Archives

Rain to Wash Away Confusion

seasons.will.continue

“Mother Nature is confused,” reported the meteorologist. The roller coaster temperatures of early spring led him to that conclusion.  Weather reporters often get the weather wrong. We can’t blame them. They’re not God. They’re not in control of the weather. So I can excuse a faulty weather prediction.  But I take issue with a false statement. The meteorologist can’t give “Mother Nature” credit for controlling weather.

Even the report, “God is confused” would be inaccurate. God isn’t confused. I’m sure He knew just what He was doing when He sent a burst of snow on April 9th.  Those of us who were weary of winter moaned. But the fact that we have seasons is evidence that God still IS in control.

After Noah finally exited from his ark, he built an alter to the Lord to worship Him. God promised never again to destroy every living thing. He said, As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Genesis 8:22).

When things in our world go wacky, there’s comfort in the knowledge that God still IS in control. We may be confused about what’s happening in our lives. We may wonder why our most fragile child has to struggle with mental illness (MI).  We’re not alone. I’m guessing at some point everyone wonders what’s going on. They ask, “How did I get here?” and “Why is this happening?”

The Israelites wandering in the wilderness became confused when they became hungry. Confusion caused hundreds of thousands of God’s people to complain.

“In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.’” (Exodus 16:2-3).

God had freed them from captivity. But things seemed much worse.

They wondered, How did we get here?  Why is this happening?

I’ll bet you’ve wondered the same thing when you watched your child with MS suffer. In your confusion you may have wondered, How did we get here?  Why is this happening?

Jacob also must have been confused. He had made a deal with Laban to work seven years for him so he could marry Laban’s beautiful daughter, Rachel. But after Jacob fulfilled his end of the bargain, Laban tricked Jacob and gave him his other less-beautiful daughter, Leah. And required Jacob to serve Laban for seven more years to get Rachel as his wife.

Jacob must have wondered, How could this happen to me?  It’s so unfair.

I’ll bet you’ve wondered the same thing. After you’ve invested all your best efforts and your child still has MI, your confusion may have caused you to wonder, How could this happen to me?  It’s so unfair.

Jacob’s son, Joseph must have also been confused. His brothers conspired to kill him and then decided instead to sell him to the Ishmaelites (who later sold him to the Egyptians).

Joseph must have wondered in his confusion, How did I get here? What did I do to deserve this?

But Joseph’s bad times turned good. His master saw that the Lord was with Joseph. So he elevated Joseph to the position of overseer.

“From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field” (Genesis 39:5).

But soon Joseph’s good time turned bad again. Potiphar’s wife wanted Joseph to lie with her. When he refused, she falsely accused him of a crime. And Potiphar threw him into prison.  Here’s what Joseph said to one of his fellow captives, a butler:

“I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.” (Genesis 40:15).

Joseph was echoing his father’s confusion as he wondered, How could this happen to me?  It’s so unfair.

After two years, Pharaoh called for Joseph to be taken out of the dungeon to interpret his dream. God gave Joseph the interpretation of the dream and its meaning. Pharaoh elevated Joseph to be over his house, all the people and over all the land of Egypt. Things were once again good in Joseph’s life.

Where was God during all Joseph’s trials? Had God abandoned him during the tough times? Through good and bad time, the Bible tells us that the Lord was with Joseph (Genesis 39:2-3, 21).

During our darkest days, we may also wonder, Where is God? No matter what the weather, the seasons are proof God is real and He is with us.

“But God was always there doing the good things that prove he is real. He gives you rain from heaven and good harvests at the right times. He gives you plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” [Acts 14:17 (ERV)].

Dear Father, remove all confusion from our minds. Fill our hearts with joy once again. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

Advertisements

Preparing for the Unexpected

IMG_6065

Certain signs can’t be trusted. Like signs that say, “Construction ahead.” After sitting in a sixty-minute backup, we finally arrive at the construction site.

No workers? Really?!!!!

No wonder we’re tempted to ignore the warning signs along the highway.

My husband and I recently traveled over 400 miles to visit our son and his family. Along the way, we actually saw numerous work crews repairing sections of the turnpike. We realized the sign “Construction vehicle—keep alert for sudden stops and turns” had accurately predicted that traffic would be halted.

“Keep alert for sudden stops and turns” got me thinking. Would a warning sign have helped prepare me for my son’s mental illness (MI)? What would I have done if a sign warned, “Suffering and sorrow ahead”? Probably nothing. I was powerless to shield Chris from the wretched illness.

Some dangers can be avoided. Like fallout from a bomb explosion. When I was growing up, my parents built a bomb shelter in our yard. (You read that right…a bomb shelter! Not a built in pool, but a bomb shelter.) We were prepared for any incoming bombs.

Sadly, there are no MI shelters. We can’t run for cover to escape the onslaught of our child’s MI.

Yet, that sign “Keep alert for sudden stops and turns” holds wise advice. Periods of manageable symptoms can be suddenly interrupted. Without warning, new burdens blindside us. A familiar trial torments our child. Fragile emotions re-emerge. Routine details of life come to a screeching halt.

Keep alert for sudden stops and turns. What does that mean? Should I remain in a vigilant state? Would that be good or even helpful? Could I possibly prepare for the unexpected?

Preparing for any trial:

My mother couldn’t prepare for my father’s impending death. Back in 1992, my dad fought lung cancer. Doctors performed surgery and treated him with chemotherapy and radiation. It became evident after two years that nothing would cure him. As his end drew near, my mother asked me, “Is this really happening?”

Clearly, there were warning signs that my father might lose his battle. Yet, nothing had prepared my mom’s heart for her loss.

Can anything prepare our heart for the struggles and losses our children will face?

When our son, Chris had his first break from reality, I had to be on alert—literally. One minute he’d be explosive and pound walls. The next, he’d be curled up in a ball, weeping. I learned to expect anything. Like what he did after we arrived home from the store one day. I parked the car and Chris took off running. Prompting me to drive around the neighborhood looking for him. Only to return home to hear a phone message from a neighbor saying Chris had gone to their house.

Being alert meant staying half-awake most nights. Chris’ psychosis prevented him from sleeping soundly. He’d pace the floor, while rambling on about things that made no sense. Mumbling bazaar comments. I’d strain my ears to hear sounds that might let me know of any danger.

Nowadays, Chris is doing fairly well. But those words on the sign still echo in my mind:

Keep alert for sudden stops and turns.

Does the Bible help us know how to keep alert – to prepare for the unexpected?

Peter instructs us to, “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does” [1 Peter 5:8-11 (MSG)].

Thanks, Peter, for those reminders. We’re not alone; others are experiencing hard times like these. Suffering won’t last forever. We need to keep the faith.

How do we “keep our guard up”? By praying unceasingly and specifically for our child and our family. And by staying in His Word.

Belts:

Seatbelts protect us from injury in cars. God’s belt of Truth helps us stand firm in our faith.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (Ephesians 6:13-14a).

Reality and truth:

Some of our children cling to a thread of reality in their minds. Often even we struggle with the reality of our lives. Life tends to seem surreal.

Some truths can be shattered. I used to believe that my husband and I could teach our kids how to handle stress. But, then came along MI. My fragile truth collapsed. I used to think that I could protect my children. But, then MI struck. My truth of motherly protection evaporated.

Happily, I find unshakable Truths in the Bible. That’s something to hang onto. I can depend on His promises. God’s character is never-changing. So, I rely on God’s belt of truth. So can you. Buckle up! (one size fits all!)

Boast

whiter.snow

Adults tell kids not to do it, but do it themselves. Brag. Tis the season for bragging.

“I’m finished all my Christmas shopping.”

“I got a 50” TV for Christmas.”

“We have the most outdoor Christmas lights in the neighborhood.”

“I bake the best cookies—ever!”

Moms raising kids with mental illness (MI) could brag about other things:

“I survived another day with my own sanity intact.”

“In return for unprovoked anger, I answer with gentleness.”

“In spite of physical abuse, I show unconditional love.”

“Even though my spouse abandoned our child, I remained to face his illness together with him”

“Without any end in sight, my faith in the Lord remains strong.”

“I’ve worked harder at parenting without any support or compassion (due to the stigma of MI).”

“I’ve endured silent sorrow for years, longing to see my child’s smile once again.”

What would be the point of that kind of bragging?

Boasting inflates. Instead of boasting about life with MI, we can boast about God. That will reveal His power, while uplifting our spirit.

May your heart swell with renewed hope as you read these verses:

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. (Psalm 34:1-2  NKJV)”

In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever (Psalm 44:8).”

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).”

“But, ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:17).’”

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:9).”

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, in these I delight, ‘declares the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24).”

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2).”

“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:10-11).”

“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).’”

“Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace (2 Corinthians 1:12).”

“For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—(Philippians 3:3).”

Also:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud (1 Corinthians 13:4).”

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith (Philippians 3:7-9).”

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4).”

I love the story in 1 Kings 18:24-38 where Elijah boasted about God’s power:

“‘Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.’

“Then all the people said, ‘What you say is good.’

“Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.’  So they took the bull given them and prepared it.

“Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. ‘Baal, answer us!’ they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

“At noon Elijah began to taunt them. ‘Shout louder!’ he said. ‘Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.’ So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

“Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come here to me.’ They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, ‘Your name shall be Israel.’ With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, ‘Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.’

“‘Do it again,’ he said, and they did it again.

“‘Do it a third time,’ he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

“At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.’

“Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.”

Our awesome God answered Elijah’s prayer and displayed His power. And turned everyone’s heart back to God.

“When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God (1 Kings 18:39)!’”

The Lord—He is God! Amen!!!

 

You can be an extreme survivor.

football.mercy.best

Can an enemy be more than dead? Are there degrees to an army being slaughtered? None of my history books made distinctions between defeated foes: slightly destroyed soldiers VS completely demolished warriors. Victory is victory. So what’s the meaning of Romans 8:37?

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Sounds like the kind of victory I’d love to have. Is it possible to be more than a conqueror of a trial? How ‘bout the trial of raising a child with mental illness (MI)?

The phrase, “more than conquerors” reminds me of how my second graders would write. Their limited vocabulary didn’t stop them from expressing emotion. If they wanted to convey extreme excitement, they simply used repetition.

“We had a very, very, very, VERY, good time!” The level of enjoyment dictated how many ‘verys’ were used.

Adults use much more sophisticated language. We use superlatives.

Some superlatives can be offensive. Like an obsolete term assigned to individuals with an intellectual disability. People with cognitive limitations used to fall into one of three categories: mildly mentally retarded, moderately mentally retarded, or severely and profoundly mentally retarded. It’s now unacceptable to refer to a person as someone who is severely and profoundly mentally retarded.

I once had a conversation with Chris about words used to describe children with disabilities. He was interested in hearing what I’d be teaching my college students in an upcoming Foundations of Special Education class.

“We’ll be discussing our nation’s history of special education. We usually have a lively discussion about labels which are used to describe children,” I explained. “It seems there’s a label for every exceptionality except gifted.”

“I’m severely gifted,” Chris playfully replied.

As always, I enjoyed his quick wit. His humorous oxymoron lightened the conversation.

It’s difficult for me to understand the phrase “more than conquerors.” However, I could relate to the phrase if it was “partial conqueror.” Having a son with MI fills my life with alternating victories. One day is peaceful—a delightful conquest. The next day is filled with challenges and I’m filled with despair—a surrender and retreat.  Spiritual territory is regained the following day as I rely on God to help me respond. I give an gentle answer in return for unprovoked anger—another battle won.  Maybe I’m more like a “sputtering conqueror” … relying fully on God one day, then not even seeking Him the next.

I’d love to believe I’m more than a conqueror. My problem is that I lose sight of the Victor. “We are more than conquerors THROUGH HIM WHO LOVED US.” During uncertainty I tend to forget the battle’s already been won.

Athletes know when the battle’s been won. Football players realize there’s no need to ravage an inferior team. When the score reflects the opposition has no chance of winning, they precipitate the ending. The mercy rule specifies that the clock should keep running (except for limited reasons).  The intention is to put an end to the misery as soon as possible.

God has His mercy rule in place. Eternity’s clock is ticking. There will be an end to our misery here on earth. In the meantime Romans 8:37 assures us that, “We are more than conquerors.”

Yes, the battle has already been won. God has gained an overwhelming victory. Believers can rest in His promise and presence. We’ve been promised eternal life with Him in heaven. And if that’s not enough, we have His presence in the form of the Holy Spirit. His indwelling power helps us with our earthly trials.

When things get tough with MI, we wonder if God has left us. We ask, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword (Romans 8:35)?”

Romans 8:38-39 assures us no hardship—not even MI—will separate us from His love.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The mention of angels and demons reminds us there’s a spiritual battle being waged. God’s angels protect His people. Sometimes God sends a heavenly messenger. Like the one sent to Daniel. Here’s how Daniel described the divine interaction:

“Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. ‘Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,’ he said. ‘Peace! Be strong now; be strong.’ When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, ‘Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength (Daniel 10:18-19).’”

How did Daniel qualify for that celestial encounter? The messenger explained what Daniel had done to earn the honor.

“Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them (Daniel 10:12).”

Heavenly Father,

I come before You humbly. I’m determined to fully understand Your victory. When all around looks dismal or when things seem out of control, help me remember Who’s fighting the battle. As Your messenger did for Daniel, strengthen me and give me Your peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The more we reflect on God’s love and power, the more we find rest in Him. How can we even explain such love? By using surperlatives. Like Chris Tomlin did in his song ‘Indescribable.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWdM4B1HEyI

 

Desperation

desperation

What picture could represent desperation? What image would fully convey helplessness and hopelessness? Is it possible to depict an extreme situation that is intolerable, unbearable, shocking, and dangerous?

Rather than capture the essence of dreary desperation in a portrait, I prefer to focus on beautiful desperation: my desperation to know more of God’s love. Yet how could I ever describe His love when I haven’t come close to grasping the depths of it? The more I seek it, the greater I understand it. A right focus is the key.

Perspective is everything in dealing with life that includes mental illness (MI). Those of us raising a child with MI have a choice. We can choose to maintain an earthly perspective of the challenges we face. By contemplating all the problems, and striving to find solutions. Or we can shift our focus heavenward to gain a divine view. To seek God’s wisdom and path.

Each fall I used to explain multiple sclerosis (MS) to my second graders. I was grateful God had given me a message to share with my students. My MS gave me a lesson no teacher’s manual included. I could show them how to face trials in life. Perspective is everything.

“When you face hard or sad times, you have a choice,” I’d tell them. “You can either focus on the problem or on the Truth. The Truth is that God’s in control. He is greater than any problem you face. He has a perfect plan for your life and He’s faithful to fulfill all his promises: to comfort, help, and guide.”

“Does it hurt to have MS?” they’d ask.

“Sure it stinks to have MS,” I’d answer honestly. “But that doesn’t change who God is. I know He loves me. God’s love is perfect, present, and endless. We may not understand it or always feel His love. But we can be sure of it.”

The lesson ended with one of their favorite songs, ‘Jesus Loves Me.’

“Sing the song slowly so you can think about each word,” I’d instruct them.

I often need a personal review of that lesson. MI trials can blindfold my spiritual eyes at times. Making it hard to see God in the situation. But those situations in life don’t change who He is: a loving Father who is still on the throne. Keeping a watchful eye, with His constant love. So, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).”

Even MI can’t separate us from God’s love.

It seems impossible to describe God’s love. But there’s one picture that captures the heart of a Father. It’s a painting of His Son dying on the cross for us.

I’m desperate to fully understand God’s love. Is that possible? Or is it like trying to hold water between our fingers?

trying.2.hold.water

Ephesians tells us Christ’s love surpasses knowledge.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19).”

I may not come close to knowing the full measure of God’s love for me. But I’m certain that keeping my eyes on Him will help me through the challenges that accompany MI. I need Him to guide my responses.

Years ago I held a critical position that forced me to keep a correct focus. As a school administrator, serious problems came to my attention every day. If I didn’t handle them carefully, they could blow up in my face. If I reacted poorly, I could enflame the situation or spark a conversation malfunction (AKA: an argument). So my daily prayer each morning was:

Dear Father,

Guide and direct my thoughts, words, actions, and emotions. Give me Your perspective on situations and people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

He faithfully answered that prayer and gave me His wisdom. Guiding me to His solution for every problem. So I’m sure that if I want to know more of His love, all I need to do is ask Him to reveal it.

As a mom raising a son with mental illness (MI) I’m desperate to know more of His love—for me and for Chris. Hillsong’s ‘The Greatness of our God’ echoes my prayer: to increase my understanding of His love and calm my fears. Here are some of my favorite words in that song:

Give me grace to see

Beyond this moment here.

To believe that there

Is nothing left to fear.

 

That You alone are high above it all.

For You my God, are greater still.

 

There is nothing that can ever

Separate us from Your love.

No life, no death, of this I am convinced.

You my God, are greater still.

Be blessed as you listen to that song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vf2YJAG84_8

 

The Hearing

GodsWord.comfort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♦♦♦♦♦♦

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lawyer continued to explain the procedure.

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

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

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

God heard my prayer. Chris agreed.

“Okay. I’ll say I want to stay.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay. I’ll stay.”

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

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

♦♦♦♦♦♦

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

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

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

Look for the Light

Light.end.tunnel.use

My college training prepared me to teach children with visual impairments. One of the courses required students to perform tasks blindfolded. Walking without vision scared me the most. I felt insecure and terrified in the darkness. What relief when I removed the blindfold! Light comforted me.

Those of us who raise children with mental illness (MI) experience those same feelings. During our darkest days we search for Christ—the true Light who comforts us.

Last week the account of our story ended with Chris’s hospitalization. I shared how God transformed that horrible memory by using it as a reminder of His love. Our dark days were about to get darker. Thankfully, Christ’s light shined brighter during those days.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

A few hours after we got home I received a call from the hospital.

“Mrs. Chandler, Chris is refusing medication. Will you give us permission to give him an injection?”

“Okay. If it’s necessary.”

When I called later I found out Chris had been put in isolation. He had put up such a fight when they tried to give him the medication. Images filled my head of Chris in isolation. Sedated. Confused. Alone.

“When will he be taken out of isolation? When can I visit him?” I questioned.

“We’re about to take him out now.”

When I arrived at the psychiatric ward, reality hit. The unit was locked. In order to gain entrance I had to ring a bell and announce my name. Then a nurse let me in.

The information provided by the social worker (when Chris was admitted) helped me understand some of the procedures.

It explained that guests were to visit patients only in the lounge areas, not in their bedrooms. But a nurse ushered me into Chris’s room. There sat a woman talking to Chris. When I entered the room she didn’t introduce herself to me. It was a very sensitive moment for Chris and me. This was the first time we had seen each other since the terrible scene at home. We hadn’t seen each other since we had him committed.

Chris sat hunched over. His head bent downward.

“Hi Chris. It’s Mom.”

He raised his head in slow motion. His eyes seemed to be searching for something. As if trying to focus through a fog. He made no attempt to speak. Through his heavy sedation I could detect his emotional turmoil. A mother can just sense when her child is hurting.

“It’s Mom,” I repeated.

“I’m sorry,” he managed to say.

“There’s no need for you to apologize. I know you’re just sick—”

“Do you think Chris has been under a lot of stress lately?” The unidentified woman asked, intruding on our private moment.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I’m Chris’s psychiatrist,” she answered, still not giving me her name. “Chris has been contradicting himself,” she continued.

“Of course he’s contradicting himself; he’s psychotic!” I shot back. “Why are you talking with him in his bedroom? It’s against the policy for anyone to meet with patients in their bedrooms.”

“I just started working in this hospital and am not familiar with the procedures of the ward,” she explained.

Is she kidding? I read the procedures booklet immediately after we returned from the hospital. What kind of professional doesn’t prepare herself for her job? I wonder if she’s even qualified at all!

Later that day I typed a letter to the chief psychiatrist requesting Chris have a different psychiatrist. Chris was immediately switched to the care of the head psychiatrist.

Chris’s stay at the hospital was as bad as I imagined. He had to be strip-searched and all his belongings were taken from him. He was included with troubled teens (who were either suicidal, drug abusers, or violent). There were very strict rules about when he could call us, what he could wear, and what belonging he could have. Each time he had to use the bathroom a nurse had to unlock it.

No wonder Chris informed me, “I’m in jail, Mom.”

Howie and I visited Chris every time there were visiting hours. We stayed the entire time. Chris began to appreciate our unconditional love for him.

“Mom, PLEASE get me out of here,” he’d beg.

“Not yet, Chris. You’re here to get better.”

It was hard to witness him desperately trying to figure out how to get released.

He’d lay his head in my lap and ask me to stroke him. When my boys had grown up I missed doing thing like that. It was bittersweet to be able to nurture Chris in that way once again. I was happy to be able to comfort him. But it ate me up inside to see him so pathetic, so broken.

Howie passed the time by playing cards or chess with Chris. Robert didn’t want to see his brother in such a place. For a while I respected that. I knew Robert was dealing with lots of questions from curious students at school (some caring and some nosy). He was also struggling with getting around school on crutches.

Finally I asked Robert to visit Chris.

“Chris needs to see you, Rob,”

Being very compliant, Rob agreed to go.

During the time Chris was in the hospital there were several things that were hard to hear. Like what he said in one phone conversation.

“It was a good plan to put me in the hospital so I could see that life can be even worse than I ever imagined.”

In another phone call he said, “They took my Bible. God’s not in this place. I’m in prison.”

“Oh Chris. God IS in that place. He’ll let you know how much He loves you. You’ll see,” I assured him. Those words were spoken in faith, believing God would show Chris His love. I had no idea how, but was sure He’d be faithful.

The very next day Chris shared how God revealed His love in that dark place.

“One of the nurses is a Christian, Mom. She gave me back my Bible and said she’s praying for me.”

Many look for the light at the end of the tunnel. We need not wait for the end of the darkness. There is Light in the tunnel—His love shines brightly.

Turn to Him in your darkness and ask Him to hold your heart. Listen to Tenth Avenue North sing ‘Hold my heart.’    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ry6udsW9leA