Archive | March 2015

Faith-stretching

faith.stretching

Silly Putty Stretched Faith

How strong is your amusement-park faith? Mine ended at the mammoth roller coaster. I’d go on any ride except that one. Until our friend, Ed increased my faith in that ride.

“I’m heading to the roller coaster,” he announced.

“Not me. I won’t go on that ride,” I balked. “That’s where I draw the line. I’m too afraid that the car I’m in will be hurled off the tracks. And catapult me into the air.”

“That’s the safest ride in the park,” Ed declared.

His assessment gave me the confidence I needed to join him. Not because of the way he stated the fact. But because of his credentials. For decades Ed had worked for a large city as their inspector of bridges and other structures.

At the end of my first ride, my fingers had to be pried off the lap bar. By my fifth ride I’d gone from terrified to thrilled. My faith in the ride increased, helping me to relax and enjoy the ride. I even joined the ranks of the brave hand-raisers. My arms waved in the air as the car whipped me up, down, and around the tracks.

Life can feel like a roller coaster. Especially when raising a child with mental illness (MI). Our journey surely wouldn’t be included on the list of fun rides at a theme park. Yes, God fills our lives with blessings. But there’s no amusement in the MI trip. Faith is necessary. Our trial makes it painfully obvious that trusting God is a daily process. That’s how we survive.

We put our trust in the Designer of the track we’re on. That step in faith enables us to relax in His care. Our eyes are opened to see His faithfulness. Then we’re able to fling our hands in the air as we praise Him for His power and love.

The thing about faith is that it comes in all amounts. Some days we might have strong and abundant faith in God. Other days it may be harder to relax in His care. Pressures grow. Stress increases. Faith weakens. How do we handle those faith-stretching times in our lives?

Early on in my journey with our son’s MI, it was as if I’d been trust onto the ride of terror. There were unexpected dips and turns. Chris had a break from reality and had to be hospitalized. Thankfully, he quickly became stabilized. Homeschool was needed. Thankfully, God provided instructors who could teach Chris’s college-level AP courses. Chris’s body chemistry changed, triggering another psychotic episode. Thankfully, there were other medications available which successfully treated him.

The more I rode the MI rollercoaster, the more my confidence grew. With each crisis came God’s provision.

There have been periods when I’ve had breaks from the MI rollercoaster. Then, suddenly, I’d realize I had been placed back on the ride. I’d sense the subtle clues. Chris’s behavior would change slightly. The sparkle in his eyes would fade. Tell-tale puffiness around his eyes would reveal secret torment. His conversations would be reduced to grunts.

Those were times which tested my faith. Times when I echoed the apostles’ request to, “Lord, Increase my (our) faith”! (Luke 17:5).

The book of Hebrews became my go-to place to shop for greater faith. It reminded me that I’m, “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1).”  I’d picture giants of faith mentioned in Hebrews eleven cheering me on. I’d hear Noah, Jacob, Abraham, and Moses yelling, “Hang in there, Vicki. God is with you. He’s still in control.”

Those men of great faith were human, like me. How did they keep the faith and even abound in faith? What was their secret? I think it’s found in Hebrews 12:1-3

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

That passage in Hebrews begins with the challenge to throw off what hinders and entangles us. We’re burdened by our own thoughts and emotions. Worry and fear can weigh us down. Making it difficult to continue running our race. Our nurturing thoughts drive us to solve every problem. Some situations regarding our child’s MI can only be handled by treatment or therapists. And some need God’s intervention alone. In those cases our need to control the situation can block our path to complete trust in God. So we wonder if God’s still in control.

Verse one assures us that God is still in control of our lives. This race we run has been ‘marked out for us.’ It is a God-appointed path.

So how do we run? Our Trainer has provided instructions in verses one through three. We’re to run with perseverance having our eyes fixed on Jesus, while considering Him. As we reflect on all that He is and all that He’s done, our faith increases. The One who conquered death is on the throne. He’s alive and able! He’s the Source of all the inner strength we need.

We can be confident that we’ll be counted among those heroes of faith, “… whose weakness was turned to strength (Hebrews 11:34).”

We need not quiver in fear like Christ’s disciples who cried, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown! (Matthew 8:25).” Jesus will calm the storms in our lives.

We can be like the centurion who told Jesus, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed (Matthew 8:8)”. We can have that same faith because we trust in the same God.

Clearly life is not a roller coaster. We don’t need to simply brace ourselves or buckle up. Our preparation involves wearing godly accessories. No outfit is complete without God’s shield a faith protecting our heart.

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16).”

Shields up!

Listen to Steve Green’s song: “Find Us Faithful” and imagine that great cloud of witnesses cheering you on.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi-Mn5tRHvM

 

 

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Restored

dry.bones.2

What’s the strangest thing you ever snuggled up to? Mine is a collection of skeletons. When visiting our son’s college science lab, a trio of bones lured me over. I abandoned any attempts to hide behind them and playfully peeked through them for a fun picture.

Those bones are a reminder that an entire nation shares the emotions of moms raising kids with mental illness (MI).  God gave Ezekiel the symbolism saying, “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land (Ezekiel 37:11, 14).”

Does that describe how you feel at times? Dried up, without hope, and cut off?

We feel cut off from those whose lives haven’t been devastated by MI. Parents of healthy children could never fully understand our daily challenges and hurts.

What makes us feel dried up at times? I think it’s because we try everything we know to bring about restoration. In our child. In our marriage. In our home. In our heart.

We’re designed to nurture. We thrive on tenderly caring for a hurting child. We’re not equipped to deal with helplessness when our child needs Mom to make it all better. A fact I’ve learned from experience.

When our sons were young, I felt fully equipped to mend any problem. A skinned elbow needed a Band-Aid and a kiss. Trouble with a playmate required listening and assurances that they’d remain friends. Homework struggles presented opportunities for me to apply my teaching skills. A shattered toy could be fixed with glue.

There came a time when my motherly affections couldn’t solve the problem. MI struck Chris. Glue couldn’t restore his joy. A wise word or warm hug couldn’t repair his shattered mind. Only God could repair our son’s emotions, mind, and life. Only God could repair my broken heart.

As I reflected on the word ‘restoration’ I thought about my mother’s pew. She purchased it for a dollar from our church back in the 60’s. Growing up, I loved sitting on her pew because it reminded me of services we attended in that little Episcopal church.

One of my earliest memories is of the back of the pew in church. I couldn’t see over it. So I would play with the hymnal in the rack attached to its back. My finger would trace the design in the wood. I’d peeked over at my mom and dad sitting beside me on the pew. And watch them holding hands as they listened to the sermon.

Years after my father died of cancer, my mother decided to downsize. The purchase of a smaller home meant she had to choose what to keep and what to give away. I found the old pew on her list of things to unload.

“You’re not giving the pew away, are you Mom?”

“Yes, dear,” she answered. “It’s in bad shape.”

How can she part with that pew? She and Dad spent countless Sundays worshipping on that pew.

My husband and I rescued the pew. We found an expert skilled in restoring furniture.

“Do you want me to smooth out these parts?” he asked, pointing to the dents and gashes in the wood.

“Absolutely not! That’s what makes this pew so special,” I replied. “It’s evidence that many heard God’s Word while sitting on this bench.”

Actual Pew from All Saints' Episcopal Church  Fallsington, PA

Actual Pew from All Saints’ Episcopal Church
Fallsington, PA

Chris’s MI left me like that damaged pew. It pierced my heart. The gashes in my memories are signs of sabotaged perspectives. Times when my focus on God got snagged on earthly concerns. Thankfully, God didn’t discard me. He healed my hurt and transformed my thoughts.

In His restoration process of my heart, God left holy reminders of His faithfulness. Each scar is coupled with healing passages: verses God used to encourage and comfort. The Good Shepherd of Psalm 23:3 continues to restore my soul.

God’s ways surely aren’t like our ways. He allows trials into our lives. Carries us through them, while revealing His faithfulness. Making us stronger by bolstering our faith. Just like a painful procedure I endured as a young child. A procedure that restored a ruptured artery and made it stronger.

An artery in my nose grew quicker than the nose itself. So it would spontaneously start bleeding. All attempts to stop the flow of blood failed. The only way a doctor could stop it was to apply heat to the bleeding point. Thereby sealing it. A scar would leave that spot in the artery stronger.

Similarly, God plugged my gusher of doubt with assurance of His care. At precise moments of despair, the Great Physician revealed His power, presence, and peace. Restoring my faith and making it stronger than ever.

Oh how we need God to breathe new life into us! And how we need to feel settled in our hearts. Ezekiel witnessed God breathe new life into bones. And He promised to settle the Israelites in their own land. That same God can breathe new life into you. He can settle your heart in your own home. We can face another day because His Spirit is in us.

If you need a good cleansing cry, listen to Steve & Annie Chapman’s song ‘Goodnight Kiss.’ The lyrics will take you back to the simpler times of being a mom to toddlers. Times that required endless physical stamina. Times of hurried care. But times filled with precious memories of when you could easily restore what was broken.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIpVDAqa2ug

Unbreakable

Humpty.best

 

Have you entered Humpty Dumpty’s world? Do you feel like you’re teetering on the brink of destruction? About to fall apart?

Mom’s raising kids with mental illness (MI) didn’t choose the wall we’re ‘sitting’ on. Our emotions are as fragile as our children’s at times. We wonder who will put us together again if we splinter. Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on all the king’s horsemen and all the king’s men who couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again. Our heavenly Father is the King who holds us together again. And again.

When our child has a great fall, God holds us together. His loving arms are there to catch us. And soften the blow.

Our Creator was, “before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17).”

In Him all things hold together. Creation. Our lives. Our child. And us.

The Bible assures us that we will not shatter in the face of our trial. God’s power in us is unbreakable.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:7-9).”

We have evidence of His power all around.

As long as chairs don’t disintegrate when we sit on them, we know that God holds the molecules together. As long as we can enjoy beautiful waterfall, we know God’s invisible gravity is still working.

Each season reminds us God is still revolving the earth around the sun. Each sunrise assures us God is still spinning the earth on its axis.

Life seems chaotic at times. But we can trust in His invisible order.

A magnet holds photos on our refrig. Representing God’s control of unseen forces. Birds migrate to just the right place. Showing us God is in control of guiding His creations. Water evaporates and later falls again as rain. Proving God is in control of cycles in life. Our bodies heal from colds and cuts. Demonstrating God is in control of the healing power He created in all of us.

He’s also given us visible examples of His masterful designs. Each person’s DNA proves there is order in His creations. We have visible displays of His order in each unique thumb print or snowflake. We find it in the colorful patterns on each butterfly or on Macaw birds. Exquisite symbols which tell us, “God can restore order in your life.”

We spot His power in creation. We detect it in forces like gravity. And we can sense His power working inside of us. Keeping us from breaking.

Listen to ‘Because He Lives’ and picture God holding you while He holds the future in His hands.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4M-zwE33zHA