Sound of Freedom

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.” I Peter 5:8-9a (NLT)

Having spent most of my adult life around military bases I now can recognize the sound of commercial and military aircraft. In San Diego we lived under the flight path of the International airport. Every few minutes a plane would pass over us. It became normal for us. We also could tell the difference between the military helicopters, the medical helicopters and the police helicopters. It was our normal.

When we moved to our current home, Dale asked for a quiet location. No airplane noise, no traffic noise, just quiet. We have that. When the occasional airplane flies over our home we joke that we did not give them permission. On occasion we hear a military aircraft. We recognize the sound and one of us immediately heads outdoors to see what is flying over us.

It seems we miss the sound of freedom, which is what the sound of military jets is.

Our daughter lives in the same area we did as a newly married couple. There are several military air bases in this area. Often, throughout the day we hear and see the sound of freedom. I never tire of it. I love to see the jets in the sky practicing their maneuvers.The ability to fly jets through the sky, dipping and speeding across the expanse above us brings my heart a swelling pride in our military.

The young people with the ability to fly these awesome aircraft are also the ones who rush in to battle when there is a need. They practice so that at the first call they can defend our freedom, our country, our way of life. They give their life for ours.

Our Savior did the same thing. He willingly gave His life for our freedom, our way of life, for each of us personally. He is the mighty warrior, He is dressed in armor, He will defeat the enemy of our souls.

On this earth we can have many enemies, both human and the enemy of our souls seeks to destroy us by disease, broken relationships, and by others. Like our country can stand behind the warriors that defend her, we too can stand behind the Warrior, who died for us.

Christmas Carols

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

Everywhere you go you hear Christmas Carols. They begin in October in stores, so by December you don’t really notice them, they are part of the background noise while shopping.

I happen to love Christmas music. Today I thought of different seasons in my life and how Christmas music has affected them. When we had our first Christmas in Virginia, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” brought tears to my eyes. It was the first Christmas away from Pennsylvania and I missed the snow.

In Japan the song “I’ll be home for Christmas” made me cry each time it played. For three years I did not like hearing that song. I just wanted to be home, with my sisters and with family. It was strange to be in a foreign country and celebrate Christmas without talking to family and laughing over the day.

In Maine, we had plenty of snow and we were home in the States once more. We could easily call home and hear familiar voices at the other end of the phone. Our oldest enjoyed her first, second and third Christmas there and life was busy and happy.

While in San Diego Dale worked or was gone for several Christmases. “Merry Christmas, Darling” by the Carpenters truly hurt my heart.

After our second was born (and Dale was away) “Away in the Manger” brought floods of tears. Remembering the humble birth of our Savior, but also holding onto a three month old baby and being in a big city where I knew there were babies with no place to rest their heads. It broke my heart as I clung to my baby while her older sister chatted away.

Music brings memories instantly. You can hear a song and know what you were doing when it plays. A first dance (Turn around, Look at me” by the Lettermen. A first date, “Maggie Mae” by Rod Stewart. A song played at your wedding, “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof. Your first dance as a married couple, “Silhouettes on the Shade”.

Each of those songs evokes a strong memory complete with feelings and smells. The same with Christmas Carols. Memories of past Christmases. They form part of the season. They mold your memories.

And although the songs I play bring back memories and smiles, there is a song sung daily over me that keeps me going, even though I do not hear it or know the words. “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)

Roller Coaster

 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NKJV)

I love roller coasters. I love the speed, the turns, the upside downs, the adrenaline rush. Of course, it’s been a few years since I have ridden one, so something might have changed during this time.

When we lived in San Diego, it was an easy trip to Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm. They were days well spent and were relaxing for me.

Since Thanksgiving, I have felt like I have been on an endless roller coaster. Some days are high and some are low. There have been many twists and turns to my days. Some days hold unexpected bumps giving me some air time. Some are slowly chugging to the top of a hill which then turns into days speeding by and nothing being accomplished in them.

Yesterday I made a list. I should have made a better list a couple of weeks ago, but, I felt like I could wing it and just go with the flow. What happened without a list is a baffled mind, overthinking things and not getting much accomplished. Yesterday I heard the Lord say, “Make your list out.”. Turns out, He was right.

I wrote down a to do list, a to make list and a to buy list. I checked off things already accomplished. To my amazement, the list was incredibly shorter. Imagine that!

In the midst of all these roller coaster days, I have found myself getting overwhelmed and exhausted. I have known the Lord is in control. I know the Lord is Lord of all, including my whirlwind days.

Today, I needed to read this scripture. God has commanded me to be strong and courageous. I don’t need to be frightened and confused (dismayed). I only need to remember that no matter how crazy the day is, how much glitter is floating around me, how many Christmas lights do not work, my God is with me wherever I go. I am in His presence always. Each morning He sings a new song over me.

No mountain, no twisty curves, nothing to upset my position, or toss me in the air is going to take my Lord by surprise. Joshua 1:9 reminds me, He is with me wherever I go.

December

December creeps into your bones and chills you. Today is cool and rainy. The skies are heavy with what we know as snow clouds, although it is too warm (low 40’s) to snow.

Somehow, the white stuff is much more fun than the cold water just falling from the sky.

I was out shopping today. The stores were not crowded, and I really did not find anything.

These are some of the times I miss Southern CA. If I couldn’t find something at one mall, I would just drive across town, or across the street to another one. I guess I was spoiled for so many years and didn’t notice how spoiled I was.

The one thing I don’t miss from Southern CA is sweating in December. I longed to dress for Christmas. I would put on a sweater and feel Christmassy, only to roll up sleeves and wipe sweat away from me as I entered the shopping centers.

Yes, I am rambling today. It’s that kind of day.

A day to wrap up in a blanket, or snuggle in front of a fire. For me, this day was one to go out, look around, think of my family and friends. Pray for several people while shopping, and making a habit of picking things up, examining them, pricing them, staring at them only to put them back on the shelf and think, “What if there is something better at the next place?”

December creeps into your bones and warms you with thoughts of family, love, laughter, gifting, Most of all after December has crept into your bones, it creeps into your heart as you hear the refrain from Joy to the World.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing

Our First Carolina Christmas

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (NKJV)

Thirteen years ago we moved to South Carolina. After many years we were by ourselves for Christmas. It was as strange reality for us. We knew our girls were grown, one married, the other busy traveling for her job. But, it was the first time that the term ’empty nesters’ hit us hard.

We ordered Christmas gifts for our daughters, and sent them. We were still trying to find a church home. We had tried a few churches and none seemed to fit right. We were a bit homesick for our routine we had in San Diego, we missed our daughters and it felt strange.

Christmas Eve we decided we would try another church. We went to the old town part of the city where we lived. It was a quaint church. It has a storied history, built originally in 1699, it has seen the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. It is a fascinating place and upon entering the building, you could feel the history in it.

Sitting down in a very crowded church, the balcony filled, the sanctuary filled, we felt like we were with family. Young couples holding onto toddlers dressed in Christmas finery, and wrestling with them to keep still and quiet. What we didn’t know was that this was the children’s service. The lights dimmed and the children took over, walking down the aisle and singing as only children can.

I sat crying through the whole service, remembering when our girls would sing like this, fidgeting with make-shift halo’s and wings, giving looks to shepherds who were acting like boys do.

Although it was not the church we ended up attending, that night, the Lord gave us a taste of family and home. The echoes of the past sang along with the children and as we left, we felt a bit more in love with our new home state.

As I remembered this today, my eyes once more filled with tears. This time of gratitude.

“God sets the solitary in families;” Psalm 68:6 a (NKJV)

Stay Classy

Fifteen years ago as Dale and I were driving to meet friends for dinner, he announced that we would be moving. As I was the one driving in rush hour traffic on a Friday night, this was a shock to my system, especially since I almost missed our exit.

At that point, we had lived in San Diego for 25 years. We had raised our daughters there, we had had many experiences there. After hyperventilating on the freeway, I got us to the parking lot of the restaurant. I sat there looking at my husband, only able to ask, “What?”.

As we kept our friends waiting in the restaurant, Dale slowly explained what his day had held. He had had a very busy day with lots of news for him professionally. I sat holding on to the steering wheel trying to absorb what he was saying.

We were going to move, to the east coast, after 25 years. We went into the restaurant and broke the news to our friends. I still remember the conversations, the shock I felt and the anticipation that was growing in me.

The move didn’t happen right away, but it was looming in front of us. During the time of waiting, the Lord taught me many things. I was surprised that I had more than a few moments of panic at the thought of leaving. I did not expect that. We had never planned on being in California for that long. But, as I have relayed before, the Lord told us in 1982 that we would be in San Diego until He was done with us there.

As the move was delayed often, I always told others that I would believe we were moving when I say the big moving van back down our driveway.

Today, on my facebook memories I saw this, “on this day 13 years ago, After two years, the big truck backed down my driveway today… I believe it’s time to go. Stay Classy San Diego….”

I smiled to myself. I had gone to the store to get water and snacks for the day. Our house was visible from the road below coming from the store. I glanced up towards home and there, sitting in our driveway was a big moving van.

In some ways, that day seems like it happened yesterday. Sometimes it seems like we have always been here. It’s funny how memories are like that.

The Lord did move us. He orchestrated the time, the move, the lessons learned while living in our home overlooking the freeway and San Diego bay. For 24 of those years He provided beautiful sunsets out my kitchen window. The sky painted differently over the view of the Coronado bridge.

A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16;9 (NKJV)

For years I had longed for the east coast. I wanted to see seasons change. I wanted to be on the same side of the country where I was born and grew up. I did not want to grow old in San Diego.

“I” wanted many things. The Lord had a plan and in His time, He saw those plans through. We often want to rush those plans the Lord has for us. His timing is the perfect timing though. San Diego held so many trials and problems and tests for us. We were weary of it all. Now, thirteen years later, I look back and thank God for all we experienced while living there. Friends, sunsets and food is all missed. Once more the scrapbook in my mind of our life in San Diego is always available. I can open it up, remember and be thankful for all we experienced there with our Savior.

God is so good. He is faithful and just. I will rest in His plans.

A Memory kind of day

“Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,”
  whether to the right or to the left.” Isaiah 30:21 (NLT)

Today is one of those rainy days. The kind of day where pajamas call to you and a blanket is yearning to be wrapped around you. They will have to wait a few more minutes this evening as I write this.

My mind today has been filled with snippets of memories. Japan has come to mind as has Maine and San Diego. Each memory has been brief, but poignant to me.

A family in our church has just returned from an extended mission in Asia. This morning we briefly talked about Asian food. She is hungry for food from that region. I told her we understood, as we are continuously looking for good Japanese food. It’s hard to explain what we are looking for though. It is food that first fills your senses with the greeting and the particular smell of soy, barbecuing to a certain crispness and the smell of seaweed all mingled together. It’s a scent you carry with you and in earnest we look for.

Another couple has relocated from CA, a familiar area to us. She was also part of the conversation and I mentioned Mexican food. She smiled and agreed with me. Although the south has many incredible dishes, Mexican dishes are not part of the ‘must write home about this’ category.

A little later a friend mentioned lobsters and how her eight year old son long ago asked for a lobster. We talked about the price and how it is only on a luxury meal where you get lobster. I recounted how we knew lobster-men in Maine and our oldest cut her teeth on lobster. It was a shock to her little system, when at three years old we moved from the coast of Maine to the other side of the country.

I find it funny that most memories center around food. But with meals come conversations and conversations lead to friendships and family. We always said while serving in the Navy that God cuts the orders and Uncle Sam paid for the way there. For 21 years the Lord directed our steps. He told us to turn to the left, or to the right. He guided us in the way He wanted us to go. He never failed us.

Because of this, we now have deep impressions in our minds of times and places and people He brought into our lives. The memories today are precious to me, but I confess, I wish the Lord would now direct us here to the places that food would take our taste buds back to what they remember.

Quiet

Some synonyms of quiet are: muted, peaceful, silent, soft, hushed, reserved, still, low, soundless.

Today I have pondered quiet. As I walked today there was a muffled sound of traffic in the distance, the call of the birds in the trees, and the sound of my footsteps on the driveway gravel.

It was still, peaceful, hushed. We longed for quiet when we lived in San Diego. We were opposite the freeway. There was the constant hum of eight lanes of traffic. The steady rumble of vehicles traveling by at high speeds. The access road below our house sounded with the thump, the grating, the grinding of the machines in various buildings. In the sky above was the sound of jets landing and departing from the airport. Police helicopters swooped by sometimes instructing those below to remain in their homes for safety. Military jets and helicopters flew overhead, training or heading to a mission. There was no quiet. It was constant noise pollution all around us.

Now, we live in a rural place. Our home is surrounded by woods. We live on a quiet road. Rarely do we hear planes or helicopters. It is still, peaceful and our bodies have adjusted to the lack of noise.

So often we keep ourselves at such a hectic pace, it is hard to be still. We grow used to chaos, noise, activity. It wears us out, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I used to drive to the mountains when we lived in San Diego. The mountains offered quiet, stillness. I would leave early in the morning and spend time soaking the quiet while parked beside Lake Cuyamaca. Eventually I would head home a bit refreshed. By time I got home, though, fighting the traffic and starting to plan meals for the family in my head, I was once more unsettled and busy.

When looking for our forever home, the one thing we both readily agreed on was it had to be quiet. Our precious Lord answered that request in abundance.

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

Ouch! In a good way

When we lived in San Diego I became involved in prayer ministry. A group of us would meet an hour before church each Sunday and pray for the service, the pastor, the city, and any pressing needs we may have.

A lot was crammed into those hour prayer times. It formed a bond with many who were part of the team. Some of my favorite memories happened during the hour before church.

When we moved to South Carolina, I attempted a couple of times to pray before church. Some time while living in the low country and then once we moved upstate, here.

I became discouraged here as I truly didn’t know people of the church well. I could see the faces of those who sat in each seat, but I didn’t know the people. I prayed for the service, which I could figure out, and then I wasn’t familiar with the city to pray for the community.

San Diego was easy to pray. I knew that to the west was the Pacific, and I knew what suburbs were against the water. North was towards Los Angeles and so I could pray for the north county, for the marines on Camp Pendelton , and for the communities north of the church. East was the mountain towns that eventually lead to the desert. South were the communities close to the border of Mexico. I knew the direction to face and how to pray. I was confident in those times. I knew the city, I knew the people, I knew the church.

Change in location shifts your confidence. At least it did mine. I have always had the desire to pray and to lead prayer. I have been to prayer conferences where I have learned so much. Nothing in my desire has changed, nothing in my knowledge has shifted, yet, moving cross country disoriented my focus and confidence.

This morning at church our Pastor preached an incredible sermon. It was titled “When God’s People Pray”. The message was encouraging, and yet at the same time it produced an OUCH in me. I knew everything he was saying and in fact, I have said a lot of what he said at different times in my life. Prayer is important.

I felt it was time for me to return to what I had been doing long ago. That was the ouch part. But, it was a good ouch. More like a jab to the heart of me to prod me to do what I know how to.

The message was so encouraging also. For years I doubted why I liked to pray. Was I really called to lead and teach in this area? Or, was it vanity on my part for being asked to teach and lead so many years ago? Those two questions have plagued my thought process for a very long time.

I have not stopped praying. I wouldn’t know how to do that. Part of that stems from my Catholic roots and the prayers I learned as a child. I continue to pray for my Pastors, for my church, for the city we live in (although I still have no clue which direction is which)

Today our pastor talked about what the prayers of the saints are. They are incense to our Lord. The tears we cry while praying are put in a bottle with our name on it and written in the Lord’s book. God keeps track of our prayers. As I sat in my chair, I remembered all the tearful prayers I have prayed over the years. They have been perfume to the Lord and He takes notice of what we pray.

I have not relayed as well what was spoken today, but this is one sermon that will not leave me. It struck a chord deep within and something shifted back to me. The prodding that took place realigned what had shifted in the move across this country. I felt my confidence start to return in this area. I left church full. I received fresh bread in the words spoken. I was renewed.

I don’t know how I will put into practice what I relearned today, but I hope in the Lord to guide and direct me in His perfect way. We serve a great and mighty God. He cares for us. He listens to us. He hears our prayers.

“In those days when you pray, I will listen.” Jeremiah 29:12 (NLT)

Gratitude

A long marriage develops over time. In our case, we basically grew into adults together. Dale was barely out of his teens and I celebrated my 20th birthday two weeks into our marriage.

Through the years we have endured much. We have equally loved one another and disliked each other many times. We are still a work in progress 47 and a half years later.

Yesterday we went to see Top Gun, Maverick. We haven’t been to many movies since the lockdown. In fact this was our third movie on the big screen since that time.

When the movie started and familiar music played, I smiled. Memories of the first Top Gun rushed forward in my mind. All through 1985 our paper carried stories of behind the scene exploits. San Diego was the focus in the original. Dale was stationed on the base where it was filmed. I was an ombudsman there and helped to start the Family Service center on that base. There is one scene in the original where Maverick drives his bike the wrong way up the street. Little details that made the movie for us. Plus, being in a Navy town the excitement was high with cheers throughout the show.

Yes, it all came flooding back to me. This time, we strained to see what was just out of the view of the film , hoping to catch more of our old hometown. We knew exactly where many of the scenes took place. We would say where things were in almost every scene. We walked out of the theater smiling and discussing the film. The only thing missing for us was not being in a Navy town. The undercurrent of excitement was not there.

As I sat in the theater, watching and remembering, I looked over at Dale. Gratitude filled me. Because of him, my life has been a full one. I have seen and experienced so much. I am a small town girl. I married a small town boy. Together we grew up into this couple who has witnessed much together.

We can’t take full credit though. The Lord is the One who has gifted us. He knit us together when we were unraveling. He strengthened us when we were weak and faltering. He gave us orders to places we didn’t think we’d like, but He knew exactly what we needed. Yes, gratitude fills my heart.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good! For His mercies endure forever. ” Psalm 107:1 (NKJV)