Entering a War Zone?!

“Hey! You’re an EMT aren’t you?” The young man had sat down across the table from me. It had been a long day of chasing after hundreds of children at Lancaster Bible School, and now we were finally getting to eat some much needed food.

I nodded. My mouth was too full to respond verbally.

“Are you at all interested in taking your skills overseas?”

“Yes, absolutely! That’s been a dream of mine since I was a tiny girl.”

“Well, I’m a part of a group that’s started sending teams to Iraq. It’s brand new. There has only been a couple teams, and we aren’t taking females yet. But when we do, would you be interested in going?”

“Iraq? I’ve never really thought about going there. Isn’t it like a war zone? Do they allow non military people to go there?”

This was in 2015. Mosul had been captured by ISIS. There was active fighting there, and yet teams were going. Teams that were part of an NGO (non governmental organization). Teams made up of young people from conservative, traditionally non-resistant, Amish and Mennonite church groups. These people were entering an active war zone with the purpose of bringing hope and peace and helping to rebuild behind the military.

This intrigued me, and I filed it away in the back of my mind and waited for the call to join one of those teams. That call never came.

In spring of 2016, I came across an article (here) on Vice.com that described the efforts of some of these people in Sinjar, Iraq. I was hooked. I wanted to go even more. I was intrigued by this idea of entering an active war zone.

I showed the article to some of my friends at college, a couple of whom had served in the military. They scoffed at the idea of civilians with no training entering that type of environment. Still, the article blew air on the tiny spark deep inside me.

I would have never imagined that just a few short months later, I would meet two of the people mentioned in that article! In the fall of 2016, I moved to West Virginia and found myself roommates with one of the women mentioned in the article!

I soon found myself surrounded by people who had gone to Iraq. Then I started dating a guy who had been on the first team sent over there.

God never let that spark die inside me. He kept fanning it and fanning it. Slowly at first and then more intensely.

And then finally, a couple months ago, my husband and I were asked to join the team in Iraq! So in a few months, I will hopefully find myself in that land where my heart has been longing to go for so long.

It’s just amazing to me how that spark began and kept going until now it will actually happen! I’m so excited!

Rocking Chair Thoughts

As I am writing this, I am sitting in the corner on the glider rocker, rocking our baby to sleep for possibly the last time in our fifth wheel camper that we have called home for the past almost two years of marriage. I look around at the light teal walls, the hand sewn pink curtains, our tiny kitchen table, the mismatched bunkbed curtains, the neatly swept floor, and the cupboard doors tied shut with a shoestring. I look around and feel a slight bittersweet feeling.

This place was home. We painted it, replaced flooring and paneling, repainted cupboard handles, and revarnished all the wood. We unpacked wedding presents and lived well in this space. We hosted guests, played games, and lived life. And now the cupboards stand empty. And the floor is bare. Our giant beanbag has gone to live with my in-laws until we have another place to put it. And in just over an hour, we will say goodbye.

So many good times were had in this fifth wheel and so many slightly frustrating and adventurous times too. Family Christmas pizza dinner. Cooking with my parka on cuz the heater didn’t work in the middle of winter. Not having a working fridge or freezer. Having a fridge that froze things. Fighting the mice and stinkbugs, ladybugs and flies. Learning to live life as a couple. Playing game after game of Big Boggle. Dreaming big dreams. Making this our safe space. And now it’s time to move on.

We don’t know when or if we will come back to this area and there is another young couple getting married next month who needs a space to start out married life. So today we packed up all our books and knickknacks and decor, put all the boxes in storage, and made ready for the new couple to come back in. Now, we are kind of homeless.

We do not have a permanent space that is ours. We have our apartment in California for as long as we are there, but after that? Who knows? We sure don’t know yet! And I had to wrestle with that. Having a place of our own was part of my security. I found security in knowing we had a place to come too that would always be waiting for us. Now we don’t, and I had to look for where else to put my security. I had to choose to open my hands and hold all my dreams and longings with an open palm.

As I packed my children’s books, I wondered if I would ever get the chance to see them again and get them out to read to our baby girl while she is still little. When will I look at our photo albums again? Will I have a place to decorate with the few pieces of decor that I own? When will be the next chance to get out the fancy China dishes? How long will it be before I get to break those things out of storage again?

But I learned that it’s ok. I can be secure without a place to come back to. I can be secure with our stuff in storage. I can be secure while living a mobile lifestyle. My security doesn’t come from a place or stuff; it comes from knowing my identity in God. It comes from being secure in knowing that we are following exactly what we feel God wants us to do.

So for now I choose to completely trust God in this transition and I choose to remain secure in Him. I am going to enjoy life to the fullest and not let it steal the joy that I have.

That’s all for now!

Funeral Lessons

I know. I didn’t write a blog post last week. How could I? I was too busy processing how someone could be snatched into eternity in mere seconds. Here one minute and on heaven’s doorstep the next.

A young man we got to know in California was snatched in the blink of an eye to face eternity. The funeral mass was held in Spanish, so it was slightly difficult to follow along. “May our prayers accompany our brother on his way to heaven.” Young man barely 33.

We stood at the graveside, and his sister’s sobs tore at my heart. I cried with her. His friend who had watched him die seemed almost without life. I was overwhelmed with the feelings of sorrow, even though I did not know the young man super well. I could feel the sorrow and pain of others. I prayed in earnest for those he had suddenly left behind and let myself shed tears for a life lost too soon.

As the band sang, “Adiós, adiós, adiós,” people lined up and threw roses into the grave. Some wore shirts or hats in memory of him. A few smoked his favorite kind of cigarettes in his honor. He was buried next to his dad, and someone placed an open beer on his dad’s grave.

The depth of feeling was raw and unfiltered. Men and women alike shed tears and sobbed unashamedly.

And then. It was over. The tears, the sobbing. And everyone gathered to have a party to celebrate the life that was lived, to celebrate the man we all loved. Food was eaten. Jokes were cracked. Dances were danced. Laughter flowed freely. Beers were drunk in his honor. People smiled at the memories of him. The mood seemed almost jovial. The switch was nearly tangible. And it was beautiful.

These dear people allowed themselves to feel the sadness and grief deep in their souls, but when the funeral was over and it was time to celebrate their loved one’s life, they felt the happiness of the memories just as deeply.

I want to be more like that.

Motherhood Curses

“You will never sleep again.” “Your baby will be in charge.” “She’s gonna cry all the time.” “She’s gonna hate her car seat.” Curse after curse was spoken over our unborn baby.

While I was pregnant, I was inundated with all the horror stories of being a new mom. People told of long sleepless nights, of endless crying, blowout poops, and so much more. I refused to be afraid of any of it. They told me how the baby would run the show and how she will be a terror as a toddler and a teenager. Every time someone, especially strangers, would tell me all these awful things, I would smile politely while denying them in my head. When they would walk off, I would look at my husband, smile, and say, “Cancelled.” Why would I choose to believe such horrible things about a child that I hadn’t met yet, about a role I had never tried yet?

Then along came our baby girl, and she has been an absolute joy in every aspect. She sleeps long hours at night, only waking once or twice to feed. She rarely naps longer than 20 minutes during the day. She’s opinionated and vocal. She loves people-watching and being in public. Sure there are times we have a battle of the wills, but I’m the mom. It’s my job to train her amazing strong will.

Sometimes when she screams in disapproval about not getting her way immediately, I look down at her and am just overwhelmed with love. I just hold her to myself, hug her close, and speak calmly to her. I can hardly believe that I have been granted the privilege of being her mom.

There have been a couple times that I looked at Aaron, my husband, and asked him, “Isn’t it supposed to be harder than this?” Why did everyone tell me how awful motherhood was? Why didn’t they tell me about how fun it is? How amazing it is to have this child in my life? Why didn’t anyone tell us their joyful stories? Do people only remember the hard times? I don’t want to be like that. So if you need someone to talk about how amazing motherhood is, you can talk to me!

I realize that I have not been a mom very long, and I’m sure there are people out there who are reading this going, “Just you wait! You’re still in the honeymoon stage.” To you, I say, “Why does the honeymoon have to end? Why can’t I build a good foundation now and expect a solid building?” Together, Aaron and I have spent so much time praying over and speaking life over our child and our relationship with her. I expect that it will also bear good fruit over the course of our lives.

Have our lives changed since having a baby? Of course, it has. There’s no other way about it. If you add a full-time small human into your lives, there’s bound to be changes. Is our baby in charge of our household and do things revolve solely around her? Absolutely not. If all her needs have been met, I don’t believe that it hurts her to wait a couple minutes while I finish a task.

I don’t believe that motherhood is supposed to be all awfulness and horror stories. I would encourage you to look for the joys and speak them out to new moms and moms-to-be. Don’t speak so much negative over them. That can’t be healthy for anyone. Now for me, I’m off to hug my little one.

P.S. I am not discounting anyone who has ever had a less than stellar time being a mom, or who has struggled. If this is you, please do not hear any condemnation coming from me. My point is, motherhood is enough of a journey without constant discouragement from other moms. Let’s take time to build each other up.

I was Assaulted by a Stranger

According to the rainn.org website, 7% of all juvenile sexual assaults were commited by strangers. I’m part of that 7%.

His dark, seemingly pupiless eyes, buttery soft skin, and tight black curls are burned into my memory. The softness of his hands used to haunt me and make my skin crawl. His eyes looked so empty and dark, almost inhuman. I was nine years old when it happened.

My little brother was in the children’s intensive care unit after nearly dying from kidney failure due to E-coli. He was finally getting better, and we were spending the day at the hospital. At one point, we went to the large children’s play area. I went straight to the books on one side of the room, while my brothers went straight for the Legos on the other side. The room was large, enclosed by windows on all four sides, and big main hallways on two sides.

Next to the bookshelves was a small section sectioned off by a waist high wall. In that section was a doctor’s office set up. It had a sink, xrays, an exam table, and lab coats, basically everything that a child could want to play doctor with.

Eventually, dad took the boys to go see the medical helicopter that had landed outside, but I wanted to keep reading. I was deeply involved in my book reading when an insistent voice broke through my concentration. “Hey, come play doctor with me. Hey, come play doctor.” I looked up and saw what appeared to be an upper teenaged aged boy. I said, “Ok,” got up from my seat, and joined him.

He wanted to examine me with his hands, but I refused to let him. Then he wanted me to examine him. This time I acted like I didn’t know what he wanted, so he took my hands in his and guided them where he wanted, while I mentally checked out. When he was done, I just walked away from him and went and found my family out at the helicopter.

Later I saw him again at a drinking fountain, and he looked so sad. My first instinct was to feel badly that I obviously had not pleased him. Awhile later, I told my mom about it, and I could instinctively tell that she was devastated. After that, whenever we were out, my dad always kept me close.

It took such a long time for me to process this incident, to break through the layers of lies I picked up.

Everything I read about sexual abuse said that it almost never happened from a stranger, it was always someone known. I wondered what was wrong with me that it did happen and in the way that experts said it shouldn’t. I picked up the lie that God was so busy healing my brother that He didn’t have time to watch over me, and the lie that being used sexually was all that I was worth.

Fast forward to quite a few years later, and it was time for me to face this situation head on. As I faced the pain and the awfulness of that situation, I begged God to show me where He was during that time. I couldn’t fathom where He was.

Suddenly, I was back in that situation, feeling every single thing again. But this time there was a key difference. As I faced that situation, I realized I was covered, completely covered, by Jesus. His hands covered mine. The perpetrator was not defiling me; he was defiling Jesus. God had not let this person steal my purity. He had not even been able to touch me. As I let this beautiful protection seep into every part of my being, I felt pure for the first time since that incident.

The realization that God took everything for me was a complete perspective shift. I was suddenly able to stop viewing myself as damaged goods. I was able to believe that I was actually pure. I was good enough. I was protected, even in the situation.

This situation was one of the most traumatic things to ever happen to me, but it also led to one of the most incredible healing moments that I have experienced.

There is hope. There is healing. Even if what happened is statistically not common, God’s healing covers the uncommon.

Ten Things that Fill My Joy Center

I am challenging myself to write at least once a week, so join me as I pursue this challenge! Also, you can let me know if you have any suggestions on what you’d like to read.

First off, here is a quick list of 10 things that make me happy.

1. Seeing my little girl smile every morning when she wakes up. It’s a reminder to me to always wake up happy!

2. Living within walking distance of the grocery store, bank, restaurants, and library. It gives me so many options of things to do if I find myself bored at home.

3. Having access to technology that allows us to video call our families that are far away and keeps us connected.

4. Getting to do life with my best friend, my husband and having so many awesome adventures with him.

5. Listening to bluegrass gospel music. It speaks to my soul in a way that few other genres do. (In fact, I’m listening to it as I write this.)

6. Owning a very reliable vehicle. We bought a Chevy Trailblazer about three months ago and have put 8,000 miles on it with the only issue being a faulty oil filter. It’s so nice to have that to count on.

7. Being a mom. I love being a mom! It is definitely one of the best things I’ve ever gotten to do, and I literally love every minute of it. (Of course, it helps that our baby is pretty much perfect, I think.)

8. Living on a budget. It’s so freeing to be able to stick to a budget and challenge ourselves to work with that exact money. Of course this means that sometimes we have to prioritize things, but then some weeks we have extra for a couple wants!

9. Having a laundry room on the apartment complex. This way I can easily walk back and forth from home to laundry.

10. Living a portable lifestyle. We can easily pack up and move from one place to another without too much trouble. This way we are free to move about as we sense God is leading us. (And it helps keep earthly possessions to a minimum.)

So there you have it, ten things that make me happy. What is something that makes you happy?

“I’m NOT crazy!”

black and white woman girl sitting

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“But doesn’t it help you to understand yourself now?” The words came from a young man who was trying his best to be comforting and helpful. I was on the verge of tears and lashed out at him, “No, B, it doesn’t! I don’t care what that guy says! He was wrong! I think he has BPD, not me! He’s the crazy one, not me! I am NOT crazy!”

I had just been released from the hospital after spending 24 hours in the ER, while all the docs desperately tried to figure out what was wrong with me, why I had multiple episodes of completely blanking out and having no memory of time past. They ended up sending me in for an emergency consultation with a psychiatrist, who I instantly disliked. We talked about my history of being sexually abused, and he asked me all kinds of questions about the chaos in my head. Finally, at the end of our session together, he told me that I had BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder).

For those of you unfamiliar with this diagnosis, let me offer you a short explanation from the website for the National Institute of Mental Health. “Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behavior. These symptoms often result in impulsive actions and problems in relationships. People with borderline personality disorder may experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that can last from a few hours to days.”

Here is a more comprehensive list of what I experienced on a frequent basis. This comes from the Very Well Mind website.

  • Depersonalization: This is a feeling of separation between yourself and your body. People who experience depersonalization may say that they feel like they’re observing their own body from the outside, or as if they’re in a dream.
  • Derealization: Similar to depersonalization, derealization is a feeling of being detached from the external world, such as from other people or objects. It may cause familiar things to look strange, unreal, or unfamiliar. Derealization and depersonalization often occur at the same time.
  • Amnesia: Some people who experience dissociation have periods of amnesia or “losing time.” They may have minutes to hours or days when they were awake but can’t remember where they were or what they were doing.
  • Identity confusion: This occurs when you experience an inner struggle about who you really are.
  • Identity alteration: When you sense that you act like a different person some of the time, this is identity alteration. For instance, you may see things in your home that you don’t recognize, perform a skill that you don’t remember learning or others will say you’re acting like a different person. Mild identity alteration is common in the general population; for instance, changing your name. The key is that it doesn’t cause problems with everyday functioning or relationships. In other words, you’re aware of your identity or role change. Moderate identity alteration is common in BPD and involves changes in mood or behavior that are not under your control.

It was after this diagnosis that I received the news that I would no longer be welcome at the school I was teaching in. I would have to leave the place I thought I would stay for years. In fact, they had already gone ahead and found a new teacher to take over my classroom. She would be arriving in a few weeks. I was heartbroken. I ran to the school, told my co-teacher where I was going, and then headed to a secluded cabin, hid under the bunk beds with the lights out, and bawled out all my heartbrokenness. Eventually, my co-teacher came and found me and told me that there were multiple people out looking for me and that I should probably go show myself so they wouldn’t get worried. I dried my tears, wiped my face, and was thankful for the subzero weather outside that hid the final traces of my tears. I went up to the main dining room and made my appearance so they could call off the search party. The administrator’s wife scolded me, “You should not have run off! We couldn’t find you! You need to always let someone know where you are!” I just nodded and agreed to not run off anymore. I didn’t feel like they would understand the depth of pain I was feeling at that moment. I retreated upstairs to my room.

Too soon, my time came to leave, and I left the place of my dreams to head into the unknown. I had spent years dreaming about living in this place, and I had planned on staying for years, probably never leaving, and now that was all ripped out from under me.

I moved to Pennsylvania where I knew there were options for Christian counseling and potentially finding answers. The first family I stayed with helped me get hooked up with a trained counselor at a ministry. She was a nice lady, but I didn’t really connect with her and I found her techniques not helpful enough. Then she said we could only meet for one hour every two weeks. I tried it for a few weeks, before deciding that I needed something more intense than that. I found that I couldn’t just turn my emotions and things I was dealing with off and on that quickly. I started looking for somewhere else.

A friend of mine told me about a place in Michigan, so I began making plans to head there next. But in the meantime, God intervened and had me watch a video testimony of a lady who seemed to be telling my story. I contacted them and was able to receive about 8 hours of counseling from them. In those 8 hours, I felt that I had finally found something that would work. I found hope again. I also was able to attend a week-long conference that gave me more tools and helped me answer more questions that I had. I received more healing. Then I headed out to Michigan.

Michigan turned out to not be the place for me, so I headed back to Pennsylvania. I was desperate to find answers that worked and lasted. I was determined that they must be out there somewhere, and I wasn’t going to stop until I found them.

I had only been in Pennsylvania for a few weeks when I ended up in the mental health ward at the local hospital due to being suicidal. I spent four days in that horrible dark place. My only highlight was when three of my friends came to pray for me. Their prayers encouraged me and lifted my spirit. They spoke much-needed life into me at that low point. The doctor also put me on Sertraline, but I hated how it made me feel. I made sure to let the nurses know that I did not approve of this medication, but they told me that I should just keep taking it because it would take time for my system to get used to it. I didn’t want to just “get used to it”. I wanted to be off of it and get better.

I remember sitting in the consultation room with multiple medical professionals as they assessed me to see if I could be released. They asked me what I did for exercise, and when I told them that I biked or walked everywhere, they seemed surprised. In their opinion, there was no logical, medical, physical explanation as to why I had been feeling suicidal. Everything medically was coming back clear and normal, and yet I still had these horrible bouts of depression. They were puzzled.

When I was released from the hospital, my aunt took me to get my prescription filled, which I did. I took it for three days after being released, before deciding that it was better to be off of it than to feel so ill while taking it. People around me did not agree with my decision and were worried about me, so I learned to hide my symptoms better. I went back to work and looked desperately for more answers. I had a couple friends that I could talk to during that time. They would listen to me and lift my spirits when I felt the darkness creeping over me. J, P, and S were my lifelines during that time. They were the only ones that I felt I could be real with.

I started EMT classes, moved in with another family, changed jobs, and really thought that I was getting my life together. I knew I wasn’t completely better, but I felt better enough. I was able to function and had some answers. Most people had no idea what was churning just below the surface. Then came the day that I was told the people who were working with me could no longer do so. They felt that they had helped me as far as they could and were not interested in continuing to do so. They strongly suggested that I move back to my family in Oregon, as they did not believe that there was any place for me in Pennsylvania anymore. (I found out that they had talked to multiple people about me and what I was facing.)

So I sold my car, packed up my things, and moved back to Oregon without having finished EMT class or doing many other things that I had intended on doing. I was doing better. I knew that. I started a new job in Oregon and started attending college. I made connections with new friends, began attending a new church, and thought that life was as good as it was going to get. It was around this time that I resigned myself to the diagnosis of BPD. I just figured I would just have to cope with it forever. I finally started embracing it and just learned more and coping skills. I had a support system. I was a fully functioning member of society and my community.

I began working as an EMT and had some really tough calls that I bottled up and didn’t process properly, until the day that there was a minor who committed suicide. That day I broke down at work and had a panic attack. I talked to a couple of people at work, and then my supervisor sent me home for the day.

It was a rough week after that, but then I found out that there was going to be a three-day conference a couple of hours from my house. I thought I would be able to get some more answers there, so I went. I did find some more answers, some more tools for my bag. I basically thought that I had acquired everything that there was too have. I knew the darkness was always there, ready to overwhelm me at any moment that I let down my guard, but I was also resilient enough, independent enough, that I thought I could actually make it like that through the rest of my life.

A few months later a friend told me about a training course that would be taking place in Colorado. H thought that I would benefit from taking the course, and after much thought, I figured it at least couldn’t hurt anything. So another friend and I packed up in my little Dodge Neon and headed the 18 hours to Colorado.

I was shocked when I attended that course. I found people who I tried to scare off by sharing with them what I considered to be the darkest, scariest parts of myself, my story. The parts that I never admitted to anyone else ever. These people took it all in stride and weren’t phased by anything. They loved me, supported me, and helped me deal with deep root issues, unlike anything I had experienced ever before. And even though they came from a very conservative background, they were emphatic about empowering me as a woman to be everything that I could be, even if it didn’t fit the traditions I was used too.

I headed home from that course absolutely changed. Every aspect of my life had been altered in some way. I now knew that there was actually a way to heal from BPD, not just cope with it.

My journey with BPD has been one with desperate lows and mountain top highs. So much of it has been a crazy roller coaster ride. However, I can honestly say that I have found great healing. I have moved forward. Best of all, I know that I am breaking the mental illness cycle in my generations. I know that I will not be passing it on to my unborn daughter and that gives me great joy.

Chicken or Bones?

opened bible on wooden surfaca

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Is there such a thing as honoring those who have deeply hurt us? Is there a way to separate their actions from them? Is there a way to keep the good and throw out the bad? If I am eating a chicken, I pick off the meat and throw out the bones. I don’t see the bones and throw out everything because I don’t wish to eat that one part. Is there a way to apply this to various situations in our past? Let me give you some examples.

How can I apply that principle to the church minister who, when I confided to him and his wife about being sexually abused, told me to be careful that I don’t do that to anyone else because it’s known that those of us who were abused are more likely to abuse others? It wasn’t wrong advice, just very ill-timed. I’ve been able to feel sympathy for him as I’ve grown and found healing. I can’t imagine how it must have been for him, a newly ordained minister at the time, having a teenage girl tell him this. He wasn’t trained how to handle it. He didn’t know what to do. I will give him credit for not trying to discredit what happened to me. I felt like he believed what I told him; he just had no idea how to handle it.

How can I apply that principle to the ministry who made me leave after I was sexually harassed by one of their former staff members? I choose to believe that they recognized that they didn’t have the tools needed to help me heal, so they sent me somewhere they, and I, thought I would be able to receive help and healing.

How can I apply that principle to the family who welcomed me into their home for a few months before turning bitterly against me and refusing to acknowledge me to this day? I have good memories with that family as well as painful ones. I had to acknowledge the deep wounds, forgive them, and then I could remember the good that they did. They believed in me at a time when it felt like few people did. They spoke life into me when I needed it desperately. They dove in headfirst to help me, when they may not have been ready to help such a traumatized person. They gave it their best shot, and it didn’t work out. I don’t fault their effort, and I pray that they have learned from that and hopefully are able to help others now.

In looking back at my journey, my goal is to see each thing as a step, rather than a failure or success. Every counselor I sought out. Every conference I attended. Every mile I traveled. They all added up to a collective experience. I learned a lot of tools, gained healing and freedom in various stages. If I would have done the last thing before I did the first, it may not have worked in the same way.

And along the way, I have met some incredible people that I will forever be grateful too for helping me. The one who took time to meet me one on one at a time they weren’t really doing that anymore. The one who told me “I’ve always believed in you. I knew you could do it. I’ve been praying for you.” The one who explained that multiple personalities weren’t something to be scared of, but rather could be healed from. The ones who helped me put my life back together when things made zero sense and I had memories that I couldn’t confirm or deny. The one who confronted one of my abusers for me when I couldn’t. The people who stuck with me through all the ugliness.

How can you honor your journey today and see the good in each step? My journey is what made me who I am today and how I got to where I am now. How can I despise that?

“Retreat, Hell–We Just Got Here!”

“Retreat, hell–we just got here.” -Captain Lloyd W. Williams, 5th Marines, Belleau Wood

For our anniversary this year, my husband and I went to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia. It was a powerful experience for me. Walking through the immersive exhibits, reading the first-hand accounts of the Marines, looking at the pictures, watching the videos, and listening to some Marines talking. I love history, military history, and I am intrigued by the Marines and personally know many Marines. I felt like I learned a lot of things that we should apply in our Christian walk, in the church.

That is how I approach life. I am constantly on the lookout for things in the natural realm that I can learn from and apply in my life. And I find so many things to learn.

One of the things that impressed me the was the moment we were observing the flag that was raised at Iwo Jima. It was the original flag that had been raised on the island. It was torn and looked a little battle weary. Standing nearby was an old Marine, a guide at the museum. A young Marine came up, and they began to talk.

The old Marine told the story of Iwo Jima and how this smaller flag was raised initially before being replaced by the larger flag shown in the iconic flag-raising photograph. He told the younger one how that flag came back from Iwo Jima and toured around the US in order to raise money for WWII. He told the younger one, “Guess how much YOUR flag raised for YOUR country.” “One million dollars?” “Twenty-four billion dollars in 1945, which is like $337 billion today!” The jaws of the young Marine and I both dropped in absolute amazement!

What really struck me though was the inclusive language that the older Marine used. He included the younger Marine in the happenings of WWII that happened dozens of years before the younger one was born. His language was that of instilling pride in the younger one for all that older Marines had accomplished and all that this new generation of Marines would be accomplishing. I had to think, what if we used language like that more frequently? Instilled pride in those coming after us for all that we have done and all that they will do? Made it seem like we were more one big family, no matter how old or young or how long we’ve been in?

Another thing that really stood out to me was the quote I included at the beginning, “Retreat, hell–we just got here!” In WWI, Captain Lloyd Williams was commanding the 2nd Battalion 5th Marines Regiment and was sent to assist French troops at the Battle of Belleau Wood. When they arrived, they found the French troops retreating. The French colonel advised Captain Williams to retreat, but Captain Williams’ reply was, “Retreat, hell–we just got here!” Captain Williams went on to lead his men in routing the German defenders but ended up giving his life on the battlefield. To this day the 2nd Battalion 5th Regiment’s motto is “Retreat, hell!” in honor of that one captain.

I love that motto! I as a Christian should walk in such a fearless manner that when it looks impossible and others are telling me to retreat, I can say, “I just got here!” I should walk in so much authority that hell retreats when I show up!

The church has become so silent and afraid of offending anyone that it seems they have bowed out and agreed to retreat before hell. We need to rise up, agree with God, and take for our motto, the Marine captain’s words, “Retreat, hell–we just got here!”20181008_134346

In Remembrance of 9/11

I wrote this five years ago, but it seems appropriate to share it again on this the 17th anniversary of that fateful day.

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Twelve years ago…today
He said, “Good-bye”
His pager goes off.
His company is toned out
“Twin towers hit.”
He runs out,
suits up,
jumps on his truck.
He does this every day,
only today is…
different.
This is massive.
First on scene
Tirelessly, he works.
Together with
police officers,
firefighters,
emergency medical workers.
Searching.
Hoping.
Rescuing.
Trying not to breathe the dust.
Eyes bloodshot from searching
Lungs hurting from the dust
Face covered in grime
Emotionally dying
Doing his job
Uncovering more dead than alive
As the search goes on,
hope dies.
Six days
Six nights
No sleep
Still searching
Even when he takes a break,
he still sees the rubble,
the bodies,
the smoke,
the endless wreckage.
Finally,
his job is done.
He gets to go home.
To his family.
He hugs his children extra tight
Spends extra time with his wife.
No words.
Just silence.
That’s all that fits what they’ve been thru
Silence and tears.
Standing together
in a solemn salute
As hundreds of people are laid to rest.
A silent tear traces its way down his cheek
as he watches one more casket lowered into the ground.
Then he goes home
And faces invisible giants
And physical illness contracted from doing his job
Such is the one a Firefighter
on Ground Zero.
#neverforget #9.11.01