Her husband’s first deployment left her feeling lonely. Focusing on others rather than herself made all the difference.
Posted in , Feb 26, 2018
My idea of fellowship is gathering around the table for a home-cooked meal. (Have you ever noticed how often in the Gospels Jesus is sitting down and eating with someone?) “Come and eat,” I love to call out to my husband, Jeremy. To our friends. Our neighbors. Our church family. Other military wives, especially when our husbands are deployed. I’m so passionate about coming together over meals that I write a blog—and have written a whole book—about it.
I didn’t even know how to cook when Jeremy and I got married. He had to sit me down and tell me, “We can’t get Thai takeout every night because of our budget.” Several weeks later, he said, “We can’t eat hot dogs every night because I have to be physically in shape for my job.” After that, I was on the phone with my mom every day at 5 p.m., having her talk me through the most basic recipes.
There was a lot I had to adjust to early in our marriage. The biggest thing was Jeremy’s deployments. Part of the reason I fell in love with Jeremy was his deep sense of commitment—to his faith, to me and to serving our country. I knew his work would take him away from me for months at a time. Yet I struggled with the whole idea of it.
During our engagement, I came across one of the laws God gave the Israelites in Deuteronomy. In chapter 24, verse 5, it says that when a man is newly married, he should not be sent to war, but rather, for one year, he is to stay home and bring happiness to his wife. I clung to that verse.
Not long after our wedding, Jeremy and I left our family, friends and church in Colorado and moved to his duty station in Florida. I wanted us to have time to establish our life in our new town. “Jesus, give us one year,” I pleaded. “Just one year.”
Three times that year, Jeremy was up for deployment. The first time, just three months into our marriage, I was a wreck. We’d barely gotten involved in the community. We were still new at our church. Why hadn’t God heard my cries? When the deployment didn’t end up moving forward, I was limp with relief.
The second time, I was annoyed. We just dealt with this, God. Why are you letting this happen again? That deployment passed us by too.
The third time, Jeremy’s bags were packed and in the car, and I was driving him to the base when he got a call. “We can turn around,” Jeremy said. “The deployment got canceled.”
I was beside myself with joy.
“Bri, at some point, I’m going to deploy. It’s part of military life,” Jeremy said. “This is what service is like.”
Service. Then it hit me. I’d made everything about me and my wants. What about what God wanted? Would I be a partner in his plan for Jeremy and me, or would I be a stumbling block? I’m going to trust you, God, I promised. Show me how to serve you, not myself.
Jeremy didn’t deploy until April 9, 2012. One day after our first wedding anniversary. God had answered my prayer and given us exactly one year.
Still, I was very sad to see Jeremy leave for Afghanistan. Our townhouse was quiet without him. Lonely.
I was feeling sorry for myself when our pastor announced that a group of high school students would be coming to town in June for a Christian summer camp. “We’re looking for people to open their homes and host these kids on the weekends,” he said. “Give them a place to do their laundry, eat some good meals and use Wi-Fi.”
Hadn’t I asked God for an opportunity to serve others? “Sign me up,” I said. Jeremy and I ate at a high-top table I’d bought in college. It sat four—enough to host two or three kids.
I wanted my home to be a haven for them. I stocked up on snacks, pulled out some of my favorite movies and planned a special dinner—my mom’s famous pot roast.
Then I got my hosting assignment. I wouldn’t be hosting two or three kids. There would be eight to ten!
I e-mailed Jeremy in Afghanistan. “Time to get our first dining room table!” We searched online and decided on a wooden farmhouse-style table with eight matching chairs.
The new dining set arrived the day before I was leaving for a quick trip out of town. I grabbed our tools, opened the boxes and laid out all the parts on the dining room floor. I tackled the largest piece first—the table. Just putting that together took two hours.
The chairs were a whole other story. You really needed two people—one to hold the frame, the other to screw the legs in place. I tried leaning chair parts against the wall, wedging them against my hip. Finally, I called it a night. I’d ask a neighbor to help me when I got back from my trip.
While I was out of town, I got a text. “This is Jenny, one of the girls you’re hosting. Would it be okay if we came by to use your washing machine and Wi-Fi this weekend?”
“Of course!” I texted back. I told her to get the key from my neighbor and gave her my Wi-Fi password. “Help yourselves to anything in the kitchen.”
Later that day, Jenny texted me again. “Would you like us to put these chairs together?”
I was mortified. I’d left the chair parts strewn across the dining room floor. “Gosh, no!” I replied. “I want my home to be a place of rest for you all.” I returned to find all the chairs put together and in place around the table. There was a note (which Jeremy and I keep on our fridge to this day): “Your home was such a needed place of rest for us. We are so grateful for your hospitality. We hope you don’t mind we put these chairs together. We can’t wait to share meals around the table with you.”
The next weekend, they did. With Mom’s long-distance coaching, I made a delicious pot roast with buttery mashed potatoes. I had the best time with the kids.
For the remainder of that deployment, I’d wake up in the morning with tears in my eyes from missing Jeremy. But in the evening, I’d throw open my door and invite new friends to come and eat. Our table became a place of celebration, love, hope and fellowship. And it’s been that way ever since.
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