3.18.2014

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

3.13.2014

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!  

3.11.2014

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?

    3.10.2014

    The Pain of Healing | Why Our Stories Matter

    From infancy, we're conditioned to protect ourselves from the things that cause us pain.

    Even my 3 year old understands well enough why he has to stay away from the oven when it's on, though he has yet to experience that kind of burn.

    We build walls around our hearts to shelter ourselves on the inside from the things that we're afraid might hurt us (or from the things that hurt too much) and, sometimes, those things are the people we're closest to.

    Deep down, I believe it's in our human nature to want - to need - to connect.

    I believe our own individual experiences and perspectives matter, and that our sufferings can make a difference.

    When we open our hearts and share our stories (even the painful, not-so-pretty ones without happily-ever-afters), our hurt empowers.

    Helps.

    Heals.



    Our stories can point others to God.

    Physically, when our hearts are broken, we allow others to open us up so we can be mended, then put back together, again.

    Why, then, when it comes to the emotionalmental, and spiritual nature of our insides, do we resist opening our sensitive hearts so we can allow ourselves to be mended, and put back together again?

    Is it fear of being made too vulnerable?

    Judgment?

    Being misunderstood?

    Fear of seeing ourselves for who and what we really are on the inside?

    Why do we attack others when they are brave enough to open themselves up?

    Simply ignoring - or denying, altogether - the cuts of our past, both the self-inflicted and the damage caused by others, is like trying to hide a gaping wound beneath a patchwork quilt of band-aids.  We are still hurt, still bleeding underneath it all, and sooner or later, infection will poison us from the inside out if we don't reach out and ask for help.

    Instead, we need to acknowledge who we are and where we've been - the imperfection, the ugliness of it all - come face to face with our pain, forgive, and let it all go.

    I believe that's how we truly begin to heal, move forward with our lives, and grow.

    Here's what I hope for When Home is Not a Place

    Kindness.

    Compassion.

    Courage.

    Encouragement.

    Community.

    Truth.

    No pretending.

    No hiding.

    No walking on egg shells.

    I want this to be a place where it's okay to hurt, and to talk openly about it.

    I believe, no matter who we are or where we find ourselves in life, we are not alone.

    Our stories matter.

    When Home is Not a Place is where I come to tell mine.  Share yours.

    3.06.2014

    Survive The Season

    Hanging on the wall above my computer - among the jumble of inspirational quotes, photographs of my husband and our babies, and images that make up the hopes and dreams of my vision board - is a picture of a woman I cut out of a magazine.

    There's a baby at her breast.  She's smiling and well put together.  Not a single hair is out of place, there are no dark circles under her eyes, and I can't find a trace of milk or spit-up anywhere on her pretty blouse.


    Beneath her, I pasted these words: SURVIVE THE SEASON.



    Even though I know this woman from my magazine - the poster child for motherhood -  isn't real life, she's there to remind me to laugh at myself, and remember the intensity of this season is just that: a season.

    Our sweet little Logan has been with us for nearly six months, now.


    The weeks since he was born have been a blur of baby smells, smiles and tears, soft skin, diaper changes, snuggles, the push and pull of nursing, and very little sleep.


    To be completely honest, I'm still exhausted from it all.  Pooped, really.


    Bringing life into this world (not just creating it, but learning how to nurture it) is unraveling.



    Now that my firstborn is nearly three, walking, talking, sleeping through the night, feeding and dressing himself, and going to the bathroom all on his own, I have a teeny tiny (and, I stress teeny tiny) bit of perspective on the earliest months and years.

    This - the restless nights, the sometimes seemingly endless days, the constant giving of myself that comes along with caring for brand new life - is not going to last forever.


    I know, a little too soon, maybe, the winds will begin to shift to let us know change is on it's way, and, then,  suddenly, we'll wake up one day to find ourselves in a new season - a warmer one, maybe, with a little bit of green (the fruits of our labor) in the trees.




     New storms will come, of course (they always do), but I've seen God do some amazing things with rain.

    I believe that's how He makes everything grow.


    On the harder days (like today), when I find myself feeling like I am a seed lying dormant in the dirt, just waiting for the right time to burst open, I try to remember - although it's often easier said than done - to have patience with myself and my children, and trust that something wonderful and progressive is happening to each one of us deep underground where we can't see.


    There will be springs and summers of outward growth, sunshine, and rest, but I believe the trying seasons in between are good and nourishing in their own way, too.


    They cultivate us from the inside out.



    If you're weathering a trying kind of season, right now - whether you're weary from raising little (or bigger) ones, worried about money, hanging on through a deployment or hectic family schedule, struggling to make difficult life choices, pushing through long days at work, dealing with sickness of the body or mind, or trying to fit the pieces of a broken heart or relationship back together - I'm thinking of you.

    Hang in there.


    Have faith.


    Spring is on its way.


    What kind of a season are you in, right now?  

    3.04.2014

    Why I Blog

    I'm pretty sure you're going to think I'm nuts when I tell you this.

    But.

    I actually like doing the dishes.

    No, really. I do.

    If one can really say they have a favorite chore, it's mine.

    And, I don't just rinse them off before loading them into the dishwasher, either.  I prefer to wash them all by hand.

    Crazy?  I know.

    It's the process that I enjoy the most, I think.

    Turning on the radio.

    Filling up a sink with hot water and soap (and, maybe a glass with wine after the boys are in bed) - like a bubble bath.

    Piling in the dirty dishes to let them soak for a little while, and then rinsing them clean.

    One by one.


    Although I can't tell you why, somehow, it's all very relaxing to me.

    It calms my nerves.

    Just like writing.

    What the suds do for the dishes is what writing does for my insides.

    It loosens all of the clingy, sometimes-burned bits and leftover grit - the mess of thoughts and emotions -  so I can scrub it all away, and rinse it down the drain.

    Afterwards, what's left is something to be happy about.

    A shiny, de-cluttered kitchen counter top, and clean dishes on the shelves to start over with.

    A heart and mind refreshed, and a blank page filled with words that are no longer left to race around my head at night when I'm trying to fall asleep.

    That's why I write.

    It's as simple as that.

    It's about me choosing to acknowledge who I really am and have been on the inside (even all of the messy, not-so-pretty parts of me) so I can grow.

    It helps me focus, make sense of things, forgive myself, if need be, and let it all go.

    Why I blog is also simple, but something completely different, altogether.

    The season I'm weathering, right now, makes it a little difficult for me to get out of the house very often, as I am doing my best to love on and raise up two young boys while sharing one vehicle with a hard-working husband whose job takes him away on a regular basis.   

    It's a chosen season, one of intentional sacrifice and commitment, so, I'm not complaining, but, chosen or not, my days can be long and isolating, and it's nice to be able to be reminded that I'm not alone.

    Blogging isn't just an outlet, it's a community.


    Choosing to hit publish, and open my (sometimes too-sensitive) heart to you, even though it scares me, is my way of reaching out to connect with, relate to, learn from, and (hopefully) return the favor to everyone I come in contact along the way.

    Do you blog?  If so, leave a comment with a link so I can stop by to say hello!

    Also, what is your purpose for blogging or doing your thing - whatever it is?  What is your why?

    3.03.2014

    When Home is Not a Place

    Before moving away to college, I'd only known two houses as home, and they lived just across town from one another.  

    Eighteen years surrounded by the same familiar faces and places, and the handful of friends I'd made when I was still in diapers.
    My husband, on the other hand, spent most of his childhood moving from one overseas Air Force base to another, leaving a trail of bread crumb houses - with plenty of captivating stories to tell about each one - across Europe.
    All I knew growing up was roots, and all he knew was the near constant itch for adventure and some place new.
    When we got married, we bought our first little place together, and, for a couple of years, that was home for both of us.
    Red bricks, fresh paint, and a yard for our someday children to play in.
    When plans changed, and my husband's career path made a sudden and unexpected twist that lead him to the Army just a few weeks before our first son, Jacob, was born, he already knew a whole lot about what we were getting ourselves into, but I had no idea.
    To be honest, at first, I struggled with it all.  

    And, by struggled, I really mean: I was a mess.
    The uprooting, the eighteen months of separation the first two years, learning what it meant to be a new mom and soldier's wife at the same time, all on my own - this is a common picture of what it's like for a family transitioning to military life, and, for me, it wasn't a pretty one.
    Our lives were shaken, then turned upside down like a snow globe, but the pieces that were left to float around above our heads for a little while, just out of reach, eventually made their way back down to us, again, and we have come to appreciate where we've been, the lessons we've had to learn the hard way, and where we're headed, now.
    Now that I am beginning to understand what it's like to get the itch for some place new, and we've already moved more times than my husband has years of experience in his military career, home is not a place, anymore.
    The walls we live within are only temporary.   

    Instead, I have come to believe home is the love we build with the lives that intertwine with our own. 



    For me, it's my husband and our boys.
    This blog, When Home is Not a Place, is for them, and it's about our journey - learning how to thrive wherever we are. 

    Read more About Me, My Mission, and Why I Blog.


    I'd love to hear... who/where/what is home for you?