Way Back When
I have been conditioned. With many years of training under my belt, my consistent reaction has become habit. When the familiar number flashes on my phone, like Pavlov’s dog, I react the same way each time. I hold my breath, my heart rate races and I answer the phone with fear and trepidation. It began when Ian first went to preschool. Back then he had a biting problem. And even though the biting did eventually stop, Ian graduated to other age appropriate drama. At each successive school Ian became notorious and Ian’s mom was on speed dial.
Fast forward about 16 years. With increasing time on his own, the phone number that evokes that same conditioned response comes from Ian himself. As much as I try, nothing can adequately prepare me. Every day there is drama — memory challenged, brain injured exasperated drama.
If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you may recall the phone cord escapade. That was small potatoes. We’ve graduated to bigger more challenging losses. If you’d like to know the background here is the link. The Golden Phone Cord.
Weeks ago Ian called me sobbing. It took sometime to understand what exactly transpired, and even then I still couldn’t imagine how it was possible. Through the tears, I surmised a rescue visit to UNM campus was essential. The story goes… In the bathroom, Ian changed into painting clothes before his class and took off his shoes with the custom made inserts. Somehow he managed to hobble to his locker with only socks on. Upon his return, within minutes he claims, the shoes with inserts were missing. Someone stole them. As unbelievable as this story is, the facts remain… the shoes, (ratty with holes and stains and 200$ custom inserts, that are perfectly sized to fit his brace) have never turned up. I pulled up to the art building and a very dejected Ian, stumbled to my car in socks.
He may as well have had a big scarlet letter emblazoned across his chest or better yet FAILURE written on his forehead. Clearly he felt horrible about himself. My heart broke seeing, yet again, his crushed spirit. Even though justifiable, being angry or irritated would only ignite the embers. Instead, I stuffed all of that fury and frustration.
Without any short term memory, trying to retrace steps and refine the details of what took place serves no purpose except to provoke Ian and to remind him of his deficits. Given time and money to replace the shoes and inserts we have slowly recovered. And Ian has the added bonus of easily forgetting it ever happened.The constant challenges caused by Ian’s poor short term memory has taken a toll.
The image I can’t get out of my head is that of bozo, the resilient punching bag. Inflated and weighted the clown stands happy and erect. Then with a swift wallop the clown bends to the floor but quickly bounces right back. Standing upright again, bozo’s face is plastered with the same cheesy grin as if to say, try again loser, hit me harder next time.
Last week I answered Ian’s phone call. And yes, this time it was a much harder blow. Consistent with the millions of times prior, I held my breath, my heart rate raced, and I anticipated another ‘oh no, now what’ exchange. Ian was blubbering. Not just a cry; this was an I hate myself CRY. He was so worked up it took several minutes to even hear his voice.
Early that morning Ian had refused my help. It was one of those days when he woke determined to demonstrate the unencessity of help. SunVan arrived just as I spotted the velcro cushion piece for his new brace on the floor. “I don’t have time mom. It doesn’t hurt. I’ll be fine” and out the door he went.
As you can imagine, the brace did hurt. It hurt badly. While taking his test, he took it off. After he finished, he doesn’t remember where he went or what he did. He realized the brace was missing when he stopped at the pull up bars on Johnson field.
Ian struggles to walk without a brace. But he was further handicapped because he had the right insert in the left shoe. And because his new titanium custom made brace has a built in orthotic, he now had no insert in the sloppy right shoe. Needless to say, Ian could barely walk. Franticly he returned to the testing site. No luck. A bad memory worsens under stress. With no idea what to do or where to look, he called me. By the time I arrived at UNM Ian compounded the crisis with all his brace-less walking with the addition of a painful sprained knee.
It has been seven days. Ian’s $1,320, lasts a lifetime, custom made, titanium brace with a custom orthotic footbed, is still MIA. I’ve filled out a lost property police report. Reward fliers, including a picture of the brace, are posted all over campus. I am on a first name basis with the lost and found sights that have phone numbers. I’ve prayed continually. Nothing. Nada.
The Hits Just Keep On Coming
I see the pattern repeating. I sense Ian’s resigned defeat as he tries to bounce back and feel good about himself again. My anger and frustration is buried deep so I’m able to stand erect preparing for the next blow. As Doug so fittingly says… “the hits just keep on coming.”
I’ve been struggling to reconcile all of these hits. Deep in my heart I sense a clash. My very legitimate feelings come in direct conflict with my faith in a good God. He is a good God. I know he’s a good God, but a God who allows bad things to happen. If I’m honest, it sometimes feels as if He’s picking on me. I want to say, enough already.
And yet, why should I be surprised? When you put your trust in Jesus, all Hell breaks loose in an effort to throw you off course. Just maybe all the hits are the devils attempts to have us lose heart.
Genesis 50:20 ...you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…
My sweet mother and I talk on the phone often. She lives in Pennsylvania with a compromised Parkinson’s body. She can’t do much physically to help our situation, but she can listen and pray. My mother has listened and prayed me through the mud and the mire, through every twist and turn and every heartache. She allows me to vent and she hears my anguish. A few days ago she made an interesting comment. She said, Debbie you are so brave — referring to my very public struggles, first on Facebook and now through my blog.
Handpicked for Hardship
Brave is not the word I would choose, but I have been intentional. You know why? Because I am determined to squeeze every single solitary drop of Gods good purposes out of our circumstances. I don’t want to gloss over one little bit. I live out loud intentionally so as not to risk that any of it is wasted, not even a missing leg brace.
I’ve heard it said, that a Christian gets cancer and a non Christian gets cancer, so the world can see the difference.
Tim Keller writes, “One of the main ways we move from an abstract knowledge about God to a personal encounter with Him as a living reality is through the furnace of affliction.”
As I look through the scriptures, I read that suffering serves a sacred purpose. It reveals His Glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17, Romans 8:18, Romans 5:3, 1 Peter 4:12,13, 1 Peter 1:6,7) . Perhaps God isn’t picking on me, rather He has handpicked me to steward this hardship for His divine purpose.
A Glimpse of Glory
In the end, it’s only by God’s grace I can bounce back and stand up erect. It’s only by God’s grace that Ian can feel good about himself again. It’s only by God’s grace that we don’t lose hope. And if the world can see a bozo smile through our daily trials, just maybe they’ll catch a glimpse of Him and the power behind the smile.
Jesus, thank you for your promise that there is sacred purpose in my trials whether they are BIG or little. Please equip me to steward them well so that others may catch a glimpse of your Glory shining through.
Leana Wilson says
Deb my heart is breaking for you. Your words describe what I can only imagine is beyond exasperating, disappointing, frustrating – none of these seem to come even close to what you all must be going thru. I can’t even… Hugs and prayers my friend. 😒 🙏
Thanks Leana. We’re OK. It’s just hard and amazing what is easy to take for granted. Thanks for praying.
Any thoughts on a tracking device for his brace? They are small and should attach easily. Keep blogging!
Brenda, We won’t make the error again. But obviously it’s too late for this time. It would be easy to just put a label with name and phone number. And we’re kicking ourselves for not thinking of it.
Dawn Johnston says
Oh, wow, Debbie. Just wow. I can’t get the phrase “furnace of affliction” out of my mind. That aptly applies here. My heart goes out to both of you. Beyond frustrating. … Is there any way to insure the braces/special inserts? Just a thought. … For me, you sharing your experiences has most definitely influenced how I think about God and our own individual purpose on this earth. You have taught me so much about what an awesome thing God’s grace is. ….Y’all are always in my thoughts and prayers. Xoxo
Love you Dawn. We will connect this year! To one of my favorite Catholic friends. 🙂 Thanks for walking alongside us.
Oh the frustration. This is one of the many things that I struggle with, it is out of my hands yet it is still part of my worry and frustration. To me, it means it’s out of my control and that is so difficult for me to handle. I feel for you and for Ian. Sometimes saying the words “God’s Got This”, and me actually believing it is difficult. Then I turn around and know in my heart that He truly does. Prayers for your strength and patience. God Bless you and Ian and the whole family.
The words can sometimes feel hollow. I agree. But I know the truth even if sometimes I may not feel it.
Mary Johnstone says
Deb you most definitely have the talent through your words to reach my stubborn heart. Tears are flowing right now. I recently lost what I thought was an ideal new job position to someone else. After reading today’s blog I realize ( as my friends and sisters have said) God has a better plan for me. I needed to hear this. Thank you
Mary… here’s a thought that didn’t make the article. God gives you EXACTLY what you would have wanted if you knew everything He did. Prayers for finding His perfect job for you.
Meredith Blain says
Thank you for taking the time to reveal your frustrations. I too have a cHild with ongoing challenges. My house is full of ADHD and lots of working memory issues as well. You are not alone. Someone said everyone forgets things, but some people do it with flair.
I like that thought Meredith! Doing it with flair. Now that gives it some pizazz.
Gramma Joan says
I still love you all and miss you. Wish I were there to put my arms around you like the ‘old days’ but please feel my prayers and love for Ian and you and Doug . Sometimes it’s hard to believe ‘GOD’s got this’ but then I think who does? Not me! Gotta be Him with His arms around me!Thank you, Father!
Sure miss you too! Feeling your love and kindness. Happy Thanksgiving to your whole clan. Debbie
Anne Kole says
Debbie, I am overwhelmed with your honesty and faith in spite of frustration…and maybe even because of it! You ARE brave, and so is Ian. You are an example of God working in the middle of it all. I will never stop praying for you and Ian. More words fail me, friend.
Oh Anne. What an awesome side benefit.– your prayers. We’re just plodding through. He is working. Thanks for walking through this with us.
Your article is great, although I’m sorry for your continued adrenaline pumping trials. I have an issue I’m dealing with that’s not the same as yours, but it’s exactly the same on the “big picture” level (i.e., the hits keep comin’). So I loved your point that we aren’t being “picked on” by God but are given these challenges because we’re “handpicked” for His purposes. A change in perspective I hadn’t seen before. Thanks.
Thank you Jeremie! It does help to know I’m not the only one experiencing multiple hits. Thx for your comment.
Wendy W says
Oh Debbie, having raised a high-maintenance child, I do feel your anguish. My roller coaster ride hasn’t been as wild and scary as yours, but the frustrations are similar. Hang on! We are with you.
Thank you Wendy. What an awesome bonus that you’re walking alongside us. Thanks for your comment. Deebbie
Nancy Bartlett says
The challenges you all are facing are difficult to imagine dealing with on a daily basis. We would need to walk in your shoes to truly understand, but I have to tell you, the prayers continue! Your faith is inspirational and your willingness to be transparent and use your (and Ian’s) story to reach others is incredible. You are so courageous and honest! May God bless you give you all strength and patience.
Thank you Nancy. I do appreciate your empathy. But everyone of us walks a path. I selfishly am grateful to have so many walking alongside me. Truly. I’m grateful. XO Debbie
“Perhaps God isn’t picking on me, rather He has handpicked me to steward this hardship for His divine purpose.” Hasn’t it always been nice to be handpicked! But being picked for a lifetime of mothering doesn’t feel so special. Yet, when I get too absorbed with my self pitying, I remember that I’m where I’m supposed to be and thank God for the resources I’ve been blessed with (thin as they might be). It means my son isn’t homeless, isn’t doing drugs, hasn’t killed himself, isn’t in jail. Rather we love and support each other and laugh a lot and love a lot. And it’s all brought me to my knees many times, which is where I’m supposed to be in the first place. And, yeah, the hits keep coming, and the tears and sadness keep coming, but so do the mountaintop moments of peace and joy gifted by God’s grace. And for that I’m thankful every day. Your prayer is a prayer of mine, too! Thank you, Debbie.
Dorma, A friend (a woman who wanted children but never could have them and also never adopted) told me she almost coveted my deep heartache. She didn’t mean to be insensitive although at the time it did take me back. It was the deep love unique to motherhood that she longed for. That comment has always humbled me. The deep love a mother has for her child is incomparable. And that deep love abides whether high highs or low lows. Keep mothering. Keep praying. Debbie
Frida Bauer says
What a perfect response and insightful comments you made at the end when you said that God didn’t pick on you, but He handpicked you!
Thanks for your honesty, Debbie. You have blessed many people through your stories.
Looking forward to your next stories and insight!
Thank you Frida. I appreciate your kind encouragement
Anne Kole says
Debbie, the furnace of affliction you are experiencing brings about amazing good! You are light and salt to me. Your faith and perseverance shine through in your blog. Thank you! Praying for you and your family’s struggles! Love you.
And you’re an encouragement to me!