We found out today that my husband is receiving orders to deploy to Iraq.
For fifteen months. A year and three months. Four hundred and fifty-five days.
We knew it was coming, but it really feels real now. At least he’s not scheduled to deploy until May 10. At least that gives us 6 months to prepare.
Interestingly enough I remembered a Thanksgiving letter he sent to our family the last time he was deployed to Iraq. Rhema was just about 8 months old. Brandon was in Iraq when she was born, but got to visit us for 2 weeks when she was 6 months old. Then he returned to the war and sent home a Thanksgiving letter. I was not planning on sharing it, but since we got the news today, I’ve decided to post it. [Neally is my family nickname].
As you hear this you will be in the middle of the Thanksgiving day. I wanted to write while you are all gathered together as a family and be able to express my thankfulness with you all from far away here in Iraq.
This year, I have so much to be thankful for. Neally and I have had a year that has been filled with anxiety, fear, questions. It has been a year of great unknowns. A year of disconnect from each other and family. However, I am thankful to the Lord for His innumerable blessings. I’d like to list a few—
First, I am so thankful for God’s gift to us of Rhema. I cannot describe my joy in seeing my daughter for the first time. Thank You, Lord.
I am thankful that though away, and as I see many marriages falling apart during this deployment, J and I have grown more passionate about our marriage, more aware of our bond as man and wife. It is truly a supernatural answer to our prayers. I love and appreciate my wife more today than when I left.
I am thankful for the Lord’s protection over me and my Soldiers. We had a long combat patrol and almost 10 months on the ground in Iraq and we are all safe and sound today. Forward Operating Base Speicher, where the majority of my guys are located, is surrounded in prayer by many committed Christians and chaplains. We receive very little enemy activity. My Soldiers located in Balad at LSA Anaconda have been hit with nearly 500 rocket attacks, some destroying their bunks while they were not in them…another rocket maiming an airman while my Soldier just 20 feet away was completely unharmed. I am not shy about this fact—it is the Lord who is our Protector. He is our shield and refuge here. I believe with every fiber of my being that we are protected through prayer and because of His mercy to us. The Lord is perfect and sovereign even if we had experienced casualties, but I thank the Lord for His seeing fit to keep us all safe thus far.
I am thankful for my family.
I am thankful for the Palmers. When I first met Neally, I had my doubts about her authenticity because she was too innocent, too pure, too kind, too patient, too selfless, too caring. I wondered if it were not a dating make-over where she was able to put her best foot forward while around me. I wondered if she had gone off to college and reinvented herself like many do…some for the better, some for the worse. Then I visited her family. I was amazed to see a whole house full of people who God had chosen and set aside, all living lives of innocence before Him, of purity, of kindness, of patience, of selflessness, of caring…of Loving Jesus. I knew then that not only had I found the right woman God had for me, but He had given me the added blessing of the very best family. I am so thankful, and feel undeserving, of the gift of Neally’s family…my family now.
I am thankful for my family. I am thankful that I saw the Lord gently and mercifully lift my family out of the pit of hell. I am thankful that I saw firsthand God’s radical deliverance of my family. We were shattered almost beyond repair and God carefully put all of the pieces back together again. I am thankful that the Lord made my parents into Godly examples—with little or no training in how to be a Godly parent, the Lord was faithful to make up the years of destruction in short order so that Lindsay and I were trained in the ways of the Lord. He, HE, is the reason for my thankfulness.
I am thankful that the Lord saved me at a young age. Although I wondered what was on the other side of life—the parties, the apparent freedom and pleasure of sin, the culture of “if it feels good, do it…it’s got to be ok if it feels ok…follow your heart”—I am thankful that He kept me from major stumbles along the way. As I left for college, far away with no need of my parents anymore for daily necessities, I was free to choose my path. Although tempted like everyone else, God kept me close and convicted. He saw me through the lonely times when everyone else was out doing their exploring. He was my comfort and my friend. Today I am truly free and at peace because the Lord has kept me from many of the things that I see others still struggling with from their high school and college days.
I was reminded in chapel as we studied a portion of Romans 1 that people who do not acknowledge God are missing something on this holiday because they do not have anyone to be thankful to. If one who does not acknowledge God were to be at Thanksgiving dinner today and give thanks for their good things in life—health, family, prosperity, food—and did not acknowledge the God who gave them these things, who are they thanking? It is an empty thanks to no one in particular. I urge us all to be mindful of Who we are thankful to this Thanksgiving Day.
I hope you all give a “thankful” Thanksgiving to the One who gives us all good things.
Love you all,
Thanks so much to all the US service men and women serving away from home this Thanksgiving!