“Well, You Signed Up For It…”

That phrase… Unless it comes from someone I trust and have expressly opened my life up to, I don’t want to hear someone tell me “I can’t believe you’re signing up for it.” Or, “I couldn’t put myself (or my kids) through that.” It’s shock and sometimes judgement from people, that I’d be so horrible as to fall in love with my wonderful man. I always want to turn around and say something along the lines of, “Well it does take someone who’s actually strong enough to do it.” Which I know won’t get anyone, anywhere. What generally comes out is, “Yeah… It’s not for everybody.” Or, “it definitely takes a special woman…”

But, I’m realizing now that the solution is to tell people. Tell people why I am more than okay with the life I’ve decided I’m diving into. And what it is that makes me okay with the fact that I’m going to spend a lot of nights cuddled up in J’s sweatshirt, using the manatee he bought me as a pillow. (Yep… That’s what I’m doing right now. I feel no shame.) Because this absolutely has to look insane from an outside perspective.

The first thing that a MilSO is going to get asked about is the loneliness. “Don’t you miss him?” What am I supposed to say to that? “Nope… I love going to social events by myself, and having dates over FaceTime.” Yes, I absolutely miss him. Whether the time between visits is three weeks, or 12 like the one coming up after Christmas. I miss him all the time. When I wake up in the morning and we send each other texts, when I’m driving to work and he’s gone to class for the day, when we get lunch time texts instead of dates. I would be out right lying if I said that I don’t miss him. But, wow, what that does for our time together! He and I can’t take time with one another for granted – we literally don’t have enough time together to do so. And when we get married? Especially during training, I am going to fall asleep by myself a lot. More than I want to admit to myself. But what that will do for us is make it that much easier to appreciate the times where we get to be together – every absence will make every homecoming feel like a honeymoon. How many couples can say that  – that they got to have their honeymoon stage over, and over?

Then there’s the fact that he, presumably, picked this as a job… “Can’t he just come home?” “Why did he volunteer for this if he knew he’d be away from you?” In order to understand this one, people have to know how the Army works. Yes, people can volunteer to leave. Happens all the time. But, they can’t just “come home.” Which means that I have the kind of man in my life who will actively sacrifice his time and follow orders all to benefit the greater good; the safety of his country, and his family. He signed up for a job where he new he’d be taking orders, because he felt that was the right thing to do. That he was called to it. Of course I want a man who can learn what it is to sacrifice, and to follow, in order to better lead his soldiers, and his wife and family.

And, the one that keeps me up at night… J’s job is going to be dangerous. Any person in the military is signing up to be in danger, but J is infantry, and going through training to be a medic. Those two things generally mean danger. My wonderful, fearless man, is among the less than one percent of our country’s citizens who have taken an oath to defend it. And, if necessary, lay down their lives for it, and for the person next to them. I’m not going to try to understand it, or explain it. Because I really have no idea. We’ve all heard the Bible verse;

“Greater love has no one than this; to lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NIV)

J, and every person who has put on that uniform, is willing to lay their life down for the person fighting next to them. Simply because that person has sworn to do the same. As someone romantically linked to one of these amazing soldiers, and someone who’s dad, mom, and countless uncles and friends, have all done the same, this is a terrifying fact. One that forces you to come to grips with the reality that sometimes those people are called away, and willingly put themselves in harm’s way. And in those moments that I’m forced to remember that – I am so incredibly proud. That is absolutely the kind of man I want to be married to – to stand next to. The man that will literally lay down his life for the people he loves.

It really is a difficult choice to make, and compared to the 17 years of marriage my parents have made their way through, J and I have barely made it through any huge challenges – no deployments together yet, and he’s been out of harm’s way for the time we’ve been together. We’re going through long distance, and that’s rough, but we can already start to see the end of our time in separate states. We’ve had it relatively easy, for a military couple. But, we both know that those hard times – rough patches, deployments, training, missed holidays/anniversaries/birthdays, are going to happen soon. And I could choose to throw my hands up and say that I don’t want any part of it. That I’m not able to handle it. But in those moments where I start to get frustrated at him, and ask him why ‘they’ couldn’t send someone else, I’m going to be reminded of everything that makes this wonderful man choose to lace up those boots, and miss those birthdays. And it won’t make it easier – but it will remind me that he’s worth it, that we’re worth it, and that the time’s he’s away, he’s away making the world a safer place for me, and the people we love. I am absolutely okay with signing up for that.

When The Butterflies Go Away

Sometimes, butterflies in a relationship go away. And, it’s actually kind of awesome.

Now – before everyone freaks the heck out; J and I are still madly in love – I still think he’s one of the greatest blessings God has seen fit to bestow on me, and he feels the same way about me. We’re not breaking up, and that’s nowhere near what I’m talking about. Glad we got that out of the way.

So back to those butterflies.

I love the feeling I get when I see J after a few weeks of being apart. I love how giddy I get leading up to the visit, and how I kind of, sort of, turn into a 16 year old girl. It’s fun. But, and here’s the part that will cause everyone to ask who exactly kidnapped me and took over my blog: those butterflies go away. When we were seeing each other every single day, I  would go days without getting that little elevator-drop thrill in my stomach. And it was completely fine. It was better than fine.

You see, once you get past the new-ness of a relationship, it’s my experience that the best part of being together actually starts.

Uncovering past baggage. J and I could never had talked about our personal and generational strongholds if every time we got together, we couldn’t keep our hands to ourselves long enough to have a conversation. Or if I was too busy worrying about what he was thinking to be able to focus and truly talk to him. Arguing. He and I have had some AMAZING personal and relational growth through the arguments we’ve gotten to have. Arguments that wouldn’t have been possible if we were in that ‘honeymoon’ stage.

I think a lot of women today have been set up for failure in our relationships. “There’s no spark.” “I don’t get butterflies anymore.” “I’m supposed to want to be with him all the time.” These are things I’d almost guarantee you that you have either said yourself, or heard another woman say. And it is complete and total… Bull…um, nonsense. Romance novels, television, movies, music, you name it. They all say that the second the “spark” goes away – run. Move on. Time to upgrade.

Everything in our culture says this – why do you think Apple is able to release a new iPhone every year? And sales continue to go through the roof. We’ve set ourselves up to look at all relationships as consumer relationships – this person has a flaw and is no longer exciting. Update, upgrade, move on.

And we wonder why the divorce rate is soaring over 50%.

I love J. I do. He and I are planning our futures together. Marriage, kids, grand kids, in laws – we’ve talked about it all. And we can’t wait for what’s next. But my favorite, favorite part of being with him? That the butterflies have kind of… slowed down. That I’ve gotten past the honeymoon stage. To the good stuff. The real stuff.

Yeah, I’ve been walking around like a high schooler the last two weeks, getting ready for the visit. Jumping up and down and counting the days. And I absolutely still get them when I see him and get that “I’ve missed you” bear hug and kiss that goes with it.

But those aren’t the things that are going to get us through to grand kids and a 60th wedding anniversary. That is going to be the less “romantic” stuff. Our faith. Our community. Sheer determination. The talks that happen in the day to day about life and plans. And the fact that long after the butterflies go away, we don’t look for them elsewhere – we will actively, purposefully, willingly, and intentionally choose to love each other. Every. Single. Day.

Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Communication?

J and I have started to settle into a routine with our communication. Week night conversations generally go about an hour, then longer on the weekends, timed out around the studying and workouts and church. And I love it. I love the constant flow of information. The back and forth. That’s just my personality. I can, on occasion, be a little needy. So, the ability to constantly be in touch makes me happy. And that’s the key point – the ability. I have, at any moment, at least one way to have a quick interaction with J.

What we’ve learned is that, for us at least, there are some serious down sides to constantly being in touch with someone.

First, due to the fact that he’s military, simply by nature of his job, we won’t always have the ability to speak. Nope – not even phone calls. And just based off the times he has had to go away for hiking/camping trips and how straight up miserable I am, when we are constantly in contact, and then all of a sudden aren’t anymore? It’s so much more difficult. Because now I can’t just pick up the phone and say whatever meaningless tidbit I have in my brain.

Then there’s the fact that when we can talk constantly, we start to take for granted the fact that the other person isn’t here. So, we end up filling up the conversation with useless conversations. Again – I love that. But it drives J crazy. I love hearing about his day – interactions with his friends and roommate, what the other guys are like, even his PT scores. It makes me feel included, or at least like I have an idea of what’s going on in his life. But I’m realizing he’s right – we’re just having ‘filler’ conversation. I’m taking for granted the fact that he’s carved out an hour of his very busy day to talk to me.

And finally, the filler conversation leads to a lot of unhappiness. If I’m being honest, it’s on both ends. I think I’m having real conversation, but I’m not really connecting to him on any level. Because of the ease of picking up the phone – we can even talk ‘face to face’ – we end up feeling like we had legitimate interaction, but truthfully haven’t gotten to really get connected. And the conversations that we do have aren’t meaningless, but they aren’t as meaningful as they could be.

What we’ve decided to attempt to try is start out by having a day where we don’t talk on the phone that night. I use it to write a letter to him, and he uses it to study and take time to send me an email. And we walk away having not talked for the night, but still having done something for one another. Actually building intentional connection. Maybe we’ll work in having more time where we don’t – he’ll have to step up studying more often.

It all comes down to finding that balance. Do I think we’ll be that couple who only sends letters and has a once a month phone call when it’s not necessary? Probably not. But I’m learning that we can’t be the couple that has a live feed either. It doesn’t work for either of us. 

We’re lucky to be able to prep ourselves for a deployment by using this distance to ‘practice’ before he’s in harms way. Yep – we’re still messing it up. I bother him, and let myself get too needy, and he sometimes get’s too busy and exhausted to have a conversation. But, what I’m hoping that even having this conversation will do is set us up for that inevitable deployment. Where we’ll be one of the couples that uses the distance to strengthen ourselves and each other – not let it destroy us.

The Test Week Curse

There’s this thing that mom jokes about… It’s called the “deployment curse”. The rule is that the moment your soldier goes on deployment, at least one thing will break. Probably two or three, and they will be major appliances (like the dishwasher, or fridge) or something like the car. Also, sometimes children. Laugh all you want – but I’ve seen it first hand. Without fail, when dad goes, stuff just seems to happen; the fridge stops working, the garage door won’t work, and then the dishwasher needs replaced.

So, I don’t have a house with appliances and kids aren’t in the picture for a while, and J isn’t deployed… But I’ve learned over the last few months that we have our own version, The Test Week Curse.

 His training is intense and keeps him busy. As with everything, it kind of ebbs and flows… One week will be fairly ‘easy’ and then the next will be packed full of tests, and lots of studying. Which means that our conversations are squeezed in between study groups, and that he really doesn’t have the time to stop and help me handle things…

So, without fail, stuff comes up that I need him to help me deal with, about day two of a patch of time where he really can’t afford to be distracted. Then, I decide that I am going to try to half-way explain what’s going on, but not really, so that I feel like I got to process, but what comes out of that is that he is confused and frustrated, and I don’t understand why he can’t just ‘get’ how I’m feeling. Cue snappy/teary argument that doesn’t get solved because we only have an hour to talk. I feel like I haven’t been listened to, and he probably feels the same way.

It’s kind of exhausting to try to mentally process it out… It’s an internal battle of wanting to take problems to him, and then also not wanting to be a distraction and make things difficult for him, or make him worry. Because no matter how much he tries to focus, if something’s wrong with me, it’s going to cause him to worry. And I also don’t want to make him feel unnecessary while he’s gone – but I don’t want to overwhelm him either.

Obviously this is one of those things that I’m going to have to get better and better at, and that we’re going to have to unpack as a couple, together. (Let’s call that no. 834 of things to talk about when we’re together.) Lots of grace is having to be handed out, all over.

Maybe that’s the lesson I’m supposed to be working on right now? I have this list that I pray over mine and J’s relationship – things I want us to work on, and for him, in specific areas. And two of those are that I will be supportive – legitimately and in ways that he can see, and that we learn to absolutely cover each other with grace. Not just when we feel like it – but when it’s really hard because, dangit my feelings are hurt and I feel like I need to say something about it.

J taught me the phrase ‘Charlie Mike’ a few months ago. It means continue mission. I keep forgetting that this path I’m on isn’t just me wondering aimlessly (although it does feel that way sometimes). I need to remember that even though I don’t have any idea what it looks like at the end, that it’s a path with a purpose. As tiny as I feel, I have to get all my gear ready and keep moving forward. It’s really hard to remember that when I just wanna lay down and sleep – or take the easier path.

It’s funny how a blog post designed to be a venting board for me, may actually have ended up letting me unpack and get to an area where God may have been trying to teach me something – something I’ve specifically asked for. So, I guess the new prayer is that I actually take the chances He is giving me to grow closer to J and more secure in the relationship, and closer to Him and more secure in our relationship, and not get so lost in the actual problem. To keep on moving forward, and trying to grow myself, and push on, even if I feel like I’ve got too much weight on my back. 

Charlie Mike, right? 😉


How I Learned My Soldier Is Better Than Any Prince Charming

Yep. I said it – I no longer want Prince Charming. Prince Charming is boring – and comes nowhere near the man I get to call my own.

Wednesday, on the way home from work, I got into a car accident. My first ever. It wasn’t fun. It had just started raining, and I hydroplaned into the barrier wall on what is apparently called “dead mans curve” on what is apparently the most dangerous stretch of road in Cincinnati. Awesome. Physically, I’m handling some back/neck/shoulder problems. Mentally, I’m stressed. Car accidents are horrible things.

So, Thursday after work, I was supposed to go straight to see J, on a 10+ hour drive. I was so excited. But, no such luck. I drove home Thursday evening in my moms car – sad, depressed, stressed, and panicky. Then, after exhausting all our efforts, and me not really being that helpful, J decided to rescue me, and bought a round trip ticket for me to come see him. Honestly, I just threw up my hands and told him to “make the decision for me.”

I don’t know what it was, the absolute panic that had to have been coming through in my voice, the back pain I’d been in for two days, or the fact that I had yet to have a conversation with him with out crying in 24 hours – but he stepped up – and I’ve never, ever, felt so loved and cherished, and protected.

A little back story; distance sucks. And when the “honeymoon stage” ends while you’re ten hours apart, you really just don’t see eye to eye. So, the last few weeks of arguing have been horrible. And, the visit was partially so he and I could sort out some things we needed to wrestle with. One of which, was that I felt like I wasn’t a priority. That he wasn’t being as affectionate as he needed to be.

I thought I wanted letters. Or emails. Or some of the cute (let’s be real; girly) things I do for him. And he took this chance to make me see the real reasons that I love him. His ability to protect me, even emotionally. His ability to be the ‘good man in the storm’. The heart he has for our relationship. Yes, I would love to get a letter from him at some point in our relationship. But now, what I walked away from this weekend knowing is that he may not love me in the ways I think I want to be – he does it better. And more intentionally.

He and I were even talking about it over the weekend – how many women feel unloved because they aren’t getting the mushy things they’re doing in return. And that’s totally normal, ladies. But maybe, your man doesn’t love you like you love him. He doesn’t love in letters and emails and texts and flowers – he does those things because he thinks he ‘should.’ Maybe, if you give him the chance, he will love you better than you ever thought possible.

 

A Letter To Me, Five Years From Now

Twenty – Seven, Almost Twenty -Eight Year Old Me;

Hopefully you’re married to J. If the plans we’re talking about now have actually come together, you’ve been married a couple years, with a little one either being tried and prayed for, or already on the way.You’ve moved at least twice, and you’ve probably got at least one deployment under your belt. He might even be gone right now.

I can’t know all of those things. Or where you’re living, or what state your marriage is in right now. What hurdles you’ve overcome, and what direction your life has taken together.

What I do know, is that five years into a relationship with a man in the military, especially this man – this strong, caring, protective, wonderful, difficult man – you’ve “busted draws” with each other – and probably because of each other (metaphorical ones – not real ones… If you do the orienteering thing with him, go you). Probably ones that people said you’re never going to make it past. That you yourself probably said you couldn’t make it past… And that you probably didn’t realize you were battling until you were already in it. And, because there’s never been so much determination (stubbornness) in one couple, you’ve proven them all wrong. In some cases, it was probably just for the sake of showing everyone that you could.

Maybe you’ve come up in some issue that seems bigger than the two of you. Bigger than the relationship, bigger than all the hard work. Maybe right now, you’re feeling like the Army has (once again) come before, or between, J and you, your family, and your marriage. And, probably, your sanity.

Even if life is perfect – and I really and truly hope it is – take time to remember what things are like for me, 22 year old me, right now. How huge ten hours seemed at the time. How incredibly insurmountable that distance felt. And how even though you’ve finally started to fight, you, at 22, and J at 26, have powered, talked, shouted, cried, and prayed through to so much together.

Take time to think about how, right now, at 22, it feels like the end of the world to get off the phone with him. What it’s like to constantly want to know more about him, and learn what makes that complex brain of his tick. In the moments that he’s around, and you aren’t appreciative, and you’re trying to wrestle control away from him after building up a life with out him, think back on how much I’m wanting to just be near him. Appreciate each other when you’re together, because of how well you made it through this rough patch… Remember the whole month of August? The first meet in the middle visit that was followed by three weeks of trying to learn to be gracious with one another? Hopefully when this chunk of time comes to mind – the tears and late night FaceTime calls, and arguments that you never wanted to have, you think back to yourself; “that… That’s when I knew J and I were going to make it through anything life threw at us.”

He probably still makes decisions with out checking with you first. And, hopefully, in 5 years, you can see the benefit to having someone so strong and decisive to lead your family. Hopefully, you’ve gotten rid of the phrase “I’ve got this.” If not – try to remember how much it grates at him. (Really though – do I ever get rid of it?)

Remember all the times that he gently pushed you to pray out loud when you didn’t want to – especially those nights where you were angry at each other and the last thing you wanted to do was pray for him. Wow, I hope you still pray together when you can. Phones, email, text. That you are both still invested enough that you carve that time out, wherever he is, and wherever you are, to actively bring your relationship to God. And that its only made both your relationships with Him stronger – it can only do good things for you.

I hope you lean into your community as much as you do now. That you still use his sister and brother, and M&M as your mentor couples – that you realize you will always have ways to grow in your marriage, and your friendships, and in your walk with God. That you still go toThursday cookouts, and that you still open up your lives to them.

5 years can hold so much. Growth, pain, happiness, sadness. 17 year old me knew absolutely nothing – and I’m pretty sure 22 year old me won’t either. But I really hope you haven’t lost that reckless feeling – that feeling that when everyone said “don’t do this… It’ll be hard… He’ll be gone all the time, and you’ll have to be alone,” made you say “and?” and dive head first into this… Whatever you are handling – I hope that you can still look at the man beside you, and know that with all certainty, with out any doubts, you can look back on the last 5 years, and together, face anything – you got this.

Because I Might Have Gone Insane

This blog… Has been in my brain for a long time. Honestly, the day J told me that he wanted to pack up and head out for three years of training, I knew I’d need an outlet. Yes, I have the other blog, but that’s for me… And to talk about everything. It’s all over the place – God, work, my health, plans, and life in general. This needed to be a specific outlet – where I could focus on the newest, most frustrating, and newest blessing, and unexpected path God has placed me on – my new journey as an Army girlfriend, and hopefully as an Army wife one day. And, hopefully, the purpose of this will grow to be to connect with all the strong women who are going through the same thing I am. 

Where you’re not married – so the Army sees you as irrelevant. People on the outside throw out things like “well if it’s so hard, just break up and be done. It’s not like you’re married yet.” Right now, J is home, safe and sound, but I’ve been told to look at this training as if he’s on deployment; don’t be a distraction, love and support him, and be okay with sporadic, not nearly long enough, phone calls. 

I love J, and I know that this journey with him will be worth it. But it would he irresponsible of me to try to say that it isn’t going to be hard. It’s already been harder than I could have imagined that it would be. And it will only get harder. That’s why I picked the name that I did. As a reminder of the way that I want to approach this life – patiently and with as much grace as possible. And because, let’s be real – my whole life will be spent “patiently” waiting on J, who is waiting on the military. So, as is my style – it’s something sweet and sincere with a little bit of sass thrown in there for good measure. 

I don’t know what this process looks like – how often I post, what the content is, or anything. I’m just picking up and rolling. So – there will probably be some patient waiting on everybody’s end as I try to figure this out – thank you in advance for showing me some grace 🙂