Finding God in Hardest Times? (Part One)

There is a moment.

That moment when the world feels like it is crashing down on your shoulders.

That moment when you are sure you are alone, no matter how many people are around you right then.

That moment when God feels so far away but you have nowhere to turn, nowhere else to go.

So you pray. But, deep in your heart are the doubts that this prayer (or any, really) is reaching God. That He even cares. The lies Satan is whispering have taken root and are spreading.

And, we hurt. Because that moment is pain. It is deep, unrelenting, excruciating pain. When all we can scream is WHY?! Why me? Why now?

This story is indirectly related to why we later homeschooled the boys, but that is not why I am starting here. Somewhere out there somebody needs to hear that God is there, even when we can’t feel Him. That our prayers are not going into thin air. That we can trust Him, even when His answer isn’t to turn back time and somehow make the bad news, in this case the diagnosis, go away.

The date was April 1, 1997. My husband was 27, I was 24. We only had two kids at the time: a 26-month-old easy-going, talkative son (Alex), and our 10.5-month-old daughter (Angela). Because Angela was our second child, her doctor,  Tim, and I noticed some red flags in her development. For example, she only weighed 14 lbs 9 oz, and was about 20 inches long (a nine-pound weight gain and only about two inches in length in 10 months). She was tiny and not growing well. She also couldn’t sit up, roll over, hold her head up, or interact with us; she choked on all solids, and she didn’t really play with toys. And, as a mom I knew, absolutely knew, there was something wrong. (Of course there were other things as well, but you get the idea.)

Angela with Grandma Lee – August 1996

So her doctor referred us to Children’s Hospital in Seattle. They sent us a schedule that had us in appointments from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. First on the list was aptitude testing, so they could get a baseline, as well as a variety of other tests throughout the day.

After being told Angela was 57% behind other kids her age, I was already feeling … lost. But, we had yet to see a doctor. So, the second appointment was with a geneticist. She walked into the room, introduced herself, and then asked us three questions. Just that. Three. Questions. She then left the room and came back less than 10 minutes later with a book. And a diagnosis.

It was that moment.

Because feeling something in your heart and being told something concrete, with proof, are two completely different things.

Now, I am not going to tell you that getting the diagnosis that your daughter has a permanent disability is the hardest news ever. Because it isn’t. After all, we could have been told so many other things. However, it was devastating and the loss of a dream.

By 3 p.m. that day, I had a raging headache and felt dazed. Too much information, too many tests, too much emotion. Honestly, it was just too much everything. And the emotional pain, I cannot describe the pain – or the guilt that seemed to come from it. Could I have done anything differently? Did I have caffeine, not get enough water, not eat enough? What did I do wrong? The moms out there know this guilt. It’s called Mom guilt, and I can tell you from years of experience, it’s a useless emotion that Satan uses to derail us.

Angela was diagnosed with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS for short). This can be genetic; however, after blood testing it was concluded that hers was a mutation that occurred at conception. There was quite literally nothing we could have done differently. At the time of her diagnosis, there were 2,500 cases known worldwide (there are now more than 2,500 people in my Facebook group alone), and they didn’t yet know which gene or chromosomes were involved. There is a lot of information about those afflicted with this syndrome at www.cdls-usa.org since I could fill pages and pages with just details about it. I will also be sharing more about exactly how the syndrome has affected our lives and her medical, physical, and intellectual challenges in my next blog post.

Angela in 2014 – taken by her teacher at school one day.

And, that was just the beginning. She had more tests added to the schedule that day and over the next few days. Then, her first surgery was just 16 days after that. We went from thinking we had two healthy kids, to one healthy son and a daughter with needs we were only beginning to understand (and still struggle with, if you want the truth).

In that moment (and many others) I related to Job when he said, “I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer. I stand before you, but you don’t even look,” Job 30:20. I felt so alone in my grief, anger, and pain. But, just like Job, I wasn’t going through it alone. God was there the whole time. Jeremiah reminds us in Lamentations 3:55-57, “But I called on your name, Lord from deep within the pit. You heard me when I cried ‘Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!’ Yes, you came when I called; you told me, ‘Do not fear.’” Oh, thank YOU, Lord! You are there, even when we cannot feel You. You have not left us or forsaken us. There is a relief in that thought, isn’t there?

However, as you all know, prayer is hardest when your faith is weak. And, the devil strikes then! The deceiver wants us to feel alone in our pain. Have you ever felt that your prayer isn’t going past the ceiling? In a recent discussion about prayer, someone mentioned that David said in Psalm 23:4, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid; for you are close beside me. Your rod and staff protect and comfort me” (emphasis mine). What a comforting thought!! “God is right there with us,” my friend said, “listening to every word we say.” We don’t have to worry about the prayers not going past the ceiling, He is sitting with us in that moment!

I won’t lie to you and say that feeling of being alone went away quickly. It didn’t. I won’t tell you I felt God’s arms around me in that moment. I didn’t. I will tell you I did slowly start to feel less alone and could eventually feel Jesus holding me as I cried, raged, and screamed out my pain. And, I did keep my faith, even if I was hanging on with torn fingernails.

And, He is right beside you in that moment, and the next, and the one after that. Let me say that again: JESUS IS SITTING WITH YOU RIGHT NOW! The pain and anger may keep you from feeling Him, but turn to Him anyway. Our Lord is waiting with open arms, a big lap, and strong shoulders to cry on. Let Him comfort and heal you. No, it’s not an easy process, but it is worth it.

An excerpt from Footprints in the Sand, author unknown

There is so much more to tell you (and look how long this one was!) that I have to make this a two- or three-part series. So, watch for my next blog to hear more about Angela, her diagnosis, learning to cope, and learning to trust God with all of it. For now, I leave you with this thought:

Lamentations 3:20-24 (NLT)

20 I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
21 Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:

22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends![a]
His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”

We Teach Life, Not Just School

I am a big proponent of using life to teach academic skills. It takes some creativity sometimes to incorporate school into our lives, and our lives into school time, but it’s possible and hugely beneficial! So many times we hear from our children (and have said it ourselves) that they do not understand how what they are learning will apply to them in the real world, how it will benefit them in their adult life. Let’s show them… Make it real for them!

I believe in allowing our children to explore their passions, to explore their interests, to try and fail, but to get up and try again. These are essential life skills. We should teach our children how to make wise decisions, to know when to persevere and when to move on to something new, to honour their commitments, and to be responsible for their choices. I believe these things are just as, if not more than, important as book learning.

Sometimes this means we do weird things. We make strange mistakes, we fill the calendar, we step out of our comfort zones.

Our school board is hosting a science fair in March. TLC decided last year that he wanted a snake; actually, he’d wanted a snake for years, but last year he convinced his father to allow a snake to live at his house (our lease forbids it from living here). Waffles, as the snake is called, has been a fabulous experience for TLC. He’s had to learn how to care for it, feed it, clean its habitat, and buy food. This has increased his sense of responsibility and money management. It’s also been a source of science projects. He had to research how to care for a snake before he was allowed to get one. He had to save up the money for it and buy it himself. He has to buy the food for it and know what to feed it. Waffles will be his exhibit and project for the upcoming science fair, and one of the rewards for doing it will be that Waffles can come live at our house the week before the fair.

He gets a reward because the science fair is far out of his comfort zone. That’s okay, because one of the responsibilities of parenting and teaching our children is to push them out of their comfort zones. It’s hard for TLC to be outside of his comfort zone, and one of the signs of his maturity is that he is starting to recognize where the comfort zone boundary lies. Now he will learn that he can safely, successfully, and enjoyably step past that boundary. In order to achieve his goals and dreams, he’s going to need to be past those boundaries. It will not benefit him if I allow him to hide, to remain in the box. None of his dreams are in a box; he has huge dreams! He’s never lived his life in a box, and I refuse to allow him to build one around himself now.

Let’s teach our children — not only to read, write and do arithmetic, but to step outside the box, to explore past their comfort zones, and to persevere when things are hard in order to achieve their goals!!

A Tribute to My Grandpa

I want to write a blog that isn’t exactly on the topic I chose. However, I feel that God is impressing me to write about this so-to-speak white elephant in the closet of our denomination.

In February, my husband and I chose to embark on a very challenging ministry. In fact, it’s so complicated most people won’t touch it or address the subject in our denomination. And to be quite honest, I think it’s a huge cause in a lot of the issues in our churches. It seems to be there and yet not, be felt yet not seen, be ever present and yet silent. It makes people uncomfortable, and yet in spite of it all we owe so much to the people who have given their lives for the cause. I think it’s a little sad that our stand as a Church is non-combatant, and there is a huge hole in our ministry for combatant veterans.

Although we also hold the before-mentioned views, we have a lot of people in our circles who have served — either drafted while Adventists; willingly enlisted; or, like my husband, converted after service. So, why is it that we don’t talk about PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) when there are so many likely sufferers in our circles? Why is it that life goes quietly on while our own fellow brethren suffer with a silent destroyer of families, a beast that seems to lurk around every corner? It’s one of the most challenging and painful area’s of today’s world, and it’s not even being addressed. Christ in His ministry healed the aches and pains before sharing with others the spiritual gifts He had to offer. We need to heal the aches and pains of many in our families before we can offer spiritual healing to those outside the Church.

Let me give you a few statistics. It is estimated that one in 18 men will develop PTSD. One in every nine women develop PTSD, making them twice as likely to develop it as men. PTSD is just as common if not more common in emergency personnel (police, fire fighters, EMTs, etc.) as it is in the service. About 70 percent of adults in the U.S. have been exposed to one situation that could trigger PTSD. Out of those 70 percent, 20 percent go on to develop PTSD. Eight percent of the current American population has PTSD at any given time; that’s 24.4 million people in the USA — equivalent to the population of Texas! The story of Desmond Doss has been very well circulated and now that it is known he was an Adventist, we should take the lead in the treatment for PTSD. I personally was touched by the impact Desmond Doss made on our family.

An insider’s look at living with PTSD

Let me tell you my story. Growing up I remember going to spend nights at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Grandpa would sit us all down, tallest to smallest, on the couch. He had a very special drill-sergeant type attitude that we all loved and admired in him, and although I was young and don’t remember well, I like to think we all sat up straight like good little soldiers. (Although, I don’t think he ever ranked above an E2. Haha…) Grandpa had served in the Okanawan island chain during WWII. He wasn’t on the same island as Doss, however, and he wasn’t supposed to see active combat. He was a Seabee; Seabees were supposed to follow the Marines in and build the landing strips for the aircraft and bridges for the rigs after the Marines take the beach. He was even an actor in the fighting Seabees with John Wayne. (He only ran down a hill in one scene, but he could show you who he was if you watched it with him.) Grandpa, however, was washed into shore before the Marines, and ended up having to take the beach. My point in all of this is that he saw combat, and not nice combat at that.

Back to sitting on the couch… Grandpa would take his long slender finger and point at each one of us for emphasis. “If you want to come and get into bed with us tonight, you stomp down those stairs, you slam our door and you jump onto the bed. I want to hear you coming.” My dad told me once that he only made the mistake of sneaking into bed with his parents once. It ended with him picking himself up off the floor on the other side of the room. Grandpa cried the rest of the night.

Grandpa seemed to be a short tempered man, always barking orders at Grandma, yet everyone could see how much he loved and adored her. He enjoyed way too much salt on his little bowl of popcorn, and he cross-stitched all day long (and made so many incredible pieces) while watching old TV game shows and munching his way-too-salty popcorn. Occasionally he would make a batch of cookies. Although he would often show me how he did it, mine never turn out like his did. There was something that drew me to this cranky old man, an inner strength that I couldn’t help but see, brokenness, loneliness, struggling all made way for a tender, loving and compassionate person.

(Here’s a little side story: Grandpa was so scared of the dark that, once when the Sergeant insisted he stand on guard duty in the middle of the night during the war, he blew up one whole end of the pallet of runway because of a little tag that was flapping in the wind which refused to identify itself. Haha! It’s amazing he wasn’t court-martialed for that offense.)

Now, years later and being married to a veteran suffering from PTSD, I see the similarities and have a little more light on what was going on and why he was the way that he was. Desmond Doss came to Grandpa’s church one evening to tell his testimony. Grandpa and Grandma decided to go, and I wish I had been there, but Doss sat down for an hour with Grandpa — just the two of them — and I don’t know what he told Grandpa. That went with him to the grave. But, I know from then on, he was a changed man. The nervousness, crankiness, and irritation was gone. He seemed happier and more content.

Fast forward several years past my grandpa’s death to July 2009. I married the man of my dreams. Also, quite interestingly, he is a veteran. (My Grandma told me later Grandpa would have been very proud I married a Navy man.) I didn’t think at that time that Jeremy had PTSD because there were no signs or symptoms. However, before he was converted, he was highly suicidal, and at one point was even held at gunpoint by a SWAT team. Going through some challenges and looking back now, I believe he developed PTSD symptoms about a year and a half after we got married. All of the symptoms he was having in our marriage came to a head in 2015 when he had a flashback and didn’t know who I was. I had playfully woken him up by running my finger up his foot while he was sleeping on the couch. He instantly was on his feet and coming at me like he was going to hurt me. I couldn’t snap him out of it. He didn’t recognize me. Praise the Lord he responded to my gentle touch, though. It took him all night to come out of it, and I actually asked him to sleep in the garage because I wasn’t comfortable sleeping next to him in bed that night. (My grandma would tell me about times when she would wake up being punched or slapped in the face, and would hold my grandpa the rest of the night while he cried.)

Jeremy has struggled with just about every PTSD symptom that is possible during the last three years in particular. Our once happy home is often shadowed by past experiences that we weren’t even a part of. We walk on egg shells as we try not to make him mad and stay away from any trigger that would make him cranky. Often times we dread him coming home because we don’t know what mood he will be in. I don’t worry about him hurting us physically, but I struggle with the mental stress that all of us suffer under the stress of dealing with PTSD. Knowing my husband’s symptoms are only his PTSD can still be very draining. The kids often don’t understand why Daddy gets upset with them. However, and I want to make it clear, we have had several down time and many, many struggles, but Jeremy is still the man of my dreams. You see, within hurting people there are amazing things —jewels that are buried under charcoal that just need to be dug up, cleaned up, and polished. Each one shining in a beauty all it’s own.

In March Jeremy and I founded Survivinghome.org. It originally started as a ministry for veterans with PTSD, and now has transitioned to include emergency response personnel with PTSD. We attended an Oregon Conference event with our ministry’s booth, and while we were there we had several teens request classes on how to help their friends with suicide prevention and domestic violence requests as well. We see how God is guiding Surviving Home into being a ministry that addresses all aspects of home issues. As you can imagine, with all of these requests, it’s a little bit overwhelming as we want to help as many people as possible and show Christ as their one true source of strength through the good times and the bad.

As I have been working through a manual for spouses dealing with PTSD in their other half, this week a burden has been laid upon my heart. I never really realized how much I have changed and how much PTSD has affected my life, thinking, and functioning. Does that mean there is no hope? Does that mean that our lives will always be this way? Does it mean that we will never be able to see the loving, sensitive side of my husband again? No, I am a veteran of living with veterans with PTSD. There is a better side, and there is hope. My husband doesn’t intend or even realize how he comes across often times. So, if any of you are struggling with an environment beyond your control in your home, please know there is hope. There is a life. You may not be able to control the circumstances that come into your home or life, but you can control how you react to them.

“Abraham gladly returned to his tents and his flocks, but his mind was disturbed by harassing thoughts. He had been a man of peace, so far as possible shunning enmity and strife; and with horror he recalled the scene of carnage he had witnessed. But the nations whose forces he had defeated would doubtless renew the invasion of Cannan, and make him the special object of their vengeance. Becoming thus involved in national quarrels, the peaceful quiet of his life would be broken. Furthermore, he had not entered upon the possession of Cannan, nor could he now hope for an heir, to whom the promise might be fulfilled.

“In a vision of the night the divine Voice was again heard. ‘Fear not, Abram,’ were the words of the Prince of princes; ‘I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.’ But his mind was so oppressed by foreboadings that he could not now grasp the promise with unquestioning confidence as heretofore,” Patriarchs and Prophets, pg. 136.

In Matthew 11:28-30 it says, “Come unto me all who are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me. For I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yolk is easy and my burden is light.” When they are training a team of oxen, they take a younger animal with less experience and they put the yolk on their shoulders. The older animal is put onto the other side of the yolk and leads the younger animal in the right way. At first in this process the older, more experienced animal does all of the work, but as the younger animal learns each lesson and practices the lessons, the more burden it starts to carry. Eventually, it is carrying half of the burden and “towing their weight.” In a way, that is how it is with Christ. He takes our burdens, and places them on His shoulders to carry our load. He guides us gently through the trials and struggles, and shows us how to navigate the way to success.

Are you the one who needs to be strong in your family, helping take the burden of the suffering spouse? Are you tired of having to always be the strong one and having to hold everything together without getting much help? If so, take your burdens to Jesus. He hears and sees, and He carries them for you. He will guide you through perilous times and through learning how to be strong through everything being thrown at you. If there is concern about abuse potential, please seek help. There are a lot of resources available, and if you need to, please feel free to contact us. We will do everything we can to help.

God is into restoring families, and He has certainly brought ours a long way. I am starting to see occasional glimpses of the man I married shining through. They are not as frequent as I would like, but they are certainly there and becoming more distinct as time goes on. Let’s be strong — be strong for our spouse, be strong for our family, be strong for our friends, be strong for our Lord.

Seven Ways to Count Our Blessings

Thanksgiving!

It’s just six days away, for those of us in the United States!

I decided to share seven fun ways to record blessings, that we’ve enjoyed over the years. You can do many of these activities at any time of the year, but, like making applesauce seems to go hand-in-hand with autumn, so do many of these ideas.

For those readers elsewhere, you can participate too, because this is really a year-round attitude — this giving of thanks!

If we count today, we could use one of these suggestions per day for a Countdown to Thanksgiving, to help us gear up for the big day! Even as I say this, though, I realize that practically, these ideas are more pick and choose, to be done as a habit instead of trying to cram all of them into a busy week. If you want to try them all, go for it, but if you even find one idea that works for you, then that is what is going to matter the most in your family!

Idea One: The Blessings Tree

The first and favorite way for us to cultivate a grateful attitude is our Blessings Tree. Below is a sample, because, in our packing for a move, I can’t seem to find a copy of ones we have made.

The idea is very simple, as simple as you’d like it to be. I usually use a huge sheet of paper taped to the wall, or a poster board if I want it smaller. I draw a brown tree trunk — I like it REALLY BIG, because we want lots of blessings to hang on it!

I then make lots of leaves out of colorful construction paper. In years past, I’ve mostly done the simple oval-shaped leaves, or sometimes maple or oak leaves, but those get tedious to cut out. Oval really works just fine! Last year we did something similar for Sabbath School and I ran out of leaves. I found a great solution at the Dollar Tree. They sell bags of pretend leaves made of cloth for $1/100. They are shaded and some are even glittery — no work for you, Mom!

Every night, or morning, or whatever you decide, everyone in the family gets to pick a leaf or two and say what they are thankful for. We put answered prayers, kind things people have done for us, and just all kinds of random things that we think of. This is a wonderful way to bring the family together and change the attitude of the home! And, it’s so fun to see those leaves add up. Don’t you think Jesus and and angels are happy to see us count our blessings in this way?

Thankful Tree Clipart #1

Idea Two: Blessings on a Roll

That’s not on a roll of toilet paper! You can get little rolls of printer paper for not much, and following the same idea as above, you can have each family write something each day that they are thankful for. The lady who shared this idea with me has four kids. She had each family member write in their own handwriting each day, so over the years, she had a nice memory of how they grew up in penmanship and in spiritual experience. You can hang the roll somewhere, and when it gets too long, wrap the loose end up around a stick and roll it up like a scroll. Unlike the Blessings Tree, which most likely will get removed come December, this project spans the seasons and doesn’t take up much room.

Idea Three: ABC Prayer Time in the Family Circle

This is the idea we are currently working on in our family. It is probably the simplest, because the only tools and supplies needed are your brain and your family members. When you have your family circle for prayer, you go A..B..C… and so on, every day/night, and say what you’re thankful for. For instance, the first night, everyone says something he/she is thankful (in his prayer) for that begins with A: Apples, Aviaries, Aardvarks, Anne, whatever. Next night, you advance a letter. This really helps us in our family to think, and many times one or more of us gets stumped over the letter for that night. So far, we are to S. We had a hard time with Q, but even some ordinary letters that you would think would be easy create a brain block when it comes to your turn to share. Nevertheless, we are all enjoying this exercise in naming more blessings than we normally think of while praying.

Variations on this are saying a fruit, vegetable, animal, person, missionary, relative, flower, or whatever topic you choose — and everyone must think of one thing in that category to thank God for. In our family, and probably in yours, we easily get into a rut with our prayers, and sometimes the same people mumble the same prayer night after night. This just helps to wake up our brains!

Idea Four: Laminated Blessings Placemats

Okay — all kids like to weave. This is a simple one for all ages, and I’d say especially for the littles, with some help. You can make these in a morning. All you need is two or more colors of construction paper. Cut the one color in strips about an inch wide. You can actually have as many colored strips as you’d like. Two to three would be the max I’d recommend, but I know children love to get creative! The other color will be the solid “background.” You take this paper and fold it in half, either way. Then cut strips with it still folded up to one inch of the edge, all the way down. When done cutting, you should have an unfolded piece of construction paper that has cut lines, so that the strips you cut from other colored paper can be woven between. This sounds more complicated than it is.

Have the children weave in and out their strips, then arrange the edges so everything’s even. You can tape or glue the edged down, but we just laminate them, so I don’t bother.

We did this one year at Thanksgiving. Our children made a place mat for each guest, then before eating, we wrote things we were thankful for on the place mats, then laminated them for future years. It’s fun to look back and see what we wrote!

I am having difficulty getting my photos to cooperate, so here is a link that someone else made, showing the same thing. Only, we added things we were thankful for on the squares.

Idea Five: Bible Promises

This idea I am still working on. My plan is to have times (Sabbath afternoon would be good, or during Bible time) when we take a Bible promise book or a concordance and find specific promises that have meaning for our own children’s needs. I don’t plan to make this a “Thus saith Mom,” but verses that my boys need that they find. Faith verses will be green, verses about God’s love for me with be red, etc. We can all sit down for 20-30 minutes with our pens and Bible promise books, and find meaningful verses that will help us when we are thoughtfully flipping through the pages of our Bibles. The verses we have marked will pop out and bless us, so this is an ongoing blessing idea.

Idea Six: Prayer Wheel

This is a simple device, where you write down people or topics to pray for on each day. As you spin your wheel every day, a new person appears in the sliced out section, and you pray specifically for that person. We can include a prayer of thanks for each person! All you need is two index cards, cut into circles. Divide the circle into how ever many wedges you need for the number of people you will be praying for. Cut out a wedge for a window, and laminate if you want. Fasten with a brad fastener. Spin every day.

Idea Seven: Songs of Thanks

There are plenty of songs I can think of that mention being thankful or blessings. The one most obvious is Count Your Blessings. You can hear it and get a nice flip book here with the printed song at My Bible First.

Other songs about blessings:

  • We Gather Together
  • Come, Ye Thankful People
  • This is My Father’s World

Many Scripture songs are about thankful themes such as God’s goodness, and you can think up your own tunes if your verse doesn’t have a song already!

Idea Eight: The Blessing Jar

You got a bonus! I was just going to list seven ideas, then remembered this one. This idea can be done yearly, like Blessings of 2017, or just for a season, or for a whole lifetime! Just get a mason jar, or find a cute jam jar, and add a nice label and ribbon. Record daily or weekly blessings, answers to prayers, and things that have made you smile. Use little slips of paper. You could use a different color for each family member, or all the same. We’ve used old business cards that no longer serve. The key is to periodically take the cards out and read them together, to see how many rainbows have appeared in your life. If you Google Blessing Jar or Memory Jar/Thankful Jar, you will find a plethora of ideas to glean from. Here’s just one example. These make nice gifts that anyone can make and use. No big expense, and no calories! This is not my original idea, I have only used someone else’s idea. You can go as artsy and coordinated or as simple as you have time for. That’s what I like about this project.

I hope that these ideas will spark some interest in you in this week leading up to Thanksgiving, and beyond! Such simple ideas are really the glue that helps to hold our families together, and provide much happiness as we look back on the ways that God has blessed us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Bringing Every Thought Into Captivity — Part 1: New Beginnings

I can do nothing but praise my Savior! God has brought us many blessings this last week; however, they have been wrapped up as a secret package in some very challenging trials. Isn’t it funny how we often look at trials and complain, yet looking back we are able to see a clearer picture of the blessings that have come from these trials? Not that it makes them any easier to bear at the time, but we can truly know that through them we are being shaped and molded into His likeness.

A month and a half ago we moved in with my in-laws so that my husband could go to school full time. (It has been quite the sacrifice on all of our parts as all of us are all staying in one room, so it’s tight quarters. We are blessed, however, that we have a big yard for the kids.) We have been handed free schooling through a wonderful program called the Trade Act. He has decided to get his heavy duty diesel mechanics degree. Of course we couldn’t pass that up!!! He’s only been dreaming about this for years, but we have never had the money for the schooling, let alone the needed tools.

We got moved up here and got settled, and two weeks into school he started freaking out about needing a ton of money — that we don’t have as we are living off of unemployment for the next two years — for tools. What in the world? The Trade Act is supposed to provide the tools. My husband suffers from PTSD from when he served in the Navy during 9/11, and before converting from atheism to Adventism. Due to his PTSD he isn’t exactly the best of communicators. After weeks of frustration on my end, knowing something was wrong but him denying it, I found out that he didn’t have any tools yet and was starting to fall behind in the shop part of class. That didn’t, however, end the quest for a tool fund. Fortunately, at four weeks into his classes, he finally got his tools. In spite of the negative, it has been a blessing. He is getting quite spoiled with a new tool box, etc., so it was worth waiting for!

In every marriage there are issues, things that each couple has to work out, and things that bring them together to the same mindset — but often times it takes quite a bit of trials to get to that point, not to mention the pain suffered on both sides of the relationship. I heard it said once that couples’ biggest problems usually stem from sex, finances, or child rearing. I understand too well the struggle, and the area in our marriage has definitely been finances.

As we struggled this last week, we went to our in-laws for counsel as to how to solve some of the issue with the finances so that both our needs were being met. We originally decided to move in with our in-laws to save money to pay off debt, which met my need. Unfortunately, our unemployment was cut to the point that it became necessity. My father-in-law lovingly but sternly chewed me out and told me to find a way to make the budget work and to get my husband his tool fund. That really made me mad, especially since I knew he didn’t understand what we have gone through financially. (When we got married we were both out of debt and debt was not an option. As life’s circumstances dealt out, we ended up in debt — not a ton, but enough to be difficult to escape on a limited income.) I was so mad that I responded in anger.

I sat there on the couch, stunned as I listened to all of the anger at my husband that spewed out of my mouth. It seemed like a waterfall that had a huge dam that just wouldn’t quit behind it. I knew I loved my husband and was being faithful to the vow to love and obey, and yet I had so much hate in my heart toward someone I was supposed to love deeper then anyone on this earth. How could that be? How could I have hidden this much anger in my heart for so many years? We ended the conversation with me saying that I needed time to process everything. I went in and went to bed about 4 p.m.

That evening and most of the next day (which, praise the Lord, was Sabbath), I analyzed where the negative feelings were coming from, and what was truly going on inside my head and heart, and prayed that God would take the feelings of hate I had developed toward my husband away. I then talked to my husband and told him how I felt and what was going on inside of myself. I am grateful that I have a deeply committed husband and that in spite of all of my flaws he still is willing to work at our relationship and keep moving forward. (In spite of his own flaws, I do see Christ’s love for me reflected in my husband’s patience with me.) Today we are working on rebuilding and renewing our relationship, and it’s amazing how releasing the anger that I didn’t know I was harboring in my heart to Christ has made a dramatic difference in our relationship. Things I didn’t realize were broken are correcting themselves, and I’m beginning to see the blessing that marriage can be. I am sure being human that we will still struggle, but I pray that God will show us the true state of our hearts and keep any resentment, bitterness, etc., out of our hearts toward each other.

As I sit back and think about this last week, my mind is drawn to the Bible verse, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who shall know it?” Jer. 17:9. I certainly had no clue I felt toward my husband like I did. He was my husband; I had waited for him for 26 years. I had dreamed about the things we would do together, about how we would serve the Lord, the children we would have.

Do we as humans intentionally deceive ourselves, or is it something that happens unconsciously? “From within the hearts of men come every evil thought, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,” Mark 7:21. So, how do we obey 2 Cor. 10:5, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” How do we bring every thought into captivity if we can’t know our hearts? What about Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Several years ago we were introduced to some videos called Who Switched Off My Brain, by Dr. Carolyne Leaf. I laughed watching the videos. I am not sure she is an Adventist, but she sure quotes a lot of Ellen White almost word for word. Dr. Leaf specializes in working with people who have had traumatic brain injuries, car accidents, coma survivors, etc. It is amazing the research that she has done. She approaches science as backing up scripture, and explains exactly how your body and mind work and the connection between the two.

Several months ago I loaned the videos to a friend of mine. She is a medic and struggles with PTSD when she is working. She sent me a book called Switch On Your Brain, by Dr. Leaf. Since using this program she is not only PTSD free but she said that her anxiety, etc., is completely gone. How does this program work? I’m going to explain in my next blog post. Dr. leaf teaches you how to capture every thought and bring it into captivity to Christ. If you are interested in teaching your kids this as well, I highly recommend finding the book online and ordering it. It is well worth the read.

As we are advancing in our new beginnings, I look forward to sharing how to master each thought for Him.