Memorial Day Grace and Perspective from one Army Wife

Before 2005, Memorial Day wasn’t really on my radar, even coming from a family of servicemen.

It was the beginning of summer, and I could wear white shoes again.

But wasn’t real in a tangible way, until I kissed my young man goodbye and sent him to war.

I’m lucky that when I gave my heart to a soldier, he came home to me.

Not every military spouse, child, sister, parent, or friend is as lucky as I have been, and I cannot speak for them.

I can only speak for my heart on this issue.

Starting a few days ago, posts began circulating on social media about knowing the difference between Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Armed Forces Day.

Spreading knowledge is admirable, but the tone of some posts was almost hostile.

“Don’t thank my husband on Memorial Day.”

“If you wear the uniform, Memorial Day isn’t about you.”

I can only imagine the grief that spurred those posts, but they missed the real point of honoring military service.

Absolutely, Memorial Day is about those who gave all.

It honors those who won’t ever come home: Dads, daughters, sons, mothers who sacrificed everything to stand for our nation.

Absolutely, Memorial Day honors those who gave all, but all gave some. Don't miss a chance to thank them. Click To Tweet

The depth of that sacrifice is too great to quantify. Boys left home and never returned to marry waiting sweethearts. Men left pregnant wives never meeting their child. Mothers kissed babies goodbye and will never kiss them goodnight again. Sons graduated, but never had the chance to live the lives they imagined.

It’s too heavy to grasp unless you’ve lost someone.

Not sure what to say on Memorial Day? or if you should say Thank you? Here's some Memorial Day Grace from one Army Wife's perspective

But I look at those white crosses lining green fields and see people who will never hear another heartfelt, “thank you for your service” and my husband who came home but will never be the same.

And I think, who cares if you get it wrong and thank a living soldier on Memorial Day? or an active service member on Veteran’s Day?

Gold Star families who lost someone might answer differently, but I imagine if they could say thank you or invite you to thank their loved one one more time, they would.

So I want everyone to know why we celebrate Memorial Day, to recognize and honor those who paid the ultimate price. We stop to pay homage because if we don’t honor those who sacrificed all, the next generations won’t understand how valuable their freedom is.

But if you also thank a living veteran or active soldier, GOOD.

Because All gave Some, too. No one came home the same. No one serves without risking it all.

Take every chance to say thank you while they are alive.

Memorial Day is also remembering those, like my husband, who went willing to make that sacrifice, and knowing he lived things that haunt his nightmares so I can sleep in peace.

Not sure what to say on Memorial Day? or if you should say Thank you? Here's some Memorial Day Grace from one Army Wife's perspective

As a military spouse, I want to invite you to understand this military life, its costs and sacrifices as well as its joys and adventures; but there is a price, and I don’t think we can honor those who pay it too often.

Last week, my husband didn’t stand when they honored all service members at his son’s graduation, because he doesn’t consider himself a hero.

I love his humility, but later, I held his hand and reminded him that he stands not for himself, but for those around him: so his family recognizes that his service matters to our country, that what we all lost carries weight, and so that those around him can connect a face to the sacrifice of those who serve.

Memorial Day may be about those who’ve died, but it’s for the living, for us to remember the cost of our freedom. And there is no wrong way to do that.

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The Best Way to Explain Easter to my sweet Kindergartner

What is the best way to explain Easter to my sweet kindergartner? She knows the story, she knows Jesus, but I want to help her understand the depth of His choice to go to the cross for us.

We’ve been devotionally traveling through Jesus’s last week, reading about Palm Sunday, discussing how Jesus’s humble entrance into Jerusalem on the donkey fulfilled ancient prophecy.

Can you imagine any of our political candidates making that choice for an entrance?

We read about the Last Supper and Jesus’s washing the feet of the disciples. Discussing the cultural significance is hard with a five-year-old, so I got out a small tub of hot water and washed her feet. She washed mine.

We ended up tickling more than anything, but learned how humbling it is to wash someone’s feet, what a tender act of love it is, demonstrating how to love like Jesus, willing to serve in the humblest manner.

What is the best way to explain Easter to my sweet kindergartner? She knows the story, she knows Jesus, but I want to help her understand the depth of His choice to go to the cross for us.

But when we started talking about the cross, it seemed like she had the words, but missed the message. As I tried to explain Jesus dying, she started rattling off Bible stories from memory.

How can I explain Easter to her?

I’m glad she has those words written on her heart, but we need to experience Easter every year as a fresh encounter with sacrifice far beyond what our selfish natures can comprehend.

We all need to encounter Easter as the most tremendous sacrifice the world has ever known. Click To Tweet

So I stopped and decided to explain Easter in a totally different way.

I mentioned one of her friends had been really naughty last week. She threw a tantrum and was just awful. She deserves a punishment, doesn’t she?

My sweet girl nodded.

So would you take her punishment so she doesn’t have to?

She looked at me in shock, her brow furrowing, “No!”

But you love your friend, won’t you help her out?

“That’s not fair! I didn’t do anything!” She whined.

Neither did Jesus. He never did anything wrong at all, but he took your punishment, my punishment, and the punishment for all the sins of everyone so we could go to heaven.

Romans 5:8 ESV  But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

When we didn’t deserve it, when we couldn’t earn it, Jesus died to set us free.

Her eyes widened and the smallest understanding crept into them, “oh, Mom, I guess I should think about others, I’ll take her punishment, but I don’t really want to.”

I’m not really going to punish you, but does that help you understand what a tremendous sacrifice Jesus made for you, for us?

When we didn't deserve it, when we couldn't earn it, Jesus took our punishment to set us free. Click To Tweet

For the first time, she asked me to explain Easter, what it meant for Jesus to hang on the cross. We discussed the whipping, the crown of thorns, and the nails that held our Jesus to the cross.

Our day ended with baking resurrection rolls, a neat remembrance that the tomb was empty, Jesus conquered the grave.

I know I’m a forgetful sinner. I have to encounter Christ’s sacrifice and my redemption anew all the time. I have to be brought to my knees over my selfishness, face to face with my weakness so I can better understand the strength of His sacrifice.

As a mother, I just pray to explain Easter and keep Jesus real for her everyday.

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Day of the Deployed – Saying Goodbye

Today is Oct. 26 – the 10th annual Day of the Deployed, a day to remember the sacrifices of all the service members deployed around the world. Perhaps, also a day to remember the families left behind as well.

I don’t know what it is like to be deployed. I only know what it is like to say goodbye and be left behind: the heaviness in my chest, the knot in my stomach, the steely resolve, and the tears hiding behind every smile.

I don't know what it is like to be deployed. I just know what it is like to say good-bye and be left behind. Day of the Deployed - Heaven Not Harvard

Below is my post from the day my husband last deployed, his fourth deployment, my third. Hopefully, our last, but we never know.

Day 365 – August 26, 2010

A very brief hour and a half after our middle of the night good-bye,  I drag myself out of bed, too focused on getting myself ready for the second day of school and getting my Lil Bit ready for daycare to allow myself any more tears. I manage to get out the door only ten minutes behind my projection, but I am running on autopilot.

I have rediscovered an appendage, my cell phone. I have an iPhone, so I am extremely attached to it anyways; it practically does the laundry! But now I have to reprogram myself to carry it everywhere. I never know when my husband will call.

He is still on post, most likely drawing weapons and waiting for the bus to load and take them to their flight, but for all intents and purposes, he is gone. I do relish the fact that I can still text message him.

I send him a quick picture of the baby in her red, white and blue outfit for the day and hope it doesn’t break his heart. I could barely drag myself back to work after the summer. How in the world can he just pick up and leave his children for a year at a time year after year after year?

He has two sons, eleven and twelve from his first marriage (now 16 and 17). They have been through all three deployments. Last deployment his younger son really struggled with missing his father and feeling angry about it. I am already planning some new things to help Chad feel more present for them throughout the year.

They have daddy dolls, which seemed too childish, but I got one for each of them, and when they saw them and understood that daddy’s picture would go in them, they both grabbed them and carried the dolls around for the rest of the afternoon.

Last night, his older son called crying. His sobs echoed out of the phone and broke like soap bubbles across my heart. Chad tried to explain where he was going and that he would be back soon. Due to some developmental delays and autism, we don’t always know what he understands or feels. This was the first time we experienced him breaking down. His mother, father and I were all surprised to hear him expressing such strong emotions. I wanted to hug him through the phone. Out of everything, I think this was the moment Chad understood he was really leaving again and had to fight back the tears himself.

So . . . I am thinking about all three of Chad’s children as I drop off Lil Bit at daycare and head to work. I am smiling, saying “hello” and “good morning” until my friend Liz asks me how I am. For a second, the dam cracks and tears rush in. I just shake my head. I am glad she is such a good friend that she immediately knew I couldn’t talk or even manage a hug without losing my carefully placed facade.

Around ten a text message says they are boarding, and I don’t know when I will hear from him again. They fly a few different patterns to Kuwait. He could stop in Newfoundland or Ireland or Maine before the final leg to Kuwait. But I don’t know, I might hear from him again in a few hours or not at all for many days.

As I text back one more I love you and be safe, I realize that my cell phone has to go everywhere with me again. It took me almost the whole year to get used to being able to leave it in one room and walk into another, and now I am tied to it again.

This lesson is driven home later when I get into the car at 4:40 and realize I missed a call while making copies. I frantically call back and call back because even though I kissed him goodbye twelve hours ago, now every phone call, email, text message feels like the last one. The last call on American soil and I missed it . . .

.  .  . then he picks up. We have only a minute before I hear the boarding call in the background. I am just glad I got to say, “I love you” one more time. Now, it really begins, the wondering if and how we will both survive – on opposite sides of this deployment and the world.