Military life is one of constant change, and with each new adventure arises a set of challenges and logistics with which to wrestle. Maybe, like me, you often meditate and ponder the future, attempting to strategize every detail. But Jesus challenges us not to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself and each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34). What is the practical application of this verse? How can we ground ourselves in the present?
We must consciously choose to anchor ourselves in gratitude.
Gratitude in the Situation
“You are moving to Japan!”
After the initial excitement of another international military move, all the uncertainties began to overwhelm us. Where will we live? Where will we go to church? Is there Classical Conversations in Japan?
At the time, Japan did not have a CC community, and it felt like the rug had been ripped out from underneath us. After ten years of homeschooling, we had finally found that community, curriculum, and course that had been missing with our first two homeschool graduates.
What would we do now?
In my despondency, my then-Foundations Director encouraged me to attend a Window into Challenge event. Despite the ages of our two youngest—three and five—this happened to be the salve my battered heart needed because it provided the space I required to reflect upon all that the Lord had done and what He was still doing and to remind me that He was guiding our future.
I answered the Lord’s call to begin a community in Japan, which in turn perpetuated an ongoing ripple effect for our family and countless others. Twelve years later, God has prepared me to build community despite the obstacles and regardless of that next “duty station.”
Because of the fortitude and love of those before us, we were never without a community, and now we have a Challenge IV graduate and a soon-to-be Challenge II student. The mission, vision, and method of Classical Conversations has been the consistent and stabilizing factor during our nomadic naval adventures.
Gratitude in the Circumstances
Once committed to the role of Director in Japan, I found that the circumstances proved uniquely challenging: military rules, Japanese rules, language barriers, finding facilities, time zones, shipping, etc. CC was largely unknown in Japan, and now I was separated by thousands of miles from all that was familiar.
One particular hurdle to navigate that stood out was the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which establishes boundaries for Americans interacting with the host nation. Despite my ignorance of the nuances of the SOFA, I specifically prayed that the Lord would bring Japanese families to our new community. And He did!
At the time of my prayer, I had no idea that the SOFA limits business relations between Americans and Japanese. After diligent research and many conversations as a community, we were able to come up with a plan to serve these families as a ministry. Through adversity, life-long relationships were forged because we trusted in Him to provide the way.
Gratitude in the People
Living internationally for the past seven years has amplified my awareness of the high caliber of families that gravitate toward CC. As a military family, we probably jump into churches, neighborhoods, friendships, and communities a little quicker than your average family because if we don’t, our time vaporizes, and we are on to our next duty station.
I am inspired and honored to serve beside many mommas and Directors with a huge capacity for making the most of their time and persevering despite the unknowns or challenges they will face.
This year, a new Director in Okinawa learned just a couple of days after signing the contract that she needed to find a new facility. Internationally, this could be a community killer because we rely solely on churches. SOFA limitations, entangled taxes, and small churches with few willing to open their doors to outside programs or ministries can all put an end to a community. And yet this Director’s prayerful tenacity, grace, and desire to serve secured the much-needed space.
In The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, the villain instructs his nephew to keep the patient separated from eternity by planting seeds of fear for the future: “Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.”
Keeping our eyes on the Perfector of our faith and eternity will ground us in the present, keep us grateful for the past, and restore our rest in His providence for our future. Despite the obstacles, there is so much life-giving joy that flows out of the fortitude and perseverance of Directors that rely on Him, utilizing His gifts to lay a legacy for others.
I humbly implore you to be anchored in gratitude, attend to the cares of today, and despite the challenges that will come, enter into His rest as you trust Him with your future.