As a military woman, you have more than likely experienced a holiday season when you long to be home. We know what that’s like, but we also know the Psalms can be balm for our souls any time we ache for home.

When You Long to be Home

by Kristin Goodrich

Once upon a time… well, actually, in the summer of 1989, I went on active duty and arrived at my first duty station in Panama.

As the typical newbie, I was excited to start my Naval service. I was nervous about the deteriorating political situation caused by the Panamanian dictator, Gen. Manuel Noriega. Because of my junior status, I fully expected to be on the watch calendar for Thanksgiving and Christmas, which was okay since I couldn’t afford a plane ticket home anyway. 

But even as I was anticipating the loss of family gatherings that year, God overcame duty schedules and finances to make a way for me.

He did it through a ten-week temporary duty assignment to a joint military school in Indiana that fall. Due to the school setting, we were allowed to take leave over Thanksgiving. However, my basic pay still would not have covered a trip from Indiana to New Jersey.

Graciously, my parents sent me a ticket so I could be home for Thanksgiving. My first holiday with family, including Swedish family members, reminded me that I was loved! Years later, my husband and I made a point to save up so we could bring our kids home for the first holiday of their adult lives.

This year, we will all be together for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year, I am saddened that my aging dad is increasingly affected by memory loss. Next year, only God knows who will be around the table as our youngest kid heads to Marine Corps boot camp in January.

I can testify that God has been present through each “first” and “last” and everywhere in between. During my initial Navy training, I read Psalm 139, and I still cling to it.  

When you long to be home, the Psalms can help.

  • “O LORD, you have searched me and known me!” (v. 1)
    • God knew that I wanted to spend my first major holiday with my family.
  • “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” (v. 5)
    • I am surrounded by the presence of the Lord even when away from my family.
  • “If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea, even there your right hand shall hold me.” (v. 9-10)
    • Whether far from home, even at sea or in another country, God holds me fast.
  • “Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” (v. 12)
    • I spent Christmas of 1989 in Panama during Operation Just Cause where I experienced forces of darkness at work.
  • “… in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me…” (v. 16)
    • Just as God knows the number of my days, he also knows the number of my Dad’s days and my son’s days as a Marine.
  • “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!” (v. 17)
    • Even as I try not to think of the possibility of having a Navy chaplain knocking on our front door, I know that the Lord is ever mindful of us.
  • “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (v. 23)
    • God will hear my requests and he will answer directly with tools I can put to immediate use, no matter that I am scared, lonely, and/or discouraged.
  • “And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (v. 24)
    • This year’s holidays, whether spent close to home with traditional family or spent far away with our military family, God will meet me there for his glory and my good. 

What I’ve Learned Longing to be Home

Having experienced over thirty years of shared and missed holidays, birthdays, and other meaningful dates, may I share two “lessons learned, the hard way” with you?

#1 – Beware of the comparison game! Military culture loves its metrics and we can easily get sucked in to loving our personal metrics more than the person standing in front of us.

Instead, ask others about their situation and how they feel about missing the holidays. Offer to pray on the spot or follow up with a verse or two from Psalm 139. Draw from your first-hand experience (or ask someone who has been down that road) about what feels challenging, but. . . 

#2 – Beware of listening only to be able to tell your story! Active listening means setting aside our tendency to shift the storytelling to me.

Instead, listen with the intent to ask about or comment on the speaker’s story without any mention of me or my story. Note – This is way harder than I imagined!

Let God’s story meet you this holiday season! We would love to hear your story – drop us a note through Planting Roots on any of our social media platforms.

Don’t miss Kristin’s previous post, Feelings of Loss Over the Holidays.