Our daughter was four
months old when gear spewed out across our living room floor in Hawaii. Flak
jacket, gas mask, piles of green t-shirts and camo: it all felt like a disease
As it spread it gnawed
on my happiness and fed on our fresh little family of three. I bounced our girl
through the piles, watching my husband over her downy head, watching him pack
to leave again. In my mind I thought: we agreed I’d be pregnant alone. Not
raise this baby alone. What are we doing?
I knew he did not need
guilt added to the teetering piles in the living room. But I did not know what
else to say.
I did not know how to
contain the anger that sprouted a black seed in my soul. Disappointment watered
the seed. The unfairness of a second deployment so soon after the birth of our
daughter added fertilizer.
I was not the first
military spouse to endure back to back deployments at bad times. Is there ever
a good time? But the knowledge that I was one of many just added a murky light
to the sprout, and it climbed like a vine up around my heart, closing me off
from feeling anymore.
Life was not turning out
how I had planned.
My child, life will often take detours. Our circumstances will
shift and change and we have a choice: to choose to walk forward or to let it
beat us down. You are strong enough to walk forward. It’s okay to grieve what
you have lost, to process it- but then you must turn your face back to the
light, to the love, because the world (and you) still has so much to offer.
We spent the rest of that first year rotating
between loved ones. She slept in various bedrooms (some closets) and delighted
in the hope that friends and family brought to us. It became a humbling time
where the best thing I could do as her mama was acknowledge I needed help.
The next best thing I did was slowly weed the garden
of my heart, and give my husband breath and space in our marriage. Bitterness
and resentment easily build and seep into our military life, because we are
pushed past reason. Exhaustion can be the bringer of bad choices.
child, we believe that in challenging times pain can turn to purpose. Love can
win, and help is there if you need it. You only need to be brave enough to ask.
We made it through that time, together. Know that Daddy and I will always
choose each other.
The basement of our house in Morocco is cool despite
the warming May temperatures. The monitor whirs beside me as I move another
stack of items into the giveaway pile. I reach for my coffee and realize it has
gone cold. Checking my watch, I have been sorting now for almost two hours. I
have beaten the sun for weeks now.
Non-military friends always talk about how lucky we
are to have movers come and box our items for us. It’s true, but it is not any
less work to go through our whole life again and again and see what weight we
can drop. We are constantly working to let go, move on, start over, and unpack.
It has certainly proven what I can live with and
what I can live without. It has also ripped a bit of my sentimental nature away
from me, or at least turned it two dimensional.
There’s no space to hang on to piles of baby
clothing. No room to keep toting my own clothing I might fit into one day.
There is no attic to place things I need to think about. An item must stay or
go. Most of our treasures are now photographs- memories flattened on a hard
drive or lifted up to the mysterious Cloud storage.
I pick up furry red Elmo and give him a squeeze. I
can remember when we gave him to our daughter back in Hawaii, two years ago.
Elmo was the first character she loved, along with Daniel Tiger. I remember her
sweet chubby fingers squeezing him and toting him around the house. I trace his
wide eyes, and realize we’ve moved on. We’re into Sophia the First now, and
costumes, and mermaids.
Elmo moves to the giveaway pile as the monitor
screeches to life. My daughter is crying. I jolt a bit. It’s unlike her to wake
up with tears.
I scamper up two flights of marble stairs and crack
open the heavy door. I take a deep breath before pushing open the door. I’m
trying to learn how to process all of her feelings, along with my own.
“Hi baby!” I circle to her crib, and lift her growing
“Mama?” her face is wet, her hair pressed sweaty
against her neck, “is today moving day?” she pulls herself back, footy pajamas
stretching out against her body.
“No. Today is not moving day,” I say, and carry her
to the chair to sit down.
She muffles another little cry into my shoulder, and
again, I breathe, long and low. Another thing people have said is that our
child at three is too young to grasp what’s happening. I would disagree. Her
world, the first one she can really remember, is being sorted and boxed. I pull
her up straight on my lap, and we make a box of our own. It is imaginary, but
complete with square sides and flaps we can lift. I tell her to put her worries
“I will miss my friends,” she says, and lifts that
worry into the box.
“I will miss my friends too,” I say, my worry
resting next to hers.
We do this for several more things: worrying about
where we will live. Worrying about our things and the plane rides ahead. When
she is all worried out, we close the lid. I hold her little hands between my
own and we pray over our box, and then lift it up to God. He’s going to have to
carry for now.
child, I pray for all of us. Moving time is heavier than any box. We will find ways
to make it light.
The airplane cabin lights come on and shake us
awake. Our bodies are cramped, our laps covered in crumbs from snacks. We
stumbled down into baggage claim and my heart glows when I see my mother in
law. My sweet girl is asleep in my arms, but her eyelids flutter open as she hears
“Mimi?” she grunts from my arms.
“Yes baby,” Mimi says, and strokes her wispy travel
She does not say anything more, but stretches her
small arms out for her Grandmother. I plop her into them, trading the load. As
I walk to help my husband find our baggage, the back of my throat constricts
with gladness, gratitude, and excitement. It has been eight months since my
daughter has seen our in-laws. But thankfully with video chatting and our
constant conversation about our family, she rolls into their presence as if we
live down the street.
Over the next few weeks we soak up our family
members, sipping their presence in like a fine wine. We delight in the rest
that is provided for us: meals cooked, warm beds, campfires in the back yard, and
above all: presence. The presence of being with those we love that love us.
Our next assignment is another overseas location. It
will mean more travel opportunities, more chances for abundant growth, but also
more space and time from our families. I know the benefits of military life, but
the longer we’re in; the deeper I feel the cost.
child, we choose to make the best of it, and though they are far- you have
grandparents and Aunties and Uncles and cousins that love you well, despite any
distance- you are part of a family that knows and celebrates you.
We are allowed to miss them.
After another long day of flights we roll into our
newest home in South America. It is late, but we fall into a routine as soon as
we crack open the door. My husband carries our tired wee bundle of a girl into
her room. I unzip her suitcase and pull out her blanket. Even with a roller
coaster life, I have learned what items mean the most and provide comfort in
For her, it is being covered by this cozy fleece blanket,
adorned in snowflakes and penguins holding candy canes. It means that when we
wake up in the morning I will open the travel pouches of oatmeal I have packed.
For our first night in-country I will then dig out a box of macaroni and cheese
before we play with the foods at the new grocery store.
It is all little things, but they mean so much in
this precious time of adjustment. Before I fall into bed I take a look outside
at our new city, it twinkles in the night. This is our newest home, but it is
up to us to make it feel like that.
child, home is wherever you are.
The sun is up and birds are singing as I push the
stroller through our neighborhood. We have been at our new post for two months.
The fifteen minute walk to our friend’s park is lined with lovely homes, trees,
grass, and flowers. My girl shifts in her seat to look back at me.
“Mommy we are walking to see our new friends,” she
“Yes we are,” I reply.
“Remember when we said goodbye to our friends in
Morocco?” she asks.
“Yes, I do.” I say, waiting to hear what she’s
“Now we have new friends here.” She says, clapping
her hands and turning around.
“We sure do,” I say. My heart is about to burst.
I push the stroller down the winding road and smile
as I see the new crew that awaits us. It will take time to build up these
friendships, but it will be worth it.
child, there are good people everywhere. It is hard to leave friendships
behind, but you never know who’s waiting for you at the next place. Be brave,
say hello first, and know that while it is painful to say hello and goodbye so
often- it is always worth it to fill your life with good friends.
I sit here this morning typing and reflecting, and
wondering. Our next orders will be coming up soon. Where will we be? Where will
we go? Some days it feels exhilarating to muse on it- and other days I feel
exhausted, because I know what work moving is.
We are never just moving locations. We are moving
lives. But the love we have, it moves with us.
child, the flower that represents a military child is a dandelion- did you know
that? The bright yellow blossom can flourish anywhere. When it is done with a
place it morphs into the perfect billowy puff that releases with a wish.
seeds blow from the flower and plant roots somewhere else, turning to the sun,
I look at a dandelion I see that it is bright, hopeful, and beautiful to behold.
And while it can shift easily from place to place, it must plant roots each
time to survive. I cannot promise that this life will be an easy one. I know
for a fact that it is not. But my wish for you is that you dig in everywhere
My hope is that you know that we are not blowing from place to place without purpose. We are rooted as a family, in faith and in love- journey on, dear one. ~Love, Mom
Mothers are creative. They may not imagine themselves creative in the traditional sense of the word, unable to classify or claim a specific title like painter, dancer, maker, actress or writer.
However being creative is more than a title. It is a lifestyle built on finding the beauty all around us, captured in ordinary moments, and we dig to find solutions to our everyday problems.
From the moment our babies take their very first breaths we must deduce each cry. We learn when they are hungry, need to be held, need a diaper change or just a change of scenery. As we work to pull meals together we creatively scatter pots and pans across the floor for our wee ones to play with. We sing songs to shush their wails in grocery stores. As they become toddlers, we decipher how to outwit and outlast them with keen wordage and rerouting behavior. Our years as parents turn into great experiments, and we try and try again to embrace our roles and do our best.
Mothers also become creative with their time. We
need to work and do projects that feel fulfilling outside of motherhood. This
means I have personally set up more audio books than I can count, used the help
of random household objects to spark imaginative play, and typed whilst also
listening to an obnoxious amount of Disney Tunes. All of this is orchestrated
so that I can drift away and do something of my own.
Of course I long for hours to play with my ideas but
there is simply not as much time for dawdling. Motherhood has forced me to
narrow down what projects are most important, and to work and delight in those.
It is because of motherhood that I am more creative.
I once believed I gave up my creative self during my child’s first year of life. I fed this story. I gave it life. Storytelling and memory are compelling tools, and yet they can also be intense tricksters. We can pick a theme of a time and start concentrating and rotating around it until it becomes the only theme. We can convince ourselves that there is a simple plotline and lose the delicious nuance that makes our life.
It is time to change the story of creativity, motherhood, and me. I had demons at the beginning of becoming “mom”. The learning curve was greater than I expected. Newborn exhaustion, a new worry for my child’s well-being, and the constant companionship of my child were intense changes in my life. Mom-guilt is an unbearable foe. Yet I learned. I paused, and I gained insight on how to best utilize my time.
I have done far more projects now as a mother because I desire the uplifting playtime. I also enjoy modeling this behavior so that my child knows no matter what age she is, creativity is always worth the pursuit.
We learn so much about ourselves when we allow space for imagination to flourish.
It has not been as terrifying to take creative risks. I constantly think, why not? I give the idea a try, and when if it does not succeed, it is twice as easy to let go because I have far more that I would like to dabble in! I can now see attempting creative projects as a process. I always learn something new, or gain a new experience.
This is an exciting shift. It is not about being the
best. It is not about monetizing a craft. It is about enjoying a creative life.
I believe in creative motherhood and I believe in utilizing this online nook of the internet to begin sharing more of my process. This year I am embarking on the #100dayproject, which is a “*free* global art project. The idea is simple: commit to 100 days of making and sharing your progress on Instagram.” It begins on April 2nd, 2019 and ends on July 10th.
In years past I would have bought into the lie that
I did not have enough time or creativity to join a project like this. But I no
longer believe those lies. I want to see if I can keep up with the challenge (because why not?!) and I have chosen 100
Days of Quote Doodles. It feels like a do-able goal- the projects are supposed
to stay within a 5-10 minute time commitment per day.
Why quote doodles? I am inspired by the particularly rich reading life I have this year. My child is now old enough that we are reading-aloud chapter books and I joined a book club this year. Both of those shifts have brought beautiful language back into my life in a big way. I have been working to write every day this year. I have been playing with my own ideas and stories and I think it will only fuel this fire to spend a short amount of time truly ruminating on the brilliant words of others but doodling quotes.
I am a mother. I am a creative. And both are
allowed to exist.
On any given day I can be found nestled in my office
chair, taking sips of coffee and clicking around some of my favorite homeschool
Facebook ones. One particularly foggy morning I saw a mother post that her plan
for the day was to host Poetry Tea Time with her children.
The skeptic in me bristled. Poetry Tea Time? Seriously? I am already planning curriculum and field trips and art crafts, now I must also offer up tea? But the romantic in me pushed the skeptic out of the way and allowed the thought: how lovely. I personally adore poetry, reading it aloud and sharing prose with my daughter could make for a fantastic moment and beautiful memory.
I allowed the romantic to pipe up again: why not you? Why not be the poetry tea time mom? Isn’t this why you chose to homeschool preschool? To create moments, develop your relationships, and afford adventures such as these?!
The rest of that day I felt the spark of creation. After a quick text to my friend to see if we could borrow a few more poetry books I jumped onto Pinterest to discover a few easy free resources. The printer rumbled to life. We were inspired by Fancy Nancy’s Poet Extraordinaire Book to create a Poet-Tree. My daughter helped me put it up on the wall. She cut, colored, and bejeweled leaves for it.
I placed the activities in envelopes, gathered the books, and our Poetry Exploration was ready.
If you notice the advanced topics on the envelopes, you are right- your preschooler might not understand or memorize Metaphors and Onomatopoeia yet, but why not talk about them? I simply read the definition of what kind of Figurative Language we were practicing, I found examples, and then we made up our own poetry lines. She dictated them to me and I wrote them down. Again, why not? Allow it to be an exploration and your child may very well surprise you!
We have not nestled into every poetry activity with a quaint cup of tea, but going on an educational exploration is not about perfection. It’s about saying why not? And diving in!
The following activities are what I found as free
resources, paired with some fruitful book and video recommendations.
have to make good choices” I say to my daughter as we start to
clean her room. She has thwarted me at every turn on pick-up today. My teeth
clench as patience wanes. This is a teaching lesson moment, yet my vocal chords
strain. I want to scream to hurry up
and let’s just get it done but my
original message clings to the air, suffocating my urge to reprimand: make good choices.
It turns out this message is as much for my daughter
as it is for me. When I form the words out loud I think on how many times I fail
this sentiment. My kindness and fortitude to set the best example have been
chipped away and ground down to dust after long days.
She moves like a snail, picking up one dolly and
talking to it gently. Her pudgy fingertips smooth down the bright pink hair.
She plants a sweet kiss on the soft rosy cheek and tucks her into bed. It is
sweet and I take a second to marvel. Snapping out of it I see the crumbled clay
on the table. There is play food bursting out of her shopping bags and more
strewn across the living room sofa, remnants of a “picnic”.
“C’mon hun, there’s more! Let’s go!” Is that shrill
My immediate wants build and stack upon each other like a teetering tower: I want a clean house. I want some space. I dream of waking up tomorrow to a floor I can walk through without obstruction. I want more than one night off from cooking and cleaning the dishes. I want her to just pick up without cajoling and prompting from me.
But all these wants are not what we need.
The first month of this year I slowly eased into
2019. I rejoiced in a glorious best friend visit, I took on more freelance
work, I finished good books and we explored together on family trips. It was a
slower start to the year than I am used to, and yet it was necessary. I did not
launch into the 365 days ahead with great loping goals. No woman on a mission
this year. It felt good and a little dangerous. I refrained from saying “this
is exactly who I will be and what I will do.”
But I knew I would need to find a security net. I
crave a little stability or at least a net to plummet into on hard days. Choosing
a word to guide the year ahead has been a healthy practice for me. In the past
one word has offered direction and a hopeful anchor to the many days of
One word can be my lighthouse. It beams across the
deck of my ship when I start to steer toward the sharp rocks. While waves lap
at the side of my sturdy bow and storms threaten to turn me over- I remember
what my direction is. It is not constantly steering away from trouble; it is
aiming for the light.
Last year FLOW
gently reminded me how to stay present through another move across the world. We
transitioned from Africa to South America. There was one group trip to the
United States, and a separate one that I took just with my daughter and me. We waited
five months for our household good months to arrive in South America, so I
flowed into long days of creative activities at home, and I flowed into finding
new friendships for all of us.
Flow helped me encourage a growing preschooler, and
find grace for my marriage and myself. I soaked and saturated in flow. This
year, I need a new path.
I tried on words all through January: play.
Dedicate. Honor. Action. None of them seemed to fit what I need this year. My
husband and I discussed it at length, and I thought back to make
What word can encompass that attitude? For that is
what I need this year, in 2019: the reminder that I do have choices in my day.
I can choose my attitude. I can choose to understand my anxiety and treat it. I
can choose a well-lived life. I can choose how I frame things that are
This is why I have picked DISCERN for my 2019 word of the year.
Whenever I choose a word, I look up both the Merriam
Webster definition and the biblical one.
explore the Merriam Webster definition first:
(verb): discerned; discerning; discerns
Definition of discern: (transitive verb)
1a : to detect with the eyes, b : to detect with
senses other than vision, 2: to recognize or identify as separate and distinct
: DISCRIMINATE: discern right from wrong. 3: to come to know or recognize
(intransitive verb): to see or understand the difference
on the Biblical Discernment:
Discernment is the ability to obtain sharp
perceptions or to judge well (or the activity of so doing) within judgement.
Discernment involves going past the mere perception of something and making
nuanced judgements about its properties or qualities, keen understanding and
After exploring the definitions of my word of the
year, I then work to build a prayer. This is my prayer for 2019:
walk with me this year to develop a discerning mind and heart. Help me to see
and recognize what is in front of me and make choices from keen understanding.
I hope that discern
can serve me as well as flow did
last year. I have a feeling that it will, for again, great shifts are ahead for
our little family. With discern as a guide I am focusing on what good choices I
can make throughout the day. I know that small good moments and small steps
forward always leads to bigger changes.
This is my third year attending the virtual Military Spouse Wellness Summit by Independent. I am working to lean away from the scarcity of what I cannot control in military life, and instead focusing on what I can control.
Last year I was cleaning my house in Morocco and listening to the summit in my earbuds. Corie Weathers was interviewing Lara Casey, author of Cultivate What Matters. I sprayed the mirror, wiping down the dust and grime when Lara paused in her interview and said:
do you want to be in the middle of the hurricane?”
Looking into the mirror, my face made an “oh” of
surprise. I dropped the rag and leaned onto the cold marble countertop as I
allowed those words into my heart. The house was unusually damp that day. My
three year old daughter was sneezing through a minor cold, perched on a stool
next to me, munching on a little cracker. I had barely glanced her way as I
worked to scrub bathroom countertops. I had lost my patience several times that
morning and was working to tune out, to breathe, to clean, to control the mess
of the house since I could not get a grip on my racing heart.
What can we control as a military spouse? The short
answer: not a lot. This lack of control over time can put us on a path to
resentment and fatigue.
I acknowledge I am more susceptible to anxiety and depression. I have felt the pull of stress and I have succumbed to it, allowing it to trample my efforts to thrive. Some seasons feel like they are just for survival. The only way we have made it through those dark times in the past was to “embrace the suck.”
And yet I know there is another way. I know the long
answer of what we can control as a military spouse is this: we can control our
attitudes. We can get help. We have choices.
There have been amazing opportunities on this
journey I would not change for anything. If someone asks me what my favorite
thing about military life is I tell them: travel. Then I pause, and I add: people.
Now I think I have to pause again and try to explain: military life will forever define parts of my journey. At every post, I search for a new purpose. I know that pieces of me always stay the same. After all, I carry mewith me wherever I go– but my purpose for each place is different.
Our family has been around the world more than most. Some of that has been choice; most of it has been orders.
Yet the stories we are stockpiling add up to a life well lived, because in every crappy situation we have dealt with- we’ve been able to pause in our wariness- and let the weight of how hard it is wash over us. Then, overtime, we choose to see what is good around us.
believe that is my general purpose at every post: find the good.
If that sounds too good to be true, let me take you on
a brief walk through history:
Northern California: Our first post as a married couple. I pounded the pavement looking for work, click clacking in my kitten heels with resumes in hand. Good work was found, and I overhauled my career. I lived with my husband for the first time. That year was hard and wonderful.
Seoul, South Korea: It took eight months to get a work contract on base. During the waiting limbo, I moped for a good minute- and then I found the strength in having other spouse friends. I became part of a community. I learned patience in waiting for work and also loved the adventures I indulged in while I waited. Once I started working, the ability to go out and explore dimmed. But I was left with a taste for wanderlust and the knowledge I had to choose to make my own form of “happy.”
Hawaii: Our daughter was born during back to back deployments. I found refuge in family and friends. Our marriage hit tumultuous times, and I started to understand how to ask for real help. As the palm trees swayed, pieces of our hearts mended just in time to pack up and go.
Morocco: I was challenged to discover how to make my anxiety a friend. I had the opportunity to teach again, and our little family traveled, and traveled, and marveled at the world. A place that never felt like it could become home: did.
South America: We waited five months for our household goods…and somehow, it was fine. At current, I find myself calmer. We are homeschooling, exploring, and I am working from home.
On that day in Morocco, after dropping my cleaning
cloth, I pushed “pause” on the summit interview and scooped up my daughter. Breathing
into her soft hair, I caught my eyes in the bathroom mirror. The dark circles
underneath shouted at my weariness. But there was something else: a tiny glow
flickering in my blue iris. With a deep breath I gazed deeper and recognized
it- I could see the fight coming back. I could see the hope.
going to show up in the hurricane of military life. I always have, and I always
Our life continues to be a whirlwind of new places,
faces, experiences, job transitions, and the constant question I go back to is:
who am I going to be in this hurricane? I know that there is no right or wrong
way to live this journey, but experience has taught me I have to keep making
the choice to find the good. It’s not always clear. It is definitely never
easy. But I am capable.
This story was written in honor of Independent’s Military Spouse Wellness Summit; please join us from March 4-9, 2019. The summit is all online, you can participate from anywhere, and with code UPLIFTING19 you can get 50% off admission.
Note to Readers: This story was written in honor of Independent’s Military Spouse Wellness Summit; please join us from March 4-9, 2019. The summit is all online, you can participate from anywhere, and with code UPLIFTING19 you can get 50% off admission.
We link arms and struggle in our tippy heels from the parking lot. Calves burning and giggling we make our way up the hill into the community building. My friend Em and I have just met this week. We bond over our role as fresh military wives. This is our first post: first military housing, first click of the camera to get the precious ID’s that are stored in our purses, first round at the commissary. Today we are glowing with excitement to attend our very first spouse meeting.
I pull the glass door open and we drop arms but stay
close. We cross our palms in front of our pleated skirts. We talked at length
before coming. What should we wear? There is a dress code for military events,
and we are doing our best with our collected pieces from Old Navy and Target.
My shoes pinch and a piece of hair is stuck to my lip gloss.
There is a plate of donuts and fresh coffee. My hands are a bit shaky as I pour a cup and attempt to look dainty, balancing it on the fragile white saucer. I decide to skip the donuts for fear of the white sugar powder ending up all over my sweater.
Avoid embarrassment. Look like you know what you’re doing. Don’t say too much. I self-coach and cajole, while taking in the older spouses in the room from over the rim of the cup.
They are dressed to the nines with coiffed hair,
earrings, bangles, and scarves, whiffs of delicate perfume, smooth dresses and
crossed ankles. These women know what they are doing. They are confident and
have been in the game longer than us. There is a stark contrast to us gaggle of
newbies, just getting started. The experienced women give us stiff smiles, and
stay in their group. Em and I stay in ours, forming a small “u,” discovering
the other newbies.
We do not know much about frequent moves or endless months of deployments. We do not know about taking care of babies alone or getting to know a foreign country that is now home. We do not know yet, but we will.
leader of the meeting comes in, she is poised and cold. The folding chairs
creak as we sit down. She directs her attention to the more proficient spouses.
They know what demands to make, what to ask for, and yet they do it with polite
clarity. We do not know what to say, what to ask for, where to even begin.
The coffee is cold as I set it back on the white tablecloth. My feet drag out of the meeting like a deflated balloon. If I was hoping for warmth, for understanding, for someone wiser than me to hold my hand- I did not find it today. The wizened spouses did not have patience to welcome any of us into the flock. Em and I reflected in whispers on our way back to the car. What is the next step? How would we find our purpose here?
I am now that “old” spouse at meetings. I have my
little collection of outfits I wear on such occasions, and yes- there’s still a
good mix of Old Navy and Target items (but no more pinching shoes). I wear an
invisible tool belt of experience, a phantom resume of accumulated deployments,
numerous moves, and great hardships.
Over the years I have honed my own method for survival. I know how to sweep onto a base and locate all the necessary places, what rooms to unpack first, how to recognize and build up new friendships. I know that the first three months anywhere can suck, and it is me that decides what role I am going to play at each post.
Is there good work? Am I at home with the kid? What do we need in this new chapter? How soon might my spouse have to leave? What will be the purpose here?
I also know how important it is to ask for help, and
how hard it is to do that.
It is easy for me to think back to my first spouse meeting,
on the high hill, feeling like a fish out of water. It is even easier to flirt
with pointing fingers and think of what should have happened that day.
But I do not feel resentful or angry. I understand
now that behind the plastered smiles of the more seasoned spouses was
weariness. It was not their first rodeo, and they had learned to cut to the
chase. I have to own and fight those feelings too. I have to remember to be
inclusive, to set a good example, and be the mentor I did not have until later
We all start our military lives somewhere. There
will always be more seasoned spouses in the room along with newbies. Can we
give one another a chance? I believe we can and we must. We both have something
Our purpose is to support each other. Our purpose is
to lift, strengthen, and lend a helping hand. It is a great circle when we
start doing this, because each of us in turn will need aid along the way.
This military journey takes all of us working
together to achieve the mission and dare to work on a good quality of life in
Reach out, build your community, and know that what
strength or skills you lack others have. You are not alone. When we lean into
our purpose, when we are brave enough to stand together, we are strong.
The Military Wellness Summit by Independent is kicking off soon in 2019 with the theme Life of Purpose. Come join us from March 4-9, 2019! With the code UPLIFTING19 you can receive 50% off of admission prices.
This year is coming to a close and as it does I find myself boldly looking over the edge, priming my eager legs to leap yet again. There is an excitement in the welcome shift of digits on our calendar. We face another twelve months of potential.
I take heart knowing that potential no longer means wiping the slate completely clean. In the past it has been easy to see the New Year as a time to start over. But I find myself exhausted by this prospect. I do not want to start over. That implies wiping out all we have accomplished, it suggests that the last twelve months were not spent wisely- that we should let them go and relinquish ourselves to brand new missions, instead of continuing to stack upon what is already there.
No, I do not want brand new. I want to keep building, recognizing, and delighting in the magic that is already here.
What has developed in my 30s is a firm foundation. Wise eyes peer into life and realize that nurturing what we have instead of trying to constantly reinvent it is just fine. It is better than fine, it is like picking up a beautiful old piece of furniture and letting its bones breathe. One drawer may squeak as it cries for a modern update so we indulge it. As we paint the old wood, polish up or replace the knobs, it still speaks with the past. Stories in the chips and dents linger with a loveliness that reminds us it has endured time.
There is less want, desire, or need for a fresh start: but a splendid simplicity.
A younger self would bristle at routine, flinch at the possibility of continuing on in dedicated plodding. Yet it is where I find myself this year. Happy to be right where I am, turning my face to contentment and allowing it to shine on me.
Just this morning I woke up early (yes, my routine is such I’m always up early) and made my coffee, two cups, piping hot, enjoyed in my favorite chair by the window. I urged my hands onto the keys and typed out a story for twenty minutes. The coffee pot empty, I filled it back up, knowing my husband would want to visit it upon his waking. I set out the books for school, so when my sprite awakes I’m ready. There’s laundry to fold and a meal to prep, emails to send, further work to complete. Phone calls to parents made later in the day, squeezing in a heart pounding workout at some point. We will gladly gather round our table, say a prayer, give our thanks to God for the day. I’ll find a moment for a hot shower before bed, a cup of tea, the bed sheets soft as I settle in to read before I meet dreams.
It is not a bad life right now, this small magical mundane routine.
I take such delight in my husband coming home every night, in hearing my daughter’s door crack open and breathing in the sight of her small pajama feet. I find rest in looking at the calendar and knowing there will be visitors to wonderfully interrupt our everydayness in the coming months.
As W.B. Yeats eloquently wrote, “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” My gaze is finally piercing, understanding gratitude as a practice instead of a feeling. I have perfect vision, cutting across our bliss- knowing that one day change will come, we will be made to move and shift and start over whether we want to or not. Our days with no deployments will cease. A chair will be left empty, the spot next to me in bed hollow, and another round of challenges will mount.
I sit in this season, in this New Year, soaking up the magic of our current stillness. There is pixie dust here in our small quiet family. Unicorns of hope jaunt through our rooms, merry wonderland teacups stack up in our sink, and a wardrobe may very well open to the white winds of Narnia. I find myself admiring the small nuances, enjoying them, allowing myself to not only search for magic, but to be in it and enjoy its settled sparkle in our days.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. –Isaiah 9:6
Christmas is a time of year that we are reclaiming as a family. It’s not that I am not saying yes to merriment and a multitude of activities- it’s just that I am getting equally good at saying no. The beauty of parenthood and for that matter- adulthood in general is that we are allowed to choose. I am done with hustling during this precious season. I am done rushing and pushing and buying, buying, buying. Does this make me a Grinch?
If it does than I shall adorn that green beard in all its glory, but still stand on the mountain top with a heart growing three sizes too big with what matters. What has changed me mentally is indeed our life overseas. We are granted a different kind of peace in a place that is far away. We are not assaulted by constant things to do and the greedy abundance I feel upon coming in and out of the American consumer culture. I am not naïve to the struggle it will be when we return. It is then that we will get the chance to test and challenge our new values.
But for this Christmas and hopefully our future Christmases, I hope to commit to this time of year as a time to rest.
I have played with this idea since my daughter was born three years ago, and I can gratefully say our family is growing in our staunch stance on not over-committing, and setting boundaries on spending. One of our newest traditions is reframing gifts- and what they mean for us. We do truly believe that creating memories is better than material goods. This year we are putting that to the test and only purchasing $25.00 in gifts for each other, the rest is going toward a family trip.
Is it hard to try something new during a season that is filled with childhood traditions? Of course, but you have permission to change things up and decide to focus on what does matter for you. We still have a tree and trimmings. We are still watching movies and making cookies. We will still wake up to a few gifts from Santa under the tree. But we are done rushing and buying one more thing.
I’m calling to our Heavenly Father this season, and focusing in on the Prince of Peace. Peace, and permission to you and yours to delight and move more slowly in this beautiful holiday season.
Relaxed Christmas: Lessons Learned from an Overseas Christmas
BELIEVE in the magic of the season
Are you overseas for this Christmas? Are you missing some of the regularly scheduled seasonal excitement? Chances are there are still some fine moments of magic to soak up in your current station, or it’s time to get prepared to make some of your own!
Last year we celebrated Christmas in Rabat, Morocco. I had it in my mind that due to it being a Muslim country, the Christmas bells would not be ringing. I was corrected. With the influx of foreigners in the city, Christmas, or the French version of Joyeux Noel was abundant. I leapt for joy when we purchased a star for the tree and extra garland at the neighborhood Marjane. To get an idea of the kind of store it is, we have lovingly dubbed it the Moroccan Walmart.
There were things missing of course, there were no tours of Christmas homes or lights, no Santa greeting at the mall, or big concerts of caroling. But we found ways to make it work, and actually enjoyed the fact that the season did not offer too many extras. When there are too many fun things to go to, we find we burn ourselves out trying to over-Christmas ourselves. Instead, we enjoyed a simpler, quieter, more relaxing season. I truly hope it is a theme we can start applying for years to come.
We had learned our lesson the year prior, moving during Christmas. My heart felt a little achy and jealous for all the families hunkered down during the holidays while mine was struggling to move around the world. We only had suitcases left on Christmas day, and no traditions to cling to. Instead we built new ones of our own, and some just for that year. For instance we purchased a gingerbread house building kit and had a hilarious time making it on our Hawaiian lanai (porch). It was a fun simple family craft that we threw away after. We were invited to the dinners and merriment of our giving friends, which was lovely. Our Christmas morning we did not open presents but we did go and build sandmen on the beach!
We sent all of our gifts in the advanced or unaccompanied baggage shipment so that we could have a belated Christmas in January. It’s true some of these things were possible because we had a toddler who did not know any different and rolled with it, but it really worked on our minds and hearts to be thrown into really knowing the true blessings of the season.
I have gained perspective from our moving Christmas and our Moroccan Christmas. Without all the trimmings and bows, we are reminded what is important during the season. I never want to lose that. I’ve thought long and hard about what I have grasped during those holidays. My lessons to remember are as follows:
You do not need to overspend. Simple fun is fun enough.
Family time is the most important gift we can give. Giving my full attention and not a stressed out mom-monster makes a big difference.
If you cannot do every merry little thing it doesn’t matter. No one loses by cutting back, we all gain more.
Lean into the holiday seasonal merriment when you can! Embrace wherever we are and just enjoy being together. This was especially true during our time overseas.
Decorations are fun, but they are not necessary. You can make your own. I never packed too many ornaments or trimmings because we needed to keep our household goods weight low. In turn, we spend a lot of time making fun things.
Share your home and your time with those that need it most this Christmas.
Use it as a time to trim back. I had to purge before the move, and in Morocco I selected the week after Thanksgiving to go through my daughter’s toys. She had to select three items to give to children in need. I also went through her clothing. It felt like a great season to do this exercise in simplifying!
I’m more excited than ever about the upcoming holiday, and applying an easy, relaxed vibe to being together and doing what we can to celebrate. Each day we are together making new memories is a true gift.
Have you ever had a not-normal Christmas season? What did you lose? What did you gain?