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Desperate for Peace

Peace

Who needs peace more, you or your child? Hard to say. We desperately need peace ourselves, as we watch our children with mental illness (MI) suffer. We also want peace for our children. Instead of continuing with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, psychotic thoughts, or emotional turmoil, we want them to be filled with God’s peace.

How do we find peace?

  1. We can pursue it.

My mom’s prayer life is a perfect example. Recently, she ended her prayer in an unusual way. It wasn’t the typical, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”  While in a rehab facility and in pain, my mom closed her prayer with, “I’ll be back.” And surely she did return. Again and again.  My mom’s legacy is one of constant prayer.

We have unlimited access to the throne of God. He invites us to, “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 ).

  1. We also find peace in the midst of our trials.

God’s people in Thessalonica had a growing faith in the midst of their trials. They had to rely on God and God alone. Such reliance leads to divine peace.

“We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4).

  1. We find peace when reading His Word.

Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble” (Psalm 119:165).

Many times, the Bible is the only place I found solace. Facing an uncertain future, I found stability in an unchanging, faithful Father.

  1. We find peace within us, as we yield to the Holy Spirit and Christ who live in us.

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

In the darkest hour with our son, Chris, the Spirit carried me with His perfect peace.

  1. We find peace when our heavenly Father sees us in great sorrow.

“I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul” (Psalm 31:7).

When we’re too distraught to reach out to Him, He reaches out to us. Pursue His peace by praying constantly, just like my mom:

Dear Father, Thank You for giving us Your peace which passes understanding. I’ll be back.

Tangible Reminders

Bible Post-Its 002

What’s the strangest thing you have in your home? I’ve got a giant work boot, the size of an umbrella stroller, and a mannequin.

Mannequin

Why, you ask? Those items were part of a collection I had when I taught second graders. The mannequin served as a 3D bulletin board. The giant boot was the perfect size for an eight year old to rest and read a book.  They remind me of fun times.

Other items remind me of God’s work in my life. Like the Post-its in my Bible. When our son, Rob, was a senior in high school, he wanted to have devotions with me. The Post-its represent portions of the Bible we read together. I’ll never remove them.

There’s someone in the Bible who put an unusual item in his tent (or some believe he put it in God’s tabernacle). Read what the boy, David did just after he killed the giant.

“David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armour in his tent” [1 Samuel 17:54 (KJV)].

What an odd thing to do: store the enemy’s armor in his tent! Why would he do such a thing? It served as a reminder of how God enabled him to have victory over a giant.

Has God enabled you to have victory over the mental illness (MI) giant? What can you use as reminders? Why is it important to have tangible reminders?

We try to forget horrible times when our child struggled with MI. So, we tend to forget that God revealed His power, peace, and presence when we needed it most. That’s why we need reminders. Concrete items preserve the memory of His sufficiency. They help us when challenges return (as we know they will with MI). When the enemy attempts to incinerate our faith, those memories extinguish his efforts. Each memory strengthens our fortress of divine assurance, which protects our heart from breaking.

I know God will carry me through, just as He has done in the past.

My tokens of God’s goodness include: entries in my journal and Bible verses God embedded in my heart during difficult times. I also cherish photographs which depict Chris’s restored mental stability and renewed joy.

What items do you have or could you collect?

The Wrong Way?

Wrong.Way

Is it wrong to keep your child’s mental illness (MI) a secret?

Friends or relatives may offer the common social inquiry: “How’s …?” or “What’s new with …?”

You wonder:

Does she really want to know about my child? If I told her how he’s really doing, would she judge my parenting abilities? Would she blab it to others?

Perhaps you refrain from telling others out of shame, or because of your desire to protect your child.

But, how can we answer? What if we can’t provide a fairy tale answer? Maybe you’d love to boast, “Oh, his soccer team won all of their games this season.”  But, your child’s been barely motivated to take care of his basic hygiene. Perhaps you’d love to brag, “He made the honor roll again.” But, he’s been receiving home-bound instruction.

Surely, it would be wrong to unload all the sordid details. It would be wrong to provide an answer like, “His medication isn’t working. He’s been deep in depression and anxiety for weeks. We can’t find a good psychiatrist. I don’t want to even think of hospitalization. But, it seems inevitable if we can’t get him stabilized. I can’t take any more days off from work without losing my job. I don’t think I’ve slept fully in weeks…”

Yes, that response would be the wrong way to answer a casual question. So, what’s the right way to respond to, “How’s …?” If you’re like me, your go-to response is, “Oh, he’s fine.”

We silence the truth and protect our child. We know others don’t always respond with compassion to MI. Does that fact cause you to sometimes feel like an outcast? Is there a right way to handle feelings of isolation? The Bible gives us some examples of those who were isolated due to a health condition.

Outcasts in the Bible:

Levitical laws of purification identified conditions which priests declared unclean. People having certain conditions like leprosy or extensive bleeding, suffered consequences. A person branded as unclean might be isolated from the presence of God and His people. Surely, such separation led to humiliation and shame.

An Old Testament Example:

“King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house—leprous, and banned from the temple of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 26:21).

A New Testament Example:

Luke tells us about a woman who, “had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her” (Luke 8:43).

When Christ came in her area, she pushed through the mob to get to Jesus. We’re told that, “She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped” (Luke 8:44).

Jesus made a statement that caused her to tremble. He said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me” (Luke 8:46).

“Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed” (Luke 8:47).

What caused the woman to fear? Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible  explains why the woman trembled.

“She came trembling; for fear of the anger and resentment of Christ, and lest the favour would be revoked, and the penalty of the law inflicted.

The word ‘law’ in that commentary’s explanation referred to the Levitical law of purification (Leviticus 15:25). A woman’s excessive bleeding was viewed as a deplorable condition. She was required to remain separated from her husband during her time of bleeding.

Christ’s Response to an Outcast:

So, did Christ react in anger? Here’s what He said to the woman who was courageous enough to touch His garment in public:

“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace (Luke 8:48)”


That woman knew the right thing to do with her private suffering. She went to Jesus. We’re not like those under the Levitical laws of purity who were banned from His presence. So, the right way to handle our isolation is to go to Jesus. No illness, not even MI, can separate us from His love. During our secret silence and sorrow, Christ sees our faith. He offers us the same peace He extended to the woman.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

To find more verses that will encourage your heart: click on ‘verses about peace’ (below).

verses about peace

Abundant

Life.Full

It’s funny when it happens to others. The sight of someone dropping a bag of groceries can be hilarious. The shopper picks up several items, only to drop them while chasing down a runaway orange.

“Oops! Get back here. Oops! …  #* &#%!@!”

We can relate to their misfortune. Who hasn’t tried juggling two bags? Or who hasn’t fallen victim to a self-destructing grocery bag?

But, it’s no joke when we find ourselves dealing with more than we can handle emotionally. That’s what happens when our child struggles with mental illness (MI). Somewhere in the midst of coping, we discover we’re juggling the details of life, while ministering to our child. Our minds are full of worries and work, cares and responsibilities. No wonder our heavy hearts break.

Our mind’s eye keeps checking the needle of our stress meter. We watch it edge closer to the danger zone: the limit to what we can handle. We dread reaching the point where we’ll run out of emotional fuel to keep going. Then what would happen? Who would collect our cares and carry the load?

God offers His abundance.

When stress is abundant, seek His abundant grace and peace.

“Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2).

When despair is abundant, seek His abundant 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).”

When sadness is abundant, seek His abundant joy (the fullness of His joy).

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).

When a sense of inadequacy is in abundance, seek His abundant indwelling power.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” [Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)].

When uncertainty is abundant, seek His generous wisdom.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

Many of our local food stores have hired helpers who offer assistance in the parking lot. When I exit the store, I can easily find them. They wear bright vests so a shopper in need could easily spot them. Often one of those teenage helpers, with bulging muscles, runs to my car and cheerfully asks, “Do you need any help?”

Usually I decline his offer. But, I’d be a fool to turn down God’s offer. He approaches me throughout my day and asks, “Do you need My help?”

Warrior

prayer.warrior

My dad is my hero because he is a great worrier.

A great worrier? Could it be that the youngster is impressed with his father’s ability to worry?

That sentence doesn’t make sense unless you’re a second grader. It should read, “My dad is my hero because he is a great warrior.” A young boy would certainly look up to a father who is in the military.

The spelling of a word can be easily corrected. But it would be vastly harder to transform a true worrier into a valiant warrior. What if the word ‘worrier’ wasn’t misspelled? Are some people great worriers?

Moms raising kids with mental illness (MI) know about worrying. We have reason to worry. Anxiety can flood our hearts with uneasiness. We fear our child will hurt himself. Or others. We’re afraid of what will happen next. Or in the future.

Our hearts are troubled. We battle anxious feelings. Is it possible to convey how we feel when parental concern turns into consuming worry? The Online Etymology Dictionary describes what it’s like. The origin of the word comes from Old English wyrgan which means “to strangle.” What a picture! Imagine worry as an enemy reaching around your throat, cutting off your ability to breathe. Visualize your hands wringing in helplessness as you succumb to the attack. Now picture your hands folded in prayer. ‘Feel’ the relief of God releasing you from the grip of worry. Take a deep breath of His peace.

Many of our children with MI have good days and bad days. On those bad days why do we succumb to worry? Feelings of inadequacy feed anxiety. The dung of doubt tends to fertilize fears. Weeds of worry choke our resolve and crowd out His peace.

I couldn’t prevent his condition, so I won’t be able to help him deal with it.

I’ve tried everything I know to help her. I’ve done everything her psychiatrist recommended. Nothing seems to work. I’m not equipped to deal with her MI.

I can’t face another day like this. I don’t think I can go on much more.

Our home—or heart—may feel like a battle zone at times. When we feel depleted, we’re tempted to wave the white flag. And give up. Those are the times to surrender our worries to God. Leaving them at His throne. We approach Him as a worrier and leave His presence as a prayer warrior.

Our prayers release the almighty power of our Father. He reminds us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).”

What does a modern-day prayer warrior look like? My mom is a great example. She prays unceasingly for her loved ones. Starting each day on her knees. Seeking God’s faithfulness, healing, and intervention throughout her day. Ending the day as she started: bowing before Him in prayer once again.

I’m grateful my mother has shown me how to pray faithfully for others. That’s what I love most about her. It’s been a comfort to pick up the phone during a crisis and ask her to pray. Knowing she will. My goal is to leave that same legacy of prayer to my children.

Heavenly Father,

Sometimes I feel limited in what I can to do help my son. Remind me that I can provide the very best: prayers offered to You on his behalf. I’m so grateful I have access to You. Knowing You love Chris more than I could ever love him. Knowing You have unlimited power to help and protect him. Knowing You’re with him wherever he goes. Help me become a greater prayer warrior.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.  

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7

Greater Rejoicing at Christmas BECAUSE of Suffering

manger.luke2.14

Little did we know back then that the Christmas story would hold the key to our son’s hope. When Chris was five years old he recited Luke 2:8-14 in church. Listen to his tiny voice declaring ‘peace to His people on earth.’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yoVGaIaE8k

In December 1996 on another Christmas, eleven years later, Chris unraveled. Psychosis clouded his thinking and ravaged his emotions. He needed peace. We all needed peace.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines peace as, “freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.”

Can there be peace in the context of mental illness (MI)? Can we hope for peace? Back in 1997 we experienced God’s peace in the midst of our sorrow.

Surely we have trouble. But we can rejoice: in Him we find peace.

John 16:33 reminds us that Christ’s birth brought peace. Jesus assured his followers, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Suffering has a way of illuminating joy. How is that possible? Think about it. Serious struggles in life clarify priorities. Small annoyances no longer bother us. Dark trials deepen our faith. Send us to our knees. That’s when we really experience God’s faithfulness, power, and love. The result: inner joy.

What are you hoping for this Christmas? That the calendar days will fly by and the holiday will pass quickly? That you’ll have an incident-free family celebration?

Maybe you’re yearning for the less-complicated life of the past—before MI struck your child.

Do you wonder how you can celebrate with a heavy heart? Are you afraid Christmas lights will mock your dark emotions?

Perhaps what we all need is peace. That’s precisely why we can embrace Christmas more than others who seemingly lead a carefree life. The message of the season is peace. But we know life is filled with stress and trouble. We can count on them: trials. Sooner or later we’ll find ourselves enduring a trial.

Paul accepted that fact and told the Thessalonians, “We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3).”

Where can we find hope knowing that we’re bound to experience trials? Raising a child with MI can test our faith. How can we hold onto our belief in a loving, living God?

When things got tough for Paul, the unshakable faith of others kept him strong.

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith (1 Thessalonians 3:7).”

We’re like Paul. We see others going through a similar trial raising a child with MI. Their enduring faith encourages us. With bolstered faith we say, “If they can keep the faith during their ordeal, so can I.” Their testimony renews our trust in God. With greater assurance we declare, “If they can keep their eyes fixed on Jesus, so can I.”

In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, he encouraged them with this reminder:

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).”

We all share in that ‘eternal encouragement.’ I don’t know about you, but I need endless encouragement. Reassurances from above that will settle my heart. And give me His peace.

The radio has already started playing Christmas songs. I love the familiar carols that remind me of His peace. Songs like these:

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

“Hark! the herald angels sing

‘Glory to the newborn King

Peace on earth and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled!’”

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

It Came Upon The Midnight Clear

“It came upon the midnight clear,

That glorious song of old,

From angels bending near the earth

With news of joy foretold,

“‘Peace on the earth, good will to men

From heaven’s all gracious King.’”

Give yourself permission to unwrap your Christmas present from God early. Open up Isaiah 9:6. You’ll find that blessed Gift, God’s Son, the Prince of Peace. Along with God’s Gift comes perfect peace. You’ll find the promise of that peace wrapped lovingly in Philippians 4:7.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

That’s one re-gifting we can all celebrate! It’s for everyone!!!

 

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!

Multiple Diagnoses

Psalm 23.2

“I can’t take it anymore.” What’s your ‘it?’ Mine was more bad news from a doctor. I didn’t think life could get more stressful. But I was wrong.

It had been hard enough for me to bear knowing the challenges Chris faced because of his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). And even more heart-wrenching watching mental illness (MI) ravage his life.

Life seemed to be back on track for Chris. God had helped us pass through turbulent waters and we were enjoying smooth sailing. Then multiple health scares plunged us back into troubled waters. Took us by surprise.

But who expects to have trials? Not me. I expected the opposite. We’d just endured trying times with MI. Somehow I thought God would space out our struggles. So we could catch our breath.

It didn’t seem possible for me to withstand the next storm. So I turned to the Bible for solace. God reminded me, “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it [1 Corinthians 10:13 (MSG)].”

He also assured me that He’s the Good Shepherd who, “makes me lie down in green pastures” and “leads me beside quiet waters (Psalm 23:2).” So I trusted Him to calm my fears.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

The first few weeks of college for Chris seemed to be running smoothly. He communicated with me daily. Sometimes by computer, but usually by phone. He needed to hear our voices. Calling frequently helped him through the adjustment to his first semester.

“How are things going, Chris?” I’d inquire.

“Pretty good,” he’d replied convincingly.

“How are your classes?” I asked during his first week away from home.

“I like them. But mostly I like my schedule. I can sleep until noon just about every day.”

I barraged him with typical questions. Covering all the necessary inquiries about his physical needs.

“What are you eating? How’s the food? Are you sleeping well? Do you have warm enough clothes?…”

He tolerated my motherly interrogation. So I ventured into more sensitive areas.

“Are you interacting with others, rather than isolating? Are you taking your medication? How are things going with your roommate?…”

“Yes, Mom. I’m taking my medication. My roommate is hardly ever in the room,” he replied.

That’s probably less stressful for Chris. Kind of like having a room to himself. Thank You, Father, that Chris is willing to answer my questions and that he’s taking his medication. Thank You for calming my fears.

As planned, I drove to his campus Friday afternoons so Chris could spend the weekends at home. Like any mom, I needed to see Chris face-to-face. It helped to look into his eyes and know he’s okay. He really did seem happy. Until one weekend.

Like most Fridays, I had arrived at Chris’s campus early. I never wanted to make him wait. Chris approached my car walking stiff-legged. It was so pronounced that it looked like he was walking like a robot.

That’s odd. Is he hurt? He didn’t say anything on the phone.

“What’s wrong, Chris? Why are you walking that way,” I asked as soon as Chris opened the car door.

“My heels hurt,” he explained.

“Maybe it’s from all that marching you did in high school. I’ll get you some orthotics for your shoes while you’re home. They should provide added support and comfort.”

Problem solved. Or so I thought. Each week Chris seemed worse, not better. After about two months Chris began to complain of new soreness.

“My back and shoulders hurt.”

“Do you think it’s because of all the books you’re carrying across campus?” I asked, hoping that was the cause. Fearing it wasn’t as simple as that.

When the pain and stiffness spread to more parts of his body I realized Chris needed to see his doctor. When Dr. Kent saw Chris, he was shocked at the severity of Chris’s condition. Chris couldn’t turn his head, rotate his arm, or bend over to put on his shoes.

“It appears you have Rheumatoid Arthritis, Chris,” he predicted. “I’m going to prescribe some blood tests. The results may confirm my suspicions. It will take several weeks for us to get the results. In the meantime, I’ll also prescribe some anti-inflammatory meds to ease your discomfort.”

Several days before Christmas Chris came home for the semester break. We got a call from Dr. Kent. The results of Chris’s blood tests had come in.

“It looks like…The results seem to indicate…It’s possible Chris has systemic lupus.” I didn’t know anything about the disease. But the doctor’s stammering and halting words concerned me.

Dr. Kent paused for my response. Fear gripped me. I couldn’t process the information. Dr. Kent explained the next step.

“No one wants to hear they have lupus. We’ll need to have Chris seen by a specialist to confirm the diagnosis. A rheumatologist will know if that’s the cause of Chris’s pain and stiffness.”

I hung up the phone and found Howie.

“That was Dr. Kent. He said Chris’s blood tests indicate he has lupus.”

“What’s lupus?” Howie asked.

“I have no idea. I’m going to check it out on the computer.”

A quick google search led me to the National Lupus Foundation and other sites. Someone recommended the book The Lupus Book; A guide for Patients and Their Families by Daniel J. Wallace, J. D. So I ordered the book. Big mistake.

Wallace’s book arrived Christmas Eve. I had been busy making our holiday meal so I only had time to glance at the inside cover. I learned the hard way that it’s not a good idea to investigate lupus on my own. The information I read terrified me.

“Lupus, a disease of the immune system, can be quite deadly, claiming the lives of thousands of patients yearly.” Chris’s previous bout with psychosis prior to his stiffness seemed consistent with systemic lupus.

Does this mean Chris will die young? Had he overcome MI only to be struck with this deadly disease? Father, this can’t be. Oh, please, dear God, don’t let this happen!

I began to sob. I became filled with sorrow and fear.

Please, Father, calm my fears.

The well-respected rheumatologist had a long waiting list. We scheduled an appointment for a weekday so Chris could be seen as soon as possible. We’d have to wait two months before getting a final diagnosis. That seemed like an eternity.

The day came for the appointment. Howie drove Chris to the doctor’s office located in the city. I had to meet them there since it was difficult for me to take off from work. As I drove toward the city I realized that in a short time I’d find out Chris’s fate. I tried to ignore my fears. But it got harder as I got closer to my destination. I felt as though I was about to hear a sentence from a judge: life or death for Chris.

When I reached the city I drove through stop-and-go traffic. I noticed the narrow city streets were filled with teenagers and young adults. None were dressed in business attire. The streets seemed to be speckled with police officers.

Something’s going down.

Suddenly I heard what sounded like rapid-fire gun shots.

Lord, help me arrive at the office safely. And find a safe place to park.

In the doctor’s office I overheard someone talking about the firecrackers going off to celebrate the Chinese New Year. There had been no danger. I had feared the worst before knowing the facts. That’s precisely what I’d done with Chris’s diagnosis also. The specialist informed us Chris did not have lupus. He had psoriatic arthritis. A condition treatable by medication. Never deadly.

Months later, at a follow-up visit with his primary physician Chris needed more blood work done. The results of those tests revealed that Chris had developed a thyroid problem. He’d have to take medication to treat that condition. The total amount of pills climbed to fourteen a day. He hadn’t gotten an early-death prognosis. But I worried about his future. How would he manage college? Would he face more pain? More suffering?

Another illness for him? I can’t stand watching Chris go through any more pain. Please calm my fears and remove all my anxieties.

 

Musical Strain

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It’s powerful. It can make people move, smile, sleep, or cry. And can change the mood of a crowd.  Music has power to influence emotions. David played his harp and freed Saul from a distressing spirit (1 Samuel 16:23).

According to Wikipedia, a musical strain is “a series of musical phrases that create a distinct melody of a piece.” Musical strain, in Chris’s case, represented stress that threatened his peace. Music contributed to his breakdown.

Being in several competitive bands is demanding. It requires endless practicing. It proved to be too much for Chris. But once he recovered from his psychotic episode, Chris wanted to return to his old routine. That included music competitions.

Chris had been released from the hospital and had finished his junior year. Thanks to gifted homeschool teachers, Chris completed his work on time and received good grades. Summer vacations to Colorado and leadership camp proved Chris was well on his way toward full recovery. But I still worried.

Chris has accomplished a lot since his breakdown. But he might still be emotionally fragile. I don’t think he’d be able to handle the stress of those music competitions. How can I allow him to subject himself to such pressure? How can I tell him not to audition?

God reminded me His power is greater than any musical composition. His perfect peace can block out the most disturbing music. Here’s how it happened:

♦♦♦♦♦♦

November was the month auditions were held for County Band (the best musicians in the county) and District Band (the best musicians in the area—several counties). That time of the month brought painful memories.

Just last year Chris auditioned for County Band and District Band. The day after his District Band try outs, he suffered his breakdown. Howie says we should let Chris enter the competition. I’ll ask everyone for prayer.

“Is it wise to let Chris do to the auditions?” many of my close friends would ask.

“If we don’t let him try out, he’ll feel more like a failure than if he auditioned and didn’t make it. He’d resent his mother controlling his life. I can’t refuse him the opportunity to demonstrate his incredible musical abilities. I don’t want to stand by and watch the added stress harm him again. That’s why I’m asking for prayer.”

We came up with a plan to support Chris as much as possible during the auditions. I made arrangements for Chris to see his psychologist immediately after the County Band auditions. Chris traveled to the auditions with his music director, Robert, and other students. I met him there and found the hosting school staff.

“My son, Chris, has a doctor’s appointment today. I’ll need to take him immediately after his audition,” I informed them.

Robert had to deal with his mother showing up at the auditions. Chris didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he welcomed my support. A reaction that both pleased me and concerned me.

District Band tryouts came next. Plans were put in place once again. I’d meet Chris at the school and take him to his appointment with the psychologist. I arrived at the school when all the students were warming up their instruments. The auditorium was filled with blaring, distorted sounds. The unrelated notes eerily resembled the “music” of a shattered mind.

What must this sound like to Chris? It can only amplify his apprehension and any distorted thought. I’ve got to get him out of this room!

I frantically searched for Chris. With a sense of urgency to free him of the noise. Usually it was easy to spot Chris because the slide of his trombone is easy to locate. Not this time. The longer it took for me to find him, the more I began to panic.

Where can he be? What’s happened to him? Was this a big mistake?

Finally I noticed him sitting on the edge of the stage. His head hung down and his shoulders were bent over. He was the only student not warming up. His pathetic appearance filled me with mixed emotions. Sorrow made my stomach feel like I’d just headed downward in a rollercoaster. But gratitude filled my heart.

I waded through the sea of instruments and musicians. When I reached him I asked, “Are you allowed to walk around?”

“Yeah. We can leave the auditorium.”

What a relief to reach the quiet, peaceful hallway. The Lord even helped me get permission for Chris to be tested earlier than scheduled.

While Chris was in a room being tested, two students walked by. They were saying unkind things about a fellow musician they’d seen last year.

“Do you remember that weird kid who acted so strange last year?” one asked.

“Yeah. He played the trombone. He was odd.”

They’re talking about Chris! I didn’t know he acted strangely last year. Not enough for others to notice. Father, why did I have to hear those unkind comments?

Thankfully, that audition ended without incident.

Soon after, we got the results. Robert and Chris made County Band. Chris also made District Band. Any musician would rejoice in such an accomplishment. In Chris’s case this represented a tremendous testimony of God’s provision. It was also proof of Chris’s determination, courage, and talent.

Dear Father,

Thank You for showing Chris that life can go on. I praise You that Your power is greater than anything. Dissonant music filled the room. But Your perfect peace inhabited Chris’s mind. You silence the discord in our hearts and our lives.

 

 

Unprepared & Sad but Unflinching

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Fans don’t flinch when a soaring hockey puck rockets towards them. Why? Because of the protective glass separating them from harm.

That gives us a picture of God’s protection. When mental illness (MI) takes aim at our lives, we can envision the invisible hand of God enfolding our family members … our hearts … our minds.

How can we face our worst fears? By trusting in the One who can protect and provide. That’s the key to inner peace when an incoming strike from MI looms on the horizon.

MI can discombobulate our life and throw us off-balance. Leave us feeling torn apart and sad. Worn out and worried.

Torment doesn’t have to saturate our soul in the midst of tremendous sorrow. Peace will replace anxiety as we trust Him more. We hold onto the promise that, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Last week I shared the first part of our story [‘When Mental Illness (MI) Hit Home’]. In 1996 Chris had begun to unravel. His reality had given way to unstable thoughts and fractured emotions. My heavenly Father provided guidance and started helping me through my grieving.

This second part of that journey demonstrates my need for God’s peace and protection. Chris needed medical care. God faithfully provided.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

“Howie, Chris is having a breakdown. He needs help. I can take him to school tomorrow. The school psychologist, Jack, will know what to do.”

During the night, I didn’t sleep well. I heard Chris go in the bathroom a lot. He turned on the shower about five times. When everything became quiet, I got up to check on him. The bathroom door was closed. I assumed Chris fell asleep in the bathroom.

The next morning, somehow I got Chris dressed and in the car. As I drove, I explained what was happening. Even though he seemed incoherent, I felt the need to prepare him. Maybe it was my way of pretending the whole thing was normal.

“Chris, you’re probably mentally ill. You need some medicine to feel better. You’re going to talk to someone who is trained to help.”

Memories of my own childhood flashed in my mind. My father experienced a breakdown. He took medicine for depression and led a successful and happy life. That provided some comfort.

At school, I explained my situation to the headmaster.

“Chris’s mind has snapped. He’s lost it. I brought him to see our school psychologist,” I bluntly reported.

“Take Chris home. I’ll call when Jack arrives,” Bill replied.

I returned home with Chris. When we walked into our home, I noticed something alarming. Our dog’s eyes looked totally bloodshot, swollen, and almost bleeding. My mouth dropped open when I noticed her wet fur. Frozen in my tracks, I stood staring at her in disbelief. As if Chris read my mind, he explained what happened.

“I put her in the shower to get the blood off. I slapped her. She wouldn’t sit when I asked her to. She kept going for the dog treats.”

I realized Chris kept Zelda in the bathroom with him during the night. He harmed the dog he loved. The dog that comforted him many days after school. I gently stroked Zelda while waiting for Jack to call. Tears streamed down my face. Chris continued pacing. Mumbling to himself.

Soon after, the psychologist called. I explained the situation.

“Bring Chris to school. I’ll talk with him and find out what’s going on,” Jack instructed.

After a short visit with him, the psychologist concluded Chris was having a psychotic episode (commonly referred to as a nervous breakdown).

“I know a good physician who can evaluate Chris.”

We drove to Dr. Kent’s office. Once we arrived, the nurse ushered Chris and me to a treatment room. Jack briefed Dr. Kent in another room.

The nurse asked the routine question, “So, why are we here today?”

“Because I’m mentally ill.”

Chris’s answer shocked both of us.

“Is that right?” she asked me.

I nodded yes.

She took Chris’s blood pressure (which was soaring) and rushed out of the room.

Dr. Kent and Jack came into the room. Each of them locked onto my eyes with their stares. Dr. Kent pressed his lips tightly together. As if trying to keep the bad news from escaping his mouth. Jack shifted his gaze to the floor. As if searching for some other way to deliver the message. Their silence spoke volumes. I knew Dr. Kent agreed with Jack’s initial diagnosis.

After a brief observation, Dr. Kent explained the plan.

“First, we need to stabilize Chris. Bring him back to reality. After that, we can deal with what caused the episode.”

His soft, quiet word conveyed compassion. As he spoke, I could tell by his expression this was serious. Although I understood his words, it all seemed surreal.

Dr. Kent continued. “Chris should be hospitalized. But, we’d like to avoid that if at all possible. Would you be willing to try to stabilize him at home, Mrs. Chandler?”

“Yes.”

I knew it would be risky to have Chris around people—even his own family. But during the day, Howie would be in work and Rob would be in school. I’d do anything to keep Chris from being hospitalized.

The assurance of God’s presence always comforted me. So I gave myself a pep talk.

Shift your gaze, Vicki. Trust Him. God’s promised His protection and guidance. He’ll be with you. He’ll show you what needs to be done.

It would be important to create a safe environment. Deep down inside, I knew I couldn’t protect myself from a young man who was bigger, stronger, and smarter than me. Chis had a black belt in karate. I hid all our knives and scissors. The rest would be up to God.

Oh Father, keep us safe. Protect me during the day. My mind is tempted to panic. My heart is aching to scream out. I’m struggling to keep my composure. Chris needs me to remain calm. Fill me with Your perfect peace. Help him sense Your peace.

I had no idea what would happen each day. No idea how bad things would get.

In the most trying times, many of us tend to fear the worst. “How will I ever get through this?” we worry. “This situation seems so horrible—so impossible to solve … I don’t want to think about what will happen next.”

In the midst of uncertainty, we can be sure of God’s care. When MI hits, God provides people who can help. Our loving Father can help us remain calm in the midst of the crisis.

We may not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future. The song ‘He Already Sees’ by The Collingsworth Family has such an assuring message, with encouraging words: “He sees the rainbow when we see only clouds.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25ryU9Jbt0Q