Today, you meet my high school friend, Missy. You may not have known it, but many of you already read about her when I wrote The Cheerleader and The Misfit. I love Missy.
I don’t see Missy though because she has moved 11 times in her 19 years of marriage to a military officer. This from a girl who moved once in kindergarten and then lived in the same house until she left for college. And college was only an hour and a half away.
So I asked her, HOW?
It started with falling in love, right? All the good stories do. She and her husband met in college, fell in love, and got engaged. Then he took his first assignment in Kansas before they were married or Missy finished college. She shares that they married the summer before her last year began, they honeymooned for a week, and then her brand new husband drove back to Kansas while she finished her last semester in Texas and lived apart for the first four months of their marriage.
Nineteen years later, there have been 11 new cities. After a couple of years together in Kansas, the couple moved to Los Angeles, then to Turkey (as in the country next door to Syria), then to San Antonio where their first child was born, then to Houston where she barely lived a year before moving to Virginia/D.C. where their second child was born, then to Northern California where their third child was born and her husband deployed to Iraq, then to Colorado, then to Alabama, then back to the Virginia/D.C. area, and then to New Jersey where she now lives.
Does anyone else have whiplash?
Or sympathy pains?
She shares about a particularly harrowing time in an assignment. She’d come home pregnant from Turkey and had a beautiful baby girl in San Antonio. Then, she found herself pregnant again right after moving to Virginia/D.C. At 24 weeks, she went into terrifying preterm labor. She was taken via ambulance to Bethesda. Even with all the magnesium and steroid shots to improve her unborn son’s lung functions, they couldn’t control the labor without debilitating sickness including her inability to breathe. The doctors told her they had to turn down the medicine and she would deliver.
Miraculously, she did not. After five days, they released her to long-term bedrest. Here she is in a brand new city, knowing very few people, with a husband in a new demanding job, a toddler at home, and strict bedrest for the next eight weeks. But people came. The community learned. Her sister-in-law flew in. Sorority sisters arrived bearing food. God sent hands and feet to serve. Yet she still was very alone with limited ability to settle in and establish a new routine which had always been critical for her. Then another move, to the other side of the country, and another baby partnered with her husband’s first deployment to Iraq.
She kept moving. But it wasn’t nearly as glamorous as it was in the early days.
Missy clinically has moves down pat. She’s got a long list of ways she’s survived and even thrived despite the new surroundings and people. It’s been a little harder on her heart than her mind.
She shares a little of the ins and outs of the hard parts and good parts tomorrow, but today we look at the how. How she did it. How she survived it. What it has taught her.
Logistically speaking, she has the planning/prep work down. She asks other military spouses for connections in the new place, researches schools and then housing. She shares there are websites that cater to military families looking for housing, and several times, after stalking the website, she’s been able to snatch up a great home that had just been listed. Then comes the cleaning/purging/house prep/moving. (Her moving tip: “Sit with the packers and watch everything they do, ask them to repack things when necessary. Feed them and give them copious amounts of Gatorade and water. Shamelessly ply them with sustenance to treat your things like their own.”)
Emotionally, she shares the moves are getting much harder:
Early on I recall being extremely excited and ready for whatever adventures our new location held. I think the move to Alabama was the demarcation line for me. Our time in Colorado had been simultaneously great and hard. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay another year and give the kids the stability with friends and school. I knew enough about the school situation in Alabama to know it was not good…and it was such a short tour…one year. Our daughter was struggling emotionally and our marriage was in turmoil. Moving would be traumatic. But to stay could spell the end of our marriage because the geographic distance, which might have felt like a balm short term, would have let it wither.
It turned out, Alabama was hard. The hardest. Their marriage still struggled. As did their daughter. As did the children’s schooling.
But there were silver linings. They were close to her mother in law who was an invaluable resource and frequent help. They found an amazing church where they both really engaged and started tackling some of the tough stuff.
Regardless of where they were, Missy took one step after another.
She found a church.
Made friends with neighbors.
Exercised. Journaled. Read books. For fun or to help. Cried. Slept. A lot. Or slept very little when insomnia hit.
At one point in the midst of all the moves, Missy noticed an unfortunate pattern. She would make a deep friend(s) during one assignment. Inevitably, the next move happened, and she found herself detached, protecting her heart from losing another friend.
So she learned. Her faith ebbed and flowed. And she, too, learned more about God’s grace.