A Reason for Every Season

Right before Christmas break, we got news of the news we have been dreading to hear – Matthew is deploying. We’d been expecting it for a few months but to get the final word that it’s really happening still left me in……shock. And in lots of tears.

Let’s be real. Dealing with deployment is stinkin’ hard and it is just about as difficult as you’d imagine it to be to hear that someone you love is going off to fight for your country. Matthew and I have been through quite a few transitions in this last year – Ranger School, Airborne School, his move to Fort Drum, starting his PL (Platoon Leader) time with his battalion – but deployment definitely takes the cake. Sometimes I have so many thoughts and feelings that I don’t know what to do with myself. Sometimes I find myself spontaneously crying a lot or wake up crying or fall asleep crying. In short, I’ve been a hot mess. But I adamantly believe that God allows all things to happen for a purpose and despite the mess, I am determined to figure out what God’s reason for this season of life is.

So here’s a few things I’ve learned about myself and about dealing with impending deployment over the last several weeks.

Knowing isn’t the same as experiencing

No matter how much I mentally prepared for this moment, actually hearing Matthew say the words “I am deploying” still hit me like a ton of bricks. For awhile, I felt so frustrated with myself because I was taking the news poorly. “Common Christine – you went into this relationship knowing this was the path he was going to take. You knew this was coming sooner than later.” There are even people I’ve shared about deployment with who have said to me, “Well what did you expect? Since you knew this was going to happen, you just need to suck it up and deal with it”. A lot of people have simply said (I believe with the best of intentions), “Just trust the Lord and give it over to Him”. Great, I totally agree but….practically, in this present struggle….how. do. I. do. that?????? There is a huge divide between knowing how to respond or knowing what you should do compared to how you actually live out that knowledge.

And you really just don’t know until you get there. There is no way to prepare yourself to go through something like deployment. There is no way to prepare yourself to mentally prepare yourself for any challenging situation until the Lord brings you to it. And then by His strength, He will bring you through it.

I am a human being with imperfect feelings.

It is quite impressive the range of feelings I’ve in such a short period of time. Sadness, despair, frustration, anxiety, fear, loneliness, confusion – just to name a few. Sometimes all my emotions get me into trouble. I’ve really wrestled with how I should feel about this whole situation because knowing all the things I know about dating vs. marriage and emotional boundaries and all that jazz, I couldn’t figure out if it was a sin to care so much or be so sad over someone I am dating, but not married to. Is this wrong? Normal? Acceptable? I have felt uncomfortable being honest with people about how I’m really doing in fear that they’ll judge me for feeling the way I do or just feel sorry for me.

In times like these, I am really thankful for the sisters that God has put in my life. Again, having a sister tell me “It’s ok to be sad, don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re trying your best to figure it out and I think God see that,” was all I really needed to hear to remember that God is so gracious to me even when I am not gracious to myself. God gave us feelings for a reason and they aren’t always going to be perfect feelings. I am not a robot. I am a human being and part of that is learning and growing as I make mistakes, work through my feelings, and figure out how I can master my emotions and take my thoughts captive so they ultimately all point back to Christ. But…..I am still getting there 🙂

It’s ok to not be ok. Sometimes.

It’s the strangest thing. I never realized how much I hated feeling or showing weakness until dealing with my feelings about deployment. People know me as Christine-the outgoing, extroverted, always busy, always has it together-Christine. And for some odd reason, even in a situation would understandably make anyone bonkers, I still feel the strong compulsion to convince everyone that I am ok. Even to convince myself that I am ok! But sometimes (and lately, more often than not), I am really really not ok. I am sad and scared of potentially losing someone I care about. I am frustrated that I don’t even know when or how often I will get to talk to my best friend. I am worried about what the next 9 months will hold and the new set of challenges our relationship will have to go through. I am, very honestly, frustrated that our relationship always seems so much more difficult than everyone else’s and I wish that we could just be a normal, boring couple. And sometimes, I am just sad and I can’t explain it and I just need a second to cry.

And that is ok. Until….

I stop trusting in the Lord. Until I let my sadness become a result of my lack of control over the situation. Until I let my anxiety undermine God’s sovereignty and good plan for me and for Matthew. Until I let sorrow or worry drown me in a sea of my own self-pity. I am slowly and painfully learning that yes – there is a time to grieve, but there is also a time to pick myself and speak truth to myself about God’s overwhelming love for me. He would never allow anything to happen outside of his plans, He would never give me more than I can handle, and He is always in control no matter how seemingly chaotic life is. I am learning that I must fight for joy daily instead of letting sadness or anxiety overcome me because I must remember that my ultimate joy and hope lies in the Lord.

Expectations are the worst.

And boy, do I have a lot of them. First – I have a lot of expectations of myself (as you can probably tell from the rest of this post). I have expectations of how I should handle this news. I have expectations about how I should support Matthew. I have expectations of how I should be the most perfect girlfriend and sister in Christ at all times.

Then, I have a lot of expectations of Matthew. I expect him to respond to me and comfort me in a very specific way when I am feeling sad about deployment. I expect him to prioritize time with me over everything else since our time left together is short. I expect him to share all his feelings with me because I, as an external processor, share all my overflowing feelings all the time. I expect him to acknowledge all my feelings and tell me it will all be ok and cry with me like they do in the movies.

Lastly, I have a lot of expectations about our relationship. I expect us to deal with all our conflicts flawlessly and immediately. I expect us to hold our heads up high and brave through deployment without wavering. I expect us to acknowledge each other’s emotional state and always put the other person first. I expect us to read together and pray together every time we talk like the godly couples do. Or else it means that we are failing.

All these expectations lead to disappointment and more frustration when they aren’t upheld. Frustration leads to anger, anger leads to selfishness, selfishness leads to fighting, and fighting leads to sadness. All because of expectations I shouldn’t have had in the first place. Too often, I think of myself first and how Matthew should attend to my needs first (and even if I attend to his needs, I expect him to acknowledge me for being so wonderful!) instead of thinking about how much more challenging this all must be for him. I’ve become so inward focused and all of my expectations have become so, too, and that draws our attention away from thinking through how our relationship can glorify the Lord in our present circumstance.

His power is made perfect in our weakness.

It’s easy in the day to day to forget how desperately we need the Lord. One thing I am overwhelming thankful for through all of this is how much it has reminded me to cling to Christ with all I’ve got. I have become so self-sufficient and sinfully comfortable with life that God has become more like a bonus than the real prize. But in my weakest moments, when I am all cried out and I still feel like I don’t have a single thing figured out, God reminders me that He is enough and that I can do nothing by my own strength. And that’s a beautiful thing.

 

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From happier days when we got past Ranger School. Getting past deployment will be even happier!

Ok let me super clarify that I am still working through all of this and still need to process through this to remind myself of what God has taught me on a daily basis. But God’s mercies are new every morning and every morning is a new opportunity for him to teach me something new through my hardship. Praise God for his grace that covers me when I forget to trust in him. Praise God for his grace that restores me when I fail to respond in a way that glorifies him. And praise God for his grace and his love that heals me when I feel most broken.

Matthew’s Going to Fort Drum, New York!!

Oh my goshness PRAISE THE LORD. After many months of prayer and anticipation we finally, finally, fianlly found out that Matthew is going to be stationed at Fort Drum in New York!!!!

Hip hip hooray 🙂

What is all this commotion about you may ask? Well essentially, Matthew found out where he is going to be stationed once he’s done with military training, which means he found out where he is going to be living for the next year or so AND the army unit that he will officially be joining once he’s there.  Still confused? Click here for a more thorough read!

Yes, I know that I told many of you to pray that we would get Hawaii or Germany and New York is quite the opposite…but we are thankful none the less because we know that this is the place God has prepared for Matthew. To grow the most, to be challenged the most, and to glorify our Savior the most. Even though we don’t know what the future holds, we know that God has big plans for Matthew over there!

So Fort Drum, New York it is!

Fort Drum is notorious for being mind-numbingly cold and fairly barren but what’s awesome about it the home of one of the fiercest units with a long legacy of excellence. 10th Mountain Division is known as a rapid response unit and train their men to be the best of the best. Makes sense that Matt would be placed there seeing as he is the best of the best based on my completely unbiased third party opinion of course, so good job America.

Now  before you get all excited about the fact that he’s going to New York, it ain’t all as glamorous as you might think. Lemme lay down some facts for ya.

Fort Drum is in very upstate New York. It’s actually closer to the Canadian border than  to any major US City. Check it out.

Fort Drum Map

There’s this one cute little town that is about a 20 minute drive away from base called Watertown. To my dismay, there is not an abundance of ice cream parlors, boba places, or Yogurtlands because the weather is basically cold enough for you to make shaved snow in your backyard. To Miss Born-And-Raised in California here….I am already shivering.

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But no fear! There are a bunch of weekend adventure spots for the outdoor wanderer. New York, New York is a 5 hour and 17 minute drive away, Niagara Falls is a 3 hour and 46 minutes hour drive away, and 1 hour and 25 minutes!

And if nothing else, upstate New York is a clear picture of God’s majestic creation. So absolutely beautiful in that area, especially in the summer I am told!

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Please pray for Matthew and for us. Definitely lots of uncertainties and a lot of fears, but we trust in the sovereign God who allows all things for his good purpose.

  • For Matthew as he prepares for his first round of training in April – his area of focus now that his station has been settled. Even though it’s long and tiring, pleas pray for Matthew to be strengthened by the Word and find rest in the Lord throughout the 4 month training.
  • For God to reveal church and ministry opportunities out in Fort Drum. Just based on a quick search, the closest church other than the one on base is about an hour away (under good weather conditions).
  • For us to trust in the Lord with any future plans in our relationship and to be patient with one another as we figure out a list of things that may not even happen such as deployment, housing, moving, marriage (ahem) and more.
  • For peace and joy – super cliche I know, but we want to rejoice knowing that God has placed Matt where he will be most effective as both an army officer and a faithful servant of the Gospel instead of being bummed about the snowy weather and lack of boba.

Thank you to everyone for always asking about and praying for Matthew as he’s making his way through his military career. There is definitely a long road ahead, but we can’t wait!

So congrats to you, my dearest Matthew 🙂 I couldn’t be more excited or more proud!

Over and out,

Juang

Army 101

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If you had told me two years ago that I would be dating someone in the military, I would have been like Homegirl, please. I never would have even imagined considering a life in the military but thankfully God in his perfect sovereignty gave me Matthew so here I am, learning the ins and outs of everything military!

First thing I realized when I got myself into all this is that I know absolutely nothing about the military and neither does the vast majority of the public [even those with some connection to the military]. In this post, I will break down the various parts of the military, different terms and definitions, as well as a very general process/timeline to make things a little easier to understand! Many friends ask with good intentions about Matthew’s plans without really understanding what they’re asking but genuinely wanting to know what he’s up to so with each section, I will also explain how it pertains to Matthew.

So here is a year and a half’s worth of hard conversations, clarified confusions, and learned knowledge about the many military paths one can take. Hope it helps and clears the clouds a little on what it means to be in the military!

[Note] My explanation detailing aspects of the military is VERY general and officer oriented. Things can always be different and there are always exceptions but this is just to help you get an overall idea of what it’s like. 

What Does It Mean To Be In The Military?

There are five main divisions of military, each with very distinct roles and attributes.

  1. Army – This is usually what people think of when it comes to being a soldier.
  2. Air Force – They play a large role in controlling the skies and provide air support to troops in need during war. Even though most people think of pilots when they think of Air Force, only 1% of soldiers actually fly the planes, while the remainder support the men in the air.
  3. Marine Corps – They are  similar to Army but branched out of the Navy. Mostly, they’re responsible to provide rapid combined-arms forces whenever there is a national situation.
  4. Navy – The Navy deals with anything related to the waters. They provide support for troops from the sea and encounter the potential threats in the deep blue sea.
  5. Coast Guard – They guard the coasts! Crazy huh? Haha but seriously, they are very important because they make sure that no foreigners trespass our coasts and keep our waters safe.

Being in the military doesn’t actually mean that you’ll see combat or even war. There are actually plenty of roles within the military that are not in the line of fire but are equally as important. I’ll talk more about these a little later.

[Matthew is part of the Army. From this point on, I will be speak more directly from this division.]

How Do You Get Into The Army?

There are two ways to get into the Army, as well as two defined roles in the Army.

  • Officer – Going the officer route usually is a fairly long process that involves more training and evaluation prior to attaining officer status. Many people choose to do this through the ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) program, a military academy like Westpoint, or OCS (Officer Candidate School) which is a condensed, 10 week version of ROTC. Aspiring officers need to perform well in order to be competitive enough to attain their component, branch, and station.
  • Enlisted –  Going the enlisted route can be done by visiting your local recruiting office and signing up. After taking ASVAB (military mulitiple choice test), you’re placed into your field/line of work and then go through Basic training. Once you’re done, you go into specific areas depending on your MOS (Military Occupational Specialty).

[Matthew decided to go the officer route through the UC Irvine ROTC program.]

What Is The Service Obligation To the Army?

There are several ways to answer this question. First is the daily commitment – Active Duty, Reserve, or National Guard.

  • Active Duty pretty much means that being in the Army is your full-time job, but not that you are deployed. You work from about 6am-5pm with physical training in the morning during regular work week days (for the most part) and the rest of the time is yours to spend as you wish! It’s kinda like…if you primarily spent time working on projects in your corporate office and then flew out on a business trip for a few weeks to meet with clients.
  • Reserves is when you are in the Army part-time and come in to train one or two weekends out of the month. Many soldiers who are in reserve hold a full-time civilian job. There are no combat arms in Reserve, they only provide support. It’s also easier to move around since  you’re not held down to a specific State.
  • National Guard is similar to Reserve in the sense that you meet one weekend a month to train. The difference is that there are combat arms in the National Guard and you respond to emergencies within the state you are stationed.

That’s more of your daily commitment I guess you could say. The overall commitment is the numbers of years you are committed to serving the Army, called MSO (Military Service Obligation), which is listed in your military contract. Generally, if you go the ROTC route, you’re obligated to 3-4 years and can stay as long as retirement, which is about 20 years. Some soldiers will be on Active Duty for part of their MSO and then switch over to the Reserves/National Guard. However, you can be deployed at any time during your service. This is relevant for both officers and enlisted soldiers.

*  *  * This is a good time to clarify what it means to be DEPLOYED. A scary word indeed. Deployment happens if and only if the US needs troops to go somewhere to complete a task or mission.  Being in the military does NOT automatically mean that you are deployed or that the only time you are involved in military affairs is when you are deployed. In fact some soldiers never see deployment although the chances are unlikely. *  *  *

[Matthew is going Active Duty and is contracted to serve for 7 years. He won’t know when he is going to be deployed until the Army needs him once he begins his service.]

What Do You Do In The Army?

There are actually a lot of different roles in the Army and not all of them are combat oriented. Your Branch is what role or specialization you have in the Army, such as:

  • Infantry
  • Armor
  • Aviation
  • Engineers
  • Finance
  • Military Police
  • Medical Service
  • Adjutant General
  • Transportation
  • Quartermaster

(There are a total of seventeen in the Army.)

I like to think of this almost like….your major in college! Just like how you can choose between a variety of majors in college to specialize in, you can also choose a branch to specialize in. Officers tend to have more general training regarding their branch (since they are overseeing a group of men) whereas enlisted soldiers tend to have much more specialized training in certain aspects of their branch (in order to carry out those job specific tasks).

Obviously there are a lot of daily tasks and specific training per each branch, which I am not as familiar with so this is a much more general answer.

[Matthew has branched Infantry, which is a HUGE answered prayer as it was his first choice branch ever since he could remember and is one of the more competitive branches! We even threw him a big ole’ party cuz we were so proud!]

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Where Do You Live When You’re In The Army?

Your Station/Post/Base  is where you live if you are on Active Duty in the Army. If you love traveling, then you’re in luck! There are US military stations all across the county and even the world! Hawaii, Germany, Georgia, California, and Korea are all up for grabs.  Many times, you will stay up to 2-4 years or as little as one year  before the Army moves you to a different station (based on demand and need). There is housing (usually barracks) on the actual Army base that you have the option to live in OR you can take advantage of off-post housing and live in the neighboring city.

Stations can be very competitive to get depending on your branch.  Just like how your branch is your major in college, this is much like which college you decide to go to. In the same way that certain colleges are better for certain majors, certain stations specialize in and are better suited for certain branches.

[We don’t know just yet where Matthew will be stationed, but hopefully we’ll have an update in the next week or so!]

From Civilian to Officer

Matthew went through an extremely long process to finally becoming an officer and he’s still workin’ hard! By God’s grace, he has brought Matthew through all of this and is continuing to be his strength as he enters into this last stretch. So what exactly did this guy have to go through?! This process is what most hopeful officers have to go through when in the ROTC program (with some variation of course).

  1. UC Irvine ROTC – This consists of meeting every morning (at 5AM mind you…) to learn, train, and prepare for some of the larger evaluations that come up throughout the year. Meetings consist of PT (physical training), labs (hands-on training), classes, and performance evaluations.
  2. FTX (Field Training Exercise) – There are a couple that take place each year and cadets are evaluated on their performance based on the knowledge learned at the respective campus programs. The two largest parts of FTX are Day Land Nav and Night Land Nav where cadets have to be able to find a certain number of points spread out on a 5 mile radius with nothing more than a map, compass, and protractor. Other key areas of evaluation are STX (Squad Tactical Excercise) and Patrolling, which are simulated missions where you must brief and lead either a squad (STX) or a platoon (patrolling). Your score during FTX will factor into your overall campus score that will determine how competitive you are during assessions.
  3. Contracting – Usually in the middle of their second year, cadets must decide if they are going to take a military career seriously by “contracting” or if they just want to remain in the program for kicks. When they sign their contract, they commit to serving in the army for a certain number of years.
  4. LDAC – This is the mother of all ROTC evaluations and is not to be taken lightly. It’s a one month evaluation in the summer prior to your senior year where cadets are tested on everything in the book. Day land nav, night land nav, physical fitness test, completing missions, briefings, you name it. Performing well means boosting your competitive score and also making an impression in the amongst your peers and evaluators. Cadets that maintain the highest possible range of scores for each event receive Recondo and can receive awards at the end of the camp for their achievements. [BTW, Matthew received Recondo after completing LDAC and finished in the top 10% of his platoon. HOLLA!]
  5. Accessions – After LDAC, at the beginning of your senior year, cadets have all of their evaluations and various components over the past years collected to assess into their component, branch, and post.
  6. Commissioning – This is when you finally graduate and become attain officer status! There’s a great big ceremony filled with lots important military personnel 🙂
  7. BOLC (Basic Officer Leadership Course) – Every officer goes through this training, which lasts for about 4 months where officers learn the ins and outs of being an exceptional leader! While there is some classroom time, a lot of the learning is done out on the field. Makes sense since the Army’s motto is “Train like you fight and fight like you train.” It is quite like holding a regular job – you’re off around 5 and weekends are yours to spend as you wish (with some exceptions for certain weeks).
  8. Ranger School – This is as close to death as you’ll get. 2 months of non stop physical training, multiple phases to evaluate your skill sets, and only 3-4 hours of sleep per night. Sound hard? Well, if you don’t pass a phase, you have to do it all over again until you do. And the only way you can get out is if you pass, you quit, or you get kicked out. If you DO pass, you get the treasured Ranger Tab and bragging rights for life. [Matthew will need extra prayer when he goes through this….]
  9. Additional Training – There is the opportunities to take additional training after Ranger School if you’d like to in order to receive more specialized training in a particular area. To my understanding, most people can get around two or three schools and each one can last from a couple weeks to a couple months.
  10. And It Begins…. – Once you finish all your training and you are officially stationed, you begin your contract and start living your life as an Army Officer!

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Well, there it is! Whew. I am definitely not an expert yet and thankful, Matthew is patient enough to explain everything to me 🙂 Even all this is very general information but I really hope that it helps and gives you a little glimpse of what it’s like on the road to the military!

Peace out

~ Juang

[Did I miss something? Please be gracious, I am still learning, too! Please let me know if you have nuggets of knowledge to add or any adjustments by commenting below!]