Carrie Daws has served as an Air Force spouse for just under ten years. She and her husband have three children, ages 14, 12 and 9, and live in Raeford, N.C. She is an associate staff member for Military Ministry and recently published her first book. See CarrieDaws.com for more. Below, she shares with us a brief look into her heart as she shares about deployments, medical retirement, ministry, and more.
What has being a military wife taught you about yourself?
Being a military wife has taught me far more than I can adequately convey. I know now that I am stronger than I thought I was, and that although I prefer a schedule, I can be flexible and go with the flow. I know that although I prefer my husband by my side, life can be fun and exciting and worth living when we have to be apart. In the midst of learning greater independence, I’ve also learned great interdependence. People want to stand beside me and support me, but I have to be willing to reach out and let them know where I’m at so they know how to best love me. I love being alone, but life is more fun and fulfilling with other people.
What was your biggest challenge or struggle as a military wife (either during or between deployments)? How did you cope?
Before my husband medically retired, my biggest struggle was his constantly changing schedule. A close second would be his normally having to work on holidays and down days. To cope with this, I learned that celebrating holidays doesn’t have to be tied to a particular day. Sure, it’s still tough to sit at home or even visit family without him on the actual holiday, but treasuring the moments he had available became my focus.
Your husband medically retired from the Air Force. How did life change once that happened?
The biggest change at first was that he was home. All the time. Seems like that’s all I wanted when he was active duty and suddenly I had that very thing. It was a huge mental shift for us in our marriage and our family. Sometimes I found myself thinking, “Can’t you deploy for a couple weeks?” Then I would feel guilty because I was wishing him away. The medical issues have been the second biggest challenge. Although times have been very rough and uncertain, I’ve learned two important things: 1) grace for the moment because life tomorrow is not promised and 2) if you can laugh at it a year from now, you should probably laugh at it now.
I understand that you work with your church’s military ministry and even helped Military Ministry form the condensed version of the Care and Counsel for Combat Trauma training materials for churches. Why is it so important for churches to get involved with their military families?
In order to survive and thrive in the military, families must be strong and flexible. Many of the spouses I know, myself included, tend to mistake the strength needed as independence – that super-woman-I-can-do-it-all mentality. But God called us to more than that. He desires for us to be interdependent – dependent on each other. The nature of the military lifestyle makes interdependence difficult because people are always traveling, deploying and moving. Churches can not only provide stability but also the foundation for this interdependence.
You were surprised when your church leadership asked you to form a military ministry, weren’t you? What was your initial reaction to that request and how did you become comfortable with your current position?
I was very surprised. My leadership perhaps uniquely views its military members as a great missionary force. Our soldiers go to places most Americans will never go and they stay for periods of time most would never consider. Initially I was overwhelmed at the responsibility of reaching out. I knew it meant personally reaching out and touching these families because of the strong independent streak bred into us by our Branches of Service. At times I still feel overwhelmed. I know this battle must take place in individual homes, one family at a time. I see how big the battlefield is and know that the enemy seems to be way ahead of us. But looking at the carnage on the battlefield is what motivates me to keep fighting for our military families. If I can make a difference in one family this month, that’s one family. I know I can’t save them all, but I can work to save that one.
What is the blessing of ministering to others? In other words, how has getting involved with others been rewarding?
I’ve been blessed in so many ways. The ladies I work with are incredible, and being friends with the leaders that stand at my side is absolutely one of my favorite blessings. Sometimes I’m more blessed tangibly with fresh baked goods or a surprise birthday party, but mostly it’s the joy of watching a family who was falling apart pull together and keep going. When that wife was on the brink of disaster refreshes and renews with the Lord then turns around to help another on the brink of disaster, that’s one of my favorite moments.
I don’t. When you think of Bible characters, I compare myself to Moses. I am always full of excuses. Several years ago, though, I enrolled in a writing class through the Christian Writer’s Guild (CWG) with the intention of improving my non-fiction skills. I had no idea God was planting the seeds that would one day lead to Crossing Values.
A lot of people think about “writing a book some day.” How did you make that jump from thinking about it to finding the time and motivation to actually do it?
I’m laughing at a lot of these questions because I really believe God was the Master Pusher – the One behind me gently pushing me to make the changes and connections needed. My mentor at the CWG encouraged me to turn my idea into a book. I played with it for years, writing here and there when I found time. One day I let a friend read it. She loved it and wanted more, and she wasn’t shy about saying so.
What is the theme of the book?
Emotional healing from past hurts. The main character is running from a tragedy in her childhood. She’s lost all trust for people and keeps them firmly at arm’s length. Finally, she finds refuge for the winter with a family who simply wants to love her with no strings attached.
How has this theme been an important part of your life?
For many years I was bound by fear. As I began to release the fear and trust God more, I realized the weight of what I had been carrying. Releasing something to God is scary, but it’s very freeing.
How do you hope the book will affect your readers?
I would love for my readers to see how much God loves them and pursues them. He doesn’t give up on us when we run, but instead puts events into order that will give us a fresh opportunity to turn back to Him.
What are the benefits of writing to your personal and spiritual life? Do you think other military wives (or others in the family) would benefit from writing, even if it’s just a journal for private use? How could that help them?
Writing helps me cement my thoughts into words. When I merely think about them, phrases tumble about like a tornado. But when I write them down, I feel like the problem becomes concrete, finite. I can form a plan and take out the obstacles. I can apply specific Scripture to concerns, fears and priorities. And I can step back and see exactly where God is answering prayers.
Have you made any mistakes as a military wife? If so, could you share with us an example of that, and the lesson you learned from it?
My biggest mistake as a military wife is one of the same one’s my main character makes: thinking I can live life on my own within my own home. I had lots of people I called friends, but few who really knew what I was thinking or feeling. As Rock Warren says, we are better together, but military wives have to be willing to let people inside their not-so-perfect lives.
What’s your best piece of advice for the military wife?
Open up to other women. Getting honest with another person does not take away your super-woman persona. Let someone else in on the fears and doubts and let them help encourage you to the great plan God designed for you!
Carrie is giving away a signed copy of her book, Crossing Values. [A seven-day devotional and discussion guide for Crossing Values are available online at carriedaws.com.] And the winner is… Barbara Forte Abate! Congratulations!