Graduation Reflections

Our children are in our thoughts and on our hearts every moment of every day. I know mine sure are. But this week my boy has been the main character in the play rolling through my mind. I keep remembering him as a little kid, playing with GI Joe and Winnie the Pooh together. Struggling in school to learn to read & write, with a learning disability so complex that the doctors and experts never did figure it out. Having counselors talk to him about vocational diplomas while he was still in elementary school, then meeting an Army recruiter, asking him about enlisting someday, and the recruiter telling the boy that he had to have a regular HS diploma, no GED or other kind, to be in the Army. Watching that boy then throw himself into studying, him asking us to read his school books to him. He’d memorize as we read. That little boy was so determined. Not too many people ever saw that side of him, but we did. When he passed his FCAT on the first try, we knew he was going to get that HS diploma and join the Army. And, he did just that.

I try to fast-forward through the Army years whenever I reminisce on my son’s life. They were so filled with the darkness of life; the fears, the waiting, the worries, the missing him, knowing he suffered with each buddy’s death. He left us as a youngster, and returned a man; a husband, and father, and with a stronger faith in God than when he left home. He was very bruised and terribly battered, but strong, victorious, and still determined as ever. Our hero, complete with Bronze Star with Valor.

When he put himself through automotive school and became a mechanic, we were so proud of him. He had to study ten times harder than anyone else to overcome not just his old learning difficulties, but his Army related injuries as well, including constant pain, breathing problems, sleep apnea, PTS, and major short-term memory loss problems. We were relieved that he never did kill that miscreant in his class who thought it fun to sneak up behind him and drop a wrench. After graduation he landed a job with Ford and began working on diesels.

Then, to our amazement, he announced he was going to college for a Business Management degree. His determination kicked in to high gear once again. He quit his job at Ford and enrolled at Valencia. He’d go to his classes, then he would drive over to Chick-fil A to study. He studied every day, Monday through Friday and often on Saturday. For hours and hours and hours and hours. Some days, the children would join him there to bounce around in the play area while he studied. There are a lot of reasons why we love Chick-fil A, and that they happily allowed him to study there every day is right at the top of our list.

He also carved out time to get involved with his church, to join a Bible study small group, to help his friends and sister whenever they needed it, and do all the things that needed to be done in the every day course of life. Oh, yes, and become a certified NRA Firearms Safety Instructor in his “spare” time. But, mostly, he studied and did school work. He would come home at night, play with the kids, walk the dog, hug on his wife, read his Bible, collapse in bed for another sleepless night, and go back to studying again the next day.

Semester One: President’s List! Semester after semester, we celebrated as he made the President’s List again and again. Our determined little boy. He will always be that to us, even though we know he is a man, a great man, a wonderful man. We still see our little boy who loved to cuddle.

This weekend, we will watch him as he walks the stage in cap & gown and is handed his diploma. He will graduate from Valencia Community College, with honors, with an AS degree in Business Management.

Are we proud parents? With good reason! Our hearts are nearly bursting with joy! Will I be crying?

Mourning, Again.

Psalm 119:28(NIV) – My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.

We’ve lost our heroes on the battlefields, during routine training missions, to civilian violence, to accidents, and, yes, far, far too many to the effects of PTS and suicide. The news is once again announcing confirmation that more of our young heroes have been lost. The majority of our general public plods on in their normal routines, not comprehending that our country has suffered another devastating loss. They don’t realize that even mundane daily training can be very dangerous for our service-members. Meanwhile, the families of the U.S. Military Community from all across our nation and world join unseen hands and hearts as we pause once again to mourn, to reflect, and to pray.

I do not know these service-members personally, I do not need to. I’m always overcome with tears of heavy grief. I sob with sorrow as I pray for their families and those who love them. I beg God to allow our servicemen and women to come home safely, from everywhere, every day, every night. I plead for His protection over all of our courageous soldiers. I’m racked with mourning for a child whom I never knew, and yet, know all too well. I feel fresh devastation for the families of those who fought and died by my own soldier’s side, knowing that their pain is unending, and those who have lost their sons in the years that have passed since. A new pain surges within me for these families now in the news, only beginning their walk through this darkest of valleys. May God comfort our Gold Star Families.

Praying daily for our servicemen and women is essential. Oh, how I wish the American public knew just how much our military needs the prayers of each one of us back here at home! They need prayer for their physical safety. They need to be courageous. They need wisdom. They need to be of sound mind. They must remain strong. They have to remain committed and true to their cause. They need to know that their countrymen support and believe in them. They need to be released from daily worry about their families back home. They need to know that they are cherished.

Most of all, they need to know that God loves them! They need God’s many blessings each and every day. Our military leaders, all the way up to the President, need our fervent prayers, as well. Please, pray daily for all of these things. Even if you don’t personally know someone in the military, you can join us in knitting together a prayer blanket of protection and love over each one of them.

May the peace and comfort of God to be with all of us.

Pondering the Waiting

I know that the Lord teaches us life lessons using the little mundane daily things of life as well as the big, challenging, life-altering things. I have recently come to the realization that this past decade of my life has been one long lesson in the Art of Waiting. I suppose I have not yet learned fully whatever I need to learn, because the Waiting continues.

I’ve waited for big things. Enormous things! For over six years I had one or the other of my soldiers deployed. That was a whole lot of waiting, waiting, waiting! I did think that I had gotten pretty good at it at the time.

I waited for other things, too, as I watched my three children grow into adults and start wonderful lives of their own. Waiting for graduations. Waiting for upcoming events like weddings, and waiting for grandchildren to arrive. Waiting years for my children to be able to return home from far away duty stations. Waiting for summer. Waiting through hard times as a family, like when we suffered through our dad’s last days here on earth. Waiting through months of unemployment. And also celebrating joyously, even sometimes through the tears, the many answers to our prayers that always accompanied the various waitings.

Maybe God is just hoping that I will stop getting impatient waiting for the microwave to beep in 30 seconds or my computer to reload after a glitch. I don’t know for sure why, but right now I seem to be entering into another period of Waiting, and that old song by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers keeps sneaking into my head.

The waiting IS, indeed, the hardest part! Are you waiting for something special? Something big? Something life-changing?

Yes?

ME, TOO!!!

Can we wait patiently, be peaceful, not fret over the potentials – you, know, those “What if” and “To Do” lists that we make in our heads? Especially those stubborn ones that decide that 3 AM is a very good time to appear?

Some days, I think I ‘wait’ very well. You know, I mount up on wings as an eagle and renew my strength and all that good stuff.

Other days, like today, when time seems to stop completely and the microwave never seems to ding, I know I am failing at the Waiting Game; much like Elijah in 1 Kings Chapter 19, when the Lord asks (repeatedly), “What are you doing here?” and Elijah whines and complains to none other than the Lord God Almighty Himself.

Old Jonah was another example. In his case, he refused to do what God had commanded, he ran away, and he eventually sat under a shady plant and moped. And he stayed there wallowing in his self-pity even as the plant withered away and the sun scorched his head. (Jonah Chapter 4)

Sometimes we just need to get up and get busy doing the things we know that we ought to be doing and stop worrying about whatever we think we are waiting for to happen.

So, simply; I need to NOT be whiny, and ask the Lord to grant me a bit more of His calmness, His reassurance that HE is in complete control of my situation and that all I really need to do is stop pacing, stop wondering, stop making up schemes and plans and scenarios that don’t matter one bit, and just breathe!

What am I doing here? Waiting for answers, watching for signs, knowing His timing is perfect, even though it rarely coincides with MY wishes! Understanding that He is in control. Listening to the songs I need to learn for our upcoming Easter services. Moving on with life; not just sitting under the proverbial withered plant, weeping. Praying for peace to reign over my turbulent heart and mind. Trusting that the Wait will be over eventually, and as the old saying goes: “it will be worth the wait!”

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” -Isaiah 40:31 KJV

Old Fears, New Fears, Same Fears

This past week, the enemies of our world once again blatantly reminded us that we are living in dangerous times. If we watch the constant news reports, we can find ourselves stuck in a whirlpool of fears. We can be swallowed up in our fears; old fears re-dredged, new fears of new horrors, the same fears we conquered yesterday return to shake our nerves again today.

But if we look away from the news for even a few minutes to focus on God, we’ll find that He is still in the business of calming storms, instilling boldness, and providing a steadying ground for our wobbling legs.

There are many verses in our Bible that we can read to learn what God says about fear. I did a 5-second computer search, immediately resulting in nearly 100 verses just on the word “calm” – and that in itself is like a deep sigh of relief to my weary and troubled mind.

Yes, our service-members, including their families and our veterans, are still in constant danger from the evils that lurk everywhere. We can be vigilant, we can renew our awareness of our surroundings and we can be as prepared as possible to face trouble if it arises, but perhaps the best thing we can do today is stop for a bit to read a few Bible verses that will calm our souls, strengthen our resolve, reinvigorate our endurance so that we may face the day calmly and boldly.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:28 ESV)

The Fully Broken Promise of God

There’s never been a Promise that God has forsaken
No Promise in which our Lord was mistaken
No Promise made that His hand hath not kept
Nor one over which His tears have not wept
When we His People become crushed and broken
Hearts full of sorrow,
Repentant words spoken;
Then we have become the Promise of God
Beloved, empowered, feet fully shod-
Doing His Work here on earth as we stay
Fulfilling His Plan for our life while we may
Forever protected wherever we trod. . .
The fully broken Promise of God!
Living for Jesus each step of the way
Dependent on Him each moment, each day
Kept by His hand, fed by His Word
Knowing His voice, sweet to be heard,
Trusting that we will not be forsaken
Knowing that He is never mistaken
Assured we are kept by His infinite hand
His tears for us fallen unmeasured as sand
Knowing He smiles and gives us a nod
When we are a fully broken Promise of God.

©Carol Channer

Good People Parenting

I suppose maybe it is simply because of all the negativity in the news lately, but God seems to think that I need reassurance that there truly are still good people in this world. Good parents. Good Mommas in particular.

Over the past few weeks I have been allowed to overhear some interesting parental disciplining going on, not in public, but yes, out in the public. In a shoe store. In a department store. Most recently in a grocery store parking lot. I have heard several different mommas giving wise, gentle, proper, important discipline lessons to their child – three moms all of a different race than I am, and all the children just happened to be sons.

Each time, I thought, “You GO, MOM!” They had each been trying to remain calm and be as discreet as possible, so I was not in a place where I thought it proper to actually speak to them, until today. The mom and very young son were walking in just ahead of me of me and I could hear the mother telling the child that no one OWED him anything. He needed to learn to work hard and to earn the things he wanted. Once again, I was touched by her gentle, earnest words of truth.

Once in my car, I noticed them returning. I looked at her for a moment, and our differences were clearly vast, but she was walking right past my driver’s side door, so I did it. I rolled down my window and gave this young mother a few words of affirmation. She began to smile from ear to ear. It made my day and I hope it made a positive difference in hers, too.

I know there are still good parents out there, trying to teach the children God has given them to be good people. I am thankful that God has allowed me to witness each of these young mothers in action, and I pray for all of you out there with little ones. The job of parenting is not easy and we all make mistakes, but if you are one of those parents who is taking every opportunity to teach your son to be a gentleman and your daughter to be a lady, to live generously, to work hard, to love God – I applaud you! God bless you!