We're 6 weeks into this deployment now, and I suppose it's pretty safe to say we're in the "new normal." Of course, I'm no longer sure what normal is around here, seeing that it's summer and our routine varies so much from day to day despite my best efforts at keeping some sort of schedule for sanity's sake! But even if Ted were here, that would likely be the case, as we try to make the most of our time "off" school and enjoy the good weather when it's here.
This morning at church I saw a fellow member of my Sunday school class before the first service. I asked him how he was feeling--we had prayed for a specific health issue for him last week. He replied, "Do you want the quick answer or the five-minute answer?" I got a pretty good update on him, but I liked his response to my question so much that I may have to start using it.
People ask me often how I'm doing or how our family is doing. I can easily give a quick answer: "We're hanging in there," "We're doing pretty well, considering," or "Not too bad, thanks." But there is so much going on that it's hard to capsulize our circumstances and our responses to those circumstances in an answer like that. I'm thankful people ask, but I know it's always going to be difficult to know just how to answer. There are some days that if I were to be around people who ask, "How are things?" I would burst into tears. And there are other days that I can honestly and cheerfully respond, "God is so good! We're doing just fine right now!"
So, in the interest of keeping things real, here's our first 6-week check-up. How are we REALLY doing?
We have had no sicknesses or physical problems at all--if you don't count my puffy, swollen ankles, leg cramps, and pregnancy varicose veins, ha! Lack of rest can be an issue for all of us at times, and I probably feel that more keenly with being in my third trimester. I simply don't sleep as deeply as I would if Ted were home. I do make naps/rest time a priority and probably nap at least 2-3 times per week, but I also cherish my early morning quiet times and consistently wake between 5 and 5:30, most often without an alarm clock. (The baby squishing the bladder may have something to do with that, LOL.) So, bottom line, we're doing well in this area. I've been able to go on morning walks more often than not, and I'm feeling healthy overall. The pregnancy is going well, and our little guy is kicking more and more each day. I'm so very thankful for all of this.
We're still following the GAPS diet...more or less. We seem to be cheating more often, but "cheating" for us means eating buns with cheeseburgers or sneaking some popcorn with a movie. (OK, OK, so I've had some M&Ms too. Sue me.) The good news is that we don't really see any symptoms appear as a result of our cheating...so...I'm not exactly sure what that means for us, but the plan is to at least attempt to remain on the diet as much as possible through Thanksgiving. Following that, I am hoping that the baby will be sleeping through the night and I'll be more coherent and better able to transition us back to eating bread (prepared properly) and so on. The boys haven't had any need for their inhaler, so that's a very encouraging sign. It will be interesting to see how they do in the fall, as that is typically a bad time for their allergies and asthma symptoms.
"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things" (Col. 3:2). I've known from way before Ted left that our minds would be an enormous battleground during our time apart. What perfect timing that we began our Bible Bee study soon after Ted left--we've all been making a concentrated effort to memorize Scripture as well as study 1 Peter in depth. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--His good, pleasing, and perfect will" (Romans 12:2). I know all too well that fear, doubt, depression, and other negative emotions can set in if our minds are not set on Christ. So, while I must confess that I had my doubts about this aspect of my health (I think I even told Ted, only half-jokingly, that it would be a miracle if I didn't end up having to check myself into Mental Health Services in the next year), I can at least say, "So far, so good." I've been keeping myself mentally girded by memorizing Scripture plus have spent more time reading for learning and pleasure than usual (magazines AND books--something I don't often allow myself time to enjoy during the school year, aside from the books I read with the kids).
This is probably the toughest one for me. Number one, I'm a woman. Number two, I'm pregnant. Add those together and you get a hormonal wreck on occasion! When Ted first left the country, during that first week, I physically FELT the prayers of many people. I was strengthened in so many ways, encouraged by countless little things, and I just knew we'd make it somehow. And not just survive, but thrive--we've prayed from the beginning that God would be glorified through all of us, no matter where we are. I braced myself for difficult days to come, but it seemed remarkable to me that we went for seemingly such a long time without any major mishaps or crying fits (on my part anyway, LOL).
As we knew it would, though, "stuff" began to emerge. First it was behavior issues with Tobin--as in hearing bad reports from his Sunday school teacher, plus my own observations of the way he was treating his siblings (with malice) and responding to me (with disrespect). Then it was the escalated bickering amongst all the children (even Lucan, sigh, who has learned to say, "Stop it, Arden!"). Then came my own meltdowns--frustration at the children's lack of self-control, bad attitudes, etc., and my own weepiness the night I felt I just hit a wall; we had only made it 5 weeks, and the year loomed so long before me that I just felt utterly defeated. For about a day and a half I could barely do anything without crying. I felt like a failure...we hadn't even made it very far, and I already felt like giving up. But what can you do? It's not as if I can pop out the DVD and change it for something else I prefer to watch.
"Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak." (Isaiah 40:28-29)
I memorized those verses on my morning walk the day after I had felt so down. They were familiar before, but now they're locked into my brain. God used His Word along with His servants to encourage me: not only did I receive many uplifting comments on Facebook (sometimes it pays to let people know you're down!), but out of the blue a friend called--without knowing anything about my present state of mind--to inform me that she had a meal she wanted to deliver to us which could be used that day or kept for later. (Since I was in no frame of mind to cook for people who typically mow through their food without tasting it, I was especially thankful for a ready-made meal that night!)
I have to expect that the emotional part of this whole ordeal is probably going to be the hardest because it will be the most unpredictable. For one thing, I never know when something will hit me and cause my feelings to crash, yet I can't live life based on how I feel. (Otherwise there would be days or even weeks when no one would eat anything and nothing would get done around the house!) I'm trying to prepare myself for even bigger highs and lows after the baby arrives and my hormones are in their full, raging glory--that, coupled with the lack of sleep thing, just may send me over the edge! Dear friends, PLEASE keep asking how I'm doing then! :-) But in addition to my own emotions, the kids all have their own ways of handling their dad being so far away for so long, and that in itself is a huge challenge. (As an update for those who have prayed specifically for Tobin, I've seen efforts on his part to at least TRY to be more peaceful, and his attitude toward me has definitely improved. We've spent some one-on-one time together, and I think he's learning to communicate a little better as well. Thanks to those who have prayed--it's helping!)
This is the best part. God really is so good! While I chafed at all the time we had before the deployment ("just hurry up and go already so you can come back!"), at least we had more than adequate time to feel as prepared as we possibly could for this thing to happen, to acknowledge that despite it being a "fluke" (given Ted's medical coding and all the waivers that had to be signed) it was, in fact, a God-given assignment for our family. I feel absolutely no resentment toward God regarding the path He has set before us. Ted and I both view this year as an opportunity to grow in our walks with Christ and to be conformed more into His likeness. We know it will stretch and challenge us in all areas of life, and we pray that we will bring our Lord glory in the process.
I feel more focused on my relationship with Jesus, as He truly is my Help and my Strength, my Refuge and my Rock. It's as if everything else that doesn't matter has simply faded away--life, in a sense, is so much simpler now. I walk with Jesus, I take care of my family, and I do what I can to support and encourage Ted from a distance. That's it! Other things are either on the back burner or even off the stove for the time being! I haven't missed a morning quiet time yet; though there are days when kids wake earlier or I wake later and I have to rush a bit, my prayer and Bible study time is sacred to me, and I feel that God is honoring my desire to keep Him first. I desperately need God's wisdom and strength to get through each day--that was apparent the moment I first became a mother, but my awareness of that need has only grown by leaps and bounds over time! I often feel that most of my days are somehow a prayer poured to the Lord, as the Holy Spirit intercedes for me "with groans that words cannot express" (Romans 8:26). Being more aware of my dependence on Him, I am also blessed with a deeper awareness of the countless ways He blesses me and upholds me.
So there it is...how I'm REALLY doing, as of this moment, 11:11 p.m., Sunday, July 3, 2011. :-)