Resilient Military Spouses: Abigail
Over the years, outstanding military spouses have been a source of strength and inspiration to me and my family through the ups and downs of military life. I have made it my mission to share these exceptional human beings with you, along with the invaluable wisdom they have to offer. I believe our stories can make a difference in the lives of others, and it is my hope that you will be inspired by them, too.
Without further adieu, meet this month’s Resilient Military Spouse, Abigail – the wife of an amazing man, the mother to three rascally and adorable children and a writer who loves to share what Jesus has done in her life thus far with anyone who will listen. She also happens to be one of the most uplifting women I have ever met and one of my favorite bloggers. I had the pleasure of meeting Abigail when we were stationed at Fort Sam Houston, and I am so thankful for her friend- and mentorship. I miss our Chick-fil-A dates!
Hi, Abigail! Thank you so much for being open and willing to sharing your story with us! Will you tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience as a military spouse?
My name is Abigail and I am married to Brett who, up until this past year, was an Army Infantry Officer. Brett was already serving when we got married, so I was thrown into the deep end of military life, right away! It was definitely a growing experience, because, up until my relationship with Brett, I had had ZERO contact with anything military related! It was its own special brand of culture shock! But it has continued to teach me a lot over the years – we have moved 7 times in 8 years and lived in 5 states! Our first two kids, Ransom (5) and Tabitha (3), were born during the time that my husband was on active duty. Our son, Justice (4 months), was born after we had gotten out – after 10 years in the military! It is strange that Justice will never really know the adventures we had before he was born!
What has been your favorite duty station and why?
Oh man, this is an IMPOSSIBLE question! For me duty stations are defined by people, and, thankfully, every single one of our duty stations has allowed me to make at least one (and sometimes more!) Forever Friends. So even when we were living in Alabama (not my first choice), I made some friends there that I wouldn’t trade a Hawaii duty station for for anything (sadly, a post we never got sent to…). The military way of life definitely teaches you to not waste time when it comes to friends! If you find someone who you like, grab on, give them your number, and don’t wait 24 hours before texting them to see if they want to have coffee! Life is too short and duty stations are even shorter.
However, if you make me pick, then: I’ll say that since we effectively ended our active duty (my husband is still serving with the National Guard) at Fort Sam Houston, and we still live in San Antonio… I suppose the Texas girl in me has won out in the end. 😉
What has it been like raising children in military life?
My husband left for Army Ranger School (which at its shortest is 3 months of basically no contact at all – other than snail mail) a week after our first son was born, and he has missed months of our first two children’s lives for various long training exercises. Tabitha probably won’t remember those times, thankfully! Most of my husbands career involved 60+ hour work weeks, where he would leave before kiddos woke up and come home long after they were in bed. This is, however, nothing compared to a true deployment, which we were lucky to have gotten out of the way before we had kids! But I think starting our family in the military environment has made us much more attune to what is TRULY important! Any time together – even if it is just hanging around at home – is a tremendous blessing, and I don’t think any of us take it for granted. In a lot of ways our children and the desire to spend as much time with them during these precious early years was a major bonus of deciding to get out of the military when we did.
How do you overcome the challenges of military life every day? Do any specific habits or daily rituals help you?
My number one and MOST important way to deal with the challenges (usually separation of various sorts and all the times we moved and had to start over from scratch when it came to friends) is realizing that my TRUE number one in all areas HAS to be Jesus. In a lot of ways, military life has always been good to me in helping me remember that there is no substitute for making Jesus first in my life! Any time I started to let other relationships slip into first place – particularly my husband – there always seemed to be a time apart facing me down. There have been a lot of soul-searching times, and I am so grateful that the Lord has brought me closer to Himself in all of those moments. And then of course, Netflix. That’s always important, hahaha! Seriously, if you haven’t watched the entirety of West Wing, Alias and Gilmore Girls, then just go ahead and load up your queue right now so it’ll be ready for your next lonely period. I promise, once that last season hits, things will be looking up 😉
How do you communicate with your spouse while he is away?
Ew. Not my favorite topic, but luckily I was actually a COMMUNICATIONS major in College, so you would think I’d be made for this! Hahaha! In reality, we’ve used basically every form of communication, minus carrier pigeon and smoke signals. I even went out to the drop zone when I found out my husband was going to be there when he was in a communication lockdown doing training, and I held up a giant sign for him to see as he jumped out of the airplane! (Yeah, that happened. Haha!)
But seriously, you get creative and find what works for your marriage. For us, luckily my husband is a good letter writer and we have a giant box of old letters to give to our grandkids one day – but can’t we all just say a quick “Thank you, Jesus” for modern technology!?! Nothing beats Skype when you haven’t seen your hubby in months.
How have you worked to strengthen your marriage over the years in the midst of stressful events like relocation and separations?
One thing that has been hard work for us but has NEVER let us down has been praying together out loud at least once a day when at all possible. At the beginning of our marriage, it was often the one thing that was holding us together during deployments and working out the newness of marriage and newness of being military spouses. A lot of times, we wouldn’t want to do it (I’m too tired!” or “We’ve got so many things we need to talk about!” or, let’s be real, “Im so MAD at you!”) but we never regretted it, and I think it tied us together in the most important ways.
Looking back, what has been the hardest part of military life for you and your family?
When my husband was doing Company Command (arguably one of the most challenging and time-intensive jobs one has in their career) we also were having a tremendously intense personal struggle as we battled for the lives of our unborn twins who were diagnosed with what is called Twin to Twin Syndrome. In the end, we were separated for 4 months while I was in the hospital in Houston, Texas and Brett was still doing his Command in Georgia . He would often take red-eyes after working 60 hours work weeks to spend 1 and a half days with me and our 2 year old son before flying back for work at 4am on Monday morning. It was the hardest, most difficult thing we’ve ever done-and hopefully ever will do. I’m actually writing a book about it, right now! Stay tuned 😉
What has been your favorite part? Feel free to share specific memories!
When Brett was deployed for a year I was living in Fort Lewis, WA and a friend of a friend moved in with me as a roommate – she was an Army Nurse and we ended up becoming super close – she actually got married to a fellow officer and friend of ours one month before Brett got back from his deployment (see, a lot can happen in a year! Haha!) and we moved to a new duty station. THEN, fast forward two years – and her husband gets new orders, and the condo downstairs from ours mysteriously becomes free the week before they moved to our post! A week later – they move in. Two years after living together as “single ladies”, we were practically living together, again, but this time with our husbands and kids! It was so much fun, and also the perfect example of how “see you later” is usually a better way of saying “good bye” in the military world! You probably WILL get to see your wonderful new friends again one day! And maybe they’ll even be neighbors!
What advice would you give to today’s young military spouses?
Don’t get sucked into the “comparing vortex” – social media is particularly awful for this. Let’s say your husband is working the weekend YET AGAIN and you see one of your military buddies posting Instagram pictures of a fun family (including husband) outing to the zoo. It’s SO EASY to get bitter or even post some super sad status update so that everyone can feel sorry for you – but just DON’T GET SUCKED IN. You will definitely become toxic, both to yourself and to others. When Brett was deployed or gone for months at a time, I always used those times to do “Best Of the Day” posts… every day on Facebook I would post something good – even if it was lame like, “Best of today: had the best bowl of lucky charms ever for breakfast, counted 23 marshmallows.” I had to come up with something positive! It helped me keep focused on the good, and helped me remember that my day at the zoo (so to speak) will come too! And on the flip-side, if your friend at the zoo is a military spouse, too, then I guarantee her bad day is probably coming, so be happy for her in her moment, and then be ready with a hot latte and a trashy tabloid magazine to make her feel better when her bad day comes.
Do you have a favorite motto, Bible verse, or inspirational quote, etc. that applies to your experience of life as a resilient military spouse?
Jeremiah 32:39 | “I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.”
This was actually the verse I got before I married my husband, but it turned out to be the perfect promise to stand on during those first 8 years of many separations. It was a good prayer to pray – that even when we were apart, often living very “different” daily lives and having very different experiences, we were still “one” and still a family with one heart and purpose. God was faithful and brought us through, and I know, no matter what we face ahead, He will continue to give us one “heart”.