Over the years, outstanding military spouses have been a source of strength and inspiration to me and my family through the ups and downs of military life. I have made it my mission to share these exceptional human beings with you, along with the invaluable wisdom they have to offer. I believe our stories can make a difference in the lives of others, and it is my hope that you will be inspired by them, too.
Without further adieu, meet this month’s Resilient Military Spouse, Melissa Lane – U.S. Air Force wife of 22 years, mom of four children, homemaker and arts and crafts extraordinaire. She is married to her high school sweetheart, Chris, and they have been chasing the military all around the world for more than two decades. Having survived 10 permanent duty stations, made seven international moves in 14 years, lived in 12 houses before celebrating her 20th wedding anniversary, and home-schooled her children through it all … she’s pretty much my hero.
Hi, Melissa! Thank you so much for being open and willing to sharing your story with us! Will you tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience as a military spouse?
I’m a military wife of 22 years to my best friend, Chris. My husband & I are from Lincoln, Maine. We were high school sweethearts, graduated from the University of Maine and have 4 children who we’ve home-schooled. I have an undergraduate degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics. Since 1994, my husband and I have lived in 10 different ‘permanent’ duty stations and 12 locations with all of our worldly goods before our 21st wedding anniversary. During that time I’ve enjoyed gardening, photographing, cooking and card-making. I am currently on four different card-making/mixed media design teams and enjoy working for two stamp companies. Mainly though, making many different houses into homes for my family has been my chief pastime for over 20 years. From Maine to New Mexico and from Turkey to Belgium, that has been an important goal of mine. Now, my family and I are getting ready for our final move. This will be our 7th international move in 14 years. We’ll be moving back to Maine in April, and we can’t wait!
I never imagined that I would spend almost 22 years traveling the world at his side as an U.S. Air Force wife.
Moving has been a big part of my life since 1995. My husband and I moved into our 12th house just after our 20th Wedding Anniversary. When Chris and I got married in 1994, I really had no idea what ROTC meant, forget about PCS, TDY, HHGs or any of the other acronyms that are now forever part of my vocabulary.
I have to say that I really don’t like change at all. I’m a planner and like predictability. Go ahead and laugh! It is quite ironic, I know. My parents still live in the house where I had my second birthday. Even though my own Scottish mother married a military man (my dad was in the U.S. Navy for a short time) and moved away from her homeland, I never dreamed of doing anything of the sort myself.
What has been your favorite duty station and why?
My favorite duty station was our last stateside location at Kirtland AFB in New Mexico, from 2010-2012. This is somewhat surprising because when my husband and I moved to Albuquerque for the first time, in 1995, I hated the place! Being from Maine, the desert Southwest might as well have been the surface of the moon to my green-loving, water-longing eyes. Brown!? UGLY! Anyhow, moving back to the U.S. with four children and living outside of the city, in Edgewood, made a big difference to my perspective 15 years later. Our then 14-year-old daughter, 11-year-old son, 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old daughter were all thrilled to be in America. They were surprised by how not-so-ugly New Mexico actually was after hearing me tell stories of it for years. They were happy to see English signs and bright blue skies after spending 3 years in Germany. We had spent five of the prior seven years in foreign countries, and we all were so happy to be able to go to church, shop at Wal-Mart and read menus in English. We had a great support group at our church, were involved in a home school co-op, hosted a home Bible study and had a supportive group of friends who included some military families.
What has it been like raising children in military life?
Tough! Parenting is truly not for the faint of heart, and being a parent in the military world adds many specific difficulties. I’m the mother of four fun and wonderful children, S (21), I (18) H (14) and A (12). Chris and I had a child born at each of our first four duty stations. We have home-schooled our children and I believe that this has provided some much-needed stability to our ever-moving family.
How do you overcome the challenges of military life every day? Do any specific habits or daily rituals help you?
Wherever I might be in the world, some tried and true pastimes have brought me great joy. As a Christian, I believe that spending time in God’s Word has been vital to my being able to function in this military world. Listening to praise and worship music or having a dance party with my family to TobyMac music add fun to what could be the drudgery of cleaning up after supper.
Walking in the woods or on a beach (when I have the chance) and breathing good fresh air always help me feel relaxed and refreshed. Things like reading a good Bible devotional book, being part of a Bible study, growing a garden, photographing creation, learning to cook new and delicious ethnic foods or even creating beauty out of chaos (whether it be a sock drawer or spice cabinet) have been familiar and comforting consistencies in my ever changing world.
Work and hobbies add beauty to life. Wouldn’t you agree? When my children were small, there were times that getting a shower during the day was a luxury, but now that they are older I have more freedom. My friend, Kelly, introduced me to blogging in 2010. I started blogging during our first tour of Germany as a way of keeping in touch with stateside family. You can check out that blog here: Lanes in the Promised Land. Then, in 2012, another good friend, Cindy, introduced me to a new hobby and I have been enjoying card-making ever since. Check out my card-making blog here: honeybeelane.
This is a tough one. When my family and I lived in Edgewood, my husband traveled back and forth to Europe a lot. The time difference made communicating in real-time quite difficult. Skype was helpful, but not especially convenient for my kids who were usually in bed when their dad had time to talk. Emailing helped, but you know that things always happen when your husband is away. I call it “TDY madness.” All of those crazy, never-happen-when-he’s-around-things definitely will happen when he isn’t! Forest fires, frozen pipes, septic backups, roof fires, fainting children, malfunctioning garage doors, appliances, vehicles or whatever! Those are the times when communication is important, but let’s face the facts ladies, talk doesn’t get the job done. Not being able to “do something” to “fix it” has been difficult for my husband during those times. However, him listening with empathy has been paramount in getting me through those times. I’ve found that empathy and lots of “I’m sorry”s are really important to me when we’ve been apart.
Our family has not been apart nearly as much as others have been. We did choose to go to Turkey for two years instead of my husband going for one year alone. I know that separations have their own special stressors, but I also know that other assignments create communication obstacles too. Long hours, special duties, OPSEC, high-responsibility jobs or remote locations have created situations where communication has been equally, if not sometimes more difficult, than when my husband has been away.
How have you worked to strengthen your marriage over the years in the midst of stressful events like relocation and separations?
Do you know what? Marriage is hard. It takes a lot of work. Talking, praying, crying, listening, writing notes of encouragement and holding on tight. It is worth it. In today’s fast-food, instant information, have-it-all now and a size-four-tushy-too-world, practicing the discipline of being kind and patient does not make headline news. Love is sacrificial, and there is no better place that I know of to practice that kind of love than a marriage in the military.
Find friends who believe in marriage and will support you in your efforts to strengthen and grow your marriage. Your best friend should be your husband. Make your relationship with him be a priority over any other. No secrets. Honor your marriage and the vows you took.
Looking back, what has been the hardest part of military life for you and your family?
I think that the feeling of isolation and not belonging has been the hardest part of military life for my family and me. Not having a built-in, tried-and-true support network has been really hard. From having babies born, to experiencing bedbugs in temporary lodging, tough things happen and not having long-time friends or family nearby has made those things tougher. Moving frequently, being uprooted and starting all over again has been very difficult for us. My husband and I were married in Maine and lived there during our last year of college/ROTC. Since then, we have lived in New Mexico (1995-1998), New Jersey, Massachusetts, Turkey, South Dakota, Germany (Ramstein area from 2007-2010), New Mexico (2010-2012), Belgium and Germany (Stuttgart area – 2014-currently). Our eldest daughter has been along for the entire ride. She could have attended 6 different schools before graduating from high school. Even though homeschooling has been hard and sometimes lonely, we are glad that we chose this path for our family.
Saying goodbye to friends has been another one of the toughest parts of all the moves and my mother’s heart has been grieved to see my kids say goodbye to good friends and familiar places. Also, our kids have sorely missed being a part of their extended family, but I think that they also have grown to appreciate those relationships in ways that other kids don’t have to opportunity to. They understand that time together with the people they love is precious.
What has been your favorite part? Feel free to share specific memories!
Developing our family’s traditions and routines has been my favorite part of the military life. We have made it our family’s tradition to try to find a place to cut down our own Christmas tree. We love trying new ethnic foods and then learning how to cook the dishes at home. We like to find places to go for walks in the woods and have decided that we all enjoy going to the ocean together when we get the chance. We love to visit the seaside and beach comb for sea-glass and other cool things along the shore. We have quite a collection of finds from all over the world. If you’d like to have a look, you can see some of my collection here.
What advice would you give to today’s young military spouses?
Be you! If you don’t care for shopping trips, big cities and lots of exotic adventures remember that that’s totally okay! I personally don’t care for these things and so have had to balance my need for quiet, natural surroundings and time alone with the opportunities to travel and experience all that this military lifestyle has to offer. Realizing what charges your batteries or drains them is really important. Have you taken the Myers-Briggs personality test? (I’m an ISTJ.) How about The 5 Love-Languages Profile? (Acts of Service is my primary love language.) If not, I’d encourage you and your husband to do so. I’d say that taking these tests on a routine basis (maybe every quarter or bi-yearly?) and sharing them with each other would be a great, fun and non-threatening way to keep communication open and honest.
Do you have a favorite motto, Bible verse, or inspirational quote, etc. that applies to your experience of life as a resilient military spouse?
Yes, I do! Just before my family and I moved to Turkey, at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, God gave me Psalm 139 in multiple different ways during a short period of time. I particularly love verses 1-18.
Psalm 139 (NKJV)
139 O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
3 You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
5 You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.
It’s been great to be here with you today. I am humbled to have been given this opportunity to share and spend some time with you. You, the marvelous military wife, have a wonderful, difficult and important role to play in serving the United States of America. I pray that God blesses you as you serve your country and your family.
If you’re curious about the places I’ve lived and/or my craft space (that is now packed up and in a crate) please go here for more. I’m also on Instagram. You are most welcome to stop by my other blog, Lanes In the Promised Land, to see what my family and I are up to as my husband retires from the USAF. In early July, I will be sharing photos from his retirement ceremony, which we will be holding in Maine on June 24th. It will be a special event, attended by our family and friends.