Olympics and Broken-hearted Parents

What do the Olympics and broken-hearted parents have in common?  Not much.  Only that when your heart has been broken by your child’s choices and behaviors the experience is a lot like being on an Olympic team as an untrained, unprepared athlete!  Ridiculous!  Absurd!  Unthinkable!  What an embarrassing disaster!  Pretty unpleasant for any observer, too.  If you bought a ticket to their event you’d want your money back. Ha!

Do you feel prepared for what you are going through?  Have you had adequate training?  I sure didn’t.  None of us do.  What can you do about it?  What do you think you need to be doing to strengthen yourself?

Maybe you need to find a support group to go to.  Maybe you need to make an appointment with a counselor or spend some time talking with trusted friend.  Maybe you need to educate yourself more on the issues you are dealing with.  Maybe you need to stop enabling.  What do you think would help you?  Whatever it is, make a list and start doing it!  Any positive steps you take will help you get stronger and be more prepared.

I have no expectations of winning a medal in this experience.  But I do want to feel good about how I “compete”, although I will compare myself with no one.  How unhelpful would that be!  Oh, and if this experience was an Olympic event, I’m not sure which one it would be.  Whichever one is the most demanding and grueling.  I think I can hear the crowds applauding and cheering us on as we push ourselves beyond our limits, doing more than we ever thought possible.  The Olympic song is playing in the background and our eyes are lifted up — lifted to heaven, to our Source, our coach, like one of the American marathon athletes is doing.

Corrie ten Boom – a Dutch Christian who, with her family, saved many Jews from the Nazis during World War II and consequently spent years in a concentration camp — said it so well:

 “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.”

I’m looking at God for the help I need.  I can’t do this on my own.  It’s too hard.  I’m not Olympic material, are you?  Where will you look for help?

This Bible verse is a great reminder where we can all look.

“I lift my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from?

 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”   (Psalms 121: 1)

Something Weary Parents Lack

Are you a weary parent?  Are you drained?  Depleted?  Worn out from dealing with your child’s problems with alcohol and drugs, eating disorders and all forms of self harm like cutting and burning, pornography, their sexual identity.  Are they in and out of jail?  We all lack the same thing.  We keep saying “yes” when we want to say “no” to our their requests for help . . . more money, more of this and more of that.  Why do we do this?  Why do we keep denying our feelings?  Why aren’t we honest?  Why do we continue to give in when inside we want to stand firm?  What happened to our healthy boundaries?

What do we lack?  COURAGE.  Been there.  Done that.  How about you?  We are just like Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.  Remember him? He was afraid of everything.  He had no courage, no “verve”.  If only we could go along with Dorothy on the yellow brick road to see the wonderful, powerful Wizard of Oz.  Maybe he could dig down deep into his big, black, velvet bag and find a medal of bravery that would give us the courage we are lacking.  But wait!  I have found another source.  A much better one.

The words of the Serenity Prayer remind us of this Source when it speaks of our need of courage.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can . . .”

There it is.  God is the source.  I need to ask him for the courage I lack.  For the courage to change what I can.  I sure can’t change my child, can I?  I can only change me.  And boy is that hard.  I’ve tried to change myself and found that I can’t do it very well on my own.  It’s hard to start a new habit:  Exercising.  Eating healthier.  Getting up earlier.  Going to bed earlier.  Watching less TV.  Reading more.  Spending less time on the computer.  Spending more time with friends.  Going to church.  Sticking to a budget, etc.  It’s even harder to stop a bad habit.  It’s pretty tough to do any of this in your own strength.

Oh God, we need your help.  Show us how to say “no” when we need to.  Help us accept that it won’t be easy.   It will be downright scary at times.  We worry about what might happen if we don’t say “yes”.  Things might get worse.  Our child will experience pain.  It will probably evoke a negative response from them, maybe a loud and unpleasant one.  Make us strong and courageous.  Help us overcome our fear.  Help us develop tough skin so we can withstand any adverse reaction, yet still be able to say ”no” when we must.  Reveal to us why we have this need to please people.  Why we are so fearful.  Make us willing to face the deeper issues that we have within ourselves.  We don’t want to keep offering ourselves as doormats any longer.  We want to be strong so we can say “yes” to a healthier life and “no” when it is truly the more loving thing to do – both for our child and for us!

Here are a few Bible verses that help me when I feel weak and cowardly, needing a dose of courage.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from?

 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” 

(Ps. 121: 1-2)

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged,

 For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 

(Joshua 1:9)

Struggling Parents Need This More Than Anything Else

What do you need when your son’s drinking is beginning to damage his life and he won’t listen to your warnings?  What do you need when your daughter is depressed, cutting herself and ends up in the psych ward for the umpteenth time, still refusing to accept help?  What do you need when your son calls you from jail for the 3rd time begging you to bail him out “just one more time”?  What do you need when your daughter tells you she is pregnant and she’s not sure who the father is?  What do you need when your son tells you through tears that he thinks he is gay?  What do you need when you see your daughter becoming way too thin and you can’t get her to see a counselor?  What do you need when the psychiatrist tells you your son’s diagnosis is schizophrenia?

R E S T .  When things are out of control and you realize you are powerless over the situation, after you’ve done all you know to do, all you can do is trust God and  rest . . . in his love . . . in his peace . . . in his strength . . . in his presence . . . in him.  When you can do that you have found victory.  Then you discover that what you are going through will not destroy you.  You can shift your focus.  Refuse to panic.  Accept that God has allowed this into your life for some reason you cannot see today.  You and I, we can rest in God.  In who he is and what he can do — for us and for our child.  In this is our victory . . . and the most unexpected . . .  joy.

The reading below is not my own.  It is by Alan Redpath.  After a major stroke he suffered from severe depression for a period of time.  He speaks from experience.  It is powerful and has helped me so much in my trials as a parent.  I have found that the truths hidden within it apply to any difficult situation you may be going through that you have no control over – cancer, divorce, financial difficulties, etc.

THE REST OF VICTORY

THERE IS NOTHING – NO CIRCUMSTANCE, NO TESTING –

THAT CAN EVER TOUCH ME, UNTIL FIRST OF ALL,

IT HAS GONE PAST GOD AND PAST CHRIST, RIGHT THROUGH TO ME.

IF IT HAS COME THAT FAR, IT HAS COME WITH A GREAT PURPOSE

WHICH I MAY NOT UNDERSTAND AT THE MOMENT.

BUT AS I REFUSE TO BECOME PANICKY,

AS I LIFT UP MY EYES TO HIM AND ACCEPT IT

AS COMING FROM THE THRONE OF GOD

FOR SOME GREAT PURPOSE OR BLESSING TO MY OWN HEART,

NO SORROW WILL EVER DISTURB ME,

NO TRIAL WILL EVER DISARM ME,

NO CIRCUMSTANCE WILL CAUSE ME TO FRET.

FOR I SHALL REST IN THE JOY OF WHAT MY LORD IS.

AND THAT IS THE REST OF VICTORY!

Dear weary parent, I pray you can rest in “the joy of what (the) Lord is”.   A little today and a little more tomorrow until it is more of your daily experience, no matter what is happening with your child.  Who is God?  What can he do for you?  Focus on this.  There is your joy.  There is your victory.

This is one of my favorite Bible verses on this subject.  It speaks of finding victory by choosing to be joyful in God, even in hopeless looking circumstances:

  “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails (their main source of provision) and the fields produce no food . . . YET I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer (sure-footed in uncertain times), he enables me to go on the heights.”  (Habakkuk 3: 17 – 19)

Hope Rises from the Ashes of Dark Knight Shooting in Colorado

Friday night, July 20, I wrote most of this blog before the tragic, heartbreaking shooting in Aurora, Colorado had happened.  I actually posted it at 9:10 PM that night on another site that offers prayer for hurting parents.  Just now I read the incredible blog of a mom who was in that theater with her husband and two teenage daughters.  They were just 40 or 50 feet away from the shooter.  Somehow they miraculously got out unharmed.  They are Christians and they still believe God is good.  How is that possible you may ask?  How can God be good when he allows such evil acts to occur to innocent people?  Is he really a loving and kind God?  Read her blog:  A Miniature Clay Pot.  Her words are powerful.  Thought-provoking.

This senseless violence has really been heavy on my heart.  Like many of you, I feel it on my chest throughout the day.  So much loss of life.  So much trauma.  So much pain and suffering.  The shooter’s hopelessness and despair.  What could drive someone to commit such a horrific act?

Then there are his parents.  Oh God, his parents.  Have you thought of them, too?  As a parent of a troubled child you probably have.  They have been continuoulsy on my heart and in my prayers since I heard the news.  I can only begin to imagine how much they need prayer.  How much they need comfort and support.  How deep must be their sense of shock, shame and grief.  All hope may be gone.  How my heart breaks for them.  Their lives are changed forever.  But I want to say that even in the midst of such evil, God is still God and he is still good . . .  and there is still hope, even in such thick, inpenetrable darkness.  Hope lives.

Here is what I wrote Friday evening:

CALAMITY – a disastrous, catastrophic event causing great and sudden amounts of damage or distress; a disaster bringing terrible loss or severe misfortune like a hurricane, tornado, earthquake or flood; a state of grievous affliction, adversity or misery.  An event that produces extensive evil and loss; causing serious effects of suffering and harm.
What do parents need in times of calamity?
1) To know where to turn first for help – to God who is their refuge and strength, a constant source of help in any trouble.  “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”  (Ps. 46: 1)

2) To know God is with them, not far from them.  “God did this (determined when and where we would live in time and history) so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”  (Acts 17: 27)

3) To fill their minds with God’s Word that can strengthen them, comfort them, sustain them and give them hope. (Ps. 119: 28, 50, 114 & 116)

4) An eternal perspective – their suffering has a bigger purpose, showing God’s power, achieving for us an eternal weight of glory, and to comfort others. (2 Cor. 4: 7-11, 16-18; 2 Cor. 1: 3-5)

5) Faith to accept trouble as well as good from the Lord; confidence to believe that even though he may slay them they will still hope in him.  (Job 2;10, 13:15)

6) To find reasons to praise their Maker even though He may have “taken away”.  “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away . . .” (Job 1: 21)

7) Hope, hope and more hope to not lose sight of the plans God has for them – to prosper them and not to harm them, to give them (and their children) a hope and a future.  “I know the plans I have for you, for your welfare and not to harm you; to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29: 11)

8) Peace, peace and more peace!  The very peace of Christ filling their hearts when troubled, helping them overcome fear.  “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.  I do not give as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  (John 14:27)

9) To remember they do not suffer alone.  There are thousands of good parents whose children have rebelled, not to mention the very first parent, GOD himself!  We are in good company!  (Genesis 3)

10) To keep taking One Day at a Time!  Don’t worry about our lives or about tomorrow!  It won’t change a thing or help one little bit. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. . . who by worrying can add a single hour to his life? . . . Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  (Matt. 6:25, 27 & 34)

There is a lot more that could be on this list.  These are the basics I thought I would remind you of today!

A great book that might help you if you are struggling to make sense of this tragedy is When God Doesn’t Make Sense by James Dobson.

O God, Our Redeemer, Rescuer, Good Shepherd,  help us remember these things as we walk through our times of calamity.  For you are Lord over all calamities.  In you we will conquer.  In you we have hope.

“Even in darkness (hopelessness, trouble, despair, foreboding, uncertainty, suffering) light dawns for the upright . . . surely he will never be shaken.  He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”  (Psalms 112:4)

Can Broken-hearted Parents Find Victory?

Sometimes I feel so defeated.  Helplessness overwhelms me.  I get stuck only seeing how far there still is to climb and forget how far we’ve come.  Addictions, mental illness, self-mutilation, sexual identity/behavioral issues (including pornography and promiscuity), gambling and eating disorders are vicious enemies.  They may be sapping the life out of your child and crushing you as you watch your child drift away from you.

“Give us aid against the enemy (fear, worry, doubt, unbelief, expectations, self-effort, hopelessness, despair, depression) for the help of man is worthless.  WITH GOD we will gain the victory and HE will trample down our enemies.”  (Psalms 108:12 – 13)  I am always so encouraged when I read this Bible verse.  When I begin to wonder if it really is possible for us broken-hearted moms and dads – grandparents, too – to find victory this encourages me.  New hope is found.  It is like a breath of fresh air.  I gasp for it.  Take it deeply into my spiritual lungs.

What does this victory look like for us?  Will it mean all of our child’s problems are solved?  Perfect peace?  A lack of trouble or conflict?  Everything working out the way we want and hope for?  Our dreams coming true?  Our child fixed and in recovery; physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy?  Oh how absolutely wonderful this would be.  Brace yourself.  Victory does not look like this for us.

What in the world am I saying?  Have I lost my mind?   I propose that we can have victory in the midst of our problems.  In our troubles.  In our storms.  In the dark, even if things don’t work out.  Even if our prayers are not answered.  Even if our child is never “fixed”.

Our victory is with God.  It’s in God.  In Jesus Christ.  Through faith in him.  Trusting in his ability to help.  There’s an old hymn that talks about our victory being in Jesus.  And another one speaks of faith being the victory that overcomes the world.  The dictionary defines victory as an act of winning or state of having won a battle or any kind of struggle.  Wow.  That’s it, isn’t it?  We are in a very real battle and a struggle for our own sanity.  We desperately need to win for the sake of our own well-being!

My victory in my struggle has been found in accessing God’s power, strength and ability to replace my weakness, and inability.

Victory is how God shows up in my trials and enables me to walk through them with faith and trust.

Here are a few more Bible verses I like on this subject:

Psalm 44: 5-8  “Through you we push back our enemies, through your name we trample our foes.  I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but You give us victory . . . in God we will make our boast all day long.”

I Corinthians 15:54, 57  ” . . . death has been swallowed up in victory . . . but thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I John 5:5  “This is the victory that has overcome the world (all our enemies) . . . our faith.”

Brokenhearted Parents Must Face Their Worst Fear

What is your worst fear for your child?  Mine was that my daughter would die.  She was just 18, abusing alcohol and drugs, cutting herself to soothe emotional pain, living on the streets.  Sometimes sleeping in parks, parked cars or wherever she passed out.  I was beside myself with fear and worry for her life.  Would she overdose?  Drink too much?  Be kidnapped?  Murdered?  I couldn’t believe any of this was happening.  Unimaginable.

In my agony I visited a friend who listened lovingly, without giving advice, while I poured out my sad story.  As I sat with her she encouraged me to do something I had not done —  face my worst fear.  She asked me straight out, “What are you most afraid of?”  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  It had been the elephant in the room.  The monster lurking under my bed.  The ghost hiding in the darkness of my closet when I was a child.

My greatest fear?  I had been in so much shock and denial I had not allowed myself to acknowledge it.  To face it.  To admit it.  As though doing so would make it more of a possibility.  As though saying it could make it happen or bring me more pain.  (Was that even possible?)

I realized what I feared most was that my daughter would die.  There — I finally said it.  Got it out into the open.  Faced it head on.  Acknowledged the elephant.  Brought the monster out of the closet into the light.   Got down on the floor and looked under the bed.  Would a phone call come from the morgue requesting me to identify my sweet girl?  Would the police or hospital call informing me of my child’s death?  Nightmare material.  How could I live with such a horrifying possibility?

First, I had to be honest with my feelings.   Experience their full force.  I gave myself permission to grieve her death as though it had happened.  To feel the weight of the sadness and huge sense of loss.  I wept and wept uncontrollably until my sides ached.  And then it hit me – – as awful as it would be, if she did die what could I know for sure?  What truths could I stand on?  This was the only way I could survive this unthinkable loss.

Second, I boiled it down to three irrefutable  truths.  I could rest on these:

1) God would be with me . . . no matter what.  He has said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you”.  (Hebrews 13:5b)  I could survive anything, even the death of my child.  I would not be alone.  Not then.  Not ever.  No never.

2) He would be my strength, my adequacy, my sufficiency.  “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9a)  “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.”  (Hebrews 13:6)

3) Somehow God could use it for good.  “ALL things work together for the good of those who love him . . .” (Romans 8:28)

Suddenly this fear was disarmed.  It had lost its power over me.  Something happened that freed me from its debilitating grip on my soul.  Facing the very real possibility of my daughter’s death brought me a new sense of peace.  Who would have imagined it could do that?

To be completely honest with you, I do still fear this at times.  I am human, after all.   But it no longer has that same grip on me like it once did.  I have faced my worst fear and survived!  I don’t know what your worst fear is, but maybe it is the same as mine.  May God help you face it with the help of a trusted friend or a counselor/pastor and in doing so, find greater peace and a new freedom.

Hurting Parents Need Freedom!

How can parents whose children are hurting from abusing drugs, alcohol, self harm of all kinds (eating disorders, cutting, burning), pornography, same sex relationships, gambling and mental illness find freedom?  What do we need to be free from?  Everything destructive associated with this child that is destroying our well-being, robbing us of our sanity.  Fear, anxiety, worry, despair, depression, anger, resentment, grief and more.

In my personal experience finding my freedom didn’t come from doing more, lecturing more, helping more, reading more books or Bible verses (they certainly do help and I do these all the time), or trying to fix my daughter more.  It’s also wasn’t from worrying more, yelling more, crying more, or talking to one more counselor.  These things did help.  They needed to be expressed and done as part of my grieving, healing journey.  Not sure about the yelling or lecturing . . .

My freedom came through something else.  It came through yielding more.  Surrendering more.  Giving her back to God more.  Trusting him more.  Releasing her into his care more.  Into his loving hands.

I had to remember that while I loved her immensely, He loved her even more.  Much more.  After all, he is the one who made her and gave her life.  I was part of the process, but he is the Divine life-source.  When I say yield and surrender I don’t mean giving up or not caring.  It’s letting go and letting God do his work.  I step back and let him step in.  I stop any enabling or helping.  I focus on taking care of myself and let my daughter learn to do the same for herself.

Here is a powerful prayer called “Declaration of Release.”  It is written by Sylvia Gunther  with The Father’s Business.  Used it as your own prayer to help you let go and give your child back to God.  Use it as often as you need to.  It helped me find freedom.  I believe it will help you, too.  Let it be your Freedom Song!

Because Jesus Christ is my Lord, I free you from my anxiety, fears, and control. I trust the Holy Spirit to lead you and show you the way that is right for you the way of love, joy, and peace and all that salvation includes.

I place you at God’s throne of grace. I cannot force my will on you. I cannot live your life for you. I give you to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You are a very special person. As much as I love you, God loves you more. Your life today is totally in His hands, and I trust Him with it.

 In Jesus’ name…

 I release you from my expectations,

 I place you on open palms to the Lord,

 I give you my blessings,

 I let you go.  Amen.

It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:13, 1:6).
                                                                                                                                                  
Prayer Portions L 1991. 1992. 1995. Sylvia Gunter. P.O. Box 380333, Binningham, AL 35238 USA. All Rights Reserved.       

 

Caught in the Wild Fire of Being a Hurting Parent

I have been so heavy hearted over the devastation the wild fires have caused in Colorado.  Over the last 17 years I have had the pleasure of spending time in Ft. Collins every other year.  I found this part of the country to have a unique beauty all it’s own.  Breathtaking.  I can’t imagine how those who live in the area and who have been affected by it must feel.

Thousands have lost everything.  Lives have been changed forever. Many more thousands have been living with a sense of dread for weeks.   The fear and anxiety over not knowing if you are going to be affected must be so intense.  They are weary and drained from worry.

Hurting parents suffer in many of the same ways.  Fear of the unknowns and the what-ifs.  Being completely powerless to stop destruction from heading your way, harming your family, changing your life.  Having no control or ability to stop something so potentially devastating is horrifying.  That is exactly what it feels like when drugs, alcohol, self harm, eating disorders, mental illness, a gay lifestyle or promiscuity threaten to devastate your child’s life . . . and yours, too.

The formerly beautiful landscape of Colorado will never be the same.  It has been irreversibly marred.

But . . . new life will return.  Homes can be rebuilt.  Grass, flowers, shrubs and trees will gradually grow again.  I have seen pictures of lush landscape that has returned after the devastation of a fire.  It is amazing how life can flourish again even after a devastating event has occurred.  It seemed like the fire brought forth even greater beauty.  Of course it takes a long, long time for trees to grow back like they were.  Many things can be restored, but some things never will be the same.  Hmmmm . . .

If we let him, God can bring new life, even beauty, from the devastation of being caught in the wild fire of being a hurting parent.  He has the power and ability to restore what appeared to be destroyed, even though some things may never be the same.  I have seen this in my life.  I have been changed in many ways, but new life and even beauty has come forth from the ashes of what appeared to be total devastation.

I had to grieve the losses.  Accept that some things would take years to be restored and others would never be replaced.  I had to hold on to hope when all I  could see was fire, when all I could smell was smoke, when all that was left was ashes.

Thank you God, for hope.  It’s in you and you alone.

A Bible verse that helps me hold on to hope is:   “Behold, I know the plans I have for you; plans for welfare and not for evil; to give you a future and a hope.”  (Jeremiah 29:11)