Saturday, February 24, 2007

An It's-About-Time-For-An-Update Update

Andrew is doing great! He's getting settled in at his barracks and trying to get used to the 12 hour/day, 7 days/week shift! The bright spot does come on Friday when he only has to work 6 hours. Whew! It's nice for him to get off work at 6pm instead of midnight just once. That way he actually has an evening to catch up on things and to check in with family. And get to bed early for a change.

It has been good for Andrew to finally get to use the skills that he's trained 3 years for. He's too humble to tell you this, but he's by far the best linguist in his unit and they need his talents! It's so rewarding to finally have his work respected. And this by the Marines that they're working under in Ramadi. My husband is brilliant. I'm so proud of him!

We just have 6 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days until he comes to Oregon on leave! Not that we're counting days or anything... and we are already 1/10th of the way through this deployment. Time actually is moving.

As for me, it's been wonderful to be in Oregon surrounded by family and friends and love. I've been staying busy which has been nice. It makes the days go by! It's been fun going to the gym with Jenny at least a couple times a week (I have a new respect for Step class...), meeting with the ladies for a Bible Study on Wednesday mornings, hanging out with my parents and brothers, and getting boxes ready to send to Andrew every week! (I LOVE doing that!)

By the way, I know many have asked what they can send to Andrew and how. His address is in the margin on this page, and if you need ideas for what to send, email me! I always have a running list... You can pick up "flat rate" boxes at the Post Office for free, then it only costs $8.10 to send a box, no matter how heavy you make it. (It's my own personal challenge to fit as much as I can in every one!)

I have much to look forward to, including a trip back to North Carolina with Jenny for a baby shower at the end of March, moving into an apartment in April, buying a car, possibly even trying out for a role in this summer's community production of Beauty and the Beast! Not to mention the birth of our first nephew and grandbaby on this side. Chandler Thomas, we're so excited to meet you in May!

God is so faithful to us. He is using this trial of life in so many ways. Some of which He is gracious enough to let us see even now! And He doesn't owe us that. He loves us so much and we see His hand in our lives every day. Praise Him for His plan and the path He's placed before us! We certainly wouldn't have chosen it for ourselves (and we'll be glad when this chapter is done), but we're so glad we know the One Who will fulfill His perfect plans for our future. We only have to trust Him.

  • For Andrew's health. The silty desert dust just seems to get into his lungs and then throws him into unexpected coughing fits.
  • For at least one good man whom Andrew can buddy around with. It's so hard to be alone.
  • For a wall of safety around Andrew, his brother William, and all of the brave soldiers they're with.
  • For opportunites for Andrew to share the reason for the hope that lies within him.
  • For the peace that passes understanding...that it would continue to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Thank you all for your prayers and loving support.

Friday, February 16, 2007

You Know You're a Military Wife When...

... Someone asks when your husband will be home, and you say "December" or "January" instead of 5 or 6.

... You live on your own and by yourself more after you're married than before you were married.

... You know all of your husband's co-workers by their last names, only.

... You need ID to buy groceries.

... You forget you even have a driver's license and take that military ID everywhere with you.

... You read everything you can get your hands on to learn more about your husband's job.

... You really want to buy something but you say, "Well, I'm going to have to wait til the 1st...or 15th...for it."

... You ask someone "What's your MOS?" rather than "What do you do for a living?"

... Half of your wardrobe has some kind of military insignia on it and once belonged to your husband.

... You only write in pencil because everything is subject to change.

... You know that a 2-month separation is short, no matter what your civilian friends say.

... You know that any reference to the "sand box" describes a deployment to Iraq/Kuwait, not a backyard play place.

... You know better than to go to the PX or Commissary between 11:30am and 1:30pm unless it's a life-or-death emergency.

... You have enough camouflage in your house to wallpaper the entire White House.

... You don't even have to think about what time 2130 is.

... You pick apart uniforms on TV and in movies for their inaccuracy.

... You are asked to stop speaking in acronyms and translate it all to English.

... You have multiple copies of Powers of Attorney to throw at the credit card people and cell phone companies.

... You can't handle people on reality shows who cry because they haven't seen their dog in 3 weeks.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Writing Together

When I came to this country I thought I was a Christian.

Before I left we spoke of grace, peace, God's love for us. Since I have been here, God has systematically stripped away my supports, my comforts, and all things familiar. I have been shown my selfishness in areas such as control of circumstances and in demanding emotional support (instead of giving it). Whereas I expected God to HELP me with OUR deployment project (and I had a pretty good idea how He could do it), He had different plans. For instance, of course God needed to protect my wife and me, then there was the matter of Him making it possible for us to talk all the time... God, however, wasn't as concerned with the relationship between me and my wife as He was with my relationship to Him.

God has used this last month to teach Andrew and I so much about His love and what that really means. We've learned how to love each other more and better as we begin to understand the nuances of God's grace. The lyrics from one of Keith Green's songs come to mind:

"I pledge my wife to heaven for the Gospel,
Though our love each passing day just seems to grow!
As I told her when we wed, I'd surely rather be found dead
Than to love her more than the One Who saved my soul."

I used to puzzle over these words and wonder if Keith's wife even liked this song? Or if it made her feel unimportant or unloved or second-rate in her husband's eyes?

Now I know it's just the opposite. When my husband lays me on the altar of his faith, and learns to love the Lord His God more than he loves me, that only gives me an overwhelming sense of peace, security, and contentment... and it gives him a greater and purer love for me.

He is the Rock that I am being thrown onto, and I find myself wanting to stay dashed on that Rock. Admitting that I have nothing to stand on but His mercy, and giving Him the decisions, turns of events, pains, fears, worries, and hard decisions that I face. Over and above that, however, I want to camp out on the fact that I don't own myself and that I can NOT earn anything from God.

It turns out that I AM a Christian, because the Lord corrects the sons He loves. He graciously did not allow me to continue in my error, but has poked, prodded, and allowed me to mess up enough to get my attention. God is breaking me.

I read this quote today and it describes what this deployment means to me: "God puts a knife to our self-sufficiency. He wants to be a part of our identity, our intimacy, and even our potency."

And this is just the first month! We know that the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives because we feel the heat of the refining fire. Yes, even across the world from each other! He loves us too much to leave us as we were. And as we still are. I am so blessed (it's not even a strong enough word!) to have been given a man so dedicated to finding God's will, and so willing to accept it and lead us in it.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

(William Cowper - God Moves In Mysterious Ways)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Sweet Reminder

Thanks so much to Kristi and Mary Beth who thought of us when they saw this plaque and just knew that I had to have it. It was such an encouragement! I told Andrew all about it and we immediately decided that THAT was our hymn to hold on to this year. He has promised and He will do it.

(Side note: it does appear to say "Joehovah"...mine doesn't.)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

From Andrew

Marking days off a calendar is extremely rewarding. I love to do it in chunks, however, and that means I will wait a few days for the satisfaction of marking off a half week at a time, then telling myself, "There. Didn't that go by fast?"

I've been able to talk to Cass more in the last 24 hours than I have for several days. It feels very good to be "caught up" on any discussion or debate and to be able to just enjoy each other's company and meet each other's needs on the phone.

It's quite the contrast, really. I trudge 1/8 of a mile through mud, sand, cold, and sometimes rain. Mud sticks to my boots, making my feet heavy and sticky and my way very slippery. Finally, I arrive at the pre-fab, shaky building who's floor is nearly completely covered with mud in various stages of drying. On either side of the room are banks of AT&T phones set in wooden booth-like constructions. No booth is untouched by the graffiti writing, carving, and chipping of GI hands. I recognize the booths I normally sit at by the names, slogans, and patterns etched on their surfaces.

Picking up the phone, I pray for the blessed automated sound of, "...AT&T. If you are calling using a pre-paid phone card, dial the 800 number on the back of your card now." By this time, I've memorized both the 800 number and the PIN. Finished with these two steps, I dial my wife's cell phone.

I can picture her, beautiful, happy, and safe in a far away land that has grass, trees of immense proportions and orderly buildings lining the paved roads. It's a beautiful sight.

I look down at the crumbling, crusty mud caked on the floor and around the base of the stool upon which I am seated. The markings, cuttings, and writings on the wood before me are surprisingly innocuous in nature - most Army graffiti seems to take on an obscene tone. Perhaps because soldiers think of home at the phone bank, they don't write the normal epithets. Instead, the wood grain is crossed with words like "Chicago" and "Aian & Tez". Thoughts of home have a very calming effect.

"Hello?" The most beautiful sound in the world greets my ear.

"Hey Sweetie!" I exclaim, elated to once again be in contact with my other half.

"Hey Babe!" She replies with my favorite title.

And so, we recharge...She in her clean, orderly, beautiful room, surrounded by the smell of my cologne and her perfume; Me in the mud-caked, graffiti-marked phone booth surrounded by the smell of my uniform. Across the world we connect - plug in as it were - for encouragement and support from each other. God's beautiful gift to me is safe, clean, and peaceful - and that lets me know I can do whatever I need to do a world away. God bless Alexander Graham Bell.

He Still Works Miracles...

I've just got to tell you what God did for me the other night!

The phone system is such that Andrew's the one who has to call me, I can't just call him whenever I want. So lately, he's been going to bed early, waking up around midnight, and calling me from the phone center (which is never busy that time of night). That makes it around 11am or noon for me whenever he calls. Then he goes right back to bed. It's a good system.

At my nighttime, then, I listen to the prayer and message that Andrew recorded for me before he left. Friday night, however, I was up writing Andrew a long email, and by the time I was nearing the end, I was just overcome with missing him and my tears flowed freely, dropping on my lap as I attempted to wrap up and send the email. I got ready for bed and still couldn't shake the sadness and grief of not only missing him, but realizing just how much longer this has got to go on this way. As I laid in my old bed, in my old room at my parents' house, the loneliness covered me like a cloud and I couldn't stop the "rain."

I cried and prayed and simply called the Name of Jesus when other words escaped me. I told Him how much I missed Andrew and how good it would be to hear his voice right now. "Please, Lord," I prayed, "please let Andrew call me."

I knew this was impossible because it was the middle of Andrew's day when he was probably in training or working and it was 2am for me. And he never calls me in the middle of my night.

It was not minutes after I'd prayed for the impossible that my cell phone rang out! It was my loving husband who had been prompted to call me even though I should have been asleep.

God heard me! He listened to my cries and He caused Andrew to call me and let me hear his voice to know that I wasn't alone in this fight. I heard his encouragement, his love, his assurances that we were gonna make it, that he's gonna stay safe, and that he's so proud of me. And he shared a Scripture that he'd found very applicable that day in I Peter 5 --

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen."

Isn't our God faithful? He wanted to show me His love and to prove to me that He was watching and hearing everything. He is intimately acquainted with my grief and His heart is toward me. Together, He is guiding us step by step. No pain is wasted.

Andrew and I are learning together to abide in His love and to trust in His grace and in the purposes of His pruning. He only desires more glory. He only wants us to bear more fruit. And He has promised to restore what was lost, and to confirm, strengthen, and establish us when this short time of suffering is completed.

To Him be all glory forever!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Dear All,

Finally, after four days of waiting on a flight line (well it seemed like we spent most of the time on the flight line) I found myself walking the streets of Camp Ramadi this morning. Ramadi means "grey", but it means "grey" because Ramad is "ash"... therefore I found myself walking the streets of Camp Ashy this morning.:) It was like a scene from some movie set in Africa or Mexico. You know, the scene that happens in the morning with a talkative guide as the new people are ushered from one point of reference to another, where the dwellings seem to be mostly "dirt and junk" construction and where there's a general bustle of people going to and fro. Through the midst of the hub-bub, Mike and I walked alongside J-Rob listening as he talked of the day his group arrived and where to go to drop off laundry and where the dining facility was located and where the medical group worked. It was all a bit of a whirl after our late night arrival in the most interesting and most dilapidated living conditions with which I have ever been connected.

"Come on, form a chain! Get those bags on the truck! You're moving too slow!" The first sergeant in charge of our welcoming committee was obviously anxious that we get to where we were going because he had more people coming in behind us. We'd sat out on the flight line for a couple of hours before our chopper arrived in TQ... I had my duffle bag, two ruck sacks and my personal body armor stacked around me or on my person when the order came to get it all on and head to the chopper. I struggled with my packs (which were connected) and grabbed up my duffle. The football field long trot to the chopper just about did me in... I know for a fact that I had weighed close to 300 lbs when I left the States and that didn't include the duffle with which I was now lurching toward the helicopter. Finally I reached the bird and struggled inside... all of our baggage was piled in the center and we sat on either side of the aircraft for the short flight to Camp Ramadi. When I say short, I mean short. I thought for sure they would have completely closed the back end of the chopper before we took off for real, but I guess they liked the ventilation, the back hatch was never fully closed, and someone kept watch out the back the entire time. I dozed and then I noticed that we were wobbling in the air... "Hmm," I thought, perhaps we started taking fire and we were trying to do some sort of maneuver. Just as it was getting a little worrisome, however, I realized it had all been a precursor to touching down on Ramadi soil. "We waited four days for THAT?!" Well, for that and for the opportunity to have that first sergeant yell at us to move faster. I stuck it out as long as I could at the end of the chain loading bags up as high as my head, with 40 extra pounds of body armor slowing me down, then I turned it over to the next guy in line.

We finally arrived at our barracks and through the confusion of people running around and unloading bags and calling out names we heard our, "Harper, Prochazka!" It was such a welcome sight to see Sgt Stock! He led us down the walkway and up some nasty stairs to a dingy second story barracks room. The concrete was covered in mud, but it was hard to tell where the concrete was chipping and where the mud was drying and flaking off. Sand bags sat on wooden supports in front of windows and the long room was inhabited by all of my buddies from first platoon. It was so good to see them, even if most were sleeping. It was crowded, dirty, and pretty run down, but it definitely had character.

More later when I have time, I have just been told my time on the computer is up... I love you all, and I am doing so good. Thank you for your prayers!


Finally in Ramadi

Yep! Andrew rode on a massive helicopter with about 30 others and all their gear today...or was that yesterday? To him? Or yesterday to me? It's a little confusing... Anyway, they made it to Camp Ramadi where it sounds like they may be for a couple weeks before any splitting up or moving occurs.

I do finally have an address for him. The scuttlebutt was that they were just now changing the APO address, or something of the sort. But no matter, I'm going to send a Valentine's Day box to him tomorrow and we'll just test out the address.

I've posted it in the left margin here on this page. I say we use it for now and change it later if we have to. If you want ideas of what he could use or what he would like, just ask!

If you send him anything, be sure to use the "flat rate" boxes from your Post Office. They honor their flat rate of $8.10 (normally domestic U.S. only) if you're sending something to a soldier overseas, and you can fill it as full - and make it as heavy - as you can!
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