Thankful even in pain

There is so much to be thankful for even when we are in pain from having a child that is breaking our heart.  You may say, as  I once did, “How can I?  There is nothing to be thankful for! ”   I know,  I know . . . it is so easy to get stuck focusing on all the negative, especially when there may be a lot of it!  (An addiction, an eating disorder, self harm, an unexpected pregnancy, arrests . . .  the list goes on and on.)  One thing that has helped me so much is learning to look for something to be thankful for every day, even if it is just that the sun is out, or that I got out of bed.  (sometimes you have to get down to the bare essentials of life!)  It protected me from self-pity.  It helped me not feel so sorry for myself!

As we are now on the verge of Easter I find myself thinking a lot about what Jesus did for sinful humanity, and that includes me!  I am drawn to the cross and all it represents to me as a Christ follower.   It naturally pulls me outside of myself.  After all, it was his selflessness that took him there!

Father, today I am thankful for my health.  I am thankful for my family – my loving, faithful, husband (of over 33 years!), 3 wonderful children, incredible ‘daughter in love’, precious granddaughter and 91 year old dad who is still living with us.  I am thankful for awesome friends.  I am thankful for a great church.  I am thankful for my home.  I am thankful for beautiful flowers in my yard.  I am thankful for hearing birds sing every morning.  I am thankful for music that lifts my soul, for books that help me and for  Bible verses that comfort me.  One I really like on this topic is:  “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”  (I Thessalonians 5:17).   I am thankful for the purpose I have found in sharing my experiences with other hurting parents.

I am thankful that my ‘challenging’ daughter (Renee) is still alive.  I am thankful that she tells me she loves me and gives me a big hug almost every time I see her.  I am thankful for our relationship.  I am thankful that she is “working” on her recovery.  I am thankful that you have given her the gift of singing.  I am thankful that even in the midst of pain and uncertainty I can have Your unspeakable Peace.  I am thankful that even when I thought she might not live through the night You were with me.  I am thankful that when everything was so dark, chaotic and out of control, You were in control.   Thank you that you are able to bring purpose out of our pain.

When times are tough help me continue to choose to give thanks instead of grumbling, complaining or feeling sorry for myself.  Help me shift my focus like this more of the time than I do today.  There is always something to be thankful for.

3 Things Parents in Pain Need to Hear

When I was in so much pain from my 19 year old daughter’s destructive behaviors,  I thought I couldn’t bear it.  Death would have been easier — hers or mine!   Being the mom of  a child who was on the fast track to killing herself with alcohol, drugs, cutting (and other behaviors) I was consumed with every emotion – shock, guilt, fear, anger, grief and all the questions for which there were no answers.   Then I attended a conference for hurting parents and heard the 3 most wonderful statements that would ever help me.  They are known as ” The 3 C’s”  from Al Anon:

1)  You didn’t Cause it! (It’s NOT your fault – unless you encouraged them & aided them in their self-destruction!)

2)  You can’t Change it! (so stop trying – you’ll just make yourself crazy and them, too!)

3)  You can’t Cure it! (you can’t fix them – they have to want to get better.  You can’t force it on them!)

When I heard this it was like I had just put my feet in a cool mountain stream on an oppressively hot, humid day (like the stream in the photo –  it’s in Colorado!)  .  All I could think was, “Really?  You’ve got to be kidding me!”   These concepts were mind-boggling, yet so wonderful to hear.  Too good to be true and so freeing!

The statements were coming from a reliable source, a veteran parent who had been on this path a very long time (10 years).  He knew what he was talking about, so I could trust what he was saying.  I have repeated them to myself often in the 6 years since I first heard them.  They have helped me keep my feet on solid ground when my emotions tried to creep back in and deceive me again.

I think I like them so much because they address the lies we parents tend to believe.  We think these problems in our child’s life must be our fault – if we were a better parent this would never have happened; we should have done this, we should have done that, we should have . . . Hog wash!  No parent is perfect!  Our children make their own choices!

We think we have the ability to fix them, to change them , to make it all go away.  Oh how I wish this were true.  We just aren’t that powerful!  I’m afraid it’s just not that easy.  We can’t change them any more than we could change a daisy into a rose, or a walnut into an almond.  We can’t do it!

We think we have some control over their lives.  In reality, control is an illusion.  We have none!  Get used to it!  Accept it!  You’ll begin to relax and do a whole lot better when you do!  I did!  I may not be in control, but I believe Someone else is and that He has complete control over everything!  So I can trust Him and rest in this truth.

I believe God is the only one who can change, fix or cure anyone!  So, I have made the decision to stop thinking it’s all up to me and get out of the way so He  can work.

You can go to:  al-anon.alateen.org for more great information from this wonderful world-wide organization.  Their principles can help you with any problem you have no control over, not just alcoholism.

The conference I went to is called “You’re Not Alone” and they also have a great website:  notalone.org  You can even  listen to sessions from their conferences.