Reflections on my time spent with military spouses

How you can be their cheerleader

When I am in the presence of dedicated military spouses, I am humbled by their sacrifice and commitment. They touch my heart, strengthen my faith, and keep me humble. They are ordinary women who are called to do extraordinary things as wives and moms.

It was a privilege to be in their midst at the recent Gather Conference in Colorado Springs, to speak into their lives with God’s hope and encouragement, listen to the cry of their hearts, give lots of hugs, and cheer them on with my pom-poms. Once again I saw women from all walks of life, regardless of their circumstances, thrive on the hope and peace that only comes from knowing and trusting Jesus Christ.

These precious women are in the trenches of military life, many of whom are holding their families together in the absence of their deployed husbands. They face the unknown with brave hearts and a strong faith. Many have just moved to a duty station and are experiencing the adjustment and transition of being in unfamiliar surroundings and starting all over again. Some are anticipating the all too familiar challenges of yet another move. They, too, face the unknown with a persevering heart and a strong faith.

Here are some observations I made from my time spent with military spouses. These are gentle reminders for all of us:

  • It is important for a woman’s emotional well-being to be in fellowship with others and to bear one another’s joy and sorrow.
  • Laughter is good for the soul.
  • The word of God continues to impact lives like nothing else can.
  • It is vital for a woman to be listened to and to be heard as she shares her story.
  • Joining hands and praying for one another has a soothing effect on an anxious heart.
  • There is nothing quite like the unity of voices coming together in praise and worship to stir your emotions.
  • When a woman is focused on Christ and not her circumstances, attitude and perspective can change.

Many military women have become my friends over the years and I have become their cheerleader. You can do the same thing. When you meet a military spouse or active duty member, be her cheerleader and encourage her. These are some suggestions you might consider:

  • While a greeting and a smile are always appreciated, don’t let it stop there. Invite her to lunch, coffee, or some activity.  
  • Don’t wait for her to ask or come to you. Knock on her door, talk to her at the mailbox, invite her over when she is out in the yard. 
  • Provide her with a list of local services: a handyman, mechanic, hairstylist, babysitters, churches, restaurants, etc. 
  • Offer to drive her to functions, places, or events. She doesn’t know her way around, and that would encourage her to go. 
  • Express your support. She appreciates hearing and reading your encouragement. 
  • On special occasions or holidays at school or church, honor the dads or moms who are deployed. This means so much to their children.
  • Invest time in her and her children.  
  • Be inclusive, not exclusive.
  • And, when you pray for the men and women who are serving our country in the Armed Forces, remember to pray for the spouses and families left behind. They, too, are our heroes!

 

Susan Miller

Tempted to ignore God’s nudge. Glad I didn’t!

God's nudgeI will confess. I am not very friendly on an airplane. Those travel hours are my down-time before I step off the plane to give my all to the women where I will be speaking.  It is when I switch hats, pray, calm my spirit, and focus my mind and heart.

A smile and a hello is about all you will get if you sit next to me. I’m not looking for a new friend or to start a conversation with anyone. “Please and thank you” for a cup of coffee and peanuts or pretzels is pretty much my verbal communication.

That is, until this tall, young, handsome, muscular African-American man, with arms built like a line-backer, walked down the aisle, stopped at my row, and said, “Excuse me, we have the middle seat.”

He was carrying a little boy, who appeared to be about a year and a half old, along with a diaper bag on his shoulder and a backpack on his back.

Oh.my.goodness, I thought. Why next to me?

I had on the clothes I was going to wear that afternoon for speaking. I envisioned sticky fingers. There was no time to change when I arrived, so I was dressed and ready to go on stage. I was planning to go over my notes during the flight in the solitude of silence.

He quickly placed his backpack under the seat and crammed the diaper bag in next to it. There was no leg room left for him. He then quickly turned his little boy to face him, with his little legs around his daddy’s waist. The child lay his head on his daddy’s chest in total contentment and stared at me with a captivating smile. His daddy gently placed his arms around his son, to keep his little arms and hands from touching me or the man by the window. He maintained this posture during the entire flight. I could only imagine how uncomfortable it was for this man, while his son seemed delighted to have his daddy’s complete attention and to be held so close. There was an obvious bond between them.

Once we were in the air, he pulled out the diaper bag, took out a bottle with apple juice, and gave it to his son. This huge, football-player-looking-man smiled and talked lovingly and quietly to his son as if it were just the two of them with no one else around. He then gave the little boy a pacifier and he slowly drifted off to sleep on his daddy’s chest, with only the sound of his daddy’s heartbeat in his ear. He gave him a cookie when he woke up and then wiped his little hands so they wouldn’t accidentally touch me. They never did.

I was so entranced by how this man was so intentional in keeping his child occupied and contained with his arms circled around him. I could tell that he didn’t want to disturb anyone on either side of them. That middle seat seemed to shrink even smaller with the two of them in it. He got up once to go to the “lounge” in the back of the plane and took the little boy to stretch his legs.

It was when he sat back down, that I turned to him and said, “I just have to tell you what an amazing dad I think you are and your son is so well behaved for his age.”

“Thank you ma’am,”  he said. “He wasn’t this good on our flight from Hawaii. He didn’t sleep at all with the time change, and that five-hour flight was rough.”

Then out of the blue, it hit me. “Are you military?”

It was then that my heart melted for this young man. He smiled and told me proudly that both he and his wife were in the Army, stationed in Hawaii. He had gotten orders to deploy and was on leave to visit his mother and family in Alabama before going to a remote part of the world. He was taking his son to see his grandmother for the first time. He said how anxious he was because this was his first deployment in a dangerous place. He never mentioned where, or what his mission was. I could only imagine.

I told him my name and he introduced himself and his little boy. As we began to talk, I shared that my dad, brother, and husband were military men. He told me about his family and how proud he was to serve his country in the Army. I shared God’s words of encouragement and hope. I reached over my seat, touched his arm, called him by name, and said I would pray for his safety and protection in the months ahead.

I think of this young man quite often and pray for him. I remember his gentle strength and tender heart for his son, how his eyes lit up when he talked about his wife and his family in Alabama. I remember how Army Proud and Army Strong he was. By now he is far away in another land…

I shudder to think what I would have missed that day if he hadn’t sat next to me.  I’m embarrassed to think how preoccupied I was with myself and my “outfit.”

If God hadn’t nudged me to say more than hello, I wouldn’t know his story.

I wouldn’t have shared God’s hope and encouragement, which seemed to soothe his soul. And, I wouldn’t have the privilege of praying for a dedicated and committed husband, father, and Army man.

Nudge me Lord. Use me where I’m needed. When I feel comfortable, make me feel uncomfortable. Take me out of my little world in an aisle seat and stretch my boundaries to the middle seat and beyond…

Susan Miller signaturesusan miller

 

18 Ways to Reach out to a Military Family Who Has Moved to Your Community

military familyThis is PCS season in the lives of many military families. The orders come, the new duty stations are assigned, and families are gearing up for yet another move. The news of who’s moving where splatters my Facebook pages this time of year. Our connection through social media keeps me in the loop of their lives with their pictures, stories, and prayer requests. They live with a resilient spirit of hope, perseverance, and optimism that defines the life that comes with being a military wife and mom.

Through Just Moved Ministry, God has given me the privilege to be in the lives of military women all over the world. I am in my sweet spot of ministry when I can teach, mentor, encourage, listen to, pray for, and be with these women. From year to year, I see many of them again in different parts of the world and at different military installations. They become a part of my life, my heart, my prayers, and my memories.

They have become my friends and I have become their cheerleader.

You can do the same thing. Be a friend and a cheerleader to the military wife. Show tangible ways of love and care, pray for her, and encourage her. When a military family moves in your neighborhood or community, make every effort to meet them.

The following suggestions, in their own words, come straight from military women who shared with me how you can reach out to them when they move.

  1. While a greeting and a smile is always appreciated, don’t let it stop there. Be bold. Keep calling, encouraging, and inviting us to lunch, shopping, etc.
  2. Provide us with a list of local services: a handyman, mechanic, hairstylist, babysitters, churches, restaurants, etc.
  3. Offer to be our emergency contact for schools. That’s the first question the schools ask, and the one we never have an answer for.
  4. Offer to drive us to functions. We don’t know our way around, and that would encourage us to go.
  5. Invite us to church, or even lunch or dinner on Sunday. That’s a lonely day for us.
  6. Express your support. We appreciate hearing and reading your encouragement.
  7. Let us know you are praying for our soldier and for our family. Ask about our specific prayer needs. Don’t assume you know.
  8. Please don’t wait for us to ask or come to you. Knock on our door, talk to us at the mailbox, invite us over when we are out in the yard.
  9. We spend so much time making sure our children are settled in, but we don’t take care of ourselves during these transition times. I need to be included in Bible study, a girls’ night out, a lunch group.
  10. Accept new military families as if they are moving in for a lifetime–not just passing through. Please invest time in us.
  11. Include us in neighborhood parties. Wear name tags to help us learn names.
  12. People have picked up our check at a restaurant, or even paid for a cup of coffee. It brings tears to my eyes every time. Our family is so grateful.
  13. Churches can be a great help in our transitions. Welcome us and include us along with other newcomers at functions and events.
  14. Invite our children over for a play date.
  15. On special occasions or holidays at school or church, honor the dads or moms who are deployed. This means so much to our children.
  16. When my husband was deployed, a family in our church “adopted” our family. They helped us with house and yard maintenance, celebrated Birthdays, and included us for holidays. We will never forget them or what that meant to us.
  17. Be understanding and be listeners. Sometimes our needs go beyond a plate of cookies.
  18. Risk a broken heart. Love and support a military family even though we will eventually move and leave you. Allow your children to love ours as well, even though they may be sad when we leave.

So bring out your pom-poms and be their cheerleaders.

It’s time to get off the bleachers and move from the sidelines to run with military families to the finish line!

 

 

SusanSusan Miller

From Susan’s updated and expanded new edition of After the Boxes are Unpacked. A Focus on the Family and Tyndale book available from Just Moved Ministry.

 

Heroes: Military wives etched on my heart

Many of you followed me through pictures on Facebook as I traveled from Vicenza, Italy to Ansbach, Germany to Wiesbaden, Germany to speak to military wives. A picture speaks a thousand words. Take a good look…

1506.military collage

 

These women, along with many of their husbands and children that I met, are etched in my heart. We shared Christ together, life together, prayed together, worshiped together, ate meals together, laughed and cried together. We made cherished memories, and took countless pictures. I taught them about our unchangeable God in their ever changing world. They taught me about rising above ever changing circumstances, in unchanging life situations.

I’ve been back home a while now…

and I still see their smiling faces.

I see their stress released through laughter.

I see their eyes, filled with tears they’ve learned to control, begin to spill over uncontrollably.

I hear them pray for each other, as they put a friend’s needs above their own.

I feel their hugs and the reluctance to let go.

I’ll never forget their testimonies of profound faith and trust in God in the midst of hard circumstances.

I’ll never forget their gut-wrenching stories of situations they are much too young to experience.

Many of them face the stress of living on the edge of uncertainty and with fear of the unknown.

Yet, they also live with a resilient spirit of hope, perseverance, and optimism that defines the life that comes with being a military wife and mom.

These women are my heroes. They are the keepers of their home, committed wife to their soldier, and devoted mom to their children.

I hope you’ll take a closer look at the women in the pictures. Choose one, (or two, or even all of them), and take a minute right now to stop and pray for the woman behind the picture, her soldier, and her children.

All those faces will suddenly become etched in your heart too…

Susan Miller signature

A picture of gratitude

Susan Miller, America's Moving CoachlistI am a list maker. I have lists on my phone, on post notes, and on scratch paper. I confess,  I will even list something I’ve done and draw a line through it just to visually see my accomplishments. I have a pretty notebook for special long-term lists–categorized by subject, of course. I am a very well-organized, well-functioning, obsessive list maker. A list clears my mind, prioritizes my day, keeps me on track, and most of all, helps me to remember what I would normally forget.

My usual list-making for Thanksgiving is a grocery list. I go through all my traditional Thanksgiving recipes and write down all the ingredients that I don’t keep in my cabinet the other 364 days. Going through the family recipes for the holidays is a tradition in itself. It turns back the years of memories, not only in my kitchen, but also in my grandmother’s and my mother’s kitchen, as we assembled and prepared the ingredients, then cooked and baked for Thanksgiving Day. I have to tell you that I actually came across an old, handwritten list my mother had made for ingredients that had been tucked in some of her treasured recipes. One day, I’m sure my daughter will find one of my lists among the recipes too. And so it goes…

Around Thanksgiving, it seems the conversation starters, or question probers, are to make a list of things you are grateful for. It’s a question that’s asked around the Thanksgiving table, when friends gather together, in casual conversation, and on social media. Gratitude lists are shared and commented on in articles, blogs, and newsletters, and are discussed on talk shows, the national news, and commercials.

I love reading, or hearing the list of a grateful heart. You and I should have a long list every day, because God doesn’t give us a short list of blessings. They are bountiful, they overflow with abundance. Even if you don’t list them all on paper, extend the list to ponder in your heart. The spoken and unspoken gratitude list brings us to a place of being humbly aware of God’s grace, mercy and blessings in our life.

Since I am such a visual person, my written gratitude list is going to look a little different this time. I’m going to share some pictures from my phone that have been taken over the past year of people, places, and things. They speak volumes for my grateful heart.

gratitude list in pictures

Happy Thanksgiving y’all! It’s time to gather recipes and a grateful heart…

Susan Miller signature@SusanJustMoved

 

My military heroes, my friends

My heart is still beating with joy from speaking to the Schofield Barracks Army Post military wives at their PWOC Conference in Hawaii. We even had some women there who came from Hickam Air Force Base. The icing on the cake was meeting with the women who attend the Moving On group at the chapel.

Moving On group at Schofield Barracks

After spending time with these incredible women, I had the privilege of seeing God’s word bring hope, comfort, and encouragement to so many lives that have been uprooted by moving. We laughed and cried as we shared our joy and our pain together. We prayed for one another and joined hands in worship. We walked away feeling refreshed and renewed in our spirits as we focused on Christ and not our circumstances.

These precious women are in the trenches of military life, many of whom are holding their families together in the absence of their husbands who are deployed. They face the unknown with brave hearts and a strong faith. Many have just moved and are experiencing the adjustment and transition of being in unfamiliar surroundings and starting all over again. Then there are those who are facing the challenges of yet another move that has become an expected part of military life. They, too, face the unknown with a persevering heart and a strong faith.

My life is never the same after I am in the presence of military women. They touch my heart, strengthen my faith, and keep me humble. They are ordinary women who are called to do extraordinary things as wives and moms. When you stop and pray for the men and women who are serving our country in the Armed Forces, remember to pray for the spouses and families left behind. They, too, are my heroes!

Here are eight ways you can join our Just Moved Ministry Team in praying for our military:

  • Safety and protection for deployed spouses
  • Strong marriages during stressful circumstances
  • Healing of broken relationships
  • Provision for uprooted families
  • Encouragement for uprooted moms
  • Smooth transitions and adjustments for uprooted children
  • Comfort in the midst of the physical and emotional effects of a PCS (transfer)
  • Military families to put their trust and hope in Jesus Christ.

My presence will go with you….  Exodus  33:14

Susan Miller signature

Ordinary women called to do extraordinary things

Military wives: unsung heroes of our militarymilitary wife

Imagine the fear and anxiety of being a military spouse who has not heard from her husband, doesn’t know exactly where he is, or what he is doing. She simply waits. She has no option other than to trust and have faith that the phone will ring, the text or email will come, or his face will appear on Skype—anything to reassure her that he is okay. Imagine how she feels when her husband’s mission is so classified that he cannot share the stress he endures daily. Think about the strain on her marriage and on her children when a PCS (a move), or deployment comes–again, and then, again.

I had the privilege to be with many military wives who live with these situations at the PWOC  international military conference in Nashville, Tennessee recently. Needless to say, I have a soft spot in my heart for these women, many of them young enough to be my daughter. They have gone through things that most people, who do not live in a military world, will not experience in a lifetime. They are ordinary women, who are called to do extraordinary things as they serve on the front lines at home, while their husbands serve our country. They face the daily battles of loneliness, fear, and anxiety with perseverance, resilience, and, above all, an unwavering hope and trust in Jesus Christ.

Story after story touched my heart, and strengthened my faith. Jesus was always at the center of each conversation, the anchor for their survival. As I prayed with Mary*, the tears flowed over the heartache of a rebellious son who desperately needed his deployed father. Sue, who I had met at a military conference in Germany, wouldn’t let go of me as we embraced. She shared that her marriage was falling apart, and she didn’t know how to put the pieces back together again. Katherine, married one year and pregnant, was moving to a remote military base in Japan to be with her husband. She was anxious about a different culture, a foreign language and being so far from family. We hovered in a corner and I listened as she expressed her fear of the unknown.

These women, along with countless others, are my heroes. I am one of their biggest fans. I will stand on the sidelines of their lives and pray for peace, comfort, and victory in the midst of their circumstances. May we never forget to pray for our soldiers who serve our country, and for those who are in harm’s way, for their spouses who keep the home fires burning, and for their children who struggle with the uprooting and upheaval of change. Just imagine what our prayers can do…

Susan Miller

*names have been changed