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.

Life Skills: Home Management, Part 2

Life Skills: Housecleaning & Home Repair

At our state homeschool convention years ago, my oldest discovered a program given by Don Aslett, writer of several books on cleaning. Our family shares all parts of home life, from schooling, to home-based business, and yes, housework. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised that he wanted to purchase a couple of the offered books in hopes of improving cleaning chores.

Please don’t get the idea that my kids love cleaning. In fact, I think his first thought was to find ways to make cleaning less like work. And indeed, Aslett’s books do provide many ideas on improving techniques and simplifying the chores. My son read through them quickly and shared what he learned with his younger siblings and myself.

Interesting note: I decided to purchase some of Don Aslett’s cleaning supplies, which did work very well. Each time a delivery of his products arrived, I announced that our Home Ec supplies were here. Not surprisingly, the kids were less impressed with the new tools and products than I was, but we did put them to good use. In time, I noticed that they grew to appreciate our occasional deliveries!

Parent-led Home Economics

My own dear mom taught us to clean meticulously — not easy with two home-based businesses: my dad’s garage and tow business, and our family farm. Still, our home was to be kept neat and clean, inside and out. It’s a trend I have attempted to continue with our own children.

But, teaching housecleaning is not really a scheduled week-long venture. We live together, learn together, and yes, clean together. I don’t remember the day I taught each to sweep into the corners or dust behind the pictures. I’m not sure what age they learned to take out the garbage or wash windows. Actually, I do remember tiny fingers helping with window washing, often adding some smears as they attempted to get that crystal clear look.

Learn by Doing

Indeed, learning to maintain the home is like learning to use silverware. To borrow the 4-H motto, we “learn by doing.”

But, we also teach, mostly by example. Children learn to appreciate a clean house and the work it takes to keep it clean. That becomes a double bonus. Not only do they help clean, they also try to avoid leaving any clutter or mess. Knowing the work involved in cleaning, they attempt to keep our home neat and clean!

Home Maintenance or Shop Class

Another skill highly valued in our family is that of home maintenance. While it is possible to hire a handyman to replace a fan, repair a window, or even hang a new door, we prefer to teach the skill to our youth.

And, learning these skills does more than saving money. Indeed, kids put their math, reading, and science skills to work and take pride in being able to do such maintenance work. Moreover, they may find a career path along the way.

Commercials create thought, too.

A recent commercial on a news station struck me a bit. The man states that he is quite handy about the house, but now that he has kids, he doesn’t want to spend his weekends repairing and maintaining the home. It’s an ad for a handyman referral service. However, I saw a sad take on our current thinking.

Is it really more important to take the kids places to play than to offer them the opportunity to learn by helping us? Some of my favorite memories of childhood include helping Mom paint the walls, or Dad with the car repairs. I learned to install a window, tune up a car, and recover chairs. In fact, we poured concrete using an old cement mixer, and troweled it by hand.

Work? Absolutely. But what an incredible education!

Value in Life Skills

The hours spent cleaning the home and maintaining it do more than saving on the family budget. Our children learn important skills. They also learn an appreciation for what they have and what they can do.

Homeschool children rarely lack for something to do. Learning life skills helps ensure they are never bored!

In addition, these skills enable our youth to be of service to others in their neighborhood. When an elderly person finds housecleaning too challenging, teens and even younger children can take an hour or two a week to assist. New moms also appreciate help. What an incredible way to bless those in need!

Just the Beginning

Life skills education goes well beyond making the bed and washing dishes, though it should include those, too. Enjoy daily life with your children as they learn to maintain their future homes and serve their family and neighbors. Who knows? They may choose one of the life skills as a future career path!

The Service Oriented Homeschool

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This time of year it seems there are so many service opportunities from soup kitchens to Operation Christmas Child to nursing home visits. However, God has been prodding me, raising my desire to raise my boys with servant’s hearts. He is teaching me that service projects are only a drop in the bucket, and I’m so excited about what I’m learning.

You see, having a servant’s heart isn’t just about a weekly visit to a shut-in or a yearly gathering of canned goods for the hungry. It’s about a way of life. That’s part of why I love homeschool. All of these important lessons that you can’t learn from a book, or in some cases even the best pre-planning are far more accessible in a lifestyle that revolves around learning. Let me share what Jesus is teaching me about making our homeschool service focused.

Like most things in life, a servant’s heart is caught and not taught. I can tell my boys about serving others, but it’s seeing things in action – the examples I set, that encourage this spirit of truly caring for others. Even the simple act of writing a sympathy letter (yes snail mail) shows my kids that the tears of others matter.

A servant’s heart springs from a willing spirit. I am going to regularly start praying with my oldest (Samuel, 3 years old) asking God to open doors for us to serve. Then we will look and listen. I think I will make it into a game. Let’s see if God can work through us to help at least one person from Sabbath to Sabbath. Our ears will be open as we listen for opportunities to act and not just hear the needs around us.

Living a life of service requires sacrifice. The sacrifice may be money, time, or something all together different. Sacrifices are never easy, but I’m sure as we start to make little sacrifices, it will quickly be apparent that the payoff is far more than could be expected.

As God has been teaching me these things, I’ve gotten increasingly excited about homeschooling the boys. The flexibility of a homeschool is the perfect place to teach service. We can forego school work for someone in need. We can turn an impromptu service project (like growing flowers, cooking a meal, shopping for clothes, etc) into an educational experience. The most exciting thing is that this kind of school is the kind that will really make Jesus smile.

How about you? How does homeschooling help you foster servant’s hearts in your children? How can you make your homeschool one that cares for the needs of God’s children?

 

*This is an encore blog post. It was originally written and posted to our blog by Laura Byrd in December, 2013.

International Service — A Personal Outlook

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My girls and I at Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) in Malawi

From the age of nine through my senior year in high school, I had the opportunity to go on six short-term mission trips. In my junior year of college, I studied abroad for a few months. After college I lived in Malawi for a year and a half as a Peace Corps volunteer. I am here to share with you my experiences.

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A Sabbath afternoon hike to a cave in Honduras

I always had a burning desire to travel. I thought it was a glorious thing! Travel is still wonderful, but I’ve learned the value of the closeness of family and friends, and that I don’t need to go far, far away to be “valuable” or “successful.” I’ve proven my independence and have learned a great deal about myself in the process.

An article by Tarja Parssinen, entitled “We’re not meant to do this alone: American individualism is destroying our families,” had a quote to which I related: “It’s as if Americans must always be Lewis and Clark on a brave embarkation, and if we’re not, we are provincial, frightened, and uneducated. Unlike our ancestors, young people today are not concerned with America’s place in the world. Instead, we ask ourselves, ‘What is my place in the world?’”

I definitely started out being a stereotypical American individualist, but now value and respect the collectivist culture of other countries. Probably I still have individualist qualities, but I think I have achieved a balance, and that is always the preferred state with most things.

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Buying greens at the local market in Malawi

If you ask, “Should I send my kid on an overseas mission trip?” I would 99 percent of the time say “Yes!” But, it may not be for the reasons you would expect. Yes, it is for an honorable cause, to help the less fortunate, but that isn’t the only reason, nor is it the most significant thing that will happen. There is no way that a person can go into this type of service without coming out changed. The opportunity to see a new way of life, have a new cultural experience, make lots of new friends, and learn to love the unpredictable…is priceless.

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There were so many incredible experiences and learning experiences:

  • Not ever being sure of how things would work out, but they always would
  • Having faith in my fellow man while hitchhiking in Africa
  • Driving, seemingly aimlessly, around the savannas of Guyana in the middle of the night
  • Sleeping on a very narrow wooden church pew on a hot night with mosquitoes buzzing around
  • Washing girls’ hair with a water hose, treating for lice, and giving them pretty new hair clips and combs
  • Being put under house arrest while under the investigation of Hugo Chavez’s government
  • Backpacking, just able to put one foot in front of the other

Things didn’t always go according to plan, but those were some of the most memorable experiences.

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Hiking Mt. Roraima on the Venezuela side

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I made it to the top!

Sometimes I look back and wonder what it was that I accomplished? Well the truth is this — maybe not much. But, that’s okay. Sometimes we have to lower our expectations. That’s not something you typically tell your children. Usually parents say, “You can be whatever you want, you can reach the stars,” which is an awesome, positive message and should be encouraged. The thing is…you can’t expect to always achieve whatever it is you set out to do. It may be that you started out with unrealistic expectations, not through any fault of your own, just that you didn’t have the whole picture. It could be cultural differences, not taking into account the other “human” factors in the equation, or that God had a different plan. I may never be able to measure my impact on others, but I know that my life was changed, in a big way, by the gracious people who befriended me.

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Waiting for a ride to my village in Malawi

I look back on all the mistakes I’ve made, and one specific incident sticks out in my mind. I was a speaker for an evangelistic series in the Ukraine when I was 16. I was so nervous at one point that I skipped an entire page of slides of essential information on the topic “Who is the Beast?” I can only pray that God blessed this talk in His own way. Maybe it did have an impact on someone, but I won’t find out until heaven, and it will certainly not be to any “glory” of my own.

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Teaching a health lesson in Malawi

Some trips were very adrenaline filling, especially the short term trips where we rushed in to “save the world.” At one point on a trip, we had kids lining up for our autographs! And, we obliged. Looking back on that, was that really the message we were there to send? Probably not. But, it’s easy to get caught up in the glory of being a “famous American.” And yet, the job isn’t always glorious. On one trip I remember being stuck on the clean-up crew after meals instead of being at the job site. In naivete I complained that I should be able to help with the “real work.”

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Hanging out and eating sugar cane in Malawi

Additionally, there was often a layer of hidden danger that, as a naive traveler, I was unaware of. There were forces at work to stop the job we were there to do. In a way this goes to show that God was using us to do His good work.

  • Priests from other churches working to shut us down
  • Being accused of spying for the U.S. Government
  • Kids chasing us with rocks because they wanted more candy (because they were hungry, and the only way to cut that hunger was by sniffing airplane glue)

There was even more danger to workers who lived in the countries we visited. Soon after a trip to the Ukraine, we found out that the pastor we had worked with was shot and killed by one of the teenage boys we had come in contact while there. The struggles are real: drugs, spiritual war, poverty, poor hygiene, lack of water, and on and on. We take many things for granted in everyday life. Once in a while a reality check can be very grounding.

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A village girl in Venezuela

Preparing for experiences like these are impossible. Even if I knew then what I know now, I doubt it would have changed any of my decisions. That is a blessing. I value all the friends I made, all of the “unknowns,” the tough adventures.

My message to you is this: Find a purpose in whatever it is you are tasked to do, and relish the experience.

Nature-based Service

One thing we are working on as a family is having a servant’s spirit. Service projects are a good way to keep that thought in the forefront of our minds. I really wanted to stick with our outdoor nature theme even in the service opportunities. These are a few things we have done or plan to do in the future.

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Visit an animal shelter to pet cats or walk dogs: Don’t you just feel so sorry for the poor little animals that don’t have homes? My heart aches thinking about the homeless creatures biding their time at shelters. Not long ago, we went to Safe Place for Animals in Gallatin, TN. My kids were too young to walk dogs, but we were able to give some love to the many cats who craved attention. We pet, cuddled, scratched, and played with them for quite a long time and still couldn’t satisfy their need for affection. We had cats jumping on us, climbing us, and following us around from room to room. It was a great adventure and simple outreach that was therapeutic for us too! In my opinion, there’s nothing better than running your hands through soft and fluffy fur. Purring never hurts either.

Set up habitats for the wild things: Put out a salt lick. Create shelters. Feed the birds. Even leaving shrubs and grasses untrimmed for the winter can provide shelter for God’s creatures in the cold winter months. There are many do-it-yourself recipes for feeding birds and other animals to be found on Pinterest. Also, we got a great little book from the library that had some simple but excellent ideas of things to do for animals in the winter (click).

Gardening… with the purpose of sharing in mind: What if we grew a sharing garden, planting an abundance to be shared with neighbors or whomever God leads us to? Or better yet, invite friends who don’t have space for a garden to come help and learn to grow food, giving them some of what they’ve grown as a reward. Either way, it’s sure to be a blessing.

Animal therapy: Another opportunity to bring sunshine to someone’s life is through the power of pets. There is training and certification necessary to be able to take your pet to visit someone, but what a fun project and accomplishment that would be for a homeschooler. For more information about requirements to become a therapy animal handler, check out Pet Partners (click).

Pick up litter: This can be at a park or just along your street. Though not glamorous, this is one that can be easily done with all ages. It’s simple, doable, and we have even found a few treasures along the way.

Volunteer in nature: For older kids, nature-based places to volunteer could be a zoo, nature center, a ranch or stables, a farm, or a place that provides equine assisted therapy. Paradise Ranch is one such place that provides therapeutic riding for people with disabilities, and accepts volunteers ages nine and up (no experience necessary) for various jobs. Check out more about Paradise Ranch here (click).

Lead a nature walk: My daughter came up with the idea to give woods tours at our home. While we still haven’t worked out all the logistics, I think it’s a great idea! Wouldn’t it be fun to invite families who don’t have the opportunity to live in the country or get out in nature often to come on a woodland exploration, and to share fun facts about what they see? Having this goal in mind has also encouraged research, observation, and working on presentation skills in my own children. Win-win.

Give a virtual nature walk: If people can’t come to you, why not bring nature to them via video chat? This could be an amazing opportunity to reach out to someone who is in the hospital, in a skilled nursing facility, or homebound, so can’t get out in nature to enjoy it’s benefits. What joy can be brought simply by sharing the nature God has given us — even over the internet. For inspiration, check out Virtual Photo Walks, a unique nonprofit.

While nature itself is inherently giving, we can do our part of showing love for our Creator by being of service to others through nature. I’m sure there are many more ideas I haven’t thought of and would love to hear from you. What are some nature-based service projects you have tried?