N/A—Not Applicable

There is a saying that goes: take it with a grain of salt. It basically means, “take this lightly”, usually when referring to advice. I have had to learn to take this expression to heart in my life. Often times, “tried and true” advice simply does not, and cannot, apply to the military way of life.

I remember, three years ago, we had a speaker at my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group come and talk to us about keeping the spark alive in our marriages. I went to the meeting full of anticipation and an excited heart, ready to listen and learn. At the time, we had a one-year-old and I was pregnant with baby boy #2. Our marriage had become about babies and pregnancies and I looked forward to getting some tips on how to bring it back to “us”. Some of the advice was great, but then he talked about “two of the most important things you can do for your marriage”—make date night a priority, scheduling one at least once a week, and intentionally talk to each other, face-to-face, for at least 20 minutes a day—and my heart just sank. I honestly don’t think many people understand how hard it is to have a “normal” life when you are a military family. 

Currently, we live on the opposite side of the country from our entire family (in-laws included). We will never have the luxury of grandma wanting to take the kids for a few hours, we don’t have “built-in babysitters” at our disposal. We are fortunate enough to get a date maybe twice a month, thanks to a wonderful program at our church out here. We love those, and we cherish the time, but to expect more than that is nearly impossible.

Another mom in my group that day was a fellow Navy wife and her husband was currently deployed. She asked the speaker, during the Q & A time, what he suggested a couple do, regarding the suggestion of intentional, face-to-face conversing, when a spouse is gone a lot for work. Now, I knew what she meant by this, the other few military spouses in the room knew what she meant by this, but our speaker had no clue what she meant. His answer showed that, suggesting that when you can’t guarantee face-to-face interactions, plan to at least talk on the phone daily. I’ll be honest, at this point, I was defeated and getting a little bitter. I just remember thinking: not all of us have that privilege, when my husband is gone, he is not staying at the Hilton on a business trip… I am lucky if he has access to a computer for a weekly email.

So, does this mean that military couples are doomed? If you had asked me that day, I probably would have said yes. My heart was heavy. But, I realized that when it comes to our marriage, we just need to do what we have learned to do so well in every other aspect of our lives—adapt. My husband and I still can’t have a weekly date night, but you know what? We are OK. We survived 8-months of only communicating through texts while he was deployed to Afghanistan. The fact that I could text him almost daily made me very lucky, the fact that we got an occasional video chat made me the deployment-lottery winner.

My point is that, sometimes, we will hear advice that just cannot apply to us as a military family. It will be easy to get angry and cynical. But, we need to remember that our marriage and our lives have stood up to struggles much greater than finding time for weekly date nights and we have met those struggles head on, coming out stronger on the other side. My husband and I are still intentional about the date nights we’re lucky to have, we make time for each other in our day to day, and we continue to actively seek each other in ways that work for our current situation. Working on our marriage will not always “follow the rules” right now, but that does not mean that we don’t try, it just means that we read between the lines and take that advice with a grain of salt.

Uncertainties

I am a planner. I like my lists. I like having all my ducks in a row and I like to have a sense of control in my life. There are times in life when this behavior is helpful, but as a whole, I know that this is actually one of my bigger character flaws, especially as a Christian woman. By desiring that sense of control, I am taking control away from God, relying more on myself than on Him. I think this is why he had me marry my husband!

Military life means that I have no say or control in some of the biggest aspects of our lives. Currently, where we will live is at the top of that list. We are in a state of limbo right now as we wait to hear where we will move next. My husband’s contract here in CA will be up this summer and we will be moved to a new location. This go-around for picking orders has been a whirlwind. We have had our selections denied twice now, and we are waiting to see if any of our round three selections will be accepted. If they are not, then we fall into a category where the Navy decides for us, we get no say, we are just told. To say my anxiety is through the roof is an understatement. Sitting and waiting with no ability to do anything to influence the outcome is debilitating.

image downloaded from Research Gate

It is amazing to me how God uses our defeated spirits to let his voice speak the loudest. While in the car the other day, I was listening to K-LOVE and singing along to the Casting Crowns song “Held” and a line stopped me in my tracks:

I knew, without a doubt, that God was using that line to remind me of how much he has taken care of us in our often-uncertain lives. I was blessed that, during our first year and a half of marriage, my husband’s station was “home.” This meant that all of the transitions of being a newlywed and new mom were ones that I was able to make in the comforts of the familiar, with our friends and families close by. So when it came time to move, I was unprepared for the throws of military life. I was terrified when we got orders to CA, clear across the country from everything I have ever known. I cannot remember a time where I needed to trust God as much as I did then.

When we moved, it was an incredible growing experience, especially in my faith. When we found the church we have now called “home” for the last 3+ years, the sense of peace and belonging was so strong. There was no doubt that it was where God wanted us. The friends and connections that I have made here happened so quickly, but they have been so strong. I have a village and they have showed up when I needed them the most!

When I heard that song lyric, I was reminded of how beautifully our lives here pieced together. I was reminded that we may not know where will be in six months, but God does, and he has been preparing our lives there already. So for now, I need to go against every instinct and impulse I have to worry, to obsess over the unknown, and just trust. Trust that God will continue to take care of us, continue to provide the people and support we will need during our time in a new place, and continue to grow and stretch us. My life as a military wife may be full of uncertainties, but God will always be my constant, and I can find peace and rest in that promise!