The Continuous Tale of a Mighty Warrior

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“The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, ‘the LORD is with you, mighty warrior.’”
Judges 6:12

My phone hits 17:00. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Though shaking, my hands begin to dial the phone number I had scribbled down a sticky note. One ring… Two rings… My heart is pounding.

“Hi Abigail! How are you?”

I couldn’t believe it. It was her and this was actually happening…

Poised and refined, though emotional and solemn, the continuous words of this Gold Star mom as we proceeded to speak left me aghast.

Marc Alan Lee was the first Navy SEAL to be killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He died during a fierce firefight with insurgents in the central Iraqi city of Ramadi. Debbie Lee is his mom.

In July of 2006, Marc wrote his last letter home. The letter reads these words – “So to all my family and friends, do me a favor and pass on the kindness, the love, the precious gift of human life to each other so that when your children come into contact with a great conflict that we are now faced with here in Iraq, that they may be people of humanity, of pure motives, of compassion.”

In efforts to both fulfill her spiritual gift granted from God as an encourager and carry out Marc’s last request to pass on the kindness, Debbie founded America’s Mighty Warriors, a military non-profit focused on helping Gold Star families find healing, helping heroes recover from PTSD and TBI’s, and granting Marc’s wish to carry out random acts of kindness.

As I spoke with Debbie, I was amazed at her wisdom and compassion.

“There is nothing greater than sacrifice,” Debbie said. “Christ displayed it first on the cross, and our troops display it next by being so ready and so willing. It’s become a clear example of the sacrifice Christ made for us.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Debbie and I spoke for no more than 30 minutes. I asked her questions upon questions about running a non-profit and any advice she had for someone seeking a future in military and/or non-profit work. She was more than willing to help.

Beyond her kind words of advice, however, it was the words about her son, about her situation, and about the work God was doing through her to bring His name glory that me feeling both refreshed and fulfilled by the end of the conversation.

She walked me through the journey she has been on since that fateful day so many years ago. Overall, it was clear she strives to keep the presence of Marc and his personality through all of her daily activities, even joking when she hit her necklace and cut her finger. A sarcastic “well thanks, Marc” came out as she chuckled at the small knick his SEAL trident had caused.

As the first Gold Star mom to visit a combat zone, I asked about her time in Iraq and if the trip ever scared her. Her response to me?

“Not even close. I had prayed about it. I knew it was right.”

 While going into a combat zone would scare most of us I’m sure, Debbie said she appreciated it. It gave her a chance to get a glimpse of what our troops endure, how they live, and how they fight. She saw it as the opportunity to relate to our troops, to relate to her own son, and how they live.

“As a believer, if something happened, I knew where I was going,” Debbie said. “Like Daniel in the lions den, I was on a mission to do what God had asked me to do no matter the outcome.”

 Debbie ended up spending Christmas with a group of soldiers that trip. She said there was no greater joy than sharing the story and sacrifice of Christ with those who sacrifice so much for our freedom on one of the most beautiful days of the year.

At the end of our conversation, I asked the all encompassing question – “How are you seeking to bring good from a past hurt?”

Though I could tell the question was tender, Debbie responded by stating that when Marc died, her confidence was not in herself or her son, but in who God was.

“I did not have a choice on the news that was given to me on August 2nd,” Debbie said. “But I had choice on how I responded. Losing Marc was the toughest thing I ever faced, but I knew God would see me through. He was still the same God on August 2nd that He was on August 1st. His character had not changed.”

She realized God does not waste pain and if anything He was teaching the lesson to always trust Him, to always go to Him, and not another person. As a widow and now-grieving mother, Debbie said she began to understand the conversation between Hezekiah and God a little more. She began to talk to God like he was physically there and realized as scripture states, God had seen her tears, He’d heard her prayers, and He would answer. She knew even when she didn’t have a specific answer, she could always feel God’s presence and He would always provide.

Through her pain, it rings clear that she has remained humble and graceful in the presence of God. Debbie has undoubtedly used Marc and America’s Mighty Warriors to touch the lives of so many Gold Star families and hurting soldiers for the Gospel.

For more information on Marc and Debbie, visit americasmightywarriors.org.

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Music Wednesday: Military in Motion

Due to exciting news that I cannot yet share – I have decided to dedicated this music Wednesday to our service members.

See, something is happening that I will soon expand more on, but until such time I have decided to give a sneak peak at what’s to come. (And for those who are thinking it – no I have decided to become a commissioned officer in the Navy…yet)

When it comes to the military, I have a number of favorite movies. Saving Private Ryan. Pearl Harbor. We Were Soldiers. American Sniper. The list goes on.

However, there is one movie that I feel goes above and beyond all the others. It’s a movie capable of hitting anyone in the gut. Maybe some would agree with me on this, maybe they wouldn’t. Either way, I am willing to argue this is the one of the, if not THE, best movie about the military out there.

This is a movie I’ve only seen twice. Once in January of 2013. Again at the end of July 2015. Twice. That’s it. And both times ended with me on the floor, in a ball, crying my eyes out.

I don’t mean this to sound bad or weird. There’s something about the military (not just movies based off the military), that will hit me every. single. time. I have a reverence for our troops that I struggle finding the words to explain. I believe it’s the highest aspiration anyone can achieve in life. It’s not only the big things but the small things that get to me as well. It’s just a long way to say that it doesn’t take much to have an impact on me when it comes to the military.

But this movie. This movie epitomizes every ounce of that reverence I have for the military into 110 minutes of raw action starring real Navy SEALs. This move is Act of Valor.

It’s my favorite movie on the military, hands down. It’s also a movie I almost never watch simply because of HOW upset it makes me. However, given the surprise I have coming soon, I believe this was the perfect choice for this music Wednesday.

Keith Urban recorded the song For You specifically for Act of Valor. I’m not really sure how to describe this song other than like the movie, it’s a song you will not find me listening to very often due to the impact it has on me. Again, given the surprise I have coming soon, it’s the perfect choice.

As with most music, it is the lyrics of For You that make the song so raw and so powerful. After all, the first verse quotes John 15:13 – “no greater gift has man than to lay down his life for love.” The feeling, the thought, there are those out there in the world who will take a bullet for my freedom, who wouldn’t think twice about going into the line of fire, who don’t think about right or wrong but do what they have to do to defend their own, it’s a reaction from me unlike anything you could ever see. This is why For You is my choice for this music Wednesday.

I challenge you to listen to the lyrics. You never know what you’ll experience.

The Power of THEY

I want to talk about THEY. Don’t look at me like I’m crazy – you know what I mean. THEY. Those people. The ones you surround yourself with on a daily basis. The ones you associate yourself with. Your THEY.

They are everywhere. From social media, to work, to school, personal life, we are surrounded by a THEY.

But are we really? When we really, and I mean really, start to think about who they are, are they really the people we want to be surrounded by?

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Let’s back up a little bit –

On Wednesday nights I go to a bible study in Grapevine called Flavour. Last night we talked about who we do our battles with, otherwise known as our THEY.

Think about it – you have your friends on social media, but then you have the group of people you’d be willing to invite to an event or something (and I mean like the extended-extended-of extended family/friends here), there’s the people you’d want at your birthday party or graduation or wedding, but then what about those people, the one’s you know who will go into battle with you no matter what. These are your THEY.

Now, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, or you just think I’m a weirdo who has a problem with caps lock, THEY is an acronym. There is so much more to the people who are your THEY than just those you would consider your “ride or die” style friends. And let me tell you, you may think there are some who could or should be your THEY, until you really start to analyze what this means, then you begin to realize your THEY isn’t as large or as strong as you thought it was.

Here’s what I mean:

T

The first letter we have is T. T stands for tough. These are the people who are solid and steady. The ones who give you a firm foundation when you feel like you don’t have one. More importantly, the ones who remind you of the foundation you stand on when you feel like you’re struggling to remember. They really are the epitome of ride or die.

H

H stands for honest. These are the people who will speak truth into your life even when you don’t want to hear it. This goes beyond just telling someone they’re being a brat. They are honest about living up to the life God created you to have. They provide honest perspective on your difficulties. They will tell you if your decision is rash, or if your words are harsh. They provide the level-headed perspective we all need in our lives.

E

E stands for encouraging. These are the people speak constant encouragement into your life no matter what. They do not display signs of jealousy or a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mentality. You can come to them with good news, the best news, and they won’t try to break you down, or show you up, or throw a pity party for themselves. They’re just always happy to you and for you.

Y

The last letter is Y. It’s also the most important letter. It stands for yielded. Are they a whole-hearted, committed, commissioned, follower of Christ? I don’t think I can ever emphasize this enough. These are the people who both speak and live the word of God. They don’t just know God’s word, God’s word is written on their hearts. And they will take the word and transmit it to you during those times you need it. They are the one’s who shine for Christ in all that they do. You never have to ask them if they’re a Christian because you know they are. They walk with a different beat in their step because you know they live a life totally surrendered to Christ, and this type of surrender is displayed in everything they do. And let me tell you – this is absolutely the most important quality you want in your THEY. The other three letters are mediocre to this sense of yielding all that we have and all that we are to Christ.

So why is THEY important? Because it’s not about how many there are. It’s about who they are. THEY are the ones who display these qualities through and through, no matter the stages or seasons of life. THEY are the ones you can always turn to to be tough, honest, encouraging, and yielded. Without these qualities, well to be quiet frank, our THEY isn’t really a THEY worth having.

So who is my THEY? It’s a list I made last night as an exercise during bible study. Like most, some who I thought would make the list were quickly cut off. Then there were others who removed themselves from the list by removing themselves from my life. At the end (not counting my parents or my sister) the number of people I can turn to at any time of day for any reason, is three. Three people. Three people in my inner circle I would trust with my life. They are my THEY.

Emma Vance. Kaelan Blok. Haley Wolters. They are the ones who are both tough and make me tough. They are the ones who are honest with me even when I don’t want to hear it. They are the ones who encourage me. But most importantly, they are the ones who speak the truth of God into my life at all times. They are the ones who offer their prayers and support. They are the ones who bring treats to my house, text me at 4 am to make sure I’m okay, and tell me they’re buying a boat to get my mind off my mom’s wreck. This is my THEY.

Going even further, Haley is my ultimate THEY. She is the Godsend to my life who emulates all of these qualities to me, even if the seasons of life are difficult for her.

At bible study, they asked to share how we met our best friend/ultimate THEY. Haley and I have an interesting story. We worked the same internship. I walked in my first day with my Gilmore Girls coffee cup and it was basically an instant connection from there. We were inseparable that summer. And yes, we are the annoying girls in their 20s who run around Target shopping then lay on the floor laughing while she reads “All My Friends Are Dead” and I play with a giant green bouncy ball.

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I did buy the bouncy ball that day. Makes for good stress relief. 

But what really got Haley and I, where we really noticed God was working between the two of us for each other as best friends beyond all that we had in common, was the night we baked cookies at her house. We baked cookies and watched Gilmore Girls. But we also shared our stories with each other. I told her about how much I found my identity in someone else and as such allowed a breakup to destroy my life. She told me about the struggles she faced with her biological dad and reasons her family is the way it is as a result.

There is no denying we bonded – but this is where we realized it was God at work and not us. In that moment of sitting her on L-shape couch, stuffing our face with cookies, while her dog Ugg begged us for attention, Haley looked at me square in the eye and began talking about the very passage of scripture God had been using to speak into my life for many months leading up to that moment. The weird part? Not once did I ever say in the conversation that was the journey God and I were walking together. Haley just felt the words come on her heart and she spoke them. Except that wasn’t Haley, that was God. Everything was uphill from there.

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Now, obviously not everyone will have a story like Haley and I, but I do believe it reflects the importance of choosing the right THEY. Without the right THEY, we are marching into battle with people who do not understand our desire and need for God. They point us to each other instead of toward Him, and we need the people who will always point us toward Him.

I’ll end with this – they said this quote last night and I love it – “It’s not the people who will ride in the limo with you, it’s the ones who will be there when the limo breaks down.” Well, this is ALL to real for Haley and I since her car did break down and we (i.e. Micah and Erik, we sat in the car) had to push it to the gas station.

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Because who doesn’t want to run out of gas in July in Texas?

Your THEY is important so surround yourself with the right ones. And if you don’t have them, then pray for them. God will provide them. But remember, you have to be the right THEY as well as choosing the right THEY.

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One last ode to the bouncy ball. It’s always there for me.