Veteran’s and Service to Nation

Today is Veteran’s Day.

I realize this isn’t exactly a news flash for most people and yet somehow I feel as if it bears repeating. It is more than just a day off of work and more than flying the red and white stripes with pride. It’s remembering those who have served and the price they paid because

Service to nation is never free.

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Today is Veteran’s  Day.

For seven years, I was the spouse of a soldier. My ex-husband and I moved four times during those seven years. I gave birth to one baby on the west coast and another on the east coast, gaining my California Beach boy (almost exactly 13 years ago) and my Sweet Georgia Peach not quite two years later.  Additionally, we spent time calling Virginia and Texas home.

I’m grateful for all that those seven years of service gave me and taught me. From sea to shining sea, I got to spend time exploring our beautiful nation. Living in military housing afforded me the opportunity to meet a wide-variety of people from all walks of life. Their stories have stuck with me. Their friendships have blessed me. Today, as I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, I am amazed at how many of my 700+ friends came from those seven years of military life. I wouldn’t trade that time and those experiences for the world!

And yet, there was a price to pay.  While I’d never blame military service completely on the failure of my first marriage, I do believe that frequent deployments and the stress of separation played a major part in the death of that relationship.

Unfortunately, the high stakes cost isn’t over yet. Nearly eight years later, my children, who will always suffer to some extent as they deal with the effects of growing up in a broken family, still pay the price on a daily basis. They don’t have the pleasure of regular visits with their father, as he is stationed in Europe.  (Though I must say, summer visits to Germany and Italy are giving them a chance to become world travelers in a way very few other children are privileged.)

Currently, their dad is temporarily deployed to Liberia in response to the Ebola epidemic. My kids worry about their dad, fearful of what might happen if he gets sick while trying to help out another nation. Protecting their hearts gets harder and harder as they grow older.

Service to nation is not free.

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Today is Veteran’s Day.

It’s always been an honor to say that my dad was a veteran.

My dad joined the army shortly after he and my mother were married. I recall him telling me that he knew he would soon be drafted, so rather than wait for the letter to arrive in the mail, he went to the recruiters himself. By doing so, my dad was able to finish college before leaving for basic training.

I used to love to listen to my dad’s tales about the Army. One of my favorites was how he used too tell about how once he was put in charge of an entire barracks of soldiers. He was responsible for the condition of the barracks (neatness and cleanliness) as well as knowing the whereabouts of all the soldiers assigned to that barracks. He had to report any that were not in by curfew and each morning at formation account for everyone.

Dad would always elaborate on how the other barracks were in such a disarray, with soldiers always out past curfew or not up in time to stand in formation. He would go into great detail about how the other barracks were full of fighting, drunken soldiers.

But not his barracks. Dad would proudly say that his group of soldiers were always on time. Their beds were made properly, uniforms sharply pressed,  the floors were mopped and the bathrooms kept sparkling clean. He said not one soldier ever missed a curfew and each morning they were all standing outside, perfectly in formation with their boots shining in the morning sun. In fact, for three or four months in a row, my dad received the award for the best barracks, earning the right to eat a private lunch with the Lt. Col., and honor that still thrilled my dad years later.

Of course, it wasn’t until after my father thought he had duly impressed us all with his amazing leadership abilities that he would let you in on the secret to his success.  You see,  the barracks under his leadership was entirely made up of a group of Mormons. (Later, during my years as a military spouse, I began to understand just exactly how patriotic and honorable Mormons as a whole are … and even shared a laugh with my dad over the fact that my ex-husband and I were often mistaken as Mormons during the years we spent as a military family.)

My dad was so proud of his military service. A couple of Christmases ago, my siblings and I gathered all my dad’s military patches and medals, and put them into a special display case. I wish I could say it was my idea. It wasn’t. It is my brother who deserves the credit.  I’m just grateful he included my sister and I, allowing us to share a part in giving the gift to my dad.  I don’t know that I’ve ever had more pleasure in watching someone open a gift than I had that Christmas when my dad opened up the display case with all of his military regalia. I thought my dad’s smile was going to burst the seams on his face!  For as long as I live, I will never forget that moment.

Yet as proud as my dad was …

Service to nation isn’t free.

Dad receiving a commendation in Vietnam
Dad receiving a medal and commendation in Vietnam

Today is Veteran’s Day.

My dad was once a soldier who served his nation during a time of conflict and war.  Though he returned home, my father long remembered the names of those he knew who gave their lives in protection of our nation’s freedoms.

When I was in high school, a touring replica of the Vietnam Wall memorial came to our area. My dad insisted we go view it. I could tell it was a solemn event for him, far more than a simple wall or just a group of names. He knew each one represented a real man who never came home. He understood the price these soldiers had paid.

My father didn’t die in Vietnam. Rather the war took nearly 45 years to kill him.

You see, during his one year in Vietnam, my dad was exposed to Agent Orange. If you look up the effects of Agent Orange exposition, the list is long.  Everything from cancer and other debilitating diseases like Parkinson’s to high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.  My dad experienced the last three, his first heart attack occurring in his mid-40’s. I think he had 3 more over the next 20 years. In the last year or two of his life, my dad’s heart functioned at just barely over 20% of full pumping capacity, yet he continued to wake up each day and live a full life.

Several years ago, my father began to receive a full veteran’s disability from the U. S. government as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange. While he was open and honest about the fact that he had suffered from effects of the exposure and was receiving compensation, my dad never once complained to me (or to anyone else that I am aware of) about those resulting consequences.

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Today is Veteran’s Day.

I’m thinking of all the veteran’s I’ve known and loved. My two grandfathers who both served the nation during WWII, my husband’s father and brother, a couple of cousins, the myriad of friends I’ve made during my years wandering the nation’s military bases as the wife of a soldier.

So many people have given their time, and some their very lives, to protect our freedoms and rights as Americans. I think it is important to remember that service to nation is never free. The cost is there and paid by each one … and I’m so grateful.

May God bless our veteran’s … each one who serves or continues to serve!

And may we never forget to count the cost because their service to nation is never free.

Birthdays on earth

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This past week we celebrated … cake, ice cream, presents hidden inside bags overflowing with bright tissue paper. It was our foster son’s 2nd birthday and we delighted in singing the birthday song with him all week long.

Lil’ Man was mostly confused by all the birthday commotion. The morning of his birthday, I tried to put pin a little birthday ribbon on his shirt so that the rest of the world would know it was his birthday, too. He promptly ripped it off. I attempted to reattach the ribbon several more times, only to get the same result. In the end, I was just glad he didn’t tear up his shirt.

Later in the day, I baked a simple cake and put a couple of matchbox cars on the top along with his #2 candle. As soon as he saw the cake on the counter, he demanded that I give him the cars. When I refused, he threw a royal tantrum.

And after dinner, when we lit the candle and sang the birthday song with lots of gusto, our favorite toddler looked around at us with this expression that seemed to say, “You people have lost your minds! Just cut the cake and let’s eat!”

Even the presents seemed to cause Lil’ Man some confusion. We gave him the first gift and he sat there looking at us, unsure of what he should do next. Even after we showed him how to tear the paper, he seemed a bit unsure about ripping something up. I suppose we have made it clear that most things are not meant to be torn apart! Thankfully, once the gifts were revealed, our sweet boy was elated with them … so much so that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to play with the toys or eat his cake and ice cream.

 He ended up choosing cake over playing. What a smart boy!

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I’ve always enjoyed birthdays, whether it was my own or someone’s that I love. Even before I became a mother, I enjoyed birthday parties for little people. Once I had children of my own, nothing brought me more pleasure than to plan a party, mostly simple ones but some more elaborate.

In fact, I loved birthday celebrations so much that in years gone by I used to even allow celebrations of halfie-birthdays, complete with half a cake, Blue Bell ice cream in half chocolate and half vanilla, and a special rendition of the Halfie Birthday song (sung to the same tune as the regular birthday song, the only difference being that  each “happy”  is replaced with the word “halfie.”

However, now that I have seven children, it’s much too complicated to try to keep up with regular birthdays and halfie-birthdays. So, for simplification purposes, I had put that tradition to rest. It has been two years since I made that decision, and I’m not sure all of my children have forgiven me yet.

Of all the reasons I love having a big family, perhaps my favorite is getting to celebrate birthdays more often. Nine times each year we get to sing the birthday song and eat cake and ice cream after dinner. In fact, in the month of November alone, our family celebrates three birthdays! I already mentioned Lil’ Man’s birthday this past week. Our foster daughter will be turning one the day before Thanksgiving and our son Nathan will celebrate his 13th birthday on Thanksgiving Day.

 Can you imagine the sugar rush of eating birthday cake and pumpkin pie on the same day … oh my!

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Today is my dad’s birthday. Well, it would have been his birthday today. I think, if I have done the math correctly, he would have turned 67 years old.

Sometimes, after a loved one has passed on, people will (in an effort to comfort you) say something like, “Just think .. this year they are having the best birthday celebration up in heaven!”

While it’s a nice thought … honestly, I’m just not sure about the accuracy of that at all.

I don’t think my dad is in heaven celebrating in some private party with Jesus or even blowing out candles on some sort of heavenly cake as departed loved ones stand around and watch. And I certainly don’t think he has even once contemplated how those of us still on earth are remembering him today.

 In fact, I don’t suppose birthdays matter all that much up in heaven anyway.

Seeing as we will be completely focused on worshipping God, I don’t see how anyone’s birthday (our own included) will even enter into our thoughts. (Well, maybe we will think about Jesus’ birthday. That might be appropriate … besides, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we got to celebrate that in heaven? Talk about a party to remember!)

But right now, I’m not in heaven. I’m here on planet earth … where birthdays do matter, and for the most part people who live in my culture choose to celebrate birthdays with cake and ice cream, parties and presents.

All day I have thought about my dad, missing him so much that tears have fallen several times. It saddens me that I can’t be with him on his special day, buy him a silly card, or wrap up some tiny trinket of a gift. And it’s not just this year that my kids can’t call him and sing the birthday song, as they listen to his laughter in the background. Never again will I be able to enjoy a piece of cake with him, or tell him how much he blessed me.

It’s been a hard day. Truthfully, most days during the past two months have been hard. I suppose that was to be expected. Grief isn’t an easy or quick process, and as these holidays approach I know deep down there are going to be many more hard days yet to come before the tears don’t fall as easily and the sting of the pain begins to ebb away.

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My blog has been quiet these past two months. Part of that was just busyness. I’ve been adjusting to adding those two sweet foster babies to my home, adjusting to sleepless nights again. I had forgotten so much about little ones. Everything seems to take longer these days. I haven’t had nearly as much time to sit and write.

But more than that, I didn’t want my blog to become a grief blog. And yet, this is where I am in life at this time. It’s a season of grief. Just like the fall leaves are beginning to color the landscape of Cajun Country, the dull gray of grief seems to cloud over all my days, both the good and the bad. So like the black armbands worn a hundred years ago or more, I shut down my blog and entered into a time of mourning.

Over the past week, as I’ve celebrated the first birthday since my dad died on my 42nd birthday, I’ve thought over and over that the time to end my silence was over. My grief isn’t over. Far from it! But my heart is ready to process and share, and the only way I’ve ever known to do that is to write it all down.

Before my foster babies came to live in my home and before my dad died, I had a goal of publishing blog posts 3 times a week. I doubt I can make that happen with my current schedule. So I am setting a new goal of one new blog post a week, and more as God lays them on my heart and gives me time to write.

Meanwhile, please know I have missed my writing and blogging community so very much. I am eager to try to catch up, and I am thankful for the promises of God who has said He will be near to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18) and will turn my mourning into dancing (Ps. 30:11)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phone Calls to Heaven

Dad: Hello…

Me: Hey, Dad! Whatcha doin’ ?

Dad: Just talking to you on the phone.

Me: Seems like you were doing that the last time I called, too.

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This was the way 90% of the phone calls I made to my dad began.  It was our ritual and it played out often because I called my dad a lot.

I guess we must have averaged four or five phone calls a week, most of which lasted a good half-hour.  Perhaps you are wondering why I called home so much. Well, it wasn’t because I had so much important information to share with my father. Really, my life as a stay-at-home mom to five kids and two fosters isn’t that exciting. It’s really only rather mundane sort of stuff that goes on around here. (Obviously, if you read my blog often, you realize this is why I call it Tales From the Laundry Room. My life truly does revolved around a bunch of dirty laundry and hungry kids.)

Really, I just called home because I wanted to keep in touch with my parents … to find out what was going on with them and to chat about things going on in my home.

Regardless of the fact that I rarely had important or exciting news to share, my dad always had time to stop and listen. In fact, he seemed quite interested in hearing me ramble on about how my two teen boys eat me out of house and home, the ins and outs of trying to make my youngest memorize her multiplication tables, or how some days I feel like a taxi driver as I run my horde of kids hither, there and yon.

Sometimes Dad gave me advice. Other times he just empathized. But each and every time I talked to my father, I felt heard, understood, and encouraged.

I never felt like a bother. I never felt like a distraction or disturbance. It actually seemed as if he had nothing better to do than listen to me. In my heart, I know my Daddy enjoyed talking to me as much as I enjoyed talking to him.

And I miss it. I miss the crazy way we started off those chats. I miss knowing someone had the time to sit and listen. I miss hearing his rich laugh when I related some funny kid story or his gentle wisdom when I told about a small trial I faced in parenting.

Today marked a week since his passing, and all day long I’ve been trying to write this blog post. Of course, managing the activities of seven kids has kept me far from my computer much of the day, but when I did sit down at several points to write, I didn’t even know how to begin to say all that I feel or have felt in the past week. Such as:

~I’m proud to have been Malcolm Terry’s daughter. I couldn’t have asked for a better father. I’m grateful for the knowledge that he lives on eternally with God and for the hope of heaven during times like this.

~I’m overwhelmed at the outpouring of love from people in my hometown. Harrisonburg is a wonderful small community with a giant heart. I’m glad it’s where my dad chose to raise his family.

~I’m sad because my dad isn’t here on earth anymore and I’ll never hear his voice or laugh again. My children, all of them, have lost the only grandfather who was actively involved in their lives … and because my grandfather still lives, I feel a very deep sorrow knowing that they have lost this precious relationship at such young ages.

~I feel a little lost because for the first time in my life I have only one parent. Recently, someone shared with me that a parent is a lot like a life-line. When death cuts the tether, we feel as if we are drifting aimlessly. And yet, God is our anchor. He is our rock. In Him, life is stable  and sure and safe … even when the winds around us howl and the waves pound against us.

Somewhere in the middle of thinking about all those phone calls I made to my father over the years, and how I knew my Dad really did love those as much as me and wanted me to call to check in as often as I could, it came to me.  You see, God’s like that too.

God loves it when I check in with Him often throughout the day, just to talk about the big or little or relatively mundane parts of my life. He loves to listen, and always has time for me. Even a world crisis doesn’t keep Him from bending His ear my direction, or offering comforting words or providing me with wisdom, insight and gentle direction. Spending time praying to God isn’t a waste of my time any more than my frequent phone calls to my dad were a waste of time. In fact, I’m better off the more time I spend connecting with God!

I’m finding comfort tonight in remembering that while I may not be able to talk to my earthly father again on this side of heaven, my Heavenly Father is still available at any time, day or night … and that’s more than I can say for my dad.

He wasn’t at all fond of phone calls after bedtime.

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Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually. ~1 Chronicles 16:11 

Pushing All the Wrong Buttons

Last week my husband Jon became a grandfather … sort of.   He’s not exactly a grandfather, but yet in a round about way he could be considered one. It’s rather complicated but here goes.

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In Jon’s previous marriage, he had a stepson. Ethan.

Jon first met Ethan when he was a tiny toddler, and married his mother when Ethan was around two. For the next twelve years, Jon raised Ethan as his own son.

Jon taught him how to throw a football, ride a bike, and drive a car.

He was there for boy scout camp-outs and the time Ethan was taken to the ER to have a cast put on his broken arm.

Cheering. Disciplining. Worrying. Praying. Jon did the same sorts of things for Ethan that all good dads do for their sons.

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I’m sure you see what’s coming. It’s fairly obvious. Since I’m now married to Jon (and I’m not Ethan’s mother) it is rather clear at some point Jon’s marriage to Ethan’s mother failed.

In the spring 2008, Ethan’s mom had to leave her marriage to Jon (for reasons I will not get into on this blog). As with any divorce, Ethan and his two younger half-sisters went through some difficult experiences during this time. In the end, a judge decided both girls would live full-time with Jon, while Ethan, who was 14 years old, would be allowed to live with his mother.

By the time Jon and I had begun dating in the late fall of 2009, Ethan’s visits to Jon’s home had become sporadic at best.  It wasn’t long before Ethan’s visits ceased altogether.  Eventually Ethan did not want to see Jon at all, which hurt Jon deeply though he did his best to hide it.   It became clear Ethan was angry with Jon for some unknown reason. All of Jon’s attempts to reach out to Ethan seemed to have little affect.

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For the past four years, Jon has had very limited contact with Ethan. On rare occasions, Jon might see Ethan briefly when he dropped off his daughters to see their mom. But even in those short moments of contact, Ethan greeted Jon with an awkward reception.

Jon, not wanting to push Ethan further away, tried to give him space and time to work through his emotions. He ached to do more than send  birthday and Christmas gifts. He longed to do more than pray for the boy he loved like a son. And yet, how do you show love to someone who doesn’t want your love?

And as for Ethan … well, after a year or so, he no longer appeared to be angry, but more unsure of how to make amends.

The longer the rift was there, the harder it seemed to build a bridge to cross over the gulf separating the two from each other.

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Last fall we heard the news second-hand.

Ethan, now a high school senior, had gotten his girlfriend Marlee pregnant.  Jon and I  were thankful to learn Ethan and his girlfriend were planning to have their baby, and that Ethan immediately began to assume responsibilities for taking care of his girlfriend and their baby.

Last Thursday, Ethan’s girlfriend gave birth to their baby, a sweet boy they named Noah.

Of course, Jon’s two girls were over the moon with excitement. As soon as they heard the news, there began to be a flurry of excitement, as they were eager for their mother to come get them so they could go to the hospital and hold their new nephew.

As they rushed to get ready, Jon glumly ate his lunch. He made a comment about not knowing why he felt so out-of-sorts, to which I responded, “Well, I think I do. You do realize if things had gone another way, today you would be at the hospital too, celebrating the arrival of your first grandson, right? But you aren’t there, and a part of you is grieving for what isn’t.”  

Squeezing my hand, Jon’s eyes lit with recognition.  With an air of certainty, he said, “I’ve got to text him. Maybe he will let me come see the him and Marlee and the baby at the hospital.”  I could tell Jon was only barely hopeful at this thought, as if he anticipated he might be denied the privilege.

Soon a text message was sent, and fortunately the reply was quick. Ethan agreed to a hospital visit the following day.  A look of relief washed over Jon’s face. I don’t know if I have ever seen a happier father than Jon in that moment.

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From the start, Jon was smitten. I knew he would be. After all, a baby is a baby, and there is nothing more precious than newborn just hours old.

We met Ethan by chance in the hallway, where we spent a few moments just catching up.  While their reunion cannot exactly be described as joyful or warm, it wasn’t completely awkward either. As he had hoped, Jon found a way to express some key thoughts to Ethan without becoming overly sappy or emotional … how proud he was of Ethan for choosing to do the right thing in a difficult situation, how he loved him, and how he would always be there if Ethan ever needed anything.

Moments later, we walked into the small hospital room, meeting the young mother for the first time. I’ll never forget Marlee’s sweet smile as she asked Jon if he would like to hold the baby. And boy, did he!  He scooped that tiny 8 lb bundle of joy into his arms. Jon looked down at the baby with the same expression I’ve seen on many a proud grandfather’s face.

Jon and I left the hospital encouraged. Ethan was open to us being there, even accepting our invitation to celebrate his birthday (hopefully with mother and baby too) at a restaurant at the end of the month. We have hope the relationship between Jon and Ethan will be restored.

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Press-Button

Perhaps you are wondering why this post is titled Pushing All The Wrong Buttons.  Well, give me a minute … I’m getting there.

You see, when Jon and I were leaving the hospital, I had trouble figuring out how to get out. To leave the mother/baby ward, you had to push a button to open the doors. I kept pushing the button on the wall next to the door. It was clearly marked PUSH TO OPEN. Yet each time I pushed it, nothing happened. Finally a nurse on the other side of the door indicated that I should actually be pushing a different button, one that was unmarked as well as farther away from the door we were trying to exit. Once I pushed the right button, we were able to walk through open doors with ease.

Moments later, we stepped onto the elevator. I pushed the button I thought was marked with a 1 for the first floor. Nothing happened. I pushed it again. Still no movement. It wasn’t until I went to push it the third time that Jon noticed the button I had been pushing all along didn’t really have a 1 on it after all. Again, once I finally pushed the correct button, the elevator immediately began to move.

All I wanted to was to be able to leave the hospital. But none of the buttons I pushed would let me out. That is … not until someone showed me the right buttons to push.

All Jon has wanted is to restore his relationship with Ethan. No matter how hard he tried, nothing seemed to work.

That is … nothing worked until God showed Jon the right way to begin to restore the relationship with Ethan.

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Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like you lost something you treasured?  Perhaps it was a relationship or a particular circumstance in life. Maybe you’ve lost financial security, health, or even a combination of things.

When my first husband unexpectedly walked out of our 14 year marriage, I lost more than just a husband. I lost financial security, the ability to homeschool my children, the privilege of staying at home to focus on being a mom.

For a period of time, I “pushed buttons” in an effort to not lose these things in addition to my marriage and my husband. I didn’t understand why God allowed me to lose them. I had no idea of how to get them back. All I knew is whatever I tried didn’t work.

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One of my favorite aspects of God’s character is how He loves to bless His children, to give us the desires of our heart.  (Psalm 34:4)  God is also a God of restoration.  In Joel 2:25, we read the promise of God to the Israelites:

I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten.

I think God still likes to do this for His children now. He loves to give us back what we have lost. It might not look the quite the same, but so often we find at some point in our future the thing we feared was gone forever has been returned to us.

After my divorce, my children had to go to public school and later a private school. Three years later, I married Jon, and to my delight the Lord blessed again me again with the privilege of homeschooling my children.

It is because of this essence of God’s character that I have hope for Jon to find that his relationship with Ethan will one day be fully restored. Ethan may never again call him “Dad” and perhaps Noah will never quite look to him as a grandfather … but because God is always actively working and moving in the lives of His children, I continue to believe in the hope of restoration.

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What has God restored to you?

How has He been faithful to you in the giving you back the years eaten away by the locusts? 

Irreplaceable

The phone rang at 7:30 am, but I didn’t hear it. Ten minutes later, I saw the missed called notification, indicating my husband had called but left no voicemail.

Immediately I called back, asking if he was needing me to do something for him.  “No,” he answered. “I was just calling to ask you on a date … for tonight. How about going with me to watch a movie?”

Jon and I rarely get to go to movies. Truthfully, I’m not much of a movie person. (I realize this is a strange fact, but the honest truth is I hardly ever desire to see a film.) Jon, however, loves movies and would probably like going to the theater on a regular basis. Yet, as the parents of five kids, we don’t often have the extra money in the budget to afford soaring ticket prices. Movies, for us, are a rare treat.

So when Jon asked me on a movie date, I immediately knew Jon for some reason felt this movie was important for us to see.  I had to say yes.

It turns out the movie Jon wanted to take me to see was a Focus on the Family one night event at movie theaters across the nation.  The name of the film was Irreplaceable, documentary-style  movie exploring the idea of family and why it matters in light of history, psychology, religion and today’s culture.

I was captivated from the moment the film started. Tim Sisarich, the New Zealand director and host, asked honest questions about the importance of family to society, especially in light of how the idea of family has changed in recent years and with the direction our culture is declining. Sisarich examines how the devaluing of sex led to the decline of traditional, long-lasting marriage, which further the idea that parenthood (particularly fatherhood) wasn’t a role to desire or take seriously. All of this has led to the demise of the family and ultimately the weakening of our culture.

Initially, it seemed Sisarich was going to just serve as a host, asking questions to the various experts and providing dialogue during transitions. But soon we catch a glimpse of Sisarich’s background … and as the documentary moves forward, Sisarich’s personal story unfolds as well. As a viewer, I felt even more engaged with Tim Sisarich as he walks through his personal story of a broken family.

Following the movie, Jon and I were able to talk deeply about our own past failures (both of us having been divorced and Jon also being the child of a broken home), our struggles (with step-parenting), our desires (in our marriage, as parents and step-parents and for the future of our family). For this reason alone, Irreplaceable was a film worth seeing.

My favorite part of this documentary came toward the end when Sisarich comes to the conclusion there is really no such thing as a perfect family. However, there is such a thing as a redeemed family, one which despite the brokenness of life on earth chooses to love God and love each other.

This is what Jon and I are striving for together. No perfect, but perfectly redeemed by the grace of God.

In case you missed the one night showing of Focus on the Family‘s documentary Irreplaceable, there will be an encore showing on May 15th.  The Focus on the Family blog has more information about the movie and the encore theater showing of the film. Click here to find out if there is a theater near you hosting this film.

Not sure if you would be interested in viewing Irreplaceable? Here’s the trailer.

 

D is for …

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Even though I am 41 years old, I am still a daddy’s girl. My dad is one incredible man.  In my opinion, he is just short of being able to part the waters and calm the seas.  And while my dad is truly just a man,incapable of performing miracles, there was a time when I actually confused the voice of my father with the voice of God Himself.

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Throughout my childhood, my family kept a tiny flock of sheep in the backyard, as part of a 4-H project.  It was not uncommon for the sheep to find a way of escape from the small pen in our backyard.  It seemed we only become aware of their fugitive state whenever some neighbor telephoned to let us know our wooly pets were out wandering along the roadsides. Additionally, our  lambs were infamous for taking midnight walks, and whenever this happened there was no waiting until morning to go and fetch them home.  My father always insisted we immediately track down those sheep, no matter the hour day or night, and return them home to the safe pen in our backyard as soon as possible.

I could tell many tales about these sheep-chasing escapades, but one in particular always stands out in my memory.  It happened on a humid night the fall I turned sixteen.

The ringing of our phone roused me slightly from my deep sleep.  It was soon followed by my dad’s hard knock on the door of the bedroom I shared with my sister.   “Paige,” he said, “get up! The sheep are out along the highway, somewhere toward the high school. Your brother and I are heading out now.  You follow along just as soon as you get dressed. Meet us on the other side of the bridge.”

I heard the front door shut as they walked out of the house, and then their voices carrying softly as they walked across the front yard, headed toward the highway that stretched out in front of our brick home.  A wave of jealousy swept over me as I looked over at my younger sister, snugly tucked into dreams instead of up to go chase sheep in the night.

Five or six minutes later I was dressed and walking out of the house.  The night sky was dark.  No moon or stars lit the ground. The street light shone dimly on the other side of the highway, providing me with just enough light to dodge a puddle of water at the edge of our driveway.

Walking down the center of the highway, I suddenly felt very alone in the deep darkness. At shortly after 2 am, the roads in our rural town were quiet.  The only sounds I could hear were the sounds of tree frogs, crickets and the occasional hooting of an owl. I walked along, the fear in my throat growing thicker and sharper with each step that took me away from the safety of my home.  I quickened my pace, taking hurried steps as my shoes pounding against the dark pavement in my efforts to reach my father as soon as possible.

Soon I approached the bridge.  It was darker there. The trees overhung across the road, creating deep shadows.  The intense darkness blocked out even the reflective yellow stripes dividing the two-lane road. I hesitated before stepping onto the bridge, part of me knowing that in order to reach the safety of my father I had to get to the other side while another voice in my head screamed for me to run home.

Breathing a prayer, I put my foot forward and started across.  Toward the midpoint of the bridge, I heard a noise, a sort of rustling that didn’t sound like the leaves on the trees. I paused, but didn’t hear anything other than the pounding of my own heart.  I started walking again, but after another step stopped, feeling as if I wasn’t alone on the bridge.  Unable to see or hear anything, I shook off my fear and picked up my foot, determined to get to the other side.

At that exact moment,  a voice boomed out of the darkness:

“Paige!  Go back and get the truck!”

Immediately, I turned on my heels and began to run, faster than I had ever run in my entire life.  (Honestly, this wasn’t a huge feat. I was never a fast runner to begin with, and so it wouldn’t have taken much more than a steady jog to beat my all-time fastest run. Still, I rather like to recall this run as if I made it back home in record time.)

I ran straight for my dad’s truck, the beat-up old Ford that he drove back and forth to his job at our family hardware store.  Yanking open the door, I dove behind the steering wheel, slamming myself inside the truck. I took several deep, long breaths. My heart thumped wildly in my chest, though I wasn’t sure if it was due to the running, the fear coursing through my body or the realization that I had just heard the voice of God in the night.

The keys were in the truck’s ignition, just where I expected them to be, for in rural Louisiana during the mid-80’s, most people never bothered to take their car keys into the house. I turned the key and the truck rumbled to life. Three minutes later, I pulled over to the side of the road.  Ahead was my father and brother herding the small flock of sheep toward me.  I quickly hopped out, leaving the headlights on and the engine idling.

As my father approached, he said, “Thanks for bringing the truck! You got here just at the right time.”

I nodded.  “No problem, Dad. I’m just glad God told me to do it … and that I obeyed even though I was really scared.”

My father looked up from his task of calmly guiding the bleating lambs to give me a brief confused look … And then he started to laugh, deep and hard until it seemed as if he might never stop.  He finally caught his breath.  “Paige,” he said between chuckles, “that was me.  I told you to go back for the truck.  Didn’t you recognize my voice?!”

“That was you?  You were on the bridge with me?” It was my turn to be confused.

“Yes.  I hate to disappoint you, but you heard my voice and not the voice of God.” My father was still obviously tickled by my confusion.

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It’s been at least 25 years since that deep, dark night when I thought I heard God in the sound of my father’s voice.  Yet each time I recall that bridge and the voice that boomed from the darkness, I reminded of two ways that my earthly father taught me important truths about my Heavenly Father.

Almost any Christian will tell you that hearing and recognizing the voice of God can be difficult. Many Christians go through life without ever really learning how to listen for God’s voice.  I was fortunate.  My dad taught me to listen for God’s voice by placing a great importance on studying the scriptures, daily prayer, attending weekly orship services, and expecting me to learn and obey the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus once said, “My sheep hear my voice … and they follow me.” (John 10:27)  I am grateful for my daddy who taught me how to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.

The second truth is a reminder that in this life we will have troubles.  Jesus Himself said, “You will have suffering in this world.”  (John 16:33).  But He also said, “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20)  Just like my dad was with me on that dark bridge so many nights ago, my Heavenly Father is also with me whatever my circumstances.

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D is for Dad … and I’m grateful for mine!

 

C is for …

As the mother of a group of five teens and tweens, I can testify to the fact the mind of a twelve year old does not function exactly as it should.  Jon and I often liken it baking a cake. It’s brown on the outside, yet still jiggles in the middle. It’s just got to bake a bit more.

Unfortunately, as much as I might like to think I was personally exempt from unexplainable adolescent behavior, the story I’m sharing today proves quite the opposite. Today I am blogging about:

C, which is for The Cat who Came Back … again and again and again

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As I recall, it all started because I was up reading after my light was supposed to be out. It was well after midnight, but I had finally finished the last chapter. At last I could peacefully go to sleep, knowing everything had worked out in the end.

Just as I closed my eyes, a sudden yowl broke the silence. My heart thumped hard. In a mild panic, I bolted up. “What was that?” I wondered. Seconds later, I heard it again.  “Oh,” I breathed with a sigh of relief. “It’s just the cat.”

Snuggling deep into the covers, I closed my eyes and prepared to drift away. But instead of dreams, several annoying cat screeches filled my head. In a moment or two, the sounds quieted down once again. Fluffing my pillow, I settled in … only to be startled again by the yowling cat.

I don’t know how long I lay there, listening to the cat noises in the dark. It seemed like a short eternity. Finally, out of sheer desperation, I crept out of bed to take a peek out of the window, which happened to be right over my sleeping sister’s head.

Gingerly, I pulled back the curtains. Right there on the window’s ledge, sat our gray tabby, Jezzie. She gave me a long stare, then gave a shrill meow.

“Shoo!” I whispered as loudly as I dared. My words had absolutely no effect. “Jezzie! Go away,” I rasped.  The old cat gave a bored blink, and yowled again.

I looked around. Spying a hairbrush, I picked it up, and gently used it to tap the window. I hoped the sound might cause my pet to jump down from her perch. No such luck. This was one stubborn, and loud, cat. If only I could get her to leave, then it would be quiet enough for me to sleep.

Suddenly, a brilliant idea popped into my brain. Perhaps, if I opened the window, the cat would jump down. If not, then I could gently push her to the ground four feet below.  I felt certain if I could get her off the window ledge, she would walk away.

As you can probably guess, nothing went according to my plan.

Upon opening the window, a blast of cold January air burst into the bedroom. Not expecting such the gust of frosty air, I gasped in surprise. That one second was all it took.  The cat jumped in through the window, landing right on my sleeping sister’s face. Brooke sat up in surprise, her eyes wide.

“SHhhh! It’s just me … and the cat.” I softly said.

“huh?” Brooke was obviously confused.

“It’s okay. Go back to sleep.  I’ll go put Jezzie out. Nothing to worry about.” I patted Brooke’s head.

“Okay,” she mumbled, laying back down and closing her eyes again.

I picked up the cat, who began to purr noisily. “Come on, Jezzie. I’m putting you back where you belong.”  A few seconds later, I walked back in my bedroom, just in time to see the cat jump back through the window. I slapped my forehead with the heel of my hand. “Geez! I am so stupid,” I thought. “How could I forget to close the window first?”

Sighing, I picked up the cat and reached over to push the window back down, but my position was awkward and the cat managed to slip out of my arms, once again landing on Brooke. She rubbed her eyes and leaned up on her forearm.

I gave her a sheepish look.  “I’m sorry, Brooke. I’m just trying to close the window, but I can’t seem to do it while I hold the cat. Maybe you could go put the cat out while I close the window.”

“Okay,” said Brooke in a  sleepy voice. She grabbed up Jezzie and headed down the hall toward the front door. Meanwhile, I turned back to the window and began to push it down. But the window wouldn’t budge. I stood on my tiptoes and pushed down with all the effort I could muster, but nothing happened.  I grunted and moaned with each effort, but the window was simply stuck.

It wasn’t long before the cat hopped back up on the window ledge. She gave me an innocent look, and then proceeded to saucily tiptoe through the window, back onto the bed. My eyes bugged out in disbelief. About that time, Brooke sleepily trudged back into the room, but when she noticed the cat she harumphed, “Jezzie! I just put you out!”

“I guess I wasn’t quick enough at getting this window down, Brooke.  You go on and put the cat back out. This time I’ll get it closed.”

Over and over, Brooke marched the cat down the hall and put her out the front door, while I struggled and strained to close the window. Like a repetitive song, the cat kept coming back … right through the window.

There seemed to be no good solution to our problem.  Unless we could close the window, the cat would not stay outside.  In frustration, I sat down on Brooke’s bed. My arms ached. My brain was too tired to think. I was ready to give up and put the cat in bed with me.

Then I noticed a movement from the doorway.  There stood my father, glaring sternly.

“The window … it’s … um … it’s open, ” I stammered. Nothing like just stating the obvious.

“Yes. I see.”  Something in my father’s voice sent chills down my spine.

“Yeah,” Brooke piped up. “We can’t get it back down.”  She sweetly added, “Can you help us, Daddy?”

My father tramped over. With one swift motion, he closed the window.

“Girls … I don’t even want to know about the cat or the window. All I want right now is for you to GO TO BED.”  With those words, he stalked out of our bedroom.

I turned and looked at Brooke, who was still holding the squirming cat. Sighing, I lifted poor Jezzie from her arms. As I put the cat out of the front door and into the cold night, I whispered, “Whatever you do, Jezzie, I suggest you don’t go making noise outside Dad’s window. He’s not in a good mood right now.”

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I’m sure I could come up with plenty of spiritual applications for this story, but I mostly wrote it just for the enjoyment factor.  (After all, even God thinks laughter is important … per Proverbs 17:22 and Ecclesiastes 3:4.)  If you liked it, perhaps you’ll find this short video entertaining as well.

If you find a spiritual truth in my story, I hope you will share what God showed you. 

My Father’s Voice

I might be 40 years old, but my daddy is still my hero.  Go ahead … roll your eyes, but in my eyes my father is one incredible man.  He is just short of being able to part the waters and calm the seas.  In fact, there was a time when I actually confused the voice of my father with the voice of God Himself.

Throughout my childhood, my family kept a tiny flock of sheep in the backyard, as part of our 4-H project.  Several times each year, the sheep would find a way to escape the small pen in our backyard, and it seemed we would only find out whenever some neighbor telephoned to let us know our wooly pets were out wandering along the roadsides. Our lovely lambs were infamous for taking midnight walks, and whenever this happened there was no waiting until morning to go and fetch them home.  My father always insisted we immediately track down those sheep, no matter the hour day or night, and return them home to the safe pen in our backyard as soon as possible.

I could tell many tales about these sheep-chasing escapades, but one in particular always stands out in my memory.  It happened on a humid night the summer I was sixteen.

The ringing of our phone roused me slightly from my deep sleep.  It was soon followed by my dad’s hard knock on the door of the bedroom I shared with my sister.   “Paige,” he said, “get up! The sheep are out along the highway, somewhere toward the high school. Your brother and I are heading out now.  You follow along just as soon as you get dressed. Meet us on the other side of the bridge.  It’s dark, so bring a flashlight.  Even so, you’ll likely hear the sheep before you see us.”

I heard the front door shut as they walked out of the house, and then their voices carrying softly as they walked across the front yard, headed toward the highway that stretched out in front of our brick home.  A wave of jealousy swept over me as I looked over at my younger sister, snugly tucked into dreams instead of up to go chase sheep in the night.

Five or six minutes later I was dressed and walking out of the house.  The night sky was dark.  No moon or stars lit the ground. The street light shone dimly on the other side of the highway, providing me with just enough light to dodge a puddle of water at the edge of our driveway.

Walking down the center of the highway, I felt very alone. At shortly after 2 am, the roads in our rural town were quiet.  The only sounds I could hear were the sounds of tree frogs, crickets and the occasional hooting of an owl. I walked along, the fear in my throat growing thicker and sharper with each step that took me away from the safety of my home.  I quickened my pace, taking hurried steps as my shoes pounding against the dark pavement in my efforts to reach my father as soon as possible.

Soon I approached the bridge.  It was darker there. The trees overhung across the road, creating deep shadows.  The intense darkness blocked out even the reflective yellow stripes dividing the two-lane road. I hesitated before stepping onto the bridge, part of me knowing that in order to reach the safety of my father I had to get to the other side while another voice in my head screamed for me to run home.

Breathing a prayer, I put my foot forward and started across.  Toward the midpoint of the bridge, I heard a noise, a sort of rustling that didn’t sound like the leaves on the trees. I paused, but didn’t hear anything other than the pounding of my own heart.  I started walking again, but after another step stopped, feeling as if I wasn’t alone on the bridge.  Unable to see or hear anything, I shook off my fear and picked up my foot, determined to get to the other side.

At that exact moment,  a voice boomed out of the darkness:

“Paige!  Go back and get the truck!”

Immediately, I turned on my heels and began to run, faster than I had ever run in my entire life.  (Honestly, this wasn’t a huge feat. I was never a fast runner to begin with, and so it wouldn’t have taken much more than a steady jog to beat my all-time fastest run. Still, I rather like to recall this run as if I made it back home in record time.)

I ran straight for my dad’s truck, the beat-up old Ford that he drove back and forth to his job at our family hardware store.  Yanking open the door, I dove behind the steering wheel, slamming myself inside the truck. I took several deep, long breaths. My heart thumped wildly in my chest, though I wasn’t sure if it was due to the running, the fear coursing through my body or the realization that I had just heard the voice of God in the night.

The keys were in the truck’s ignition, just where I expected them to be, for in rural Louisiana during the mid-80’s, most people never bothered to take their car keys into the house. I turned the key and the truck rumbled to life. Three minutes later, I pulled over to the side of the road.  Ahead was my father and brother herding the small flock of sheep toward me.  I quickly hopped out, leaving the headlights on and the engine idling.

As my father approached, he said, “Thanks for bringing the truck!”

I nodded.  “No problem, Dad. I’m just glad God told me to do it … and that I obeyed even though I was really scared.”

My father looked up from his task of calmly guiding the bleating lambs to give me a brief confused look … And then he started to laugh, deep and hard until it seemed as if he might never stop.  He finally caught his breath.  “Paige,” he said between chuckles, “that was me.  I told you to go back for the truck.  Didn’t you recognize my voice?!”

“That was you?  You were on the bridge with me?” It was my turn to be confused.

“Yes.  I hate to disappoint you, but you heard my voice and not the voice of God.” My father was still obviously tickled by my confusion.

It’s been at least 25 years since that deep, dark night when I thought I heard God in the sound of my father’s voice.  Yet each time I recall that bridge and the voice that boomed from the darkness, I reminded of two ways that my earthly father taught me important truths about my Heavenly Father.

Almost any Christian will tell you that hearing and recognizing the voice of God can be difficult. Christians, go through life without ever really learning how to listen for God’s voice.  I was fortunate.  My earthly dad taught me to listen for God’s voice by placing a great importance on studying the scriptures, attending worship services, and expecting me to learn and obey the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus once said, “My sheep hear my voice … and they follow me.” (John 10:27)  I am grateful for my daddy who taught me how to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.

The second truth is a reminder that in this life we will have troubles.  Jesus Himself said, “You will have suffering in this world.”  (John 16:33).  But He also said, “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20)  Just like my dad was with me on that dark bridge so many nights ago, my Heavenly Father is also with me whatever my circumstances.

I’m grateful that my Daddy loved me and through his parenting taught me about a loving God who was always with me, protecting me during the dark nights of life, and guiding me with His voice.  And I continue to be amazed that the One who created life from nothing desires for me to call Him “Father.”

Happy Father’s Day to my dad … and to all the wonderful fathers in this world!

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My Daddy and me … Easter Sunday 1973