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.

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.

Remembering

In Canada, November 11 is the day we celebrate Remembrance Day. It’s the day we honour our war veterans and those still fighting in wars. It’s a solemn day of reflection.

Their great-great-grandfathers memorial – Remembrance Day 2016

It’s important to take note of past events, of historical memories, of horrible atrocities and terrible actions. It is only in remembering the devastation they caused that we will find healing and pursue a different path. We need to view current events with an eye to historical events in order to make better choices for our future. We, as homeschoolers, must not ignore the difficult portions of history, the ones that make our country look bad, or the ones that make our hearts cringe. We must face these difficult topics head on, explore them fully with our children, and help them to critically think through the cause and effect of history and current events.

We make a big deal out of Remembrance Day in our home. My great-grandfather is buried near Flanders Field, and my grandfather fought in WWII. I firmly believe that by teaching my sons the history of war, they can learn to critically think through current political issues. I believe that by teaching our children even our most horrible history, we are taking a step towards preventing it from being repeated.

But, the  most horrible history is not always war. It is not always political. Sometimes, it is personal. The war between good and evil is just as real and needs to be told just as much as political history. We must speak of the hard topics.

Along with remembering those who have served and died in war on Remembrance Day, my family also remembers those who have lost the fight against evil. Remembrance Day falls between the birthdays of my siblings, both of whom are deceased. My brother died by suicide. My children know this family history. We discuss it regularly for a couple reasons: 1) so they can know a bit of who their aunt and uncle were; and 2) because they need to know suicide is not an option, that there are better choices.

Speaking of suicide has not opened the door to the option for my boys. Rather, it has opened the door to the conversation. With an ongoing discussion about the hard topics, I hope they can critically think through depressive periods in their lives and make a different choice than my brother did. I know they will experience depressive periods. Varying levels of depression can and do attack every person; no one escapes. We must open the door to these tough topics before they are relevant for our children.

Before another political leader tries to take over the world like Hitler during the time my grandfather fought in WWII, we must recognize the warning signs and say “no.” We must not allow it to happen again.

Before we lose more children to suicide, we must open the conversation, recognize the warning signs, and say “no, this is not an option.” We must not allow it to happen again.

Please open the conversation with your children. It’s tough, but it’s important.

Asking For Help — and Knowing Whom to Ask

cabin-209171_1920

In a month it will mark one year we’ve been in our cabin in the woods. This place we affectionately call Hickory Homestead most days — and some days call other, less affectionate things — is a job! We, right along with our boys, are learning things daily: cutting firewood, maintaining a chimney system, clipping chicken wings, planting a garden (and watching it die), and more. What type of tree is best for firewood? What will keep us warm this winter? How do we tell if our goat is pregnant, and what do we do if she is?

When it comes to life on the farm, I am not shy about asking for help. I ask my neighbors and friends, my dad and mom, even the local feed store employee. This is something we know nothing about, and the boys get to see that Mom and Dad don’t have it all together, almost daily, or at least weekly.

I ask for help when it comes to homesteading, so why don’t I know when to ask help for homeschooling? People ask me for help with homeschooling. This baffles me, because some days I stand in my kitchen and cry, and mentally calculate how far my son would be held back if he went into public school today. I just don’t ask for help.

This week I did.

Praying for Rescue

When attempting to educate our own kids, it’s important to remember Who gave us this ability and this job. God did. He entrusted some rough-and-tumble boys to me, who have different learning styles, attention spans, and needs. God didn’t only create them, but He created me, and He knew what He was doing when He did. He created me with abilities that far exceed my earthly expectations. The worldly view of family dynamics, gender roles, education, and more often cloud our view of God’s creation — us. God gave you and me everything we need to get this job done, and done RIGHT. He hopes we’ll lean on Him, and when we struggle He also puts people into our lives that we can lean on for help.

Go Ahead and Send that Desperate Text

My moment was the first Monday of the month. We were starting day three of the same sight words, because my seven-year-old just couldn’t get them, and I was ready to haul him to the local elementary school. Instead of taking strides backward with my family, and setting him back (not just physically and grade-wise, but also emotionally by putting him in a room full of five-year-olds), I desperately typed out a text to a friend and hit send before I could delete. I sent the text to a friend who had spent two good years listening to me lament and worry over teaching reading. It was a stressor for me.

We’ve talked about this many, many times. She remembered.

She immediately asked when we could talk, and we got together on the phone before the end of the day.

Talking to her didn’t fix my problems with my lack of routine, or my not-reading-seven-year-old. But, it did help me formulate a plan. It lifted some of the burden off my heart, and it allowed her experience to help me. I asked for help. That made the difference.

I met Desi (my friend) while my husband served as youth mentor to a church in Wyoming for almost two years. I can think of several people who were touched by our being there, but more than that, I met Desi while I was there. That short experience in Wyoming put me in touch with someone who could help me on one very bad day of homeschooling. God planned this for me.

Do you believe He plans things for you? When we don’t plan, He does.

My favorite prayer, which I believe the Holy Spirit gave me recently, is something like this:

“Don’t let me be selfish. I don’t know the plans you have for all the people and things involved in this issue. Your plans supersede my wants. Help my plans to become Yours. Help the outcome to be Yours.”

When I make homeschooling plans for my homesteading bunch of boys, I have to remember that the outcome belongs to Jesus. My plans are secondary to His outcome. Without tirelessly praying, studying His Word, and surrounding myself with like-minded mamas, I might lose sight of this fact.

Yes! You Can!

Pray

Musings of a Retired Homeschool Mom

Over the 25 years our family homeschooled, the main comments that I heard over and over were these:

      1. Is that legal?
      2. I could NEVER do that!
      3. What about socialization?

While the question of the legality of homeschooling seemed to be asked less and less over the years — until I eventually never heard it at all — I continue to hear numbers 2 and 3 to this day.

My response to “I could NEVER do that!” was usually just smiling, nodding my head and changing the subject as soon as possible. If I let the conversation go on long enough, it would almost always go in one of two different directions. One would end up with me getting the distinct feeling that they perceived that we were “too good” for the local public school system, and they were offended. The second scenario was they felt guilty for not doing what they knew might be best for their children, and would begin listing all of the excuses for not being able to homeschool.

Occasionally, as a homeschool support group leader, I would counsel and advise mothers who were contemplating homeschooling, or who were struggling with trying to make it work for their family. My response to them was always, “If God has called you to homeschool your children, He will empower you to accomplish it.” So, how did I know that God called us to homeschool? I’m not really sure, but I’ve never once doubted that it was what God called us to do, although I more than once doubted my own abilities, and came up short at times.

Looking back at the times I felt most overwhelmed with homeschooling, it always seemed that during those times I had too many other things going on. Maybe it was too many responsibilities at church, trying to earn extra money with a work-at-home job or part-time job, taking care of extended family’s needs (elderly parents, an alcoholic brother, etc.) There were several times over the years that I had to step back, pause for a moment, start eliminating the unnecessary things in my life, and spend more time praying for strength and wisdom.

One thing that helped me a lot when my children were all at home is that I taught them from a very young age to be helpers around the house. The housework load was divided among all of us instead of all on my shoulders.

Another thing that can be overwhelming is to be trying to homeschool using curriculum or a method that doesn’t fit your family’s style or needs. Perhaps you are trying to be too structured and need to relax a bit, or maybe you are too relaxed and need a little more structure to function well. I know when I first began homeschooling, it took me two or three years to really find a homeschooling style and materials that felt comfortable and worked well for us.

And, last but not least, pray, pray, pray and depend on God for strength and guidance. Those first couple of years I did a lot of crying and praying at night before I went to bed. I sometimes wondered if I really could do this; and, without Him I couldn’t have. When the going gets tough, and you just don’t think you can continue on in your homeschooling journey, remember that with God’s help, “Yes, you can!”

Next time I’ll muse a little about number 3… The “S” Word.