Freedom Isn’t Free…

I am writing today’s blog from 30,000 feet in the air.  I am heading to sunny San Diego to spend a few days with my brother and his family.  The last time I went to San Diego they had the most rain they have ever had in the four days I was there than they had had in the whole year.  Instead of driving to the beach for sun and fun, we were dodging palm tree branches blowing from all directions towards our car as we drove down the narrow streets to the beach.  When we got to the pier it was submerged with ten-foot waves crashing all around.  Mike called yesterday and said that they were putting sand-bags out just in case, knowing that I was soon to arrive!  Hopefully this trip isn’t a replay of the bad weather we had the last time or I will certainly be blamed!

It’s a typical flight–full for a Monday morning.  I imagine most here enjoyed a weekend with their families and maybe their moms but now it is time to do what they do during the week.  I have my laptop on my lap and the guy in front of me just reclined so I am barely able to see what I’m typing anymore.  There’s a lady with a red brimmed crocheted hat that reminds me of Minnie Pearl.  I keep looking for the tag hanging down, but there is no way she bought that in a store!  LOL!  But the person who caught my attention the most is the guy across the aisle one seat up.  As he was boarding, I recognized the all too familiar military carry-on bag.  His polite, “Yes, mam,” to the ticket-taker when she asked if he was willing and able to help others because of his seat location, confirmed my thoughts.  His frame and haircut remind me of my son.  His seat is the first section behind first class so he is sitting there with a see-through curtain pulled in front of him as he watches those up front being served their specialty breakfasts while being treated like kings and queens.

My family has a long legacy of military men in its lineage.  My dad and brother Dick, both served in the Army, my brother Mike the Navy and now my son, Rob in the Army National Guard.  I have a great respect for those who give of their lives to serve our country and keep us safe.   My mind is wondering where this young man going.  Is he scared?  Did he leave a wife and children to go spend a year away to serve his country like my son?  I somehow feel much safer knowing he is here on the flight.  It seems wrong that he isn’t up in first class being treated like a king though; rather than just watching others get the red carpet treatment.  They should at least pass him back a bagel and an orange juice or something.  This may be his last American meal for a while…even if it is airplane food.  He doesn’t seem to mind.  He has granola bars in his bag.  This kid has no idea that I just wrote a blog about him or that I just said a prayer for his safety.  However, as a military mom, I feel God put me in this place today to pray for someone else’s son who may be heading into combat.  As I would hope that others would pray for my son as he travels to and fro, I am privileged to do the same for this man today.

When I get to San Diego, my son is going to try to Facetime my brother so the two of them can see each other and talk.  Mike gets emotional thinking about it because he understands the sacrifice my son is making more than most.  The two of them having served in times of war now have a new bond–one that the guy across the aisle may be able to share with them someday as well.

As I reflect on this, I am reminded once again, freedom isn’t free.  Freedom in America as well as freedom from the bondage of sin all require sacrifice.  Whether it be a sacrifice of time, energy, or even a life, it all comes at a cost.  So as I am reminded today to pray for our military and be thankful for what they have done or are doing, I also reflect on my Savior, Jesus Christ.  He too, fought a battle…single-handedly for you and for me…so that we can live in eternity with him.  No more battles, no more pain for all who believe someday when we get to heaven—just  a glorious eternity with our Savior.

So in closing, thank you military men and women for keeping us safe and free.  May the Lord keep you safe and sound until your return back home.  Ultimately, thank you Jesus, for loving us enough…

Today, I Choose To Be Thankful!

Me, Grandpa Walsh, and Daddy Bill…waiting on the traditional dressing!

It has always been important for me to be able to cook Thanksgiving dinner as well as my mom so that one day I might carry on her traditions.  My first year of marriage, I was determined to have my parents over for dinner with me having prepared an entire Thanksgiving feast just for practice.  Mom came over the night before and helped me put the dressing together.  Then the next day, she came a little early to help out where she could, so I asked her to make the gravy.  She started looking around and finally asked me where I had put the giblets. “Giblets?  I don’t know, what’s that?” Well, you’ve probably guessed it; although my first turkey was very moist and tasty, I had forgotten to take the bag of giblets out of the middle of it before I cooked it!  Just minor details…after a few laughs, it all worked out OK.

Over the years, Mom continued to pop in to help and offer advice on the dressing or other items that I was preparing.  I have learned that even though she didn’t have an exact recipe for her wonderful dressing, there was a certain technique to getting it right year after year.  Last year, my mom was no longer with us to come and offer advice or help make the gravy.  I felt it was very important now more than ever that I pass along the family wisdom to my children so that they too, might be able to carry on our traditions once I am gone.  With that in mind, last year, I asked my son to get up early and help with the dressing making.  He’s the one in the family that might actually make it again someday.  It was a special time as I carefully explained the art of Grandma’s dressing and was excited that he was enthusiastic about learning the family secrets.  I cherish special times with my loved ones like that and am thankful that God has put each one into my life.  I imagine that my mom probably felt the same when I was eager to learn as well.

Reflecting this Thanksgiving season, I am reminded especially as Americans, we have so much to be thankful for in even the little things we take for granted.  Even though our nation is in tough times right now, we can be thankful that we are free and among the wealthiest people on this earth despite what our government budget looks like today.  I was driving through some small towns last week and although we are said to be the wealthiest nation, I was disturbed to see several homeless people on the side of the road digging through trash barrels as I drove by.  I might expect this in downtown Cincinnati, but not in the smaller rural communities for some reason.  For the last week there has even been a gentleman standing on a street just down from my home with a sign reading “unemployed, will work for food”.  Sometimes I feel led to give what I can to those alongside the road and other times I drive on by in fear or disbelief that they are actually homeless.  In today’s world, you just never know who you can trust so I wonder how many people who are truly in need that I pass by because of those who have falsely proclaimed to have need when they really weren’t needy at all.

Where do we draw the line?  Do we just give to everyone with their hand out and hope that they are sincere?  Or do we just pick and choose the ones we will give to by how we have determined to size up their need?  I know there are several people who have enjoyed middle to upper class lifestyles and are now finding themselves unemployed and without money for groceries next week.  If I were to look at them, I would think that by the clothes they wear and the cars they drive, they are not in need.  However, in today’s world, we really can’t make that determination. Joblessness is affecting people from all walks of life.  Of course, someone who owns a home, cars and other valuables are in a lot better shape than someone living on the streets, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that times are tough for a lot of people.

One day as I was out showing a client homes to buy, we came up on a dad with three kids who were walking through the house we were there to see.  It was a scene that is becoming all too familiar and I cautioned my buyer to stay in the car until we determined the mindset of the man there.  The kids were bringing things out of the house, mostly clothing, and putting it into the trunk of their tiny car.  Thankfully the man was not angry as some are about their circumstances and told us to come on in to look at the house.  My heart broke as I walked through this house that used to be called home for this family.  The kids were walking kind of aimlessly through the structure looking through what was left of their once prized possessions now strewn across the floors while trying to determine what they were going to need in the next several months.  There were TV’s on the walls, exercise equipment, furniture, toys and even treasured photographs lying around they were leaving behind.  I think this family was realizing that all of those things weren’t near as important as they once were.

I don’t know what happened to that family, but I know this scene is replaying every day across America.  We can read about it in the news reports but it doesn’t really become real until we are literally face to face with the reality of people losing their homes.  Perhaps you know someone personally who has lived through this scenario.  I suspect each one of us knows of someone since it is so widespread.

During this holiday season, I may not have all of the answers to homelessness and unemployment but one thing is for sure–I am thankful.  I am thankful that I am not currently losing my home or living on the streets like those who have crossed my path lately.   I am thankful for my salvation, for my husband who cherishes me, for my family who loves me, for good friends, for our home, our jobs, and for a refrigerator with food in it.  This Thanksgiving, we will have an empty seat at our table as my son serves our military in Afghanistan.  I am thankful for his service but I will be even more thankful when he returns home safe and sound.  For now, I will just hold onto the memories of last year’s special time with Rob and be thankful that we shared that time together.

As a nation in trouble, I pray that we will be a people of prayer.  I hope that those reading today will take a minute to pray for our nation, for our loved ones, for our economy, for our military, and praise God for the blessings He has bestowed on His people today.  Perhaps it is good our nation is suffering a bit.  It seems like when times are good, we forget to look to God.  However, when we and our loved ones are suffering through hard times, I would hope we would be reminded to look up and ask God to intervene.  I hope that each one of us will pray for God to show us how we can help those in need around us while thanking Him all the while that we personally can be used in some small way.

The Bible says in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV), if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

May we choose to give thanks and praise for all things this holiday season and never forget the One who makes it all possible! Happy Thanksgiving!

Sacrifice–The Hardest 9-Letter Word I’ve Ever Known

Yesterday, on 9-11’s 10th anniversary, I attended a call to duty ceremony for my son who is being sent to Afghanistan for a year with the Army National Guard.  There are so many emotions, at least for me, that arise just by thinking about 9-11 and all of the tragedy that occurred on that day.  Then, to add my son being sent into a war zone on the same day, it was a bit overwhelming.  I found myself unable to control the tears when they played the national anthem, as I felt the strong sense of appointment my son had been given to protect our land and serve those who can’t help themselves.

Even now that my son is 30 years old, I still feel the pain of sending him into lands unknown and into dangerous situations.  When we raise our children, we have hopes and dreams for them.  Never in my wildest  dreams did I dream of my son going to war, even when he marched around our house in fatigues pretending to be a soldier at a young age.

Seeing my son deployed, by far, is one of the hardest things as a parent I have ever endured.  He has done it a couple of times before and every time, I hope and pray it is his last.  As I reflect on my pain and fear in this situation, I was thinking about God.  Oh, how His heart must’ve grieved when He knew that the only thing that was going to save all of creation was to send His Son onto the battlefield to die for the sins of others.  I can’t begin to even imagine His pain.  I know.   He is God.  He can see to the end of the story and know that it all comes out well. However, to know that you were purposely sending your Son to suffer and die would be gut-wrenching no matter who you are.  It goes against every grain in our body to want to see our children suffer.

Although it’s not me leaving my spouse and small children to go across the seas to fight against someone else’s bad decisions, I am beginning to understand the sacrifice that is made.  I see my granddaughters ask daily, “Where’s daddy?  Is he coming home tonite?  Does he still love us?  Why isn’t he here?”  Then there’s his wife that carries the load of two parents, so that her husband can go defend our country and keep it safe.  I see the pain in my son’s eyes when he reflects on the reality he will be missing Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the girls’  birthdays next year, too.  These are all special blessings we enjoy as our families come together and celebrate on these occasions.

My son’s sacrifice is big.  I am forever grateful for those serving in our military who daily give of their time, talents, and sometimes their lives, to keep those of us here in the U.S. safe from the enemy.  I am also thankful for their spouses who stand by them in their call to duty.

God’s sacrifice is incomprehensible.  How grateful I am that God loved us enough that He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for you and I.  I’m not sure that if I were faced with His decision to send His son to die, that I could’ve made that one, no matter how many people would be saved in the process.  I have plans for my son to go and come back just as He went—happy, healthy, and all in one piece—without any suffering.

In Jeremiah 29:11 the NIV version says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Can we not trust the One who was willing to sacrifice it all so that we could have hope and a future?  Does this not say to us even when we don’t feel God’s presence near us that He loves us more than we can ever know? He wants the best for us even when we can’t see it sometimes. How can we question the One that was willing to sacrifice His Son’s life for us?

I pray that you never have to send a child into war or other sacrificial circumstances, but if you do, remember this.  Your pain is nothing that your God in heaven hasn’t felt or understood.  His heart grieves for you and your children as He truly knows your pain.  When the call to duty comes to you in the days, weeks, months ahead, are you willing to make the sacrifice?  Perhaps God will ask you to forego a vacation and pass the money along to an unemployed friend instead.  Maybe He’s saying, ”You can drive that junker one more year so you can give a little more to your church this year so the pastor can finally be full-time.  He may even want you to sell all you own and move to Africa to the mission field, yourself!  Or, He may just be asking for 10 minutes of your time every morning to spend with Him.  What is it He’s asking of you?  Are you motivated to give Him your all after taking time to reflect on all He’s done on your behalf?  I am. Here I am Lord, send me. (Isaiah 6:8)

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