Thursday, March 26, 2009

That's How We Roll

Who, I ask you, would take oodles of children under the age of ten, put them in one house, try to feed them dinner, and try to socialize on top of it all. I would - and I do it all the time. After another long day at ladies Bible study and running around all over post, my friend Lori and I decided that we needed to hang out. I already had taco meat in the crock pot, so she grabbed some chips and cookies (and Petit Fours) and brought her brood to my house. The kids fought and played and we cleaned up after them and laughed together. We don't want to stop living life because we have kids. It just makes it louder!

Shawn is out doing Drill Sergeant stuff til the wee hours and Lori's hubby is in Iraq, so we do this occasionally. Who is this fun for? We haven't figured that one out. The thing is that we always add more children to the mix by inviting other fabulous friends to come hang out, too. At some point we say something like, "why did we think this was a good idea." This usually comes after someone knocks over a bookshelf onto some one's head.

So why do we continuously torture ourselves? It is simply this: Doing life together is more fun than doing it by ourselves. When my friend Amanda visited last week, we were all talking about how much easier it is when there is more than one "Mom" to share the load. It is worth it because you also have someone to share the laughs with! Amanda is living with another friend of ours while both of their husbands are deployed with the military. They share the cooking and cleaning, but they also get to have the support of another woman who understands. We decided that we should encourage women to try this more often. And why not? Your children also need to understand that life is bigger than their little circle. My second son, Wyatt, calls it our Army family. There is more truth in that statement than I can say. When babies are born, they help with meals. Sometimes they are even in the delivery room because duty called. When you can't go home for Christmas, you find another family in the same boat and eat dinner together. And even when your husband is away, birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated with friends who have become like sisters to you.

When Shawn was deployed and I was pregnant with #5, my sister Ashley (actually my sister) came to help me with the kids. We had tense moments, but overall the experience was priceless. She let me rest so I was healthier than ever before. She also got to spend so much time with my kids, and they love her for that. They have so many great memories of that time. I could not have survived that 14 months without her help. And in return, she earned a spot in the sisterhood of military wives. My friends took her under their wings and loved her like their own sister. She learned that five kids is hard, but it sure is fun. And it made her less nervous when the time came for her to start her own family. She is a natural "mother" and I love her and appreciate the sacrifice she gave of her time and social life to help us. Just more of this whole "doing life together" thing.

(Just to be clear, this is not me supporting multiple wives :) )

Friday, March 6, 2009

Because it matters...

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord...", Psalms 37:23.

This verse has taken on a new meaning the last 3 months. After visiting a church here in Columbia, SC, I decided that God sent me here for a reason. How can I serve my community? Can God really use a woman like me? Am I good enough? What if I fail? These questions all came up over the course of this journey, which is only just beginning. So let me fill you in...

Upon arriving at Fort Jackson, I realized that this post is very different than other places we have been. Housing is like a ghost town. Families don't gather in their yards on the weekends and hang out with neighbors. Kids are mean to each other, and moms are on the edge of sanity... and ready to jump. All this stems from one factor - basic training. Life for Drill Sergeants is hard. They work 15-18 hour days, for weeks at a time. There are no weekends or holidays. They constantly get sick from being around the recruits. So imagine what this does for their families.

Well, I can tell you. We came here shortly after a 15 month deployment only to be apart from daddy all the time. I immediately went into some kind of "funk" phase for about 3 months. I did not decorate our new quarters, clean our house (like I used to), or have anyone over. I didn't even unpack my own clothes and put our bedroom together. It was really bad. On top of all this, I met some very venomous women who told me what my life would be like for the next two years. "It's the worst thing you can go through." "You'll never see your husband." And my favorite line, "You may as well get used to the idea that your husband will sleep with someone, because he will!" (I cleaned up that last one for you all).

Then I started meeting other women like me. Women who felt like they could not survive this assignment. I saw women who were in their pajama's on a daily basis - sometimes the same ones for days! They only came out for trips to the commissary, doctor's office or school parking lot. I realized that I was one of these women. How could this have happened. I didn't feel far from God, but I did feel far from everyone else.

Before we came here, I had decided that I would not commit myself to anything big, because my kids need me more - which is true. I don't want them, or Shawn, to become second to anything. But, in doing this, I lost my purpose, my drive. Don't take this the wrong way. My children are my true calling right now, but that doesn't mean my own gifts and talents have to take an 18 year hiatus.

After the service I attended at Crossroads Church at Saint Andrews, my heart was burdened. They talked about some of the outreaches they had done recently, including feeding over 250 homeless people in downtown Columbia. Why am I not doing anything for anyone else. I can still serve while not ignoring my family, but how?

After to talking to some friends, I was advised to "serve where I am". So I decided to start a bi-weekly dinner for a few friends at my house. We would "do life together" and set the example for others to start their own dinner parties. I starting talking to women around me about this idea, which quickly grew out of control. Women I didn't even know were approaching me and asking if they and a "couple of other gals" could come to my dinner. I have a big house, but this was way bigger than what I could manage on my own.

I started praying about what I should do, and went on with my life, still determined to do something. I visited my friend Lori for a night of brainstorming and crafts (which means Lori makes beautiful things and I glue my arm to the table). We were planning some upcoming events at our weekly ladies fellowship. We had a verse but no clear direction: "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord". Man...husbands...ordered..orders(military)...PCS...moving...??? What about women? Are our steps ordered by the Lord, or are we destined to follow our husbands around the globe for 20 years with no real direction for ourselves. I told Lori that I thought a lot of women may look back at the end of their husband's 20 year Military career and realize that this was not just about their husbands. My husband Shawn once told me that he thought his military career may not be about him, but may be how God called me to serve women around me. It is obviously about both of us, but how wonderful to come to the realization that God is ordering (putting into order) my steps as well as my husbands'. That means that wherever we go, HE goes. And wherever HE sends us, there is a mission for each of us.

After this conversation, I decided to call the Chaplain's office on Fort Jackson and tell them that I had an idea for an outreach. I saw a need that was HUGE and we had to meet it! What was so interesting, was that at this same point in time, the same chaplain I talked to had been tasked with making the "quality of life" better for soldiers' families. What a GOD thing! Over the next couple of weeks, with the help of Chaplain (MAJ) James Smith, we developed an outreach called A.T.* E.A.S.E. (attending to enlisted army spouses exclusively) - Building Relationships - Making Connections. It would be a monthly meeting with fun themes to get women out of their houses and interacting with each other.
The first event did not get very much publicity, and it poured rain all day. But we still had nearly 50 women and over 8 volunteers at "Pedicures and Pajamas". The ladies had a great night of good clean fun and friendships were started. Women were excited that someone went to great lengths to provide them an evening of food and fun. Husbands were also pleased that their wives "mattered" to someone. We are expecting twice as many women this next month.

Now, back to my title..."because it matters". This has not been an easy couple of weeks. There has been a great amount of opposition to this group from every angle you can imagine. I am amazed that people want to crash our party, especially when it is already helping women and soldiers. But we are determined never to surrender. This was ordained by God - my steps were ordered! Women came in large numbers! This is a great need we are meeting, and I will not give up...because it matters!