Sunday, July 17, 2011

And in conclusion…

A year has passed. I cannot fathom how a year has gone by so quickly and yet there have been times where it seemed like "a day was as a thousand years." I can remember this time last year wondering to myself if there was a doctor out there who could just put me in a coma for a year and wake me when this was all over. What a mistake that would have been…to have missed out on all that God had for me and would do to and through me. To have missed out on the good AND the bad. In my heart and my mind I have been trying to say "goodbye" to this season in my life; to boil it down to a few nuggets I can take away and share with others. It is hard to simplify such an arduous process. Spend any time around Army wives and you will quickly learn that they define themselves and their families in terms of deployments. This is a byproduct of war that I am still not sure that I'm okay with. I am a firm believer that it's not what life throws at you but what you make of it that really counts. So to define myself in terms of whether my husband is home or gone seems like I am letting life's punches call the shots instead of taking my life by the horns, no matter my husband's current continent.

There have been many moments that I thought I was teetering near the brink of insanity. Usually this was due to something my beautiful and precious childrens were bringing to the equation at the time. For those who have read my previous posts, I'll not take you to that crazy place again. Suffice it to say that God undoubtedly knew that was a path I needed to go down in order to better sharpen and hone certain facets of my character. What I feel now is stronger. Stronger physically, stronger mentally, stronger emotionally. Running and yoga have been my "outlets" this past year. They allowed me to free my mind and free my body as well. As Eric Little said, I definitely felt the Lord's pleasure as I pounded out many a mile while listening to worship music or rattling off my thoughts to Him. Mentally I am stronger because I have been under constant stress and pressure and have had no choice but to deal with it. There was no "out", no other adult in the house with me. It was up to me and God to work it out and see it through. Problems that would have once made me throw my hands up and walk away required that I stay and deal with them. I was remarking on this recently as I found myself easily finagling a series of events that at the beginning of this deployment would have tripped me up and ruined my attitude for the day.

I mentioned an emotional strengthening as well. When it came to emotions, my husband was that rock solid wall that I could run to with any emotion I was feeling and could spatter it out against his strength knowing he could take it and it would not topple him. In his absence, I have had to turn more often to the Lord first rather than him (I usually found myself at His throne eventually but sometimes my first place to go was hubby). I have also had to work through some tough emotions on my own without his listening ear and guidance. I wish that I could say that I burdened my husband very little with the cares and worries of home while he was away, but I fear they were brought to his attention more times than I would probably care to remember. He lovingly told me each time that he didn't mind listening to me and cared about each concern I was having. He would even venture to offer wisdom and suggestions. But it was up to me to do the hard task of steadying myself and wading through the emotional waters I encountered. I am proud of the job I have done this year. Not proud in an idolatrous way. It's more that I am satisfied with the job I have done this year. I know the time is soon coming when I will be able to take a deep breath, "rest", and look back on this and be pleased.

My husband and I joke with each other that things were going well in our marriage until we separated for a year. In all seriousness, another conclusion I (we) have come to is the irony that our marriage has never grown so much in the past 11 years as it did this year we were apart. It forced us to grow, to adapt, to look for new ways of keeping our love alive. To focus on the things we love and miss about each other. We were deprived of the physical pleasures of marriage which made us seek to speak the other's love language even more. My husband loved on me diligently with "words of affirmation", which I deeply crave. My challenge was to find different ways to love him through physical touch (his #1 love language) which I did through care packages and "touching" him each day through e-mail communication. The #2 love language for both of us is quality time, so a phone call every day met both of our needs. We have now put down roots on different and deeper levels and I look forward to seeing the health and life that will bring to our relationship once we are back under the same roof.

I recently read an article on "Independence in Marriage". The gist of it was that a woman can be strong and independent and still submit in a godly way to her husband. The article's title got me thinking on the independence in our marriage. What the Army has taken our marriage through is a messed-up myriad of weirdness. Two people, deeply in love, forced to live apart, living independent lives full of difficult choices they must bear, yet at their very core they are inseparable by a covenant made before God and man. Good thing that our God is sovereign, hmmm?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summertime Blueberries

I took the kids blueberry picking today (with another friend and her 3 girls) and these pictures are the result. Gardening and fruit picking has become my new favorite kid activity. Abundance of vegetation to be picked, little hands busy doing work, learning about God and his delicious creation, snacking while we work, no mess to clean up – a perfect activity! Dylan is being allowed to dress himself in the summertime (thank goodness for uniforms in the fall!) which is why he is STILL wearing his VBS shirt…from a month ago. Oh, and we scored 5.75 pounds of blueberry goodness…a $5 feast!!

The story we heard was that Cindy, the lady who runs the blueberry farm, bought the house and property many years back not knowing that the gnarly rows of trees near the back of the property were perennial blueberries! She nearly had them cut down! So glad she didn't.

One of our dear friends Willa.

Found a lone grape vine. A neat sight for the kids. We talked about the vine that grew up over Jonah's head in the last chapter of his book. I know it was most likely a gourd vine, but it's the closest thing the kids had ever seen to a vine that could provide shade.

Our blue-tiful harvest!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. -- The Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776

The 4th of July was our last holiday spent apart for this deployment. How fitting that the celebration of our nation's independence would be our final holiday before our soldier's return! We did the day up right, starting with an 8am streetwide 5K run/walk race. We had a fairly good turnout considering much of the street was out of town. I have mentioned this before but life on a military installation is unlike anything that can be found in the civilian world. Even without knowing the new person who just moved in across from you there will be several things you will have in common with them from the get-go: a deep love for Country, a willing heart to serve, similar rank...and probably kids! :-) Living on-post allows you to cut through the first 6 months of typical relationships and cut right to the meat of what matters. Besides, your neighbors could be PCS'ing before 6 months are over with! It was really nice to spend some great time with our neighbors, new and old alike, and exercise our bodies at the same time.

Shannon, Meghan, and Jenn...deployed spouses triple threat on the 5K!

Dylan and Miles. Yes, they're in their PJ's :-)

Our street kids. Too precious!

In the afternoon we continued our streetwide 4th of July celebration with a BBQ and games and contests for the kids. We had a watermelon seed spitting contest, a 50 stars search, and a water balloon toss contest. The kids had a blast! Each family brought their own meats and a few generous soldiers manned the grills for us. We had a slip-n-slide, a kiddie pool, and prizes too. It was a great event and we had about 16 or so families join us. Dylan and I stayed up to watch the post-wide fireworks display with some neighborhood friends. While we were waiting we lit off a few of our own. Of course Dylan and his buddy Miles were dazzled by the fireworks, regardless of whether they were our glorified bottle rockets or the thousand dollar display. Fire, gun powder, explosions, brightly colored lights? I mean, come on, a little boy's dream, right?

Miles and Dylan

Thank you, God, for this great land which affords us so many freedoms. May we NEVER forget the blood that has been shed to make it possible. May we NEVER take for granted the spirit of liberty that birthed this nation. And may we NEVER waver from our committment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

(All images except the firework picture courtesy of my friend Shannon! :-)