This is the very the flag waving in the breeze atop the pole in our yard. She defies all the rules about what shape “Old Glory” should be in. She should be retired to our local VFW to be properly disposed of, but I can’t. She will eventually come down and be replaced by the unweathered, but she has earned a special place in my heart. I see me in this tattered fabric. I identify with this version of Old Glory in ways I never thought possible.
Sending a child, no matter their age, to war is indescribably difficult. There is something about the knowledge your child is placing themselves in harm’s way that undoes you. All the threads I had carefully sewn and knotted tight since the beginning of his service began to unravel as my mind whipped from fear to fear. So far away from his loved ones. So much danger.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:9
The pole is set too close to our house, and the winds whip her edges into the shingles on the roof. She is frayed on the ends, tattered.
I was set too close to war, and the winds of Afghanistan whipped my mother edges into hard reality, shredding them. No amount of careful stitching up loose emotions had prepared me for actually living through a deployment.
We had raised her on the pole brand new, not faded, intact, pole newly planted deep into the soil soon after he deployed. We proudly sent pictures of the process to Afghanistan. We displayed her 24/7 with a solar light to present her even in darkness. I was determined I would not let fear consume me while in reality, I was barely clinging to God’s promises.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6
She stayed there on that pole in all weather, through all seasons. She hung as crimson leaves fell, as Christmas lights were hung, as birthdays were celebrated. Days and nights passed with a degree of forced normalcy. She was sometimes wet and limp and frozen cold by the winds, but she was constant.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:23, 24
She stayed on that pole when we as military families were cautioned to “de-identify” ourselves in every way. No bumper stickers, no social media, no markers on our homes, etc. Old Glory just stayed there waving in the wind of uncertainty uncaring what unwanted attention her display could bring. Oblivious was she, to the tears in her stripes.
She rippled over beautiful children who walked in and out that front door waiting for their daddy to return. She rippled as his devoted wife hauled them to and from the car in subzero winds as she prayed for her man to make it home safe. She flew over all my children in their comings and goings, and I fought my battle to not let the child who was at war become my entire emotional priority. Even with the great knowledge that we were ALL in the Lord’s righteous right hand, I knew that there was no guarantee we would be reunited in this lifetime. Faith and Trust do not purchase freedom from pain.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
She flew like any other flag in any other yard reminding me that I’m not given the option of steeping in my fear of the painful possibilities or listening to the evil one’s shouts, not even when my edges are fraying and I feel the weakening effects of the wear and tear.
We stay. We endure. We pray. We push back at the fear. We support them with abandon. We stay planted deep in the soil of God’s Word because we know how feeble our fabric really is.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Ephesians 6:10
She’s pretty as she slowly waves against the blue sky and the green of the trees, but she is even more beautiful hanging limp and wet under the weight of wet. Beautiful for still being there. Beautiful for taking a rest. Beautiful for being affected by the rain yet remaining a constant symbol.
We military families walk through dense fog as the stark ugliness of war rests on our hearts. We hold our heads up and we walk step by decided step even when that fog threatens to blind us. We go about business as usual and determine we will not let the next however many months determine our peace. THAT is not what the great I AM wants. THAT is not what our soldier wants.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
I’m emerging from the fog, slowly, tentatively because this momma will need to fly that tattered flag again. I’m not the same. I don’t want to be. There is beauty in the fray.