Tuesday, November 11, 2014

In honor of Veteran's Day, I thought I would repost an amazing personal experience I had while visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.

The Wall

In 1999 my husband, James, and I traveled to Baltimore for a medical meeting.  While there, we visited Washington, D.C.  One thing I’ve always wanted to see was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial or “The Wall” as it is sometimes referred to.  I had no idea the effect that visit would have on my life and how God would use it.

The very first day we visited The Wall, it was overwhelming.  I didn’t realize how big it was or how many names were on it.  There were 58,169 names carved in that granite wall.  My mind just couldn’t take it all in.  There were letters and flowers and teddy bears propped up against it; expressions of love and gratitude everywhere.  People were taking pieces of paper and raking a pencil across the engravings;  a sketch of the names would appear on their paper; they call it “name rubbing”.  Everyone seemed to want a piece of it.  The whole thing was just an enormous emotional experience for me.
We went back to the hotel and I said to James, “I wish I had thought to tell my brother we were coming here.  I could’ve gotten a name from him and brought him back a “rubbing”.  But then I said, “That’s okay, I’ll just pray and ask God to give me a name.  Maybe He’ll want me to pray for someone who’s still missing in action or family members of someone who died.”  I somehow believed God would be faithful to do that for me.  As I began to pray about this, the name “Tom” kept coming to my mind.   “Tom.  Tom.”  Later I said to James, “I think his name is Tom.”  James said, “Who?”  I said, “The name God gave me, it’s Tom.”  “Hmm,” he mumbled, “Thomas.”  I said “No, it’s not Thomas, it’s Tom.”  Again James said, “Thomas.”  Well by now, I’m starting to get a little upset because this name had come to me from God and He was very specific; the name was Tom – NOT Thomas!  I said, “Tomorrow, when we go back, I’m gonna find Tom’s name and get a name rubbing of it.”  James said, “Now there are over 58,000 names on that wall, how many Tom’s do you think there are?”  I said, “I’m going to open one of those books and the “Tom” God wants me to have is just gonna jump off that page; you’ll see!”
So, the next day we went back to The Wall and I started on page one of the “big book".  They have these big books on site that includes every name that has been carved on the wall and exactly where on the wall each name can be found.  In a few minutes James comes over to me and his face was almost as white as a sheet.  He looks at me with tears in his eyes and he hands me a piece of paper.  Written on the paper was:
Tom Thomas     Rank – CPL     Service – AR     DOB 12/19/45     DOD 8/28/68
New Philadelphia, Ohio     Panel 46W     Line 54
I just began to sob.  I picked up my sketch pad and followed James as he began to look for Tom’s name on The Wall:  Panel 46W, Line 54.  I handed James the sketch pad.  As he began rubbing the pencil across the engraving, the name Tom M. Thomas appeared.  We both just stood there.  I didn’t know whether to shout for joy or fall to my knees!  It was a true “God moment”. 

About 3 ½  years later (6/3/03), an advertisement came on TV for a website that would allow you to communicate with the veteran’s loved ones.  I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to share what God had done with someone who knew and loved Tom.  I went into the website and left the following message:
“It was approximately 3 ½  years ago that I first visited The Wall; for some reason, Tom’s name has stayed with me – I have been praying for your family ever since.  I have a ‘name rubbing’ framed and hanging in my foyer for all to see – I ask others to pray for you, too.  I would love to have a photo of Tom to hang with his ‘name rubbing’.  Please contact me…”
Five months later (11/9/02), I received a response from a woman, named Marsha, who had been a friend to Tom’s mother.  Among other things, she wrote:

I didn’t know Tom very well because he went into the Army shortly after I met him, but I knew his mother and family for 30 years.  His mother passed away a couple of years ago…I can tell you that I was with his mother the morning the Army Chaplain visited to tell her of Tom’s death…Tom’s sister-in-law was pregnant at the time and on the day he was put to rest she had a boy and they named him Tommy Michael Thomas – he looks just like him.”
Imagine how blessed I was!  So I responded immediately with my own story.  Marsha then sent me a copy of Tom’s memorial and an article that had appeared in the local newspaper.  Tom had only been in the Army for 7 months before he was killed; he was 22 years old.  His mother received the Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and 5 other medals in his honor.
But that’s not the end of this story…
On March 8, 2004, two years later, I received an email from an address I didn’t recognize.  The subject line read:  “Tom Michael Thomas”.  For a moment, I think my heart stopped beating.  It had been 16 months since I had received my first email regarding Tom.  I opened it and read, “…I don’t have a photograph of Tom, but I was with him to the end.  I was his medic…”
In that moment, I was so crushed, so blessed, so humbled all at once.  I imagined that one moment in time – Gary (the medic) cradling Tom in his arms like a baby; Tom asking Gary to tell his mother how much he loved her.  It was too much, too much…
All of a sudden my heart went out to Gary.  What a nightmare war must be!  Gary was a medic; men were dying in his arms almost daily.  How helpless he must have felt.  Did he know Jesus?  Did he feel His presence?
As I began to respond to his email I struggled with whether I should make references to God or not.  If he’s not a believer, I might loose him and I wanted to get to know him better.  I wanted an opportunity to minister to him.  But then I thought, this might be my only opportunity – go for it!
And so I did…I told my story.  But while I had Gary on the line, so to speak, I took another opportunity…I wrote:
“Thank you, Gary Stolp, for all you did for me in Vietnam.  Thank you for your courage.  Thank you for your sacrifice.  God bless you!  P.S.  Tell me more about yourself."
Gary and I corresponded a couple of times that week.  I want to share just a little bit of our conversations with you.
Gary writes:  “…Tom was an infantryman.  He was a good guy; always willing to share his rations.  He died defending his brothers in B Company out in the middle of nowhere on a hill overlooking a valley…”
My response:  “As I read your words, ‘He died…out in the middle of nowhere…’ a great sadness came over me.  Then I realized, he may have been ‘in the middle of nowhere’ but he wasn’t alone.  You were there, ‘…with him to the end’.  Thank you for being there for Tom, Gary.  Thank you for being there for all those men.  When they were hurting, when they were frightened, you were there.  What a comfort that must have been to them all.

One month later, April 28, 2004, William Thomas (Tom's brother) sent me a letter with 2 photos of Tom.  In the letter, William was grateful that Tom’s memory lives on; he worries that Tom will be forgotten. 
I imagine that is the fear of everyone who has lost someone to war.  The sad truth is, we do forget. 
At church yesterday, all those who have ever served our country were asked to stand before the congregation.  As the 8 men from 3 generations stood humbly before us, we were asked to go forward and personally thank them for their service and sacrifice.  There were hugs.  There were tears.
In the name of the freedoms we enjoy – and take for granted – I ask you to do the same.  Thank a veteran.  Thank an active duty soldier.  Thank a police officer, a firefighter, a member of the Coast Guard, etc. - anyone who has served and sacrificed for you to live and worship freely; anyone who is charged with keeping our homes and our children safe.  It will cost you nothing but it will mean everything to them.
The medic who was with Tom Thomas when he died sent me something he wrote for a reunion of the boys of B Company in May of 1999.  I sent him an email last night asking him for permission to share it with you.  His reply:  “I hope it communicates some of the feelings medics have.”

Ode to a Fallen Grunt
by Gary (Doc) Stolp

The grief I feel for you my friends, I never can fully let go.
You were there one day: and then you were gone, and no one can really explain the why of it.
I loved you as a brother and more – oh so much more.
You shared my loads; and I gave you the affection I could.
But you,  you gave your all for me and for the other brothers there and here;
And for others who will never know nor really appreciate the kind of brother willing to risk all –
To ultimately give all.
I feel so empty.
The times, the places, the faces, and names are all being eroded by the sands of time.
I wish I were more so I could honor you more.
You all deserve so much more than I can ever give you. 
If only I could remember better the kindnesses you gave.
The times you switched rations, ‘cause you knew I couldn’t eat ham and lima beans.
The times you carried part of my load ‘cause you saw I was ready to fall.
The time you told me:  “Doc, you remind me of my Mom; she’s the only one that cared for me like you do.”
You warmed my heart, when it was cold.
You made me feel like I was an intimate part of your family, if only for a little while.
I withheld part of me while I knew you.
I was so afraid that I could not do my job if I became too close.
And by being more distant, I now have this big hole in my heart for you
Because I don’t know how to tell you what the time we spent together means to me.
I can only tell you that I would never trade it for the safety of staying home.
My Brothers, Fallen Brothers,
I carry a little bit of you with me every day.
How can I ever let you go?
You would never let me go.
You watched my every step along the way.
"Follow me! "
"Don’t step there Doc, it’s booby trapped!"
"Walk in my steps, it’s safe there."
You were so courageous my Brothers.
And I was always afraid that you would find out the fears I carried around inside.
Fear that I could not do the things that needed to be done.
Fear that I would let you down.
Fear that I would lose you,
More afraid of really living than dying.
There’s a wall,
A wall with your name on it.
If only I could remember all those things I should, I could meet you there.
But there’s another wall,
And behind that wall all brothers meet together
In another time and another place.
And in that time and place,
We shall get to know one another again.
There’s a Father over all brothers.
His memory does not fade with the changes of time
And He will heal all sorrows and wipe away all tears.
I love you, Brothers, like a brother
And I miss you.

Tom Thomas

I will remember. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Isaiah 43 - God is doing a NEW THING!  

So much in this world seems to be wrong; I suppose I could begin a list, but that would take all day and the weight of it would blind me to the NEW THING God has already begun in my own life, in my church, in my city, in my state, in my country, and in the world. 

Instead of thinking on those things let's CHOOSE to look FORWARD, to run the race with CONFIDENCE, to be BOLD, to step out in FAITH, to dare to HOPE, to claim VICTORY!

"I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
20 The wild animals in the fields will thank me,
    the jackals and owls, too, for giving them water in the desert.
Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland
    so my chosen people can be refreshed.
21 I have made Israel for myself,
    and they will someday honor me before the whole world."

In 2013, let us walk as sons and daughters of The King of kings.  Let us CHOOSE FREEDOM over bondage, JOY over hopelessness, LOVE over hatred, FAITH over fear.  

Let VICTORY be our heart's cry in 2013!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The king's heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD;
He guides it wherever He pleases.
 Proverbs 21:1      

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Death of a Vision

We all have some idea or "vision" of what our life is to be like, what career path we're going to take, where we want our kids to grow up...  Many of you have followed that vision to the letter and are exactly where you planned to be at this point and time.  Some of you, however may not be anywhere near where you thought you'd be, yet here you are; we call this

"the death of a vision".  

The death of a vision can leave us with an incredible sense of loss.  Bill Gotthard said, "Sometimes God leaves our vision dead and never revives it; this tells us it was not His will but of our own making.  Sometimes He renews and fulfills our exact vision and sometimes He brings to life something similar, but different."

In John 12:24 Jesus says, "...unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But, if it dies, it produces many seeds."

God has a special purpose for all of us and He equips us for that purpose.  We all have desires, ambitions, and special talents.  When we are able to visualize, by faith, what God would have us do with these ambitions or talents, we see

"the birth of a vision".

Look at the birth of the vision in John 12:24, as it pertains specifically to the grain of wheat.  We see that a grain of wheat has a "vision" of reproducing itself and many more grains of wheat.  The death of the vision comes when the grain falls to the ground and dies.  At that point, it seems impossible that the vision of producing more grains of wheat can ever be fulfilled.  

We can very easily become discouraged when our vision dies; when we see no possibility for coming back, of having our marriages restored, our careers resurrected, etc.  We have to remember that if the vision is God's to begin with, He will be faithful to complete it.  We just have to wait on Him and trust Him.  We have to walk by faith and not by sight.

The loss of anyone or anything that matters to us can trigger the grief process; the closer the relationship or the more we've invested (of ourselves, our time, our money, our hopes, our dreams), the deeper the loss.

Five Stages of Grief

1 - Denial - "this can't be happening"; "there's got to be some other explanation"
2 - Anger - wanting to fight back, place blame, get angry at someone, even yourself for allowing "it" to happen, even God; bitterness.
3 - Bargaining - attempting to make deals with God to stop or change what's happening.
4 - Depression - an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, frustration, unforgiveness, mourning.
5 - Acceptance - finding the good that can come out of loss; finding comfort and healing; finding forgiveness and peace.

"The eyes of the LORD watch over those who do right; His ears are open to their cries for help...The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those who are crushed in spirit."  Ps. 34:15 & 18

God sees what you're going through right now.  God hears your cries for help.

Psalm 84:6 says that there are "refreshing springs and pools of blessing when we walk through the Valley of the Weeping".

How precious is that?!  My commentary on these verses says, "Growing strong in God's presence is often preceded by a journey through barren places in our lives...The person who loves to spend time with God will see his/her adversity as an opportunity to re-experience God's faithfulness."

It's hard to say how long we might experience any one stage of grief, but the fulfillment of the God-given vision is a promise; He will complete what He began.  The fulfillment of the vision is not dependant on where we are in the grief process.  We may not, however clearly be able to see God's hand until we've completed the acceptance stage.  After all, hindsight is 20/20.

"The fulfillment of the vision"

 in John 12:24 is seen as the harvest springs up out of the very process of what appeared to be the death of the grain that fell to the ground.  In Isaiah, God says (and I love this), "...I am about to do a brand new thing.  See, I have already begun!  Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness for my people to come home.  I will create rivers for them in the desert!"  (43:19)

God is doing a "new thing"!  He's "already begun!"  God says He's making "a pathway through (what feels very much like) the wilderness" and He's "creating rivers" for us in this dry and weary land.  The word "create" here is the same word used in Genesis 1:1 - bara - it means "out of nothing".  God's not fixing your old vision, He's creating a brand new vision - He's already begun!

But wait...there's more good news...

Not only is God creating a new vision for you by way of a new job, new love for your spouse, new appreciation for life, etc...

God is doing a "brand new thing" inside of you also - in your heart and in your mind!

Charles Stanley said, "What the mind thinks governs everything."  Look back at The Five Stages of Grief...Your loss drug you through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression all of which separate us from God.  Those thoughts/feelings originate in the mind and find it's way to our hearts where bitterness and unforgiveness can easily take root.

Step into the "refreshing springs, and pools of blessing", my friend.

 God's "new thing" has begun!

Monday, May 28, 2012


One more school year under our belt. Next week, Moi will begin his sophomore year.  Where has the time gone? I was looking through some old pictures this morning; I sure miss those baby/toddler years. Fat little cheeks, no wrists or ankles...precious! Now he's as tall as I am; a most handsome young man. While I miss those early years, I am most proud of the man he is becoming. 

Life goes by too quickly. Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and months into...decades. My granddaughter is graduating from kindergarten, my oldest grandson is going to be in the 6th grade, and my baby boy will be 3. 

On my dresser is a photo of myself and my great-grandmother; I must have been about 4 years old at the time. Four...that was 55 years ago, but it seems like just yesterday. 

So, where does the time go? 

It rests in photographs, letters, and in our memories. It lines the walls in beautiful frames, and fills the pages of family albums. Time can be found in boxes filled with 8mm reels, VCR tapes, and DVDs; cards, letters, and journals kept in dresser drawers, desks, or shoe boxes in the closet. It's found in the lines on the faces of those we love, in the old boots that sit next to the fireplace, the worn rocker/recliner, or the handkerchief in my dresser. 

In short, time never really goes anywhere. It sticks around reminding us of where we came from and the road we've traveled.

While antique shopping with Moi this weekend, I saw many photographs of men, women, and children that looked to have been taken in the early 1900's. Looking at them, I realized that even when we are gone and forgotten by those we have loved, time never forgets. 

Time - amazing.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I am going to do something I don't do too often, I am going to share with you how I really feel today...

I have had a rough 4 weeks.  I have found myself busier than I like to be and I am exhausted - physically, emotionally, and therefore spiritually exhausted.  

How does that happen?  I didn't wake up 4 weeks ago and say, "Let me see how much I can cram into the next 4 weeks.  Let me work myself into such a state of exhaustion that I can't think about anything else but how tired I am."  I didn't say any of those things, but clearly I didn't pace myself or take time for myself and my family somewhere in the midst of all that could not be avoided either.

Admittedly, I am all about the task; a task driven individual who actually works better under pressure.  I often wait till 5 days before my deadline to kick it in gear and, oddly enough, I seem to derive some kind of satisfaction in the midst of the exhaustion I complain about.  How warped is that?!?

Surely you can relate.

I know that I am not unique.  I have talked to countless women over the years who do not pace themselves, do not take care of themselves, and always put others first.  I am curious to know if men are the same.  I know my husband works hard at his job and when he comes home, he changes clothes and heads for the barn.  He does say, however, that working outside is his "therapy".  That doesn't make sense to me since he works so hard outside that he has been on the verge of heat exhaustion too many times.  

Rarely do I go for a mani/pedi, I even hate to stop long enough for a haircut; I spend the entire time thinking about all the things I should be doing.  I have several hobbies, but I don't make time for them.  Did I mention I don't have a job outside the home.  I am a stay-at-home mom!  What would my life be like if I did work outside the home!  OMGoodness...can't go there.

The big question is, do I need to be this busy?  The answer is a resounding NO !  That's the really sad part.  

So, how busy is too busy?  

For me, "too busy" is when I miss a doctor's appointment because I haven't looked at the calendar for the past 2 weeks.   "Too busy" is when Moi doesn't have any clean jeans and my husband has to go to Walmart to buy new underwear and socks because his are buried under 6 loads of dirty laundry.  "Too busy" is when the bill collectors begin calling because the unopened mail is somewhere on the desk I keep dumping stuff on to get it out of my way.  "Too busy" is realizing I only put mascara on one eye and can't remember if I used deodorant.  "Too busy" is forgetting to take my medicine or brush my teeth because I was distracted and wasn't able to follow my usual routine.  "Too busy" is smiling and saying everything's fine when what I really want to do is sleep for the next 24 hours, soak in a hot tub, and have a good cry.

I am blessed to have a wonderful husband who doesn't mind tripping over laundry, eating out, or supplementing his needs from Walmart.  He has always encouraged me to take more time for myself.  Maybe I should listen to him.  Things are slowing down.  Yesterday I was able to (and gave myself permission to) sleep in; thank You, Lord!  I spent some time with "the babies" (my youngest grandchildren) and cooked a beautiful meal for my entire family and a precious friend; it was a wonderful day!  Today the housekeeper is here doing all the things I have not been able to (bless her, Lord, she's so good to me). So today I am just going to relax - at least until it's time to fix dinner.  

This week I was reminded of what I already know full well, our days are numbered; we are not promised tomorrow.  There is no better time for me to start slowing down than now.  Maybe I'll start a new sewing project or go antiquing.  

What about you?