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!

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! 

Signs of Spring

We recently discovered the Columbus Riverwalk. Most of it isn’t actually by the river, but it’s still a nice stroll on a Saturday morning after we hit up the farmer’s market downtown. 

Almost stepped on this frog, which makes for a pretty convincing rock.
Everything is in bloom! We’ve had a ton of rain lately, so our backyard is a lush, green swamp. 

We’re still in a pseudo-post-Whole30-what-are-we-going-to-eat-now-stage. As in, before reintroducing all of the food groups, we decided to break the rules for a few weeks while we hosted guests and traveled. This week, we’re launching back into a mini Whole30 before reintroducing soy and non-gluten grains (such as quinoa and rice). Someday, we’ll actually wrap up this thing and be able to share about our experience, but we’re not there yet. Meanwhile, we’ve enjoyed a variety of foods, including this slightly spicy, refreshing smoothie recipe from John’s sister, Rebecca:
– enough water/ice to make a base
– juice from 1 orange
-1/4 lime, peeled 
– 1 avocado
– several leaves of kale
-a handful of grapes
– 1/4 inch piece of ginger root
– sprinkle of cardamom
-sprinkle of cayenne
On a particularly warm day, we decided to have this for dinner. 

One of the best parts of spring: delicious, tender, local asparagus. We may have eaten an entire meal of sauteed asparagus this week. 

thankful: 11.12.11

Today’s thanks:

1. A great night’s sleep that ended with the sunrise. 
2. The constant song of birds. 
3. Morning tea with Carlene. I’m thankful for the wonderful friendship we’ve been able to share.  
4. That the Lord’s mercies are new every morning. I appreciated this reminder from Ann Voskamp: 
“God’s mercies are new every morning–not as an obligation to you, but as an affirmation of you. It’s right there in the sky every morning: Every sunrise proves the burn of His passionate heart. 
The car can fail today and the kids and the dog and the fire detector and the dishwasher and the doctor and the whole free democratic world and its entire economic system but the mercies of God cannot and will not fail and His faithfulness is not merely great–it is unwavering. 
And the God who so loved this cracked world that He gave, He hasn’t ever stopped giving, and He won’t stop giving today and it’s His very mercy that gets us from one moment to the next and we’re all walking around in an atmosphere of brazen affection.” 
5. The sweet smell of beeswax candles. 
6. Monkeys that didn’t make it into my house! I heard their distinct grunting and rounded the corner of my living room to meet a pair of curious eyes staring right back at me through my open window. Mind you, the windows here don’t have screens or bars. Thirty seconds more and I’m convinced he would’ve been waltzing into my kitchen or through my open front door, for that matter.
7. That time is passing quickly. I’m not eager to leave South Africa, but I am ready to wake up next to my husband each morning and cook meals for more than one. 
8. That we, most likely, have a place to make our home in Mississippi. 
9. Connections that John has already made in Mississippi. We’ve been praying for solid Christian friends who share our life situation and it seems God is already answering that prayer! 

Newly Nomads

Well, it’s official. We are nomads.

We emptied our first home together,  turned in our keys, said our goodbyes and drove nearly 4,600 miles across the Northwestern United States. We enjoyed such a variety of unique, beautiful places! That trip probably merits its own post, so I’ll stop now.

Our last few weeks in Los Angeles were very, very full. John defended his dissertation and officially became Dr. Langley- I’m so, so proud of him! We stuffed our faces with friends at Maggiano’s to celebrate.

And…DONE!  

That same day, my sister Kaitie arrived to spend a few days with us. We enjoyed plenty of beach time, a day in Sequoia National Park, a Dodgers game (my first time at professional sporting event in the US!), sushi, and a few other famous California sights, including the John Langley star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (which, in our humble opinion, is probably the only thing worth seeing in Hollywood- not impressed). It was fun to be able to have all of my sisters come visit this summer!


The next week, we managed to get down to San Diego to take advantage of free military admission to Sea World, 
and then spent the next day exploring Legoland. John was in heaven. 

After that, out final week was a rush of spending as much time as possible with friends, a day trip to Catalina, sneaking extra Yogurtland trips, and packing procrastinating. 
We flew out to Catalina Island and enjoyed a day of excellent snorkeling, relaxing on the beach,
and trying not to think about leaving.  
We’re really going to miss these people! 
We managed to put off packing until the very last minute and pulled an all-nighter to organize our home before the movers arrived. We had the challenge of determining exactly what we’d need for the next three months, because everything else won’t be seen again until January. I repacked my suitcases at least 6 times trying to figure out the most efficient way to pack for fall on the road (in 10 different states), summer in Africa, and the dead of winter in Illinois come December. We hate packing. We really, really do. We’ll have to develop a system of moving if we’re going to maintain our sanity for the next decade or two. Part of that system should probably be seriously limiting what we own- more on that to come. 

And then, with an empty apartment and a very full car, we left. The next few months will be quite a transition for us. I will spend about seven weeks in South Africa to fulfill my Moody internship requirement and John will drive alone to Mississippi before heading to Colorado for IFS (initial flight screening) until sometime in December. We’ll meet up again then and spend the holidays with our families.

But perhaps a greater transition than the move itself will be the transition into “real” military life. We’ve been so blessed to have the freedom and flexibility for the past year and a half to grow as a couple and enjoy our surroundings. John will transition from being able to work wherever and whenever (as long as he left with a Ph.D.!) to highly structured 12 hour days and a great deal of studying. It will be the first time that we, as a married couple, really create a new life together- choosing a church, a home, friends. We’re certainly excited, yet unsure of exactly what the future holds.

We think we’ve learned a few lessons in all of this; lessons we hope will spur us on to changes in the coming months:

1. “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”                   – William Morris 

We couldn’t believe how much stuff we have. We’ve been married not even a year and a half and our apartment was small and clean, but we were still amazed by how many boxes the movers packed. I delivered four giant bags to Salvation Army and towards the end of our packing, we found ourselves simply leaving stuff in the alley to be claimed.

Aurelius was right- very little is needed to make a happy life. Perhaps more humbling is that millions across the globe are happy with far less than what we have! We hope to make a few more Salvation Army trips as we unpack and reevaluate our possessions. If an item is not useful or beautiful, we have to reason to hold on to it. We want to live simply, without accumulating closets and basements and attics of items we don’t need or love.

2. Find a church and get connected quickly.

John started attending our last church (Pacific Crossroads) shortly after moving to Los Angeles over three years ago. During that time, he was involved in a Bible Study form another distant church and made some wonderful friends- friends we’ll keep in touch with. But it wasn’t until January this past year that we really made an effort to get connected to the church we attended week after week. We were being spiritually fed by excellent music and solid sermons, but we felt like outsiders because we lacked relationships.

After Christmas, we finally joined a community group and have been asking ourselves ever since why it took us so long. We could’ve enjoyed six more months with the friends we made!

3. Don’t be afraid of planting roots for fear of uprooting.

We will probably forever face the temptation to avoid putting down our roots because we know that our time in any given place is short. It was easy for us to say, “we don’t need to join another community group- we’re only going to be here for a few more months.” It was easy to think we didn’t need to be involved in events through our church because it wouldn’t be our church forever. It’s easy to avoid investing in relationships because you’ll have to say goodbye.

Shallow roots, shallow relationships do not offer the nourishment and encouragement we can gain from truly investing ourselves wherever we are. We love that we have wonderful friends in Los Angeles–how blessed we are to have difficult goodbyes.

4. Wait on the Lord.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Somedays, we feel as though we’re trusting him simply for the very next step. We have no idea what the next stage of our life together will practically look like. We’re not sure where we’ll live or what I’ll will do or how pilot training will be on a day-to-day basis. We have no idea where we’ll attend church or what friends we’ll have or how we’re going to get around. We can’t plan out the next few years because we don’t know where we’ll be. We just don’t know, and we’re learning to be okay with that. We’re thankful for our sovereign God who directs our paths, working all things together for our good. We’re in the best hands.