Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering and Treasuring: The National D-Day Memorial

Perhaps it was sadness about my WWII soldier father’s death, or the fact it was Memorial Day weekend, or simply because I realize more clearly just how much is at stake in the cause for liberty, freedom, and justice. Probably all of these led us to detour from our trek home and follow the signs through the verdant Virginia countryside to the National D-DAY Memorial tucked away in the little town of Bedford.

Although my appreciation of history as a subject is shamefully lacking, I was sobered by the sense of sacrifice, valor, and honor that enveloped the hillside. A forty-four-foot high arch inscribed with the word OVERLORD, the name of the operation that launched D-Day soared into the blue sky.

The thoughtfully laid out memorial is designed to tell the chronological story of that instrumental battle, beginning with the initial planning. Guided tours are available (and recommended) but we chose to quietly wander around the various tableaus and sculptures, allowing the symbolized sacrifice sink into our beings.

The opening scenes from such movies as Saving Private Ryan are frozen in soundless sculptures (the movie actually inspired from this town’s loss of over twenty of its boys that fatal day) of the race to the beachhead.

One of my favorite portrayals was Scaling the Wall. Framing the edge of the beach, it captures not only the urgency of continuing on under fire in order to save your own life, but also the willingness to risk your own life to help another.
I thought about how easy it is to be self-serving, ruthless even, in getting “to the top” in whatever we do. And here, these soldiers had everything to lose—their very lives—yet valued the success of the one next to them as dearly as their own.

The privately funded, non-profit National D-Day Memorial and others like it that strive to preserve unrevised history for the generations to come serve as valuable keepers of the lessons in valor, integrity, and the cost of freedom.

May I treasure that which I so easily enjoy.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

And now the rest of the story . . . two years later

Patience and perseverance, those character building, God-trusting characteristics are becoming increasingly difficult to pursue as the gap on instant feedback and reward closes by the minute. Even lumpy body lines, which used to require weeks of dieting before melting an inch, now disappear after a three-minute wiggle into that tummy- trimming, butt-slimming wonder called Spanx.  (Just where does the fat go, I wonder, if it doesn’t ooze out the edges?)

Nevertheless, bulge-reducing Spanx, high speed modems, and other wonders of the immediate, haven’t made any impact on the culture of eternity, and God refuses to be fazed by the pressure to deliver on-the-spot.

While I was at Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference this past week, I was delighted to learn the rest of the story of two encounters I had had at the conference two years earlier.

One day at the previous conference, feeling full of the joy of the Lord, I skipped a workshop and wandered off in search of the prayer grotto in the woods. I asked the Lord if He wanted to speak to someone through me, to have them meet me in the grotto—an unlikely proposition since everyone was probably in workshops.  

But He did. One lone woman came up the path. She seemed upset; we talked and prayed, and then I left. I didn’t know her name, and often wondered about the divine appointment.

After returning home from this year’s conference, I received a message on Facebook from beautiful Beth who said, “I know you may not remember this. . .we met in the prayer garden. . .I was upset and you were kind…”

What a surprise, what an honor. Two years later to learn her name and hear the rest of the story.

At that same previous conference, I won some awards, one of which was a publishing package for my manuscript. Although it was the first thing I had ever written, and I had no prospects of publishing it, I turned the award down. The prize went to the next winner.

This year, a group of us from an online accountability group,(some who had never met in person), met for breakfast. I told my friend Lori that I had never met Mary Beth.

“Yes, you have,” she said. “You had your picture taken with her. She was one of the winners in that contest two years ago."

Mary Beth arrived, set her tray next to mine and sat down. We looked at each other in amazement as Lori explained the connection we actually had. Turns out Mary Beth (who didn’t know me either!) was thrilled to have her book published because the first-place winner had turned over the prize.

There we were, sitting side by side, having prayed for each other and supported each other for the whole year online and never realizing the effect one person's action had had on the other.

Sometimes we never do get to know the effect a word or seemingly small action has on another life, as Jeremiah says, “the secret things belong to God”.  Sometimes we have to leave our lack of an answer in the hands of God.

But sometimes, He surprises us—even if it takes two years in coming. 

Do all unto the Lord, friend, and trust Him to reveal and reward in His time.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What do you do to get attention?

No doubt the need for attention runs deep and cuts across species. The ways to get it range from the unabashed screams of a two-year-old in the candy aisle to the unsubtle greeting of a wife wrapped in cellophane (some advice I once read—but never tried—for attracting a husband’s attention).

Even the family pooch has ways to let her needs be known, as mine did with a roll of toilet paper.

Her little fit was a timely reminder. I had been preoccupied with preparations for an upcoming writers conference where the pressure to gain an editor's or agent’s attention is heightened. Some people wear bold colors, hats, or signature outfits to stand out; some ignore table etiquette and talk nonstop about their projects, and some simply retreat in insecurity.

Although prone to attention angst as much as anyone, I have been discovering the peace the relinquishing my needs to the Lord and enjoying the ways He meets them. Usually they are not the ways I would have expected.

Usually they involve thinking of someone else first.

I saw a beautiful illustration of this while reading Samuel this week. Saul’s insecurity in light of David’s skills made him a slave to jealousy and its bottomless depths of destruction. Saul’s son Jonathan, on the other hand, was willing to let go of that which could have been his—a kingdom and honor—for the sake of another.

He went so far as even giving up his armor, his means of defense and offense, to bless and equip another.
And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor and even his sword and his bow and his belt. And David went out and was successful. 1 Samuel 18:4

What a position of peace and strength, that place of such love and trust in the Lord as my defense and my provider that I can strip myself of all the undo efforts of self-promotion and bless another. No jealousy, striving, or worry. No need for shredded toilet paper or cellophane.

Trusting the One who turns the hearts of kings (and editors) for favor if due and in turn equipping another.

May this be the reality of my heart’s hope both at the conference for which I leave shortly and in the days that I am given.

I pray that if anyone is feeling particularly unnoticed and in need of attention, that you too be blessed with the freedom of entrusting your longing unto the Lord and letting Him bestow His favor. 

I look forward to sharing and hearing what the Lord will do.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Do not despise the day of small beginnings

When I stood in front of our Vermont country church of thirty-odd people and suggested we go on a mission trip, I never imagined what God would do with that desire and handful of people (the story, Call of a Coward to come out in August under Thomas Nelson).

One of the first to volunteer was a solid Vermonter named Ernie.He cooked our breakfasts over camp stoves and Baja sunrises, fashioned animal balloons by the hundreds and loved on kids in a world far different from the one he was familiar with.

 Today his daughter lives in Africa, and although I am sure it must be bittersweet for her parents, she feels that this is where she belongs. She is not a mission or organization, she is just one whose heart is to serve. I am reproducing her facebook post, in case someone reading this is willing to invest in one, the least of which...

I am not a ministry or a non-profit, I am just one person trying to help. My husband and I are already sending 3 kids to school (not including our own!), and financially we can't do any more. But these kids are so desperately needing help, I said I would at least try to see if I could find some kind-hearted people out there that can give them a hand-up in life. There are no overhead costs, and no administrative fees, so 100% of any money given will go straight to the purpose intended. The US dollar is very powerful in Kenya, and a little help can go a long way. The cost for a complete school uniform is $12 USD. The cost of school fees for one 3-month term (each school year is divided into 3 terms) is $20. These are real living, breathing kids, and I invite anyone to make the trip to Kenya and see them for yourselves... see their home-life, see their school, and see their beautiful smiling faces. If anyone is interested please email me at If you can't help financially, maybe you could share this on your facebook page?

(Girl at top) My name is Cynthia Ambulwa, and I am 9 years old. My mother has died of AIDS. My father is also very sick with HIV/AIDS. He is no longer able to care for me, so I have come to Imanga to live with my aunt. My aunt is a widow with 9 children. I used to go to school, and I am in the 4th grade. I am slightly undernourished, but otherwise my health is good. My favorite food is rice, and my favorite activity is running. I am helping my aunt around the house by carrying water from the well, caring for the other children, helping to prepare the food, gathering firewood, and working in the garden. I would like to go back to school, and my dream is to become a teacher, however my aunt can not afford to pay for my uniform or school fees.

My name is Samuel Mutuli, and I am six years old (I will be 7 in June). I have never known my father, and my mother has abandoned me. I live with my elderly grandmother in a mud house with seven other children. I am small for my age due to malnutrition and my health is poor. I have chronic allergies, and I am severely allergic to bees. (I nearly died recently due to an accidental bee sting.) I like to talk A LOT. I like to pretend I am driving cars, dig in the dirt, and play chase with my friends. My favorite food is chicken, but we only get to eat it on special occations like Christmas. I do many chores around the house including carrying water from the well, caring for animals, weeding in the garden, and watching the smaller kids. I do not own any shoes, and I have never gone to school. My grandmother is a widow and she is unemployed. I would like to go to kindergarten, but my family has no money to pay for my uniform and school fees.
My name is Sylvia Mbaya, and I am five years old. My father has abandoned the family. My mother, my baby brother and I live together with my elderly grandmother in a two room mud house along with five other children. I had a twin sister, but she died. I am small for my age due to chronic mal-nutrition, and I have recently received treatment for worms. I am shy and quiet at first, but once I get to know you I blossom like a flower. I like to sing, play hide-and-seek, and dig in the dirt. My favorite food is chicken, which we only get to eat at Christmas. I do many chores around the house. I carry water from the well, take care of my baby brother, sweep and run errands. I do not own any shoes, and I have never gone to school. My mother is not able to read or write, and she is not employed. My grandmother is sometimes employed as a farmer. I would like to go to kindergarten, but my family has no money to pay for my uniform and school fees.