The stormy present

This poster once hung on the hospital door of a young man wounded in Iraq. It was framed and now hangs on the Wounded Warrior floor at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. I photographed it in May, 2013, and again in April 2016.

This poster once hung on the hospital door of a young man wounded in Iraq.
It now hangs on the Wounded Warrior floor at Walter Reed in Bethesda, Maryland.
I photographed it in May, 2013, and again in April 2016.

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.” — Abraham Lincoln, in his Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862

In the years I’ve been writing and posting at this site, it seems that our family’s trials and challenges have paralleled the larger and more widespread difficulties facing the USA and the entire world. I withdrew from paying much attention to the news after Jeff’s diagnosis hit us in 2012, knowing I had to conserve my energy and stay as grounded in hope as I possibly could. But there is no way to isolate oneself from the calamities of the past few years.

These last twelve months have been especially fraught with personal crises for me, with Daddy’s death, Mama’s decline in health, Jeff’s brain tumor and subsequent treatments, and the overall worsening of his health as the cancer seems impossible to stop for very long.

Likewise, our country and world have been dealing with political turmoil, global terrorism, civil unrest (or outright warfare and genocide in some areas of the world) and the unceasing threats of disease and disaster. In the face of such oppressive realities, is it any wonder so many of us fall prey to despair?

As I’ve written again and again, maintaining faith and nourishing hope do not imply a withdrawal from reality, or a denial of profound sorrow. Grief and pain are inescapable, and we help no one if we try to wish or drink or argue it away.

Instead, we defeat despair when we comfort one another with support and understanding, resolving together that we can and will rise to the occasion. Sometimes, as Lincoln pointed out, this will mean thinking and acting in new ways, moving beyond habits of mind that are no longer useful to anyone, least of all ourselves.

The photo above depicts a framed poster that hangs in the hallway of the Wound Warrior floor at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. It’s just a few doors down from the room where Jeff spent so many weeks in 2013. The poster was created by a U.S. Navy Seal who was gravely wounded in Iraq in 2007. It hung on the door to his room before eventually being framed with medals and photos of him after he recovered many months later.

During the countless times I walked past it during our long, often discouraging weeks at Walter Reed, I often stopped to read it and reflect on the courage of the young man who first wrote those words when facing perhaps the greatest uphill battle of his life. No matter what else was going on, I always felt encouraged by reading it. I know it must have inspired so many others over the years, including the President, whose signature you may recognize near the bottom of the poster.

Maybe you are among those of us who have found many of the recent news stories distressing and depressing. Perhaps you are battling personal challenges too, leaving you drained and exhausted. If so, I can identify. Life seems increasingly piled high with difficulty. Nevertheless, I want to keep alive the spirit of “fun, optimism and intense rapid regrowth” that this Navy Seal pledged to uphold through his lengthy recovery.

I hope we can take heart from the words of our esteemed President Lincoln, and from many others who have given us an example of how to rise above trouble. I am encouraged by your presence here!

 

34 Comments

  1. Amen, Abe! Good morning, Julia!
    Yesterday I had a wonderful experience in North Minneapolis, where two pastors from congregations of greatly differing demographics demonstrated their love and commitment to pressing toward unity, honoring the desires that Jesus expressed in His prayer as found in John 17.
    I have seen that there is light in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it!

    • Susan, thanks so much for this encouraging word– Yes, there is much to inspire hope! “..we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

  2. Julia, thank you so much for sharing the photograph of this sign. Thank you, also, for your beautiful writing. I pray for you, Jeff, Drew, and Gloria every day. God bless you all!

    • Thanks so much! I really appreciate the encouragement, and of course, we are continually in need of your prayers. I’m happy you liked the post.

  3. Thanks for sharing this inspiring photo with us.
    How brave and strong is the human spirit.

    😇

    • Thank you, Merry! Yes, I am grateful that there are so many strong examples to encourage us.

  4. Rene

    Still we rise!

  5. Carol Hoyos

    Dear Julia
    What you gave me today was prospective. I’m lying on the heating pad, in bed, because my lower back went out as I reached for my coffee this AM. I’d had a whole days work planned 4 today and was “feeling”…… It really doesn’t matter what I was feeling as I go to Plan B feeling grateful/thankful for this site. xo

    • Wow, Carol, thank you so much. It means a great deal to think that anything I (or anyone else) said here can help with a good “reset” when needed. It can be tough to embrace Plan B, but the older I get, the more often I have to do it.

  6. So well said in this time of unrest and sadness in ours and other countries.God bless you and your family,and thank you for your blog.I think everyone who reads it gains the insight and the courage to carry on as you and your family has.Gods blessings to you.

    • Thank you, Daryl. I appreciate your presence here, and your kind words about the blog. We all need to support each other through uncertainty and trials, and if I can give back just a bit of what we’ve received, I will feel happy about that. Blessings to you and yours as well!

  7. It’s always important to keep hope in your heart while you are forced to deal with the realities of life. I couldn’t see the sign but got the gist of it. I have one of my own that was gifted to me last Christmas. A quote from Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor.”Please take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space. It’s a large sign that hangs by my front door. I look at it too on my way in. 🙂 Hang in there and don’t let the world get you down. It will all come out right in the end.

    • Marlene, for some reason I can’t get WordPress to enlarge the photos anymore (used to be you could click on it and it would get bigger) but here is the text of what the sign says:

      “ATTENTION to all who enter here: If you are coming into this room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, GO ELSEWHERE. The wounds I received, I got in a job I love, doing it for people I love, supporting the freedom of a country I deeply love. I am incredibly tough and will make a full recovery. What is full? That is the absolute utmost physically my body has the ability to recover. Then I will push that about 20% further through sheer mental tenacity. This room you are about to enter is a room of fun, optimism, and intense rapid regrowth. If you are not prepared for that, GO ELSEWHERE. From: The Management.”

      At the bottom you can see where George W. Bush had signed it with the words “God Bless!” Something I learned while Jeff was on the Wounded Warrior floor is that the U.S. President visits from time to time, not something that is generally announced or made known, though there is intense security before hand until the helicopter takes off again (there is a helipad on top of the hospital, since this is where the President stays if he is ever hospitalized).

      Just as President Bush did, President Obama visits WRNMMC periodically. He has visited WRNMMC at least twice while Jeff was there, and everybody has to stay sealed in their rooms and keep the hallways empty while he visits in person with two or three wounded military members who are recovering. Mrs. Obama recently visited with families at Fisher House, where out-of-town family members stay while their loved ones are in recovery. Sort of like the Ronald McDonald House at children’s hospitals.

      Though staff say the Presidential visits are a big hassle, I think it’s important for them to visit and see firsthand some of the consequences of our decisions to go to war. It is bound to help them make a fully informed and well-considered decision. At least it should help to do that. Plus I’m sure the injured troops and their families appreciate it.

      • Thanks for taking the time to type this all out for me. I hate that I can’t see a lot of things anymore but it’s part of life. You have to admire the man for his tenacity. That will get him a long way in his recovery. I think it’s nice the President visits the troops in the hospital. Too bad they have to clear the decks for his visit. Hope you are holding your own there. I’m still thinking of you daily and praying for your family. I know you have your hands full. I may start blogging again soon. Still catching my breath. Hugs

        • Marlene, we are doing OK. I had a “wild strawberry” morning today (remind me to tell you sometime the little story about the Buddhist monk and the wild strawberry, and how long it took me to figure it out). I finished a good fiction book while Jeff slept peacefully in the recliner and Matt worked a puzzle with no sounds at all in the room except WHRO (all classical music, all the time). It was such a wonderful space of respite before the start of a busy but fairly productive day. WAY TOO HOT, though! Thanks so much for your prayers. We need them, and the do help. I know your readers will be happy when you are able to get back to blogging- BUT breath is more important! 😀 Sending summer hugs.

          • Almost there. Glad you had a peaceful day. They are important. 🙂 Giant squishy hugs.

            • Almost there sounds great! Giant congratulatory hugs!! 🙂

  8. Ann

    Julia, I am encouraged by YOUR presence here! This is the place I turn to as alternative to the onslaught of horrific news surrounding us these days.
    On a brighter note, the cardinals are singing this morning and the squirrels are entertaining me with their antics. Wish you could join me on my back deck for the sights and sounds of the South, early on a fairly cool morning.

    • Ann, I’m so happy you enjoy visiting here! I wish I could be there with you to see your cute critters. I’m there in spirit. Tell them I said to have fun, but to behave themselves and not eat up anything not meant for their consumption! 😀 Those cardinals can get bossy with smaller birds, just like their blue cousins, the Jays.

  9. Julia, wonderful and encouraging post in a time that needs it most.
    We are born with two arms, whether in theory or reality. One we extend in offering love and service to others, or, in asking the same when we are in need. The other we hold firm to the Hand of the One who loved us into existence, knowing full well that when the world has failed us, He will not.
    -Alan

    • Alan, your words remind me of what Neil Diamond’s version of a gospel revival preacher said in the original production of “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” — did you ever hear that song? If not– or if you would like to enjoy it again, you can hear his mini-sermon about 2:04 into this clip. It’s a good thought to keep in mind. Receiving and giving are both important but for some reason we tend to err too much on one side of the equation or the other. It is immeasurably comforting to lean on something eternal through all the earthly storms!

  10. A very serious post, Julia. Even those who are often full of advice for others find themselves confused, desperate and even devastated when facing their own problems. As you said keeping away from the reality is no solution. But the real virtue is in facing them with hope and a cool head. Just do whatever we can and leave the rest to fate, without guilt, anger and complaints. That’s what I respect you for.

    • Thank you Bindu, I so appreciate your warm words and your visits here. The confusion and bewilderment are part of being human and if we can find the courage to admit them, we feel more connected to others and realize how much we all have in common. I’m so happy we met via your blog and mine! Wishing you cool breezes and happy thoughts.

  11. Judy from Pennsylvania

    Julia, thank you for sharing your positive attitude with others through your words, quotes and photos on this blog. Just as this soldier posted his uplifting message on his door, you do the same through a computer screen that connects you to our homes. I never saw this photo before but reading his words is inspiring, and reading your thoughts about it make me pause and reflect on how much we all have in common. We all have struggles and sometimes they come close to overwhelming us, and we all seem to be affected by the constant onslaught of news and negative drama in the media. As you say, we need to nourish hope; we need to comfort and support one another, and we need to encourage a spirit of fun and optimism. Keep up the good works, my friend. You’re helping to make a difference in the world through your writings. I’m sure of it.

    • Judy, thank you so much. Your encouraging words mean a great deal to me. When I first saw that poster, I thought “I wish everybody could see this” and of course, I took a photo so I could blog about it someday, so more people would know about it. We do have so much to give each other, all of us. One reason divisions and prejudice are so harmful is not just the damage they cause outright, but also what we miss out on when we fail to share experiences with each other. I can say in all honesty that I believe every single person has something to teach us, whether that person is an infant or elderly, ill or well, educated or not, rich or poor, severely impaired or completely able-bodied. But we have to be open to the lessons; that much is completely up to us. I’m trying to keep my eyes out for all the faith, hope and love I can gather, and I find a lot of it here in the comments from readers. I am so glad you are here!

  12. I do empathise with your own situation – family illness and death are such raw experiences. We are in a lull at the moment, after a number of years of loss and sickness. I am trying to revel in the joy of little things – taking my mum out for lunch to celebrate her 82nd birthday on Sunday was particularly lovely to be able to do. It’s also good to remember that the world is filled with good people doing kind things – the bad things are the exception, despite being the focus of the media.

    • Congratulations to your Mum! I’m so happy she was able to go to lunch with you. Yes, those times of respite between crises are precious and necessary. I hope you will find many such simple joys. We need only look around to see that most people are friendly, polite and filled with good will (the most glaring exceptions being on crowded highways, which seems to bring out the worst in everyone). Thanks for understanding the nature of what we are facing, and for being here with us.

  13. Sheila

    “Maintain faith and nourish hope” are powerful words to refer to and live by! 💛 Although, Bill and I are both officially retired, our daughter, Stephanie, still works for the new owners of our business. Daily, she sees the business that we started, even though we’re not there. Last week as our framed pictures were removed (to be given to us) and replaced with new ones, there was one that couldn’t be taken down. Stephanie told them that a framed poster…. “Live, Learn, & Pass It On” had to stay in our lobby because it was my ministry that remains there! 💛 It hangs in our office waiting area for all to read and ponder. We bought it many, many years ago and is still available, even in book form. You may be familiar with it. 💛 Thinking of you, with a smile and ongoing prayers! 🙏 Thank you again for my delightful package. 🐾😉

    • Sheila, I think I had read it at some point, but now I will have to look it up again. I’m glad Stephanie still works there; it’s nice to have some continuity. I’m glad they are hanging on to the poster. As always, we need and appreciate the smiles, prayers and friendship!

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