An Unexpected Life
He told me with a pair of diamond earrings. “Happy birthday,” my husband said, his eyes glassy. I knew something was wrong. My birthday was still a few weeks away.
Then David said it: he was going to Iraq. He’d received orders that his squadron would be deployed in a few weeks, and he would be leaving for war… on my birthday.
He’d only been home from his last deployment for 10 months. Before that he’d been in Japan for over a year. Going to Iraq would be his fourth deployment in the seven years we’d been married. He’d been away for much of my pregnancy with our firstborn daughter and even for the birth of our fourth child. What did he think? That those diamond earrings were going to make me feel better? I wanted him.
If only I’d known…
Nineteen years old, naïve and madly in love, I stood at the altar seven years earlier and made a vow:
Where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge.
Your God will be my God, and your people, my people.
May God bind us together until death do us part.
I didn’t know how real those words would become. I knew nothing about military life. Nothing about the unexpected moves, the unpredictable deployments, the months and months I’d spend as a single mom, the countless weekends and holidays we’d spend alone. All I knew was that God had brought this man, David Straub, into my life and I loved him.
When David told me that he was going to Iraq, I fainted. Fears for his safety, dread of him leaving me, once again, to carry the burden of raising our four children overwhelmed me. As my body hit the floor my thoughts hit the depths of despair. I can’t do this anymore. Why, Lord? You knew all I ever wanted was to be a family. Why are you taking this away from me? I’m finished. Yet in the midst of these thoughts, I felt a very gentle nudge from God. He spoke to my heart, saying I didn’t have to do this one alone. I didn’t have to be strong. He would be my strength. He would be all I needed and more. With a picture in my mind of Him cradling me in His arms, I realized I had a “Dad” who would look after me.
I determined to make this deployment different. I was tired of living in defeat. I was beginning to see that my circumstances and the military lifestyle had nothing to do with what I was truly yearning for.
Perhaps I realized this when I heard about the response some Sudanese men gave when they received basic needs “gifts” such as socks and toiletries that our church donated. “Their eyes sparkled with delight like children running free in a candy store,” my husband said. Or maybe it was the time I spoke to my friend who had recently lost her husband in a plane crash. But somehow I knew God and God alone was what I needed.
I’d believed in God since I was a little girl and now I was beginning to understand what Jesus said in John 15:5, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” So I asked Him to join me when I went to the grocery store with my four children. I also invited him to celebrate the holidays with us. Several times I hid myself in the pantry, asking, “More, Lord. More of your strength. NOW!” My bedroom closet became my prayer closet, as I knelt there and wept before my God. There were weeks when I’d hear nothing from David. Our children needed continual comfort and reassurance that their dad would eventually come home. And all these times, He was drawing me closer to him. I worried less. I gained more control over my emotions. I stopped looking to “escape” through watching the TV, surfing the internet or waiting for someone to call.
Home for both of us
Seven months after David left for Iraq he returned! When he got out of his plane, we recognized him from afar by his familiar walk. I watched as our children ran towards him. He was home. During the months he’d been away, I felt, too, I had come home. God had brought me to a new place of stability, peace, joy, comfort and love.
After three months at home, David was assigned to another base and we moved again. Eight years, six moves, four children and four deployments later David continues to serve in the Marine Corps.
I’m beginning to see that it’s the unexpected pieces of our lives that bring us to new heights. These things can draw us closer to God and transform us to become the people God intended. Sometimes we cannot see the good things that are going to come out of unexpected circumstances, but if we hold on, there are special hidden jewels that will be found. One of those jewels for me was experiencing more of God’s help through His Holy Spirit in my life.
Whatever the pain, whatever the doubts, whatever hard questions, you’re facing, the Holy Spirit longs to lead you to a place where God can comfort you and speak to your heart. It’s true — we really can’t live the Christian life without the Holy Spirit’s help. And yet, all we have to do is ask Him to fill us – to lead and empower us — and He will do it.
Why not pray this simple prayer and by faith invite God to fill you with His Spirit:
Lord, I come before You now and surrender my all to You. Your Word says that Your Holy Spirit has come to be my helper, my sustainer, my guide and my comforter. In faith I claim that right now in the midst of all that I am going through. You know all, and knew my steps before the foundations of the earth were formed. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit.Thank You that You are my help and my strength. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.