She’s in the Army Now

I said goodbye to my baby girl last night.  Albany’s in the Army now.

As I think back over the last 20-1/2 years, I can’t help but smile.  What a trip!  Not all roses, but not all thorns either.  We had our ups and our downs, our hugs and our spats, our laughs and our tears.  Sweetness was followed by rebellion, which was always followed by sweetness again.  The thing I’ve always loved about Albany — even admired about her — is her uniqueness.  She doesn’t just march to a different drummer; she’s got her own band and writes her own music!  She’s adopted my mother’s viewpoint: “I am who I am and if you don’t like it, then that’s your problem not mine.”  Her uniqueness has been costly — in friends, in rejections, in hurt feelings, in self-esteem — but rather than break her, it seems to have made her stronger.  She’s in the Army now.

I remember the day I found out I was pregnant with Albany.  As I lay in bed that night, I put my hands on my belly, looked up to heaven, and silently prayed, “Lord, please let this baby be a girl.  I’m not sure I can handle a girl, but I’d love to try.”  My husband and 2 sons wanted a little girl so badly that I used to say I wanted another boy, just to temper their desires and to avoid disappointment if it were another boy.  But, oh, how I wanted a daughter.  And what a daughter I got!  I wanted to buy her Barbie dolls; she preferred Ninja turtles.  I enrolled her in ballet class with her friends; she preferred hunting with her brothers.  I spent a lot of money on pretty little dresses, bonnets, and bows; she tore them off as soon as possible and put on jeans and a ball cap.  I dreamed womanly dreams for her; she dreamed of being a mechanic.  She’s in the Army now.

Many questioned Albany’s decision to enter the military.  Many tried their best to talk her out of going.  Many have been surprised by her resolve.  Not me.  Since the first day she talked to me about it, I’ve known deep in my heart that this day would come.  “I need to find out who I am and to find some confidence in myself,” she explained.  “I want something hard, something that will test and prove me.  And I need something that I cannot quit; I’ve quit everything I’ve ever started.”  Albany tried college but hated it.  She preferred work — hard work.  I’ve never known anyone quite like her, anyone who has such a love for hard labor and a disdain for the cushy jobs.  She’s in the Army now.

On March 24, Albany raised her right hand and took her oath: “I, Albany Ann Lewis, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies…”  As I watched Albany turn from a citizen into a soldier, I saw my “little blonde bomber” turn into a beautiful woman. I battled a lump in my throat and silently prayed for strength to let her go without tears — she can handle a lot of things but not tears!  One last hug, and she was gone.  After rain delays, bus delays, and over 36 hours of waiting, Albany finally reached Fort Leonard Wood (Missouri) last night about 11:00 p.m.  She made one quick call before getting off the bus, knowing she’d have to give up her cell phone in just a matter of minutes.  In a low, hushed voice she said, “Just calling to let you know I’m fine.  We’re here. I’ll call you later. I love you.”  Click.  She’s in the Army now.

Writing this has been difficult; I can barely see the screen.  As tears roll down my cheeks, memories are flooding my mind. Sweet memories — good, bad, and hilarious.  But the sweetest of all is the memory of an answered prayer uttered in the darkness of night over 20 years ago.  And I know He’s hearing my prayer today for that same daughter.  He has calmed my heart, whispering to me in that Albany - 2 years oldstill, small voice: Albany may be in the Army now but she belongs to Me forever.  Trust Me.  And I do.  God trusted me to watch after her for 20-1/2 years.  It’s His watch now and I can trust Him. 

She’s in the Army now — but she’ll always be my little blonde bomber!

Even Men!

YOU-nique: Embracing God’s Design for You kicked off at our church this fall with a women’s retreat.  We took a “30,000 foot view” of the book’s topics; then we split up into small accountability groups for the 6-week study.  I made a promise to visit each class on their first night and commend the participants for taking the journey into YOU-niqueness.  I wasn’t prepared for what I saw as I entered the Wednesday evening 5:30 group.  There among all the women sat one, solitary, lonely man!  I was so surprised that I stutter-stepped as I entered the room.

“Clifford?  Did you not realize there would be only women here?  Do we need to find you some brave men to form your own group?”

“No, I didn’t realize it was only for women.  But I promised my wife that I’d go through this study with her and I’m going to keep my word.”  And so he did.  But that wasn’t the end…

We culminated our adventure wth a YOU-nique Celebration Tea in which all the groups joined together to worship God and to share what we had learned about our individual, unique designs.**  And, you guessed it — in walked Cliff!  His wife Rose walked in, rolled her eyes, and said, “I tried to talk him into not coming, but –” 

“I told her ‘No!'” Cliff interrupted.  “I always finish what I start.  Besides, I’ve never had hot tea before; thought I’d give it a try.”  With a sly grin, he sat down at a back table.  And may I tell you he enjoyed every minute of it!  But that wasn’t the end…

The next day was Sunday.  Cliff and I are in the same Sunday School class.  As the class was fellowshipping around coffee and snacks, Cliff called from across the room, “Donna, these guys want me to give up my man-card!”

“Clifford,” I answered, “you needn’t worry about those boys.  You are the only real man here!”  He turned and gave the guys an I-told-you-so grin.  But still that wasn’t the end…

Cliff felt that other men would benefit from learning about their God-given design.  So this past winter, he led a group of men through YOU-nique — or “MAN-ique,” as they preferred to call it!  In lieu of a celebration tea, they culminated their study with a B-Y-O-Steak Celebration! 

KnightYOU-nique is a non-gender specific study.  It’s for men and women, ages 16 and up.  Men, however, are not groupers or retreaters like women are, so it took one special man — a man-ique man! — to take the challenge.  Cliff went where no man has ever gone before and now there are 7 real men in Sunday School! 

So how about it, all you male readers? Are you a real man, not afraid to look into God’s mirror and discover your God-given design?  Come on, I dare you: Join the few, the proud, the MAN-nique!

PS:  Here’s a few of the men’s comments:

  • “From a man’s point of view, it’s good that men can open up with each other, find out how we are made and where we can grow with a true purpose because of our God-given makeup.”
  • “I’m very glad to learn that I do not have to stand on a street corner and preach!  I have a different set of gifts! I really got a lot out of men actually sharing their hearts, fears, and failures and supporting each other.”
  • “This program helped me understand my spiritual gift.  I struggled for many years with this.” I came to the realization that God never stops using me. I just have to have the faith to realize he will give me the words and actions needed to [serve] according to His will.”
  • “This is an awesome Bible study — a fresh new perspective on why we are who we are. I learned a lot about myself and how God wants to use me.”


**A separate YOU-nique Companion Guide (for Women) is available with all the directions and teaching notes needed to host a retreat and a celebration event.

Deal with it or let it go!

Months ago I saw an old schoolmate in a local restaurant. Beth Green** was a grade ahead of me in our small little high school, where everybody knew everybody — and everybody’s business!  Seeing her again after all these years brought back an unpleasant memory.

I remember being in the 7th grade and you know how 7th and 8th grade girls can be: drama queens, every one of them!  Just after school was out one afternoon, I was walking around the corner of the building, heading to a water fountain outside the school office, when I heard two girls giving Beth “down in the country,” as my mom would say.   

“She said…Then I said…”

“Yeah, but she’s just…”

And so on it went.

As I finished drinking the water and straightened up, the talking stopped and both girls looked at me.  In an pitiful attempt to be funny, I said, “What is this? The I-hate-Beth-Green Club?”  They both cracked up laughing and said, “Yeah!  Wan’na join?”  I just laughed, shook my head, and walked off, in a hurry to catch my bus.

The next afternoon when we got home, my brother let me have it.  He was in Beth’s class and she had told him that I had formed the I-hate-Beth-Green Club.  “I can’t believe you’d do such a thing, Donna.  You know better!  Beth may not like you too much but this is certainly no way to treat her — and it’s surely no way to get her to like you!”

I couldn’t believe my ears!  Apparently one (or both) of the two girls who were actually gossiping about her told her that I was the culprit!  I didn’t recall anyone else being within earshot. I told my brother how the whole thing really went down.   “I’ll straighten it out with Beth tomorrow,” I sighed.

“Wait a minute,” my brother said.  “If you tell her that the other two were actually the ones talking about her, then they’ll just deny it.  And who do you think Beth will believe?  She already doesn’t like you too much.  And if you do tell her, then instead of just 1 person, you’ll have 3 people mad at you.  My advice is to just let it go; it’ll blow over after a while.”

I took my brother’s advice and said nothing.  Beth and I were never bossom buddies, but we did get along a lot better as we grew older.  We never talked about the incident, but I never forgot it; and it hurt to think that she didn’t know the truth. 

That was over 35 years ago.  Seeing Beth again brought it all back to me, including the pain of being unjustly maligned and never being able to set the record straight.

A few weeks ago, I saw Beth again in Wal-Mart.  We talked and talked while waiting in a long, slow cashier’s line.  She was so kind and jovial; she even invited me to join her and some of our other schoolmates who occassionally get together.  All of a sudden, the reins on my tongue that I had held tightly for so long were loosed. 

“Beth, I’ve always wanted to right something that happened way back in school.  I got blamed for starting the I-hate-Beth-Green Club but it wasn’t me…blah, blah, blah.”  (Just so you know I’m not all bad, I never revealed the names of the 2 other girls.)

“There was an I-hate-Beth-Green Club?” she asked.  “Hmmm, I didn’t know that.  You learn something new every day.”  She looked hurt and wasn’t quite as pleasant as she was before my mouth spewed forth like a pent-up geyser.

I felt sick as I walked to my car. I couldn’t believe I did that.  More amazingly, I couldn’t believe she didn’t remember.  I mean, this unjust event tore at my gut for over 35 years — and she didn’t even remember it!  Then it hit me why I felt the need to blurt out my vindication: pride and anger. 

My pride (which was quite large) had been injured.  And although I had held my tongue all these years, I had harbored anger against the two other girls.  Instead of swallowing my pride and holding my tongue like I did back when I was young, I let my anger spill out as I attempted to restore my so-called dignity.  The result?  I re-hurt her and put a stumbling block in the way of our renewed friendship. 

So what have I learned? Either deal with an issue while it’s fresh and then deal with the consequences that follow; or, swallow your pride, extinuish any anger, and let things heal (or, in my case, let it remain healed).

Where was that brother when I needed him this time?  Oh, wait.  I’m supposed to be a big girl now.

A fool gives full vent to his anger,

but a wise man keeps himself under control.

Proverbs 29:11

**Not her real name.

Can you imagine what God hears?


The Bible tells us that God heard…

…Abel’s blood crying out from the ground (Genesis 4:10); 

…Hagar’s cries of misery (Genesis 16:11); 

…young Ishmael’s cries for water (Genesis 21:17);

…Leah’s cry for love (Genesis 29:33);

…Rachel’s cry for a child (Genesis 30:6);

…Israel’s groaning and their cries of suffering (Exodus 2:26, 3:7);

…Israel’s complaints of hardship (Numbers 11:1);

…Miriam and Aaron’s gossip against Moses (12:2);

…Elijah’s cry for a young boy’s life (1 Kings 17:22);

…the blasphemies uttered by the enemies of His people (2 Kings 19:4);

…Hezekiah’s prayer for healing (2 Kings 20:5);

…Josiah’s humble intercession for mercy upon Israel (2 Kings 22:18-19);

…Solomon’s request for national forgiveness (2 Chronicles 7:12);

…David’s weeping and his cry for mercy (Psalm 6:8-9);

…the afflicteds’ desires and their cries for help (Psalm 10:17, 22:24);

…the poor’s call for help in times of trouble (Psalm 34:6);

…David’s vows of devotion to God (Psalm 61:5);

…the enemy’s insults and plots and our pleas for relief (Lamentations 3:56, 61).


And God acted upon what He heard!


Having read this partial list of what God hears, how will you respond?  Will you cry out to him with the deepest desires of your heart?  Will you call out to Him for help in times of trouble? Will you intercede for those who are helpless or who are in rebellion?  Will you seek repentance for your secret sins, which really are no secret to Him?  Will you close the doors on gossip and divisive talk?  Will you lay your needs before Him and trust Him to be your Provider?  Will you boldly ask him for healing? Will you intercede for your nation? Will you believe that He hears the words and plans of your enemy and that He will take care of them for you?

Knowing that God hears everything and that He acts upon what He hears, will the cries of your heart and the words of your mouth change at all?