Happy Birthday, United States Air Force– What Is There To Even Celebrate Now?

As a veteran and military spouse with 22 years of Air Force experience, what can I say about my beloved branch of service on its 69th birthday?

I was proud the day I stepped out of MEPS with a promised new, exciting yet completely unknown future.

At 24, after a failed marriage to a man who was abusive and mean, I was beginning a new life– one I’d be proud to say I’ve lived.

I think I was a joke to my first recruiter, but I found another recruiter who took me seriously and helped me find my door out of the destructive life going nowhere that I’d made for myself.

To the Air Force, I was a female body filling an empty spot in a predominantly male career field. I had high expectations of learning my job, being trained exceptionally. I trained waitresses before I enlisted, and I expected at least that same level of professionalism and depth. My expectations were not met– it wasn’t even close. I was a female after all– someone to flirt with, try to date, but keep at arms-length in what was, after all, just a man’s job.

I’d faced that challenge my whole life with relatives that mocked my efforts because of my gender, as though I were less than any male.

I rose to the gender challenge in school by taking a car repair class, acing it. I knew my way around a car engine, transmission and a/c– you know, back in the day when things were repaired and replaced, not sent to someone to fix or throw out.

I fought against that whole “weak girl” mentality, and the Air Force decided to throw me into that, once again. I was left at job sites by my supervisor, to figure things out without his help, tools or replacement parts. My 25th birthday was spent alone in my dorm room until my supervisor called me to go on a call at the dorm next to mine. The lighting was nearly non-existent  outside, and as I was walking, I didn’t see a step in the sidewalk, and fell. I got up, and not realizing I had a concussion from the fall, I went to try to stop a broken shower. I had no user’s manual, no training, and no supervisor taking me through the troubleshooting steps to fix it. 45 minutes later my supervisor finally showed up, disappointed that I hadn’t magically solved the problem. I went back to my dorm, finished that birthday by falling asleep. A week later I went to the doctor because my head had been hurting since I fell, and that’s when I learned I had a concussion. God still had plans for me, even if my co-workers thought I was just a waste of space in their career.

I’d love to say there were many high points, but I was constantly held back. One guy even became my supervisor, after being turned down over the phone for a date. I’d never seen him face-to-face, so I didn’t realize who he was until my career was nearly ruined. As soon as I figured it out, I changed supervisors and shops, but he had already said too much negative about me, gave me a bad EPR and convinced me I needed to work on my CDCs rather than drive around to jobs we never had the parts to actually fix. My personal challenge was a ruined opportunity, I’d never make Msgt by 13-14 years. I also no longer cared.

After that, I learned the outdoor part of my job. I had better opportunities at being trained, and hands-on repairs. I learned a lot and I worked hard physically. It was a better fit for me, but my shop boss hated me and I got another low EPR because he didn’t agree with the positive things my new supervisor reported in it. My shop boss never actually went to my job sites and saw how hard I worked, or how good I had become at everything I was given the opportunity to actually do with the right parts, tools, and training.

I received orders, so I moved to another base. I wasn’t hated because of my gender, this time I was too delicate to do my job. I was given jobs like painting, hammering a few nails in, controlling and sitting-in for my commander’s secretary. I volunteered to deploy to the desert, and my leadership nearly had a heart attack! They fought me on it, tried to keep me from going, but no one else was volunteering. So I went. But, not to do my actual job. No. I was an escort for the local nationals. And then, because I couldn’t be alone with the local nationals, because I’m a girl, I was put at the gate for 12-16 hour days, in charge of who was allowed in. Over Muslim men. You can probably guess how good that went over. Besides the fact that I was a girl, I was a girl that drove, told men what to do, and read her Bible openly in front of men. Now, I had no idea women weren’t allowed to read religious stuff, and as a Christian I read my Bible because I needed God’s encouragement and wisdom to handle some difficult people and situations– like bomb threats and air tests, and men who hated me, refusing to follow my instructions without cops threatening to pull out their guns telling them they had to do what I said.

Anyway– that was much of my enlisted experience, though definitely not all.

As a spouse, I’ve endured 18 years of constant changing plans and the results of the spectrum of various leaders my husband has worked for- from awesome to abusive at times. We have been blessed, and most of the time he has had awesome local leadership. Though it often feels like he’s away more than he’s here, we have had it better than many.

His extended leadership has gotten worse, though. Most of the time they’re clueless about what they put their people, and their people’s families, through. They are uninformed, and “yes men”, not professional enough to get needed information or listen to the needs and complaints of the workforce they are near breaking.

It’s not unlike Benghazi, where they are communicating needs, concerns, and asking for more bodies– but being ignored, blown off, and having more work than is even possible dumped on them. I have watched my good-natured husband, who has already put his 20 in, in a much needed career field, be crushed by unrealistic expectations, pushing of regulations, as well as physical and mental exhaustion to the point he falls asleep as soon as he gets home some nights. His schedule is all over the place, he has no time or energy to keep up with the rigid demands of PT because the nature of his job is already far too physically and mentally demanding.

And now, we celebrate the birthday of a force to be reckoned with– by its own people. From leadership that sexually abuses and assaults those lower-ranking than themselves, getting a “pass” from being held accountable, to leadership that has no clue what they are putting their people through– this year, I’m not celebrating the birthday of my beloved Air Force.

This year, I mourn its self-destruction, from the inside-out.

Me, Myself And My Husband– One Flesh

My husband doesn’t do things the way that I do. He doesn’t say things the way I say them. He doesn’t look at things the way I see them.

He doesn’t have the same Political views that I have…

When we married, we were taught through God’s Word that his body is my body, and my body is his body. In some ways that has become a kind of joke for us throughout the years.

“Honey, we have some things to do.” “Do I have to?” “Well, since your body is my body– yes.” Or, the silliness of doing something impossible– like using the restroom, lol.

Since my body is my husband’s, and vice-versa, does that mean his mind is also mine and mine is his?

Could you imagine if this were the case? If I had the ability to get him to think like me, and if I thought as he does, misunderstandings would become nonexistent!

But, the mind is such a complicated thing. The closest we could get to that is doing our best to consistently work at clear communication. Practicing listening. Sharing openly. Discussing differences.

Body ownership has been defined for us in Scripture– we become one-flesh, two halves of a whole. But our minds? As Christians, they should belong to the Lord. They have the unique ability to multi-task. While doing one thing like talking with people, we can pray, remember Scripture, Praise and Worship God at the same time.

The Bible exhorts us to pray without ceasing, because we can. We are able to do that. It takes practice, reminders, and at first a lot of attention and time. But then it becomes a habit. It happens naturally.

Our minds were made to interact with our Creator continuously.

That’s why there is so much competition for it with the world, people, even within ourselves.

We have a choice in who or what we give our minds to.

Everyday I want to choose God. Many times I fail somewhat, some days completely.

Every day is a new chance.

What Do Women Really Want?

We have all heard the sarcastic jokes about how girls are so difficult to understand. If we are honest we have either told a few ourselves, or agreed with them.

But, are women really that difficult to understand?

Being a woman myself, I feel qualified to answer this.


  

Flowers, chocolates, jewelry, a spontaneous trip somewhere, getting us that dress we have been eyeing as we do our online Windows shopping– believe it or not, they all have something in common.

Being valued. Being remembered. Attention to the details that matter to us being acknowledged. Being that priority in thought and heart.

Not out of guilt. Nope. If guilt is the motivator then you have lost.

It’s not the amount of money that makes something valuable to a woman. No, really, it isn’t. It’s the motivation that created the desire to buy or make and then give the gift. That is what women most care about. What is your motivation for what you do, say, or give to your wife or girlfriend?

Behind the motivation, your heart towards her is revealed.

Women are sensitive to that. We do not want gifts, compliments or acknowledgment born out of guilt, manipulation, or stubborn obligation.

Us women, we need to know you are thinking about us. That you are appreciating us. That we, alone, satisfy you. Show us that an evening alone with us is enough, it doesn’t make you cringe or fall asleep, or day-dream about when we let you go play Fallout 4. Let us see first hand that holding our hand satisfies you more than that game controller ever does, or that iPad, or even that drink or cigarette. Put your phone on silent and look into the eyes of your special lady, without thinking about all you need to be looking into your phone’s screen to check. Dazzle us with your full attention so we know you think highly of us, you are interested in our point of view– that you value how we are different from you.

That is how we measure how much you value us. Not by how much money you spend on a gift. That you would willingly spend as much money as possible to show that you value us even more than the cost of what we have our eye on.

Make it a point to notice what we have our eye on.

We need to know we are the most valuable part of you.

When you met us, you craved our attention, you dropped what you were doing when possible to spend time with us.

You showed us we were important.

After becoming confident you had “won” our hearts, a shift happened– you began telling us we are important. Not wanting to be “needy”, we’ve adapted and accepted, until pretty soon that’s all we have.

That becomes our value. How much we adapt, accept, overlook…

This is not at all what women really want. It’s definitely not what we need. It does not satisfy or make us happy.

All too often we become part of the background of your attention or memory.

An after thought.

The least in your list of priorities.

There are too many things competing for your attention, and your affection– those things the woman in your life most deserves.

Isn’t she worth more to you than you often make known to her?

One Anothering

My husband and I got into an argument early this morning. Which, in all honesty, is an uncommon, even a rare thing for us. We both had had a long night for different reasons, both feeling tired and some stress. He was snippy with me, I was short-fused because of that and the long night… And the collision of our frustrations happened.

I snapped.

Years ago, in a far away land in a different lifetime, I was married to a different man. We fought all the time. He insulted me, called me degrading names, and treated me with such rudeness that my mom, who gets along with everyone and their dog (she’s a dog lover), hated him. He was mean and nasty to me, and I was defensive and fought back. I was a different person back then. Language that could make a sailor proud, a tongue that could tear an enemy to shreds, I held nothing back on him. After our divorce, I decided to make some drastic changes about who I would allow to get that close to me again.

I promised myself I wouldn’t let anyone be verbally abusive, or degrade me again. I deserved better.

This morning, I reached a point I just never get to anymore, and I angrily told him how I was feeling. I expected him to get mad. I thought about how my ex-husband would have reacted when I had gotten to that point with him.

Mean and nasty…

I braced myself, wondering if I needed to gear up for a bigger argument.

He apologized.

We discussed it all rationally.

I apologized.

I forgave him. He forgave me.

We discussed a bit more, looking at the circumstances and reasons for the pressure build up. It started last night when I missed his telling me he had a headache and then I was loud and silly, obnoxiously happy because my character in World of Warcraft could finally fly. He tried to let it go. He snapped at me, I tried to let it go.

Then the long night of little sleep involving a cat scratching him as he accidentally rolled on it, and I was having a rough night as well…

Then more snapping, and I no longer was able to just let it go.

The actual argument lasted maybe a minute, the discussion maybe 5.

Now I am patting myself on the back at a job well done for picking a man who treats me even better than I expected.

John 15:12  (American Standard Bible), “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”

He has One Anothered me.

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Individually One Flesh

Love my husband s fun hobby D these are our mains

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark 10:8 “and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh.” (NASB)

Marriage is the most unique relationship between humans. When a man and woman marry, it takes time to learn how to live together.  How to agree and disagree. Whether or not to even have children.

Then, if having kids, how to raise them and discipline them. How to encourage them in the midst of parents coming from 2 different perspectives, backgrounds, and maybe even world  views.

There are many outside forces to consider. The husband and wife learn they have to set boundaries for outside forces so they can follow the path together that they set out on when they said, “I do”. There are things to compromise on, things to agree on, and times where tongues may or may not be held, when one does things the other doesn’t like.

I learned a lot from my first marriage that failed. I was rejected by a husband who was far from the image he sold me before we married. I was shoved out of the way to make room for another woman. As I struggled with my hurt, I also learned how to become an individual again. I lost “me” completely within that marriage.

When God brought His choice for me into my life, I remembered my previous marriage experience. How bad things were with a man who would have nothing to do with God or church. I realized it would be best to focus on what is right with my second-chance marriage. I chose to not adopt society’s way of focusing on what I see as being wrong, and telling others about my irritations, getting people to be on my side.

We are one flesh. There are no sides.

What I say reflects back on both of us. It points to my character as much as his character.

But although we are one flesh, we are still both individual people. One of the hardest lessons I have gleaned from is: I can’t take his failures personal. Not everything is about me. Sure, his decisions and actions affect me more than any other person besides him. Sure, I am in it with him, and when he makes bad decisions they affect me like they affect him. I am part of the fall-out. My feelings are entangled with his choices. And, no, he doesn’t often remember to think about that.

God gave him to me. To love me, to provide for me, to protect me.

Sometimes I forget: God also gave me to him.

God gave me to him to be his help mate. He may not want my help. He may not recognize what I am trying to do as being helpful.

But, God has given me a mission as his wife: help him.

How am I supposed to help him? The first thing is to let him be the individual God created him to be.

I have to disengage my feelings when he falls off the pedestal I tend to put him on. He is not immune from making sinful decisions. So, how can I help him look to God more? How can I help him be a man of prayer and response, rather than human reactions? How can I help him make decisions best for the whole family, that please God, rather than just decisions for himself?

I need to remind myself at times that God will work out the details for what He sees as faults.

How can I help him be his best for God? Without being manipulative. Without trying to be his Holy Spirit. Without putting my opinion and expectations in place as the standard I try to push on him. How can I just let him be him, treat him with respect and loving-kindness, regardless of what I see as being wrong?

How can I submit to his leadership, in a sense, without losing my own individuality in the process? How can I help him consider my needs and instincts, while balancing myself against things I recognize as not being God’s best for him, us, or our family?

My husband needs me. Whether he acknowledges it or even recognizes it, or not.

He needs me to be encouraging when he feels overwhelmed. He needs me to pray for him. He needs me to help carry his burdens, when possible, and let him handle them his way when I can’t.

He needs me to love and accept him, unconditionally. He needs me to not harden my heart when he doesn’t do things “perfect”, or even when what he does and says hurts me.

The hardest part of being his helpmate is focusing on my mission from God to respect him and be the helpmate God gave me to him to be. Through prayer, fasting, encouraging, silence, sharing Scripture, and being nonjudgmental when he does not do things the way I would.

Individually, we are one flesh. He does not have anyone else like me in his life.

God has given me an important mission on earth. To help one of His children in ways no other person can, with God’s help through my life.

We are 2 individuals that are also one-flesh. Even when my other half messes up, or strays from God. I still have my purpose given to me from the Divine. That does not get cancelled out. If anything, it becomes a more urgent focus.

My feelings and expectations are not the standard I live by. God’s standard is what I am striving to live by.

I can’t just give up and walk away, even if it ever felt like it was killing me.

Jesus didn’t give up and walk away when it was killing Him.

United We Stand

glass broken  heartGod has sure been stirring up a lot of things in my heart and thoughts lately.

One of the recurring issues I deal with is that I am still missing out on a father figure for my life. I understand that Scripture teaches us that God is our Heavenly Father, and He has never disappointed me.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I am 40-something, and I still wish I could just have a normal conversation with my daddy. I have never had that. I have missed that, and struggled not to envy what others have been given.

There are so many people, of all ages, who have not had real, or healthy  relationships with their parents.  Where are the Godly men who will step up, and allow God to use them to replace what has been stolen from so many?

“When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing heart-photo-by-Carien-of-sxc.hu_nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household. (John 19:26-27 NASV)

He understood that those relationships are of utmost importance.

We are missing so much with our individualistic approach to Christianity. We are missing out on so much.

How Have You Grown?

I was inspired to write this by this blog:
http://thingstoadore.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/and-before-you-know-it/

There is nothing like becoming a mom and being responsible for the lives of our little ones who are so vulnerable and completely dependent on us, to make us both grow, and grow up.

I became a mom at 29. I had almost 3 decades to learn how to be selfish and think about “mememe”. My transition to momhood was ugly. My life before marrying a Godly man was all about my survival, my being independent and responsible, my working hard. I can count on one hand the number of people who sincerely had my back or even cared whether I survived. Transferring that mindset into taking care of a baby, especially after not being around babies much at all, I was a huge mess. I didn’t have family nearby to help me, and I didn’t have the benefit or experience from a healthy relationship with my own parents. I did have my Grandma to confide in, and I had an amazing husband that God provided for me, who supported me, believed in me, and continually shows me kindness I often feel undeserving of.

The first 2 weeks of my first baby’s life were the hardest and scariest of my entire life, and believe me, that is saying a lot. She lost a full pound after being born a month early, and I was trying to learn how to breastfeed her. Thankfully I had encouragement from people at church to not give up breastfeeding. I am so very glad I pushed through. She finally started gaining weight at 2 weeks, and we had some rough times, like clumsily trying to feed her in public and getting a yeast infection in my milk ducts. She is 13 now, and she’s one of the best accomplishments of my life, and a reminder of how much God changed my life when she was born. When she was born, the “mom” me was born. As a mom, she and I are both 13, and trust me, we both have some seriously real “adolescent” days.

Over the past almost 15 years of marriage, God has used His Word to instruct me to not be anxious for anything, to cast all of my cares on Him, and that no matter what, I can lean on Him and He will make all of my pathways clear. He has never failed, He has never given up on me, and I know there is nothing I can’t trust Him with. I have grown as a Believer.

I have grown as a wife. When we first married, I had all sorts of expectations of what I believed a Christian marriage would/should be. I was previously married to a nonbeliever. It was a disaster, and I know it was because of God’s protection over me, in my ignorance and desperation to just have someone who would love me, that I’m alive today. He delivered me from that marriage that I clung to when my ex decided one day he wanted a divorce, but I wouldn’t grant him one. Until I read Scripture, and I heard God in my spirit tell me it was ok to let him go. So, I joined my new husband 6 years later, with God’s permission to remarry, with hopes, plans and expectations. All of those either died out or were changed by God. I learned to relax when things feel out of control, spinning ahead of what I feel ready for, because God knows everything, and I can just lean back on Him, rest, and trust. Being married to a Christian has both defied and soared beyond my expectations.  We don’t pray together about everything, we don’t sing and play praise and worship songs together all the time, we don’t always have it all together with perfect smiles on our faces and lots of Christian friends who adore us, we don’t have popular Bible studies and prayer meetings in our home every week, and we have never gone on mission trips as a family like my heart still longs to do. Yeah, my picture guess was way off from our reality, lol. I’m not “Suzy Homemaker”. I’m a military spouse who has almost no control over any area of decisions or plans, the military takes care of all of that for both of us. I have learned to be content during some pretty intense times, but I’m still learning, and I fail at “content” pretty much every day in one way or another.

I have grown as a daughter. I have a new lens on my “hindsight” indicator. I no longer look through it as a daughter, but I look through it as one who has a daughter. There are things my mom did that I have made sure not to do. There are things I cringe every time I do or say. There are things I am careful to do, and I’m sure there are things I wish I had done, though I can’t think of any off-hand. I learned a lot from my Grandma that I didn’t learn from my own mom. There have also been times when anger or tears pop in because of things I missed out on or was robbed of in my own relationship with my parents. I have had much forgiving to do, needed much grace to apply, and tempered with love much disappointment and frustration. God has helped me to be a better mom to my children than I ever could have been without His compassion and help.

It’s amazing to me when I look back over all of the events of the past decade and a half, just how much “growing” God has accomplished in me while I was distracted by my life’s moments. I still have a lot of growing to do, but wow: God sure has been busy in me!

In what ways have you grown?

Husband Versus Wife, Wife Versus Husband

The more I listen and watch people, the more I see a frustration in marriages that just doesn’t need to be there at all.

Maybe I see it because I’ve been in a unique position most of my life. Maybe it’s so apparent because it’s just so different from my own marriage. Whatever the reason, it honestly makes me sad to see what could be an amazing experience, end up being a hurtful competition or a neglectful, negative situation.

Recently my husband had an interaction on a social network with someone who said it is awful for Christians to live the Biblical description of marriage where “…wives submit to your husbands…” *gasp!**howoldfashionedancientandbackwards!*

Ok, at face value, that taken out of context description of a wife’s “role” does seem a bit antiquated or third world-ish. So, I guess I want to take just a moment to address that specifically.

In what ways do I personally “submit” to my own husband? Do I ever resent “having” to be submissive? Does that mean he “rules” over me and our children? Am I afraid to be independent, or modern, with a “healthy” perspective on my own self-esteem and self-reliance? The answer to this last question is, No, I am not afraid to be any of those. In fact, there is no fear at all in my marriage. He doesn’t keep me ” in check”, or “barefoot and pregnant, in the kitchen”.

I practice “submission” by not hiding things from him. I do that because I don’t want hindrances in our relationship, or stumbling blocks. I can’t think of anything I haven’t told him about my past, or things I’ve done since he and I married. I am open and honest with him. I don’t resent living a submissive life with him, because he also reciprocates. He doesn’t hide things from me.

This is actually what got me thinking about this subject: I see a lot of women get hurt because of things their husband’s or boyfriend’s have hidden from them. I see so many marriages break down because of this lack of communication, and a rise of this competitive “spirit” that often sets them up as each other’s enemy.

My husband is not my enemy, he’s my very best friend. In fact, most of our marriage he has been my only real, true friend. He knows me better than anyone else, except our Creator.

My husband treats me with dignity, kindness, respect, generosity, equality, and love. Why does he do that? Because that’s how our God has taught him to treat me. I choose to submit things to him because he sees things from a different perspective than I do. I choose to be submissive because he is fair, honest, and he’s accountable to our God for me and our children. I choose to submit to him because we are equals, and he chooses to submit himself to me. We share our lives, our burdens, our concerns, with each other. We don’t consult with friends outside of our marriage, we don’t gossip with our complaints about one another. We don’t hold value of a friendship above each other, we are each other’s best friend.

That’s exactly what I see missing in the marriages that end in divorce and hatred. They forget to be friends.

Who Controls Your Time?

This is painfully honest, but it’s “real”.

There are some days when I have a heightened sense of awareness concerning how very little control and input I have in my daily life’s circumstances. I am writing this as I sit in our one vehicle waiting for my husband to finish something he’s volunteered to do for our church. I have no issues with his having volunteered. What I am continually frustrated about are my lack choices in my own life. Some days it’s apparent that nothing about my life is about me.

As a Christian, I remind myself that that’s the way my life is supposed to go. Putting others before myself. This is the “season” I am in, and the lesson of learning to be content in all things, it’s a doozy some days.

As a military spouse and veteran, I remind myself that serving our country is an honor. Supporting my husband as he serves, is some days a more difficult sacrifice than my own military service was. He has people telling him what to do and where to be pretty much every minute of his work day. He’s scheduled for meetings without any communication with him about it, and he has no say, nor does he even get to take real vacation time. There is often little to no consideration or concern for how his work affects his home life, by his leadership. He wasn’t issued a family, so his family isn’t important to them. I do my best to keep things under control at home, but I have reached a near breaking point a few times since we moved to this assignment 1 year ago. Service before self, that’s what is expected, even from military families. When he gets orders just days before he’s sent away, I just have to go through the motions of having it all together. If I’m sick or stressed, it doesn’t matter, his duty comes before my life, in every way possible. That’s just the way it is. When he flies, I drop him off so I won’t be without the car if he gets stuck somewhere over night, or for several days. Everything revolves around his schedule, and truth be told: I don’t often feel much like running errands just because his work schedule makes our car available for me to actually go somewhere.
I cannot plan anything. When he comes home from work, he tries not to bring his frustration home too, and he plays with the kids when he can. Sometimes he lays down and falls asleep. Ok, lots of times he does that. I get the leftover exhaustion that’s a result of all the junk he deals with, or exhaustion from his flying 6-10 hours a day.

As a home educating mom, I remind myself that my kids educational needs are priority. They have to learn, we have to stick to a schedule to fit in the State mandated number of hours required, even though the school system certainly doesn’t follow that guideline very strictly. The school system gives kids 5 days off over Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day, alone. My kids can’t take that amount of time off without having to make up time over a weekend or extra long schooldays. Even though they will beg me to go play with their friends, they have to do schoolwork, because of those mandated hours I signed my name before a Notary Republic agreeing to enforce. Normally I enjoy the kids staying home to learn, but I honestly despise that box of “time” everyday that this state has inflicted on us. I have consistently been strict concerning their education from day 1 of their schooling, that mandate is unnecessary, and it’s too restricting.

I have no one to talk to that really understands where I’m coming from. There is nothing that is about “me”, at all right now. When people ask what I like to do, I’m at a loss. I don’t even know anymore. I try to write, but I’m only motivated by getting stuff off of my chest, encouraging others one-on-one, or politics. I play my violin for church sometimes, but that’s another part of my life that is scheduled for me, which isn’t a big deal in and of itself, but when I look at the whole picture, I just get overwhelmed by how lost I am in everyone’s scheduling that affects me but isn’t ever about me. I very much want to play my violin and bless others, just some days I feel crushed by “overwhelm”. Thankfully God never lets it really crush me, and He gives me the strength to get out from under it, and rise above it. I am no good at anything without God’s help.

Nothing about my life is my own right now. I sometimes stay up too late just to get peace and quiet time to myself, but that comes with a price, too. I cannot ever get away from responsibility, or everything being planned for me while not including me in the planning.

I just follow the schedule.

America the Great

Life. Liberty. The Pursuit of Happiness. The American Dream. This is how America was described to me as I was growing up.

I was taught to love and appreciate the country I was blessed to be born into. I was taught to be a giver, and to fight the need to be given to. I was taught to have a sense of pride, and even a touch of arrogance, about being an American, because I live in the greatest country in the world. I was told to love my neighbor as myself.

The definition of neighbor seems to vary among individuals.

Neighbor, to some, means the people in our neighborhoods. To some, it means friends. For some, it includes people at work, school, church, or those we interact with as we enjoy our hobbies and our lives. For some, they also include other nations as our neighbors.

For me, the title of neighbor has grown to include the homeless, the person standing alone at a gathering, the child whose parents would rather they go play than stay home, and the person across the world being persecuted for what they believe, or rather, what they have rejected to take on as a belief.

American Pride often keeps us looking at the things we value, that look good on the surface, but rarely does it acknowledge those within our nation that are the least desirables. At best, we touch those subjects with a few glancing words giving a shallow appearance of compassion, while moving on to a more comfortable subject like football, or how many medals we won in the Olympics this year. American Pride give homage to what looks pretty on the outside, while skirting issues that don’t reflect pride or even the pretty. For example, the way our war heroes are treated, often neglected, if they don’t find the successful path that ends up in a house with the white picket fence and the 2.5 children, that have become entwined with our definition of “American Exceptionalism”.

Years ago, when I was placed in another country, I went with my American Pride and touch of arrogance. I had been taught being an American meant I was the best, that I was better than other people. I learned pretty fast, that I had been taught wrong. I learned that even though we have this great respect for ourselves, other people in the world, well honestly, they hate us. They don’t think we are great, they don’t rejoice with us that we were born in the greatest country in the world. No, they don’t respect us, they don’t even like us.

I learned that people are people no matter what country they live in, and when we attempt to define them by their country of origin, we are missing the big picture. I learned to appreciate what those in my host country of Japan, the Okinawan people, placed value on, not trying to Americanize them, but embracing their culture and learning to interact with them, even in a limited way, in their own language.

I found that people want you to meet them where they are, and find things in common with them that they love, that honor them. I realized that putting people above America was more important than trying to get them to be more like an American. I learned that something as simple as saying, “Thank you.” in their language meant more to them than just about anything I could do or even give them.

I came to love the people of another country, and even respect them as much, sometimes even more, than those in my own country. I grew to appreciate and sincerely value the true humility I saw in them and in their everyday lives. I gathered as much knowledge and information as I could about the area I lived in, so I could understand them better, and so I could be effective when I prayed for them, from my heart.

I gained a new perspective and clearer sight. My neighbor is everyone, no matter what their station in life, or what their nationality or belief. And, I learned how to love them as myself, even more than myself.

America is an amazing country, full of opportunities, hope, and generosity. I love my country, my heritage and my life. But now I also love people everywhere far above my love for my country.