Sunday, November 24, 2013

Water Under the Bridge

The other day was designated a "Mama and Amelia Day."

We don't get many of these days often during the school year, and I wanted it to be special and filled with fall fun.

It was a perfect, perfect day.

We went to Burt's Pumpkin Farm and hit it at a really good time.  The crowds were low and the pumpkin rolls were delicious.

Amelia and I got to ride the hay ride all by ourselves.  She sat in my lap, talked my ear off about pumpkins, and enjoyed the view.

I knew Amicalola Falls was just down the road, so I thought we would try it out.   I asked Amelia if she wanted to see "the waterfall," and she assured me that she did, and that she could handle all of the steps.  I haven't been to Amicalola in years, so I wasn't sure about the hike, but I thought if it got too rigorous, we could turn around and walk back down.

The park was beautiful, and the weather was perfect - crisp but not too cold, with a warm sun beating down on us in a promising manner.

When we got to the first little fall, Amelia shrieked in excitement.  "WATERFALL, MAMA!  WATERFALL!"

After she said that, I knew we made the right decision.

"You haven't seen anything yet!" I promised.

Once I explained to her that there were many more steps to take to get to the really big waterfall, Amelia determined to reach it.  She climbed those stairs like a pro, gingerly taking each step with excitement.  There were several elderly couples around us, and they all marveled at her energy and intensity.

And then - we finally saw it.  Beauty.

How can anyone see such things and doubt the presence of God?

We climbed to the little bridge that stretched across the fall and I stared for a second.

"Isn't it amazing, Amelia?" I asked pointing heavenward.


"Look, MAMA!  Water is under here! Look at that water!  Look!  Look!"

As much as I tried to convince Amelia that the real beauty was right before her, I couldn't take her head out that grate.  People walked by her and giggled and pointed at the sight.

It was borderline embarassing.

We were at this beautiful waterfall, and my child looked down?

She was more enamored with the water below the bridge than she was with the water above her.

And I snapped a picture, shook my head, and then felt in my spirit that God had something to teach me - that He would find the words to summarize this event in my head.

Sometimes words come to me in jumbles - in puzzle pieces - and I have to knit them together, but I knew there was something  in that moment that I needed to take with me.

When I prayed for this girl, I prayed for wisdom.  Leadership.  That God would use her in mighty ways.  And when He made her, He made her to see things that not everyone sees.

When the rest of the world looks up, she looks down, to see the beauty - the miracle - below her.

We all have bridges in our lives - things we've had to inevitably cross.  We all want to see the waterfalls, but sometimes, we forget that there is beauty in victory - in standing over bridges to watch the waters of despair finally, finally leave us.  Redemption's bridge is just as beautiful as waterfalls of righteousness.

I'll never forget that moment - when my daughter looked down when others looked up - as a reminder to take in the whole scene.

There is splendor in the extraordinary, sure, but sometimes there is something worthy to be found in observing the little things - the dirty things - the things that seem unlovable.

 May I never forget to be thankful for the girl that looks down.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

They Are Leaving Us

This year on the EHMS Veterans Day Panel, we had three men who were World War II Veterans (I've done a little research on this word and been told that the word "Veteran" is supposed to be capitalized, so there you have it).

These three men were precious, feisty, and full of stories.  Some were of war, some were of a soldier's day-to-day life, and some were of heartbreaking loss.

One of the younger Veterans turned toward the WWII Veteran from the Navy and asked sincerely, "Sir, how old are you?"

"I'm ninety-one!" He piped up happily.


I think I was just as shocked as the students.  Am I this old?  Are they this old? 

Many, many of our WWII Vets are in their nineties. 

Some of the students probably found that these older gentlemen told tales of war a little too boring for their ears.  Some students probably were thinking about their next Tweet or Instagram post.  But for many - they understood. I could see it in their eyes. They knew they were hearing stories they may never hear again.

I went home, exhausted from the events of the panel, to find that Jeremy found me an article about the Doolittle Raids.  Every year, the Veterans from this battle have a meeting to remember what took place.  Only four out of the original eighty soldiers are left, and one was too sick to attend this year.  It was decided that this year would be the last reunion.  I cried looking at that sad little picture of the three Veterans celebrating the very last reunion of the Doolittle Raids.

Folks, they are leaving us.  These veterans - these members of the Greatest Generation (and even those who are younger)- are falling away, one by one.

And with them go their stories.  Their tales of heroism.  Their tales of sacrifice.  Their tales of sadness.  Their tales of having nothing - and making that nothing into something extraordinary.

This year, the panel felt sad without the addition of one beloved Mr. McElreath - the Vietnam Veteran who went through such a tragic experience in war.  He was too sick to attend this year, and his health is declining.  I'm so thankful that he got to speak to those groups of kids last year - it gave his story new vigor.  It gave his story a chance to live.

So, on the eve of this Veterans Day, I ask that we do more than thank those Veterans around us.  If you know a Veteran, do more than say "thank you."  Ask them if they are willing to share their story.  Each story is precious, personal, and a gift of living history.  You never know when that story may fade.
"They know you appreciate them. They need you to learn about them. Tell them that you will." - Jarrod Chlapowski