Treasures in the Dark

Photo credit: Unsplash

Photo credit: Unsplash

“And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness-secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.”

— Isaiah 45:3

  

For many years, I lived in darkness. It was the darkness of uncertainty : Uncertain where my husband was, uncertain where my next dollar was coming from or when it was coming, not knowing how to navigate this perilous journey through a loved one’s serious mental illness…There are not too many words to describe how it feels to live under that kind of chronic stress. I had no one in my life who had “been there done that” to help me. I was in uncharted territory. I spent so many days, just groping my way through, barely holding on, with no bearings at all, not knowing where the next step would lead. 

Twice over the course of our marriage, because of complications from his bipolar disorder, Scott disappeared. The first time, he was gone for almost exactly one year.  The second time, he was gone for 4.5 years! 

During both seasons, life was quite challenging. The future was uncertain, the present was hard, and the past was confusing. I was solo parenting, juggling various jobs, graduate school, childcare and finances, not knowing if Scott was dead or alive, or safe, or ever coming back. We had virtually no communication. It wasn’t like he was dead, or deployed, or away on a trip, or in prison. It was like he didn’t even exist. There was no closure.

And yet somehow, I managed to make it through those seasons, with my own mental health and sanity intact. Somehow, I got my daughter through that time…and even managed to accomplish quite a bit along the way, like getting a Master’s Degree!

How??

Well, the simple answer to that is…one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. And tons of God’s grace!!

Something about being responsible for another human being motivated me. Taking care of her, making sure she had what she needed, making sure she was happy and thriving…that was therapeutic for me, and a happy distraction.

Being a musician saved me as well. Listening to music is a proven tool of healing, but playing music is on another level altogether. There is the amazing brain work of playing the instrument, the beauty of the music itself, the wonderful people that music brings into one’s life through collaboration, and the beauty brought to others through music…all of those things helped me immensely. I feel so blessed that making music is my profession! I think that if I were not a mother or a musician, I would not have been able to handle Scott’s absence and illness as well as I did.

But there is a deeper answer to the question of “how did you do it?” Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

When you are stumbling in the dark, sometimes the only thing you have is faith. That’s what gives us light for the next step. God has proven His faithfulness to me over and over again, and it is in Him I have placed my trust!! HE is the light, illuminating the darkness!

I spent many nights, many hours, pouring my heart out to the Lord. The best way for me to connect with God is through journaling. When I bare my soul onto the page, I know God hears the cries of my heart. I am much better able to articulate my thoughts through writing…one of the many special traits of an INFP…and writing my prayers is the way I pray. I may not pick up my violin for days, but I can rarely go a day without journaling. It’s a habit I formed back when I was 13 years old, inspired by Anne Frank. It’s a coping mechanism. It’s better than drink, drugs, or other destructive behaviors, that’s for sure!

Through those intimate times with my Heavenly Father, I learned how to keep my eyes on HIM. Like David and his Psalms, many times I might start out complaining or venting…but by the end, God has calmed my heart and brought my focus back to praising Him in the midst. I also found direction. Through God’s leading, and good counsel, I was able to hear His voice and discern my next steps, whether it be moving out of state (which I did), or whether or not to reach out to Scott.

“I will give you treasures in darkness…”

In those intimate times, I also found what I call “treasures in the darkness”. This is sort of like developing an “attitude of gratitude”, but that’s only part of it.

Photo credit: Jasmyne S.

Photo credit: Jasmyne S.

In the midst of the darkness, the Lord taught me how to “look for the treasures”. Think about it…some things are best enjoyed in the dark. Stargazing, for example. You can’t see the beauty of constellations and planets and stars, unless it’s dark out. When we go to the movie theater, or to a show, they always dim the houselights so that the light can best shine on the screen, or the stage. Fireworks are no fun in broad daylight.

Even though it was dark in a pretty major area of my life, my marriage, God had a way of illuminating other areas, and drawing my attention there.

Here are a few treasures God gave me in the midst of very trying circumstances:

1.      A healthy, active, vibrant daughter who exuded joy and zest for life…enjoying the world through her eyes lifted my spirits immensely

Graduation Day! Newly minted Master of Music!

Graduation Day! Newly minted Master of Music!

2.      Opportunities to grow…for example, academically and getting a higher degree. Musically, by preparing for that degree. A trip to Italy, to enhance my studies for that degree.

3.      An amazing support system…a mother who has bent over backwards to make sure we as a family have what we need, as much as she is able. Friends who spoke life over the 3 of us, and always supported all of us, even Scott, while he was gone.

4.      Not just any friends, either…but fellow believers who would pray for me and give me encouragement in the Lord, just when I needed it. Or were available to listen, whether it be via email, phone, or in person chats.

5.      Plenty of happy distractions so that I was not constantly consumed with my husband’s absence, or obsessing over if he would ever come back. God gave me a supernatural ability to release Scott into His hands…even if I had to do that several times in one day, I can say that I did not wallow in in the self-pity his absence could have brought about. I was too busy!

Jesus promised us in His Word, that in this world, we absolutely would have tribulation. It’s inevitable. In a sense, this entire existence on this planet is like stumbling around in the dark. You never know what life will bring. Blessing, sorrow, joy, pain. We don’t know everything. We can’t predict the future, we can’t figure out the past, we can’t control another person’s actions…life is uncertain. But Jesus also exhorted us to be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world. He gives us beauty for ashes, and Light for our darkness! 

If you are in a dark season of life today, look for the treasures!!

At a Crossroads…an Update

Well, friends, our family has had quite a journey. Scott and I are coming up on 20 years of marriage this September 11, and I can say in all honesty, that we have definitely had an adventure these past 20 years!! We have weathered so many trials and adversities, most of which stem from Scott’s serious mental health challenges. In the past decade or so, it’s been like a chain reaction of a series of unfortunate events, ranging from severe mental health crises, multiple moves, chronic financial challenges (including an eviction and a couple repossessions), separations (plural), and for Scott, falling into the cracks of a deeply flawed mental health system that has included bouts of homelessness and more than a few arrests. I’ve not talked about that here yet, but yeah, such has been our lives!!

Which makes it all the more amazing that, by the grace of God, we have somehow managed to survive!! Here we are today, an intact, healthy family! Scott’s mental health is the best it has been in years. We managed to raise a daughter who is now a teen and thriving in her world, untouched by all the chaos of her earlier years. Our marriage is good. Even in dark times, we experienced multiple treasures! Scott’s life was preserved when he was out there, when I didn’t even know where he was! (That is quite a story in and of itself. Another day, another post…or two!!) While he was gone, I managed to go back to school as a solo parent and obtain a Master’s Degree. We have found favor with loved ones, church, and friends who have stood by us, and continue to believe in us. If you did not know our story and saw us out somewhere, you wouldn’t know anything of our chaotic past…not even the smell of smoke is on us!

 We are even planning a vow renewal this coming September, to celebrate making it through!!

 So, in many ways, I finally feel like I can breathe a little again. And yet, we’re not quite out of the woods yet. We still have several loose ends to tie up, bits of the past that still haunt us, and a bit of a mess that still needs to be cleaned up from all those raging storms. But still! What yet faces us is nothing compared to what we’ve come out of!

Family pic after a show!

Family pic after a show!

 Now what, do you ask??

 I have no idea! We’re kind of in this weird in between space, of not being where we were, but not quite certain of where we’re going. For example, Scott is definitely better, but not well enough to go back to work. This is a man who has spent the better part of a decade in and out of various states of ill mental health, on and off powerful meds. In a way, he’s like Rip Van Winkle, waking up out of a slumber…the world has changed a lot in these 10-plus years, and he has not quite caught up yet. For various reasons he still does not work or drive. His job right now is to achieve and maintain good mental health, which takes tons of time after an ordeal like his.

So that leaves me…I am the only driver in the home, and technically still a care-giver. I do a great deal of overseeing the various affairs of our household. Sometimes I’m not so great at it, but it is a full time job in and of itself. I do try to bring in as much income as possible with my teaching and freelancing jobs, but in order for Scott to continue to qualify for certain benefits he receives, including tens of thousands of dollars of annual medical care, I can only earn so much…which in a way is a blessing in disguise, because having part time hours has enabled me to be what my family needs.

 I’m not saying all of this just to put our business out there, or to complain, but for folks to understand that all of this has been a gift to us in these past 3 years of transitioning Scott back home and back into good mental health, and to know the true miracle we really are!!

 However, it’s time to re-evaluate our situation, because we cannot sustain our current way of living for the long term.

 So, we are in that weird, awkward, uncomfortable position called “waiting on God”. It’s very easy for people on the outside to look into someone’s situation and say “oh, you can just do this, or you can just do that.” But it’s not that easy. Especially when you are dealing with mental illness. A person can look well on the outside, and seem to be functioning well, but putting them in conventional, or “normal” situations for the general population is not always the best thing. So often times, you just have to think outside the box.

 In spite of all the uncertainties, I am not discouraged. I am actually very optimistic. We are wide open, and believing that the Lord has a plan for us. There are several things we DO have…a good support system of folks who are looking out for us and praying along with us, and walking this journey with us. We have many gifts between the three of us. Proverbs says “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men”. It was our gifts in music that led Scott and I to one another in the first place…he and I playing in the orchestra of a full time, worldwide music ministry. Those gifts that took us around the world before, surely they can again one day, right?

We have a killer testimony, y’all!! Somebody somewhere can certainly benefit from the lessons we’ve learned, and be encouraged. We’ve passed on those musical/artistic gifts to our daughter, and God is using her mightily already to bring so much joy and blessing to others. A glimpse of things to come, perhaps?

 God did not bring us through all those trials to just leave us hanging, can I get an amen?!

 It yet remains to be seen what will become of us. So, we wait.

 Waiting on the Lord is not an easy thing to do. Especially in our culture. Doing nothing actually takes a great deal more active faith than doing “something”. God doesn’t want us to operate in our own strength…He wants us to rely on HIM. Also, waiting goes hand in hand with trusting. You can’t wait on the Lord without trusting Him.

 So, we wait. In the meantime, we just simply enjoy each day as it comes. We have plenty to fill our days...practicing drums (Scott), theater productions, dance camps, and choir trips (Jasmyne) teaching lessons, freelancing, care-giving (me), enjoying…and sometimes annoying…one another. We stay busy, and faithful to what God has put into our hand for today. And we’re together!! That to me is the biggest blessing of all!!

 The adventure continues…!

Three Years Later...

Photo credit: Jasmyne S.

Photo credit: Jasmyne S.

It was during Holy Week three years ago that my husband returned home to our family after having been gone for nearly five years. I wrote this:

My husband, my marriage, and my family has been raised from death to New Life!! He is on a solid road of recovery, and we are moving towards reconciliation, renewal, restoration, and rebirth. Along with birthing my daughter, this is probably one of the most beautiful, exciting things I’ve ever been privileged to be part of in this life!!

He is Risen Indeed!!!

Since then, our family has indeed been on an epic journey of healing, recovery, restoration, and rebirth!!

Why was he gone, you ask? If you’re new to my blog or to our story, my husband was diagnosed at the age of 16 with bipolar disorder. This is a chronic illness that affects mood and behavior. It’s a spectrum disorder, and there are actually several manifestations of the illness, and varying degrees of severity. The kind my husband has is called Bipolar I.. In 2011, complications from his illness resulted in him being separated from our family for several years, during which time he was not in any kind of treatment or taking any medication. He ended up on one “adventure”, while me and our daughter ended up on another, for 4.5 years. Then, through a miraculous series of events, he was able to return to our family in 2016, and ever since then, we have been healing as a family, he has been healing from his ordeals, and God has given us an amazing testimony.

Three years ago, I was basking in the glow of the miracle of having him back with us!!! It was amazing, and beautiful, and hard and challenging, and glorious and scary and exciting…kind of like a roller coaster ride! We soared to the highest heights, and a few times it looked like we might die. But, it all has made for an incredible ride!!

Through it all, one thing has remained constant, and that is our faith and hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. I am raising a young daughter, who is now 15 years old, and becoming a young woman. She has often been called “an old soul”, and it’s probably because of many of the experiences we’ve had. Having a parent with a mental illness has a way of growing you up pretty fast! Especially when their illness takes them away or causes them to be absent even when they are present. She has learned some hard lessons, but also some beautiful lessons. She has learned that as women, we are not to be dependent on any man, but on God, who is with us whether our daddy/husband is there or not. She has seen God be “a father to the fatherless and a husband to the widows.” She has seen the beauty and challenge of restoration. She has seen her dad persevere and never give up, and fight his way out of a very dark place. She has seen a marriage beat horrible odds and thrive in spite of all kinds of chaos. She has seen the hand of God up close and personal.

Because we’ve been on this wild ride for so many months, I’ve not had the time to sit down and write like I so desire to do. That day will come, I’m sure. But until then, our journey continues. Scott was gone for 4.5 years, and that is the amount of time I’ve given him to be back before I feel like I can declare us “healed”. So far, it’s been a little over three years…and we are doing fantastic, given the circumstances!

In a nutshell, all is well. Scott has been doing amazing. It was a bumpy ride at first, because it took almost 2 years to get his medication right, as well as just adjust to being a family again. Three years, three medications…and the 3rd time has been the charm!! After trial and error, we have found a medication regimen that works well for him. After so many years of being unwell, it takes time to learn how to be well. And that is where he is in his journey, learning how to be well.

Our daughter Jasmyne is growing daily. She has thrived since her dad has returned home…which I knew would happen. They have a good relationship, all things considering. They navigate their challenges pretty well (they are a lot alike in some ways, haha!), and they have their own unique bond. A few weeks ago he presented her with a beautiful Bible that he picked out for her, and I love to hear their conversations about the Word of God. She is involved in many activities…she sings, dances, acts, and writes, and has several outlets for those passions. We recently decided that home schooling was the best option for her to be able to pursue all the things she loves while still learning, and this is an exciting new journey for all of us.

And me? Well, as a caregiver, it has been quite a journey for me. My husband does not “look” disabled, and he’s physically very well, so his illness is hard to see sometimes. Caregiving for someone with a mental illness is very difficult to explain, and has its own challenges. As the meds were getting adjusted, it required more of me, but now, I am able to breathe a little bit more. I am a firm believer in self-care, my friends. And support. Tons of support. I am surrounded by good people, I have support of family and friends who love both me and my husband, and pull me from the brink of meltdowns when necessary…but thankfully, that hasn’t happened a whole lot. I’ve had to come to terms with some things, and make peace with life as it is and not how I thought it would be. But it has been an incredible opportunity to deepen my relationship with Jesus in ways I never could have imagined otherwise, and see first hand His faithfulness to me. I have seen His goodness, and I am confident that I will continue to do so.

Psalm 27:13 King James Version (KJV)

13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Photo credit: Jasmyne S.

Photo credit: Jasmyne S.

God is faithful. Sometimes it takes time to see it, and we don’t always understand what He is doing, and we may shed many tears along the way. But, as I always quote of my favorite verse, Galatians 6:9,

Do not be weary in well doing, for in due season, you shall reap if you faint not.


The adventure continues…!!!


2018 Recap and Unfinished Business

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I tried my hardest to get this post out before 2018 was over, but I failed miserably. However, I am just in time for the New Year so I will make this my first official post of 2019!

I cannot believe how fast 2018 flew by. It had to have been the fastest year I’ve ever lived through! It was a pretty good year for our family, I must say.  On our long, winding road of recovery, I believe in 2018 we finally turned a corner. In 2017 my husband Scott had some major medication challenges, but towards the end of that year, his medical team finally found something that has turned things around for him and brought him into balance, for which we are grateful.

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Most of 2018 was spent just enjoying being as normal as we can be. Sometimes medications can take the better part of a year to fully settle into the system, and this year, Scott was able to have the time and space for it to do its work. The good news is that his main medication is now a shot that he receives 4 times a year. It has been liberating for him to have to take one less pill, and the medication works very well for him. We are SO grateful!

Our year was full of wonderful moments as a family. Some of the highlights include:

Jasmyne had her public singing debut as a finalist in a local talent competition. She did great! She had some other opportunities throughout the year to hone her singing gifts, including an audition for America’s Got Talent held right in our home town! She started high school and, as a freshman, landed a role as an understudy in the school’s production of Godspell. She had a chance to shine as the understudies got their own show! There was also her African Dancing in two festivals, and she became a published author of a play she helped to write and acted in. And if all that wasn’t enough, she joined a Christian youth choir and is looking forward to her first musical missions tour in the Spring. As always, we have a great time supporting Jasmyne in all her activities. She is busy honing her skills as a “triple threat”, acting, singing and dancing. It yet remains to be seen how God will grow all these gifts in her life and guide her in using them!!

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Scott’s main job this year was continuing to get well, and learn how to be well. I knew when he returned to us that it would take some time for him to heal and recover from all of his ordeals. He was gone from us for about 4.5 years. We figured it would take at least that long for him to get his stride back. He’s now been home for a little over 2.5 years, and I’d say he’s right on track. He has had a wonderful opportunity this year to get back to one of his loves, playing the drums! Each month, we participate in a Gathering of the Nations, where believers in Jesus from literally all over the world gather in our town to worship together. We even had a beautiful opportunity as a family to take part. This is huge, y’all!! Just a few years ago, I didn’t even know where my husband was!!! Look at God. My heart is overwhelmed. He got to play some on an electric set this year, and then for the first time in years, had a chance to jam out on an acoustic set, and loved every minute.

As for me, I finally got my health back on track. After discovering a quadruple whammy of low iron, low thyroid, low Vitamin D, AND low Vitamin B12, I got on a regimen to bring my numbers up, and I’m happy to say that I am feeling much, much better. I have energy now, and my moods have leveled out. Menopause will not get the best of me!! I even got a cute, short hair cut which I’m loving. It’s amazing what a new look can do for the psyche!

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon

This was a good year for me of deep healing in my heart. I read a great book by Lysa Terkeurst called It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered. I was intrigued by the author’s testimony of her marriage and her life recently being restored after going through several major crises, and the lessons she learned along the way. I can relate to the theme of “this isn’t the way I thought my life would be at this time!” The disappointments can be crushing at times. However, the lessons God wants to teach us through them can be invaluable, if we allow Him to teach us. Perhaps I will do a more thorough review and analysis at a later date, but suffice it to say that she spoke my language and God used it to confirm and affirm many of my own feelings and the lessons my own marriage has taught me.

And now comes to truly difficult part…

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Most people think that the main story of our marriage has to do with the mental illness aspect of it. And while yes, it is a huge part of our lives and has been a tremendous challenge, what a lot of people don’t realize is that there is far more to our story than “just” bipolar disorder. Now that we are in a position of stability and have found a rhythm, the real work can begin. We’re coming out of a 12 year valley of challenges that began in late 2005, when my husband began to have flashbacks to severe childhood trauma. That one trigger, which started when our daughter was two years old, (presumably the age of his first conscious traumatic memories) set off a series of unfortunate events that started us down the path that led to about a dozen years of instability, separation, and chaos. There are many studies that suggest a possible link between childhood trauma and adult issues such as mental illness and addiction, and I’m certain that for my husband Scott, his mental health has been profoundly affected by some things he experienced as a child. I alluded to this briefly in one of my favorite blog posts a few years ago. Unfortunately, it is a very difficult subject to address as it involves other family members, from whom we are currently somewhat estranged from. So while these issues still have not been fully addressed, I do believe the time has finally come where we can focus on deeper healing that medication can’t even touch. My prayer is that, now that we’ve settled down somewhat, the hard work of addressing those issues can commence, and the real recovery can finally happen for all parties involved, including my husband.

But, it’s not up to my timetable, it has to be the Lord’s timing. He has proven Himself to be so incredibly faithful to me and to my family these past several years, my faith is bolstered that He will continue to work ALL things together for good for our family, Romans 8:28.

Until then, we are just enjoying normal life, rejoicing in the mundane, waiting on the Lord. I truly hope and pray that I can get more involved in writing at some point, and sharing more of our incredible story…or I should say God’s incredible story in our lives…but for now, I’m too busy living the story to tell about it! All in good time.

Happy New Year!!!

The adventure continues…

A Year in the Life...

Resurrection Sunday 2018 at our new church! 

Resurrection Sunday 2018 at our new church! 

Since it has been nearly a year since my last blog post, I will take the time catch you all up on what has been going on in our world. When I look back over the past year, we have had our fair share of challenges and triumphs, as a family and in our individual configurations. But through it all, God has shown Himself to continue to be faithful. We are still well within the critical window of recovery, so we are by no means fully healed from all we’ve been through. Scott was gone for 4.5 years, and he’s only been back with us for 2.5. I know we’re going to need at least another year to feel truly whole again. But, I know we’ve come a long way, and have much to rejoice over as we continue our journey towards wholeness!

First of all, I will talk about Scott. Since he returned home, the number one priority has been getting his mental health back on track. When he came home, he was on what I’ll call Medication #1. It seemed to be working well, but since he was coming out of a long season of not having had treatment, it needed time to work. But in early 2017, he started having side effects with this medication that his practitioner was concerned about. So, he switched to what I will call Medication #2. He started out at a very low dose, and over the course of the next 6 months, it was slowly increased. I had had some concerns about it early on, but Scott wanted to give it a chance. For a while, it was a point of contention between us, because I felt that it was not working (as evidenced by his moods and behaviors), but he didn’t want to give up on it too soon. Finally, last fall, after one last increase triggered a manic episode resulting in a quick trip to the ER to get something to calm him down, it was clear that this medication was not going to work. So to my great relief, he switched to Medication #3…the third medication he tried since having returned home in 2016. The new medication showed promise right away, in terms of bringing his brain and moods into balance. But, the physical side effects were causing Scott some issues, mainly excruciating headaches. His provider suggested trying the same medication, but in a different form. Rather than taking pills, it came in what is called a Long-acting Injectable, or LAI. Instead of taking pills every day, he would get a shot once a month, and the medication would be slowly released into his body rather than peak at different times of the day. It would also possibly reduce the physical side effects. The thought of this appealed to Scott, so he tried it.

After the first shot, it was like a miracle! This medication worked like a charm! And from Scott’s testimony, for the first time probably since he was diagnosed as a teen, he felt…normal. Not only that, but he didn’t have to remember to take a pill every day at a certain time, and he felt free. What a blessing!!! And making the deal even sweeter is the fact that our insurance covers it. Injectables for this medication do not come in generic, and they are very expensive. Since starting the new medication, Scott is a new man. It is evident to anyone who knows him and sees him on a regular basis. He has truly turned a corner in his recovery, and has done so well on this new medication, that he qualifies to move up to the 3 month injectable! So now, he will get a shot 4 times a year as opposed to 12 times a year.

He is still unable to work at this time, but he is able to fill his days with productive activities. Before this shot, he had a difficult time concentrating long enough to read, and felt his creativity was stifled. Since the shot, he has been reading more, working on creative projects, and spending more time outside of the home, and feels so much better. And this medication seems to have almost no side effects! I am so grateful!

This just goes to illustrate that when it comes to mental illness, it is not a quick journey to healing. It takes a massive amount of time, energy, and patience. My heart has broken recently to read of a California pastor who took his life after a battle with depression. From my understanding, he was in treatment, had support, and yet in spite of his best efforts and the love of those around him, he was unable to find his way out of the darkness. It’s a hidden illness, because on the outside, the person may seem healthy and “able bodied”. But there is often a battle going on inside that no one fully understands. We seem to be in an epidemic of suicide being on the rise in our country. I don’t know what the answers are. All I know is that each day is a gift, and must be given fully over into the hands of Jesus, who gives us strength to face everything this broken world and our broken bodies throws our way.

Baptized by Pastor Sam with Daddy watching

Baptized by Pastor Sam with Daddy watching

Preparing to play "Genie" in "Aladdin, Jr."

Preparing to play "Genie" in "Aladdin, Jr."

Meanwhile, while Scott is getting himself together, our teen daughter is thriving in her world. Through the ups and downs we have been through, she has been a trooper. Her life is full, busy, and blessed. She has really grown in her own faith in this past year, something that I count as a tremendous blessing. Scott and I both are the kind of parents that, when it comes to issues of God and Jesus and faith, we mainly just point the way, let Jasmyne make her own decisions, and offer support and guidance to her on her journey. She has made a conscious decision to follow Jesus, that is 100% her own, and we fully support her in her choice. She and her dad have had some good talks about God, the Bible, and what it means to follow Jesus. She has had a chance to witness first hand God’s intervention in our lives, and His provision. She and I have had a good relationship…we’ve been through a lot together, so we have a special bond that goes beyond a mother/daughter relationship, but is more like friendship and kinship. She is now a high schooler, and busies herself with all the trappings of the teen life…classes, clothes, football games, friends, social media, etc. But then she fills her life with constructive extra-curricular activities, like church, singing, musical theater, dancing, and drama. I could not be more blessed to have been chosen to raise this young woman. She is indeed my Sunshine!

As for myself, this year has not been easy for me, but it has been what I would call, satisfying. Last year’s medication issues with Scott were very difficult for me personally. Being a caregiver and support person for someone with a mental illness carries with it a set of challenges that is difficult to articulate or fully explain to someone who does not have that challenge. Especially when the person is a spouse. It can be a strain on the relationship, it can be a strain on the caregiver him/herself, and it can throw the entire family out of whack. For a while in the past year, I found myself in a place of despair that even in all our years of marriage and all the challenges we’ve been through, I had not reached. Perhaps I finally hit my own personal breaking point. Or, there could be another culprit behind my plunge into the depths of discouragement…I have found myself in the thick of what they call “perimenopause”. Yikes! My body is going through crazy changes, y’all! It’s a real thing! A visit to the doctor revealed a significant Vitamin B12 deficiency, and when I mentioned to my doctor that I felt like I had never-ending PMS and was unable to cope with life, she recommended a low dose anti-depressant to help me, along with a couple rounds of a B12 shot.

Good friends...great for self care!! 

Good friends...great for self care!! 

And now, not only is Scott a new man, but I am a new woman as well!! My ability to cope with life has improved significantly! My moods have evened out, my outlook is much more optimistic, and I am certainly more pleasant to live with. It goes to show that self-care is every bit as important as caring for others. So this is where the “satisfying” bit comes into play…I am very satisfied with the way things have turned for our family in this past year. We made it through yet another season of challenges intact, and ready for a new stage of recovery.

One thing I must mention is that, as a family, in the past year we took a huge step. We joined a church!! Time and space do not permit me to elaborate on why this is such a Big Deal for us, but suffice it to say that, for a variety of reasons, we have been without a church home for the better part of a decade. About 3 years ago, while Scott was still gone, I met a local pastor through a persistent friend, with whom I reluctantly shared our story. I say reluctantly, because I did not expect a lot from him…unfortunately, through the years, I have been conditioned to not expect much from church leadership when it comes to any kind of real help or support. And I’ll just leave it at that.

But this man was different. This man came alongside me and my child, with prayers, counsel, and support. His church came alongside me with some real practical help…gift cards, groceries, that sort of thing. When it was time to transition Scott home, this pastor and the church came alongside us during the entire transition, including financing the trips out of state in order to get Scott’s affairs in order to bring him home. And when Scott came home, this pastor took the time to get to know Scott…to take him out for coffee, to listen to him, to share with him. All of this, without us even having joined the church!! We started attending services, I went to a Bible study led by his wife…all the while, this church asked nothing from us in return. They simply loved us. Imagine that…a church that actually loved on us! They made sure we had everything we needed, and made themselves available to us.

Church membership photo...we're official!!

Church membership photo...we're official!!

Even Scott was impressed, which is saying a lot. He was so impressed, that he agreed that we should join this church! Y’all, aside from the Miracle of the Medication, and even the miracle of his return home, this is right up there with miracle of miracles! So, last fall, we joined the church.

I will tell you how I know we made the right decision. Our new Pastor happened to witness Scott in one of his not-so-finer moments, on the day we went to the ER to stave off the icky manic episode triggered by Medication #2. I was not sure what our pastor’s reaction to Scott would be after that, but he didn’t blink. Didn’t bat an eye. Especially since it took some time for Scott to get regulated. He treated Scott with dignity, with the love and patience of Jesus, and wasn’t the least bit concerned even though I felt defeated and discouraged by what felt like yet another setback. He encouraged me to just hang on, that Scott would be fine, that God didn’t bring us this far to abandon us…and do you know what he said to me? He said “When I see Scott, I see God.”

That right there sealed the deal for me! Out of all the churches that we’ve joined, and tried to connect with, we’ve not received that kind of acceptance. The irony is, this is a church I probably never would have joined before. I have always tried to avoid labels, so I’ve never been part of a denominational church. But like my Mama always said, “You never know where your help will come from”. Our help came in the form of a Baptist church…albeit, independent Baptist, but still Baptist, haha! And you know what? It’s just fine. We know this is where God wants us, and we are content. I know for a fact that this simple step of aligning ourselves with a church body has played a significant role in our ability to navigate the challenges of this past year.

Gal 69 pinterest.jpg

Now here we are, headed towards our 19th wedding anniversary in a few weeks, and all is well. If I had a life verse, it would surely be Galatians 6:9…be not weary in well doing, for in due season, you shall reap if you faint not. Remember, it takes pressure, time and patience to form a diamond…we may still be a little rough around the edges, but I am starting see the sparkle, for which I am deeply grateful!!

The adventure continues…