The military is a beautiful, unique vocation. We have lots of military Ink Slingers who share beautiful insights of their experiences with the military. I highly recommend this beautiful witness of vocation and a new sense of home. Military moves are an incredible test of this vocation, but also a grace-filled opportunity to develop community and detachment.
On the road again! My husband just received his orders, so it’s another one of those military moves for us. The longest we have ever lived in one place is thirteen months. This upcoming duty station might be our longest yet at about *two years.*
When I first married into the military, the moving was a huge smack in the face. My whole childhood was spent in one house. I was used to being settled, living in the same home, with the same things, investing in the same group of friends, worshiping at the same Church.
But *the day* after our wedding, we packed up the cars and drove hundreds of miles away from everything I knew.
There is so much grace involved in moving so frequently. It is a spiritual boot-camp in which God truly tests your trust. During our first move, I was flustered, anxious, unsure, caught in the tumult of everything new and strange. How do people… make new friends? Pick a new grocery store? Get involved at Church? Not get lost everywhere they go?
During this move we’re undertaking now, I’m…still mostly stuck in the chaos. But, praise be to God, I’ve learned a thing or two. Some lessons which may’ve taken me decades to learn living in the same place, I’ve learned in the span of months.
I’ve learned really powerful things about forming true community on the fly and learning to detach from…well, basically everything. So, for what it’s worth, here are some tips I have to share about community and detachment.
Community in Military Moves
Invest in the community, wherever you go, however long you’re there.
My husband and I basically speed date aspects of the community, and then quick commit. When we move all the time, we don’t have time to sit around and to be lethargic about finding a community we like. We’ll “test run” different young adult ministries, family ministries, youth ministries (we volunteer with high school youth), and work communities. When we find things we like or that seem like a good fit, we lock in.
There are limitations to this. Community life isn’t just centered around what you “like” or what “feels right.” Authentic community involves investing in the people around you and overcoming differences. However, when things change so quickly, my family really focuses on letting the Holy Spirit guide us in those early stages.
Join those “easy-to-join” Church ministries.
Lectoring, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, Ushering, Altar Serving, Greeters. They’re almost the same wherever we go. For example, we serve as lectors. At one of our parishes we committed to a wonderful training for lectors. Now we use those skills at different parishes where we are. This helps us to connect quickly with fellow lectors and other liturgical ministers, giving us a quick foundation of community at a parish.
Ask new people for help.
I used to think that you needed to have a really solid longstanding relationship with someone in order to ask for help of any sort. Something that I’ve come to understand is that it is really a beautiful experience to ask for help. Some people are just waiting to be a blessing. I’ve been amazed by wonderful people at work, at church, or neighbors who have really helped me out in a bind. I moved to our most recent duty station already well into pregnancy. So many people I had just met blessed us with meals, baby clothes, and help around the house during that crazy third trimester.
Keep in touch with the friends you’ve made after you move.
Sometimes I can be very “out of sight, out of mind” about friendships. I commit to the people around me but I struggle to keep it up after we move. What I’ve found, however, is that the relationships I make at each duty station don’t just “wink out” when I move. I love the people with whom I’ve formed friendships, and keeping in touch helps to maintain these really beautiful bonds. In phases of life when there are breaks of free time (like when we’re in long car rides to new duty stations), it’s really beautiful to spend time on the phone and catch up. Also, social media is a total Godsend in this way.
Be a tourist in your own town.
This one is a lot of fun (because why should moving all the time only be difficult?). We have LOVED taking time to prioritize exploring new places. Gulf Coast Mississippi had such beautiful beaches and delicious Cajun restaurants. Charleston was full of history and beautiful mansions to tour. It is so easy to just get stuck in the grind of work, chores, tasks, and to not put in the effort to really get to know the new place. Military moves mean free travel, take advantage of it!
Detachment in Military Moves
Consume your consumables.
True confessions: There are twelve tubs of lotion which have loyally followed me around going on four moves now. Some were gifts, some I bought (because I definitely needed new lotion at the time, right?), and all of them are somewhere between ½ to ¼ used. To be honest, I don’t really use lotion all that much!
This isn’t a push to be wasteful, or to consume things just “because.” Instead, I’m working to be very mindful of the things I own and that travel with me. With a little extra intentionality, the stuff can actually be used for its true function.
Donate the excess.
“Once the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, the rest that one owns belongs to the poor.” Pope Leo XIII. This was a big call-out for me. The extra stuff I have, all that stuff I’m not using, isn’t mine. Those things are blessings that I’m withholding from the poor.
Moving is powerful because every move is a reckoning. We go through all of our things in order to prep them for the move. And I have to ask myself — if I didn’t wear that dress at this duty station, why do I still have it? After some though, the dress goes into the
It’s just stuff.
Things break when you move. They get lost. I’ve killed so many plants over moves (poor guys). It’s a real, visceral moment of detachment. Something you loved, or treasured, just doesn’t make it. Or you’re faced with the prospect of transporting *all one million books you own* yet another time, and you find you just…can’t.
In those moments, it’s definitely time to face facts. Stuff is just…stuff. It is nowhere near as important as the friendships made, as the relationships you have with your family, at the relationships you have with God.
Commemorate the places you’ve left.
There are some places we’ve lived that we miss a great deal. Neighborhoods that were perfect places to live and thrive. Cities that were so much fun to explore. Friendships we’ve made that we’d love to reconnect with. Parishes that were just so welcoming and loving. I don’t think it goes against detachment to miss those places as we let them go. We buy maps of the places we’ve been to serve as reminders of the places to which God has called us. Celebrating these places helps us to remember that everywhere we’ve been sent, God has take care of us.
Through all of the turmoil and all of the moves, God takes care of us every step of the way. This is so important to remember, not just for those in the military, but for everyone. If you’re a member of the military, a military family member, or curious about how spirituality ties in with military life, I highly recommend fellow Inkslinger Anni Harry’s blog A Beautiful, Camouflaged, Mess of a Life, for further reading.