Sparta Posts

Operation Escalones {#12} – Tat It Up!

Operation Escalones {#12} – Tat It Up!

Last weekend, I crossed something off my bucket list, and off of my to do list.

It’s something that surprised more than a few of the people closest to me.

I got a tattoo.

It’s on my foot, and I’m absolutely in love with it.

But no one knows what it means, so that’s what this post is about today.

The words on the arch of my foot read “ezer kenegdo“. It’s Hebrew, and it’s what God called woman when He created her, long before her name was Eve.

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‘ezer in Hebrew is commonly translated as “helper” or something similar, but in my study of the word, it seems that the more accurate translation is “power” or “strength”.

“Therefore, could we conclude that Genesis 2:18 be translated as ‘I will make a power [or strength] corresponding to man.’ ” (source)

It’s important to me that you understand that I did not get this tattoo because of how this term applies to me simply as a wife and a mother, but also how it applies to me as a woman.

The following, bolded text is an excerpt from the book “Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul” by John and Stasi Eldredge. It’s long, but it’s what really sparked my interest in the term ezer kenegdo.

When God creates Eve, He calls her an ezer kenegdo. “It is not good for the man to be alone, I shall make him [an ezer kenegdo]” (Gen. 2:18 Alter). Hebrew scholar Robert Alter, who has spent years translating the book of Genesis, says that this phrase is “notoriously difficult to translate.” The various attempts we have in English are “helper” or “companion” or the notorious “help meet.” Why are these translations so incredibly wimpy, boring, flat…disappointing? What is a help meet, anyway? What little girl dances through the house singing “One day I shall be a help meet?” Companion? A dog can be a companion. Helper? Sounds like Hamburger Helper. Alter is getting close when he translates it “sustainer beside him.” 

The word ezer is used only twenty other places in the entire Old Testament. And in every other instance the person being described is God himself, when you need him to come through for you desperately.

There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you…Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. (Deut. 33: 26, 29, emphasis added) 

I lift up my eyes to the hill — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Ps. 121:1-2, emphasis added)

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May He send you help. (Ps. 20:1-2 emphasis added)

We wait in hope for the Lord, He is our help and our shield. (Ps. 33:20, emphasis added)

O house of Israel, trust in the Lord — He is their help and shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord — He is their help and shield. You who fear Him, trust in the Lord – He is their help and shield. (Ps. 115:9-11, emphasis added) 

Most of the contexts are life and death, by the way, and God is your only hope. Your ezer. If He is not there beside you…you are dead. A better translation therefore of ezer would be “lifesaver.” Kenegdo means alongside, or opposite to, a counterpart.

You see, the life God calls us to is not a safe life. Ask Joseph, Abraham, Moses, Deborah, Esther — any of the friends of God from the Old Testament. Ask Mary and Lazarus; ask Peter, James, and John; ask Priscilla and Aquila — any of the friends of God in the New Testament. God calls us to a life involving frequent risks and many dangers. Why else would we need Him to be our ezer? You don’t need a lifesaver if your mission is to be a couch potato. You need an ezer when your life is in constant danger. 

Picture the character Arwen in the mythic motion-picture trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. Arwen is a princess, a beautiful and brave elf maiden. She comes into the story in the nick of time to rescue the little hobbit Frodo just as the poisoned wound moving toward his heart is about to claim him. 

ARWEN: He’s fading. He’s not going to last. We must get him to my father. I’ve been looking for you for two days. There are five wraiths behind you. Where the other four are, I do not know. 

ARAGORN: Stay with the hobbits. I’ll send horses for you. 

ARWEN: I’m the faster rider. I’ll take him. 

ARAGORN: The road is too dangerous.

ARWEN: I do not fear them. 

ARAGORN: (Relinquishing to her, he takes her hand.) Arwen, ride hard. Don’t look back. 

It is she, not the warrior Aragorn, who rides with glory and speed. She is Frodo’s only hope. She is the one entrusted with his life and with him, the future of all Middle Earth. She is his ezer kenegdo

That longing in the heart of a woman to share life together as a great adventure — that comes straight from the heart of God, who also longs for this. He does not want to be an option in our lives. He does not want to be an appendage, a tagalong. Neither does any woman. God is essential. He wants us to need Him — desperately. Eve is essential. She has an irreplaceable role to play. And so you’ll see that women are endowed with fierce devotion, an ability to suffer great hardships, a vision to make the world a better place. 

– Stasi Eldredge, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul

This is the conclusion I’ve reached in all of my studies.

The woman was created to be a warrior. She was meant to be a warrior because the battle for souls, for our husbands, for our children is fierce and the mission is monumental.

It doesn’t wait for a woman to become a wife or a mother. It begins because she is female — from the beginning.

God created a team — man and woman. They are the perfect complement to each other. Each has their own special skills, callings, and expectations, but their mission is the same. In order to win the war, all soldiers must fight with their own specialities.

If each soldier gets concerned with being just like the other, the division will destroy the team. They need to be confident of their calling, secure in their mission, tasks, and skills.

My tattoo is on my foot because I never want to forget that I am in a battle.

I’ve been called to fight for the souls of all men, women, and children.

More specifically, for me…I am a partner with Ty in a battle for the hearts and souls of my family.

I am a woman.

I was created to fight. To be a warrior in a battle of all battles.

An ‘ezer kenegdo.

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Do you feel like you are in a battle? Are you ready to be a warrior? Do you have any tattoos that have any special meaning to you? I’d love to hear about them! 

For more explanation of the term ‘ezer kenegdo, see this site here. Carolyn was the speaker at our women’s conference this year, and she blew me away.

1,826 Days

1,826 Days

Wow.

I know that they say that time flies, but seriously, it’s like in warp speed.

1,826 days ago, I became a mother.

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1,826 days ago, I was tasked with the growth, health, education, nurturing, and overall survival of this incredible little person.

It has been 1,826 days since Noah took his first breath, and in that time, my world has been completely turned upside down. My priorities have been rearranged. My nights have been pretty sleepless, but full of cuddles. My days have been full of giggles, and sometimes a few tears.

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As I’m typing this, I find myself at a loss for words in the face of all of the things I could say about the person that Noah is.

From the very beginning, he has been so much fun. We call him “Monkey” because from the start, he’s been this long tangle of limbs that doesn’t know how to sit still. He climbs, jumps, runs, and falls with ease. This kid never slows down, and he goes with all his might.

He’s full of knowledge that shouldn’t be in a 5-year-old brain. And he’s full of emotions that you don’t find in many 5-year-old hearts.

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His memory astounds us on a regular basis. Ty and I constantly find ourselves silently mouthing, “How does he remember that?!” in bewilderment over his head.

There is a capacity for love in that kid that puts many adults to shame. He forgives quickly and completely, and he has an understanding of sympathy and empathy that I can only hope to emulate.

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Noah is an old soul. He has wisdom far beyond his years.

And yet, he’s the goofiest kid! He’s the one who loves perfecting jokes, knows how to work a room, and has the best imagination!

For over a year, he had a little world that existed only in his mind. He called it “The Office.”

At his own American Family Insurance office (just like Daddy’s), which was located “downtown,” he golfed all day and made birthday hats. The office could only be reached by helicopter or private plane. His office staff consisted of “my Wee-sa” (Lisa) and his “kids.” He had a lot of kids. In a crazy twist, one day he declared that he had just acquired some dolphins. For $5, you could buy a ticket to swim with the dolphins at his office.

“The Office” was not without mishaps, though. Frequently, Lisa (who had such a knack for causing trouble) would set the office on fire. This would (obviously) ruin his afternoon as he dealt with the clean-up and aftermath. Thankfully, Lisa always suffered only minor burns. His kids also found some stray dogs and took them in, which proved to be an unwise decision, as he often lamented about the poop they left all over the office!

While shopping at the grocery store, it was a frequent battle to balance his imagination with reality as he declared that certain items must be purchased for his office — toilet paper, swim trunks (for swimming with the dolphins, of course), and dog food were frequent requests.

One day, when my mom asked how the office was going, this sweet boy sat both my mom and me down and announced he had something to tell us.

You can imagine our dismay when he stated, “I’m so sorry to tell you this, but I actually don’t have an office. I made it up.”

This is the kid that Noah is. Even his imagination has steps, logic, responsibility, and ultimately, truth.

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Watching him learn about life is thrilling for me. I love to watch him understand the process of something, or to watch him think through consequences and outcomes. He understands “if-then” scenarios and cause and effect like many adults can not.

He keeps me on my toes. He loves sports almost as much as he loves Jesus. He can pretty much always be found with a ball in his hands.

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His heart is so tender and caring. He’s the most grateful kid — he is so quick to say “thank you” and mean it.

I have learned so much about unconditional love from being a mother. I’ve learned about my instincts, and how to use my intuition to my advantage. I’ve discovered that I know how to read my kids better than anyone else in this world.

1,826 days ago, while the world’s eyes were glued to their televisions as Barack Obama was inaugurated as our 44th President of the United States, my eyes were glued to this little tiny 7 lb. miracle that had just hours ago made me a mom.

Looking at the boy my baby is becoming fills me with so much joy it takes my breath away.

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I wish I could say that I can’t wait for the rest of his life, but the truth is that I can. I don’t want to miss any minutes of the incredible life that he is leading.

God has big plans for this boy, and I can’t believe I get to have a front row seat.

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Happy Birthday to my sweet, sweet Monkey!

Jesus for When I’m Selfish

Jesus for When I’m Selfish

You guys….it’s been like 8 days since I posted last, I think. Something like that.

We’ve been under attack.

Seriously.

All four of us have been sick for almost a week!

My family rarely gets sick, and this week we have all been sick at the same time. Noah, Aidan, and I have one thing, but Ty has had something completely different. He’s been quarantined in one room of the house, while the boys and I have been sleeping in my bed.

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As I went about my life this week, feeling sick and overwhelmed, I started to see a truth. Every mom that I talked to about being sick immediately had the same response, more or less: “Oh wow, I’m so sorry! It sucks being the mom when you’re sick, doesn’t it?”

As moms, it’s just a reality that you don’t get to stop when you’re sick.

People still need things from you! They need even more when they are sick, too. Everyone still has to eat, snuggles need to be distributed liberally, each separate medication schedule needs to be updated frequently, temperatures taken. Even if you get to sit down and watch TV, it’s Arthur. The spread of germs needs to be mitigated, extra-emotional outbursts need to be lovingly navigated.

Let’s face it. Sick doesn’t equal rest for moms.

In the middle of this week, I had a little pity party for myself. I was so tired, my body just ached, and I wanted to go to bed. Alone. Even for just a couple hours. At that very moment, all three members of my family asked for something. Nothing big, just something. I couldn’t even tell you what it was.

Something in my brain froze.

I couldn’t even think. I couldn’t process their requests.

I just sat down and cried.

It pains me to say that I was totally consumed with myself in that moment. I’m ashamed that right then, all I could think was, “And what about me? Who’s going to take care of me? I feel so alone!”

I think I have found a new item for my list of things at which I suck.

This week, I was confronted with my selfishness over and over.

This week, I failed that test a lot.

I had moments of unkindness, a short temper, and definite selfishness. At times, I couldn’t seem to find my compassion, my patience, or my servant attitude.

But I’ll tell you something amazing…

I saw Jesus over and over this week.

I saw Him in my mom, who played with my kids who were in various stages of contagiousness, washed all my dishes a couple times, and stayed home with whichever kid was home sick from school.

I saw Him in my mother-in-law, who brought us food and drinks, stayed with Ty at urgent care, and made my kids giggle.

Jesus showed up in my kids in the way that they took care of each other. In the way they felt compassion, empathy, and sympathy for each other. He was so evident in the way that they served each other.

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And most of all, Jesus showed up to forgive me.

As I look over this week, there were some blessings that I couldn’t see in the moment. I got to snuggle more with my kids than I have in so long. Each one of the kids had the opportunity to go to school by themselves for a couple days due to the other one being sick. This also meant that each one of them got a special lunch date on their own.

Jesus lovingly nudged my selfish heart and showed me where I needed an attitude adjustment.

We’re feeling better. Our bodies are healing.

But more importantly, thanks to Jesus, my soul is healing.

Where is Jesus healing your soul today?

Santa Confession

Santa Confession

We don’t do Santa in my house.

*gasp*

Not that he’s not allowed to be a topic of conversation, or that his image is not allowed in my house (obviously, see my post here!). I just mean that my kids know that Santa isn’t real, and there are no presents from Santa under the tree on Christmas morning.

Okay, put down the phone. I’m sure the authorities will be too busy to arrest me anyway.

Let me say this before I explain my reasons…

I don’t judge you for doing Santa in your house.

I’m not writing this post to tell you not to do Santa, or because I think you are a heathen for practicing this fun tradition in your house. I think Santa is a fun part of Christmas! I love a good Santa movie, it’s fun to see Santas at the mall, and I think an awesome rendition of “Santa Baby” is great background music for tree decorating.

I have quite a few reasons why we don’t do Santa in my house, and almost all of them have nothing to do with religion (though a few do). I don’t think that you are a bad Christian if you tell your kids Santa brought their new bike…so take a deep breath and keep reading, okay?

Reason #1 – “You better watch out….”

Can I just say this? I hate the feeling of anxiety that we give our kids when we tell them to “watch out” because Santa Clause is coming. It’s sort of like telling your kids that the policeman at the restaurant is going to arrest them if they don’t sit down and behave. Isn’t that counter-productive? Don’t we want our kids to like the police and Santa?

We should be good and nice because we are supposed to be. Not because we’re about to get blacklisted at the North Pole. Or to get our names on a list.

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Plus, no one ever gets coal in their stocking. Santa’s still bringing your kids that new Nano. So this is an empty threat….again undermining the whole process anyway.

Reason #2 – “He sees you when you’re sleeping…”

Um…excuse me? I remember being so creeped out by this weird aspect of Santa. He watches me all year long? This is not comforting, this is some twisted gift-giving Big Brother concept that I’m not excited about. Also, he can get into my house with all the doors locked AND no chimney? Could he do this any time of the year, should he choose? Yeah…no thanks.

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I want my kids to know the only person who is watching them all the time is Jesus, and He isn’t looking for reasons to note when they’ve screwed up. I want my kids to know that Jesus shows them grace when they screw up instead of adding a tally to the “naughty” side. Every time.

Reason #3 – Gratitude

Ty works hard. Like really hard. He gets up early and goes to work before the rest of us are awake. He provides the money for their sports, their school, their food, their clothes, and their Christmas presents.

We put a lot of time, effort, and thought into what we will get our kids for Christmas. We pick out the perfect clothes that they will like, the toy we know they want, the book that we think they will enjoy. I spend Christmas Eve frantically lovingly wrapping each present.

Gratitude is so important to me (see here and here). I think it’s important that our kids know exactly how they get their presents, and to be grateful.  They should look Ty in the eye and say “Thank you, Dad. This is awesome!”

Has anyone ever sent Santa a thank you note? No.

But you can…

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Reason #4 – I don’t celebrate Ragnar

Wait, what?

Okay, this is Ragnar.

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He’s the mascot for the Vikings — our family’s favorite football team (don’t judge…we know).

We don’t watch the Vikings play on Sundays for Ragnar. We watch them for the football that they play. While Ragnar is a fun part of the whole experience, he certainly isn’t the reason the Vikings play football. He doesn’t get all the screen-time, analysis from commentators, and he’s not why people buy tickets.

Santa is to Christmas as Ragnar is to the Vikings. Feel me? He’s a fun addition. Just not what Christmas is all about.

In my house, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. We celebrate His birth by blessing and loving each other and others — just as Jesus asked us to do. It’s not about what we can get from Christmas, it’s about what we can give. Santa is a good symbol of the spirit of giving, and that is all.

Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love the decorations, the family, the food, the parties, the music (oh! the music!). I love taking my kids to see Christmas lights, Christmas carols, watching Miracle on 34th Street (the original) and It’s a Wonderful Life. I love giving gifts to all of my loved ones, and I love that everyone around me is in the same wonderful mood. There’s electricity in the air when the first snow of December falls (except in Arizona…maybe when the temp drops to 60 degrees?).

I love a well-played Santa.

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We’ve just chosen to skip the part about him being real.

And for the record, my kids know that they are not to be telling other kids that Santa is not real. They know that other kids think he is real, and they know not to spoil that for them, so you don’t need to declare a quarantine of my children until Christmas is over.

Do you do Santa? Do you skip it? I’d love to hear from you about it!

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A Spartan Gives Thanks

A Spartan Gives Thanks

I have been very worried that my kids wouldn’t understand what Thanksgiving means this year (read my post about it here) in the midst of all of the consumerism around them during this whole season.

And then last night, Noah melted my heart with his total understanding of exactly what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about…

My parents and Ty’s mom were all over for dinner last night. As the seven of us sat down to eat tacos, the adults were all talking about something in the news and totally missing Noah’s requests for our attention.

So he grabbed a spoon and started banging on a bowl saying “Can I have your attention please? Everyone, please be quiet, can I have your attention?”

I’m ashamed to say that it took us a minute to quiet down, because what came next was way more important than anything we had to say.

He stood on the bench at the table and said exactly this:

“I just wanted to say that everyone being in this house makes it so crowded! And that just makes me so happy. And I just want to say that I love all of you guys and I’m so glad that you’re here.”

Yeah, I know…I cried, too.

What a blessing it is to know that he loves the amount of people in and out of our house all the time. And that he knows exactly what is most important — loving people.

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I think that this kind of special attitude is what Jesus wanted from us when He asked us to be like children. I’m so in awe of what He’s doing in and through such little, incredible people as my kids.

May your Thanksgiving be filled with as much gratitude and love as this.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us — especially my sweet sweet Spartans.

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Spartan Gratitude

Spartan Gratitude

Everywhere you look on Facebook, there are people being grateful. There are lists of children, family members, blessings, and activities. It would be a difficult task to ignore the outpouring of gratitude sprinkled all over your news feed.

My kids are learning about Thanksgiving at school, and all about the pilgrims and why we celebrate Thanksgiving. They’re learning at church what it means to be grateful.

But there’s a problem.

Christmas is already up in the grocery stores. Black Friday deals are turning into “The Week Before Thanksgiving” Deals. Consumerism is still alive and well. Kids are getting the “gimmes” and the “gotta-have-its”.

I’m fighting an uphill battle when I try to teach my kids how to be grateful. They have so many clothes that they have a hard time choosing what to wear. Their toys are so plentiful that they can’t choose which ones to pull off the shelf. They eat at restaurants often enough that many times it becomes an expectation, rather than a treat.

And to be honest, taken alone, these things are not bad. I’ve purchased all the clothes and toys. Because of our full and crazy life, we eat at restaurants frequently. We are blessed.

I’ve taken many of the toys out of our house and sold them or donated them (see how here and here), leaving only the cars, the balls, and the puzzles. I’ve weeded through clothes and purged my whole house. We have changed the way that we eat, which cuts out a lot of restaurants. We have never done, and will continue to not, excessive presents for holidays or birthdays.

And yet, I’m still faced with the challenge of teaching my kids how to be grateful.

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To be in the habit of being grateful.

This is something that we will be focusing on so heavily in the coming season. There are so many things for them (and me) to be grateful for.

First and foremost, I am grateful for Jesus.

And that is what I want my kids to know, more than anything — gratitude to Jesus.  Gratitude for Jesus.

Going into this season, I want them to realize that the whole reason why we celebrate Christmas — Jesus. I want them to know on Thanksgiving day that the ginormous meal that we are sharing with our family provides so many things to be incredibly grateful for.

Once they understand all of this gratitude, I want them to know that because we are grateful for Jesus, we are to love.

That’s all that matters — that we love. We are to here to do nothing else. Jesus died to give us new life to do nothing else.

Only love.

If I can cultivate the habit of being grateful in my kids (and in myself), it will inevitably lead them to love. Unconditional, unwavering, unquestioning love. Love for those who are broken, lost, and alone. Love for those who feel that they don’t deserve love.

And that is how a Spartan loves — through overwhelming gratitude.

So going into this season of Thanksgiving, it is my mission to make sure that my boys learn gratitude that will become a habit for the rest of their lives — not just during a month of thankful status updates.

How do you teach your kids gratitude? Leave me a comment!

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Laundry Spartans

Laundry Spartans

There’s not much of a post today. Just bragging on my boys.

This morning I kind of muttered under my breath, “Oh shoot. I forgot to switch the laundry.”

Next thing I know, my little Spartans are singing together somewhere upstairs and giggling together. That happens so rarely I wanted to watch whatever they were doing.

Well this is what they were doing:

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Something I am doing is sticking!! Small little reminders of what doing the laundry means, or helping people, or how to help each other…something is working.

I don’t always feel like an awesome mom. In fact, I pretty much never do. But it’s things like this that give me hope that maybe I’m not the constant failure I think I am!

It’s hard to remember moments like these when I’m covered in food, administering time outs, and feeling overwhelmed by the pile of dishes in the kitchen. What a gracious God I serve to remind me in such a sweet way that He is working on my children so lovingly even when I’m failing or overwhelmed.

Have you ever had a moment like this that reminded you that you just might be okay after all? Tell me about it!

On Veterans and Spartans

On Veterans and Spartans

Today is the day that I normally do a post about a project that I have completed, but to be honest with you, it seems trite in light of the day.

Today is Veterans Day.

It seems irreverent in a way to say “Happy” Veterans Day (though I’m not sure what else you’d say). For veterans, being a veteran is not about being happy. It’s about sacrifice, honor, and duty. It’s about loss, loneliness, and recovery.

I am eternally grateful to each and every veteran who has put the needs of our country above those of themselves and their families. It’s not just the man or woman who serves that sacrifices. It’s their families and their friends, too. I have seen this sacrifice made so willingly and honorably time and again, and it amazes me every time.

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The sacrifices a soldier makes is often not their lives. It’s their bodies, their minds, their relationships. All so that you and I can be free to discuss things like politics and religion. So that we can wake up every morning and have the freedom to choose what career we will start, what we will teach our children, which grocery store we will choose to frequent. So that we have the freedom to disagree with those in authority, or even to disrespect these soldiers’ very sacrifice.

Too many times, though, the sacrifice that is made is their lives.

It’s gut-wrenching for me to think about the loss that is endured by the loved ones of a soldier. Knowing that their loss was a gift given, rather than an accident that happened or an illness that was ruthless. It takes my breath away.

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Some have made this sacrifice anonymously, and without fanfare and honor.

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The picture above is of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. It is an emotional experience to stand in this place and watch other soldiers guard this resting place so humbly and fervently. To watch the changing of the guards is an experience like none I have ever had. There is honor for their loss, even in anonymity. If you can, you must see it.

I’ve been asked about how I would feel if one or both of my sons decided to join a branch of the armed forces, and for me the answer comes immediately.

I would be so proud.

Don’t get me wrong — I would worry. But these gifts God has given me are not mine. I’m so blessed to be their mom, but they are not mine to keep. They are for me to teach and grow into people who love. People who see that there is more around them than just themselves. People who see that the world is not here for them, but that they are here for the world.

If they felt the tug to defend our country and protect our freedoms, it would be an honor to witness their service. They have so much to offer to the world, and it would be so beautiful to see their talents and abilities used in such a noble way.

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My job is to raise Spartans. Spartans know that there is something bigger than their little world. They understand that there is a cause greater than themselves, and that it is their duty to fight for that — no matter what it is. It could be caring for broken people, loving the unloved and marginalized, leading a family, or simply being a man of character and integrity.

And should that cause be the armed forces, I would be so proud.

So today, with a knot in my throat and a catch of my breath, thank you veterans for your service, your bravery, your honor, your selflessness, and your sacrifice.

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I have cousins, uncles, grandparents, and friends who have served. Do you have a loved one who has served? Feel free to honor them here! And be sure to give them a hug today.