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Searching for Beauty: Lessons Learned from Visiting the Anne Frank House

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”

-Anne Frank

When we were stationed in Germany, we took the opportunity to visit Amsterdam in nearby Holland and visit the Anne Frank house. The tour was somber and the visitors hushed as we climbed the steep, narrow stairs to the hiding place where the Frank family, Jewish citizens in danger of being sent to the concentration camps, had hidden during World War II.

If you don’t know their story, their family–along with others–spent several years in a cramped apartment above their family business and managed to hide from the Gestapo through the help of several trusted friends who provided them with supplies. I’ve always been intrigued by their story and loved her book as a teen, reading it several times. Now, seeing it in person, I walked the small rooms and imagined attempting to keep children quiet while the workers went about their business below, and how stifling the boredom and isolation must have been at times.

In Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne noted how the family did their best at keeping up with their reading and studies, even doing calisthenics to maintain strength. During our tour of the house, it all came to life. I was able to maintain my composure until I came upon some pencil markings on the wall, now preserved behind glass.

It suddenly struck me that what I was viewing decades later was oh-so-familiar to anyone who’s raised children.

There, Anne’s father, Otto Frank, had taken time to line up his children every so often as parents do to measure their heights. Each careful marking included a date and the initials of that particular child.

I could just hear a childish voice ask, “How much did I grow, Papa?” I was no longer able to contain the tears as I witnessed this semblance of family life in the midst of the chaos and evil that had literally turned their lives upside down. And I think sometimes since that moment…if the Franks could make that sort of an attempt, who am I to ever complain?

This is not to say that we can never admit when we’re in the midst of a challenging situation. Not at all. The lesson for me, however, is to always look for a way through a tough time, even when it’s not readily apparent. A sort of “fake it till you make it,” if you will. 

A few things we can learn about pushing on during hard times as military families…

Find one thing that’s normal and focus on that.

If you’re mid-move, maintain the same bedtimes for your children. If you’ve recently moved into a new house, cook a favorite family dinner, hang up a familiar piece of art right away, or plant the same type of flower that you had at the last place. Whatever it is, create some sort of touchstone for your family. 

Do the next thing.

At times, life can be overwhelming with the enormity of whatever you’re facing: a move, parenting alone for months, missing family and friends, or something else. Do the next thing. Don’t survey the entire problem, situation, or scenario at once. Just do the next thing. Fold one load of laundry. Drop the kids off at school. Run one errand. Go to work without thinking about anything except the next hour. Do the next thing. The rest will follow.

Live today.

Don’t allow the worry over what’s to come ruin your time with your loved ones today. It feels like limbo when orders still haven’t dropped, anticipating a homecoming, wondering just exactly how many birthdays/anniversaries/holidays your spouse is going to miss, but fretting won’t change any of these situations. It’s normal to think ahead and wonder, but don’t let worry paralyze you from living completely today.

To Think About: 

  • When you consider the Frank family or other similar stories of overcoming adversity through faith, what is the greatest lesson you take away from it and apply to your own life?

  • What is one familiar routine that helps your family feel secure during times of change?

Excerpted from my book, You Are Not Alone: Encouragement for the Heart of a Military Spouse. Click here to learn more!