Friends For Life

Friends that Last a Lifetime

Captain Kalmbach gets ready for another adventure!

A couple of months ago, Randy and I traveled to Austin, Texas for a reunion of the 15th TRS (Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron) which was stationed at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. We had an amazing time reconnecting with old friends. Most we hadn’t seen in more than 36 years, but we discovered that time didn’t matter. Our experiences had bonded us together in ways I hadn’t imagined. I couldn’t help but think that each of us had been divinely appointed to be there during those years–1978-1981.

As we reminisced, we wives wondered how we had ever survived being on an island the size of New Jersey–most of us with young children, with our husbands gone half the time. The guys flew RF-4s, the reconnaissance or “recce” counterpart of the F-4 Phantom fighter jet. They spent 2 weeks on temporary duty in South Korea where the 15th TRS operated a detachment. Then they returned to Okinawa for 2 weeks, a cycle that continued for the entire three years of our assignment. Randy never unpacked his suitcase!

At the reunion, we laughed about the challenges of coping with life on Okinawa, mostly by ourselves. Back then, it hardly seemed funny. When a typhoon threatened the island, our husbands left us behind to get the planes out of harm’s way. You’ve got to be kidding! I thought. They leave and we stay? To their credit, the squadron always left a few guys to check in on us, making sure we had everything we needed to weather the storm. We were grateful for that!

Communication (or the lack thereof) was especially challenging. We didn’t have any phones. This was long before cell phones or texting. Can you imagine? When Randy left for Korea, we were incommunicado–except for the “Phantom Express.” Other crews whose 2- week rotation was up brought letters from the guys who were still there. I still treasure a box of Randy’s “Phantom Express” letters.

Even though we dealt with our share of inconveniences, we knew we weren’t alone. Some of my dearest friendships were forged on Okinawa. The friends who sponsored us when we arrived gave us the lowdown on how to deal with life in a very foreign country, i.e., how to avoid mold growing on your shoes in those dark, damp closets among many other tidbits of helpful advice. One friend faithfully came to visit every Tuesday after work to encourage me and share her faith. Another friend’s joyful, optimistic attitude bubbled over and became contagious– no matter what you were going through. I knew I could always count on these friends. They made all the difference during those three years living overseas.

So when Randy and I received the invitation to the reunion, we hesitated to travel so far for a weekend spent with people we hadn’t seen for several decades. Neither of us anticipated the sweetness of reuniting with friends who had walked a very unique journey with us. Randy separated from the Air Force after our Okinawa assignment in 1981. Those who stayed in the service commented that they never experienced this depth of friendship at any of their future military assignments.

Maybe that’s because tough circumstances tend to draw us closer together. I’ve learned through the years to watch with anticipation to see who God brings across my path to help me find my way. After all, friendship may be the closest reflection of God’s love for us that we will ever experience. I’m convinced that some of God’s brightest reflectors happened to be on Okinawa at the same time as me.

 

 

God’s Extravagant Love

Before Christmas, my boss and his wife treated my co-workers and me  to an afternoonExtravagant_0 of extravagance. Each of us was pampered with a massage, facial and manicure. As I lay on the massage table having the yummiest-smelling creams applied to my face, I suddenly felt overcome with emotion. This is pure extravagance, I thought. Something we as women don’t often treat ourselves to–especially all in one afternoon! Tears welled up and one escaped down my cheek. I hoped the aesthetician hadn’t noticed. It wasn’t just the spa treatments that got me teary, but  reflecting on God’s extravagant love.

Where Would We Be Without Friends?

When my mom had a mastectomy a couple of years ago, my dear friend Mary came to be with me.
Mary arrived at the hospital after Mom came out of surgery. Seeing a familiar face felt so reassuring. I threw my arms around my friend. I knew I could walk through this because I wasn’t walking alone.  Mary drove nearly two hours to be with me in Seattle. After her work shift, she loaded a cooler with bottled water, juices, fruits, and other snacks for us to enjoy at the hotel. She even tucked in a Starbucks gift card. Her presence meant the world to me.

Our friendship spans more than 30 years. We’ve walked a lot of roads together…weathered the storms of our husbands’ battles with alcoholism…  rejoiced with their sobriety…grieved over losses–parents, jobs, pets…celebrated weddings and births. We’ve shared life together and carried each other’s burdens. I don’t know where I’d be today without friends like Mary. I believe one of God’s most gracious gifts is the gift of friends.

Through the years, as I’ve been on the receiving end of a friend’s kindness, I’ve asked myself, what kind of friend am I? How can I be a better friend?

Lord, help me to be:

  • The friend who thinks of others and anticipates their needs.

  • The friend who is generous with her time.

    • The friend who is honest and loves you enough to tell you the truth.   

    • The friend who loves and accepts you no matter what.

     

    I’ve been blessed to have more than one friend like Mary. I pray you also have known the love of such a caring friend. No one can do life alone. God designed us to need one another.


    Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their work.
    If one falls down,
    his friend can help him up.  Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10

    I would love to hear how a friend has made all the difference in your life! 

        

      Do Not Grow Weary and Lose Heart

      Tonight when I was browsing on Facebook, I saw a post that I immediately shared on my timeline… words to a song by Laura Story called Blessings…What if your blessings come through raindrops? What if your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

      My heart was touched…not only by this artist’s insights into the questions we all struggle with…the whys of tragedies like Boston, West, Texas, Newtown, Aurora and countless other arenas closer to home, but no less painful. But I was also moved by the hundreds of comments that flooded in. The person who posted this message, Teresa Allissa Citro, asked people to share their prayer needs, where they were feeling weary and losing heart. I scrolled through the endless requests. I realized this wasn’t just any social media post. On this ordinary Thursday night, I took time out from the kitchen clean-up. I laid the dish towel on the counter. I prayed for the woman whose son took his life in December, the single mom trying to make ends meet, though she’s homeless and jobless. I prayed for others with chronic medical problems and financial concerns. I asked God to help those who feel despair, pain, and heartache. I prayed for hope.

      I felt immersed in this extraordinary circle of prayer. I felt in awe for technology that allows us to come together across continents and countries as sisters in Christ. Even when we don’t understand and we have more questions than answers, our hope is still in God…the One who is strength in our weakness, calm in the storm, comfort in our sorrow.

      Laura Story’s song speaks to this. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen. You’ll be blessed!

      Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16   

        

       

      A Place Called Blessing

      I admit I’m a slow reader. Mostly because I wait until bedtime to crack open the latest book I’m reading. I usually don’t get far before my head is nodding and my husband nudges me and asks, “Are you asleep?”

      When I read A Place Called Blessing, by Dr. John Trent (co-author with Gary Smalley of The Blessing), I not only stayed awake, I kept turning pages. The story is compelling. A young boy, Josh, experiences a series of tragic events in his life. His parents (who haven’t done a great job taking care of their children) are killed in a drunk-driving accident. Josh and his two older brothers are thrust into the foster care system. As long as they’re together, even the least desirable of homes is bearable. The unthinkable happens, though, and Josh is separated from his brothers. They are adopted by a family who chooses not to adopt Josh. His life is marked by rejection and abandonment.

      By age eighteen, Josh is an angry young man who only wants to be left alone. He’s determined not to ever need or trust  anyone. He vows to make it through life on his own. That is, until he meets a co-worker, Mike, who genuinely seems to care about Josh. Mike’s mom, Anna, has a room for rent, and Josh agrees to move in. Anna and Mike offer Josh the gift of “the blessing”–their unconditional love and support. And that is  life-changing.  

      As I read Dr. Trent’s book, I kept wondering when the hurting would stop. I felt sad by the unfairness of life.What struck me, though, was realizing how even one person who “blesses” another’s life, can make a huge impact. Josh’s relationship with Anna and Mike gave him the opportunity to choose a healthier direction for his life. 

      A Place Called Blessing inspires readers to consider how they can make a difference for others. Giving the gift of “the blessing” is truly where hurting ends and love begins.    

      What I Learned From My Colonoscopy

      I promise not to give you too much information. (T.M. I.), but I wanted to tell a little about my colonoscopy experience.

      My doctor had been insistent. “You need a colonoscopy. It’s the screening that can save your life.”

      I’d been reluctant, mostly because of the cost–close to $3,000 including the doctor’s fees, anesthesiologist, and hospital. Wow! For that amount, Randy and I could have taken a cruise. Somehow, two colonoscopy procedures just didn’t sound like that much fun. When our insurance kicked in for the new benefit period, a screening colonoscopy was now included under preventive care benefits. 

      I knew it was time.I scheduled my appointment with the G.I. doctor–one week before Thanksgiving. It’s perfect, I thought. An instant weight loss program right before the holidays. 

      Friends who had already had the procedure briefed me with important tips. Spend the money on the pills for the prep so you don’t have to drink that awful stuff. Buy some Depends–just in case. And you’ll want to stay close to home…

      O.K., O.K. So how bad could the awful drink be? I refused to pay the $80 for the pills. I thought of many other fun things I could spend the money on–then found out later from another friend, that it would have been worth the money. He was right.

      On the morning before my colonoscopy, I could only have liquids. Water, of course, apple juice, broth, even jello, as long as it wasn’t cherry or grape-flavored. Later in the day, I started drinking the liquid. What? You mean I have to drink two liters now–and two more in the morning? Ooh, not good. I thought of 2- liter pop bottles and how tough it would be to chug a bottle that size.

      The instructions from the doctor’s office said the liquid might be easier to swallow using a straw. Don’t believe it! I knew the prep would be the tough part, and I’d already mentally prepared. When I started feeling hunger pangs (one of my co-workers unknowingly brought in pumpkin muffins to work that morning), I thought of how blessed I am to never be hungry– I mean really hungry. Lord, please be with those who are hungry.

      I thought of my homeless brother who regularly scavenges food from dumpsters. He lost 50 pounds recently when he became violently ill after eating some bad food. Lord, please provide for him, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

      I thought of people who have chronic illnesses because they don’t have clean drinking water. Lord, don’t ever let me forget how blessed I am. And don’t let me stop with simply giving thanks. What can I do to help those less fortunate?

      It might seem strange, but I tried to use each moment of discomfort during the colonoscopy prep to pray for others. A small action, but a case in point for prayer and fasting. Going without gives opportunity to get back to the basics, having deeper communication with God.

      I’m not saying you need to have a colonoscopy to do this–plain old fasting would work just fine. But it was an interesting observation for me.

      One week later, I was enjoying our traditional Thanksgiving feast…turkey, mashed potatoes and all the trimmings–but with an even deeper sense of gratitude for our countless blessings. I’m going to use the $80 I saved on those pills to help someone in need.