We’re at a neighbor’s house, late afternoon, a few families gathered together. Pizza and games and the night ticking down, we’re laughing and and it all feels like a deep breath. I should have known better, maybe, I find myself thinking later; should I have known better? Can we ever breathe in deep for long in this military life?
Turns out, the answer is no.
His phone rings, I see him look down and look right back up at me, his face says it all, my heart stops altogether. He steps out of the room for not longer than thirty seconds, walks back in the kitchen, catches my eye: “I need to talk to you for a minute. On the front porch.”
And I know. Before I really know, I know. It’s in his eyes, it’s in the way he puts his hand on the small of my back as we step outside, it’s in the deep breath he takes before he talks to me.
We step out on the front porch and time seems to slow down, life seems to slow down, my brain seems to slow down as it takes me a few extra tries to grasp what he is actually saying.
I look up and notice it’s about time for him to get another haircut, the curl in his hair is laying across his forehead and I comb it away with my fingers, as comfortable with his body as I am with mine. I hear him telling me about news headlines and how it impacts us and hear our kids laughing in the backyard; I hope that Mae remembered to put on her shoes.
He’s standing in front of me still; something big is happening, something sad and hard is happening- and I will myself to hold onto it, even if it feels like jello. Baby, wait, what? Okay, say it to me one more time just to make sure I understand. So… this is real?
Brennan then ducks her head outside and asks if we can do sparklers so Lane and I do what we do best in this military life- absorb the shock, take a breath, go live our life.
We’re standing out on the driveway and I watch Lane help the girls hold the sparklers- the light breaking free feels a little scary to them, which I get.
I’m standing there in the dark, our girls clueless about what we know, about what we’re facing. I’m standing there in the dark, watching my husband’s face illuminate with the light of the sparklers; my mind racing.
I can’t take my eyes off of him. I’m remembering how we bickered earlier that day about the laundry and it just doesn’t seem so important anymore. Neighbors are setting off fireworks and I’m remembering when we watched fireworks on the Fourth of July in Estes Park, the sounds reverberating across the mountains. I’m remembering some of the plans we were beginning to make about Spring Break and how they might fall through this year.
There’s a part of me that wonders if this will be the last time I see him in a long time so I’m trying to remember it all.
We’ve been watching the news this week just like the rest of the world and a part of me wonders could one more spark set the whole world ablaze? Is our world on actual fire?
Lane’s home over lunchtime; we turn on the news to see a special report, both of us knowing whatever the President says will determine the military’s next steps, and this includes us. We’re listening close, hearing him talk about rockets that set the night sky ablaze last night, and Lane reaches over to grab my hand.
It’s a small move; one he’s made one thousand times since we were 18-years-old. I’m a little on edge if I’m being honest, but I feel his hand on mine and it’s like a spark courses through my entire body at once. It’s a different spark than the ones that felt like fear; this one feels more like comfort and security and a message, too:
We’ve got this.
And in that moment, I know. Whatever comes our way, whatever we have to face, we face it together and we’ve got this.
Lane laughs and tells me about some of the things that the guys have been saying at work today; big talk from big guys, anything to get a laugh, really.
There’s a message underneath all the talk though. I see it in the guys Lane works with, I see it in the soldiers boarding planes on a no-notice deployment from Fort Bragg and more, I see it in military wives and communities and families:
We’ve got this.
Whatever comes our way, whatever we have to face on the world stage, we’ll face it together. You don’t even have to worry about it, we won’t fail our country and we won’t fail our brothers- we’ve got this.
And just like that, I see it everywhere. I realize I’ve been looking at this world on fire the wrong way. Sparks don’t have to be a scary thing, after all- sure, sure sparks can destroy and it’s felt like those have been the ones to write the story lately.
Sparks can unite, too; sparks can turn one burst of light into something bigger, illuminating the dark sky, and I think that helps me name what I’ve been noticing all along.
I think about standing on the driveway, unable to take my eyes off of Lane, being reminded of what’s important in a moment that matters.
I think about risking everything and daring to spend your life for something bigger than yourself and how it’s showed me the way to a life full of meaning.
I think about the ache and the privilege of the military life and how experiencing both shows me what love is actually like.
See, this whole military experience begins with a love story between a guy and a girl, but that’s just the beginning. It’s love that drives the whole train and once I see it I can’t unsee it.
Any of our military soldiers would probably never call their service a love story, but if you ask them why they do what they do on the battlefield, they’ll say they do it for the guy standing next to them, for the guys to their left and their right. Counting someone else’s life as more valuable than your own and giving your life to make theirs better?
That’s exactly what love is.
Sending your soldier off to war, saying goodbye not knowing when they might come home, remaining resilient and faithful?
That’s love too.
The times that are hard are the ones that reveal what we’re made of. This week we’ve gotten to see what military families are made of take center stage and I am so proud.
And times like these when the world feels like it’s on fire, I think we all could take some notes on how military families put love on display- the love that serves, the love that supports, the love that commits, the love that does.
The love that lights the way in the dark.
And so in these days that might feel a little uncertain, a little dark,
In the middle of all of this, may we be the ones to reach out and grab a hand, illuminating the way, reminding each other as much as we need it:
I’m by your side.
We’ve got this.
Struggling with the demands and depletion of military life? Maybe this will help: 5 Ways I Stay Sane in This Military Life. Click here and I will send it quietly to your inbox.
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