We believe stories are important - they connect us with other women who share similar experiences and help us feel as if we're not alone when life throws us a curveball. And as a military spouse - owned company, we believe in the power of sharing stories of fellow military spouses. The military spouse community is a unique sisterhood - they show strength with every relocation, deployment, and lost job; they’re resilient - making a new home and forming new friendships at each duty station; and they are fiercely devoted to the family and military hero they love. Despite the uncertainty and sacrifice that military life brings, military spouses face each new challenge with grace and bravery. At Charliemadison Originals, we're celebrating our sisterhood of military spouses through our Meet a Milspouse series - sharing one story at a time and giving you a glimpse inside their world.
GIVE US A BEHIND-THE-SCENES PEEK AT YOU AND YOUR FAMILY – HOW DID YOU BECOME A MILITARY SPOUSE (MILSPOUSE)? WHAT DO YOU DO IN ADDITION TO BEING A MILSPOUSE? AND A FUN FACT ABOUT YOUR MILITARY FAMILY?
My story of becoming a military spouse began in a charming little hardware store, imagine Luke’s Diner from Gilmore Girls in its original state. I had just completed my freshman year of college and wanted a summer job where I could wear a ball cap and jeans every day to work.
The owners of the small business, now my mother and father in law, also had a handsome son who was home on leave for a month from serving in the Navy. Chris, my husband spent endless hours hanging out at the store trying to capture my attention, before asking me out. Since our first date we have been inseparable.
Chris and I married in May 2016 and PCSed to Pensacola, Florida that following August for his four year stateside duty station. Our community embraced us from day one and we could not be more grateful to God for giving us our beautiful, loving gulf coast family.
Every day I live with an icy glass of cold brew coffee in one hand and Jesus in my heart. Encouraging others through podcasting, writing, mentorship, and public speaking is my life calling. With over 10,200 episode downloads ‘Still With You’ is a space for sharing gold, inspiring stories with genuine friends.
My love for the edgy and unlikely things in life spill over into every fueling conversation and keep things interesting to say the least! I would love to get to know you and hear your story too. Whether this is through the podcast, a direct message, or chatting in a cute cafe, grab a seat at the table and join me anytime!! I would love to encourage you in whatever you are doing or dreaming.
Outside of military life my husband and I love to spend time outside at the beach with our dog Bentley. We also love to serve at our local church Liberty Downtown, mentor college students, and travel whenever we get the chance. Nashville is one of our favorite cities to venture together.
WHICH MILITARY BRANCH DOES YOUR SPOUSE SERVE IN AND FOR HOW MANY YEARS HAS HE SERVED?
Chris has served 71⁄2 years as an active duty service member in the Navy. Since parting from this branch this past May 2020 he joined Air Force Reserves and enrolled as a student at Dallas Baptist University where he is pursuing a career as a USAF Chaplain.
WHERE HAS THE MILITARY MOVED YOUR FAMILY OVER THE YEARS? WHICH WAS YOUR FAVORITE DUTY STATION AND WHY?
Prior to his serving stateside, Chris was stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for four years and Deveslu, Romania for one. We said ‘I do’ during his time in Romania, when base operations were not allowing spouses to join their service member during this time. Though this hurt our hearts we loved growing closer in our relationship in PCSing to Naval Air Station Pensacola together in August 2016.
When I moved to Florida I was 20 years old, newly married, and so unsure of everything. My friends and neighbors often laugh saying they have had a hand in raising me, watching me grow into adulthood right before them. It’s true! I have changed so much since my first day in Florida. My self confidence and identity is continually shifting from insecurity to full assurity in the beautiful individual God created me to freely be. I used to be scared to step out and make brave moves, but now I see everyday as an adventure, a new opportunity to trust only in Him!
I would not be the person I am today without Jesus and the love of my gulf coast family. Pensacola, Florida is not just beautiful emerald waters and sugar sand beaches. It is so much more than cute downtown shops (which I do love) and amazing fresh seafood, it is a home with open doors for people to find freedom in Jesus. Countless friends of mine share the same story. They felt inescapably drawn to move to the south and when they followed where God was leading them everything in their life changed because of Jesus. It’s amazing to see!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING A MILITARY SPOUSE? TELL US SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE LEARNED OR HAS MADE YOU STRONGER BECAUSE YOU ARE A MILSPOUSE?
My husband Chris is my best friend and one of the bravest people I know. As a military spouse I have had the opportunity to meet countless courageous service men and women, military spouses, and children from across the world. One of my favorite joys has been walking into my neighborhood knowing that all regions of the United States and some international countries are represented. At our first friendsgiving I ate Phillipino lumpia and New Orleans’ gumbo!
The most devastating event Chris and I experienced alongside our community occurred last year, December 6, 2019. This day will forever be remembered not just for the loss, but for the heroism and courage that was displayed that day.
On tragic this morning a terrorist attack occurred on Naval Air Station Pensacola that killed three men and injured eight, one a close friend and colleague to Chris. This event broke us not only because of the pain our friends felt, but the shooter who engaged in this horrific event was a neighbor, only a few houses down from our home on base housing for over a year.
We decided to move three months before the shooting took place. I struggled with feeling guilty asking myself if there was something I could have done differently. Did I miss a warning sign that might have altered the outcome? My friends who still lived on base were petrified and scared as they were put on lockdown, even for days with the ongoing investigation. No one deserves to go through this and our city, especially those with military affiliation are still hurting.
In this I have learned to fully lean on my friends when I need them most. Whether this is sending a text asking for prayer or making a phone call to process what I am feeling. Being vulnerable is brave and something I am grateful for being able to express freely to those I trust. In this I chose to love rather than walk in fear.
WHO INSPIRES YOU AND WHY?
Goodness, this is a full list! Every member of my family and friend of mine always inspires me in everything that they do. One of my many things I adore about being a podcast host is having the opportunity to speak with others and ask them about the story of how they were molded into the incredible individual they are today.
This year I had a personal awakening and new awareness of the inequality and injustice in our world that every day plagues my friends of color. I recognize that I will never fully be able to understand what they have uniquely endured and I have the privilege to learn about racism rather than experiencing it myself.
It breaks my heart that anyone would live in fear and experience prejudice in any form. My black friends who I do life with every day continue on amidst the underserved adversity they have faced in their life. They are oh so brave and inspire me in their perseverance.
Pastor Tyler Burns, Jemar Tisby, podcasters from She Speaks Stories, author Carla K. Whitehead, artist Mariah Dawn Dobson, and one of my favorite entertainers Arthur Rocker are voices I love listening to and learning from not just in the realm of social justice but for all life advice, especially pertaining to encouraging me in my faith!
WHICH CHARLIEMADISON EVERYDAY REMINDER DO YOU WEAR ON YOUR WRIST AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THAT PARTICULAR BRACELET?
My Soul Sister bracelet is a best friend to me in my everyday fashion. This specific style first stood out to me based on the Apatite rough cut stone. It is bold, brave, and unlike the lighter aquamarine and peach quartz gemstones that surround it. I guess you might have seen a reflection of myself in this little accessory. Every day I am trying to grow into a better version of myself and I am learning every time I do this I navigate away from the person I used to be, unkind to myself and always caught in embarrassment. Today I am unafraid to stand out among my peers and move forward with zeal.
Also, I love the message Wendy was inspired by to create this piece. You can never have too many girlfriends in your corner...or too many Charliemadison Originals bracelets. I am excited to continue stacking!!
WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY CONNECTED TO WHAT MATTERS MOST, DESPITE THE UNCERTAINTY, FREQUENT MOVES, AND DEPLOYMENTS THAT GO ALONG WITH BEING A MILITARY FAMILY?
There are so many unknowns that come with military culture. Every day my mind wanders to questions of what ifs? My brother Bennett, an Airborne Infantryman in the Army returned from a nine month deployment to Afghanistan this past March 2020. My family could not breathe easily in every moment of that deployment. We were so scared he would not return home safely.
Every time Chris and I have been separated or I have felt in fear for my brother’s career I have found it helpful to have consistent daily anchor points that allow me to feel grounded and safe. For example, every morning I wake up a little extra early to journal and read my Bible. I make it a habit weekly to check in with a friend or family member to share and I also spend time outside taking walks, petting my dog. Fresh air is the best exhale! There is so much comfort in these rhythms when every part of your world feels uncertain.
Also, it really is okay to cry. You are not being overly emotional, female, or too much. You are you, human. Tears are healthy, exercise them freely.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A FELLOW MILITARY SPOUSE WHO IS STRUGGLING WITH MILITARY LIFE OR DEPLOYMENT?
As I have shared, I would not be the girl I am today without my beautiful gulf coast community. They took me in and never let go, but the steps to making friends and connecting with others did first fall on me. I would have never developed deep friendships if I had continued staying at home lounging my leggings. Chris and I joined a local church and started serving.
The first friends I made were in a small group and were all moms years older than me. On Monday mornings they would bring over their children to play and I would come alone and even though it was hard I kept showing up. Even if I did not feel like it when someone would invite me out I would go. I made myself, because even though at the time I believed I would be in Pensacola for only a few years I chose to be fully present and be ALL in cultivating community. Praise God He encouraged me to get out there, it was the best thing for me.
Join a small group, book club, or volunteer organization. The first meeting will not live up to your expectations. You might walk away discouraged, but follow up, engage in the group text, keep going. You need friends in this ever changing lifestyle and these may not be your favorite people, but if you continue showing up more doors of connection will open. It’s a tried and true fail proof process that just takes time. Trust the process!
WE HAPPEN TO BE QUOTE LOVERS AROUND HERE – CAN YOU SHARE A FAVORITE QUOTE THAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED?
“If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there Your hand will guide me, and Your strength will support me.” -Psalm 139:9-10 NLT
I will never forget my 13-year-old self sitting on my bed with my pink magnetic bible reading this for the first time. As if butterflies had kissed my brain, immediately I knew this would be my life verse.
WHERE CAN OUR READERS FIND YOU ONLINE?