There’s something beautiful about the way God teaches us the hard things, and there’s something difficult about having the opportunity to witness the beautiful.
Okay, now that I have given you an opening thought that’s all flowery and whatnot, I’ll explain 🙂
Over Christmas break, my family and I, I believe, experienced one of the most difficult, awkward, frustrating, painful, and complicated holidays thus far in our short lives. And yet we were altogether riding in the car one night, a few days before I had to return to school, and my mom said, “Guys, I just want you to know, this was the best Christmas ever.” And she meant it. Mom doesn’t just say stuff like that. And as I would think about her words later on, I would see that they were true.
Dad and my brother Stephen were not in the house for Christmas, considering my parents’ separation. There were times when Jimmy, Gracie, Mom, and I were holding each other to keep ourselves together, when we were so frustrated and hurt by the situation that we became frustrated with each other, when we sat around the dinner table and talked about what had changed with bittersweet wisdom. And yet, it was indeed the best Christmas we’ve ever had. Not at all because Dad and Stephen weren’t there…we missed them terribly, and I pined for the unity of our family, regardless of all the details, and I fought bitterness and anger and wondered what God was doing in all of it, what His plans were for it. It was the best Christmas ever because we had broken the spell of “Christmas Cheer.” You know how it goes: “Kids, don’t fight; it’s Christmas,” “Can’t we all just get along? It’s Christmas,” “Give back because it’s Christmas.” Using Christmas as an excuse to be kind or experience familial harmony isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But for me, our family was literally broken up. The spell of Christmas Cheer, the “act like everything is okay” facade that we’d struggled through each year, was gone. The veil was lifted, and we saw each other and everything for what it all was. And we have never been in this position before.
It was no longer “Be happy; it’s Christmas.” It was “This is really hard, but it’s Christmas; it’s the celebration of Christ coming so that we could be broken like this and have hope in Him, in what He’s done, in what He is doing, and in what He will do. We can be real and broken and hurt and trust that He has plans for healing, for growth, and for hope.” The satisfaction no longer could come from fragile circumstances; it now had to come from Christ, and being satisfied in Him, or not at all.
And that made it wonderful, the best Christmas ever.
Presently, I have returned to Pratt. I have been on campus now for a little over a week, returning early for basketball practice. Also presently, Jacob is going through what’s called PRC, which, if you’re a sports person, is kind of like 2-3 weeks of pre-season training for Ranger School in the Army, which will last 2-3 months. I am incredibly proud of Jacob and excited to see how God is going to grow and build him up through this, and I really, genuinely love having the opportunity to encourage and support him in this way. The catch? I have no communicate with Jake. At all.
It’s been about two weeks since I last talked to him, and I’m taking this time as a taste of what it probably will be like as a military wife. He and I have never been in this position before…but, honestly, it’s kind of fun in a weird way to be going through it with him 🙂 He’s not deployed or in a war zone, just being challenged, so that’s why I’m seeing it as only a taste. I know of wives who’ve gone months to a year at a time without communication with their military husbands.
I took to researching the blogs, open letters, and “top tens” of military wives all across the globe—the Internet is a wonderful thing :). And thankfully, over the last year or so, God has given me lots of opportunities to talk to military wives and glean wisdom from them. As I’ve done this, I’ve also taken to praying for Jake on a regular basis, trusting God with the results of the prayers even though I can’t see them, and talking to God about how I’m feeling when I miss him most.
Today, however, after a night of tossing and turning, I woke up feeling particularly affected by not being able to communicate with Jacob. I felt the lack more than usual.
I went through basketball practice (it was only for an hour in the morning, seeing as how later we would have a game) and then came back to my dorm. The chill of the January morning settled into my bones, yet there was warm sun streaming in through my windows. I sat in the sunlight and talked to God…and talked…and talked. I still struggle with feeling like I’m not feeling the right thing. Jacob is not in danger, and he’s not deployed. He’s safe. Challenged, and under hard training, but still safe. So I feel like I “don’t have a right” to miss him so.
But I promise this is not meant to be a post about my pining for my fiance.
Throughout the game, the lonely feeling came up multiple times, and I was tempted to have a pity party (oh my goodness no, please) just as often. And even as I’ve talked to my mom, to Beth, and to other trusted ladies in my life, it didn’t feel like anyone quite understood what I was going through, and it was just so that I felt a bit isolated. After the game (we won 🙂 ) I showered and went to camp out in the Pie Shop. I prayed and ate, and prayed some more. As I closed my journal and began to write and work on a few projects, I got a message. It was from Bethany, a good friend from BaYouCa.
We hadn’t talked in some time, and this conversation was very out-of-the-blue, though certainly welcome. As we talked, growth in her walk with Christ just beamed from the messages she was sending. I had seen her growth as a woman of God in leaps and bounds as He blossomed in her over the last couple of years, but to hear her talk of it was so encouraging. Soon, she began talking about her man. Turns out he’s headed to the Navy, and, yep, during the eight weeks of basic training, she won’t be able to talk to him. So…she’s about to go through what I’m already going through…
Let’s just say I don’t think it was an accident that she reached out to me.
I think I had to go through the temptation of the pity party, the selfishness, and the missing of my person in order to really appreciate the blessing that Bethany was to me, in order to recognize God’s love pouring out through it. And I think I had to go through the difficulty of Christmas to really get that God has everything under control (still, after all this time 😛 ), that there is hope in the midst of suffering, and that trials are meant to make us stronger…in fact, they are the thing God uses most often to do so.
Tomorrow is the first day of classes, the first day of the last semester of my junior year of college. Which doesn’t seem real. But yes. The third chapter is nearly over, the novel in the middle of its work, and the Author ready with pen in hand. 🙂
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”