I've been mentally formulating this blog for several weeks now but the need to keep you abreast of Twist Family Developments has activated me. I like to process my thoughts by internally mulling them about awhile, sort of like adding separate ingredients into a pot until they solidify into something worthy of sharing. Hopefully ending up with a souffle. Or a cocktail. Or, as Minnesotans like to say, a hotdish. Whatever the end result is called, I'm glad I started mulling several weeks ago because recent developments seem to be the last ingredients needed to complete the recipe.
Moving back into the RV has brought more peace and quality family time than our three months in the perfect house. Those three months were some of the most stressful months of our lives. So stressful that, in shocking honesty, I came quite close to leaving my husband. So stressful that the boys and I drove, spur of the moment, to seek sanctuary with friends, unsure if we would return. His PTSD was getting the better of him and living with his PTSD nearly got the better of me. Coupled with the stress of no job, very little money, functioning as a single mom and no direction in life made a nearly disastrous recipe. Fortunately, I am not the Master Baker of my own life.
Peace returned when, one by one, each of us came to terms with leaving the house. Since being in the RV Donald has made real progress with getting out of the house more, exercising, and interacting with the boys and with me. He is participating in life and most days seems almost "normal." He still takes regular naps but now sets his alarm to only allow 30-40 minutes. He still gets stressed, cranky, sad and occasionally isolates himself. And, let's face it, meds are still necessary. The positive thing is that he has re-engaged. He laughs, once more, with his eyes and his heart.
During our first week back in the RV I began to realize we were not looking at Donald's retirement as the gift that it really is. We've been looking at it as a holding pattern or maybe a trampoline to What Is Next. The American Dream is to have X dollars by retirement age with a nice home and a vacation in the queue, right? Living in an RV on a Navy pension is not going to make us wealthy at all but we are so much happier and more peaceful. A couple of Tuesdays ago, at the small, mid-week service we like to attend, Donald and I, individually, had the strong impression that a job was not the most important thing. He also felt he needed to spend more time with the boys and I had an overwhelming thought that he needed to contact George Fox University, a Quaker-turned-liberal arts university/seminary about an hour from Salem. As we were leaving the service our rector mentioned that he had been praying for us and was certain that our being in Salem had more to do with how we receive a gift, rather than what the gift actually is. Rather cryptic but he's a professional Man of God. It's what they do! For me, his words added to and confirmed what I had already been mulling regarding Donald's retirement being a gift.
Later that week Donald chatted with several people at George Fox about the psychology doctoral program but then ruled it out as too intensive. I still couldn't shake George Fox out my mind and a week ago Monday I woke up with it being superimposed in capital letters on my brain. While Donald dealt with a sewer tank issue I looked up the doctor of ministry program and got incredibly excited even though he had missed all the deadlines by more than a month. I sat on my steps and prayed, "God, if you want Don in school, let a spot be open." Donald called the school at nine and was told that at close of business Friday there were no spots available but that someone had just called to drop out of the program! This is the second time in our life this very thing has happened, at the eleventh hour no less! For some unknown reason we've been packing around an official transcript from seminary for ten years and were able to send it in with his application. Even better, Donald was told that his GI Bill acceptance letter (which will pay for school and give us a housing allowance) would take seventeen days. Oh goodie, waiting on the VA again! The seventeen day letter was in our mail box in four days. He had a lengthy interview with the director yesterday and was accepted into the doctor of ministry (DMin) program where he will spend the next three years studying with eleven other people and concentrating on Leadership and Spiritual Formation. The really good news? The program is mostly online and only requires 10 days on campus each semester, meaning we are free to be snowbirds in Arizona this winter! We celebrated his acceptance last night with chinese food and Baskin Robbins.
Best of all is acknowledging that God has given us the gift of a retirement to enjoy time together. He brought us to Salem and has kept us here despite our troubled selves. We are still not sure how moving into and out of the house factors in any of this but we know that if Donald had called any sooner about the DMin he would have been told there were no spots available. If he had taken a job it would have diminished God's gift of time. In a couple of weeks school will be keeping all four of us busy but at least Donald doesn't have to juggle a job. Living in an RV for an unspecified amount of time is not what we pictured for our life but it brings the gift of travel and the gift of not being geographically tethered to one place. We finally understand why we are in Salem. Remember that the word means peace? Moving back into the RV brought us long awaited peace and God showing us that Donald is meant to be in school confirms that we really are meant to be in Salem, a Place of Peace.
Thanks to all of you who pray for us diligently. Your prayers have held us together these past few months and your impact in our lives is profound.