There they were again. Those words. Those words strung together on my thrifted mirror by a red haired boy with a red Expo marker.
“I love you Brittany! Looking forward to what 2016 has to offer!”
Four months later and I still find myself reading those fading words at least once a day. It feels like an unpleasant staring contest between irony and me… and I’m not sure who is winning.
But I remember when I first found those words. I remember how pretty and hopeful they looked and how they made me smile as I went to hug the author of them. “I was wondering how long it would take you to notice!”, he said laughingly.
We were dreaming of weekend trips to new cities, celebrating at friend’s weddings, date nights at our favorite spots, summer concerts in the park, having family visit our first home, and continuing to grow in community, in a city we have both grown to call home.
But unexpected deployment orders soon crushed those dreams and left us with no choice but to pull up our bootstraps and hold on tight.
March 29th quickly came and I woke up in tears, knowing it would be the last time I would wake up to him for awhile. We had planned to spend our final hours celebrating our anniversary, since he wouldn’t be here on the actual day. It was bittersweet recalling the memories of our wedding day and 1st year of marriage, knowing we were about to create our next memories apart (whether we liked it or not).
So we ate our wedding cake, drank our honeymoon champagne, watched our wedding video for the first time, washed each other’s feet, and cried a lot in between it all. Because it’s hard to enjoy the present when all you can think about is the future.
It was a long, quiet ride to the airport as he held my hand and prayed. I could feel the knots forming in my stomach as we were hugging goodbye. “After dating long distance for 2.5 years, shouldn’t I be good at this?”, I kept thinking to myself. We quickly let go in hopes of not making it any harder than it already was. But it didn’t matter. There’s not an easy or right way to say goodbye to the person you love the most in this world.
The following weeks were hard. I felt myself transitioning through stages similar of grief… shock, denial, emotion, guilt, anger, fear. And unlike what I had been learning in the last year, I was now relearning how to make decisions alone, changing my language from we to me, and taking on double the responsibility at home. It was confusing and uncomfortable and humbling and solidifying all at the same time.
I became uncomfortably comfortable in my tears. I cried at work, bible study, in the car, the chiropractor, at friend’s houses, Target, an auto shop, another auto shop, church, the grocery store, and of course, our home. Everything seemed to be piling up and falling apart simultaneously, and hardest of all, it was all just one big reminder of his absence. I deeply missed my fearless leader and was only becoming more aware of the day-to-day impact he has on my life.
So as I read those words tonight, as I get ready for bed, I laugh and then those all-too-familiar tears well up in my eyes. Because if I’m being honest, I’ve hated most of what 2016 has had to offer. Deployment being the most obvious. But also, physical pain, family illness, car issues, more car issues, unexpected church leadership changes, to name a few. It’s all felt hard and messy and like nothing you should have been “looking forward to”.
But I’m learning. Learning to be flexible in change. Learning to be gracious when inconvenienced. Learning to ask for and accept help when needed. Learning to give where I can. Learning to meditate on scripture. Learning that discontentment is a sin. Learning to pursue the Lord harder than ever.
Because when we truly realize we are exactly where God wants us to be, where He wants us to be is exactly where we want to be.
Otherwise, discontentment causes us to lose sight of Jesus and ultimately, reality. And truthfully, the Lord doesn’t call us to contentment when our circumstances change. He calls us to be content in ALL circumstances.
We know contentment doesn’t come easily. I easily prove that. But it’s an every day battle that promises peace and freedom when pursued. Because it’s not our hardships, but what we are telling ourselves about our hardships, that determines our level of contentment. And by choosing to rejoice where He has us, we will not only survive, but thrive.
Praise God for that.