"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown

"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.

Monday, February 25, 2013

No Gift to Be Owed

In no other life - no other life! - would it be normal to move into a new house, unpack, settle in, start over without your partner. In no other life would it be normal to do all of that - the packing, the moving, the settling-in without your spouse - twice in less than three years. 

In no other life would it be normal to do that without harboring resentment towards that very partner who boarded a plane and flew to the other side of the country - or the world - and left knowing what you would undertake. 

Or maybe to me it's normal. So many times people ask me what C "owes me". What I am demanding in return. If he knows how hard this PCS and time-apart has been.

I understand the reason for the questions. I do. And I have told C that when he gets here I need a day - just a day - where I can go off and breathe. I have never even asked before but this time, this time, I need a day to sit alone and do nothing, or to shop with a friend, or to get a pedicure, or to take a shower for longer than four minutes. 

Really, I would just take the shower. 

This move has been the most difficult we have ever had. This last quarter has been the most emotional that I can remember. But never, not once, have I harbored any anger or resentment at C for it. I don't think I have that right. I knew in this - and, no, not when I "signed up for it" but some time into it - I knew there would be a defining point where you had to choose how you would view this walk - how you viewed the "me," and the "you," and the "we".

I know how helpless C has felt knowing every single thing that has gone wrong. I know how much it hurt him to get that phone call telling him of Eli's diagnosis. I know how much he wants nothing more than to comfort and fix and make right. I know, I know, that it hurt every part of him that is a father and a husband and a protector and a man when I couldn't hold back my tears on that phone and he couldn't do anything but listen. 

I know that this is hard on him. I know he wants to be going through it with me - if we have to go through it at all.

 We are never living this life, living a marriage, alone. We are building and pushing through together - whether in different parts of the country or different parts of the world. We hurt when the other hurts. We struggle to balance those emotions, to place them, accept them when we cannot physically be together. 

In all of this, there have been a handful of times when all I wanted - all I wanted was for C to hold me. Just to hug me. I just wanted to be held by my husband. You have no idea how much you can miss physical touch until it is gone. It's why we cling onto them when they come home. Why they cling to us

The fact that he can't isn't his fault. The fact that he can't isn't even the Army's fault. It is simply what this life is. Simply the hand we are dealt at times. 

Sometimes they will be here. Most often times they won't. 

We have to honor the marriage that we work for. We have to honor the vows we speak. There is no room to resent - no healthy way to harbor it. 

That is what Promises was all about. Understanding what the other feels. Understanding that every part of this life is hard, every challenge becomes a hundred times greater when we go through it without the other physically with us - without having the ability to hold onto one another. 

You have to learn to love so wholly that you can feel each other's pain. You have to learn to know that the very knowledge of your hurt becomes their hurt. The very thought of their separation putting a greater burden on you - on us - binds their hurt to their guilt. 

There is no debt to be paid. No gift to be owed.

We do not hurt alone.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

We Listen

It has been some time since I was reminded how different our world is from the one outside of it. Last night a stranger was speaking to a new friend and I about this lifestyle. My new friend - whose husband is in the same new job as C - will deploy almost immediately after arrival to his new duty station. 

The strangers eyes grew larger when she asked "Where would he be going?" B and I looked at each other. 

"Please don't think they aren't still there," I said with a smile. 

"Afghanistan," B said. 

She was honestly, truly surprised. 

So many times we have heard it, and do hear it, and will hear it. How different our reality is from the one the media, the country, the everything presents. 

Friends boarded those planes yesterday. Friends will board those planes tomorrow. And the next week, and a few months down the road. And nine months down the road. 

We are still there.

She asked us about sequestration. I won't ever write about that. I don't have the stomach or the grace or a low enough blood-pressure to write about that. But she had no idea how real it is for us. What all this will change, how it will affect those who have given all, whose families have given all, the civilian jobs that will be lost, the communities that will be devastated, the world that will change.  

The vulnerability we will force on our nation.

Because nothing shows it the way it actually is and could be and will be. 

We are all holding our breath. Listening to everyone have an opinion on something they know next to nothing about. Listening to people say that we are no longer fighting a war that our spouses or our children or our sisters and brothers or friends are currently fighting or preparing to fight. 

Listening to ignorance while black cars still quietly roll down a street looking for the right house. While we quietly peek out our windows to see two soldiers exit - a chaplain and a CNO. Staying silent while we still hear the sounds of freedom while our loved ones leave us to train in the field. While the gear is thrown all over a room - or many rooms - knowing it will somehow fit into two bags. While the clock ticks and ticks and ticks down to someone we love boarding that plane. To that much too difficult "see you soon".  

We welcome them home and see the soldiers rejoin their units - without their legs, with bandages wrapped around their faces, missing their arms, their fingers, their ears. Those who still can, they listen. They hear it.

Listening to the comments and the confusion knowing why people can think that - understanding fully how differently our world paints our reality - our life. How differently everyone else tells our story. We listen. 

Putting our heads down when people ask us how we feel about what is happening once they get a real glimpse into the life we live. Looking at our hands. At our feet. Anywhere but into their eyes. 

Listening and remaining silent. 

Because we don't talk about these things. We love our nation. We love it with every fiber of who we are, of who we strive to be. Our hearts break for it. They beat for it. We live and die for it. 

And we hear everything that is untrue and so wrong and nothing near the life we give our entire self to. We hear every word, we see every headline. We listen. 

We squeeze each others hands. We pray for grace. We take a slow breath. You learn to breathe in a way that calms your whole body when all you want to do is shake the person with the lie.

We listen.

We break our hearts for a nation who doesn't understand.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pieces of the Puzzle

Eli is sitting in my lap right now cuddling which makes it incredibly challenging to type. He is content where he is for the moment and I am sure soon he will move on to something else. I am grateful that he is so affectionate. I am so heart-fully grateful that he cuddles and holds onto me and loves me and lets me tickle him and rub his hair and all of those beautiful mommy/kiddo things that a mother should do and that a child should accept. I am most grateful today because today wasn't supposed to happen yet. Today wasn't supposed to happen at all. 

Or it was supposed to happen after three or four evaluations. They were supposed to look at my little  and say he was fine. That he was just like every-other-barely-three-year-old out there. Sometime after today, sometime after many todays, they were supposed to tell me he was okay. 

Today a very kind and absolutely wonderful child psychologist was supposed to play with my Eli and give him the all clear or tell us we needed to do this again and maybe again to get a bigger picture - like what they told me at the start. 

Today I was not supposed to sit in an office surrounded by toys that all serve an evaluative purpose and hear a diagnosis. 

That wasn't supposed to happen today. 

At least not to me. That wasn't how I planned it. This wasn't how C planned it. I didn't want to have to tell him over the phone while he sat in an airport outside D.C. waiting to spend two weeks at Fort Stewart. I wanted him to be here. I wanted him to be sitting beside me, holding our son. I didn't want him to have to be. I didn't want to hear this. How do you process? How do you listen and take it in when you weren't expecting it. 

On the drive home, I put my whole heart into finding the good. Into seeing the bigger picture. Into understanding why we were here, why this was happening, what this would mean. Driving along the little highway in the middle of no where, going up and down the hills, up and down, I understood how grateful I am for this place, how much the puzzle pieces come together. I am grateful - for the first time - truly, truly grateful for this career change for C. I am grateful that we should be in one place for a significant amount of time. I am grateful that he will be here - both on American soil but also home every night, at a reasonable time, on a consistent basis. I am grateful that before we could know the plan, this was placed before us. I am grateful that we made this decision. I am grateful that in a chaotic lifestyle, in an emotional lifestyle, we can offer a child who will very much need routine and structure and the physical presence of both of us ... that we can give him that. That we can start this very challenging road physically together, without wondering when the next move is, where we will go, how this will all happen. 

One in ninety military kiddos. One in ninety are diagnosed with Autism. 

I am grateful that this diagnosis - if there had to be a diagnosis - came quickly enough that we can not waste any time. That we can start the process. That we don't have to wait. 

I am grateful. 

Even when it seems like too much, you are given just what you can handle. I do not believe you are ever given something that is more than you are able to thrive through. I don't believe we are given anything that isn't meant to teach us and grow us and bring us closer to our Maker. In all things there is a reason to give praise, a reason to rejoice.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

And never has He failed me.