"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.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Giving Back

Sometime ago I asked friends what they wanted me to write about. Our family has more going on in life than I know how to process and none of it is anything I am ready to put on this blog. We keep getting glimpses of a "bigger picture" and it is scary, and saddening, and somehow almost comforting at rare times, and challenging, and really just a lot to push through. I haven't been able to write so I asked for ideas. A very good friend asked me to write about service and volunteering.

I had every intention of throwing myself into the volunteer community when we made it to this post. I was so excited when the trainer at ACS hugged me and said she would love for me to start teaching here. I can't tell you how much I really, truly love working with Army families. 

Just a week or two later we received Eli's diagnosis and I knew that my time belonged to him and to Logan and C. That our family was going to need all that we collectively could give to one another. 

Here I am not leading any choir, not teaching any classes; the only schedules I am planning are the therapies for my kiddo. I'm not sitting at a desk answering emails about FRG Leader conflicts, or what is and isn't "legal" when it comes to FRG fundraising. I'm not checking in with unit families or making a huge pot of jambalaya to share at a meeting. 

And I have to say that I'm okay with that right now. 

I do not think that every single army spouse needs to give her time in service through volunteering. I don't think that for a moment. I don't think that every one is made for it. I don't think it is the only way to survive this life. I don't think it is the only way to thrive. 

I think whether or not you choose to volunteer has everything to do with what you personally receive from it. I don't mean awards or recognition or medals. I mean what you emotionally get from it. Does it fulfill you? Does it build you up? Does it make you a better spouse, a stronger parent, a kinder person? Whatever part of your "life" that you sacrifice to serve your community, do you get it back? Does that time away from your kids allow you to be a more patient parent? Does the time away from your spouse help you to love stronger, to understand better? 

You cannot give what you don't have. You cannot give and give and give if it doesn't make you better.

Right now, for my kiddos, my family, my personal health, I have to take a step back. If I am to give all I have to my family right now - I need to give all I have.  

I hope a year from now I will have balanced it better. I hope a year from now I will be able to dive back into what I love. I hope a year from now I can give my heart back to the Army and that we'll be in a place again that my strength is found in volunteering again. 

I do miss teaching. Every Sunday at Mass when my lip curls up for just a second because I am annoyed by something that just happened that wasn't liturgically correct, or the song isn't a good choice for the readings, C leans in and whispers, "You could fix that, ya know." But right now, I am enjoying sitting in the same pew with C and Logan (with Eli either in the nursery, or clinging to me under his blanket, or trying to escape the pew to run down the aisle). 

You must know your limits. You must know where your life demands you to go. Sometimes you need to recharge, reevaluate, revamp. 

I love my community. I love what volunteering for this community has given me back. It brings me such joy.

Give what you have to give. Know what it gives you back. Service is incredible and (for me) necessary and an honor. 

When we give our joy, we always get it back. 

You have to know where you find your strength, where you find your hope. I find both, everyday, in every moment with my family. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The PCS Chronicles, Part 1 - Jackie Williams

One of the coolest things about this life is the people you meet in it. They come from every walk of life, every state - different countries, even. We each have our own histories and beliefs and backgrounds ... and college sports teams. 

The bonds we make are strong, quickly set, and carry through from one post to another. They are even strong enough to bring LSU and BAMA fans together. 

Jackie has been confused as my "sister" for reasons neither of us can really understand. I guess we are both short. And high-pitched. And a bit hyper. But she is die-hard Ala-bama and I am heart-breakingly for LSU. 

No idea where the confusion comes from. 

Sometimes the Army listens when we tell them where we want to go. 


But more often they laugh, point, laugh some more, and then put you somewhere totally different. Jackie has just undergone her latest PCS to a place ... ummmm ... not anywhere near the top of their "wish list". I asked her to share the journey and this is where it starts. Thanks, "sister", and GEAUX TIGERS!! 

The PCS Chronicles: 
The laughs, sighs and tears of pcsing with two boys cross 1, 200 miles.

We are the 'other' Williams family (almost) formerly of Ft Carson hitting the road with our two boys, Lil Man who is dapper and eager to start kindergarten this Fall, and Lil Guy, our toddler who loves the word 'no' and believes he's already 'fourt.' In our first six years of marriage, the mister and I have lived in four different states, nearly half of the time separated by 5, 000 miles or more. Between Lil Warriors, The Little Gym, swim lessons and playdates, I squeezed in a few volunteer hours [she's being VERY modest here], a few photo sessions and a home-based business that helps keep every other aspect of our life organized.

Six months ago, it was cold in Colorado and the mister emailed me a spreadsheet with 25 different assignments to be ranked and submitted back to HRC before Thanksgiving. So I did what I do best, research. I researched schools. I researched housing. I researched kid-friendly activities. I researched ease of travel because we have three sets of grandparents and an auntie and an uncle who 'need' to hang out with their boys. And then I prayed.

We compared our lists and the mister submitted them, after having me recheck the order three times. And then we prayed. And we waited.

The first week of December came and went and no assignment as promised. The second week came and went and still no assignment. Then came December 17th, the day of the Installation Holiday Volunteer Social and the first day of the mister's holiday leave. And the day he received his next assignment, a nomivated position, one only the top 15% of candidates are selected for, one that definitely will look great on his records. Too bad the location nor assignment was #21 of 25 on our list.

It took 45 minutes for the mister to wrap his around it. It took 15 minutes for it to sink in for me and then I was ready to start planning our next move.

These last six months have had their highs, their lows and their sideway moments. I have waited, sometimes fearfully, sometimes anxiously, for the Army to throw us a curve ball. But here we are in temporary lodging and nearly ready to watch the mountains grow smaller in our rearview mirrors as we head 1, 200 miles southeast.

Thanks for sharing, Jackie!! 
Have you ever received an assignment that you just weren't expecting? How did you handle it? Was it better than you thought?

Be sure to check back for Part 2 of The PCS Chronicles.