Who We Are

I want Him to say, "Well done good and faithful servant." I want him to wipe my tears away. Sometimes following Christ means peace I can't buy.

At other times, it means... pain. Being in the world but not of it.  Letting go of my sin and allowing him to make me new. Giving him my brokenness and transferring ownership. It's all about letting go in so many ways. 

My parents homeschooled me, and I never went to school until I went to college.  I was also the oldest female in a houseful of siblings. That was a big deal in shaping me, too. Growing up in Idaho, I spent a lot of time playing in cattails and ditches. Oh, how I loved those days. We played a lot. Used our imaginations. Read books. Went camping. Went on Sunday drives. Fought like cats and dogs. Laughed. There were hard times, too. But I do love my family.  In 1997, I was 16-years-old,  and my parents moved us all to eastern Oregon. With the exception of a few years in Louisiana with the military, that's where I've stayed.

I met my husband when I was almost 19. We got married a few weeks before I turned 20. We've moved ten times in our 15 years of marriage. We have eight children.(!!) Three  born at home with a midwife.  We traveled to Ethiopia in 2010 to bring home our fifth child. I long to go back to Africa.  In 2013 we were "surprised" with identical twin girls who were born at 25 weeks. That pregnancy, the following NICU stay, and years of little girls with compromised immune systems has been difficult. In May of 2016, I travelled with our three oldest children to China bring home our five-year-old son.  Our first meeting and our first 48-hours together were nothing you would see on the Hallmark channel. Or, the ever-liked, "Welcome home" adoption video we've all cried over. So much grief. So much crying. So exhausting for everyone involved.  The first month was rough. But, hope snuck in, joy planted seeds, and oh, how he loves his new family! He quickly opened his heart to Jason and I, and eventually his siblings. It has been the sweetest gift to be loved by this boy. He learned to recite the alphabet and count to 30, ridiculously quick,  he loves to wrestle with his brothers, and pretty much adores anything involving food. Sadly he is very resistant to speaking in Mandarin and has lost much of his first language. I plan on always keeping that part of our family's culture and hope that he will revisit it someday when he is more comfortable. He has cerebral palsy, and we are just opening the doors to how that will affect him in life and what we need to do help him keep as much movement as possible through physical therapy and advocacy. My goal for 2017 is for him to learn to ski–we shall see. Since coming home, he has gained an enormous amount of balance and core strength, but he is still very weak on his affected side and prone to falling.

To back up a bit:

In 2009, my husband left for basic training a few days after the ink had dried on his college diploma. I spent a year at home waiting for him to complete his training. We were then reunited as a family and moved to our first duty station in Louisiana. About four months later...we signed papers on a house. Two days after that, we were on a plane heading to Ethiopia.

Five months after we returned home from Ethiopia, my husband was deployed to Afghanistan. A year later, October of 2011, he returned. A few months after his return, we realized he was dealing with severe anxiety/ PTSD. And, because of his returning work schedule on post, he slept very, very little. He was on high-alert ALL the time. This got worse and worse during those first 6 months home. He curled up and cried almost every day for over a year. Everything felt dangerous to him. I really didn't know what to do with him, or how to help. It was so very hard on our marriage. Most of all, it was hard on him. He prayed for death to release him from this life many times.  It's so strange for a soldier to feel like they handled war or deployment "well" and then to watch them fall to pieces when the aisles of Walmart get crowded with people. Or when they are in church and realize they can't get to the exit. Or when a kid slams a door. Or when you are traveling and have a detour.  It all makes sense in hindsight, but it is difficult to navigate when it shows up. We weren't sure we'd ever recover. But, God is merciful. And, he's kind to show us that we were never fully in control to begin with. Jason went to counselors. Some of them very helpful. Many of them not at all. Much of the remnants of PTST are still there, he just navigates them better. He has left his shopping cart at the store many times.  He's left church and sat in the car while he waits for us. He guards his sleep. He left the Army as soon as he could, which was not how we had planned our lives. Things have gotten better and better over the years. But, I'm not sure it will ever be gone. We don't get to go back in life. 
We just are where we are. 

Hopping into 2016 and beyond– I seemed to have dipped my toes into the realm of mental illness myself this summer. And, then...cannonballed right to the center. Perhaps one of God's greatest mercies to me has been that I am married to a man who truly understands what I am going through. Jason has been nothing but compassionate to me in my darkest hours. Actually, everyone I have opened up to has been blindingly accepting and kind to me. I don't deserve my family and friends. 

During our trip to China, and after so many travel and financial disasters and miracles just to get to the country,  after days of not sleeping, and also after the kids had contracted some virus where my oldest son spiked a fever in our first hotel in Beijing...I began my journey with long, unrelenting panic attacks.  At first they were just terrible, extreme, 12-hour-long panic attacks and then mercifully back to normal life for a day or two. Rinse and repeat. But eventually, deep dark depression began following up after anxiety had led its charge through my body. I realized how lucky I am that I have never experience depression before this. I didn't understand how horrible it was to have your body overtaken by darkness, and to feel like nothing you did could possibly remove it. I can't think about our trip to China, without getting sick to my stomach or having my heart race.

Watching Monroe and Roosevelt dance with death
for so long during their stay in the NICU (129 days altogether), sitting through their surgeries and illnesses–feeling completely useless, surviving the first year of having sick twins at home, with my husband away much of the time, getting very little sleep for the past three years, and then having a sibling attempt suicide in 2014–it all seemed to hit me at once. One day I woke up in China, and life suddenly seemed incredibly fragile, and the world a very, very dangerous, dark place. All the time. Every day. Scary. Unrelenting. Without whimsy or joy.

And, I'm a girl who likes whimsy.

I have spent the past 6 months bargaining with God. 
Begging him to take my sadness, hopelessness and humiliating anxiety away. It ebbs and flows and some days are bearable. Some weeks, I would be extra daring and think it was gone forever. But, it is still here. I was living in incapacitating fear that it will cost me everything: My family. My friends. My God. My hope.  My joy. And. that. is. exhausting. To fear the fear because of what it will cost you, and to add a feeling of shame or secrecy on top of the gushing wound... is unsustainable. 

And, so...I've decided to invite it into my life rather than blockade it. 
"Have you met my friend, Human Frailty?
Apparently he's here to stay. 

Because, you know... fear will find you.
 Life may deliver physical ailments, tragic heartache, financial disasters, broken relationships, or mental illness.
 Or all of the above. 
Sadness will sneak into places you least expect to find it. 
And, anxiety seems to roll out, bubble up, and take over my body whenever and wherever it darn well pleases. 
My idols and alters of pride have been rotting, burning and crumbling down with surprising speed these past few months. 
So many humiliating areas of my life have been exposed, and I am at a loss to stop it.
 If you know me personally, or if you live in the same county as me, there's a good chance that I have blurted out something too personal,  overshared or, especially, burst into tears for no apparent reason. 

You are welcome.

I'm just waging war with heartache and fear...and I have decided it's okay. 

I know that this is all rather depressing. 
And, more than anything, I want to be an agent of hope and not despair. My prayer is that, eventually my story will be just that.