"Not all those who wander are lost" J.R.R. Tolkien

Friday, December 17, 2010

Vulnerability Ahead!

I think of myself as a realist.  I don't like the terms optimist or pessimist; they make me think of Patty, the cheerleader in "Grease" or Eeyore.  Now, I spent most of high school and college as a cheerleader and Eeyore happens to be my favorite Milne character so I'm not down on them.  Realism just fits me best.  I may see obstacles in the way and am good at pointing them out but they don't stop me in my path.  Rather like speed bumps.

Nearly seventeen years ago I married my complete opposite.  Donald was the ultimate, optimistic, full speed ahead, the Lord will make a way, dreamer compared to my being a "bubble burster."  His term, not mine!  When we met, Donald was a Pastoral Ministries major with the dream of being a motivational speaker.  He wanted to change hearts around the world.  The fact that he was only 23 with no life experience didn't phase him!  Sometime during graduate school he dreamed up turning his grandparent's North Dakota farm into a spiritual retreat center for ministers with hurting hearts.  He drew plans and prayed for years for a specific dollar amount.  I never knew the amount; I did know that 65% of our combined income went to pay for our tiny, cinder block, New York apartment. 

Then one day he announced he wanted to seek a commission as a military chaplain.  He had spoken with chaplains from all four branches but felt called to the Navy.  By now I didn't bat an eyelash at his change of life plans but casually mentioned that his two knee reconstructions (college football) might be a small hiccup.  It's a great story, his military acceptance and the ride that followed, but that's for another time.

Life is different now.  I am certainly still a realist (as a homeschool mom of two boys with a retired husband, how can I not be?) but I'm no longer married to a hair-on-fire dreamer.  Partly because he started shaving his head sixteen years ago but mostly because of PTSD.

I wake up thinking about brushing my teeth and my first cup of tea.  I don't wake up thinking about PTSD.  Living with PTSD is like breathing - it's just there.  I don't let it rule my life.  And yet, it does.  Some days more than others.  For Donald, one of the biggest changes caused by his PTSD and its partner, acute depression, is a paralyzing inability to dream.  So after years of either bursting bubbles or devising plans of actions for my dreamer, I find myself trying on a hat that doesn't fit well and definitely is not my style.  I'm trying to dream.  Mostly this comes as a "Hey, what do you think about buying an RV," "How about being dorm parents at an overseas school for missionary kids," and "Want to run a pub in an English village?"  I try to throw out ideas but even as I do my brain whirls with dozens of "speed bumps."  Donald's response?  Perhaps deservedly, it's usually a bit of my own, back at me, only heavy on the pessimism.  Every time it happens I get a jolt of sadness at the loss of my dreamer and I feel a little bit alone, wearing an uncomfortable hat.

Donald does have hope, though.  He didn't for two and a half years after his injury but in the last six months his Hope has returned.  He knows he has a purpose and God has a unique ministry for us.  Our biggest prayer, together and alone, as we traipse around the country this year is that God would give him a dream and me a plan.  I, for one, would like my old hat back!


  1. Great post. I'm glad that God is still a Dreamer and Planner and that He has lots of dreams and plans for your family, even if you're struggling to see them right now. Love you guys, and praying for you.

  2. Thanks for the vulnerability, Denise! Love ya. -Donnie

  3. When I read this post, I immediately thought of our good friend, Morris who runs a ministry out of Portland called Soul Formation. It may be worth checking out his ministry website... http://soulformation.org/ It's right along the same lines as some of the "dreams" you talked about in this post.