"For I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future."
I married my husband straight out of high school. I wasn't even eighteen yet. Ten years later, I still love him. I love him even more than I did then. Maybe that's because I know him more now. All the infatuation, new love, excitement of the unknown, has more or less worn off and been replaced with trust and contentment. We are a good team…for better or for worse.
As you could expect, there were a great deal of times that I took a lot of slack for the decisions that I made with my life. People told me that I should have gone to college. Right now, sitting on our bed and typing this out…I still cannot think of a single thing that I would want to go to school to be that I am not already doing. But don't get me wrong! When I was in school, I wanted to be a great deal of things. Third grade, I wanted to be an archeologist. After that, a nurse like my mother. Somewhere along the line, I wanted to join the Navy and be a fighter pilot. Later I wanted to be an artist, a detective, an actress, a firefighter, and a slew of other things that never ended (never once did "writer" or "photographer" enter that line up). But I didn't just want to be one of those things. I wanted to be them all.
Instead, I married Roger and moved to the west coast--losing myself in a world of Marine flight liners and CH-46 helicopters. I was petrified. Mortified, actually, when I realized that my shy-little-self was not going to survive out there unless I changed. Big time. And boy did I! Those boys sure did break up my shell. They destroyed it!
I had a blast in California. It was completely unlike anything Indiana had to offer. I enjoyed being married, having some freedom, learning to do things for myself--even learn how to drive a stick shift (thought my grandma DID have to fly all the way out to San Diego just to do that). It was an exciting life…and growing up, so far, was a walk in the park.
Then I got pregnant.
At first, I felt like I needed to apologize to everyone in my family--especially Roger. We were way too young to have a baby. I was only nineteen! Yet, as soon as the reality of what was happening set in, I was in love with that little baby. I was positively thrilled. Nearly into the second trimester, the baby died.
I think back on that moment--realizing that something was wrong--and I still cannot process how my body, mind, and heart responded. It was my first true heartbreak. I couldn't handle it. It certainly did not help matters that my body was unwilling to cooperate. Though the baby had died, all those inside parts that I won't actually list (in case there is a man that reads) just wouldn't let it go. I was sick. Very sick. After more than a month, I finally had to have surgery to remove the baby in order to keep my body from going into septic shock.
I was only nineteen. Today, I feel so sorry for that girl. Honestly, I do.
A year went by and I suffered a great deal of health problems and bouts with serious depression. But somewhere along the line, I got pregnant again. The baby would be due at the same time as the other one. I was, once again, over the moon with joy. There was no doubt in my mind that I wouldn't hold this baby. Bad luck couldn't happen twice.
When I went home with Roger for Christmas, I again miscarried. I was only pregnant for a little more than 6 weeks. Maybe eight. It is difficult to remember. Losing the baby was even harder at home with family all around. I felt like a failure. I felt as if my grief was on display for everyone to witness--to question--to put a wet blanket on the holiday celebration. And this time, my grief was double than the time before.
Back in California, I still suffered health problems due to the miscarriage. Having one vehicle, Roger would have to take me to the base with him when he left for work. I'd sit in his office reading a book while we waited for my doctor's appointment to grow closer, check out, and head to the hospital. Then, one day, when my husband stepped out of his office, an officer stuck his head into the room and asked me if I would come down to his office for a minute. I followed. What else what I was supposed to do? When we were inside, he closed the door a fraction….
Now, it is hard for me to remember exactly what happened next, as my blood pressure soon shot through the roof. But, pretty much, the officer "encouraged" me to get out of my house and get a life of my own. He told me that I wouldn't be worth much if I "chose to live for my husband" instead of living for myself. He asked me if I had ever wanted to be something when I grew up. He told me to go to college.
I was stunned. Did he think I was so pathetic, that I--a worthless housewife--came to work with my husband every other day out of sheer boredom and neediness? I was mortified. Who did he think he was? He didn't eve know me! It took everything in my power not to cry right there in front of him--or punch him in the nose! I didn't cry until I made it home. It only complicated matters worse that the others guys were starting to give Roger grief, not understanding why he was in and out of work all the time. Not to mention the Navy doctor who told me to stop being a baby and get over the loss of the child all ready! I really sunk low…
Between that moment and the next, I made it up in my mind that all these people had no idea who and what I was meant to be. Didn't they know how awesome I was?!?! ;)
I few weeks later, as my husband and the rest of his squadron readied to deploy for the coming Shock and Awe in the unfurling of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I boldly approached the commanding officer of his unit. I am not even sure how I got the meeting with him in his office. This man was important---VERY important--and sitting in his office is probably one of the most intimidating places I have ever been.
I told him about a photographer in New York City that was photographing the surviving firefighters from September 11th. Her story inspired me. So, I asked the CO if it would be possible for me to come in and photograph our guys? I wanted them to have a portrait of themselves that was not the generic boot camp picture they all receive--very serious and somber. Instead, I wanted them to be in the uniform they wore every day to work, standing out by the 'birds', or in a group with their buddies. Surprisingly, he agreed. For almost a week, the CO halted normal working hours so that I could come in and photograph each and every Marine in his squadron. It was one of the best memories of my life. I remember a long line of Marines snaking around the outside of the hangers waiting for their chance to pose by the CH-46 and chose to smile or be serious. Since it was their picture, I let them chose how they wanted it taken. One of them joked and asked me, "Hey, is this so our mom's will have a picture of us if we get killed over there?" I even got to wear a flight liner's cranial and walk way out on the runway to photograph a few officers who wanted pictures of themselves in the cockpit getting ready to take off. It was a dream for a little skinny girl from Nowhere, Indiana who had wanted to grow up and be a fighter pilot (and I didn't have to go to college to get that moment).
That singular moment hooked me to the art of photography, and since, I've developed a good little living out of it.
But, I'm sure you're wondering what that moment on the flight line has to do with the miscarriages. Well, I have discovered in life that in our most tender of moments, Satan tends to rear that despicable head of his. When I was in the most pain, physically and emotionally, he stepped in and told me a lie: You are worthless. You're uneducated. You will not amount to anything because of stupid decisions you've made. You screwed up. Big! And now there is nothing you can do to fix it!
I promise Satan will show up every time you're in a valley; for time and time again, when I feel like a screw up, I remember that officer and the things he told me. If not him, then I'm reminded of something or someone else that was used to sow a lie into my heart--portraying a negative image of myself. But this is the things, folks…God did in fact create each and every one of us with a purpose. Our purpose may not fit the mold of what the rest of the world is doing, but that purpose is buried deep inside of you somewhere. That purpose may not even by what you wanted to do or what you set out to do. I could have gone to school and become the best nurse that any hospital could hire. Or, I could have joined the military and been sitting high in a Phrog having my picture taken instead…but I didn't. I am twenty-eight years old and still probably looking rather worthless and uneducated to that officer (I have no idea where he even is), but…it won't be long before my purpose grows up and out of me and shines so big that even HE sees it! :) For I was fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving Father. And so were you.
NOTE: Roger's squadron lost four Marines within the first few days of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Everyone of those men (except one) had a picture I had taken before the deployment. I will never forget attending a memorial service for those men and seeing my photograph blown up poster-size…and that handsome, smiling face smiling out at his loved ones. It was worth that moment.