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Moving On

next.chapter

What’s harder than parenting? Stopping parenting. Sure, we never really stop parenting. But there comes a time when children grow up and move on. A mom attends her ‘baby’s’ graduation with pride in her heart, a camera in one hand, and a tissue in the other. Tears are sure to flow.

Graduation marks a time of reflection. To recall God’s faithfulness. To think about the graduate’s accomplishments. To gaze into his bright future. But what if the future didn’t seem so bright? What if it seemed fragile? Or uncertain?

How does a mother of a child with mental illness (MI) deal with her emotions when facing such a milestone? We’re tempted to continue protecting our child. To keep handling everything. We’re torn between letting him go out on his own or keeping him safe in a stress-free lifestyle. How do we find a place for our child? Is there a place for a young adult with MI? What does the future hold?

Those were questions that badgered me in the spring of 1998. Chris was about to graduate high school. I found peace and assurance by looking back. I recalled God’s faithfulness throughout Chris’s life.  God had provided all Chris needed: comfort whenever peers bullied him, caring and capable teachers who understood his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), healing and restoration when he suffered a psychotic episode.

Chris was about to travel to Germany, return home, and then go off to college. I needed to know he’d be okay. Would I be able to trust that my Father would be with Chris wherever he went? God reassured Jacob, Moses, and Joshua. He promised that He’d be with them wherever they went. They believed God would do what He said. Could I believe in that promise?

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I had perfected the art of squelching painful emotions. The secret: deaden the feelings with details. A mountain of responsibilities can bury the worst fears. So when the headmaster asked me assume another role, I welcomed the opportunity

“Would you be willing to fill in for one of our second grade teachers? Her doctor recommended bed rest during her final weeks of pregnancy.”

“Sure,” I gladly accepted. I still had to handle everything related to my position as Director of Instruction. But the busyness would keep my mind off Chris’s upcoming graduation.

All the arrangements for Chris’s graduation had to be done after work. I purchased party decorations, bought his gift, addressed invitations, etc. We even arranged to surprise Chris with a limousine to pick him up after graduation.

I also had to help Chris with preparations for his trip to Germany. That involved getting gifts for the host family doing laundry, getting traveler’s checks … The high school held a meeting for the families who were involved with the exchange program. Howie, Chris, and I attended the meeting.

As we planned for Chris’s trip, we also prepared for Robert’s trip. As soon as the school year ended, Rob would be off to a two-week Christian camp where he’d be a counselor in training (CIT). As if our lives weren’t complicated enough, Rob had to have a mole removed. It looked suspicious to the doctor. I managed to find an afternoon that matched an opening with the doctor’s schedule.

Even my nights were packed. That was the only time I had to complete paper work. None of it could be done during the day because I was teaching in a classroom.

The busyness of life made it easy for me to stuff my emotions. Shoving my feelings deep inside couldn’t work forever. Sooner or later they’d escape. And escape they did.

One evening while grading papers I heard Howie playing the piano. Suddenly I recognized the song. It was “Pomp and Circumstance.” A tsunami of emotions erupted. I found myself sobbing.

School had been such a struggle for Chris. Not because of the academics. Learning came easily for him. His ADHD made it difficult for him. He had to work hard at developing social and organizational skills.

“One day you will graduate,” Howie and I would say to encourage him. “Then life will get easier. Adults aren’t as mean to each other as children.”

That “one day” had arrived. It had come so quickly. I was unprepared for the emotion I felt. The river of tears flowed from painful memories of all Chris had endured. They also flowed from tremendous joy that Chris had made it. He accomplished so much in spite of ADHD and MI.

Just eighteen months earlier, during Chris’s psychotic episode, I didn’t even know if Chris would be restored to reality. I had wondered if his broken mind and shattered life could be restored. But now he was graduating with plans to travel to Germany. And then to college.

Chris had received the John Philip Sousa band award. An honor bestowed on only one student each year. The inscription on the plaque read, “In recognition of outstanding achievement and interest in instrumental music, for singular merit in loyalty and cooperation, and for displaying those high qualities of conduct that school instrumental music requires.”

What triumph over adversity! Thank You, Father for Your grace and power!

As I reflected on Chris’s life, I realized that, like Paul I had “learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11).” They weren’t easy lessons. There were times I wasn’t sure whether Chris would live or die. Whether he would ever think rationally again. But over and over God had shown His faithfulness. My trust in Him had grown. My faith hadn’t been shaken.

I never expected to be spared form tragedies other Christians have to face. When those trials hit, the promise of God’s grace comforted me. When I didn’t know how things would turn out, I clung to the fact He is a loving Father. I reminded myself that He had a perfect plan for our lives. Through it all I remained firm in my belief that God would sustain me.

Summer arrived and both boys were away. Freedom from responsibilities with the boys and work allowed more time for reflection. My thoughts naturally shifted to the next chapter in Chris’s life. He’d soon be going away to college.

My baby will be leaving home for college soon. I know You’ve prepared the way for Chris, Lord. But I need You to help me with these emotions I’m feeling.

Once Chris came home from Germany I returned to my familiar coping strategy. I cluttered my mind with details in an attempt to crowd out the emotions. I made lists of what to buy and what to pack.

The time came to drive Chris to college. I felt emotionally stronger and up to the task of letting him go. We had to take two cars to fit all his stuff. Rob came along to help move Chris into his dorm. We arrived on the campus and proceeded to unload the cars.

Chris’s room looked unwelcoming. I got to work unpacking his belongings

I’ll get all this stuff unpacked. Then this room will feel more like home for Chris.

Chris interrupted my motherly ritual. “I’ll do that Mom.”

The time had suddenly come to say good-bye. I had successfully managed to deliver Chris to college without getting emotional. I hugged Chris.

“Isn’t this the time for you to share some motherly wisdom with me, Mom?” Chris asked.

I hadn’t prepared any pearls of wisdom. I had forced myself to do just opposite. I didn’t want to think about the fact that we were turning the page to a new chapter in our lives. The Lord helped me give the most important reminder.

“Remember, Chris, the Lord is with you everywhere—even at college.”

As we drove home my head was flooded with questions.

Will Chris remember to take his medication? Will anyone find out about his medication and condition? How will he get along with his roommate? How will he handle any stress? Will he make friends with anyone? Will he call?

Wondering can easily lead to worrying. So I stopped wondering and focused on the fact that Chris planned on coming home every weekend.

Anyone can make it five days apart from a loved one. He’ll be fine. God is with him.

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As Jacob journeyed to a new land, the Lord promised him in a dream, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go (Genesis 28:15).”

God reassured Moses of His presence by saying, ““My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest (Exodus 33:14).”

In Moses old age, he transferred his leadership to Joshua. His dying message echoed God’s reassurance: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6).”

After Moses died, the Lord Himself reminded Joshua of His abiding presence saying, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you (Joshua 1:5).”

God enabled me to rest in the knowledge of His presence in Chris’s life. When you think of it, we all need to trust in God’s presence in our child’s life. Even the youngest child won’t be in our presence every minute of the day. There’s comfort in knowing God’s presence remains when we’re absent from our child.

 

Unprepared & Sad but Unflinching

eyes.Sofies.to.side

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.

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“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

 

 

Prodigal

Prodigal.father

Most mothers who have an adult child with mental illness (MI) and young children share the same fear. Losing a loved one.

Years ago, I asked my second graders to write their worst fear. Most of the eight year old children were afraid of losing a parent. I can relate to that fear. My worst fear is that my son, who has MI, will be missing.

If your child with MI is a prodigal, you may feel that no one understands your pain. But any parent would have some inkling of the trauma you experience every day. Just the thought of losing a child can elicit a gut-wrenching response.

That’s why the news of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370’s disappearance and Washington’s massive mudslide is so riveting. We’re captivated by the mudslide tragedy and follow CNN’s coverage of the missing airplane. Expressions of distraught loved ones convey the horror they feel. Tears seem to bleed disbelief that their loved ones are gone. We shudder to think of them enduring such sudden loss. Any parent, who has lost a child even for a few minutes, can imagine the horror. We can understand their desperation. So we pray for an end to their nightmare.

I experienced the terror of a missing child when Chris was only five. His teacher had chosen me to be one of the chaperones for their field trip to the zoo. As we strolled past all the animals, my hand stayed locked onto Chris’s tiny hand.

We spotted the birds of prey. The northern bald eagle captured my attention. It seemed safe enough to release Chris’s hand for just a second to snap a picture. But I was wrong. While focusing on the eagle, a huge mob of children and parents surrounded us. Chris got swallowed up in the crowd. When he didn’t see me, he thought I’d left him. So he went looking for me.

I took the picture and reached out to grab Chris’s hand. A sea of unfamiliar faces surrounded me. None were Chris’s!

Sheer panic instantly set in. My heart began to pound. I desperately searched for him, screaming his name. “Chris! Chris!”

Tears clouded my vision. Thoughts of what may have happened to him assaulted me.

Please God, please let me find my son.

Miraculously, I spotted him hiding behind a bush. He had been afraid that a stranger might take him. So he hid. My son was safely reunited with me. What relief!

Twelve years later, Chris was missing again. This time it happened during his first psychotic episode.

Chris’s fractured emotions caused him to have mood swings. His negative mood swings usually had a sad or depressed tone. But one week that type of mood swing was distinctly different. Chris seemed very angry and full of rage. It seemed like he wanted revenge. Things quickly escalated.

We were returning home from a trip to the mall. When I pulled into the driveway, Chris stepped out of the car and ran away.

I sprinted into the house to get help. “Howie, Chris is missing!!! Help me find him!” I screamed.

We drove off in different directions. As I searched in our neighborhood, fears tormented me.

This can’t be happening! This is a nightmare. Why didn’t we get him to the hospital? At least he’d be safe there. If he kills himself, he’ll be with the Lord. Oh, I can’t bear to think about that. I’ve GOT to find him.

Praying aloud pacified me enough to hold it together.

“Oh Father, please help us find Chris. Protect him. Guide me. Help me know where to look.”

I decided to stop home to see if he had returned. And found evidence he had come home briefly. Long enough to knock over his brother’s drum set and trombone. He’d also taken a computer off the desk and placed it on the floor.

I hopped back in the car to resume my search. Emptiness filled the pit of my stomach.

How is this ordeal going to end?

Once again I stopped home. A message on our answering machine revealed his location. A neighbor called to say he was there. Chris had been accusing us of abusing him. Thankfully, the neighbor called us and not the police. It must have been evident that Chris wasn’t in his right mind.

Gratitude filled my heart for his safe return. A sense of peace replaced the emptiness in my stomach. But that wasn’t the happy ending. Only brief relief from the chaos of his MI.

The parable of the lost son gives us a picture of a parent’s pain. In the story, the prodigal son came to his senses and returned home. Luke 15:20 hints at the father’s vigil.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

How did the father see his son while he ‘was still a long way off?’ He’d been staring into the distance, scanning the horizon every day hoping for his son’s return. Can you picture him straining his eyes? Spending endless hours peering into the distance? Do you know what he felt?

Many parents don’t know what’s become of their missing child—their vulnerable child who has MI. Can there be any comfort?

During my two experiences, I found comfort in the knowledge that God was with Chris. My heavenly Father knew Chris’s location and had the power to protect him. God also protected me emotionally and mentally. While Chris and I were apart from each other, nothing separated us from God’s love.

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Steve & Annie Chapman sing of a parent’s prayer when their child is a prodigal.

‘Turn Your Heart Toward Home’

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

Don’t Give Up

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Drifting…Lost Direction

Recently I’ve been feeling like a dead leaf. Lifeless and lacking purpose. Drifting without direction. Discouraged and defeated.

Surprisingly, raising a son with mental illness (MI) didn’t do me in. My multiple sclerosis (MS) hasn’t conquered me. My thwarted writing plans snarled me. Leaving me sinking in quicksand.

Strange how we can handle the big problems. And how smaller disappointments demolish our determination. So what was my final knock-down punch?

The marketing plan I created to promote my picture book hasn’t been yielding the intended results fast enough. My throne of self-sufficiency has crumbled.

Howie noticed my discouragement and lovingly said, “Don’t worry, Vic, we’ll figure it out.”

“I think that’s been my problem,” I replied. “I’VE been figuring it out. I need to figure HIM out.”

Since I can’t control the course of my MS or the symptoms of Chris’s MI, I’m starved for control. My problem has been this obsession to control things. I want to control SOMETHING in my life. Can you identify?

Our power to manage everything associated with MI is limited. MI prevents our kids from responding to our love.

Do you reach out to your child only to have him shut down? Is your comfort rejected?

Sometimes our well-meaning efforts backfire.

Do your peaceful words only enflame his anger? Does your child refuse to follow your advice? Do you intervene on your child’s behalf only to be misunderstood? Have you sought the advice of countless specialists only to have no clear diagnosis?

We encounter obstacles and dead ends.

What tempts you to give up? How many times can you get knocked down and rise again? How long can you support your child who has mental illness (MI) without seeing any improvement?

Quitting isn’t an option. What mother could ever abandon her most vulnerable child? So we try and try. Even though nothing seems to help our child with MI.

The eagle can provide insight into why our efforts fail. Instead of relying on its massive wingspan (average 6’ – 7.5’), it waits for the perfect conditions to step off its peak.

It soars and glides with less effort because it goes with the flow of God’s winds. Air currents, such as slope updrafts (winds that runs into a mountain and are forced to rise), enable the eagle to rise without flapping its wings. A massive eagle can simply float upward by catching a ride on rising bubbles of hot air called “thermals.”

eagle.soaring

Like the eagle, we can wait for God’s perfect timing. That will keep us from flapping in our own strength. We can depend on His power to carry us through the journey.

Those of us who are downcast have this promise: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)”

Picture that. God’s hand cradling you. Then imagine Him gently lifting you up. In due time, He’ll uplift your countenance and soothe your emotions if you trust Him with all your cares. He’s sure to guide you along HIS path.

Feeling weary? Tired of the trial? In a pit of hopelessness? God’s Word promises you’ll soar like an eagle if you hope in Him.

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)”

God saw my problem: the anguish of my soul.

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

God provided the solution: the Anchor for my soul.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (Hebrews 6:19)”

Let’s trade anguish for the Anchor. Let’s not lose hope. Or give up. Let’s keep doing our best and trust God for the rest.

Following God’s lead through trials gets easier. His constant faithfulness demonstrates the Truth of His Word. His love never fails.

The group Jesus Culture reminds us in their song ‘One Thing Remains’ that God’s love, “never fails, never gives up, never runs out.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_KXsMCJgBQ

Amazing Moms

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The most amazing moms have nothing. Think about it.  That’s when they have to rely completely on God. That’s when they shine.

Take, for example, two widows in the Bible.

One of the women had an encounter with Elijah. God had directed Elijah to see her. We read about their meeting in 1 Kings 17:8-12.

“Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.’ So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, ‘Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?’ As she was going to get it, he called, ‘And bring me, please, a piece of bread.’

“‘As surely as the Lord your God lives,’ she replied, ‘I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.’”

Now THAT’S desperate! She had no husband, not enough food to feed her son, and felt impending death. But God had other plans.

Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land. (1 Kings 17:13-14)’”

What did she do? “She went away and did as Elijah had told her (1 Kings 17: 15).”

That response inducted her into the Hall of Amazing Moms.

Dire circumstances didn’t dampen her trust in God. Her faith in Him didn’t waver. What a display of trust in the Lord! Maybe temptation taunted her to feed her son first. Who would blame her? A perfect stranger delivered a challenge. Did she believe him for the promise? No. Her firm belief rested on God and His faithfulness.

The result?  “So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah. (1 Kings 17: 15-16).”

Let’s peek into the life of another widow.

“The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, ‘Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.’

Elisha replied to her, ‘How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?’”

‘Your servant has nothing there at all,’ she said, ‘except a small jar of olive oil. (2 Kings 4:1-2)’”

Think about her life. No husband, creditors coming to take her sons as slaves, and only a small jar of olive oil to feed her family. Maybe the enemy slithered into her thoughts, tormenting her by saying, “Your husband revered the Lord. Your God abandoned you.” No wonder she cried out to Elisha. Wouldn’t you? I’d be screaming, “Help! Someone PLEASE help me!!!”’

Then Elisha gave an odd response. He said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side. (2 Kings 4:3-4)”

I don’t know about you, but I would have asked Elisha, “Don’t you get it?!!! What part of ‘only a small jar of olive oil’ didn’t you understand?”

Not that widow. By faith, she collected jars from her neighbors. I’m guessing her neighbors may have known she only had one jar of olive oil. Maybe they thought, “What does she plan on doing with empty jars? She’s lost it. Poor woman.” Obviously, she didn’t care what her neighbors thought.

By faith, she followed the rest of Elisha’s instructions. Like the other widow, her faith in God didn’t waver, in spite of her dire circumstances.

“She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another one.’

“But he replied, ‘There is not a jar left.’ Then the oil stopped flowing.

“She went and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left. (2 Kings 4:5-7)’”

Those widows weren’t supermoms. They were amazing women of faith, with an unshakable trust in God. They were a lot like us—desperate mothers. Crying out to God, “Please help my family.”

Don’t let their powerful message melt away. Magnify it in your mind. Listen to their encouraging words. As they whisper, “Cling to Him and His Word. He’s faithful. Just cling to Him and His Word. In your emptiness, you have everything. Cling to Him and His Word.”

Their testimonies inspire us to remain strong in our faith. We can trust God, in spite of our circumstances.

Years ago, I used to experience attacks due to my multiple sclerosis (MS). During those times, I couldn’t teach because the attacks rendered me listless. I couldn’t function. A close friend asked, “What verse are you leaning on?”

Her question encouraged me. It told me she knew I clung to God’s Word during difficult times. She also knew the Bible is the Living Word of our Father. It speaks to every believer, offering truths and promises needed for each trial.

What verse are you leaning on for your current trial? Don’t have one yet? Here you can borrow one of my favorites: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” (Psalm 91:1-2)’”

God cares about desperate moms. He fights for us. Whatever we fear, He’s our mighty warrior. By His hand we stand in victory.  By His name we overcome. Listen to those words in the song by Aaron Keyes: ‘Song of Moses.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TI8yTeMv0Uo

Problems: Big or Little

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There’s a cure for minor irritations: big problems.

Raising a child who has mental illness (MI) puts things into perspective. Former annoyances pale in comparison to daunting trials.

I used to pride myself in being able to handle any problem. Until MI hit. When our son, Chris had his first psychotic episode, there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t restore clarity of thought.  Motherly comfort couldn’t cure him. Divine intervention was my only hope.

We sometimes have to get sucked into the quicksand of helplessness before we realize our need for God. Getting knocked flat on our back forces us to look up. Bringing into focus the Source of our help.

One day, while teaching second graders, I realized my reliance had completely shifted from my control to God’s. MI had taught me, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff.” It helped me understand that all our problems are small stuff to God.

Report cards were to be sent home. A major computer problem had been discovered. Forcing the school secretary to inform the teachers. She came to my classroom to report the bad news. The look in her eye told me she was bracing herself for a bad reaction.

“There’s a problem with the report card software program. A computer glitch is changing some of the grades. We don’t have time to double check all the grades for every student. Other teachers are really concerned. What do you think? Do you have any suggestions?”

I didn’t bat an eye. It didn’t faze me.

“This isn’t the end of the world. I think if people faced a real crisis, things would be put into perspective. This is no big deal. We can just send a note home informing the parents we’re aware of the problem. All we need to do is assure parents we’ll adjust any incorrect grades once we’ve had time to investigate.”

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what we experienced with Chris. It’s just that a significant tragedy has a way of shifting our perspective.

In 1992 a monster storm threatened the southern tip of Florida. Hurricane Andrew quickly grew to a category five hurricane. My high school friend, Lynn, lived in Homestead with her family. Andrew was taking aim on her home. Homestead was in its direct path.

I called Lynn right before she evacuated. “I’ll pray for you and your family. What are you going to do?”

“We’re collecting photos and important papers. We’ll drive as far north as we can. We’ll be okay as long as we have each other.”

In the panic of the storm, it became clear to Lynn what was important. They could survive the loss of their home and business as long as they had each other.

When trials threaten to ravage our lives, we realize what’s important: family. When we’re at the mercy of circumstances, we understand our utter dependence on God. We realize our need to rely solely on Him.

Many parents dream their children will get a good job, marry, and have kids. Howie and I were no different … until MI hit. Now we’re grateful Chris is alive. Our greatest desire is for him to be happy and at peace.

Our dependence on God enables us to face another day. We don’t fear big problems because we know God is bigger. The more we see His faithfulness, protection, and provision, the more we can trust Him. We’ve learned to live with adversity, with an assurance of His care.

My former multi-handicapped student knew about living with adversity. I wondered what life was like for him. So I asked Tom, “What’s it like being blind?”

“It’s no picnic,” he casually remarked.

What an understatement! How could Tom answer so matter-of-factly? Because he’d faced his lifestyle for so long. He got used to it.

We’ve faced life with MI for over 17 years. I can agree with Tom. “It’s no picnic.” I’m not a fan of problems and life stressors. But problems don’t scare me anymore. I’ve grown accustomed to God’s intervention. And have learned to depend on His love and power in our lives.

The good news: God can give you that same blessed assurance.

This journey of MI can feel so lonely. But we’re never alone. God is with us. Joni Eareckson Tada, who has faced adversity for decades, sings of that great assurance. We’re ‘Alone Yet Not Alone.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWVyVMbSzM4

Not Now

Vicki.not.good.time

When is a good time for a crisis? Most likely you quickly shouted, “NEVER!”

Mental illness (MI) interrupted my life when my son lost touch with reality. Chris was a junior in high school. I was the Director of Instruction at a Christian school. A school I helped start with just one other administrator, Sam.

The school began as a ministry of our mega church. With a congregation of 10,000 members, the school’s enrolment exploded in a few short years. The first year we had 380 students. In the second year, there were 570 students. By the fifth year, the enrolment swelled to 1,000! The headmaster and I were a little busy.

So when I needed to stay home with Chris, Sam was left to oversee it all. During the time of my absence, I visited our pastor.

“How’s it going, Vicki,” he compassionately asked.

“Chris is in the hospital. I’m concerned about Sam.”

“Why?”

“Because he needs my help with the school.”

Then my pastor made a statement that shocked me.

“God doesn’t need you, Vicki.”

His words made me wince.

That wasn’t very nice. He knows I’m going through this crisis. How could he say such a thing? Isn’t he supposed to say comforting words?

I quickly learned my pastor spoke God’s Truth in love. Those words helped me realize I’d been relying on myself instead of God. Eventually, that statement freed me from worry. Whenever I struggled to handle an insurmountable problem, that truth readjusted my focus. His words echoed in my mind, reminding me God’s in control.

God doesn’t need you, Vicki. He’s quite capable of solving this problem. He’s accomplishing His perfect plan in your life.

Paul understood his inclination to rely on himself. He acknowledged that his heavenly Father used life’s pressures to help him trust in God alone. He reassured the church in Corinth, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).”

As we raise our children with serious MI, we can feel as though it’s a task “far beyond our ability to endure.”

Do you feel like Paul? Are you under such great pressure that you despair of life itself? Listen to Paul’s encouragement. His voice of experience reminds you, “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:21).”

Whatever we face today, we can stand firm in Christ.

Chris Tomlin reminds us God is more than enough in his song, “Enough

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EW-toYBiF8o