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16th of August

When You’re Scared and You Don’t Know What To Do

Since this weekend? Seems we’re consumed. In our nation . . .

What he said. What he didn’t say. When he said it. Or didn’t say it. Why he took so long to say it. Is he fit? Is he unfit? Are we safe? Are we unsafe? Is the world safe? This opinion. That opinion. This criticism. That criticism. This defense. That attack.

I’m weary of it all.

I want to be an ostrich.

Instead, I consume just enough news and just enough opinion to help me pray and not die of excessive human analysis.

I’d rather pray than try to sway someone with opinions, especially with all the opinions of differing Christians flying around the world-wide-web and in small town churches.

Because I think there’s way too much criticism, frankly. And besides, I’ve got serious stuff happening so close to home, so close to my heart this week that I’ve had to leave the “big” things to our great God and go about the business He’s put right under my nose.

But maybe my “business” has something to say for the “greater” good of us all?

I wonder . . .


I walk into her apartment on Monday afternoon. Her walls are bare. She removed every picture. She cleared every shelf on the bookcase and her decorative baker’s rack. The coffee table has nothing. Two living room chairs are in the spare bedroom, stuffed against a short wall between the bed.

I ask Anna to step on her bathroom scale. She does. Fully clothed. I try to hide my shock. She has dropped to 92 pounds from 100. In less than a month.

I walk across the hall from Anna’s apartment and knock on the door. Ellen, the relief staff in this assisted-living home, answers. I start asking whispered questions . . .

“Have you noticed anything unusual in the last few days regarding Anna’s behavior?”

Ellen looks me in the eyes and says . . .

“I heard Anna going up and down the stairs quickly this morning. Many times. She was throwing things in the trash bins on the side of the building. I could hear the lids slamming.”

Ellen follows me down the stairs and out to the trash bins. I pull out eight bags, all Anna’s. Mixed in with empty yogurt containers, I find a wide variety of Anna’s make-up and multiple empty or near-empty skin creams and other personal hygiene items. In another bag, I find her stereo and speakers. In another bag, all her artwork—all her own drawings she’s done over the years.

Warning sirens scream in my brain . . .

She’s sick again.

Stripping her apartment to the point where it looks like she’s leaving, I wonder if she’s planning on leaving—on suiciding. Giving away or throwing away personal possessions? These are possible signs of suicidal thinking, suicide planning. I know. I used to counsel the seriously suicidal.

I ask myself . . .

Am I over-reacting? Am I scared over nothing?

Anna comes around the corner and sees me pulling apart the bags. Ellen stands beside her, beside me, nodding as I tell Anna as gently as I know how . . .

“Honey, why did you throw all this away?”

“I don’t need it.”  She says it bluntly. No emotion. No facial expression.

“But Anna, this isn’t normal.”

“I just want to simplify my life.” She sounds resolute. She’s expressionless.

“Anna, I think something’s going on besides you just wanting to simplify your life.”

I step toward her and wrap my arms around her. I want her to feel my love. She is stiff. Like rigor mortis has already set in. I ask her to breathe. She tries. I think. But I can’t feel any rib cage expansion. At all. This isn’t Anna. Not healthy Anna. The Anna who loves to hug me and receive hugs from me. The smiley Anna. My sweet Anna.

My own brain is burning now, churning with silent questions and one desperate request.

What’s happening here? What should I do? What does she need? This is exactly how she was three years ago right before she was hospitalized in a psychiatric unit for twelve days. What if I’m wrong? Help me, God! Help me know what to do!

The answer comes quickly.

Pack her bags. Bring her home. Call her doctor.

Still, I need to know my assessment is not mine alone—that others are seeing what I think I’m seeing. Ellen’s expression assures me. She’s a nurse. I trust her judgment.

In fact, others have been seeing what I’ve been seeing, brewing. For weeks.

Anna’s former boss—the one who knows her best, next to Todd and me. Todd. Her brothers. We’ve all been concerned, especially lately as Anna experienced another great loss recently—the loss of a dear friend who called her “ignorant” last week, telling Anna to “grow up and act like an adult” and telling her that “no one is going to babysit [her]”.

Truth is, Anna has many invisible developmental delays and disabilities. Her now-former-friend knows some, but not all. Clearly, her former friend would never have spoken to Anna in such a way if she understood Anna’s needs. At least I believe. At least I hope.

So I have questions. Not just about our daughter. But about everyone. Even the ones in highest, worldly power positions . . .

Maybe some people—no matter how low, no matter how high—speak rashly, even stupidly, out of emotion and you can’t take their words as a reflection of their will, their heart? 

Maybe some people have good intentions but don’t do so well at communicating them?

Maybe we should pray to God and listen more so we can listen to others more than we judge?

Maybe we should realize that God can work His sovereign plan through anyone, anywhere, anytime?

Maybe, rather than focus on God’s created and all their/our failings, we’d do better to focus more on our unfailing Creator?

Maybe we’d do better to realize we’re all brothers and sisters subject to our Creator, whether we acknowledge and submit or not?

Maybe we all fall far short of knowing the heart of another even when even our own behavior screams dysfunction?

Aren’t we all kind of dysfunctional, really?

Don’t we all need a Savior, eventually?

Won’t we all benefit more from turning to God than attacking His beloved created, no matter how horrible their thoughts, words, and deeds?

Don’t we all need prayer more than criticism? More than crucifixion? By mass public opinion?

My mother always told me, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” She meant that we need to look beneath the exteriors of people (appearances & behaviors) to see what’s really within.

With Anna, it’s kind of the opposite. She’s beautiful on the outside. No one disputes this fact. Yet, she’s quite small—five feet tall and, when healthy, a mere one hundred pounds. We can’t find adult sunglasses that fit her face. But she doesn’t want Disney princesses decorating the rims.

At twenty-five, most who meet Anna think she’s fifteen. They look at me when she orders a glass of red wine. Then, they ask for her ID. They deliver and Anna sips maybe one-quarter of the glass. She likes the taste of wine and the taste of being treated as the adult—in body and age—if not in functioning—that she is. Don’t we all desire such dignity?

Ellen offers to keep Anna beside her until I return after dinner. I tell Ellen . . .

“Today is Todd’s and my 24th anniversary. We have reservations for dinner.”

I have reservations about going to dinner. With my husband. This man I adore. This man who has stood beside me all these years and helped me raise three kids with special needs we never knew they had when we scooped them up in our arms for the first time, in Russia, in September 1997, twenty years ago.

Todd and I? We still don’t know exactly what we’re doing in this whole special needs parenting thing, even though our kids are now nearly 26, 24 and 20.

But we’ve prayed.

And we’re trying to trust.

We screw up, but we believe God is big enough to fill in our gaps.

So we keep stepping out. We keep stepping forward with the tiny bit of faith we still have, always asking for more—for more faith. And we know He will answer.

Because isn’t that what God does? Doesn’t He fill in our humbly acknowledged gaps? Doesn’t He know how small and frail and not-all-knowing we are?

Won’t God respond to a sincere prayer of, “God, help us! We don’t know what to do!”

Todd and I do not cancel our anniversary dinner. We eat at Lake Park Bistro, our favorite French restaurant on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan—on a bluff with a steep fall to the shore.

We choose not to worry about our daughter—about our other two kids with special needs practically no one sees or knows. We choose to be husband and wife with our God overseeing, ever-providing. For us. The stressed. The immensely blessed. We choose to let go and let God help us care for our kids, now grown, in ways they still need. Our kids . . .

They are His. We are His. All of us. We are all a whole lot of mess throwing ourselves at the feet of our Savior.

We’re not as young as we were. My husband, almost 63, and me, just turned 58—we’re softer around the middles and, I think, softer in our souls. We’re trusting more in God than in ourselves, I know. We’ve seen His glory in our lives, over and over.

We’re tired in a great sort of way—in a relaxed and trusting kind of re-creation. And our God, through humbling us by circumstances, has taught us how incredibly light is our burden when we attach ourselves to the all-sufficient, all-powerful yoke of our Savior.

Whether I think of our specially-abled, loved-by-us-and-God daughter, in the throes of this current Bipolar relapse . . .

Whether I think of a president so many are fretting about, spouting about, thinking they know best about . . .

My soul finds rest in God alone.

My salvation comes from Him.

And our daughter will be fine.

Even if we have to hospitalize her.

She is God’s.

And she knows it.

And God always knows best what we all need.


He’s got the whole world in His hands.

He’s got the whole world in His hands.

He’s got the whole world in His hands.

He’s got the whole world in His hands.


Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. 


Psalm 20:7


Anna read this piece before posting and hopes it might be a blessing.

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