Beautiful Spokane

While John was away for training in Washington, I flew out to visit Stephen and Jess in Spokane. Unfortunately, John’s schedule prevented our paths from crossing while I was in town, but I enjoyed a few wonderful days of catching up with Stephen and Jess. It had been a whole year since we’d seen one another at their wedding and certainly much longer than that since we’d really had a chance to just hang out. 
Spokane is stunning. It’d be challenging to think of reasons not to live there! John and I passed through very briefly on a cross-country road trip in the fall of 2012, but it was extra special to share the beauty of this city with Stephen and Jess and to catch a glimpse of the life they’re creating together. 
We walked around downtown near the river. 

We spent an afternoon in Manito Park, which offers garden after garden of the most beautiful flowers.

We also hiked a bit in Riverside State Park, breathing in the fresh pine and loving the sunshine.

There was much tea drinking and reminiscing, reading, singing, and Scrabble-playing. What more could I ask for? Thanks for hosting me, Stephen and Jess! So thankful I got to spend some time with you before we head overseas.

Spontaneous St. Louis

Towards the end of his time training in the C-21 in St. Louis, John found himself with a relatively free weekend and became quite determined that I should drive down from Zion to visit. We’d already been apart for about a month and although the separation would only last a few more days before he’d have a few days of leave, it was hard to pass up the chance to see the city together.

All day, he texted reasons for me to drive down.

“You could be here in five hours.”

“We could hang out all weekend.”

“There’s a free symphony.”

“The weather is supposed to be perfect.”

My mom mentioned off-hand that she’d once flown from St. Louis to Chicago for an incredibly great price, possibly cheaper than the cost of gas. It sounded too good to be true- air fare these days can be ridiculous, especially last minute. But just for kicks, we checked and managed to find a few miraculously reasonable seats left on a flight that evening.

We bought the tickets, I packed a bag and left within 40 minutes for the airport. It was possibly the most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done. By 8:30 that evening, John and I were heading back to Scott Air Force Base and making plans for our time together.

Over the weekend, we enjoyed a few great meals out including a delicious “plate of swine” at the Schlafly Tap Room and a night of authentic Peruvian cuisine. The weather was just about perfect; a nice, sunny respite from a week of gloom and rain in the northernmost part of the state.

We visited the St. Louis Zoo, which has quite an impressive number of elephants. 

We walked around downtown and stopped to see the Gateway Arch, naturally. 
It’s so much bigger than I thought!


We enjoyed discounted military tickets to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the historical (stunning!) Fox Theater. We also nabbed free seats to the St. Louis Symphony performing Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, a portion of which I got to sing in high school. 
It was a short but sweet weekend together! We’re definitely looking forward to the end of this transitional time and the opportunity to live in the same place once again. 

Thoughts on Mississippi

Well, my last post here was in August. As in, nearly eleven months ago. John had just been through track select and was settling into the final phase of pilot training. Approximately one million things have happened since then. While the days of pilot training can be incredibly long, the weeks are mysteriously fast. They melt into months at quite the alarming rate so that before you know it, it’s all over. A new chapter begins.

So far, that chapter has been unbelievably hectic and overwhelmingly good. We find ourselves on the brink of many, many life changes. In light of this, it seems all the more necessary to take a step back and reflect. To take a breath. To pause from organizing suitcases and attempt to organize my thoughts about what this year has been and all that lies before us. First up, a few thoughts on Mississippi.

Oh, Mississippi.

I’d be lying if I told you we’ll really miss it. The place, that is.

We don’t love mosquito bites in January. We’re convinced that Mississippi drivers are some of the worst in the country. We don’t particularly care for Southern food. We really miss mountains and large bodies of water. We realized that for most of our lives, we’ve taken for granted access to airports and larger cities with a greater variety of opportunities- theater, music, art, culture, etc. My insect tolerance is pretty remarkable right now.

But the people make a place, and we know that this will be true of any assignment, anywhere. C. S. Lewis said that “friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one…”

Until this past year in Mississippi, we had yet to experience a military community. We’d heard time and again that this community becomes your family. I’ll freely admit that this seemed a bit too mushy to be true- we already have family. We even like our families.

But there is no doubt that we have begun to see the truth in this. We’re so thankful that despite our original intentions in moving to Columbus, we lived on base. It was refreshing to live among people encountering the same challenges and celebrating similar joys. I was encouraged by the common understanding shared among the wives- women who in nearly every way could say “me too”.

I’m thankful for these women who were willing to meet each week for Bible study over a pot (or several) of coffee. I’ll miss the days when we were still together five hours later with no shortage of things to talk about. I’m grateful for honesty and transparency and discussions about identity and value and purpose, about finding our place during a very busy, transient year. I’m grateful for people willing to plant roots and invest, all the while knowing that we’d eventually be sent our separate ways.

I’m thankful for spontaneous day trips to Tuscaloosa for the sake of Target and Starbucks, or outings to Starkville for an afternoon at 929 Coffee Bar or just a change of scenery. We loved shared dinners and evenings of board games. When the heat really arrived, spending free afternoons at the pool with friends was just about perfect.

I’m thankful for Kaia, who has brought such joy into our lives. She has been an especially wonderful companion to me while John is away. We enjoyed many hours at the swamp lake together.

I’m thankful to have had the freedom this past year to support John through a rigorous yet rewarding program. I watched a little boy several days a week- a schedule that allowed me to be out of the house and busy, yet available to adapt to John’s ever changing schedule. It often meant 4 AM breakfasts one week and 10 PM dinners the next… and while far from perfectly, we made the most of it. John worked incredibly hard and put in long hours studying and preparing for flights. Our conversations mostly revolved around future assignments. Somewhere deep down, I’m hopeful we still have the social skills to discuss something other than airplanes!

It was a year of creating home…again. We hung photos and rearranged furniture and tried to garden–mostly unsuccessfully. Mississippi’s heat and humidity were not kind to our vegetables, though our indoor herbs and succulents thrived. We also learned enough woodworking to build a table together.

It was, all in all, a good year. We left Mississippi with such incredible blessings. We have a wonderful dog and good friends. John finished pilot training and earned his wings just as I completed my degree through Moody. We’re welcoming a baby in only a few short weeks. God is good!

Up Next

“What’s next?”

It’s a question we get all the time. ALL the time. And in general, I feel like our answers are pretty unsatisfying.

“We don’t know”, we usually reply. And we don’t, honestly. We have a few concrete dates: track select,  assignment night, and graduation, but everything else is up in the air. We don’t know where we’re moving next. We don’t know what John will ultimately fly. We don’t know where we’ll be in one year, let alone five to ten.

A few years ago, I think this way of life would have frustrated me. I like planning. I like making lists and accomplishing them. I like knowing what’s next, particularly when there are major life decisions to consider.

But this uncertainty is, in many ways, a blessing because it  forces us to place our trust in a sovereign God. God is in control. God is good all the time. “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). These are the truths that I repeat to myself over sinks of dirty dishes and at two in the morning staring at our ceiling fan and on long walks pushing sleeping babies. We are learning for ourselves that faith is not knowing what the future holds, but knowing who holds the future.

Without the ability to make long term plans, I realize more clearly the truth of James 4:13-15. “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

All that to say, yesterday was one of those concrete dates. On the arduous journey of pilot training, track select is the fork in the road. After five months in the T-6, training continues in either the T-1, which leads to tanker/cargo aircraft or the T-38, which leads to fighter/bomber aircraft. While there are many, many factors that come into play, most will probably make little sense to people outside the pilot training community (and frankly, I’m just relieved to have this decision behind us!), so I’m going to skip to what we now know: John will complete his final phase of pilot training in the T-1.

He’s going to miss flying the T6 (below), but we’re looking forward to a few less intense weeks of academics and getting excited to start thinking about possibilities for our now ever-so-slightly-less-fuzzy- future.

He’s looking forward to flying with these guys…

and learning a new cockpit. So many buttons! 

I’m so proud of him and all that he has accomplished! 

It’s no California.

We were remarkably unemotional when we left California. I mean, we were sad to go, of course, but mostly I think we were distracted. Distracted by the final details of John’s dissertation, distracted by the planning of our ten day road trip, distracted in our efforts to cram as many mini trips and events into that last week as possible. We were distracted by my impending seven week internship in South Africa, by IFS (initial flight screening) for John in Colorado, by the thought of finding a new place to live and everything that moving entails. Shoot- we didn’t even start packing until the day the movers arrived! 

Given those distractions, it wasn’t until we really settled in here after Christmas that we began to reflect on our time in California.
Four miles from the coast in West Los Angeles to middle-of-nowhere Columbus, Mississippi is a pretty big transition. It’s a bit of a challenge to give little Columbus a chance on it’s own. When asked “How do you like Mississippi?”, we’re tempted to say “Well, it’s no California.” Because it’s not at all….and we miss it!
I miss the weather. 75 and sunny everyday doesn’t really get old. 
I miss biking everywhere. 
I miss reading in the park. 
I miss living within blocks of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and co-ops and excellent farmer’s markets.I miss our CSA box and fresh, local produce year round. 
I miss unique, delicious restaurants,Yogurtland, good coffee, real sushi, and excellent boba tea. 
I miss the ocean. Oh, how I miss the ocean! I miss sandy feet and sandy pockets and a sandy purse and a sandy Bible. Even though it was usually freezing, I miss long walks with the waves splashing my feet. There’s something incredibly grounding about standing at the edge of the ocean, the edge of our continent, looking out over an endless expanse of crashing blues. Unknown, unexplored, deep, dark and awesome!  J. I. Packer said that “the life of true holiness is rooted in the soil of awed adoration.” Walking the shore, diving among kelp forests, watching blue whales- we were in awe of the Creator. The magnitude and beauty of the ocean drove us to worship the most magnificent and beautiful one.  
I miss hikes after church, hikes to celebrate birthdays and hikes just because. I miss the mountains and the desert and Yosemite valley and groves of Sequoias. In general, I miss living in a place that simply begged to be explored, a place where being active and outside was so natural and easy.
I miss the kids at Broadway Elementary. The sweet ones, yes, but also and maybe even particularly the fighters- the cursing, disrespectful, impossible children, because not even I can begin to understand what a dark and lonely road they are on. And I wonder if anyone is listening to them. I wonder if anyone has assured them that even if your dad is in jail and your mom is a drug addict and you don’t feel smart or pretty and no one expects you to accomplish anything in this life, that you are deeply loved and so very, very valuable. I wonder if they know that there is, by the grace of God, hope for a better story than the one they are living. 
I miss Pacific Crossroads Church. Sermon podcasts are great, but cannot replace the blessing of being involved in a gospel-centered, Jesus-loving, thinking, creative, passionate church. 
I miss our life groups. I miss inductive Bible studies, especially the nights we didn’t think it possible to glean anything new from a particular passage because we were always, always proven wrong. Every time, we came away with fresh insights and a renewed love for the Word of God. Our Bible studies were Spirit-filled and life-giving. I miss our dinners together and the way we prayed for one another. I miss the real community we created. 
I miss our friends. These were friendships we prayed for before John moved out to Los Angeles alone to begin grad school. God answered those prayers immediately and powerfully and, as an added bonus to gaining John as my husband, his friends became my friends, too. 
I miss finishing-a-PhD-John. Because even though it was stressful and hard and involved a few too many all-nighters, our schedule was much more flexible and we had more time for one another. What a perfect way to begin our marriage!
I miss our tiny apartment with its crooked walls and shoddy paint job and creaking cupboards. And I think I miss it most- all of these things, really- because this was where our life together began. This was the place we unpacked together, the place where we first organized our closet and purchased furniture and hung photos. This was the place we first made our own, declaring it to be our home. Ours, our own little family in our own little home. 
And we know that “home” is not 1631 Westgate or Zion, IL or Pleasant Prairie, WI, but wherever we are together. We will move countless times in the years to come. We’ll rearrange furniture and buy different curtains and pack and unpack ad nauseum… but our first will always be particularly special. 
We have many goodbyes ahead of us and I’m learning that maybe distraction isn’t the worst thing. 
Maybe it’s best to not think about saying goodbye, to not pack too many boxes until the movers arrive. Because if we’re always waiting for what’s next, we’ll be missing what’s now. And even though it’s no California, now isn’t half bad, either. More on that to come!

Our Week

Last Friday, we hosted John’s flight for dinner and a chance to wind down from the week. We enjoyed this super simple (albeit not the healthiest!) recipe for pulled pork, my great-grandma’s giant oreos, and a big cranberry walnut couscous salad. I’m learning how to efficiently feed the masses! 

We spent the weekend enjoying the lovely weather with Kaia. We can’t believe how tiny she used to be or how fast she has become.
We also attended the first student squadron Combat Dining Out which was, to say the least, interesting. Dining Outs are usually very formal military events, but this evening was designed to be a mock version of that. We were to wear uniforms from any service/era and come prepared for water balloons, a ridiculous obstacle course, and BBQ. 
We stocked up on the first peaches and nectarines of the summer. Our kitchen smells amazing! 

We have roses in our front yard- who knew?! I’ve been appreciating them on our windowsill.

John hit the first bird of the year for Columbus AFB. Thankfully, it was a small bird and hit the wing of the plane, not the canopy or the inlets. It’s pretty scary what a bird can do! 

Kaia and I spent a lot of time at the lake on base- I bring course work and she swims, chases dragonflies…. 

and cuddles.  There’s something almost refreshing about a cool, wet dog on a hot day. We’re supposed to make it into the 90’s this week, but the locals say that’s nothing compared to what’s ahead. We’ve resisted turning on our air so far because we were told that once it goes on, it’ll stay on through October. Hello, summer!

weekend adventures

Friends, prepare yourselves for a blogging binge. I’ve had so many posts at various stages of completion sitting around waiting for some perfect, inspired afternoon to be published to the interwebs. It’s pouring and dreary and I’m in the midst of a baking frenzy, so this will have to be it. 
First up, a great Saturday a few weekends back: 
After a full week of long days in the flight room for John, plenty of babysitting for me, and the first post-Genesis-course weekend we’ve had this year, we decided to take a Saturday and explore the nearby city of Starkville, MS, home of Mississippi State University. 
After a lazy start to the day, our first stop was City Bagel. I can’t remember the last time I had a fresh bagel. I imagine their selection is better before noon, which is about when we rolled in, but my asiago bagel with homemade garlic and herb cream cheese was excellent!
We saw Jurassic Park at the theatre in 3D, which was pretty incredible. I had never seen the entire film and it had been quite a while for John as well. On our way, John said something along the lines of “Well, compared to today’s films, it’s probably not that impressive or scary.” False. Even at it’s twentieth anniversary, it remains an impressive and genuinely terrifying movie. We sat in the dark theatre through the credits to hear more of John Williams’ brilliance, which made us wistful for LA and the Hollywood Bowl. Fun memories!

After the movie, we wandered downtown Starkville, admiring the quaint architecture of Main Street and perusing local bookstores.  We stopped in at Aspen Bay, a local business that pours these candles, which you might recognize from Anthropologie. The only reason ever I cross the threshold of Anthropologie is to smell the candles and dream up scenarios in which I could move in to the store permanently (because buying their stuff is out of the question for my budget!). I was excited to learn that Aspen Bay hails from our little corner of the deep South and hit up their tent sale a few weeks back, securing a decent stockpile for the months to come. $28 candles? Never. But $4 I can do! 

Another couple on base recommended that we try Restaurant Tyler, adding that they smoke their own bacon in house and specialize in seasonal, local foods. We were sold. We shared a wonderful early dinner and will definitely be back! Columbus friends, it’s worth the drive. You can check it out here: http://www.eatlocalstarkville.com/

Our salad. 

We didn’t get a picture of our entrée before we devoured it. Pork with bacon and carmelized apples and pecans- something like that. Whatever it was, it was incredible. 

Apple pound cake for dessert. 

French pressed coffee sourced from the nextdoor 929 Coffee.

All in all, good day! 

Richards Family Visit

We enjoyed a visit with my family the weekend after Easter. After some time visiting family in Georgia, they were able to see us on the way back to Zion. John’s class hit the flight line that week, so while we didn’t see much of him, we made the most of our time together. 
We walked around historic downtown Columbus admiring old buildings, budding flowers and sipping cool drinks from Coffee House on 5th….except Anna. She’s a bear.

We wandered through a few antique shops, of which there are MANY here. It’s a shame antiques have become so trendy. My parents bought and refinished our baby furniture from an antique store back in day and I’m certain they didn’t pay anywhere near what these stores are asking! 

We passed by the first home of Tennessee Williams, Columbus’ claim to fame. I don’t think the Pulitzer-prize winning playwright actually lived in this house very long, but it still seems to be a big deal around here. 
Possum Town Stranglers, anyone? 
The girls loved on Kaia and my dad enjoyed several walks around the neighborhood with his “grandpuppy”.

Who needs stickers when you can show off your family in pollen? So thankful we don’t have allergies! 

On their last night here, we enjoyed Hanks BBQ for dinner and watched “Wreck-It Ralph” with chocolate chip cookies. 

The first cockroach of the season (in our house, at least) was smote by my rubber band-wielding father. Thanks, Dad. 

All in all, good visit! 

Rachel’s Visit

My best friend Rachel made it down for a visit Easter weekend! From her college in Greenville, it’s only an 8 hour trek- a bit more manageable than the trip from Greenville to Los Angeles.
We broke out our grill for the first time that weekend for ribs. 
Rachel and I wandered downtown Columbus, drinking coffee and seeing the sites, including this massive elephant head at a local antique store. Apparently, it lights up and moves. The price tag simply says, “Make an Offer”. Just a little terrifying. 
She got to meet the puppy, of course. Kaia provided most of our entertainment. 

Easter Sunday after church, John studied while we played Scrabble. 
We also spent quite a bit of time on the back porch watching the birds, coffee or tea in hand. What more could I ask for?