Friday, December 21, 2012

A Perfect Christmas

Traditional Christmas carols, the ones which have been around for decades and are played repeatedly on the radio this time of year, seem to have a magical touch when it comes to getting people in the Christmas spirit. They paint a detailed picture of what the perfect Christmas looks like: a blanket of snow, lights and decorations glistening around every corner, the hustle and bustle of shoppers as they check off their lists, children overflowing with excitement in anticipation of Santa and his sleigh, joy and good cheer filling the air, worries cast aside, and families and friends gathering to spend precious time together. Who wouldn’t be left feeling even a little cheerful after listening to these heart-warming songs?
I have grown up hearing these songs. I remember knowing the words to many of them as young as six years old, and learned many more as I grew. They became a part of me during the Christmas season, and I enjoyed any opportunity to sing along (even if I don’t sound very pretty!). I loved hearing the words which described Christmas because they were the epitome of my own Christmases…snowy and cheerful and perfect. I couldn’t imagine a Christmas any different.

When I got married and moved away from the northern winters, Christmas looked a little different. It was no longer cold and snowy, but I soon adjusted. However, the Christmas of 2008 changed everything. My husband was away on his first deployment. As the weeks prior to Christmas clicked by, I found myself unable to grasp my Christmas spirit. All of those songs which usually filled me with joy only made me feel worse. They reminded me that I wouldn’t be able to share all of those wonderful, perfect things with my husband. They reminded me that he wouldn’t be able to watch his baby girl’s face as she opened her Christmas presents. They reminded me of how imperfect this year would be because our family wasn’t whole. All I wanted to do was curl up in my bed and sleep until Christmas was over.
Now, we are four years past that first imperfect Christmas. Since then, our family has survived one other Christmas apart due to deployment. But this year, we are together. This year, our Christmas is perfect again. Over the years, the meaning of all those Christmas songs has changed for me. I no longer see them as describing the perfect Christmas, but rather things which make it a little nicer. A white Christmas is nice, but it doesn’t make it perfect. The hustle and bustle of shopping is nice, but it doesn’t make it perfect. Santa and reindeer and presents are nice, but they don’t make it perfect. An abundance of joy and good cheer is nice, but it doesn’t make it perfect.
What makes it perfect is being able to share all of those things with the ones you love. What makes it perfect is having your family complete. What makes it perfect is knowing that even if there is no snow or you don’t host a Christmas party or you can’t see all of your family because they are too far away or you don’t do every Christmas festivity you had planned, at the end of the day you are surrounded by the ones who make your heart whole, the ones who you’d want to spend the season with no matter what it looked like.     

I know the future will bring more imperfect Christmases for our family, and that is okay. But for now I sing loud with joy and gratitude for this year’s perfect Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Military Wife's Prayer

Deployments are never easy for a military wife. When they occur through the holiday season, she needs a little extra help finding cheer when her husband is away. Last year, all I wanted to do was hibernate through the month of December and wake up again after New Year's Day, when I could finally start planning my husband's return. But because of the kids, I couldn't do that. I'm so happy I didn't. It turned out to be a wonderful Christmas that I got to share with my husband through pictures, phone calls, and Skype.

My heart goes out to all of the military wives whose husbands are deployed this holiday season. It's not easy when your heart is yearning, but you must remember how strong you are and how brave he is. You must think about what is noble and praiseworthy in your situation. You must know that you are in this together. You may be far apart, but your hearts are tied closely together. 

This season, when you are feeling low and missing your soldier, I hope you find comfort in this prayer. Remember that he is missing you too, but if you can show him that you will be okay, he will be okay too. And when you wake up on Christmas morning surrounded by the friends and family you chose to visit this year, know that he is not alone either, but is surrounded by the love, support, and faith that can only come from you.

I pray that this holiday season, you might find peace in your circumstances, joy in your heart, and love all around you. Merry Christmas!

I discovered this prayer on a friend's blog, The Life of a Military Family. Thank you, Marcella!

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Perspective on the Past

Growing up, I knew nothing about military life or what being a service member entailed other than fighting in wars. I had heard stories from my grandfather about his duty in WWII and I knew that my uncle had died fighting in Vietnam. Beyond that, I was clueless. The idea of dating or even marrying a military man never entered my mind. I was used to being a small-town girl who lived in the same area all her life and assumed that these circumstances would never change. 

That was my life for nearly twenty-one years. Even when I went to college, I was only thirty minutes away from home and would visit often. I began entertaining the idea of venturing out of Ohio to attend graduate school, but I planned on settling back near my family after I had sewn my wild oats. But in one quick swoop, something unexpected happened that changed everything. In the middle of my junior year of college, I met the man who is now my husband.
Since becoming a military wife, I have often grieved the loss of my past. So much is different from all that I knew during my first twenty-one years. Life had been so consistent, so easy, and so expected. Now, those things are gone and I get stuck sometimes wishing that I could bring them back. I find myself weighing on the way things used to be rather than accepting and appreciating the way my life has evolved. By spending so much time longing for my past, I surely have allowed the way things were to get in the way of how they are to be.
I have read many quotes which encourage people to forget about the past and instead focus on the future. In the book The Noticer, by Andy Andrews, there is a quote which reads, “It’s time to stop letting your history control your destiny.” Though I agree with these words of advice to an extent, I also believe that our pasts are essential in helping to shape the people we are today.
For me, my past is where I developed my values and moral beliefs. My experiences are what helped to create the positive voice inside of me that pushes me to find the good in life. The time I spent with family growing up has influenced the way I teach my kids about the importance of being together. Somewhere along the way, though I never knew I would need it, I developed the skills and the faith I would need to persevere as a military wife.  I may have grown up in a lifestyle which was consistent and easy, but the lack of challenges back then allowed me to view life with a positive enthusiasm which has allowed me to overcome the difficulties of military life.
Our pasts are the foundations on which we continue to build character and a reference point when we find ourselves astray. It is true that allowing the past to overpower our ability to make wise choices can lead to setbacks on the road of life, but so can denying ourselves the opportunity to use the past as a way to influence our futures in a positive way. Our memories, good or bad, are a guiding force for the people we are today. We can choose to forget them entirely, or we can choose to see them as learning experiences which can, in the present, help us to improve our selves. 
Today, when I find myself missing my past, I remember that all of those great times were in preparation for where I am now. I consider how grateful I am for the life I had, but I also smile with thankfulness for where it has brought me. The life I have now may be very different from what it used to be, but I cannot deny that it is just as wonderful a life to be living. And when I gather my thoughts and remind myself of these things, I realize that I wouldn’t trade this life for anything.


Monday Meet Up

One of the many great things I have discovered since becoming part of the blogging world eight months ago is connecting with other blog authors and being inspired by them. Before I started my blog, I had no idea how many blogs were out there and how much I could be encouraged by other people's experiences and perceptions of life. Reading others' stories has helped me continue to develop my own thoughts and perspectives which I, in turn, use when I write my blog posts. I hope that I am inspiring my readers in the same way and that they, too, can use what I write to be encouraged in their own lives.

Today, one of my fellow bloggers, Brooke, has graciously agreed to post one of my articles, A Perspective on the Past, on her blog, Covered in Grace. She hosts a weekly link-up called Monday Meet Up in which she recognizes her favorite bloggers and then allows readers to link up their blog posts as well. It is her way helping bloggers discover other blogs and extend their own blogging community. Check out the event, and my post, here.

I am so grateful to Brooke for taking the time to consider my writing and to promote it on her blog. I am also thankful to you, who are reading this, for taking time out of your day to read what I have to say. Your support is the reason I continue writing!

I hope this Monday finds you feeling rested and rejuvenated, and with feelings of excitement for the holiday season. May your heart find peace, joy, and love this Christmas!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How an Old Song has New Meaning

A few days ago while watching television, I heard a clip from the Cheers theme song. It had been a while since I heard that song and was happy to hear such a familiar tune. With joy, I began singing along to the words I remembered so well: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came...”  But before I could go on, I was struck with surprise by the truth in what those words said. What used to be mere words to me suddenly turned into an exact description of how I often feel as a military wife. Sometimes all I want to do is just go to a place where I know I belong.

It is no secret that military families move often. Each time, military wives must rebuild their social lives with the people who surround them. This has always been a challenge for me. Though I enjoy making new friends, I always miss my old friends. Many times I find myself thinking about friends from college or the ones from previous duty stations and how much I love their company. They are the ones who already know me. They are the ones who I can be myself around. They are the ones who are happy to see me. When I must leave them behind, I lose the comfort of their presence, the ease of knowing that I am already liked, and their understanding when I make a mistake or say the wrong thing.

When I watched the show Cheers growing up, I just thought it was about a bunch of people who liked to hang out in a bar. But now, I see that the reason those people kept coming back (other than the fact that the script told them to!) was because that’s where they felt like somebody. That’s where they felt like they belonged. They could complain about their troubles and there was always someone who cared enough to listen.
Because military wives move so frequently, it is often difficult for them to develop the same sense of belonging. Building great friendships is something which takes time. When we do finally find those friendships, chances are it won’t be long before someone has to leave and the process starts all over again.
Fortunately, military wives are amazing. When I moved here in late July I had no close friends. But a friend from North Carolina told me about another wife she knew who was also moving to this area. That was my first friend here. And through her, I met many other wonderful ladies who introduced me to even more wives, and now there are people coming up to me at functions to say hello. One great thing about military life is that there is always somebody who knows somebody. A military wife is never truly without friends.  
Someday, I hope that I will have settled down somewhere long enough to have many great friends all in one area. And when that happens, you can be sure to find me at the place where everybody knows my name.