January 27, 2016
“You always know the right thing to do.
The hard part is doing it.”
- General Norman Schwarzkopf
You regularly wear a black t-shirt that boldly proclaims, “I’ve done things that make me lose sleep at night, so that you can sleep at night.” It’s true: While you were deployed, you saw and experienced horrors that most civilians cannot imagine, and now you proudly wear the t-shirt – and the tattoos - to prove it. You were a soldier, willing to sacrifice your life and fight courageously for what you believe in. For the citizens who live in freedom, who are able to sleep at night, you are a hero!
But then, when you returned home after your tour of duty, scarred and forever changed, you faced the worst possible scenario imaginable. A horror far worse than war. Harsher, even, than combat. In one tragic, unthinkable moment, tragedy struck, and your child was left fighting for his life. It was almost more than you could possibly bear! After hours of uncertainty, he survived his near-fatal injuries, and his life was miraculously spared. Your nightmares, unfortunately, continue to haunt.
And now, finally, your child is coming home! It is the day you’ve been waiting for and praying about for six long months. In your excitement, however, be aware that this will be your most critical battle yet. That the lives and the future of your children are at stake. You are the one they will need. The one who will be responsible for their safety and protection and security. The one who will lead them and set an example for them. Now, more than ever before, it is vital that you be all you can be.
You now have an assignment that is classified priority. You must be willing to sacrifice your life and fight courageously, not for your country this time, but for those you love most. You have new mission going forward, one of utmost importance: Operation Enduring Family.
January 10, 2016
The fact that we are taking our family’s Christmas picture two days after Christmas and sending out a letter in mid-January is evidence of the insanity that sometimes defines our family. Always running late, frequently missing important deadlines, doing the best we can to keep up with the daily demands of each individual that lives under our roof.
After corralling everyone onto the front porch, rearranging a mis-buttoned shirt here, straightening some flyaway hair there, and adjusting the settings on the camera, we are finally ready. Smile, everyone! The picture, after all of the fuss, actually turns out pretty nice. The image is exactly what we hope to portray: a beautiful, “perfect” family. Loving, kind, affectionate, calm, peaceful. Joy on every face.
The picture does not, however, depict the whole story. The story of what our family is really like behind the lens: constant messes, frequent drama, occasional yelling, people running here and there, sibling rivalry erupting at the most inopportune times, tantrums from the little ones (and sometimes the big ones too!), the perpetual struggle for patience, the inevitable exhaustion.
The picture also doesn’t reveal the whole story in all of its beauty. The remarkable truth that underlying all of the noise and chaos, there is a sense of design and purpose. We see glimpses of compassion, hope, sacrifice, friendship, and true, unconditional love. There is the expanding and maturing and the building of inner character that happen in sudden, unexpected ways, so imperceptible in their growth that, if we are not purposefully looking for them, we may miss them altogether.