“Am I Your Worst Nightmare?”

I read a Facebook post today authored by a mom whose son struggles with addiction. In a class she was taking, this mom was asked to dress as her “worst nightmare.” After returning home from her class, she told her son her assignment and asked him to “dress her.” Her words must have sounded really harsh on the surface, and her son asked, “Am I your worse nightmare?”

I loved her reply.

“No, the drugs are.”

What grace and love she communicated to her precious son in that moment. She separated the actions of her son under the influence of drugs from the person she knew and loved. I recalled a conversation I had with our son after someone very dear to me ended our friendship because, in her words, “my life was just too hard.” After having this conversation, I told our son, who at that time was struggling with addiction, “You caused me to lose my best friend.”

He replied, “If I caused you to lose your best friend, she was never your best friend at all.”

He spoke wise words to me; I only wish I had chosen my words with greater care. I should have said, “Your actions caused me to lose my best friend.”

The truth be told, this intelligent, compassionate, witty, handsome young man could not have “caused” the loss of my friend. While it is true that his actions while under the influence of drugs may have alienated her from me, I know she loved him as one of her own. Perhaps the pain of knowing about his addiction was more than she could bear….I don’t know; I suppose I never will.

Prior to his death, our son wrote me a letter apologizing for so many things he had said and done. He stated, “I am sorry I caused you to lose your best friend.” My words wounded him; he never forgot them. It was I who owed him an apology.

This mother who asked her son to dress her, conveyed in her article a genuine willingness on the part of her son to help her portray the reality of addiction. A compassionate heart and a willingness to help others seem to be a common trait shared among the addicted. He dressed her in his unwashed, smelly clothes, “with a bloodstain on them, ” and asked that she send him a picture when she did her presentation.

His mom described feeling physically sick when she went to her class; she did not want to be around her classmates…she felt shame, she was embarrassed; and yet she realized this was what her son felt every. single. day. What a courageous mom this young man has!

I remember a screaming match I had with Cullen one day when he said, “Do you think I want to live this way? Who would ever choose to live this way?”

“Then don’t! Stop using!” I shouted.

I’ll never forget his words, “I can’t, Mom. I can’t stop; I will die. At one time I could control it, but now it controls me.”

No truer words have ever been spoken. He fought valiantly; and experienced a period of sobriety before succumbing to agonizing symptoms of withdrawal and overdosing in an effort to relieve his pain. In the end, his addiction won. I pray that the actions and words of this courageous young woman whose article I read today, will help her son write a very different ending to his story.

“Go to the Land of Moriah and Offer Him There As A Burnt Offering”

This passage is perhaps the most difficult verse in all of Scripture for me. Many of us are familiar with the testing of Abraham by God Himself. God told Abraham to take his son, his only son, Isaac, whom he loved, and go to the land of Moriah; there he was to offer Isaac as a burnt offering.

I marvel at Abraham’s faith; he never questioned God or His motives. How could his decendants outnumber the stars if the child of the promise was slain? Why would God have given him a son when he and Sarah were advanced in age, only to have him killed? God gave the patriarch his instructions one day and we are told “he rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey…split wood for the burnt offering, and went to the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22:3). On his journey to Moriah, he took Isaac and two other young men with him. I cannot fathom the heaviness of his heart, knowing what he had been asked by God to do.

Abraham fully trusted God in whatever He chose to do; he told the young men with him and Isaac, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you” (Genesis 22:5). Isaac carried the wood for the burnt offering much like Jesus hundreds of years later, bore His cross. As they walked along together, Abraham’s heart must have been in a thousand pieces when he heard Isaac ask, “My Father! Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7) Abraham responded, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering my son” (Genesis 22:8).

Isaac trusted his father. He watched Abraham build an altar; he allowed himself to be bound and placed on top of the wood, and saw his father stretch out his hand holding the knife to slay him.

And we know the rest of the story. The angel of the Lord called to Abraham and said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Genesis 22:12). It was then that Abraham looked, and saw a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. The Lord had indeed provided the sacrifice. Abraham came down from Mount Moriah with his son. But there are some of us whose Moriah story has a very different ending. We did not get to come down from the mountain with our child/children.

I am thankful that unlike Abraham, I was not asked to “go to the land of Moriah and offer” my sons, whom I loved, as a sacrifice. I don’t know that I could have responded in the way Abraham did. Both of our sons died; we did everything possible to save them, but to no avail .Was God in control when they died? Absolutely. Could He have written a very different ending to our Moriah story? Certainly. But He did not.

While our outcome and Abraham’s were very different, the “test” was the same. Abraham could have chosen to obey God, or not. We can choose to allow the deaths of our sons to define us, or not; we can become better or bitter…and I have spent some time being bitter. We can rail against God, refusing to trust Him in the “hard”, or we can give Him the “hard” and ask Him to use our life experiences to bless others. We can be grateful for the time we were given with our sons, or choose to dwell on all that we lost.

In the day of the prophet Habakkuk, the Chaldeans’ invasion made the land barren. Habakkuk was a believer, but like us, he did not understand the ways of God. Why had God allowed the Chaldeans, a group of people who were more wicked than the Jews, to punish the Jews? They raided the land; nothing prospered. Habakkuk had a choice. He could rail against God, failing to see or acknowlege God’s goodness in any area of his life, or he could trust God, knowing his sovereign Lord allowed whatever circumstances he faced. He penned these words:

Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exalt in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The LORD GOD is my strength” (Habakkuk 3:17-19a).

Dear Lord, help us to remember that You alone are our strength, that You are our help at all times, but especially in times of grief, discouragement, doubt, and uncertainty. Thank You for offering Jesus, Your only Son, whom You loved, as a sacrifice for our sin. You understand our Moriah experience. Like Abraham, Jesus obeyed Your will by going to the cross and offering Himself as a sacrifice for Your chosen people. Thank you for His life, His death, and His gloroius resurrection. This we pray in the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

,

Overdose Awareness Day, August 31

I never imagined writing a blog post commemorating overdose awareness day; but here I am. In my naivette, I assumed our family would never be affected. After all, neither my husband nor I struggled with addictions; our sons were raised in a loving Christian home, in an upper middle class family where education was valued and encouraged. I was privileged to be a stay at home mom and we were both involved with our sons in sports and cultural activites. We ate meals together and took wonderful, memorable vacations! We played outside, went to Sunday school, vacation Bible school, the zoo, the park, the library; we did all the things Moms and Dads littles one do! We seemed to have to have a good grasp on this parenting thing, until we didn’t. While our son was the real victim, his use of drugs took its toll on our entire family.

Addiction does not discriminate. Lest you be too judgemental, it can happen to anyone at any time. It affects people from all socioeconomic groups, professions, races, intelligence quotients, personalities, and family histories; no one is immune.

Our son was a risk taker. He surfed at Folly Beach when one of the hurricanes hit Charleston! He donned a wet suit and his surf board, and off he went; after all, that is when one gets the “best” waves. I was made privy to this bit of information by his older brother after trying to reach Cullen unsuccessfully for hours. He was invincible; nothing would happen to him, until it did.

Cullen was very intelligent, creative and artistic. We kept many of his drawings and art projects he did while in school. He trained professionally as a chef at Johnson and Wales and was very talented and passionate about his work; presentation was everything to him! After all, we “eat” with our eyes before our food is ever tasted! He also learned woodworking from a friend and many examples of his work are in our home.

At present, approximately 72,000 people die of overdoses every year. Every one who dies leaves a heartbroken mother, father, sister, brother, child, extended family members, and friends. The life of each and every one matters; each person is created in the image of God with a purpose and a plan for his/her life, regardless of how sin has corrupted that design.

For several years before addiction took Cullen’s life, I feared “the call” everyday. Even though he lived away, we instinctively knew his lifestyle invoved the use of drugs….too much money went “missing”, his stories often did not add up, and countless times jewelry was stolen from our home. Too there were accidents, car repairs, tickets, incarcerations, and court costs that were a result of his addiction. Addiction is not only deadly, it is costly as well.

Amazingly enough, many overdoses occur when the person who is addicted has been “clean” for awhile. Cullen had been on MAT in an attempt to get his life back together for several years, and had done well in his efforts. He wanted to be free of the daily clinic visits and insisted that his dosages be reduced over a rather short period of time. In retrospect, this was probably a mistake. He struggled with all the symptoms of physical withdrawal: night sweats, cramping, stomach and digestive issues, depression, insomnia, and the like. While we knew of these struggles, he was still working everyday, maintaining his financial obligations with very litle help from us, and we mistakenly thought he was home free. It was not to be. On the morning of his death, he went back to the clinic and received 25 mg. of methadone and later that day secured heroin from his dealer. He even remarked to his dealer that he was afraid to use it because he had been clean for so long. But use it, he did; and that dose took his life.

When we arrived at his home, having been called by his girlfriend who had found him unresponsive, we had no idea his death was drug related. There was no drug paraphernalia present. It was not until we saw the autopsy report that we realized his addiction had won. It was a hard fought battle and we suffered the most casualties in the war.

Our family will never be the same. We miss him every single day of our lives. I am thankful for the thirty-two years we had with our beautiful boy, grateful for both the good times as well as the bad. I would do it all again in a heartbeat to be able to hug him, run my fingers through his hair, to hear his voice, to enjoy his sense of humor and his delicious food. We were blessed in that our prodigal did come to his senses; he sought the forgiveness of God and of us for his wrongdoing, he attempted to make amends to people he had wronged. He wanted nothing more than to regain the trust we had placed in him.

I wish I could tell others who are struggling on this path what to do, what works and what does not, but I can only share our story and hope that it might be beneficial to some. There are things we did right, and things we did wrong; but if love could have saved him, Cullen would not have died. His dad and I would have gladly given our lives in exchange for his. Cullen knew unconditional love; that was our best and most lasting gift to him.

“He Will Bring to Your Remembrance…”

Life happens…and contrary to what many people believe, God will absolutely give us more than we can handle. But in the giving of the hard, He tells us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Yes, the hard is too much for us, but not for Him. I have to be reminded of this so very often.

In this technological age, we have reminders everywhere: alarms on our smart phones, reminder apps, note apps, etc., BUT it is up to ME to remember to set the alarm or to enter the pertinate information on the appropriate apps! And I am the first to admit, that doesn’t always happen!

I tease Harold about setting an alarm to breathe…due to the constant sounding of all the alarms he sets for various reminders! It makes me crazy!

Thankfully, it is not left up to me to rely upon my memory to recall the teachings of Jesus; rather, this is the work of the Holy Spirit, the “Helper”, sent to indwell the heart of every Christ follower.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).

This does not mean I should not commit Scripture to memory, because the Holy Spirit uses God’s word to speak to us, to remind us of how we should handle circumstances or how we are to act in different situations.

In the throes of trying circumstances we are very often fearful, troubled, unsettled, and we lack a peace of heart and mind.

Jesus knows our hearts and He speaks to this in the next verse (27) of the fourteenth chapter of John, “Peace I leave with you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful”.

Jesus gives us His peace, not the transitory, fragile, circumstantial peace of the world.

When our circumstances go south, the peace of the world follows suit!

The peace of Christ calms our hearts, settles our minds, relieves our fears, and gives us hope; we know He will never leave us or forsake us.

Jesus never tells us our circumctances will change; and even as believers, our emotions initially may be all over the place.

We may indeed feel forsaken, troubled, and fearful, but this is not our reality.

It is the expressed work of the Holy Spirit to bring to our remembrance all that (Jesus) said to us, thereby confirming His truth to us.

And He is faithful to do it! All our technology has nothing on Him!

Have You Not Heard? Do You Not Know?

“Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God?’ Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary. And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men will stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary.” Isaiah 40:27-31

Why is it when find ourselves in any situation we don’t want to be in that we question God’s ability or His willingness to do anything about it? it seems either that our way is hidden from Him or He does not care; He either lacks knowledge, power, or compassion. To our way of thinking, if He knew, and if He cared, He would act! In child loss, His apparent lack of concern that our hearts are irreparably broken seems to escape His notice. But God says to us, “Do you not know? Have you not heard?”

If we really took His word literally, we know He is the Everlasting God, eternal; He has always existed. Furthermore, He is the Creator of the ends of the earth. Everything that was created was created by Him and for Him, and man, the pinnacle of His creation, was created in His image. We know He does not become tired or weary, and the Psalmist tells us “He who keeps you will not slumber…(Psalms 121:3). The Lord doesn’t miss anything! His understanding cannot be readily interpreted or understood by us, it is mysterious. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are not our ways…but oh, how we sometimes want them to be.

Because He is the Creator, He is not without a plan and a purpose for everyone and everything He created. He reminds us, “‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope'” (Jeremiah 29:11).

But wait a minute! Child loss is a plan for my welfare and not for evil? God knows the deepest need of my heart is to be in a right relationship with Him. And no, I have no answers as to why two of our children died. But I do know this; He knew their beginnings and their ends, neither caught Him by surprise. He had a purpose and a plan for each of their lives and that purpose was fulfilled at the exact moment of their deaths.

He knows how difficult it is to give up the life you thought you’d have in order to embrace the reality of the life you have without your child (children). He tells us He gives strength to the weary, and bereaved parents wake up weary. As we acknowledge our weakness, our weariness, and WAIT for the LORD, He promises us we will gain new strength. Waiting is hard, so hard. I have a real appreciation for heaven, it is more real to me; I have treasure there.

The last part of this passage speaks of eagles, that is, how those who WAIT for the LORD will mount up with wings like eagles. Eagles generally soar; they don’t flap their wings because it is not an efficient use of energy. They have the ability to fly at heights of 10,000 feet, above the clouds, far above where other birds fly. They do this because they hunt from the air and spend a lot of time WAITING for their dinner.

Father God, help us to learn to wait well. Allow us to make the best use of our time, to redeem the time in a way that is pleasing and honoring to You. Teach us to number our days that we may present to You hearts of wisdom. Allow us to know Your word and to hear what You are communicating to us through Your word so that we may find we are less likely to doubt or question Your plan or Your purposes. We acknowledge our weaknesses, and ask that You strengthen us spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Help those among us who are at the beginning of this path none of us want to be on, to walk and not become weary. Sometimes Lord, that is enough, to walk and not faint. Others among us, a little further along the path may find that we are able to run and not get tired, and finally, may we be able to soar like eagles, rising above the clouds of doubt, despair, and hopelessness while we WAIT on the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray.

But We Will All Be Changed

“Behold, I tell you a mystery, we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will all be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

Change in the sense used in this passage is defined as “to make or to become different.” Indeed, it is a mystery, something yet unknown to us, as to exactly what this change will entail. We do know it will be sudden, it will occur “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye;” and it will be loud, no one will miss the sound of the trumpet.

But how will we be changed?

The dead in Christ, those who have fallen asleep, will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:17); those perishable bodies will put on the imperishable. Those believers who are alive, the mortal, will put on immortality, and “will be caught up together with them (the dead in Christ) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

The souls of Christ followers who have died are already with the Lord. The apostle Paul tell us that he “prefers rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:8). At the sound of the trumpet, the bodies (the perishable) of the dead in Christ will be reunited with their souls (the imperishable).

Why will we be changed?

Everything the Lord has allowed in each of our lives has happened with the sole purpose of molding, shaping, maturing, and conforming us to the image of His dear Son, Jesus. Too, in verse 50 of 1 Corinthians 15, we read, “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”

As bereaved parents, we understand change…maybe even more than others. Who among us cannot attest to the life changes that have taken place after our child or children ran ahead of us? We are not the same people, even though there are those who may expect us to be. But the Lord uses these changes in remarkable ways. We find ourselves in a place to comfort others “with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Just day before yesterday, I was in Walmart (one of my least favorite places to be), and an older gentleman, maybe even older than I, said, “Ma’am, is this your cart?”

“Yes, ” I replied.

“My wife has a cart with similar things in it, but I have lost her.” Then he went on, “She doesn’t drive anymore, not since the accident many years ago. It wasn’t her fault, but our youngest son, an eight year old, was killed.”

He choked up, and tears came into his eyes. All those years, and the pain is like it happened yesterday. I know; for one of my sons, it has been 37 years, for another only six.

It wasn’t coincidence that my basket was mistaken for that of his wife’s; it was a divine appointment.

“We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51).

My First Blog Post

Hi!

I am Susan Simon, a lover of Jesus, Harold, David, Cullen, Russell, Jesse, Philip, friends, animals, reading, and writing! This represents my first attempt at blogging and I am excited about sharing some of my insights on Scripture, personal devotional time, everyday life situations, stories, grief, and child loss. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates. d I would welcome your comments and suggestions!