Thursday, March 29, 2012

Marching Onward

     Imagine yourself being on a battlefield most of your life.  You feel the pain of the war surrounding you almost your entire life, but depending on how close you are to the front line depends on how much of a toll it takes on you.  All of a sudden a few strong healthy individuals purposely make a bold move to the front line, and you decide to lock arms and do whatever it takes to win the war.  You know it could be brutal, but you really are pretty naive at just how ugly it could get.  You get knocked down over and over and over again, and each time you just have to muster up the energy to get up and go at it again.  You rely on the rest of your team to keep fighting it with you, and you just know you can't wave the white flag of defeat.  There's too much at stake.  Eventually eight of the most excruciating months of your life have gone by, and you finally can see a hint of progress.  By now you feel so wasted . . . so spent . . . and you feel like you've been shot at way too many times, and now you're just lying flat on the ground, and your heart is broken in a million pieces and scattered all around you.  You look at not only the pieces of your heart but the shattered remnants of everyone else's as well, and you have no idea what it will take to put all those pieces back together or if they can even be put back together.  You wonder if it will be worth the effort or if you'll spend the rest of your life fighting the same battle you've fought your entire life and it will all be for naught. 

     What makes this battle totally unique from most, though, is that you're not fighting AGAINST anyone, even though they perceive that you are.  You're actually fighting FOR someone.  All you're trying to do is show them how sweet and rich life could be.  You just want the BEST for them, but they can't see that.  They just see you as the enemy, but really you just want EVERYONE to be able to walk off the battlefield and never go back.  You don't want your kids and grandkids to have to live on this battlefield.  You try to reason that freedom could be found if the help you're offering would be gladly accepted.  They just don't see it that way though.  Mentally, they just . . . don't . . . get . . . it . . . because they can't.  Instead, they attack you mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually, and you know you shouldn't let it bother you because you are the healthy one, but it does.  You long for life to be different.  You long for solutions.  You long for the war to be over. 

     This, my friends, is what it's like to be on the battleground with a loved one with a mental illness. 

     This is where I've been. 

     I've been on the front line fighting against mental illness.  Not against the person but against the illness and its devastating ripple effects.  It's taken a toll on me as well as the others who are on the front line with me.  Thankfully, by God's grace, we all have many other aspects of our lives that bring us much joy, but this has had a way of sucking the life right out of us on so many occasions.  We're not through the war, but at least we've finally entered phase two.

     Some of you have been on the battlefield supporting us for a long time already, and we will be forever grateful.  Some of you are glad to finally have an explanation but just can't fathom what I'm talking about.  (Be thankful.)  Some of you can relate to the pain because you've been in a similar place and the pain I've described is all too familiar.  Maybe you're exhausted too and just can't figure out how to get up and get going. 

     It is only by the grace of God that I can find the energy to even think about getting up off the ground and keep marching forward.  This war against mental illness is far from over; it's only just begun.  But He's given me a slight glimmer of hope, and I need to act on it.  It's tempting to just keep this idea to myself so there is no accountability factor involved, but the Lord already prompted me to open my mouth to the rest of the front line, and one other person has already made the same commitment.  There is definitely strength in numbers. 

     Because of that, I'm writing this today and being extremely vulnerable.  Let's face it.  We need some additional prayer warriors, obviously to help the one with the mental illness, but also just to even help the front line get up off the ground and find new strength for the days ahead.  Bottom line is there is just a whole lot of healing that needs to happen, and we can't do it on our own.  We need a whole army of prayer warriors to fight this war to completion.  Would you consider being one of those prayer warriors?

     Our commitment that we've made is to spend 30 minutes a day walking and praying at least five days a week for as long as phase two is underway, which could be up to three months.  I'm not asking that this be everyone's prayer focus for the entire 30 minutes, but if we could be lifted up to God at least part of that time, it would be so appreciated.

     Imagine being able to say this war is over.  Imagine a miracle.  Imagine being able to give GOD the glory.

     This is what keeps me marching onward. 

     Wanna join us?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Along For The Ride

     Waking up to an alarm clock is too brutal for me.  It makes me just want to slap the snooze button and fall right back to sleep.  After going through a season of my life where the snooze button was hit a little too often every morning and I had my husband sucked into the same nasty habit, I learned that if I moved the alarm clock to a place across the room and out of my reach, at least that snooze button wasn't as much of a temptation.  However, it still wasn't effective because it was far too easy to just crawl back into bed a couple more times.  Finally there came a day when the realization was made that the best way for me to wake up in the morning was to music on the radio.  It can't be too loud and annoying nor can it be too soft that it goes unnoticed, but music that just gently starts stirring my mind for the day is the best solution.  Ideally it would be coming from a Christian radio station, but unfortunately, my radio will only reliably pick up a certain country station from its location in our bedroom.  That works. 

     Usually the song or news that I wake up to has little impact on my day, but there was one particular morning awhile back that's still lingering in my mind. 

"Fifty miles to go and she was running low on faith and gasoline. 
It'd been a long hard year." 

     Those were the first words I remember hearing on the morning of Harris's surgery.  I remember rolling over and thinking about those words coming out of Carrie Underwood's mouth.  Oh, it's been a long hard year, alright, and I'm definitely running low on faith and gasoline.  You see, at that moment in time, we'd been through one of the toughest seasons of our lives on so many fronts, and it did feel as though we were on the last 50-mile stretch.  My faith had never been shaken to the core like it had been in the last few months, and we were heading into a Christmas season with a husband and father who wouldn't be working.  It felt like we were living on fumes and that the nearest gas station was a long ways away.  More lyrics . . .

"Jesus, take the wheel.  Take it from my hands. 
Cause I can't do this on my own." 

     Are you kidding me?  Jesus has been in the driver's seat of my life for a very long time, and I'm very happy to have him there, but instead of sitting there beside Him and enjoying the ride, I feel as though I've been kicked out to ride in the dark trailer for a while.  And truthfully, I don't even feel as though I'm in the trailer anymore.  It feels more like I've been booted out of the trailer, grabbed a rope on the way out, and was just left to desperately hang onto it while trucking down a very rocky road.

"Jesus, take the wheel."

     Oh, how I wish He would hear my faint cries for help and stop this rig long enough to pick me up and hold me in His arms and place me back into the back seat where I'm a whole lot more comfortable.  Heal me of these bumps and bruises, Lord, and mend my very weary heart. 

"Jesus, take the wheel."

     Eventually I drug myself out of bed and moved on with my day.  I knew I had to be the strong one because my husband was about to endure surgery that would weaken him for a few weeks.  All responsibility for this family was about to become mine for a while, and our faith in God to sustain us was the only thing that would be getting us through the next month of our lives.  Thankfully I was still hanging on by a thread. 

     Nearly seven weeks have now passed by since that memorable morning, and only by the grace of God have we survived.  Was it easy?  No.  Did He reveal Himself to us occasionally and did we feel His presence throughout the process?  Yes.  Thankfully.  He knew we needed some glimpses of His goodness.  Were there some rough moments in the last seven weeks?  Absolutely, there were.  There was one particular night that I just wept and wept in my bed over a situation I was in with my family.  There were at least a couple other nights I cried on Harris's shoulder because the pressures were so overwhelming.  Not only did I want Christmas with our family to be as normal as possible but I wanted so much for our children to know how very much I loved them and, more importantly, I wanted them to know and recognize the love of Jesus in a special way.  Every time I'd try and think through how to make that all happen, I'd run up against some roadblocks either mentally, physically, or financially, and it was very draining for me.  If my fall season hadn't been so intense, I would have tried to plan for Christmas a little earlier than usual, but that wasn't meant to happen.  I hope to never find myself again in a position where I'm doing the bulk of my shopping two days before the presents are to be opened.  I will admit that the joy of the season was hard to find this year, and even on Christmas Eve, when things were not as picture perfect as I wanted them to be, everything within me wanted to just tell my family we were staying home from our church's candlelight service.  I just wasn't feeling the Christmas spirit, and I about made the fateful decision that my preparations were more important. 

     But thankfully in my weakness, they were strong.  As I was upstairs in my room pondering that decision, they were all busy getting dressed up and ready to go.  I walked out of my bedroom in my bathrobe, ready to suggest not going, but there they were, getting their shoes on, and I knew right then that God was in control, not me.  He was carrying me.  He had stopped the rig long enough to just pick me up and place me back in the truck, knowing that was the best thing for me.  He was ready to start the healing process in me, and I needed to let Him.  All I could think about during that beautiful Christmas Eve service was that I just about missed it.  I just about missed my chance to sit next to Him and be in His presence.  I just about missed my chance of letting all that beautiful music wash over me.  I just about missed my chance of standing beside my husband who had just made his first visit back to church since his surgery.  I just about missed my chance to look down the row and see my family worshiping.  There they all were, standing in the glow of candlelight, and at the end of our family was Jenny, and then her family was standing in that same row on the other side of her.  It was a beautiful sight.  It was the perfect transition between a long hard year and the start of a fresh new one. 

     We came home that night and enjoyed celebrating Christmas with our family, even though dinner wasn't on the table till 8 instead of 6 like I wanted.  More time-related gifts were given this year, and they were very graciously accepted.  Even cherished!  Christmas break has come and gone, and we've shared lots and lots of time together as a family making memories.  Oh, how I love and treasure this family that God has given me.  The kids are all back in school, and Harris has been working again for two weeks already.  He's been rejuvenated, and he's more excited than ever to start fresh in 2012 as a healthy man.  God has used this down time in his life to stir up some desired changes in his life, and his enthusiasm has been trickling down to all of us.  God has also used this down time to refresh me and prepare my heart for a new year.  Oh, how I have needed it.  His grace has been sufficient, and his steadfast faithfulness remains. 

     This family is looking ahead towards 2012 with great anticipation!  We have goals in place and are looking forward to some grand adventures!  We know that life inevitably allows us to encounter some bumps in the road, but we know who is at the wheel to continually guide us.  We know that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and we are just thankful that we are all back in the cab.  It's a really good place to be.