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Thursday, November 28, 2013

My thankful list

Happy Thanksgiving! Here's twenty things I'm celebrating today:

1: I am thankful for the best and oldest friends I have, and for the exceptionally strong relationship I still have with each of them. Even if we don't see each other, or even talk to each other, often, they know. They know.
2: I'm thankful for every bad day I've ever had. I live life more confident, more capable, and more fully because of those hardships.
3: I am so thankful for my ability to work. Bringing income to help support my family, taking care of my home, raising my kids, helping others - all of it is possible because of this oft-forgotten faculty. I pray I never take it for granted.
4: I am grateful that I have been valued throughout my life. I am humbled that I have so many people that have loved me with their protection, provision, mentorship, and sacrifice.
5: I am continually astonished at the privilege of being a mother to two of the most beautiful, intelligent, gentle, loving, funny and wonderful human beings --- ever.
6: I'm thankful for nearly 30 years of watching the seasons change, particularly this month, when I am enjoying my favorite season in my favorite place on the planet. There's nothing like a North Carolina autumn.
7: I'm thankful that I have always had more than enough.
8: I'm thankful for a job that I truly love, learning new things every day, being around people who are a pleasure to work with. After a long and unpleasant job hunt, going to the office every day is a pleasure.
9: There ain't nothing better than being married to Jason Thomas Binkley
10: I am grateful for a healthy body, and a seek to honor God's creation by treating it well (despite my occasional splurge on fried foods)
11: I am thankful for the "cloud of witnesses," the saints, who paved the way for good Christian men and women with impeccable examples of life in Christ. I am grateful for the lives they lived and the intercession they offer.
12: I am grateful for my freedom, particularly of freedom of speech and religion, and thankful to those who sacrificed to make it possible.
13: I'm thankful that I live in a safe place. I sleep deeply, but many can not. This is not lost on me.
14: Honestly, I am thankful every single time my car starts. This has been true even when I drove very reliable vehicles. The stuff under my hood is a great mystery to me, and I just want it to work, ok?
15: I'm thankful that I haven't ever broken the screen of my iphone.  Dumb, but true.
16: I am thankful for those I have lost - every minute with each of you was precious, and I cherish them all.
17: I'm thankful that a group of Irish monks in France worked tirelessly through the middle ages to keep the art of cheesemaking alive. Well done, friends.
18: I'm thankful for my Godchildren. I love watching them grow and praying for them.
19: I'm thankful for a good education, and for the work my parents did to make sure I had it.
20: The cross.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dear US Army,

Lately, I've experienced a lot of anxiety. My family has exited army life. My "optional income" is a thing of the past, and I am now the primary bread winner. Health insurance, housing, learning to be a civilian - it's all new to us. But then I see a bank statement without "Department of Defense" anywhere on it, and I breath a huge sigh of relief. We are so blessed to be on our own, building a life that finally fits our beliefs and goals.  Don't get me wrong, Army. It was fine while it lasted. But the give and take of our relationship, on it's best day, was at 110% to 30%, respectively. I thank you, earnestly, for the benefits that we received (and are still receiving through the GI Bill), but when I think of the 3 deployments, 8 years away from family, career opportunities, college credit hours, and the mental and physical health that we threw away, I have no regrets. You gave a little, but you took too much. And what did we really contribute to "the cause?" I'm afraid you wouldn't like my answer. I'm afraid we were always just a couple of numbers, easily replaced and hardly accounted for.

I'm determined that it must be over. I need to make my own way, guided by love of God and of family. I do, in fact, love my country, but I simply cannot give any more to a fictional ideal. A standing army is not what this country was designed for, and I'm tired of being dragged along as politicians seek out new wars to fight. I know too many who can't recover - they lost life, limb, and sanity. Sometimes all three. I must get out before I'm among their ranks. The battles that were fought in my marriage, and in my own mind, as a result of the "assignments" my husband received over the past 12 years - they took an irreversible toll. If I'm honest with myself, we were too weak for it, and we barely made it out by providence and ignorant stubborness. And now, believe it or not, we are happy. We are so happy and free. This life is hard, but it's not hard like the life we struggled against inside your system. It's a thinking hard, where wits and patience and love get you through. It's a hard that satisfies.

I don't blame you, Army. You are simply the result of humanity shaped by an historical combination of discipline and violence, violence and discipline - whittled down from a good start to a monstrous finish by a never-ending procession of short-sighted commanders and tired soldiers. It's my fault, for being young and short-sighted myself. I didn't see it, but now that I do, I had no choice but to strike out. I wish you well - I will pray often that your organization can find some sense of a center again. That your institution can become again rooted in the values you force upon your military men and women, but fall so short of every time. And so, to punctuate this brutal correspondence with a ending fitting of my message, I will leave you with your "Army Values," taught from boot camp to battleground throughout your system, but rarely embodied by their teacher. The day when I see evidence that you live these values, I will return to your service. Until then, fare the well.

The Seven Army Values: Loyalty. Duty. Respect. Selfless Service. Honor. Integrity. Personal Courage.



Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tragedy and Anger: Reflections on the loss in Newtown, Connecticut

I have had so many thoughts about the news from Sandy Hook Elementary School. To try to put yourself in the shoes of those parents who lost their children - it's simply incomprehensible for me. These events, regardless of how often they occur, seem to raise so many questions for those around us. How can we even absorb what happened in Connecticut yesterday? How can we process? How can we go on in a world like this one? What can be done to keep it from happening again? What can be done to keep it from happening to me?

I have seen the media flood with debate on gun control. I have seen facebook and twitter overflowing with anger and fear. It seems that those around me are all trying to cope with the loss of so many young lives and those who served and educated them.

One image that I've seen associated with this event is a sculpture known as the Angel of Grief. The artist, William Wetmore Story, and his wife are buried beneath the original in Rome, but many replicas have appeared throughout the world - 8 in Texas alone (Source: Wikipedia, Angel of Grief). The posture of the angel seems to speak to people in their own grief, and the tragedy of Newtown appears to be no different.

In times when we need answers, Christians turn to the Word of God, the Living God. In Holy Scripture, we find a profound and timely encouragement for today. St. Paul wrote to the Romans, saying:

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves...Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." (Romans 12: 9-10, 14-15)

Hate what is evil. Bless and do not curse. We are so tempted in the humanity of our pain to curse those who caused it, but I try to remind myself that there is only one Enemy - only one who is the source of all evil, and all others are just fallen souls in his hands. They need our prayers, not our anger. They need our blessings, not our curses.

Mourn with those who mourn. Be sincere. I remind myself that though it's natural to reflect this situation onto my own life, asking myself what I can do to prevent such a thing happening to me should not be my first response. We are commanded to love of others with the same weight as we love ourselves (Mt. 22:39) and here, Paul takes it a step further by saying that we should honor others above ourselves. I believe that the apostle is asking us to mourn for others - and to do it sincerely. There is nothing wrong with being precautious, and certainly there is wisdom in learning from history and from mistakes, but Christ himself calls us not to worry: "Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" (cf. Mt. 6:25-34).

Inspired by Story's statue and St. Paul's words, I offer up my own artistic contribution. Please feel free to share, if you feel lead.

Forget the gun control debate for now. Forget legislation and justice. There is a time for that. But for now, pray. Mourn. Love. There is only one creature worthy of hate, but there are so many worthy of blessing.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse...Mourn with those who mourn.