Every year, almost without fail, I include in our Christmas cards a little letter of what has gone on during the year in our family. This year I didn't. Like I told my wife, I didn't want to depress anyone!
This was a year of very big changes.
My wife turned 40 in January. She wasn't looking forward to it and forbade we to give her a suprise party. (She gave me one on my 30th...she's getting one on her 50th!). I spent 2 weeks in Boise, ID at USFS meetings. It was then, as I look back now, that I realized I wouldn't last at the Forest Service much longer. Grown people, some with a little power, some with a lot, fighting and whining like 3rd graders arguing who gets to pitch first in kick-ball.
My wife's father passed away in March. It was tough on her even though she didn't have that close of a relationship with him over the last 20 years. Her sister flat out hated her dad and her brother worshipped the ground he walked on. The stress of her father passing away took the life of her paternal grandmother about 2 months later. My wife was become very emotional and depressed. Add to that, I was getting some strange signals at work and I was becoming moody as well.
In June, I ran into no little difficulty with the USFS. I had to work on my day off so it was an overtime day. I got back 30 minutes late from a flight and came in a few minutes early the next day to take another flight to pick up the Regional Forester. I had asked a couple of other pilots if they would take it but both turned me down. One of them has a bad habit of whining about not getting enough flight time then when offered a flight, turns it down because he has something better to do. Go figure. Needless to say, I only got about 9 hours of duty rest instead of 10.
I took the second flight, no problem. I was rested, the flight went well. All was good. I thought I'd do the government a favor and not charge them for the extra hour so on my official government time sheet I put down I got off at 11:00p and came on at 9:00a. It also made the paperwork look good.
According to the USFS, this is fraud. Yes I know. Fraud in their favor. Fraud that save them and the US taxpayer a few bucks. Fraud that carries with it punishment up to and including termination. To compound matters, two weeks later I had a hot start on our leased aircraft. Long day, confused on abnormal start procedures and I caused 60-thousand dollars worth of damage to the engine. Now the USFS was very unhappy with me.
Long story short, the powers that be made a list of all the things I had done wrong in June and charged me with them. We (my Union Rep and I) explained my side of the story, and rebutted the charge of lying during an official investigation. (I was asked on the phone what time I had returned from my late flight and I said around 11. I honestly didn't remember and hadn't written it down. When I was told dispatch said I got back at 11:45 I knew it wasn't that late. I said 11:30 at the latest. They considered that "lying during an official investigation". It's on my permanent government record.) I offered to resign if they'd clear my record. They not only said no but hell no. So on October 1, 2005, almost 5 years from the time I started, I left a good paying gov't job.
From around the first of July through November I wound up in a therapists office. Since June I have had 3 anxiety/panic attacks. Never had one of those before. Between July and November I admitted I had and worked through having ADHD. Add to this I turned 40 in July and for some reason this bothered me more than I thought it would. Maybe it had to do with who I was and where I was at in life not matching up with what I thought I should be and where I ought to be.
We also changed churches and the kids school. I had, for some time, grown uncomfortable with the direction our church was going. The leadership was not dealing with some serious issues in the church. My wife and I were sensing it was time to leave. I was running sound and loved working with the worship team. Great group of people, great musicians, great fun. But it was the only thing I was there for. My personal growth was moving in a different direction. The seeker-sensitive/wishy-washy way of bending to every whim just didn't jive with me anymore.
Unfortunately I did some confessional blogging about it and the pastoral staff and board found out, read it and then confronted me with it. I never mentioned anyone by name nor the name of the church but still, I was accused of poking my finger in God's eye. Now it's true, I have railed at God in the past, shaken my fist at him and, like Lt. Dan in "Forrest Gump", challenged God to come get me. (Personal note: Don't try this at home kids....God has a tendency to take you up on your challenges...you've been warned!)
Needless to say...it was ugly. Feelings got hurt but the leaders still didn't see what many were telling them. We are now in a church that my wife truly enjoys, I'm learning a lot, my daughter loves (her best friend is there and she's learning a lot). My son misses the social aspect and on Wednesday nights, he's elsewhere. This won't last long. My belief, the family stays together and worships at the same church. He's not gonna like that.
The kids were moved out of their school to a charter school that is a lot tougher. My daughter blossomed. She really loves school. My son, who still maintains staright A's, hates it because he can't coast through school anymore. But he's becoming much smarter. Probably going to be much smarter than I am. They are studying stuff I didn't get until college.
My wife was not only dealing with mourning her father, her turning 40, her husband falling apart, her oldest son turning 13, new church, new school...
This was not a good year for her!
So...two deaths, three milestone birthdays, family members mentally falling apart, income cut in half, new church, new school...a stressful year.
And yet in all of this God never let us down. I know that sounds like a cliche' but it is true. I have grown, personally, in the last six months. My kids have too. My wife as well. All of our bills are paid, no one got deathly ill, we even managed to take a quick vacation to Disneyland on Thanksgiving break. I'm working. She's working. The dogs are okay and the house doesn't need any major repairs this year. (Last year we racked up over 20-thousand dollars in home improvements/repairs. God was good and supplied the money.)
What will 2006 bring? Hell if I know. I'm not a prophet endowed with foresight. Unlike Isaiah, I cannot predict what will happen 600 years into the future. I do know this, one does not "arrive" in this life. One does not get to a point where it is all settled. There will always be change, always be growth, always be challenges. Never will you be "set". I first figured this out about 5 years ago. It's taken me this long to accept it.
I have to let go and not worry so much about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Kind of hard for someone who has control issues, who's ADD has forced him into a routine just to manage on a day-to-day basis. The future is scary as it is without having to worry about it. This is hard for me. Pray I learn to deal with it !
Happy New Year!