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.

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.

Brain-Body Connection in Learning

Part of my career I spent time supporting children in school settings. I observed the challenges that the school staff, the students, and the family faced each year, in helping students with disruptive behaviors in a school setting. I also implemented and supported many cognitive related interventions. I tried many different ways to help these students think their way out of the problem. When there was no change in disruptive behaviors, or disruptive behaviors increased, I wanted to know more about what could be happening for students. 

This led me to study more about the sensorimotor connection to behavior. If a child is not getting enough movement or sensory input, then they will act out in ways that will help the brain get what it needs to develop. If there are any other underlying mental health needs or trauma experiences, these needs could increase the disruptive behaviors or intensity of emotions the child expresses, resulting in the increased need of adult support.

I also noticed some behavioral patterns. In the midwestern state I live in, there were seasonal patterns. Up until the beginning of November, teachers and students were often able to make the learning relationship work. After the cold and rainy or snowy weather started, disruptive behaviors increased. The level of support these students needed was at a high level until spring break, when behaviors began to moderate, and by the time warmer spring weather arrived, it was only the most disruptive who needed the high level of support I provided. As I was struggling to understand how, with even therapeutic intervention, students were still demonstrating disruptive behavior, I kept searching for ways to support these students.

Pivotal information on learning and disruptive behaviors came for me when I read Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head, by Carla Hannaford, Ph.D. “Real learning — the kind of learning that establishes meaningful connections in the brain [emphasis mine] for the learner, is not complete until there is some output, some physical, personal expression of thought.”

This helped me to see the connection between the brain and the body for young learners, especially young learners that demonstrated impulsive actions, lack of focus, or disruptive behaviors. This helped me to re-frame some of the behaviors from symptoms of mental illness, to the student attempting to integrate what he/she was learning. In fact, from Smart Moves again, “we tend to relegate muscles to the domain of the body, not the mind. But it is through expression that we advance and solidify our understanding.” Looking at disruptive behavior as an attempt to learn changed how I assessed behavior at the beginning. I began to ask different questions. Sometimes behavior was related to mental illness or trauma, sometimes behavior was related to lack of activity, and sometimes behavior was related to acting out mature movie themes.

My experiences from those years working in a school has changed how I view my children’s behavior. Raising two boys, we are prone to see disruptive behavior as well. These are some of the steps that I’ve taken to help our boys manage their activity and support their learning.

  1. Limit screen time.
  2. No movies and TV shows with fighting, threatening harm, or scary scenes.
  3. Agreed upon indoor physical activity during inclement outdoor weather.
  4. Introducing reading, numbers, and writing as the boys express interest.

Reference:

Hannaford, C. (2013). Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head. Alexander: Great River Books.

Growing Roots, Bearing Fruit

This year we are homeschooling a kindergartener. In typical classrooms we would be teaching our son, at five-almost-six years old, how to read. In reality, from a sensorimotor perspective we started to teach him to read a long time ago.

We read books together.

We visit the library together so he gets an idea of the reading opportunities available.

We bought him a balance bike when he was two-and-a-half years old.  

My son mastered how to ride his balance bike by four years old. In fact he was so good at riding it, he wore it out before he turned five. This spring his cousin took 30 minutes sharing her bike with him, and I received a video of my son riding a bike with pedals, no training wheels. There are specific neurological areas of development that need to occur, and skills that need to be mastered before a child is ready to read. Learning how to ride a bike with pedals, no training wheels, is one of those neurological skills which points to readiness. These are areas as parent-teachers we can and have supported.

There is one thing that we are waiting on. My son hasn’t expressed the desire to read yet.

There are many things that I want to try to see if they help him learn to read. I have sensory ideas. I have ideas for learning to read outside. I have ideas for including grandparents, cousins, siblings in learning to read. Until my son is interested in reading, though, I keep finding ways to make reading interesting, and to focus on his sensorimotor development. We are also taking steps to help our younger son start to learn how to read. This spring he started riding his first balance bike. 

From a developmental point of view, these are foundational neurological pieces that are stepping stones to advanced academic skill. The end goal of course is for the student to experience the “fruit” of their academic labor, demonstrated by sustained attention, cognitive reflection, and the ability to memorize and recall information. There are sensorimotor skills that are needed first to strongly root a child through practice, experience, and relationship that the child will need to understand abstract academic skills. An article I read in The Atlantic, “An Unfinished Quest in Education,” discussed how children going into school, but lacking sensorimotor experiences, has made it more challenging for them to learn. As parents in a homeschool setting, we have the opportunity to provide sensorimotor experiences as part of their learning, and introduce specific learning skills as a child needs them.

In younger years children benefit from shared experiences — which can really be as simple as reading or cooking together, to build the relationship between parent who is also teacher, and child who is also student — and lots of time to play. In older childhood and especially adolescence, when a student is stuck, having the experience working through challenges together will be helpful in working through abstract academic skills.

Things to watch out for are signs of a behavior, relational, or emotional imbalance (mental health problems or concerns). There are often interventions a parent can put in place at home. Sometimes the family may benefit from guidance of a mental health professional who can provide support for the parents, the child, and the whole family.

Throughout this school year, I’ll provide ideas on how to help a child’s neurological “roots” to flourish, because this is the hard work, the work that leaves me wondering if I’m preparing my child appropriately. This is the work I need support on, and where I want to provide the support to other parents. The very activities we choose could influence our children for a lifetime. We are shaping our son’s interest in reading, interest in exercise, and his relationship with us and learning. There is a lot going on right now that isn’t evident, but is just as important — or maybe more important — as the “fruit” of academic learning.

Reference: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/06/an-unfinished-quest-in-education/486074/

Maturing the Parent, Teaching the Child

Here we are at the beginning of our homeschooling journey. Our oldest is starting kindergarten. We have a lot of ideas about homeschooling, what we want our children to experience during this journey, and how we will get there. However, to borrow from Stephen Covey, we are going to “begin with the end in mind.”

Our curriculum for this year is Destinations. My husband and I went through the process of identifying our goals for educating our children. We identified 28 goals that are important to us, and seven overall goals that will be the focus of the work we do. The other 21 goals will secondary, or tertiary, and we will document on them when we notice them, but they aren’t the priority goals. I look at our goals, and think this will be harder than I thought. We aren’t simply focusing on the tasks of learning, like reading, mathematics, and writing. We want our children to live these goals, with our ultimate success knowing that our children have a personal walk with God.  As parents we also have to learn how to model the actions we want our children to imitate, because they do imitate us already.

When it comes to being parent-teachers, we get to work together on the expectations we have, our parents have, and others in our support system might have for the education experience of our children. The education process has reinforced the notion of teamwork. At the same time, my husband taking a primary role in educating our children challenges societal norms. Sometimes these challenges are easily overcome. Other times the challenges take some time to work through. Educating a child becomes as much about the maturing of the parent, refining routines, learning or relearning skills, and being or becoming the type of person we want our children to imitate…as it is about teaching a child. Having education goals keeps us from being pulled in too many directions, and allows us as parents to intentionally model what we want our children to imitate — even as they imitate many other actions that we aren’t intending to model.

For educational learning specifically, we follow a Montessori approach right now, a hands-on method where the children are able to interact with their environment without specific direction. We provide different opportunities for learning. We know which learning tasks that are necessary such as reading, writing, and mathematics. How a child accomplishes the learning tasks will likely vary. A Montessori approach gives us the opportunity to observe our children, notice learning preferences, and let our children teach us about their own interests. The children create, problem solve, and share with us their experiences and successes. We are able to develop a relationship with our children, without focusing specifically on behavior management like sitting still, focusing, and staying on a task for a predetermined amount of time. While important skills, we can get to them at a later time. For now, it’s about modeling, observing and enjoying each other.

References:

Covey, S. R. (2013). The 7 habits of highly effective people: powerful lessons in personal change. London: Simon & Schuster.

Dickerson, E. (n.d.). Check These Out:. Retrieved September 04, 2017, from http://showcase.netins.net/web/nurture/