Praise You in this Storm

‘Mum, Mum, I’ve not seen you since last decade!’

It’s hard to believe it’s 2020 already and, on Tuesday some of us will commence our third year of home education. The past two years have flown past, it’s been a massive learning curve and certainly tough at times but the difference we’ve seen in all three boys has been incredible.

This month marks the end of home education for Son No1 as he starts a course in our local college. We’ve yet to find out his timetable but, as it turns out, he’ll be starting college the day we go away for a holiday! I guess college marks the end of our wonderful term-time holidays although I’m also aware that our days of going on holiday as a family of five are rapidly growing shorter. Try as we might we were unable to change the dates of our holiday so Son No1 has chosen to stay with the GG Grandparents rather than miss his first days. It’s not going to be the same but I’m also quietly proud of him for making this decision.

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2019 saw lots of happy times for the GG gang. We had holidays to Cumbria (minus Mr GG), Strathpeffer and Prestatyn and I even managed a sneaky wee weekend to Northern Ireland with some lovely friends. I think all five of us would agree that the highlight of the year was the arrive of Miss Harley Quin … she is a delight, and makes us all laugh with her antics … Son No3 summed up her presence when he recently said that ‘we really needed her in our family’.  We took part in Sweatember to raise money for Cancer Research and we celebrated a special birthday with a beloved Grandad.

2019 also saw its challenges. Son No1’s surgery in January and his subsequent time in a wheelchair then re-learning to walk was most definitely a challenge although he faced it with a dignity, courage, determination and maturity that I watched with awe. A late-night/early morning mercy dash home from one of our holidays with an unwell child was definitely a challenge and not a highlight of the year. And, finally, the return of the dreaded grey dog for Mr GG (I know it’s usually the black dog but we can’t call it that when we have our beloved Harley!) … a battle he fights with courage and dignity.

I found 2019 a tough year, despite all the happy memories that were made. I struggled with Mr M’s depression which made it’s presence felt both as the year began and as it drew to a close. I love Mr M dearly and watching him struggle so desperately is painful. So often, the focus is on the person who is unwell but I often wonder about those who are holding it together in the background?

There is an immense guilt as a spouse. Five years ago, when Mr GG was first unwell with depression, someone told me ‘Of course, he does so much for you’ and that comment has stayed with me with my inner voice telling me, louder and louder ‘This is all your fault, you’ve broken him’. Have I? I feel compelled to be the best wife I can be, to be supportive and encouraging without burdening Mr GG to be ‘OK’ when he actually isn’t.

There is an immense pressure to hold everything together and keep things as ‘normal’ as possible for the family, especially living with young folks with autism. There is also the added pressure of supporting a child with OCD whose anxiety goes through the roof when things change.

There is a real danger that so much effort goes into supporting everyone else that a spouse loses herself or himself and ends up in a depressive state themselves … I’ve seen it so often and never really understood until I found myself living and loving Mr M through his depression.

I’ve tried to hold onto a sense that God has a reason for every season of life we go through. I held onto that as we lost our dear babies, as we watched beloved family members pass away, as we supported friends through crises in their marriages, as we fought for support for our sons, and now, I’m desperately trying to hold onto it through Mr M’s battle with the grey dog.

I’m beginning the year by re-reading Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson. It’s one of my favourite books and I’d encourage anyone to read it. Sally writes so lovingly and gently encourages us to live with intentionality and purpose.

Our family verse for 2020 is Jeremiah 17:7 ‘But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him’. All we can do at times is to hold on and to trust that God has everything in his hands.

I hesitated writing this post … after all, the purpose of this blog was for folks following our home education journey. However, the blog is entitled ‘The Life of Five’ and after a chat with Mr M about it we decided it’s right to write about what affects all of us, Mr M & I are as much part of the ‘Five’ as our three awesome boys are so our journey is important. Everything has an impact on home ed, our personal struggles as well as the delight and privilege of living a slightly less than average life!

Let me leave you with this song written by Casting Crowns and, from which, I stole the title for this post.  It’s a song which has been played and listened too many times over recent months … and one I truly relate to.

I was sure by now

God You would have reached down

And wiped our tears away

Stepped in and saved the day

But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

As the thunder rolls

I barely hear Your whisper through the rain

“I’m with you”

And as Your mercy falls

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives

And takes away

CHORUS:

And I’ll praise You in this storm

And I will lift my hands

For You are who You are

No matter where I am

And every tear I’ve cried

You hold in Your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

I remember when

I stumbled in the wind

You heard my cry to you

And you raised me up again

My strength is almost gone

How can I carry on

If I can’t find You

But as the thunder rolls

I barely hear You whisper through the rain

“I’m with you”

And as Your mercy falls

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives

And takes away

CHORUS:

And I’ll praise You in this storm

And I will lift my hands

For You are who You are

No matter where I am

And every tear I’ve cried

You hold in Your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

I lift my eyes unto the hills

Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord

The Maker of Heaven and Earth

 

Don’t You (Forget About Me)

Just when you think it’s safe … here I am again!  I’m never going to win awards for prolific blogging but the intention is always there to post regularly and that’s what matters.  Isn’t it?

So, when I left you all back in January (eek!) Son No1 had just had his surgery and was back home.  I believe I was waxing lyrical about how proud I was of my boy … and I’m bound to do it again … unashamedly.

IMG_4710The past weeks have whizzed past.  Lots has happened in GGHQ, lots of work has been done by the Junior GGs, Son No1 has dyed his hair purple, Mr GG has gone back to work, I got a wee car so, happily, no more zooming around in the Great Behemoth and six weeks ago this little girl joined our family.  Harley Quin has absolutely won the human hearts with her antics … Princess Leia, however, is not so smitten and is generally living upstairs although, on the occasions when she has to come downstairs, she gives Harley a hiss and a swipe … we live in hope of harmony in the future! 

Son No1’s six weeks of being completely non-weightbearing passed smoothly.  He quickly became adept at whizzing up and down stairs on his hands (although not in handstand style as one doctor assumed) and made sure he missed out on as little as possible.  In early March he returned to Glasgow for his bright yellow casts to be taken off in readiness for learning to walk once again.  To begin with he was incredibly weak, his legs struggled to obey the signals from his brain, his feet railed against being in a position that was alien to them and he found it exhausting to travel even the shortest distance with his walking frame.  However, once again I was left in complete awe of my son’s strength of character and determination and within two weeks of the casts coming off he was doing this:

Physio is ongoing and unpleasant but my boy is working hard (when reminded) … he doesn’t enjoy physio at all and is still in some pain but he is an amazing lad.  I feel truly blessed to be able to call him my son.

Life has carried on as usual around Son No1’s hospital adventures.  The younger boys have particularly enjoyed some extra days without school work when we were at appointments.  We spent a lovely day at the National Museum of Rural Life where Son No2 appeared quite at home in a tractor.  We celebrated Down Syndrome Awareness Day with our odd socks … I was particularly touched by the readiness of my lad with OCD to take part, I thought he may find odd socks a step too far for him but he embraced it happily.  Son No3 has continued building and creating with his Tinker Crates (my favourite is the wee robot clip below) and is beginning to ponder moving on to the more technical Eureka Crates. 

ede56320-e116-4e8d-b701-751e4e483a5aAt the beginning of March I escaped to Northern Ireland with four dear friends.  We went primarily to go to a conference where Nancy Guthrie was speaking but the time together, eating, laughing, crying and just enjoying each other’s company was incredibly precious.  I am so thankful for their friendship and encouragement and for the knowledge that they are praying for me just as I am praying for each of them.  I am truly blessed to call them my friends.

A few weeks ago my Dad reached the milestone of 60 years since his ordination.  To mark the occasion we all travelled to Cumbria for the weekend for Dad to preach in the first church he pastored as a young man back in 1959.  It was a special time and we all enjoyed the weekend even managing to fit in a wee game of crazy golf for some of us.  I am so very thankful for my Dad.  He has remained faithful to his calling throughout his life and has never lost his passion for and love of the Word of God.  I am truly blessed to be his daughter. 

As a wee aside, one of the funniest moments of the weekend has got to be my misplaced confidence in letting the boys pack for themselves.  One boy (I’m not saying which) accidentally took his younger brother’s trousers and nearly ended up going to church like this!  
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Back home Mr GG and I continue in our quest to live simply.  The dream is to have a small-holding one day but, for now, we continue to make wee changes at home using what we have as efficiently as possible.  For the past few months I’ve been making my own laundry powders, shower gels and soap which definitely seems to be making a positive difference to Son No2’s skin … result!

Well, I’m writing this at the table in our kitchen, my favourite room in our house.  The back door is open for Harley to come in and out despite the fact she’s fast asleep at my feet.  The sun is shining, birds are twittering about in the trees and the chickens are quietly clucking as they dust bathe in the garden.  There’s an air of tranquillity and I like it.  The sun reminds me that summer is approaching and, with that, the anticipation of a holiday from school work.  As much as I love home education and wouldn’t change it for the world, this is an exhausting life and I find myself looking forward to the holidays just as much as I did when the boys were in school.  I am immensely proud of how hard my sons have worked over this past year and look forward to all that they will achieve over the coming months but, for now, we’re all looking forward to slowing the pace a little, going on some adventures,  and relaxing together.

However, the air of tranquillity will soon dissipate as, any moment now, three hungry boys are going to descend on the kitchen hollering ‘What’s for tea?’ ‘When will tea be ready’ ‘I’m starving’ … so on that note I’ll sign off for today and leave you with this …

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