Here is a picture that we took last weekend before Erik and Deborah headed out to the house they are staying at for the conference they attend each year in Thomaston, GA.
As I sat in a church sanctuary packed with over 10,000 people tonight out at Willow Creek's South Barrington campus, Michael was getting ready to get on a bus for Iraq. I cannot describe how deeply I was moved as we lifted up our voices together and as I prayed for all of the soldiers heading out from their families - even though I was praying a silent, possibly single prayer, the act of doing it in that room full of believers and fellow brothers and sisters of faith touched me in a way I cannot quite put my finger on. I was telling my dad how close I came to not going to this event (Willow Creek's 34-year anniversary celebration, which brought together its 5 campuses all around "Chicagoland"), and how ironic it always is when one has that moment and perseveres through it to do the thing he or she isn't necessarily feeling so enthused about! Sometimes one is still not enthused, but more often than not in my experiences it is quite the opposite and no matter what the thing is it "makes your day" and turns your mood around.
On the shuttle bus ride back into Chicago (that's how many people are at each campus - they had to charter busses for this event, and the downtown campus had around ten to its campus alone!) Michael called me to say goodbye one last time before boarding the bus. Erik and Deborah were there to see him off, so he wasn't alone amidst all of the families and for that I am so grateful. Also, if he had been alone, he might not have been able to call me since his cell was shut off this afternoon and so he called from Deb's. We have certainly learned to be thankful for each detail in our life together!
Sitting here with a glass of wine, I reflect upon the past month or so and the journey of emotions that Michael and I have traversed. The incessant coming and going of traveling physically to and from Georgia - while I was more than happy to do it, and thankful for the resources to be able to do so - was even more exhausting mentally. Trying to juggle lesson planning (and a little bit of homework, for good measure!), airports, sleep, class (oh, and eating!) seemed on many days impossible. However, even on the days that were almost unbearable there was always a sliver of hope, and often coming from apparently nowhere. Whether it was from the simple satisfaction and accomplishment of a single lesson plan or finishing a chapter in a book, it was always just enough to get me through. Michael and I have an incredible year ahead - separately, granted, but no less incredible. I have said this in a variety of ways many times on this blog, but it's the thing that is getting us through. It is what has gotten us through to this point, and it will get us through from now on throughout this year also. A sense of relief washed over me as the emotion of that final goodbye ebbed, second by second, away this evening. We have successfully (and, I think, quite admirably and not without learning about a thousand lessons we didn't count on along the way!) "completed" another step in our journey on this earth, and we should be proud. We can also look with great anticipation, excitement, and hope towards the days ahead as well as next year when Michael will once again be on this side of the world.
We plan to take Michael's R&R ("Rest & Relaxation" for those of you not-as-familiar with Army lingo - I didn't know what it was until I asked for about the third time...) partly in England and partly in France this coming May. Hopefully, my parents will be able to meet us in England and I look forward, during Michael's and my "honeymoon" in France, to hear how much he has gleaned from 7 months of hard Rosetta-Stone-French learning! He has a few goals of things he wants to work on during his free time in Iraq: French, guitar, harmonica, and going to the gym regularly. I am excited for him also to be able to actually get a chance to fix things again - for the past few weeks (if not longer!) they have barely touched a wrench, since most of the vehicles have been in transit to Kuwait/Iraq for about a month and a half!
The apartment is finally feeling like home. I made a Target run yesterday after receiving my winter clothes shipment from my fabulous parents (it's currently around 35 degrees outside, winter has arrived early and with some vengeance!) in order to not have random coats, scarves, gloves and hats strewn around the few chairs and dresser top that I have! I purchased a small, 8-"cube" standing organizer (in lieu of another dresser, as this unit is narrower and can hold books/DVDs as well), a free-standing coat rack and a shoe rack for the closet. I finally got it all assembled (it's been maybe forever since I've had to build anything myself, and the cube unit required more than a light fitting-together...) this afternoon. I also bought another floor-lamp in order to add more light to my near-windowless apartment.
The Chicago marathon is tomorrow morning, so I am looking forward to heading out for a little stroll sometime after I get up with some tea or coffee. It's apparently one of the biggest (if not the biggest) marathons in the world, so I know there will be about a million people milling about town, literally! I hope you all are having a fabulous weekend, and my prayers are with you. God bless.