Almost a year ago, my father walked me down the aisle and gave me to the man of my dreams. Before our family and God, I pledged to honor, respect, grow with, laugh with and love my husband. We vowed to leave our single lives behind and became “one” in marriage. And then after three short and blissful months of marriage, my husband deployed to the middle east. I had spent my life dreaming and preparing for marriage and to be a wife. To be honest, for myself it was not difficult to adjust to “married life”, but it actually came very naturally. Coming home from a long day to my best friend, cooking dinner together and crawling into bed to watch a show together is probably my ideal night. I was so excited to finally have found my partner in life and to start building our future together and working on our marriage. Yet God had other plans for me in our first year; instead of the focus being working on and building our marriage together, I think God has used these past few months apart to work on each of us one-on-one. It has been a long, difficult, emotional journey but I have also seen so much good come from it already. My husband has his own side of the story, but I will share some of the things God has taught ME in the past few months.
First, I have had to face some of my greatest fears this year. There are not many things in this life I am truly afraid of. I am a rather hard person to scare, I kill my own spiders, jump off of 50 foot cliffs into water, and will ride anything at a theme park. Basically, I don’t really have any IRRATIONAL fears, and over all I thought I was already pretty good at trusting God. But my deepest fears I could identify were that of having a long distance relationship (due to past experiences) and my husband dying. Lucky me, I got to face those fears head on right away! I almost didn’t start dating my now husband in the beginning because of the fact that he was in the Marines and I did NOT want the military wife life. I had seen other friends and family members go through deployments and military life, and also seen marriages fall apart because of it. You rarely hear of GOOD things coming from a deployment to be honest! So if it were totally up to me, I would have had NOTHING to do with military life. But God had a greater plan, and after weeks of wrestling with the decision to not only date him, but to enter into a relationship knowing full well that I would have to endure not only a deployment but also the possibility of losing the man I loved, I finally came to a place where I realized no matter what his job was, death is always a possibility and something I can never control. I had to wrestle with that fact and finally come to a point of surrendering it to God and trusting in what ever his plan was, scary as the unknown may be. However, little did I know that I would have to reface those fears over and over and over and over again. I will be driving in the car and, all of the sudden out of nowhere, become so completely overwhelmed with the fear of losing my husband that I start to uncontrollably sob and yell and wrestle with God. Yet again and again, God brings me back to a place of surrender and TRUST that no matter what the future holds, He has a “good and perfect plan” for my life, and a greater purpose.
And this is the second thing that God has been showing me in my time alone. I have a greater purpose than simply being a “wife”, though I find so much contentment in it. God has been calling me to so much more than “contentment” lately. He has been calling me to action. To get off my couch and get involved: involved with youth, involved with peers, and involved with even the homeless people in my own community. To be honest, a large part of me wants to hide in my room, loose myself in TV shows and drown in ice cream until my husband gets back and I can go back to living a full life (and many women say this is basically what they do while their husbands are gone), like a deployment basically means you just put your regular life on pause. Luckily, God also made me a very relational and active person, and after about ONE DAY of that I get stir crazy and need to get out of the house and be with people. But I quickly started to realize the great opportunity I had with all my sudden free time, and threw myself into ministry and investing in people, and honestly it has been so rewarding and blessed me far more than I have blessed anyone else. God started to reveal part of my “purpose” right now of starting and leading a young adults group at our church, something that had been on my heart for over three years. I began to develop deeper relationships with people I had known for years, but only at what felt to be a surface level. While trying to stay active and exercise, I began taking long walks by the beach instead of going to the gym, and I started to meet people in my community and build relationships. I started seeing the “homeless” as real people, and God broke my heart for them and pressed on my heart to do what ever I could, even if it was simply to remember their names and listen. I had one nanny job end and what I thought would be the perfect position for me suddenly not work out, and instead of having to search for something new God led me to an amazing family from my church that needed help and that I already admired and wanted to learn from., and so my “job” became so much more than that. I started to identify mentors and sought to spend more time with them and their families. And most of all I grew closer and deeper with God than I have ever been, finding a renewed joy and passion for his word and in my prayer life. Amidst all the struggles and storms, I realized God was actually using this time to grow something beautiful, like the many rains in spring help sprout a garden (well maybe not in California…). He was growing ME as an INDIVIDUAL. For so long I had been in relationship after relationship, and when I wasn’t in one, I was searching for one. God brought me to this strange place where I was content and had finally found THE ONE and became “one”, yet suddenly was on my own and no longer able to focus on a relationship. And with my focus suddenly no longer mainly on a romantic relationship, I was forced to grow as an individual so many new ways and focus solely on God and the work He had for me. I was suddenly “single” while married, with the reality that I had to build a completely new life ALONE, and preferably one that was somehow still fulfilling. It was difficult and very scary at first, but with God’s help I did just that, and I certainly have a new found confidence and independence.
To be honest, I think the separation was actually a really good thing for our marriage also. We learned how to communicate in a whole new way. We were forced to start a habit of verbally communicating love and appreciation every day. We learned to set boundaries on the harder talks like finances and instead be intentional about remembering to laugh and pray together more. But probably most importantly we learned that I DO NOT FULFILL HIM, AND HE DOES NOT FULFILL ME. Most of the time we could barely even comfort each other, much less make the other person feel fulfilled! It is beyond heart breaking to watch your spouse break down crying from behind a screen, and not be able to comfort them with a hug or touch. There began to be so many “needs” that I realized I couldn’t meet, and vise-verse, but in those moments God taught us over and over again to turn to him. When we were at our most broken, the ONLY one able to put us back together was God, and the only comfort we could offer each other was prayer. It was a difficult lesson, but my prayer is that it has created a strong foundation for our marriage going forward.
Soon my husband will be home, and I will once again adjust back to life as “us” and “we”, no longer just me. I am obviously excited and counting down the days, but as I reflect I am thankful for the journey that God has taken me on this year. I would’t want to relive it for sure, or even wish it on anyone else, yet for many this long separation is simply a part of life. If YOU are facing an upcoming deployment of your spouse, just know that while yes it is extremely tough, it is not the end of the world, and you DON’T have to spend the whole time in your PJ’s eating ice cream and crying. Set goals, stay active, and find a community of people to not only help you, but that you can help also. And take advantage of this time to grow as an individual and to find your purpose, because even when you are alone, you can still live a crazy, active, fun, awesome fulfilling life, especially if you have God at the center!
And even if deployment is not something on your horizon, it is still important to take time to work on your individual relationship with God, and to realize that no other PERSON will ever fulfill you and be able to meet all your needs. The sooner you can learn to turn to God FIRST, the happier you and your relationships will be.
Thank you to all my friends an family who have supported me, comforted me, mentored me and gotten me through these long and tough months. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without you and I beyond grateful for the people that took time to invest in me, struggle with me and bring happiness and laughter into my life. Thank you for journeying with me fam. ❤