Friday, May 25, 2018

The Giving Life

I went to my daughter's school this morning to participate in their yearly Memorial Day Ceremony.  I had never attended one of these ceremonies before at her school and truthfully I imagined it very differently and much more low key than how it  actually was.  Mostly, I wanted to be there because I wanted to support Daisy and her class while they sang "My Country Tis of Thee," and I wanted to support any veterans that might be there and stand for those that I currently know who are serving.  I cherish the few opportunities that I have had to go to my daughter's school and participate in something with her and her class.  Those are some of my favorite days as a Momma.

When I walked into the school with Bruin this morning, I was so surprised to see how many parents had turned up for this event.  The lobby was packed with people waiting in line to sign in. The school was buzzing with energy and all of the kids around me were a blur of patriotic attire, stripes and stars.  It was dazzling.  

I walked outside and found a table to sit at and then took a minute to take in the setting around me.  The middle school orchestra was visiting and had set up outside and it was rather grand actually.  They were dressed sharp and they were sitting straight and still.  There was a small stage set up at the front and there was patriotic decorations sprinkled all around.  There were signs honoring the fallen of 2018 in our community and there were flags standing tall and proud.  It was beautiful.

Then the kids began to pour out of all of the doors from every angle and in a moment the ground in front of us was flooded in red white and blue.  It was a site to be seen.  I was captivated by the level of attention to detail and the air of respect that I felt in that space. The kids stayed so quiet and patient even in the baking heat.  I wanted to hug all of them for their patience and maturity for this special occasion.   

The ceremony began and different people spoke and beautiful songs were played by the orchestra.   Daisy's class sang their sweet patriotic melody and I loved it so much.  At one point a group of old airplanes flew over in beautiful formation.  It was spectacular!! I was not expecting that at all.  Of course Bruin loved that part too.  I was enjoying it all but, it was when the Police Captain of our town spoke that the ceremony began to take on a different tone for me.  

See, I am reading this book right now called Daring Greatly by Brene Brown with my Bible study gals.  This book has really rocked me on so many levels and I am not entirely sure what to do with all that it is digging up in me.  The entire book is about the power of vulnerability and how vulnerability is essential for personal health and freedom.  I believe it.  Unfortunately, we live in a world that doesn't value it much anymore.  The truth is that when someone is vulnerable and shares their heart, their story and their truth in love it is powerful...maybe not to everyone but, this doesn't change the fact that it is powerful and lives are touched and changed by that level of vulnerability.  Vulnerability is brave and inspiring and helps set people free.  

This Police Captain had also served in the military and he shared that he has lost good friends in battle...he spoke with a slight quiver in his voice, almost undetectable but, I heard it.  I heard the pain of loss in his words.  This captain confessed that the losses made it so that he had no desire to celebrate Memorial day with a happy BBQ or a beach outing.  In his pain he has faced Memorial day more quietly, laying low at home.  At least that is what I thought I I wish that I could let him fact check my story but, I think this is the gist of it.  He said that it wasn't until he started participating in the school ceremony three years ago that something in his heart began to change...and mind you this is after many years....something changed as he watched young people full of life and joy celebrating life and freedom and honoring others with this celebration.  His heart began to soften and he began to see the okay side of letting others celebrate however they choose.  And honestly I almost balled my eyes out right then and there and if you know me you know that I never cry.  Why did I almost ball my eyes out?

Because this tough man in leadership who has no doubt experienced unfathomable tragedy was being vulnerable in front of his entire community.  That takes tremendous courage.  Vulnerability is nearly impossible for most people in this day and age...especially for men.  As painful and as difficult as it can be to be vulnerable, it is only through vulnerability that we can allow our hearts to become softened, humbled, healed and changed and also how we can minister to those around us.  Our vulnerability is a powerful and encouraging voice in a broken world.  Vulnerability says, "I feel that way too. You are not alone. We can get through this together!" 

Instead of living his entire life hardened by pain and loss...which would actually be understandable, he is bravely allowing his heart to be softened and as a result his perspective and heart is changing towards the people around him and towards life.  That is courageous.  That is brave.  That is also heroism.  

I want more of that in my own life.  I want more of that for all of the many people that I see struggling with so many different struggles in life.  More shouldering of one another's burdens.  More empathy.  More patience.  More love.  More freedom.  More hope.  

This man's words changed how I see Memorial Day.  

Then another young man in his early twenties stood up and began to talk.  He shared about how when he was just 15 years old, his brother was killed in combat.  Fifteen years old and his life was forever scarred and altered.  Forever changed.  The death of someone we love does that.  A violent ripping of our hearts and then our lifelong efforts to work through our "new normal."  I found myself holding my breath as he spoke.  I imagined his loss.  It's as if I could almost feel it for a moment as he shared so candidly.  Here I am sitting here on this beautiful sunny day with a few of my own troubles and distractions and suddenly I just want to weep in the presence of a young man who lost his brother to battle.  A brother who sacrificed his life and a family who sacrificed a son and a brother.  This young man before me was a tangible reminder and powerful symbol of the losses all around us.  I felt it, I couldn't escape it and I didn't want to.  The pain.  The loss.  The great and ultimate sacrifices that have been made for my freedom.  I felt it more palpably than I ever have before. 

 I have attended plenty of Memorial Day ceremonies.  I have watched countless videos over the years.  I know people who have lost loved ones.  I have shed tears and felt their loss and I have thanked God for my freedom on countless occasions.  I am grateful to live in a wonderful land of freedom and that has always felt like some ways it is but, then suddenly I find myself here....Why has it taken me 35 years to have this strange awakening....I am not even sure what this awakening is.  

This young man said that he was so angry for a long time after his brother was killed.  He said that all of the other men in his brother's team got to come home to their families.  His brother was the only one who didn't come home.  He wrestled with the whys for a long time.  Why was his brother the one and the only one?  Why did he have to die at all? We all wrestle with the whys of life sometimes don't we.  He shared that Christmas used to be his favorite holiday because like any kid he loved all of the gifts that he got.  But, this brave young man shared that Memorial Day is now his favorite holiday because it is a day that we honor giving and those who gave it all and that is what life is really all about.  He shared how powerful it is to live life for what we give and not for what we get.  He is only 21 and has already lost SO much more than many of us and yet out of his pain and loss he is able to see and understand what so many of us have not learned yet. 

A giving life is the greatest life of all.  

"For it is in giving that we receive."
Francis of Assisi 

At this point I wanted to lay in a fetal ball on the grass in front of the entire school and weep.  

Life hurts so much for so many of us.  It just does.  Maybe not all the time but, at some point it will.  Yes, it ebbs and flows thank God or none of us would survive this journey but, hurt is inescapable.  There are a lot of people hurting and a lot of people remembering a passed on loved one this weekend And when I see people who have lost so much rise up courageously and share what priceless lessons they have learned and continue to learn and how their perspectives on life have changed through their incredible pain, I am rocked. I am humbled.  I am touched and I want to be more like them.  

The Giving Life:

For all the soldiers both men and women who have laid down their lives for another
For all who serve: Police, Military, Fire Department etc.
For all the teachers who give their hearts away to their students 
For all the Mother's and Father's who serve and pour out their hearts for their children
For all the Father's and Mother's who provide for their families come Hell or High water
For all the counselors who save lives and speak hope into hopeless people
For all the social workers who rescue others from harm
For all of the families that fight the good fight to persevere in difficult times
For all of the activists past and present who march and fight for equality
For all of the doctor's and nurses who save lives and help heal the hurting
For all who have lost so much but, face each day with courage and resolve
For all of those who have been broken and who live life with a heavy heart still yet, choose to fight strong and keep making this world a better place....
For all that my Jesus gladly did, said and offered to secure my spiritual freedom

This list could go on and on of those who live a Giving Life... 

For all that all of you do....freedom rings and you all make that possible.  
I am proud to live in a land of so much freedom...and I would be proud to live anywhere that freedom and love is the pursuit of all people

For any who are hurting this Memorial day weekend, you are not alone.   We will come alongside you if you let us.  For those who wrestle with how to celebrate this holiday and feel angry towards those who do, you are not alone.  We will walk with you in your wrestling and in your anger.  For those who so celebrate with BBQ's and family Beach trips, we celebrate with you and we thank God for the happy faces on the children all around us who live in freedom.  What a priceless gift.  May we never take for granted the priceless blood of so many that our freedom is built on.   

So today I must give a big, heartfelt thank you to my daughter's school, to all who organized this special event and to all of the brave souls who shared with courage today.  My eyes are more open and my heart is a little softer toward all.  May God Bless America always. 


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