Well…

It’s just been all butterflies and sunshine around here lately, eh?

Hopefully I’ll have some lighter posts coming soon.  (Thinking of a Grey’s Anatomy quote:  “I’ll lighten up when I….  FEEL LIGHT!”)

For now some good news:  The pneumonia has cleared out of one of Gramma’s lungs.  She’s gaining some ground, and this I find encouraging.

Also, Ms. Seraphina is hanging in there post surgery and the doctor mentioned that her heart function appeared better even before they closed. 

And Husband comes home this weekend in time to celebrate our FIFTH anniversary.  Isn’t that cool? 

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Visceral Connections

The night that my husband left for basic training, I went out to my parents house for supper.  I moped around, cried a little, but functioned.

Then I came home, and I got ready for bed.  I started to slip beneath the covers only to realize in physical reality that his body would not be next to mine.

And I called my Mommy.

I called, even though it was well past the proper time to call anybody.  And I cried.  I sobbed, and I screamed and I hollered.  “Mama, Mama….  I can’t do this.  I don’t want to do this.  I want him.  Mama, Mama, Mama, Mama….”

I think of that night so often now.  I still need my Mommy.  I still have so many nights when I just need to call her and scream, “Mama, Mama, Mama…”

Tonight, I deliberately watched the movie Two Weeks which chronicles the last two weeks in the life of the mother of four siblings.  I rightly guessed that I would laugh as much as I would cry.  I guessed that the film would approach the subject in a way that brought the quirky humanity of a family going through the dying process of one of it’s members together.

I suspected it would cause me to feel some things I haven’t allowed myself to feel in some time.  And I was ok with that.

At the end of the film I broke into sobs.  “MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA MOMMMMMMMEEEEEEEE” 

And as I did that I heard the echo of my 13 month old daughter who choruses “Mama, Mama, Mama,” as she goes throughout her day.  Anytime she needs something, or hurts, or is scared, or wants to share a discovery with someone I hear those beautiful words and I love them.

I felt this visceral connection down to my core tonight, as I shouted that word over and over and over again.  How tightly and intricately woven are the roles of one as a daughter, and one as a mother.

How is it that I pay attention to that so infrequently?

I long for my mother.  I long for her arms.  I long for an answer when I sob out her name, but all that comes in emptiness.  All that ever will come for the rest of my life will be emptiness, and longing, and the blackness of her absense in my life.

And so I turned tonight instead to Jesus.  And I begged him to hold me.  And He did.  And He is.

And tomorrow it won’t hurt any less.  It never really stops hurting.  But I’ve learned to find joy again, to be normal again, to be me–changed, wizened…  But me.  I’ll go back to that tomorrow.

For tonight, I just want my Mama.  And I am in that.  Christ is in that with me.  And that will have to be enough.

Sad

I don’t even know what to type about life right now.  Certainly it’s been worse.  Certainly it’s been better.  Certainly in the grand scheme of things it’s just normal bumps and bruises and heartaches. 

Have I any right to be this exhausted by these normal little shake ups?  I’m sure that it only feels like we’ve had more than our share in our first five years as a family…  like they always stack themselves up.  I’m sure it only feels like I’m constantly trying to turn myself inside out to be all the places that I need to be. 

This is how it is for everyone right?  Maybe we really haven’t been through all that much in the past five years since we’ve been married?  The things we’ve survived haven’t been that extraordinary, and it’s probably just my imagination that the volume of it has been so great.  It’s just that I’m slow to recuperate.  And that I have a martyr complex or something. 

I really want my Gram to hang in there for just 13 more days so the girls and I can see her. 

I really hate that one of my best friends is moving to the other side of the country.

I really ache for my Daddy knowing that HE is now dealing with extra health concerns of his own AND our wonderful Nonna is having chest pains on top of all of this.  And I want to be there with him, with them.  I want to beam myself there.  And I also want to be here….  To do the things that lie in front of us as a family.

And so I’m sad, and worried, and anxious.  And of course it feels like deja vu.  It feels like we’re always doing this.  But really it’s the reality of life in a fallen world.  It’s the normal bumps and bruises of life.  It’s like this for everyone right?

I guess it doesn’t matter if it’s like this for everyone…  Right now it’s us going through it.  And all we can do is do the best we can with it.

Pray for my Gram.  Pray for us.  Pray that if she has to leave us soon that we can get back in time to see her, and kiss her silken cheek, and tell her that we love her. 

And pray that my no-more-battered-than-ordinary heart might be encouraged…  might be buoyed…  might weather these normal sorts of bumps and bruises with strength and grace, maintaining it’s tenderness, and not shrinking back in these windstorms that come to us all.

One Absolute

Pretty much all of Navy life is uncertainty.  You know things will happen, but you don’t know when.  X, Y, and Z scenario could take place, but you don’t know which and it’s not uncommon for D scenario to come swooping in out of nowhere and take over at the last second.

But one thing is certain.  There is ONE absolute.  You are ALWAYS missing someone.  It might be your husband during a deployment.  It might be your family.  Always your heart is stretched out wishing it could be miles and miles away to be with someone that you love–usually several people that you love.

Tonight one of my closest friends here sold her house while I played kickball with her kids outside.  I knew that she and her family would be leaving this summer, but in my mind that was still way off.  My mind had it all planned perfectly that they would leave at the end of the summer and we’d have all this time for play dates and long chats scheduled around her house showings.

But instead they leave in three weeks.

That’s hard.  Really hard. 

It took me a LOONG time to start to feel comfortable up here–like I had a network of people to be with and depend on.  My amazing friend Jamie (who will be moving at the end of the year too), has been there from the start, but there was still lots of loneliness. 

A year ago our friends M&K who I mentioned in my previous post left the Navy and returned home.  About that time I really started getting to know this wonderful woman from church.  She was the one I approached about working with me to start a Mom’s group.  Our kids have come to play together like brothers and sisters (and this is another part of the pain–knowing that my girls are going to have to experience another painful goodbye themselves).  She offered to take my kids weekly when she found out about my PPD so that I could go do counseling.  She brought me meals when the kids and I were sick and Husband was gone and I didn’t think I could go on another day.

Tonight, I sat and looked at her wedding photos for the first time.  I heard stories of her courtship with her husband that I’d never heard before.  We talked over the difficulties of marriage with Navy life thrown in, struggles with our kids…  tons of things.  But we both got the sense, I think, that we were only just starting to get to know the ins and outs of one another’s lives.  And now she’s leaving.  It doesn’t seem fair.  Or at least, it just seems really, really hard.

We’ll still be friends.  Our friendship will still grow.  But the quality of that friendship will change.  It will have to. 

Regardless, I am so thankful to have had my friend in my life.  I really needed her this year.  The flip-side of the frequent goodbyes that you must say to people is that you welcome new people into your life as well–people that you’d never meet outside of a lifestyle like this.  In the absense of your own family you become one another’s family.  I can be nothing but thankful that my friend and her family have been in my life.  And that is what makes it so hard to say goodbye.

The goodbyes and the missing never stop with the military.  And sometimes that’s just hard. 

So my friend will leave in three weeks.  And we’ll keep track of one another with phone calls and emails that will ebb and flow with frequency.  Our kids will see pictures of one another and excitedly smile at the prospect of seeing their friend’s face again, even though the next playdate won’t be for years down the road and may never occur again.  We’ll still be connected.  It will be different, but we’ll still be friends.

And I’ll make room in my heart for another friend.  More connections will be sparked.  More family will be made.  There will be more goodbyes down the road too.  But the sharp pain of those goodbyes will be more than balanced out with the joy we’ll find in the friends we encounter.

The missing of people is our constant companion—our one absolute.  It’s what makes us know that our lives are so richly blessed with relationship.  It’s what makes this lifestyle hard, and what makes this lifestyle rich. 

Of course, I’ll remember all of this perspective only intermittently in the next few weeks, I’m sure.  The rest of the time, I’ll just be sad to say goodbye to my friend.  And it’ll be one more reason to say in that matter of fact, tongue in cheek way:  “I hate the Navy.”

*sigh*  Sometimes I really do.

3 Things on My Mind

1.  Husband’s air wing lost a pilot last weekend in a mid-air collision.  Husband attended his first memorial for a fallen comrade this week.  Two planes collided mid-air during a routine training mission over the desert of Nevada where this current detachment is.  The two pilots in the other plane ejected and sustained minor injuries.  There wasn’t time for this gentleman to do so before impact.  He was the father of a two year old, and he lost his life two days before Father’s Day.

I think the thing that gets me most is that it was on a training mission.  Despite the relative ‘safety’ of being in the Navy compared to being army infantry…  Despite the odds that are truly in our favor….  every time that Husband leaves the shadow of, “What if I get that knock on the door” comes over me.  Maybe it’s just because he’s so far out of my sight.   Most of the time I brush it off and tell myself how ridiculous I’m being.  But anything can happen.  Anytime.  Husband could be hit by a beer truck walking off a base, he could get bitten by a rattlesnake on a hike during his off time, or the dangerous nature of Husband’s job–being on the flightline around planes landing and taking off, climbing up on top of slippery birds–could catch up with him at any moment–and I could live that scenario.  A wife on the other side of the country (the rest of the Airwing is based in Virginia), lived that reality this weekend because of a training mission right here over US soil.  And that haunts me. 

2.  My 92 year old Grandma fell this week.  She laid in her tub for 36 hours before her Home Health Aide showed up to take care of some normal tasks, found her there, and called an ambulance (that is the part that hurts my heart the most).  She didn’t break any bones, and despite the ordeal her health seems to remain relatively stable.  But she will be in the hospital for a few more days, and will be moving into a nursing home after that.  We’ve been so lucky to have had her with us for so long, and for her to have been able to live alone for so long.  It will be a very hard transition for her to go into a nursing home, however. 

3.  The daughter of some dear friends of ours will be having heart surgery next Monday.  We met M&K when Husband and M were in A School in Pensacola.  K and I randomly met while doing laundry in the laundry facility of our apartment complex.  We both kept bugging our husbands about whether or not they knew one another, and eventually they met and became friends.  We got orders to come to the Northwest at the same time, and they graciously suffered through some pretty awful homemade cake and ice cream during our first months here, and became some very good friends to us before they left the Navy last summer.

While Little Miss and I were living in IL after Mom’s illness, K had a little baby girl.  She is a gorgeous, bright, active, and sweet little thing, and while they lived here she and Little Miss were great playmates.  Before she was born, she was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.    Before she was six months old, Little S underwent 2 open-heart surgeries.  She’ll have another heart surgery on Monday, which, if I understand correctly is outside of the normal surgery schedule for HLHS, but will hopefully improve S’s heart function.  We worry with them, and we pray for them.

Engagement Benediction

**Note–the image above is a painting by Makoto Fujimura.  More information is below.

 

So seriously, could my last post have been any more whiny?  I don’t think so, Tim.  The planes REALLY WERE loud though.  They were.

And then, the night after I post it, Ann from  Holy Experience, surprisingly and humblingly linked back here in one of her posts after I joined the Gratitude Community.  Yeah, you wanna talk about feeling like a fraud.  *Puts brown paper sack over her face*

Anyway, I’m still fighting off the grumpiness.  We finally got some sunshine yesterday and for most of today and I can’t even tell you how much that helped.  I’m still cagey, I still miss Husband, and for whatever reason–possibly just the time of year–I am feeling the missing of my mother in a raw way once again.  But that’s ok.

That’s not even what I want to write about today.

Every so often, I rediscover Makoto Fujimura.  And it’s always a huge treat when I do.  He’s an artist, but better than that, he is an incarnational artist.  His paintings are acts of worship–vessels which point to the creator.  Husband and I have a particular fondness for Makoto Fujimura.  And I gotta tell you why.

So it was December of our senior year of college.  He who would be Husband was in an art class which he was loving (I  believe art literally saved his life, but that’s another post), and he told me that his class had been given the assignment to go visit the St. Louis Art Museum.  Of course he followed up with, “Want to go with me?”

The St. Louis Art Museum has always been a special place for us.  It was the venue of one of our first non-dates, and the venue of one of our first date-dates.  We knew one another’s favorite pieces and we weren’t afraid of sharing appallingly non-artsy comments with one another like, “OK.  Doesn’t that look like a jenga game?”

Of course, I agreed to go with him.  Upon arriving and after an emergency visit to the facilities, we agreed to begin in the Asian wing.  Now you must know one thing about Husband and I and our art-browsing techniques.  When we find a painting or work that we love, we can’t just stand there and say, “ooooo, ahhhh.”  We have to sit with it.

And so it came to pass that quite unexpectedly, we came to a painting in the Asian wing of SLAM (which had never really been my favorite wing) that made me literally gasp.  It was called “January Hour–Epiphany,” and I remember just wanting to drink it in.  We got closer to the painting and found that there were words painted very subtley in Gold leaf–specifically the passage from John 1 where John the Baptist is asked about his practice of baptizing folks and replies, “I baptize with water.  Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” (John 1:26-27).  I can’t tell you what it was about the painting that captured me so.  But immediately, I knew this was one we needed to sit with.  So we did. 

I continued to drink in the beauty of this painting (which is much bigger and even more stunning in person), when suddenly He who would be Husband was on the floor…  On one knee….  So my mind is racing and at first I’m going, “Why is he on the ground?  Is he ok?  Did he pass out?  No…  He’s upright…  Hmmm…  He seems to have something in his hand…  ACKACKACK!!!!ITSARING!!!!”

I can’t tell you what it is he said–how he asked.  I wonder if he even remembers.  I just remember not being able to breathe, and eventually choking out a yes….  Almost hyperventilating…  Not being able to believe that this was actually happening.  Husband asked if he could kiss me–just once–because we were one of those weird couples who didn’t kiss.   I said yes to that too, and I remember thinking how very soft his lips were.

We sat there a little longer.  When we weren’t staring gooey-eyed into one another’s eyes we continued to drink in the cool, breathtaking beauty of ‘our painting.’  And, ok, yes, occasionally, I stared down at the, also stunningly beautiful, saphire ring on my left hand. 

And that was that.  The rest is history, and five and a half years later, I’m sitting here, wishing that Husband was here with me.  In a couple weeks he will be, and a few weeks after that, he’ll be beside me again to stay, and a new chapter of our lives together will be under way (which is much better than Husband being underway, let me tell you).

So that’s why Makoto Fujimura is special to us.  But even if his painting hadn’t been there to witness the moment of our engagement, he’d still be an incredible artist, with incredible things to say about God, creativity, and community.  The more I learn about him and his take on faith and creativity and art, the more that I hope that being in front of his painting at that moment might be a sort of benediction over our marriage.  I hope so.