Perfect (Friend Post Friday #4)

I’ve been friends with this month’s “Friend Post” blogger for over ten years!  (That can’t be right, I’m not that old.  And yet…hm…)  From the time I met her, I’ve watched Audrey Beatty pour her heart and passion into helping others in community.  She’s very active in “Epoch Arts“, a theater/ arts community for youth that fosters hope, positive change, and creativity. (Please check out their page to find out more about summer classes, their giant yearly tag sale, and ways you can get involved!!)  Having been involved since Epoch’s early years, she’s proud to have helped with everything from acting and grant writing to working on their garden!  I’ve also experienced Audrey’s deep heart for social justice while working alongside her with Love146, which seeks to end child trafficking and slavery.  Her beautiful heart continues to shine through now as a wife and mother as well.  But beyond all her volunteering and all around enthusiasm to make a difference in the world, Audrey has always been one of the greatest people to have an all-in conversation with.  She’s open-minded and genuine, not afraid to talk about things other shy away from, and always leaves me with a perspective I desperately need.  I believe you’ll agree with me after reading this timely post…so here’s Audrey:


“Perfect”

by Audrey Beatty 

43 You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

I have a confession to make.  

I am not perfect.  

Phew, it feels good to get that off of my chest!  But truly, it’s something that’s hard for me to accept or admit.  I try to keep a perfect home.  Be the perfect wife, perfect mother, perfect woman, perfect person.  I obsess.  I fret. I fall short.  Every.  Damn. Day.

But in the fall of 2016, I decided it was time to be the perfect citizen and activist too.  I, like many others, have all of the answers and obviously people in positions of influence need to hear from me.  Time for me to rise up and take my rightful place among the change makers in the world and make my mark!  So I started to attend meetings.  I started to join groups.  I started to take copious notes and do my homework.

I started to realize I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.

If you are hankering for a nice big slice of humble pie, I would strongly recommend becoming involved with local government.  And I don’t mean showing up at a town council meeting with an agenda or something you’ve already determined you’re fighting for or against.  I mean just sitting attentively in a town committee meeting, prepared to learn about and engage with the process of running a community.  It’s often dry, bogged down in systems and traditions passed down through generations, and, frankly, soul-crushing.

But what began to unfold in my mind as my eyes glazed over and I started praying no one would try to engage me in any serious kind of conversation, therefore discovering I was really a total noob and out of my element, was the strangest and most crystal clear revelation.

This incredibly awkward, uncomfortable space is exactly where I’m supposed to be.  This is perfect.

Now hear me out.

This revelation may have started in a town committee meeting, but the thought wasn’t entirely fleshed out until I was attending church one Sunday.  I brought my son to his church school classroom and was settling into a pew.  I’d missed the readings entirely (shame) and don’t even remember most of the sermon (double shame), but on that Sunday in late winter the new associate minister spoke a short but simple phrase that pinned me into my seat and hasn’t let go of me yet…weeks later.  The words have become tattooed on my heart.

God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust…and we know not which we are.  

She said it a second time and left pregnant pauses between each word:

We know not… which… we… are.  

What?!

I felt my throat clamp shut and my eyes well up.  She wasn’t even looking at me, and yet in that moment I felt stripped down to my inner most being and in the spotlight.

I know not which I am.

The truth of it shook me to my core and I realized…it’s not something I consider nearly often enough.

I could be, and often am, downright wrong in my thinking.

So what does this have to do with the town meeting?  As I learned more and more about government and became increasingly involved, I made some observations.  

  1. Most people find politics scary or, at the very least, off-putting…at least when they’re not on Facebook.  And honestly?  I can’t blame them.
  2. Things are rarely as simple as I thought.  If a problem seemed to have an obvious solution, that solution likely has negative repercussions I hadn’t considered.  Either that or the reasons for the problem are far more complex than I realized.
  3. If it’s hard for me to understand why someone is so worked up about something, it’s usually because they have a history that is different than mine or their current life circumstances are different.  Not better or worse.  Just different. It is rarely because they are, at their core, a bad or even irrational person incapable of hearing reason or holding a productive conversation when treated with respect.  Furthermore, to diminish someone else’s pain and suffering, regardless of my feelings about it, is to forever erect an obstacle to understanding between us.
  4. No one is ever going to get their way all of the time.  Not even me.  And if I can’t think outside of myself and take the needs and desires of others into consideration—even others that I disagree with on a fundamental level—I am never going to have peace or happiness in this life and likely won’t accomplish much.
  5. “Just” and “unjust” are a heck of a lot more hazy than I would have liked to believe.

Initially, these thoughts made me want to throw in the towel.  I thought, “That’s it!  It is impossible to know everything about every issue and understand every angle.  How is anyone supposed to do anything about…ANYTHING!  I’m going off-grid and I’m never speaking to anyone outside of my immediate family ever again.  And maybe not even them.  WHY EVEN TRY.”

But then I realized something else.  Committing myself to learning, growing, and being flexible in my understanding of the world and people in it doesn’t mean abandoning my convictions.  In fact, it’s in line with them.  Leaving room for others and their beliefs at the table is not a threat and there is no need to feel offended if others don’t agree with me.  I do not really know who is right and who is wrong and, in the end, it isn’t up to me anyway.

We are all just and unjust, righteous and unrighteous, evil and good, perfect and imperfect.  At the same time, all of the time. And seeing that truth – it was such a necessary dose of humility for me.   Not only that, but it was liberating and strangely empowering.  When I’m able to let go of the need to be “right” or the fear of being “wrong” (it’s not easy…actually it’s a devastatingly hard, continual process for me), I start to experience life differently.  I stop seeing myself as better or worse than anyone else.  I start being more open to people and ideas without feeling insecure or defensive. I stop hating and wanting to hide from the world…and find love and compassion in the space left behind.  I find hope for the future, whatever it may bring.

And do you know what I’m going to do?  I’m going to keep at it.  I’m going to keep showing up even when I’m dead tired and used up.  I’m going to continue arguing and getting frustrated and feeling embarrassed and screwing up and learning to do better.  I’m going to get mad and butt heads and hold signs and give up and start again.  Becoming woven into the fabric of a community and choosing to be a conscious, active member, however stomach-churning or complicated, is the most beautiful and authentic form of love for my neighbor, and my enemy, that I have ever engaged in.


Were you impacted by Audrey’s story?  Please comment or share to spread the conversation a little further!  And don’t forget to check in Monday for the first week of “Gray Faith” study!

Unraveled (Friend Post Friday #3)

I’m beyond thrilled for you to meet my friend Sharon Butler who is this month’s “Friend Poster”.  I’d introduce her myself, but I can’t beat her own beautifully spoken bio…so the rest is Sharon:
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These days, I am the wife of a crazy redheaded lumberjack, the mother of seven amazing kids, a homeschool mom, a blogger at www.PureReligionIs.com, an anti-human trafficking activist, and a compassionate entrepreneur. 

I’ve been a writer as long as I could write. The downstairs bathroom was my childhood office and the toilet lid was my desk. I found quiet and solitude there, perfect for my childhood writing. As a teen, I processed fears, beliefs, joy, and all my strange ideas in my beanbag chair writing-lab. 

By college, I was a misfit journalism and ministry student who wanted to change the world, but I started to doubt myself and God’s plan for me. I stumbled, doing things my way for the next several years. Then one day, God took it all. He wrecked the life I had built, and led me through years of wilderness while He shaped me, carved me, humbled me, and began to prepare me to do it all His way. 

I wear a lot of hats, but of this I am sure: that no matter how much or how little I know, God chooses the weak, so He can use even me. Whatever I do, I do for His glory. May that be always evident in all I do.

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UNRAVELED– by Sharon Butler

No Strings Attached

If life is like a tapestry, you can imagine how it might unravel. A loose thread here, a tug, a yank, a pull. Before you know it, you’re just a mess of string, unattached.

The unraveling comes in those hard times that shake us to our core, circumstances that seem to wreck our lives. I presume we all have them, but we don’t always know what to do with them, do we? In the midst of a crisis, we may not see the whole tapestry—only the pull that’s causing the destruction.

My unraveling season was the spring and summer of 2008. It almost seems surreal as I think back to this time of my life. It lives in my mind in mere flashes of scenes – disconnected from each other, but yet, held together by the tiny thread that unraveled me with each tug.

It was the family vacation when I first suspected my husband’s affair. He was on the phone with work way too much, and missing our time at the beach house. When we returned home, I asked him to cut back on his time with her, because something didn’t seem right; but instead, he said, no and walked out the door. That’s how I found out that there was an actual problem, and it was not just paranoia.

It was the day my boss, friend and mentor told me she had cancer, and I felt that knot tighten in my throat. I didn’t dare burden her with my troubles. Then later, she asked for my help crafting a ‘positive’ message about her illness to the staff, while she was losing her hair and growing thin and frail.

It was the day my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, right before she and I should have been leaving for our first vacation alone. I knew our lives would never be the same again.

It was the day I secretly hoped her Diabetes would bring him back to us, but it didn’t. It was the day he asked for a divorce. It was the day my boss died and my world was wrecked.

That was it. My life unraveled. I was undone—a mere pile of thread tangled up on the floor.

Before that, my life had been a string of people, places and events that connected me to the world, a tapestry of experiences, hopes and dreams; but after, my life was punctuated by nightmares, tears, and far too many unknowns. It was a mess, with no meaning, no pattern left.

My marriage was over, my job was in question, my daughter was chronically ill. And I was alone, with no strings to anything, except my sick baby girl. I had lost my framework — my goals, my dreams, my career, and my partner. I stood there like a blind man in the middle of a room trying to feel for a reference point.

For weeks, I cried as I walked to work. I would pull myself together long enough to look reasonably professional, and cry again on my way home. Occasionally, I’d turn off my office lights, sit under the desk and cry. She, my former boss, would have understood. I would always clean myself up outside the front door of my house, and be sure to walk in with a smile to see my daughter at the end of each day. I’d lie on the floor and let her crawl on me because that’s all I had energy for.

I grieved. I mourned. And then one day, I knew I had to make a decision. I could continue grieving, or I could make a new life, put some of those threads back together, no matter how messy. The tears may not have stopped just because I said so. I still cry nine years later as I recall that time, all the loss. But I began carefully crafting a life for myself–something different to set my eyes on for the future.

First goal: Find me.

After years of marriage to a man I began dating in college, I had given up so many of my own personal dreams and desires, and even elements of my personality, that I didn’t know who I was anymore. I’d moved for him twice, helped put him through medical school, and lived as a single parent, effectively. So the first goal was to uncover who I was. Do I like to dance? I have no idea! Let’s take a Salsa class! What kind of music do I like? Who knows anymore! Let’s go hear some bands.

Second goal: Be brave.

All those things that scared me? I now had a drive to overcome those fears, to try new things, to stretch myself. I had to become brave. I made my list of fears and determined to overcome them with personal challenges. Afraid of swimming with creatures? Snorkeling in the ocean will cure that! Scared of guns? Well, that means its time to learn to shoot.

Third goal: Dream.

For all those years of marriage, I had put my own dreams on hold. I pushed them back into the dark corners of the closets. Now, as I struggled to untangle that thread, I didn’t know what to use it for. What was it I wanted? What was it I loved? What was it I felt called to do?

Dreaming is scary. It’s dangerous and risky. What if I dream it and can’t achieve it? At the time, I was so scared, I manufactured false dreams—dreams I was willing to walk away from easily. And I did. But years later, God restored my true dreams of old—the dreams I had dreamed my whole life—the dreams of helping hurting people, dreams of writing, dreams of family and faith and ministry.

Even though I forgot who I was, forgot how to be brave and forgot my dreams, God never did. He held the plans for the tapestry of my life all along. I had made some poor design choices and ended up with a tangled up life, so as it unraveled around me, God saw opportunity—a chance to re-weave my life into what He intended all along.

We Are the Collective (Friend Post Friday #2)

I’m excited to introduce you to my brother, Ben Martin, the second author in my monthly “Friend Post Fridays” series.  Ben may be the youngest of the four of us kids, but he daily inspires me in his simplicity of living, his desire to truly listen and engage with those around him, and his big heart and humor.  Ben doesn’t just talk, he DOES.  When he’s not traveling, he’s working hard, being WITH people (all in), or maybe writing music.  You can check out more of his music on his Youtube Channel.  He doesn’t settle for status quo, and he doesn’t want us to either- so I hope you are challenged by his blog today.  


“We Are the Collective” by Ben Martin

What is in a name but just what we have limited it to be? The infrastructure of our mind is more advanced than we let on, more than we can understand. One must think outside the box as it were, but thinking outside the box has become a box in and of itself. There’s no such thing as hipsters. We act like by complete choice we do what we do, and wear what we wear, but there is an extreme influence present that affects all of us whether we’d like to admit it or not. I hesitate to even say the “S” word because it could just be placed in another box, shipped off by an amazon drone to a part of your brain that doesn’t pay a mind to what it thinks it has heard before. Maybe this topic has been introduced previously, but how can that negate the importance? And, if we choose not to listen to this, what is IT that we are listening too? Even when you zone out or drive zombie-like to work, we are listening. We are watching. We are absorbing something. Sometimes our sub-conscious is accepting things all the time without us realizing. We see something or read an article and it makes sense only because we’ve SEEN it. It has made itself visible to us. New ideas didn’t begin until someone said what if we did it THIS way, or what if the world was not flat, but in fact round. Let us look at what is around us and make an accurate judgement.

Maybe I should just come out and say it…..society. There, it’s done. Don’t judge me. Instead, think about how real it is and how it affects you. Do you feel this affect is positive or negative, maybe both? Do you find yourself questioning much of what you do? Are you easily swayed by others opinions? Have you been raised a certain way that in turn makes you think a certain way? How should we define the word society? These are questions I like to ask just for us to get a better view of where we stand. You may have a vision of where you’d like to stand, but that does not always match up with the facts. I would love to be on a beach in Tahiti right now, but If I pull up the gps on my phone it shows me what I already know, that I am sitting in a hobbit hole in Connecticut on a cold winter night with snow coming in a few hours. It’s the truth. Not something you hear every day. I wonder the legitimacy of most news articles and people on television that like to paint a picture. Who’s to say that last article you read about such and such a leader did terrible things was created on false facts just to stir up trouble, to get us angry and emotional. Well, it works. We have a feeling and we run with it. It’s easy to keep a fire going once there’s a few hot coals. With this, the truth becomes almost trivial and only a word to get us believing whatever is put forth.

There is a depth to each person’s soul where at some point they’re asking “why?”. They are asking the deep questions of life. Advertisements and television and news have discovered THIS truth, and used it in such a way to get what they want. If they get us to a point where we no longer think but just do, we are perfect products of our society and aren’t exercising one of our biggest gifts, which is the ability to think and question. A mistake for us would be to equate average living with something somehow entirely separate from what society would tell us ‘average living’ should look like. I am impacted by society just as much as the next guy, and isn’t that the point? We try to distinguish and separate and individualize ourselves, but how is that not interconnected with a collaborative source of people all trying to do the same thing. There’s no such thing as hipsters.

Please don’t write this post off as a purely negative attack looking to point out where you’re all wrong and lost and controlled unknowingly. The fact is, those statements might have some truth, but my purpose behind the glass is to evaluate how everything around us is affecting us, and how it can be both positive and negative, and how we might respond to these effects. It comes easy for me to write overarching ideas and themes, to outline an issue or introduce a doctrine, but it becomes more difficult when getting down to specifics. Therefore, it is my job as the writer to give examples and pull from experiences and point to events and occurrences. It’s true, just as society is an integral force in influencing the general public, I too am looking to influence you and uncover what otherwise might remain buried. Most of what society and television touch upon resides on the surface level in which the ground we walk can even become foreign if we’re not constantly digging. What makes up the dirt, the soil, the minerals, the roots, the magma, the stuff we tread on the daily commute? We know much less than our superhero pop-culture news reports might have us believe.

Personally, I pay very little attention to the news. The only time I know what’s going on around in the world is when I hear it from a friend or co-worker. I haven’t invested in keeping up with current affairs because I tell myself it’s all gobblesmack. Yes, gobblesmack. But this is the world I live in and I am affected by what happens around me. To go further, am I not exercising my fullest potential when I choose hiding over acknowledgement that there are important things going on right now and I play a part? Do we play a part? Do we believe that what we do matters? Some people refuse to vote because they know they’re one vote really won’t make a difference. I haven’t even registered to vote yet in however many years of eligibility. To me I didn’t think much of it, and I felt more just in doing nothing. But that’s part of the problem, when we disassociate or do not recognize ourselves as part of the collective, we will more easily skip out on action. What if we could put a name to society? Or how we would like it to be? What does that look like? We can invest in each other’s lives. Invest in people from all cultures to grow and gain a better perspective. To experience love in all its forms and hate as well, but to embrace emotions and beliefs and both joy and sorrow that comes from this.

Since we’re so good at putting names to things, why not call society what you believe it to be and then do something about it. Take part. Take action. Help people. Find your purpose. Share what you’ve be given and receive what others have to give. Dig deeper. Appreciate what you have. Keep asking questions because God knows we’ll never figure it all out. Look for what you believe to be issues or unhealthy, and take simple steps to change that. We must acknowledge that we’re not always right, but the beauty of this collective is the uniqueness each one of us brings. Don’t lose hope when things are not going the way you wanted them to. Life is confusing and much less linear than we perceive. We are moving towards something whether we like to admit it or not, and whether we take part is up to us. But we ARE a part of this so called society, for better or worse, and we’ve got stuff to do. The only way I can be confident in challenging others is if I also am challenging myself. I am eager to discover where I fit into this puzzle and ultimately coming to a place outside of myself where I discover true meaning and purpose and connections. Together we stand…

Of Bear Meat Bacon and Spring

It’s been too long since I posted, but I assume you’ve all been caught up in that little thing called Spring that so distracts and inspires us that we’re prone to ask, “Facebook…hm…what’s that again?”

Anyway, between the warm weather and the dangerous coffee levels, I’m suddenly motivated to do all the things, like start writing a new book, create my dream pinterest writing nook,

deep Spring clean my house, and bake birthday and Easter treats.  

“Um…Hello Chocolate!  And you brought your friend, Peanut Butter? Please come in!”

Speaking of treats and Easter, I’ll share a completely random story with you about our family Easter ride to my in-laws’ house.  Somehow the topic of pigs and bacon came up and my seven year old daughter lamented from the back seat that, even though she loved bacon,she wished we didn’t have to kill pigs for it.  When I asked her how she would prefer to get bacon meat, she said we could kill bears for bacon.  (I think in her head bears are slightly more sinister than the pigs she has met, and are therefore better candidates for killing off.)

My six year old son quickly chimed in, “No, You have to kill the right thing!”  (Translation: Bear meat may not be a suitable bacon substitute.)

Then the three year old, not to be left out, piped up, “Bear Meat, Ew!” (Except he said it more like, beh mee, eww!)

My ever ethically sensitive daughter capped the conversation by trying to rationalize the killing of the bear; She’d invite him to help her pick berries, and if he proved to be a lazy bum slacker, she’d employ a jaguar or panther or some other wildcat to take him out.  I’m surprised sloth is so far up there on her list of unforgivable sins, given her pitiful reaction whenever I ask her to clean at home.

Anyway, where were we?  Right, Spring and doing all the things.  I’m excited to share a couple opportunities with you if you’re feeling creative and inspired yourself!

First of all, I’m running a free Non-fiction Writer’s Workshop on Saturday, May 6th, 9:30-noon, hosted at Kainos Life Ministries in East Hampton, CT.

I’ll be working through the 101 of how to explore your unique voice and audience, as well as give simple tips to improve and share your work!  You absolutely don’t need any experience- this is just an opportunity to step out and meet others with a passion to write, and hopefully grow in confidence and direction while you’re at it!  If you’re feeling adventurous, click HERE TO REGISTER and get more details! There are also several other creative workshops to sign up for if writing isn’t your thing!

Second, I have people lined up through June, but I’m still looking for more of you to share your stories as part of my Friend-Post Fridays Blog Experiment!  Every 4th Friday I’m posting a guest blog entry written by friends and family; I believe there’s something powerful in speaking our stories, and really listening to others around us.

The sky is the limit- if you missed my first Friend-Post, you can check out what my cousin shared about his experience with PTSD, but your post can be anything from your thoughts on bear-meat-bacon to potty training, to how you adopted or what your passion in life is!  If you’re interested or even have questions, send me a message and I’d love to connect with you.

And make sure you check out next week’s Friend-Post written by my own brother, Ben!  

Finally, because I’m feeling super-ambitious, I wanted to let you know about my plan to launch an online study of my book Gray Faith over summer vacation!

For 8 weeks, I’ll be posting a weekly video on my facebook page and hope you’ll post your thoughts and interact with each other as we go!  Stay tuned for the official June launch date, and if you’re interested spread the word and grab a discounted paperback or kindle version so you’re ready to start!

That’s all for now, thanks for stopping in!  And if I you got distracted somewhere in the middle of the bear story by the Springy outdoors…I completely understand.

A War for Peace (Friend Post Friday #1)

I’m excited to introduce you to my cousin and very first Friend-Post-Friday author, Lee Waters.  Growing up mostly in New England, we only got to see extended family once a year; but Lee stands out as a thoughtful, peaceful soul in a sea of cousins, surrounded by big-laughing uncles, aunts (pronounced “Ants”) compulsively comparing cousin genetic similarities.

We’re all grown up now and just this past year I finally got to meet Lee’s amazing wife, Judy!  The two live in Georgia where Judy teaches and they both run Waters Art Studio.  Their photography and art reflect their travel, their style, and incredible creativity.  In fact, you can’t talk to them without being inspired to go create or restore something- it’s simply who they are.  I’m in awe of their work.

Lee was one of the first people I asked to share, after reading his vulnerable story.  I know this wasn’t something easy for him to share, but I know his deepest desire is that it reaches and liberates those of you who may feel a similar pain.  I’m so grateful that he shared, and hope you are moved or pass his words along to those who may need his message.


A War for Peace

A painful transparency for the sake of others

By Lee Waters

I am coming forward publicly for what I feel is necessary. This is not for myself but rather I offer what is hopefully some measure of help or service to others. Otherwise, giving such an account would certainly not be of personal interest. Life is far to short to sit on something that can be of value to others. I am tired of seeing others languish in silence, struggle for answers, or needlessly die.

For over a decade I’ve been struggling through life seemingly in every aspect. Approximately three years ago everything fell apart whether physically, spiritually, or mentally. Everything ceased to function. One day I found myself in the local Veteran’s Affairs clinic being treated for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). (PS. I’m not going to give my military history pertaining to this, so please don’t make inquiries of me or my family.)

After the service I never really adapted back home. I tried to do the “normal” things i.e. college, jobs, the old home town, old friends, relationships, church, etc. Everything was as I left it, but small…..way too small. Life was way to slow, unstructured, and certainly no level of comradery and deep friendships once known. Nothing attempted had meaning, I certainly did not fit in this old life anymore.

Later, I found myself in government contract work. Working in a post 9/11 Uncle Sam atmosphere brought back a semblance of OPTEMPO lifestyle and sense of danger depending on the day. In hind sight, I suppose I was covering up old wounds with anything that would make me feel alive or perhaps fast enough that I didn’t have to feel. But as contracts go, they came to an end. A few years later, when that state of existence ceased, so did I.

Thusly, revealing my war. Fighting an enemy I can’t see, on a battleground where there is not a lot of intel. One can call for support but command doesn’t know the exact plan of attack or understand all of the parameters.

No matter the war, engagement, or experience, somehow and bafflingly so, the malevolent effects are the same. “Different stories, same war” is a phrase often heard. To the unknowing and assuming eye all is well, yet underneath a 24/7 brawl for survival ensues.

What I discuss next as a veteran is hard to bring to light or explain. Hopefully, and the purpose of all this is not only for a fellow veteran, but also for those in close relationships with the effected and what life looks like. Disclaimer, I don’t have all the answers. I’m living minute by minute most days in this hell of a journey. This will be raw and ugly. So please save any judgement for some place elsewhere. Again, this is purely to offer what I have and if by some chance it’s a help, than this exercise in exposing what I really don’t want to will be worth it.

When one has pulled themselves up by the bootstraps from trauma to trauma, event from event, next thing to the next, something has to give. Equate it to an engine. If one never places oil in the reservoir, eventually the engine will seize. Thusly, a costly chain of events will occur in the car. Sounds simple! Just take the time to add oil! Well, somehow it’s much much more complicated than that.

Getting counseling, prescribed medications, treatments, all have a valuable place and are necessary. Yet there is more that is needed. A quick “end all” healing solution, or the expectations of such to help with the torment eludes many. Ergo, many self medicate with drugs, alcohol, vices, and even suicide to end the incessant agony. On the other end of the spectrum, activities that are dangerous are attempts to feel again. For instance, a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tornado I feel at peace in. I’m apt to go as close to or experience the fury and as a photographer I want to capture it. Maybe I want to bottle it up that way and save it for later. Now I know that those events cause pain and uncontrollable damage. Believe me when I say I care deep down. Yet the onset of lightning, thunder, or whiteout blizzard conditions elicit a sense of feeling and belonging. The wilder the better. I can rest there. It’s the quiet that is deafening to me. I am hyper vigilant again. I often dread sleep yet I know that I need it desperately. I don’t want to go through another nightmare, wind up in a pool of sweat, or wake up screaming with my chest about to explode.

Day to day life tends to be very calculated. Places like Walmart, crowded places, large church settings are a no go. Too many people, too much vigilance, subconsciously scanning for threats or running scenarios, all of which are sensory overload on a good day. Restaurants and coffee shops i can somewhat ease in to so long as my back is not turned to the crowd. Not being situationally aware at all times is not an option.

So back to the car analogy and someone says “just add oil!” Or in these cases “you don’t have to be this way now! You’re home! You can stop it if you choose to!” First of all please never say that to someone going through this! You can rest assure that if it were that easy it would be done by now. The mind knows the right answers yet the rest of the being won’t follow through. What lies deeper is a whole other story.

Jumpiness, irritability, reclusiveness, depression, exhaustion, feeling misunderstood, feeling like a cancer to anyone especially family, embarrassment, numbness, an all or nothing attitude, everything black and white, are just some of the things I battle. Again, putting these things on paper in a clear moment is one thing, but when it’s time to take care in these areas is a whole other ball of wax. Day to day is Russian roulette.

So why am I being so painfully honest about all of this? Somehow knowing the things that are part of the territory with PTSD is a relief. Especially to loved ones. My wife and family have made lots of allowances and adjustments to be there for me. And I’m sure more than I realize. It breaks my heart that they have to. I lament that reality. Yet, I am ever so great full for them. Especially my wife Judy. Many are not blessed with a family support unit like this and I don’t take it for granted. Those who don’t travel the treacherous road alone.

Now for a brief moment of levity and truth all in one. Fellas, find you a tough Irish gal. You will have found your pot of gold with her. But seriously, I owe much to my bride and I do not take it lightly.

To wit, I am publicly taking the moment to tell my family and most of all my wife Judy, thank you. I love you more than words can express.

I went to a songwriting retreat back in 2014. Nashville songwriters came to Chattanooga to help veterans put memories, stories, etc. on paper and watch them get turned into music. I will discuss that program later, I want to make a point here. A few months after the retreat, we had a reunion gathering for the veterans involved in the program. This time Judy got to meet the people I was involved with. When Judy saw the common visage on the faces of the veterans and respective family members things became tangible for her. Seeing the tiredness, the fight, the love, support, survival, and a signature look in the eyes of a vet no matter the age or whatever they were involved in, made sense and brought relief. She was not the only one going through this story as a spouse. She was not alone.

I’m going to wrap this up with a summation and reiterate what I’m attempting to say. I don’t have the answers to this. What I am offering some information on some of what veterans with PTSD and families who care for them encounter. And maybe you’re reading this and have questions about your struggles or someone else’s struggles. Please go for help. Media and culture have created a stigma in which anyone with PTSD is a mark of weakness. Rather I submit to you as encouragement, if you’re fighting with this, I say you’re stronger than most. You are fighting and surviving an enemy that would force many to yield. I’m in the throws of my battle. Trying to build a business, and seemingly living in the VA. I’m learning. So is my family. Pray for us. Pray for the veterans. 22 veterans losing the battle everyday is a disturbing number that doesn’t seem to change. Some of us are home but can’t come home on the inside. By God’s grace someday. Offer support, not judgement of what you think you understand. That can be damaging at best. Please don’t pepper someone with questions. Just be there.. don’t avoid even if you don’t understand. Remember the veterans have been and always will be sheep dogs. Always watching out for you.

Thank you for your time in reading this. It means a lot if you did. God bless my country and the men and women who have and are donning the nation’s uniform.

Ps. As aforementioned, I spoke of the program I was involved with. It is called Operation Song Chattanooga. Nashville songwriters Steve Dean and Don Goodman come down every week and help veterans write music as therapy. Do you know the song “Ol Red” sung by Blake Shelton or “Angels Among Us” sung by Alabama? That’s Don. Or one of the most played songs on country radio “Watching You” sung by Rodney Atkins? That’s Steve. These folks care deeply and get not one penny in this 501C3. I am honored to be a part of the program and now work along side them. I have written a song with Steve and Don for my wife who loves me and stays by my side. It’s about how much I love her. “I thank God that you love me.” Once the songs are written, professional cuts of the songs are put on an album and given to the veterans.

If you know someone in the Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, or Nashville areas that can benefit from a program like this, please contact us. Check out Operation Song Chattanooga on Facebook. Follow them and pass the word along. It’s powerful therapy in a family atmosphere. Check it out please.

(Post written by Lee Waters)