Military Separation During the Holidays


Photo Caption: Army soldier playing with his children at Christmas. Happy military dad reuniting with his children at home. Soldier spending quality time with his family after military deployment.

How can we make the moments in this season matter?


The expectation is powerful. It is a strong belief that something will happen or be the case shortly. It is something to be hoped for, looked forward to, talked about, or planned. Expectation has a way of giving us renewed vigor, a spring in our step. We create a moment that will later make a memory. Expectation can open the door to hope and that feeling of  “I can’t wait.”

Expectations can also be unrealistic.  Those expectations are rigid. They don’t leave room for changing circumstances or allow us or others to be flexible.

Christmas is a time of year when there is great anticipation and expectation.  As believers, we eagerly await the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We also anticipate the joy of slowing down and building moments with the ones we love that will shine on for years to come. It is when we can take a break, catch our breath, grab a change of scenery, explore new cuisine, try new recipes and share them with family and friends.  There, in the moments of stillness, we discover what we desire most, peace.

Matt and I have been on this Military adventure for many years.  Initially, my expectations were highly unrealistic, especially regarding holidays, birthdays, and special occasions. However, after twenty-two years of experience, Expectation has become my friend.

The first six years of our marriage were met with six missed, of well, everything. During the first year of our marriage, we lived in separate countries. When he was stateside, his position was unique, and he commanded very odd hours. The Lord taught us something significant, not only about Christmas but also about all holidays and special occasions. Those lessons have carried us through those times and still take us today.


I love exploring different languages, and one of my favorite sayings this time of year is Joyeux Noel, which refers to the French Noel “Christmas Season,” the Latin of which means “Birth.” The Christmas Season is the time to explore not only the birth of our Savior but the birth of a new season. The first lesson the Lord taught us was to embrace the season and celebrate it as a whole, not just the day. This was such a great lesson for us because it forced us to take time each day and celebrate one another. This became vital during those seasons of separation during the holidays. The saying holds, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Planning moments became crucial in those seasons when we knew we would be apart.  When Matt was away for a year, we planned. One of the things Matt did was pre-arrange little letters and gifts for our son. Each day, I would hide a new note or gift for Michael to find.  Michael loved his daily scavenger hunt, and I would capture those moments on video and later send those to Matt. The great crescendo came on Christmas day when he had the coup de grace of all scavenger hunts. To this day, it is one of his fondest memories.

Intentionality during those seasons apart helped lessen the strain and was a reminder that we were on the same team.

We sent Matt a toy army man in one of Matt’s care packages. Matt would send us pictures of the adventures he and “Little Buddy” would get up to. Michael loved seeing Little Buddy and Matt at various places on base or in the field. Side note, I still have Little Buddy in my purse 🙂


Matt and I would also pre-arrange to send one another gifts and recorded messages here and there during time apart. Intentionality during those seasons apart helped lessen the strain and was a reminder that we were on the same team.

The second lesson the Lord taught us was we were not alone. There were so many in our community who were going through the same thing we were.  During the years we could not afford to go home for the holidays, we would take the holidays with one another. Volunteering in the dining hall or bringing holiday meals into the squadrons, units, or groups to those working made a lonely time less lonely. It is a tradition we hold dear, so dear in fact, we don’t even celebrate Thanksgiving until after we have served our guys and gals who are working, nor do we celebrate Christmas until the day after.  Spending time with those who are on duty has become our holiday. When Matt took his oath of office, he vowed to place Service before Self. 1 Peter 2:9 NIV says this. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light.” In the Military, we serve a purpose beyond ourselves. Doing one another during the holidays has helped us keep those vows at the forefront of our minds and decisions.

The third thing the Lord showed us was that celebration has no timeline. December 25th is the day the majority of the world celebrates Christmas. However, it is just a day. What about the family who is divorced and has shared custody? Or, in this case, Military families deployed or who have been called into work on that day? The Lord has shown us that Joyeux Noel is a Celebration of a Season, not a day. This is where Expectation became our friend once more. Our expectations became realistic, flexible, and rooted in Christ. That was where we found liberty—liberated to decorate when we want to celebrate, not when we feel mandated.  Last year, we took some of our Christmas decorations to an Air BnB in the mountains and celebrated Christmas on December 28th. We had a blast decorating our tree, drinking eggnog, making our famous applesauce pie, skiing, and playing in the snow during a time when many people were already taking down their decorations.

When the rest of the world is going back to the pace of life, we have the honor of being able to linger just a little longer. Sometimes, what seems like a curse is the Lord giving a blessing. A chance to have a small wonder, a sliver of margin, a little more time no one else gets. A moment when ordinary to the rest of the world becomes extraordinary to you and your family. Your very own Holiday. Just like God gives us the gift of His precious son, He gives us the gift of our very own Holiday.

This season is not about a day; it is not about adding more pressure to the final days of your year; it is not about perfection or unrealistic expectations. It is about Expecting God to move in a mighty and powerful way in the life of your family and your marriage.  It is about you and your spouse coming together, thinking outside the box, going outside the standard, and asking yourself. As for me and my house, how do we want to do this? What fits us? How can we find Joyeux Noel? How can we make the moments in this season matter? How can we love one another and our fellow man well? Then how can we plan a great celebration for our reunion, one that can be met with Great Expectation as the Lord intended? That is a Holiday worth having.

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