The Hidden Transition

A few weeks ago, I wrote a little recap about the last year. But there was one change, one massive shift to my life personally, that I left out. I didn’t share it because it felt silly and selfish to draw attention to what, in the grand scheme of things, is only a minor dot on the timeline of my life.

I quit my job.

I realize this sounds simple and perhaps trite considering that The Pilot and I are now living in Okinawa, Japan on a seemingly wild and fun-filled three year adventure. But the fact is, it’s really not that simple. And while I’m grateful for the opportunity to live abroad, there is something still extremely normal and familiar about our life overseas.

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He still works a lot. He’s still gone often. I still use many of the same recipes for dinner. We’re still surrounded by Americans because we live on base. For all intents and purposes, our life on the surface looks and feels very much the same. And for The Pilot, life in the fleet operates much like it ever did. His job remains unchanged. Only the environment and course rules (cheesy aviation joke) are different. He’s still flying. His skill set is still useful. His career trajectory is intact. His purpose is clear.

My seven year career? Over for now.

My skills and experience? I’m not sure where they belong or how they serve me where I am just yet.

My purpose? I really am at a loss for what it is at the moment.

My identity? This… This seems to have taken the biggest blow. As it turns out, I had (unknowingly) built a very fragile identity based on the size and name of the organization I worked for, the people I knew, and the career I mistook for meaning.

So when I left that job in order to follow my husband half way across the world, it was like pulling the bottom piece out of the Jenga tower. Everything I had built my self-worth upon– my job, busyness, professional performance, salary, not feeling like I fit the mold of the typical Marine wife (which I took a lot of pride in)– suddenly started to wobble until all of those things I thought made me, Me, were effectively taken away.

It’s not that the job, money or professional performance were intrinsically bad things to enjoy or pursue. The problem came when I made them ultimate. The issue was that I allowed created things to give me more significance, more personal fulfillment, and more value than my Creator. My accomplishments became my standard of measure for success. My “productivity” became a standard of measure for what made me worthy. And the only way to attain and sustain feeling worthy was to strive continuously.

It wasn’t until we moved to Okinawa, where there was absolutely no demand on my time, that I began to realize I had achieved everything I thought would deliver a sense of “making it.” My work for a Christian organization, a strong marriage, solid friendships, and financial freedom were all things that I could say I had the privilege of experiencing and yet I was remarkably discontent.

I don’t think I have felt as much spiritual restlessness as I have since moving overseas. I’ve never felt smaller or more obscure in my life. And it’s taken nearly six months to figure out why.

The only thing I brought with me, was me. My job, my income, my “tribe” of likeminded friends who worked for large ministries,  all the things I thought gave me street cred did not, could not, would not fit in my suitcase. All the things that offered me comfort and solace when surrounded by other Marine wives (whom I found intimidating) no longer served me.

I had nothing to hide behind, talk about, or lean against to differentiate myself from those around me. The instant we landed on island, I felt myself become one of many. And the loneliness was overwhelming.

What if who I am isn’t as exciting as what I did?

That question was my indication that how I viewed myself was seriously flawed. I knew that it was seriously flawed because it was in direct opposition to how God sees me.

I am not what I do. I am not what I produce. I am not who I know. I am not how much money I make. I am not how busy I am, how many calls, emails, or tweets I receive.

I am made in His image. His fingerprint is on my spirit. And He loves me because I am His. I know that I bring nothing to the table in this relationship. My strivings, my accomplishments, my abilities equate to nothing in light of who He is and what He has done to save my soul.

I’ll be totally honest with you. I believe the above. I know it to be true. And I preach it to myself often. But my head knowledge does not always align itself with my feelings. My head knows what my heart finds difficult to accept. I trust that it will not always be this way. One day, the weight of this truth will finally break through and I will live a lot more free.

In the meantime, this one thing I keep coming back to: His grace.

By His grace, I have tasted things that I did not deserve. I enjoyed praise and promotions and I was given a small taste of what the world’s deems as successful. Through this restlessness and discomfort of being stripped of what I thought made me valuable, I can now see how that success was a mere facade. An attractive yet false image of what it means to be truly alive with purpose, hope and joy.

What the world gives, it can also take away. But the life God gives us, the promises of His Word, the world can never diminish or derail.

 

“Goodnight Marines” Children’s Book Giveaway (WINNERS!)

 

The winners of the signed copies of Goodnight Marines are:

  1. Courtney R.
  2. Lauren
  3. Brian

Congratulations fellow patriots! Please be on the lookout for an email from me so I can get your books shipped to you as quickly as possible!

Thanks to all for reading and helping me spread the word about this great new children’s book. Please consider purchasing a copy for yourself or making it a go-to gift for any upcoming baby showers or families you know that may be on the cusp of a deployment.

#SemperFi

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Welcome to the first ever giveaway here at The Marine’s Wife! I am so excited to share with you something that I think is not only incredibly special, but that rightly deserves to be on your book shelf at home.

It’s a fantastic new children’s book called Goodnight Marines.

Written by an active-duty Marine aviator, Major David Dixon, and illustrated by Desert Storm veteran and longtime Disney Feature Animation artist Phil Jones, this book captures the honor, courage, and commitment of Marines, both past and present. A work of literary and poetic charm married with a deep sense of patriotism and historical pride, this book will resonate with you whether you are Marine wife or not.

The first time I read this sweet story, I cried.

I think often times as adults and as spouses to men and women who serve in the armed forces, it’s easy to get lost in the minutia of what it is that you said ‘yes’ to. It’s easy to lose the vision and the purpose behind what it is that your spouse is doing everyday, whether home or away. Because we all know the toll that it takes on our family, our marriage, and sometimes even our hope that it in the end, it will all be worth it.

What we as spouses (or siblings or parents, etc.) have the honor of personally experiencing in knowing and loving a Marine is that intangible spirit of Semper Fidelis. A faithfulness to one another and to the preservation of freedom for our homeland.

What an extraordinary privilege and what an incredible responsibility we have to show our kids that what so many mommies and daddies do; why they choose to wear uniforms instead of suits, is so very important.

I think what moved me most about this book is that everything I know to be good and right and true about the Marine Corps, I saw for the first time through the eyes of a child. The simplicity of the story, in my opinion, is what makes it so profound. What the book so beautifully reminded me of was that my husband is a part of something so much bigger than just one Osprey squadron. He is a part of the legacy and heritage of warriors and heroes who chose others over themselves. He is a part of a lineage of Marines who voluntarily risked their own lives so that their fellow countrymen could enjoy peace and freedom.

These are the kind of principles; this is the kind of character and strength and love for country, that I want to teach and instill in our children from the beginning. What we have is not free and it demands our deepest gratitude, our reverent respect, and perhaps above all, our continued stewardship.

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When I said that this book rightly deserves to be on your shelf at home, that wasn’t some sales pitch. I believe very deeply that this needs to a part of your family library. Whether your a military spouse or not.

So here’s the deal. I want to give you the chance to win this book for free. That’s how much I want you to own it. The contest starts right now and will end at midnight on Thursday. 

How to enter:

In the comment section below, share with me what principles or character traits of a Marine (Soldier, Airman, or Sailor) you want to teach and instill in your children. What do you, as a military spouse and parent, want your kids to understand and appreciate about our military men and women? NOTE: You do not have to be a Marine or military wife to enter. All freedom loving Americans are welcome!

Friday morning, three winners, selected at random, will be announced on the blog & will receive a free copy of the book personally signed by Maj. Dixon himself!

Goodnight Marines is currently available on Amazon. Click here to purchase!

Don’t forget to check out the Goodnight Marines FaceBook page too.

Lastly, if you’re interested in learning a little more about the vision and heart behind this book, click here.

Good luck & Semper Fi!

A Look Back at The Last 12 Months

 

Let’s cut to the chase. I’ve been MIA lately. And by lately, I mean for the last 12 months.

Almost 365 days exactly since my last post.

Obviously, we have a lot to catch up on.

Ready? Go!

First thing first. The Pilot (and approximately 1,500 fellow Marines) returned safely home from an eight month deployment last July. Here’s a fun look back at their homecoming.

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It goes without saying that, no matter how strong your marriage or how intentional your communication is while they’re away, coming together again, face to face, after spending the better part of a year separated can be a lot to take in. It can be overwhelming to realize that there will be things about your spouse you have to relearn. It’s sobering to accept that there are things about him you didn’t remember. Or at least, didn’t realize you had forgotten.

Wanna know how The Pilot and I tackled reintegration head on?

We PCS’d. From North Carolina to Okinawa, Japan. Movers boxed up everything we owned within three weeks of him getting home, quite literally putting it on a slow boat to Asia, and we took a month to drive from the East Coast to the West Coast before hopping on the Patriot Express. We called it our #FarewellAmericaTour2015.

I’ll be honest. I was terrified.

I’ve never been one for road trips and the idea of being in the car with him for hours and days and weeks on end gave me anxiety. I was worried we would exhaust conversational topics before the first pit stop. I was also worried that he’d grow irritated with how many pit stops I would end up requiring because I don’t know how to pace myself when drinking Coke Zero.

As with nearly everything I have ever worried about, nothing I feared actually materialized. As a matter of fact, I discovered that I love road trips with my husband. Audio books are an amazing invention (thank you, Audible) and The Pilot has a saint-worthy level of patience when it comes to how completely inept I am at using Google maps.

Nearly four weeks later and after over a dozen stops to see family and friends scattered all over the country, we touched down on the southern most island of Japan. And for The Pilot, it’s been busy from the word, “Welcome.”

After being informed at the airport that he would not be in an office job at the MAG (Marine Air Group) like he was originally told, he was sent to a squadron that has kept him feverishly busy and flying all over the region. He was sent to Malaysia within a few weeks of checking in, leaving me to receive, unpack, and setup all of our household goods while he was away. But let me completely transparent– I was happy to do it. There are some things that I know I am good at it and that I enjoy conquering on my own. Home organization is one of them. Because I am a total control freak.

There I said it. *sigh* Hi, my name is Meredith and I have Monica Geller-like OCD tendencies. Moving on.

We had a quiet holiday season learning how to navigate an island where we can neither read nor pronounce any road names and have, for fear of starvation, quickly adapted to learning how to eat ramen soup with chopsticks.

Which brings us to present day.

About two weeks ago, he deployed again. I’ll grant you it’s a short two month cruise. But I must admit, it feels a little too soon. Especially when North Korea launches a “satellite” in this islands’ general direction and my eighth floor apartment vibrated the other night due to a friendly little 4.2 earthquake.

Did I freak out? On the inside, you betcha.

Did I send The Pilot a frantic email describing in great detail all of the apocalyptic scenarios I had contrived in my mind that all resulted in our utter demise and untimely death? Nope. I don’t do that kind of thing… anymore.

So how do I spend my time, you ask? What am I doing now that I am not working and living on a tropical island in the south pacific?

*blank stare*

That is an excellent question. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, please pray for my sanity.

Over and out.

Dear Military Spouse: It’s OK To Not Be OK

We recently passed the “It’s been two months since he left” milestone. And I’ll be honest, I’m not faring as well as I assumed I would.

These first two months have felt much longer and drawn out than I would have cared for. Considering there are approximately six to eight more months to go, I really hoped/thought/needed the first two months to be easier.

I thought staying busy would be a good and necessary distraction. I thought my job and the Monday through Friday routine of work would be the equivalent to time-travel. I thought that moving home, and being surrounded by family so that I was rarely alone, would be a sure-fire formula for escapism.

Turns out all my coping mechanisms are nothing more than very weak, very insecure, very fear-filled and weary attempts of running away from the reality that he is not here and that I can not bring him home sooner by being mind-numbingly busy.

My striving does not, can not, will not right a fractured world filled with war and plagued with a need for justice. 

 It’s very difficult for me, when asked how I’m doing and how often I hear from The Pilot, not to smile and make them (and myself) believe that it’s really going quite swimmingly. I’m strong. I’m independent. I know what I was getting into when I said, “I do.” I have no excuse to play a victim card and so I refuse to accept people’s pity or remorse for my circumstances.

But truth be told, this is a really arrogant and selfish stance to take. It’s not honest, either.

It’s arrogant because it send the message that I don’t need help. And I do.

It’s selfish because it communicates that I don’t need community and the opportunity to stop thinking about myself. And I do.

It’s not honest because, while I don’t consider myself a victim, I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how to navigate this space outside of trial and error and that’s just hard and so often, painful.

More than any of this, though; beyond all the busy striving and “faking it til I make it” mentality, fear, doubt, and insecurity are truly draining and chipping away at my faith. My faith that says, “God is sovereign. He loves me. He accepts me. And He does not need me to clean myself up before I can be a useful and productive tool for His kingdom.”

My fear says, “I don’t have what it takes after all. I’m not equipped for this and I am failing.”

My doubt says, “I’m not the kind of wife that The Pilot thinks that I am. He can’t see all the ways I’m not holding steady and if he could, he’d be disappointed.”

And my insecurity says, “Try harder. Do more.”

Deep in the recesses of my spirit, I know that my fear, my doubt, and my insecurities are nothing but lies. But friend, they can be so loud.

And the louder I allow them to become, the more isolated I find myself because I feel the need to conquer them on my own. After all, I am the only one that allowed them to gain so much ground, so I must be the one that fends them off.

There in lies the problem.

I can not do it alone. And neither can you. We’re not hard-wired by self-reliance. From the beginning, God created for Adam a helpmate. A helper fit for him.

We’re not only intrinsically made for relationship, but it is through relationship (I believe) that we can more clearly and intimately experience God’s grace and presence in our lives.

Relationships, must be transparent and honest and real and raw of them to be life-giving. Which brings me to my point:

It’s OK to not be OK.

I, am not OK for right now. And friend, there is room here for you if you care to join me. Not to wallow. Not to commiserate. Not to drown in self-pity.

You’re welcome to come broken and share your burden with me and I will share mine with you. And together, let us speak truth and life into the dark places of our hearts. Let us help one another remember, “You do not have to believe everything you feel.” Feelings are fleeting and flippant. The truth of God’s word is unwavering and eternal and it wields much power.  So lets encourage each other to preach to ourselves what we believe to be true and hold steadily to the faith we profess.

Where two  or more are gathered, He also is there. So come and bring your fears, doubts, and insecurities. You are welcome here. There is room for you here.

And you will never be alone.

Photo by www.https://ifgathering.com

Photo by www.ifgathering.com

Dear Defeated Military Spouse

Dear Defeated Military Spouse,

Hey friend. Is your husband home? No? Mine either.

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What deployment is he on? Oh yeah, The Pilot was there last year. It has its pro’s and con’s, doesn’t it? The connectivity is better when they are there but sometimes the time difference is hard to navigate.  I’m sure it’s even harder with kids if he calls right before nap time or during dinner. I bet it’s hard to share those short-lived calls with the kiddo’s too. So many hearts vying for Daddy’s attention and you bravely let them sit in your lap, blocking the screen so they can tell him that their first baby tooth is finally loose.

Sometimes I honestly don’t know what’s harder: getting to see them and hear their voice for a painfully brief five minutes, or resigning yourself to simply being his pen-pal.

Did I tell you The Pilot called? I know, it was such a surprise. I had my phone on silent because I was walking into the movie theater and when I checked my phone to make sure it was on vibrate, I saw I had a voicemail from some funny number. Turns out it was The Pilot. He had found “the” phone on the ship with the outside line.  He said he’d try to call back in a few minutes so I ran out of the theater.

Have you experienced that yet? Dropping everything you’re doing, no matter where you are or who you are with, so that you don’t miss that outside chance of hearing from him? Talk about an emotional roller coaster. It’s sheer euphoria when the connection is good or the texts are “real-time,” but it is inevitably (at least for me) followed by the guilt of bailing on whoever I was with and whatever we were doing. And sure, they’ll tell you they understand and it’s completely fine, but truth be told, they are probably hurt or offended. Understandably so. For the civilian, military spouses may come across as flakey or unreliable because we live in a totally fluid environment. The context of the military life is in constant flux and out of sheer necessity, we adapt. We get used to, nay, we excel at changing the plan, canceling and rescheduling.

It’s such a point of conflict, isn’t it? On the one hand, you want to do things, go places, see people, and stay busy at all costs to help keep you distracted from the reality that he’s gone. Then again, the temptation to stay home just in case he calls feels completely justified. Because it’s heart-breaking to miss one call. But it is absolutely debilitating to miss multiple attempts at contact.

Do you blame yourself? I do. I question my priorities. I question why I am not always completely prepared or in a place to respond any time he’s available and able to connect. I dissect and analyze whether or not I truly care for  him and genuinely miss him if I’m “caught” in a moment or in a conversation in which he’s not the central focal point. It’s a harsh and completely unrealistic standard to live up to, no doubt, but it’s hard to ignore when it seems as though so many other spouses simply do deployment better.

Do you compare yourself to other spouses? Get. In. Line.

The super-mom. The “I can volunteer for every single marine pot-luck dinner” wife. The “I decided to run a marathon while he’s gone” wife. The “I have four kids and I have never lost my cool in a public place” mom. The “I became the president of the Officer’s Spouses Club and have successfully raised a record number of charitable donations that we can now use to offer scholarships to other spouses” wife.

But why? Why do we compare ourselves to other spouses when we know that they are so different from ourselves? Differing strengths, different experiences, different personalities, different coping mechanisms, and most importantly, different marriage relationships? I don’t know about you but  I have yet to find another wife that I have met and though to myself, “Oh my word. We’re the same person!” No. Not one.

On the contrary, I have met what feels like a countless number of spouses that I have learned from, been challenged and encouraged by primarily because we are so different.

Differences should not be a used as a standard of measure for success. What makes me different from you does not make me better than you. 

What makes me different from you instead should be seen as an opportunity for you to learn from me. Not because I’ve always gotten it right, but because I have learned some lessons the hard way. I have struggled and strived and strained in ways that produced nothing good or beneficial for me or those around me. This is no way to live through a deployment. In fact, it’s no way to build community and foster life-giving friendships.

Sweet, defeated military spouse– you are not alone. You are not the only one that feels like you’ve failed more than you have succeeded. You are not the only one who feels like she’s had more bad days than good. You’re not alone when the weekend rolls around and you have simply run out of ideas and out of steam for the kids. You are not alone when the broken and sporadic communication with your spouse seems to feed more frustration than love.

You are not alone. Period. And neither are you defeated.

The beauty of being a military spouse is that, for better or worse, we stick together. We have to. No one else truly understands unless their spouse is in the same squadron. No one else can wrap their mind around OPSEC and encoded emails unless their spouse in on the same deployment.  

 We may not always like each other, but we must learn to love each other’s differences. We ought to embrace each other’s strengths and show grace towards our own weaknesses.

At the end of the day, none of us really know what we’re doing. We’re all reacting and responding to the latest news, the newest return dates, the latest pregnancy test (Just kidding. I’m not pregnant. Please do not email me asking if I am pregnant) and seemingly endless list of things that never stop changing. Some make it look easy. Some make it look like a reality show waiting to happen. Whichever end of the spectrum you find yourself, we’re all in it together and on one else understands quite like a military spouse.

 

 

 

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