A Dark Place With Hope

This past weekend I made arrangements for one of my sons to live with his dad.

It is breaking my heart.

We’ve all been jolted awake from our dream of being “normal.”

After 11 months of no yelling, threatening, pushing, throwing, or hitting, my son had found himself unable to control himself and had a meltdown.

Two months ago, his doctor agreed to slowly take him off his meds. I was very adamant and perfectly clear, if he had even one meltdown, he would not be allowed to live in my house. I was not going to let him terrorize this family again.

I feel like I’ve lost my little boy. But today in church, I’ve been reminded of another little boy who’s birth brings hope.

I am reminded that His death brought victory. And even though I feel I’m in a dark place, I have to remember the war has already been won. Jesus wins.

So when I find myself missing my son, I need to be reminded that this is all temporary. He is not really lost. He has been saved.

My husband tells me I have to let this happen. He tells me to let go. Have faith. Let my son see the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Let his father see this really isn’t a parenting issue.

So, I’m stepping out in faith. And instead of asking God for everything I want, I’m asking for everything to go as He plans.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Build my faith. May it be strong enough to carry me through this valley. May it chase away a mother’s fear. May it keep me bold. May it reveal the truth. May it give me hope. In Your son’s name, may it keep mine safe.
Amen

When What You Are Grateful For Disappoints You

I mentioned earlier we had a fire this month. It was on a Saturday. My husband was working. My daughter and I had just left for the library and all the boys were doing whatever boys do, at home.

I received a call from my oldest son that our house was on fire but that everyone was out of the house and the fire department was on their way.

By the time I got home, everything was out and they were just working on getting the smoke out. WHEW!

Boy, I was grateful! We could have lost our kids. We could have lost our pets. We could have lost our house. But we didn’t. I was grateful!

Then I hear stories of how verbally abusive the boys were to their little brother. How they they beat him up, emotionally. How insensitive they were. I was disappointed.

Today our church loaded us up with food, for us to bring to the men who showed up that day and put our fire out. You know, as a thanksgiving. I was grateful!

However, when it was time this morning to deliver the food, half the kids were sleeping, and half were not, but only one was willing to be bothered to come and help thank the firefighters for saving our normal. It was 11:30am. I was disappointed.

I’ve also written earlier about the boys’ lack of compassion and not being able to find it within them to help make some plarn (plastic yarn) for sleeping mats for the homeless, even though it was an event I had organized. I was disappointed.

I find myself disappointed a lot. It’s heartbreaking. It’s discouraging. Oh my gosh, IT MAKES ME SO MAD!

But I love them. I love them with everything that is within me. I can’t imagine life without them. I don’t want a life without them.

I wonder, I just wonder if this is how God looks at me? I know I don’t do what I could or I should. I know if I just listened to him the first time it would bring him less heartache. I know I can be disappointing.

But I know he still loves me. I know he still delights in me. I know he still adores me.

Maybe what I do can be disappointing, but who I am, is not.

Whether I am driven by fear or love, he still looks at me the same. Whether I sit and do nothing, when he wants me to stand up and be heard, he just patiently waits. Whether I selfishly spend all his blessings instead of giving them all away, he still provides.

You see, love is a great big huge thing that I know nothing about. There is not much reason to love me. And yet he still does.

So when I look at my sons’ and I start to feel disappointed, I need to remind myself that I too, can tap into a much bigger power than what I have.

I can tap into the same love I have for those boys that Jesus has for me. I can forget about the disappointment, since He forgets His disappointment in me.

This is God’s grace. God’s, unmerited favor. Although, undeserving of love, He still loves. I want to be more like that. Regardless of how my boys act, I still want to show them my unmerited favor, my love. His grace.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Lack of Compassion

Somebody asked how my son was doing yesterday.

I was at church, but instead of having service, we were all making plarn for the sleeping mats for the homeless.

She was referring to how he was doing since being accused by his brothers  of setting fire to our house.

The day before he had placed a wet stuff animal in our dryer, turned it on and after a few minutes noticed smoke. During the chaos that followed, he was scolded, shamed, berated, belittled and it was made clear it was his fault.

By the time I had arrived on site he was a walking puddle of guilt and remorse. He sobbed with apologies. He had confessed what he had done and he was so, so sorry.

I held my baby and tried to comfort him and tell him it wasn’t his fault, but in the background, insults from his older brothers flew. He was sure that this was his fault.

Oh my gosh, what a mix match of emotions I had that day. I was so proud that everyone made it out safely and worked together, but here I stand after being so proud, hearing how horrible my other sons were treating their little brother. I was way beyond disappointed.

I was disgusted.

I told my friend he was doing better…as long as no one brings it up. It was noted as to how little compassion was shown that day.

Yep. That’s pretty typical of my boys, some of my boys, but especially two of my boys.

I don’t know why. I mean, I try to teach them about compassion, about empathy, about being kind, being generous, looking out for each other. I don’t know what went wrong. I don’t know if it’s the illness they struggle with or outside influences. I do share them, but I don’t know.

I mean, even as I was discussing them, I was at church making mats for the homeless, and even though I had every kid that weekend, only my daughter was there with me.

In the past I have tried to force them to be compassionate. I’ve forced them to serve, to help out, to think of others and all it has done is make me turn into a person I don’t like to be and make others feel uncomfortable. So I don’t do it anymore.

Maybe I’m wrong for doing it, or not doing it, but I keep thinking about what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” I’m sure he wasn’t just talking about money.

I’ve stopped making the older kids go to church. Stopped demanding that they serve with me. Stopped insisting they be someone they’re not.

It makes me really sad though. It breaks my heart. My prayer is one day it will click. One day they will lift their head above water just long enough to see there are others out there, dog paddling and struggling with keeping their head above water too.

 

Parenting Differently

I would say Justice was probably two, maybe three years old. We were leaving a local grocery store when he was having a meltdown in the car. Honestly, I can’t remember if the meltdown happened before we got in the car, or because we got in the car.

Regardless, he was not happy. He was screaming, hitting, pulling on his clothes, fighting me to get out of his car seat as I was struggling to get him to sit back down so I could buckle him in.

It was horrible, but it was normal. It was our normal. The part that makes it memorable is there was an older gentlemen getting into the car next to us. I didn’t even notice him until he hollered at me just before he slammed his door shut, “Smack him!” and quickly drove off.

I was dumbfounded.

What had happened? Really?

What I wanted to yell back at him was, “Who are you? Who are you to give advice on a situation you know nothing about? And where are you everyday, five times a day, when this happens every time he is over stimulated?”

You see my son wasn’t acting out. He wasn’t being bad. He wasn’t being defiant.

He was hurting. He was struggling to get control of his body. He was trying to make everything he sensed to just STOP!

I knew that. I wasn’t happy about it, but I had learned there was nothing I could do about it. I wasn’t going to yell and scream back at him. I wasn’t going to threaten him. And I certainly wasn’t going to beat him.

I just did the best I could. I calmly talked to him to, “Let’s sit down, Sweetie. We need to get home. I know you don’t want to. We’ll be home soon. It’s ok. It’s ok. It’s ok.” I stopped his little body from arching back, and firmly but gently pushed his belly back into his seat to be buckled.

You see, I’ve learned parenting kids who are different, will look different to parents whose kids aren’t different. This man had no idea of the sensory overload my child was experiencing.

He didn’t know that he didn’t like to be touched. He didn’t know he didn’t like change. He didn’t know my little guy processed the world differently.

It took me years to know this myself. He didn’t come with an instruction manual. He was a lot like getting a puzzle without a picture on the box. I had no idea what to expect.

For years doctors couldn’t help us. So I turned to books. They didn’t offer much help or hope either. We had to figure him out, together.

Two or three years of meltdowns, five times a day, absolutely makes me my child’s expert on what to do and not do and more importantly, what works and what doesn’t.

Smacking my kid never helped. Punishing him or taking things away always made things worse. Shrinking down to his level and acting like a two year old that wasn’t getting her way, was disastrous.

See, I learned stuff.

Today, I would just like to offer some encouragement to anyone who is raising a child who is different. I know the looks you get. I know the unsolicited advice you get from family, friends and yes, even strangers. My encouragement to you, is this.

Ignore them. If you are doing something, you are doing it right.

You are your child’s expert. Never give up learning what that means. Your child depends on it!

They are your children for a reason. Find that reason.

And love your child! Hate what makes them different, but love who they are.

 

Broken and Afraid

I don’t even know what just happened. I wasn’t expecting it. My first response was anger, then it was fear, then it was hurt.

My son convinced his psych doctor to reduced one of his meds. She told me privately that maybe this will encourage him to take his pills. If he does, then in three months, she will reduce it again.

He doesn’t always take them. We find them all over the house. I’m sitting here, looking at a pile of them right now.

It’s been a year since he’s been in the hospital. Ten months since his last meltdown. I don’t want to go back to living like that.

I won’t go back to that. I’ve already told him, he stops taking his pills and he starts in again with the violent behaviors, he’s not living here. He’ll have to go live with his dad.

I’m not going to let him traumatize the other kids anymore. I’m just not. I’m not going to let him do it to me either.

This is how I think people with a mental illness end up on the street. They stop taking their meds and start acting up regardless of how much their families plead with them.

Why can’t he see the difference of being on his meds and when he’s off?

I wish I knew what his meds did to him. What does it do to him that is so bad that he would risk having the monsters come back?

I used to get migraines and when I did, my doctor prescribed me a medication. Oh my gosh, I don’t know what was worse, having the migraine or suffering the side effects from the drug. They both were bad but I do remember recovering faster from the side effects of the medication than the migraine. So I took them.

So, I am here, once again, reacting in fear. Instead of growing in faith. I’m scared. I’m scared of losing my baby. I’m scared of losing my dream of him being “normal”.

I’ve fought so hard to get him here. What if it’s been just a dream? What if it was just a glimpse of something we’ll never truly have?

I know I’m not suppose to look at it this way. I know God is in control. I know I should have faith that he will be taken care of.

But this is how I feel. I just haven’t got this fear thing under control yet.

So tonight, I have nothing for you. Just a broken momma, on her knees, pleading…

Lord, you are my only hope. Men and medicine let us down, everyday. All I know, is you see us. You see my son and you see his future. My continued request, is please help me to accept what will be.

Everyday I need you to reveal to me what is right. Help me be strong. Help me be who he needs me to be.

I know you are working in me. I know you’ve equipped me to be his mother. Show me how I have been designed. Show me you, through me.

This is impossible without you. I do have faith in that, so I do have faith in you.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” – Mark 10:27

Does Your Bible Breathe?

A couple of years ago I did a Bible study for my son. I wanted him to know, who he was in Christ. I wanted him to know, even with his illness, he was still loved, and he had a purpose, and at any time he doubted that, he could take this Bible and flip to anywhere in it, and whatever was underlined, was how God felt about him.

I wanted to know too. Sometimes life isn’t fair and his illness sure doesn’t make any sense to me. How does my son and this illness fit into God’s plan?

So, I did it. Anytime the Bible expressed God’s thoughts and feelings for His creation he made in His image, I underlined it, all of it. I started in Genesis and ended in Revelation. It took me about a year. I also believe it was probably our most brutal one.

When the time came for me to give it to him, I found myself struggling and asking myself, why is this so hard to give away?

It touched me to see God’s love for my child. He really does love him more than I ever could, could even fathom, really. It brought me comfort crying out in prayer for God to heal my son, to ease his pain, to calm his spirit.

It got me through a lot of rough days…and nights. I felt his presence. I didn’t want it to go away.

So, I had this really awesome idea! I’d buy another Bible and I’d re-underline all the scriptures I had already underlined. I’d keep the first Bible and give him the second one. No problem.

However, there was a problem. It wasn’t the same. This bible had no …nothing. It felt different. At first I didn’t understand why, but then it was revealed to me.

This first Bible, the one I spoke to, cried on, prayed over, that one knew my son and I. It celebrated with us during our victories. It lamented with us during our sorrow. It got angry. It rejoiced. It understood our trials. It comforted our fears. It praised God every time the storm had passed. It, my son’s Bible, came alive. I swear I’ve seen it breathe.

The second bible, was just a bible. It was just a book with pages and words. It hadn’t experienced anything. It had no feelings, not that it couldn’t, it just didn’t. It needed to be read, not skimmed, not browsed through, not flipped from page to page. That’s not how a Bible comes alive.

It comes to life by transforming its words from its paper unto one’s heart. It is there where it comes to life. It is there where the power within is revealed. It is there where we find strength, and understanding. It is there where we are comforted and find peace. It is there where we are taught, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16

I decided to give my son his Bible, the living one, the one that was God-breathed. I pray it means as much to him, as it does to me, even if it takes him a few years to understand.

So, before I end, before you go on about your day, I’d like to leave you with one thought…or maybe a challenge. Does your Bible breathe?

Read it! I promise you it will.

When the Fight Lives Within

I can’t think of anything worse than living with a body that lies to you.

I have a son who is struggling with that, today. Well, he struggles with it everyday but today is a bad day. Tunes has an anxiety disorder. It gets so bad that he shuts down. Literally, he goes to bed and he checks out.

He called me from school. He’s sick….again. Despite the 504 plan we’ve set up for him, he wasn’t able to settle his thoughts or his stomach.

When I picked him up, his head was hung forward, he slouched when he approached me, his voice was low and shook as he spoke, “I’m sorry, mom.” He was defeated.

Oh my sweet kiddo, I love you so. It breaks my heart to see him so disappointed in himself.

It was just a few hours earlier today, that he was commenting on his shapely calves, like this was new. It’s about time he noticed. I smiled at him, and told him I’ve been trying to tell him, for years, that he was a good looking kid.

Now, here we are. His stomach hurts. He has a headache. He’s jittery. He can’t focus. Noise is irritating him.

Our dialog is short. He explains he doesn’t want to talk. He doesn’t want to snap at me. He wants to sleep.

That’s how he copes. It’s what brings him relief from the chatter that plays in his head.

Today, I happen to know his trigger. He has a huge paper due in a class. The weight of this paper determines whether he takes this class over again, or not. It was due today but his teacher is giving him the weekend.

When I left him, I had finally convinced him not to sleep, but to sit at the computer and start to do some work. When I left, that’s what he was doing.

I don’t know what it’s like to live like this. However, I do know fear of failing. I do know the feeling of inadequacy. I do know the feeling of disappointment. Not to his level. But I have to hope that I still have something to offer.

Here is what I told him…

“I know it must be hard to feel like this. It has to be exhausting to fight everyday. But today, you have to fight. You can’t sleep. If you want to be upset, get upset with this illness, not with you.

“You are amazing. Don’t blame yourself.

“Everything in your head is telling you a lie. Every fiber of your body is telling you to check out. To sleep. That you’re a loser. You’re worthless. But I’m telling you, you’re not.

I know you think this is something you have control over. But you don’t. It’s like telling your blood sugar to drop, your arm to stop bleeding, or your heart to stop hurting. You can’t. You don’t have control over that.

“But you can get pissed! Fight this thing, for just this minute. Do what you can do, for as long as you can do it. Just fight. Don’t just give up.

“The only thing that is going to make this go away, is to do what you don’t want to do, for as long as you can do.”

Do I think once I return home, he’ll be diligently working at the computer? No. He’ll be sleeping. But everyday I have to offer him hope and encouragement.

I have faith that my God loves my son, more than I can ever imagine. I have faith that He sees him. I have faith that one day my son will find a way to succeed in spite of his illness.

And one day he will say, “I never thought I could.”

And I’ll cry…because that’s what I do, and through my tears I’ll tell him, “I always knew you would.”

This is My Son, Justice

Today seems like an appropriate day to introduce you to my son, Justice. He builds my faith. I love my son not for just being mine, but for being who he is and who he will one day become.

It was a year ago today, that I checked him into a behavioral health hospital. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

I really felt I had no choice, but looking back, I’m so glad I did. It has changed 12 years of living. It has changed everything.

My son lives with a mental illness that affects the whole family. From the time he was an infant, we have been held hostage.

He never, ever, liked to be touched, or cuddled. He cried. There was no soothing him.

As he got older we would tip toe around him. Anything could and would set him off. I called him a baby dinosaur.

By the time he was two, he was already terrorizing his older brother as well as his new baby brother.

I thought for sure he was going to kill his baby brother. While I was pregnant I started carrying around a doll in a car seat and calling him by name.

Everywhere we went the doll came too. Grandma’s, restaurants, babysitter’s…

We practiced feeding the baby, and washing the baby, and holding the baby. As well as, not hitting the baby, or sitting on the baby, or my favorite, not throwing the baby.

In grade school he would turn into what I would call the little Hulk. His anger escalated as he reminded us daily, “I don’t want to be apart of this family! I wish I was dead!”

Jr. High…I have no words. It was the worst. There was no one to help. Doctors didn’t have any answers.

Now he was beating things, throwing things across the room, threatening, “Call the cops! I’ll make them shoot me. I’m going to kill you!”

The day he shoved me, he whispered through a door, “You don’t understand, mom. I hear voices. They tell me to do things I don’t want to do.”

Our darkest day came a year or so after he was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Mood Dysregation Disorder (DMDD).

Doctors had been playing with cocktails of medications that brought only a short respite of symptoms before they came back with a vengeance and crushing our hopes.

Our darkest hour came on Monday, October 27th, 2014 at 4:30pm, when a nurse called and informed me, his doctor wanted him to be admitted to be evaluated, and I was to take him RIGHT NOW.

He was there for four days.

The terrorism had stopped, but we wait…we all know it can start again.

The voices are quiet, but the demons are still there.

So, this is Justice. This is the child that brings me to my knees, more than any other child. I praise God for that and for him. He makes me strong and he makes me weak.

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.” – Deuteronomy 31:6

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9