Tag Archive | unconditional love

Dealing with pet loss and mental illness

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Our Pet “Praying”

A friend of mine has been dealing with her adult son’s recent psychotic episode. In the midst of it all, they had to put their beloved pet down. Where can she (or anyone) go for comfort at such a time?

How could I comfort my friend? I sent her a sympathy card and enclosed this message:


A Symbol of Unconditional Love by Vicki

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:11

How can we comprehend such love?

A little child draws a picture to show his love for a parent. God’s expression of love can be seen in His creation. He paints an exquisite sunset to bless us. How can we fathom such tenderness toward us? Is it even possible to understand how much He loves us? The King of all kings loves us unconditionally.

We get a peek at unconditional love through our beloved pets. Sometimes we feel foolish or even guilty that our pets mean as much to us as family members. Why do we love them so? Maybe it’s because we yearn for that unconditional love they show us. Each day, we receive unearned affection from our pets.

If we neglect our dog in the business of life, he still loves us. No matter how long we leave our pet, he faithfully sits by the door or the window waiting for us. When we are brokenhearted, he sticks close to us and licks away our tears. He is happiest simply when near us. If we yell at our four-legged companion or mistreat him, he’s forgiving. Our furry family member can be so gentle and yet can still protect. He sees us at our worst and loves us anyway. One of the few things in life we can depend on is his constant adoration.

No wonder, we grieve so much when they die. Routines and daily activities will never be the same. Entering home without their celebratory greeting will be painful to bear. Through tears, we’ll do simple tasks like putting dishes in the dishwasher. How we’ll miss their presence. How we wish they could live longer!

One thing remains. Unconditional love. Not from our pet, but from God. We recall our faithful dog and remember He is faithful. We picture our pet waiting for us and know God waits faithfully for us if we stray from Him. The memory of our pet sitting at the door conjures up a picture of a patient Father waiting at the door of our heart (Revelation 3:20). The exuberance our dog showed at our return reminds us of the exhilaration and compassion the prodigal son’s father showed his long-lost child (Luke 15:20).  Then, we begin to understand the sheer joy we bring to our Father.

We mourn our loss, but are comforted by the fact that our Father is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3). The sudden lack of protection of our watch dog is replaced by the assurance that God protects us (Psalm 46:1).

The tears we shed were once licked away by our dog. A reminder that God will one day wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4). We reflect on the many things we did with our furry friend. Then, think of our true and perfect Friend (John 15:15).

Our pet demonstrated unlimited forgiveness. God offers life-saving forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

Our hands which once embraced a loving pet now cling to God’s message of love. We cuddle up with the Bible and read words from One who is acquainted with grief. Our heavenly Father willingly watched His only Son die. For us.


I pray this has comforted you in some way, as well.

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Transformed Memories

Power Up OR Up Power

Power Up OR Up Power

Beauty and ugliness captured together. One picture—two kinds of power. Black branches shroud the power plant. God’s artistry illuminates the darkness. Revealing His colorful sunset. A symbol of God’s power.

Can pain and love be captured in one event? Can one experience create two vastly different memories? Can a traumatic memory become a reminder of the Father’s love? Yes. But how?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could transform our worst nightmare into a symbol of love? We can’t. But God can. He did it for me. He healed my most traumatic memory.

Here’s the next part of our story (see previous four weeks for the background).

♦♦♦♦♦♦

Chris had already assaulted my husband and me. Confirming the psychiatrist’s warning that Chris had become violent and unstable—clearly in need of hospitalization. Thankfully God protected Howie and me. Concerns still consumed me.

How will we get Chris to the hospital? When will he explode again?

The very next night, Chris assaulted us. This time, Chris hit Howie first and then me. When he turned his back to Howie to hit me (in the jaw again!), Howie got hold of him. I quickly left the bedroom to call 911. As I started walking downstairs I thought, Are you nuts? How is Howie supposed to hold Chris down alone?

I went back upstairs. As I entered our bedroom, I could see that Howie was losing his grip on Chris. If Chris got loose, there was no telling what he’d do to us. My presence in the room distracted Chris. Howie got a better hold on him. Quickly, I helped Howie hold Chris down on the floor.

I managed to close the bedroom door so our other son wouldn’t witness his raging brother. Robert didn’t need to see us restraining Chris, who growled like an enraged animal.

“Robert, call 911! Tell them to send an ambulance,” I screamed.

We calculated later that it took at least ten minutes for the police to arrive. That was the longest ten minutes of my life. As we held Chris down on the floor, his nose started bleeding. Blood poured from his nose onto our carpet.

Howie was on one side of Chris and I was on the other. I couldn’t see what was happening to Howie. All I heard was Howie making grunting sounds as if he was getting hurt.

I learned later that Chris was head-butting Howie, while trying to bite me. As we wrestled Chris, my finger got caught in his mouth. I jammed my fist farther into his mouth to release his grip. It worked!

Shortly after, it happened again. Chris bit my hand. Again, I shoved my fist into his mouth. As I removed my hand, my baby finger got caught in the strong grips of his teeth.

Just at that moment, I heard a different sound from Howie. I heard him moan.

“Is it your heart, Howie?”

“I think so.”

Later, I found out Robert thought his father was having a heart attack. I did too.

As I looked at my finger in the clutches of Chris’s teeth, I considered my options. I could leave it in so I could maintain my strong hold on Chris. Or, I could use my other hand to get my finger free. If I moved my other hand that was restraining Chris, he would surely get loose and hurt us. If I didn’t move my other hand, I thought I’d watch Chris bite my finger off.

I don’t remember what happened next. All I know is my finger got out of Chris’s mouth and we both had a more secure hold on him. It was an eternity of silent agony.

An army of police officers came to our house. I never thought I’d be relieved to have my son handcuffed. But, I was. I knew we would all be safe and Chris would have the best chance of getting better. Howie and I were exhausted.

The police took Chris away in an ambulance. Howie and I rushed to follow it to the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital just as the police were escorting Chris into the emergency entrance. We caught up to him. The dark, empty look in his eyes was replaced by a pathetic look. I saw the helpless, pleading look of a son who needed his mother.

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

“It’s OK, Chris. We know you didn’t mean it. You’re just sick. That’s all.”

At the admissions desk the nurse asked me the routine questions.

“Patient’s name?…”

After a series a questions, she reached out and touched my hand. Then embraced my eyes with a compassionate stare. Her silence spoke volumes. When she spoke again, her words sounded softer and sincere.

“You’ve done the hardest part, Mrs. Chandler. You got him here,” she assured me.

“How do you know that?”

“I had to admit my daughter to this psychiatric unit recently,” she confided.

Thank You, Lord for giving me another mother who understands what I’m feeling. 

“What do you think of the care in this hospital?” I inquired.

“It’s excellent.”

In the waiting room, Howie and I noticed our injuries. The inside of Howie’s lip was raw and bloody from being hit repeatedly by Chris’s head. There was a large cut on his face just under his eye. I had no cuts. Only bruises. All over my arms and legs.

During the six hours we waited, doctors and nurses tried to get Chris to admit himself. But he refused. He would have to be admitted against his will.

A crisis management person was assigned to our case. He explained the law. Legally, involuntary commitment can be initiated if someone is a threat to themselves or others. Chris had proven to be a threat to others. We were informed of the steps in the process. First, a thorough evaluation would be done to determine that Chris was truly incompetent. Then, there would be a hearing.

After a while, Chris fell asleep. He was taken to a room in the adolescent psychiatric ward of the hospital. God was gracious to provide a way for Chris to get treatment in a regular hospital. That way, his peers wouldn’t have to know exactly what was wrong. They’d simply know he was sick and in the hospital. Not in a psychiatric hospital. The hospital was only five minutes from our home. Our insurance covered all of the expenses.

As we left the hospital, we were given a packet of information. It contained all the rules and regulations of the psychiatric ward. A lot to read after experiencing such an ordeal.

We returned home at 6:00 AM. Robert got ready to go to bed. Howie began to clean up the dog’s mess on the steps. I entered our bedroom and immediately noticed the pool of blood on our rug. I feverishly began scrubbing the rug before Robert saw it.

Then, I went to check on Robert. I noticed him standing near Chris’s bedroom door. The door was slightly opened.

Pointing to Chris’s door Robert said, “He’s in there.”

The past two months prepared me to expect anything. So, I assumed Chris had somehow escaped from the hospital. I peeked into his room and caught a glimpse of legs in the bed. The shocked and puzzled look on my face told Robert I thought it was Chris in the room.

“It’s Dad,” he explained.

I pushed the door open. Enough to see Howie lying in Chris’s bed sobbing. I’d never even seen Howie cry before, let alone sob!

“It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault,” he kept saying.

“No it’s not. Chris is sick mentally. He’ll get better,” I assured him and myself.

Later that day, Howie and I compared notes. We shared what we were thinking as we held our son down. What we felt as we waited for the police to come and take him away to a psychiatric ward. Our overriding emotion was one of tremendous sorrow for Chris.

The Lord replaced that dreadful experience with a beautiful symbol of Christ’s love. Howie and I were careful not to hurt Chris as we held him down. Neither of us minded the blows he gave us. Even though Chris cursed us, we loved him unconditionally. That’s how it was with Jesus. He died for us because He loves us unconditionally. He was wounded for our transgressions. No matter how much we curse Him or stray from Him, He loves us just the same. He understands us.

The most horrific story in the Bible is Christ’s crucifixion. He experienced agony on the cross. For those who have accepted his death as payment of their sins, that picture of brutality has become a beautiful symbol of His unconditional love.

What’s your worst experience with your child who has mental illness (MI)? God can heal that painful memory. Pray this prayer:

Dear Father,

Please transform my painful memory. Give me an eternal perspective of that awful experience. Remove the horrific image that plagues my thoughts and replace it with a picture of Your love. Thank You for the promises of Your love. My heart still sings, ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’”

“The Old Rugged Cross” (sung by Alan Jackson) reminds us of God’s unconditional love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fa1afzmDL1Q

 

What’s beautiful?

Multnomah Falls Boulder

Multnomah Falls Boulder

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

“Get a picture of that boulder!” interrupted my husband. The excitement in his voice yanked my attention away from the breathtaking waterfall. I matched my gaze in the direction of his eyes, expecting to find a thing of beauty. Nothing in that direction moved me. We entered into a sort of I Spy game.

“Which boulder? Where is it?” I inquired.

“To the right of that big tree,” he directed.

The hunt went on for quite a while. Part of the problem: what he found beautiful looked like a huge rock to me. I finally realized which boulder took his breath away.

Beauty certainly IS in the eye of the beholder!

I kept my opinion to myself and snapped the picture.

What do you find refrigerator-worthy? My aunt places snapshots of sunsets on her frig.

Most parents display their children’s school work. Like me. Years ago, Chris’ test papers decorated our kitchen. Learning came easy to him, so he earned a multitude of A’s. Each one found a place of prominence on the refrigerator.

Then one day Chris got a low grade. Mostly for not following directions. He presented the paper to me in tears.

“Why are you crying?” I asked.

“I’m afraid you’re not gonna love me anymore.”

“Oh, Chris. NOTHING will ever change my love for you. Nothing.”

Chris mistakenly interpreted my pleasure in academic excellence as a measure of my love. I assured him of my love. But his comment made me rethink which papers were refrigerator-worthy. Only the ones which demonstrated great effort were awarded a spot with the comment, “I love you because of who you are. Let’s celebrate your effort.”

How ‘bout your parenting? Do you feel it wouldn’t qualify for a place on a refrigerator? Are you hard on yourself? Is your child’s mental illness (MI) making you feel like a failure? Do friends, relatives, and educators feed your personal assessment? By judging you on your child’s behavior? You’re probably not alone. Many of us focus on our child’s performance rather than our own effort. No wonder we feel unworthy of joining the refrigerator representatives of success.

Do you think there’s nothing beautiful in how you manage your child who has MI? Shift your criteria from what you can’t control to what’s within your ability to demonstrate. You’ll find beauty in your endless effort, unconditional love, and heartfelt prayers.

Celebrate the impact you have in your home. You light a dark mood with your joy. Turmoil that invades your home can’t rob you of God’s peace. When MI causes conflict between family members, you appeal to the One who can intervene. Trusting the Mediator, who reconciled mankind to God through His death, to heal relationships.

Outsiders define good parenting by what they see. Without knowing the challenges you face. Thankfully, the Bible challenges us to be God-pleasers rather than man-pleasers (Galatians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:4). Align your definition of beauty with the biblical definition. What pleases our heavenly Father?

“For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory (Psalm 149:4).”

He loves you for who you are. You’re a child of the King. Amazing!

“…The prayer of the upright pleases him (Proverbs 15:8).”

Your prayers delight Him. Imagine that.

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).”

In spite of insurmountable trials, you maintain your hope in Him.

What’s beautiful to God? You are.

What’s beautiful about God?  He’s patient and longsuffering. He’s accessible. He’s on the throne. He’s never changing. He gave His only Son to die for our sins. He sent the Holy Spirit to live within us.

There’s undeniable beauty in God’s power displayed in creation. We find beauty in His Word and promises. We experience it in His sovereignty and power. We depend on His abundant hope and perfect peace. And rest in His unconditional love and faithfulness.

We anticipate the ultimate beauty: His promise of heaven where there will be no more MI or tears.

Reflect on the beauty of God as you listen to Phil Wickham’s song ‘You’re Beautiful.’  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfhb0_tmrbc

Don’t Underestimate Your Influence

PositiveInfluence

Do you ever wonder if you’re helping your child who has mental illness (MI)? His illness may prevent him from thanking you. Your spouse may not acknowledge your efforts. When we near our breaking point, we’re tempted to give up.

This message is dedicated to the countless moms who privately provide support. No one sees all you do. No one could know how you minister to your child, in spite of your broken heart. You’d much rather crawl into bed and cry … for a week or two. But there’s no time for you to grieve.

Recently, I witnessed beautiful motherly care and attention. My good friend sat beside her adult son in a mental health care facility.

She had recently totaled her car, which left her with some back pain. She and her husband had settlement the day after her son was admitted into the hospital. Her husband had paper work to do. So she went to visit her son alone (not knowing I’d come alongside her).

In spite of fighting a cold, she asked all the right questions. Presenting each one lovingly.

“Did you eat last night?”
“How did you sleep?”

“Do you like your psychiatrist?”

“Do you take a walk in the hallway sometimes?”

“Did you have group?”

“What are you thinking?”

Periodically, she gently stroked his arm. Sometimes, she allowed silence.

She reassured him without promising something that may not happen.

“Do you think I’ll be able to go to my Bible study’s Christmas party on Friday?” her son asked.

“Maybe. Hopefully,” was her honest reply.

My friend held it together while in the hospital. Until we stepped outside after visiting hours. The exit door became a faucet for her tears.

I tried to comfort her. “Are you okay?”

“I’m numb,” she said as she softly cried.

I gently stroked her back.

Will her son be released before Christmas? That remains to be seen. Will his new medication restore him to his sweet self? Time will tell.

When is it a good time to be hospitalized for MI? Certainly not at Christmas.

Seventeen years ago Christmas wasn’t a time for celebration. Our son, Chris, had to be hospitalized. Those memories mercifully have begun to fade. Visiting my friend’s son threatened to arouse painful emotions.

“Are you sure you want to go?” asked my husband lovingly. Wondering if it would be too difficult for me to relive reminders of our son’s hospitalization.

“This will be healing for me,” I answered. “I know how much it would have meant if someone sat by me when Chris was hospitalized (if you couldn’t come). Especially if that person knew exactly what I was feeling.”

So I went. And was blessed by what I saw in my friend’s compassionate care of her son.

Her son also impressed me. There he sat in a psychiatric hospital speaking about God’s Word. He quoted verses from the Bible and discussed some of his favorite stories. His shattered cognition didn’t dampen his determination to focus on the Lord. His inner turmoil didn’t rob him of his love for God. My friend can take credit for investing Truth in him. God’s Word promises that His Truth will not come back void.

Isaiah 55:11 tells us, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”  (KJV)

Can anyone relate to the thankless care you provide for your child with MI? Certainly the Lord can. He healed ten lepers, but only one thanked Him. He died on the cross for the sins of all mankind, but men mocked Him as He hung dying. Spewing anger in return for His unconditional love. Countless still ignore His free gift of salvation.

Christ surely knows what it’s like for you. He sees your faithful labors of love. So seek His approval. He’s well-pleased with you. And know this: you’re having a positive impact on your child even though it can’t be measured.

Hang in there, with your focus firmly fixed on Him.

The song “In Christ Alone” (from the Secrets Of The Vine CD) reminds us that, “Here in the power of Christ we stand.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExnTlIM5QgE

 

Good Friday?

Jesusoncross
Why do we reflect on Christ’s crucifixion? How can we relate to such torture? How can we understand such love?

God transformed a traumatic memory to give me insight. Read how:

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

How am I supposed to get him to the hospital without him first harming me? I hid all sharp objects, but Chris has his black belt in karate.

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

Suddenly, he struck my jaw with a karate chop.

Chris turned and walked towards the steps, punching a hole in the wall. I followed him.

Chris walked into our bedroom and began to speak calmly to Howie, as if nothing happened. Unprovoked, he suddenly attacked Howie with a running side kick (a powerful karate foot kick). When he turned toward me, Howie grabbed him.

Quickly, I helped Howie hold Chris down on the floor. Chris’s nose started bleeding. Blood poured from his nose onto our carpet.

With Howie was on one side of Chris and me on the other, I couldn’t see what was happening to Howie. But, I could hear Howie making grunting sounds as if he was getting hurt. Chris thrashed his feet about in an attempt to break loose. kicking me over and over. He cursed at us and growled like a caged animal.

I screamed, “Robert, call 911! Tell them to send an ambulance.”

An army of police officers arrived at our house. I never thought I’d be relieved to have my son handcuffed. But, I was. I knew we would all be safe and Chris would have the best chance of getting better. The police took Chris away in an ambulance. Although Howie and I were exhausted, we jumped in the car and headed to the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital just as the police were escorting Chris into the emergency entrance. We caught up to him. The dark, empty look in his eyes was replaced by a pathetic look. I saw the helpless, pleading look of a son who needed his mother.

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

“It’s OK, Chris. We know you didn’t mean it. You’re just sick. That’s all.”

In the waiting room, Howie and I noticed our injuries. The inside of Howie’s lip was raw and bloody from being hit repeatedly by Chris’s head. There was a large cut on his face just under his eye. I had no cuts. Only bruises. All over my arms and legs.

During the six hours we waited, doctors and nurses tried to get Chris to admit himself. But he refused. He would have to be admitted against his will.

After a while, Chris fell asleep. He was taken to a room in the adolescent psychiatric ward of the hospital.

As we left the hospital, we were given a packet of information. It contained all the rules and regulations of the psychiatric ward. A lot to read after experiencing such an ordeal.

We returned home at 6:00 AM.

Later that day, Howie and I compared notes.
“What were you thinking when we held Chris down, Howie?”
“I felt tremendous sorrow for him. I didn’t want him to get hurt.”
“That’s exactly how I felt.”

Howie and I were careful not to hurt Chris as we held him down. Neither of us minded the blows we received. Even though Chris cursed us, we loved him unconditionally.

That’s how it was with Jesus. His accusers cursed, beat, and whipped Him. Yet, He took the pain upon Himself…For our transgressions. The Lord replaced that dreadful experience with a beautiful reminder of Christ’s love.

As a little girl, I wondered, “What’s so good about Good Friday?” Our experience with our son years ago gave me insight into Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus willingly died because of His unconditional love for us. He preferred to take our punishment so we could have eternal life in heaven.

Do you have a painful memory that haunts you? Christ, who overcame death, can surely transform those troubling thoughts.

Kristyn Getty’s “The Power of the Cross” reminds us of His unconditional love.

Overwhelmed with Sorrow

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2

Throughout Chris’s school years, learning was easy for him. He always brought home A’s. Until one day.

Chris’s first grade teacher wanted to prepare me for the unusually low grade he would bring home that day. Since I taught in the small Christian school he attended, I ate lunch with his teacher.

“I had to give Chris a D on his math test,” she explained.

“Why?”

“He didn’t follow the directions.”

After school, Chris came to my classroom. As soon as he started to talk, he burst into tears.

“What’s the matter, Chris?”

Thrusting his math paper at me, he sobbed, “I got this paper back.”

“Why are you crying?”

“I’m afraid you’re not gonna love me anymore.”

How could he think such a thing? What made him believe my love could be turned off by a mere bad grade? How could he ever imagine my love for him was conditional?

Then it dawned on me. Tests grades with A’s were proudly displayed on our refrigerator. Chris assumed the kitchen was our hall of earned love. The place of honor reserved for excellent work. In his mind, papers with A’s were payments to gain my love.

Chris was overwhelmed with sorrow at the thought I wouldn’t love him anymore. His sadness opened the floodgates of my compassion.

“Oh, Chris, nothing will ever stop me from loving you. Not this grade. Not any mistake you’ll ever make. I will always love you.”

Chris isn’t the only one who’s become overwhelmed with sorrow.

Jesus became overwhelmed with sorrow. In the book of Matthew, Jesus told His disciples He was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” when faced with bearing the burden of everyone’s sin (Matthew 26:38). What was His response?  He found a quiet place and prayed to His father.

We, too, suffer great sorrow. In agony, we watch our child struggle with mental illness. Do we pray to our Father?

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told his disciples to pray so they won’t fall into temptation. That’s His desire for us too. He knows we face the temptation to give into our human reactions. It’s easy to become fearful, uncertain, hopeless, and depressed.

Just like Chris, go to God and honestly admit, “I haven’t followed Your directions and have neglected my private times with You. I’m afraid you don’t love me anymore. Show me Your love. Help me see Your path for my child’s life. Reveal Your presence in my house. Restore clarity of thought and joy to my son. Encourage me today. Bless me with Your perfect peace.”

Release the floodgates of His love for you.