Just a Moment to Relax…Please?

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I met Chris Morris when I took a tax class from him at the 2016 Realm Makers Conference. Although I don’t speak Math, I found his class to be surprisingly interesting. Entertaining even. What I didn’t know at that time was the life-altering thing we did have in common–a child with chronic illness. Chris also struggles with a chronic illness of his own, and has written a wonderful book to help those affected by it, and who may even ask, “Where do I find God in all of this?”

Read on as Chris gives us a picture of navigating through life with his daughter’s challenges.

 

Dad…
Tap-tap-tap on the shoulder.
Daaa-aaad…
Here I was, trying to focus on God as we worshipped during small group, and my twelve-year-old son couldn’t even leave me alone here. I just wanted a single, solitary moment free of the kids. Sighing meaningfully, I opened my eyes and prepared to remind him that this was time to learn.
Then I saw the look in his eyes. A mixture of anger, embarrassment and helplessness. Instantly I knew what the problem was. Or rather, who the problem was. Familiar thoughts and worries flew into my mind.
I found myself paralyzed with fear, not wanting to deal with it again. A flush of tears stirred under my eyes. I felt lost. Before I could move past this and put my Father Hat on, my wife followed my son out of the room.
Twenty minutes later, she returned to the room. I caught her eye, and she mouthed to me that Cindy hit another child. Apparently our daughter didn’t get to play the Wii game she wanted to play, so she lost emotional control.

Every parent has been here, in this place. Your child is just not acting like you want them to. Like they should act. It seems they are not capable of behaving in public, so you remain on edge. Wondering when and where you will next have to “learn to manage” your child.
We have another level of challenge, one some of you may relate to. Our daughter is autistic and epileptic, so there are certain aspects of Cindy’s behavior that are beyond her ability (and ours) to “manage”.
So many myths about chronic illness can disrupt Cindy’s life and hold her hostage. Moments like her episode in small group remind my wife and I how vital it is to teach our daughter and her brothers the truth and empower them to live unhindered by these terrible lies.
We are all learning each day to push down the worries and focus on how to ensure our whole family knows the important things in life:
We are loved as we are by God.
We are accepted despite how we may act.
Cindy is not less-than because of her illnesses, and she is not defined by her chronic conditions.
She is more than her epilepsy, greater than her autism.

The last two statements above are very difficult to remember day-in and day-out. Surrounding us are people who do not understand. Who think my wife and I are just bad parents when Cindy is overwhelmed by too many stimuli, too much change. Worse yet, we regularly come across those who tell us we must lack faith since God has not healed our daughter yet.
And my daughter is not ignorant of these accusations. So we talk a lot about how her self-image should not and cannot be informed by others’ opinions.
But it’s hard, and we grow weary. So often we have felt as if we were entirely alone in our struggles. No friends to support us who really understood. Sure, they loved us, but they didn’t understand, couldn’t comprehend, what our daily life was like. This was our daily experience for a long time.
But no longer.
We have finally found a group of people who love our family, no strings attached, no judgment, just acceptance. We have stumbled into a group of people who place no judgment on our daughter, her seizures, her autism, or our parenting. Nothing brings peace to the troubled soul like an accepting community. A safe place.
Beyond community, practical resources are vital too. We spent many hours looking for books or seminars or focus groups to guide us on our journey, and to provide us a way to navigate through the minefield of myths.
We found nothing. So I created one. My book Perfectly Abnormal: Uncovering the Image of God in Chronic Illness walks through myths all sufferers of chronic illness will face. These lies can paralyze us, if we believe them. My book dissects eight of these myths, counteracts them with truth, and offers pointed questions to get us moving again. If you have a chronic illness, or love someone who has a chronic illness, please consider picking this book up. You can find Perfectly Abnormal on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks.

Bio:
Chris Morris writes about redefining normal and building hope in the face of chronic illnesses and special needs. His writing is founded on the belief that circumstances don’t prevent thriving, but create opportunities for God to demonstrate his goodness. By day, he is the founder and managing partner of the creatively named accounting firm Chris Morris CPA, so Chris brings a unique analytic perspective to deeply emotional topics. He writes at his blog, and you can also find him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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A Small Reflection of a Grown-Up Battle

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A few nights ago, as my 10-yr-old daughter and I were discussing the ways of the world, she said she’d be okay if the Second Coming happened right now as long as she could finish her last cross country meet.

I will admit, I felt proud at her dedication to the sport considering the rough season she’s had. During try-outs, C sprained her ankle. The Dr. gave her the okay to finish the season, but warned her that if she kept running, her ankle could take the whole season to heal. She’s recovered greatly, but after about one mile, she starts to feel pain. It slows her down, but she perseveres.

She’s had sweltering hot practices where she’s forgotten her water bottle, insect bites rubbing against her ankle brace into red, seemingly mountainous mounds.

At her last meet, she tripped over some loose countryside and got trampled. By THREE other runners. The first one had a momentum issue and apologized, but the second two just wanted to get ahead. One of them even turned to her and said, “Get out of my way.” After she had stepped on C’s back to get past her.

But she looks forward to the next meet, a hunger for the run in her eyes and legs.

It’s focus, really. She’s focused on her passion instead of the hardships, and despite a lower placement than she would prefer. The experience has been a good taste of the real world where character gets formed into either beauty, or an ugly mass of ambition.

Perseverance is not a race many conquer with integrity. So far so good.

For the Invisibles

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I’m at work after all the experts have gone home and the sun is making its final burn west when we Invisibles take the reins. We answer phones when nightly needs approach, we direct when the directors have retired for the day, we fix what we can when the fixers have clocked out, or make notes for their next shift.

Those of us who look young enough for college are assumed to be students, those of us who have more than a few laugh lines are assumed to be retired and working for something to do, and those, like me, who are somewhere in the middle, well….I get all kinds of reactions, but that’s beside the point. Only a few know I’m a struggling Author, but it doesn’t really matter here. I’m me to those who are interested, to others, I’m one of the Invisibles.

I leave my desk and accidentally fix a resident’s TV. I’m not sure how I did it, but I’m grateful God directed my hand because her TV is her only companion now. Her friend to eat dinner with and a distraction from the empty chair beside her. It’s a priority of the heart.

I make sure exterior doors are locked and that no one has fallen in the park.

I get called to a handicapped woman’s apartment—she was left with only two reliable words after she suffered a stroke: Me here.
“Me here,” she says as she leads me to the room that contains her problem. “Me here,” as she points to her computer.
“Me here,” as she directs me to her CPU that holds her disc captive. I pull it out and place it in its case that’s waiting on her desk. Photos of her family decorate the top, and she smiles huge when I hand it to her. She nods her head, holding it close to her body.

I wheel her back out of the tight storage room where she keeps her computer in and lean down, my hand on her arm, my eyes level with hers so she knows I see her.

“Me here,” she says as she places her palm on the side of my face.

“You’re welcome,” I say, my heart filling up.

As I turn to go, her mouth unleashes a few rare words. “Thank you.”
I smile again, one Invisible to another, and walk back to my desk feeling more successful than anything the Visible world has to offer.

 

I ponder her words, and wonder how many of us have lifted our heads to the sky and whispered, “I’m here. See me.”

 

“Beloved, there is no such thing as obscurity to Christ Jesus. The eyes of El Roi (‘the God who sees me Gen. 16:13-19) gaze approvingly upon every effort you make and every ounce of faith you exercise in Jesus’ name. You have not been forgotten! You have no idea what may lie ahead! No doubt remains in my mind that God spent this time testing and proving John’s character so that he could be trusted with the greatest revelation (Sherry’s note: the author is talking about the time period when John, the one Jesus loved, had little mention in the Bible while Paul and Peter took stage after Christ’s crucifixion). The answers God is willing to give us in our tomorrows flow from our faithfulness when we have none today.” Beth Moore in The Beloved Disciple

Little champions

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So I’ve became a runner again. Sort of. I’m the part-time turtle, actually, following behind my daughter’s cross country team in case one of them should fall, get sick, or get lost. I waited a week to give all the other parents ample opportunity to offer their services, but it turns out they go into hiding when the word run is offered to them. And when I say hide, I mean they find faraway places where only God can find them. I kind of wish I had joined them.

My feet—these 41-yr-old feet—have faced a lot of abuse in my youth. Hand-me-down tennis shoes from my brother, growing up in a countryside only the tough and gangly inhabit, a school bus stop light years from our house, pregnancy, but most of all—ballet. Yes, those pretty-pink satin slippers are not for the weak. Squishing my feet into them year after year produced a lot of good things, but one big fat ugly one—one ghost of the stage that won’t leave me alone: aches and pains. They can take quite a bit of activity as long as I don’t run or tread upward too much.

I thought about bowing out, I mean, who can chase after youth-sugar-hyper-fueled athletes, with damaged feet? But then C sprained her ankle, the coach is without an assistant this year, and thoughts of her limping behind her team MILES away from any adult to protect her kept me tossing and turning until I finally gave in and did that volunteer thing.

Like I have time.

So once or twice a week, I throw on my Sketchers and run down pain alley.

And then, my day job picked up. My usual one to two days a week turned into five because one of my coworkers got stuck in Florida, I’m behind authorly deadlines and now I’m running on fumes.

Can you hear me panting?

And now my feet say they need a break, so I’m thinking about pulling out my bicycle. Hmm. What does a mother do?

She does what all those facing a hurricane do. She says, “Lord, it’s all you now. Just you.”
And then I remember there’s no better place for my daughter to be, or thoughts of family and stranded co-workers facing a mighty storm, and for these feet that just won’t run any farther: In God’s hands.

His care and creativity surpass anything a volunteer can fix. He can calm a hurricane to a tropical storm, and he can run alongside all those little ones, miles from their nests.

Maybe he lets the storms strand us for a while so we can remember His capable hands again.

Misfit Rebels

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It’s been suggested that I should warn readers about WILD. How they’ll be plunged right into the story, hot on the heels of Wake. How this series brings a different way of thinking than many novels-after-God’s-heart.

Wild is the second book in the City of Light series, although the light is not traditional. Like many authors, I often use the art of story to explore my own questions. For this series, they are: how closely should we adhere to the strictures of our culture?
Should our faith align with those strictures?
What if what we call wild living is the exact opposite of freedom?

A few weeks ago, my pastor showed our congregation a video of Jedidiah Jenkins, a man who decided to quit his job and live on his bicycle for a year while he traveled. His reason being that our lives get robbed of time when we establish a routine. But when we break from that repetition, we become more alert—fascinated with the world, just like a child learns things for the first time with eyes wide open. So I guess my overall question is this: are we living as freely as we were designed to live?

I take my characters, Luke and Monet, on a journey where they have no reference for God, artistic expression, or the history of the world. These things they begin to discover in book 1, which leads them to leave their restrictive city, and walk into the Wild in book 2. It’s not merely rebellion, which brings me back to the question of wild living. Rebellion can be born from many things, but what I search for in Wild is not about anger, revenge, or fitting into a something that just looks different—it’s about exploring a new life outside of what’s expected of us.

Monet and Luke have to rediscover who they are as individuals, and if their relationship is based on something real, or from childhood trauma. When a horrific event occurs, they must take their friends, a former teacher and an old enemy with them on a journey of survival, where they go in search of the world they never knew.

Is life with God just a set of commandments, or are we looking with our eyes wide open? Are we asking Him about our jobs, the church, our dependence on the media, and where He is in all of it? Do we feel the need to ask our culture permission to change? If we look closely at His Book, we see a God who works from a vast array of creativity. Who is more Wild?

If you are so inclined, WILD is available for review on StoryCartel for a few more days.

It’s as Wild as usual–or not.

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Here comes the beginning of school with the eclipse shadowing the Dr’s appointments, the sports, the everything but me getting work done. But Mythical books, my supporter of old, has graciously hosted me on their blog today. Read about why my newest book Wild is not your usual story. Continue reading…

The Summer Files: There’s a Light at the End

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The last week of July, I attended the annual Realm Makers conference–a writers conference for Christian authors of speculative fiction (although all are welcome). As advertised, it isn’t your grandmother’s writers conference–meaning we aren’t afraid to walk into Zacchaeus’ house (despite the judgements of those standing outside) to bring him a meaningful story.

Ted Dekker gave the keynote speech, and the word he used that stood out to me was perception. Your perception determines your experience in this life.
Does it?
My family picked me up afterwards, and we headed for Yellowstone. My son, who has struggled with health problems his whole life, charged along the trails like a monkey on speed. “Best vacation ever!” he kept saying. In the heat, the endless steps in Mammoth Hot Springs, with the odor of sulphur permeating the air. He only saw awesomeness. It’s amazing how a captivatingly beautiful land can reside within such stench.


To pick on Noah for practically dragging me along, I messed with his Batman hat until he told me, “Mommy. Don’t touch the darkness.” He illustrated this concept by hopping around the shadows, stepping only where the sun touched the ground. He’s had enough darkness, trust me, but he has this in-born joy that keeps him from falling into it. He’s my superhero.
My daughter, poor thing, is a worrier. She dreaded being separated from me for the few days I spent in Reno, and let that cloud any excitement over our trip…until she got there. When J handed her the camera, and gave her the job as family photographer, she saw the world through a whole new lens.
The light even gave her a kiss.

 

There’s a jagged edge between light and dark. The secret is not in the proximity, but where you direct your eyes.

The Summer Files: Day 62

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Cats aren’t always jerks. Growing up in the Sticks taught me that. At around 10-years-old, our yard blossomed with the feline variety. We never sought cat adoption, and I always found it strange that stray cats found us in the middle of NoWhere, but nonetheless, they did, and their population exploded.

(If you love them, they will come. Remember that.)

Mischief was a calico mama with a patchwork of kittens. The orange ones were always my favorite. Not to tabby-profile or anything, but the orange ones are the smartest, and have a whole circus of personality.

I would spend hours playing with Mischief’s babies. She got so used to me being there, that when I arrived for my shift in the old shed, she went on the hunt.

She brought back baby snakes. Yes. She. Did. Alive. I watched with fascination as she regularly placed a snake in front of her babies, observing them as they toddler- stepped around it, then practiced going for the kill.

You don’t see that in dry-food-bowl civilization.

Not that we didn’t feed them—we did. But as any country cat knows, a night on the hunt might leave them stranded for a variety of reasons. The monsoons. Coyote entrapment on a telephone pole. They may have miles to go before they can return to their food supply back home. Outside cats are skilled workers.

I think pampered cats are too, but comfortable living dulls their brains, and comes with a price: humans are no longer friends, they’re servants. That’s what they think, I promise.

We’re trying to teach The Children to learn skills so that comfortable living doesn’t dull them. Get up and do it. Help your brother/sister. Help turn our groceries into meals. It’s not easy, but we’re making progress. The world doesn’t need our future leaders to be pampered.

By no means are we rich, but we don’t need to hunt for food, or survive on telephone poles for the night, and that’s what makes it hard for kids to understand the importance of going into the Wild for wisdom.

We just want them to bear fruit with the gifts their given.

One snake at a time.

The Summer Files: Day 55

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As I write this, The Children are beating the fluff out of each other with their pillows. It’s a nice alternative to what transpired earlier. The shouting. The pointing of fingers.

Even The Canine found a dark corner in which to hide.

The three-year difference is rearing its hormonal head as The Daughter shifts into pre-teen WhaTeVer. Her language is changing, somewhat like the confusing of tongues at the tower of Babel. She speaks Unicorn-Angst, while The Son speaks Ninja-Play. I act as the interpreter, which is a lot like putting your head into a blender. Now press chop. Yeah, summer is awesome.

I work at home (at job # 1), which means in the summertime, I run nowhere fast. Imagine clocking out and driving home for things like, mediating between unicorns and ninjas, cleaning the unidentifiable mound in the fridge before it molds, sweeping piles of corn flakes from the floor, and all those fulfilling things moms do. The productivity as far as work goes, is as good as it sounds.

Job # 2 is at night, and not at home, but the hours drag into the wee morning, which combined with Job-Home and Job-Mom, keeps me from being Supermom. Yes, the house is messy. Yes, my kids get into stuff when I’m running on Unicorn fumes. Once, another almost-mom came to visit, looked around the house and asked if my kids made their beds. While looking at my kids’ unmade beds.

I wondered, briefly, how her head would fare in the blender.

Chop.

(Btw, I work at a retirement home, going on seventeen years now. I’ve never once heard a retiree say they wished they had cleaned their house more often.)

The nice thing about being home for the Child-Babel years, is that I get to have really cool conversations with my kids (I’m grateful that I get to do this rather than leaving it to a day-care provider). Like how God made them unique, which means they aren’t supposed to strive to please their peers. Even if that means being less cool in order to find their destiny. And so they can learn God’s language.

Even if their friends’ paths are bedazzled in perfectly sculpted rainbows while theirs looks a little more Jackson Pollock. That’s okay, because God knows how to speak to each one of us.

I’m not sure how far talking goes. Words let loose in the air can fly away from their intended eardrums. But I’m here.

And God’s here with a plan.

The Summer Files: Day 48

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Summertime is a challenge for this mom. Like many creatives, I’m one of those personalities that needs a good dose of silence and S-P-A-C-E to recharge. So do hermits, as I’ll explore below (But I’m not a hermit).

What keeps you going? Is it hope around the corner, or the work ethic you’ve come to rely on year after year? Or are you tired, and at the point where you want to throw up your hands and disappear from this world we live in? I just finished reading The Stranger in the Woods, a true story of a man who lived as a hermit for 27 years in the back woods Maine. Overwhelmed with life, he walked into the wilderness one day, and stayed there until society absorbed him again.

He was finally captured when technology had become more advanced than he knew how to manage. Devices from Homeland Security were installed in the camp kitchen from where he had stolen food for the last 2+ decades, finally ending his career in solitude.

Experts studied him. He was an anomaly; overwhelmed by the noise and “color” of civilization, his health started to decline. Usually, solitude will eventually drive a normal-functioning person to madness, but not Chris Knight. In fact, the lack of human contact along with his technology-free mind (as explained in greater detail in the book) seemed to have sharpened his senses.

He never became sick. His injuries were never serious enough to need medical attention. He ate the same processed food we eat, of course, considering he stole food to survive. So what was it that preserved him? Was it freedom from the criticism/judgment that erodes us day to day? The freedom that comes when you don’t have to do the job of three people to stay employed?

 

Dr.’s decided he had some form of Asperger’s Syndrome, depression, or Schizoid personality disorder—some kind of unusual brain chemistry that gave him a pass on the social interaction most of us need for healthy mental function.

Strangely, when Knight tried to describe his experience as a hermit, he said, “Solitude bestows an increase in something valuable. I can’t dismiss that idea. Solitude increased my perception. But here’s the tricky thing: when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. There was no audience. No one to perform for. There was no need to define myself. I became irrelevant.”

Anxiety/stress/depression are overtaking our country (USA). Sometimes the pressure of our day to day lives becomes so overwhelming, we dump our stress onto each other in unkind comments/rumors/criticism/ manipulation, etc., without realizing what we’re doing to our culture. Although kind words, encouragement, patience and all things good are still part of our construct, and hopefully, these will become the colors that shine brighter than those in shades of misery.

Because we need each other. Even the hermits.

 

God sees our struggles. He knows our fatigue with trying to keep pace, as well as the fruitfulness that comes from goodness and the sometimes-agony of perseverance.

Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

 

What keeps you trudging along with, you know, “people”? Leave your words in the comments below.