It is What We Make It

For the past couple of years, we've been living in a little desert community where my husband is currently stationed.

I was born and raised in the Piney Woods of Texas, and attended college in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but this is definitely a side of the state I'd never seen before we moved here.

It's dust, dry heat, and prickly plants, with mountains on the horizon.

Cloudless blue skies and sunshine, all year long.

The wild west definitely has its own kind of rustic charm and beauty, and we're grateful for the opportunity to experience a place like this as a family when we might never have, otherwise.

But, I can't tell you - not with a straight face, anyway - we've loved living here 100% of the time.

The Stateside Sandbox, especially when times are hard and deployment is right around the corner, can definitely feel like the middle of nowhere.  

Boring, desolate, and light years (okay, maybe just hundreds of miles) away from family.

The truth is, though, it can be all of these things, if that's what we make it, but we've learned there's always fun and adventure to be found, lessons to learn, and friends and memories to be made, wherever we are.

That is something we want to try to remember, and take with us everywhere we go.

Trying to see the circumstances we're dealt in military life as adventures to be had rather than sentences to serve has been part of a significant shift of perspective for me.

If we'd never given ourselves a chance to get out there and really experience all this part of the country has to offer, we might never have watched hot air balloons lift off and fill a sunrise-sky with color.

We might never have picked our own peppers and pumpkins, tasted wines from southwestern vineyards, camped out in the mountains, hiked through beautiful canyons (like the one in the photographs), or visited White Sands National Monument, artsy Albuquerque, and the cozy ski mountain town of Ruidoso.

When it's time for us to leave here, we'll definitely have more - on the inside, anyway - than we had we we arrived.  That's for sure. 

When it comes to a duty station, another aspect of military life, or just life, in general, we're learning: it is what we make it.

And, I believe -
"One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure." - William Feather


My Mission | We Are Not Alone

The year I found myself suddenly learning how to fill the roles of both Mom and Military Spouse (within just a few weeks of each other) was a tough one, full of change and adjustment.

Hard change and adjustment that turned life as I knew it upside down.

When we found out my husband's unit would be deploying for twelve months shortly after we arrived at our first duty station, I felt overwhelmed and alone, but, instead of reaching out to ask for help when the water began to rise over my head, I built walls and isolated myself.

It was mostly out of fear, but, if I'm truly being honest with myself, I admit, it had something to do with pride, too.   

I thought I could handle it all - and that I'd be stronger, better for it, somehow - on my own.

I thought that was what it meant to be Army Strong; independent, when, as far as the military was concerned, I was just another dependent.

But, boy was I wrong.

My mission for When Home is Not a Place is to encourage and empower women in their roles (this blog is not just for moms or military spouses - all are welcome here!), and to remind us all of something I had to learn the hard way: no matter where we are or what we're going through - we are never alone.

When Home is Not a Place is meant to be a community, a bridge, not a one-sided platform.  

Always keeping OPSEC and respect for one another at the forefront of our minds, you are strongly encouraged to discuss and share openly here.  

If you are uncomfortable with commenting publicly at any time, please feel free to email me: courtney@whenhomeisnotaplace.com.

I want to hear and learn from your story as much as I want to share my own.  I believe our stories matter.

The truth is, it's okay to ask for help when we need it. 

There's always someone who's been where we're standing, right now, to reach out to for a little hope and perspective when we need it.

Maybe, today, that someone is you.

Let's take a look around.  Find - or be - a shoulder to lean on.

Let's encourage and empower one another as we learn how to thrive, wherever we are, together.

Introduce yourself!  Leave a comment to say hello, and don't forget to share a link to your blog if you have one!  


10 Things We Learned (The Hard Way) From The First Years of Military Life

Last month, the first chapter of my husband's military career came to an end, and, now, we're waiting to see what's next.

Looking back, it feels as though I can remember every little detail about the day it all began.

The cold fluorescent lighting that reflected harshly off the shiny white linoleum floors of the old government building.

Sitting right next to my husband in a hard metal-folding chair, yet feeling hundreds of miles away from him, already.

Watching old men in scratchy gray suits shuffle up and down the hallway, handing out complimentary copies of The New Testament to anyone who'd take one.

Talking in whispers, waiting for something to happen, and not really knowing what to expect.

Feeling like my heart was going to leap out of my chest when the ceremony began, and ducking off into the restroom to pull myself together at the last moment, because I was afraid I was going to be sick.

The overwhelming, contradicting feelings of pride, excitement, worry, and sadness I felt as I heard my husband recite the words.

The fear of not knowing what we were getting ourselves into.

Although I couldn't have understood the significance of the moment, the choice, and how it would forever change us, I found myself reeling from the ramifications of it all.

Then, suddenly, one last kiss for me, and a rub on my aching 34-weeks pregnant tummy for Jacob before I saw my husband disappear down the hallway.

I walked back to the parking garage in the cold with a lump in my chest the size of Texas, and drove to our empty house alone.

I'm so thankful the growing pains of transition - the training and first year-long deployment - are done with, and put behind us for good.

We made it through. We did it.

Even though these next couple of years will undoubtedly bring their own share of hardships, being able to put all of the scary initial unknowns behind us for good is such a relief.

Now, reflecting on the past couple of years, I've narrowed down just a few of the things we've had to learn the hard way, thus far.

10 Things We Learned (The Hard Way) From The First Years of Military Life

    1. Home is not a place.
    2. No matter what hardship we're facing, we are never alone
    3. It's okay to ask for help when we need it. Really, it is.
    4. On the flip-side of that same coin, friends need to be chosen wisely, and healthy boundaries are more than necessary.
    5. A duty station is what we make it.  This can be said for pretty much every other aspect of military life, as well.
    6. It's easier to be happy when we find ways to be content with what we have, no matter the circumstance.
    7. Choosing to let go, and accept the things that were never ours to control in the first place, is painful, but necessary when it comes to learning how to thrive.
    8. Healthy communication fortifies.
    9. With every "Hurry Up and Wait" that comes our way, we're learning a little bit more about what it really means to have patience, and why it is a virtue.
    10. When pushed to our breaking points, we just might come face to face with inner-demons we never knew we had, but these battles can be opportunities for us to learn more about ourselves and each other, over come them together, and grow closer through the fight.
    In retrospect, I can see God working through the trials and heartache, the harsh life lessons and the victories.

    Tearing down, building back up.

    Shaping, disciplining, teaching, strengthening.

    Always providing - not always in the ways we want, but always in the ways we need. 
    "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope." - Romans 5:3
    Knowing what we know, now, I honestly can't say whether or not we'd make the same choice all over, again, if we had the chance to, but I'm so thankful for the experiences we've had, the lessons we've learned, where we've been, how far we've come, and where we are, today.

    What has military life - or another circumstance - taught you the hard way?