Friday, December 7, 2012

Deployment Ahead...Again

Imagine you are traveling down the highway, making good progress towards you destination, and then there it is, right in front of you, the dreaded, big orange metal sign that reads, "Caution, Road Work Ahead," and traffic immediately slows down. After several miles of those oh so lovely orange striped cones, you get that freeing feeling of being able to step on the gas again; and just about the time you resume your speed and feel like you are making good progress again, you see it again, there off in the distance- another big orange sign! "Really," you say to yourself, or to whoever is in the car with you willing to listen to you complain, "Already? Again?" You know exactly what I'm talking about right? Well, that is just how I feel when seeing Jeremiah's next deployment off in the distance, but yet approaching all too quickly. We just got through one deployment. We've gotten settled into our new home, gotten our kids into a routine, and worked through some of the transitions that nearly every military family goes through after a deployment; and now, we are getting ready to do it all again.
The deployment will bring its own challenges but so far, we are just dealing Jeremiah's crazy training schedule in the midst of the holiday season. He is having a blast working with the Special Forces, but we hate being away from each other, especially when he is state side. We have weighed the pros and cons and have decided it would be best if I move back home with my parents while he deploys again. I will have the help and support I need, and my boys will have the opportunity to strengthen their relationships with at least one set of grandparents and other family members. Going home, doesn't just mean packing a suitcase for a weeklong visit, it means attempting to pack for two kids and myself for a year, all into one car load, and packing our home into boxes and moving it into storage. We considered keeping out stuff at our house so we wouldn't have to find a new rental when we move back here, but there is a strong possibility we will be PCSing (moving to a new Permanent Change of Station) when Jeremiah gets home. Furthermore, when we added up the dollars we would save by not paying for rent, utilities, cable, etc, we didn't even have to think twice. Packing and moving has become like second nature to us.
Once we made the decision to move home, the next question was when should we move. Jeremiah isn't leaving for a while yet, but due to training he will only be home a combined 2 weeks between now and the time he leaves. So, we will travel to Ohio, have a wonderful Christmas and New Years, and then come home and start packing. In the mean time, we are going to try to capture and soak up every moment we have together, not just rushing through life to get to our next destination, but trying to keep it slow and focused on the important things in the very moment we are living.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Rock for a Pillow

While you might read the title of this blog and think it's going to be about Jeremiah sleeping on a rock, it isn't. It is about a much older story. You see, it has been a while, a long while, since I have been dedicated to spending some quiet time with God. I'm sure having a toddler and a new baby has had something to do with that, but, nonetheless, my spiritual growth has been stunted over the past few months. I don't know about you, but when God convicts me, my first reaction is to feel guilty. Then, I get depressed thinking about how I should be willing to sacrifice a few moments of sleep to spend a few minutes in the presence of the Almighty. With that being said, my sister gave my husband a new devotional for Christmas, so I started reading it here and there, and in those few moments, through those few paragraphs, God, once again, in His ever so loving and faithful way, drew me near to Him.
As I got up this morning, I felt a different feeling, not one of regret, hesitation, or conviction but rather an excitement to spend time in His presence. I recognized God's conviction, not as a shaking finger pointing at me, telling me I was wrong, but as a God, yearning for His child to spend time with Him. Wow! Isn't it crazy when you think about it, the God who put the moon and the stars in the sky, the God that created man, the God that sacrificed His son, wants to spend time with me. He has a message to give me, wisdom to instill in me, and a presence to rejuvenate me!
This mornings devotion took me to the Old Testament, to the story of Jacob camping on a rock. He was completely unaware of God's presence but after a restful night's sleep, and a heavenly dream of angels going to and from Heaven on a ladder, Jacob was certain this place was in the presence of God (Genesis 28:10-22). As I read it, I began to think about how so many times we ask God to be with us but fail to recognize when He is. It has ben my experience, that God shows up in the most unexpected places, and unexpected times. I think we often expect to find God in a sanctuary, or among believers in a Bible study, but who expects to find Him on a rock. While I might not be planning on camping out with a pillow for a rock anytime soon, I do know God is just as able to reveal himself to me at the playground, the grocery store, or in the middle of the night while feeding my sweet boy, as he was to Jacob that special night. It is my prayer, that I actively look for God in those places, that I expect to experience His presence in other places than our church sanctuary. As we come upon this Christmas season I am reminded of one of God's many names, Emmanuel, meaning, "God with us." So, as we head about our day, let us meditate on Emmanuel, and know He is with us, through thick and thin, through ups and downs, through snotty noses and poopy diapers, we can rest and be inspired by the very presence of the Most Holy God!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Playground

As we have gotten settled back into life here in Georgia I was realizing the need for Emerson to have some social interaction with kids his age, so I started taking him to the playground on a regular basis. He, just like I expected, is doing quite well at learning the social skills needed in a toddler's world. What I wasn't really expecting to find at the playground were moms who live in a military community to be so dissatisfied with their levels of social interactions with other adults.
Even though Jeremiah has been in the army for over seven years, we are really just now getting the true active duty experience because the first 5 years he was in, he was a reservist. I figured that because military families relocate on a regular basis they would be quick to open up and make new friends; what I have found is the exact opposite. When I take the boys to the playground, I see other moms, including myself, looking for some adult conversation. So many times, we will say to one another that we should get together sometime but then it never happens. This week I decided to change that.
As the kids were running around having a grand ol' time, we moms managed to maintain small talk of the kids and weather. One mom had recently just "got here" in June. June may not seem like that long ago, but 6 months should be long enough for someone to at least start to feel like they are settling in. Knowing how I had lived here for a year without making too many friends and feeling settled myself, I asked her how things were going and if she liked it here. Her response was, "Yeah, it's hard." Guessing I probably knew what she was meaning I asked the group of surrounding moms if they ever find it strange that military families keep to themselves. They all agreed and from there, the level of interest in the conversation immediately changed. I could see and hear relief in some of their voices; they knew they weren't the only ones seeking something deeper. We laughed about how we have cell phone numbers of other moms and say we are going to call but then a couple of weeks pass and, by then, it is too awkward to call. So, right then and there, I seized the moment to set a date to get together. I laughed to myself as I could see we were all just trying to play it cool and not act like giddy girls who had just made new friends. Tomorrow, our kids will play, we will have some girl time, and who knows, it may be the start of new lifelong friendships.
If you are or have been a military family, what has been your experience with families socializing with one another?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Battlefield

     After receiving the phone call from Jeremiah that he had been hit by two IED's, my mind was in a bit of an unstable place.  I wanted to share what it was like to experience this but I also wanted to make sure it was okay with Jeremiah before I posted these stories for the world to see.  So, when I asked him if it was okay if I blogged about the happenings of the past few days he said it was fine and that if I wanted to write about what was going on with him I should also add to it a sniper tried to shoot him in the head.  Looking back, I realize this was a dumb question, but at the time I asked, "How did you know he was trying to shoot you in the head?"  He proceeded to tell me that he was the only one laying in thge middle of the road working on a bomb when a bullet landed right by his helmet.  He tells me things like this like they are no big deal, and strangely enough, my reaction is just the same.  At times, we try to make light of the situation, maybe even with a joke or two, just to keep our sanity, even though we both completely know the reality that we are facing day in and day out.  So, throughout the next couple days, I just kept praying for God to continue to give me His grace and strength, and without hesitation, that is exactly what He did.  A few days after the phone call, I was standing at the bathroom sink washing my face, getting ready for bed.  As I closed my eyes and splashed the warm water on my face, God filled my mind with a vision, not just a little fleeting thought, but a strong, beautiful image that I hope will be forever engraved into my mind. 
     The land was desolate, no grass, no buildings- just dry, dusty, rocky brown soil.  Jeremiah was in full uniform laying on the ground, in deep concentration, working on diffusing an IED.  He wasn't at all aware of what was going on around him.  The whole scene, even though it was in a desolate land, was filled with this warm, golden light.  While he was lying there, these huge angels with tan skin, strong arms and massive white feathery wings were in battle all around him.  Some had spears and were fighting an unseen enemy.  And in the midst of the battle, one of the angels lunged forward with an outstretched arm, to catch another angel which was falling backwards limp.  He had just taken a bullet to the chest. The image transformed from an action scene to a still picture, frozen in time.    
     I rinsed the soap from my face and grabbed the towl to dry.  Refreshed, not by the water, but by my loving Father God.  I am so grateful for His strength, and that He knows exactly what we need when we need it. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Are You Sitting Down?

     Jeremiah has been in Afghanistan for a couple of months now and life back here on the homefront has been nothing short of extremely busy.  I have been wanting to blog but there are so many things  I have to be careful of when my husband is deployed;  I would not want to accidentally say something about where he is or what he is doing, or where he is going that could potentially get him into trouble or lead him into harms way.  Since he has been gone, we have welcomed our second baby boy, Asher Jeremiah Cartwright, into the world, and my mom and I have started a new company called Trinkets.  We do trunk shows full of fun and trendy costume jewelry and other accessories.  I will write more about these happenings later, but for today, I will tell you about one conversation I will never forget.
     It was a warm Saturday morning and we had all just finished up breakfast on the back deck when the phone rang.  It was Jeremiah calling from Afghanistan.  It is always such a relief to hear his voice but this particular morning, there was something different about it.  Between trying to bounce Asher and keep him from crying in my arms and the static on the phone, I vaguely heard Jeremiah say, "Are you sitting down?"   I thought to myself, "Either he is going to tell me something really good or really bad,"  I just wasn't sure which it was going to be.  So, I sat down on the couch, still trying to calm Asher down when Jeremiah told me he had been blown up twice by two IED's that day.  My heart sank, and after thinking, "Okay, you're talking. This is a good thing."  My mind, in a matter of moments, raced through how my life may quickly be turned upside down.  I wondered if he had his hands and legs.  Would he be able to walk or would he be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, or was he calling me from a hospital bed, knowing he might not make it at all?  I quickly got up and trying to hold myself together took Asher to my mom so I could more easily focus on my conversation with Jeremiah.  Nervously, I asked him if he was okay, and thankfully, he said, "Yes.  I am having a little trouble with my vision, but the doctor said it should return to normal in a couple of days."  With my heart about to beat out of my chest, I felt the lump in my throat slowly begin to dissolve.  The IED threw him about 10 feet, but thankfully he was only left with temporary vision problems, a concussion, and an achy body.  I have known he has been in an "active" environment, but that was a little close for comfort. 
     As I got off the phone, I continued to replay the conversation over and over in my mind, recognizing just how quickly life can change in the blink of an eye.  I am so thankful for God's protection on Jeremiah's life.  I know that while he is fighting one battle over there, we will have a whole new set to battle when he comes home.  Fortunately we serve a God who loves us and doesn't leave us to fight the battles by ourselves.  As each day passes, I feel I have a little better understanding of God's grace, not just for my salvation, but His grace for my everyday life.   

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Chaotic Month

     Wow! Where has this month gone?  With Jeremiah getting ready to deploy we have been busy traveling the country visiting family and making prepartions for Emerson and I to move back to Missouri.  Over a long 4 day holiday weekend, we decided at the last minute to travel to Sarasota, FL to visit Jeremiah's grandparents who we hadn't seen in a couple of years.  Then, the next week, Jeremiah took 15 days of leave to go visit the rest of his family before he deployed.  In that time, we traveled from Georgia to his family's house in Ohio.  We stayed there for a few days and then continued on to my family's house in Missouri.  On our way back home to Georgia, we stopped for a couple days with Jeremiah's grandma in Tennessee.  It was a whirlwind of a trip, but considering we were traveling with a 22 month old and me being 7 months pregnant, I'd say it all went pretty well. 
      It is always such a pleasure getting to visit our families but these visits before deployments are bitter sweet.  While we were at his parents', they had a birthday party for him; I thought, "Oh I should go get my video camera and record this," but at the same time knew if I did, I would just break down and cry right then and there.  So, needless to say, I opted to just put it into the internal hardrive of my brain rather than the memory card of my camera.   Another reason these visits are so hard is that I know this time will be the last few days before he will have to leave; I want him to be able to see everyone and for them to get to spend time with him, but at the same time, I just want to be selfish and not share him with anybody.  Then, I feel guilty for being so selfish.  Agghh!  Such a roller coaster ride!
      After nearly 2 weeks of being on the road, we made it back home to Georgia to a house full of moving boxes waiting to be packed and moved into storage.  My mom came back with us to help us pack and travel back with me to Missouri.  She was such a lifesaver.  As if it weren't a big enough job to pack with a toddler, Emerson was also sick.  He had what we thought was just a cold but then it progressed into labored breathing and his poor little body would get so wheezy from playing.  We took him to the doctor, and they prescribed him a nebulizer and medication to help him breathe and clear up the beginnings of an ear infection.  Let me just say, giving breathing treatments to a 23 month old isn't exactly easy.  The doctor said he should be better in a couple of days, but in a couple of days, he still had a fever and his breathing was even worse.  So, we headed back to the doctor.  She wasn't pleased with how he sounded so she prescribed a stronger, longer lasting medication, and a dose of steroids which she warned me, "Now don't give this to him before bed.  He will be really agitated and more than likely he won't be able to sit still."  Bear in mind this is the day before we were getting ready to start our 2 day trip to Missouri.  Nonetheless, we wanted our little boy to get better and were willing to do whatever it took to make sure he didn't get worse. 
     Our original plan was for either mom or me to drive the van and the other one of us to drive the truck, but in the meantime, Jeremiah's deployment date was moved, so we figured he would need a vehicle to get around which meant we had to fit everything in the van.  Let me just say, it wasn't easy figuring out how to pack for a year with 2 babies, but we did it with maybe a cubic foot to spare! 
     We spent our last day in Georgia at the beach on Tybee Island trying to soak up the sun and every last moment of being together as a family.  That evening we headed back to the hotel knowing we had one of the hardest days of our lives ahead of us.  We woke up Saturday morning, ate breakfast together, and then carried our bags out of the hotel and down to the car.  I fought back tears all morning knowing there was nothing I could do from keeping this moment from actually happening.  I did pretty good until I saw Jeremiah holding Emerson telling him how much he loved him, and if that doesn't make one cry, I don't think anything could.  I was so thankful at that moment that Emerson isn't old enough to understand what was going on but at the same time wished he was old enough to know just how incredible of a man his daddy is.  Jeremiah put Emerson into his car seat and then it was my turn to say goodbye.  There aren't even words to describe those moments, I just know that they are painful and while I want to hurry and get it over with, I also wanted them to last forever.   As we said our goodbyes, mom too stood by.  I know it was hard for me, and I can only imagine how hard it was for her too, not only saying bye to Jeremiah, but seeing, me, her daughter filled with heartache.  As we drove away, we said one last goodbye leaving Jeremiah standing there alone, crying in the hotel parking lot. 
     It's been 2 weeks since we have left, and Jeremiah is still awaiting an exact date to leave.  It stinks knowing he is still there in Georgia while we are here, but I really feel like God knew exactly what we needed.  We've been able to start transitioning into living at my parents house knowing Jeremiah is still stateside.  Emerson has been having some issues not wanting to go to sleep on his own and waking up in the middle of the night, and I am not sleeping well simply because i am nearly 9 months pregnant.  We are just taking things one day, or night, at a time, knowing God is right here with us providing us with the strength and courage we need.     

Friday, January 20, 2012

You're Acting a Bit Strange

     Over New Year's weekend, Jeremiah had a four-day holiday from work.  I typically enjoy spending all this time together, but this weekend there was just something off; I couldn't put my finger on it, but something was driving me crazy.  "Maybe I am just stressed.  Maybe I just need some time away from Emerson, some time by myself," I thought.  I knew I could ask Jeremiah to watch Emerson, and he would do it in a heartbeat, but I didn't want to go anywhere, what I really wanted was for everything to seem "normal" and just enjoy this time together.  I felt like crying but just held it in.  Over the next few days, I analyzed a million things and if you could have seen or heard the thoughts in my brain you'd probably tell me I was psycho, but I just knew there was something wrong and I couldn't figure out what it was.
     One evening that week, I asked Jeremiah if he wanted to see my dresses I had to wear to the Miss America Pageant, he said sure and I went to try them on.  Normally, he is wonderful about giving comments and helpful feedback when it comes to clothes, but not this day.  He was basically indifferent about everything I tried on, and for me, it was the straw that broke the camel's back; I took the dresses, headed back to the bedroom, closed the door, and just began to sob.  This was the day before he was supposed to leave for a month of training and this isn't how I wanted things to be before he left.
     A few minutes later, he came back to our room and apologized.  I told him, it wasn't just that, but the whole previous week, something had been off, that I kept thinking I had done something wrong or maybe the thing I did was that I didn't do something I should have.  I said, "You've been acting a bit strange, and I don't know why."  He quickly hugged me and assured me, it wasn't me.  He told me how this deployment is totally new to him, that even though he has deployed twice, it is like a totally new experience this time.  He told me how he has left me before, but he has never had to leave a son, and a son who he won't get to meet until he is at least 6 months old.  On top of everything else, his MOS (army job) is different this deployment too.  He explained how he is just feeling overwhelmed, and he too is just trying to mentally manage it all.
     As we lay in bed and discussed his deployment, I told him of my little struggle for example, "I know good and well God will take care of all my needs, but if something happens to you, who is going to teach our boys how to play basketball?  I'm terrible at basketball!"  He chuckled and just said, "Why don't you just cry and let it all out?" So, that's exactly what I did.  I can assure you my crying wasn't a pretty sight, but waking up the next morning with red and swollen puffy eyes to a note that read, "You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.  I love you with all my heart.  Have fun and see you soon. -Jeremiah"  reassured me of the wonderful confidence I have in my relationship with my husband.  And perhaps, I need to remember that these next few months are going to be just as hard, if not harder for him, than it is for me.