Christmas Without You

Clay,

It’s been so hard trying to experience life everyday without blindly going through the motions, especially on a day as special as Christmas. This year was really hard. It was the FIRST Christmas we have ever spent apart from each other since we started dating. I tried as best I could to stay excited for Luke and Lily and I hope they had a special day.

Christmas Eve we did some last minute shopping. I helped your mom cook and the kids were able to see Nana and Bop. They met Lily for the first time and fell in love with her. That afternoon I went to Christmas Eve service with my family at First Baptist Woodstock and I was so sad because Johnny Hall wasn’t there to sing Oh Holy Night….. I KNOW. I was shocked as were our friends the Duran’s who sat behind us as well. We agreed that Johnny singing was what we looked forward to most every year! We talked for a while after service and then went back home. Avery and I wrapped our last minute gifts, we were up really late as usual. I called you to wish you a Merry Christmas because I knew you would be going to sleep soon. I could tell you were lonely which made me hurt even more.

Christmas morning we ate some breakfast and the kids opened their presents. We called you so you could watch them over FaceTime. Lily and Luke both received many toys and clothes. Luke’s favorite gifts were all of his cars! He just kept playing with them instead of opening the rest of his presents. Lily’s favorite gift was definitely the pink giraffe I got her ( *cough, cough* I mean Santa). She has been cuddling it for the past two days. My favorite presents were my Kate Spade back pack and wallet, my new cake turn table and the Tile your Mom gave me so I can find my keys when I lose them… daily! Then we went to your house to open gifts. Luke got some pretty awesome toys there too. He got one of those seats that you sit on and spin yourself around until you get sick. He got a hammer and table set, more cars, AND his first pair of light up shoes! No, they don’t squeak thank God. *haha* Lily got a seat that spins with toys on it for her to play with, clothes, and a new bath tub because your Mom loves giving them baths. 🙂

I bought your mom an 18ft tunnel to go with the agility course your Dad built for her and Luna. Luna is getting really good at it too! I gave your Dad a gift card to Cabelas and he seemed happy to add that to his yearly pile of gift cards from the family! Everyone tried to overload your packages with beef jerky because we know that is your favorite snack. We promised that we would make next Christmas the best one yet for you.

We ended the night at my house for our annual family Christmas dinner and we were so happy to have Nathan’s family join us for the first time! It’s nice to have everyone come together. We played Apples to Apples again and called it a night pretty early. Everyone was tired.

When we went to bed, we all sang Happy Birthday to Jesus and thanked God for sending his son to save our souls. We also thanked him for all of our blessings. I tried to remind myself that even though you are away, we really are truly blessed. This time is just a blink  relative to the eternity we will have in heaven. You may not be with us BUT you are alive and safe, that’s all that matters.

Sometimes I catch myself wishing that time would go by fast after the New Year because it feels like such a crappy year but then I think about everything we were blessed with in 2016! Our two biggest accomplishments being our beautiful new house we just built and our precious baby girl that joined our family. 2016 has been a good year. 2017 will be even better when you return and we can start making memories again together. I’m so sorry you had to spend this day alone without us. I’m sorry your friends had to spend this day without their families as well but rest assured you were thought of. Many people are praying for you guys. Many are thankful for your service and everything you are doing to protect our country. Your sacrifices do not go unnoticed. You are our hero. We love you so much and we are so grateful to have had you with us on Christmas Day, even if it was through a phone.

My heart hurts thinking about how many more months we have to spend apart. I can’t help but cry when I realize that we are only 1/4 of the way through this deployment but I have to find strength. I find it in Christ, your love for me, our babies, AND imagining that perfect day in July when we get to run into your arms again. We miss you and love you more than you know. Merry Christmas Clay! Next year will be better. I promise.

Forever and Always,

Brooke Lauren Rutherford       xoxo

See our Christmas video HERE.

 

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Watching him walk away..

As an Army wife, you learn to cast feelings aside and you find strength in places you could have never imagined. With that comes the harboring of emotions so it is good to “let it out” every once in a while. This post will help me re-live some of those bitter-sweet moments surrounding Deployment Day.

The day Clay left, I felt like my world had fallen apart. Clay is the BEST teammate. We work so well together. Our friendship, business relationship, spiritual relationship and intimate relationship has always been so easy. Where one of us is weak, the other is strong and we have always been able to pick up the pieces for each other to make this perfect puzzle. We have our flaws, don’t get me wrong. Marriage takes hard work and patience. Generally though, life seems effortless as long as we are walking through it together.

Clay’s favorite hobby is fishing so the day before he left we decided to go fishing as a family. We’ve been fishing many times together but that day has been one of my favorites, along the fishing date where he asked me to be his girlfriend. The weather was perfect. We sat and watched Luke run up and down the dock with the sunset behind him. Clay taught him how to feed the fish with an old bagel that he brought. He loved throwing the bread into the water and occasionally he would tear off a piece to try and share with his 2 month old sister. When the sun went down and we had to leave I knew that was a picture I wouldn’t get to see again for a while so I soaked in every second of Clay kissing our baby girl on the forehead and watching Luke ride on his shoulders all the way back to the truck. The drive home was quiet. The babies fell asleep and neither of us really knew what to say to each other. I think we just wanted to be still, in the silence of it all. We knew what was coming but we just wanted to be, together.

We got home and watched a couple episodes of House of Cards to finish out the last season. At night our favorite thing to do is either lay in the hammock together on the back porch in the breeze as the beautiful Oklahoma sun sets over our fence OR we lay on opposite ends of the couch and give each other foot rubs as we watch TV. We chose the second that night so that he could hold our babies and put them to sleep one last time. Luke lives for his daddy so every second of cuddle time means the world to him. It hurt my heart watching him lay Luke down that night to pray with him. Our routine is very special to us so I know held tight to that memory too.

By this time it was 11 PM and Clay had to wake up at 2 AM so we decided to just pull an all nighter. We took a bath then stayed up and talked all night. We had a genuine and complex conversation and it was nice to get to know each other on that level again. We become so absorbed by day to day life that its easy to just get lost in it all. I wish we took the time to talk like that with each other more often. We both ended up falling asleep for a short time but I remember just fixing my eyes on his face, examining every feature while running my fingers through his hair. Kind of like when you hold your children and gaze at them while they’re sleeping. When you love someone that much, you love and appreciate every part of them. I wondered, will I forget what he feels like? The warmth of his skin. Holding his hand and feeling an odd sense of protection because it swallows mine. His giant bear hugs that make me melt. His kisses, the ones that make the world disappear. I didn’t want to. I promised myself I wouldn’t forget so I soaked it all in. Every bit of him.

2 AM came too soon. Our son was so angry when we put him in the car. Clay just stood there and held him for the longest time. Lily was fast asleep in her seat. The ride was silent again. The entire 20 minute drive to post I just held his hand tighter and tighter and cried harder and harder the closer we got to base. All the guys were in the parking lot hugging their families and spending their last 30 minutes together. Lots of hugs and kisses, and holding the babies. The final call came for them to shut the gates and Clay had to leave. I just wanted one more kiss and one more hug… but I didn’t want it to be the last so I kept begging for more. Finally he let go of my hand and watching him walk away made my heart fall to pieces. I looked across the parking lot and saw my best friend Nikki standing there with her 6 day old baby and thinking it wasn’t fair. All of the special moments in those first weeks, in the first year they couldn’t experience together. Same with us and our two month old. Nikki’s mom came over hugged me tight as I cried in her arms. It was nice to have her there since my mom couldn’t be.

One thing I knew for sure as I got back in the truck was how lucky I was to have a great group of women to call my friends. We were going to get through this together. Nikki’s mom spent the night at our house that night just so I didn’t have be alone and Nikki had her mother-in-law to stay with her. Words can’t express how that one act of kindness made me feel. As Day Zero went on I felt more at peace than I thought I would. I went to bed feeling broken and woke up with a sense of hope and motivation. I knew we had so many people praying for us and the power of prayer is a beautiful thing. God’s love is so strong and so abundant. He can carry any burden and he did for me.

I have this rule where I try to give myself a timeline to be upset. I tell myself, ” You have one week Brooke. One week to be as sad, depressed, angry and upset as you want but after that it’s time to suck it up, dust it off and move on.” If I don’t, then I let sadness consume me which causes anxiety and depression. That’s a place I never want to go back to because it’s easy to spiral into and hard to get out of.

That evening my OB, who lives in the same town, messaged me and said, “Crossfit tonight?” I didn’t plan on it but i thought, forget it, I’m going. He knew I liked crossfit and remembered me. Here it was, someone forcing me to be strong that I would have never expected to. I appreciate that motivating text. It had been 10 weeks since I had Lily and I just had my second c-section in a year so I was nervous about going back but I decided to JUST DO IT.  I walked in and I felt lonely, but encouraged. I knew that this was how I would literally gain my strength over the next 9 months. The last part of our workout was a run but I decided to row instead. I put my headphones in and rowed harder and harder… and harder…and HARDER until the tears just started flowing down my face again. My coach was so scared that I had hurt myself but it was like every bit of emotional pain I was feeling just left my body. It felt so good. Unfortunately, some turn to alcohol or drugs to fix their pain but I have chosen to turn to God and working out to rid myself of the stress I carry.

That evening was hard because Luke walked to the garage door like he does every night and said,” Dada? Dada?…” He just kept hitting the door, looking at me and pointing at it, saying his name over and over. He did this every night for two weeks until we came to GA where there is no door he is used to seeing him walk through. He is only one so he doesn’t understand where he is or why he’s gone, just that he’s missing his best friend. So I just tell him he’s not alone because I miss my best friend too.

As soon as I found out Clay had landed and he was safe, and I felt much better. I wrote down my favorite quote and taped it to my mirror the next morning so I could see it daily. People say they don’t understand how I can do it. How can I get through this time with two babies, alone? Well, many women have to. We find strength in places we could never imagine. Through Christ who gives me strength, all things are possible. He never leaves me, he never forsakes me. God is good ALL THE TIME. He has a plan and a purpose far bigger and more important than I could ever imagine or understand. I know he has a brighter future for our family, we just have to climb one more mountain to get there.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

“We either make ourselves miserable or we can make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”- Unknown

Here’s the link to the Vlog from that dayimg_0515

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