The night before I was flying home to Illinois was also the night before he would have to packed and ready to leave for ship. He was working late. I didn't have any way of getting anywhere other than our hotel room, but it wasn't far from a Dollar Tree and a Wal-Mart, so in true Ramee fashion...I walked. I picked up candles, rose pedals and a gift bag for my love who was about to leave on some ship to the unknown. I was masking my fears and anxieties for the moment in order to preserve his spirit. It was the beginning of a constant pattern in our marriage-one that I actually cherish. I have this unique way of finding strength in any situation in order to allow my husband to be slightly vulnerable.
When he walked into the hotel room that evening, every candle was lit. He dropped his bags, dropped his shoulders and wept. He cried in a way that I had not yet seen, and it was so crucial for me to see his brokenness in that very moment. He was, indeed, terrified. He was lonely and scared of so many things. Not only was he leaving me behind, but he was also heading to foreign places with men who were not at all in a good place spiritually. He was frightened of being alone and staying on the straight and narrow. He was full of emotion that he had been trained to never show-and yet, in that moment, he did. And it was a beautiful freedom for us. We held one another and soaked in every last kiss. We found new intimacy in simply holding one another's hands and tracing the lines of smiles with fingertips. I remember taking mental pictures of him in my mind as if to never forget what he looked like in that exact moment. It was almost a morbid place to be in that moment, wondering if it would be our last. However, deep down, we both knew that our love story was just in the early chapters. God had much more to write for us. He was just beginning to unfold our lives together and we were excited to see what the future would bring with it.
I returned home to my apartment, job, family and friends. I missed him terribly. Work was fulfilling and challenging, which saved my life during those first awful months, I believe. I lived for 3 minute phone calls that came once every two weeks. Each conversation was broken by a delay in our responses of at least 2 seconds. It was frustrating and exhilarating all at the same time. He emailed when the ship computers were working, and once again, I sent written letters almost daily. Those letters are now tucked away in a special box in a drawer upstairs. A treasure for our children to read someday-our love story written in our very own words and writing. What a gift they will be given! He sent gifts from foreign countries and talked of far away lands that I will never see. He sent pictures of himself which made me cry like a child. He always looked so handsome and yet I knew that he was completely lonely and broken. And it was almost as if he was a ghost of my past. Would I ever see him again? Touch him again? And if so...when? It all felt so surreal.
He experienced moments of great spiritual awakening and moments of terrible struggle. It was a battle everyday, for both of us. While he was away, maintaining a 'show of force' for the United States, I was at home making plans to move 15 hours away from everything I knew in order to be with my husband. I was ready and prepared to be a wife, no matter where we would start our journey.
So as the end of the school year drew to a close, I began focusing on myself. I wanted to get into shape and look great for my husband when he got home after a hard and trying deployment. I spent the entire summer walking, jumping rope and obsessing about eating correctly. I reached my goal of 113 pounds and felt beautiful. I was so anxious to show off my hard work to my husband. I was incredibly proud of him and wanted him to feel the same for me. When the beginning of September rolled around, I packed up my 4 door cavalier with everything that I thought was important and made the long anticipated trip to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. All alone. I drove for 15 hours, through states and states to get to where he was eventually going to be. We had made plans for me to stay with a family that I barely knew, but who Daniel had grown to love. Lucy & Eli and their children would eventually become like family to us, but I could never have known that at the time. Daniel had met them at the church that he been attending before his deployment and they offered up their home for me during those couple of weeks before my husband returned. I needed to find an apartment for us and get familiar with the town and the base in which we would be living for almost the next 2 years of our lives. Lucy and her daughter Jessy helped me to do all of that and it's remarkable how God began weaving our lives together with theirs! That, in and of itself, is a beautiful love story that I will share some other time.
The day finally arrived. I had the apartment paid for, the things I had brought in the car were set up and I had a new body, haircut and outfit ready to show off to my husband. Up until this point we had spent 8 days together in the first 9 months of our marriage. To say that we were anxious to be together would be a slight understatement. After years of being in love, and months of being married, we were finally going to be living together and building a life with one another. It was like a twisted beginning to our own fairytale.
We got to the base early because I was so anxious. I just needed to be where he was going to be. I needed to know that we would be standing on the same ground. That when he pulled into base on that white bus, he was just moments from me. You can never imagine the way my heart jumped when my cell phone rang and I saw his number show up after 6 months. They were turning in weapons and would be where we were shortly. It began raining. And not just a normal Illinois sprinkle. A full out North Carolina hurricane rain. But I didn't care. I had no idea what bus he would be on. Lucy and Jessy were there with me, waiting to take pictures and welcome home our Marine. I was anxious; felt as if I were going to hurl all over the next person who looked my way. But I was ready. Ready to begin this life of ours...
I ran to the first bus and watched desperately as 50 Marines ran off, right past me into the arms of their loved ones. I was soaking wet with no man in hand. So I waited...
He was home with me. We were going to build our first home together. It was remarkable. We grabbed his bags and drove off of base, to the apartment that we would soon make so many memories (and even a baby) in. It was the beginning of our whirlwind romance. And to say that it wasn't complicated, dramatic and challenging would be a lie. It was all of those things and so much more. It didn't take long (not even a month) before we would become pregnant with Nora.
Shortly after we announced our amazing news, my Nanny got very sick and went to Heaven. My pregnancy with Nora was spent, mostly, away from her daddy. Again. I traveled back and forth from our home in NC to Illinois and whether I was in North Carolina or not, Daniel spent much of his time away at training. They were working down, and then back up for yet another deployment in the future.
You can read about my pregnancy and our journey with Nora here: http://www.babycrowd.com/jr/online/rameelin/
I kept an online journal from 18 weeks pregnant with Nora until Braden was 4 months old, before switching to blogger. Our story unfolds much more in those entries. I just wanted to give you all a little background into the lives we have led up until this point. So many more details are in involved in the weaving together of this relationship. The Lord has clearly had His hand upon us on our journey and we give complete glory to Him alone for pulling us through. Because, as so many of you know, when Daniel did leave for his 2nd deployment, Nora was only 5 months old. 2 weeks after he was gone, I found out I was pregnant with Braden. I went through an entire pregnancy without my husband while raising our infant daughter. He made it home and out of the Marine Corps just in the nick of time--a few days before Braden was born. Our life has been a crazy, beautiful mess. We are so thankful for the will of God and His direction. Through Him, all things in our lives have turned out for good and at this point, we would never want it any other way! We have clung to the promises in His word about our lives and our future and each time we were nervous or fearful, we took a leap deep into our faith and allowed God to use us just as He would. And He did.
He always does. Let God write your love story. Your life story. It will be a remarkable testimony for you and so many others to watch unfold. I love that you are all involved in our day to day journey right now. It involves you in more ways than you know and I am again, thankful. In awe, humbled, and empowered. God is still writing our story. It is, after all, His to write. This love; ours to claim, is a miraculous work of God. It is made perfect daily because of our love for the Lord above one another. I love sharing this life with Daniel. He is a great man and longs for the will of God in our lives. I pray that for all of you who may be struggling within a relationship, you would find peace knowing that your prayers really can make the difference in your partner's life. There is always victory in the steadfast prayer in faith. I have seen it and I believe it. God's plan is always for good. Always to prosper you. Cling to that hope and know that if you need someone to stand with you in prayer, I will do so. I love you all.
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans for a future and a hope!" --Jeremiah 29:11