Thursday, September 5, 2013

When Life Hands You A Crisis

A few years ago I would never have thought I would be writing a post like this, but here I am. This post doesn't have a lot to do with homeschooling, but how we've dealt with a crisis we faced while homeschooling. A little over three years ago our family went through a monumental, life changing experience. We are living in the aftermath of that time today and finally coming out of the dark valley. There are blessings we encounter everyday and we are thankful for them.

Yet I want to be perfectly frank when I say I do not hold with the old adage that God will never allow us more than we can bear. That is not Biblical. I have certainly felt I have been allowed more than I can bear at times. Several times in fact. The first is when I lost my first husband, then when my dad died and last was a few years ago. It's arrogant to believe we will never be allowed more than we can bear. To me, saying that is akin to believing one doesn't need God. Because one hasn't faced mind numbing grief or anything that can't be bared on our own. Or somehow managed to muddle through on our own, but how much more comfort, how much less pain could we have been spared if we gave up control? It's those times when I have been brought to my knees that I have been drawn closer to the Lord and relied on Him more than ever. In fact hearing, God will never allow us more than we can bear, during times of grief and crisis caused me to feel exasperated.  It made me feel like something was wrong with me because I felt like I was drowning in the initial throws of the crisis. I certainly felt like God HAD allowed me more than I could bear on my own. It most definitely was more than I could face by myself.

Reaching out to my life preserver, my Lord was what kept me from sinking. Not being strong in my own right. I was strong because I was leaning on the Lord. On my own I was weak.  I was able to persevere because of my faith in Jesus. Oh, but so many times I felt so alone. So many times when I needed a human touch, some heart felt compassion, some wise words of hope, what I got was, God will never allow us more than we can bear. Well I was being crushed, my spirit weighed down, my heart heavy with grief. The next words you read are from words recorded in my journal during that time.

                                                      Where are my stretcher bearers?

When you face a long period of continual stressful events that keep coming one after another in a huge barrage do you find yourself surrounded by miserable comforters? Do you feel like Job or Job's wife? Or sometimes a little of both? Does it seem like a huge blessing to make it five more minutes? To be able to breath and even take a breath? When your world is turned upside down do you find blessings in the simplest and tiniest things? Do you ever wonder what it's like to walk a path that is full of excruciating hurt and pain and to feel like everyone has deserted you except God and sometimes it feels like even he is a little distant? And in all that pain and hurt and discouragement do you find yourself focusing only on your own troubles and getting impatient with others who don't seem to care or understand? Are you envious of others seeming joy and fun and carefree times?  Do you wonder how people pick themselves up and keep going when the going gets so hard it's an almost impassable path? Why will no one let me grieve what I have lost and feel it's blackness and the hurt? Why are they so frightened of it? Why do they tell me I don't have to be strong all the time and yet if I crumble and fall apart they become extremely uncomfortable? Why are they always spouting wisdom and yet not giving what I need most a loving, compassionate and empathetic ear and shoulder? Why are they long on advice and so short on giving comfort? Why can they not accept there are some things they just aren't going to know about?

 Our middle daughter has been in prison for a little over three years. I will never forget the first visit when she was in jail. I sobbed uncontrollably. Then the first visit once she was transferred to prison. I was terrified to go alone, but I did. It was fear of the unknown. Once I got to the prison though other visitors showed me the ropes. I had no idea I couldn't wear jewelery, a watch, take my purse in or could only take in one key.  I didn't even realize the quarters I brought for the vending machines had to be taken out of their wrappers. Thankfully other visitors informed me and helped me learn how to do things.  I've learned over the years to take our blessings where we find them. Getting to see my daughter on Mother's day, sharing my birthday with her this year during a visit, guards that are kind all mean so much and we count them as blessings. Having funds to send her so she can purchase needed items, getting to talk to her by phone, getting cards from her, her being accepted into the mentoring program etc. When she went to work in the prison clinic some of the guards and staff got to know her better. She was no longer a nameless, faceless prisoner with a number. She was a person deserving of being treated with dignity. All these things are blessings.

Our world was turned upside down a little over three years ago, but we have been blessed. I have had my world turned upside down and I have walked a path of excruciating pain, but I have made it many times more than five minutes since then. I have been afforded opportunities to reach out to others of incarcerated loved ones. My impossible path has been made passable. Instead of looking and wailing for a stretcher bearer I have tried to be a stretcher bearer for others. Others I wouldn't have spoken to or took the time of day for before I now see through new eyes. I am ashamed that I used to feel that way.  I can still remember thinking as I looked around during that first prison visit, other than their clothes the women here look like anyone on the street. There was a variation of people visiting. Obviously well-to-do, street-wise, farm people, those with tattoe and piercings, city folk, hippie types, poor, middle class, grandparents, parents, children, babies, handicapped, aunts, uncles, husbands etc. Each with a loved one in prison. Each prisoner with a story and every one in that room with family that loved them.

 What I have found is that people are people. If you take away the faceless mask of judgment and make it personal they will begin to understand. If you want people to change you have to be willing to change first. I've learned that sometimes doing the right thing is hard, but it's still always right. I've learned that sometimes I don't want to do the right thing, but I strive to do it because it is pleasing to the Lord. I've learned that joy and hope are contagious. I've learned that a negative spirit can poison not just my outlook, but others as well. I've come to understand where God leads me will not always be acceptable to the world, but I am not of this world. I've had to face the fact that in this life I will have things I go through and suffer that are more than I can bear. But I can bear them because of Christ. I've come to understand and embrace a moment is fleeting and I can face all things through Christ.

Allowing myself rest and to be able to say no is not a luxury or being lazy. Sometimes it;s necessary. A slower pace doesn't mean failure. As long as I keep moving forward and don't give in to self pity. Thinking on good and helpful things is helpful. If my focus wavers and doesn't stay steady then I veer off from the straight path. I've learned it's okay to allow myself to grieve and it's okay to need help. I've allowed myself to step back from toxic people in my life especially when they effect my spiritual walk. I've learned that journaling the Word has been a huge help to me. It helps me see the areas of growth in my life during a crisis. I've learned that sometimes having no words when I pray and just sobbing or crying out to the Lord is a language he understands even if I don't know what I need at the time. I've learned I can face  whatever comes with confidence because of my Lord, whether our daughter receives an early parole or has to serve her full sentence. God is still in control!

At the beginning of this crisis experience I had no idea what a learning experience this would be for me. What a time of eye opening vision and growth of compassion for those locked away from society. Years ago I painted a saying on my living room wall. It says, Today's trials are tomorrow's testimonies. I feel we are sometimes allowed to go through some things in life so we can learn to be more understanding. To gain a better insight of a situation we have closed our mind and eyes and heart to. We are allowed to see things from the other perspective because this gives us understanding to help in a way we never would have been able to comprehend before. With God at the helm and leading I feel confident that we and our daughter will have a great testimony that will help others. We may have times of sorrow now, but joy will come in the morning and with it a great testimony of God's goodness and grace in times of crisis. 
One of my favorite pictures of me with my five older kids. In order from oldest to youngest. This was taken about a year pre-crisis. My middle daughter is the one in the red t-shirt. Isn't she a beautiful young woman? All my kids are pretty spectacular I think and all gifts from God!

You might be interested in this blog post from a wonderful blogger. She shares her heart. Read the message in Jamerrill's own words. Here's her story.

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