When Mental Illness (MI) Hit Home

MI.hits.home

I never thought it would happen. Not to my son. Not to our family.

Who plans on life with MI? Who dreams of having a son with MI? Not me. Thirty-three years ago, I felt blessed to give birth to a ‘normal’ baby boy. Chris started his life as a happy baby. After sixteen years of his life, things fell apart. Badly.

Denial worked for a time.

My life is normal. Everyone struggles with their kids from time to time. All children get in trouble at school once in a whole. Boys will be boys. He’s going through a phase.

I tried fooling myself. But, deep down inside you knew the truth. Things weren’t right. Finally, one day I couldn’t ignore the obvious. Along came a huge problem. More serious than any other. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, a greater crisis hit.

There comes a time when the facts hit you in the face. For me, that’s literally what happened.

Two weeks before Christmas in 1996, much needed to be done. Holiday cards to address, gifts to wrap, presents to buy, baking to be done…

I planned a simple meal for dinner. After we ate, I wanted to spend time talking with my husband, Howie. Find out how his day went. Then, I’d wrap some gifts and address a few cards. If time allowed, I’d prepare for an upcoming faculty meeting. As the director of instruction at the Christian school where I worked, I didn’t always have time to plan during the day.

While I washed the dinner dishes, our oldest son came into the kitchen. Chris slumped down in a chair and stared at the floor. I sensed something was bothering him. But, I really didn’t have time for a serious discussion. I proceeded to share some small talk. Hoping that would cheer him up.

Chris’s responses seemed distant. He seemed serious and preoccupied. It became obvious I needed to re-evaluate my priorities for the evening.

I sat down and asked him, “What’s wrong, Chris?”

“Mom, I’m lonely,” he answered with tears in his eyes.

I felt a pain pierce my heart like a knife gouging my emotions. Memories of abuse he endured through the years hemorrhaged in my head. Reminders of bullying he suffered pounded my stomach like a sucker punch.

My mind raced. I couldn’t silence the thoughtless comments teachers said to me about Chris. Those comments I’d buried tormented me once again. Insensitive statements made by professionals who found it difficult to manage a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Scenes of Chris’s fellow band members ignoring him plagued me once again. It became impossible to suppress reminders of Chris’s classmates walking past him as though he didn’t exist.

Up until that night, he never showed any sadness or expressed any loneliness. His happy façade fed my denial. I chose to believe he must have gotten desensitized to the way others treated him. Thinking perhaps he didn’t even notice some of it—a benefit of having ADHD. I convinced myself none of it really bothered him.

I’m lonely, echoed in my mind. I realized all the pain from the past never went away. He would have to deal with emotional scars of rejection and teasing.

How can I watch him work through all that pain? How can I relive all those terrible memories?

Chris and I talked for about two hours. Then, I spent time talking with Howie. Not about how his day went. About Chris.

The next night, Chris needed to talk again. This time both Howie and I listened to him. We shared words of comfort and affirmation. We prayed together. That was a Thursday night.

The following night, Chris and his younger brother, Robert, prepared for their high school’s holiday musical performance. They collected their instruments and music. Hung their tuxedos by the door.

Chris came over to me while I prepared dinner.

“I can’t talk right now, Chris. I have to finish making dinner. We’ve got to quickly eat dinner and get to school.”

Chris ignored my comment. He continued the conversation we had the night before. He wouldn’t stop talking.

This isn’t fair. I spent two whole nights listening to him. I can’t deal with this now. Why is he being so demanding?

In my heart, I knew Chris was hurting. I sensed him reaching out for help. But, I felt annoyed and overwhelmed.

“Chris, just let me make dinner.”

Chris stormed away.

By Sunday night, Chris talked non-stop. There was no conversation. No back and forth communication. He didn’t acknowledge our comments in any way. His rambling words revealed thoughts which were distorted and disconnected.

Having received my training in the field of special education, I knew what was happening. I’d seen it before. Years ago, one of my students had a psychotic episode. But, all that training and experience couldn’t prepare my heart.

It didn’t help to know ahead of time what might happen. If Chris had become schizophrenic, he could be violent and unpredictable. He would need to be hospitalized.

I listened to Chris drone on, distorting verses from the Bible. He paced the floor like a caged animal. He had a dark, empty look in his eyes. I saw before me a broken young man. A son in torment. A gifted mind (with a 144 IQ) shattered.

Am I witnessing the result of all those years of pain? How am I going to face this? How can I bear to watch him unravel? Will life ever be normal? How will this affect his brother? Is this really happening?

Like many mothers, I handled whatever came my way. That’s what we do. We deal with life. But, I knew my husband and I would need help. Help beyond professionals. Help from Someone who could ease our pain and restore our son’s clarity of thought. I turned to God.

Dear Father, help! We need wisdom, strength, patience, and peace. Chris needs comfort and healing.

That was just the beginning of our trial. Thankfully, it was also the beginning of God’s protection and guidance. So began my journey with our son through MI. My heavenly Father had already started helping me through the grieving stages, gently moving me past my shock and denial.

What would I have done without God’s amazing grace? Celtic Woman sing of His “Amazing Grace.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsCp5LG_zNE

 

Prodigal

Prodigal.father

Most mothers who have an adult child with mental illness (MI) and young children share the same fear. Losing a loved one.

Years ago, I asked my second graders to write their worst fear. Most of the eight year old children were afraid of losing a parent. I can relate to that fear. My worst fear is that my son, who has MI, will be missing.

If your child with MI is a prodigal, you may feel that no one understands your pain. But any parent would have some inkling of the trauma you experience every day. Just the thought of losing a child can elicit a gut-wrenching response.

That’s why the news of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370’s disappearance and Washington’s massive mudslide is so riveting. We’re captivated by the mudslide tragedy and follow CNN’s coverage of the missing airplane. Expressions of distraught loved ones convey the horror they feel. Tears seem to bleed disbelief that their loved ones are gone. We shudder to think of them enduring such sudden loss. Any parent, who has lost a child even for a few minutes, can imagine the horror. We can understand their desperation. So we pray for an end to their nightmare.

I experienced the terror of a missing child when Chris was only five. His teacher had chosen me to be one of the chaperones for their field trip to the zoo. As we strolled past all the animals, my hand stayed locked onto Chris’s tiny hand.

We spotted the birds of prey. The northern bald eagle captured my attention. It seemed safe enough to release Chris’s hand for just a second to snap a picture. But I was wrong. While focusing on the eagle, a huge mob of children and parents surrounded us. Chris got swallowed up in the crowd. When he didn’t see me, he thought I’d left him. So he went looking for me.

I took the picture and reached out to grab Chris’s hand. A sea of unfamiliar faces surrounded me. None were Chris’s!

Sheer panic instantly set in. My heart began to pound. I desperately searched for him, screaming his name. “Chris! Chris!”

Tears clouded my vision. Thoughts of what may have happened to him assaulted me.

Please God, please let me find my son.

Miraculously, I spotted him hiding behind a bush. He had been afraid that a stranger might take him. So he hid. My son was safely reunited with me. What relief!

Twelve years later, Chris was missing again. This time it happened during his first psychotic episode.

Chris’s fractured emotions caused him to have mood swings. His negative mood swings usually had a sad or depressed tone. But one week that type of mood swing was distinctly different. Chris seemed very angry and full of rage. It seemed like he wanted revenge. Things quickly escalated.

We were returning home from a trip to the mall. When I pulled into the driveway, Chris stepped out of the car and ran away.

I sprinted into the house to get help. “Howie, Chris is missing!!! Help me find him!” I screamed.

We drove off in different directions. As I searched in our neighborhood, fears tormented me.

This can’t be happening! This is a nightmare. Why didn’t we get him to the hospital? At least he’d be safe there. If he kills himself, he’ll be with the Lord. Oh, I can’t bear to think about that. I’ve GOT to find him.

Praying aloud pacified me enough to hold it together.

“Oh Father, please help us find Chris. Protect him. Guide me. Help me know where to look.”

I decided to stop home to see if he had returned. And found evidence he had come home briefly. Long enough to knock over his brother’s drum set and trombone. He’d also taken a computer off the desk and placed it on the floor.

I hopped back in the car to resume my search. Emptiness filled the pit of my stomach.

How is this ordeal going to end?

Once again I stopped home. A message on our answering machine revealed his location. A neighbor called to say he was there. Chris had been accusing us of abusing him. Thankfully, the neighbor called us and not the police. It must have been evident that Chris wasn’t in his right mind.

Gratitude filled my heart for his safe return. A sense of peace replaced the emptiness in my stomach. But that wasn’t the happy ending. Only brief relief from the chaos of his MI.

The parable of the lost son gives us a picture of a parent’s pain. In the story, the prodigal son came to his senses and returned home. Luke 15:20 hints at the father’s vigil.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

How did the father see his son while he ‘was still a long way off?’ He’d been staring into the distance, scanning the horizon every day hoping for his son’s return. Can you picture him straining his eyes? Spending endless hours peering into the distance? Do you know what he felt?

Many parents don’t know what’s become of their missing child—their vulnerable child who has MI. Can there be any comfort?

During my two experiences, I found comfort in the knowledge that God was with Chris. My heavenly Father knew Chris’s location and had the power to protect him. God also protected me emotionally and mentally. While Chris and I were apart from each other, nothing separated us from God’s love.

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Steve & Annie Chapman sing of a parent’s prayer when their child is a prodigal.

‘Turn Your Heart Toward Home’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNvafd0FzGc

Don’t Give Up

leaf.drifting

Drifting…Lost Direction

Recently I’ve been feeling like a dead leaf. Lifeless and lacking purpose. Drifting without direction. Discouraged and defeated.

Surprisingly, raising a son with mental illness (MI) didn’t do me in. My multiple sclerosis (MS) hasn’t conquered me. My thwarted writing plans snarled me. Leaving me sinking in quicksand.

Strange how we can handle the big problems. And how smaller disappointments demolish our determination. So what was my final knock-down punch?

The marketing plan I created to promote my picture book hasn’t been yielding the intended results fast enough. My throne of self-sufficiency has crumbled.

Howie noticed my discouragement and lovingly said, “Don’t worry, Vic, we’ll figure it out.”

“I think that’s been my problem,” I replied. “I’VE been figuring it out. I need to figure HIM out.”

Since I can’t control the course of my MS or the symptoms of Chris’s MI, I’m starved for control. My problem has been this obsession to control things. I want to control SOMETHING in my life. Can you identify?

Our power to manage everything associated with MI is limited. MI prevents our kids from responding to our love.

Do you reach out to your child only to have him shut down? Is your comfort rejected?

Sometimes our well-meaning efforts backfire.

Do your peaceful words only enflame his anger? Does your child refuse to follow your advice? Do you intervene on your child’s behalf only to be misunderstood? Have you sought the advice of countless specialists only to have no clear diagnosis?

We encounter obstacles and dead ends.

What tempts you to give up? How many times can you get knocked down and rise again? How long can you support your child who has mental illness (MI) without seeing any improvement?

Quitting isn’t an option. What mother could ever abandon her most vulnerable child? So we try and try. Even though nothing seems to help our child with MI.

The eagle can provide insight into why our efforts fail. Instead of relying on its massive wingspan (average 6’ – 7.5’), it waits for the perfect conditions to step off its peak.

It soars and glides with less effort because it goes with the flow of God’s winds. Air currents, such as slope updrafts (winds that runs into a mountain and are forced to rise), enable the eagle to rise without flapping its wings. A massive eagle can simply float upward by catching a ride on rising bubbles of hot air called “thermals.”

eagle.soaring

Like the eagle, we can wait for God’s perfect timing. That will keep us from flapping in our own strength. We can depend on His power to carry us through the journey.

Those of us who are downcast have this promise: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)”

Picture that. God’s hand cradling you. Then imagine Him gently lifting you up. In due time, He’ll uplift your countenance and soothe your emotions if you trust Him with all your cares. He’s sure to guide you along HIS path.

Feeling weary? Tired of the trial? In a pit of hopelessness? God’s Word promises you’ll soar like an eagle if you hope in Him.

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)”

God saw my problem: the anguish of my soul.

“I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. (Psalm 31:7)”

God provided the solution: the Anchor for my soul.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (Hebrews 6:19)”

Let’s trade anguish for the Anchor. Let’s not lose hope. Or give up. Let’s keep doing our best and trust God for the rest.

Following God’s lead through trials gets easier. His constant faithfulness demonstrates the Truth of His Word. His love never fails.

The group Jesus Culture reminds us in their song ‘One Thing Remains’ that God’s love, “never fails, never gives up, never runs out.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_KXsMCJgBQ

Sleep

TeacherwithJesus

“What makes a good teacher a good teacher?” I asked my second grade students.

Some described the character of an excellent educator: “Nice, truthful, helpful, loving, responsible, respectful, patient, joyful, has the right opinions (not having bad opinions of people), and a good example.”

Others focused on the training and talents which produce a superior teacher: “Goes to college, knows how to teach, knows how to discipline (at the right time, giving consequences, letting the kids know that you still love them), good memory, makes good decisions, smart, observant, creative, and finds ways to make learning fun.”

A few provided adorable advice: “Pays attention to papers when grading, writes fast (for when students make lists), knows how to tell time, comes early and not late, and stays wake.”

Good to know: stay awake when teaching!  That last piece of advice conjured up visions of chaos.

chaos.classroom

We all know the drill: stay awake during work, sleep at night. Not everyone can sleep soundly. Some endure restless nights.

Mothers who have children with mental illness (MI) sometimes stay awake—all night. Too many nights. Praying or pondering. Wondering or waiting. Listening or crying.

Chris is a young adult. But I still have trouble falling asleep when he’s out. Sweet slumber eludes me amid tormenting thoughts. Where is he now? What is he doing? How is he acting? Are people being kind to him?

I fight those thoughts with prayer: Dear Father, protect Chris from anyone who would seek to harm him physically or emotionally.  

How can a mom turn off mothering? By turning it over to the One who never sleeps and leaving it in His hands.

“He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:3-4)”

Sometimes I fall asleep praying for Chris. Other nights God’s promises comfort me.

“My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” Psalm 119:148

Do details of life with MI stalk you during the night? The Psalmist tells about his trouble: concerns which hounded him all night.

“When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. (Psalm 77:2-3, 11-12)”

Has MI rendered you inconsolable like the Psalmist? Follow his example and meditate on God’s past faithfulness. Reflect on His power and love.

Thoughts of His help translate into praise.

“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 63:6-7)”

Are you literally afraid to go to sleep? Fearful of what might happen during the night. Picture His divine protection.

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)”

God promises to give you peaceful rest.

“When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. (Proverbs 3:24)”

Maybe anxiety plagues you during your waking hours. Psalms assures you of His consolation.

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. (Psalm 94:19)”

Dear Father, turn our restlessness into Your perfect peace. Help us leave our concerns at Your throne. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be still and find rest in Him as you listen to ‘Still’ by Hillsong.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXywFuTf65I

Amazing Moms

super.mom.frame

The most amazing moms have nothing. Think about it.  That’s when they have to rely completely on God. That’s when they shine.

Take, for example, two widows in the Bible.

One of the women had an encounter with Elijah. God had directed Elijah to see her. We read about their meeting in 1 Kings 17:8-12.

“Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.’ So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, ‘Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?’ As she was going to get it, he called, ‘And bring me, please, a piece of bread.’

“‘As surely as the Lord your God lives,’ she replied, ‘I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.’”

Now THAT’S desperate! She had no husband, not enough food to feed her son, and felt impending death. But God had other plans.

Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land. (1 Kings 17:13-14)’”

What did she do? “She went away and did as Elijah had told her (1 Kings 17: 15).”

That response inducted her into the Hall of Amazing Moms.

Dire circumstances didn’t dampen her trust in God. Her faith in Him didn’t waver. What a display of trust in the Lord! Maybe temptation taunted her to feed her son first. Who would blame her? A perfect stranger delivered a challenge. Did she believe him for the promise? No. Her firm belief rested on God and His faithfulness.

The result?  “So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah. (1 Kings 17: 15-16).”

Let’s peek into the life of another widow.

“The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, ‘Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.’

Elisha replied to her, ‘How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?’”

‘Your servant has nothing there at all,’ she said, ‘except a small jar of olive oil. (2 Kings 4:1-2)’”

Think about her life. No husband, creditors coming to take her sons as slaves, and only a small jar of olive oil to feed her family. Maybe the enemy slithered into her thoughts, tormenting her by saying, “Your husband revered the Lord. Your God abandoned you.” No wonder she cried out to Elisha. Wouldn’t you? I’d be screaming, “Help! Someone PLEASE help me!!!”’

Then Elisha gave an odd response. He said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side. (2 Kings 4:3-4)”

I don’t know about you, but I would have asked Elisha, “Don’t you get it?!!! What part of ‘only a small jar of olive oil’ didn’t you understand?”

Not that widow. By faith, she collected jars from her neighbors. I’m guessing her neighbors may have known she only had one jar of olive oil. Maybe they thought, “What does she plan on doing with empty jars? She’s lost it. Poor woman.” Obviously, she didn’t care what her neighbors thought.

By faith, she followed the rest of Elisha’s instructions. Like the other widow, her faith in God didn’t waver, in spite of her dire circumstances.

“She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another one.’

“But he replied, ‘There is not a jar left.’ Then the oil stopped flowing.

“She went and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left. (2 Kings 4:5-7)’”

Those widows weren’t supermoms. They were amazing women of faith, with an unshakable trust in God. They were a lot like us—desperate mothers. Crying out to God, “Please help my family.”

Don’t let their powerful message melt away. Magnify it in your mind. Listen to their encouraging words. As they whisper, “Cling to Him and His Word. He’s faithful. Just cling to Him and His Word. In your emptiness, you have everything. Cling to Him and His Word.”

Their testimonies inspire us to remain strong in our faith. We can trust God, in spite of our circumstances.

Years ago, I used to experience attacks due to my multiple sclerosis (MS). During those times, I couldn’t teach because the attacks rendered me listless. I couldn’t function. A close friend asked, “What verse are you leaning on?”

Her question encouraged me. It told me she knew I clung to God’s Word during difficult times. She also knew the Bible is the Living Word of our Father. It speaks to every believer, offering truths and promises needed for each trial.

What verse are you leaning on for your current trial? Don’t have one yet? Here you can borrow one of my favorites: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” (Psalm 91:1-2)’”

God cares about desperate moms. He fights for us. Whatever we fear, He’s our mighty warrior. By His hand we stand in victory.  By His name we overcome. Listen to those words in the song by Aaron Keyes: ‘Song of Moses.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TI8yTeMv0Uo

Rescued

wave wave.2  wave.3

Listen to me!!! The sister of an unstable woman tried to warn police.  She told authorities that her sister was, “talking about demons prior to leaving the residence with her three young children.”

The NY Daily News article provides the account of what happened next. The police followed up and stopped Wilkerson’s car. They found no evidence of an unstable woman at the wheel. She appeared calm and the children seemed happy. The officer sent her on her way. Unfortunately, symptoms of mental illness (MI) aren’t always recognized by strangers—even officials.

Wilkerson’s sister had every reason to be concerned. She sensed doom.

Hours later, bystanders watched in horror as Wilkerson drove her SUV directly into the ocean. Witnesses heard the children’s screams for help and sprang into action. Ordinary onlookers sprinted toward the SUV.  Hurdling over waves, they reached the vehicle before it got swept into the ocean. Thankfully, those bystanders rescued all three children. Just before waves engulfed the vehicle and swept it away.

The outcome could have been tragic. Why didn’t the authorities heed the sister’s warning? Ineffective laws prevent authorities from taking action when a family member senses danger. Often the danger isn’t apparent to others.

When we’re brave enough to reach out to others, do they understand?  Usually not. How can they? Should we expect them to know what it’s like to live with someone who denies having MI and refuses treatment? Would they be able to comprehend our sense of helplessness? Sometimes relatives or church members even blame us for our child’s behaviors. Little do they know how much we invest into the lives of our kids with MI. How hard we try. How much we pray. How often we cry.

Some of us get to the point when we realize our own need for help. Does reaching out help? Sometimes. Some of us have found well-qualified health professionals. Perhaps you’re like many who have taken your child to several doctors and received a different diagnosis from each.

Or maybe you’ve mustered the courage to confide in others. Only to discover that even relatives or church members misunderstand. Instead of support, they pile on blame.

Are you tempted to drive into the ocean of despair? See Christ in your storm of life and reach out to Him.

Reaching out to God always helps! Our heavenly Father is in the business of rescuing His people. When Pharaoh’s chariots pursued the Israelites, God parted the Red Sea.

God’s people rejoiced and sang, “I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.

“The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

“Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?

“The Lord reigns for ever and ever. (Exodus 15:1-2, 11, 18)”

Aaron Keyes wrote about God’s power in ‘Song of Moses.’ See if you can relate to those lyrics:

Though the storms of hell pursue, In darkest night we worship You

You divide the raging sea, From death to life You safely lead

 Oh praise the Lord our mighty warrior 

Praise the Lord the glorious one

By his hand we stand in victory

By his name we’ve overcome

Life will not engulf us. We will not drown in MI. In our darkest night we CAN worship Him. By His hand, we’ll stand in victory.

Let those lyrics minister to you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TI8yTeMv0Uo

Problems: Big or Little

problems

There’s a cure for minor irritations: big problems.

Raising a child who has mental illness (MI) puts things into perspective. Former annoyances pale in comparison to daunting trials.

I used to pride myself in being able to handle any problem. Until MI hit. When our son, Chris had his first psychotic episode, there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t restore clarity of thought.  Motherly comfort couldn’t cure him. Divine intervention was my only hope.

We sometimes have to get sucked into the quicksand of helplessness before we realize our need for God. Getting knocked flat on our back forces us to look up. Bringing into focus the Source of our help.

One day, while teaching second graders, I realized my reliance had completely shifted from my control to God’s. MI had taught me, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff.” It helped me understand that all our problems are small stuff to God.

Report cards were to be sent home. A major computer problem had been discovered. Forcing the school secretary to inform the teachers. She came to my classroom to report the bad news. The look in her eye told me she was bracing herself for a bad reaction.

“There’s a problem with the report card software program. A computer glitch is changing some of the grades. We don’t have time to double check all the grades for every student. Other teachers are really concerned. What do you think? Do you have any suggestions?”

I didn’t bat an eye. It didn’t faze me.

“This isn’t the end of the world. I think if people faced a real crisis, things would be put into perspective. This is no big deal. We can just send a note home informing the parents we’re aware of the problem. All we need to do is assure parents we’ll adjust any incorrect grades once we’ve had time to investigate.”

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what we experienced with Chris. It’s just that a significant tragedy has a way of shifting our perspective.

In 1992 a monster storm threatened the southern tip of Florida. Hurricane Andrew quickly grew to a category five hurricane. My high school friend, Lynn, lived in Homestead with her family. Andrew was taking aim on her home. Homestead was in its direct path.

I called Lynn right before she evacuated. “I’ll pray for you and your family. What are you going to do?”

“We’re collecting photos and important papers. We’ll drive as far north as we can. We’ll be okay as long as we have each other.”

In the panic of the storm, it became clear to Lynn what was important. They could survive the loss of their home and business as long as they had each other.

When trials threaten to ravage our lives, we realize what’s important: family. When we’re at the mercy of circumstances, we understand our utter dependence on God. We realize our need to rely solely on Him.

Many parents dream their children will get a good job, marry, and have kids. Howie and I were no different … until MI hit. Now we’re grateful Chris is alive. Our greatest desire is for him to be happy and at peace.

Our dependence on God enables us to face another day. We don’t fear big problems because we know God is bigger. The more we see His faithfulness, protection, and provision, the more we can trust Him. We’ve learned to live with adversity, with an assurance of His care.

My former multi-handicapped student knew about living with adversity. I wondered what life was like for him. So I asked Tom, “What’s it like being blind?”

“It’s no picnic,” he casually remarked.

What an understatement! How could Tom answer so matter-of-factly? Because he’d faced his lifestyle for so long. He got used to it.

We’ve faced life with MI for over 17 years. I can agree with Tom. “It’s no picnic.” I’m not a fan of problems and life stressors. But problems don’t scare me anymore. I’ve grown accustomed to God’s intervention. And have learned to depend on His love and power in our lives.

The good news: God can give you that same blessed assurance.

This journey of MI can feel so lonely. But we’re never alone. God is with us. Joni Eareckson Tada, who has faced adversity for decades, sings of that great assurance. We’re ‘Alone Yet Not Alone.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWVyVMbSzM4