Confessions from a Military Wife & Mom

Rebekah Schouten

May 09, 2024 | 5 minute read


May is home to two holidays – Mother’s Day and Memorial Day – and I can honestly say that, six years ago, I never wanted to relate too closely to either of them. Now I’m tied up in both. By the wisdom and grace of God, I am both a mom and a military wife. I’d love to say I accepted those major life shifts with joy and complete trust in God, but the truth is that I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming through most of it. 

This was not the life I signed up for. 

That’s what I repeatedly told God when my husband, Josh, joined the Army out of nowhere. He had never even expressed interest in the military, and I definitely had no interest in being a military wife. In fact, the summer I met Josh when we were camp counselors, I was initially interested in another guy, but he told me he was going into the Air Force so I immediately shut that down. 

“There’s no way I’m marrying a man in the military,” I told God.

Josh and I had been married five years when he got the call from an Army recruiter. We were both in well-paying jobs in Kansas City, MO. We had just bought a house less than a year before. I was comfortable. But Josh met with the recruiter, felt joining the Army Reserves was the right decision and within three months we had uprooted our lives in Missouri to move to north Texas.

I felt like I was losing everything. 

Within a month of moving to Texas – a place I had only visited once and where I knew only one person – Josh was off to boot camp for two months. Our only form of communication was written letters. And directly after that, he was sent to specialized training in another city for 11 months. 

I had never felt so alone. But it turned out that that’s exactly where God needed me to be.

You see, I hadn’t been involved in a local church for years. My husband and I had both been hurt by churches in our past and had walked away from the church. So while I was “comfortable” in my life in Missouri, I was honestly miserable. I was constantly chasing happiness in my possessions or my career, and I had no community or purpose. I was comfortable in my complacency.

So God allowed everything I was relying on to be taken away: my house, my job, even my husband, for a time. The only thing I had in Texas when Josh left was the one person I knew in the whole state, my best friend from college. She lived 15 minutes away and invited me to go to church with her. I had nothing and no one else, so I agreed. That decision changed my life.

Her church was different from all the other churches I had been a part of growing up. The people there were living authentically, selflessly serving and loving others and living according to the Bible. I fell back in love with God’s people and quickly joined a Bible study, started serving with students and joined a community group with other believers. I learned what it really means to trust God, live for him and live life to the fullest.

Those 13 months Josh was away were formative for me. They were difficult, of course, but I was able to reignite my love for Jesus, get involved in church and start serving others again. I realized I would trade everything I had in Missouri all over again for the relationship with God and with my church family that I had found in Texas.

When Josh came home after being away over a year, I was overjoyed. The trials were finally over, I had learned the lessons God wanted me to learn (I thought) and we could finally settle into a normal life. 

Then came the next blow. Two months after Josh came home, I found out I was pregnant. We weren’t trying to get pregnant – we were trying to prevent it, even – and I had never wanted kids of my own. Josh was thrilled, but I was terrified. I did not feel prepared or excited to be a mom.

Then came the hardest blow of all. Josh received deployment orders to Afghanistan, and he was slated to leave 20 days before my due date. And did I mention that this all happened in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic? During that time, in my darkest hours, I prayed for a miscarriage. I didn’t know how I was going to do this on my own. And I didn’t understand why God would ask this of me after what I’d already endured.

In 2020, on the Fourth of July (a little on the nose, right?), Josh left with his Army platoon to serve in Afghanistan for 10 months. And 20 days later, our daughter Emery was born, and I – ready or not – I became a mother. 

My mom came to stay with me for about a month when Emery was born, but words can’t describe the emptiness I felt when she boarded a plane back to her home in Michigan. It was just me and a newborn alone in a third-floor apartment in the middle of a pandemic. Wonderful people from my church community dropped off meals, sent texts and Zoomed in to ask how I was. But I was mostly isolated due to COVID. 

As I sat up in the middle of the night with Emery in my arms, covered in both her tears and mine, I wrestled again and again with God and that same declaration: This was not the life I signed up for.

When I ended up in the ER with postpartum health complications one night two months after Emery was born, my husband and community group advised that I move up to Michigan with my parents until Josh came home. I didn’t want to, but I brought it to God and He gave me peace that it was the wise decision. So, I packed up everything again and drove 1,000 miles across the country so my daughter and I could temporarily live with my family.

It was a blessing to not do everything on my own, of course, but it wasn’t easy. I had no room of my own, no car, no friends and no privacy. It’s honestly kind of a blur now, those months in the dead of winter packed into a tiny apartment with my mom, my dad, my grandpa, my daughter and three dogs. But God gave me the grace to get through each day. He taught me to rely on him for the strength I needed, because I couldn’t do it on my own. 

God also graciously allowed me to love my daughter more and more each day. Even though I hadn’t wanted kids of my own, I couldn’t imagine my life without this little miracle once she was in it. God knew that both I and the world needed an Emery. 

When Josh finally got back from deployment in May 2021, he got to meet our then 10-month-old daughter. It was an adjustment for all of us, becoming a family of three, but God continued to guide us through each day. He still does. We may need even more of that guidance now that Emery is a toddler!

This life as a military wife and mom has been absolutely insane. But I can see God’s hand and plan through all of it as he drew me back to himself, to the church and to a fully trusting relationship with him. And I wouldn’t trade being a military wife or mom for anything.

Now looking back at all the change and the chaos and the crazy life transitions I never expected, I still tell God the same thing – just with one caveat: This was not the life I signed up for…

It’s better.


Rebekah Schouten

Rebekah Schouten

Rebekah Schouten is a writer, editor and humor enthusiast with a passion for people and storytelling. She loves sparkly things, cheese fries and her daughter, Emery.

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