Then on top of all of that, there’s the most driving force: to soak up every moment you can and make as many memories as possible to hold you over until the time when you are together again. Most of the time, the military recognizes this and gives the service member block leave. However, since Matt recently changed jobs and his deployment window moved up considerably, we didn’t get this chance. Rather than being bitter about that, Matt reminded me that I wasn’t working. While in a lot of ways, I did not appreciate this fact, the truth is, it did enable me to spend any and all time with Matt that was available. Sometimes that meant ten minutes mid-morning when he stopped by the house to pick up a different uniform or staying up at night to talk when he got home from a late-night meeting. Had I been working, 9 PM would have been as late as I could go. Thankfully, as always, the Lord sees the big picture and knows exactly what we need when we need it. (This is a recurring lesson in my life so obviously I haven’t fully gotten it yet, but more on that later.)
So just prior to deployment #2, Matt and I tried to make the most of our time together while still trying to maintain a sense of normalcy. Since it was fall, we decided to carve pumpkins together one weekend, even though he would leave well before Halloween. While Matt did all the work, I encouraged and directed, suggesting we use our dog for inspiration. The results were amazing (if I can just brag on my husband’s talent for a moment)! It was a fun weekend activity that did just the trick – it made an impression on our hearts and minds of sweet moments spent together. Might I suggest that for those of you in this situation, you take time to do these “smaller” activities? It doesn’t always take a big trip or an extravagant vacation to make an impact. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference, especially for a girl like me who loves her holidays.
One of the positive things about deployments is that they make you re-evaluate your life. You appreciate the small, seemingly insignificant things so much more. Lingering over a kiss when your husband leaves for the day takes on a whole new meaning when you know you won’t be able to do it for an entire year. Slowing down to appreciate those things is something we could all stand to do a little more often.
And since I mentioned slowing down, if you’ve ever experienced a deployment you know, time seems to go in slow-motion the week or two prior to D-day. You’d think this was a good thing, but most of the time, it isn’t. Never do you have an exact departure date; it’s more a window of time, like between the 5th and 7th of October, for instance. And if you haven’t experienced this, trust me, when it’s the 2nd, and you still don’t know if you’re saying goodbye in 3 days or 5, it can drive you crazy. Both you and your husband begin to want the time to speed up, to just get the goodbye over with. There’s such buildup and waiting, you can no longer enjoy the time you have left. He’s still working regular hours, if not longer at this point, and you’re just thinking, “Man, I wish I could spend time with him, but I also wish the beginning of this deployment would just be over!” Needless to say, it’s an incredibly stressful time.
Quite honestly, I’m not sure how people handle it without the Lord. Matt and I know that deployments are hard, and most of the time, you don’t even know what you’re up against at the time. There’s no way of predicting the types of challenges and obstacles you will face when you’re apart. The only thing you do know is that God is the One holding the marriage together, holding you together. Without that assurance, you can literally lose your mind allowing fear, doubt, worry, and mistrust to take over. The only solution is to rely on God and renew your mind. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Which means that when those thoughts come in to your mind (and they will – whether you are a Christian or not), you have to replace them with truth. The ultimate source of truth is God, and what better place to find truth than in His Word. So during a deployment – whether it’s not even started, 3 months in, or days before reunion – you must discipline yourself to remove the fears and doubts and replace them with truth. Truth like, God is in control and No. Matter. What. Happens. You can’t be separated from His love (Romans 8:35, 38). Deployments, and especially the weeks preceding them, will wreak havoc on your mind, if you let it.
I wish I could tell you that I am a pro at this and don’t struggle at all to remove fear and doubt from my life. But as I write this, I know I have a VERY long way to go. Lest you think I’ve got it all figured out, let me let you in on a little secret. When I sit down to reflect on these seasons of my life and explain what God has taught me, those lessons aren’t always readily apparent. It’s often not until my pencil hits the page that God shows me the lessons I should have learned then and need to continue practicing now. So thanks for letting me write and remind myself of how I should be living. Maybe by writing about it, I’ll be more likely to do it!