Monthly Archives: July 2015

Standing Alone

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As a military wife, do you ever feel you're not in sync with the rest of the world?

As a military wife, do you ever feel you’re standing alone in the military lifestyle?

“The Lord, your God, is in your midst…” Zephaniah 3:17

As military wives, we’re accustomed to standing alone, either physically or symbolically in our unique circumstances. We stand alone on the pier watching the ship pull away, then once out of sight we make that lonesome and uncomfortable walk back to the car. We stand alone as the weeks turn into months. We stand alone when we tuck our children into bed at night, say our prayers for daddy, then crawl into our own bed, longing for intimacy and pillow talk. We stand alone as we continue on with our routine because what is familiar and routine brings comfort. We stand alone on holidays, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and even the birth of our children. We stand alone on the good days as well as the dark days.

And if you’ve had some particularly hard deployments in the past, you simply don’t want to stand alone anymore. And perhaps you can identify with Jonah. Perhaps you’ve decided that your Ninevah may be somewhere else rather than in the military community. Maybe you’ve had the urge to run from this pilgrim sort of life – a lifestyle that often leaves you in a state of longing. Not just for your husband to return home, but for feeling connected, to be a family again, to make family plans, to start a family, or to simply take your finger off the pause button of life. While the rest of the world tends to live according to the seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall, we military families live according to the seasons associated with command schedules. We’re not in sync with the rest of the world so this exacerbates the feeling that we’re standing alone.

Even though you are alone physically, remember you’re really not. God is standing beside you. He is everywhere you are. And He goes before you. As a child of His, it isn’t possible to be outside of His reach. I used to remind myself of that when there were long stretches of time with no word from my husband, friends or family.

When my husband would call home from the ship, just hearing him say, “You keep me going at this,” gave me an extra dose of motivation to finish the journey. He was counting on me. But there were also days when inevitably I’d contemplate what life without the military would be like and how my life would be different. But as soon as I pondered on that notion there was another thought that quickly bubbled up to the surface. This thought had a voice to it.

“If he must obey, so can you,” came His deep penetrating voice. “Remember, just like your husband who is counting on you, so am I.”

Our husbands took an oath; they pledged to defend all enemies foreign and domestic and obey all orders of the President of the United States. If it is important for them to obey the President of the United States, how much more important is it for you and I to follow His will. Fulfilling His will for us is paramount in order for our husbands to fulfill theirs, whether inside the military or not.

Yes, you may feel you’re standing alone, but feelings don’t make it so. Our feelings do not change anything about what we know of God. Feelings, I learned, are neither right or wrong, they just are. Joshua 1:5 says, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you…” And Matthew 28:20 also says, “And remember, I am with you always…” And lastly, Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory.”

The military lifestyle is a challenge, but you are the apple of His eye and when you commit your loneliness and solitude to Him, it will be taken care of. Trust Him on this; He’s had lots of practice and He has a good victory record.

Blessings,

Lisa

For a copy of Lisa’s book, “Faith Steps for Military Families,” you can order it here.

Three Subtle Attacks on Military Marriages

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A sailor kissing his new wife.

Use your marital struggles to grow together not further apart.

In 1987 I was a new Navy wife–straight from the land of Oz. And I didn’t know the first thing about the Navy lifestyle; There are no warships in Kansas! So, when I moved to California and met and later married my husband, Ray, I became a member of the larger military family and Uncle Sam became my father-in-law. Thanks to my friend, Vernel, a Navy wife I met at my new job upon arriving in California, she offered a quick lesson one Saturday afternoon on Navy life 101. I learned to expect occasional squalls between my husband and I brought on by rotational deployments with following seas of emotional anxieties. I realized there would be repeated adjustments, unique challenges unlike traditional marriage, intermittent miscommunication, with large doses of trust a certain requirement. On the up side, moments of well-deserved joy at homecomings would be the pinnacle of pride and honor in our beloved military member, all to say this lifestyle is worth it. Either way, I embraced my new role as a supportive Navy wife, determined not to throw up the white surrender flag when the stormy seas crashed in.

Marriage is hard in the 21st century, but a military marriage is not for those with one-sided expectations or a casual commitment. Like a warship undergoing sea trials to test the limits of the workings and maneuverability to determine its seaworthiness, there are also difficult hardships inherent in  military marriages. These challenges will test a military marriage to see whether or not it is seaworthy. Three of the top concerns for today’s military marriages are outlined below.

Selfishness. Last year while driving to work one morning I heard that selfishness is the number one destroyer of relationships. John Paul II said, “The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort, and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” In any marriage, selfishness is a deterrent to a lasting relationship, but in a military marriage, its tolerance is short-lived, potentially sinking your military marriage soon after it departs the pier. Other than infidelity, selfishness left unaddressed, is the fastest channel to sabotaging your marriage, deeming it unworthy for a sea-faring relationship.

There is a new viewpoint out there in our marital culture. Dr. Brad Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, has written about this new perspective of marriage and its enemy, selfishness. “In the new psychological approach to marriage, one’s primary obligation was not to one’s family but to one’s self; hence, marital success was defined not by successfully meeting obligations to one’s spouse and children but by a strong sense of subjective happiness in marriage–usually to be found in and through an intense, emotional relationship with one’s spouse.1

This new view, contrary to the Christian belief of marital love, which highlights Christ’s love for the church, involves freely giving of one’s self to his or her spouse, is short on roots of generosity but deep in self-serving motives and entitlement. One way to stop or prevent selfishness is to focus on spiritual readiness. Instead of asking, “what will make me happy and fulfilled in my military marriage?” ask, “what will make us blessed and fulfilled in our military marriage?”

Unwarranted Expectations. Like selfishness, having idealistic expectations will send tempests into your marriage. Young military marriages in particular will benefit from recognizing that your military spouse has a job unlike most civilian jobs. Even on shore duty, he or she can’t be expected to always be available for wedding anniversaries, children’s birthdays, or even funerals for in-laws. Although the military understands the importance and value of these milestones and events, they can’t appease every request, nor can they be expected to. They must continually balance the needs of the military with military morale and sensitivity to family. I recall halfway into my husband’s military career, he was underway three consecutive wedding anniversaries. I was disappointed, but when I reflect back, was there really anything he could do about it? Try the following to increase the sea-worthiness of your military marriage:

  • Focus on the purpose and value of faith and discuss together whether or not your expectations are warranted and fit the example of faith Christ modeled.
  • Resist the urge to punish your spouse for what he or she can’t change or control.
  • Refuse the impulse to blame your spouse for being in the military.
  • Comparing your military marriage and family’s rhythm and schedule to that of civilian marriages only creates discontentment and plants negative thought patterns that the military lifestyle isn’t honorable service. Even in the civilian sector, there are unattractive job requirements. Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live; you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

Deception and Distrust. These two undesirable traits are linked. If there’s deception, distrust soon follows. In  military marriages, getting to the first base of trust between you and your spouse is a must. Trust is a raw material that has to be cultivated. Trust is the cornerstone of marriage. It is what binds and links the other walls–unconditional love, commitment, transparency, communication, and honesty together. Conflict is inevitable in marriage. And our jobs as marriage partners is to navigate through trust issues, with sound resolutions, not around them, believing they will fade away on their own. Otherwise, the same storm returns over and over again, threatening to shipwreck your marriage. For trust issues related to infidelity, a couple can’t go wrong with biblical counseling. It may be a needed first step. Doing so will take hard work. There are no easy fixes, but if you’re committed it can lead to necessary discovery and growth. Pastor Chip Ingram, author, and radio host of Living on the Edge said about marriage, “conflict is an opportunity to grow.” Other ways to build trust are:

  •  Be transparent – While on deployment or even short underway periods, be emotionally responsible with your spouse to maintain trust. Share your day, the good and the bad. If you’re the spouse at home, tell your husband or wife what you did that day or week, where you went, people you met with, the money you spent, the bills you paid as well as those you forgot to pay. If you’re the spouse underway, do the same. If on a port call, share the places you went to, venture out in groups with the same sex, how much money you spent, and interesting events you encountered.
  •  Forget being right or wrong. We’ve all been there, but there comes a time when this mindset has to end if what is truly wanted is a healthy and working marriage. Strive for solutions that steer you in the direction of unity.
  •  Reconfirm your commitment to your spouse throughout the deployment. Think of ways that honestly convey emotional trust. Start with “I appreciate that you ________________ (fill in the blank).
  •  When failure happens, don’t give up. If trust was breached, it’s normal to feel hurt and want to shut the offending spouse out. However, if you’re willing, let your spouse know he or she can earn your trust back, but genuine changes that bear results must happen. Put accountability steps in play, but be realistic about time frames. Seek out a counselor trained in dealing with military marriages. Rebuilding trust takes time on the part of both spouses.

 Unfortunately, in a military marriage there are no sea-trials to determine if your marriage will be seaworthy. Once married, the marriage must depart from the pier and the challenges and complexities of this military lifestyle will prove its readiness. But with the support of Family Readiness Groups (FRG), churches that offer a military ministry, and keeping your military marriage as a high priority will help ensure it is lasting and fulfilling.

Blessings,

Lisa

Lisa Nixon Phillips is a retired Navy wife and author of Faith Steps for Military Families – Spiritual Readiness Through the Psalms of Ascent. Visit Lisa at www.LisaNixonPhillips.com and check out her blog page for additional articles on the military lifestyle.

You can also find me on facebook at www.facebook.com/faithstepsformilitaryfamilies.

 Notes:

1 Richard P. Fitzgibbons, “The Selfish Spouse/Relative, www.maritalhealing.com/conflicts/selfishspouse.php (accessed 17 June 17, 2014).

 

Holiday Deployments: 6 Ways to Make the Holidays Notable

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Is there a deployment that runs through your holiday season this year?

Is there a deployment coming that runs through your holiday season this year?

Holiday Deployments

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).

Even though we’re still several months away from the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays, it isn’t too soon to begin planning for them, especially if your beloved military member will be on a deployment at that time. Deployments that run through the year-end holidays have the potential to cause loneliness and isolation. Communication and feeling connected are vital components for powerful growth during  holiday deployments. During my first deployment that stretched through a major holiday season, I found six strategies that kept a sense of aloneness from completely sabotaging my holiday season.

 1. Have an Agenda in Place. Even before your husband (or wife) has left on deployment, focus on nailing down your holiday plans. Putting plans in place communicates to your children and to yourself that yours and their world hasn’t stop when your beloved service member has deployed. Planned experiences also aid in bringing about the kind of growth you want to see manifested.

Do you live far away from family? Instead of traveling to see them, mix it up, and invite members of your family to spend Thanksgiving with you. Then, if the budget allows, switch, and travel to spend Christmas with them. If that isn’t possible, and you’re the wife at home, join forces with another military wife with a husband also on deployment. Invite her and her children to your home for a potluck Thanksgiving meal. For a more festive event, invite several women and their children over.

For the remainder of the Thanksgiving weekend, put on the calendar one or two activities with just you and your children. Take advantage of the command’s sponsored activities for the kids, plan a day trip to an event or place you and your children have been looking forward to. If staying home for the long Thanksgiving holiday, incorporate simple at-home activities like putting together a care package for the deployed parent and include his or her favorite cookies or treats.

 2. Get Moving. If you are a seasoned military spouse with teenagers, or you want your children to acquire the skill and desire to help others, consider volunteering in a worthy cause. It is widely known that the most effective way to build personal growth is by serving others. In fact, one of the best benefits of volunteering is improved mental and spiritual health. Since deployments have the potential of creating isolation, by volunteering, you reduce your risk of depression. Other benefits include the satisfying feeling of making a difference in other people’s lives and bettering your community. You’ll may even make a new friend with someone you volunteer with, which can then become one of your support systems. Volunteering also builds bridges with other people who share a common interest with the cause you choose to help. If this is new for you and your children, start small and simple. Depending on the type of volunteering, fit your children’s age and skills, including communication skills, to the volunteer activity.

 3. Learn a New Skill. During my husband’s third deployment, I returned to school. He was nearing his time to rotate off of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln and go to shore duty. You don’t have to return to college in order to learn a new skill, but a six month deployment may afford you the opportunity to learn a skill you’ve always wanted to master. Have you always wanted to take a course in creative writing, PowerPoint or Excel? How about something fun like learning to watercolor paint or take a dance class? The key is to find something that contributes to your spiritual and mental health and development. Even your volunteer activities may lead you to discover a new skill you’d like to enhance. By homecoming, you’ll feel more confident about yourself and your abilities.

 4. Seek Out Spiritual Experiences. If leaving a legacy of faith to your children is important to you, participate in your church’s Christmas activities. In each of my husband’s duty stations, we found a church home. As a military family today, you can benefit from churches that have implemented a military ministry. When God is a part of your family, He establishes your home. A family that incorporates faith creates its own unique spiritual bond, enabling the family members to see the military lifestyle through the lens of faith. It is this spiritual bond in which God’s strength is infused and enables the military family to overcome challenges that result in deeper relationships and spiritual unity. When there’s spiritual unity in your military home, it makes togetherness a richer experience and diminishes a sense of discontentment and aloneness associated with deployments.

5. Incorporate Fun and Reflection. The military lifestyle seems naturally bent towards seriousness. To even the scales, we must be intentional about incorporating periods of fun and reflection. Plan simple, yet fun activities like playing board or card games with your kids, or put up a tent inside the house and for one night everyone sleeps in it. Here’s one idea I did with my kids and it was a big hit. Create a story together. The idea is to make the story funny, meaningful, crazy, or amazing. It doesn’t even have to make perfect sense, just have fun.

The parent at home begins the story with his or her paragraph, then each child adds to the story with their own paragraphs. If your child can’t write, have your that child speak their part of the story and another family member writes it down. When everyone has added their part of the story, send it to the deployed parent to read and enjoy (and laugh). Then the deployed member builds on the story by adding in a twist or a surprise. He then mails (or emails) the story back home. Repeat the process several times so you have a beginning, middle, and end to the story. When the deployed parent returns, share the entire story at a special homecoming dinner. This can also be a time when everyone shares points of reflection about the deployment. It is through the exercise of reflection that we can truly measure personal growth.

6. Begin a Deployment Journal.If you enjoy writing in a journal, consider keeping a separate Deployment Journal. Record people and events you’re grateful God put into your life during your deployment. Include your circumstances, prayers, concerns, praises, or anything that was notable during your deployment. You can even include the fun story your family created above (for great laughs later).  When you spend quiet time before God, His peace will still your heart. His peace will protect your heart from rampant worry. And years from now when you reflect back on your deployment journal you’ll seen fresh insights of God’s faithfulness. That is a gift in itself. 

Blessings,

Lisa

 Faith Steps for Military Families – Spiritual Readiness from the Psalms of Ascent uses fifteen psalms to convey biblical concepts for building spiritual readiness in military homes. Each psalm carries a theme and Faith Steps for Military Families translates these relevant themes into the lives of twenty-first century military families. Through vivid pictorial metaphors, the themes cover:

  • Hope for when life as a military family is on hold
  • Understanding how God’s strength and love protects His own
  • Honoring God while living out the difficult military lifestyle
  • How unity builds resiliency in the military home
  • The danger of a complacent faith
  • Seeking God for a downtrodden spirit
  • A deeper understanding of God’s nature as Protector, Keeper, and the Night Watchman, and other topics.

 To order a signed copy of Lisa’s book, send an email to info@lisanixonphillips.com to order a copy. Books are $12.50 and includes shipping and handling. You can also order from Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Christianbook.com.