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526 || A Military See-Saw

Every Independence Day, the whole family gets together from all over the country for a week at our incredible MeMaw’s home on Granbury Lake in Texas. There are boat rides and fireworks, meal assignments and late night baking sessions. This gorgeous tradition is looked forward to with fervor by relatives from all over the United States, and this year, it was most anticipated by my little family in Tennessee.

We had rights to the highest level of excitement this year. We hadn’t been able to attend the past three years, and this would be the first time in seeming ages we would be among the names counted. My husband is in the Army. While most military get holiday leave for the Fourth every year, his training had held us home.

We planned to leave Thursday night after my husband got home from work. But Monday, we received word that instead of a trip from Tennessee to Texas, he would be deploying within the week. Soon after, however, he was told to stand by. Because of the uncertainty of his schedule, we told the family there was no way we would be able to come to Texas — once again. Everyone was disappointed, but none more than we.

He spent Thursday morning at the range. But he came home at noon with a donut for me and news that he would indeed be deploying on, if not before, July 4th. I held my breath for a minute, then settled into my pre-deployment routine. This typically includes baking large batches of pastries, and today it would be cinnamon rolls and a loaf of hearty wheat bread.

Before my yeast had risen, we got another call. Orders for his unit had shifted, and they would no longer be deploying. We knew he wouldn’t be able to get leave to go to Texas on such short notice, but at least we would be together.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

I am not naive to the reality of deployments — as a married couple we have already pushed through two. My husband may have signed the contract, but with my marriage vows to this military man, I committed just as heavily.

Still, the idea of a deployment at such short notice had knocked the wind out of me. Our daughter is 10 1/2 months old. I know I have been blessed by God to have enjoyed my husband’s company and shared responsibility for the majority of her short life — how glad I was that he wasn’t leaving before I could find time to prepare my house, my schedule, and my heart.

But half an hour later his phone rang again.

I knew before he hung up the news wasn’t ideal, and I was correct. The deployment was back on. I added flour to both batches of yeast and set the butter out to soften. I took a deep breath, wiped flour on my shirt and kissed him, remembering the feeling that deployments give me in the first 24 hours. I wondered how much different it would be this time, with an infant daughter. Would it feel more or less heavy to have this little soul in it with me?

I didn’t have to consider the impending loneliness for long. I was working through the first kneed of my breadloaf when I heard his phone ring from the other room. I set the dough aside to rise and found my husband’s eyes. He hung up, and I saw the classic half grin of disbelief at good fortune. I smiled back; he was staying!

But this time, I didn’t dare to believe it. I didn’t ask God to keep him home; what was being asked of him was fair and right. In each deployment, neither of us begrudged the need or that it was his unit going. They had all trained for these moments, and it’s always with some pride that they take up their mantle.

My cinnamon roll dough had been rising for an hour when his phone once again rang. I had been right not to hope, not to believe it was true. They really were leaving, and he should pack. I kneaded the soft, white flour and then rolled it out.

His phone rang three more times before the final decision was spoken. He wouldn’t be leaving after all.

It was 5:30 in the evening, and I was making buttercream frosting with a fork. He called his command about a leave packet he’d put in the week before, and by some miracle, they approved the packet on the spot! We ordered pizza and started packing.

For the first time in three years, we were going to Texas!

Texas

Three hours later, we clambered into our truck, and headed out. We had decided not to tell the family we could come so that when we arrived eleven hours later, they would be as surprised and delighted as we were with the fortuitous turn of events.

We arrived just before 8 the next morning and walked right in the door. MeMaw’s words upon seeing us in her kitchen echoed the you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me thoughts we’d been having. “I don’t believe it,” she said.

Thankfully it was true! We were there! Other members of the family started gathering, expressing varied levels of shock and happiness. We passed our daughter around and introduced her to her family. Two cousins, born mere months from her, entertained our baby.

The days felt long and luxurious as we settled into the summer heat of Texas, braced by the soft breeze that flowed without reserve off of the lake. During the day, we walked barefooted to the dock, putting the babies in the water for the first time. Their faces lit up with the cool freedom of weightlessness in their floats.

When it was my turn to make breakfast, my sister and I made our mom’s secret Christmas morning egg casserole recipe, which felt daring and decadent for summer. Late night games started up, and old family rivals played out their high-talking card games, always filled with more laughter than anger.

As for my husband and me, our hearts were filled as we were surrounded by people we love so dearly.

On Tuesday, July 3rd, my husband was on the dock when a call came through. Plans had shifted. The flight was scheduled, and he was leaving Friday morning. He sent me a text to let me know. I waited for a minute, expecting some part of my heart to crumble, but it didn’t.

I turned to his mom. “The deployment is back on,” I said. “He leaves Friday.” This time I waited for a crumble to show on her face. Instead, she smiled.

“Isn’t God good?” she asked. Relieved, I agreed. Yes. God is so good. Where fear and doubt had plagued me less than a week before, now only calm remained.

An Everyday Miracle

God had worked a deployment so we could be with family. Big pieces needed to be moved to make such a miracle occur. If we had known he would be leaving on the 6th, we wouldn’t have been allowed to leave home. If he had flown out sooner, it still would have been too late for even my daughter and me to make the trip.

Further, the simple, small acts of love offered to me and our little family through the weekend and the clear hand of God in timing buoyed my spirits. I felt confident beginning this first deployment with my little daughter, knowing not one detail does my God miss or care about. His unending faithfulness is always apparent to me in the big strokes of my life. But these warm details, painted with a small brush, fill me and help me trust.

This deployment is short and for the best for all involved. There will be other deployments coming to test my faith more. I believe God has given me moments like these to remind me when I need it:  I am never left alone.

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