I'm a military wife and homeschooling mama just striving (and struggling!) to love and serve Jesus by loving and serving those around me. Mama, do you ever feel like a servant? Join our community where we share our struggles and encourage each other. And we are proud supporters of the military families serving our country too!
I am so honored that Sarah has invited me to share with you today. I wanted to start by thanking all the families who serve our country – and our family! – through serving in the military. You are often in our prayers, and we are so grateful for the sacrifices each of you make!
The timing of this post is special, as November is National Adoption Month and Military Family Appreciation Month! If you have considered growing your family through adoption, my prayer is that you find encouragement, hope, and practical help here!
Military Families Strengths
In the adoption world, words like security, stability, and routine are used frequently. For families that experience frequent – and sometimes, unplanned – change, this can seem daunting. But the most critical components of these things are found in the relationship between children and their caregivers, not circumstances.
In many ways, military families have learned to expect the unexpected. This happens to be a key in any type of adoption. Knowing that we cannot control our circumstances, but we can control how we respond, is one of the primary focuses of adoption training and research.
The abilities to adapt to new surroundings, and face challenges head-on, are also beneficial in helping your new child(ren) adapt and thrive! Employing these skills to help them face the unknown, offers them confidence and security. It can also aid in walking through times of grief, loss, and trauma with them. With this unique set of strengths, many military families find themselves better equipped to handle some of the challenges of adoption!
Stories and Advice
Since we are not a military family, I reached out to some who are for their stories and advice on adopting. Below are two accounts from families who have adopted while one spouse was serving in the military:
“Military life while pursuing adoption can come with several challenges (like PCSing during the middle of the process), but the community aspects and job benefits truly make it worth it. Military families, on average, have an adoption rate of almost twice the national average, and it’s pretty common to find several adoptive families on even a small base. Having a community that completely understands every step of the process, can offer words of wisdom and support, and can offer a community for adopted kids is invaluable.
My personal word of wisdom for a military family in particular: try to time your adoption with your PCS calendar. Every time you move, all paperwork has to be redone to reflect a new address. Home studies are particularly frustrating if you cross state lines (almost a given in the military). It saves a tremendous amount of money and heartache to wait until the next duty station and to choose a plan that can fit with a potential move.” – Audrey
My words of advice: If you know you are being led to adopt, don’t wait! The military is not going to cater to you — they won’t necessarily fight against you, but they are very mission-oriented.
My other piece of advice is to be open about what (age range) you are willing to adopt. When we started, we were *aiming* for an infant. However, within 2 months we broadened our home study to include up to 17-year-old children. Our goal in adoption wasn’t to “complete” our family, but to be a family to a child in need. When our son’s birth mother in a nearby state knew she needed to place her son, we were ready and jumped at the chance to be his family. He’s just a little guy (19 months old), and we are delighted to have connected! Adoption takes many routes. Don’t be dead set on just one, or else you may be waiting for quite a while.” – Sarah
Supports and Resources
Every adoptive family needs to find the right support! For military families, who can face special challenges during the process, finding the proper resources is critical. Researching the type of adoption you are choosing, selecting an agency, paperwork, finances, legalities – it can be challenging to know where to start. I’ve assembled several helpful online resources to get you started, or help you in the process!
Military OneSource – General information on adopting as a military family; peer consultant services that allow you to speak to someone in the military who has adopted from foster care.
AdoptUS Kids – Information on types of adoption, and ways to begin the process.
Post Adoption Support – Bethany Christian Services’ Post Adoption Support Services for Military Families.
A Prayer for You
Father, thank You for the men, women, and their families, who serve in our military. Please protect them, and give them peace. Father, I thank You that Your Word says that You will give us wisdom, if only we ask! I ask that You grant heavenly wisdom to each person reading this. That You would guide them in the next step you want them to take, and strengthen them to do whatever You ask! Father, please remove any fear – for we know that You do not operate in fear, but in love! Lead them by the power and grace of Holy Spirit, and make Your perfect will clear! For those who You are calling to adoption, please provide all they need – spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially! For those who You are asking to support orphans in other ways – please provide all they need, as well! Thank You that You place the lonely in families – and that You allow us the blessed privilege of being part of that! In Jesus Name.
I would be honored to connect with and pray for you! Have you considered adoption? Have you already adopted? If so, what is a piece of advice you would offer other hopeful adoptive military families?
Naomi loves Jesus. She is married to her best friend, John. They have six amazing, beautiful kids, two of whom have been adopted from the foster care system. Naomi homeschools their tribe of world changers. She is a type-A, list-making, change-fearing girl living an adventure that demands flexibility, spontaneity, and constant change! Through her words, she prays you’ll find something that points your heart to the Dream Giver and the Author of each of our stories – Jesus.
As I was working in the kitchen preparing dinner my dad called to me from the living room, “Come here, you need to see this”. I walked into where he and the kids were sitting watching an episode of Doc McStuffins. “What?”, I asked, not understanding what I was supposed to be seeing.
Quietly, so the kids couldn’t hear, he said, ” That family has two mommies”. I stood watching for a few minutes, trying to understand what was going on in the cartoon.
Disney Junior’s Doc McStuffins has been a favorite in our house for a few years now. My kids enjoy it because of the cute, likable characters, like Stuffy and Lambie and their catchy songs.
I’ve always been a fan because it’s one of the few female lead characters who isn’t a princess. I also appreciate the fact that Doc isn’t white, something else that is rare to see in children’s programming. I loved when the show incorporated an adoption story and Doc got a new baby sister.
Although Doc is not one I would give the highest score to for educational value, it did teach some simple, but positive concepts like not being afraid of the doctor and proper handwashing. Overall, I had regarded it as a good, safe show for my kids to watch.
But with a single episode, that was all about to change.
I continued standing there while I watched the show, hoping that maybe my dad had misunderstood.
At first, all I could see was that, yes, there appeared to be two moms and two kids, but the exact relationship wasn’t immediately apparent. But the longer I watched, the more obvious it became that indeed this was a family. In fact, the kid’s cartoon wasn’t just alluding to the fact this two-mommy couple was family, they were EMPHASIZING the point. One of the mommy characters even commented, “We’re a family, and families stick together”.
Doc McStuffins - Wanda Sykes , Portia de Rossi And The LGTB INTIERVIEW - YouTube
It was at that point that I decided we had better turn this off, concerned about what my children might see next, wondering if they would go so far as to include an onscreen kiss.
My children grumbled a bit as I apologized and told them that because some things about this episode weren’t appropriate we were going to switch to a different one. I also told them that this would probably be the last time we watched Doc McStuffins. My daughter asked “Why mama?” and I told her that I would talk to her about it later.
I never expected to have this conversation with my five- year -old and was very unsure of how to address it with her. I needed some time to think.
I want to pause here for a moment and clarify where I am coming from and why this episode caused me so much concern.
I have debated for days now whether or not to share this post. I know this is a sensitive and controversial subject. I know that there will be many who strongly disagree with me. But I also believe I must speak the truth in love.
I am writing this out of a desire to both make other mamas aware of what their children might be exposed to and to encourage those mamas to not be afraid to stand for what is right, regardless of what our culture is trying to convince us.
As a Christ follower, I believe the Bible is very clear about homosexuality being a sin. This particular sin is no better or no worse than any other sin that someone might struggle with. And the Bible also says that “for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23, emphasis added).
This means that each one of us, myself included, have our own personal sin struggles. So to be very clear, I am not coming from a place of judgment or condemnation. I have friends who live this lifestyle and although I don’t agree with it, I care for them the same way I do any of my other friends.
The problem with what this particular episode of Doc McStuffins is doing is that they are taking that sin, putting it in front of my young children, and saying “This is normal. This is okay.”. One friend I spoke with about this put it so well. She said, “They are trying to desensitize our children and take the shock value out of sin”.
Taken directly from Disney Junior’s FAQ page, the company says “We are a channel for preschoolers offering classic and contemporary Disney stories with learning and developmental programming designed for kids ages 2 to 7”. That means that when they chose to include this in their storyline, when they allowed it to be aired, they knew they were communicating this message to children ages 2-7.
I’m not here to tell you to not let your children watch this show anymore. I’m not here to tell you to boycott Disney. I’m simply here, sounding the alarm, letting you know what message is being communicated to your children. What you do with that information is up to you.
As I tucked my daughter into bed that night, I was honestly hoping that she would forget my promise to talk to her later about why we turned off that episode of Doc McStuffins. I should have known better. My girl never forgets anything.
I started by asking her if she noticed anything strange about the episode. She didn’t. She had been completely oblivious to it. When I told her about the two mommies, I asked her if she thought that was odd. Surprisingly, she didn’t. (Here is where some people applaud that and say “Yay for acceptance!”). Not me. That actually concerned me more.
I related it to a Bible story she was familiar with, that of Adam and Eve. We talked about how God made us. How some people choose to live in a way different than how He designed us and how that makes Him sad. It was over her head and it’s a conversation we’ll probably have several more times throughout her life. But the foundation of truth was laid.
As parents, we have been entrusted to pass the gospel message on to our children. Even when it’s countercultural, even when it’s hard and uncomfortable, we must not be afraid to stand for truth. As my friend and mentor Katie from I Choose Brave says: “May we not live fearful, mamas, but brave.”
PS- If you are concerned about this and want to take action, visit One Million Moms for helpful info on how to make your voice heard. And be sure to share this post to help other parents be aware!
I stood in the middle of the room, clutching the pale yellow sleepsack I swaddled both of my babies in when they were tiny. The tears began to fall and I looked around my son’s bedroom, surrounded by signs of a season that had passed us by:
Sleepsacks, like the one I was holding, soft and fuzzy.
Bibs and burp rags, long forgotten in a lonely drawer.
The baby carrier with straps everywhere, now abandoned and neglected.
The tiny hats that were worn so often that first winter, including the one he wore home from the hospital.
All these relics on display, evidence that an entire season in our house had come and gone without me even realizing it.
I moved into this house with a baby, not yet one. Not yet walking, talking, or making messes all over.
Watching our babies grow can be hard for any mama, but for us military spouses, it can be even more difficult.
As I cleaned out closets and drawers, preparing for our most recent move, I mourned not only the fact that my babies were growing up, but that we were leaving yet ANOTHER house. A house where memories had been made, milestones met, and that would forever hold a special place in our hearts.
Often, when we think of military life we think of war and deployments. Obviously, those events cost military families dearly. But what about the other costs?
What about the cost, both financial and emotional, of moving so often? My boy has not yet reached his 3rd birthday, but he’s already living in his 3rd home. My sweet girl, only 5 years old, is living in her 6th.
Some of those moves have been on military orders (PCS’s). Others have been our choice as we have always strived to keep our family together whenever possible. My husband is already gone so often, that we want to be together when we can!
I don’t know about you, but I was so naive to this part of military life in the beginning. Yes, I knew we’d move, but not this often!
We’ve lived some great places and had some wonderful opportunities because of our location. Other places I have been ready to leave behind. Regardless though, in those final days, as we prepared to say goodbye to each of our homes- whether it had only been for a few months or a couple of years, the memories made there came rushing in like a flood.
Memories of the nurseries we carefully prepared to welcome brand new babies, the living rooms where they took those first wobbly steps, and the kitchens we gathered in to sing happy birthday. Memories of the bedrooms where we sat cuddled up together and read books together every night, the driveways where the kids colored with chalk and rode their bikes, and of the swings hanging in the tree where we often spent much of our time.
I lived in the same house from the time I was a year old until I went away to college. The fact that my kids’ experience is so different than mine is hard to wrap my head around sometimes. I worry and wonder how it will affect them.
And now, in yet another new house, we make our new spaces, establish new routines, and make new memories. It is wonderful and I am grateful to be here. But I’m alsoweary.
I’m weary of boxes and suitcases. I’m weary of curtains that don’t fit windows and trying to find a new place for everything. I’m weary of starting over. Weary of making new friends, turning new houses into homes, and finding new favorite places. I’m weary of watching my children struggle with all of these same sorts of things.
Thankfully, Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest“.
And so, weary and worn, I come.
Will you join me?
It’s the only secret I know, the only advice I have to give. There are no bullet points and no magic 3-step formula to make it all better, to make it easier, to ease the ache.
There’s just coming to Him. There’s only laying it all down at His feet and trusting Him.
Military life is hard and it leaves many of us weary.
But He will give us rest. He will sustain us. He will see us through these difficult days.
All we have to do is come.
PS- Ever since I started Servant Mama, my goal has been to encourage military spouses. Often, if I can’t write a post in a way that will leave you, the reader, feeling encouraged, I don’t publish it. But I also don’t want to paint a false picture of what life as a military family is like.
Some days, it’s just “normal” life. But other days, it’s unbelievably hard. So this post is me just keeping it real.
THANK YOU to every single one of our military families who make these sort of sacrifices, many who are indeed weary after nearly 17 years of war. You all amaze me and I am forever grateful to be a part of this community!
*This guest post is written by Courtney Woodruff of Courtney at Home, where she shares all about military life and her travel adventures. Welcome, Courtney!
“Please keep in touch,” I spoke over the lump forming in my throat as I gave my dear friend one last squeeze before turning to walk back to my car. I’d given her a ride back to her temporary accommodations after we’d enjoyed one last dinner together at my place: a simple meal of grilled cheese sandwiches because I knew it was one of her favorite comfort foods.
As I drove home, I thought about how stressed, exhausted and downright excited she must be feeling. I knew she’d been dreaming of moving back to this particular city for a long time; she would be living near family, again, and she and her husband had plans to become first-time homeowners. I was thrilled for her … but, at the same time, I was surprised – and even a little ashamed – by the overwhelming pangs of sadness, jealousy, and panic that filled my chest.
I’d been on the other side of “goodbye” plenty of times, but staying behind was an entirely new experience for me.
Over the last couple of years, this sweet friend and I had experienced so much together. We’d seen each other nearly every day, we’d celebrated holidays and successes at work, and we’d even grieved a devastating loss together. Naturally, her family had become my family. When she moved away, her absence left a gaping hole in my daily routine for a long time.
When friends are there one day and gone the next, those of us who stay behind during PCS season go through many of the same mental and emotional upheavals as those who leave. Our addresses may not be changing, but we are also being affected by the waves of military families moving in and out of our communities — especially when we have to say goodbye to people we love.
Friend, if you are struggling with being the one staying behind this PCS season, know you aren’t alone.
Give yourself time.
It’s completely normal to experience a kind of grief when you have to say goodbye to a close friend, and this process takes time. Allow yourself to feel emotions fully, and seek healthy ways to work through the sadness, jealousy and even anger you may be experiencing. Write in a journal, connect with other spouses online who have been through what you are going through, or talk to a professional if you need to.
Keep in touch.
It can be easy to shut down and build walls around yourself when you are dealing with heavy emotions, but do your best to resist the urge to lose contact with your friend. Give yourself some space at first, if you need to, and be honest with her if she asks how you are doing. Remember, she is going through a major transition, too. Be there to support one another.
Be happy for your friend.
Military moves are extremely stressful, but they are filled with plenty of exciting moments, too. Celebrate with your friend as she experiences all of the big and little milestones that come along with a PCS. Congratulate her when she receives the keys to her new home, cheer with her when her household goods arrive, and sigh with her when the last box is unpacked. She will be the first one to do the same for you when it’s your turn to head to the next duty station.
Look for the positives of staying behind.
Even if you aren’t exactly thrilled with your current location, it isn’t difficult to find silver linings in not having to move during PCS season. Rejoice in the fact that you don’t have to learn a city all over again, find a church home, switch your children’s schools, or build a new community of support for your family.
Befriend a milspouse that is new to the area.
When you’re ready, open yourself up to forming new friendships. Remember how it felt to be the new spouse on the block. Use your experiences to help a newcomer adjust to your duty station. Invite her to church, give her tips on where to find the best services in town, take her to your favorite restaurants, and help her feel comfortable in her new surroundings.
Better yet – don’t compare her to the friend who moved away.
No one can replace the amazing milspouse you had to say goodbye to. It is important to remember this so we can approach new friendships with an open heart and mind. Judgment and comparison have a way of stealing our joy and ruining a perfectly good opportunity to widen our circles of companionship.
Trust in God’s will for your life.
Sooner or later, it will be your time to go. For now, trust in the promise that God has a plan for your life (Romans 8:28; Philippians 2:13). He is working through you to fulfill His good purpose – right where you are.
It’s been four months since my close friend moved away. Since then, we’ve spoken on the phone and used Facebook video to catch up with all of the major changes that have gone on in each other’s lives in our short time apart. Even though I miss her every day, I’m grateful for the time we spent together, and I’m thankful we are able to continue our friendship from afar.
Who knows … as they say, “it’s a small military.” Our paths may cross again someday.
Tell us! Are you having to say “see ya later” to a good friend this PCS season? How are you coping with the change? How are you working to stay connected? Comment below. What you say might be just what someone else needs to hear!
Looking for other great PCS related content?
These posts might be just what your friend getting ready for a big move needs, or save them to Pinterest for down the road!
Courtney Woodruff is a military spouse, mom, writer, editor and web content manager currently living in Germany. She has a heart for our troops and their families and hopes to share what little she has learned along the way to help others overcome the unique challenges of military life. You can follow her adventures at her blog, Courtney at Home, or through her social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
*This guest post is written by Grace of Spousehood.com, a Christian lifestyle site for military spouses. Welcome, Grace!
I am one of those people who doesn’t need a large group of friends and can only handle a few social gatherings per week. Yes, I realize how ironic it is that I’m writing an article about finding friends when I am extremely introverted. I’m chuckling just thinking about it. But, surprisingly, it is my introversion that makes me the perfect person to talk about making friends because it hasn’t always been easy for me.
I grew up and went to college in the same city, so making new friends was never an essential part of my life–I had my old ones. Sure, I made a new friend here or there, but I wasn’t actively seeking new friendships.
However, after I became a military spouse and moved thousands of miles away, it was suddenly a skill I needed to learn ASAP. Even though my husband is my best friend and I could spend most of my time alone, I was lonely. I was scared of this crazy, new lifestyle, and I didn’t know anyone who could give me advice “woman to woman.” I had no idea how TRICARE worked, no idea how the military worked, and no idea what it was like to settle in after I had moved so far from my support system.
I was lost and for the first time, I really needed to make friends.
Now, years and several PCSs down the road, I’ve learned not just how to make friends, but how incredibly meaningful friendships can be in this lifestyle. I am forever grateful to the women at our first assignments who took the time to reach out to me — to literally throw me a lifeline — and show me what it means to be a part of this military family.
Whether you struggle to make new friends or you’re just nervous about your first PCS in a long time, here are some steps to help you find and build friendships faster after a big move!
1) Start before you arrive.
I honestly can’t imagine how scary a PCS must have been before Facebook. Seriously, what did you do if you couldn’t ask people in a Facebook group questions about your new home before you arrived?! All of those groups for spouses at different bases are good for more than information, though. Yes, sometimes they are cesspools for drama, but they are such great resources, it’s worth using them (and ignoring the negative stuff) when you PCS.
One of the best things you can do before arriving is to introduce yourself in one of these groups. It may feel awkward, but hear me out:
A quick post with some details about who you are and what activities you enjoy may help you connect with other interest-specific groups. You would be surprised at how many groups there are to organize workouts, playdates, bunco, and more. The thing is, those specific groups tend to be harder to find — I didn’t know my current base had a playdate group for the playground on base until yesterday (literally!) … and we’ve been here three years! By putting yourself out there, you can find people who are similar to you, which will help friendships form much more quickly.
By putting yourself out there, you can find people who are similar to you, which will help friendships form much quicker.
2) Do the base/post introduction tour or class.
Being the socially awkward soul that I am, I dread and avoid new situations with strangers. That’s exactly why I didn’t do the tour offered through the Family Readiness Center at our first assignment when I found out my husband wouldn’t be doing it with me.
Some people don’t do them because they don’t see the point. But these tours and classes are a great way to meet nice people who know a lot about your new home. They can give you tips that will make settling in much easier and help you connect with organized activities that suit your interests (aka, activities where you can find friends). You may also meet fellow spouses who are new to the area and would make great exploring buddies.
3) Attend activities/groups you’re interested in.
Essentially, the goal here is to figure out where “your people” are. We may all share the military lifestyle, but military spouses are incredibly diverse. Common ground like a shared interest in an activity is an excellent way to find people you could actually be close friends with.
I always start by trying to find a Bible Study at a new base. PWOC, Bible Study Fellowship, and MOPS are some great options depending on your location and where you are in life.
No matter what your interests are, from volunteering to Crossfit, joining a group focused on them gives you access to people you automatically have something in common with. Especially for me, that common ground makes those first few “getting to know you” conversations much easier.
4) Be yourself.
People say this phrase so much that it becomes almost meaningless. But when you move as often as military families do, you’re only hurting yourself when you aren’t true to yourself.
One of the best things about our community is how different military spouses are from one another. It’s amazing that so many totally different people live such a unique lifestyle together. But it takes every single one of us to build this amazing community, with every weird and quirky thing we bring to the table. So when you start making new friends, be you. Be authentic. I have found that the more I’m myself with others, the freer they feel to be themselves with me. It is always scary, but this tip has never backfired on me.
No matter who you are, the challenge of building a community every time you move is one of the most difficult and rewarding parts of military life. Hopefully, with a few tips from someone who had to work hard to learn how to do this, your next move will be a little bit less scary and a lot more full of friends and fun!
Are you preparing for a PCS soon? If so, sign up here to receive access all of my PCS related printables! Here’s what you’ll get:
1. To-Do List– your master list for keeping track of all your PCS related tasks
2. Donate/Sell/Trash Sheet– an easy system for getting rid of the stuff that’s not coming with you
3. PCS Survival Kit– a super helpful checklist with the essential items to keep with you during the move
4. Box Inventory– record the contents of each box here so you know exactly where to find everything (print as many as you need!)
Grace is the founder and editorial director of Spousehood.com, a Christian lifestyle site for military spouses. After years of experience working for websites and magazines, she wanted to use her skills to serve her military family. Now, in collaboration with a small team, she helps develop free weekly and deployment devotionals for military spouses, as well as articles for the site.