Be present. 

Bruce Arians, head coach of the Arizona Cardinals was recently quoted as saying to Alex Marvez and Geoff Schwartz on the SiriusXM Blitz, “For our coaches, I tell them, if you miss a recital or a football game or a basketball game, I’ll fire you. You can always come back and work. Those kids are not going to be there forever. They’re going to grow up and be gone.”

As a former intercollegiate athlete at TCU and current Army Officer, I’ve always seen the parallels between the work ethic of coaching and the military. As a relatively new father with an 18 month old daughter and son due in September, my responsibility as a husband and father has never been more evident and it is the greatest responsibility with which I’ve been entrusted. This responsibility is something some fathers in both professions miss. 

There are seasons and events we never want to miss. In the Army, in coaching sports, sometimes mission or the season dictates otherwise. That means we have a responsibility to make the most of the time we do have with our family while being present for what we can be present for, controlling what we can control with an adequate work-life balance. Quality time does not necessarily mean quantity time. 

Adequate work-life balance is essential to a healthy home and our role as husbands and fathers. In the Army, when our nation calls, we answer. However, above all else our God-given job is to lead our family first whether at home or abroad. If we do it right, the family will be there long after the Army is gone or the coaching career ends. 

Readiness is the #1 priority of our Army’s senior leaders. Too often we give lip-service to the concept of supporting the family while not truly walking it out. I truly believe support from your significant other through those challenging seasons we can’t control is essential to building readiness. If a Soldier knows they have the support of their spouse back home when deployed or at training, it helps foster a healthy culture where the Soldier knows they can focus on the mission we have been called to do. 

It is my responsibility to be present when home, to turn off my phone when able, and not check email when I could be playing with my daughter or talking to my wife about her day. Investing in my daughter and pursuing her heart is essential to her development and her perception of what a Godly man looks like. That image is also directly related to how well I pursue the heart of my wife.  That requires me to give her my undivided attention when I’m able. There are seasons it is not always possible in person. But when it is, fathers, leaders, coaches, we must be present. 

God’s Perfect Will

“Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Proverbs 37:4, NASB)

As I returned from my third deployment in the fall of 2014, I knew I would be moving to Texas to take command of the legendary DUSTOFF unit of the 1st Cavalry Division, C/2-227 AVN REGT, formerly the 571st MED CO. What I did not know was what was next for Danielle and I. As I boarded the plane from Mihail Kogalniceanu, Romania to start our final two legs home to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, I was excited to see what God had in store for us. What I only knew intuitively was how quick things would develop with her if I 10609696_10202773514314646_6274065620132661299_nwould just trust Him. When I saw her after walking in that hangar after 9 months, I felt joy and excitement. However, it was not until after a week together in Panama City and Destin I finally admitted what I knew in my spirit for the last year of “dating” 7000 miles away from each other: This was it. She was my lifelong teammate.

Now, returning home in just over a month, I return to a loving, gorgeous wife and beautiful daughter. There is no uneasiness. There is no question of her faithfulness. There is no question if she missed me. There is no question if she wants me home. I know this. I know this by her words and her actions. I know this because our marriage is centered on the Cross. I know this because I finally surrendered my life to His will rather than trying to do it on my own. As a result, I don’t find my joy and happiness in my wife. My happiness is found in obedience to Christ and supplemented by walking in His will. Finding happiness in a person will never end well. People are imperfect. He is perfect. We are not.

So why do I say all of this? I see posts on facebook and have conversations with friends who are in a relationship and finding their happiness in their significant other. They found the one! Look, if there was THE ONE, someone screwed it up for us a long time ago. There is someone God has made to complement each of us. But our happiness cannot be wrapped up in solely that person. It’s a fine line. We should be happy with the person. But if we find happiness in that person, our emotions in that moment will ebb and flow with the inevitable good and bad days of our relationship. If our happiness hinges on finding that person, we are going to be sorely disappointed. People will let you down. Christ will not. When we are rooted in HIM first, He will lead you to His perfect will.

One of my friends from Nashville, Morgann McClanahan-David, has a song called, Perfect Will, which is available for download on iTunes and Spotify. J Although my interaction with her and her husband had been relatively minimal, the impact of her song left a lasting impression. I saw her and her husband perform at an album release in Nashville at a time I was in the lowest valley of my life. I was coming off a horrible relationship and searching for God’s perfect will for my life while longing to find the desire of my heart: the wife God had for me. I knew his timing was close, but did not know how to get there. I heard Morgann’s song and it made me smile, pause and think, “Why am I trying to do this my way? My way hasn’t worked out so well to this point.”

003C898A-4379-4EBD-B2BF-92D81E3D5785.JPGIn that moment, sitting in a chair at the Anchor Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee, I finally committed to patiently waiting for HIS perfect will to be revealed. The chorus of her song says, “I can’t stop smiling…grey skies, blue skies, my sun’s shining when I’m in your perfect will.” God’s perfect will led me to my bride. Not my will, not my path, Not my way. Your way; Your will.

As a result of His perfect will, I have an amazing, gorgeous wife, a beautiful daughter. These were desires of my heart. I sought Him never wonder if I’m in His will. I never wonder if there is something better.

I leave my single friends and readers of this post with three bullets of advice:

  1. Be patient and trust His perfect will is best. Patience isn’t always easy. When you see all your friends around you getting married, don’t worry. He’s either preparing your significant other for you or preparing you for your significant other. He won’t let you down. When we try to do it on our own or create our own path for happiness, it will only lead to short-term fulfillment or worse, a valley of disappointment and despair. His perfect will leads us to a lifetime of true joy and the desires of our heart.
  2. If you wonder if there is something better, there probably is. With both of my previous marriages, I wondered if there was something better. It was a drain, every day. It was miserable more days than not. Why it took me to walk that long road to figure it out is for a whole other post. But know this: You will never wonder if there is something better when you are walking in His will. There will be good and bad days and a healthy relationship and marriage takes effort from both people. But you will never wonder if you should be with someone else. You will know this is exactly what God has for you.
  3. You will know when it is the right person and there will be no question. If there is any part of you that feels hesitation in the relationship you are in, there is a good chance it isn’t His perfect will. Prior to meeting Danielle, I wrote a non-negotiable list of everything I wanted in a wife. I wrote this list when I was fifteen too, but for some reason I compromised that list and lost it. Side note: never lose your list.

I committed to not settling for any less than that list and Danielle met every requirement and many more I never even realized I needed. Deep down, God has placed what you need in a partner on your heart. Write down those desires and don’t settle for any less than God’s perfect will. You’re not too picky and it’s not too much to ask. He or She is out there. Just. Be. Patient. Surrender to Him. He will give you the desires of your heart.

-MCW

@mcwingate

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The views presented above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its components.

© Copyright 2016 M.C.Wingate. All Rights Reserved.

Photo Credit for last picture to Heather Zak of Heather Zak Designs. http://www.heatherzakdesigns.com/

Every day is Valentine’s Day

HeartsEvery day is Valentine’s Day in the Wingate house. As a result, Danielle and I choose not to celebrate this hyped up Hallmark-dream of a holiday. We do not have flowers delivered. We do not buy chocolates in a heart-shaped box. We do not cut out pink and red construction paper in the shape of a heart and hand write love notes. We do not buy a stuffed animal with a heart embroidered on its chest that says, “I love you!” We do not store up special deliveries, heart-felt gestures, and loving chocolate-filled packages for one day a year.   I’ve done that on this day before and I will not be the first to tell you, “One day is never enough.”

I’ve celebrated this day in past relationships before. I’m a romantic and I love celebrating, well, love. I’ve spent money on jewelry and every other stereotypical Valentine’s Day gift. Yet, those relationships did not work out. At the time, I could not see why. I was broken. Disappointment through broken promises will do that. But through those disappointments, I realized if you are not both working at love the rest of the year, one day will never be enough to satisfy. Without those short-sighted disappointments, I do not believe I would appreciate what I have now. Through those disappointments I learned if you are not both surrendering to God daily and dying to yourself, one day will never be enough to keep the flame going. Marriages fail due to three reasons: selfishness, selfishness, and selfishness. If you are not becoming selfless and serving each other daily, chances are you too will learn quickly that one day is not enough to build a lasting partnership and marriage.

Now we do give each other cards and say sweet things to each other on this day. But it is not centralized to one day. So when you don’t see Danielle receive flowers on this day when the price triples to express our love for each other in public, don’t pity her. When you don’t see me get a valentine’s card or gift, don’t feel bad for me. Be proud of us and consider us fiscally and relationally responsible. There will be other days she will get flowers and celebrated in every way possible, just at one third the cost. We do our best to fill each other’s heart with love and contentment the other 365 days (or 366 this year). If you know my wife, you know: She is worth celebrating every day of the year.

After the journey we’ve traveled to get to the place where we found true, selfless, God-given love in each other, one day is never enough to celebrate His grace. Because no other word can describe two imperfect people finding each other were it not through His grace. I wake up daily thanking the Creator for loving me so much that he gave me a gift worth celebrating every day for the rest my life. So for us, every day is Valentine’s Day.

I love you beautiful! Thanks for doing life with me.

-MCW

 The views presented above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its components.

© Copyright 2016 MCWingate. All Rights Reserved.

 

Dear Single Ladies-

As we enter the Christmas season, I look back at my first year of marriage wondering how I ever made it without my wife by my side. This is my second Christmas away from Danielle, yet my first as her husband. This Christmas season will be my second in the past three years deployed away from home and fourth in the past 10 years. I love doing life with my wife, and I never WANT to be away from her. However, I wouldn’t change these two seasons of separation for anything. Without the first, my wife and I may not be married.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was previously married. During my second year long deployment, I began to suspect my ex was cheating. After I received a picture documenting a kiss between her and someone at a bar in Austin, my heart sank and trust was completely lost. As the deployment continued, signs began to point towards an ongoing affair and illicit drug use. During my 30-day post-deployment vacation, she would sneak out in the middle of the night, make cash withdrawals, and not contact me for hours. She denied the affair for months while we went through counseling. After I finally found proof of the ongoing affair through divine providence, I made the difficult decision to file for divorce. The news of her infidelity and addiction to drugs while on the other side of the world devastated me and shattered any trust and belief I once had in love.

Fast-forward four years to January 2014. I was deployed to Afghanistan and Danielle and I began developing a relationship through phone calls, facetime, and letters. As we learned each other, I began to fall for her. I had questions about how she would handle the deployment and the separation. However, I trusted the Lord knew what I needed and knew she was in my life for a reason. That period of separation, that exile, was beneficial for both us in so many ways. The 9-month deployment was essential for me to trust in love again.

This brings me to my first point for the single ladies out there:

 Every exile has purpose.

Merriam-Websters dictionary defines exile as “the state or period of forced or voluntary absence…” In Jeremiah 29: 1-10, the prophet writes a letter to the exiles in Babylon encouraging them to make the best of their situation while in exile and cautions them to not give any credit to false prophets. He then prophesies that the Lord will fulfill His promise and bring them back to Jerusalem. He goes on to say in verse 11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

We know that verse. It’s on coffee cups, signs, posted in offices on pictures and any number of products. If we read a little further in the Scripture, we see even more depth to God’s promise in verses 12-14. “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heartI will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”

As I sought the Lord during my 9-months of exile, He answered and used that time to shave off the calluses around my heart. He used that time to help me see who Danielle was on the inside, far beyond her external beauty. The exile was a forcing function that helped us maintain our purity and build a relationship on a foundation of trust, communication and our relationship with God. He used the exile to restore me as someone who could love Danielle fully, not as a wounded victim, but as a restored warrior and victor over destruction and disappointment. Every exile has purpose and at the end of the exile, God gave me His best.

This brings me to my second point:

God doesn’t need your help, He needs your heart.

 In Song of Solomon 8:4, Solomon writes, “Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, not to awaken love until the time is right.” Earlier I wrote the deployment was beneficial for both Danielle and I. We both believe one of the things we learned was patience. After awhile, Danielle was looking for an assurance from me that we were headed somewhere. It took patience to fall in love with someone 7000+ miles away with no formal commitment. She would hint around about engagement and I could not even talk about it for the longest time. I could not give her the assurance she needed in the flesh. I needed to see how the deployment went and how we interacted in person when I returned. I didn’t feel a release to even discuss engagement or marriage until I returned. I needed to see that she was going to trust her heart with Him before He would entrust her heart to me. She would later admit she reluctantly bit her lip, went back to her prayer closet and said, “Lord you deal with him, because I can’t handle this anymore! I know what I want!” If I weren’t walking with the Lord, I would have missed what God was doing.
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In Proverbs 11:22, Solomon writes, “A beautiful woman who lacks discretion is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.”

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My wife is beautiful. There are times I look at her pictures and am stunned and speechless I get to be married to such a beautiful woman. But her outward beauty isn’t what made me fall in love with her while I was deployed. I learned what she was made of and who she really was through our conversations and through observing her use of social media. Who she was on the inside was evident in the way she dressed, the pictures she posted, and the words she said. Her heart for the Lord was clearly evident and as someone who was married previously to a couple of gold rings, there was nothing more sexy to me than Danielle’s discretion and heart for the Lord. Danielle’s pursuit of Christ through our exile drew me to her, not tight dresses and push-up bras.

This leads me to my final point:

The right man will be drawn to your heart, not your selfie.

Rachel Simmons at the Slate writes:

“The selfie is a tiny pulse of girl pride—a shout-out to the self. Earlier this week, the first three women to complete Marine infantry combat training, along with a fourth who completed most of the hurdles but was injured before her final physical fitness test, posted a jubilant selfie.* (Nancy Pelosi tweeted it as “selfie of the year.”) If you write off the endless stream of posts as image-conscious narcissism, you’ll miss the chance to watch girls practice promoting themselves—a skill that boys are otherwise given more permission to develop, and which serves them later on when they negotiate for raises and promotions.”

Erin Ryan counters Simmons’ assertion with a different perspective reflecting how disturbing our incessant self-promotion truly is when she writes:

Selfies aren’t empowering little sources of pride, nor are they narcissistic exercises…. They’re a logical technically enabled response to being brought up to think that what really matters is if other people think you’re pretty.

Gold-Ring-PigNarcissistic-gram and other social media sites have infused our culture with a “me, me, me, look at me!” mentality. Meanwhile, we keep our head down looking for validation through likes and favorites on a screen rather than looking up to the one that made the fingers typing on the screen.

Danielle’s heart for the Lord supplemented her outward beauty and shined through her eyes drawing me to her like a moth to a flame. In fact, selfies, duck-face, and incessant self-promotion made me run the other way on many occasions in other potential relationships. When we were dating, Danielle’s use of social media promoting and celebrating others and her love for Christ furthered the assertion that I was courting someone worth pursuing.

So ladies, I encourage you to trust Him. If you’re searching for your spouse, call to the Lord. He made you. He loves you. He knows you inside and out and knows exactly what you need. He is currently preparing His best for you and your perfect complement even during a time that may feel like the longest exile ever. The right guy will be drawn to your heart and who you are on the inside if you just work on developing it. He has plans for you and will give you so much more than you can even imagine if you just wait. He will chase you down with His blessings. Seek Him and He will be found, and in the process, Mr. Perfect-for-you will appear when you least expect it.

The views presented above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its components.

Illustration © Copyright Linda Neptune. http://www.lindaneptune.com/

© Copyright 2015 MCWingate. All Rights Reserved.

My vows for life.

One year ago today, we stood before our family and read our commitment to each for life; below are my vows for life. I thank the Lord daily for you and our life together. I love you beautiful! Happy anniversary!

The Book of Proverbs ends with a tribute to a wise choice in a wife from the wisest man who ever lived. Solomon writes,

10 Who can find a truly excellent woman? One who is superior in all that she is and all that she does? Her worth far exceeds that of rubies and expensive jewelry.11 She inspires trust, and her husband’s heart is safe with her, and because of her, he has every good thing. 12 Every day of her life she does what is best for him, never anything harmful or hurtful. 13…16 She has a plan. She considers some land and buys it; then with her earnings, she plants a vineyard.17 She wraps herself in strength, carries herself with confidence, and works hard, strengthening her arms for the task at hand. 18 She tastes success and knows it is good, and under lamplight she works deep into the night. 19…20 She reaches out to the poor and extends mercy to those in need.…22 She makes her own bed linens and clothes herself in purple and fine cloth...23…24…25 Clothed in strength and dignity, with nothing to fear, she smiles when she thinks about the future. 26 She conducts her conversations with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is ever her concern. 27 She directs the activities of her household, and never does she indulge in laziness. 28 Her children rise up and bless her. Her husband, too, joins in the praise, saying: 29 “There are someindeed many—women who do well in every way, but of all of them only you are truly excellent.” 30 Charm can be deceptive and physical beauty will not last, but a woman who reveres the Eternal should be praised above all others. 31 Celebrate all she has achieved. Let all her accomplishments publicly praise her.

Solomon knew what a Godly woman looked like…and I see that in YOU. His journey to this epiphany was one not everyone understood. His journey was not always ideal. Yet, in the end God’s abundant grace was present when he didn’t deserve it.

In Romans 8: 29 Paul writes, “He repurposes bad decisions and squalid choices. Little by little a new image emerges. “He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son.” Grace is God loving, God stooping, God coming to the rescue, God giving himself generously and through Jesus Christ.

In the New Testament grace means God’s love in action towards men who merited the exact opposite. Grace means God moving heaven and earth enough to reach down and save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves. Grace means sending his only Son to bend a knee and die on the cross so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God and spend eternity with him. Grace is God providing a bride when I didn’t deserve it and didn’t expect it who is perfect for me. Sustaining grace promises not the absence of struggle but the presence of God. I vow to choose you through any struggle. His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in my weakness. I vow to choose you in my strength and in my weakness. Grace is not blind. But grace chooses to see God’s forgiveness even more. It refuses to let hurt poison the heart. Where grace is lacking, bitterness abounds. Where grace abounds, forgiveness grows. I vow to choose forgiveness. Second only to my own salvation, you are the greatest display of God’s grace in my life. In you, I have learned to trust God’s hold on me more than my hold on God. His faithfulness does not depend on mine. I vow to choose faithfulness to God and faithfulness to you and to lead our home in a Godly manner and love and nurture you. To accept grace is to accept the vow to give it.

From this day forward I vow to extend grace and accept grace for the rest of our lives. I vow to choose your eyes, your kiss, your smile, your lips…I want it all. I vow to choose your strength, your weakness, your health, your sickness…I want it all. I vow to choose your heart, your soul, when you’re young, when you’re old…I want it all. The journey that we’re on will never end. No matter where it leads, I see you here with me. I see our future in your eyes. I see God’s grace in you: my teammate for life. You are the fulfillment of God’s promise to me for a partner and teammate for life. Before you, I don’t believe I truly understood the weight of this commitment and all I have found in you without walking the long, difficult road leading me to this point. I am no longer defined by my failures but refined by them. I’m renewed. I’m restored and I vow to choose you and choose us…Forever.

The views presented above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its components.

© Copyright 2015 MCWingate. All Rights Reserved.

Thanks. It’s hard to believe.

Thanks. What does it really mean to me this year? Walking in the Christmas Market in Ansbach, Germany, I reflected on my day. My gratitude became ever more evident. One of my friends invited me over to Thanksgiving dinner today with his family. This would seem like a rather enjoyable event, which it was, but leading up to it did not come without a little trepidation. The last time I saw this couple was in 2012 during one of the lowest points of my life.

Wrapped up in an unhealthy relationship, I began a slow fade from my walk with the Lord, drifting ever so far away from my destiny and who I really was as a believer and a man of God. The drain of that relationship affected me physically, spiritually, and emotionally. As I circled the drain, I reached a point where I had a choice to make: Stay in the valley and die, or climb my way out and live. Even so, that dark season led me to appreciate who I would soon be with forever that much more.

Two days away from celebrating my one-year anniversary with my best friend, it’s hard to believe I ever lived a life without her. It’s hard to believe I was given this precious gift to nurture, lead, and love. It’s hard to believe that God blessed me with someone so perfectly complementary to me. It’s hard to believe that she’s the first thing I think about in the morning and the last when I sleep. It’s hard to believe God’s grace was so sufficient for me, He would hold her in the palm of his hand for years while I stubbornly, impatiently went down my own path doing everything I could to try things my own way. It’s hard to believe that it took me two failed marriages to finally stop trying to do it my way and follow His way. It’s hard to believe I don’t regret any part of it because it ultimately led me to one of my reasons for being thankful this year. It’s hard to believe when I finished clawing, scratching, striving, and climbing my way out of that valley over two years ago, at the top of that mountain would be my teammate, my best friend, my partner, my bride. It’s hard to believe that one year after we committed our lives to each other before our God and our families, we would be six weeks away from welcoming our first child, Emma Grace, into our family, our world. It’s hard to believe I’m writing this entry almost one month into my fourth deployment. It’s hard to believe despite that, we are overjoyed because we know we are precisely where God wants us to be. It’s hard to believe this woman would simultaneously stand by me, support me, love me, encourage me, push me, lovingly admonish me, and relentlessly pursue me. It’s hard to believe she is carrying Emma while working a full time job, loving me while I’m deployed, and still seemingly-effortlessly balancing supporting the families of those left behind. It’s hard to believe.

But isn’t that just how great God’s grace is? He gives us so much more than we can even ask or think. He blows our minds and exceeds our expectations if we just get out of the way and let Him. Isn’t it amazing how His love was so great that he gave Paul an epic definition in 1 Corinthians 13 to reflect on and see if we are indeed truly loving someone the way God intended?

I’m thankful for a lot of things this year. This is just one time I’ve appreciated stepping out of the way to see God’s grace run me down and overflow my cup with blessings far greater than I ever imagined. It’s hard to believe.

The views presented above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its components.

© Copyright 2015 MCWingate. All Rights Reserved.