Archive | August 2013

A Trip to the ER

magnifyingglass

“Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.”  Psalm 34:3  (NKJV)

When life includes mental illness (MI) how can having one more complication be good? Those are times God uses other people to magnify His love for us.

We headed off to the ER. Thankfully, it was for me and not our son, Chris. I’d rather endure my physical pain than relive any emotional pain of Chris suffering.

It all started a week ago with me vomiting on Wednesday night. So I only ate several tiny crackers on Thursday. Which I vomited Thursday night. The pain in my abdomen didn’t feel like a typical intestinal bug. So Friday I drove myself to the doctor, ignoring the searing pain of each bump and turn.

The doctor prescribed antibiotics and anti-cramping medicine. “If you don’t feel any better by tomorrow, go to the ER,” he instructed me. “They’ll run tests to determine the cause. It could be anything…food poising, diverticulitis, a gall bladder attack…”

Friday I followed the doctor’s instructions to drink colorless fluids, take my meds, and eat a bland diet.

Saturday morning I tried eating some applesauce. My loss of appetite prevented me from finishing off the snack-size container. Could only manage about a tablespoon.

By 10:00 AM Saturday morning, my condition hadn’t improved. Howie and I decided to head to the ER.

We provided necessary information. They did some tests. We waited for results and provided more information. Eight hours later they admitted me and had a diagnosis. My enlarged gall bladder, complete with a gall stone, caused all the pain and discomfort.

The decision was made to remove it. IV antibiotics had to be administered to reduce the size.

My first night in the hospital proved to be exactly what others joke about. The constant interruptions. Time to wake up and take meds. An hour later, time to check vitals. Next hour, time to see if the IV is okay. I was well-taken care of and weary.

Sunday morning Howie came to visit. Soon after, Chris arrived. What a blessing to have him come! The sweet time we spent together in the hospital almost made my pain worth it. Chris was so caring and compassionate.

“Are you okay, Mom? How are you feeling? I’ve been in hospitals and I know it’s hard to get a good night sleep.”

“Yeah, Chris. You can say that again. Nurses coming and going…the IV machine beeping and then sounding an alarm when the tubing had too many bubbles… …announcements on the intercom…and even a lullaby song played over the intercom announcing the birth of a baby born in the hospital.”

Howie and Chis left after a short visit. Later Sunday afternoon Howie called.

“When Chris and I were leaving the hospital, Chris asked the doctor if he could do anything to stop the announcements from being made on the intercom outside my room.”

What a considerate gesture! Chris made an effort to guarantee me better sleep. Even though the doctor had no power over the  intercom, Chris’s thoughtfulness made my day.

Sunday night Howie came for another visit carrying a beautiful yellow vase full of flowers. He showered me with small gifts. Things I didn’t even know I’d need: warm footies for my feet, Chapstick, the recharger for my cell phone…

That second night in the hospital I still endured pain and interrupted sleep. But my heart was full of the love shown by Chris and Howie. God used my enflamed gall bladder to magnify His love in my life.

During trials, I’ve learned to be on the lookout for God’s love messages sent through others. He surely sends them because He’s surely there. And surely cares.

Yesterday when I arrived home from the hospital another of God’s love messages greeted me. This time sent through the loving hands of former colleagues. On their first day back to school, those dear friends and Christian educators took the time to sign a get-well card for me. Their card was like a bouquet of blessings filled with promises of prayers.

Thank You, Father, for magnifying Your love for me through family and friends. Help me make it a priority to magnify Your love. To open Your Word and closely examine how You show Your love. How beautiful You are the closer I am to You!

Magnify the Lord as you listen to Great Is Thy Faithfulness By Cece Winans

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60o3UP4Kjwg

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Anxiety

stuffedbunnygraduating

Picture a girl clinging to her stuffed bunny on her first day of school. Now picture her as a sixth grader.

That’s how I first met Leah. It didn’t surprise me. Her application clearly stated Leah suffered from separation anxiety.

As the director of instruction of our Christian school, it was my job to process student applications. The headmaster and I felt led to accept Leah. We believed God could do a mighty work. Leah was transferring from public school to our Christian school. The exposure to God’s peace in our school could help Leah overcome her separation anxiety.

Leah’s parents were very supportive. They said they’d put us in touch with her psychiatrist.

I spoke with Leah’s mother before the new school year began. Mrs. Jones prepared me well, providing information beyond the usual school records.

“How did Leah’s last school year go, Mrs. Jones?

“Leah needed home-bound instruction for most of fifth grade,” Mrs. Jones explained.

“How many days did she attend school?” I asked.

“During the last quarter we gradually weaned her from home-bound instruction. Each week she attended more hours.”

“Did she eventually make it for an entire school day?” I inquired.

“No. She couldn’t make it. Often the school had to call me because she experienced a panic attack,” her mother answered.

“What were her panic attacks like?”

“She’d complain of stomach aches and headaches. She’d ask to go to the nurse.”

“Did the nurse find any evidence of a physical illness on those occasions?”

“Never. The psychiatrist recommended that I pick her up from school when her anxiety reached that level. I had to bring her home every day.”

Leah’s mother gave me the name and number of the psychiatrist and encouraged me to speak with him.

When I called the psychiatrist, he laid out a plan.

“If Leah complains of any physical ailments and asks to go to the nurse, send her. If the nurse determines that Leah’s physically well, she’ll bring Leah to you. Casually ask Leah about school and things in her life. Your calm demeanor should help her relax. If she complains of any physical discomfort, tell her that the nurse said she’s fine. Then quickly change the subject.”

As the school administrator, I’d be the person to determine if we needed to call home and ask Mrs. Jones to pick her up.

We put that plan into action. The first week of school I needed to call her mother twice. Mrs. Jones picked her up. Even during that first week, however, Leah was able to remain in school for several entire days. Maybe not in class, but in school. Sometimes all she needed was to talk to her mother on the phone. That calmed her. I’d then take Leah for a walk outside and she’d relax enough to go back into the classroom.

By the end of the year Leah was attending entire days. She still carried her bunny, but rarely needed to go home. Her visits to the nurse diminished. She and I met only occasionally.

On the last day of school I asked to speak to her in my office.

“Leah, you’ve made it to the end of the year. God has helped you overcome your anxiety. I’m so grateful to Him and proud of you. Let’s thank the Lord.”

After a time of prayer, I presented her with a gift. I gave her a miniature graduation cap for her bunny.

“It’s time for both of you to graduate. You’ll be graduating sixth grade. Your bunny will graduate from school. He’ll no longer need to accompany you next year. You’ll be fine on your own with God’s help.”

Leah attended seventh grade without her bunny and without needing to go home. She never again needed to call her mother from school. Later in the year, Leah even slept over a friend’s house. Quite a remarkable accomplishment and testimony to God’s faithfulness in her life!

Leah went on to attend college and get married.

We’re not very different than Leah.

Don’t we also worry? Forgetting God is in control.

Aren’t we vulnerable to fears? Allowing our thoughts to be consumed by the what if’s.

Aren’t we prone to the contaminated thinking of the culture which tells us we can solve all our problems? Believing we don’t need God.

Like Leah, our minds are easily led astray. Forgetting how much God loves us and our kids. Paul knew that danger when he warned, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).”

What a comfort we have in the reminder Peter gives us to, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).”

Let your mental anguish melt away as you listen to “You Are My Hiding Place.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElVC6rfX3Z8

 

Not Now

Vicki.not.good.time

When is a good time for a crisis? Most likely you quickly shouted, “NEVER!”

Mental illness (MI) interrupted my life when my son lost touch with reality. Chris was a junior in high school. I was the Director of Instruction at a Christian school. A school I helped start with just one other administrator, Sam.

The school began as a ministry of our mega church. With a congregation of 10,000 members, the school’s enrolment exploded in a few short years. The first year we had 380 students. In the second year, there were 570 students. By the fifth year, the enrolment swelled to 1,000! The headmaster and I were a little busy.

So when I needed to stay home with Chris, Sam was left to oversee it all. During the time of my absence, I visited our pastor.

“How’s it going, Vicki,” he compassionately asked.

“Chris is in the hospital. I’m concerned about Sam.”

“Why?”

“Because he needs my help with the school.”

Then my pastor made a statement that shocked me.

“God doesn’t need you, Vicki.”

His words made me wince.

That wasn’t very nice. He knows I’m going through this crisis. How could he say such a thing? Isn’t he supposed to say comforting words?

I quickly learned my pastor spoke God’s Truth in love. Those words helped me realize I’d been relying on myself instead of God. Eventually, that statement freed me from worry. Whenever I struggled to handle an insurmountable problem, that truth readjusted my focus. His words echoed in my mind, reminding me God’s in control.

God doesn’t need you, Vicki. He’s quite capable of solving this problem. He’s accomplishing His perfect plan in your life.

Paul understood his inclination to rely on himself. He acknowledged that his heavenly Father used life’s pressures to help him trust in God alone. He reassured the church in Corinth, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).”

As we raise our children with serious MI, we can feel as though it’s a task “far beyond our ability to endure.”

Do you feel like Paul? Are you under such great pressure that you despair of life itself? Listen to Paul’s encouragement. His voice of experience reminds you, “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:21).”

Whatever we face today, we can stand firm in Christ.

Chris Tomlin reminds us God is more than enough in his song, “Enough

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EW-toYBiF8o

Not Me!

Thanks.No.Thanks

What is the main reason ladies attend a women’s retreat? To be able to say, “I’m going to the ladies room,” instead of, “Let’s go potty.” To have a reason to buy new clothes…for themselves. To have wonderful fellowship—lots of great conversations (all simultaneously, of course). For lots of laughing and good crying.

All true reasons, but not the main reason. They go seeking the Lord. To hear His voice. To worship Him—uninterrupted.

Not me. I went to escape the whole ordeal of Chris’s mental illness (MI). He was well on his way to recovery and didn’t need me as much. It had been four months since his first psychotic episode. His medication helped him return to school. Chris appeared to be managing things well.  Howie sent me on my way with his blessings.

The theme of the retreat was ‘Jesus is the Potter and We Are the Clay.’ Worship music helped me relax. MI was far from my mind. I basked in His love. His perfect peace refreshed my soul.

The speakers shared verses challenging us to yield to God’s molding. To let Him shape us into vessels worthy of service for Him. On the last day of the retreat one of the speakers held up a beautiful cup and saucer. Gold lining hinted at its extravagance.

“This cup and saucer are very special to me. Not because it’s an expensive piece of china. It’s valuable to me because of who gave it to me. A dear friend bought this for me. To thank me for journeying with her from insanity to sanity.”

“Journeying with her from insanity to sanity.”

Those words jolted me back to reality. My heavenly feeling was replaced with MI worries. A familiar empty feeling returned to the pit of my stomach. I forced myself to continue listening to the speaker. To resume my emotional vacation. To listen to God speak words I needed to hear.

The speaker presented the challenge: “Those of you who want to be servants of God, to be vessels chosen by the Master Potter, stand.”

Just about all 500 women in attendance rose instantly. Except me. I remained planted firmly in my seat.

Oh no…I know what this is all about. I’ve just been through the fire. Now I’ll be content to let the Lord just leave me on the shelf for a while.

Suddenly, I realized I was one of the few ladies still sitting.

How must this look? Many of the women know I’m the administrator. They’re probably wondering why Miss Christian School administrator isn’t willing to be God’s servant. Well, I don’t care. I’m not going to stand to be seen of men…I mean to be seen of women.

Then my thoughts began to wander. I reflected on how much I’d seen God work in our lives through Chris’s MI. Words from one of the workshops echoed in my mind.

“The deeper the pit, the brighter the light.” I’d experienced that first-hand. In my darkest hour, God’s light showed us the way. Reminded us of His presence. Surely, my trial had been bittersweet. I experienced the provision, protection, and comfort of God.

I went from ‘not me’ to ‘use me’ and stood confidently. With tears rolling down my face. Knowing the cost. Trusting in Him.

Father, I’m not standing by my own human courage. I’m standing on Your promises. Knowing that as You’ve been faithful before, You’ll be faithful again. So, I trust You to mold me and use me. 

I returned home from the retreat ready to face whatever. Knowing I’d be okay no matter what happened because I’m a child of the King.

And so are you!

Sing along and tell the Master Potter, “Have Thine own way.” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioJf4EpVdU8