Military Family

“There’s nothing like family.”

Thats the saying, and it’s true. There is nothing like family. For us, we are keenly aware of this because we have lived away from our dear family for so long.

You know,  as a military family, we have our own little sayings. I’m not sure if this is an official one, but “there is nothing like military family” rings true for us.

This family doesn’t have the same DNA running through our veins, but we are family none the less. We are the ones who get together on Easter, Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, and other holidays, because none of us have family nearby to celebrate with. We are the emergency contacts on each other’s school forms; the ones who bring dinner when the other is sick; the ones who mow the yard when the other is deployed. We are the babysitters and the pet-sitters; the extra-key holders and the come over for let-over eaters.

We can sit at a table with other veterans and automatically bond, even if we do not know each other or have anything in common except for the service of sacrifice. And if we are lucky…we adopt each other, becoming the family that gets each other through our assignments

There is nothing like military family. Listen…in  this family, we get it.  We get the sacrifice, the burden and of course, we get the lingo. We get it and that knowledge alone brings us into family. It’s a beautiful comfort in such a temporary world.

When I go to Belgium this summer, that is one thing I am excited to witness. I am excited for these kids to find a new family in their hearts. To bond together, to adopt each other, to become brothers and sisters and to sit at the table of fellowship, ingesting the goodness of family.

“There is nothing like military family….”

While that is true, I know something truer. We are all family, made one in Jesus Christ, with the same blood running through our veins. And in Him, we are called to extend and enlarge our family.

This is what I hope to do there and with my life. I want to live with intention and  invitation into my family. I am not sure who I will be when I’m there in Brussels, maybe a mentor,  a sister or even a mother,  BUT I do know that whatever role I fall in,  the love of God will be with me. And, through His love, my family will grow. And for that, I am blessed.

Eternally blessed,

A.

missions donation link: https://www.gofundme.com/getAliciatoBelgium

Maundy Thursday: Let Us Not Hide Our Feet

Maundy Thursday: The Last Supper, The foot-washing.

For most of us, it is easy to see our weaknesses. Even more so, we know the secret mutterings of our hearts. We know the ugliness and the fight to trump ugliness with kindness. When mercy, kindness or simply “doing the right thing” wins, we know we have been victorious! The wrestling match between pride (fueled by fear) and humility (fueled by love) takes place in the secret recesses of our hearts – and there, facades are either crafted or broken down. 

And then, some things are easier to see. The outward decline of a body and soul ravaged by drugs are plainly visible.  Even more visible are the garments of pride, which blind ya from embracing the knowledge of our poverty.  Yet, the grand finale is anger, and it emerges with a thunderous roar.  Exploding into a storm of murderous intent, it is impossible to ignore, and it offers a temporary fix until the carnage stops us in our tracks.  “What have I done,” we may ask ourselves.

Deep inside our hearts, battles wage war and the rules of combat are tricky. For not every victory is a true victory, and not every loss is a true loss.

Then, in time, part of what takes place in the darkness is exposed in the light. The overflow of our hearts is made known – never to be hidden for too long.  But still, somehow there are things that remain unseen and within this realm there forms a graveyard of sorts.

In this graveyard exists the “casualties of war” soil, the injuries of childhood thrown in open graves, the neglected pains of the past fertilizing neglected ground – the unseen to the naked eye core of our humanity where we are either healing or rotting in our wounds.

Graphic, yes, but the wounds of the heart are surely an underground cemetery of buried  and seemingly lifeless things. There beneath lies our secret shames, internal struggles, our deepest pains, past failures, abuses incurred,  walls of pride and highly organized legions of anxieties. 

Deceptingly, these burial grounds seem to be deadened, yet they work quietly in the under currents of our being, their wastelands aiming to reform our identity into a casket like shape that seeks the stench of death rather than the fragrance of life.

On this Maundy Thursday, I think of my wounds. They are so deep in my heart, I can ignore them effortlessly until BOOM! The trigger is pulled, and I find them still swirling into my being, stealing my breath away and rendering me helpless- like a child alone in a wilderness of waters, yet dying of thirst.

On this Maundy Thursday, I think of my pride. For others, it may be a covering of accomplishment, but for me it is an undergarment of insecurities. I am not brave; I am too shy; I am not skilled; I am too sensitive; I am not enough; I am too introspective; I am not thin enough; I am not attractive enough; I am too quiet, too serious, and am too small for my big big dreams. In a sense, it is the “why can’t I be like and liked by everyone else” of my childhood coming into play, torturing me until I mask my insecurities with faux humility.

And then,

On this Maundy Thursday, I think of my internal agonies. The ones I won’t say out loud; the ones that bring the most pain; the ones that demand justice; the ones that send me weeping into a garden like Gethsemane, except I’m dreading the past instead of shaping the future.

I think of them often as I get older, and I soothe them with the balm of Jesus.

Jesus.

ON this Maundy Thursday, I see Jesus taking care of some things. After all, it was his last day to be free, to be alive, technically. For us, that would mean saying goodbye to family and making sure our affairs are in order. For Jesus, that meant breaking bread, feeding those around him and than doing the unimaginable.

Washing the feet of his friends…

Yes, He would wash their feet….dirty from walking dusty roads. Unattractive, from years of labor and offensive until properly cleansed. The cleansing was a job meant for a servant, not a friend, and certainly not a king.

Yet, Jesus ministered to his disciples in His final hours.  His hands touched their feet and cleaned them in a parallel of what was to come – such a tender servant-sacrifice preview.

Peter could not handle this. And, I say that we are Peter, too. We cannot handle His healing touch on our feet and to those who say that we can, I say you are wrong.

For though His touch washes the dirt and grime from our most unattractive sin-stained bodies, it also brings the fire of conviction into our souls. It says to forgive, even when when the offender is unrepentant. It says to let go of offense, even when we’ve been wronged. It says to surrender our hearts to humility, even when we are due recognition. It says to WASH THE FEET OF OUR BRETHERN (literally) yet we run away from the foot washing basin, run away from the call of Jesus and STILL call ourselves obedient and here……

Here, we are Peter too, unable to handle the touch of the Servant-King on our feet and His wildfire flames of conviction flushing Holy Spirit conviction throughout our veins.

For, if we could “handle” it, than we would not need Him; we would not need His healing touch, His perfect sacrifice, the resurrection leap, the Holy Spirit helper…. If we could “handle it”, then we would not need Jesus, who was humble to the point of washing the feet of His betrayer on the night He was to be betrayed. If we could “handle” it, then we wouldn’t be betrayed by anxieties, fears, and we would walk perfectly in grace and mercy like Jesus did ….. We would be on equal footing with the One who walked straight to the foot washing basin to the cross and who chose to lay down His life for his friends AND His enemies.

We can’t handle it, and until we know what we don’t know, we won’t know! However, it is okay indeed, because Jesus knows US and our secret burial grounds.  Now, we can bare our ignorance and our bare feet because despite being fully known, we are fully loved and that’s LIFE.

So today, let us remember that the greatest challenge in our humanity is in allowing Jesus to touch our dirty feet.

I am not speaking of before we knew Christ. The disciples knew Christ; they were His closest friends.

I am speaking of the after. We are eternally cleansed, but our feet still touch dusty roads. They are tinged and sooted with the dirt of unrepented sin, bitterness, pride, anger, pain, and distraction.

Jesus would like to come and wash our feet but will we allow Him to? Will we allow Him to soothe away our pride, heal our pains, cleanse our wounds, humble our crippling pride?

Don’t forget that evil roars like a lion in wait, pouncing, hiding, and destroying. But, hooray!  There is hope in sight, for our Servant King will not allow us to be ill-equipped.  For Jesus takes care of our greatest needs, feeds us in our weakness, kneels before us, washes our travel-weary, sin-exhausted feet, and in the receiving we are protected from that preying lion!

But still and most importantly, Jesus goes out and dies for us. It’s not the earthly victory we understand, but its the heavenly victory God has understood for us. And now we can get up and truly walk on the road to Easter Sunday.

Even through failure, rejection, and loss, we will find Jesus there! On the other side of Easter, we will find Jesus there! For He has burst through the grave, defeated the last enemy – death forever crushed – and has opened up the road of praise directly into the throne room! Jesus is with us on our journeys, now and forever. He is our Lord, our Savior,  and our compassionate King, tending to us, dirty feet and all.

So, on this Maundy Thursday, let us remember the former darkness for it is there God has encountered us, shining His light. He works there, creating, molding and cultivating beautiful souls, readying them for their debuts, and equipping them for the battles ahead.

Let us remember the power of the cross defeated and wield the victory given to us over the graveyards in our hearts. For with us we have a soul saving, Lazarus raising, tomb raiding,  death breaking, life resurrecting, forever crushing the dead places in the name of Jesus- look at what He has done for us- the son of man, slain Lamb, Risen King to come again!! (Woooooooo!)

My friends, let us sit to rest with Jesus, but not hide our feet from Him. He has come to wash them…and we would do well to receive.

The Unshed Tears Of A Military Child

“I can see them. As we read books together before bedtime, I see them. I see the side of her mouth trembling a little, just like her dad’s does, keeping it all in because in this world,  STRONG is what we teach.

As we read, I go over the day in my mind:

  • The 3 times she broke out into weeping, the prayer we prayed in carpool, the goodbye, the dropping her off at school, the text to her wonderful teacher asking to keep a tender eye on her…..
  • The alarms I set on my phone to remind me to pray for her and myself, too…..
  • The more than 5 times she broke out into tears over small things, so small I don’t even recall what they were…
  • The arguing over her not doing her chores and the inevitable consequences…
  • The letter she wrote me, apologizing and explaining that she feared she would never be able to be a good girl because she isn’t strong when her daddy is gone…
  • The tugging of my heart and the sheer panic rising as I calmly try to determine the next step….
  • The walking of the tension between punishment and grace…..

And then, in a blink of an eye, I’m back to reality and I see them. Fluid waters of grief held at bay, they are.

Unshed tears, they are.

All of a sudden, my heart is squeezed with pain over what I cannot undo, over what I cannot fix. I see the unshed tears; I wonder what is keeping them in and than it hits me. She doesn’t want to disappoint me. She wants to be a strong little girl even though her emotions are wild and confusing and overwhelming.

Where did she get that? Why does she think that? How did this happen?

Even in this sudden realization, I know that there is nothing I could have done or not done to prevent her from exercising her will. After all, she is her own being, and this is her world. Dad is gone, mom is running the show, and even though she loves mom, her world is rocked every single time he has to leave.

And so, she weeps and she cries, but the time comes,  even for an almost 8 year old, where she chooses to leave her pain untended to so she can experience something – anything – else besides it.

As she reads to me, I wonder,

Why do we teach being STRONG with such fervor? If anything, maybe we should forget about being strong and just try to be TRUE. Maybe, we should  pay attention and tend to the unshed tears around us…in our families, in our communities, in our sons and daughters….our sweet military children in their untended grief.

We should! I should!

You know, I don’t know a lot about how to be a “great” mother. Who really does? But, I do know this. I will notice her tears…shed and unshed. And I will welcome them.  I will love her and I will be here, standing in the void, every time her dad leaves….wiping away all those shed and unshed tears. I will tend to her in her pain, and help her carry the burden of unspoken grief and separation from family. “

Guys…this is just a small little snapshot of my normal life.

However, it is not just my life. There are so many of us military families with struggles that are specific to our subculture. I can tell you through veteran eyes that it is difficult and that there is truly very little support. But the world has enough stories about people like me…..Not saying mine isn’t important. NO, not at all.

But, I challenge you to think about the child, the children, of military parents. As adults, we know how to function and we aim to protect our children. But there are realities we can’t always protect them from.

  • Mom or dad may be going to war or already there….
  • They may friends who have lost a parent in the line of duty…
  • Mom or dad may go TDY a lot …
  • Mom or dad may work insane hours because manning is low and the reality is that military members do not have the option to keep their family first…..AND
  • The kid starts to learn about war in school and the revelation hits them that mommy and/or daddy is in the military too and they could die…..

This,my friends,  it does more than affect our children. It helps form them, their dreams and their perspectives. Every story is different…but I am certain that the grief of missing mom or dad is the same….

This is the burden of the military child…

So that is one of many reason why I want to go to Brussels this summer. There in Brussels, on June 22nd, middle school children from every branch of the military all across Europe, will gather together at a camp sponsored by Jacob’s Generation. My team will be providing the music and stepping out as mentors during our time there.

I HOPe and I PRAY that I can be a light into their lives and that their stories will be heard. I pray that I can make a lasting impact, one where love really did pour out and fill up; fall down and lift up;  release and be received.

And I pray that each child will encounter the true, non-discriminating love of God, who promises to wipe every tear from our eyes, accepts us unconditionally, and knows what each tear drop carries- shed or unshed.

This is why I want to go; this is why I feel led to go…

Will you help me get there? Every donation is valuable; every prayer is cherished. Please partner with me as I prayerfully raise funds to minister to these very special, in need of love and tenderness, close to my heart, children.

https://www.gofundme.com/getAliciatoBelgium

Hosea 11

Sow in me righteousness,

Reap in me steadfast love,

Break in me fallowed land

 

It is time to seek You, Lord…

 

Come like the rain,

Your goodness pouring down.

 

For though I run, scattered in sin,

You do not lose me.

 

Your faithfulness reels me in,

Your fences protect my life

The boundaries of Your mercy secure me,

Your blood brings me into Your family.

 

O tender love of God,

It is time to seek Your face.

Change

A few months ago, or maybe many months ago, I was asked to do the Wednesday night service teaching over Genesis 34:1-36:43

This is an tiny excerpt, my conclusion, and my call to allow change to seep into our souls.

  • GOD can bring good out of EVIL.
  • God is able to use the evil that people do, bringing about positive results.
  • God’s has the ability to overcome any obstacle; His covenant will always advance
  • God cannot be bought and his favors are not for sale. Instead, He has purchased our brokeness and our stench of death and mended us! With his blood, He has set the righteousness of His life in us, and he does not even charge us!
  • God is the ultimate changer: life-changer, heart-changer, emancipator King, our God.
  • We cannot pay him or ever afford to pay him. No amount of money in the entire universe would be enough to afford His mercies. We can only give him tokens of love and worship him for who HE is to us and for us.
AND
  • WE can change by renewing our minds and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us, transforming our attitudes, leading with love, not holding God to our humanistic expectations, not trying to fit God into our systems of accountability, and by not treating Him as a mercenary providing favors that can be bought.
  • We CAN change because the Holy Spirit strengthens us with grace! We can change because we are laid down to death with Christ and we are crucified with Him. We live raised to life and seated  with Christ! And, if our God is for us, nothing can stand against us, in between us or separate us!  The accuser cannot condemn because GOD is the judge and He, by  dying for us, paid our debts and won the victory over death’s grip! We out of spiritual debt and  get to thank GOD forever for his abundant mercies.
  • We can change, because we are together in this! I may be one of a few or many who do not have blood family near. You guys are my family. We are a spiritual , covenant, broken family living in a broken world, but we are bound together by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and united in faith, love, worship and the precious blood of Christ.
 God….He does not demand instant perfection. And Hallelujah! For He leads us little by little, making inroads of our self-centeredness and doing his work in our lives one step at at a time.

For us…sometimes the best word we can give to the Lord is “thank you.” Thank you Lord!

 

The Woman With The Issue of Blood

We don’t know her name, but Jesus did…
And, just like the world doesnt know our secret sins, our shame,  the infirmities of our hearts, our bones…
Jesus does.
And still…
He waits, among us, Jesus WITH US, and He does not sit still.
No, JESUS continues in HIS work,
Yet….
All the while waiting for a touch made in faith.
TODAY,
As we casually bump into him,
Press into him,
Bumping, shoving, rushing…
HE walks among us and waits for that touch of faith,
Fearful , trembling, but believing.
He makes available to  us the outer garments of His GRACE.
And so…
Let us bring our bodies, weak, trembling,fearful, and stricken with humanity.
And then,
Let us bring our hearts, believing, expecting, hoping, and forging a path through the chaos of distraction.
And finally,
Let us bring our confessions, with great joy!
For now, we are made whole, clean, free; we are justified, vindicated, emancipated, LIBERATED.
For You, Jesus, desire mercy.
You, Jesus, delight in Mercy, abound in mercy AND
You know our names.
You know our names and YOU have made us to be a people on our knees before You so we can arise in the heavenly places BESIDE YOU.
You, Jesus, know our names.
So… we surrender.
We surrender in good faith, and  the fount of our bleeding ceases as the well springs of living water rush in to mend the violence of sin.
Psalm 67: “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you”
GOD,
We praise you.
Your grace is inexhaustible. Your affection is without end. Your mercy has no boundaries……
and
You know our name.
Surely, surely, we are blessed.

Daughter, Arise!

I come to you,

Jesus.

falling at your feet,

Jesus.

Fearful and trembling,

Jesus.

– You have every reason to condemn me.

“You harlot!” they say.

– You have every reason to condemn me,

“You sinner!” they say.

– You have every reason to condemn me,

“You leper!”  they say

BUT….

– What will You say?

– Will You say I stole a blessing?

– Will You say my touch has made you unclean?

OR

– Will You call out for, murder, “OH, those righteous stones!”

– What will You say?

But I can’t care! I’m pressing forward,

All I have to do is touch Your robe!

I don’t care, I’m pressing forward,

Because standing there before me walks living hope.

And I’ll risk it all.

I’ll risk it all.

Just to hear You call my name,

“Daughter.”

Glory speaks…..and the heavens rejoice.

Glory speaks…..”Oh, the sound of HIS voice!”

And,

You’ve called my name.

And,

 

I come to you, Jesus.

Falling at your feet, Jesus.

Fearful and trembling, Jesus.

Your glory running through my bones.

Your glory; I’ve seen the face of GOD.

Your glory; I hear my name….

Daughter, arise…

From the ashes, arise…

From the pit, arise.

From infirmity, arise....

From your prison, arise…

Daughter, arise…

Your faith has set you free.

 

Who is Jesus?

Jesus is : God’s Son.

Jesus is : The Mediator between God and man.

Jesus is: The only Being to have lived a life of perfect righteousness.

Jesus is: The Slain Lamb;  The Perfect Sacrifice.

Jesus is: The Atonement for the sins of the world – Once and for all!

Jesus is: ALL authority in heaven and on earth.

Jesus is:  The Living and Appointed Heir of all things.

Jesus is: The Ruler over every corner of creation!

Jesus is: Supreme; He is he ultimate in glory, the ultimate in power, the ultimate in authority!

Jesus is: The Head of the body and the church,  The Beginning and The End, The Firstborn of The Dead!

Jesus is alive! 

Our minds cannot grasp His fullness! Our hearts cannot replicate His goodness! Our souls will not perish in His presence!

Jesus is: the very picture of Grace! He makes us alive, by His grace! Using our tiny seeds of faith, He makes us who were dead in our sin alive in His righteousness!

This is Jesus! He is the Alpha and Omega! He is the Lily of the Valley! He is the Great I Am! He is Ruler, He is Provider!

He is Comforter! He is Rapha-Healer! He is The Chain Breaker! He is the Soul Savior! He is the Death destroyer! He is the Grave Leaper, our Liberator and Emancipator!

He is the Sun of Righteousness! He is The Judge, The Advocate! He is the SIN BEARER!

He doesn’t turn away from the stench of our sins! He isn’t repulsed by the smell of death!

Death cannot arrest Jesus!

Death has no hold on His life! He gave His own life up! He laid His own life down! And He took His own life up again!

Ha ha! Jesus is The Laughter in The Face of Death!  Because of Jesus, we can shout

Death! Where is your sting!

Because of Jesus , we can sing:

THE last enemy of death HAS BEEN DESTROYED!

Who is Jesus? This is Jesus! A worthy-to-be-praised JESUS!   And, this is what Easter, Resurrection Sunday says of Jesus!

This is Jesus; and He has overcome.