30 May 2011

A Day to Remember

Being away from home on American holidays is one of the few things that really makes me remember that, metaphorically speaking, we’re not in Kansas anymore! When I spent Thanksgiving in France, I refused to go to class on principle, and spent the day watching the Macy’s Parade on a bad internet stream while making my mom’s sweet potato soufflé from scratch.

Cooking Thanksgiving is much harder without American products or a well stocked kitchen!
Memorial day isn’t a major holiday for family traditions, so it doesn’t make me particularly homesick, but it does give me pause to spend some time thinking about my country. I have some friends who have lived overseas and travelled a lot and found that it really made them dissatisfied with America and our culture (or lack thereof). For me it has always had the opposite effect. I’ve always been a patriotic person and loved my country, but there’s something about experiencing life elsewhere that just makes me love America even more. Sure, you can see the problems with our country and things about it you would change if given a chance. But you also get to see the really wonderful aspects of it and see how inordinately blessed we, as a nation, truly are.

My dad jokingly asked if they celebrate Memorial Day in Costa Rica. I laughed because Costa Rica does not even have a standing army. CR has been blessed to be probably the most stable and secure country in Latin America and has lived in peace for many years. They do not have the sorrow of remembering those who have given their lives in defense of their country. However, on the flip side, they also do not have the pride of honoring men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect their nation. Ticos love their country, the flag is everywhere,

but some of the young adults especially seem to regret that they lack a collective sense of national pride. For that reason, and so many more, I am thankful that while America is a safe country and has been free from the wars and violence prevalent in so many others around the world, that peace has also come with a great deal of striving. I love the quote by Thomas Paine because it is very accurate, “What we achieve to easily, we esteem too lightly.” What America represents is especially precious because of what it has cost.

Grandpa Webb
Grandpa Gordon

Although I have not personally known the pain of losing a loved one in war, I am very proud of my family’s service and honored to be the granddaughter of two WWII vets and the daughter of a Vietnam vet. (Dad, you lucked out. I don’t have access to any of your Navy photos here.) From my earliest years I remember loving to hear Grandpa Gordon tell stories of his time in the Pacific Theater serving under General McArthur, and he made sure to always remind me of the price of freedom. As I get older and watch close friends go off to war, I understand that even a little bit better. I pray we never forget the sacrifices made by so many, or take for granted the men and women who serve so faithfully. To the veterans, those who are serving today, and their families, THANK YOU.
Grandpa Gordon in D.C.

Grandpa Gordon in training

Grandpa and Grandma Gordon

Me and Grandpa
Thinking about my grandpa, who was probably my favorite person ever, I was reminded of another “butterfly moment” from last week. Tuesday I was having a rough morning, so I was exceptionally glad that not only did we have chapel during break, it was a special worship chapel service. I was already enjoying the time of praise when they began to play a vaguely familiar song. The lyrics were powerful and fitting and I sang along wondering why the words seemed stored in the recesses of my memory. And then I remembered the one and only time I had heard the song before.

It was Fall 2004 at a Wednesday night FCA service during my first semester of college at UF. Our awesome praise band (that included a banjo at the time) was playing to a packed auditorium when I felt my phone vibrate. I didn’t answer it. I knew right away the only reason mom would be calling during FCA: my beloved grandpa had passed away after a painful struggle with Alzheimer’s. I remember standing there in the crowd choking back tears and smiling as I listened to a cheerful rendition of “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks.”

On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land
Where my possessions lie.

All o’er those wide extended plains
Shines one eternal day
There God, the Son forever reigns
And scatters night away.

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land.
I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land.

No chilling wind nor poisonous breath
Can reach that healthful shore
Where sickness, sorrow, pain and death
Are felt and feared no more.

When shall I see that happy place
And be forever blessed?
When shall I see my Father’s face
And in His bosom rest?

I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land.
I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land.

The memory of that night flooded back and with it a twinge of the pain from that season of loss. Those recollections mixed with the angst of the current day, and the tears rolled down my cheeks as I lifted my hands and sang along. You are probably saying right about now, “I thought you said this was a joyful ‘butterfly’ moment?” It was, trust me! I had never been able to remember what song we sang that night, although I always fondly remembered singing about one day reaching the Promised Land at the moment I learned that Grandpa had made it Home. It was a perfectly timed gift that 6.5 years later when I was having a bad day in Costa Rica that song would come back to me and bring with it sweet memories and refreshment for my heart. It was a powerful comfort to me the night I lost my grandpa, and it was just as much comfort on a day when I was feeling a little stranded in the desert.

I don’t know where God is going to guide me in this life, or how long I will remain standing on Jordan’s stormy banks. But praise Jesus! I DO know that some day I am bound for the Promised Land! On that day, the sadness and difficulties that plague this life will fade away when I finally see my Savior’s face. Praise Jesus! What a promise! 

I hope you take time today to remember those who have served and sacrificed for our nation and the freedoms we enjoy. But far more, I hope that you take time daily to remember the ultimate sacrifice that Christ made on the cross that allows us freedom from sin and the assurance of eternal life in the Promised Land.

"Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting on him." -Hebrews 9:27-28

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