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

Moving with two kids and a dog: What I learned on the road trip to our new home

road trip with kids and dogWe named our small used Toyota “the brown berry”. We always named our cars. We kept them so long, they were like part of the family. When our two children were very young, they thought it was funny for our cars to have names. When they got older, they simply became amused at one of their mother’s crazy family traditions. (I bet they secretly name their own cars now.)

During one of our fourteen moves, my husband, Bill, started to work in North Carolina before we actually moved there. Once everything was packed and the moving van was on its way, I set out to drive the brown berry across three states loaded down with two kids, a dog, and boxes crammed in every available space. Our son, Bill Jr., was six and our daughter, Ginger, was three. I don’t remember how old the dog was.

What I do remember was our road trip. It was extremely hot and the brown berry came down with heat exhaustion. (That’s what I told the kids.) In adult language, the air conditioner quit blowing cold air. Oh, it would still blow air – it was just hot air. So I rolled the windows down to let the hot air out, only to find the air coming in was even hotter.

At that point, Ginger, who was sitting in the backseat, started throwing up all over herself, her doll, and the seat. Bill Jr., who was sitting in the front seat, started gagging at the smell, and the dog had his head hanging out the window, drooling from the heat. I don’t think the smell bothered him. We were not at a place where I could pull over, so with Ginger now crying, Bill Jr. gagging, and the dog drooling, I was held captive at the wheel.

While I was thinking, What else could possibly happen? I began to imagine Bill sitting in a new air-conditioned office somewhere. I started getting furious at him for not being here to share in this memorable experience.

At that same moment, the brown berry must have gotten a tummy ache (that’s what I told the kids) because the red light came on indicating that the engine was overheating. We kept limping along in all our glory for miles until we came to an exit with a gas station. There we found a quick fix for the brown berry, a clean restroom with lots of paper towels, and a grassy spot for the dog. As we got back in the car, Bill Jr. said for the hundredth time, “Mom, how much farther is it?”

I’m sure you can identify with my road trip in some way. We have all had our moments of traveling chaos and calamity that eventually become memories to share and laugh about later.

Whether you are moving, on vacation, or on a road trip to visit family, pack these practical tip ideas to ease the miles to your destination.

  • A kitchen timer can be used on a trip in several ways: “It’s your time to share” or “We’ll stop for a break when the timer goes off.”
  • Take a roll of paper towels, small garbage bags, wet wipes, and Ziploc bags in the car for cleanup, diapers, and trash. You’ll be glad you did!
  • Air freshener really comes in handy. It covers food odors, plus all those other unpleasant smells we don’t have to mention.
  • A first aid kit. Make sure the one you have is not outdated.
  • A cooler with favorite snacks, juice, fruit, and sandwiches. Include a heavy-duty Ziploc bag filled with ice to soothe any minor bumps, cuts, or scrapes.
  • For long trips, take several gallons of water. Small bottles of water don’t last very long.
  • Don’t forget a small water bowl for your pet. Put someone in charge of keeping your dog’s leash.
  • When you are staying at a hotel overnight, stop late in the afternoon in time for the kids to go swimming and work off some energy before bedtime.
  • Get up for an early departure to get a good start on the day. The kids might sleep through the first few hours of the morning.

Here are some things to do that will help your family “move” closer together on any trip:

  • Share your biggest concerns about the trip. Talk about how you can avoid those problems.
  • Practice these words: “This is our big adventure!” Attitude is everything.
  • Start your trip with a “God hunt”. Look for God in everything. It helps your children think about seeing God in every aspect of their lives. “I see God in our move. He did….” I see God taking care of us on this trip. He has….”
  • Give an example of what it looks like to be kind, thoughtful, and patient with one another.
  • Before you begin the trip to your new destination, pray together as a family.
  • And don’t forget to make your road trip an adventure, make it fun, and make it meaningful!

‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ Jeremiah 29:11 NASB

From My Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller

From Susan’s book, But Mom, I Don’t Want to Move!

The Hidden Box You May Not Have Unpacked

hidden boxA friend stopped by our Just Moved office for a visit and during our conversation she said, “I know why I’ve never settled in and feel so disconnected since I moved here. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally figured it out. I’ve never completely unpacked and gotten rid of all the boxes that I brought with me!” She went on to explain how she had quickly unpacked all her belongings and discarded those boxes, but still had boxes of emotions and feelings that she had never unpacked.

They had become her hidden baggage of grief, loneliness, anxiety, fear, comparison, inadequacy and loss of identity. The tightly packed emotions and feelings she felt inside had kept her from starting over and moving forward with life since she moved here.

Our conversation brought back memories of my own “unpacked boxes” when we moved. Too often I became withdrawn and disconnected because I never unpacked boxes of stuff inside that needed to be handled with care and understanding. I suffered silently as I did the next thing in the routine of moving– getting our children nestled in to school and activities, settling in a new home, finding a church and learning my way around the area. With Bill’s new job being all consuming, there was little time left for us. I kept that box of hurt inside, too.

As I began to grow in my relationship with God, I knew that I had to begin the process of unpacking those moving boxes that seemed to accumulate move after move. I prayed for His guidance to not only help me unpack, but to get rid of those boxes. I began to cling to the promises in His word (and believe them).

This is the life-changing sentence of scripture in I Samuel 17:22 (NASB) that helped me know where to begin…

Then David left his baggage in the care of the baggage keeper

David, the shepherd boy, left his “baggage” in care of the “baggage keeper” when he had to overcome and defeat the giant, Goliath. He left behind the things that would keep him from moving forward to get to the battle line to defeat Goliath.

You can leave your baggage of unpacked boxes, full of feelings and emotions, in the care of your personal Baggage Keeper–Jesus Christ. He is the one who can carry all your “stuff.” Nothing is too heavy for Him. Not only will He lighten your load, He will bear your burdens. He will equip you to unpack, overcome, and release whatever is keeping you from moving forward.

In other words, lay it all down at the feet of Jesus. Daily let it go. Daily remind yourself that you are not unpacking alone. Yes, I said daily. It’s so easy to pack those boxes and pick them up again each day. We try to handle our feelings and emotions in our own strength and manage them alone. It is an everyday battle, my friends.

I, too, have to choose to leave whatever giant emotion I’m facing for the day at the feet of Jesus. Many a day, He carries me in His arms because I’m too weak to stand alone. I fight the battle of emptiness with the loss of Bill. Many a day, I fight feeling overwhelmed with house maintenance, ministry needs, people needs and even my own emotional needs. Some days I fight feeling inadequate to write or speak and battle the giant of comparison. There are times when unpredictable grief washes over me like waves in the ocean. These are all boxes of giant emotions that I choose to fight as I lay them down daily and give them to my Baggage Keeper.

What still needs unpacking in your life? What feelings and emotions are keeping you from starting over and moving forward after your move, or any time?

Choose now to run to Jesus and lay them down at His feet. Begin to start over with hope and move forward with faith.

From My Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller signatureSusan