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Grown-up Military Kid Returns to Her Roots

by Jocelyn on February 15, 2012

by Kristin Schwabauer Rydbeck

As a kid, growing up military definitely had its perks. We were always stationed near a large body of water, which meant we swam in a lot of different oceans. It also meant we lived in places people paid a lot of money to visit (translation: we lived in great vacation towns). We lived in cool houses—both on base and off—with maid’s quarters, balconies and great places to explore and build forts. We met people from all over the world who became our family (and still are). My parents took advantage of each place we lived in, dragging us to national monuments, museums, large cities and exposing us to things that most people never get to see—building memories that still impact me today.

So while the military lifestyle is difficult and unique (most civilians will never be able to fully comprehend what military families go through on a daily basis), it’s also incredibly rewarding. When you grow up surrounded by military, this way of life becomes second nature—normal, even. My sister, brother and I were literally raised around uniforms, watching guys do PT every morning and hanging out in the barracks. We went to church on Sunday on my Dad’s ship, worshipping on the flight deck. We respectfully stopped and saluted every evening at dusk as taps were played; we bought groceries at the commissary and shopped at the exchange.

So when my Dad retired in 2006, our lives as we knew it were literally changed. I lost privileges to go on any base (unless I was with my parents who now had retired I.D. cards). I couldn’t shop at the commissary or exchange, I had to find my own doctor and dentist and the transient culture I had always been surrounded by now became stagnant and…civilian. I was no longer allowed to be surrounded by what I considered “home.” I belonged to that culture but I was also cast out. On the outside, I looked like everyone else. On the inside, I felt like a huge piece of me was missing. I have been wrestling with these feelings since 2006.

A few years ago, I tagged along on one of my husband’s business trips to a Navy base in New Jersey. My family used to be stationed on this base and I thought it’d be fun to take a walk down memory lane with him. I contacted the chaplain on the base, who happened to know my Dad, and on Sunday, we went to the chapel for church. As soon as the worship service started, I was transported to a different place in time. Everything about worshipping there felt right. As soon as I heard the first chords to “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” I broke down in tears. For three years, we sang that hymn every Sunday. I knew it by heart. It was familiar. I was home.

I didn’t expect to feel that way—that all these years I had been missing an arm and suddenly, it was reattached and I felt whole again. That feeling made me think and pray and ask God what He was saying to me, how He wanted to use my past in my present. A lot of time passed, I prayed about my future and I continued to wrestle with feelings of missing the military lifestyle, feeling like I didn’t belong as a civilian, knowing the military community has a lot of needs and knowing I have a lot to give back.

Because of a number of circumstances that God brought into my life simultaneously, I decided to apply to a local graduate school, taking counseling classes while continuing to work full time as a writer. One class led to another and what started as me getting my feet wet in a new field led me to knowing that God was leading me down a new career path. For the last year and a half, I have been taking classes part time, continuing to ask God how He is leading me.

This January, I will stop working and go back to school full time, pursing a counseling degree, within the marriage and family therapy track. At this point, I feel that God is calling me to use this degree is to counsel spouses and kids of active duty military personnel. This is a culture that has a lot of needs but I know, love and understand it in ways others will never be able to understand. While I’m continually open to how God is leading (and He may open other doors while I’m immersed in my program), I am incredibly excited about this new career venture. This truly feels like a calling.

As a young girl, I always used to think God was using my military background to prepare me for something great in the future. I always thought it meant I would marry an active duty military man. But God is creative and uses things to align with His purposes and further His Kingdom in ways I could never imagine. And I am incredibly honored to be a part of that plan.
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps (Proverbs 16:9).

About the Author:
Kristin Schwabauer Rydbeck, daughter of a retired U.S. Navy chaplain, is a writer, photographer and editor at Gordon College for only a few more weeks. At the end of January, she’ll be a full time counseling student at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, in the marriage and family therapy track. When she has spare time (which is hard to come by), she enjoys pottery, gardening, writing letters, organizing, eating ice cream as much as possible and spending time with her husband, among other things. She loves to travel the world with her husband and dreams of someday being able to minister to the (military) community who gave so much to her. For now, if you want her to write about certain topics, leave a comment. She’d love to answer your questions.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Launi Rogers February 15, 2012 at 8:38 am

I enjoyed reading your post. And so thankful God is leading you in the direction He is. I am a Navy vet. I didn’t see ‘action’ during Vietnam, but know very well the fall out from that ‘war’. I am 65 and want so very badly to be involved in something to support the military. My husband is not military related and so doesn’t understand the bond there. I know even at my age, God has something for me to do in this area, I just have to keep looking and waiting for Him to present it. Blessings on you and your family as you pursue this goal!!!

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Kristin Rydbeck February 17, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Launi–
Thank you so much for your encouraging works–they meant a lot! I love your desire to give back to the military–I can completely relate. What about seeing if the VA Hospital closest to you has any volunteer opportunities? Or you could volunteer with the USO. These are at most airports.
Thanks again for your note!
-Kristin

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Sherry February 15, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Kristen,

I love hearing how God has been using every joyful experience and struggle to lead you to this calling. Yes, I have had the pleasure of following your blogs and am grateful the Lord has encouraged you to share your heart with us.

I had the opportunity to lead a ladies small group Bible study, this morning, on “knowing God’s will.” Your story would have been a perfect testimony on how God leads us to know the will of God. It is my experience that God so often uses prayer, His Word, and our wrestling moments to reveal His will for our lives.

As I reflect back through the years, I can vividly see how God has used every experience; joy and struggle, to mold, refine, and prepare me for this call to serve on the home front. To be able to carry out His plan, He has blessed me with a heart’s desire to encourage others in their time of need. Twenty years ago, I would never have thought God would place such a calling on my life, but I’m so grateful He did.

I am often reminded of Paul’s words, and perhaps you are too, when he writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 I love your heart for the military and agree that God has given you a gift to understand the deep-seeded struggles our military families endure!

I share your heart with these words you expressed, “God is creative and uses things to align with His purposes and further His Kingdom in ways I could never imagine. And I am incredibly honored to be a part of that plan.” Thanks again for sharing your heart with us! ~Sherry

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Kristin Rydbeck February 17, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Sherry,

Thanks for your response. It was very encouraging. It’s wonderful to be among women who want to give back to the military–whether it’s writing for Faith Deployed, sending letters to active duty military, or praying for people (among other things).

Thanks for your encouragement as I continue on this journey of faith. It is always interesting and a good discipline to try to “listen” to how God is leading.

Keep blessing other women through your own ministry. I know women on Faith Deployed especially appreciate you! And I do too! :o )

-Kristin

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Sue Schwabauer February 18, 2012 at 11:24 am

Hi Kristin…….

It has been so amazing to watch God lead you in this journey. I have been so blessed by watching your sensitivity to His leading as you have wrestled in prayer about each step of your journey. Can’t wait to see what God has for you after you finish seminary!!! I love you so much and am so proud of you.

Love ya….Mom

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Rebekah February 18, 2012 at 11:40 pm

LOVE this post Kristin!

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