You may recall that Matt and I were gifted a Revitalization Retreat in April from the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation. It was wonderful and its purpose was to allow my soldier and me to reconnect – away from life, the kids, responsibility, and the job. It definitely allowed us time to enjoy each other and to make sure we are putting each other first.
I strongly encourage any of you reading who are military or first responder families to go to their website and nominate yourselves for a retreat. You are also welcome to nominate another couple whom you feel is in need of just such a weekend. I am so excited that a couple I nominated was awarded a retreat which is coming at a very pivotal time in their lives! The joy I receive at watching them prepare for a time away is almost as great as the joy I felt at being alone with my beloved for the weekend. Almost.
The “Foundation” as those of us in the family call it, also offers spouses of military members and first responders a weekend to get away and spend time focusing on SELF. Not in a selfish way, but in a way that allows us to put aside the duties and responsibilities placed on us as wives, moms, spouses of people who serve in stressful jobs. When told to prepare for the weekend by thinking of what I wanted to get out of the time spent in Wyoming, I came up blank. I had no clue. I had no idea what it meant to prepare for five days focusing on ME; my needs, who I am.
I know what it means to work on “me” as a homeschool-teacher. I know what it is to work on “me” as a mom (“boy mom;” “adoptive mom;” “mom of many;”). I know what it is to work on me as a wife. I know what it is to work on me as a Christian woman.
But to work on me… just me? I was totally stumped. I wasn’t sure there was a “me” under all these titles.
In fact I was so stumped that as we went around the circle telling everyone just what it was that we were there to work on, I tried to think of something clever to say. When it was my turn I admitted my problem and in the admission, I determined my need: “I need to know who I am without all these titles.”
Over the next few hours a slight panic set in as I was afraid that underneath my titles would be… nothing.
I sat in the sessions soaking in the camaraderie of other wives who know this hard life. Who know the fear that comes sneaking in when our husbands walk out the door (though thankfully, Matt and I are not in a season where fear is prevalent). I got to share what was on my heart: how much I respect the LEOW community. For those of you, like me before this retreat, who don’t know what LEOW means, it stands for Law Enforcement Officer Wives. My heart goes out to the women whose husband find themselves in a war zone on our own soil. Their husbands go to work every day in their battle gear. Sure, mine goes for 6-15 months at a time, and it has its own set of fears and worries. But Americans recognize that and support him and what he does. Our first responders are often seen as the bad guys even though they signed on the dotted line to be the protectors of their towns and cities. How unfair and utterly disturbing this is.* I am able to proclaim that I’m proud of my soldier while some of my friends who are married to law enforcement have to hide what their husband does because otherwise, they and their children become literal targets.
So, now that that soapbox has been covered, I’ll move on.
My issue was that I didn’t know who I was under my titles. I spent time processing this and the first morning I woke up in the mountains I sent some time journaling using the technique Corie taught us. I forgot to pack my Bible (gasp… Chaplain Wife fail) and really wanted to hear from God about my own struggle. I didn’t want to just jot down my own ideas… I wanted to hear from HIM about my issues. I asked him to bring to my mind a scripture that I could meditate on during that time of quiet before the day started.
The one that came to mind was, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.” I looked it up just now to find that it is from Psalm 139:14 and is actually said from the first person, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” but on that morning I heard it from God’s perspective… the perspective I needed.
By the end of my journaling session, I had reached the bottom of my issue… I am not my titles, and I was created by God Himself, and I was made wonderfully. If my titles fall away – if I lose my job as a homeschooling mom (and I will, one day), I am still wonderfully made. If I lose everything that makes me who I am today, I am still wonderfully made. At my core, I am enough. Who that is without my titles, I don’t know. But God made it clear to me that I don’t need to know. Often, when people ask me how to know God’s will for their lives I encourage them to be still and listen. He’s not a hide-and-seek God. He wants us to know His will. He’s not running ahead of us turning corners before we can catch Him, telling us that it’s our fault that we can’t find Him.
If He’s quiet on an issue, it’s likely because it’s not time to know the next thing. My encouragement is to sit still, keep searching scripture, spend time in prayer, and do the last thing He said to do.
The last thing God told me to do is grow in my faith, be a loving wife to Matt, raise these five amazing kids, and homeschool my children. (Those last two are totally separate tasks, by the way.) I can’t know who I am without these titles because He hasn’t told me who I am without those titles. I’m to continue on in these roles because these are the roles He last told me to take on. There are a few titles He’s asked me (allowed me) to put aside for now. Some I hated to put aside (participating in PWOC) and some I’m okay to be done with (teaching in the public school system).
What He will ask me to do in the future is for me to find out in my future. Trying to find out what I’m going to do next, when I’m done with my current job (specifically homeschooling) is like trying to open a birthday present that I’m going to receive on a birthday that is many years away. I can’t open it because it hasn’t been given to me yet.
Do you know what a relief that is? To not have to know what I’m going to do next? To be able to sit in my current roles, roles I adore, by the way? I don’t have to worry that I’m not doing enough (writing a book, working on a master’s degree, contributing to society outside of our four walls). I am enough because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am enough as is. Where I am. How I am.
The weight that lifted off my shoulders was palpable and I didn’t even know I was carrying it around. I left that concern in the mountains of Wyoming.
God knows my favorite way to have confirmation in what I’m learning from Him is in the form of words: spoken, written, and shared between friends. When I shared this story with Corie, she told me that she too had gotten that scripture from God that very morning. It was as if God were telling me, “Yep. The message you got this morning was from me, not just you writing down what you wanted to hear.”
That was enough to make the retreat complete and worthwhile.
But there was so much more. However, I’ve been told that blog posts shouldn’t be this long… in fact, they should be about half this long. I’ll stop here and share a picture or two. Future posts will include more pictures than words and maybe a fun story or two.
As I stepped off the plane I saw snow. Just a tiny bit, but it was snow!
When I entered the building, oddly enough, I was totally surprised to see Corie waiting on me! Of course I knew she was going to be there that weekend, but I had read the email wrong and thought she was arriving an hour after me. (I blame jet lag – even though there was only a one-hour time difference.) We’ve known each other since college (Go Runnin’ Bulldogs) and were stationed together at Fort Carson for short season. We got to catch up briefly in 2014 when (my) Matt and Corie were honored as Distinguished Alumni at GWU’s Homecoming. There is never enough in-real-person time but there is something special about friendships that pick up where they left off and can survive, and even thrive, in spite of time and space between.
(And for the record, getting to spend time with Corie was enough to send me home refreshed. That alone was such a treat! I took home so much, left so much behind, and got to see a dear friend… Thank you Chris Kyle Frog Foundation!)
*Please note that this is not a political statement about anything specific. My blog is not the place for that discussion… I will say that I expect law enforcement personnel to be upstanding, law-abiding people who will judge a situation as accurately as humanly possible, and I will say that respect goes both ways. If you wonder at all about my deeper thoughts on this issue, it’ll have to be done via private message.