Tuesday, April 19, 2016

When the Army Gives you a Choice

Late fall/early winter was a busy, chaotic season for us. We found out DH came out on the MAJ list – Yay! Praise the Lord! - then we found out he came out on the list for resident ILE. Here we were, all set and ready to move to Ft. Gordon when this little twist cropped up. Not to mention the fact that we were just about to celebrate the holidays with both sets of families on opposite coasts, and our move was just 2 months away. Now, I'm very familiar with orders being changed at the last minute so this wasn't what shook me. What shook me was that we had a choice. DH could turn this down, and we could still go to Gordon. Wait, what? The Army was giving us a choice? Whoever heard of such a thing!

This was definitely a time to pray for wisdom! So that's exactly what we did. In all our prayer times together as a couple, as a family, we prayed that God would make it clear what we should do. We consulted our parents, DH's respected superiors, and we asked our extended family and friends to pray, as well. It seemed like this was one of those decisions where neither one was particularly right or wrong, at least in God's eyes. Leavenworth was a nice compliment to DH – showing him that he is well-respected (not everyone gets to go, especially as a Functional Area). So we began to wonder if turning it down would be really bad for his career. As Christians in the military, it can be difficult to weigh if God wants the service member to pursue his career to such excellence so as to be put in a high position to influence others for Christ, or whether to show with one's decisions (the few we get in the military), that he prioritizes family over career.

In talking with some of DH's fellow functional area superiors, he found that going to resident ILE was not a make or break issue as far as his career was concerned. If he wanted to be a General, then yes, he should pursue it. If not, then satellite ILE would be sufficient.

In my heart, I was nervous that we might have to move to Leavenworth. Ft. Gordon was safe to me. We'd been there before, we still knew people there, we'd be within driving distance of my parents. It seemed like a no-brainer to me! But then again, I will always choose what is comfortable and safe.

Yet, even for me, as I started to think about it and pray about it, I realized this could be an adventure and exactly what God wanted us to do! It could be fun to go to KS, to be with some of DH's classmates from college and their wives who I hadn't seen in 9 years. I wanted to communicate to DH that we could do this! I did not want to be the one influencing his decision and putting pressure on him to take Ft. Gordon because it would make me happy. I've watched far too many Army wives make that move and later regret it. I did not want to make the same mistake, and I knew I was in danger of making it.

I'm not sure if I handled it correctly, but I told him that if he wanted to go to resident ILE, we could do it! I would be in full support, and we'd make an adventure out of driving cross-country again with our now 3 year old. It would be fun to be in a school environment, especially with so many friends we had known years before. Reconnecting with old Army buddies is one of the best parts about moving around! Plus, it would be a longer school term as opposed to just the few short months of satellite ILE, which means more family time. There were a lot of positives to this decision...which again made it so difficult.

I think DH appreciated my support, though he could probably tell what my real heart's desire was (um, guess I still need to work on that!). I'm not sure hearing my verbal support helped him by making the decision any easier. We were both seeing the good and the bad of this and almost wanted someone – anyone – to tell us what to do! Decisions that are not cut and dry are so much harder to make!

As Christians, we are taught to read the Bible, pray, and seek godly counsel when faced with a decision. Some are easier to make than others. And this one did not fall into that category. Again, we were thinking, why can't the Army just tell us what to do, like they do with almost every other part of our lives. Nevertheless, we read the Bible, we prayed, and we sought godly counsel. Ultimately, the decision was in DH's hands, and I began to fervently pray for him. This was a big weight on his shoulders, and I felt helpless. Aren't wives supposed to help and support their husbands?! I felt very inadequate. I do not know what I would do if I couldn't pray. That was the only way I knew how to help. That and to keep my opinions to myself and just give DH space and time to think.

When it was crunch time and a decision had to be made, DH chose to decline resident ILE and accept satellite. We were both relieved. I think. Maybe I was more relieved than he was. Either way, God had given us peace. We at least knew where we were going, and I breathed a big sigh of relief that it wouldn't be a hard move...or so I thought. Funny how we think one thing and then something completely different happens!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

All Good Things Must Come to an End...Even If You Don't Want Them To

Some seasons in our lives are amazing, and we don't want them to end. Some are more like winter, and we're glad when spring starts to poke through the layers of snow. In military life, this is no exception. When DH first started grad school, I wasn't so sure I would like this new "season" of our journey together. It was not as I expected. By the final semester though, we got in our groove, and despite the fact that we knew it would end when he graduated, I was still not quite ready for it.

We had an amazing summer with loads of quality family time - just what my heart needed! We traveled: Disney World, the beach, my parents' house. We stayed home, and I began volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center (in an attempt to obey the urgency God was placing in my heart - see last post). I was surprised by what God taught me.

All of that fun made time pass quickly and before I knew it, we were beginning the fall semester, and with that - the start of preschool. My 1st time mama heart was shaking with excitement, fears, anxieties, and the like. Tears were most definitely shed that 1st morning I dropped her off. I prayed for her constantly and tried to be one of the first ones in the car line. (Is my daughter seriously old enough to be in a car line?!) She had a great day, and I was instantly put at ease. 2 days a week of this schedule provided me just enough time to continue volunteering at the pregnancy center, grocery shop, and clean my house (DD hates the vacuum!) I began feeling like I had a life outside of just being a mom!

Also, DH began his final semester of grad school. His classes were challenging, as usual, but we seemed to find our routine a little easier and faster this time around.

I decided to stop attending CBS and go to my church's ladies' Bible study, which I instantly loved. The women were so warm and welcoming. They took time to get to know me, and we separated into groups of 4-5 women so I felt like I could really share my heart and life. It was just what I needed to feel more connected.

DH and I also began a small group at our church, which was an interesting experience. It definitely left us with a hunger to do more of this in our next place, preferably with military families. I was hopeful that we could spearhead something like that after we moved.

All in all, life felt well-balanced. I had been striving for that, and I felt as though we achieved it. Our schedule was busy but still allowed for down time. We were serving both in church and in the world. DD was learning and growing and being exposed to new environments. DH was working hard and juggling family time, hobbies, and trying to graduate with some not-so-easy project partners and some not very well-trained instructors, but of course, excelling regardless.

Things were, of course, not perfect. I found things to stress over, and God was working hard to break me of my control. I am trying to surrender...still. I felt that I had grown though, and I am grateful that He continues working on me and allowing me to see progress.

So just when things started to feel settled and "normal," this season had to end, and we had to move. I was left feeling discouraged and disappointed, thinking and planning, wondering how I would re-create this delicate balance at our next duty station. I knew it would be different, and it would not look the same way it did then. Would it be better? Worse? I wasn't sure. I wish I enjoyed the puzzle - trying to figure out how it's all going to look. The fact is, I just don't. So with this next move, as with all the others before it, I had to surrender and be patient, enjoy the present, and let God handle it. Easier said than done.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Introvert Problem: Talking to Others

Summer - literally a new season - also figuratively for me last year. As my husband continued to pursue his master's degree on the Army's dime, our summer last year looked quite a bit different than any we have experienced before. DH was home much more than he was even during the school year, and I had a sense of urgency. The Lord was impressing on my heart that I needed to do more in my life, especially in the area of outreach. I serve my family, I serve at church, but I do absolutely nothing when it comes to serving non-believers. The reason, when I boil everything else down, is because it makes me uncomfortable. Non-believers are very different from me. They talk differently, parent differently, and have vastly different areas of interest. Knowing these things sends my little introverted heart into instant panic mode.

My pastor recently encouraged us as a congregation just to simply start a conversation. I am terrible at this! Everything I think to say to someone sounds absolutely ridiculous in my head so I know it will sound downright foolish if it leaves my mouth! I clam up and run back to the comfort and safety of my house. This leads to a simple going and coming ritual I participate in throughout my day-to-day life.

I like to blame my daughter for this. Since she is still young (preschoolish), when I am out somewhere with her, I literally only see her. I suppose it's some sort of mother bear protection mode or whatever you want to call it. The fact is, however, I honestly do not see people around me anymore. If I were a witness to a crime, and the police stopped to question me, I would be as helpful as a blind person. Seriously. So if I do not even see people, how can I even begin to talk to them? I suppose this is the first step. I need to pray God would give me eyes to see. Then I can pray He will give me words to speak.

I do not know why I am so fearful of talking to others, especially non-believers. I don't even want to tell them about Jesus with the first words I speak. I much prefer to build a relationship first. Yet I am struggling just to do that!

The fact of the matter is though that God has called us to a life of service and sacrifice. Sacrifice to an introvert like me might mean starting a conversation with someone instead of holing up inside my house. Serving others might mean giving of my peaceful, quiet solitude to be among people, listening to them and helping them with their day-to-day lives. Am I not even willing to do that? Have I made comfort so much of an idol in my life that I will not even adjust my schedule or stop what I'm doing to look someone in the eye while in the checkout line? Yes, the truth is, I have.

This is a battle I constantly have to fight. I fought it last summer, and managed to make some gains. However, when we moved this past winter, I am finding that this is still a problem for me. I must get outside of my comfort zone and expand the walls of my world. If there are any other introverts out there, how do you do it? How do you follow the command to go and make disciples? Especially, when you're moving around and constantly starting over - when it can be a struggle just to make friends you are comfortable with, let alone stretching yourself to minister to others. Help, please!