Friday, October 2, 2015

Weeping with those who weep...

There is so much pain around us.  Often we are able to see past it, to see the sunshine, and flowers, and to remember that everything is not always painful.

And then there are weeks like this one....
...with the senseless slaughter of college students,
...and the loss of military lives that hit closer to home than usual,
...and the ongoing slaughter of a beautiful people, and destruction of their homeland, because of ideological and religious disagreements,
...and friends with cancer,
...and children dying at the hands of cruel adults...

The list seems endless, at times.
These days, when the pain is so heavy, we are admonished to share in the pain, and help carry the load.

Soon enough, the sun WILL break through the clouds that are hanging lower than normal, that are spilling rain like the tears we all feel.  We WILL see the sun again.  For now, understand the rain, and help holding the umbrellas for those who are most affected, and are in the deepest of the pain.

"...rejoice with the rejoicing, and weep with the weeping."  Romans 12:15 YLT

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Children and Schools

We have had a variety of schooling experiences over our 21+ years of raising children.

Just to give you a picture of where we are right now, we have:
1 Senior in college
1 Freshman in college
1 Senior in high school
1 Sophomore in high school
1 8th grader
1 6th grader
AND a husband who is a professional student....

We have had children in public schools in 4 states, and have homeschooled in 2 states.  Jason and I never attended public schools...we were both products of private Christian schools.

While our children have been in public schools, we have experienced a LOT. We have seen schools that ranked among some of the best in the nation, AND schools ranked as some of the worst.  We had a child attacked and permanent damage done, for which no one was held accountable.  We had schools on lockdown.  We had some exceptional teachers, and some that were not-so-good.  We had a teacher proposing to meet with a teenaged child in her apartment, alone {she was fired}.  Our children were exposed to other children on drugs, children who were abused, and children who were abandoned.  Our children have also experienced a high quality education, musical and sports opportunities, for which there has been a high level of support on all levels of the schools.

Our children have been able to take languages - Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, German, Italian, and French, as well as Latin.

All of our children have had musical opportunities as fit their giftings - one plays the flute and piccolo, and is learning guitar; one plays all brass, percussion, and saxophone; another plays flute, piccolo, keyboard, and saxophone; one plays French horn/mellophone; and 4 have been in singing groups.

One of those children is going on to study music on a college level, and has thought about going back and teaching music on a middle school and high school level.

I have been thinking recently about the opportunities our children have had, at relatively little cost to us.

Our oldest child was in public school in South Carolina for Kindergarten (when she took Japanese) and for most of her 1st grade year, and then we moved a second time within that year, and started homeschooling.

There was a point in time where homeschooling was the only option I was comfortable with using.  I bought into the thought-process that if *I* did everything right (homeschool, no TV, no R-rated or PG-13 movies, limited vaccines, correctly disciplined, memorized enough Scripture, attend AWANA, attend the right church, etc.), my children would turn out "right".  Yeah, that turns out to have been [at least] misleading, and likely blatantly false.

We eventually put our children back into public schools, first in Montana, and then when we moved to Virginia, and now in Massachusetts.  I was petrified.  I had never had much exposure to how public schools worked, or what was expected of parents.

For the most part, life with children in public schools has been good.  The school system in Virginia Beach offered opportunities that we really benefited academy system within the district, with specialty schools, International Baccalaureate middle and high schools, GREAT band programs, peripheral music programs, exposure to students from a WIDE variety of backgrounds and countries, and a host of really good kids that our kids became good friends with.

So far, our experiences with the schools in Massachusetts have been positive, as well.  The schools are much smaller than those we experienced in Virginia, with a much lower student:teacher ratio, more money for special things like iPads for all of the kids 6th grade and up, and no band fees for involvement in the band and guard programs.  We have also not had to purchase school supplies, which is a VERY welcome break from our experiences in Virginia, Montana, and South Carolina.

Back when we had our first child, and I thought about sending her off to school, the thought was overwhelming, and I couldn't see very far into the future.  Now that child is a college senior, and is putting together funding to take her GRE and apply to grad school.  I don't know what the future holds, for any of my kids, but I know that God is in control of that just as much now as He was way back when I thought *I* was the one determining how well they turned out in the end, and I am very grateful for that!!  I am also grateful that our country provides for the education of its citizens, and for the variety available within the public school system.

Friday, September 18, 2015

No-Man's Land

It's lonely out here.

People don't understand me.

I don't fit their little boxes.

I think I'm okay with that.

See, we USED TO fit the box of homeschoolers.
Now, 4 of our kids are in public schools, one is in a public university, and another is at a Christian college.

We are a military family...
...but that didn't start until a LONG time after we were married and having kids.  8 years to be specific.

I grew up Mennonite.
He grew up Baptist.
We don't really fit either of those labels.

We are anti-vaxers...
Until we are NOT.

We are mostly conservative.
Sometimes we could be called liberal.

I am a country girl...
but I really love the diversity of city life.

And home....yeah...
South Carolina is where I was born and raised, where we were married, where we had our first 4 children.
Texas is home to my heart...and where #5 was born.
Montana was home for a while, and is where #6 was born.
Virginia was home for 7 years...and so very many friends are there.
Massachusetts is home for now.
He also considers Indiana, Tennessee, and North Carolina....
I like what Pumba said in the Lion King... "home is where your rump rests!"
Or, where the Navy sends us....

We reside in No-Man's Land.
It's lonely out here, but I think we like it.  At least we've gotten used to it.....

Monday, September 14, 2015

Accumulation of Stress

In research, and speeches, and articles all over we are all told to reduce our stress loads.

There are dire warnings about the health effects of too much stress and prolonged stress.

I know all of this.  REALLY.  Intimately.  I've only been reading those articles and that research for most of my adult life.  I have been passing that information along to friends and family and clients.

And yet...

Remember the old tale about the cobbler whose children have no shoes?  Ahem.

KNOWING things is much different than applying them.

Frankly, I didn't think I was under *that* much stress.  Oh, I admitted at times that things were getting a bit out of hand.

Like, when I was a full-time grad student, working part-time from home, trying to keep up with 6 children, and my husband was deployed...for a year.  THAT was a little stressful.

Or the year when two grandparents passed away, we went through some major relational upheavals, and Jason changed jobs, AGAIN.

Or the year that the world was supposed to end, I had a baby (25 days late!), Jason had an affair, the house was going into foreclosure, the car was repossessed, we moved, and we dealt with some other major relational upheavals.  Yeah, that year was stressful, too.

But, in between those REALLY stressful times, life was pretty smooth.  Things would settle down, life would be "normal" for a while, and I would have said that my stress levels were minimal.

About that.

I just sat down and wrote out a timeline of my life.  Through EVERY year.  ALL of the major events...those ones that are listed in charts as the ones creating the most stress...job changes, moves, children's births, financial strain, relational strains, separations, deployments, deaths....all of it.

That timeline was very telling.  Those times that I thought were "less stressful"?  Not necessarily.  Because in the almost-23-years we have been married, I was able to list ONE YEAR that did NOT include a major stressing event...most had multiple stressing events.

All of this made me realize that I have been VERY stressed for a VERY long time, and that it is time to make some changes.

I really don't know what those changes will be...Jason is still in the military, so the moving-every-few-years is not likely to change...and the children are growing up, which means more changes (hello, empty nest - well, that's a FEW years off, anyway!).  All I really know is that I really need to be LESS stressed for longer periods of time, and that needs to start now.

Friday, September 11, 2015

This day in history....

"A date which will live in infamy..." ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

President Roosevelt was speaking to the nation and the world regarding the events of December 7, 1941, when he spoke the above words....yet, those of us who lived through the events of September 11, 2001, could apply them to that date, as well.

National Parks picture
I have been thinking about those events, after reading through a note I wrote in 2011, when we were approaching the tenth anniversary of the hijacking of 4 airliners, the collapse of the World Trade Center, the destruction at the Pentagon, and the heroic measures of the passengers aboard the flight that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

One of the realizations I had this morning is that we now have 14 years of children who do no know life prior to the increased security measures implemented since 9/11/01.  My oldest four children were 1, 3, 5, and 7 years old when the attacks happened.  Even the one who was 7, and is now 21, barely remembers life prior to the attacks.  I was 3 months pregnant when the attacks happened.  My now-13-year-old and my 11-year-old have no inkling at all of what life looked like prior to 9/11.

I have family who were freed from the concentration camps in Europe after World War II.

My father was inches from being drafted in Vietnam.

My father-in-law served on the ground war in freeing Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm.

I look back at those events with interest, but little horror, because I did not experience them.

I am certain that our children will do the same with 9/11 and the ensuing Second Gulf War.  It is inevitable.  It is how we survive, psychologically.

As humans, we were not created to experience sin, nor the results of sin.  And yet, because of Adam and Eve's original sin, we do not know life apart from the results of sin.  We suffer at the hands of others, we get sick, we die...all the result of sin.

And yet, we need to remember.  We need to be reminded regularly how life was prior to 9/11, and what changed, and all of the freedoms and lives that were taken as a result of the attack on our country.

We also need to be reminded, as believers, that our hope is not in our country, or in the comforts and freedoms we enjoy here, but our hope is found in the person of Jesus Christ, and the sacrifice He made for us so that we can experience a bigger and better freedom than any offered by this country we live in and love.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ebb and Flow

Growth for someone who has lived all of their known life with PTSD is an interesting phenomenon.

People, even some close to me, don't see PTSD...they see an adult woman of 40+ years, educated, somehow having arrived, and with my life pulled-together.

Those people only see what I let them see.

My closest friends know I struggle.  Some of them are aware of the days when I am struggling. Sometimes I call them, sometimes I message them on Facebook, or text.

Even then, they only see the tip of the iceberg.

Most of the time, I tell no one.  The dark is too deep, the pain too immense, the questions too hard to answer.


Good days are sunshine, and flowers, and birds singing, and a lot of accomplishments.

Bad days are grey, and dark, and ruminating, and sad, and a lot of time wishing I were in bed.

Good days often come in clumps...when it is sunny outside, when I have places to be and things to do, and people depending on me.

Bad days come in clumps, too.  Winter is hard because it is already grey, and cold, and requires time be spent indoors.  But is also grey when it is raining outside, or when I didn't get enough sleep, or I had nightmares, or I am in the middle of over-analyzing the last discussion I had with someone who never called back, or never emailed me, or who didn't acknowledge my existence at church.

Unfortunately, bad days happen more often than the good ones.


I have grown a lot in recent years.

I have a name for that looming entity that threatens to engulf me from time to time.

I recognize when I am starting to go downhill now, and am able to do things to change the momentum, and change my direction.

I recognize triggers.

I know I hate the grey.  I know I love the sunshine.  I had four REALLY GOOD years.  Yes, there were hard days in there, but that was FOUR years of progress.  A LOT of growth can happen in four years' time.

I know that my dark days NOW are different than they were before, BECAUSE I have a name for it, BECAUSE I have known days without the clouds, BECAUSE I have grown.  The dark days are NOT better, but different.  They are still deep and dark and sad, but I have HOPE now.

And HOPE will get me through these dark days.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Resetting ME

This morning I sat down to read my Bible study (because it's tomorrow, and I'm hosting, and you know, it'd prolly be a good idea for me to have actually read it...), but was quickly distracted by all that I had to get done, and a million other thoughts.

This study already promises to really challenge me where I need it.  After all, what mom doesn't need some "encouragement" to work on decision-making, and being tuned-in to God, so that we make our BEST decisions?!?

Meanwhile, there is SO MUCH else going on in my life...when isn't there??

I am "breaking in" a new counselor, and part of that includes bringing her up-to-date on my life.  Heh.  In order to do that efficiently...because I'm good like that (HA!)...I sat down and wrote out a time-line of my life, which included major events in my life.  Things that *might* have contributed to my current stress level.


There is a LOT that has happened in my life.
20+ moves.
Births of 6 children.
Grad school.
Children moving out.
Husband's grad school.

The thing I realized, as I put this all on paper, was that I haven't had a break.  In almost 23 years of marriage, I have *1* year where there was *not* a major stressor.  I KNEW I was dealing with a major build-up of stress, but I never really put it all together as to how much stuff had built up over the years.

Our most recent sermon series (finished Sunday) was called Reset, and dealt with the idea that God set aside a day every week for us, His creation, to REST and to RESET.  While we HAVE made a day of rest a priority for most of our marriage, the recognition that I personally have not been able to relax was a light-bulb moment.

So, I'm looking forward to a chance to reset my stress levels, and decision-making...right after I get back from my job interview this afternoon....

(You can go watch the whole Reset series HERE.)