All, Culture/Life, Family

Supporting the Troops

Summer is a time filled with patriotic holidays.  Memorial Day, Flag Day on June 14th (which I just learned is also the U.S. Army’s birthday), and, of course, Independence Day/4th of July.

I was raised in a patriotic household.  We were taught to show respect for the flag.  Stand up and place our hand over our heart for the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem.  Never let an American flag drag on the ground.  I always loved learning about American history, especially the colonial and Revolutionary War era.

We were taught to honor the military. Many of my family members served in World War II.  This blog is named for my great-uncle George, who was so convicted of the need to fight that he went to Canada and joined the Royal Air Force before the United States even entered the Second World War.  My mom is proud to share a birthday with the U.S. Marine Corps. (November 10th, in case you were wondering.)

My interest in history and my involvement in performing arts came together in the selection of a topic for my senior thesis in college.  I wrote about the founding and the importance of the USO in World War II.  For those of you who may not be familiar, the USO stands for the United Service Organizations.

It was originally a conglomeration of six religious and charitable organizations that joined together to provide physical, emotional, and spiritual support for the military.  There were USO canteens and centers, mostly at transportation sites where service members could write letters, take a shower, nap, drink coffee or have a conversation with a USO hostess.  These centers also hosted dances and social events for the military.

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Bob Hope entertains troops in WWII. Source: Wikipedia.

There was also the Camp Show side of the USO that performed for the soldiers both domestically and overseas.  Some of the performers included Hollywood luminaries like comedian/actor Bob Hope and the singing group, The Andrews Sisters.  The USO still provides support and entertainment for our military to this day.

I had just turned 11 years old when the terrorist attacks of 9/11 took place.  Growing up in a post-September 11th world amidst ensuing security concerns and the subsequent and on-going war on terror, I think awareness of what it means to be an American and respect for our troops have definitely played more prominent roles in my life than they possibly would have otherwise.

One of the main post office buildings in my hometown is named in memory of a school classmate of my brother’s.  This friend was a Marine who died fighting in Iraq in 2004.  He was a faith-filled, honorable young man.

As a I grow older, my support and gratitude for the military only continues to deepen and become more personal.

As we all know, summer is also wedding season.  This June, I was honored to be a bridesmaid in two weddings of very close friends.  One of my friends married a former Marine and the other married an active-duty member of the Navy.

The latter friend’s wedding included all the pomp and circumstance of the military, such as the sabre arch under which the newly married couple walked upon exiting the church as well as the ceremonial cake cutting with a sword.

Let me tell you: the patriotic, hopeless romantic in me was eating all of this up.  I challenge any red-blooded American woman not to feel at least a twinge of a heart-flutter when she first sees a man in uniform.  They just look so dang sharp.

But I digress…

On a more serious note, meeting, celebrating, and dancing with these guys at the wedding and knowing they are all serving our nation made things more real, more personal. I consider my friend’s now husband also one of my friends.

My friend is now a military wife.  She will be experiencing all the unique challenges, joys, and fears of that role.

I half-jokingly told one of my friends/fellow bridesmaids that now all these guys  are on my worry list and prayer list.

But seriously…

Do we really stop and think about the sacrifices of the military and their families?  We cannot and must not be indifferent.

They are volunteering to go fight, knowing the life-threatening dangers they will be facing, while many of their peers are clamoring for “safe spaces” on college campuses in order to hide from anyone or anything that might offend them or challenge their opinions.  Quite the dichotomy.

Yet they can protest and call for safe spaces because of our military-protected freedom.

“Land of the free because of the brave.” Some may think it sounds cheesy but it is true.

And how are we using that hard-won freedom?  Are we using it responsibly, working for the common good? Do we engage with our political opponents respectfully or do we resort to mean-spirited, personal attacks?

Do we show respect when the National Anthem is played?  Do we proudly display the American flag? Do we learn the true history of our country, warts and all, appreciating the good while learning from the mistakes? Do we remember our troops and their loved ones in our prayers?

Do we thoughtfully and actively participate in the voting process?  Could we perhaps donate our time or our money to a worthy organization that supports the military?  Do we thank service members when the opportunity presents itself?

How can we be more patriotic and self-sacrificial Americans?

To all veterans and active-duty service members and to your families and loved ones: THANK YOU!!!  Americans can never adequately express the debt of gratitude we owe to you.  God bless and protect you all!

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Photo credit unknown.
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All, Faith, Family

A Time to Trust

The French language has two words that both signify “to know.”  Savoir indicates knowing of or about something or how to do something while connaitre implies more intimate knowledge: to know a person or to be familiar with someone or something.  One could say that savoir is a more academic, aloof “knowledge about” while connaitre indicates a relationship.  Both words mean “to know” yet the level of knowing is as different as the shallow and deep ends of a swimming pool.

Belief also, I think, is a bit of a sliding scale. There is a vast difference between giving one’s intellectual assent to something –a savoir-type of belief– and a deep-down-in-the-heart-and-soul, connaitre-type of belief.

You might be thinking to yourself: “this parsing of words and meanings is all fine and good, but what is the point of all this?”

Well, this sliding scale of knowledge and belief is, arguably, a good description of faith in God and of spiritual progress.

I am in a season of life when many things are changing in little and big ways both for myself and for my family.  Sometimes I wish I could just wave a magic wand and fix some of the challenges with which we are presented.  I am recognizing more and more my “control freak” tendencies.  Sometimes it is hard to know where one’s responsibility lies or how much responsibility one holds.

When we’re children, if we are blessed with a loving family (which thankfully I was), our world is filled with security and comfort.  We are shielded from the nastier sides of life and obviously the big, stressful decisions do not rest on a child’s shoulders.  However, as we grow up, the monumental realities of life, both good and bad, become inevitable acquaintances.

Yet, we are still meant to have that child-like peace and security.  Christ tells us, ” ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven'” (Matthew 18:3). God is our Father and we are His beloved children.  Yet so often we can accurately be called “ye of little faith.”

I think the only way to develop that child-like faith, that unwavering trust, which brings peace and lifts burdens, is to have a personal relationship with Jesus.  To get to know him through prayer, Scripture, the sacraments, and through the wisdom of others.  To not simply know or to believe in a savoir, detached manner, but to believe and to know in a relational, connaitre manner.

To truly believe in His goodness and love, His promises and His providence.  To remember His blessings and help in past insistences.  To remember that He is our Savior and our Friend, Who always, always has our best interests in mind.  And also, to remember that just as God is working in your heart, He is also working on the hearts and minds of those around you, and maybe, just maybe He is asking you to have a little more trust in them as well.

Fr. Jacques Philippe writes in Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart, “In order to resist fear and discouragement, it is necessary that through prayer–through a personal experience of God re-encountered, recognized and loved in prayer–we taste and see how good the Lord is (Psalm 34).”

In A.J. Russell’s daily devotional book, God Calling, one of Christ’s exhortations is to trust Him for everything.  That really hit home with me recently.   When He says everything, He literally means everything!  From the majorly consequential to the little trivia of everyday living.  All our hopes, desires, worries, and concerns for ourselves and for others.  EVERYTHING.

Another frequent assurance in the book is that “All is well.”  A reminder that Jesus is the One with the final say.  And He is working all things for our good (Romans 8:28).

My great-Uncle George, for whom this blog is named, certainly must have had a goodly amount of trust in God when he decided to go to Canada and join the Royal Air Force during World War II.  That was, undoubtedly, one of the biggest decisions of his life.

If I let it (and I am trying to do so), this season of life can be an opportunity to strive to develop this type of trust in the Lord. But I have a sneaking suspicion that this will also be a life-long lesson.  It is hard for us prideful humans to let go of control, but so often when we finally do surrender a person, a situation, a problem to God, the solution readily becomes evident.

I will leave you with some words of encouragement from the Psalms:

“Commit your way to the Lord: trust in him and he will act.” (Psalm 37:5)

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:11)

Serenity Prayer

 

 

All, Culture/Life, Family

“Off to the Fair!”

Now that we’re in the “bleak midwinter” (even though winter has felt very spring-like in my neck of the woods), I thought it’d be fun to do a #throwback blog post of sorts about visiting my local county fair this past summer with my brother.

Going to the county fair was an annual event growing up in my house.  My mother’s grandmother lived in the country, and my mom has many sweet memories of visiting and playing on the family farm with her cousins.  My father also lived on a farm when he was a small boy.  Consequently, both of my parents wanted my brother and me to experience even a taste of what they knew as children.  Though never huge, our county fair used to be much larger than now with numerous rides and games and live musical acts. I remember always listening for the screams of the people riding one particular ride that would swing them back-and-forth to an almost vertical line.  It was one of the tallest rides and looking and listening for it was a staple part of our fair experience.  Of course, every year had its own special memories and moments. One year, we even were able to watch a lady being shot out of a cannon!  Pretty dang amazing. One of the funniest memories I have of the fair is a cow sneezing on my brother.

Sprawled out in wide, expansive green fields beneath the grand Blue Ridge Mountains, the tents and rides were truly in a picturesque setting.  The earthy animal smells and sweat only added to the whole exhausting, exhilarating experience.

My parents weren’t able to join my brother and me this year; nevertheless, I was so glad to return to the fair as we hadn’t gone in several years. It was a steaming hot and humid August day, the kind where you just surrender yourself to the heat and feel your clothes slowly dampen with streams of sweat, when my older brother and I set off.  Due to a change of location, our fair had been greatly downsized, but some of our favorites were still there–the animals, the local art and photography exhibit, the farm-grown vegetables exhibit, the massive John Deere tractors with tires as tall as I am. We saw pigs being hosed down -did I mention it was hot?-fluffy baby chicks, and adorable miniature therapy horses, among other farm denizens.  The day we went there was even a blacksmith demonstration taking place.

Although my brother and I both agreed that we are glad we grew up with the fair as it used to be, going back lifted my spirits.  I am finding more and more that I love being out in the country and surrounded by nature, its simplicity and its bigness.  To borrow a phrase from Fulton Sheen, “the fecundity of life” is everywhere.  That day at the fair, I found myself feeling friendlier toward people and more confident–no expectations or pretensions of mankind.  It seems to me that man can be more himself and yet be drawn out of himself more readily in the country.  I loved seeing the 4-H club kids tending their animals and the sweaty, rosy-cheeked babies reaching out to pet their furry friends.  I was ready to move to a farm and enroll my non-existent, future children in 4-H.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, that day I felt the country stir my soul and speak to my heart.  Out in God’s country, it’s not as if one’s problems or worries vanish, but suddenly, it’s like the weight of them is lifted.  One knows that they will be solved and that one will have the strength to handle them.  There is more freedom and space to breathe.

I would love to live in a more rural setting one day and when I am hopefully blessed with children, I would not completely disregard the idea of them participating in 4-H.

Man today is so deracinated (to use a fancy, college word), meaning he has lost his connection to the soil, to nature and its rhythms, to nature’s Creator and as a result, he is losing touch with himself and those around him.  Of course, both country and city-living have their pros and cons and one shouldn’t idealize or romanticize either one, but I think it would do this stressed-out, over-technological, consumerist society a world of good to return a bit more to the serene glories as well as the raw realities of the country.

In the meantime, please enjoy some photos from my brother’s and my excursion to our county fair!

 

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A beautiful summer crepe myrtle!
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A soft sheep sans his wooly fleece!
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A ribbon-winning rooster named Frank!
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Adorable baby chicks, which we were not allowed to touch.
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A fluffy rabbit!
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This picture may be my favorite!  This little piglet decided to rest in the water dish.  I guess the heat was too much for him!

 

P.S. The title for this post is the name of a chapter in the children’s literature classic Charlotte’s Web, one of my favorite books!

 

All, Culture/Life, Faith, Family

Fighting for Life

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are LIFE, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (emphasis added).  These immortal words are proclaimed in one of America’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence, yet they are still not wholly lived out in our country due to such tragedies as abortion.

The topics of abortion and the pro-life cause are, undoubtedly,  multi-faceted, sensitive, and complex subjects, which encompass science, religion, philosophy, morality, economics, and politics.  There are so many angles from which one can look at these issues, and they are obviously much too big and important to begin to cover sufficiently in one blog post.  All that being said, I would like to endeavor to put in my two cents and write a bit about what has resonated with me most of late regarding these topics.

Firstly, I know many of you reading this may not agree with the pro-life position.  All I ask is that you consider some ideas behind a differing point of view.

Secondly, this post is not at all meant to be a condemnation of those who are suffering from their past decisions regarding a pregnancy.  If you or someone you know is need of information regarding resources for post-abortive women as well as men, you can find them, here. on the website of the organization, Silent No More.  Please know that you can find healing and restoration.

Though I was not personally present, I was so heartened and energized by the recent witness of the 44th annual March for Life on Jan. 27 in Washington, D.C.  For those who might not be familiar, this massive pro-life rally is held each year on or around the anniversary of the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.  People from all over the country gather, no matter the weather or inconvenience, in order to protest peacefully this ruling that has since resulted in millions of deaths through abortion.

Have you ever wondered what all those babies would be doing right now?  What would they be contributing to society?  In our own lives, what cherished loved ones are we missing because they were aborted?

To me, it defies logic for a society to mourn with a woman who suffers a miscarriage and yet still say that a woman has the right to terminate her own pregnancy.  The objective value and worth of the unborn child did not change, only the subjective desires surrounding the pregnancy.

To paraphrase a quote I once read, let’s remove the crisis from the crisis pregnancy not the pregnancy itself. Shouldn’t we be working to alleviate the circumstances that lead a woman to consider abortion instead of just pushing abortion as the way out of a difficult situation?  Shouldn’t we be working to support those facing unplanned pregnancies in adverse circumstances, helping them to have the resources they need to choose life?  Shouldn’t we be advocating adoption?  So many post-abortive women testify to the fact that they felt they had no choice; they were coerced into abortion by boyfriends, husbands, parents, etc.  They did not have a support system and they did not want to do what they did.

Shouldn’t we be working to dismantle the diabolical lie that abortion is somehow a “right”? The truth is that a woman, indeed no person, is empowered or liberated through the degradation or demise of another person and certainly not through the purposeful death of an innocent child in the womb.  Women are not empowered when their unique and life-giving ability to carry a child is treated as a problem or a weakness or a hindrance to their supposed success in life.  The truth is that abortion hurts women.  Again, many women attest to the fact that they suffered emotionally, psychologically, physically and spiritually for years following an abortion. Often, it took a long time for them to make the connection that their difficulties were connected to their abortions.

Perhaps it is time that we remember that early suffragettes, such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who fought for true women’s rights, were themselves against abortion.  And that a main catalyst in the work of Margaret Sanger, the founder of abortion giant Planned Parenthood, was racist eugenics.

The pro-life movement is not perfect, but despite its flaws, its work is crucial.  I think Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at the March for Life was particularly encouraging to those devoted to the cause of life.

He said,

“…life is winning in America.  And today is a celebration of that progress that we  have made. You know I’ve long believed that a society can be judged by how we care for its most vulnerable, the aged, the infirm, the disabled, and the unborn.

We have come to an historic moment in the cause for life.  And we must meet this moment with respect and compassion for every American.

Life is winning in America for many reasons.

Life is winning through the steady advance of science that illuminates when life begins, more and more, every day.  Life is winning through the generosity of millions of adoptive families to open their hearts and homes to children in need.  Life is winning through the compassion of caregivers and volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers and faith-based organizations who minister to women in towns across this country.

Life is winning through the quiet counsels between mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters, between friends across kitchen tables, and over coffee at college campuses.  The truth is being told.  Compassion is overcoming convenience.  And hope is defeating despair. …

So I urge you to press on.  But as it is written, ‘Let your gentleness be evident to all.’ Let this movement be known for love, not anger.  Let this movement be known for compassion, not confrontation.  When it comes to matters of the heart, there is nothing stronger than gentleness.

I believe that we will continue to win the hearts and minds of the rising generation if our hearts first break for young mothers and their unborn children, and if we each of us do all we can to meet them where they are, with generosity, not judgment.”

This blog is named after my Great-Uncle George, who held so strongly to his convictions that he joined the Royal Air Force in Canada in order to fight in World War II even before the United States entered the fray.  He was bold enough to act upon his beliefs.  Those who believe in the pro-life cause do so with conviction and with passion.  It is something very near and dear to their hearts.  Let us follow the example of Uncle George who courageously fought for what was right even when others around him were not yet doing so.

And let us be encouraged by the words of Jesus, “Whoever accepts a little child in my name, accepts me.” (Matthew 18:5).

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All, Family

It’s All in the Family

 

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Welcome to Uncle George!  Right now, you may be wondering about the origin of the moniker for this blog.  As with all things seemingly out-of-the-blue, this name has a backstory.

Uncle George is my great uncle, one of the brothers of my late maternal grandfather.  Growing up, I heard the story of how Uncle George, eager to serve, protect, and defend, did not wait for the United States to officially enter World War II but instead decided to travel to Canada from his home state of Louisiana in order to join the Royal Air Force.  To me, this anecdote shows that Uncle George was a man of strong convictions, but, more importantly, that he had the courage to act upon those convictions.

The photograph in the featured image of this blog and in this post’s picture is a photo of my Uncle George in his aviator apparel.  An inscription on the back tells us that this particular photo was taken somewhere in southern England where he an instructor in bomber pilot training.  His Royal Air Force insignia is also visible near to the picture frame, and beside the photo is a pair of his ice skates.

Fortunately, Uncle George did not die in combat, but, tragically, he did lose his life during training.

Uncle George was a writer, a young journalist engaged to be married to a young woman, who was a fellow journalist.   Often when I have displayed a penchant or an aptitude for writing, my mother has spoken about Uncle George and his story.

It is a warm and comfortable feeling to think that I have something in common with a relative who, unfortunately, I was never able to meet–a man of conviction who loved writing.  It is a link to our family’s past, a legacy that helped to shape my family and myself.

So this blog is named for Uncle George.  Through my writing, I hope to share some of my own convictions, some of what is important to me, be it serious or light-hearted or somewhere in between.  In doing so, I hope to honor Uncle George’s memory.

Please come along for the journey.  I hope that this blog makes you smile, makes you think, touches you in some way, helps you to understand another’s viewpoint even if you don’t agree, and maybe brings a bit of joy to your day!

Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Reading!