After You Have Done Everything, Stand

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
—Ephesians 6:13

I loaded my car with a flat of geraniums, a watering can, trowel, and gardening gloves. I closed the hatchback. Then I slid into the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition. Reluctantly, I backed out of my driveway. The last thing I wanted to do that morning was plant flowers on a dozen graves. I hoped that I wouldn’t have a lot of trimming to do, or cleanup. I’d brought with me the necessary supplies, just in case, but I dreaded the thought of extra work. Before long, I drove into the cemetery, past the ancient black iron gates, and along the narrow, tree-lined roads. I rolled down the window and let the warm, spring air come inside bringing with it the sounds of birds singing in the trees. I was the only person there. It was early and a weekday, so most people were at work, or still sipping their morning coffee.

Grandma and Grandpa’s graves were first on my list. I parked the car by the roadside, opened the hatchback, and hauled my supplies between the rows of headstones until I came to my grandfather’s. “Henry W. Ellsworth, 1st Infantry Division, WWI.” The stone was dirty, and grass was growing where I needed to plant. Unwillingly, I went back to my car for the extra things that I’d hoped I wouldn’t need.

I knelt at Grandpa’s grave and began scrubbing the headstone and pulling at the encroaching sod, fretting to myself about how long it was taking and thinking about everything else I had to do that day. I barely noticed an elderly gentleman wearing a veteran’s cap, carrying a fist full of small American flags. He walked among the rows of headstones, carefully reading the inscriptions and placing a flag on the graves of the veterans. He stood silently for a few seconds before moving from one grave to the next. Eventually, he came to my row. I hoped that he wouldn’t be chatty and take up a lot of my time. We were the only two people there, after all, and I’d heard my share of war stories. I had things to do. I decided to look busy and say a polite hello when he got to my grandfather’s plot. That’s all – just "hello."

The man approached me with a somber look on his face. “Good morning,” he offered, dryly.

“Good morning,” I replied, looking up at him and forcing a smile.

The old man bent down and placed a flag in the metal holder near my grandfather’s headstone. He straightened up, took one step backward, snapped his open right hand to his forehead, and saluted. Then, he bowed his head briefly and whispered, “Rest well, my friend.” At that moment, I realized that the man had been doing this at every veteran’s grave. Tears burned in my eyes as I watched this stranger honor my grandfather – a man he never knew; a man who had been dead for fifty years. I managed to get out the words, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, young lady,” he responded.

He walked on. I didn’t let him get far before calling to him, “Sir!” He stopped and turned in my direction. “Thank you for serving our country.” He nodded politely, then went about the task of placing flags on the graves.

I reached down and wiped the last bit of dirt from Grandpa’s headstone. I had barely known my grandfather, he died when I was two, but now I could imagine him as a young man, going off to war, leaving his wife and children at home. I know that when he returned, times were hard for him and his young family, but through it all Grandpa had stood his ground and done everything that he could do. He provided for his family with strength, courage and love, and when he passed away, at the age of 64, he had served his country and his family well.

I went on planting the graves all the while thinking of my family members who are with God. Each veteran had served his country and then returned to face life’s challenges. I thought of my great-grandfather who had been a Union soldier in the Civil War; my great-uncle, a veteran of the Spanish American War; my Uncle Dick who served in WWII; and my cousin’s husband, Brian, a decorated Vietnam veteran who died just two years ago. Before Memorial Day, a flag had been placed on each of their graves, and I wondered if the person who put it there took time to salute and softly whisper a prayer.

Deuteronomy 31:6 says: 
”Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” None of the soldiers in my family looked forward to the fight. Some were required to commit acts that haunted them for the rest of their lives. But, they courageously did what their country asked of them. Because of their Christian heritage, I’m almost certain that they carried pocket Bibles with them in the field and always kept God in their hearts. They did everything as best they could, then they stood strong, believing in God's goodness and love.

The Lord was with these men when they went to war. The Lord graciously returned all of them to our family. He gave them courage, as husbands and fathers, to stand against life’s challenges, and when they had done all that they could do, God was there to guide them Home.

The Lord was with me as I planted at the cemetery that day. Through the act of an elderly veteran placing flags on the graves, He reminded me not to complain about honoring the dead, but instead to be grateful for them, especially for those who loved not only their families, but their country.

Kind Heavenly Father, On this Memorial Day, instill in us gratefulness for our family members who have served and are serving in the military.

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I'm proud to be a contributing author to the following series of humorous devotionals.
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By Max Lucado, Published by Thomas Nelson
Max Lucado has a unique way with words, and his children's book Hermie A Common Caterpillar is no exception. With simple text and bright, watercolor illustrations, the story of Hermie unfolds.

Hermie wonders why he looks and feels so common. Whenever he asks God why, God simply answers, "I'm not finished with you yet." Then, one day, Hermie feels very tired. He gets into his cozy, leafy bed, and he sleeps. And while Hermie sleeps a transformation takes place. When he wakes up, Hermie discovers that God has done something grand. You can guess what it is. Every caterpillar that lives to adulthood knows the end of the story.

Parents, please share this book and its powerful message with your children. We are all special because God loves us, and He has a unique purpose for our lives. Whenever we slump into feeling ordinary, we know that we have hope because . . .God isn't finished with us yet!

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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