Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Tracing Rainbows

Last Saturday, we found out our next assignment. We have really really been hoping for Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, New Mexico, which is where they've moved the F-16 B-course. I had it all planned out: we were going to live on base, and have built-in community in the other military families surrounding us. There is a PCA church in Alamogordo (with the same name as the one we attend here in Sumter!) It's an eight-hour drive to Colorado Springs, which means we could see a lot more of my family. Nate's parents would come out and visit us and Nate and his dad could finally take their years-in-the-works hunting trip. Alamagordo is another tiny town, but at least it is in the west and there are 9,000 foot mountains within a 30-minute drive, and we were told, lots of outdoorsy stuff to do. Nate would be a wonderful instructor to all the fledgling F-16 pilots. And best of all, we had been told on the information sheet for this particular assignment bloc that AFPC really needs pilots at Holloman and that no one wants to go there. Our hope were high.

Saturday morning, I was getting dressed when I saw that Nate's squadron commander had texted him. "Give me a call, I have your assignment." I ran out of our bedroom holding his phone, and sat in tense silence with Sean on my lap while Nate went into his office to make the call. I thought I'd be able to tell from his side of the conversation, but it was just a lot of "yes sirs" and "okay" and "sounds good" which didn't really mean a thing.

Nate came out of his office and I mutely questioned him with a look.

"Kunsan," he said.

I started to cry. And they weren't tears of joy.

Kunsan, South Korea: the assignment we really, really, really didn't want. The one that means either insane amounts of wrangling and finagling and money and brain power and energy to bring Sean and me along to a base that the Air Force has labelled "remote" (which is a polite term for "we don't want your family here")– or else a year-long separation with Nate going alone.

My first reaction: I thought we were going to get a break. These past two years have been so hard. God, why aren't You giving us a break?

Holloman would have given us a break. Life in the B-course isn't the insane tempo of twelve hour days, weeks and weeks of TDYs, and the ever-looming possibility of deployment. Nate has a teacher streak in him. We would get to see my family. We would get to visit Livia and Lucy's grave on a regular basis. We would be near mountains again. It would have made so much sense.

And yet: Kunsan.

I had my meltdown. And then I flexed my underdeveloped Air Force wife "keep calm and carry on" muscle, and we started trying to figure out what to do.

We pretty quickly came back to what we had said we would do if we ever got Kunsan (which, the reality is, most fighter pilots do get Kunsan at one point or another.) Nate will go alone, and Sean and I will move back to Colorado Springs. If we didn't have Sean, I would go to Korea and find an apartment off-base like many wives do, but Sean changes lots of things. The tempo of work will be just as busy if not busier there than it is here, meaning that even if Nate was allowed to live off-base with us, we would still see little of him, and I would be left to parent Sean without a close community and support network. We would be last in line for medical care at the on-base clinic and if Sean had something seriously wrong with him I'd have to take him to a Korean hospital. And, as my older sister wisely put it, "Better to be apart and be able to focus on doing well the tasks before each of you, than to be together and feel like you're constantly failing the other person." It sounds terrible to say that it might be better for our marriage to be apart for a year than together, but really in our specific circumstances we think it is true.

So this is where we are at. We don't have a report date yet, and I'm making a long list of all the questions I have and the things we have to do and find out and take care of before Nate goes. And I'm trying, pretty much relentlessly, to trace the rainbows through the rain. At least it's only a year. At least he won't be deployed and in the line of danger (at least not in any more danger than the entire country of South Korea is in with the wackjobs in North Korea). At least we'll get to Skype all the time. At least Sean and I will be able to go over and visit him at least a couple of times. At least when it's finished he should never have to do it again. At least it's not a remote tour in the Middle East (not unheard of.) At least Sean is so young that he'll have no memories of it– it will be way harder on us than him. At least I have family and community and a church in Colorado Springs that we can go home to. At least at least at least.

And it still sucks. I'm still not happy about it (though I can't be totally devastated at the prospect of spending a year back in my beloved Colorado.) I still wish we were going to New Mexico. A year apart is going to be really hard, and I know there will be many more meltdowns in the future.

But– I'm not trying to sound cliché or trite– God is faithful. I really do believe that. I really do believe that He knows what is best for Nate, for me, for Sean, for us as a family, and that if that means a year long separation, somehow it's more for our good than New Mexico would be. I'm reading The Jesus Storybook Bible to Sean (almost) every day, and just a couple days ago we reached the Crucifixion. Sally Lloyd-Jones tells it very simply so that a child can understand, and yet her words pack an emotional wallop. My voice broke:

"Papa?" Jesus cried, frantically searching the sky. "Papa? Where are you? Don't leave me!"
And for the first time– and the last– when he spoke, nothing happened. God didn't answer. He turned away from his Boy.

I know that Sean is too young to understand, but still when the chapter was over I whispered to him, "Jesus did that for us– for me, for you. He did it to save us from our sin, because he loves us, because he wants us to be with him always."

He was abandoned by his Father so that I would never have to endure abandonment. He went through hell to take away the hell that I deserve.

That's why I trust God in this next assignment. It's not easy and I'm not pretending that it will be. But I need look no further than the Cross to see the naked, bloody proof of just how far God is willing to go to love me and save me and be with me. Jesus went to hell and back for our sake. I can trust him with Kunsan.

The title of this post comes from the third verse of one of my favorite hymns, "O Love That Will Not Let Me Go":
O Joy that seekest me through pain
I cannot close my heart to thee
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.

Photo credit: Greg McCown

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