Happy Autumn

autumn-fall-wallpaperIt’s the first day of fall, and thus it’s my favorite time of the year!  Now for leaves and crisp mornings! Now for long dark nights, sweaters, hot chocolate, fires, and leaves, leaves, leaves. Soon the chill will increase and the coats will come out. Soon the days will be short and sweet and Christmas will loom on the horizon. But now pumpkins will turn the world orange and one scary night will herald in the holiday season. Soon we will have a day of Thanks and over eating. Happy First Day of Fall!

(Yes. I know it’s still hot down here in Texas, but a girl can dream, right?)

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About Myself!

A new writing friend, Bethany Jennings, whose blog I have quickly grown to love, shared some more detailed info about herself and then asked me to do the same. I have a great fear that I won’t be as weird as I think I am. 😉 Deanna Brown, Raelea Hiller, Josh Magill and Rob Akers, I think you should do this also, if you’re interested!

Info

Name: Names. Names are a funny thing. I was born Abigail Doris Vincent. I’m now Abigail Doris Jones. Nobody calls me that . . . except my brother-in-law and sales people. Everyone calls me Abby. I tried to switch to Abigail but it just didn’t feel right. So Abby it is. Not with an e, or an i, or any other strange letters. Just plain old Abby. Lord willing when I’m published, my books will say, “by Abby Jones”. I’ve been informed that my name sounds like the name of a western writer. Living in Texas, I’m okay with that.

Age: 34. I can’t believe I can say I’m 34. Feels strange.

Gender: Female with a strong streak of Tomboy.

Me:

Me with Some of my Biggest Fans!

Me with some of my Biggest Fans!

Favorites:

Food: Hamburgers. Oh, I love a good, thick, 1200 calorie burger. Yum. I also love pizza, sandwiches, and chocolate. My go-to stress food is anything with cheese on it like tortillas and cheese or nachos.

Drink: Coffee. I generally take it black, but I’m not opposed to a fun latte from any local coffee shop. Not to be completely annoying, I love Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I also love a dark red wine, martinis, and margaritas or any girly drink. I drink water cause I want to stay alive. 🙂

Book: The Bible is not only my guide in life, but contains moving stories, unique characters and beautiful imagery and poetry. More than all of that, it is the very Word of God and we would do well to pay attention when He’s talking. After that, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Jane Eyre, Shutter Island, The Thirteenth Tale, Neverwhere, The Killing Zone, Black Hawk Down and With the Old Breed. I could go on and on. Is it bad to say that two of my all time favorite books are ones I’ve written? When Skies are Gray and Happy Thoughts.

Song: How Firm a Foundation, Amazing Grace, It is Well with My Soul, Christ Alone, And Can it Be are my favorite Hymns. Outlaw Torn, Master of Puppets, Sanitarium, Orion, Suicide and Redemption, Bad Company, Beautiful People, Into the West are some of my favorite songs and I could go on and on and on. Also, add in almost all Christmas music.

Movie: Rambo (4) is my favorite movie, followed by Gladiator, Lord of the Rings, Vampire Hunter D, and Willow. I also love Princess Bride, Stardust, LA Confidential, Rambo 1, Avengers, Lone Survivor, We Were Soldiers, and Die Hard. Can I talk about TV series here? If I can’t, too bad. Star Trek: Next Generation, Firefly, Band of Brothers, Chuck, 24, and Sherlock.

Band: Metallica, Linkin Park, the Civil Wars, Two Steps from Hell, Avenged Sevenfold, Five-finger Death Punch, Flogging Molly, Mumford and Sons, Florence and the Machine, the Pogues, the Dubliners.

Solo Artist: Johnny Cash. Need I say more?

Place: Not to sound totally cliché but my favorite place is my home, anywhere with my family, or my church. I think mountains are glorious and beaches are amazing. I love Texas the best. 🙂

Subject: Theology, writing, storytelling, philosophy.

Sport: Um…yes. Sports. I have enjoyed watching Golf in the past. I enjoyed playing baseball, soccer, basketball, and football as a kid. I don’t really get into sports that much as an adult.

Male actor: Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jason Stathem, Viggo Mortensen, Steve McQueen, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Martin Freeman, and Russell Crowe are probably my favorites. I really don’t care to know anything about their real lives, but I consistently enjoy their movies.

Female actor: Eva Green, Gina Torres, Claire Danes, Cate Blanchett, and Liv Tyler. I had a lot harder time with the Female actors than I did with the Male. It’s probably because I enjoy action flick type movies more than I do movies with strong female leads. And I find that women tend to play less type-cast rolls, so I may like Cate Blanchett or Liv Tyler in some movies and hate them in others.

We're on a ship!

We’re on a ship!

Life:

Schooling: Home-schooled all the way baby! 🙂 I also attended the local junior college for three years and earned an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts. I made the Dean’s List every semester and graduated with honors. I hated school. I often think that maybe I should go back and get a BA some day, maybe in English with a minor in Myth, or a Zoology Degree, but then I think of a billion other things I’d rather do with my time and money.

BF: First and foremost, the man that I married. He has stood by me, challenged me, encouraged me, and honestly put up with me for years! After him, my dear baby sister, Liz. We’ve been best friends for years. But, I have so many women I love so very much! My sister Emily! My extra sisters, Ruth and Joy. My Mom and my extra Mom. My wise woman, Deanna, who I couldn’t live without. Rachel and Elayne, Stephanie, Heather, Raelea, Bethany, Jordan, Leslie, Ani, and so many many more! I love you all so very much! This list wouldn’t be complete without my Dad on it. He was my hero as a little girl, my mentor as a young lady, and now we just like to cause problems. 🙂 My extra Dad is one of my most favorite people in the world.  Also, I must put in a word for my two brothers: Matt and Jason, you have always been the most wonderful of friends and I count it an honor to be your sister. Brad and Brian, my two extra brothers, are equally amazing!  I’m one blessed woman.

Political Ideology: Conservative bordering on Libertarian.

Religion: Reformed Baptist. Yes. Reformed meaning Calvinistic in my theology. Baptist meaning I believe you should be baptized following your conversion.

Tattoos: none.

Piercings: I have five places to stick earrings in my ears. 🙂 I did have my eyebrow pierced when I was twenty-two as my Christmas present from my husband. Now, I just stick with the earrings.

Languages: English and Texan.

Reason behind your blog’s name: To remind myself that obeying the word of God is more important than what I want to do. I used to have a blog that focused on the vampire stories I was working on. Last Fall, I became convicted about not using my writing to encourage my church family and other believers. After much soul searching (read kicking and screaming) I realized that I had to put my writing in submission to the Lord and trust Him with it. If I couldn’t do that, I needed to ditch it completely. The Lord gave me far more grace than I deserved. He gave me many friends who encouraged me without just caving to my fears. He gave me courage. I started this blog to specifically use my ability to write to encourage my church and other local reformed churches. The Lord has blessed me beyond belief. I pray He uses the gift He gave me as He sees fit.

 Why you blog: I blog for all the reasons I mentioned above. I also blog because, as a writer, it’s a great way to use and hone my abilities while I work on my full-length novels. It lets me communicate directly with my readers and build a base for my future books. We live in a day and age where it’s easy to connect with other people all over the world. I’m very thankful I get to share the ramblings of my fingers across the keyboard with so many others. It’s humbling and exciting. Someday, I hope to share my novels with you, my readers.

 

Well, that’s a little about me. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope I’m not too strange . . . no wait! I expected to be stranger. Hmmmm.

A Texas Cousins Adventure: Here there be Dragons

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

“Abby!” Ellie yelled running up on her plump baby legs all smiles. Aunt Abby scooped her up and spun her in the air. Several more voices chorused her name and Aunt Abby soon found herself surrounded by little people, most with blonde hair, but one with red, and one with dark brown. She hugged and kissed the many faces before sending them in to greet their grandparents and Great-Gran.

Several moms hurried off before their absence was notice. Boxes of raisins where handout, toys dragged into the living room, and a whirlwind of chaos created by the seven cousins.

“Tell us a story,” Jules said later in the day as they lay outside in the sun.

“Yes, a once upon a time story,” Bruce said. “About us.”

“With dragons,” Jules added.

Several oooohs and aaaahs followed Jules’ suggestion.

“Do you know what a dragon says?” Bruce asked.

“Do you?” Aunt Abby said.

“I am FIRE!” Bruce growled. “And they kinda look like lions.”

Aunt Abby smiled. “That is what they say Bruce. Okay, a story about dragons . . .”


Once upon a time, seven cousins had a slumber party –

“At my house?” Jules asked. “Cause I’m Party Girl?”

“I’m Party Girl, too,” Bruce said.

“Party Boy, ” Aunt Abby corrected. “Yes, it was at your house Jules.”

“Was I there?” Constance asked linking her arm through Jules’.

“Yes. You were there and so was Joshua, Imogene, Jude, and Ellie. Now back to the story.”

Once upon a time, seven cousins had a slumber party at Party Girl’s house. They played hide-and-go-seek, freeze tag, ate lots of yummy cookies, and then watched a movie. Finally, they were all put to bed. Joshua, Bruce, and Jude unrolled their sleeping bags covered in cars, trucks, and planes. Constance climbed in bed with Jules after emptying flowers, sticks, and rocks from her pockets. The two girls instantly started to whisper as only two little girls can. Ellie and Imogene shared Ellie’s bed and soon started a stuffed animal war with the boys.

After settling down again when several adults growled at them, the cousins slowly fell asleep.

“Not me!” said Joshua.

“Yes, Josh, even you fell asleep.”

“And me?” Ellie asked.

“Yep, each and every one of you fell asleep.”

The moon rose high in the sky and all the stars winked and twinkled around it. Suddenly! A door opened in Jules’ bedroom. Everyone woke up with a start. The door wasn’t where the door should be. It was on the other wall. Bruce, Joshua, and Jude leapt up. Ellie brandished a plastic sword and Constance a stick. Bruce and Joshua tugged toy guns out of the bottom of their sleeping bags and aimed them at the open door. Imogene pulled Jude up in their bed. They armed themselves with several stuffed animals.

“Wait!” Jules yelled holding out her arms.

A giant, black head with gold glowing eyes poked in the door. The seven cousins froze in fear.

“Good evening, children,” the head spoke. “I am Alchemist, a—”

“Dragon!” Bruce said.

“Yes, a dragon. I am a dragon.”

“Will you eat us?” Constance asked.

“Um, no. I’m not that kind of dragon.”

“What kind of dragon are you?” Jules asked.

“A sweet one?” asked Ellie?

“Are you pretty?” asked Imogene.

“He’s not pretty!” Bruce and Joshua said together. “He’s a dragon.”

“Well, I don’t know,” the dragon said with a glance down at himself. “I think I’m quiet fetching.”

“Mom says boys aren’t pretty,” Bruce said.

“We’re handsome,” said Joshua.

Jude nodded in agreement.

“I think he’s pretty,” said Jules.

“Enough of this,” the dragon said. “I need you children to come with me.”

“Why?” Bruce said.

“Because, my home is in danger, and you must save it.”

“Why?” Joshua said.

“Because only you seven can find the last dragon egg.”

“Why is it the last?” Jude asked.

“They have a bad case of the whys,” Imogene informed Alchemist.

“I see that,” Alchemist huffed. “Listen all of you. Seven cousins are required to find the last egg. It is just beyond our reach and we need you to help us. Will you come?”

“Yes!” said Constance jumping off the bed. Ellie quickly followed her.

“Then come through the door and climb on my back.”

The seven children hurried through the door, some on long legs, and some on short tottering legs, but all eager to see the dragon. They found themselves in a place filled with silver starlight and moonlight. It glinted on Alchemist’s black scales and large gray wings. The children gaped in wonder at the large dragon who bowed his head in appreciation of their awe.

“Do you breathe fire?” Bruce asked.

“Why do they always ask that?” Alchemist muttered to himself. Then more loudly, “Of course. All dragons breathe fire.”

“Can we see?” asked Imogene.

“No. You can climb on my back.”

The seven cousins, with Alchemist’s help, climbed up between the rows of scales on his back. With a flap of his great big wings, Alchemist took off. He flew high, high, high into the sky right towards the moon leaving the world far below them. Wind blew around the children whistling in their ears and teasing their hair. The cheered the dragon on as he flew. Jude waved his chubby arms. Imogene squealed and Constance laughed. Joshua and Bruce whooped and whooped while Jules clung to her scale not wanting to fall off. Ellie stood up and spread her arms wide as the dragon flew.


“And that’s where we’re going to stop today,” Aunt Abby said.

“What?” Jules said.

“No!” said Ellie.

“You’re going to stop there? But did we rescue the last egg?” Constance said.

“Why are you stopping there?” Bruce said.

Imogene’s lower lip came out in a perfect pout and Jude growled.

“Aunt Abby,” Joshua said, “finish the story.”

“I will, but this is part one. It’s a very long story. When you have a very long story sometimes you have to give the storyteller a break.”

“Why?” Bruce said.

“Cause storytelling is thirsty business.”

“If we get you a drink, will you finish the story?” Jules asked.

“Yes,” Aunt Abby said.

Seven cousins bounded to their feet racing to reach the back porch. They scrambled to find Grammie and a glass of water. Aunt Abby smiled to herself and tried desperately to figure out what happened next in the story.

…to be continued…

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(L-R: Joshua, Jules with her arm around Ellie, Constance, and Bruce.)

(L-R: Joshua, Jules with her arm around Ellie, Constance, and Bruce.)

A Texas Cousins Adventure: Excess Energy

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

Aunt Abby watched the wide-open Texas sky fill with heavy gray clouds. They rolled in on a hot, humid wind that thundered as it came. Around her gathered her nieces and nephews: Julie with her flowing hair and pink boots, Constance with rocks in her pocket and a leaf in her hair, Bruce with a race-car track and motorcycles, Joshua with trains, trains, trains. Ellie laughed at the storm as it tossed leaves and rolled little pebbles. Imogene blew bubbles and smiled with a bright sparkle in her big blue eyes completely unafraid of storms and rain and lightning. Jude watched it all taking in this place his cousins and brother called the world.

“I don’t think we should go out for a picnic today,” Jules said.

“No,” Aunt Abby agreed. “But if the lightning stops, we could go play in the rain.”

“But then we’d get all wet!” Jules gasped.

Aunt Abby bent down to the seven cousins. “Yes, we would! Isn’t it exciting?”

“I don’t know Aunt Abby. . .” Jules said, unconvinced.

“What about the rest of you? Who wants to go play in the rain when it’s safe?”

A quick vote showed that those in favor of getting soaking wet far outnumbered the one dissenting vote. Jules frowned.

“Cheer up, Julie-bear,” Aunt Abby said. “I promise it will be fun.”

“Promise?”

“Yes!”

“I think it will be fun,” Constance said.

“Can we go now?” Ellie asked with a wide grin.

“Nope, we have to wait for the lightning to go away. It’s not safe to play outside in the lightning in Texas.”

“Why not?” asked Bruce.

Joshua turned big, blue eyes on Aunt Abby that asked the same question.

“Because lightning strikes whatever’s the tallest, and out there there’s not much that’s taller than us.”

“The trees are,” Jules pointed out.

“Yes, but there aren’t a lot of trees. Grammie and Grandpa have lots of open grass without trees where little cousins might get hurt. So, we stay inside until the lightning goes away. Agreed?”

“Will you tell us a story while we wait?” Constance said.

“Story!” Imogene shouted. She knew that word. Aunt Abby made sure of that.

“Yes I can, and I think I know just the one.”

Everyone piled on Grammie’s oversized leather couch, gathered up blankies, dollies, teddies, puppies and a few extra trains. Grammie gave everyone a box of raisins except Jude. Aunt Abby sat on the floor and told her story.

Joshua and Cicero.

Joshua and Cicero.

“Once upon a time—

“Western,” Ellie said proudly.
“Is it?” Jules whispered.
“Yes,” Aunt Abby said.

“Once upon a time, seven cousins were trapped in the house with only Grammie and Grandpa. They had eaten raisins, watched movies, played with all the toys three or four times, taken naps, eaten more raisins, and they still could not go outside.”

“What are we going to do with all this excess energy?” Grammie asked Grandpa.

“What’s excess?” Joshua asked just as he lost one of his trains.
Aunt Abby picked it up for him and said, “Excess is when you have too much of something. You have an excess of trains right now.”
“No I don’t,” Joshua said. “I still don’t have Emily the train.”
“I have it!” Bruce said.
“I want it,” said Joshua.
Grammie came sort out the scuffle.

“Back to the story,” Aunt Abby said.

As Grandpa and Grammie pondered how to get rid of all the energy of seven cousins, Bruce spoke up, or rather, he yelled from the far side of the love seat.

“Chase me, Grandpa and Grammie, chase me!” he said, saving the day.

Grammie and Grandpa shared a smile. With a roar much like a mighty lion, Grandpa charged after Bruce, his heavy feet echoing on the tile floor. Bruce squealed and ran off down the hall.

“Get him Grandpa,” Grammie yelled.

With a quick dodge to the right, Bruce managed to just escape Grandpa’s outstretched arms and run back up the hall. He ran ran ran very fast down the length of the house towards the kitchen. The girls—Julie, Constance, Ellie and Imogene—were trying to color on brown paper but couldn’t think of anything to draw when Bruce came running ever so fast around the end of the table. Grandpa’s heavy feet came after him. The girls leaped up with wild yells and ran after Bruce.

“I’ll needs some help, Grammie, rounding up all these wild kids,” Grandpa said in his best ‘John Wayne’ voice.

“Who’s John Wayne?” Constance asked.
“Do your parents teach you nothing?” Aunt Abby said with a theatrical gasp.
“Yes, they teach me to write letters and to read books and play with Joshua.”
“Is John Wayne in Cars?” Joshua asked.
“No, John Wayne is one of Grandpa’s favorite cowboys. When you get older, he’ll tell you all about John Wayne.”

“We can do it!” Grammie yelled running after Grandpa.

Bruce darted around the end of the table, past the kitchen island, and into the living room. The girls followed him, some fast, some tottering on little legs, but all of them giggling and giggling. Joshua dropped his cars, took one look at Grandpa’s outstretched arms and Grammie coming behind him, and raced after his cousins.

“They’re coming!” he yelped.

“Get me! Get me!” Bruce chanted.

All six cousins raced past Jude who waved his little fists to cheer them on, past Great-Gran who watched them go, and down the hall.

Grandpa was coming!

BOOM!

A loud crash shook the house. All six cousins stopped clutching one another in fear. Had a real monster come? Or maybe this John Wayne guy?

No. It was Grandpa. In his stocking feet, he had slipped on the tile and fell right on his backside. The kids watch as he pulled himself up using the back of the love seat.

“I think that’s enough chasing,” he said stiffly.

“Was he okay??” Jules said clutching her leopard tightly.
“Grammie checked on him right away and he was fine,” Aunt Abby said.

The six cousins weren’t ready to stop. They looked at Grammie, waiting with bated breath to see if she would come for them. Grandpa sat down and Grammie turned to the six cousins.

“Here I come!” she yelled.

Screams, gales of laughter, and twelve pattering feet raced away from her. Up the length of the house, she chased them. Down the long hallways they ran.

THUD!

Bruce slipped on the tile landing on his backside. He lay there for a moment looking up at the ceiling. Everyone crowded around him including Grammie.

“Are you okay?” Grammie asked.

“I think that’s enough chasing,” Bruce said. He climbed to his feet and joined Grandpa on the couch, no longer full of excess energy.

Grammie decided it was time for a quiet movie.

“Cars?” Joshua asked.

“Yes, probably Cars,” Aunt Abby said.

24367_john-wayne-triple

“The end,” Aunt Abby said.

Everyone cheered.

“Is there still lightning that can hurt us outside,” Constance asked.

“Let’s go see.”

Everyone crowded out onto the covered porch and watched the skies. Not one flash of lightning or boom of thunder could be heard or seen.

Only soft showers fell pitter-patter from the sky.

“Looks safe,” Aunt Abby said. “Ready?” She held out her hand to Imogene and shifted Jude to her hip. Jules and Constance clasped hands while Ellie ran out after the boys. They stepped into the gentle spring rain. A great waterfall ran off the corner of the roof. In moments, everyone was soaking wet, laughing, and dancing in the mud and rain. All seven cousins and Aunt Abby lost lots of excess energy.

The End

(L-R: Joshua, Jules with her arm around Ellie, Constance, and Bruce.)

(L-R: Joshua, Jules with her arm around Ellie, Constance, and Bruce.)

(This story was brought to you today by Bruce who asked me when we went to the Zoo to tell him a “Once upon a time story about Bruce”. He then proceeded to tell me about Grandpa chasing him and falling down followed shortly by Bruce falling down. I promised him the story, so here it is with the rest of his cousins added in.)

The Gingersnap!

The Gingersnap!

California Cousins: How Tomatoes Grow and Sunday Clothes

Building GI Joe forts...not in our Sunday Clothes.  (L-R: Abby, John, Emily's legs, Jason, Matt, Tom.)

Building GI Joe forts…not in our Sunday Clothes. (L-R: Abby, John, Emily’s legs, Jason, Matt, Tom.)

“A story, a story, tell us a story,” Jules said on a crisp October morning when the sun shown delightfully warm.

“Well,” said Aunt Abby.  “I think I know just the one.”

“Is it going to be another western, Aunt Abby?” Jules asked.

“There are lots of westerns,” Constance agreed plucking a late summer flower and handing it to Imogene.

“We live in Texas, don’t we?”

Five or six heads nodded, one wasn’t sure, and one drooled on a truck.

“But today I’ll change it up.  Today isn’t a western…it’s a war story.”

“Yes, that’s perfect!” Bruce said.

“I don’t like war stories,” Jules said emphatically.

“You’ll like this one.”

“Is it gross?” Joshua asked.

Aunt Abby pondered that for a moment.  “Yes, but mostly funny.”

“Is it about us?” asked Ellie.  “I’ve never been in a war.”

“How about we find out,” Aunt Abby said.

Once upon a time, another set of cousins lived near one another.  In fact, they lived right next door to each other and shared their yards.  These cousins had no idea how tomatoes grew…or they forgot when the war started.  It was a lazy Sunday afternoon with hours to go before church.  They were all dressed in clean clothes their mothers expected them to keep clean.  Cleanliness and time are a horrible combination of circumstances for any child, and especially a group of children, to bear.

“Why aren’t they at church?” Jules asked.  “At this church, they have Sunday School in the morning, the Main Worship Service, and then everyone goes home.  Then they all come back in the evening for the evening service,” Aunt Abby explained.  “That’s strange,” said Bruce.  “Yes, it’s very strange,” Jules said.  “Odd?” Aunt Abby said with a slight sparkle in her eye.  “Very odd,” Ellie said.  “Well,” Aunt Abby explained, “not all churches have the same schedule that we do.  In fact, most of them don’t.”  “Are we odd?” Jules gasped.  “Probably just a little bit, but back to the story.”

As the cousins wondered the backyard ideas sprang up, each one wonderful, and each one shot down.  They were in their Sunday clothes.  They couldn’t make the pit in the backyard deeper.  They couldn’t play Over-the-Wall.  They couldn’t play the Gun Game: a combination of hide-and-go-seek, war, and arguing.  They couldn’t play Ghostbusters, or G.I. Joe.  No one remembered later who first said the b-word: bored.  It might have been Matt, John, or Tom in their white button up shirts and black or khaki trousers.  It might have been Abby or Emily in their matching blue dresses with a strawberry pattern.   They whispered the word at first afraid their mothers would hear.  All five of them knew exactly what would happen if they uttered the b-word.  Chores.  Even on Sunday.  Moms loved chores.

They gathered in the back backyard near Matt, Abby, and Emily’s mom’s garden.

“Abby!” Ellie said.  “Is this a story about you?” Jules said with wide-eyed wonder.  Aunt Abby smiled.  “It’s a story about me, and Bruce’s mommy, and Constance and Joshua’s daddy.”  “My Daddy is Matt,” Joshua said in case anyone was in doubt.  “What about my mommy?” Jules said.  “We didn’t know you’re mommy then, Julie-bear.”  “Daddy?” Ellie asked.  “He was too little to be there.”  “Daddy is not little.”  “He was once, and,” Aunt Abby scooped up Imogene, “Your mommy was just a baby like you.”  “Are you all related?” gasped Jules.  Aunt Abby laughed.  “Yes, that’s why you’re my nieces and nephews.  You’re the children of my brothers and sisters.”

“We could sword fight,” Matt suggested gesturing at the swords and shields littering the grass.

“We can’t sword fight in our Sunday clothes,” Emily reminded them.

“We could throw balls at each other,” John said.

“The soft ones?” Abby said.

“We could have one team with shields and one team with the balls,” Tom suggested hefting an old, wooden shield lying in the yard.

They all agreed that throwing soft balls and blocking them with shields could be both fun and not ruin their church clothes.  Matt and John ran off to get the ball bucket while Tom and the girls drew up teams.  They decided, since Matt and John weren’t there to argue, that the two girls and Tom against Matt and John was a fair division.  Tom being the oldest had a natural advantage due to age – every child knows this.  They also knew Abby and Emily’s aim wasn’t the best.  The two girls would even the odds on Tom’s age advantage.

Matt and John returned with the ball bucket, agreed to the terms and conditions of war, and the game began.  It proved only slightly less boring than doing nothing.  Trying to hit your brother, sisters, and cousins with balls and block them with shields was satisfying on a certain level.  The thunk, thunk, thunk of the balls striking the wooden shields and the occasional howl of pain as they struck a limb occupied the cousins for several minutes.  But the war needed something more…

“What about the rotten tomatoes in the garden?”

No one later admitted who first suggested the idea of the tomatoes.

“Sunday clothes,” Emily reminded them.

“We have the shields and swords, we won’t get dirty,” said John.

For once Matt agreed with John.

Abby pulled a squishy, rotten, stinking tomato from the vine and lobbed it at her brother.  It didn’t thunk when it struck the shield.  It splattered.  Tomato juice and seeds went everywhere.  This was not boring.  This was fun.

The backyard erupted into a full-out war, everyone for themselves.  They stripped the tomato vines of all their rotten occupants.  Tomato goo coated their shields.

Spat.

Splather.

Smash.

Arms wound back and released a hail of rotten, red fruit.  Shields rose and fell protecting white shirts and hair, half-up.

“You know,” someone who remains unnamed said, “no one ever eats the green tomatoes.  We can throw those, too.”

The green ones hurt.  They didn’t splat.  They thunked harder than the soft balls.  But, that didn’t stop the war.  The two teams drove at one another armed with green tomatoes.  They clashed in the middle of the backyard shield to shield.  The cousins screamed and yelled and laughed as tomatoes flew left and right.

“What is going on?”

Everyone froze.

The cousins turned.  Matt, Abby, and Emily’s Mom stood at the edge of the backyard, hands on hips, Sunday dress clean and pressed.

“You’re Sunday clothes,” she said, stunned.

The cousins looked down.  Shields had not protected them from the tomato splatter.  Rotten tomato flesh and seeds clung to their shirts, dresses, and hair.

“My tomatoes,” Mom said.

“It’s okay, Mom,” Abby said.  “We only used the rotten ones and the green ones.  Nobody eats the green ones.”

Aunt Abby giggled and a sparkle shown in her eye.

“Is that the end?” Constance said.

“Was she mad?” Bruce asked.

Jude turned his large serious eyes up to Aunt Abby’s face.

“Grammie, you mean?” Aunt Abby said.

“Grammie’s your mom?” Jules said, her eyes wide with surprise, again, and her eyebrows arched.

“Yes, of course she is.”

“But was she mad?” Ellie asked.

“Of course she was mad.  We ruined our Sunday clothes and picked all her green tomatoes.”

“Why would she be mad?” Bruce asked.  “No one eats the green ones.”

Aunt Abby ruffled his blonde hair.  “Cause, what we didn’t know is that the green ones turn red when they’re ripe.  We picked all the unripe tomatoes.  Now none of them would ever turn red.”

Jules put her hand over her mouth.  Ellie, Bruce, Constance, and Joshua did the same.  Imogene and Jude looked from them to Aunt Abby and back before covering their own mouths with plump fingers.  Jules giggled.

“Did you get a spanking?”

“No, we didn’t.  But we did learn not to pick the green tomatoes, and not to have rotten tomato fights in our Sunday clothes.”

“Can we have another war story, but about us?” Bruce asked.

“I’m sure someday we will,” Aunt Abby said giving the whole group of nieces and nephews a hug.  “I’m sure we will.”

The End

(L-R: Joshua, Jules with her arm around Ellie, Constance, and Bruce.)

(L-R: Joshua, Jules with her arm around Ellie, Constance, and Bruce.)

Lone Survivor

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Let’s get this out of the way first.  Deanna, you can’t see this movie, though I wish you could.  Second, prepare to put on your Christian-colored glasses. Ready?  Good.

I think war movies are important.  I think they help us civilians connect with the men and women who are fighting and serving.  I think they help civilians realize the cost to our soldiers in a way a dry history book never can.  Don’t get me wrong, you should read about the great sweeps of history.  The changes in power, the wars won and lost, the how and the why behind those victories, but you don’t want to lose the human element.  You don’t want to forget that while one country is winning a war and the other is losing, someone’s son, brother, father, husband, nephew, grandson is out there bleeding and dying.

More importantly, I think war movies have great value in a spiritual sense.  We are in a spiritual battle.  We are called to spiritual warfare.  Do you know what that means?  Do you have any sense of what war takes?  Do you understand the training and dedication needed to fight a war?  Paul and the other apostles didn’t pick their language at random.  The Holy Spirit inspired them.  He chose the language of war to describe our fight against sin, both inside us and around us.  Watching war movies and reading warrior stories helps flesh out that illustration. It helps you understand the bond we are to have in our local churches.  We are soldiers, brothers and sisters, together.  We should act like it.  Don’t let yourself be removed from war and warriors in some vain attempt at earthly peace that will never happen.  See the illustration, and be strengthened by it.

There are a few movies I have found helpful in fleshing out some of the emotional sides of history, and expanding my understanding of spiritual warfare….or, maybe these are just my favorites:

Band of Brothers – This series follows Easy Company, who suffered devastating losses during WW2 to their ranks, from basic training to the end of the war.  It gives you a sense of the way war broke these men and the bond between soldiers. I actually recommend you watch the series before reading the book.

Saving Private Ryan – This was the first war movie I saw in the theater.  I watched it the night before my brother shipped out.  After seeing that movie, I begged him not to go, but he’d already signed the dotted line.  I’m glad he didn’t listen to me as an 18-year-old.

We were Soldiers – based on the book with only a few historical inaccuracies, this film features one of our greatest American heroes at his finest, Hal Moore.  It shows his dedication to his troops and his skill in battle.  This movie doesn’t get into the Vietnam argument – should we be there or not – but focuses the viewers’ attention on the families left behind as the boys fight and die.  It shows Moore’s dedication to bring his boys home, dead or alive.  I highly suggest reading the book as well as watching the movie.

Black Hawk Down – Vietnam was over by the time I was born.  Obviously, I heard about it, it was still being widely discussed and all those broken men were coming home, but it wasn’t my war.  The fight in Somalia was the war of boys a few years older than me.  I didn’t really learn about this war until a few years after it happened.  This movie shows how quickly things breakdown on the battlefield.  I watched it while my brother-in-law was in Marine basic and my brother was still deployed.  I prayed a little more faithfully for them after watching this film.  Again, I highly suggest reading the book as well as watching the movie.

Lone Survivor – The movie for my war.  I watched those towers fall on 9/11.  I watched President Bush declare war on terrorism.  I listened and prayed as my fiancé, now husband, seriously considered joining up, and my brother, now home, expressed frustration at being home.  This was a war I saw.  But I saw much of it through the eyes of the media, and through the eyes of a happy girl busy planning her wedding and getting ready to run her first business.  I also wasn’t into military history just yet.  That came a few years later.  So, I watched this war from the sidelines, never really affected by it, other than to be proud of our troops.

About a week ago, I went on a father/daughter date with my Dad to see Lone Survivor.  Now, you may recall that I’ve already read the book by the same title, and loved it.  I followed all the news I could get my hands on about the movie for the last few months, and familiarized myself with Marcus Luttrell’s story.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The movie is gritty, as accurate as it can be for a movie, moving, well filmed, well acted, and even has Marcus as a background SEAL, which I almost yelled out in a movie theater, but instead just whispered to my Dad.

When you watch a war movie after reading the book, it’s like getting all the highlights of how someone you know died or was broken.  The book gives you insight into the heart and mind of the soldiers it’s about, and then the movie gives you the visuals.  It’s a rough way to learn about war, but I find it works well for me.  The men involved and the events stick in my brain when I’ve both read the book and watched the movie.  My Mom(in-law) asked me if I cried when I saw Lone Survivor.  I told her yes, but not through the whole film, just the beginning, middle, and end.  I mean the thing opens up with a corkboard covered with pictures of Murphy, Axe, Danny, and Marcus.  The real guys, not the actors.  The real heroes.  How could I not cry?

Lone Survivor wasn’t filmed like an action flick.  There were very few slow motion scenes, massive explosions, or acts of ridiculous physical gymnastics.  What it did show was how difficult it is to hold things together once the bullets start flying, how important the bond between our SEALS is, how well trained they are, and how heroic this team was.  The movie is violent, but I don’t think it’s indulgent.  It wasn’t violent just to be violent.   It was violent to help the viewer see and know what these boys suffered.

I think just about everyone needs to see this film, or read the book, to know and understand modern warfare.  It’s gonna make you mad.  It’s gonna make you proud of some Texans.  It’s gonna make you proud of our SEALS.  It’s gonna help you understand the cost of war.  They lived it.  They died in the fight.  These are the real American Heroes.  Not actors, not entertainers, not athletes.  Soldiers.  These soldiers.  Murphy, Luttrell, Axe, and Danny are the Heroes of my generation and my war.  Don’t forget them.

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“Never out of the Fight”

For two hours, I sat tensely in a movie theater unsure of the emotional impact of seeing four men I’ve read a lot about actually fight for their lives.  I’ve read about their parents, their friends, their wives and fiancés.  I’ve read the accounts of their families waiting to find out if they were alive or dead.  I’ve read about the funerals given for these men.  I’ve read Marcus Luttrell’s own account of being on Murphy’s Ridge while his brothers died around him.  I was tense and armed with lots of tissues.  But I thought it was important to see this film.  I thought it was important to remember them.  I’m thankful for how many people are aware of them now.  To be honest, I might have been a little more excited about this film, than the Hobbit.  Why?  This story is real.  These are real, earthly, flesh and blood, American Heroes.

What did I take away from it?  Go see it!  I can’t wait to see it again.  I respect our military more than ever, and wish our media did the same.  If they did, we might not have lost those men that day.  But, deeper than that, richer than that, more long-term, more enduring, I dovetailed Lone Survivor with the message preached the Sunday before:  ” A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)  The church is commanded to love the members of its local congregation.  Love the person hardest for you to love in your church family.  If you want an earthly, visual example of loving one another, go see this movie.  Be inspired to get back in the fight, to stand, back to back, shoulder to shoulder with your fellow soldiers, your fellow church members, and fight against sin and the evil one.  We have a greater war to fight, the only good war.  We have a greater captain to follow, the greatest Captain.  We can’t see this war.  We can’t see the wounds, battle scars, and bullet holes in one another as we sit in our pews and live our lives, but they’re there.  We’re never out of the fight.  Love your brothers and sisters sitting next to you on Sunday morning.  They’re your family.  They’re your brothers in this war.

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Sniper One and Lone Survivor

“It was all just people trying to pay their last respects.  The same everywhere.  And I am left feeling that no matter how much the drip-drip-drip of hostility towards us is perpetuated by the liberal press, the American people simply do not believe it.  They are rightly proud of the armed forces of the United States of America.  They innately understand what we do.  And no amount of poison about our alleged brutality, disregard of the Geneva Convention, and abuse of the human rights of terrorists is going to change what most people think.”  – Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell

Most of my Modern Military History reading has centered on WWII and Vietnam.  The ghosts of all that went wrong in Vietnam still haunt the edges of my generation brought on by whispered stories from fathers and grandfathers.  Like a toothache, we continue to poke at it and explore it trying to figure out what went wrong.  WWII shines like a lighthouse in the dark history of war.  It was the good war.  The war we were right to fight.  Light and dark.  WWII and Vietnam.  But I have yet to explore much about the Korean War or my own generations war in the Middle East.  Another blogger, who has since passed away, reviewed Sniper One on his blog around the time Chris Kyle was murdered spurring me to add more modern warfare books to my reading list.  Reading only two modern warfare books so far, I have come to two completely unsubstantiated and personal observations.

If you get tired of all the political correctness that saps the courage from our moral fiber, read some modern warfare books.  These soldiers don’t mince their words in their personal observations about how our wars are and aren’t fought.  The politically correct ruling class imposes sometimes-impossible, often frustrating, rules on our soldiers when they’ve never been in combat.  It’s a fact.  They haven’t reexamined the Rules of Engagement (ROE) that US and British soldiers operate under in the context of fighting terrorist.  Terrorist known our ROE and use them against us all the time.  They use them to kill our soldiers while the ROE and the media – waiting to cry ‘Barbarian!’ at the drop of a hat – tie our soldiers’ hands by behind their backs.  This is the rub in both the books I read on our war in the Middle East.  What was meant for good has ended up costing us many lives.  (Unsubstantiated, Personal Observation #1)

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Sniper One by Sgt. Dan Mills is the story of a British sniper unit besieged in Iraq in 2004.  They go in on a peacekeeping tour and end up fighting for their very lives.  This book is great not only for its exciting and amazing story, but also for the historical perspective it provides.  At one point, the unit, while out on patrol, visits an ancient cemetery where they find the tombs of English soldiers from forgotten wars.  It was eerie to realize we have been fighting over the same dusty plot of land for hundreds of years.

Sgt. Dan Mills never apologies for being a soldier in Sniper One.  These men trained to fight.  No apologies.  These English soldiers love what they do and believe they are doing the right thing.  They’re not out to hurt everyone they can.  In fact, they spend a fair amount of time worrying about a family stuck in the line of fire and a dog they adopt.  But, they don’t think the way to handle terrorist is with kid gloves.  It’s refreshing to read about men being men and doing what men do without apologizing for a job well done.  They took the fight to the terrorist and won with superior training, weapons, mentality, and a little help from the USA.  These men were dedicated, well-trained warriors.  I’m thankful for men like them.

My only caveat for this book is that due to it being written by an Englishman it lacks the moral lines we favor here in the USA.  You expect a bit of language when you read anything military oriented, but this book didn’t pull any punches.  (Part of it could be that I’m not used to British cussing, so it really stood out.)  It also didn’t pull any punches about what men do in the down times between battles.

Have I just had my head in the sand for too long?  Most of the books I’ve read about WWII have a certain carefulness to not indulge.  They will mention a few cuss words, or a few illicit meetings, but it is always mentioned in passing, or not at all.  It’s not the point because it’s not appropriate.  (The joys of reading older books!)  Books about Vietnam are not that much different.  Every war has its ugly parts.  You can’t escape that.  And I don’t mean just killing innocents, or bloodlust, or sociopaths.  I’m talking specifically about the language and sexual dalliances that go along with warfare.  Many books on warfare don’t focus there.  They might mention them in passing, but they’re only in passing.  Sniper One didn’t pass.  It dedicated a whole chapter or two to it and it was a bit disconcerting.  Are all modern military books so immoral, I asked myself?  Am I going to have to bypass anything written about the War in the Middle East because modern writers don’t know the line between history and gossip?

The answer, so far, is no.  (Unsubstantiated, Personal Observation #2)

After reading Sniper One, I read Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell.  This book has a little bit of language and none of the other problems.  Americans, on some subconscious level, still cling to the idea that a good story, true or fiction, doesn’t have to be quiet that earthy to be ‘good’.  We all understand that life is not clean, it’s full of sin, it’s gross, indulgent, and full of lust, but that doesn’t mean we need to bathe in it every second.  I think it’s important for someone to know the sinful struggles faced by our military….that someone isn’t me.  For this reason alone, I enjoyed the modern American military story better than the British one.  I respect the British military, no doubt, but I don’t want to read that kind of stuff.  Does it make them seem more human and less heroic?  Yes, which can be good.  It keeps us from naïvely idolizing them.  It also borders on gossip – indulgent, tantalizing – we just don’t need to know.  There are other, better ways to show the humanity of our soldiers.  I think Marcus Luttrell does this well. He talks about his fear, his pain, his confusion, and what he views as his moment of cowardice: when he puts his gun down in combat and covers his ear because he can’t stand the sound of his dying fried screaming his name.  That’s humanity.

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Lone Survivor.  Now there’s a book.  I first picked it up while my husband and I were on vacation last August.  I had a passing knowledge of Operation Red Wings from a Facebook fan page dedicated to the American hero Michael Murphy who died during the Operation.  I knew it was going to be a rough, emotional story.  Marcus – the only SEAL to survive – starts the story with his visits to the families of the other three men who died up in the Afghan mountains.  Talk about instant tear-jerker.  I put the book down for a few weeks, just not ready to emotionally deal with it.

When I picked it up again, it became my workout partner.  I read it on my Kindle and boy-howdy!  If you want some motivation to work up a sweat, read about Navy SEAL training.  It makes you proud of them and it makes you feel like quite the wimp.

Lone Survivor detailed out the battle fought on Murphy’s Ridge between four Navy SEALS and about 100+ terrorist.  It’s a heart-wrenching story.  Marcus, the only survivor, fell down mountains, was shot, and blown up, before he’s taken in by some friendly Afghans.  They protected him, at the cost of their own village, for several days before a group of Army Rangers found him.  Marcus explained how his buddies fought and died beside him, how he agonized over them, went back out to retrieve their bodies, and came home to his family still haunted by their screams.

The more light-hearted side of this book, the part that brings a smile to my face, is Marcus is a tried and true Texan.  He’s politically incorrect and conservative.  It’s refreshing to read a book like Lone Survivor where your beliefs are appreciated instead of disparaged.  It’s refreshing to hear President Bush spoken of in a positive light.  It’s refreshing to know men like this fight for us on foreign soil.

“Before the dust had settled on lower Manhattan, the United States demanded the Taliban hand over bin Laden for masterminding the attack on U.S. soil.  Again the Taliban refused, perhaps not realizing that the new(ish) U.S. president, George W. Bush, was a very different character from Bill Clinton.” – Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell

If you want a great story with great heroes, read Lone Survivor.  If you feel the need to uproot your “first-world” problems just a bit, read Lone Survivor.  If you want to understand what it’s like to be a Texan, read Lone Survivor.  If you just want a little reminder that there are a few moral people, under God’s common grace, still out there, read Lone Survivor.

I would love to have my nephews hear the story of the Battle for Murphy’s Ridge.  Someday, when their older I’ll share it with them.  Sniper One is a good story, but I would want my nephews to be much older, maybe in their late teens or early twenties before I would recommend it based totally on the level of inappropriate content.  (If you’re a parent with a son joining the military and you want the harsh reality of the temptations he will face, you might consider reading Sniper One to help you have some frank conversations with him.  This is the only good I can think of from reading those parts and not skipping them.)  On the other hand, Lone Survivor would be a great companion to modern military history studies for boys in high school.  (As always, this is purely my thoughts.  You, as a parent, need to know what you want your kids to know and what they can handle.)

My two unsubstantiated and personal observations remain just that.  As far as #1 and the ROE, I can do little about that but try to understand the history going on around me.  #2 and the lack of morality in modern warfare writing remains to be seen, but I’m more hopeful for good stories about our brave soldiers that don’t reduce themselves into blood baths or gossip.

Here’s to the Navy SEALS who died in service to our country.

(This article is dedicated to Steve at Imagineer-ing who suggested Sniper One but passed away before I could share my thoughts on the book.  Thanks for all your support, Steve.)

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