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Hanging On

hanging.on

God used that stubborn maple tree to draw me closer to him. Here’s how.  Each year we get our gutters cleaned out. But only after the trees surrounding our house have shed all their leaves.  Every tree in our neighborhood had released their leaves. Except the one closest to our house.

Our gutters couldn’t be cleaned until all the leaves on that tree were gone. Why did I become so frustrated with that maple tree? Because it represented one more thing I couldn’t control.

Health is one thing we can’t fully control. Not the health of our loved ones, or our own. Those of us raising kids with mental illness (MI) have learned that lesson the hard way.

In addition to our son’s MI, my husband’s health made me feel a bit helpless. His gallbladder needed to be removed.  As we waited for the day of surgery, I didn’t stray far from home.  At any moment, he could suffer another gallbladder attack.

My imaginary jar of control was filled to the brim. I was successfully handling daily chores—Howie’s and mine. Howie and I controlled what he ate, being careful not to add any fat to his diet. I was even able to control how much attention I’d give to my own physical symptoms (growing fatigue, worsening back pain, annoying runny nose and sore throat…). God helped me ignore all my own pain as He gave me endurance.

The tree became the straw that broke my control container. I couldn’t check off ‘gutters cleaned’ from my to-do list until that tree cooperated!

Why are you hanging on for so long? Let them go!

Those two words, “hanging on” echoed in my mind.

Hanging on … Hanging on …

 Hanging on can be good or bad.  I wondered if I had been hanging onto thoughts of the life I dreamt for Chris. Before his MI hit, he seemed on track to lead a fulfilling life. First there’d be college and then a job. Followed by life with a family in a suburban home.

God had other plans. I wondered if I’d fully accepted God’s plan for Chris. Then I reminded myself of God’s faithfulness. He had enabled Chris to graduate from college. Since then, Chris has remained active.

My deliberate shift in focus back to God’s faithfulness reminded me of what Jonah expressed. For three days he lived inside a great fish, ensnared by his surroundings. Finally Jonah turned his heart to God and said,

“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” (Jonah 2:7-9).

When we feel our life ‘ebbing away’, it helps to remember our Lord and cry out to Him.  Our Creator, who kept Jonah alive in a fish, will sustain us. He’s the God of nature who controls all things. Who has power to do more than we can imagine. Who loves us more than we know.

So here’s the good part of hanging on. When we hang onto God, we can relinquish all control to Him, trusting that He’ll care for us and our family.

Maybe we can’t relate to being swallowed by a great fish. (I can’t remember the last time I heard about someone on the news surviving such an ordeal!) It’s easier to envision wandering in a wilderness. In Psalm 63 we read about how David clung to God when he was in the wilderness.

Perhaps you’re wandering through a period of emotional drought—void of joy and peace. Let David’s words be your prayer to God:

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:1-8).

Hang in there and cling to God.

 

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Surviving Loneliness

1.2012.Rachels

Why do you go for a walk? Would it be to exercise, think, relax, or explore? Maybe it’s to take pictures, study creation, or enjoy the scenery?

There are different motivations for walking with someone else. To take a romantic stroll or have an uninterrupted conversation.

Sometimes the walk can be routine or boring. Like walking to get somewhere. Or it could result in a precious memory. Like when my husband and I held the tiny hands of our one-year-old granddaughter.

Aborigines practice a more serious type of walk. They go on a journey—‘going walkabout’—which takes months. The concept of ‘going walkabout’ is new to me. I recently learned about the Australian aborigine ritual from a devotional posted on Rest Ministries by Kerryn. In her message titled ‘Going Walkabout To Be With My Father’ she described the aborigine form of initiation.

Wikipedia explains that a walkabout refers to, “a rite of passage during which male Australian Aborigines would undergo a journey during adolescence and live in the wilderness for a period as long as six months.

In this practice they would trace the paths, or “songlines”, that their ancestors took, and imitate, in a fashion, their heroic deeds.”

I read that and wondered: What are songlines?

The article ‘How Indigenous Australians Use Music to Mark Geography’ by kuschk offered a description of songlines.

“In Aboriginal mythology, a songline is a myth based around localised ‘creator-beings’ during the Dreaming, the indigenous Australian embodiment of the creation of the Earth. Each songline explains the route followed by the creator-being during the course of the myth. The path of each creator-being is marked in sung lyrics.”

I may not believe in their mythology, but it got me thinking. Do I follow the true Creator’s lead in my life? Psalm 89:15 assures me that, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You, who walk in the light of Your presence, Lord.”

How I yearn to find His light in the midst of trials. Sometimes it’s difficult to track God’s lead when raising a child with mental illness (MI). It can be a lonely life. Only someone walking that same desert journey can understand what it’s like. Because of the stigma that surrounds the illness, most moms don’t talk about it. Their hesitancy to reach out compounds the loneliness. Deep sorrow and anguish fill the isolation. We wander aimlessly in an emotional wilderness devoid of understanding companions.

Husbands travel their own wilderness—one of mental wandering. As they struggle to discover the way out…some solution for their child’s pain. A way to fix the problem.

At the root of a mom’s loneliness is her need for someone to understand. Christ understands. He experienced times in the desert and even welcomed lonely places. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).

So we can meet Him in our lonely places.

My research about ‘going walkabout’ shed new light on my walk with the Lord.

Tourism Australia promotes the modern-day benefits of going walkabout. Their article ‘Walkabout’ stated, “Today we can learn from the Aboriginal concept of ‘walkabout’ and leave the pressures of everyday life behind to re-discover what is important to us. For the majority of us, going ‘walkabout’ means taking a holiday and using this time to escape the pressures of daily life and to get back in touch with ourselves.  Going ‘walkabout’ restores a sense of magic and wonder to our lives.  It enriches our spirit.”

I like the part about escaping the pressures of daily life. But disagree with getting back in touch with myself. True spiritual enrichment can only be found in Christ. Salvation through Jesus provides me with the gift of the Holy Spirit. I can think of no greater wonder than to benefit from the indwelling power of God in me.

Raising a child with mental illness (MI) can be painful. It’s a long drawn-out grieving process. Great sadness comes from desiring a better life for our child. Denial teases us on good days.

He seems to be doing so well today. Maybe he’ll be able to handle future stress.

But familiar symptoms return. Reality hits. Grieving returns. Where do we turn?

The world offers solutions. Tourism Australia points out that, “Contemporary understandings of ‘walkabout’ remain true to the concept’s Aboriginal heritage. To go ‘walkabout’ in the 21st century is to escape from the pressures of everyday life and to reconnect with yourself, with loved ones, and with the natural world.”

Escaping ‘from the pressures of everyday life’ sounds enticing. But reconnecting with myself sounds empty. I’d rather retreat and reconnect with Christ. He alone knows my secret pain.

My walk with the Lord should parallel an aborigine walkabout in one way.

Tourism Australia explains that, “a ‘Walkabout’ is not an aimless activity but a deliberate and focused journey connecting Aboriginal people to their traditional lands and spiritual obligations.”

My walk with the Lord should be ‘a deliberate and focused journey.’ What would that be like?

I’ll imagine Christ joining me on my private walkabout. I’ll picture Him joining me when I withdraw to pray for my son who has MI. I’ll ‘watch’ Him wipe away tears from my face and fears from my mind.

I’ll visualize him holding my hand as He guides me through each day. I’ll listen to the songlines He marks along my path. Worship songs will help me be alert to signs of His leading.

Heavenly Father,

Forgive me for not having a closer walk with You.  How I love spending time in Your presence!  Help me to keep my focus on You, walking with you each day.