Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Toehold

The following is from The Story of D-Day: June 6, 1944 by Bruce Bliven, Jr. (a children's book written in 1956)

"No matter how many men take part in a landing, some few must be the first ashore.

They lead the way for all the others to follow.

Those who land first have a peculiarly tough job. In the minute while they are leaving their boats and wading ashore, they are exposed and almost helpless. If the enemy is alert and ready to defend its shore, crossing the beach is another awkward time for the invaders. Beaches are generally flat and open, with no shelter from bullets. About the best an assault force can do is to get across a beach fast.

And then the first men ashore have to be supplied, fairly quickly, with supporting weapons more powerful than the rifles, light machine guns and light mortars they carry with them. The assault troops must seize a fairly large piece of ground in a hurry and build up strength within that beachhead. 

Until they do, even a small defending force may be able to drive the invaders back into the sea. So the early hours of an amphibious assault, even under the best of circumstances, are a gamble.

Hitler believed that his army, protected by its fortifications and blazing away with a variety of weapons, would be able to stop the Americans, British and Canadians at, or close to, the water's edge.

He believed the Germans could smash the great assault before it really got going.

The Allies thought differently.

They hoped their first few soldiers ashore would break through the beach fortifications and proceed far enough inland on D-Day to establish the first toe hold in Europe.

And that then the great weight of the combined armies, pouring through the small opening in the Atlantic Wall, could go on to win the war against Germany.

The question was: Could the assault troops break open the first holes in Hitler's defensive line?

That was what the soldiers themselves, before the end of D-Day, would answer. The success of the invasion depended on them."

I have this idea to have hope. I have this feeling that we have the toehold. We as in the family.

We have the toehold (defined as a relatively insignificant position where further progress can be made) on....western civilization? Christianity? American culture?

"In the crisis a handful of heroes came forward. They were men who decided that, however hopeless the battle seemed, they themselves would try to do something.

Any action, they thought, was better than none.

Each man, at the moment of his heroic decision, acted alone.

It might have been easier for him if he had known there were others like him at other places along the beach, but none of them did."

"Each man decided, independently, to do his best whether or not, in the long run, his best could make a difference." 

I have never been one to really feel a connection spiritually when it comes to the "battles" or "spiritual attacks" we face.  I cringe a little to be thought of as the "church militant." As you can see by the work my littles and I have been doing this weekend, I am more inclined to respond when we speak of "gift" and "joy"...the Good Shepherd way. And yet, I thought about the toehold again during the Gospel today when Our Lord was tempted by the prince of darkness...and I thought about wolves around the sheepfold.

I also thought about hope.

I thought what is so special about our toehold in the 21st century, the family's toehold, is that we know there are others out there like us. Where the men on the beaches of Normandy weren't sure if the others were having ANY success, we are given glimpses of other families, like ours. Their successes inspire us, even though it takes a trained heart and eye to know what kind of "success" I am talking about. We have these glimpses and it gives us hope!

We know because we do life with them. We worship with them. We bring food when they have babies. We become godparents to their children. We carpool their kids around. We cry when there is pain. We lean in. We make the "big pot" kind of meals together.

Maybe that is the gift of moving from Alaska? I am so encouraged by the wonderful families I have met here in Virginia, and yet I still tell all my friends HERE of the beautiful families that are in Alaska!

All this to not lose hope! And do not be afraid! Every time you serve your family, and choose your family first, and say yes to your are making a difference and fortifying the beach. Your smile at the sippy cup request. Your huge victory when you refuse to nag. Your simple home cooked meal. Your efforts at decorating for the liturgical season...

And you may wonder...but Stephanie! Those few men on the beach had a massive army of allied forces behind them! Who is our help?

Wink wink...

I think we know who will be providing the reinforcements behind us...

As Anthony Esolen's new book points out:

"Keep it always in mind. The world hates the family. The state is the family's enemy. The state grows by the family's failure, and the state has an interest in persuading people that the family can do nothing on its own. It hates fatherhood, and makes little pretense otherwise. It hates motherhood...."

Do not lose hope! We have the toehold!

Thank you for doing the good work you do! It is an honor to keep this toehold with you. xxoo


  1. What? Am I to read about a battle? ...oh you, how relevant you made out D-Day. Haha. You clever woman. And in the end I sit here with a warm, triumphant-feeling heart. ...minuscule compared to they who learned about 1944 survivors, but let us also be they who take back something precious!!!

    1. Angela! Thank you for fortifying the ground the family has...I have learned so much from you xxoo