Archive | June 2015

Gone, but Not Gone

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Here’s what I have to say to my illness.

Wretched multiple sclerosis (MS),

You may have whittled down my ability to teach. You may have invaded my brain with countless lesions. Making it difficult for me to meet the demands of full-time teaching. But, I’m still teaching occasionally. You may suck the energy out of my body. But, not my life. I’m NOT gone. Neither are my skills and talents.

Always defiant and victorious, Vicki

Life created by God:

Consider a forsythia bush. It maintains the potential to display beauty regardless of the season. In winter, its branches look dead. But, deep inside its lifeless appearance lays a vibrant life.

I’m like that winter branch. I still have the potential to share God’s love regardless of my symptoms. I’ve found new ways to bless others. Instead of baking cookies, I snap photographs of God’s creation. And use them to design calendars.

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Regardless of the seasons in my life, I remain the person God created me to be. I have the assurance that, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Psalm 139:14a). MS hasn’t destroyed who I am. My disease may have altered my plans. But, my illness can’t demolish God’s plan for my life.

Similarly, mental illness (MI) may have stripped your children of their desire to do anything. But, it hasn’t robbed them of their God-given talents and skills. Ask God to reveal evidence of those abilities.

God has given me glimpses of my son’s talents and skills. Chris occasionally plays his keyboard. The music I hear doesn’t merely fill me with pride. It fills me with gratitude.

That’s the Chris I know and love.

Recently, Chris was telling me about the operating system (OS) he had created for computers.

“Check out my website, Mom. Visitors will find instructions how to install the free OS.”

When I clicked on his site, I had no clue what it all meant, but was amazed. I was blown away by the clarity of his language. Obviously, MI hadn’t robbed him of his technical ability, or his ability to explain directions in understandable terms.

Life with a purpose:

Has despondency has left your child with little or no motivation to function? Or does your child desperately want to contribute, but isn’t sure how? Does MI seem to present insurmountable obstacles?

Do you look at our child with MI and wonder what will become of him? You’re not alone. Many grapple with the question, “What gives meaning to my child’s life?”

Perhaps, you’re determined that his existence won’t be all about MI. Ask God to arouse in him a desire to use his creativity or skills. Seek God’s wisdom to discern His plan for your child.

Power for living:

We imagine our kids living a life full of challenges. And our hearts are broken. What hope can we gain from the Bible? Did anyone face unending trials? The apostle Paul did. So, when he shares hopeful words, we listen.

First, read what Paul endured:

“Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).

It’s no surprise that Paul didn’t think he could endure it any longer. Join me in my “conversation” with Paul.

When you reached your limit, what did you do, Paul?

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).

So, God’s grace helped you?

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

It’s encouraging to hear that God’s power and grace worked through you. I pray my child will experience that same indwelling, divine power and grace.


Grace that’s never gone

So how did Paul endure? God’s grace remained with him.

 Regardless of the challenges our kids have to face, they will always have access to God’s grace.

Like Paul, I can say, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” And by the grace of God, our children will be who they are…who the Creator made them to be.

If you feel beaten down, let Hillsong’s “You Are My Strength” minister to you. The lyrics tell of God’s amazing grace:

“In the fullness of Your grace

In the power of Your name

You lift me up

You lift me up”

Listen to their song over and over until the lyrics block out all the thoughts that attempt to discourage you. The Truth is that God’s grace will lift you up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwvGFWKBo4o

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Power for the Powerless

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Could the gunman’s mother have prevented the Dallas June 13th attack? Once again, the nation’s attention is on parents of a killer with mental illness (MI).

As you watched the drama unfold, did you scream at the TV and yell, “That man is obviously mentally ill. The mental health system is broken! Who is there to help when an adult with MI goes off his meds?” We couldn’t help but fear for the lives of law officers. And pray that innocent citizens would be safe.

After it all ended, the investigation began. All-too-familiar questions were raised. Where there warning signs? How could a man with a troubled mind and past gain access to an arsenal of weapons and an armored vehicle?

Did you sympathize with the mother? How much did she know? What had she already endured? Stories soon came out with reports.

Yahoo’s online article “Dallas suspect had talked of ‘shooting up schools and churches’” (by Jason Sickles), shared a quoted made by the gunman’s mother. Sickles reported that, “Boulware’s mother told a detective that her son ‘talks to himself quite frequently and appears delusional, but also said that he is not taking any medications.’”

Her son had gone off his medications. She verified what we suspected. Those of us raising kids with mental illness (MI) can only wonder how Boulware’s mother felt. After the recent incident, Jeannine Hammond, Boulware’s mother, provided some insight.

She released a statement which was quoted in The Daily Mail’s article “Crazed Dallas gunman went on nine-hour rampage after losing custody of his son to his own mother as judge who oversaw case says ‘I knew this would happen’” (by Kelly Mclaughlin, Kieran Corcoran, and Thomas Burrows). The article stated, “Hammond wrote in a statement released by an attorney … She said that he talked to himself ‘quite frequently and appears delusional …We apologize to the police for his behavior … We loved him and will remember him as the man he was before all of this took place. We are so grateful that no other families are having to bury anyone because of his actions.’”

Surely, Jeannine Hammond is grieving the loss of her son. Her statement reveals that she knew her son had MI. It also tells us that she didn’t stop loving him and never forgot what he was like before MI ravaged his life and the lives of others.

Feeling Powerless?

We can just imagine how powerless she felt to prevent such an attack. But, she wasn’t alone. Apparently, even a judge was powerless to prevent the attack.  The Daily Mail’s article reported about a judge who encountered Boulware in her courtroom for a custody hearing. The reporters shared that Judge Kim Cooks stated “Boulware threatened her multiple times after the custody trial and said she was ‘in shock’ after hearing about what happened at the police headquarters.” They went onto quote Cooks as saying, “‘’I knew he was going to do something, but I always thought his target would have been me.’”

If that judge couldn’t stop that man who threatened her life, who could?

It’s worth emphasizing that most individuals with serious MI don’t become killers. But, moms raising kids with MI can surely identify with a mother who feels powerless to help her child. A daughter has an eating disorder and a mom tries to get her to eat. A son is severely depressed and the mom tries to get him to talk, smile, or do anything. A son explodes verbally or physically and a mom is no match for his unprovoked anger. An adult prodigal with MI calls home periodically. His mom tries to convince him to take care of himself (to take his meds and not attempt suicide). To no avail.

Helpless and powerless find power. Our Source of Power:

Is there power for the powerless? Yes. There is One who can work in the hearts and minds of our children. Our almighty Father created the entire earth into existence simply by His word. Surely, God has the power to protect and guide His creation—our kids and us.

Just think about His incredible power. He said, “Let there be…” Instantly, He spoke beauty on the earth in all kinds of species, rock formations, and constellations. Held together by Him in perfect order and in breathtaking colors.

Stopping to reflect on such amazing power helps shrink the size of our problems. Suddenly, they seem smaller in light of His awesome strength.

His power is unmatched and personal. We need to remind ourselves that we have access to that power.

Sun and Son:

Solar panels rely on the sun for power. They serve as reminders to us. We can rely on God’s Son for power. His power gives us strength to endure each day.

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“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:18-20).

On days when MI seems like an unconquerable foe, repeat that passage over and over again. Then, ask God to make that power real in your life.

Dear Father,

Thank You for assuring me that Your incomparably great power is for me. If Your power can conquer death, I will trust it to do a mighty work in my child’s mind, heart, and life. Increase my faith and help me see evidence of Your power today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Power: It’s blowing in the wind.

Wind turbines use wind to make electricity. They remind us that it’s God who causes the wind to blow, giving power to the turbines. Our almighty God, who controls the strongest tornados, has power carry us through.

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“The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4).

Dear Father,

Breathe new life into me today. As Your Son used His power to calm the wind and waves, calm my heart. In Your Son’s precious name of Jesus, Amen.

“You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.

Praise be to God! (Psalm 68:35).

Preparing for the Unexpected

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Certain signs can’t be trusted. Like signs that say, “Construction ahead.” After sitting in a sixty-minute backup, we finally arrive at the construction site.

No workers? Really?!!!!

No wonder we’re tempted to ignore the warning signs along the highway.

My husband and I recently traveled over 400 miles to visit our son and his family. Along the way, we actually saw numerous work crews repairing sections of the turnpike. We realized the sign “Construction vehicle—keep alert for sudden stops and turns” had accurately predicted that traffic would be halted.

“Keep alert for sudden stops and turns” got me thinking. Would a warning sign have helped prepare me for my son’s mental illness (MI)? What would I have done if a sign warned, “Suffering and sorrow ahead”? Probably nothing. I was powerless to shield Chris from the wretched illness.

Some dangers can be avoided. Like fallout from a bomb explosion. When I was growing up, my parents built a bomb shelter in our yard. (You read that right…a bomb shelter! Not a built in pool, but a bomb shelter.) We were prepared for any incoming bombs.

Sadly, there are no MI shelters. We can’t run for cover to escape the onslaught of our child’s MI.

Yet, that sign “Keep alert for sudden stops and turns” holds wise advice. Periods of manageable symptoms can be suddenly interrupted. Without warning, new burdens blindside us. A familiar trial torments our child. Fragile emotions re-emerge. Routine details of life come to a screeching halt.

Keep alert for sudden stops and turns. What does that mean? Should I remain in a vigilant state? Would that be good or even helpful? Could I possibly prepare for the unexpected?

Preparing for any trial:

My mother couldn’t prepare for my father’s impending death. Back in 1992, my dad fought lung cancer. Doctors performed surgery and treated him with chemotherapy and radiation. It became evident after two years that nothing would cure him. As his end drew near, my mother asked me, “Is this really happening?”

Clearly, there were warning signs that my father might lose his battle. Yet, nothing had prepared my mom’s heart for her loss.

Can anything prepare our heart for the struggles and losses our children will face?

When our son, Chris had his first break from reality, I had to be on alert—literally. One minute he’d be explosive and pound walls. The next, he’d be curled up in a ball, weeping. I learned to expect anything. Like what he did after we arrived home from the store one day. I parked the car and Chris took off running. Prompting me to drive around the neighborhood looking for him. Only to return home to hear a phone message from a neighbor saying Chris had gone to their house.

Being alert meant staying half-awake most nights. Chris’ psychosis prevented him from sleeping soundly. He’d pace the floor, while rambling on about things that made no sense. Mumbling bazaar comments. I’d strain my ears to hear sounds that might let me know of any danger.

Nowadays, Chris is doing fairly well. But those words on the sign still echo in my mind:

Keep alert for sudden stops and turns.

Does the Bible help us know how to keep alert – to prepare for the unexpected?

Peter instructs us to, “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does” [1 Peter 5:8-11 (MSG)].

Thanks, Peter, for those reminders. We’re not alone; others are experiencing hard times like these. Suffering won’t last forever. We need to keep the faith.

How do we “keep our guard up”? By praying unceasingly and specifically for our child and our family. And by staying in His Word.

Belts:

Seatbelts protect us from injury in cars. God’s belt of Truth helps us stand firm in our faith.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (Ephesians 6:13-14a).

Reality and truth:

Some of our children cling to a thread of reality in their minds. Often even we struggle with the reality of our lives. Life tends to seem surreal.

Some truths can be shattered. I used to believe that my husband and I could teach our kids how to handle stress. But, then came along MI. My fragile truth collapsed. I used to think that I could protect my children. But, then MI struck. My truth of motherly protection evaporated.

Happily, I find unshakable Truths in the Bible. That’s something to hang onto. I can depend on His promises. God’s character is never-changing. So, I rely on God’s belt of truth. So can you. Buckle up! (one size fits all!)

Desert Island Paradise?

Diamond Head Honolulu, Hawaii

Diamond Head
Honolulu, Hawaii

Would you pick up a travel brochure that advertised, “Visit the Land of Sorrow”? Perhaps it would at least grab your attention.

Curiosity might tempt you to peek at the inside pages. You’d read:

The Land of Sorrow promises to be both exhilarating and frightening. There will be times of fear, followed by times of fun.

Pass through the parched Desert of Dried-up Dreams. Then, visit the Island Paradise of Joy-filled Living.

You’d quickly return the brochure to its fellow unwanted pamphlets. That kind of trip wouldn’t appeal to you. The destination would sound all-too familiar. Kinda like life which includes raising a child with mental illness (MI)—a rollercoaster life.

Recently Genesis 41:52 grabbed my attention. My daily devotional included the verse, “God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow” (MSG).

Prosperity in the land of sorrow?

Curiosity tempted me to peek inside the Bible and find out the context.

Genesis 37, 39, and 40 set the stage. Those chapters describe Joseph’s land of sorrow. Out of jealousy, his brothers threw him into a pit and left him to die. Then, they realized selling their brother would be profitable. So, they lifted him out and sold him to the Ishmaelites, who took Joseph to Egypt. There, the captain of the guard’s wife lied about Joseph. So, Joseph was cast into prison. While in the dungeon, Joseph interpreted the chief butler’s dream. Joseph hoped that when the butler was released, he’d convince Pharaoh to release him. But, when the chief butler got released, he forgot all about Joseph.

Then came Joseph’s prosperity. Two years later, the butler finally remembered Joseph. He told Pharaoh that Joseph could interpret his dream (Genesis 41:1-13). Joseph assured Pharaoh, “God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (Genesis 41:16b). Joseph’s interpretation pleased Pharaoh so much that he said, “‘You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you … See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt’” (Genesis 41:40-41).

That was just the beginning of Joseph’s prosperity. He and the people of Egypt enjoyed seven years of abundant food. Pharaoh gave Joseph a wife, who bore him two sons.

That’s the part of the story which includes the intriguing verse.

“He named his second son Ephraim (Double Prosperity), saying, ‘God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow’” [Genesis 41:52 (MSG)].

The context gave me insight. Joseph endured hardship in the land of Egypt. Later, he enjoyed prosperity in the same land. It encouraged me to read about someone who experienced an easy life after tremendous hardship. His God could do the same for me. So I read on.

Just as God had instructed in Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph stored up food during the seven yrs. of plenty to ensure he’d have food during the seven yrs. of severe famine. Genesis 41:53-54 reveals the wisdom of God’s advice.

“Then Egypt’s seven good years came to an end and the seven years of famine arrived, just as Joseph had said. All countries experienced famine; Egypt was the only country that had bread” [Genesis 41:53-54 (MSG)].

Can we relate to Joseph?

He was treated unfairly by his brothers, by the captain of the guard’s wife, and by the chief butler. It can seem unfair that we’ve been charged with raising a child with MI (especially if we’re also dealing with other challenges).

Like Joseph, we’ve gone through times of sorrow. We’ve watched our children suffer losses, experience turmoil, or endure depression and anxiety. Some of us have witnessed our children bear paranoia or psychosis.

Joseph prepared for the oncoming famine by storing up grain. We can prepare for the possible re-emergence of MI symptoms by storing up verses.

Pharaoh told his servants, ““Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” (Genesis 41:38).

The same Spirit, which was in Joseph, is in those of us who have received Christ as our Savior. The Holy Spirit will give us wisdom and discernment to help our fragile and vulnerable children.

We still may get hung up on the taunting question of why. Why did God allow MI to strike our children?

Joseph’s story offers us an end to that torment. Joseph understood that God had a plan for his life. So, he was able to forgive his brothers. He told them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

That presents us with a great challenge. Can we view our circumstances from a heavenly perspective? We may never fully understand God’s purposes for the trials we endure. But, we can be sure His plans are perfect and His love is endless. When life doesn’t make sense, God’s Word calms our fear and confusion. His unchanging Truths help us trust God even if we can’t track Him.

Dear Father,

Help me look past my circumstances that seem so unfair at times. Give me have an eternal perspective. Please prosper me and my family in our land of sorrow. Lead me to verses that I can use during stormy days. Verses that will remind me of Your love and faithfulness. Be gracious to restore joy and peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.