|My family these days|
How to Thrive in a Deployment…
Don’t count the days. Cherish every Skype date, phone call, and instant message. Find a battle buddy and hang out regularly. Strive to grow closer to the Lord during this time of separation.
If you’re like me, nothing will bring you faster to your knees than your husband deploying. Not just in prayer for his safety but as in, “Oh, God, how am I ever going to get through this? I need You!” It’s unfortunate that I don’t lean on Him more when my husband is home, but that is just the honest truth.
Many people will tell you that to survive a deployment you must stay busy. While I agree that that is great advice, I think thriving during a deployment depends on what you stay busy doing. There’s a great Christian song out there with the lyric, “worship while I’m waiting.” I first heard it around the time of my husband’s second deployment, and it became my mantra. Combine that with some very dear friends who were also going through a deployment, and we determined to serve the Lord throughout those 12 months in ways we might not have been able to when our husbands were home.
On my good days, I try to look at deployment as I look at every New Year – asking myself what I can do to grow closer to the Lord, to love my husband better, to make our marriage stronger. That way when I look back at the year and ask, “Am I closer to the Lord than I was at the beginning of the year? Is my marriage stronger?” I can answer yes! To answer those questions in the affirmative will probably look different for different people. But I will share what worked for me in this deployment. And in case you haven’t heard, every deployment is different so don’t expect things to work the same way in each one. And don’t think there still won’t be ups and downs. It’s 365 days – of course there will be some bad ones thrown in there. Like the kidney stone you get while visiting back home over Thanksgiving or the months it takes to get hired as a teacher or the knock on your door at 4 AM that makes you think the worst has happened but was just some random knock…
For me, this deployment started out in a hard place because I wasn’t very busy. I was just about to start subbing in the hopes that I would get hired as a full-time teacher, but there was no guarantee. So I decided I would use part of my time to work on my master’s degree in education. I chose to do it online as I had no idea where we would live after Matt returned and didn’t want to hassle with a transfer. Since I am a teacher, I love school (most of the time), and the idea of reading, writing, and studying excited me. Nerdy, I know, but it helped give some purpose and structure to my days. Routine is extremely important during deployment. Unfortunately, since it was an online program, it provided a lot of flexibility, and I found myself finishing a week’s worth of assignments in 3 days. I continued praying for more consistent sub jobs, and after a few months, I was hired as a full-time substitute in a 3rd grade classroom with the hope that I would become the permanent teacher. Working full-time and completing my master’s degree certainly helped me to stay busy. However, as I mentioned previously – it matters a great deal with what you are staying busy. Despite all the academia and things I loved, I still felt empty going home at night. Thankfully, Matt was able to Skype almost daily when I returned from work, but after we said goodbye, that inevitable ache would set in. (And before I go any further, let me just say that ache never left, but it did ease as I got busy worshipping.)
|The school where I worked|
As fall began to turn into winter, one of those precious friends of mine (my battle buddy, in fact) brainstormed to me one evening of how great it would be to have a Bible study for us military wives. I agreed that would be wonderful, but was skeptical we could have something that great at our church. Then this sweet friend of mine had the brilliant idea to hold a Valentine’s Dinner for wives of deployed soldiers in which they could be served a meal, listen to music, and hear an inspirational speaker who had walked in their shoes, all with free childcare. We became so excited about the idea, we mentioned it to our community group leader who instantly jumped on board. Before I knew it, we were in full-on planning mode. I began to think of seasoned Army wives I had met through my years as an Army brat, and we began to formulate a serious plan. All through the holidays we began sketching out ideas, contacting speakers, and watching as one inspired Army wife’s idea came to fruition. I would be remiss if I didn’t confess that Christmas was still very hard without my husband, but what a difference it made to feel I had some purpose. Not only that but we decided to launch a Bible study for military wives beginning the week after the dinner. The only hard part was finding someone to teach it.
|Battle buddy and me during one of our brainstorming sessions...maybe|
My sweet friend and I desperately wanted someone older and wiser who had walked this road several times before to be the one. We had a few people in mind, but when we asked, they turned us down for various reasons. After much prayer and deliberation, we discovered the dear woman who already taught a ladies’ Bible study at our church was the mother of a Marine. While it wasn’t quite the same as a wife, we could not resist this woman’s gentle nature and knew her nurturing spirit would be just what we all needed. We agreed that she and I would co-lead. That way, the women would still get a wife’s perspective (though I felt terribly inept only having been married a few years, a 6 month deployment in my history, and no children). Not only that, but the only Bible studies I had taught were to middle or high school girls. However, this precious friend of mine along with this kind-hearted seasoned Bible study teacher assured me it would be fine. So in the midst of planning the big event, we also began preparing to lead a Bible study by Sara Horn called Hope for the Homefront.
|Bible study book|
The Valentine’s Dinner was a huge success with over 200 women in attendance! Though it was not without loads of stress, traveling delays for our out-of-town speaker, and those pesky people problems, it was without a doubt, one of the biggest displays of God’s awesome handiwork that I had yet to see. We were overwhelmed and overjoyed! The people of our church did a magnificent job pulling it all together – from the cooking of the delicious meal, to the decorating of the beautiful tables, to the free childcare, to the men decked out in suits serving the women. The speaker was phenomenal with just the right mix of humor and heart-rending sincerity. Women were touched and signed up for the upcoming Bible study in droves. It was amazing! That night driving the 30 minutes back to my quarters, I knew I had been a part of something huge – something that would have been difficult to accomplish if Matt were home – something the Lord had prepared for me in advance to do (Eph. 2:10). I was worshipping while I waited.
|The Valentine's Dinner at our church|
And this pattern continued as the Bible study began. Thankfully, my sweet mentor agreed to take the first 2 weeks, and with such a large group we split into smaller discussion groups to encourage intimacy and openness. Women from all backgrounds came, and while they did not all stick with the entire study, many did. Some did not even attend our church or any church for that matter but were faithful to come to the study. Through those weeks of study, I was stretched way beyond my comfort zone, but I felt my life was so much fuller. I desperately missed my husband and wished more than anything that he could see all of this unfold, but I had a peace that we were both doing what God had called us to do for that moment in time.
Like I said, it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. There were times (often) in the midst of doing what I felt called to do that I would fail and despair over my mistakes. It would take days, sometimes weeks, for me to rebound. I felt it was much harder to move on without my sweet, optimistic, encouraging husband at home to always pick me back up. Of course, the Lord used these times as well to remind me that I was putting too much on my husband when I needed to lean on Him instead. They were hard moments indeed, but moments when I again, had to learn to worship while I waited.
To sum up, thriving in a deployment does not mean that you are always happy or always busy. It means that you are worshipping the Lord through the ups and downs, the good and bad, the busy and the boring. It means that you continue working on your marriage – not just putting it on pause for a year. Yes, that means you have to be a little more creative, but it is, I believe, part of worshipping – to inject life into a very holy institution during what can be a very dry time.
So whatever the next separation or deployment looks like for you, I hope you will join me in seeking out ways to thrive – to worship.