By Kristi Woods, Crosswalk.com
Military Spouse Appreciation Day is observed on May 12th. Have you considered ways to support military spouses? This often subtle, under-the-radar outreach and ministry opportunity stands open to participation from fellow military community members or those of us nestled deep in civilian surroundings—young and young-at-heart as well.
Is it Hard Being a Military Spouse?
Life can be exciting and full of new experiences in the military community, but it can also be hard for the military spouse.
During my nearly twenty years as a Navy wife, I recall many situations in which outside support helped me conquer daily tasks and much bigger needs. Assistance from others proved to be vital, but I often struggled to ask for help.
The excuses often ran something like this: I don’t want to inconvenience them. I should be able to do this myself. Or I simply didn’t know what to ask for or how to ask.
So I didn’t. (It’s not a path or plan I’d recommend, by the way.)
Being hundreds of miles away from family, shuffling a schedule of uncertainty, safety concerns, and spousal absence due to month’s-long deployments or frequent weeks-long exercises all play a part in the life of a military wife or husband. It’s up to military spouses to keep our family and house together and running fluidly while the active member is away. That’s sometimes a tough order. As a result, life can be lonely, exhausting, and difficult for military spouses. But with a little help, joy often filters back in as rest, and deepening faith, too.
That’s where Christians, whether civilian or otherwise, have a wonderful opportunity to pull up alongside military spouses and support them through the hard days and seasons through prayer or practical means. And the best part? This outreach remains possible whether we’re in person or across the miles.
How to Support Military Spouses During Deployment
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/jacoblund
Matthew 7:12 (WEB) tells us this: “Therefore, whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets.”
The Golden Rule offers wisdom for daily life. Simply treat others the way we’d like to be treated—including supporting military spouses during deployment and at other times too. It’s an opportunity to help others like we’d appreciate help, stepping in to support spouses battling overwhelm, exhaustion, fear, anxiety, and many other emotions amid various situations.
How do we support military spouses during deployment? Simply be there. Below are ten ways to support them during deployments as well as throughout the year.
10 Ways to Support Military Spouses
1. Cook a Meal
Healthy, home-cooked meals go a long way. So does the inclusion of paper goods. I spent far too many late nights washing dishes after our young trio went to bed, exhausted but knowing I didn’t want to wake to a mess. A home-cooked dish and paper utensils helped.
2. Offer to Babysit or Pay for a Babysitter
Pregnant with our second child, a kind, empty-nester from our church offered to watch our two-year-old son during my obstetrician appointments. (Kids weren’t allowed to accompany the parent, which is especially tricky if you’re new in town.) My son and this sweet woman bonded in a way that continues twenty-one years and many relocations later. Meanwhile, I found relief knowing Joel was safe (and having loads of fun!) with someone I trusted.
My husband and I were especially particular concerning babysitters. As a result, we didn’t go out often. However, I found breaks from the kids necessary during his absences for my mental health as well as simple things like Christmas shopping without children in tow.
3. Housecleaning Help
Housekeeper expenses and military family budgets rarely blend, so this one’s a nice outreach to consider. Offer an hour each week during deployment to assist with general cleaning. Show up with a lawn mower if they live in the civilian community, and whack those grass blades. It’s much safer than a military spouse trying to mow with their child perched on their lap. Hire a housekeeper to clean once a month or quarterly during deployment. Offer to watch the kids or pay for a babysitter so the military spouse can clean without interruption. Or, even buy a book with cleaning and organizational tips in it.
4. Invite Them to Church or Small Group
It’s amazing how far a small invitation can go. When moving to a new location, everything seems foreign. Military families dig in to find mechanics, dentists, specific stores and resources they’ll need, and relationships—both with Jesus and people.
Help them with the transition. Invite them to church. Open the door for a small group. Many of my family’s lifelong relationships stemmed from either church or church small groups. We remain in touch with these people, and the bond remains special years later.
5. Invite Them into Your Home
Get to know them, and allow the spouse and families to get to know you. Open the doors to your life and home—with wisdom, of course.
At one of our duty stations, a couple from church invited us to their home often. We chatted about Jesus and wrestled with faith things together. They introduced us to their world and allowed our kids to become part of it. This tickled my husband and me because we were both “country kids.” This couple’s generosity helped expose our children to the lifestyle my husband and I thought was not possible because of our military lifestyle.
6. Invite Them to Dinner and Help Them Sample Local Cuisine
People bond over food. And being invited to another’s dinner table? It’s special.
We sat at our country friends’ dinner table and enjoyed delicious Southern food more times than I can count. But if your culinary skills teeter, never fear. Invite a military spouse to join you at a local favorite. Or explore new options together.
7. Check with Them
Call, text, or visit in person, but check in on military spouses. They won’t ask for it, typically, so intentionality helps. It might take a while before they trust you with their concerns or needs, but they’ll appreciate being thought of and the generosity of this action.
A couple once helped us decorate for Christmas. Our kids were young, and my husband was gone. That was a special afternoon that came about because, through conversation, they checked in on me.
8. Exchange Phone Numbers
It’s easy enough to add folks to phone contact lists. Exchanging contact information indicates a first step in relationship buy-in, and it gives that spouse a local connection to inquire about stores, repairs, etc.
The Bible, in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, prompts us to pray continually. The military spouse’s list of needs and concerns runs long, especially during deployment, exercises, or whenever the active duty member is away. Encourage them to take the daily needs to their Creator and the lover of their soul in prayer regularly. For in Him, our needs are truly met.
Ask about and bathe their daily task list in prayer. Their needs, concerns, and struggles, too. Pray quietly alone or one-on-one with the military spouse. Include the family in a prayer walk or circle. Whatever the approach, take those daily needs to the feet of the One who remains faithful, and encourage the military spouse to do the same.
10. Be There
With a husband deployed and our third child’s due date facing me, several friends rallied. Some watched our two older children until my parents arrived in town. Another friend drove with me to the hospital. A few stayed with me as I labored unsuccessfully, and one even stayed the night at the hospital, then attended the birth in the operating room the following day. They showed up. And we can too. Whether in person, through letters, video, text, or a call, we have a wonderful opportunity to be there for them.
Grab one or more ways to support military spouses, walk out the “golden rule,” and watch a possible lifelong relationship unfold. May the Lord be praised.
Check out Kristi's new book, 101 Prayers for Military Wives, which you can pre-order here!
About the book: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV) Kristi Woods, a military wife herself for 19 years, offers heartfelt prayers to encourage the unsung heroes of the military. 101 Prayers for Military Wives is a collection of topical prayers that brings hope and reminds military wives that whatever situation they find themselves in, God is near, He can be trusted, and they are never alone.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/jacoblund
Kristi Woods, author of 101 Prayers for Military Wives, loves to tell stories about God, real people, and a few pretend couples, too. She writes Christian nonfiction and Christian fiction that’s often threaded with a hero or military life. She and her retired-from-the-Navy husband have set roots in Oklahoma, where she keeps dibs on their three adult children while also keeping watch for tornadoes and creamy, mouth-watering chocolate. Follow the journey, grab free faith resources, and find out more about her latest releases at KristiWoods.net.