Searching for the Lost

search truckToday, in many different places, a search is being organized.

Searchers are packing their things and their dogs and their tools.

Search leaders are scouting where the teams will search just past daybreak tomorrow.

Why today?  Well, because it’s Friday and these are volunteers, most who also work full time jobs and care for families.  So today they prepare, and tomorrow they search.

Because on the weekends, they become heroes, searching for the Lost.

Today, they are bringing HOPE to a family.

Today, that family prepares their heart for the weekend of not taking a breath while they wait.  Wait for what they fear.  Wait for what they long for.

Today, we pray for both.  For searchers heading out, and for families getting ready.

Today, that family isn’t ours.  But it will be again one day, hopefully soon.  And though this is repeating itself all over the country today, today my heart is with one specific family, and one specific group of searchers.

Today, pray for them with me.

For a look at what a family goes through during a search, read this post. 

 

When the path becomes difficult, that’s no reason to give up. In fact, it means you’re making real progress. The mountain becomes more rugged and steep the closer you get to the summit. Keep going, keep climbing, keep making the effort, and soon you’ll find yourself reaching the top.

 The challenges you encounter are unquestionable proof that you’re making a positive difference. Make use of those challenges, not as an excuse to stop, but rather as a platform from which to push forward.

 For the greatest achievements come in response to the greatest challenges. When the going gets rough, you are most certainly in the presence of profound opportunity.

 When there is much that must be done, there is enormous value waiting to be created. Step boldly forward and claim that value.

 Whatever may come, whatever may seem to block your path, choose to keep moving. There are truly magnificent rewards just on the other side of your persistent efforts.

— Ralph Marston

In the Storm

We’re in a Tropical Storm right now here in Florida, with enough rain to make you think to build an ark and enough wind to blow you over.  Except that in this very minute, it’s calm and there is no rain.  But when I look at the sky, I know it’s just a momentary lapse, and the worst of the storm is yet to come. Okay, truth is that I can’t see that from the sky.  But the Weather Channel, along with my local news give us the warnings to heed- there may be flooding, tornadoes, downed limbs and power outages.  Thankfully they stand in the gap to share how to stay safe instead of us relying on our own instincts which so often fail.

See?  We're under that black mark in the middle of the image- completely covered.

See? We’re under that black mark in the middle of the image- completely covered.

It’s really not a big deal though.  I’ve sat through more Hurricanes and Tropical Storms than I can recall, from before I can recall.  I’ve lived in Florida all of my life but two years, and those two years were on the coast of Mississippi where we rode out a few as well.  It’s just part of life.  And in the summer when we have a break from the storms?  Wildfires my friends, wildfires.  So many that your nostrils burn from the smoke, your eyes water just by opening a window, and you pray that a Tropical Storm will come along to drench us again.

No matter where you live, there are natural forces to be reckoned with though.  I can’t imagine being startled by the shrill of a unexpected tornado siren in the Midwest.  Or being woken by a violent shaking that rattles the walls and leaves you hoping that the earth doesn’t open up and swallow you on the West Coast.

I like the storms I’m used to.  I know where to turn for information, how to prepare, and how to keep my family safe.

In life I feel the same.  I like the trouble I know and fear the unknown.  But the really cool thing is that we also have a guide, someone who stands in the gap and helps us and comforts us.

No matter what type of storm we face, we don’t have to rely on our own knowledge or instincts.  In fact, when we do is when we get into the real danger.  It’s such a comfort to know that God is more reliable and knowledgeable than the Weather Channel, and more prepared to deal with disaster than the Red Cross.

In Hurricanes, Tropical Storms, or the storms of life, He is our help.

There’s no need to have all the answers, just to know where to get them.

~  Anita ~

 

Stop the Stigma

Usually when someone passes away, there is an illness that we say they died from.  But in reality, the illness causes a host of problems, and that often leads to the death, not the original illness  Often, the body can simply fight no longer, and basic functions cease.  But we understand that cancer, or heart disease, or whatever the illness was, led to their death.  We don’t dwell on what the final step was.  We don’t see headlines that mention that someone died from fluid on the lungs, we see that they died from Cancer.  Because that was truly what caused their death.

But for those suffering from depression, bi-polar disorder, PTSD, etc., when the illness becomes so severe that the person dies, the headlines say that they committed suicide.  

Committed.  Which truly simply means “to do, perform, or perpetrate” but is used in this way almost exclusively for crimes.  The person gone did perform that act, but it is no crime.  It is painful for those left behind, but no crime was committed. 

If we’re to really understand mental illness, we’ll understand that as the cause of death.  Suicide was only the last step in an illness that progressed past the point of the help available.   Over 90% of people who die by suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death, the most common being depression.  

Since we believe that my brother took his life and died from depression, I’ve been asked many times if I’m angry with him.  While I know that can be a common feeling of those left behind, I think it would be less so if we could remove the stigma and help others understand the truth.  This wasn’t about me.  This wasn’t about him not loving our family enough.  This was about ending the pain.  In the religious world, the stigma has been especially strong, with a long history of teaching by many churches that hell was the punishment for suicide.  Thankfully, many churches have stopped teaching that, as they have come to better understand mental illness.  But many people still believe it.  Some have even said it to me.  So if you’re wondering, no.  I don’t think he was selfish, I think he was ill.  I’m angry that he was 26 years old and working full time and had no health care available because he worked for a very small business and made too little to afford private insurance but too much for subsidized care.  I’ve been angry at times by insensitive comments by those who think I should be angry.  I’m upset with myself for not recognizing the severity of the illness.  I’m saddened by it all.  But I’ve really never been angry with him. 

Just a few days ago, Rick Warren, minister and author of ‘The Purpose Driven Life’, lost his son to depression.   He appears to have been a loving and spiritual young man, who had an illness so severe, that no treatment or doctors had been able to prevent his death.  Like any parents with a sick child, his had sought help for him far and wide.  The best medicine, doctors, therapists and ministers were within their reach.  But healing was not.  Rick and Kay obviously understood that, and I’m thankful that through their pain, the stigma may be lifted and illness better understood by some.   

It is so difficult to add to the pain of loss with a shame that should never be there.  We need to start looking at suicide for what it really is- a final step of a terrible disease.  And when we can take the shame away from mental illness, more may be able to seek and receive treatment that saves them from that step, and instead brings them healing.

Praying today for those who have lost a loved one to mental illness, that they find comfort instead of scorn and hope and healing instead of shame. 

Dreams

Only about six weeks after Michael’s last hospitalization (on Christmas), the next episode of Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome, began.  For four weeks, he was up and down, with us knowing we’d inevitably end up here, in the hospital once again.  It’s been over thirteen years of these cycles, and I’m mostly used to the routine and can tell doctors and nurses what the orders are or should be, who to consult, and can recite the medical history in my sleep. 

sunrise view, St. Johns River, Baptist Hospital

But I still hate it. 

I still have the little dreams of things that would make everything more bearable.  I’ve always hesitated to ask God for specifics, because I believe that praying for His will and praying that I can accept that and have the strength needed is what changes my heart, instead of just my situation.  But I’m now praying specifically and selfishly- there is only one possible area of root cause of the CVS that we’ve never explored, and that requires a geneticist.  And getting in to see a geneticist isn’t simple.  So we also need the support of our primary care doctor, and then still only might get in.  After years of having no hope for new things to try and test for, this small glimmer of hope that there could be more than we know, and that could lead to potential new treatments, is big.

That’s my new hope today.

But while I was thinking about that one big hope, I started thinking of other things that I might ask for too.  And while my main prayer continues to be for His will and for strength, I sure would also love:

– chances to go away as a family within a few weeks of the end of a cycle, since that is our highest chance of Michael having enough good days pieced together that we could really enjoy it and my kids worry less about their sick Dad than just about having fun.  (Not really realistic since finances and work schedules don’t play nice with last minute excursions, but maybe one day)

–  more flexibility in work schedules and less commuting hours so I could better balance/juggle the needs at home while still providing.  (I’m fortunate and grateful to work with people who are so understanding of the occasional need to make a hospital room my office, but doesn’t help the daily battle)

–  less fight with disability people to ease the financial burden. (thankful there is some, and thankful for God always providing, but this isn’t a cheap illness to manage)

– hospital rooms with sleeper couches and micro fridges (for a spouse who really can’t leave much, who has had such a room once, it’s the dream!)

Okay, okay, I can deal without the last one.  But God, as I sit beside my husband’s hospital bed once again, I do pray for healing, for strength, for a doctor willing to pursue our last avenue, and for help with finding ways to balance all these things.  You know it’s overwhelming and you know our needs, so I ask that you fill them in ways that we can honor you through.  No matter what you give us, we’ll do our best, but I do pray for these things.  For my husband, my boys, and myself.  Amen. 

Hope, Far and Wide

Next week will be nine years since I sat at the memorial service of a young man, beyond thankful that my husband had just returned home safe from the middle east, just in time for the birth of our son. That young man was killed in Iraq and was part of my husband’s battalion, NMCB 133.

I told his mom that I’d make sure my son knew of hers. I didn’t know him, but knew somehow that having others remember him through the years would be important to her. I’ve held true to that and again today told Drew about Wayne Bollinger and about what it means to sacrifice.

Today is dedicated to those who didn’t return home, but I remember most those who haven’t even had a body come home. Those are the ones I can now relate to the most, and think about those families tonight. The ones who can’t organize searches, can’t walk where their loved one last walked, and have little hope that someone will step forward with answers. There are over 83,000 of these today. Over 83,000 who are still remembered and missed and not home.

Sometimes as families of missing we get discouraged, but even those missing for many years on other continents come home sometimes. This year alone, 36 service members have been returned home to their families, to finally bring answers and healing. The earliest lost among them was in 1943. Read about them here.

There is real hope for us all, no matter the timing, no matter the answers. Here’s praying for answers sooner than the 69 years it took the family of Radioman 1st Class Harry C. Scribner, U.S. Navy. But today I’m thankful for the reminder that hope should never be lost, and for those who have given us the freedom to have true hope.

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

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A bit more crazy….

You’re going to think this sounds crazy, and I’ve started to write variations of this post many times before but always stop myself because I can’t let you see all the crazy. Not all at once anyway.

I was on my favorite time wasting   idea inspiring site, Pinterest last week, and saw this look.  My first thought?  Ooh, that’s my funeral outfit!  Not for any random funeral, but for Austin’s.  For quite a while I’ve had a list of songs to consider for his service and have always joked that it would be my excuse to buy new big black sunglasses.  You know, cause no one gets to see me cry.  I make jokes to cope, and I think I routinely look at things in a realistic way, to help prepare myself for what may come, while realizing that the worst case scenario rarely happens.  And I look for ways to see the best in a bad situation.  Since I believe that we’ll almost certainly find Austin one day through discovery of remains, to me a funeral is realistic.

It’s also something I am jealous of… because though it would mean answers we don’t want, it would mean answers.  It would mean finally being able to explain to my son where his uncle is when he asks.  It would mean having a complete story of Austin to tell my younger son one day, who never met him. 

So this outfit is an odd combo of hope that we’ll have answers one day, realism that when we do it will likely be answers that hurt, and trying to make the best of things by thinking that at least I could look stylish through grief.  So yes, I’m a bit crazy.  But I do see all that in the photo.

p.s.  except the shoes, with those I just see me with another ankle or knee surgery!

Stuck

I’ve been stuck.

My last post was written as I grieved my friend ending her life, though I had missed her for years as her illness had overcome her.  But it was a few days later when I was stopped in my tracks and became stuck.

Josh performing at The Church at Argyle

Just before the service, an acquaintance expressed anger at all the friends who had let Diane down, which obviously included me.  It was a blow.  I had already been thinking it, wondering if I could have or should have done more.  Just like I have asked since Austin has been gone.  No one had ever told me I failed, those were only my fears and hurts. But for 5 years, I had wanted to help Diane more than I could, and for almost that long have regretted not doing more for Austin.

That accusation stuck me in place, not allowing me to fully believe the truth.  For weeks, I’ve tried to move, I’ve tried to not let this keep me in this place, but facing the fifth Christmas without Austin and thinking on Diane’s family facing the first without her made it tougher. 

Then, last night I was blessed to hear an amazing artist perform live, Josh Wilson.  Josh’s music had touched me before, especially his song ‘I Refuse’ which inspired a blog post about 6 months ago. Last night as he sang that song, along with other incredible verses, I was reminded that God’s plan for me is not to look back.  God’s plan for me is not continue to be stuck, even for just a few weeks.  Josh sang beautiful words of Hope as well, but having Hope in God has never been a challenge for me.  Taking steps to do what God has called me to do however, that takes facing fears, including the fear of past failure. 

This Christmas, I challenge you to not be stuck by fear or hopelessness.  I challenge you to see the world before you who needs to see the light of hope, and to be that light.  My light may not shine on many, but may it shine as bright as possible on the few I can reach.

Vist Josh Wilson online

Searching for Hope

This weekend, while many people spent their mornings leisurely sipping coffee while reading a newspaper, at a farmers market, at a ball field, or shopping for gifts, there were people choosing to spend their weekend another way.  They chose to leave their homes in various parts of Florida, coming in trucks with trailers, with four wheelers and generators, maps and flashlights, and dogs of all types.  They met in the cold morning air, full of coffee and energy, and with a focus on their goal. 

While some people thought about what gifts to buy a loved one for Christmas, they thought of how to give a gift to someone they love that could never be bought and the value of never measured. 

Sunday morning, while many went to church to seek God’s love, they went out to be God’s love exemplified. 

They thought they were searching for my brother.

And they were, but they were searching for more.  They were searching for renewed hope for us, that people still care and that we may one day find him.  They were searching for a way to show their love to someone who has worked beside them and become important to them, my Mom. 

They didn’t find Austin.  But they did find hope.  They did find a way to show love.

As the group pulled out Sunday evening, after days of exhausting work, they might have felt like they hadn’t brought anything back to us.  They would be wrong.

Thank you.

Life is short. Stay awake.

My delicious latte is in a cup with the question ‘what do you stay awake for?’ with answers all over it. Some are cute, like “socks, fresh from the dryer” and some are very sweet such as “the pitter patter of little feet as the sun rises.”

This morning my real answer is a good one- I’m kept awake (barely!) by the desire to get home from a quick trip in time to catch some of my son’s baseball game. When it starts I’ll be in the air, but will get to the game as fast as possible after I land. Then I’ll go home and sleep.

I like those real answers on the cup, those that answered more honestly than dreamily. Dreamy answers are good too, but sometimes a bit cheesy for my taste. Does Hilda G. really stay awake “to end breast cancer– worldwide” or is that something she cares about and puts a bit of time and energy into, but truly just what’s left over after everything else?

I’m a bit harsh, fully realizing I have no idea about Hilda G. She may wake up every morning with a passion she puts into action. Or she may be a bit more like me and want to do that, but instead sometimes just be kept awake because she has no choice.

I’d like to be able to honestly answer “to find Austin” or “to reach people with a message of hope” but while I am passionate about those things, some days I just want to stay (or go) to sleep. And some days I just want to be a mom enjoying a baseball game.

I think that is part of the message of hope though- that you don’t have to have all the right answers. You don’t always have to do the right things. You’re still loved and treasured. And some days you’ll wake up and be ready to change the world. But some days you’ll just want to pull the covers back over your head.

**special thanks to my Caribou coffee that is hot and delish and provided inspiration for a post. seriously, what more could you want from a cup of coffee?!

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It’s No Marathon

I. am. tired. It’s been a long few days. But I’m boarding a plane, that will take me to another plane, that will take me to another plane, that will take me home. And then I’ll rest. So I can get through the next 11 hours, thinking about that.

I wish I could see the place and time of rest ahead in other aspects of my life. I see no end to Michael’s battle with CVS, though there is hope of a breakthrough one day or a medication that helps. I see no end to our search for Austin, though there is hope of a search with results or maybe even a call with his voice one day.

I sometimes wish Michael had an illness with more risk but more possibility of cure. I sometimes wish we could have a funeral for Austin, with not the answers we wanted but answers regardless.

I think it’s one of the hardest parts of having a missing loved one, that there’s no rest in sight. This isn’t a sprint, isn’t even a marathon- you know how long a marathon is- it’s long, but it does end. For some of us, our search will never end and we’ll never find that time of rest here on earth.

But there’s always hope. It may not be forever, it may end tomorrow. Or we may be on the first leg of a long trip, one that takes us to another point, that gets us closer to yet another point, that eventually gets us there.

But you can’t get there unless you start moving…. time to move.

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