This song is so powerful, but there is nothing quite like standing in a room packed with members of our Armed Forces at various stages in their journey, listening to them sing this song with unabandoned passion, arms raised high in praise. I will never forget that experience- surrounded by those willing to sacrifice their lives, worshiping the One who made the ultimate sacrifice. “Hosanna in the highest.”
God is so very faithful. This past week has been a blur of activities and busyness, and we’ve had some low points for sure. Yet we are only days from our reunion, so nothing is going to bring us down! However, this afternoon, I wasn’t so sure of that. I was out with the girls, and they were getting to be quite a handful. I was in a dressing room with the two of them fighting like cats and dogs, and Kirby called. Needless to say, I was not prepared at that moment for a call, and it caught me very off-guard. My surprise coupled with a crowded store and two children who were over the edge did not result in a great call. I couldn’t hear very well, nor think clearly, and he only had a few minutes.
When we said goodbye, I melted. I was so frustrated, and so disappointed. I cried all afternoon, feeling like I had totally missed my opportunity. He seemed to be a little frustrated as well, and told me that he did not plan to call again even if they had base liberty. I felt so dejected, and the rest of the afternoon did not go well. I felt as if I had failed him, and my own stress prevented me from handling other things the way that I should have for the remainder of the day.
Praise God for knowing how to make things better… Kirby did call. They had base liberty, and he paid some guy to pick up some things for him so he could find a phone and call me. He had a rough afternoon as well, and said he just needed to hear my voice again. Although we were both emotional, it was an amazing call. We were able to talk freely to each other, and just be us without the pressures of time constraints. Despite the tears, I knew that God had heard my cries and His hand was all over that phone call. It gave me such a reassurance that my husband and I are a team, and we are in this thing together no matter what. But more importantly, it was that realization that even when I’m feeling like a complete failure, God loves me, and He hears me and answers my prayers. That is pretty awesome.
I tend to be this person that feels the need to fix things by doing things. If something is wrong, I do something about it. If something is broken, I try to fix it. If I’m stressed, I work harder. I always stay insanely busy and do more and more and more. And with my current life situation, I try to distract myself from the sadness and loneliness I feel without my husband by finding things to do. We are constantly on the go, and it is downright exhausting! However, I felt that it was working. All of the busyness was serving its purpose.
I was wrong. I have found that at the end of a day crammed full of activities and errands and visiting and people and chaos, there is still an empty bed, silence, and tears. No matter how great I think I’m doing in the midst of doing, each day ends the same. The quiet suffocates me, and every bit of my being yearns for my other half to be next to me. No matter how accustomed I get to our daily routines and schedules without his assistance, I am not able to get used to the loneliness. I am simply not a whole person without my love!
Ironically, Kirby and I seem to experience our highs and lows together even when we are separated by thousands of miles. This weekend was definitely a low for me, but I tried to put on my happy voice when he made his weekly phone call last night. Oh, the sound of his voice made my heart skip a few beats! But by the time I said hello, his emotions got the best of him. Oddly enough, it was almost a relief… neither of us had to pretend all is okay. So together we wept, grateful to be able to share our misery with one who understands.
While I understand his homesickness, it has been difficult to put mine into words. But I think that I am indeed homesick. Yes, I am “home,” in our house, with our children, doing the same-old-same-old. Yet this is not home to me. This experience has taught me that home is a complete family. The girls and I all feel incomplete without him here, so we’re all a little homesick. Our home is not home unless the four of us are together. And for the rest of my life, my home will only be where my husband is. So, for now, I am homesick, praying my way through it, and counting down the days until I get to be “home” again.
Yes, those are the things my partner in life is facing this week… yikes! It has been a challenge being separated from my husband, but this week it all becomes real in a new sense. All of his PT gets put to the test on the obstacle course, which he has been stressing since he first signed his papers! He also has to face the dreaded gas chamber… no explanation needed on that one. And, finally, he gets issued his real uniform, complete with his name and the real Air Force logo. He is pretty excited about that- the most excited I’ve ever seen him get over clothes!
It’s amazing that we are halfway through this first separation period. In ways it seems like years, yet somehow it seems to be going quickly. In four weeks I’ve received three real calls (not scripted, 60-second calls) and seven letters, and with each call and letter I am filled with more pride and respect for my husband than I ever dreamed possible. His faith has grown immensely in this short time, and his confidence in sharing God’s love with others astounds me. In his last letter he mentioned that the instructors were giving him a hard time about always smiling, but he said he can’t help it. He’s filled with joy even in the midst of harsh circumstances, and now he says they’re smiling along with him. He is out there on a real mission field, surrounded by opportunities, and he is giving God all the glory and honor. Nothing makes me prouder of my husband than that.
I have fought this plan of God’s for a long time. I could not for the life of me understand why God would call my husband, my little girls’ daddy, to leave our home, leave his job, leave our comfortable little world to go to military training. It made no sense! I have cried and argued and protested, but not trusted. Fortunately, my husband did trust and obey, and, for me, it’s another lesson learned… God knows best. He’s let me have my temper tantrums, and has been patient and merciful, as always. And when I decided to close my mouth long enough to listen, He was right there, whispering His words of wisdom.
Just this evening, He led me to a passage in Ephesians (Ephesians 1:7-10, to be exact). In this passage, I love the words that are used to describe how much God loves us. “In Him we have redemption, through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding….” Wow. He has lavished His love, His grace, His mercy upon us. I looked up the word lavish, and the definition I read says that it means “to bestow in generous or extravagant quantities.” We are extravagantly blessed, but it doesn’t stop there. Paul goes on in that verse to point out that not only does He lavish us with His love, but He does it “with all wisdom and understanding.” He knows our flaws, our imperfections, our insecurities, our inadequacies… our junk. Yet He chooses to pour His love and grace and mercy all over us anyway.
That’s good stuff, but it doesn’t end there. The following verses remind us that He reveals His will for our lives so that we can live according to His purpose. Oh, that’s right- it’s His purpose, not ours. He is the master designer, the man with the plan… this life is not about what we think we should do. He provides the direction and instruction for His plan, walks alongside of us for every step and stumble (and even those dreaded falls), and all He asks of us is to love Him and trust Him.
So, now that I’ve fallen, it’s time to let my Father pick me back up, brush me off, and lead me on down the path a bit farther. Once again, I am covered by His mercy and grace… time to live a life lavished in love! Things may still be challenging, and I still miss my love with an intensity I didn’t know I was capable of, but now I see God’s purpose in this, and I’m looking forward to seeing what He has in store for our family.
As much I am not enjoying this season of our life, I figured I should keep on blogging! One day we’ll look back on this time and see how much God taught us through this experience. So, here goes… Today marks two weeks since we said goodbye to Kirby. At this point, it feels like it’s been two years! Somehow I have not run out of tears, yet I have run out of energy. The reality that life goes on has hit hard this week… the world does continue to turn even if my own little world feels like it’s off its axis, so we keep pushing on.
We have been able to talk to Kirby, although the conversations have been very limited. He called once last week to verify some information, so I got to hear his voice for a whole 60 seconds! Unfortunately at that point he was very emotional and just kept telling me to ask everyone to pray. Our call was cut short when the yelling in the background commenced, so it was a rough night here. I was torn because a part of me was just so relieved to hear his voice, but I hated having to hang up knowing that he was so upset. But, the next night I got a wonderful surprise… while he was making calls to other folks, he sneaked in a call to me! It was so funny to hear him whispering and trying not to get caught, but so worth it. He reassured me that he was fine, just really missing us, and that he was going to get through this. He sounded more like himself, and that got me through the following days.
We got our first real 15-minute call Sunday evening… it was the best night of the entire week! We talked non-stop really fast, trying to get everything in that we could. I had to laugh afterwards thinking of all the nights we sit here in silence at the house… it’s amazing what a little time apart will do for a relationship! The girls both got to speak to him, and we had our share of tears in that 15 minutes, but that call made my week. In spite of the fretting over bills, and the temper tantrums of a three year old who’s missing her daddy, and the loneliness of the rest of the week, and the million things that need to be done now, and the long, sleepless nights… in spite of living life as a family separated by thousands of miles, we had a few minutes of sheer joy. And it didn’t take a lot of money, or a fancy vacation, or an elaborate date-night… it just took a short phone call.
Unfortunately, that call was three days ago, and I know not to even consider getting another one until at least Sunday (if not later). It is so very hard… I’m back to feeling that empty, hollowed-out feeling that I loathe. But, as I said in a previous post, I must focus on my blessings… and God has been pouring them out. I have been overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness of my friends. I know that people always tell you they will be there, and I always believe them. But I never imagined what that meant… being invited to dinner time and time again, offers to watch my children, having someone just come sit and hold my hand while I cry, random texts of encouragement, cards, letters, phone calls, financial assistance, flowers, prayers… the list goes on, and there just are no words to describe such blessings. God is so faithful, and I am so grateful. There is no way that I could ever repay everyone for all they’ve done.
I heard the well-known Casting Crowns song, “Praise You in This Storm,” this week… I’ve heard it a million times, but one phrase from that song has been repeated in my heart over and over again. “You are Who You are, no matter where I am.” No matter where I am on this crazy journey, or where my husband is, or what we are facing, God is still God. He is still in charge, still on the throne, still showering us with grace and love and mercy… and He absolutely deserves every ounce of praise and glory and honor. When you set your eyes on Him and His love, how can you not shout His praise?
I keep praying that this journey we’re on is going to get easier. And, in some ways, it does. Yet, as the old adage goes, two steps forward, one step back. (Or maybe it’s one step forward, two steps back… depends on the day!) For example, Raegan finally started making it through the day without crying. I thought she was doing great. Then last night she had one of her sleepwalking spells, and she kept crying and saying, “Bring my daddy back!” Maddie, who was doing great at first, started waking up through the night crying for her daddy, and has now started wetting the bed again. I suppose the most consistent one in the house is me- I still cry every day, still feel lonely, still feel like this whole experience is some crazy nightmare that I need to wake up from.
I don’t want to wish away my days, but each day that’s gone brings me a step closer to this strange new world being behind me. Someone told me that this would become my “new normal.” Well, I refuse that. In no way will this life without my partner in life ever be any form of normal! I knew this would be hard, but I really didn’t consider how difficult it would be to deal with these emotions (mine and the girls’!). It’s almost like a grieving process. I know this is temporary and I’ll have my husband back, but I didn’t expect to feel so lost. I think this will be better when I can at least hear from him again… at this point, no calls, no emails, no letters, nothing. It’s like he just disappeared, and I didn’t prepare myself for that.
So, for today, I am forcing myself to count my blessings… we have survived one entire week without him, and the world hasn’t stopped turning. I am seeing more smiles from my girls, and no matter how slowly the nights drag by, the days are filled with busyness and pass as quickly as always. I have incredible support, awesome family, amazing friends, and the love and mercy of the God of the universe. And all of this life is for Him.
Whew… by the grace of God and through His strength alone we have almost made it through our first week (okay, half a week, but feels like eternity) without Kirby. Weird is the only word I have to describe it. It’s weird to go to bed at night alone and wake up five hundred times and realize that you’re still alone. It’s weird to get up alone in the morning, and to be responsible for everything on your own. It’s weird to go through the day and have no idea what or how he’s doing. It’s weird to get busy and remember something you want to share with him, only to be snapped back into the reality that you can’t just pick up the phone and call or text. Being apart is hard enough, but this no contact at all is a whole different game.
Kirby did get to make his one phone call last night, and it was the worst call of my life. He didn’t even sound like my husband… sounded so drained and defeated, and then within seconds was overcome with emotions. Even typing it now hurts my heart in a way I can’t comprehend. The worst of it was that I could hear his superiors shouting at him in the background, and he had to drop the phone before I could even utter a word of reassurance. Needless to say, it was a rough night here. That was the most helpless I had ever felt. I wanted so badly to be able to call him later and just hear if he was okay, but there is no way to do that. So I did all I knew to do… I prayed, and I got all of my prayer-warrior friends to pray.
Fortunately, despite my feeling of helplessness and my own defeated spirit, God heard those prayers and answered. I got up this morning and was just overwhelmed by a calm that I haven’t felt in a few weeks. There was this incredible sense of peace, and I woke up just knowing that everything is fine… such a God-thing. When we give up on ourselves and give ourselves to Him, He fulfills His promises. He fills us with His peace, His strength, and His grace, and when we allow that to happen, it is the most amazing feeling.
Now, that’s not to say that I’m not still upset, and I have no idea how Kirby is feeling right at this moment. I’m trusting that God has filled him in the same way. I still have those moments of weirdness, and sadness, and I still have two blue-eyed beauties who miss their daddy with every fiber of their being. We all do. There’s nothing quite as hard as holding your seven-year-old as she cries herself to sleep because she just wants to see her daddy, or trying to explain to a three-year-old that no, we can’t just call him and tell him goodnight, and he won’t be home tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day. But I know that God will pull us through this, and that He is going to strengthen our family as a result of this experience. So, woo-hoo for surviving “zero week”!
So, tonight the Whitley household sits on the cusp of something big and new and life-altering… and it’s a miserable feeling. The past weeks have been a whirlwind of activity as we prepared for the day that is now upon us, and suddenly time is crawling by as we realize that each thing we do out of routine is now a “one last time” for many months.
Kirby flies out of here tomorrow afternoon. If we’re lucky, we get to fly to see him for a weekend in 8 1/2 weeks, but that’s looking more and more unlikely with each day. After that, it’s another 8-9 weeks without him, then he returns to North Carolina, but not necessarily home for an undetermined number of weeks. So, truth be told, we know that we will definitely see him at the end of May, but that’s all that’s guaranteed at this point. And we learned today that this reunion may be a short one, as he will most likely be called to do more job-intensive training at Pope AFB upon his return.
It’s all difficult to swallow right now. I cannot imagine going through each day without him, and without even being able to talk to him. I’ve not gone this long without talking to him or seeing him is over 14 years, and now we have two girls who count down the minutes until he gets home at the end of a regular workday. And the scariest part of it all is that we don’t know what the future will hold after all of this… this is just the beginning of the journey. I know God has called us to this point- there is no doubt in my mind, and I’ve seen His hand in this time and time again throughout the journey thus-far. I just can’t understand why.
So, for the next 12 hours, we will all weep and cry and hold on to each other, with each hug a bittersweet reminder that these hugs will have to last for what feels like an eternity. We will try to stay strong for each other, which is funny, because each of us (adults and children alike) just want to curl up and cry… it’s been a vicious cycle. One at a time we lose control of our emotions while everyone else tries to be tough and make light of the situation, tries to save face… what are we going to do when not one of us can be strong anymore? What do we do when we all just want to know, “Why?”