Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday Diary

The cross is the picture of death, but the key to life. 

-Patricia Porter 🗝

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sunday Diary

"Ruth didn't go back to what was familiar.  She stepped out in faith and walked into the unknown.  Her courage brought her to her divine destiny.  Don't look back." ~A Modern Day Ruth

It's hard, this life we are living.  We are always looking forward it seems.  The next promotion.  The next TDY.  The next deployment.  The next set of orders.  The next move.  Frankly, enjoying the present takes work most of the time.  And then forward comes.  The moment we've waited on, anticipated, even asked for....and anxiety and fear strike.  But we must step faith.  This faith we have, it doesn't make things easy....just possible.  Inevitably we look back.  We yearn for the known and the comfortable because, in this life, forward is always hard.  But we must rise up, show courage, and exude an unwavering trust in Him.  For He is the creator of divine appointments and frankly, I prefer to be on time.  #raisingupruths

Monday, March 14, 2016

St. Patrick's Day in London

We chose London as our first big adventure here in England.  Since we learned we were moving here, all the girls have talked about is seeing London.  Of course we will take many trips there during our time here, due to the vastness of things to see and do there, but these girls just couldn't wait any longer.  When the base travel office offered a special one day trip down and back for the St. Patrick's Day parade, we knew that was our big chance.  We overpaid for the ride, but knew that we didn't need to take on the task of finding our way by car, train, and foot within the first month of living here.  We definitely don't regret this decision.  We made a quick trip to find some green to wear and we were off.  We were dropped off at Trafalgar Square and immediately headed to Buckingham Palace.  Three girls must see where the queen lives.

We got lucky enough that we walked up to the palace just as the changing of the guard was happening.  This is not a daily occurrence, so we felt very fortunate to walk alongside the horses leading up to the palace and then to see the changing over happen.  As usual, the area was congested, so we played around the fountain and just enjoyed the sunshine.

With four women, we are always searching for a bathroom.  We were so excited to find one so easily right up from the palace....until we saw we had to pay to go into the restroom.  Fact: Nothing is FREE in England.  Nothing.  Luckily Nate had some change and we paid 20 pence to enter.  I am quite sure that I was probably supposed to pay that per person, but since that was not explicitly written we got 4 for 20p. #ridiculous  Then, of course, Nate had to pay as well.  I have NEVER paid to use a bathroom in my life.  I still can't believe that happened.  Let me just tell you another fact about bathroom usage in England.  They are not heated.  Anywhere.  Nate thinks this is no big deal.  Of course.

London is beautiful. 
The girls don't know what to think of the green grass and the flowers in abundance.  We all just stand around and stare at it.  A lot.

We headed back to Trafalgar Square for lunch.  For this event, they brought in food trucks full of Irish meals and trinkets.  We found it quite odd, that there was a start time of 12:00 for the food area.  They did not allow anyone to sell food prior to that time.  Then, right before noon, ushers made every single person leave the square and stand behind gates.  Around 12:15 they finally opened the gates, checked every bag, and let you in.  This was insanity.  I have never in my life.  Eventually we made it to all of the lines to satisfy 5 different people, ate cold food, and wondered around.

Our favorite entertainment was the bagpiper playing AC/DC.  When the local police walked by he played police sirens.  He was a hoot!

I am not sure what I expected this parade to be like, but it was heart-warming to see that some things are what they are.  So far, no matter where we live, parades happen because creative people decorate everyday transportation.  Granted, most I have seen are pulled by pick-up trucks or farm equipment, a semi-truck is just a small step forward without killing the vibe.  ;)  Truck after truck passed through these small streets, with kids waving and music playing.  Due to this being the St. Patrick's Day parade, every Irish county (town? still learning the differences) was represented with their own float. Everyone was very well behaved until this turned the corner.

The streets became flooded with people.  The crowd, literally, went wild.  You need to see this like I did.

Hunchback of Notre best guess.

Seeing quickly became a problem so the girls took to higher ground.  Olivia was quite high up on this window ledge, with several other girls.  Allye took to Nate's shoulders, and Addison and I stood on a box on the sidewalk.  Eventually it got old so we moved along and came upon guards on horses.

Next, we tried to hit some of the most visited sites just for a quick look.  The girls simply can't believe that they are seeing these things in real life.  It is pure joy to see them live these moments.  Of course, we had to see where the princess got married.  It was closed, unfortunately, for a large event during the week.

As we began our dissent to the pick-up location we realized that we were passing the perfect spot for a picture with Big Ben.  Several stairs later, minutes and minutes and minutes of passers by later, twenty-three pictures of the girls later, and we have a picture of ourselves.  #parenting

It is still such a surreal feeling that we live here.  To think about being able to see this again and again is hard to wrap my mind around sometimes.  It is wonderful to not rush through these events because we may never see it again.  I am working to not take one moment for granted and soak up each experience.

Our pick-up location was the London Eye.  This is a great area full of sidewalk entertainment and fun.  We couldn't resist a good carousel ride, even though Nate's heart stopped when he did the rate conversion, in his head, for what he was a about to pay for a single ride.  (Note: At today's rate that would be $3.63 per person.  England isn't cheap folks.)

As the sun was setting, we enjoyed our last few minutes playing on a beautifully built playground with the London Eye playing the backdrop.  For the girls, there was no better ending to this fairy tale expedition.  And when the you see your children so incredibly happy, full of bliss and joy, that is the perfect ending to any day. 

See our day captured by GoPro.

My Dear Girls,

Never, ever, ever take this for granted.


Monday, March 7, 2016

The Decision and the Transition.

Writing to you from England dear friends and family!  Happy to say we have successfully made it across the pond.  I am going to write a few posts to fill you in on this great big adventure we have embarked upon.

The Decision.

(BACK STORY) - After his first tour in Korea (2003) we selected, and were given, Shaw AFB in Sumter, SC.  He chose this base because when he drove me away from my momma, in September of 2001, he promised her he would do whatever he could to get me back closer to home.  He is a man of his word.  This was a sacrifice on his part.  When we met he told me one of the reasons he joined the Air Force was to see the world.  I made it very clear (after having just hopped around Europe for a month) that I had no desire to live overseas.  I was twenty-two years old and I had every intention of getting married and having children in the U.S. where my parents could be active in their lives.  So, for 16 years we have lived and served stateside.  During that time we got married, had three darling daughters, Nate completed his Bachelor and Master's degrees, and we have traveled a lot.

 (CURRENT) - When Nate received his Korea orders (which we were totally expecting) for his second tour, we were given about 72 hours to turn in a list of places that we would like to go once he finished his time in Korea.  For the Air Force, when you complete an overseas tour they try to give you your first choice of a follow-on base.  Due to the fact that we were expecting these orders we had already been discussing where we might like to go afterwards.  In one of our first conversations I asked him if he could go anywhere where he would go.  He immediately named some overseas bases.  I knew I was ready for this adventure with him, but this is one of those things you almost prefer happen to you instead of you putting into action.  I had to really work through my own feelings about moving our girls so far away from my parents.  I knew that this decision would crush them and that is a tough load to carry.  I am a people pleaser and this one wasn't going to please a lot of people.  By this time though I had accomplished what I wanted to accomplish.  I had given birth to all of our children, created a firm and loving bond between them and our families, and I felt they were of an age that I could manage them alone in a foreign environment (he will deploy) and they could remember a life overseas.  Although this was always a dream of Nate's, we both knew and talked extensively about what a gift we could give our girls with this decision.  The benefits were endless and would last them for a lifetime.  As parents, we all try to constantly and consistently give our children the best we can, and we knew that this was our very best.  Not the easiest way or the safest way or the American way....but it is our way and more importantly it is the military way.  Service before self.  We knew that if God wanted this for us, it would happen.  And it did.  If  it was not meant to be, and there were definitely opportunities for it to fall through, then it would just not happen.  But it did.  I also felt that Nate had made an ultimate sacrifice for me and, frankly, it was his turn.  We completed our list with a set of overseas and stateside bases, within the given time frame, and then we waited.  Many months later we received news we would move to England, the second choice on our list.  That is when we told our girls.  The excitement was not unanimous. 

The Transition. 

When it came to transitioning the girls and our family to England, I knew I had an expert in my midst.  My mother.  This is a woman who can create, implement, and follow through with a plan like no one I know.  We are both analyzers.  We spent hours and hours looking at this from a thousand different directions.  Ultimately, Nate and I decided that I would remain in our Florida home until it sold or we left.  It never sold.  We then decided that he would return home to Florida and then take a month of leave.  We felt, for us, that our family needed time together.  Time to decompress and re-build the family relationship.  It is not easy, on either side, for the parent who has been away to re-engage with the family.  Everyone has a new set routine, he has no clue, the children tell him he has no clue, we all get frustrated.  By taking everyone out of their normal we would create a new normal for all of us.  Looking back, this is the best decision we could have made.

After returning home a day late, he had one full day with the girls before we loaded them up and met my parents in Atlanta. 

Helping Daddy prepare the car for transport.
 They took the girls back to N.C., gave us my mother's car, and we drove to the shipping facility in Atlanta and turned in the minivan.  They processed it and loaded it on a transport truck while we were there.  This was quite a process.  They take this very seriously.  If you are not prepared you will be very frustrated.  Nate was well prepared, but God decided to unload a rainstorm on us for our entire drive to Atlanta.  He had to dry the w.h.i.t.e van off, in the pouring rain, while the pre-inspector cleared it just to be pulled into the main bay for a formal inspection.  Then they dried it, verified it had less than 1/4 tank of gas, was completely empty on the interior, and accounted for all markings on the exterior.  Once cleared, we drove straight back to our home in Florida and began preparing for the movers to come the following Monday.

Moving overseas is no joke.  Thankfully, the military has done this a time or two.  So have all of the moving companies.  We simply supplied the dates that we wanted the movers to come and the military office set this up.  Apparently they send out the information to the moving companies, they bid on your move, and then are selected.  This is the military...lowest bidder wins.  We had three different companies involved in our move and were allowed 13,000 free pounds.  This means that they add the weight of Nate's shipment from Korea and the three U.S. shipments together.  Anything over 13,000 we pay at a rate determined my the military.  Don't forget that when we move back they can charge us again if we exceed the limit.  We then chose the order that they would come to our home....another analyzed decision.  Ultimately, I chose for the unaccompanied baggage to come first, the long ship second, and the storage shipment third.  The unaccompanied baggage must be under 1,000 pounds.  These items are what you will receive first, via air transport, and should allow you to live for up to six weeks until your remaining goods arrive.  I chose to pack kitchen essentials, the remaining cold weather clothing for everyone, sheets, towels, bedding, two small boxes of toys, scooters, shower curtains, trash cans, and our school books.  To prepare for these people I put everything, except our clothing, on our dining room table.  For room specific items I placed the items on the bed, in that room, and then sectioned the clothes off, in each closet, by wrapping a yellow piece of yarn around the section.  This way the packer did not need me with them at all times.  I walked them through and explained that they would only take what was on the bed and the clothes that had the yellow string. 

This is the shipment by air.  It had to fit in the smaller plywood box you see in the truck.  Ours barely fit.  It will probably burst like Jack-in-the-Box when they open it on our end.
 As soon as they finished up, around lunch, we began preparing for the long ship packers arriving the following morning at 8.  All items were taken from walls and placed on the floor in the room they were hung in.  We spent time taking pictures of items, doing inventory, and organizing.  Our goal was for them to not have to go into any cabinet, drawer, etc.  We accomplished this.  They arrived the following morning and worked hard for two solid days. 

Fun Fact: The UK does not allow knives, guns, or anything resembling a weapon.  Because the military doesn't store our items in a climate controlled warehouse all of Nate's collection was hand carried in two trips to be stored at my parents.
 They thanked us more than once for the organization.  That was time well spent and it paid off for everyone.  I have done moves where I didn't go through everything and clean out and it is horrible on the other end.  I was determined to make this move different.  On the their third day they brought the moving men.  These guys are expert Tetris players for sure.  Unlike a stateside move, an overseas move requires your items to be crated.  This does happen stateside, but is not always a requirement.  The mover men must pack as efficiently as possible because every square inch matters.  This was quite impressive to watch.  When one crate is completely packed they raise the fourth side and nail it shut.  The service member then signs a large sticker (security seal) and it is placed around one of the corners that has been sealed.  This will tell anyone (especially the service member) if their container has been compromised.  The container is not to be opened until it is delivered to us at our next home.

Fun Fact: All of our items have to clear customs.  Every item or box has a detailed description of what it contains for customs agents.  When you ship to the UK you never label a box or description line with stuffed animals.  They interpret this as once alive, now stuffed animals.  That is a no-no.  Those boxes and lines must be labeled toys.

  The fifth day of packing was reserved for our items that we would leave behind in the U.S.  The military will pay to store these items for us.  Our storage shipment contained large pieces of furniture, lots of fine china, and garage equipment.  I must confess that we were sound asleep when these men rang the doorbell at 8 a.m. sharp.  We were exhausted.  They got straight to work and were done shortly after lunch.  For them, I had gathered all of the interior items into one room (done previously in the week and shut off to the other two companies) and the garage items had already been separated onto one side of the garage earlier in the week as well.  We learned that these items would be stored in Alabama.  They do provide the specific location for the service member, but that should obviously remain private.

Once we survived the packing process our neighbors provided us with a blow up air mattress.  We kept an old set of sheets, towels, and a few cooking essentials for the remainder of our time.  Once we left for good these items would be trashed or donated.  We began the cleaning process of our home that was now rental property...with a renter on the way!  Praise the Lord!  There is nothing like cleaning your home and making it look brand new to make you fall in love with it all over again.  We worked very hard the first two days because we knew that we wanted to attend our church for the final time that Sunday, see the beach once more, and give ourselves space for the unexpected to pop up. 

Many trips to Lowes were made.  Nate always takes a picture of the girls on the tractors.  It broke his heart not to have one last picture.  I dutifully stepped in.  ;)

We did get to enjoy a final beach sunrise...

This was our favorite go-to beach spot.  Not many tourists, picnic tables for many, showers, bathrooms, and a great cold treat stand in the hot summers.

 followed by breakfast at a favorite tourist spot...

 and then a last church service. 

Crosspoint United Methodist Church - This church will always hold a special place in our hearts.  This is where Olivia was saved.

 We even had time to go on a special date

See our last day in action!

  The following morning we drove out and headed to the mountains of North Carolina to begin putting our family back together again.  While it was very hard on our kids to leave their daddy so quickly after his arrival, it was great for our marriage.  We have learned that the family comes back together much easier, for us, if the marriage gets a head start.  Obviously, we were very fortunate to be close enough to my parents for them to take the kids for the week.  We have certainly packed with kids.  Without kids is so much easier. 


 Part of our decision making included Nate taking about thirty days of leave in transit (after leaving one base and before checking in at the next base).  He would be given seven days to travel from Korea to the states.  Anything after that, prior to him checking in in England, would count against his leave (paid time off).  This is where we planned strategically.  We accumulated enough days for him to take the twenty-five days in July, to come home, and then these thirty days before we left for England.  I don't want to give the details of how the troops are moved and at what times, but I will say that we would have had to take leave, no matter what, given the way they move you from one assignment to the next, in our type of situation.  Given that our goal was to let our shipped goods get a head start, allow time for family that wanted to visit with us, and, most importantly, to reconnect as a family, there was only one place we wanted to go.  The mountains.  My parents were very generous to open their home to us.  While this is in no way roughing it, it is secluded and requires a bit of planning to stay for an extended time (like you don't want to forget an item at the grocery store).  This place is my Heaven on Earth.  We spent our mornings completing school assignments, got a one month YMCA membership and went almost daily (to include swimming), made day trips to Boone, NC, and spent lots of time outdoors.  There is nothing like a little seclusion, fresh air, and a healthy dose of routine to bring a family back together.  We did not take one moment of this for granted and feel so grateful that this was an option for us.

The final weekend brought us down the mountain to stay with my parents at their home.  We spent this time washing clothes and organizing all of the suitcases.  Nate was sure to stay very clear of this work.  #LaughingCryingEmoji  The final baggage count (after the unexpected purchase of one more suitcase via Goodwill for all of the hair products and toiletries) was 9 carry on bags, 7 checked suitcases, 5 neck pillows, 3 American Girl dolls, 3 princess blankets, and 1 folding stroller.  Because we chose not to fly from Florida (our assigned base location) we were responsible for getting ourselves to an official port of call to fly to England.  The military office provided us Washington D.C. as the closest option to where we were staying.  For official travel, not every airport serves as an official port of call.  This required us to rent a van and drive to D.C.  We acquired the van on a Sunday afternoon, spent the afternoon and evening figuring out how to get everything in it, and then pulled out the next morning for a red eye flight on the same night.  We arrived in a timely manner, hired the gentleman at the curb to help us get all of our bags into the main check-in area, and our journey began. 

British Airways was our carrier for this trip.  I was simply amazed at how prepared and smooth this process was.  I assume this is the benefit of an official port of call.  They are trained and familiar with the process and working with military families.  We spent some time watching the planes arrive and depart, made our way through TSA, and went for a sit down dinner.  We then had about an hour and a half to wait prior to boarding.  Just before boarding began, the gentleman who checked us in much earlier in the day came to us and asked that we gather our things and head to the gate entry.  He had arranged for our family to board first.  This airline went above and beyond to make this day seamless for our family. 

It wasn't long before the dark night sky surrounded us and we (eventually) fell asleep.  Six short hours later and our feet were on the ground in London, England.  Thankfully, a friend already based here suggested we hire the driver they had used when they arrived.  This allowed for private transportation opposed to the shuttle bus commonly used.  I cannot say enough good about this!  I am so glad we acted on this advice.  We were exhausted when we arrived.  The driver met us inside the airport, handled our luggage, loaded us up, and drove us two hours north to RAF Lakenheath.  He waited until our lodging was all worked out (there were issues) and then unloaded all of our luggage into our room.  This is when you give major thanks that the time jumped ahead five hours....bedtime came very soon!  We are so thankful for a safe arrival and look forward to sharing more about the days since our arrival, the process of finding a home here, and eventually our England adventures. 

Our trip in action!

Thank you to everyone who has supported us this past year.  While I could not spend time talking on the phone and responding to every message, please know we got them and were so grateful for each and every thoughtful gesture.  Military families need support that we will never ask for, but are always appreciative to receive.

My dear girls,

While this decision to move you so far away may not make a lot of sense right now, we promise you one day it will.  Change is hard, but change grows you.  All three of you are strong, adaptable, and resilient girls; in large part because we have stretched you.  If we thought that this would, in any way, do more harm than good we would never make this choice for you.  You have handled this transition so well.  You have had to learn how to work through hard moments, that crying is ok, that the sun always shines after the storm, and that life is so much fun!  We hope to teach you that while we may never know where the military will send us, you are always home.  A building is not a home.  WE are the home.  As long as we are together, as long as we are a will always be home.  We love you so very much and look forward to our many adventures to come and are so excited we get to do them with you!


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

She Just Doesn't Get It

As a follow up to my post He Just Doesn't Get It, today I will share what I took away from the sermon She Just Doesn't Get It, where the tables were firmly turned.  I had a solid week to analyze and think about what in the world they could teach us women.  We know it all.  Don't they realize this?  Well, as I sat on the edge of my seat I learned that this wife thing is a full time job, apparently.  You need to read the above referenced post to know that we women are fairly low know...listen to us, make us feel special, listen to us, make us feel special.  Well, typed neatly on my lap was a list of four very different needs of a man.  It was not a pick one or multiple choice or true false test.  No.  It was, "Hey You!  Here are the four needs of a man."   And they say women are complicated.  I did a quick attitude adjustment and took it ALL in.  Oh, and I graded myself the whole way.  Please tell me I am not alone.

Need #1 - A Managed Household

"Men need their home to be a refuge...from the chaos." - Pastor Jeremy Smith
If I am honest, I wanted to fall out in the floor from laughing so hard.  I assure you I remained composed.  Hello?  Have any of these people ever had children?  And can they please explain to me that chaos part?  I am pretty sure I would pay for reduced chaos.  And when exactly am I supposed to escape the chaos?  That I live in.  24/7.  But I am supposed to create a refuge from the chaos for him?  I am clearly losing focus.  But I think I understand.  So, let's just pretend that "from the chaos" part wasn't there or that our kids aren't there.  Just use your imagination.  I guess.  So, in your imagination, where there is no chaos from kids and your husband comes home....   Perhaps we should try a little of this?  "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife." Proverbs 17:1  If the sacrifices required to have the best foods, biggest homes, newest furnishings, and grandest vacations come at the price of unhappiness and strife within our homes, perhaps we need to re-evaluate and focus on the less is more attitude of life.  Less stuff, more happiness, peace, and joy.  Our homes should be a place of peace to get away from the troubles of the world, not a battle ground.  And then there was this, "Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife." Proverbs 21:19.  And I wanted to text my friend at that moment and scream, "Holy (you know what)!"  'Cause there was this one time that her husband ever so slightly insinuated called her a nagging wife and I am pretty sure that the roof might have experienced some damage if her reaction was remotely in the same universe, in that moment, as it was when she relayed his gross misunderstanding of her concern over telling having to remind him of the same thing for the thirtieth time.  Or something.  Details.  Men: FYI - Affirming that you have in fact heard your sweet wife, with a "Yes Dear," will get you miles further than the word nag.  Never use the word nag.  It's a four letter word.  Yes.  I can count.  Just trust me.  This will keep you out of the dog house.  For sure.

 Need #2 - An Affirming Spouse

 "A good wife is her husband's pride and joy; but a wife who brings shame on her husband is like a cancer in his bones." Proverbs 12:4  Ever heard the words praise in public, criticize in private?  It sort of applies a lot here.  Ladies, if we have an issue with our husband a public forum, in front of their friends, or an intimate holiday gathering with family is not the place to air those issues.  Guess what?  The only person we make look bad in that moment is ourselves.  Have you ever found that when you take the time to focus on the good in a person your mind and heart change as well?  Or have you ever been so mad at your spouse and someone else begins to sing their praises you totally forget ever being mad at them?  I sometimes get mad when this happens because I was really upset at whatever that was that I can no longer remember.  Moral of the story?  Use your words to build up your spouse whether you are in public or private.  It might be the best thing they hear all day.  I have found that they will work harder to make you feel special when they feel awesome!

 Our pastor took a moment to address the men to say, "You must be a husband worthy of respect.  It is not given; it is earned."  As much as I wanted to jump up and applaud, I was convicted.  WARNING - Transparency ahead....  My husband does many things to earn my respect.  No one would argue this that knows him well, in the context of a relationship with me.  The problem here is me.  I am not always trying to see those things.  I am over here looking at the grass still uncut after 7 days and not the 2 hours he sent me to my room for quiet, alone time last night while he bathed and put the kids to bed.  When I am not seeing right, I fail him and us.  I stop affirming and start critiquing.  My words are not respectful but resentful.  Only the pain in his eyes will set me straight, and that is worse than any words he could spew at me.  So, if you're like me and sometimes you just don't see right, own it.  Be quick to apologize and swift with recognition of your own failure.  In other words...know yourself so you can better yourself.  Men, if you aren't feeling respected make sure you turn a hard eye on yourself before you go into battle.  Have you done what it takes?  Have you earned the respect?                

Need #3 - Recreational Companionship

"Relish life with the spouse you love
Each and every day of your precarious life.
Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange
For the hard work of staying alive.
Make the most of each one!
Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!" Ecclesiastes 9:9 (MSG)

Let me just tell you that I was paying very close attention during this segment.  If you don't know, my husband and I have very different tastes in this area.  His thrills included hunting, running (marathon style), and airplanes...big ones...that drop bombs and fly fast.  I enjoy reading, sewing, cooking, shopping, decorating, traveling...oh you know everything but what is in his list.  While our lists do look very different, here is what was brought front and center that day.  

I was in complete shock that this was a need of a man.  I just sat there thinking that this must be some type of lie because my husband loves recreation, but not the companionship part.  How would I know this you ask?  Because he has never invited me to join him.  I invite him all the time to my stuff.  He is my favorite travel companion (I get to ride shotgun and be the backseat driver...he loves it.), I tell him about the crazy stuff I read (Cliff Notes version is good enough for him), he regularly has to help with sewing projects or machine repairs, we enjoy cooking together as long as he remembers who is in charge, he's always ready to move some furniture around, and as long as a good meal is involved shopping is his favorite.  The longer I sat there, the more upset I got.  I was already working out in mind exactly what I was going to say about this when we got in the car.  But God had a different plan.  Before I could say anything he said it himself.  He confessed to never having invited me and not even really knowing why he hadn't.  There was nothing for me to say or to do...just to forgive.  And then he invited me on a go shooting.  And I accepted...happily.

"The acknowledgment of our weakness is the first step in repairing our loss." 
- Thomas Kempis

Need #4 - Sexual Fulfillment

We'll just start where the pastor did.  He was most assuredly speaking to the men when he started off this point with, "Expectations kill this area of our married life.  Don't expect what you don't express."  He proceeded to influence everyone to have a sit down, face to face, and be clear about your expectations in this area.  Let's just be honest with each other for a moment.  I have had this discussion in my marriage, more than once.  The face to face part is difficult because when he lays out the expectations my eyes start to roll... on their very own.  I know my face is making some awful gesture.  Internally I am wishing Freaky Friday was a real thing so we could switch places for like two weeks and re-evaluate those expectations of his.  This is one of those times I actually adhere to my mother's advice, "If you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing at all."  The faces though, I am sure they are still hard as I try.

Lovingly captured by the ten year old when I didn't know it.  Clearly the faces are not reserved just for him.
 Next he hit us with this and I wanted to run up and high-five the man on the middle of his sermon.  "Women: you need to make time.  Men: you need to do your part."  Here is where he was going with this, in my words of course.  Women need to stop being so busy.  Not only do we have a lot going on out of necessity, but we create a lot more to do as well.  It's ok to have your hobby, phone conversations with friends, favorite show to make time for those things.  Right?  We must also focus on making time for our husband.  Men, if you want to have us to yourself then you are going to have to do your part.  Ever heard your wife say, "I am too tired."  Instead of complaining that she's always too tired maybe you could look in the mirror and understand why that is.  What can you do about that? 

{Here's a peek into our home life.  I am up everyday around 6:00 a.m.  Maybe I slept all night or maybe someone was up.  I get myself ready for the day while breaking up at least one disagreement before 7:00 a.m.  By 9 I have repeatedly told everyone to get dressed, make their bed, turn off their Kindle, help their sister, to stop banging their chair on the counter when they swivel it, navigated three different short orders for breakfast, explained that we can't have Cheesy Puffs for breakfast...this is the short list.  When we finally reach the school table, yes let's not forget we homeschool, the real fun begins.  The four year old is done in like 30 minutes and wants a playmate, no one wants to be there, one needs a "sitter" to stay focused, now it is snack goes on all day long.  Next we will be getting ready for some sort of extra-curricular that will last until dinner time.  I have either cooked something all day in the crock pot or have had to prepare it ahead of time to be a quick fix when we walk in the door.  Because little people are always starving.  So I have learned.  Once we eat (note: someone will be crying because they didn't like it and will now die of starvation) it is time to clean up the dishes, bathe the kids, read bedtime stories, and then threaten their lives for the next thirty minutes every time they get out of bed.  This is all very clear to me, having just done all of this for 380 days straight.  Alone.  It is still fairly accurate when he is here.  He helps with transportation to activities, when possible, and trades dish and bath duty with me.  In all fairness, there is only so much help he can give me in the few hours he is there before they go to bed.  And those Love Languages....the last one on my list is physical touch (and the top of his list).  And there are three people touching me and hanging on me and breathing on me  It takes all I have to hug and kiss the man when he walks in the door.  Then he's all googly eyed and my face does this thing that immediately sends him into, "Everyone outside right now!" mode.  It's a beautiful thing really.  He scratches my back, I scratch his.  ;)  Or something like that.}

I laid it all out for you to totally defend myself when I tell you this next part.  When those kids go to bed, all I want is time to myself.  Doing something I want to do.  Sew, spend mind-numbing hours on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, read, journal, write, stare at the ceiling in total silence.  That last one might be my favorite.  Can you see how that one thing that is in the front of his brain is no where to be found in mine?  I am an introvert.  I crave quiet and alone.  So, this takes a lot of work on my part to balance his needs and my needs.  I have had to learn how to express to him what I need from him to create this balance.  This takes a lot of work and communication on both our parts.  I strongly encourage everyone to talk openly about this with their spouse.  It is hard, and your face might make expressions on its own, but communication bridges gaps, restores, and heals.  One final thought for you men.  If you get home and you are just too tired to help out, well, don't be annoyed when she's just too tired know.

At the end of the sermon we were given about thirty seconds to rank the four needs as we thought he would.  Since I was grading myself, I took this very seriously.  He told me I scored a 100, but I am pretty sure that as long as I put Need #4 as #1, I was scoring a hundred.  ;)

My Dear Girls,

I know this can all seem overwhelming.  Heck, I sat there stunned.  Here's how it all shakes out though.  When you are newly married you will be meeting all of his needs Like.A.Boss.  And then, God willing, you will have children.  And then you will be looking at your husband like, "You mean you have needs?"  And then one night, in complete frustration, you will both say things you really don't mean, wonder what happened to your marriage, and you will feel like a failure...broken.  And then you will call your Mama because that is what daughters do.  Because Mamas fix things.  And I promise to you now that I will be very honest with you in the mistakes I  made in my marriage when the babies came.  I will try to help you learn from my mistakes.  And then I will pack your father in the car and come for the weekend because I have learned that a little goes a long way with men.  A weekend away (even if it's only two miles down the road in a local hotel) focusing on all of his needs, putting him front and center, will absolutely work wonders.  Don't worry about Daddy, he's all in too.  He'll probably even high-five your husband on the way out the door, 'cause he's been there too.

I Love You,

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Dear Olivia, I have seen you.

For a self-professed Type A, who crumbles inside just thinking of having to ask for help in fear of seeming like I can't "handle" something, there is nothing like having to humble myself before someone, in need of their help.  This applies to everyone in my life, including doctors, friends, even my own parents.  And when my doctor becomes my friend, Lord help me.  We are on death's door before we call on them.  This condition must have a name.  I think I need it to have a name, so I can feel justified in my crazy.  Anyway....  Imagine my complete mortification when I realized, very quickly, that I was going to need help, on the daily, around this place.  And then when I realized it would have to be my nine year old.  The one thing I did not want from this experience was for these girls to have to grow up too fast just for us to survive.  God had other plans.  He was going to teach me, and grow them.  And it was all going to be ok.  I struggled a lot with this.  Especially when I saw Olivia doing things I would never dream of asking her to do.  Guilt.  Lots and lots of guilt.  She took a backseat in so many ways this year.  I thanked her a thousand times over.  Words could never adequately express my deepest appreciation and admiration to her, but I tried.

My Dear Olivia,

      I would never wish what you girls have had to endure this year on anyone.  BUT- in all of the hard moments each of you have grown.  I know that you may feel I don't always "see" you, so I want to assure you I have missed nothing.  I have watched you go from being so worried that we would never make it to having a mindset now that we can do anything.  I have seen all of the moments you so desperately wanted to help.  I have seen, through your determination, you learn to do so many things this year, just to be able to help me.  You have the gift to see what people need emotionally and physically and you act on it.  You truly have a servant's heart.  That will endear you to many people.  You are relentless in helping me keep the house together, answering school questions for Addison, occupying Allye, working hard on your school assignments, being a good friend, working hard at dance, and exemplifying a grateful heart.  You are more than I could have ever hoped for.  You have been a gift to me this year.  You have given everything you could to this family.  You have shown an incredible strength that I didn't know you had.  I have so many wonderful memories with all of you this year.  I will forever be thankful for this time with all of you and what it has taught me.  I hope, when you have hard moments in life, you can look back on this year and remember that anything is possible, it's ok to ask for help, and that there will be bad days....but when storms pass, and they will pass, the sun will SHINE!  I love you and thank you for being by my side this year.  I couldn't have done it without you.

I love you,

(an excerpt from our journal...given to her the night before her daddy came home)

Never stop telling your kids thank you, I love you, I am proud of you, and I see you.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Journey of 380 Days

I remember Day 1 like it was yesterday.  The day he left.  No fanfare.  No hugs and kisses goodbye from the girls.  A quiet, solemn departure in the middle of the night.  As he kissed me goodbye, slipped out the door, and rode with our neighbor to the airport, the journey began...for both of us.

 My first day would grow more interesting, by the minute, when I was with the two big girls in the back bathroom, doing their hair for the day, and I called for Allye.  When she didn't come, after repeatedly calling her, I began checking the doors, to ensure she hadn't left, and then my phone that tracks all coming and going through our security system.  Nothing had been opened.  After we searched and called for several minutes I ran to my neighbor's house just to make sure she had not pulled a Houdini on me.  She came running back with me, both of us calling and screaming.  This wasn't our first rodeo with a missing Allye.  After a few minutes we found her.  Curled up in a tight corner.  Behind a chair in her room.  That I had looked behind.  My neighbor pulled her out and hugged her as I started crying hysterically from fear and relief.  She turned to me, put her arms around me, and there we stood in the middle of the nursery, both wondering if I would survive this...because the journey had just begun...Day 1.  Rock bottom.

 I became increasingly thankful that each day was new, and that I got to bring the wisdom from the day before with me.  But I won't lie.  Those first few weeks were awful.  I had purposely held my parents back from coming, thinking we needed to settle into our new life before we brought in another set of people, whom these girls adore, just to rip them away a few days later.

 Let's just say I was re-thinking that plan.  I held strong though, and little by little our roots were taking hold.

I quickly realized that while I could control how things went at home, it would be the outside influences that rocked our world in a whole new and more extreme way.  We all had heavy feelings on board, and the slightest mishap or insensitivity of another created far more than a ripple effect.

It was quite a bit more pronounced in some.  I won't name names, but she turned ten this year.  This is where my "village" became really important.  On the brink one day, I went in to drop her at dance and told the sweet office manager to please relay to Mrs. Katharine (the teacher) that we NEEDED to have a really good night, and a little ego boost would not hurt either.  Whew!  A mother's work is never done.  Never.

 As time passed, we began to grow and know that we were doing great.  We spent a lot of time away from home creating memories together.  NOW.  More than one person has commented, quite positively, about me taking the girls all over the place.  Here's how it is.  It is always a good plan to take my girls out to experience new things and have fun.  However, there are three of them.  They have more moods than are humanly possible.  It is a given fact that one, or all, of them are not going to be happy at some point, or all of, that day.  They are going to fight in the car over which movie to watch, the radio station we play, that someone's leg is in their space, that they are thirsty/hungry, need to pee, just can't take it anymore, the list goes on and on.  Can I get an AMEN?

But...I can let this stop me or I can let this grow me.  I always choose to let it grow me.  I am not trying to give them a perfect childhood or a perfect me.  I am trying to give them a memorable childhood with me in it.  I am going to regretfully snap at them, forget snacks and drinks, hurry them along when they want one more minute, negotiate to get my way, compromise to give them their way, buy too much for them, buy too little for them, the list goes on and on.  I have done thousands of these outings and trips at this point, and I am not sorry for a single one.  I will only ever be sorry for the ones I didn't take.  That I know for sure.

For us, the key to time passing quickly was the holidays.  We typically made big plans, usually involving a trip to North Carolina, where my parents live.  A little timeout for me and some extra love that only grandparents know how to give.  When one holiday was over, we started looking toward the next one.  This way, we were always looking forward.  Never backward.  Forward.  That is all we knew.  Forward.  The only way to make it to the end.

 As I reflect back, the hardest times were when one of them was sick and their birthdays.  I think Nate would agree with me on this.  As parents, we all know that when a child is sick that child requires extra from you in the way of time, love, and attention.  We also know that there is that one special day, each year, that children look forward to more than any other...their birthday.  For Nate and me, this is always a special day that we reflect on my pregnancy with that child, what we felt and experienced, and how we can't believe that child is that age.  We all do that last one.  Right?  So I would say birthdays were quite hard for me this year too.  Plus, he is the calm in all of my birthday storm.  Let's not forget that there are 3 birthdays to plan, execute, and celebrate - in less than 30 days.

As Christmas came around I got this overwhelming feeling that I wanted to buy ALL.THE.THINGS.  I told Nate and my mom that I had no idea what had come over me, but I wanted to give them all that I could.  I wanted it to be big, and to lavish them with so many wonderful things.  This is a far cry from my normal personality that wants to be a gift minimalist to teach more about time, love, and togetherness over materialism.  I can only explain it like this.  I was proud.  I was so, so proud of them.  They had done it.  They were in the tunnel and the light was finally in view, and I was celebrating them!  And I did.  And I am not sorry for it.

#reallife  #blurrypictureisbetterthannopicture #bestoutoftwenty
 Our Christmas elf, Eli, made and brought us a countdown chain for the 30 days leading up to Nate's arrival.  Eli really doesn't understand how the military works.  Things happen.  Like our daddy got all the way to the day of departure to have his flight cancelled.  Thankfully we got word in plenty of time to not tear that last link.  Then it was decided.  It would be torn by all five of us at the airport.  And we did.

 Just as he left in the middle of the night, he would arrive way past bedtime.  Excitement had every girl up that morning before 6 a.m.  Yep.  That feeling and thought that just went through your head.  Me too.  BUT....memories not perfection.  We had waited 380 days for this single moment and time was not getting in our way.

 And when those doors opened...


 We had him and sound.

 Where he belongs.  

With his girls.
Girls insisted that we all wear camo colors.  Daddy's favorite.  ;)

  My Dear Girls,

What a year we had together!  I will forever cherish this time with you, watching you grow in ways that I never expected.  Each one of you is truly amazing!  You have experienced the sorrow of a missing parent, the hardship of having only one parent, and the love that can happen when sacrifice, obedience, and determination collide.  

I remember, when we were having a particularly hard moment, I said this..."One day each of you are going to experience hard moments.  Hard seasons.  Disappointments.  Moments when you don't think you can do it anymore.  That you can't go on.  I want to show you this year that while it is hard, I can do it.  I can't do it perfectly because I am not perfect.  But I can do it with the best of intentions and love.  When you are in the middle of those hard moments I want you to look back and remember this time and know that if I could do this, so can you.  We can do hard things.  Don't you ever tell me you can't because I have shown you that you can. And one day you will show me that you can.  And I will be cheering you on."  I believed it then and I believe it now.  Hard things happen.  Let it grow you.  In fact, go ahead and BLOOM.  


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