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.

Family Traditions Create a Family Story

My boys love stories. When one of the boys seem more demanding, more whiny, or is asking me to help them with something I know they can do, I know they are wanting my time and attention. So, we take time out together with a story. We do the same at bedtime. My boys have a hard time slowing down and going to sleep. Once again I turn to taking time to read several stories to help them calm down.

Stories are a way to create a cohesive and positive family experience during the holiday season. Stories are also a way to introduce children to the family spiritual belief system, long before they are ready to make a cognitive commitment of belief. Using stories during the holiday season is a way to meet both goals — create a shared family story, and share the parent’s spiritual beliefs. A family story, including spiritual beliefs, is shared among parents and children through family rituals and traditions. “The existence of and the participation in family rituals also seem to contribute to the individual’s identity within the context of the group. Through these rituals an individual may receive affirmation of his/her group membership, while at the same time being esteemed as a unique and special being,” (Smit, 2011). The desired outcome is that, through the experience of these rituals and traditions, each person in the family will experience a sense of belonging, of how precious they are, and will begin to incorporate these rituals and traditions into their life story as well.

During the holiday season we are with my extended family, and we will take the time to have a family game night. This is a way to include grandparents, cousins, and aunts and uncles in our family story too.

Allowing time during the holiday season for each person to share what traditions they enjoy, and then incorporating them into the family plan, includes each person in the family narrative. To revisit and participate in the traditions each year provides the potential for each family member to continue to experience a sense of belonging. Taking time, like on a holiday such as Thanksgiving, for each person to share their experiences, their story, of what it is like to live in their family, also allows the parents to hear what experiences of being in a family the children remember. This is particularly powerful as it helps address issues regarding belonging and exclusion in the family, and gives the opportunity for parents to make changes in order to increase a sense of belonging in a family.

However, the more frequently the traditions occur, the more likely a child is to remember them and include them in the narrative of their family experience. Finding ways to include daily, or weekly, or monthly traditions is a way to increase family cohesion, even if children are argumentative or don’t want to cooperate. Simple ways to emphasis rituals include the following:

  1. Have specific rituals upon arrival and departure of family members. When families greet each other and bid farewell to each other consistently, with affection and love, in spite of the presence of negative emotions, an increased feeling of belonging is created.  
  2. A family experiencing change or trauma can ensure children feel safe and a part of the family by following an expected daily ritual, such as a bedtime routine that includes time with Mom and Dad before bed.
  3. Traditions and rituals, such as Friday night worship, to welcome the Sabbath and to talk about their week, can be helpful to each family member as they try to find meaning in their shared experience.
  4. Having a weekly event such as the Sabbath — including time together, food, and maybe even other friends and family — is a respite from the mundane, and creates “sparkling moments” that create a shared history among family members that is easier for each person to remember.

Shared rituals help to provide an anchor for the relationship, reminding each family member they belong. “The structured parts of a ritual anchor us to our past, whether that is our personal past or that of our family of origin, community, culture, religion, or humankind,” (Imber-Black, 2009). It’s never too late to start traditions. Even if you have children who are teenagers, you can start new traditions, maybe by asking an adolescent what is important to them. Responding to a child’s idea, by allowing it to change your plans, to include them in your rituals or traditions, is a powerful way to demonstrate a child belongs. By making these changes, parents are providing a safe haven. In fact, through the use of positive and inclusive rituals, the family is able to create a shared narrative and experience transformation, even where chaos or trauma may have occurred.

The simplicity of a shared history allows each person to experience the strengths of the family. As the family experiences a shared narrative, each person has an idea of where they came from, who they are, and what their future may look like.

 

References:

Smit, R. (2011). Maintaining family memories through symbolic action: young adults’ perceptions of family rituals in their families of origin. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, (May), 355-367.

Imber-Black, E. (2009). Rituals and spirituality in family therapy. In F. Walsh (Author), Spiritual resources in family therapy (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press. (Original work published 2009)

White, M., & Epston, D. (1990). Narrative means to therapeutic ends. New York: Norton.

Learning Little by Little Each Day

mom-daughter-hugging

My family enjoys spending time together in many simple and wonderful ways. Through the activities we do, I pray that we connect with each other as our kids learn special things they are enthusiastic about.

As well as their parents, my children also have other teachers we trust to help them learn practical and special skills. For instance, every week, I have the opportunity to be with my eldest daughter and be her parent-partner as she learns the violin. Those times are special for both of us, and it has been that way since day one a couple of years back, because she loves to play the violin and she loves her teacher greatly. Lesson days are fun, though I admit learning the violin is difficult because it is very detailed. Instead of saying how hard it is, we always say it is so much fun! Hence, music still remains one of the very best ways we enjoy spending time together.

On our way to her lesson in the afternoon, we always have the chance to see the idyllic scenery of a countryside. Oh, the joy of driving on zigzag, hilly roads — going up the mountain and down the slopes while the sun is shining above, with cool breezes gently kissing our faces! There is also small-ish acre of land keeping watch over budding evergreen trees that will be ready for the holidays. It cheers us passing through this place. We praise God for His beautiful creations and the peace they bring.

For this short time, we savor completely the moment of solitude as we gaze through the beautiful scenery, and at other times, we also have precious conversations about nearly anything under the sun. Perhaps the best thing between us is that she knows that she can talk to me freely about anything she would like to. I do talk to her and encourage her to not be afraid speak her mind.

These moments are so precious to me. There’s nothing I would like to say and do more than to inspire her to learn. At home, we try to tell, demonstrate, and work side by side with her. And, we always look for ways we can inspire her to be what God needs her to be. I was once talking to her with something about learning. I remember telling her that learning the violin is like learning math with the use of the abacus, which we did earlier in the morning and which she has been learning this year.

I told her, “If you can play the violin, you can do math or anything that you would want to do as long as you put your heart to it. You pray, you claim God’s promise and work on it. See? You have done a lot of math in your music, and you are getting so good at it!” Our learning lifestyle flashed through my mind, and I continued, “And, it is okay to make mistakes when we are trying to learn. We learn little by little, every day. We just have to be patient and pay attention. With daily practice, we can be better every day at things we like to learn — just like how you learn the violin.”

By God’s grace and blessings, Nichole is doing wonderfully with her violin. And then, from the back of the car, my daughter’s gentle and soft voice called to me: “Mommy, I love you.”

Silence. Seconds passed.

“I love you, Mommy! Thank you for all the things you do for me. I love being with you. I love going to my lessons with you. I love that it’s fun. I love that you teach me the best way you can. I thank Jesus for you, Mommy.”

I was struck powerfully by those words she spoke. It’s not the first, but this time is special…different. My little girl that has been with me since birth! We are always together, and, thinking back on all the things that we have gone through, good and bad, my heart felt so full. I was empowered.

“Nichole, sweetie, thank you. I love you, too. I love you. I try to do the best that I can. I always pray to Jesus and ask His help. Mommy is not perfect, but I try my best every day. I keep praying. I love you very much…and remember that I am sorry for the times that I hurt your feelings, because Mommy makes mistakes, too. You know that, right? When we make mistakes, we ask for forgiveness, we say we’re sorry, and we forgive. We will be happier that way. God will help us every day to learn together and have fun along the way. I want us to be happy always, to have joy in our hearts.”

“Yes, Mommy. I understand. I remember your words. But Mommy, I want you to know that I always try to do my best, too. In everything. Even though things are hard to learn at the beginning. But, I try.”

“That is one thing I love about you, Nichole. But, no matter what, whatever it is, I love you just as you are, and that will never change.”

When I am bothered by so many things, I remember this moment. “Mommy, I try to do my best, too.” Surely this gives me wisdom to understand, wait, and teach my children kindly. I know that God taught me a great lesson that day, and also answered my prayers. I praise God for whom all blessings flow. God helps bind our children to our hearts. We are a work in progress; nevertheless, this homeschooling journey is worth every minute of our life.

Enjoy, savor, cherish, and celebrate your life, however domestic and simple or luxurious and adventurous your journey may be as you learn with your children. They are the most precious gifts ever given to us. Rest assured, that day when God asks us how we tended to our flock, we will be ready to present our family worthily. For with God, all things are possible, and with His grace, we will live!

Take the Miserable Out

boy-happy

It’s a cool autumn day. By my estimation it’s a day that ought to be spent tramping through the leaves, perhaps making huge piles and jumping in them, gathering acorns, or enjoying the last rays of heat to be felt outside for months.

However, for right now, we’re all stuck inside mastering times tables, learning to read, studying the skeletons of the English language, or trying to remember which hands of the clock mean what — depending on which child (and therefore grade) we’re referring to.

My mind spins as I struggle to explain to a young mind that c-a-t spells cat — not because I said so, but because those letters make those sounds. My other ear is listening to the older child explaining why she can’t possibly understand her English lesson — and refusing to pronounce predicate, pre-di-cate.

Mission sufficiently accomplished for the time being, we move on to some arithmetic. “Now, remember. When the long hand points to the number 12, it means that it’s something o’clock. The short hand points to the number that you read as the hour.”

“No, 7×4 is not 30. You’re close, try again.”

“No, you read the hour from the short hand, not the long hand.”

“YES! 7×4 is 28. Great job. Now try the next one.”

“Alright let’s try some adding. Grab some toys.” And, I proceed to explain that when you have two trucks and add one more, you now have three trucks— that’s the same as 2+1=3!

That’s my description.

Perhaps you’d like to hear the 6-year-old version:

“We do descriptions that are very fun and I write ‘sis’ now. ‘Cause you made me get out cars, toys. We used them for counting. They made a road ‘s,’ and a road ‘t.’”

“The short hand and the long hand are hours. Wait, o’clock. Wait. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no …. The short hand is the time, and the long hand is the hours.”

“At school I write about my room. I have shelves under my bed — toys on my shelf under my bed — and I have drawing books and pencils and pens. I’ve got a dresser with three shelves.”

“Mommy reads a book to me when I’m done with school, and Sis takes me out to ride my bike. It’s fun, I like it, and it’s sometimes miserable.”

(On second thought, he says …) “That’s horrible! Take the miserable out — it’s fun!”

by Samantha Edeliant
(homeschooled graduate and daughter of blog author Sheila Edeliant)

Homeschool resources: Pathway of the Pioneers

Are you teaching SDA church history to your children? Today I’d like to share another resource to aid in that endeavor:

pathways

These are dramatized stories of the pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, produced by the creative team of Your Story Hour, and are of the same high quality. You’ll follow the pathways of the faithful men and women who devoted their lives to spreading the gospel and establishing the Adventist church.

Beginning with the life of William Miller and concluding with the death of Ellen White, these stories will delight your children by bringing to life all the wonderful and difficult years of the early church history. The series contains more than 100 stories, and will bring about 23 1/2 hours of enjoyment.

Pathways of the Pioneers cds cover

The 22-CD collection may be available from your Adventist Book Center, for $69.95. Also from Remnant Publications, or Amazon.

Pathways of the Pioneers mp3 cover

Also available is a set of two MP3 discs, for $49.95.

Pathways of the Pioneers Scripts cover

Or, perhaps your homeschool group, Pathfinder club, or Sabbath school class would like to use skits for special church programs, Pathfinder programs, or maybe even for camporee. The scripts include optional prompts for music or sound effects. This package comes in a CD-ROM format, and includes written scripts in Microsoft Word, Acrobat PDF, and Plain Text. You can purchase it through the Adventist Book Center, for $19.95.

If you are on a very tight budget (and most homeschooling families are!), you can even listen online, or download to your computer from the Ellen G. White Estate website, as well as several church sites: Stevensville, MI, and University Park Community in Oregon.

These will be great for short car trips for errands and outings, or those long trips to visit the grandparents. Enjoy!

You can read my reviews for the Schoolhouse Review Crew on my blog at Life at Rossmont.