I had the recent privilege of reading a unique resource for military families entitled Called to Serve. Below is the review and interview I did with one of the authors. If you would like to enter to win a free copy of the book, see the end of this post!
Air Force Lt. Col. Tony Monetti and his wife, Penny, are a seasoned military family who have written this inspirational book – Called to Serve - to encourage military families to stay the course in the rapid deployment cycle so many are facing. Offering wisdom, humor, and advice, the Monettis explain how they have handled various situations from moving multiple times to living overseas to deployment to raising children in an unstable environment. What is unique about this book as opposed to many others written for military families is that the Monettis each write from their own perspective, often alternating chapters. This makes it great for the military couple to read together. So much is being written for military wives, but this is an excellent resource for husbands, as well. In addition, when wives read Lt. Col. Monetti’s perspective, it can provide insight into their own husband’s thoughts and desires. Thus, I highly recommend this book to any military family seeking help from someone who’s already walked down the arduous road of a life of service to our country.
Below is an interview that Penny Monetti graciously agreed to do exclusively for this blog. Continue reading to find her answers to some pertinent questions:
Melissa:How did you get started writing?
Penny: My daughter faced a life-threatening illness when she was an infant. I knew God had blessed us by her miracle of life, and I wanted to share with other mothers how fleeting and precious life is. Through my daughter’s experience, I learned to “Dance,” or embrace our golden moments together before they slipped away. I knew in an eye’s blink she would grow up and be packing her suit cases for college. This is why I wrote, “Choose to Dance: A Mother/Daughter Guide to Tackling Life’s Tough Issues.”
Melissa: What was your favorite “season” of military life?
Penny: Every season contains beautiful memories that I pray the cobwebs of age will never erase. Every PCS brought us closer together as a family as we leaned on each other for comfort, friendship, strength, and security; however, my favorite times were homeschooling my children while living in Europe. When we studied the Renaissance Era, my children visited Michelangelo’s renown Duomo in Florence and Rome’s Sistine Chapel. They learned about the Roman emperors and stood on the step where Caesar was assassinated. When we studied World War II, my children experienced firsthand the cramped barracks of Dachau, Germany as they sandwiched their small bodies into the very same bunk that six adult Jewish prisoners once shared. Their skin felt the cold harsh November wind and rain while bundled up in heavy coats with protective umbrellas in the courtyard where the Jews were corralled together with no coats or hats to ward off the elements. We stayed in a quaint chateau in Normandy, France where the elderly owner showed us the hash marks he carved into the barn door as a young boy to count the days that he was forced to live there while his mother lived inside their home with the Nazis. No school text books could teach the life lessons we experienced together as a family.
Melissa: What encouragement can you offer a wife who is on her 2nd, 3rd, 4th, deployment?
Penny: Divorce has become the newest casualty of war. In order to help avoid this trauma, I encourage home front spouses to acquire PMS, but, this is the type of PMS that they will want to have: Physical, Mental, and Spiritual balance. PMS keeps home front spouses strong so they can take care of everyone else. Just as the flight attendant on a plane instructs the passengers to administer oxygen first to themselves before their small children in the case of a pressure drop, home front spouses need to maintain balance so that they can be the rock of the family while the warrior is gone.
Physical - Eat and rest. So cliché, right? How many spouses binge when they are nervous or skip meals all together? When their honeys come home, many spouses go on crash diets. Now’s the time to enroll in a fitness program with the fitness center or a local gym. Brisk walks clear the mind and burn stress. Sleep disorders? I took medication for three years because of stress induced insomnia. I decided to get a book and learn to balance my hormones through diet and exercising regularly. I eliminated caffeine, fast food, and preservatives. I have been medication free for over a year now. It’s a fact that when your body is tired, your metabolism doesn’t function as well, which means that you don’t burn calories. Rest affects your weight as well as your moods.
Mental - Get rid of the negativity in your life! Limit the news and avoid rumors and gossipy people. Surround yourself with friends that ENCOURAGE and do the SAME in return! I absolutely love Mark Twain’s quote, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too, can become great.” Now, we can still be a role model and love the negative Nancys’, but be careful not to let them sap your energy from you. Phillipians 4:8 says: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Spiritual - Know that you are not alone. Joshua 1:9 states, “Do not be afraid or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” There were trying times in my life when I felt my dog heard my prayers better than God only to realize that if God had answered my prayer at that time, the tremendous spiritual growth would have never occurred. I learned to memorize scripture so I could pull it out when times got tough. Surrendering my cares each day before the feet of God rejuvenated me daily and instilled a peace that only God can give.
Melissa: In your book, Called to Serve, you talk about “the military spouse’s troublesome trio: fear, uncertainty, and worry. “ How can women stop these three emotions from taking over their lives?
Penny: By surrendering our concerns daily to the Lord, God will smoke the trio out of their foxholes and defeat them. God cares about the trivial pebbles as well as the huge boulders that block our paths to a relationship with Him.
Melissa: Tell me more about the title – Called to Serve. How did you know the Lord called both you and your husband to military service even though he was the one wearing the uniform?
Penny: I fell in love with a military man, and when I walked up to the altar, I knew my vows were not only to my husband and God but to the military life, as well. I have always gotten teary-eyed whenever a military plane flies overhead or I hear a patriotic song. I’m a real sap! God is calling me in a different capacity to serve the military now that my children are nearly grown through our Called to Serve Ministry (calledtoserveministry.com). I am blessed to give motivational presentations to military spouses at bases nationwide regarding transitions, marriage, PTSD, and triumph over tragedy. Because I’ve “been there and done that” myself for the past 24 years, spouses can really relate.
Melissa: Some military wives tend to distance themselves from the military community. Do you think that’s wise? Why or why not?
Penny: Being involved with friends, church family, and maintaining a strong connection with God wards off destructive behaviors and fosters a positive environment where a spouse can communicate with other spouses and caring friends. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” Just as a lion watches for a weak gazelle to stray from the herd, there is an enemy that lurks, waiting for us to become weak and isolate ourselves from our friends and God. There is strength when we are united with friends, church family, and ultimately, God. This is where we can find strength when challenges arise. When we are alone, destructive behaviors set in, such as depression, alcohol, self-medication, etc. It is crucial to stay connected.
Melissa: What wisdom and advice can you offer to the mom who is worried about moving her children every two to three years, putting them in multiple schools, and exposing them to worries and fears about a daddy at war?
Penny: Immediately after receiving orders, I would pray Deuteronomy 31:8: The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” This verse always comforted me, knowing that God was already at the next base finding our future friends, schools, etc. For the military child, who commonly attends numerous schools, smooth moving transitions depend on the child’s self esteem and the parent’s attitude. My oldest son attended three different high schools and three middle schools. Although extremely difficult at times, moving became a positive experience and he became more outgoing, confident, and a self-assured traveler as a result. My younger son, who wasn’t a big fan of change, required more effort to get him involved with other kids, but once the ice was broken, he blossomed. Your child’s self esteem first starts at home. You are their biggest cheerleader, and leading by example is the best model for transitioning into new situations. Listening to a child’s fears and worries and not trying to solve problems helps them process their own insecurities. The “deal with it” parental attitude only causes stress and fear in a child. Being available for a child to “unload” is crucial. In our upcoming book, “Called to Serve II: Transitions,” we go into great detail about making smooth family transitions, including hints to help children relocate to new schools, make new friends, and how parents can help make this challenging process easier.
Melissa: How did you and your husband approach church hunting when moving to a new area? Did you ever settle for a lesser quality church home when you knew you would only be there for a year or two? Or did you invest the time searching for the right one despite the fact that your time to serve there would be limited?
Penny: I always took great comfort in the verse from Deuteronomy 31:8 Tony would first ask those in his new squadron where they went to Church. He would immediately find out who was excited about their faith. We would visit a church each Sunday until we found one that fit our needs. Many times, when our children were small, Tony and I would take turns each Sunday and scope out the church service, kid’s Sunday school, Bible studies, etc. alone while the other stayed at home with the kids rather than drag our children into a new environment each week. (This did not apply when they became teens.) One big church determining factor for me was how friendly the congregation was after the service. I could always feel love and warmth in a congregation that was truly Christ centered. When we thought a church might be a good fit, we then would see how the kids responded to the Sunday school, youth groups, etc. and give it a trial period. If we felt it was enriching to our children and we could spiritually grow as a family, we knew we had found our church. One mistake I wish I could rewind time and change is when we lived in Italy. There were no English speaking churches, and the military base was an hour and a half away. Rather than take our kids where they wouldn’t completely understand the language, (and I envisioned them being bored stiff) we held home church and made the drive to the base chapel periodically. This was a wonderful bonding time, and a chance for us to grow spiritually as a family, but I believe my children could have additionally grown spiritually in the Italian culture. In the long run, each family must make the decision as to what works best for them and pray, pray, pray.
Thank you, Penny!
The Monettis’ have graciously donated a copy of their book, Called to Serve, for me to giveaway. If you would like to enter to win this wonderful autographed resource, please leave a comment below telling why this is of interest to you. Also be sure to include your email address within your comment so I can contact you if you win.
You can also order the book or learn more about the Monetti’s ministry at www.calledtoserveministry.com