When I sorted photos this morning which were taken by the family paparazzi at the airport last night, this photograph caught me off guard. I found myself weeping. A long-forgotten memory had been stirred.
When Mr. Beaver and I were first married, he was in the U. S. Navy, training to become a nuclear engineer aboard one of our country's submarines. As the photo above flashed onto my screen this morning, I was taken back to autumn 1985. My husband was standing in front of a similar flag, posing for me as I snapped a picture. The big event? The base commander had just pinned a single gold bar on his collar, promoting him to Lieutenant JG (Junior Grade). It was my beloved's first change in rank. He was now one very small step above the lowest officer rank of ensign, but I was so proud of him as he stood there straight and tall, demonstrating the military bearing he'd learned at Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island two years earlier.
On the October afternoon that came flooding back to my memory early this July 4th, Mr. Beaver was wearing his carefully-ironed, dress-white polyester uniform. He and the other young men present had just finished 10 weeks of weapons training on the small Naval base at Dam Neck, Virginia. The ceremony marked not just the promotion of a handful of naval officers, it also acknowledged that these men had completed nearly two years of intense training. Each of them would now be shipped to a base on one of the coasts and attached to a nuclear submarine. While many of the men had long treks ahead of them to the west coast, ours was a fairly short drive to Charleston, South Carolina. For the next three years Mr. Beaver would serve aboard the USS Lewis and Clark, a ballistic missile submarine. The ship's quiet mission was America's security as the Cold War arms race continued to define the relationship between the United States and Russia (then the Soviet Union), just as it had since the end of World War II.
When Mr. Beaver's required service ended, he decided to leave the Navy. He loved the work but knew life in the submarine service would require us to be separated nearly fifty percent of the time. We hadn't even begun dating when Mr. Beaver signed up for the Navy so time with a wife and the needs of a family hadn't been a consideration. (While we chose a different lifestyle, we're deeply indebted and grateful to those who have made the sacrifice of serving for an entire career in the military.)
So much has taken place since that October afternoon nearly 30 years ago. The Cold War is history. My husband has been a food marketer now for five times as long as he was employed by the Navy. But in a strange twist following Mr. Beaver's U.S. military service, God has placed nine children born in the former USSR amongst our number. Seeing Mr. Beaver cradling his first grandchild with the U.S. flag in the background reminded me just how faithful God has been to the two of us since our days as a young military couple through the ongoing era of adding groups of older Russian kiddos to our family and into this new season as grandparents. Looking back, as this photo caused me to do, I can see that His love and care has been a constant in our lives. I wept with relief this morning as I stumbled on this photo. I'd been reminded. I have a God who can be counted on...depended on...leaned on...leaned into. He was with us on that warm fall afternoon long, long ago. He is with us now as I recover from last week's surgery, and He will be with us as we add a sibling group of four. I sit beneath the shadow of His wing and smile into the future.