Making Things Beautiful Or What Might Otherwise Be Called Nesting

I used to paint watercolors.

I was an art major in college. I thought that making things beautiful would be my life’s ambition until the overwhelming fear that I couldn’t hack it as a full time artist set in. I didn’t want to sell myself. I wasn’t interested in marketing beauty. I just wanted to make it but I never imagined that I would stop creating. Even as ministry and the church fostered new expressions of my creativity, I thought that I would still carry my tiny watercolor set into beautiful places to sit and paint.

My watercolors are packed away in some box now. My brushes have long since been dipped into water. I’m not even sure which box I’d find my watercolors and brushes in if I dared to look. Still, the desire to make things beautiful hasn’t gone away.

I make regular visits to my local ACE hardware store to acquire quarts of semi-gloss paint. Stools, tables and chairs are constantly changing hues in my home.

It’s been that way since I moved into my very first apartment. My brother worked for Sherwin-Williams at the time and got me my first quarts of paint that turned my coffee table bright yellow and the my bedside table a brilliant schoolhouse red. Since then, that $10 coffee table acquired at a church’s rummage sale has been green and is now blue and the bedside table no longer functions as a table.

I’m not painting watercolors anymore but I’m still painting. Layers of semi-gloss paint transform the furniture around my home to something eye-catching and surprising but it’s not the kind of beautiful I once dreamed of creating. It’s not something for a gallery wall or even an object that reorients the participants through the brokenness of life to find hope.

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The IKEA bedside table between coats of paint. Oh, and the other table I painted with the surplus paint.

It’s just a set of bedside tables from IKEA in my garage waiting to be slathered in paint. I spent several days this week hunched down on the floor of my garage attempting to add coats of baby blue paint to these tables. Pregnancy made it difficult to stoop and bend to reach the corners of these tables. My back ached and my belly was constantly in the way but it may well have been pregnancy that created the urgency to finally transform my bedroom.

Nesting is what they call it. The American Pregnancy Association claims that there is an old adage that once nesting begins, labor will soon follow. (Lord, hear my prayer.) It’s an old wives tale like most of the common knowledge about pregnancy but nesting is a common experience among pregnant women. It’s the overwhelming desire to make your home ready for baby. It’s the impulse to take on projects like painting and sewing and scrolling through pages and pages of curtains on the countless websites to create the kind of place that you hope your child will love to call home.

Or if you a military family, you spend extra hours agonizing over whether or not the movers will ruin this new thing you’ve just created with their carelessness in the next move. Will it survive that move? Will it survive the move after that? Will my child even remember any of this?

I lamented once to my dear friend Caitlin that I wasn’t making art anymore. We had spent one glorious summer together in upstate New York daydreaming about our future as brilliant artists. She has since realized that dream with gallery shows and exhibits where I was simply repainting the furniture in my home. She laughed and said that she does it too. Her home is her masterpiece. It’s the work that is never finished and so she keeps on adding layers of paint and moving furniture from here to there in search of beauty.

It’s all beautiful, she told me. There is nothing more amazing than making things beautiful. It will never be perfect but that just gives us permission to keep on creating.

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Fear, Love and Another Supreme Court Decision

Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided by a 5-4 vote to uphold the ban on transgender service members fulfilling their call to service in the United States military. It was said by one woman just four years short of retirement in the Navy that this decision “speaks volumes about where we are as a country.”

This brave woman is right to point out that the biases of a few are having a huge impact on an entire community, but I am not sure that it speaks volumes.

I don’t want to that fear to trump everything, because I believe there is a voice we cannot quite hear yet.

I believe that there is a louder voice in the next generation, those that are not yet old enough to serve as justices on the Supreme Court. Maybe they’re not that loud yet because they aren’t even old enough to vote, but I have faith that these children will lead us. These are the kids who grew up only knowing a black president. These are the kids that don’t remember anything before legal marriage for all people. Maybe they remember the Supreme Court decision. Maybe. Or maybe it has just been a fact of their lives.

The Pew Research Center reported last week that these kids make up “the most racially and ethnically diverse generation” we have ever seen in this country. They haven’t had to learn gender-neutral pronouns. They haven’t stumbled over their words like I have because they’ve grown up with this vocabulary. It is said that this young generation, called Generation Z, is more liberal and more inclusive than their elders have ever been.

My daughter is too young to be a part of this young generation. She is only 15 months old and so she fits with some evolving generation that doesn’t yet have a name. I don’t know what new things will be normal for her, but the statistics seem to hint that my little girl will only be more liberal. Generation Z is already 10% more confident with gender pronouns than Millennials. They are 3% more determined than Millennials in their certainty that our society is not accepting enough and their 6% more determined that the government needs to do more to solve problems for individuals and businesses.

I don’t know who my little girl will grow up to be. I don’t know if her fascination with shoes and beaded necklaces is just a phase that will lead to something else, some new identity where gender is much more fluid. I know I will struggle because I am part of my generation, but I’m excited about what she will teach me.

I’m eager to see how she challenges her old liberal mother. I hope she makes me squirm. I hope she pushes all my political buttons. I hope she teaches me more about love than I know now, not just because she’s my kid and my heart has grown in loving her. But, I hope that she thinks it’s silly that her Mommy ever had to fight for marriage equality. I wonder what she’ll think of the story I’ll one day tell her about officiating my first transgender wedding as much as I wonder if she’ll feel called to serve in the military like her Daddy.

Watching her play on the floor yesterday with her wooden pots and pans, mixing up air with her play spatula, she’s already cooking up trouble. I couldn’t help but smile and think “it’s gonna be OK.” There is a temptation to despair. There’s a tendency among us old(er) liberals to think that the prejudices of a very small few will ruin everything, but I’m not going to fall into that fear.

As it says in those words that we once carried through the streets in the name of marriage equality, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love” (1 John 4:.18, NRSV). I’m gonna strive for that perfection, that perfection that my daughter will one day teach me with a gigantic roll of her eyes. Fear doesn’t motivate or inspire, but love always does.

I won’t be paralyzed by the feeling that there’s nothing I can do to reverse a Supreme Court decision. I’m not going to nervously analyze statistics across the generations, but I’m gonna figure out how I can raise my daughter and my family in the love that we believe should exist in our nation and especially in our military.

I hope that that love is the loudest.

Leaving the East Coast

Today I said goodbye to the Atlantic Ocean. I dip my toes in the cold water on this dreary day and hoped that I might get to come back soon.

It was only last year that we moved to the East Coast. It was a return for me and Nigel knew it. He knew how much I wanted to come back home so that when he was given moving orders he figured out how he could get me home. We weren’t married yet and it would be ages before he proposed but he wanted me move with him. He was determined, so determined that he was going to make sure that I would go.

Dipping my toes in the surf this morning, I couldn’t help but remember Nigel’s excited face illuminated through the magic of my iPhone. He was overseas doing that military thing he does and we were not planning on moving. We had only just begun the “this is forever” talk between the two of us. In an instant, we moved. We settled into the East Coast.

I had high hopes of spending summer hours in the sand under my umbrella reading books as I spent so many days while I was pastoring in Maine. Our home was only an hour from the shore. It seemed like it was possible, like it could happen but it never did. My sister planned my bachelorette party by the ocean and it rained that weekend. We managed to get our toes in the sand but the wind and the rain chased us off the beach sooner than I would have hoped. Same thing happened yesterday. I had planned one last silly night with my cousin in the ridiculousness of Atlantic City with the hopes of spending some time on the beach, but it rained. This time, it rained quite hard.

Tomorrow, after worship is over and some cake is shared, I’ll get in my car headed to the middle of America. Nigel has already settled there and eagerly awaiting my arrival and I’m eager to get there too. It’s been a long summer with too few beach days. It wasn’t the weather. It was me. I didn’t make the time. I made excuses about the traffic and the other things I should be doing. I didn’t allow myself to enjoy this thing that I love so much. Why do I do this to myself?

The beach is a place where my soul is restored. I am calmed by the sound of the waves. The silky pink sand of the East Coast is so familiar after having spent so many summers with my grandparents. It is a place of happy memories. It is place where my family still gathers so that even when I cannot be with them, it is a homecoming. I didn’t enjoy it enough. I wish I had because there is no ocean where I am moving. There may be a lake or two, but there are surely no oceans in the middle of America. I don’t know when we will move back to the East Coast or any coast, but I’d like to think that next time I’ll allow myself to enjoy this place that I love so much.

How Things Change

Doing a New ThingNot long ago, I wanted to give up. Or I felt like I wanted to give up. I’m really not much of a quitter. I’m too damn stubborn. But, I was frustrated and my energy for this project was waning.

How things change.

Almost immediately after I published that post, my little internet home for this military ministry started to get some attention. Just when I thought that I might be going about this all wrong, this showed up on Twitter. Just a few hours later, in one of the Facebook groups I’ve joined of blogging military spouses, there was another post wondering who was behind Beyond Acronyms. There was some enthusiasm. We’re not talking thousands of people. Or even hundreds. More like five. Five people were excited about this thing but five people can make all of the difference in the world. Five people can make you think like anything is possible because five people are suddenly like… hey, yeah, I’d be into that. I love these five people.

So now, with the encouragement of these five people, I’m starting to see myself as an entrepreneur. I even created a board for such a possibility on Pinterest which clearly means I must be serious. (That was sarcasm.)

Even with that new identity, I’m still struggling because what I’ve created so far is an online community. That’s not exactly what I wanted. I knew there would be some element of this when I started but it’s not what I want this to be. It’s not my hope. And yet, as much as I want to shift this internet-based ministry into something that manifests with real live actual people meeting together, I’ve been trying really hard to remind myself that that day will come. For now, this can be an online thing which means that I’m spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to make connections with real live actual people on the internet. I’m reading things like how Connie Schultz built a unique online community on Facebook and relying on my own network.

The RevGalBlogPals have been one of the tremendous resources of my ministry over the years which might have something to do with one of its many leaders is a dear friend of mine. So, I’ve been leaning into this online ministry to figure out how it has grown from a few haphazard blogs to what it is today. Here’s what I learned: the internet has changed a lot. It’s changed since I helped to create this thing called The Young Clergy Women Project. What worked then will not work now. But, this very dear friend of mine offered to do a little promotion for me. You can see that here. That’s really what started the stir of those five people talking about this — and how I got the little burst of energy a few weeks ago. I’m ever grateful. God bless RevGals!

It was about that time that I realized that I needed some more support. So I started to gather a startup community. Not a board or a set of officers but a startup community. I don’t actually remember which book I read about this in — and really should locate it because I have to do a better job of explaining this as I bring members of my startup community on board. But the idea is simply this: there is a constellation of people with different skills who seek to support you in this entrepreneurial thing by offering you bits of wisdom or advice or simply letting you vent all of your frustrations — but in the language of the United Church of Christ, it’s covenantal thing. You sign on to this. It’s an intentional commitment to be in this relationship. It’s something you’re actively doing which may mean that any one of these people calls me out whey they haven’t heard a word from me. So far this little community includes three women — two of whom are pastors and one is a graphic designer/tech genius. And in truth, I haven’t utilized their skills much yet.

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with a friend who is a military chaplain that has given me pause. She spoke a truth that I’ve been struggling to admit myself. I have been creating this blog with this media content — but my heart is not in it. It’s not really what I want to do. I don’t want to be writing about such possibilities but want to be engaged in the real ministry. The stuff that’s not so much about what’s on the internet but what is before you in the place that you are. Last week, I gave myself that out. I posted this on the blog so that I wouldn’t have to worry about posting anymore. I could focus on the other stuff that I hope to do but am still not sure how to do. (It also happens that this post speaks to the kind of community I hope for — the kind that wants to end racism and is actively taking a part in this struggle.) My military chaplain friend said it this way: the way that I approach this has to build up and support the good work of progressive chaplains. It has to be a complement. It has to work together rather than over and against. What she didn’t know is that I feel like I’ve been putting up content to put up content. I’m posting about things I don’t really know but imagine to be. So, I need to do some more work. I need to get into the trenches. (No pun intended.) I need to make some connections.

It is this that I hoped to do this summer. I thought I would start with some local churches near the base we’re at now but then I remembered that it’s summer. It’s summer in church world and things slow to an incredibly slow pace in most congregations. It’s a time of rest and planning that I loved as a local church pastor. It wasn’t a time of meetings but a time to chart out the year in preaching and teaching by the pool. (This does not meet that pastors are lazy. They are anything but lazy as they sit and read theology on the beach. They are trying to make 1000 things happen at once all year long and summer often provides a little more leisure to do some big picture thinking.) I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone of that precious time. So, I’m thinking that I might do a little more networking in the military world. I don’t really know how or where — but that summer can be a time to build some relationships rather than blogging. It can be a time to ask big questions within the new community I find myself.

So, that’s what I’ll be trying this summer but I’d hate to leave you without something to do. Here’s what I’d like to ask you to do as new experiments arise in ministry. Go on over to Instagram and follow along on the adventure. Follow Beyond Acronyms here and please don’t ever forget to pray for this community. Pray for every spouse and every service member that finds themselves in a changing culture especially after the Supreme Court decision on marriage. They need your prayers and your hopes more than I do.

The Stories Civilians Need to Hear

In the short story “War Stories” in Phil Klay’s Redeployment, there is this moment of internal thought that pauses the narrative. In the middle of two battle buddies trying to get laid by their stories, there is this moment of reflection.

The day before, when he’d asked me to come, I’d told him that if he gave this girl his story, it wouldn’t be his anymore. Like, if you take a photograph of someone, you’re stealing their soul, except this would be deeper than a picture. Your story is you.

There are so many things that I don’t want to hear about the war. There is so much of me that wants to believe that the things in Fallujah didn’t really happen. But, they did. Terrible things happened there and in Guantanamo and a whole bunch of other places that I don’t know by name. Terrible things are still happening. We are still at war — and somehow in the midst of this war, we’ve created what Klay calls this “weird pedestal that vets are on now.”

It’s a strange place for our vets and for those still serving. Because most of the time, they are not sure what to do with their stories. Even though their stories are who they are. They go that deep. Each of those stories defines who they are and what they are — but there is something about these stories that is incomplete. It doesn’t all come together in a neat little bow as another as it is described in the short story “Psychological Operations.” The narrator has just told that story that is him and then thinks:

…now that I’d told the story, I didn’t feel like I’d actually told her anything at all. I think she knew it, too, that the story hadn’t been enough, that something was missing and neither of us knew how to find it.

It’s a theme that repeats again and again throughout this collection of short stories as each narrator (and perhaps even Klay himself) tries to understand how these stories work. You can hear it again in the short story “Bodies”:

There are two ways to tell the story – funny or sad. Guys like it funny with lots of gore and a grin on your face when you get to the end. Girls like it sad with a thousand-yard stare out to the distance as you gaze on the horrors of war they can’t quite see. Either way, it’s the same story.

I have wanted to read this book since I first saw it appear on the new releases table at my local bookstore. My boyfriend was deployed. He was “safe” which was good — but I didn’t really know what he was doing all day. He couldn’t talk about it while he was there and even now that he’s home, I can see him hesitate. It’s partly because he wants to protect me and partly because we’re having this awesome meal and this lovely wine so why would I want to talk about such things. But, I do. I want to talk about these things. I want to understand this story because Hollywood has totally screwed up how I think about war.

I wanted to read this book because I want to understand why my beloved winces every time someone mentions PTSD and veterans in the same sentence. And I don’t understand it. Not yet. I’m still on the other side of the civilian-military divide but this book gave me stories that I needed to hear. As Klay shared with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, these aren’t war stories like people imagine them to be. These are stories about the guy who works in mortuary affairs and guy who serves as the chaplain — but more than their job while they are deployed — they are people.

And maybe we’ve forgotten that about our service members.

We’ve been so quick to put them on pedestals that we haven’t really allowed them to be people — people that have all kinds of thoughts and feelings and ideas. People who have stories that civilians need to hear so that we can remember that these are just ordinary people trying to make the world a better place in their own way. I loved Redeployment for this simple reminder.

Liturgical Lights for Sunday May 24, 2015

J A S M I N E

It’s Pentecost!

For this special day, in which we celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the Narrative Lectionary has not one — but two readings — including Acts 2:1-4 and Romans 8:18-38.

What a day!

These two passages came together in a sermon I preached back in 2013. It’s this sermon that shapes these prayers. You’ll also find that there’s a slight nod to Memorial Day in the second prayer. It is an observance that I wouldn’t tend to include in the formal liturgy because it’s not a liturgical holiday — but would surely add to the Pastoral Prayer.  Admittedly, the Prayer for the Wind below doesn’t really do a very good job of acknowledging that this Sunday is Memorial Day and not Veterans Day. Just be aware of the distinction as you craft your Pastoral Prayer so that you’re praying for the service men and women who have died — not those who are currently serving.

Call to Worship (Responsive)

Can you hear that sound?
It’s the sound of God’s glory!
Can you feel the wind?
It’s what we’ve hoped to see.
There is something happening in this room.
There is something just about to change.

Prayer for the Wind (A Prayer of Invocation)
Inspired by the Navy Hymn on Memorial Day

Come Holy Spirit!
Be the wind in our sails
for we are breathless with anticipation.
We cannot quite escape the sinking feeling
that all hope is lost.
So, come. Come Holy Spirit!
Turn our breathless, hopeless sighs
into your powerful wind.
Fill this entire space where we are sitting.
Make it so that Pentecost was not something
that happened just once but that happens
again and again when your people feel
your wind pushing us, encouraging us, guiding us
toward the hope we cannot see for ourselves.
Oh, hear us gathered here in this place,
hear us with flames upon our tongues as we cry
out for the gale force of you love.
Blow Holy Spirit!
Blow through the chaos.
Blow through the confusion.
Blow into our weakest parts
so that we are not so tempted to go back
to the way that things used to be
but can truly feel that something has happened.
Something has changed us and we will never be the same.
Come Holy Spirit! Blow through this place!

I would love to hear what you’ve go planned for worship on Sunday. Is there something really wild that you’d like to try? Are you planning something special for this Sunday? I’d love to hear what you’re daydreaming about in the comments below. And, if you happen to use the prayers I’ve written in your worship, and I hope you will, please do offer me credit with as follows:

The prayers in our worship this morning were written by/adapted from Liturgical Lights for Sunday May 24, 2015 by the Rev. Elsa Anders Peters. Elsa is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ who blogs at revelsaanderspeters.com.

Wanting to Give Up

Doing a New ThingIt’s true. Over the past few weeks, when I haven’t been posting about my latest escapades of entrepreneurial ministry, I have wanted to give up. I have wanted to throw in the towel. I have seriously contemplated why I ever thought this might be possible.

There was the first blow a couple weeks ago where the person who is supposed to be the connection to everything was less than supportive. I still haven’t fully recovered from that. I haven’t written back. I haven’t informed him of my grand plan because I don’t really have one. I wish that were not true. But, I’m afraid it is. I don’t have a grand plan. I’m not really sure what I’m doing.

The problem isn’t this one person — as easy as it might be to blame anyone but myself. But, the truth of the matter is: the problem is me. I have found myself in this new place and in this new life. I have a whole new identity that I don’t quite understand. I want to understand it but I don’t really know anything about being a military spouse. And I’m trying to create community for people like me. Except that they are not like me. They are actual military spouses. They’ve been through more than one deployment. They’ve moved with their spouse every two or three years. They know things about military life that I just don’t know yet. Maybe I thought I would. Or that somehow it would be as it was on Lifetime’s Army Wives. But, it’s not like that. My life is nothing like it is on TV.

Woe is me, right?

In the first retreat of this program I’m participating in (and have considered quitting), Stanford professor Dave Evans introduced us to design thinking. He suggested that there are such a things as wicked problems. This fascinated me so that I preached a sermon about it before I left my last call. In wicked problems, using the tools of design thinking, you’re supposed to ideate. You throw as many different solutions at that wicked problem as you can imagine. It’s not a reflective process but one that demands action. You don’t give up. You just try out a new idea. And so, it was suggested that it’s time for me to ideate. I have hit a wall. I’ve lost hope — but I can’t get stalled there. I can’t give up. I have to try something. Ideate! Ideate! That’s what they say. It’s how you’ll push through this feeling.

It was about that time — when I was told to ideate — that I read this article entitled Stop Doing Intergenerational Ministry. I panicked a bit because I love intergenerational ministry. I think it’s what we should be about in the church. So I clicked over to the article and was relieved to discover that the author hooked me. It’s really a reminder to the church not to do multigenerational ministry where the youth and the little kids and the parents and the seniors are all separate programs for each age group. Stop doing that, the author demands. Yes, I thought. We should stop doing that. We should stop doing ministry that separates and divides. We should be building communities without divisions — divisions like that divides civilians from the military. It’s a divide I’d like to bridge. Such a hope appeared on my blog only a few weeks ago. But, it requires doing a different kind of ministry where there isn’t a program called military ministry. But there is a military culture.

Most of the programs I’ve found have been in more conservative churches. There are few progressive churches that send care packages to the troops but none seem to be centered on military families. The soldiers are out there — like the people that are served on mission trips. They aren’t part of the community. They aren’t part of the culture. Even in the more conservative churches, there is a program that cares of the needs of the military family. But, it seems that most of them fail to welcome the family as part of the community. Or so I found out when I asked around on Twitter. So maybe that’s where my energy should head. Not to building community within and among military families — but to create meaningful connections to worshipping bodies. Or, honestly, helping those worshipping bodies figure out how to create such a culture of welcome.

At the same time, I read this beautiful post by a colleague and friend in the United Church of Christ. This began a conversation about — between the two of us — how mental health impacts soldiers and their families. This interests me but there are a ton of more qualified people already doing this good work. So I’m not so excited about this idea.

There’s still part of me that wants to give up. There’s still part of me that wonders if any of this is possible — but I gotta believe that there is some wild and crazy reason that I signed up for this thing. There is something that I’m supposed to learn. There is something I’m supposed to try. And maybe that will just keep me going.

Bridging the Civilian-Military Divide

bridge-600510_1280Just recently, Time Magazine published an article entitled Bridging the Civilian-Military Divide With Stories. I love stories thought as I eagerly clicked on the article. Because I want — more than anything — to figure out how to bridge this divide.

For so many years, I’ve been a pacifist. That fact hasn’t changed. I’m still a pacifist. But, I fell in love with a soldier. I fell in love with a man who sees the world differently than I do. In the end, we want the same thing. We want peace. We want to believe it’s possible — but we see it coming about differently. I want to engage in conversation. I want to believe that war isn’t necessary, that are other ways for peace to come.

I fell in love with a man that has seen and done things that he struggles to share with me. Perhaps because this bridge is so far and wide. He sees peace differently so that sometimes this bridge seems so long and wide.

So, eagerly clicked on this article in Time Magazine to find a new old friend, Thomas E. Ricks. Ricks has written many articles for Foreign Policy Magazine that I’ve eagerly shared. But, this article — this article in Time Magazine — only posed questions. Questions I want answers to but this article refused to answer. I was not satisfied. So, I sent Ricks an email.

Because the article concluded in such a way that it made me believe that he had more to say.  I was right. He wrote back almost immediately. I was shocked. I was shocked that he wrote back. I was shocked he would entertain such questions from silly preacher. I was even more shocked by his answer. His answer was simply to ask questions. Ask lots of questions because there is so much that we can’t possibly understand about the soldier’s experience. I came to an even deeper understanding of this after reading Karl Marlantes’ What It Is Like To Go To War. There are things that I knew. Things that I even thought I understood but it wasn’t until reading this book and asking questions of my love that I came to understand what he was afraid of telling me. There are things that I thought I was supposed to say to honor my love’s dedication but I didn’t really get it. I was too far on the other side of the bridge.

It was one thing to read about the perspective of two theologians in Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War  but only a service member can really explain the breadth and depth of moral injury. Only a member of the military can really explain what it’s like. It took falling in love for me to learn this. It took getting over my own ideas about pacifism and military action and let’s be honest some really bad theology to understand that there is more to this story. As much as we want to talk about post-traumatic stress, it’s much, much more than a solider returning from war that lashes out and drinks excessively. It’s way more than American Sniper. But, apparently, looks something more like Restrepo. (It’s streaming on Netflix. You should watch it.) This was assigned to me by my love. If I was going to understand this, I needed to watch this film. Stupidly, I did so while he was still deployed. Bad move. It is incredibly hard to watch but you should see it if you are like me. If you want to figure out how to bridge this divide between the civilian world and the military world, it requires becoming uncomfortable enough to watch something so brutal. Because — as my soldier has told me — it’s one of the only films that shows how it really was. Or really is.

This is the hardest part for me. It’s the reality that these stories didn’t end with Vietnam, the Gulf War or even Iraq. These stories are ongoing. And for whatever reason, especially post-9/11, civilians aren’t pay attention. We can’t grasp these stories. We haven’t even listened. I’m certainly at fault. I never thought it was my fight. I just wanted peace — but love is teaching me that peace comes from every side of the story. It doesn’t come from insisting that military spending be decreased or demanding that our troops be sent home. Some of that peace has to come from crossing that divide by uncomfortably asking questions you’re not sure if you really want to hear the answer. Some of it has to come from understanding what it’s like to serve a member of the military right now.

The best way to do this — according to both my love and Ricks — is to watch and to read. I now have a long list of books and movies to work my way through as I try to cross this divide toward peace.