There’s a lot I don’t know how to handle these days.
Does anyone know how to parent a toddler in today’s world? On most days I feel like I am stumbling around in the dark hoping I am at least getting something right.
The never ending flood of crazy news.
Challenges and stress at work. Time management. Volunteer commitments.
I currently find myself right in the middle of trying to serve, lead, and work in areas where most days I wholly admit I barely know what to do, much less how to juggle it all.
As a military spouse, I have come to believe that finding community and building relationships is vital to our ability to thrive amidst the many challenges this life brings with it.
I have found this to be just as true in being a new parent and as a person of faith who only recently joined a church community again.
We all need our village around us to go through life.
Over the past year I have been doing my part to show up and help build a community network for our military families connected to my husband’s unit, and military spouses throughout this entire area who desire to work.
Feeling at home in whatever community we find ourselves in is a continual challenge for military families. We move frequently. We endure constant geographical separation from our active members whenever duty calls, as well as from our places of origin with our family and friends.
Military spouses must also grapple with the choice to sacrifice or accept a given set of limitations on their careers. Some of us fight to make something work over and over. Others among us grow discouraged with the limited options and resign ourselves to what feels like the only manageable choice. Many of us make staying at home and/or volunteer leadership in our communities a calling itself, and rightfully excel in that daily important work.
It is so easily assumed that we can always make ends meet or turn our sacrifices into a calling. Click To Tweet
Reality is more and more families in the military can’t make ends meet on one income alone.
Even beyond financial security, most military spouses I know find self-worth and contentment in the wholeness of their life not just certain parts of it. This includes finding and doing work they love too.
If your concept of a military spouse is a female stay-at-home mom, you would be accurately describing a large number of us; however, it would be a detriment to the whole of us to not mention who else you will find among our ranks.
We are the spouse struggling with miscarriage, infertility, and infant loss so carelessly talked over and unseen.
We are the spouse who chose not to have kids, continually bracing for the inevitable, next conversation where we have to defend our very personal choice.
We are the male spouse who stays at home with our kids and loves it, despite all the stereotypical conversations, naysayers, or female spouse scenarios we are forced to accommodate.
We are the fulltime working spouse who loves on our babies and heroes in every hour that we can.
We are the spouse or mother who has endured the ultimate sacrifice paid in blood by the ones we love, whether that active member was our spouse or our child.
We are the unemployed and underemployed spouses doing our best to find any job or a better job; while also keeping the family going.
We are the new employee so grateful to finally have found a job, after months of searching and interviewing and stomaching countless rejection notices.
We are the nurse, teacher, doctor, attorney, or accountant trying to navigate licensing issues, certifications, fees, and state taxes with every single move across state lines.
We are the entrepreneur, creatively seeking to make and build a business that moves with us.
We are the students going back for yet another degree hoping that this time it will help us realize our dreams of working and supporting the member we love.
We all have good days and bad days.
Homecoming days are perhaps the best.
Yet, as beautiful as those days are where we open wide our arms to our loved ones returning from war, there are so many more before and after that day that very few see.
It’s in those days that we become well acquainted with loss, with disappointment, with difficulty, with loneliness, with rejection, and with having yet another day when everything goes wrong and finding no one else there to make it right except ourselves.
The frequent relocations and deployments built into the military lifestyle overwhelm even the most seasoned among us.
This constant lack of control over the big areas of our lives often waylays many of us into ignoring the present for the illusive promise of a better tomorrow.
Waiting for our member’s return. Waiting to feel at home again. Waiting for a better assignment or location. Waiting for a job that finally feels worth our time.
The decision to avoid grappling with the present and all it holds, both good and bad, is the deadliest trap door. The illusion screams that it will make me feel better now to wish upon a better tomorrow, but reality time and again leaves me once again in the land of endless misery.
The simple truth is if the standard of tomorrow is finally grasping perfection, answers, certainty, success, or whatever we are missing in this moment: now will always fail to be good enough.
One secret I have found to avoid that trapdoor is choosing to practice gratitude.
And by practicing gratitude, I don’t just mean the next trendy gratitude Pinterest craft or gratitude journal– not that those can’t be a fun or creative options. However what I mean here instead is an intentional choice of where I allow myself to mentally dwell and how I live out the mundane moments of my day to day.
On most days practicing gratitude for me means choosing to be present. Click To Tweet
It means acknowledging the joys, the good in my life, and the crappy parts. It means being honest about it all, and yet still choosing to notice what I have to be grateful for. Its an intentional both/and approach to life.
Without practicing gratitude we live most of our lives in seasons of winter wishing for spring to come. In doing this we neglect the important, mundane work of growth that must occur before the earth will ever come alive again.
Several years ago life’s uncertainty was a large factor in the breakdown of my personal faith. My spiritual beliefs from childhood were built upon me being certain I had all the answers to life’s biggest questions and thus I mistakenly believed I was fully prepared for whatever life threw at me.
Spoiler alert. I wasn’t.
Shortly before that faith breakdown I joined this military community that brings with it guaranteed uncertainty. Irony? Divine Inspiration? You pick.
Living this military life over the past eight years has forced me to unlearn slowly that faith isn’t certainty of belief. Faith isn’t having all the answers. Faith isn’t proven by a miracle or in getting my prayers answered.
Faith is found in the willingness to love, hope, and pray regardless of whether answers ever come, and especially when they never come.
Faith is about holding on in my darkest days and living with questions amongst all the rest. Click To Tweet
Here again is where my village saved me. I found my way back to faith mostly thanks to many dear friends along the way. Some within my Protestant background, others within my current Catholic tradition, others who experience God through a different religion, and still others who don’t believe in a higher power at all.
They showed up for me in big ways and small when I thought my faith was all but lost. They sat with me in my doubt and angst and questions, not to tell me they were right or had found better answers; but instead just to listen. In doing this they pointed me to a piece my faith had been missing all along.
They showed me the value of grit.
Grit briefly described is perspective and perseverance combined. It’s knowing that disappointment or mistakes or setbacks or difficulty encountered are common to us all, and that they are not the end of the story.Grit digs in when the going gets tough, knowing that shortcutting life's hardships never works. Click To Tweet
Grit’s leading expert these days, Angele Lee Duckworth, focuses on the need for grit in our education and in our work. Her words speak the deeper truth we all need to hear:
Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day-in, day-out. Not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years. And working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Grit was one tool I needed to fix my broken, misguided attempts at faith.
Grit is one of my most invaluable tools for navigating this challenging military life.
This coming week begins our beloved holiday season.
Instead of rushing through it, I am choosing instead to make grit and gratitude my guideposts.
Where are the people in my life who are showing up to really hard things in their life? How can I reach out and support their efforts? What are the difficulties in my own life that I am trying to avoid, versus facing head on?
What good has shown up in my life this past year? How can I be more present and notice all that I have to be grateful for?
Let’s stop and take stock.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but today I’m choosing these tools that help me thrive.
I hope you find some grit as you face life’s challenges.
I pray that every day you find yourself loved and still moving forward, you find the time to stop and join me in being grateful.