"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.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Among Friends

I talk often about the importance of relationships in this life. I've talked about how important I think the word "relationship" is rather than just "friendship". 

You build relationships with people in this life. People you only know for a short time who take root in you. Who become a vital part of your journey. Who connect in a way that there just aren't words for. 

People who, at some point, this life will separate you from but somehow that doesn't matter. It hurts like hell and you say too many "see you soons" but somehow this short period means more than distance.

This post was supposed to be our "family time post". C isn't in harms way. There is no threat of deployment looming for us here. But, still, he is gone more than he is home certain months. At an Army post where nearly every activity is done as "couples" it is so strange to be the one whose husband is not here. It is strange to be in a place where you are the "odd" one because your spouse seems to be "always gone". (He isn't "always gone" but sometimes it sure can seem like he is).  I am grateful that he loves his new job. He has really found "his place". This change was terrifying and difficult and overwhelming and I am so thankful that we both know now that it was the right one. 

This is also the first year juggling the schedule of a kiddo on the Autism spectrum. It's demanding and tiring and humbling. 

In eight short months people have been placed in our lives that have pushed us through. In so many ways, they have walked Eli's path with us. They have seen what Autism is for him - what it is for our family. They were with me days after he was diagnosed. They have encouraged me. They have strengthened me. They have learned with me.

They have quietly waited while Eli and I fought through meltdowns. They have reminded me of my own new mantra of "no apologies" when I automatically apologized for stepping away from a conversation, or moving Eli away from their kiddos, or correcting harm done. 

Women I didn't know a year ago who have loved my children with a fierceness I would never expect.

Today, during a birthday party at a nearby ranch, one of these women convinced me to let Eli ride a horse. Eli, my nonstop, sensory-seeking, will-run-into-walls-for-stimulation kiddo, wanted to ride an animal that could crush him in an instant. "H" promised me she would walk with him, stay right beside him. She nudged me to try something that scared me for him and she promised that it would be okay. The moment Eli was on that horse you could see a change. His entire body went still. He sat there and listened to the trainer (who I later found out is currently undergoing the certification process for equine therapy to work with kiddos on the spectrum) and let her guide his feet into the stirrups. 

As they circled, H stuck right by my little giant as he quietly talked to the horse. I couldn't sit down as I slightly paced and watched his entire demeanor calm. I continually blinked back tears as I watched my good friend praise him and say the same things she has heard me say. I nearly lost it in the very beginning when - as he sat there taking everything in around him - she asked him, "Where are mommy's eyes?" - the very thing we ask when we try to bring him back into our world. 

She knows me. She knows my children. 

No one else there could have known the significance of those few minutes. No one else could know what it took for me to let him go and to give up that control. No one else could know why a three-year-old calmly riding a horse could bring tears to his mother's eyes. 

My dear friend knew and I am so grateful we were able to share in the beauty of that together. 

We build relationships with people rapidly because we have to. Our time together is too short. This life demands so much of us. We need each other. I strongly, strongly believe people are put before us for a reason. That relationships are vital to thriving in this life. That we do not do this alone. 

I am so thankful for those placed before me. I am so thankful to be part of this community.
I am so thankful to know such incredible women. 

Meet Eli, the Little Giant. 
He's pointing at "Mommy's Eyes". So very special. Love you, H.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Builders of Bridges

I saw that someone found my blog a few days ago by googling "military girlfriend, why civilians suck".
I'm not exactly sure why google sent them to me. 

I was saying to a friend this past weekend that I have learned to be careful in my opinions and my broad judgments over the last several years. I have been humbled beyond words for the thoughts I have held strong to in the past, for the opinions I was brazen and naive enough to share. 

I was an  impatient "non-parent" who had strong beliefs on how children should behave. I know I have given harsh looks in the past, thought rude comments in my mind and sworn the awful vow of "my child will never".

God gave me an autistic child who teaches me what it is to love every single day


I was a twenty-something who strongly opposed this war, who act-u-ally verb-a-lized that a soldier could not possibly love his/her family because of what they "do to them" when they enlist. I saw no harm in saying such words, had no intense pride in our flag, and always thought - somehow in all of that thinking - that I supported the troops. 

God led me to C.


It wasn't just marrying a soldier that opened my eyes. It took much longer than the moments of those said vows. It was the patient and kind and grace-filled Army spouses that I met very early on in this journey. It was their pride, their intense, intense love for their soldiers, their absolute pain in joy that I witnessed.

It wasn't my first deployment that taught me. It wasn't my first R&R, my first military formal, my first "dependent" ID card.

It was these women who spoke without judgment. Who held their tongues until they could gracefully teach. Who smiled softly at my ignorance and showed me what it was to be selfless but fulfilled.

It wasn't until I stood beside my dearest friend as she labored without her husband there and watched her beautiful daughter enter into this life. It was witnessing that unthinkable courage, that tainted joy. 

It was the first time I knew the person the flag was at half-staff for. It was the first time I ran my fingers across the name on his uniform that was my name too knowing he might not come back to me. It was the first time I saw the most heart-searing pain in my husband's eyes when he took the hand of his friend's mother and walked her to his memorial. It was seeing my littlest little waddle into his daddy's arms a year after he left. 

It was through witnessing my spouse give all of himself for something greater than us. It was seeing the great burden he carried, knowing the great burden he carried, and suddenly understanding why he did it. It was his grace and selflessness and deep love for the people of this nation. It was intimately knowing the very beating of my soldier's heart. It was realizing that somewhere in all of this, his love for country was my love for country, his sense of service was my need to serve.

It wasn't anyone's anti-civilian words that made me strong in this life. It wasn't returned frustration that brought me to where I am. It wasn't clinging to the Army and separating myself from the rest of the world that allowed me to find joy. 

It was patience and grace, courage and understanding. 

I firmly believe that people react to the life we portray. That if we are to demand understanding and acceptance from our civilian counterparts, we must first demand that we give the same of ourselves to them. 

We can and must be kind and patient and grace-filled and open.  We must live in a way that shows the beauty in the sacrifice of this life. We cannot ask this country to recognize the sacrifice of service if we do not live in a way that serves. In a way that emulates the values we hold fast. 

I have been brought to tears again and again by the incredible questions and conversations I have received and had with civilian friends and acquaintances.
They have given me the most hope.
I have been humbled again and again by the reminder of the words and thoughts of my past that have allowed me to bite my tongue for a moment, to think before I speak. I have been blessed to see the outpouring of support and quest for knowledge and understanding from my home community. 

There is no doubt that that came from an open dialogue. From sharing this life. From sharing the journey.

I know there will always be hurtful words - I know because I have said them. I know there will be people who we think will never "get it". I know because I have been one.

For every military spouse that holds the mindset that "civilians suck", a brick is added to the wall that so often divides us. Choose whether you are a builder of walls or a builder of bridges.

Build walls and close yourself in. Build bridges and change mindsets.

I hope you choose to be a builder of bridges. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Nation of Good

Tomorrow I will take my five-year-old's hand and walk with him from his school to a gathering place for the entire district to stand and remember. 

My little giant of only three will be there as well.

Nearly every one of these children will have no memory of that day. Those old enough to "try" to remember won't recall much. They may remember parents in tears, the news on. They may remember the silence.

My God, I remember silence.

Every moment from the time the first plane hit is catalogued in my mind. Every moment. I remember my physics teacher turning off the television when we saw the black streaks falling from the windows. It took a moment for most of us to realize what those were. We all had the same look of horror when we all understood what was happening. When we realized the choice people were making. 

No one spoke.

It took hours and days and weeks to process the absolutely horror. Took our breath away to think of the firefighters and first responders walking into the blackness.

Everything about those images, those emotions, everything is still felt and known and lived. It gives me chills to think of when I heard my brother's voice on the phone after too many hours of his phone not responding. The image of our past president getting the news while reading to children.

Children who are like my littles now. Who have known war their entire life without having any true understanding of what war is

I pray that they never know a day such as this. I pray that our country forever remembers and honors and respects. I pray that they learn that good people ran into that blackness to save lives. That good people gave their lives for others. That good people stood up on September 12th and enlisted in service to this nation because that terror - that amount of hate - must never, NEVER come to our shores as it thrives beyond others. 

My children will know of this day. Some day I will sit with them and watch footage and talk and tell them what I remember. I will not leave it for just their history books and short paragraphs and political debate about what followed after. They will know from me. They will know from C. They will know that the only way to overcome evil is to live with goodness. That the best way to honor is to remember. And that when the flag is lowered on the 11th of September, we are a nation in mourning, a nation of healing, a nation of good.

A Free Wedding Dress for a Military Bride-to-Be

I have been repeatedly blown away by the kindness and want for understanding from my civilians friends and acquaintances.

Two of my mom's dearest friends contacted me with a beautiful request. These two lovely ladies recently launched a wedding planning business in my hometown of New Orleans. The focus of Down Annie Lane is to provide a Dream Wedding while staying in your "dream budget". 

Toni Ulmer (one of the owners) lost her incredible daughter a year ago this coming November. Annie - her daughter - was to be married this fall with a traditional New Orleans wedding. In honor of Annie, she and her friend Joy Gaspard took on this journey. Every year, on November 20th, they will donate a wedding dress to a Military Bride.

I cannot tell you the kindness of these two women. I am honored to know both of them and have been blessed by their understanding in this life. They have the highest regard and respect for our military families and service members.

If you know of a Military Bride-to-Be, or if you are a military Bride-to-Be, I want to hear from you!
They will be giving away a beautiful MoriLee gown that will fit sizes 8-12 (perhaps a 6 with alterations) along with a coordinating veil.

Pictures coming soon!!

If you are a Military Bride-to-Be and want a chance at this wonderful opportunity, email me at ToLoveASoldier(at)gmail(dot)com telling me your Love Story. Please include the following:
How you met your servicemember.
How long you have been together.
Where your wedding will take place.
Where you will be stationed after your wedding.
What you are most scared of and what you are most hopeful for in this life.  

If you want to nominate a friend or family member please write to me including the following:
Their love story.
Why this a deserving Bride. 
What you makes you proud of this Military Couple.

Please write this out as a story so myself and the owners can share and choose the worthy bride!
Entries will be accepted up until November 1st and the winner will be announced on November 20th.

Please share this with anyone you may know who could use this awesome gift!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Whispers - Guest Post by Erika @ Chambanachik

It is rare that I find the time to sit and write these days. Life is ... well ... life.

I asked one of my favorite bloggers to share a post with all of you. I had no idea what she was going to write about I just asked her to write. When she messaged me that she had sent her article and when she said what the topic was I took a long, deep breath.

I had no idea how she was going to talk about it and I was nervous about what may be waiting.

When I opened the file and read her words, she left me with chills. Because none of us are talking ... we don't talk about such things ... none of us are talking - we whisper. 


Late at night, we whisper.

Because the president spoke today. He stood at a podium with a lot of people scribbling notes and holding recorders. And we listened with a different kind of intensity. We've long forgotten how to listen like the rest of the country. We don't know how to be apathetic about politics anymore. We don't hear that the government is planning a strike or going to war. Instead, it's so personal that it takes our breath away. Instead, we hear the people with suits and microphones saying, "Your husband is going. Your wife is going. Your brother, your aunt, your cousin...I'm sending them."

We whisper. We worry. We wonder.

We know their job. We can rattle off acronyms a mile long, name obscure villages they've deployed to in war torn countries, and explain OPSEC and PERSEC. We're the ones that wash their uniforms, soiled with dirt and sand from the places we're scared to ask about. Some of us waited in the recruiter's office with them. Many of us sat around the kitchen table with them long after dinner was cleared away, debating pros and cons of reenlistments. They go, but we're in this with them. They go, but we grapple with the fallout at home.

And so, we whisper those questions, softly, hesitantly, late at night when the dark room disguises the fright that lines our faces. When? How long? Why? They're questions that don't have answers, but we ask them anyway. We know we aren't alone in the asking; all of our friends are asking the same ones.
Our minds flash to our babies, our houses, and all the things we would have to take charge of singlehandedly for a while. Timetables are drafted in our minds. Scenarios are imagined down to every last detail. We build up plans on words that can crumble or shift in an instant. A hand on their chest or brushed against their cheek, we say a silent prayer that we don't even know the words to but hope is heard anyway.

We know they'll go whether they agree with the fight or not. We know they'll go so the rest of us can stay safe at home. We often think about how brave they are.

But tonight, if only for a little while, we remember how brave we are, too. We're brave even if we can't speak it above a whisper sometimes.

About the Writer: 

My name is Erika.
I live in Chambana, a flat Midwestern college town-
hence the name of this blog.
I'm a mama to (almost) two, a soldier's wife, a college student,
and I love to write in between it all.
I'm an INFJ, which means I talk a lot more in this space
than I do in 'real life'.

Visit Erika at Chambanachik and enjoy her awesome blog!! 
Thank you, Erika!