Archive | June 2013

Escape

Joseph Ambler Inn
Horsham, PA

Irrational thoughts set in after I survived seven hours of labor.

I’m done. That’s it. I’m going home.

That wasn’t an option since our son hadn’t been born yet. Still, my brain conjured up the possibility of a literal out-of-body experience.

Amazing how suffering can play with your mind.  Especially when the struggles have been hard to endure. For too long. Like dealing with your child’s mental illness (MI).

Are you done? Do you fantasize about packing it in…running away from it all? Perhaps you dream of getting away. To rest under a palm tree in Hawaii and listen to the soothing sounds of the ocean as they wash all your cares away.

The Israelites understood suffering. So, God gave Moses a message for them.

“‘I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’”  Exodus 6:7-8

God kept His promise.

“God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.”  Exodus 2:24

“The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…’”  Exodus 3:7-8

That same God hears your groaning and sees your misery. He’s concerned about your suffering. He has a promised land for you.

God gave me a taste of that milk and honey. My earthly promised land was the healing of my marriage. Howie and I just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary at Joseph Ambler Inn bed and breakfast. Years ago, I never would have thought it possible. I was ready to pack it in. Couldn’t stand any more pain. Didn’t know how to forgive unconditionally.

But God, who made a way for us to reach the ultimate Promised Land in heaven, made a way for me to trust again. He restored our marriage, making it stronger than ever. We went to a bed and breakfast to mark the milestone and share our gratitude.

Maybe you’re still waiting to arrive at your promised land. Thankfully, we can trust in our good Shepherd to lead us to a peaceful place and refresh our soul. He “makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul… (and) anoints my head with oil…”    Psalm 23:1-3, 5

Imagine that…God inviting us to spend time in His oasis and get treated in His spa! A free getaway made possible by simply entering into His presence.

Dear Father,

Thank You that You hear my groaning, see my misery, and care about my suffering. Help me find time to read Your Word. To find encouragement and hear You speak to me. So that I can persevere. In Jesus’ name. Amen

During the days of trouble in our marriage, Steve & Annie Chapman’s songs helped me cling to the hope of restoration. Here’s one of them:  “Turn Your Heart Toward Home”

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

Advertisements

The Worst

bad.worse

The first time my parents left their teenage daughter home overnight they knew I could handle everything. Everything?

I’m sure they didn’t expect their check-in phone conversation to sound like this:

“How are things going, Vicki?”

“Oh fine. By the way, Aunt Betty and Uncle Ken and their kids are visiting. They dropped by two days ago.”

“Where are they staying?”

“In the driveway. In their camper.”

“Where are they eating?”
“Here. I’m making them meals. By the way, we had a small kitchen fire.”

“What! Are you okay?”

“Sure. I put it out before there was any more damage.”

“There’s damage?”

“Only black smoke all over the walls. Nothing a fresh coat of paint won’t fix. So, how are you and Dad?…Mom, are you still there?”

As bad as that news sounded to my mother, it could have been a lot worse. The unexpected guests weren’t robbers. The house didn’t burn down.

Gotta love a teenager’s reaction to the world. Ignorance can truly be bliss. Back then, it was so much easier to face the world calmly. With an invincible spirit.

Hey life, give me your best shot. I can handle anything. No big deal.

Through the years, I’ve learned otherwise. I can’t handle everything. Some trials ARE a big deal. Like mental illness (MI).

Oh to have that teenage calm and casual outlook on life. Nowadays, I can’t summon a serene spirit to saturate my responses. I know how horribly wrong things can turn out.

Thankfully, I have access to God’s perfect peace. The trick is keeping my focus right when things are bad. Trusting Him instead of considering all the possible outcomes.

When MI hits home, sometimes bad goes to worse. At those times, I tell myself “It could be worse.”

James Stevenson wrote a delightful story for children teaching them things can always be worse. In “Could Be Worse!”, a laid-back grandfather seems unimpressed or concerned at his grandchildren’s reported problems. Each complaint receives the same unemotional, “Could be worse.”

One morning, the grandfather tells them a story of unbelievable events that happened to him—all in one night. One extreme calamity after another. At the end of his tale he asks them, “Now what do you think of that?”

Their response: “Could be worse!”

Lesson learned. He transformed their thinking.

God can transform our thinking, if we allow Him.

When the weight of this MI marathon gets too heavy, I start the list of worsts. God takes over and floods my head with reminders of blessings.

Here’s how it goes.

It could be worse. Chris could be missing. We could be homeless, wondering where our next meal will come and what’s happening to our son. We could be living in a war-torn country. Chris could be filled with rage. He could be dead.

Chris is home with us and safe. He has goals (to pay off his debts, etc.), gets exercise, and interacts with people at his church on Sundays.

Maybe you’re living my worst. Most likely, you’re not living THE worst unless you’re enduring MI without God’s presence. His presence can comfort in the midst of the worst trial.

Chris Tomlin reminds us of our need for Him in his song, “Lord I Need You”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rR_Rdb1CTE

How to Love

Bentlight

Our 32-year-old son, Chris, doesn’t want to be treated like a child. He no longer wants me to meet his needs when he’s hurting. His desires are perfectly normal. Since he lives with us, I observe hints of difficulties. And sense his internal turmoil.

On his good days, it’s easy to get clues he’s feeling fine. He might join me on errands. Or stop to chat with me while passing through the kitchen.

For so many years, that ability to discern his emotional or mental needs served us well. Now, he doesn’t reach out. I only detect clues he’s in need.

He comes and goes and I watch how he walks.

He seems slumped over. Is that just my imagination?

I catch a glimpse of his face, careful to look without him noticing.

He looks sad. Or is that just fatigue from working out at the gym?

As long as he remains somewhat active, I know he’s not isolating. That’s a good thing. When he conceals himself in his room, I’m left to wonder.

How do I stop being a mom? Is it possible to extinguish the impulses to ease a child’s pain? How do others keep from worrying?

When a young child is hurting and vulnerable, our sole priority is to help. A mother’s instinct is to nurture, protect, and comfort. We’re drawn to minister to needs. It’s as natural as breathing. Impossible to stop for any length of time.

So how does a mom love a mature son who has serious mental illness (MI)?  Differently.

A ruler in the Bible shows us how we can love our adult son or daughter differently. Jairus was one of the synagogue leaders. His twelve-year-old daughter was dying. What did do?

Mark 4:22-24 tells us Jairus humbled himself and went to Jesus. Seeking help from the Great Physician. One who could heal his daughter.

Jesus agreed to go to his daughter. But then Christ stopped to heal another woman with a blood flow (Mark 5:25-34).

Can you imagine what Jairus must have felt? Surely, he was thinking: No, no, no…don’t stop now. There’s no time…my daughter is dying. PLEASE, Lord, come with me NOW! You can heal that woman later.

We can all relate to delays. Waiting in traffic is one thing. Waiting for God’s answer to our prayers is another thing. Especially when we’re praying for God to provide His peace and clarity of thought for our child with MI. That kind of waiting could lead to depression if we don’t hold onto our faith and keep our eyes fixed on Him. With our head buried deep in His Word.

Finally, Jesus healed the woman. But then the grateful woman had to tell Christ her “whole” story (Mark 5:33). Was Jairus feeling panicked? Surely, it didn’t help when others came spreading their fear. Informing him that “your daughter is dead” (Mark 5:35).

But, Christ calmed his fears.

“Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe’” (Mark 5:36).

Then Jesus raised up the girl (Mark 5:41-42).

What’s the message for us? When Christ delays, He’s still working. When fears bombard us, He’ll provide comfort. And remind us to keep believing and not waver in our faith.

When we don’t know what’s going on, we can trust in what we DO know. We do know God is still in control. He hears our prayers. He’s promised to comfort us. He’ll provide all we need.

Do you have an adult child with MI? In what ways do you show your love?

Casting Crowns’ song reminds us “TIS SO SWEET TO TRUST IN JESUS.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DdgkvnsHjM

I blew it.

failure

I’d reached my breaking point. I managed to keep my composure when Chris was in the psychiatric unit. And then held it together when he got treatment in the partial-care facility. He was on the road to recovery. But, my emotional stress built as he transitioned back into school.

Chris started going to some band rehearsals after school. When it came time for a performance, I was concerned.

Will he be able to handle the pressure? Will he act normally in front of everyone? Will his peers ask him why he wasn’t in school?

I sat in the auditorium waiting for the program to begin. Not relaxed, but uneasy. Days leading up to the performance, we had Chris practice what he’d say if curious students asked him why he wasn’t in school. He would simply reply, “I was sick and now I’m feeling better.”

Where is Chris now? What’s he doing back stage? I hope he doesn’t do or say anything to embarrass himself or his brother. I hope he remembers what to say if anyone asks him why he was absent.

My thoughts were interrupted by a parent I didn’t know well. She bluntly asked, “What did you think of Chris’s partial-care facility?”

How does she know where Chris was? Does everyone know? What a rude and insensitive question!

I mustered up the strength to respond. As casually as I could I answered, “How did you know Chris was receiving treatment in a partial-care facility?”

“A friend of mine had a daughter there when Chris was there?”

Great! Just perfect! I guess everyone knows our business. I suppose it’s impossible to keep Chris’s friends from finding out.

I responded without looking at her, “It was okay.”

Maybe she’ll get the message I don’t want to talk about it. Just leave!!!

I couldn’t believe I actually answered her intrusive question. Instead of politely telling her she shouldn’t have asked me.

People just don’t understand how upsetting it can be to have a loved one who is mentally ill.

It wasn’t possible for me to simply enjoy the band performance without someone reminding me Chris was recovering from his illness.

Several days later, Chris and I were in the car. He brought up the partial-care therapy. For the millionth time! Chris needed to process the experiences. I wanted to just forget it. Our needs collided that day.

“When I was in the partial-care unit, they didn’t care about the patients. It was horrible. The counselor was mean to me. We had to sit there all day and talk about drug abuse. Even though that wasn’t my problem.”

In sheer frustration, I lost my temper. I yelled, “I got it, Chris! I know it was a nightmare for you! I’m sorry you had to go there! I’m tired of hearing about it.”

The three months of stress had taken its toll on me. I spoke harshly to Chris. Afterwards, I felt tremendous guilt.

I’m such a failure. How could I speak to Chris so meanly? He’s still so vulnerable. But, I just can’t take it anymore.

I couldn’t allow myself to wallow in self-pity.

I need help. Maybe, I’m not the worst parent in the world. I’ll talk to Chris’s out-patient psychologist. He’ll give me his honest opinion on how I’ve handled our crisis.

The psychologist assured me, “You’ve been handling things amazingly well considering the circumstances. You’ve persevered for a long time. You need to take time out for yourself. Get some rest and relaxation. Find some time for entertainment for yourself.”

Soon after, God provided some needed encouragement.

Chris and I spent some time walking by a creek. As we strolled along, I reminisced.

“When I was younger, I used to sit for hours on a rock in a creek near our house. I marveled at God’s creation. When surrounded by God’s creation instead of the world (man-made thing and earthly troubles), I found peace. It was comforting to see God’s power and love demonstrated in His beautiful creation.”

We walked closer to the water.

“Look at that water before the boulders. See how calm it is. As long as it’s perfectly still, it can reflect the sunlight. Now look at the rippling water falling from the boulders. See how the light sparkles in that water? Listen to the soothing sound of that gurgling water. It’s so soothing.”

I went on to relate it to our lives.

“The creek is a picture of our lives. There are calm times, followed by turbulent times. During calm times, if we can remain perfectly still, we can reflect the Son’s love. Even during turbulent times, we can reflect His love. But, in a more vibrant way. God can be found in our difficulties. And glorified the most through our trials. See farther down the creek? The water is still again. Your life will be calmer again, too. God is helping you pass through this turbulent time.”

I’ll always cherish that day with Chris. The analogy I shared with him, reassured my heart as well.

Did you ever feel like you blew it?

Decades ago, Simon & Garfunkel sang “Bridge over Troubled Water.” Listen to the words to the song and imagine God singing them to you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjNgn4r6SOA