The 4th of July. A day for picnics and fireworks. For spending time with family and friends. Hours to rest and relax. Right? Well, yes, of course. But it is much more than that. Did you just roll your eyes at me? Honestly, I know that you know that today represents more than hot dogs, sparklers, and a day off of work. I promise you that I will spend time today with family. We will eat, and we will relax. But at some point, I will also reflect on what today has cost us: as a family and as a nation. I can't help it. As a military wife and daughter, days like Independence Day, Veteran's Day, and Memorial Day bring with it a reminder of the cost that accompanies the joy, the sacrifice that is attached to the responsibility. I cannot see a flag without the mingling of pride and a heavy heart. I cannot hear the Star Spangled Banner without standing a little taller and fighting the lump that forms in my throat. The cost of freedom is great, and those who pay it want you to celebrate. But please do not forget the reason for the celebration and those who paid dearly so you can enjoy it.
What a year! In 2016, I graduated a son (my toughest student), published two new books for military spouses, and one new fiction novelette. What was the best of the best? What did you, my readers, like most? It was a mesh of military tips (like surviving a military move), friendship advice (avoiding the wrong friends), and finding what the Bible says about how involved we are supposed to be in each others lives. But to read the best of the best, or remind yourself of what you read earlier this year, this is the place to start.
It's the final few days before Christmas, and everything is falling into place. Presents are neatly wrapped and beautifully decorated under the tree. The Christmas ham or goose awaits the oven, and pie baking commences in the next day or two. What? Your holiday doesn't look Currier and Ives picture perfect? Mine either. I suspect we are not alone. The first Christmas I love nativity scenes and set out several around my home during December. While each has its unique beauty, they all share the same problem.
Why do you put up a Christmas tree? Why do you give presents? Why are candy canes a part of our Christmas traditions? Are you sure you know the full story? So many of the things we hang onto as truth, really aren't. Or, at least, the terms we use aren't defined well. For example, what's the highest mountain in the world? You just said Mount Everest, didn't you. Are you sure?
Today, author Sherry Gareis has stopped by to get our Christmas season started the right way. She asks some great questions we all need to consider. [And don't miss my newest giveaway!] Where in the CHRISTMAS is Jesus? Valid question, right? I mean CHRIST should be in CHRISTmas, shouldn’t He? THE NORM How do we usually show Jesus? Anyone own a ‘Jesus is the Reason for the Season’ pin? I have several and make no bones about wearing them during December. We display Jesus on our Christmas trees, right? I’ve got verses and nativity scenes on my tree. And how about on our Christmas cards? Isn’t that an easy way to share Jesus? Am I suggesting that pins, angels, and cards are bad? Of course not. Not at all! But are they enough? Could you be missing blessings?
Thanksgiving will soon be over, and you can breathe a sigh of relief. One holiday almost done, one more to go. This season brings out the worst in you: anger, depression, loneliness, bitterness. Your mind fills with the thoughts of what could have been, what should have been. If only . . . If you are in a fresh crisis, grieve. I want to make it clear that this post is not for those who are in the midst of a crisis. If you are coming out of a fresh loss, if tragedy turned your world upside down this year — give yourself grace. You do not need to have it all together with your happy face firmly planted for all to see this December. Instead, I'm talking to the person who thinks they have nothing to be grateful for. The person who faces a rough life, feels betrayed by a loved one, or stands between a rock and a hard place. The one stuck in a world of negative emotions because life hasn't been good or fair. While I empathize with your hard places and disappointments, I want to lovingly remind you of truth.
In the United States, this Friday is the special day dedicated to honoring veterans. What comes to mind? Among other things, The Star Spangled Banner and Lee Greenwood's God Bless the U.S.A. Two very different songs, but they communicate the same things to this U.S. Air Force girl's heart. The same things I see when I look at the American flag and or any American uniform within our Department of Defense. Honor. Courage. Commitment to a cause bigger than themselves.
Christmas is coming! It's less than three months away. Are you ready? How many of you just groaned? Come on, admit it. Many of you aren't ready for the holiday season. Perhaps you agree with some of the top reasons other people hate December: 1. You hate fighting the crowds and standing in line. 2. You know all the yummy treats that abound at Christmas, and you don't want to put on weight. 3. You just finished back to school shopping and you aren't prepared for all the gift giving. 4. The holidays are typically a busy time and you just want a little time to rest and be still. 5. Christmas brings lots of family time, and you don't have the best relationship with one or more family members. Well, stop groaning. With a little preparation and a few practical tips, you can make the upcoming holiday season better than ever. Yes, I know it's September (almost October). Come on, start now! You'll be glad you did.
[Don't miss this week's giveaway!] Freedom. On Monday, the United States celebrated its 240th birthday. Two hundred and forty years of standing on our own two feet, as it were. Of figuring out what that means. Of discerning where the balance lies between the freedom to do as you please and the responsibility that infers. Because all freedom confers responsibility. Oh, I know. Most of us like to talk about freedom, but we'd also prefer to stay away from the responsibility aspect of it. It's nice to talk about the freedom of speech or religion or security within our homes. It's hard to talk about the damage our words can cause. It's sometimes uncomfortable to practice peace with faiths very different from our own. And it's difficult to know when you should break through a door -- whether that door is physical, mental, or emotional -- to reach the person within. Preparing to face a giant First Samuel 17 tells of the time that a giant of a man stood before King Saul and his men. "This day I defy the armies of Israel," he said. "Give me a man and let us fight each other."
Mrs. Barnett, this is Sgt. Smith calling to inform you that there has been an incident regarding men within your husband’s unit. We want to assure you that your husband is fine. On April 25, we regret to say that Richard Herrema was killed in action while serving his country.