Girl’s Got Her Combat Boots On

“Put on the whole armor of God, 
that you may be able to stand 
against the schemes of the devil.” 
~Ephesians 6:11

“That’s my verse,” she said. 

It embodied the path she was walking. Choosing. Taking the light into a dark place.

My good friend who had retired from the Air Force gave them to her the day after Em read the verse.

And she has worn the boots into lots of dark places ever since. Playing music with her best friend/husband in bars. Praying with a roomful of models and walking runways. Boldly blasting churchy paradigms and teaching this woman a few new lessons about being salt and light.

You should see how people look at her. This girl with crazy, dread-like curls, dressed however the fancy grabbed her that day, and big, black combat boots. Ready to take on the world and kick some butt in its defense.

She’s worn those boots into some of her own dimly lit places as well. Fighting for the truth of her own and every woman’s beauty as she battled an eating disorder. She’s turning that fight into a victory for herself and other girls and women thru her new ministry “Beauty Files.” 

The only sister smack between five brothers, God has a purpose for everything. She’s tough but knows how to love her family and now her husband with an incredible passion and tenderness.

But even tough can break. And a week ago she broke harder than I’ve ever seen. My heart broke right along with hers.

Em and Ethan love family and decided to jump right in to having their own. Just a few weeks after their honeymoon the lines showed up on the stick, and they went straight from “newlywed” status to singing their little one songs to sleep in utero.

But a few weeks later she complained of cramps. Then bleeding. And my heart sank as Ethan called to describe what I knew was most likely the beginning of a miscarriage.

I’ve been in my share of emergency rooms. With an active family and two preemies that spent weeks in the NICU, I’ve heard hard news, faced scary possibilities, and spent hours in waiting rooms. So when I walked into the ER to meet Em and Ethan, I didn’t expect what happened. 

The room was empty. She was still in ultrasound. When I saw her purse and clothes and her delicate lace “wedding” Toms folded neatly in the corner, my heart caught in my throat. And sobs from somewhere deep threatened to explode. 

“No, no, no, no, no!” I half commanded, half pleaded with myself.

“Hold it together. You’ve done this before!”

But no. Immediately, I knew this was different. I’d been a momma in the ER, but she never had. I’d faced threats of illness, pain, loss, but she hadn’t. Not like this. Her own, yes. But not the loss of someone she’d fallen head over heels in love with the moment she first became conscious of their existence.

She was the momma now. And I was initiated into yet another realm of motherhood I never knew existed.

A few minutes later, Ethan and the nurse ushered my daughter into the room. She smiled bravely at me and got back into the bed. I kissed her head, and we both wiped tears.

We cried together for the next four days. I’d hold and comfort her as she wept. Then when she’d leave, I would go to my bed and do the same.

On Friday, I took her to another follow-up appointment. She was stronger, happier, and one of the first things I noticed when I saw her was “Girl’s got her combat boots on.” 

And I knew she was back in the fight.

We grabbed coffee after her appointment. She talked about her plans . . the one’s in process already and those for the future. Peace and enthusiasm colored all her words.

After coffee, I took her to one of my favorite gardens at a local museum. 

You should have seen how the little old lady at the info desk checked her out. Wild hair, mini skirt, black tights and those boots. Em smiled sweeter than southern ice tea and tromped away.

She had beauty to discover and battles to fight.


  1. René White Feather

    I knew she was the one to wear them. Those boots have stood for good and traveled around the world a couple of times. I wore them during Desert Storm, in Turkey while enforcing the no-fly zone over Northern Iraq, into a blacked out Sarajevo, inside a concertina wired UN zone in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, into the juggles of Vietnam on MIA recovery missions, along the DMZ between the Republic of South Korea and North Korea and along the beaches on Pearl Harbor and while serving in Cambodia, Thailand, Germany, Africa, England, Quam and Italy. Those boots are powerful. They helped protect me while standing in front of a lot of Generals and Admirals. They have stood at attention for many a ceremony, airshow and funeral. All that time I thought I was wearing them for me, but I was actually breaking them in for your daughter. Pray they serve her well for many years and every battle this life brings her.

    • kimhyland

      The love Em and I get from you and your girl gives us courage, Rene. I love you. XO

  2. Beloved

    Ooooh mama, you are fierce. I felt the love you have for your she cub and the love she will give to the world. In many forms. This was beautiful.
    May all we bear girls love as finely as this. To God be the Glory for the blessing you are.
    Peace and good to you, sweet sister. Never ever stop chasing Grace and Peace,

    • kimhyland

      Yes, I KNOW momma bear! Sometimes it weeps and others it roars. Thank you for your constant encouragement, Chelle. XO

  3. Christen Sanderson

    I'm sorry for your loss. Praying for Emily. Praying for you. Praying for all the Hylands. I know the sting of miscarriage as well. I had a miscarriage before Adelyn was born. I'm praying that God would show you comfort and peace during a time when everything in you screams, "be angry, cry, rage, question." I'm praying for you all to find your lighthouse. Find it, and swim towards it. Love to you all.

    • kimhyland

      I know you've been here, Christen. Thank you for your compassion and for pointing us and others to the light. YOU are an incredible woman and mother. XO

    • Christen Sanderson

      I feel the need to correct my wording. I said when all you want to do is cry… You should cry. Cry a lot. And then cry some more. You've all suffered a great loss. Now is the time for tears. And don't let anyone make you feel as though you must dry them and move on. Hugs.

  4. Jeanne

    It's been equally hard to watch Emy as my daughter-in-law miscarrying my newly-formed grandchild. When I heard what was happening all I could think about was how hard it must be for her and how much she wanted to have a child. I, too, had a miscarriage and could relate to the difficulty. I cried. In the midst of thinking about Emy (from a woman's point of view), I suddenly remembered my son Ethan. Then this momma's heart broke from a different point of view – from that of my son who was just as thrilled at becoming a father. Now he shares in this deep loss. It's heartbreaking. But I have seen them both rally together hand-in-hand with their Living God Who walks with them through this Valley of the Shadow of Death. I have observed as they are comforted by Him. Peace that passes all understanding.

    • kimhyland

      So glad to share this road as mommas to these two with you, Jeanne. Ethan was INCREDIBLE through all of this. I am so grateful for him and to you and Mike for raising such a caring, Godly man. I know my girl's in good hands 🙂

  5. eggthoughts

    Wow, that's so hard. I have an older brother or sister in heaven and I know that was so tough for my parents.
    There is a lot of beauty in this post. It reminds me of one I wrote about a hard time last year that I like to re read once in a while-it's sad, but it captured exactly how I felt at the time and reminds me of what's meaningful.
    Glad y'all had that lovely garden to go to. How peaceful!

    • kimhyland

      Thank you, Frances. It was really a sad week but beautiful too! There will be so many happy reunions in Heaven 🙂

  6. Caryn Christensen

    Kim, I am so sorry to hear this news. I pray healing, peace, comfort and grace over every family member…especially Em and Ethan. In reading Renee's explanation of the boots, and the incredible journey they've already taken, it is easy to see how God is taking your girl places she can be used in unexpected ways…in His perfect timing.

    • kimhyland

      Thank you, Caryn. Those boots have tromped through some tough places, huh?! And yes, His timing is perfect and His ways so good!

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