When I cannot stand…

I accidentally ate black pepper in my dinner tonight, so here I am now, about five hours later feeling like a thousand nails have pierced the left side of my body and like I’m on fire.  I lay in bed but sleep won’t come because my body is so grumpy.

My heart feels the same as my face does right now.  Hot, tired, restless, achy.  In need of some great reprieve.  Some great relief.

My mind rushes around trying to solve some heavy burdens that lay on my plate right now.  I offer myself the most sound advice I can think of.  I move mental and emotional chess pieces trying to strategize the best outcome.  But still sleep will not find me.  Rest runs away from me.

Words from a church hymn from my childhood creep into the corners of my consciousness.  A little cry for help.

O safe to the rock that is higher than I
My soul in its conflicts and sorrows would fly
So sinful so weary thine, thine would I be
Thou blest rock of ages I’m hiding in thee.

I wipe a desperate tear from my eye and remember harder times.

A January morning nine years ago.  My husband of ten years has just left us.  My babies sleep unaware.  An impending eviction sits heavy on my heart, but my greatest immediate burden is that I suddenly have no car to take my son to school in the morning.  I ask for help and no one responds.  And so I lay there on that sleepless night – a night much like tonight – trying to work through my difficulty and trying to fix something that I personally simply wasn’t able to.  I concoct plans that don’t come together and imagine ways of helping my situation instead of admitting my helplessness.

By early morning, I slip off into a light sleep and hear other words.

When the rest forsake you, I will take you up.

The next day, I wake to get a phone call from a friend I’d never met except online letting me know she and a group of more people I didn’t know had pooled together to buy me a car.

Just a simple story, I guess.  But if you’ve ever stood on a cliff with four babies strapped to your back and felt the tingle of the fall work its way through your legs and back and then somehow feel yourself pulled back and rescued by something, Someone, outside of yourself, then you know what that car meant to me.

It meant I was going to make it.
And that I was not alone.

A thousand stories sit in between that one and the one I face today and still somehow I cannot still the desperation within.

She’s fifteen and I’m pretty sure there’s something wrong.  Mental health, I’m sure of it.  But I can’t seem to find a diagnosis even after $10,000 spent last year.  When you’ve spent every day of nearly seventeen years caring for them and being the one to solve their problems, lying in bed awake and working things through is simply second nature.

How can I fix this for her?
How can I figure out what’s wrong?

What’s really wrong?

I spend my free time reading and examining symptoms lists because apparently even the finest mental health care available is so damn unhelpful that I need to sort this one out on my own.

On my own.


There it is.

That feeling that is but really isn’t.

It’s my default.

Isolating myself and going to work on the problem rather than immediately asking for help from those around me.  From the One who helped me last time and the time before and all the other times.

I sit in church this morning.  No pews and stuffy sermons for me anymore.  My church is a living room of couches and chairs and little kids scattered on the shag rug.  We share what’s been going on in our lives this past week and talk about how we can help each other and how we can pray for each other.

Among this small group of dearest friends, my soul rests for an hour or two.

I remember.

That I’m not alone.  Not here in this place – in this room of these people and their stories and our real and messy lives – and in the other places of life when I might not physically be in the presence of another human.

We sing songs together, and we read together.  We share victories and failures.  And then we take communion.  The Eucharist.  The meal of thanksgiving.  The place we come, together yet separate, to offer ourselves as thanks.  To remember.

With this cup and this bread, we remember.

In the spaces of many bodies crammed into one small room and the sounds of many people talking and singing and taking their turn to dip a small bit of bread into a small bit of grape juice and recall a great and personal sacrifice, somehow there is still room for silence within.  Quietness amidst the noise.

I have not forgotten you, Heather.  Nor have I forgotten her.

I remember that many miracles have been performed on my behalf.  Even the miracle of the people around me.  The stories of even harder times I’ve been rescued from fall heavy on my memory.  I once was lost but now am found; was blind but now I see.

A gentle hymn sung perhaps accidentally a key too low.  Words that penetrate my panic and my worry.  That reach right into that place where I am, before anything else, a mother.  Words that wrap my soul in warm blankets and shield us from what seems to be her harsh reality.

So teach my song to rise to you when temptation comes my way
When I cannot stand I’ll fall on you, Jesus you’re my hope and stay.


When life has me undone, undo me further.
Take me apart so that I might be mended wholly.
When I cannot stand, let me rest my tired head on you.
When answers run away from me, whisper truth to me in the dead of my night.
Bring me what I need to bring her what she needs.
Help us live and survive.  Help us thrive.
Do not leave her to her own devices.  Be the same to her that You’ve been to me.

Solid ground.

Unshakably reliable.
Utterly trustworthy.

Seek and save.

It’s what you do best.

1 Comment

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One response to “When I cannot stand…

  1. Sweet friend. I hear this. I’m sorry. I’ve been where you are, sort of, with a child having serious mental health issues. What helped me, what might (I don’t know) help you: I got online, to the websites of every mental health facility within an hour’s drive, and found pictures. Searched faces. Looked until I found the face of a person I’d trust with the heart of my child. And I don’t know–do you read faces? I’ve had so many people treat me badly or wonderfully, I know what I trust in a face, from all the pain. And the one counselor I found (only one out of the many) has walked us through everything needed and still is today. Has known what’s important and what to let go. Has helped my child go from mirroring the violent rage of her absent parent, to processing and maturing and being safe to have in the house. Gentle and tactful but not afraid to address the issues. I can’t guarantee anything, but this worked for me and I’d do it again if I needed to. Hugs and prayers if you want ’em, Rochelle Sylvester

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