Yesterday my friend Melissa called to tell me her dishwasher broke. This would probably not be a big deal except for one little fact: The day before yesterday, her husband deployed.
Of course he had.
Military wives know that deployment gremlins, as some like to call these coincidental mishaps, come with being a military family. For me, it was a perfectly good garage door that was working fine the day I kissed my husband goodbye as he left for Iraq, only to completely refuse to budge the next day when I needed to drive my son to school.
These kinds of setbacks have a way of either making us laugh or reducing us to tears, and in my 15 years of living through drill weekends, two-week trainings, three-month schools, and ten-month deployments, I have done both. It never gets easier to be separated from your husband, and with different seasons of life come different challenges. But we persevere. We push through. We pray hard. And if we're willing to look, we can learn more than what we started out knowing.
As my husband gets ready to leave for his third deployment in the last six years, this time to Afghanistan, it's perhaps as good a time as any to think about the lessons we military spouses learn over the course of our service.
Lesson #1 - Marriage takes work. If you've been married more than a day, you know this to be true, whether your spouse wears a military uniform or not. Just like civilian marriages, military marriages require lots of patience, lots of love, and a whole lot of grace for a couple to be successful. I've learned to forgive when I didn't want to and overlook when I really wanted to finger-point. I've learned not to sweat the small stuff, but to be grateful for the things that really matter. I've discovered that focusing on my husband's strengths is so much better than concentrating on his flaws, and he does the same for me. I am quicker to say, "I'm sorry," and slower to accuse or get defensive because I've also learned that …
Lesson #2 - Life isn't always about me. If life were always about me, the military would understand when I need my husband home for my birthday, or just to help cook dinner once in awhile. But military life has taught me, instead, how to reach out and help others who are in the same shoes and hurting. Sharing my experience-the good, the bad, and the ridiculous—not only helps others feel less alone, but also helps me find purpose in this life God has given me. The lessons he's teaching me can't just stay with me.