Monthly Archives: May 2016

Memorial Day….WOW!


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I woke the other night after a short nap, the television still playing in our bedroom. There was a continuously streaming commercial of the most annoying man on earth, screaming about cheap appliances. It was literally a series of the same five minute clip on repeat…and I heard that man say “Appliance Direct Memorial Event – WOW!” far too many times in thirty minutes.

As I lay there trying to tune him out and fall back to sleep (don’t judge, the remote was on the other side of my sleeping husband) I thought about the real meaning of Memorial Day.

While we tend to mark the long weekend as the beginning of summer (those last few days of school are a waste, I tell you. Just call it on Friday afternoon, or better yet, let’s get the party started on Thursday!), I am very aware that the day was set aside for remembering.

The day was begun to honor the Civil War dead, and it was not a federally mandated Monday holiday until 1971. Until then, the day was always observed on May 30th, known as Decoration Day in parts of the South even to today, because of the practice of decorating graves. Special memorial services are held along with parades in some areas, but many of us have lost sight of the solemn reason for the day despite the continuing sacrifices of many.

I knew that my father was awarded the Purple Heart – an award established by General George Washington in 1782. I recall seeing it as a young child when one of us (I’m sure it was my naughty younger sister, not me!) found it in a desk drawer and thought it was a beautiful treasure. We had no real appreciation for its meaning.


Daddy in his winter uniform, holding our cousin, Tom.

After my Dad passed away, we didn’t find it in his possessions. Perhaps one of my siblings wanted to keep it. I can’t begrudge them if they did.

Several years ago I shared the story of missing medal and the mystery of its disappearance with my sweet Uncle Ralph, himself a Navy veteran. He knew my dad’s service well and encouraged me to petition the Army for all of my dad’s military honors. One day not long after, I embarked on a journey of forms and letters and a peek into my dad’s service to this great country.

Unfortunately there was a fire in the National Personnel Records Center on July 12, 1973. Some of the service records for my father were lost; in particular, his award of the Purple Heart. I was devastated, but I provided the appropriate officials a few documents and waited and hoped.

On September 7, 2005 Daddy was awarded (again) the Purple Heart, this time posthumously, for wounds received in action on 15 October 1944 in the European Theater. That’s it. That is literally all that I know, but it is enough.

While the Purple Heart is truly special, he was awarded these as well:

  • Bronze Star – awarded for heroic or meritorious achievement or service
  • Good Conduct Medal – awarded for exemplary behavior, efficiency and fidelity in active Federal Military service
  • European African Middle East Campaign Medal – for military service in the European Theater
  • American Campaign Medal– for military service in the American Theater of Operations during World War II

This is Daddy in his summer uniform.

All of them are honorable and wonderful reminders of the impact of his service.

My heart can’t fathom his experiences. Those were the days of foot soldiers hitting the ground, running into the battle. Honestly, I can’t even think about; it’s too intense and violent. And yet he ran into it; he was missing in action. I read the telegraph sent to his dear mother from the Department of War…my heart can’t comprehend it.

He survived with scars, both physical and emotional but he carefully shielded them. I never will be able to comprehend the horror of war or the absolute joy and relief of coming home.

The only story my dad ever told me about his service was many years after I was married and away from home. I was leaving the country, something he never understood. He saw no reason to ever leave the greatest country on earth. As we talked about Europe, he shared an incident that occurred in France. He was sent to a bakery to buy bread for his squad.

At the bakery, he purchased the last of the bread when he noticed a young girl. She begged him for the bread he had purchased; he offered her chocolate. (It’s no surprise to me, nor will it be to my family as they read this, that Daddy managed to find some chocolate on his mission!) He returned to his squad without bread and to certain discipline. It’s a wonder he got that award for good conduct, but I knew before he told me that he gave the bread to the child. 

The final medal in the package that arrived from the Army is the Victory, World War II – United States of America.  It was awarded to all of America’s veterans who served during World War II. The back is inscribed with these words:

Freedom from Fear and Want
Freedom of Speech and Religion


I am awestruck. He worked a blue collar job and taught me the importance of commitment. I knew that my father was a private in the United States Army but it wasn’t until now that I realized that my dad was a hero of World War II. I read these words from Norman Schwarzkopf that truly give perspective:

“It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”

This Memorial Day I will remember and honor the sacrifices of prior generations. I will honor the sacrifices of all who have served or continue to serve our country.


My parents, young lovebirds after the war was over.

When I place a flag at my parent’s grave this weekend, it will be in solemn remembrance of all who have defended my freedom from fear and want; my freedom of speech and religion, with a fresh new appreciation for my Daddy, the war hero.

 May we never forget.


My oldest brother, Jim Bell, served in the US Navy.


My brother, Steve Bell, also served in the US Navy. Fair winds and following seas, dear brother.


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Your Life is a Crock



Untitled design (1)My daughter has a big family by some standards. There are six children. Three of them are in diapers and are considered “special needs”. In addition there is a sassy five year old girl, a sensitive eight year old boy and an almost twelve year old boy who is introducing his parents to the joys of living with a tween.

They are a foster and adoptive family; they have opened their hearts and home and doubled their family in the past three years. As with any acquisition and development endeavor there have been hurdles and a few obstacles but they’ve managed this like they are the boss of it. And yet, they have repeatedly insisted that they are the boss of nothing (well, maybe that sassy five year old!).

Fostering fosters uncertainty. I’m an observer, albeit a much invested observer. I love every one of these children; I’m their grandma, after all. Even from my perspective, it is very difficult to know that our future with some of them is literally in the hands of case workers and ultimately a judge. We pray and wait for adoptions, holding our breath at times because nothing is certain. I can only imagine the reality of that to my daughter and son-in-law. However, they would be quick to tell you that they signed up for this.

When my husband and I get together with friends, everyone pulls out their cell phones to share pictures of their latest grandchild. Last weekend, I was excited to share a picture of two children who recently joined my daughter’s family, pushing the count to eight.

One of our friends asked a fair question. “Really?  Isn’t that a lot, maybe too many? How do they manage all of that?

I have to admit that when I got the text that they were adding to the headcount short term, I thought about how much work they were adding to their load. I considered logistics.  I wondered how these children would fit into the daily ebb and flow of life for this family.

Then I tried putting myself in the place of the two children. After living in one foster home for months, they were now moving to yet another strange place, with strange people. Uncertainty was thrust upon them. They, along with garbage bags stuffed with their belongings, were loaded up by a case worker and brought to their new home.

They must have had questions. Where will I sleep? Will they be kind? Are there other kids to play with? Will they understand that I need to sleep with a light on? What if they make me eat broccoli?

The best news is that these children will be reunited with mom soon. When?  The exact date is to be determined.  There are so many factors and dependencies; the only thing that is certain is today. But they are doing well, all things considered. Uncertainty has been their way of life for a while.

For now they will wake up every morning in a comfy bed and be fed and dressed in clean clothes. Whether they are put on a bus or driven to school, they know that they will return to a home that houses a loving family.  They will eat a home-cooked dinner and they will go to bed clean with prayers spoken over them. That is certain.

So, back to the question that begs to be answered: “How?”  I also marvel at how some people seem to have the capacity for so much. I asked the question. How is it that the same person who was once a fully extended new mom of one can now successfully mother eight children?

Her answer was so simple that I have continued to think about it weeks later.  “We always perceive that we are currently ‘at capacity’. The truth is that when we live with open arms, we not only receive more opportunities to serve; our capacity increases.”

There was a widow whose husband left her with a mountain of debt and two sons. She had no means; she lacked the capacity to repay the creditors who would soon seize her sons as slaves. Her only asset was a small bottle of olive oil.

This widow was a realist. She knew her limited capacity and certainly her circumstances. She cried out to the prophet Elisha and he gave her instructions to begin pouring oil into every container she could get her hands on. “Ask your neighbors and don’t ask for just a few.” (2 Kings 4:1-7)

Once she and her sons gathered the containers, she began to pour into each of the containers, one by one, from her small jar. Miraculously, the tiny crock of oil didn’t run dry until there were no more containers to pour into.

Limited Supply

My heart quickens as the Holy Spirit reveals to my heart what my ears have been hearing from the mouth of my petite but oh so wise daughter.  My life is a tiny crock of oil.

If I hoard it, I will never have any more than what that petite bottle will hold. It is when I open my arms, when I begin to find people to pour into, that I see the true capacity of my life. As it is poured into others, the capacity increases.

To be sure, there are some difficult choices to be made.  People who live with open arms have their arms full.  They have often had to let go of something in order to have the freedom to turn toward a call to serve and fully embrace it.

That tiny jar of oil had amazing, even miraculous supply. The resource was there all along, but it was only when she began to pour from it that she could truly know its capacity.

Where is God calling us to trust Him to reveal and release His capacity in our lives?





Don’t Tell Me to Put My Big Girl Panties On!



We stopped to chat after small group. She started with a few words of encouragement for me, but tears began to fall. She said, “I’m sorry; it’s just so hard: working and being a wife and a mom. It’s a lot.” In that moment, this beautiful young mom dropped the forced smile and the pretense of having it all together. It was a risk and even as she heard herself speaking the words she was immediately apologizing. I knew it was a sacred moment; she was allowing me a glimpse into her heart.

I don’t take such trust lightly. Honesty and vulnerability can be relational suicide in Christian circles. There is an expectation that because of our faith and confidence in God we will forever see and proclaim the silver lining in every cloud; that we will have a solid expectation for the blessings that are sure to come to us, his followers.

In some circles, you can clear a room with an honest confession.

Have you met Naomi? Her story is one of God’s grace and provision, but she faced some very hard years. In the midst of famine, she and her husband moved away from all that was familiar and dear to a land occupied by pagans. In fact, both sons married pagan women. As if that wasn’t enough, her husband died, leaving her a widow in a foreign land. Ten years later, both sons died.

Broken, old and without a provider, she decided to return to the land of her people, her tribe – back to Bethlehem. When she arrived with her daughter in law in tow she was barely recognized. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked.



Imagine this bitter and broken woman returning to your tribe. She was grumpy. The whole town was buzzing because of her arrival, but the welcoming committee must have taken a step back when she spewed:

“Don’t call me Naomi! Instead call me Mara (Bitter) for the Almighty has made my life bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty…the Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

Note the holy canon of Scripture does not record one person disputing her decree. They barely recognized the broken woman in front of them. They could not and would not refute her sad but honest proclamation. She was a different woman than the one who left all those years ago.

Have you ever opened your mouth with an honest report about your life and immediately regretted it?

I have. I’ve learned that there are people who prefer to avoid my raw and unfinished places. Perhaps they are finally in a good place themselves, or maybe they just “don’t need that kind of negativity” in their life. They cut and run, as if in danger of being infected when exposed to honest emotion.

The truth is hard to hear; when He has dealt a hard blow there is no way to make it pretty. Your spouse lost his job, or worse, you lost your spouse. Naomi didn’t hold back but no one dared challenge, or worse, correct her.

Naomi didn’t sugar coat her broken heart, but she also never stopped expecting God. When she realized that Ruth was gleaning from the field of a relative, she remembered her Provider.

Those women, the ones who stood slack-jawed at her name change announcement?  They were there as Naomi took her grandson in her lap and cared for him. Jehovah-Jireh truly had turned her mourning to joy. These friends, the ones who were silent but present when she declared her bitterness, now spoke.

“Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth!”

When she could not see past her bitter circumstances, her tribe allowed her the grace and space to speak honestly. Naomi never knew that the larger purpose of her suffering was preparation for the birth of David and ultimately Jesus.

Even so, God’s word paints a beautiful picture of God’s grace extended to woman bitter in spirit. Perhaps it’s time for us to do the same.

Words in italics are from the book of Ruth, Holy Bible, New International Version


Does your Tribe

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Momma Told Me Not to Lie


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I told a white lie. I was on a mission and no one would suffer harm. I claimed grace.

She had been admitted earlier in the day and it was after visiting hours. It was the only way to get past the guarded receptionist in the emergency room. So without any hesitation, I lied through my teeth. “I’m her daughter.”

Up the elevators we went, my hubby and I. Her actual daughter, my friend, was three thousand miles away and this was a reconnaissance operation. We were going to be her eyes and ears on the ground, in the zone. Her momma was in the hospital and I was gathering information in order to give my report.

Knowing that sweet Agnes suffered memory loss, we were a little apprehensive as we quietly approached her room. I was also a little anxious because, you know, I lied. Someone was bound to be on to my little charade, and I was sure that the truth would be exposed and someone would stop us at any moment and proclaim “You are NOT the daughter!”

Her eyelids fluttered open as we entered her quiet darkened room. Her beautiful white hair framed her face; her skin was like peaches and cream; she literally glowed with a joy I can’t explain –it was an innocence and sweetness that was childlike. She was lovely even with a hospital blanket tucked under her chin.

In the dim light she recognized us immediately. I’m sure it helped that my hubby “that one that smells good” smelled good as always. She was delighted to see us, and seemed a bit confused as to why she was in that place and not with her precious Tom.

We spoke briefly, assuring her that her beloved would return in the morning; I confessed my lie to her and we giggled. She honored me with the proclamation that she would happily claim me as one of her girls.

With her lovely southern charm, she thanked us for our visit and we were gone. It was August 4th, my daddy’s birthday.  It was a sweet coincidence; and it was the last time I got to love on her.

On August 13th the message I didn’t expect arrived with a jolt. “Mom passed away this morning.”

Suddenly, the August 4th mission, that quick pop-in at the hospital was promoted. Every sight and sound of that evening rushed back and I held them close. It was as if I turned each over in my hand like a gem, examining and memorizing the details. They were precious.

Certainly her story belongs first to her family; her husband, her daughters, her grandchildren and great grandchildren. I am only one of many who loved this beautiful woman. But these memories are mine.

The glorious truth is that almost every day we are handed golden tickets…opportunities to be cast in the stories of life unfolding all around. The casting call is open and we are invited to fill roles in the epic stories written by God himself.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?
And who will go for us? “And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8 NIV


In loving memory of Agnes

I love this picture, head back and laughing. It was taken at my 60th birthday party just before our dear Agnes went to meet Jesus. The handsome man is her dear husband.


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