Bloom.

One day, we went walking through a 550-year old lava field…..

DSC_0053What?  You never started a sentence like that?   Well, neither did I; until just last week, that is.  Last week we did something we never, ever do: We took our kids on vacation.

To most of you this may mean nothing at all.  You may scoff at the fact that I’m actually beginning a blog post like this but I can assure you, for a military family, “vacation” is not something that happens often–or ever–in our case.  Most of the time our “vacation” is spent one of two ways: traveling to see family members who live hours or even days from wherever we happen to be stationed, or visiting with them when they travel to see us.  Don’t misunderstand me here.  The limited amount of time we spend with the people that we love is an absolute blessing!  We cherish every minute we get to spend with loved ones because we appreciate what rare and precious gifts those moments actually are.  But the opportunity to step away from the home–from the pressures and demands of his job and my responsibilities–and just be with our kids with absolutely no other agenda is also a rare and precious gift.

Which brings me back to the lava fields on the Big Island of Hawaii.  For a solid week, we hiked, explored, snorkeled, learned, and discovered things and places we knew nothing about. While hiking across a lava field one day, something caught my eye.  In the middle of these huge, black and grey rocks…in an expanse of land that appears otherwise dead and lifeless because hot, molten lava once poured over it and burned away all traces of life–growing right there up out of the cracks and crevices are plants.DSC_0050

Flowers and bushes.  Real, actual green plants.  Something alive was growing–blooming right where it got planted–in a lonely, barren landscape.

Sure, I listened while the park rangers explained all about the birds:  They fly over the island, drop their droppings, the droppings contain seeds, and then the rain, and blah blah blah

Not that I’m discounting science <gasp> because if the “experts” tell me it is so, then it must be so because clearly they have studied and know more about bird droppings than I.  But I beheld something when I looked across that lava field that I gaurantee the “experts” missed.  What my eyes saw didn’t look like birds and plants.  What my eyes saw were people.

Military families.  Spouses.  Children.  Teenagers. Friends.  People just like me who get picked up and moved (often just when they feel “at home” somewhere).   Moved from all the things that made the last place feel like home–and dropped into a new landscape that looks and feels lonely and barren–no matter how cool  or amazing it may seem to others.

Let me tell you one thing I know to be true about the life of a military spouse:  It can be very, very lonely sometimes.  Even when we get to live in places that look cool to everyone else, we often struggle to make new lives in places where we have no connections…no roots…and no meadows of people to fall back on.

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But like those plants and bushes in the lava field, eventually we bloom.  We bloom because we are resilient and we are determined and we literally have no other choice.  We bloom right were we are dropped because if we don’t we will wither away and entire chunks of our stories and our souls will die from aloneness and 2-3 years is a very long time to feel alone.  We bloom right where we are planted and we dig our roots deep searching for our people who quench our thirst for human relationships and we build little tribes and families all around this ever-loving world because that is exactly what any good, strong, stubborn plant does even when the conditions are less-than-favorable.  We allow the rain of new friendships to water our souls and quench the thirst we have for family because when we have no one but each other we become each other’s family.

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I know all of this to be true because I spent our entire first year in Hawaii being (mostly) unhappy.  I literally had to wake up every morning and CHOOSE to find joy in a place that most people spend half their life savings to see.  I know this makes no sense to most, but it makes perfect sense to me.  I longed to go back to the places I had been….to the people who felt like “coming home” and I didn’t understand why God just dropped us off in the middle of the lava field {literally} and expected us to thrive.

A little over 2 years later and I still don’t completely understand why.

But this I absolutely know:  God is faithful.

Walking through that mostly barren lava field and seeing those plants and flowers reminded me that He brought us here not just to survive–but to thrive.  I began looking at all the things He has provided for us:  The tribe of people that have enriched our lives.  Friends that are beginning to feel an awful lot like “home.”  The new words, new customs, new cultures, and new traditions we’ve learned.  I giggled as I thought about the way we throw up “shakas,” call friends and total strangers our “aunties” and “uncles,” and use words in our everyday speech that are virtually meaningless anywhere else.

He didn’t just drop us here so we could plant ourselves.  He called us here so we could dig our roots deep and bloom.  So we could be part of a rich history and culture and so that we can leave our mark on the pages of its story.  He called us here to embrace the island and it’s people…to learn and grow and to weave these experiences into the tapestry of our story so that we can always and forever be a little bit Hawaiian.

My friend, wherever you find yourself today do yourself a favor and bloom.  Bloom right there.  Even if it looks hard and feels uncomfortable.  Even if you’d rather be anywhere else in the whole wide world.  Even if you are angry or bitter or don’t understand for one god-forsaken minute why you are there.  Just dig your roots deep and choose to bloom.  Trust that He is a God that makes something out of nothing–who calls beauty forth from the ashes.  Trust that He planted you where the conditions are most favorable for you to bloom.

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18 thoughts on “Bloom.

    1. Do y’all live in Tennessee? We evacuated to Pigeon Forge years ago when we were stationed in FL and a hurricane came through. It was one of my most favorite places in the country! I loved it there and was so disappointed when I read about the devastation in that area from the wildfires last Dec. Praying y’all are safe and sound!

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  1. Lovely words, Nichole. We didn’t move with the military, but we moved from place to place more often than I would have liked. However, there were wonderful people and wonderful places, unexpected different traditions, and always a wide variety of favorite foods unfamiliar to us. Each new location became a new adventure, and when we moved on to the next place we took with us a headful of wonderful memories. It was always hard to leave behind those wonderful friends, and now familiar places that we loved, but there were always extraordinary new friends and unexplored new places for us to discover. Take the opportunity God has so carefully selected for you and “grow where you are planted”.

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    1. Thank you so much for your words of encouragement! You are so right, too. All those moves–the people and the experiences–are part of His story that He’s writing with our lives. As far as I can see He’s a far better writer than I so I should just step out of His way and embrace the story He’s writing for me. ❤️

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  2. Nichole – wow! You have hit the nail on the head! Thank you for that reminder as we head to our next location and I find myself getting tired of this journey! You write beautifully! It’s important us military wives share our stories because otherwise the newer younger wives may think they are alone in their loneliness! Thank you for opening up your story!

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    1. It is SOOOO important for us to share our stories! I, too, find myself weary after 17 years of this crazy, uprooted life–but then I meet amazing people and have amazing experiences and they’re like little gifts from the Lord that make it all worthwhile. Paying for you in your transition, sister. He will be near and He will surround you with His people. ❤️

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  3. I really enjoyed reading this. We live far away from family (I have ever since I graduated high school) which has been hard, especially when we had children. I have at times struggled to dig in and bloom where we are, instead choosing to lament the lack of family nearby. I am sure it is much more challenging for military families who have to make new friends every few years. I would be quite tempted to not seek to form deep friendships. Thank you for sharing your life and the reminder to trust God, his plans and his faithfulness and to enjoy where I am and who I am with. I pray that you would find “framily” wherever you go.

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    1. Having kids takes living far away to a whole new level, doesn’t it? It’s hard not to feel like my kids are “missing out” on all that time with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I hate that part. Thanks for reading Megan. I’m praying you’ll bloom fully right where you are!

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      1. I thought so much about my friends in ministry while I was writing this piece! They have it even harder bc they don’t have the built in “family” that the military provides! I can’t even imagine. Praying for you!

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  4. I love this. And it’s a lesson I’m still trying to figure out 2 years after our move. You know my struggles! Thanks for the reminder to stop wallowing in my own self-pity, friend.
    P.S. I’m pretty sure I have pictures of those exact same spots because I had these same thoughts when we walked that lava field.

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