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.

 

 

I’m looking forward to being the Keynote speaker at this event!

Date: March 14, 2015
Time: 09:00 a.m.-02:00 p.m.
Event: Olympic Cluster Spring Celebration
Topic: "Bear One Another's Burdens"
Venue: Christ Lutheran Church
Location: Belfair, WA
Public: Private

Be a Burden Bearer

When I was 33-years old, I slipped on an icy sidewalk and fractured my knee cap. Ouch! I never dreamed how much something that looked like a simple “skinned knee” could impact my life. In an instant, I had been sidelined. It was as if God had grabbed me and said, “You, Deb. Time out. You’re benched until further notice.” I had an inkling that I’d been hiding

from my emotional pain. The reality that my husband Randy was an alcoholic lurked in my thoughts. But if I stayed busy enough, I could  avoid the truth that was too painful to confront.

I spent weeks on the couch, my leg in a huge plaster cast from my ankle to my thigh. I couldn’t run away–even if I wanted to. Instead, I had a front row seat to observe what was happening in my marriage–and it wasn’t pretty.

A friend had told me about a Christian counseling practice in Seattle called Burden Bearers. She encouraged me to call and make an appointment. I remember the day my friend loaded me and my crutches into the backseat of her Ford Pinto, my bulky cast propped on the console. She drove me to my first counseling appointment at Burden Bearers–an important step on my journey toward healing.

A burden bearer was exactly what I needed–and what Jesus commands us to be for others, like my friend was for me.

     Galatians 6:2 tells us:  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 

It’s true that sometimes we feel too weak and overwhelmed to carry another person’s burdens. That’s when God sends people to help us. Since my knee injury, I’ve had many opportunities to help someone else who’s carrying a heavy load. It’s usually in an area where I’ve also walked and learned and grown–and experienced God’s faithfulness and mercy.

I love the story from the book of Mark, about the paralytic man who is carried to Jesus on a mat by his four friends. They’re convinced Jesus can help him. When they can’t get close enough to Jesus because of the crowds, they take matters into their own hands.They climb up on the roof and make an opening so they can lower their paralyzed friend down –right in front of Jesus. That took some boldness. I probably would’ve said, I guess we aren’t going to see Jesus today…and resigned myself to that. But these friends were determined. They were desperate to help their friend. We will get him to Jesus–no matter what! These friends are burden bearers in every sense of the word.

So what does it mean to come alongside someone in a time of need? How can you be a burden bearer?

  •  Be Available

          You don’t need all the answers or a degree in counseling. You need to be willing to listen and offer support. Let your friend know she isn’t walking this road alone. Sometimes your quiet presence means everything.    

  •  Be Bold

           Be a “roof ripper,” as a friend of mine described the actions of the paralytic man’s friends.  Step out of your comfort zone. Send the note or email. Even better, make the phone call. Offer to be a burden bearer.  

    • Be Compassionate

    It’s easy to get caught up in our daily routines and not be aware of others who are hurting. Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, said:

                        Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God. 
             
             And then help me do something about it. Take action. Get beyond my own self-centered  thinking. Lord, help us be connected with others so we’ll know when there’s a need.   

    Our world is filled with hurt and pain. You don’t have to look far to find opportunities to reach out to others who are struggling. I can hardly imagine where I’d be today if I hadn’t had friends who came to carry me through some tough times. I am so grateful for the opportunity to pass this comfort on to others.

      Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 

      Who is in your life who needs a burden bearer?
                                                                                            
       

    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! 

          

        A Tribute to my Friend: A Life Well-Lived

        Doris was the first person I met in the community where I’ve lived for almost 18 years. She passed away in May at the age of 92.  I chided myself for not visiting more during her last months. Doris suffered from dementia and other ailments, so I’m not sure she completely recognized me when I did come to see her. I could have done more, I thought. I felt better after writing a sympathy note to one of her daughters. Knowing Doris, I was convinced she wouldn’t want me to spend time or energy feeling guilty. Doris wasn’t like that…she lived her life to the fullest and didn’t keep a record of offenses.

        I met Doris at the Thursday night Al-Anon meeting at the “The Barn,” the local gathering place in our small town. I was a newcomer when I hesitantly entered the cavernous building and walked to the small back room, “The Hen House,” where weekly meetings were held. I instantly felt like I belonged.

        That’s the way it is with Al-Anon. No matter where you go, there’s a sense of connection and support. All those years ago when I was dealing with my husband Randy’s alcoholism, it felt good to find a place where I was accepted and understood. Doris was so good at that. She had a quiet way about her as she shared her own story; her experience and hope. Somehow it was hard to believe that she’d ever felt as stressed or had been an emotional basket case like me. She assured me she had been exactly where I was… and that if I kept coming back, I’d also make my way through to a more positive place.

        Every time Randy and I left the city and came over the mountains from Seattle, I made it a point to show up at the Al-Anon meeting. I can’t remember a time when Doris wasn’t there. Her faithful presence gave me courage and helped me decide to move to the Methow Valley with Randy several years later, in spite of his tenuous sobriety. I knew I would never be alone–no matter what happened.  

        There are people who come into our lives and we are never the same. Doris was one of those special friends who gently and profoundly touched my life simply by living hers. When she became too frail to live on her own, her family moved her into a group home in another town several hours from here. Last fall, they brought her home to the valley she loved to live out her final days. I miss Doris–but I know she completed the work God had given her. The same work I feel privileged to pass on to others who are struggling in much the same way as I did.

        If you’re feeling in despair because someone you love has a drinking problem, why not try out an Al-Anon meeting? I can almost guarantee you will find a Doris there who will help change your life. 

        What I can give is never as much as I get from the giving. ~ Al-Anon Family Group

        A Holy Comfort for Our Grief

        There are times when you know you’ve encountered a holy experience. Two weeks ago, on a Friday evening, friends gathered to remember our friend Melissa. She lost her agonizing battle with depression and took her life on a Saturday morning in early December.

        We who knew her have reeled with shock and grief over her tragic loss at only 38-years old. A service was held in the new community where she and her family had relocated in October. Several close friends felt it was important to honor Melissa here, where she had made her home for at least a decade.

        About two dozen of us sat in a large circle in the church fellowship hall. A slide show flashed pictures of Melissa and her family. We each told how we had come to know and love her. We cried and even laughed together, remembering the happy times. 

        What could we have done differently? How could we have helped her through those dark times? Questions hung in the stillness. But each person spoke comfort where answers are hard to find. God is faithful, no matter what our circumstances, one close friend reminded. She talked about how Melissa’s new church, a group of people who barely knew them, had rallied to support the grieving family. Another friend mentioned that Melissa’s oldest son’s teacher had also lost her mother to suicide when she was a child. God is certainly with those who are brokenhearted–even when we are at a loss to understand.

        We held hands, sang a song together, and prayed for God to do what none of us can–to bring healing, peace, and comfort to all who grieve. Melissa’s close friends had packed up all of her clothing and brought it to the church. Please take something, they urged. Her husband wanted it that way. When I walked into the hall and saw the tables of neatly folded and sorted clothing, I broke into tears. How could I take anything? I saw Melissa in so many of those garments. Then I sensed that it would be wrong not to take something. I picked up a raspberry colored top and instinctively held it close. Her friends had given me a precious gift.

        A favorite place

        Maybe you’re walking through a season of grief, wondering how you’ll make it through the next moment, not to mention a lifetime. I pray you’ll know God’s faithfulness and be comforted, just as we were on a cold, January night. 

         

           

        Over the Top!

        There’s only one way to describe last weekend’s Women of Faith event in Spokane…over the top! I joined two of my dearest friends, Mary and Judy, in Spokane. Our friendships span more than 30 years. Since our birthdays are in late-August and early-September, we have our annual birthday party–and what better way to celebrate than at Women of Faith! Being together with friends is an over the top experience in itself.

        My special Women of Faith friends, Mary & Judy

        But then add the day-time session on Friday with Patsy Clairmont and Andy Andrews, and you get an unbelievable mix of humor, truth, and inspiration. Patsy reminded me to say “yes” to God, to practice taking responsibility for my behavior, and to grow up. Andy’s enthusiasm was contagious as he raced around the stage, up and down the stairs, and into the audience, proclaiming there’s huge hope for making different choices in our lives. I never imagined the variety of tunes that could accompany the words to Amazing GraceGhostriders in the Sky, House of the Rising Sun (sung like Elvis), and even the theme song from Gilligan’s Island! Who knew? I love Andy Andrews and his big heart for people!

        Brenda Warner topped off the day with her inspiring story of God’s faithfulness to her as a single mom with a special needs child, and how her mission today focuses on loving babies with severe disabilities. Music with the Worship Team throughout the day and Mandisa’s concert Friday night lifted 7,000 women to a beautiful place of praise and worship.

        When I thought it couldn’t get any better, Saturday came with a full day of over the top music and messages. I learned that Women of Faith has helped sponsor more than 160,000 children with World Vision during the past decade. What a testimony to Women of Faith and the thousands of women of faith who have responded to help these precious children.

        Sandi Patty sang “We Shall Behold Him,” and tears flowed down my cheeks without apology– an over the top moment of inexpressible praise to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

        Lisa Whelchel spoke about friendship. Patsy told about her son’s illness and how she learned that change can be good. Deborah Joy Winans brought powerful truth with her dramatic presentations and a reminder to “drop our rocks” of judgment toward others. Marilyn Meberg explained why we always want more…God has placed eternity in our hearts. A concert with Amy Grant made the weekend complete for me. I remember listening to Amy’s music when I was a brand-new Christian in the early 1980’s, and how her music encouraged me back then. It still does!

        Women of Faith is much more than an “event” to attend with special friends. It’s more like a reunion. The Porch Pals are friends we’ve come to know and appreciate and love through the years. Luci Swindoll came to Spokane and joined the Worship Team in singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness,”  even though she’s speaking at the Imagine event. She didn’t have to be there, but seeing her touched my heart–like seeing an old friend.

        I hope you have an opportunity to experience an over the top weekend with Women of Faith. I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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        Blessed are Those who Mourn

        I’ve heard it said there’s a point in time when we become a parent to our parents. I know this in my head. My heart doesn’t want to accept this role reversal. I’m only too aware that we’re all aging. Years have passed by in a blink. I’m resisting. I want to be the child, not the responsible grown-up.

        My parents are in their mid-80’s and both are facing health issues. My father was diagnosed with Pick’s Syndrome(a form of dementia) about six years ago. The disease has progressed slowly, but steadily, without compromise. My self-assured Dad whom I’ve loved and always counted on is slipping away. I came across a letter he wrote me before dementia took its toll. Dad, I miss you!

        My mom has been his primary caregiver and she’s understandably exhausted. Taking care of dad has been grueling. Once there was a season to focus on marriage, children, careers, social events, being part of a church family. Then one day you wake up to a parade of doctors appointments, pill-taking, cleaning up incontinence messes and washing soiled linens and clothing. It’s painful to watch your parents struggling. We’ve asked the typical questions: What should we do? How can we help? Is it time for Dad to be in a nursing facility? Lord, please give us wisdom, strength, courage.

        My friend Sarah lost both her parents during the past two years. She has been a source of comfort and strength. Last weekend, we enjoyed an oasis of rest and refreshment. A new friend I met in May at the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal invited me to come visit and bring a friend. So I did. Little did I know how Divinely appointed our weekend would be.

        Sarah asked if I minded visiting her parents’ grave with her. The cemetery was located in a nearby town. First we stopped at Joanne Fabrics to pick out silk flowers. We found the perfect bouquet of pink azaleas–60% off. Sarah

        commented on how her parents always liked a good bargain. It felt good to laugh.

        We stood together looking at the simple headstone with two names carved in granite. A photo of a young obviously-in-love couple made me smile and cry at the same time. I cried for myself, pre-grieving the loss of my parents. But feeling more strength to step into the caring role God has for me in this season of life.

        I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.Philippians 4:13