It’s the unexpected blessings that generate the deepest gratitude

Veteran's Day rememberanceThis Memorial Day, I sped over the water on an inner tube “pulling Gs”, as my pilot husband would say. My littlest on my left, a dear friend’s daughter on my right. Smiles were plastered to our faces as the cold spray of the boat’s wake pelted us.

The weekend started out wet and cold, but by Monday, the sun had finally emerged. We had expected to be on the lake for most of our time together, but the turn in the weather kept us indoors.

Three couples and their nine children together in a three bedroom, one bathroom cabin in the middle of Pennsylvania. A recipe for disaster, some might say.

Of course when we first gathered, there were a few bumps and bruises {metaphorically speaking} as each of the children, ages 10 to 2, found their place in the pack.

We three couples hadn’t been together as a group for some time. We began our “couples” friendship on Lake Washington – we have a photo to prove it. We were young and carefree. We hadn’t yet married and our military lives were only beginning. We each began to move away settling into married life. 9/11 happened. Children were born. We criss-crossed oceans and continents.

Here we were together once again – each of us part of a distinct Air Force family.

It didn’t take long before the children were enjoying one another’s company. We adults played cards, cooked meals, and shared life with one another. With ease, we loved on one another’s children, corrected them with necessary, and helped tie shoes no matter which family they belonged to.

That is when the unexpected happened – community began to emerge. The ease we felt with one another years ago began to take hold in an among us now some dozen years later. It seemed natural for me to cuddle another’s child, to start a tickle fight when tensions ran high, or to gently correct inappropriate behavior. There was an ebb and flow as we each moved in and among the group. It was beautiful to watch.

Deep gratitude filled me.

Gratitude that we understood one another’s life, the needs of our kids, the need for these friendships. Gratitude for the time and effort it took for all of us to gather together. Gratitude that there was no sense of whose parenting or family routines were better or more refined. Gratitude for a Memorial Day with friends who have chosen to invest in creating community with me and my family.

…..

This Memorial Day weekend, I thought of those I know who have lost loved ones to war. I remembered a new friend and her family whose wounds are still very raw. My heart ached as I read others’ posts, and poured over friends’ photos and memories. I thought of not only our fallen heroes, but of those who bear the scars of war and continue to do battle on the home front.

As I watched our families flex and bend into a comfortable rhythm, I was reminded of the reason we do community; the reason we choose to live on a base surrounded by other military families; the reason we work so hard to maintain friendships that are fostered over many years and hundreds of miles; the reason we parents make great efforts to support friendships for our children with other military kids; the reason we advocate so fiercely for the health and well-being of the military family at large.

We build community, relationships, and friendships deeply and across miles and miles because one day we may need one another in a way no one else could possibly understand.

So, when we gathered this weekend, I loved on their children. I hugged them tightly and kissed them on their heads. I offered them snacks, warmed them up from the cold, or calmed them when they feared – because I have grown to love their parents with whom we serve. And, should we ever need one another some dark day, I want them to know that I am here for them.

Living in community with other military families is a choice I will never take for granted. Unexpected as the relationships began that beautiful summer day in Seattle, they have become a vital part of me and my family. I will be forever grateful.

newly purposed,

jana

Pen to Paper

A memory flashes before me this morning as I sit down to catch up on correspondence.

My five-year-old self sitting at the kitchen table, clumsily clutching a pen over an ever-shifiting paper.

Thank you Cards. 

Dear Grandma, Thank you for the new doll. She is pretty. I love her a lot. Love, Jana 

Check.Cards

Next.

My mother was very disciplined about having us write thank you notes to friends and family. I remember Saturday mornings sitting at the table getting this “chore” done while my friends played outside. Such drudgery at the time.

Sometime later, a note would arrive for me from my Grandmothers’ thanking me for my Thank You Notes. They would often compliment me on my beautiful handwriting or thoughtful remembrance of them. Bound together in a dusty shoe box, I now treasure their notes like they once treasured mine.

I never told my mom this {I don’t recall anyway}, but I actually learned to enjoy writing thank you notes. My quipped three sentences, quickly turned into pages of script. I sharpened my handwriting and my writing voice. I took pleasure in painting pictures on the page as I described my family’s adventures. We moved often, lived out of the country some. Penning those letters and notes connected me with them across the miles.

I am reminded of the many scenes from Jane Austin novels as the heroine sits erect at a dark-stained roll-top desk, pen in hand. With a flushed face, she writes of her adventures and mishaps. I felt like that heroine sometimes.

My son recently received a thank you note following his friend’s birthday party. He seemed surprised that other children have to write thank you notes, too. I chuckled to myself. Maybe next time he won’t moan and groan when it is his turn to write his thanks.

I also just received a hand written invitation to a lunch party. Beautiful script from a 76-year-old friend. She had sent an email to “save the date”, but still believed it necessary to send a hand written note as well. I was humbled by the tradition of that one act. My grandmothers would have approved.

I am glad to see that the art of hand written notes is not yet lost.

I have many to write today, but am looking forward once again to putting pen to paper. I hope to craft a few sentences that will capture my appreciation and admiration for these people for whom I have come to love.

Putting pen to paper one thought at a time,

jana

 

Featured Ministry: She Shares {dot} org

Web

She Shares Ministries, co-founded by Sarah Harmony-Powell and Rebecca Barth, began with a friendship and a little gossip.

I reviewed their book, It’s Just a Little Gossip…Letters of a Broken Friendship last summer. {link here}

Sarah and Rebecca share their true story of a broken friendship that resulted from gossip overheard through a baby monitor – all mothers’ worst fear! In their book, they share how they were able to forgive one another and recover from the heartache. Since then, they have built a successful women’s ministry. Now they speak at women’s conferences, have their own radio program, write articles for their own blog and others, and have built an online community committed to choosing peace over pride and grace over gossip.

I am excited to feature She Shares Ministries here today. I have continued to keep tabs on these two beautiful women and have enjoyed cheering them on as they work tirelessly to be obedient to God’s calling in their lives.

Please consider supporting them by subscribing to their blog here, liking them on Facebook, or following them on twitter. Totally worth it! Rebecca will keep you laughing and Sarah will bring you gentle reminders of hope and encouragement.

Tomorrow, I will guest post at their blog. I have written a true account of misjudging someone based on my first impression. I might have missed a unique opportunity had I let my pride get in the way. I hope you will join me tomorrow and take time to become familiar with She Share Ministries.

newly purposed,

jana

 

BELOVED: Five Minute Friday

three little dice

 

photo credit

GO:

Last night, we played BUNCO. A large group of us. Wives and husbands. We sat around tables throwing three little dice. I watched these big burly hands that are more accustomed to flying helicopters and planes, to lifting rifles and ammunition, to commanding troops and giving orders, whirl three little dice in the center of the table.

Laughter, applause, cheers filled the room. At least 40 of us gathered to celebrate our beloveds. We shared food, good jokes, drinks, and enjoyed letting our hair down.

I was taken by the image of the burly, chapped hands of the men who love their wives – and go off to war; who love their children – and miss their birthdays; who love their country – and are willing to give their lives. These burly hands played, and enjoyed a “silly” game of BUNCO.

A tradition in the circles of wives. From base to base I go, and always, BUNCO is played. It may seem “silly” to some, but these men, had fun with their wives playing a game that stays constant while we move from place to place.

I guess that is what a beloved does for the other. We play the “silly” games joyfully and in fullness letting go of the dice with enthusiasm.

STOP.

……….

Would you like to participate in Five Minute Fridays? Find out how at lisajobaker.com. Writing for five minutes every Friday – no stopping, no editing, no second-guessing. Freedom of self-expression with One Word as our inspiration. Join me and hundreds of others.

newly purposed,

jana

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