We got the news on Saturday. For over three weeks, we have been waiting to hear where Jeff’s first duty assignment as an active duty chaplain will be. It was a good sort of waiting, like waiting for Christmas, because every place was exciting and new.
But still, three weeks is a long time to wait to see what is under the tree.
The kids and I looked at maps of all the Army installations around the world and dreamed about the possibilities. We could be moved right down the road to Ft. Lewis, which would make it easier to say good-bye to Nana and Papa, or we could be sent across the ocean to new adventures in Japan or Germany.
“I just hope it’s not Texas,” Jeff would say when the topic came up. He had been stationed in San Antonio in his Air Force days, back when he was young and single and almost as incredibly handsome as he is now. If I had known him then, I would have snatched him right up.
But I wasn’t there because I didn’t know him then.
Because of that, and a few other reasons, San Antonio was miserable. San Antonio was the reason he got out after three years instead of four. San Antonio was the reason Texas did not make the list when Jeff’s recruiter asked him where he’d like to be stationed.
So when I got home on Saturday from a day out with Faith and Jeff met us in the driveway with a big grin and the news, “Well, I heard where we’re going!” I did not expect him to say El Paso, Texas.
El Paso, Texas?
I choked on a laugh and repeated the words because I thought he was joking.
“Are you serious? Texas?”
“I would not make that up,” he said. “We’re headed to Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas.”
“Ft. Bliss?” The name made me explode, it seemed so funny to me. Ft. Bliss. God has a sense of humor.
Jeff was smiling too so I grabbed him around the neck and kissed him because it was so wonderful to know. Texas! Suddenly it didn’t matter that San Antonio was not his favorite place on earth. This was not San Antonio. This was Ft. Bliss!
Joy rushed in with the knowing, and we both felt the thrill of knowing where the next two years were going to find us.
“We’re going to Texas! We’re going to Texas!” the kids whooped and hollered in the driveway.
All except for Kya, who burst into tears and ran into the house.
But we could not stop laughing. God was not going to let us off the hook with this whole faith thing, not now, not ever.
“Where is El Paso?” Jonathan said, wrinkling up his nose like the word tasted funny in his mouth.
“Let’s find out!” I said, and we all ran for the classroom atlas that we keep stowed away in the school cupboard. We flipped open the pages to the state that will be our new home in just a few weeks, and found El Paso. There it was, right in the foothills, within spitting distance of Mexico, with miles and miles of desert all around.
I looked out at my lush green yard and the beautiful view of the ocean and the snowy mountains and I laughed again. I was going to need to buy more sunscreen.
But what an adventure!
“We’re going to learn Spanish,” I told the kids, “and go to Mexico! Just wait until you see it!”
It’s been nearly twenty years since I lived in Mexico, but it has not been so long that I have forgotten what it was like to walk through the shanty towns, what it was like to drive by the street kids, dressed in rags and high on paint thinner. It has not been so long that I have forgotten the warmth of the people and the richness of the culture. It has not been so long that I have forgotten how much I loved it.
I was going to get to take my kids to Mexico!
The kids were thrilled about the Mexico part. Not so much the Spanish. Spanish sounds a little bit like school, and that was an unfortunate reminder that schoolbooks are packable.
“What’s it like in El Paso?” Faith asked.
“Well, there are lots of rocks, and swimming pools, tons of tarantulas and scorpions…” I paused for a second and wondered if it was a good idea to embellish the amount of venomous creatures in and around El Paso. I wasn’t exactly sure there were tons of them, and I could just imagine God giving me a house infested with them just because I promised it to the kids.
So, that would be great.
“Will I be able to catch lizards?” Jonathan asked. He was practically foaming at the mouth. Arachnids the size of dinner plates and scaly things that bite are his favorite.
“Does everyone have a swimming pool?” Kya asked, saving me from having to recall anything beyond an armadillo, which isn’t even a lizard, but I couldn’t think of iguana for the life of me and I suddenly felt insecure about whether or not Gila monsters lived in Texas. I should have paid more attention when Planet Earth was on.
“Will we have a pool?” Kya pressed her hand on my arm, tears still glittering in her eyes, and looked at me intently. This could be the deciding factor on whether or not she moved to Texas with us or packed up her princess paraphernalia and moved in with Nana for the next two years.
“Oh, Kya, of course…”
Jeff looked at me and shook his head. The thought of pool maintenance weighed heavier on his heart than her puppy eyes. The man is made of steel.
“…of course…I don’t know yet,” I said slowly. “We’ll see.”
Jeff looked at me again, only this time his face was very clearly communicating something like, “There is no way on earth we are getting a house with a pool,” but he said, “I saw a picture of the one on post, and it looks pretty great. It has a water slide and everything.”
Her eyes grew wide.
“Awesome!” Jonathan yelled.
The living room erupted into shouts and cheers and various forms of interpretive dance. Kya threw her arms around me. This is going to be okay.
And of course, it really is going to be okay. I looked at my children and I thought about all the places Jeff and I have lived, both before we were married and after. Our lives have taken us all over the world, and while we both have lived in places we did not love, we have yet to find a place on this earth where God’s mercies do not reach. All of those experiences have shaped us into the people we are today.
I can’t wait for my kids to have some of those adventures.
So. We are going to El Paso, and it’s going to be great!