Being willing to embrace change gives you the opportunity to live with no regrets. It’s not easy or even close to perfect, but God just wants a willing heart that does not fear life’s inevitable ups and downs.
I learned very quickly the power change can have. And I am not talking about small little changes like. “oh I’m going to do my hair differently today”, or “I’ll go to the evening spin class instead of the morning.” I’m talking about real life changes, the ones that impact every area of your life or alter the course of your future; I’m talking about the radical changes every military woman knows firsthand about.
For me, it all started at a very young age. We had just moved into our cute little apartment after being married for 5 months, and yes we were just finally living together after 5 months of being married. This was not the newlywed life I had imagined, this was a whole new ball game, and it went against everything I had grown up with.
We finally started sharing the same roof and within a couple months we found out that Scotty would be deploying to Iraq with in three months for a 12-18 month deployment. All my plans went up in smoke. I thought we were finally starting our amazing life together, but God and the Army had other plans.
Very quickly we began navigating moving out, where I would live, where I would work?
April 6th, 2005 brought a whole new season of change. As many of you know, Scotty came face to face with a suicide car bomb, leaving him blind the rest of his life. We weren’t the only ones with our lives turned upside down. I watched as my friends moved to new locations, we attended funerals of brave men and women who served alongside Scotty and visited other friends at Walter Reed Medical Center whose lives were forever impacted by their injuries. One thing I learned was that nothing stays the same for long.
I soon found myself on a C-130 headed to the west coast with my newly blinded husband by my side, both of us feeling completely alone and afraid. We navigated several different hospitals, moved back to Ft. Lewis and were able to stay at Ft. Lewis for one year of rehab and to figure out what we were going to do with the rest of our life. The war was still raging and we would still get periodic reports of friends lost in battle or seriously wounded, we wondered when it would all end. Continuing on active duty found us staying close to our military family which was an incredible blessing because we were all in the same boat.
We moved out to the East Coast to stay on active duty, we had a new military home, right on the Chesapeake Bay and a baby on the way. Grady was born in Langley, VA (little did I know that all my kids would be born in different states). A new baby brought a new job and a new house. After 12 months it was time to move to Durham, NC for a guaranteed 2 years ….which was a much-needed break. Two years in business school in the sunny south was so wonderful, but only temporary, we were soon putting our house up for rent and packing our things yet again with another baby on the way. Graham Elliott Smiley was born two weeks after we arrived in our new house. Scotty started a new job and I took on the job of being a mom of two in a new community. We had a park right across the street from our house which was a lifesaver with two toddlers.
I would wait to get my hair done on weekends so Scotty could be home to watch the boys. I remember one Saturday heading out to get my hair done, I assumed Scotty would stay close to his comfort zone and stay in the house while I was gone. However this day just so happened to be one of the nicest days of the year in NY, so when I rolled up about noon I noticed my 2-year-old in his underwear running around pushing other kids. I then saw Scotty holding our 9-month-old. Fear gripped me. As I approached him, completely mortified, insult was added to injury when I saw green snot all over my baby’s face and when Scotty looked at me and did not have his prosthetic eyes in!
Remember I said that it was the nicest day NY had seen in a long time..so guess what?
The park was packed with toddlers and parents. I rushed my not so adorable family in the house and yelled at Scotty. All I could think was thank God this happened in the protected confines of a military base with our military family so everyone knew our story. That was the only thing that lessened the blow of this imperfect moment of change.
I learned something on that day, to accept change we must also accept exactly who we are, acknowledging all our flaws and imperfections.
At the park that morning, it was all laid out there for everyone to see, everyone could see who the Smileys really were; flawed, blind and imperfect, but willing to change and not afraid to try something outside our comfort zone (or Scotty’s anyways!). I easily could have made that experience close me in and refuse to go out in the world, I could have used it to control Scotty and my family more, but I refused to. The very next day we stepped out again, ready to take on our new life.
This season of extreme change would only be brief as my babies grew and Scotty got prosthetic eyes that did not irritate him (thank goodness).
Two years was the max we would spend in any of our moves, we moved two more times, now moving with 2 babes instead of one….new job, new house, new business, new everything! In a way, this is not the life I would have ever willingly signed up for, but it is a life I would not trade for anything.
We have moved 10 times in the last 8 years, 6 different jobs, started a business, bought a house, had 3 babies, and are looking forward to the days ahead. Some people on the outside have said slow down…..however that is not the military way.
Our military friends are some of the most resilient, hard working, amazing people! To have spent a decade with them is nothing but a privilege and an honor. I have learned so much from watching military women, moms and wives hold their families together through hardship, tragedy, fear, and unknowns. They never fear the bends in the road, they face them and embrace them, and everyone around them is strengthened because of it.