So Kiss Me And Smile For Me...

Whew, where to begin?!

First of all, my little "How Did You & Zach Start Dating" story far exceeded anything I ever could have imagined!

Second of all, Blogger absolutely freaked out last week (I'm not sure if you noticed) & shut down for nearly 24 hours. Everything is working again, but all of the comments posted underneath the Deployment tab were deleted in the process. If you left a little message for Zach and it's not there... I didn't do anything to it, promise! Feel free to comment again if you want :)

Third of all, I had such elaborate plans for taking pictures of everything while Zach was on leave. My camera, however, did not have such elaborate plans, and picked the most opportune time in the history of ever to be stubborn and stop working. Such is life. And thus, I present to you: Pre-Deployment Leave Through The Lens Of A Broken Camera & A Cell Phone.

• • • • •

Pre-deployment leave could not have coincided any more perfectly with the conclusion of my junior year of college at Duke/brief summer break before moving to Fincastle. Granted, most pre-deployment leave is 20 days, and Zach's entire unit only got to spend a week at home since their deployment got pushed up. But still. The four days I spent with him is the most consecutive time we've spent together since 2008, so I'll take it!

Both of Zach's brothers are on the varsity baseball team at Franklin County High School, and Zach got to throw the ceremonial first pitch on senior night. Franklin County sure does know how to treat a Marine ;)

The best part? They WON! Guess who was the first person of the night to reach home plate? Ben Jones. And guess who was second? Gabe Jones. Yep. The Jones brothers scored the first two runs of the night to spark the FC Eagles to a 8-3 victory over George Washington High School. And oh my goodness, I screamed and yelled and cheered at the top of my lungs just like they were my own brothers. Because they pretty much are, you know.

In addition to the 50+ hours spent watching NCIS and Criminal Minds, Zach & I went bowling. In our three years together, that's one of the few things we've just never done. Mostly because I constantly tell him how I went bowling on my first ever date in high school (which was actually a double date with Lauren Moore & two other Camp Bethel boys) and I beat everyone. I beat everyone by a lot, actually. I'm kind of one of the most competitive people in the world (Marty Haynes is my father, remember?) and Zach is... well, not competitive. At all. Throughout the years, I think I've intimidated him by telling my epic bowling tales, so we've just never gone.

But with deployment right around the corner, who knew when we'd have the chance again?

Let me tell you, boyfriend shut me up real quickly when he bowled a 148 on his first game.

He didn't even trash talk or rub it in, although he had every right to do so. This is such a foreign concept to me! He would walk back after bowling his third strike in a row & I'd glare at him & mutter something about letting him win since he's about to deploy. Then I would go knock down a measly five pins and he would genuinely act like it was the best bowl he'd ever seen in his entire life.

You have got to be kidding me.

As if the entire situation wasn't hysterical enough, Zach went to order food halfway through the second game and told me to go ahead & bowl one round for him. This was my chance to throw two gutter balls in a row and give myself a slightly better chance at catching up. I bowled my ONLY strike of the night... under his name! So. not. intentional.

It's moments like these where my life could seriously be made into a comedy.

And if y'all didn't love Zach enough already, just know that he spent his last night at home watching "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" on DVD with me, his younger sisters, and their best friend. They made him really sweet cards before the movie started, though, so how could he refuse?

Zach left his car at home & I drove him back to Jacksonville. We were greeted with "oh, by the way, we're leaving even earlier than what was originally planned. We fly out tomorrow."

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to life in the Marine Corps.

I've been on base before, obviously. However, I decided this time seemed picture-worthy.

1st Battalion, 9th Marine barracks

Everyone thought they had a few days to pack for Afghanistan and move the rest of their stuff out of the barracks & into storage after they got back from leave. Au contraire. We like to keep things interesting.

Zach helping Bell get his arm out of the sleeves. This cannot even begin to capture the chaos that went along with packing everything in an hour and a half.

2007 Camp Bethel summer staff members, please tell me you remember the "TF" unit from the last week of camp... Tenderfoot to Task Force. Zach & I were both a part of Unit TF that summer :) And now... the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines are actually considered "TF (Task Force) 1/9."

For the record, I helped pack what I could... which wasn't much. (The gear list is so confusing!) I spent the rest of the time whipping out 550 cord bracelets for Bell & Burke & Shamberger, since they all saw the ones I've made Zach and wanted their own.

Oh, hey, Marine Girlfriend of the Year Award

Before I left, Zach & I split a Mizpah necklace. Mizpah is a Hebrew word used in Genesis:
"This monument of stones will be a witness, beginning now, between you and me." It is called Mizpah (Watchtower) because he said, "God keep watch between you and me when we are out of each other's sight." - Genesis 31:48-49

The necklace has the Marine Corps EGA (Eagle, Globe, & Anchor) on the front and the KJV verse ("The Lord watch between me and thee when we are absent one from another") on the back. His half is currently around his neck on his dogtags, and I'm wearing mine on the same necklace as my cross charm & Zach's "True Love Waits" ring.

And just like that, it was time for me to leave... but not before a few last minute pictures.

You totally can't tell we've both been crying, right?

We hugged for half an eternity & prayed together, and then just stood there & held each other some more. As you're reading this, the deployment is already underway. My precious boy is more than likely "leavin' on a jet plane," flying halfway around the world :)

The view as soon as I left Jacksonville. Not like I needed a reminder that everything is going to be okay, because I know that it is. But still. It's humbling to know that I serve a God who cares enough about a 21 year old girl saying goodbye to her boyfriend to radiate His love and make the sun shine extra brilliantly.

And so begins the waiting for him to come back home, which (in my opinion, at least) is infinitely better than waiting for him to leave. Thank goodness that's over :)

I will move ahead, bold and confident.
Taking every step in obedience.
While I'm waiting, I will serve You.
While I'm waiting, I will worship.
While I'm waiting, I will not faint.
I'll be running the race, even while I wait.

- John Waller, Fireproof

PS: If you find yourself with some free time this week (or any week for the remainder of 2011, actually) & want to write Zach a little note/letter/card, you can send it to:

LCpl Jones Zacharie K
1st BN 9th MAR H&S Armory
Unit 74095
FPO AE 09510-4095

Even if you don't know him and want to send a little love to cheer him up during his first few weeks in Afghanistan, just mention that you read my blog. He'll understand, I promise. And if you're still unconvinced and afraid that he'll think you're weird for writing to a complete stranger, just remember that boyfriend spent his last night at home watching Justin Bieber. No judgment here. I'm just saying...