How to Persevere in Horrible Circumstances

A Memorial Service

Last Friday, Don and I had the privilege to attend a memorial service for a man we did not know. Our church, Killeen Church of the Nazarene, provided a place to remember a man who the world knew very little about, but his perseverance through life was something to appreciate and learn from.

Tommy passed away at the end of May, but had no known family to take care of his funeral. His “brothers” from his group home were his only family, but they have been scattered across the nation over the past several years. Tommy was relocated back to Killeen by his request as he always felt that Texas was his home.

A friend of our pastor called him asking if there was any way our church would be willing to host a memorial service. Pastor Rick was more than willing to help send Tommy home in a gracious and loving way.

Three of Tommy’s “brothers” were in attendance, his newest group home leader spoke, the man who investigated the work conditions spoke, songs were sung, including “I’ll Fly Away” sung by Johnny Cash, and memories were shared.

Memories not my own

During the memorial, several people involved in Tommy’s life spoke about him sharing what they remembered about him. For some it was quick and insightful; some shared a lot not only about Tommy, but the other boys in the bunkhouse.

It was mentioned several times that Tommy was a quiet man. He also had a subtle sense of humor. But the one memory that resounded was his constant sense of joy. Regardless of how hard life was at times, Tommy was content.

Tommy was the man who watched and listened. And only when he felt that something needed to be said, would he say what was on his mind. From the memories shared, it sounded like his statements were profound and impactful.

Appreciation for Tommy’s lesson

Tommy was a man I never met. Within an hour, I learned about him from other people’s stories, and from a picture of a content man sitting at a table wearing a t-shirt, jeans, suspenders, and a baseball cap.

Whatever horrible conditions Tommy and his “brothers” went through while working at a turkey plant in Iowa, I can only imagine. But the impact that he made on my life was profound.

To be able to find joy and contentment in horrible conditions is a gift only found through God’s promises and love. Whether he realized it or not, Tommy persevered through constant moving, horrible working conditions, no known biological family, and different group homes.

“to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” – Romans 2:7 (NASB)

Realization of My Effect on Others

I have always admired people who come across as content and find joy in all they do. It’s even better when I get to know them and find that it is their way of life, not just how they appear.

Tommy had an impact on me. Though we never met, I was asking myself:

  • Do I listen and learn before I speak?
  • Are my words important, helpful?
  • Do I find the joy in every circumstance?
  • Do I persevere regardless of what is happening around me?

Wow, who would have thought all those questions would come to me after attending a memorial service for a man I never met.

Thank you, Tommy Johnson, for all you shared with others, even in death.

Rest in God’s peace, Tommy, Rest in peace!

An Article About Tommy and His “Brothers”

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/03/09/us/the-boys-in-the-bunkhouse.html

The Raging Storm – Money

Today I woke up feeling relatively depressed. I received a 6:15 a.m. text saying that a check I wrote bounced. Not good! I tried applying for a transcription job  that could be as few or as many hours a week. Didn’t get it. Geez, will anything go right today?

Some Recent History

My husband has been receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for many years now. As the man of the house, he really wanted to go back to work. His drive is to provide for his family. He went back to his passion, teaching. Only to find out that he physically and mentally couldn’t maintain the demand.

Though working at a Christian school, he made just a little bit too much money to still receive his SSDI. We knew this was a possibility, but didn’t realize that he would not be able to keep the job. We submitted paperwork to SSDI stating his resignation.

As of May 1, Don’s SSDI disbursement was cancelled (He stopped working back in November.) This was devastating as I am also a Christian school teacher. Our budget since Don stopped teaching was already $400 in the hole.

What’s happening now.

Well, fortunately, SSDI has agreed to consider reinstating Don’s benefits since he is no longer working. We have filled out many forms in hopes that he will regain his benefits permanently.

But, it doesn’t fix the financial situation we are in now. Almost $600 in bank fees, our auto insurance is past due, a bounced check, and in need of medications for Don; the situation looks bleak.

What do we do?

Only God has the answer. I trust in that, but it doesn’t make it easier as each day passes. This has been the longest 2-week pay period in my life and it’s not over yet.

I contacted the company that owns my student loans hoping for some reprieve. My current balance is almost $22,500 and the required payment is $440 per month. Ouch! I applied for a forbearance until November.

Thank the Lord, they granted the forbearance until November.

The encouragement that helps me through all this is:

Have I not commanded you? Be Strong and Courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Outlook

We will get through all of this in God’s timing. He has proved it time and time again. I recently pulled out a journal book to take notes in when I go to church. I didn’t realize that in the front were many journal entries from when my kids where younger.

In the front were entries I called “Lukas Moments”. These moments were words of wisdom sent from God through my son. At the young age of nine, Lukas made a clear statement:

While waiting for his sister to be done with her ice skating lessons, he came up to me and said he needed five things: 1) clothes, 2) life, 3) God, 4) to get outta here, 5) food. All of these things are necessities of life, especially God as he provides all those other things.

Wise words from my 9-year-old son.

Attending Meetings Where I Don’t Feel Welcome

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Stressor

Have you ever attended a meeting that you know you don’t fit in well with the others? That was my day today and I have five more just like it before the school year begins.

Background

Three years ago, Don and I moved to Texas. Shortly after we arrived, I started a job as a 4th grade teacher. Compared to being a special education teacher, I really enjoyed it. I would spend late nights at school to get everything ready for the next day/week.

At the end of the year, the principal asked me (volun-told me) to take a job as a Skills II teacher. A Skills II teacher is exposed to daily chances of getting injured by behaviorally aggressive students. I reluctantly agreed.

Within the first month, I was injured three times on my left wrist and hand. By mid-October, Don was driving me to the ER thinking I was having a heart attack. It was discovered that I was having a major panic attack.  Even with IV medication, the doctors could not get my blood pressure below 167/120.

Changes

Though I felt led by God to work with students with special needs in the public schools, God made it loud a clear that His plan was continuing in a new direction. By November of that school year, I had resigned and was given the opportunity to start teaching at a Christian school.

Unfortunately, I had to give up the public school paycheck and all benefits. But my joy came from the middle school students that I was able to work with. Plus I could now talk about Jesus, teach the truths from the Bible, and pray with my students.

A Benefit

In April, the staff was notified of professional development seminars that we could attend presented by the public school system. Being a learning-nerd, I jumped at the chance and signed up for 6 different seminars.

Anxiety develops

Last night I didn’t sleep well because of the anxiety that started to creep up. My brain keep thinking about who I may see at the seminar; the looks I might get for being “an outsider”.

Today during the seminar, the presenter did a great job introducing books,  and describing and demonstrating many apps that could be used with my students. When I opened my laptop, I realized that I could not access those apps because I did not have a district-issued computer.

Also, I couldn’t use my computer because I didn’t have the password for the secured WiFi signal. I felt trapped. I didn’t fit in.

Suddenly, I stopped and prayed asking for God to help me appreciate the learning He provided, and how to use what was presented with what He provides to the Christian school.

As a result, I noticed my wrist (the injured one, which is still far from healed,) where I have one of my life verses tattooed – “Be Still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10.

I don’t need to fit in with the world, but I need to keep my focus and sense of belonging on God.

Have a blessed evening,

Heidi D

Response to Mental Illness blog

Read the blog below to understand where my response is coming from.

What Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, Me, And 45 Million Americans Have In Common

Thank You

Thank you, Becca, for your candid and real discussion about mental illness.

I keep my eyes open for more and more information on this debilitating subject as my daughter suffers from many of the same issues that you do. I cannot say that I “understand” what she is going through as she is definitely SMI, whereas I am AMI.

Mental Illness

The only reason I know that I am AMI is through my daughter’s help. I have learned to slow down and ask questions before just expecting her to go places with me; how to avoid crowded aisles in the grocery store and come back later; how to read her face and body language when her anxiety is high and on the verge of a panic attack; and how to just sit and wait until she is ready to tell me what she needs.

As a result, she has learned to ask for my “squeezy hug” that helps calm her body; tell me in simple terms that she “just can’t today” and we change our plans; to dealing with people and statements that trigger her anxiety and ridding herself of those triggers; to being able to got back to college and hold a part-time job (for now.)

Yearnings of a Mom

As a mom, this is not what I had envisioned for my child. My child should have finished high school in the school building, not from home; attended all the events and had all the experiences that “every” high-schooler should have. She should have gone to college at 18, completed a 4-year degree, and now be a successful adult, possibly married and have a child of her own.

But at 24-years-old, she deals with the after effects of abuse by a cousin, severe Celiac disease, endometriosis, anxiety, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts. She still struggles and will always struggle with these things, but with awareness and proper medical care, she has made strides.

Thank God

I thank God every day for where she has come, and curse the devil for his power over our world and the evil he places on good people like my daughter. Thank you, Becca. I have heard your words loud and clear.

I am the Storm!

Storms

For most of my life, the devil whispered in my ear, “you’re not strong enough to withstand the storm.” Recently, I have been able to respond, “I am the storm!” God has equipped me to be His storm for the benefit of others.

Over time many people that know my story have casually said that I should write a book. I was skeptical for years thinking how difficult that would be. As time passed, God kept putting it on my heart to write a blog. That “thought” became more and more frequent over the past year.

Today, I acted on that prompting from God and searched how to start a blog. After my husband awoke, I excitedly told him of my ideas. He then told me that two days ago he had a clear idea come to him that I should write a blog.

Sharing

Together Don and I will brainstorm and share our story. We will tell of how significant our savior, Jesus Christ, is within the story. Without Him, I would not have been able to weather any storm or become the storm.

                                      

After a vehicular accident on April 1, 2003, our entire lives were turned upside down and forever changed. Our children were 9- and 6-years-old at the time.

In the eye of the storm, I have found how to “be still” knowing that God holds me in his hands. With His love and support, I can share my story in the hopes to help others seek God. 

My purpose

I want to help others battle the storms of their lives and become their own storm against the devil. Satan caused turmoil in my life that God was able to turn around for my benefit. Through the many trials is a lesson that I can pass on to help others.

God’s mercy and grace has saved me.