"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown

"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rising From the Flames

Sitting on the couch, watching homes burning, the beautiful landscapes and landmarks and neighborhoods ... watching the views from above, trying to see through the smoke and haze ... I couldn't help the quiet tears.

While my bags sat packed by our front door - while they still sit packed - filled with paperwork and mementos, I knew that none of those houses were mine. I knew that what I was watching didn't mean the same to me as those who were watching it from a hotel room, or packed into a shelter, or sitting at a friend's kitchen table. 

But I knew that feeling. It was so much the same as sitting in our college condo, surrounded by family and friends, watching the houses seventy-five miles away covered in water - not being able to identify anything from the barely visible rooftops, the submerged street signs. Wondering, "Is that rooftop mine?"

So much of it felt the same.

But what is also the same, is the love these Coloradans have for their city. What is so very much the same is how strangers embraced each other and donated and came out in overwhelming numbers asking, "What can I do?" People waited in hour long lines in their cars to get to the first donation drop off. People opened their homes. Strangers shared tears. Children tried to understand. Parents tried to shield them.

So much of it is the same.

Tonight some are being told that their house is ash while their neighbor is being told their's was saved. Relief and guilt are being felt in the same breath. Lives are changing. So much is lost. This is the worst disaster in Colorado history. Nearly 400 homes destroyed with more to count. People feel despair. Many are grateful for their lives. There is so much admiration and appreciation and respect and awe and gratitude for the firefighters, and search and rescue, and EMS, and police officers, and every person of every entity that has put their life on the line to get others to safety, to preserve the land they love.

Every bit of it feels the same.

I am always proud to be an Army spouse - a military wife. Proud of our community and the almost automatic sense of service and duty. Humbled by the strength and perseverance of those who walk the same path. I am proud of the good that exists in the life - of the good within its people. 

Tonight I am proud of the larger community that cradles Fort Carson. I am proud to live in this state. I am proud and humbled and awe-filled by how much this entire city has reached out to hold each other, to feel for each other. 

You didn't have to be a military family to feel the heart break while viewing the photo of the Air Force Academy's Chapel standing before the haunting, hellish wave of flames rolling down the mountain. 

You didn't have to be a Colorado native to feel the hurt by the photos of the Flying W Ranch that exists now only in ashes and destruction.

This state held onto its own and continues to wrap its arms around those who love it while the fires still rage and the land still suffers.

My city rose from the flood waters. It continues to rise daily years after the storm.

Like the phoenix, this city will rise from the flames and rebuilt and persevere and heal. The land will be scarred, its people will be scarred, but that toughens the skin, strengthens those hurting.

It allows you to remember - and remembering is important. It teaches you to be grateful. It reminds you what matters most. It builds the strongest points of your armor. 

Healing takes community. This community has reminded me so much of the one I miss and love. So much of this feels the same. Shared pain, shared sorrow. Shared determination, shared hope.

Faith is most necessary when it is most difficult to foster. We are called to be faithful when the hurting is greatest, when the despair is deepest. Faith lights the road unknown. 

Faith allows us to rise from the flames. 

Thank you for praying for Colorado. Please continue to do so. Pray for those who have lost their homes, whose lives have changed tonight. Pray for those putting their lives on the line to tirelessly fight this fire. I cannot express how grateful I am to the firefighters and emergency crews that have not rested and have not stopped. Pray that they will continue to be strengthened in the battle. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Good and Safe Rule

Very often we hear people talk about, "Well, we are just going to move again." Or, "There isn't any point in meeting new people." "Why should I paint? We just have to paint when we leave.

We are always looking ahead. There is always a move around the corner. No place is permanent. No home is one where you can put your sweat and time into creating a garden that you will get to enjoy three years down the road when it is matured and worth every back-breaking moment. Every friend you make you will farewell. Every unit you are in will one day no longer be "your unit." The families you consider your own will change. The people you cling to move away.

There is nothing permanent in this life.

I know that that can become difficult. I know that the moving and the changing and the starting again gets old. It makes you tired.

I read something yesterday that I had never seen before but so much of it is how I try to live my life. It was in the home of another army wife. From the framing I could tell it was a gift of some kind from a previous unit. It was so very fitting.

I don't believe in temporary homes. I strongly believe that we are a community with many homes. New Orleans is my heart. New Orleans is in my blood. Fort Campbell sits deep within me as well for far different reasons. My first homecoming was in one of its hangars. My first memorial. The birth of our first child. So much of that post is very much my home. Fort Benning allowed me to meet my husband, putting him just close enough to his home that our paths could cross. Three years later it introduced me to some incredible women who were walking the same path at the same time. It afforded me a handful of strong friendships. That Infantry-blue-blooded post holds a piece of home for us too.

Every place is temporary but home is carried with you. Every place you are brought to, every path set before you, is meant to become part of your "home". Yes, walking away from where you invest your time and your heart is painful. Yes, leaving the friends you make - or having them leave you - never gets easier. But it makes you love greater. I would take that heartbreak over numbness any day. It makes you understand the value of goodness and compassion and kindness.

The more invested you are, the more of you that you put into your parts of home, the more you find where you belong, the less temporary it all becomes. Every place this journey has taken us is carried along the way. Every house, every neighbor, every farewell, every welcome home, finds a place in the next. 

It is a good and safe rule to soujourn in EVERY place as if you meant to spend your life there.

Because you are spending your life there. Every place gets part of your life, but every part of your life will carry that place. 

LIVE in it. INVEST in it. Claim every second of it.

Spend you life, wherever you are, wherever you go.

Spend your life, LIVE your life, and love every home along the way.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Extending a Hand

So many times I hear military spouses say that they have lost all of their civilians friends. That their non-military friends just can't understand the life they are living. That the only friends they have - that the only friends they need - are their fellow military spouses. 

I know that this life is difficult to understand. I know that this life can be "inconvenient" to many. I know that friendships don't always continue over a lifetime. 

I know that we are strengthened by the women surrounding us. I know that we are motivated to push through by witnessing those before us thriving. I know that the friend we will call when we just have that "feeling" will be one who will know what we are battling without asking for an explanation.

There is a unbreakable bond between military spouses. There is a beauty and a goodness and a strength in the sisterhood. 

Whenever I hear of a newer spouse struggling with holding onto or letting go of civilian friendships my whole heart hurts. I understand that we often "think" they just can't get it. And, yes, sometimes there are some people who just cannot understand. I think very often military spouses think they can only share this journey with the military wives that walk it with them. I find that so often spouses see their pre-military-life friendships as stalled or irrelevant when they marry an military man.

These friendships matter.

I have said before that I am richly blessed in my friendships. I cherish those around me and those who carry little pieces of who I am in different parts of the world. I am so grateful for my dear, Army wife friend who called today and put a little of the big, big world into perspective today. I am grateful for my "army mom" currently at Fort Drum who has given me so many of the tools I cling to on the hardest of days. I am grateful for my Fort Campbell Core who has scattered to every corner of the US and Europe. These women showed me so much of who I am, so many parts of me that I didn't know were gifts. They planted my Army roots and then gave me my wings. 

Texas, Alaska, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Kansas, California, Washington, Ohio, Indiana, Germany, Italy and so many places in between there are pieces of me in the friendships I hold with the Army wives who are passing through these posts along their journeys.

The people who have been placed along our path have everything to do with how we fight through the harder days, how we love through the rough spots. They teach us and mold us and strengthen us.

I am grateful for the friendships this military life has afforded me.

So much of this journey, so much of this blogging journey, has strengthened my civilian friendships. So many times in the beginning I didn't think the friends that were there first would understand the life I led now. I had heard people talk about how these friendships wouldn't last. So much of me believed that from the get-go. I had heard little of civilian friendships continuing to strengthen as the lifestyle continued. It wasn't put into my head that these precious friendships would be successful.

So much of why I started this blog (and I know you have heard this from me over and over) was to begin a dialogue - to extend-a-hand. To give insight. To offer a share in this very special journey. 

So much of why I write is for you - for the Army wives, for the military spouses - who need to know that you are not alone in the battle. But so much more of why I started was for the many of you who were just like me - before I met C, before I lived through my first combat deployment, before I heard my husband dictate his funeral, before I watched a friend deliver her first child with her husband six-thousand-miles-away, before I knew what it meant to truly love your country, to be willing to sacrifice and fight for something. I began to write for the me that couldn't understand.

The dialogue this created is - beyond words - one of my greatest blessings. The awareness, the understanding, the outpouring of empathy in place of sympathy is something I consider a victory. 

You cannot understand when example and explanation is not offered. You cannot demand of a friend to "get-it" when you most likely didn't "get-it" either. 

Give your friends a chance, and another, and another, and another. Extend your hand. Share the journey, invite them to be part of it.

The armor you build comes from every corner of your life. Not just the side that has lived through the battle. The military sector is not the only part that has shaped who you are, it is not the only part that will offer repair and polish and replacement.

I have been blessed by the windows this has opened in the civilian sector. I have been blessed by the smart questions civilian friends and acquaintances have come to me with. I have been humbled by the work that has been done, by the minds that have been stretched, by the hearts that have been opened.

I didn't scream from a rooftop that this life is better, that his life is more meaningful. I didn't demean those who do not live it. I didn't ridicule or shut out the people who built my character. Every comment I have heard from struggling spouse, every friendship cast aside, every chance that was left untaken to extend a hand, to offer a glimpse, breaks my heart. 

We owe it to those who were there first to help them to understand. 

Some friendships do not last forever. Some people do not want to learn. Some minds do not want to be open. 

I have been blessed to learn, again and again, that so many do.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Send Me

In less than twenty-four hours I have heard two "speeches" that made me wish I had found a way to record them. One at a military ball and another at church this morning. 

Both got me thinking and nodding my head and trying to commit certain lines to memory. The topics were entirely different, nothing overlapped, and I'm not even sure which I am going to talk about here. I cannot tell you how much I wish I just had copies of what was said but one was just speaking from the heart and the other I don't think would want me to knock on his door and request one. I don't think two-stars appreciate random army wives knocking on their doors but then again, I've never tried it. :)

C and I attended the Army Birthday Ball on post last night. We almost didn't make it because C hasn't been feeling well (of course, he refuses to go to a doctor) but we managed to get there and it was really fun night. I don't know if it was because I didn't understand in the past, or I just wasn't interested, or if the speakers weren't very good, or my mind was racing through other things related to that event or what, but for the very first time a guest speaker got my attention and kept it. 

So much of what he said is very much what I believe. So much of the wording and phrases and passion making up his speech are all things that I feel and say and trust in. 

He said that our soldiers - whether people acknowledge it or not - are in the middle (not end) of a major conflict. He said that our soldiers - no matter what people paint them as - are not victims, they are not forced into service, but that they choose to serve. They knowingly say, "Send me. I will go. I want to be part of something greater than myself." That they believe in what they do.

He spoke about the first men who stood up to defend an IDEA. The first men who risked their lives for something they believed in with every bit of their soul. The men who had everything to lose while trying to create something that had not existed.

He said the first soldiers were not just fighters. The first soldiers were dreamers first. They dreamed of a future of freedom. It wasn't just (less than) one percent that stood up like it is today. It was so so so many risking fortune and prosperity and comfort for the hope of guaranteeing a chance at that to their children, and grandchildren, and great-great-great-grandchildren.

They fought for us. They died for you.

How few would give up their luxuries and comforts and fortune to protect that of others. How very, very few say, "Send me." How very few understand that freedom is always at risk of being lost. Freedom is never guaranteed or certain. At no point can it go unprotected. At no point can it be made vulnerable. At no point can no one say "I will risk my own for the whole." 

Someone must be ready. Someone must have the courage and the faith to defend. So very, very few have made your today possible. So very few will allow for your comforts tomorrow. 

So very few.

The humbled few who say each day, "I will go. Send me." 

Thursday, June 14, 2012


A while back I made the decision to moderate comments. I know that those of you who have been following for a while know that I have always allowed all comments to stay up - as long as they didn't degrade the American soldier or those they love. As long as they were not ill-willed they remained published. Even when they personally attacked my character and brought more into question than I could stomach, I kept them up.

I think all sides are important. I think all views carry weight. I knew that I was taking more on in my life and that I would not always be able to react quickly if someone posted something that didn't belong - that was hateful - and for that reason I added the moderation. 

About a month back on the post "Missed Understanding" someone - and it was Anonymous - left a comment to the effect of: If I believed in following rules and loved the Army so much why didn't I man up and serve. (And that is all paraphrased. I can't remember the exact wording but that's the gist).

I almost published it just to see what would happen. 

I went back and forth for several days about whether I would address it. Whether I cared. What it really made me feel.

I tried to think of who would have left it. A soldier? A spouse? A civilian? Who knows. It could have been anyone and hiding behind an "anonymous" always makes people feel powerful and brave.

I don't know how they found the post. I know it couldn't have been any of you. I actually laughed at one point reading it and debating.

The main issue is that I know there are service members and spouses who hold that view. That army wives like me hide behind their husbands. That we hold no value in the military community. That military spouses do nothing worthy of respect. That because our sacrifice is not the same it is not a sacrifice. 

I get that people think that. I have heard a young soldier say it. I have heard a wife criticize me for being involved and active and engulfed. I have heard multiple spouses say it actually and I can see it in the faces of soldiers from time to time. 

I hope that one day they have a change of heart. I hope that one day they see the value and importance of building a strong marriage, a strong foundation.

C's sacrifice is not the same as mine. What he gives and has given and will give are not the same as what I do and have and will. What he carries is beyond what I can know. What he has seen is beyond what I ever will.

There is never a question in that.

But those who stand beside their soldier - beside not "behind" - give. They give their joy and their sorrow, their strength and their pain. We give our patience and our understanding and our hope. We give our lives to men and women who give theirs. That is part of the sacrifice. That is of value. That is worthy. That matters. That serves the whole. 

We sacrifice. We give. We love. We persevere. We hold on when the world reminds us again and again that we shouldn't make it. That we don't have to live this way. That our life isn't "normal". 

I wear no uniform. I hold no rank. I put my hand over my heart when the flag is raised and lowered. I will never be asked to step foot onto a battlefield, or cling to a rifle, or carry a third of my weight on my back. I don't pretend to know what that can be like. I don't pretend to know what it is to see your friend dying beside you. I don't for a moment intend to equate my sacrifice and understanding with those who serve.

I will never say our sacrifice is the same. 

But do not say that the arms that carry those who serve lack value. Do not say that what we give is not enough to hold a claim to loving and serving a nation.

We love a nation strong enough to endure the heart break of giving the one we love most to it. We believe in service and sacrifice so heart-fully that we will endure the heart-wrenching pain of holding a child back who is screaming and reaching out for his father. Do not belittle what that takes. Do not question what I give. Do not question what the thousands of family members around me give without ever wearing the uniform. 

We matter. We know what it is to live for something greater. We give and give and give.

Ask any strong soldier who he fights for, who keeps him going, why he serves, why he stays focused, what carries him through. 

Ask him if his family sacrifices for this nation. 

Ask him. 

We do. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

One Day at a Time

These past few days have done little to make anything easier. Both of the boys have been up all night at some point this week because of some illness. C just got home and the first night he received four phone calls throughout the 8 hour period that the boys were asleep.

I had to cancel two meetings I really wanted to have because I am so very tired and the boys aren't totally healthy and to be quite honest I have been dreading the next rough spot I know has to be looming.

I have had so many moments of "Really!? Really, one more thing?!" 

I have struggled so much with trying to find balance. That is one of the good things about me, I can almost always find balance. I can find the good. I can see the other side. I find needed strength in others, give needed strength to some. 

There has been so much weighing on us that I have found no balance in any of it. I haven't seen any good. One thing has been added onto another and another and another. It has weighed so very heavy on my heart. I have been in a place of struggle I haven't known in a very long time - and never in this journey.

This morning when I got up out of bed, I had no motivation to do anything. I wanted to have a "blah" day and, for whatever reason, a book was left on our pedestal table that is usually with C at his office. Inside is every evaluation and award and course completion he has ever received. It's his "I love me" book. 

I have never sat down and read it. I have seen some of the things in it but I have never actually sat down and gone through the entire thing. While the boys were eating breakfast I sat down and read every word, from his first oath of enlistment to his most recent bronze star. Fourteen years of awards and evaluations and certifications.

I was in tears when I was done and for the first time in a very long time they were good tears. I physically felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I sat up straighter. I hugged that book like a fool. Somehow I knew, really knew that we were going to be okay. Whatever comes, whatever we finally come to know in the future, we will be okay. 

I have been telling myself that. I always, truly believe that there is a purpose, that at some point we always get to see the bigger picture. I have not stopped knowing that but this moment today let me feel it.  

I know C is deserving and a good soldier and whatever comes will not change that. But what I know more and what matters most to me is that he is a good man and one incredible father.

Whatever comes will be what is meant. Whatever we will face will hold a purpose. In this moment I am hopeful rather than fearful. I am believing rather than dreading. I am living rather than giving in.

The road ahead is uncertain, tomorrow is never promised, but today I know to be certain. I can give my all one day at a time. Step-by-step I can give my whole heart with confidence and love and joy. Step-by-step, one day at a time.

I am grateful for this day.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Never Walk Alone

A friend of mine's mom called her to check on me because of my last post. 

She said I sounded "sad".

I was sad. 

When I started writing I had no idea how long I would stick with this. I had no great plans or agenda. I simply began to write our story, the same way I write to my boys in their books. 

I write the journey and at some point early on, I realized how important it is to write all of it. To only share joy would not be truthful. So much of why I write is to help people to understand - both civilians and members of our community. I want those entering into this life (and those outside of it) to understand the reward of living this life, the beauty that thrives in service. The joy is important and praiseworthy and needing to be shared. 

But so much of me - as much as I hate to share it - believes that sharing the heartache is important and vital as well. This life is a hard, hard life. This life is a heartbreaking journey. It takes all of you. Certain moments take who you think you are and show you who you are meant to be.

The harshness shapes the joy. The tears wash away the burden.

I know that on the hardest days, in the darkest moments, there is a purpose. I know that at my weakest, I am humbled; I am reminded and grateful that I do not walk alone.

I know that there are days when all of me hurts. When all of me misses my husband. When every part of me wants to quit. 

We all have those days. 

Those days are not every day.

You must know hurt to understand joy. You must live with some fear to value what you are given. There is a purpose in trial. 

Life is a gift. This life is a gift. It is an honor and a privilege to serve a nation. The hurt matters. Love becomes stronger. Grace becomes greater. 

And every step is not taken alone. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Holding My Breath

Today was a day that I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and say, "I quit." 

Nothing horrible happened. The boys had a good day. I made it to church on time. They played in the sprinkler with other neighborhood kids. I spent an hour or two with friends. I cleaned my car. 

There was nothing about today that warranted an "I'm done," but I felt it anyway.

So much of us - so much of our life - feels like it is on hold. So many decisions aren't being made because of how many unknowns are facing our little family. So many things are looming over our heads and pressing against my thoughts. I am very much beginning to feel the weight.

C put in some papers yesterday that could change his path in this life. I know how much he struggled with submitting them. I know how much part of him truly believes this is the right thing to do - something he has to do - but I also know how difficult it will be to make this change. But the change may be necessary to stay in this life. 

And for a moment I felt like I exhaled. I felt like I could let that part go and give it God. 

And in the same moment I sucked that air back in because the change may not happen. Or it may not matter. Or it may happen but nothing about it will take effect for another year or two. Or it may happen and our path could rapidly and drastically change in this life.

I have done my best to stop watching the news because there are little bits and pieces that I know and so much more that I don't. Certain words or places or phrases trigger something in me that make me tense up and I suck the air back in again. 

I have stopped reading. The cuts, the force-outs, the everything. I know how dismal the promotion rate for the next year group is in comparison to the decade previously and I just can't seem to exhale. 

I worry every time that C calls from the field that something has gone wrong and it's all over. I hold my breath every time that phone rings for just a second. Two of our good friends have had their careers changed in two very different situations for two very different reasons but so much of me is scared that the next one will be C's. It isn't reasonable thinking. It isn't practical but I just can't let that fear go.

Today is a day that so much of me wanted to walk away. Today is very much a day that the great oaks of New Orleans were calling my name. The thought of the same house for twenty years or ten years or even just five years became a much stronger wish. To have our boys in the same school, with the same friends, the same teachers. Today was a day that I wanted so badly to walk away from the dozens of unknowns that are holding so many decisions captive. To brush them away. To give it up. 

To exhale. 

So much of me is still feeling it. So, so much of me is ready to give that signal to C that I'm ready. That I have had enough. That he has given enough.

 That he has given more than most and it is time for someone else to do it.

I know that if I asked him to he would walk away.

But never in my life do I think I could ever ask him. Even on a day like today I don't think I could ever say the words. 

Because this is our life. This life is our passion and our purpose and our way to serve others. I know that when it all comes down to it, the unknown that I fear most, that weighs greatest, is the fear that in the future this may not be our life. That we may not be part of it anymore. That C may have given fifteen years and told he isn't needed anymore. 

I know that is what is hardest on days like today. That there may be a day that he has to give this up. After fifteen years, after signing his name at the age of seventeen, it may not mean enough. 

What makes me want to walk away is how fiercely I love this life, how much I find purpose in volunteering and serving and helping. How much I love meeting a new spouse who wants to learn, who is committed, who will do so much good. The idea that that may be stripped away, that I may lose it all when every part of me wants to hold on, hurts and weighs more than I can say.

I love that during church today I heard the sirens going crazy as firetrucks and police cars escorted busses of soldiers through the main gate to the welcome home center. I love that that blaring sound meant a daddy was going to hold his daughter for the first time, or see his son walk, or kiss his wife or that a momma was going to hug her babies and hold her husband. I love getting to know C's soldiers. I love shaking their hands and their "Yes, Mrs Williams, " after I ask them again and again to call me "Megan." 

I love seeing the dress blues. I love teaching the next generation of military spouses. I love hearing the jokes of the green suiters while I try to teach them a ball etiquette class. 

I love learning the history. I love meeting every kind of American from every part of the country. 

I love being part of this community. I love giving my time and my joy and my hope. I love hearing Logan pointing out soldiers marching and flags flying and helicopters landing. 

Every part of me belongs here. I am so scared to lose it, so very scared of what may come and even more of what may go. 

There is so much we don't know. So much that weighs heavy on the heart. So much that keeps me holding my breath.

Come to Me, all you who are weary and weighed down with heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in spirit. Indeed, you will surely find rest in Me! My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)