If 2016 taught us anything, it’s that you never know what’s around the bend. Even though we’re in a fairly structured program in the military — where we’ve known for years what training must take place, in which order, and have an idea on everywhere we could possibly live — the unexpected can strike and change the plans we thought were set in stone. However, by the grace of God, all of the unexpected things thrown our way this year have turned out to be huge blessings, and we’ve been able to do far more than we had even dreamed possible.
It all started in the beginning of January, the first day that Curtis was to begin his new training. We had been anticipating it ever since he graduated from OCS, and after 4 months of “working” in a recruiter’s office, he was more than ready to begin. We arrived in South Carolina just 2 weeks prior and were still settling in, trying to find our way around. We had started to accept the fact that we would now be tied down by his heavy schedule and intense training. However, it turned out that the class he was supposed to be in was too big and so by no fault of his own, he was pushed back to the next class which started 8 weeks later. Initially, we were a little disappointed because we were ready to push on to the next thing, but we soon realized the benefits of being on hold.
We used those 8 weeks to get to know our new home better, make new connections, work on our hobbies, and do a little traveling. We did some exploring around Charleston and learned about the rich history surrounding us. We found a church to attend and got to know our new neighbors. Curtis finally had time to do some woodworking, and finished projects like our coffee table and bed frame, and designed and built a beautiful table with matching benches. I invested more time into things I enjoy, such as art, lettering, creating new things in the kitchen, writing (& blogging!), and working for the Pastor of our church home in Arizona — check out his new website at neverthirsty.org! Together, we started our first garden, and while it wasn’t wildly successful we still got some fresh produce out of it…and a never ending supply of cucumbers. We were also able to take a few short trips together, visiting Congaree National Park, Savannah and the Golden Isles in Georgia, and St. Augustine, Florida.
Our time off flew by, and before we knew it, it was time for Curtis to start school. We quickly fell into our new routine of Curtis at school, me working from home, eating lunch and dinner together, and cherishing the minutes of free time we had. We used the weekends to explore more around Charleston, and took a few other quick overnight trips to explore around the state. We joined a small group with our church, and participated in game nights with Curtis’ classmates. Curtis was able to balance work and home life so well, and we had nothing to complain about.
However, as the days wore on, we noticed a growing discontentment with where we were living. We loved our neighbors and the communities we were in, but it felt like there was a part of us that was missing. It’s no secret that we love mountains, hiking, and exploring God’s creation together, and we just weren’t able to fill that void in SC. Charleston is a beautiful city and is definitely worth visiting, but it just wasn’t for us. We took what opportunities we could to escape to the Appalachians with trips to Greenville and Asheville, and continued to explore the greater Charleston area despite the sweltering heat and humidity, and the relentless mosquitoes.
In some seasons in life, we may have no choice but to stay where we are and work through the trials presented. In this case however, we actually had another option. We could either remain in SC for the next portion of Curtis’ training, or we could request a transfer to Upstate NY. We prayed and discussed this option for a while, and when the time finally came to make our request, we put the training facility in NY as our #1 option. One thing I love about the military life is that we often times have no control over where we end up — we can make our requests, but we know God will work through the Navy to send us to where He wants us to be! After over a month of waiting, and just 2 weeks before Curtis’ graduation (and the week we’d need to move), we finally received our orders: we were moving to New York! We packed up all our things and prepared for our next adventure.
After saying our goodbyes and celebrating Curtis’ graduation, we took off on a whirlwind trip to visit family and friends in our short 9 days between checking out of one command and reporting to another. We saw a friend in Missouri, my family in Iowa, and Curtis’ in Michigan before driving to NY via the Ontario Peninsula — our first of 3 trips across the border this year. We arrived in our new hometown, looked at one house, filled out an application, then went for a hike. What can I say — we were desperate to get back to what we loved to do!
Curtis checked into his new command, and after a week of waiting to find out what was going on, he got put on hold once again. We were given 8 more weeks to wait around until his next training would begin! Honestly, this is something we never would have expected or asked for, to have 16 weeks “off” this year. It was initially a little frustrating to Curtis because he’s the type of person that wants to be working and doing something productive. All this having to sit around or doing odd jobs instead of moving on with the training wasn’t really something he enjoyed doing. So this time, we decided to do something crazy.
We had a lot of leave time adding up from not being able to travel while in school, and we knew that we wouldn’t be able to use it once his training began, so we took 30 cumulative days off to travel. We started with one week of exploring Vermont and New Hampshire, and discovered one of our new favorite places in the world: the White Mountains! We followed that trip with a 23 day long adventure, going to Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and back to the White Mountains. It was a dream vacation that we will never forget, and will be forever grateful for! We can now attest that the slogan “Join the Navy, see the world!” is very accurate. 🙂 We filled the rest of our fall with hiking in the Adirondacks and Catskills, a weekend in Montreal, and soaking up the beauty that is New England in the fall — there is truly nothing like it! It’s so crazy to think that a year ago, most of these beautiful places weren’t even on our radar, and now they are a big part of us, our favorite places we’ve ever visited. Who knows where we might end up in the next year!
Curtis began his new training a week after we returned from our big trip, and we are now dealing with his rotating shift work schedule, 12 hour work days, and 7 day work weeks. If the last paragraph made you resent us a little, it’s important that you know we’re now paying for it! But that’s what our life in the Navy is all about: Taking advantage of the free time we have together and the beautiful places where we’re stationed, and using those memories to carry us through the more challenging times. Besides this new challenge, this was also the first year in our marriage that we weren’t able to go home and spend the holidays with our families, and this is the first year in several years that we have to deal with winter. It’s just been a big process of acknowledging the different trials as ways to test our faith, and learning to embrace every season.
Oh, and how could I neglect to mention our darling puppy Charlotte? If she wrote her own Christmas letter, she would probably tell you about all the friends she made, both puppies and people. She might also mention how awesome it is to go running on sandy beaches, wade in the ocean, sun bathe under the Southern sun, play in waterfalls, hike all the mountains, and frolic in the snow. Undoubtedly, she would want to tell you all about the food she ate this year — including lots of Sonic and Tim Horton’s! She does so great at adjusting to wherever we move, and always wants to play outside no matter what the weather. She is becoming quite the little world traveler, coming with us on all these fun adventures and basically experiencing every place we go by our side. We wouldn’t have it any other way — she’s simply delightful to have around, and it is all because of her that I meet new people and make new friends.
So what will we remember about 2016? 2016 was the year we were fortunate to live through both a Southern Summer AND a Northern Winter. (If we survive…God help us!) We got to experience different seasons that we’d been missing while living in the desert. It was the year we lived in and experienced a whole new life in 2 new-to-us parts of the country. We lived through what seemed like our first year as “real adults,” officially out of college and moved on to “real life” (though it certainly still feels like an adventure — that’s military life for ya!) We found that even if we were busy and bogged down with work, we could still make time to get away on either a day trip or an overnight, just to invest in our marriage. We learned that if we don’t love where we live, we become restless and dream of far off places, but that it is still important to make the most of wherever we are. We discovered that we can plan out a vacation for weeks, and yet our favorite places would end up to be ones that we decided to visit at the last minute. We introduced Charlotte to international traveling, but more importantly to Tim Horton’s, and changed her life forever. We spent 18 nights sleeping in our tent this fall in a span of 2 months, and I went from simply tolerating camping to loving every night of it.
Looking ahead, there are so many uncertainties for what lies in 2017. We don’t know how long Curtis’ training will last, we don’t know if there will be any more long gaps before the next step, and we have no idea where we’ll be living this time next year. Not to mention there’s a multitude of other possibilities that could happen in the next 365 days. All we can do is trust God and rely on Him, and know that just as He blessed us and taught us new things this year, so He will continue to do in 2017. I feel like I end that way in all our Year in Review posts, but it’s just a fact of life whether we’re in this ever-changing military life or living a “normal lifestyle” (whatever that is)! I do feel like we’ve gotten better at going with the flow and making the most of every situation, and not always anxiously awaiting the next step. I guess we still have more to learn though, seeing as it seems to be a trend every year. 😉 We are very excited to see what 2017 holds!
Happy New Year to all our friends, we hope and pray you will be blessed in 2017! Thanks for reading! 🙂
P.S. 2016 was also the year we really got into County Counting. Here’s our map for the year. (Darker colors are counties visited this year, pastel colors are from previous years in our marriage. Click on each image to make it clearer.) Can’t wait to see how much more we can fill in next year! 😉