I have been a military wife for almost 12 years. In that 12 years, our family has lived in five states, seven different houses, been across the United States states five times, logged thousands of miles on the road and in the air, missed family funerals, missed weddings, missed birthday’s, packed, unpacked and repacked more times than I can even count and made millions of memories.
There aren’t many things about this life that I regret (unless we count that very first apartment that we lived in, but I try to forget about that one). This military family life has given us the chance to visit so many places, see so many things and meet so many people. We have memories all across this great nation and have birthed children in three different states [Florida, Alaska and North Carolina]. Each place we’ve lived holds a special place in my heart because it holds a piece of my heart.
All of that to say that despite how great the opportunities have been; how amazing the memories are and how much we have been able to see and do through this lifestyle…I struggle more now than I ever have with whether it’s all worth it.
Leaving behind the first place that truly felt like home (that wasn’t home) in 2018 has been the hardest thing I have had to endure these 12 years.
Harder than the financial strain that we endured as newlyweds.
Harder than the colic Noah battled forever.
Harder than the three natural births of my children.
Harder than the nine month military separation we experienced in 2010.
Harder than potty training or sleep training my boys.
Leaving behind a place you call home is harder because there’s no guarantee that the next place will welcome you in.
If I’m being brutally honest, that’s been the case since we left. Sure, we’ve met some acquaintances and landed in a church where we’ve been able to get involved. Josh and I lead the Youth Small Group and teach the teens every week in AWANA. The kids are back in school and Josh loves his job. But, there’s still always that sense of not belonging.
We go from place to place, every three to four years. Groups are established; friendships are formed. Everyone has their “crowd” and their rhythm with the people they associate with. It’s like visiting a new church and being the only one who doesn’t know that the seat in the fifth row on the right side belongs to someone. No one who has been there has to say it out loud and no one would dare tell you for fear of being rude, but when the usual occupant of that seat arrives, you feel the vibe that you aren’t where you’re supposed to be. That you don’t belong.
Military life is much like that.
No where that is your “home” other than the place you originally grew up. No where that feels like a place you’ve settled. No one house to make memories in or reminisce about. More than anything, few—if any—connections that run more than skin deep. Once in a blue moon, you’ll meet the rare few people who let you in…truly let you in, for a season. But, as with all seasons, things change. People change; hearts change; lives change. Eventually, the struggle of maintaining a distant friendship becomes too much. Eventually, you’re left with nothing much memories.
We’ve actually had people own the fact that being friends with us was “too hard.” While I appreciated the honesty and slight brutality of that statement, it made it feel like we were “too much trouble” and “not worth investing in.” While I understand that not everyone is equipped to pack up and move few years and that opening up to us [as a family] means opening your heart to us as well. There’s always the reality that we could be called to leave at the drop of a hat or at best will only be around for three to four years.
Nonetheless, after almost twelve years of treading in shallow water friendship, I wonder often what the deep levels of friendship look like. The friendships that span the miles and the years. The kind that we all dream about and hope for but rarely find. The kind of friendships that you expect to have when you’re in school only to discover later that they aren’t real.
Friendships, like any loving relationship, require work and sacrifice. Unfortunately, like most relationships, it’s typical that only one person is willing to give that kind of sacrificial love away. Heartbreaking as it is and has always been, as a military family we trudge along from station to station; opening our hearts and our homes in hopes that someone, someday will dive deep and get away from the shore.
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.Proverbs 18:24