This month marks five years since my husband commissioned into the US Air Force and we started on this wild and wonderful journey of military life. We have since lived in three (very different) states, gotten more familiar with the way the Air Force works, spent countless days apart due to his job (although we haven’t experienced a “traditional” deployment), and met some fantastic people along the way. The experiences we have had as a result of this career path have shaped us in ways we couldn’t have expected, so I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned from my experience as an Air Force wife so far.
But first, I’d like to preface with this: everyone’s military experience is a bit different. The branch of the military, the job, the places lived, family dynamics, and more, can all affect what someone’s “military life” looks like. Therefore, while there are many unique and connecting factors about the military, it is not lost on me that every single military spouse might not relate to everything I have been through or learned. What I am sharing is what I have learned from our experience with the Air Force. And hopefully it sheds some light on how being a military wife has affected me.
How To Let Go Of Control And Trust In God
This is absolutely the number one thing I have learned over and over again as a result of this particular path of life. In the military, you can put in preference of what you’d like to do with your career and where you’d like to go, but ultimately it is up to the powers-that-be to decide what you end up doing and where you end up going. And even when things seem like a done deal, there’s always a chance that something can change. As someone who naturally finds comfort in control and likes to know what’s going on, God has done a miracle work by helping me to become much more flexible and accepting of the lack of control I have in determining any part of our future. This way of life has established my trust in Him probably more than anything in life so far. Because whether our path has led us to what we’ve wanted or expected, or not, God has been ahead us and beside us. He has been faithful in the good seasons, and in the hard ones. He has led us to exactly where He’s wanted us, regardless of if it has made sense to us in the moment, or later down the road.
A truth I clung to when we first began this journey was that God would work all things together for our good, and for His glory. Sometimes our “good” hasn’t felt very good because it has meant hard things that have sharpened us or caused us to grow. Other times we have felt the good come to fruition in the sweetest of ways. But regardless, five years later, I can confidently proclaim that this belief has been unwaveringly true in our lives. And that has helped me to relax and loosen my grip on our future. There’s often a lot of unknown with the military life, as well as a lot of unexpected changes. But by the Lord’s grace I’ve become a lot more comfortable with going with the flow.
Where You Live Is What You Make It
In many people’s opinions we have lived in the worst of the worst places when it comes to the Air Force: Minot, ND. Quite frankly, I wasn’t thrilled at all when I found out we were moving there years ago due to the reputation of cold weather. But after learning quite quickly what I already mentioned in my first point, God helped us to see that we had a choice of how we approached our time in Minot. We could either choose to be miserable and hate every moment of it, or we could make the most of it and find the good. Thankfully, there was a lot of good to find. While the winters could be a bit brutal, we look back on our time in Minot with fondness for the friends we made there that became family in a season that we really needed fellowship (plus I’ll still rave about how fantastic the summers were). No matter where you travel to or live in life, everywhere is going to have pros and cons. So no matter where you go, if you choose to accept that a place is horrible, you will easily find all the reasons why it is so. But if you make conscious choices to make the most of it and see the good in it, you might just find yourself appreciating it for exactly what it is.
How To Make Friends As An Adult
Due to the transient nature of the military life, either our moves, or our friends’ moves, have caused us to start over with friendships time and time again. It certainly has its challenges, but it has forced us to recognize the intention that relationships take, and the value of having a community – especially as we’ve had seasons with and without it. While sometimes you can fall into relationships quickly and naturally, establishing new ones as an adult oftentimes takes putting yourself out there – and we all know how terrifying that can feel. I’ve recognized that different seasons require different kinds of efforts to make friends. But I think the acceptance of that fact has helped me learn to make friends better – knowing that it isn’t a cookie cutter approach. Sometimes it has looked like joining a Bible study; sometimes it has looked like meeting my husband’s co-workers and hanging out with them and their spouses; other times it has looked like getting plugged in at a local church; and even other times it has looked like taking a risk and asking the girl I just met if she wants to grab coffee sometime. There are many ways to meet and start a friendship with someone, and sometimes it takes waiting to meet the right person for things to really click. So going in with a flexible approach and embracing all the differences has helped make me more adaptable to it.
Long Distance Relationships Are Hard
Now I could have spoken to this years prior to our military life, as we spent a majority of our dating years long distance, but we’re in a whole new ball game now. The more we have moved around, the more relationships we’ve established; therefore the more people we’ve connected with; and therefore the more people there is to stay in touch with. And when a majority of your friends and family live in completely different states than you, it can be a lot harder to maintain those relationships well. It’s hard enough to handle one long distance relationship, let alone thirty. Especially when you are trying to establish a life and community where you are at. I have oftentimes felt like I am being pulled in multiple different directions. I’ve also gone through many seasons of disappointment over relationships no longer being what they were before. But I have had to come to accept that it’s impossible for a friendship to look the same when you go from living next door to each other to living hundreds of miles away from each other. Mix in marriage and children and jobs and all the other aspects of growing up and it gets even more complicated. All of this to say, I’ve come to learn that I’m pretty terrible at long distance relationships because I get easily overwhelmed at the amount of people I have to stay in touch with now. So then I try to simplify and fall back on doing what I can and giving myself grace, but that could also mean disappointing someone as my efforts towards a relationship might slacken. It’s challenging. Especially for someone who often has high expectations of herself. And I’m still figuring it out. In fact, I’ve felt like I’ve been in the depths of it for years now. It kind of seems like the nature of the game with this life. So I’ll keep doing what I can, and giving myself grace for the rest. (Hopefully my loved ones can offer the same).
The Church Search Process Is Not For The Faint Of Heart
As Christians, we understand the extreme importance and value of being a part of a body of believers to navigate through life with. So with every move, one of my first priorities is to find a church to call home. But I can sum up our last five years of church experiences by saying it’s hard starting over again and again. It’s hard taking the time to find the right fit, only to have to prepare to leave once you finally feel at home. And then in the next place, it’s hard not to feel reserved and hesitant to dive in when you know how much it hurts to have to leave once you do. It’s hard to weigh out your options of which church to attend when none of them seem to fully fit what you were hoping for, or they don’t compare to what you’ve had in the past. It’s hard to find the balance between being discerning and being critical when trying out somewhere new. And it’s hard to feel motivated to find, or even attend, a church when you’re carrying some hurt from the last one you were a part of. It just feels a little exhausting to navigate the process sometimes. But the positive experiences we’ve had in the past, in combination with our trust in God’s Truth, lead us to believe that it is valuable and worth it to get involved and connect with other believers. To be honest, going through this process over and over again every few years is probably the hardest part of the military life for me. I would love to put down roots in a church that we feel at home at. Quite frankly, I’d love to return to one or two of the churches we’ve been a part of in the past. But that’s just not our reality. So I keep trying to hold this part of our life with open hands and trust that God will continue to lead us to where we are meant to be – for our good, and for His glory.
This Air Force life has led us down some amazing paths already in the last five years. It’s been thrilling, challenging, exciting, and stretching, in all the best and hardest ways. It’s taught me so much about life, myself, and my faith. And while these are things I have learned already, they are also things that I am continually being reminded of through every step of our journey. And I know I have so much more to learn. So here’s to wherever the Air Force wind blows us next...