Change

NOTE: If you follow my blog for information on The Citadel, this entry won’t be of interest. It is a personal reflection not related to The Citadel.

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In September of 1999 I returned to my studies at Columbia Theological Seminary after the birth of our daughter in November of 1998. 1998 marked the end of a very turbulent 10 years for me. The changes continued after she was born but they slowed to a manageable pace.

In 1988 I was pregnant with my first son and my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She died nine months after the initial diagnosis. I returned from my mother’s funeral to find I would be laid off when my son was born. The company was restructuring and they kept me on until his birth rather than lay me off right away.

My oldest was born in March of 1989. By early 1990 I learned I was expecting my second baby, my husband at the time accepted a job in San Antonio, Texas and we moved there. Six months later he left the job in Texas and moved back to Atlanta. I was on bed rest for several weeks that fall and my second son was born in November of 1990.

Soon after my second son was born I went to work part-time for a United Methodist Retreat Center, January of 1991. That time period is a bit of a blur to me now. Two small children a new job and the loss of my mother left me in a bit of a fog. The job became full-time and was a great distraction from the profound loss I felt when my mother died. To compound the confusing time my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. My sister and I were o the front end of a trend that became known as the sandwich generation. Adults with small children caring for elderly parents.

Dad died in 1993. Shortly after he died it became evident that the my marriage was not going to make it and we separated. In early 1995 the divorce was finalized. In July of 1995 with the help of scholarship money, Student financial aid, and the support of my work place, I began my studies at Columbia Theological Seminary. by the fall of 1995 I was engaged to my now husband. We married January 6, 1996, Epiphany. It seemed an appropriate date to begin our new lives together.

The first few years of marriage were also filled with change. I had two miscarriages the first year we were married. We bought our first house. In January of 1997 my second son who had just turned 6 broke his femur in a bicycle accident. He required care 24/7 and I had to leave school for the semester to care for him.

By early 1998 I was pregnant with our now 18-year-old daughter. The changes didn’t end there. When my daughter was 2 weeks old I was fired from my position at the retreat center. It was a difficult time but I learned by then that God would hold me up in my time of uncertainty.

So, when I went back to my studies at Columbia I began a study on change and the church. I had been through so much in a relatively short period of time studying change and the church seemed an appropriate topic. I used a book, Mighty Stories Dangerous Rituals as the main basis for the study, “The Use of Narrative and Ritual in Leading Church Organizations Through Major Change.”

It was a wonderful way to help me make sense of my personal feelings and emotions, but also a great lens to view the changes I had seen in my former work place, the church I belonged to and the Presbytery, that just went through a change in leadership.

I interviewed several people for the study and video taped the interviews. One in particular has amazing relevance today. I interviewed Dr. Lane Alderman, senior pastor of Roswell Presbyterian Church. Each person I interviewed received a few questions in advance about the change they were going through in their respective positions, and asked them for scripture passages they used to help guide them through the transitions. Their answers to my questions helped me make sense of my own path through tremendous change.

At this point you may be wondering why I decided to write about this now. April 14th will mark one year since Dr. Lane Alderman died after a long battle with cancer. Roswell Presbyterian Church just welcomed our new pastor after a long and thoughtful search. I found myself thinking about my study on change and in particular the conversation I had with Lane about change. This weekend I looked for and found my study from 1999 and uploaded the video interview to YouTube. I’ve shared the link with Lane’s family and the new pastor of our church and decided other people may find his insights helpful as change enters your life.

Back in 1999 the study helped me frame many of the experiences I had gone through. I had no way of knowing then how helpful it would be to me 18 years later.

Prayer Squares for Military Members

Prayer Square

This past Sunday the members of  Prayers and Squares and the Military Ministry of Roswell Presbyterian Church joined together in an outreach project. Joyce Pettit a member of Prayers and Squares used her time during the recent ice storm to sew 67 prayers squares for military members. She then called me as the chair of the military ministry to discuss how we would get members and guest of our church together to pray over the squares and to tie knots in them. THe project was well received by the congregation.

Prayer and Squares is a nationwide interfaith organization that promotes prayer through the use of quilts. You can read more about their outreach through this link.

The Military Ministry of Roswell Presbyterian Church is made up of military members, veterans and anyone who is interested in supporting the military. We meet ever other month on the evening of the second Tuesday of the month. We are a member congregation of Care For The Troops.

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Giving Thanks and Supporting Our Soldiers

Boxes packed and ready to go to our soldier and the battalion chaplain.

As I wrote last week, this time of year holds some wonderful memories, but also the grief of losing both parents to cancer at this time of year. To counter act the feelings of loss I’ve developed positive ways to deal with my grief. This year with a son deployed my coping mechanism has turned to efforts to support the troops.

The Military Ministry of Roswell Presbyterian Church (RPC) played a big role this year in the outreach efforts. Members of the committee donated Christmas stockings filled with goodies to send to the battalion chaplain to be distributed to soldiers. We joined the efforts of Military Families Ministry in sending out the stockings. Military Families Ministry was co-founded by a friend and fellow contributor the blog Off the Base, Tracie Ciambotti. If you don’t have the address for a deployed service member, you can contact the nonprofit to find out how boxes can be sent. Their web site offers several ways in which groups or individuals can support deployed service members.

Christmas Stockings for soldiers from the Military Ministry of Roswell Presbyterian Church.

In addition to the stockings the Prayers and Squares ministry made and prayed over 100 prayer squares. The 6″ x 6″ squares of fabric have 5 strings or ribbons attached to them. When people say a prayer for the recipient they tie a knot. As I mentioned in a previous post the squares were prayed over at the veterans day luncheon and also by the middle school youth group at RPC. Each square was put into a ziplock bag with a card explaining what the knots symbolize. Half the prayer squares went to the deployed soldiers and the other half went to Fort Stewart to be given to family members of the soldiers deployed. Letters of thanks from the middle school youth went into the box with the prayer squares as well as hot chocolate packets, tea bags and snacks bars.

My daughter helped me get the boxes to the post office before Thanksgiving. Most were addressed to the chaplain, but one went to our soldier. In his we put warm hats, scarves and gloves along with his requested brands of special items. We also included some special items.

Prayer Squares made by the Prayers and Squares ministry of Roswell Presbyterian Church.

For years our daughter would visit the Santa at the mall near our house. Now that she is 14 this tradition has changed a bit. Instead of dressing in her best Christmas dress she wore her “Fangirl” t-shirt, hoodie, and bracelets. I was also in the photo this year with my Hero On My Arm “Army Mom” messenger bag. A copy of the photo went in my letter to our soldier. Our daughter wrote a special letter to her brother and the reindeer Santa gave him went in the box too. I choked up a bit when we visited with Santa and I heard Chelle tell him, “Please keep my brother safe.” When Santa asked her what she wanted for herself she said, “That’s all I need.”

Chelle, Santa and Dorie go over their very short, but important, Wish List.

Opportunities to support military families are all around you. One of the nicest things you can do is to ask the family member how they need to be supported. For us, sending boxes to our soldier helps us feel like we have a big support network. We are collecting items this week to send 14 Christmas care packages to soldiers  with our soldier. After a quick Facebook post I heard from several people who would like to contribute. Letters, cards and pictures drawn by children are a terrific way to say thank you for your service. We hope to get the boxes in the mail by December 3. Please let me know if you would like to contribute to the mailing. We are looking for hot chocolate packets, instant coffee packets, baby wipes, beef jerky, dried fruit leather and other individually wrapped snacks.

While I am grateful for the many people who support us, I am still astounded at the people who have no idea we have thousands of soldiers deployed right now. I haven’t heard negative comments as much as ignorance of what our soldiers are doing. I am learning to use these comments to motivate me even more to be one more person getting the word out to support the troops.

A Tribute to Veterans

The Placemat for the Veterans Day Luncheon at Roswell Presbyterian Church.

We just returned home from the Veterans Day Luncheon at Roswell Presbyterian Church. The luncheon was hosted by the Wit and Wisdom group and the Military Ministry committee. Wit and Wisdom is a group for adults over 50. The Military Ministry group is made up of Veterans, family members of someone in the service and anyone who would like to support military members, veterans and their families.

As part of the luncheon the members of Prayers and Squares ministry brought 6′ x 6″ prayer squares for us to pray over. The squares will be shipped to the chaplain of the battalion my son is part of. Some of the prayer squares will also be sent to the rear detachment chaplain to be distributed to family members who will find comfort in knowing a church family is holding them in prayer.

Prayer Squares made by Joyce Pettit and the Prayers and Squares Ministry.

The Roswell High School JROTC color guard opened the program by presenting the colors. That was a special treat for me. My oldest son was part of the Hornet Battalion color guard in high school. Then the Rev. Dr. Bill Nisbet moderated a program where the veterans at each table interacted with members of the middle and high school youth at their table. It was a fun afternoon. The students learned quite a bit from the veterans From the level of conversation in the room I know the veterans enjoyed talking to the youth too.

The Roswell High School JROTC Color Guard.
photo by Stanley Leary

An added bonus for me was sharing a table with Col. Bill Buckley, U.S. Marines, Retired. Bill and I met a few years ago at a dinner hosted by the Atlanta Citadel Club. Shortly after that dinner Bill and his wife joined our church. He has been a terrific resource for me as I learn the ins and outs of being the mom of an active duty second lieutenant. He is also a faithful member of the Military Ministry, which this month is one year old this month.

Dorie visits with Col Bill Buckley, U.S. Marines, Retired. He is also a graduate of The Citadel.
photo by Stanley Leary

Supporting a Young Army Widow

Most days I can get by without thinking about my oldest son being deployed to Afghanistan. Today was not one of those days.

Joyce Pettit explains what the knots signify on the patriotic quilt she designed.

This afternoon I had the honor of driving to Griffin, Georgia, with a friend to deliver a prayer quilt to a young Army widow who is about to be a first time mom. Kristen Davis lost her husband, Johnathon, when he was killed in an insurgent attack in Kandahar province.

Joyce Pettit designed and created the beautiful patriotic prayer quilt for the young widow. Joyce is a member of the “Prayers and Squares” ministry at our church. Members of our church prayed for Kristen and her baby while they tied a knot in a ribbon on the quilt. Joyce asked me to come with her today since I am the chair of the Military Ministry at Roswell Presbyterian Church.

A Facebook page called Operation Daddy’s Boy was created so anyone in the community who wanted to support Kristen and their new-born baby could show their support. The shower today was posted to the Facebook page as an open shower that anyone could drop by. The gift table was full of presents and the refreshments were arranged nicely on the table. It was a beautiful tribute and show of support by the community.

Joyce and Kristen show off the beautiful quilt Joyce designed.

We were there just long enough for Joyce to present the quilt to the expectant mom and to get a few photos. Joyce also prepared a folder with the background of the Prayers and Squares ministry so Kristen could read it after the shower was over. Guests kept arriving while we were there. The mood is hard to describe. Everyone was there to support Kristen and her new baby, but I felt an undercurrent of sadness. It was that awkward feeling when people aren’t sure what to say. Everyone was there to celebrate a new life, but at the same time a sadness hung in the air. You could feel the sadness of knowing this little baby boy will not grow up with his Daddy near by.

Most days I can get by without thinking of the danger my own son will face when he is deployed this fall. Today was not one of those days.

My prayers continue to be with all the deployed members of our military and their loved ones at home.

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