Where Does God Want Us?

One thing most military families can’t avoid — moving. Sometimes you head to the place you’ve always dreamed of going. Sometimes you head to the place that’s dead last on your list. And sometimes you can’t even decide where to go in the first place. A worship song that sticks with me as a military wife is Chris Tomlin’s “I Will Follow.”

Where you go, I’ll go. Where you stay, I’ll stay. When you move, I’ll move. I will follow.

We like to think that the military controls where we go, but let’s not leave God out of the equation. Maybe you didn’t get that dream duty station not because there weren’t any openings, but because God wanted you to be somewhere else.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God may have a new mission field for you. It might not be in the middle of Africa or Asia. It might be in a place where the majority of people are already Christians. Wherever it is, if you focus on doing HIS work while you’re there, instead of solely focusing on your own agenda and emotions, you’ll have a much better experience.

We can plan and talk to detailers all we want, but at the end of the day, we’ll go where God needs us most. It’s okay to pray for that dream location, but at the same time, add a “not my will, but yours” at the end of it.  And when you get to wherever you’re going, say another prayer that God will help make you useful while you’re there.

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Get Some Rest!

What do you do all day? Sit around in your pajamas, relaxing in your “free” housing and eating your “free” food? That certainly would be nice, but it’s not always reality. Some of you work. Some of you have kids. Some of you work and have kids. Some of you go to school. And while doing all of that, you hold down the fort. That means keeping track of the bills, so that you’re not clueless when he goes away, making sure uniforms get washed (how many loads does it take to get rid of that work smell anyway?!), fixing dinner, and all the other tasks that come with being a wife and keeping your home from becoming a disaster zone. With all that’s on your plate, do you also make sure to schedule in time to rest?

No, this isn’t about getting 8 hours of sleep a night, although that would be nice too. It’s about finding a little bit of quiet sometime during the day to sit down, put your feet up, and take your mind off everything you have to worry about and everything you have to get done.

God understands the importance of rest. He created the world, and then he rested. In the Old Testament, he instructed people to rest by encouraging them to remember the Sabbath. Even Jesus talked about rest saying “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

But, you say, “I don’t have time to rest. I have to do this and the kids have to be here and my husband needs me to take care of that and I have to make dinner and we have to go meet those people and there’s that paperwork to fill out and…”

Do you love God? Do you trust God? If so, then trust Him and know that everything will still work out okay if you take a few moments to rest.

The laundry that needs done can wait a few minutes. It’s okay to let the local pizza place or the ready-made section at the grocery store make dinner once a week. Your kids will survive if they don’t participate in an activity every single night of the week or if you get someone else to drive them instead. Your husband will be fine to run an errand or two after he gets home without you tagging along too.

Rest.

Relax.

Take a deep breath.

If you’re stressed, take a moment to pray and ask God to take your worries away.

Pick up your Bible and read a little bit.

Not quite ready for that? Turn on the TV and catch up on an episode of your favorite show or put on some of your favorite music and just enjoy listening to it. The important part is to be still.

If that seems nearly impossible, look for other moments during your day when you can rest. Do you have a few moments in the car before you have to clock in to work or before you pick up the kids from school?  Do you have time to kill while the kids are at practice? Maybe you want to start getting up with your husband in the mornings and can find some quiet time right after he leaves for work.

Psalm 127:2 says, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”

Are you someone who rises early and goes to bed late, toiling all day long? Sleep at the end of the day is wonderful, but so is rest and relaxation during the day. Don’t get so caught up in all you have to do that you forget to stop and take care of yourself.

When can you find some time to rest today?

Being Frugal

Today’s post comes directly from the devotional Traits of a Military WIfe: A Month of Daily Devotions available for Kindle and in hard copy on Amazon.

“Why do military families complain about what they make? They get free housing, free health care, money for food and military discounts. They’ve got it made!”

As a military wife, you know that isn’t true. When you add up how much time your husband spends on the job, he’s making a few dollars, maybe even only a few pennies, an hour. However, that doesn’t mean you have a reason to complain about your finances or become frustrated with how little you have. It just means you must work hard to effectively manage what God has provided for you. If you want to have enough money to meet your needs and still have money to give, you must be frugal.

Even if you and your husband make plenty of money, it doesn’t hurt to exercise some frugality. In fact, the Bible encourages you to pay attention to your finances and manage them wisely.

Luke 14:28-30 says, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and count the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Or perhaps, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, everyone who sees begins to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build, and wasn’t able to finish.’” and Proverbs 27:23-27 offers this wisdom:

“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks,

give careful attention to your herds;

for riches do not endure forever,

and a crown is not secure for all generations.

When the hay is removed and new growth appears

and the grass from the hills is gathered in,

the lambs will provide you with clothing,

and the goats with the price of a field.

You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed your family

and to nourish your female servants” (NIV).

You may not have the nicest furniture, designer clothes or a new car. You might not get to eat steak for dinner every night or go out to eat all the time. But really, does it matter? Military movers are likely to scratch your nice furniture and lose your new clothes. And no matter how expensive the food, you’ll still be hungry the next day.

In Matthew 6:19, we receive the following wisdom: “Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal.”

Instead, you can store up treasures in Heaven by following God and by managing what little you have well enough that you can still help God’s people. 2 Corinthians 9:6 says, “Remember this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. He who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”

A Quiet Spirit

Homecoming starts to approach and you frantically start the search for the perfect homecoming outfit. After not seeing your spouse for six months… a year… maybe even longer, you want to look good. News Flash! The guy hasn’t seen you in months — whatever you’re wearing will look good!

Of course there’s nothing wrong with wanting to wear something nice to make the day a little more special or even just to get all dolled up every now and then, but when your outward beauty becomes your sole focus, you lose a bit of the beauty God intended for you.

1 Peter 3:3-4 “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles or the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

What does that mean as a military wife? Well, it’s a lot more than not being afraid to step outside without makeup while wearing yoga pants. It’s all about how you present yourself in the community.

A gentle and quiet spirit is not bashing other spouses on military message boards. It’s not complaining about your husband’s command publicly. It’s not snapping at people because you’ve had a rough day or getting angry with your husband for something trivial while he’s away.

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit avoids getting angry when it’s not justified and, when angry, seeks to resolve matters in a cool, calm and collected manner.

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit holds in her opinions when she knows expressing them won’t help the situation and kindly inserts them when they will.

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit doesn’t grumble at the end of the day when she has finally put the kids to bed and wants to crawl into bed herself, but still has to do a load of laundry, clean up from dinner, and take care of a million other things around the house while her husband is gone.

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit doesn’t let her situation overwhelm her, but rather seeks God’s strength and support when she starts to feel like she’s becoming overwhelmed.

It’s not about trying to force an introvert into an extrovert’s body. In fact, it has little to do with personality at all and more to do with how you handle your personality and how you express yourself.

Do you stress out your husband by sending an e-mail vent at the end of every day? Do other people get stressed from being around you because you embody negativity? Do they ignore your complaints, your opinions, and your advice because you’ve got something to say about everything and you don’t always say it very nicely?

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit is kind to her husband and others around her.

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit speaks when she can offer something of value (and realizes every thread in a Facebook group doesn’t need a comment from her).

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit understands that she’s not the only one whose opinion matters.

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit knows that everyone has a rough day or says or does things they regret every now and then.

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit is generally positive and seeks God’s support when she’s feeling negative.

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit knows that military life comes with enough general stress and drama so she seeks to keep additional stress and drama out of her marriage, her life, and the lives of her friends.

A wife of gentle and quiet spirit asks – Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? Will it build someone up? before speaking and acting.

So go ahead and look for that perfect homecoming outfit, but let your beauty on the outside be trumped by your beauty on the inside.

You’re Not the Only One

As a military wife and mother of young kids, one of the things I hear the most is, “I don’t know how you do it.” It, of course, refers to holding down the fort while my husband is away. Some take it further and compare me to a single mother, although I’m quick to remind them that while I may not have my husband home, I have his support and income to help while he’s away. Regardless of how they word it, I never know quite how to respond. Is it as easy as I make it look? Of course not, but it’s a part of life, and it’s actually a part of life for more than just military wives.

Every day moms, and even dads, must run the show while their spouses are away. While people recognize the hard work I do, they don’t often stop and tell my friend whose husband works random hours at a grocery store that she’s doing a good job or encourage another friend whose husband spends a few months every year working on the pipeline in Alaska. They don’t notice the friend who never sees her husband because they both have to work conflicting schedules in order to make ends meet either.

Sometimes it’s so easy to become consumed by our reality that we don’t stop to look at the reality of those around us. We can go months without our spouses, but that mom whose husband goes back to work after she has just had a new baby may be struggling even more than us. The wife whose husband has left for his first business trip may really be struggling with loneliness. The woman who only gets to see her husband as she’s climbing into bed after a long night of work may be longing for a little quality time with him.

Does that make what we do any less amazing? Does it make what we do seem any easier? Of course not, but it does give us the opportunity to pull away from our reality and start supporting someone else in theirs. We’re often the ones getting encouragement, but we should also be the ones doling out the encouragement to others.

The Bible tells us to encourage others too…

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…” – 1 Peter 4:8-10

Why does it matter?

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

We can use our experience and the strength we’ve developed to build up other military wives and other wives and mothers who are struggling while their spouses are away, whether they’re away for 8 months or 8 hours. By doing so, we’ll take the focus off ourselves and our struggles.

Look around you. Who can you provide some support and encouragement to today?

 

Gimme! Gimme!

It’s back to school time and, in many areas, that means back to school school supply drives from Operation Homefront and other organizations that support military families. As military families, we’re so blessed to participate in back to school drives and holiday events. We’re fortunate to get free admission to museums during the summer and head to SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, or Sesame Place for free during the summer. We get money off meals, discounted movie tickets, and 10% off at many major retailers who offer a military discount.

Unfortunately, instead of feeling thankful, many wives take advantage of this extension of goodwill. You know you’ve seen it at the Operation Homefront events where families try to sneak one of each of the good toys instead of following the “one per child” policy. Some even complain when a particular business doesn’t offer a military discount, as if not offering one fails to show proper respect for the military. After all, our spouses put their lives on the line to protect our country while we proudly hold down the fort at home. We deserve a military discount, right?

Wrong.

In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus talks about the ten lepers. After he cleansed them, only one of the ten came back to say thank you. The others went on their way, likely feeling as though Jesus was a man who performed miracles and, therefore, they were entitled to the miracle. No need to say thanks.

Often, rather than being thankful, we’re often like the nine lepers who went on their merry way. Thom Rainer, the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources says, “If I feel entitled, I complain about my job. If I am thankful, I am grateful to have a job. If I feel entitled, I complain about the meal, I’m eating. If I am thankful, I am grateful to have food on the table.”  His list continues, clearly defining the difference between entitlement and thankfulness.

What would a similar list look like for the military wife?

If I feel entitled, I complain about the lack of a military discount.
If I am thankful, I take time to thank the companies who generously offer one to me.

If I feel entitled, I hoard free items at annual back to school and Christmas events.
If I am thankful, I take what I need, being sure to leave plenty for others.

If I feel entitled, I cause a nuisance and make excessive demands on those providing a free service.
If I am thankful, I embrace the opportunity and tell those involved how grateful I am.

Do any of those describe you? Do you find yourself feeling more entitled than thankful when you’re given free things or discounts just for being a military wife?

There’s nothing wrong with these freebies and discounts. There’s not even anything wrong with looking forward to them. However, we must be sure to approach them with the right attitude – an attitude of thankfulness.

James 1:17 reminds us that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Colossians 3:15 gives us a simple command, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

Be thankful. Say thank you to those offering freebies and discounts. Take time to write thank you notes or send pictures to organizations like Operation Homefront, the American Legion, and others who provide freebies and events for military families. We’re not entitled to it. They don’t have to do it, but we’re so thankful that they do.

Watching the News

It’s hard to turn on the news without hearing about something going on in the Middle East. As a military wife, that news takes on even more meaning. Whether it’s in the Middle East or some other part of the world, every international conflict has us wondering if our spouses could somehow be called into action. If they’re already deployed in that area, we wonder about their safety. Many of us even set up Google Alerts so we can keep up on the latest headlines involving our spouses’ ships, commands, air wings, and battalions, nevermind that many of the stories are simply full of speculation rather than actual news.

While we want to stay informed, does keeping up on the latest news really help us as military wives or does it hurt us in the long run? In many cases, what we call “staying informed” is really just hiding fodder for worry.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” – Matthew 6:34

We know our significant others are likely to head into dangerous areas at some point in their careers. And there’s always the possibility that they won’t make it back alive. However, that doesn’t mean we should sit around worrying about what could happen. We have enough trouble with keeping our marriages strong, taking care of our children, dealing with our finances, and just living our daily lives that to spend time watching the news and adding worry to our lives becomes counter-productive.

Proverbs 12:25 starts with, “an anxious word weighs a man down…” and the same can happen to our spouse’s when we approach them with anxiety or let ourselves be consumed with worry about what could happen to them.

So instead of sitting around watching the news waiting for the next bad thing to happen or setting up Google Alerts and starting to sweat every time you get a new alert in your e-mail box, focus on today. Chances are you’ll find you don’t have enough time to worry about anything else.

And should you catch a glimpse of a breaking story or hear some worrisome news, remember:

““Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:6-7