Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Marriage & the Thin Blue Line



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I heard a quote the other day that made me smile. “Marriage is like a walk in the park – Jurassic Park!!!” Lol, how true is that!?! My husband, Ed, and I have spent almost 26 years hurtling the dinosaurs of life together (31 if you add in our dating years). We are as opposite as can be. I am a city mouse, raised by a full of life, dramatic, hardworking single mom. My idea of wildlife was the occasional squirrel. I was (was?) un-athletic, book smart, and a good girl. I moved often growing up and have a knack for conforming to my environment and am motivated by the desire to please. Our family plus my newly acquired father moved to Maine when I was 14. That is where I met the dark, handsome, and very confident Ed. It was infatuation at first sight for the both of us. Ed, was not a lover of school, but loved the outdoors and all things woodsy. He was also very athletic, strong, and opinionated and had an attitude. He didn’t seem to care what anyone thought and I loved his rebellious persona. Think of us as Baby and Johnny from Dirty Dancing - but without the dancing, or the lake, or the premarital behavior – Ok, we were really nothing like Dirty Dancing. But, it was still very romantic. Of course, once I got to really know him, I discovered this sweet and sappy side of Ed. And he quickly learned that I am not always as nice as I like to appear.

Ed had always been drawn to law enforcement and even as a young man had a clear sense of right and wrong. This strength of character has led him from being part of Security Forces in the Air Force, to a Winston-Salem Police Officer, to the Security Director for Calvary Baptist Church, to training police officers in Iraq, to Assistant VP of Corporate Security for Bank of America to now as a Corrections Officer for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Dept. Whew! What a varied, yet cohesive career over the past 26 years! I could and probably will do a whole blog on Ed’s career journey. Ed has seen just about every side of human nature that there is to see. It amazes me that he can daily shod off most of what he sees and experiences at the threshold of our front door and is able to maintain the mostly kind and squishy Ed that his family and friends know him to be.

If you know me well, or have read a previous blog, you are probably wondering how our marriage survives with how high-risk Ed’s career path has been mixed with my anxiety issues and na├»ve nature. Well, first of all, I feel being an officers spouse (or a fireman’s spouse, an EMT’s, etc.) is a calling. And I am proud of my role as his supporter. I also believe very strongly in Ed’s personal calling and the need for the greater good. I also trust Ed completely and I believe that Ed is safer in the will of God than even in a bubble wrapped room outside of it.

All of those statements are true, completely – 100%. But let me share a little secret. Here are also some real life, not so proud of way that I cope: 1) I have no memory. None - think a very tall Dory. So, even if Ed tells me a very traumatic story, chances are, it will be forgotten in a few days. 2) I also have a very short attention span, so often when Ed is telling me stuff (ok, total transparency here), if he doesn’t tell me quickly, my mind is already wandering. Oh, another thing is 3) yes, I have anxiety, but not usually about the big important things. The fact that Ed risks his life every day? No problem! Our daughter is moving off to Texas? No sweat!! But, get me thinking about a zombie apocalypse, getting lost, driving off a bridge, or my dogs missing me if I am gone too long – forget about it! Yes, this makes for a very confused woman, but it helps me cope with my husband’s unusual schedule and work environment.

There is one thing that I confess that I have a hard time coping with though. And that is the perception that some people have of Law Enforcement. If you want to see me lose the nice girl, just start talking about police and prejudice. Is there prejudice on the force? Absolutely! I bet there is prejudice where you work too. Are there dirty cops? Unfortunately, yes. I wish there was a way to ensure that every sworn officer always held him/herself to the highest standard. But just like there are bad apples in teaching, the medical field, churches, business offices, in every career – there will be officers undeserving of the badge. But, for anyone to think for a half minute that someone would go into law enforcement to target a select group of people is ridiculous. These civil servants give up sleep, family time, finances, security, safety, holidays and respect to make sure that the law of the land is upheld. Just imagine if every job was like law enforcement. Imagine knowing you were a target. If not of personal danger, than of disrespect. What if because of where you worked that you couldn’t have your home number listed or address printed anywhere for protection of your loved ones? That you had to have a camera on you at all times to record your every interaction? How would you deal with all that? And, then after a 12 hour shift, possible a rotating, alternating shift like Ed’s is, you need to come home and play with your kids, mow the lawn, visit your parents and go to church. You have seen sin in every form possible and yet you need to be the perfect officer at work and then perfectly normal at home. This is why it is a calling. To think that anyone would subject themselves to these standards for any sort of wrong motive is insulting. And I strongly believe that if and when an officer can’t live up to these almost impossible standards, then he should be moved to a different area. Out of respect for him and for what he represents.

Thank you for reading my blog and thank you for praying for the men and women in blue. Thank you for praying for their families as well.  Every life matters.  Every life deserves respect. I have been blown away with the stories Ed has told me of his interaction in the jail over the past 3 years. Yes, since it is me, he tells me in condensed versions, but I love hearing his heart and respect for the inmates. To quote Martin Luther King – “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stand at times of challenge and controversy”. I am proud that my man stand on the thin blue line.  Below are some sobering statistics regarding law enforcement officers. These brave men and women are some of our countries greatest treasures -

There are more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers now serving in the United States, which is the highest figure ever. About 12 percent of those are female.

 

Crime fighting has taken its toll. Since the first recorded police death in 1791, there have been over 20,000 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. Currently, there are 20,789 names engraved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

 

A total of 1,439 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 10 years, an average of one death every 61 hours or 144 per year. There were 123 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2015.

 

There have been 15,725 assaults against law enforcement officers in 2014, resulting in 13,824 injuries.

 

New York City has lost more officers in the line of duty than any other department, with 705 deaths. Texas has lost 1,682 officers, more than any other state. The state with the fewest deaths is Vermont, with 23.

 

There are 1,102 federal officers listed on the Memorial, as well as 668 correctional officers and 36 military law enforcement officers.

 
              There are 292 female officers on the Memorial; 11 female officers were killed in 2015.


Always Sincerely,
Shannan

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Anxiety and My Suitcase

Disclaimer – I have never been officially diagnosed as having anxiety, but I have also never been officially diagnosed as tall, but it is what it is. But, with that being said, I in no way want to make light of the struggles that people with diagnosed mental issues go through – these are just my experiences.

                                                                                                        

Merriam-Webster defines anxiety as a fear of nervousness about what might happen; a feeling of wanting to do something very much. The site also lists the definition of control freak as a person who has a strong need to control people or how things are done.

I am a recovering control freak and a currently practicing anxiety sufferer. For years, I thought my need to control situations around me was somehow helpful to God. Like I was doing my part. I wasn’t just aimlessly standing by; oh no, I was actively engaged in the process with God – or so I thought. I was not “helping” God. The truth is that I had a lack of faith and pride problem. God has been very gracious to me and for the past 6 years or so has begun to chisel away at the many areas in my life that needs refining. I have a lot to overcome – but God has been very patient with me.  It is actually freeing to realize that so much of life is beyond our control – from little things like the traffic in the morning or to how people will react to issues - to the big things like health and job security.  Even though the need to be in control still flares up now and again, I can honestly say that I rest so much easier truly believing that nothing is random, that God is good, I don’t need to have all the answers and that today I have enough. Say those things with me. Believe them in your hearts – if you have similar issues, you will be amazed at how much better life is when you release the control that you never truly had anyway.

Now, on to my anxiety. God is going to have to do a lot of chiseling with this this one. I think this is a part of my make-up. Was I born this way? I don’t know. I just know that I have had these issues for as long as I can remember and they only seem to get worse as I get older. Would medication help? Probably, but I have chosen to just be me for now – I am sure those closest to me will let me know when I need extra help. J What type of anxiety do you ask? Well, of course I have the normal issues – I sing occasionally at church and teach in our youth group. I have the standard sweaty palms, cold sweats and nausea that anyone has before those times (that is normal, right?) But I also deal with anxiety when it comes to many normal life issues. One I am dealing with soon is the concept of going away. Any time I leave my home to do anything out of the normal, I deal with an amount of anxiety. My sweet newlywed daughter and I plan to go away for just a few days to visit one of my best friends at the beach. About a week before we were to leave, I started getting nervous. What if we get lost or break down? What if my dogs miss me? What if someone gets hurt while I am gone? What if???? The level of anxiety is so great in me about leaving the comfort of home, that my racing heart tells me to just cancel. That life is just so much easier in the comfort of my own home. I have to argue with myself all of the time. No, we will be fine if we break down, the dogs will survive 4 days without me, etc. I literally have to choke down feelings of panic. To help cope, I make detailed hour by hour lists for everyone left at home (it gives the old beast some sort of a feeling of control) and I will pray and ask God to calm my spirit and I will make myself go. And, I know we will have a wonderful time. I always do. I might cry even while I am gone, but I always have a amazing time. I know most of you can’t even imagine what I am describing.  Everyone in my family are wonderful adventurers, so I know they can’t relate. Worse part is that I have to psych myself like this anytime we leave the house to do anything besides the normal routine of work or errands. Even a day trip to the mountains or an extended shopping time with friends. I bet you didn’t know that about me, did you?  Only a couple of close friends besides family have seen my true craziness, and my family graciously has learned to ignore it. I so appreciate those dear ones for loving me anyway.

Why do I share this? Just so you know how loony I am? No, besides this just scratches the surface. You know that second part of anxiety? The strong desire to do something? Yes, that is why I don’t like heights – I always feel an incredible urge to jump.  (See, I really am strange!) I share this because I can’t be the only one that deals with issues that seem beyond their control. And your issues may not look like mine, some people have anger issues, depression, other control issues etc. I don’t know how people get through things without the Lord. Left up to me, I would be the crazy dog lady that never leaves the house. But when I read verses like 2 Tim 1:7, I read that God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline. That tells me that God has given me the power to overcome that fear and anxiety and if I let those things control me, I can’t show people the love that He has also given me.  God also give me the self-discipline to help overcome my issues. I also love John 14:27 - I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid.  There are so many great verses on trust and not being anxious. So, please take it from your loony friend – do the things you are scared to do. Even if you aren’t ready to do something big, do baby steps. See how God gets you through it. My big goal is a mission trip in the near (but not too near please) future – talk about out of my comfort zone! But, for now, my goal is to have an amazing 4 day girls get away and I plan to leave as little room as possible for anxiety in the suitcase!

Always Sincerely,

Shannan

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Walk Softly and Carry a Big Heart


Today I had a diagnostic exam that I am supposed to have done every 6 months.  I have a surplus of calcium in my body (eyes, skin, teeth, etc., so it is only fitting that I would have it other places too). For me, this 2 hour visit has always been an inconvenience. Just something that needs to be done “just in case”.

This morning I was in the waiting room happily sipping my complimentary coffee, listening to Andy Griffith playing from the mounted TV and checking work emails. In my mind I could think of many worse ways to spend a Thursday morning. During this moment of solitude, a lady walked in with a definite look of fear in her eyes. She sat near me so I struck up a conversation. It turns out this lady was a breast cancer survivor. It had been 13 years ago. But her annual exam had shown signs of new trouble. This could be nothing, she admitted, but I could see in her expression that a flood of memories from past trauma was washing over her. I grabbed her hand and said I would pray for her. As I let go, another lady walked in and seemed eager to talk. Her mother had passed away from breast cancer and this lady had some things show up in a routine exam that were a cause for further testing. Then, another lady joined our huddle. She had already had her diagnostic, had seen a technician and was directed to change and go back to the waiting room. She seemed optimistic that this was good news, but the rest of us glanced at each other nervously. We knew this meant something else. I was about to ask the ladies if I could pray for them when my name was called. My time in the waiting room would be over.

As expected, nothing had changed for me, and I was fine to go until my next imaging appointment. Normally I just do a small “I knew it would fine, but always thankful” kind of prayer. But, this morning was different. What for me was just an inconvenient happening, might just be a life changing moment for others. How do I selfishly now go about my day as normal?

Every day I go through life so absorbed with my own happenings. I pray that the Lord will open my eyes to opportunities to do more than just hold a hand, but to really help people through their journeys. I am so thankful for a job/ministry where I actually get paid to show people comfort or connect them to others who can. But even still, how much do I miss because my eyes are too focused on me and mine to look out on others?

God was gracious to me this morning, and I am thankful for the reminder to pay forward the comfort that He has given me over the years. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says it better than I ever could - “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

Lord, please give me eyes to see, ears to hear, words to give and a big heart to listen.
Always Sincerely,
Shannan

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tragedy and Refuge



Our youngest is 17 years old and today I thought about how he has never known a world without mass shootings and acts of terror. The Columbine High School massacre happened one month after he was born. I remember so clearly watching the news, rocking my infant and crying over the world that he and his siblings would be forced to grow up in. This was just an unbelievable tragedy. How could this have happened? Before the Columbine shootings I remember isolated incidents of rage, but something seemed to shift that day. I Googled mass shootings since 1999 and the number is staggering. What is even worse is that our culture has digressed from trying to comfort one another in our grief, to using these incidents for political gain and media viewership.

Our world is evil, and things are only going to get worse. This is not the time for us to look outward. We can’t fix evil hearts by banning certain objects or even by purchasing more of them. And even revenge on the terrorists won’t change the seemingly unbalanced scale of darkness in our world.

The answer has to be to look upward and inward. We need to look up to our Creator. Because of sin, there is evil in our world. The Lord is our only hope. And not just in times of tragedy. He is our daily hope and peace. He is our main source of comfort and our assurance. While we process our grief, in shock and disbelief, this is a perfect time to examine our own hearts. Life is fleeting, so, do I make the most of each day? Do I live for earthly gain only, or do I try to better mankind with my existence? Do I have love for my neighbor, or do I have judgment and hatred? Do I try assist the downtrodden, or do I live a life of entitlement? And most importantly, if today were my last day on earth, where would I spend eternity? We want to think we always have a tomorrow to think about it, but none of us are promised a tomorrow. God loves every single one of us, more than we could ever imagine. Evil would be stamped out if we truly believed this and turned away from the sin that tries to control all of us and leaned on the Lord.

We also need to remember that when any tragedy occurs, we are talking about real people, not just numbers. Every victim was someone’s son or daughter, or parents, or their spouse. I can’t even begin to wrap my head around what the parents of the Orlando victims are going through. We need to be respectful to their pain. This is not a time for politics or judgment. By evidence of my Google search today, tragedies like this can happen absolutely anywhere. At a church, at a school or even a quick trip to a local store. We have to keep the truth of the importance of human life and the importance of the next one foremost in our minds.

There is a song called Refuge by the group Finding Favor. I love the words, they are especially comforting when my heart is broken for the pain of the many…………………….

My soul, it sings to You
Oh God, You are my refuge
I will cling, I will cling to You
My shelter through the storm
My peace when waves of troubles roll
I will cling, I will cling to You

I could search the stars
I could swim across the seas
And never find a love
That's as strong as Yours for me - You are my refuge


Always Sincerely,

Shannan

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

My first post...................




Ok, I am doing it. I am starting a blog. I always have ideas running around in my brain and except for being pretty sure I am secretly being taped for a Japanese sitcom, I think that my 23+ years of experience raising kids has given me a few good things to say along the way.


Ever since I was 4 years old, I could not wait to be a mommy.  Growing up, when people asked what I wanted to be someday, a mom was always my answer. My husband, Ed (or Lovemuffin as I call him), and I started our family young. We were married when I was 20 and our oldest, Matt, arrived when I was 22.  I loved every minute of mommy-hood and I would have had 6 children if Ed (he is the realist) and our finances hadn't been a factor.  Now that I am worn out and weary from helping to lift off 3 adult chicks from our nest - I am thankful that we only had 3. But in my 20's, I would have loved to have given the Duggar's a run for their money.


Now, our youngest is 17 and about to be a senior in high school. The "mommy" days are over. Yes, I know I am still needed and loved (blah blah blah).  But I am no longer anyone's everything.  Don't get me wrong, my husband is the best and we love each other dearly, but I really hope he doesn't start to need me to cut his dinner up, hold his hand to cross the street, etc.  Any hand holding should be out of romance and companionship - not for his safety!  My affection for him has always been so different than what I had with the kids. I will admit it - I desperately miss being needed desperately.


All 3 of our kids are extremely independent.  Our daughter, Emily, is 21 and was married on May 20, 2016.  Yes, less than 2 weeks ago!  The wedding was amazing and I definitely plan to blog on that.  But, our little princess now has a family of our own.  And that one that made us parents at 23? Well, he has his own apartment, car and even a puppy of his own.  And everyone knows how the life of a Senior is, between girls, sports, work, church and school, there isn't much time left for mama. I know that I am loved and even surprisingly, liked.  But this view of motherhood is very different. I would not change it, I am thrilled that I have healthy children with thriving lives - I am just adjusting to the view.


Since this might take a little while for me to process, what better way for me to do so than to share all of my innermost thoughts, fears, joys, criticisms, laughs, etc., with people I have never met!  My hope is that my posts bring insight, humor, encouragement and maybe help me gain some kindred spirits - no matter what side of the "hood" you might be on.


Always sincerely,
Shannan