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Monday, January 1, 2024 by Brave Knight Writers


Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.


My head bumps the window as the bus swerves to avoid a pothole. My painfully thin body has fallen limp from exhaustion and stress. So deep in thought. It would be better to sleep, if only I could. The boys sleep beside me, young and skinny. Together they don’t fill the seat. The oldest rests his head against me, his brother against him. So innocent, yet sensing an irreversible change. They lack an in-depth comprehension of their world’s end, but so do I. Sounds echo in a hollow heart, images blur in smoked mirrors. Truth eludes love’s patsies. How many soldiers return from war on buses? How many old movies begin with a woman’s return on a bus after years of absence? The bus drops into yet another pothole, stirring the boys but not waking them. Potholes let me know we are nearing home. Three years on the autobahn had let me forget such things. There were no bumps on German roads… just the ones we carried with us.

We left the deep south on a midnight express, the most economical way to travel from Sumter to home. After nine years of military life, I have nothing except these little guys by my side and two bags of clothes stuffed under the seats. It will take all my resources and my family’s help for me to return to Germany, wherein I believe lies my one hope. In times of war, desertion has severe consequences.

Ironically, our nation experienced nine years of military peace during my enlistment. The wounds I suffer won’t be recorded in my military records, nor his desertion. My situation isn’t a case for a military tribunal. It came in the way of a spiritual abrogation. I deliberately head bump the window in self-punishment for acts of stupidity. The battle existed in my imagination—none of it was true, or so I have been told. The pain feels real. Yet my days in Hunsruck possess a surreal quality, as we travel by bus toward home. My military counselor in Germany shared wise advice, “base nothing on words written in sand, hold fast to those in stone.” If only I had known her ten years ago. 

My parents raised the eleven of us in a Godly home, where rumors of spiritual warfare were spoken. No longer rumors, the spiritual battles have left me wounded, even broken. The thought chills me. I have been emotionally broken. My father has been physically broken for many years now. My body functions. I must not wallow in self-pity. Confessions are due, as I too, am a deserter. Nine years on the run from God has left me hollow, with no way to provide for the spiritual needs of these innocent victims.

Utility poles, trees, shrubs, all bathed in the morning sun fly by as the greyhound weaves off the interstate. With only fifteen passengers on board, many of them stretched out on empty seats during the night. In the morning light passengers stir with annoying chatter. My ear catches softly spoken German sprinkled in the blather behind us. The night’s silence and darkness had been a false comfort, I knew we weren’t traveling alone. Earlier, I had wondered why people travel where they do.

Basic training in our home had been rather tribal, our parents set a good example but with eleven recruits at various stages of development we lacked a training manual. The older siblings stepped up to fill in some of the missing pieces, and a lot of the pieces came from their own unsolved puzzles. By the time I reached my teen years, I knew of things, but I didn’t know things. So, I tried to imitate the older siblings and fell to the pressures of my peers. None of it prepared me for the unraveling of so much that I held as truths. Clearly, at my lowest point, those I loved most embraced pretty lies over ugly truths and I sought an escape. It took the pain of hard knocks to really know, instead of knowing of.

How many lives have been ruined by running away from things we only know of, before we invest the time to know the essence of truth? My mom loves the Lord, she knows the Lord, and she told me about Him. What I wanted from her was protection, but her focus on the good left her naïve in some respects. My trust shattered, I had run.

Mom issued subtle warnings about the road I had chosen, but those warnings fell on closed ears. Sadly, she had valuable insights which I did not heed. Even though she proved to be right, her heart will never allow her to say, “I told you so.” Instead, she will offer patient love and support, this I know. When I escaped to the military, I left God behind.

Satan the liar and murderer seeks the bereft. In hot pursuit, he tracked me down with offers to fill the void left by God’s absence. A murder took place, not of the flesh, but of the spirit. The murder of  belief, a marriage, the children’s childhood, love, and my last ounce of trust.

When I had said goodbye to Dad to board the bus for basic training, his only advice was, “If this is what you are going to do, be good at it.”  The women’s movement had drummed into all of us girls, we could be whatever we wanted to be. Dad’s words had a different message. In it all, I learned women can do everything or anything, but to be the best requires a specialty, generalities never bring excellence.

As a recruit, as a sergeant, I worked to be good at my job and eventually supervised an F-16 avionics maintenance crew of two dozen. Other aspects of my life weren’t the best, and I knew it. So I walked away from things I excelled at to be the best mom.

When I walked away from my military career, I entered enemy territory. A mine field spread into the distance, etched with meaningless words. Spiritual warfare has no periods of peace, just quiet periods between attacks. When the explosion occurred, it shattered my heart, as well as my children’s childhoods, and created a questionable future.  

Penniless and broken, no F-16’s in sight, I headed home in hopes of a second chance. Home offered refuge, a place built around struggle, and populated by those familiar with tragedy, with knowledge gained by pain.

When I was a child, my father’s legs had been left paralyzed in a near-fatal accident. Tough men don’t cave, they get tougher. Unable to remain employed in the mill, he managed his apple orchard, opened a hardware store, and even with his physical challenges managed to build a house. My parents knew the pain of a dying child. The loss of my sister at ten years old had devastated them.

In retrospect, I realize my mother’s focus on goodness has been her survival technique. Enough hard times had been dumped on her, she isn’t compelled to seek more or indulge in drama. No one will want to hear excuses from me when I arrive, they’ll simply support me and help me move forward. True Christians know the meaning of turning into a pillar of salt and the need to focus on distant mountains.

The airbrake whistle and downward groan of the bus’s engine announce our arrival in town. The shops along the main street are the same as the day I left. The sun illuminates their facades, the windows gleam as Mrs. Lindsey polishes them for the millionth time. My boys continue to sleep until the last passenger exits, only then do I wake them.

The first to exit the bus are four college-aged guys only slightly younger than me, who joke and push one another with total disregard for my sleeping sons. Next, an elderly woman using a cane mumbles to herself as she passes our seats. Lastly, an Amish couple and their eight children, the father leading the way. He gives me a nod of acknowledgement and his wife gives me a meek smile as her gaze leaves my children and rests on me. The eight Amish children pass by us according to height, smallest to tallest. They give us a quick glance but are as quiet as mice.

 With a nudge my boys are awake. Awkwardly, I clutch our bags with one hand and hold my youngest son’s hand in the other. The oldest jumps to the sidewalk and I descend the steps behind him. A familiar voice startles me. Oh, so many things about home had slipped from my heart.

“How was it?” A simple enough question from our town legend, Bobby Short.

Pausing, I can offer no simple truth answer. Any details I might offer would go right over Bobby’s simplistic head. So, I just reply, “it was an adventure.” He accepts my response, as he accepts everyone’s responses. He had surely asked each passenger the same question as they stepped from the bus, even the Amish children. Bobby has reached legendary status in our area; he had always been a simple boy, whose parents gladly turned him loose on the town. Early every morning since he was a child, he was a feature on the main street. One of his favorite pastimes included waiting at the bus stop to greet newcomers.

It is the opening scene from my new movie. After so many miles on wrong roads, I determine what I had always wanted was some of what Mom has. To love and be loved by God and my children.

When we go AWOL during spiritual warfare, God welcomes us back with open arms.



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From Italy, San Romualdo At 4/25/2024 7:34:36 AM

Heya i'm for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It really useful & it helped me ouut much. I hope to give something back and help others like you helped me.

William Delmer From Mckeesport At 1/2/2024 9:21:23 AM

Superb, insightful writing

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