Chris left on Monday for COT with the Air Force, and is a Chaplain Candidate in the Air Force Reserves. His training is 5 weeks long, and then after COT graduation he has an additional 5 weeks or so of specific Chaplain training.
This has not been a short journey. When Pastor welcomed Chris and Job (a young man at church who enlisted in the Army and left the same time as Chris) to the stage on Sunday to pray for them before leaving, he mentioned how Chris has been pursuing military chaplaincy pretty much since he knew us (7+ years). And yes, that is true though it hardly seems like it. When he first started going to Bethel Seminary (and even before that) I remember Chris talking about his passion for ministry and the military, and how a Chaplain seemed to be a perfect marriage of the things that he was passionate about. We ran into roadblocks along the way, which Chris will tell you ended up being good things (as are all things on God's timing, are they not?) but last summer was officially sworn in.
Almost a year after swearing in, he left for COT on May 24th this year. It was a bit hectic trying to prepare for it. He was finishing up Greek 2 (and other Seminary classes, though none quite as trying) as well as moving, and trying to pack all that was required for COT. And it was a lot. It is truly amazing how much they recommend that he bring with him. The list of military uniform, casual, exercise requirements alone was long indeed, and then there were other things (recommended a computer, printer (!), batteries, hangars, towels, etc. etc. etc...).
During the week leading up to Chris leaving, it was hard emotionally on me to think about it. Whenever coworkers asked about it or I saw something on television or Facebook that talked about military I would almost instantly start to tear up. I tried not to think about my best friend leaving for that long, but as I was helping him pack and prepare I was encountered with it a lot. We went to a marriage conference (Love and Respect by the Eggerichs) with some friends of ours about a month ago and during the conference they would talk about things men or women could do to improve the love/respect they show to each other in marriage. I remember thinking throughout most of the conference that Chris was such a great example of showing love and meeting those characteristics that I wanted to cry just thinking about him leaving because I have been so blessed with such a great help-mate.
I will admit that there is, of course, an additional emotionally overwhelming element with being pregnant, because I'm definitely a crier when I am pregnant so any additional excuse to let down the water works and it's going to happen.
The hardest part was, of course, on Monday morning when we went to drop him off. We went out to breakfast with the girls and then I dropped them off at the Carpenter's house before we headed to the airport. I put together a small bag with a mini pooh bear (to remember Heidi), a mini pig bear (to remember Sophia) and some treats for traveling and a card. I couldn't hold it together very well (and even thinking about the drop off again here is making me start to cry) and so we didn't get airport pictures of him leaving. And on the drive back to work I was just bawling. I got to work early and had some time before seeing patients, which was good because I was still a wreck, but my mood was helped by my coworker bringing me a giant cookie. Cookies do wonderful things.
There are a couple of things that have been somewhat bothersome to me as I have been on this journey, and I know they are all well-intentioned so I do not lecture or anything like that, but just find them interesting. First, none of this has been unilateral. Chris did not decide on his own that he was going to do military chaplaincy and that was all there was to it. This was prayerfully considered and discussed as a decision that the two of us made. We both knew that being in the military didn't just affect Chris, it would affect both of us. If he is in the reserves, he is sacrificing a weekend away every month to fulfill his duties. If he goes active duty, we may be moving all over, wherever the military tells us he is needed. A decision like that is not to be made without discussion.
I think perhaps one of the things that people say that bothers me the most is when they ask, "so how is being a single mom?" I don't know. Ask somebody who is. I do not say this sarcastically or bitingly, but rather to say that I am not without support. I have great respect for single moms who have had husband who left, passed away, or were perhaps never involved to begin with and they have embarked on the parenthood journey truly on their own. This is not me. Chris and I made a mutual decision which we entered knowingly, understanding that we were both making sacrifices. We are both in the military, though I am doing so without the orders and uniform. His sacrifice is to leave home and family and spend 10 weeks in sweltering, humid Alabama heat in the summer to work towards his goal of chaplaincy. My sacrifice is to stay with the kids while he is away. Chris is a wonderful man who did not keep me in the dark or ignore my feelings as this was pursued. I can still contact him. I was able to see him yesterday. I am planning to travel to his graduation. Soon, he will be with me and our girls again. I am not a single mom. Again, it's not that I don't understand what people are saying when they ask me this question; it's that I feel it takes away from women who are single moms, who are going through that battle.
I think the other thing that has bothered me is that I have had people suggest that perhaps he isn't taking time to communicate with us while he's away. It was brought up after I mentioned that he has been very busy since he's been down there and hasn't called us daily. Nor did I ever expect him to. This is, again, part of the sacrifice. I knew looking at the COT schedule, starting with PT at 4 a.m. and continuing through daily classes, study, and on top of all of this working on Greek 3, that expecting an hour phone call everyday was unreasonable and unlikely. Chris is doing a job; he is not on vacation or at summer camp. He is working toward a goal, and working very hard towards it, which is something that I admire about him. He is a determined hard worker, and he is not going to go into this thing and give half effort to it. That would not be honoring Christ, himself, myself, or the sacrifices we have dedicated to make while he is away. His first day there, after landing in Alabama and taking a bus to the base, he did not even make it back into his room until it was nearly lights out. His second day started with training at 4 a.m. and again not returning to his room until almost lights out. I do not expect him to "make time" during this schedule. I do not feel neglected or ignored. I am sending him messages throughout the day so he can feel like he is a part of my day, but I am not expecting a response back, especially because I can see that he hasn't read the messages until whatever time it is that he can get back to his room. Last night, he called us on FaceTime. It was WONDERFUL to see him, dressed on his ABUs and looking very official, and to see the room he has with his roommate. 10 years ago this would have been a very different experience. But last night, when he had an opportunity to in his schedule, he called us to see us and spend time with us when he had other things to occupy him, including studies. So, I do not feel as though he should be making more of an effort to talk to us all of the time when every minute of every day for the next 10 weeks is essentially planned out, nor would I ever want to put that burden or additional expectation on him.
Whew, there was a lot said there. Long story short, we are both sacrificing, and I am so happy he is following God's will in pursuing something that he has great passion for. Moreover, I am overjoyed to be a part of it. I can't wait to see where it leads us. I am also overwhelmed at all of the support I received; I had so many messages the day that he left offering prayers and love and support and anything that I needed. I have amazing family and friends who I know are there for me and praying for Chris and myself, and I could not ask for more. God has truly blessed me, and Chris, and I am excited to see where we go from here.
"No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him." 2 Timothy 2:4
|We told Heidi to look up for the camera. And up she looked.|
|First bump. Kind of hard to tell.|
|The next several are our attempts to take a nice picture to send to Daddy. Nice. ;)|
|Well, got 2 out of 3 of us smiling. We'll keep trying.|