Unexpected Orders

Unexpected Orders
Written by Marissa Cina
Photography by Annie Louise Wilkins @annielouisewilkins


“We need to talk. After the party, OK?” I froze as my husband said this with authority. This was not something he would normally say—this was my line. But the alarm bells going off in my head coincided with pings of texts declaring “We are en route!” and “Almost there.” All I could say amongst the sudden cacophony in my brain and in my hand was, “Okay honey.” 

The party was exceptional in its noise and vigor. Four boys 4,5,6, and 7 raced through the backyard and tracked in dirt and delight. My daughter and her little best friend happily ate and watched the boys. Occasionally a cry of angst would arise when toys were wrenched from their chubby paws. I reveled in the unusual joy of big company; but every glass filled, every plate served, and every external conversation was shadowed by our looming talk. 

After the party, with our friends happy, full, and gone, our child passed out in a sticky haze of exhaustion, and the house cleaning triaged, I made my way slowly to the basement family room to the couch. 

"OK, I’m ready.”

I force myself to look him in the eye, gripping a pillow like a shield. I’m praying in my head, “God….Help me through this moment, whatever it is.” But I have no idea what the moment is.

His words came quickly but enunciated. He wanted to get them out but needed me to understand them. He’d obviously had time to process, distill, and give me the cliff notes version. 

“Our career manager called today. The Army won’t let me stay in that billet we found here for next year’s assignment. He gave me the options. I’m going to pick Korea…he kept talking, explaining the rationale behind the decision. 

I’m going to pick Korea.

I felt these words viscerally, fist to gut. As a dual-military couple, there’s a lot of negotiation around moves to ensure we both are moving forward in our careers and keeping our family together. And with a two-year-old sleeping upstairs, this move carried new weight. Anger flared. 

A senior leader had interviewed my husband and guaranteed the unicorn job—a position that could keep us together and advance his career—that job would be his. The solid “we got you” narrative turned to an uncertain “he didn’t get the billet in this cycle.” And the job slipped through our grasp. We called in a favor to a mentor and friend who found him a second option here, with his family. And for the second time, I felt secure that we would stay together for the next five years. FIVE YEARS of security. This was big.

Now I was staring down the barrel at single motherhood as an Army officer. The what-ifs started in my brain.

What if I need to work late?

What if I can’t keep up with work, motherhood, and getting an application together for Ph.D.?

What if my ratings fall?

When my daughter misses her dad, what will I say? Will she understand?

Will I need to get help with the dogs? The yard? The cooking?

What if he meets someone else over there and leaves me? Will he be a Disneyland dad or will the stepmom want to be super involved? 


He stops me with a word. I imagine the whites of my eyes were getting really large.

“I’ve got this. It’s one year and then we’re back together. It’s not ideal but I’ve thought it through. It’s the best course of action for our family.”

I look at him. Really look at him. His confidence calms me. I take a deep breath. My security was briefly in the Army system. I should have known better. God has a plan for us and I could see that God needs Morgan to go to Korea. By all rights, the first job on the post should have been ours. The second job too. But those doors were closed. I don’t know why. But I trust God and my husband.

One year.

It will be a challenging year, but then it will be over. And we will be back together as a family. For wherever God takes us next. Not the Army.


About the Author: Marissa is an Army officer, writer, and teacher. Wherever there are women in community seeking God—she wants to be there! Her passion is finding the intersection between modeling and teaching God’s grace to the littlest among us. Marissa lives where the Army takes her with her husband, precious daughter, three dogs, and a cat.

 Read more of Marissa's work at marissamichelle.com and connect with her on Instagram

This piece was originally crafted in The Work of Words writing workshop. Within the course, you'll discover how to string words together with creativity and discernment in a creative non-fiction framework.

To be the first to know of the upcoming workshop and learn more of the details, click here to join our waitlist. 

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