I’m sure you’ve heard the saying regarding veterans. The one about writing a blank check payable to the United States of America up to and including your life.
When you decide to join the military, especially during wartime, you are basically saying that you are willing to die for your country. It doesn’t matter if you are joining to be a cook or if you are joining to be a sniper. It is just something you understand is a possibility when you make this decision. I previously mentioned that during my years in the Marine Corps there were no major conflicts. The Iraq war did start at the end of my time, but I had spent so much time away from my original trade that I was no longer of use without any additional training in that field. I remember once when a fellow MSG (Marine Security Guard) at my post in Bamako got mad and stormed out of a meeting when he felt that I had received two “unearned” combat leave days after spending a week in Skopje, Macedonia. I had gone there to support the State Department in guarding then Secretary Of State Colin Powell and his wife while they were there for peace talks during the Insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia.
I swore into the Marine Corps on my 17th birthday in 1997. Two months and 7 days later (a week after I graduated high school early) I was boarding my 3rd plane ever, heading to Parris Island, to stand on the yellow footprints. I spent approximately 6 years serving in the Marine Corps. I got out in August of 2003. Therefore, I served pretty much right smack in the middle of any wars or conflicts. I also spent pretty much spent my entire time overseas. I always figured that I’d let the government pay me to travel and see the world. The first half of my time (after training and schools) I spent in Okinawa, Japan. The second half I was serving as a Marine Security Guard in Sofia, Bulgaria and then Bamako, Mali.
Sometimes He speaks so loudly that it stops you in your tracks. It shakes all of your insides. His voice is so pronounced that it’s all but an outwardly audible voice. Sometimes I look around to see if the people standing around me heard it, but of course they didn’t. It was directed at me. This happened to me several weeks ago.
I’ve been a believer my entire life. My parents baptized me as a young infant, we went to church every Sunday and recited our prayers every night. I’ve never once in my life doubted His existence. I’ve never once had a period of rebellion in my beliefs. I, however, have failed to listen to that loud, striking voice (usually a warning) more times than I can remember. My failure to obey has always got me into a big amount of trouble. I heard this voice with every step that I took walking up the aisle to marry my ex-husband, and the hurt and pain that came with that choice lasted 8 years directly and I still deal with the scars indirectly. Most recently I heard this voice 3 weeks ago. It was so loud that I actually hit the brakes while I was driving. I had been tossing around an idea and had made a choice, He was telling me it was the wrong choice. I didn’t listen. And while the consequences of this choice didn’t last but a couple of anxiety and worry filled weeks, I think it finally sunk in that while He will forgive us and stand by us when we make mistakes, immediate obedience is so much more rewarding (and less painful!).
This is how the slightly morbid, sometimes pleasant but mostly awkward discussion about “life after death” started with my 4 year old son.
(Before I begin, let me preface by saying that I am not a theologian and am in no way, shape or form qualified to have a discussion regarding this topic with even my 4 year old son)
“I’m not sure, kid”
“I love bacon”
“So do I, kiddo. And so I’m not sure we’d be forced to spend an eternity without access to the pure joy that is bacon”
I spotted him out of the corner of my eye. I always do. As I neared him my heart started racing. Even from a distance, I could see that he was wearing a nice hoodie, jeans and a pair of boots. He was just standing there motionless but I could tell he was holding something. I thought to myself, “Please don’t be holding a sign.” As if it made a difference or helped me focus, I quickly turned the radio down. Maybe I was just embarrassed that John Mayer was playing on the radio and I didn’t want him to hear it. I quickly changed lanes and slowed down. As my car pulled to a stop I could see that he was clean shaven and wearing a nervous smile.
I used to hate people. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said that I wouldn’t have to work another day in my life.
One of the things that I did during “that year” (2011, the year of the big D) was to eliminate a lot of people from my life. I’ve brought a lot of them back since then, but back then I wary of everyone. If I didn’t trust people before, now I really didn’t trust “them.” Of course there were a few exceptions; the people that took the time to break through my wall that were now on the inside. But as a whole I didn’t trust them, I didn’t like them and I didn’t want them near me.
This is how I used to see people:
That is the age when I finally felt like a real life grown up. It happened shortly after I turned 33 a little over a month ago. Maybe it was because I was finally closer to my mid-thirties than my 20s? I don’t know. But it happened. I woke up one day (and I can’t remember the exact day or time), but I woke up feeling all kinds of responsible. It felt like my insides had finally caught up with my outer life. Since the day I turned 17 and moved out of my parent’s house to join the Marines, I always felt like my life was some sort of an out of body experience. I was just some kid longing for my Doc Martens watching some future version of myself playing the role of an adult. I’m not even sure how I kept myself alive all those years, much less do the same for two kids to the ages of ‘almost’ 5 and 7.