually ignored.

One particular medic bandaged my soldier’s wounds and took care of him for months while still in Afghanistan as he coughed smoke and blood from his lungs. This medic promised to file the proper paperwork for him to receive a Purple Heart award when they returned home. However, this sweet young man could not get past the horrors he had witnessed. Soon after returning to base, he took his own life. My soldier’s Purple Heart paperwork mysteriously disappeared, and despite our best efforts, now four years later, he still has not received this award. It rather angers me, as a mother, that the Army treated my soldier so poorly.

The base doctor told my soldier that if he wanted to receive a Medical Discharge, he would have to stay on active duty for at least another year, and yes, he could be deployed again during that time. He was told that no, a transfer to a base closer to his family would not be approved. He was told to instead take his Honorable Discharge and then go to the VA to receive a Medical Discharge. Of course, he found out too late that this was all a complete lie.

Sometimes the incompetence of the military is indeed frustrating. Sometimes we shake our heads with amazement at the way our heroes are treated by their government. Sometimes, as mommas, we’d like to make some heads roll! This is when we must step back and look at the bigger picture, more from God’s point of view. We must admit that while maybe it was the Army that put them into these situations, we still believe that God works all things together for good to those who love Him and serve Him.

God allowed my young soldier to become a very strong man much more quickly than we maybe would have liked. God allowed him to face his deepest fears and over come them. He made him a better person. He continues to strengthen him and we watch in amazement and overflowing pride as our child becomes more and more of a great man every single day.

We know God kept His hand of protection on our soldier. We are broken-hearted for the lives lost and eternally grateful that we can still hug our soldier. So, yes, despite some of the bad memories, despite the “I wish it didn’t have to be this way” days, despite being angry whenever we see politicians and others disregard our service members, despite not being able to get any one to move on my soldier’s Purple Heart award; still for his life, for his smile, for his laugh, for his family, for his love of God and country, we are, and forever will be, so very deeply thankful.Image

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”Romans 8:28 KJV

 

My Madison Rising Experience

“The sober people of America are weary of the fluctuating policy which has directed the public councils. They have seen with regret and indignation that sudden changes and legislative interferences, in cases affecting personal rights, become jobs in the hands of enterprising and influential speculators, and snares to the more-industrious and less informed part of the community. They have seen, too, that one legislative interference is but the first link of a long chain of repetitions, every subsequent interference being naturally produced by the effects of the preceding.” –  President James Madison

I first saw the band Madison Rising sing the National Anthem on a TV news show. I have always been very staunchly “traditional” when it came to our anthem, but I was mesmerized by this group’s version from the very first few lines. I realized that these young men could bring a whole new generation to the place where they would love our National Anthem for the treasure that it is.

I looked the band up on Face Book and messaged them. And got a response! Amazing. Real people! How refreshing!

I purchased the first album and loved it. I am a military mom and a firefighter’s daughter, so I of course appreciated their unabashed love of our heroes. And they play amazing rock, like back when rock was young. I have not been so “into” a band since my teenage years! A middle-aged grandmother of six, and here I am just nutty for a rock band again!

The band posted that they would be performing at the Great Georgia Air Show, and I immediately bought tickets. I knew my husband would enjoy the air show, and I was super excited to actually be able to hear my new favorite band play live.

We found the venue early and picked a shady spot to hang out. Then I spotted Dave setting up behind the stage area. I told my husband I was going to go say hello. What a thrill for me! I felt like a silly school girl. Dave was so nice, and he called the guys over to snap pictures. They made my day! And they rocked! It was an awesome day. I even offered to open my home to stay in the next time they are in the Atlanta area, and I meant it! I just absolutely love these All-American young men!

This band can bridge the generations and bring back a sense of pride that is sadly disappearing in our nation. They fill both the young and old with a sense of joy at knowing there IS still hope for our country, that it IS NOT TOO LATE to bring American heritage and pride back into the mainstream.

Now that they have received some nationwide exposure, the very loud and obnoxious crowd is shouting horrible things about these terrific young men, without ever meeting them or really listening to them. That’s a real shame. I hope the bad press will quickly blow past and they can continue to bless those of us who “get them.”

The second CD is even better than the first, and I cannot wait to watch as this band rockets to success! Rock on, MR!

Recruit Meets D.I.

“My God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence” (2 Samuel 22:3 NLT).

 

My soldier tells of his very first “near-death” experience during his time of service. It occurred while he was still in boot camp. It happened when his group was on a training drill in a wooded area. His Drill Instructor ordered him to run into his office, probably about a half mile away, retrieve a certain item, and to hustle right back with it.

Being a gung-ho recruit wanting to impress his D.I., the soldier took off at full run. As he approached the officer’s quarters, it never occurred to him that he should walk once inside of the building, so down the long hallway he sprinted.

Just then a Drill Instructor stepped around a corner. He was an enormous man, with thick arms and skin black as midnight. He never expected a silly young recruit to be running in his hallway. The over-eager soldier ran smack into the unsuspecting man, knocking him completely off of his feet and sending his hat rolling down the hall.

The recruit immediately offered a hand to assist the instructor up and began stammering a profuse apology, but the D.I was quicker and stronger than anyone or anything this recruit had ever known. In less than an instant, the enraged instructor punched the boy’s hand away, leapt to his feet, and grabbed the recruit by the neck. The scrawny six-foot tall recruit was now pinned up against the wall like a rag-doll, feet completely off of the floor, unable to breathe or speak as he looked into the fuming eyes of the Drill Instructor.

He was certain in that moment that he was about to meet his Savior face to face.

Hearing the commotion, a second instructor stepped into the hallway. Handing the first D.I. his cover, he snapped angrily, “He’s one of mine, I’ll handle him!”

After what seemed like forever, but was probably only moments, the recruit felt the iron grip around his neck loosen and he dropped in heap to the floor gasping for breath. The still furious, massive instructor stormed away like an angry bull, spitting, snorting, cursing and hurling threatening insults over his shoulder.

The second instructor grabbed my son by his collar and roughly pulled him to his feet. He half pushed, half dragged the boy down the hallway, loudly berating him as they went. He dragged him out of the building and around the corner, placed the recruit up against the wall and let go of him. Again, the boy braced himself for the worst.

Then he realized that the instructor had a strange smirk on his face. Shaking his head, the D.I. brushed his hands across the boy’s shoulders, straightening his uniform, and, apparently trying not to laugh, gruffed, “NEVER run inside!”

With that, he gave my boy a shove and sent him on his way. After catching his breath and mustering some courage, the soldier tiptoed into the building to snatch the item he had been sent for. Carefully checking the hallway, he then crept back outside, a little more of a man, a bit closer to the leader he would eventually become, and extremely glad to “have dodged his first bullet!”

“Lord, in re-telling this account, I am so thankful that I had been on my knees in prayer for my soldier from the very start of his enlistment. I thank You for keeping him in the protecting palm of Your hand and for teaching him many valuable lessons during those years, lessons that he will appreciate and use for the remainder of his life.”

Change, Change, Change

Changes are something we face every day. Sometimes change is welcomed like a breath of fresh air, but often we resist change. It makes us uncomfortable, frightens us, or exasperates us!

 As changes in many areas of my life seem to swirl me into a state of dizziness, I am glad to be able to cling to a God who does not change. I have a deeper understanding of some of the old, wonderful hymns of our faith that talk of standing on the solid Rock, leaning on Jesus, and building my hope on Christ. Many of these hymns have brought solace to my soul lately.

Our soldiers face many enormous changes, too. I pray daily for the Lord to prove Himself to be strong and steady in each young soldier’s life. It gives me peace to know that, even amongst all the changes in our lives, good or bad, crazy or fun; we truly can have the constant love of the Heavenly Father who is controlling and upholding our lives.

 Thank You, Lord, for being a firm foundation for my soldier and I to stand safely on, even during times of upheaval and change!

God’s Calming Voice

Matthew 8:26(NIV) – He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

God still speaks to us in a small, quiet voice – which we can understand if we are paying close attention – and, He still calms the storms whenever He wishes.

If you have prayed for the storms in your life to cease, yet they continue to rage on, perhaps God is actually speaking to you in His still, small voice; saying, Be still. Know that I am God. Peace, be still. Sometimes we are so busy fighting the storm, we forget that all we really need to do is reach for our Father’s hand instead.

Sometimes the storms of life are hurricanes – steady, fierce rains and winds pounding at you from all sides. Other times it may be a tornado, fast and devastating. Sometimes they are more like enormous waves that seem to knock you down when you are not expecting it. Sometimes waves of fear and worry over your soldier will seemingly come out of nowhere and catch you off guard.

No matter what kind of storm, you are not equipped to handle it on your own, but God can easily handle any storm!

Remember, too, that when you’ve fought the storm with all of your strength until you have none left, that God is patiently waiting by your side for you to turn your problems over to Him. He has plenty of strength that you can use! When you have none, He has plenty.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break. Go for a walk, or simply sit down and be quiet, wait, and listen for God’s whisper, “You are my child and I AM still in control! Peace, My child; be still!” The stormy winds may continue to howl, but you will discover that God has once again given you the strength you need for this moment, and for this day. You, like the disciples of Jesus, may even find yourself overwhelmed at His capacity to bring about such wonderful serenity.

Matthew 8:27(NIV) – The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”