Growing up in a military family
With a father in the military, my family moved quite a bit. My dad would be stationed in one location for 3 years at a time, which meant new places, new faces, new schools, etc. The one thing that never changed was the church. Well maybe the church itself did, but God’s presence did not. Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, non-denominational, you name it we attended them all.
Location affects the options you have as far as a denomination, so if they believed Jesus was the son of God, we were there!
The practice and discipline of going to church were much-needed constants in my life. Maybe that sounds unromantic and very type A, but that consistency truly spoke to me, drew me in, and showed me an aspect of God that I needed to grow and develop at that time. Especially as a shy introverted child, it was nice to know that believers were everywhere.
When I was 9, my father was stationed at Ft. Hood ( 2 hours from mom’s hometown of Dallas and 2 from dad’s of San Antonio, success!). He made many sacrifices, including choosing to be deployed for a year to Korea instead of increasing his rank and moving our family again. He never complained, even when told the Army took away his previously approved retirement date and said, hang on, we need you to serve in Iraq for a year first. Not even when after having been there a year and the army said, hang on, stay there 6 more months. My dad has always been such an amazing example of Christ to me. In him, I truly saw an example of what it looks like to trust in the Lord and His timing.
Through all the ups and downs I was blessed with a wonderful support system. My mother was a pillar of strength and somehow lived the bizarre life of an army wife while always loving and supporting my sister and me. And, our church community repeatedly showed us what it looks like to show up and care for members of the body. When we moved houses while my dad was away, members of the church I’ve never met before and their kids helped us get it done. My high school principal gave us a Christmas tree (a real one!) from his Christmas tree farm. One of my friends gave me a small clock so I would know the time where my dad was. They were the hands and feet of Jesus to my family and me. God is good!
With a Korea deployment, Iraq deployment, and both of them being extended, my dad was gone from when I was 13 until I was 17 (with a few weeks R&R in there somewhere). I repeat 13 to 17…crazy transformational years to be without him. When he returned my sister was 11, outgoing, and adorable; she ran into his arms.
It was different for me. While I loved my dad, I truly felt like I had to get to know him all over again (which I now realize must have been crazy hard on him). With his patience and continued support, 10 years later, my dad and I are very close. I look back and try to glean all the knowledge and wisdom I can from my dad and his faith. He has been and continues to be a mentor and a guide, leading me to my heavenly father and a wonderful example of how to remain steadfast and faithfully trust in God’s promises.
Those early years of my life ingrained in me the importance of living in community with other believers. Lately, the Lord has been showing me how He used my experiences growing up to give me a strong understanding and appreciation of biblical community. Effective Christian community doesn’t just happen on its own but requires intentionality and vulnerability. I still have to remind my introverted self on a regular basis of how God will be glorified in my persistence, or how loved I’ve felt in the past when others reached out to me. Remembering how others have loved me and the impact it’s had on me motivates me to love others better, even when it is uncomfortable.
College, anxiety, and depression
Towards the end of college, I started suffering from depression. I had experienced some anxiety growing up as a result of the pressure I’d put on myself to do well, to live up to my version of success. However, this was different; this depression stemmed from a slow drift that had happened over the course of time.
I had been in a relationship that had become abusive. I’d lost much of my community due in part to isolating myself and in part to my community’s response when I did try to reach out. I take ownership of the fact that if I had just left the relationship, I would have saved myself a lot of suffering. But, I also think it is important to acknowledge that we have to be patient and aware of the circumstances of others in order to effectively speak truth into their lives. It took time, and God placing people in my life that were willing to just listen for a while rather than give advice, tell me I’d be better off, and or even speak truth to me- yet.
While ultimately what I needed was a reminder of God’s truth, I wasn’t ready.
“For everything, there is a season”Ecclesiastes 3:1
I’m thankful for those that like my earthly father and especially our heavenly father, were patient with me. What made the difference was friends studying with me, family taking me to buy groceries, and friends that were honest about their own struggles. The Lord ultimately used people that truly came alongside me, not those that felt they needed to lead me. Depression is isolating because so much of the time you feel alone, misunderstood, or that you can’t share your thoughts for fear of what others would think. I think we sometimes over complicate the mission God has given us and want to do the saving instead of simply showing God’s love to people right where they are.
Where I am today
While I still deal with depression and anxiety, currently postpartum depression, I’ve been able to rest more easily in the Lord and his plans. This is due to resources He has given me such as therapy, medication, community, and His Word that all ultimately help me live and serve the Lord better. Even though my thoughts may draw me towards fear, I continually try to take them captive and reflect on scripture and all that God has done.
“All things work together for the good of those who love him.”Romans 8:28
Does this mean my own personal, earthly good, that lives up to all of my expectations? No. But I find peace in knowing that our God will be praised and glorified and that I can be a part of it regardless of my circumstances.
As God had shown me through my earthly father’s example of enduring love and patience, He doesn’t give up his pursuit of us. God has provided greatly and because of that, I want to be someone who provides a safe, welcoming space for others. Most of the time, that looks like being available and showing up for students, coworkers, and friends. I’m thankful for what I’ve learned, the opportunity to share with others, and the patience of God as He continues to help me learn and grow.
“For what shall we say in response to this: If our God is for us, then what can stand against?”Romans 8:31
“God works all things for the good of those who love him”Romans 8:28
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”Philippians 3:12
Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety by Elyse Fitzpatrick