Monday, October 5, 2020

Our Big Life Update

My older sister and I pulled out of the church parking lot that night.  I’d just spent a couple amazing hours standing there on the asphalt talking to this amazing guy who made me laugh until I cried, made me feel normal, like I belonged, like I was home.  I had this strange ache in my chest, like I was leaving somewhere wonderful.  I took a deep breath and told my sister, “If I don’t marry that guy Matt, I want to marry someone just like him.” 

I didn’t think much about how crazy that might have sounded because I was young and you say crazy things when you’re young.  But a little more than three years later, that dream actually came true.  Matt and I married and started our adventure.  We lived in a tiny, one-bedroom apartment, and being in college and grad school still, we had almost no money.  Sometimes, on paydays, we’d drive to an hour and a half west to San Francisco, and we always ended up at the airport, sitting in a little parking lot at the end of the runway, watching jets soar over our heads and into the sky as we dreamed about where we’d go someday.

Eight weeks ago, I landed on the runway we used to sit by.  I’ve landed there several times, of course, over the years, and every time, I feel a rush of emotion and gratitude. Those poor college/ grad students sure got to go a lot of places and see some huge dreams come true.  But this was different.  I was coming back from Korea for the last time.

Early this year, pre-lockdown and everything, Matt and I made the decision together to retire from the Navy at the twenty-year mark.  We’ve been talking for years about when would be the right time, and after a lot of prayer and consideration, we decided this was the year. So in August, I left Korea with our kids and two dogs.  Matt left four weeks later, and after outprocessing (and two weeks’ quarantine) in Washington, he joined us about a week ago.  

I get messages pretty frequently asking where we are and what the plan is.  We don’t really have a plan.  Any plan we may have had when we first decided this has been pretty well tossed out the window along with the plans of most other people in 2020, right? Friends who retired in 2019 took fun vacations, and that would have been great, but... here we are.  Matt’s last official day in the Navy isn’t till the end of the year, so we have a bit of time.  We are thinking, praying, looking, waiting.  

We took these pictures literally two minutes before I hopped in the car to go to the airport back in August.  Looking back on our years together, these words have proven so true.  I couldn’t have imagined the story that would be written about our relationship this far.  It’s been more fun and happiness than I could have dreamed up.  But I also think what Jon Acuff wrote: “The words ‘easy’ and ‘adventure’ very rarely travel together.”  We’ve definitely had a fair share of tears and craziness, wondering, “How will this turn out?”  

The same has been true for the past two months.  If I tried to tell you everything is perfectly peachy and wonderful and I’m handling everything like a total champ right now, there are at least ten people that could — and arguably should —call me a liar and remind me of the times I’ve cried on their shoulders in the past two months because I. Like. Plans.  I like knowing where I’m going. It’s hard for me to move when I don’t know which way to go.  Uncertainty can feel terrifying.  

I’ve looked at towns and cities and houses and wondered, Is this where we are going to live?  Could I be happy here?  And in most places, I’ve imagined us being happy, because one thing I’ve learned in twenty years as a Navy wife is how to make a life for yourself wherever you are.  But the only answer we have so far is to wait — which for me, it is a teeth-gnashing exercise of patience, faith, and prayer.

But I will tell you this: when I was having a mini-breakdown and crying in my friends’ driveway the day Matt was going to rejoin us (side note: thank God for great friends — more on this later!), they both told me, “It’s going to get so much better, though, once Matt gets here.”  And they were right.  Just knowing that wherever we are and whatever we are doing, we’re together, has made it so much more fun and tolerable.

Anyway, when it comes to talking about what’s going on in my life, I tend to spill everything heavily on a few people’s shoulders but otherwise clam up until I have clear picture to show it all tied up neatly with a bow.  But the older I get, the more I realize life rarely gives you that moment of perfect clarity.  

To be fair, I’ve been crazy busy with the minutiae of setting up life on this side of the Pacific (hello, new phones, new car, etc), soaking up precious time with loved ones, and doing some necessary travel.  But since this is such a weird year for everyone, I thought I’d share a little more of the story before I know how it turns out.

Here’s what I know. 

~ Right now, we are at Matt’s mom’s place in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  It’s incredibly beautiful here, more so than I remembered from driving through in times before.  We’re having a great time especially since Matt didn’t get to see her much these past few years.  

~ I’ve had some really precious family time.  Besides this time now, getting to spend my birthday with parents and sister, spending an afternoon doing nothing but watching my kids play on a beach in California, having time to just be still and watch my kids pass an afternoon being kids — it’s been so special. 

~ God has been so good.  I have a whole ‘nuther post, maybe even a book eventually, to write about this time — and also my twenty years as a Navy wife — but I’ve had several moments of being moved to tears, or blown away, just because I see that even now, God is showing His goodness and grace through the precious gift of people around me.  When I get to feeling overwhelmed, I have my big cry, and then I remember all the little things that point to this: He is good.

~ There is no one I’d rather be on this adventure with than Matt.  He makes me laugh, he keeps us going, he sees clearly and quickly what needs to be done and does it.  

The parking lot where we used to sit and dream closed after 9/11.  But in a lot of ways, I think we are still there, looking up at the sky and talking about all the craziest ideas, waiting to take off.