Tuesday, April 19, 2016

When the Army Gives you a Choice

Late fall/early winter was a busy, chaotic season for us. We found out DH came out on the MAJ list – Yay! Praise the Lord! - then we found out he came out on the list for resident ILE. Here we were, all set and ready to move to Ft. Gordon when this little twist cropped up. Not to mention the fact that we were just about to celebrate the holidays with both sets of families on opposite coasts, and our move was just 2 months away. Now, I'm very familiar with orders being changed at the last minute so this wasn't what shook me. What shook me was that we had a choice. DH could turn this down, and we could still go to Gordon. Wait, what? The Army was giving us a choice? Whoever heard of such a thing!

This was definitely a time to pray for wisdom! So that's exactly what we did. In all our prayer times together as a couple, as a family, we prayed that God would make it clear what we should do. We consulted our parents, DH's respected superiors, and we asked our extended family and friends to pray, as well. It seemed like this was one of those decisions where neither one was particularly right or wrong, at least in God's eyes. Leavenworth was a nice compliment to DH – showing him that he is well-respected (not everyone gets to go, especially as a Functional Area). So we began to wonder if turning it down would be really bad for his career. As Christians in the military, it can be difficult to weigh if God wants the service member to pursue his career to such excellence so as to be put in a high position to influence others for Christ, or whether to show with one's decisions (the few we get in the military), that he prioritizes family over career.

In talking with some of DH's fellow functional area superiors, he found that going to resident ILE was not a make or break issue as far as his career was concerned. If he wanted to be a General, then yes, he should pursue it. If not, then satellite ILE would be sufficient.

In my heart, I was nervous that we might have to move to Leavenworth. Ft. Gordon was safe to me. We'd been there before, we still knew people there, we'd be within driving distance of my parents. It seemed like a no-brainer to me! But then again, I will always choose what is comfortable and safe.

Yet, even for me, as I started to think about it and pray about it, I realized this could be an adventure and exactly what God wanted us to do! It could be fun to go to KS, to be with some of DH's classmates from college and their wives who I hadn't seen in 9 years. I wanted to communicate to DH that we could do this! I did not want to be the one influencing his decision and putting pressure on him to take Ft. Gordon because it would make me happy. I've watched far too many Army wives make that move and later regret it. I did not want to make the same mistake, and I knew I was in danger of making it.

I'm not sure if I handled it correctly, but I told him that if he wanted to go to resident ILE, we could do it! I would be in full support, and we'd make an adventure out of driving cross-country again with our now 3 year old. It would be fun to be in a school environment, especially with so many friends we had known years before. Reconnecting with old Army buddies is one of the best parts about moving around! Plus, it would be a longer school term as opposed to just the few short months of satellite ILE, which means more family time. There were a lot of positives to this decision...which again made it so difficult.

I think DH appreciated my support, though he could probably tell what my real heart's desire was (um, guess I still need to work on that!). I'm not sure hearing my verbal support helped him by making the decision any easier. We were both seeing the good and the bad of this and almost wanted someone – anyone – to tell us what to do! Decisions that are not cut and dry are so much harder to make!

As Christians, we are taught to read the Bible, pray, and seek godly counsel when faced with a decision. Some are easier to make than others. And this one did not fall into that category. Again, we were thinking, why can't the Army just tell us what to do, like they do with almost every other part of our lives. Nevertheless, we read the Bible, we prayed, and we sought godly counsel. Ultimately, the decision was in DH's hands, and I began to fervently pray for him. This was a big weight on his shoulders, and I felt helpless. Aren't wives supposed to help and support their husbands?! I felt very inadequate. I do not know what I would do if I couldn't pray. That was the only way I knew how to help. That and to keep my opinions to myself and just give DH space and time to think.

When it was crunch time and a decision had to be made, DH chose to decline resident ILE and accept satellite. We were both relieved. I think. Maybe I was more relieved than he was. Either way, God had given us peace. We at least knew where we were going, and I breathed a big sigh of relief that it wouldn't be a hard move...or so I thought. Funny how we think one thing and then something completely different happens!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

All Good Things Must Come to an End...Even If You Don't Want Them To

Some seasons in our lives are amazing, and we don't want them to end. Some are more like winter, and we're glad when spring starts to poke through the layers of snow. In military life, this is no exception. When DH first started grad school, I wasn't so sure I would like this new "season" of our journey together. It was not as I expected. By the final semester though, we got in our groove, and despite the fact that we knew it would end when he graduated, I was still not quite ready for it.

We had an amazing summer with loads of quality family time - just what my heart needed! We traveled: Disney World, the beach, my parents' house. We stayed home, and I began volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center (in an attempt to obey the urgency God was placing in my heart - see last post). I was surprised by what God taught me.

All of that fun made time pass quickly and before I knew it, we were beginning the fall semester, and with that - the start of preschool. My 1st time mama heart was shaking with excitement, fears, anxieties, and the like. Tears were most definitely shed that 1st morning I dropped her off. I prayed for her constantly and tried to be one of the first ones in the car line. (Is my daughter seriously old enough to be in a car line?!) She had a great day, and I was instantly put at ease. 2 days a week of this schedule provided me just enough time to continue volunteering at the pregnancy center, grocery shop, and clean my house (DD hates the vacuum!) I began feeling like I had a life outside of just being a mom!

Also, DH began his final semester of grad school. His classes were challenging, as usual, but we seemed to find our routine a little easier and faster this time around.

I decided to stop attending CBS and go to my church's ladies' Bible study, which I instantly loved. The women were so warm and welcoming. They took time to get to know me, and we separated into groups of 4-5 women so I felt like I could really share my heart and life. It was just what I needed to feel more connected.

DH and I also began a small group at our church, which was an interesting experience. It definitely left us with a hunger to do more of this in our next place, preferably with military families. I was hopeful that we could spearhead something like that after we moved.

All in all, life felt well-balanced. I had been striving for that, and I felt as though we achieved it. Our schedule was busy but still allowed for down time. We were serving both in church and in the world. DD was learning and growing and being exposed to new environments. DH was working hard and juggling family time, hobbies, and trying to graduate with some not-so-easy project partners and some not very well-trained instructors, but of course, excelling regardless.

Things were, of course, not perfect. I found things to stress over, and God was working hard to break me of my control. I am trying to surrender...still. I felt that I had grown though, and I am grateful that He continues working on me and allowing me to see progress.

So just when things started to feel settled and "normal," this season had to end, and we had to move. I was left feeling discouraged and disappointed, thinking and planning, wondering how I would re-create this delicate balance at our next duty station. I knew it would be different, and it would not look the same way it did then. Would it be better? Worse? I wasn't sure. I wish I enjoyed the puzzle - trying to figure out how it's all going to look. The fact is, I just don't. So with this next move, as with all the others before it, I had to surrender and be patient, enjoy the present, and let God handle it. Easier said than done.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Introvert Problem: Talking to Others

Summer - literally a new season - also figuratively for me last year. As my husband continued to pursue his master's degree on the Army's dime, our summer last year looked quite a bit different than any we have experienced before. DH was home much more than he was even during the school year, and I had a sense of urgency. The Lord was impressing on my heart that I needed to do more in my life, especially in the area of outreach. I serve my family, I serve at church, but I do absolutely nothing when it comes to serving non-believers. The reason, when I boil everything else down, is because it makes me uncomfortable. Non-believers are very different from me. They talk differently, parent differently, and have vastly different areas of interest. Knowing these things sends my little introverted heart into instant panic mode.

My pastor recently encouraged us as a congregation just to simply start a conversation. I am terrible at this! Everything I think to say to someone sounds absolutely ridiculous in my head so I know it will sound downright foolish if it leaves my mouth! I clam up and run back to the comfort and safety of my house. This leads to a simple going and coming ritual I participate in throughout my day-to-day life.

I like to blame my daughter for this. Since she is still young (preschoolish), when I am out somewhere with her, I literally only see her. I suppose it's some sort of mother bear protection mode or whatever you want to call it. The fact is, however, I honestly do not see people around me anymore. If I were a witness to a crime, and the police stopped to question me, I would be as helpful as a blind person. Seriously. So if I do not even see people, how can I even begin to talk to them? I suppose this is the first step. I need to pray God would give me eyes to see. Then I can pray He will give me words to speak.

I do not know why I am so fearful of talking to others, especially non-believers. I don't even want to tell them about Jesus with the first words I speak. I much prefer to build a relationship first. Yet I am struggling just to do that!

The fact of the matter is though that God has called us to a life of service and sacrifice. Sacrifice to an introvert like me might mean starting a conversation with someone instead of holing up inside my house. Serving others might mean giving of my peaceful, quiet solitude to be among people, listening to them and helping them with their day-to-day lives. Am I not even willing to do that? Have I made comfort so much of an idol in my life that I will not even adjust my schedule or stop what I'm doing to look someone in the eye while in the checkout line? Yes, the truth is, I have.

This is a battle I constantly have to fight. I fought it last summer, and managed to make some gains. However, when we moved this past winter, I am finding that this is still a problem for me. I must get outside of my comfort zone and expand the walls of my world. If there are any other introverts out there, how do you do it? How do you follow the command to go and make disciples? Especially, when you're moving around and constantly starting over - when it can be a struggle just to make friends you are comfortable with, let alone stretching yourself to minister to others. Help, please!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Reintegration, PCSing, and the Start of a New Season - ACS

When my husband returned from his third deployment, we were overjoyed to see each other. Since he came home late at night, our daughter was already asleep in bed. The next morning was filled with excitement, as I watched her reunite with him for the first time since R&R...7 months ago! It was precious.

However, since DH returned just prior to a PCS, we never really got back to “normal” in the Army world. He did his 10 days of reintegration, a few days of work, block leave, and then we moved. It was a lot of change all at once.

DH (if you remember from previous posts) was selected for ACS (Advanced Civil Schooling), which basically means the Army would pay for him to get his master's degree as a full-time student. Accepted into a graduate program at a prestigious engineering school in the south, we relocated there just one month after his homecoming.

Despite the trials and hardships of moving across county, we were so excited to be together again with the promise of much family time – nothing like what it would have been like had we stayed where we were or moved to another post. No, this new season (graduate school) would be almost pure relaxation. After all, I married a brilliant man so it's not like he would have to study or anything. He would just go to class, do a little homework, and spend the rest of the time with DD and I making fun memories. Or so I thought...

I had a rude awakening about a month into the semester. DH was working late into the night and on weekends, coding or talking to group members about the latest project. It was terrible! There were no boundaries on when work began and when it ended. It just seemed to take over! My emotions did the same.

I was not happy. This is not what we signed up for, not what we expected. I knew my husband wasn't a workaholic, but I was beginning to wonder if he was turning into one.  Was this a side effect of deployment?  I knew he always worked hard and did his best, but this seemed all-consuming. I knew he wasn't trying to neglect us, but that is exactly how I felt – neglected.

I had just spent the last year alone, single-parenting our 2 year old. Was this just going to continue? Him leading his life and me leading mine? What about our marriage? What about working together? What about living life together?

I talked with DH and tried to express my frustration. He, of course, did not enjoy working these long hours but insisted it was what was required. 4 graduate level classes that were essentially all project-based required more time than he was even currently giving. He was already sacrificing to spend time with us.  And here I was the needy wife, constantly asking for more. Poor guy!

DH did the best he could, trying to do as much work during the week and saving weekends for family time. There were some weekends, however, when work had to come first, and I sulked. (I don't recommend that). It was a very trying time, but a breakthrough finally came when I talked with one of my dearest friends about the struggle.

She reminded me that my husband was in the Army and had just returned from a year-long deployment, where for all intents and purposes, he just had to take care of himself and do his job. Now he was home with not just a wife but a toddler as well. Not to mention the fact that his identity as an officer in the Army was essentially non-existent. He was a full-time student, fully immersed in a foreign world and one he did not fully enjoy or understand. Talk about light bulbs going on in my head! Of course! I needed to stop being selfish, take a step back, see things from his perspective, and give him GRACE! Was it ok to tell him I missed spending time with him and hoped we could do something together soon? Yes. But I did not need to complain or pout, even if it meant not getting a break from the endless “why” questions of a two year old.

How I am grateful for honest friends who hold me accountable and give me an outside perspective. Thanks be to God for not letting me continue in my sin but providing a way out (1 Cor. 10:13) and showing me how to build up and encourage my husband instead.

As a result of all this, I began praying more for my husband, specifically in the area of time management. I found a babysitter we could schedule weekly so we could attend a small group at our church and/or go on dates. That combined with changing my expectations and re-framing the situation made a world of difference. I still messed up from time to time, but my conscience was seared and I was quicker to amend the grievance. Our relationship as husband and wife began to deepen, once again, and I began to see things more clearly instead of constantly taking them personally. By Christmas, though we were both exhausted and spent, we had a renewed attitude for the upcoming semester.

I truly believe I might not have come to the same conclusion without the timely wisdom of my friend's gentle rebuke. And what a waste of time and what destruction I could have caused. I am so thankful that did not happen. The Lord knows we need community – people to live life with us and point us to Him. For me, community sometimes has to cross countries or oceans, phone lines or data plans, but no matter how it comes, it is powerful. God is so faithful. How I pray that you have at least one person in your life who you can share your heart with and who can provide you with insight and exhortation to do the right thing. I don't know how you could survive without it!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

My God Redeems

I apologize for not updating sooner. Redeployment, block leave, PCSing, etc. have all happened in the last few months, and I've neglected some things. However, I cannot possibly share about all of that before I first explain how God redeemed this last deployment. Although in my last post, I felt like it would never end, I soon began to feel relief as the Lord answered my prayers. But first a little background...

During the second half of the deployment, I attended a Beth Moore Bible study at PWOC called Believing God. While I wasn't able to attend every session due to aforementioned illnesses, I did keep up with my homework and watched the videos online. Through this study, the Lord taught me many things. The most powerful part occurred one week when Beth Moore told us to do a timeline of our lives, even from before we were Christians. In this timeline, we had to record major events, as well as people God used or ways He was working, sometimes behind the scenes. This was such an encouraging activity, and I highly encourage you to write one yourself, especially if you are in a challenging season of life. As I was completing my timeline, deployments were a common theme, and things I had not thought about in years came back, reminding me of God's faithfulness. It brought me renewed peace and deeper hope.

As I was doing this homework, the end of the deployment was drawing closer and my husband and I began discussing when he might come home. We knew this was a year-long deployment, despite the fact that most other units were now serving 9 months overseas. Of course, my husband had to be in the unit that was the exception. While I was prepared to go the whole year, and possibly even longer (since you never know what the Army will throw at you), I was not prepared for the news my husband gave me one day while we were chatting online. I had been praying big prayers in my Bible study that semester and never doubted God, but I did doubt the reality of what happened next. My husband said he had good news. This could range from passing his PT test to having time to play soccer that day. However, on this day, good news meant that he had been approved to come home on an earlier flight! This flight would bring him back a month earlier than was expected. I was overjoyed at the news, not just to have my husband home sooner, which would be reason enough. This earlier timeline would also mean we would have more time before PCSing, and it would be right around my daughter's 2nd birthday which I had been very upset about him missing. In addition, my mom would be staying with us so she would be able to take care of my daughter while my husband and I could get some much needed alone time. My God is a Redeemer in every sense of the word!

You see, if you've followed my story from our last deployment, you know that my husband had been extended a month longer than the 1 year mark during his second tour in Iraq. It was a very difficult time for me, after what had been a mostly successful deployment. The extension had long-term effects on me, teaching me to never count on the Army's timing. 

Although this 3rd deployment was much tougher in many ways, God redeemed it. He gave me back that month that I lost in the 2nd deployment by bringing my husband home an entire month earlier in the 3rd deployment! Had I not done the timeline in my Bible study homework, these details would not have been as fresh on my mind. God is a master orchestrator, fine-tuning all the minute details of our lives to show His power. I love it when God decides to show off! How I pray He would do it more!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Will This Ever End?

It has been quite some time since I updated. DD and I have been sick every month since Christmas. It's been quite discouraging, and as a result, I feel as though I don't have anything positive to offer. I'm still trying to find the lesson in this myself so what good does it do to write a blog that just spews complaints? Probably not much good, but maybe it will help someone feel less alone.

That's what I've been feeling for the past 5 months. Isolated. Having a sick toddler means that we can't go about our regular schedules. I can't expose her to other children. And I often catch whatever she has. (Strep twice in one month, c'mon!) Then a week or two later, we start the same cycle all over again. I've been looking into all kinds of solutions/remedies. Maybe one will work. In the meantime, I struggle to be a good mom. The days are long, and I look at the clock and inwardly groan. My daughter is a delight. She makes me laugh out loud, but there are times when I feel as though I cannot pretend to have another cupcake party. It's mind-numbing monotony. I seriously feel like my brain cells are slowly dying off one by one. Stir crazy doesn't even begin to describe it. 
I run to the Lord and beg Him to give my life meaning. I am hungry for more. Why is it that raising a child and, therefore, leaving a legacy, feels so empty? It's incredibly important, but in the day-to-day, there is no weight to it. It's clear in times like this, that I need a break. But it's incredibly hard to get one. My husband is deployed, my babysitter isn't the easiest to schedule, and I have a hard time relaxing when I am away. Why does it take work to relax???

I know this is a season, but honestly, that doesn't always help. I can't always see beyond the here and now. I'm in this season, I can't see further than this season. I need God to be real to me, to meet the needs that I cannot meet in the typical ways to which I am accustomed (like going to Bible study, having a playdate with friends, etc). These are the days I feel like a slave to the baby monitor and a toddler's whims.

This deployment is almost over. It may seem like it will never end. But it will.  God is good.  No matter what.

P.S. I promise the next post will be more uplifting, even if it takes me another 6 months to write!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Up's and Down's

Deployments have their ups and downs. One huge “up” is R&R. These days with deployments being shortened to 9 months, not everyone gets it. Those of us lucky(?) enough to still do a year do get that time to reconnect with our spouse. During this particular deployment, R&R came just 4 months in – not exactly ideal if you're trying to break up the time. But God knew this was the perfect time for us. It was over Thanksgiving and just before Christmas, easy enough to celebrate both (which we did). For our little family, this meant a lot of fun packed into 2 weeks. Not only that, but being that we live in a state with bipolar weather patterns, we had days warm enough to go to the zoo and cold enough to play in the snow. The Lord orchestrated every moment, every detail to bring us closer together as a family. If you ever doubt how intimately God is involved in your life, I can give you several examples of how closely connected He is to our goings and comings.

Picking Daddy up from the airport
Zoo Fun

Snow Day
Yet even before R&R started, I dreaded the end. I worried how DD would react to DH leaving again. I stressed over how I would cope and get back to our routine. I bemoaned the fact that we weren't even halfway through this thing, and it would be quite a few more months (double what we'd already done, in fact) before we were reunited. I did not want to miss the joy, the connection, the memories, but my emotions overwhelmed me when I thought beyond the present moment.
Then I realized. I had to live R&R the same way I live every other day of this deployment – one day at a time. There simply is no other way to live, even when it's a “good” time. If I thought of the end, I wouldn't get to experience the elation of the beginning. If I thought of the goodbye, I wouldn't be able to revel in the anticipation of the welcome home. I had to make a conscious effort not to think beyond the present. It was hard, especially for a planner like me. There were times I would have to physically move to change my thoughts. But when I lived that day and that day only, I was so much happier, so much more content, so much more thankful, so much more present. My husband was appreciative too. He doesn't want to be reminded that he has to go back. Who does?!

Early Christmas
God continues to teach me (even in the good times) to rely on Him – not on circumstances, not on people, definitely not on feelings, not even on facts. He is the only One who can sustain me through the ebb and flow of life and keep me whole (/sane!) But I have to make the choice to surrender to Him, to look at just what He puts in front of me – not what's behind or 5 days in the future – and I have to look at how His hand never lets go of me, no matter how hard (or easy) it looks. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). And He will never leave me (Deut 31:6). Not when it's good, not when it's bad, not when it's easy, not when it's hard. Not when DH deploys, not during R&R, not when DH goes back, not when DH comes home. Never, never, never.