Part 6: ONE OF H1S DEPENDENCE STORIES
ONE OF H1S DEPENDENCE STORIES
One of H1S is a 10-week series telling the Sage Harvest story of how two became ten ... and a jerky store.
Before my mom and I traveled to China to bring home Zeph, we discovered we had an extra little passenger on board for the trip.
The kind that made the fish markets and street vendors that were so intriguing on trips No. 1 and No. 2 an agitator of first trimester nausea on trip No. 3.
As Mom and I boarded the plane to bring home the miracle boy who would teach us what resurrection life looks like, I was sick, I was in pain and I was totally exhausted.
I had been single parenting three precious kiddos while preparing the paperwork for a fourth and now simultaneously carrying a fifth.
The ornery boy we met in China — the one who was peeing in fine museums and fleeing from the scene any chance he got — wasn’t assuring me that life would be easy breezy once we returned home.
As I high fived D.C. Williams and sent him on his own plane, the one to his next six-month deployment, I just felt exhausted.
It had been a season of false summits in our family and in our lives.
We thought we’d only be apart for one deployment.
Which turned into three.
We thought we’d live in different states for eight months.
That turned into three years.
We were supposed to be bringing home Zeph together from China and moving to the place where we would all share meals under one roof in North Carolina.
But I was now transitioning Zeph into our little home while pregnant with the baby we didn’t know when D.C. would meet.
The mountaintop just kept slipping behind the clouds out of sight.
That’s when D.C. returned from his deployment, flew to California and packed up our little house to move us to our new home — the one we would finally get to share together.
That savvy man of mine had researched neighborhoods for us in North Carolina, and when he found one with lots of basketball hoops and bikes, he bought land and, together from afar, we designed our new construction home.
It was this magical experience we had been dreaming about — that day when we would get to hold hands, not telephones, as we prayed our dinnertime blessing.
Where two parents would read bedtime stories and tuck in little toes.
Where family outings would include the WHOLE family.
Where our demonstrations of love for one another could actually be tangible.
We hadn’t lived together since we had two children, and now, at 4.5, we were aching for that togetherness we had missed for three years. I could barely contain my excitement as we packed up our little home and the kids and I, at eight months pregnant, boarded a plane for our new home in North Carolina.
As we prepared to leave, my mom, who had cared so beautifully and diligently for us for three years in our little hometown, looked at that man of mine who was moving his family to an opposite coast.
“I don’t care if you take them, IF you are going to be with them,” she said with tears in her eyes. “Just promise you won’t take them all the way to North Carolina and then leave them there alone.”
D.C., just off a deployment, assured her he would not be leaving, and he hit the road (this time, with a trailer that wouldn’t quit halfway there) carrying our little California life to North Carolina.
The first time we saw the home we had designed and built from afar was the day we moved into it.
Everything about it was beautiful — the home we had designed, the neighborhood D.C. had chosen, but most of all, the laughter of the little people inside who were finally united with the daddy they loved.
We were here. We had arrived. After three years of rapid-fire babies, adoptions and deployments, the summit we had climbed tirelessly toward for what seemed like an eternity was finally here. And the view was more bright and beautiful than any of us had ever imagined.
Until the military let us know it wasn’t really a mountain-top view we were experiencing; it was really more of a mid-mountain view. And we had a wee bit farther to climb.
I was extremely pregnant, surrounded by moving boxes and learning how to navigate these new things called traffic circles the day D.C. walked through our new front door with “the look.”
Though we had learned to joke and laugh about the trials of this military life, there was no “there’s good news and bad news” on his lips this time. No hopeful, playful glint in his eyes. Just the appearance of total heartbreak.
“I have to leave,” he said, tearing up.
He had to deploy.
We had sick kiddos who needed antibiotics but not yet a doctor to prescribe them and no earthly idea how to even drive to the grocery store. We had a baby girl on the way but no doctor to deliver her. We didn’t know a soul who could care for our other children when this baby, who was due any day, decided to arrive. But there on our box-littered floor, none of that mattered. Because our country was calling, and D.C. Williams was the man for the job.
We were destroyed.
Three years. We had waited for three years for this moment where this family could live under one roof.
And in one moment, that mountaintop grew another 1,000 feet.
We’d become expert climbers, our little crew. We’d learned to belay on to a God who would hold us, guide us, encourage us and sustain us. But we were weary and exhausted climbers. Our gear was worn, our spirits were tired, and I just didn’t know how we were going to make yet another deployment in a new city with no doctors, no community and no husband at home.
“I don’t think I can do this,” I told him through tears.
And that’s when God reminded me of the truth.
I COULDN’T. But He could.
Where I was weak, He was strong.
Where I was fragile, He was firm.
Where I was unfit, He was more than qualified.
I couldn’t deliver this baby and raise five children in a new city on my own. But He, the Father of the fatherless, could.
And He would.
And He did.
After grieving over yet another false summit, we donned our hiking gear and prepared for the next climb.
Before D.C. could deploy, he had to complete some out-of-town training. He left town within one week of our arrival in North Carolina. My mom had responsibilities in California but asked when she could come for two weeks to be the most helpful. We decided it would be during this training.
She flew out and together, we tried to formulate a plan.
It was January 2013. I was due in February. Our military insurance couldn’t work with us because we couldn’t get through the proper enrollment steps in this new duty station before my due date. We also couldn’t obtain a referral. I was a few weeks away with no doctor, no hospital and no plan. The customer service agents on the other end of the line told us our best bet was just to go to the emergency room when baby arrived.
But we still didn’t have a care plan for the four other children.
At one point, after spending hours researching possible providers on Care.com, we were actually considering hiring multiple back-up babysitters who could be available at the drop of the hat while I drove myself to the hospital and returned with baby as soon as possible.
It sounded desperate, but having lived in the state for less than two weeks, we didn’t really have other options. So I just trusted in and prayed to that all-sufficient God to provide.
And how He did.
D.C.’s boss heard about our family’s crazy and unexpected circumstances, and in a selfless move that made me feel indebted to this man I didn’t even know forever, he volunteered to go forward for D.C. until the baby arrived and he could deploy himself.
Which meant that D.C. would get to meet his daughter, at least for a day.
On February 12, my due date, D.C. was by my side as Avenley Greye made her entrance into the world. She was 7 pounds 2 ounces and beautiful and so much easier than Salem, and her baby coos and sweet smiles were the lights of our upcoming sometimes stressful days. We were in love, and we knew that this blonde beauty whose curls would squeeze their way into our hearts was the perfect addition to our growing home.
Because we were induced, D.C.’s amazing stepmom was willing and able to drive the four hours from Virginia to North Carolina, stay for 24 hours during my labor and delivery and then release the kids back to D.C. while she returned to Virginia.
D.C. bounced between home with four kids he was still getting to know and the hospital room where he was meeting No. 5.
And preparing for his wife’s upcoming surgery.
Before Avy was born, doctors in California had discovered what they had confirmed as skin cancer on my face. But I didn’t want to risk surgery until after the baby was born.
I now had an eight-day window before my only childcare provider left for a war zone.
So we scheduled it then.
D.C. took care of the older four and Avy was in her car seat beside me as doctors performed a surgery close to the tear duct of my right eye. The surgery was successful, and I returned home without cancer but with stitches, an asymmetrical face, an eyepatch and a little less dignity.
Oh, and a whole new arsenal of pirate jokes. D.C. spent the next day referring to me as “matey,” and “aaarrrgghh” became my reply to almost everything.
Ten days after Avy was born, with an eye patch, a post-baby body, a house in boxes and not one local friend, I farewelled my handsome warrior yet again. After an emotional goodbye, I stood in the entryway of our house with a newborn in my arms and and four broken-hearted children at my side and I felt completely stripped down.
The military wife with the independent spirit who was raising four children across the country on her own strength was stripped to her core. I had told everyone I was “fine.” I had told my own mother not to come for the birth or after the deployment because we had it totally covered. I, in my self-reliance, put on a great show. But my dependence on myself had deceived me.
And there, in my bareness and brokenness, I found Jesus.
Real, raw, unfiltered, unadulterated Jesus.
The kind who was now mine not just to hear about or read about or learn about or imitate, but mine to fully trust, fully rely on, fully surrender to and fully follow.
Mine to lean into. My relationship to fully own.
And there, in what sounds on paper like total calamity and disaster, this God I now trusted not to just be a part of my life but to BE my life poured out peace. He showered me in strength. And He showed me what it meant not just to survive this military and mama life but to THRIVE in the midst of it.
I could either keep my eyes focused on the size of my circumstances or the size of my God, and as I put one foot in front of the other, I realized how much easier it was to climb when I kept my eyes focused on Him. And even though I didn’t yet have that summit view I had longed for for so many years of my married life, I began to see the beauty of the view exactly where I was.
Soon, nearby neighbors became friends as we started a Crossfit group in my garage.
We began receiving invitations to birthday parties and, instead of worrying about how much of a mess we were with five kids and no dad, dug deep, donned an eye patch and dove into community.
We all began relishing this sweet season where a baby does this thing only babies do — and that’s heal. Canon and Zeph had come into a family where children were already present, and being the old guys who got to help care for the baby did this beautiful work in their hearts. It gave them ownership in the family, and it healed cracks in their histories we didn’t even know they had.
It didn’t mean life was easy.
At one point, after multiple bouts of strep and an episode where Canon didn’t have the ability to walk for two straight days, I messaged D.C. from the belly of an ambulance because Zeph had gone unconscious and we were heading to the emergency room.
But in God’s hands, there was peace even amid chaos; strength even amid stress.
I soon realized I was no longer climbing; I was being carried. And God was doing in His strength what I could have never done in my own.
He was causing what should have been our flailing family to thrive.
By the time D.C. returned from deployment, I was no longer the independent girl who thought she should and could raise five children in her own strength.
I was now the girl who knew she couldn’t. And no longer wanted to pretend like she could or should.
The climb to some perceived summit where life would be beautiful or convenient or easy or simply lived together was no longer my long-term goal.
Living each day surrendered to and belayed by the God who called me to live fully and intentionally wherever He planted me now was.
And in this, one of H1S dependence stories, He taught me truly that it’s not the destination that is the most important; it’s trusting Him with the climb.
Did you miss the beginning of the Sage Harvest Story? Not to worry, it's not too late to catch up! Follow the links below for the first five parts of the 10-part series.