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Lift Your Spirit

My last drill. My last weekend wearing the uniform of the United States Army. It’s bittersweet, but this morning I’m not feeling very motivated. I don’t want to go, I have a headache. Is there any excuse I can use to get out this? No. This is my commitment to fulfill. I can see the light. I can finish this strong. One last time I get in my car and drive down the canyon, taking the road that leads me to my unit armory. It’s early. I’m tired. But I’m going.

As I’m driving I have a lot of time to think, and I do a lot of thinking. I don’t want to, but I do want to. I need to fulfill my commitment because the next chapter is coming soon. Despite everything, it is bittersweet closing out this chapter. Twelve years is a long time, especially when I basically grew up because of the Army. My entire adult life has centered around my military career and the places it’s taken me, the things I’ve learned. It’s prepared me for this time now, for where I am going next. My next chapter of life.

There’s peace in my decision to get out. There is no peace in my unit this weekend. That’s where the internal struggle peaks as I drive down the canyon lit up by a full moon in the early morning hours. As I come out of the canyon into town the sun is starting to peak over the horizon.

There’s one stop I need to make before completing my drive. Coffee. I pull in the drive-thru, order, and pull out my money to pay. When I do I pull out an extra $5. I didn’t plan to, but I felt led to do a random act of kindness. There wasn’t anyone directly behind me, but why not pay it forward anyway. I pull up to the window, pay, and get my coffee. I then hand the cashier the $5 and tell her to save it toward the bill of the next person who pulls up. As I drove away my spirit immediately shifted. I felt lighter, and I smiled as I continued on toward my destination. I have no idea what happened with the next customer or how long the pay it forward chain may have went on for. But I know at least one person was blessed, and that’s all that matters. It lifted my spirits as I headed into a tough weekend, but knowing at least one person was blessed through something so simple as paying for a cup of coffee helped to ease my anxieties. I arrived at my unit in a better state of mind, and someone else was also starting their day in a better mood as well. It really doesn’t take much to keep encouraged, as long as you keep your eyes open in looking for the opportunities. Sometimes we have to reach outside of ourselves and encourage another so that we can be encouraged as well.

 

“Then, by the will of God, I will be able to come to you with a joyful heart, and we will be an encouragement to each other.” – Romans 15:32

 

Tracy is a soldier and veteran of the United States Army. Newly married and living in the beautiful mountains of Colorado, she chronicles her journey through her “Chats With God”. Currently pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Military Resilience and a Master of Divinity, Tracy has a passion for helping others overcome anxiety, depression, and mental health problems. You can learn and read more on her website at http://tracydalton.com/

This article was originally published on Tracy’s blog: https://tracydalton.com/2020/01/15/lift-your-spirit/#more-3225

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Around the World

A fun game of “Around the World” basketball was recently an avenue where God chose to speak to my heart. I love when God speaks in the everyday moments, and I am learning how to look beyond the everyday moments and the everyday people I pass by to peer into the windows of their soul. Author Ken Gire, in his book Windows of the Soul explains, “There is something beyond the surface of the everyday events of our lives and something beyond the surface of the lives of the everyday people we pass by” (pg. 43). Having recently returned home from a short mission trip, I looked past the everyday people and events of Guatemala during our time there. I am learning to keep my spiritual eyes open back at home in order to look beyond the everyday of those I pass by here. There really is something beyond the everyday, if only we have eyes to see and ears to hear. We all have stories and backgrounds, struggles and victories, and each is vastly different and personal.

Playing “Around the World” with my husband at our local community center where we had just finished working out, we were both struggling to make it around. Neither of us have played basketball in years, but we were having fun just shooting baskets and having a little friendly competition.  I didn’t think much of it until somehow I made a connection in my brain and a thought occurred to me. I’ve been around the world, and I’ve struggled. From struggling with reverse culture shock after returning home from a mission trip, to walking through the desert of the Middle East while deployed with the military, I’ve come home changed every time. Sometimes growing for the better, and sometimes I’ve taken two steps backward as I deal with anxiety and depression.

My anxiety and depression are a silent battle, which makes it hard to get help even when I do reach out. People don’t understand because they don’t see it, and I don’t let them see it. There’s so little real conversation about mental health, especially in the church. Yes, there’s a lot of talk about “getting help is a sign of strength” or “if you need to talk, I’m here”, but in my own experience, those are often just sayings. Having a strong support system is crucial when it comes to battling mental health. Over the years I’ve built relationships and developed a strong support system with my church family. They know me, and they have been given permission to hold me accountable. It makes it easier for me to have my voice heard, especially when I am struggling. However, when I was separated from the support and I didn’t have that accountability pulling me back up, the battle was harder to fight. I was on my own, but never really alone. Even when it seemed God was silent in answering my prayers, He was still there when I didn’t see Him. There were many times during my desert walk where I came close to giving up, where I lost my purpose and didn’t see a reason for being there. Thankfully though, my support system back home was faithful in praying for me. It is for this reason, I believe, at just the right moment my focus would return to Jesus Christ, my Rock and my Healer, and my strength for the battle would be renewed in the Holy Spirit. We are never alone, even when it feels like it. There’s always someone praying, and God is faithful. He never leaves our side, and He always “shows up” at just the right moment to remind us of that.

I learned how to persevere. As I was playing basketball, I was reminded of the determination I had as a kid when I played sports. I was never the best, but I was never one to quit. I showed up to every practice to get better, and I was at every game even if I didn’t get to play. Life is like that, too. There’s always something new to learn, a new perspective to see from. Sometimes seeing from that new perspective makes all the difference in our struggles. Look for the new perspective, the view which goes beyond the surface into the window of the soul. Whether it’s your soul, or the soul of someone you pass by in your day-to-day, peer in and catch a glimpse of the person beyond the moment. You never know who you will see.

Enjoy the View,

Tracy D.