Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Marriage Matters: Deployment Edition- Mail

It is a huge blessing in this era to have access to Wifi, FaceTime, texting and other ways to be connected via technology. 

But with that comes a slack in sending physical mail. This deployment cycle there is little mail received by our troops. 

Many people believe since it's not a time of war that our men and women in uniform do not need support or encouragement. But that's far from the truth. Peacekeeping is just as important (if not more important) than a time of conflict. And our men and women sacrifice their time and family memories to go and keep the peace. 

There are so many care package ideas out there. Some are simple: stuff a box with snack foods. And others are elaborate ideas of theme boxes, decorating interior box flaps to match and placing only themed items in the box. Sadly I fall into the latter camp (thanks to my OCD and creative tendencies). 

Here's some of my current projects to mail to hubby: 

A small book with themed notes to fill in and send. 

Hubby loves Starbucks coffee and it's very expensive overseas. 

Hope these spark some creativity and desire to send love to your other half. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Family Matters: Deployment Edition- Scripture

much wiser, seasoned military wife (20+ years) told her story of how they purposed their hearts to serve God foremost as they served our country. And God was always faithfully present with her family through each deployment. One way they chose to put God first was by choosing a family verse. What a beautiful reminder of God's faithfulness throughout a difficult season! When we face difficult circumstances, we often need to cling to the Word. 

With deployment on the horizon I began to ask God to show our family a scripture to cling to. During morning devotions the day before hubby left, I stumbled across I Thessalonians 5 and found the scripture that is and will be our foundation for these next 9 months. 

When my iPhone dies, I will rejoice, pray and give thanks. 
When my kids have a bad day, I will rejoice, pray and give thanks. 
When I feel overwhelmed by the amount of time separating me and my beloved, I will rejoice, pray and give thanks. 
When my hubby misses important dates and moments, I will rejoice, pray and give thanks. 

I'll choose to rejoice. 
I'll choose to pray. 
I'll choose to give thanks. In ALL circumstances. Good. Bad. Ugly. 

Because that's Gods will for us. This deployment may not be easy, but I can still do the will of my Father in the midst of it. 

I posted this scripture on our deployment wall. I sent a wall decal of it to my husband. And when those moments where you just want to fall apart come, I will have this memorial stone to gaze upon, redirect my heart and hold on. Because all things come to an end, even this deployment cycle. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Marriage Matters: Deployment Edition- Devotions

Military couples face challenges in their marriage in ways most people never have to explore. We've been on both ends of the spectrum- having a failing marriage in deployment and now working toward a thriving marriage despite physical separation. 

Ways we enrich our relationship long-distance vary. But one thing we've always done is read matching devotionals. (Yes- even before Art knew Jesus as Savior & Lord he read a devotion with me! Keep planting seeds, Ladies, if your husband is unbelieving still).

 My Aunt gifted us our first set of matching devotions when Art left on his first deployment to Afghanistan in 2003. And we've adopted that idea as ours over the years. We have found this method works well. It helps to keep us the same page spiritually in some regard and it gives us something to connect with mutually.

The pages are dated so it's a great place to jot down important dates in his copy to remind him of events, birthdays, etc. 

In my copy I also jot down important milestones for the deployment- the day he left. The half-way point. The homecoming, when applicable. It's a nice reminder of God's steadfast presence in this time. 

It's also a great place to stash some notes with sweet nothings. :) 

Our choice this 4th deployment cycle is Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young. 

Deployment- The First 24 Hours

Goodbye is never easy... The lump in your throat. The ache in your heart. The bloodshot eyes from all the tears. The feeling like you're drowning and can't get a good grasp of air. Honestly, it gets increasingly difficult the more frequently we have to say goodbye. This is deployment #4 for us, but our first in the Navy and our first with children. 

I didn't comprehend though how much it'd hurt my heart to watch my children say goodbye to Daddy. It was an absolute mess. Gut-wrenching. 

We enjoyed our day with relative normalcy. Pancake breakfast. Went to sushi for lunch. Had a nice spaghetti dinner. Then the time came... The time to say goodbye. 

Arthur first put Gideon down for bed. It was so emotional to know the next time he embraces our sweet baby boy he'll likely be walking and talking and a whole different little fella. 

We took our time with our sweet girl. She had a fancy bubble bath. And then we did goodnight family prayers. The waterworks began as we asked Jesus to strengthen us, protect us and bind our hearts together. Then Arthur took Giana to bed. They cuddled, talked, and even giggled. Then they cried and embraced. I could tell Arthur ran out of words. He sang instead 

"Bless the Lord oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship His holy name. 
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I'll worship your holy name."

His voice cracked. I stood silently in the hallway with tears streaming down my face begging God for grace and strength. They said goodbye. Arthur walked out of her room and into our room. He closed the door and sobbed. 

I tucked Giana in to calm her down. It was God's grace that allowed me to remain calm, quiet and peaceful. We talked. We commiserated. We prayed again. I tucked her in and she was peaceful. She fell asleep without tears, thank God. 

The remaining hours whizzed by before he left our home. We talked. We laughed. We dreamt. We cried. He held me as I drifted asleep on the couch in the wee morning hours, awaiting the dreaded time he had to leave. I felt safe. Complete. And yet I was full of apprehension and sorrow. 

He put his bags on the porch. We embraced. We kissed goodbye. And then he realized his ride was running late. He came inside. He hid sweet nothing notes around the house for the children and I to find. We waited, mostly in silence for there were no words to communicate our loathing of the coming moments and days and months. He'll miss the rest of this YEAR. 

And the red car pulled up. His comrade came to whisk him away. We hugged and cried. We held our breath so we didn't fall apart. We kissed. We said I love you. And he left. Loaded the bags. Closed the car door. They pulled away. And I stood in the foyer in partial disbelief. It's here. Deployment has arrived. 

I fell asleep due to pure emotional exhaustion. Morning came fast. I was greeted by a beautiful bouquet of lillies opening up on the breakfast nook table. The children awoke. We went about our normal routines, preparing for church service. Giana found some notes tucked here and there. Even in his absence Arthur cares for us in his steadfast ways. 

Church was sweet. We watched 5 people journey through the waters of baptism. I was reminded that this journey began with a call for. God to serve the hurting people in the Armed Forces. And today it was more real. The sacrifice that always accompanies unconditional love. We obey God knowing He has a purpose. Arthur is gone ministering as a Chaplain to our Marines for a reason. 

I worshipped God without reservation. I lifted my hands and tears fell. He's so near when you're broken-hearted. We went home afterward. Gideon napped well. Giana and I shared lunch. We went on a walk when the baby awoke. We played in the sunshine. We made a deployment bucket list. We called Great Grams. We enjoyed the quiet of Sunday. We ate dinner. We bathed. We read. We said prayers and kisses. 

Just 289 more days to go... And I'm sure by the end we'll understand in part why we must endure such pain. But in the midst of it we know Jesus is beside us. Just like He is beside you. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

What. A. Year. God has blessed us and journeyed alongside our family in a remarkable way. We are grateful! Some of this year's highlights:

JANUARY: We found out our little bundle of joy was a BOY!

FEBRUARY: The start of the month was unseasonably warm in Virginia Beach and we enjoyed time at the beach flying kites with friends. The following weekend we were buried in snow! Arthur left his position as full-time Associate Pastor and entered active duty Navy as a Chaplain. Our friends and congregants gave him a beautiful going away celebration at his favorite restaurant. It was such a show of love from the people the Lord placed in our path. Our first taste of Navy life began on Fenruary 22nd as a 5 week separation while he went through Officer Development School in Rhode Island. The time apart was hard but the blessing was having my parents live in the neighborhood nearby. They helped cheer up Giana, fed us often when I was exhausted and helped in many ways.

Giana got to celebrate her best little friend Julia's birthday this year with a pool party and sleepover. We are glad the Olivas are back in Virginia Beach!

MARCH: Giana and I traveled North, stopping in New Jersey for a quick visit with my longest friend Camille. Then we headed up to Rhode Island to watch Arthur graduate from ODS and bring him back home for a few days. We enjoyed traveling the Eastern seaboard together, visiting the NJ Aquarium and having some sweet time all together before he left for more training. At the end of the month he then went into his next phase of training at Naval Chaplaincy School in Fort Jackson, SC.

APRIL: We were overjoyed to have Arthur come home on Easter weekend. The next weekend my dear friend Mary threw me an incredible baby shower- we were so very blessed by many generous hearts! We spent the two following weekends traveling south to spend a weekend house hunting in the Camp Lejeune area, which would soon become our home, and spending a fun weekend in Charleston as well. The travels then came to a hault with my progressing pregnancy.

MAY: This month was a tornado for our family. We celebrated Giana's 6th Birthday with a pony party at Oceana Stables in Virginia Beach.

The month was full of Doctor appointments and medical trials. Giana was diagnosed with juvenile cataracts and have to have surgery in Arthur's absence. It was burdensome and her recovery involved eye patches, eye drops and eventually glasses. I witnessed my daughter go through fear, be brave and enduring through trial. She was a champion.

The end of the month intensified. Our life was in boxes and delivered to North Carolina. We said goodbyes and shed many tears leaving our friends we called family the past 10 years.

And we were waiting for the best package of all- our son's arrival. And on Saturday morning, May 30th after Arthur and I did bible study, drank coffee and laughed, a few slow pangs became full-on contractions. A visit to the Doctor became an emergency cesarean and our little boy (at 9 lbs, 12 oz) was born just after lunchtime. Our lives changed from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and time stood still in frames. Gideon experienced some complications with his blood sugar that dropped dangerously low (I had gestational diabetes throughout this pregnancy) and was whisked away from me. The medical staff wasn't having much luck at our hospital and made the decision to transfer Gideon to a more equipped hospital for speciality nursery care. 72 hours passed before I held my precious baby boy. I laid in recovery for 48 hours in one hospital and he fought hard in those first days in another hospital. In 72 hours he flourished- eating well and maintaining healthy blood sugars. He proved just like his big sister that he too was a warrior. And that's what his name- Gideon- means: "warrior."

JUNE: Arthur left the night of May 31st to sign-in for official duty at Canp Lejeune. With both Gideon and I in the hospital, my parents helped with Giana and supported us for a long 24 hours. Arthur was released later in the morning,  given leave to both settle our home and enjoy our newborn until June 20th. Arthur was back in Virginia Beach the evening of June 1st, and I was released from the hospital as well that same afternoon and got to rock, cuddle and feed my son-- finally! Gideon was released on the evening of June 2nd and came home to my parent's home temporarily. The next morning Giana graduated Kindergarten (June 3rd) and we celebrated all-together. In the evening, we packed our remaining items and packed up. The afternoon of June 4th we left for North Carolina to settle into our new home and life at Camp Lejeune. Recovery from my cesarean was tough for the remainder of the month and unpacking was a challenge, but my dear friend Caniah came for a weekend to help.

Arthur's parents were our first guests in North Carolina later in the month. Their visit was enjoyable and a blessing.  Arthur got to spend Father's Day with his Dad and with his son. The next day was Arthur's first day officially at work as a Chaplain, so the visit was an opportune time. Oma and Opa took Giana on many fun daytime adventures (Emerald Isle, Hammock's Beach State Park, walking trails) while I adjusted to taking care of a newborn without Arthur home. Many good times were had by all.

JULY: We were getting used to small town living again. Our neighborhood is in a rural community- we have to drive about 25 minutes to the nearest Walmart. It's much like the area we grew up in Upstate NY but it has beaches and much nicer weather. We enjoyed an awesome 4th of July in the neighboring town of Swansboro eating well and watching fireworks from a prime location, Santorini's Mediterranean Grille. The rest of the month was spent mostly indoors because it was SO hot and humid!

AUGUST: We spent quite a few weekends enjoying North Carolina beaches. The children and I traveled back to Virginia Beach for some Doctor appointments and spent time with family and friends. The day after we returned, we packed up again and went away as a family for the weekend. We drove out to rural Tennessee and spent the weekend at a cabin on Roan Mountain. It was secluded and peaceful- a much-needed retreat. During that weekend, Arthur took Giana to her first NASCAR race. They had a wonderful day together. We ended our weekend with a back-to-school dinner at Logan's Roadhouse- Giana wanted steak! :)

On August 24th, Giana started school at Swansboro Elementary. She quickly made new friends, enjoyed riding the big yellow bus and instantly gained the affections of her teacher & teacher's aide. Her assimilation and good attitude never cease to amaze. She is a resilient and kind girl. We're so proud of who she is becoming.

The last day of August was Arthur and my 13th Wedding Anniversary. We spent time together relaxing in the quaint seaside town of Beaufort, NC and went sailing. It was a wonderful time.

SEPTEMBER: Another weekend trip for us to visit family. My Grandma V from New York was in Virginia Beach spending time with my parents so we got to visit with her and celebrate my Mom's birthday as well. We spent Saturday at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens followed by a nice meal together. It was time well-spent and a blessing to see Grandma. The month ended by celebrating Arthur's birthday together.

OCTOBER: We had some good friends- the Malones- come visit us in our new home and they brought along their newest addition- baby Joey! My birthday was a nice time- my family always makes it special. The middle of the month was again another goodbye and Arthur went to California with his Marines for training called ITX. The children and I again ventured to Virginia Beach for Giana to be a flower girl in our dear friend's wedding. We made some memories with Grammy and Grampy at the pumpkin patch as well.

NOVEMBER: Our most favorite veteran came home from California on Veteran's Day! The holidays approached quickly. We had a beautiful, laid-back Thanksgiving and my parents came to North Carolina to spend the time with us. The following day we kicked-off Christmas festivities at the Christmas Flotilla in Swansboro. Then it was decking the halls in our new home before we rang in December.

DECEMBER: We enjoy many traditions together as a family. We have an Elf on the Shelf that's always a lot of fun for Giana and keeps us all laughing. We also celebrate Advent and read Scriptures on the coming of Jesus every evening. Many times our Advent calendar is full of family-friendly activities helping us to focus on the real meaning of Christmas- Jesus and the gift he is. We look forward to the Christmas holiday, as we'll have Grampy and Grammy with us again and also some time together as a family with no school or work.

We pray the symbols and fun of Christmas all point you back to the real reason of this season: Jesus. What a gift He is, indeed. And what beautiful gifts He's given us this year. We are blessed. And we hope to live our lives to be a blessing in return.

Much Love
The Briggs Family
-Arthur, Jessica, Giana & Gideon-

Tuesday, November 18, 2014