Hope Against All Hope

Hope Against All Hope.

Hope Against All Hope

Today at church, I was struck by a thought.  How often do believers hide their light?  The reason they can have a sliver of hope in the darkest hours?  Like Simon Peter, I hide my faith when I should be standing firm.  How many missed opportunities have I missed afraid of offending or afraid of ….what?  When Phil died, my testimony became my walk through loss.

I never could have thought about what would be asked of me.  My faith became very real when I studied for the sacrament of Communion at the age of six.  I  never strayed too far from my walk, but I fell short more often than not.  I believed that if I prayed hard enough and believed enough that somehow I was immune to life body slams.  It wasn’t a conscious thought, but I prayed every single day multiple times for my Phil’s safe return to me.  I truly believed that he would come home to me and I never once even considered that he might not come home.

Death is sneaky….as is illness and accidents.  Do we ever really think today is my day to die or to be hurt or to get sick?  Does having faith somehow make me immune to trials and body slams so great that I wanted to curl up in a ball and die?  Faith simply means hope against hope (Romans 4: 18).  It simply means believing some how, some way that there is something bigger than me, bigger than life, bigger than death, and bigger than evil—hope against hope.

When I was hearing those awful words, I dropped to my knees and began keening—a sound that I could never replicate even if I tried.  My one cognizant thought as I was feeling the true physical pain of my heart breaking was how can I claim to have faith if in my darkest hour, I turn from that faith?  I chose.  That is the hope against all hope.  In that moment my lifeline of hope began.

Hope does not change that vile unthinkable act, but it gives me something beyond.  Beyond what?  Beyond a temporal life and beyond the total devastation of my life.  It came to me—because I could not wrap my arms around any of what was happening.  I saw it again as my father was dying.  He was losing his life, yet he remembered his prayers and sought out God in the darkness. He could not speak well, but he mumbled prayer after prayer.  You tell me.  Was God with him?  With my Phil as evil rained down that day?  I have to believe it to be so.  I believe that both men were received into heaven and that angels surrounded them in those final days, hours, and minutes.

Because my journey of loss has been so public, my faith has come out from under the bushel.  I do not have the time or the energy to hide what it is that gives me a reason to get up in the morning and a reason to press on.  I will never be able to explain vile decisions, illness in children, or unfair death.  While all I know is that having faith does not make me immune to body slams, it does give me something to hope in and a lifeline during the very darkest minutes when I am drowning. “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:4).  While none of us want to suffer, the essential truth is that we all will at some point in our lives.  What will your choice be?  Share your story of faith so that we all may find a spark of hope today.  Hope against all hope.  It is there….I believe.Image

I Can’t Rejoice in Being Single

I Can’t Rejoice in Being Single.

I Can’t Rejoice in Being Single

Recently, someone told me that I should rejoice in being single.  Granted, this person was not saying that I should be socially isolated, but that statement really gouged my heart.   For my entire life, I considered myself a shy lone ranger.  I was as uncomfortable in groups as they seemed to be uncomfortable with me.  Even as a teenager when I thought I wanted to fit in, I did not, but I stopped caring long before I graduated from high school.  I had a few good friends that I could trust and I had a sense of belonging within my family, my school, my church, and my running community. I got to college and I maintained that sense of connection until my connection became my own family and the man my world revolved around for 23 years. 

 

People can blame that provincial circle on military moves and on the size of my family.  While all of those factors certainly played into my narrow circle, I take responsibility for not trying harder.  I let friendships go or I let friendships stay at a surface level. 

 

I am quite shy, but I am starting to change.  I am realizing why the research shows that people without connections die sooner, have heart problems, more depression, longer adjustment periods during times of body slams, higher levels of suicide, higher levels of risky behaviors, and illness.  People need to be needed and people need to belong.  Like the Cheers song, “I want to go where everyone knows my name and they are always glad I came.”

 

I have learned in my almost three years on this path of loss that I am not meant to be alone.  I stand waiting, however, because for me it isn’t about substituting or replacing.  It is simply about trusting that some how I will have a chapter two or that the loneliness will dissipate.  Part of that process is growing myself and stretching beyond my comfort level.

 

Initially, I shared of my feelings on line.  I am a runner and a writer—both of which are very solitary pursuits.  I am not a call and let’s talk about problems kind of girl.  I am not a crier.  I put on the mask of stoicism not because I feel like I must or that it is expected, but it is who I am.  By sharing of myself and opening my heart, I show transparency and vulnerability which are two key components of establishing connections with people.  The time has come, however, to establish social connections that include sharing events and stepping outside of my comfort zone.

 

I have changed.  I share more with my children and I share more with my mom.  I also share more with a select cadre of 911 friends.  I have people I can call when the walls are crashing down and the key is that they know they can call me when their walls are crashing down.  It is a mutual giving.  Ecc 4: 9 says that “two are better than one for if one falls his friend can help him up.”

 

I have changed since Phil died.  Never again will I narrow my lifeline to only one.  It isn’t fair to either person because what happens when the hard times come?  What happens when one person is gone?  What happens when the unthinkable happens?  Running, faith, a job, classes, and far off family connections go only so far.  In the words of my  daughter when she was three, “I am lonely down here.  I don’t want to be alone.”

 

While many people struggle and make poor choices in their loneliness, I keep busy.  Perhaps too busy.  I want to be needed and loved.  I want to love and to give, but I have not met a man that would be someone I would want my friend or daughter to date, let alone me.  I don’t want loneliness to be the reason I date or make concessions.  It isn’t about substituting or replacing, but it is about the need and desire to be a part of a team again.  It is strange that Phil knew I would need that even when I didn’t recognize it in myself, but it is about being excited for the weekend, happy to come home from work, and the joy received by doing little things out of love.  It is simply about having something to get up for and to live for.

 

There is a reason that attachments to people are important.  There is a reason that widows and widowers are at a high risk of death within the first year of their partner’s death.  There are psychological and physiological repercussions to solitary confinement.  Death rates are 45% higher in those that are alone.  Yes, I am one girl that wants to be connected and wants to be in long-term caring intrapersonal relationships, but that means action and risk.  If I do not like the girl in the mirror, I must change.  This change means finding a place that I fit.  It may be here, but it means action to find connections.  I would like to believe that I will love again, but I am not going to engage in dating people that I have to compromise my values for or with whom I have to hide my light with.  Being single is not a curse, but I certainly am not rejoicing in being alone so I reach my hand and take some more faltering steps. 

 

 

 

The Game Changed in Venezuela Last Night – and the International Media Is Asleep At the Switch

In English, here is what I have been saying about Venezuela. I can still sing the national anthem of Venezuela because it was something we taught our cub scouts before the Blue and Gold Banquet.

Caracas Chronicles

San Cristobal ayer San Cristobal on Tuesday night

Dear International Editor:

Listen and understand. The game changed in Venezuela last night. What had been a slow-motion unravelling that had stretched out over many years went kinetic all of a sudden.

What we have this morning is no longer the Venezuela story you thought you understood.

Throughout last night, panicked people told their stories of state-sponsored paramilitaries on motorcycles roaming middle class neighborhoods, shooting at people and  storming into apartment buildings, shooting at anyone who seemed like he might be protesting.

People continue to be arrested merely for protesting, and a long established local Human Rights NGO makes an urgent plea for an investigation into widespread reports of torture of detainees. There are now dozens of serious human right abuses: National Guardsmen shooting tear gas canisters directly into residential buildings. We have videos of soldiers shooting civilians on the street.

And that’s…

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Military Wives

Military Wives.

Military Wives

Military wives are some of the strongest and most resilient women I know.  By the virtue of loving a man wearing the uniform and combat boots, these women agree to living the life of a nomad.  This nomadic existence is often fraught with loneliness, single parenting, and few established long term support systems.  As a military wife, I followed my spouse all over the word for 26 years.  I was often a single parent to our five children who at one time ranged from 1-10 years of age because Phil was deployed six months a year the first half of our marriage.  My job was to be the positive spin master and to make all of the moves fun even when I was giving up a job, friends, or a community that I had grown to love.  I was reminded at Hearts Apart last night, just what we spouses bring to the table.

As we talked, we laughed together talking about how difficult it is when the spouse is gone and there are many little ones at home. Even the bathroom is not sacrosanct.  It never failed.  Every time I would disappear, someone would start fighting, get hurt, or need my immediate attention.  Privacy?  Heck, I just hoped that Josh wouldn’t kill his sister and that Tim wouldn’t climb on the counters to get something he shouldn’t. 

Going to the commissary or grocery shopping was always a big deal. First, try navigating the grocery story with small children in tow.  I never had enough hands.  We lived in stairwell housing in Germany and they put the big families on the top floor.  What is a mom to do when the base rules say that children cannot be left alone, yet all of those groceries have to get out of the car and up the stairs? I ended up placing children on each landing and having a system where groceries were carried landing to landing.  Don’t judge too harshly, but the Disney movies got used when I was putting away the groceries and recuperating from the wild adventure of trying to make it through the commissary without any children having a major melt down on any given day.

School conferences, events, and medical appointments are another realm that military spouses often juggle seamlessly.  I went through pregnancies, one birth, surgeries, graduation, two PCS moves, and many key events alone because Phil was deployed.  There never seemed to be enough of me and even though the children knew what their dad did for a living, it wasn’t always easy to understand.  Military mothers often have to take that deep breath, put on a smile, and somehow make it all right even when they are miles from their own families and long term friends are often far away.

The military spouse has a lonely role.  We joked last night about talking the maintenance men’s ear off when something is being worked on in the house.  After weeks of talking to housebound children due to the weather or the child’s age or school vacations, adult talk—any talk—is something that is craved even if it is about the broken faucet. We live for those phone calls, e-mails, or cards.  Those small tokens can keep us going for days.

Yesterday, I was reminded how much the little things matter in recharging the resiliency batteries for families in terms of community outreach.  One woman shared that although housing does shovel the walks during deployment, with the winter we have had, there has been times they haven’t been able to keep up.  Her neighbor has come over and snow blown her walks for her so that she didn’t have to.  Another woman shared that her neighbors have been great at checking in on her and helping out occasionally.  My guess is that like I did, these women on the receiving end of community outreach are the very ones doing the outreach when their spouses are home.  It works that way. 

In our sisterhood, there is shared strength.  In the knowing smiles and in the glance that if a person looks deep enough is the woman who has to roll with the punches, has to keep a sense of humor, and has to be a woman who is the strength for her children and the mooring for her soldier spouse.  While I speak of the military wives, this is only because I was one and because there were only women at Hearts Apart last night, but make no mistake.  There are men who are the spouse and those men have an even lonier existence because there are so few of them.

Our community outreach is part of building stronger resiliency in the face of the storms.  Long term military people or people affiliated with the military can attest to the military changing.  No branch of service is immune.  With more frequent and lengthier deployments, these partnerships are critical.  Reaching out to a neighbor may seem like a small thing or maybe an inconvenience, but sometimes the smallest gesture can have the biggest impact on a say when the struggles are the most.  I will never forget coming home at Holloman Air Force Base.  I had all five children with me and there at my doorstep was a meal and the simple note that said, “Thinking of you.”  I do not know who made that meal, but 20 years later I can tell you that act has touched me for years and that act has compelled me to pay it forward many times. In the winter months when all people are stuck inside even more, these acts can foster sparks of joy and give the spouse a small hand.  In the military, we are family and it does take a village to create these strong family ties that give us what I like about my military family—a sense of belonging ,  a sense of pride, and a sense of purpose.

 

 

 

The Grand Slam Romance

The Grand Slam Romance

Grand Slam Romance?

Grand Slam Romance?.

Grand Slam Romance?

Grand Slam Romance?.