Monthly Archives: December 2013

Taking Leaps & Surrendering the Outcomes: Thoughts from a Military Wife

Growing up, I used to tell people I could never marry a man who was either A) in the military B) a police officer or C) a fire fighter. I was terrified of falling in love with someone who would regularly be in dangerous situations because I feared what might happen to him. When it came to the military I was especially afraid because not only did that mean a dangerous job for the man I loved, but it also meant spending significant time apart where I would have to do life largely on my own. So I made up my mind at an early age that I just wouldn’t let myself fall in love with someone who had any of those 3 careers in their future.

Well, God had other plans. At age 14, I met the man I would one day marry. And there was nothing “safe” about any of his life ambitions. I knew from the time I met him that whatever road he ended up taking in life, it would be a dangerous one. It’s in his DNA. A desk job would drive him crazy. He has to be right in the action. But more than that, he has to be doing something meaningful with his life. He is constantly looking for ways to improve the lives others, protect those who cannot protect themselves, and stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. He is a man founded on courage and selflessness. He does not fear for his safety. All he can see is the need in front of him, and he can’t help but respond.

So naturally, I was scared to let my heart fall for this guy, who at age 14 was already fearless and more motivated than most adults I knew. But despite my young stubborn self, God began preparing my heart for what was to come. When I wasn’t so sure about this guy I had met in gym class and tried to talk myself out of my feelings for him, it was as if I could hear God whispering in my ear, “You don’t have to fall for him right now, but that is the guy you are going to marry one day.”

Over the next 6 years, we became best friends who were head over heels in love with each other. We were confident that marriage was in our future. But there was one not so little hurdle we needed to address: Will felt strongly that God was calling him to join the Air Force.

After a great deal of prayer and consideration, it became evident that God was definitely leading the man I loved more than anything into a career I had always feared. And I had to make a decision.

Would I let fear prevent me from continuing to walk forward with the man I loved? Or would I realize that a life led by fear was no life at all, that God was bigger than any of my fears, and that my love for this man outweighed my own fears and insecurities?

Looking at my options, I realized that I would much rather have Will as my husband and place my full trust in God than sacrifice a life with Will in order to hide away in my own little secure bubble—which, let’s be honest, was not invincible either.

It’s been a little over 3 ½ years since I took one of the greatest leaps of my life by saying “I do.”

Last week (the day after Christmas), Will moved across the country to our new duty station. After quickly setting up a new home for us, he will then leave on assignment with the Air Force.

Because I am just a few short weeks away from delivering our sweet son, I was unable to move with Will. Instead, I have stayed behind with family and friends to prepare for my next big adventure: giving birth to our first child while my husband is away.

At this point, we don’t know how long it will be before we see each other again. All we know is that the next time we’re together, I’ll be handing him our son for the first time and congratulating him on becoming a father.

This situation is a prime example of what I used to fear so strongly and why I had once been so determined to never marry a man in the military.

But you know what? I wouldn’t trade my life with Will for anything. Marrying him and following him on this journey was the absolute best decision I could have made, and I would do it all over again.

I’m not going to lie—sending my husband off and knowing he would be unable to be at the birth of our son was very difficult. For real y’all, this pregnant lady was an emotional mess. Everything in me wanted to go with him or have someone say, “Just kidding, he can actually stay with you, hold your hand while you give birth to your son and help you tackle the challenge of being a first time parent to a newborn.” But neither of those wishes were an option. My husband has been called to his own set of responsibilities and challenges, and now it is my responsibility to “hold down the fort” if you will & embrace my new role as a mother.

It’s not going to be easy, but God has placed this season in our lives for a reason. Rather than letting fear control me, I am going to take my grandfather’s advice and make a daily decision to approach this time with a positive attitude. I am going to look forward to the joys of motherhood and count down the days until I can hold our sweet baby in my arms. When the ache of missing Will becomes too difficult, I will lean on God & my wonderful support system to push forward. Mostly, I will remember that the rough moments are temporary and that they each hold something special for me to learn.

So to everyone who asks questions like: How do you do it? Aren’t you fearful for his safety? How are you going to handle deployments, because I could never do that? What if, what if, what if?! … (Trust me, this list can get quite long)… To all of you sweet and thoughtful friends, I would say this:

Rather than fearing the worst, join with me in faithful prayer for Will’s safety and God’s provision. Trust that no matter how long the two of us are apart, no matter what challenges come our way, no matter how much I have to tackle “on my own,”… trust that God is bigger than it all. Pray for him to equip each of us with the strength to face each challenge and pray that our marriage would continue to grow stronger. Pray for our precious son and that God would create special moments for him to connect with his dad, even if it’s from a distance.

Secondly, take time to examine your own life. Where are the places that fear holds you back? Are there things that perhaps God is calling you to do that you would rather turn down because taking the leap would be too terrifying? Does fear dictate the little choices you make in your daily life and prevent you from stepping outside of your comfort zone?

If there is one thing this past year has taught me, it’s that life is extremely unpredictable. Disasters happen. People get sick out of nowhere. People die when you least expect it. Jobs end suddenly. Relationships transform in ways you don’t expect. Life is short and it is uncertain. Having a “safe” job guarantees you nothing. And no matter how much you try to create a safety bubble around yourself, it is not invincible and it can and will be broken at some point.

If pain, death and hardships are all guaranteed to show up in our lives, what good is it to live a life controlled by fear?

So let it go already. Actually live your life. And trust God with the outcomes.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Peace in Remembering: This is Not the End

As many of you know by now, my grandfather passed away on December 10th. The days and hours leading up to his death were spent sitting by his side, saying goodbye, and crying tears of deep mournful sorrow. But they were also filled with prayers for his comfort, for relief from pain, and for a peaceful transition from this life into eternity with his greatest love, Jesus Christ.

Although I was not present the moment he actually passed away, the hours I spent by his side for the three days leading up to his passing were the closest I had ever been to witnessing the process of death. As you might imagine, watching someone you love fade away before your very eyes is difficult to say the least. It punches you in the chest, steals your breath, and leaves you feeling helpless. But when you’re saying goodbye to someone like my grandfather, there is also a rich and calming peace that reminds you this is not the end.

The hole my grandfather left in the hearts of his loved ones is too great to put into words. But if there is one thing we can be certain of, it’s that his suffering has ended and he is spending eternity in the greatest place imaginable. So although we grieve, we do so with the hope that this is not the end, he is in a better place and God has a plan that is bigger than even our deepest pain.

A couple years ago, my husband and I stumbled across a charmingly old book containing some of history’s greatest letters. One of the letters, written by Benjamin Franklin, offers the following depiction of death:

“I condole with you. We have lost a most dear and valuable relation. But it is the will of God and nature that these mortal bodies be laid aside when the soul is to enter into real life… Our friend and we were invited abroad on a party of pleasure which is to last forever. His chair was ready first and he is gone before us. We could not all conveniently start together, and why should you and I be grieved at this, since we are soon to follow and know where to find him?”

My grandfather has gone before us, but I absolutely know where to find him.  

If any of you are looking back at 2013 and grieving the loss of someone you held close, remember this is not the end. Hold onto that hope and may God fill you with his peace that surpasses understanding.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared… I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’ And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’…”– Revelation 21: 1-5

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tribute to Ned Parker

207393_1007431458366_7150_n

Today our family is mourning the loss of our hero and our beloved patriarch, Ned Parker.

Ned Parker was known to many as a Richmond legend. But in our family, he was known as Papa—the best grandfather that six granddaughters could have ever dreamed of having.

Papa made every effort to be actively involved and invested in each of our lives. Whether it meant cheering on the sidelines at our sporting events, sitting through countless dance recitals, taking us with him to the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast, letting us be on his radio show, inviting us to his speaking engagements, or letting all 6 of us have noisy sleep overs at his house even though he had to wake up at 4:00am the next morning, Papa always did everything he could to take part in our lives.

Papa never wanted to miss out on the action. I’ll never forget the time he decided to race down the water slide at the beach with us kids. Everyone in the waterpark knew when Papa was on the slide because the entire slide would shake back and forth as if it was about to topple over. But that didn’t stop Papa from running right back up to the top. By the end of the day, his elbows had been demolished. They were so swollen that they hung down several inches below the bone, bruised and battered. But it didn’t faze him in the least. All he could talk about was what a great time he had with his granddaughters.

When we were teenagers, he decided to get a new bicycle so he could stay active and go on biking adventures with his sons and grand-kids. But he didn’t just get a bike; he dove into this new activity with more enthusiasm and dedication than anyone else in their 70s might have dared. He went all in—we’re talking spandex biker shorts and everything. Papa wasn’t satisfied with easy flat trails, so he took his beloved new bike to the top of the steepest, rockiest hill at Belle Isle. When I realized what he was about to do, I yelled up the hill in a desperate attempt to convince him to walk his bike down the hill. But it was too late; he had already made up his mind. Papa stared down the rocky challenge and took off full speed. I closed my eyes in horror as he tumbled down the hill and sent his bike flying through the air. When the dust settled, Papa stood up, brushed the rocks off his scraped up legs, got back on his bike and laughed about much fun he’d just had.

In addition to being such an active grandfather, Papa also took the time to pour into the deeper aspects of our lives, especially spiritually. He genuinely cared about what was happening in each of our lives, as well as in the lives of our boyfriends and eventual husbands. Every time he would see us he would ask, “What’s the Lord doing in your life, Darling?” When we spoke, he would listen attentively with his hands crossed under his chin. If we said something he found exciting, he would exclaim, “Oh, how marvelous!” If we made him laugh, he would chuckle, “Oh mercy, oh my goodness.” At the end of every visit, he would find some word of encouragement to send us off with. Visiting Papa was always an uplifting experience. We never questioned his love for us and he always found a way to leave smiles on our faces.

While I am forever grateful for the time he took to leave us with such happy memories, what I am the most grateful for and will remember the most about my grandfather was his love for God. Papa loved the Lord with his whole heart. Whether I was sitting with him at the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast, listening to him give his testimony before hundreds of people, leaning on his shoulder on the front pew at church, or witnessing his daily interactions with the people around him, I always knew that my grandfather loved God more than anything. His love for God dictated every word that came out of his mouth and every decision he made with his life.

Papa couldn’t go anywhere without running into someone whose life he had forever impacted for the better. As a child, I couldn’t fully appreciate this. All I knew was that it took two hours to get out of the grocery store when we went with Papa because everyone wanted to stop and talk with him. But as I grew older, I began to realize that he was the most dearly loved man I had ever known.

He reached out to everyone. If he didn’t already have friends when he went into a building, you could guarantee that he would have friends by the time he left. He wasn’t just friendly. He genuinely loved people unconditionally. It didn’t matter if they were total strangers. He asked about what was taking place in their lives, shared the hope of God’s love with them and invested in their lives. No one was a stranger to Papa. They were someone to love, someone to encourage and someone to uplift.

With Papa’s love for the Lord came a determination to maintain a posture of positivity and gratefulness no matter what was going on in his life. One time I asked Papa whether or not he thought I would like life as a military wife. Without having to give it a second thought, he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “That will completely depend on what attitude you go into it with. If you go into it with a positive attitude, you will love it. You will meet wonderful people and have great adventures. But if you go into it with a negative attitude, you will be miserable.”

That is the approach Papa took to all of life. He always found the positive side to every hardship and never once complained in front of me, even during his most difficult days.

A couple weeks ago, I sat beside Papa while he spoke about his deteriorating health. He had lost a substantial amount of independence and mobility, and he seemed to know that his time on Earth was drawing to a close. As he spoke about passing away, I told him, “If that is what’s happening, don’t you worry, Papa. God is preparing the most beautiful place for you.” He responded, “I don’t fear that. God has been so faithful and good to our family for all these years, it would be wrong to approach this time with anything other than gratefulness.” And grateful he was.

As we take time celebrate the life of this dearly loved man, may we remember him for the incredible leader he was—both in his family and his community—and may our own lives strive to honor the remarkable legacy he left behind. Thank you, Ned Parker, for being a leader to us all. Thank you for your unwavering faith in the Lord. Thank you for dedicating your life to loving others. And thank you for being the most wonderful grandfather to all six of your granddaughters.

I love you Papa, always and forever.

1505273_10102482958623492_1048748070_n

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized