I have caught myself several times this week saying to myself, “I just wish things would go back to normal.” And that has put those cogs in my brain to turning and thinking, “What is normal?” When I stopped and looked at it from that perspective, I had to laugh. My life has been anything but normal the past approximately two years.
It was two years ago this month that Ben broached the subject and asked Dad to officially begin dating/courting me (whatever we did – we didn’t do it in a normal fashion or according to any sort of tradition). That began a four month intense correspondence between my Dad and Ben (they had talked for the previously 4-ish years, but not nearly like this). Then came December…Ben and I celebrated Christmas with his family (his parents, sisters, and grandparents)on a Florida vacation and then flew back to Colorado on Christmas to be with my family for another week. In late December of 2010, Ben proposed to me and I said yes.
The wedding was tentatively set for between December of 2011 and April of 2012. By the time Ben returned to the Coast Guard Academy in early January, we had decided on September of 2011. By mid January it was moved up again to May or June of 2011, right after we both graduated college. In the end of January, the date of May 28th, 2011 was chosen.
The next five months were very busy. In that amount of time my family sold both of our mountain homes (one where we were living and one where my grandmother was living). We dealt with some very personal family issues that, to this day, still rock our world as we work through them. They aren’t “bad” but they are challenging and they have changed our family forever. Ben and I worked hard to finish our schooling and degrees, learned we were moving to the west coast for our first Coast Guard station, and planned and worked on the wedding with our families. Ben and I both graduated in mid-May from college.
On May 28th, we stood in front of about 175 family and friends and took our vows to be man and wife. It was a wonderful day. It was the easiest thing in the world to say “I do” to my new husband…and it was the hardest thing I have ever done to say “Farewell” to my family. After a honeymoon and time with our families, we moved, arriving at our new home in mid-June of 2011. Ben reported to his new unit in the end of June.
But before he reported for duty, I took a test that changed our lives drastically again. I was expecting. After suspecting it for quite some time, I finally had the guts to find out. Three pregnancy tests later, I finally believed it. The next eight months were a whirlwind with the Coast Guard work that Ben was involved in and with us preparing for our little boy. For the first six of those months I worked from home. Two months before the due date, I resigned my position to focus on what I thought was most important – my family.
In February, we welcomed our little bundle of joy – James. In the past months, we have gone from expecting, to having a helpless precious newborn in our arms, to having an infant to adjust with, to now having an active, communicative, extremely fun little baby to chase around our house. He has changed our lives forever and there will never be a regret of having him early in our marriage like so many said we would. And he is constantly changing. Each day there is something new to see, explore, listen to, etc.
Since reporting to our unit in June of 2011, Ben and I have never had more than seven days/nights together in a row – with the exception of when I accompanied him to a school in Virginia last August and when he was granted paternal leave for 10 days after James was born. In August of 2012, we had an 18 day leave to visit family and friends, and that will be the longest straight we have had since officially beginning work in the Coast Guard.
This past summer, I have learned, to a certain extent, to be more gentle with those who are called “single mothers.” Maybe they got there by some wrong-doing… Maybe some of those who you see struggling aren’t really “single” mothers, but have a husband deployed to serve our country… No matter what though, they have a hard job to undertake. And I know most of them want to do it. While I have a wonderful, supportive husband…the truth of the matter is that he is not here all the time. For approximately 90 days during the summer, I saw him for a total of about 18-20 days. It’s been hard…but we are making it. But it gives me a higher level of sympathy for those I see trying to make it work on their own.
This coming winter, we will learn of a new change in our life. We will be moving in the summer of 2012. We don’t know where. We don’t know what Ben will be doing. We pray it is some place and some job that Ben can do and come home almost every day. But it is yet another bend in the road that we can see, but don’t know what is around the corner.
So…. “Normal?” Hardly. I am sure if I thought about it that life has never been “normal.” But since getting married, I can definitely say that our “normal” means “constantly changing.” Honestly, I realized that when I said I wanted life to be “normal” what I really meant is that I wanted my life to be a certain way that I thought up and dreamed up. But maybe that really isn’t what God has for us. While this past year or so has been wonderful, it has also had some extremely rough spots. I don’t know why they were there and I have sometimes wished they just never happened. But I have begun to realize that…I might never know. But I do know that the Lord has put them there for a reason. We have learned much from them. Sometimes I don’t know what we have learned and sometimes I do. I know that down the road I may look back a few years to this time and have a lightbulb moment of “So that is why that happened.” And at other times, I am sure I will still look at an occasion in bewilderment of why we actually had to go through something. But I do know that God has a plan. And this is where He has us for now.
Do I really want life to be normal? Maybe not. Maybe I’d be too bored. I still have dreams…. I don’t know how many times a day I pray that the Lord will bring us to a place where Ben will be home more often. Where I ask the Lord to put us in a good assignment next year when we move so that he can come home every day. So that he can watch James (and any future children, if the Lord so wills) grow. So that I can talk with him about what is going on every day. So that he can see James change on a daily basis instead of leaving one week and coming back sometime a few weeks later to find a totally different baby than when he left. But for now…. I think I need to accept that my normal is actually abnormal. That my life is how it is because that is how God wants it. I may not like portions of it, but I can still be thankful for them. And I am sure that the Lord has a plan and a reason that I can’t begin to comprehend….
So here is to life being abnormal. To the quirks and instability in our schedule. To the tears and disappointment that I have shed wishing that something was different, that Ben was home more. Here’s to the tears of happiness that I’ve shed of seeing James grow, yet wishing more than anything that Ben was at my side watching it happen. Here’s to the smiles of joy and happiness I have had with my husband and son as we explore our new life together. Here’s to the quiet moments of contentment that I sometimes enjoy while rocking James or quietly curled up on the couch while watching James and Ben do something together. Here’s to the storms that have rocked our world. And here’s to the rainbows that have peeped out behind those storms every single time.
Here’s to that bend in the road that we know is coming up, but do not yet know what is around the corner. Here’s to the plans that I know the Lord has in store for us. And here is to the changing winds that propel us in this life: sometimes a soft breeze comforting us in a stable period; sometimes a thunderstorm that gusts and tosses our ship about as we go through a time of needing to seek Him more than anything; but always and forever carefully guiding us through the seas that we are supposed to travel.