Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thankful Thursdays

It is so easy to get bogged down by our everyday responsibilities that we often forget to stop and appreciate the people and things around us.  We whisk past the minutes as though they are just another ordinary moment in our long lives.  But the truth is, that minute will never be returned to us.  Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.  We move forward taking our time for granted and planning our futures, forgetting that tomorrow is promised to no one. 

By practicing gratitude, we can avoid taking life for granted.  When we allow ourselves to recognize the appreciation we have for the people and things in our lives, our anxieties will start to lessen and we will begin to feel more content.  This is why I have decided to start a weekly gratitude link-up on my blog called Thankful Thursdays.  Every Thursday, I will write ten things I am feeling thankful for that week.  I invite you to post what you are thankful for, either through the comments section or by linking up to the Thankful Thursdays post on your own blog.  There’s no need to feel silly or guilty about what you post.  Gratitude can be shown for something simple like finding the perfect pair of shoes to something big like the friend who happened to call when you needed someone to talk to.  Be honest, and speak from your heart.  Let’s see how good being gracious can make us feel! 

This week, I am thankful for:
1.       Cooler weather.  The heat makes me very irritable!

2.       My husband is finally home for fall.  Here's to football and spiked cider!

3.       The new friends I have met in the past two months.

4.       The old friends who are only a phone call or text away.

5.       The support and positive reinforcement my readers have given me on my writing.

6.       A husband who still loves me when I am overtired and overreact to life’s challenges.

7.       The opportunity to be a military wife.  It has opened my eyes and humbled me to so many things!

8.       Healthy kids.  They may drive me crazy, but at least they're healthy!

9.       All-day kindergarten.   

10.   Coffee.  I'm not sure what I would do without it! 

Now it’s your turn.  What are you thankful for in this first week of fall?  Follow the link below to link up to your blog post, or simply write in the comments section. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Long-Awaited Autumn

There is something almost magical about fall, with its cool, crisp air, the changing colors of the leaves, the brightly colored pumpkins lined up in rows, and the smells of cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves filling the air.  Every year, I have eagerly put out my fall decorations in mid-September, almost too early, and have marveled at how beautiful they make the house look.  I have lit pumpkin-spice and apple-cinnamon scented candles and savored every inhale of the sweet fragrances.   I have embraced the cooling temperatures, leaving the windows open at night just so that I could wake up to a sixty-two degree house and use the fireplace to warm it up.  I have lived in leggings and leg-warmers and cozy sweatshirts.  My heart has rejoiced in the beauty of it all.  But for the past four years, there has been one thing that has prevented me from fully enjoying this wonderful season.

For four years in a row, my husband has been away during the fall months.  The first two years were deployments, the third year was training out West, and the fourth year was another deployment.   I have missed sharing the joys of autumn with him.  He has never seen the kids getting all dressed up in their Halloween costumes or taken them trick-or-treating.   I have avoided watching football games on the weekends because it was too hard without him there.  When the kids and I picked out pumpkins or went to the family day at the local farm, I desperately wished he could be there with us.  On the other hand, there was something meaningful about my husband’s absence during these months, as though this time was specifically chosen for him to be away.  Despite how much I missed him, the very thing that got me through his absence was the fact that it was fall.

This brilliant season was my comfort and my healing.  The things which I love about it were enough to help me push through the longing and still make great memories with the kids.  Each year that he was away, my mom and aunt flew out to visit and we had wonderful times together.  Some of the years, I packed up the kids and drove to Ohio to see family and celebrate fall in the North.  These were things I could look forward to and which helped me get through a difficult time.  Though I wished for him to be there, I am thankful that he happened to be gone during a time of year when the beauty of the world around me was so glorious and exciting that I couldn’t resist feeling happy.
This year, the hubby is home for the entire fall.  We have already begun lighting fall-scented candles and watching endless football games.  In another month, he will take the kids trick-or-treating for the first time while I stay home to hand out candy and watch the three of them walk down the street ready to fill their buckets.  We will finally be able to pick out pumpkins together, jump in the leaves together, and drink hot apple cider together on those cold days.  This year, nothing will be missing from this fabulous season.  

As military wives, we often do not have control of our circumstances.  But if we pay attention, we might just see that the circumstances we like the least are actually the best thing for us. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Inspiration

The following words are not my own, nor do I know who the author is.  It has been published on various inspirational websites.  I originally received it as a chain-mail letter in college and was so inspired by it that I saved it in my files and return to it every so often to remember that although we marvel at grand buildings and works of art, the most wondrous things in the world are those which we carry within and amongst ourselves every day. 

"A group of students were asked to list what they thought were the present Seven Wonders of the World. Though there was some disagreement, the following got the most votes:

1. Egypt’s Great Pyramids
2. Taj Mahal
3. Grand Canyon
4. Panama Canal
5. Empire State Building
6. St. Peter’s Basilica
7. China’s Great Wall

While gathering the votes, the teacher noted that one quiet student hadn’t turned in her paper yet. So she asked the girl if she was having trouble with her list. The girl replied, “Yes, a little. I couldn’t quite make up my mind because there were so many.” The teacher said, “Well, tell us what you have, and maybe we can help.”

The girl hesitated, then read, “I think the Seven Wonders of the World are:

1. to touch
2. to taste
3. to see
4. to hear

She hesitated a little, and then added…

5. to feel
6. to laugh
7. and to love

The room was so full of silence you could have heard a pin drop. Those things we overlook as simple and “ordinary” are truly wondrous. A gentle reminder that the most precious things in life cannot be bought."

This weekend when you are sitting down with your morning coffee or chasing the kid through the house trying to get them ready for their soccer games, stop for a moment and savor your ability to hear the laughing, to see the beauty of the sun shining through the trees, to smell the sweet cinnamon rolls baking in the oven, to feel the good-morning hugs and kisses, and to love your family as much as you do.  Then you can rest knowing that you have experienced the greatest wonders of the world.   

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What Would You Say to Your Teenage Self?

The influence for this post comes from one of my favorite bloggers, Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky.  Her second book, Graceful, which is directed towards young women, was just released about two weeks ago.  On her blog this week, she prompted her readers to write a letter to their teenage selves to inspire us to remember what it was like when we were young women coming into our own.  Perhaps by writing them, we can rediscover the things teenage girls struggle with and use our current knowledge and wisdom to help young women in our lives today.  What would you say to your teenage self?  I'd love to hear it!  Here's what I would say:

Dear Teenage Me,

I am so proud of you.  You are one of the few who are managing to stay positive in a world where negativity rules.  At least it does in high school.  The popular kids complain and act pessimistic about everything, but you don’t care about being popular.  You just care about focusing on what is good and honorable and makes you feel happy.  Sadly, the older you get the harder it will be to hold onto that frame of mind.  Do your best to hold onto it anyway.   
When you were younger, you made a pact with yourself that you wouldn’t be one of the kids who got engulfed by peer pressure.   Because of your strong will, you’ve never smoked, you’ve never done drugs, and you’ve never gotten involved with people who could lead you to bad decisions.  You are confident and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about your choice to be a good girl.  That is something to be proud of.

Despite not being popular, you really do have it all.  You are an A student, you are the leading flute player in the band, you have many friends and are liked by your teachers, and you are an awesome volleyball player.   You are smart, talented, social, and athletic.  Who can ask for anything better?

You can.  You are confident, but you still feel a little left out.  Boys seem to stay away from you and you don’t understand why.  You think that having a boyfriend would be so great because he would take you out and romance you and buy you flowers.  Girl, let me tell you that you are in high school.  Boys don’t have the money to take you out or buy you flowers, and few of them even know what romance is.  Trust me when I say that you aren’t missing out. Those boys only want one thing anyway, something you don’t want to do.  Your time for love will come, and I promise it will be worth the wait. 


You know that girl who told you that you are naive?  Well, you are.  Extremely.  You weren't sure if you should be offended or not, but believe me when I say don't worry about it.  You just keep going about your life with your naive self because once you realize how the world really works and the things people actually do, you will be so happy that you didn't know about them earlier.  They will just distract you from focusing on the simple things.   
For now, embrace this time of your life.  Cherish the little responsibilities you have, but don’t falter on the responsibilities you do have. Keep staying positive and don’t let anyone try to bring you down.  Enjoy the things you love and don’t worry if they aren’t “cool”.  The best things in life are never cool to kids in high school anyway. 
Continue spending time with your family.  It won’t always be so easy to see them.  Treasure your grandparents and talk to them about life.  Ask them many questions and hug the often.  They won’t be around as long as you think.

Stand up for the things you believe are right.  Instead of giving up your senior year of volleyball because the coach is a jerk, talk to him and come to an agreement on how you want to be treated as a player.  You have the leverage to do it because he needs you on the team.

Smile more, and don’t take life so seriously.  It is so easy right now.  Now is the time to do what you want to do and be who you want to be.  The older you get, the harder that is to do.  And let me tell you, the years are going to keep going, faster and faster each year.  Before you know it, you will be married with kids and trying to keep up with the daily responsibilities of adulthood.  You don’t believe me, but it’s true. 
Look around you.  Take it all in.  Keep dreaming big and work hard to get there.  Most importantly, learn more about God.  You already know he’s with you, but there’s more to it than that.  Study the messages in the Bible, pray often, and look for Him in all things.  You will soon learn that life actually is difficult and it is your faith in Him which will give you the strength to overcome obstacles and find peace.

Your 30-year-old self 

Friday, September 7, 2012

When Colors Are Bold Enough to Make You Cry

The room was filled with generations of military men and women, both active duty and retired, representing all branches of uniform.  My husband and I were attending a dinner provided by the Marine Corps Association and Foundation featuring guest speaker General Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  I had not known what to expect from such an event, and was amazed by the number of service members who chose to come listen to this man speak.  As everyone entered the ballroom and looked for their table numbers, the space was filled with the noisy banter of people introducing themselves to others or catching up with those whom they already knew.  I looked around the room, admiring all the smiling faces and handshakes, and began to feel that amidst all these strangers I was in fact surrounded by family.
Soon the room became quiet.  We were asked to stand while General Dempsey took his place, followed by the playing of the Colors and Star Spangled Banner by the Marine Corps Band.  I myself, as a military wife, stood quietly with my hands folded or, in the case of the National Anthem, over my heart.  But the soldiers stood at attention, eyes focused and never leaving the flag, with the utmost respect for the symbol of our great country.  As the song played, I didn’t just listen to the melody or sing the words in my head.  I thought about the words and what they mean for us.  I thought back to what I learned in History class about how hard those men fought so long ago to gain freedom for this country.  I imagined myself alongside of them, celebrating in their joy as they saw the American Flag flying high on that glorious morning.  I thought about how brave those men were, and every man and woman since then who have dedicated their lives to that flag.  I thought about my children, the nation’s children, and began tearing up as I held hope in my heart that today’s kids will know and honor our flag in the same way as those of us in that room.

General Dempsey’s speech following dinner was delightful to listen to.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from a man who is the highest ranking military officer in all of the United States Armed Forces and the military advisor to the President of the United States, but I was sure that somebody so big and so important would surely speak about something which was beyond the comprehension of a military wife like me.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  General Dempsey did not present himself in a harsh, authoritative manner, but rather connected with the audience as a fellow service member and a guy who loves to make jokes and have fun.  As I listened, I found myself viewing General Dempsey not only as a highly esteemed professional, but also as a personable family man.  I smiled at the idea of sitting around a table with him and his wife, hearing his stories and perhaps asking Mrs. Dempsey about her experiences as a military wife.  I did not have the pleasure of meeting General Dempsey that night, but I felt honored to have had the opportunity to be a part of the crowd who gathered to hear him speak.