(originally written in October of 2017)
Officially, I became an Army Wife on August 5, 2017 in the small town of Warrenton, Virginia. After the ceremony, my new husband helped me gather the long train of my dress and my whimsical veil into the passenger side of his Tacoma, a fluffy pastel bouquet on my lap, a lace wristlet carrying my strawberry lipstick, and loose curls falling around my face as we took our first drive as newlyweds to the venue where we would celebrate our marriage with loved ones.
When we entered the reception hall, my husband and I were announced as “the new Lieutenant and Mrs. Smith.” As we walked through the Saber Arch, I had one hand delicately around my bouquet, and the other more aggressively through Drew’s sturdy arm. I knew I was officially an Army Wife as we were on our way out of the arch and the last officer in line tapped me on the behind with his saber, hollering “welcome to the Army, Mrs. Smith!”, a humorous military wedding tradition that leaves all guests with banana-sized grins and apple-red cheeks.
But I really became an Army Wife six weeks later.
September 23, 2017: My husband, Drew and I sat at the kitchen table with his parents as we waited for mine to arrive to see us off before we departed. We had our cars packed, stacked high with luggage, clothes, and other belongings to accompany us on our five month move to Fort Leonard Wood, (also known as Fort Lost-in-the-woods; also known as Fort Leonard Hood) Missouri (also pronounced Misery) where Drew would be attending EBOLC (Engineering branch - Basic Officer Leadership Course). I also had my new car diffuser loaded and ready to go with my very own “homesick” recipe of oils: frankincense, peppermint, and orange.
When my mother arrived she delivered the vintage walkie-talkies her parents used back in the day during their military road trips, along with a set of detailed instructions from my grandmother on how to use them, including a visual drawing of the only “large orange button”. (And let me just say, I’m not sure what we would have done without them!...from telling jokes, to making spontaneous suggestions for coffee/gas/restroom stops, to sharing mutual disgust of roadkill stenches). Drew and I, along with our parents stood in a circle sharing extra long hugs, words of farewell, and tearful prayers.
Even though Drew and I had been married for six weeks, there were some delayed emotions coming from each of us, experiencing the reality that we were leaving home for good, cleaving to each other, and moving halfway across the country. Drew and I are both the oldest sibling in our family, so it made it a little tougher in that sense as well--the first birds to leave the nest for good.
As we backed down the driveway, I met the familiar magic in the air which I had already been feeling the previous week anticipating our leaving. Those of you who have moved to a far away place understand this magic--the magic that makes you aware of the beauty in everything you are about to leave, and I mean everything.
You will know you’re experiencing this “moving magic” when you think to yourself with genuine melancholy, I’ll never see this [insert arbitrary object here] ever again, and you just want to hug it, even it’s your mailbox.
Why is is that everything becomes beautiful the moment we decide to leave it all behind?
Even walking into Starbucks about a mile into our trip, something I do way too frequently, was a nostalgic feeling. I found myself envious of the soccer mom tapping her foot impatiently for what I imagined she must of ordered: a Venti, double shot, fat-free, no whip, no sugar, soy milk latte with a pump of hazelnut. Then, I gazed longingly at the awkward couple on a Saturday morning coffee date who would each return to their normal little small town lives soonafter. Unlike these individuals, walking into the Warrenton Starbucks would be the last familiar thing I experienced for a while.
Following Drew to Missouri (literally following behind his truck for 15 hours) meant leaving a lot behind: my dream job as a first grade teacher, deeply-rooted irreplaceable friendships, my closely-knit family, and my slice-of-Heaven hometown. I left it all, knowing from the day I said “yes” to the handsome man bent down on one knee that this life would be a challenge. Change and transition have a history of tearing me up on the inside. But, we’ve heard it a thousand times: Love makes us do crazy things. And let me say, this is the most crazy, scary, uncomfortable, lonely thing I’ve ever done to myself. In arriving here, I was initially surprised by the joy a new place could entice within me.
But, It wasn’t long before the inevitable “moving blues” sank in and a heavy feeling of homesickness and loneliness crept in. The thought, my life will never go back to how it used to be woke me up each morning as a panicky, heart-wrenching thrust in the gut. But as someone said to me today, it is often when we are taken out of our comfort zone that we begin to grow.
Moving may be a grieving period of the many things I feel I’ve “lost” in my day-to-day life, but I’m realizing it’s a time that forces me to look forward and not back. It’s a time that has allowed Christ to begin a construction project in my heart, one I know He’s had the blueprints for for quite some time. It’s a time to learn and embrace solitude, the very creature I have run from the past twenty-four years of my life. It’s a time to enjoy the small things like organizing tupperware, making blankety pillowy windowsill nooks to substitute as a couch in the hotel room we call home, doing chucklesome things like surprising my husband with Star Wars macaroni and cheese at dinner time, and my most recent thrill--studying the weather channel to predict when I can wear my squeaky new Hunter rain boots.
Instead of opening my eyes each day with sorrow wishing I woke up with my old life, I’m working on embracing the discomfort before me. Every morning my husband kisses me goodbye, and instead of feeling sadness in the loss of warmth as he gets out of bed, I remember the wonderful man he is that makes him the most delightful blessing in my life. I then fall back asleep with peace knowing the day ahead will be here in the middle-of-nowhere-Missouri in an ovenless, counterspace-less, couchless hotel room, because I already have everything I need: my new family, and somehow the gigantic, magnificent, amazing, faithful Lord Jesus squeezed himself somewhere in the cracks between luggage in my backseat.