Chasing Squirrels, Finding Heroes

“Excuse me,” she says tentatively. “Would you mind doing us a favor?”

I’m spending the afternoon at my “other office,” hoping to get some writing done while I’m waiting for Mac to pick me up. (With two vehicles under repair and four adults who need to be different places, it’s “musical cars” at the Mac household right now.) Panera is usually a pretty good place to find a quiet corner with no distractions, but the lunch rush is just beginning to wind down and there are no quiet corners yet. The only available table is at the very front, where distractions abound. I’m thinking my hope of peace and quiet is not looking promising as I squeeze past the group of people almost blocking the aisle with tables they’ve pulled together. Oh well, at least it’s in a corner…

I’m anxious to dive back into my writing. I need to work on my blog. It’s a great chance to connect with friends in real time and I haven’t been there for a couple weeks, but I can’t seem to nail down an idea this time. Besides, StarDancer is definitely my happy place and the new fantasy trilogy I’m working on is where I really want to be. (Have I mentioned I’m loving these books?) I can’t wait to get back to the Kingdom of Thune, where I left mighty warriors standing against the forces of evil. Maybe there I can shut out all the noise—even the family celebration in front of me and the adorable four-year-old who’s going to have all his daddy’s attention, one way or another.

It seems God has other ideas.

I’ve just come back from lunch with my friend Lori. She’s such a great encourager and accountability partner. (“You are gonna go work on your blog, right?”) I laugh that God’s going to have to drop an idea where I’ll stumble over it. Right now there seem to be too many ideas for this brain that’s occasionally afflicted with squirrel moments to settle on one.

Don’t you love God’s faithfulness! That quiet mom’s question has just settled it for me. Undoubtedly the glue that’s holding that four-generation family together today, she’s probably about my daughter’s age and my heart goes out to her. I think the older man beside her is probably her father, clearly miserable, almost lethargic in spite of the oxygen cannula he wears. One has to admire him for even being here, as well as his daughter for her attentiveness in the midst of it all. She’s unquestionably mom to the two carbon-copy young men across the table. And the little boy, well, it’s obvious to whom he belongs.

“My son is in the military and he doesn’t get home very often,” she smiles, extending her phone to me. “Would you mind taking our picture?”

Would I mind! I’m sitting in the best seat in the house, right behind the best story of the day, and I’ve been so busy trying to pull my safe little world all snug and cozy around me that I almost missed it.

“I’d be honored,” I tell her.

Several pictures later, with another one for good measure, (please, God, don’t let my notoriously bad photography skills screw this up) she takes her phone back with a gracious, “Thank you so much!” The youngest of the two (that lively little boy’s daddy) responds with a slightly raised hand to my “So who’s the military guy?” and then an embarrassed nod of the head to my “Thanks so much for your service!” Certainly the least we can do is extend gratitude and thanks to anyone in uniform, but I’ve noticed that self-effacing response is a pretty common reaction.

Their lunch over, I watch the family dutifully move tables back in place and police the area (a four-year-old boy has been there, after all) and I wish I’d had the courage to ask them to let me take their picture for my blog. It would have been a great illustration of how God often uses the most unexpected events to bless one’s day, even when it’s not deserved.

It’s quiet in my corner now, but the tableaux that’s just played out before me makes me yearn to honor the military guys in my life.

Let me  tell you about our grandson Eli, who spent the last two years of high school dreaming and training to become a Marine.

If you’ve ever had the privilege of attending a Marine Corps Graduation, you’ve caught a glimpse of why they say there are no former Marines. What an incredibly moving, inspirational demonstration of military ceremony and tradition! But here’s the stunning reality: our Marine has already completed four years of active service and almost a year of active reserves. Semper fi, Eli. We couldn’t be prouder.

Then there’s Eli’s best friend Johnnie, who joined the Army at the same time.

Johnnie’s like part of the family and we’re proud of his choices. (Mostly…) He’s chosen to  make the Army his career for now. We were so relieved and thankful when his tour of duty in harm’s way ended safely. Since then he’s traveled the world and experienced cultures he never would have but for this. We miss you, Johnnie, but we’re grateful for your service.

Grandson Seth’s friend Zach joined the National Guard right out of high school and served a tour in Iraq during the worst of the fighting. We were grateful when he made it through without being injured, but some of his buddies did not and the dreams were tough for a while. Thanks for hanging in there with the Guard, Zach. It’s good to know you’re there if you’re needed.

Lori’s son Peter has just completed Army basic training and moved on to MOS school. Lori and Robb adopted him as a child from a former Soviet republic and we’ve watched him grow into an admirable young man. Now he’s serving his country. We’re so excited about what God is doing in your life, Peter, and we’ll keep praying for you.

Family friend Derik is an inspiration. He joined the Air Force at a time in his life when other men were mostly thinking about building careers and getting kids through school. He was still a young man, but he laughs that to the guys at boot camp he was “gramps.” That was fifteen years ago. Now his kids are preparing for college, Derik is still in active reserves, and if you ask him why he serves, he’ll tell you it’s because God called him to do it.

He’ll be leaving very soon for his second deployment to the Middle East. Please be sure to add Derik and Melinda and their kids Madeline and Trevor to your prayer list. They just keep cheerfully making sacrifices most of us don’t even think about. Be safe, Derik. We know you’ll keep making us proud.

Micah, our young friend from church, served several tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Can you imagine raising four kids whose dad only gets to come home now and then, knowing the next time he may not come home at all? Micah did come home, but with a lung condition he’ll have to battle for life. Thanks for your courage and faithfulness, Micah and Savannah. We’re grateful for your sacrifice and trust in God.

And then of course, there’s the old guy.

One day soon we’ll write the stories of Mac’s time in the Navy into our Family Heritage Book. We weren’t at war when he was cruising all over the world on a little destroyer, but he had his fair share of adventure none-the-less. He could tell you about tense moments at the mouth of the Black Sea when that small American boat they call a “tin can” encountered a big Russian battle cruiser. Amazingly, a few years ago he met the Admiral who’d been commanding that warship. The man had become a Christian and was touring the U.S., so two former enemies “just happened” to come together at church one night. I could tell you of the time his ship was blockaded in the Suez Canal for over six weeks; probably the longest six weeks of my life. I couldn’t bring myself to listen to the news until the standoff was over. And he could even tell you about some of the on-shore adventures he and his buddies created for themselves.  After all these years, Mac is still proud of his service and I’m still proud he served.

Now in my quiet corner I think of that family trooping out of the restaurant as a proud military mom turns one last time to smile a heartfelt “Thanks again.”

No Ma’am. Thank you. It was definitely my privilege.

Please keep praying for all the men and women who serve in our military. It’s never an easy life, but it’s especially hard now, when our political leaders refuse to offer the respect and support they deserve. Pray that God will intervene and in His mercy restore the spiritual foundation they need to serve well. Pray for their safety, and for the hearts of their families who serve at home. And pray for America. It’s still the home of the brave.

And yes. It absolutely is our privilege.

One comment on “Chasing Squirrels, Finding Heroes

  • Kim

    August 6, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Amen all! And then there are those everyday citizen leaders who quietly spend hours doing research and creating voting guides, call others to action when legislative or cultural issues demand redress or just meet everyday needs as they arise. Thanks for being a faithful example of doing your duty – even if you’re stationed at Panera :-).

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