I’ve met a lot of wonderful people through blogging and social media, but there are a handful of people whom I’ve known almost as long as I’ve been blogging. This small group of “imaginary friends”, as Candy Steele’s husband Ron Burgandy calls us? Well, they are extremely special and very near and dear to my heart. Sherri Murphy is a charter member of this group. I tease her relentlessly, but only because I know I can get away with it. Also, she knows I love her.
Sherri is a motivational speaker and freelance writer. She is wife to Big Al and the mother of three very manly sons. Which I find incredibly ironic, since she’s probably the girliest girl I know. She once told me her sons would have preferred to have me as a mother. But I know that’s nonsense; they have the best mom they could hope for in Sherri. Also because, unlike Sherri, I’m way too young to have grown children. Snort! (I’m sorry, Sherri–I don’t know what it is. I just can’t help myself.) Anyway, here’s my friend Sherri with a beautiful Christmas story I hope you will all take to heart.
Peace on Earth
“Sherri. I need to talk to you…..Jordan’s joining the Army.”
My husband said this to me calmly, avoiding direct eye contact, merely looking in my general direction. He continued. “Now don’t get upset…he’s thought this through. Actually he’s been looking into for quite awhile. He’s smart-he’s not going to sign up officially until the position he wants is available…”
I think he continued to talk and tried to convince me that joining the Army was a good idea, but my mind immediately went to battle fields, and funerals and other horrors that war brings to the doorsteps of otherwise peace-loving families. I don’t remember his words after the initial statements. They really weren’t important. I began focusing on my words–the words I was planning to use to convince my son NOT to sign on the dotted line and allow Uncle Sam to dictate the next several years of his life.(I hated to even refer to him as “Uncle” because I did not want Sam to be considered a part of my family.)
My husband and I have reared three boys, and I will admit, it has always been a secret fear of mine that one of them would fight in a war. When those smooth-talking recruiters would call our home and ask to speak with one of them, I would kindly thank them for their service to our country, but would inform them that I would not be forwarding the message on to my son. I don’t think they really knew how to respond to me, but I was not concerned. I tried to block their attempts of reaching any of my sons and luring them in with promises and grandiose offers that would be too good for an 18 -year- old boy to refuse. It worked… For awhile anyway.
Unbeknownst to me, my 23 -year -old son, a talented photographer/graphic artist who also loved to compete in Mixed Martial Arts (“cage fighting” for those who aren’t familiar with MMA), was feeling very unfulfilled, and had been exploring different avenues for his future. One particular position in the Army was appealing to him, as was the the desire to become a part of something larger than himself. He waited until the position came open, and began the process to fulfill his heart’s desire; to serve our country and use his gifts at the same time.
We threw a big shindig for our middle son, to honor his departure from life as a civilian into the life as property of the US Army–we invited his friends and our friends and family, as we gave him our “blessing” (mine was a bit forced) and offered prayers, and hugs and words of encouragement.
It wasn’t until later that evening, as the guests had said their last goodbyes and he was standing proudly within a small group of his closest friends, that it really dawned on me–my world as I knew it, was about to drastically change. I walked over to give him a hug and I began crying uncontrollably. He held me even closer, and offered a tighter hug of consolation, but even he knew there were no words–not his, nor mine that could ease my mind. We just stood there holding each other.
I finally dragged myself to the car and went home. As I walked inside my house, my legs were as heavy as my heart and I found it difficult to climb the top of the stairs to my bedroom.
When I finally was able to lay my head on my pillow, I began what would become a daily ritual–a prayer for peace. I prayed for peace for Jordan- that no matter what he was asked to face, endure or accomplish, he would feel peace inside- that powerful peace that only God could give. Peace that has nothing to do with the circumstances surounding him. I asked for peace for my own soul that knew I could not live in a state of fear and panic throughout his time in the Army. And peace for the troops already serving in various parts of our world- some in the line of danger, some protecting the peace that has recently come to an area. That word continued to return to my lips—PEACE.
The following day we traveled to St. Louis to witness his “swearing in” and we were allowed to take photos and enjoy a nice lunch and conversation before leaving him behind as he later traveled to his destination, Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo. to begin his 10 week basic training. I gave him a letter with several prayers that I would be praying, beginning with a prayer for peace. I told him I would write to him everyday.He smiled. He knew I would keep my word. We hugged him, held him, told him how proud we were of him. He smiled and assured us that he would be fine. Then he left.
The ride home in the car was nearly silent, as his Father and I were surely playing out different scenarios in our heads. His were more than likely full of pride with a bit of reservation – mine filled with much reservation and a bit of pride. I didn’t have much of an appetitie over the next few days as I knew a child I loved would soon be experiencing the wrath of angry drill sergeants that would be bound and determined to make an ARMY STRONG man out of my son in just a couple of months. I feared he would be homesick, or have regrets or get hurt.
I continued to pray. “Peace to Jordan- God, let him feel your presence. Whatever he is going through- let him feel your peace.”
I knew from my own experience, that if I could feel peace, I could handle anything. And often, the mental anguish I would experience was sometimes much worse than anything I was asked to walk through. So I asked, pleaded, and yes, begged God to allow him to feel that peace for himself.
One of his very first letters home was a literal gift to this mother’s soul. I tore open the blue-grey Army stationary and while my heart beat wildly anticipating his words, I felt a calm come over me that really has not left in nearly two months. In his letter , he wrote about his experience in the gas chamber. The dreaded gas chamber. It mattered not if they were the strongest in the platoon,nor did their age or gender become a factor, the gas chamber had no mercy on its visitors. They all dreaded this visit. The gas burns the eyes, nose, mouth and skin, and causes extreme nausea.. No one exits this building without the same effects. As I read the words he penned, I cried…but this time, they were tears of joy.
“Mom, you know that peace that you pray for me to receive? Well, I have received it. Even before I went into the gas chamber, I felt totally calm and collected. I think it was good for those around me to see someone like that. They needed to see someone with courage. I think it helped them.”
He went on to share his excitement in learning new things including firing many different weapons, including a bazooka and grenades, that he had only seen in movies. He described treacherous obstacle courses that he excelled in completing, ranking as #2 in a battalion of 200. He told many stories of the devotion and camaraderie of his fellow members of the WARLORD platoon-stories that made my heart swell with gratitude. He also shared about his sore feet, sore throat and aching body, however, he assured me that the good far outweighed the bad. As an artist, he even sent a funny cartoon of his experience of three drill sergeants at once screaming in his face while he was only allowed to answer “Yes, Drill Sergeant!” while never making eye contact. He even likes the food!
I can sense the pride in what he has been able to achieve in such a small amount of time. I can also recognize the growth–the transformation from a young man into an Army Man.
“I love who I am becoming as a person. My buddy and I always talk about how this is making us better people. Inwardly, I am growing and strengthening daily, and the Lord is more evident than ever. I am so glad I followed my heart on making this decision. ARMY…one of the best things I’ve been through.”
No other words could have been more comforting to this mother’s heart. God had heard my prayers. He sent His peace to earth again. Just as did over 2000 years ago.
My prayers for peace will continue to be offered on behalf of my son regardless where his Army service takes him, and I know how powerful that peace will be. I will pray for the peace of all the soldiers serving their country in many areas around the globe, and also for their families whose hearts weigh heavy with worry and fear regarding their safety.
As I read the Christmas story again this year, yet another meaning will spring from the pages of the New Testament from the pen of the disciple Luke. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, PEACE, goodwill toward men.”
This is my prayer. May one and all find the peace of God.
Have a wonderful peaceful Christmas.
To read more from Sherri Murphy, visit her at her blog, Matter of Fact, follow her on twitter @gabbysherri, and check out her Facebook page Murphy’s Law.