Note from Hannah
This is my sister-in-law Hillary, her husband, Nathan, and their son Solomon. Nathan is an active duty Navy Pilot so they understand what it’s like to live a life of unpredictability. After four moves in four years and Nathan’s first deployment approaching, I asked Hillary to share some of the wisdom she has gleaned with those of us who might be facing similar circumstances. I also want to take a moment to say thank you, not only to those who are serving or have served in our military, but to the families who stood behind them all the way.
Husbands and wives throughout the ages have faced unwanted, lengthy separations due to circumstances outside of their control. Work trips, health issues, wars–the list goes on. When it comes right down to it, if you’re in a loving, healthy marriage, these separations just flat out stink. They are difficult for the one who has to go, and arguably even more so for the one who stays. My husband is a pilot in the Navy. He goes. I stay. We’ve made it through a few shorter periods of separation, but his first deployment is fast approaching, and I have begun to try and process all the implications of this extended time apart. Here is what I am learning about how to survive and even thrive in seasons of long-lasting separation.
- Remember that God is in control-not me (Colossians 1:17) Sometimes this is a daily process, sometimes moment by moment. I want to keep my husband safe. I love him. But he is ultimately not mine to protect. He is God’s. That should be a relief, but in my human nature I still have to convince myself sometimes that I can’t actually do better than God. The truth of the matter is that even when I feel like I am in control, I am not. When my whole family is home, safe and snug in their beds, GOD is in control. When my husband is on a late flight on the other side of the world and I can’t talk to him, GOD is in control.
- Find my comfort and hope in God alone (Psalm 46:1-3) I have been known to over-react occasionally. I tend to act on my emotions. I usually turn to Nathan who calms me down and points me to the truth…the reality of the situation. It’s never as big or as bad as I first perceive it to be. God knew that a calm, level-headed man would compliment me in marriage, and he does. But I often think of Nathan as my only option. He is great at listening and encouraging, but God is perfect. As Psalm 46 says, God is my “very present help in trouble.” He’s ever-present. Nathan isn’t. I will still share most, if not all, of my struggles with Nathan. That’s just the relationship that we have. But I am working at sharing them with my heavenly Father FIRST. Once I’ve brought my troubles to Him, by the time I get to Nathan I may end up sharing a lesson I learned through my struggle instead of blubbering all over his shoulder.
- View my husband and any time we have together as a gift (James 1:17) I’m a sinner and don’t deserve anything good. That’s why the fact that Nathan is in my life is one hundred percent an undeserved gift from God. I’m so thankful for him, and the moment I start to think that I deserve all of his time and attention I am wrong. When I worry or despair because I haven’t had him close to me in months, I want to stop and thank God for him instead of shake my fist and declare that I deserve to have my husband by my side. I want to focus on the time we’ve had together so far and be grateful that God has seen fit to let me spend this time with the man I love. God is good, and He gives good gifts.
- Look for the positives (Psalm 94:19) I love spaghetti. It’s a comfort food for me. Nathan, however, could live without it, which is why I almost never make it anymore. It’s one of those small things I gave up when we got married. A more seasoned military wife once told me that while your husband is away you have to try to enjoy things that you can’t while he’s home. I plan to eat spaghetti as much as I want while Nathan is away! Some more practical positives will be our ability to focus on communication, pray for each other, encourage each other intentionally, depend on the Lord, and spend more time with the Lord. There are also positives not even related to the deployment situation. I have so much to be thankful for: God’s grace (the list could end here), my sweet husband, my precious son, a warm house, a car, good food, a steady income. When the temptation comes to worry and despair, may my focus instead be on all that I have to be thankful for.
- Recognize that it’s all about Christ (Colossians 1:18) Nathan and I were talking about the upcoming deployment the other day. It’s our first big one, and we’re already trying to talk through how to handle it as a couple. It seems huge and it seems hard. One thing he said during that conversation really stuck out to me. He said, “It’s not all about us. It’s bigger than us.” An old church leader of mine used to say that when faced with a seemingly enormous, looming problem or uncertainty to “look at it from the scope of eternity.” God is orchestrating a grand plan, and we get to have a small part in it. This is the season God has our family in right now. He has us here for a reason…HIS reason. I want to make the most of this time, hard as it may be, and learn the lessons He has for me here.
In summary, let me just point you to Philippians 4:4-7.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God with surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
That’s it. That peace that my God promises to give me is my goal. My prayer is that I won’t just survive during the months that my husband is away, but that I will thrive. I want to bless others and be a light to those around me. I want to have a peace and a joy that just doesn’t make sense due to my circumstances. Check back with me around this time next year when I have this first deployment under my belt. I’ll probably have an entirely new list of things I learned. One thing I know will stay the same–it’s all about Christ.