Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Letter from Iraq

A Letter from Iraq
This time of year we look around and reflect on the things we are thankful for, consider what we’ve accomplished, and anticipate the changes we want to make for the New Year.

As everyone reflects, I encourage you to take a moment to consider what a blessing it is to have the absolute basics and offer prayers for those that don’t. For instance; our troops.

While you may think this is a post highlighting what they’ve endured or how we should be more grateful, let me change direction. I offer instead, merry words of wisdom and laughter to brighten your night (while also, reminding you how great things are because really, you aren’t burning trash to stay warm….)

A letter from my brother while he was in Iraq. For those that have different “reading voices,” I plead with you to carefully select and proceed with the most sarcastic tone you have saved. He should be a writer; right?!

“Parents, sibling, and pets, (we only had one pet, please also note the lack of “dear”)

How goes it back in the land of running water, flushing toilets, warm beds, and food besides MRE’s? Hope all is well, health is good, knees are healing (mother had a knee replacement surgery), colleges are accepting (written during my senior year) and jobs are hiring. Over here in the land of sand, with bottled water, dig your own toilet, smelly sleeping bags, and nothing besides MRE’s (MRE=Meals Ready to Eat, disgusting freeze dried food that has only marginally gotten better with time) and VGR’s (economy sized MRE’s for groups, we call them Useless Grunt Rations), everything is cold and dusty, as is to be expected.
We have begun this wonderful mission where we stay up most nights in the freeing cold, in a screen line, where our LAV’s are spread in a line, and we look for smugglers. It’s so gay, it makes Elton John look straight.
Last showered approximately 5 pairs of socks ago. Have stopped judging things by time, only by whether or not I can stomach the smell and feel of my socks another day. It will be approximately 3-4 more pairs of socks until my mission of scrubbing the jungle of fungi and bacteria off all anatomical parts is achieved.
The best mornings are when we resupply and have a lot of trash so that we can make a fire to stay warm. Sort of like homeless people. We build trash fires to stay warm and are wearing pretty much everything we own to stay warm. It’s sad, it really is (contrary to popular belief, the average at night in the winter in Iraq is 30’s). We rely on other people’s handouts (packages), our packs could be considered our shopping cart, because it has the majority of our possessions in it, and our bathing habits aren’t what you would call regular. Not saying we smell, but I could probably throw one of those aforementioned socks into a florist, and put them out of business. We’re an assault on the olfactory system (Brandon has to be fancy with his big words, it’s how you perceive smell), smashing into it like Katrina into New Orleans (I think his sense of sensitivity and political correctness went out the window in those conditions…just kidding he never had either of those). Every night I get into my sleeping bag, it’s like the Hulk Hogan of bad smells slapping into the face.
Well, that’s it from this dusty, desolate, domain. Hopefully the next time correspondence is exchanged, we will have bathed and done laundry. I almost feel bad for the laundry people, and then I remember they stay on base all day and night. Those bastards.

                                                                                    Love you all,
                                                                                    Son, sibling, owner”

*Everything in blue is my addition for context*

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Strategic Perspective

How dare we express anger and outrage at God for the exact blessings we asked for?!

That statement greeted me one Friday evening as I gathered with other Christian women to continue to grow our Faith.

What does she mean? I thought with confusion. How could I be upset with God for blessing me with things I asked for?

She continued to elaborate.

“You pray to God over and over again for blessings. Blessings in your career, family, church; you name it, you’ve probably prayed over it.”

Fair enough. Most Christian women have prayed over every aspect of their lives. Career, friends, husband, children, future husband, future children, ministry, love life, the world, salvation, how do you narrow this concept down to one area?

The lady continued; you’ve prayed for God to bless you. But when He does, you judge the way in which he has done it. Or the ways in which he didn’t. How dare you! God fulfilled his promise to you. He blessed you just as you’ve asked him to. Perhaps, you should consider the way in which you strategically pray or; the way in which you perceive his blessing!

Wow. My mind is whirling in a thousand directions. I think of the time I asked God to break my heart for what breaks His. A common enough prayer for a young college student. Thanks to that particular prayer, however, I now have a strong heart for high school girls and serving them weekly. How many times do I wish I hadn’t asked for that calling? How many MORE times do I end up thanking God for blessing me with that calling? For through that, teaching me more lessons than I could possibly teach those girls?!

My mind roams onto the next area. The one that appears to be at the forefront of my mind at all times these days: My career.

I’ve been blessed in this area more than I can possibly hope or imagine. Over the past two years, God has allowed me to pass four HUGE financial tests on the first attempt. What a stress relief! I am one of the youngest managers at the company who’s been promoted from within. I’ve been given opportunities that most hope for. All and all, my career is a rocket headed for the sky that I may have lit a short fuse for; but God catapulting beyond anything I am capable of accomplishing.

Then I think of my personal life. The decisions I’ve made around friends and boyfriends and I take a brief halt. This area leaves a slightly bitter taste in my life. Every time I log into Facebook, someone else is engaged, married, having a child (no thanks!), traveling to a foreign country to teach English, or something else, and I think: Am I missing out? Why hasn’t this happened to me?

Then I think back to the previous subject I was on. My career. How much have I been blessed in that area?

What have I prayed for religiously (excuse the pun) over the past few years? To find a job. With a company I love. In Charlotte, Raleigh, or Charleston. Rise to a manager position. Obtain my Certified Financial Planner® license.  Make friends. Love the city I’m placed in. Love the church I go to. Find a place in that Church I can serve.

Have not all of these needs been met and more? Did God NOT bless me in EVERY way possible in these prayers?

Then why am I still sitting here complaining about all the ways He didn’t bless me in all the ways I didn’t pray for? What have been my priorities over the past few years?

Easy Answer: My Career.

Where has God blessed me in the past few years?

Answer: In my Career. That I placed high and above every other priority in my life.

Yes! I sit here complaining because he didn’t answer my prayers. What prayers?!! For every one prayer I've sent to God about finding the right man, God answered the ten prayers I said to him about my career. God cares about my priorities so he blessed the ones I placed first in order for me to feel His favor.

And yet, I still sit here like a sullen little child at Christmas who has hundreds of dollars of presents sitting around me with pretty much everything I could ask for, whining about the one little present I wanted but didn't get. Because maybe, I wasn't ready to receive that yet. (I'll leave that for another time). 

What a spoiled child.