So, there's been plenty of e-mail circulation about the military, regarding the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make for us. I was recently watching and episode of "Say Yes to the Dress" a TLC show that is taped in a wedding dress shop (hmm not sure if that's technical term for a "dress shop"). There was a bride who had bumped up her wedding date due to her Marine husband's unavoidable deployment. Lucky women, she can try on wedding dresses, my wonderful husband and I were married in a court house with two other soldiers for witnesses. The wonderful part, "we were married!" Now, believe me, I've had my many moments of negativity. I still pine for the day I can walk down the aisle to my prince charming in a beautiful dress that makes me feel like his princess. There are many things about being part of a military family that might seem like a negative, but truly end up being many blessings in disguise. Here are seven things, from an Army wife, that have become unforeseen blessings.
1. Moving is part of the job. As in, you go when it's your time to go. However, think of the experiences of being in a new place, the joy of exploring a new home. I have experienced such freedom, such trust in myself being in a home away from our true "home".
2. Utter pride. Many women and men have pride in their spouses, but there is this pride that swells in my heart when I think of my husband's duty. Sometimes I feel inadequate next to him, but then I know in my heart that our children need me like our country needs my husband.
3. Trust. Not all spouses can say they trust their husband or wife from the very depths of their soul. We have been apart through deployments and through other events in our lives, but there is this trust that we have garnered with each other. I pray that spouses can have the trust within their marriage as my husband and I have in each other. (we all know many other military spouses aren't as lucky and experience the exact opposite, but stick with me here)
4. Learning. There has been nothing but learning through this relationship with my husband. I've learned about us as a couple, and I've learned about the woman I am. I am a strong, smart, beautiful, and a devoted woman. I am a great mother who has love beyond borders for her children and a wife who will wait up nights, even if it means she can hear from her husband for but a moment.
5. Strength. I have learned, there's that word again, that I have strength I never knew I had. I can take care of things, I can step up and deal with what life had brought me, what life has generously given me.
6. Education. I took some time for myself to further my own education and wal-la, I'll be graduating a month after my husband returns from deployment. One day, he will not have all the stress of finding employment on his shoulders alone. I will take care of my husband one day...and buy him another motorcycle (yes, two motorcycles will never hurt). (P.S. I also took up learning how to ride the motorcycle my husband bought as a going away gift...okay, so it's not technically a going away present, but I still tease him, nonetheless. The point is, finding something for yourself through all the chaos).
7. We have been chosen for something greater than ourselves. God has looked down at us and has noted that we will carry out great tasks. Someone else may call it what they like, but I am no fool, I know there is a higher power. He has chosen us to experience a part of life very few get the privilege to experience, (the pride, the joy, the sadness, the learning, the love, the trust, and the opportunities that come if only you release long enough to receive).
Don't get me wrong, life with the military can be difficult, but before you think it's all horrible, just remember there are positives to everything as well. Sure, my heart aches when I crawl into bed alone each night, but we will be together again real soon. My heart aches at the thought of our children without daddy for Christmas or their birthdays, but we have love and will prevail. Of course, if this was the start of the deployment I'd be singing in another tone (I know better to be honest). But that's the joy of life's journey. Just because you start off one way, doesn't mean you have to end the same way.
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Okay, so here is the truth, I never imagined I would be a married woman (12 years going strong), a former Army wife, a mother of four children, a caregiver to my mother with dementia and now, an earner of a Master's Degree in Professional Counseling. More over, I never imagined that I would have the marriage that I have or be safe and secure in my identity as a woman. As a little girl, I could never have dreamed up the love story that my husband and I have created. Who would of thought that a girl like me would have ever been swept up into the arms of a man who had been in love with her since the 10th grade. Not me, I have never thought of myself as anyone special, a skinny little thing with braces in my junior year of high school. Yet, I became the woman who one man desired so much that he was certain that he would never get married unless it was to me. I had love notes and sweet words whispered into my ear when we were around each other. Before my husband went to the middle east for the first time, he vowed that he would marry me (even though I was in a sticky situation at the time). I was the mother of a little boy by that time, but my husband looked at me like I was a goddess. He built me up so high that when he washed the vision I had of my prince charming, I tumbled down, hitting every jagged edge I could on the way. I thought I was the beautiful goddess that this man could not live without. Truth was, there were many times that I was never sure if he was my knight in shining armor or the dragon himself. I began to hang on to the desire to be loved, adored, followed, touched and caressed like there was nothing in the world that would or could ever come between us. In the midst of hanging on to my fairy tale, I lost who I was. Ha, let's be honest here, I never knew who I was to begin with and now my identity was wrapped up into a dream that I was holding tightly to, knuckles clench.
Now, this is not another tale of how my husband let me down throughout our marriage. Let's face it, I have not always been a charming damsel myself. I was part of our love story too and I had to make some choices on who I wanted to be. I earned an associates when my husband toured the second time, I gained my bachelors when he was away for school and now, I have earned my Master's degree. Little by little I began to make my connections to God. Yes, I said it, I am putting my faith right into this post. I am nothing without my faith, without my relationship with Jesus Christ and my mental health thanks me for it on a daily basis. I began to piece together the person I wanted to be and allow God to guide me down his path instead of fighting helplessly to go down my own.
My husband is not perfect, read other post and you will get an idea of what I am talking about. Truth is, I am far from perfect myself. I had to stand on my own two feet and make decisions about my life and where I wanted it to go. I LOVE our love story because it is truly is a testament on how a man loves and woman and how a woman returns this by deeply respecting her husband. Yes, respect. I gave my husband respect even when he did not deserve it, much like God gives out love even though we do not deserve it. Little by little as I began to flourish in who I was, my husband began to respond to me in different ways. He began looking at me like I was something special again, a ray of sunshine that he cannot live without. I have gone through hell. I have wept in agony with a broken heart too many times to count now. All along the way I began to remember that I am not along. Now when I weep over loosing my mother, over the pain I feel in my body and well, any other things that a woman might weep about, there is my husband.
Moral of the story: LADIES AND GENTLEMAN you have to form an identity for yourself. I know, it's said over and over again "love yourself first" and this is true, but I am not talking about loving yourself. I am talking about loving and trusting in God to help build and shape your identity. How do you know what you'll stand for in your marriage without your identity? How can you hold to the promises you make without your own identity? How do you know what you even want or deserve from others in the world if you DO NOT KNOW what you stand for?
Stepping off my soap box now. I never imagined as a little girl that I would be happily married to the man of my dreams. I never thought I would have a master's degree or be the mother of 4 amazing children. I never thought I would attend church on a regular basis and love it as much as I do. There are so many never that add up to a whole lotta good stuff that I never thought would be in my world.
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It has been a while since I have written anything. I have been busy being a mom, a graduate student, plumb sick and setting my mother up into a new home. I have missed writing and kept wishing that the feeling of motivation would hit me and I would take to the computer keys and write a perfect ode to something...anything. Alas, I know better that if you do not switch your mind on to work, it likely won't switch on for you and so, here I am now.
A few weeks ago, our church gave us the option to share (congregation watching) what we were thankful for. Since I am rarely afraid to speak in front of anyone anymore, I decided to tell my husband how thankful I was for him. I spoke on how wonderful it was for him to welcome my mother into our home three years earlier, knowing that our journey wasn't going to get easier, but more difficult. To top that all, we already had four children with only 2 bedrooms between them, so very little space to fit everyone yet he welcomed her into our home. So this is the time where we insert the "awe you have such a sweet, wonderful husband". I do. I do have a wonderful husband and I know that he loves me very much, the love that now says "I would die if you were not here with me." I did not always know this. It took 12 years to finally welcome this truth into our marriage.
See my husband and I have the most romantic love story I have ever heard. I was a young married girl when he came back into my life, a mom already with a little boy. He professed his love and came back into my life, saying all the right words "you complete me" and all that other jazz. He swept me off my feet, apologizing about his terrible behavior as a teenage boy years earlier. He was in the Army, a strikingly handsome man with a shaved face and broad shoulders. His blue eyes hypnotized you in mere seconds. We married in Kansas after her returned from an overseas tour, but I was going to learn what type of man I had married. If you ever get a chance to read Veteran: When it's Not PTSD I recommend you do. It explains a lot about life after we separated from the military and many true feelings I had towards my husband: my knight in shining armor, my leading man, my soldier...swoon...my hero.
When I say that my husband is "not the perfect man", I mean this with the utmost respect. I have seen God work in him and have finally met the man that I fell in love with. For this reason, I stayed when things were at their worst, when my husband came home drunk and belittled me mere days after giving birth to our daughter. I stayed when he made a fool of himself shortly after we rekindled our romance. I stayed when he was angry for no real reason. I did not know when my husband would allow God to work in his life, but I held on to hope and stayed because I knew he was not a perfect man. We yelled at each other, we called each other names, we fought into the wee hours of the night, we disagreed, he parented one way and I wanted to parent another way. This is what a real marriage looks like, what a real love story looks like. It took 10 years to finally share a painful and sick secret from my childhood because years before, I did not trust myself let alone trust him with a fragile secret.
Truth is, I have changed too. I gave my husband room to be a fool, standing up for myself when I needed to and believe me, I did. I gave forgiveness and finally meant it. I began to set boundaries. I began to trust God. I made a promise to myself that I would not leave him and so I allowed God to work in me to make this truth a reality. I love my husband, my imperfect partner who sits next to me in church, who parents our children with me, who holds me as I cry when life's circumstances leave me feeling angry and sad. My love who has supported me in my graduate studies.
Marriage means that you have to believe is something greater than yourself, greater than you two as a couple. Truth is, there will be a lot of screw ups, hang ups, hurts, passion, love and every other emotion and disagreement in between. We are humans, not perfect humans, just humans. Make yourself a promise, work with God (please) and your spouse to make this a reality.
I love you Michael. My heart is so happy to belong to you. Over 12 years of marriage has brought us a lot of adventure, some good and some not so good, but we are far from done. I respect you and you have certainly learned what it means to love me.
Your Sara (Forever)
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It is very rare that my husband and I talk about our personal business. The odd part about this is, if anyone asks us "how have you made it through" we would be more than willing to share. We have a blessed testimony about our relationship. There have been some terribly ugly parts to our relationships as husband and wife (without a doubt), but there is something in our marriage that has kept us together. We have made it through military deployments, being parents and care takers, and have struggled through transition and our personal demons. As my husband's uncle said at our vow renewal ceremony, "twelve years may not seem like very long, but in this day and age, it is a big milestone." Below are 9 things that my husband and I do to maintain our relationship.
1.) Holding on. When things get difficult, and they will when it comes to marriage, we found a way to hold on. For myself, it was my Christian faith, and the faith I had in God that made me through the difficult times. Prayer is what helped me to hold onto my marriage when things seemed near impossible. Find something greater than yourself to help you hold on when things get tough.
2.) Manners. My husband and I are big proponents of manners. Please, thank you, and your welcome are big in our home. We want our children to have manners and be raised up to be honorable members of society. So, it is no surprise that my husband and I have always said it to each other. We could be angry as can be at each other, but you are still going to hear us say, "please pass the salt" or "please stop doing that". Have respect for your spouse. If you cannot have respect for them then who are you going to have respect for?
3.) It takes 2. This one seems like a no brainier, right? So here it is, my husband struggles with alcohol. I am by no means throwing him under the bus. He is a strong and honorable, God fearing man. I adore him with every fiber of my being. Still, we had a very rough patch with drinking and understanding that a wife should come first before many other things. I understand that abuse is something to never mess around with, and I am not a victim of abuse in the physical sense, but there are times when I swore, I didn't know the man standing before me. It takes 2 to make a marriage work. There was no way I could hold our union together if my husband didn't understand or step up to his part in our marriage.
4.) Understand that you are two different people. Again, this may seem like a no brainier, but remember that although a marriage joins together 2 into 1, these people have their own believes and worldviews. My husband is driven nuts by my lack of housekeeper skills (though I am truly not horrible), and I am driven nuts by his ability to completely lose track of time and maybe forget to give the kids lunch instead of work outside in the yard. Now I have learned to think in terms of "so". Okay, so I always make sure that the kids get fed properly, and so does my husband, but on occasion, it's fine. I know my husband is a great and caring father to our children. He would never do anything to intentionally cause them harm. My husband has learned that I am a busy woman. He knows that if I could, I would have a spic and span house. He loves me dearly despite the cluttered house and no longer demeans me for dirty dishes.
5.) Reminisce about what it was that made you fall in love. For my husband and I, doing this really reignited a flame. Sure, we were telling the same story repeatedly, and we know this. However, it really ignited our passion for each other. We both got into the mindset of what it was like seeing and kissing each other for the first time. I giddy like a school girl as my husband of ten years told me things about seeing me or knowing me when we were younger. It is part of what started to glue us back together when we may have drifted apart.
6.) Talk to your spouse. I was in a traumatic car accident less than a year ago and have sense been diagnosed with PTSD. I make it a point to tell my husband what is bothering me and when. I may not be able to find the exact words, but I try to tell him as best as I can what is going on and what I need. Through my tears or silence, I try to tell him that I am overwhelmed. When he asks what this means, I simply tell him, "I wish I could give you an exact list, but the very thought of speaking about it seems overwhelming.
7.) LISTEN to your spouse. This goes with the suggestion. It may seem easy to listen to your spouse. After all, you hear what they are saying, "right?" Well, think again. My husband has learned that when I am crying and unable to find the words, maybe I just need to be held. He doesn't get defensive when I tell him, "I simply cannot get into all my feelings right now". He listens to my actions, my words, he listens to himself when his mind tells him, "don't be stupid, just hold her cause that is what she needs".
8.) Make the decision to stay together. This may be a controversial one but listen up. You must make the decision when you are first married to stay married. When I say that my husband was a terrible, insensitive jerk...he was, and if you ask him, he will not deny this. We have had some extreme, come to blows arguments and I have seen him at his worst. However, from the start I knew that I never wanted to be my husband's enemy, and that whatever it took, I was going to stay married to him. I imagined being on the opposite side of the fence from him and it make me sick to my stomach. Now, I understand abuse and adultery. I am not speaking about these issues. There are times when safety and sanctity should be considered.
9.) Understand that forgiveness is an option. Forgiveness can cover so many things. My husband and I committed a great sin when we first became a couple. I struggled to forgive myself and demeaned myself for nearly five years into our marriage. I learned that forgiveness through God is possible and have been all the better for it (again, my faith plays a big role). Furthermore, forgiveness in a marriage is possible. You can tell your spouse, "hey, that really hurt me," or "these things won't happen again" and move on. My husband used to hold his deployments over my head and use this as an excuse to stay out to the wee hours at his dad's house (for example). Until one day, I had to tell him, "no more, I will let you use your deployment one last time and then you have to move on". It is possible to stand up for yourself and simply forgive your spouse for the way they have hurt you. Again, this takes 2 to really make work. My husband once told me, "how can I forgive you for the things you do that hurt me? Simple, I love you." True, some things are not always easy to forgive (trust me, I get this), but you must have some sense that forgiveness is possible.
These are only a few of the things that my husband and I have done to keep our marriage together. The road we have shared has not always been an easy one, but I truly believe it has been a blessed one, nonetheless.
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When I first saw my husband in his military uniform, I about lost my breath. Here was this man standing before me, looking trim and finely cut with a sense of authority. To this day, I can still see my husband standing before me and often, I get the same loss of breath sensation. True, he is no longer in a military uniform, but the way he walks, and moves is often breath taking to me. After a few years of marriage, you begin to know the person beside you inside and out, and sometimes their insides tend to sneak their way to the outside. I often find myself leaning in for a kiss only to hear the rip of something disgusting.
“Really, when I lean in for a kiss you have to do that?”
“What?” my husband will reply with an innocent smirk on his face.
“You are the sexiest man ever, why do you have to be stinky?”
Imagine if you will, a high school boy befriending you in tenth grade biology class, your first year at a new school. As the years pass by you begin a type of courtship only to have it shatter to pieces. Years later that boy has joined the Army and you are in a circumstance all your own. One evening, on the other line is his deep sexy voice, telling you how wonderful you are and how he had made a huge mistake years earlier. You are swept off your feet at the sound of this man apologizing and telling you he was wrong. That is our romance story (give or take a few details) and it is part of what keeps our relationship fresh.
How is it possible that the man I picture as the lead hunk in a romance story can be so irritating and disgusting? I suppose it is by some divine creation from the creator above, the unique oneness that marriage creates is undeniably something divine. I also suppose I do like knowing everything there is to know about my husband, being the one who knows all his hopes and fears is remarkable. I do like to be the woman he crawls into bed next to and the one he kisses good-bye before leaving for work. So, I suppose that if that means I have to partake in the “not so good” parts about knowing everything there is to know about my husband, okay.
We have a great love story. However, I still find myself getting a reality check when he does something irritating like relentlessly pick on me about the silliest things or when he gets frustrated and needs a moment all to himself. I am reminded that I am the one he turns to when his day has not been the greatest, and even though I have to hear him gripe (he’ll agree to this title), I am the one he wants to gripe to. Yes, the end of the romance story is just the beginning of a whirlwind life where the sexiest man alive drives you to the brink of insanity. There are fights and frustration as you learn to live with each other after long distances, including deployments. A while down the road, routine will sneak into your life and you have to find ways to spice up the romance. Between work, school and children, the sexiest man alive is going to grab at your body just to entertain himself. There is beauty in marriage. However, it is possible that he will make you cry and feel horrible at times, but it is also possible that he is also going to touch your hand at the dinner table, winking at you when you catch his eye. The person you know more than anyone else is also going to be the one who wants you to sleep close to him, tugging on your arm when you move away. If only you knew my leading hunk with baby blue eyes and dimpled smile, stink and all is still the sexiest man alive to me.
There has to be something for each couple that reminds them of the reasons why they fell for the other person. Finding joy in the little things can often be the difference between a happy marriage and a dismal one. So you may have to put up with a few things that might seem to suck the romance from the relationship, but imagine sharing your life without these things, not knowing someone as you might know yourself. I tell my husband when things get frustrating or our plate begins to fill up, “remember, we are lost and holding hands.” It doesn’t matter what goes on around us, the pile of bills, screaming and running kids, or a calendar full of appointments we are together through it all. My husband may know more about my body as a woman and mother than he ever thought possible and as I know more about his bowels than I ever knew one could know about a man, but nonetheless, we are in love.
So, what has happened to the sexiest man alive? He is with me every day. I take pride in knowing that I married the sexiest man alive, and that we can share our lives together. To this day, when my husband decides to give me grief, I simply smile and tell him, “You're luck you're hot.” Insert eye roll.
The biggest moral of the story is that we are going to have change throughout our relationships, we're going to be tired and busy and bogged down with all the demands of life. When you're in the throngs of parenthood, it can be difficult to find time to make love or go out on a date. As long as both of those in the relationship understand that somethings are not going to be as glorious. I am not saying don't try, by all means, I would love to have more time on a date with my husband, but we know that our kids take a lot of our time. We both acknowledge out loud where we are in our marriage and how much time our children take away from the founders of our family. We plan and look forward to the adventures of the future and steal away as much time as we can. We kiss, we hold hands, and routinely flirt with each other.