It has been my tradition for many years to decorate for Christmas the weekend following Thanksgiving. In keeping with this tradition, we got our live tree on Friday and by mid-afternoon Saturday we had the tree trimmed, house decorated, boxes stored back in the garage, and house cleaned and vaccumed. Needless to say, both my husband, [...]
I had a hip replacement at the end of August and my recovery is much slower than I had planned. My goal was to be back into my exercise routine by now but I am still walking with a cane. I get frustrated with the slow progress and when I focus on the things I [...]
I begin Boot Camp for Life by telling you a little about myself as I believe it is important for you to know me and some of the experiences that have shaped the person I have become. I used to call 1982 the year of my life because of the significant events that happened that [...]
The most common response to the boot-camp style training guide in part II of my book, Battles of the Heart: Boot Camp for Military Moms, was that the lessons can be applied to any situation in life—not just those encountered by military families. I completely agree. Life seems to produce an unlimited supply of issues [...]
Holidays are a wonderful time of year but often times can be difficult emotionally as memories of loved ones who’ve passed flood our minds. I’ve fought back and wiped tears that escaped several times over the past few days. Yesterday at church, children of all ages filled the stage and sang Away in a Manger. I felt my emotions tugging at me as that was my mother’s favorite Christmas hymn. The tugging turned to tear filled eyes as I watched the little ones swaying on the stage as they tried to sing the words. I couldn’t help but think that Tristan and Easton, the two grandsons we lost in 2010 and 2011, would be about that age and what fun they would be for Christmas. When I allow my mind to go back to that ten month period of time in which I lost my mother to cancer and lost two grand-babies who I never got to hold–the grief is fresh and still causes my heart to ache.
This morning, alone in the house, I sat in my family room and stared at one of my mother’s favorite Christmas decorations, a ceramic Bible with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus on top with the Christmas story. My eyes went back and forth from that piece to my mother’s picture and the tears came. I miss her so much. I decided to place her picture beside her special Christmas decoration and added three candles to the display; one for my mother, Dorothy Mae Zeller; and one for each of my grandsons, Tristan Joshua Nearhoof and Easton Tower Nearhoof, who are all together with Jesus in Heaven.
I remind myself that it is okay to shed tears for lost loved ones as I never want to forget them. When a memory comes to mind, the tears may flow but instead of holding onto the heart-ache from the loss, I try to smile at the wonderful memories that I will have forever.
If you are missing a loved one this holiday season, light a candle for them and cherish sweet memories of them.
I had a hip replacement at the end of August and my recovery is much slower than I had planned. My goal was to be back into my exercise routine by now but I am still walking with a cane. I get frustrated with the slow progress and when I focus on the things I can’t do yet, I could easily sit down and have a grand old pity party for myself.
As I watched the news coverage this week of the total devastation in New York and New Jersey as a result of Super Storm Sandy, I was reminded of just how much I have to be thankful for. It was heart-breaking to hear about a mother
whose two young boys were swept out of her arms by the rushing water and how
many lives this storm has claimed. Seeing the pictures of homes washed away or reduced to a pile of rubble really made me step back and ask myself what I am complaining about? I am alive and healthy; I have a home, food, clothing, and electricity, so what if my hip hurts now and then.
Our natural human response when things don’t go the way we planned is to focus on the bad stuff and we often lose sight of all the good things we have to be thankful for. One of the first assignments a counselor gives a new patient is to make a list of everything they are grateful for, so they can focus on those things instead of the issue at hand.
There are simple truths to consider about any situation we encounter:
- Everyone experiences difficult times sooner or later—it’s not just you.
- Life is not fair; no one ever promised it would be so don’t expect it.
- Focusing on the negative consumes you in a vicious emotional cycle.
- Choosing to focus on the positive will enable you to keep things in perspective.
I learned this lesson the hard way. As I look back on the times in my life when I
made poor decisions—ones that produced life-long consequences—every instance
was the result of me searching for something I didn’t have, rather than being
thankful for what I did.
Thankfulness is a great first step to maintaining good emotional health.
I begin Boot Camp for Life by telling you a little about myself as I believe it is important for you to know me and some of the experiences that have shaped the person I have become.
I used to call 1982 the year of my life because of the significant events that happened that year (mostly because of choices I had made). I was a senior in high school, got pregnant in January, married in March, turned 18 in April, graduated in June, and gave birth to my first child in October. That’s a lot for one year! The thing that stressed me out the most was telling my mother that I was pregnant, which by the way, my sister ended up doing because I just sat there and cried.
Eleven years later—three kids, full-time job, failing marriage—feeling like the world was caving in on me, I ended my marriage, moved to a new city with my children, and started a new job. A year and a half later I remarried and truly believed I was starting a new life (I hadn’t yet learned the lesson on how the old life follows you).
By 1995, at the ripe old age of 31, I had already dealt with growing up in a single parent home, teenage pregnancy, marital problems, divorce, second marriage, and a new blended family. My husband and I have dealt with a lot of challenges over the years, but we worked—sometimes fought—our way through them and just celebrated our 18th anniversary.
2010 surpassed 1982 for significant life events. In April, my husband and I made the decision to accept relocation to Colorado for his job with a move date in July. My mother was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer in May, my son and his wife lost their first baby boy in June, we moved in July, and I returned to Pennsylvania in August to be with my mother who died on September 6th. In one year, I lost my mother and a grandson, moved across country, became unemployed, and, for the first time in my adult life, I had no kids in the house.
The past two years have proven to be quite adventurous as well. I am now Co-founder and Director of Military Families Ministry which is a non-profit organization that supports service members and their families. I am also the author of Battles of the Heart: Boot Camp for Military Moms.
The lessons I will share with you on this blog are the result of my personal experiences with situations that I have gone through and, by the grace of God, learned from.
The most common response to the boot-camp style training guide in part II of my book, Battles of the Heart: Boot Camp for Military Moms, was that the lessons can be applied to any situation in life—not just those encountered by military families. I completely agree.
Life seems to produce an unlimited supply of issues that break through the door and enter our small piece of the universe. Often times these situations kidnap our emotions and hold us hostage. I experienced a very hostile takeover of my emotions when my son was serving his first deployment in Iraq; overwhelmed with fear and sadness, I truly felt like I was a prisoner of my own emotions.
Every traumatic event we encounter in life triggers a cycle of emotional responses. We all handle these situations differently and some of us tend to be more emotional than others. I will be the first to admit (and I am quite certain that my husband and children will agree) that I can be over-the-top at times. While expressing our feelings is very healthy, allowing our emotions to control our thoughts and dictate our actions…not so much.
The good news is we can learn how to manage our emotional health and be prepared for any situation that comes our way. As is the case with almost everything we do in life, training is required to break old habits and create new behaviors. The first thing you do when you start a new job is receive your benefits package and undergo specific training for your job. When enlistees join the Armed Forces, the first place they are sent is basic training—boot camp—where they are trained for their new life in the service.
When, and if, you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you received a benefits package and training guide for your new life as a Christian. Unfortunately, many Christians do not understand their benefits package and, therefore, are not trained or equipped to handle life’s challenges as God intended.
The focus of Boot Camp for Life is to dive into your benefits package and training guide so that you can claim the identity you were given at the moment you accepted Christ as your Savior. Understanding and claiming my identity in Christ literally changed my life. My prayer is that by sharing my experiences with you, I may help you uncover your identity in Christ and start living the life that God designed for you.
1 Peter 4:10 says; “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (Zondervan NIV Study Bible)
I hope to be a good steward of God’s grace.
Welcome to Boot Camp for Life!
Greetings My Friend,
I must confess to you that I am giggling as I sit here with my third cup of coffee and completely re-write today’s post. I spent the weekend writing, re-writing, and re-writing again (I think you get my point) the post that would launch my new blog. My plan was to explain why I hadn’t written a post in several months, why the blog’s appearance got a makeover, and the reason that I chose to shift the focus of the blog from military family issues to life in general. I had actually accomplished all of these things perfectly in a 477 word post which I believe would have passed any editor’s critique.
Now you may be wondering why you are not reading that post.
The funny thing, and the reason for my giggles, is that my well-intended and carefully-thought out plan was just that—my plan.
My bed-time prayer last night was that God would give me inspirational words to write and people who would be interested enough to read them. I awoke this morning with a fresh perspective and a reminder that my original objective for this blog’s makeover was to create a place where I could chat with you from my heart. I got so focused on producing an informational, grammatically correct, and engaging post that I somehow misplaced the primary intention—which I truly believe is God’s plan.
God’s grace has touched me many times over the years and this morning’s touch of grace made my heart smile and honestly makes me giggle. I get so wrapped up in what I think I have to do that I completely lose sight of what God wants me to do. I must simply laugh at myself when I think about how many times (far too many to count) I’ve attempted to control situations and plotted to devise the best plan to fix everything. Yet, time and time again, when I stop and pray about it—God ALWAYS provides the answer which NEVER requires my stressing out or scheming.
So, here it is; pure, simple, and straight from my heart. This blog will not be the
production of a perfect writer—for I am not a perfect writer. I will not guarantee grammatical correctness and my posts may not pass an editor’s critique. I will, however, promise to share my heart—openly and honestly.
Proverbs 16:3 says; Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed. (Zondervan NIV Study Bible), I commit this blog to the Lord and ask Him to lead us.
I want to make you smile and, sometimes, laugh. I might cause a tear to slip from your eye or perhaps the flood gates that hold back your tears may burst and send you running for a box of tissues. My desire is to have fun and tug at your heart.
I hope you will post comments and share also because I know that God brings friends into fellowship for a purpose and there is so much I can learn from you.
I finally watched the movie, Act of Valor, last week when it came out on DVD. I love that they used real Navy Seals instead of actors and I can’t imagine the red tape the producers must have gone through to get the necessary permissions. I thought it was very well done, it is action packed, and is an excellent movie to increase civilian awareness of the service and sacrifice experienced daily by service members and their families.
It is difficult for me, as the mother of a combat infantryman, to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie because it was a painful reminder of the reality of my life. There were many tear provoking scenes in the movie, but the one of the Navy Seal making the ultimate sacrifice really tugged at my heart as I know in all reality that my son would do the same. I vividly remember a conversation I had with my son following his second deployment in Iraq. He told us that every time they went out on a mission one of his guys would say, “Hey Sgt, let me go first.”, but Josh always responded the same by telling them no, he would go first. He said it was his job to get them all home safely to their families and I wondered whose job it was to ensure his safe return.
I am very grateful for the courage and bravery of the men and women who serve this country and provide for my freedom. I am so proud of my son for his service and sacrifice, but I must admit that as a mother, I sometimes wish he wasn’t one of the brave ones.
I am actively pursuing speaking engagements to promote both my book, Battles of the Heart: Boot Camp for Military Moms and my non-profit organization, Military Families Ministry. I typically share my personal experiences as one example of the challenges that military families face. I then encourage my audience to reach out to and support the military families in their communities.
This week, I had the privilege of speaking to the Denver Chapter of Blue Star Mothers. It felt different speaking to a group of military moms who, I knew, understood my struggles with the emotional side of deployments because many of them had encountered the same issues.
My talk was followed by a lively discussion about the overall lack of support available to military moms and the extended families scattered across the nation. Many of these families don’t have access to a military installation, family readiness groups, or other support services offered to the spouse and children of service members. Most families don’t even know they will need support until after they have said good-bye to a loved one headed to a war zone and then face the uncertainties and emotional battles alone.
There are Blue Star Mother Chapters in every state which provide excellent support to military moms. These mothers, like their children who serve, share a unique bond. Seasoned moms, who have gone through deployments, can help new moms get through their first. Experiences shared and lessons learned are
valuable resources for those who are new members of a military family. The chapters are very well connected in their communities and know what services are available.
Military life is full of ups and downs, constant changes, a roller coaster ride of emotions, and heartaches that most civilians will never understand. As is the case with many things, our strength is in our numbers—military families need each other. I encourage every military mom to seek out the closest Blue Star Mothers Chapter and get involved.