Wednesday, December 22, 2010

We are complete.

Deep sigh.

He's home. The video I posted is a good representation of the emotions I felt that day. I was overjoyed yet completely overwhelmed with emotions. The night before Josh came home I couldn't sleep. At one point, I realized I had walked a circle around my living room three times. It was like I knew my life was going to instantly get better in every way.... yet, I couldn't make time go faster or actually imagine it in real life. I woke up and was nervous at first, then completely excited. I kept telling Bella that someone amazing was coming. Daddy was coming home. I wasn't sure if she would remember him but I was hoping... no praying she would. For Josh's sake, I prayed she would greet him with a smile and show him how much she cherished him like her mommy does. After all, the love Josh has for her is unspeakable...unexplainable...perfection.

We pulled up to the pier and the ship had already docked but all of the guys were still on the ship. No one could get off until first kiss and new father's got to see their little ones. So, Bella and I scanned the ship looking for that familiar face, the one we longed to see again. When those navy boys dress up, they all look the same... well, that's what they say at least. But, not my Josh. I looked and found him and just ran. I couldn't hold him yet but I could talk to him from a distance. I pulled Bella's stroller up to face him. She looked at all of the navy boys... he called out to her and it was instantaneous. She knew his voice, his face... she lit up like I haven't seen in 7 months. I felt such overpowering joy at that moment. I saw the joy in Josh's eyes too!

Finally, they were able to get off the ship. Bella and I had gone to a heated tent at that point because it was like 20 degrees on the pier and Bella was having a hard time with the cold. All of the other navy chaplains had helped us find warmth and assured us they would find Josh and bring him to me. They were so sweet. Then someone said, here he comes. I felt like I was going to burst. He walked in, took off his hat and the moment arrived. I held him. Like I never wanted to let go -- like ever. Someone was going to have to pry my hands off of him. Then I remembered, our girl.... he needs to see his girl.... She smiled at him and remembered his face. I've included the video of her once we made it home... she's basically IN LOVE with him. She does things for daddy that mommy has never seen. Her development has even progressed just due to his presence alone. What a difference a daddy makes.

So, we are a family again. I fall asleep to his breath and wake up to his smiling face. It's utter bliss. It's marriage. It's the way it's supposed to be. He snuggles... he plays... he laughs... he's my person... he's Bella's daddy. I'm pretty sure Josh knows how much we love him now (if he ever wondered).

So friends. CHERISH your loved ones. Pray for our military families. Deployment is hard. I happen to have an exceptionally loving husband and supportive family and friends. Not all wives have that. I feel so blessed. I feel so loved. Thank you for your prayers on our behalf. They have been binding us to Christ and his grace and mercy throughout this trial!

Best Christmas EVER! Josh is our gift this year. I pray that I will feel even more excitement about the ultimate gift this season. Christ. I pray that each day I would yearn for Him with such fervent excitement. video

Monday, December 20, 2010

Home from deployment!

video

More pictures to come but here's the big moment:)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Home part deux...

Hey chaps. Guess what? We are MORE excited than you are to have you back! Yep!

Oh, and don't think I didn't notice how you called me an "old woman" in the last post. Yes, I'm a cougar. But, you like it!

We are excited for....
1. Endless snuggle time. Yes, like pretzels. Not salty pretzels though... one's dipped in cheese (of course)
2. I don't have to take the trash out EVERYDAY (ugh, barf, yuck)
3. When the toilet seat breaks, it won't be sitting there with a sign that says...."I'm broken, don't sit on me"...it will be fixed.
4. Unloading groceries in the rain with a child running down the street screaming and darting towards cars --- well, that won't happen...you'll help!
5. Bella gets her daddy back. She talks to you on the video but, it's not the same
6. If I need to "run to the store", I can leave you with your girl... and I can go.... alone.... in silence. I might just roam the isles of our local grocery stores just because I can. Maybe I can grow a mullet and hang out at Walmart for a while.
7. Car trips. So much easier with you...
8. Nap time (wink)
9. Having someone there with me when Bella goes to bed... to talk to, laugh with and, of course, snuggle with!
10. Someone to cook for who always loves my food:) Well, unless it's on fire.
11. Someone to pray with (like in person) :)
12. Someone to try to force into watching reality TV with:) Yes! I love forcing you b/c you think reality TV is annoying but then you end up getting teary eyed. Don't lie, you know it's true.
13. Someone who quizzes me on history fun facts throughout the day and keeps a running point tally (not sure what I will win but I have a lot of points)
14. Someone who teaches me godliness.
15. It will be nice to go places with arm candy.
16. Well, you are the love of my life so it will be nice to see your face and smell your smell!
17. When I click the wrong button on the remote, I won't spend two hours trying to correct my mistake. Dang remotes.
18. When I run into the walls, someone to make fun of me.
19. When I cry, someone to hold me.
20. When I'm sick.. someone to let me sleep who can take care of our girl... instead of our girl running wild and breaking things... while I vomit alone in the bathroom. That was a fun day.
21. Someone to be with me through our journey with Bella. Tough news is tougher without you.


So, there's a few reasons why I'm literally bouncing off the walls with excitement right now. When I go to sleep tonight, I will wake up knowing you are coming back to me. Our family will be complete.

See you tomorrow my dear!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Home

So the days of deployment are growing short and I will be back at home early next week. I have been away about 7 months and in my mind things have remained the same at home, kind of frozen in time.
Of course I know that's not true. Alot has changed. Bella is now 2 years old (she was 18 months when I left), she has been diagnosed with Autism, and Annie has been a single parent for 7 months. (Oh and Annie just turned 30, so I am coming home to an old woman!)
I find myself thinking "was this worth it" was time away from family worth. Was it worth not being there to help raise my daughter, or was it worth missing the painful news that Bella is Autistic? To tell you the truth if you asked me these questions when I found out that Bella has Autism I would have said no, HECK NO!!! (or imagine any other word).
But thinking about it now, I think both Annie and I would say yes! Over these past 7 months we have both had the opportunity to see the Lord work in amazing ways in our lives. We have had the chance to minister to others in need and to be ministered to by others. This is what life is about and where real meaning in life is found!
For the past 7 years of my life I have been married to the most amazing and wonderful woman in the world, and with her I have learned what it means to rely upon God, what it means to truly believe the promises of God. "and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28). "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." (John 6:35). "And behold, I am with you always even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)
So is it worth it? YES! Because in the pain we learn to rely upon God and His promises. When we are stripped from all the things that we have relied upon we begin to see what we truly put our trust in. And when we see, feel, experience Christ meeting us in our pain and redeeming it through love, and ministry to and from others, our faith in Him is strengthened. For all these reasons it is worth it to risk a light momentary affliction.

Josh

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Anticipation.



Joshua,

I literally cannot wait. When I think of you, me, and Bella together on Christmas morning, I smile… I laugh… I cry. We are waiting in anticipation to see our favorite boy in the whole world walk off of that ship. I can count the days on my fingers and that makes me happy.

I love you.

Your wife :)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

We just hit the "reset" button on our lives….

RESET.

I feel like Josh, Bella, and I are starting our lives from scratch right now. I know for me personally, I've never felt so completely vulnerable. I feel like the very core of my heart is numb. Aren't these times where God, in His most gentle and tender way, begins to revive our hearts? I've had such good days since the diagnosis but, today was not one of them.

I looked at Bella today (who had been crying ALL morning over one thing she wanted, which I couldn't figure out... of course)…. and my heart broke. I said, "Honey, I don't know what you want….I don't know how to help you". I really don't, that's the hard part. Now that I know she is autistic, I look at her different. Not in a bad way.. It's just that I've lived my life (without a disability) and it was still hard with lots of hurdles and heart break. My life has also been full of joy beyond measure. Bella has yet to experience many things and I can only pray that she develops to the point where she CAN have all of these experiences. Will she be able to fully speak her mind? Will she truly understand happiness or sadness. Will she ever grasp the love we have for her and be able to have a child of her own to lavish with this love? It's a possibility that she will not. Or, she may. It's just a heavy feeling, the unknown. I wish God would grant me a glimpse into the future so that I could prepare myself for what's to come.

I'm overwhelmed. There are so many therapies, diets, and "plans" out there for the treatment of autism and they are all very different. My prayer is that God would lead us to the right one. The one that would help Bella overcome. I believe in my heart of hearts that Bella is going to do amazing things. She's a fighter and so are her parents. We will fight to the bitter end, for the rest of our lives for this girl. Most important, I pray daily that she would know her Father.

On a lighter note, I told Josh today that she'll be the most fashionable little autistic diva anyone's ever met. That's the truth;)

I love her.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Autism.


I honestly don't even want to write this...it makes me weep. I am going to do so because I think it's important to remember the journey God takes us through in life. If we forget the path we've taken, we will be unable to extol him with the glory He so rightly deserves. Really what is life about anyway? Giving God glory.

"Consider it pure joy". Those words have been running through my mind and have been piercing my heart all day long. God tells us that we should be joyful in trials because it helps us to learn to persevere... it helps us become mature and complete in Him. Those words from James 1 are truth. Sometimes the truth hurts a little bit, yet still remains true.

Yesterday, our two year old daughter Isabella was diagnosed with autism.

Just saying that leaves my heart aching. It seems so real.

Back up a bit...

The second we laid eyes on that tiny little girl, I knew we were meant for each other. When I was pregnant with Bella, I remember praying to God one night, "God, if this little person inside me is "imperfect" in any way, I would be honored to call her my own"... What an ironic prayer? Where did those feelings in my heart come from? What the world regards as imperfect, God regards as beautiful...

Bella has been late in meeting all of her milestones (but we attributed that to her being a preemie and were told she'd catch up). Well, when Bella turned one I started noticing her falling more behind. I also noticed a few things that seemed a bit "different" from other kids her age. Namely, the fact that she rarely responded to her name, made eye contact, or granted me that winning smile of hers. Yes, friends... you must work hard for a smile... but it's so worth it:)

In the midst of this I started my Masters in Special Education. Not really because of Bella. I love helping kids learn who really NEED help. I think Special Ed. teachers are amazing. I know I am a patient person and I believed God could use me in this capacity. Well, as I was researching autism for my classes, I started analyzing Bella (of course). It was like I was reading a book written about her. Most doctors brushed my questions off stating, "well most babies do this" or "that's perfectly normal". I finally convinced Bella's pediatrician here to refer us to a specialist. It took almost half a year to get the appointment we went to yesterday. That is partly our fault because we've been traveling so much and partly the military's because they would not approve us for an appointment unless we came home.... so we did.

At the appointment she was observed for two hours. The Neurodevelopmental Pediatricians and a Speech Therapist worked with her while asking me questions and looking into her file. They then went away for 30 minutes and came back in the room (looking serious and a bit somber)....you know, the eyes that pity you....knowing they have some "news". They went through all of the observations and explained that Bella met and exceeded the checklist for autism spectrum disorder. Then they said it, "Bella has autism". I had held it together up to that point. But, when she said it... I lost it. I was alone in this room, looking at the love of my life and feeling like I had lost all sense of grounding. Like someone had tipped my life upside down and given me a few shakes for good measure. I cried, not because I wasn't expecting it... I was. I cried for Bella, then I cried for Josh. I knew this news was going to be harder for him to hear because he's been away from her for so long. He cannot hold her and kiss her to make it ok. I finally composed myself and told the doctor I was SO THANKFUL to finally hear those words come out of someone's mouth...

I got into my car and wept. Then composed myself again. I wasn't even sure why I was so sad. I think I was sad for my Bella. Only because she now has this label that people will use to try and "define" her... I will never let her be defined by a label. I can promise you that....

I was thankful for the diagnosis...and here's why...

Imagine (if you have children) never hearing your daughter say "mommy". She's never said it to me. But, it's ok. She says it in the way she holds me and kisses me. Imagine asking your child to do something 14 times and never, not once even getting eye contact. Imagine leaving your child at nursery and them not even noticing you left. Imagine trying to make a list 3 pages long for your babysitter (just to help them not encounter a melt down). :)

It all makes sense... that's why I am thankful. It explains why I work so hard with her and see such minor results. Minor results for me and Bella are major. I love them. I will read her 30 books a day just to get her to say a word we've been working on! So friends, I am not sad. I am not questioning God on this. I am thanking him for giving Josh and I such a gift. I have felt humbled to hear many of you (family/friends)s tell us that "if any couple could handle this, it's you".... humbled because we have to work really hard to be strong.... to be that couple.

We will rejoice in our suffering. I don't even consider it suffering. We will rejoice in our Bella. We love her endlessly. We also love all of the encouraging words we've received. We truly cherish your prayers!

A friend sent me some encouraging words from Psalm 34 (I selected my favorite parts)...

1 I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

and...

17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Lastly, Josh. I know this was hard to read. I love you. Bella loves you. We will be together soon and will enjoy each other once again... you are my dream.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Greek man....


Steve, the Greek man.

There's a 80+ year old greek man that has been working on my house (I just rent but he's scraping/re-painting the entire place). He's so old that his back is hunched over....I mean, people who walk by the house look shocked... I've had neighbors come up and ask if he's still alive. When he showed up to assess the house, I figured he'd have his young Greek son's out here doing the work. No, he showed up and has been working everyday except Sunday's for a while now. He mumbles his words and smiles at me when I have to ask him questions six times in a row to figure out what he's saying. He likes Bella, thinks she's funny... he smiles biggest for her. I like to watch him because he works so hard. I often wonder what he thinks about, what's his story...is he working round the clock to fill a void?... Well, I found out.

One of his workers (a "nice black man" who looks as though he is barely making ends meet), shared with me the story of the Greek man. First, let me say that these men literally live at my house from 7:30am to 6pm. They come inside sometimes for things and I try to always have something baked for them.... I feel like no one gives them treats. Neither has much family. They get really excited when I offer them dessert... I mean, they just can't believe it ... makes me sad. I hate when something so meager that I do is something so big to someone else. Makes me want to just give them more things.

The "nice man" worker first found out that my husband is a chaplain and told me he's been saved since he was seven.... he then quickly qualified that he has not lived a perfect life (as if I were a priest). I gently explained that only one person ever lived a perfect life, Jesus. I then followed up with the fact that I got kicked out of my father's school as a child and he thought that was hysterical. He shared some of his life, and struggles. The sad part was ... I had already judged who this man was before he told me his story... terrible, I know. After talking about the Bible and sin... he told me with ernest frustration, that the greek man was an atheist. In fact, that he HATED when the name Jesus was mentioned. The worker said that the man would say such terrible things about God that he often times wanted to quit working for him... but it was his only income. He looked at me and said, "he's (the Greek man) going to hell". I was so taken back by his look of concern.... I told him we all were going to hell before the Lord showed mercy on our souls. I talked about how God doesn't give up on people, to which he replied... I don't think it's possible, I'm serious. He then told me one day he was so mad at the greek man that he prayed the Lord would take something from him, to show him his need for God. He then said soon after that the greek man's wife died... the only thing he ever really loved. Oh the sadness. It's like the "nice man" felt guilty for having those thoughts, for desiring (maybe selfishly, maybe not) that the greek man know God.

So, everyday... I pray for this Greek man. That God would perform a miracle in his soul. God can do it. He did it for the sinner on the cross. He can do it for him... He can do it for you.