Tag Archive | comfort

A Mother’s Thoughts & Feelings

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NOTE: I wrote this message weeks ago and neglected to post it. This part of my story tells about the time right before Chris was hospitalized. Hopefully, the comfort offered in this message won’t be lost in any confusion.

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It tugs at our heart. The face of an orphan boy. Dark eyes, staring into the distance, reflect the death of his dream. To live with loving parents. “All hope is dead,” his lifeless expression cries out. “Love is for others. Not for me.”

Oliver sang of his search for love. As if wandering in a desert, he thirsted for love. Yearning for it. Longing for it.

“Where is love?

Does it fall from skies above?

Is it underneath the willow tree

That I’ve been dreaming of?”

We can relate to Oliver’s search for love when we can’t find God’s love. We wonder, “Where are You, God? Why are You silent?”

Our journey raising a child with mental illness (MI) can cause us to feel helpless, hopeless, and sad. We desperately need to feel God’s presence. In the haze of MI, His love gets blurred.

When we need Him most, He reveals His comfort and care. This next part of our story illustrates how God provided comfort. He brought into focus His faithfulness. His presence became crystal clear.

The last past weeks I’ve shared details about our journey. In the first part of our story [‘When Mental Illness (MI) Hit Home’] I shared how Chris had begun to unravel in 1996. His reality had given way to unstable thoughts and fractured emotions. My heavenly Father provided guidance and started helping me through my grieving. The second part of our story (‘Unprepared & Sad, but Unflinching’) showed how God provided peace and protection for me and medical care for Chris. In my post ‘What’s it like?’ I explained how God provided endurance and wisdom. Now I’ll tell about how His provision of comfort and an awareness of His presence.

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To understand the measure of His comfort, I’ll first share my thoughts and emotions.

What does a mother think and feel when her son is out of touch with reality? I wondered what precipitated the breakdown. Will I have to hear something horrific that happened to Chris to cause such torment?

I imagined what it would be like if Chris stabbed me.

I’ve heard some people on the news describe what it’s like to be stabbed. They said if feels like being punched. Others claimed they didn’t even know they had been stabbed. So, it might not be too painful.

I thought about how I would react if he killed himself.

If Chris kills himself, the loss will be devastating. But the Lord will sustain me just as He has through other trials. I’ll be happy for Chris, knowing he’s out of the world that has been so miserable to him for most of his life.

I marveled at how the Lord was enabling me to go on for days without sleep, under extreme sorrow.

Dear Father, How can I endure watching Chris in torment? His MI has ravaged my emotions. Without You, I couldn’t hold it together. I’m amazed at Your power to help me remain calm. Thank You for flooding my head with verses of assurance.

Two months after his breakdown, Chris was more stable. But clearly still troubled, unpredictable, and violent. He started seeing a Christian neuropsychiatrist. Dr. Kipley. He diagnosed Chris’s condition: schizoaffective disorder. Medicine could treat the condition. But, the thought of giving him medicine scared me. I didn’t know how to administer it and live. So, Chris didn’t get the treatment he needed. Instead of getting better, he got worse.

At one appointment with Dr. Kipley, Chris appeared very agitated. He yelled at the doctor and threatened him.

“You have to get Chris into the hospital as soon as possible. He’s becoming very dangerous,” Dr. Kipley advised.

“With Chris as dangerous as he is, how can I get him to the hospital without him first harming me?” I asked.

“You must find a way. He needs hospitalization,” was all he could answer.

A few nights later, we all went to the movies. When we returned home, Robert and Howie went upstairs. Chris approached me in the kitchen. He had an audiocassette tape in his hand. Breaking it in front of me he said, “This is what I will do to you.”

Suddenly, he karate chopped my jaw. My earring flew off. I resisted the temptation to touch my jaw. I didn’t want to feel how badly it had broken. Strangely enough, I didn’t feel any pain.

Chris turned and walked slowly towards the steps. As he passed a wall, he punched a hole in it. I followed him upstairs, anticipating he would attack my unsuspecting husband.

Chris walked into our bedroom and began to speak calmly to Howie, as if nothing happened.

Unprovoked, he suddenly attacked Howie with a powerful karate foot kick.

Following the psychiatrist’s instructions I said, “I’ll have to call an ambulance.”

Chris blew up. He started yelling, left our room, and went into his bedroom. One minute later, he emerged seemingly much calmer.

“I’m sorry. Please don’t send me to the hospital.”

“I won’t. But if you do it again, we’ll have to call for an ambulance.”

I felt grateful the incident ended. I gently touched my jaw. Amazingly, it wasn’t broken. Without a doubt, God protected me from injury. There’s no way my jaw could have withstood such a blow from a strong teenager. His hands could break several boards with one swift chop. There’s no way I could remain calm in the face of senseless and unpredictable violence.

Thank You, Father, for Your protection and presence. Thank You for helping me remain calm.

I had gotten better at recognizing God’s love and care. I had learned to focus on His presence which always dissolved emotional turbulence. The One who calmed the raging waters, calmed my fears and sadness. He filled me with divine peace—even in the midst of unsettled circumstances.

God's love and care coming into focus

God’s love and care coming into focus

Having gone through an experience like that, you would think I’d get Chris into the hospital immediately. Next time, we might not be as fortunate. But, there’s no way to explain how difficult it is to commit your son to a psychiatric ward against his will.

I know hospitalization will ultimately be for Chris’s good. But I also know it initially will be sheer agony. Chris will think we’ve betrayed him. I dread the inevitable. Father, help me feel Your presence. Comfort me as we make this heart-wrenching decision.  

What I required, God revealed.

God meets our every need. He’ll direct us to mental health care specialists for our kids. For us, He’ll provide wisdom for our actions, physical strength for each day, and comfort for our emotions.

No need to wander to find His love.

Or wonder if He’s there.

Our faithful Father will reveal

His tender love and care.

God's love & care clearly seen

God’s love & care clearly seen

Celebrate God’s love as sing along with Hillsong Kids: ‘I Could Sing of Your Love Forever’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnPVJYTW9s8

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

Sleep

TeacherwithJesus

“What makes a good teacher a good teacher?” I asked my second grade students.

Some described the character of an excellent educator: “Nice, truthful, helpful, loving, responsible, respectful, patient, joyful, has the right opinions (not having bad opinions of people), and a good example.”

Others focused on the training and talents which produce a superior teacher: “Goes to college, knows how to teach, knows how to discipline (at the right time, giving consequences, letting the kids know that you still love them), good memory, makes good decisions, smart, observant, creative, and finds ways to make learning fun.”

A few provided adorable advice: “Pays attention to papers when grading, writes fast (for when students make lists), knows how to tell time, comes early and not late, and stays wake.”

Good to know: stay awake when teaching!  That last piece of advice conjured up visions of chaos.

chaos.classroom

We all know the drill: stay awake during work, sleep at night. Not everyone can sleep soundly. Some endure restless nights.

Mothers who have children with mental illness (MI) sometimes stay awake—all night. Too many nights. Praying or pondering. Wondering or waiting. Listening or crying.

Chris is a young adult. But I still have trouble falling asleep when he’s out. Sweet slumber eludes me amid tormenting thoughts. Where is he now? What is he doing? How is he acting? Are people being kind to him?

I fight those thoughts with prayer: Dear Father, protect Chris from anyone who would seek to harm him physically or emotionally.  

How can a mom turn off mothering? By turning it over to the One who never sleeps and leaving it in His hands.

“He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:3-4)”

Sometimes I fall asleep praying for Chris. Other nights God’s promises comfort me.

“My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” Psalm 119:148

Do details of life with MI stalk you during the night? The Psalmist tells about his trouble: concerns which hounded him all night.

“When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. (Psalm 77:2-3, 11-12)”

Has MI rendered you inconsolable like the Psalmist? Follow his example and meditate on God’s past faithfulness. Reflect on His power and love.

Thoughts of His help translate into praise.

“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 63:6-7)”

Are you literally afraid to go to sleep? Fearful of what might happen during the night. Picture His divine protection.

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)”

God promises to give you peaceful rest.

“When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. (Proverbs 3:24)”

Maybe anxiety plagues you during your waking hours. Psalms assures you of His consolation.

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. (Psalm 94:19)”

Dear Father, turn our restlessness into Your perfect peace. Help us leave our concerns at Your throne. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be still and find rest in Him as you listen to ‘Still’ by Hillsong.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXywFuTf65I

How to Love

Bentlight

Our 32-year-old son, Chris, doesn’t want to be treated like a child. He no longer wants me to meet his needs when he’s hurting. His desires are perfectly normal. Since he lives with us, I observe hints of difficulties. And sense his internal turmoil.

On his good days, it’s easy to get clues he’s feeling fine. He might join me on errands. Or stop to chat with me while passing through the kitchen.

For so many years, that ability to discern his emotional or mental needs served us well. Now, he doesn’t reach out. I only detect clues he’s in need.

He comes and goes and I watch how he walks.

He seems slumped over. Is that just my imagination?

I catch a glimpse of his face, careful to look without him noticing.

He looks sad. Or is that just fatigue from working out at the gym?

As long as he remains somewhat active, I know he’s not isolating. That’s a good thing. When he conceals himself in his room, I’m left to wonder.

How do I stop being a mom? Is it possible to extinguish the impulses to ease a child’s pain? How do others keep from worrying?

When a young child is hurting and vulnerable, our sole priority is to help. A mother’s instinct is to nurture, protect, and comfort. We’re drawn to minister to needs. It’s as natural as breathing. Impossible to stop for any length of time.

So how does a mom love a mature son who has serious mental illness (MI)?  Differently.

A ruler in the Bible shows us how we can love our adult son or daughter differently. Jairus was one of the synagogue leaders. His twelve-year-old daughter was dying. What did do?

Mark 4:22-24 tells us Jairus humbled himself and went to Jesus. Seeking help from the Great Physician. One who could heal his daughter.

Jesus agreed to go to his daughter. But then Christ stopped to heal another woman with a blood flow (Mark 5:25-34).

Can you imagine what Jairus must have felt? Surely, he was thinking: No, no, no…don’t stop now. There’s no time…my daughter is dying. PLEASE, Lord, come with me NOW! You can heal that woman later.

We can all relate to delays. Waiting in traffic is one thing. Waiting for God’s answer to our prayers is another thing. Especially when we’re praying for God to provide His peace and clarity of thought for our child with MI. That kind of waiting could lead to depression if we don’t hold onto our faith and keep our eyes fixed on Him. With our head buried deep in His Word.

Finally, Jesus healed the woman. But then the grateful woman had to tell Christ her “whole” story (Mark 5:33). Was Jairus feeling panicked? Surely, it didn’t help when others came spreading their fear. Informing him that “your daughter is dead” (Mark 5:35).

But, Christ calmed his fears.

“Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe’” (Mark 5:36).

Then Jesus raised up the girl (Mark 5:41-42).

What’s the message for us? When Christ delays, He’s still working. When fears bombard us, He’ll provide comfort. And remind us to keep believing and not waver in our faith.

When we don’t know what’s going on, we can trust in what we DO know. We do know God is still in control. He hears our prayers. He’s promised to comfort us. He’ll provide all we need.

Do you have an adult child with MI? In what ways do you show your love?

Casting Crowns’ song reminds us “TIS SO SWEET TO TRUST IN JESUS.”

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

Tsunami

tsunami

Which is worse: dealing with unpredictable behaviors, or facing certain devastation? As bad as things seem, they could always be worse.

My heart goes out to moms who have kids with serious mental illness (MI). It’s not possible for me to reach out and hug each of you, so I share Bible verses of comfort.

This devotional is offered as a different form of comfort. I decided to relate a story about a mother who is facing a much greater trial than mine. Her struggles put mine into perspective. Maybe you’ll have a similar response. Or, you might read her story and realize that you’re living a worse nightmare. In that case, this story might take your mind of your situation momentarily. Regardless of your situation, I’m sure you can stand a dose of inspiration…to read about how another mom is able to find joy in the Lord. Even though she faces impending grief.

After church, I ran into a parent of two former students. Her older son, Andrew, recently graduated from high school. I knew he’d been suffering symptoms of a rare progressive neurological disease. Kim gave me an update.

“Andrew’s been diagnosed with a rare disease which is similar to childhood Alzheimer’s. David has also been diagnosed with it.”

That sentence hit me like a bullet.

Please Lord, no! This can’t be happening. Not to a family who loves You so much. Not to Andrew who has such a sweet personality. Not to David who’s only in ninth grade. How will David cope as he watches his future unfold—seeing the disease takes its toll on Andrew first.”

I stood there in shock, choking back tears. Speechless. Unable to move.

My mind swirled with questions.

How can a parent deal with the knowledge that her two sons will die young? It must feel like being strapped to a chair, watching a tsunami approach in slow motion. With nothing to do but think about the impending destruction. Dreams demolished. Emotions obliterated. Unbearable heartache.

Moses faced an impossible situation. An army of chariots quickly closed in. Millions of Israelites complained in fear. The Red Sea blocked an escape.

By faith Moses said, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”  Exodus 14:13-14

Can Moses’ advice help us?

We fight MI. Others deal with the onslaught of an incurable disease, unfair accusations, or an unexpected betrayal. Many wage a battle within of doubt, uncertainty, loneliness, mental exhaustion, or discouragement.

Regardless of our circumstances, we can all find comfort in knowing the Lord will fight for us. Our challenge: to be still before God. And wait in confidence for His deliverance.

By the way, on that day when Kim provided the update, she asked me, “Would you be willing to tell what Andrew was like in second grade? We’re making a documentary for our website. We want to educate people about the disease.”

I agreed. The Lord helped me speak without crying. You can see that documentary on The Andrew Coppola Foundation website.

Are you able to get still before the Lord? How/where/when do you do that?

Maybe Hillsong’s ‘Still’ will help you draw near to Him in stillness:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28ZZgD3Q9sQ

 

Photo Shop

Bird Paradise digital 007 fixed Bird Paradise
Wouldn’t it be nice to photo shop your life? Tweak imperfections in relationships the way photographers tweak photographs?

Just for fun, imagine the possibilities.
Let’s delete shadows of painful memories. Click! Regrets of parenting mistakes gone.

Now, blur specific painful scenes. Click! Stories your child told of being bullied or ignored can no longer be seen in your mind’s eye.

Next, air brush ugliness away and smooth out edges. Click! Tension in the family dissolves.

Don’t forget to crop out unwanted emotions. Click! Anxiety and worry are gone from you and your child who has mental illness (MI).

Let’s try reducing the noise that clutters up a marriage. Click! Resentment is replaced with clear communication.

Finally, use the red eye tool to remove the tear-stained, sleep-deprived inflammation. Click! A false façade hides deep sorrow.

Sadly, it seems impossible to remove painful memories, erase regrets, smooth away tension, restore a marriage, sleep peacefully, and stop the tears.

We walk from peaceful days into the darkness. Why?

I discovered a wonderful symbolism of God’s ways when I tinkered with tools in Photo Shop.

My newest pastime is altering photographs. I’ve recently learned how to change the background of pictures.

I captured a nice picture of a macaw. The context of the cage pulled my attention away from the bird’s pretty colors. I wondered if I could improve the picture.

When I switched to a black background, the glorious colors exploded like fireworks in the night. I gasped in awe at the result. Once distractions were removed, the exquisite rainbow of colors became strikingly vibrant.

Has MI plunged you into darkness? The Designer of the universe knows how to focus your attention on Him. The darker the trial, the brighter His presence. Suddenly all that’s seen is His vibrant love.

The complicated context of our lives masks God’s presence. When our lives are uneventful, we rarely notice Him. So, God switches the background.

Walking in darkness conjures up images of someone stumbling. It stirs up ugly emotions: fright, uncertainty, loneliness…But, God ways aren’t like our ways. He knows when we walk in darkness, we look harder for Him.

In our darkest of times, God’s presence captivates our attention. His love comes alive. His comfort reaches out to us. His peace calms our heart.

Words in the Bible, once a multitude of verses, become God’s personal message to us. The Bible, previously our Daily Bread, becomes a true feast for the heart. Our lifeline. We witness His faithfulness and learn to depend on His promises.

My camera has a switch for automatic. But, I prefer using the manual switch. I like to be in control.

Have you got your life on manual? How’s it working for you? Try switching to automatic. Let God capture your heart. He’s perfecting His masterpiece. Your family portrait is framed in His perfect plans. Wait for them to be fully developed. What He’s begun, He’ll complete.

For now, we see only in part. Like this small glimpse of a snapshot.
stainedglasscrop
God sees the big picture.
stainedglass
Ask God to give you His heavenly perspective.

Reflect on God’s Hand in your life as you listen to Chris Tomlin sing ‘Take My Life’