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Memorial Day Grace & Perspective from an Army Wife

Not sure what to say or do about Memorial Day? Are you supposed to say anything? if so, to whom? This is one Army wife's perspective on Memorial Day Grace.

Before 2005, Memorial Day wasn’t really on my radar, even coming from a family of servicemen. It was the beginning of summer, BBQs, and I could wear white shoes again.

But wasn’t really tangible for me until I kissed my young man goodbye and sent him to war.

Luckily when I gave my heart to a soldier, he came home to me.

Not every service member comes home, and I cannot speak for their families. I can only speak for my heart on this issue.

Starting a few days ago, posts began circulating on social media about knowing the difference between Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Armed Forces Day.

Spreading knowledge is admirable, but the tone of some posts was hostile.

“Don’t thank my husband on Memorial Day!”

“If you wear the uniform, Memorial Day isn’t about you.”

OUCH! Those hurt MY heart.

I can only imagine the grief that spurred those posts, but is that really the tone we want to have towards ANYONE who is grateful for military service?

Absolutely, Memorial Day is about those who gave all.

It honors those who won’t ever come home: dads, daughters, sons, mothers who sacrificed everything to stand for our nation.

Absolutely, Memorial Day honors those who gave all, but don't reject thanks for those that gave some. Click To Tweet

The depth of that sacrifice is too great to quantify. Boys never returned to marry waiting sweethearts. Men will never meet their child this side of heaven. Mothers will never kiss their babies goodnight again.

It’s too heavy to grasp unless you’ve lost someone.

Not sure what to say or do about Memorial Day? Are you supposed to say anything? if so, to whom? This is one Army wife's perspective on Memorial Day Grace

But I look at those green fields lined with white crosses and see people who will never hear another heartfelt, “thank you for your service.” I also see my husband who will never be the same.

And I think, why reject someone who gets it wrong and thanks a living soldier on Memorial Day? or an active service member on Veteran’s Day?

Gold Star families who lost someone might answer differently, but I imagine if they could thank their loved one more time, they would.

I want everyone to know we celebrate Memorial Day to recognize and honor those who paid the ultimate price, so the next generations understand how valuable their freedom is.

But if you also thank a living veteran or active soldier, that’s okay.

Should you thank a service member on Memorial Day? It's not for them, but reminds us to be grateful. Click To Tweet

Because All gave Some, too. No one serves without risking all.

Take every chance to say thank you while they are alive.

Memorial Day reminds us of those who went willing to make that sacrifice, like my husband. He lived things that haunt his nightmares so I can sleep in peace.

And I never want to discourage someone from appreciating his sacrifices. But we do need to be mindful that some veterans bear emotional scars and even genuine thanks reopens those wounds.

Instead of a harsh rebuke, just say thank you if someone gets it wrong. It comes from a place of gratitude.

If you want to recognize a service member, say, “I know this is Memorial Day, but I so appreciate your service, too.

I want to invite people to understand this military life, its costs and sacrifices as well as its joys and adventures; but there is a price, and I don’t think we can honor those who pay it too often.

Not sure what to say or do about Memorial Day? Are you supposed to say anything? if so, to whom? This is one Army wife's perspective on Memorial Day Grace.

My husband doesn’t stand when service members are recognized, because he doesn’t consider himself a hero.

I love his humility, but I remind him that he stands not for those around him: so our country can recognize his service and sacrifices, and so those around him can connect a face to those who serve.

Memorial Day may be about those who’ve died, but it’s for the living, for us to remember the cost of our freedom. And there is no wrong time to do that.

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Go with the flow: My best tips for losing Control

I'm in a control recovery program. It's called Jesus. And I'm learning that control was really a temper tantrum about not wanting to trust God for my future.

I’m in a control recovery program. It’s called Jesus. And I’m learning that control was really a temper tantrum about not wanting to trust God for my future.

Go with the flow would never have been used to describe my personality. NEVER. I still need five minutes for deep breaths after a surprise change of plans. I’m learning to embrace changes, but I’ve had a lifetime of practice with my control habit.

I was strong-willed and controlling in preschool, maybe the womb.

Even at ten, I had a handwritten spreadsheet for when all my stuffed animals would sleep on my bed. I taped this chart to my closet door to keep everything fair and tidy.

I color coordinated textbooks and folders in high school.

Now, balancing our budget and organizing the checkbook makes me happy in weird places inside my head.

So being a military wife with little control over my life has been a growth experience for me. We don’t get to plan where we are stationed; we often can’t plan family vacations or even date nights. Last year we didn’t get Thanksgiving together last minute.

Learning to love him through the Army curve balls has taught me to let go of my ideas of perfect and see the greater gift of God’s perfecting me: gentleness, forgiveness, and humility.

Sometimes growth brings growing pains, but I’ve learned so much about flexibility being a gift to my family and myself.

One thing I’ve learned is that my desire for order and cleanliness is often more about trying to control my life than good housekeeping. Having my house clean, plans made, and neat little budget gives me this feeling of having control over my life.

But it’s really an illusion.

Control is more than an illusion. It's a lie we use to avoid trusting God. Click To Tweet

or more than an illusion: it’s a lie I use to avoid fully surrendering to God and accepting His plan for my life.

At any second the illusion can be shattered: the car breaks down, someone gets sick, the army moves my best friend.

I'm in a control recovery program. It's called Jesus. And I'm learning that control was really a temper tantrum about not wanting to trust God for my future.

Learning to lose control was a relief. No one was expecting me to keep the world spinning. Even with all the practice I have being neurotically in charge, often the best I can manage is damage control and survival mode.

Frankly, I only look like I’ve got everything together when life is smooth sailing. I’m occasionally able to hurdle some speed bumps without face planting, but I’m still winging it (and I don’t mean eyeliner).

But I have a few beginner tips for losing (the need for) control:
  1. Spend time with God. He really IS in control. Knowing His voice in my head gives me direction and peace. Letting Him be the master of universe if pretty freeing. I can have more reasonable expectations for myself.
  2. Accept what you can control. Hint-hint, it’s mostly your reaction to the rest of life. Be gentle, be humble. Breathe. Very few things are emergencies even if our emotions suggest otherwise. It’s ok to wait to react. See #1.
  3. Make choices that please God: be a good steward of the money, time, children, and seasons of your life. You’ll be better able to deal with emergencies after wise decisions over time.

Losing control is becoming this place of ‘go with the flow’ abandon and accepting this roller coaster ride isn’t Hallmark movie perfect. I’m starting to be able to see that the real chaos was trusting in my human frailty and sinful nature, believing the lie of having control in the first place.

My house is less organized, but my new, messy trust, flying into the Father’s arms is so darned beautiful.

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Which job is right for me? Ask Away Thursday

Check out this week's installment of Ask Away Thursday - one question, LOTS of answers!

I’ve been invited to join a tribe of women bloggers in Ask Away Thursday. A couple of Thursdays a month, we’ll take a reader question and each answer it from our unique perspectives.

One question - multiple perspectives. Email your questions to momstribeadvice@gmail.com #AskAwayThursday Click To Tweet

Today’s question comes from Texas.

My husband is transitioning from his career in the military, but isn't working yet. We need a supplemental income, so we've decided that I look for work while he pursues changing career paths. We have a 5yo in kindergarten, a 3 yo and an infant. 

I've been offered two jobs. One is full-time at minimum wage at a child development center working in the infant room. I would be able to have my youngers attend the center at little cost. I would be finished working in time to pick up the kindergartner and be home in the evenings. 

Yet, the second job sounds so good for me. I would work 20 hours a week, but make more money overall. The catch is the second job is 4-8pm Monday-Friday because I would be developing an after-school program. So that would mean being gone every weeknight evening. I feel really torn between what to do. 

We need a second income but one job would be full-time and require me to pay for some child care while the second I would work only part-time hours and make more money. Is it too much to be gone every evening? My husband is a good dad, but making dinner and doing baths and bedtime every night might be a lot. What should I do?

That does sound like a difficult decision! You’re weighing lots of important values and probably feel a heavy responsibility to make the right decision for your family.

Military life is predictably unpredictable, but we do get used to not having much say in our own lives. Taking back that responsibility is a large change and will take adjusting.

Remember there is no right decision, just the best one for you and your family for today!

If a clear, God-obedient direction isn’t obvious, I have a tendency to be a list maker.

Break out the sharpies for my pro/con list! Hooray!

Before breaking out the sharpies for a pro/con list, pray for clear direction & open doors. Click To Tweet

I pray for clarity of mind, patience, and a heart focused on His will. His answers usually come pretty quickly: doors open or close, respected friends point in the same direction, con lists grow.

One question - multiple perspectives. Email your questions to momstribeadvice@gmail.com #AskAwayThursday

Secondly, I would consider the reasons for taking a job.

Is money the most crucial factor right now? Then the job that pays more and requires less out of pocket for daycare makes the most sense, especially for 20 fewer hours per week.

But taking an evening job is rough for a momma. This is where the heart gets involved for me. Working 4-8 means missing picking up the kindergartner from school, homework time, family dinners, baths and bedtime.

However, it sounds like, with the exception of the kindergartner, your family has the ability to be flexible with the family schedule at this time.

Flip-flop most of the evening activities. Give morning baths and have a large family lunch, leaving leftovers for an easy dinner. Push bedtimes back for the little ones who don’t have to be up early, so momma can come read the last story and help with prayers.

Is your husband on-board with such a drastic family renovation? Get his thoughts and perspectives. Take this chance to show you respect him and value his opinions.

As a military wife and Christian, this may be a wonderful opportunity for you and your husband to pull together, creating new roles and rules for this new civilian life that can be such a drastic change from the military.

Your husband is used to having you be his back home support (the household six), and this may give him a unique perspective on what that’s been like for you. Working together during this transition could be a tremendous blessing.

Lastly, I would carefully consider how to make sure your kindergartner gets enough mommy time. Perhaps you have breakfast together every morning, drive him to school rather than put him on a bus, have special Saturday plans one on one.

If your family stays Semper Gumby (always flexible) and you are able to work as a team, working the evening shift might not only be the best job, but also teach you both about what love looks like from the other side.

Good Luck! I’d love an update soon!

Let’s check in with the rest of the MOMs.

Moms Tribe Advice

Monica Riojas is the founder of A Mother Loving Mess, a mother of five trying to survive 😉 She writes about parenting, fun DIY’s, recipes, and more. A Mother Loving Mess – Which Job is Right?

Nikki Crump is military spouse and mommy of three who loves to blog about motherhood, mental health and fitness from Healing Mama RemediesHealing Mama Remedies – Need Help Deciding Work

Marisa Boonstra from Called to Mothering is A New Jersey native transplanted to Oklahoma, Marisa writes about her homeschool experiences, motherhood, and raising children with a biblical worldview. Called to Mothering – Need Help Deciding Work

Crystal Mendez from Love More Live Blessed shares recipes, budgeting tips, crafts and fun kid stuff on her blog. She never knew blogging could be so much fun! Love More Live Blessed – Work outside the home

and Rachel Osborn from Don’t Call Me Supermom will be joining us next time at Don’t Call Me Supermom – Ask Away Thursdays

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Internet Friends Day

Did you know #InternetFriendsDay is a thing? Yeah, me neither, but the internet has created my tribe of people, holding my hand as I walk through life.

Today is Internet Friends Day.

Yeah, I didn’t know that was a thing either. So what?

The internet has created my tribe of people.

I was about to ignore it when I thought about how God uses the internet to build my tribe of people. Some amazing Godly people came into my life ONLY through the internet. Several churches and ministries are speaking into my life only through the internet.

Some connections are very new, but Godly people, writing and talking and sharing Jesus, and we’re learning each other from completely different ends of the world.

This transient Army life contradictorily brings people into our lives and takes them away. But through the internet, friendships can become as close as sisters because we can stay connected when phone calls are less conversation and more punctuated by emergency parenting.

“No, you can’t ride the cat!”

“Don’t put that in your nose!”

“Poop is not an artistic medium, people!!” (this friend knows who she is)

Some lovely supportive friends are in my life everyday because of the internet. We share what we’re reading, a movie we just loved, what we’re praying over.

The Internet is a window around the globe, creating sisters from strangers. #InternetFriendsDay Click To Tweet

Did you know #InternetFriendsDay is a thing? Yeah, me neither, but the internet has created my tribe of people, holding my hand as I walk through life.

The truth is I am an intense introvert, but I love people. I love teaching and guiding and the loving of people. I just get drained by too much noise and chaos and the wearing of pants and make-up.

While recovering from hip surgery, I felt utterly useless in the kingdom of God. Seriously, all I could do was sit on the couch, uncomfortably.

God, if you can use me in this broken place, please show me how.

Ding. You have a message.

Facebook at midnight. Can I talk to you?

Over the next months, I was the midnight friend and Christian support to several women through Facebook. God said, write, so I did. And apparently a few people read this and even like it sometimes.

Through the internet, I may never hear your voice or even know your real name, but I can tell you how Jesus takes my roughest moments and shows up BIG in my life.

Sharing stories of parenting my tiny tornado while learning to live obedient to Christ might encourage you or help you feel a little less alone on those days you’re crying in the closet hugging a bag of expired Christmas chocolate.

So Internet Friends Day means I’m celebrating you. All those whose lives I get to visit through the internet. All those who visit mine. All those holding my hand as I learn to follow God in all things.

Proverbs 17:17 ESV A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

And this crazy internet lets us do both.

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How to Save your Marriage When War Comes Home

How can you save your marriage when war comes home? It's a journey of patience and grace with a whole lot of Jesus filling in the empty spaces.

When a soldier comes home, War comes home, too. When my husband came home last time, it was our hardest yet. He came home to a stressed-out wife starting her next school year and a toddler daughter he barely knew. Reintegration was going to be tougher than it had ever been on top of the extreme stress of cumulative deployments.

Reintegration means readjusting, remembering things we took for granted: Where is my place? What is my role? How do we do this together?

(this site uses Affiliate links-purchases support our ministry through a small referral fee that never affects your cost.)

For me, a small positive of deployments is getting to organize my house to my little OCD heart’s content. I get to color code and label. And everything stays where I put it. Hooray! A little thing I can enjoy while trying not to worry about my husband being in a war zone.

Remind Him that You Need Him

But when he comes home, I’ve moved his things. The gadgets only he uses got relegated to the back of the cabinets. He feels put away, like he doesn’t quite fit. Our lives went on without him, and we were just fine. Of course, It isn’t true, but it feels true to him.

He’s forgotten how to do the everyday things, and we’ve got our own rhythm.

Coming home took away his sense of mission and purpose. He felt like he left the job undone in Iraq and didn’t know how to change gears. He struggled to find his place in our home and lives. I had to learn how to let him back in, let him be her dad and do things his way.

Be Patient

Truly reintegrating took time. Six years after his last return and we are still finding places in our lives that we’ve held apart, stories we haven’t told, hurts we need to share. Learning to communicate our deepest truths after years of skype and emails takes practice almost like dating all over again, but with piles of expectations and resentment to climb over.

Think marathon, not sprint.  In fact, sometimes, it’s a relay race! Who is coping better today? You’ve got the ball.

When a soldier comes home, War Comes Home, too. Becoming one again is a marathon, not sprint. Click To Tweet

The mental and emotional tolls are only part of the equation. Deployments are also tremendously physically demanding, adrenaline pumping continuously 24 hours a day, everyday.

At least, previous deployments had prepared me to be patient with him. He was a hummingbird around the house, zipping from place to place, barely lingering long enough to be still a moment. I got exhausted watching him.

When a soldier comes home, War comes home, too.

It was weeks before he sat down, then all he did was sleep. His body was wrecked from getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night and wearing 100lbs of gear all day everyday for a year.  When he finally crashed, he slept every empty minute for weeks. My heart broke to watch him sleeping through those precious hours, when I so desperately just desired his presence.

As much as I wanted to authentically celebrate his being home, it took almost a year to feel like he was really home. And then the really hard work started.

Anticipate additional time for healing after he comes home.

The wounds from war are deeper than just the adrenaline and combat; they’ve lost so much time.

I was not as patient as I could have been. I felt like I’d been alone raising this baby by myself for so long, I just needed my husband. But he wasn’t ready to be home with us. He felt robbed of another year of his life, hunting and fishing, and having any time alone after being continuously with others (even on the toilet). As a mom, I can better relate now!

And then the loss of time with his kids was stoo much, he didn’t know how to cope, let alone how to begin reconnecting with them.

A special kind of hurt wraps itself like a noose around your heart when you lose time with your children, much less a cumulative 4-5 years of their lives. Just writing those words grieves my heart.

I. CAN’T. EVEN.

Additionally, the unique, violent experiences he had in combat came home with him too; they live in his heart and mind in a way I’ll only barely grasp. They were tearing him up inside, and I didn’t know how to help or that I was inadvertently making things worse.

We said the word “divorce” too often in the heat of bickering over mundane domesticities that turned vicious. Our house became the war zone.

We reached a point nothing on earth could save us, at least nothing OF earth.

God doesn’t want us to turn to Him because we think His way might be better. God wants us on our knees imploring Him to save us. He wants us to realize our desperate need for Him, so we won’t take another step without him. He wants our full surrender, that moment we truly give it over to Him, quit playing at Christian and become a disciple.

For me, the path to that moment of surrender started when I truly realized the extent war comes home. The smell of it, the frenetic energy of it, the despair, bravado, and horror of it moved in with his foot locker at the end of his 4th deployment.

How can you save your marriage when war comes home? It's a journey of patience and grace with a whole lot of Jesus filling in the empty spaces.

And things got bad. Really bad. Not everyday was bad, but we fought a lot. Tension and anger were the under current of our marriage and home. I didn’t know what to do. It felt like we couldn’t even talk.

I started crying out to God.

But I wasn’t completely ready for total surrender. It took another year for the moment I stood in front of God and said, I just want you, to follow you, Lord, no matter what. I’m standing here until you make me move.

I had to learn to lean on God, completely.

When I finally grasped how I had been forgiven by God, I remember feeling like Paul when the scales dropped from his eyes, my vision changed almost physically. I finally understood that I didn’t have to get cleaned up to come to Christ. I just had to come and he would clean me up.

The next step for me was a book called When War Comes Home: Christ-Centered Healing for Wives of Combat Veterans. God placed this book in my path at just the right time to make dramatic changes in my heart and marriage. I spent the next several months reading a chapter a week and discussing it with a dear friend. We were both struggling with how combat had changed our husbands.

The book is written by combat veterans, wives, and experts from a Christian perspective. It costs about $25, but is a priceless resource. The book deals with everything from grieving the changes any combat veteran might experience to the most severe PSTD, offers insight and biblical solutions, as well as resources for help, counseling and domestic abuse if necessary.

I learned so much about forgiveness and commitment, God’s truths, and our real enemy in this world. Some content might not relate if your spouse isn’t a veteran, but so many raw truths about love being an action, not just emotion make this a trusted marriage manual I could recommend to anyone.

I was able to start understanding what he had seen and how he had lived in a way I hadn’t before. Compassion blossomed in my heart.

I had prayed for God to change my husband, and He did, but His answer was, “you first.” Today, I am tearfully thankful for that.

I remember one evening after a rough day, I was standing over dishes and a mess not of my making. My husband walked in from work and was being kind of a jerk. I felt my frustration start to rise. I was so angry I didn’t even know what to say.

My mouth clamped shut and I prayed in my head, “Lord, help me see him the way you do.” Instantly I saw the chains around him dragging him down: war, anger, death, loss, grief, shame. He wasn’t a jerk on purpose; he was too wounded to be anything else.

How can you save your marriage when war comes home? It's a journey of patience and grace with a whole lot of Jesus filling in the empty spaces.

Lord, please change my husband. His answer - You first! Tearfully grateful for His grace. Click To Tweet

“Oh, you’re having a hard time just being you today . . .” I said. He froze. His eyes immediately softened and changed. “Yes, I’m having a hard time being me.” “What can I do to help you?” “Give me five minutes to myself.” Done! Easy peasy lemon squeezy as my kiddo likes to say. So simple.

Ditch the expectations

And that was the beginning. I stopped expecting ANYTHING from him beyond going to work and coming home. While that sounds drastic, he couldn’t handle the pressure of my expectations. And I had been counting on him to make me happy when I should have been finding my joy in Christ.

I finally realized, he couldn’t fill my longing for true and everlasting love. Human love would always disappoint, but God never would.

Eventually, he began to unfurl in the security of God’s love for him through me and be able to relax again, laugh more, and take back some leadership in our home.

It’s been a couple of years, and I am still just barely scraping the surface of how war comes home, how what he has seen changes everything for him: the sound of a child crying, watching political debates, going to the movies, driving down the road.

We are just learning to trust and rely on each other again for the most secret places of our hearts.

After years of self-reliance, it takes practice to risk being vulnerable with each other again. I had to learn to listen with my heart to a person God loves more than I do, and I had to stop taking his anger and emotions so personally.

But God has worked miracles in my heart that are healing both of us and our marriage.