Being graceful when you’re exhausted:
A little about me. I’m a wife, a mother, and someone who has way more projects to do on Pinterest than I could ever accomplish in a life time. I am also an army wife, a contractor wife, a preacher’s kid, a missionary kid and an avid ice cream lover. I’ve also recently learned about what grace really means.
My husband is a career military with the Army and has been a federal contractor. He’s been deployed for about 70% of our relationship and we’ve been through our fair share of struggles from that. However, we have Christ in our family and that has been our saving grace.
My husband’s deployments have been something that we’ve had to work through. There have been birthdays, anniversaries, parties, special events, holidays that has been missed. Missing these events is one thing but what about the doctor’s appointments? The oil changes? The cars that break down? The life events that we have no words for? What happens when you’re doing those alone? Basically, deployments suck, let’s just admit that.
Life is hard. Relationships are hard. Marriage is hard. Yet, marriage is the most rewarding, amazing, fulfilling challenge there is. Second, only to parenting, I believe. Marriage in a June Clever setting is difficult enough: husband works 8-5, wife stays at home with the kids vacuuming in pearls. But when you add the military life into the mix of a marriage and family it adds a whole different dynamic that most couples aren’t prepared to handle.
Having husbands in the military have a level of anxiety and stress that most of the general populous will never fully understand. Some choices are life and death. Some choices will affect national security. I don’t mean to belittle those spouses who work normal 8-5 jobs, but getting a memo turned in on time just doesn’t compare to the real world of war; not only physical war, like that of Operation Iraqi Freedom, but the inner war that these men go through. Imagine having a husband who comes home with that kind of weight on his shoulders! Let me tell you, it’s not easy. They can be distracted and lose focus during family time, sometimes there is substance abuse, sometimes there is actual abuse and sometimes there is just apathy (fill in the blank here; each person deals with this differently). As you know, stress affects everything! Stress so detrimental physically and emotionally and especially in our relationships when we are not giving grace and understanding even when we don’t understand. I speak as a wife of a career military man. I know there are marriages out there where the wife is the military personnel. Whatever your roll is in that marriage or relationship I hope this speaks to you in some way.
Sometimes I don’t understand what my husband is going through. Honestly, sometimes I don’t care. Now hear me out before you judge. Parenting is hard; it’s even harder when your spouse is gone for weeks or months at a time. When my husband is home, the selfish part of me wants him to give our son a bath and get him in bed and play with him and get him dressed so I can play a game on my phone or scrolls through Pinterest or goes take a bubble bath myself. Sometimes I want to go out and not worry about him handling things without my having to leave a detailed (literally step by step) list of our nightly routine because he’s been at work for so long that he’s forgotten that it’s “bath-brush teeth-potty-pjs-2 books-flashlight-BED’. Sometimes I just want a break. But sometimes you don’t get one. And as wives of soldiers (military wives or contractor wives), we must learn that sometimes we don’t get a break when we need it. Perhaps they’re deployed for months on end or perhaps they’re just too stressed out from their duties to handle much else right now. The reasons are endless, but nevertheless, they are there and they are legitimate.
So, what do we spouses do when this happens? How do we react when we don’t get what we need? Realistically it’s not getting what we want most of the time though right? If we were honest with ourselves, truly honest, we could handle a lot more given the right perspective. You see, God made spouses to help each other. Wives are help mates. Yes, that goes both ways, but that is inherently our roll in a relationship; to submit to God first and our husbands second. We are to be filled with grace and love and understanding even when we don’t really understand what they’re going through and frankly don’t care too. There are times when my husband will come home, or we will talk via FaceTime and I can tell when something is bothering him, or he is upset or something is weighing heavy on his mind. Our conversations usually end up like this:
Me: “You ok?”
Him: “yeah, I’m fine. Why?”
Me: “just seems like something is bothering you.”
Him: “I’m fine.”
Me: giving him a skeptical ‘I don’t believe you glare’.
Him: “Can’t talk about it….. Truck talk.”
Me: “Ok…write it down if you can talk about it later”.
The term “truck talk” is a term that we coined very early into our relationship. It means that we can’t say certain words or talk about certain topics over the phone, FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangout, or any of the other social medias that we can use to connect while he is gone. On the rare occasion, one of us makes a list of “truck talk moments” to discuss later. Some we can discuss; some we cannot and ladies, you must be ok with that. There is a high level of patience and understanding that one needs to have when dealing with a situation like this. You can’t take it personally if he can’t talk about something or just doesn’t want too! There are times in which it will take longer to set the stage for the situation than to tell you what happened that day. For men, that’s a lot of talking and details that they don’t want to rehash. Ladies, wives, backing off can sometimes be the most helpful thing we can do for our husbands. Learn to be there for him without talking. It is difficult! Women like to talk. We talk about our feelings, what made us feel that way, why we feel that way, how we can feel better blah blah blah…. Men frankly don’t always care about all that and we can’t force them to. That’s not how God designed them.
So how do we be respectful and grace-filled when we’re wearing thin? When we’ve gotten 10 hours of sleep in the past 3 nights and the dishes are piling up right next to the laundry and the kids are screaming and you’re out of apple juice and goldfish? What then? “Suck it up Buttercup!” Yes, I know, that’s a super spiritual term that’s just overflowing with compassion, but seriously, that’s what we have to do sometimes. I have my mother-in-law watch our son just so I can go grocery shopping alone. It takes about 2 hours LESS this way. Yes, I’m a stay at home mom but that doesn’t mean that I don’t value my time and want to get things done efficiently. Besides, getting a break from the little ones is refreshing at times. WE NEED THIS! Asking for help is one of the biggest things we can do during times of deployments/rotations/TDYs. No one expects you to do this on your own. There’s a reason that God instituted marriage to be a PARTNERSHIP, a PAIR of people! A man and a woman! We can’t do it all on our own. Utilizing family, friends, play dates, or daycare one or two days a week is a built-in way to give you a break when you’re wearing thin and your spouse is deployed or buried chin deep in work.
It’s not that he doesn’t want to be home. It’s not that he doesn’t want to be there for you and help you and spend time with his kids. But work is work; especially in the military. Work has its priorities and sometimes work comes first. We have to understand as wives, that it’s not the way our spouses want it to be, but how it has to be. We have to understand that sometimes we have to play mom and dad, get a shower at 11 at night because the kids are finally in bed and asleep, clean the house at 2 in the morning because that’s your only time. Furthermore, we need to be spending time with the Lord DAILY! It’s a difficult process to cram one more thing into the schedule when you’re playing mom and dad but for your sanity and the safety of your kids *wink wink* spending time with the Lord is vital to a calmer attitude and deeper level of patience and grace.
The main point I want to get across in this post is that it’ll all be ok. We will have our ups and downs and we will feel like we’re juggling a few too many hats but that’s where the Lords grace comes in. We all know the verse that says “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” I Corinthians 10:13. It sure seems like He likes to test our faith in that verse sometimes, though doesn’t it? SEEK HIM! In Christ, you will find strength for grace, In Christ, you will find solace, peace, and extra energy to crawl up the stairs on all fours and plop on the bed and finally sleep. When Christ is for us, who can be against us? I challenge you to make sure that the “against us” that verse is talking about, might be you! Attitude and perspective are everything. Getting outside of ourselves and seeing our struggles as a platform to serve our family, our husbands and bless them by our perseverance and grace-filled attitude is one of the greatest blessings you will ever have.
Cheers and give GRACE!