When your heart feels hurried...

I couldn't have written anything better myself than what author Holly Gerth wrote in this devotional. Hope it ministers to you this holiday season. Merry Christmas, frinds!

When your heart feels hurried...
'Tis the season to be busy.
There are gifts to buy, meals to make, trips to take, decorations to be hung, songs to be sung, places to go, people to see…
It's December 1st and I'm already tired. Anyone else?
I read the words... Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
But how can I be still when there's so much going on?
Of course, the first answer is to simplify my life.
Yet the kind of stillness God is talking about isn't just about my circumstances. It's about being still on the inside.
I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother. Psalm 131:2 What is a weaned child like? One that has learned to stop asking for more, more, more and instead simply rests in the arms of love, love, love.
My hurry and stress come from that want of more. I want to do more, be more, pack more in to these few short days. Then it seems God whispers to my heart, "Enough. You are enough. You have enough. In the middle of the busy, make a quiet place inside and stay with me. My love is what you really need."
I settle, quiet down, breathe a sigh of relief. The miracle of Christmas?
God came for us so we could come to Him. Even (especially) in the busy, broken, chaos of our lives.
'Tis the season to be still.
--by Holley Gerth
Bold Bright Wishes Christmas
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Time marches on

So much has transpired since my last post...namely TIME! Hallelujah for that one! We are one week shy of the 4 month mark. Now for those of you who are not math-savvy, that is 1/3 of the way through our year, or 33.33%! Ohhhh yeah!

October was full of autumn events like a pumpkin patch trip, trunk-or-treating, and a fire station trip. The weekend of Halloween this crazy mamma did a trunk-or-treat on Friday night, trick-or-treating on Saturday night, followed by another trunk-or-treat on Sunday after church. Whaaaa?!?!? What was I thinking?! Needless to say I was taaaarrred and never so excited to see a Monday in my whole life! I have got some work to do with my four year old, though, for next year. He quickly lost interest in collecting candy at each of our outings and instead opted to put himself whole heartedly to the task of being "in character" as Bibleman. What is that about??

Oh, and baby boy, Mamma needs more chocolate next year.

Veteran's Day weekend I had the great opportunity to spend several days with 1300 lovely ladies ( 42 of which I know alot better than I did before!) in Dallas, TX at the PWOC conference. So many great workshops were offered each day along with incredible worship session (led by none other than Kari Jobe!) and inspiring messages (by the talented Priscilla Shirer). It was such a refreshing and spiritually renewing time with the Lord for me. It could not have come at better time for me in this deployment. It was so nice to be there in all of that atmosphere and sense God's presence in a might way. It is amazing what the Lord can speak when we have the chance to break away from the day to day clutter and noise of life! And I rediscovered the joy of getting up when I wanted to and having the time to do my hair AND my make-up...in the same day! Oh. so. marvelous. Many thanks to Mom and Dad for covering the babysitting duties while I partook of this soul-nurturing event.

As a side note, for those of you out there just beginning in this Army life or thinking about "jumping in", I have to say that the top two things that have blessed me the most are living on post and becoming a part of PWOC. If you have an opportunity to do one or both, please take the chance. The people you will meet and the sense of community that you will gain on post are priceless. The ladies at PWOC provide an almost instant connection, since nearly everyone is in the same military "boat". You will have something in common with everyone there. Okay, informercial over!

My kids continue to do well, despite living day to day with Daddy on another continent. We just came through a rough time behaviorally with my son. God is no doubt teaching him things as well through this time of separation. My prayer is that God uses this to give my son a larger world-view...that God is more than just our God here in America...that He has a presence in places very, very far away...and that He reigns supreme over all nations and tongues. I also pray that God uses this to give my son a deeper faith even at his young age. As a child of a deployed servicemember, my son is having to trust God with things many kids never will. What an opportunity for the Lord to do a mighty work in his little life! And my daughter? She's just plain CUTE and smitten with her daddy! She thinks the Skype sound is Daddy's personal ringtone...and she LOVES to kiss his picture on her nightstand. I'm praying that he will stay a vivid image in her mind throughout this year. So far, he is.

And in that place of dust and mountains across the globe, the Lord is faithfully keeping my husband safe and secure. His ministry is active and his contacts are frequent. His travel is also quite frequent... which makes for one nervous yet prayed-up wife! He has been traveling at least once a week (by convoy) to different regions to see all of his solders and offer them his religious support. We have had casualties. Not within our battalion, but with in our brigade. Heartbreaking nonetheless. So far we have lost 2 brave warriors. Precious souls to the King of kings. As I sat breathless at one of the memorial services, I couldn't help but breathe a prayer that God would give our chaplains a bountiful harvest of souls, that none of these lives taken in battle would be taken by THE enemy. I am so proud of the job that my husband is doing and so thankful that he is "at home in his element".

And now, the holidays are upon us, which will no doubt make time fly even faster. I am going to try to figure out the mystery of savoring each moment and this time with my kids while still trying to speed up the clock to February! Speaking of math, that sounds like an equation for NASA!

Savoring the season

It is the start of the fall season. The air is crisp and clean. Gone is the swelter of summer; here, for a while, is the air which feels neutral on the skin. This weather is what I imagine it like in heaven -- simple, clear, non-distracting. I love watching the seasons change. While I know God does NOT change, the way He cares for us and reaches out to us changes like seasons throughout the course of our life -- as we grow and mature. To me it seems that God likes variety, creativity, and fresh starts. Each and every winter somehow feels familiar yet new. Only a loving Creator like ours can accomplish this four times a year, each year. As I write this I am sitting in the comfort of the swing in my parent's backyard. The air is light, the breeze gentle, the sounds delightful -- birds in the trees singing their praises, squirrels in the branches busy preparing for winter, the soft rustling of leaves overhead, the faint ringing of the wind chimes. Occasionally the wind gusts for a brief moment, and with it comes the most heavenly smell of flowers. Such a sweet, fresh, beautiful scent. Unmistakably God. Unmistakably YAHWEH BOREY (LORD creator).

Just another day in Army life...

"Army life is a tough life." You will hear that from time to time, and there are times that it is very true. Countless nights in a lonely bed, drying tears of children who miss Daddy, worrying about a loved one's safety...to name a few. But then there are other occasions that are just darn fun and cool. Today was one of those occasions. The Billy Graham Association sponsored an event called "Rock The Fort" here on post. It was kind of like a fair, kind of like a concert...and it was free! There was great "fair" food, plenty of bounce houses, a craft tent, as well as a huge concert stage where some great Christian bands would play. But the highlight of the day was when my 2 kiddos got to watch the Golden Knights parachute down and land less than 100 ft in front of us. Talk about thrilling! My 4 year old couldn't take his eyes off of those paratroopers! And when it was over? Well, he asked me if they could do it again, of course!! It was truly a spectacular sight to see, the precision and grace that those men and women possess as they steathily glide down to earth! I was struck by how absolutely quiet their descent was. It was easy to see how they could invade enemy territory without causing a stir. Ask a kid what they did on any given Saturday and many will say they had a soccer game or went to the mall. My kids? Watched the Golden Knights live in living color! Just another day in Army life!!

7 weeks down...

Whoa...I blinked and 7 weeks of this deployment passed me by. Life has been hectic & crazy at times, so blogging has not been on my radar screen. Changing diapers, disciplining kids, maintaining my outlets of ministry, and personal Bible Study have been lighting up my radar screen. Yes, Bible Study. It is a committment that I made to the Lord during this deployment -- to faithfully study His Word and present all my cares to Him in prayer. It has been a life line to my soul. However, this has meant letting alot of other "things" go that I would like to be doing...like blogging. But, I believe in the end God will bless my efforts as I see the fruit that His Word brings about in my life. On the husband-front, Chaplain is doing well. He always sound so positive and upbeat, despite what I know is going on over there (all the yucky, unpleasant stuff of war). He told me the other day that except for missing me and the kids, he is loving it over there...mostly because, he said, "I feel like I am exactly where the Lord wants me to be doing exactly what he created me to do." Wow, talk about comfort for me! Thank you, God, for this. Today, I was doing mundane task #541 of the day...which happened to be surface-wiping in my kitchen...and I came to my trash can, which looked totally GROSS on the outside. There were drip stains, coffee grounds, kid drool, and general food stains on it. While I know it is a TRASH can, I still didn't think it should look nasty on the outside, so I began to wipe it down. That's when the still small voice of the Holy Spirit spoke directly to my soul. I heard him say, "Jennifer, this is how so many people live their lives." The verses "There is no one righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10)..." and "All our righteous acts are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6)..." came rushing to mind. God reminded me that all of us are trash heaps on the inside, stinking and dirty from within. And yet look at how much time and effort we put into cleaning the outside of our trash cans! No matter how glamorous the outside of our can looks, there will never be righteousness inside...apart from Christ. The rubbish and stench will still be there, even if the outside gets wiped down with disinfectant. What needs fixing is within, a matter of the heart. Let Christ transform you from the inside out, by imparting His righteousness to you through His death and resurrection. Even as born-again believers, we can sometimes allow the trash to sneak back in as unconfessed sin lingers like a “fishy” odor in our lives. Jesus spoke strongly against the hypocrisy of a beautiful outside but ugly inside when he was talking to the religious leaders in Matthew 23:27-28. He said to them “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness”. I love the vivid imagery Jesus uses with the phrase “whitewashed tombs”. A little research on this revealed that tombs were whitewashed in order to make them more visible. This kept the Jews from stepping on or stumbling over them as the journeyed. Truly, this was an act done by the pharisees to get noticed. When we find ourselves looking like a whitewashed tomb, we need to humble ourselves and seek His forgiveness…asking Him to once again clean us up on the inside and fill us up instead with Him. Then, what is of value in us won't be dependent upon how we look or perform, but upon the perfect salvation given as a gift from the Father. One look at us and God will have to do a double take to see if that was us He saw or Christ! So, don't worry about the can, let's take out the trash!!

A marathon, not a sprint

My life as a happily married single Mom has begun. We are now located in our new abode and ALMOST all the boxes are unpacked. All except for a few in Chaplain's study/our guest room. And, no offense baby, but they are not a pressing matter. Rest assured that they will get unpacked long before your R&R. The move was not as tough as the last one, but somewhere in the midst of it all I remembered that I was 6 months pregnant for our last one. That made a HUGE difference in my energy level. My mom was so gracious to come and stay for nearly 2 weeks as we packed up, moved over, and unpacked. The kids and I are really enjoying this new home; the extra space is wonderful! My son can turn cartwheels and do flips and I do not have to fuss for fear of him running into something or things getting knocked over. I am trying to figure out what our new day-to-day routine will be in this new house. It is taking some getting used to having a second story. I have to stop and think, "Okay, I'm going downstairs now...what do I need to take with me first. Hmmm." But what a blessing!!! The kids and I both are still adjusting to life without Daddy. The immediate severe pain of separation was fortunately short-lived thanks, I belive, to faithful prayer warriors and the power of God. We have had SO many people in our lives praying, sending cards, giving encouraging words that it has unbelievably overwhelmed me. Praise God for people with a heart for loving on military families! Tim is doing well; surviving the unbearable heat over there and building up relationships with his comrades. He always sounds so positive when we talk on the phone and seems to feel very comfortable that he is exactly where the Lord created him to be. That in and of itself is SO comforting. The Lord is ministering to me on a continual basis each day, staying close to me through thoughts and silent whisperings in my ear. He is speaking to me through His word and prayer is constantly on my lips. I was thinking recently about what kind of wife/mother I want to be...I don't mean just for today, but the legacy I want to leave. Especially with this (and possibly other?) deployments in our future, my kids are going to be spending ALOT of time with just me and my husband will be going through times of just knowing me from afar. So, how can I impact their lives in the biggest way? Of course, one of the first Biblical thoughts that came to mind was the Proverbs 31 woman. Upon reading this famous passage again, it became clearly to me that she could very well be the wife of a deployed soldier! I mean, take a second look... v. 15 "She gets up while it is still dark, she provides food for her family" She has to get a shower before the kids get up at 0'dark-thirty. And ain't nobody else there to cook for those babies! v. 16 "She considers a field and buys it" Why else on earth would a married woman make a decision like real estate without her husband, except he be deployed! v.18 "her lamp does not go out at night" Oh yeah, she has pulled all-nighters with her workload. v. 23 "Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land." Her man makes her proud and he has earned respect in what he does, enough so that he is counted amongst the greats...sounds like a soldier to me! So I think I REALLY have a kindred spirit in this marvelous lady! But back to my desire for impact, my longing for legacy...there are a few verses in this passsage that I pray can one day be said about me. (She had 21 verses written about her; I'd be okay with just 3 or 4!) First, I pray that this year verse 11 and 12 are foremost in my husbands mind (if not his mouth).
"Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life."

May my children see verse 26 in me.

"She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue."

For myself and those who watch me run this race, verse 17.

"She sets about her work vigorously, her arms are strong for her tasks."

And to my God, creator of heaven and earth, my redeemer and Father, may he see that as in verse 25...

"She is clothed with strength and dignity, she can laugh at the days to come"

She is not anxious for what lies ahead, but she finds joy in her circumstances. There is one thing I have often been reminded of these past 3 weeks: This journey called deployment is a marathon, not a sprint.

A year begins…

Deployed. Down-range. In theater. These are all terms the Army uses to describe that time when men go off to war. I dislike the term "in theater" because this is anything BUT an act or a show. I also don't like "deployed" because I picture little green men catapulting across a living room floor (I don't know why). I guess down-range sounds better; kinda makes it sound like they are just on-post down at the range. Takes a little of the sting out of it. I guess I prefer to call the whole situation "ouch"…'cause it hurts, oh-so-much.

My Chaplain-soldier left earlier this week and it has truly been the hardest week of my life. Nothing major has gone awry, but the pain of separation has at times been unbearable. He will likely be gone for 12 months, which is unfathomable at this point. We are taking it one day at a time. We have been blessed to hear from Chaplain often as he has been in an adjoining country awaiting a flight to his ultimate destination. The days before and just after he left were painful. It felt emotionally and mentally like someone was ripping off my right arm. I know no other way to describe it. BUT GOD…who is faithful. BUT GOD…who is rich in mercy is carrying us through. I know that sounds trite and simplistic and over-used. But it is so true for me this week! God has been caring for me in a way I can't describe. He has been my rock, my NEW right arm, a fortress to me, a shield. He has brought me hope every day, in one way or another. I have been faithful to His word and prayer and He has been faithful to meet me there and make it worth every second.

My husband is doing well, so far. He has already held a prayer meeting, and they haven't even made it to their FOB (forward operating base) yet! Go God! The next phase for him will be settling into another new time zone, establishing their position on base and beginning his spiritual ministry to the troops in his unit. Our next phase will be moving…yep, without my husband! The Army has graciously offered us a 1000+ square foot increase in our housing and we will take it! So glad Mama is on her way! (Love ya, MamaJ )

Casing of the colors

Today our family had the opportunity to attend my husband's unit's "Casing of the colors" ceremony, which most army units/brigades do in preparation for deployment. It was a well-attended ceremony held at our brigade's parade field. Many of the soldiers from all of the units in our brigade were out in formation in the field. The commanding general for Fort Bragg was also in attendance. "Casing the colors" involves calling the soldiers from each unit to attention, having them inspected by the brigade commander, and then packaging up the flags in preparation for movement to their deployment location. Upon their arrival, the colors will then be displayed again while the units carry on their mission downrange. This highly traditional ceremony was a great way to give a tangible, visual element to what probably seems to our son like a theoretical deployment. The pictures below are from this event. Notice how the flag is unfurled in the first picture and encased in the second. Longing for the day to see that flag unfurl again on American soil!!


Deployment. It's the "D" word in the Army. Not for everyone, but for most spouses it is. Ours first is looming just around the corner. We are past the 30 day mark. What does it feel like? Like a highly-anticipated, long-dreaded visit from that relative you hoped you'd never have to meet or see again. But you know he/she is coming, so you'd better prepare. That's what we've been doing. Everything from Living Wills to Power of Attorneys to Advanced Directives. The Army was kind enough to give us 2 weeks of "Block Leave" with their blessing and encouragement to spend time with family. We (minus the baby) chose to spend half of our Leave at Disney World. This was a fantastically phenomenal experience and will be a well-spring of memories during the long months ahead. The trip itself, the sights and sounds, the smells, the time…will all serve to bind us closer together and will impress into our minds perhaps for a lifetime. And now we are in the season of "lasts" and goodbyes. Last haircuts, last bills paid, last fill-ups, last road trips. And not just for me. My husband has begun to do it to. I see him stopping to study pictures he's passed a thousand times before. I see him savoring our smiles and laughter. I "caught" him going through all of the pictures on his i-Touch yesterday, just reminiscing about each face and place in them. Every hug we share speaks in unspoken terms "I love you and I will miss you. Not too many more hugs left before…". We are at the point of thinking, "Who really wants to fight about socks on the floor or hairs in the shower when soon there will be no one to fight with? Just let it roll…" Having grown up in an area of the country prone to tornados, this eerily feels like the "calm before the storm". My goal here is to be transparent, not portray hopelessness. These feelings are normal and affect most people in our scenario. I share them on the basis that they will help others know that what they are going through is common and help them not feel guilty or alienated. Trust me, God is in this, through this, under this, all around this. But it is a process of emotions that must be worked through. My goal is to journal as much as I can along this new journey, in order to help myself, preserve my memories, and most importantly to help others.

Blah, Blah, Blog (the last three months)

In April, I had the opportunity to accompany Chaplain to San Antonio for a week-long Strong Bonds training event. The Army paid our tab and we were trained in several different curricula which we can use at future Strong Bonds events. This was an incredible blessing to be co-trained with my Chaplain-husband and also to be able to spend one-on-one time with him (kids were at grandma/grandpa's!) so close to our anniversary (10 years on May 13th!). What an awesome privilege and perk brought to us Chaplain wives by the U.S. Army! If you are an Army or Air Guard Chaplain wife, training events are happening around the country several times a year. I highly recommend that you seek out this opportunity and take full advantage of it! Not too long after this training even (2 weeks later, I think) Chaplain and I put together a retreat which took place at the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord, NC. We used Mark Gungor's Laugh Your Way To A Better Marriage…which was a huge success. I wasn't sure how it would go since the curriculum is heavily DVD-based. But Mark is such a funny guy that he made the DVD time fly by fast. For security reasons, I am not able to put up pictures of the retreat itself, but here is a pic of our family outside this phenomenal resort!

The first weekend in June was had our last retreat before deployment. We went back to Myrtle Beach and Chaplain did this one mostly on his own. He made it a 'pre-deployment' retreat and covered topics such as resiliency, readiness, and communication. We had good attendance and a lot of great feedback. Time at the beach with our two kiddos was a blast. Dylan learned the art of surfing and Jordan learned what sand tastes like! We made it back from this retreat just in time to see our Cubbie "graduate" from his first year in AWANA Cubbies.
Dylan at the final Cubbies class of this year.

Chaplain's deployment is fast approaching. Time has been going very fast for a while with retreats and FRG meetings and planning sessions. However, Chaplain's Battalion has some time carved out this summer for "Block Leave" (i.e. a block of time where everyone is highly encouraged to take leave time). So we will be chillin' at home and at the pool, getting small projects done and taking care of odds-and-ends things. Also this summer we have a trip to Disney planned that I pray the kids will remember (at least Dylan) fondly during the coming year.

So many thoughts and emotions are running around in my head at the same time and all the time that it is hard to keep sane thoughts straight! On top of all the aforementioned stuff, the Army has determined our move-in date (to our new, bigger home) to be around the same time frame as deployment! Fortunately, we were able to defer that a bit and will plan on moving in shortly after we have seen 'Daddy' off and had time to deal with the flood of emotions that will come. At this point, I am holding fast to 2 things. 1) The Lord has a plan, purpose, and mission in mind for Chaplain each and every day that he will be away from us (just as he has had while Chaplain has been here with us) – in other words, this deployment is no accident, it is orchestrated! 2) The Lord has a plan, purpose, and mission in mind for me (equally as important as Chaplain's) each and every day that I will be away from him (again, just as he has had before). Our ten-year marriage is about to undergo a huge strain and test of strength and character. Believe me, I am on my knees talking to the Father frequently about this! But rather than worry and hyper-focus on each and every insecurity and question, I am vowing to take it one day at a time (with a planning-eye to the future ;) and allow the Lord to step in and be the husband that even Chaplain can't be to me. Seeking the mercy and loving-kindness of the Shepherd…~Jenn

The Mother Download

Today I was reminded by my sweet husband of what this day was like for me (for us, really) 5 years ago. It was a tearful one, full of dashed hopes, fading dreams, and fertility tests and treatments. One year later, Mother's Day four years ago, was quite the opposite scenario. It was a tearful one as well, but for sweeter reasons. You see, between Mother's Day 2005 and Mother's Day 2006, we not only found out we would become parents, we actually became parents! All in the span of a year's time. Wow…just thinking of it gives me flashbacks and goosebumps. From the valley of shadows of grief and barrenness to the mountaintop of joy and parity. How labile our emotions can be as humans, subject to our circumstances and points of view. Praise be to God who is an ever-present constant in the emotional storm.
I was recently reading a fiction book based loosely off of the book of Hosea. In it the author used the phrase "divine privilege" to describe the Lord's gift to us of bearing children. I think that there is no more fitting or true phrase than that – divine privilege. Divine because we are participating in the work of God…creating and nurturing new human life. Privelege because God didn't NEED us to make this happen, he chose us, the fairer sex. If God had chosen men to give birth to their next generation those children would no doubt be protected as that is a defined and strong characteristic in males. But God knew there was something more that was needed…a nurturing aspect that will cultivate and care for the hearts and lives of our future. Please understand that I'm not trying to push men or dads out of the picture. I am saying that a woman's role in the lives of her children is biological, elemental, natal.

As of this Mother's Day, I have now been divinely privileged twice by the Lord to carry two of his dear ones in my body and safely deliver them into this world. They are my pride, my joy, my delight and will one day be my legacy.

The Seafood Sermon

One of the duties I enjoy in parenting my children is the having the privilege to share the word of God with them. With Dylan it is soooo easy because he LOVES a good story! He will often come up with a scenario and ask one of us to come up with a story to go along with it…on the fly! So it is no surprise that any Bible story captures his attention (and I am praying his heart too!). Each week we get out his "Cubby" book and learn his lesson for the following AWANA session. It is one of the highlights of both of our weeks! This week's lesson was on The Five Loaves and Two Fishes. I wasn't sure how this one would go over, seeing as he has heard it many times before…but by me utilizing hand gestures and props his attention span was great! I kid myself if I say that those lessons are only for him, because so many times the Lord speaks to me through those simple lessons. This time as I read our passage my mind focused on the interaction between Philip and Jesus. The Scripture says that Jesus tested Philip by asking him "Where are we going to get enough bread for all these people?" Now, there is no doubt in my mind that Jesus was sincerely panicked about where the sustenance would come from; the Bible says He already knew what He was going to do. Today as I read that story again I speculated that Jesus asked Philip that question because He had already looked into Phillips heart and had seen what was going on inside. I imagine Philip experiencing inner turmoil about exactly how they are going to feed all those people. Having been gifted with leadership talents and maybe a desire to provide physically for those under him, his internal struggle would have been quickly recognized by Him who sees the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Philip's answer expressed the condition of his heart. Not even 8 months wages, 200 denari, would be enough to offer each person a bite! In other words, this task seems impossible, this problem insurmountable. Perfect! Now Jesus had Philip exactly where he wanted him…at the corner of hopeless and hungry. Isn't it always in the darkest hour that any amount of light seems brightest? The stage was now set for Jesus to work one of His most beloved miracles: feeding the 5,000 men (plus untold numbers of women and children) with leftovers! Every stay-at-home-mom's favorite!! It was in the truth of this moment that the Lord spoke to my heart. "Jennifer, how are you going to get through this upcoming deployment?" "Where will you get enough 'bread' to sustain you and your family these long months?" Talk about judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart! How many times has the Lord 'heard' me ask myself that question? Well, what could my answer be in light of what I had heard from Philip's lips? I had to come to that same intersection with Peter, the place where I can say without shame or fear, "I don't know. Only You, God. The stage is set. Please, work Your miracle in me."

The twilight zone

There is this point between fully awake, squirming, reaching for all things reachable and zonked, passed out, eyes-slammed-shut sleep where a transient state comes over a baby on his or her way to bed. The last two nights I have found that place with my baby girl, and it is SOOO sweet. Lying in my arms she is looking up at me, square in the eyes, and I am doing the same to her. At times it seems like she is almost looking through me as she teeters on the edge of blessed slumber. I wish I could know what she is thinking. What thoughts go through her young but vibrant mind? Is she noticing the color of my eyes, the shape of my face, or the crookedness of my teeth? Or, during this twilight time, can she see the shape and form of the heavenly beings that I have prayed would come and surround her crib as she sleeps? Does she watch them with delight as they decend with their cheerful faces to be her companion on their nightwatch? Or does her face display the contentment and security she feels down deep inside? Whichever it is, I treasure those moments before her lids fall and she begins her rhythmical breath. To me, it is a confirmation of the mutual love that mother and child have -- a bond known since Eve and Cain.

Easter 2010

Pictures from Our Resurrection Egg Hunt at Chapel NeXt @ Linden Oaks, Easter Sunday.

StrongBonds -- Myrtle Beach

Tim put together a StrongBonds retreat for his battalion over the weekend and I was blessed to be able to be apart of it. The location was great (Myrtle Beach) but the weather was non-cooperative. Thank goodness Myrtle Beach has alot of other great attractions to see. If you don't know about StrongBonds, it is a program that the Army funds and the Chaplains run with the mission of strengthening families, marriages, and single soldiers (who will one day be having marriages and families of their own). One of the ways the StrongBonds program is carried out is through retreats that are hosted away from Post and usually in nice locations. This particular retreat we focused on the PREP course (relationship enrichment and problem solving) and had 10 couples (plus kids) with us. These retreats are one of the biggest ways I have been enabled to be apart of Tim's ministry. He allows me to teach with him (on the curriculum that I am certified in) and we also --hopefully-- model what a healthy family/marriage looks like. Quite frequently I get good feedback from the wives, and husbands at times, on presenting things from a woman's point of view. As a "Words of Affirmation" person, this goes a long way for me to know that I am on the right track. It was such a blessing for me to be able to do this and for us be there with our kids.

My sweet babies

Sleeping soundly, alarm clock resounds

Jump in the shower, dress for the day

Grab a cup of Joe, doctor it up

Await the awakening of my angels

Baby girl coos, a sound so gentle

Snuggle time before the rush begins

Warm fuzzy p.j.'s and a gigantic smile

A wet diaper smell, daybreak's light

Nursing sweetly, praying over her head

Another door creaks, big brother's up

Tousled hair, stuffed animals in tow

Morning breath, smelly but sweet

Hugs all around, breakfast prep begins

Front door opens, Daddy back from PT

This is the stuff of our mornings.

One of my favorite things to do with my children is to listen to music with them, in particular music with a Christian message. I love having the word of God in their ears and on their lips. It is THE EASIEST way to get your kids memorizing scripture…even as young as 2 or 3! We have one CD in particular that I love to play over my kids, especially at night. It is an "oldy but a goody" by Michael Card called Sleep Sound in Jesus. It contains elements of Scripture, prayer, and spiritual thoughts. Some of my favorite lines…

For Dylan: …Jacob dreamed about Someone, A Way to heaven, God the Son, And someday it's my prayer for you That in your heart His dream comes true…

For Jordan: …Where did you get those eyes so blue? They're from the sky that you passed through…And as for your soft curly ear, He knew there would be songs for you to hear…

For both: …Let me tell you of a man Who was before the world began, Who loves you more than anyone can known by the name of Jesus…

…The Lord bless you and keep you, The Lord make His face shine upon you, And give you peace…

At night: …Oh, unseen warriors, brothers, friends, Who for our safety we depend, I ask you now to come defend This precious little baby…

My dear sweet babies – What a blessing you are to me! You truly are an inheritance, a treasure, from the Lord. Your shining, smiling faces are priceless. Your laughs and giggles are delicious. Your God is tremendous!

Life goes on...

Many, many times over the last month I have wanted to just sit down and blog. Call me nerdy, but it is therapeutic for me. It makes me organize my life (or at least my thoughts about it) and helps me trace God's hand through all the ups and downs. Alas, I have not done so as of late. BUT...I have done alot of other things. I feel like I am at a place where I am caught up (at least for the moment! :) in life. My sweet Jordan is in a stable routine and my baby boy has recenty turned 4!!! We are have adjusted to the dynamics of being a family of four and the fluidity of our day-to-day routine. And so, now to catch up...

The Lord is doing great things in the life of the Raburns and is taking better care of us than we deserve. This semester I began a Bible Study entitled "Sacred Marriage" (based off of the book by Gary Thomas). It is an incredibly indepth book that has more to do with our relationship to the Lord than our spouse...but the kicker is that when that "vertical" relationship improves, so does the "horizontal" one. The more of this book I read, the better I understand my husband and the deeper in love I grow with him...and the more disenchanted I become with myself, or who I think I am. God is using this study to remind me what a great "catch" I have in Tim, to put my marrital relationship in its place, and to increase my reliance on God alone. And in the process, Tim and I are growing closer together. Learning and improving from past mistakes and looking with guarded anticipation at our upcoming deployment, we are holding tight to each other but resting in the arms of Christ. Lord, please continue your work in my life, prune this bushy tree, chisel this gnarled wood, sculpt this lumpy clay...may our marriage reflect the selfless love and unashamed redemption Jesus has for his bride, the body of Christ.

In late January, two big milestones occured.

  1. My birthday (praise the Lord for another year of life, but not going to discuss which year of life :)

  2. Jordan began eating solids

As her 6 month birthday approached, I began introducing cereals into her diet. She took one bite of rice cereal and NEVER looked back. She is a foodie, for sure!! Jordan would and does put every food substance she can get her hands on into her mouth. After trying out several cereals, we moved onto vegies and fruits. I can't really say that we have any favorites, because she LOVES them all! My dear sweet husband bought me a Beaba Babycook appliance (thanks, babe!) and I love it. I can make traditional baby food (pureed) or I can take a little of whatever I'm fixing for us and fix it (basically blend/chop it) up for her. I don't have to buy jars of food (unless we travel or I just want to) and I can make everything fresh for her. She eats at the table when we eat and still nurses about 4 times a day. Jordan goes down for bed between 7:30 and 8pm and wakes up around 7:00 or 7:15am. She rarely, if ever, wakes up in the night (thank you, Lord!) and takes 2 (sometimes 3) naps a day. After MONTHS of teething, finally 2 little pearlie whites appeard on her lower gums on March 2nd. No, I have not been bit yet, but I think that may be because her bottom teeth are covered by her teeth when she nurses. I am cautiously awaiting the arrival of the top teeth :)

Jordan, you continue to be such a joy to our family. You bring so much happiness to our family. Your brother can make you laugh like no one else can. Your smile can light up any room. And your daddy says that the only person on earth with blue eyes prettier than you is me! I love being your mom and I love the fact that God gave daddy and I the privelege of parenting you into a gody woman. You are a beautiful, healthy baby. At your last doctor's visit you were 15 lbs 10 oz and 24.5 inches long. Grow, baby, grow! As of right now, you can roll over with ease, sit up for 30 seconds to a minute and grasp things with one or two hands. You can push up on your belly and lift your head WAY up. Daddy says you are very "vocal", but I know that's just you growing into your womanly ability to talk! Your hair is a dark blonde (light brown) and you have no birth marks, that I've found anyways!

As I mentioned, Dylan recently turned 4. He had a super-fun birthday party at the on-post bowling alley, done up Cowboy style! A few of his closest friends (yes, mostly girls:) were there and we had a delightful time. I have been praying for early salvation (in childhood) for Dylan since before he was even born. Week-in and week-out since his birth, he has head he gospel in some form or fashion. Now, Tim and I are beginning to hear him ask some very probing and serious questions about spirituality, heaven, and the Lord. Nothing else thrills me like that does. To know that his heart is already turning to the things of God is amazing. He is still 100% boy, and without a doubt, a strong-willed one at that. He ALWAYS has a better idea than mine and would LOVE to push his agenda on anyone. For Christmas he received a Toy Story scooter and that has been a favorite toy as of lately. He likes to imagine that he is lightening fast on it and asks me to say "On your mark, get set, go!!" as he races down our sidewalk.

I was recently thinking about how many negatives I hear regularly about the Army and its life. So, instead I compiled a list of:

Things I love about being "Army"

  1. My kids get to pass by the "Iron Mike" statue everytime we go to Bible Study and AWANA...and are reminded of those who are making sacrifices all around them for this country. (Click here for an Iron Mike link)

  2. My 4 year-old has an understanding that there are more countries on this planet than just ours...and can say "Afghanistan".

  3. Seeing Old Glory at least a dozen different places in our own neighborhood

  4. STILL feeling a tear at the sound of The National Anthem

  5. Being called a dependent (I do need you, honey) and being told I have a sponsor (show me the money!)

  6. You never know when you might be able to see paratroopers from your front yard!

  7. ID checks are NO BIG DEAL...and being saluted at never gets old!

  8. Two words: dependable employment

  9. The AMAZING commissary saving$

  10. Tax breaks!

  11. Seeing firsthand the dedication and commitment in the eyes of America's greatest warriors

J's dedication to the Lord

Wordless Ones by Michael Card

In your loving arms we lay This wordless one so new; The incarnation of our love We dedicate to You. Hopeless, yet so full of hope We make a solemn vow, Not knowing when their time will come, Not knowing even how. And thugh it seems we try and make A promise that is true... We really only claim for them The promise that is You. The holy sleep that falls so deep, A blessing from above, Will now embrace our little one In simple trusting love. We offer you this child who's only ours for just awhile; How could we keep it back from You When You gave Your only Child?

The song playing in my head…

Praise God for Christian music!  What better way to get positive words to stick in our heads?  Today, this encouraging tune is milling around in head.  Thought I'd share it; it's a good one!

Walk On The Water

You look around and staring back at you
Another wave of doubt
Will it pull you under?
You wonder
What if i'm overtaken?
What if i never make it?
What if no one's there?
Will you hear my prayer?
When you take that first step
Into the unknown
You know that he won't let you go

So what are you waiting for?
What do you have to lose?
Your insecurities
They try to hold to you
But you know you're made for more
So don't be afraid to move
Your faith is all it takes
And you can walk on the water too

So get out and let your fear fall to the ground
No time to waste, don't wait
And don't you turn around, and miss out on
Everything you were made for
Gotta be, I know you're not sure, more
So you play it safe, you try to run away
If you take that first step
Into the unknown
He won't let you go

So what are you waiting for?
What do you have to lose?
Your insecurities
They try to hold to you
But you know you're made for more
So don't be afraid to move
Your faith is all it takes
And you can walk on the water too

Step out, even when it's storming
Step out, even when you're broken
Step out, even when your heart is telling you,
telling you to give up
Step out, when your hope is stolen
Step out, you can't see where you're going
You don't have to be afraid
So what are waiting, what are you waiting for?

So what are you waiting for
What do you have to lose
Your insecurities
They try to hold to you
But you know you're made for more
So don't be afraid to move
Your faith is all it takes
And you can walk on the water,
walk on the water too

A Southerner and a Jew

What could a dark skinned, curly haired man wearing sandals have in common with a fair skinned, blonde haired gal who says "Y'all"? Not much, or so I would have thought. But the more I learn of Paul in the New Testament the more similarities I see in that analogy.

Paul, or as I should say Saul, was a man steeped in religion and tradition (think "Fiddler on the Roof"). He prided himself on just how many rules he could keep and how methodically he could do things. And all of this was not just some obsessive-compulsive tendency. It was his legacy, his religion, his hope of salvation.

And what about that southern girl? Well, chances are she comes from a long-line of whatever she comes from. She grew up in a home where "It's always done this way" and "saying Grace" were frequently heard. She probably also grew up in church, cutting her teeth on the same pews that her grandparents sat in while her parents got married.

Now in the south, we know how to be nice…or as we say, "nas". We are good girls who don't sass our Mamas and hug our Daddies. We are kind to others and say "Yes Ma'am" and "Yessir". But to what avail? I fear that for many, such a life as this, steeped in tradition and church just as was Saul's, is seen as their legacy, their religion, their hope of going to heaven.

The truth is, all that gets you nowhere except a name in the community and a second helping of dinner. Being good is not good enough with God. Church-going does not equate to heaven-going. Why? Because it is ALL about Jesus. Just as Saul discovered, there is something transforming about the gift of grace that God gave each of us through His son. Now it is no longer about being good or going to church; it is about faith and a relationship with the man who is dying to save your soul. This encounter with Christ is so transforming that even Saul's name, his identifying label, was changed (to Paul). He could no longer be called the same thing anymore; the old had passed away and the new had come.

So how about you? Do you need to break away from your past? Do you need to rethink your religion? Let the transforming power of Christ be yours as you meet Him on your Damascus road.

What it’s like

From time to time, I have become aware that there are those who are following my blog. This is truly a humbling thing that floors me. I write not to have followers, but to journal and capture our journey as it comes and goes. The Lord has called us to this ministry of Chaplaincy and I want to faithfully tell our story. My hope is that those who are considering this lifestyle will find my words helpful, full of hope, and heartfelt. There is a link on my blog site that will allow you to jump back to the beginning of our story …to get the full picture. But, let me attempt to "nutshell" it for those who are considering the Chaplaincy as a career. {I use the male pronouns by default; I understand that there are some female Chaplains in the military}. What is required of an Active Duty Chaplain is a seminary degree and at least 2 years of experience in the ministry, among many other physical requirements. A Chaplain will also have to have an endorsement from his faith group that states he is capable of adhering to the doctrines and principles of his faith group. (Basically, he's a good guy and stands by his stuff). The next step would be getting accepted into the Army as a Chaplain. This involves submitting A LOT of paperwork to the Accessions Board and then waiting…and waiting…and waiting. (If you are at this point, DON'T get discouraged!). Once the Chaplain is accepted (by the way, while there was once a critical shortage amongst Army Chaplains, statistics show that number is nearly back up to necessary levels) the Accessions Board will notify him of his start date for what is called CH-BOLC (Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course). Currently, it is held at Ft Jackson, SC. It will be up to the Chaplain to be sworn in prior to beginning to CH-BOLC, which lasts for 3 months. After completion of CH-BOLC, he will be assigned to a Post and that's when things get real.

Whew!....That is truly a nutshell version and if you are considering Chaplaincy I encourage you to read back through my blog segments for more details. The first year is truly a transitional blur for the Chaplain and his family – just trying to get bearings down and boxes unpacked. We have been in for 1 year now and Tim has been with his Military Intelligence battalion now for nearly 9 months, the first 6 of which were just trying to find which way is up, meeting faces and learning names, and figuring out how to do this "thing" which is the Chaplaincy. For the kids and I, the last 9 months have been about trying to put down deep roots fast. Finding our niche and our routine, all while supporting our Chaplain and his ministry in any way we can. While a Chaplain is in Garrison (i.e., stationed at home), his job duties will include A LOT of counseling and A LOT of meetings, as well as trying to get a plug in for all things spiritual wherever he can. Another unique duty is conducting the Strong Bonds retreats. These are Army funded get-a-ways designed to build and strengthen marriages and families, as well as build and strengthen single soldiers mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and morally. This has been my main connection with Tim's ministry so far, outside of keeping him fed and his clothes clean J

For the kids and I, we have found military life very agreeable. We live in a nice but small house in a great neighborhood. We have good neighbors, many of which we know well and are our same "boat". One good thing about Army life in post is that you always have something in common with your neighbor. Our neighborhood has a nice activity center with a great pool. There are many activities, events, and opportunities that my kids and I are involved in. Currently, the Army is changing things up in our neighborhood and they are going to relocate us into a larger (2000 sq ft!) 2-story house in the near future. What a blessing!!

I don't say all that to make light of the challenges that exist. We have NOT been through a deployment yet and do not know what that is like. I can only imagine the hardships that lie within those 12+ months of separation. But I have chosen to believe with all my heart that God has a plan and a purpose for my existence during the months of deployment that lie ahead of us. Just as God has purposed Tim's steps as a Chaplain and has great things in store for his time in Afghanistan, so He has for me on this side of the world. I also have to believe that God is going to give me the tools and resources I need to face each challenge that he ordains to come my way while Tim is deployed. I pray I can look for the 'help' he will bring me through each difficulty and use that as an opportunity to trace His hand in my life. God will not be watching from afar saying, "Well, you're husband is gone now. Let's see how you'll handle this!" Believing His words are true, I am trusting that He hasn't and will never leave or forsake me.

I would love to speak write/to any of you who may have questions/concerns about the Chaplaincy. I welcome your comments through my blog or my e-mail.


2009 has definitely come to a close and 2010 is beginning to feel more like a new friend than a distant relative. Our Christmas was a busy one as we logged 2900 miles in our Acadia while away from home. We left on December 18th for Arkansas by way of Alabama. As we headed on our trek we got news that Chaplain's grandfather, affectionately titled "Pawpaw", was in his last days. Dementia and other systemic health problems had taken its toll on Pawpaw and his time on earth was coming to a close. After a night's stay at my parent's and dropping off the pups, we made our way to Little Rock. On the 21st two days after we arrived we got word that Pawpaw had headed to heaven to have an early Christmas. So the next day we made the journey back to Alabama for the viewing and funeral. On Christmas Eve, we back-tracked to Arkansas and enjoyed Christmas with Chaplain's family, including his sister, brother-in-law, and D's and J's cousins. It was a great Christmas with lots of surprises and it was even cold enough to use the fireplace! When headed back home, we went by Mom and Dad's again (to get the dogs of course) and enjoyed a little more time with them. D and J took all the traveling and strange sleeping arrangements in style and handled it all so well. D enjoyed having family around all the time and was thoroughly bored when we returned home. We made it back to bragg on the 30th and enjoyed several days together just the 4 of us before Chaplain returned back to work.

It was so special having a baby around this Christmas. We reflected on the fact that it was this time last year that we found out J was on the way! Having her in our arms and seeing her coo and smile made every light brighter and each song more joyful. J, you are such a precious jewel. Your father and I cannot believe how beautiful you are...from your blue eyes to your smile, we marvel each day at how lovely God made you. You have an open-mouth smile, almost like you are trying to laugh each time you grin. You are in LOVE with your brother; when he comes into the room your eyes lock on him and you watch his every move. He tries to make you laugh every chance he gets, and I have heard you chuckle a few times. Right now you are into rolling over and propping up on your forearms. You love your exersaucer, too. I have begun finding you asleep on your tummy more and more recently. You are somewhere between 13 and 14 pounds and I am so proud that every ounce of that is "homegrown". On January 9th, at 5 months and 1 week, I started giving you rice cereal, twice a day, and you absolutely loved it. It seemed as if you couldn't get enough with each spoonful, like you were wanting a continuous flow of the stuff! You get so messy but like to "eat" at the table with the rest of the family. You take 3 naps a day and, for the most part, sleep about 11-12 hours at night. Mommy is enjoying the gift that Daddy and God have blessed her with in that she has been able to stay home with you and your brother. It has made the past 5 months go by not quite so fast! Daddy doesn't get to spend as much time with you as Mommy, but he sure did enjoy being with you more over his extended Christmas break. The three of us are so grateful that God gave you to our family!

I bought a 12 month wall calendar today for my fridge. I like to keep one in the kitchen so I can track the families appointments and such. As I opened the calendar, it fell open to June. It struck me then that for approximately half of the duration of this calendar, I will be a "single parent, happily married" as Chaplain deploys sometime this summer for Afghanistan. We know it's coming, but seeing it in black and white can sometimes be startling. It is a necessary deployment, I get that with all my heart. Chaplain and I both believe that God calls us to serve Him in the hard things as much as in anything. For me the question isn't "Why, God?" but "Why not me, God?" Or, in this case, "Why not us, God?" So with willing (yet sometimes fearfully reluctant, Thomas-doubting) hearts, we say "Here am I; send me". The Bible says in Romans 10:14 "How can they hear without a someone preaching to them?" My prayer is that they WILL hear the message of hope and salvation as Chaplain faithfully preaches the word and counsels with his soldiers regarding their needs and times of crisis.

From Drowning in Disappointments to Upheld by Hope

It’s not supposed to be this way... I chose to revisit one of my favorite books yesterday.  (Love Lysa’s story!) And my whole heart resonat...