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Air Force

Dear Air Force: Had it not been

Dear Air Force,

Where to begin? How do I put into words how I feel at the end of a 24-year relationship that brought some of the best experiences but also some of the hardest moments? I can remember feeling excited and exhilarated but I can’t ignore all the times you made me feel scared and alone. Had it not been for the highs and lows, I wouldn’t have learned what I have.

Lamenting and thanksgiving

Honestly, I wrote and rewrote this post a dozen or more times. I just couldn’t find all the words nor the right ones. A couple of versions sounded too angry and I don’t want to bow out now with anger. My friend Ashley is a minister and preached many sermons on lament. See her sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vv7UxeFzbcU  The Bible has a whole book of Lamentations, prayers of anguish calling out in faith. Part of walking in faith is lamenting. Job lamented. Even Jesus wept. I realize now that had it not been for the lamenting, thanksgiving would not have followed. With pain, disappointment, sorrow, chaos comes praises of thanksgiving in the morning. Therefore, I find thanksgiving in the ‘had it not been’ statements.

Had it not been

Had it not been for Chris washing out of pilot training, he never would have crossed trained into Airfield Management. That career change opened up many opportunities for us. We never returned to a previous duty assignment or location which was a good thing.

Had it not been for his year-long remote to South Korea, I never would have discovered just how strong I really am. I met some of my dearest friends during this time. Even though it was a really hard time, I found out what I was made of. A sweet reward of this remote was that we were handed an assignment to Germany!

Had it not been for The War on Terrorism and living in a foreign country, I would not have experienced childbirth with three of my closest friends. This was by far the scariest thing I have ever gone through. It is a barometer by which I measure all the hard things in my life thereafter. I thought I was strong from that year-long remote, but this made me stronger.

Had it not been for all the moves, I wouldn’t have friends around the world. The friends we have collected are by the far the greatest treasure we have gained.

Had it not been for all the deployments, I never would have known who Missy Kuester is when she is alone. Over the years, I have spent a lot of time alone and I like my own company.

Had it not been for Oklahoma, Germany, and Delaware, I would not have my three sons.

Had it not been for all the places we lived, I couldn’t share those experiences with others. I can say definitely that I have lived there and known what it’s like. I’ve lived in other cultures and with people not like me. It makes me a better human. See my previous post about the exciting life my kids have lived, https://missykuester.com/reasons-i-dont-want-you-to-feel-pity-for-my-military-kids/.

Had it not been for assignments to Germany and Belgium and South Korea, we wouldn’t have traveled and seen places some people only dream of. I have sailed the fjords of Norway, stayed in a home given to General Patton near Normandy, and experienced the 70th-anniversary activities. I have stood on battlegrounds, been to Paris, gone in a boat in the canals of Amsterdam, Venice, and Switzerland. I have eaten whale, reindeer, and a lot of weird stuff in Korea. The experiences are too numerous to list here but I treasure them all.

Had it not been living away from our families, I wouldn’t have been able to show them the world and our beautiful country.

Had it not been for the 7 deployments, I would have never experienced the homecomings

Had it not been for all the goodbyes, I never would have had the hellos.

Had it not been for all the heartache and loss, I never would have known how truly blessed I am.

Had it not been for the Lamenting I wouldn’t have Praises of Thanksgiving.

Who holds the future

When I started this blog, my friend Angie asked me what I wanted to write about. She asked if I wanted to write a military blog. My answer was a resounding, “No!” As I explained to her, I want to be something other than a military wife. It has defined me for the past 24 years. It is time to be someone else. I don’t yet know who that will be but I’m looking forward to meeting her. I don’t know exactly what the future holds but I know who holds the future.

It’s been an honor.

It’s been hard.

I believe those two statements best describe our years as a military family and go hand in hand with one another. I’m glad we did it but I’m glad it’s over. I’m tired.

So, to you, Dear Air Force, thank you, for making me who I am. While you didn’t always live up to your end of the bargain, I know I gave you everything I had. 

Thank you Air Force, had it not been for you my life would be profoundly different but in the end I wouldn’t change a thing.

Now, off we go into the Wild Blue Wonder…….

 

 

 

Pilgrims at Thanksgiving did not go home

That time the Pilgrims didn’t go home for Thanksgiving

Several years ago, I wrote a response to an article on Military Spouse Magazine in regards to going home for the holidays. The article felt judgy and unnecessary for military spouses who want to go home but for reasons cannot. My response was hasty, brash, and resonated with other military spouses. If you google it you can probably still find the original article at https://www.militaryspouse.com/magazine/. I decided to edit and share with you my thoughts about feeling guilty when you cannot go home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any other important times of the year. So enjoy this revamped and retitled article, That time the Pilgrims didn’t go home for Thanksgiving. Here is to another guilt-free holiday!

Released from guilt

Two significant times in my life I was released from guilt for living so far away from family. The first was when my mother told me to get out of our small, rural, Indiana town. Then my 93-year-old grandmother told me as we prepared to move to Germany, “If anything should happen to me while you are gone do not haul those babies back here for my funeral.” She released from the guilt I had for not attending her funeral. You see, I am married to a military man but I live with less guilt because of the overwhelming understanding of my family for missing out on holidays back home.

My husband Chris has been in the Air Force for over twenty years. We have spent five years overseas and moved fourteen times in total. Currently, my college kid has never come home for Thanksgiving. I would be a hypocrite to insist he come home for Thanksgiving. In the meantime, I have prepared myself for the future. As the mother of boys, I may spend future holidays without them. Our military lifestyle has always been about creating new traditions. Holidays at our house don’t always look traditional and we are okay with that.

Many times it is just not fathomable to return to your parents’ home for the holidays. Air travel, car rental, hotel stays, boarding of pets, food, and the list compiles and before you know it, you are so in debt you cannot travel the rest of the year. There is also the stress factor, the inability to get enough time off, and a plethora of other responsibilities. Let us not forget those that are deployed and cannot be home for the holidays.

Random thoughts about going home for the holidays.

1. If it is so important for your extended family to be together, invite them to your place. Two years in a row, our families traveled to where we live and we rented a house large enough for all of us. It relieved me of doing all the cooking and cleaning.
2. Delay holiday for cheaper times of the year or plan a destination holiday where you all gather in a central location. I dream of having a vacation in a cabin in the mountains one day surrounded by my boys and their families.
3. Talk to your extended family. Let them know how you feel. My hope is that your family is understanding and if not that is on them, not you.
4. Coordinate with local friends to gather for the holiday or serve in the community in some capacity. In years past, my family and I are served dinner to inmates in a halfway program on a farm.
5. Create your own traditions. My husband and I have created our own family holiday traditions. We look forward to carrying these out every year.
6. Above all, do what is right for you and your family. In the meantime, release your family from that same guilt. And do not judge other military families if their choices for the holidays are different than yours.

The 2020 holiday season is different but still guilt-free

The holidays should not be stressful or filled with guilt. My kid is doing what I taught him to do by making a life of his own. If his adventures lead him far away at the holidays I will survive just like my mother has done. She is a great example of how a mother can release her children and adapt through the holidays. Listen, this military life is hard enough on good days so the last thing you need is to feel guilty for not being able or wanting to return home for the holidays. Instead, embrace your new home, make new traditions, and if someone tries to make you feel guilty remind them that the Pilgrims didn’t go home for the holidays either. I release you of that guilt. I’m not saying to never go home for the holidays but when you can’t that’s okay too.

The 2020 year is bizarre, to say the least. We are being told by health professionals that it is best to not gather in large groups or with those people who have compromised immunity. This year we all are relinquished of any guilt about not going home for the holidays. We can claim that we love our families by staying away and thus keeping them healthy.   

Have a happy, guilt-free holiday season!

Utah house in winter

When God plans it, you can’t stop it

I’m a praying woman. But I haven’t always prayed expecting my prayers to be answered. I know that makes me an imperfect Christian but it makes me human. Several months ago when Magnum and I started talking about our plan when he retires from the Air Force in July 2021 I began to pray. I began to pray to settle on a certain town, area, or state. Then, I prayed for opportunities and doors to be opened. In addition, I prayed for jobs and housing. I prayed for God’s will but I failed to specify a time. They say timing is everything but God’s timing is not predictable. Opportunity knocks when you are doing something else. But I know this, with His timing comes his provisions. When God plans it, you can’t stop it.

If I could buy this place I would

Spring Break of 2019, Magnum was deployed. I decided to drive with Kid #2 and #3 to see Kid #1 in Logan, Utah. T is a student at Utah State. It’s our favorite place to visit and where his brothers wanted to go for the week. I rented a house, saw lots of friends in the area, got a surprise visit from one of my best friends, and cried when I had to leave to return to Washington. I felt a strong sense of home.

Fast forward, Magnum returned home in October and we decided we would go back to Utah for Thanksgiving. It’s been our tradition. Instead of staying at a hotel, it’s more economical to stay in an Air B&B. I selected a place in the country. It was advertised as a quaint farm. It would allow all of us to have a room so it was perfect and cheaper than a hotel.

While staying at the house, it snowed 8 inches overnight. We were surprised to wake up to no electricity and find out we were snowed in. But it was like being in a winter wonderland. If I didn’t need to get out to go to dinner with family, I could have stayed snuggled up in the house. I posted a picture on Facebook and jokingly said, “If I could buy this place I would.”

If God brings you to it, He’ll get you through it

Fast forward again to July 2020. We had big summer plans but then Covid-19 happened. So, we salvaged what we could and decided to go camping in Utah, the Cache Valley. On the way, we stopped at our friends, the Hughes near Council, Idaho. They have a beautiful place. Sitting on their porch watching the sunset made me ache for a place of my own.

We made our way to the Logan, Utah area and set up our camper in a campground. I then received an email from Kurt, the owner of the farm we stayed at the previous Thanksgiving. In March, I had told him that if he ever considered selling we would be interested. At the time, he had someone interested but their financing fell through. The very day we arrived, he offered it to us.

I immediately said yes and arranged to meet up with his wife. We had to pass her approval process first. In the meantime, we continued to look at other places just in case. After we met her and she approved, the process went rather quickly. We made an offer, they countered and at the end of the day, we agreed on a price.

We returned to Washington and finished the process with the assistance of our realtor, Johnnie. All along the way, things just worked out. We had some hiccups but I kept remembering the phrase, “If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.”

Utah House first day
This is us in front of our house on the day we closed. ©missykuester.com

Immeasurably more

Many people talk about the struggle to decide where they will retire after a long military career. When I prayed that prayer, I forgot how our God can respond; immeasurably more than we can imagine. I love Priscilla Shirer, author, preacher, and speaker. She talks about praying big prayers. We sell God short when we don’t pray bigger.

That’s why I am so content. I was along. For the next several months, we will divide our time between Washington and Utah. It is scary to think we will need to maintain two households. But I am certain that God will provide, He always does. 10 years previous to this, we owned a house in Delaware. Times were tough but we were certain we wanted to sell our house when we relocated to Texas. The house did not sell by the time we left and sat empty for nearly a year. All that time, we lived on less and paid a mortgage and a rental. God provided and He’ll do it again.

A change of address but an unchanged God

It is a season of big changes. We are taking them in stride. There are still a lot of unknowns but we are certain we are where we are supposed to be. We have a change of address but an unchanged God. God’s plans are unmistakable and they work out, you can’t stop them. Man, I’m so glad I rented this place for Thanksgiving. It gave us a chance to try it on for size. I’m also grateful that we live 13 hours away; we never could have done this living across the country. We have a lot of work ahead of us and big plans but God is in it. We’ll pass along our address with due time. Watch for updates on here, Facebook, and Instagram.

We are contemplating names for the ranch/farm, so stay tuned. Please leave a comment with name ideas.

https://www.explorelogan.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cache_Valley

Although our address is Amalga, we are closer to Smithfield. Our address is interchangeable.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amalga,_Utah

https://www.bestplaces.net/city/utah/smithfield

 

 

Mr. Rogers helper quote

To my friends married to police officers, I see you too

Last week I wrote an article about how we, white people need to check on our black friends. missykuester.com/check-on-your-black-friends-they-are-not-okay/. They need to know we care and we want to see change. It’s been a time of uncomfortable but needed conversations. In those conversations, we didn’t dwell on specifics but spoke of overall racism, their personal experiences, and how to spark change. Not one of those people spoke ill of police officers in general but focused on the recent cases and those specific police officers.

I was then prompted to check on my friends who are married to police officers or Law Enforcement Officers (LEO). They needed to know that I don’t think their spouses are bad cops. When I reached out to my LEO friends, they responded with grace and poured out their hearts.

If I have to explain to you that I can simultaneously support black people and police officers than that requires more conversation and another post. I will continue to champion for my black and brown friends who are experiencing systematic racism. Remember, I’m just someone who wants us all to sit at the same table. (Have you heard about Missy Kuester?).

Here are the stories of my LEO friends, in their own words. I felt as though their own words were more impactful than anything I could have written. I have excluded their names and any identifying information. I have also edited some conversations due to grammar and length.

Touch enough lives to bring change and make a different future

“My husband and I married on June 17, 1989. He was a State Trooper. We live in rural Indiana and at the time thoughts of his safety were fleeting. It was different. I had a person ask me once don’t you worry about him and I said “No, nothing like that happens here.” I knew he was aware of his surroundings and people liked him because he respected them. He talked to them and treated all of the people he arrested with respect and patience. You rarely heard of police shootings. You think it won’t happen to you or yours.”

“Now as a mother of a police officer, I fear all the time. I pray for him every night. My son called me last night and told me he’s been working every night to help keep calm during the protests. Last night a teenage white girl yelled in his face, yelled the F word in his face. He kept calm. It was the older black lady that told her to watch her language. She said that is not the reason they were there. It is a different time. My heart hurts for our country but I hope that the wives and mothers of police officers feel the pride I feel of my husband and son. We know we have good men who want to protect all the people. My hope is my husband and my son touch enough lives to bring change and make a different future where we don’t fear for the officers and certainly not for the black families and their children.”

Protecting their community

“There is fear that your spouse may not return from work and then add in this craziness. All they are doing is just trying to do their job by protecting their community. I worry not only for my spouse, but every police officer that has to deal with the everyday stresses and this just adds even more stress to their plates. I can’t imagine going to work and having to fear for my life. Like everything in this world, there are good and bad…does that mean every one of the police is bad…no. There are good and bad in all races across the nation. We have friends of all races/nationalities. I have two cousins that are married to different races. We love them both and they are treated no differently than any other. I just wish we as a nation could all just get along and be decent human beings.”

This is all too much

“Good God, this is all just too much.”

I’m a strong woman, Lord, but I really am done. I think most people would agree with that statement, but for me, really it couldn’t be truer.

I send my husband, out to do his duty as a local county sheriff’s deputy, just like I sent him out for 23 years to protect and serve in the military.

I stay back to provide a safe sanctuary for our children. To continue my own work in my professions. I manage the household, making sure that everyone has what they need and that my husband can come home from work after a full shift plus who knows how many hours of overtime, only to sleep and then get up to do it all over again.

I’m not mentioning all of this to garner “kudos” or pity, but just to point out that the work to keep the home fires burning has to be done by someone, and for 26+ years that has been me.

And then I have to dwell on my own thoughts about the protests and what it means to have “white privilege” and how do I feel about sending my LEO out into the world to do his duty to protect. And where am I on “Black Lives Matter” and does that movement really stand for what I believe, do they hate cops and if so, how do I rectify my feelings about police brutality with my feelings of pride for the work my husband does every day he heads out the door. And then I have to put my educator hat on to think about how all kids feel in my classroom. Do I make sure that children of color feel as valued as all others? What do I do to teach and honor everyone’s’ story?

Good God, this is all just too much.

But, THANK God, I rest in His care. THANK God, I have a husband who loves me deeply and two boys who want to make sure I am okay. THANK God I have family and friends who check-in. And THANK God it isn’t always like this.

Because, Good God, this is all just too much.

I see you my LEO friends

I’ll be honest, I cried when I read each of these messages. I wept for my LEO friends who I know are some of the best people God put on this earth. Their intentions are noble and just. I wept with them just like I wept with my friends of color who are hurting. I’ve heard a lot lately about being a bridge for racial unity. https://bethebridge.com/ is just one of the many resources. I guess that’s what I hope to be. My list of friends is diverse and if I would have a party I want all of my friends to be invited.

I had this thought as I sat down to write:

What do I tell my black and brown friends if I don’t speak up for them?

What do I tell my Jewish friends if I don’t speak up for them?

What do I tell my LGBTQ friends if I don’t speak up for them?

What do I tell my Christian friends if I don’t speak up for them?

What do I tell my friend who has been sexually assaulted if I don’t speak up for them?

What do I tell my friends who are at a disadvantage if I don’t speak up for them?

(The list goes on and you get my point.)

And what do I tell my friends who are married to the good cops if I don’t speak up for them?

 

Check on your LEO friends and make sure they are okay too.