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.

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