A few months ago I was asked to participate in a tribute to the military service, which was being organized by a member of our church, Westminster Presbyterian. She asked me to share a little about my journey as a military wife. The following is the text of the message I shared Sunday night. Many friends of mine from the military family support group came out to the service. But those who couldn't make it, asked me to post the text here.
For the last ten years or so of my adult life, I have been amazed at every turn with the path that the Lord has chosen for me, and even more so at the strength which he has provided for the journey. I'd like to share with you all a little about my journey as a military wife, which is probably not unlike other military wives in terms of the trials endured and lessons learned. I have known my husband for nearly eleven years, nine of those years as his wife. We were both quite young when we met, he had been a Marine for barely a few months, I was in my first semester of college. I had no idea what I was getting into. I had no idea that ten years later I would stand up here looking over my shoulder at these flags, and have such an emotional response to the familiar red and gold of the Marine Corps flag. I actually thought I was getting a date for the Marine Corps Birthday Ball, sounded like fun. We fell in love before the end of that semester, and he left for his first deployment that June, our first test of endurance. But God's plan for us was unfolding. We carried on this long distance relationship for 2 years, before being married in the church where I grew up. I had been raised in a Christian home, attending church, youth group, mission trips, I think at the time, even though I didn't realize it, I knew to trust the Lord, even if I was too young to know the value of actively seeking His guidance. A side note, we never did get to the birthday ball until just after we married in 1997. For my part, our first year of marriage was... well there are many words to describe it... exciting, blissful, quiet, trying, lonely, and empowering. All tolled, Tim spent about 9 months out of that first year gone on routine training assignments. I had few friends, was two hours away from my family and high school and church friends, and living outside of my parents house for the first time, so I was shopping, cooking, paying bills, managing an albeit small household - all on sheer common sense and not much actual experience. I finally found a part time job (which I hated) after six months of unemployment. Then began volunteering on the base, and attending classes offered by the family center, such as Bride's School. I managed a lot of growing up that year. At the end of his original contract, we moved to Clayton, we both enrolled in community college, and got pregnant. When our son, Chas, was about 6 months old, we decided that we wanted him to be home with me. It became evident that Tim would need to re-enlist. It didn't seem like such a sacrifice at the time, it was just what had to be done. That's the blind faith I was referring to, maybe it was just blind youth. In September of 2001, six weeks after the pen hit the paper, I had left my job, we were preparing to list our house for sale, and I was home with Chas, by then he was one year old. It was my first week home as a full time mom. I sat in my living room, folding laundry, and watching the news, when I saw the second plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Like much of the country that morning, I was dumbfounded and couldn't even fathom what changes were in store for us. Six weeks after that we found out we were having our second child. It all became so real so fast... Tim left for a routine 7-month deployment on ship when Simon was 9 weeks old. Still living in our house in Clayton, I was nowhere near a base at the time when I actually needed that support. By this time I knew what it meant to be near a base and what I could benefit from it. We took the house off the market and decided to stay near my family - which is something most military wives don't have. I threw myself (or fell, really) into the whole stay-home mother life. It was during that deployment that a lot of who I am as a wife of a service member and a mother was formed. I filled my time with home schooling our boys, field trips, church, traveling to visit relatives, sewing, building friendships, building relationships with my now-adult siblings, and with my parents. I spent a lot of time in prayer, finding something, anything, in every day to be grateful for. I know that a lot of other people spent time in prayer for us, too. It seemed like a never-ending deployment. The entire ship was extended not once but twice, and he was still not home when troops hit the ground in Iraq in late March of 2003. I found myself responsible for answering all sorts of questions and allaying fears of both my family and his. I found the strength to reassure them that he would probably not leave the ship, and not end up combat. All the while knowing in the back of mind that there was no guarantee. We were all new to this and didn't really know what to expect. When he did end up on the ground, I clung to the only thing I knew - trust the Lord. Such an important lesson learned the hard way - and fast.
We can choose to let the stress test our faith, or let it enhance our faith. The Lord chose my path before I even stepped foot on it, and he has already provided me the strength to walk it. And since then, countless other separations have only built upon that. Our third child was born while Tim was in Afghanistan. In the military lifestyle you can bet on two things, frequent relocations and frequent separations, and in such a fluid environment, we learn to cling to the things that we know are going to be there when everything else melts away: our family, our God, ourselves. Even the four walls of a house come and go, the concrete things we own and surround ourselves with come and go. My priorities, whether Tim is home or away, take care of my husband, my kids and myself, trust the Lord, and let people help.