My husband recently received official orders to deploy to Iraq this August. (He was originally scheduled to leave in May, but now we get to spend the summer together before he departs.)
I have been thinking about how to prepare our daughters for the 15-month separation. Although he has been to Iraq before, this is our first go at it with two children at home. (During his first deployment, Rhema was born.)
I have a slew of articles that detail strategies for helping young children cope with deployments. All of these articles naturally assume that the child has the ability to speak and understand language.
Hope will miss her daddy sorely, but I know she will be o.k.
It’s Rhema I wonder and worry about. How do I explain? Do I even try to explain? She will be aware of his absence, but she won’t understand where or why he’s gone. It’s typical for children to display more behavior problems when a parent is deployed. Will this be the case for Rhema (times ten)?
Brandon and I work hard to connect with Rhema when she is in the same room. It takes significant time and effort. How will Brandon maintain a connection when he is several time zones away? She does not do phones. When she was a baby, Brandon sent a few tapes. He used an old tape recorder and read her Bible stories and told her all about Iraq. I suppose we’ll try that this time around. Even if she does not understand what is being said, at least she’ll hear his voice. We’ll try video as well, but I don’t know if it will hold her attention.
I read an article about an airman who organized a 5K run during Autism Awareness month while he was deployed to Iraq. He had a young son at home with autism. He was able to raise thousands of dollars as soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines in Iraq participated in the run. The father’s motivation for the event:
“If I cannot be with him to support him and participate in his therapy, I want him to know, one day when he can understand, that wherever I am and whatever I am doing, my heart and soul are with him.”
Naturally, that statement gets to me, and it reminds me of a love story. One in which the Man loves so much that He lays down His life. He breaks down the wall of separation. His ministry is reconciliation. His very name is Emmanuel. God with us.
The Father says to his child: It may seem like I’m far away, but I have not left you. You may not understand it all right now, but no matter what you may face, I am with you! Not for a moment have you left my heart, my thoughts, my love.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35; 38-39
“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt 28:20
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Heb 13:5
And so, we take heart!