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Whole

heart.healed

What’s the dream of a mom raising a child with mental illness (MI)? For many of us the answer is found in the word ‘whole.’ Our greatest desire is for the broken child or family to be whole again. So our broken heart can rejoice once again.

It seems impossible to ignore the shattered pieces of a child’s life. We do all we can to put them back together again. But often feel like Humpty Dumpty’s king’s horses and king’s men who could put Humpty Dumpty together again. We would understand the cry of the king if he moaned, “What made Humpty Dumpty so fragile? Why didn’t he just roll away, unscathed?”

An army of why’s attack:

Why did this happen?

Why can’t any restore clarity of thought?

Why doesn’t anyone understand?

Why do we have to endure another holiday that’s overshadowed and complicated by MI?

Why can’t life just return to normal?

We writhe in emotional pain as we stand defenseless. Our arsenal of answers is empty. The barrage of why’s batters our soul. Leaving us secretly broken.

How can we feel whole while waiting for restoration?

If we love the Lord with our whole heart, we can crowd out sorrow. Sadness will remain, but God will refresh our soul. He did that for me as I searched His Word for verses about loving Him completely. He’ll do it for you.

Your situation may differ from mine. But God is the same. May He bless you as you read the following verses.

God requires us to love Him with our whole heart.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:).”

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 10:12).”

“The Lord your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 26:16).”

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).’” Also found in: Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27

God blesses those who love Him with a whole heart.

“‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel (1 Kings 2:4).’”

“So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil (Deuteronomy 11:13-14).”

“The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 30:9-10).”

“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart (Jeremiah 24:7).”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).”

A prayer asking the Lord for an undivided heart.

“Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever (Psalm 86:11-12).”

Praise results from a steadfast love of the Lord.

“My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music (Psalm 57:7).”

My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul (Psalm 108:1).”

“I will extol the Lord with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly (Psalm 111:1).”

“I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart … and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness … When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me (Psalm 138:1-3).”

Our challenge:

“But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul (Joshua 22:5).”

 

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Hope

Hope

Life has a way of ripping the in-control rug right out from under us. When mental illness (MI) hits our child, we’re thrust into survival mode. Dreary routines give way to psychiatrist appointments. Laundry could easily be tackled. But emotions must first be healed. Priorities shift. Our kid’s happiness, clarity of thought, and safety become the only things that matter.

A complicated life also simplifies life. We moms, who are used to taking care of everything and everyone, suddenly focus on one person: our vulnerable child.

In a simplified life, short devotionals are in order. So I’ve decided to do several messages based on one-word reflections. The word for this one is hope.

Hopeful children express delightful anticipation. “I can’t wait for our family’s movie night!”

But nothing kills bright expectancy like countless disappointments. Dashed hopes create fragile trust.

“I hope my father will come to my performance tonight. He promised he’d be there. But things always happen to make him break his promises. I doubt he’ll come.”

Many well-meaning parents have to disappoint their kids when life interrupts plans. Things happen that are unpreventable, unavoidable, and unexpected. Love doesn’t let their child down. Limited power does. We humans can’t know the future, let alone control it.

But the One who holds our future can control it. And He won’t let us down. Hebrews 6:19-20 assure us, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.”

As long as we’re anchored to Christ, we can find peace in the midst of a storm, calmness in the midst of sorrow.

Many of our kids with MI face an uncertain future. Nothing seems sure except the promises of God. As we cling to Christ, we’re fastened to the throne of God. With access to His power, love, comfort, and peace.

MI storms can set our souls adrift. Tornados of emotions rip through our heart as we helplessly watch our child suffer. When symptoms resurface we feel like we’re heading down rapids toward a waterfall. But we have an anchor for our soul.

God is our hope.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).”

 With Him, we can overflow with hope!

When our child with MI is a prodigal, we can entrust him in the hands of our ever-present Father.

When our child needs healing, we can place her in the hands of the Great Physician.

When our child is emotionally shattered, we can seek His perfect peace.

When we need direction, we can lean on His promises for wisdom and provision.

When MI causes division between loved ones, Christ our Mediator can restore relationships.

God reminds us to put our hope in Him.

Jeremiah 14:22 tells us, “Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, Lord our God. Therefore our hope is in you, for you are the one who does all this.”

The Psalmist reminded himself to put his hope in God.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 42:5).”

Isaiah 40:31 tells us the benefits of putting our hope in the Lord. “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

1 Timothy 6:17 urges even the rich to put their hope in God. “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

Are you wondering, “How can I go on?”

If you think you can’t take it anymore, 1 Timothy 4:10 reminds you God is real and alive. He’ll help you hang on.

“That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”

Colossians 1:27 reminds those who are saved have Christ’s indwelling power. “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

The Psalmist reminds you that God is faithful.

“But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish (Psalm 9:18).”

So, like Paul, we can, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12).”

 

Assurances from a prisoner: God is in control

Pastor Saeed Abedini, Naghmeh and Family

Pastor Saeed Abedini, Naghmeh and Family

You don’t have to be in jail to feel imprisoned. Moms raising kids with mental illness (MI) may feel incarcerated by worry, concern, and grief. Chained to challenges with no way out. Is it possible to have joy in our hearts when MI is in our homes? The apostle Paul would answer, “Yes.”

Paul didn’t begin his letter (written from prison) to the Philippians by saying, “Pray for me. I’m in utter despair. My back has been torn open by beatings and I’m left to hang in this dungeon.”

Instead he wrote, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy (Philippians 1:3-4).”

How could he even write the words “thank” and “joy?”

Later in Philippians, Paul implied that he wasn’t always joyful in his circumstances. We read him say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11).” Then we understand it was a process for him to find contentment in trials.

Likewise, the more we experience God’s faithfulness, the greater contentment we’ll find in our situations. We surely may not be happy for challenges and heartaches. But it is possible to rest in the knowledge that God is still in control. If you doubt that Truth, just listen to the words of another prisoner.

An American, Pastor Saeed Abedini, has been in an Iranian jail for over two years. He endures ongoing torture and beatings simply because he won’t denounce his faith in Christ. He wrote a letter to his eight-year-old daughter as a birthday gift. Listen to his wife, Naghmeh read that letter. Warning: Kleenex alert!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1H1DlJt5mUw

Pastor Abedini assured his daughter that Christ is in control. His unshakable confidence, in the face of evil, comforts us as well. His God is our God.

To hear more of the family’s story, listen to Naghmeh Abedini making her plea to Obama to get her husband home. Her children describe what it’s like to have their father in jail.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/08/11/video-shows-torture-facing-kids-jailed-american-pastor-in-iran/

Pray for God to loosen your chains as you listen to Tasha Cobbs sing ‘Break Every Chain’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pD2zIuiC2g

Blessings Found in Tears

Star.in.apple

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

Why was I so surprised?

GodsLove

The mom stood speechless looking into her son’s bedroom. Who’d cleaned it so promptly? Her proud son took her on a tour of the spotless room. Such quick obedience was uncharacteristic of him. No wonder his mother looked stunned. Normally he has to be reminded at least five times.

Some parents hope for eager and rapid compliance from their children. But deep down inside they harbor low expectations. Procrastination and delay have been the pattern. It’s as if one simple reminder sparks a battle of the wills. “Clean your room.” (inaction) “I told you to clean your room.” (silent resistance) “Get up and clean your room now.” (slow-motion action)

It’s understandable that a parent would be shocked at a child’s uncharacteristic prompt obedience. But I’m ashamed to admit something. I’ve often been stunned when God has answered my prayers. Why is that? It’s not out of character for Him to show His power and love. Quite the contrary. I know He hears my prayers. Yet I’m frequently surprised when I witness His mighty power in our lives. I suppose it’s because I haven’t begun to fully understand His limitless love, and immeasurable power.

Maybe I should tape the words of Ephesians 3:20-21 to my refrig. They’d remind me, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

The past fifteen weeks I’ve been sharing the details of our story. Last week left off with Chris heading off to college. During Chris’s five years away at college God provided in ways I could never have expected. He provided immeasurably more than I could have imagined.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

“In your decades of practice, how many patients with schizoaffective disorder have attended college?” I asked Chris’s psychiatrist.

“Only two,” he answered. Proving what a victory God had already worked in Chris’s life.

In the context of such an accomplishment, Chris faced additional stressors. Some were minor. Like when he lost his backpack which contained all his textbooks, notes, and student ID card. I surprised him by driving to his campus in order to purchase an additional set of textbooks, etc.

“I found my backpack,” Chris declared when he greeted me. It wasn’t a wasted trip. Chris felt supported.

Other situations arose which were much more difficult to solve. Like Chris’s serious back pain. Chris had joined Penn State’s Marching Blue Band. The high-step marching exacerbated his pain. Several epidural steroid injections eased his pain. But only delayed the inevitable. Back surgery would be the only procedure that would end his pain caused by two severely herniated discs.

During summer break Chris had a laminotomy—a procedure that removed part of his herniated discs.

“Can I march in the band this fall?” asked Chris.

“No. You could re-herniate the discs,” warned the neurosurgeon.

Chris marched anyway. God protected his back from further injury. And helped Chris manage the demands of college. The long band practices and studying didn’t overly stress him. He seemed fine until his blood tests revealed elevated liver levels.

“I’m going to reduce the dosage of your medication. That might bring them back into normal levels,” Chris’s psychiatrist said.

The reduced medication caused Chris to unravel. He was in his final semester of his program. Easter break was fast approaching. Soon after, he’d graduate college. But that dream seemed to be slipping away. Chris started calling home ten times or more each day. At all hours of the night. He seemed to be getting worse. There wasn’t much we could do.  It would take hours to drive to his campus.

“Call Dr. Kipley. He’ll know how to help,” I told Chris.

“I already did.”

“What did he say?” I wondered.

“You need to go to the hospital.”

I knew Dr. Kipley was right. But would Chris willingly admit himself into a psychiatric unit of a hospital? Especially after having experienced the horror previously?

Chris kept calling late into the night. Until that final brief phone call.

“Mom I’m in trouble,” was all he said before hanging up. That click thundered in my head. Like a bomb exploding.

What does THAT mean? Is he going to kill himself? Hurt others? Run away?

Howie and I prayed and asked God for wisdom. The Lord directed me to start calling hospitals close to his campus. We discovered Chris had admitted himself into the psychiatric unit in the hospital closest to campus. His heavenly Father gave him the courage to get help. In spite of Chris’s fragile and unstable emotions he managed to call a cab. Undoubtedly with God’s sustaining power.

We spent Easter visiting our son in the hospital. Once Chris was released the challenge remained. Would Chris be able to graduate on time? I turned to God who is able to do “immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.”

Dear Father,

Please help Chris graduate on time. I know there seems no earthly way he can pass his finals. Not without full clarity of thought. But I know you’re able. Please give us wisdom to know how to help.

Thankfully Howie was able to tutor our son. Chris was released from the hospital into our care. While at home recovering from his near psychotic episode, Howie helped Chris study for his finals. Amazingly Chris passed all his tests and graduated on time. To God be the glory; great things He does!!!

R & R

Morris Arboretum Phila., PA

Morris Arboretum
Phila., PA

If you could escape, where would you go? My perfect escape would be back to the Land of Normal Livng. Wouldn’t you love to be treated to a trip to Normalcy? A place where you could spend carefree days soaking in relaxation. A place with no violence. No unexpected outbursts. No mental healthcare visits.

Thankfully God led us to a temporary oasis in our desert of mental illness (MI). This next chapter of our story demonstrates how God provided a season of rest and restoration. He revealed Chris’s resilience. Life seemed to be getting back to normal.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

In order to get released from the hospital, Chris did what he had to. During group sessions all the patients had to state how they wound up in the hospital. So Chris regularly told the staff he had assaulted his parents.

His three-week stay ended. It was time for Chris to go home. I wanted his bedroom and home to look warm and inviting. Our house had never been cleaned so thoroughly! We were thankful to have our son home again.

The summer after Chris’s junior year we traveled to Colorado. We had a wonderfully relaxing time. It was as if nothing had ever gone wrong. As if Chris hadn’t been sick at all. We went horseback riding, hiking, panning for gold, and mountain biking. Everything was perfect. Except when Robert was missing for a brief time. He had taken a wrong turn biking down a mountain in Vail.

“Where’s Robert?” I asked, bracing myself for the worst.

“Oh, he fell off the side of the mountain,” Howie explained casually.

Before my panic turned into hyperventilation, Robert appeared. Slightly scratched, but fine.

Shortly after our Colorado trip, both boys attended a music conference. They stayed overnight at a local college with 500 band leaders. Many of those attending the conference were drum majors. Chris had attended the training the year before. But this year would be different. This time he’d have to take his medication on his own.

I knew it would be a temptation for Chris not to take his medication. But he understood how important it was for him to take it. We trusted him to be responsible. And he was. Thankfully, Chris handled another major step in his recovery.

Chris had hoped one day he’d be the drum major of his marching band. He had a good chance to accomplish that goal …until he got sick. Even with his MI he still demonstrated all the necessary qualities of a drum major: excellent musical talent, remarkable marching skills, and strong leadership abilities.

But Chris’s breakdown didn’t just disrupt his life. It also shattered his dream of becoming a drum major. Yet, he still wanted to attend the conference. It made me so proud to see his resilience.

One of the events at the conference was a march off. That’s kind of like “Simon Says” only with someone calling out marching commands. If someone carries out a command incorrectly, he is eliminated. The competition continues until there is one winner left standing. Out of 500 drum majors Chris lasted until the last six. Only five others remained longer. God blessed him by letting him see he still had superior marching abilities.

After the boys returned from the music conference Chris had to fulfill his duties as a squad leader. I marveled at how clear thinking he was. He thought of every detail for the meetings. That involved offering rides to our house, planning refreshments, and preparing the agenda. Chris even organized a pizza party at a local restaurant for the freshman members. Senior band members were also invited to help the lower classmen get acclimated.

Chris’s senior year was fast approaching. We spent several days during the summer visiting colleges. Sometimes I wanted to continue on with our plans as though nothing had happened. But then I’d force myself to remember that something significant did happen.

We prayed for wisdom to know which colleges to investigate. Chris was very clear in what he wanted. His decisions made perfect sense. He wanted to go to a college with a fairly small campus that was about an hour and a half from home—far enough to live away from home, but still close enough to visit home frequently. He also wanted to attend a state university because that would be more affordable. He was especially interested in Penn State because of their famous Marching Blue Band. He hoped to join it during his junior year of college. Penn State also interested him because of their excellent business program. Chris planned on becoming an actuary.

Chris also applied to Kutztown State University. By October of his senior year he’d been accepted to both colleges.

What an awesome God we serve!!

During three weeks in the fall we hosted a German exchange student. Each weekend we took him to visit local tourist sites. It was a wonderful experience for all of us. We learned a lot and had a good time. The best part: life seemed so normal.

In the fall Chris got his driver’s license. He feared getting into a car accident. I worried that if he got into an accident he might not be able to handle it emotionally. Being in a car accident is upsetting enough for anyone, let alone someone who’s experienced MI.

If I were God, I’d make sure Chris would never have an accident.

Thankfully I’m not God. He chose to allow Chris to have a minor accident. He forced Chris to face his fears. There were no injuries. Chris hadn’t broken any laws. So Chris didn’t get a ticket. The car had plenty of damage, but Chris was fine emotionally. God reassured us Chris had become stronger emotionally.

Thank You, God, for protecting Chris and for helping us see his resilience.

During this time when Chris was feeling better he was able to articulate his experiences with MI. He could explain what it’s like to be paranoid and to be on Haldol.

“What’s it like to feel paranoid, Chris?”

“When I felt paranoid I hung onto one particular part of what someone was saying and focused on just that.”

“What’s it like to be on Haldol?” I wondered.

“It’s like having my body frozen or moving in slow motion while my brain was moving at a much faster pace.”

When it came time for County and District Band auditions Chris wanted to try out again. The year before was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” The level of stress proved too much for him.

How can I tell him he shouldn’t audition? He’s a gifted musician. If I tell him he shouldn’t try out, he’ll think I’m trying to control him or treat him like a child. Or he might think I doubt his ability to handle it. He’d feel flawed emotionally. What if he tried out and lost it again?

We decided to let him try out. Soon our oasis would be gone. But God would see us through the next trial. Just as he does for all of us.

Look for the Light

Light.end.tunnel.use

My college training prepared me to teach children with visual impairments. One of the courses required students to perform tasks blindfolded. Walking without vision scared me the most. I felt insecure and terrified in the darkness. What relief when I removed the blindfold! Light comforted me.

Those of us who raise children with mental illness (MI) experience those same feelings. During our darkest days we search for Christ—the true Light who comforts us.

Last week the account of our story ended with Chris’s hospitalization. I shared how God transformed that horrible memory by using it as a reminder of His love. Our dark days were about to get darker. Thankfully, Christ’s light shined brighter during those days.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

A few hours after we got home I received a call from the hospital.

“Mrs. Chandler, Chris is refusing medication. Will you give us permission to give him an injection?”

“Okay. If it’s necessary.”

When I called later I found out Chris had been put in isolation. He had put up such a fight when they tried to give him the medication. Images filled my head of Chris in isolation. Sedated. Confused. Alone.

“When will he be taken out of isolation? When can I visit him?” I questioned.

“We’re about to take him out now.”

When I arrived at the psychiatric ward, reality hit. The unit was locked. In order to gain entrance I had to ring a bell and announce my name. Then a nurse let me in.

The information provided by the social worker (when Chris was admitted) helped me understand some of the procedures.

It explained that guests were to visit patients only in the lounge areas, not in their bedrooms. But a nurse ushered me into Chris’s room. There sat a woman talking to Chris. When I entered the room she didn’t introduce herself to me. It was a very sensitive moment for Chris and me. This was the first time we had seen each other since the terrible scene at home. We hadn’t seen each other since we had him committed.

Chris sat hunched over. His head bent downward.

“Hi Chris. It’s Mom.”

He raised his head in slow motion. His eyes seemed to be searching for something. As if trying to focus through a fog. He made no attempt to speak. Through his heavy sedation I could detect his emotional turmoil. A mother can just sense when her child is hurting.

“It’s Mom,” I repeated.

“I’m sorry,” he managed to say.

“There’s no need for you to apologize. I know you’re just sick—”

“Do you think Chris has been under a lot of stress lately?” The unidentified woman asked, intruding on our private moment.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I’m Chris’s psychiatrist,” she answered, still not giving me her name. “Chris has been contradicting himself,” she continued.

“Of course he’s contradicting himself; he’s psychotic!” I shot back. “Why are you talking with him in his bedroom? It’s against the policy for anyone to meet with patients in their bedrooms.”

“I just started working in this hospital and am not familiar with the procedures of the ward,” she explained.

Is she kidding? I read the procedures booklet immediately after we returned from the hospital. What kind of professional doesn’t prepare herself for her job? I wonder if she’s even qualified at all!

Later that day I typed a letter to the chief psychiatrist requesting Chris have a different psychiatrist. Chris was immediately switched to the care of the head psychiatrist.

Chris’s stay at the hospital was as bad as I imagined. He had to be strip-searched and all his belongings were taken from him. He was included with troubled teens (who were either suicidal, drug abusers, or violent). There were very strict rules about when he could call us, what he could wear, and what belonging he could have. Each time he had to use the bathroom a nurse had to unlock it.

No wonder Chris informed me, “I’m in jail, Mom.”

Howie and I visited Chris every time there were visiting hours. We stayed the entire time. Chris began to appreciate our unconditional love for him.

“Mom, PLEASE get me out of here,” he’d beg.

“Not yet, Chris. You’re here to get better.”

It was hard to witness him desperately trying to figure out how to get released.

He’d lay his head in my lap and ask me to stroke him. When my boys had grown up I missed doing thing like that. It was bittersweet to be able to nurture Chris in that way once again. I was happy to be able to comfort him. But it ate me up inside to see him so pathetic, so broken.

Howie passed the time by playing cards or chess with Chris. Robert didn’t want to see his brother in such a place. For a while I respected that. I knew Robert was dealing with lots of questions from curious students at school (some caring and some nosy). He was also struggling with getting around school on crutches.

Finally I asked Robert to visit Chris.

“Chris needs to see you, Rob,”

Being very compliant, Rob agreed to go.

During the time Chris was in the hospital there were several things that were hard to hear. Like what he said in one phone conversation.

“It was a good plan to put me in the hospital so I could see that life can be even worse than I ever imagined.”

In another phone call he said, “They took my Bible. God’s not in this place. I’m in prison.”

“Oh Chris. God IS in that place. He’ll let you know how much He loves you. You’ll see,” I assured him. Those words were spoken in faith, believing God would show Chris His love. I had no idea how, but was sure He’d be faithful.

The very next day Chris shared how God revealed His love in that dark place.

“One of the nurses is a Christian, Mom. She gave me back my Bible and said she’s praying for me.”

Many look for the light at the end of the tunnel. We need not wait for the end of the darkness. There is Light in the tunnel—His love shines brightly.

Turn to Him in your darkness and ask Him to hold your heart. Listen to Tenth Avenue North sing ‘Hold my heart.’    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ry6udsW9leA