A Letter of Hope from 2003

 

a letter to war of hope from 2003

Alan and me the night he left for Iraq, 2003

This week is Veteran’s Day, and as the wife of a veteran it’s a holiday full of meaning for me. In honor of Veteran’s Day, I thought I’d share this letter that I wrote to Alan on New Year’s Eve, 2003. Alan was in Iraq, and I was living in Texas. What started out as this nightmarish, depressing event (sending my husband to war–I was all of 22 years old) had gradually turned into a year of growth and new friendships.

Did you know that we military wives have our own “battle buddies”? We do, and they were a life-saver that year. That was the year I learned that I do not enjoy teaching. I experienced the first major failure of my life when I quit that job before the year was over because it was so hard and miserable I couldn’t handle it.

I found many things I didn’t want to be. I thought I would never figure out what I DO want to be, so I headed back to graduate school, but the answers weren’t there either.

But I was never fully defeated because the Lord sustained me. He sustained me with mentors and friendships and love, and when 2003 closed, I was still full of hope. This is what I wrote to Alan:

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9 months down!!!!!                             I love you!!!!!!!!

Wed.,  Dec. 31, 2003

Day 275

Wow! This is the final day of 2003. But like I read in one of your letters, it was indeed a rotten year. Good riddance, 2003! Don’t let the door hit you on your way out. One thing’s for sure. It’s a year we won’t soon forget.

 But I’m so glad it’s over. For me, 2004 brings so much hope! Much like 2002! I remember New Year’s 2002 so well, and so fondly. I KNEW big things were in store for me that year. I knew you were becoming an important part of my life. And I had a feeling my life would be forever changed. I had a feeling you were “the one.” I remember sitting on my porch, holding my little Sylvester and crying. They weren’t tears of sadness or even tears of extreme joy. I guess it was just a moment in which I was preparing myself for the future. And I was letting go of the little girl inside of me, the innocent girl about to be rescued by her prince, about to grow up.

 I didn’t know I would be getting married that year, or moving far away, or even that I’d be graduating. I knew nothing of what was in store. Yet I can CLEARLY remember that the Lord was preparing my heart.

He was preparing my heart for you. And all the wonderful things you brought into my life. No one changed my life more than you. But it was a wonderful change.

 On the flip side, 2003 was not so wonderful. It was equally eventful. Only the events of 2003 often brought grief and hard lessons to be learned. I know we have grown this year though. We do grow from trials.

 But 2004 means something much different to me than either 2002 or 2003. To me, it is a year of hope, love, and laughter. That’s because when I think about 2004, all I see is you coming home to me, and spending a year together with you. Wow! How amazing it will be! Me and you together at last!

 So from January to March. Those 3 months are the joy of anticipation. And then You. You here in my life again. I can’t wait!

 I don’t have a New Year’s resolution. But I have a New Year’s hope. It’s like the final hump in this long deployment. The halfway mark was hump 1. And the end of 2003 was hump 2 to me. 3/4 of this journey is over!

 Yes!

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welcomehome

3 months later, I hung this sign at our very first home together. I lived by the airfield, so I got to see Alan’s ginormous cargo plane fly right over my house as it landed. I’ll never forget the elation of that day.

It was a 4 page letter, and that was the first 3 pages, and I actually did write “Yes!” that BIG at the bottom of page 3. I meant it that large. In fact, it’s actually a little bit larger. I wonder whatever happened to the fourth page.

Happy Veteran’s Day, y’all!! I’m so thankful for my veteran.

My New Year’s Resolution (Yes, I know what month it is.)

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It’s never the wrong time to turn things around. (Doodle art by Caleb: I found it on his “to do list” that he’d made himself…so proud that he made a to do list!)

Did you make goals for 2016? Or “New Year’s Resolutions?” We’re over 3 months in now. How are you coming on those?

I remember vividly saying something like, “I’d like to get rid of my hip pain. That’s my goal.”

That was it. Even when I said it, I had mixed feelings about having such a simple, dull, and yet seemingly unachievable little goal.

So I went to doctor appointment after doctor appointment. I surely took every blood test ever invented. There were x-rays. We kept MRI’ing the wrong body parts. We never did MRI the hip, but oh well, I’m so done with that.

I completely overhauled my diet, I went to physical therapy, and I had chiropractic adjustments.

And you know what? My hip is better, just as long as I don’t ride in a car, my hip is fine.

No cross-country road trip. No car trips at all.

Oh, and then the v-tach thing started, so also no exercising allowed.

No running. Only walking. No hiking.

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Did you say I shouldn’t care because I wasn’t a runner anyway? Ha.Ha.Ha. Well, okay, you have a point…..But still.

The fevers went away for a while, but now they are back, and guess what? I’m feeling depressed. Wait. Am I feeling sorry for myself?

Ugh! How obnoxious!!! But yes, I think I am. Or at least, I’m definitely thinking about it a lot. It’s a problem that I would like to solve. Fevers are about impossible to work through, y’all, and the doctors have no idea why I have them. What can I do?

Nothing, really.

So I think it’s time to come up with a new, FAR BETTER New Year’s goal. I’m a firm believer that it’s never too late to turn your show around. Why keep walking in the wrong direction? Let’s back-track.

It’s time for Plan B.

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Turn this train around, JD!!!

I’m going to quote my Life Application Bible study notes on the book of Zephaniah. I literally just opened my Bible, and there it was:

“Hope is the silver shaft of sun breaking through the storm-darkened sky…..Hope is knowing God and resting in his love.”   (p. 1290, 2nd paragraph, Life Application Study Bible)

When hard times rain down on you, and many of you have faced far worse things than I ever have, hope is everything. It’s not an ideal. It’s not a flowery concept. It’s not even abstract. It’s REAL. Hope has to be real in times like these. Hope has to surround you, touch you, and permeate your being.

This is the time for great hope. Changes have to be made!

So I came up with a new goal.

I love this verse:

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”  Matthew 6:33

If you put God first, everything else will fall into place. That’s what this verse is saying.

I cannot solve my health problems. I tried that. Don’t worry. I’ll still have the ventricular ablation. I’ll still go to the dermatologist and get my skin checked out.

But I want to move my focus. What does this look like? Here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. I want to have a solid time of Bible and prayer very first thing in the morning and again, right before bed.

Reading the Bible will not take away my heart disease. Being spiritual doesn’t heal fevers. But God can, and even if he doesn’t, praying and seeking God will have a profound effect on how I handle these problems. I believe I will be more centered, less overwhelmed, and more capable just from becoming more serious about my prayer and Bible reading time.

When things are desperate, who whispers occasional prayers? No. That’s not what you do. You beg. You plead. You mean business. You take those requests to the throne of Heaven over and over and over again. You pray harder.

What will these changes look like?

I started a prayer journal (again) yesterday. We talked about it in Sunday school, and it helped me to solidify my plan. I need a place to write prayer requests and important verses to remember, a place other than just my hand. (Yes, I write notes on my hands.)

No one gets breakfast until after this time of prayer has been done.

Unless they want coffee, juice, or chocolate milk. Coffee is an extremely important part of the plan. I go downstairs, and I pour my coffee. If JD is up, I pour him a drink in his sippy cup. Whoever is awake has prayer and Bible time with me. No sweat. 

I will repeat this before bed. When you have a crisis in life, you have to step up how you meet it, right? There are many great changes on our horizon, and the time to rise up and grow to meet these challenges is now. I will keep you updated on how it goes.

But no more compromising this. I’m letting you all know so that you can hold me accountable. Of course, I will feel sheepish if you mention it to me in person. I am way more shy than you realize.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:  and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28

What challenges are you rising up to face? How can I pray for you today? We can do this, y’all. Sometimes we just need grace and determination. I am determined to pray for that grace!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Undeclared Major

19

Age 19

I was a freshman at the University of Alabama. That was the semester we helped our friend Jason try out for Big Al, and he made it! That was the spring they fired Alabama football Coach Mike Dubose, after he had an affair with his secretary. I went from “14th floor girl” to an off campus apartment dwelling sophomore. I officially dated not a single person. Yet I still managed to get my heart broken a couple of times. I was always falling in love, or like, or confusion. I was the QUEEN of clueless dating, as in I could not have been more clueless about how to handle boys. I mostly just played hard to get, and it worked. No one got me. Ha!

I was 19, and for most of us, that’s just what we did. Right? Surely I wasn’t the only one.

I cannot, for the life of me, remember if I spent that summer working at the physical therapy clinic or the shoe store, so that’s why I have a journal. I’ll look it up here in a minute. I worked at Alumni Hall during the school year. On campus jobs are the best!

I do remember that when I was 19, I knew exactly who I was, but I had no idea where I was going or what I would be. That’s right. I was an undeclared major. I hated that label. It felt sketchy. I was a scholarship winner. I should have a plan, a purpose of some kind! I should at least know where I was going in life.

But I didn’t. The funny thing is that I was already doing it. I was already volunteering. I worked at Kid’s Klub one day a week, an after school club in the housing projects, where we taught kids about Jesus.

And I wrote. I wrote almost every single day. I made it a habit that every time I sat down to study, and I studied constantly, I would first read something from my Bible and write in my journal.

I was always poor, so I occasionally picked up writing assignments for extra money. I used that money to buy crazy things like food.

The university had a program where you could test out of Freshman Comp (English for freshmen). Therefore, I got to enroll in an American Literature class when I was 19. That class did not go well. The grungy graduate student who taught the class hated my papers. He gave me a B+ on every single one. That seems like a fine score to me now, but back then I knew something was amiss. He never made any marks on the page. I suspected that he didn’t even read them.

I was a firm believer in talking to professors. I used to get my Bs changed to As every single semester, simply by talking to the teacher. I learned this from the movie Clueless. Thank you, Alicia Silverstone.

The graduate student, who spent each class telling us about whatever he did that weekend and how weird he thought southerners were, informed me that my papers “were like a clean coat of paint with nothing underneath.”

Youch.

He said if I wowed him on the final paper, I could get an A.

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I should really find better “back in the day” photos…

 

I spent that week working on everything but that final paper, saved it for the last two days, and could not for the life of me find a poem I liked enough to write a paper about. I finally scribbled out something ridiculous and turned it in. (I should’ve gone with Robert Louis Stevenson. You can never go wrong with Robert Louis Stevenson.)

My writer dream died that year.

Was that professor right? Maybe a little. I didn’t care much about the topics I was writing about. I was nineteen. I cared more about finding a way to walk to his class without having giant sweat circles under my arms. Tuscaloosa, Alabama is HOT, y’all! I was more concerned about my crushes than I was about writing brilliant essays.

Ah, well.

I was also wrong. You can’t let the opinions of just one person, especially a person that doesn’t even know you, affect your decisions.

I don’t necessarily regret my undeclared major or the fact that I never took another college literature class. It was just part of my story, and it’s a great lesson to look back on of not letting hurtful words, whether they are true or not, get you down.

Who cares if he didn’t like my papers? Some people DID like my writing. More importantly, my writing has served many purposes in my life and in the lives of others.

I do want to live a life that pleases God. I do want to be a blessing to my family. Everyone else? Eh…. I do want to be a blessing to them, but I don’t need their approval.

The surest way to please NO ONE is to try to please everyone. Besides, some people will never be pleased.

I did eventually declare a major. I probably did that when I was still 19. I chose psychology, pre-physical therapy.

I have used my degree too, but it has never been in either of those fields because life is funny like that. The thing is, I’m a writer. I was then, and I am now. I could no more quit writing than I could change my eye color.

If you are an undeclared major, or you haven’t figured out “your purpose” yet, just keep charging forward. Stop and notice what you’re already doing. Maybe that IS your purpose. It’ll eventually make more sense. Maybe you just need more time to hone your craft before you can share it. I did. I tried many different things and felt a little lost in the sauce after graduating, but I feel so fulfilled at this point!

Wear your “undeclared” with joy. Your day is coming.

 

 

 

Thanks for the inspiration, Tamera!

I’m off to throw a surprise birthday party with my neighbors! Happy Birthday, Jackie!!

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