Honoring Corporal Patrick Deans

An empty lot in our neighborhood has been undergoing a six month transformation. A few days ago, a sign announced that it will be a park honoring Corporal Patrick Deans. On December 12, 2010, at 22, Corporal Deans gave the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.

CorporalDeansA

As the daughter of a brave soldier, a project on Vietnam in sixth grade was my segue into the heart of a veteran. Dad sped fast past the fun of consuming MRE’s at the end of his National Guard weekends into the daily realities of a hero who’d medivacked countless wounded in a helicopter from rice paddies to makeshift hospitals daily for a year. Thankfully, he’s continued to share his journey for the last 28 years.

My dear husband is the proud son of a West Point graduate. At six months old, Rich met his father for the first time when his Dad finished the first of two tours in Vietnam. Communication with his Dad from age five to six consisted of completing sentences with the word “over” during his Dad’s second tour in Vietnam.

We’ve watched friends and the sons of friends go off to war.

We’ve watched people we care about wrestle with the realities of PTSD. We’ve seen marriages crumble and rebuild while children watch and struggle because of the costs of war. We watched soldiers try to drink away the demons and the horrors.

We are raising a son who wants to be a soldier.

There are no easy answers to the problems and questions and realities surrounding the lives of veterans. While I’m encouraged by such things as Tracy Gaudet’s passion to overhaul the VA, I am deeply troubled by so many other realities in the lives of our veterans.

But today is Veteran’s Day.

Today is a day to put aside our questions. Today is an incredible opportunity to honor their service, their courage, their families and their lives.

Proudly, at 4:30 today, the Street family will be standing at Corporal Patrick Deans Park to honor a young man and his family.

No matter where you live, please find a way to honor a veteran today.

CorporalDeansB

Originally written as a poem, my favorite song for fallen soldiers was crafted by a then unknown woman named Elma Dean in 1961. It is sung here by my favorite musician, David Wilcox.

Let them in, Peter, they are very tired;
Give them the couches where the angels sleep.
Let them wake whole again to new dawns fired
With sun, not war. And may their peace be deep.
Remember where the broken bodies lie…
And give them things they like. Let them have noise.
God knows how young they were to have to die!
Give swing bands, not gold harps, to these our boys.
Let them love, Peter-they have had no time-
Girls sweet as meadow wind, with flowering hair…
They should have trees and bird song, hills to climb-
The taste of summer in a ripened pear.
Tell them how they are missed. Say not to fear;
It’s going to be all right with us down here.
-Elma Dean

Guest Post from The House of Hendrix

Today is a special treat with a guest post from Alli at The House of Hendrix. A dear friend from my book club forwarded her perspective on Girlfriends to our group. So touched by her insights, I shot off an email immediately and asked if she would be okay with me sharing her post. Imagine my delight when she not only said yes, but revealed that we live 20 minutes from each other. I was sure that she lived in a sweet Southern suburb states away. I cannot wait to have coffee in real life sometime soon.

Although I don’t have a daughter, Alli’s wise musings about friendship struck a tender chord deep in my heart. Just yesterday one of my oldest friends posted a picture of us circa 1994 on Facebook. Standing in the parking lot of the University Co-Op in Austin, Texas, we captured the moment after I’d purchased my first pair of Vasque hiking boots.

feagins

Those rugged shoes traveled the world with me until I outgrew them after the birth of our second son. Like those shoes, Erin has been a loyal companion on my journey. Just days after purchasing those hiking boots, we took off for a cross-country road trip whose memories linger today. Erin liked adventure and travel. She pulled me out of my comfort zone and helped prepare me for my hubby who zig-zags me around the globe.

Whenever “Feagin’s” name comes up, Rich always says, “Have I told you how much I like Erin?” It’s become a joke with us, but he really means it. She walked with me in my darkest season with faithfulness, consistency, and encouragement. She has journeyed with me in each season since. He treasures her loyalty and never misses a chance to comment about it.

So in honor of the Erin Feagins in all of our lives, please enjoy this guest post by Alli from The House of Hendrix and do subscribe to her blog here.

35 Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Girlfriends

tias

Mine are called The Tias. Yours may be called The YaYa’s or simply the Girls. In any case they are the trusted women who show up when life stinks and celebrate when it doesn’t. They are strong, loyal friends who think you’re beautiful in sweats but fully appreciate a sassy outfit or new tassle necklace. Last year when Tiff came to the pool in her fabulous find, an Old Navy striped bikini, Paige and I immediately ran out and bought the same one. Didn’t need to ask.

You can read the rest here at The House of Hendrix.

Why She’s Not My Mother in Law

My mother-in-loves’s father died peacefully at home three years ago. The house on Stradella Road was filled with people he loved, and his hospital bed pointed towards the breathtaking view he treasured for over forty years. The nearing of the ending was not a surprise as ninety six years is a long time to inhabit a body. But we really knew that the time was approaching when he handed over his final legal brief the month before, as he always promised that when he stopped practicing law, he would stop living.

I hold the two years prior to his death in a sacred space. My mother-in-love’s step mother died, leaving breathing room for the clan to invade. Eggshells were replaced with mostly safe paths for bare feet to launch into the pool and linger in once guarded places. The cold house became warm. Pain was replaced by forgiveness. We awaited his jokes and stories, hearing as if it was the first time, treasuring as if it was the last. At night we sometimes dined at the Jonathan Club, and during the day, lovingly caressed his fine white hair when he wasn’t napping.

The day after the funeral, we traveled together, room by room, into a reverie of treasures. Art. Furniture. Jewelry. Awards. Newspaper clippings. Photographs. A museum of family artifacts needing to be regrouped and relocated like new exhibits premiering in the cities of Portland, Orlando, and Tucson. My mother-in-love gave generously. The gold band worn daily on the finger of her grandmother was my most beloved gift. I wore it often, sometimes in lieu of my wedding band, sometimes on my right hand alongside a treasured ring from my mother. I felt connected to this hardworking farm wife, whose only child was the father to the woman who would someday bear my husband.

And then one day it was gone.

I know it was carefully placed in the red Turkish dish on the kitchen counter as it was personal protocol before washing dishes. But it was not there when I went to retrieve it. I’ve turned the house upside down. Begged God for a miracle. Cried. Looked again. And again. And again. It has now been months, and it is as gone as the season on Stradella Road.

The time for confession came last week.

My brother-in-love has finally found his beloved. Lately, the family party line is lit up with talks of heirlooms, bridegrooms, and a new sister to embrace into the clan. My mother-in-love emailed to to make some plans and referenced my cherished ring. I knew that it was time, and I was scared. How do you admit to the giver that you have lost the irreplaceable?

Sucking in deeply, I exhaled the truth and waited.

Her words of grace covered over the tears streaming down my cheeks. My sorrow over the loss, she said, meant more to her than the gift itself ever had. She, too, was grieving, but also shared her own story of losing a precious ring, an engagement ring, years before. Grief was interrupted by joy in her heart as she identified that I was learning young the painful lesson of not holding on to earthly things too tightly. A mother’s love and God’s grace swirled around like a tornado, destroying the sorrow in my heart.

My first encounter with my mother and father-in-love was like a child being embraced at an international adoption on Gotcha Day. I was 23, but they’d been saving a place for me. I did not grow in my mother-in-love’s body for 9 months, but her heart had been waiting. She envelops like a force and has been a significant part of my growing up in the last decade and a half since our very first greeting. She prays for me. She cheers me on. We talk with brutal honesty, and at times, like with the ring, we need to ask for forgiveness. Our mother/daughter bond did not begin until midway through her sixth decade of life, and yet we cannot imagine life without each other.

And that is why she’s not my mother-in-law.

farm

In front of the family farm in Red Oak, Iowa when we went to bury Rich’s Grandfather.

I Saw You

In honor of our 15th Wedding Anniversary next week…

wedding

Watching you read to the boys

Snuggling with our almost man child, neck precariously braced against the wall

Dog child confidently staking claim across your lap

Tired eyes straining long after aching flesh stopped begging for sleep

Peering through hated glass that commemorates a clock ticking too fast

And change.

I saw you

Intricacies as if my own after almost two decades

Lines near knowing eyes belie your heart’s deliberation

Wine-tinged breath escaping between Tolkien’s words

Feelings incomprehensible. Invisible

Dashed idealism

Broadsided by holiness

And deepest sorrow

With greater love.

I saw you

Yearned to fall onto your grieving body to smother and erase and counterbalance

Flesh whispering that all will be okay

All will be okay.

But I am not a liar

Or a prophet

And so we wait for the sacrosanct unfolding

Together

Because I, too, am seen.

Special Delivery

In early February I left a voicemail for a friend in Texas who prays faithfully for Joseph’s health that went something like this, “Joseph is doing better health-wise than ever before. Thank you so much for praying for him.” We’d recently returned from his six month check up in Colorado where I left thinking that after eight years of hard work, research, appointments, and prayers, I was packing up the last box marked “Medical” and shipping it off for good. We were on course to potentially wean him off his last two medications by mid-summer.

A few days later the doorbell rang.

boxes

On our doorstep was a stack of boxes marked “Medical.” Bigger, and in shapes and sizes that we’ve never seen before, they were marked with words like “Probable epilepsy plus brain infection, seizures, uncontrollable shaking at unpredictable times, MRI and EEG.” I was told that they were not returnable, and most of them were already opened.

Our current reality involves more appointments and blood draws and tests and uncertainty than we could have ever fathomed when we started this journey years ago. Clearly this is not what we expected. Rich and I are clinging to Jesus and each other. There is a temptation to live in fear and disappointment, but we want to keep growing and trusting and not end up stuck. We know that He can handle the surprise and terror at our current reality.

Today Joseph is bravely engaging in a 24 hour EEG. Long wires the color of easter eggs run off the back of the head that I held and nursed while he was a struggling baby. The head that is usually strong and stubborn tackling whatever stands in its way is carefully wrapped in gauze right now. Tomorrow morning after he is released, we will wash the goo and glue that today holds metal leads, carefully measuring the nuances of his brain’s electrical activity. We will take the day off to rest and play and celebrate. Wednesday and Thursday involve blood tests, Joseph’s least favorite part of this journey. Monday we will tackle his MRI.

My hilarious and loving friend Jill is a beloved mother who chose to adopt kids with health challenges after already having two biological children. A life-giving cheerleader on this journey, she sent a message last week reading, “It’s okay to be scared. I live there sometimes. I am here for you. Claim, claim Romans 8:28 everyday. Nothing comes that Christ has not already filtered for His glory. Love you.

As Joseph and I drove to the Neurology center this morning, we listened to our favorite episode of Adventures in Odyssey. At the end of the story, the narrator ‘just happened’ to share a conclusion that included Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I almost yelled out, “OKAY! I GET IT!” But I didn’t want to scare Joseph in the back seat.

And so I fix my eyes on Christ. The one who has walked roads marked by sorrow and sacrifice, but most importantly great love. Our new normal is going to feel anything but normal for a long time. We are at a minimum weeks away from a clear diagnosis. The road ahead, which a less than a month ago seemed to point in one direction, is now heading towards a destination that I cannot see from this vantage point. The delivery of the new boxes did not meet my expectations, but God is not surprised. He is working it out for good. He is with us, and we choose to trust Him.

“The splendor of a human heart, that trusts it is loved unconditionally, gives God more pleasure than Westminster Cathedral, the Sistine Chapel, Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony,” Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” the sight of 10,000 butterflies in flight, or the scent of a million orchids in bloom. Trust is our gift back to God, and he finds it so enchanting that Jesus died for love of it.”
― Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust