As I wrap up this year and prepare to head into the next, my heart swirls with a mixed mess of emotions. There are griefs over what has been lost in the last 12 months—the sleepless nights wasted in worry as our loved one spun out of control, the monies squandered to cover his manic spending, the emptiness that hollowed out my soul when his wife left with our grandchildren.
But there are also tidal waves of gratitude as we have watched the devastating cycle recede and ripples of stillness and sanity return. There are memories of kind empathy from friends and powerful prayers from the people of God.
Love, peace and grace, conversation and fellowship around the table at Thanksgiving, is an amazing gift. We are filled, not only with an abundance of food; but our hearts overflow with genuine communion. Such a meal is truly one for which we can be thankful.
However, even when the Thanksgiving table is sparse, when loved ones are missing or when tension speaks louder than peace, we can still be thankful. Why? Because when we offer thanks, miracles can happen.
We live in four different states. We worship in four different Christian traditions. We have four different professional backgrounds. I’ve known each of the other three in three different stages of my life. Between us we have 14 children ages 10 to 41, as well as a growing number of grandchildren. And we have two very important things in common. First, we all four put our faith in Jesus; and second, we all are moms of adult children living within the swirling horrors of mental illness.
A number of years ago a dear friend was in a horrible car accident, and two of her three small children were killed. There were no words of comfort worthy of her grief. So we sat in tear-filled silence for a long, long time. Then quietly I asked her, “What do you think Jesus is doing right now?” She shrugged. “Weeping,” I whispered.
Jesus sits with us in our sorrows. He understands our disappointments and carries us through the unimaginable.
I watched the turmoil in his eyes as our son Douglas wrestled with envy at the news his younger brother, Jonathan, had just bought his first house. And when his little sister, Joanna, completed her master’s studies, Douglas struggled again. After all, he was the eldest. Shouldn’t he be first in all things? Continue reading →
Have you ever been invited to meet with someone very important or famous? Or can you imagine that you have? I think I would spend a lot of time planning for the visit: what to say, what to wear, how early to arrive, when to know it is time to leave, whether to bring a gift. I would be terrified that I’d make a mistake or say something offensive. And what would I do if I arrived in a rainstorm and showed up sopping wet or came on the wrong day? Or, what if I lost the invitation on the way? The possible faux pas are endless.
In her excellent book Prayer in the Night, Tish Harrison Warren tells about a time when a friend’s infant son had to have surgery. As the baby was wheeled away, the mother said to the father, “We have to decide right now whether or not God is good, because if we wait to determine that by the results of this surgery, we will always keep God on trial.”*
We do that, don’t we? We consistently judge God by the outcome of our prayers, according to His provisions to address our needs or on whether or not things turn out the way we want. We believe God to be good when He does what we think He should, but we can quickly put Him on trial when life moves in a direction we don’t like.Continue reading →
Maybe you remember the moment of your epiphany. That instant when you realized the severe mental illness your loved one suffers with can’t be “fixed”—not by you, not by medication, not by therapy. It’s that time you understood mental illness isn’t like other illnesses that can be cured, but more like diabetes that can be managed and mitigated, but not usually healed. And, if not carefully addressed, it can also be fatal. Continue reading →
Watching over, caring for, supporting a loved one with mental health challenges has forced me to learn many new things I never thought I’d need to know—things like how to apply for SSI, how to get a mental health warrant, how to research psychotropic medications and how to recognize and mitigate “triggers.” It has also helped me to learn to pray differently, trust God in deeper ways, be more empathetic with others and, most surprising of all, how to wait.