"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." John 1:16

A place for us to document and share the grace upon grace we have received.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

It Takes a Village...


Since moving to Mississippi, John has been working to assemble a great group of Physical Therapists to work at Keesler AFB.  There have been 3 contract PTs hired and 5 interns who began an internship in January.  They have all moved here from various places around the country to study and learn under John. Some are single and some have families so we have been trying to help them get situated.  Of course now John is not here.  But he will be back, and in the meantime, they have done a great job in their particular roles of teaching, education and clinical work.  I can only imagine how fun it is to be in the PT clinic with all these guys!

They have also been particularly sweet to my family.  Kevin has been here the longest and has taken the boys especially under his wing.  He has come to all their birthday parties, Monday night football at our home (which is really just wrestle time with the boys) and really gotten to know our family.  Now that John is gone, he along with some of the others have taken the boys to Saturday morning breakfast (a tradition John has been doing for years), helped to set up my TV, and have been so good at playing football and soccer with the kids.  

A couple weekends ago, we all went to pizza and a hockey game together.  The Mississippi Surge was really a fun team to watch...and some of the fans were even more fun to watch...true loyalty!  Here are some pictures from that night.






Friday, January 27, 2012

Grateful for the "Stretch"

I won't be as good as Amy about regular blogging, but I will try to blog at least once a week with a brief update (ok, this one is not brief). In a strange way, I actually enjoy keeping up with what's going on with me via Amy's blog posts as the reality for me has been quite a blur. I can reference the blog posts and actually remember what has transpired!:) Anyone who has deployed, especially on such short notice (and for me a first deployment period so I am quite the novice!), will admit to going through several stages of transition as you begin to cope with the austerity of the setting you're about to live in for the foreseeable future (as I blog from my plywood box home). That transition is what I hope to describe in a bit of detail now. To be clear, don’t worry about my mental state as you read it (I am doing fine!!!). However, I thought it would be helpful to try and describe my transition with as much candor and transparency as possible.

By far, the most down moment for me personally was when we headed out of Manas for Bagram on a C-17 in the early am with the temperature at 20 degrees below zero. The engines had a hard time starting because of the cold so we had no heat on the airplane. It was frigid to say the least. If you’ve ever been in the cold for a prolonged period of time, you know that there is not much more demoralizing than being extremely cold! After about 3 additional cold hours sitting the C-17 awaiting takeoff, we finally got on our way. Decked out in all my gear, now flying into a combat zone, that was when it hit me that my delusion about coming home soon wasn’t going to happen. I was headed somewhere I didn’t want to go for too long a time away from Amy and the kids. What made that day more difficult was that when we landed in Bagram, there was about 10 inches of snow on the ground. The base was completely socked in…you couldn’t see 10 feet in front of you. Now I am getting really bummed as we exit the airplane and crowd inside a cramped bus, having to be towed off the tarmac due to the snow. Nonetheless, we finally made our way to the passenger terminal after sliding all over the place. It was time to in process and retrieve my bags. I was exhausted, cold, hungry, and more than anything bummed about being away from home. About the only thing that made the next few moments bearable was that my colleagues on the team were already there to meet me. They were smiling much wider than me because they had already been at Bagram for 5 months and well on the other side of the transition that I had just begun. Their greeting was a huge boost, as many folks arrive and then have to figure out on their own what they are supposed to do next. I am very thankful for the greeting I received and can’t emphasize enough how much this meant to me, particularly given my mood about that time. The funny part to me now is that I ignorantly dismissed them when they told me prior to my arrival that they would meet me. C’mon, I fly all over the country on a regular basis and get into my taxi or rental car and head to my nice hotel accommodations completely by myself. I don’t need no stinkin’ greeting committee. Hah, they fortunately knew that I was completely clueless so smartly ignored my request and showed up anyways. I am more grateful for that greeting than just about anything I have experienced so far. It was a big deal given where I was at the moment. They took all my gear, got me settled into my room, and then off to a hot meal. Alas, I was no longer cold. In moments like this, Maslow’s hierarchy kicks in big time…it’s the sheer basics that count more than anything!

Lest you’re getting bummed out reading this, recognize I am describing the events in somewhat exhaustive detail for memory sake. When my kids (as all kids do) give me the “you don’t know how I feel” line, I can reference this post (yes, Emma, I can still lecture you from Afghanistan!:). The best news in all of this is that I knew this would be the bottom of my 6 months. Everyone invariably tells you that the transition into the theater is the most difficult part as the reality of the separation from family and friends definitively sets in, which is what was happening to me. This may sound silly, but some deeply embedded “tough time” memories from my USAFA days (as Amy well remembers too), especially survival training, provided some terrific reference points that what I was currently going through was not as bad as that! The other major reference point for me still now a full week into my deployment is the countless service members at Bagram and elsewhere around Afghanistan who go "outside the wire" every day executing the ground operation, which is where the vast majority of the risks lie (exponentially higher than what I face in the comfort of my warm office). In fact, there was a group of guys sitting next to me on the C-17 coming into Bagram who were all "EOD" (Explosive Ordinance) guys. They were going to be "outside the wire" within 30 minutes of our landing (they too with little to no sleep) trying to locate IEDs (improvised explosive device), which are what is killing so many of our service members as they travel around Afghanistan because of their conspicuous placement along roads and other paths where we might travel. These individuals (and the many others with similar responsibilities) are the true heroes in the sense that they intentionally try to find explosive devices and then defuse them (or in my simplistic mind do whatever you do to try and make a bomb no longer a bomb). They make one small mental error in their decision-making when they come upon a device, and life is forever altered for them, and that’s presuming they survive the blast. I can assure you I wouldn’t do it for $1 million a year, and they do it for far less than what I get paid (we have stuff very backwards sometimes).

That’s enough for now. A full week into it, I am doing much better now and really starting to get integrated into life at Bagram. I assure you that subsequent posts will be more positive, but I thought it would be helpful in the interest of transparency to share some of the realities of what my transition has been like, all of which is textbook type stuff that most everyone goes through except perhaps the deployment “veterans” who spend more of their careers deployed than they do stateside. The best news of all is that God is supremely good and using these moments to teach me in ways that are far more effective than listening to a sermon (no offense Bruce as you will be glad to know your sermons on my ipod continue to be a terrific source of teaching and encouragement from Bagram, just as they are in Biloxi!:)). Real life experiences with real challenges forces you to grow in ways you simply can't do by reading a book. I am extremely grateful for the "stretch" and thankful for His perfect provision and timing in all things.

With love,

John

1 week down...23 to go...but who's counting!

John's Address

Many people have asked about John's address so I have been told there is no reason that I cannot post it here.  His address is:

John Childs
Task Force MED East/JC2RT
APO AE 09354

(please do not use his rank)
I have used the regular mail (APO addresses are about the same as mailing in the US).  Also the flat rate boxes work for APO addresses and then it doesn't matter the weight so that is good for heavy stuff.  It is about 1-2 weeks for things to get there (although I mailed a big heavy box about 11 days ago and it still hasn't arrived)...it has his pillow in it!

As for what he needs...he is provided for fairly well (thanks to your tax dollars already!)  Even though he says he doesn't "need" anything, I do think personal notes (so he can keep up with life in the states) are going to be good morale boosters for him.  He also mentioned beef jerky and microwave popcorn.  His favorite candy is starburst and skittles.  So those are just a few ideas.  Some of you with experience may have more clever ideas!

His email is also the same as before.  He has several addresses so keep whichever one you have, but
john @texpts.com also works if you need a new one!

The hard thing right now for me in adjusting is that I am very used to talking with him 3-4 times per day.  Even though he was extremely busy, we would keep in touch frequently.  I now have about 10 minutes once a day (usually around noon...which is lunch time and kind of busy here) to talk with him.  It is about 10:30 pm then (there is a 10.5 hour time change) and so he is tired and anxious to get a few hours of work done to go to bed.  We may be able to find a better system, but I really miss talking to him in the evenings and telling him about our day!

I am also learning that I need to be even more intentional than I was in the past about making plans and doing things with the kids.  Our life is so different here than in San Antonio. I do not have a full calendar (I think part of God's whole purpose?) and we do not have a ton of friends, so I need to be very proactive about being purposeful!

Thanks again for all your support and encouragement...to me and to John!

God is good and He is good ALL THE TIME!
Amy

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lauren's Birthday


A Peek Into Our Week

While John has been navigating his way across the world, back in Mississippi we have been trying to "normalize" life without daddy.  The only birthday John was to miss during his deployment (other than his own big 40!) was Lauren's 11th birthday.  We did go out to dinner before he left, but it was a little somber.

This past week we had John's mom (Connie or Mim as we call her) come out to visit.  She brought John's sister, Julie and her 2 girls.  So it was fun to celebrate with family!  We also had the "surprise" arrival of "Flat Daddy."  I figured if I am going to have to endure this deployment, I want to do as well as I can...so we got a "flat daddy" to have some fun!  Sometimes, humor is necessary or certainly helpful to survive.  So flat daddy got to come to dinner with Lauren.

As soon as they left we had a visit from my parents from Tucson, AZ.  It was a trip planned long before Christmas, but unfortunately they did not get to see John in person.  Nevertheless, it was a good diversion to have family around to entertain the children and to help me with the daily routine of meals, baths, etc.  Thank you Mim, Aunt Julie, Mary, Mattie, Grandma and Papa Wally...we love you all and in times like these we are especially thankful for family!


Mim, Daddy and Lauren (sorry for the glare..."flat daddy" just radiates!!)

A birthday kiss!

How we talk to John...this was when he was in D.C. hence the nice background (a hotel).
*You might notice the saying I have above the TV...I think the Lord knew I would have to look at this every time I am looking at this wall in our family room!

The girls enjoying Lauren's birthday lunch at the Phoenician (a local restaurant)

Her sweet little cake

A proud mom and her son.  She never really got to say good-bye since he had to leave so quickly.

Emma and daddy

Daddy at dinner!

Monday, January 23, 2012

John's New Home


A picture is worth a thousand words...



The alley to walk to the bathroom.

John's bed and "desk" area

His "B" Hut...he will share with 5 others and each will have their own "cubby" space.

His shelf

Sometimes the heat works and sometimes not, sometimes there is hot water and sometimes not...lots of variables but no one really seems to know what they are...

Boy we cling to Jesus in times like these!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On the Ground in Bagram

John made it to Bagram...finally!  There was a 4 hour delay once he was on the flight to leave for Afghanistan.  Evidently, that was rough.  The plane was delayed because the cold weather was causing electrical malfunctions.  He sat on the tarmac with no food, water, bathroom and freezing cold temps (like -20 F outside) and no heat inside.  He said it was the hardest part of the trip so far.  When he landed in Bagram there was 16 inches of snow on the ground and the bus he was in had to be towed.  He was appreciative of his team at the Passenger Terminal to greet him, get his bags and tell him where to go.  He said that he really was at the point where you are so tired it is hard to function.  He did get a nice "B" Hut (it is all relative remember?) and he is headed for bed.  I will update later, but did want to thank you for prayers during his travels.  We kept reminding ourselves that it is all perspective as I was asking him how it was to finally be there.  He did say that although it was 30 degrees F and there was the largest snow storm they have had in a while...it was still 50 degrees warmer than when he left Manas...Perspective!!!! It is all perspective!!!!

Looking forward in his plane...the cargo door in the back is open and that it why it is cold. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Almost There!

This is John in the last leg of his journey to get to his duty station.  He is literally half way around the world with a 12 hour time change.  Once in country it will be a 10.5 hour time change.  It was -20 degrees F at night and a few degrees warmer during the day.  I made him take these very "wimpy" hand warmers (little packets you put in your pockets to warm your hands).  He is smiling right now because he has those!  It makes me feel good as a wife when I can take care of my husband...even from 7000 miles away!




Friday, January 20, 2012

“Boots on the Ground” at Manas


I know I am getting closer to Bagram now because with each stop, the conditions get a bit more austere. Beyond fuel and crew issues, I think they must stage the flights like this (U.S. to Germany to Turkey to Manas to Bagram) on purpose so that the adaptation from first to third world is as gradual as possible! Ramstein was a modern air terminal with good internet access (if you can’t tell, a major priority for meJ) and even a German bakery across the street. Incirlik Air Base in Turkey wasn’t bad but a bit cruder than Ramstein. The internet bandwidth at the Incirlik terminal was designed for perhaps a single seat F-16 arrival but certainly not for 300 folks on an MD-11. I am currently at Manas Air Base, which is in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Manas is the final deployment destination for several on our flight but for most of us, the staging area for our final trip into the theater. Actually, Bagram from what everyone says is not all that bad.

Also, just when you want to start moping a bit and do a little “woe is me” dance (my adult version of Lily’s unexplainable tantrum, which I can relate to about right now in fatigue!:)) about the time away from Amy and the kids, you get confronted with a new perspective. While in Incirlik, I ran into a classmate of Amy and mine from USAFA who is also getting deployed non voluntarily but for a year and has 4 children similar to us (I know, Amy, we have 5, but it’s close:)). It’s moments like this, and unfortunately more moments to come when I am up close with our soldiers getting severely wounded and worse yet dying), that make me realize that my situation “ain’t” exactly all that bad. Again, please know I am not trying to undermine the gravity of our team’s mission (and who knows, we might be doing the jitterbug when our B-huts get mortared!), but on the whole, it pales in comparison to those doing the “dirty work” of war. Whatever the case, missing chunks of your children’s lives is just plain hard whether it be 6 months or a year. Many on our flight have deployed numerous times (I am the “weenie” who has never deployed), unfortunately missing most of their children’s younger years. Nevertheless (and certainly by no accident of chance), God is more than able to cover the gaps and use these moments for His greater purposes, however difficult it seems in the immediacy of the moment to understand the logic of it all.

It’s 5:00 am local time so the jetlag is getting ready to hit as sleep has been hit or miss over the last 24 hours. It’s also extremely cold here (negative 13 degrees F)! I am hoping to get out of Manas quickly and will pass along another update once I have finally arrived. More soon, and hope everyone has a great weekend!

John

Worth It!

John was able to have dinner with an old friend the night before he left the country.  He made the comment that some people just make you feel great about yourself and life in general. Steve is one of those people!  We met Steve and Paula 15 years ago when we were stationed in Tucson, AZ.  Neither one of us had children...but we navigated parenthood, marriage, and life in the military together through many backyard BBQs.  It was a special time for sure! John was also able to have dinner with Robyn and Garrett (another set of  friends from many assignments ago).  He commented, "It was just like old times."  There were many more people he wanted to meet with, but had very limited time.  I must say everyone was so willing to drive and come see him. I suppose those who live around the D.C. area get used to driving a lot!

IMAG0005.jpg

Thanks Steve and Robyn and Garrett for being an encouragement to my husband!  It is these relationships and the people we have met along this journey that make life in the military even more worth it!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

“Boots on the Ground” at Ramstein


Well, we just arrived at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, soon to be on our way to Turkey and then Bagram. The local time is currently early am on Friday, Jan 20 so it’s too early to email or call Amy and let her know we completed the first leg of our journey en route to the “poppy fields” of Afghanistan (ok, Bagram, where I am hoping there is no heroin). We were fortunate to have some big tailwinds so an otherwise 8 hour flight was just under 7 hours…not bad! Ambien is a beautiful medication for sleeping in austere places like an airline seat, so I am actually feeling rested at the moment. Also, I must confess that although I miss the usual first class upgrades I get when traveling in the states, make no mistake, flying on these military “rotator” flights is not exactly like sitting in the jump seat of a C-130 (sorry if you’re reading this Brad, but the only good seat in a C-130 is in the cockpit!:). We had decent leg room, and the service was outstanding, with more food than you could eat, someone always wanting to refresh your coffee, and the constant cleaning up of any trash. This was a very pleasant surprise. Speaking of which, I am learning to set my expectations regarding the deployment (where I might sleep, accommodations, food, etc.) extremely low such that when those low expectations are exceeded, I can feel very good even about mediocrity! It’s a terrific psychological ploy that actually works quite well! To be clear, the service on our flight so far was certainly more than mediocre…genuine A+…thanks World Airways for a great flight so far.

Now to digress a bit from the most current events, I thought it would be helpful to give a few updates regarding the last couple of weeks. As most of you know, I left Biloxi for CAST training (which Amy has already blogged about so I won’t repeat) in Guernsey, WY on January 3 after only getting my official notification about the deployment on December 28. Needless to say, it has been quite a whirlwind for both me and Amy and the kids! Having only 48 hours to get all of my pre-deployment activities accomplished (multiple holidays in between the time I found out and the time I left!) turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I felt like what it must be like a VIP to deploy…everyone came to me in a “get ‘er done” mentality, and next thing I knew, I had everything I needed, to include the finance guy who came out to the firing range with all my financial paperwork already completed so all that I had to do was sign in between pulling the trigger! No offense to anyone that works in the MPF, but that sure beats waiting in the usual bureaucratic line that I would have otherwise had to wait in had I had the normal several month notice. God was very kind to me as He knows how frustrated I would have become with the usual deployment processing procedures where if you have 6 months notice, it is sure to take 6 months.

After completing 10 days of CAST training, I headed to Baltimore for a few days of medical research-related regulatory training at Ft. Detrick in MD. The training was super, and perhaps more importantly, it was good to put “faces with names” as the team at Ft. Detrick in many ways serves as my stateside counterparts with whom I will be working closely with throughout my deployment. On this note (and I won’t bore anyone with the details), but I will be serving as the Human Protections Administrator on the Joint Combat Casualty Care Research Team (JC2RT), which is basically to insure that the medical research ongoing in theater is being conducted in accordance with all the various rules, ethics, and laws related to the protection of human subjects. As much as I did not want to deploy (and will get home as soon as I can!), I am very fortunate to have been tagged for what is going to be a terrific job in a role that will heavily leverage my areas of strength and interest. One of my primary teammates in theater is a critical care doc from San Antonio who is an USMA grad. So, we will have plenty of fun giving each other hard times about who made the wrong choice about which service academy to attend. I will be working with top notch, hyper talented teammates. Heck, since most of them are Army folks from the San Antonio area, it will feel like home!

One of the real advantages of being in the military is that you tend to have friends all over the world so that you’re not a stranger no matter where you go. As an example, while in Baltimore for training, I was fortunate to enjoy a nice dinner with good friends Garrett and Robyn Sanborn, who were friends of ours when we were stationed together at Columbus AFB back in 1999-2000. Garrett stays busy in the DC area flying federal VIPs (all the key players except POTUS I think!) all over the world, including Afghanistan. Garrett, I am envious, as I know your accommodations when in the AOR are far nicer than what I am about to enjoy!:) In all seriousness though, thanks for the company and a warm sendoff. It’s the “little things” like this that make a very difficult time in our family’s life just a bit more tolerable. I also got to spend an evening with Steve Larson, who we were friends with when we were stationed at Davis-Monthan AFB. Steve, you are one of those unique individuals who has the ability to uplift anyone you meet with words of affirmation and encouragement. It’s hard to even hear about what’s going on in his life because he spends so much time genuinely wanting to know what’s going on in yours. Steve, you reminded me again why Amy and I enjoyed so much hanging out with you and Paula…you are both dear friends, and I can’t say thanks enough for taking the time. Judd, I simply ran out of time but will take a rain check on my way back assuming you are still in the DC area when I get back in July. It would be great to see you!

In case there is any doubt amongst those reading this, I am fortunate to be married to the greatest wife and Mom on the planet. Although it is difficult for me to be away, all of you associated with the military know quite well that it will be far harder for Amy, especially given the chore of caring for 5 little ones with no assistance from me. We are fortunately very blessed with family and friends who will be visiting often to help out, and I can’t say thanks enough. Although I will be in an austere environment, I will have most of the creature comforts we have back in the U.S. other than perhaps living in a plywood box and of course no kids around to play and wrestle with, which is by far the hardest part. However think about it this way. I will have good wifi connectivity, an international data plan on my phone (my hotspot is working great in Germany!), 3 good meals a day for which I don’t have to prepare or clean up after, a 60 second walk to work or the gym, and even a laundry service! It’s not like I am living the “hard life”, especially when compared to our service members spending most of their time “outside the wire” doing the real dirty work of war (and folks for whom I have always had the greatest of respect but even more so now). Make no mistake, it’s not my preference, and I would not have volunteered to be away from Amy and the kids at their stage of life, but I will ok. Btw, please know that I hope I am not offending any of you who have been at Bagram in a similar role as me. There are still certainly risks (mortar and rocket attacks do still happen so I am not trying to minimize the danger), and I suspect there will be plenty of “downer” moments being so far away from home. Nonetheless, Amy still has it harder than me. In that light, I would just kindly ask that any of you wanting to help out please apportion your attention and encouragement accordingly!:) Heck, I can even order stuff from Amazon, and stuff gets to me in just a few days. What also really helps to make the distance seem shorter is Skype and other electronic media that allows staying in touch on a “24-7” basis a reality. I was even video chatting with Amy on my phone via Skype just prior to our taking off from Baltimore. Amy, speaking of which, you will be glad to know that just like in my normal travels, I am always the last one turning off my phone but fortunately I didn’t have to be told by the flight attendant to shut down my phone. I know you are proud of me!:)

To be sure I don’t leave the wrong impression, and lest you think Amy is depressed and “down in the dumps”, nothing could be further from the truth. As she posted a couple of days ago, we don’t want to waste this deployment but rather see it for exactly what it is, which is a blessing from God to renew our focus on so many levels, which is sometimes difficult to do in the business of a comfortable life together in the U.S. Although I had absolutely no choice about deploying (I suppose I could have chosen to go to jail rather than getting on the airplane!), we do have a choice both individually and as a family as to whether this will be a miserable 6 months or if this will be the greatest 6 months of our family’s life. That clearly is a choice we get to make (it doesn’t get made for us). We choose the latter, and as we're reminded in James, to "count it all joy"! Our singular priority at this stage is to insure that we look back on this 6 months as the greatest blessing that ever happened to our family. I am not exactly sure yet how that will specifically play out just yet, but it will be fun to watch it work itself through. As a tiny and singular example, Amy and I are enjoying reading the Bible though together this year. The time away will also give me plenty of opportunity to exercise intense discipline in every area of life, whether it be spiritual, health, etc. The best part of all of course is that God is either sovereign or He is not (and He is!), so there is enormous peace in just living in the moment and seeing what He has in store. Speaking of which, for any of my non believing friends, I have no idea how you make it through times like this.

As I have shared with many of my professional colleagues, what will keep me sane over the next 6 months is staying connected with everything going on back in the U.S. So, don’t cut me any slack just because I am deployed. In other words, don’t ignore me like I am incapable of doing anything!:) If you need something, please ask. I am hoping to be as responsive and helpful as ever. Finally, in case you haven’t noticed, Amy has been occupying our blog’s “airwaves” over the last couple of weeks with relative silence from me as I have been frantically completing all the last minute preparations and training. However, I will try to chime in from time to time with key updates (in case you can’t tell after this admittedly long initial post), We will see how well it works, but I will also try to do some video blogging as well once I get settled. Some of it will depend on the upload speeds available via wifi, but I will give it a shot!

Many thanks again to our countless friends and family supporting and praying for us during this time away. You are dear to us, and we love you all! The “poppy fields” are just a few hours away. I will let everyone know once I am arrived and well!

With love,

John

Every night when we Skype with John, Logan wants to see his pistol!  This is Logan in his "Battle Rattle."  He is definitely confused about all this.  Almost everyday, Logan asks, "Now how many more days until daddy comes home?" And I respond, "185 days (or whatever we think it might be at this time as his clock doesn't start until he gets in the country) can you count that high?" He just laughs and runs off!  I am thankful that he is still young and carefree and trusting...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"Don't Waste Your Deployment"


A favorite author, John Piper wrote a book called Don't Waste Your Life.  He has also written Don't Waste Your Cancer.  

I am trying to adopt the motto: "Don't Waste Your Deployment." Below is a summary of what Piper talks about in his books.  Obviously I have substituted a word or two.  

1. You will waste your cancer (deployment) if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.

2. You will waste your cancer (deployment) if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.

3. You will waste your cancer (deployment) if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.

4. You will waste your cancer (deployment) if you refuse to think about death.

5. You will waste your cancer (deployment) if you think that “beating” cancer (deployment) means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.

6. You will waste your cancer (deployment) if you spend too much time reading about cancer (deployment) and not enough time reading about God.

7. You will waste your cancer (deployment) if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.

8. You will waste your cancer (deployment) if you grieve as those who have no hope.

9. You will waste your cancer (deployment) if you treat sin as casually as before.

10. You will waste your cancer (deployment) if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.



<em>Don't Waste Your Life</em> [Book]


The night John left, I had about 45 minutes to wait for Emma to be finished with her music class.  So I had the other 4 children and we drove down to the beach to watch the sunset (from the car as it was very cold!) It was such a good reminder that this is the same sun that shines on Bagram and it is the same God that makes it rise and set.  In this midst of great turmoil, it gave me great peace to know that God was and is fully in control.   

Tomorrow John leaves the country.  I think this will be hard for me so I ask for special prayers.
Amy



Monday, January 16, 2012

Training Finished!

John has completed his 10 days of "in the field" training.  It was good training that we both pray he never needs...things like how to get out of a humvee that has rolled over, how to clear a city, how to not shoot yourself by accident, or what to do if you are surprised in your office by a random "shooter."  We had much of this at the Academy, however that was more than 20 years ago AND it was for "pretend."  The threat was not real at the time...this time it is real and that makes a big difference.  I am thankful that this part is over.

John is in Baltimore for a few days before heading out of the country on Thursday.  In hindsight, I might have been able to fly and meet him to spend a few more days with him.  (We were actually supposed to go to Charleston, S.C. together this weekend). I try to travel with him...and without the children once every year.  It is usually the best 4 days and one of the most important things I do for our marriage...we will plan something for when he gets back.  However, a few weeks ago when our world was turned upside down and there were so many plans to be made...it was hard to think about whether I could meet him in Baltimore.  And in all honesty we talked about it and thought neither one of us could handle the emotions of another good-bye.

John has had a couple of days to wash clothes, get his heating blanket (which he was told he would need to get), and he wrote an entire paper in a 24 hours time period!  That is a record!  Life at home is calming down a bit and I am putting some things in place to help me through the next 6-7 months (like hiring someone to help around the late afternoon and evening with dinner, baths, and driving around for activities).  That is a hard time of day and one that I have somewhat come to dread.  Bedtime seems to consume much of my energy as I know the importance of this time...and there are often lots of tears.


Logan with his "daddy doll."  


Friday, January 13, 2012

"Training Days"


John usually likes his black turtlenecks, bluetooth and briefcase.  This get-up is a far cry from his comfort zone!  He is definitely showing that he is a man of many skills and can adapt to the challenge!  He will be getting some good "hands on" training needed for situations that we hope and pray do not happen.  Much of this a refresher from USAFA days...but it is good to go over again and this time it is for real...


Heading out for Land Nav

Land Nav team 

Battle Rattle

Dinner and sometimes lunch

Radio training

"Saying Goodbye"

Jan 2, 2012...was a Monday.  It was a holiday in observance of New Years Day.  John had to go to work to get his POW pictures taken.  That hit home...About 4:00 pm I looked at the clock and I thought, how do you stop time? It was ticking and the hour was looming...Jesus wept and so did I.

While I was making homemade taco shells for dinner, Lauren said, "It is better to cry in the shower because then you can't tell if your face is wet from crying or the shower."  She tried to lighten the mood and it worked for a minute.  We had tried to make the most of the few days we had been given.  John took the boys to Waffle House one last time.  He showed Emma a few things about our finances that she could help me with.  He told me who to call about our investments if something should happen to him.  He changed the air filters in our home. We celebrated Lauren's birthday.  Hers is the only one (except for John's big 40) that he will miss. She wanted to go to Japanese and so after we went together to the base to get some more stuff for John, we got to the restaurant.  Lily fell out of her chair and cut her lip.  It was a sad night but we tried to find joy.


Our family at Saki

Praying before our meal

Monday night we ate dinner together for the last time...for a while. The last prayers before a meal....the last tuck ins, how do you spend those last few hours with your family?  What do you say to your spouse before you try to fall a sleep...knowing he will be picked up at 3:00 am and you won't have much time to say good bye then?  You don't say much...you just pray...and search for that "joy unspeakable".

You eat ice cream with your 8 year old and watch a football game.

You snuggle with your 2 year old who knows that something is up but doesn't know what.

And so he left...

"Joy Unspeakable"



Joy Unspeakable. This was to be my theme for 2012.

A friend had a stroke on Dec 14 and my heart has been so heavy for her and her family since that day.  She still cannot speak and is beginning rehab to get some movement back, however she has a long road to go.  She was a peer.  This was not a person that had been ill or was well into their later years.  She is just a little older than me with 4 children and a great husband.  She has a heart for orphans and we have spent hours talking about fostering and adoption.

In my prayers for her, I was led to the phrase Joy Unspeakable.  In the 21st Century King James version it states:


"whom having not seen, ye love. In Him, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" 1Peter 1:8


Since we moved to Mississippi in late July, I had been working hard to find joy in these circumstances.  This was a move that we did not want.  John even tried to separate from the AF so we could stay in San Antonio. We had a home we loved, friends, coops, home school activities, doctors, and a church and church family that was truly a huge part of our life.   We also had small things like walking paths, a neighborhood pool, favorite hole in the wall restaurants that John took the boys to for breakfast, and drive through Starbucks!  These things are now gone and we have had to try and adjust to a new area, new people, almost a new language and rules of the road!  It always amazes me how states are so different from one another even though we are all part of the same country.

So I was preparing for our first Christmas away...trying to figure out how to make this season that is associated with tradition and memories special for my family, when our traditions would be different and the memories would be bittersweet.  Putting up Christmas decorations in a new house is hard.  Where do we put the garland that wraps around the staircase banister when we do not have stairs?  This was puzzling for my children.  Of course we made it work and tried to keep things in perspective.  We continued to pray for Wendy.

On the Eve before Christmas Eve, we were invited to a smores and hot chocolate bonfire on the beach.  This is what you do when you live by a beach.  It was a fun time to experience something different and we met a new group of people.  They invited us for chili before Christmas Eve services the next night.  So we went...and it was nice.  We still didn't know many people, but we were able to make some conversations and feel festive.  The boys played ball with some others and that was good.

Christmas Eve we were invited to a dessert open house after church, however we had some others coming to our house for enchiladas so we were not able to go.  It was really neat to have invitations though after 5 months of no invitations.  At Christmas Eve service I was reminding myself about the need for joy.  How as the mother and keeper of the home, I have a huge influence on whether there is joy in the home or not.  Whether my children are joyful or not. Whether my husband has joy or not.  So that was my goal...joy even if I couldn't speak it or speak about it....

We went to Birmingham on Christmas Day to spend some time with John's family.  It was great to be with family and the kids had fun.  It was 3:50 pm on Dec 27 when Joy was going to become so far from speakable...

John received an email that stated he was to deploy to Bagram, Afghanistan on Jan 15 for 179 days.  We headed home early the next morning to figure it out and on the way home, there was a phone call to tell John that he needed to head to training in Wyoming on Jan 3.  The date was certainly getting moved up! And I still focused on how to find Joy...that at this point was too hard to speak...

Christmas Eve Morning trip to Krispy Kreme

Keeping the tradition...

Enchiladas and church on Christmas Eve