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!

26 years of John: 11.30.12

Today is John’s 26th birthday! He has no choice now but to admit that his “early twenties” are really, truly over. Since we can’t be together today to celebrate, we’ll have to make up for it in a few weeks. But for now, to mark the occasion, 26 blessings: 
1. I’m thankful for the parents who raised him. I’m thankful for their patience, their sacrifice and their love that helped to shape John into the man he is today. 
2. I’m thankful that we share a love for the beach. I’m sure that was on my criteria list somewhere…
3. I’m thankful for the relationships John has with his siblings. I really enjoy his family! 

4. John is an excellent breakfast maker. Seriously, I almost never make breakfast because he does it so well! 
5. John also makes the best chocolate lava cakes EVER. 
6. John is a great pianist. I love that our home will always be filled with music. 
7. John is a kid magnet. I love watching him interact with our friends’ children and imagining the type of father he’ll be one day. 

8. John opens the door for me. Always. 

9. John makes the bed even if I was the last one out of it. He helps out around the house all the time.
10. John is interested in everything. He pushes me to broaden my perspectives. 

11. John makes me coffee even though he hates it. We’re working on that…

12. John loves my family. I appreciate his effort to invest in my sisters. 

Enjoying Muir Woods
Dinner at our place in LA, August 2012
11. John loves to explore nature and I love experiencing it with him. We’ve been blessed to have the chance to do so much of this in the past year! 
12. John is very articulate and willing to stand up for his convictions, even when they may be unpopular. He is passionate. 

13. He loves to surprise me! 

A surprise parasailing trip to celebrate my birthday, March 2012

13. John keeps me grounded. He helps me to organize my thoughts, no matter how jumbled they are. He reasons with me even when I am most unreasonable. 

14. John is a great provider. He organizes our finances and plans responsibly for our future. He also takes care of our car, which is a huge deal. 

15. He is spontaneous. I love that he’ll agree to drive up the coast at midnight to watch the stars or to chase the sunset, just because. 

16. John is very thoughtful. All the time. 

17. He has a pretty cool job! I appreciate John’s willingness to serve his country. I also love that John is able to share the joy of flying with other people. 

Enjoying clear, summer skies in Santa Monica, July 2012

18. John always seeks to put God first. He challenges me spiritually. 

19. He’s pretty handsome, if I do say so myself. Also an excellent rock skipper. 

Enjoying the Oregon Coast, October 2012
19. John is very intelligent. He’s also a great procrastinator. 😉  I love to see John succeed and I’m so proud of everything he’s accomplished, seemingly against all odds, in the past year. 

Commencement for John’s Masters. We hope to travel back to LA in 2014 to celebrate his PhD
(the ceremony is only held every two years).
20. He let me run away to Africa. Twice. He also came with me once.
Saying goodbye at the airport, October 2012

21. He makes me feel beautiful. 

22. He’s not too old or too cool to dig giant sand pits or watch Disney movies. 

24. He’s my handyman. Hanging pictures, reupholstering chairs, fixing clogged sink drains, helping me with an assortment of items I trash picked… the list can only grow. 

25. John is committed to continue learning about me. The pursuit doesn’t end in marriage. 
26. He’s made the last year and a half of my life the most exciting, adventurous, fun one yet. I think we’ve learned a ton, both about one another and about the Lord. Apart from salvation, John is God’s greatest gift to me. 

Happy Birthday! 

Siyabonga, Baba!

Thank you, Father. 
“Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” -Psalm 95:1-7
1. Great joy! The more I count blessings, the more I take notice of God’s grace in my life, the more fully I experience Him. I think this is, by far, my most thankful Thanksgiving. 
2. A perfectly baked squash dish, despite a finicky oven and limited ingredients. 
3. My tiny kitchen filled with the delicious aroma of roasting squash. 
4. The chance to share Thanksgiving with the men and women who work here from San Souci. 
5. That John has friends with which to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner today. 
6. The unexpected chance to talk to John, however briefly, because OUR INTERNET IS REPAIRED!
7. Thanksgiving dinner with 30 others, gathered not merely for the sake of preserving American tradition, but in celebration of the Lord’s goodness every day of our lives. Sometimes distance and a change of routine helps to remind us what holidays are really about. 
8. Hundreds of thanks shared and translated around the table.
9. Washing dishes with my Uncle Dick. Dishes are always more fun with other people. 
10. Prayers immediately answered. 
11. Pumpkin pie, of course.