Oh say can you see…

At 29, Mary Young Pickersgill couldn’t have imagined the impact of the stitches she pulled through the stiff canvas fabric. She hadn’t been a widow long when she was commissioned with the overwhelming order from the United States armed forces, so she recruited help from her daughter, two nieces, and two free women of color. Together, feverishly and late into the evenings, their eyes must have burned with the strain of working by candlelight.

Pickersgill couldn’t have known the 50 pound, 30-foot by 42-foot, 15-starred and 15-striped garrison flag would take nine men…

Click here to read the rest of my column in this month’s Zionsville Current Newspaper!

On birth and hope and Memorial Day.

She was having trouble.

My cousin and his son worked quick to wrap the twine around the hooves protruding from the mother cow as she worked to push her calf from her womb. Then they used the weight of their bodies, in rhythm with the contractions of the cow, to try to pull the calf free.

In the end, a third man had to help them before the calf finally slipped out and onto the bed of hay.

*

*

The dazed mother began to lick her calf, each stroke of her giant tongue massaging life into it lungs, stinging, I imagine, from the first shock of air. (Can you stand the preciousness of the onlooking calf in the next stall?)

*


*

And within the hour, the calf was standing and eating from its mother.

*

*

I’ve been hoping for years to see the birth of a calf, and it was every bit as beautiful and amazing as I expected.

What’s more, the events played out nearly exactly as they did in the second chapter of my novel, Lead Me Home, thanks to YouTube videos and the generous input from my cousins I used during the writing process.

Many of the things that inspire my writing I have never seen in real life.

Besides spending time at my cousins’ dairy farm yesterday, I had the privilege of attending three high school graduation parties. One of them gave attendees the chance to highlight a favorite Bible verse for the graduate, and I picked this one:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. ~Hebrews 1:1

Which brings me to today, Memorial Day.

The men and women who gave their lives for our country were convicted enough about the importance of freedom to give their lives for it. Hope kept them slogging across the beaches of Normandy and the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam, trudging through the frigid mountains of Korea, and fighting along the Western Front.

Freedom, indeed life, is worth the fight.

As we kick back and enjoy a day off, may we keep the memory of these men and women in the forefront of our hearts and mind.

May we never forget, and may each of us be as convincted of hope as the men and women we honor today.

Here are some pictures from a trip our family took to Washington D.C. last spring.

Have a beautiful, blessed Memorial Day, friends.

*

Renew. On freedom. And US.

Freedom rings in

those who lay down

their swords of pride and fear, choosing

instead to use both arms to embrace

their brothers and sisters bent in the ruins 

of despair.

The bombs burst, fueled

by the oxygen of hope, ignited

by the freedom to change in the shadows

of Washington crossing the river

and Lincoln freeing the slaves

and Roosevelt riding rough

and the rows of corn browning in fall

and the rivers curving, ancient and still

and the sea to shining sea.

Because this land is a mess 

but this land

is ours

and we who dwell upon it owe it

and each other

kindness, like the starlings who invaded

unwelcome, but who thrive anyway

by the grace of the One

Who made them.

Let us then rise up and repair the 

devastations

that will ever be among us, 

and which will only be raised up 

one at a time

hand in hand

together.

because we are all strangers in a foreign land

and we only link hands when we

stop

and see

that we are not so different, you

and I.

The rocket red glare of darkness always threatens

cities on a hill.

And so

we turn our eyes to spacious skies

above the plains of division and to the statesman–O, let there be even one–

in this sweet land 

of liberty, where fathers died

and brothers and sons. Let their music

“swell the breeze,

And ring from all the trees”

Sweet freedom’s song.

Sweet.

Freedom, if nothing else, is that. 

Let us at least link arms and fight 

for the nectar we have too long taken

for granted.

God bless

the U.S.A.

Amen.

*

President Ronald Reagan, on the occasion of his inauguration, January 20, 1981:

“Mr. President, I want our fellow citizens to know how much you did to carry on this tradition. By your gracious cooperation in the transition process, you have shown a watching world that we are a united people pledged to maintaining a political system which guarantees individual liberty to a greater degree than any other, and I thank you and your people for all your help in maintaining the continuity which is the bulwark of our Republic.”