Category Archives: Army stuff

widow and orphans. not really. part two.

It has been interesting in these last two years, while Ry has been wearing The Uniform full-time, to hear what people think about military folk, both the soldiers and their families.  The word that sticks out to me most is “hero.”  And I’ve heard it applied both to the one in uniform and the supportive spouse.  But here’s the thing:  I am not a hero.  My husband is not a hero.  We are 100% human.  Just as human as you are.  And just as needy for our spouses as you are.  You know how in love with and in desperate need of your spouse’s presence you are?  Yeah.  me too.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not whining here.  I just have a strong desire to stop the “hero” narrative.  Because I think it pushes soldiers into this supra-human category–this echelon above reality, where all the magical creatures live, like the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and Spiderman.  And my husband ain’t no Tooth Fairy.  Well, actually he is the Tooth Fairy, but that just means that he’s more willing to stub his toes in the dark messy kids’ bedroom than I am and I hardly think that qualifies him as on the same par as Spiderman.

My point is, I think by calling soldiers and airmen and corpsmen (and those guys who float on and under the water) heroes, rather than demonstrating your great reverence for what they’re doing, you are actually diminishing their sacrifices by attributing their willingness and capacity to do what it takes to some sort of Super Power, or other-than-human characteristic.  What I hear is “You have something I don’t that makes it possible for you to do this.”  Embedded in that, whether you know it or not, is the implication that it’s easier for my husband and me to do this thing because we’ve been gifted with some . . . well, something, that makes it easier for us to do this than it would be for you.  So in some weird, backdoor way, it lessens the weight and cost of our sacrifice.

Now, I realize that people who use these words are trying to say the exact opposite.  I do.  You’re struggling to put into words your appreciation and your admiration.  And I so appreciate it!  So, please don’t misunderstand.  I’m trying to help you in the struggle and tell you about language that isn’t so helpful.  And, maybe it’s just not helpful for me.  So, maybe I’m just helping you help me.  But maybe I’m also inspiring you to ask the soldiers and soldiers’ families you know how they feel about the “hero” talk.  Ask them if it helps them feel better about what they’re doing.  And if it does, by all means! continue to tell them that.  Because I know that more than anything, you’d like to help and support and express your appreciation for soldiers and for their families.

For me?  What I find most helpful?  Words like this:  “Wow, you must be dying a little bit inside every second your husband is far, far away.  I know that’s how I would feel.”

Actually, I have a real-life demonstration of what has been most helpful.  A very kind woman came to me, looked me straight in the eye, asked me how I was doing, and affirmed that “Yes.  This is so hard.”  And then she proceeded to equate my struggles and challenges with those that she faced when she was widowed.  She didn’t say, “Well, at least your husband is alive.  [Mine is dead.]”  She in no way tried to point my attention to the bright side.  She stood with me.  Eye-to-eye.  And said, “This is like being widowed.  Even if it’s temporary.  He’s gone.  And you’re here trying to do everything on your own.  And you’re trying to hold it all together for your children, be mother and father to them, while your beloved is gone.  It is so very difficult.”  I could have kissed this woman.  If that wouldn’t have totally violated my rules about strict boundaries of my personal space.

And this widow is not an anomaly!  Some of the most helpful and supportive encounters I have are with yet another (relatively young) widow in my life.  She checks in with how I’m doing.  She talks as if we have something in common, as if we speak the same language.  I’m humbled by her, because I am very cognizant that my situation is not exactly the same.  My husband is alive.  And he will be coming back to me.  And I still get to talk to him on the phone and see his face via Facetime.  I am in better shape than either of these women.  And yet, and here’s what’s most important, I think, neither one of them for a second suggests that my situation could be worse.  Neither one of them lifts up before my mind the things about this deployment business for which I should be grateful. Not a single, “Buck up!” or “Suck it up!” Nor, “Look on the bright side!”  No.  They look me in the eye.  They know and respect that I’m suffering here (on my own scale) and they neither minimize nor deny it.  They do not hide from my pain.

And maybe that is the real key.  We humans have a tendency to run the opposite way from pain.  I know I do.  When I can.  Even when we see pain in others, our first reaction is to “RUN AWAAYYYY!! RUN AWAAAYY!!”  And maybe widows have gained the capacity to stare pain and suffering full-on, to stand in the midst of it, to feel and experience the full weight of it.  They know there’s no escaping it; that there is no way around it, only through it.

I know I’m not really a widow.  That’s why I stand humbled by the care of these two bona fide widows.  I am fully aware, and fully grateful that my husband will, indeed return to me in the not-so-distant future.  I’m even aware that on the Grand Scale of Suffering, this really is barely a blip.  (Though I would refer you to this post for my feelings about comparing pain and suffering.)  But I am struggling.  And hurting. And, yeah, suffering through these long days and months.

So, am I a hero, then?  No.  No.  Good grief I barely know what time of day it is and generally forget to eat and I use run-on sentences like someone’s paying me based on how many words I can cram between periods.  I am completely human.  As is my husband.  And I love my husband.  And he loves me.  And our day-to-day lives depend upon teamwork, mutual up-lifting and mutual dragging-along, upon laughter together and the sharing of household tasks like cooking/cleaning/laundrying/grocerying/garbage-taking-out-ing/etc. etc. etc.  Our day-to-day lives depend on these things.  Every day.  So, yeah.  For a year (more or less, give or take) apart?  It feels exactly how you would expect it to feel.  Difficult.  Painful.  Sad.  Lonely. Interminable. And all around pretty darned lousy.

Why do we do it then?  Well, because it’s his job.  It’s the vocation to which God has called him.  It’s the work for which he is most gifted and about which he is the most passionate.  Because he loves soldiers.  And he loves to care for them and to be there for them and to support them and to challenge them and to play football with them (and pretend he’s as young as they are) and to be with them. and for them.  To be walking, talking, breathing grace to them.  Right where they are.  That’s why we do it.

Because once our savior stared pain and suffering full-on in the face and did not turn away from it.  Because living the life to which he’s called us requires us to do the same.  May he take our little efforts and bless them and multiply them to be a witness—for as many who see—to the One who truly sacrificed, who suffered willingly and graciously, for true Life, and Life abundant.

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Filed under Army stuff, Family Life, Gospel living, marriage, my husband

Widow and orphans. not really.

When last I posted.  yesterday?  the day before?  three days before?  last week?  I have no idea . . .

When last I posted I mentioned something about batten down the hatches, get your life in order, my life’s gone all Apocalyptic on me.  I mentioned several signs of impending doom.  I thought I’d lay them out one by one.  Giving a good glimpse of my whiny life over the last several months.

So.  To begin:  widow and orphans.  So, I used to have a husband who lived with me.  And he was very nice.  He was super incredible (I-think-she’s-just-making-it-all-up-to-make-us-jealous) nice.  He still is.  He’s just not living with me right now.  He’s in a land far, far away.  Sent there by the military powers that be.  Serving about a mega-church’s worth of soldiers as crises arise in their lives.  He’s working hard, working well.  Completely safe, really.  The biggest threat to his life is that he’s an introvert surrounded by people all. the. time.  But it’s his job and he likes it and he’s doing great at it.

That’s the shiny happy talk.  The less shiny?  the less happy?  Holy sister of fruitcake! this is haaaaaaard!  Every. single. day:  it’s hard.  It’s hard in the morning. it’s hard in the noontime.  Insanely hard at suppertime.  If you’ve read my blog before, you might have picked up on the fact that Ry does a. lot. of cooking in these here parts.  Like, a. LOT.  And now he’s gone.  And these children.  These growing children! (the boy is pushing 5’3”, 111 lbs., for those who are keeping score.) These children keep insisting on being fed every single day.  I don’t get it.  And you know what else I don’t get?  Why, after Ryan left, food stopped magically appearing on our table.  I don’t get it.

So on I march, through the year.  Feeding these beautiful little people I live with, trying to finish this degree that seemed like a good idea to start (and likely was and continues to be a good idea), and trying not to think about just how desperately I miss getting to see my best friend every day.  On the bright side:  I dropped a few pounds when I stopped eating all those waffles and pancakes and chocolate cakes and cupcakes and ganache and ebelskiver and fresh bread and biscuits and . . . and . . . and.  However, as the months have dragged on, I may or may not have replaced some of those calories with some liquid beverages I bring out after the kids are in bed.

At the end of the day, I’ve decided I really like my husband, I really like being married to him, and I especially like being married to him while living in the same hemisphere  continent country time-zone house. I like to live in the same house he does.  And not just because of his passion for making magic with flour.  Although, that nearly covers it.

 

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Filed under Army stuff, Family Life, marriage, my husband

What next?

So, two days after Ry was diagnosed with colon cancer, his job changed.  Well, actually, he started his new job four days later.  And we were so grateful for it!  I mean, sure it made a crazy situation even crazier, but it really proved to be the best working situation under which Ry could deal with what came next in his cancer journey.

Once we got passed his initial plan, that is . . .

When we talked to our family doctor about Ry’s diagnosis, he agreed with the GI about the best course of action:  a bowel resection.  The doctors would remove a chunk of Ry’s colon, taking out all that could have been affected by the cancer, as well as lymph nodes that would be biopsied as well, to make sure the cancer had not hit those.

Our first major decision was to find a doctor to do the surgery.  We wanted to go outside of our small town and even beyond the small city nearby.  I was in full-on freak-out mode, trying to research all of the hospitals within a reasonable distance from us; trying to determine which would be the best one.  In Ry’s favor was that all of the tests in addition to the original scope, came back with promising outcomes:  his CSA, the blood test looking for markers of cancer, came back clear;  his abdominal X-ray from his initial doc visit came back clear, so it didn’t seem the cancer had grown through to the outside of his colon;  his chest X-ray ordered by the GI was clear, which was good news, given that the lungs and the liver are the first places colon cancer generally spreads.  All of this was good news.  All of this pointed to a good outcome, to limited invasion by the cancer.

But still and all, I was in full-on freak-out mode:  “GET OUT ALL THE CANCER!!!  GET IT OUT!!!  GET IT OUT NOW!!!!”

And Ry?  Well, Ry was starting a new job.  In an unusual position.  Feeling the pressure to prove he was necessary in this unusual role as a full-time battalion chaplain in the National Guard.  So, he thought it would be best to wait a while for the surgery.  To wait until he had settled in at his new job, before he took weeks off from work to have and recover from a surgery.

::insert jaw-drop emoticon here::

So, as I said, this whole thing was a very human endeavor.  A very human endeavor in which one-flesh and two-brains came to blows.  It was not always pretty.  About that I would like to be very, very clear.  Because this whole story can turn out to be another one of those pretty pretty stories where the couple love each other so deeply and their faith is so strong and the wife gazes glowingly at her husband:  her hero . . . and the husband gives gentle pats to his wife’s knee:  his humble help-meet.  And that’s the last story I want to tell.  Because that’s not our story.

Our story involves yelling and crying and screaming and slamming of doors and banging one’s own head off of walls and more screaming and crying and sobbing and weeping.  Well.  My story involves that, anyway.  Ry’s story involves rugged stoicism; a walk along the fine, fine lines between courage and stupidity, determination and donkey stubbornness, compassion and “I feel your pain, but I don’t care.”

We are not the same people.  We are awesome, awesome friends and companions, partners, lovers, one.  But we are not the same people.  Well we’re not entirely different.  We are both very strong, very persistent, very insistent, (these are all nice words for stubborn, you realize) people.  And when we have the same goal in view?  We are magic together.  But when we are at crossed-purposes?  with some passion infused for good measure?  Ug.ly.  Human.  Ever-so human.

In time, Ry decided not to put off the surgery for very long, and it was scheduled for March 29th, giving him just over a month to work at his new job.  And giving his new insurance the month it needed to kick in.  The first blessing.  We had received an estimate of the bill for surgery under our old insurance before the new insurance kicked in.  ::insert bulging eyes emoticon here.::  Oh. My.  Oh my.  I don’t know how we would have paid it off.  I mean, we would have.  Surely.  But over time.  Over some good, long time.  Under his new insurance?  It was covered.  My thanks to you and you and you and you:  all of my taxpaying friends.  Here is an example of how your tax dollars helped one family in a very profound way.  Military insurance is not perfect, but in this case?  It served us very, very well.  And for that we are grateful both to the providers and to The Provider who put Ry in his new job at just the right time for our financial needs to be provided.

Second blessing:  If Ry had to have abdominal surgery that was followed by 6-8 weeks of convalescence afterward while he was working at the church?  It would have been beyond difficult for him.  It would have been impossible.  He would have been checking in with people all the time, he would have had me driving him to visit people, he would have been going out of his mind to have to leave his beloved congregation without him for that long!  But because of the job change, his beloved congregation had a pastor serving them full-time.  And they were in good hands.  And, because his new job had just started, he didn’t have much in the way of loose ends there.  He easily was able to step out of his work to take the convalescence his body needed.

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Filed under 2011, Army stuff, colon cancer, marriage, my husband

How did we get here?

Yesterday I made a mighty big promise (though I didn’t actually promise) to finish up the Army back-story stuff in a paragraph or two so that I can return to the colon cancer story.  Yeah.  I’m sure you believed me.  And these few lines here don’t count as a paragraph.  They’re a preamble.

So, you might be finding yourself scratching your head, wondering how we went from packing up Ry’s Army uniforms for good to Ry is now serving on active duty with the National Guard.  Well.  Funny that.  Ry and I try really really hard not to make plans.  I especially eschew the practice ever since I declared unequivocally that, 1.  The only way I would live in the South was if the Army moved me there and 2.  I would never ever never ever never ever never move back to New Jersey after Ry’s seminary years there.  18 months after serving Ry’s first call as a pastor–no Army connection whatever–in Georgia, we returned to New Jersey for me to finish up seminary.  It was then that I determined never to make plans again.  But, apparently, Ry did not get the memo.

We really, truly, to the bottom of our beings, believed that Ry was done with the Army when he resigned his commission.  We moved our family to this wonderful little town where my sister lives–a dream she and I had shared for 10 years! finally coming true!–to serve a wonderful little church full of wonderful, faithful, hard-working, hard-loving people.  And Ry was content.  And I was content.  And Ry declared, “I am never moving again!  I love this church!  I’ll retire from here!  I love our house!  I’m never moving out of it!”  And I said, “I hope we never have to leave this church, this town, this house.”

But, in time it became clear that Ry was not as settled as he had been.  I’m not sure when the unsettling happened.  Perhaps it was three years in to our “permanent” home.  Beset by disturbing dreams about the Army, Ry’s contentment with resigning from the Army began to break down as shadows of regret began to overtake it.  I watched it happen, while continued on his merry way.  His dreams spoke loudly and clearly to me, and this was not the first time in our marriage God had spoken to us through dreams.  Also speaking volumes was the way he put on his uniform to speak at local veterans’ events, and, even more so, the way his uniform hung on the coat tree in our foyer for months afterward.  I knew it wasn’t just due to our usual housekeeping failures.  It was there.  Written all over him:  Ry had left the Army, but the Army had not left him.  Ry’s pride and confidence in his service began to be replaced by what appeared to be shame over having abandoned his post.  And I could watch that no longer.  My husband had been a distinguished ROTC cadet, had served the Army with excellence each and every step of the way.  And I could not bear to watch him enshroud his military service in a cloak of . . . I’m not exactly sure what . . . shame?  embarrassment?  guilt?  regret?

One final episode broke it all wide open for me.  Clarity came through:  My husband needed to return to the Army.  In some way.  In any capacity.  Those uniforms needed to come out of their boxes–well, actually, they needed to be replaced with the new ACU’s that had replaced the old BDU’s, but that’s not nearly as powerful an image–and my husband needed to once again wear the Army uniform with pride.  God had spoken.  Loudly.  Clearly:  Ry’s call as an Army chaplain was not over yet!

It took several months to get the details worked out–although, not as long as it might have.  In fact, a couple months prior to the Final Episode, at a family wedding, Ry had run into a soldier who had passed through Ry’s purview when Ry was mobilized with the Reserves.  Both had left an impression on the other.  And it turns out, this soldier was now serving as a serving as an “officer strength manager” with the National Guard.  His job was to recruit officers for the Guard.  So, when Ry and I finally concluded that he had to get back in uniform, Ry knew exactly whom to call to get the ball rolling.  In fact, Ry had the soldier’s business card in his wallet from when he’d shared it at the wedding.

God.  God’s fingerprints.  All over all of it.

In December of 2009, Ry was once again commissioned.  This time as a chaplain in the Army National Guard.  And our intention, our expectation, our plan was for him to serve out his career doing the “one weekend a month, two weeks a year” thing, while continue to serve full-time as the pastor of this church we loved dearly.  Obviously, it was still the new Reserves/National Guard, but things had settled down considerably since Ry had resigned his commission in the spring of 2005.  And because we were confident that God was calling us to this new adventure, we were confident he would provide all that was needed for the journey–for both us and for our church.

Then came last January, 2011.  Word had already been out that Ry’s unit could expect to be deployed the following January/February.  For a year, then, Ry had been serving his National Guard unit on the standard “one weekend/2-week” schedule.  And then some.  And then a lot more some.  But on January 17th last year, Ry attended a meeting for brainstorming the best ways to provide help and support for his unit, which had recently suffered a tragic loss due to suicide.  Sadly, this was not the first success of several attempts and multiple ideations within his unit in the previous three years.  Out of that brainstorming session came the possibility that Ry would serve full-time for the year leading up to the deployment, providing counsel and support to soldiers who were preparing for ye another deployment. His unit was in need of the full-time care of a chaplain, yet it is highly unusual for a National Guard or Reserves battalion to have a full-time chaplain serving them.  While we thought it would be the best thing for his unit, we knew it was very unlikely to happen.  However, on February 19th, just two days after he was diagnosed with colon cancer, Ry’s orders came through, and, as of February 22nd, 2011, Ry began serving full-time in the Army National Guard.

Because he was serving in the Guard full-time now, he could not serve our church anymore.  Someone was brought in quickly, and this pastor has been able to serve our beloved church in Ry’s absence.  When he first left the church, he did so with the understanding that he would return in two years’ time, after his deployment.  That was the plan.

However.  (and perhaps you’ve caught on to the pattern by now)  Several months in, it grew abundantly clear that there was no way Ry could hang up his uniform to keep it in a closet for all but two days a month and two weeks a year.  He had donned the uniform, and found the exact place to which God has called him for this next phase of our lives.

It was devastatingly sad to leave our old church.  We truly had not expected to leave them, and certainly not after 5 1/2 years.  But our confidence in God’s providence wins out once again, and we look forward to seeing what all God has planned for that congregation.  We remain confident that Ry was called there for those 5 1/2 years.  Ry remains confident that it was indeed God’s call on him to hang up his uniform for those four years.  And now, we rest in God’s provision for the phase of Ry’s military career that will follow his upcoming deployment.

I realize I’ve just written 1188 words and never actually returned to the colon cancer story.  I can’t be trusted.  That much is true.  But Ry’s National Guard thing plays a big role in the colon cancer story, so it seemed a necessary interruption.

The thing with our lives, though–and I’m sure it applies to everyone’s–is that all of the events of our lives all so intertwined and convoluted.  It’s like looking at a tapestry.  You can’t just pull one thread out to follow the whole picture.  Each individual thread is connected to a web of threads that together make up the whole picture.  So, yes.  To tell the story of Ry’s colon cancer, I had to return to the early 1990’s and Ry’s ROTC career.  God has been weaving a breathtakingly beautiful tapestry of our lives.  He has.   I love to take the opportunity to stand back, and look at the whole picture, and then, take a closer look with a magnifying glass to discover how that red thread there is connected and enmeshed with that blue one over there.  How there are no straight lines, even if it appears so, that even the straight lines are intersected and redirected for a time.  God has woven a beautiful story for us.  And I look forward to seeing how it continues to evolve and progress each step of the way.

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Filed under 2011, Army stuff, Gospel living, my husband

Major Life Change, part 2

When I started writing yesterday, my intention was to interject the change in jobs that took place in the midst of sorting out Ry’s colon cancer diagnosis.  I thought I could be quick about it.  Clearly I’ve never met me.  It seemed impossible to explain the major life change without going back to the very beginning of Ry’s Army career.  When, in telling the tale, I went well past the 1,000 word point, I thought it would be better to split the post.  This is the rest of the story.

We left off yesterday with Ry finally being commissioned as a chaplain in the Army Reserves.  In August of 2002.  You may or may not recall that some major world events took place shortly thereafter.

The whole world had changed from when Ry first went into ROTC in 1991, and even since he had decided to pursue chaplaincy in the Army Reserves.  Back then, one could expect to have a career as a Reservist, serving out one’s time solely in the standard, “one weekend a month, two weeks a year time commitment.”  Not so in the post 9/11 world.  And we knew that going in.  I have a photographic memory of the day Ry was commissioned, a vivid image of the office where I sat with an infant Isaac in my arms, in front of a desk, at which sat  an Army officer.  I can see his shelves and shelves of books behind him.  He asked me very deliberately, and rather intensely, if I was sure I knew what we were signing up for.  Was I prepared for a mobilization?  Did I know that it was not only a possibility, but a very real likelihood.  “He will be mobilized.”  Was I sure?  Did I know?  Was I ready?  Yes.  Yes.  And yes.  I had seen the news, I knew we were at war in Afghanistan.  And my dad was a Marine Reservist through my entire childhood, and he had been mobilized and deployed to Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War.  Yes.  I knew that being a Reservist meant the possibility of mobilization and deployment.

What I did not know, what I did not fully grasp, was that a mere seven months later, we would be involved in yet another war.  Ry spent 4 months doing the “one weekend a month” thing before he was mobilized to active duty and was serving full-time as an Army chaplain.  He would spend a total of 18 months on active duty, ministering to Army Reservists and National Guard soldiers who had been plucked out of their civilian lives and were on their way to a war in Iraq.  Ry saw them on their way out and then, after a year had gone by, on their way back in.

Ry worked 30 minutes from our home, but for at least the first six months of his time there, he was gone 14 to 16 hours a day, 28-29 days per month.  It was intense.  It was good, good work, but it was a very stressful time for our family.  Isaac was 8 months old when Ry’s mobilization began.  We were grateful that Isaac was a born an early riser, because practically the only time Ry spent with Isaac during those months was before dawn, as they bonded over their daily bananas at breakfast.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I am grateful that my husband was able to see his son at all during his mobilization.  I am beyond grateful that he could see him nearly every day.  And please don’t enter me in a contest with the families whose soldiers were sent to far off lands to risk their lives.  I’m not telling their story.  I’m telling my own.  And it’s really no contest anyone wants to win.  Every soldier, every soldier’s family has been put to the test over these last ten-plus years.

And that’s a post for another day.  Today, I’m telling our story.  Of the very real stress we underwent as our lives flipped upside down.  Prior to his mobilization,  Ry and I worked together on the same church staff, sharing the daily care of Isaac who was always with one of us.  Mobilization turned our home into a hotel where Ry hung his hat and Isaac and I were on our own, serving together as concierge and breakfast entertainment.  The intensity of the first 6-8 months lessened, and we fell into a new normal, with Ry gone only 10 hours a day, 25 days per month.

By the time Ry came off his mobilization orders 18 months later, it became abundantly clear that the new Army Reserves looked nothing like the old.  Reservists could now expect to be mobilized for twenty-four months out of five years.  Ry’s job prior to mobilization was primarily in youth ministry.  Upon his return, he found it difficult to transition from serving soldiers who’d just been through war to serving teenagers and their needs.  We loved that church where he was serving–I had resigned my position as Director of Christian Education after a year, in order to be a full-time SAHM.

On a whim, Ry submitted his resume to a church that was a mere ten minutes from my beloved sister’s home.  In time, it became clear that God was calling us to this church, Ry as their solo pastor.  The state of the new Army Reserves, along with the youth of our family–Hannah had joined us now, several months after Ry’s mobilization ended–made it impossible for Ry to remain in the Reserves.  How could he be the sole pastor of a church when he could expect to be gone for two out of every five years?!

So, it was with mixed feelings and heavy hearts that we discerned it was time for Ry to resign his commission, and to get out of the Army all together.  We concluded that Ry’s call to chaplaincy was more in service of getting him into congregational ministry.  That his Army career would be limited to less than three years, including the good, good work he had done stateside for soldiers who were sent to war.

We packed up his uniforms, along with our house, our 3-year-old, and our Baby girl, and moved back to the land whence we’d come ten years, and six moves, earlier.  We were off to live out our lives in Small Town, with Small Church, and beautiful Small Mountains, and family nearby . . .

This should bring me back to last February very, very quickly tomorrow.  Really.  A paragraph, maybe two, and then I’ll be right back to telling the rest of Ry’s colon cancer story.  But let me assure you, so you don’t worry in the meantime, that story has a happy, healthy ending.

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Filed under 2011, Army stuff

We interrupt this near-tragedy with a major life change . . .

The colon cancer saga continues, but I thought now would be a good time to remind you of what was going on concurrently with the colon cancer saga:  Ry’s major, whirlwind change in occupation.  To properly address the change, it seems best to go back to the very beginning.

Prior to last February, Ry had been happily serving as a solo pastor of a church we loved, while also serving in the National Guard as a chaplain.  His passion and gifting for the military goes back to his ROTC days in college.  It was a long road from his initial commissioning upon graduation, to his commissioning as an Army chaplain seven years later.  That whole separation of church and state thing complicates the path from ROTC to Chaplaincy.  Throw in four moves, a job change, and a baby, and you have quite the complicated mess.

But it finally happened:  Ry was finally a chaplain.  It was a call to Army chaplaincy that first turned Ry away from his mechanical engineering studies and aspirations and toward seminary and ministry.  During airborne school after his sophomore year of college, Ry saw Army chaplains in action and had an overwhelming sense of, “YES!  That’s what I want to do!”  We spent our junior year of college prayerfully considering and discerning if that was indeed where God was calling him.  And it was a tough thing to figure out.  He was then in his third year of studying mechanical engineering and there would be no changing majors at that stage of the game without adding years to his undergraduate education.  Not to mention:  Um.  Hello??!!  He was an engineering major for pete’s sake??!!  And now he was supposed to go to seminary??!!

Turns out that, yes, he that is precisely what he was supposed to do.  A tragic event that took place during the fall of our senior year thoroughly clarified and cemented his call to be a chaplain.  We were on our way . . .

Seminary shopping was fun.  I highly recommend it as a past-time . . . Not really.  Ultimately, the choice felt very clear and very right, even if it was not quite the location we’d been hoping for.

While Ry was in seminary, as part of his requirements, he had to serve in two congregations, participating in leading worship and pastoral care and leading youth programs.  And he fell in love with the local congregation, with being a pastor.  This came as a bit of a shock to us, because to this point we fully expected him to go straight from seminary to the Army.  That was our plan.  Seminary was just a stop along the way, a bit of a pause in the Army thing–aside from 12 weeks of Officer Basic Course one summer–while he received the education he needed to be an Army chaplain.  But something happened.  He realized he wasn’t just called and equipped for the more limited ministry as a chaplain, but also for service in a congregation.  The Army Reserves seemed to be the place for him to serve, so that’s the direction we started moving.

The way was not smooth, however.  I’m not even sure what all happened to slow the process down, but Ry was not commissioned as a chaplain until a full four years after he graduated from seminary.  In August 2002.  When we look back at it through the lens of history, we now know that was very interesting timing . . .

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Filed under 2011, Army stuff, my husband