Sunday, December 2, 2012

I Salute You: What You Didn't See

There are so many things I'd like to tell you about my days at Pacific Coast Christian Academy. The stories are so rich, so incredibly heartbreaking at times, and encompass some of the most beautiful, truly indescribable, moments of my life.  Someday, when the kids are old enough to grant me their permission and old enough to look at their life through the eyes of an adult, I hope to tell you some of these stories.  I hope I can find the words.

There are some that are equally as beautiful that I am free to tell and I believe this one is worth telling.

I know this is a blog...where you read...and I'm supposed to spend the time writing this all out, and you're supposed to take the time to read it, but it is much better explained if you watch something first.  It's a video clip of a school's musical that I directed, "I Salute You."  What an amazing night.  But please, you must see this:

Here is what you may have seen:

  • A video in the background.
  • Some narrators.
  • Some soloists.
  • 70-some-odd K-8th graders singing all together on one stage, at one time.
  • A left-handed salute.
  • A little girl pulling something out of another girl's hair.
  • A picture of a soldier or a memorial that made you remember.
  • Maybe you pictured the service men and women standing as the applause took over the sound of the those 70+ little singers.  If you were one of those service men or women, I hope you heard a room full of grateful Americans.
But there was something you didn't see.

I didn't get to see any of the service men and women stand.  I didn't get to see the standing ovation they received.  I didn't get to see the tears or the looks of gratitude on the audience's faces,  but I got the best view in the house!!!

First, a little background.  How would you explain this song to a child?  How do you explain a World War, a tyrant, or a terrorist?  How do you explain sacrifice?  That was my challenge.  I wanted to make this real to them.  Not scary, but real.  I didn't just want them to sing about being grateful, I wanted them to feel it.  Sounds easy, until you realize that the kids only heard the first 10 seconds of what you just said and you were just warming up!

I started with vocabulary.

"Johnny, what is a distant land?"

"Somewhere far away like Canada or Texas," little Johnny replies.

"Oh, yes.  That is far away!  Did you know there are places so far away that right now it's their bedtime and they are already in their pajamas sleeping?"  (Kids gasp and look at each other, trying to see if their friend believes it so they know if they should believe it, too.)

"Did you know that there are soldiers that had to say goodbye and go to a distant land?"  And there we have the first line of our song and we learn it and sing it.  "Saying goodbye for a distant land."

"What's a limb?" I ask.

"It's like, a part of a tree," someone answers.

"Yes, that is true.  Did you know it also means something else?  What do you think, Sally?"

"Like a lemon?" (pronounced: lim-in or limb-in.  Get it?)

"Hmmmm.... not exactly, but good idea!  Put your arms out.  Look at your legs.  Those are your limbs.  Did you know that some soldiers don't die (dramatic pause) but when they come home they don't have all of their limbs?"  And there is another line.  "Giving up life and limb and home and family."

Takes awhile, but when the kids learn the song, they know what they are singing about.  And yet, sacrifice is such an abstract idea for the little ones and not much of a reality for the older ones just yet.  HOW DO I HELP THEM GET IT?

These songs were not easy.  They were written for adults to sing, not kids.  I had to do some arranging here and there, but these kids had to work HARD!  The words were big, the notes were long, the pitches got real low and real high.  They had never worked so hard before and I am still proud of them!

About a week before the big night, the Junior High teacher said to me, "They don't get it.  I keep trying to tell my kids but they just don't get it."

I wrote to some soldiers I knew.  One gave me some suggestions and another sent us a letter.  It was beautiful.  Although this post is getting quite long, I want to share it with you.  It's not only worth the read, it's from a soldier's heart.  I ask you, in honor of those who have vowed to give their life to defend your freedom, that you read it in its entirety.

The fact that America has been blessed with our freedom for over 235 years is solely due to God’s divine providence and the liberty he has bestowed on our people.  One quote I read a few years into my 22-year career as a Marine was from Thomas Jefferson.

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. -- Thomas Jefferson, 1787

Throughout my time in the Corps I have made many relationships, friendships, and life changing experiences.  None was more important than when I trusted the Lord as my personal Savior on 11 Nov 1990; between the Marine Corps Birthday and Veteran’s Day.  I bring this up in relation with the quote I earlier mentioned, before I only knew liberty as a citizen of the greatest nation in the world.  After salvation I realized the true Liberty, which Christ has provided to my country and me…only if the people ask and seek his face.

Another significant event that the Lord has blessed me with is the terrific woman He has allowed me to call my friend and wife for over 18 years.  She has been my faithful companion, sounding board, and steadfast partner in my career as a Marine.  Along the way she has provided three beautiful children Cody, Ethan and Rylee.   Robyn, as well as the kids, has spent holidays, birthdays, and many other of life’s moments alone…and the kids away from their Dad…because I was off training, participating, fighting in what Thomas Jefferson referred to as the “Tree of Liberty”. They’ve experienced moving from place to place throughout the United States to Overseas, seven times.  It’s been difficult saying “See you later” to friends, making new friends, learning new cultures and experiencing financial hardships with setting up a new home. It has not always been easy, but they have always kept a positive attitude and faced new experience with help from the Lord.  PCCA had a significant part in their lives while we were there from 2004-2006.  Rylee and Ethan, at Little Lamb’s; Cody 2nd and 3rd Grade; and Robyn was able to teach 1st and 2nd.  The friends we made while there will always be recalled in fond memory, as we look at our family pictures taken while living in Salinas.  We truly enjoyed living there and having your ministry a part of our daily lives.  

My career has taken me from Australia to Somalia, from peacetime operations to wartime operations, from times of joy to times of sorrow.  Some of the friends I’ve made along the way will not return home to their loved ones.  Their wives, children, mother, father, brother and sisters will never see them again because their blood was shed for that “Tree of Liberty”.  But, I do know, FOR A FACT, any Marine who gives his life on the field of battle is honored to go before those tyrants who want to challenge our liberties and our way of life.  Knowing their sacrifices, for God, Country, Corps will provide the protective cover for our way of life to proceed in eventual peace.  No veteran will ever say we thirst for war, just like they will never say; war will never happen.  Freedom, Liberty, Our Way of Life in America is a lighthouse for those in the world and will constantly be challenged by those tyrants who choose to oppress the weak in mind and spirit.   

It’s those things, which called me to service and continue to stoke the fire I have, as a Marine.  I whole-heartedly believe--and I have personally seen, the worst in the world and the best in the world--that America is the greatest country in the world.  This is a testament to our founding fathers and their recognition of God Almighty.

I sincerely appreciate the time and sacrifice you have made in preparation for this program.  I salute you for your efforts, and I pray it’s a successful opportunity to both show appreciation to our troops, as well as a moment to reflect on the goodness of Christ in our lives and his hand of protection he has on our Country.  
 Semper Fidelis, 
 Major Michael M. Farrell
Josh 1:8

 The big night was on a chapel day at school.  I couldn't wait to read this letter to the kids!  Major Farrell's wife worked as a teacher at our school a few years before.  Many of the children remembered her and many others remembered her children, which were also their classmates.  This would be perfect!

In the meantime, the Junior High teacher, Mrs. Morgan prepared a video she had found.  It was a beautiful video about veterans and patriotism.  Very touching, especially after reading them the letter.

I'm having a hard time putting into words what that moment was like.  The teachers were all in tears.  The children were solemn.  I'm not sure if they still quite understood, but seeing their teachers' reactions made them take note and it made them sing with power!

It carried over that night onto the stage.  They were a-maz-ing!  Right now I could go on and on about these kids.  But, while you can't really know just how good they were by watching the video, you can see that these kids didn't just get up there and do this half-heartedly.  They did it with energy and enthusiasm and they did it at each and every program, all 16 of them that we did over the 8 years I was there.  They made me so incredibly proud!

But this night was unlike any other.  I got to see what you didn't see.  In fact, it's impossible to see in this video, even though I know what to look for.

While each branch of the armed forces was called and our brave soldiers stood, I had a front row view of the children.  Zachariah called out the first branch of the armed forces.

"United States Army!"

They stopped watching me.  They looked out as dozens of soldiers rose to their feet.

"United States Navy!"

They looked out at the veterans who defended their freedom.

"United States Coast Guard!"

 They saw teachers, brothers, uncles, and total strangers stand.

One by one, as each branch of the armed forces was called, they watched and sang and in that moment I saw what you didn't see.

Their eyes widened and brightened at the same time.  They smiled in a way that I have never, ever seen them smile.  I'd never seen even my own children before or since with that look on their face.  It was the face of gratitude and awe.  It was the light of realization with the jubilant sound of gratefulness in their voices, even in a solemn moment.  They didn't cry.  Most of the audience was in tears, but these children smiled.  I don't think there could ever be a more appropriate response for those innocent of sacrifice and the horrors of war.  So pure, so true, and so humbling.

They got it!  They truly got it and I got to see it!

In a moment, somehow, the abstract became concrete.  It filled them with pride to be an American and to give back to these soldiers in some small way.

They were propelled out of self for a moment, perhaps for the first time in their lives.

And I saw it!  I saw what you couldn't see.  I saw what couldn't be captured on camera.  I saw that moment and I will treasure it for as long as I live.

I hope these children remember it.  Even if the little ones don't remember much of that night, I hope that the moment is stored away in their minds and in their hearts, even if it fades from their memory.  I hope that as they grow into adulthood, they will not take for granted the sacrifices made.  I hope they always honor those who paid the price of freedom for them.

I hope that those of you who have served our country as a member of the armed forces feel my heart.  I want to thank you.  May I always honor you by honoring my country and using my freedom as a means to advance her.  May I represent the United States of America in a way worthy of your sacrifice and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

I salute you.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Grey Hair: Bring It On!

I was the girl who couldn't wait to wear a bra.

I've always been fascinated with my femininity.  Not only was I the girl who couldn't wait to wear a bra, I was also the girl in the bathroom applying chapstick and pretending it was a glossy shade of red.  I loved dressing up and I loved playing with Barbies.  I envied her clothes, her waistline, and her bra size, even at 7 years old.  I pretended to be Scarlett O'Hara with her southern belle accent in her rich green, velvet dress and acute feminine charm.  I would look in the mirror and long for the day I would look like a woman.

Some 30 years later, I find myself back in front of the mirror, noticing stretch marks, lines around my eyes, some extra pounds, and the reality that no bra can overcome gravity.  As I struggle to accept middle-aged Barbie, there is one thing I find just as fascinating as a training bra...

Grey hair.

I don't remember my first grey hair, but I remember when my family started noticing it.  My husband is 5 years older than me and the fact that I had grey before he did made for a lot of fun teasing.  I took it as a sign of which spouse was the most stressful to live with.  ;)

My son got a kick out of pulling out my grey hair.  He'd snuggle up and start to twirl my hair around his fingers, then something shiny would catch his eye and he'd stand up on the couch and pluck that shiny string of silver right out!  I didn't mind.  After all, let him do all the work!  Grey hair is a terrible thing to face.  It's a hallmark of age, a sign that you are losing your youthfulness.  It's a sign that the end is at least as close as your beginning.  It's a sign that things are changing and going "downhill."

And I like that.

It's a sign that I've learned some things in life.

It's a sign that I've hit some hard times and lived to tell about it.

It's a sign that I am entering a new phase in my femininity, not that my femininity is fading.

I am becoming more beautiful as each grey hair appears because the outside, physically attractive or not, becomes less and less of a distraction, steering people toward the place my true beauty lies...on the inside.

All the work I've done to become more beautiful on the inside...all those demons I've conquered, all the risks I took, all the tears I've shed...are finally producing results.  And those results don't shine through in your 20's.  No, they begin to peek through your soul, right about the time those silvery, shiny strands of grey show up on your head.

At first, you have to really look for it.  One might happen upon it, but not unless they are close enough to be in your personal space.  Over time, people can see it from a distance.  They don't have to try to see it, but they don't catch it at first glance.  They have to take enough time to take a second look.  Eventually, as more demons are conquered, risks taken, and tears shed, you have a full head of grey and it shines.  It stands out.  It's the first thing people notice.  There is no denying your grey hair, just as there is no denying that something about you shines from the inside out.

Is my metaphor clear?  As we age, we learn some things.  We grow.  We succeed.  We become better people as we begin to accept others and accept reality.  We become more beautiful on the inside as our youthful beauty fades, even to the point where people walk away having an acute awareness that we (you) are beautiful.  Stunning.  Perhaps even unforgettable.

I've asked my son to stop plucking my grey hair.

I don't know anyone within 10 years of my age who doesn't dye out the grey.  I don't plan on dying mine.  Everyone tells me that when my grey is really obvious I will eat my words.  My husband thinks that it all sounds good to me now, but once I'm faced with a head of grey that others see from afar, I will look in the mirror, look at others my age who look younger with their colored hair, and make my hair appointment with super hero speed.

They might all be right.  It's easy to be idealistic when your grey is tucked under the part in your hair and you have to pull it back to show it off.  (Yes, I do show it off.)  But for now I'm finding it absolutely fascinating, just like I was once fascinated by my changing body in adolescence.  I love growing into a woman.

On my birthday, I took a picture of my silvery lock.  I love that picture.  I posted it on Facebook.  It symbolizes all the victories I have made in my life so far and it's such a confidence boost.

I want to embrace my new femininity one grey hair at a time.

Still have to work on embracing gravity.  Maybe that's what happens in your 40's.  One grey a time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Was Jesus Sexually Abused?

I've always had a difficult time with how I've heard this Bible verse interpreted:

"Seeing then that we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our profession.  For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

It sounds so comforting--Jesus, God in the flesh, knows what we're feeling.  He gets it.  He feels our pain.  Every single pain, I've heard it said.  I have found comfort in that verse several times, and yet at other times I have wondered how one man, divine or otherwise, could possibly experience every infirmity and sickness.  How could Jesus, a male, possibly know or feel what it's like to be a woman?  

Did He have PMS?  Did He ever have cramps?  Mood swings?  

Did He walk down the street and feel the degrading stares of men?

Did He ever have a peeping Tom?

Did He ever fear that His body would be violated?

Did He know what it felt like to be alone in His room, scared to hear the footsteps down the hall, sickened by the thought that He would once again be made to endure the physical touch of someone who shouldn't be touching and saying words He shouldn't be hearing?  Did He fear going to Mary or Joseph to tell them something that would rock their world and force them to make decisions that could impact an entire village?  Did He watch another boy go off alone with His predator and feel the inexplicable guilt of not saying anything?  

Was Jesus ever sexually abused?

"(gasp!)  RACHAEL!"  I thought to myself.  "Of course, not!  That...that...  oh, no.  That doesn't happen to boys.  And certainly not Jesus.  Not the perfect Christ.  Not GOD!  How irreverent of you!"

That doesn't happen to boys?  Can I just say that was a dumb thought?  All I have to do is say the word, "priest" and all of us can shake our heads and agree that it happens to hundreds of thousands of boys in every denomination, every country, and every segment of society.  


This is where I was surprised to find in myself a deep-seeded, unconscious belief I had never explored.  How is asking if Jesus was ever sexually abused irreverent?  Does that make Him dirty?  Spoiled?  Impure?  

Yeah, that's exactly what my knee-jerk reaction was.  Wow, Rachael.  Think about that.  You are saying that anyone who has been sexually abused is dirty, has been spoiled, and is impure.  You've got issues, girl!  

But am I alone?  When you saw the title of this blog post, did it rile you a bit?  Did it make you doubt my sincerity as a Christian?  Were you judging me the instant you read that title?  Am I the only one who didn't realize she believed that lie?  

If being sexually abused diminishes Jesus' divinity, then what are we saying to young boys and girls?  One of the biggest problems psychologists deal with is helping those abused to realize and know that the shame, the dirty feelings, and the impurity does not belong to them--they belong to the abuser.    They are not the ones who did wrong.  They did nothing dirty and they are as pure as they ever were.  

Abuse does not diminish their purity... just as it wouldn't diminish Jesus' divinity.   Read that again.

I hope that that thought makes you stop and evaluate yourself.  I might be the only one who had that reaction.  Like I said, I have issues.  But if I am not alone, can we now begin to rally around those we know who have been sexually abused and be able to affirm them more genuinely that they are clean?  Can we send the message that they are not the ones who need to be forgiven of sexual sin?  Can we become safer people to those whose safety has been violated?  We must!

I have to give you the next verse in Hebrews: 

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."  Hebrews 4:16

However you are able to come to an understanding of how Jesus feels our pain and weeps for us, take comfort in knowing that we can go straight to the very throne of God, drop down the heaviness of every wrong we have committed, and walk away with the very grace that we need right then, in whatever difficult circumstances we find ourselves in.  Jesus has exactly what you need to heal, whether it be from sexual abuse or otherwise.  For real.  He gets it.  

May I recommend this book:  Changes that Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud.

*disclaimer:  For those who know me personally, the picture of Christ hearing footsteps down the hall and being sexually abused is not something I experienced myself.  The men in my life weren't all perfect, but they weren't sexual abusers.  Some of the boys, however...  

We have a serious problem with what we find acceptable behavior in the way teen boys are allowed, perhaps expected, to treat teen girls.  But that would be another post.  Any takers?


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why So Serious?

Writing the My Poor Husband blog has been a lot of fun!  I've been able to take some situations that really weren't fun and turn them into something funny and I've been able to laugh at myself in the process.  It helped me to be O.K. with myself and it has helped me to discover some thought-provoking links between these stories and some symptoms of ADD.  (I reject the word "disorder" by the way and with a passion!)

However, I have also come to realize that I have used this as a way to degrade myself first, before anyone else has a chance to.  While gaining acceptance of myself and my, shall we say, mishaps, I have defined myself by them.  So much so that people have started to expect the absent-mindedness and discount my intelligence.  Once my children began seeing me as the parent who always did the stupid stuff and began to comment on my comparative lack of intelligence, I realized that I have been painting a picture of myself that is very incomplete.  The only person to blame is me.

And so I quit writing.  Granted, I've had less to write about, but instead of it being a time to laugh at myself in a healthy way, my posts became "proof" that I was a defect.  That is no laughing matter.

There have been times when I felt inspired to write, but those posts were of a serious nature.  One or two serious posts is perhaps a nice break as far as managing a blog goes, but My Poor Husband was no longer living up to its theme.   And so I have created this blog, Seriously Though.  (  At Seriously Though I can express myself without being tied to humor or mishaps and...maybe...people can see that "Rachael" is not defined as: one who does stupid stuff.  Rather, I can show that "Rachael" cannot be defined by one thing.  Rachael is: one who has many parts that make up the whole of what God created and intended.

Check here from time-to-time and see another thread in the tapestry of Rachael.

Ugh, that was cheesy.

Check here from time-to-time to discover what other colors are in the painting of Life with Rachael.

Ok, that was lame, too.  Just check back.

Seriously, though.