By Katye Riselli
One year we trekked more than 1500 miles to a colder, seemingly barren terrain. As we traded our shorts and flip-flops for jeans, I rehearsed all the reasons this would certainly be the worst assignment ever.
The base didn’t have a house available for us. There were no rentals open for several weeks after our “report not later than” date. When my husband checked into TLF, the lodging representative indicated we could only stay for two nights because it was their busy season and they had tourist reservations to honor. We would need to stay downtown in a hotel until we found a place to live.
Within 48 hours my husband would check into his new job and over the next ten days I would pack my girls and our suitcases three times to move between over-priced hotels. Eventually, we received keys to a rental property just off base. We traded two beds in a single room for camping in sleeping bags in an empty house.
As I waited for our household goods to arrive, I waited for a welcome face to knock on my door. My girls waited for friends. We waited for this new place to feel like home. Nothing we longed for arrived quickly.
Internally my thoughts and emotions warred between temper tantrums with God and blasting the military and all the people who hadn’t offered help. Who were these people? Didn’t they know military community is famous for welcoming newcomers? Where were we? Had we discovered the remote outpost for hermits? I missed the familiar and the comfortable.
Each morning as my girls and I ate cereal in paper bowls, conversation inevitably turned to memories of our last home, the friends we missed, and the community that still held our heart. That beautiful place had seemed like an oasis and the stark contrast to our new location broke my heart. It felt like we’d been exiled to the desert, left to wander alone in silence.
I wore a smile for my family. But I couldn’t wear a brave mask forever. Eventually the turmoil in my heart leaks out my eyes, the thoughts racing through my mind become words spilling out of my mouth. Whatever we rehearse, we perform.
My tiny audience took their cues from me. Would we be happy here? The weight of their expectant looks forced me to my knees. God, are you here in this lonely place? Do I believe you go with us and before us into every place you call us?
I recalled my conversation with a good friend from church right before we moved north. She had asked me to share (on camera) a story about our women’s group to encourage other ladies to join. Surprised by her request, I suggested she ask other members who weren’t moving – mine wouldn’t be a familiar face to new women at the church.
“They won’t recognize your face, but they’ll recognize your story,” she insisted. “Your words will be familiar even if your face isn’t, because it’s their story, too. We’re all newcomers sometime, somewhere. All of us experience being new at some point – we start over… we begin again each January.”
As I listened to my civilian friend draw parallels between military life and the life of faith, I began to understand her perspective. The choices I had made as we arrived in that community created the conditions for my family and me to thrive.
Because I believed God had gifted us with that assignment, I expected his provision. Because I believed God to be the ultimate giver of good gifts, I looked for and discovered his blessings daily.
Because I believed God designed me to thrive in community, I sought his people to be my people in this new place.
My success in any endeavor – new or old – is rooted in how I begin.
I stared out at my desolate new landscape and realized the same could be true here. I could continue to lament what I’d lost, resigned to simply survive this assignment, or I could choose to thrive. My choice would set the stage for this new chapter.
So I cued up some worship music and began blasting truth over my circumstances. As my girls and I sang, I reminded my weary soul of God’s character and his faithfulness.
Truth trumped emotion, shifting my perspective and changing the thoughts racing through my mind. Rather than cataloging my frustrations, I began counting our blessings – beginning with the fact that we were together in this remote place, rather than my husband alone on a remote assignment. Even in less than exotic locations, I know life is better together.
The difference between surviving any assignment and thriving in every assignment is the community.
God has always provided me with at least a couple of close friends to be my tribe. Nothing could completely replicate the place we’d just left, but our experience gave us words to describe what we would strive to find in this new place. Instead of waiting for someone to knock on my door, I called two spouses I knew had also recently arrived. Before long, we added a fourth and by late fall we began meeting for coffee and prayer on Friday mornings.
I’d like to tell you that desolate barren land became my favorite base, but it didn’t. But it is where I learned to flourish in military life. No matter where we go, I know these steps set the stage to flourish in every season of any assignment. When I believe God, even the coldest desert can become my promised land.
How to Set the Stage to Flourish:
- Choose to Believe God. The Lord is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow. He is always with you. He goes before you, walks beside you, and promises his protection and provision in every place you set your foot.
- Choose to Be Grateful. Cataloging complaints doesn’t change circumstances, but gratitude change attitudes. Whatever you rehearse in your mind and heart will take life in your words and actions. Empower the positive by counting your blessings and shifting your perspective.
- Choose to Be in (or Build) Community. Life flourishes in community. We weren’t meant to do it alone. How can you be part of your local community? If you’re lonely and looking for a friend, be the friend you’re looking to find. There is always, always, always someone who feels like you. Reach out – you might be the lifeline someone else needs.
Consider which of these elements of a flourishing life you’re missing today. What choices do you need to make to alter the landscape of your life?
Friend, no matter where you live, you are here and reading these words because God brought you to this time and space. You are here because God knew what you needed before you had words to articulate it. God knit your heart to desire community, to thrive in community, and to build community. It begins with knowing God, believing him, and choosing to live by faith, fueled by love.
Whatever your goals or dreams for 2019 include, your success is rooted in how you begin: each morning, each Monday, each month – all year long – these beginnings set the stage to flourish.
Verses to Consider:
“After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: …I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses…As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you…Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:1-9 NIV)
“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11 NIV)
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45 NIV)
Lord, help me set the stage to flourish in 2019. I want to believe you, God. Help my unbelief. Remind me of your faithfulness. Fill my mind and my heart with your goodness so that my life may flourish with evidence of you. Give me your eyes to build a community of believers who encourage each other in this military journey. Amen.