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Thanksgiving: Praise and Prayers for Those Suffering

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What comes to mind when you think of the word ‘spread’ at Thanksgiving? For most people, that word conjures up fond memories of a huge feast. A golden turkey surrounded by Aunt Sally’s stuffing, Cousin Sarah’s sweet potato topped with marshmallows, Ben’s bean casserole, and more. Followed by another spread of desserts. Apple pie a la mode, pumpkin pie, and the ever-popular Grandma’s homemade chocolate cake.

Sitting around the holiday table with loved ones can be uncomfortable—in more ways than one. We pig out on the food. And wind up stuffed. Uncle John raises awkward conversations. And we wish we could crawl under the table.

As Thanksgiving approaches, a mother raising a child with mental illness (MI) might have additional things on her mind. Instead of enjoying fond memories of a food spread, some of us fight emotions. Fear spreads as we conjure up thoughts of worst-case scenarios.

Will my child with MI be stable enough to join in the celebration? Will other family members be accepting of him? What if his symptoms emerge? How will others react if he doesn’t eat? How will I respond to probing questions? Can I bear seeing him sitting in a corner all alone another year?

Most Americans pause to thank God on Thanksgiving. Surely, those of us raising kids with MI have a list of praises for God at this time. That He’s protected our own sanity, if nothing else. Wouldn’t it be a relief if Thanksgiving was also a time to send prayers for those who are suffering?

We may feel alone in our journey, but we’re not the only ones who suffer. Everyone suffers at one time or another. President Lincoln demonstrated his awareness of that fact in his Thanksgiving Proclamation. Find his words of compassion in a portion of that proclamation:

“I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans. mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.”

Lincoln was referring to the suffering of the nation faced with civil strife. He invited citizens to pray for ‘the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.’ Those same words could be applied to us.

Here’s my Thanksgiving Day prayer for you:

Dear Father,

I thank You for how You’ve provided for mothers raising children with MI. For those who have seen Your hand in their lives and who have seen improvement in their children. I’m grateful for Your protection. For each mother reading this, I now ask that You give ‘full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union’ in her home.  May Your love spread in the hearts of each family member. Bless each one with a truly joyous Thanksgiving Day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Blessings Found in Tears

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What’s the point of pain? Can there be blessings found in suffering? Raising a son with mental illness (MI) tested my faith. During the darkest days I had to remind myself that circumstances don’t change who Christ is. I clung to Hebrews 13:8 which promises that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” That reassured me He’s always with me and will protect and guide me. I could rest in the assurance that He hears my prayers and will comfort me.

However, that didn’t stop me from wondering, What are You doing, Lord?

I desperately needed to trust Him even though I couldn’t track Him. So I looked back to see how He worked during difficult times.

When our youngest son was four years old I looked forward to spending each day with him alone. Chris would be in school and I’d have uninterrupted time with Bobby. But a problem prevented me from living my life the way I planned. We wanted to send Chris to a Christian school. The only way we could afford that was for me to teach at the Christian school. It became clear that’s what God planned. I reluctantly followed His path, but grieved the loss of my chance to spend days alone with Bobby.

Twelve years later I contracted viral meningitis. I had to stop teaching for a year and stay home. Chris was away at college and Bobby—now Robert was in his senior year of our local public high school. Robert had been chosen to be the drum major of his competitive marching band. One day he asked me an amazing question. “Could we have devotions together? I want to be a Christian leader of the band.”

Suddenly I realized God had blessed me with the desire of my heart—to spend days alone with him. Only God’s plan was far better than I could have imagined. I treasure those times of devotions and sweet fellowship with our teenage son. Made only possible by my meningitis. Huge blessings resulted from excruciating pain.

It may not be clear to you why God is allowing your child to suffer with MI. You may struggle with understanding how He could let you endure such pain. Ask Him to give you a glimpse of His blessings.

Count your blessing one by on and you’ll see what God has done.

There’s a woman who knows what it’s like to watch a loved one suffer. Laura’s husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She wrote a song to help her process what God is doing in their lives.

Here are some of those lyrics:

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops

What if Your healing comes through tears

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

You may be thinking, “That easy for HER to say.” Not so. She’s still going through her trial.

Listen to her tell her story in her own words and then watch the YouTube of her song.

http://files.emfcdn.com/downloads/audio/podcasts/klovemsint_podcast6651_20110329.mp3

Her song on Youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSVqHcdhXQ

Where will my child fit in?

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Mental illness (MI) has a way of altering parents’ expectations for their children. Howie and I just want Chris to be happy and healthy. But Chris wants more. Can you blame him? He’s a typical adult who yearns to live on his own.

When Chris graduated from college he realized what a tremendous accomplishment it was. He gave himself permission to take some time off. During those years he occupied himself constructively. Often he’d work on computer projects for himself or for others. He also spent time working out at the gym and by volunteering at the Christian school where I worked.

Now Chris is ready to find a job that would provide enough money for him to move out.  I’d love to point him in the right direction and say, “Check that job out. It would be perfect for you. I know the manager.” But Chris is an adult. He wants to search on his own. So I have to trust God to guide him.

I don’t know about you, but that’s hard. You think by now I’d be an expert at trusting God. To place Chris in the loving and capable hands of the Creator of the universe. It helped me to remember a driving lesson I had with our other son, Rob.

Rob had had about four lessons. So he felt like an expert. Before he pulled away, while the car was still in park, he revved the engine. With a playful grin he said, “Watch this!”

To say the least I didn’t find any humor in it. It took all my emotional resources to find the courage just to let my baby sit in the driver’s seat. He lacked experience and ability so I could not rest easy while he drove. It was necessary for me to be alert, on the lookout for any possible danger that he would not foresee. As he gained more experience I felt more comfortable with him driving. Not nearly as comfortable as I would feel if God were in the driver’s seat.

That thought floods my mind with a vision of God at the wheel. As I pass the keys to Him I say, “Here are the keys to my life’s journey. Here are the keys to Chris’s exploration of job possibilities. Here are the keys to my heart.”

He looks at me with a smile and says, “Watch this!” I sit back and relax. I’ve witnessed Him drive me safely up MI Mountain. He faithfully protected me around winding curves in our journey. I’ve grown to trust Him as the expert Driver of my life. So this is just a new road to travel. He knows the way. I’ll just enjoy the scenery.

When my faith in Him wavers, I’ll recall past experiences. Memories of His provision and protection during heart-wrenching episodes with Chris’s MI.

We’ve invested so much in the lives of our vulnerable children. So I think it’s only natural for us to plan our child’s future. We try to figure out where our child with MI will fit in. That can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. We need to cast those cares on the Lord. Knowing He will carry that burden.  He’s been faithful before and He’ll provide again.

Our experiences with MI give us a peek at His power. We can be assured He has a plan for our child’s life and a purpose for him. And He’s fully able to guide our child towards that purpose.

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

So here’s what I pray for Chris as he applies for jobs:

Dear Father,

Help Chris be sensitive to Your leading. Reveal to him Your plan for his life. Close doors to activities which would cause undue stress and open those You’ve prepared for him to enter. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Dictionary.com defines work as, “exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil.” I have multiple sclerosis (MS). At a support group meeting a mother of a child with MS said, “I tell my daughter that her job is to take care of herself.” I appreciated that comment. My progressive illness makes it harder and harder for me to contribute. It’s necessary for me to do water walking to maintain my mobility. Getting to the gym requires tremendous effort. Without a doubt it’s ‘exertion to accomplish something.’ Doing that exercise is like running a marathon. It’s work.

People ask me, “What do you do?” They expect to hear the typical answer. Like what I do to earn money. Sometimes I proudly answer, “I water walk.”

We can help our kids understand that part of their job is to take care of themselves. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Beyond that there are other things your child can do with his time. The Bible is a great place to find possible “occupations.”

Spreading the Gospel

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).”

I know a young man who has serious MI. He also loves the Lord. All he wants to do is tell others about Christ. He spends his time going to church and Bible studies. In spite of the emotional turbulence he feels and the voices he hears, he smiles and talks about Jesus. Now THAT’S a life full of meaning!

Doing Good Works (helping those in need, visiting the sick, helping the poor, etc.).

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).”

“This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men (Titus 3:8).”

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’  Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James 2:18, 26).”

“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18).”

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me (Matthew 25:37-40).’”

Bringing Joy Into The Lives Of Others By Sharing A Talent

“And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him (1 Samuel 16:23).”

“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. (Philemon 7).”

Our Chris has his father’s musical gift. He can pick up any instrument and play it. He’s shared his talent by playing in church and at nursing homes.

Perhaps your child is creative in other ways. Maybe he’s able to paint well or sculpt. Those projects could become gifts for loved ones or sold on a website.

If you think your child has nothing to offer the Lord, think again. Scripture tells us that weaker members have an important purpose.

“There is [absolute] necessity for the parts of the body that are considered the more weak. And those [parts] of the body which we consider rather ignoble are [the very parts] which we invest with additional honor, and our unseemly parts and those unsuitable for exposure are treated with seemliness (modesty and decorum) …But God has so adjusted (mingled, harmonized, and subtly proportioned the parts of) the whole body, giving the greater honor and richer endowment to the inferior parts which lack [apparent importance] [1 Corinthians 12:22-24  (AMP)].”

The world may consider individuals with MI to be less important. It’s comforting to know God gives them greater honor.