There is great research being done on how military and first responder families are doing, but I’m more interested in the stuff that you don’t say out loud. I’m interested in the state of your heart. Knowing how our community is really doing is how we start pulling together the best resources to breathe life back into it. The following surveys help gather information used to supplement the growing body of research. All data collected will be used for speaking engagements, cultural study, curriculum projects with key partners, and development of resources to serve your family.
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“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”
By Cindy S.
Sometimes I have a hard time connecting my daily ministry tasks to what God is doing in the lives of the people I serve and work with. Sometimes it feels like a lot of squeezing for a little bit of juice!
But this summer, God allowed me to serve in a ministry that helped me draw a very short line between my efforts and God’s results.
In June, I had the opportunity to volunteer for four weeks with Operation Heal Our Patriots (OHOP), a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, reaching wounded warriors and their spouses with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
For 16 weeks each summer, Samaritan’s Purse flies ten couples to their remote Samaritan Lodge in Port Alsworth, Alaska, for a five-day retreat focused on marriage enrichment and spiritual renewal. The staff that serves these couples consists of seasonal employees and short-term volunteers, working in maintenance, housekeeping, cooking, and food service. I was assigned to serve in the staff kitchen.
Because I had met several of the people connected with OHOP before I flew to Alaska, I had some idea of what to expect as a volunteer: long hours, physical labor, no stores—so bring everything you might need—and no transportation beyond my own two feet.
But what surprised me during my month there was the single-minded focus on sharing Jesus that characterized the staff, from the chaplains who work directly with the wounded warrior couples, to the volunteers and staff who provide support.
Daily we exhorted each other to stay strong because our work would bear tangible spiritual fruit. And every Friday, as staff and guests gathered around the fire, our work was rewarded as guests gave testimony of their new faith in Christ and their desire to be baptized. What a celebration as we walked down to the lake to witness the new believers enter the water with the chaplains!
Then, we happily returned to our tasks because we knew our efforts had grown fruit. We had connected the dots between our jobs and God’s moving in the lives of the wounded warriors and their spouses.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Karen Webber, one of the season-long OHOP staff members and wife of GARBC-endorsed Navy chaplain Tom Webber, and talk about the unique focus and teamwork I experienced at OHOP this summer.
Karen has served at OHOP during the last four seasons as a cook in the staff kitchen. Her job is not an easy one. As one of four staff cooks, Karen not only prepares meals six days a week, but also plans menus and orders food which is flown in once a week on Samaritan’s Purse planes.
Long hours and hard work don’t discourage Karen. She sticks to her motto: “Be kind and gracious and cook good food.”
And good food it is! While I was there, the staff ate shrimp, salmon, steak, fresh watermelon, scratch-made yogurt, apple pies, and gourmet pizza. I had to ask Karen why the food was so good; it requires substantial effort and expense. Her answer was, “It’s my goal to serve tasty, nutritious food to allow the staff to serve with strength and joy.”
Even though Karen’s position as a staff cook doesn’t directly impact the wounded warrior couples with the gospel, she knows that great meals renew the spirits of those who are interacting with the guests at OHOP. It is hard to minister to hurting people when you are feeling empty yourself, and Karen’s food fills the stomach and the heart. It certainly kept me going strong!
It is easier to see a personal impact when you are serving in a leadership position, or when you are directly sharing Christ’s love, but this is a misleading viewpoint.
Karen and her fellow cooks are solely responsible for the nutritional needs of 40 people who serve over a 16-week period in a location where they cannot purchase food for themselves. The volunteer kitchen helpers make sure the dishes are clean and sanitary for the next meal. The volunteer housekeepers keep guest and staff areas tidy and hygenic. Fail at these missions, and the staff members who counsel with the couples are too sick or tired to be effective.
So, we all work together, and even the smallest or simplest contributions are connected to the greater mission of sharing the Gospel.
Of course, this only works if we know and understand the mission.
If the mission ends at good food, clean dishes, germ-free bathrooms, and personal satisfaction in a job well done, our motivation won’t last for long. My experience this summer helped me reevaluate the impact of my ministry tasks on the cause of Christ, and to take the long view.
At OHOP, there were just a few dots to connect between my tasks and God’s results. At home, there are countless dots, sometimes stretching years into the future, requiring faith in the working of the Holy Spirit.
As a senior spouse in the Army chaplaincy, my role is often like Karen Webber’s at OHOP—demanding, yet far from the action—but I too can help other chaplain spouses on the frontlines of ministry “serve with strength and joy.”
What a lesson to learn! And what a gift to know that God will use all our efforts, large or small.
By Dinah A. Dziolek, LMHC, LPC
Corie Weather’s interview with Sarah Drew was very authentic. It really connected the issue of pain and suffering, grief with service life. Sarah was vulnerable about her own grief with leaving one phase of her work with Grey’s Anatomy to move into a different and wonderful season of her career and life. She talked about how the “in between” of waiting and slowing down was difficult for her because she loves staying busy with work but saw it as a great opportunity to take care of herself and spend time with her family. Corie mentions the fear of the unknown within this period of waiting, not knowing what is coming next and relates it to military and first responder spouses’ experiences with military and service cultures. Corie explains that we as service spouses are faced with the “in-between” of waiting and the uncertainty of what is coming next with the ongoing work of serving the military mission and local community. She states for service spouses, finding the time for self-care is very difficult while balancing the demands of service life and family.
They talked about a very emotional scene Sarah plays as April in Grey’s Anatomy and how powerful that was from a faith perspective. Sarah explained she was able to help shape the role of April with writers and she felt personally connected out of her own experience as growing up as a pastor’s daughter. She said this role was very important and she felt great responsibility to represent April well from a Christian perspective as a loving human of faith. She explained, when it comes to pain, God is not indifferent to our pain and suffering and we have a brother in Jesus who knows and has experienced suffering just as we do. She went onto to say, as people of faith, suffering is guaranteed. Corie connected this with the Christian protestant community explaining that people have an expectation that choosing to live out faith means life will be easier but in actuality suffering is our reality and something we must embrace in order to grow and mature in our faith. Sarah then talks about how this scene from Grey’s Anatomy with April and this patient who is dying had a tremendous impact on people of faith in her community. She goes onto to talk about how she loves being a bridge builder and loved seeing how this particular scene really brought people of different faith backgrounds together.
Sarah talked about how her work in this film really hit home for her because she related it with the struggles she has had in her own marriage, how internally she silently struggled and how therapy shed light on the pain and helped her and her husband work through it to heal as a couple. She talks about how fear and shame hold us back from shedding light on our inner pain and suffering in the same way Heather struggled in this film. Sarah explained how she had always searched for a role in which she could tell her story of struggle and this was it for her. Corie went onto talk about this is especially relevant for Chaplain and Leadership couples within the military culture. She talks about how when she became vulnerable about her marriage struggles that people were amazed to discover she struggled with the same things they did and that sparked conversations about how Commander Couples may struggle as well. The kitchen scene was especially realistic and authentic for many military and service couples. They close the interview with Sarah talking about her experience as a pastor’s daughter watching her parents struggle in their marriage and have difficulty with being vulnerable about that out of the fear of being judged. She realized that being vulnerable in her role as Heather, the Chaplain’s wife, was so powerful in that it allowed her to let other people see that struggle and pain.
This film is truly the story of our military and service families and their inner struggles from the sacrifices of military and service life. As a chaplain’s wife watching the film with my husband, an Active Duty Air Force Chaplain was powerful. It really hit home in many ways. In fact, even before I had the opportunity to prescreen the film, my husband and I were watching this particular interview over lunch at his favorite restaurant and this was at a point where we were struggling with reintegrating from his recent one year overseas assignment and subsequent PCS. We both listened intently as Corie and Sarah talked through the interview and when they brought up the kitchen scene my husband asked what it was about, as he had not seen the trailer. I described it to him in vivid detail as I began to cry in the middle of that restaurant, because this was our story too. He began to cry and told me “I’m not that guy.” This was the beginning of a turning point for us in the chaos of our “in-between” reintegration experience. We started giving the other the opportunity to understand the other person’s experience without judgment which brought us closer as a couple. We have always been friends but now we were back to being close as best friends. I have also felt the struggle with being vulnerable as a chaplain’s wife. I have chosen to be very open about my life and my struggles and have felt judgment for this. I think this is something that many chaplain and pastor’s spouses experience. From my perspective, the reward of seeing people come to healing is worth the fear and pain of being judged. The reality is, judgement happens all the time, whether we are vulnerable or not. However, being honest about our pain and suffering, no matter who we are, is something that transcends all of that. It is the power of being in community and growing together. THIS is the most important part of all, my friends. I hope the message of this interview and the film INDIVISIBLE encourages you to step out of your comfort zone to bring you and the people in your community to a place of healing.
By Kristin T
In February of 2012 I welcomed my husband home from his second tour in Afghanistan. I couldn’t have told you anything about Super Bowl that Sunday, but the energy inside that Fort Campbell hanger was tangible with a certain mix of nervous energy, sheer exhaustion, and impatient longing.
We still have the double-sided sign in our attic: “CH T Belongs to Me” on the front and “Merry Anniversibirthday” in big thin lettering across the back.
My favorite guy was home.
We knew the drill. After the mandatory hold time, we decided to take a few days to ourselves before coming “home” to my parents’ house where he’d be reintroduced to our then two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and the son he met the first time via Skype only eight months prior.
It was a wonderful plan. We rendezvoused at a sweet B&B in Serenbe, GA and discussed our past, present, and future plans, uninterrupted, face-to-face.
We had filled out our “PCS (Permanent Change of Station) Wishlist” in the eleventh month of deployment and soon learned that we were headed to another deploying unit (out the door in twelve months) not on our list at all.
We believe the wisdom of Proverbs 16:9, “The mind of the man plans his ways, but the LORD directs his steps.” Location was no big deal…as long as we were together.
Uncle Sam had given my husband some invaluable training and a wealth of experience in a relatively short amount of time. But another deployment? Again? Already? Emotions were high and feelings were mixed. Can we do this again? What if the next twenty years is like this? Will our children know their father? Will this break him? Will this break me? We didn’t know.
It had been a long year. He was tired; I was lonely.
Our initial introduction to active duty had been a whirlwind. My husband graduated seminary and welcomed our first child within ten days of his reporting to Fort Campbell to fall in on an already-deployed unit. He would be replacing a chaplain who had burned out, as we understood it.
I took our newborn and settled back into my parents’ home in SC and off he went to ready himself for his first adventure halfway around the world. Not unlike anyone else’s story, ours was exciting. And it was shocking. It was like nothing we could have prepared for.
On his very first day, before he was able to get upstairs to meet his rear detachment commander, he was caught off guard with a somber, “Oh, good, Chappy, you’re here.” He was led to a grieving father, set to retire in the next few months, who had just lost his son in a boating accident. He had missed so much over his career and was desperately looking forward to making up lost time.
This encounter was the first of many etched on my husband’s heart.
Time in garrison post-deployment was non-stop reaction to crisis. Many counselings, many losses, many divorces, many suicides. We didn’t realize until much later that his aviation support battalion was larger than most by at least double.
I know my husband can thrive under pressure, and I believe he does only through the power of Jesus Christ.
We knew something had to give. He had been gone nearly 35 of our first 72 months active. He had trained aggressively and cared tirelessly for every family, it seemed, except his.
Certainly families can and do thrive in an active duty environment. This was a very personal decision. It was time to release, to leave and cleave. We began to pray for God to open doors as we began to emotionally separate ourselves from active duty.
Like only He does, God flung the doors open. A pastoral position opened up at his father’s church where we had completed his seminary internship, a house not yet on the market became available (it was less than two miles from the church!), a National Guard position was offered, and, as a special surprise, we discovered we were pregnant with our third child without the help of fertility treatments.
We crunched numbers, set calendars, filled out a gazillion pages of paperwork, and packed our bags for our new adventure together.
We know better than to discuss important issues when we’re tired (or hungry); but we’re not always granted that luxury, especially pre/post deployment or PCS season. To say we were exhausted is an understatement. We took what energy we had at the time and threw it into re-evaluating our situation.
With the prompting of a senior chaplain,we ran our decision through five filters (in no particular order): Family, Finances, Future, Faith, Fun.
What was the best possible scenario within these five areas? Facts and assumptions? We knew the short dwell times of AD were not what we wanted for our family. We knew our finances would take a big hit leaving AD for a small-town pastorate. We knew that we still wanted and needed the military as part of our future. We knew we wanted to minister our faith together rather than independently as we’d been experiencing. We assumed anything could be fun as long as we were sensitive to the Lord’s leading. We knew it was time for a break.
We had peace, we had purpose, we had a place to go, and we had a plan.
So, what about all those glowing plans of quality time together? Well, I’m still not sure whether to blame genetics for his high-octane energy level or the military for this ingrained op tempo, but our first year with that DD214 was nearly as lonely and independent as the years prior.
I recall moving into our new home and my husband spending many of his evenings working on the house. Everything was time-to-task, whatever it took to get the job done. He even put up a ten-foot fence by himself…in winter…in Pennsylvania.
Perhaps it was partly his bewilderment at my preoccupation with our three children under age three, but we were certainly in a stage of independent taskings. Again, timing isn’t everything. We were together and I wouldn’t trade that bumpy year for anything.
In addition to the unexpected restlessness, there was the actual marked lack of sleep, the continued speaking in acronyms, the higher-than-normal personal expectations, the detailed evaluation of systems, and (perhaps more so for a pastor/chaplain) the constant analyzing of people.
These aren’t bad things, just things that tended to carry over for us.
Of course, there are also things we miss. First, the simple wardrobe. I love the uniform; it’s practically a wearable duffle bag that looks so good on my mister. I doubt he’d admit it, but I think he enjoys lacing the combat boots for his Mdays. Then there is the unity, organization, efficiency of personnel that is just not the same in the private sector.
You still might catch my good-natured eye roll at the church potluck. Why won’t folks just walk down both sides of the table?! It became a joke pretty quickly, “Just sigh and say ‘civilians.’”
Until we got our medical coverage straightened out, I even missed Tricare Prime. I know!
We laugh about it now, but active duty has a rusty on/off switch.
One benefit of being married to an amazing chaplain/pastor is that he knows the delicate art of communicating to need. I can always count on him to diffuse my mood, break my cynicism, and encourage my heart.
The fact was, we were just in desperate need of pausing to patch up and refill the watering cans. It seemed clear that another move with another deployment would have likely left us high and dry, at least for a season.
It wasn’t a lack of faith that the Lord would care for us. We knew He had our best interest for His glory through struggle.
It wasn’t discontentment; we refused to dwell on “the luck of the draw” when it came to assignment.
It wasn’t an unwillingness to be “spent” for the work of the Lord. For the believer, life is ministry.
We were just ready to enjoy the gift of marriage a bit closer positionally (insert smiley emoji).
And now, always ready for our next adventure.
As the wife of an active duty chaplain and a licensed professional counselor, I work with military and first responder couples.
Every single day, I see men and women who struggle with what we call the “invisible wounds of war.” This is more than a battle against the memories of many harrowing experiences. It’s a battle for their soul, where they’re struggling to find peace and normalcy and to resist the temptation to harbor anger and bitterness and to isolate themselves from their community.
It’s a battle to live a life most of us take as a right. But for far too many people, their experiences on the front lines of conflict wall them off from help, hope and healing.
The term we typically hear is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—PTSD—but it can be so many other things. Guilt. Shame. Fear. Anger. Pent-up emotions. The “invisible wounds” come in so many forms.
And while we may not see these wounds, their effects are real: Inner turmoil. Family strife. Mental health challenges. Physical health challenges.
The effects can be deadly. The statistics are staggering.
Over 20 military veterans or active duty service members commit suicide every day. And while these groups comprise just 8.5 percent of the U.S. adult population, they are 18 percent of suicide deaths.
That’s more than 7,500 lives lost each year.
The non-fatal effects of war’s invisible wounds run deep and wide as well.
Marriages feel the strain. Relationships with friends suffer. Withdrawal and isolation looms constantly. Harmful or self-destruction behavior often results.
But just as these wounds can come from unexpected sources, help can be found in unexpected places.
I recently saw a film that not only put this in perspective for those of us who have not experienced what our service members and first responders have, it pointed a way toward hope.
The film—Unbroken: Path to Redemption—tells the amazing true story of Louis “Louie” Zamperini as he returns home from unbelievably harsh experiences in World War II. Many remember the first film—Unbroken—that told of his troubled teen years, experience as an Olympic athlete, surviving the crash of his bomber and spending 47 days in a life raft and, of course, his heroic endurance in the face of brutal treatment as a P.O.W.
But there’s an important “Part II” to Louie’s story that’s told in Unbroken: Path to Redemption. It asks the question we all want to hear answered: How does someone go to war and see the worst of humanity then come home and try to fit into a normal life?
Tormented by nightmares of his brutalization, Louie struggled with alcoholism, engaged in reckless and dangerous behavior and took his marriage to a wife who loved him deeply to the brink of divorce. Then at the famous 1949 Billy Graham tent revival in Los Angeles, Louie found faith.
What he did next was perhaps the most remarkable accomplishment in an already remarkable life.
He returned to Japan and forgave his captors.
After years of suffering, forgiveness formed the balm for his invisible wounds.
Louie’s story is about choosing life and, ultimately, about the role forgiveness plays our own personal story, no matter how challenging it has been.
Even if you’ve no connection to the military, Louie’s story will restore your faith in humanity. Despite the evil and destruction we are capable of, forgiveness and mercy are the antidote that inspires us to see the best of what we have to offer.
UNBROKEN: PATH TO REDEPMPTION is in theaters nationwide now. Find tickets at UnbrokenFilm.com.
FOR INFORMATION CONTACT:
Michael Conrad, 214-616-0320
Even though the season ended with a series on deployment, I just couldn’t resist an opportunity to interview two key people from the upcoming movie INDIVISIBLE, out in theaters October 26th, 2018.
Sarah Drew, often known from her character April Kepner on ABC’s hit medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy”. Listen in to my premiere interview with actor, Emmy nominated director, and producer Sarah Drew as she talks about life after Grey’s Anatomy, marriage, and her newest movie Indivisible that hits theaters Oct 26th. Indivisible is based on real life Army Chaplain Couple Darren & Heather Turner.
Watch (or listen) NOW to my special interview with Heather Turner about the upcoming movie Indivisible that tells the story of her marriage to a US Army Chaplain, Darren. Heather and Darren vulnerably share their story of how deployment and reintegration almost cost them their marriage and how they found restoration and hope.
INDIVISIBLE stars Sarah Drew , Justin Bruening, and Jason George from Grey’s Anatomy and opens in theaters Oct 26th, 2018.
When my husband came home to tell me he had received orders for a year-long unaccompanied tour to Korea, I remember thinking how different life would be.
He had only been an active duty chaplain for three years and we were still at our first duty station. We had established a good routine and had a great supportive community. I had grown up as a military kid, so not having a “home town,” we decided that I should stay at our current location with our two children. Our oldest was five and our youngest turned two, three days before my husband left.
The day came for him to leave, and although extremely sad, I was determined that things would go back to “normal.” We got up early the next day and made it to chapel (on time). I remember looking around that day and things just felt different
My husband had been the chaplain over the contemporary service for the three years he was there and it grew to be a very tight community. The people attending were consistent and willing to serve. However, it didn’t take long for that to go away. The transition to a new chaplain was hard for people, and for me.
Slowly, people started finding churches off-base and I finally made the decision to go elsewhere as well. So not only did I lose my husband, and my children their father, we lost our pastor and our church community. It was a very lonely place to be.
Our new church was wonderful and welcoming and understanding of our situation, but it was small and a bit of a distance away. And for me, who was getting used to being a single parent, it was hard to get plugged in.
We lived on base, and our community was great. It was surprisingly filled with fellow believers. We had different denominations we associated with, but our foundations were similar. In the beginning, people were very kind and thoughtful. But, after about three months, they kind of forgot about us.
So while my community was always supportive and willing to help in any way possible, it wasn’t always inviting. Not to say they were rude, it was quite the opposite, but I found myself being more of an outcast.
I do not think this was new. I probably always was kind of an outcast. I was surrounded by pilot wives. I was not in their “group.” I did not always understand the language they spoke in terms of their husbands’ jobs. But I always had my husband to talk with at the end of the night. We went out on dates and I could “get away” if I needed a break.
Well, that was no more. I found myself, on most nights, tired and overwhelmed, looking on Facebook at all the things the people around me were doing with each other–but not with me.
Our houses were very close together, making our lives pretty transparent. Sharing fences, and windows and doors often being open, we heard and saw real life. My neighbors on most Friday nights would have people over. I remember one particular night seeing four other families being invited over, their children having a blast together and the parents enjoying conversations while my kids and I sat in silence eating our frozen pizza.
I started seeing this pattern more and more. People would say encouraging words, would invite the kids and me over for dinner (usually no one else would be invited), and would say we need to do it again. But then they would have a birthday party for their kid and invite everyone else in the neighborhood except us.
I remember talking to my husband on FaceTime in tears, just asking him, “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t people like me?” He, of course, was encouraging, but at the end of the night, I was alone with my thoughts.
So I started thinking, maybe God is trying to teach me something. Maybe there is something wrong with me. Maybe I’m too vocal with opinions, or joke around too much.
I decided I would start being less like myself and try to work on things. But when I started doing this, people would ask me, “What’s wrong? I’ve noticed you’ve been different.” All this just brought confusion for me. I didn’t want to tell them what was going on, so I always simply said it was personal.
When I was invited to a Chick-fil-A playdate or I randomly ran into a few people on the street and we started talking, there was something that always seemed to happen. One of them would use bad language, immediately look at me and say, “I’m sorry,” and keep going.
I always found this a little odd. I never directly said, “Please don’t use that language around me.” They just assumed I wouldn’t appreciate it. They were right, but I never said anything.
I noticed it more and more. Even around different groups, I could tell they were more cautious with their words–start to say one word, pause, and use a different word.
It finally hit me. Maybe there was nothing wrong with me. I was simply a chaplain’s wife.
Now, I know not all chaplains’ wives are the same. We each have our own convictions and struggles. I know that not everyone’s personalities mesh well together, and some of these people may have had a problem with just me. But the simple fact was, when I was around, they weren’t acting the way they usually did. I never told them my convictions, they simply assumed what they were because of my husband’s job.
After this “ah ha” moment came, I then had to start asking myself if I was ok with being an outcast. Was I ok not being part of a “tribe”?
The answer was yes. I still had support and knew these people would be there for me because they genuinely loved me and my family. I just may not be “their people.”
I wasn’t going to change the values I had because I might be invited to more birthday parties. And I didn’t want them to feel they couldn’t be themselves with me being around. I just had to be ok with being alone sometimes. Ok with seeing others go out together having fun while I sat binge watching Netflix.
I felt free.
Free to go out and be who I was, and to show others who I really was. I decided that even if I was ok with being an outcast, I was going to try and not be one. At least on my end.
I started inviting families over for dinner more and letting them see my real life. Making more of an effort to go out and let others in. I think people started seeing that even if we had different convictions, we had more in common than not.
Towards the end of the tour, I felt more a part of things. Looking back now, however, I don’t think much changed around me. Instead, I had changed. I had a different outlook on life. My convictions and values were a part of me, but that didn’t mean I needed to sit and be lonely because others didn’t share them.
The Lord definitely sanctified me in ways I never thought possible during that year. The fact remains that my husband loves being a chaplain, and I love being his wife. I will proudly wear the title “chaplain’s wife” no matter what assumptions come with it.
Because, let’s face it, assumptions will be made about us no matter what our husbands do.
In this 2018 Season Finale, the Deployment Series brings an interview with Lizann Lightfoot, The Seasoned Spouse. We talk all about the struggles of deployment and how you can thrive through any separation with your spouse. Even if you are a first responder, this interview is for you. First responders live daily deployments and experience reintegration everyday your serving spouse comes home.
Find out more about Lizann’s Deployment Masterclass by clicking here: https://seasonedspouse.com/ where she offers training, resources, private Facebook groups, and a series from “seasoned” experts ready to encourage you and prepare you.
In this series, join Katie Christy and I as we completely nerd-out on the power of living out your strengths. All of us are good at something. None of us are good at everything. What if you figured out what you are created to do really well, maybe already do really well- and then get even better at it? Welcome to being a superhero.
The topic of moral injury continues to be discussed within the military and veteran space, but many still are unclear what it is and how it impacts a person and their family. Moral injury is often described as the internal struggle a person goes through after being asked to do something that goes against his or her morals or values. For many of our service members, this is a real issues that deeply impacts their ability to recover. In this FANTASTIC interview, listen as I speak with Chaplain Timothy Mallard, a subject matter expert not only in moral injury, but soul injury. Soul injury, he describes, is an even deeper and sometimes more complicated injury to the soul- often not due to anything the person did- but more so done to them. Sit back with a cup of coffee and listen. You wont want to miss a word of this two-part conversation.
Parenting is hard enough, but raising kids in a lifestyle of service sometimes feels even harder. For military there are constant relocations that make you wonder after a while if you are causing more harm than good. Accepting the call to a service lifestyle is a deeply personal one. Putting your life on the line for country and community is a sacrifice that impacts your entire family. In this interview I speak with Dr Joshua and Christi Straub, a couple doing outstanding work in the field of parenting. Joshua Straub, Ph.D., has two cherished roles—as husband to wife, Christi, and dad Landon and Kennedy. He serves as Marriage and Family Strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources and leads Famous at Home, a company equipping leaders, organizations, military families, and churches in emotional intelligence and family wellness. As a family advocate and professor of child psychology / crisis response, Josh has trained thousands of professionals in crisis response. He also speaks regularly for Joint Special Operations Command and for military families across the country. Josh is author/ coauthor of four books including Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well and creator, along with Christi, of TwentyTwoSix Parenting, an online community of parents offering discipleship tools for their kids. Together, they host the In This Together podcast and their weekly Facebook Live broadcasts reach tens of thousands of families. Joshua and Christi have the “In This Together Podcast” where they address topics on parenting and marriage as well as their 22:6 Parenting Curriculum that gives you everything you could possibly need to succeed as a parent including- – A supportive group environment, – Tools to use with your kids and – Monthly curriculum for you to download each month. To listen to our interview on their “In This Together Podcast”
Do you have a pre-teen or teenager? I am so excited to share with you my interview with Gary Allen Taylor from Axis. Axis is an organization whose mission is to empower the next generation to think clearly and critically about what they believe and to take ownership of their faith. They do this not by outsourcing parents, but by resourcing them to disciple and transfer legacy to their children as they face life’s questions and challenges. We also support faith leaders in churches and schools by providing content and facilitators who effectively introduce and address life’s toughest topics. Raising Generation Z kids is all about having the right information and tools to parent in a loving and effective way. You will love the approach Axis is taking to equip you. Don’t forget to sign up for their FREE newsletter called the Culture Translator. It will arrive in your email box every Friday with updates on what is happening in the culture, conversations your teen might be having at school, as well as tips for conversations you can start with your kids.
What could be more honest than a conversation with my own teenager? I could not have a series on Generation Z without bringing one in on the podcast. In this interview, I give Aidan full permission to honestly talk with me about his experiences at school with bullying, active shooter drills, academics, and what it is like to be a military kid that moves around a lot.
WATCH or listen to this episode! Full transparency- I am in love with Young Life. This organization changed my life during our first deployment, simply because they loved my family when I needed it most. Now that my kids are old enough to be a part of it, I’m shouting it from the rooftops. Young life seres middle and high school students but extends all the way into college while also serving specific groups in need like special needs, teen moms, and more. In this interview, listen as I talk with Alex Holryode from Young Life in Columbia, SC. He shares how you can get your kids involved for extra support and positive role modeling- not to mention tons of fun. Be sure to click the links for more on Young Life and Club Beyond!
I was asked recently to address how to communicate better with family members- especially when the service lifestyle has changed you and your spouse. This is a sensitive subject so hang on to your seats as we tackle perspective from many angles. This episode is all about how to understand what changes your family might see in you. Sometimes we don’t even realize how much we have changed until we go back home. We will talk about how to see your own changes as well as what family might see in you. But what if there are significant changes? What if your spouse has PTSD? Here we start the discussion on what you can do.
Has the service lifestyle changed you? Most likely it has and trying to explain to your families members how and why is difficult. In response to the requests for advice on how to talk with family, I decided to offer you a 2 part segment where I specifically talk to your family! In this episode, I explain some of the cultural dynamics that have contributed to changes they may have seen in your family. These conversations can trigger lots of emotions, so this is a great episode to share with those you love!
In Part 3, I speak specifically to family members rather than service couples. Many families describe visits like walking on eggshells and that is no way to enjoy a visit! If you have not heard Part 1, definitely start there. This offers practical tips for relating to your service family who might be struggling with PTSD, combat stress, or other changes that might stand out to you.
There couldn’t be a better way to finish the Family Series than for me to interview Kim Weathers, my mother-in law and Matt’s mom. She is a proud wife to a retired police officer and also now knows what it’s like to have a son in the military. In this sweet interview, Kim shares the challenges of accepting her son’s calling into the military, what it has been like to see our family change and go through difficulty, and encourages other family members on how to maintain strong relationship with their serving family members. It was a vulnerable conversation for both of us, but so, so, worth it.
In this amazing story, Tiffany Smiley shares her journey of excitement as a new military spouse and then tragically becoming a caregiver of her husband who was blinded during his first deployment. Over the course of more than 10 years, Tiffany gave everything she had to her husband and family only to burnout and ask whether God loved her or had a purpose for her. In her vulnerable story, she shares how she came back from a very dark place, renewed her mind, and discovered her purpose in bringing hope to others asking the same questions. Tiffany announces her upcoming conference in Washington state where she can help you write your story, be inspired, and discover a sense of purpose yourself. For more on Tiffany’s Story of Faith Conference, visit her website http://tiffanysmiley.com
If you are looking for an inspirational story, this is it. Watch or listen to my interview with Lindsay Swoboda, a military spouse and new blogger. In this interview, she takes us into a difficult season of her marriage where she found herself feeling incredibly disconnected from her husband and decided to make an inspiring change. She took the Sacred Spaces Challenge and committed to pursuing her spouse in a new way for 365 days! She is currently the owner of the Uplifting Anchor blog where she encourages other military spouses in their everyday experiences. Find a link to her blog in the links above!
Sometimes we just need a place to share our story. Every single one of us has been through something difficult and made it through. I love a good story- one that inspires me to think bigger, live bigger, and love bigger. What I want is to provide a place of encouragement where YOU can share your story with the hope of encouraging someone else. This video will walk you through how to develop your story in a way that will inspire someone else. I hope you will join me.
By L.G. McCary
Making friends isn’t the simplest thing for me. I have a quirky sense of humor influenced by British sitcoms, Shakespeare, Calvin and Hobbes, and my dad’s affinity for puppets. I contemplate the zombie apocalypse on a regular basis. I repeat the phrase, “I read an article the other day…” so often that it’s become a joke.
But making friends within the military sphere is hard for a different reason: friendships have parting dates from day one.
One of the first questions I ask upon meeting someone new is, “How long have you been here?” From their answer, I calculate how much time I have to get to know them and whether it is worth it.
It may sound terrible, but I know the person I’m speaking to is making that same calculation. Is it worth exchanging numbers? Should I friend her on Facebook? Is this someone I will never see again because new orders are in the pipeline?
I met several fun people as we prepared to leave our first post, and they all gave me the same look: “I like you, but I’m not going to talk to you again, sorry.” I’m sure my face said the same.
The truth is, friendships rarely last a lifetime with job changes, changing schools, having children, and a hundred other things small and large that shift your social circle. It may not feel like it, but every friendship is always somewhere between hello and goodbye.
For military spouses, the continuum is compressed into a few short years or months, and it changes the way you approach relationships in some comical ways. For example:
For someone who takes a long time to trust people, it’s been an education. A very wise senior chaplain’s wife told me at our first post, “What you used to do to make friends won’t work anymore. You have to think differently.” She was right. I don’t have the luxury of taking my time.
Instead, I have to take the approach of my lovely friend Tayler who grabbed my arm after chapel one day and said, “I’ve heard we should be friends, so let me give you my number, and we’ll hang out this week.” And we did.
Non-military friends get to stick around somewhere long enough to grow deep roots and enjoy a wider space between hello and goodbye. I admit I envy the breathing room, but I also see how easy it is to waste time.
While social media allows us to communicate news and enjoy pictures of friends who have moved on or stayed behind when we have moved, it isn’t the same as chatting while your kids play at the park or laughing over coffee together at the Starbucks on post.
You won’t get this moment to laugh, cry, pray, and encourage each other again. That goodbye is looming on the horizon, and new hellos will come. You can’t walk alone for long.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
P.S. If you’re still lonely, lure new friends with homemade baked goods. Brownies are especially effective.
The deepest hurts of marriage are often deeper than the current circumstances. Instead, it is the fear that perhaps we are so different there is no hope. Personality differences that once attracted you to each other now drive a wedge. Even deeper, it is the resentment that now, dangerously, wishes your spouse was different than who they are.
I remember the moment I looked at my now husband and thought “I want to marry that man.” We were in college, and while I had planned out my future with great responsibility and detail, he was still deciding on a major.
He was an artist, a dreamer. He was deeply passionate about life and balanced my Type-A side that wanted to wrestle life into order. While he saw me as a power suit, I was in awe of his carefree, carpe diem outlook on life.
We, like most couples, found something in each other that was missing in ourselves. I was the “yang” to his “yin” — perfect for each other while also two opposite extremes that combust when as asked to work together. Marriage has a great way of revealing that dynamic in a relationship, doesn’t it?
Most marriages I come across have a similar dynamic. Most of the time opposites really do attract. Maybe you are an introvert married to an extrovert, or a highly organized person married to someone who wants no rules.
But these opposite characteristics that once attracted us can over time create huge relationship frustration. And, In many cases, that frustration is the cause of deep hurt.
In my work as a military marriage therapist, I often see couples with one specific personality combination: the service member is highly disciplined and logical, and his spouse is incredibly empathetic.
Military training has taught the service member that pausing a mission to talk about each others’ feelings gets people killed. In military strategy, emotions simply do not hold the value they do on the outside, especially at home. But because service members often marry their deeply empathetic opposite, the military spouse puts high value on those emotions. It is how we as spouses tend to make parenting decisions and communicate in our relationships.
Although every couple is unique in how their personalities conflict, I see again and again supporting spouses who say “he is cold” or doesn’t “value my feelings.” Many spouses tell me that they often agree with his logic, they just want to know that he also hears, relates, and can feel the feelings of those impacted by his decision. But from his perspective, he listened and doesn’t know how to value your feelings any more than he already did.
And now the couple is hurting — and they wish the other was different. And because they have been here so many times before, the discouragement is real. Things never change. They never change.
So, how do most react? We beg. We beg our partner to learn, change and be different, because it is so hard to be married to someone who simply “must be hurting me on purpose.”
It is a crazy cycle of triggering each other into bad habits and reactions, only to push them into feeling deeply ashamed of who they are. Afterall, how does one magically turn into a different person to make their spouse happy again?
Even while doing it, most people know that begging their spouse to be someone they are not doesn’t get them closer to their goal. So how do you come to terms with your partner and accept who he or she already is while also working on your relationship and happiness?
You stop begging.
Assuming your challenges are the result of personality differences and not destructive behavioral decisions like addiction, there is a simple way to navigate your way out of begging and into helpful relationship building.
Even easier? It is also an acronym — BEG — to help you stop in the moment and ask a few questions.
Balance: Have I lost sight of our balance? Remember your spouse has strengths that you do not, and vice versa. Combustion does not have to be the result of the two of you coming together on any issue. Look for how his strengths add value rather than assuming your way is the best and right way. The power of yin and yang is that opposites actually balance each other in the most healthy, often pure way.
Extreme: Is your ask extreme? I often hear the questions “Am I asking for too much?” or “Is it just me?” To answer that, ask yourself if your expectations are extreme. Are you asking your spouse to fill a void he or she can’t possibly fill? Hint: if your ask requires them to be mind readers, be perfect or be God, then the answer is “yes.”
If you can say that your expectations are healthy and you simply need them to show more affection than they naturally do, then you can safely assume you aren’t asking too much, and now you have a starting point.
Grace: How can I extend grace? Grace is giving someone mercy even when you feel they don’t deserve it . Having strengths means we also have weaknesses — we simply cannot be a rockstar at everything. Have grace for your spouse in the areas that do not come naturally to him or her. Teach ways to easily meet those needs for you rather than waiting for them to be as awesome as you are. Chances are you will need that person’s grace just as much tomorrow when he or she is asking you to change.
As much as sometimes I would love to sometimes beg my husband to be more like me, if I’m honest I really don’t want that. I love that he makes me put down my calendar and I (sometimes) love that he pushes me to think outside our budget. I need that in my life, or I would turn into the most selfish version of myself.
So perhaps today, I will try a little harder to do some of the things that are important to him and we just might see the value in this thing called marriage.
Are you a chaplain spouse? Do you love to write or is it something you’ve been interested in? Read on, my friend…
A few years ago, I came across a dissertation paper that was studying officers’ spouses. The study found that as the service member was promoted in rank (and the spouse became a more senior spouse), there was an increase in isolation which led to increased depression and anxiety.
That part may not surprise you. But then I came across one sentence that said that the increased isolation these spouses experienced was very similar to what was commonly seen in a pastor’s wife.
Because I, too, am a chaplain’s spouse, I realized that it is quite possible that our community struggles with a double whammy. This was what fueled my passion to do the Anonymous Chaplain Spouse Survey in 2015 and 2016. My research, along with many conversations with senior spouses, has confirmed what many of us know to be true. That being a chaplain spouse (although quite fulfilling) also brings difficulty that we must be willing to talk about. Whether it is real or perceived, chaplain spouses tend to feel some of the following:
Part of this will include content available just for chaplain families. Which is where you might come in.
I am inviting chaplain spouses who are interested in writing to join me in creating authentic meaningful content for our community. If you are interested, here is what you can expect.
Content contributors can/will:
UPDATE: Due to the wonderful response and great questions, here is a list of FAQs
I am thrilled by the response already; I think there is a definite need in our community and I’m excited about what’s ahead. I’m getting some great questions on what a contributor could expect, so I hope to answer a few of your questions.
The Lifegiver mission statement is purely to “provide a place for honest conversation and breathe life into our community.” Although that sounds pretty vague, it hopefully sets the tone for positive content while remaining authentic.
Not at all. For those who wish to write regularly, I will definitely consider it and welcome having new and fresh content. I personally work better when I have deadlines each month, but you may be in a place where you want to write as you feel prompted by a topic. If you are working on a piece, I wouldn’t mind getting a heads up though!
At this time, no. I have heard from many people that they value having a place that is ad-free. In order to keep Lifegiver a free resource, as well as a nice platform where people want to come, I do not take sponsorships. I have hesitated reaching out for contributors or team work for a long time because I have not wanted to “ask” for more than what I know you already give to the community- especially as a volunteer. However, I also want to be obedient to the prompting I feel to give you a place to both give and receive positive, encouraging content.
I am not currently turning people away from this opportunity as of yet. I would definitely encourage you to turn in any brief writing samples you may have. If you are just beginning, that is ok, too! We all have to start somewhere. Just like a family, I expect to have various writing styles and experience. The great thing about a blog like this is that I can create categories like devotionals, educational, PTSD, support, etc.
However… Any articles, or behavior, that is divisive, destructive, or does not have healthy movement forward will not be included as it does not align with the mission statement.
As of right now, yes but with some limits. This may change, but it would not be helpful to our community and in line with the calling of a chaplain family to not be inclusive. There will be limits to faiths that are attempting to proselytize through the blog. This is a place of support. I will also have the ability to create categories on this if necessary. Limits on this also go back to being filtered through the mission statement.
What is most important to me (and I believe to the community), is that it is authentic, relatable, and has movement forward. In other words, I would love for content to deal with tough topics that are rarely talked about openly, even if they feel negative. I only ask that the piece ends in encouragement and movement forward.
Consider writing on topics that other chaplain families are wrestling with and experiencing! Please try to steer away from personal blog style writing where you are documenting your own journey. Feel free to share parts of your story, but use your story make a point or make it more relatable to what someone else is experiencing. For more on this, consider watching my video on “Telling Your Story“
Not if you don’t want to. If you feel especially talented in this area, I am open to it. More on this to come…
Some extra inside information:
I hope to launch this blog soon on a new Lifegiver site that will be separate from my site, which will make it more inviting. Even bigger, I hope to make a portion of this site a safe community for chaplain spouses where there is room for discussion, anonymously if desired. More to come on this as well, but I wanted you to know where this special blog is headed!
If you are interested in this exciting opportunity to serve, email email@example.com
I’m so excited to do this with you!