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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What Happened to the Sexiest Man Alive?

first day I saw my husband in his uniform
When I first saw my husband in his military uniform I about lost my breath. Here was this man standing before me, looking trim and finely cut with a sense of authority. To this day, I can still see my husband standing before me and more often than not, I get the same loss of breath sensation. True, he is no longer in a military uniform, but the way he walks and moves is often breath taking to me. After a few years of marriage you begin to know the person beside you inside and out, and sometimes their insides tend to sneak their way to the outside. I often find myself leaning in for a kiss only to hear the rip of something disgusting.

“Really, when I lean in for a kiss you have to do that?”

“What?” my husband will reply with an innocent smirk on his face.

“You are the sexiest man ever, why do you have to be stinky?”

Imagine if you will, a high school boy befriending you in tenth grade biology class, your first year at a new school. As the years pass by you begin a type of courtship only to have it shatter to pieces. Years later that boy has joined the Army and you are in a circumstance all your own. One evening, on the other line is his deep sexy voice, telling you how wonderful you are and how he had made a huge mistake years earlier. You are swept off your feet at the sound of this man apologizing and telling you he was wrong. That is our romance story (give or take a few details) and it is part of what keeps our relationship fresh.

How is it possible that the man I picture as the lead hunk in a romance story can be so irritating and disgusting? I suppose it is by some divine creation from the creator above, the unique oneness that marriage creates is undeniably something divine. I also suppose I do like knowing everything there is to know about my husband, being the one who knows all his hopes and fears is remarkable. I do like to be the woman he crawls into bed next to and the one he kisses good-bye before leaving for work. So, I suppose that if that means I have to partake in the “not so good” parts about knowing everything there is to know about my husband, okay.

We have a great love story. However, I still find myself getting a reality check when he does something irritating like relentlessly pick on me about the silliest things or when he gets frustrated and needs a moment all to himself. I am reminded that I am the one he turns to when his day has not been the greatest, and even though I have to hear him gripe (he’ll agree to this title), I am the one he wants to gripe to. Yes, the end of the romance story is just the beginning of a whirlwind life where the sexiest man alive drives you to the brink of insanity. There are fights and frustration as you learn to live with each other after long distances, including deployments. A while down the road, routine will sneak into your life and you have to find ways to spice up the romance. Between work, school and children, the sexiest man alive is going to grab at your body just to entertain himself. There is beauty in marriage. However, it is possible that he will make you cry and feel horrible at times, but it is also possible that he is also going to touch your hand at the dinner table, winking at you when you catch his eye. The person you know more than anyone else is also going to be the one who wants you to sleep close to him, tugging on your arm when you move away. If only you knew my leading hunk with baby blue eyes and dimpled smile, stink and all is still the sexiest man alive to me. 

There has to be something for each couple that reminds them of the reasons why they fell for the other person. Finding joy in the little things can often be the difference between a happy marriage and a dismal one. So you may have to put up with a few things that might seem to suck the romance from the relationship, but imagine sharing your life without these things, not knowing someone as you might know yourself. I tell my husband when things get frustrating or our plate begins to fill up, “remember, we are lost and holding hands.” It doesn’t matter what goes on around us, the pile of bills, screaming and running kids, or a calendar full of appointments we are together through it all. My husband may know more about my body as a woman and mother than he ever thought possible and as I know more about his bowels than I ever knew one could know about a man, but nonetheless, we are in love.

So what has happened to the sexiest man alive? He is with me every day. I take pride in knowing that I married the sexiest man alive, and that we are able to share our lives together. To this day, when my husband decides to give me grief, I simply smile and tell him, “You're luck you're hot.” Insert eye roll.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"No Excuse" Should Not Negate Your Struggles and Pain

So you may have heard, “so and so went through this struggle and they came out stronger than every. You have no excuse.” Okay, so let’s examine this a bit. What I believe is lacking these days in our society is the ability to empathize, think of others on a daily basis (not just in times of trauma), and the ability to understand that every single person has a story. Moreover, everyone’s story matters. What does this all mean? This means that there has to be a balance between strife and the mantra “no excuse”. Weakness, struggles, pain, and sadness are all things that can help a person grow and gain wisdom. In Christianity, we believe these things bring us closer to God. God wants us to turn to him in times of strife, when we are at our weakest. He wants us to turn to him in times of happiness. Over all, He wants us to turn our eyes upon him. “No excuse” here would mean, repent. You have to own your struggles, pain, weakness, and sadness and turn towards the Lord. If you bear some responsibility for where you are in life, own it. If you are failing to turn to God in times of need, change it. True, things are often easier said than done, and we should not expect to grow alone. I am a big proponent on the truth that God made humans for relationships. We are not meant to be alone, to struggle alone or to be happy alone. Aside from being a Christian, the mere fact that humans have formed bonds since the beginning of time indeed speaks volumes towards this belief. “No excuse” does not mean “get over it”, and I caution everyone to be careful when thinking this about others' struggles. What this should mean is reflect and take ownership in how you are interacting in your own life. Consider your relationships and where you are failing. Consider how you could make things better for your own life, and if you feel weak, seek out the counsel of someone else and especially God. It is okay to feel weak, to be weak, and to feel sad when faced with struggles and hardship. This makes sense, we are humans and we are meant to feel. Emotions were undoubtedly created to handle a multitude of situations. Furthermore, remember that each person has a story to tell and that each story has meaning no matter how significant or insignificant they seem (a lost love, loss of a child, living through deployments).

On the flip side, extend Grace with everyone that you come in contact with, and remember this is not a sign of weakness. Remain honest with yourself whether you are the person listening to the others' struggles or the person who is struggling. True, there are those who seem to be perpetually struggling and use this as an excuse to remain at their own base level. These are people that we alone cannot change that despite our irritation, still need our love. There are individuals who can only be changed by the grace of God. These are the individuals that cause us to scratch our heads, fight to understand why on earth they continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. We have all likely come into contact with these folks, those who really could use the mantra “no excuse”, but have made plenty of excuses. Here is the interesting thing about these individuals and why I say that these folk can truly only be helped by the grace of God. These individuals have created their own worlds. This is comparable to habitual liars, who truly do not know how much they are lying or that they have even told a lie. They believe their own self-talk and no matter how many times you highlight their lies or inconsistencies, nothing changes. I am not saying your frustration is wrong or not to even feel it, but remember to extend grace, and that you can love someone in spite of their flaws.

I digress, now back to the matter at hand, “no excuse” does not mean compare yourself to others. We all have our own coping mechanism as well as strengths and weaknesses. Let others inspire you, but do not dwell on the fact that others can do what you cannot do or are doing what you desperately want to do. Whether it is loosing weight, having children, finding a mate, or landing the perfect job, “no excuse” means do not let the negative parts of life consume you. Breathe through life and allow yourself to feel. Repent and be honest with yourself and take ownership of the wrong doings in your life. Never let anyone diminish your pain or your struggles, but appreciate that there may be others out there who understand and want to help you. Above all, have faith that change is possible and know that it is always darkest before the dawn.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Why a Woman Should Want a Man

As a mother of three beautiful daughters, I have begun to look back on my life and wonder if I have the tools to raise them up to be strong, beautiful, honest and least of all, independent women. I look into my own life and begin to dissect my shortcomings, and cringe at the thought of my daughters’ broken heart. I cringe at the thought of them meeting a man who does not honor their faults and love them unconditionally. I have a sense of anger when I think of them meeting someone who belittles them or worse, combines mental and physical abuse causing our daughter’s beautiful spirit to break. Worst of all, I worry that they will not be able to stand up to a man, have a broke heart, and come back out of it strong and more beautiful than ever.

So here it is, a woman should want a man and should strive to find a man with refusal to settle. Honestly, what do I mean, a woman should want a man who adores the woman she is (faults and all). I am not saying that a man needs to constantly give her everything she asks for. I am not saying a man should be a “yes man” or loose himself to keep her happy. What I mean is this, when a man truly loves a woman, he will yearn for her. He will want to learn for her, to make himself a better man. He should understand that she has value and treat her heart like it is a prized possession. I am not saying he will never break her heart nor does this mean he will be without fault. Everyone is human and everyone comes from different histories with their own set of stories and wounds. A man who truly loves a woman will challenge her; he will seek to encourage her. He will cause her to question herself, and aid in helping her find answers. A woman should want a man that she doesn’t have to change, but who will grow for her (notice I said not change for); she will want a man who knows when to stay silent and hold her when she cries, understanding that he cannot fix everything. He will not become angry at her tears; a woman should want a man who understands that his issue with her tears is his fault and not hers.

A woman should want a man who, if given daughters, should become the example of what a woman should look for in a man. A man should teach his daughters the value of a woman by example, loving their mother unabashed and wholeheartedly. If he is given sons, he will pass his wisdom to the next generation of husband and fathers. A man’s world will become her, and he will respect, love, and honor her so she will never doubt where he stands even when he pursues his own passions and dreams. She will come first; she will be his partner. A woman should want a man who learns to say “I am sorry”, but she will have to understand that this is difficult, and together they should learn from their mistakes. A woman can be strong and independent; she can be a wife and mother. A woman should be able to depend on a man, but not become dependent on one. There is no “give away” when giving away one’s heart; it is not one or the other. A woman can rule the world, and submit to the love of a man.

Relationships are beautiful; they were made in the Heavens before humans drew breath. Marriage is a union of two imperfect people, coming together to learn and grow. There is often confusion when looking to the Bible for understanding of how a man should treat his wife. Let us not be confused when the Bible states, “wives submit to your husbands as you do the Lord” Ephesians 5:22. This does not mean a woman does not have value in God’s eyes and in marriage. This is not a statement of enslavement. What follows is this Ephesians 5:28-33, “in this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

I have to laugh at the description my husband gave me the other day. He has noticed how I have grown in our relationship together, just as he has grown too. He is the tornado and I am the hurricane. He drops down, creates chaos then moves on, back up into the sky. He says that I start small, and give hints that I am coming, so be all should be prepared. Then I slam onto the coast and cause major destruction. What did he mean? Though not perfect, I have found a man who understands that I am a force to be reckoned with. I have grown, and he understands that to keep up with me, he must grow too. He knows that he has to be prepared for the woman that I am now. I am a destructible force when it comes to protecting my family; he knows that I am strong even when I do not feel strong. He is a man who understands, and submits to his love for a woman. He understands that he cannot get away with being less than a devoted husband, and he knows even though I will not leave, I will not become less than what God has intended me to be.

I pray our daughters, through their struggle, will understand these lessons and seek out a man who can enhance their joy in life because no one on this earth can fill a void or increase the value one already has in God’s eyes.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Two Truths

There were times when you broke my heart, I cried and the pain increased

I thought my heart couldn’t beat any faster than when it was in your hands

I thought my heart couldn’t break any more than when it was in your hands

I feared, was it a mistake?

We have journeyed, and labored, and fought

We have made up the miles

I thought my heart couldn’t beat anymore than you took it in your hands

I need your passion, your touch

Could I breathe without you?

Yes, with labored breathe, skimming the shallow depths of my chest

I forgive

You saved, you fought, and you changed

I love you and you love me

My heart, my soul, my being belongs to you

Now, I learn, we have two truths

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

How Are You?

my mother on the day of our mine and my husband's vow renewal
I was at the dentist the other day for my own routine cleaning and teeth maintenance, and though I had put it off for some time, I decided that I should probably get my mother into the dentist. There’s significance to this, earlier this year, my mother was diagnosed with Frontal Temporal Dementia with primary progressive aphasia, which means that although her behavioral demeanor has remained mostly in tack, her cognitive abilities have begun to dwindle. I am now her primary caregiver, and as of earlier this year, my mother has moved into our already crowded home (husband, wife with 4 children). Nowadays I am often found running around the house either changing a diaper, helping our older children with various task including 4-H and Boy Scout projects, and more often than not, switching around my mother’s backwards shirt or assisting her in some other fashion. To say that most days I go to sleep exhausted would be an understatement. To say that I still cannot get adequate sleep on most nights would also be an understatement. My life is consumed with being a caregiver, and this often times leaves little to no time for me. The time that I do have for myself is often spent working on my own college school work, or ducking away in my husband’s barn for some alone time with him. It is not uncommon for people to ask how I am doing or how my mother is doing. In the beginning, I rarely answered this question honestly. Nowadays, the question still seems loaded, but I try to be honest when I answer it. Truth is, I do not know when I will honestly be able to answer the “how you are” question in relation to my mother’s disease with “things are going well.”

The other day, my mother began to cry. I believe this was because she comprehends that she is becoming more and dependent on someone else. All I could do is look at her and tell her that I would be there for her through all of her disease, a disease that has struck my mother in her early fifties. Truth is, it tears me apart to see a once independent woman, the soul breadwinner of our home reduced to uncertainty and child like demeanor. Truth is I am saddened by the thought that there will come a time when my mother doesn’t recognize me. I am angered by the fact that this burden is on my husband and four children. I get frustrated with having to take two vehicles if we want to go someone as a family. It is no fun to deal with my mother’s unexplained sadness, tears, and hugs (which she never really did much of before). There are days when nothing gets me though the day, when nothing seems to get me though the moments of despair. It is easier to deal with the frustration because I remind myself that this is not my mother’s fault. Given the opportunity, she would buckle her own seatbelt in the car, she would handle her own doctor’s appointments, handle her own bills, and she would certainly dress herself. I know this journey is going to get darker, and I honestly do not believe I am ready for it, no matter how much I prepare. So, right now, I can honestly answer “how are you” in relation to my mother’s illness with “I am scared”. I am scared because I do not want to see my mother become more and more fragile, and I am sad that my children will not get to grow up with her as a grand mother (the woman who was once going to be their guardian). I am trying every single day to grab on to life with two hands and fight to stay on the ride. Most days I am successful and we have joy and laughter, and some days there are tears. Today just maybe one of those good days, time will only tell.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Veteran: When It's Not PTSD

not the last time we'd kiss good-bye 

First and foremost, I give the utmost respect to those who have sacrificed their lives, who have nearly lost their lives, and those who suffer daily with the demons of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am a very proud wife of an Army veteran who has multiple deployments and plenty of garrison duty (on post or constantly called back to post) under his belt. To say that my husband is my hero just may be an understatement of the century. We both loved being within the Military community, my husband was meant to be a soldier and was very good at being a soldier. When he went into basic training, he was waiting to be broken down, beaten down to the point that he was the Army’s blank slate. He believed and still believes in defending the nation and stops when the Star Spangled Banner is playing, when the Pledge of Allegiance is being recited, and makes sure to remove old flags so they can be retired with dignity. Yes, my husband loved being a soldier. To this day he is willing to talk about his service when asked, doesn’t have adverse reactions to loud noises despite a barrage of mortar music while overseas, and doesn't have scars attributed to war time. So, with all this under consideration, why did we struggle as we have? We recently celebrated ten years of marriage, sometimes a surprise thinking back to the strain in our relationship that really started to escalate when my husband separated from the Army. Sure, he had a military sternness about him when our two oldest children we young. After all, he was familiar with training and managing soldiers, so why should handling two toddlers be any different? Our real issues began after my husband left the Army. He struggled with drinking, which was a problem in service but was confounded by the fact that he no longer was bound by the Army’s constant beckoning. He left the Army because he no longer wanted to be separated from his family, but he was often times out drinking, returning home well into the morning. Little by little, he became easily agitated, and the direction of his aggravation was quite often his wife. I felt, more often than not, that I had to walk on egg shells. To keep a peaceful house, I had to regulate my emotions. I would cry and this made him confused and irritated. He would think in black and white terms, the gray area of life was elusive to him. He drank and chose that particular time to begin to nit pick on my flaws, and when I became defense in return this made him more angry and blind to his own behavior.

When we were active duty, he and I once got into an argument on his willingness to put himself in harms way. I didn’t understand why he would give up the chance to return back to his family, and he didn’t understand why it didn’t make sense for him to take the place of a less experienced soldier.

After his discharge from the Army, he was regretful. He felt that since his service did not compare to that of his WWII grandfather’s service that he was not good enough. He is a man that would put himself in harms way to save his fellow man, but this was and has remained never enough. He is the man that when the country is under attack, you want him in your corner, but this was and is not good enough.

So, here is what my heart has to say. Thank God, I still have my husband with me that his service to our country and unwavering devotion to this country did not take him from me. However, here is where the proud wife of a veteran begins to feel her chest tighten up. There are numerous times that I fell to the floor of our bedroom in tears. I was breathless as I fought to understand who the man was that I married. I couldn’t understand his cruel nature or why he was breaking my heart. I was angry when he’d come home from drinking. There were times when I prayed for God to take him because my unwavering devotion to him meant that I would never leave him. I was beginning to feel numb to our marriage. It was only due to an act of God that he began to understand how much he had broken my heart throughout our ten years of marriage. He began to understand how to communicate to me. He began to understand that when I cried, I just needed his touch and that he did not need to fix me, but be there for me. I believe this is what life is like with a veteran when it is not PTSD or at least, this is what our life looked like after his service. I am still learning and trying to piece together the puzzle of our life together. I am still working to separate what is genetics, what is his personality, and what is the soldier, but now I am able to appreciate the muddy road we have been traveling together. I am working to deal with my own anger, frustration, and sadness over my broken heart, so that I can continue to appreciate where we have been and where we are going. Please know that each and every veteran and their spouse have their own story, and that service affects everyone differently. Our life has not been without its trials. We have fought and torn each other down, but through God have finally reached a point of peace, and now we live our lives to keep it. Only now I am able to say that we are blessed through our brokenness.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Forgiveness is Not a Myth

broken, but not beyond repair

It took a long time to understand what forgiveness really was. When my husband and I became a couple, it was not under the most holy of circumstances. Nowadays we firmly believe that we were meant to be together and that our human ways of handling life created more than one obstacle to claiming each other. We’re going 10 years strong as husband and wife, and the months keep adding up as we go along. However, for the longest time I agonized over what we had done early one Christmas morning, the sin we had committed and the brokenness we created. In the start of our marriage, I began to believe that I was doomed to loose him, and created many maladaptive thoughts when it came to his Army deployments. I was terrified that he was destined to die because that was our punishment for sinning. If there was a negative thought to be had, I had them. See, that’s the terrible thing about sin, it makes one believe irrationally, it tears people apart inside and drags people down to the point that we are barely able to see the light. During this time I began to move away from the Lord, I wasn’t becoming a holy terror. I wasn’t drinking or doing anything in excess, but what I was doing may have been far worse. I simply did not turn to the Lord. I asked for forgiveness, I begged on the floor while on my knees to be forgiven for what I had done, but each time I did, I did not believe that I was actually forgiven. This was mistake number one. Understanding what it took to gain forgiveness meant that I would have to share the blame. For the longest time, I did not take into account that my husband had also sinned, which was mistake number two. It was not until years later after my husband was discharged from the Army and on his 18 month educational endeavor in Arizona that I began attending school again. My journey through obtaining my psychology degree at a Christian university began to open my eyes to the Bible, to reading and understanding scripture and this inspired me to get into church. This may sound like I am going to preach the importance of attending church (yes, it is important to fellowship with other brothers and sisters in Christ), but what I want to share is the message that has permeated my very existence and catapulted me into my relationship with God. In a small town, tiny church one Sunday I sat in a church pew, stunned and rendered motionless. From the pulpit I heard the pastor say (and pardon me if these are not his exact words) “who do you think you are that God cannot forgive your sin?” Please take a moment to think about this. Sin is sin is sin, sounds silly for me to say right?

“But this sin is worse than that sin-“


That is when I knew that forgiveness was no longer a myth. Who on earth was I to believe that I could not be forgiven by God? Who was I to believe that my sin was greater than God, greater than the forgiveness of God? Some reading this (I would appreciate greatly) may not be Christians, but that does not mean that forgiveness is out of your reach either. Some folks may struggle as I had done in the past, twist their self-talk and function through life on maladaptive thoughts. True forgiveness is not a myth, and you should not have to continually ask to be forgiven. We are human, we do harm as part of our nature. God understands this. He wants us to turn to him when we are weak; He even wants us to turn to him when we feel strong. That was mistake number three for me, not making the most out of my relationship with God. Once I understood that God’s forgiveness is not contingent on how terrible my sin is/was, but contingent on believing and knowing the He forgives, I forgave myself. Now, I am more than willing to share my testimony, to share my shame, to share my anguish. Don’t allow maladaptive thoughts to consume your daily life. It is painful to make the change, to repent, but the forgiveness on the other side is liberating. I would endure ridicule and human damnation because I have been forgiven by God, and that forgiveness is just as real as technology I am using to type these words.

A great compliment for this post is "Nobody is Too Broken for the Grace of Jesus" by Jarrid Wilson and can be found at 

Monday, July 25, 2016

There are Days

There are days when I feel filled with hope and faith. There are days when I feel that I have been granted more grace than I ever deserve. However, I am still broken most days. There is often a lot of guilt I carry with me. I have guilt for not being the best mother that I can be. I have guilt that I am not giving the best care my mother could be getting. I feel guilt that although I share my demons with my husband, I find myself not sharing enough.
There are days when I am making up dinner plates for two little ones and I am about to make my own plate when I realize that I am not done (thankfully the older two can make up their own dinner plates). I have another person that I have to tend to, and I am the best person for the job when it comes to my mother (do not get me wrong, I love my mother). When I am just about done getting the younger two children ready for bed, I remember that I have to get my mother into the shower. I have to remind her not to change her clothes again because this makes more laundry for me, but I know that I will probably have to tell her at least once more before the day is done. There are days when my mother’s silence is a concern for me and I wonder, is she declining in her brain? Should I be prepared to give more of myself? I have a slight reprieve in that my mother lights up when she is around my husband. Furthermore, I have my husband beside me, offering as much of his self as he can through these difficult times.
Yet still, I am often angry. I have my own medical problems that I would love to have taken care of, but I put them off because people need me. The thought of my husband having to care for me in my recovery causes me to guilty. This makes so mad. The fact that my mother has FTD makes me angry. The idea that someone ran a stop sign less than a year ago, altering my life, makes me angry. The idea that I have to prolong my schooling because my caregiver role takes over drives me nuts.
I know I should pray, and I do.
I know that things will get better, but I am waiting.
There are so many things that I know, but this storm is getting me very wet. The lightening seems to strike me again and again, and the thunder is deafening. My knowledge of counseling practices, prayer, and scripture does not keep me from feeling frustrated most days. I am broken and I am sharing this brokenness. I am struggling with trying to understand what God wants and expects from me. I am talented, but confused. I still urge others to be broken. I hate feeling my pain, but the numb feeling in my body wasn’t healthy either.

Small graces: Rebekka’s cast is off in 4 weeks (in the words of an elementary schools student…Spica casts suck!). I am enjoying writing the group proposal I have due is a few weeks. I have two older children who have the potential to be helpful (even if they do not always seem helpful). I have a great husband who tries his best to be available for me (even if he is a work in progress). I have wonderful friends and family who understand that even if I do not see them (at all sometimes) they are near and dear to me.  


A heart-torn
Batter and bruised-worn
A mouth- empty
Speech is gone
What is this in my hands?
Air, space, hands folded in grace?
There shape is familiar, I know it is important.
I pray, I pray, I pray, I pray
My speech.
My speech.
What is this in my hands?
I cry, I cry, I cry, I cry
I plead
What is this in my hands?

A heart-torn

Monday, July 18, 2016

I Urge You to Be Broken

Be Broken. So this may make the least amount of sense. This was something that I hadn’t thought much of until the past week while attending one of my graduate classes. I sincerely open up to you and urge you to be broken.  What does this mean? What am I really asking of you? All of us are broken individuals whether it is a constant battle with depression and anxiety, reeling and dealing with the reality of a broken marriage, fighting to understand our broken heart, or trying to feel whole after abuse. You are beautiful and a priceless piece of work. I want you to know that there is something beautiful in your suffering, and that beauty may go unnoticed if you do not take time to feel and to deal.
“It hurts” you say.
“I know” I say to you with compassion as I truly do understand what I am asking of you.
Some of us just cannot take one more thing going wrong in our life or stand the heaviness in our chest as we think about what we have lost or will be loosing. There is no fun, feeling sadness. Dealing with anxiety, depression or any other unnamed disorder may leave us feeling weak or foolish. Often times we feel ashamed and our brokenness again goes by the wayside.  
Suffering= meaning

No, I did not come up with this on my own; it was something that I had to learn and still find myself wrestling with. I have felt filled with despair, wishing, “if only I could just sit here and cry”. My lack of understanding controls me on more days than I can count. Some of us feel we are not broken enough, some feel their brokenness too much as find ways to suppress it, some are in brokenness denial, and some feel ashamed by their brokenness. But I say again that we are all broken just as we are all sinners. We all fall short of the glory of God. If you need help to get through your pain, please taken that help. I urge you too feel what you need to feel in order to make it to the other side. I urge you to reach out for this does not make you foolish, you are strong. I understand it is difficult. I understand that this may be the opposing thing to do in your culture. I understand that I am asking you to possibly open wounds that you thought were healed and have even acquired new skin. I am by no means an expert, but I am your equal with my own trials, weakness, and doubts. I am coming beside you because if you have never heard that it is okay. It is okay that you are not perfect. Even the most honorable of individuals can struggle. It is okay that you are broken and I extend you grace just as grace has been extended to me. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Hooray for the Wild Child

Let me begin by saying, hokey Pete, I am exhausted.  Being the mother of 4 children is definitely no walk in the park, but it is surely worth it. I suppose I should say that from the start before I get into the hectic happenings that make up my life on a daily basis. Even as I write this post now, I have a three year old beauty rummaging through my make-up bag, happily applying eye shadow to my face and then requesting I do the same to hers. Sigh…that is our 3 year old little lady; she is a ball of energy who pretty much rebuffs any idea of nap time or sitting down at the table to eat.  

In deep breath…out deep sigh.

When it comes to our little Rekker, as we have nicknamed her, my husband and I are pretty much laughing and pulling out our hair at the same time. Our first two children were very laid back, our 4th child is even a laid back little girl who goes with the flow, but Rekker is a power all on her own. My pregnancy with little Miss Rekker was a tough one; it was one of those pregnancy that absolutely made me never want to be pregnant again. I had pre-eclampsia and swelled up like a balloon and to make matters worse, I had to be induced (I never had to be induced; my children would slid out in mere hours). She was a tiny (4 lbs 8 oz) little bundle of joy who had colic and gerd (I mean she had spit up that would make an exorcists run for cover).  Our wild child. If you take what she has, she’ll scream. If you think you’re going to get her to move where she doesn’t want to, she’ll scream. However, on the flip side, Rekker was the youngest potty trained child, and is already well versed in making her own chocolate milk (cup, syrup, and a gallon of milk). As much as she absolutely drives us nuts, she is a beauty. She is smart and funny. She helps her daddy outside with the garden and chickens and is ready to help with nearly every little thing that she can. Sure, sometimes the best help she could provide would be to not help at all, but Rekker has a kind heart. She is our outside little girl who would rather stay outside barefoot, chasing chickens and digging in the dirt than be inside eating ice cream. Rekker is the little girl who rushes into the house to make sure her mama is okay after hearing the sirens of an ambulance zoom down the road because she is smart enough to know what they mean.  

What I have learned from our little Rekker is that parents can be the greatest parents EVER! I mean they can discipline when they should and hug when they should. Parents can do right by all of their children, but there can still be that one child who "terrors" through the house. There can still be a child who screams and pouts when they do not get their way in the store, but that doesn’t mean the parents are not good parents. Out little Rekker wins over nearly every heart that she encounters, but never fails to exhaust our ears with her screeches or barrage of questions (which she often repeats over and over and over).

Right now, I am getting ready to kiss the head of our little Rekker who “bonked her head”. The little girl who makes me more exhausted than the other 3 children in our house combined just wrapped her arms around my neck with love, and gave me a kiss.

God has a sense of humor with the “wild” child.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How Has Our Marriage Worked

It is very rare that my husband and I talk about our personal business. The odd part about this is, if anyone asks us "how have you made it through" we would be more than willing to share. We have a blessed testimony about our relationship. There have been some terribly ugly parts to our relationships as husband and wife (without a doubt), but there is something in our marriage that has kept us together. We have made it through military deployments, work now through being parents and care takers, and struggled through transition and our personal demons. As my husband's uncle said at our vow renewal ceremony, "ten years may not seem like very long, but in this day and age, it is a big milestone."

1.) Holding on. When things get difficult, and they will when it comes to marriage, we found a way to hold on. For myself, it was my Christian faith, and the faith I had in God that made me through the difficult times. Prayer is what helped me to hold onto my marriage when things seemed near impossible. Find something greater than yourself to help you hold on when things get tough.

2.) Manners. My husband and I are big proponents of manners. Please, thank you, and your welcome are big in our home. We want our children to have manners and be raised up to be honorable members of society. So, it is no surprise that my husband and I have always said it to each other. We could be angry as can be at each other, but you are still going to hear us say, "please pass the salt" or "please stop doing that". Have respect for your spouse. If you cannot have respect for them then who are you going to have respect for?

3.) It takes 2. This one seems like a no brainier, right? So here it is, my husband struggles with alcohol. I am by no means throwing him under the bus. He is a strong and honorable, God fearing man. I adore him with ever fiber of my being. Still, we had a very rough patch with drinking and understanding that a wife should come first before many other things. I understand that abuse is something to never mess around with, and I am not a victim of abuse in the physical sense, but there are times when I swore I didn't know the man standing before me. It takes 2 to make a marriage work. There was no way I could hold our union together if my husband didn't understand or step up to his part in our marriage.

4.) Understand that you are two different people. Again, this may seem like a no brainier, but remember that although a marriage joins together 2 into 1, these people have their own believes and worldviews. My husband is driven nuts by my lack of housekeeper skills (though I am truly not horrible), and I am driven nuts by his ability to completely loose track of time and maybe forget to give the kids lunch instead of work outside in the yard. Now I have learned to think in terms of "so". Okay, so I always make sure that the kids get fed properly, and so does my husband, but on occasion, it's fine. I know my husband is a great and caring father to our children. He would never do anything to intentionally cause them harm. My husband has learned that I am a busy woman. He knows that if I could, I would have a spic and span house. He loves me dearly despite the cluttered house and no longer demeans me for dirty dishes.

5.) Reminisce about what it was that made you fall in love. For my husband and I, doing this really reignited a flame. Sure, we were telling the same story over and over again, and we know this. However, it really ignited our passion for each other. We both got into the mindset of what it was like seeing and kissing each other for the first time. I giddy like a school girl as my husband of ten years told me things about seeing me or knowing me when we were younger. It is part of what started to glue us back together when we may have drifted apart.

6.) Talk to your spouse. I was in a traumatic car accident less than a year ago and have sense been diagnosed with PTSD. I make it a point to tell my husband what is bothering me and when. I may not be able to find the exact words, but I try to tell him as best as I can what is going on and what I need.Through my tears or silence, I try to tell him that I am overwhelmed. When he asks what this means, I simply tell him, "I wish I could give you an exact list, but the very thought of speaking about it seems overwhelming.

7.) LISTEN to your spouse. This goes with the aforementioned suggestion. It may seem easy to listen to your spouse. After all, you hear what they are saying, "right?" Well, think again. My husband has learned that when I am crying and unable to find the words, maybe I just need to be held. He doesn't get defensive when I tell him, "I simply cannot get into all my feelings right now". He listens to my actions, my words, he listens to himself when his mind tells him, "don't be stupid, just hold her cause that is what she needs".

8.) Make the decision to stay together. This may be a controversial one, but listen up. You have to make the decision when you are first married to stay married. When I say that my husband was a terrible, insensitive jerk...he was, and if you ask him, he will not deny this. We have had some extreme, come to blows arguments and I have seen him at his worst. However, from the start I knew that I never wanted to be my husband's enemy, and that whatever it took, I was going to stay married to him. I imagined being on the opposite side of the fence from him and it make me sick to my stomach. Now, I understand abuse and adultery. I am not speaking about these issues. There are times when safety and sanctity should be considered.


9.) Understand that forgiveness is an option. Forgiveness can cover so many things. My husband and I committed a great sin when we first became a couple. I struggled to forgive myself and demeaned myself for nearly five years into our marriage. I learned that forgiveness through God is possible and have been all the better for it (again, my faith plays a big role). Furthermore, forgiveness in a marriage is possible. You can tell your spouse, "hey, that really hurt me" or "these things won't happen again" and move on. My husband use to hold his deployments over my head and use this as an excuse to stay out to the wee hours at his dad's house (for example). Until one day, I had to tell him, "no more, I will let you use your deployment one last time and then you have to move on". It is possible to stand up for yourself and simply forgive your spouse for the way they have hurt you. Again, this takes 2 to really make work. My husband once told me, "how can I forgive your for the things you do that hurt me? Simple, I love you." True, some things are not always easy to forgive (trust me, I get this), but you have to have some sense that forgiveness is possible.

These are only a few of the things that my husband and I have done to keep our marriage together. The road we have shared has not always been an easy one, but I truly believe it has been a blessed one nonetheless.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Source

My mother swimming on possibly her first power boat outing.
Mid June 2016, moderate stage of her FTD.
Okay, so here it is. My mother and I never really had a truly, undeniably close relationship. True, we were always on great terms (well, because my mother has always been good). We were just never extremely close like "hug and call each other all the time" type of close. I would still call my mom to tell her things now and again and I remember how excited she was at the prospect of becoming a grandmother for the first time. She spent money on a crib and was beside me at the birth of her first grand child. That was the type of relationship we had. She came to visit when I was in Kansas during my husband's time in the Army. There were a lot of things that we did together, but there was still something missing in our relationship.

So exactly what is it that really and truly makes me so angry with her illness? What is it that truly leaves me feeling unbelievably sad? If I didn't have this intense close relationship with my mother why am I so torn up inside?

Well, a few years before the official diagnosis of my mother's FTD we were not terribly close, meaning we did not see each other on a regular basis. In my heart of hearts I knew that something was not right with her. This wasn't the reason for my distance. The little family my husband and I created began to grow. We had two additional daughters in three years since my husband's return home from college in Arizona. Our three year old was an induced birth due to my preeclampsia. She was a tiny baby at birth who was very cholic-y and needed a lot of attention. Then we welcomed a surprise fourth child into our life after the birth control (I thought was permanent) failed. Then four months after that, we were all in a traumatic car accident. My mother was put on the back burner as I began picking up the pieces of my life (a work in progress).

I was in denial. I did not want to believe that my mother was mentally digressing as bad as I believed she was, but when I heard that she had gone walking off one day in search of her boy friend who was next door, I knew that I had to do something. To make matter's worse, the bills that she had been paying were not being paid. She had written checks that had no money to back them up. I knew that I would be inheriting a work load. Perhaps this is what partly left me apprehensive about facing the truth.

I am terrified. I have the greatest love and four beautiful children. The thought of ending up where my other is brings me to my knees with sadness and fear. What if one day my husband has to care for me this way? What if one of these days I won't get to grow old with the man of my dreams? I do not want to loose the memories of my husband, the feelings I have when I am close to his skin and taking in his kisses.

My husband was the one who suggested it first, that my mother come and move in with us. We already had a family of 6, but he professed his love and spoke about family caring for family. For this, I will remain forever grateful. This is slowly becoming the norm for our lives, a family of 7. I am thankful that my mother will be well taken care of, I am grateful that my husband is there to help me with my mother (doctor's appointments when I am too ill), I am grateful for the best days that we can give my mother.

I am exhausted (mentally and physically). I am not looking forward to my mother's decline. I would be lying if I said that I was prepared for her to decline while I am trying to be a wife, mother, and college student. I am so far from being clear about how to go about juggling all the duties I have had thrust upon me. I wish that I had the answers to how to make things better, but I am still learning.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My Heart Song

I like to consider myself a relatively closed off person. It was only after ten years of marriage that I truly began to divulge some of the most personal and painful parts of my life with my husband. This is great! Unfortunately this led him to a lot of speculation about the things in my past life. With the traumatic car accident more than 9 months ago, I have begun to experience a part of my life that I never imagined before. Added with my mother’s diagnosis of dementia and I have started to feel like someone has been constricting my breath on a daily basis. My Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) came about when I and our four children were in a car accident. I won’t go into much about the reasons why I developed PTSD right now because while this matters, it is the “here and now” that I fight with on a daily basis.

What it is like to live with such a diagnosis?

I have never felt such a sense of anger towards people. The other day a lady ran a stop sign, stopping mid intersection because she was distracted by a conversation on her cell phone. I was more than angry. I was more than livid with this woman that I actually imagined myself putting my hands on her. I have little patience with people, and this was never really a problem with me before. I can even become short tempered with my own children.

The accident happened in a crucial time in my life. I knew something was not right with my mother’s health. Then BOOM! Someone ran a stop sign and it was like all the pieces of my life were thrown into the air. I am not even sure all the pieces have even landed yet. I think I am strong, but know that more often than not, I am weak. This is not a knock on me, calling myself weak. This means that I need to learn to ask for help, and accepting certain truths is the path towards strength.

Am I coming or going?

Depression is more than just feeling sad. I have a great faith in God. It is the driving force in my life, but the depression has been so intense that joy seems difficult to come by. Shake it off and be happy is not a reality for me. I pray. I don’t pray. I pray and tell God that He is the only one who can help, but my core refuses to believe this. While I would love to relate to everyone, but my personal truth is that I know that I have to give up my fears and worries to God.  I have been failing to properly do this. However, I also know that depression and anxiety has truly affected my mind and body.
I have been changed.

My husband helped me to see, I am worthy of a PTSD diagnosis, which was difficult for me to come to terms with. He is an Army veteran. This matters because I always felt that I should “suck it up”. I was not a soldier in combat. What did I have to stress about?

Back to my reasoning, I am a mother of four children. All four of my children were in the vehicle the day of our accident. I am no fool and know that the only reason they (we all) walked away was because of a miracle. Still, the thought of loosing one or all of my children haunts me to this day. My son had a friend he lost to an auto accident just last month. I made the mistake of seeing his 12 year old body, resting in the casket. I think about his mother and feel a hole in my soul, the thought of loosing what is most precious to me tears me to the core.

The accident, I do not believe was an act of God, but a human’s poor judgement and neglect in following the proper rules of the road. I believe that God knew I needed to be around for my mother. I also believe that God protected my children because loosing anyone of them would have rendered me useless for my mother. All of this is a massive weight on my shoulders. All of this creates a struggle in me on a daily basis, and I remain a work in progress. I am sad, I am angry, I am fearful, I am worrisome on a daily basis. I feel angry when I do not have control (the at fault driver, my mom’s illness, my schooling), but I am human. That is the point. I am human.