A Very Beth Thanksgiving

As I reflect on the Thanksgivings I’ve had since getting married in 2008, I’ve realized that we’ve had exactly one tradition: no tradition. And I kind of like it.

Thanksgiving 2008: I honestly don’t remember what we did, but I know we (my husband and I) spent it with our families. This was pre-layoff, pre-Army, pre-moving. Little did we know how much life would change….

Thanksgiving 2009: Aaron was in training in Arizona, and I flew out to Phoenix to spend the weekend with him. We stayed at this resort Thanksgiving night and had the dinner the hotel offered. It was awesome. We spent the rest of the weekend at a cheaper place, haha. One night at that place was enough for our bank account!

Thanksgiving 2010: Aaron was in Korea, and it was the first set of holidays we spent apart. I spent the day with my family and his, and I remember Skyping with him in my in-laws’ living room.

Thanksgiving 2011: This was our first Thanksgiving just he and I, and it was our first here in Texas. We had signed up for the Turkey Trot, but we decided to skip it to make a huge meal with all the fixins, including my first turkey. We had leftovers for dayyyzzzz.

Thanksgiving 2012: Aaron had just returned from an exercise overseas, so we were so happy to be together. We did the Turkey Trot in the morning (now one of my absolutely favorite things to do every year), and then stayed downtown for the parade. Later we spent the day with dear friends Alvin and Lacey and Lacey’s family just a few miles from our house. It was nice.

Thanksgiving 2013: This is what I have dubbed A Very Beth Thanksgiving. Even before Aaron deployed in the spring, I knew who I’d spend Thanksgiving with, my “adopted” family here in Texas. It was 24 hours of crazy fun. Wednesday night I went to a friend’s house and had a delicious ham dinner with friends from our college/20-somethings small group. Then, early Thursday morning Leah Beth, her oldest son, and I went downtown to run the YMCA Turkey Trot.

race2013

I had my sights set on running a new 5K PR this year, but after I took a little over a week off because I was sick last week, I wasn’t sure how I’d do. I was shooting for 26:30, but I’ll take this! My previous official 5K time was 27:33. I’ve taken nearly 6 minutes off my 5K time since my first 5K in 2010 where I had a time of 32:17. I really think though that if I’m consistent with speed and hill work I can improve even more. I also was hoping to see Farrah of Fairy Healthy Life and we ran into each other!

I PR'd! 26:49 official time!!
I PR’d! 26:49 official time!!

After the race, Leah Beth, Nolan and I were freeeezing from being sweaty. We headed back to their house, destinkified (yes, it’s a word) and finished up dinner. We did not cook our own turkey; instead, we ordered a smoked turkey breast from Rudy’s Texas BBQ. We had a slightly unconventional menu, including fruit salad, cranberry walnut salad, Texas potatoes, corn casserole, Hawaiian rolls (um, duh), apple pie, and Mississippi Mud. I have to say, this is the first holiday where I have not overindulged!

So, we had Leah Beth and her family; me, Elizabeth; and my “Mexican twin,” also Elizabeth, for dinner. We call each other “twin” because even though we have different cultures and first languages, it is freaky how many things we have in common. Seriously freaky. I just love having wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ! We truly are a family away from family.

Elizabeth, Leah Beth, Elizabeth (me)
me, Carson, Elizabeth
me, Carson, Elizabeth

Do not be deceived; our day wasn’t over after dinner. We watched Elf, which I am ashamed to admit that I had never seen. Elizabeth left and Leah Beth and I left to work a shift as “friends and family” at Old Navy. We worked together at a table giving cards to people who had received wristbands as they walked in for a chance to win a million. Most people were really nice and even offered to share a portion of their winnings with us, and we also of course had a couple interesting characters. After our shift was over, we shopped at Old Navy (50% off!) and then went to Target expecting it to be pretty busy. However, since the sales had started so early, at 1 AM it wasn’t busy at all. It was probably the calmest Target experience I’d had here.

photo_1
Working at Old Navy

We got home roughly at about 2 AM and we crashed. Hard. I’d been up for almost 24 hours because silly me, I had caffeine late Wednesday night and couldn’t stay asleep. The Very Beth Thanksgiving was undoubtedly a Thanksgiving to remember!

As you can imagine, it’s difficult to be half a world away from your spouse anyway, let alone during the holidays. But I’m thankful for a family who’s adopted me as their own (I’m Aunt Biff in that house ;)). Not every military wife with a deployed spouse has that. Several times this week when I thought about how many people I know here who love me and would help me out at any time, I became teary-eyed and felt overwhelmed with gratefulness.

Now the countdown is on for the end of the semester. Monday begins the last week of classes, and then we have finals and then I’m DONE until the third week in January. My favorite aunt comes to visit soon, and then we spend the weekend together here before flying back to Illinois together. Both of my sisters have come to visit me this year at different times, but my family hasn’t been together in one place since last Christmas. A year is a long time to go between visits!

I hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving!

Jericho prayers: in progress.

Back in November I made a list of huge, crazy, possible impossible prayers. Looking back at my journal tonight, I found that some of them have been answered. Not that I’m surprised, really, because God is God and He does awesome things. But I did think, Man, wow, He really did hear me! Ummm, you fool. Of course He did. #derp

#1 – That our debt will be paid off & finances released in order to give more to missions and do God’s work more effectively.

A summer research assistantship basically fell into my lap, and the professor heading it up told me that he wasn’t expecting to get the grant money for it at all. Aaron got deployment orders, which secures tax-free income and a bunch of other financial goodies, and I got word that I will be keeping my assistantship into the fall. Making progress!

#2 – That we could be missionaries in the Middle East/North Africa

We went to the World Missions Summit in December and met an amazing couple who serve in Jordan and hit it off with them quite well, actually. Making progress!

#4 (#3 is there, still working on that one!) – That Aaron and I would have an opportunity to travel over there (Middle East) soon.

Aaron’s over there now, deployed. Making progress!

#5 – #9 – Still working on those.

 

So… I guess it’s safe to say that I brought this deployment down from heaven. Hmmm, maybe that’s why I feel so “okay” about it?? I dunno, just thinking out loud here…

I’m posting this as a testimony to God’s faithfulness, and as a reminder to myself that I need to be diligent in praying for these and other “Jericho” prayers. Remember Joshua, and how God told him to march around these ginormous walls and they would eventually come tumbling down? No need to go and fight any dudes.. just march around the city. And it worked! Imagine that.

Imma keep marching.

 

A new kind of separation

We’re almost a week down in Deployment 2013-2014. I have this nifty little thing lovingly called a “Donut of Misery”, and right now mine looks like this:

DOM

Lovely, right? Whew. 2%. We may or may not be a little farther into this than what this says, but we don’t know exactly how long he’ll be gone.

Honestly, I have had a great week. That totally goes against normal expectations. I had finals this week, so I had that to keep me focused. I finally have a total break from everything.. school, work, husband. Naw, just kidding. 😉 I spent the entire afternoon at the spa yesterday, which is something I never thought I’d say. Aaron set me up well before he left with a gift certificate for my birthday. I informed him that he can get me a spa package for every birthday, anniversary and Christmas from now until I die. Srsly.

The weeks before this week, however, were a funny sort of purgatory. You know how it goes… super emotional, crazy, clingy, just downright insane. Me, not him of course. It was probably the worst time we had on the eve of a separation. But now that he’s made it to his destination safely and we’ve been able to chat a few times, and finals are over, I’ve been feeling really really good.

I have a few theories as to why I feel so great even though he’s just left.

1) Basic training had very very little communication. We hadn’t been apart for about two years and so it felt like it was new. There was a lot of hype surrounding his leaving for BCT… it was finally a new job for him, I didn’t know if I was going to move to Arizona with him, etc. I was also still in my first year of teaching and approaching the end of the school year.

2) AIT (job training) in Arizona was spent apart because I had chosen to keep my job in IL so that we could pay down some debt because at that point we literally could not afford for me not to work. We’d be broke.

3) Korea…. ohhhhh Korea. Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh ghafesrjghrabi&!&@##. This was probably the single most frustrating thing I’d ever experienced. I quit my full-time job. Derp. I should have known better than to quit before I knew for sure that I’d be heading over the big blue ocean. It was a ridiculous waiting game of whether the Army would approve me to move over there, and then after five months of that BS we just decided that it wasn’t happening. On top of that, we had no idea in which country or when we’d see each other again.

Now… well, now we’ve lived in El Paso for two years. We have an amazing set of friends who really are family to us (including some fellow Illinoisans!). I just successfully finished the first year in my Master’s program, with one year to go. I know where I’ll be seeing Aaron next, not just when. We’re not absolutely drowning in debt, in fact, we’re making great progress. I know the job I’ll be working six, even twelve months from now. I have the best canine companion a girl could ask for.

We’ve been in this life for four years now. This separation is what happens when you sign up for the Army. You learn that life doesn’t start when he gets back; it keeps going. It’s not just you acting like you’re strong; you are strong because of what you’ve gone through, and that’s okay. It’s okay to not be ridden with sadness or anxiety over him leaving. It’s okay to enjoy life. It’s okay for him to make the most out of his time overseas, too.

So, time to kick this into high gear, dudes!

Busy.

We are in the fifth week of the semester already. This week has been crazy! It’s not that things I do are particularly challenging; it’s that every couple hours I’m starting something different. I practically live in Liberal Arts building. But I love this program. This week I taught a class in preparation to teach it as an instructor in the fall (in Texas you have to have 18 hours to teach college level). It was great. I love that I know what I’m good at, and I love that what I’m good at is also something I enjoy. I just hope I’m not shooting myself in the foot when I graduate and going back out into a sucky teaching field. Also, who knows where we’ll be stationed in a year and a half.

Lent is underway, and one thing I was thinking of giving up was social media; however, I don’t think that’s necessary! I’m not on nearly as much as I was, and it’s been a welcome change. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to be “all in”… and I am, out of both desire and necessity.

Spring break commences in only three short weeks, and my sister Emily is coming to visit! I’m so excited to give her a little tour of the Southwest. A few places we will visit are Mesilla, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and of course different places in El Paso. Hopefully the weather will be good and not too windy. You know what they say around here, Febrero loco y marzo otro poco. Let’s hope the wind is poco.

I’ve been sick this week too, but I motivated mentally to run more, so I hope it will translate to the physical realm! My next post should be introducing to my new nephew, who is delaying his arrival into the world (my sister Leah was due three days ago!). Little stinker. 😉

The year of big girl panties: a recap.

My presence on my blog has been scant recently. I come to my laptop tonight from my sewing table. I always seem to think better when I’m sewing… my mind is free and it wanders while my hands are still busy. I’m so fidgety, just like my grandpa.

I doubt I’ll be posting much over the next few weeks; I finish up the semester this coming week, in a little over a week we fly to Illinois to spend Christmas with family, then we come back to Texas to go to the World Missions Summit in Fort Worth. I hope the last few weeks of 2012 go slowly and we’re able to enjoy them as much as possible.

So, the title. In the military-spouse world, when we talk about getting through “grown-up” things by gritting our teeth and putting our whiny ways aside, we call that “putting our big girl panties on”. A silly metaphor, maybe, but you can’t wear Disney Princess underwear forever. At least, I haven’t found any in my size…

This was a year of gritting my teeth and getting through things. It wasn’t a horrible year; I wouldn’t even say it was a bad year. But there were a lot of tough situations that have forced me to mature (we all need that, right??) and trust God more. That’s a generalization though, for sure.

Two-thousand twelve started out with me working a job that I severely disliked. Severely. Life is short, and in my 26 years I like to say that I’ve learned how to make sound decisions, so I decided to quit. I barely had another “job” lined up… nannying. It was enjoyable enough, but definitely something I wouldn’t want to do long term. I love kids. I love other people’s kids, for the most part. But I don’t have kids yet, so it’s safe to say that taking care of other people’s kids when I haven’t yet decided to go down that road just isn’t fun sometimes. However, on a farm in southern New Mexico, I finally learned what was important in life and became content in my situation.

I experienced a couple more firsts this year, namely the death of a close loved one, and the absence of my husband during this time. Actually, the absence of my family during the few days before I flew to Illinois. I would not relive those days or wish them on anyone. Never in my life had I been so anxious and desperate that I couldn’t even muster an appetite, and if you’ve been around me for even a day you know that I love food! It was awful. I am very lucky that I was able to go home and say a proper goodbye.

This year was also the first that my husband and I have gone on separate trips out of the country. While I would have loved to have him with me in Honduras, and I would have loved to go with him (sorry, still have to be vague about where!), it was a good experience to travel on my own. It only feeds my desire to travel somewhere every few months!

And as an ongoing event of 2012, I’ve finally become happy(ier) with my body and also with my fitness and eating habits. I haven’t been tracking my calories or paces for awhile now, and it’s freeing. Having no expectations of my paces makes good races and paces that much sweeter. I was just getting so bogged down with looking at my watch constantly and figuratively beating myself up over it, and then getting on the scale and beating myself up about those numbers. Damn numbers. Done. Done done done.

One of the most freeing aspects of 2012 was that I’ve finally, finallyFINALLY surrendered my baby fever. We, my husband and I, came to the conclusion that we are not ready for children yet, despite what people say. What do people really know anyway? They just want to oogle and stalk pictures of your family on Facebook; they’re not thinking of the sleepless nights, poopy diapers, and expenses that come with having children. We want to be a little selfish for awhile still. We want to finish degrees and fly on planes to cool places and just be us for awhile longer. Our family is complete the way it is now. It’s taken me awhile to be okay with that, but now I am. This pretty much sums it up:

my dog
Thanks, Jess!

…but really. My dog is awesome.

2012 was absolutely 100% essential for my development as an adult. I wouldn’t do it again, but I wouldn’t change it either, at least the things that weren’t outside of my control. 2013 will see a subsequently 27-year-old Elizabeth with her big girl panties on, guns a-blazin’. Strange picture…. but whatever. 😉

Thankful in November

I’m not a fan of blowing up my own Facebook news feed every day with stuff, so I’ll keep a blog entry for the month.

I’m thankful for…

11/1  …all the opportunities I’ve had to travel the US and the world. It’s such a blessing to be able to see all of God’s people in action, and to minister to His church.

11/2 …the safety we’ve had while traveling. Even when I was in Bolivia in the midst of their president resigning and there being transportation strikes all over the country, I was able to get home safely.

11/3 …God bringing us to El Paso. I’ve always felt connected to the Southwest, but wasn’t sure why, and I actually cried (not with joy) when Aaron told me we were moving here. But I can truly say we love it here.

11/4 …my parents and sisters, and that we’re so close. So many people can’t stand their families or are estranged from them, and although we’ve had our moments, we forgive each other and move on. My sisters are my best friends.

11/5 …my relationship with my husband. We’ve been apart for over half of our almost 10-year relationship, and because of that we are expert communicators with each other. We can pick our battles and not let the small things get to us (most of the time…;))

11/6 …the fact that God provides everything we need. We may not always have extra, but we have enough. If I didn’t have my job I have now, we wouldn’t be able to go home for Christmas or to the World Missions Summit. Coincidence? I think not.

11/7 …that I discovered my professional calling at a young age, 17 to be exact. I knew I would go into education before I graduated high school, and I found out that I love teaching. It makes me happy, especially when I’m having a crappy day. I love interacting with students, and with my international students, I’m learning so much!

11/8 …beautiful fall weather in the desert. Highs in the 80’s, lows in the 50’s. Sunny every day with barely a cloud in the sky.

11/9 …for the years my grandparents had together, and for the years I had with my grandpa. We got closer as I got older. Today would have been their 60th anniversary.

11/10 …growing up in the Midwest, and the fond memories I have. Things weren’t always perfect, but I had a stable childhood and lived in the same house practically all my life. I doubt our children will be able to say the latter. 🙂

11/11 …all the veterans that have protected our freedom, and especially for the veterans in my family.. my husband, brothers-in-law, father-in-law, older cousin, grandfather, friends… our country is free because of their sacrifices.

11/12 …for the desert sun in the fall and winter. It may be chilly (now it’s in the 30’s at night!) but that sun feels amazing.

11/13 …for my parents taking us to church when we were little. I spent a lot of time at the church behind my house in service, Sunday school and volunteering. I learned a lot and many of the Bible verses and hymns have stuck with me throughout the years.

11/14 …this opportunity to study further and to have a job that I love. Thank you, Lord. A year ago I was in a horrible horrible job situation and I’m thankful to be doing this now! In fact, I think a year ago I was saying to Aaron how great it would be to study for my Master’s in linguistics, and here I am! Now to apply for a scholarship that would pay for my whole year next year…

11/15 …for our Pit bull mix, Missy. This girl is the best companion when Aaron’s gone and such a sweetheart. Glad we decided to adopt her!

11/16 …that my parents raised us in a way that we were thankful for what we had, and we didn’t always strive for the newest/most expensive things. It makes me appreciate what I have now; if we didn’t have used furniture (family hand-me-downs) then we wouldn’t have anything to sit or sleep on!

11/17 …our cars, which are both 15 years old but still run well. I will have my little Camry until the day it bites the dust. 183,500 miles and counting! We got Aaron’s car, a ’96 Honda, over a year ago when we expected him to deploy only a few short months later. Over a year later (and after a little pocket change…) and it’s still running well!

11/18 …simple evenings. Homemade chicken and dumplings in the crockpot for dinner, and relaxing and watching TV on the couch.

11/19 …my husband’s approval of my coffee budget for school/work. Sometimes (or a lot of times) you just gotta have Starbucks.

11/20 …our church friends who feel like family here… Alvin, Lacey, Marc, Leah Beth, Elizabeth, Stephanie, Karla, Gabe, Doug, Priscilla, Rachel, Mando, and many others. We’re spending Thanksgiving with some of our “family” from church eating and playing games.. can’t wait!

11/21 …for “us”. I love everything about us, the way we love each other, that we’ve been together for almost 10 years, married for almost 5. That we don’t feel the need to have kids in order to enjoy parades or pumpkin patches or corn mazes. That our family, though it’s just the two of us, feels totally complete right now.

11/22 …for our nieces and nephews. We miss them so much!

11/23 …for the fact that we like to stay active. Today was Day 2 of the Holiday Run Streak and it’s fun to go for a run/walk with Missy in the mornings.

11/24 …for our junior high students. We’ve been working with them for over a year now and they’re such a blessing and teaching us a lot in the process!

11/25 …for our house. We had an apartment for three years, and while it wasn’t tiny by any means, it’s nice not having to go up three flights of stairs to carry groceries in!

11/26 …for my health. I thought a year and a half ago I might have heart issues, but I learned that it was something easily controlled by diet and lifestyle, which is also the same for my migraines.

11/27 …for the means to go to Illinois for Christmas. We weren’t able to go last year.

11/28 …for our nieces and nephews. Joel, Rhianna, Zaia, Lena, Rand, and little Benjamin is in the oven. 😉 Being an aunt is the BEST.

11/29 …for a full fridge and pantry. So thankful for all the delicious food!

11/30 …for my in-laws and the rest of Aaron’s family. Thankful to  have a good relationship with them.

Direction

This has been Missions Week at church, and it’s encouraged me to start thinking about the future, our future after the military. We literally could see ourselves anywhere, on any continent, speaking any language. We’ve even thrown around the idea of Aaron staying in the military… but the chances of that right now are like .00000573%. Seriously. However, if God asked Aaron to reenlist, well then, of course he would. It’s about timely obedience.

We’ve talked about the Middle East quite a bit. Something about that area of the world draws me in besides the need… the people, the dress, the food. Ohmygosh, the FOOD. The Middle East is where we’re leaning more than anyplace else. Arabic is a language that’s always fascinated me, from the sounds to the script. I’m taking an anticipatory step and I signed up for Arabic next semester. Definitely a perk of being a student! If I end up not needing it, well then I still satisfied my linguistic curiosity.

I can already hear the criticisms, or maybe it’s just the doubting Thomas in my head. How could you live in the desert? (I assure you, there are worse deserts than El Paso.) How could you take your children into an environment like that? Why do you care about Muslims? Aren’t you afraid of what could happen? How will you raise enough funds to go?

Like I said, it’s about obedience. God will find someone for the job; I want to be that someone, not someone He’s passed up because of my fear and unwillingness.

But really, I could totally see us living in Egypt, in the busyness and bustle of a world-class city like Cairo. Or Amman, Jordan. Or Beirut, Lebanon. Or any number of major cities in Northern Africa/lower Mediterranean.

We have no idea about the means. Would we go as Assemblies of God missionaries? Or attached to a different ministry and working as a teacher and IT guy. I don’t know. I do know that God will use our talents, gifts, and past experience to serve Him in the future.

We will keep talking to missionaries we know, and I hope at the World Missions Summit that we’ll gain another  piece of our compass. And then there’s this PhD program I really really want to do…