From the Least of These

 I sit on the porch relaxing and watch as a young boy walks down the dirt road carrying a chicken. I find this sight very interesting as I do not recall ever seeing a young boy, walking down a dirt road, carrying a chicken.

 He goes by and I ponder what he might be doing and why does the boy have a chicken in his arms? A few moments later I see this same boy walking up the hill to the street above us and he no longer has a chicken. My first thought is that perhaps this chicken is following him, like a dog, so I stand and walk out into the yard to better view this amazing scene, but alas, there is no chicken.

 So I walk out into the street and there, standing in the dust and the dirt, is a bedraggled rooster, feathers limp, tail feathers entirely gone and looking rather lost and confused.

 I would like to say that my first thought was to rescue this poor fellow, but it wasn’t. Instead I told myself “it is just a chicken”, “it is not my chicken”, and “Donna, what will you do with a chicken? What are you thinking?”

  So I walked back inside my home and left the chicken where he was.

 A little while later I went back outside and there he was, in my yard, probably drawn by the water in the bird bath and the quail block on the ground. I watched him as he tried to eat, and then he would just lay down, as if he were exhausted. At that point I knew I could not just leave him there. He would not last the night with the coyotes.

 So I got out one of the dog crates and begin to entice the rooster with bird seed. He was so hungry and was gobbling it up as fast as I could throw it upon the ground. In the end I herded him into a corner and picked him up. He looked so sad, huddled in the corner, trying desperately to make himself small and invisible because he just had nowhere else to run to. As I picked him up he surrendered himself to me, although I could feel him trembling in my hands.

 I gently placed him in the dog crate, got him some water and some food and set him up in the shade. For whatever reason the song “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown” went through my head and I christened him Leroy.

 

 He was afraid each time I came outside to sit with him, and would huddle in the corner as if he expected me to harm him, but slowly over the course of our three days together, he began to trust me just a little. He would come right out and eat the food in his dish, instead of waiting for me to disappear, and he would look at me, where before he huddled and tried to make himself small and invisible.

 I sent out a neighborhood message to see if anyone had lost a rooster, and I started networking with folks on Facebook and eventually this led me to a New Mexico monk, named Father Joshua, who runs a hermitage up in the foothills of the Monzano Mountains. He declared that he was willing to take Leroy in and give him a home at his monastery.

  What lessons can be learned in three days’ time from the rescue of one bedraggled rooster?

   Leroy had nothing to offer me, nothing I needed, no endearing quality to call me to his rescue, he was just a worn out bird, lost and confused and rather hopeless. Much like me in comparison to the rescue that I experienced when Christ called my name and declared me His.

 To rescue should have nothing to do with endearing qualities, such as beauty, or appeal, or what the rescued can do for me, but instead should be done for the glory of God, because He created and said it was good, and because I, like Leroy, had nothing to bring to Him but filthy rags, and yet He rescued me, clothed me in His robes of white, declared me precious and beloved.

  And I learned another lesson as I drove Leroy across town to meet up with his new benefactor Father Joshua. I learned that my faith is weak and I have miles to go and that sometimes I am a disappointment to myself.

 As I arrived on the other side of town I pulled into a huge empty lot and sat to wait for Father Joshua. A young man, wearing only a pair of black shorts stumbled about the parking lot, appearing disoriented and perhaps drunk or on drugs. As I watched he fell to the ground and rolled over on his back and was just lying there talking to the sky. I was concerned. I recognized that this was not a coincidence that I was sitting in this parking lot while a young man struggled, and yet I did nothing……well I did do something. I locked my doors. I whispered a prayer but was immediately convicted that a prayer was not what was needed, yet still I sat, arguing with myself and with God.

 “This is the South Valley Lord, I am a woman alone in a car. This guy is not right in his head. He could try and rob me or take my vehicle. You should bring somebody else to minister to his needs.”

  And a white car pulled into the parking lot and a young man got out and knelt down, talking to the incapacitated one. He went back to his car and returned with water. The incapacitated young man drained the bottle of water and I watched as the two men talked. The incapacitated one waved his arms about as they talked and then stood up. The two shook hands, the rescuer opened the door of his car and the young man got in…….and they drove away.

 And I sat asking myself why I was afraid to intervene.

  So thank you Leroy, for the lessons. I pray that you have a long and healthy life living at the St. Cornelius Orthodox Christian Hermitage. I was told last night your new name is Mr. Red. It suits you. And thank you Father Joshua for taking him in. You and your vision for a place in the wilderness to help our veterans suffering from PTS and TBI are in my most fervent prayers. God be with you.

 

 

http://thehermitagenm.org/

Note: As it turned out the young boy carrying the chicken had found him on the street above us, and had walked that entire street and most of ours asking if anyone had lost a rooster. When he could find no one he let the chicken go as his parents had told him he could not bring it home with him.

This Battle I Fight...We Fight Against PTSD and TBI

There are days when it feels like the battle never ends, never lets up, it is just a constant steady intense firefight……and it feels often like I am losing.

I did not really even realize I was in a fight until long after it started, I wonder had I known from day one, would I be better equipped to fight it?

 As best I know it began several years ago, during our first deployment to Iraq. Although I never set foot in Iraq myself, I have been there, fought there.

 I fought there on my knees, praying for my son, praying for his brothers, praying for those deployed there.

 I fought there as I struggled to live this “normal” life here, to work, to socialize, to attend church, to be part of the community, all while feeling out of place, how can anything be normal when there is war and my son is fighting in it? How could I have lived so normal while other sons were fighting it before him?

 Sleep is difficult. How can you sleep when it is day there, and they are out behind the wire? So you sleep like they sleep. A little sleeping, a little fighting, a little sleeping, a little fighting, and it goes on and on….until he calls. And for a while you rest.  The fight is not physical, it is mental and spiritual, and yet it takes a toil upon you.

 Now I had no physical weapon to speak of, and I dodged no real bullets. My fights were struggles in prayer, against enemies of fear and worry, doubt and despair, grief and sorrow. My weapons were prayers of protection and safety, pleas for mercy and grace to be poured out, upon them, in that faraway place.

 Foolishly, I thought the fight was over, as he stepped off that plane and onto American soil. The signs were minor, a little aversion to open places, rocks piled on the side of the road, boxes out for yards sales, white Toyota pick-ups, but for the most part they were minor and they seemed to pass quickly and all was well. I quickly forgot them.

 I continued to pray for others deployed, I prayed strong, without fear or doubt, I prayed protection and grace and mercy. I wept at each name of the ones who fell.

 And then our number came up again. So I prepared for round two…..Afghanistan. Another country that I have never set foot in, and yet I have fought there, struggled there, on behalf of my son, and those beside him, and on the behalf of adopted sons.

 This battle was fought in a bad place, a very bad place, it filled me with fear and dread to even think of being there. I prayed hard. I asked God to wake me up anytime they needed prayer.

He was faithful, and I woke up most nights.

 The battle was fierce, a battle between faith and hope, and darkness and despair. Men died. Good men, men for which I had prayed, men whose mothers were just like me, on their knees crying out for protection, for mercy. Bullets of doubt pierced my soul on many occasions, bullets of weakness stuck the legs from under me and left me helpless on the ground, unable to continue.

 And yet strength would come, in time, and I would continue the battle, this never ending battle that drug on day after day, after day.

 Being normal was even more difficult in this round, I simply could not fathom how everyone went about their day to day mundane lives without seeming to care at all of the battle that raged in a country far away. Was it possible that only those who knew and loved others who were there, were truly engaged in this fight?  What would the battle look like if every soul in the country were engaged in it, as we who loved were engaged in it?

 I weathered the storm, bedraggled and torn, but still standing. Some were wounded, some were killed, I had dreams in first person of war, with screams and gunfire, explosions and helicopters flying overhead, in grape fields, I put my dream hand on a wall, and my dream eyes looked down and inches from my hand was an IED. I felt my dream heart pounding in my chest as I ran across the grape field, gunfire all around, screams of commands from others all around, the helicopters loud above our heads.

 I received a call, that the one I loved had been injured in an explosion. It was like being punched in the stomach, my legs began to fold under me, as I whispered into the phone…”how bad?’……as it turns out we were lucky, a concussion, nothing serious, although unknown to us at the time, TBI had just landed on our battlefield.

And finally the day approaches, we can see victory ahead, he is on home soil again, he is safe. We breathe out the breath we have held for this long nine months. All is well. The fight is over. Once again we foolishly believed that all was well, that we had won.

Or so we thought.

 Oh how weak and stupid we were, how gullible and foolish. We let down our guard, we ceased our struggle thinking all was well. In truth the enemy now goes on full offense, and we are not prepared for the onslaught.

 His eyes are different now, there is a pain within them, perhaps not visible to all, but clear to one who has known and loved him all his life. Something is amiss. He forgets things, does not always speak clearly, struggles at times to do simple tasks, has a deep love affair with his Glock and carries it everywhere. Perhaps time will make it right.

 But time is not working, and we begin to see the true enemy that opposes the one we love. The enemy is well equipped. Darkness, all-encompassing darkness, overwhelming guilt, heavy sorrow, great loss, all are in his arsenal and he uses them well. This is a new enemy, we had not seen his face before, in the midst of all the battles, all the fears, who had until now remained silent and on the sidelines.

  I leapt into the fight, doing all that I could to know my enemy, who is this that brings such devastation to my home, this place of light, this place of hope, this place of love, who is it that brings this wasteland to all that I hold dear…………his name is PTSD, and his fellow terrorist TBI.

 They are a formidable pair.

 They have unleashed a plethora of violence against us, flashbacks, the bottle, the pills disguised as help, broken relationships, broken hearts, despair, gut wrenching fear, the pain of loss….the doubt….will we be one of the 22? Can we win this fight? Is there truly any hope or is it just a matter of time?

  Against this arsenal we have stood, sometimes defeated, sometimes victorious, sometimes in despair, sometimes in victory, the fight rages on. When victory seems certain they unleash their weapon of setbacks, this one almost always knocks us off our feet, but we continue to fight, wielding hope, and faith and peace and love, we fight on our knees, we call out to God, we fight with a love that is fierce and will not back down, will never stop, we fight with everything we have and anything we can find that might be helpful.

 

We will not stop fighting. We will keep our eyes on the Light, our eyes upon our Hope and we will go down fighting if need be, knowing that even in what seems to be defeat, we are victorious, for love conquers all.

 

 To all the Moms and Dads, the Wives and Husbands, the Children and Friends of those who suffer from PTSD and TBI,

 May your sword arm stay strong, and your shield stay high, and may your faith hold fast, may you be strengthened in this fight with all hope, all goodness, all mercy and grace and most of all,may your hearts be filled with a powerful love that is beyond all understanding, which flows from the fountain of grace.

 

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests”

“Come to Me (Jesus), all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."


“It hasn't always been this way
I remember brighter days
Before the dark ones came
Stole my mind
Wrapped my soul in chains

Now I live among the dead
Fighting voices in my head
Hoping someone hears me crying in the night
And carries me away

Set me free of the chains holding me
Is anybody out there hearing me?
Set me free

Morning breaks another day
Finds me crying in the rain
All alone with my demons I am
Who is this man that comes my way?
The dark ones shriek
They scream His name
Is this the One they say will set the captives free?
Jesus, rescue me

As the God man passes by
He looks straight through my eyes
And darkness cannot hide

Do you want to be free?
Lift your chains
I hold the key
All power on Heaven and Earth belong to me

You are free
You are free
You are free



On a Journey of Hope, to Bring Back Beautiful

   This weekend we will pile into the car and hit the road on a journey to Beautiful.  Beautiful resides in Fort Worth, Texas, and we will be bringing Beautiful back to New Mexico.

   A journey that begins in hope, not that most thought of hope, as in “I hope I win the lottery”, but that sure hope that comes when you know that God is doing something. 

   When I was first asked, to find the beloved veteran a dog, to be a companion and friend, to be trained as a service dog,  I asked God to lead us to the right one,  to help us find the right dog, not just any dog, but the dog He made for this purpose. And I have asked Him to have His hand in all that follows and I trust that He will do all that I have asked……..and more……..He always throws in the more.

 He led us to this  dog.

     To a dog named Jewels, in Fort Worth, Texas. A dog who is as tough as nails, with a heart that far outweighs her 55lb body, a dog who loves big, and who holds no grudges though she has every right to hold some.

 The veteran wants to rename her, which is okay, for they are embarking on a new journey, and what is behind them has past, and that which is front of them is new.......so a new name, for a new life.

  While thinking of what the one she was made for might decide to name her........ a still small voice whispered in my heart……..”She is Bella”.

  And then the one she was made for confirmed it……..”She is Bella”.

 Bella means beautiful.

 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

   So the dog named Jewels, who was tossed from a balcony and suffered great injury, and endured great pain, who was rescued and recovered will become Bella, the service dog, the friend and companion of the combat veteran who has also seen horror and endured much pain.........and she who was rescued will rescue, and she who was healed will heal.


Please pray for them both as they start their journey together.

Update: 10/6/14,  The journey down was long,  we stopped only for gas and bathroom breaks, all the way to Fort Worth. We stopped to eat an hour out from Beautiful. 

  Upon arriving,  we saw several people gathered in the yard with a white dog. We parked and got out and they released her. She ran straight to him,  greeting him as if to say " I been waiting for you, so happy to see you!".

  We went inside,  and at some point went out to get something from the car. He opened the door and she jumped right in, ready to go. We had to remove her from the car for a few photos. 

  She was a trooper on the way home, leaning hard into him when he sat with her, and leaning hard into me while watching him, when he drove.

  When last I saw her, around 3pm yesterday, she was snuggled on the couch, his arm around her.

  They fit well together. 

It is good.

Beautiful has arrived in Albuquerque. 

  

 

10/7/14 Update: They did their first service dog training session today, both did well. The lesson was held at a local Lowe's store. Bella was introduced to the halter, and she did not really like it, but she was trusting and accepted it. He was introduced to the leash and how to handle it, how to communicate gently. He did well. It was a delight to watch them take their first service walk together.


10/14/14 Update: They had their second service dog training session today. About an hour before the lesson they were in a very close call on the freeway. Someone hit the median and spun out, and he had to evade the accident, another car was hit but they escaped. Bella was thrown to the floor, both were shook up. Yet they proceeded to their lesson, and today they went inside the Lowe's store with their two trainers, and their two trainers service dogs. So it was a lot to take in, a lot of new sights and sounds and Bella was stressed. But again she trusted, she listened and she followed him about the store. I was very proud of them both.

6/17/15 Update : Miss Bella is doing great, she has lived up to her name for she is beautiful. She is doing great as a service dog and as Adam's friend and companion. She goes pretty much everywhere with him. Today she attended college classes for the first time and she did great. We are so proud of her, and so grateful to God, and to Sharina the CEO of Astasia's Animal Rescue  (they do great work, please check them out and assist if you are able), and Aggie Wasson for saving Bella and for letting our veteran adopt her. She who was rescued has rescued. 

On War

  I am not fully qualified to speak to the topic of war. I have never been to war, never held another persons life in my hands, never labored over a mortally wounded friend, never taken the life of my enemy, so I can understand how most folks might question my credentials on this subject and others might say "you know nothing at all of war". I would not argue with either.

 I speak tonight of my experiences and my experiences alone. In my opinion that should be sufficient to scare most folks, and if others who have been closer to the subject, or paid a higher price than I were to speak it should bring tears to any normal person's eyes.

 We hear the term "the cost of war" tossed around often. Most people when they use this term are referring to one of two things. They refer either to the cost in monetary terms, or the cost in human lives, and sometimes both. But there is a deeper cost to war, one which I hope to at least make you familiar with and perhaps cause you to pause and consider.

 Across the years it has been my honor to support many of the troops fighting in this war, and to become friends through social media with a plethora of different folks, all tied to the wars and to our troops. I count amongst those friends, to name a few types, Gold Star mothers and fathers, those who have lost a child in war, Gold Star wives, Gold Star children, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. I count amongst them also mothers who have a child incarcerated in prison, and wives whose husbands are incarcerated. Standing along side those are the Wounded, and their families, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. And last but by no means least are those who lost a loved one to tragedy, be it suicide, drug overdoes, and or alcohol related deaths, among that circle I also know, wives, and mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. All of these people are part of the cost of war.

 Along side the fallen, the wounded, the lost ones are several more persons. The ruined marriages, relationships that just could not stand the test of multiple deployments. There are the hurt and shattered lives that are a result of these ruined marriages. Also there are the many children trying to do well in school while a parent stands in harms way, and beside them, the single parent, trying to hold it all together while their mate is deployed and at war.

 And there are the regular people, those waiting on someone they love, those trying to live a normal life and take care of normal business all the while worrying and praying for a loved one in harms way. In light of previous examples this seems rather easy, but even this takes a toil.

 All these things are part of the cost of war. The price we have paid, the price we are paying, and the price we will pay.

 I can speak personally regarding the toil taken upon a person when a child is deployed in harms way. I sent a son to war twice. Neither time was easy. While the child is deployed you become attached to your phone, it never leaves your side, you obsess over charging it and always ensuring it is ready, should you receive a call. You answer it no matter where you are, or what you are doing. You grab it and say HELLO in the middle of a church service, while headed for the door, you leave the shower covered in soap and shampoo in order to grab the ringing phone. You take it to the toilet with you. You run out of important meetings at work, meetings that you are holding..in order to answer that phone.

 You breathe a little when it's your kid on the other side, hearing his voice brings such relief. You want to cry, you want to grill him over things, to know if he is really okay, but you swallow all that, and try and stay calm and you just listen and support him. Your heart breaks into pieces when he informs you that he lost a brother, or that someone was wounded, but you stay strong for him, because you do not want to make this any harder for him. You want to keep him on that phone forever...but time is short and he is always so very tired.

 If you are like me, you stay as informed as you can on how things are going over there. On the days when you see that someone died the night before, there was a bombing, or there was a firefight that made the news, its in the area where he is...your heart stops, you fight against the fear, the fear that wants to paralyze you. You pray, sometimes on your face on the floor....but how does one pray in such a time? You pray Lord please keep him safe! Knowing that even as you say those words...someone is not safe...someone is dead. Is it your son or anothers?
  

 A day or so later the name is released, you breathe a sigh of relief, your heart rejoices, no one knocked on your door, no one called you, he is okay! And then the shattering takes place as you realize that somewhere, someplace, there is someone just like you, someone who prayed, someone who was so afraid........and someone knocked on her door.

 The entire deployment goes round and round, you replay these scenes over and over again. One day you receive a call.......he has been wounded.....it is like a punch in the stomach, your legs shake and will not support your weight, the time between that first sentence and the next which describes his wounds.....is forever. For me, I was one of the lucky ones, the wounds were a concussion and a jacked up back and hip, nothing major and my son was back in action within a week or so of the call.....but a lot of folks do not get a call like that....they get the call of lost limbs, of a loved one hanging to life by a thread. Oh Lord I know not how they endured these things for I never want to get any closer to that than I did.

 I have followed the accounts of friends who rushed to their son's sides. Who gave up everything to sit by their bed, to wrestle with Doctors and Nurses and to fight for them while they were unable to. I have followed their sons  as they climb from the very edge of death to recovery, and followed others who climbed and then died for no good reason. Followed others who fought with every bit of their will only to succumb to their wounds.

 I have followed parents, shared prayers with them, prayed for their sons, and those sons fell. I have followed these parents as they walk this life without their child.

 I know mothers who found their children dead, dead by their own hand, haunted by the demons of PTSD. Can you imagine anything more horrible? I have known about PTSD for some time and have always supported those who battle it, but in truth, in retrospect, I find that all that I thought that I knew about it was really only the tip of the iceberg.

 Our family has moved on from war, and from the military, we now join the ranks of the veterans and the veteran families. We battle the VA now, we battle PTSD and TBI and do our best to rescue our loved ones from the darkness that ever threatens to consume them. I thought I had seen the worst of things, experienced the worst of things, I thought there was nothing worse than sitting here, protected, surrounded by all the luxuries this American life has to offer, while my beloved child fought in a far away land......now I am not so sure.

 Now that I have come face to face with PTSD and all it's demons, I realize that I am in the battle of my life right now, a battle that I have personally seen good people, people who loved with all their hearts and souls, people who prayed, people who did all that they could humanly do.....lose. They buried their loved one. It is a frightening truth that I struggle with each and every day.

 I will end this short introduction into the cost of war with good news. The fight is winnable. Never give up on them, keep pushing forward, keep loving them, keep praying for them, keep doing all that you can to get them into the various programs out there that can assist them in the fight. We can win this fight. And should, God forbid, we be one of those who fail, let it be said that we gave it everything we had, that we put every ounce of our being into the fight.

 To all of you who have paid your part of the cost of war, be you the warrior who went, the loved one who waited, be you one who lost someone special, or walked with them through the Wounded Warrior journey, be you one who suffers from PTSD or TBI, or someone fighting along side...whatever part of the price you have paid, we thank you, and we pray for you each and every day. You are a special bunch of people, more resilient than most will ever know, and you, more than anyone else, make me proud. May God ever bless and keep you.

 To all of you who have not had to pay, I ask you to think upon the things I have written and to do all that you can to assist this wonderful group of people who have paid their share and yours also. Stand along side of them. Try to understand them. We need you in this fight, we need you to care, we need you to help. We have a generation who has fought for over ten years, and all those connected to them, they all bear scars, they all have wounds. Stand with us, and may God ever keep you from the sorrows felt in paying the cost of war.

 Last but not least, I pray, with all my heart and soul, that our nation will learn, and understand the true price being paid for the wars we are fighting. I pray that our elected officials and our citizens will consider the cost carefully before sending our sons and daughters to war. There are things worth fighting for, there are things worth dieing for, there are situations where the cost, in lives, in wounds, in shattered hearts and souls is worth paying. Should our nation be in danger, should there be risk of our citizens here being harmed or killed, or our freedoms be at risk, then fight we must, but I hope and I pray we will always weigh the choice carefully. The cost is so very much higher than most people ever know.