Raise Your Glass: Memorial Day

So pour the beer for thirsty men
A drink that they have earned
And pour a beer for those who fell
For those who did not return

-Raise Your Horn-

-Amon Amarth-

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All over the USA today families and friends gather around the grill, out at the lake, at the park, and in local restaurants to honor our soldiers. But, this holiday isn’t about our Veterans who we love and adore. This special day is about all the boys and girls who never came home. This is about the sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces who spilled their blood on far away shores.

I do not belittle the use of this holiday to spend more time with family, or get a few projects done, or to get some extra rest. I imagine those soldiers who never made it back would be glad to see people enjoying the simple things they sacrificed. So, grill your burgers. Drink your beer. Sleep late. Mark one project off the list.

Just Don’t Forget.

Don’t Forget what this day is for. Allow a proper solemnity to cloud your day. Someone gave up a child, parent, sibling, or friend to protect us and our way of life, to aid others. Don’t forget the soldiers sacrifice.

I firmly believe that war movies are not made for soldiers, but for those of us who didn’t serve. We’re the ones who need to remember. We’re the ones who need to see and feel on some level what our soldiers experienced. If you aren’t facing this day with a hint of sober respect, maybe it’s time for you to sit down to something like Lone Survivor, or Fury. Maybe it’s time for you to remember.

Many of my family members–on both my side and my husband’s side of the family– served in our military. They all came home. I am not facing this holiday without my brother, without my father-in-law, without my grandpa. I know these men as old men, not as stories and a picture on the wall of a shockingly young man in a uniform. I get to text, tease, and see my brother. I’m so thankful for this blessing. It could have been different.

With this in mind, my heart goes out to all those who  are facing this holiday without the same blessing. To the kids gazing at the picture on the wall of the man they never met, to the ones who hear stories instead of voices, we raise our glasses. We honor your loss. We thank you for bearing that in our stead.

Don’t think a Veteran today. This day isn’t for them, and they don’t want your thanks. They came home. This day is for the ones who didn’t.

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To the Heroes who Never Came Home. (Unknown Source.)

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Carwood Lipton, Don Malarkey, Dick Winters at the grave of Skip Muck.

Happy Mother’s Day

Instead of doing two Mother’s Day posts—one about my Moms and one about being a childless wife—I’m going to only talk about how blessed I am by the mothers that surround me. I’m going to do this for three reasons. One, I feel like all of life has turned into excessive inclusiveness. We can’t possible honor one type of person anymore because it excludes others. (sarcasm) I don’t want to be in that band wagon. It adheres to the wrong type of equality. I think it’s wonderful to honor Moms a little more one day of the year. Two, I don’t want any Moms out there feeling like they have to walk on pins and needles around me when it comes to this holiday, or their children, births, or general motherhood. They should be free to express their delight without worrying about ‘Trigger Warnings’. Being a mom is amazing and hard. It is the best job a woman can do. Enjoy it and embrace it! Third, I’m overloaded with writing projects this year as I move closer every day to publishing. I basically do not have time to write two articles. Truth.

So, Moms. When I think of Mother’s Day and Moms, I don’t just think of my own Mother and Mother-in-law, who I dearly love and who are some of my dearest friends. I also think about how many other moms surround me and are part of my daily life. My sisters are some of the best Moms I know. They are kind, wise, and have kids I want to be around. Many, not all, but many of my closest friends are Moms. We have to finagle life a little more to enjoy a cup of coffee, but we make it work. I’m honored to be loved by these women. I’m touched by the room they make in their lives for me. I’m thankful to see their children growing up. The longer I think about the list of women I admire who are mothers, the longer that list becomes. I’m not going to name names here for fear of leaving someone out, but please know that if you’re a mom and you’re my friend, I admire, love, respect, and treasure you more than you can imagine. I treasure any second you give to me: be it our paths crossing in church, a quick hug, smile, or greeting, or a quick text or Facebook comment. Thank you.

I pray for the Moms I know all the time. I pray you have wisdom to see every moment you need to see. I pray you have courage to keep correcting. I pray you have consistency in discipline. I pray you have grace to witness of Christ to these dear little ones. I pray you have strength to carry on when it seems redundant and useless. I pray you cling to Christ more than your children. They will grow up and leave someday. You will always have Christ. I pray you have just a little more energy to share with your husband in the evening. I pray you have wisdom in educational choices and in everyday educational moments. I pray for you as you seek to submit to your husbands where your children are concerned. I pray for you as your children grow and your work changes.

Please know Moms that I love you, cherish you, and admire the work you do. You are in my heart always.

To my dear Mother-in-Law: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m so blessed to have you as my extra Mom. I hear other women complaining about their mother-in-laws and I smile. You’re not my arch nemesis, but one of my dearest friends. You’re someone I love to be with. Your home is a place I love to be. And, honestly, your food is food I love to eat.

Here we are, at 15 years as a family, having gone through many ups and downs, having had times we could spend lots of time together, and times when we really have to plan to see each other, but I’ve loved every minute. I’m glad to be a Jones. I don’t think there are better people in the world. Thank you for welcoming me into your home and your heart so many years ago. Thank you for making space for me where I could grow and thrive. Thank you for making me a daughter, and not just your son’s wife. Thank you for all the times you have answered my questions about homemaking. Thank you for all the times you have generously feed us, shared tools, helped with chores, and been a neighbor in so many ways. I know change is coming as Dad gets older, but I’m glad we have each other to lean on. I think a special bond forms between women married to Jones men. J All that to say, when God sovereignly brought me into the Jones circle, He blessed me beyond belief with a wonderful family, a wonderful extra mom, and more than that, a woman—you—who is one of my dearest friends and favorite people to be with. I love you more than I can ever say. I’m glad you’re my extra Mom!

 

To my Mom: I always loved it growing up when my birthday fell on Mother’s Day. It was an expression of the special bond I always felt towards you. There are many ways we are very different people, but there are many more ways we are not. I have always had the great joy of looking like you, which I count as a highlight in life because if I’m going to look like someone, it’s going to be you. But, there are so many ways we think and act alike. We both struggle with many of the same issues in our home management. We both have many of the same loves and dislikes. I’ve always enjoyed this bond we share.

When I look at my life, I see your mark on so much of it. I see the love of reading you instilled in me manifested in every word I type. I see the types of stories you read to us in every story I pick out. I see the times we had no money echoing in what I consider comfort food and what I consider a treat. Every flower I grow is an echo of my daughter-ness. At the oddest times my country girl raising manifests itself, and I remember that I once collected eggs, milked goats, butchered chickens, and worked gardens. That is and always will be part of who I am, just like the ocean is part of who I am, and just like Texas is part of who I am. You instilled in me a desire to find the magic in every place we lived. Because of you, this Southern girl has a love of winter that won’t die and is a bit particular about her maple syrup.

Some of the big parts of who I am are also because of you. I love WW2 history…because you read the Hiding Place to us as children. The same goes for Lord of the Rings. I will always cherish the memory of you taking a year to read that to us. But, more than all of that, you showed me day in and day out a consistent and strong faith in the Lord. You always brought the situations of our lives back to God and His Word. I remember at times being frustrated by that when I was an unbeliever or very immature. As I grew in grace, I grew to admire that. The Lord was your life and I could see it. Oh how I longed for that same all-encompassing infusing of God in my own life. Thank you for modelling that for us every day. Thank you for teaching us the ways of the Lord.

I love you Mom, more than these feeble words can every express. I never ever get to spend enough time with you. I always miss you.

Happy Mother’s Day ladies. Happy Mother’s Day Mom and Wanda! 

Sunday Thoughts: Matthew 18:6-9

If you were to see us not in our Sunday best, but in our spiritual armor, in our TrueSelves, what would you see? A congregation of beauty? Coiffed and pampered? Polished plate, gleaming and shiny? Our swords sheathed and our guns holstered? Maybe clean, on parade soldiers, unsoiled and unspoiled by war?

No, my dear friend, no.

You would see a congregation of scarred, maimed amputees. You would see intense listeners, leaning forward in their seats. We fight our exhaustion. We push through distraction. Our swords are in our laps, blades bare, guns drawn and ready.

Row after row after row of bone-tired warriors with missing eyes, fingers, arms, and legs, gather together. We wear dented, miss-matched armor covered in blood and gore. We’re broken, weary to the point of tears, hungry, and never out of the fight.

Look deeper. Look at our gossamer souls. Do you see the holes? Do you see the daily deaths we die to ourselves for one another? Over there is a battle with sin not going so well. Up front is a disfigured saint still gnawed at by a particular temptation. Back there is a weeping soul who fell yet again into the same trap. They bend under the weight of the battles they have waged this week. They stop their ears to lies and unbelief.

Do you see the dreams sacrificed? Do you see the wants set aside? Do you see the here and now given up? The prayers prayed during the dark of the night? The trials, great and ordinary? The hatred of sin? The suffering endured? The pain of refining? The constant ruthless severity with which each saint turns blade and bullet on his own heart and flesh to rend and fight the corruption within?

This isn’t clean.   

This isn’t pretty.

This is war.

Battle.

Look at us on the path to heaven. We have sacrificed beauty and ease here for glory there. We are the scarred, amputated, broken, weary warriors. We are the ruthless.

We are the loved.

Sunday Thoughts: A Letter to the Ordinary Saint

 

Dear Ordinary Saint,

Yes, you. The one who quietly slips into their pew every Sunday, stands, sings, sits, reads, stands, sits, and quietly leaves. Yes, you. You who have health issues and can’t even stand for the Bible reading. You with the wiggly children who can’t whisper yet. You who are bearing a weight of such sorrow, you can’t talk to others. You who don’t rush around after the service, don’t play a musical instrument, don’t manage anything big or small. You who don’t talk much. You who are there every week: we appreciate you.

There is nothing in the world as important as the preaching of the Word of God. Nothing. And there is nothing more discouraging to the Bride and body of Christ than empty pews where fellow brothers and sisters are supposed to be. You ordinary saints who move through this life with a quiet contentment as you raise your families, love your wives, and obey your husbands, are encouraging your church family with your faithfulness. Don’t belittle it, or think it unimportant.

Mothers, you think you spend the whole service hushing, shushing, calming, and disciplining your children. You worry that it might be better if you just avoided church with your noisy brood for the first five or six years of their lives. Please don’t! Your faithfulness encourages all of us. We come into the service bloody and bruised after a week of fighting sin, weary to death, and what do we see? You. Again. With your children, ready to hear the Word. Our faith is bolstered. Our hearts are lifted. We see God’s gentle provision expressed in your paper-strewn pew and we are reminded He will care for us.

Young people, you have a million things calling for your attention. Work, movies, concerts, friends, events, functions, education. There are hundreds of more exciting things you could be doing, and honestly, hundreds of more exciting churches that would love to have you on their worship team. Please don’t! Your faithfulness encourages all of us. We have all faced the temptation to play or work on Sunday, or attend an event, or just sleep in. Seeing you make the sacrifice of what is considered normal in our culture to be in church every Sunday encourages us to stay at the task. Our resolve to face our God- given duties is braced by your faithfulness. Have you ever realized that? That your cheerful willingness to be in church every Sunday helps all us old people?

Men, be you young or old, married, fathers, single, husbands, your faithful choice to set aside ease, comfort, and relaxation to gather yourselves, your families, your wife, your children, and be in church is leading. Your job tells you to work long hours. Your world tells you to use Sunday to enjoy yourself, or finish something on the eternal Honey Do List. Please don’t! You have no idea how many other men are struggling to be in church themselves or with their families. They may be drowning in the temptation to stay home. They may have lost sight of why we are in church. But they see you there, every week, in the same spot, and they’re encouraged in their duty. You didn’t have to say anything to serve. You probably didn’t even realize you are serving. But it helps all of us hold the course when our men faithfully attend church.

Last, for the sake of your dear pastors and teachers, please understand the power of faithful attendance. Do you ever think about your pastors’ week? They have spent hours and hours studying the scripture, testing themselves against other wise men, formulating something that is understandable. They have labored late into the day. They have forgone rest. Some of them have woken in the middle of the night to make sure, one last time, that what they’re about to say is true and edifying. They have agonized over each word. They have fought the temptation to say something popular. They have shredded their sermons and lessons and started over, on Friday. Their wives and children have sacrificed time with them, so they may study for you. Then, when everyone else is ready to have some rest on Sunday, they stand before you and give you the Word of God. They have brought word to the bride from her husband. They have prepared armor for you against sin and temptation.

You weren’t there to put it on.

You weren’t there because something more important came up. More important that the Word of God? How discouraging it is for these men to look out and not see you in your pew. To wonder if you are okay? To find out you sacrificed the Word of the Lord, the amour you need for the week, the defending of your soul, to stay up late last night, or to work on the house, or finish a project, or just cause you couldn’t pull yourself together. Not only does faithlessness discourage your pastors and teachers, it is unbelievably disrespectful to the Lord.

But, when you have made all the sacrifices and given up all the little comforts of this world to be in your pew, your pastors and teachers are encouraged. They’re inspired to continue in the work. They’re filled with hope that you will listen and be prepared for the fight. They’re cheered in their work and ready for another week of study and preparation.

Ordinary saint, you have no idea the power of your faithful attendance. Your year in and year out, repetitive sliding into the pew each Lord’s Day builds up those around you. It bolsters your pastors and teachers. A lack of faithful attendance is like sitting in a foxhole with a soldier who always avoids his duties. It’s his turn to guard and he’s not there. It brings the whole unit down. It’s dangerous for us and you. It may cost the lives of your fellow soldiers. Have you ever thought of it this way? Have you ever taken your church membership and church attendance this seriously? Are you willing to sacrifice everything else in your life (work, rest, status, art, sports, and cultural norms) to make sure you’re in church ready to hear the Word of God? Do you do this for your sake, and for the sake of your fellow church members?

We all need each other. We’re soldiers in the same war. We’re a family that will be a family long after our earthly families are dissolved. We believe that the preaching of the Word is Christ amongst us. Your faithful attendance is a reminder of His faithfulness to us. Never ever lose sight of how important our everyday, ordinary attendance to church is.

Love in Christ,

A fellow pilgrim

 

Happy birthday Constance

Happy birthday my beautiful niece! I love your imagination and your natural instinct to take care of all the babies! I miss you so much and never get to see you often enough. I love that you love dragons, horses, and Star Wars. I pray for you and love you! 

Happy birthday Constance!