Nine years, nine months, and five days. That’s how long my husband logged in as an active-duty airman before his medical retirement. Nine years, nine months, and five days of all the uncertainty and fluctuations that military life brings. And then a fresh uncertainty took hold: Medical Retirement. We could move wherever we wanted to move, but we would have to do it ourselves or pay someone to do it. We could pick whatever job we wanted to go after, at least as soon as our DD Form 214 was in hand. Military service and medical retirement gave my husband an advantage in the hiring process for federal jobs, but did we really want to stay tied to the Department of Defense? Health insurance. Survivor benefits. Life insurance. Commissary and exchange privileges. GI Bill benefits. We had so many new rules to learn. Job-search strategies. Resume writing. Interview protocols. Salary negotiation. My husband had so many new skills to gain. When retirement looms, where do you start?
I try to have lunch or coffee with two or three different friends every month. I love these quiet times together, catching up on each other's lives without the distractions of responsibility around us. At one of these lunches recently, I sat down with a friend and mentor. As we quietly talked, she told me the revelation God had shown her. It was one of those earth-shattering, mind-changing realizations that take your breath away for a moment as you see the pervasiveness of a tiny lie you'd grabbed hold of. And in that moment, I realized how I too had grabbed hold of this lie and let it invade my life. I suspect you might also find this lie hiding out in your heart and mind. When I asked, this friend graciously agreed to write it out so that I could share it with you. I wanted you to hear it in her words without any commentary I might add. I pray that all of us would cease hiding in the baggage.
A balanced life. It's a common mantra in our world today, with books, television shows and psychologists all proclaiming that we must find balance. Work-Life balance. Family time and personal time balance. Physical, spiritual, and emotional balance. And while I understand the precepts and the health that so many are trying to promote, I always struggled a bit within their spouted parameters. While what they say sounds good, is it truly what God wants for me? Is balance biblical?
This month marks the two-year point. In June 2015, we moved from Virginia to our current home in North Carolina. Since I married my husband in 1996, we've moved a lot. Two and a half years in one house is about our limit before we're packing up and changing residences. I can't tell you how many times we started the school year by learning our address, or how many times I looked at whichever kid was in the ten-to-thirteen-year range and asking them if they knew our home phone number. Thank goodness for cell phones where your number doesn't change with every move! For the first time in my marriage, after two years in the same place, we are not facing the chore of packing up our entire house. No, instead we are facing the much bigger task of watching our oldest pack up everything she owns and moving across the country without us.
How many of you have seen one of those homecoming videos of a man (or woman) in uniform surprising their child or mother or another family member? I love them—don't you? They are sweet and joyous, so full of emotion. I giggle and smile and sometimes shed a few tears. I look forward to the homecoming pictures posted by my active duty friends. Everyone who knows them breathes a collective sigh of relief. Another one returned home to us, safe and sound. Things can return to normal for that family. What civilians may not know is that the hours and days after the welcome home photographs may not be so sweet. The reality of homecoming can be very different from other reunions, say when a child returns home on a college break or you travel home to visit family. If you want to support military families, this is what you should know about reintegration.
In my book The Warrior's Bride, I shared quite a bit about the health problems my husband endures. Chronic pain, back issues, migraines, leg cramps, and more are a regular part of our lives. I used to wonder what I was supposed to do with that. Were the physical struggles a test? A character building process? Would God heal him, or lead us to the doctor with the right procedure to make things better? And what does it say about our faith if nothing changes? What does it say about God if things get worse?
A recent conversation among friends on Facebook recently got me thinking. Consider the original question: "How many articles of clothing (not including underwear, workout items, and pajamas) do you think you need? How many do you own? No condemnation...just a question." Does the question make you squirm? Is your closet overflowing? Do you have more than one closet full of clothes? Maybe clothes aren't your thing. Maybe it's jewelry. Or books. Or kitchen gadgets. Or collectible knick knacks. Or trips to the beach or the mountains. The basic question remains the same: How much is enough?
Well-meaning friends. We've all been there: Looking at a friend or acquaintance going through something we don't understand, searching for the right words to say with only pithy sayings coming to mind. God never gives us more than we can handle. When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window. Everything has a purpose. As someone who's walked through some heart-wrenching circumstances, can I tell you something? Yes, God can give us more than we handle. No, sometimes He doesn't open a window. And we may never see the purpose this side of heaven, and even then may not like what we discover. But what do we do with that? If we accept that as truth, then what is the proper response to tragedy? What does God want to see?
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, lived a young man named Solomon. He showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David (1 Kings 3:3). Now, he wasn't perfect Now, he wasn't perfect. In fact, immediately after telling us that Solomon walked according to his father's instructions, it also says that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. A big no-no. Yet God honored his heart, coming to Solomon one night and saying, Ask for whatever you want me to give you (1 Kings 3:5). Can you imagine? How do you find wisdom?
When your world is falling apart, what do you do? I mean really, don't-know-if-you-can-breathe, falling apart. My gut reaction is to isolate and hibernate. I stay off social media and email, I don't leave my house or even answer my door. Chores may get done if they are critical, but otherwise, I tend to even ignore them. I'll likely function enough to offer the most basic care for my family, but by and large, I want to do nothing. The problem with this tendency is that it encourages greater negativity, increases mopiness, and generally demoralizes my already depressed mental state. Want proof my reaction is universal? (And the keys to coming out of it without serious intervention?)