Friday, July 27, 2012

Words from a Woman of Grace

A few months ago, I came across an old letter that my grandmother had sent to me shortly after I got married.  How sweet it was to get a hand-written note from her.  I had watched her write several notes to long-distant friends growing up, but I lived so close and saw her so often that there was no need to write to me.  Now, as a military wife, I was one more person to add to her long-distance list.  As I read the letter, I couldn’t help but smile at her charming words.  She wrote to inspire me about my new marriage, using her own marriage of over fifty years as an example.  She felt the need to share what she knew about keeping a strong, healthy relationship.  As I read along, I wished for her to be sitting there in front of me so I could say to her, “I already know all of this, grandma, because I watched you and papa together while I was growing up.”  But it was her last sentence which hung on my thoughts the most.  It almost surprised me when she said it, not because it was out of the ordinary, but rather because it was so remarkably ordinary.  Her words were, “Be kind to others, and to each other.”
Be kind.  This is one of the first things we are taught as children and continually etched into our minds as we grow up.  We are taught not to hit, not to call names, not to be rude, and to share.  We are taught to treat others how we would want to be treated.  Be kind to others.
In today’s fast-paced world of technology and materialism, it seems as though we have started to forget this simple virtue.  I have noticed more I-need-to-have-it-now attitudes.  I have seen less contentment.  I have witnessed teenagers with “I don’t care about you or anyone else” attitudes.  The focus seems to have changed from using kindness to lead us towards our desires to simply expecting our desires to be fulfilled. 
Even within a strong marriage, kindness can go by the wayside.  We learn to expect things from each other rather than gently requesting what we need or remembering to appreciate what has been done.  The things we used to love about each other become annoying.  We are no longer satisfied with the efforts the other makes and we demand more.  We fall into the “I am right, you are wrong” mentality. We forget that, even though time together has become comfortable and routine, our spouses are still people who deserve to be treated kindly.  Be kind to each other.
My grandmother was always kind.  I don’t think she had a mean bone in her body.  I do remember her being upset a few times, about what I don’t recall, but even when someone crossed her she never let her kindness falter.  She embodied grace in all she did.  I could not have asked for a better example of how to be.  But sometimes when life gets hard, when this military life seems more than I can bear, I admit that kindness is not my top priority.  I try my best, but every so often I do or say something that comes out unkind.  It is never intentional, but a result of the demands placed upon me and not knowing how to manage them.  I am sure my grandmother experienced such stress at some point in her life.  I long for her to be here so I could ask her how she dealt with the tough times.   I long to grasp her perfect grace.   I long to be more like her.  The words she wrote have left me with a gentle reminder of how to get there.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Letter to my House

Dear House,

How quickly our years together have gone.  It feels like yesterday we were moving in and trying to figure out how to arrange our belongings and the best places to position the pictures on your walls.  The first night I stayed here I remember not being able to sleep from the strange noises and the unfamiliarity of the darkness around your corners.  I was nervous for the safety of our newborn baby down the hall.  But how quickly that changed and we soon began to breathe life into you, to make you our shelter, our safe haven, our home.  The unsettling darkness became more familiar and I could rest knowing I was safe within you.  I grew accustomed to the strange noises of the night and soon didn’t even realize they were there.  As I unpacked the boxes and placed all of our things throughout your rooms, I began to feel a welcoming warmth, a sense of life, as though your blood had begun to flow and your heart had begun to beat.
It wasn’t long before I fell into a daily routine.  The gentle glow of the sun just beginning to shine through your windows every morning was so comforting.  How much I enjoyed walking down the hallway with the dawn of light filling your rooms and leading the way to my baby girl.  I’d pick her up out of her crib and carry her with me as I opened the blinds to every window, letting light come inside and warm the air.  It was time for you to wake up too.  I’d get breakfast going in the kitchen while listening to the noises of Keira playing in her bouncy chair and the Today show in the background. I’d slowly sip my coffee, basking in the glory of a new day.  Oh, how many wonderful mornings I have enjoyed with you!
Time went on, and days turned into weeks, months, and years as they always do.  Our first deployment came along, then a second, then a third.  You were there, comforting me through my pain and sadness and helping me to feel safe when I was alone.  A second baby became part of our family.  You stood strong, protecting me through the pregnancy and in those first few weeks of our little boy’s life when his daddy was still deployed and I was figuring out how to be a mother of two.  When I traveled to see family, despite my joy in visiting with them, I longed for your comfort and security, for the cozy feeling I would get as I laid on the couch every night relaxing the day away.  Your breath, your heartbeat, continually lured me back to you, the only place I could truly call home.

When we bought you, you were just a structure, a building with a roof to protect us from the wind and rain.  We would have been blessed if that was all you ever were.  But to me, you became more than that. You became like a child to me.  When we moved in, you came alive and I have felt like it was my duty to keep you alive, to make you the best that you could be.  I’ve painted your walls, and hung curtains on your windows.  I’ve cleaned you down to every corner and crevice.  If something needed to be fixed and I could do it myself, I fixed it.  We nurtured your yard, giving you a fence and patio in the back and a charming tree in the front.  We’ve (finally!) gotten your grass to be a plush carpet of green.  We’ve worked hard on giving you as much as we could, and it is undeniable that every penny, every bead of sweat, has been more than worth it.

As we have grown, as our lives have changed, you have been there to witness it all.  If you could talk, you could say more about our family than anyone.  I hope you would have good things to say.  The memories we have been able to create within and around you are priceless.  I will always treasure the sight of my babies learning to crawl and walk in your rooms.  I will reminisce about the joy the kids got from playing outside in your yard.  I will laugh at the silly arguments Randall and I would get into during our family home-improvement projects, but delight in the joy we got from the end results.  And I will be forever thankful to you for being such a splendid home, a safe place for my kids to have their first years, my trusted protection when Randall was gone, and the perfect template for creating so many wonderful memories.  But the time has come, as we knew it would, for the military to move us again.  I am sad to have to say goodbye, but you will always be with me in my heart.  And when the next person who lives here opens your blinds and the morning sunlight warms you, perhaps you will remember me, remember us, the ones who brought you to life and started the beating of your heart.

With Love,


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

This Too Shall Pass

The stresses of moving are officially in full swing.  It's been over a week since my last post because we were enjoying wonderful family vacation in Myrtle Beach with my husband's family.  I had brought my computer down with me in hope that I would get the chance to write at least one post, but ultimately I needed the time to just relax and enjoy the time with everyone.  Besides, everyone needs a break from their job, which is what I am calling this blog for myself.  It makes me feel more intellectual during a time when I am almost always stuck in "mommy brain."

Now that we are home from the Beach, the task list we had been procrastinating on has reared its ugly face.  I'm not too worried, since I work better under pressure anyway.  But I cannot deny that the stress level has risen.  And it will continue to rise the closer we get to the move.  The fact that I've gone through all of this before has no value.  It never gets easier to turn your house upside down after being settled for several years.  But if I have learned anything while living here, it is to always try to find the positive in a difficult situation.  One thing that is always good about moving is finding those things which haven't been used in a few years and getting rid of them.  I love de-cluttering!

What is more bothersome for me than all of the things which must be completed is knowing that I will be leaving some great people behind.  I have been so blessed in this place to have been surrounded by remarkable people who have helped me as a new mom, people who have guided me as a military wife, and people who have been more than willing to help when my husband was deployed.  I have formed relationships which have made living here that much more enjoyable.  Not only will I miss these people, but I am also nervous that it will be hard to find people like that in our new place.  I wonder if it is possible to be that lucky somewhere else. 

It is times like these, when worry and stress run high, that a military wife is given the choice to let her situation defeat her or to stand strong and make the most of something she can't change.  She is given the chance to become a little bit stronger, develop a little more perseverance, and bloom a little bigger.
For now, I am staying positive.  I am optimistic that this move will be good for me and for our family.  I know I will eventually make new friends, and am trying to not be apprehensive about it.  And when I grow tired, when my body is physically exhausted and my mind has had enough thinking and planning and worrying, I will remember, "This too shall pass." -Ancient Proverb       

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Matter of Perspective

“Whatever you focus upon, increases.”  I came across this quote while reading The Noticer, by Andy Andrews.  I had received the book as a gift from a good friend who said it was a great read.  Taking her advice, I began reading and soon realized for myself how remarkable it was. 
I was especially encouraged by this quote because it relates so well to my life.  For the past nine years or so I have struggled with anxiety.  I believe the reason I find it affecting me so badly is because I never learned how to deal with stress growing up.  I was blessed to have had a very happy, very easy childhood, but it came at the expense that I was not prepared for the pressures and responsibilities of adulthood.  Now, when things get stressful, which is often as a military wife, it tends to weigh me down and get me frazzled because I don’t know how to deal with the issues productively.  Over time, I lose focus of the positive and begin to place emphasis on how difficult things are.  Much to my dismay, I admit that despite the many blessings in my life, I often find myself complaining. 

Fortunately, I have a choice to change my mind and direct it toward what is good.  I have found through this quote that something positive can be found for nearly any difficult situation.  When I have had enough of my kids and they are frustrating me beyond my limits, I can choose to think about how grateful I am that they are healthy and happy. When I am angry about my husband’s demanding schedule and how the kids and I haven’t seen him much lately, I can remember that there are many people out there whose husbands are deployed and won’t be coming home for a long time.  When he is deployed and I am lonely and physically and emotionally tired, I can try to stay focused on perseverance and how our family will become so much stronger because of it.  When I get sad thinking about how much I miss my grandma and grandpa, I can reflect on the good times I had with them and how lucky I was to have had them in my life for so long.  When I am just having a bad day, I can take a step outside and rejoice in the trees and the flowers and the simple beauty of the life around me.

The things we continually think about are reflected in our everyday lives.  What the mind thinks about, the heart follows. By staying focused on the positives, those things and the feelings which accompany them will increase and we will become more productive at handling stress and anxiety.  And, the more we can direct ourselves to a positive state of mind, the less we will find ourselves complaining.  We have the ability to create happier, more fulfilling lives by simply choosing to find the positives and focus on those things.  Remember, “Whatever you focus upon, increases.”  Write it down, tape it on a wall or mirror, and read it often.  See for yourself how your mind can help you create an entirely new perspective on your circumstances.