This Military Life | Bloom Where you are Planted

Bloom where you are planted

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Lots of you are moving this summer. Oh, how I feel your pain. Moving is stressful and never easy on so many levels. But, by golly! You all do it so well, and come alongside one another when needed – entertaining kids for the day, helping to load trucks, cooking and delivering meals, helping to sort, pack and repurpose! I have seen it all.

My worst move was the one we did last summer. I was on my own – not to rat out my husband, as it wasn’t his fault he couldn’t be with me. He had training he had to do before we moved to the new assignment and new work responsibilities. {Imagine for a moment what it is like to learn a new job every one, two, three or four years! Seriously, that is what our warriors do…they are constantly learning new skills and taking on new responsibilities. I am amazed at what my warrior does and how quickly he acclimates to a new job!}

Now…I am not one who likes to tell all of the horrible stories on moving and deployments and change…it is like telling a pregnant woman all of the horrible birthing stories. Really?? Why do we do that?? I like to be real and authentic, but NOT dramatic.

But, I am going to tell you this story so that I can give  a shout out to those who came to my rescue during the most difficult move I have ever  had. And please keep in mind, I was living in a Local Community, not on a Military Installation.

I had done what I could to get my boys (ages 7 and 9 at the time) plugged into a camp the week of the move. Unfortunatley…it was a huge disappointment. The kids hated it, were miserable in the heat and it just wasn’t a good fit. So, I let them stay home with me, but quickly needed to find a way to get them out of way for part of the day at least. Our sweet neighbor with boys nearly the same age, took my boys for several days in a row!

I had prepared our home as best I could for the team coming. My husband had hired a crew to come early and disassemble our trampoline. I had drinks on ice, food in the fridge, plans for ordering lunch, bags packed and items set aside that weren’t meant to go in tot he moving truck.

Then in walked four young, confident men. Honestly, I should have seen it coming. They were a bit cocky and dismissive when I asked them about packing methods. They seemed to be in a bit of hurry. They said the things they knew to say to assure me that they had it all under control. But, as things began to get packed on three different levels of my house – even though I had asked to them stay in one level at a time so that I could watch them – I soon saw signs of poor packing. Argh! What to do? I said a lot of prayers, spoke up when I saw something not quite right, called my  husband for advice {although, there was very little he could do}, and just believed that it would all be okay. It is all just stuff really. Read more here: Moving Tips from a Military Spouse.

The morning after the final box was packed I woke to find over 50% of the boxes with packing tape coming undone. This has never happened before! I called the TMO contact I had {TMO is the branch that handles the details of our move and those they contract with}. He came to inspect and advised I call the company.  I had to ask them to come back and requested that they re-tape all of my boxes. Two of the packers, you know the ones I wasn’t to sure about to begin with, showed up. I wasn’t feeling terribly confident, and my personality doesn’t like to rock the boat. I asked them to please re-tape all boxes – stating that I had even talked with their manager about it. Yet, in under two hours they were done and said they had checked all boxes and only re-taped those that needed taping. Ugh…my vision was boxes coming open and stuff spilling out from the East Coast to the South West USA.

The one shining person in the entire experience was our driver and his top-of-the-line truck. He was so proud of that truck! But, when he came to assess the state of our things prior to loading them on his truck, he was not impressed with the quality of the job the packers did. What ultimately complicated things was that we had four different companies contracted to do our move: One to coordinate the logistics of the move, another to pack, another to load and the last to drive the truck with our stuff. And, no on worked well together! In fact, at 5pm on the day of loading, three guys walked off the job and left 50% of my belongings sitting in my garage. There was nearly a fist fight between them and the driver – whose intent was to take care of our stuff and his truck. It was a mess.

And, for four hours we waited (until 9pm) for a new crew of individuals to show up and finish loading the truck. We were stuck. We had to be out of our house that day. Never before had it taken more than one day to load our things. And my husband still wasn’t home. He would be home in the wee hours after the loaded truck drove away from our house.

This is when the friends and neighbors really came to my aid. By 6pm that day of loading, I had half a dozen people show up to help. My neighbor helping me with the boys spontaneously decided that they could just spend the night at her house so that I could get the job done. Another neighbor, retired Army, showed up with spotlights, lamps and extension cords because it was pitch black outside and impossible to load in the dark. Fellow military friends who had just finished packing and loading their house that afternoon showed up to help me. We all carried things down do the curb to be loaded. Dinner was brought over by another neighbor. And…the driver never once grew weary, threw his hands up, or gave up on me. He was totally on my side and had a “Can Do” attitude all the way. I had even gone as far to send out messages to friends and family asking for prayers.

By midnight the truck was packed and the doors closed. We had received 2 temp workers at 9pm that came with good attitudes and willing spirits. They worked their tails off! We repaid them with pizza, coke and a big tip!! I will forever be grateful.

I never cried. Got angry. Or lost my smile. How? God and I have been around the block quite a few times. I have been angry, resentful, even vengeful at Him at times reacting to life experiences that have come my way. And, when this catastrophic move happened, I had learned a lot of  lessons that came to my rescue.

First, God has got it! Eveything is for a reason. And you will come out stronger on the other side.

Second, it is all just stuff. As long as the children, pets and spouse make it safely to the oterh house you are good.

Third, there is no use getting all worked up about things you cannot control. You will wear your self out and hurt those you love.

Finally, it is worth investing your time and energy in Blooming Where You Are Planted – or in other words – thriving, building relationships, investing in others no matter where you are or for how long you are there.

When it came time for us to move last summer, we had only been living in PA for 11 months. In 11 months time, we had invested in relationships providing opportunity for people to step up and help us when we needed it. It was no big deal for me to contact my neighbor to help us with lighting. Or to ask for the boys the stay at someone’s house. Or, for our neighbor to offer us a meal and refreshing drink in the midst of our hard work. Had we kept our doors and hearts closed from those around us because we were only going to be there a short 11-months, I would have never able to reach out for help.

Investing in relationships, no matter how long you are in a location, is vital – for you, for your family, for your children and for your community! We can’t always live in the home we want to. Or send our kids to the ideal school. Or replicate all of the amazing activities, shopping and restaurants we had at the last duty station. But, we can choose not allow our current conditions to tear us away from seeing the opportunity we have to invest in a full life.

Did you know what I discovered that year? My neighbors who had student families from the Army War College living amongst them in rental houses from year to year, knew very little about military life. We who live this life, know there is a stark difference between civilian life and military life. I have heard military spouses complain that civilians don’t welcome them into their communities, or offer support, or reach out. Do you know why? Have you ever asked? I have….and you know what I have heard again and again, they want to help, they just don’t know what to do or how to help. They don’t know what military life is like, thus our needs are not even on their radar.

So, don’t begrudge locals in your community or your neighbors or even those in your church because they haven’t reached out to you or haven’t offered to help you with your immediate needs. Instead, reach out to them, get to know them, get to know the area you are in.

Tell your story – your Military Life story. (Begin by leaving a comment below.)

Give them an opportunity to look inside your life for a while to see how we live. Take the time to educate them on what living this military life is really all about. Let them know your needs – without being whiny or dramatic of course – and their eyes will be opened.

Think of the last time you were in an unfamiliar place – maybe you were on a mission trip in a foreign country, maybe a new part of the US with a unique and distinct culture, or even sitting in on a presentation or lecture about a topic you were sure you didn’t agree with. Once you had experienced life from that angle for a moment – didn’t that make you more aware and sensitive to the situation/ the topic/ or the community? I am certain it opened your eyes to the needs around you in a new way.

What an opportunity we have to represent the Armed Forces well. We have the opportunity to forge relationships with civilians and show them what resilience, endurance, and authentic living is really like. We get to plant seeds wherever we go.

Eleven months of building and investing in relationship with my local community enabled me to have more help than I knew what to do with in my time of need. My only regret is that we had to leave so soon. We served one another in authentic relationship for the time we were there, and I will forever be grateful.

 

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This Military Life | Sojourning, Singing and Settling In

Statues, Songs, Sojourning

 

Some would describe us military families as Nomads. Wanderers with a Purpose! Short-timers. Non-locals. Visitors….I am sure you have a few descriptors you could add here. I like to think of us as Sojourners. That has a much better ring to it, doesn’t it?

We have the opportunity to live in a wide-range of locations. Experience a variety of people and cultures. Learn new and albeit interesting ways of living. Taste news foods. Experience new adventures.

And while all of that sounds so very exciting, the reality is that moving is hard.

Right now it is PCS {Permanent Change of Station} season. We (collectively speaking) are sorting, packing, moving and saying goodbye. (I wrote a post all about that here.)

Our kids are grieving their friends. We are having to let go of established routines only to have to reestablish them on the other side of the move. Maybe we are facing the reality that the things we love in our current duty station will no longer be available to us at the next. Maybe we are faced with learning an entirely new language or wondering how we are going to manage in a country we have never known.

So, here is how I cope. I sing and dance. When I am feeling anxious, sad, overwhelmed….I say to my kids…”Ready for a dance party?” Or. “Do you want to sing some praise songs with me?” And, depending on my mood and what I need in that moment I choose the Pandora station or music mix on my phone that suits me. I open my lips and I sing. I let loose my step and I dance and move to the music.

It is usually just me, the boys and our sweet dog, Daisy. We rock out! And, you know what? It changes things. It changes my mood, my attitude about what is to come, and it usually leads to laughter, hugs, kisses and all around well-being. I have done this since the boys were babies. I remember the days I would be able to pick them both up (only 20 months apart) and sway to the music with both of them. The Peace and Joy this provides me is hard to capture here with just words as I feel the smile crossing my face and the warmth of Love filling me deep within.

You can do this PCS! You can! You may not feel like you can right now. But, you can! You are an amazing person with capabilities and capacities within you that you may not even realize. Pick your music. Here is a link to one of my personal favorite: Pharrell Williams – Happy!

Sing your songs loud and proud and let them indwell within you. Here is my one note of caution: Choose Wisely – Music penetrates deeply. Thus, our spirits marinate in the words and their intended meaning.

The Holy Scriptures are music for me, too. And, on days when I am too weak in my spirit or too low to muster the strength, it is His statues – His truths in Scripture – that I meditate on. They become my music.

Scriptures like:

Psalm 119:105. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Jeremiah 29:11.For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Psalm 46:10. Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

1 John 3:1. We are called children of God. 

And,

 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Hebrews 11:8-10

Like Abraham, we can make a home in the land to which we are sent, live in tents, and experience a joyful life, even if our conditions are not ideal. We can if we keep our eyes focused on the prize at the end of our race – A City with Foundations, whose architect and builder is God!

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This Military Life | Truth be told…I am envious of your family.

Baseball-Field This Military Lifelittle-league      youth_baseball_team

This past Friday night, we camped out at the ball field for 3 games. One for our oldest; two for our youngest.

With the start of baseball season in May, our evening schedule has been full as we cheer our boys on to their victories and losses. We being my husband and I. Two chairs, nestled together in comfort, amid a sea of people.

Many other parents sit with their extended family – cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, nephews, nieces – young and old, generation upon generation. They all wear “bedazzled” team shirts with their player’s name and number on the back. And, all I can do is sit back and think about how envious I am.

Envious that our parents can’t be here to cheer our boys on. Envious that the young cousins don’t know one another very well because we live so far apart; we even have to reintroduce the children to each other when we finally are together under one roof.

Envious that these families seems to ease into conversation without first having to catch up. Envious our in-laws can take the kiddos for the evening and treat them to ice cream after the game. Envious that they can gather with their loved ones on the bleachers to share a ball game only to meet up later under one roof for a celebratory BBQ.

I admit I am envious of what they seem to have that I don’t.

I miss my family. I miss having deep family roots and living in the same zip code as my relatives. I am envious of large families and crave large family gatherings. As each year passes in this military life, our family unit grows stronger, but our ties to our extended family grow weaker, and that makes me sad.

Now, I will admit we haven’t done as good a job as others who have yearly family reunions and such. And, there are many reasons for that, most too private to share in this public space.

Regardless, it is at times like last Friday evening sitting out at the ball field in small town America when I feel most isolated, and have to fight back feelings of envy and resentment.

While there are many things I love about this military life, there are times when the necessary sacrifices seem too great. Admitting that there are two sides to every coin brings me comfort. And, I hope that my admission to this truth has brought you some comfort too.

You are not alone.

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Monday Invitations | Dedicated to those for whom this is NOT a happy Memorial Day

child kissing headstone

Last year, our family lived in Carlisle, PA while my husband attended the Army War College. He is active duty Air Force and had the privilege of being invited to attend this prestigious program with his fellow Army, Navy, and Marine armed service members.

Over the year, we listened to a number of stories of those lost in active duty. We became friends with people whom have served and led on the front lines. I listened as spouses recounted the stress and strain they endured as they waited and wondered if their warrior would return home alive. I listened as they talked of not one, not two, but five year-long deployments that were threatening to tear the families apart. I learned of their friends who had taken their lives in the aftermath of their time in “the desert” – every day reliving the atrocities to which they had born witness. I watched as those who bear the cross on their uniform and the share the Good News of Jesus suffered under the strains of PTSD.

We are an Air Force family. My husband actively serves. He has deployed a number of times, at most for a year. He has flown in enemy air and landed on enemy soil. And, we have sacrificed for our country. But, we have been somewhat shielded from the extreme conditions so many of our fellow Army service members and families have endured. Don’t get me wrong, the Air Force has suffered great loss, too. I can think of friends who have lost loved ones and dear friends both in “the desert” and in the air. We suffer too. We remember those in our ranks who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

But, for whatever reason, our family has served more than one Joint Base assignment. Which means that we have lived and worked among personnel across all branches of the armed forces for 6 of the past 12 years. And, in my opinion, the Army has given and lost the most.

I ache today for them. I ache for my chaplain friend who is soon to report to a base where two mass shootings have taken place within one year of another. He suffers from PTSD for time served. I ache for my sweet friend who lost her husband while he was deployed and now uses her grief and faith to come alongside and comfort others who are suffering. I ache for my sweet Army wife friends who feel others don’t understand their suffering and pain, who are beyond weary facing yet another deployment. I ache for the Army as a whole as we read again and again the reality of suicides, homicides, and mass shootings in their midst.

I am tender to all those who have lost a loved one due to war – whether it is on the battlefield or as a result of the fallout. But, for whatever reason and of which I have a very difficult time explaining, my heart is with my Army friends today.

You have suffered too much. You have suffered more than any one group of people should have to suffer. Gather together and love one another in your grief. Bear one another’s burdens and together you can stand. You are not forgotten. I remember the exhaustion on your faces when we met over a year ago. I remember thinking of all you have carried for our country. I remember thinking of the sacrifices your children have given, of all they have been asked to endure. You Army spouses are some of the strongest and most courageous ones out there.

I invite you to consider this today:

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15)

“Part of what it means to share in Christ’s suffering is to share in the suffering of those whom Christ loves. You participate in Christ’s sufferings by sharing the pain with those who suffer, not only fellow Christians, but people anywhere in the world who are hurting. You participate in Christ’s suffering when you come alongside the hurting and offer them the blessing of presence. You participate in Christ’s suffering when you weep with those who weep. You participate in Christ’s sufferings when you die to yourself so that you can fully enter into the pain and suffering of another person.

You may never be more Christlike that when you participate in the sufferings and sorrows of a hurting world, wrestling with the pain and providing the comfort of community. Christ set the pattern: death, then rebirth; dying, then living again; suffering, then consolation. As you model the life of Christ in ministry to others, you become Christ to hurting people.

Jesus called his followers to pattern their lives after his, and that pattern includes dignifying pain and suffering. Pain is real, it hurts, and it matters. Rather than minimizing or denying the hurt, Christians are most like Christ when they enter into the pain of those who are suffering – not to be weighted down or consumed by it, but to help bear the burden. Jesus says that when you provide care in his name to the least of his brothers or sisters,  you are having compassion on him (Matthew 25:31-40). So when you care for those in need, you are offering a doubly powerful witness to the presence of Christ in the world – Christ alive in  you and in the one to whom you are offering care.” (Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart: How to Relate to Those Who are Suffering, Kenneth C. Haugk, Ph.D., pp. 33-34)

I know there are many for whom this Memorial Day is not a happy one. I am so sorry for your loss. I grieve with you today. You are not forgotten.

with love,

jana

This Military Life | What if they find out who I really am?

Children of GodI am aware of something I haven’t felt in a long time. I am worried my underbelly will be exposed. Maybe it is showing already?

I am worried that people will see me for who I really am and not like me anymore. I am worried that I will come to disappoint them or let them down or anger them in some way.

And, then it hits me, we are not moving this summer.

We have either moved or had a deployment every single year since 2009. And for the first time in 5 years, we are not facing a major life transition. In many ways, I am completely relieved and nearly giddy to know that I do not have to pack up a house this summer or say goodbye to my hubby.

But, there is something else that is rearing its ugly head. I am realizing that the longer I stay here, the greater my fear is that the people who like me now may change their mind. As I stay longer in one place, the initial first-impression wears off and I feel the pressure of continually having to prove myself. What if I fail? What if they don’t like what they see anymore? What if I anger someone unknowingly? What if I disappoint them?

It is kind of like those fabulous pair of new shoes that you wear the first couple of times and feel like a million bucks. After the 4th and 5th time of wearing them, they seem to have lost their novelty and charm and begin to blend into the other pairs sitting on your shelf.

What if the novelty of me wears off?

What if I just begin to blend in and people don’t want to know me anymore?

Wow! It is powerful for me to write this all down and get this into words. And, I must admit, I am surprised by my feelings. The fact is, I don’t generally grow self-conscious until someone begins to get too close. Meeting for coffee once or twice feels comfortable, but then during the first long dinner conversation I begin to feel tense and uncomfortable worrying that I am going to to say something that offends or that reveals that I am just as common as everyone else. Do you ever feel this way? Or, am I the only one?

I guess, when it all comes down to it, I like being the new person in the crowd. It’s a fresh start. A chance to make a new first impression. No one knows my history or who I was before or whether or not people liked me. They get to garner their own impression of me. And, hey, my fears of those first impressions go out the window knowing that usually it is often the new person that gets the biggest welcome! (I am speaking from my own personal experience here, your experience may be completely different.) My novelty wears off after we have been around for a while.

And yet, I am a child of God. None of that should matter! What I am to be has not yet been made known! There is more to come. I am promised that I shall become like him!

 

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And, that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But, we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:1,2

God sees my underbelly. He sees my ugly, my dirty, my messy, my out-of-control. He sees me in the darkest of moments, the moment when I am most raw and vulnerable. The moments when I have made, just maybe, the biggest mistake of my life! The moments I am too ashamed to talk about, and too weak to admit even to myself.

But, I am a child of God! He loves me anyway! Can I accept that? Can I truly accept His gift of grace?

I belong to His family. He is saving me a place in His mansion! He has created a room just for me!

My sweet 8-year-old and I just had a conversation recently about heaven. I am going to try my best to get it right, but seriously, I just melt at my sweet boy’s voice, dimples, and sheer enthusiasm for everything eternal, so I may not be able to capture it fully.

“Mommy, did you know that when we go to heaven we get to do whatever we want!” “Oh really? Well what would you do?” “I would play video games all the time!” “Well do you think God will allow video games in heaven?” “No, probably not.” “Yeah, I think you are right. It says in the Bible that we are going to worship and sing and prasie His name alongside the angels. Won’t that be amazing? We will be too busy spending time with God to play video games.” “Yeah! And I am going to ride on a Peregrine Falcon!”

Even my 8-year-old gets it! Eternity means no video games and taking flight on a Peregrine Falcon. The Peregrine Falcon is his favorite bird. He can tell you everything about it and even spot them miles up into the sky. He knows that God is saving a place just for him where he can worship His Creator and ride a Peregrine Falcon high in the sky.

May I have the faith of a child. May I believe today in the deepest parts of me that I am loved just as I am, and that I am a child of God. That even though first impressions wear off, and underbellies are exposed, He will still hold me close and call me His beloved. Amen

With Love,

jana

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