Friday, October 31, 2014

When A Beloved Soldier Comes Home

It's been almost a year since my mother, sister-in-love, and I found three identical boxes under the Christmas tree.  Each contained a multi-corded bracelet made out of caramel and walnut leather ending in a simple, silver anchor.

Ten months ago when my brother, Johnathan, left home, we three put them on as a reminder to pray throughout each day for a son, husband, and brother deployed halfway around the world with a thousand other men and women on the U.S.S. Bataan. 

I faithfully wrapped the bracelet around my wrist every morning after dressing, set it on the bedside table with my wedding band every night.

And in between, I prayed.

When I pushed the circle higher up my forearm to keep it out of the greasy pots-and-pans dishwater after every meal, I prayed.

When I picked flakes of dried mud from the leather after weeding another runaway flower bed, I prayed.

When the silver anchor twirled round my wrist to hang invisible by my pulse for the umpteenth time, I swirled it back to the top again...and I prayed.   

When the hard metal continuously beat time on my wrist as I trained for my half marathon in January, I prayed.

When my husband unconsciously rotated the bracelet with his rough fingers during worship service, I prayed.

When I closed the lid to the washing machine, when I sat to read a book on the kindle, when I watched television with my adopted daughter, when I sat waiting for the school bus, when I reached to help my three young ones with their homework--it didn't matter what I was doing.  I Prayed.  

Whether or not I found time that day to make a post office run, to make the children write a story, or to shoot an email across the seas, my bracelet was a physical reminder to make sure I never went more than a few hours without thinking of my brother and sending up a prayer to the Lord for his safety, health, and peace.

By the end of last week, we received word that this past Sunday was the day we had been longing for with anticipation.  By noon, Johnathan would return home to his wife, Liza, in North Carolina.  She put it best when she said the anticipation felt like Christmas and her wedding day all rolled into one.

That morning, I told husband I couldn't bring my cell phone into church because I was sure I would be repeatedly checking it just for word that Johnathan's shoes had touched down on American soil again. Less than half an hour after we finished worship, there he and Liza were, smiling back at me from the phone.

Although I couldn't be there to see him come back to us, I still feel like I was.  And it did feel like Christmas. still does.  I can't suppress a silly grin of face-glowing happiness as I write this and feel my chest warm and swell just from looking at this photo of two of my favorite people.

That was Sunday.  On Tuesday, although it felt strange, I took off the bracelet and set it in the top drawer of my jewelry chest.  It had served its purpose. 

Today is Friday, and the bracelet is back on my wrist. 

While my brother is no longer in the Middle East where he needs to be surrounded by prayer so intensely, the past few weeks have brought me an increase in prayer needs like I haven't seen in years. 

My Grandma in Michigan fell and broke her collar bone.  My Aunt broke seven ribs when she was slammed into by another vehicle. My pastor's father is in the last stages of cancer, and the family has called in hospice.  My husband's cousin just down the road from us has also called in hospice for his mother with Alzheimer's. 

A seemingly healthy friend has been overnight diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer.  Another dear friend is broken over a wayward daughter who is suffering depression as she reaps the consequences of sin.  My adopted daughter is struggling with her internship and her own set of personal prayer needs. Another dear friend is having surgery in a couple weeks to remove scar tissue.

The needs are so many.  They are so serious.  They are so personal, burdening my heart not simply for the afflicted but for their families as well.

I find I cannot simply pray in my limited quiet time or with our family at night and then go do my own thing throughout the rest of the day.  It just doesn't seem sufficient. 

I will think of my brother each time I look at this bracelet.  Yes.  But more than that, now when I feel the cool metal of the silver anchor or when I rotate its rough interwoven cords around my wrist, I am reminded to be that anchor of prayer for others. 

I want to be that prayer warrior--the one who doesn't forget, the one whose life is affected throughout the day by true concern.  I want my daily life to be interrupted by these needs instead of compartmentalizing them in what feels more like a token prayer during my quiet time.

It is my desire to be just such a warrior...even if I do need a constant reminder on my wrist to make it happen.

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