Posts Tagged ‘loneliness’

gardeningGod really does want us to bloom where we are planted. It was never more obvious to me as when we sat in our new church in our new town, yet again. I was tired of moving. Tired of spending almost 20 years as a military nomad. Tired of being the new girl and working so hard to make new friends. Tired of being nice and outgoing. Tired of being the one who always has to make the effort. I moved to our new town with a bad attitude and God wasted no time letting me know it was time to change.

The pastor spoke on some verses in Jeremiah 29 that were not familiar to me, and the passage moved me more than Uncle Sam ever has! I have gotten used to hearing Jeremiah 29:11 because it is used so often to remind us that we have a hope and a future of good things according to the Lord–which we do. But it has been a long time since I read the verses ahead of the famous Old Testament passage. These verses resonated with me deeply, and having just left the place we wanted to retire, and not being happy about where I was, they also convicted me. Forcefully.

Jeremiah 29:4-7

4 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

I don’t remember what the pastor’s sermon was on because God was speaking to me as a military wife. He showed me how to really plug in–the way He intended me to–even if I was tired of doing it.

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:
If this verse is not made for the military family, I don’t know what is! Many of our moves have left me feeling like I have been sent into exile. I can hear all of you stationed at bases in the middle of nowhere–or in the middle of a foreign country–nodding in agreement. (Yes, I can hear the nodding because there are a lot of you!)

Those of us not relegated to the remote places of our world can also identify with this. The verse is talking about when the Babylonians marched the Israelites from their home to an unknown land. Can’t you relate? Our last base had become our home. We were comfortable there. We knew places. We knew people. We had a routine. Then we move and everything is foreign. We don’t know how to get to the store, we can’t find a local coffee shop and sometimes, we can’t even understand the language! But here is what the verse says: God carried you here! It was in His plan from the beginning for you to leave where you were and come to this land. He has a purpose for you here. He has put you here to prosper and show others what He can do.

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.
When we get to our new towns, God wants us to settle in. Not in a temporary way, but in a pretty permanent way. Why else would He tell us to plant gardens and eat what they produce?  While it isn’t always practical to literally plant a garden (although I usually find it fun), there is a lesson for us in this. We are to live where we are, not looking backward but looking forward to what our garden will produce. We are to dig up the ground, plant and produce fruit. We can do this by sowing, nurturing and tending the plants of relationships so they bear fruit. And here is the kicker! The fruit of this effort is for our benefit! When we eat the fruit of this relationship garden, it nourishes us, giving us purpose and sustenance. It keeps us feeling full. I can tell you from many times of feeling empty in a new town, I’m eager to feel full of this fruit!

There are opportunities all around to dig in the dirt and plant new relationships. The best place to start is in a church because they will understand your need for family. You can also volunteer, get out to the park, or take advantage of kid’s sports activities or play dates. Something that works for me is getting out of my car at football practice or during drop off/pick up at school and making small talk with the other parents. Or, simply make a point to get out of the house. Sitting on the front porch reading, washing the car–or planting an actual garden–gives you an opportunity to meet your neighbors. It might be easier to stay inside, but this is not what God wants for us! He wants us to have a fruitful garden of relationships.

When we move into a new neighborhood I usually set a date for an open house five or six weeks from when we get our household goods (which has the added benefit of inspiring me to get moved in!). We invite our neighbors over for an ice cream social and get to know them. It’s cheap, easy and works wonders in creating relationships in the spot where God has placed us.

Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.
I understand that most of this verse does not really apply to us as military families–we are not anywhere long enough to actually raise our kids somewhere–but while meditating on this whole concept, I believe there is still instruction for us. God wants us to create relationships in our Babylon that will endure. He speaks of generations here which means we need to make sure the relationship saplings we plant are nurtured so lovingly that they will be there long after we are gone. We are to increase in number which may simply mean that we need to find opportunities to share God’s love, grace and mercy. God will put into our paths people who need Him. And amazingly He asks us to participate in His kingdom by sharing His love and His message of forgiveness through Christ. Having sons and daughters may mean that there are opportunities in front of you to share your faith so that we may increase in number. This has an everlasting implication.

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.
We are also to seek out and even work for the good of the city where God has placed us. Pray about where you are. Work for its benefit by volunteering to make a difference. Take care of the elderly. Adopt a pet. Clean up a park. Have a significant and positive effect on your city. Start a neighborhood watch. Help kids read. Leave it better than you found it. Pray for it. Then you will have prosperity. You will bloom right where God has planted you!

You have an amazing opportunity where you are right now to make an impact on your world. We even have a special benefit as military families because once we make an impact on one city, town or neighborhood, we know we’ll soon have the opportunity to do it again in a whole new Babylon!

When we apply the instruction in these verses to our nomadic military lives, think of the impact! Globally, we can make the world better by locally making our cities and neighborhoods better. Personally, our lives will be richer, more prosperous and more fulfilled–just by digging in, planting gardens and praying and acting on behalf of our Babylon. By doing these things, you are fulfilling God’s purpose for you in your unique life.

Ready? Set? Bloom!


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Recently in San Antonio in a neighborhood near ours, a house fire was blamed for the death of a woman and her two children. Yesterday, my husband came home from work with the very sad news that the fire was set to cover up the murder/suicide of a woman and her two children. The husband/father is in the Army. He also suffers from PTSD. A colleague of my husband just had dinner at that house during Christmas–this was family. Allegedly, the woman killed her two children and then killed herself after setting the fire.

I know military life can be a challenge, but what makes it so hard that you feel you would need to kill your children and yourself? Did this woman feel like she didn’t have anyone to talk to? Did she think she was alone in her troubles? Did anyone ever reach out to help her? I just don’t understand it. It breaks my heart.

This is one of the basic reasons that I started Wings for Women Military Spouse Conferences–to help connect military spouses to each other and the tools and resources we need so we don’t have to feel that something like suicide is the only way to cope. We need each other for support and friendship. We need to reach out to one another to help and be helped. I am certain that our conferences will help open up conversations between spouses and with the community so tragedies like this murder/suicide don’t happen anymore.

What do you do when life gets too hard? Who do you tell? Where do you go?

I admit that sometimes I just stay in bed for a little bit longer–to put off facing another day of loneliness in a new city.

But the better thing to do is to reach out to friends and family–on the phone if there is no one near by or over coffee if we are in the same town. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes, that two are better than one; chapter 4 v. 10 reads, “If one falls down his friend can help him up, but pity the man who has no one to help him up.” Make sure you keep in touch with at least one person who knows what you are going through and who can help you up when you fall.

Proverbs 12:25 is a verse that helped me get through the loss of our son who died from a severe heart defect when he was two weeks old. (You can read more about that in my book, Notes from the Margins). One day, when I thought I would just shrivel up from the pain of losing the only thing I ever wanted in my life, my mom said, “The only way to really heal is to help others who are also hurting.” Proverbs 12:25 reinforces that idea: “The generous will prosper and he who refreshes others will be refreshed.” Can’t argue with God and Mom! It’s quite true. Sometimes the only way to get out of the darkness or the pain you feel in life is to reach out to the world and start making a difference for others. And by helping others, you are helped. What can you do to help other military spouses in your neighborhood, installation or city?

I guess the point I’m trying to make is this: Don’t go it alone–whether you feel healthy or overwhelmed–don’t go it alone! Get involved in your neighborhood, your church or your installation. And if that is too much for you, connect with someone. If you don’t have anyone to connect with, reach out to the chaplain, your commander’s wife, the first shirt or a doctor.

If you don’t want to go public, at least take advantage of online services like Give an Hour or Military OneSource. Sign up for daily encouragement from 411 God or join a group like Christian Military Wives or Wives of Faith. Read Jocelyn Green’s book, “Faith Deployed” or Sarah Horn’s “God Strong” or write to me. There are so many people and organizations who want to help you!

I close this praying for you! Be blessed today and reach out to help or be helped. It’s the only way to survive our crazy military lifestyle!

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I was asked this question last night by a woman who moved to town over a year ago and is still facing bouts of loneliness and fighting the urge to stay in her pajamas all day because really, who would care if she got dressed? Can you relate? I sure can. (I’m actually in my pajamas now, but I have Bible study later so eventually I will get dressed!)

The woman who posed this question is not a military spouse which got me to thinking–I think military spouses do “meeting new people” well in general. We know that we can’t take a year to make a friend because we might be gone the next. We also know that if we meet other mil spouses, we’ll form friendships and bonds more quickly because we are all sisters in our nomadic life. Still, there is always that loneliness that comes with being new in the community; the temptation to stay in the house and hide because we’re tired of always being the one to make the effort; the bad days, weeks, months that get the best of us because of our stress.

So what do I do to make friends in a new community?

  • I plan a housewarming party for three to five weeks after we move in. That gives me the incentive to get a least the main living areas unpacked and decorated. It also gives us the opportunity to meet our neighbors, learn their names and quickly get beyond the wave from the car as we leave our driveway. Besides, how can we follow God’s command to  love our neighbor if we don’t even know them?
  • I take a class. Craft stores like JoAnne’s or Michael’s offer a huge variety of classes from cake decorating to flower arranging or framing. So does MWR on base!
  • I’ve used my kids! Yes, the human kids and the furry ones are a great tool for meeting people. Find play dates at the park. Go to reading day at the library. Ask someone who is also waiting to pick up a child from a class to join you for a cup of coffee. I’m always surprised to learn that usually, the woman standing next to me who looks like she’s got it all together is usually screaming on the inside, “WOULD YOU BE MY FRIEND???” but she is just ask scared as you are to take the first step.

These are some of my friend-making strategies. What do you do? I’d love to hear!

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