The lamb born in a stable

image I love Christmas time. I always have. Growing up in a liturgical church, we had such an array of festival and pageantry that Christmas was a time I always looked forward to; not only because of receiving gifts, but the nativity. I loved the nativity scene. My parents owned a jewelry store back in the day; Hart’s Jewelers. They worked late in December and we would always drive home in the darkness or fog after a full nights work.   On the way home there was a star off in the distance with cascading streams of light. You could see it 5 miles away, at least that’s how I remember it.  Under the star was a full-size life ( not living) nativity scene. It was truly amazing. Every night on the way my brother and I would beg my parents to drive by the “star”.  They did, probably once a week, although I could have gone every night. I can remember every detail in my memory and it simply was the Christmas story for me. Jesus, in the manger, his parents over Him, the shepherds and wise men near by. Camels and sheep, lots of sheep.  It was lit up and straw was all around. It was magical.

I always believed in Jesus, I didn’t doubt His existence or the virgin birth or the Angels appearing in the heavens singing “Gloria in excelsis   Deo “.   But I just didn’t realize what was really happening.  God, leaving His throne, His kingdom, His worshippers to put on human flesh. To feel human, fully human; joy, pain, love, grief, anger, and abandoned.   He became everything that we are; born, a life full of family drama ( remember no one believed Mary was a virgin, except Joseph ,Elizabeth, and Zechariah.) His brothers and sisters thought He was crazy and his earthly father died before His ministry began. He knew He was God, but He never used His powers beyond what we ourselves as believers with faith could use also. He didn’t come handsome so that people would look at Him and say”now there is a king!”   He knew deep moments of loneliness that would not be satisfied the way it was in the heavenlies.  And above all, He came knowing the mission, to die for all humans, to die in each and everyone’s place for their sins, great and small, filthy dirty icky sin. Every human that has been conceived He paid in full their debt for sin and filled an account full of all they will ever need. That account sits full awaiting the activation that occurs when you believe.  Even those who rejected Him to their final breath have an account in their name that only awaits their belief.  What belief?  The need for being rescued.

This salvation that Christ came to redeem is all about the story of us. Our need to be rescued from bondage, a place we can’t get out of ourselves;  a problem arises that impedes God’s purpose for life and blessing*.  What God wants is for us to cry out to Him For help, to recognize we need help.  The problem that arises, however, is that we think we can handle problems thrown our way; that we can work it out, create a plan to solve it.  Our American culture is simply full to the brim of American self reliance and hard work. We built this country and we can make it better, we can bring it back, we just need a new leader, a new plan, or more money, but we can handle this, we don’t ask for help, that would be too dependent.

The crux of the salvation story is right at the beginning, God waiting to hear from us, to cry out.  He gave us example after example of a people He called out to live so that we would see the pattern.   The Israelites cried out and God heard them, the primal scream for redemption*.  This is what we need to hear this season. Not what leader will get us, but what a God, The God, is waiting for. He seeks us out and asks “where are you?”

This Christmas season, don’t just remember the baby, the incarnate Word of God in human flesh, but remember why He came.  That we might recognize our feeble attempt to save ourselves from a difficult life or circumstances.  Those very issues are there to cause of to realize we can’t do it without this Almighty God. He is there, waiting in the garden, in the stable, on the cross, and in the empty tomb.  Embrace your lack of control, embrace life’s curve ball that hits you in the eye, God wants you to need Him. Then sit back and watch the mighty rescue of your God.  See his wonders and receive His grace.  Without suffering or pain we would never know we need to be rescued.

Merry Christmas and may 2016 be the year you allow God to save and rescue you in everything, great to small. Then He receives the Glory and we get to share our story of rescue.

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A Broken System

Art-Brut-3The Mental Health System is broken.  It is not functioning well, it is disconnected, lacks congruity and relies on short visits from doctors, not prepared to see their “patients” and a long list of drugs that they think will work within 4 days.  They don’t, medicine takes time and should be accompanied by a healthy diet, good sleep, exercise and trust.     This is now the 5th hospital stay for my son in two years.   Each visit lasted one week to 5 weeks.  He was always discharged right when our insurance was about to end.  We didn’t notice this until the pattern emerged after the third stay.  My son knew this too, he has learned to be institutionalized, he knows his rights and what he can refuse and not refuse.   Now I don’t want the reader to think I believe all mental health care workers are bad or incompetent, but the system in which they work seems to be like the mind of a schizophrenic; many voices shouting over one another, people doing things that overlap, a system that doesn’t believe the patient, or the caregivers input. they simply want to stabilize and get them home.   Trying to work with them leaves me so exhausted and stressed I just want to find a way to start my own facility.  Get about 10 million dollars in grants, buy land, build housing, base the model on a system that incorporates the spiritual element as well and use the money so people can actually afford to come live there.  A self sustaining facility, growing their food, nutritionists, fitness trainers, doctors who want to stay and mental health nurses and aids that love people and don’t get cynical.  A wild fantasy for sure.   There are a few I have found some that sound promising ( except the spiritual part) but they run about 26,000-30,000 per month.  That’s right, per MONTH.   Who can afford that?   Average stay is one to three years.

This last hospital visit was the worst.  The facility was the nicest, it was the cleanest, almost posh, but the workers were detached and didn’t even know my son’s name.  I came to visit and no one talked to me, acknowledged me or my son, it was so odd.  Not a hello, or “is this your mom”? or “this is how he is doing”….they called him by his first name ( a big clue that they didn’t even know he went by his middle name).   Visitation was a joke, one hour at the worst time of day ( three times per week).    My son, for the first 3 and 1/2 weeks was throwing up his meds.  I told them he was, but they didn’t believe me.  They said that couldn’t happen.   But he was pacing so much his socks wore out and he lost weight.  We had to buy new pants and socks,  but still they told me there was no way he wasnt getting the meds into his system.  I explained about his personality, but the doctor told me he couldnt listen to my ideas based on a hypothetical theory.   I said, it isn’t theory, he is waiting you out, he won’t comply because he know you will release him in 30 days.   The doctor did take that to heart and told him he would keep him longer.  Then an amazing thing happened, my son took his meds and began to participate.  He slept through the the next four days but stopped pacing and barely ate.  He needed the sleep I am sure but now he was a zombie. Now by this point the dosage was so high because they thought he wasn’t responding, he turned into a walking zombie.  they were happy because he stopped pacing and actually slept longer than one hour per night.   I requested they drop the meds back down to entrance levels and the doctor actually agreed with me and lowered the dosage, but it was still very high and because he refused to give blood they couldn’t test the depakote levels.    We knew that day 30 was arriving and they would release him because our insurance was up, I asked for a 4 day extension because my husband was still in Korea for an army conference and I didn’t feel safe bringing him home alone.    We haven’t been safe, it has been dangerous, emotional, violent, erratic and we feel like we are fighting an unseen fiend who is preying on our son.   Everyone in the household is on edge and the tension is unbearable.  This, unfortunately, feeds my son.  He , like an X-man mutant, receives all our tension and feeds on it.  We try to conceal this life from others, but it pours out like water you try to hold in the palm of your hand.

We then had to  follow up with the local law mandated appointments with the county run center.  My son would not speak, paced the halls, was verbally abusive and obviously mentally unstable at the time.  I could not make sure he ingested the meds. ( to the novice reading this, I assure you that following around a 21 year old man and watching him to ensure he keeps the pills down can be dangerous,  to avoid violent conflict I ask and trust and then watch behavior, if he is acting out I tell him I have to call 911, that usually makes him compliant, I just do not want the reader to think it is as easy as watching him swallow pills or stand outside the bathroom, what you deal with in this situation is not rational or reasonable, you must throw out those techniques)   But the county behavioral health  did NOTHING for us.  I begged for help, I needed in home help, a nurse or a mental illness specialist to help me or a home or living facility he could stay, anything.  But nothing exists.    She spent 15 minutes typing as I talked, because my son “saw fit” that I should speak and not him”,  of course everything I said “were lies and needed to be deleted”  She was typing continuously while I talked, it was a loud keyboard and extremely annoying, I don’t know how my son didn’t come flying across the table.  Want to be tense?,  just type everything a person is saying while they talk, don’t look at them or listen, just type type type….maybe a new system could be installed, voice recording and then have someone type it later?  I dont know.   Just don’t irritate mentally unstable people more please.   I asked what I should do, I was a little scared, she said ” he said he wasn’t suicidal or homicidal so she could do nothing”  I actually said that, remember he wasn’t speaking…. She said I could take him to the ER but they would only think he was an angry teenager, but he isnt, he is  21, almost 22.      So alone in a vast sea of undulating waters that pulls us down to the bottom while we fight the current trying to get a breath we go on.   I left and wanted to sit in my car and cry.  But I knew my son would feed off that emotional surge and I had to remain calm.

I had really hoped the doctor prior to discharge would use his leverage, and tell my son in order to be discharged he would have to 1.   allow them to draw blood and run a full blood panel screen to check his system, 2.   run a drug screen and  3.  they could order a brain scan so we could look at this neurologically and rule out anything there.  He denied all three.  He said the brain scan was only for traumatic brain damage and would not help my son’s case,  ( not true, I have several academic papers from Harvard, Mayo clinic etc) and they show schizophrenic brains on scans can show us a lot.  He hasn’t had a blood panel since this started three years ago, we have no idea of white cell counts, and all other levels,.   I was so upset because the leverage was needed to get compliance.   We will try on our own to find a neurologist and get this done this week if possible.  I will have to find my own care givers by searching alone yet again.  And just for the record, I am a member of NAMI, I support them, but the support group I attended was so depressing I just couldn’t go back.   I sat with women twice my age who had been taking care of their sons for 25 years and they were no better.   They were in and out of hospitals , broke, non compliant with meds and many had been in jail.   I am just not ready to concede.   I would rather be in denial for a while longer , I would rather choose hope and and work to make a new system.  I will await my miracle aslo.

Depression-and-Mental-Illness

My husband and I have decided to just tell people he has cancer when he acts strangely, we could just say he has brain cancer.   Then people wont be so scared and judge him or us.  It is crazy to say that, but if he was terminally ill anywhere else in his body people would be kind and helpful, but if it is a sickness of the brain, then it is our fault or his fault and they avoid us, judge us and leave us. ( most don’t say that out loud, but you  hear what they say, people don’t’ keep secrets.)  People just can’t handle unresolveable situations.   Because it is so exhausting and you never feel like it will end, others just don’t want to be around that.  I can’t explain it, but we have lost friends because they  think we should fix this and move on and if they don’t see results then we arent doing what needs to be done.   They don’t believe me when I tell them how broken the mental health system is, they just don’t believe me.   And they don’t think it could ever happen to them because they are good people and good parents., that cause idea again.   No one would ever blame a parent for cancer or diabetes or autism, but mental illness…..there is a stigma attached to that.  I just have to smile and try to educated them.  If they really want to know I have books to read and they can search.   I have one dear friend who is already searching, reading and doing all she can to help, she was with me at lunch with my son and it so shocked her she went into full blown “I must help her mode”  Thank heavens for friends like that.  No judgement and the power to want to make changes.

Be that friend, be that person who will step in and help.  Be that person that writes the congressional leader to fund grants to open facilities, who will stand in the gap with fervent prayer.   I am so blessed to have that friend, I am not alone.   Christ sustains us and sends us people who will love and care for us.  Even in the mess.  Because this is messy and weird and unworldly.

Multi-tasking

So I am so new to blogging, I cant get my pictures where I want them, but for now, this is how God sees us, the finished product, and below how we see ourselves….even a lesson from my lack of knowledge of this blogging machine, and I must go to bed!!!!

after, all ready to relax and be ready for Lord to move me to action

after, all ready to relax and be ready for Lord to move me to action

Multitasking, this is a new word we often hear daily.  We use it to justify all the work we are doing or trying to do or hope to do.  We think the more we can accomplish while doing something else the more we can get done and then somehow find the perfect place of rest.  A recent study I heard on PBR ( not pabst blue ribbon, for those of you who care to know), showed that multitasking is actually a detriment to getting work done and getting it done well.  Well, regardless of the study….”Hi, I am Amy and I am an addicted multitasker”, “hi Amy”!

Case in point, take a look at this photo.  This is what has been building up over the last few months.  In this room, lets call it my office, are all the wonderful things I am working on.  Mind you they are all great things and fun and exciting and profitable for my heart, soul and mind.  Lets see: There is the jewelry I am making, just made my dear friend my first piece of turquoise and antler pendants along with coin charms we bought at the flea market together….of course I have about 25 more to make; then there are the horse beaded horse shoes I make, there is the bible study I am starting to write and all the books I need to study, there are bags of boots and chaps and breeches from the last race that need to be put away, Christmas presents, pillows to remake the guest room, a wonderful piece of art my daughter had made for me waiting for the perfect frame, burlap projects for the front porch and thanksgiving, pictures that need to be scanned and stored.  I could go on.  You see I am working on all this a bit at a time, not to mention the beach house management, the new jewelry line I am selling ( Chloe and Isabel) and the subdivision I have under contract to build houses on, which closes this month if all goes well.   All of this is good stuff, I could prioritize, but still I would want to dabble here and there and never get any of it done.

This is how so many of us Christ followers behave.   We have so much going on we give a little here , a little there and soon our spiritual souls look like my room.  Filled with so much we get overwhelmed and just stop doing any of it.  We often think we must use out gifts, if we even know what they are, or figure out what to do in order to help all the while keeping the family functioning at home and of course smoothly.    Paul said they gave of themselves.   That is an easy order to follow.  Just give what you have.  You have a word of encouragement, say it, you have time to meet for coffee, get to it, want to write a letter, send it. Do people keep coming up and telling you what you are good at?, well listen to them and take it as from the Lord. If you have several encounters over and over again about what they think you are good at , or they could see you doing that, I would OPEN YOUR EARS!! Sometimes we pray that God would show us what He wants us to do. We look for signs and open doors. Paul never had an open door, he had a mandate to preach the gospel and he just went to work regardless of a door being opened or closed. Has somehow told you lately that your kindness helped them get through something, or that they really appreciate the time you take out of your day to help them and it saved them?, or what about your skills? what do you love to do? What do you do? If you have something that you love and it happens to you weekly or daily that is your gift, it is using yourself. I have been asked at least 17 times ( not exaggerating) in two weeks if I give horseback riding lessons. I am praying hard about that, that has never happened before. I have been asked by at least 12 people on different days and people who do not know each other, but they all have asked if I would write a study on the Feasts of the Lord and the Wedding of the Lamb. I am serious, this is just happening, almost everyday. But when I look at my room I realize that if it stays this way I will have no time to pursue what God is calling me to do. It is time to clean house. Get it in order so that I am available to not only hear God, but be ready with my shoes on and my staff in my hand. So I encourage you, multitask away, as a mother, a wife, a working women or student which many of you are some of the above, you have become proficient at doing many things all at once. After all God created us to be adaptable and malleable to be a suitable “helpmeet” so we are gifted in this area. So I think of it as our greatest strength and our greatest weakness. We can take on too much and let it get away from the main objective. That is to show the love of Christ to those who are perishing. Please don’t get hung up on the “gifts”, I pray this very week you will hear the voice of God through others sharing snippets of what you are good at. Please don’t ignore them or shrug them off like we women are so prone to do. Think about it, if you hear it more than once take note, if it comes up three times I honestly believe it is from the Lord. But test the spirits, always see if what you hear lines up with scripture, and if it does MOVE AHEAD.
Your sister in Christ, Amy
a href=”https://tigerhart.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/img_5722.jpg”>All my projects in their glory All my projects in their glory[/caption]

one month

IMG_0028Time is something that we really can’t measure.  Oh sure we try, there are minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years.   We even break it down to milliseconds and then try to grasp the infinite, but at it’s core we can’t really tell time.  We just live daily and look forward and back and try to plan and re-group and move ahead.

I have a one month time appointment.   You see one month ago I walked into a new meeting with my son, and a new doctor, ( assigned to us) to help manage some medication for an unknown and mystical ailment he has been dealing with.  Of course if you have never had the chance to navigate the unchartered waters of the mental health world you would not understand that there is no answer, no cure or consistency when dealing with issues of the mind and often there is no “diagnosis” either.   We just know we have to go once a month for a check up and do all we can to avoid another hospital stay.   We went expecting to try something new, something that would help and not hinder in this field of “lets try this” or “lets mix this”, or “here is a new one”, but this time we had a total unexpected event.  The new MD, Psychiatrist, simply looked across his desk and told my son nothing was wrong.  He declared he was fine and didn’t need to come back at all.  After I physically shut my jaw that had hit the floor and stopped the lump in my throat from breaking free, I asked what exactly what did he mean?   I told him that he was required by the law to come for the next year, once a month, and that, we would in fact be coming back.  He stuck to his guns and said nothing was wrong and to stop all medications, within 4 days or so.  That sent alarms running through my brain, I knew you couldn’t just stop meds without weaning down from them, luckily I had done just that the previous 10 days as I thought his meds were, in fact, making him worse.   But this?  Stop everything and move on as if this was just a blip on the screen of his life?  My son looked at me and said  ” I told you nothing was wrong with me” so he stopped all meds that day.  It was all I could do not to come unglued and panic as I thought he would be back in the hospital and having to endure so much more pain and anguish; I remained stoic and nodded.

So, one month is upon us tomorrow.   All is stable, no real issues with withdrawal and absolutely no symptoms manifesting as they had in the past two years.   So, of course I was determined to find another doctor and get someone who could help my son; I mean there is no way this “assigned” “cheap” psychiatrist could be right,  and then I took a breath.  I mean, we had been praying about this, interceding on his behalf, believing for a miracle and when I heard the words that he was fine I simply dismissed them.   I set my mind against this doctor and waited to be proved right, after all my son has had two years of darkness and unworldly behavior, he couldn’t just be “fine” now could he?  We had been dealing with things that one only sees in the movies and now “there is nothing wrong with him?”; I have seen too much wrong to believe

So I made a conscious decision to believe.  After all, I ask my gals in bible study to trust and believe and here I was an unbeliever in the face of praying and asking God to heal my son.  I felt a bit weird confessing to the group that I was going to believe the doctor and go along with diagnosis that he was fine.  That he had endured a hard couple of years and was labeled by the first doctor and then all the other doctors followed suite.     I knew enough that he had been under spiritual attack and my husband and I had even felt the real presence of evil in our home.  But none the less, I chose to believe.  I chose to believe in the power of prayer.  I chose to believe that he is healed and even  if he is not,  I will still choose that the God of the universe will protect and keep him and for hope, but I DO BELIEVE.    It sounds unlikely I know, I have talked to many people who would think I was in denial, they would try and talk me out of believing due to past behaviors, but I am choosing to brush them aside, I BELIEVE,

When was the last time you asked God for an answer to prayer and when you got one you simply denied it?    I thought it would look different, that it would be harder and not so clear!   So this doctor says my son in is fine, Okay, I believe and give thanks to God.  Even with all that I declare, I am still struggling to not type an addendum; to say” please don’t judge me as a fool if I am wrong”  and don’t mock me wanting to believe   But in the end I know I follow the God of the universe, and He says I can go to him and ask for wisdom and to ask without wavering; so today and tomorrow and the next day I will choose to believe my son is better, he is really better, so I will say again I CHOOSE TO BELIEVE, do you?