patriotism is a weird thing these days…

I was not born into a military family. I look with awe at the many pictures posted today of fathers, brothers, sisters, friends who have served in the various armed services of America. I have always had a penchant for patriotism, however. Studying history in college and grad school, I was introduced to some of the more nefarious sides of our country’s history. But that’s what forges strength, correct? The trials and errors and rebirths that naturally occur while creating a new and improved model that is stronger and healthier.

Many new mothers can recognize the surge of weirdo hormones that happens following childbirth. After all the congratulations were ended and my friends and family had all left the hospital, I slept on and off – completely in awe that I was now a first-time mother. As the sun rose outside my window the next morning, I looked out to see that my hospital room was squarely facing the tall flagpole that greeted everyone as they entered the front doors. The American flag was waving valiantly and then suddenly, I began crying. I made fun of myself later as I explained to my husband how overwhelmed I felt in a split second transition from ‘normal’ to ‘hormonal’. I couldn’t keep it in; I was so very thankful my newborn baby – less than 24 hours old – was born into the comforting arms of freedom that America offers. Sounds crazy insane, right? But I was completely overcome with pure, raw gratitude.

This unadorned feeling of patriotism happened back in the good ol’ days when pride of country felt a little easier. I have much more complicated feelings about it these days. The older I’ve gotten (and as news channels are multiplying like rabbits and news coverage seems to show no restraint) the more devastation I have witnessed throughout the world. Perhaps you feel a few misnomers about patriotism too… Primarily – can I be proud of my country of origin (something that was a complete luck of the draw) without excluding all other countries of humans all over the world? I’ve had to work through those kinds of questions, especially since 9/11.

I think of patriotism a lot like I think about my personal faith in God. I want to have and hold and honor my faith but I also want others to bathe in the salve of God’s love as well. I wish this same thing for persons suffering under a horrid dictator, being stripped of their homes, their families and their self-dignity. I do not want to be exclusive with my patriotism. With all of our faults, I wish others could live with the same freedom and justice that we do in the United States. I wish ‘American freedom’ could take on the great characteristics of their own country as they learn to live more peacefully democratic lives. I do not believe myself to be of higher standing because I was lucky enough to be born in the United States. I sincerely wish the Miss-America-answer for everyone: world peace.

I cannot write the above paragraph without feeling a strong sense of the INjustice that is also a part of our own country. We have so.much.more to learn with regards to social justice, equality and false imprisonment just to name a few. I am aware of my extreme white-ness as I type each word.

If there was one thing my mother beat instilled into our minds it was this: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required,” Luke 12:48 KJV

We have a responsibility as….(name the characteristic)…Americans. Caucasians. Wealthy. Privileged. Instead of taking an apologetic approach, why not stand in the posture “…of him shall be much required.” Men and women who have fought in the armed forces have stepped up to eradicate injustice and tyranny. We honor and thank them – especially today on Memorial Day. But we are each given the responsibility to step up and take action against the oppressor wherever we find ourselves. Taking action against violence can take on many different forms: getting involved in the political process, writing letters, befriending someone who looks different than you, encircling all of mankind – regardless of their political, spiritual, sexual or socioeconomic status.

The red hat maxim that has been splashed across our political arena these past few years hints of too much exclusivity. It makes me very uncomfortable. While comparing my patriotism to my faith, shall I gather all the love and grace and forgiveness of Christ for myself, hoarding His salvation from others for fear of losing any part of it for me alone? That is a preposterous suggestion. And yet too often, that is the message we are sending the world. A message of fear. ‘We have it and you don’t and we don’t want to share it with you because there won’t be enough of it left for our country.’

The goal of a peaceful world is our guide for the present and our vision for the future. The quest is the greatest adventure of our century. We sometimes chafe at the burden of our obligations, the complexity of our decisions, the agony of our choices. But there is no comfort or security in evasion, no solution in abdications, no relief in irresponsibility. The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics, whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were, and ask why not? ~ John F. Kennedy

There is no shame in American patriotism. We honor those that have served to fight for our country, especially those that were killed in the process. We pay homage to those within our own personal lives that have gone on before us. We honor and love and respect their commitment to make our lives stronger and more abundant. The greatest way that we can honor them, however, is to take up the mantle of responsibility they made available to us. We want our own lives to be great. We want our immediate families to prosper and succeed. We wish for our cities, our states, our country to excel. Yet our truest success will be found when we can offer these unlimited opportunities of liberties to every human worldwide. As Americans, we must set the example for civility. As Americans, we must lead the way.

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a word about the photograph above:
My sweet friend, Cricket, lives in this lovely 1895 home in Springville, Alabama. Her instagram account is like stepping into The American Dream and never wanting to come out. As amazing as their home renovation has been, her heart exceeds even that. Her beautiful daughters and handsome son have wonderful role-model parents AND Cricket has the MOST adorable side hustle as a vintage shopkeeper in a remodeled vintage camper. Please check out her market schedule and see if she’ll be at a market near you. And look through her home renovation as well as their unbelievable camper renovation. She’s someone on my rather short list of People I’d Like to Meet in Person Someday.

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she’s got good bones

Trees get too much credit in the spring and summer. We applaud their grand show in the fall. But there is something magical and majestic about their winter bones. In winter we can see discarded birds nests, inhabitants who have moved on to larger spaces. In winter we can look through groves of trees and see beyond the usual limitations of summer’s thick foliage.

As I pass another birthday and am becoming better friends with this ‘new’ face I see in the mirror each day, I wonder what it would be like to have just a little plastic surgery. I mean, even a sow’s ear can be lovely with enough surgery and make-up; a little addition here, a little subtraction there. I feel far too exposed, at times, as my face and body become less and less easy to identify as my own.

However, the trees in winter are no less significant even if their summer beauty isn’t as easily seen. Instead we see straight through to their souls. There is no hiding in winter. Everything is laid bare and open. And yet they stand there bravely. Unashamed. Still protecting. Still holding their place. Waiting.

Of winter’s lifeless world each tree
Now seems a perfect part;
Yet each one holds summer’s secret
Deep down within its heart.
– Charles G. Stater

Sure, we remember the flexibility and smooth surface of our youth, holding summer’s secret deep within our memory. But lifeless we are not. We still desire to be used for a great purpose. We still desire to love with our whole heart. There is still a great task to be done.

Do not misunderstand our purpose, waiting here in winter. We are regrouping and redefining and once we catch our winter’s breath, we will bloom yet again in the spring.