Tuesday, April 30, 2013

and he loved it!

We've been waiting patiently for all the signals that Eli was ready to try food. You know the ones: able to sit up briefly, teeth (although he only has one that is just poking through) and grabbing at every food he sees. I think at this point he would take food out of my mouth if he could!

Tonight we decided it was time. Isaac had his first food, peas, when he was 5 months, 10 days old (I know, precise right?). Eli is 5 months, 13 days old and we gave him avocado, which was one of Isaac's favorites as a baby. He ate every bite we gave him and then insisted we give him the spoon. I think he thoroughly enjoyed himself!


everything frugal: a link up!


As you know, I consider myself to be pretty frugal. If there is a way to save money, I do it (except couponing. I just can't wrap my brain about that)

But the thing about being frugal is that you can do all the thrifting, sale hunting, yard sale-ing, money saving strategies you want, but so long as you don't have a budget and stick to it, inevitably none of it will save you money in the long run. No one ever just happened to end the month with money left over because they used a few coupons.

Frugality has to be a lifestyle. It has to be intentional.

If you are really serious about saving money, you need to set up a plan and some boundaries. Our take on money is pretty simple: it's all from the Lord. ALL of it. We are simply stewards of it. And while yes, we believe that 10% should be tithed, and more should be given whenever possible, that doesn't mean we can be frivilous with the other 90%. It's still HIS. He expects us to be responsible, disciplined, charitable and intentional with it. For us, that means being frugal because all the glitz and glam is just not important when your perspective is eternity.

There are 2 major ways that we maintain a frugal lifestyle in our home:

I know. That can be a scary concept. And if you're anything like me, it's fine and dandy to set up a budget, but actually sticking to it? Every single month? And balancing it often? Ugh. No fun.

I established a budget for my family in 2005. In the 8 years since then, there have been seasons where we adhered to it down to the penny, as if our life depended on it (and sometimes it did). And there have been seasons where I may have just forgotten about it altogether because months would pass before I actually sat down to balance it.

One thing I've learned: if I ignore our money, things only get worse. Sometimes I don't want to acknowledge that bills have to be paid or that we just don't have enough money this pay period for a date night or to buy a new sweater. But that doesn't make those things any less of a reality. And a budget keeps me in check, especially when I don't want to stick to it.

If you've never used a budget for your family and don't know where to begin, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey. Also, try using a cash system (like he suggests) even if it is just for you and your husband's "allowance." That alone made a world of difference for us.

my #1 tip for budgeting is balance often! By often, I mean every 1 to 2 days. Especially if you aren't using cash. It's amazing how many transactions take place in just a couple days: bills being paid, gas for the car, a quick grocery trip or just a Starbucks run. Wait too long and your head will be spinning with how many transactions you'll need to input and ultimately balance. And it's no fun to have to search with a fine tooth comb for that $1.18 that's throwing everything off!

Other than simply being intentional with your money and being a good steward of it, budgeting also allows you to save for emergencies and future purchases. This is major. If you are intentional about putting a specific amount of money into savings each month, you'll be surprised at how fast you're able to save money for a future trip, the cash purchase of a car, a down payment on a house, or just a rainy day fund. When I first established our budget in 2005, my intention was to save up for a Hawaiian honeymoon (we didn't get to take one when we were first married). In just a few months of adhering to my budget, we had enough money for 2 days in Waikiki and 5 days in Maui!

meal plan
I feel like meal planning goes hand in hand with budgeting. If you have a set amount of money for food every month (or every 2 weeks), you'll need to know at the very beginning of that period how much food you can purchase. There are 2 things I do on either the day before my husband gets paid or the day of: set up a budget and write a meal plan and corresponding grocery list.

My meal planning strategy is not rocket science. It was the same for when Ben was paid only once a month as it is now that he gets paid bi-weekly. I sit down with a couple cook books, my yumm-o pinterest board and a recipe binder and fill in all the days of that pay period on a calender. I only plan dinners ahead of time. For lunches I just keep all the same ingredients in the house: cheese and tortillas for quesadillas, sandwich fixin's and we eat alot of left-overs. But meal planning all 3 meals is a great idea!

As I write in the dinners we'll have, I write down on a grocery list (divided up by store. I shop at Sams Club for a lot of bulk items and a couple other grocery stores) the ingredients I'll need to purchase for every meal. I do all of my shopping at one time, either on payday or the next day. I pack up the car with reusable bags and a cooler. I load up the kids and we hit every store on the list. For me, it's just easier to get it all done in one big trip. Sometimes I have to divide up the trips between 2 days, which is okay too. During the summer, I'll need to adjust my menus so that I only have to shop on the weekends. I'm not going to take 2 kids grocery shopping in the middle of the day when it's 120 degrees outside! 

If I can, I'll plan meals with perishable vegetables and cheeses for the beginning of the 2-week period and meals that use frozen food toward the end (that way food doesn't go bad before I can get to it or I don't have to run to the store in the middle of the period for new food). I always freeze all of my meat the day I purchase it. Then I pull it out of the freezer the morning of or the night before to defrost.

Bottom line: I purchase only what I've planned for us to eat and we eat everything we have. I think it's important to be a good steward of your food just like it is to be a good steward of your money. That means nothing should go to waste. Another way to do that is to eat all of your leftovers. If you don't eat them for lunches the next day, then plan a night of the week where your dinner is leftovers from previous dinners.

And that's our secret. It's simple and yet a little intimidating. But once you get going on both a budget and meal planning, it becomes second nature. And I really don't know how we could survive without it!

Here are a few other ways we save money in our family:
top 5 ways we save money with babies in the house
thrifted curtains, 2 ways!
one car for the family
who needs cable?
used camping gear


Be sure to link up with us below to share your frugal tips! Please link back to this post and be sure to visit the other hosts of today's link up: Teachers of Good Things, For This Season, Walking in High Cotton, Vicki Arnold

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

a timeline of our 9 years of marriage

Today Ben and I celebrate 9 years of marriage! You might be wondering what that 9 years has entailed. Or maybe you aren't, but I'm going to share anyway! And actually I'm going to begin with our engagement, so that will make this more than 9 years. Lucky you!

August 2003 We get engaged I had just graduated from high school in June that same summer. But hey, when you know, you know, right? Ben was home on leave for the weekend (he was stationed in Virginia and I was in Vegas) and he totally surprised me.

November 2003 Ben deploys to Iraq That was a fun surprise (I hope you sensed the sarcasm there). We had been planning to get married in December but Ben was shipped off to the other side of the world with just a couple weeks notice. So the date had to be pushed back.

March 2004 We are baptized together We decided it would be really awesome to be baptized on the same day, before we got hitched, so we did.

April 24, 2004 We get married I, 18 and he, 20 said our I do's in a Baptist church down the street from my childhood home.

May 2004 Ben deploys to Bahrain Instead of a honeymoon, 2 weeks after our wedding Ben left again for 6 months. We have the best luck don't we?

November 2004 Ben returns to US I moved to Virginia (well, I use the term "moved" loosely since it was only for a month) when Ben came home from the middle east.

January 2005 We move to Camp Pendleton Ben got orders to Southern California, which meant we got to live near the beach. Yay! What girl wouldn't be happy about that?

August 2005 Ben deploys on ship/to Iraq If you're keeping track, this is his 3rd deployment in 2 years. I moved to Sacramento during this one where I lived with a friend and went to school.

February 2006 Ben returns home After 7 months, Ben returned home from his 2nd combat tour in Iraq. I moved back to Oceanside the month prior to get us settled into a new apartment before he got home.

June 2006 Ben's contract with the Marine Corps ends We (don't ask me why) moved back to Vegas for a year. And we hated it. Oh so much. It was more than obvious that God's plan was not for us to be there.

April 2007 Ben re-enlists into the Marines In June we headed back to Camp Pendleton, CA. This time we rented a little apartment just 6 blocks from the beach. We were in love. And lucky for us he didn't receive any other orders for the entire 4 years of his contract! Which meant, we were able to stay in one place for all 4 years.

March 2008 We find out that I'm pregnant We had initially planned to wait 5 years for kids. But we figured it was time to get started. After only a month of trying, the test was positive.

May 2008 Ben deploys again This time around he was sent out on a MEU, which meant he would be on a big boat, floating around the Pacific Ocean for 7 months. There was the potential that they'd go to Iraq, but it was unlikely.

August 2008 We lose the baby I was 25 weeks pregnant with our daughter when her heart stopped beating. Thankfully Ben was able to get home right away to be with me for the delivery.

December 2008 We miscarry

April 2009 We miscarry

February 2010 We miscarry

I know what you're thinking. This is beginning to get really depressing. I know, right? It was a really really rough couple of years. But like I've said a thousand times before, there is one lesson that I know God is always teaching me: patience. Trust in His timing. Because it's good. His timing is good.

May 1, 2010 Ben deploys yet again This time to Afghanistan. Which was something very different from what we were used to. He'd never been to Afghan. And this time he was guaranteed to be in combat. But he didn't leave without us trying to get pregnant because we were still optimistic! (or dumb, that's what you're thinking, right?)

May 14, 2010 Positive pregnancy test Ben's first call from overseas was on a Friday morning. He woke me up, told me to get out of bed and pee on a stick. I hadn't missed my period, yet. And what do you know, with him on the phone, that second pink line showed up. We were pregnant, again! And I was scared.

November 2010 Ben returns home from deployment Oh man, this was the craziest deployment we had been through. Between me being stressed and worried about the pregnancy and everything he experienced while he was over there, it is definitely one for the books.

January 25, 2011 Isaac Thomas is born Our pride and joy. Our first-born son. This kid is the most incredible blessing. "Isaac" meaning "he laughs". And oh can that kid laugh, and smile and make us smile and laugh.

March 2011 Ben gets out of the Marines again This one was unexpected. We knew when he re-enlisted the second time around that it was for good. He would spend the next 20 years in the Corps before retiring. But oh, how God had a different plan.

March 2011 We move to Texas Our most random adventure yet. We packed up everything we owned and moved to Texas, a place neither of us had lived or knew anything about. But that's where work was, so we went.

March 2012 I'm pregnant!

July 2012 We move to Las Vegas You're probably thinking exactly what I was thinking: again? What is the draw to that place. Who knows?! We just keep ending up back here. Okay, the real answer to that question is probably family. But the first 6 months were, well, interesting. Ben, Isaac, myself and my pregnant belly all stayed with my parents and it was tight living.

November 17, 2012 Elijah Patrick is born Our second boy. A stubborn entry. The most beautiful addition to our family. We love that baby boy so much! He is such a blessing and incredibly sweet (and chunky!)

December 2012 Ben gets a new job and we find our own place Job hunting in this town is rough. It is not for the faint of heart, that's for sure. He had a job when we moved here but it couldn't support the 4 of us. So he kept looking. And as God always does, He provided. And so just like that, we were back on our feet again!

January 25, 2013 Isaac turns 2 I'll sound like every parent in history: I can't believe how quickly time flies when you have kids! The boy is 2?? Oh man, I'm in for it. This kid is out of control and I love him!

April 24, 2013 9 years later So here I sit, reflecting on our 9 years of marriage and I'm blown away by what the Lord has brought us through. There have been incredible blessings and times of serious heartache and trial. But He's been there. Ben and I have been there for one another.

Faithfulness. I think that's the word I would choose to describe our marriage. God's faithfulness to us and our faithfulness to one another. I wouldn't change anything about it, as crazy as that may seem. Happy Anniversary Ben! This is our story. This is our testimony. Soli Deo Gloria.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

crunchy moms should be pro-life

I have a bone to pick with alot of "crunchy" mommas out there. And I'm going to stereotype here for a minute, but I'm fully aware of that. Please don't be mad. But feel free to argue with me in the comments if I'm completely off-target.

From my experience, many so-called crunchy moms are liberal. Am I wrong? There is a kind-of hippie mindset within the crunchy lifestyle. And I'm not knocking that! Alot of what we do in our home, alot about how we live our life would be considered crunchy. We grow our own food, cloth diaper, exclusively breastfeed, make our own baby food, try to stick to real food and avoid medications whenever possible. We prefer natural and organic to synthetic and processed. Heck, we even share one vehicle.

But, and correct me if I'm wrong here, isn't there a strong anti-sleep-training/CIO/parent-led-feeding attitude amongst crunchy moms because many believe its borderline child abuse to let a baby cry-it-out? Or what about formula feeding- that's believed to be extremely detrimental to many of them too. Don't alot of them believe its bad to give a child food that is full of artificial flavoring, preservatives, GMOs and hormones because its unsafe and unhealthy? Aren't they concerned about protecting their children from the dangers of ingredients in vaccines and other medications? And so many of these women are very vocal about their position.

And all for what? The health and safety of their children, right?

And I'm right there with them (with the exception of sleep training). I agree 100% that we should protect our children's bodies, their health, their minds and spirits. Because their life is worth preserving. Their life is worth protecting. Their life is worth doing whatever it takes as a parent to see them thrive and grow and live.

Am I getting an "Amen" from anyone yet?

But what about babies in the womb, babies who haven't yet been born?

"Oh, no, that isn't the same thing. Don't get involved in 'women's reproductive rights.' Don't you dare tell me what I can or can't do with my body. I certainly wouldn't get involved with another woman's right to choose." Aren't alot of these "crunchy" moms pro-choice?

You're regretting now that you agreed with me earlier, aren't you.

I just need to make a point here, and maybe it's an obvious one, but I'm going to make it anyway:

How can they be so passionate about childrens' health and well-being, to the point that they think parent-led feeding schedules are damaging, but not extend that same concern to babies in the womb? After all, isn't murder the ultimate form of child abuse?

Yes. I did just call abortion murder, but hear me out.

It's all so counter-intuitive to me. Many crunchy moms, like myself, are for natural childbirth. And are for being as healthy as possible during pregnancy. And for even being healthy before pregnancy. All for the sake of making certain their baby will be healthy during development and growth in the womb, during birth into this world and during childhood and beyond.

But wait, if eating junk food, being lazy and smoking or drinking during pregnancy are damaging to a developing baby, what is abortion? Doesn't that have a negative, life-ending affect on a baby in the womb?

Of all the women, of all the people, crunchy moms should be the most pro-life. Crunchy moms should be the ultimate advocates for protecting babies in the womb. One cannot care so strongly about the health and well-being of children who are already born and care not for the ones still in the womb. That's called hypocrisy. A child is a child is a child. Their location, their age, their stage of development, or what they look like does not matter. All of them deserve to be protected.

We should be protecting children from the dangerous effects of GMOs, and of chemicals and hormones in food and of chemicals in vaccines, and of child abuse and of abortion.

Let's be honest. Taking the position that, "I would never have an abortion, but I'm not going to tell someone else they can't" is a cop out. If crunchy moms are going to tell other moms who choose to use formula, an epidural, parent-led feeding and cry-it-out methods or vaccinations, that their actions are harmful, then they have to speak out against abortion. It would be absolutely dishonest and insincere not to. If you witnessed a mom physically abusing her child or worse, wouldn't you step in and do something?

The bottom line is: children deserve to be protected. Because, I'll say it again, their lives are worth preserving. Their lives are worth protecting. But, that protection, that preservation has to begin in the womb. Because if it doesn't, in the end, if they're aborted, those children won't be alive to protect. In fact, 1/3 of our own generation is missing because of abortion.

The thing about being crunchy is that it's a lifestyle. It's a mindset. And to sever that way of life at the line of "women's rights" doesn't make any sense. It's absolute madness. Being crunchy should, no, it has to, encompass all areas of life. Crunchy has to begin at conception.

Monday, April 22, 2013

why we don't recognize earth day

In our home, we don't recognize "Earth Day." Instead, we choose to worship the Creator and recognize that we are simply stewards of His creation, the earth. We've come to this place in our culture where the earth has been made into an idol and I would even say that we worship it. But not in our home. And here's why.

we are called to worship the Creator, not the created

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Romans 1:24,25

We are not the first people to worship creation. We may not do it as obviously as the "pagans" did, with their sun god and fertility god and god of love. But we do it just the same. Our obsession with climate change, recycling, green energy and the like are evidence that we have made the earth into an idol. But the warning is clear and it cannot be ignored. Exchanging the truth for a lie, the Creator for His creation, has dire consequences. Our God is a patient God, but He will hand us over to our flesh if we don't wise-up to His commands.

“You shall have no other gods before me." Deuteronomy 5:7

The very fact that we have a "holiday" devoted to the earth shows, in a way, that we have made the earth into a god. It has become an idol, no doubt about that. And so much so, that many would argue that mankind is it's enemy.

we are not the enemy of the earth
The earth was made to be inhabited. By us being here, using the resources that God has given to us and living our daily lives, we are not the earth's enemy. We, human beings, are the crown of creation, created in the very image of God. The earth is not. The animals are not. The trees and flowers and oceans are not. We are. Our lives hold so much more value than anything else on this earth, including the earth itself. To claim that we are the enemy of the earth is to discount the intrinsic value that each person holds.

We are, however, the keepers of the earth. I do believe we are to be respectful of our planet, but that can be done without making the earth an idol and without placing its value above our own. We are its stewards, commissioned by God:

And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Genesis 1: 28.

I think it's interesting to note that in the same sentence in which God commands Adam to rule over the creatures and the earth, he also tells him to be fruitful and multiply and fill it. Unfortunately, our crooked worldview has pitted those two ideas against each other. If we are to care for the earth, then we have to stop having so many children. God, however, tells us differently:

"... he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited" Isaiah 45:18 (emphasis mine)

God, who made the earth, who spoke everything that exists into existence, tells us that He formed this planet to be inhabited. Our over-concern for the over-habitation of this planet is counter to scripture. If we are to trust God, and His word, then we have to believe Him that people on this earth, lots of people on this earth, is a good thing.

an over-concern for the earth leads to a deadly worldview
"Mother Earth Day" was adopted by the UN on April 22, 2009. The same UN who, in 1967, established the United Nations Population Fund. This organization "advocates close attention to population concerns, and helps developing nations formulate policies and strategies in support of sustainable development." Phrases like "population concerns" and "sustainable development" are just fancy talk for population control, which simply put, is men determining the number of human beings allowed to populate the earth.

Their agenda is simple: halt the rise in population and decrease the number of people on earth. The reason being that they believe the resources on earth cannot support a certain population. A population that men have determined. And what is the answer to this problem? We can either decrease birth rates or increase death rates. What a coincidence; abortion accomplishes both. One of their main goals: "Universal access to reproductive health services by 2015." If you don't know by now, "reproductive health services" is fancy talk for abortificient birth control, the morning after pill, RU486 and abortion.

Of course this is no new concept. Perhaps you have heard of Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood), John D. Rockefeller, Sir Francis Galton (scientist behind eugenics movement), Ted Turner or Jacques Cousteau. All have been major proponents of population control. Alan Gregg of the Rockefeller Foundation once said, "The world has cancer and the cancer is man." The primary idea behind this agenda is that the planet, the environment and animals are more valuable than human life. And that is where Earth Day ties in to all of this.

it is Jesus who sustains all living things, not the earth
On that day when the United Nations officially began recognizing International Mother Earth Day, President of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann said this: "International Mother Earth Day promotes a view of the Earth as the entity that sustains all living things found in nature." And that is also the foundation for Earth Day, isn't it?: "The earth sustains us, she gives us our food and our medicine. She takes care of us." But it's all wrong. The earth does not sustain us.

Jesus does.

In fact, Jesus sustains the earth itself!

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17 (emphasis mine)

Jesus, all things were made in Him, through Him and for Him (Colossians 1: 16, John 1:3, 10). He is the sustainer of this earth. Of our lives. Of every single living creature. And non-living thing. He holds all things together. ALL of it. We're talking teensy weensy atoms to ginormous huge galaxies.

side note: how can you look at a picture like this, the most recent image released by the Hubble telescope, and not be in total awe of the Creator? Absolutely breathtaking.

William Barclay says it this way: "all the laws by which this world is order and not chaos are an expression of the mind of the Son. The law of gravity and the rest, the laws by which the universe hangs together, are not only scientific laws but also divine." In other words, Jesus is the glue. He is the law. It's by His strength and power and by His words that all thing are sustained and held together.

And that brings up a good point: if Jesus holds all things together, if He is the great sustainer and reconciler, than can man really destroy the earth? Do we actually have the power to end it?

the Lord determines the future of this planet, not us
"Man-made Climate Change." I'm convinced that satan loves how much attention we've paid to this concept. After all, scripture tells us that God is in control of the future. And He even lays out for us some details of what He is going to do to the earth in the end. Him, not us.

And yet, I fear that too many of us have bought into this silly idea that man somehow has the power to alter that plan? Folly. All of it.

When I read something like the Earth Charter, I could not be more convinced of how mankind has completely ignored the wisdom of God and believed our own foolishness.

In part, it says:
"We stand at a critical moment in Earth's history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny."

And yet, satan, the father of lies would have us buy into this lie: man-made global warming, climate change, whatever you want to call it, is going to be the end of us unless we do something about, now! But the truth is, God is in control. He is sovereign. He made this earth, remember?

the bottom line
What it really comes down to is that there is nothing wrong with treating the planet well, with respecting it even. We can be "green." We can recycle and plant trees. We can be good stewards, and we should be! But what is our motivation? Is it because we think our actions are going to end the earth prematurely? And are we elevating this planet above the very God who created it? Have we made the earth into an idol?

I think we have. And while the earth is good, even God said so, it isn't God. It doesn't sustain us. Its simply a part of creation that, as we stand in awe of it, it should cause us to turn and worship the God who made it.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

vlog: passions and hobbies

Today I'm linking up with Ashley and Mackenzie for The Girl Behind the Blog. We're talking about our passions and hobbies that we don't necessarily talk about on our blogs. Enjoy!!

Friday, April 12, 2013

it's okay to be horrified and cry, but then do something about it

I don't know about you, but when I was in school, we read textbooks that showed photos of the horrors that took place in the concentration camps during the Holocaust. You know the ones I'm talking about: piles of dead bodies from the hundreds and thousands of Jews who were slaughtered by the Nazis. And if you have a heart, you can't help but want to weep over those photos. And that's okay. We need to be heart broken over injustice.

The same is true for abortion.

But no one wants to talk about the horror of abortion. And certainly no one wants to look at photos of it's destruction. But abortion is injustice. It ends the life of a human being, a baby human being. And as you sit here reading this, thousands of lives are being cut short by abortion. This is the new holocaust, the new genocide (although it's not really new).

If you follow me on twitter, you know that today I am participating in a tweetfest to pressure the media to break their silence over the Kermit Gosnell trial. Gosnell is an abortionist from Philadelphia who is currently on trial for 7 first degree murder charges. All 7 were newborn babies, who were born alive as a result of botched abortions. He is also implicated in the death of one of his patients. You can read details of the story here.

Here's the deal: pictures from Gosnell's clinic are devastating to look at. Reading accounts of what happened inside of that "house of horrors" is heart-wrenching. Facing the truth about what is happening in abortion clinics across this nation and the world is hard. But it needs to be done. How else are people going to wake up and face the truth about abortion? That it ends the life of an innocent baby. Inside the womb or out, infanticide or abortion. It doesn't matter the location or what you call it, it all kills a child.

So look at the photos. Read the accounts. Watch the documentary. Cry. I beg of you, let your heart be broken wide open. Mourn. Weep. Because dead children deserve our tears.

But we also owe them our action. Don't stay silent and go on with your life pretending like you are ignorant. Because you're not. You know the truth now and you need to do something about it.

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:17

I sat in my living room last night, in the dark, nursing Eli before I put him to bed and I watched this 20 minute documentary about the Gosnell abortion clinic. And I cried as I held my child. I wept for those women who were lied to and whose lives were destroyed by the lie that abortion is a good answer. That abortion will fix their problem. And I mourned over the murder of their babies, hundreds of them, thousands of them. Please take the time to watch this video:

3801 Lancaster from 3801Lancaster on Vimeo.

Make no mistake, this is not an isolated incident. And this will not go away on its own. We cannot ignore it. We cannot stay silent. Someone has to speak out for these babies, for these women. And that someone has to be you.

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. Ephesians 5:11

Want to do something but don't know where to begin? Start here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

q&a about joining and getting out of the military

One of the most common emails I get from readers is about military life. Particularly about a husband either joining the military or getting out of the military. Both are huge decisions. Both require huge transition. And seeing that we've done both, not once, but twice, I suppose I should have the answers, or at least some advice.

First, a little background on our life in the military: Ben and I met only a couple of months before he went to boot camp. Once he graduated, he was transferred to the east coast, while I was still in high school in Las Vegas. We dated long distance for about 2 years and then decided to make it official. Soon after our engagement, Ben was sent to Iraq for 4 months. As soon as he returned home, we got married and just 2 weeks later, he left for his second deployment. When he got home, his contract on the east coast was up and we moved to San Diego, where he was stationed at Camp Pendleton. After a short year and half there, which included yet another deployment, his 4 year contract was finished and we left the Marine Corps and headed back "home" to Las Vegas. We spent a miserable year there, Ben moving from job to job while I worked almost full time and went to school full time. We were desperate to find what God wanted us to do, but had become absolutely certain, it was not in Las Vegas. In March of 2006, Ben signed his second contract with the Marine Corps. And we returned to lovely San Diego. He got extremely lucky and we were able to spend his entire contract at Camp Pendleton. No moving, but 2 more deployments. (If you're counting, that's a total of 5 deployments in 8 years). After a lot, a lot of prayer and discussion, we felt that the Lord was calling us back out of the military. It was hard for me to believe. But we followed His call and for the second time, we made the transition into the civilian world.

You can read our entire story in more detail in this series.

Questions about joining the military.
Let me first say, if you or your spouse is joining the military, I want to emphasize what an honorable decision that is!

Is it as lonely as everyone says?
Military life can be difficult and lonely. You'll notice right away that civilians don't quite understand your lifestyle but that military wives are pretty clique-y. So, in the beginning you're left trying to find where you fit in (sounds like high school, right?). But, it doesn't have to be lonely and it doesn't have to be hard! It really is all about your perspective. Be willing to step out and make new friends. Connect through a church military ministry. Go to events on base like LINKS and battalion events organized by your FRO. Volunteer for a ministry that means alot to you and get to know the people you work with there. Make friends at work. Join a small group at church (this one is essential!).

If you make the most of your situation and make friends, then when your husband deploys, it isn't as lonely as you might expect. Of course, there are nights when you are lonely because you miss your husband. But if you surround yourself with good friends, both civilians and military wives, the time will pass quickly and you'll have plenty of support while your husband is away. My simple advice: get plugged in and develop deep, meaningful, supportive friendships.

Is it hard on your marriage?
As with the previous question: it can be but it doesn't have to be. Again, it is all about your perspective! There are situations that cannot be avoided: long training cycles, intensive overnight schools, long seemingly never-ending deployments. But they don't have to be bad for your marriage. I am a strong believer in "absence makes the heart grow fonder." I also found that a balance of time really helps: when he's home, spend time together, enjoy one another, make amazing memories. When he's away, take that time for yourself, get things done around the house, set goals for yourself and get them done! Make the most of your alone time.

How did God sustain you when your hubby was away?
I probably need about 934 blog posts to answer this question in its entirety. God is so so faithful to those who desperately reach out to Him and lean on Him. I can honestly say that the times that I've grown the most in my "walk" with the Lord have been while my husband was deployed. I had a lot more time to myself and so I spent a lot more time in the word, a lot more time in fellowship with other believers, a lot more time ministering to others and a lot more time in prayer. And whoa did I see results.

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Questions about separating from the military.
It's been 2 years since Ben got out of the Marines and we are still in this process.

Is there's any advice you could give me on making our transition out a little easier on us?
Separating is hard. I don't know else how to put it. But, if you plan ahead of time, it can be done. Just be ready for a challenge. My first piece of advice in this area would be to make sure your husband and/or you (depending on what your plan is) has a job lined up. And go where the job is. Especially in an economy like this one. You don't have to move "back home" like most people do unless, of course, you already have something lined up there.
My second piece of advice is to be flexible and patient. Transition takes time; often times more than a year. We are nearing 2 years back in the civilian world and we're still working day in and day out to make it work. We have a long term plan and we are working toward it. But it takes time. And patience is not one of my favorite things to learn. My husband on the other hand, is incredibly patient. And I thank the Lord often that He placed us together for that reason.

Not only does it take time, but plans can potentially change, often. Job changes might have to happen. And just because one of both of you has found a job, that may not be your career. So keep looking! But go where the work is. Move your family if you have to because in times like these, you can't afford to be picky. That's where flexibility comes in.

Third, have a back-up plan in case things don't work out. The first time my husband separated, we didn't have a plan A, let alone a plan B. When things didn't work how we had imagined, the only option we had was to re-enlist. And there is nothing wrong with that. I actually think that's a great plan B, if you have nothing else to fall back on. As I've said before, my husband's second re-enlistment ended up being the best decision we ever made. And it was a spur of the moment, dive into it, all or nothing, decision. What you want to avoid is making a spur of the moment, stuck in the corner, crunch-time type of decision. Know your options from the beginning.

Consider having multiple job opportunities lined up (if at all possible). Your husband may consider using the GI Bill to go to school and receive BAH. Maybe you will have to work a new job, a different job or more hours. Start a side business. All I can say is brainstorm, make a list, talk it over and pray, pray, pray!

And that's my last piece of advice: pray, pray, pray and pray some more. Ask for confirmation from the Lord about your decision to get out of the military and if possible, have scripture. Pray for guidance and His provision. He is faithful. He will provide for you so long as you are seeking Him and His plan for you and your family. And with any major decision, seek wise counsel from others who have already made the transition.

Is there anything you wish you would have done differently?
Yes! The first time Ben got out, he hadn't done any job research beforehand. I don't even think he had a professional resume. He struggled to find work for the first 3 months we were back in civilian life. Luckily, I was able to transfer from my job in Oceanside to Las Vegas. But I was going to school full time and was only working part time, so we didn't have the income we needed to pay rent. We moved in with family, initially with the intention of moving as soon as we could. 3 months turned into 1 year and it was hard.

If we could do it all over again (the first time he got out), Ben would have separated from the Marines with a job lined up and others on the back burner. He would have had a clean, professional resume and it would have been nice to also have a government resume put together as well. When he separated the second time, things looked a little more like that (although not exactly). He was offered a position in Texas, a place neither of us had ever lived. But he took it and was able to attend school there too. Things have changed again since then. We're now in Vegas and long story short, we've had to be quite flexible.

What advice do you have? 
Other than what I've just shared, my only other piece of advice (and perhaps the most crucial piece of advice) would be to follow the Lord's leading on your hearts. In order to do this, you'll need to follow your husband's lead. You need to be plugged into His word. You should be in prayer often. You should be plugged into His church and community so that you have support and a place to turn for wisdom. And in the midst of all that, He will guide you and your family. He'll show you what to do if you ask Him and you listen. He had to change my heart in a big way after Ben shared with me he was feeling called out of the Marines.

Oh, and one last thing: Don't expect everything to happen overnight. It will take time for things to be normal again and for life to settle down. Like I said, we're still in that process and I don't have any idea when it will be over. But then again, isn't that just life?