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New School Year: SUPPLY Needed

New.school.yr.SUPPLY.nded

The approaching new school year means…excitement or apprehension, depending on your circumstances.

Students entering school for the first time eagerly anticipate going to school “like the big kids.”

Students returning to school with mental illness (MI) may worry about “the big kids” who bully.

School pressures can cause concern to any student. But for someone with MI, it can easily increase anxiety. And threaten mental stability.

That’s why moms raising kids with MI can also experience increased anxiety late in August. As the start of school creeps closer, her thoughts might become more consumed with her child’s stability.

I remember when Chris was heading back to school the year after he experienced a psychotic episode. Fears swarmed in my head about what might happen.

Will Chris remember to take his medication? Will his medication need to be adjusted? Will other students ask him intrusive questions? Will he be able to handle the pressures of homework? Will he be able to concentrate and think clearly? What will happen when he has to face his first test?

 We needed to get Chris’s supplies in order. But I needed to BE supplied—by God. I needed His provision, peace, presence, and power. God proved to be more than sufficient. He faithfully provided all Chris needed. And calmed my fears.

Moms raising children with MI need help. Back-to-school TV commercials fill us with a sense of urgency to seek God’s help.  Here’s a suggested prayer from one mom to another:

Heavenly Father,

Please help my child find a loyal friend. Place a caring teacher in his path this year. Lead us to a skilled therapist that will connect with my child, and who will teach him effective coping strategies. Guide me to a compassionate school administrator or staff member, who will be a proactive advocate for my child. Provide sufficient finances to pay for expenses that insurance won’t cover. As life gets more complicated, give me wisdom to know how to manage all the details of life. Show me ways I can support my other children, while ministering to my most vulnerable one. And please give me strength to endure. Protect my marriage in the midst of this trial. Finally, I ask that you help me keep my focus on You, rather than on the challenges that may come. Remind me that You’re still on the throne and in control.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

 Our heavenly Father is able to supply all that and more. He promises to reveal His peace, presence, and power.

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;

he delivers them from all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17).

This song will help you face each day. The lyrics will remind you that He’ll carry you and your loved ones through. Let King & Country’s song “Shoulders” minister to you:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40wYfjv6yt8&feature=youtu.be

Faith-stretching

faith.stretching

Silly Putty Stretched Faith

How strong is your amusement-park faith? Mine ended at the mammoth roller coaster. I’d go on any ride except that one. Until our friend, Ed increased my faith in that ride.

“I’m heading to the roller coaster,” he announced.

“Not me. I won’t go on that ride,” I balked. “That’s where I draw the line. I’m too afraid that the car I’m in will be hurled off the tracks. And catapult me into the air.”

“That’s the safest ride in the park,” Ed declared.

His assessment gave me the confidence I needed to join him. Not because of the way he stated the fact. But because of his credentials. For decades Ed had worked for a large city as their inspector of bridges and other structures.

At the end of my first ride, my fingers had to be pried off the lap bar. By my fifth ride I’d gone from terrified to thrilled. My faith in the ride increased, helping me to relax and enjoy the ride. I even joined the ranks of the brave hand-raisers. My arms waved in the air as the car whipped me up, down, and around the tracks.

Life can feel like a roller coaster. Especially when raising a child with mental illness (MI). Our journey surely wouldn’t be included on the list of fun rides at a theme park. Yes, God fills our lives with blessings. But there’s no amusement in the MI trip. Faith is necessary. Our trial makes it painfully obvious that trusting God is a daily process. That’s how we survive.

We put our trust in the Designer of the track we’re on. That step in faith enables us to relax in His care. Our eyes are opened to see His faithfulness. Then we’re able to fling our hands in the air as we praise Him for His power and love.

The thing about faith is that it comes in all amounts. Some days we might have strong and abundant faith in God. Other days it may be harder to relax in His care. Pressures grow. Stress increases. Faith weakens. How do we handle those faith-stretching times in our lives?

Early on in my journey with our son’s MI, it was as if I’d been trust onto the ride of terror. There were unexpected dips and turns. Chris had a break from reality and had to be hospitalized. Thankfully, he quickly became stabilized. Homeschool was needed. Thankfully, God provided instructors who could teach Chris’s college-level AP courses. Chris’s body chemistry changed, triggering another psychotic episode. Thankfully, there were other medications available which successfully treated him.

The more I rode the MI rollercoaster, the more my confidence grew. With each crisis came God’s provision.

There have been periods when I’ve had breaks from the MI rollercoaster. Then, suddenly, I’d realize I had been placed back on the ride. I’d sense the subtle clues. Chris’s behavior would change slightly. The sparkle in his eyes would fade. Tell-tale puffiness around his eyes would reveal secret torment. His conversations would be reduced to grunts.

Those were times which tested my faith. Times when I echoed the apostles’ request to, “Lord, Increase my (our) faith”! (Luke 17:5).

The book of Hebrews became my go-to place to shop for greater faith. It reminded me that I’m, “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1).”  I’d picture giants of faith mentioned in Hebrews eleven cheering me on. I’d hear Noah, Jacob, Abraham, and Moses yelling, “Hang in there, Vicki. God is with you. He’s still in control.”

Those men of great faith were human, like me. How did they keep the faith and even abound in faith? What was their secret? I think it’s found in Hebrews 12:1-3

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

That passage in Hebrews begins with the challenge to throw off what hinders and entangles us. We’re burdened by our own thoughts and emotions. Worry and fear can weigh us down. Making it difficult to continue running our race. Our nurturing thoughts drive us to solve every problem. Some situations regarding our child’s MI can only be handled by treatment or therapists. And some need God’s intervention alone. In those cases our need to control the situation can block our path to complete trust in God. So we wonder if God’s still in control.

Verse one assures us that God is still in control of our lives. This race we run has been ‘marked out for us.’ It is a God-appointed path.

So how do we run? Our Trainer has provided instructions in verses one through three. We’re to run with perseverance having our eyes fixed on Jesus, while considering Him. As we reflect on all that He is and all that He’s done, our faith increases. The One who conquered death is on the throne. He’s alive and able! He’s the Source of all the inner strength we need.

We can be confident that we’ll be counted among those heroes of faith, “… whose weakness was turned to strength (Hebrews 11:34).”

We need not quiver in fear like Christ’s disciples who cried, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown! (Matthew 8:25).” Jesus will calm the storms in our lives.

We can be like the centurion who told Jesus, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed (Matthew 8:8)”. We can have that same faith because we trust in the same God.

Clearly life is not a roller coaster. We don’t need to simply brace ourselves or buckle up. Our preparation involves wearing godly accessories. No outfit is complete without God’s shield a faith protecting our heart.

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16).”

Shields up!

Listen to Steve Green’s song: “Find Us Faithful” and imagine that great cloud of witnesses cheering you on.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi-Mn5tRHvM

 

 

Unbreakable

Humpty.best

 

Have you entered Humpty Dumpty’s world? Do you feel like you’re teetering on the brink of destruction? About to fall apart?

Mom’s raising kids with mental illness (MI) didn’t choose the wall we’re ‘sitting’ on. Our emotions are as fragile as our children’s at times. We wonder who will put us together again if we splinter. Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on all the king’s horsemen and all the king’s men who couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again. Our heavenly Father is the King who holds us together again. And again.

When our child has a great fall, God holds us together. His loving arms are there to catch us. And soften the blow.

Our Creator was, “before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17).”

In Him all things hold together. Creation. Our lives. Our child. And us.

The Bible assures us that we will not shatter in the face of our trial. God’s power in us is unbreakable.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:7-9).”

We have evidence of His power all around.

As long as chairs don’t disintegrate when we sit on them, we know that God holds the molecules together. As long as we can enjoy beautiful waterfall, we know God’s invisible gravity is still working.

Each season reminds us God is still revolving the earth around the sun. Each sunrise assures us God is still spinning the earth on its axis.

Life seems chaotic at times. But we can trust in His invisible order.

A magnet holds photos on our refrig. Representing God’s control of unseen forces. Birds migrate to just the right place. Showing us God is in control of guiding His creations. Water evaporates and later falls again as rain. Proving God is in control of cycles in life. Our bodies heal from colds and cuts. Demonstrating God is in control of the healing power He created in all of us.

He’s also given us visible examples of His masterful designs. Each person’s DNA proves there is order in His creations. We have visible displays of His order in each unique thumb print or snowflake. We find it in the colorful patterns on each butterfly or on Macaw birds. Exquisite symbols which tell us, “God can restore order in your life.”

We spot His power in creation. We detect it in forces like gravity. And we can sense His power working inside of us. Keeping us from breaking.

Listen to ‘Because He Lives’ and picture God holding you while He holds the future in His hands.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4M-zwE33zHA

 

Support

Support.W.verse

I’m used to swallowing corn, not vice versa. That’s what it felt like when my feet got sucked into the corn box. We were visiting Port Farms in Waterford, PA with our granddaughter. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to frolic in the corn box with her. The sea of kernels felt like quick sand. As I struggled to stand up, I got pulled deeper into the corn. My eighty-seven year old mother leaned over the rail and helped me stand.

Corn box at Port Farms in Waterford, PA http://www.portfarms.com/

Corn box at Port Farms in Waterford, PA
http://www.portfarms.com/

We all need support from time to time. Moms raising children with mental illness (MI) could use support. But the stigma prevents us from seeking assistance. We’re hesitant to reach out because we fear someone wouldn’t understand. Or worse, we worry we’ll be judged. And then be given unsolicited advice.

Yet, we certainly could use support. Logistically, financial, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Help tending to chores would be appreciated. Advice from someone who truly understands could be useful in making decisions (regarding treatment or mental health care providers). Assistance navigating health benefits would be a relief. Certainly a sympathetic shoulder to cry on would comfort our broken heart.

In thinking about the word ‘support’ I considered Moses. He faced a daunting task leading more than 600,000 people to the Promised Land (Numbers 11:21). He endured years of struggles because his journey continued for decades.  He learned that marathon misery can only be transformed to victory with God’s intervention. Moses witnessed God’s power, longsuffering, and faithfulness.

We can relate to a trial that seems to continue forever. We can identify with Moses’ role in managing everything. Moses was so busy tending to everyone’s needs that he didn’t realize it would lead to burn out. His father-in-law had to point out the obvious. Jethro asked Moses, “‘What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?’

“Moses answered him, ‘Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.’

“Moses’ father-in-law replied, ‘What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone (Exodus 18:14-18).’”

Sound familiar? Your family members come to you with a need and you fill it. “The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone”: did those words hit you like a sledge hammer?

Me? Not able to handle everything alone?

Jethro offered advice. He instructed Moses to, “Select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you (Exodus 18:21-22).”

That wasn’t the only time Moses needed support. When Moses faced the Amelekites, things didn’t go as planned.

Initially, all seemed to go well. Moses disclosed his plan, ordering Joshua to, “‘Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.’

“So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill (Exodus 17:9-10).”

Moses lifted God’s staff for his army to see. But, like many of us, Moses got weary. His arm dropped. That presented a HUGE problem.

“As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning (Exodus 17:11).”

Are you tempted to wonder what would happen if you dropped your heavy load? There’s no shame in needing support.

Moses received support from friends.

“When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword (Exodus 17:12-13).”

Sometimes God uses reliable friends to help us overcome our challenges.

Did you ever notice that you can manage everything until someone complains? That’s the last straw. It was for Moses.

Imagine Moses leading a multitude of people in the wilderness. Think of the logistics. Now picture tons of people lined up at Moses’ tent weeping and complaining. Hear them saying, “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna (Numbers 11:5-6)!”

That was their version of what we hear from our kids: “We never have any food in the fridge!”

So Moses complained to God asking, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin (Numbers 11:11-15).”

Moses was at his wit’s end. He saw no way out and didn’t want to witness his own ruin. The Lord knew Moses needed others to share his burden. So He instructed Moses to, “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone (Numbers 11:16-17).”

Ask God to ease your burden and provide support. What is it you need from Him?

 

 

Assurances from a prisoner: God is in control

Pastor Saeed Abedini, Naghmeh and Family

Pastor Saeed Abedini, Naghmeh and Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calgon take me away, PLEASE!

0bymall9cropped

How can water help when you’re drowning? Would staring at it help? How ‘bout tossing a coin into it, with a wish all your troubles would vanish?

Maybe you could hold it all together if your sole responsibility was to parent a child with mental illness (MI). But MI doesn’t come in a vacuum. For me it comes with being a wife, mother to my son and his wife, grandmother to their two daughters, patient of multiple sclerosis…

Perhaps water could help. A marine biologist believes water has stress-reduction qualities. I read about it in Washington Post’s article By Eric Niiler “‘Blue Mind’ explores the calming effect that water has on people.”  The title grabbed my attention.

The article, posted on Jul 28, 2014, had huge implications for people living with MI. Marine biologist, Wallace J. Nichols wrote a book entitled Blue Mind to share his research findings. He found evidence of the healing power of water.

In a telephone interview with The Post Nichols was asked, “What is ‘the blue mind?’”

He replied, “It refers to a mildly meditative, relaxed state that we find ourselves in when we are in, on or under water. It’s something I’ve been experiencing and observing my whole life.”

So the solution to our troubles lies in immersing ourselves in water. For how long? Could we go on a scuba diving excursion and return home to a normal life? I doubt it.

I do believe the key lies in water, however. Passages which involve water offer much hope. In Mark 4:38, for example, we read about how Christ, “rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

It’s easy to give into feelings of abandonment. We’re tempted to cry, “God, where are You?” It helps to know Christ’s disciples looked at the turmoil surrounding their sinking boat and assumed He didn’t care. They dared ask Him, “‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown (Mark 4:37)?’”

Christ didn’t rebuke the disciples. He rebuked the wind. Because of His love for the disciples. He wants us also to bring our cares to His throne of grace.

We can pray to the One who calmed the wind and waves:

Dear Jesus,

I don’t know why my child has MI. But I believe You care about my child, my family, and me. I praise You for Your power over all things. In the midst of this tumultuous time, calm my fears. Restore peace in my child and household. In Your precious name I pray, Amen.

That prayer could be whispered in complete confidence that Christ hears and answers. Or it could be spoken with uncertainty.

Did He hear that? Was He listening? Will He answer? It’s possible. Maybe. I hope so. What if He doesn’t?…

Rough waters give us a picture of doubt. James 1:6-8 describes the prayer of one with shaky faith.

“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do (James 1:6-8).”

When Chris was a toddler, he’d ask me for his lunch. I’m pretty sure he didn’t follow up his request with these thoughts:

I wonder if my Mom will feed me today. Did she hear me ask for my lunch? Should I ask again? Did I remember to say ‘please’? She fed me yesterday, but maybe she’s too busy today.

A young child can be certain of his earthly mother’s love and care. Jesus used our imperfect love to help us understand God’s abiding care.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him (Matthew 7:9-11)!”

His point: we can ask with certainty that God hears and answers.

It’s nice to have data from a marine biologist to validate what we know: water is relaxing. It’s also refreshing. But the living water Christ spoke about in John offers much more than quenching a thirsty mouth. Jesus promises that, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them (John 7:38).”

Several commentaries help us understand the richness of that promise.

Benson’s Commentary explains that whoever believes in Jesus, “shall not only be refreshed and comforted himself, but shall be instrumental in refreshing and comforting others.”

God’s comfort can flow through us to our hurting and vulnerable child with MI.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary provides this insight: “The comfort flows plentifully and constantly as a river; strong as a stream to bear down the opposition of doubts and fears. There is a fullness in Christ, of grace for grace. The Spirit dwelling and working in believers, is as a fountain of living, running water, out of which plentiful streams flow, cooling and cleansing as water.”

God’s comfort is limitless. No matter how often we seek His comfort, we can be sure it will never end.

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers describes the indwelling power. “There is in him a power of life which, when quickened by faith, flows forth as a river.”

We have unlimited comfort and grace flowing through us. Now THAT’S refreshing.

So I don’t cry, “Calgon take me away!” Instead I cry, “Christ, flow through me today!.”

School Pressures

wisdom

What’s worse: the terrible twos or the temperamental teens? Many parents would contend that it’s tougher to raise teenagers. That stage of development can leave a parent wondering what happened to their peaceful home. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, parents of teens can feel like the tornado of life has whacked them on the head. Leaving them muttering, “There’s no place like our old home.”  Homework and hormones and cars, oh my…Homework and hormones and cars, oh my. Yikes!

Raising a teen with mental illness (MI) can be even more challenging. How does one interpret a grunt? Is it the normal teen code for yes? Or is it the sound of an emotionally turbulent teen expressing garbled depression?

MI complicates everything in the life of a teen. How does one counsel a troubled child about peer pressure issues? When should the teen be allowed to drive?

In this part of our story, life seemed to be getting back to normal. The new medication had stabilized Chris. I was grateful Chris didn’t have to endure another psychotic episode. Though relieved, I still felt ill-equipped to discern how Chris was thinking or feeling. The Lord provided wisdom along the way.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

During Easter vacation Chris seemed happy and relaxed. He was more talkative, much like the old Chris.

“My stress level is only a two,” Chris informed me without prompting. On a scale of 1-10, ten was the most stressed. So a two indicated a normal level of stress. Good news.

Rob and Chris rehearsed a skit to show the family on Easter. They memorized the “Who’s On First?” skit by Abbott and Costello. I loved hearing them so happy and carefree. Their play practice assured me Chris’s new medication was working.

All too soon Easter vacation ended. The night before we all had to return to school I became concerned. Chris was wandering around the house aimlessly. I was trying to get myself back into the swing of things. I focused on my regular school night routine: get lunch money, check dinner plans, review my school schedule…

I went into the dining room to get lunch money for the boys. Chris followed me.

“Here’s your lunch money Chris,” I said and quickly turned to move on.

In the kitchen I checked the upcoming menu I’d planned.

Hum. Beef stroganoff. I’ll need to put the meat in the crock pot in the morning.

I moved the beef cubes from the freezer and placed them in the refrigerator to defrost. I spun around to grab the noodles and seasoning from the cabinet. And knocked into Chris. He had followed me from the dining room.

“Excuse me, Chris.”

I scurried to the living room to check my date planner.

What’s on my schedule for tomorrow morning?

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Chris sitting near me. He had followed me from the kitchen.

“Chris, are you bored or are you nervous about getting back to school tomorrow?” I snapped.

Chris glared at me and walked away.

Perfect! I’ve just added to his stress and made it difficult for him to talk to me. I know I should have been more compassionate. But I’m so busy. Father, help me know if Chris is feeling stressed.

Surprisingly, Chris returned.

“I’m having a difficult time just thinking about going back to school,” he reported.

“Let’s watch a movie to keep our minds off it,” I suggested.  “You might even be able to fall asleep watching the movie.”

“Sounds good,” Chris agreed. “Could I sleep in your bedroom?”

“Sure Chris,” I replied.

His question concerned me. Certainly Howie and I would have no objection to him sleeping on our floor. We were happy to do anything to help him relax. But his question made me wonder.

Why does he want to sleep in our room? Is this an indication that he’s feeling stressed? I can’t keep imagining his MI is getting worse. But what if he is becoming emotionally fragile? Dear Father, please give me wisdom to know what to say. Help me know if he’s in trouble.

Chris asked to sleep in our bedroom for three consecutive nights. He also asked me to call his psychiatrist.

“Mom, can you call Dr. Newman? Find out if I can take a tiny bit of my new medication at school when I’m feeling extra stress. Like I did with my old medication.”

It didn’t surprise me Chris was feeling more stress. The Spring Arts Festival was fast approaching. There would be many rehearsals. Chris’s schedule would become busier. Pressure would build.

College added to that pressure. Many high school seniors become apprehensive about going away to college. Chris was no different. But he had made a wise choice to minimize his adjustment to college living. He had selected a small college fairly close to home. The small campus would be conducive to finding rooms and offices easily. The close proximity to our house gave Chris the option to go home on the weekends. That would alleviate any anxiety.

In the spring we visited the college Chris would attend. We planned to travel to the college on a day other than orientation. That way, Howie and I could support Chris privately. We visited the nurse to share helpful and confidential information. After that Chris led the way as we went to the bookstore. He selected his textbooks. Then we headed to the Student Affairs office to inquire about Christian organizations on campus. Getting involved with fellow Christians would provide support for Chris.

Chris walked through campus with a spring in his step, his head held high, and a smile on his face. It was reassuring to see him so happy and confident. Chris was looking forward to living in a dorm. He embraced the challenge of living on his own. He had always been a risk taker. And always super focused on achieving his goals.

Around that time Chris joined the church’s bowling team.

“What can bowling teach us about life?” Chris asked. He had a way of asking philosophic questions. And expected a profound or theological answer. As usual, he asked the question while I was involved in some mundane activity. I was unprepared to ponder a spiritual response.

Oh Father, give me the words to answer Chris. Help me respond with an answer that will help satisfy Chris.

“Paul tells us in the Bible that we should be like athletes and keep our eye on the goal. In life we should always have goals. But we need to keep our focus on the smaller steps that lead to accomplishing the larger goals.”

Chris smiled and nodded in acknowledgment. My answer satisfied him.

Thank You, Lord, for giving me an analogy he can relate to bowling. Whenever Chris uses the marks on the bowling alley to aim, help him remember the message You gave me for him. Fill Chris with the assurance that life won’t seem so overwhelming if he takes it one step at a time. 

In May Chris could see the finish line. Final exams came before graduation. Chris excelled in math. English was harder. Especially since he was taking an Advance Placement English course (a college-level course). The remainder of his grade would be comprised of the last marking period and two exams (the midterm and the final exam). If he failed the last marking period and either of the major exams, it was possible for him to fail English for the year.

“My English teacher assigned a project that will be counted as a final exam,” Chris shared.

As the days clicked down, I prodded Chris with casual reminders to do the project. In spite of my reminders, Chris waited to the last minute to work on the project. The night before it was due, he came to me asking for help.

I reviewed the assignment. Students were to demonstrate what they had learned about English literature for their four textbooks—their four HUGE textbooks.

“Chris, summarize what you’ve learned.”

He couldn’t tell me anything!

Dear Father, calm my anger. I can’t believe Chris waited ‘till now to ask for help. I want to yell at him. Rebuke him for procrastinating. But I know that could push him over the edge. I need Your wisdom. I have no clue where to begin. Help me to know how to guide Chris.

God gave me the idea to use the contents of each book to formulate questions. Those prompts helped him remember what he had learned. Amazingly Chris received a ‘B’ for that project. To God be the glory!

There were only a few days left of school. I could tell Chris was cherishing every day he had with us. Soon he’d be going abroad. Four days after graduation he would leave to go to Germany. He would spend a month with a family as part of an exchange program. Then he’d be home for only several weeks during the summer before leaving for college. We would all need to trust God even more.