Today we’re pleased to present a guest post by blogger Amanda Chastain, who is deeply familiar with our theme for August.
As a military spouse, I often feel like my life is spinning like a tornado out of control. Moves here and there, constant deployments, the deaths of military friends, the fear my husband won’t return home from war … sometimes it gets so overwhelming. I have just had to dig my heels in and brace myself for whatever comes flying at me next.
I recently found out my family will be moving again soon. I decided to start a blog as a journal dedicated to my quest to become “uprooted but blooming.” One of my favorite quotes (and a popular one among military spouses) is “Bloom where you are planted.” Over the years I have spent at our current duty station, I have done just that. I put down deep roots, and it has helped me to “bloom.” I have been happy and fulfilled. I have thrived, not just survived. I feel like I really came into my own here. I have often been asked how and even why I have bothered putting down roots knowing I wouldn’t be living here forever.
So how did I make this home? The first thing I do when I move is desperately try to break ground and get those roots attaching themselves. The best way I have found for making a new place “home” is to get involved and invested in my community, both on and off base. That’s exactly what I did four years ago when my family moved to McConnell AFB in Wichita.
Perhaps the “why” is as simple as this: I need some control in my life. My family doesn’t often get to choose when and where we move, or how long we will be there. We have to go where the military sends us. I can either make the most out of it, looking for the positive things our new home has to offer, or I can choose to be miserable and focus on the negatives. The happiest military spouses I have known are those that get out there and put down roots right away. The unhappiest are those who shut themselves up in their homes and do nothing but complain.
I chose to make this place my home. I chose to bloom where I was planted.
When we arrived here, I immediately began looking for ways to get plugged in. I started building a support system for myself. I always have three go-to areas: scouting, church, and base community (not necessarily in that order).
Girl Scouts was always a big part of my life growing up, and now it is a big part of my daughter’s life as well. I called our local council office to see if there was a troop nearby we could join. I was told that there was someone who was just trying to start a new troop at my daughter’s elementary school. I contacted this lady and found out she was a military spouse who had just moved here, too. I told her I would help any way I could, and that is how I became the troop’s co-leader. When she moved away two years ago, I stepped up as leader and have had other military spouses serve as my co-leaders. I love my troop, made up of all military dependents. I have had them come and go, as moving is a part of our lives. If there is one thing I have taught them that they can apply to the rest of their lives, it is that you can make a BIG difference no matter how long you might be somewhere. We started a community service project called “Juliette Low’s Birthday-in-a-Bag Project.” With a lot of hard work and the power of social media at our fingertips, it became a worldwide project. More than 750 troops covering all 50 states and at least three countries have participated. It will always be one of the things I am most proud to have been a part of.
My family also began searching for a new church home when we arrived. After visiting a few churches, we found “the one” that we felt God was calling us to. I quickly signed my kids up for the Awana program and volunteered to help any way I could. I had served as a Cubbie Leader (3-4 year olds) at our last base’s chapel, so it was easy to jump in to familiar territory. Then, two years ago, after my husband was wounded in action in Afghanistan, God called me to start a military wives’ Bible study group. Leading a study was out of my comfort zone, but I am so glad I listened and obeyed. It has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. I am not sure how I would have been able to get through the hard times without the support of those amazing ladies.
On base, I got involved in the McConnell Enlisted Spouses’ Club. “Service, Friendship, Support” is their motto, and volunteerism is the main focus for that group. I found a “family” there and have volunteered with them whenever and wherever I could, currently as publicity chair and newsletter editor. I also got involved with my husband’s squadron, eventually becoming a Key Spouse (a volunteer appointed by the squadron commander to help take care of deployed families and serve as a link between families and the base).
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” That is the quote I live by. I can’t always save the world, but I can try my best to make a difference, wherever I am, with whatever resources I have available to me at that particular time. I feel the best resource I have to give is my time. I am a volunteer. I look back and see I always have been. I like to think that God gave me that, a servant’s heart. I have trouble saying “no” when help is needed, and I am often at a loss when I realize that not everyone shares my desire to give of so much of their time to serve others. I also credit Girl Scouts for giving me a strong sense of community and a love for community service.
Last year I was honored to receive the 2012 Joan Orr Air Force Spouse of the Year award (highest award for a civilian military spouse volunteer) for all the work I have done not only for the Air Force community, but my local community as well. At first I was very uncomfortable receiving the award, as I do not this work to be recognized or rewarded. Along the way, though, I have found it to have been a great opportunity and a blessing to reach spouses I would not have had the chance to otherwise. If I can help just one spouse by some of the things I have been through, then all the struggles and heartbreak have been worth it.
While writing this, it occurred to me that I have truly begun to build a legacy for my children. It is important for them to see the value of putting down roots and trying to make a difference wherever they are. I want to see them bloom where they are planted, and they are blooming! Military kids have often been compared to dandelions, and my kids certainly exemplify their traits. They bloom wherever the wind (military) carries them. They are hardy, set deep roots, and are hard to destroy.
The greatest gift I can give my kids is to be a living example of how to bloom where you planted. I have given Kansas my heart and soul, and now it is time to move on. I am determined to do it all over again as the wind blows us away to Texas. I will continue to bloom wherever I am planted!
Amanda is a military spouse with Southern roots (originally from Arkansas). She and her husband, Beau, have been married 13 years, the past 10 of which have been spent serving in the Air Force. They have two kids. You can also follow her on Facebook at Uprooted But Blooming.