In actuality, it was real all along. I look back now and see how God has been shaping and forming us, as individuals and as a family, for such a time as this. Lee’s background in the military, my background as a missionary kid. It seems almost too obvious, except for the fact that I was determined to put down roots and grow old in one place. But Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us that, “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.…’”
So here’s our story:
When Lee and I were just a couple of kids, right out of college and engaged to be married, we would talk and dream about the future. There was talk of how many kids we would have and where we would live, where we would spend holidays and extravagant trips we would take to celebrate anniversaries. And in all of this talk, occasionally Lee would slip in, “If I ever went back into the military, it would be as a chaplain. I’ve seen the need.” As the years went by, Lee worked a couple of different jobs; they were good jobs, but never anything that he would consider a career, and on occasion he would mention, “I could still see myself being a chaplain in the military one day.”
Then came the day that changed everything. Lee had been working as the discipleship pastor at Fort Mill Church of God for about three years at that point. We had a one year old, an infant, and were expecting our third. We were happy, and we felt like we were right where we were supposed to be, so I was taken aback when Lee came home talking more seriously than ever about the chaplaincy. His father, the senior pastor at that time, had encouraged all of the staff to evaluate their calling and prayerfully consider if the Lord was still calling them to FMCOG or if He had other plans for them. Lee took this seriously. He came home and said that it was time for us to diligently pray about our future and look into the chaplaincy so that we could either pursue it or lay the idea to rest. Over the next few days he and I prayed about this major life decision as we did our research on the subject. I must admit, there was a lot more research than prayer on my side. Chaplain Richard Pace had agreed to call us one afternoon in order to give us information about the job and lifestyle as well as answer our questions. Leading up to this phone call, I had read blogs and articles and anything I could get my hands on related to military life, specifically that of a chaplain’s wife. Lee sat down beside me as we waited for the call. I looked at him with tears in my eyes and confessed, “I can’t do this. I’m not strong enough.” He said, “Okay,” and assured me that we wouldn’t do anything if we weren’t both on board. I began to pray, “God, if this is Your will for our lives, give me peace, because I can’t do this in my own strength.” The phone rang. For two hours we listened and asked questions. We heard much of the same information that had terrified me just moments earlier, and for two hours I experienced the peace described in Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” When we hung up the phone we looked at each other, smiled, and I said, “For what it’s worth, I’m all in.” “That’s all I was waiting for,” he replied.
The next step was intense, raising a newborn, a one year old, and a two year old while Lee was working toward a Master of Divinity with an emphasis in chaplaincy, and both of us working full time. A couple of years passed and Lee completed his masters. Two more years of ministry experience were required at that point, so he continued, determined to give his all in his current position while going through the process of getting endorsed through the Church of God and submitting his application to the army that ended up being a document just short of 100 pages. And then the hard part came. The wait. In April of 2015 we finally received the news that Lee had been selected…but his training wouldn’t begin until January of 2016. More waiting. Psalm 27:14 says “Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.” The wait was hard, but we look back and see how God was strengthening us and preparing us during the wait.
And that brings us back to today. The day it became real. I’ve had time to think and process, but today when we made the announcement reality sunk in. While the kids and I aren’t leaving just yet, I am preparing to say goodbye to my husband. That’s assuredly the hardest thing I’ve ever faced up to this point in my life, but the truth is that “If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 4:11.
Thank you, Lord, for your strength. May you receive all the praise. Amen.