Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Lord is my....Weatherman?!?

It's very hard to drip from thousands of miles away. It's hard to think your man could do anything wrong when he is thousands of miles away. I guess that is the main reason that when I read this verse while he was gone, it really never spoke to me. In fact, when I passed over it, I would specifically, pridefully think how very un-drippy I was.

"A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike."

Proverbs 27:15

In fact, reading this while he was gone and being acutely aware of the dripping of my fellow females around me, I became somewhat prideful. I distinctly remember being in conversations that eventually ended in drippy-ness and complaining. "He is constantly leaving those muddy boots there!" "I don't think he could pick up his dirty clothes if his life depended on it." "He was on the computer all night." "Early? He didn't get home until after 9! I was so mad." "He never puts the top back on!" "I told him that I didn't have time, I don't think he realizes how crazy my days are!" "I was so mad!" "He knew I was mad and I didn't have to say a word." All I would have to say, (and being truthful yet it was definitely pride mixed in) "I would give anything for muddy boots to be in my hall." Instantly, conviction would set in and the conversation would turn to better things.

Now, I will be the first to admit I have dripped a bit in my marriage...ok, possibly more than a bit. In fact, right beside this verse in my Bible I have the words in the margin, "Do I drip?" I am usually very aware of my drippyness, but when he is gone and is thousands of miles away, I can't drip. I don't drip. I refuse to drip. Our phone conversations are anything but drippy. In fact, our conversations are perfect. We are not bombarded with questions, interruptions, and daily life. Everything stops when they are deployed and they find a minute to call. The conversations are schmoopie and sweet talk. It's wonderful.

My sweet Marine has been home now for exactly 30 days. Other than the usual adjustments of remembering how much earlier need I get up when he is home, lunches that need to be made the night before, additional laundry in the hamper, and remembering to buy those Swiss cake rolls he loves so much, our homecoming is usually very seamless. He is great about coming in, stepping in to help, giving baths, running errands, and just being Dad and husband again.

It wasn't until a quiet morning that I first realized that God was trying to convict me on my dripping. I remember that morning specifically because when I got to the verse about the dripping, I realized it was also raining outside. Not a heavy thunderstorm-for-an-hour-and-blow-over kind of rain, but a constant steady dripping kind of rain. Hmmmm, that's so interesting how God used that word picture. And on the same morning that I read this. That was my one and only thought before I finished my quiet time and began my day of schooling, laundry, and life. Errands that took us out of the house, a package that arrived at our door, and a dog that needed to be occasionally let out, all got me out in that constant dripping kind of rain. Our house does not have gutters so not only are you dealing with the steady rain but each time coming or going, you are dealing with the constant dripping from the steady rain. In your eyes, on your arm, in your hair. I love the rain, really I do, but it eventually wears on you. It gets your clothes damp, back stairs muddy, hair wet, floor dirty, and dogs smelly. "Ugh, I will be so glad when it stops raining!" Drip. That word seemed almost audible in my head and instantly I thought of my verse from this morning "A constant dripping on a day of steady rain....." What a word picture.

I thought about that night before with Patrick. He had had a long day and while I was upstairs tying up loose ends with school, he had shut off lights and had gotten into bed. I was annoyed coming down the stairs. Didn't he know I was not done in here I thought as I turned on a light. Ugh. Dishes in the sink from his "midnight snack." Huge sigh, trying to be loud enough to be heard. Dishes clanging together a little more loudly than need be. As I finished, I turned off lights and headed to the bedroom. The laundry that I had left on the bed that afternoon that needed to be folded, was in the hamper next to the bed...NOT folded. The least he could have done was started folding laundry. I made a point to sigh louder as I turned on the bedside lamp and hastily began folding the laundry. "Baby, I would have done that, but I am so tired. Leave it and just come to bed." Easy for him to say. "Baby, if I leave it for tomorrow, it will just add to tomorrow. I don't think you have any idea what my days look like." Drip. I won't go any further. You get the point.

As I sat there that rainy day, it occurred to me that was a Drip. How did I start dripping already?? He just got home. I quickly pushed the thought aside. One drip. Ok, so I had a moment. I will apologize later. My day continued but I couldn't get that out of my head. I could almost see the question next to that verse in my Bible as if it were right before me...Do I drip?

Very conscious of my "bad weather" moment, I pressed through my day. When he got home I made a point to greet him and show him with my hug how glad I was that not only was he home, but that he was home, home and not in an overseas country. As he walked toward the kitchen, I heard his wet flight boots squeaking, "ugh, your boots! Patrick." Drip. I did it again! My heart stopped as I watched him remove his boots and with a quick apology run off to see children. What am I doing? Who cares about his boots? Didn't I spend the last 7 months reminding my drippy friends how much I would love to have his boots in my house? I quickly said a prayer that God would help me to not drip. Oh, what a reminder I was about to get.

Slowly, God started bringing to mind my dripping. It was a slow trickle at first and then became a steady rain of memories of the past 30 days. I had fallen right back into my drippyness without even realizing it. He had been signed up for a cross-country the weekend he returned from leave. Drip. He left the bags from unpacking on the floor in our room. Drip. He didn't call one day from work. Drip. He decided he needed a new truck. Drip. He was off one day when we had school and made it very difficult to get stuff done. Drip. He left the creamer out one morning instead of putting it back into the refrigerator. Drip.

Thankfully, not every drip was verbalized, but every drip was a real thought nonetheless. It was keeping me on the defensive. I was so ashamed. God had, so quickly, shown me where I was falling into old habits and not choosing to love Patrick. The Drip was constant. It was, at times, clouding my good thoughts and keeping my focus away from the blessings of having my man home. It was making me ready for an argument, if not with Patrick, in my thoughts. My dripping was putting up barriers and robbing me of my joy.

God was teaching me and using the simple concept of rain to do it. I prayed that day, and everyday since that God would be my Weatherman. He would stop the dripping. He would remind me daily to keep my focus on His plan and not the wet boots on my floor. When I am dripping the forecast is anything but welcoming...cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms and definite dripping. When I am walking with my God and keeping my thoughts captive the forecast is much more inviting...sunny, no chance of drips.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

10 Minutes Out

"They are 10 minutes out ma'am."

What? He will be here in 10 minutes? My heart began to beat and every emotion I should have already had, I had in about a span of...well, 10 minutes.

The weeks leading up to Patrick's return were some of the busiest, most intense weeks I have had since their leaving on July 6...and then again on July 7. My thoughts were constantly on the men returning home, getting messages out to the wives, and the logistics of my being there for each homecoming, not because I had to but truly because I wanted to. These women had come to mean so much to me. We had weathered this deployment together and I wanted to see the culminating end for each one of them. It is such a precious time and I was truly, unmistakeably happy for each one of them.

Knowing my husband was last to fly in, my thoughts and focus were on the string of jets from here to Japan. Once the jets depart from Japan, the easiest and fastest way of getting information is from them. In Hawaii, they are able to use their personal cell phones and that's when the information changes by the hour as jets break, jets take off, men walk, weather systems pass through, etc. I had asked each of the women to keep me posted on any information they got just to make sure no one missed a homecoming due to bad info on my part. I was getting text messages, emails, fb messages, and phone calls. As times and arrivals changed, my brain was in constant overdrive as to the logistics of my own family and trying to squeeze in multiple trips to the squadron to welcome them all home at any hour of a given day. I was constantly checking email between spelling tests, logging into fb to check messages while doing laundry, and returning phone calls in route to ballet classes. My brain was in constant motion and at the end of everyday, I was physically and emotionally drained. I knew Patrick was lagging behind in cell two and I didn't even have the time to contemplate his movement in our direction. For the better part of 10 days I was constantly thinking about main body, cell one, cell two, separate emails, text messages, phone calls, children, their activities, timelines, babysitters, etc.
The ready room was a buzz of activity. I can remember mentally checking off names as I saw faces in the ready room and when they arrived. I knew who was in cell two and I was worried that everyone would get there in time. When I first walked in, I saw a new wife's face that I didn't think would make it in time from NC and I was so relieved. I checked off another sitting opposite her. As they arrived, I checked them off mentally. I wanted to hug each one. I saw extra faces and I was so thankful. We had been such a tight group and this was just a testimony of that. They had their men. They didn't need to be there; but they were. We were a team. One for all and all for one. I was looking, hugging, checking.

I guess that is why when I asked the ready room desk if they had heard from cell two, I was stunned to hear them say, "They are 10 minutes out ma'am."

It all suddenly became still. With those six words, it suddenly all came into focus on my family. Those 10 minutes are frozen in my memory. I can almost remember every single second. I no longer was focused on faces in the ready room, but the face in my own mind of my sweet husband who was about to be physically in front of me. I remember my heart beginning to beat much faster and I was instantly nervous. All of a sudden, I no longer cared who was there, I was nervous. I was looking around to round up my crew. Searching the ready room crowd for the familiar faces of my children. It's funny what begins to go through my mind and how quickly the thoughts come and go. How will I look to him? Will he like my outfit? How do the girls look? What is that red stuff on Caley's cheeks? Lillie's hair needs to be smoothed. Where are the boys? Are the boys ready?

9 mins....People ask me all of the time what it is like, you know, seeing him for the first time, and I can not explain it nor fully put it into words. To be apart for so long, you get used to him not being physically there. Phone calls and emails do not replace the physical presence of anyone, especially not of your man. For 204 days, I slept alone, I held no one's hand, I never hugged a grown man in a romantic way, there were no playful pats, no sweet kisses, no looking into someone's eyes, and no sense of someone being right there. I wondered how my hair looked, did I still have lipstick on, and oh no! the wind is blowing so hard! What will my hair look like? Is my scarf straight? It won't matter! The wind is blowing so hard! It's going to be all up in my face! The girls will be cold. Cole doesn't have a jacket.

8 mins....As we began to mill outside, my thoughts began to switch to our home. Will he like the sign? Did I remember to pick up the magazines on the counter? Will dinner smell good? Will he like the new pillows on the couch? I should've gotten a new sheet set. I wonder if I should have bought that coffee table? Did the grass people come? I should have put flowers in those buckets by the front steps. Ugh. Did Logan remember to do poop patrol? I hope Lady Bug, just this once, stays out of her clean litter box!

7 mins. ... The kids began to wave their flags and play with the others. I watched my own. My Logan stood off to my side, very quiet and waiting. He looks tall to me today. And so much like Patrick. My young man was a rock. He was invaluable this deployment and was such a huge help. I love him. Cole was running around with the girls. He looked so sweet and innocent. His joy was evident. Still so much a boy. He worried about me so much during the last 7 months, almost too much at times, and missed his Daddy. His tears would come and he just needed to be hugged. He had the best hugs and he never pulls away first. My girls were waving flags and playing chase. They were chatting with the other kids. Their smiles pasted on their faces. So many tears over missing their Daddy. Caley learned to ride a bike and Lillie had lost two front teeth. He had missed it. Would he notice? They had a list of things they wanted to show him. It had been a long 204 days. I knew God had walked me gently through this deployment, but it had been a particularly emotional one for me. The missed holidays, the extra worry of the squadron wives and all of their personal trials, middle school for Logan, and being without family for longer stretches of time. My children wouldn't necessarily remember my struggle this time because it wasn't until the quiet of my nights that the tears would come. I thought of the things I had had to walk through alone. Things that by the time he and I talked or chatted, were already a thing of the past. I hated to bother him and I knew he worried about me. I am good about keeping my daily woes to myself. He has a job to do and he can do it better when he knows I am ok. I was ok. My God was so good. My moments were just that, my moments. He didn't need details, he just needed to know we were good. I needed him to know that; in the big picture of each of our weeks, we were good. Sometimes bearing that load without my husband to talk to nightly can take it's toll. But God provided ears and shoulders for me; He always does. I had wonderful friends from church who I knew were praying for me, I received two anonymous cards with such encouraging words, I had those special neighbors that knew when I needed something and were there, and I had "my person" in the squadron who allowed me to release and bounce ideas off of her and meet me to keep me company when I needed it the most. Yes, God had provided. But it's still not the same. I still remember this moment in time right before the jets came. Someone took a picture and I am crying. It's the only one. I wasn't sad, just remembering the past 204 days without him.

4 mins....Someone yelled, "I can hear them!" Sure enough, faintly in the distance, the unmistakeable sound of jets. I can still remember getting chill bumps. It was cold that day, but those weren't from the weather. The sound of jets coming in when you are waiting after such a long separation are the sweetest sounds. The kids are jumping and shouting, flags were waving, "my person" gave me a hug. I teared up again, but that time because her hug reminded me how thankful I was God crossed my path with her.

There they were!! 5 jets in perfect formation! Awesome! Wait, there were supposed to be 6?! Did one have to go back? Where was that jet?? I overheard someone say, the one jet had to go ahead and land. So they were all here. Oh thank goodness. They each peeled off to land. Such an amazing moment. The excitement is overwhleming.

3 mins....As you are waiting for the jets to come around, it is some of the longest moments. I remember gathering up my children and the nervousness came back. It's almost the feeling of those first dates. It's the first touch. It's that weak in the knees feeling. I get those emotional feelings all back again and it is so wonderful. The anticipation is so exciting!

1 min...The first jets round the bend and I begin to count. He is jet 4 and number 13. Why didn't I wear my glasses? That's jet number four. Is it number 13 though?? I should have gotten my glasses. In the last moments of me thinking it was jet number13, that pilot in that jet didn't respond like mine would have. Frantic, I began looking around and just then, as quick as I realized my error. I saw him. Shear joy! We did it! #6 was over! All of those months of being alone, doing it all alone, were done! I could see him pumping his fists in the air and in that moment in time, I did it too! Someone caught a picture of this too. Only one.

As my children ran out to the jet, as I got closer, it was him. His smile, his mannerisms, his quirky way. As he climbed out of the jet and our family hugged, I could see him look at me. He caught my eye. It was him. As I patiently watched my kids all hug him, I stared at him. His laugh, his voice, his quirky way. It was him. I was in love. At that moment, it wasn't the daily choice kind of love, it was the feeling kind of love. The butterflies in your stomach kind of love. It is the first kiss kind of love, the dancing in his arms kind of love, the quiet conversations late at night kind of love. I was in his arms. I was his wife. I was done shouldering the load without him. The relief was overwhelming. The love I had for this man was overwhelming. The joy was overwhelming.

All of this, in just 10 minutes out.