Tag Archives: grief

From Desolation to Consolation

 

Bluebonnets by Vikki Yost

The last six months has introduced me to a whole other side of disability ministry. It all began with a phone call my mother received within 15 minutes of my arrival for Christmas vacation.  My son hurried down the hall, “Grandma needs you.”

Hands filled with items from my suitcase, I didn’t bother looking up. “Thanks, let her know I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“You better go now.  She’s crying.”

Thus began the journey with what we now know to be terminal cancer and my time in desolation. It is all too familiar territory. Diagnosis can be devastating for the caregiver whether for a child or for a parent. There is a relief in knowing what it is, finally, even when the news is not good. And there is grief.  Lots of grief. That process muted my voice to the parents whom I try to support.

Dr. Jack Levinson spoke at a clergy breakfast I attended and offered the keys to unlock where I have been trapped. “When in desolation, remember consolation. When in consolation, remember desolation.” My ministry has been one of remembering desolation and offering hope to parents. A voice of experience saying, “Yes, I have been there too. You are going to be alright. More than alright. You can thrive right where you have planted.”

We all move between the spaces of desolation and consolation. Some call it peaks and valleys. How do we breathe, how do we function, whether in the middle, bottom or top?

The key is faith.  In the story of Job, we see a person caught in extreme desolation. He had lost everything, family, wealth, status, health. Even his friends abandoned him, save for a few. (Sound familiar?) His truest friends came and sat with him in the ashes, for a time in silence, sharing his pain. Once they spoke up they didn’t always have the most helpful things to say, but don’t we all fumble for the right words at times?  Their loyalty was a gift in the hardest of times. Job kept the faith despite his hardships and he came out on the other side stronger for it.

In a way, I think the experience of Job helps explain the bond between parents on the journey with special needs.  Our stories are all different, as unique as our children, yet we know at times a sense of desolation. Loss. Grief. But those are balanced with joy of new-found abilities, hope in a future not yet seen, and the peace that surpasses all understanding even in the midst of chaos. The way in which parents reach out to each other offering support and encouragement to one another pours back and forth that cup of consolation, filling in all of the cracks, mending and making us stronger.

When in desolation, remember consolation.

I received a four word text from a friend. I knew instantly that she, too, was in desolation. I immediately  called and shared a long, heart-felt conversation.  Why? As I read her message I told myself, “Remember consolation.” It turns out consolation makes the desolation not quite as bad.

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:1-3 NRS)

Consoling God, Like Job, we praise you in good times and in bad, for you are forever faithful. We thank you for those in our lives who remember consolation. Keep us mindful to return the favor. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Image “Bluebonnets” courtesy of Vikki Yost

Dr. Jack Levinson is William Joseph Ambrose Power Professor of Biblical Hebrew and Old Testament Interpretation at Perkins School of Theology and author of several books, including his most recent, 40 Days with the Holy Spirit.

Special Needs Parenting Introduction

 Special Needs Parenting Cover

Today I am sharing with my readers an excerpt from the introduction of my book, Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving.

I have hit the bottom of the tank today. We had our annual review at the school, and it’s so hard to hear in concrete terms how delayed my son is. I know it. None of this information is new, but it’s so hard to hear again. I worry about his future, let alone how we will afford all of his therapies today. Every single day there is so much to do that I feel I can barely keep up. The needs are unending, and I am not nearly enough.

—Blog Post, Anonymous

 Have you ever been that parent? I have. My experience isn’t exactly the same as my friend’s recent blog post, but it resonates in many ways. Challenging behaviors at school? Yes! Worry about my son’s future? Yes! Endlessly running around to therapy appointments? Yes! A sense at times of being overwhelmed in day-to-day parenting? Yes! A view of the future shaded by anxiety? Yes!

Our journeys as special needs parents are as varied as the differences among our children. Each child is unique and precious in the sight of God, and there is no other exactly like our own. Yet there are common challenges and common experiences shared among us as special needs parents. As clergy, I have led a variety of parenting support groups for more than five years and it never ceases to amaze me that, regardless of how varied the diagnoses within each family, there are common cords that bind us together emotionally and spiritually. Throughout the years I have seen healing of deeply held emotional and spiritual wounds through coming together in a supportive, welcoming Christian community and working through our challenges together.

My journey toward writing Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving began years ago when members in my congregation asked me to lead a Bible study for special needs parents. I looked for a resource I could grab off a bookstore shelf that would address the emotional and spiritual concerns of the special needs parents and had limited success. I was in the midst my studies in a doctoral program at the time and I realized that I had found an area of tremendous need for resources within the church. This epiphany changed not only my academic focus, but the trajectory of my ministry.

Through my personal journey as a special needs mom, my experiences as clergy walking with families with special needs, and academic research into how best to build family resilience, I developed a seven-week study. Each chapter addresses a common challenge and offers a positive perspective grounded in scripture and practical tools that can be revisited again and again.

  • God and Special Needs
  • Understanding Chronic Grief
  • Breaking Free from Guilt
  • Tools to Increase Patience
  • Self-care for Caregivers
  • Building Healthy Relationships
  • Hope and Healing

Whether parents read Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving as part of a small group study or read it individually, I pray this book provides both insights into a loving God and practical tools for the journey ahead. Encouraging special needs parents is at the heart of my calling in ministry, and I hope that the book will be a blessing.

Next week I will share a passage from chapter six, Building Healthy Relationships.

Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving is available at Huff Publishing and Amazon.

Blessings,

Lorna