Words from Bella's mouth take my breath away. Here are few we caught on video. She doesn't speak much unless asked (or coerced), however she can literally say any word. I found her with some picture cards the other night. She picked up each one and named them off without me prompting her:)
I know it doesn't seem like a big deal for a 3.5 year old to say words like "ice cream" or name off shapes, but to us... her words are tiny miracles. They fill Josh and I with hope and joy.
Preparing for the departure of your military spouse is tough.
How do you prepare for half of your family to be away for 7-10 months?
Well, at the Earls house we've been ensuring all of our bills are on auto-pay so I (Annie) don't have to worry about funds. We've (or Josh) has been redoing all of the "little things" in the new house that could become an obstacle for a single mom with her little one (pictures of his work to come). We have also been trying to spend time together as a family without discussing the impending departure. Last night, we finally "talked about it". You can only push the thoughts of the departure out so far until, well... he has to leave.
Last night Josh was getting dressed in his military uniform to go say farewell to some guys who were heading to Afghanistan ahead of him. He was talking about something completely random and I looked at his face and his clothes and my heart broke. My face went blank, and my eyes started to tear up. Josh saw my blank countenance and said, "What's wrong?".... once he said that, there was no stopping them....tears.
I suddenly remembered all of the emotions I had been pushing in so deeply in my soul and let them go. The thing is, I know we will be ok. We have family and friends surrounding us and a tender heavenly Father. It's just a really long time to be away from someone you love, thats all. It's a long time for Bella to not get to kiss her daddy goodnight:( I actually feel pretty good that this is first ugly cry I've had thus far;)
I feel better today. I am focusing on the fun time we are going to have this weekend/week thanks to some sweet babysitters (Jess/Neille). I am also thankful for my friend Kori who is coming to stay with me and Bella for a few months to keep us company, love that girl. The count down is on, and I'm ready to get this party started. In a weird way, I just want him to leave so he can hurry up and come back you know?
Is it ok to say, "I want to punch this deployment in the face"? After reading Hunger Games, I feel like I can say that?
If you took the time to visit this blog today, I ask that you pray for our Isabella. She is making much progress with her new ABA therapist and in school as well. She is also experiencing new frustrations. Because she doesn't know how to process her frustration, it often results in bodily harm. See below.
As her mother, my heart literally breaks to pieces when she comes home from school with these bite marks. I ponder the ways in which she was frustrated that day, and wish that I could be by her side from sun up to sun down to protect her. God healed Bella from her constant head banging, and I believe he can do the same in this situation. So, I will remember this from God's word:
"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of Him" (1 John 5:14-15).
Josh leaves for Afghanistan soon. This verse touched my heart today as I tried to mentally process the huge mountain we are about to climb. I don't pray enough, that is a fact. I am not joyful and do not give thanks in all circumstances. I pray I can live this out ... in real life...
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
...a question and answer session from a "wild" Chaplain's wife (Annie) to a "smokin' hot" Chaplain (Josh).
What were you like when you were younger? Wow this could be a long answer....simply put I was BAD! I am the middle child of three and the only boy so from the get go I was about proving how tough I was and trying to stand out. By the time I got to middle school and high school this drive had fleshed itself out in various actions. I was defiant towards my parents (I know typical teenager stuff) except I would go so far as to try to beat my dad up. I was apathetic towards school (my freshman year of high school I amassed an amazing 1.2 GPA). Finally I did everything I could to try to look as hard and as cool as I could (specifically by getting in fights, doing drugs, and seeking to be a jerk at every opportunity). So that is what I was like until the age of 15 when God saved me by His precious grace poured out at the Cross and I became a completely different person. All the satisfaction and salvation I was trying to find in all the defiant things I instead found purely in Christ and I was freed from those actions. Now there are consequences to your actions. My years of defiance resulted in me having to move away at the age of 16 because of all the negative things I got tied up in... I moved to another state to finish high school. So that was me when I was younger.
Who is your greatest role model? Why? I guess I am supposed to say Jesus!!! And He is my greatest role model, don't go reporting me. There are a few different people for different areas of my life. First, my father Rod Earls has been someone who I have always been able to look up to as he has always pointed me towards Christ in my life. Second, would be my father-in-law Richard Koole. Yep... you guessed it, my father is a preacher....and my father in-law is a preacher. Rick has continually given me great insight and guidance throughout the 10 years that I have known him. I often talk with Annie about how my dad gives me one perspective and Rick gives me a different one and I love that. Third, would be one of my college professors at Liberty University, Dr. Samuel Smith. He took to time to have lunch once a week with an inquisitive History student and instilled in me the knowledge and confidence that I could one day make a good academic.... and steered me in a God honoring path. Fourth, would be a professional role model who I have only met once, John Piper. I don't really know this man but I love his vision of God and his preaching. I devoured his preaching all throughout my college and seminary days (7 years worth). I have degrees from schools that have given me the opportunity to be a Chaplain but I think I have learned far more from feeding on his preaching day after day. So those are my four great role models!
When you first met me (Annie), did you think I'd be a Chaplain's wife one day? (neither did I...he, he) No, because I didn't think that I would be a Chaplain at the time. But I knew that you would be a great wife and we would follow God together.
What is your greatest weakness as a Chaplain? It isn't a surprise that my greatest strength in being a Chaplain is also sometimes my greatest weakness. As a Chaplain the main thing that I do is counsel Marines and Sailors as they go through the difficulties of war and life. As I do my counseling I have the ability to care for the Marine or Sailor I am counseling and put all my energy in to helping them but once the session is over I can easily put aside the weight of it and not carry the burden home with me or into another meeting or whatever. BUT, if that gets out of balance, I can sometimes not care for Marines and Sailors as much as I should. So that is my greatest weakness.
When did you know you wanted to serve God as a "career"? I felt called into a life of ministry when I was young, like 18. I didn't know what capacity it would be and at the time I would never imagine that it would be as a Navy Chaplain. I wanted my life to be about something that was eternally meaningful and helping people to understand what they are made for.
Why did you become a Navy Chaplain? I was a freshman in college when 9/11 happened. I wouldn't say I knew right then that I was going to be a chaplain but I knew that my life, and all our lives, had changed. When a fellow class mate in a Russian History class (Time Bragg) told me that his father was a Chaplain in the Army I knew in an instant that I wanted to be a Chaplain as well. I wanted to do my part while at the same time assisting Marines and Sailors to know Christ.
What is the greatest thing about being a Chaplain? The ability to have a direct impact upon the lives of people who literally put their life on the line. Most of these people are not believers and I am the face of Christ to them and I love seeing there faces when I interact with them and I love the conversations we have when I tell them of the love of Christ.
What is the hardest thing about being a Chaplain? Leaving my family. I am about to deploy again for the second time in the three years that I have been in the Navy. Now this isn't a lot in comparison to other service members but, it is still really hard.
When you are deployed, what do you do as a Chaplain? I am counseling Marines and Sailors when issues arise (and every kind of issue does). I am doing weekly services, bible studies, worship times. I am going to meetings, meetings, and more meetings on everything that is happening in my command. Finally, I am giving advice to the command whenever a situation comes up that I can speak to. All while being and living with the Marines and Sailors while they are downrange.
When you are NOT deployed, what do you as a Chaplain? Well I still do alot of counseling (it focuses more on the family, work, and spiritual issues that people go through as a normal part of life). I promote and operate the religious program for the command that I am working for (making sure that everyone has the ability to worship if they so desire and then doing services for those of my faith group).
What is your greatest accomplishment as a Navy Chaplain? One of the officers (Bryce Lee), on one of the ships (USS Winston S. Churchill), on my last deployment (in 2010), became a Christian through interaction with two other Christian officers and myself. Throughout the deployment we became good friends and we still stay in touch today and he is a great man of God.
How do you like serving the Marines? I like serving the Marines by 1. showing them the love of Christ. By 2. telling them the truth of Christ. 3. along them to know me enough that they see that I am a normal guy. 4. letting them see that a Chaplain can be fun, young, in shape, and caring.
Who is the coolest wife you know? Why? My wife, Annie Earls, no question!!!!! Why? Because she loves me even though I have put her through so much with trainings, and deployments, and moves. She isn't bitter but instead she is motivated to bring the Gospel to those around us as we serve the Marines and Navy.
When you think of Bella, what comes to mind? Pure joy, a smile to my face, and prayers for her future. Nothing really teaches you to rely upon God as having a child with a Special Need. You know, feel, and live the reality that their life is outside of your control.
When I gave our cats away on Craigslist, what did you think? Background, Annie and I had two all white cats for the first few years of our marriage. When I came into the Navy we gave them away because we knew that we were going to be moving all the time. So how did I feel? Sad for a few minutes but then I realized a great universal truth.....the only thing better than having pets is not having pets.
When I asked you, "Who won the Revolution?", what were your first thoughts? Well let me tell the whole quote, when you said "the British won the Revolution, RIGHT?" I thought how am I going to let her down easy! Then I thought I have a great story for the rest of my life.
....I can feel it in my bones. We have a short time left with Josh before he leaves us again. I looked at him today and remembered this hard fact, and my stomach turned. I can count the weeks on my fingers and that was shocking to me for some reason. Maybe it's because we've been so busy with the move into our new home but, I have mentally and emotionally not dealt with Josh leaving again. Whether I'm ready or not, it's happening. Afghanistan.
We've been busy bees here in the new house....preparing all of our accounts, updating wills, and finishing off remodels (pictures to come). My husband remodeled two bathrooms in two weeks because he was so eager to get them done before leaving! It's like I've got a super hot guy from HGTV living in my house, I like it :)
I can sense Josh's eagerness to "take it all in". From playing with Bella, to bringing me flowers, to saying prayers with us at night... he has eagerly desperate eyes. Desperate to pause time. It's precious actually. I wish I could record "a day in the life" for him so he could play it back for himself when he's away. I'm pretty sure though, that he'd be reminded of the crazy girls he's left behind...
We love you too.
Your eyes are eager.... while my eyes don't want to close... it means one less day with you;)