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How the Army Made Me a Better Mom

Almost any woman can give birth, but you and I know it takes hard work to become a good mother. 

If you are like me, the babymoon gave you passionate love for your little one, but when the emotional high wore off, you needed something more. You needed character that went beyond fickle feelings.

This is why I am so thankful for my army training. I learned so many lessons that have benefited me greatly over they years of bearing and rearing our 15 children.

Since I know you want to learn these lessons, too, but without going through all that torment, I will try my best and share the most important ones here (there are many more, but I don’t think you have time to read that much today, right?).

1) You can do more than you think you can.

Before I wore combat boots I was a lazy whiner.

As a civilian I only worked hard when I felt like it. I could always schmooze my way out of unpleasantness. But in the army there was no escape. I had to stick in there and give it my all, even after I had lost interest and it began to hurt.

The civilian me went to bed with a slight sore throat. The army me ran two miles in the cold with a fever of 102 degrees.

The civilian me put the dishes to “soak” if they were really dirty. The army me washed over 200 dishes, utensils, and pots and pans by hand three times a day on KP (Kitchen Police).

The civilian me whined if I had less than 8 hours of sleep a night. The army me ran around all day on four hours of sleep for weeks on end.

I was not only taught to endure, I was pushed past my endurance.

I discovered that it was OK to go past where you think you can’t, because that’s where you find out you actually CAN!

Endurance is sister to patience. If you have ever been pushed past what you thought was your ability to endure, then you know what I mean. The next time you are faced with bone-throttling pressure, you remember that it doesn’t last forever and you keep moving, or standing, or hanging on, or whatever it takes until you see the end result.

  • This helps when you are undergoing morning sickness and labor and delivery.
  • It can keep you walking the floor for hours when your baby is colicky and you haven’t even had four hours of sleep a night for weeks on end.
  • It can help you when your marriage is like a cold, dark cavern.
  • It can keep you steady when an older child is bent on destruction.

You can keep on, and you will keep on, because you know there will eventually be relief, that God’s Word is true:

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6

2) Discipline is a good thing.

As a civilian I was creative, I was even sometimes motivated, but I was rarely disciplined.

In fact, I think most creatives view discipline and order as enemies of innovation, so we avoid it with religious fervor.

We also have a skewed vision of “freedom.” We aren’t free to live rightly, we are free to do whatever whenever we feel like it.

If we don’t like a job, we quit.

If we don’t feel in “love” anymore, we break up.

We back out, back pedal and backtrack.

If we have no other choice, we become nothing more than a warm body; present but unaccounted for. We go through the motions but withhold the emotions.

I hated being in the army. It was a cold, hard place, so I reasoned it was not worthy of my full effort. I decided I would slink down in my seat, coast through my days, be a “half-heart.”

Nonchalance is not an army value.

Soldiers are required to be flat-out, whole-hog, full-tilt-bozo. Drill instructors are trained to weed out “half-hearts.”

I thought I was doing a good job of faking it, but one sergeant in particular wasn’t impressed. I became his special “project” (people spend their spare time focusing on hobbies, and I became his). He followed me and dogged me everywhere I went. Even if I was doing things right, he told me I was doing them wrong and made me repeat tasks over, and over, and over again. It was like he was purposely trying to tick me off (and he was).

This guy perceived that I didn’t really understand what it meant to obey orders from the heart. He saw through all of my pretense and pushed my hypocrisy out into the open. He forced me to decide; was I going to follow with committed devotion, or was I going to wash out.

Well, I got mad, as mad as a hen in a rain storm. I didn’t back out, I pushed forward, more determined than ever to be the sharpest soldier ever forged. I learned the lesson, and learned it well.

You can learn the lesson, too.

Discipline kicks in where excitement leaves off.

It makes you stick in there when you don’t have any immediate gratification and it keeps you sticking in there even when you don’t see any progress.

It will make you work with committed devotion to be the best mom you can be, even when you don’t feel like it, and in pushing forward you will discover something deeper than feelings.

A lot of women miss out on the joy of mothering because they aren’t whole-hearted.

Society teaches us that children are sort of like pets. We provide for them and pay attention to them every once-in-a-while, even take them out for a daily walk, but make sure they don’t interfere with our adult lives. If they begin to bug us we sit them down in front of a screen or get them involved in almost anything else.

It’s parenting as a hobby, not an integral part of our lives. Then we wonder why we feel distant and our children push us away.

Here is a suggestion: Instead of giving up and giving in when you are bored, tapped-out, or depressed, press in.

Look for an opportunity, rely on a spark of inspiration from the Holy Spirit and connect with the heart of your child. Look into those big, beautiful eyes and find a way inside–a story, a song, letting him stir the cake mix, look at the pictures on the site you are viewing and answering questions, telling stories.

Dance away the crying, kiss away the blues.

Dive deeply into the world of children and you will never miss the world of adults.

3) You can live for Christ anywhere and through anything

The environment in the military is hostile to godly living. Cussing is not only normalized, it is encouraged. Dirty jokes, lurid stories of sexual exploits, drinking, carousing, are all expected (even among the women).

Yet I was never tempted, not even after having been worn down for those eight weeks.

Instead of running away from the Lord into all the other things to find solace, I ran into Him. He was my strength, my refuge. The only reading materials we were allowed to have were our training manuals and the Word of God. Fortunately, I had planned ahead and bought the smallest, most complete Bible available at the time. I kept that precious treasure in the side-pocket of my camo pants so that when everyone else took a cigarette break I could take a Bible break. His Word became more important to me than food.

And I worshiped whenever I was allowed. As I mentioned, I was only 18 at the time, away from my loved ones, in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by strangers. I was so heartsick that I needed to comfort myself, so I sang. I sang songs to the Lord everywhere I was permitted; in the shower, on guard duty, while I washed 200 dishes by hand on KP (Kitchen Police) duty. I sang my heart out to the Lord; every gospel song I could think of. I was so dependent on connecting with God through worship that I didn’t even care what it looked like to everyone else.

I discovered I could fellowship with God right smack-dab in the middle of one of the most challenging times of my life.

This convinced me that there really is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. Try as he may, the devil is not powerful enough to keep us from fellowshipping with God if we want it enough.

Mothering can be demanding, but it doesn’t have to keep us from God.

In fact, the requirements of being moms should push us right into Him. We are on call 24/7, ready to jump out of bed to tend to that tummy ache, that croupy cough, that night mare. We are nursing before we open our eyes in the morning, we are wiping noses and counters and fixing toys and heartaches. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, without being refreshed and comforted by God, we can turn into horrible monsters and make our husbands and children cringe when we enter the room.

“But how am I supposed to find time for God?” you may say.

Well, I know it seems impossible, but there are ways:

  • In the car when the babies are all strapped into their seats and they can’t get into trouble, turn on praise music, some good teaching, or some audio Bible. If they fall asleep on the way home, sit for a few minutes in the driveway before you enter the house and pray or read the Word.
  • Have a set quiet time for the kids in the afternoon and use it to read and pray (this is what I did for over 20 years).
  • Listen to good Bible teaching, praise music, and audio Bible while you are cleaning house (not only will this bless you, but your children will get a dose as well).
  • Have a devotional time with the children daily. Even if you don’t think you know much, pray first and watch the Holy Spirit reveal things to you that you didn’t see before (teaching does that, doesn’t it?).
  • Place a basket next to the chair you nurse in and fill it with the Bible and a good devotional or study you want to work through. You can read while nursing a tiny infant, or after an older infant has gone to sleep in your arms.

I once read that Nancy Campbell of Above Rubies placed her Bible in the window above her kitchen sink when her kids were little. That way she could read a few verses and meditate while she washed dishes.

All-in-all, my army training was one of the best things that ever happened to me. No, I don’t suggest women become soldiers, but I do encourage women everywhere to go through the trials and hardships of life without shirking and shrinking. I don’t remember much about guns, tanks, ammo, and that stuff has changed over the years, but the character traits that were embedded in my brain are still useful today.

What are some creative ways you intend to weave God into your life right now? If you have any that you think would benefit someone else, leave the idea in the comments below.

13 Comment

  1. Thank you for the “buck up buttercup” words of encouragement. I copied some of it down for my 3×5 card file of useful quotes Thank you for taking the time to share.

    1. I never really thought of it that way, Christi. I guess sometimes I’m still a buttercup myself 🙂 I love sharing here, especially with wonderful readers like you.

  2. I listen to Elisabeth Elliot’s old radio program Gateway to Joy on http://www.bbnradio.org when I’m working in the kitchen.. Each segment is only about 12 minutes long and is a gold mine of biblical truth for women. Of course, if my little ones are around, I often have to stop and start even one segment a few times to finish it, but it’s worth it! Even her voice that exudes such a quiet confidence in God is a blessing to me.

    1. I’m a great fan of Elisabeth Elliot, too! That’s a great strategy to get some of the Word in. You are right, her voice is so soothing.

  3. Remembering that it always comes to pass…it won’t stay.
    My kids think it’s cool when I call cadence and we march for fun sometimes. I call out kids worship music, the kids learn “left and right” and then they want to call cadence. Something about left, right on left, right on left, left, right brings praise to the King of Kings.
    Sometimes I throw a way back cadence from the army in there and show em what I used to do, but it’s just playing around now.

  4. Sherry,
    I loved this post and it hit home with how I have been giving up, I vowed to pull up my boot straps.
    Then, last week happened. Many, many things happened and I knew I was being tested. I thought of you and your words, words I could relate to as a mom of many and the Lord gave me strength to perservere. Thank you so much for your encouragement and inspiration. I have been following your blogging for about a year and a half, so glad you preserved when your first blog was hacked. I’m not the type to comment, so, I thougt it was time to say thank you!!!! Thank you! God bless you.
    Danielle, homeschooling mama of 7

    1. I am blinking back tears right now, Danielle. I know you must be so busy, so taking the time to comment was a sacrifice. I’m so glad you trusted and saw God’s mighty hand of help in your situation. Praise His name!

  5. Love this! I am also an Army veteran and my kids will tell you I go full-on drill sergeant with them when I have to. I think me being a vet is what makes me favor field trips and getting dirty over talking window treatments, sipping tea. 🙂

    Bonnie
    mama to 11

    1. I am laughing and nodding my head in agreement on the drill-sergeant routine! One true advantage I can give my kids:) I think this helps us tackle such a gaggle of geese, don’t you? I do like to sip a little tea now-and-then, though (I was a girlie-girl when I was young).

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