Oh the relief of having another deployment behind us!

Now that it's been a few months since Thane got back home, I think life has finally hit "normal" again. So I'm taking the time to reflect on the ups and downs of the deployment and what God so graciously led us through. Some wonderful things, some difficult things, but all things that I know He had a purpose in, even if it's hard to understand.

1) The flexibility to travel! Long road trips with two little boys aren't exactly easy, but we had the great opportunity to spend a couple of extended chunks of time with our family down south. After getting used to missing out on a lot of family events, we got to appreciate birthday parties and holiday bashes and lots of special meals together.
2) The constant companionship and distraction of two little boys. As hard as it was to be on mommy duty 24/7, they helped me keep my mind off missing Thane as much as possible.
3) A couple of new personal goals that I've actually been able to stick with. Like deciding to update my wardrobe and make some changes to my buying habits. I wrote about it in detail back in this post, and I'm happy to say that I've stuck to my goal of resisting lots of impulse purchasing and instead am investing in higher quality pieces that will last.
4) Once in a lifetime opportunities that would have never come along otherwise, like getting my dear friend Sam as a roomie for a few months! She helped us make it through Watertown's worst winter in decades and her companionship was truly my "river in a desert" {Isaiah 43:19}. It was a brief amount of time that we had together, but I'll cherish her friendship for life! One of my favorite memories together has to be our shared enthusiasm for granola and the homemade recipe she pioneered.
5) Time do some much needed home renovations that Thane would have talked me out of had he been around, like the removal of really ugly wallpaper. {Another thanks to Sam for her help!}
6) Most important of all, extra time to devote to my relationship with Christ in the Word and prayer, plus some ladies bible study groups and a role in the start-up of a military ministry at our church.

1) The one parent to two children ratio. Especially only four months after becoming a mom of two and while and still in the adjustment phase. We didn't have kids for our first deployment, and let me just say that a deployment with kids is no vacation.
2) A period of time in the beginning where I shared a bedroom with Silas. I know there are so many parents that this works great for, but it just doesn't for me! I hear every little peep he makes even when he's down the hall in his own room. So waking up multiple times to nurse him plus hearing his every move all night meant very little sleep. And added to the rest of the normal stress that comes with deployments, it got to a point where I could barely sleep even when things were quiet. It was like my brain just couldn't turn off, regardless of how exhausted I was. We got our own separate rooms back once we made our way back north and that made a tremendous difference.
3) Massive amounts of snow. As beautiful as it is and as much as I love seeing it come down, it makes life somewhat precarious when there are two small boys who can't get outside to play. This plus a serious lack of indoor playgrounds in Watertown meant we pretty much lived at the McDonalds Playplace on days we could get out.
4) Sicknesses. There was one point where the three of us we were tag-teaming a bad cold for about five weeks straight. That meant no playdates, no church, and basically just super long, slow, mind-numbing days inside. If I didn't have Sam for adult interaction for a couple hours in the evening, I would have lost my mind. {Once again, thank you Sam!}
5) An ER trip with both boys in the middle of the night by myself. Like the time we went out of town for a military spouse retreat and had to rush Silas down a mountain to the closest ER {having no clue where it was} at 1am, and then after finding it {praise God} sit there until 9am, only to have my phone and GPS die on the way back to the lodge in a town I was totally unfamiliar with. Then, once we made it back to the lodge, figuring out how to carry two sleeping boys into a hotel {with no stroller, since my stroller frame had recently been stolen from a McDonalds parking lot}. Plus doing all of it without a coat in the middle of February in Upstate New York {the least of my problems, but funny nonetheless.} Oh- last thing, I promise- the sinking feeling of realizing we just missed the complimentary breakfast buffet that I'd been looking forward to all night during the 9 hour wait in the ER. Yay! But despite the craziness of it I'm so so thankful that Silas got what he needed to feel better. He had a sudden onset off croup as well as a slight case of pneumonia, but it was only a 24 hour case.
6) No R&R {two week visit} for nine month deployments. When you're about to start the deployment, nine months seems infinitely better than a year {which was the length of our first one}. And so I'm thankful for the optimism we had going into it! But let me tell you- and I'm sure a lot of you Army wives understand this all too well- a nine month stretch with nothing to break it up is a long time {and in our case, closer to nine and a half months}. I'm not saying I'd prefer another year long deployment just for the sake of an R&R, but just that both ways are flat out hard.
7) Thane's Welcome Home ceremony was delayed seven times in the last five days before he got home. I wish I could say I had perfect temperance through all of it- and believe me, I tried. But at the very end, it's almost impossible to take it well when you're told you have to wait one more day, six different times, and then to be wondering through Walmart wondering how to fill another day of waiting when I {quite by accident} got the update that the day had changed yet again and he was actually getting home in about six hours. And once all was said and done, it only ended up being a two day delay! But the constant changes had me in a state of emotional whiplash and by the time he really got home I was pretty much numb. 

Alright. I think I'll leave it at that! I have to be honest and admit that this was- at times- an overwhelmingly difficult deployment. And to really do justice to the topic, it encompassed so much more than just the start to finish date. There was the day we got the news that Thane was going, followed by a few months of sporadic training events that gave us a taste of what was to come. Not to mention the very long days at work, coupled with the anticipation and stress of the impending send-off. The week leading up to the goodbye was a heavy, sobering fog. Then, it began. At first, it was a bundle of so many emotions; sadness, relief, heaviness over the daunting task that just began, yet a little bit of comfort in knowing that at least it was started and could begin to tick down. Then, we muscled through it. And now that we have young kids, we really muscled through it. And so did Thane, on his end. And finally, finally, by the grace of God, it ended. What extreme relief and joy and thankfulness to be together again! But truly getting back to normal took some time...after being used to making all of the decisions, it required a lot humility and patience and to hand the reigns back over. Not that a ton needed to change, but you moms know how many dynamics are involved in running a household and a family! So it can be complicated to re-work the system, even when you're married to the best husband and father you could ask for. I probably don't brag on him enough, but Thane is a fantastic, fantastic man. He loves God and takes such good care of us in every single regard. The boys and I are truly, truly blessed!

But in all of the ups and downs, in the blessings and the challenges, my battle verse was "trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight." {Proverbs 3:5} As much as I didn't like the personal process of sanctification that He led me through during parts of the deployment, He absolutely has to test me in order to grow me. He has to allow me to learn things the hard way. I think it's safe to say that {for the most part} spiritual maturity rarely develops in times of ease or total contentment. It's when I'm forced to rely on Him and His promises every single day, even if it means clinging to a bible verse that promises victory in the midst of my own continuous failings. This past year He taught me more clearly than ever that no amount of my own efforts- as sincere as they may be- can produce one ounce of change in me. I may be able to go to church and ladies bible study every week, memorize scripture and repeat it over and over to myself, and then pray, pray, and pray some more. But none of these things- as essential as they are- can deliver me from certain struggles. It is truly God and God alone who is able to grant freedom from sin and shortcomings and trials. {All the while keeping in mind that my personal trials are true examples of first world problems compared to what horrors so many of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world live with every day.}

So, as glad as I am that this deployment is over, I have a sobering thankfulness for the spiritual maturity and fruit that He no doubt worked to bear in me. And on top of a good lesson in trust and perseverance, He taught me to get better at reaching out to the families that are still waiting on their spouses to come home again. Praise God for the fellowship and support that the Army community is able to give each other. I've been the recipient of much of it and now I'm striving to give it out as well. If we've learned how to lighten each other's loads even just a tiny bit, it's been worth the struggle.

My thoughts, prayers, and utmost appreciation goes out to all of our families in the Armed Forces who are proud to support their soldiers in and through the tough times!

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