Memorial Day: Flag Stories

By Edie Melson

This time of year it seems everywhere we turn the world is decorated with red, white, and blue. There are colorful banners, balloons, streamers, and of course the flags. Seeing this outpouring of patriotism brings special joy to those with a loved one serving in our military.

I should know, our oldest son went straight from high school graduation to Marine Corps boot camp to Iraq, where he served two tours as a frontline infantry Marine.

I’d always considered myself patriotic. I love our country and have always supported our military—at least from a distance. Yet it wasn’t until after our son enlisted that I discovered the deep meaning of patriotism and the true price our freedom carried. Even now, I can’t get through the Star Spangled Banner without tears. But it’s the flags that cause a stirring in my soul.

Now, every flag I see tells a story.

Some of them are easy to see as they wave over businesses and in front of massive buildings. They measure yards across and are visible miles away. I love to watch them billow and snap in the wind, colors popping in the sunlight. Their size brings to mind the thousands who have put their lives on hold and spent time serving in our country’s military.

In contrast, I also see smaller flags in residential areas and in the rural areas I drive through. I remember one particular flag, flying proudly from a rusty mailbox. The edges were frayed and the colors had paled in the hot sun of many summers. It whispered the story of our veterans who had paid a hard price for their service. They may no longer be whole, but they still stand proudly for the country they served.

During this time of year, it’s not uncommon to see multiple flags, lined up with mathematical precision. Every line straight no matter what angle I view them from. The symmetry of these banners remind me of those now serving in our military. In my minds eye I can see them standing tall, exhibiting excellence and pride in their service around the globe.

At times, the flags I pass hang limp, with no wind to give them life. They hug the poles that support them and bring tears to my eyes as I remember those who have paid the ultimate price. The sight of those flags always reminds me to pray for the families they’ve left behind.

One day, as I stood high up in an office building overlooking Saint Louis, I caught a glimpse of the familiar red, white, and blue reflected in the mirrored building across from me. I realized there was a parade, far down on the street below. I couldn’t see the street from my vantage point, but the huge flag being carried was a shattered reflection in the squares of mirrored glass of a nearby building. That flag’s reflection reminded me that whatever happens our flag still flies—shining bright as a beacon of hope around the world.


While My Soldier Serves

Thousands of families send loved ones off to fight on a daily basis. These families spend a lot of time living in a world out of control. This kind of stress can take an incredible toll, but there is hope. When we feel helpless, we can take our fears to the One who loves us more than anything and holds the universe in His hands.

In this book you’ll find the words to usher you into His presence. These prayers are a place to visit again and again as you take your own fears to God. They’re just a starting point, written to help you find your own voice as you call out on behalf of the one you love.

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Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, no matter if she’s addressing parents, military families, readers of fiction or other writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world.

Her passion to help those who are struggling find the strength they need to triumph is reflected in the characters she creates and the insight she shares. Connect with her on her website, through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Find her books on Amazon.com.

 

God Inspires Kindness in Impossible Situations

 By Lynn U. Watson

With a grateful smile, she tossed imaginary bouquets to Jesus. The scenario: I asked her permission to share this story. She reminded me that I wasn’t supposed to know that it was her.  I reminded her right back how I anonymously thanked her on that Sunday a few years back.

Recalling the sweet moment, she lifted her hands and offered Jesus ALL the glory. Another friend snapped this photo; and no, neither of us recall a memo to wear lime green.

It all began when he delivered the news with an I-told-you-so attitude, and it smacked like the blow of a high-powered sledge hammer. I completed training from one of the most highly acclaimed reflexology schools in the country at the time. Our state denied my application for board certification. Crucial for me to supplement our family income, I  invested a year of life in this. One more time the voices in my head hollered loud and clear – you’re not good enough – you’ll never be able to do that. Were those voices right?

Redeeming the situation meant attending another school in my state, and paying their full tuition. That $1800 (AGAIN!) loomed more like $18,000,000. After draining a measly savings left from a small inheritance I still needed several hundred dollars to make this happen.

Craft sales and dollars scraped from every pot available secured my way the first time. Overwhelmed by the thought of a redo and unable to wiggle one more penny from our tight family budget, the chains of hopelessness and helplessness strangled me. A few friends aware of my plight contributed generously, but the fund remained impossibly short. How awesome God loves impossible situations!

Meant to be anonymous, the envelope arrived with only the church’s return address. It contained a gift card that filled the gap for the rest. With immediate realization of who sent it, I thanked God for her generous spirit. I didn’t know her well at the time, but she’s one of those people who makes you feel comfortable bearing your heart and burdens right from the start, confident she’ll never tell another soul.

Nearly ten years gone by now, I’m so thankful for the friendship we share. Getting to know the heart of this beautiful lady revealed how she stands in the gap for so many. Continuously making herself aware of the needs around her and madly in love with Jesus, acts of kindness flow freely from Miss Bonnie’s life. To her it simply represented a monetary gift she gladly offered in Jesus Name, but He orchestrated the act of kindness that allowed me to break free from those chains and began to bring restoration to my weary soul.

Of special note,  my devotional, The Essence of Courage, features fictional characters whose life stories are based on the lives of real women. A little piece of Miss Bonnie’s story became a part of who Cinnamah-Brosia’s “Gram” is in the book.


Pulled reluctantly into women’s ministry nearly four decades ago, Lynn Watson now treasures the opportunities that were provided to lead, encourage and mentor women through relationships and Bible studies. She wrote a few of the studies, too.

Drawing from those experiences, along with years serving others professionally in the complementary healthcare field and her love for essential oils, Lynn delights in bringing her readers freshly inspired insights drawn from and focused on the many fruits, plants, oils, and spices mentioned in God’s Word. Married since 1973, Lynn and Steve call Bartlett, Tennessee home. Their home is filled with handmade treasures and lots of love for family, especially their five beautiful (of course) grandchildren.

Website/Blog http://LynnUWatson.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lynnuwatson writer

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Lynn-U-Watson/e/B01N4NH1OA/


The Essence of Courage: Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit in Solomon’s Locked Garden and in Your Heart (Cinnamah-Brosia’s Inspirational Collection for Women) (Volume 1)

Fresh & Unique! Explores spices & essential oils in the Bible. Ties those in King Solomon’s Locked Garden to the fruit of the Spirit. Visits women in the Bible & fictionalized contemporary characters who encourage you to cultivate the fruit in your heart. Icing on the cake: fun facts and activities to bring the spices & essential oils into your life.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0692840532/

When a Dog Walk Becomes a Ministry

By Ellen Andersen

I’d started down the street, taking Tommy for a walk last week. Five minutes later, I discovered God had more in mind for me than simply a short stroll. I’d walked into a ministry. When Tommy and I were about halfway down the street, my neighbor stepped out of her house and called to me.

“Ellen.” I turned to my right.Jo in front of Betty's house

“Hi Jo.”

“Are you going to Bi-Lo?”

“No. I’m just taking Tommy for a short walk.”

“Oh.” Her face fell. “I was hoping someone was going to Bi-Lo. I need some cream cheese for some pies and a cake I want to make for my grandkids this weekend and it’s too far for me to drive. I can’t drive that far anymore.” (Jo’s in her late eighties and is rather frail.)

I walked about 3 more steps then turned around, deciding it wouldn’t be a big deal to pick up something at the store. I told her I would go for her.

“Oh, great! I just need some cream cheese—four packages. It’s on sale this week. And you know, that milk stuff in the can. I don’t remember what it’s called.

“Evaporated milk?” I suggested.

“Yeah, that. I need two of those. I’m making dessert for when my grandkids come. And I need . . .”

I laughed and said, “You’re going to have to write this stuff down, Jo. I’m not gonna remember it all.”

“Oh sure. I will.” Jo ambled into her house, doing her best to balance with her walker. She found a piece of paper and a pen, and dug out her advertisement with the sales on it. Sure enough, cream cheese was on sale. She put Campbells’ tomato soup and cream of mushroom soup (two each please) along with three or four more items on her list. I had to smile.

Jo took some money out of her purse and handed it to me. “I think this will be enough,” she said. “Do you want more?” I assured her it’d be plenty.

Because she can’t drive more than around the corner, she’s usually cooped up at home.

“Do you want me to come with you? To help you?” she asked. She hoped I’d yes so she could get out of the house, not because she thought I needed help. I declined, telling her I’m not strong enough to help her balance. I could just see the two of us in trouble walking in the parking lot. Puppy dog eyes begged me to take her with me, but safety comes first. I walked Tommy home then drove to the store.

I don’t shop at Bi-Lo so I had no idea where to find things for her. Fortunately, I’m not shy about asking for help. I spotted some people who seemed to know where things were and they pointed me in the right direction. One lady even took me to exactly what I needed a couple aisles down.

Twenty minutes later, I arrived back at Jo’s, groceries in hand. She stood outside, smiling as I pulled up. Jo tried to take a bag from me.

“It’s okay, Jo. I’ve got it.”

“I don’t want it to be too heavy for you” she said.

“Thanks Jo, but it’s not too heavy. Really.”

We walked into her house, put everything on the counter and stuck the cream cheese in the fridge. I handed her a little over six dollars in change. Jo tried to give me a dollar for having gone. “For the gas”, she said. I declined. It was just down the street.

A few days later, Jo spotted me as she headed home from the mailbox. She headed toward me and said, “I made the pie for my grandkids. They really liked it.” She proceeded to tell me about their time together.

It was such a small thing to do, but getting those things for her at the store meant a lot to Jo and she had a great time with her grandkids. Little favors can mean a lot to someone. Even just a mile’s drive to the store.

The Kindness Blog: When Gratitude and Appreciation Become a Morning Mantra

Just wanted to share a wonderful reason to be grateful. (Permission given by The Kindness Blog)
By Carmelene Melanie Siani

The alarm goes off and my husband is up, out of bed, into the living room to do his sit ups and push ups, out the door for his 2 mile walk and back home again to unload the dishwasher.

Just after he puts the coffee on he comes into the bedroom, kisses me and asks me what I want for breakfast. We’re going on 3-plus years now and this is how it has been.

Gratitude.

I think about the days when I had to get up and get the kids dressed and fix their lunches and put a load of laundry in and start dinner and drive to work and work 8 hours and then stop at the grocery store on my way home — you know (or remember) the drill — and now I’m in this kind of fairlyland, dream-world life.

Thankful.

I look out the sliding glass door as my husband heads back out to the kitchen. A dove flies into the glass door with a thud. Startled, she lands on her feet, shakes her head a few times and takes off, sailing over the fence as if nothing had happened.

How grateful I am on behalf of the little bird. And then, as I lay there in my soft, warm bed, I think of all the living beings in the world who have hard knocks every single morning of their lives and of people who don’t have sweethearts to kiss them awake let alone to ask them what they want for breakfast. Refugees. Prisoners. Slum-dwellers. Orphans. Maybe even the guy down the street.

I am awash with gratitude for the plenty and abundance in my life, for the more-than-enough-to-go-around and for the simple peace of mind and the time in which to enjoy it.

After breakfast I will take a hot shower under clean water that washes over me from a spray nozzle, I will use shampoo designed especially for “color damaged” hair. When I dry off I will put lotion on my skin and clean clothes on my body.

Appreciation and wonder.

How did this happen? Why me?

The lesson however, is not to ask “Why me?”

The lesson instead is to practice opening my heart wide enough to allow all the wonder and gratitude in without diminishing it with guilt or with comparisons or with self-doubt or questions like “Why me?”

Guilt and self-doubt push gratitude away. They are ways of saying “No thank you.”

“Just be grateful,” I tell myself.

That is your calling now, at this time of your life. That is what brings balance to a world in which there is so much suffering.

“Balance the suffering with gratitude. That is your practice.”

It is a simple and yet so difficult thing to be grateful. It requires stretching and allowing and receiving and acceptance and it requires that you be … happy.

“Thank you.”

I remind myself again.

“Just say ‘thank you.’

It’s my morning mantra.


This article originally appeared in Elephant Journal.com.


Author Bio: Carmelene Melanie Siani

Carmelene Melanie Siani

Carmelene writes stories from every day life and how life itself offers lessons to help us grow, expand, and put our feet on higher ground.

https://www.facebook.co/StoryBelly/