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The Art of Belonging and the Military Family

Guest blogger Ginger Harrington on one of the hardest, but best, parts of military life.

Ginger Harrington, center, and her family

Today's guest blogger is Ginger Harrington, a career Marine Corps spouse and mother of three grown children.

"Belong" is a tough word for military families, frequently moving from one duty station to another. Change seems to be the constant of our lives, and it is hard to find the oasis of belonging in a desert of different. 

The hardest part of frequent moves is the uprooting of belonging. Support systems, friendships, groups, jobs and loved places–these are just a few of the treasures that have left a deep imprint on our souls in each place of belonging.

Ginger Harrington with her familyFor the military family, belonging includes a new address every few years. It’s hard to let go of belonging when the moving truck is packed, the orders are stamped, and it is time to leave. In the leaving, there is the fear of losing our place, mixed with the grief of goodbyes. 

The day I had to physically pull my 7-year-old daughter apart from her first best friend, I fought back tears thinking, my heart is going to fall out, right here on the front porch.

Red-faced with hot tears streaming, the little one sobbed, "Don't make me leave, Mommy. Why can't Rachel come with us? We belong together."

So painful, this first experience of a child now old enough to understand the security of belonging.

Coming and going through the years.
This is the life rhythm that our family has gotten used to. Yet as hard as it is to embrace change and risk belonging, we are all the richer for it.

There is a strength in each of my children that is not dependent on belonging to a particular group of friends. We have all learned that true friends are a gift, not a right.

The art of belonging is rooted in giving ourselves to others.
We all have the gift of belonging to give away rather than hoard. To welcome with a smile and an invitation, to get involved with care, to include and bless–these are the gifts of belonging that we can give.

It is so easy to hang back, waiting for someone to say the first hello, start the first conversation, or extend the first invitation. 

Maybe the best lesson of all has been this:

When we give to bring others in, to invite them to belong, acceptance is no longer an issue. We run faster and live lighter in the grace of giving the gift of belonging to others.

When we honor God and embrace others, we find belonging happens naturally. This is true for all of us, military or not.

What could happen if we all chose to bless, rather than try to belong?


Ginger Harrington is a career Marine Corps spouse and mother of three young adults. She knows the challenges military families face. As a writer and speaker, Ginger encourages others to grow spiritually, an emphasis evident in her popular blog, "Ginger’s Corner: Where the Spiritual Meets the Practical."

As social media coordinator for a new military ministry, Ginger loves connecting with other military wives. Join her in the kickoff for "Planting Roots: Strength to Thrive in Military Life." You can also connect with Ginger on Facebook or Twitter.

Ginger also writes for The Navigator’s Military, 5 Minutes for Faith, and More to Be.

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