"You're stronger than you think you are." (A message to myself 5 years ago today)
Dear Me (exactly 5 years ago today),
I see you driving over that 13th Street Bridge into Columbus, listening to Georgia On My Mind by Ray Charles, following your husband who's driving the U-Haul with your other vehicle in tow, and you're wondering what this place will have in store for you.
I know you’re excited. And scared. And you should be. If you really knew what you’ve just gotten yourself into, what’s really ahead of you in military life, you’d be more of both. So it’s probably good that you’re still pretty naive.
No, I know, this was never what you envisioned for your life—that you would be an Army wife, sending your husband to war, spending so much time alone, worrying, not knowing what's happening, etc. And you've left behind everything else you thought you had going for you for this. I know it seems like a nightmare that you wake-up to instead of from. And in the midst of it, you certainly never thought you’d be exploring Catholicism, entertaining the thought that the original Church might be your true spiritual home. For now, you get out of bed each morning all disoriented, wondering whose life you’re in. But don’t worry. You’ll start to recognize it as your own soon. Especially when this "nightmare" actually becomes the backdrop for your own dreams coming true.
Remember that restaurant you ate at when you visited here a few months ago for Josh's graduation from basic training? You didn't know you'd be moving here yet, and you hated every part of this military town until you found that restaurant. That's where you took a deep breath on the patio, and thought, "Okay, this area isn't so bad. Maybe I could do something like this." Remember? Well, dear, right across the street from that restaurant is the building where you'll finally be going back to college and finishing your degree. You're even going to become influential in shaping the new Communication department at CSU, and in a couple years, you’ll graduate Summa Cum Laude.
After that, you’ll use your new degree and all those production skills you already have to land yourself a desk in the highest rated TV newsroom in this town. You’re going to get to know the area better than you ever hoped you would, becoming well versed in all of its current events, and responsible for informing people about what's going on. You'll love it! And eventually, you'll leave it behind to become home and stability to a new soul whom you'll love even more.
But first, when Josh is free to be with you, you’ll travel abroad together like you always wanted to, and cross a few big sights off of your bucket list. You’ll find your marriage not weakened, but strengthened as you both realize yourselves, each going through the fire in your own way. You'll have developed meaningful friendships with some of the strongest, most beautiful people you'll ever meet. And you'll know by heart how St. Paul was right about how much Grace multiplies where it's needed.
So don’t be too upset when things don’t seem to be working out for you here right away. In a few days, you’re going to apply for that part-time job at the library, and feel like such a loser when you don’t get it. You’ll be discouraged for a spell, and get all resentful every time you drive by that snooty, pretentious library that thinks it's too good for you. You'll start to fear that there's nothing for you here at all. But if you could only see how things are going to pan out—how much winning you have ahead of you, and that eventually you won’t even notice the library when you drive by it, except every once in a while when you remember how you didn't get that job, and you laugh at yourself for being so upset about it—you wouldn’t waste any energy on being upset. You’d just know, like you will in five years, that the library just wasn’t your work to do here. But it will be a great place to take your son for playtime someday.
And by the way, if you could be truly honest with yourself already, you’d admit the truth. You already know you’re going to join the Roman Catholic Church while you're here. You're already feeling the draw, you’re just in a bit of denial still. And I get it, you have to visit a couple more non-denominational churches like the ones you’re used to, just to confirm what you suspect, that they cannot go as deep as you need to go right now. You need the roots that go all the way back to the beginning. But you have to find your way there gradually, naturally, and that’s fine. God is exceedingly patient, you’ll find, much more than you ever realized, or ever will.
Today, you’ll be moving into your apartment, and in five years, you’ll find yourself finally getting ready to leave it behind. Yes, five years. I know that right now you feel like you’ve been condemned to exile indefinitely, so rest assured, you will eventually leave this place. But when you do, you won’t be the same. You’ll have seen your husband off to combat overseas four times, and each time, your faith in the invisible God will grow deeper as your husband becomes just as invisible to you. And each time your husband returns, your conviction in Christ’s return will grow even stronger as well. Each time your husband leaves, you’ll confront your fear of death. And each time he returns, you’ll grow in your understanding of life.
In a few years, you’ll have brought new life into the world, becoming mother to a bright and spirited little man who will be half you, half Josh and completely neither one of you (Yes, I know you always thought you’d have a girl first, but it’s going to be a son, and he's going to have those light eyes you always hoped your children would have). You will have been broken and stretched and rebuilt in ways that you still cannot fathom yet. All the while, that voice of your first spin instructor will keep coming to mind, shouting at you in your deepest moments of struggle, “KEEP GOING! YOU'RE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE!!!” And you’ll dig deep, to the source of all strength, and find it to be true.
Eventually, you’re going to realize that this wasn’t any nightmare or dream come true at all; it's just your actual life—devastating and beautiful as it is. And you won’t wish it away. You’ll be glad you were awake, and present for everything you needed to learn here.
In five years, when you find yourself getting ready for another big transition, you’ll feel as uncertain as you did when you first got here. But you’ll know better than to be scared of all that uncertainty. You'll have grown a trust too deep for fear to be anything more than a gnat buzzing around your ear. You'll know that in whatever comes next, there will be good and bad, victories and loses, things you expected and things that catch you off guard, and that whatever it is, you'll have it, because God will have you.
So as you drive across that bridge today, wondering if everything is going to be okay, know that it definitely won’t be. At all. But okay is so boring, anyway. What you will be is something so much better.
Courage, dear heart.
You (In five years)