Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Unconditional Love


I have often seen, heard and even said the words, “unconditional love”.  I’m sure if you were to ask yourself if you express unconditional love, especially to those closest to you, you would give yourself quite a bit of credit by saying yes.

Our family has been thrown a test in the unconditional love category and if I am being honest, I have thought long and hard these past few weeks about how well I have done in that category.  I am telling you today, that I failed.  I failed my kids, my husband and even friends.  My greatest comfort is that I know I have a Heavenly Father who loves me unconditionally.

That knowledge is what I want to try to share in this blog entry.  I KNOW God’s love is unconditional and because I KNOW that, I also know that He doesn’t make mistakes when it comes to His children.

My son is gay.  That is simply one small part of what makes him who he is.  It’s unfortunate that when he broke that news to us, I expressed poorly my unconditional love for him…that definitely had conditions.  It still hurts my heart to know how terribly I handled it.  When I replay the conversations in my head, I feel sad for my son.  We are working on repairing that and I pray that someday he can fully forgive me but if he doesn’t, I’m okay with that too because he should have been able to count on me, his mom.  I promised to protect him and instead I hurt him.

I have been doing a lot of self-evaluation and analyzing why I placed conditions on my love and I realize now it was primarily due to fear.  I think that is what causes most of us to love with strings attached.  As a mother, I had no control of how the world was going to treat him or see him.  To me, he was the same person that he was before but now people were going to attach a label with preconceived notions.  I know this because I did that. 

I talked a good game about being a decent Christian while letting fear control me and believing the bad instead of the good about people I didn’t even know. Here is the reality, because I know that God’s love is both unconditional and unchangeable, I know His love for my son didn’t shift simply because of his sexual orientation.  He loves him exactly the same as He did before sending him down to this earth and entrusting me to be his mother.  I need to follow that example a whole lot better.

Reading one my son’s Facebook posts to his fiancĂ© was a serious reality check, one I needed, when he expressed that he was the first person to teach him what true unconditional love was.  And he was right.  I got that wrong, but I am grateful for his patience and willingness to trust that I will do better.

So, here’s the bottom line.  Quit claiming unconditional love while still justifying why someone’s life or choices are wrong according to you.  This is for anything, the way they dress, who they love, their professions, their hobbies, their culture, literally anything we judge others on. Also, quit claiming what you know about God and His love for His children because the God I know, loves ALL of His children.

This post is not about my son being gay, but I want to state the obvious for the people in our lives who are conflicted in whether they should support us or not.  Please don't take offense to how harsh this next statement will come across. We don’t need nor do we seek your approval or your support if it is not in your heart to offer either, that is not at all what this is about. I just wanted to share some lessons I learned through this journey and I am grateful that God gave me a beautiful soul to teach me what unconditional love is truly all about.

Unconditional love is known as affection without any limitations, or love without conditions.



Tuesday, September 11, 2018

9/11/2018

17 years.  17 years since the day our country changed.  So many memories, experiences, emotions.  I look at my youngest child and think of all that he has experienced in his life.  It's his senior year, he is prepping for college, he's growing up.  I have typically rehashed my feelings, emotions, our experience as a Military family but this year I want to share something different.

As a part of my service as an AmeriCorps VISTA, I was able to volunteer with my team at a Veterans Home.  I knew it was going to be a good day but the experience far exceeded my expectations.  From the moment I walked in until I left, my heart was full.  We played dominoes with a 94 year old World War II Veteran who shared with us his tales of service, we witnessed a Veterans council where these amazing men honored their friends who had passed within the last month and paused for a moment to honor those who perished on 9/11/2001.  We got to serve ice cream, a simple but delightful moment to witness these elderly men helping one another with their bowls.  They fought next to each other in war and now they serve one another at some of their darkest moments.

As I caught myself almost in tears many times throughout the days I realized that what I was witnessing was exactly the feelings I felt on September 12th.  We all pulled together, we stood in solidarity.  We helped those who needed help and we felt a sense of pride in doing so.  We pulled together.  These men I spent time with continued that unconditional love.

I do believe our country is still more together than apart but we could do better.  We can remember that we are better together than fighting.  We can treat each other with respect, we can laugh more, we can honor more and we can express empathy for all mankind.

As we were getting ready to leave, we thanked everyone for allowing us the opportunity to come and serve them.  When we turned to leave, these Veterans broke out in applause...for us.  I was overcome with emotion, we did so little and got so much in return.

On 9/11/2001, we suffered a great tragedy and on 9/12/2001 so many did little things that got them so much more in return.  We shouldn't forget 9/11/2001 but we should live our lives like we did on 9/12/2001.

#NeverForget

Saturday, September 08, 2018

The Tale of Sapper Princess

I cannot believe it has been just over a week since we had to make the painful decision to let our sweet Sapper cross the rainbow bridge.  I am still very much devastated.  Sapper was 12 years old and had been struggling with a heart condition that we found out about just a little over a month ago.  I was naive enough to believe the medicine was working when in actuality she was getting worse. 

I was ill-equipped to deal with the loss of our baby girl.  I was shocked at the deepness of emotions that I have been feeling.  We sobbed...ugly, red-faced, loud, gut wrenching cries that echo throughout the room sobbing.  I was not prepared for that.






Sapper came into our lives when our family needed healing.  She has been through combat deployments, moves, breakups, my boys going on missions and off to college.  She has been there through family deaths, Army retirement, surgeries and just because.  While Sapper was closest to me and Neil, she really loved all of us, she went to whomever needed extra love and she was a fierce protector.  I still don't know what she thought she was going to do with her 3.5 lbs of attitude but she sure let you know she was going to do her best to protect her humans.

 We have been a huge mess trying to transition without our baby girl.  I had a really hard time processing my emotions.  I was so confused by how much I would cry or just feel in general.  I didn't cry this hard when my dad died, I never cried this much over a human death and it really perplexed me.  As I continued to ponder on it, I realized it was because Sapper truly gave us all unconditional love.  She loved us no matter what.  My human relations always had some type of condition attached to their love and with Sapper she just loved.  She loved me when I was annoyed at her for not going to bed, or when I accidentally dropped my phone on her or when we were gone all day.  She loved me when I forgot to feed her on time or dropped some food on her when she was hanging out in the kitchen.  She loved me always and she always forgave.
I know eventually our hearts will heal and we will be able to think of her without pain but we are all grateful for this precious soul who was brought into our loves to teach us love and forgiveness. 
We love you Sapper Princess, we miss you and we were blessed with 12 amazing years with you.





Saturday, August 04, 2018

Retirement


I was reflecting a couple days ago about our “retired” life.  I put it in quotations because we are still far from hanging out on the rocking chairs and frolicking our days away.  I should note that I actually know few retirees whose lives are that relaxing!

When we were preparing for our retirement from the Army, I remember feeling a sense of anxiety about all the unknowns.  Was Kevin going to be able to find a job, what kind of job, will it pay enough to pay our bills?  Do we stay here in Missouri, if we don’t want to stay here, where do go and how do we get there?  Do we rent a house, buy a house, stay in post housing now that they have it open to retirees?  Does Nadine get a real job that pays more money?  Do we get additional medical insurance, how is retiree insurance through the military? 

If I’m being honest and anyone who knows me in real life knows that I’m pretty honest, the last few months of Kevin’s time in the Army was a challenge.  I’m going to go ahead and throw it out there for the sake of being real, he had a terrible chain of command and they treated Kevin horrible.  Not only Kevin but a lot of Soldiers in his unit.  That definitely assisted with the transition though because I no longer felt emotionally attached to the Army, I was ready for us to slam that chapter shut and move on.

I just want to say that the only way we survived the stress of our last few months in the Army was through the grace of God.  He truly led the way and literally everything fell in place almost perfectly.  Kevin was moved from his last battalion over to the gym.  Apparently, that is the Army’s version of a pasture where they take old horses to spend their last days.  It was a huge blessing!  Kevin was able to take care of medical issues that he had put on the back burner to be the good Soldier that he was.  He was able to look for a job to transition to and found one that he actually loves!  His retirement ceremony was special and a memory I will forever treasure.  I’m glad we decided to go through with it because we were so frustrated about how things were going, we were going to just walk away but I felt strongly that we needed official closure and watching him receive his retirement award and flag provided that.






I don't know what kind of wife he thought I was, but he felt impressed to point out Army Chief of Staff had signed my certificate.  Thanks, I actually knew who he was...sir!



Initially, we were going to stay in our house on post but when they told us how much they wanted us to continue paying for a house that wasn’t even worth that amount and with us knowing we were no longer getting a housing allowance we decided it was time to pack up and move out.  
I took this picture the last day we were in our house on post.  This was what I wrote about the picture:  If these walls could talk...what stories would they tell? We lived in our house on Fort Leonard Wood for 7 years. Today we cleared our house on post and I feel like we have officially closed that chapter of our lives. Now I feel like we are officially retired and beginning the next phase of life. So blessed by the experiences the Army gave us and am eager to utilize the skills and experience to bless others in this next journey!
We were blessed to have a dear friend as our realtor who took phenomenal care of us and got us through the process of buying a house quickly.  That part was a huge whirlwind but thankfully all of our boys were home and we had great friends who helped us out and before we knew it, we were in our own amazing house.
 
We closed on our house on my birthday!
Retirement has been better than I ever imagined.  I don’t miss anything about Army life. We have amazing memories, we made great friends, had growing experiences and we are grateful for the journey but retirement is good!  No more worries about deployments, no more endless calls through the night, no more Army gear all over my living room floor!

We live right outside the Army installation so we get enough Army to keep us going but we are okay not living it every day.  Retirement life is beautiful!