Another Mile to Share

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, or at least my posts, I’ve shared the journey that I’m on with my oldest, Ethan. He’s my prodigal son. I am the father left waiting to carry on with business. Each day, I watch the road.

It’s time for another update. In sharing my story, I hope to give hope! I hope to encourage! When we read these amazing stories of families who raise strong men and women of God, who finish their schooling with kudos and prizes and scholarships, it can be sad and disheartening to those of us with children who’ve gone a different direction.

We celebrate with you, moms and dads of those kids! But, our hearts hurt.

When last I wrote my blog post, The Prodigal, Ethan had left home, telling us that he didn’t want to live like he’d been raised. He loved us, but wasn’t interested in anything having to do with God or religion.

In fact, one conversation he and I had several months after he moved out had me questioning whether he had a mental illness. He was reading a book by a guy named David Icke (don’t even Google it — it’s awful) and according to him it was his new “bible” that he carried around everywhere. He demonstrated this by showing it to me.

David Icke proposes, among other things, that the government is run by an oligarchy comprised of inter-dimensional lizard people who brought the moon with them when they took over the world.

No, I am not kidding.

Yes, my heart was breaking as I listened to this intelligent, thoughtful young man speak so passionately about these new beliefs of his.

At this moment in time, I pause to allow one of three reactions:

  1. Ho hum…my children are babies and will never ever do anything like this. I’ll do my best to do things mostly right and we’ll live happily ever after. OR, a subset of this group is, “My teens are busy and involved in church and set to graduate at 16 years old with honors.”
  2. Good grief! I’m so thankful for my kids and the problems I am dealing with, with them! Perhaps I should just take a chill pill and realize that things aren’t as bad as they could be!
  3. WOW! I’m so thankful to know that I’m not alone! I thought it was only my kid that had gone off the rails!

If you’re in one of the groups that have no idea what it is to struggle with a child, at least not yet if your children are young, then you might not have even gotten this far reading! I know I wouldn’t have when Ethan was five and teaching himself to read and wise beyond his years!

My word to you is, “Enjoy it! Be thankful for it! Count your blessings!” And perhaps even, “Remember to pray for those of us who have more challenges!”

If you’re still reading, you probably have a measure of OCD and feel compelled to finish since you’ve gotten this far. Or, it seems like a train wreck and you just can’t look away! Well, stick around! You never know what you might learn!

To those in the second group, my advise to you is, “Take a chill pill!” Okay, I’m mostly kidding. It’s hard to relax when it’s your child and your struggles. You might possibly read to the end. Because there is hope! And, the struggle is real!

My brothers and sisters in the third group, you need to settle right on in, grab a cup of whatever you enjoy drinking hot, and take a deep breath! We are in this together and this is the “keeping-it-real zone!” I’ll share my story, warts and all, and somehow, someone might find hope and blessing from it!

The first time Ethan and I talked, he shared all about this guy Icke’s ideas, and I sat there with a mildly-interested look on my face, a stone in my heart, and a roiling in my stomach. I didn’t challenge, I didn’t argue, I didn’t reason. I simply gave him the gift of listening quietly but engaged. I didn’t ask him any questions because I didn’t want to hear the answers!

What I’d learned about my son is that if I disagreed, he would become more solidly lodged in that opinion. If I questioned or challenged, he would hear disapproval. I was going to give him neither of these things.

And so we talked about this and that as if it were the most normal thing in the world. And, my heart broke and I wanted to weep.

The second major conversation we had, I did the same while his behavior was, again, very odd and left me thinking that perhaps I was dealing with some kind of a mental illness. What a hopeless feeling; even if he were, what could I do? He wasn’t living with us, and should I do anything at all, it would likely put a wedge in our relationship that might be irreparable!

Our interactions, though infrequent, went much like this over the course of the next six months or so. Never once did I disagree with him or challenge him. I simply listened and smiled and nodded and left him with no doubt whatsoever that I loved him more than life. Period.

At a certain moment in time, I can’t pinpoint when, he stopped talking about Icke. He didn’t look up at the stars suspiciously. He stopped insisting that oil wells were not what they seemed. And, he referenced the Bible. He referenced it like, “The Bible says so too…” And though it wasn’t completely accurate, I thought it interesting that he brought it up at all.

While relaying my story and my struggles, I’ve always tried to propose that there is a different way to approach things than makes logical sense. In dealing with soon-to-be-adult children, it makes sense that we resist behavior that we feel is wrong. It makes sense to argue with someone who seems to be making poor decisions or entertaining beliefs that are not in line with what we’ve taught.

What I’d like to put out there for consideration is that we drive our children away with our rightness, our arguments, even perhaps our subtle emotional blackmail or manipulation. I’m not talking blatant blackmail or manipulation. Many times it is much more subtle and harder to see, especially when our intentions, our motives, are only for their best!

What I can tell you is that he’s no longer talking about lizard people. He’s starting to comment about how events seem to be pointing to all the things found in Revelation. He’s beginning to talk about praying. In fact, he alluded to the fact that the new job he had is making him work on Sabbath when he preferred to work on Friday and Sunday. He’s still working on Sabbath, but being aware of it? That gives me hope, right there!

Just last month he texted me this picture, excited about his thrift shop find. I about fell over! Of course, responding to him I played it cool, “That is cool! Great condition!”

I can’t tell you how this story ends. He’s still living with his girlfriend and making dubious choices; I don’t point them out. He still believes that the earth is flat. Sighs.

But, we’re a mile further on and I thought I’d share.

Thanksgiving Reflection

What are you grateful for this year? What are you reflecting on as you quickly entertain your kids while you fret over a Thanksgiving meal? What, besides the endless list in your mind, are you working so hard for? For whom are you working so hard…to thank? That’s on my mind this morning. That’s what I’m trying to narrow down, because I have so much to be thankful for.

Last year we were so focused on bringing our second, H, into the world, that Thanksgiving was simply a hi-and-bye holiday. Reflection wasn’t even an option at the time of rushing through our days. But this year, it’s full of reflection, reflection of where we started as a family. The one person it circles back to is my husband. He’s the one I’m thankful for this year, or every year actually, and every day of the year, down to every second of the year. The Lord has blessed us — from the start of our dating days, to marriage, to knowing when the perfect time for us to start a family would be; from enduring miscarriages, to finally getting our Ollie, and repeating the events to get our H, to surprising us with our number three.

The journey has been amazing no matter the event. We sometimes overlook how things go, how long it takes, how difficult a path is, how frustrating, and mind-numbing the challenge can be. But, once we hit the end results, we don’t consider how we arrived at the end. I’ve spent so much time lately focused on “what’s next,” that I forget to look back sometimes and be grateful at how far we’ve come as a family. Until this week. I’ve happily set time aside each day to see our past journeys and see how grandly the Lord has blessed us through each and every one of these journeys, how simply you can see Him playing a part through all of it, how He’s used each and every one of our event as a way to strengthen us as partners, and how us becoming stronger set us up for being the parents we are today and the parents we always will aim to be.

And again, I reflect upon how amazingly lucky and blessed I am for my one and only husband. Without his support I wouldn’t be the person I am today. He’s made me stronger and wiser. Without him I’d never know the unconditional love and security I have in him when things get tough, or have the opportunity to relish my daily joys — from simple events to grand homeschooling home runs.

Every day I’m grateful for my husband; every day I pray to God to bless him and our home. Every day I thank God for him, because without the husband, our home would be quite bare, our boys wouldn’t have a wonderful role model, and without his hard work we definitely wouldn’t be homeschooling. Being able to homeschool because of the hubby’s hard work is what stands out the most these days. Yes, it’d be nice at times to drop H off at a daycare, send Ollie off on a school bus, and get all my errands, chores, and cooking done before they are due back, but those “yearnings” only last for a split second…and then they’re gone because I see the wheels turning in Ollie’s mind connecting the dots, I see H discovering something new and looking at me with excitement. I treasure these moments because I know they’ll be gone soon.

Then, the hubby comes home, and before launching into his day and after giving kisses and hugs all around, he turns to me and asks how my day was. Did the boys and I have a good day? How is H doing, anything new? How am I feeling? Am I overwhelmed? Where can he help? What can he do around the home to help to make my burdens easier? The list goes on and on, and he never complains when I add to his work hours when he comes home. He just keeps going, even when he’s exhausted and the boys hang on him like little monkeys. He never complains as he puts both boys to sleep, knowing soon he’ll be adding a third to the bedtime routine. He never complains when I toss in the towel after a hard day and simply don’t want to lift a finger. He jumps in and takes over, and I’m beyond relieved to have such a helpful partner.

I never take for granted my other half, and I thank him almost daily for his help and support, just as often as he thanks me. Be grateful for your supporters of homeschooling. Homeschooling isn’t an easy avenue. Every day is met with challenges, new or old, but it’s also met with amazing results, knowing our kids are in the best possible situation. From having a gifted child to one who’s struggling in school, we all have our reasons for this journey and we all know it’s the right path for our kids — not the easiest at times, but the right one. I know not everyone may see your choice as the “right one,” but thank the Lord for the ones who support your journey, who cheer you on; thank the Lord, and thank them also. We always need the cheers, comforts, and understanding; otherwise, we probably would toss the idea of homeschooling aside and give up on the path. I sure wouldn’t be on this path without my husband’s support and encouragement. We need the support from each other, from friends and loved ones. But, most importantly, we need it from God Himself. Without feeling God in my heart when we homeschool, I wouldn’t be so certain that is the right path for us. But, I see Him and feel Him in everything we do, and now He plays a hand in us being able to do it.

Reflect on your time homeschooling, reflect on your journey, be thankful for how far you’ve come, don’t think of how far you still need to go, just think of where you are today and bask in it. Victories and failures have taught not only you and your kids so much, but they’ve helped you bond and become closer as a family. Thank your spouse, your best friend, your parents, whomever it is in your life that knows you’re doing an amazing job. Be thankful for them and their support.

Be also thankful for you, yourself! You are doing amazing things, you are working harder then anyone sees, you are doing something to better the lives of your children. You’re giving them a life, childhood, and education all in one swing, and you’re doing a fantastic job at it! Reflect on your journeys. You’ll certainly see your blessings.

Give Thanks

Rainbow rays, yellow maple leaf

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — in my opinion at least. Autumn is here and with it comes the harvest fully gathered in, trees vibrant with color, cooler weather, and times of thanksgiving. For many of us this is Thanksgiving week. How are we fairing? Are we getting a bit stressed yet? With all the preparation for our family feasts, church outreach activities, and of course homeschooling our kids, this time of year can get to be a little overwhelming. On the other hand, though, perhaps we’ve learned lessons from the past and have grown wiser, such as doubling art projects for decorations, having the children help with cooking and cleaning as home economics, or deciding that keeping things simple is indeed best. Whatever your household is going through this week, I pray that you are blessed with heavenly peace and that you, above all, remember to give thanks.

Speaking of such reminds me of my favorite Scripture verse about thanksgiving. “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you,” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV. This is not the first verse that comes to mind, I suppose, for others when they think of thanksgiving. Nevertheless, for myself, I believe it conveys the epitome of thanksgiving. A full study of Scripture shows that the truest biblical definition of thanksgiving is always attached with a sense of worship. (Please forgive me for not displaying all the Scriptural references and Hebrew and Greek meanings of the word “thanksgiving” to back up my stated conclusion. I figured you’ve got more important things to do with your time today. However, it is a fascinating study, and I highly recommend it when you have the time.)

“In everything give thanks.” Yes, we give praise and adoration to our Heavenly Father for all the blessings He has bestowed, but do we thank Him for our hardships as well? Why should we give thanks for everything — which indeed could entail a range of things, good to bad? This is the answer given: “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Whatever our circumstances, we can know that it is our Heavenly Father’s will through the infinite love of our Savior personally for us. What a promise; what comfort! When we fully understand and accept that, then we can truly worship Him in the fullest depth of thanksgiving.

I challenge you, dear ones, that at this time of thanksgiving to remember to give God thanks for all things, knowing that He loves you with an everlasting love. It is traditional by some to compile a “thanksgiving list” of things they are grateful for over the past year. If this is something your family or self does, I pray that in thoughtful consideration you include some of your trials or difficulties you’ve encountered. Perhaps, you may be impressed by the Spirit of some conclusion or personal growth regarding the matter that will be beneficial to you in your walk along this life’s journey. And, in doing so, then give thanks of heartfelt worship to our God for all His wondrous love and care.

Blessings upon you all I pray and that “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,” 1 Thessalonians 5:28 KJV.

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.

The Road Less Traveled

Every day we trudge on, fighting fights we weren’t meant to fight. We get to an age where our crises have momentum. Our kids struggle and the things we thought were hard when they were young seem trivial. Our marriages have become a boulder racing downhill with destruction ahead.

Then we have another fight in a different arena, then another. Things pile on. The new day-to-day things may not be BIG issues, or fights, but when we’re barely hanging on emotionally, anything is a big deal!

Every day, we stand at a crossroads between two distinct paths, two possible reactions. Most people live life having no clue that there’s another option…a road less traveled, as it were.

The options are this: continue fighting, becoming wearier and wearier. This path you are 100 percent responsible for the outcome. If there’s a shift and it improves, then YAY ME! You get the glory! But, if things don’t improve, then you carry the burden of guilt and fear.

Fear has you parent — or deal with any situation — from a foundation that’s crumbling. It makes your chest tight. It makes you angry. It makes you attached to the outcome. It has you scream, say things with venom and sarcasm, or say nothing in a stony silence that speaks hate.

Guilt is even worse. It’s like a running charge at a store that is ignored for years. It may seem like the balance will never come due, but it will. And, there’s no escape. Except there will be escape…from the fight. But, that escape will be into death or dementia.

The other option is just so wildly improbable that it will seem like no option at all. It will feel like a cop out — like letting those you’ve been fighting with “get their way.” It will go against everything we’ve been trained, indoctrinated, to believe and do. And, so few do it that there are few to testify.

This other option is to stand back and say, “Okay, God. I am done. It’s now all YOU.” What comes next will probably — if we’re really, really honest — sound something like this, “I don’t trust You. I think everything will go south fast. Let’s see what YOU can do…which is nothing…because I’ve never seen any kind of proof of the ‘power’ that You supposedly have.”

I’m just keeping it real. This is stuff we often don’t even admit to ourselves!

Our deepest, darkest secret is that most of us don’t trust God. We give reeeeeeeeally good lip service, if anything. But, it’s just that. How many of us have proof that God really still does what He did in the Bible?

I believe from the very most honest parts of my heart that it’s because we are really good managers of our homes, our lives. Our emotions. We rarely need God in a miraculous way! And, in the very first moment that we do need Him (typically in our early adult years), we have no example, no modeling, no reason to trust! And so, we begin our life of fighting fights.

By the time we get to the really big fights — the fights for our marriages, the fights for our kids’ hearts, the fights for our relationship with God — we have a life of proof that God doesn’t work miracles, that it’s only by our own striving that anything gets done.

But, I’m here to testify that there IS another way. This way is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, going in. I didn’t take this road because I wanted to!

I think of this analogy. Our life, fighting alone, is like standing on a cliff made of dirt. Sometimes in our lives, the dirt feels pretty stable under our feet. Other times, it’s like that cliff crumbling! We struggle to keep our feet, remain standing. Other days, we just lay there gasping for breath as we grapple to hold onto the ground as it falls away under our fingers, past the ability to even fight it!

In 2010, the cliff under my feet was just gone. Gone. Nothing left.

The crisis in 2010 brought me face to face with this second choice — the wildly improbable path at the crossroad is one of swallowing pride…one of just taking a deep breath and stopping the fight. This literally means stopping. The. Fight. All the fights.

We read about the Bible stories that are miraculous. Peter walking on water. The fish and loaves. Healings. It all seems so far removed from the REAL issues we deal with! Those are nice for sermons and Sabbaths and all! But, they’re not applicable to the day-to-day problems I deal with!!

In 2010 it became very clear to me that there was nothing left to fight, nothing left to fear, since my very worst fear had come true: I had lost my family. Lost my kids. Holidays would never again hold the same joy.

And so, it came to be that one dark early-summer night, I took my first step on the second path, the second option. I had no idea how it would all turn out, but I decided that I had no other reasonable choice. Had I even had a half-viable other option, I would have opted for that.

What it looked like was that I stood all alone on my back porch with my hands lifted high and I gave up. I gave it all up! I gave up my fight. I gave up my striving. I gave everything…but E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G…up. Including my children.

You see, I had this superstition, a superstition that was deep seated and based on experience. If I gave God permission to do something, He’d do it. No kidding. A decade before, I’d told him in a conversational prayer that was almost more of a mindless thought, “Whatever it takes to bring Whitney [my husband] closer to you, I give you permission to do.”

Less than two weeks later, Whitney lost his job.

He was unemployed for almost two years.

Our marriage almost didn’t survive those two years.

Coincidence? Perhaps! But, until that night on my deck, I wasn’t willing to run the risk!

And so, when I say I gave up my kids, I mean I gave up my children like Abraham gave up Isaac. I stood on that back porch and I said to God, “Okay, God! I give it all to You! Whatever I have, I give up! I give you my kids! If you have to take them [and I meant “if they have to die”], I give you permission! I give you everything, including me!”

That was the day my superstition died.

I discovered that my children, me, my family, were safe in my Father’s hands. Safe from physical harm. Safe from all the harms I might imagine.

I realized that after years of contending for my husband in his relationship with God, contending for my children on multiple levels, I had been in effect saying to the Creator God who speaks galaxies and universes into existence, “…[glances upward, holding up an index finger]…hold on a minute. I got this…”

And, all it had gotten me was broken relationships. It had gotten me guilt and fear. And in 2010, it got me the failure of my marriage.

In the giving it all up, God restored me. He gave me some good ol’ fashioned miracles!! Like…of biblical proportions!

He choreographed, in the most minute detail, the restoration of my marriage. Unimagineable, impossible, unbelievable, mind-blowing miracles!

No, my husband has not turned into a strong and mighty man of God. He still struggles with the whole concept of God, given the physical, emotional, and religious abuse he was dealt as a child. That would be my husband’s miracle, in any case. And, I’m no longer in the habit of sticking my nose in my husband’s relationship with God.

But, my husband no longer has a wife who tsk-tsks over him, trying to emotionally manipulate him, bully him (regardless of how subtlety…or not), or guilt him into “doing” religion the right way. He has a wife who respects the path that God has him on. Some days he has no clue what to do with that, and the past is a spectre he has to fight. I let him do that too.

In response to my flat-out giving up, God has piled miracle after miracle on my head and in my heart; I’m not the same woman. The biggest miracle has been me. How I see my husband, my kids. How I see their struggles. How I respond to their struggles, their failures, their missteps. It’s so humbling to watch. I am so profoundly thankful.

How about you? Many of you stand at that same crossroad. While you may not avail yourself of it yet…it took me until my mid-40s to come to it…just know. There’s another option.