Thursday, August 26, 2010

Looking into her eyes is like taking a fresh breath of Josh...



So, it's just one of those days. The days where no matter what you do, it's just blah. I mean, it's actually gorgeous outside and my sweet Bella is taking a nap. I should be enjoying the solitude and busying myself with homework for my masters class (which happens to be terribly boring this time around, educational research…yuck). Really though, all I seem to think about is Josh. When I sleep at night I will wake up suddenly thinking he's there and that is hard to snap out of… I realized, the other day, that whenever I go into a clothing store I always walk down the men's clothing isle first. I grab shirts in Josh's size and picture him wearing them... smell cologne… Yes, I'm basically crazy….because I just miss him. Who does that? I'm sure the store clerks have a mean nickname for me by now but oh well!?

My Bella keeps me on my toes and never seems to let on that she's homesick. She is my light, my little person. Looking into her eyes is like taking a fresh breath of Josh, and for that I adore her. She loves it here in Michigan and stays busy with her doll house (that Nanna Koole bought) and all of the other new goodies at this house. She likes to play games with Poppa Koole and run full speed... no matter where she is going:)

For those of you who don't know, Bella has had a few medical issues (namely Hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain). She was also born seven weeks early and has always been a bit behind in all of her milestones. The doctors have been monitoring her head circumference and at this point it seems to be going down which could indicate the fluid may be re-absorbing back into her body naturally. This is awesome news because the other alternative involved surgery. Praise God. She is now being recommended to see a Developmental Pediatrician because she has trouble communicating and is delayed in a few other areas. Of course, as her mother, I wish only the absolute best for my little one. To me she is perfect in every way. The doctors (at this point) say she could just be catching up, on her own timeline, or have another medical issue that will need to be pinpointed in upcoming visits. So, my heart is heavy at times about how to best care for her, how to help her catch up. We read tons, and work tirelessly on everyday communication. I've decided I'm going to leave the rest in the Lords hands. After all, he created Bella just the way she is and created me to love her endlessly.

I'll keep you all posted on her upcoming visits to the doctors. I will be heading to Norfolk in November to get back together with her caregivers there and really start getting some answers. Or find that there are no answers needed and that Bella is just Bella (on her own timetable)--my sweetness.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The blondness of it all…

This post is dedicated to my husband who finds great enjoyment in my occasional blonde thought patterns:) If you know me well, you have probably already concluded that do not embarrass easily. I find GREAT enjoyment in life's silly moments. In fact, I have recently tested out one of my most favorite antics on family members. You may be embarrassed to even read this but you should totally try it….and yes, I am still 14!

WARNING: You may lose friends doing this...

It goes a little something like this.... When someone bends down to pick something up, make a farting noise (sorry toot) with your mouth as they come back up. Yes, you read it right. Are you turning red??? I apologize, but it is my gift friends, I never received the "embarrassment gene"....my dad's fault I'm sure of it.

On another note, I have compiled a list of "blonde moments' (as I call them). They are spoken statements that one cannot take back that either make no sense, or cause others to look at you in amazement at the blondness of it all. Let us begin…

Annie's List of Shame:
1. Look at that huge windmill, that's great that they are using solar power! (Clearly wind mills use wind power)
2. After Josh has just explained some long and serious theological idea…I interrupt, "Honey, did you see that cow, I think it was pooping…Josh rolls eyes…no really look at that?"
3. So what ever happened with the Revolution, did we win?
4. As my cat is sitting on a radiator (used to heat the house)---"Honey, get the cat off the radiator, it will get radiation poisoning!"
5. Annie asking for a spoon from a male co-worker at a work lunch, "Excuse me, can you spoon me please"
6. Annie (who was a DJ at her college radio station) playing the "lets rhyme words game" over the air…. I won't say the word but I ended using a HUGE curse word. Not a mild one either… a big fat one:(
7. When Josh and I got engaged I was so excited that I swung my purse into an area that will not be named.

Well, that is my short list. There are many more to come I'm sure. If one could only get a glimpse into my mind they would find themselves lost and very scared:)

Annie (still the chaplain's wife)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why So Serious?

No this isn’t some post on why The Dark Night was a great movie; I just thought that as my last couple of post were pretty serious I would have some fun with this post.

Ok as you know I have about 4 months left in the deployment, well right around this time you’ve gotten use to being out at sea on a war fighting ship and all the stuff that comes along with that. At the same time you begin to dream of the day when some of the more annoying aspect of deployment life will be over. So I began to compile a list and here are a few. If anyone reading this has ever deployed in the Navy on a small boy they will feel the truth of this list.

So just begin each thing listed with the phrase “When I get home I won’t have to….”

1)Hear another freaking whistle (On the ship they blow a whistle over the ship wide speaker system as a signal for everything. It’s time to wake up, it’s time for breakfast, lunch, dinner, it’s time for flight quarters (flying the helicopter), it’s time for this, that, and the other. Always whistles blaring. And not a short little burst but long drawn out “really are you kidding me” whistles. They dig in your ear and rattle your brain until you want to scream)
2)Eat dinner at 4pm (I feel like a geriatric 65 year old cruising up on my hover-round for the blue light special. I can see it now I am going to get home after 7 months out at sea and be dying of starvation because its 5pm and we haven’t had dinner yet)
3)Dream about what carpet feels like (the floors (or decks) on the ship are all what you would normally find in your garage back home. You know that stuff you lay down like paint and then throw in those little plastic chip things in a nice little sporadic type pattern. And on top of it they are all sea blue in color. I mean are you kidding? Is this some kind of sick joke? Not only do we see the sea when we go outside, when we are inside the ship we get to feel like we are out in the ocean because of our beautiful floors. I mean I am all about some Navy pride but come on!!!
4)Take a shower with flip flops on (Yep that’s right, how many people have used that shower in the past week? How……yes all the other questions that come with that. And should you forget your shower shoes you are rewarded with some foot fungus you have never heard of. Oh the joys of community showers)
5)Care if I am showing a “White light topside” (Just before sunset the announcement goes out over the ship wide speaker system that we cannot show any white lights topside. What this means is that almost every light in the ship is switched to its red setting, so you feel like you are walking through a scene in a submarine movie (of course its always the Russians or Nazis who have the really red, sinister lights on). We do this because the red light is harder to be seen by other ships and it allows your eyes to adjust to night vision and be able to stay there.
6)Watch sporting events in 30 sec. burst (Yes the Navy was kind enough to think about the quality of life for their Sailors on deployment, so they put a satellite dish on the ship. The problem is that the Navy doesn’t care that much about quality of life, so they put the satellite dish in a place where you can only kinda get reception and that only if you are sailing in a specific direction. What this means is that you only see short burst of flowing reception and then it freezes and then another short burst of flowing reception and then more freezing. Tiger Woods with a 10ft put for birdie, there is the back swing and (Freeze)……now he is walking off the green. “Wait, did he make it?” and in a few weeks, USC’s quarterback Matt Barkley drops back for a pass (Freeze)……..and they are celebrating in the end zone 70 yards away. “What the crap happened?!?!?!?” And forget about watching the replay because the same thing happens, flow, freeze, flow………turn the ship……NO RECEPTION!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh the joys. At least there will be sea stories.

Josh

Monday, August 16, 2010

I Have 4 Months Left

Being on a deployment can do some crazy things to your mind and spirit. Sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down, and sometimes you are side to side; literally as the ship is in rough seas.
In the past three weeks I have found that I have gone through the first two and maybe a little of the side to side (but all in all the seas have been pretty calm of late). We pulled out of our last port visit (which was in Salalah, Oman and while I was thankful to get off the ship I don't think I will be returning to Salalah anytime soon)on Aug, 2nd and for the first few days I was really down and maybe even a little depressed because it hit me that I had a little over 4 months left on the deployment. Now I think this came about because I got a little glimpse of what it would be like to be back home. I would be able to get off the ship, able to get online with ease, and able to go outside of my 500ft x 60ft box on a consistent basis. It came about because I knew at the end of the week, Aug. 8th, would be my 7th anniversary and I would not be with my wife. It's those kind of days, anniversaries, b-days, holidays, that you really feel weighed down by the separation from your loved ones. So for these reasons I was a little depressed and began to start thinking and feeling that if I had 4 months left my goal would be to SURVIVE those 4 months!
Surviving means that you don't get fully engaged, it means that you seek to simply pass the time; maybe through constantly entertaining yourself or dry-ly disengaging yourself in the hopes that you will go into some semi-coma only to awake 4 months later at home.
In the back of my mind I knew this was the wrong solution, especially as a chaplain, it would kill any usefulness I would have, it would kill any ministry that God might use me for. So I did the only thing I could think to do in a desperate situation, I ran to the Cross in prayer and boy did God come through. (How many times in my life is God going to have to fulfill Romans 8:28 before I know, sense, feel, stand upon its ever present reality)
Within a day God had completely changed my outlook from how do I survive the next 4 months, to I only have 4 more months with these Sailor's. I have 4 months to share the Gospel with them. I have 4 months to preach God's Word to them. I have 4 months to love them with the love that I have received through the cross. I have 4 months to be used by God to plant, to water, to grow the seed that He has given. I have 4 months to answer God's call on my life. I have 4 months to not waste the pain my family has been through.
God help me!!! Be my foundation and support, be my motivation and willingness, be my satisfaction and joy, be my savior and redeemer.

God Bless
Josh Earls

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A little ditty about a pastor's daughter who got expelled....

This is a little story (or ditty if you so please), about a girl who got kicked out of school at fourteen. Yep, that's me! Chaplain's wife. What?! You don't believe me?! Well, just ask my dad. Yep, I assure you that Ricky could tell you the story (as he remembers it from his perspective as the superintendent of that very same school). Ok, juicy recap: 14, expelled, superintendent's daughter, oh yah...pastor's daughter too (church attached to school) -- wow, that was sticky!! What was I doing at 14 that was so bad? Lets just say it was all illegal and involved substance(s)--and that just scratches the surface.

Yes, still the Chaplain's wife here. You were worried this was the wrong blog huh? Before getting too concerned, please note that I no longer intake illegal substances. Sometimes I have to remind myself of my roots because forgetting would be a travesty! I have to remember how the Lord protected me from being sexually assaulted at fourteen by a man ten years my senior at a random drug party. How he protected my virginity. How he kept me alive and allowed me the husband and child of my dreams. I'm here in Michigan now and every time I return, I'm reminded of the four years that changed my life. When my family packed up and moved from Oceanside, CA to Grand Rapids, MI....I was one lost girl. At the time, I thought the move was all about me or my fault because, lets be honest, at that age everything "was about me". I was mad, sad, guilty, angry, and totally heading down a really bad path. While I was all "caught up in myself", God was starting to put together my puzzle. I like to think of parts of my life as puzzle pieces that God moves into place. Some of those pieces he had to jam in because of my stubborn nature, but oh how he got them to fit!

Michigan. What can I say?! I attended Grand Rapids Baptist Academy (yes the name scared me). It was a small Christian academy full of students who had attended together since elementary school. I remember my mom telling me that the move was a "good thing" because I could reinvent myself as whomever I wanted to be, not just "the girl from CA who got expelled". Walking through those halls as a freshman was odd. I was still trying to figure Michigan out. Everyone was Dutch it seemed (I was too... come to find out later). Of course, there was the Michigan accent and use of the word "pop" (pronounced, "pap") meaning- soda. I was extremely outgoing and felt like I had to tone it down a bit just to fit in (who does that?!) :) I made some friends, found a boyfriend, started sports, and began my life heading in the EXACT same path I had just left. I found that there were drugs in every state. I don't know why I felt so inclined to go against the grain, it was like I was running in circles. The crazy part is that God was already working in my life through his Spirit. As long as I can remember, I have always had a crazy conscience. I would disobey God, and fall apart inside. This grew stronger and stronger and after a couple years of laying in bed (drunk or drugged out) and crying, I finally realized I was running from Him. Before moving forward, I must give credit to my parents for NEVER, EVER giving up on me. They always let me make my mistakes and prayed me through them. They always said "I love you" even when I was hurting them or myself. They were, to me, Christ exemplified.

My life started changing in small ways in high school. I began noticing girls who "had it together"...who were living for Christ (most of them probably have no idea that they were being "watched"). I slowly began realizing that I had been living for myself since birth. I began trying to be a "better person". You'd think, as a pastor's daughter, that I would just "know what to do" but I had never "known Christ" in a real and evident way. This process was slow and grueling. I would take two steps forward and five steps back. If you are reading this and went to high school with me, hello! I still love you all and wish now that I could have understood God's unwavering and merciful love then. Don't think I hated school--on the contrary, I love my high school memories and would not change them for the world!. The relationships I had then, make me who I am-- my memories are vibrant and terribly fond. I learned about love and heartbreak, friendship, and most important....about God. The things I regret are a direct result of my battle with God. The battle for my heart:)

Was I saved in high school? Hmmm....good question! Well, I prayed the prayer to accept Christ when I was about eight with my mom at my bedside. I believe my faith was one that had to be cultivated. I had to run in the EXACT opposite direction to find out where to go. I am the girl who has to learn by failing--it's just who I am:) I'm thankful for God allowing me this path because I feel that my faith is so real now. I see the depths to which he had to pull me from--the places so full of sin that He had to turn his face away at times. If I was not saved then, I know I am now. Once I reached college I rededicated my life to Him.

Wow, that was a good reminder of who I am. Are you surprised or horrified??? Doesn't matter--it's who I am and I am thankful! Oh and at LU, I let God know that my puzzle of life DID NOT involve marrying a pastor or anyone in the military. Wow, did He have other plans:)

Bonus Question: How on earth did I end up at the largest Christian college in the country? That's for another blog...this was already a novel and my fingers hurt.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Life is a Highway...

...and the nomads press on...

Yes, Bella and I are about to wrap up our time in California! I cannot believe how quickly time moves when you are traveling and being showered with support from family and friends. Since the love of my life left in May, about twenty more "loving lives" filled our hearts in his place. Here's a small list of those amazing friends and family:

Last Days in Norfolk:
I must give a HUGE shout out right now to my mother in law Carol Earls. First, what daughter/mother-in-law duo could handle being together for over two months?? Well, we can! It's official, Carol is a saint. She left Rod (Poppa Earls) to come be with us in May as Josh departed. She was a shoulder to cry on/with on MANY occasions. She is selfless, loving, godly, and practical and I love all of those things about her. I love her because she's got many of Josh's qualities (or visa-verca). So, thank you Carol for giving Bella and I your time and love. You helped us get through the beginning stages of this deployment (which at times were emotional for me) and we couldn't have done it without you.

Oh, and for a bit of time there, we had a lonely Air Force "doctor-to-be" staying with us (Carol and I) in Norfolk-Nate Kinder. The poor boy was away from his beautiful wife doing medical studies in and needed a place to stay. He was also there when Josh left and was a great addition to our odd (post Josh) home. He got to see many crazy Earls antics and I'm surprised he didn't try to escape:) He was great to have around--and Bella just adored him!

My buddy Renee (old college roomie) and her dog/son Joey came out to stay with me right after Josh left as well. Her visits always bring me right back to college. Me and that Canadian have a long history that I love re-living when she visits! Love her.

Next leg, California...

Murrieta and Balboa Island:
After arriving in California, Bella and I settled in for a week then packed up for Southern California (my childhood home). We stayed with my wonderful brother John and his amazing wife Brandon (and my cute niece Hannah-banana). There home in Murrieta is so comfy and Bella and felt extremely welcome and well cared for! Kiki and Ricki (and Candace) flew out and my older sister Jen drove up and it was a good old fashioned Koole family vaca! We did, of course, miss Katie and Andy though:( We hit up some Disney and Wild Animal Park and just had a blessed time together. I love my family. We live hard, play hard, and laugh hardest! We also drove up to Jen's place and spent some time with her in Balboa Island! I wish so badly that my older siblings were closer, I can't get enough of them. We have lived apart for a long time but, I cannot believe how alike we all are!?

Redondo Beach/Oceanside/Vista:
I also got to visit some old buddies in southern CA namely the Heidts (Amber/Philip/Violet)...Thank you for opening your home to Bella and I, we adore you all and cherished the time we spent with you. Amber Heidt, who was one my college roommates, is like my twin and bosom buddy! Laura, thanks for spending the day with me--cannot believe we have remained friends since first grade. Oh and my long time buds-Daniela, Katie, and Yvette...what a fun time together--this will have to be a tradition!

Merced:
Most of our time in CA was spent at Rod and Carol's place in Merced. Bella was literally showered with love here and I am so thankful for it! Poppa Rod, who spent most of his time teaching Bella to "wrastle" was a great male presence for Bella. We also got to spend quality time with aunt Jaimee and cousin Caleb (who Bella thinks is so funny) and aunt Jessica (and her dog/daughter Lily). The aunts are amazing and love little Bells so much. I am thankful to have such great sister-in-laws who make me laugh daily with their crazy voices and movie quotes. Our time in Merced was also full of Earls and Leach relatives. I love hanging out with Josh's family -- they love him and are so proud of his service in the military. He misses them and I'm sure wishes he could have been here too! Bella and I got to meet lots of new friends here in Merced. The women at Rod/Carol's church are simply wonderful. I believe we made some fast friends here who we can now keep in touch with over time! Oh and lastly, we visited an old co-worker of mine, Tracie Littlejohn who has four boys under the age of five! She is an inspiration and I loved seeing her!

Well, that is a tiny recap of this leg of our journey. It makes me excited to move forward onto the next leg because it means that we are one step closer to seeing Josh. Michigan, here we come. I am so pumped to see family and high school friends there! Thank goodness we packed winter clothes because we will be going from extreme hot to extreme cold here soon! Kiki, Ricki, Candace, Katie, and Andy, here we come!!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Anniversary!

I awoke this morning excited about the day ahead of me for two reasons. First, it's Sunday and that means I get to preach. I get to preach the Word of God to Sailors. Yes some of them will be half asleep because they are so tired from their previous watch, but Lord willing the message will sink deep into their hearts and the Gospel of Christ will grab hold of them.
Second, today is Sunday August 8th and that means it's my anniversary! Now on a normal anniversary I might take a little weekend trip with Annie or we might go out for a nice dinner, but this year we aren't doing either of those because, as you know, I am deployed right now. So you might be asking yourself, "why in the world are you excited. Shouldn't you be depressed or something." Maybe I should be, but by God's grace I'm not. I am only thinking that today is a celebration of what God has done in my marriage. I have a wonderful wife who has loved me so well for seven years that it honestly feels like we just got married. I love this day because it takes me back to all our other anniversaries and happy moments in our marriage.
Sunday is the best day for me to celebrate our anniversary, especially this one, because today I am preaching on the Faithfulness of God. Yes I am separated from my wife on a day that we should be together but God is faithful. He has been using our separation to further His kingdom and therefore it is worth being apart from each other. Annie and I just talked about this last night. I want to see my wife, I want to see my little girl grow, but God has called us to this and He is faithful in His calling. He is using both Annie and I to do eternal work, ETERNAL WORK!! Therefore we can be brave and take the risk of missing an anniversary together.
I love my wife so much because she mourns the fact that we are separated, but she also rejoicing in the reality that God is being magnified by that separation.

I love you honey! Happy 7th! You have shown me seven years worth of Proverbs 31!

Love Josh

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Then I saw her face, now I'm a believer...."

video

Daddy,

Bella went to the zoo and attracted many animals with her ferocious apple eating--one such animal was this goat:) Wish you were with us! We visited the monkeys in honor of you and Poppa Koole -- no monkey wars to note. Enjoy the video of your girl.

Your Women

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What does a Navy Chaplain do? Well, this clip will help:)

First of all, you need to click the link to hear first hand what a Navy Chaplain does day in and day out, it's inspiring: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10100225243826383&ref=mf

From my perspective (as the wife of a Navy Chaplain), I feel like people do not understand the role that Chaplains play. Most people think Josh sits at a base all day and prays with people. They think, as I did before he joined, that Chaplain's don't do much of anything. He does so much more than I ever thought or imagined. He is a counselor, motivator, encourager, friend, shipmate, leader, giver of bad and good news, and the overall representative of Christ to his ships. He deploys with his guys/gals and suffers along side. He laughs and cries with them and feels their struggles first hand.

In my conversations with Josh, he has shared that the ministry opportunities on the ship are endless. He is ministering 24/7 and thankfully, to Josh's credit, he has an uncanny way of befriending and devoting himself to the needs of others. Josh is not the type of Chaplain that is "holier than thou". He's not going to sit there and list all of the sins committed by a sailor. He's going help them see that the life of a Christian is one full of joy AND pain. He's going to explain that the suffering they are experiencing compares little to the suffering of Christ Jesus. He's going to go the the root of the problem: their hearts.

Imagine being in your late 20's counseling on rape, adultery, depression, suicide, and anger. Imagine the weight of these topics and the emotions evoked when you have to cry with someone who has just lost their newborn baby (and cannot even hold their loved one and weep). I cannot fathom that responsibility. I am proud of my husband. My heart leaps with joy at the thought of his ministry. I have to admit, sometimes I wish Bella and I could live on that ship and witness this ministry first hand, but God has kept us here--and I take seriously the ministry of family, friends, and other military wives. Oh, and I'm guessing the ship would not be the best environment for a toddler who loves to dive into water. I can see it now, top of the ship deck, "Where's Bella"???

So, for now we will just pray for him and with him and think fondly of his time on the ship. I know it's not easy for him and that home seems really far away but, we are always there in his heart. We are always praying for him. We are always looking at pictures and reminding Bella who daddy is: Chaplain Joshua Earls