Another 'blast from the past' as I clean up old files...this one from March, 2004. Funny how life repeats itself! We are heading back to the U.S. mainland after 3 years away in Germany and Hawaii, this time....
The scenario is familiar to many military families. Our boxes are packed, and we are moving on again in a matter of weeks. This time, we are heading back to the US after being overseas for 2 years. Our major household goods were shipped out last week except for a few items left back to hold us until we leave Guam. I had labeled several closets with ‘don’t pack’ signs, so the movers wouldn’t accidentally pack things that we still needed. My 7-year-old daughter followed behind me, very interested in what I was doing. Several minutes later, she walked past me with a ‘"DON'T PACK!!" sign on her forehead! I had to laugh.
There’s something about sorting through all our belongings, and seeing them get boxed up that causes me to reflect, usually about the place we’re leaving. Every place we’ve lived has held memories for our family. Do I like moving? I would have to say yes….and no. I do dread the goodbyes; I know I will miss certain places, people, things. Yet I try to look forward to the new assignment, meeting new people, exploring the new location, and settling in a new house and church.
It wasn’t always this way. I spent all my growing up years in the same town, with extended family living nearby. I attended college while still living at home, and moved from my parent’s house to my husband’s house when we married. Growing up in a small town, as a pastor’s daughter, well, I felt like I knew everyone. We were married a year and a half when we got orders to move from that small town to a base 1500 miles away. I was shocked! (I’m not sure why—I DID marry a military man!)
I still remember how painful it was for me to make friends when we first moved. Anyone who knows me now would find that laughable. But I truly couldn’t. My husband knew how lonesome I was and was so patient with me. One night, he drove me to a ladies’ group at our new church because I wouldn’t go alone, and he sat and waited for me in the dark foyer during the whole meeting...bless his heart!
One lady walked in and said, “There’s some guy hanging around out in the foyer”.
Me, sheepishly: “Um... that would be my husband!”
Apparently no one else needed to be escorted to a women’s function besides me! I can’t say that night was a ringing success but it was a beginning. Little by little I came out of my self-imposed shell. I look back over the 16 years [note: now 23 years!] I’ve been a military wife, and can’t believe I’m that same person. She was so scared and shy.
A long-time military wife said to me recently that they'd never had a bad assignment. At first I thought, oh gimme a break. It sounded a little too Pollyanna-ish.
But it made me stop and think. That is one great attitude to have.
How much does my attitude influence my happiness? I have found contentedness to be a choice and very little to do with where we are, how many friends I’ve made (or not made!), the weather, our location, or anything else.
Some of the unhappiest families I’ve seen are families in which the mom or dad complain about everything. That attitude of ‘everything here is stupid’, ‘how long till we leave here?’, or ‘what a dumb town’ trickles on down to the kids. And I've seen it happen in places that other people pay money to go to on vacation--it really has so little to do with the location! It's an attitude.
How we respond to challenges and moving really does affect our families. I know we will still struggle with some aspects of moving, but I do my best to keep a positive attitude and treat it like an adventure. Saying goodbye to friends IS difficult. I let myself and the kids grieve the friendships we lose, but on the flip side, we try to look forward as well.
When I’m tempted to get weighed down by the possible effect this transient lifestyle will have on my children, I remind myself that I don’t know what God is going to do in their lives someday. Hopefully, their experiences will help them adapt to whatever life throws their way. We know several military families with grown kids that have turned out to be well-rounded, adaptable, and open to where God leads them. That’s all I can ask for! I don’t want every change my kids face to be as painful as they once were for me.
It really is a choice to be content with where life has placed me, and bloom where I’m planted. I never understood what that meant until I kept getting replanted. I can choose to put down roots again, or I can stay in my little pot with my roots all balled up and dried out. I know which one sounds more fun to me. The goodbyes are harder the longer we are in the military, but the joys are also greater. We’ve had experiences that have changed all of our lives. We’ve made forever friends that would do anything for us and vice versa. We've been able to see parts of the world others only dream about.
Another moving day is coming...let's go!