Military Outreach Stories

3 ways military families can cope with change

3 Ways to Cultivate Resilience

In military families, it’s important to be able to bend, not break, when change comes.

Military and Valentine's Day

When Valentine’s Day Arrived in a Combat Zone

In a place of danger, a box of cards and candy transformed these soldiers’ day.

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Family baking

Working Hand-in-Hand with God

Baking together as a family offers ways to bond as well as bless others with the goodies from your kitchen.

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Trying to see too far ahead?

When You're Struggling to See Too Far Ahead

Sometimes it's the things close by that God wants us to notice.

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Military chaplain

Four Chaplains Day—A Reminder That Bravery Surrounds Us

The self-sacrifice of four U.S. Army chaplains during World War II is remembered today.

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Hearing God speak while taking a walk

In Silence, God Speaks

Feeling powerless over a deployed son's despair, a military mom goes for a walk and finds spiritual solace.

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Finding blessings in adversity

The Beginnings of a Blessing

A military mom learns that within every calamity or bump in the road lies the opportunity for hope and healing.

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Listening

A Military Mom Learns to Listen with Love

If someone in your family is serving and you run into a critic of the military, here's how to come from a positive place.

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Family time

The Joy of Wasting Time

A military mom remembers that some of the best moments in family life come unscripted.

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Acts of kindness

Not-So-Random Acts of Kindness

Behind those seemingly small gestures of help and good will from others lies a more powerful force.

Military family

7 Daily Reminders for Military Families

How not to let your world fall apart when deployments loom and schedules are blown up

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Turning your worries over to God

Traveling Light—Dropping the Weight of Worry

How a military mom learned to hand the burden of anxiety over to God

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Preparing with God's help

Preparation in Partnership with God

A military mom loves to prepare but knows that she's not doing it alone.

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10 New Year's resolutions for a military family

10 New Year’s Resolutions for a Military Family

Some resolutions take time to put into place. But here are quick ways you can make positive changes in your family.

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No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37, NIV)

It’s those who can bend in the hurricane-force winds of change who will continue to find peace and joy no matter what life sends. This ability is very different from feverishly chasing fads and trends. It’s the realization that it’s time to change direction when the circumstances of life dictate.

Military families learn this lesson early. We learn to weather many storms, from change of duty stations to saying goodbye before deployment. Here are some ways I’ve learned to cultivate this approach to inevitable upheavals: 

1)  Write it down and get it out
So often life can seem difficult and unfair. But when I keep my frustration bottled in I feel worse. So I keep a journal and process my struggles on paper. This serves two purposes. First, I get it out of my system. Second, I’m able to come back to what I’ve written and see how God has given me strength to make it through.

2)  Focus on areas where you have control
There are certain things in life that we simply cannot change. It’s taken a long time, but I’ve learned not to worry about areas I cannot control, but to focus on the things I can.

3)  Ask God for perspective
No life is perfect. But every aspect of life has something worth celebrating. By asking God to reveal those hidden jewels, I can get through the difficult times.

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In military families, it’s important to be able to bend, not break, when change comes.

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3 ways military families can cope with change
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While They Serve
Edie MelsonFeb 19, 2018

3 Ways to Cultivate Resilience

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Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17, NIV)

During deployments, families not only worry about their loved one’s safety, but they also have to cope with the unexpected problems at home. (Military spouses know that if something can break, it usually will break when their partner is away.) 

However, God shows up. And He often uses random acts of kindness from strangers to address needs and calm fears.

This became evident to me during our son’s first deployment. As I was wrestling with feelings that no one cared about the fact that my son was sacrificing so much for his country, it came time to ship him a Christmas package. At the post office, the line was long, and I chatted with the woman behind me. I shared that the box in my arms was for my son. She told me how much she appreciated his service and asked his name so she could pray for him.

When I was called to the counter, she stepped up behind me and handed the clerk a twenty-dollar bill. “Use it to pay for this box.”

God used that woman’s kindness to soften my hard feelings.

Another time, I was stressing over the fact that I couldn’t pray for my son 24 hours a day. I had asked God to reassure me that our son was always under His protection and in His heart. The next day began a series of cards, phone calls and random conversations with people we knew. Each one of them had the same message for me: “I wanted you to know that God reminded me to pray for your son. And I felt like I was supposed to tell you that.”

February 17 is Random Acts of Kindness day. And from our perspective, the things we do to help those around us—friend or stranger—may indeed seem random. But I know God is at work. He’s busy encouraging, comforting and loving us. And the blessings He orchestrates are never random.

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Behind those seemingly small gestures of help and good will from others lies a more powerful force.

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While They Serve
Edie MelsonFeb 15, 2018

Not-So-Random Acts of Kindness

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When Valentine’s Day Arrived in a Combat Zone

Nothing touches the heart like a gift from a child, especially when kids are sending cards and letters overseas to a military unit. I know, because I once heard about an instance first-hand.

It all started when I got a call one morning from our local elementary school asking if our son was deployed at the time. He wasn’t, but I had several friends who had deployed children. Because I knew the school and had permission, I passed their contact information along. I had no idea what God had set into motion until about six months later.

The school contacted one of my friends and told her the kindergarten classes wanted to send Valentine’s Day cards. She was thrilled to give the teacher her son’s deployment address.

Her son’s unit was deployed in a forward base, meaning they didn’t have as many comforts as those stationed in bigger bases. They were also rarely out of their armor and helmets because of the danger in that location. That particular week had been brutal. They’d run into two hand-made bombs, and several of them had been wounded and transferred out.

Into that scenario arrived a battered box from home.

The box had been bashed in on one side, and although my friend’s son tried to open it carefully, it almost disintegrated in his hands. But in the place of the rubble he expected to find, a cascade of brightly colored envelopes, interspersed with candy, came pouring out. 

His buddies gathered around because a box from home meant everyone got to share. They took turns opening the cards—one at a time—and read them out loud. They passed around the candy, and everyone found at least one of their favorites.

Instead of an evening of anxiety and fear, they were transported home by the heartfelt Valentine’s Day greetings

I encourage you to take time to write a card, at any time, to someone far from home. It could be a deployed service person, or a veteran at a local care facility. You never know how God may use your outreach to remind someone they aren’t forgotten.

If you don’t know a place to send your letter, here is the link for Solder’s Angels. They’ll be happy to make sure your card gets to someone in need.  

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In a place of danger, a box of cards and candy transformed these soldiers’ day.

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While They Serve
Edie MelsonFeb 9, 2018

When Valentine’s Day Arrived in a Combat Zone

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Military Outreach

Working Hand-in-Hand with God

As I child, I always loved visiting my grandmother. She was a woman who loved to cook and life centered around the bustling activity in her kitchen. But it wasn’t just the delicious results that I welcomed, it was the fact that she included me in the process. 

She’d back a red chair up to the counter, tie on an apron she’d made that was just my size and let me help with the preparation. As I had my own family, I tried to do the same thing with them—with a lesser degree of success. 

One of the things about bringing kids into the cooking process is the fact that it slows things way down. As adults, we’re so often pressed for time that letting our little ones help seems to make a hard job almost impossible. 

However, we need to look at the example our Heavenly Father has set for us. He delights in including us in His work. Of course He could do it better, faster and more efficiently without us. But He loves working with His children.

When our oldest son enlisted in the military, I revived the process of including my kids. Even though my remaining two sons were in their early teens, we worked together to make goodies to send to their big brother. It was a wonderful bonding time, and it meant a great deal to a young service man so far from home. It also gave me the opportunity to be a living example of how God invites us to join Him in His work.

Since this is Bake for Family Fun Month, I recommend you give this custom a try. Here’s how to go about it:

1)  Find the name of someone who’s in the military or perhaps a military family that lives in your community.

2)  Bring the kids into the kitchen, let them help decide what to bake and then get to it.

3)  Engage them in discussion of how God includes all of us in His work.

4)  Pack up the goodies in a box (for mailing) or a pretty tin if the family is local.

Not only will you bless someone in the military, you’ll build precious memories with the little ones in your life.    

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Baking together as a family offers ways to bond as well as bless others with the goodies from your kitchen.

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While They Serve
Edie MelsonFeb 8, 2018

Working Hand-in-Hand with God

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When You're Struggling to See Too Far Ahead

I love to wander through the Blue Ridge Mountains on sunny days, so clear that it seems you can see landscapes several states away. But I also love it when fog descends and surrounds me in a cocoon of peace and quiet.

One day while I was visiting a familiar mountaintop, the fog blew in. I was disappointed because I’d gone there to take some photographs and needed a clear shot of the mountains in the distance. Instead I was stuck in the middle of a damp, gray cloud. I slung my camera over my shoulder and made my way back to the car to wait, hoping the fog would lift.

As I sat there, still, I began to see things that I’d never noticed before. I spied an old tree, with gnarled limbs and interesting shapes. I observed the cliffs behind me and the beautiful designs made with rocks and brush. 

All this new-to-me scenery drew me back out of the car, and soon I was happily exploring a part of this vista I’d never seen before. 

The fog never did lift, but I saw things I’d never seen before. As I drove home, with a camera full of images and a heart full of love for our magnificent Creator, I pondered what had happened. 

How like God to use a foggy day to increase my visibility

He’s done that before in my life—spiritually. He’s used those times where everything around me seems like gray, swirling chaos, to show me things I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I experienced that especially when our son was in the military. Often the weight of what he was facing covered me with despair. It was in those times that God revealed Himself the most intimately.

So if you’re engulfed by any kind of fog, take a deep breath. Stop struggling to see too far ahead and look close by. That’s where you’ll find God waiting to open up your eyes in ways never imagined.

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Sometimes it's the things close by that God wants us to notice.

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While They Serve
Edie MelsonFeb 5, 2018

When You're Struggling to See Too Far Ahead

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Four Chaplains Day—A Reminder That Bravery Surrounds Us

It was February 3, 1943. Troop ship S.S. Dorchester was one of three ships in a convoy traveling the icy waters from Newfoundland to the American base in Greenland. The ship’s captain had been informed of German U-boat activity in the region and ordered the men to sleep in clothes and life jackets on that fateful night. Many disobeyed that order. 

At 12:55 a.m., the vessel was struck mid-ship by a torpedo. Many were killed outright and others wounded. Imagine the pandemonium as the nightmare had become reality. It only took 30 minutes for the ship to slip beneath the freezing waters, but one act of heroism will remain with us forever. 

As men struggled into clothes and life jackets, leaping from the burning ship and capsizing over-loaded lifeboats, four army chaplains worked to spread calm and order. Those chaplains were Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Reform Judaism; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed. 

Over and over, survivors tell versions of the same story. These four men spread out through the ship, assisting the confused and terrified into life vests and shepherding them to lifeboats. Throughout the ship they could be heard exhorting courage and praying loudly, bringing God’s unfathomable peace to an insane situation.

One chaplain handed his gloves to a soldier who was without. Then the four stationed themselves by the locker with additional life vests, handing them out to the waiting men. When the locker was empty, each one took off his own vest and gave it to a waiting soldier.

From the waters, the glare of fire lit the night. All around floated bits of unthinkable debris, lifeboats perilously close to sinking, and men—some in just shirt sleeves, some wounded—clinging to anything they could find. Over it all could be heard the voices of the four chaplains, calling out encouragement and praying for the safety of all. 

In 1988, February 3 was designated by an act of Congress as Four Chaplains Day. As we remember their bravery, let us not lose heart. Every day I still hear stories of brave men and women in our military. Some serve in this country—in hurricanes and fires. Others serve half a world away. But every act of bravery is seen by our Heavenly Father. Let us remember not just these four men, but celebrate the courage that happens every day. 

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The self-sacrifice of four U.S. Army chaplains during World War II is remembered today.

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While They Serve
Edie MelsonFeb 1, 2018

Four Chaplains Day—A Reminder That Bravery Surrounds Us

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In Silence, God Speaks

I remember that week in early spring years ago—it had been hectic here at home. No catastrophes, just normal life with two active sons in school and sports. In the midst of it all, we’d heard from our deployed son twice. Usually getting to talk to him that often would be a gift, not as much this time. Instead he’d shared the heartache and despair he was battling with.

He wondered why he was there, if he was doing any good, if everyone back home had forgotten him. On and on he went, sharing his worries. I loved that he turned to us, but it broke my heart that I couldn’t do anything more than listen and reassure him of our love…and of God’s.

In the days that followed my mind churned with unthinkable places his despair could lead him. I prayed…some…but mostly I fretted and worried. Over and over I tried to come up with ways I could really do something to help.

I felt powerless, weak and certain I was somehow letting him down.

Finally, unable to endure inaction any longer, I took a walk. Not helpful to my son, but being outdoors has always been a place of solace for me, even when it’s just a stroll in our neighborhood. I hoped it would clear my head and help me come up with a plan of action.

As I walked, my mind quieted. Instead of the what-if’s, I heard the songs of birds, smelled the promise of spring as the trees around me began to send out new leaves and buds. I looked up and watched the clothes scudding cross a brilliant blue sky.

As my struggle for a plan disappeared, it was replaced with something else. In the silence of my mind, I heard God speak. He whispered reminders from His Word. He asked me to look back and recall all the times He’d provided for me—and more importantly for my sons. I felt the worry fall away like a cloak of doom I’d been wearing since the last phone call. 

The last thing I heard Him say was reassurance that my son was now in a good place, safe in body, mind and soul. And that I’d hear it in his voice the next time we spoke. He asked me to hold onto that with faith and then remember His assurance the next time I found myself running toward this place. 

Sure enough, that very night our son called again. This time, he was at peace. He’d found his reasons for being there and was no longer living in the pit of despair. I learned that sometimes I have to come to the end of my power before I hear God speak.

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Feeling powerless over a deployed son's despair, a military mom goes for a walk and finds spiritual solace.

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Hearing God speak while taking a walk
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While They Serve
Edie MelsonJan 29, 2018

In Silence, God Speaks

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The Beginnings of a Blessing

I’m bad about seeing a challenge in a negative light. Something unexpected happens, and I immediately jump to possible bad outcomes. However, life has tried to teach me that with every calamity, every stress, every bump in the road, there is the potential for blessings.

When our son made his decision to enlist in the military at such a young age (18), my mind immediately went to the negative side of what could happen. I was proud that he wanted to serve, but terrified about what he was going to face.

It took a few weeks of agony before I understood that from this difficult circumstance, God was doing something wonderful.

As my husband and I walked through this new paradigm of parenting, we began to see family and friends fall in step beside us. Where some had once been only acquaintances, they became prayer partners. Spats and hurt feelings between family members disappeared as we all pulled together to equip my son for what lay ahead. Even my own spiritual growth began to take off in ways I’d not expected.

Within that kernel of pain, I saw a vine of blessing begin to grow, blossom and bear the sweetest fruit.

So even now I look at the hard things in life with new eyes. Instead of rocks that can injure and bruise, I see seeds of blessings that have the potential to make life sweeter than before.

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A military mom learns that within every calamity or bump in the road lies the opportunity for hope and healing.

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Finding blessings in adversity
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While They Serve
Edie MelsonJan 25, 2018

The Beginnings of a Blessing

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A Military Mom Learns to Listen with Love

But I say to you who are listening, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who are cruel to you. (Luke 6:27-28, NCV)

Having a loved one in the military can sometimes be a conversation stopper with civilians. Many people believe different things about our government, its decisions and the way our military carries out its orders. 

As a close family member, we know that orders are orders and must be obeyed—even when they don’t appear to make sense until later. Which means that sometimes in conversation with others, we can end up feeling hurt or defensive. I’ve learned that this is when I need to take a deep breath and mentally move to a different place in my heart, a place I call the “other side of love.” 

When everyone around me is behaving nicely, it’s easy to project a loving attitude. But when I feel that someone I love is being unfairly judged, my warmth vanishes in a puff of angry smoke. 

The other side of love resides on the other side of an invisible line in my heart. It’s populated by people who think differently than I do, who sometimes dislike me and even attack my beliefs and lifestyle.

As a believer, I’ve come to accept that the Bible expects me to love those people as much as I love the ones who have my back. And having fully embraced that command, I’ve found it easier to migrate across that line in my heart when someone harder to love shows up. To make that shift, I first thank God for this annoying person and ask to see him or her as He does. 

Then I shut my mouth. I’ve discovered that if I don’t react quickly and take time to listen, I can find some common ground. When I make an effort to really hear another person, they feel validated and are usually happy to have a reasonable conversation.

It’s not always our job to assume a defensive crouch on behalf of others. Many times God just wants us to listen with love, to disarm our own anger.

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If someone in your family is serving and you run into a critic of the military, here's how to come from a positive place.

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While They Serve
Edie MelsonJan 22, 2018

A Military Mom Learns to Listen with Love

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