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The America I Know

Photo courtesy of Angel Kaye.

The America I know?
She’s resilient and strong.
She’s feisty and determined,
Been the underdog in the fight,
But, the America I know?
Believed in fighting for the right.

The America I know?
Cared for her own.
Cared about values and honesty,
Even when the price was high,
But, the America I know?
Seems to have forgotten why.

The America I know?
Has given the blood of her finest,
Has wept with the broken hearted,
For the human rights of her own
But, the America I know?
Has fought for others like her own home grown.

The America I know?
Set today aside to observe,
Those fallen military personnel
Who have given the ultimate sacrifice.
But, the America I know?
Could heed true Godly advice.

The America I know,
Shouldn’t forget God comes first,
That our freedoms came with a cost
And we can’t stop paying the price.
The America I know,
Honors the ones making the sacrifice.
        dfav 5/29/17

—Donna

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Lie vs. Truth: Steepek or Lyle

image (Original photo by Brad Gerrard, viewable on flickr Photostream. All rights reserved.)

This post originally appeared on fvbf in July of 2013 when it made rounds on many social media sites.  It is making the rounds again.  I received a comment from Willie Lyle regarding this blog post.  I feel compelled once again, to share the truth not the lie. –Donna

A story just over 48 hours old is making the social media and email realms.  Pictured above is the photograph circulated as being Pastor Jeremiah Steepek, a newly elected pastor of a congregation of 7,000-10,000 members.  Sight unseen, apparently except for the church elders, Pastor Steepek reportedly went into his new church disguised as a homeless man.  He was largely ignored and even asked to sit in the back of the sanctuary.  The elders introduced him and Pastor Steepek’s first sermon shamed his congregation.  It makes for a potent reminder we are to actively serve and love one another. Sadly, Pastor Stecpek is not a real, verifiable person.  When I read the story I found a few red flags about it’s truth.  So I checked. The picture is of an actual homeless man, taken by Brad Gerrard in Richmond and posted by Gerrard on flickr Photostream and obviously used in a case of fraud. Whoever wrote and first posted the false story very well may have based it on a true story out of Clarksville, Tennessee.  The newly appointed pastor of Sanyo United Methodist Church was under a huge tree on the church lawn his first Sunday.  He had spent a week living as a homeless person. image (Photo from June 23, 2013 report on LeafChronicle, all rights reserved.) His 200 member congregation witnessed his daughter and daughter-in-law help him transform back to himself during his sermon.  Twenty of his church’s members offered him assistance when he was posing as a homeless person.  This pastor’s name is Willie Lyle and his sermon though meant to move Christians to action was not, as I understand it, about shame. In the fictional account Pastor Steepek also wants change, good change, and the author of his story agrees.  The real man and Pastor Lyle wanted change too, equally good change. Which of these two stories shows real hope?  Points out a real plight for thousands of people?  Why was the real story so less impressionable? How many of us read this first story and felt a flicker of self-righteousness?  How many of us had a feeling that, “…they got what they deserved”? Why does the first story become an social media sensation in 48 hours and the second story not? When the mighty fall they fall loudly don’t they?  When our hands in the cookie jar we see the speck of dust in brothers eye but not the planks in our own, right? -Donna (a.k.a. Faye)

Lie vs. Truth #2: Words Betray the Veteran

What was passed along to my Facebook notifications was this:


“When I first saw this I thought
the girl was one of his daughters.
Green and white shirt, black tee shirt, …
gray pants and tennis shoes.
How many people know that President Bush
hosts a few Wounded Warriors at his ranch
10 weekends every year?
Every year! All expenses paid!
Not what you expect to see, huh?
There he is, dancing with a
“Wounded Warrior”
who has lost a leg but still dances.
I guarantee we will NEVER
see a story or picture like this
from NBC, CBS, ABC,
The New York Times, or The Washington Post.”

 

 

 

 

Truthfully, what made me look twice at the post was the line, “There he is, dancing with a “Wounded Warrior” who has lost a leg but still dances”. The implication that former President George W. Bush was consenting to dance with a woman wearing a prosthesis, as if he was bestowing upon her some great honor he’d not usually lower himself to do.

It irked me and pricked my sensitivity as I am an amputee and pity is something I detest. Really the un-named woman in this photograph is certainly not the reason for the internet pass-along. But her presence is what screamed at me and a few clicks of my laptop mouse soon revealed a lot of truth behind the photo and a “pity dance” was not one of them.

The first line of the post could be true, the writer clearly says this is their opinion, their first thought when seeing the photograph. The second sentence, “Green and white shirt, black tee shirt,…gray pants and tennis shoes” call your attention to the attire of the man in the photo at which point you are to notice the man is the former President of the United States, George W. Bush. He’s dressed so casually because he’s removed himself from the spotlight (which is true, he doesn’t seek public attention) which sets the reader up for the good work President Bush is supposedly doing behind the photo.

Per this short post President Bush hosts a “few Wounded Warriors at his ranch 10 weekends every year” “all expenses paid”! You do the math, 10 weekends a year is one weekend 10 of the 12 months of the year. That’s a lot of entertaining of wounded veterans.

Our men and women in the military give a lot to our abilities to remain a free country. But, even if this didn’t have a veteran involved in the story or a former president of this country, why stretch the truth? Why not just tell the truth like it is? The lie sure sounds good. The words attached will rile up the blood of some. It’s a reminder that the truth isn’t told. But there’s various versions of the “story” according to the Truth or Fiction web site. All with remnants of truth, none accurate.

In this case, as written about in Lie vs. Truth: Steepek or Lyle published on this blog, the truth is better than the fiction so why not post it?

The woman in this photograph is 1st Lieutenant Melissa Stockwell, US Army Retired. Leading a convoy in Baghdad a roadside bomb exploded and she became the first female to lose a limb in the Iraq War. Dancing is truly one of the little things this amazing veteran does since retiring from the military.

The Wounded Warrior Project has had her on their board since 2005. She is a motivational speaker for other veterans who have lost limbs or have other challenges from incidents in the war. In 2010, 2011 and 2012 she competed for the United States in the ITU Triathlon World Championships, taking the gold in all three years in the Tri2. This is just the beginning of her accomplishments.

As for the picture, on April 26-28, 2012 the George W. Bush Presidential Center hosted a 100K mountain bike ride in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. As part of the festivities after the ride 1st Lt Stockwell and former President George W. Bush danced. Someone took their picture. Now this post and email “pass along” post accompanying the picture dishonors two people, Stockwell and Bush.

Turns out the former president hosts this 100K, three-day extreme mountain bike ride annually. He does a lot of “good deeds” since his years in the White House have passed and he tries to stay out of the spotlight but today the greatest injustice is the one this post does to the first lieutenant.

The former President George W. Bush is pictured here, also with 1st Lt Stockwell, shortly after the 100 K was completed. (Photo from Truth of Fiction web site, photographer unknown or not listed.)

Here is a remarkable woman, strong in every way, inspiring others to push beyond their limits regardless of their challenges and she’s used as fodder for a “pass along” social media post to highlight the good deeds of a former United States president whose time in the spotlight is over at his own choice. This is what I find most offensive about this “story”.

The truth would make an even more remarkable report and social media again chooses to pass along the lie. Sometimes, though I know human nature is fickle and Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 that the time will come when men will only want to hear what pleases their ears, not sound doctrine, I never thought Paul’s words would also be talking about the same ailment in every day news.

“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

–Donna

 

 

Precious Souls

image

Outside one of the most popular tourist sites in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, The Old Mill, an older gentleman sat playing his guitar and singing.  He was tucked into the deep shade of the creaky front porch were it was still hot but he escaped the suns beating waves.

He sang old gospel songs mixed with mountain ballads.  His voice pleasant but not amazing.  There was a very small display of old CD’s still in the manufacturer’s wrapping but clearly remnants of earlier pressings.

My husband who adores the bluegrassy twanging sounds of this type musical offering stops to buy one of the old CDs.  The singer and my husband converse between the man singing and just playing his guitar. Our daughter pouts over not getting a shirt she wanted. Our niece stands to the side and I sit waiting in my wheelchair wondering if I can find out his story.

Then silently and shyly our youngest niece, a 16-year-old whose soft heart is well known by our family slips around me.  In a flash my husband and I see her drop a $20 into the old man’s tip bucket. 

I look at her hand dropping the $20 in and I see a rare beauty.  I know how much of her hard earned money she has allotted herself for our weekend trip and I am swept away in the offering she gives.  I see the deep sweet generosity of a soul whose wisdom wraps itself around her precious soul. 

She hastens to tell us, at our surprised and questioning looks, that she has used her own money.  I assure her we know.  Knowing she is easily embarrassed I turn my face away from her so my eyes brimming with tears are not visible.

A true offering given to support the ministry of a musical missionary by a heart nestled deeply in the soul of a young teenage girl.  I marvel at the purity of her gift and I see another layer of our nieces sweet, sweet heart and soul.  I marvel and I pray for her.  A prayer she will come to understand her real value and gift to the human race.

I pray she will see her beauty and value in and through God’s eyes. Because in this harsh and outwardly trapped society we live in it is hard for tender hearted people, whose greatest gift to the world is seeing the best and beauty of it beneath the glitz and blitz covering the filth. That world doesn’t appreciate the love through which our niece views it, instead it often seeks to destroy it because it cannot be like it. Deep down I believe most of society longs to love and see the beauty our niece sees naturally but they can’t in their race to make themselves number one, to fit into the right group or keep up with an ever rising economic status bar.My heart overflows…I am so blessed to know this wonderful, loving, artistic and tender person!

This marvelous selfless act astonishs me.  What a true beauty resides within our niece’s soul.  I pray she never becomes corrupted by the evil of this life.  I pray to be more giving like our niece for I have seen a peek of Jesus in her and she is beautiful.
Oh so beautiful!

-Faye

Motherhood

image

The first time I heard our daughter call me Mama she was four-years-old.  We were in a local Mexican restaurant and out of the blue she asked me, “Can I tell you what I want Mama?”

When at first I didn’t acknowledge her request or use of “Mama” she piped up asking me hadn’t I heard what she called me?

At that moment in time she was neither legally my child or foster child.  She was my niece left in our care by my husband’s sister who was away at Army bootcamp.  Yet her heart and mine had been uniquely bonded since we first laid eyes on one another and her choice of Mama by which to call me was tempting to approve.  Still I explained she had a Mommy and we needed to talk it over with her to see if it was okay.  Mommy approved.

Later we’d be asked to adopt this mischievous, darling, dark eyed, curly haired darling nearly five-year-old girl and the answer was yes.  Although we prepared for her biological mother to change her mind she held firm in her decision.  Our daughter made us a forever family when a rather friendly judge legally declared us parents.

Our daughter has called me Mama countless times since that first time, every time echoing back to that Mexican restaurant.  Being her Mama is my sweetest joy and most fearful undertaking.

Now eleven, life is speeding to the teen years no braking and both feet on the gas!  Mama has a new tone in it and the first time our daughter remarked that our silliness was embarrassing her my husband and I looked at each other and he said, “Aww Honey we must be doing our job right!”. Which earned us the first official eye-roll.

I had prayed for a child.  There had been three miscarriages and my heart ached with longing.  My prayers were sweetly and generously answered by a very young woman who bravely realized she couldn’t provide what her daughter needed and when she might be was very questionable. 

Somewhere out there she is the mother to two half-siblings to our daughter and lives with our child’s decision to cut ties with her.  Some day we pray that will change but it really is about what is best for our daughter.

I love being a mother.  Regardless of how motherhood descended upon me.

What’s your motherhood story?

-Faye

20 Women

Businesswoman Awkwardly Bending over Yellow CounterHere in Alabama where I live The Birmingham News, Birmingham Magazine and Red Mountain Theater Company are having a contest to find 20 women in Birmingham who are making a difference in the city or lives of the city’s population.  The woman can come from any walk of life.   I wonder who will be nominated and the cynical part of me thinks that the ones who are nominated and probably win will be those already in the spotlight.  Local politicians, media personalities, successful business women, women known for the worthy causes they support…the “A” list I suppose, those women who are known widely because they quite often are in the media spotlight already.  Don’t get me wrong, those women are surely making a difference, a positive, uplifting impact on the Birmingham community.  It’s simply that I think of the women who are making a difference who don’t get recognized at any other time.

Women who make a difference live right next door to us and across town from us.  They are in our homes, our churches, our schools, our work places, our courtrooms, our medical facilities and everywhere else.  Most of them rarely, if ever, hear they make a difference in someone’s life.  Sometimes the person is a woman we meet at a crossroad in our own lives and we don’t realize the difference she is making and then we never see her again.  Sometimes we are so use to this woman being in our corner we forget how extraordinary the woman’s presence is in our lives.  Sadly, so many times we recognize her but it simply never occurs to us to acknowledge the difference she is making.

These women may be mothers or may not be.  They may be married or may not be.  They are someone’s wife, significant other, mother, aunt, daughter, friend, cousin, sister or niece.  That’s the point, they can be any woman.  They could be you.

The contest I read about in the January 13, 2013 Sunday edition of The Birmingham News specifies that the contest is for women in the Birmingham, Alabama area and it is limited to 20 winners.  I wonder how many essay entries the paper will receive?  More importantly, I wonder how many women I could nominate who have made a difference in my own life but who also probably won’t make the “in Birmingham” criteria.

What about you?  Can you name 20 women who have impacted your life in a positive way?  Who make a difference?  Perhaps not just in your own life or the lives of your family but in your community?

PROVERBS 31:10-31 N.I.V.

(Though the Scripture is written using the word “wife” this passage can apply to all women regardless of their marital status.)

“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.  She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.  She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.  She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.  She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.  She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.  In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.  She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.  She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”  Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

One Drunk Driver

Many of my readers know that the road leading to my amputation had root in childhood abuse.  However few know the starting point was one man behind the wheel of a car while drunk.

My favorite uncle had a new car so as I was always told one Sunday afternoon my dad, my newly expecting again mother, uncle and I, at 11 months old, went for a drive.

Someone else decided to drive that day too.  One huge difference, my uncle was sober.  The other guy was not. In his intoxication he ran a stop sign.  The impact broke my left leg. 

It took three days for my mother to talk the doctors into doing an x-ray.  I, at 11 months old, spent 6 weeks in traction with the only parts of my body touching the bed being the back of my head and right shoulder.

Much has changed in medicine since then.  Much has changed in car safety (then car seats were non-existent, seat belts not required) since that February day in 1965.

One thing hasn’t changed. People still choose to drink and drive.  Innocent people are the victims of their decisions.

Beer, wine, hard liquor do not decide to drink and drive, or create alcoholics, split up families, divide marriages.  People who misuse them do.

Naturally from my own experience and countless other people’s stories I will vote no on Blount County becoming wet.  I hope you will too.

Modern Day Hero’s #4: Our Military

Dear Father:

Somewhere there’s a soldier walking the line

While a wife keeps track of each day in time.

Somewhere a Marine stands up to the foe

While a mother’s prayers ring sweet and low.

There’s an Airforce pilot preparing to land

Back home his son gives his mother a hand.

There’s a Navy sailor keeping watch by the sea

While her daughter wishes she could sit on her knee.

A Coast Guard Captain encourages his crew

While families sleep better and we do too.

No one can put a price on our military’s sacrifice

Precious few can understand the military life.

Father protect them, carry them through

In battles overseas and our streets too.

Wrap their families in Your arms of Love

Giving them peace that is your’s above

Keep them safe bring them home very soon.

For those who fall Lord and don’t make it home

I pray Lord they know You to be welcomed to Your home.

-Faye

 

 

 

Modern Day Hero #3: My “Sailor”

The military is not for everyone.  Since time began and mankind took to battles families have been separated so their men (and now women too) could join the fight for a number of things.  It’s not easy when families are separated when their loved ones are deployed.  Husbands and wives can’t share the day-to-day parenting or home life when one of them is stationed where “home” isn’t.  I believe this is the heaviest part of their burden as a military families – when serving and fighting for your country or the rights of human beings to be free means you are not with those you love and fight for the most.

My personal “Sailor” and I met in church in Norfolk, Virginia.  He took my breath away when he sang.  I took his when I sang.  It’s a wonder we managed to get through the Christmas Eve service since neither of us could draw a real breath.  Somehow we did and the next day we had time to get to know one another enough to know we wanted to know more…four months later…we eloped.  Fifteen years and two months later we’re still together.

Chris’ Navy career was something we “endured” as newlyweds.  Me, the previous Miss Independence found herself feeling unmoored with her husband floating around the Mediterranean Sea.  Chris, Mr. See the World, wanted only to be home.  We were grateful for that phase of our life to end.

Something occurred to me Sunday in church, as the choir sang the military hymns and current and former military members stood for a few minutes of recognition and appreciation, the Navy lost a good man when Chris was finished.  For he has integrity, courage, faith, dedication, honesty and loyalty…his love for his country is passionate and steadfast.  His belief in a personal God and that God has been and remains the answer for America and mankind made Chris a  sailor the Navy could be proud of.

Every time I see him standing before us and I remember how he looked 15 years ago in his uniform my heart melts.  The Navy lost a good sailor and I am eternally grateful I gained a wonderful husband and a marvelous father to our daughter.

As we approach American’s Independence Day I plan to offer this woman’s view of our faith in God and honor our military families.   For it is my belief we need more Chris’ in this world…men who will stand for the right in spite of the personal cost…men who believe in God and the absolutes of right and wrong.  So tomorrow’s post will express gratitude for our military in broader terms, but for today, I express my deepest love and gratitude for my personal military hero – my husband, SM3 Christopher J. Valentine.

Lessons from a Lady Clown

She sat back in a corner of the parking garage surrounded by hundreds of people, dozens of children especially.  It was hot.  It was noisy.  It was crowded.  We discovered her on a quest for restrooms.

Before her on the table lay much used Ziploc bags and airless balloons waiting to be blown up. She had the colorful, big hair wig, red nose, gay costume of large blocks of color and the painted smiling clown make-up including the smile.  But I noticed she wasn’t smiling.  Beneath the layers of white and gaily colored make-up this lady clown was sad.  I also noticed she paid no attention to the impatience of the children in front of her.  In turn, they paid no attention to the signs her manner was giving to them.

She was blind.

Her careful twisting of the balloons into either the shape of a dog or a hat was completed with great care.  I wondered why, for some of the children were very impatient, the children who longed to rush off to join in other activities stayed if they couldn’t wait.  She wouldn’t see.  They didn’t see.

Once a child reached the spot beside her the Lady Clown had them select the number of balloons she’d need to make their chosen object – dog or hat.  It wasn’t until then that some of the children realized the clown was blind.  So many of them reacted visibly shooting glances at their impatient parent waiting to move on, mouths falling open but it seemed an equal number never realized the Lady Clown couldn’t see them.  Or the balloons.  Or the crowd.  Or the finished products taking shape beneath her fingers.

My heart wept inside for her.  I wasn’t sure what brought her into this noisy crowd that day.  Perhaps a desire to be a part of something larger than herself.  Or maybe the need for human contact.  Or maybe the simple reason was a need to give a part of herself away.  Clearly, whatever her motivation for being there was, if it was to make her happy it was not succeeding.

We left the Greek Festival, my daughter clutching a balloon hat and my heart straying back again to the Lady Clown.  I had to fight the temptation to ask my daughter to treat the hat with extra gentleness, to not play with it, wear it and eventually pop it because the toy she held was a piece of a woman’s heart.

I wondered if someone would come to help the Lady Clown home.  To gather her belongings and help her take her clown costume and make-up off…to return to the woman she was in daily life.

Was she lonely?  Was she loved?  Did she have children who were now grown with children of their own?

I understood, at least I believe I did, her desire to give what she could to make the event of her church successful…to want to feel a part of something larger than the limitations of her disability.  I prayed God would take the gift she was giving, which of course, really wasn’t balloons at all, and return it to her a hundred times a hundred.  I also prayed the Lady Clown’s face would wear a real smile on her face, even if again she wore one also painted on.