Monday, November 2, 2015

Three Ways To Help A Family Going Through A Medical Crisis

Living in the Middle Tennessee area means that Baylor Bramble's name has been in my Facebook news feed a lot.  He's a Seigel High School football player who was injured during a game in October.  His dad is posting updates on Twitter-   My heart breaks for their family, as we know all too well the journey of a child with a Traumatic Brain Injury.  For us, there was never a shortage of people wanting to help, praying for us, and encouraging us.  I can only imagine that the same is true for the Bramble family.  So I wanted to share what I think are practical ways to help a family going through a medical crisis like TBI.  In reality though, I think these will apply to all extreme medical traumas. 

1. Prayer-  I know we had a HUGE prayer support team when Timothy was in the hospital and even once we were home.  It's so encouraging on the really rough days and even on the good days to know that people from all over are praying for your family.  I know a lot of people are praying for Baylor's recovery, but I thought I might point out some other needs to pray for.

This is a long journey for the entire family.  There are so many steps on the long road of recovery from a Traumatic Brain Injury.  So I want to encourage people to pray for Baylor's parents.  While my faith carried me spiritually through this journey, my body suffered from such a prolonged, stressful time.  It's been three years now and I'm still struggling with my health.  There's not really a way to keep from wearing yourself out physically when you have child going through this.  After a while, it really takes a toll.  Even though I felt strong spiritually, physically I was struggling.  It never occurred to me to ask for prayer for my own health while I was so focused on my son's health.  So I'll ask on behalf of Baylor's parents.  Pray for their physical strength while you are praying for their spiritual strength. 

Pray for his siblings.  This time can be so overwhelming and confusing for them.  Some of my children didn't open up about their struggles through this time until a year or more later.  They may not know how to express what they're feeling yet or they may not feel comfortable sharing.  To them, it might feel selfish to share how this is impacting them when they are watching a sibling struggle to survive.  This is hard enough for adult minds to process.  Just imagine how difficult it must be as child trying to navigate such a difficult time. 

2. Meeting Physical Needs- It seemed as if we had our own little private army that swooped in to meet our needs.  Between family, friends, and our church family we had a support system that provided things we didn't even have the time or energy to think about.  We had people taking care of our yard, cleaning our house, providing meals for our family at home, providing meals for me at the hospital, gas gift cards for traveling, restaurant gift cards, etc.  My sister drove from Arizona to Tennessee with her 5 children to help take care of our other children for two of the weeks Timothy was in the hospital.  My Sunday School class continued to provide meals for my family not only while Timothy was in the hospital, but for a month after he came home.  I also had neighbors and friends who picked up my other children to take them out to go have fun somewhere. Every little and big physical need that was met for us was a blessing.  Each need that was met, meant one less thing for me to worry about while taking care of Timothy.

3. No Expectations-  Email, text, send cards, and provide things without the expectation of any kind of acknowledgement.  With the Facebook memory app, I've seen messages that people posted on my wall in the days after Timothy's accident that I don't even remember.  I had a friend email me almost daily to let me know how he was praying for us. He continued to send these emails for several months after the accident.  I apologized one time for never responding to any of his emails. He told me there wasn't a need to apologize and he never expected me to respond.  He just wanted me to know what his prayer for us was each day.  That was so freeing to be released from the expectation I had put on myself to respond.  The truth is, when you're going through something like this, sleep is difficult.  There's so much to keep up with medically, it can be overwhelming.  Your brain cells are busy trying to keep up with all this new terminology, countless doctors, medicines, medical procedures and so on, you may read something and then completely forget about it.  While I may not remember every text, note, post, or email that I read, what I remember overall is how much support we had.  This family's life will never be the same.  They will mark time as "before the TBI" and "after the TBI".  There will be good days and bad days.  Seasons where they can be involved in the lives of others and times where they can't think past what's right in front of them.  When Timothy was released from the hospital, our chaotic life didn't end.  In fact, it felt more difficult in some ways.  In the first 54 weekdays after his release, he had 60 appointments.  Juggling all those appointments as well as trying to jump back into life at home was extremely difficult.  The important thing is to free them from any expectations- for a long time. 

I don't personally know this family, but I hope I can meet them someday.  While there will be many hard days ahead, there will also be many times of "build an altar" moments for them.  Those times where you experience God in such a real and new way, that in Old Testament times you would build an altar as a reminder for generations to come.  I learned through our journey how bright the light of the Lord shines in the midst of the darkness.  Though this isn't a path I would have chosen on my own, I'm so thankful the Lord used Timothy's TBI to strengthen me and draw me closer to Him.  It's comforting to know the Lord doesn't change even when our circumstances do.  It's comforting to know the One who holds the future when we can barely think past the next 2 hour check.  I would encourage people to commit to walking this journey with the Bramble family for the long haul.   The Father has shown us such great, sacrificial love.  Now the Bramble family needs us to model what has been shown to us.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Ugly Beautiful Truth

Being a mother to a special needs child can be extremely rewarding.  I've learned to rejoice through even the smallest of victories, because I know how much work went in to them.  I've learned compassion in a way I didn't understand before.  I've learned how to rely on God's strength and not my own.  I've seen how God uses the most difficult of circumstances, to work in my life and the lives of others. 

However, it is also extremely exhausting.  I've lost countless hours of sleep.  I've spent many days in tears.  I've spent days wondering if my child would live, and spent days crying out to God on his behalf.

On top of all of that, the really ugly side of special need parenting is that sometimes our children say and do mean things to us. I have shared in the past that Timothy's anger is most often directed towards me.  Since his brain injury, he's had a more difficult time controlling it.  This summer was even more difficult than before.  My son can't process information or his feelings the way others can.  He has the mind of a first grader inside the body of a thirteen year old. 

This past week has been increasingly difficult.  Timothy said some very hurtful things to me.  It's painful.  Painful to the point that sometimes I felt I couldn't breathe.  It's painful to pour so much into a child that treats me so poorly. 

It's common for autistic children to not show affection.  I've learned to accept that and to treasure the rare moments when he does.  I don't think I can find the words to describe how painful it is to love someone so deeply and that person doesn't return your affection and is openly hostile to you. 

As I struggled through last week, I have cried out to God for understanding.  I've also reached out to a handful of people for prayer support and wisdom.  As I described my pain to my sister, she said, "Cari, this is the gospel.  God's love on display for us even when we're hostile to Him" 

Through the rest of the day, I pondered these words.  She was so right.  Before Christ, I not only withheld my love, I was openly hostile to Him.  I did things that I knew were wrong; things that I knew were against His commands.  I reached out to other people and things to ease the pain and emptiness I felt.  I turned everywhere but to Him. 

Yet, despite my rejection He still loved me and sought after me.  John 15:11-12 says, "These things I have spoken to you , that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." 

How did He love us?  He gave His life.  He paid the ultimate penalty for our sin.  He conquered sin and death, so that we could have eternal life.  In Luke 7 Jesus talks about a sinful woman who loves so much because she has been forgiven so much.  I have been forgiven of so much.  Jesus loved me even though I didn't deserve it. 

So, how can I do any less for my son?  I cannot withhold love from him just because he didn't earn it.  That isn't what true, sacrificial love is. 

While we try to find help for him to learn how to process his feelings, I have to love him through this.  I won't pretend this will be easy.  I know there are many more difficult days ahead.  I also know that I don't have the power in my own strength to be the mom Timothy needs.

However, what I do know is God's strength is enough.  His love is enough.  His grace is sufficient. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

If The Lord Wills

Plans...we all make them.  Our busy lives demand we make plans so we can fit everything in.  On August 18, 2012, we had a lot of plans.  I was in the process of training for a half marathon.  My husband had just completed a bike race that morning and had plans to do more in the fall.  We had just started a new school year.  My daughter was beginning her senior year and final season of cross country.  Along with all the other smaller plans we made in just living out our everyday lives.  That afternoon, our plans met our new reality.  When Timothy fell in the shower, fracturing his skull and cutting an artery, our lives turned completely upside down.  All the things we thought we knew, turned into question after question.  How much brain damage did he suffer?  Will he be in a wheelchair?  Will he know who we are?  Will he have to go back on a feeding tube?  Will he...?  So many questions that led me to the same conclusion- God is in control.  Did anything happen that day outside of God's knowledge? No.  Were we facing anything that He couldn't handle? No. 

Three years ago today, James 4:13-15 became very real for me.  It says, "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  Instead you ought to say, ' If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."  I don't really know what today holds, so should I really trust in my own abilities?  I'd rather trust in the One who does know what today and each of my days hold.  He knows what will happen and how He will work through it. 

Knowing that I don't have to be the one with all the answers is very comforting.  We looked back on that day and realized all the things God orchestrated to prepare us for what was coming.  Some simple, others meant the difference between life and death.  My children are blessings from the Lord but, they don't really belong to me.  I'm more of a steward of all that God has entrusted to me.  My days are not my own.  They are from the Lord.  He knows what they hold and how many there are.  He's not some puppet master, pulling the strings for His own entertainment.  He's the loving Creator who knows how to bring beauty from the ashes of living in this fallen world.  He's the Holy One who brings peace in the midst of chaos.  He gives strength in my weakness. He's my comfort in the midst of sorrow.  He's my heavenly Father who gives me refuge in the storm.  So, as I live my days, I do so with a tight grip on the truth of His word and open hands on all He has entrusted to me. I still make plans, but I make them and say, "If the Lord wills."

Monday, February 9, 2015


I'm tired.  I feel like the song "Worn" has become the theme song of my life.  I have allowed myself to become bogged down by my circumstances,  I've focused so much on them, that my circumstances seem big and God seems small.  I would love to wake up and not immediately start thinking like the mother of an autistic child.  I would love to make dinner and not think about food allergies.  I would love think about the coming year without fear of medical issues for Timothy.  I would love to not worry about medical bills from the past and the ones we're facing this year.  I would love for my daughter's medical issues to be solved so she can eat normally again.  I would love to not think about my own struggles with health and sleeping, along with so many other things.  All those things are overwhelming when I'm busy seeing life through my abilities.  That's where I've been lately.  The longer I viewed them through that lens, the bigger and more overwhelming they became.  As I was driving to church yesterday, these were the thoughts running through my mind.  When will the struggle stop?  After arriving at church, I realized the question I needed to ask myself is, when will I stop?  When will I stop focusing on my problems?  When will I stop trying to handle it all?  Everything from the music to the teaching pointed me to who God is.  My circumstances change, He does not.  I feel incapable, He is able.  I am overwhelmed, He is peace.  I feel empty, He fills.  I am uncertain about the future, He holds the future.  Somewhere along the way I have slowly started trying to do things in my own strength. I bought into the lie that I can handle it.  I can't.  So now I am working on taking the focus off of me and all the things I have to deal with and return my focus to the One who actually can.  John 15:5 says, "I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."  This is where I'm trying to put my focus, abiding in Him. This doesn't mean all of my problems disappeared.  It does bring freedom, knowing that God is in control.  I still have an autistic child with severe food allergies.  I still have medical bills.  My daughter still has health issues.  I still have health issues.  The difference is today I feel peace in the midst of the struggle.  I feel comfort in knowing that God is continuing to work in our lives.  I'm trusting in Him.  I'm surrendering my life to His will.  I know somewhere along the way I may once again be singing "It's a Hard Knocks Life" while wishing I could be singing "Easy Street", but for today, I'm singing "I Surrender All".