Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Choose Your Weapon

Even though our guys' departure date is still a ways away, one thing is getting hard to ignore, OUR struggle has already begun.

Ours looks a little different of course...

and from the outside looking in, the people we pass in the aisles of the grocery store or who pump gas along side us or who sit behind us in traffic going about their daily lives would never know the silent and invisible battle that's waging just the other side of "normal".

It has made its way through desert and over wide-open ocean, and it does a number on our thoughts. Daily rituals aren't immune to its attack, and it hits with an emotion capable of freezing us in place despite the place or time.

It can render us immobile, like one of those nightmares where something bad is upon us but our entire body might as well be superglued to the bed.

Some of us don't think of ourselves as the fighting kind, so a sentimental onslought easily washes over us like a tidal wave. We are more inclined to see ourselves as the relational glue that holds the family together. We're comfy as the nurturers, providers, encouragers and givers. We hug and kiss and hand-hold, feed and clothe, smooth things over and we've been known to give the occasional lecture.

We are the spark that starts the engine of the day, hitting the gas and making the wheels turn. We are the keepers of the memories and masters of the budget, planners of parties and shoppers extraordinnaire. We are designers, chauffeurs, stylists and flag wavers, and many of us are generous beyond reason, even with the remote or a set of beaters covered with chocolate icing.

However, we have those other qualities. We don't advertise 'em, but heck, we've been known to take on fire and put up our fists on all sorts of occasions. After all, we can crack the whip, lay down the law and draw a line in the sand. We wrestle schedules, wipe out stains, and we can kill a cold with a pot of chicken soup. We are the fixers of stopped sinks and tamers of the lawn, and we take on teenage tyranny with unfaltering determination. We'll tackle just about anything that dares to try and kick our butts, hold us down and make us cry "uncle". We aren't big on letting anything get the best of us, especially where our families are concerned.

Even during that split second when wrenching emotion blind-sides us, we are stronger than we think. Just remember who it is that saves everyone else's day and comes through in a pinch. Who stays up til all hours on Christmas Eve pulling off that Christmas morning miracle, and who stands watch as the guardian of the home, protecting our families from forces bent on doing our loved ones harm?

We have plenty more fighting experience than we give ourselves credit for, and yet we feel frightfully unprepared for the particular clash we are encountering already. A sneak-attack can do that, and we HAVE been ambushed. We've been caught off-guard, unarmed and we feel ill-prepared. So we need to regroup, because, if ever there was a task we must face with resolute determination...this would be that mission.

I know... we didn't expect it would be OUR job to face the enemy. We thought that was our Marine's job. They offered themselves to defend our nation and secure freedom, but when they chose those yellow footprints, our feet found a set of their own.

Our "boys" have sworn to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; they've trained to maneuver, endure, aim, fire and even fight hand-to-hand when needed. They've studied logistics and pushed their minds and bodies. They've trained for survival and as much as possible are ready to confront the enemies of freedom.

So what about us? What are we supposed to do? Where's our training and what are our weapons? We've been tossed out into the fray and there's not so much as a kevlar helmet in sight.

I'd say it's time to take stock of our skills and take the offensive in the same way we would deal with anything that tries to get between us and our families' well-being. And it just so happens we can pick up the ordinary resources at our fingertips and allow them to stock our arsenal... MacGyver style.

With them we will be able to save the day and our sanity. They will provide the strength we need so we can support the men we lend to our nation for this daunting task.

Here are a few I thought of, but I don't doubt that each of you have a wide array of everyday superpowers you can put to good use as well.

• Knowledge - Get to know exactly who and what your enemy is. Turn on it, open your eyes and stare it down. An invisible adversary is formidable, but if you look it in the eye, you will see what you are and aren't up against. Once you size it up, then you can form a means of defense... or better yet, you can go on the attack.

• Prayer - God's strength to overcome is incredible. Sharing your heart with Him and knowing He is there with you every moment is powerful and sustaining. His words in Scripture are bathed in eternal perspective. Keeping company with His truth gives hope, comfort and wisdom, no matter the circumstances or setbacks.

• Support - Don't go it alone. Keep company with those of us who share the same thoughts and concerns. We're in this together and knowing that others understand and are embedded behind enemy lines with us can be the hand that will pull us through the vulnerable days to come.

• Keep Moving - Love and Support From Santa's Elves is a great opportunity to keep our heads out of the sand and our hands busy doing something besides wiping away those pesky tears. Busy hands and feet engage the mind in productive thoughts and actions that will do good, not only for our sons and husbands and brothers, but also for us.

• Pick Up a Pen - This can be one of your greatest weapons as deployment gets underway. I've discovered that even when my fingers cramp up from the time they spend clutched around my pen, my mind unwinds and my heart relaxes at the same time. Left on their own, my thoughts loiter with other good-for-nothing thoughts that seem to start an awful lot of trouble. They rarely become anything useful and hardly ever formulate a plan or produce anything but a messy tangle of wasted time and energy. They mull around and mingle with the chatter of the other ne're-do-wells, and they become nothing more than meaningless, chaotic noise. At times like that I wish I could call the Thought Police on myself, but I have found a pen makes a good billy club.

It's not until I pick up a pen and scratch it across the paper that the thoughts fall in line, tone down and flow past my arm and my fingers through the ink, onto the page. Waiting their turn to speak until the ink grants them permission somehow capitalizes on their insight. They mature a bit and start to speak coherently, and they begin to sound more like rational thought and less like random ramblings echoing through empty halls.

Some thoughts get a little unruly as they wait their turn. They push and shove, trying to get out in a hurry, but the outcome is resolution. Through the pen, they express their feelings, even if they are still bubbling and churning as they arrive scrawled upon the page. They sound less shrill this way, less frantic, and if they are tearful, the tears begin to make sense and tell me what they need so I can grasp what it is I should do with them. With a pen, some ink and paper, emotion and uncertainty find their voice and we are introduced properly. We meet eye to eye and I am able to sum them up, and I begin to realize maybe they are not so powerful after all.

Even if writing isn't your usual pastime, I challenge you to pick up a journal and a pen and bring it along as we follow the footsteps of our Marines. Set your thoughts down in a comfy spot each day or once a week and let them out into the light of day (or the dark of night if that's when they start to get out of hand) and onto the page, and give them something constructive to do.

These moments are our history. Each of us has a perspective unlike any other; a vantage point unique in all the world. One day, someone (maybe even our Marine or Sailor's children) will want to know what it was like when their hero was serving during Operation Enduring Freedom. Take it upon yourself to chronicle the moments that you think you will never forget, but which, believe me, you will, as other thoughts come pushing and shoving for attention along the way. Tell them what was happening in the world at large, our country, your home and in your heart.

What will you remember of these days as this young man you love leaves the safety of home to go to war? Will you look back and remember the part you played in defeating an enemy or will you remember cowering in fear and uncertainty? Will you sit idle, marking the days off the calendar with your tears, directed by spinning emotion, wondering each night how you made it through? Chronicle that emotion, be it fear, anger, frustration, confusion or whatever it is that wants to shut you down, but don't forget to document God's goodness and your victories, even the small ones through it all.

Remember to highlight the moments that will one day become a treasure to someone looking to what you wrote for insight into this place and time. When you look back you will be amazed at all you have endured and many things that you have mastered, as well as much that you will have forgotten. Write from your heart about the man who belongs now not only to you but to our nation and the people of Afghanistan. Good and bad, get it on paper, out of your head and off your heavy heart.

And remember... you carry other weapons you may not have identified as such.

Although I like to carry a pen, some of you carry a larger-than-life personality, capable of spreading contagious enthusiasm. You have no trouble speaking up and asking others to get involved. Some are influencers, and many of you have lots of connections. Others are blessed to have time on your hands. Some are hesitant, but once you try, you'll soon be amazed at how people come through to support our boys. You will be inspired, and a new confidence will come along in the process.

Your secret weapon may be that you wield knitting needles like your great grandma or you have an uncanny ability to talk on the phone or write emails. Maybe you have a caring shoulder or a high tolerance for those who need to vent. Some of you can spot a deal a mile away, haggle with the best of them and you never take no for an answer. Your gift may be financial means with which you can give and provide, and if you don't have a dime you might, however, have a cool head that sees through the hype of the moment to the practical direction that needs to be given when someone is floundering. Maybe you just have lots of great ideas.

No matter what you reach for, as long as you employ your personal resources, you can't be defeated by this sneaky enemy. Just remember... you are never defenseless.

Whatever you do, don't give up... because like it or not, you HAVE been enlisted. Going AWOL or UA is not an option. Your enemy would like nothing better than to isolate you and pick you off... and we'll have none of that.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think it's time we choose our weapons!


  1. I wish you could see me at this very moment. I would be giving you a standing ovation! That was awesome. You crafted your words so perfectly and intertwined them into a story that explains the military family.

    You surely have a gift with words. I am at awe with your stories you post. Thank you so much for this blog and all your devotion and work you give to so many of us.

  2. Oh my goodness! This is truly what I needed today! I also applaud you! You are the motivation I needed!!

  3. Awesome, Awesome, Awesome. Once again Liz, thank you. Thank you for the encouragement to pick up the journal that I started at the begining of Doug's deployment but have neglected over the past month - just because. I will continue on because although the emotions are sometimes just too much to deal with, I will choose to not go AWOL and hope that my words will be an encouragement to others as yours have been for me. You truly are a blessing!!! (Have I already said that?)

  4. As usual, Liz, you've done a great job! I can read your words and think - that's exactly how I feel - but would never know how to put those feelings and thoughts into words. I echo Kim - You are a blessing!