Getting My Breath Back


He’s home.

After many long months, my husband is back sitting next to me at the dinner table and in the car on a drive to Dunkin Donuts. The bathroom smells like shaving cream, and there is camo in the laundry. Several times I’ve had people ask what it’s like now that he’s home. I say that I’m able to breathe again.

A relationship ebbs and flows each day like breaths. I have spent twelve years learning what makes this man tick, and he me. We “get” each other. We have patterns and rhythms in our life together. We speak in shorthand.

“Did I tell about that one thing?”

“Yes. Hilarious.”

“Also, I’m done. Just done.”


So a long separation is like holding your breath, except you don’t realize you’re doing it. You know something is off. Despite communication via the miracle of text messages and the occasional video call, your chest burns. There are pictures, packages, emails, and a hundred different ways to feel loved and connected, but you go to bed with a choking sensation. So many things get lost in the shuffle with time differences, bad wi-fi connection, and pure exhaustion. It builds with each day, and those last few days before he finally comes home feel like you’ll never breathe again.

He steps off a bus and kisses you for the first time in four months, and it’s like that first gasp the moment you break the top of the water after you dive deeper than you meant. It’s such a wonderful relief it hurts.

Now you have to figure out how to breathe again.

After you hold your breath a long time you’re keenly aware of it. Every inhale and exhale is distracting because it requires conscious thought. I find myself simultaneously joyous and frustrated because having him home again is the way it should be, but it bothers me to have to think about it. In the military they call it “reintegration.” Such a technical word for such a complicated process.

I have to make room for him to help me again. I have to buy coffee creamer. I have to leave space for him on my calendar. I have to wash PTs and coffee mugs. My go-to recipes don’t make enough for all of us. He is here to hold the baby, to distract the kids while I cook, to take the trash out, and to squash spiders, but I have to remember to let him. A million tiny things have to change back, and you can’t fix them all at once. You have to take them as they come.

So that’s where I am: breathing until I don’t have to think about it and we have settled into a new normal. Grateful to have a second set of hands to help with the kids, handle chores, and hold me when I’m sad, tired, or frustrated. Grateful to wash camo and PTs.

Grateful to breathe easier for a bit.

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Redeeming Time


Deployment makes for long days and longer nights. I’m used to long days with my three children. Much of the time the older two are awake with the sun and demanding breakfast before I can tell granola from frosted flakes (much to their chagrin). The youngest is awake earlier still. I stumble downstairs, three little souls requiring my close attention, and I put one foot in front of the other until sundown. Sometimes I even show them how to make cool stuff like Lego ziplines, “jellyfish” in jars, and homemade Oreos. I feed them, I hug them, and I try to wear them out before they wear me out.

After my little ones are tucked in bed I am used to sitting on a couch next to a handsome blond, snacking on chocolate chips, and watching Agents of SHIELD, Fixer Upper, or Fresh Off The Boat. I’m used to telling the aforementioned blond about the food that was not eaten at lunch, the blinds that were broken during “nap” time, the reasons the baby and I have changed clothes three times since noon, and the fact that I am tired. So very tired. Then I’m used to snuggling against him until our youngest demands a midnight snack.

But right now instead of talking about my day, I send a few text messages and pictures for him to peruse when he wakes in a few hours. Instead of eating chocolate chips and watching television with him, I eat chocolate chips and work on my novel or do the chores that he isn’t home to do. Instead of rolling over in bed and snuggling against my favorite person, I stuff a pillow behind me and pretend it makes me feel better.

We are a little unusual in that we knew before we got married that this was the life we were called to. I have been mentally preparing for this first major separation for a decade, but it does not make the nights shorter. What it does is make me fight for a positive attitude even when I don’t know how I’m going to get up in the morning and do it all again without him. I tell myself I can do this and God called us to this ministry for a reason. That He made me strong, independent, and capable. That I can mow my own lawn, kill my own spiders, and wrangle three children at the commissary. But I am still lonely.

I know he misses Netflix and chocolate chips as much as I do. He sends me emails during the night so I wake up to encouragement and sweet memories. He sends European chocolate shaped like hippos in the mail. And he texts me to work hard on my novel, to keep training for my first 5k, to take a deep breath and check another day off the calendar. He tells me he is proud of me. He sends me music, smiles, and love from across the miles, and my heart wears it like battle armor.

Yes, nights are long. But months are fleeting, and homecoming is sweet. There is redemption working through these long days, and I am called to be active, not passive. So I’m going to go squish yet another spider and send him the picture.

“Redeem the time for the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:16