Jason and Natalie – Indiana and Iraq
My husband and I would like to share how God has strengthened and provided for us as a military family, specifically through deployment.
When our first son, Matthew, was 1 month old exactly, the 9-11 terrorist attacks took place on America. Jason had always wanted to be a soldier and felt called to join the National Guard at this time. I was hesitant; I was a new wife and mom and really still a new Christian as well. I worried a lot about the possibility of deployment. But there was no denying that this was what Jason should be doing. It was what he was great at.
There were many weeks that he was gone throughout the next years for training or hurricane relief, but the Lord spared us from 3 deployments early in his career. God worked through promotions and moves to different units just in time to keep him home. And though the guard took a lot of his time from our growing family, we were so blessed to not have to go through a lengthy overseas deployment at this young stage in our faith and family. I knew his time would eventually come, though I believe that I was so afraid of losing him that I wasn’t trusting the Lord fully. It took more of these long absences for us to rely on God. And a really big one was coming.
Our first overseas deployment came in 2008. After years of being on the lists to go to Bosnia, then Afghanistan and Iraq, he had his first official “alert” to go with the 76th Brigade. His position would be convoy commander. He would be responsible for moving equipment and supplies all over Iraq.
Our families in New York and New Jersey would have been happy for us to stay with them, though it felt like the right decision to stay in our home where we were committed to our church and involved in a home school group. It was stable for us and we felt that keeping a schedule was vital. The guard is also different than active duty army; there aren’t families living near you on base that are going through the same experience. Instead, they are spread throughout the state. But our family and friends at church helped to make us feel like we weren’t alone.
In the next months while we were adapting to the difficult change in our life, our church family at Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian provided schedules for friends to take turns writing to Jason, to have me over for Sunday meals, and sending over a teenager weekly, to help me in the house and to watch the kids so that I could have a little time away. It was a tremendous blessing and testimony of Christ’s love.
There were difficult, but not impossible things at home. Jason and I spoke no more–sometimes less–than once a week. It was hard not to wonder where he was and if he was okay. There were repairs on the house that tested my strength to hold things down on my own. We had to have a new roof and fix the main bathroom. I took over the bills and budget completely and made my own schedule that would work for the kids and me. There were times when seeing happy couples or dads at sports games, or hearing someone complain that their spouse had to be gone overnight, felt unbearable. I wanted to be jealous, but God kept sharpening me to see that He could make me strong because of it.
Jason had very real danger all around him at times. Land mines, the pressure to keep men safe and in order, heat and sand and other new elements, always having to be alert and ready to go made his work difficult and stressful. The boys and I were together and able to go to church at least; he was alone.
I believe that we need to pour out our grief to our Heavenly Father, and admit to others that we need Him desperately. I know we both did this, and at times of great lonliness I felt at peace when I cried out to Him. Our comfort simply came from staying in God’s word, praying, and depending on the Lord. We could not have done it without His Grace. We were forced to go to Him more as we didn’t have each other to encourage, which has also helped us remember that He is first in our lives and before all other relationships. Because of this, we knew Him more than we ever had.
He was our comfort and strength and Father when we were alone for 11 months. Psalm 18 is a chapter that I really clung to, that we could relate to. David speaks of God as his rock, fortress and deliverer, in war and overcoming his enemies.
Another provision that helped was to read books about brave men and women who had to endure much more than we ever will. This helped us keep a godly perspective and remember there was worse that could be happening. Daughters of Destiny, edited by Noelle Wheeler, is full of these true stories, and one of my favorites.
The Lord gave us much grace to see that we could glorify God in this situation, and show His grace and protection and abundant provision for us. I am thankful for the ways He strengthened us, showing us we could handle much more than I thought we could.
He has continued to help us remember not to take each other for granted. This life is short, and though God has given us to each other for companionship as a family, ultimately we belong to Him. We can be thankful even in little things that may have irritated us before. When at times clothes or shoes are left on the floor, instead of feeling like Jason is insensitive, I remember that I am just so thankful he is here with me to use those clothes and share this house and my life.
Military life is not an ideal situation for family, but our family continues to learn that all things are possible “through Christ who strengthens me” (Phillippians 4:13).