I am not one for New Year’s resolutions. In fact, like the corporate calendar, the fall welcomes new beginnings in me more readily than the changing of the year. However, with 2018 behind me, I am reminded of the heaviness in which I entered it. Never has a new year felt as daunting as that one. I knew my husband would be gone for most of the year and I was a new mother still trying to understand the role of parenthood. The thought of raising my daughter alone was terrifying. In some ways, it didn’t feel possible. Last December, if I had had the choice, I would have skipped 2018 all together. Now I sit in this new year with the promise of my husband’s return. A year that holds so much positive potential. The heaviness is slowly lifting as the end of this deployment comes into view. As I reflect on the past 12 months, it is evident that I was never alone. God was faithful every day and his provisions allowed me to do more than survive this year— I came to the end better than when I began.
I do not wish to dilute the challenges of the past 365 days. There is nothing easy about living apart from your spouse. I carry his absence throughout my day. It waits for me each night on his vacant side of the bed. I do not wish to redo this year, but now that I’ve lived it, I take back my desire to skip it altogether. Challenging, as it was, this year has stretched me in ways I never imagined. God has helped me become more self aware and work on those things which are not beneficial to progress in my life. Namely He showed me the benefit of turning to Him first in every circumstance I encounter.
My first response to unwanted circumstances is not surrender. Even though my faith sees the benefits of suffering, I often do not. In a perfect world, my posture for life would embody the verses below:
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Roman 53-5 ESV
Instead, I have a flair for the dramatic. Not the type of dramatic that causes division between friends, but rather, I embrace a theatrical drama. When something happens, I revel in the opportunity to communicate a soliloquy of hopelessness. Imagine Midge Maisel without the explicit language or exposed breasts. There I am on stage ranting about the ridiculousness of my life to any willing audience.
This year, God taught me to quit the act. He showed me that my monologues, although witty and mildly comical, were not always
helpful. In fact, they often stole joy and welcomed cynicism. Moreover, they were unhelpful for my year of solitude. I still think it’s important to embrace my theatrical side when being vulnerable or relating to a friend. However, in my own personal response to a situation— I am called to see God’s faithfulness first, even in the most trying times. I am meant to rejoice in the smooth patches I encounter on this road and not lament every pothole. In maturity, it’s possible even to greet the potholes with gratitude. In tough places, God provides peace and new perspective. His provisions are sprinkled throughout the details of this deployment.
I found out quickly that I was indeed capable of being the sole parent to my daughter in this season. We found a routine and I learned the necessary balance between flexibility and structure. As a good friend once explained it, raising small children is a lesson in building spiritual grit. Each day I was learning, most days not as quickly as I would like. Patience and surrender have been common themes as I navigate the unstable emotions and unpredictability of a tiny human. My days are no longer shaped by me. In fact, they never have been. But God has truly used this season to show me that He has a good and perfect will and I have a choice to conform to it or not. As I explained in Waves of Change, life is far more enjoyable and less imprisoning when I do.
During this time, I also learned to trust God to take care of my home. I am often nervous sleeping at home alone. The quiet that comes with darkness breeds anxiety. Sleeping by myself was almost as daunting as single parenting. I am forever grateful for Psalm 4:8, my bedtime prayer, “In peace I will both lie down and rest, for you alone , oh Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Through much prayer and practice, I have learned to silence the demons that come knocking at night. I have seen the pointlessness and experienced the exhaustion of worry. Surrendering to a God who is bigger and in control, means I can rest my body and keep it functioning well by being mindful of its limits.
Just when I thought I had a handle on this one woman show, God decided to offer me more. He asked my sister to come live with me and, in a selfless act of obedience, she said yes. She and I had a redemptive season that could only be afforded by my husband’s absence. The last time we lived together we were both drowning too much in our struggles of flesh and faith to support one another. It was such a gift to come together confident in the Lord and determined to do His will. We were given an opportunity, one not afforded to many, in which we got to live together and sharpen one another in our faith. God really does have a better plan for us than the ones we write. There has been a vulnerability and honesty between my sister and me that never existed before. Our souls are knit together by the Spirit and God is doing work there that transcends words and actions. I will never forget the fruit that was born out of my sister’s obedience.
God has also placed friends around me. I now reap much from the community I wrote about needing earlier this year. We walk, encourage, and live communally while our husbands serve half a world away. Just last month, my friend’s son was in the hospital with pneumonia. My sister’s residence here meant that I could spend the day with my friend in the ER. That I could be her person, the way she would have showed up for me if the roles were reversed. God calls us to serve one another and I have been served so well. Whether it’s been free childcare or a cup of coffee and an attentive ear. God has shown me His character through those who have loved me well.
Finally, in my husband’s absence, there has been more time for me to sit with God, read His word, and understand Him better. So may lies have been eradicated during this time and truths have been cemented in the foundation of my soul. It is one thing to know that God is good, it is another to experience it. Every time I experience his goodness, I believe a little deeper and recognize His fingerprints on my life.
At the beginning of this year, I obeyed God because I had no other choice. His will led to my husband’s deployment and this unique season in my life. In this new year, I desire to seek Him through my obedience. To walk willingly in the direction He calls me, regardless of my wants or comfort zone. He has proven time and time again that where He leads promises life and abundance. Therefore, I am far more willing to conform my own will to His. In the freedom that comes with such obedience, I now wait, as patiently as I know how, for my husband to return. There is much to fear as our two worlds collide and we relearn what it looks like to be a family of three. Instead, I choose to trust in the God who’s faithfulness carried me through this year. If He can be trusted in a season of suffering, how much more in a season of joy?