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.