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,