Monday, March 31, 2008

Deployment in the eyes of a 4-year-old

This was drawn by my nephew, Jacob, without any prompting at all. The other side of the paper (which bled through to this side a little) is a picture of Jon with his guitar- if you can't tell, this is me sitting at a table with an empty chair. How perceptive!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Not to rub it in...

but I just looked at our thermostat.

It is 74 degrees in my house.

At 10:45 at night.

The heat hasn't kicked on in days.

Enjoy your snow! :-)

(Just don't talk to me come fall, when our "crisp" weather is 80...)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Special Olympics

I volunteered at the Special Olympics today- it was so much fun!

My "buddy's" name was Anthony. Because he uses both a walker and a stroller, my new friend Amy and I were both his buddies!

Anthony got 2nd place in his heat in the tennis ball throw- which he LOVED- though he wasn't a big fan of the 25m walk. I think he was just happy it was over! He kept saying, "Race over!"

I would encourage you to find out when your local Special Olympics are and sign up! You don't need any special training or anything- just show up with a smiling face! You won't regret it!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My View on the Chaplaincy

Last week, this question was posed via an anonymous comment on Laura's blog:
Hi, there, My husband is currently a pastor and has been looking into the military chaplaincy. My question is, how did you and your spouse, and others on this blog, decide to go this path? We have thoroughly enjoyed the pastorate, yet, at the same time, been deeply hurt as well. My husband always has been interested in the military chaplaincy, yet, at the same time, I am wondering if we are just running away from something because it is so stressful or is God leading us this way. I hope this makes sense. This is just a very difficult time for us right now.

First of all, you can read our story of how we ended up in the Army here.

When I met Jon, he was already in the chaplaincy, so that wasn't a decision we made together. However, the decision to transition from National Guard to Active Duty was. Before he joined the Army, he taught Bible at a Christian school and I was a church secretary. I love the chaplaincy & the ministry that it is- and to be honest, Jon & I have a different perspective on it than many people I've met. Here are some of my thoughts...

Pastors go through times of hurt, times of questioning, times of grief. Jonathan and I are both pastors' kids and have also been involved in church settings on our own- this is not a new idea to us. However, if you're looking to the chaplaincy to get away from problems- be they personal OR interpersonal, I would ask you to seriously consider your motives. Jon and I have noted about a few guys we have met- "Hurt pastors make hurt chaplains." The Chaplaincy is different from the pastorate- but that doesn't mean it's easier- or harder- just different. People are people, regardless of where you are.

I don't know what your situation is at all; you have probably been trying to make it work at this church, and it just isn't. You possibly are considering leaving the ministry because of hurts it has caused, but you just love the Lord and people way too much to do that. The chaplaincy seems like a way to stay in the ministry but get out of the church. (I could be completely off...)

Now, mind you, please don't get the impression that I think making a life change when you're unhappy is wrong- quite the opposite! I fully believe in our free will, and I also don't believe God has called us to be miserable! If you're unhappy with your life and can reasonably change it, by all means, do! Trying to reconcile is the first option- if that doesn't work, staying in a mentally, emotionally, and spiritually abusive church (I think that corollary can be drawn) isn't healthy- for anyone.

I suppose, what I'm saying is that, before entering the chaplaincy, make sure you do your research and KNOW what you're getting yourself into. I think that's the way to keep from getting hurt- having realistic expectations. The worst possible thing you can do is enter it without doing your research. (To be honest, probably the day I hated the Army the most was when I realized what exactly the current deployment tempo is- when we first got engaged/ entered the Army- happened near the same time- I thought a 20 year career might entail about 3 years gone- one year gone, 6 or 7 at home... man, was I wrong!!)

Here's a start- the chaplaincy is NOT the pastorate. The chaplain's job is not to be a pastor- or a missionary- it is to provide religious support. This will mean working with people who are not Christians- and working with other Chaplains who are not Christians, or who are Christians but have different beliefs. It means vocalizing your personal beliefs when it is appropriate, as an individual- and knowing when it's not appropriate. That means that if one of your soldiers wants a Koran, you get one for him. The Army doesn't pay pastors and missionaries. The Army pays for religious and ethical support.

There are a lot of pastoral functions of the chaplaincy, specifically in the context of the chapel ministry itself and in counseling. Those are the areas that you and I would consider the best "ministry"- and what great opportunities they are! This is where, as a wife, you can have a big impact.

On that note, I would add that you sometimes have to seek out these opportunities. In the pastorate, as soon as you get to a church, everyone knows you as the pastor's wife. That brings with it a connotation all on its own, and you will probably fall into activities. That's not how it is in the chaplaincy. Many chaplains' wives aren't involved- it's not expected. So, you have to make yourself known. I have had wonderful opportunities- I directed Kids Church, was PWOC President & Vice President, have counseled with various young wives, have assisted my husband in planning events for his unit, have been involved with my FRG (and am getting involved in the new one), and recently joined our spouses club. There are a wide variety of opportunities- you just have to get yourself out there! There are many things on post I'm not a part of- the ones I listed are the areas I have chosen to invest in. If you wait for an invitation- it may come, or it may not.

Also, the Army is a very unique venture- and will impact your marriage profoundly. Jon and I have spent our entire marriage in the Army- but in speaking with other wives, there are many adjustments to be made. You will spend quite literally YEARS away from each other. There is no way to be adequately prepared for such a thing, but you need to be ready for your marriage to undergo that stress- specifically in the chaplaincy. As the chaplain, my husband hears all sorts of horrible marital problems from soldiers; you have probably dealt with that to some extent in the pastorate, but it happening while he's on the other side of the world is difficult. As a wife, you need to accept that there will be times you will run the house by yourself, that life goes on whether he's here or not.

I also must make a note here about the "call" of God. What is a call, what does it look and sound like? I have no idea. Here's what I would ask- What are your gifts? What are your desires? Where is your heart? That's probably where God has called you. I don't personally believe He calls most of us to a specific place- rather, we have His word to guide us. James does tell us that if we ask for wisdom, God will grant it, so I suppose that might be considered a call. I spent many years of my life trying to "figure out" the will of God- that one perfect will He had for my life. You know what His will is for my life- and yours? To follow Him through our actions. To love Him and others through Him. You can do that as a pastor, a chaplain, or a mechanic. If it works for you and your family, and you consider it to be wise after praying about it, I don't think it's a matter of a "right" or "wrong" place for you to be. Trying to figure out what is "right" will probably leave you doubting.

I certainly don't mean to discourage you- I hope you don't take it that way. I just know the disappointment and heartache that can come from being unaware of what this life will be like. The Army life isn't for everyone- but if it is for you- it's great! I think that, as long as you come in prepared and seek to serve God in this setting, you can have a great life and ministry!

Monday, March 24, 2008

3 Things

1. Tonight I went to an installation-wide volunteer reception. It was ok, nothing too exciting. Well, until the end when we all lit our Christmas Eve-ish candles while they played some cheesy secular country "Thank You for Giving to the Lord." That part made me laugh. Several friends were there, though, so that made it worth the time!

2. I registered for my next session of classes. Ugh. Western Philosophy, cool. Environmental Science, not cool. I haven't been in a science class since 10th grade biology, which I slept through. There is a reason I'm a sociology major. I figure this is the most applicable science, so hopefully it will be tolerable at least. The syllabus points to much more work than should be in a 100-level course. At the end of this term in May, I will have 78 credits, only 52 to go. Yeah, only.

3. One of our brigades is coming home in the next couple weeks! Many of my friends have husbands in this brigade, and a couple are FRG leaders- everyone is all abuzz with reunion plans! I love listening to them talk about all the stuff they're doing- of course, they're totally stressed & busy, but it's great to watch!! :-) I'm just waiting for that railroad behind our house to start carrying fighting vehicles back to post!!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Today is a holiday!

And not just Easter...


If you followed our first deployment journey, you may remember that I celebrated the 15th of each month as marking another month down. I did something different every time, but it always was an event!

This time, it's the 23rd. And, hopefully, it's actually a little less than 5 to go right now... but we all know how timelines can change!

Since it was Easter, we just doubled up on our holiday celebrations! After church I went out to lunch with some friends. I came home and chatted with Jon, watched Army Wives, and am now watching War Stories on Fox News. Tonight's episode centers on the 3rd Infantry Division, which is who Jon is with. I also, incidentally, watched Iraq for Sale today- very interesting perspective- I'd definitely recommend it.

To be honest, I almost feel like I shouldn't make a big deal out of each month. I mean, 1 Down, Less Than 5 To Go? Seems barely worth mentioning. I mean, Jon's brigade has been in country since LAST MAY. 6 months is so small. Of course, Marines and Sailors do 6 month rotations all the time! It's all relative, I suppose...

Anyway... I shall still celebrate- so, Happy 1 Down Day!!!!

Happy Easter from Sophie!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Clean House

Yesterday, I had some time on my hands.

I could clean the house, I thought, or do the taxes... Hm... Well, I've been putting off the taxes, so I should do those now, and clean the house tomorrow.

When my realtor called at 8:15 this morning, I realized I had made the wrong decision.

That led to a stressful morning, and gave me motivation to keep it clean and clutter-free.

But, I was back home, house already shown, by 10:15, got an unexpected call from Jon, and can now enjoy my day!

In other news, Sophie is doing great. She LOVES her play gym, and talks to and bats at her "friends" hanging above her head. Sometimes I'll be in another room, and I can here the rattles shaking and Sophie blabbing on! During tummy time, she has been content to just lay there (licking her hand...)- until yesterday! All of the sudden she started lifting her head and looking around! I am so proud of her!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy Thursday

I went to a Maundy Thursday service tonight.

Do you not know what that is, though you vaguely remember hearing of it?

Me too.

So, I went. Of course, I had wikipedied it, hoping to learn more.

What I gather is that many traditions celebrate it similarly to Good Friday. It commemorates the Last Supper and Jesus' experience at Gethsemane. Oftentimes, I read, foot washing is a part of the service, though it wasn't at ours tonight.

You know, I don't think I had even been to a Good Friday service until a few years ago. Maybe once growing up, I don't remember. I will say that I think celebrating Easter is so much more meaningful after recognizing Good Friday (or Maundy Thursday). Something about hailing a resurrection without reflecting on the solemness of his death just doesn't seem right... I think we sometimes brush over what actually happened between the joyous Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. One week we're singing Hosanna!, and the next, He's Alive!!... and, ohbytheway, he died a couple days ago...

One thing I have really appreciated about the chapel community is the ability to experience other traditions. The variety of ways of administering communion alone is amazing! Never before have I gone to a Maundy Thursday service, and I enjoy being exposed to such things.

Even elements like reciting The Lord's Prayer or The Apostle's Creed as a community seem so refreshing to me. I suppose that whatever is unlike what you grew up with seems fresh; I'm sure that it does become rote and dull. I would argue that the liturgy of any church can become rote- even if that liturgy is more "contemporary." Don't get me wrong, I love the contemporary service style (though, I have found, many claiming to be "contemporary" haven't changed a thing in the past 10 or 15 years since they first began...). At the same time, things such as communal recitations, the singing of the doxology, and the observance of the liturgical calendar are quite meaningful to me. I'll admit to even having a fondness for ministerial vestments.

Of course, general protestant services present their own set of challenges, but I'll address that another time... I will also add that I have had experiences that I have appreciated, but not particularly enjoyed. Or, I might enjoy it once, but wouldn't want it every week. It's still nice to expand my horizons a little.

Tonight I shall leave you with the lyrics to one of my favorite hymns- it was actually sung at our wedding. It is a Welsh song, from the revival that took place in Wales a century ago. Heaven's peace and perfect justice kissed a guilty world in love...

Here is love vast as the ocean
Loving kindness as the flood
When the Prince of life, our ransom
Shed for us His precious blood
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten
Throughout Heaven's eternal days

On the Mount of Crucifixion
Fountains opened, deep and wide
Through the floodgates of God's mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide
Grace and love, like mighty rivers
Poured incessant from above
And Heaven's peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love

Let us all Thy love accepting
Love Thee ever, all our days
Let us seek Thy Kingdom only
And our lives be to Thy praise
Thou alone shalt be our glory
Nothing in the world we see
Thou hast cleansed and sanctified us
Thou Thyself has set us free...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

You know you're an Army brat when...

This morning at church (one of the on-post chapel services), Chaplain Clark was giving the Kids' Sermon. To illustrate his point, he had various hats and was asking the kids what each of them was for.

As he held up a beret, one girl exclaimed, "That's what you wear when you go to work!"

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Sophie and Layla... mere seconds before Layla thought it would be a great idea to attempt to use Sophie as a jungle gym...

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Army Wives

I have a confession to make.

My name is Sara, and I like Army Wives.

Ok, so it's not entirely realistic. There are things- many things- that are not the way they really are. I suppose it would be akin to a doctor watching Grey's Anatomy or a lawyer watching... well, pretty much any other show on TV.

Season 2 won't be out for a while yet, but they're replaying Season 1, starting this past Sunday night. There I sat, with a half gallon of Chocolate Cream Pie ice cream, watching the pilot episode.

The show is full of cliches: The PFC who married the bartender he had known for 4 days. The girl-next-door mom of 2 kids who has a struggling marriage. The Major's wife who is abused by her teenage son. The Colonel's wife who has a great heart and seems pretty much perfect. The professional man whose wife is a Lieutenant Colonel- again, struggling marriage (did I mention they're also the token black couple?).

And those are just the main characters. Throw in several extra-marital affairs, the snobby General's wife, and all the obvious plotlines (PTSD, combat casualty, sudden deployment, etc), and you've got yourself a show.

I suppose that, on some level, I relate with all four of the female main characters in various ways, and that's what makes the show appealing. Nope, it's not true to Army life... but in all those cliches are experiences that are common among Army spouses.

You know, I have to tell you, I do love this. I watched my friend Brandy's daughter tonight, and when she came to pick her up, we sat here and talked for 2 hours. I know that good friends aren't unique to the Army... but the camaraderie is just on a different level. My sister-in-law Amy shared with me when she came to visit that she could just feel a different aura in the air around here- and it's true. Sadly, I watched Layla tonight so Brandy could go be with another friend of hers, who lost her husband this week to a suicide bomber- one of the five you probably read about. In this world, such things are not just headlines. In this world, they affect lives. And in this world, some things matter more... and some things matter less... and figuring out the difference isn't quite as hard...

More pictures...

These are some GREAT pictures of Sophie! The first ones are from a couple weeks ago in Jacksonville, and the others are from January when Josh & Amy came down.

Thanks, Aunt Amy!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen

It's over.

The War has ended.

Silence... "the sound of peace"...

in Korea.

I should explain. I watched the series finale of M*A*S*H tonight, for the first time. I vaguely remember the series when I was a kid (in syndication, of course)- it always seemed dull to me. Until these past couple years, that is.

You know, it is amazing watching a show about the Army from this perspective, set in the early 50s, written in the 70s and early 80s. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

There are aspects to the show that put what we go through in perspective- like the time that Charles had a week's worth of newspapers, and they were a hot commodity- most soldiers today have news at their fingertips. And when I think DFAS (the Army pay system) is bad, well, at least they no longer hand out cash- which could potentially be ingested by a goat..

There are other things that are different- this war, for example, is asymmetrical- there are no clear boundaries. North and South simply don't exist. Today's Army is 100% volunteer- there is no such thing as being called to duty by Uncle Sam entirely against your will (maybe only 97% against your will...) And, if you get caught with alcohol in the desert now, that's reason for severe punishment... let alone if you have your own still...

And yet, some things are the same. Families are missed. Lives are interrupted. Most importantly, soldiers- and civilians- are wounded and killed.

Near the end of the finale, all the characters announce what their lives will entail post-war. I couldn't help but realize how much war changes people- personally, I cannot even fathom what that must be like. I do know that I am married to a man changed by war. This deployment probably won't have the impact on him that the last one did- but still, you can't walk away unchanged.

I felt like I too said good-bye to some dear friends tonight. I regret that Jon wasn't here to watch it with me- it has come to be one of our favorite shows. I know that the reruns will still be on, and I will continue to watch them.

But tonight, I cried. I felt the mixed emotions of saying good-bye to friends, while being overjoyed to return home. I thought of the friends Jon made on his last tour, and how they are still a part of our lives. I wondered about the people we will meet over the next 17 years of this journey...

I know MASH is just a show. I know that for those who served in the Korean War, it was much more tragic, and much less, well, funny. I just wonder how GWOT will be portrayed in 20 or 30 years...

On a rainy morning

What a morning. It's rainy. Thundering, actually. I brought Sophie into bed with me at about 7:30, and we cuddled while we listened to the rain. It was great.

Now we're sitting on the couch, me with my coffee, her sitting next to me, leaning on my shoulder, cute-little-baby-snoring. We're listening to Minnie Driver. Perfect rainy morning music...

We've been doing well. I have managed to stay incredibly busy. I don't think there has been a day yet that I have stayed at home all day. I just may today, though... I really need to get the house ready to go on the market. I was supposed to have coffee with a friend today, but her baby is sick.

Jon is doing really well also. He hit the ground running- he was woken up four hours after he arrived to be with a soldier who had just had a death in the family. He is starting to get integrated into the unit and is enjoying being back with soldiers again.

(By the way, he would love to hear from you! If you don't have his address and would like it, leave me a comment and I'll get it to you.)

The rain is tapering off, for now. Sophie's getting restless. Ok, now crying. Loudly. i think that's my cue...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Out of the loop...

So, to divert my attention from Jon leaving, last weekend I sold out.


I joined Facebook.

But, alas and alack, it has been quite fun! I've connected with friends I haven't talked to or seen in years. Some I had forgotten exist.

Anyway- that trip down memory lane has gotten me thinking of my Moody Days, which led to a disconcerting discovery:



Seriously, folks. Our beloved Dr. Joseph M. Stowell the Third (referred to by loving students as Dr. J) has gone to Cornerstone University as THEIR president. I feel betrayed.

I knew he left a couple years after I did to pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel, where his son ministers. That's cool. I can handle that.

No offense, Cornerstonians (is that what you're called? I made it up)... but Dr. J will always be a Moody fixture.

On that note, how the heck does Michael Easley have his own Wikipedia article, and the highly revered Stowell doesn't? It's an outrage.

ETA: Ok, so I Googled it, and it only happened a month ago. Still...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A sad day.

Have you ever had old peanut butter?

One time I was at someone else's house, and they didn't frequently eat it. The result was a partially eaten jar in their cupboard that was so old it literally tasted like peanut SHELLS.

I had the same experience today- but, sadly, with Girl Scout cookies.

Yes, friends, our beloved Tagalongs (aka Peanut Butter Patties) have changed. A quick google search confirmed my suspicions... the recipe has changed.

But why, might you ask, would they do something outrageous like that?

Well, they gave in... they sacrificed taste on the altar of the trans-fat-free lifestyle.

Really, Girl Scouts?

They're COOKIES!

They're SUPPOSED to be bad for you!

Arg. That's the last time I'll buy them... I think I'll stick with Reese's cookies from now on...

One more...

Here's another one, courtesy of Aunt Amy.

Saturday morning!!

If you frequent our family site, you have probably noticed that it has been a few weeks since it was updated... long story short, in the process of me getting Jon's old computer and him getting a new one, mine (his old one) lost the ability to publish to that website. It actually lost the ability to run iPhoto and do anything else at the same time. (I know- I too thought that Macs intuitively knew everything you wanted to do and made it happen...) Anyway- we got the problem solved, but now I will have to completely rebuild that site... I'll let you know when that happens, but don't hold your breath...

In the meantime, here are a few more pictures to give you your Sophie fix! (doesn't EVERYONE need one???)