Deployment is one of the most challenging times in the life of a military family. There’s the loneliness, the responsibility, and of course the worry. No matter what we do, the stress of what-if is always in the back of our minds.
And that’s where we try to keep it.
Of course I thought that with enough preparation I could be ready for the what-ifs. I believed my first line of defense against uncertainty was learning how to deal with the long nights ahead. It was obvious to me that nights would be the worst, everything seems scarier in the dark hours between midnight and dawn.
They did prove to be tough, but what I hadn’t counted on were the difficult times that often ambushed me during the daylight hours. I learned–the hard way–that it’s the days you have to watch out for.
I’m a full-time writer, a wife, and a mother. During Jimmy’s deployments, his brothers were still in middle and high school, so I had a lot going on. I assumed that the busyness of my days would insulate me from the stress of having a son at war–and sometimes it did–but not as often as you might think.
Those daylight challenges seemed to come at me from out of nowhere. I remember one particular time in the car during Jimmy’s first deployment. I was listening to the radio on my way to afternoon carpool. The song from Mark Schultz, “Letters from War” came on and had me sobbing so hard I had to pull the car over.
This wasn’t the only time a car ride proved dangerous. Driving by the park, watching youngsters at play caused me to change my regular route to church. Driving by the school where the boys had attended first grade became a trip fraught with emotional peril.
Another unexpected emotional trigger came not by sight, but from smell. Scent is a powerful thing. I knew that, but hadn’t applied it to this situation. Then one day the whiff of new notebook paper after a school supply run did a serious number on my emotions.
The truth is, deployment is a time filled with emotional potholes and setbacks. It’s a time when we need to cut ourselves some slack and realize the tears will come. But no matter how overwhelmed by what-if we get–our uncertainty is never a reflection of God. He is never out of control, and it’s His steadfastness that we must rely upon to stay strong as we support our loved ones at war.
A military mom learns to accept–and appreciate–the changes in her son after his first deployment.
Just as there's exercise for a healthy body, there's exercise for a healthy soul.