Monday, June 18, 2018

Operation: Survival Mode

I am not sure I can even condense the past (just over) week into a single blog post. It may be in everyone's best interest if I break it up a bit. We'll see how it goes.

First, last Saturday afternoon my parents arrived into town and the right away we abandoned them with the girls because Chris and I had a swing dance/fundraising event that we had purchased tickets for a while ago. I was particularly excited about it because I have been telling Chris for the past decade or so that we should take dancing lessons. When airplanes and the military are involved, he consented.

It was a cool event. They had a B-25 Mitchell Bomber ("Miss Mitchell") that this organization has kept up since WWII era, and the original artist even painted the side of the plane again, as well as some other plane remnants in the hanger. They had a couple there giving a swing dance lesson prior to the dance starting, and then we danced! It was a WWII era-themed dance - you can see in the pictures I am wearing ridiculous lipstick and a poofy slip under my dress, and Chris has some suspenders. We do WWII era well. We have a little work to do (with dancing), but I think I've finally convinced Chris how much fun dancing can be! Now to do the actual dance lessons...

The next day we left bright and early for Detroit area, Michigan, for the FBFI conference (Chris' military endorser). The purpose in going to the conference was two-fold: first, we were attending because it is recommended to attend the conference (sermons, sessions, getting to know others, etc.) and second, Chris had an interview with the agency to see if they would formally recommend him for endorsing.

The drive there really isn't all that bad, 10-12 hours depending on stops, etc., but we were following a rainstorm most of the way there which at times led to some less-than-desirable road and visibility conditions.

Our first stop was Frankenmuth. We arrived there around 5 p.m. on Sunday night. Unfortunately, most of the town was closed but the world-famous Christmas store was open for another hour, as well as another larger gift-shop. We spent about the entire hour in the Christmas store, mostly in awe of all the Christmas they had. Then we drove the remaining 1 1/2 hours down to our hotel.

Have you ever heard of a "Michigan Left"? I cannot believe this whole city does not outright revolt against these bizarre traffic laws. They don't turn left at the traffic light, but instead you have to either go straight or turn right and make a U-turn, and go back to the intersection and turn right. Multiple turns to make a left turn. It's ridiculous. We managed to travel to the hotel without taking a Michigan left, but when I left the hotel to go (a mere!) half mile to a nearby Walmart, I encountered one of these monsters for the first time, in the dark, and thought that surely my GPS was having an episode of some kind. When I (finally) made it back to the hotel room, I was venting to Chris about the crazy roads and he had no idea what I meant...until the next morning when we drove to the church and encountered probably 3 or 4 of these. The whole state needs to protest.

The first day of the conference is designated for civilian and military chaplains. It was lovely to meet chaplains from all walks, Navy, Army, as well as police, hospice, pediatric hospital, fire... I enjoyed spending the time with the group. In the afternoon, I was (happily) hijacked by some of the other wives to go get some coffee and spend time getting to know each other. I met some ladies who I think are going to be friends for a long time to come. Mike Sproul was there, the Air Force chaplain who first got us started down the road toward FBFI endorsement (the short version: after Chris had given endorsement and chaplaincy a good go, we had such a hard time finding an endorsing agency he kind of dropped the idea of military chaplaincy until God orchestrated that Chaplain Sproul come to our church). We went to lunch with Ch. Sproul, who is a Colonel, and one of the most enjoyable characters I have come across. I am truly honored, encouraged, and energized by this group that Chris is going to be working with. I can't wait to see where God leads!!

The next two days were for the larger, general conference. There were pastors from all over, and many great sermons and breakout sessions that challenged and encouraged me. It was especially nice to see some old friends who had been pastoral interns at First Calvary, and their two daughters. Nate and Cheryl empathized with us about the crazy left turns. Chris had his interview with the chaplain board on Tuesday, the second day of the conference. We have a bit of a jumbled background, and there were naturally questions about it. What was so cool (and a story we will tell for a long time) is that when we explained our faith journey, Chris spoke to the importance (really, hard to downplay the importance) of our church and the VerWay family. As soon as he said our church was under "Pastor Mike VerWay" about half of the room breathed a deep sigh of relief and one gentleman said, "Oh, Mike VerWay is your pastor? That's a great endorsement!" Chris was approved for endorsement, and another big step in the long journey towards military chaplaincy was completed! We celebrated by stopping for dinner at a fabulous Mediterranean restaurant, which had a chicken-lemon-rice soup exactly like Aphrodite used to make and made to so happy to eat it. We ordered the dinner for two meal, which was more like dinner for 6, or maybe 8, but the food was tremendous.

On the final day, we went to lunch again with Ch. Sproul, and several other chaplains. It is really nice to match some names to faces after hearing about some people for so long. Dinner was spent with the entire group at the church where we had been meeting. They kept us busy. The first day started at 7:30 and went until 9 p.m.; the next two days Chris was up at the church by 6 a.m. for PT with the other chaplains (the second day they played soccer!) and then we had sessions going from about 9 or 10 a.m. until (again) 9 p.m. We were exhausted! I think emotionally, from the preparation of the interview, and physically, from the long drive and long hours.

I need to insert my apology to Michigan family here - Sorry I wasn't able to stop by and see everyone! I think if Mom and Dad had not been back at home we might have taken some extra time, but we wanted to get back home to see my parents before they had to get back home, and Chris had to prepare and get ready to leave for his deployment!

When I woke up for the drive home on Thursday morning I was convinced I had strep throat - that feeling where it hurts to swallow, like razor blades, and one side of the throat hurts first... I was terrified! But it just turned into a cold. The younger two girls and I are all afflicted with it. I am hoping Chris and Sophia can sit this one out!  We made it back by around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, in time for some delicious ribs from the smoker that Dad had prepared. I am glad that we had some extra time with Mom and Dad as well. On Friday we went to see the new Incredibles movie (all except for poor Bethany, who was again left behind - it's hard being the baby!). It was well done, very good sequel. Saturday was Farmer's Market day, and it was raining which turned out to be great, because the rain kept probably 80% of the normal crowd away. Saturday was also the day Chris had to crack down and get ready to go. It seems crazy in the middle of all of this that it is also time for him to leave. For a long time "June 17" was so far away, and now it's already come and gone!

Both Heidi and Bethany got a little bit of an early birthday treat - since Nana and Papa were here, they opened their birthday gifts a bit early. Bethany got her very own Bitty Baby doll, and since she has been sleeping and playing with her sister's dolls, she was really thrilled to get her own. She likes to rock the baby and dress the baby and feed the baby... she is so excited to have her own baby! She also likes to put it to down to sleep in the dog cage... but it's the closest thing there is to a doll baby crib upstairs so I guess it works... Heidi got a pet chicken that goes with the Wellie Wisher doll, and she and Sophia have been playing veterinarian for days together with their pet chicken and bunny and other stuffed animals. Heidi named it "chickadee," at least for now.

Sophia and Heidi discovered that they can stack on top of each other, with Sophia standing on top of a stool, and reach the top of the refrigerator. We were all sitting in the living room, watching Bethany play with her new dolly or something, when we heard some grunting and commotion behind us. When we looked back, Sophia had Heidi stacked up on her shoulders and was standing up on the stool! I did, like a bad and not cautious mother, get a picture before telling them to get down (see below).

Sunday I drove Chris to the airport around 5 a.m. for his early morning flight. It was Father's Day, which I think made everything harder, and also I am pregnant and have a cold so the emotions are all over the place. It is always hard to have Chris leave, but this year it seemed to sneak up so quickly. It is not a long deployment, 5 weeks, and I know there are women who are saying goodbye to their husbands knowing they won't see them for 6 months to a year or even longer. I am so proud of Chris and the work that he is doing, and that he is following God's calling into a ministry that is not easy. It is always hard to know how to respond when the girls say things like, "I miss Daddy!" Because almost instantly it drives me to tears. Because me too, baby girl, me too. I am trying to balance strength with compassion and empathy. It is good to remind the girls of why Daddy is gone. I tell them that Daddy is serving as a missionary; he is serving the men and women who are protecting our country, and he is helping them to know Jesus better. We are helping Daddy in his ministry by keeping our home safe and protected, helping life to continue even when it seems hard, knowing that we are sharing Daddy for a good reason, and our ministry is supporting his ministry. We are honoring God by doing that. (But there are still times I just want to cry).

Sunday afternoon we went to the zoo with the girls. Sophia and Heidi were thrilled about going to the splash pad. Bethany did not understand why all of these crazy people were intentionally running into spouts of cold water and she mostly refused to have anything to do with the splash pad. It was a hot, hot humid day; hotter than it was even in Tucson. I was sweating like crazy from walking around, and I didn't even have to push the stroller (thanks, Dad)!  We went to Dairy Queen after the zoo, which was a very welcome treat, and cooled down a bit before going home and preparing to take Nana and Papa to the airport (everyone left me all in the same day)!

I dropped of Mom and Dad around 4, and then Bethany, who fell asleep in the car, napped for about an hour and a half while I got a start on some laundry and other home-type things. The girls played outside for a bit before we picked up Raising Cane's for dinner (Father's Day BOGO!! Only, we didn't have Chris there...) which the girls devoured before we went to bed. We fell asleep to a thunderstorm, which was pleasant to listen to (and also means I don't have to water the grass - keep it coming, rain!) and quite soothing. Maybe not for Copper, he was pacing around upstairs a bit, but everyone else seemed to sleep well.

I am somewhat excited to be responsible for the lawn care this year, mostly because I feel like I can. Last year I was not about to go near that lawn mower or the weed whacker. I didn't want to have to worry about gas or oil or any of that, and I was more than happy to pay Andrew in smoked pulled pork to have him take care of the lawn. This year, with Chris' new battery-operated lawn care toys, I am actually excited. The lawn mower is so much quieter, and I can actually manage it, and I don't have any fluids to worry about. One day a week will have my exercise built into it!

Day 1. 35 Days to go.




Same engine as below but destroyed during WWII










Fun with Nana and Papa while we're gone








Chalk kids...












Frankenmuth




The Chaplains at FBFI







Early Birthday!


Sophia and Heidi getting on top of the fridge (gasp!!)



Other early birthday