The Army… 8 years later. Part 2

Continuing the story from yesterday.

We filed into a large, sterile, echoing room, past a table with sandwiches, juice boxes and bottles of water. We sat on benches, three to each. A civilian woman walked to the front and began our first of countless orientations. We were assigned numbers based on the order we were sitting. I was now 58A.

Once again I filled out countless pieces of paper. We were offered another chance to dispose of any contraband we suddenly realized we were carrying. To the side of the room there was a display of some of the treasures that had been collected through this process: a bile vial of mouth wash, playing cards galore, every brand of cigarettes you could imagine, nail clippers, knives, firearms and more.

Next we filed through several rooms and were issued hideously rough brown towels that would barely fit around our bodies, a light green laundry bag to carry these items, a pair of black exercise shorts, one gray t-shirt, and a gray sweat suit, each with black lettering the reflected our new owners. Glancing at my watch I saw that it was almost eleven thirty. I need to change my watch to military time, I thought to myself.

Thirty minutes later we arrived at the barracks where we would bunk as we went through the Welcoming Battalion processing. Following an announcement that wake-up call would be at four, we were silently assigned bunks in a cavern-like dark room where other females were already sleeping. Females on guard shift directed us with red lighted flashlights to gray metal bunk beads guarded on each end with tan metal lockers. We were instructed to put on the clothing we had been issued – civilian clothing was not to be worn again until after graduation – lock up all issued items, along with our personal bags, and get to sleep.


“Get up. Get out of that bed before I get in there,” bellowed through the room’s intercom system. Having been assigned a top bunk I groggily, but carefully, maneuvered to the floor. I unlocked my locker, grabbed the hideous towel, soap and a toothbrush. I rushed to the latrine hoping to beat the other hundred females.

As I walked, I notice a female across from me who had propped her cast right leg against the bunk across from her. I learned later that she had torn some ligaments while marching to chow a few weeks prior and was stuck here until it healed. Everyone called her Crutches. Next to her was another private who had graduated Basic, shipped to AIT (Advanced Individual Training) and found out she didn’t qualify for her selected job. What had followed was some type of lawsuit and she had been assigned a new job and was waiting for security clearance. The female on the top bunk across from me spent quite a lot of time crying having left her new baby at home with his alcoholic father.

After using the latrine I returned to my bunk. I pulled on my sweatshirt feeling quite official with the word ARMY displayed across my chest and put on my running shoes. I quickly locked up my locker which was to be secured if we were more than an arm’s length away. This along with marking all items with our names was to guard against stealing. Apparently theft was a common occurrence in the military and explains why I still have white granny underwear with my last name permanently written on the elastic band.

This morning was my first experience with the phrase “Hurry up and wait.” Up at 0400 and yet I sat there waiting for what felt like forever. And in those few minutes I met the three battle buddies that I would treasure throughout the experience and after: Stick, H and M. H had just gotten engaged and was head over heels in love. M was signed up to be a parachute rigger and would be heading to jump school if she passed all the physical demands it would require. Stick was anything but a stick, but had a sweet spirit about her. All four of us became fast friends and were discharged four months later. Stick had a vertical hip fracture, H a sprained ankle that refused to heal even after months of physical therapy and M and I with a friction disorder that caused our knee caps to pull sideways when we bend our legs. H was the first to get injured, I was the second. But I was the last to be pulled from training. I was the only one to attempt the final physical fitness test; the only one to fail.

The Army… 8 years later. Part 1

It’s been 8 years since my discharge from the Army. Today I thought I’d share a piece that I wrote a few years ago about my experience:

I’m often asked, “What made you do it?” Honestly, I’m not sure exactly what I was thinking. I wish I could say it was some profound sense of patriotism, but I think it was probably boredom. when the Recruiter called I was looking for something challenging. So I did it. I enlisted in the US Army in the midst of The Global War on Terrorism.

I can still remember Sergeant T, dressed in his Army Greens, metals and all, knocking on my apartment door. He sounded like a used car salesman; he talked fast, used big words and made it sound like my life would hit the fast track if I enlisted. Not to mention serving my country, learning new skills and finally the killer jab to my unchallenged self: adventure.

I took the Aptitude Test and scored high enough that I was allowed to choose from any of the non-combat jobs. And it was one of these jobs that finally captured me. The US would send me to language school, give me a large cash bonus and put me in a position where the CIA highly recruited. In exchange I would simply sign away the next five years of my life.

Next I had to tell my family. The shocked silence that transmitted over the phone line was deafening when I told my Dad; my Mom’s fearful look despite her encouraging words pierced my heart; the concern of my friends and coworkers remained with me through the months that followed. I spent the majority of my time before shipping out waffling between fear, excitement, alarm and euphoria.


Well, four months after my decisions I was in LA going through final processing. I filled out what must amount to at least ten tree’s worth of paperwork, signed away my frist born, peed in a cup as a nurse watched, performed awkward exercises in my underwear and had a complete physical. And I do mean complete. Having passed I was given orders to ship.

So in the dead of winter, I, the Southern California Girl, shipped to the middle of Missouri. My journey from the Military Entrance Processing Center in Los Angeles to Fort Leonard Wood, fully gender integrated training facility, began at four in the morning on 18 January 2005. The first twelve hours was spent between plane rides and layovers in Arizona, Oklahoma and finally Saint Louis.

The last three hours of travel was a bus ride. I sat next to Private M. She was a black girl from the South and spoke constantly about all the items she had packed, ranging from a silk nightgown, cosmetics and “hair care products.” She said “hair care products” in the most amazingly slow southern drawl I’ve ever heard. We ended up bunking the same sleeping bay during all of basic. Each morning her battle buddy would yell and scream at her to hurry up because shi did everything in the same slow manner as she smoke. Drill Sergeant A constantly said that she must have Ice Cream music playing in her head because she always had a silly smile plastered on her face, along with the hair that was plastered to her head with the hair care products that lined the top shelf of her metal locker. Her obsession with her hair always shocked me. She would stay up after lights out at 2100 to fix her hair despite the fact that each morning began at 0400. She also must have had an unusually large amount of testosterone in her body because she grew a semi-goatee on her chin and had the most leanly defined muscles I’ve ever seen on a girl.


In the pitch dark the bus continued giving me the sense that we were going to the middle of nowhere and even should I attempt to escape there was nowhere to go except into the deep void of the night.

As we pulled up to the base entrance, the bus stopped and the driver passed out black garbage bags to collect contraband. I tossed in the piece of gum I was chewing along with the rest of the pack. Others got rid of cigarettes, chewing tobacco, mouth wash containing alcohol, playing cards and almost anything else you could imaging ranging from bongs to Walkman.

We drove on. Out of the darkness rose an enormous illuminated building. From this building came an equally enormous black man. His drill sergeant hat evident as the light silhouetted his body. The shape of that hat put the fear of God into my soul, and still does.

He jumped into the bus opened his mouth revealing a gold front tooth and began screaming, “Get off my bus. Get off my bus right now! Line up. Line up! Females on the left. Males on the right. Get moving. You think I’m joking with you, Private? When I say move, I mean now!”

“You better move. Get into a straight line. You think that’s straight? STRAIGHT! You: face the other way. Now! Yes you. You see anyone else facing that way?”

Once we were in a somewhat straight line we filed into the building. All I could think was “Whew I made it through those five minutes without any of his attention focused on me.” I decided that for the next ten weeks I would try to make myself as invisible as possible. That didn’t really work out for me. On day 0, I was given the name “Private Retardo” by the meanest, shortest woman I’ve ever met. She made it her mission in life to make my life miserable. Thankfully I had no idea the she existed and so I continued on with excitement for the adventure that was about to start.

Tune back in for part 2 tomorrow.

Gifts you did not earn: thoughts on Deuteronomy 6

The first chapter in my plan to meditate on scripture is Deuteronomy 6. The gist of the passage is that the people of Israel are being reminded of the law before they enter the Promised land after 40 years of wandering in the desert. For several days I read through the chapter multiple times using different versions: New Living Translation, NASB, Amplified Bible, etc.

A few years ago Larry Warner taught me to meditate on scripture by reading a passage and then identifying the portions that I felt resistance to or that I felt particularly drawn to. Through this technique, I’ve seen God use scripture to radically transform my perspective of who He is, who I am and who others are. As a teenager I was actively involved in inductive Bible studies through Precept ministries. One of my favorite techniques from those studies was (and still is) identifying keywords and themes that repeat throughout a passage. As I mentioned recently, my perspective on the Gospel has been radically changed as a result of several books written by Elise Fitzpatrick. She challenges readers to look at passages in terms of who God is instead of what we’re supposed to do. One thing she said has stuck with me. The paraphrase is: in our quest for godliness have we left God behind?

So I’ve started my reading/meditation with these 3 things in mind: looking for what a passage says about God instead of just identifying “action items,” looking for keywords, and listening for what resonated in my soul (whether positive or negative).

And what stuck out to me was the phrase “which you did not” in verses 10-12: “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you, with great and goodly cities which you did not build, And houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and cisterns hewn out which you did not hew, and vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and when you eat and are full, Then beware lest you forget the Lord, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”

As the Old Testament story continues it is clear that the Israelites did in fact forget the God that gave them all these things that they did not build, fill, hew or plant. Which made me wonder why God gave them these things since they simply took for granted. Why does He graciously give any of us anything? Day after day He gives me things that I did not work for; He has graciously provided job after job that I didn’t apply for, He has brought so many mentors into my life, He has provided not one, but two families, to allow me to live with them rent-free during tough times. My life is filled with things that I have been given that I did not earn. I am afraid that I will forget the Lord. I also proudly think, “there’s no way I could forget who He is and what He’s done.”

And that’s where it became apparent how quickly I take a portion of scripture and drill straight into action items. (i.e. I need to make sure I don’t forget the Lord.) What does this say about the Lord? He gives abundantly. He fulfills His promises (Deut 6:23).

What do you think? What has God given you that you did not earn?

Bible study plan for 2013

For 2013 I’ve decided to take a different approach to Bible study and daily devotionals. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started down the “read the Bible in a year” route. I’ve read 60-80% of the Bible many times over the years. But some of those minor prophets? I’m not sure I’ve read them at all. It’s always the same story: fervent commitment for a few months (sometimes even half a year) and then somewhere something happens and I get behind. One year I think my attempt to read the whole Bible carried over to about 18-months before I started a different “system.”

I’m a system person – I’m always coming up with a better system to accomplish things. The problem is I’m not a good maintainer. I hate doing the same thing day-in and day-out. The drudgery really gets me down. I guess it makes sense that this would affect the way I do Bible study.

Now that I work at a company that creates software for Bible study, it seems fitting that I renew my commitment to the activity. But I wanted to come up with a more realistic plan/goal for myself. As I mentioned in this post, I’ve recently found that meditating on an entire chapter has been really encouraging to me. So, for 2013, I’ve done a little research and picked 38 chapters I’d like to meditate on.

Why 38? Well, I decided that 52 (a chapter per week) was not realistic. There is a 100% chance that I will fall off the wagon a few times during the year. There’s also a chance that I’ll want to meditate on a chapter for more than a week. I also didn’t want to pick anything that made it feel like the plan was set in stone (i.e. no 1 chapter every 2 weeks, or 3 chapters a month, etc.). That type of rigidity freaks me out because I feel obligated to stick with it. I’m not even committing to read all of them in a year or at all. It’s amazing how that type of freedom is so invigorating to me.

How did I pick my 38 chapters? Well, I did some Google searching and compared the results. Ultimately I chose to study all the chapters listed in the table of contents for Spurgeon’s Commentary on Great Chapters in the Bible, plus some recommendations from these blogs:, Codex Markianus, and Ekklesia. I’ve really wanted to dig into some of the prophetic books, so a good chunk of what I chose came from those books.

  • Deuteronomy 6
  • Matthew 5-7
  • Isaiah 6-7
  • John 1
  • Isaiah 14
  • Psalm 23
  • Isaiah 35
  • John 14
  • Isaiah 40
  • Psalm 51
  • John 15
  • Isaiah 52
  • John 17
  • Isaiah 53
  • Acts 2
  • Isaiah 55
  • Psalm 199
  • Jeremiah 18
  • Romans 8
  • Jeremiah 31
  • 1 Corinthians 15
  • Lamentations 3
  • Psalm 139
  • Ephesians 1
  • Ezekiel 8
  • Colossians 1
  • Ezekiel 10
  • Ezekiel 33
  • Psalm 103
  • Hosea 14
  • Daniel 9
  • Psalm 22
  • Zechariah 14
  • Hebrews 11
  • Malachi 4


Lead me in the way everlasting

My heart cries: lead me in the way everlasting;
the everlasting way of the Lord.

You are everlasting
and your way is eternal.
The flowers may fade
but Your Word remains.
Lead me Your everlasting way;

The way of the Lord
Is illuminated by
the light of the Word.
Light of the World
Lead me in your everlasting way

You have searched me and known me;
You know me intimately.
You embroidered me together
with colors too wonderful to imagine–
with detailed thoughts of how
my way would overlap with Yours.

Lead me in the way everlasting;
the everlasting way of the Lord.

You works are wonderful.
Inspi’ring deep awe and praise.
Your ways are too much for me
to know.

How good it is to taste
the goodness of the Lord.
Like the sweetest candy
or the freshest water.

Lead me in the way everlasting;
the everlasting way of the Lord.

Inspired by: Ps 139 (Amplified version), Isaiah 40:8, Psalm 119:105, Psalm 34:8. John 8:12.

I am nothing

Lately I’ve been on a kick. When I run across a verse that I’ve known since my childhood, I’ll take some time to read through the entire chapter. Every time I do this I am blown away by God’s Word. Sometimes the meaning of the verse changes, others the meaning of the verse becomes even more impactful.

Most recently this happened with Isaiah 40. Most people are familiar with Is 40:7-8 (the grass withers and the flower fades) and Is 40:30-31 (even youths grow tired and weary…). These verses are surrounded by a prophecy about the coming of Christ and the magnificent character of God. In the past 2-3 weeks I’ve read and reread the entire chapter. As a result, I am in awe of the Holy One. No one compares to Him. Nothing holds a candle to His existence. He is in control and is Sovereign.

This past summer, my small group read Because He Loves Me by Elyse Fitzpatrick. It radically changed my understanding of the Gospel. Each time I think about the Gospel I ask myself, “how did I miss this? How did I not get the Gospel after hearing it for 20+ years?”

The gospel says:

  • I can’t earn God’s acceptance because I am so incredibly flawed – more flawed than I can even imagine.
  • God’s love for me is so vast that He made the ultimate sacrifice:
  • His Son humbled himself, lived the life I should be living,
  • died to pay the price for the fact that I’m not living the sinless life I should be and
  • was raised from the dead to set me free from the very sin that separates me from God.

Right now I’m reading Elyse’s devotional, Comforts from the Cross. The topic for today is “Glory to God Alone.”

This concept, that glory belongs only to God, gave some insight into why Isaiah 40 has resonated so deeply with my soul: My sin nature wants glory for myself. I want to prove that I can earn God’s love and acceptance. I ignore the truth of the Gospel, wrongfully believing that I can be acceptable to God by trying really hard. I proudly forget how insignificant I truly am and think that I can earn myself a place in the presence of God. But Isaiah 40 reminds me that I am nothing in comparison to God.

That’s where the sweetness of the Gospel comes in: I am nothing, but He values me (even when I want to steal His glory for myself) so much that He has sacrificed what He holds dear (His son) so that I can be with Him. Talk about mind-blowing.



Collecting Life Principles

A few years ago I was given an assignment: identify your Top Life Principles. Every once in a while I stumble across the file I created and add to or refine it. It’s actually served as an interesting type of journal that shows what type of issues I was encountering and the way I wanted to “reframe” my perspective. My list in 2010 was pretty long – I’m sharing a shortened version below. My 2012 is considerably shorter, but I think the concepts are more meaningful to me.

Here’s my list from 2010

  1. Lead what you’ve been given.
  2. Don’t plan. Strategize.
  3. Calling: the thing that yields the most with the least energy drain.
  4. Comfort with ambiguity is tied to: a) need for control and b) trust level with person being ambiguous.
  5. In difficult situations:
    1. Identify assumptions.
    2. Double check meaning.
    3. Think about resolution goal.
    4. Fix the cause not the symptoms.
    5. Don’t hang onto only one option: come up with several options that you will be satisfied with.
    6. Call. Don’t email.
  6. Choose the communication style the other person prefers.
  7. People matter. Period. Respect others even if they don’t “earn” it, because they are made in the image of God.
  8. Under promise, over deliver.
  9. Excellence is being effective, efficient and enthusiastic.
  10. Fruits of the Spirit are gifts from God. Stop trying to manufacture them.
  11. Strength and change begins when I admitting that I’m powerless to do what I need/want to do and God is the only hope.  The amount of strength God gives me changes each day based on what I will be facing. Never assume that today I’ll have the same strength as yesterday.
  12. Dreaming brings joy and motivation to life.
  13. Happiness IS a choice.
  14. Ask yourself: “Is it sinful (Gal. 5)?” If not, then ask, “is it wise?”

This list reminds me of where I was two years ago: I was wrestling with conflict that I felt ill-equipped to handle, I felt like my career was lightyears away from my calling, I was unmotivated and unhappy and was struggling with my relationship with Christ.

I wonder what my 2012 list will remind me of when I look back on it in 2014:

  1. People matter. Period.
  2. It’s possible to push for change while respecting and submitting to authority.
  3. Create space for others that cultivates growth and ideas.
  4. Identify and resolve the cause not the symptoms.
  5. Always think strategy. Failing to plan may equal planning to fail, but a strategy is more adaptable and useful than a plan, especially in fast paced environments
  6. Under promise, over deliver.
  7. Weakness is not necessarily synonymous with sin.

Right now, this list reminds me that I’m wrestling with my weaknesses and my sinfulness (#8). I’ve identified principles that have lasting value to me (#1, 4, 5 and 6). I’ve identified two areas where God has, and is continuing to, stretch me in my professional and personal life (#2 and 3). I want to add a few principles but they don’t have the clarity I want them to. They are related to mentoring/discipleship and what it means to be a Christian woman with the gift of leadership.

What about you? What are the top life principles that are meaningful to you right now?