The rest of the story

Sorry to leave you hanging. As you can imagine, it’s been a busy couple of days. My husband, indeed, returned to us on Sunday night, and we’ve been visiting family and friends ever since. We’re currently in a hotel in Mattoon, one day of visiting here down, one to go. My whole family is sleeping, finally. Isabelle didn’t nap today and her overtired self resisted any attempts at sleep. Corban put himself to sleep while all of that was going on, and my husband succumbed to sleep at some point, too. He deserves it. He didn’t sleep much in the days leading up to his return.

Me, I’m not even tired. OK, that’s probably not true. I’m probably overtired, too. But snuggled in a hotel bed with a toddler and a gigantic five-month-old is not conducive to sleep for me. After too much time staring at the blinking smoke alarm light on the ceiling, I find myself here, unsure what to say, but needing to say something. And hoping that my body will shut itself down soon and I’ll be able to get a few hours of sleep.

I wanted to tell you about how separation from my husband helps me understand my relationship with Jesus better. When Phil was in Iraq, almost five years ago now, we had to learn how to develop a relationship while not in each other’s physical presence. I think it’s easy to take relationships for granted when you see the person a lot or are with them much of the time. When he came home from Iraq, even though I knew he was on his way, it wasn’t really real until I could hug him and see him.

This is what my relationship with Christ is like. I know He’s there. We have lines of communication open. I know He loves me. But until I see Him face to face, until I can touch Him, my faith will be just faith, not reality.

Living by faith is hard. Loving people is hard. Life in general is hard. But in the blink of an eye, it all changes. When I saw my husband again after three weeks, I didn’t feel like we’d been apart at all.

May it be so when I finally see my Jesus.


Sweet home, Chicago

Day 21. We spent the day in Chicago with my brother and his girlfriend. I forget how much I love Chicago until I’m there again. We had lunch at a place my brother frequents, Broadway Cellars, and then went to Shedd Aquarium so Isabelle could see the “fishies.” She’s been talking about that for weeks now.

No matter how far away we live, no matter what other cities are nearby and what attractions they offer, Chicago will always feel like home. The sights are recognizable. I have memories from childhood to adulthood of visiting museums, shopping, hanging out with friends, eating, and riding the Metra and the “L.” All that was missing today was my husband. He loves Chicago, too, and half or more of those memories were made with him.

He rejoins our family tomorrow. He missed Chicago by a day. But in the spirit of good Cubs fans, which we are, there’s always next time.

How do I spell relief? H-U-S-B-A-N-D

Day 20. Maybe that title dates me. If you remember the old Rolaids commercial, you’re probably getting old, too.

Both kids were especially needy today, and even though we had a lot of time with family, there still didn’t seem to be enough of me to go around. I kept thinking of something my husband said just after Corban was born and we were learning how to parent two children. He said he appreciated the fact that having two kids meant we had to work together more for their care.

We’re like a tag team, sometimes. Especially at bed time. If I’ve had Corban all day, he’ll take him while I get Isabelle ready for bed. Or, if Corban’s particularly needy and I’m feeding him, Phil will take the Isabelle bed time routine. It works the same with diaper duty, meals and the occasional potty training. I’m so blessed to have a husband who helps.

Right now, though, I feel like I’m in the ring, trying to fend off two wrestlers by myself because my partner is MIA.

No matter how tired either of us is, there’s always a small sense of relief when we can split up the kid duties.

I hope he’s ready to tag in.


Day 19. These last few days seem the hardest. Even though the kids and I have kept busy with outings and visits, with still more planned between now and Sunday, I’m just plain old worn out. If this were a marathon (and by the way, I am not, nor do I ever see myself being, a runner), I’d be nearing the finish line, wondering if I could make it to the end. Sometimes I think I don’t have the mental toughness for such endurance.

When my husband (then my fiance) was in Iraq, I thought of our relationship in terms of a huge rubber band. Each of us was standing on one side of it, and the farther apart we were geographically, the more our relationship was stretched. Sometimes it seemed like it was so tight it was going to snap. But we held on and eventually, we came back together, stretched but tighter somehow.

I’m feeling stretched again. I’m glad I don’t have to go on this way indefinitely. I’m desperately hanging on for Sunday, hoping I won’t be too exhausted to enjoy being together.

Hoping, too, that once again, our relationship will be stronger because we were stretched.

Man of my dreams

Day 18. I dreamt about my husband today during a rare hour-long afternoon nap. I’m not sure the last time that happened — the dreaming of him, that is, not the napping. Sometimes when I dream about him, it’s of something bad happening to him. Today wasn’t like that. It was just a being together kind of dream.

Although I literally dreamt of him today, he also is figuratively the man of my dreams. Indulge me while I recollect. We have an anniversary coming up, and I like to remember how our relationship began, how I felt when he proposed, what it was like to marry him. A recent look at our wedding pictures helped the reminiscing process.

Phil and I were friends before we were a couple. The first time we were in a group together, he called me by name. I consider this the beginning of our story because it touched me. There’s something about hearing your name, at least there is for me. It’s a personal address. I was new to the group at the time and it made me feel acknowledged. When I tell him this, he just shrugs. He didn’t think anything of it at the time, but it’s forever burned in my mind.

We became friends through church activities and other social events. More and more I was drawn to him. Eventually our friendship grew to the point where I considered him to be one of my best friends and when he wasn’t around, something felt off or missing. He brought a certain energy to our group of friends, and he lit up my world. I guess I could say I was pining for him at this time.

We grew closer and closer as friends until finally, the day came when he put his arm around me while we watched “The Princess Bride,” already my favorite movie, now with added significance. I was giddy with joy but also fearful that maybe he made a mistake and the next day he was going to tell me he was sorry for leading me on. I didn’t sleep much that night, and when he said the next morning that we needed to talk, the fear and joy continued to mingle. When he clarified that he wanted to date me, my joy was more than I could contain, and he held my hand as we walked down the hill at Rock River Bible Camp.

For both of us, there was not much question that our relationship would end in marriage. With a friendship foundation firmly supporting us, and a love for the Lord binding us, we could see no other outcome. A year later, also at RRBC, he proposed, and I still smile thinking of how nervous he was, how he enlisted help to orchestrate a game that ended in a proposal, how I could hardly believe this was happening. I remember my friend Nikki commenting that I kept looking at my left hand, admiring the ring I had picked out but didn’t know he had bought.

Two years later, we were married. Looking at the pictures, I remember the joy. Everything wasn’t perfect that day, but it was the perfect day, if that makes sense. Although it was a jam-packed, emotional, somewhat overwhelming day, all I cared about was that at the end of the day, I would be Phil’s wife.

Almost three years have passed, hardly enough time for us to be tired of each other yet, but some marriages these days don’t last even that long. Mostly today I just miss his physical presence. We’ve had some great phone conversations, which hasn’t happened much, if at all, since he left the Army. And we’ve seen each other on Skype calls. But none of that is the same as being in the same room, sleeping in the same bed, riding in the same car.

Our separation time is ending soon, and I can hardly believe how fast it went. I still have much to learn about what it takes to make a relationship work and survive in less-than-ideal conditions, but with only a few days to go until I see my husband again, I’m grateful for the opportunity to re-appreciate him.

I can’t imagine being married to anyone else. He truly is a gift from God.

A beautiful mind

Day 17. Today was good. Lots of great conversation. That’s a rarity for this stay-home-mom-of-two. It’s been great to have time to talk and catch up with family and friends. To reminisce about the way things were before husbands and kids; to compare notes about husbands and kids now; to envision what lies ahead.

Much of the conversation with friends centers on church life, church growth, church mission — you get the idea. As people on the path toward full-time pastoral ministry, my husband and I seem to often end up in conversations such as these. It’s like research, but that makes it sound a little shallow or meaningless. I just enjoy the chance to hear from those in church leadership and laity about what is and isn’t working. Maybe by hearing their stories, we can avoid making some mistakes.

Although Phil shares a lot of what he learns in seminary with me, I seldom retain what he tells me. Somewhere between his mouth and my ears, the information is swallowed up in a black hole of housework, child care and sleep deprivation.

Occasionally I can contribute something of what he’s learned, or what we’re learning together as we practice ministry, but most of the time, I just feel like I’m babbling. My husband, on the other hand, has a sponge for a mind. He soaks up what he hears, reads and sees and can squeeze out the appropriate thought at the appropriate time. It’s beautiful.

He would have loved today’s talks. And my account of them won’t do them justice.

Soon enough, he’ll be in the conversations. Just a few more days.

Baby sitter, emphasis on the sitter

Day 16. Today, I needed my husband’s arms. Not so much for me, but for our five-month-old. The boy would not nap today. I blame teething. And my own inability to sit still for longer than a few minutes. Maybe I should say he would not nap anywhere but in someone’s arms, and I had no patience or desire for that. Nap time is Mommy time, and I selfishly wanted it today. Each time I tried to put my son on a bed or in a pack n’ play, his eyes popped open and he gave me that “Oh, was I sleeping? ‘Cause now I’m not” look. And I just got more and more frustrated. Thankfully, my dad was home from work, so he entertained his grandson for a couple of non-sleeping hours while I took a break then finished fixing dinner.

I could have napped, too. I should have napped, too. But I resisted. And I know if my husband had been here, I could have easily plopped my sleeping son in his lap and let him be the baby sitter during nap time. This is something my husband does well and even enjoys. Especially if he’s not had a lot of time with the children. He can just sit and hold them for as long as it takes. Me? I think of a hundred other things I could, or should, be doing.

And I feel like a bad mother for admitting that, but it’s the truth. Not all “hold me” days are like this for me. Some days, I give in and take a nap, too, or get caught up on a good book.

Not sure why today was different. But we survived another day without a daddy. And found another reason we need him in our lives.