Tag Archive | comfort

Searching for Beauty

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What can you do when darkness has shrouded your heart? In the secret places of your mind, are you groping in the dark? Are you squinting to find even a glimmer of hope? Are you straining your eyes to spot a flicker that will illuminate the way out? Are you afraid to admit that your life feels black?

Your child’s struggles with mental illness (MI) may not have ended. It may seem like the light of your life has gone out. Leaving a cloud of doom hovering over your home.

I can assure you from experience that life isn’t always as black as it seems. In the midst of my darkest hours, God’s love and faithfulness shined brightest.

Scratch art symbolizes buried beauty. Young children delight in discovering bright colors hidden beneath black. Similarly, you will delight in discovering God’s light in your darkness. It’s truly there.

Colors are revealed most vibrantly against a dark backdrop. Like a sunset glowing in the night sky. Or a diamond presented on black velvet. Sometimes, you just have to look closely. Like in a microscope.

Those who search for beauty in a microscope find treasures not visible to the naked eye. Dr. Fernan Federici is a perfect example. His microscopic images of plants, bacteria, and crystals reveal hidden masterpieces—created by the Master.

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That same Master invites us to look into His Word to examine His love. A closer study of the scriptures reveals a treasure trove of Truth. Like the power of a King and the faithfulness of a Friend.

Zoom in on 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4a to spot a tiny, yet encouraging word.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles …”

Did you find it? “ALL” We have access to a loving Father who is the God of ALL comfort. He comforts us in ALL our troubles. How does He do that? By easing our anxieties. Think about each burden you’re bearing and envision God removing them from your shoulders.

Now zoom in on Isaiah 9:2 for a powerful and assuring Truth.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”

Did you find it? “IN” We will find Christ, “the light of the worldIN the midst of our dark times. How does He do that? By making His presence known when we’re going through turmoil. Consider the current struggle you’re experiencing and imagine Christ walking beside you, holding your hand.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners …to comfort all who mourn … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61: 1-3).

That same Lord wants to bind up your broken heart, to proclaim freedom for you from the darkness of MI, and to comfort you. He wants to replace your ashes of sorrow with a ‘crown of beauty.’ To transform your mourning into joy. To turn your despair into praise.

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Windows: A Source of Peace and Contentment?

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Until then, only snakes and dentists scared me. One snowy night in December, I felt fear unlike never before.

Decades ago, several of my girlfriends joined me as I babysat two children. It was New Year’s Eve. The children were in bed. Teenage sounds filled the dining room. Music from a Beatles’ album accompanied the noise of giggling and chatting girls.

THUD!!!

A loud noise interrupted our festivities. A muffled bang sounded as if landed right outside the dining room wall. Fear muzzled our merriment. Like scared rabbits, we sat frozen with ears and eyes open wide. Listening. Did we imagine it?

The music played on. Then, we heard the sound again.

THUD!!!

We screamed and scurried away from the dining room wall. And tore into the living room.

Survival instincts kicked in. We started trying to figure out if danger lurked outside.

“I think someone is pounding on the wall.”

“It sounded like a gun shot.”

I felt a sense of responsibility to protect the children from…whatever. Suddenly, I realized my big brother was home. From the back window of my house, Ken would be able to see the dining room wall of the home where I was babysitting. So I called him on the phone.

“Ken, look outside our back window. Do you see anyone near the dining room window where I’m babysitting?”

“Oh yeah. I see large footprints in the snow leading right up to the window,” he teased.

Brothers!!!

One of my friends solved the mystery. “Vicki, it’s fireworks!”

We were never in danger. We simply forgot it was day of celebration.


Sounds in the night tend to scare everyone. The darker the night, the more terrifying is the noise. Vulnerability and helplessness magnifies fear.

Consider a woman is who is enjoying a quiet evening alone at home. Suddenly, she hears an unusual sound just outside her window. She peeks through the curtains to identify the source.  It may satisfy her curiosity. But, it won’t calm her nerves if she sees a burglar trying to enter her home.

Moms raising a child with mental illness (MI) can identify with that woman. The onset of our child’s illness rattles our nerves with equal intensity. It interrupts the solitude of a peaceful home. As the darkness of mental illness (MI) closes in, we’re more susceptible to fear.  Sometimes, our child’s symptoms suddenly increase.

A heavy THUD pounds on our heart. Survival instincts kick in. And we start trying to figure out how to help our child.

What just happened? What caused that?

We’re tempted to close the curtains of our lives. And hide all the turmoil and pain.

At times, we’re drawn to the window for a different reason. To gaze out and watch care-free families going about their daily routines. To see reminders of what life was like without MI. To catch glimpses of normalcy.

A window can’t provide lasting peace or true contentment. We’ll find comfort in God’s Word. Peering into the pages of the Word will calm our heart more than peering out any window.

How I love God’s Word! It’s my go-to place to find comfort. I echo the sentiments of the Psalmist who cries, “My eyes fail from searching Your word, saying, ‘When will You comfort me?’” [Psalm 119:82 (NKJV)].

Open the Word and find comfort.

The Bible hasn’t let me down. In my darkest times, I’ve found comfort. How is it possible to find comfort in the midst of our child’s illness? The Psalmist explains it this way:

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

Open the Word and find delight.

We can do more than go through the motions of each day. God’s tender mercies will help us live as we delight in His Word.

“Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live; for Your law is my delight” [Psalm 119:77 (NKJV)].

God’s Word keeps us from dying on the inside.

“Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction” [Psalm 119:92 (NKJV)].

“Trouble and anguish have overtaken me, yet Your commandments are my delights” [Psalm 119:143 (NKJV)].

If the Psalmist can find delight in God’s Word in the midst of trouble and anguish, surely so can we.

Open the Word and find strength.

Does the Psalmist’s plea sound like something you could have written?

“My soul melts from heaviness; strengthen me according to Your word” [Psalm 119:28 (NKJV)].

Seek God’s strength.

Open the Word and find hope.

Many of us find ourselves in hopeless situations. We hope in therapists or treatments. But, find they can’t always provide assurances for restoration. God’s Word never fails. The more we cling to It, the more we can proclaim, “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word” [Psalm 119:114 (NKJV)].

Open the Word and find how to live each day.

God guides us through the days that begin and end in His Word.

“I rise before the dawning of the morning, and cry for help; I hope in Your word. My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word” [Psalm 119:147-148 (NKJV)].

The Bible satisfies our longing as we reflect on His promises throughout the day.

“Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” [Psalm 119:97 (NKJV)].

Open the Word and find treasure.

Many of us feel life’s unfair. The Psalmist experienced unfair circumstances and still could say,

“Princes persecute me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your word. I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure” [Psalm 119:161-162 (NKJV)].

Let him be your inspiration today.

Open the Word and find light.

Stumbling around in the dark can be scary. Flicking on a switch instantly brings relief. There’s danger of stumbling when we walk down a dark path. But, a flashlight illuminates our path, letting us know where to step. That’s what it’s like when we open God’s Word. The darkness of our situation suddenly seems brighter. The Bible reveals our next step.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” [Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)].

“The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” [Psalm 119:130 (NKJV)].

When seeking peace and contentment, we have a choice: window or Word.  I choose God’s Word. How ‘bout you?

Calgon take me away, PLEASE!

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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!.”

In Need of a Husband’s Support

Howie and Chris

Howie and Chris

Chivalry came from the most unlikely gentleman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m only human.

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What do you think would happen if you fell apart? Would everything around you swirl into chaos? Is your greatest fear that others would find out you’re not Super Mom? If life became too much to manage for you, would you worry about what might happen to your child with mental illness (MI)?

There is comfort in knowing that if we fall apart, let others down, fail our child with MI, God understands. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. That’s His job. Christ understands the stress of life and our human limitations. He is all-knowing.

The biblical word for all-knowing is omniscient. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines omniscient as, “having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight.” This next part of our story illustrates how much I needed someone to understand why I fell apart. God, alone, knew it all.

I had reached my limit and couldn’t remain calm any longer. Like a boiling tea pot, I sounded off. Releasing my frustration. You can imagine how guilty I felt. Like a complete failure. After beating myself up, I remembered God understands everything.

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We waited to see if Chris’s new medication would work. Would it prevent another break from reality? Or would it exacerbate his symptoms and necessitate hospitalization?

At times it was hard to tell if the new medication was really working. Sometimes Chris wouldn’t answer me. I’d consider the possible reasons.

Is he refusing to answer because he’s a typical obnoxious teenager? Is he simply tired? Or is this because the medication is making his symptoms worse? Is he heading to another psychotic episode? Should I call Dr. Newman?

One night after dinner I asked him a direct question. “Chris, are you having trouble thinking?”

He only replied with a silent message. He frowned and shook his head no.

“Chris, are you having trouble thinking?” I repeated. “Answer me. Are you feeling okay?”

“I feel fine.”

“Chris, are you having trouble thinking?”

“If you don’t want to talk, you should at least say, ‘I don’t feel like talking right now.’”

He just glared at me.

Is this some sort of game? I can’t take it anymore.

Finally I gave into the temptation to show my frustration and anger.

“If you’re feeling fine and can think, then you should answer! Since you’re not talking to me I’m going to leave you. I won’t want to talk to you later. If you do this to other people, you’ll push them away from you.”

I walked out of the room and headed to my bedroom. There I flopped onto my bed. Feeling frustrated and upset with myself.

What’s wrong with me? Now I’ve done it. I’ve probably just pushed Chris deeper into depression. How could I lash out at him when he’s hurting? What kind of a mother am I?

I turned to the only One who understood it all.

Dear Father, forgive me for how I acted. You know how hard it’s been for me to remain calm. It’s only because of Your peace that I’ve been able to comfort Chris when my own heart is breaking. I’m thankful You understand all my emotions: my fears, my sorrow, my insecurities, my anxieties, my hopes … You see all I’ve done to help Chris while taking care of all my other responsibilities. As a wife, as a mother to Robert, as an administrator. You know how tired I am and how I’ve relied on Your strength. Help me. This is such a critical time. Dr. Newman needs us to give him accurate information. To figure out if his medication is working. Now’s not the time for me to give up or make things worse. You know if the meds are working. Give me discernment and Your wisdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Chris came into my room and sat down.

“Can we talk?”

I felt like saying, “Forget it! It’s too late now!”

Maybe he really is upset. He’s reaching out. Thank You, Father that Chris is willing to talk.

“What do you want to talk about?” I asked.

“It’s a lot of responsibility to be a squad leader. I’m supposed to call all my squad members and remind them to go to an after school practice tomorrow.”

“Were you able to remind all of them?”

“Yea…I did,” he answered with a concerned tone.

“You seemed worried. What’s the problem?”

He shrugged.

Knowing how demanding his band director was, I assumed Chris was worried of failing him in some way.

“If you’re worried they won’t show up, that’s not your problem. You’ve fulfilled your responsibilities. If a member doesn’t show up and your director tries to hold you responsible, remember that it’s not your fault.”

I’d recently read Steven Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  I had read his very thought-provoking statement, “The problems, challenges, and opportunities we face fall into two areas–Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence.” That gave me an idea of how I could comfort Chris.

“I just read a book by Steven Covey. He wrote about two different kinds of responses to problems. Some people focus on things out of their control. That leads to fear, worry, sadness, and helplessness. Others focus on the things they can control. Those people approach life with courage and optimism. It’s a good message for you. Keep your focus on the thing you can control. You can control your actions. You can’t control what others do or don’t do. What makes you a good leader doesn’t depend on if your members show up to practice. You’re a good leader because you did what you was expected of you.”

That conversation provided an opportunity for me to remind Chris of God’s sovereignty. So I shared my biblical view of Covey’s approach to life.

“Covey’s message left out one big circle. The circle of those things in God’s control. Christians have three circles in their lives: the circle of concern—things out of their control, the circle of influence—things that can be controlled, and God’s circle. I try to remember all things in my life are inside God’s circle—even everything in my circle of concern. That gives me hope and helps me rest in His perfect peace.”

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What a comfort: God controls all and knows everything…even when we act, well, human. He loves us unconditionally and holds it all together.

Not Alone

Not.alone

Whoa! I didn’t see THAT coming!!!

Our lives had become less stressful and more uneventful. Chris seemed more stable. Life felt somewhat normal. The turbulence of Chris’s mental illness (MI) had disappeared. Or so I thought. It simply took up residence inside me! I never expected inner turmoil to hit me. Not when things seemed to be resolved. Chris had appeared to have recovered from his psychotic episode. God had helped me hold it together during the time Chris needed me. It made no sense that I’d start losing it for no apparent reason.

This part of our story illustrates how God met my personal needs. When loneliness and torment hit, God provided: freedom from my anguish, strengthening of my heart, restoration of my soul, protection of my sanity, assurances of His presence, and healing as a result of His comfort.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

MI had shaken our lives. But our household seemed to be recovering. We were picking up the pieces of our lives and moving on. Just like the calmness that follows an earthquake. But just like with an earthquake, I experienced aftershocks.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines ‘aftershocks’ as, “an aftereffect of a distressing or traumatic event.”

My mind, body, and emotions were reacting to the traumatic events surrounding Chris’s hospitalization. Painful reactions hit unexpectedly. Without obvious provocation.

December 1997 was a tough month for me. The holiday season brought many reminders of the previous year. Buying gifts, baking cookies, addressing cards, and … band rehearsals.

Something would trigger a memory and I’d experience a flashback. Before then, I didn’t know much about flashbacks. I had mistakenly thought flashbacks only happened to soldiers who had witnessed horrific things in battle. Suddenly they became very real. Too real. My mind and emotions would instantly be rocketed back to the Christmas season of 1996.

Like the time I attended a faculty meeting. Teachers were meeting with the music teacher to discuss details of the upcoming elementary Christmas program.

“First graders will be singing ‘Joy to the World’,” she explained.

She began playing the carol. Memories of Chris playing that song sabotaged my thoughts and emotions. All I could hear was his trumpet playing the tune in a distorted way. His voice, almost audible, echoed in my mind saying, “When I sound the trumpet by playing the song the right way, the world will end.”

The flashback unleased suppressed emotions. My heart began pounding. The dam, holding back months of tears, started to leak. Before it erupted, I quietly excused myself and headed for the nearest bathroom.

Obviously the year before I hadn’t processed what I’d seen. Hadn’t dealt with my emotions. No wonder. I had been consumed with helping Chris return to reality.

Flashbacks caught me by surprise. Causing my emotions to spill out. I found myself falling apart at unexpected times and inopportune places.  The more my mind periodically replayed awful scenes, the deeper my depression grew.

The enemy taunted me with fears that I might lose my own mind. But I trusted in the promise that, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).”

Dear Father, Your Word says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you (Isaiah 26:3).” Oh how I need Your perfect peace! Help me through my grief and flashbacks.

I rested in my firm belief that, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind [Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)].”

A sound mind. That was my goal. God was the Glue that held me together. My divine Sanity Preserver prevented me from tumbling into a deep pit of inconsolable despair.

I felt exhausted all the time. So I ate foods with carbohydrates, hoping they’d give me the energy needed to face each day.

During this time of flashbacks and depression, sound sleep eluded me. I needed rest. Like God’s people who wandered forty years in the wilderness. God knew they were tired and fearful. So He gave Joshua the perfect words of encouragement for them. Joshua relayed the message and said, “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you after he said, ‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’”

When I read Joshua 1:13 it felt like God was speaking to me.

Thank You, Father, for Your promise to give me rest.

The familiar twenty-third Psalm offered new hope for me. It guaranteed my soul would be restored. And promised me His presence and comfort.

“He restores my soul;He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me [Psalm 23:3-4 (NKJV)].”

Each flashback threatened to break my heart once again.

“God, help me!” is all I could utter. Offering up the prayer of a drowning person. God threw me His Life Saver in the shape of Psalm 31:23-24.

“Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints! For the Lord preserves the faithful … Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord  (NKJV).”

Yes, Lord, my hope is in You. Thank You for hearing my cry. I praise You for strengthening my broken heart.

My carbohydrate diet led to weight gain. I gained lots of weight. That motivated me to go to Dr. Kent (the physician who first treated Chris when he became out of touch from reality).

“What can I do to deal with my fatigue?” I asked.

Knowing what I’d been going through with Chris he asked, “Is it possible you’re depressed?”

“I guess it’s possible,” I replied.

“I’ll write you a prescription for Prozac. That should help remove the cloud and help you sleep better.”

Reluctantly, I took the medication. If I’d learned nothing else, I’d learned to take MI seriously. Even my own depression.

Once the holiday season ended, I began feeling much better. As Dr. Kent predicted, the medication lifted the cloud and helped me sleep better. So I stopped taking the Prozac. There were a few more months before the next critical period. During those winter months, things remained uneventful with Chris.

Work got busier for me. In addition to my usual responsibilities as Director of Instruction and Director of Special Education, I was planning a Math and Bible Olympics for the school. Applications for new students began pouring in. With not enough time to do everything at work, I read the applications at home. I was back to spending time working at home. But this time I was careful to spend a more reasonable amount of time. Mindful of my need to stay focused on Chris’s well-being.

During that winter the Lord led several parents my way who had children with some sort of MI. Many of the mothers expressed trouble dealing with their situation. I wasn’t alone in my struggles.

One of our neighbors told me her daughter had symptoms of a head injury.

“Kelly has suffered a head injury. We don’t know what caused it. And we don’t know what the future holds for her. Life has become so uncertain.”

“I have some idea what you’re experiencing. Chris suffered a psychotic episode a year ago. His MI turned our lives upside down,” I confided.

My news helped the mother feel safe to admit the truth.

“Actually, the doctors told us Kelly’s symptoms are psychosomatic. They didn’t find any evidence that she suffered a head injury.”

“A psychiatrist would know what’s best for Kelly. Let me know if you want the name of a good psychiatrist.”

“I’m not convinced she didn’t have a head injury. Please don’t tell anyone what I’ve told you,” was her only reply.

Apparently the mother couldn’t deal with the thought of her daughter having MI. It seemed easier for her to continue believing the cause of the symptoms was related to a head injury.

Another mother told me she had to take medication to treat panic attacks.

“My son’s MI has caused me to get panic attacks,” she confided.

Several parents asked me for advice. Many wanted to know how to get their children with MI to agree to speak to a psychologist. One father of a teenage son with MI asked a slightly different question.

“My son isn’t happy with the psychiatrist he’s going to. His MI prevents him from going to school. If he discontinues treatment, he’ll never get back to school. What should I do?”

“Find another psychiatrist,” I answered.

He answered in an exhausted tone, “Yeah, I know that might help. I just can’t seem to find the time or the energy to even begin looking for another doctor.”

I completely understood.

Another husband and wife were contemplating putting their seriously depressed son in foster care. A mutual friend shared the news with me and added this judgmental statement:

“Can you believe they would even consider abandoning their own son?”

“Unless you’ve experienced what they’re going through, you can’t begin to understand what it’s like. You can’t possibly imagine what it’s like to have a child who is suffering from an illness you can’t see or measure. You can’t know the pain of having a child who rejects your love or attempts to nurture and comfort. And there’s no break to the misery. Because of the nature of MI, parents can’t get out together. They go months without any respite time for themselves.”

It helped to discover I wasn’t alone. Knowing others who were experiencing MI comforted me some. Not nearly as much as the realization that God was with me at all times. His constant presence comforted me. I found true rest and perfect peace in His presence.

His steadfast companionship yielded great strength and courage. I faced each new day with the assurance He’d be with me. When I started to feel emotionally fragile, Deuteronomy 31:6 restored my confidence. Reminding me to, “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.” And He never left me.

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You may be experiencing flashbacks or struggling to recover from bad experiences with your child’s MI. Ask God for His grace by praying the words of Psalm 25:16-17.

“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.”

 

 

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.

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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).”

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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.”