My American Story

Looking back over the years of my life I can see a tapestry of colors weaved by time, circumstance and divine hands.  In the beginning my understanding of the world was small…born to a middle class white family, in the Midwest. I lived on a street that was busy and long.  Our home was small and white and had a speed limit sign in the front yard.  As a little girl, on summer afternoons, I tumbled in the front yard, climbed the apple tree in the backyard and played hide and seek with the neighborhood kids.  Chasing lightning bugs and making dandelion flower necklaces was the past time of my sister and I.

I had two types of Grandparents. One side was the ‘come on in and take your shoes off’ kind of folks and the other was fancy, the ‘put your napkin on your lap’ kind.  I drew a lot of knowledge from both.  I tucked away the memories of time spent listening to their conversations about how “things use to be.”  Both of my grandfathers served in WWII.   One was in the Army and the other in Army Air Corp as an Armorer Gunner.  In my adult years I would follow them in serving our country in the United States Air Force.

At the age of eight my parents divorced. And that was the beginning of my world getting bigger.  Everything changed for our family.  I became the daughter of single mother trying to make ends meet.  Back and forth between two homes, to visit my father in the one I grew up and that of my mothers, who struggled to make a life for my sister and me.

While the divorce itself was hurtful and traumatic, the greatest impact on my life at the time was the culture in which I was thrust.  It was before desegregation took place where I had lived.  My mother had friends she worked with that were African-American so it was not like I had not known any but I certainly had not spent much time with them.  When my mother took my sister and me to live in Virginia I was sent to a school that was probably 90% African-American.  Back home, the school I attended was 100% White.

Because of my loneliness, missing my home and friends, I eventually chose to live with my father.  Going back home, to what I knew and to the school I had started Kindergarten I would come to understand the experience in Virginia was God’s divine hand in my life.  When I began 6th grade the district had decided to desegregate the schools.  Mine was one of the first.  Everyone around me was very fearful and I, even in my limited knowledge of the world, knew why.  I admit there was some fear on my part but only because I think it was the group fear surrounding me.  It came, it went, we all survived and I believe we became better and stronger for it.

The really tumultuous years were my teenager years.  In the awkwardness learning about myself and the world around me I stood witness to the threads of history that would resonate and mold my future world view.  The dark images of the Vietnam War on television, Walter Cronkite narrating man’s first step on the moon, Roe V Wade, the first United States president resigning, our country celebrating 200 years, a young girl scoring perfect 10’s in gymnastics and the first woman in space.  While that list is incomplete and I did not fully understand their influence in my life at the time, in their own way made a profound effect on my dreams and desires for my life.

It was many years later, as a young adult,  while serving in the Air Force I stood even closer to the making of history that I finally understood that I was a part of something bigger than myself.  I proudly served under President Ronald Reagan and George H. Busch and those were, perhaps, the most fundamental life changing years of my life. Not only did I become a first time wife and a mother but I became aware of what American Patriotism meant.  I also realized the human vulnerability to life and death.

I watched in horror as the space shuttle, Challenger, exploded soon after liftoff on a television while stationed in Bitburg, Germany.  A couple of months later I was driving on base when our jets flew out to escort the jets that bombed Libya after they were found to be responsible for the London Discotheque bombing.  Several years later, after returning to the United States to a new assignment I watched on the news as the “Berlin wall” came down.

After these events took place three things changed my life and its direction.  Giving birth to my first-born son, my own divorce and an introduction to Jesus Christ after a good friend’s seven year old son died of a debilitating disease.  My view shifted to a Christian world view and slowly became conservative in my way of thinking.  I remember thinking “I wonder how different my life would be if I had seen the world this way before?”

I have traveled to many places and experienced many parts of our country and the world.  I have lived in the states of Missouri, Virginia, Arizona, Idaho, Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Hawaii and North Carolina.  I have been greatly enriched by having lived in all these places and it has given me understanding of the workings of our country and the people in it.  Most especially it has allowed me to meet people from all walks of life.  And because of my growing faith throughout the years I have been overwhelmed by what our country has accomplished and produced with its strength and ingenuity.

Every time a citizen of the United States goes to school to better his/her future; arrives at work to build something greater than himself for his family; teaches another human being something new they did not know; serves a stranger food or clothes them; takes an oath to take up arms to defend others they have never met or promises to civilly serve with honesty and integrity, they become a part of the very fabric of America.  The culture, ethnicity and diversity all make up the colors of our land no matter the calling each has.

Even as I tell my story, it could be anyone’s story in a America because as an American, we are not defined by the means into which we are born or the geography we grow up in but by divine right, the God-given freedom & opportunity we have to make the world around us a better place by our personal contribution.  We are linked together through the roots of this country, all the bad and all the good.  By the blood, sweat, tears and prayers of those that stepped foot on our eastern shores, willingly or unwillingly, our ancestors had dreams of what we now partake of.  Whatever your color, whatever your faith, whatever your political philosophy it was said to us:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

It was preserved for us by those whose blood soaks the ground of our country sides and foreign lands.  It is Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, by all, for all, to all.  ‘We’ are the American story and each of us has a page in it.  My page is just one of many and the fact that I am a woman, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a student, a mother, a wife, a Christian, a United States Air Force veteran and a Republican makes no difference.

In the grander scheme of things it is the culmination of all my experiences, it is the places I have lived in this country, it is the people who poured into my life from those places, it is the people who cared for me, taught me, stood up for me, prayed for me, prayed with me, offered a hand to me, stood by me, served me and served with me, fought with me, fought for me, laughed with me, cried with me, who hated me and who loved me.  It is the people.

The essence of our land is what we, as people have chosen to value and be grateful for through it all, from that day to this.  Yes, I am an American but I am not alone!

grace to you

Shell

Family Tree