It took me three days to make the 934-mile drive from my hometown in east Texas to Augusta, Georgia with boxes piled high in the bed of my husband’s truck and our six-week old baby boy in the back. As the seemingly endless river of pavement stretched out before us, self-doubt made itself comfortable in the passenger seat.
The weekend before, our families had come together to help me pack up our home and put most of our belongings into a cobweb-infested storage facility down the road so I could pass the keys along to our new renters. Letting go of that little red brick house, along with the dreams we once had for it, was one of the hardest things I’d ever done.
It was May. My husband had been in training since the end of January. He’d missed the birth of our son, but we were finally going to reunite with him for his last few months at Fort Gordon. Although he was still required to live in the barracks during this time – and I’d been advised against going by family and friends, – we would be able to see him most nights and weekends, and I’d made up my hard head it would be worth it. (Side note: Little did I know his unit would be deploying for 12 months shortly after he completed his advanced training. As hard as it was, it ended up being the right decision.)
We finally made it to Augusta in the late afternoon. I checked in to the extended stay hotel just outside the main gate and settled into our temporary home. The room was stuffy and small, and cigarette smoke seemed to be living in the walls, linens and carpet, but there was a bed, a large window to open, a bathroom and a small kitchen, and that’s all we needed.
Once I’d fed and changed our son and brought in all of our boxes and suitcases, I sat down on the scratchy bedspread to call my husband and let him know we’d made it safely.
“Are we going to be able to see you?” I asked, hopeful; naïve.
He sighed heavily.
“Not tonight, honey. I’m sorry.”
I did my best to be understanding, but after driving so far, it was maddening to know my husband was in a bunk less than a mile away, and he wasn’t “allowed” to be with us – his wife and son.
As I hung up the phone, the cold numbness I’d been carrying around in my chest for months began to melt – a giant block of frozen emotion.
Hot tears began to fall freely.
I looked around the hotel room … at the overstuffed boxes and suitcases, at the empty kitchen shelves, at our baby boy sleeping peacefully in his bouncer.
As hard as I tried (or maybe I didn’t try at all), I could not see God in this mess.
I felt … lost.
The first pages of Jen McDonald’s new book, “You Are Not Alone: Encouragement for the Heart of a Military Spouse,” took me back to that little hotel room and the raw, mixed up emotions I experienced the first nights we spent there (and, if I’m being honest, the raw, mixed up emotions I experienced for several years after, too).
It was as though we were sitting down to have coffee together: the confused, scared, bitter 20-something year old me from that evening in Augusta and Jen, a wise, loving military spouse who’s been there, done that, and walked away from it all with the strength and poise to use her valuable experiences to help others.
In “You Are Not Alone,” Jen shares 30 days of personal stories paired with practical tips and uplifting pieces of scripture to help you find your calling and purpose in military life; to encourage you to seek out wise friends and a supportive community; to strengthen your marriage through frequent moves and separations, and to raise your children well in the midst of everyday challenges and stresses … by turning you away from yourself and to God.
Whether or not you have faith, if you have ever felt invisible or forgotten in military life, this book is for you. It would also make the perfect gift for a new military spouse or addition to a deployment survival kit. I only wish I’d read it … oh, half a decade ago!
Thank you, Jen, for having the courage to share your story and for reminding us that through it all, regardless of how we feel from day to day, we are not alone in military life. We have each other, but … most importantly, we have Him.
Jen has generously offered to give a book away (print or Kindle edition) to one of you!
Please stop by jenmcdonald.net to say hello and find out more about her story and mission to encourage military spouses everywhere.
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