Tuesday, December 6, 2016

I See You

I want you to know that I see you. I see the person who is in pain everyday, physical pain, emotional pain, and mental pain. I see that you are struggling to hold yourself together even though the pain seems to be pulling you down. I see you fall apart in situations where you would have normally been strong. I see you even though no one really understands what is going on (even those closest to you).  I see you crying because nothing seems to be easing your pain and though you have everything in the world you’d give anything to make the pain go away. I get it now. I didn’t really get it before, but I really and truly get it now and I want you to know that I see you.  I see that you pray and smile. I see a lot more now that I would have shrugged off before. Appointments abound yet you cannot seem to make sense of the pain (physical, mental, and emotional). Just when you think you've made sense of the pain, it decides not to make sense of you. I see that you are tired and angry and confused. I get it. I get it. I get it. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Thank You to the Past

After ten years of marriage, I thought that it might finally be time to send something back to the past. Let’s face it, after a decade of marriage, you start to forget the person your spouse was long ago. Sometimes you may forget that he or she is actually a person that is not attached to you. There are times when I look at pictures of my husband, when he was in Korea (stationed in the Army), and I start feeling a swoon take over. I know during this time my husband was far from the man that I have become to know. I am not sure when the switch happened; the time we went from barely knowing each other, to seeing each other’s best and worst, to forgetting what life was even like without each other. It seems like long ago that he was far from the doting father of three daughters and one son, but nonetheless, the man in the photo is the same person who came back to find me, making me question everything I thought I knew. He is the one who turns to look at me and suddenly I have tunnel vision. I take a mental prayer break and thank God that I have him.

What’s the point? I laugh as I write this, thinking about the boy my husband was long ago. I think about the other’s he has been with, his girl friends or one night stands. I have even seen pictures of these ladies while my husband sorted through parts of his past that had been stored away due to his time in the service. These momentous were like pieces of the past that were suspended in time, photos, letters even articles of clothing. I can’t lie, I feel a slight a tinge of jealousy when I think of them in some physical form, but then I think about how many times I get to kiss him when he walks in the door. Wow! That’s right, I am gob smacked at the thought that I have been given an awesome gift. Because of this, I want to thank you ladies of the past. You have been a part of my husband’s life and have taken part in possibly shaping who he is. Strange, you were in his life before me, parts of his life that may have aided in how his love for me became something that he never wanted to loose. Though we have talked about you, I do not know your story. I do not know of the possible relief or heartbreak you felt when your time together ended. I do not know the things you may have lost or gained during your time together. I know what we have together and I never want to loose that, the feelings of knowing I have something true and everlasting.

True, my husband and I wish without limits that we were each other’s first. We have felt this and will feel this way until we part each other through death. Still, there are parts of your story that make me grateful because the thought of you reminds me that I could have missed out on one of the biggest gifts of my life. The simple thought of you reminds me that the father of four has needs and desires of his own. These thoughts remind me that although we share the same spirit and often breath in synchronicity, his breath is still his own. I know without a doubt that your memories do not overshadow me, but keep me grounded. Thank you for being part of my husband’s past even though I wish I had been there first.

Monday, October 10, 2016

What I Have learned Being Married to a Country Boy

        So I married a country boy, a real through and through country boy. The type of boy who drives
an old Ford pick-up truck, carries a .44 revolver on his hip when deer hunting, and stands tall during the national anthem. Back when I knew him in high school, I thought he was an odd ball. I thought, “oh my goodness, who is the teenage boy riding into the school parking lot on a motorcycle?” I thought I had him all figured out, until one day, I realized that I didn’t know much about him at all.
        Over a decade later and there is little that I don’t know about my country boy (a man now). In fact, I know his social security number, birth date, and a lot of other pertinent information, including the dates of his Army deployments and when he joined and separated from the service. I know a lot of about his loves and dislikes, and the things that can infuriate him the most. What I didn’t expect was to learn as much as I have throughout or marriage from my guy. So, here are the things I learned being married to a country boy.

1. I learned how to back up using my mirrors. Yup, it’s hilarious looking at individuals turn to and fro trying to back up their vehicle. My husband has always been adamant about using mirrors when backing up, and I learned quickly that if I want to keep him quiet about my driving then I should probably learn how to back up properly. (now backing up a trailer…that’s another story).

2. I learned how to enjoy the outdoors more. Sure, I am still not into hunting, but I have learned to thoroughly enjoy fishing. From the first moment I hooked a fish, I knew I was hooked. There are activities that I probably would have never tried out if it weren’t for him.

3. I never thought I would eat seafood. Now, little by little, I have come to enjoy lobster, sushi, Ahi Tuna and even coconut crusted shrimp.

4. How to be patriotic. This is not just from my husband’s example, but through his service to our country. Together we try to cultivate an atmosphere of respect for our nation’s flag even if there are not always an agreement on ideals, processes, and beliefs.

5. I learned that a man can be truly enamored with a woman without make-up or fancy clothing. Sure, my husband oogles at the sigh of me in a tight little black dress, but put on a pair of blue jeans and my husband can barely keep his tongue in his mouth. There have been more times that I have looked raked over, sweat pants, or even after crying and my husband will look at me in utter surprise and say, “you look absolutely gorgeous”.

6. I have learned that God loves me, and He gave us a beautiful love story. When I am feeling down, unloved, stressed, rejected, and just plain beat down my husband reminds me that simple true love truly exists.

7. I would never have imagined watching a man gut, skin, clean and butcher a deer. Nor would I have imagined I would be cleaning and packaging said deer.

8. I have learned the value of hard work and dedication, watching a man with sweat on his brow as he takes an ax to a pile of wood leaves me breathless.

         Truly, what is the point to all of this? There are things on my list that could just as easily describe any other man. Yes, there are things on this list that are not historically attributed to being a country boy, so why would I label these things as what my country boy has taught me. The point is this, our spouses or significant others teach us things, whether we like it or not. They teach us how to react to emotions and who we can trust with our hopes, fears, and dreams. Our significant others show us themselves when they are at their best, and also when they are at their worst. We learn that the exchange between another human being on an intimate level can have its flaws just as it has its blessings. We should not expect to remain untaught in our significant relationships. How boring would that be, to never learn anything from our spouse? We need to be okay with learning from others, least of all, our significant others. To be able to say, “I didn’t know this, but you have taught me” is certainly not a sign of weakness, but a sign of love.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

What Hacksaw Ridge May or May Not Teach Christians About War

There's nothing more wonderful than hearing true life stories about American soldiers, courageous individuals who devote part or all of their lives fighting for our nation. This is not only humbling for many, but also invokes a strong sense of pride. Hacksaw Ridge is a movie based off the true story of Desmond Doss a Private First Class (PFC) in WWII who served his country without bearing arms due to religious reasons. What caught my attention was the television trailer for the movie where Doss’ mother tells the young Desmond that taking a person's life is an ultimate sin. It is this particular lesson that remains with Doss throughout his life and military career.

The big question is, “what’s the problem?” After all, it’s a true life story of courage and honor, which most certainly should be celebrated? What was it that shot through my heart when I saw the television trailer for such an awe-inspiring movie? As an advocate of service members and their families, being a counselor in training, and being a Christian, I want to make sure that there is a balance between the Christian views of war.

My husband and I have spoken at lengths about the implications of the Christian view on war especially in terms of developing any mental disorder after service. My husband, a veteran himself, informed me that many soldiers were often complexed when it came to God’s view on being a soldier. These were men or woman who possibly had to see or do unspeakable things in the name of good, including taking a life. Speaking frankly, the view of killing someone as an ultimate sin cannot and should not be in a general context or ever blanketed. We cannot say all killing is a sin no matter what. 1 Peter 2:13-17 (New International Version) states, “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”

These men and woman are servants to the governing body of our government. These are individuals who are willing to lay down their lives in the name of freedom. God is not angry with them for being soldiers, for taking a life if that it what they needed to do. They have not committed a sin that they cannot come back from; it is not as ultimate a sin that should cause anyone to loose the love of others because they will never loose the ultimate love of God.

Conversely, I urge soldiers to act in the name of the Lord. These men and woman cannot and should not commit atrocities to benefit their own need for revenge. Proverbs 3:31-32 (NIV) commands “do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways. For the Lord detests the perverse but takes the upright into his confidence.” What implication should this have for soldiers? It means that although God has decreed war as necessary, taking up arms can be found necessary, cruelty towards others is not okay. Do not defile others in the name of war.

Back to Hacksaw Ridge, what should absolutely not be lost on the story of Pfc. Desmond Doss is the fact that he stuck to his beliefs; he remained steadfast with his beliefs. The Lord was calling upon him to react in a remarkable and completely polarizing way than others. This was God’s calling and purpose for Doss. Absolutely nothing should be taken away from this story in terms of resolve and respect. However, Doss is not better because he refused to take up arms. He is not more courageous nor should he garner more respect than a man who has had to kill men in battle. Equally, those who took up arms are also not better; they are not better reflections of men. Courage is courage is courage, I cannot stress this enough when it comes to the brave men and woman who serve in the military. The ultimate truth, God’s grace belongs to everyone, and true forgiveness is there is one only believes and asks.

A great article to further elaborate on the Christian view of war is Phillip Jensen’s article titled “What is the Christian Perspective on War?” found at the link below.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Unplanned but not Unloved: Story of Having a Baby After Permanent Birth Control

I Am What?!
I was alone in our bathroom when the doctor called me on the phone with my blood test results. I had been feeling ill the past few weeks, and started having this odd hunch that I was pregnant. There was something odd about this though, I had had permanent birth control put in eight months after our third child. I was convinced that her pregnancy was certainly God's way of telling me that I was done having children. Combine Gestational Diabetes and pre-eclampsia and I was over my head done with having children. I was content with this, our third child was more than we could handle, a tiny bundle of colic. So, as I mentioned, I underwent permanent birth control. Imagine my surprise and utter terror when I heard my doctor confirm my fears of being pregnant. What was it she said, "you're pregnant girl."

 I sunk down on the side of the tub. What the h@ll was going on, this had to be some sick joke. I didn't want to be pregnant, I didn't want another baby. I was angry because I was attaching myself to our latest little bundle of joy who, by this time was a toddler. I thought that this was going to take away from her security and happiness. Also, I had recently started graduate school, and this was certainly not needed. I did not want to be pregnant again. When I called my husband I was crying, and he was fearful. Now, at this point we were not even sure this was a viable pregnancy. The most we knew was that this could be an ectopic pregnancy, which would mean that I would need surgery. Combine this knowledge with my tears, and I could tell that my husband was slightly concerned.

I was scheduled for an ultra sound immediately, and my husband had to leave work early. Oddly enough, I remember this day quite well. It was November 11th, Veteran's day. Being that my husband was a veteran, I chalked this up to one cruel veteran's day gift. I asked our neighbor to watch our kids while we went to the hospital.

My husband that day was amazing, the opposite of how I thought he was going to be. When the technician began speaking to me as if this was some routine ultra sound, a totally normal happy pregnancy, I turned away and felt a tear rolled down my cheek. My husband held my hand, and brushed the hair away from face. He could see how all of the unexpected news, the viable pregnancy news, had hit me. What kind of mother was I going to be to this child when I didn't want another baby? So here is where my husband was, a man who I thought was going to flip out, the man who I thought was going to hate this pregnancy as much as I did, being strong. What was going on inside him mind? I later learned that a resounding, "bring it on." rung in his head.

This little girl came to us on our ninth wedding anniversary. She was a 5# 12 oz bundle of joy who I thought was just absolutely gorgeous. Up to that point, I doubted if I could love her. However, my heart had been transformed the first moment I looked at her. I remember telling my father as he held her, "isn't she beautiful?" And I meant it, she was our beautiful baby, a little girl who may have been unplanned, but made from love.

What have I learned. God has plans for us that we cannot even fathom. God knew I wanted this little girl, this unexpected bundle of joy, before I knew I wanted her. Everything we had done at this point included the idea for a family of five. We have a three bedroom home, a room with two girls who already took up quite a bit of space. Yet somehow we have made things work.

We have no plans of suing the company of my useless permanent birth control. How can you want to fight anyone when you know that she was the plan from the start? How can you not love a little girl whose blue eyes melt right into your heart, and whose smile and giggles fill the room with joy? I have health issues due to a fourth pregnancy, and I weigh the option for surgery to correct these persistent issues on a weekly basis, but Marie Grace is just perfect.

Marie- My middle name, my husband's suggestion on her name
Grace- By the grace of God, she is here with us

This smile makes us fall in love.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Being Colorblind is as Effective as Actually Being Blind

“I don’t want a politically correct answer,” our professor said in his Portuguese accent.

Up on the screen in our classroom was a picture of an African man in tribal garb and a white man dressed in a blue polo shirt and khaki shorts. The question was, who is appropriately dress? When the majority of the 60 person class answered “both” the professor prodded the classes to answer the question with the first answer that came to mind and not the answer that society demanded. It was important to look at the background of the photo where the two men stood because the context of the photo shared vital clues as to who was appropriately dressed. The photo’s background was that of the outside, of sand and blue sky. Being politically correct gets people nowhere; it is as useful as stereotypes and living on the notion of colorblindness.

The topic of this particular day was multicultural counseling in terms of group counseling. The question was followed with breaking down stereotypes and creating dialogue between those of different ethnicities and races. Our classroom was filled with individuals from various communities; the professor himself was a naturalized citizen from Brazil. The professor continued his instruction by asking those of various ethnicities and races to give the class examples of things we may not know about a particular group. One black woman informed the class that although she was black, she was not African American but of Jamaican decent. Another woman informed the class that although she was blonde hair with lighter colored eyes, she was of Porto Rican decent. The point was that counselors need to allow our clients to high light themselves, and that we should not assume we know how someone should be identified because we are scared to ask. Furthermore, it is our job to inform ourselves about the client’s identification so that we can better aid them throughout their counseling endeavors.

“I love people of all color the same and I would treat them all the same.”

What could possibly be wrong with this statement? After all, doesn’t it demonstrate love, compassion, and understanding? Well, it wraps everything and everyone up in a nice package. Everyone has a story, and whether they are white, black, or tan skinned there is something in their story that has shaped their lives. Native American, Latin, Asian, or black Americans have cultures that cultivate how they interact and thrive or survive. These differences should not be feared. These differences should not be put under one rainbow because we cannot create an open and honest dialogue with someone due to societal fear. 1 Corinthians 14:10 (New International Version) states, “undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church”.

We have a duty to learn about those who come to us as counselors, and this duty should extend to everyone within their daily lives. Being colorblind is only good in theory, but the actual practice of it does not create dialogue or high light the differences the human race has as God given creation. The aforementioned scripture reminds us that we need to understand that each language, each race, and that each story is not without meaning. Without grasping the importance of the meaning, we are doomed to continue the cycle of stereotypes and the blindness that lack of dialogue creates. Without the honest dialogue, we are merely just speaking at each other.

Let’s be honest people, being colorblind is as effective of being blind. We can no longer assume that we have all the answers when it comes to those of different backgrounds than us. In fact, we cannot even assume that those of similar race as us have the same values, the same story, or the same opportunities. It may take work, but we should seek to understand how those different people have different views. This can be applied to the black individuals in America and how they view the world around them, the experiences they have had. Before we say that Hispanics are stealing all of our jobs and are coming over to America illegally, we have to listen to their story. We have to take the blinders off and see the colored past of these individuals, to understand how and why they see red. We have to seek to understand why some fear blue. We have to, without revocation, level with each other and listen.

We are not bound by chains as Christians; we are set forth in freedom because the Lord equips us with His love and grace no matter what endeavor we embark upon. We do not have to operate on a “this or that” mentality and there is no give away when we operate in the name of the Lord. There is a truth about educating ourselves to become not only more culturally competent, but to become integration competent as well. As Christians we need to become competent in our faith and what this means in the context of a secular world especially in a world were we are often culturally and ethnically divided. Now don’t get me wrong, we are all human and are predisposed to failing and weakness. We are never going to make it through life without making a mistake, but it is vital to call upon the grace of God when we have fallen short, and to learn from our mistakes so they do not become a negative cycle of interacting with others.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Person of Faith With a Mind Full of Doubt

I have struggled with anxiety for a while, a feeling of always needing to be perfect was something that permeated my life at a young age. My older brother was bullied very often at school. I do not put this lightly, I mean he was ridiculed and near tortured, so it was natural for me to not want to stand out. I wanted to make sure that I could maintain my life under the radar. Though we were not a rich family, and we couldn’t afford the most fancy of clothing or pretty little hair style, I still worked to dress nice and normal.

To this day, I still have a fear of not measuring up when it comes to making and maintaining friends. I have a fear of my story never being enough, or of my pain never being painful enough to share with others. Little did I know that I became stoic, I didn’t want to bother others with my pain, sadness, or needs. I didn’t really notice my anxiety until attending one of my first college intensives. It was a week long class, in another state away from my family, a new experience. This was a counseling class meant to teach us techniques in counseling theories. I thought I was completely prepared for this class, the new adventure on my own was a willing one, and I looked forward to it. 

Oh my goodness gracious!

I didn’t know what was happening to me by day three; I thought for sure I was done for. Though my instructors thought I was doing well, progressing with the class as a whole, I thought I was failing. One afternoon, I even found myself in tears in the bathroom about to have an anxiety attack. I prayed on my knees, begging God to help me though this feeling of pressure, of failing, of not being enough. Even with the wonderful friends I made on my trip, I began to negate my importance and wonder if their friendship with me was as important as it was with the other ladies. I, after all, had nothing special to give. To this day, I struggle with anxiety, compound this with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and there are days that I feel like I need to bury my head under my pillows. Imagine if you will, a mother of four and caregiver to an ill mother, leaned over the bed with her head buried under the pillow. I am like an Ostridge trying to get away from the anxiety, the fear, and the depression that compresses my heart, but I am still visible and needed. Imagine their faces as they try to understand what is going on with their mother, and why she thinks that no one else can see her. 

I am a woman of faith. I believe that there is only one entity that can truly heal; I have come to learn this on my own accord without other's opinions. I have had the blessing of discovering my faith through a lot of self exploration and education, which has given me the gift of making up my own mind about what I believe in. I have seen the grace of God. I have seen how prayer makes a difference, and that pure coincide does not exist (at least not in my life). So, this whole thing with anxiety issues, depression, and struggling from PTSD should not even be a factor in my life, right? I even chuckle now as I write this, I am learning how to handle all of these demons little by little, and may have to continue fighting for the rest of my life. 

I have learned that it is okay to ask for help, and I have sought out professional help to understand where I begin and my demons end. Some may wonder that if one believes in God, how can he or she suffer? Shouldn’t prayer be enough to whip someone into shape? Well, I am human and with my humanity is a back story, a fragile mind and heart. I may be a strong individual, I may care for a health failing mother, four children, a husband, and attend school, but I struggle. I repent to the Lord, and submit to the truth that I need to pray to him that I need to trust him, but I am still human. I fall short. God places individuals on this earth to help others, so as I mentioned previously, I went and sought someone out. It is not easy to be faithful and fight the human brain. There are days when life is like a tug of war, and I feel ashamed. There are days when I feel fine then something overwhelms me, and I feel anxious. I feel sad and scared when I drive down the road even though I have witnessed a true miracle. Little by little I have begun to learn who I am in context to the world that exists around me, but there are daily battles in the war my brain that started years and years ago. I am a continued work in progress.