Every mother is proud of her children. (OK, maybe not every moment with your two-year-old—but you know what I mean.) Yet there are times when a mama feels her heart is just going to burst.
For me, this week is one of those times.
This week—on Thursday, January 31—our son Lars leaves for deployment to Iraq as a C-130 Marine Aviator. He expects to be in Iraq through sometime in August. And he leaves behind his beautiful wife Kelly and precious two-year-old son Bengt.
Why is he doing this? The short answer is that when you are a Marine, you do what the Marines tell you to do. But there’s a longer answer. And of course only he could give you the complete answer. But let me give you a glimpse of my mom-perspective as I’ve prayerfully watched Lars make the decisions that have led to this week.
Lars has always wanted to fly. His grandfather, whom he never knew, was a pilot. Lars had heard the stories of Grandpa Anderson’s B-17 missions over Germany in WWII, and how he loved his subsequent job as a commercial airline pilot. When we went to Washington, D. C., Lars always wanted to spend his time in the Air and Space Museum. His room was tiled with posters and models of planes.
But it wasn’t until a year or so after he graduated from Wake Forest University that he began to seriously evaluate the possibility of entering the military and learning to fly. For a number of months he explored what a Christian view of war and the military looked like for him. He read books, scanned the Internet, and had family discussions about it, asking questions like “What would Jesus say a Christ-follower’s response following 9/11 should be?” He and Kelly thought long and hard and prayerfully about it all.
His enlistment in the Marines, enrolling in Officer Candidate School (OCS) and subsequent Officer Training School, followed by years of flight training, was not a step lightly taken. He became a Marine because he wanted to serve his country, learn to fly, and, above all, I believe, follow what he saw as God’s call on his life at this time. It’s been a whole lot of hard work. Nearly half of his class in OCS did not make it. And the endless hours of flight training and many separations and moves he and Kelly have experienced have not been easy. Life in the Marines is never easy. Ask the thousands of brave men and women who serve in our military—and their families!
But this week is the hardest of all.
I’m sure that, professionally, Lars feels some excitement in doing what he’s trained to do for so long. Like his grandfather before him, he loves to fly. But he is a very, very devoted husband and father. And leaving his wife and son this week will probably be the hardest thing he’s ever done. It will be equally hard for Kelly.
So I’m asking you to pray for them—all three of them: Lars, Kelly, and Bengt. They are three precious examples among thousands of sacrifices being made every day. I am well aware that they are not unique. In fact, some of you reading this may be experiencing the same thing in your families. But they are unique to me. So I’m asking if you will join me in prayer for these three so precious to me.
Am I proud of them? You bet! I’m bursting with pride—in awe, really, of the remarkable young man Lars has become. (I must admit, I struggle with the word “proud.” First, because I don’t mean the wrong kind of pride. And second, because I think we moms sometimes take way too much of the credit—and the blame!—for our kids. Lars is God’s first, mine on loan only for a time. But every one of you moms reading this knows what I mean by “proud”!)
Am I grateful for them? You betcha I am! I am grateful beyond words as I see them listening to the voice of God in their lives and doing their very best to follow it.
Do I love them? More than you could ever know—But, wait, most of you reading this are probably moms. So you can imagine how much I love them.
Notice I’m saying “them.” That’s because Lars and Kelly are an amazing team. And I feel similar pride, gratitude, and love for Kelly. In some ways, her “deployment” may almost be the harder one. So I hope you moms will pray for her especially. She is one terrific mother, as well as one magnificent wife. But being a “single parent” of a very active (though adorable, sweet, precocious—any grandmother reading this can fill in the rest!) two-year-old—all the while missing Lars like crazy—will be a big challenge. Please pray for her.
One last observation from my mama-heart. While this week is hardest of all for Lars and Kelly, it is also hard for Woody and me as Lars’ parents. I feel as if I—as a gifted worrier (more about that in future blogs)—am entering a new chapter with God. It’s a chapter entitled “Trust: Do You Really Believe You Can Trust Me with Lars As He Leaves for Iraq?”
Turning worry into prayer, and ultimately trust, will not be easy for me. I have to be honest with you. The only way I can do it is to stay on my knees. The only way I can do it is to remind myself—every day, maybe every hour—that God loves Lars even more than I do. The only way I can do it is to cling to the same verse we recently sent to Lars on a little laminated card for his wallet:
Be strong and very courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
“Wherever you go” includes Iraq. It also includes wherever you find yourself or your children today. But we moms need reminding, don’t we?
Will you join me on my knees?