Archive | April 2013

Need Support

flying buttress
Do you feel like you’re ready to collapse? Like you need to be supported by flying buttresses to remain standing.

Life that includes a loved one with serious mental illness (MI) can knock you off your feet. You regain your balance and resume your walk through mundane tasks. Then, BAM! Some bazaar behavior or unexpected comment hits you. Once again, the wind is knocked out of you. Time of prayer restores the pep to your step.

Along comes another whack. This time, it’s a diagnosis (or MISdiagnosis) or a blunt recommendation made by a specialist (who seems to have no clue what you’re going through). Blindsiding you. Like you’ve been demolished by a Mack Truck. Making you an emotional wreck. As if your feelings got churned up a meat grinder.

Weary from it all, it gets harder and harder to stand on your own two feet. Does that describe your life?

How can we go on when life hits us from all directions? When we’re too worn out to even stand.

Last week, President Obama spoke about getting knocked down. On April 18, 2013 he gave a message at the interfaith memorial service in Boston. He said, “Like Bill Iffrig, 78 years old — the runner in the orange tank top who we all saw get knocked down by the blast — we may be momentarily knocked off our feet, but we’ll pick ourselves up. We’ll keep going. We will finish the race.”

Pick yourself up. Just keep going. Sounds easy enough. Not so!

Moms who have a child with MI may need support. We need human buttresses—people to come along side us. Loved ones who will keep us from crumbling under the pressure.

Years ago, I worked as a Bible instructor at a Christian camp for handicapped children. One adolescent camper, Bruce, was huge in stature. His large physique was exceeded only by his big smile. The joy of the Lord lit up his face.

His mental retardation didn’t prevent him from memorizing hymns—every verse and chorus. His beautiful voice drew you into his world…a world where intellectual abilities are irrelevant. A world where rejoicing reigns supreme. Anyone who joined Bruce in his world of praise experienced his heavenly serenity.

Yes, Bruce could sing. But, he couldn’t roller skate. He needed support to stay erect on skates. The first year, it took six strong camp counselors to hold him up. He crept along like a floating tree powered by human training wheels. Skating ever so slowly. Inch by inch.

The next year, he needed only five supporters. The third year, it took only four. Eventually, he was down to only one helper. Then, it came. That moment of victory. The helper let go. Bruce stood on his own!

That’s a picture of what God will do for you. He’ll send human buttresses. His people to support you. As many as you need. For as long as you need them. Until you can stand on your own.

Or, He alone will miraculously help you move forward. He promises you, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:10, 13

Sometimes, it’s in the power of Christ alone that we can stand. Let those words minister to you as you listen to “In Christ Alone.”

 

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Agony

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Yesterday athletes’ agony became America’s agony. The bombs that blew up in Boston tore through flesh and emotions. Confusion gave way to fear and thoughts of terrorism. A marathon turned into mayhem.
All our hearts go out to the people in Boston. Those who lost loved ones. Those who were injured. Those whose dream of finishing the marathon was severed by an act of terrorism.

What’s your version of a mom’s agony? Having a child with mental illness (MI) missing, losing that child to suicide, suffering the anguish of innocent lives taken at the hands of your child with MI, or experiencing the daily challenges of the child living at home (disrupting the peace in the family, trying to stay calm so as not to trigger violence or break from reality)?

Rick Warren just experienced the horror of losing a child with MI to suicide. An unbearable tragedy. Inflicting unimaginable pain.

The parents of the Aurora Shooter suffered the anguish of innocent lives taken at the hands of their son. Who could withstand such public shame in the midst of that nightmare? A nightmare that doesn’t end.

A mother of a missing child battles relentless torment. Dealing with the daily struggle to fight back fears. Fears of what might be happening to her vulnerable son or daughter.

Anyone struggling with the daily challenges of MI in the home knows how it can wear you down…almost cause you to lose your own sanity.

Each person’s trial can be agonizing at times.

According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, the definition of ‘agony’ is: intense pain of mind or body.

Does that describe your state of mind? Is your pain intense?

Is your mind troubled by thoughts of what’s happening to your child? Or do fears of what might happen plague you?

Regardless of the details of each mother’s trial, there are some similarities. Helplessness. Exhaustion. Strain on a marriage. Heartbreak for siblings who don’t get equal attention. Agony.

Christ experienced agony. He knew exactly what would happen to Him. He’d experience emotional torment from the soldiers’ mocking. The soldiers He’d die to save. He’d endure physical torture from the beating, forty lashes, and crucifixion. He’d suffer unfamiliar spiritual pain from the weight everyone’s sin.

As the day of His crucifixion approached, what did He do?

“Being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Luke 22:44 (NKJV)

God honored His earnest prayers and enabled Christ to carry out God’s plan. To willingly die for our sin.

“So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’
‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied.
‘I am he,’ Jesus said.” John 18:3-5 (NIV)

We can survive each day by depending on the Lord. For Him to provide hope, guidance, healing of minds and marriages…

When our pain becomes agony, we can follow Christ’s example and pray more earnestly. God will honor our prayers and enable us to carry out His plan for our lives. To willingly face another day in anticipation of His faithfulness. God is bigger than any problem we face or fear. Nothing is impossible to Him.

Let Hillson’s song ‘This is How We Overcome’ minister to your heart:

Bitter Sweet

Basket of blessings
When was the last time you thanked God for your sanity? Probably never. We take thinking for granted.

There are people who might appreciate clarity of thought. A person recovering from a break from reality. Someone who had a cloud of depression removed.

And me. My multiple sclerosis (MS) corrodes my cognition. Numerous lesions in my brain encroach on the healthy tissues. Making it difficult for me to process information easily when I’m tired. My synapses have to take detours around the scars caused by an overactive immune system which destroys good cells. Brain drain is an uninvited visitor in my head each day. What used to be automatic is now a deliberate act. I have to concentrate on my thinking.

My premature shrinking brain causes me to value cognition. I’m grateful for each important detail that pops into my head. I’m aware of God helping me remember what’s critical for me to know. The more I need to rely on Him, the more He shows Himself faithful.

A disability has a way of making someone grateful. Weird, huh? But true.

I often think about people with disabilities in the Bible. It’s fun to imagine what their lives were like after Christ healed them. After they thanked Jesus, what was the very first thing on their to-do list?

Did the lame man squish his toes in the sand as he walked along the edge of water? Did the blind man watch a sunset, and stay up all night to see the sunrise? Did the deaf person surround himself with children just to hear their chatter and giggling?

There is great joy when normalcy is restored. A patient discharged from the hospital rejoices. So does the soldier returning home from war.

Those of us who have children with serious mental illness (MI) yearn for normalcy to be restored. There are sweet moments when that happens.

Lately, my heart has been filled with gratitude. All it took was witnessing our son and my husband enjoying time together. They went to shoot some golf balls to prepare for an upcoming golf outing. As soon as they got home, they turned on TV to watch Jeopardy together. A daily tradition nowadays.

Often they run to the store to get a few things. What a blessing to know Chris has those happy times in his life! Simple, quality time with his father.

Howie’s tender love for Chris reminds me of our heavenly Father’s caring love for us. Be blessed as you listen to the song, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.”

Wait for it…

waiting waitingbest
What are you waiting for?
That can be taken two ways:
1. What do you wish would happen?
2. Why aren’t you doing something? What are you WAITING for? Do something!

Sometimes I ask God the second way. I don’t like to wait for answers to my prayers. Does anyone?

When our son Chris was in college, I drove him home to see his brother march at a high school football game. On the way to the high school, the cars came to a complete stop. No cars were moving on the highway. It became evident we would not make it to the game on time.

In sheer frustration, I reported, “Well, we’re stuck in a traffic jam.”
He replied with glee, “My first traffic jam!”
That familiar inconvenience was a new and exciting adventure for Chris. All the sights and sounds fascinated him. He delighted in the sounds of sirens whirring past us. The people getting out of their cars and the people in the oncoming cars gawking at the scene intrigued him. So, I opened up my lunchbox and we enjoyed some leftover snacks. And prayed for the accident victims.

Okay, so it’s possible to enjoy waiting in a traffic jam. But, how can mothers of children with mental illness (MI) be happy about waiting for restored joy and peace? How long must we wait for our child to have clarity of thought?

What does God think about our impatience? As parents, we know how annoying it can be. When traveling, children often ask “Are we there yet?” When heard incessantly, it can feel like TORTURE.

Now imagine a trip that takes 40 years to arrive at the destination. That’s how long it took the people of Israel to reach the land God promised them. Imagine the parents hearing their children ask, “Are we there yet?”

Thankfully, God doesn’t get annoyed when we bombard Him with daily questions. “When will You restore my child’s sweet personality? When will You heal my marriage? When will my life be normal again?…”

When God delays his answer, we can react in our usual impatience. Or we can respond like Chris did in the traffic jam. It could become an adventure of looking for the mixed blessings and lessons we might learn along the way.

In our weariness, our heavenly Father coaches us with His pep talk from Psalm 27:14. “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!”

Children are good at asking for what they want. In fact, they’re good at DEMANDING what they want. In spite of the same denial, a young child will ask to do something repeatedly. Finally, in desperation the child will plead, “Please. I’m begging you!” Sometimes the child will ask, “Why not? Why can’t I…?”
A parent doesn’t always want to give an answer. The answer may lead to an argument. So, the parent replies, “Because I said so.” Our no’s don’t mean we don’t love our child. Often it’s in our child’s best interest to say no. “No, you can’t stay up all night. No, you can’t have five cookies. No, you can’t date when you’re only 13.”

At times, we’re the same way. Waiting and hoping for something. Asking God again and again. Pleading with Him. “Please God. I’m begging You!”

Waiting is too hard. We ask, “Why not?” Inside we sulk. How can God’s “no” or “not yet” be in our best interest? Why would God have us wait to see our child’s mental stability restored? Why would He make us wait to see our child joyful once again? While seeking those answers, we might miss what He’s giving: comfort, strength, an eternal perspective…

Moms can’t be happy unless their kids are happy. How we desperately want our child with mental illness to be happy!

While hoping for the thing you most desire, hope also in God. Good self-talk would sound like, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” (Psalm 42:5, Psalm 42:11, Psalm 43:5)

Mental reminders of His promises will restore peace while waiting. Tell yourself, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3)

What are you waiting for?