Tag Archive | wisdom

Speechless

SPEECHLESS

Silence fell over the college dining hall. Everyone savored each bite of the roast beef. Back in the day, such a meal came only once a year—at final time. Usually we had to choose from one form of “mystery meat” or the salad bar. Entrees often tasted like hospital food. So roast beef was a real treat. We didn’t want to interrupt the taste sensation with casual chatter. We were speechless.

Other things which delight our senses can leave us speechless. A breathtaking sunset which could never be captured. An unmatched athletic fete which would appear impossible to duplicate. An orchestra performance which could only be rewarded by a standing ovation.

The temporary inability to speak is usually caused by strong emotions. Either good or bad. Horror can render one speechless. Like news of the death of a loved one.

Often there are no words to describe secret pain suffered. A mother watching her child struggle with mental illness (MI) doesn’t even attempt to explain what’s in her heart. The carefree smile on her child’s face has been replaced with a dark stare. The young head that used to tip backwards in bubbling giggles now hangs down like a heavy wet rag. Her child once used to be the life of a party. Now she’s an empty shell of a person. Lifeless.

No words can explain the sorrow.

Mothers aren’t the only ones left speechless in the wake of MI. Sometimes our children with MI don’t speak. Clinical depression robs them of any desire to communicate. How their parents long for happy conversations!

Refraining from speaking isn’t always a bad thing. The best response often is silence. Whenever Chris fires unprovoked anger my way, I shoot a quick prayer heavenward. Asking God to help me remain silent. Whenever Chris makes an odd statement, Howie listens without response. Withholding our anger or judgment delivers an unspoken blessing to Chris. Silence conveys our unconditional love.

Poets and leaders have written about the value of silence.

Thomas Hardy (1840-1926), the British novelist and poet observed, “That man’s silence is wonderful to listen to.”

Winston Churchill (1874-1965), the British politician, pointed out, “When the eagles are silent the parrots begin to jabber.”

Mark Twain (1835-1910), a man known for his words, touted the benefits of silence. He chose strong descriptors to convey his passion about a pause. “The Pause; that impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words however so felicitous, could accomplish it.”

What about the Bible? Does it tell us anything about silence? Christ often didn’t respond. He used silence to convey a powerful message or to make a point. Sometimes His silence was coupled with a look. Peter experienced one of those.

“Peter replied, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times (Luke 22:60-61).’”

We find biblical warnings associated with talking in Proverbs. Verse nineteen in chapter ten tells us that, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”

That’s what moms raising kids with MI need. Wisdom. Scripture emphasizes the importance of investing serious contemplation before speaking.

“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer (Proverbs 15:28  NKJV).”

Knowing how fragile our children are, we choose our words wisely.

Proverbs 17:27 instructs us to use words sparingly. It provides a formula for a calm spirit. Knowledge + understanding + few words = a calm spirit.

“He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.”

As we minister to our children with MI we seek a calm spirit. For our children and for us. We not only find serenity in carefully chosen words. We find peace in God’s glory. His creation leaves us breathless and reminds us of His power. In Him we have an all-powerful King who offers unlimited hope.

Phil Wickham, in his song ‘This is Amazing Grace’ sings about how God’s glory which leaves us breathless.

“Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder

And leaves us breathless in awe and wonder

The King of Glory, the King above all kings”

Reflect on that breathless wonder as you listen to, ‘This Is Amazing Grace’ Phil Wickham    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgsbaBIaoVc

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School Pressures

wisdom

What’s worse: the terrible twos or the temperamental teens? Many parents would contend that it’s tougher to raise teenagers. That stage of development can leave a parent wondering what happened to their peaceful home. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, parents of teens can feel like the tornado of life has whacked them on the head. Leaving them muttering, “There’s no place like our old home.”  Homework and hormones and cars, oh my…Homework and hormones and cars, oh my. Yikes!

Raising a teen with mental illness (MI) can be even more challenging. How does one interpret a grunt? Is it the normal teen code for yes? Or is it the sound of an emotionally turbulent teen expressing garbled depression?

MI complicates everything in the life of a teen. How does one counsel a troubled child about peer pressure issues? When should the teen be allowed to drive?

In this part of our story, life seemed to be getting back to normal. The new medication had stabilized Chris. I was grateful Chris didn’t have to endure another psychotic episode. Though relieved, I still felt ill-equipped to discern how Chris was thinking or feeling. The Lord provided wisdom along the way.

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During Easter vacation Chris seemed happy and relaxed. He was more talkative, much like the old Chris.

“My stress level is only a two,” Chris informed me without prompting. On a scale of 1-10, ten was the most stressed. So a two indicated a normal level of stress. Good news.

Rob and Chris rehearsed a skit to show the family on Easter. They memorized the “Who’s On First?” skit by Abbott and Costello. I loved hearing them so happy and carefree. Their play practice assured me Chris’s new medication was working.

All too soon Easter vacation ended. The night before we all had to return to school I became concerned. Chris was wandering around the house aimlessly. I was trying to get myself back into the swing of things. I focused on my regular school night routine: get lunch money, check dinner plans, review my school schedule…

I went into the dining room to get lunch money for the boys. Chris followed me.

“Here’s your lunch money Chris,” I said and quickly turned to move on.

In the kitchen I checked the upcoming menu I’d planned.

Hum. Beef stroganoff. I’ll need to put the meat in the crock pot in the morning.

I moved the beef cubes from the freezer and placed them in the refrigerator to defrost. I spun around to grab the noodles and seasoning from the cabinet. And knocked into Chris. He had followed me from the dining room.

“Excuse me, Chris.”

I scurried to the living room to check my date planner.

What’s on my schedule for tomorrow morning?

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Chris sitting near me. He had followed me from the kitchen.

“Chris, are you bored or are you nervous about getting back to school tomorrow?” I snapped.

Chris glared at me and walked away.

Perfect! I’ve just added to his stress and made it difficult for him to talk to me. I know I should have been more compassionate. But I’m so busy. Father, help me know if Chris is feeling stressed.

Surprisingly, Chris returned.

“I’m having a difficult time just thinking about going back to school,” he reported.

“Let’s watch a movie to keep our minds off it,” I suggested.  “You might even be able to fall asleep watching the movie.”

“Sounds good,” Chris agreed. “Could I sleep in your bedroom?”

“Sure Chris,” I replied.

His question concerned me. Certainly Howie and I would have no objection to him sleeping on our floor. We were happy to do anything to help him relax. But his question made me wonder.

Why does he want to sleep in our room? Is this an indication that he’s feeling stressed? I can’t keep imagining his MI is getting worse. But what if he is becoming emotionally fragile? Dear Father, please give me wisdom to know what to say. Help me know if he’s in trouble.

Chris asked to sleep in our bedroom for three consecutive nights. He also asked me to call his psychiatrist.

“Mom, can you call Dr. Newman? Find out if I can take a tiny bit of my new medication at school when I’m feeling extra stress. Like I did with my old medication.”

It didn’t surprise me Chris was feeling more stress. The Spring Arts Festival was fast approaching. There would be many rehearsals. Chris’s schedule would become busier. Pressure would build.

College added to that pressure. Many high school seniors become apprehensive about going away to college. Chris was no different. But he had made a wise choice to minimize his adjustment to college living. He had selected a small college fairly close to home. The small campus would be conducive to finding rooms and offices easily. The close proximity to our house gave Chris the option to go home on the weekends. That would alleviate any anxiety.

In the spring we visited the college Chris would attend. We planned to travel to the college on a day other than orientation. That way, Howie and I could support Chris privately. We visited the nurse to share helpful and confidential information. After that Chris led the way as we went to the bookstore. He selected his textbooks. Then we headed to the Student Affairs office to inquire about Christian organizations on campus. Getting involved with fellow Christians would provide support for Chris.

Chris walked through campus with a spring in his step, his head held high, and a smile on his face. It was reassuring to see him so happy and confident. Chris was looking forward to living in a dorm. He embraced the challenge of living on his own. He had always been a risk taker. And always super focused on achieving his goals.

Around that time Chris joined the church’s bowling team.

“What can bowling teach us about life?” Chris asked. He had a way of asking philosophic questions. And expected a profound or theological answer. As usual, he asked the question while I was involved in some mundane activity. I was unprepared to ponder a spiritual response.

Oh Father, give me the words to answer Chris. Help me respond with an answer that will help satisfy Chris.

“Paul tells us in the Bible that we should be like athletes and keep our eye on the goal. In life we should always have goals. But we need to keep our focus on the smaller steps that lead to accomplishing the larger goals.”

Chris smiled and nodded in acknowledgment. My answer satisfied him.

Thank You, Lord, for giving me an analogy he can relate to bowling. Whenever Chris uses the marks on the bowling alley to aim, help him remember the message You gave me for him. Fill Chris with the assurance that life won’t seem so overwhelming if he takes it one step at a time. 

In May Chris could see the finish line. Final exams came before graduation. Chris excelled in math. English was harder. Especially since he was taking an Advance Placement English course (a college-level course). The remainder of his grade would be comprised of the last marking period and two exams (the midterm and the final exam). If he failed the last marking period and either of the major exams, it was possible for him to fail English for the year.

“My English teacher assigned a project that will be counted as a final exam,” Chris shared.

As the days clicked down, I prodded Chris with casual reminders to do the project. In spite of my reminders, Chris waited to the last minute to work on the project. The night before it was due, he came to me asking for help.

I reviewed the assignment. Students were to demonstrate what they had learned about English literature for their four textbooks—their four HUGE textbooks.

“Chris, summarize what you’ve learned.”

He couldn’t tell me anything!

Dear Father, calm my anger. I can’t believe Chris waited ‘till now to ask for help. I want to yell at him. Rebuke him for procrastinating. But I know that could push him over the edge. I need Your wisdom. I have no clue where to begin. Help me to know how to guide Chris.

God gave me the idea to use the contents of each book to formulate questions. Those prompts helped him remember what he had learned. Amazingly Chris received a ‘B’ for that project. To God be the glory!

There were only a few days left of school. I could tell Chris was cherishing every day he had with us. Soon he’d be going abroad. Four days after graduation he would leave to go to Germany. He would spend a month with a family as part of an exchange program. Then he’d be home for only several weeks during the summer before leaving for college. We would all need to trust God even more.

What’s it like?

peek

Here goes. I’m going to share some of the most horrible details of mental illness (MI).

Why would I share such intimate details of my life? What would motivate me to re-live painful memories? To let other moms raising kids with MI know they’re not alone. Other families experience similar struggles.

Our trials are both alike and unique. The details of your journey with MI may be different. But many of us share the experience of an unpredictable life. We all have access to the unchanging, reliable Father. God’s faithfulness is the thread that holds us together and connects our stories.

“What’s it like to have a psychotic episode? What’s life like for a mother whose son is out of touch with reality?” people wonder.

For me, it seemed endless … all-consuming …overwhelming … daunting … surreal. I needed endurance, wisdom to manage odd behaviors, and comfort to remain calm.

The last two 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.

Last week’s entry (‘Unprepared & Sad, but Unflinching’) showed how God provided peace and protection for me and medical care for Chris. This week I’ll continue the story and explain how God provided endurance and wisdom.

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For ten days, I didn’t sleep at night. I only rested. I took very brief showers in the evening when my husband was home. I hid all our knives, scissors, matches, medicine, and anything else I thought could be a weapon or harmful to Chris or us.

It was important for me to keep track of where our dog was at all times without Chris realizing it. I had to maintain a calm demeanor no matter what Chris’s emotions were. One minute, he’d hug. Minutes later, he sob and say, “Why me? I didn’t do anything wrong.”  Suddenly, he’d explode. He’d shout, break walls and mirrors, and slam doors.

I recall one incident when Chris karate-kicked a mirror. As I sat on the floor cleaning up the broken glass, I sobbed. It felt like I was picking up the broken pieces of his life.

Watching my son so broken was heart wrenching. It didn’t seem real to witness his bazaar and violent behavior.  His explosion of emotions seemed like years of pain were being unleashed.

Those days were difficult for Rob as well. Life was anything but normal. He had to go to school and act as if everything was fine. Robert thought the brother he knew was gone. I couldn’t guarantee Chris would return to reality, or ever be like he used to be.

There was no way for me to shield Robert from what he had to see at night. As Robert got ready for bed that night, he had to step around the broken glass and his weeping mother.

We witnessed Chris destroy other things. He’d pick up something, break it, and say, “This is evil.” He took Robert’s Casio keyboard and totally destroyed the controls.

God helped me endure the constant playing of “Jesus Christ Superstar” (the opera). Chris played it over and over and over until I thought I’d lose my mind. I couldn’t take the CD away until I felt sure Chris wouldn’t become violent looking for it.

After I hid the CD, I heard Chris playing the opera on the piano. Robert begged, “Do something to make him stop playing that music.” Hiding the piano wasn’t possible.

Chris also played “Joy to the World” in a dissonant tone. That song was always coupled with his warning, “The world is going to end.” One day, he got his trumpet and yelled, “Turn on the TV. Here it comes!!! Get ready! The world will end now!”

What does that mean? What does he intend to do?! Oh Father, please protect me.

Thankfully, nothing happened. Oddly enough, his musical abilities never left him. He played the piano and the trumpet all day. Always in a distorted, dissonant tone. Reflecting his tormented emotions. It was as if he found a creative outlet for his misery. I heard it. All. Day. Long.

Chris made the strangest comments and barraged me with questions. He constantly asked me what the Bible said about certain things. His racing thoughts caused him to demand the answers immediately. I couldn’t find the verses fast enough. Even though I was extremely frustrated, I couldn’t yell at him or give up. Either of those responses would have gotten him angry or violent. God filled me with supernatural calmness.

His distorted view of God’s Word resulted in peculiar actions. One day, he ripped the back of a white shirt and tied it around his neck to represent wings. He declared, “I’m the archangel.”

He carried his Bible everywhere and preached nonstop. We had to stop speaking about the Lord because that would just feed his twisted thinking. I never realized how much a part of my everyday conversations were about the Lord. I hid all our Bibles. We had more than I imagined!

One day, the mother of a girl from Chris’s school called to let me know he had called their home at 2:00 in the morning. To prevent future mid-night wake-up calls, we hid all our phones.

During the day, I couldn’t turn on the radio or TV. I didn’t want to risk Chris hearing something that would feed his distorted thoughts. I struggled to find something to do. Household chores lent themselves to calm and productive activities.

Chris’s blood pressure remained high as long as his mind raced. Often, his nose started bleeding. As a child, I had endured numerous nosebleeds. So, I knew what did and didn’t work to make the bleeding stop.

When Chris got his first bloody nose, I began to tell him what to do.

“Breathe out of your mouth, Chris.”

Chris perceived that as controlling and he resisted. He did the opposite of what I told him to do. In my frustration and sorrow, I cried.

Chris responded by shaking his head from side to side. The blood flew all around the bathroom, splattering it on the walls. It looked like a murder scene. I knew if I didn’t leave the bathroom, his nose would never stop bleeding. I had to walk away.

Please, Lord, stop his nose from bleeding.

Each day I kept anecdotal records and documented what was going on. This helped the professionals identify what was wrong with Chris. I administered his medication (Risperdal). It was important to follow the doctor’s specific instructions. The dosage had to be adjusted each day. We quickly spiked the dosage during the first few days, and then gradually lowered the dosage as he became more stabilized.

Twice every day, I gave Chris his medicine. It slowly restored some awareness of reality. But, Chris’s mental illness remained. His distorted thinking led him to believe the pills I gave him caused his strange thoughts. He thought I was intentionally trying to cloud his mind. So, he threatened my life.

He found a screw driver. Holding it two inches from my face he’d say, “I’ll kill you if you give me that pill.”

Each dose became a life and death experience. I’d look lovingly into his tortured eyes and calmly whisper, “Take your pill. It will help you.” Miraculously, Chris took it each time. Sometimes after first growling at me.

Thank You, Father, for protecting me every time I give Chris his meds.

One day, without my knowledge, Howie gave Chris some over-the-counter medication. The doctor said it would help calm Chris down. The problem was I had just administered an increased dosage of the Risperdal. I took Chris in the car to see some Christmas lights. Suddenly, he began to get extremely agitated. He started pounding the dashboard. Then he put his head back and said, “My tongue is swollen.” He began shouting and crying. It was extremely difficult to drive while calming Chris.

Thank You, God, for helping us return safely home. 

My heavenly Father provided endurance and gave the wisdom needed to manage Chris’s bazaar and violent behaviors. He helped me face the unthinkable. He’ll do that for you.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20).”

God’s love never fails. He lifts us up when we’re weak. Join the Afters as they praise God in their song, ‘Lift Me Up.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6UAGhJHmOw

 

Greatest Need

jeannie.bottle

Growing up, I watched the TV show I Dream of Jeannie. I still enjoy the reruns.

What if you found a genie bottle? As master over one with unlimited powers, what would you request? Healing for your child who has mental illness (MI). Healing of your marriage. Peace in your home. A vacation at a spa resort. A shopping spree at outlet stores.

It’s fun to fantasize. For one man, however, it was his reality. The Creator of the universe spoke to King Solomon and said, “Ask! What shall I give you?” (1 Kings 4:6 and 2 Chronicles 1:7)

King Solomon asked for an understanding heart to judge God’s people (1 Kings 4:9).

Think about that. Solomon didn’t ask for riches or death to his enemies. Why was God’s wisdom so important? Because he faced a daunting task and wanted to honor God.

We face as daunting task. At times MI is so consuming we don’t know how to pray. MI impacts everything: the mood in our home, daily schedules, all members of the family, finances, our marriage… It drains us mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Most of us would say we need support—help when things seem hopeless and we’re at the end of our rope. Let’s echo Solomon’s prayer:

Father, give me an understanding heart. Give me Your wisdom. Help me know what to do and how to respond today.

God was so pleased with such a prayer that He “…gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore (1 Kings 4:29).” God even blessed Solomon with more than he requested saying, “Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings (1 Kings 3:13).”

Pray Solomon’s prayer and rest in the promise that our generous Father will supply His wisdom and more!

Let’s focus on His wisdom. Let’s trust that He will guide and direct our paths. Let’s ignore other voices (from those who don’t understand our journey). People share their earthly wisdom. But God gives us His perfect guidance.

Casting Crowns remind us to listen to His voice of truth in their song Voice of Truth.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcuiuIwtpa4