Sunday, January 17, 2016

Precious Lord....

...hold my hand.

This morning we heard and sang along with this amazing song at church.  I was struck, yet again, with the depth of the hymns and spirituals that have gone out of style in our modern worship.

Because this week we celebrate the birthday of an amazing man, I want to post a clip of Mahalia Jackson singing this song at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s funeral, in 1968.

Since the above is only a short clip of this amazing song, I am also including a version with the whole song, and lyrics:

Monday, January 11, 2016

Finding my Footing

Every move feels like a climb.
A long, slow, exhausting climb.
Dragging my whole family, and all of our worldly goods behind us.

The move itself usually goes pretty smoothly...after all, we've done this a few times, and know what to expect (the unexpected!!), so we're prepared, for the most part, when things happen.

The sequence of events is something like this:
We get orders, usually about six months before the expected move, and start preparations.

I start dumping things...things that have accumulated because of where we are (the snow shovels from Montana would NOT be needed in Virginia Beach!), things that have accumulated because of how long we have been in one place (the stuff expands to fill the space available...NO we do NOT need 11 bicycles!!), and all the papers.  So. Many. Papers.

We plan the date for the movers to come evaluate the household goods.

We plan the date for the movers to come pack the household goods.

We pack beloved things that we fear may be broken (or stolen!) to carry in our personal vehicles.

We plan the clothes we'll need for the transition period, until our household goods are delivered.

With the last move, there was the extra step of preparing the house to sell, and selling it.

We get the vehicles ready for the long drive.

We gather medical records and school records and veterinary records.

The movers come and pack the household goods.

We pack all of the rest of it into our personal vehicles, and stuff the children and the dog in there, too.

Somewhere in the midst of this, Jason is checking out of his command, there are farewell parties, and dinners, and last-minute get-togethers.

And suddenly, it is all over, and we are driving out of the town/city we have grown to love, and are off to a new adventure in a new place.

For a little while, the new is good...there is excitement about new schools, and new jobs, and figuring out a new house, and a new community, and finding a new church.

Then the reality of the newness really sinks in, and every one of us starts to miss the friends left behind, and the feeling of familiarity that helped us feel comfortable in the area, and suddenly the new is hard.

And the hard doesn't go away, and there is no way to make it easier.  Making new friends, and finding one's way around a new community, and learning cultural expectations in a new place are always a process, and they just have to be lived through.  There is no skipping over them.  So, everyone just keeps going, and keeps doing, and tries to make the best of the hard, dark middle, recognizing that there WILL be light...hopefully sooner, rather than later.

And then one day, after months of climbing, and slipping, and sometimes falling, suddenly we find ourselves getting to an easier part of the climb.  We can see light.  We have friends again.  We have found our way around town (without the GPS!).  We know how to get to the grocery store, and the mall, and the doctor, and the dentist...and we realize that the climb has gotten easier, and we can actually see something besides the trail in front of us.

And this is when we find our footing again.  For myself, for a lot of this past year, I have felt like the whole climb has been up a muddy, slippery slope, and I just couldn't get a grip, or find any toe-holds.  This part of the climb has been spent staving off depression, and loneliness, and anxiety.  Feeling unsure of my footing, or of my future, left me fearful and served to emphasize other difficulties we were experiencing at the same time.

Now, I can feel the fog lifting, and I can see the horizon.  I look down, and I find solid places to put my feet, and I know that the climb has been worth it, and we are coming out the other side...stronger, steadier, and hopefully growing through this long, hard climb.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Story of a Military Family (Chapter 5)

2010 was a challenging year.  Jason changed commands.  We moved, and bought a house, and I started grad school, and Jason left for a year in the desert.

On January 1, 2010, I posted that I was researching graduate school programs.  It was scary, and I wasn't sure how I was going to be able to do it.  I was working as a medical transcriptionist, and attempting to keep up with all of the kids' school activities, as well as the dog and cat and the house.

On August 1, 2010, we moved out of military housing into a house that we were working toward buying.  I also took the GRE that day.  We also found out in August that Jason was going to be going to Bahrain for a year.

In September, I learned that I was accepted into the Masters in Counseling program at Regent University, and classes started on September 18th.  The kids all started at their (mostly) new schools on September 2nd.

On October 5th, we had a fun photo shoot at the beach, with our favorite photographer and college friend.

On October 15, Jason and I went out for dinner, to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary.  After dinner, we finished up some last-minute shopping, and came home to attempt to fit everything into his seabags.  The next morning, I drove him over and dropped him off to catch a bus to Fort Jackson, in South Carolina, where he was to go through desert training.  Several weeks later, I was able to drive down and spend the weekend with him before he finished up and flew out to Bahrain.

On October 25, I went to the lawyer's office, and signed Jason's name to all 50+ pages of the paperwork to buy our house.  It was official.  We were homeowners!!

The year that Jason was stationed in Bahrain was challenging and interesting.  I was stretched in ways I didn't expect.  The things that normally kept the two of us running were more than I could handle on my own.  We had six children in three different schools, I was in my first semester of a challenging graduate program, and still doing medical transcription.  We decided that I needed some help to keep up with transportation for the kids, and fixing meals, I found a college student who was a HUGE help!!

Thanksgiving was different...we invited another grad student to spend the day with us, and Skyped with Jason when he got up the next morning (Thanksgiving evening for us).

We also had a birthday party for Heather, with 4 or 5 friends, and they walked down to the inlet down the road.  While there, Heather slipped, and broke her wrist, which ended the party early, and ended the evening with a trip to the local ER.  At least her cast was as colorful as she was!!

Christmas was also challenging.  The kids and I travelled to South Carolina, to spend time with our family.  We were able to Skype with Jason, which was nice, but served to emphasize (to me, at least) that he wasn't there, and what all he was missing.

After Christmas, the next exciting event was my Spring Break, which meant a vacation for me!!  I had already gotten my Passport, and I was able to go visit Jason in Bahrain for a week!!  It was great to see him, and to experience the very different culture of that island kingdom.

I flew back and headed right back to school and work, and we all finished out the school year with a HUGE sigh of relief.  I was able to get four of the kids into an Operation Purple camp, put on for children of deployed military, so two weekends in a row saw me driving to western Virginia to take the kids to camp and pick them back up again.

Jason was able to make a visit to see us TWICE during that was a surprise visit in March, when he came for a training class.  The second was for two weeks in July, when he was able to be home for R&R, and we were able to take part in the wedding of some very dear friends.

The next school year started in September, and the time began to drag.  It wouldn't be too much longer until Jason was home....but first, another trip to Bahrain for me, this time a chance to celebrate our anniversary.  On the return trip, I brought back one suitcase that was filled entirely with books....Jason had been busy doing grad school work while there, and shipping books is expensive, so I brought them back as one of my checked bags.

FINALLY, November 5th, 2011, he was home!!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Christmas Letter, 2015 (July 15-Dec 15)

JULY, 2015
Our visit to South Carolina for the Fourth of July week is always fun.  This year was no different, with time to get together with friends, mostly around FOOD, and spending time with family.  We did family pictures with Jason's family, and went out on the lake, swimming during the day, and watching the fireworks from the tri-tune boat at night.  I went and visited with my parents for a few hours in order to fill them in on what was going on in our lives.

And we got to go to church at St. Andrews Evangelical and see many friends from across the years and from around the world.  As always, the time went to quickly, and we left to head back to Massachusetts.

Soon after we arrived home, Jason flew to Washington, DC, for a meeting with the Chaplaincy Board, in hopes of being selected as a Chaplain in the Navy.

That same week, the four kids and I went to Camp Pineshore to begin the first of three amazing weeks of camp.  I was the resident Professional Counselor on staff, all of the kids attended at least one week, and we acted as photographers for all three weeks of camp.  It was an amazing three weeks, relaxing, and getting to know some really great people.

Leah, Katherine, and a friend had fun creating costumes in an effort to nab free food at our local Chick-fil-A...the same one where Heather was already working!!

We also enjoyed a GREAT visit with some friends from Virginia while they were traveling back from Maine.  It was GREAT to sit down and have some coffee and conversation with them!!

AUGUST, 2015
This month saw the last two weeks of summer camp at Pineshore, Katherine taking part in Starbase Flight Week, and Leah going away to the Summer Stars program, as well as marching band uniform fittings, and a visit with a friend from college days!!

Katherine was part of a program on base during the school year, which then offered her the opportunity to take part in a one-week STEM camp.  As part of Starbase's Flight Week, she ended up on the front page of the base's paper!!

Leah was also afforded a great opportunity to take part in a performing arts camp called Summer Stars.  This happened at the beautiful Northfield Mount Herman School, which was founded by D.L. Moody, in 1881.  She had a great time, and learned a lot!

Preparations for Marching Band is always a part of our summer, and this year was no different.  Justin had to be fitted for his uniform, and Leah got her flag for the color guard.

I was so happy to learn that a friend from college days lives about an hour away from us, and she was able to come visit for an afternoon in August!  It was wonderful to spend some time catching up!!

Finally, school started.
Katherine started 6th grade, and Leah moved into 8th grade.

Justin moved up into 10th grade, and Heather is a Senior.

We also learned in August that Jason was NOT accepted for the Chaplaincy, which was disappointing, but we KNOW that God has a plan.  We are waiting to see what He has in store.

In September, we all adjusted to the school routine, while still enjoying the comfortable temperatures and changing colors.

Heather went to Hampton, NH, and had some more Senior pictures made.  I'm having a hard time believing that she is graduating this year!!

October saw a LOT of changes.
Frances unexpected came home for the school year, which meant a rearrangement of bedrooms, and the acquisition of some more furniture, as well as jobs for her at Chick-fil-A and Lindt, and starting online classes through Liberty University Online.

Then in late October, my maternal grandmother passed away, and I made a trip to South Carolina.  While there, I finished cleaning out Frances' dorm room, and packed up her car to drive back to Massachusetts.

Monday, November 2 was my grandmother's memorial service in Montreat, NC.  I was glad to be able to be there, and to see my family.  My grandmother was an amazing lady, and saying goodbye is always difficult.

While in the area, I was able to catch up with a couple of from high school days, and one from college.  After some relaxing time with them, I left to drive back to Massachusetts.

Thanksgiving was different again this year...last year we spent it in South Carolina with family, and this year three children had to be back at work at the mall the next day.  We enjoyed sharing a Thanksgiving meal with our small group at our home the Sunday prior, and had a quiet and restful day on Thanksgiving Day, in preparation for the hectic nature of the month to come.  I experimented with gluten-free pie crusts (yum!!)

We also celebrated Heather's 18th birthday on the 25th.  She and a group of friends enjoyed an afternoon of bowling at the alley on base, and came back to the house for movies and pizza afterwards.

And....we're full-circle.
After a year in Massachusetts, I am starting to feel more balanced, not so much out-of-place.  We celebrated another round of the holidays without Jon here, which makes me sad, and we're far away from the rest of the family, which is always hard.  But we know that God is working, and we are where He wants us to be, so we're attempting to bloom where we're planted.

We love our church, and are deeply involved.  Jason is doing sound.  Justin is playing in the orchestra.  Frances and Heather help out with the children's ministry.  Everyone is involved in a small group.  And the Christmas services were AMAZING, yet again.  I was blown away, again, by the fact that the Father sent His son to us, as a baby son of a teenaged mother, in a backwoods town, and that before very long their family was Middle Eastern refugees, fleeing certain death at the hands of a tyrant.  What an amazing lesson for us, and an amazing and awesome gift.

Thank you to all who have prayed for us this year.  Please don't stop.  We don't know what the future holds, but are reassured that our God definitely holds our future in His very capable hands.