Our family moved back a few years ago to San Diego from a two-year tour in Bahrain—a tour that was both amazing and gnarly, as is every adventure. There were the exciting and interesting moments: eating shawarma while walking through the spice souq, swimming in the Persian Gulf with our kids, and flopping ancient Persian rugs while sipping tea with shop owners and new friends. But then there were uncomfortably disorienting moments too, such as walking out of a restaurant into a cloud of tear gas while pregnant with our youngest, a violent riot between Sunni and Shi’a unfolding across the street. Or the way we at times felt trapped living on a small island with restricted liberties because of ongoing unrest.
After living through those intense extremes in Bahrain, it took our family the better part of a year back stateside to recover. Even though Steve and I have been married nearly twelve years, I’m just now learning how much of military life is about recovery—from moves, changes, war, family separation, trauma.
Time and time again, no matter what our family has to navigate and recoup from, I’m learning it always takes longer than I think—or prefer, frankly—to get my feet back under me. Surviving difficult transitions is no small thing, especially if you are the one primarily responsible for helping your children manage their disorientation. And if we do not take our recuperation seriously, we begin to lose connection with God, ourselves, and those we love most.
I love the passage in Psalm 18:16-19 that talks about the psalmist reaching out to God, being rescued from the waters in which he was drowning, and standing in a wide-open expanse. Such a beautiful image of a God who sees us and wants us to experience His breathing room and broad grace! I believe in the power of reaching out to God as our ultimate Guide, giving Him access to what’s going on in our hearts, and allowing Him to bring us up and out of the swirling waters and into the spacious place.
I’ve learned a number of things over the years that have helped me take better care of my marriage, our family, and myself when in the midst of particularly stressful seasons. For a time we need to listen to our exhausted bodies and avoid life- changing decisions as much as possible. Supportive, compassionate mentors and friends are a must—as is extending self-compassion and self-care to ourselves.
Helping our children feel seen, safe, and unconditionally loved throughout tense times is essential. The best thing I can do for my kids is make sure I intentionally spend time reducing my own stress and fatigue. That investment in myself helps me be present with them and avoid becoming a version of myself none of us wants to experience.
There are few things in military life we can control—almost nothing, at times. But one thing we can control is how we treat ourselves, and that one thing can change everything. If you’re in the midst of a stressful season, finding yourself overwhelmed, I so entirely understand this unique military life journey we’re on together. First acknowledging your family’s need and yours, and then carving out breathing room towards recuperation, can be a life-changing difference for your entire military family.