My husband’s dear Grandpa Eddie, a man I wildly adored and respected, served in the European theater during World War II from D-Day Plus 2 until after VE Day. During that time, his division fought in major battles such as the Battle of the Bulge and took part in monumental events, events like the liberation of Dachau concentration camp. According to Grandpa Eddie, at some point after his division helped liberate the concentration camp, he and others rounded up several of the local townspeople and brought them through the gates of the camp. The soldiers wanted them to see what atrocities were occurring in their own backyard. They wanted them to see, know and understand more about what they had turned a blind eye to until then.
One extraordinary thing about our military is they do the seeing of injustice first, and they refuse to turn away from what they see. They put themselves last by running to the front. They stand firm, even ’til death, so others can live free.
Some give everything so others can have anything freedom brings.
On this Memorial Day, I pause to remember the then-and-now soldiers and airmen, those like Grandpa Eddie as well as others sprinkled throughout my family tree and counted among my friends.
On this Memorial Day, I pause to say thank you to our military for all they give up so the voiceless can be given to.
On this Memorial Day, I will listen to freedom’s bells ringing in my country, my front yard, and my church.
And I will give thanks that because of the extraordinary ones who served and sacrificed, the music rings on.
**Serving You is no longer free to subscribers, but you may purchase it here as a pdf download or here for your kindle. My ebook The Way Jesus Sees You: Reflections on Your True Identity is free for all subscribers.**
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Here is a taste of what you can get inside the ebook:
Read more about what’s in the ebook as well as endorsements given by fellow military wives here. This book is my way of saying thank you for all you do to serve behind the scenes.
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When my kids were little and the end of the school year sped around the bend, I didn’t necessarily greet it with buckets of enthusiasm. After all, it meant the calmer daytime hours were about to be no longer so. Even if we did enjoy more of a laid-back schedule, entertaining and caring for the kids while my good man worked and traveled was no laid-back task.
But now that I have two kids in high school and one finishing 5th grade, I cannot wait for them to be done. I tell ya, I am clawing, crawling, and scratching my way to the finish line of this school year. Maybe it’s because of the way our district does its calendar (the boys had Freshmen orientation on July 31th. July 31th!), but it seems like the end of school sauntered this year. And I am officially shaking my finger at it saying in my best mom voice, “Where in the Sam Hill have you been?”
These last couple weeks, I’ve done more food-cooking, minivan-driving, project-supervising, activity-participating, and appointment-making-and-completing than I’ve done in the last five months. But you know what? The finish line is here, thank you Jesus. Today is the last day of school, and I am going to dance because of it–just as soon as I take a well-deserved nap.
I read somewhere recently that May is the new December, and I couldn’t agree more.
Many of you with children won’t be finished with school for a few more weeks. But if you do find yourself approaching a highly anticipated finish line of one kind or another, may you keep on keepin’ on ’til you feel the tape tear across your chest. May you have more than a few moments to sit down, catch your breath, and savor the wind in your hair. And may you know the joy of success found in completion rather than perfection.
And if you are going through a particular change or transition right now, will you let me know about it with the hashtag #GirlMeetsChange? A couple days ago I posted a momentous one for our family on my beloved Instagram. I’d love to see yours as well!
What I’m Reading:
A short while ago I finished Melanie Shankle’s Nobody’s Cuter Than You. It was a perfectly delightful read told in Mel’s characteristically funny, engaging voice. I downed it faster than a can of Big Red.
Right now, I’m reading the nonfiction book The Gift of Being Yourself by David G. Benner. I’m only on page 34 (it’s 114 pages total), but I already love the way Dr. Benner describes the importance of receiving the gift of our self-in-Christ rather than trying to create a version of ourselves that isn’t from him. It’s a very freeing and purposeful read.
I started The Distant Hours several weeks ago but have yet to finish it. It’s not my favorite of Kate Morton’s books (I liked The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden much more), but I will see it to the end.
What I’m Doing:
Our family is following along with and investing in this stunning display of hope right here.
What I’m Buying:
Sevenly is an organization that invites customers to purchase products designed by a selected artist. For every item purchased, $7 is donated to a selected charity. This week, Sevenly is partnering with TAPS to help military families of fallen soldiers. $7 from any shirt in their Red White & Blue collection goes to TAPS. I purchased two of them because, well, I love this one and this one. Plus it’s my birthday next week so happy birthday to me!
What I’m Listening to:
This one on repeat:
If you have a daughter standing at the threshold of her last preteen birthday, she may decide she doesn’t want a birthday party this year. And if she decides she doesn’t want a party, she’ll probably ask if she can do something a little different instead.
And if she’s a girl that is active as a dozen boys, she may ask if that different something can be zip lining. And if she decides she wants to go zip lining, she’ll of course want to take the whole family along.
And if she’s a girl whose anxiety sometimes does its best to boss her love of adventure, she may ask you 27 times (give or take a few) how dangerous you think it will be. And you will tell her 27 times that it can’t be too dangerous or they wouldn’t allow people to do it. The night before the Big Event, she may have trouble going to sleep because of nervous excitement.
But eventually, she will close her eyes and fall asleep just the same.
And as you curl up under your own covers, you might remember that episode of Hawaii 5-O where the ziplining tourist plummets to his death after someone sabotages his equipment. You may have a little trouble going to sleep, too.
But eventually, you close your eyes and fall asleep just the same.
And when the earth spins back around the sun to bring you morning, your daughter will probably be the first one up and ready to leave. And after your family drives an hour southwest to the location of the zip line tours, signs in and suits up, your daughter will probably wear a smile on her face bigger than Dallas, even if its corners hold a smidgen of nervous energy.
And after hearing detailed instructions and zipping down the small practice run, your daughter might just march onto the platform of the first zip line with all the confidence of a seasoned outdoors-girl and take her place in line. But when it is her turn to step off, she may first need to take a deep breath.
And one more still.
That’s okay, though, because deep breaths are kind companions to bravery.
Eventually, she will step forward. She’ll step forward into thin air, trusting the equipment does everything it’s supposed to do. Because sometimes you must walk through the discomfort of uncertainty to fly headlong into the thrill of delight.
And when your daughter safely reaches the other side and you follow soon after, she’ll tell you how much fun it was and that she wants to do something a little different for her birthday next year, too.
And you’ll both believe this non-party–this adventure winning over anxiety–is a really amazing way to celebrate the last of the preteen birthdays.
And really any birthday.
As we shook hands and greeted those sitting next to us in church last Sunday, one of my dear children accidentally kicked over my husbands full–very full–cup of coffee. Creamy brown liquid dribbled in rivulets from our seat in the back down to five or six rows ahead. As my husband and kids hurriedly left to grab paper towels, I whispered to the young mama with three small children next to me, “See? Little kids aren’t the only kids causing a ruckus during church.”
She laughed, and I didn’t miss the layer of relief that touched her grin.
So, while most people in church listened to announcements, my husband, kids and I patrolled the aisles in front of us and cleaned stray coffee streams. Thankfully, our church home is super laid back, and nobody seemed bothered by our activity–or my clip-cloppy heels.
I wasn’t bothered, either, not even a little. I found the whole thing more shake-your-head funny than embarrassing. But ya know, I only wish I was as laid back about all my kids’ mishaps. Because let me tell you, I’ve yelled when I should have held and counted up their shortcomings when I should have been long on grace. I’ve swung like a crazy pendulum, parenting like a Chinook helicopter one minute and then been too uninvolved the next.
Heaven knows all the times I’ve stormed its gates with prayers, asking God to please undo what I’ve done, to cover what I’ve left exposed.
I never want to give the impression that things here are perfectly blue skies and trouble-free times. My kids sometimes make choices that bring the mom smackdown here and there. But most days, you aren’t going to hear about our more angsty moments because, understandably, teenagers don’t want their difficult business all over mama’s social media. Honestly, they don’t always want all their good business on my social media, either. And they have the right to feel that way. They have the right to keep parts of their life sacred and private, and I would rather lose all ten fingers than disrespect that or them. So if a story or picture about them shows up next to my name, it’s because I have their permission to post it.
Of course, no matter the age, a kid deserves to have her thoughts and feelings respected. But when considering a toddler or young child’s shenanigans, there is a cutesy (albeit exhausting, frustrating, overwhelming) factor to them that makes sharing easier. But with teen shenanigans? Well, they ain’t so cute, y’all. And so in general, the older kids get, the easier it is for a mama to feel more isolated. Not only that, but mamas of big kids are continually met with an awareness that limited time remains to instill in our people all we want to teach them. It all feels immensely heavy, weighted with responsibility.
Great day, parenting ain’t for wimps. As much as I love, really love this season of raising my kids, there are hard days too.
A long time ago, I shared with my longtime friend Cheryl about a particularly challenging day with one of my kids, and she said something I’ve never forgotten. With her trademark thick Texas accent, she said,
“Kristen, sometimes you just have to look at him and say, ‘Baby, I’m gonna hug the mean right outta you.’ And then do it.”
In other words, I have to keep moving toward them. So I use my words as well as my arms to wrap them in love and security. I hold their faces and look in their eyes and tell them you are my treasures and how in the world did I get the honor of being your mama?
Oh yes, we Strongs have streams of mess than run down our four walls and we get things wrong with each other. But we don’t ignore the muck or stare at it with squinted eyes and crossed arms. We get down on all fours and wipe up the sopping mess and say I’m sorry and embrace the grace of a fresh start again. My good man and I keep reaching toward these big kids and doing our best to love the ugly right out of them. Even when it feels the opposite of what we want to do.
Especially when it feels the opposite of what we want to do.
It’s hard to be a teen. It’s hard to be a parent of teens. It always has been, and it always will be. But may my own see home as a safe harbor and know that the flawed people in it are genuinely for them, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
Especially when it doesn’t feel like it.
And may we mamas always find in Christ a safe harbor as well, the One who continually wraps his arms around our shoulders and his affirmation around our hearts. The One who elbows his Father and says, “Just look at her and the amazing job she’s doing!” And may we believe it, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
A baby princess was born last weekend, and her arrival rounded the sharp edges of world news as it made us smile, maybe even exhale at the fresh hope of it all. When the hospital doors swung open and we got our first glimpse of her in all her sleeping perfection, we also glimpsed her lovely Mama in 3 inch heels and the knee-length dress with yellow flowers. To say she looked put together would be the understatement of the monarchy. And although it’s been a while since I’ve given birth, I remember enough to know there ain’t no way Mama Kate looked that put together hours after birthing the tiny princess without a little royal help.
All mamas, royal or not, need a little help after birthing babies. Of course, some get more help than others.
Hours after delivering my twin boys and my not-a-twin daughter, I looked (and felt) more pieced together than put together. Sweat pants, ice packs, mesh undies, oh my. My own Mama stayed for several days following my first delivery, but eventually she had to head home 900 miles away. At some point after waving her and the other relatives goodbye from our driveway, my husband and I looked at each other and said without words, well, I guess it’s just you and me now.
Except thankfully, God saw to it that it really wasn’t.
When my twins came into the world, David and I lived in a sweet older neighborhood with towering trees that canopied yards, and we had several neighbors that canopied our little family with a tower of help and encouragement. Looking back from today to that time fifteen years ago, I see how one of those women in particular, my a little-older-but-a-lot-wiser neighbor Carol, in many ways became the difference in me flying or failing during my own infant days of motherhood. No single memory of Carol shoots across the sky in neon lights, but all her small acts of kindness moved together like grace notes in a song that made my bleary-eyed, bone-tired life sing.
Kind acts like when she would say yes to babysitting my boys after her long day at work just so I could run to Babies R Us or the grocery by myself.
Like when she invited me and the little ones over for dinner and gave us a change of scenery on the days David worked long shifts.
Like when she would make the best sweet tea on either side of the Mississippi and pour me a tall glass of the liquid heaven.
Like when she would invite me over to enjoy HGTV and adult conversation on Saturday nights when David had to work.
Like when she didn’t laugh or roll her eyes when I asked her over for dinner and fed her Stouffer’s Lasagna (with no side dishes!) because I knew it would taste better than anything I made.
Like when she helped change diapers for me and walked the malls with me and gave a steady, rushing stream of encouragement to me.
Eventually, those chubby twin babies learned to walk and roam. And whenever I opened the front screen door, they would toddle past the porch and make a sharp left turn toward Carol’s house, like they were following an arrow pointing toward a safe place, a home away from home.
All women need safe people from safe places to tend their hearts and souls.
So to my own Carol and all those mothering women who are arrows pointing toward a safe place, I love you. To those women who reach across the branches of their own family tree to help support a straggling limb from another, I honor you. To those women who meet teary eyes with smiles and tired hearts with atta girl encouragement, I thank you. And for every time you listen more than you talk and sacrifice more than you receive, God bless you.
In Christ all things hold together, and sometimes he uses those caring, nurturing, mothering souls around us to be the hands that pick up the scattered fragments of our crazy selves and piece us back together. He uses women who may not be blood related but are still soul delighted to love like they are.
And we learn you don’t have to give birth to a girl to mother her well.
Have a wonderful Mother’s Day, friends. I love you!