There are a lot of situations that call for the old adage, “Hurry up and wait.” Perhaps none more than the tales that come out of the military world. In fact, according to Dictionary.com the expression itself, “dates from the 1940s and probably originated in the armed services.” You’d think that in the last seventy some years things would have improved, but this story I’m about to tell you shows that maybe not that much has changed.
Stacia and her family are a Navy family. Her husband, Matt, has served for over 15 years. They’re not new at this, yet the experience they’ve had over the last year and a half has been its own special sort of stress, unlike any other move or set of orders they’ve had to grow through. They had just celebrated the holidays and were now struggling hard to find help in relieving Matt’s ongoing back pain. In February 2014, he was finally given a diagnosis that made him eligible for surgery but also meant he would need a special waiver to continue patrolling with the crew he is a part of. Definitely a good/news bad news kind of revelation.
But, Stacia tackled this like the seasoned spouse she is. With not really knowing what her future held (Would Matt have to move off of sea duty, transfer out of the Navy, or stay with the boat after healing from back surgery?) she put her head down and lived life. She rearranged the house so that her husband would be able to use a walker while he healed. She homeschooled her Kindergartener. She changed the diapers of their youngest and potty-trained their middle daughter. Just living life. Thankfully she had friends who helped, taking the kids out, giving support to Matt and Stacia both. And their church set up a meal train so that was one thing she didn’t have to worry about after his surgery in the midst of the big unknown bubble she was living in.
Matt fought to get that waiver and return to his crew but was also told he’d be reassigned to shore duty by June 2014. With just the spring to plan, Stacia started cleaning house and had a yard sale, thinking they’d likely be moving from Washington for Matt’s next duty station. By summer, though, Matt headed back to his boat and was told he’d definitely be leaving by September 2014 – with orders to South Carolina.
Stacia continued to prep for moving, getting the girls ready, and focusing on leaving friends and activities. She focused on where their new home would be – researching housing, crime rates, schools, and churches in South Carolina. She held her second moving sale and made lists of what they’d need and not need during the transition from one coast to the other. “Even if I can’t control what’s going on around me, I can make it pretty on paper,” she told me about her detailed, color-coded spreadsheets.
In spite of the fancy charts and graphs Stacia created, Matt’s command needed him and he extended on board until February 2015, when they were told they’d be headed to Georgia instead. Okay! A new place to learn about. Stacia changed the attention of her Internet searches and got to work figuring out what life might be like in the Southeast. She and Matt got excited about a new plan too. They bought a camper – the first home they’d purchased together, having only lived in rentals as nomads of the Navy – and restored it so it could be their home for their cross-country adventure and their first few months in Georgia. Stacia enjoyed painting and decorating, “Our 300 square feet.” Living in a camper meant needing even less and another yard sale was held.
After those orders fell through, Matt was given the opportunity to head to Virginia and decommission a boat there. Five other guys from his crew called the detailer and got orders to follow him. However, after a few months, those orders were pulled too. Same song, different verse for Matt. The other sailors that volunteered to follow him, though? They’re orders are still on and they’ll be moving without the man they wanted to follow.
And where will Matt and Stacia be going? Well, possibly Georgia again. Or someplace. Time will tell.
After multiple moving sales, downsizing their household goods, and putting life on hold (when you think you’re moving in a few months, you don’t start something new), Stacia isn’t worried about it. After countless lists to try to control the uncontrollable, Stacia put away her spreadsheets. After Zillow notifying her of another house that fit the specifications she’d set up for yet another city, she turned off the app. “I don’t want to know what I’m missing.”
Can you blame her? How many times can you reorganize your life only to have the rug pulled out and have to start over with a new plan before you’re just too tired to come up with a new plan?
“After the Virginia orders were changed, I stopped looking at what was next…what was next…what was next after that. I focused on what was here and now. What am I missing out on now?” Stacia asked. She looked around and decided that she wasn’t going to wait anymore. She and their three daughters would get involved and start living again.
Stacia joined a planning committee for the Teen MOPS (Moms of Pre-Schoolers) that her church supports. She came on board with the wise words of, “I’m here until I leave you.” She also stepped up as the Assistant Director for kids’ ministry at church. Two of the three girls have been enrolled in school and are enjoying meeting new friends, even if it’s only for three months. Stacia and the girls also joined the YMCA and are taking swim lessons and working out. She’s no longer using ‘what if’ as an excuse. She’s embracing the sometimes scary steps that come with starting new and learning a lot about herself in the process.
Around the time Stacia threw up her hands at whatever the Navy’s plans might be, she was walking through a craft store and saw a sign that simply stated, “Bloom where you’re planted.” Sometimes God doesn’t use flashing neon to get our attention, but a quiet quote instead.
One of the hardest things about military life is putting down roots when you know you’ll have to pull them up again. I remember a few duty stations back I actually told a women’s group that I needed them to help me keep my sanity with two toddlers and a baby on the way, but I wasn’t looking for friends. Thinking about that now, it was clearly a backlash to leaving what had been my home – my roots.
Stacia’s decision to bloom in the here and now hasn’t been easy, either. For a few week, she was angry, with her husband and the Navy. She felt stuck under this frustrated storm cloud but was eventually able, with support of friends and her faith, to find her way into the sun.
“Through all of this, there has been this searching as to why are we doing this? Why? I feel like this whole thing has been a lesson in letting go and trusting God – that it will all work out how it’s supposed to. Even though I kept saying, ‘Okay, I get it,’ I didn’t get it. The change didn’t come until I said, ‘Thank you.’”
I asked Stacia what advice she had for others in hurry up and wait scenarios like hers, and she said, “Live in the here and now. Be present in each day. It doesn’t mean rough days won’t happen, but being in the present, living each day, allows for reset to happen.”
Sounds like pretty sound advice, I think. Especially after more than a year and a half of uncertainty. Especially after four moving sales. Especially after more than six years of sea duty. Stacia and Matt still don’t know what the Navy has in store for them next. And that’s okay. For now she’s done hurrying up. And she’s done waiting. She’s just living day to day and enjoying those days to the fullest – soaking up the sun and the rain, blooming and blossoming.