I need to write this.
I need to write this, when I don’t have time and workers are pounding away in my garage replacing the furnace.
I need to write this, as another set of friends who live in Brussels and have navigated terror in their back yard instead of an hour away, who have just endured a fire in their home and all the clean-up of wiping away the film of destruction and the smell of that which was burned, as these friends come for just a few hours of laughter.
I need to write this, though I have no time to edit, and not much time to craft it.
I need to write this, after a beautiful, strange, long season of Lent, and journeying this year through the book of Psalms every month.
I need to write this: Joy can be found in every season.
So I live at a geographically separated unit, with three or four or a hundred more Americans with me.
I look at their resolve. To work with integrity. To represent America well. To assure our host nation that America is true to her commitments, to her heritage, to her national character. I see twenty-year olds wear the uniform with pride, battle rattle sitting beside each desk, and I am amazed at their willingness to suit up and become part of a wall of resistance against evil with no hesitation. I find joy in witnessing the resolve of our American Airmen.
I see their resilience. I watch how they welcome new members to the unit, folding them into the family, teaching them how to walk in a different country, making sure their steps are safe and when they tumble someone is there to pick them up. I watch how they invest energy, concern, and education in what is going on back home. I watch them hope for what is best for America, not just for themselves, and determine to be part of what America can place her hope in. I see sacrifice at the post office, the shoppette, and the chow hall.
And I watch them carry a double burden. For the country we live in, and the people who call this place home. And the concerns of Europe, immigration, terrorism, and economics. We will someday have the chance to turn our face back towards America, to fly away home across our ocean divide. We will remember our neighbors and the auto mechanics and the chocolate shop owners and the furniture salesmen who were afraid for the future of their children and grateful for a nation who has committed to being their friend. They have not forgotten the American soldier, or even the question, “who would come to another’s country and be willing to die for freedom there?” Even the twenty year olds here will talk with gratitude for the American soldiers who liberated this country from tyranny. I find joy in witnessing the resilience of our American family, active duty and dependent, who keep living, working, doing life with the Belgians even as uncertainty is much closer for us than for family back home.
I see their commitment to one another. I see spouses committed to making this place a community. A home that welcomes new families and makes the huge transition to living in a foreign country bearable. I see ladies invest in others months before they arrive from Wyoming, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and everywhere American and nowhere Flemish. I see them risk asking once, and twice, and again and again the new person who is shy or overwhelmed, please – we have a place at the table for you. I sit with these ladies, and dream new ways to bless this community, and watch as they carry each others burdens, watch out for the lonely one, and commit to making joy out of every opportunity.
I see them all, in uniform and in jeans with toddlers on their hips. I see them drop everything when tragedy hits. I see them step forward with meals, and time, and helpful hands. I see them open their hearts to share another’s grief. I see them make a way through darkness and a wall of protection around the weak. And I am proud and I am relieved and I am grateful to be counted among their numbers. I find joy in their commitment to one another in this 701MUNSS community.
So yes, I’ve been honest lately about my loneliness. I know everyone in this community faces it, and ebb and flow in the days here, like sun and rain, with each their place and purpose in life. But through it all I live with joy. I know how to hunt for it. I’m not afraid of the tears joy sometimes brings. I’m not challenged by the effort it takes to find joy somedays. The best found things are highly treasured and worth whatever the cost to find. Such is joy.
To my 701MUNSS family. Thank you for being joy to me.
For each time you let me hug your children and enjoy their stories.
For every time you share your happy plans to travel to weddings.
For every time you allow me to hug you and see your sorrow and tell you I’m sorry.
For every time you trust me. For every time you partner with me to keep things positive here.
For every smile, and every hug, and every opportunity to serve you.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Gal 5:22,23