It’s Day Three after Lane got back home from his deployment, early morning, he’s in the middle of remembering where things were and how things belong as he looks around the countertop for the creamer and only finds milk.
“Milk? You just put milk in your coffee now?”
“Yeah, babe.” And then, with a little side eye and sass, too, if you’d ask Lane his take: “I haven’t put creamer in my coffee for awhile- not everything stays the same when you go away for so long, you know.”
Oh, that could leap straight into A Conversation if we let it. That could get into A Whole Mess of reuniting, reintegrating, and power and adapting and communication if we let it.
He sidesteps the potential bomb instead, puts some milk in his coffee, the day continues.
A couple days later, I wake up with a scratch in my throat and by lunchtime I am leveled- headache, exhaustion, a body that hurts.
Every time, I think. This happens every dang time.
It’s so interesting to me, this connection between everything. Within days- hours, really- of the end of a deployment, my body waves the white flag, knows that it’s finally safe to do so.
My body remembers the phone calls we got with the devastating news, my body remembers the nights I spent awake with a scared and sad kid, my body remembers the trauma and the worry and the loneliness and how I kept going, had to keep going still.
And what I think happens when he comes back home? This body of mine demands that I pay attention to it, too, demands that I remember it too, demands that I rest and it will force me to now that he’s home, now that I can.
My body remembers even if I’d rather forget.
In this line of work with the military, Lane goes away for a certain number of months, time passes, things happen, he comes back home, things continue to happen.
Sometimes I kinda reach a point where I’m sick of things happening.
Can’t we just have the easy victory for once? Does it always have to be a slugfest to the finish line before we take the next baton to start our next race?
God, I wondered- can’t you let up just a bit? It’s feeling a bit relentless, if I’m being honest.
These last months didn’t go how I thought they would go, how I wanted them to go, how I needed them to go, really, and I’m still trying to make sense of what to do with it.
All the same, the race continued. What I’m seeing now is that from there, it’s up to me to determine which way the story goes.
Which, of course, makes me think of an actual race we ran on Memorial Day weekend.
We take our place at the start line surrounded by kids and heroes and the brave ones and then we’re off. Military guys behind us sing cadence, another carries a flag, a firetruck waits at the finish line.
Lane and I encourage the girls, match our pace to theirs. We tell them they can do it, point out friends doing the same.
We get to the final stretch and as we’re passing through an intersection, Brennan trips and crashes in front of everyone and all the cars, too. She doesn’t want to but she gets back up anyway, the crowd cheers us in, we cross the finish line at the same time.
Fast forward to present day, Brennan has another race coming up- and she doesn’t want to do it.
I talk to her about her training, her coaches, her friends. I talk to her about how strong she is, how she can do hard things, I remind her that she’s done it before and she can do it again.
None of it lands.
“Kiddo, help me out. What am I missing?”
“The last time I ran in a race was the Worst Day Ever! I fell in front of everyone!”
Immediately I walk over to her, get on her level, match my eyes to hers: “Brennan Grace, I have something really important to say and I want to make sure you hear me. You ready?”
She looks me square in the eyes and I know that she is.
“I know you think back to the Savannah Mile and you remember how you fell. But do you know what I remember?”
“I remember that you got back up.”
She’s silent still, but I see a little smirk almost break through so I keep going.
“You totally fell, it was a pretty epic wipe-out actually. But then? Instead of quitting and not finishing the race? You got back up and I am just so proud of you. So Kiddo? When you think back to that race and remember how you fell? Instead, remember that you got back up.”
After that moment, Brennan decides to try a race again and also begins to refer to us as the never-giver-uppers, and it’s kind of catchy if you ask me.
How she remembers that race gives her a whole different story to tell.
I still have the cold, my body is still decompressing from the months of deployment stress it held, I’m hopped up on medicine, I don’t sleep well last night. Except, of course, for the moments I did- and those moments gave me some crazy dreams. Maybe it was the medicine, maybe it was a real glimpse into how things actually are, who can say.
Here’s the dream:
The five of us are running the Savannah Mile again, only in that last leg of the race, in the moment when the crowd goes wild-
I look to the edges of the crowd, and the one cheering the wildest on the sidelines?
I kid you not- it’s Jesus.
He is cheering his heart out, wild and fierce, encouraging us as we run our race and cross that finish line.
There’s something there, and I think it helps me figure out my experience over this last little bit.
I’d guess that we all would have some stories to tell about whatever this last leg was of the race we just ran.
If your race was like mine, there’s been a whole lot of stress, a whole lot of figuring things out still, a whole lot of feeling like you fell flat on your face and you didn’t feel like you had it in you to get back up.
But you got back up.
And this is where the storyline changes- instead of just being hard to make life hard, all of those hard things were actually tools to develop grit and endurance and unshakeable joy within us.
And now, I remember what I said to Brennan, and I picture Jesus wildly cheering for us, then running over at the finish line, saying the same thing to us: “Kiddo, you look back and see how you fell? I see that you got back up and I’m just so proud of you.”
I think of how all these things have shaped me and formed me and instead of seeing the ways I missed it and fell, I see a new storyline there, too- a good and present God, just so smitten, cheering wildly, saying I knew she could do it.
Suddenly? I’m strong again, able to get back up again, able to keep going again, looking for what’s bright and good along the way.
We’re in it for the long haul, and what we remember has everything to do with how we live our actual life now.
When I see it all this way, I know I can keep going and I know you can, too.
Struggling with the demands and depletion of military life? Maybe this will help: 5 Ways I Stay Sane in This Military Life. Click here and I will send it quietly to your inbox.
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