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The Hearing

GodsWord.comfort

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).”

Words and air are alike. I need both of them to live. Oxygen helps me breathe. God’s Word helps me survive trials like mental illness (MI).

Countless times I’ve read all of Psalm 119. Not just because it’s easy to find (smack in the middle of my Bible). But because the psalmist echoes my pain and helps me reflect on His Word.

Dear Father, “This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life (Psalm 119:50 NKJV).”

What do you do with words? Whisper them to a despondent son? Yearn for them from a depressed daughter? Ignore them from well-meaning people who offer advice?

Words can be powerful. They can also be difficult to understand at times. Especially if MI clogs comprehension. Like when Chris was hospitalized for his psychotic episode.

I’m usually not at a loss for words. Except when grief grips me. Watching Chris suffer in the hospital made me mute.  Desperation silenced my speech.  In languishing there is no language. Tempting as it was, I couldn’t go into a cocoon and cry. I needed to speak. It was crucial that Chris understand my words. At the upcoming hearing he’d have to agree to stay in the hospital. If he didn’t, he’d face a court hearing—a hearing where we’d testifying against him.

This next part of my story demonstrates how God moved mightily in Chris’s mind. And opened his mouth to speak words I doubted Chris could say.

The past seven weeks I’ve been sharing details of our story. When mental illness (MI) struck Chris, it thrust him into emotional turmoil and mental confusion. It impacted me (and our entire family) as well. Like any other mom, I hated to see my son suffering. During those troubling times, God ministered to me.

My heavenly Father provided peace, protection, and provision. He gave me endurance, wisdom, and guidance. I felt His presence and experienced His faithfulness. As He eased my grief.

This week I’ll share how God’s Word comforted me. Even as I faced the hearing.

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The day of the hearing approached. I discovered a new level of sadness.

I knew how to deal with mild sadness. That’s cured by a good dose of chocolate. I’d learned what to do with moderate sadness. That’s soothed by a compassionate word from a friend and a good cry. I’d even experienced extreme sadness. That’s replaced with perfect peace when a heart cries out to the Lord.

Extreme sadness and stinging sorrow struck when Chris was in kindergarten. His teacher didn’t understand how to manage a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Chris’s hyperactivity blinded her from seeing his superior intelligence and love for the Lord. She only noticed his “bad” behavior. Each day she’d ask me to stay after school. She’d relate every minor infraction of her rules. She’d tell me every little thing Chris did wrong. And never added something positive. As if she didn’t even like him.

Other parents picking up their children heard her daily request, “Mrs. Chandler, could you please stay a minute?” They knew what that meant. No doubt, their children were telling stories of how Chris got into trouble.

The teacher’s sweet expression and superficial smile didn’t dampen the humiliation. Her regular reports pierced my heart. Day after day she defeated my spirit. So I cried out to the Lord.

Oh Father, hear my cry!!! Help that teacher see Chris as You see him. Prevent Chris from feeling unloved when he’s in school. Protect my broken heart.

God heard my cry. And filled me with His peace that passes understanding.

When Chris was in the hospital I experienced a deeper sadness. Tears didn’t soothe my heartache. I had no appetite. Talking didn’t rid me of sorrow. I felt like the psalmist who said, “I am so troubled that I cannot speak (Psalm 77:4).”

My son was hurting and I needed to help him. But I was unable to protect Chris from torment. Nothing mattered except seeing Chris get better.

Because we committed Chris against his will, a hearing was scheduled. Chris was assigned a lawyer from Social Services. The hospital had their lawyer. We were told we could arrange to have our own lawyer. But we didn’t see the need.

I’d lost weight and needed something to wear. None of the dresses in the local Dress Barn seemed appropriate.

What does one wear to a hearing against her own son?

On the day of the hearing the hospital’s lawyer explained what would happen.

“Chris will be asked if he agrees to remain in the hospital. If he doesn’t agree to stay, then we will have to go to court. In that event, witnesses would have to be brought in. The police who came to your house would be questioned. Even your other son might be questioned. In all likelihood Chris would lose the court case. So, it’s in his best interest to agree to remain in the hospital.”

How will Chris understand all of this in his condition? Even if he was clear-headed and not on any medication, I can’t imagine how he would agree to stay in such a place. He’s been begging to get out of here. How can we convince Chris to do the opposite—to say he’ll stay?

The lawyer continued to explain the procedure.

“Prior to the hearing you and your husband will be able to talk with Chris briefly.”

During our brief conversation with Chris, he struggled to understand what we were explaining. He desperately wanted to do the right thing. But also wanted to get out of that hospital.

How can we get him to agree to stay in such a place? How can we make him understand? Father, Your words are powerful. I know You’re able to do what we can’t. Please clear his thinking so he’ll willingly speak the words necessary to prevent worse pain.

God heard my prayer. Chris agreed.

“Okay. I’ll say I want to stay.”

That was only the first step. He had to repeat that statement to the judge at the hearing.

We were ushered into a room. Howie and I were seated behind Chris (not even at the table with the others!). Chris was seated next to his lawyer.

I can’t believe this is happening. Chris looks so vulnerable and helpless. Why couldn’t we sit next to him?

The judge read the official report from the psychiatrist. Everyone heard him say Chris assaulted Howie and me.  Chris had to hear the judge proclaim what was wrong with him. Then the judge asked the all-important question.

“Chris, will you agree to remain in the hospital for your treatment?”

Chris hesitated. His MI and medication made it difficult for him to respond.

“Okay. I’ll stay.”

I was so proud of him and grateful to God. But sad he’d still have to endure being in the hospital. The psalmist had taught me to shift my focus back to God when sorrow threatens to consume me. So I remembered the one tiny word ‘but.’

“But I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; For You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble (Psalm 59:16 NKJV).”

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God’s Word can comfort. It can restore joy and renew hope.

My prayer is that you’ll join me in saying, “Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart (Jeremiah 15:16 NKJV).”

Romans 15:4 (NKJV) promises, “We through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

Silence is Golden

silence

When words don’t seem to help our children with mental illness (MI), what can we do? Keep quiet. Silence is powerful. I learned that the hard way decades ago.

In college, my friend, Dave, got one of THOSE middle-of-the-night phone calls. The caller delivered heart-wrenching news.

Dave’s first reaction: he called me.

“Vicki, my best friend was killed in a car accident. I need to see you.”

Why is he calling ME? I suppose it’s because we share a strong faith in God. But I’ve never experienced the death of a loved one.

I sought advice from my roommate.

“Karen, the roommate you had for three years died suddenly last year. What should I say to Dave?”

Karen advised, “Nothing. Let him talk. Or just sit quietly with him. Share a hug and a tear.”

After college, my husband and I kept in touch with Dave and his wife, Trish. We were closer than friends— more like family. They had their first child, Ryan, around the same time we had Chris. Soon after, they had Kevin and we had Bobby.

One day, I got another call from Dave.

“Vicki, Ryan went to be with the Lord today. He drowned in our pool. We’re coming over.”

Ryan was only two years old.

My roommate’s wisdom helped once again. When they visited, we simply hugged, cried, and prayed. And listened to what they had to say. Dave shared even more disturbing information.

To add to the horror of it, we learned that Trish’s and Dave’s mother and father lost a child when they were young parents. Both sets of grandparents were reliving their own nightmare.

So when Ryan died, Dave sought advice from his father. “Dad, you’ve been through this.  What advice can you give me?”

He simply answered, “Son, you speak of your faith.  Now it’s time to use it.”

Another opportunity came for me to practice silence in the presence of someone grieving. I was the assistant director of an overnight week-long Christian summer camp for children with disabilities. One of the campers, Bruce, experienced a tragic loss just weeks before camp. His single mother died, leaving his aunt to raise him. The aunt chose to send Bruce to camp. Our staff had training and experience with children with intellectual disabilities. She hoped we could minister to Bruce.

Alex, Bruce’s counselor, sought my advice. “Bruce is having trouble getting to sleep at night. He just cries. What should I say to him?”

“Nothing. Just spend time with him. Silently pray for him.”

Those of us raising kids with MI sometimes feel helpless. We’re unsure how to help our vulnerable and fragile children. It’s comforting to know that our silence speaks volumes. It says, “I’m here for you.” Our gentle touch says, “I understand and care.”

What about our grief? It’s hard to see our loved one suffering. Why does God delay in helping our children?

The death of Lazarus provides an answer. Mary and Martha sought the Lord to heal their brother.

“Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.’  When Jesus heard that, He said, ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. (John 11:3-6)”

The word ‘so’ can lead to some confusion about this story. The strange thing about the events in this scene is that Jesus remained where he was for two more days apparently because of His love for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. If Jesus loved them so much, why didn’t he rush off right away? Jesus gave them a hint of the great work He would do and the reason for His delay: so ‘that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’

Jesus explained his delay again to his disciples.

“Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him. (John 11:14-15)’”

When Jesus finally arrived on the scene, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days.  Both his sisters struggled with a common torment many of us struggle with: If only…

“Now Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’… Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. (John 11:21, 32)’”

But Jesus gently reminded them of the reason for His delay:

“Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God? (John 11:40)’”

God is working out His perfect plan in His timing. He’s still in control. Even of the weather. Eastern US has gotten record amounts of snow this winter. Each snowfall is a reminder of our forgiveness. We stand before God ‘white as snow’ because of Christ’s blood. Reflect on His love as you listen to ‘White As Snow’ by Maranatha Singers.

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

Death of a Dream

fall.leaves

In a matter of days these trees will look dead. When the leaves are gone, I’ll miss their beauty.

In winter, I’ll stare at bare branches and know they’ll come alive again in the spring. Green leaves will adorn them once more. Months later, fall will return. My favorite season. So I won’t mourn the loss of autumn.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the seasons of life could be that predictable? Perhaps we could endure tough times with our child who has mental illness (MI) if we knew in three months things would get easier.

What season are you in with your child who has mental illness (MI)? Maybe you’re enjoying the springtime of an easier phase. Or perhaps it feels like you’re enduring the doldrums of winter.

Has your child’s joy withered away?  Do you long to see his eyes sparkle again? Do you wonder if his spring will ever return?

It’s as if your child is there, but not there. He’s alive, but the former happy-go-lucky child is gone.

We need to grieve the loss of our former child. We mourn because we’ve experienced the death of a dream. We envisioned a certain life for our child. Those hopes are gone.

I don’t know about you, but I can be tough on myself. Impatient with my own emotions, I chastise myself.

Snap out of it, Vicki. Deal with it. Don’t add your emotions into the mix.

Like anyone going through grief, we need assurances things will get better. We find hope in passages like Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity … a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

God has ordained a time for us to laugh again. Joy will return.

We need comforting as we go through the stages of our grief. The Bible promises God’s comfort. Isaiah is just one book of the Bible where we find reasons to be comforted.

God will restore our joy: “The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.”  (Isaiah 51:3)

God’s Word is reliable. We can depend on its promises: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

God provides strength: “…The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary … He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”  (Isaiah 40:28-29)

God is with us: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  (Isaiah 41:10)

God’s Son knows what we’re going through: In Isaiah 53:3-4 we read, “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief … Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” (NKJV)

We look forward to the ultimate end to grief. “He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces.”   Isaiah 25:8

Be comforted dear friend.

Your grief cannot sabotage the serenity you have in the Lord as you focus on Him. Reflect on His steadfast love for you as you listen to “Steadfast Love” from Scripture Lullabies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdT1XQ5ZRuk

What must it be like?

wonder.contemplation

What would it take for others to understand what you’re going through?

My career in education began 36 yrs. ago when I taught students with multiple handicaps. My training prepared me to provide appropriate instruction for them. Nothing could prepare me to completely understand the challenges they faced. Until I got multiple sclerosis (MS).

Nowadays, I feel the frustration of not being able to think clearly when I’m tired. I struggle with challenges encountered when out in public. Climbing stairs never used to be so exhausting.  Greater insight brings more sympathy. Now I can empathize with my former students.

I’ve found that greater insight into mental illness (MI) helps me sympathize with our son. I often wonder what it must be like for him.

A common side effect of psychotropic medications is weight gain. So Chris chose to go off his meds. He now manages his illness himself. By limiting stressful activities. By remaining physically active.

I’m amazed at how he’s able to function without his medical treatment. He’s goal-oriented, works on computer projects, and stays active in his church. All a testimony to his determination.

It helps me to reflect on the effort he must invest to engage in routine activities.

When any of us are tired, we find it difficult to be pleasant. When we feel sick, we don’t want to interact with anyone. Reminding myself of that helps me build more tolerance. Instead of getting annoyed with his behaviors, I’m able to focus more on how he must feel. Then compassion replaces frustration. Suddenly I realize how hard Chris is trying to live a normal life. Then I know how to pray for him.

We can use the same selfless thinking to understand our spouse. What must it be like for a husband to have a child with MI? Men need to fix things. But MI seems impossible to repairable at times.

We have to assume our husband is grieving. He deals with his grief differently than a woman would. Pausing to remember that helps build compassion.

Our motherly instincts compel us to care for everyone. We identify a need and meet it. We see a problem and fix it. We’re so good at caring for others. Little time is left for us to reflect on how we’re coping.  Rarely do we stop and consider our needs.

But what about me? Who understands MY needs? Does anyone care what it’s like for me?

The good news is that Christ did more than ‘walk a mile in our shoes.’ He came into our world.

Does He know what it’s like for you to have children and a husband all vying for your attention? Yes, He felt throngs clamoring for His attention.

Does He know what it’s like for you to collapse into bed at night, fully drained of all energy (physical, emotional, and mental)? He experienced physical exhaustion. He endured the pain of the cross.

Does He know what it’s like for a husband to let you down? He gave His life for the church and suffers when His bride/people deny him or refuse His unconditional love and free gift of salvation. He knows what it feels like to be betrayed by his followers, those He loved.

Christ not only knows what it’s like, He knows how you feel. He knows your every thought and sees every tear. The best part is that He has power to do something about it. To provide just what you need.

He knows what it’s like for you to have a child with MI. Let the words of Tommy Walker’s ‘He Knows my Name’ minister to you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBmtGSuw04Y

Surviving a Child’s Suicide

Rick and Kay Warren

Rick and Kay Warren

Mental illness (MI) is once again in the news. Sadly, another mass shooting took place at the hands of someone who apparently suffered from MI. The shootings at the Navy Yard in our nation’s capital rocked the nation. Left us all grieving, stunned, and angry. Why does this keep happening?

Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life” and pastor of Saddleback Church, knows what it’s like to have a child with serious MI. They faced a parent’s worst nightmare: the loss of that child to suicide. In April 2013, Matthew killed himself.

Matthew Warren

Matthew Warren

Last night, Pierce Morgan used his show to interview Rick Warren and his wife about MI and gun violence. The entire hour-long interview sounded like a message from the pulpit. Rick and his wife shared about pain, sorrow, grief. Yet their responses were sprinkled with unshaken faith in God, and words of hope. They spoke of seeing their son once again in heaven. And honestly admitted to nagging unanswered questions.

Here’s a portion of that interview:

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-pastor-rick-warren-talks-about-sons-suicide-20130917,0,3592656.story

Here’s another link:

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/09/15/rick-warrens-slow-walk-back-to-the-spotlight/comment-page-8/

When we’re going through a trial that seems like it could defeat us, it helps to turn to someone who’s experienced it and survived. Rick Warren is one of those people. He had to live what he’d been preaching. Now when he speaks, people can’t say, “That’s easy for you to say.” He’s living proof that God is faithful. Our Father upholds the weary. And comforts the sorrowful.

Spend some time listening from Rick yourself. On his church’s website, he has a series entitled “How to Get Through What You’re Going Through.” Pick one of those that would most meet your current needs. Here’s one:

http://www.saddleback.com/mc/archives/

 

 

 

Happy Days

Chris and Bobby at Disney World

Chris and Bobby at Disney World

“Happy days.” What does that conjure up in your mind? The Fonze? Carefree times, now gone? A yearning for joy to replace mental illness (MI)?

Does your mind wander back to happier days before MI hit? Or do your senses sabotage your emotions?

One day, I visited our son’s former Christian elementary school. To attend the funeral of a loved one. I cried more AFTER the service ended. It’s because I chose to exit the building through the classroom hallways.

The familiar smell of the building instantly transported me back 25 yrs. Back when Chris was in elementary school. Back when life seemed less complicated. Back when Chris’s eyes sparkled with joy.

Funny how one whiff of a building can flood you with feelings you had forgotten. Like an electric shock, the aroma jolted my thoughts to days when Chris seemed happy-go-lucky. Memories rushed through my mind. Suddenly, I “saw” Chris bouncing into my classroom at the end of the day to share what he’d learned. I “heard” his young voice telling me what he did at recess.

I “heard” him share happy news. “Mom, we’re going to go on a field trip to the science museum. I’ll get to see what a real planetarium looks like. I can’t wait!” Echoes from the past so real they tempted me to look for an apparition.

I had shoved those scenes deep into my memory. Locked them into a trunk stored in the attic of my mind.

Don’t unpack those memories, Vicki. Don’t even consider mentally caressing them for a second. Those times are gone. Love Chris for how he is now. Be grateful for glimmers of Chris’s personality and joy.

I quickly exited the building. Barely making it to my vehicle before violent sobs overtook me. I sat in the car with streams of tears pouring down my cheeks. As painful as it was, I needed that moment of private grief.  I needed those precious reminders of the son I know and love. God ministered to me in that quiet sanctuary.  He gently reminded me that Chris is still there. Locked behind an illness that masks his joy and peace.

Other aromas spark emotion. Reminders of happy days include: ballpark franks, burning leaves, boardwalk fudge, movie popcorn, Thanksgiving turkey, new school supplies, and Grandma’s perfume.

We wonder if we’re making any difference at all in the lives of those around us. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were the fragrance that stirs someone’s heart for Jesus? 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 tell us, “In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.”  (MSG)

Imagine that…through us, God is spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.

Reflect on this sentence:

“God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade.”

Easter lilies remind us of another happy day…of when Jesus washed our sins away. Enjoy “Oh Happy Day.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a37bBm8pXSk

 

Tsunami

tsunami

Which is worse: dealing with unpredictable behaviors, or facing certain devastation? As bad as things seem, they could always be worse.

My heart goes out to moms who have kids with serious mental illness (MI). It’s not possible for me to reach out and hug each of you, so I share Bible verses of comfort.

This devotional is offered as a different form of comfort. I decided to relate a story about a mother who is facing a much greater trial than mine. Her struggles put mine into perspective. Maybe you’ll have a similar response. Or, you might read her story and realize that you’re living a worse nightmare. In that case, this story might take your mind of your situation momentarily. Regardless of your situation, I’m sure you can stand a dose of inspiration…to read about how another mom is able to find joy in the Lord. Even though she faces impending grief.

After church, I ran into a parent of two former students. Her older son, Andrew, recently graduated from high school. I knew he’d been suffering symptoms of a rare progressive neurological disease. Kim gave me an update.

“Andrew’s been diagnosed with a rare disease which is similar to childhood Alzheimer’s. David has also been diagnosed with it.”

That sentence hit me like a bullet.

Please Lord, no! This can’t be happening. Not to a family who loves You so much. Not to Andrew who has such a sweet personality. Not to David who’s only in ninth grade. How will David cope as he watches his future unfold—seeing the disease takes its toll on Andrew first.”

I stood there in shock, choking back tears. Speechless. Unable to move.

My mind swirled with questions.

How can a parent deal with the knowledge that her two sons will die young? It must feel like being strapped to a chair, watching a tsunami approach in slow motion. With nothing to do but think about the impending destruction. Dreams demolished. Emotions obliterated. Unbearable heartache.

Moses faced an impossible situation. An army of chariots quickly closed in. Millions of Israelites complained in fear. The Red Sea blocked an escape.

By faith Moses said, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”  Exodus 14:13-14

Can Moses’ advice help us?

We fight MI. Others deal with the onslaught of an incurable disease, unfair accusations, or an unexpected betrayal. Many wage a battle within of doubt, uncertainty, loneliness, mental exhaustion, or discouragement.

Regardless of our circumstances, we can all find comfort in knowing the Lord will fight for us. Our challenge: to be still before God. And wait in confidence for His deliverance.

By the way, on that day when Kim provided the update, she asked me, “Would you be willing to tell what Andrew was like in second grade? We’re making a documentary for our website. We want to educate people about the disease.”

I agreed. The Lord helped me speak without crying. You can see that documentary on The Andrew Coppola Foundation website.

Are you able to get still before the Lord? How/where/when do you do that?

Maybe Hillsong’s ‘Still’ will help you draw near to Him in stillness:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28ZZgD3Q9sQ

 

Friend

funeralcards
Does it help when people attend the funeral of a loved one? Do sympathy cards make a difference?

My husband and I were comforted by all the people who came to my mother-in-law’s funeral.

It’s amazing how much cards and flowers softened my grief. The prayers and sympathy meant so much. Because of who sent them. Sorrow was soothed by friends who care. Each gesture brought some relief from my hurt.

I reread the sympathy cards and blessings swelled my heart. How I cherish the relationships I have with godly women! Ladies I call friends.

A friend stands by us when times are hard. No words are needed. Just their presence says, “I’m here for you.” Pain dissolves at their gentle touch and warm hug. Shared tears let us know their heart weeps with ours.

Who stands by our children who have mental illness (MI)? Few people want to be around someone who is depressed. Many don’t know how to handle someone else’s anxiety.

A mother’s care is constant. She reaches out to her son when emotional pain engulfs his heart. Sometimes, he welcomes her listening ear. Other times, he recoils at the sight of her open arms. That’s when her teen would prefer a friend. A faithful companion who would console him.

Some individuals with MI are blessed to have a good friend. Others aren’t so fortunate. It’s hard for a mom to watch the isolation and loneliness. It’s difficult to hear some of the unkind names used when people refer to a person with serious MI.

Who will call our children “friend”? Jesus. We can count on Him to see the person, not just the MI.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus called Judas, His betrayer, “friend” (Matthew 26:48-50).

Satan had entered Judas (Luke 22:3). Yet, Christ’s perspective was on the person.

God knows our need for friends.

“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11). Abraham was called God’s friend (James 2:23 and Isaiah 41:8). Christ called His disciples friends (John 15:15. And He expressed His love for us when He said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). He demonstrated that love for us on the cross (1 John 3:16).

We can count on Him to be our child’s true Friend.
Dear Jesus,
Please send godly friends into my son’s life. Thank You for your ultimate expression of friendship when You willingly died for my sin. Praise You for blessing me with women who weep with me. Help me be a faithful friend to those You have placed in my life.

Let the words to this song “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” minister to you.

Help me, God.

kneelingprayer
Last week when our traveling vet came to put our dog down, my husband stayed with our pet to the end. I couldn’t watch.

I went upstairs and began praying for my husband. He would miss our dog, the most favorite pet he ever had. Our beloved cocker spaniel “watched” football with my husband on the recliner. There would be no long ears to pet while at the computer. No helper to prewash the dishes for the dishwasher. No dog to accompany him as Howie brought in the shopping bags.

I couldn’t ease his pain, while mourning our loss myself. No words could spare him the grief. So, I knelt to pray…an unusual position for me since I have multiple sclerosis (MS). I cried out to God.

Later in the day, Howie and I consoled each other. I lovingly said, “When you were with the vet, I got on my knees and prayed for you.”
He playfully replied, “There are two things wrong with that…you have MS and you’re not Catholic.”

Howie knows that many people pray on their knees. He understood the position of my conversation with God meant I spoke from my gut…from the core of my being. His long embrace told me how much that intercessory prayer meant to him.

Deep pain and urgency drives a person to cry out to God. Our human limitations lead to desperation.

Sooner or later, everyone gets desperate. Heartfelt prayers are sent to God. The fox hole prayer of a soldier, the surrendering prayer of an addict, the negotiation prayer of an unfaithful husband, the deathbed prayer of a terminally ill patient…or the pleading petition of a mom.

Mothers nurture and help their children. We’re driven to heal the hurts. But, sometimes those hurts can’t be cured with a band aid or a kiss. Like when a child is distraught or depressed. Or when a son is tormented by anxiety or distorted thoughts.

A mom of a child with serious mental illness (MI) watches such pain. We’d rather take the pain ourselves than have our children suffer. In helplessness, we cry out to God.

When you cry out to God, do you fast? Do you ask the Holy Spirit to pray for you? Do you sob or scream the words?

Hagar’s story encourages those of us who can’t stand to see our kids suffer.

“Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.
When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, ‘I cannot watch the boy die.’ And as she sat there, she began to sob.
God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’
Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.” Genesis 21:14-19

God tells us, “Do not be afraid. I hear your child crying.”
Our heavenly Father can do what we can’t…with greater love and power.

Listen to this song that reminds you He sees each tear that falls and hears when you call out to Him.

In the Shadow of Death

Our Beloved Pet

Our Beloved Pet


Are we ever prepared for the death of a loved one?

On Martin Luther King Day, we had to put down our beloved 13 yr. old cocker spaniel. Three days later, my 93 yr. old mother-in-law, Mary, passed away.

Losing a family member is devastating. Losing two loved ones in the same week is more painful.

Many of us who have a child with serious mental illness (MI) worry about an early death of that child because MI can lead a person to commit suicide.

Our son, Chris, often says, “I won’t kill myself. But if I die, I’ll be in a much better place.”
Each time he repeats those words, I wonder if God is preparing my heart to face the unthinkable: Chris’s life being cut short. How could I face such tragedy?

Christ’s disciples faced the death of their Lord. Such loss. Soon after, He arose from the grave and appeared to them. Such joy! But, then He left them again as He ascended.

Then the disciples did something unexpected. They worshiped Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and praised God.

When our dog died, my first reaction wasn’t joy. When I saw Mary in the hospital after she suffered a massive stroke, my inclination wasn’t to worship and praise God. Sadness flooded my heart. Tears flowed.

How were Jesus’ followers able to praise God when their Master left them? Luke tells us the answer.

“While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” Luke 24:51-53

They looked to God. They stayed in His presence.

Only there, can we find the same comfort. Remaining in His Word and continuing in prayer.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3
We can have victory over the enemy’s attempt to get us to abandon our faith.

The Bible tells us that we have a cloud of witness (Hebrews 12). Heroes of faith who have gone on before us are cheering us on. Can you hear them speaking to you? They’re telling you, “Trust God. Be patient. He is compassionate and merciful. Keep running your race. You can do it because God is faithful.”

Still, I wonder if I could maintain a trust in God if my son died young. I know the Holy Spirit would comfort me.

That same Comforter helped Job. A man who lost not just one child, but all his children…in addition to his livelihood. Yet, he still praised God.

“Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’” Job 1:20-21

Job wasn’t the only one who lost his business and all his children.
In 1873 Horatio Spafford, a wealthy Chicago lawyer, wrote the words to the favorite hymn “It is Well with My Soul.”

Job and Horatio Spafford were real people. We can have a blessed assurance that God will help us through such grief. We may not understand why God allows suffering. But by faith we too can say, “It is well with my soul.”

Listen to that hymn as you read Horatio Spafford’s remarkable story.