I embark

I have put aside the autobiography for a time to work on something which has captured my attention as of late.  I am choosing 3 verbs from the English language beginning with A and ending with Z and writing a devotional idea to go with it.  Devotional can be no longer than 1 page and must tie biblically.  Here are the first 3 attempts.

Accentuate

“Accentuate the positive!”  The words ring out as shrilly as the platinum blonde bleached into her hair.  She punches the air, making sure the staccato beat of her platform heels is in perfect time.  She knows that to fool the masses, you have to make them look beyond what is really there.  Any good performer hones that skill from birth and to make a director’s head turn, you do what you can to make yourself stand out from the crowd and that is just what she is teaching these young ladies today.

“Backs straight, head held high, suck in the gut; never-ever reveal a weakness.”  The young ladies, all dozen of them hold their 9 year old heads a little higher and look down the line at one another, making sure they are just a bit straighter, a tad taller.  At the end of the line is a quiet brunette of slight frame, angelic demeanor, and quiet strength.  Instead of casting a glance down the line, she straightens a bit taller, closes her eyes and begins mouthing something to herself.

Perhaps it’s the litany of “Backs straight, head high, never a weakness.”  Maybe she can Ac-cen-tu-ate  pos-i-tive as she practices plies at the barre.  Whatever the reason, there is an assured look on her face, one of almost pure joy, in stark contrast to the other girls’ grimace of agony.  Madame’s pitch creeps higher and her heels pick up pace even faster.  Sweat breaks out on many faces and she screeches to wipe it off, “never let a judge see you as human.  You are more than human; you are super human—act like it!  20 more minutes!”

Up and down the line Madame shrieks louder and she stops dead in front of our quiet one and demands to know why she is smiling.  “You look like you are clueless, that is no way to push yourself to the top.  Always standing there, smug and quiet, you are so infuriating!  Why are you like that?  You know you will never rise to the top of the class and be a star without the killer instinct.  Rise higher, reach further, push, push, push.”

“I have been taught that our world looks at the outer package. We judge each other on how we dress, walk, talk, and how we attractive we are. I know in my heart that what is seen on the inside is more important than how I look on the outside to others.    I am of more worth than all the fake nails or high heels in the world.  The Creator of the Universe sees to the core of who I am, not who I pretend to be or what a director may think is acceptable for a show.  I tell myself each day I am here to accentuate the inside gold, not the outside fake.  That Creator gazes at you in that way too, Madame.  Accentuate your inside gold.  Push to the inner recess of your heart, accentuate that pure gold.”

1 Samuel 16:7

The Message (MSG)

7 But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.”

Adopt

They stare out from their secured cages, brought in on trucks or in cars.  They have been found on the streets, rummaging through garbage bins, wandering fields on their own, or a family finds they cannot support them any longer.  Whatever the reason, they watch the doorways, listen for footsteps, hope for a loving young girl or boy they can shower with love.  Maybe this group will be my forever home, maybe they will adopt me and make me part of their family.

Tails wag, mouths hang open, and barks escape as they paw at the metal fencing.  Dancing on all fours they hop up and down in anticipation.  “Pick me!  Pick me!”  Can you hear them?  “Please, please.  This is special adoption weekend.  Can you find a place in your home, your heart? Won’t you adopt me?  Chose me?”

The eyes tell the stories of some of them, the lives they have lived, and their past-the solitude of their journeys.  In compelling compassion they lock contact with you, gazing at you, begging in silence to deliver them for their present reality.   Feel the joyful energy coursing through them as you click a leash on their collar, interested enough to try for a walk around the facility.  See the prideful way they pick up their head, walk through the door and out into the sunshine.  Imagine the relief when they can call corner in your room home.

We don’t need to sit in cages and wait for a special weekend to be picked.  Our place at the table has already been set, it is waiting for us.  We have been adopted, ushered into a family without constraints, without ridicule, absent of cold or loneliness.  It is a place where we belong no matter how scrappy we look or how many miles we have traveled.  There is peaceful and comforting warmth which envelops us, if we are brave enough to embrace it.  The beauty of being adopted into this family is that it is royal.  We become sons and daughters of a King, a King of such radical love; we are incapable of describing it.  Our brothers and sisters of times past, present, and all future have also been adopted into the royal family.  The house is teeming with all ages, stages, hopes, dreams, and stories and all are accepted at the table.  There is always enough, more than enough of all that we dream.  There is more love than we can imagine, always more forgiveness, always.  There is no need to make ourselves noticed so that we will be chosen; we have been seen from the beginning-the adoption papers signed.  We belong just as we are, blameless and wonderfully created to love one another.  Imagine the joy in our Creator’s gaze as another brother or sister understands the comfort of waiting arms and runs to join the celebration already happening.

The celebration of your accepted invitation to be part of a whole family, anxious to know you, care for you, and love you; just as you are.  Come and rest.  Your searching is over and now you can breathe the sigh of relief, confident that you are where you belong.  It is a pleasure to welcome you home my brother, my sister, my friend.

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.
1 Peter 2:8-10

Advocate

In the education circles the letters, IEP carry special significance.  Those parents whose children are on one also know the importance of those letters; they mean regular meetings, constant evaluations, and incessant conversations with teachers, administration, parents, and students.  Sometimes it seems a rat race of connections until that glimmer of hope peaks through a haze of confusion.  The onslaught of verbiage that only educationally trained people speaks.  Wading through the paperwork appears to be never-ending, as does the guilt that gnaws at the back of the mind.  “Am I the reason they have trouble reading?  Do I do something that makes it impossible for them to concentrate in school?  Are they doing this on purpose?  Who will know I failed?”

For the student, they are oblivious to the world of special education or an Individualized Education Plan.  All they may be aware is that some subjects in school may be more difficult than others, or that their attention span seems to tank around 2 o’clock in the afternoon.  They are unaware of the countless hours that moms, dads, grandparents, or other family members sacrifice in order to help them succeed.  A bag is magically packed and ready for the next day, homework is never tackled alone, and someone is always watching out for them.  They have no idea the conversations that take place over the phone, internet, or in person.  They never see the tears fall as their loved ones try every day to make today a bit easier than yesterday; never do they hear the inner voices screaming at those family members that this deficit is their fault-as if it could be blamed on someone or something.

While they remain unconscious to those moments, they are also naïve to the cheerleading and work that is done on their behalf.  Within mountains of paperwork and conversation and evaluation are people who are pulling for the success of that student.  They will join forces and stand strong to do whatever is necessary for that young person.  It may be as simple as helping to read for an extra half hour after supper, or as involved as assisting them in every area of life.  Whatever the case, the support exists and remains strong.

There are times though, when the hours are long for those fighting, when a blissful night off seems like the perfect respite.  Moments when the fight wares on the soul and the plea to be let off the hook feels like it falls on deaf ears.  There is One who hears, however.  One who chooses to stand in the midst of the fight and advocates on our behalf.        There is a constant who decided in the beginning that each life lived was worth the struggle and climbs into it with us, who will spend the extra moments in quiet prayer or tempered promotion.  The Creator who set all the stars in heaven believes that we are worth more than all creation combined and does not hesitate to enter our world and join us in whatever we may encounter.  Nothing is too large, no darkness too bleak, no amount of red tape and paperwork too daunting for the One who experienced life in all its mountain top and valley moments.   What appears overwhelming for us is a chance for the Creator to fight for and protect the beloved.  Like a mama bear protecting her cubs, we are fiercely loved and fiercely supported, by an advocate who continues to advocate on our behalf.

“As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
Jeremiah 29:9-11

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Free Admission? Not so much.

I am pensive today.  The countdowns on all the television stations are in full swing and the news programs are winding down the best and worst stories of the year.  While I contemplate Occupy wherever and all the political mumbo jumbo, my thoughts turn in to something else.

This night a year ago, I admitted my oldest son to the behavioral unit at a local mental facility.  I was doing my chaplain residency hours there and had spent hours and hours working with the staff on the various floors.  I knew these people there as colleagues and this night of nights I was reduced to another parent at their wit’s end with nowhere else to turn.

The roads and grassy areas are barren without snow, a different picture to the impending blizzard we experienced 365 days ago.  I drove a borrowed 4 wheel drive vehicle and made the half hour trek with my son in the back seat.  It was not until days later that a friend commented that it was a miracle that my son stayed in control during the drive…it could have been a dangerous trip.  I didn’t even think of it as I careened down the interstate covered in ice.

We had been told by his doctor that if he happened to lose control it would be time to bring him in to calm him enough to figure out how best to help him.  I remember telling my husband this and feeling a bit belittled when he poo pooed my concern for my son’s increasing rage.  It was only after he wigged out on my husband because a DVR show did not record all the way that my husband agreed he needed help we could not give him.

I packed his bags with hardly a word and watched the  transformation in my son take place.  He went from bouncing off the walls threatening his family to happily eating pudding in the hall.  I stood, transfixed, not believing that this was happening.

Into the initial intake room we were ushered  and the questioning began.  My son climbed from the chair to the table to the floor back to the table and back again, repeatedly.  It was hard to carry on a conversation as I kept one eye on him and the other on keeping myself in check.  Within minutes of the intake interview, the doctor’s orders were to admit him.

People assume that you are automatically admitted, it is not the case.  After the  interview, the doctor has to review the information and decide if admittance is the best option.  In this case, it was.

One of my lifelong friends came to join me in this venture and brought me some strong mocha as my son and I were ushered down the hall to the children’s wing.  I had spent so many hours walking these halls, my first encounter when I did my clinical was on the children’s wing…I remember the young man’s name and it all came flooding back to me as I sat in the room waiting for the nurse on duty.  I smiled when I saw him.  He was a kind and strong nurse, capable of talking truth out of his own experience.  I tried not to look in his eyes as I looked over the paperwork.  They took my son to another room to be weighed and measured, and to have all shoes and belts and ties taken from him.  They went through his luggage to make sure he had nothing that would be harmful and they showed him his room.  The floor was quiet, all the other children had gone to bed for the night.  I signed all the necessary paperwork, sighed back a sob and put on my brave face for my son.

He was happily bouncing on the bed, the violent rage subsided.    He had his own bathroom, a sink, a desk, all the comforts of home…sure.  I placed sheets and his comforter on his bed.  His favorite stuffed animal, Mr. Rattles, and his prayer shawl were unpacked for him and he smiled as he settled down to rest.  I sat next to him and talked quietly to him.  I said prayers for him, just as I have done every night since he was born, I prayed for his dreams and then I kissed him on his forehead and headed out the door.

I was me in these moments, not chaplain or student, but mom….so I waited for the nurse on duty to walk me through the hallways and out the front entrance.  The door.  The door banged shut behind me–an ominous sound, so final, so—done.

My friend and her husband walked out with me, I could not speak…did not return to their house with them.  I got in the borrowed car, fiddled with the keys, cursed a blue streak when I could not find the lights, and sobbed my  way back home.

I continued sobbing most of that night.  I walked in the door to find my youngest in bed with his father, waiting up for mom.  I could not say anything, I just stammered down the hallway to the darkened livingroom and sat.  I could not go into my son’s room, could not touch his bed, see his pillow and blanket there without him cuddled within them.  Part of my heart and soul was in a place I could not reach and it hurt worse than anything I have ever felt in my life.  It still does.  I angrily swipe at tears that course down my cheeks even now–remembering.

That was a night of pure hell, a night where I did not sleep, could do little else but sob and wish the gods would reverse their courses.  I do not know how long I sat in my dark room, the computer was on my lap, I could not type….I sat, stone cold and hurting for a little boy who could not control what was happening and I could not fix it.  If he were in any other situation,  I would be with him, this was the one journey in which I could not join him.  I still can’t.

I have kept a running journal for both my children.  I write to them on the birthday date each month–I write about what they are doing, how they are growing, things I want to say to them or things I want them to remember.  I have yet to write to my either of my children about this.  A year later, I still cannot tell him what it was like to have him there.  Many of the saints and martyrs of the faith, male and female, describe the night I encountered as a “Dark night of the soul.”  I never understood what that meant until that evening.  As people around the world celebrated a new year, I cried rivers for a son that I could not help.  It left me feeling helpless and alone, there are times that I still feel that way when I watch him.  I fear what his future will look like, I worry that I have not done enough–have not equipped him or protected him from what he may experience.  It leaves me to rely on faith…and that is hard.

So, tonight I remain pensive and a bit pissy about nothing in particular and everything at the same time.  I choke back my own tears as I watch the kids play battleship and the dog smacks on a chewy at my feet.  I know that I will write more on this topic this weekend.  If for no other reason than to put thoughts to paper so as not to stuff them too much longer.

He is better than he was a year ago, not all the kinks out of the armor yet, but I am confident that we will be stronger even another year from now.  Mental illness does not just affect those with the diagnosis, it wreaks havoc on those watching and caring for the person.  I know of only one current diagnosis for my nearly eight year old, i watch with bated breath to see if our other suspicions will ring true.  I pray with all that I am that the cruel hands of mental illness leave my son alone…at this time that is all I can do.  Pray.

I did not write this out of pity or out of a pathetic need to blather my story all over the internet.  Those that feel compelled will read, maybe comment.  I know grandma will read and if she gets this far, a shout out to you…;-)  This weekend will prove difficult for me as I remember the road we have traveled in the last year.  If by chance something here spoke to your heart, then his journey and mine will have not been in vain.  By the way for one week admittance to this fancy hotel, one can expect to pay over 18,000 for just the bed and room.  Other amenities such as food, medicine, and doctor visits are added as deemed necessary.  With that tidbit in mind, let’s reform health care so as to benefit as many as possible…(there no more politics tonight)

Blessings to you as you wrap up 2011 and may your 2012 prove more than you ever dreamed possible.

Shalom dear readers,

cahl

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