Whether we like it or not, God made us for relationship: with Him and with each other. If you’ve been hurt by others or are introverted and shy, you probably don’t like that God expects us to broaden our friendships outside the front doors of our comfort zones. That’s okay. I didn’t much like it either when I started figuring it out. Most people these days tend toward self-sufficiency, and we like to reinforce that with pop psychology. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Put on your big-girl panties. God helps those who help themselves. Common mantras, but is that really what the Bible teaches?
If you could do anything, what would it be? Don't stop to think about money or time or health that might limit you. Just dream, and dream big! What would make your bucket list of long-term goals? Tour a famous city? Give large sums of money to causes you care about? Climb a mountain or bike a historical trail? Sleep in a tree house? Or an underwater hotel? Complete a marathon? Pet a penguin (yes, that really is a top bucket list choice!) What came to your mind as you considered the possibilities?
This month marks the two-year point. In June 2015, we moved from Virginia to our current home in North Carolina. Since I married my husband in 1996, we've moved a lot. Two and a half years in one house is about our limit before we're packing up and changing residences. I can't tell you how many times we started the school year by learning our address, or how many times I looked at whichever kid was in the ten-to-thirteen-year range and asking them if they knew our home phone number. Thank goodness for cell phones where your number doesn't change with every move! For the first time in my marriage, after two years in the same place, we are not facing the chore of packing up our entire house. No, instead we are facing the much bigger task of watching our oldest pack up everything she owns and moving across the country without us.
How many of you have seen one of those homecoming videos of a man (or woman) in uniform surprising their child or mother or another family member? I love them—don't you? They are sweet and joyous, so full of emotion. I giggle and smile and sometimes shed a few tears. I look forward to the homecoming pictures posted by my active duty friends. Everyone who knows them breathes a collective sigh of relief. Another one returned home to us, safe and sound. Things can return to normal for that family. What civilians may not know is that the hours and days after the welcome home photographs may not be so sweet. The reality of homecoming can be very different from other reunions, say when a child returns home on a college break or you travel home to visit family. If you want to support military families, this is what you should know about reintegration.
What do you do with family? Just the word family contains a lot: a lot of emotion and a lot of history. Some hopes and dreams and wishes. Probably some fears and a few hurts. For some of you, the word brings up considerably more positive reactions than negative ones. Others of you are simply trying to break years of destructive family cycles and build a better foundation for your children to launch from. God designed us to live and grow in families, so it's no surprise that families also encompass many of our most difficult relationships.
How much do you pray? Okay, before anyone gives up on this post or journies into a guilt trip where I don't intend to lead you, let's all admit that we could all pray more. We could (and probably should) seek God more. But that's not my intent in asking the question. Instead, I want to consider the why behind our actual tendency and discipline. Why don't we pray more?
In my book The Warrior's Bride, I shared quite a bit about the health problems my husband endures. Chronic pain, back issues, migraines, leg cramps, and more are a regular part of our lives. I used to wonder what I was supposed to do with that. Were the physical struggles a test? A character building process? Would God heal him, or lead us to the doctor with the right procedure to make things better? And what does it say about our faith if nothing changes? What does it say about God if things get worse?
Relationships are hard, and trusting the Lord with them is rarely easy. One devastating time in my marriage is crystal clear in my memory. My husband hadn’t slept in two days because of an undiagnosed medical issue and was highly irritable. We fought, and he raced off on his motorcycle. I ran to our room, sat on the edge of the bed, and sobbed. I contemplated divorce, even knowing that wasn’t the answer. I didn't want to stay, but at the same time I didn't want to leave. I felt trapped. Alone. This brief story from my life relates just one time when despair threatened to overwhelm me. When emotions could have determined my choices. When I could have easily followed my heart right out of my marriage. Emotions are funny things. They surge to the surface without effort and can control us if we aren’t careful. Many people advise you to follow your heart, but that's dangerous advice.
Back in early October, I made two big announcements: I was starting my own publishing company. I was reclaiming the rights to my Crossing series. Several of you patiently waited while my assistant and I waded into the publishing waters. We had some battles to win, fights with computers over formatting issues and such. But we won! The ENTIRE Crossing Series is NOW Available!
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.