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

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