Friday, July 19, 2013

Dear Brynn

Dear Brynn,

Today I heard about a 14 year old boy who drowned in the Black Warrior River, and the first thing I thought was, "That could have been you." His friends tried to save him, but they couldn't. That family, mourning the death of a beloved child, that could have been us. Your daddy says that he feels like he just can't thank God enough for sparing your life. I truly understood that today when I heard about young Jamal Harris. Everyone doesn't have a happy ending to their story, but you do. How could we ever thank God enough?!

So, Brynn, I just wanted you to know how special you are and how important it is that you follow God's calling for your life. See, He has BIG plans for you, girl! From your curls as wild as you are to your little suntanned bare feet, God is going to use you! You have already brought so much joy to everyone around you! You are so full of life! I call you a "wild child," a little girl with a HUGE personality, full of spunk! I don't think you ever learned to walk. You ran everywhere from day one. No fear! It's a good thing you have such a great big brother because it takes him, your mommy, and your daddy to keep track of you! Mixed in with all that "spunk" is a precious heart of gold. You give away your toys to try to make others happy. You give the absolute sweetest hugs and kisses! Oh, and don't let me hear your sweet little raspy voice sing praises to God! There is no sweeter sound! I could totally see why God would want you in Heaven. You are the life of the party! But, He let us keep you here, and I don't want you to ever forget that! You have an important job left to do here!

The week it happened we all just cried and cried every time we talked about it. Your mommy said your floaties were hurting you, so she took them off and told you to stay in the baby pool. When she and Aunt Laura started getting rocks and dirt and grass slung on them from a weed-eater, they turned to grab all their stuff and move. Then, your brave friend, Jack, came up and told them you were under the water. Your mommy ran over to the pool and saw you under water, not even struggling. Aunt Laura says she will never forget that look on your mommy's face. That's when the panic set in, but your mommy was such a hero! She jumped in and got you out. She immediately started doing CPR. You were already blue and they don't know how long you were not breathing. Several other mommies called 9-1-1, and they all thought it was too late. Your brother, Alec, your cousin, Cooper, and Cooper's friend, Pearson, knew there was only one person who could help. They gathered in the corner and began to pray. I told your mommy how great it was that she was able to stay calm and remember the steps to CPR. She said she was not calm. She was just screaming for someone, anyone to help her! She said there were so many people around, but she felt completely alone. Everyone was horrified, but she was the only mother there who was going to have to plan a funeral for her three year old. Finally, you started breathing again! God put air back into those small little lungs. Everyone was so relieved! People who saw what happened said that they will never be the same. The presence of God was at the Forest Glen pool that day, and He was breathing life back into you! You got to ride in an ambulance, and when the doctors checked you out, you were fine! You had no water in your lungs, no signs of brain damage, not even a bruise or scratch from the CPR! We met for lunch the next day, and you were running around like usual, telling me how you "went under water and it was gross!" There we all were, crying at the table, your mommy and Aunt Laura still unable to eat, and the background music was the sound of your little sandals doing laps around that Taco Casa dining room.

Brynn, I don't know why God chose to protect your life that day. I don't know why we are celebrating your life while others are in absolute despair. I do know that the Bible says, "In all things God works for the good of those who love him." If we were mourning your loss, I honestly don't think that verse would give me any comfort. It's hard to imagine anything that could comfort me in the face of such a tragedy. But, comfort or not, truth is truth, and I pray that we always remember that God can take even the worst things we can imagine and use them for good.

With all the love and gratefulness in my heart,

Aunt Lindsey (LiLi)

I dedicate this post to the family of Jamal Harris and other families who have lost their children to the tragedy of drowning. May God wrap his loving arms around you and give you peace. For He also knows what it is like to lose a child.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dear Tuscaloosa

Dear Tuscaloosa,

I remember when my family moved here. It was the summer before 4th grade. My oldest sister was starting college at the University of Alabama, and my middle sister was about to start her first year of high school, where she knew not a soul! I remember when people would ask my older sisters, "Where are you from?" There was always a weird look, like, "How do I answer this?" Then, there would be a lengthy explanation, something like, "Well, everywhere. My dad was in the Marine Corps, so we have lived..." I remember asking when I was really young, "When someone asks me where I'm from, does that mean the last place we lived?" You see, Tuscaloosa, it seems crazy to me now, but even the concept of a "hometown" didn't make sense to my little military brat mind. Now, it seems tragic that so many children grow up not having what you gave me. I really was "born and raised" here, though my family took a little detour to California, Virginia, and Hawaii, all by the time I was eight. We came here when my dad retired from the Marines, and you have been "where I'm from" ever since.

So, I am writing to thank you. You are the town that houses pretty much all of my important memories. You keep my memories from childhood in Duncanville, memories from my picture perfect high school years, my (sometimes fuzzy if we're honest) memories from four years of college at the University of Alabama, five years worth of memories from the start of my teaching career, memories of my first date with my husband, memories of our wedding in downtown Northport, memories of DCH, where we waited and watched the arrivals of my nieces and nephews, and precious memories of time spent with my grandfather and great-grandfather, who both also called you "home." I know you will keep these memories safe for me while I am gone.

When I think of you, certain things come to mind, things only a T-town native could appreciate. When I think of you, I think of Alabama Football, of course (Roll Tide), Taco Casa, flippin' HOT weather, the April 27th tornado that ripped through the middle of you and took so many of your citizens' lives, our hometown heroes (or mine at least): James Spann, Walt Maddox, Wild Bill (from 98.1 WTXT) and Nick Saban, patriotism, fear of The Lord, southern hospitality, the historic homes on Queen City Avenue, Dickens Downtown at Christmas in Northport, Summer Snow, Hokkaido, Krispy Kreme (Man, it was tough without those three after the tornado!), everything houndstooth, family, and, most of all, I think of HOME.

Any time I travel, I always get that feeling when I come driving back to you. As soon as I can smell that Tuscaloosa air, it's like a peace comes over me. There truly is "no place like home." It's strange to think I won't get that feeling when I come back anymore because you really won't be my home, at least not in the literal sense. My actual home will be somewhere else while my husband serves in the Army. Well, there may be a roof over my head in Colorado Springs for a while, and who knows where after that! But, I will always be able to answer the question, "Where are you from?" and for that, Tuscaloosa, I thank you. Roll Tide!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Psalm 91

Five days ago I pinned this to a board on Pinterest. I don't really know why... It wasn't particularly for any spiritual reason, I think I thought it would make a pretty tattoo. :) Anyway, you will see why it is important later. 

So, 99% of the time I am ok. I stay busy. I miss Seth, of course, but I pretty much stay sane. Today was one of the 1% days. Seth got to call, and I was so excited to tell him about my yard sale and how successful it was. He was distracted and anxious at first. He is always watching to make sure others don't do something wrong so they don't all get in trouble. So I didn't feel like he was listening. Then, I told him I sold something of his that I literally did not even know he had until I found it in the attic. He has never used it not mentioned it in the three years we've been married. But apparently, he had "been looking for it the whole time." Lol! So he got upset with me and then I got upset with him, and then it all went downhill. He apologized, and I got over that, but the. Satan started to attack me with anxiety. I really don't normally struggle with that, but I just started to feel so stressed out and overwhelmed and I cried for a good bit of our conversation. Then I got upset because I was ruining the few precious hours we have "together," and it was just bad! We prayed and both started to calm down. Seth then started to tell me about this book he was reading about Psalm 91. It was about how all these men in war situations throughout history had studied and prayed this psalm, and they had been miraculously protected. He said we should read Psalm 91 tonight and focus on it as a family. 

So, our conversation ended up fine, and then Satan started to attack me again, and I've just been upset all night, just overwhelmed and anxious. Worrying about the 100 things I can do nothing about, like my house selling, where we are going to live, what if Seth gets deployed soon, not being prepared for my job, are we going to have enough money, etc.  The one person whom I think can make it better is the one person I can't call! So, I FINALLY decided to read the Bible, Psalm 91, and found this:
1Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.a
2I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14“Because heb loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Army Wife Road Trip

Well, two Sundays ago Seth told me on the phone that they could have visitors during their pass if they get a pass on Sundays from that point forward. The Drill Sergeant told him it was a risk the visitor would have to take because if their company did not get a pass, the visitor would have come for nothing. Also, the soldiers can't leave the base or get in a car or anything, and they have to have a "battle buddy" at all times. So, I told Seth that I was planning on coming the next Sunday! We were both excited, but still unsure if I would even get to see him.

Then, my air conditioner broke and I thought it was going to have to be replaced. Then, I had to have a root canal, a crown, and three fillings. Then, I got some itchy rash I thought was Shingles all over my back. I was starting to feel like Job in the Bible! I certainly was not going to drive all that way, spend all that money, and then not get to see my husband. But, I couldn't bear the thought of him thinking I was coming and then me not being there, so it all felt that much worse. I just wanted to talk to him so badly! I really almost called the emergency Red Cross number they gave us to call ONLY if an immediate family member dies. I thought I was going to...that should be enough, right? Well, after several emotional breakdowns, my daddy holding me while I cried, a fixed air conditioner and a trip to the dentist and doctor, everything got back in order. We also got some extra money that came in, so I was able to pay for it all and cover the trip. The only thing was Seth didn't want me to go alone. I don't know many people who can or would be willing to drop everything and drive to Missouri to sit while I MIGHT get to see my husband. Actually, several people probably would have done it, but I didn't even want to ask. But, I did know two other Army wives whose husbands are in Seth's company, and I figured they might be willing. (Technically I had never really met them, just chatted on Facebook.) So, I asked them to join, and of course, they figured out a way to make it happen.

We met up in Tennessee, drove to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, got to the base at 4:00 AM, running on adrenaline and the knowledge that we were actually in the same state as our husbands. We saw where they live! The address where we have been sending all these letters. We drove by the church. "OMG, they have been there!" "There is the PX, where they always come to shop!" "They can probably hear those same birds chirping!" (Yes, I actually said that, but in my defense, I was delerious.)

We get a hotel room, TRY to sleep, then get up and start getting ready feeling SUPER nervous. Every time someone's phone rang we all jumped! Is it them?! Finally at 12:30 Seth called. "Are you here?" he asked. "Yes, and do not tell them, but I have W's and E's wives with me!" Needless to say, he was very excited, and I had to tell him twice more, "Do not tell them! Their wives want to surprise them!" So, we met up with them, got introduced to all their friends, and had a wonderful visit for about 5 hours! It was just what we all needed to get through this last month. The guys were so thankful. One of the husbands came to me before we left and said, "Seriously, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much!" We all agreed the countless hours in the car, loss of sleep, money for gas and hotels, it was TOTALLY worth it! Here are some photos from the trip:

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Embrace the Suck"

Well, I guess it was time. All this mushy love and God stuff and people are gonna quit reading if it doesn't get real sometime soon. Once, when I was complaining about something to Seth, he said, "Well, they have a saying here, and it goes, 'embrace the suck.'" Like, learn to love it 'cause it ain't getting any better! It's good for ya'!

I have been feeling pretty sorry for myself lately. School is out, and I do not thrive in this type of environment with no structure. See, it wasn't that bad at first because I had school all day long, where I stayed busy and interacted with real people (as opposed to my dogs, which I pretend are real people, and Facebook and Instagram people). Also, this may sound bad, but I kinda was excited about a few things that I couldn't do when Seth was at home. One, I could browse the aisles of a store, for hours if I wanted to. If you know Seth, he's not really the "browsing" type. Like, he insisted on going to the store with me, but then was rushing me out the door as soon as we got there. He's what we like to call "young at heart." :)  So I started to take an excessive amount of time in stores after he left. Another thing is, we would never agree on what we wanted to eat. It was always a compromise, and he was definitely the "three meals a day" type, where I am more of the "eat when you're hungry" type. So after he left it was a little exciting to get to pick whatever I wanted to eat! Like, if I want to buy a dozen Krispy Kremes for myself and then exist solely on doughnuts and pistachios for a week, I can! Or if I want to eat nothing but a Sonic cherry lime-aid slush all day and then go get Taco Casa at 9:30 PM, I can! I'm on MY time. I am accountable to NOONE. LOL! Sounds so awesome, but let's be real, the awesomeness has long since worn off. Forgive me while I feel sorry for myself for a minute.

Since school has been out, I have to spend a lot of time alone. I wake up alone, eat pretty much every meal alone, sit on the couch and watch TV alone, mow the grass alone, clean the house alone, kill bugs alone, run errands alone, go to sleep alone...and then get up and do it all again. It's really only been a few days of that, and don't get me wrong, I have great friends and family here, but unavoidably, while I am off work all summer and living by myself, I am going to spend the majority of my time by myself. It's a little ironic how I used to tell Seth I just needed some time alone after a long day at work. I would give anything to take those moments back and spend them with him! I pray that I never forget this feeling, that I always cherish every second I get to spend with him. I pray that for you too, that you don't take for granted the time you have with your loved ones.

Anyway, here is my relevant scripture for this post.
James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith developes perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Or, in other words, "Embrace the suck!" Who knew the Army was so well versed in scripture?! Lol! So, yes, this sucks, and it's not getting any better until July 24th; however, I do pray that God develops a stronger character in me and Seth, and that He will be able to use us because of this experience. In that, I can find joy. :)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself

 God gives us a pretty clear reason that we shouldn't worry in Matthew 6:25-27. "Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air. They do not sew or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?" 

Since Seth has joined the Army, God has showered us with blessings. He has financially blessed us in so many ways. There is no denying it: all of these things are proof that God is faithful, and He will provide. After all, we are much more valuable to God than the birds, and he makes sure they are fed! Here are just a few ways God has provided: because of Seth's service to the military, our credit cards and loans are all brought down to 6% interest. I have been able to pay off several bills since he has started getting his Army paychecks. Snap Fitness contacted me about teaching Zumba two nights a week, and then increased it to 3 nights, which is an extra $60 a week out of nowhere. A friend contacted me about teaching Zumba this summer at some local daycamps. I will get over $100 extra from that. We got a letter from his job from over a year ago saying that they still owed us his last check ($120). I was able to take him off my insurance since he is now covered by the Army, which is saving us almost $100 a month. My dad had a lot of travel "points" that he was generous enough to share, so he is flying me and my sister to Colorado so I can see my school, work in my classroom, and attend a meeting for my new job. 

My new job! I applied, did a Skype interview, and got hired all within 2 weeks of finding out our first duty station. All without knowing a single soul in the entire state of Colorado. (It is all in who you know. I know Jesus!) The day I found out I got the job I had 2 letters from Seth in the mailbox. He said several times in his letters, "I pray in Jesus' name that you are going to get a teaching job in Colorado." He didn't even know at that point that I had an interview! Also, all the soldiers got to sit down with a Drill Sgt. on Memorial Day and ask questions. By then I had told him about the job, and we had a lot of questions. So, he was asking them, and he explained that I had already gotten a job. Shocked, the Drill Sgt. asked, "Warren, how did your wife already get a job?" In front of the whole group, Seth answered, "Drill Sergeant, we prayed about it." Also important to note: this job was posted the Friday before we found out we were moving to Colorado on Sunday. It was a high school language arts teaching job, and they also had an assistant cheerleading coach position. Was that made for me or what?! 

One last little story. My sister-in-law, Natalie, offered to buy me a dress to wear to Seth's graduation ceremony. She is so thoughtful and generous, and she knew I would want to have something special to wear that day. She came to town this week and took me shopping. Her mother-in-law, Linda, was also in town taking her granddaughters to swim camp, so she was shopping with us too. I found a dress that I really loved, and Nat found some things she liked too. Linda offered to buy my dress and Natalie's items! I was so humbled that she would do that for me! Then Natalie offered to buy me the jewelry to go with it! I cannot even explain how thankful I am for this blessing. When I thanked Linda, she said, with tears in her eyes, "God has blessed us, and so we bless other people." Linda recently lost her daughter, very unexpectedly, to a rare illness. Her daughter, Julie, was young and beautiful. She was a mother to five children. Attending her funeral was, by far, the saddest thong i have ever experienced. And here was Julie's mother, praising God for blessing her family, and buying a dress for ME, of all people! Because they were willing, God was able to use these two women, and I cannot begin to explain how grateful I am for their generosity. The passage from Matthew 6 goes on to say, "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lillies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Soloman in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, oh you of little faith?" (Vs. 28-30) Thank you, Lord for "MUCH MORE" clothing me! 

The flower

One of the last things Seth had to do at Basic was FTX. (Have no clue what that stands for.) Basically, they go out into the woods and spend the night and train for combat, at least that's what I gathered. So he couldn't send any letters that week, but when he got back, he sent a flower that he had picked out in the woods. It was a tiny purple flower, and he took the care to press it between paper so it would keep its color. (I did not know that little trick, but he said he remembered learning it in science class.) Anyway, I opened the letter and the little, dry, purple flower fell out. He had written, "I have a flower I am sending you from FTX. It symbolizes you because I had it the whole week and I used it as my motivation." He also said it reminded him of my beauty and love, and he thought God had placed it there just for him. (Plus, purple is my favorite color.)

So, of course, I was very touched. I wanted to keep that flower forever, but it was so delicate and looked like it could fall apart at any moment. I had an idea to make a necklace out of it. I got the supplies at Hobby Lobby. It is basically two small pieces of glass in a bronze frame. I put the flower in one and a stamp from one of his letters in the other. I put them on a brown leather necklace. I think it turned out pretty awesome! I have such a loving and thoughtful husband. I thank God for him every day.