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Getting Away: Guilt or Gratitude?

YOKE.1

Twin Oxen, Williamsburg, VA

“We won’t be able to go on our vacation,” a friend told me. Her son had just been admitted to a psychiatric unit again. “I don’t think it would be right for all of us to take a trip while he is in the hospital,” she explained.

“Now would be the perfect time for you to get away,” I assured her. “He’s being well taken care of and will be safe while you’re gone. You need to enjoy some rest and relaxation with your other family members.”

It’s only natural for a mother to stay close to a sick child. You don’t have to tell us. When it comes to having a child with mental illness (MI), tending to a sick child is endless. Months and years pass without any breaks. There’s never a good time to get away.

Recently my husband and I planned a three-day trip to Williamsburg. With limited funds, we chose to travel on Thanksgiving Day when the hotel rates would be considerably less. Low gas prices made traveling by car doable. We could afford to take a mini-vacation. But we couldn’t afford to take our son. I fought guilt feelings.

 We should take Chris along. He never gets to go on vacations. How could I even consider leaving him on Thanksgiving?

But I knew I needed to get away. WE needed to get away. It would be good for our marriage. It was necessary to be proactive, to protect our marriage. A healthy marriage finds time for the couple to be together.

It’s just not easy to get away, especially when you have a child with MI. Before this trip, Howie and I had taken trips. Mostly to see our grandchildren. Other trips had been coupled with Howie’s business trips. It had been ten years since Howie and I had gone away just the two of us to spend time alone together.

To ease my conscience, I wondered what God thought about us taking a trip. Matthew 11:28-30 came to mind.

Jesus has the answer for people like us who are dog-tired from daily burdens. He recommends, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

In Colonial Williamsburg I spotted two oxen pulling a cart. I stood close enough to reach out and stroke their fur (but wasn’t permitted). Standing next to them was like standing next to a small car. Their massive muscles revealed overwhelming power. Yoked together, they could carry huge loads.

Suddenly I remembered the words of Matthew 11:28-30 and felt gratitude instead of guilt. It was as if God had sent those oxen as a reminder to me. I heard God whisper, “I know you’re weary and burdened. Give Me your burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and find rest for your soul.”

Maybe you can’t afford to get away even for a brief trip. Instead of getting away, imagine going to—going to Him. The one who will give you rest.

“Rest for your souls”: is that what you need? God is powerful enough to carry any load. Another version of Matthew 11:28-30 may describe your situation, your need, and your rest-giving Lord.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly”  [Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)].

 

 

 

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In Need of a Husband’s Support

Howie and Chris

Howie and Chris

Chivalry came from the most unlikely gentleman.

“Here, let me get that for you,” he offered. The blind teenager had enough vision to notice his teacher struggling to open the door. In one hand I held a heavy metal braille typewriter. The other held my bag of supplies and student files.

My student saw a problem and solved it. Like most males.

Men are wired to repair broken things. The reality is that some things can’t be fixed easily. Like a child’s mental illness (MI). Many fathers try to remedy the problem by explaining it away. Denying the diagnosis can only last so long.

How does that fit with a wife who has moved on in her grief to anger, bargaining, or depression? She needs emotional support from her spouse. When her mate is unable to provide what she needs, anger grows and bitterness can set in. Does that sound like your situation?

How can a husband care for his distraught wife if he’s not yet able to face the illness? If my blind student’s vision had been worse, he would have been unable to see my problem. He wouldn’t have come to my rescue.

What can a grief-stricken mother do when her husband can’t provide what she needs? Allow me to share what I’ve done. I don’t presume to have all the answers. I’m not a psychologist. Just a fellow mom who’s been through what you may be experiencing.

  1. Pray for God’s perspective of your husband. Imagine his need to fix the unfixable. That could only lead to helpless feelings. Think about his desire to protect his family members. Then contemplate what it would be like for him to realize he can’t protect your child from MI. Men love their tools. But no tool can reach inside your child to restore clarity of thought and joy. No gizmo can guard against turbulent emotions.
  1. Pray for your husband’s emotional healing. Look beyond your husband’s avoidance of the whole situation and see a grieving father. Any loving dad will surely feel sorrow. He won’t express it like a woman. But it’ll weigh like a concrete brick in the pit of his stomach. Perhaps your husband harbors guilt feelings. Ask God to move mightily in his heart and mind. So your husband can find forgiveness and peace from a loving Father.
  1. Ask God to provide what you need while your husband is grieving at his own pace. Through scripture He’ll speak words of healing you long to hear. Ask your Father to send a godly woman to support you. To cry with you, pray with you, and listen without judgment.

Let me encourage you. God hears your prayers. He heard mine. Howie has become attentive to my emotional needs regarding Chris. And he is gentle in his interactions with our son. God’s perfect peace has settled Howie’s heart. Yes, he’s sad. But Howie’s calm assurance comes from eyes lifted heavenward. He’s learned to let God carry the burden.

I told Howie this post would pertain to husbands raising kids with MI and asked him for any message he’d like to share. Here are his words of experience:

“It makes it easier when you realize there’s nothing you can do. It helped me when I realized it’s out of my hands. You still show love but you know you can’t fix it. That takes a long time to get to. Years.”

Howie hasn’t given up on Chris. He’s just given Chris over to God. Not given up…given over. When he seeks help for Chris, he doesn’t run to our tool shed; he goes to our prayer closet.

The centurion in Matthew faced an impossible situation with his suffering servant.  As a man, he understood authority. So he pleaded with Jesus to heal the servant.

“‘Lord,’ he said, ‘my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.’

“Jesus said to him, ‘Shall I come and heal him?’

“The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’”

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, ‘Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith (Matthew 8:6-10).’”

What got Christ’s attention was his faith. Ask the Lord to increase your husband’s faith. To help him understand the power of the greatest Contractor of all. The Repairer of lives is accessible. Just a prayer away. When pipes are leaking a man gets a plumber. When wiring is frayed he hires an electrician. When his child is ill God can provide healing and comfort. Free of charge!

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

Escape

Joseph Ambler Inn
Horsham, PA

Irrational thoughts set in after I survived seven hours of labor.

I’m done. That’s it. I’m going home.

That wasn’t an option since our son hadn’t been born yet. Still, my brain conjured up the possibility of a literal out-of-body experience.

Amazing how suffering can play with your mind.  Especially when the struggles have been hard to endure. For too long. Like dealing with your child’s mental illness (MI).

Are you done? Do you fantasize about packing it in…running away from it all? Perhaps you dream of getting away. To rest under a palm tree in Hawaii and listen to the soothing sounds of the ocean as they wash all your cares away.

The Israelites understood suffering. So, God gave Moses a message for them.

“‘I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’”  Exodus 6:7-8

God kept His promise.

“God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.”  Exodus 2:24

“The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…’”  Exodus 3:7-8

That same God hears your groaning and sees your misery. He’s concerned about your suffering. He has a promised land for you.

God gave me a taste of that milk and honey. My earthly promised land was the healing of my marriage. Howie and I just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary at Joseph Ambler Inn bed and breakfast. Years ago, I never would have thought it possible. I was ready to pack it in. Couldn’t stand any more pain. Didn’t know how to forgive unconditionally.

But God, who made a way for us to reach the ultimate Promised Land in heaven, made a way for me to trust again. He restored our marriage, making it stronger than ever. We went to a bed and breakfast to mark the milestone and share our gratitude.

Maybe you’re still waiting to arrive at your promised land. Thankfully, we can trust in our good Shepherd to lead us to a peaceful place and refresh our soul. He “makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul… (and) anoints my head with oil…”    Psalm 23:1-3, 5

Imagine that…God inviting us to spend time in His oasis and get treated in His spa! A free getaway made possible by simply entering into His presence.

Dear Father,

Thank You that You hear my groaning, see my misery, and care about my suffering. Help me find time to read Your Word. To find encouragement and hear You speak to me. So that I can persevere. In Jesus’ name. Amen

During the days of trouble in our marriage, Steve & Annie Chapman’s songs helped me cling to the hope of restoration. Here’s one of them:  “Turn Your Heart Toward Home”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNvafd0FzGc