Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wondering...What's Next?

While there are many aspects of Hubby's new found retirement that we are both enjoying...I have to say our lives aren't exactly where we want to be just yet. Hubby seems to be making a smoother transition than I am with this whole process.

In an eye-opening twist, once Hubby and I began sharing that he would retire from the Air Force, people started offering their retirement experiences with us. People he had worked closely with for years, and friends we had known even longer, opened up about how their retirement came about or how they dealt with the days that followed.

It's weird...but we never heard these stories while Hubby was on active duty status. It wasn't until we were ready to "join the club" before we were let in on how it really was.

Hubby's response has truly surprised me...but evidently not those who have gone before him. It turns out his road to military retirement isn't much different from anyone else's journey. Who knew? We certainly didn't. I think there's a strange sense of comfort in learning this...which gives Hubby a relaxed, peaceful disposition in his new role. He's taking it all in stride.

I have found that my experience in walking away from this lifestyle was more difficult. It was the oddest feeling because there was so much stress and uncertainty with our military life...and leaving it meant I was able to finally put that behind me. With Hubby's retirement came great relief from worries I no longer had to worry over.

However...

This is the lifestyle I have known the longest and retirement at our age is not retirement in the way most people think of it. We still have two boys to get through college...one of which is still living at home. We don't own a home...we aren't settled into a church or community full of friends and memories. Our military lifestyle has not set us up with those comforts.

We are very blessed to have had all those things at one point or another along this journey, but as we finish up our "roaming" lifestyle...we don't have them all gathered into one place to enjoy in our retirement. For us, retirement is another adventure in a long list of adventures. And for me...the least adventurous of our little family...it feels like I have traded old stresses for new ones.

While I do find joy and excitement in each move...there's also the whole starting over part that fills me with uncertainty...doubt...fear...and impatience.  If I could just move from one place to another and jump right into a community with automatic friends, church, connections, a job, and especially a hairdresser...I would certainly enjoy these moving adventures a whole lot more!

And I know without a doubt I'm not alone. I can't even tell you how many many times I have heard from other military wives in the past few months. Sometimes with tears in their eyes....or in hushed tones....or even with a wistful smile on their face...recounting their own retirement struggles. Over and over they told me how their husband's retirement was harder on them than him.

Each time someone reached out to share this important confidence with me...I listened. I felt bad for them. And I'm embarrassed to admit that I pretty much waved it off. How sad for them...but I was not going to have trouble with it! I have looked forward to this for a very very long time. It was a goal we set years and years before...and by golly...we had made it over the finish line together! How could that be hard to accept? I had already planned to celebrate it with gusto!

But then the days zoomed along from the middle of March until all of the sudden we were nearing the end of June and the end of the only way of life I had known as an adult. An adult life full of security...a paycheck...a home...and a community of people experiencing the exact same life. Soon we would be kicked out of the Active Duty club and the new Veteran club was not nearly as organized...or special...and quite frankly....didn't pay as well either.

As I sat at Hubby's retirement ceremony...the struggle hit me with full force. As people stood to speak kind words about Hubby and his commitment to our country...I wanted to stand up and yell: "STOP!"  I knew I wasn't ready for it all to be over. There were more adventures to be had.

I didn't want to change everything. I didn't want to go to the civilian world where people don't always understand. I didn't want to leave the security of a world where I felt safe...and knowledgeable...and part of something good in service to our nation.

As you may have guessed (or at least hoped)...I didn't jump up and scream. I did what every other military wife before me has done. I sat in my chair...smiling proudly...dabbing away the tears of happiness...sorrow...and amazing memories. I took a deep breath and drank it all in...knowing it was the last of the lasts of our military experiences.

And like so many other military experiences...I was braver than I thought I could be...or wanted to be...and I survived it. Soon Hubby and I were walking together through a sea of family and friends to the strains of The Air Force Song:

"Off we go into the wild blue yonder"...

And off we went the very next day...

As I write this...I am sitting on a wicker love seat in our temporary home. One month into our newest adventure, we haven't figured out the next leg of our journey yet. We have time. There's no rush. We are...after all...retired. Many many of our military friends have been in our exact same place. They have reassured us this is how it is. They went through it too. It takes time to find your place in a non-military world. It can be difficult...but we will prevail. They have. We will.

Knowing we aren't the first to ever experience this is somewhat comforting...but then again...I really wish it wasn't like this...that it didn't feel like this...that we weren't once again strangers in a strange land. I'm ready to settled in...grow some roots...become part of local history...know people and be known by others.

Seriously...I'm ready to have someone smile and wave at me because they recognize me.

It doesn't happen overnight... or even in 31 days. That is a fact I have learned from experience. These things take time. And now that Hubby is retired...that is something we seem to have in abundance. I believe deep down in my soul...with every beat of my heart...that God has this all under control...that even when I don't know The Plan, He does.

Even though we don't have the next adventure lined up...and it's been a more difficult transition than I expected...I trust God to be God of our lives. I do so because of these words written by the apostle Paul to the church in Rome:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

Paul wrote these words to a group of people he had not even met. He sent them letters of instruction and encouragement with the hope of visiting them one day. Among his wise words were those found in Romans 15:13. Even though they were written to other people long long ago, Paul's words give me hope for our situation today.

God is the God of hope. He does fill me with joy and peace when I trust in Him. And I do want to trust in Him and overflow with hope. Overflowing with hope sounds wonderful.

As I wrap up Celebrating Our Air Force Adventure this month...I smile. It's been an awesome adventure. A journey I didn't think I wanted to take in the beginning...but now...I'm oh so very grateful to have been allowed to experience it.

I'm thankful that God gifted us with this Amazing Air Force Adventure...and while I may struggle just a little as I wait on God's plan...I do trust in Him...and I'm hopeful for what's to come.

After all...His ideas have always been way better than mine...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Growing Up In The Wild Blue Yonder

Hubby and I grew up in very small towns (just a few hundred people) near each other. We come from a rural community where everyone knows each other and pillars of these townships go back for several generations. It was a very safe, wonderful, almost magical way to grow up.  We are incredibly grateful for the way we were raised and extremely proud to be from these communities.

We would have loved for our sons to grow up in the same type of experience...but that was not God's plan for our little family. Our boys grew up in a very different community than we did. They grew up in the Wild Blue Yonder of the Air Force.

Our Scientist and our Engineer are not Air Force Brats. I refuse to call them that. They are so much more than what that name implies. Yes, their blood does bleed red, white, and blue...yes, they know without a doubt what the "sound of freedom" actually sounds like...ahem...jet noise. As a matter of fact...because they grew up in the Air Force...they know what guarding freedom actually feels like as well.

Guarding freedom feels like fear that your daddy might not come back home...sadness when your dad isn't there to see you hit that home run or make that soccer goal....pride when you see someone salute your father...and heart-pounding excitement when you run into his arms on a tarmac after months of being apart.

There are people who have told me they feel bad for our sons because they had to grow up "that way". They wouldn't want it for their children. I understand that.

Sure it seems horrible that a father would miss a child's birthday, music recital, whole seasons of a sport, or every holiday at least once in their young lives. All of those things have happened to our boys. It wasn't fun. Yep...it was sad...but we survived it.

And truth be told...I believe our guys cherish the times we are all together even more because of the times we have had to be apart in the past.

Being an Air Force Kid actually has it perks. Our boys have enjoyed some amazing adventures growing up. Not all of them were directly related to their dad being in the military, but his occupation certainly added in some way to them getting to delight in many incredible childhood experiences.

So today...I'm Celebrating Our Air Force Adventure by sharing a little of the adventures of our Air Force Kids.

Our Scientist and Engineer have visited twenty-five states in this great nation...and have actually lived in six of them. They have also had the privilege of visiting four other countries. During that time, they walked on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, toured the White House in Washington DC, took in the sites at the Mall of America in Minnesota, and will never forget seeing the Alamo in Texas. 

They have viewed Mount Rushmore...the wide open spaces of Wyoming...and the Great Salt Plains in Utah.  They have driven over the Rocky Mountains and through the redwoods in Yosemite National Park. Our boys swam in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans...gazed out over the Potomac River...touched the Mighty Mississippi...and cruised the Caribbean.

Our Scientist and Engineer have hugged Mickey Mouse at both Disneyland and Disney World...toured Southern mansions in Alabama...and floated down the River Walk in both San Antonio and Oklahoma City. They have visited science museums in several states...traveled by train to the top of Colorado's Pike's Peak...and looked out over Saint Louis, Missouri from the top of the Gateway Arch.

Our guys have cheered for the Cardinals at ball parks in both St Louis and Phoenix...camped in the high desert of Arizona....and slept in a cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains. They rode out an F-5 tornado (and several smaller ones) in Oklahoma City and stood wide eyed at the rim of the majestic Grand Canyon.

Along the way...they have adopted two cats, three dogs, countless fish...and at least one little frog.

Because they are Air Force Kids, they have met NASA Astronauts, Air Force Test Pilots, and at least one Tuskegee Airman. They have happily sat in the cockpit of a T-38 Talon training jet,  E-3 AWACS, and the U-2 Dragonlady. They even caught a ride to Hawaii in the back of a USAF C-141 aircraft and visited Pearl Harbor. 

Not only that, but our military boys have cruised down an Air Force runway going over 100 mph in a chase car behind a U-2 "Spyplane" being flown by their very own dad. They have flown Air Force simulators and relished several "behind the scenes" military base tours with their father.

Our Scientist and Engineer have dined with Generals...shook the hands of Veterans...and stood with their hands over their hearts as the National Anthem played over the base speaker signaling the end of the workday.

Both of our boys have walked onto a college campus not knowing a soul...made friends quickly...good ones...each earning a scholarship.

And they have done all of this before the ages 18 and 22.

So please don't feel sorry for our boys. They may have grown up differently than you or I...but their life in the Wild Blue Yonder of the Air Force has been filled with many wonderful, exciting opportunities which they have embraced and enjoyed.

It hasn't always been easy...but our sons are proud to be Air Force Kids...and Hubby and I are so very proud of them.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

When His Dreams Became My Dreams

Looking back, I know exactly when it happened. I know the day...the experience that changed my heart (and my head) from not wanting Hubby to be a military pilot to wanting that for him more than I can express.

As family legend goes...Hubby was just five years old when he announced he wanted to be a pilot and an astronaut when he grew up. And just like that...the plan was set. In true Hubby-fashion, he had set his goal and the next step was to start working toward it. And that's exactly what he did from that day forward.

Hubby never once wavered from this dream. Not once.  

He spent the next seventeen years focused on doing what needed to be done to help him become a pilot and an astronaut. True story.

So on the very same day Hubby earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Physics, his parents and I pinned on his USAF Second Lieutenant "Butter Bars" during his commissioning ceremony. And he had received his first active duty assignment: He was going to Undergraduate Pilot Training. 

Hubby was well on his way to making his dreams come true.

The only glitch was that pilot training was a little backed up, and he was going to have to wait for his slot in the program. We would have to wait an entire year for Hubby to be put on active duty status and begin his career in the United States Air Force.

We both settled into local jobs...I continued with school...and we waited for the big day when we would pack our bags and finally start our very own Air Force Adventure. Nearly a year had passed when one day a thin white envelope from the Air Force arrived in the mail.

Before Hubby opened it, he told me he thought it was bad news. He was expecting a thick packet of information...not a single letter. Sadly, he was correct. It was very disappointing news. It rocked our happy little newlywed life. The letter stated that congress had made some cuts to the Air Force budget and Hubby's pilot training class was one of the cuts. 

It was not happening. He was not going to pilot training. The goal he had set for himself all those years before...after all his hard work and determination was over. It wasn't happening. Through no fault of his own, he had lost his pilot training slot and there was nothing he could do to change it. 

It was such a sad day. The saddest one we had experienced in our young marriage. 

And that was the day Hubby's dreams became mine.

On a day when I could have felt such relief that what I didn't want to be would not be...I only found myself in complete disappointment with Hubby. His pain was my pain. I was heartbroken with him.

In the midst of our great sorrow...strangely...something beautiful happened. It changed our marriage. It grew us up a little. It was the beginning of something that would sustain us and bind our marriage bond even stronger. This was the first real test of our marriage. It was the first real life issue we had been given to deal with on our own. 

Although our parents were nearby and loved us through it...this was a change to our future...our plans...our life... And it was our problem to figure out. How were we going to deal with this? What were we going to do next?

I remember laying across our bed, holding hands, praying through tears for God to guide and direct us. Although this was the first time this happened...it certainly wasn't the last. 

We turned to God and each other to get through this life changing moment. And that day not only changed everything in Hubby's career path, it also changed everything in our marriage. We set a foundation that day that we would stand on throughout our marriage.

The plan was changed...and choices had to be made...thankfully, Hubby didn't shut me out. We sat down and discussed it...we went over all of our options. We talked it out and together we made the decision. Hubby would go into the Air Force as a Physicist.  

It wasn't what Hubby had planned. And it wasn't what I thought I wanted...but we felt God directing us on this path and we trusted in God's plan for our lives. And to this day I am sure that it was the right decision. We both are.

It's amazing how things can change so quickly. A girl who thought she would never want to marry a military pilot...would cry out tears to God when the pilot part was taken away...and then voluntarily agree to move forward with becoming a military wife.

Trust me when I say...that's a God thing!

Yes...that was the day Hubby's dreams really did become my dreams.

And as you have probably guessed by now...God worked it out. He rewarded our faithfulness and trust in His plan...and three years after Hubby had settled into his Physicist Lab...God opened the door for pilot training once more. 

Now...you have to understand...after all the disappointment...Hubby had come to love his "unplanned" job. He actually said to me, "I really like what I am doing, should I go to pilot training?" And because his dreams had become my dreams...I actually said, "Yes, you have to give it a try." Can you believe that? 

I loved my husband so much I wanted to help him make his dream comes true, and in return, he lovingly did the same for me. 

No matter what crazy "Lucille Ball" scheme I came up with...making wreaths and rugs for a craft booth....setting up a scrapbooking classroom in our home...selling beauty products...part-time teaching that turned into full time teaching...or taking on a variety of volunteer projects that invaded our time, home, and lives...he completely supported me. 

Even when it was an "investment" that he might never see a monetary return on...even if it required extra effort on his part...because my dreams had also become his dreams. We are a team. We have approached our entire twenty-five years of marriage this way.

As I Celebrate Our Air Force Adventure this month...I can look back on that sad sad day and know without a doubt that as difficult and disappointing as that experience was...it was necessary. It was an important part of God's plan for our future. It set our marriage on the strong foundation we enjoy today. 

We became true partners. We know we can count on each other. We know we support each other's dreams. We know we can survive disappointments when they come. We know we can go with a new plan and it will be okay.

Today we can look back and see how God set Hubby up to have so many more wonderful experiences in the Air Force due to his time being a Physicist. He most certainly would have missed out on them if he had went straight to pilot training. And Hubby retired a few weeks ago with an amazing resume of opportunity that would not have come his way had he spent his entire career in the cockpit. 

Just as I shared in yesterday's post, God's plan was so much better than our plan. As I continue to share our Air Force Adventures...you just might see a theme here...ahem...we certainly do... 

As you know, Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my very favorite verses:
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 

Today's story might explain why the verses that follow it (Jeremiah 29:12-14) also mean a great deal to me:
"Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Exact Opposite of What I Wanted...

As I Celebrate Our Air Force Adventure this month...I just had to go back to the very beginning...how it all started on that "fateful" day when I heard these words:

"Today I signed the paperwork with the campus ROTC".

Those were the words that would change the course of my life in a surprising... amazing... difficult... incredible way. Hubby said them to me in a phone call way before he was Hubby. At the time he spoke these words, he wasn't even Boyfriend...but he was a very dear and special Friend.

My response was, "Oh I will miss you so much when you go away on assignment".

Little did I know that day that I would be going with him and that this very dear and special Friend was actually Future Hubby.

I cared about Future Hubby very much. He was a great friend. He made me laugh...he was a thoughtful listener...and he was certainly one of the smartest people I had ever met. He really liked me and I knew it. And truthfully Future Hubby was everything I was looking for in a guy...but there was something holding me back.

You see, years before, I had spent some time thinking about the man I was going to marry. I had even made a list of the qualities such a man should possess. It was a long list filled with ideas like: "He must be kind...smart...thoughtful...and he must love me and treat me well....it went on...he must love and want children...be a Christian...and have ambition. It continued on and on with some fairly high expectations for just one person. But you know what? Future Hubby met them all. He was everything on that list.

The problem was I also had another list. This list consisted of qualities I didn't want to find in the man that would marry me. And Future Hubby....well...he also met the top two on that list:

1. He couldn't be a pilot
2. He couldn't be in the military

Now...I don't hold anything personal against pilots or anyone in the military. I just didn't think I wanted to live the life of a pilot's wife or a military wife. I knew he would be gone often and I was sure it wouldn't be easy...and honestly...I didn't think I was strong enough to deal with it. I didn't think I would handle the separation and worry well at all. And I didn't want to move away from my family and the Midwest.

But I really really liked Future Hubby. Oh how he made me giggle. No one looked at me or treated me like he did. Finally...after some effort on his part...and God's....I came to realize I should just disregard the second list. Future Hubby had met the criteria that mattered...so I called and asked him out.

Thankfully, he said yes! And before I knew it...we were married and off on our very own Air Force Adventure. I truly believe this was God's plan for us from the very beginning. And I'm grateful He worked on my heart and guided me to let go of my "list" expectations.

 For this very reason, Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my very favorite verses:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  

I have learned over these years of Air Force Wife living that God's Plan...His List...is always way better than anything I can come up with. And as I grow older, I am learning to lean more and more on His understanding and less and less on what I think the plan should be.

And here's the really awesome part of this story: As my love grew for Hubby, his goals...became my goals. His dreams became my dreams. I'll share more about that in another post...but I can tell you that when you allow God to work in your life and let His plan shine...everything falls into place.

Even if it's not what you thought you wanted.

Even if it's exactly the opposite of what you thought you wanted.

Monday, July 7, 2014

July: Celebrating Our Air Force Adventure

It seems fitting to me that July would be the month that I would share a chapter of our story that I have never written about on this blog: our Air Force life. I am an Air Force wife. Those of you who know me personally already knew this...but there might be a few readers out there that have just learned something new about me today.

Hubby served our country in the United States Air Force for the past 24 years. Last Monday that all came to a ceremonial end at his official retirement ceremony. It was a day filled with memories and reminders of an amazing adventure. I really can't believe that a week has already passed by since that day. I guess it's true that time moves quickly in "retirement"!

So this month...I will Celebrate Our Air Force Adventure by sharing some of our stories with you.

I had not revealed Hubby's occupation in my posts before because this blog wasn't about that. And because he and I agreed that this particular part of our lives should stay private. Now that it has become a part of our past, we both feel ready to share a little of it with the blog world.

Air Force Wife is another title I carry and it has been a very special one for me. I wear that "sash" proudly. It is something that is challenging and marvelous at the same time. It is a "sacrificial honor". It is both incredibly wonderful and horribly difficult. I hated it and I loved it.

And now that it is over...I am sad and happy that this part of our story is finished.

In the coming days, I look forward to sharing some of our special military moments with you. Who knows...I might even offer a deep thought or two. Mostly I just want to give you a little peek into what our lives have been like as a military family.

So please join me this month as I Celebrate Our Air Force Adventure.

And if you ever wondered about something regarding military life...just ask in the comments below.

*Update*
Here are my July Celebrating Our Air Force Adventure posts:
The Exact Opposite of What I Wanted
When His Dreams Became My Dreams
Growing Up In The Wild Blue Yonder
Wondering...What's Next?

Friday, July 4, 2014

June...Celebrating Us

Happy Independence Day! I'm sitting in a hotel room overlooking a beautiful lake in the Great State of Texas today and I've been reflecting on the past month in amazement. I had great plans for this blog in June. I had an exciting idea of what I would be celebrating for the month and had planned out several posts in my head.

But the first week of June came and went...then we were actually out of the country for an entire week...then upon our return it was time to prepare for our big move from the Midwest to Texas...then the packers and movers came...we held a little event with our Midwest family and friends...and on July 1st we officially moved to Texas.

And just like that June was over. And I never got to write one of those posts I had planned to write. Instead...we spent the month Celebrating Us.

We welcomed our Scientist back home from college for the month. Hubby and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and took our first "just-the-two-of-us" vacation since our honeymoon. When we returned, we spent time together as a family laughing and sharing happy memories. And we worked hard as a "team" getting ourselves ready for our next big adventure.

Then we got to do something that very few families get to do: we threw an event to celebrate each other with family and friends.  We told stories...sharing our love with this wonderful group. We enjoyed this opportunity to tell of our journey and thank them, expressing what they have meant to us.

It was a rare opportunity to do such a thing and we fully took advantage of the moment to Celebrate Us. Cousin Sunshine took hundreds of photos and my dear friend, Warrior Mom, even videoed the entire event.

If you have been reading my blog for very long, you know what family means to me. You know Hubby and I truly cherish our boys. They are the very reason we are in Texas today. You also know that Hubby and I are gratefully dancing through life in a strong, Christian, loving marriage. We treasure each other. We are happiest when we are together and we are excited about the new adventures we are creating together.

It might sound a little egotistical to spend a month Celebrating Us. But we don't mean it that way. We are just four people who are really grateful that God put us together to be a family. We have had to spend a fair amount of time apart from time to time and I know that has made us hold dear to the time we have together and to all of the wonderful blessings God has so graciously bestowed upon us.

So we Celebrated Us in June.

Now on to July. What shall I Celebrate this month?

Check back soon to find out!