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The Deployment Balancing Act – Day of the Deployed

It's the deployment balancing act - We struggle with trying to fill our days, keeping mindlessly busy, trying to stop the mental cycle of anxiety and stress, holding our collective breath as we wait for our soldiers to come home.

The Day of the Deployed is always a bittersweet remembrance for me because my husband has deployed several times. While I am so grateful he isn’t deployed today, I know that thousands of spouses still wait, life on perpetual pause, hoping their spouses return safely.

I never know how to summarize the experience of deployment for those outside this military community because it’s such a complex experience.

We miss them as husbands, and we miss them as friends. We miss help with baths, bedtimes, homework, housework. While we struggle with anxiety and fear, we simultaneously live for every phone call or email and struggle to live at all.

It’s this terrible balancing act I felt weighing on my heart today. We have to live and find things to live for, not just countdown the deployment.

I can’t press pause on an entire year.

We’ve got to live those months or years they are gone, but . . . we want to freeze time, we don’t want that year of living to pass them by, but we can’t let it pass us by either.

Deployments are a terrible balancing act of waiting and finding the strength to keep living. Click To Tweet

So today I’m sharing portions of my army wife diary posts from this date in 2010, which, coincidentally, deal exactly with this complicated tightrope act.

“Today (Oct. 2010) I was tired, but I had a choice what attitude I would have. The past week or two, I have just been counting days, struggling against the world, but have I been living?

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” -Thoreau

Can I spend 365 days just waiting for him to come home?

I don’t want to get to the end of this year to discover I have not lived.

During my first experiences with a military man, distance and separation, I wrote this poem about living in a hurry to get to a much anticipated future.

Fools’ Luxury  by Jennifer DeFrates

Three minutes before heading home,
  striding purposely,
  laying out the evening at hand,
  I passed a quiet man, gray and lined
  silently sweeping piles of dust and off-handed debris
  from ancient tiles pooled with afternoon sun.
  Wish it was Friday –
  I answered his casual query
  Why, he said – giving me internal pause –
  Why would you wish days of your life away?
  Too busy to stop, I flippantly shrugged
  And carried on
  But his simple wisdom rippled inside
  Reverberating against my arrogance of immortality.
  Why were these Wednesday hours less precious?
  Where was my Thursday guarantee?
  In an epiphany flash, I wondered
  How long I’d been always looking to the next finish line –
  Friday        June        next Christmas –
  How long ignoring my life,
  Continuously waiting to live it,
  Procrastinated dreams growing dimmer,
  Days I’d let fall into dilapidation
  Instead of carefully constructing each minute.
  Time is fools’ luxury.
  Those with no more would chide, if they could,
  Would remind that Thoreau at his pond had it right.
  Too many meet death without knowing life
  Failing to embrace its falling seconds.
  So this Wednesday I sit
  And soak in cut grass and dampened dirt
  Shivering in Winter’s dying wind
  and try to teach myself
  To walk the tightrope
  Between looking toward tomorrow
  While remembering to see today.

Am I so focused on the end of this deployment, that I’m missing right now?

Today (2010), I ran late for my doctor’s appointment, then waited for an hour just to get into the exam room. After two minutes, he tells me I need to have two major surgeries. I can imagine the fun crutches will be with a baby.

An emergency trip to the grocery store took too long. When rushing to put away the groceries before picking up the baby, I shattered my coffee pot. So I had to make another trip to the store. Or go without coffee tomorrow. . . HA, yeah, right!

Deployed day is already missing these moments, I don't want to miss them too.
Froggy Bottom Baby

All these things went WRONG, and I came home smiling because I got to choose my response to these situations.

I choose joy.

I choose to live right now, even as it’s hard. It’s hard to truly enjoy the moments he is missing, but I know refusing to be joyful won’t give him back those times.

So, I danced and sang and played with my daughter, making her giggle over and over, reveling in her sweet baby laughter.

I could have spent this afternoon moping and sad and scared and frustrated, but what was that attitude going to solve? Nothing.

Worrying and waiting for my husband’s return isn’t going to solve anything either.
Attitude may be the most powerful choice we ever have in this military life. #DayoftheDeployed Click To Tweet

We struggle with trying to fill our days, keeping mindlessly busy, trying to stop the mental cycle of anxiety and stress, holding our collective breath as we wait for our soldiers to come home.

It's the deployment balancing act - We struggle with trying to fill our days, keeping mindlessly busy, trying to stop the mental cycle of anxiety and stress, holding our collective breath as we wait for our soldiers to come home.

However, that isn’t living.

None of us want to realize that we have not lived, but sometimes it’s hard to find a way to live deliberately when now is painful.

Find one thing to smile about and hold onto it as long as you can.

Crying will happen, it is part of this army wife life, just don’t let it be what fills your time until tomorrow.

That Day of the Deployed was five years ago,

and the last one I personally experienced with a spouse in harm’s way.

We tumbled through deployments tied to cell phones and Skype, just trying to find our footing.

I, like many military spouses, had to master trying to find the delicate balance of waiting for them and living in the present.

Save that new action movie, wait to try the new sushi place, but have joy in the life we have now, instead of just impatiently waiting for tomorrow. Life doesn’t stop for hard, neither should we.

Matthew 6:34 ESV  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

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Memorial Day Grace & Perspective from an Army Wife

Not sure what to say or do about Memorial Day? Are you supposed to say anything? if so, to whom? This is one Army wife's perspective on Memorial Day Grace.

Before 2005, Memorial Day wasn’t really on my radar, even coming from a family of servicemen. It was the beginning of summer, BBQs, and I could wear white shoes again.

But wasn’t really tangible for me until I kissed my young man goodbye and sent him to war.

Luckily when I gave my heart to a soldier, he came home to me.

Not every service member comes home, and I cannot speak for their families. I can only speak for my heart on this issue.

Starting a few days ago, posts began circulating on social media about knowing the difference between Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Armed Forces Day.

Spreading knowledge is admirable, but the tone of some posts was hostile.

“Don’t thank my husband on Memorial Day!”

“If you wear the uniform, Memorial Day isn’t about you.”

OUCH! Those hurt MY heart.

I can only imagine the grief that spurred those posts, but is that really the tone we want to have towards ANYONE who is grateful for military service?

Absolutely, Memorial Day is about those who gave all.

It honors those who won’t ever come home: dads, daughters, sons, mothers who sacrificed everything to stand for our nation.

Absolutely, Memorial Day honors those who gave all, but don't reject thanks for those that gave some. Click To Tweet

The depth of that sacrifice is too great to quantify. Boys never returned to marry waiting sweethearts. Men will never meet their child this side of heaven. Mothers will never kiss their babies goodnight again.

It’s too heavy to grasp unless you’ve lost someone.

Not sure what to say or do about Memorial Day? Are you supposed to say anything? if so, to whom? This is one Army wife's perspective on Memorial Day Grace

But I look at those green fields lined with white crosses and see people who will never hear another heartfelt, “thank you for your service.” I also see my husband who will never be the same.

And I think, why reject someone who gets it wrong and thanks a living soldier on Memorial Day? or an active service member on Veteran’s Day?

Gold Star families who lost someone might answer differently, but I imagine if they could thank their loved one more time, they would.

I want everyone to know we celebrate Memorial Day to recognize and honor those who paid the ultimate price, so the next generations understand how valuable their freedom is.

But if you also thank a living veteran or active soldier, that’s okay.

Should you thank a service member on Memorial Day? It's not for them, but reminds us to be grateful. Click To Tweet

Because All gave Some, too. No one serves without risking all.

Take every chance to say thank you while they are alive.

Memorial Day reminds us of those who went willing to make that sacrifice, like my husband. He lived things that haunt his nightmares so I can sleep in peace.

And I never want to discourage someone from appreciating his sacrifices. But we do need to be mindful that some veterans bear emotional scars and even genuine thanks reopens those wounds.

Instead of a harsh rebuke, just say thank you if someone gets it wrong. It comes from a place of gratitude.

If you want to recognize a service member, say, “I know this is Memorial Day, but I so appreciate your service, too.

I want to invite people to understand this military life, its costs and sacrifices as well as its joys and adventures; but there is a price, and I don’t think we can honor those who pay it too often.

Not sure what to say or do about Memorial Day? Are you supposed to say anything? if so, to whom? This is one Army wife's perspective on Memorial Day Grace.

My husband doesn’t stand when service members are recognized, because he doesn’t consider himself a hero.

I love his humility, but I remind him that he stands not for those around him: so our country can recognize his service and sacrifices, and so those around him can connect a face to those who serve.

Memorial Day may be about those who’ve died, but it’s for the living, for us to remember the cost of our freedom. And there is no wrong time to do that.

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Bloom in Any Season

I was crying, running on vapors, trying to do it all myself. Why do I keep forgetting I didn't get this far alone? I need Him to bloom in any season.

Last Sunday, I held this beautiful rose in my hand as it bloomed defiantly in November. I heard God’s quiet whisper,

“Even this rose can bloom in any season.”

What wonderful encouragement! I have been truly relying on God during this difficult season in the Army, tired but coping.

And isn’t that when the bottom falls out? the minute we think we have it all together? the minute we try to do it ourselves .  .  .

God was encouraging me after the month we’ve had.

My husband has been gone 18 hour days, 6-7 days a week, most Army related but some hunting, and selfishly, I get tired of being ‘all the adults.‘ I was on vapors, holding on desperately for a break. When making frozen pizza seems overwhelming, I’ve hit rock bottom. I thought I had no more to give.

But God was also preparing & instructing me for the week to come.

Monday, the text message came, “Don’t expect me home.”

At all, for at least 72 hours, maybe a week. No warning, no planning ahead. Just gone. Not in war, not deployed. Yet, tiny heartbreaking nights that he just isn’t home.

I was crying, running on vapors, trying to do it all myself. Why do I keep forgetting I didn't get this far alone? I need Him to bloom in any season.

A piece of sensitive equipment (read expensive) went missing and the entire unit was put on lockdown. It wasn’t done appropriately. Soldiers were left with no food, denied necessary medications, while others were let walk to the convenience store or go home to tend to pets.

My husband was stressed and furious. If there was a way to make this situation more disastrous and less compassionate, they found it. Helplessly watching it unfold via text message was so incredibly difficult. Knowing how this would ripple through every inch of our next weeks, I could feel my anxiety building.

But I tried to push it down, jump those hurdles without breathing hard. We can do this! I’m not who I used to be. I’ve totally got this  . . .

. . . but the pressure built inside. I could feel God mentally tapping me on the shoulder, trying to get my attention.

“Even this rose can bloom in any season.”

But I didn’t want to bloom. I wanted to BE MAD. I mean had a good reason to lose it, right?

By day 3, I broke my #30DaysWithoutComplaint challenge. While I tried to be strong and calm, I ran out of steam. I cried. I complained, launching into the unfairness of it all, but I didn’t feel any better.

I was cooking  two separate, multi-step meals for a friend whose husband was having surgery, cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner for my house, making a week’s worth of meals for my husband, plus packing a suitcase, trying not to forget anything since we live 45 minutes from his training facility.

Meanwhile I was trying to parent, home-school, check in with family, fellowship with friends, deal with accidental Facebook drama, and take care of my personal needs, like eating. And deal with a 5-year-old who was having her own missing daddy breakdown. When I would look up from the chaos, all I could see was the dust, dog hair, and general filth and clutter taking over my house.

I was running out of steam because I was trying to do it all. I. Me. ME.

Ephesians 2:8 ESV  “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,”

Where was God in there? Yeah, I was giving Him a nod, keeping my exterior calm, but I wasn’t giving Him the anxiety in my heart, not asking Him to guide my emotions or attitude.

NOT MY OWN DOING. I didn’t change and grow through my own will, why can’t I remember this?

Why can’t I remember I will never outgrow needing Him?

I was trying to multi-task, poorly, trying to avoid burning down my house literally (I do have a nicely browned potholder now) and figuratively, not destroy months of work I’ve done living some big changes Christ is working in me.

And God whispered, you can bloom in ANY season when you live by faith. #BloominAnySeason Click To Tweet

Again seeing the rose in my mind, I heard God calling me to bloom in THIS hard season. I opened my bible app and let it start reading to me while I worked.

James 1:3 ESV For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

Just last week, I wrote about the beauty of our marriage through the testing we’ve survived, the way we’ve learned to rely on each other. So did I mean it?

When I wanted to cry, I said, God “let me put down my agenda for this week and pick up YOURS.”

My prayers changed from bring him home to ‘how can I be calm despite the storm, help me prioritize,  and be a blessing and encouragement to my husband and friends.’

Why can't I remember I will never outgrow needing Him? Can't do this life on my own. #BloominAnySeason Click To Tweet

It was draining and emotional, but I managed to focus on one moment at a time and to be a blessing when my husband finally came home frustrated and exhausted.

Instead of demanding he talk, I let him work through his feelings. When he was sharp, I took a deep breath instead of firing back. I offered whatever support he needed and let him set the tone for the weekend, so he would have the fortitude to face the new week, including a 24 hour duty on Thanksgiving.

One way I learned to bloom in any season was to realize that sometimes messy can be beautiful because the house doesn’t get our attention – when we give it to people instead.

We are in the last years of his career, but the constant trials of Army life are surrounding us. We can focus on the difficulties or know that we’re being shaped and pruned to face every struggle, beautifully able to bloom in any season.