Jun 13, 2012

Household Goods Arrive

So, we moved in to our apartment on April 25th. We had been in the Lodge since April 6th. That doesn't really seem like a long time, but the room is only so big for a family of 6. We did have a separate bedroom, but the kids all slept in one room. Fro most families, I'm guessing this is the "living room." The kitchen was a tiny thing, with a table for only 2. I'm not complaining about it, because it was wonderful of our sponsors to line it up for us. It was on the base where Steven would be working, so that was convenient. There was a small playground by the lodge, a library, and a huge dip in the ground where we played lots of inventive games.

Anyway, for the day of the move, Steven was told that he needed to be there. This was extremely generous of his command, and doesn't always happen. Otherwise, it would have been me emptying the Lodge and greeting the movers with all 4 kids in tow. And when you're expecting movers, you better be there early. Steven planned on getting to the apartment at 8am, but the movers were there by 7:30ish! Our neighbor messaged me through facebook and let us know we were late! I am pretty sure that he showed up right before they were planning on leaving.

Luckily, our Express Shipment had arrived already so we had a few things from home. In our situation, we were not allowed to pack any furniture or mattresses for this shipment. Basically, it's the necessities: utensils, towels, sheets, blankets, pots, pans, plates, bowls, cups, etc. I am a part of a Chaplain Spouse group that offered their loan items to me. We went to the Kadena Air Base Loan Closet to get a few loaner items. We received a few more utensils, laundry basket, pitcher, and a toaster. This service is free and you can check them out for 30 days. We had to extend that by a few weeks, but that was taken care of with a phone call.

Another popular option is Okinawa Yard Sales or Okinawa Bookoo (they are one and the same). We purchased our van, our car, a couch and chair, bunk beds, and a loft bed through this. We don't need new items. We went to the furniture store on Foster, but it's just too expensive. I wanted to buy a nice rug, but ended up buying one that was stained just because I still have young children and there's going to be spills! No reason to buy expensive and new when cheap and used will serve it's purpose.

At the Housing Brief Steven went to, they sent home a list of government furniture we were allowed to borrow. (Here's a good link about what it looks like.)We are also allowed to keep whatever items we want for the duration of our tour here. We chose to keep a dresser, a dresser with a mirror, and a nightstand. The day that we met the movers, they also dropped off mattresses, a couch, chair, end table, desk, dining chairs, and a dining table. It is decent stuff. I was afraid that it would be gross and/or grimy, but it wasn't. I really think they must do a good job of cleaning stuff up. My only complaint is that the bed is SO uncomfortable!

We also had to borrow the fridge, stove, washer and dryer. We were not even allowed to bring our own appliances to Okinawa.

Finally, home! Well, sort of. Not all of our stuff was here, but it was still nice to be out of the Lodge, out on our own!

Jun 10, 2012

Off-Base Housing in Okinawa

An ocean front apartment we couldn't afford!
One of the main questions families have about PCS-ing to Okinawa is all about housing. Will I live on base or off base? Our friends had PCSed a little earlier than we had and they were told that housing was too full on-base (this seemed to only be for Navy men and women working with Marines). So, we prepared ourselves for living off base. When we arrived, however, everything felt so foreign, plus the base housing I had seen looked pretty nice, so I really was leaning towards on-base housing. 

Steven went to the housing brief alone and the Off-base Housing info was already pulled up on the big screen, so it's not like they were going to give us a choice! For his rank and all that, we qualified for 180,000 Yen (he's an O-2). When he came home, he had a whole list of houses, apartments, and "plexes" that were available. I had been looking online at some good websites like Total Okinawa.

Let me just interject with this: YOU WILL NEED A CELL PHONE RIGHT AWAY. I know that it's tough when you haven't gotten wheels yet, but this is one of the top priorities when you get here. Ask your sponsor to take you to the BX to get your phone. Because you will need one to call all these housing agencies.Plus, they will want to call you also.

Anyway, back to the housing info. After studying the list, crossing out, highlighting, etc, we came to the conclusion that the list was worthless. Really, you just need to call/email about 5-7 of the top agencies and tell them what you want: how many bedrooms, how far you're willing to commute, and most importantly that you want American hook-ups. You do not want to have a Japanese stove/fish broiler or washer and dryer. You can make it work and I know some who are, but why do it, if you don't have to? You will need to use the list the Housing Office gives you for approved agencies though.

Some top companies are Koza Housing, Ajast Housing, and/or Central Housing. These agencies will begin looking for you and will call you back with a few choices. They will also offer to meet you at one of the gates of whichever base you're staying at. Our situation was a little difficult in that there were 6 of us and very few Japanese agents have a car that large. So, thankfully, our sponsor's wife watched the kids while we went to a few appointments. We met one lady at the gate and she drove us in her vehicle. So if there's only 2-3 of you, that should work perfectly. Otherwise, you're going to have to find childcare, send your spouse alone, or wait until you get licensed and get a vehicle.

We went to several different places before settling. I really wanted a house, but it just wasn't something we could afford. We went with an apartment that Keiko from Koza Housing found us. They took us to a great 4 bedroom that was big enough for us. The rent was more than what we were allowed by about 20,000 yen, but it was worth it to us to have the extra space. 

The apartment we live in has tile floor (not ceramic) throughout. In fact, I don't think any of the places we saw had carpet. It must be because of the humidity and mold issues? Anyway, you won't find carpet unless maybe you live on base. Our apartment is air conditioned, but not centrally. Each bedroom has it's own unit and the living/dining/kitchen/laundry area has one big one. Since electricity is quite expensive, we shut all the bedroom doors during the day and only air condition the living area. About 30 minutes before bed, we turn our AC on in the bedrooms. The bathrooms have nothing. You will need to purchase a dehumidifier for your  main living area. The AC units have a dehumidifier, but I've heard mixed reviews on that. Some say it's too expensive to run, some say it doesn't really work anyway. And don't forget that the remotes to these AC units are all in Japanese. our housing agency labeled a few of the buttons with English, but I still am not sure I'm pushing the right buttons!

Trash: another big deal here. Some areas are very picky and some are not. This is not America--- you will become a recycler, like it or not. I'm not against recycling, but I don't have time to sort every piece of trash I throw away. Luckily for us, we have 2 trashbins out front: flammable and non-flammable. So our metal and pop cans go in non-flammable and the rest in flammable. We also have to use clear trash bags and label them with our apartment number. Not every apartment complex has to label their bags. I have seen the trash guys pick up. Some trash trucks actually play music like the ice cream truck-- do not get excited, it's only trash. Anyway, they wear gloves and tear into the clear bags to make sure you're throwing away appropriate items!

Specifics on our apartment: Electric was about $144. Trash was $45. We don't know what our water is yet. We pay our bills through G.I. Bill Pay. That way, we don't have to worry about paying our Japanese bills. They take care of it for us.

We love where we are....off-base. Of course, since this is our first duty station, I have nothing to compare it to. My kids have made friends with other American kids in the apartments here. I know a few people now also. It's nice to be able to go somewhere and not have to show your ID to get back home, you know? We have the 100 Yen store down the street, which is like a Dollar Store. Restaurants all around (even and A&W and McDonald's up the road). Clothing stores, gas station, convenience stores.

Sorry it's been so long since I've updated. We just got our HHGs yesterday and I haven't had my desktop keyboard. I hate typing on laptops and ipads. 

Apr 19, 2012

From There to Here

So saying goodbye was harder than I thought. And it lasted for too many days. If I had to do it all over again, I would've put on a good-bye party for ourselves and gotten it all over with on one night. I cried for about 3 days at random times. Or when I saw my sister-in-law cry and my niece and my daughter and my dad and my nephews. Then, at the airport, my niece, my sisters-in-law, my mother-in-law, and my mom. Makes me cry all over again...It breaks my heart to take my kids away from their cousins. But as we remind our children, it's not always easy to follow the Lord's call on our life. He never said it would be rainbows and butterflies, you know? (By the way, saying this to myself doesn't really help!)

Our flights to Seattle were great. I chose to check my 2 year-old's carseat on the plane. GREAT IDEA. If you're reading this and wondering about it-- check the carseat. Do not take it on the plane with you. It's too bulky and the kid will not want to stay in it. On our flight from Salt Lake City to Seattle, each person had headphones and a tv in front of us. That was nice.

We got to Seattle around suppertime. We dropped off as much luggage as possible at the USO luggage hub. While very nice to have this offer.....not nice that it only stays open until 3am. Which means, we had to get our stuff out of there before that time.

The whole Patriot Express ordeal/Seattle USO was a wreck. Not very well thought out for families I think. You would think with all the huge military flights coming out of Seattle, the USO would be huge. Not. (And I'm not blaming anyone by any means.) There was only 1 family room-- we shared it with another family of 4. Only 2 couches and then a bunk room. Kids weren't allowed in the bunk room. There were TONS of people who came through there that night, but there wasn't NEARLY enough space for them. I went to a bigger/nicer USO in Chicago. Also, some young soldier/sailor/marine thought it was a great idea to play guitar all night.

There's just no way to even sleep with the schedule. We picked up our baggage, then had to report at a ridiculous hour to check said baggage. Then, we went through security, ate a Wendy's breakfast (who knew?), then found our gate. Since we had about 3 hours to chill, the kids napped some and then played around.

Let me say that our flight to Japan was amazing. Our kids did well and everyone else's kids did well. There was a young baby behind us that cried almost the whole way. I felt so sorry for her parents. At one point, I offered to hold her and she stopped crying. I don't know why and I don't care why, but I am sure the parents and everyone else was grateful for the rest. But, alas, the parents took her away from me. Maybe something about a stranger getting too attached to your baby...I don't know... :)

The flight over the ocean was a breeze when compared to the flights in Japan. My daughter almost had to be quarantined. Since she got sick on the ocean flight, when we stopped on mainland, they called her and Steven to front and questioned them about why and when she got sick. Apparently, if she was sick before our Seattle flight, they would have detained here! Yikes, that was scary! Thankfully, it was just airsickness.

Anyway, we got off the plane once, hung around for about 1 1/2 hours in the terminal, got back on the plane, landed again, got off again, hung around for about 1 hour, got back on and then finally landed in Okinawa.

Everyone was exhausted by the last 2 flights. My whole family fell asleep. For some reason, I just could not sleep on the plane. I don't know.

When we arrived at Kadena, we had to ride a bus to the terminal. Our first time in a Japanese style vehicle. Then we had to show our passports and orders. Then we had to wait FOREVER for all of our luggage. We had something like 18 bags, one umbrella stroller, one carseat, and one booster seat. While Lincoln did not spend much time in the stroller, it was very helpful in carrying our luggage from terminal to terminal.

It was so great to have new friends greet us at the terminal. We had SO much luggage to load up. I believe there were 3 cars waiting for us and our luggage. We were introduced to a lot of people that night, but we were so tired that we didn't really remember their names. Well, at least, I didn't. Steven probably did. They drove us to a McDonald's and then dropped us at our lodge.

We were so glad to be done with that part. The 2 days of travelling had come to an end. The Lord was good to us. Not too much sickness and all our luggage made it. Some of it beat up, but contents intact.

If you have found my blog by chance and are making this trip in the future, just plan on eating at the USO and then finding a quiet place in the airport for sleeping. I wish we would've known to do that. Bring a blanket or two in your carry-on for comfort.

More on getting settled to come.

Mar 13, 2012

Packing and Moving, and Packing and Moving

That's what I've been up to and it's just begun. Last Friday began our moving adventures. The men came to load up our Express Shipment (unnaccompanied baggage). Unfortunately, instead of making it's way to Japan, it's going to sit in storage until our Overseas Screening paperwork and DEA come through. Oh, well. Nothing we can do on our end really.

I fed the guys pizza and it only took them a few hours to get it all taken care of.

Today, the company who will pack up our HHG (household goods) is stopping by to assess how much  we have. That way, they can bring enough supplies and figure up how many days it will take them to pack it all. Most of our big furniture is going into storage. We are not taking the kids' beds because they are sort of big and bulky. Plus, their grandpa made them and we would hate for them to get damaged. Our washer and dryer is something we're not allowed to take. None of the appliances in the house are ours, except the microwave. I still don't know if I should pack that, as Japan has a different electric system (less power I think).

My mother-in-law is going to take the 3 boys to her house while all the packing is going on. I know she doesn't think of it as a blessing to me (more of a blessing to her), but I so appreciate it. My mom watched all 4 kids the first go-round. I will miss all this help when we get ready to PCS out of Okinawa!

My husband is at RMTEX this week. (Click on the RMTEX link to read another chaplain's explanation of it). He said he would be incommunicado, but he called the first night. :) He said on a scale of 1-10 for fun, he's rating it a 9 (so far). His M.R.E. was chicken n' dumplings. He said it was OK. This guy would NEVER have ordered that meal at a restaurant or had me make it at home! Wednesday is the gas chamber. You can find tons of videos on YouTube for that entertainment. I'm hoping someone takes a photo of Mr. H. coming out of that thing!

Anyway, that's the latest. I'm doing just fine holding this fort down. My kids are officially on their extended Spring Break. We probably won't start back up until we're a little settled in Oki. They're loving it, but I read an email from my daughter that said she's a little bored!

Only 23 days left in the states. Can't wait!

Feb 27, 2012

My Turn

While it may seem as though Steve-o is having a wonderful experience during his training, I'm just having an experience! I didn't know that military wives had so much paperwork and legwork. I knew there was lots of paperwork on his end as far as getting into the Navy, but I thought I was good to go. That's simply not true. I had to fill out 5 overseas screenings, plus get 5 people's dental and medical appointments up to date, then copy each of those 5 person's screenings, then figure out how to email all those to one person without it being a HUGE file. Well, that's done now, but I'm waiting to hear if I got it all filled out correctly or if they still need more information. Who knows what I'll have to re-do.

Now, I'm on to the moving part. I had to call Ft. Leavenworth and set up a Moving Brief with them. Hopefully after that appointment, some of my questions about moving will be cleared up. Then, March 9th, March 13th, and March 19th, pieces of our house will begin to disappear. Some will begin it's way to Okinawa and some will settle into storage. I have a friend who has advised me about moving and let me tell you that I am NOT looking forward to those 3 days. We'll see how it all goes down. Those of you readers who are familiar with this please post some helpful tips in my comment section. I would love to read about your experience and helpful hints!

I have less than 3 1/2 weeks with our families left. I'm leaving for a week to be with him in SC and for spouse training. Then when we come home from SC, we only have about 5 days to tie up loose ends and see some people for that last time for awhile. It'll be hectic. On one hand, I am so wishing these last days would go slowly, but on the other hand, I wish I could fast-forward to April 6th when we'll already be in Japan.

I am so thankful for the friends I've met during this experience and for my family. It is so weird that I have friends on facebook that I've never even met in person. Yet, because of this whole Navy thing, we have something in common already. We "get" each other. We are all going through the same thing right now. We are at home with the kiddos making moving arrangements, etc. So I'm not really alone. I also have a few friends in Okinawa already. The Reid's and Benefield's have been INVALUABLE to us at this time. I can't wait to meet them and their families in person! God has been good to us by giving us a great sponsor (I heard this is not always the case) and friends who are willing to answer our many questions.....silly and serious.

Thanks to anyone who reads this who is also praying for us. Though I may not know who you are, I am aware of the benefits of your prayers. Being a single parent & homeschooling mom of 4 kids is no cakewalk. (Shout out to my reliable and fabulous babysitter--Izzy! Wish I could take you with me. Let me know if you want to be adopted.) And the communication with someone who is several states away can sometimes be difficult....if not impossible! ;) I have a very merciful and gracious husband!

Feb 21, 2012

Chaplaincy School—Weeks 1 & 2

I write this on the cusp of week three, and let me just say the first two weeks here have been AMAZING!!  I love the training, my classmates, and the instructors are incredible!  It is such a change from ODS.  I am up just as late, get up just as early, the PT is much harder and yet I find myself engaged and awake during instruction.  I look forward to our briefs and always walk away with something of value.  I’ve passed my first PRT and knowledge test, and completed my first paper.  This week I start my second paper and continue with more briefs and a two-day trip to Florida!!  

Here are the highlights of weeks 1 and 2:
*Seeing my family: Amy and the kids made the two-day trip this weekend, along with my mom.  It was great to see everybody after 7 weeks.  This is by far the longest I have gone without holding my kids.  I don’t know about them, but I had a great time!  It was good to be “Dad” again!  They bum rushed me in the hotel lobby and didn’t want to let go.  Neither did I!  Joel latched on to my leg, Si waited because he wanted to hug me the longest.  We had a few hiccups in coming back together as a family, but got it figured out by the end of the weekend!  I hated to see them go, but I know it won’t be long until we see each other again!  God has been with us so far, and he will continue to do so!   

2.     *  Parris Island—This was probably my favorite part of chaplaincy school so far.  We were allowed to get on the bus that future Marines take to Parris Island, stand on the famous yellow footprints, and be yelled at by drill instructors!  While not my favorite part, it gave you a sense (although short-lived) of what Marine recruits go through.  I couldn’t imagine being an 18 year old and going through that part alone.  Never mind the PT, weapons training, martial arts (MCMAP) and everything else.  We got to meet with the CO who explained that everything they do there is a science dedicated to making Marines.  Just know that everything recruits go through there is for the purpose of developing the next generation of warriors to defend your freedom!  There were two surprises:  the chaplains there minister more to the staff than they do the recruits and I will be able to learn the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program!  The chaplain in charge said “You can’t carry a weapon.  You might as well turn yourself into one.”  How awesome is that!

3.       PT—PT has been rough but good.  The first day killed us (I could barely lift my arms for two days), and it hasn’t lightened up that much since.  Much harder than ODS!!  I have never been much for exercise, but I am genuinely starting to enjoy PT.  I even started PT-ing on our days off.  Our Gunnery Sergeant pushes us, but he also inspires us to work our hardest.  He constantly reminds us we need PT so we won’t be “that chaplain” who falls out on run, or needs to be drug through a firefight because they have the stamina to carry on.  We need to be assets, not liabilities!!  He reminded us that as chaplains we may PT every day as we minister to different units, and that we need to be in top shape so we have the stamina to minister while the Marines are resting during a march.

4.       My classmates—We are a diverse group from all over the country and different faith groups.  We have males, females, Protestants, Jews, and Catholics.  I really enjoy my interaction with those from other faith groups.  I love learning about their faith and hearing their point of view. I have learned a ton from them, and I hope they could say the same about me.  Faith groups aside, I am blessed to have such a great group of classmates.  We laugh together, struggle together and work together to accomplish the task at hand.  Amy and I have talked about how awesome it will be to have colleagues and friends all over the world!  My classmates have been a blessing to me, and I hope I have blessed them as well!

5.       Group devotions—Every morning we have devotions led by a member of the class.  These have been a great source of encouragement and strength.  I have been asked to put my “worship skills” to use several times, and I enjoy that as well.  It’s been a while since I’ve led worship anywhere and I didn’t realize how much I missed it.  I also had the opportunity to attend Jewish devotions.  They are much different than what I am used to.  First, they are in Hebrew and my semester-long Hebrew class did not prepare me at all!  Fortunately, the English translation was on the opposite page!  After one devotion, multiple conversations, and a Torah service, I have a greater understanding of why they do what they do and a newfound respect for the ritual and symbolism they use. 

Week three has a lot in store for class B12010.  We are headed to Mayport, FL for two days this week to live on a ship.  That’s about all I know about the trip this far, but I’m sure we’ll find out more before we leave.  Please keep Amy and me in your prayers.  Moving to Okinawa is drawing closer by the day, and we are getting excited and nervous.  We are truly excited to get to Okinawa, get settled, and begin our ministry there.  The contact I’ve had with the other chaplains there has been very positive, and I look forward to working with them and learning from them.  I haven’t been officially assigned to a unit, so please be in prayer over that.  I know God knows but I would like to know, too!  We are in the process of deciding what to take, selling our vehicle, setting up our move, and working out all the bugs along the way.  Each day holds something new! We were instructed by our sponsor to relax, go with the flow, and enjoy this experience!! That has become my goal.  God has worked everything out up to this point, and I have good reason to believe he will continue to work things out for us.  We trust in him and look forward to what he will do thorough us and in us as we begin the next phase.  God bless you and thank you for the prayers and encouragement!!

Feb 9, 2012

Week 5 of ODS

As I write this, ODS is over, and I am at the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center at Ft. Jackson, but I wanted to give everybody a brief overview of week 5 of ODS.  Week 5 was basically a laid back week that consisted of wrapping things up.  The best day of the week was “Track Day” where we were able to meet with our class officer at Chaplaincy School.  He came in and gave a great message about being a Naval Chaplain.  We are the bearers of God’s presence to the men and women God has called us to serve.  It was a great reminder of the calling God has place on my life, and encouraged me in that calling.  I was ready to head to chaplaincy school on Wednesday!  While at ODS, that purpose and calling got lost in the shuffle of inspections, briefs, and all the rest.  All of us were brought back to the reason we joined the Navy.  It was completely refreshing!

Beside track day, I still had 3 major exercises that needed to complete.  The first was damage control on the USS Buttercup.  If you don’t know, the Buttercup simulates the sinking of a ship.  Most of the morning was spent in briefs on the proper procedures for damage control on a sinking ship. After the brief, it was time to suit up and head out to the Buttercup.  The drill started off with the call to battle stations, and a torpedo strike on the port side.  After that, the damage control team went into action.  Investigators went below deck to determine the damage, and then individual response teams were sent in to repair it.  I was on the team responsible for installing an “H” style shoring on a tear in the hull.  It was kind of intimidating at first as the ship was filling with cold water, water was spraying from pipes above, and we had never built “H” style shoring before.  We eventually overcame and I stood watch on the bracing until we received word that the Buttercup was saved. 

The next major exercise was an abandon ship drill in the combat pool.  For this drill, the lights were turned out, a “storm” was turned on (strobe lights, thunder on CD, and instructors with garden hoses), and the pool was filled with “sharks” (instructors who hunted any students who strayed from the group).  We abandoned ship, swam 200 yards as a group who remained connected the whole time, and then entered a life raft for instruction.  It was tiring!  We had to help the weak swimmers, and rescue a “dummy” along the way.  Even entering the raft was difficult as I was beat from the swim, and volunteered to hold the ramp as people entered the raft.  I was one of the last ones in.  The brief inside the raft was very informative, and gave us a general idea of what needs to be done in case we ever need to abandon ship.
The final exercise was firefighting.  This was really cool!  Another morning spent in briefs, and then we donned full firefighting gear (respirators and all) and started putting out fires.  We put out a weapons fire, Bravo Fire (combustible liquids) in a simulated deep fat fryer, an Alpha Fire (ordinary combustibles) in a ship’s space.  It was fun, and I was a little intimidated.  I never felt in danger, but it was a little creepy walking into a dark room in full gear with a fire blazing.  There was smoke, and heat, and very little visibility.  We had to trust the man in front of us as we went in, and the man behind us as we exited the room.  I came away with a new appreciation for the men and women who do this on a daily basis.  It is nothing like the movies.  There is very little visibility in the room, and on top of that my mask kept fogging up.  All in in all, it was a great experience!
Friday was graduation, and then Amy and I spent the weekend in New England. We stayed in Newport, but traveled to Boston for a day in the City.  I loved going to Boston, walking the Freedom Trail, and standing in the same buildings our founding fathers stood in as they contemplated and planned the revolution.  We walked through the site of the Boston Massacre, the Old North Church, Paul Revere’s house, King’s Chapel, several graveyards, the USS Constitution, the USS Cassian Young, and finished the day off with a trip to the Bunker Hill battle ground.  I walked all 294 steps to the top and caught a great view of the city.  Amy made it to step 125 and headed back down!  We took a water taxi back toward Boston Common, visited Cheers (not that impressive), and then headed back to Newport for one last night together.  It was a great weekend with my bride!  I can’t wait until she visits me at Chaplaincy School in a few weeks!

After leaving ODS, I can say that the experience has truly changed me!  For one, I have become a coffee drinker (my mother-in-law cheers)!  It’s pretty good if you add a little creamer, and plenty of sweetener!  I have a cup almost every morning, now.  Secondly, it has given me a foundation to build my military career upon.  I don’t have all the military bearing, knowledge, or experience I need, but I do have something to build on.  I am trying to build upon what I learned at ODS every day as I strive for excellence in the United States Navy.  

ODS has also given me a new love of the scriptures.  As I mentioned in a previous post, ODS was a famine for me when it came to God’s word.  I was still in it, but not like I was beforehand, and not like I needed to be.  After the famine, I have gained a deeper appreciation and love for the scriptures.  Passages that used to seem mundane to me jump off the page with meaning.  I often find myself deeply impacted by the truth of God’s word, and I am regularly moved to tears as I consider the meaning of the passages I’m reading, or being taught from.  I am reminded of Nehemiah 8:1-9 when the people gathered to hear Ezra read the Law.  The Bible says the people understood what was being read, and they wept as they heard Ezra read.  That is where I am at right now.  Scripture has new meaning, God has given me a greater understanding, and when I read it, it is so meaningful to me that it often brings tears to my eyes!  Finally, this experience has changed my relationship with God.  Like I said, I didn’t read the scriptures like I should have, I didn’t pray like I should have, and my mind was often more focused on the Plan of the Day than on heavenly things, BUT, there was still a sense of closeness to God.  Not the closeness you experience in your quiet time, but the closeness of his presence.  I knew he was still there, I knew I was doing his will, and as ODS drug on I had extreme confidence that God was right there with me.  He wouldn’t let me falter, he wouldn’t let me fail, He was holding my hand as I followed Him into this new adventure!  It was like nothing I have ever experience before.  I talked with one of the other chaplains there who said he experienced the exact same thing!  We serve an amazing God!  He loves us, and he’s with us wherever we go! 

God bless you,