In the Midst of Fear and Grief

Biographies of bold disciples begin with chapters of honest terror. Fear of death. Fear of failure. Fear of loneliness. Fear of a wasted life. Fear of failing to know God.

“Faith begins when you see God on the mountain and you are in the valley and you know that you’re too weak to make the climb. You see what you need… you see what you have… and what you have isn’t enough… Faith that begins with fear will end up nearer the Father.” ~Max Lucado

Though we still may not have lost a loved one, grief is still possible to experience. To experience grief, you need not be standing at the foot of a closed casket or next to a hospital bed watching for the next breath of a loved one to be the last. Grief can begin before death. Grief can sweep over you for things lost in life – friendships, quality of life, loss of family relationships, etc.

C.S. Lewis said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear… the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.”

The comfort I gain from the quote above is that although I know fear does not come from the Father, it can lead us deeper into Him. When you ask what you will do without your best friend, a child, or a parent that has just died, the loss of your quality of life, a wayward child – who will you turn to for encouragement, support, and comfort, it is as if you have just opened the door to the arms of your heavenly Father. It is as if you hear Him whisper, “I want to be all of that for you and more.”

Unfortunately, I have run to the wrong places for comfort before running to the arms of God. I have sought after best friends instead of seeking a greater intimacy with the lover of my soul. I have listened to the counsel of others before praying for guidance from the One who holds my future in His hands. I have sought peace from other means before praying to the God of all comfort.

Yes, God uses others in our lives to help us to grow, but they cannot grow us nor can they give us peace. They cannot fill the hole that only He can and wants to fill. Those people in our lives who we trust with our love, our fears, our hearts – they are needful, just as we are. They are vessels God works through. But, they are not God.

When I hear the word ‘fear’, I think of Psalm 23. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (surgeries, chronic diseases, heart problems, dying marriages, lost children), we do not have to fear anything, for our God is with us. He will never leave us. His rod and His staff, tools used for protection, bring comfort and peace to us.

Fear immobilizes us. Faith gives us courage. And courage happens not because of the absence of fear but because of it. Courage, even though standing with heartache and weeping tears of what can feel like unending sorrow says, “Even though the valley of death surrounds me, I will not fear, because You, my God of all comfort, are here for me.”

We must believe that is true, even when we don’t feel like it is true. Faith and courage do not rest on what or how we feel but on what we believe and know to be true. And one thing I know to be true…

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is His faithfulness. ~Lamentations 3:22-23

Even in the midst of fear.

An Acrostic: Just What Is Parkinson’s Disease?

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Sprinkled Pink Photo by Sherri Woodbridge, 2016

Painful.

Always present. Always. Even if ‘evidence’ is not outwardly apparent.

Relentless. Mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Kin-friendly. While research shows the numbers to be close to nil for PD to be hereditary, researchers now think that about 7 or 8 percent of patients with PD have a direct genetic link.

Individualistic. No two cases are exactly alike.

Non-discrimitory. Anyone, any age, any race, any shape or size, any language, any gender, anywhere, any hair color, any time, day or night. You get the picture, right?

Shuffle-walking-causer

Oblivious to how I may want my day to go.

Not very nice. No. Not at all.

Shaker-maker

 

Drool and depression inducer

Icky, icky, icky

Stiffness and slowness creator

Enhancer of humility in so very many, many ways

Apathy-maker

Subject to dystonia and dyskinesia and great dislike by its recipient

Exactly that aforementioned above and much more!

Guest Post for PD Awareness Month…

April is National Parkinson’s Awareness Month, by Chuck Foster

My Parkinson’s journey began about forty years ago when my grandfather was diagnosed with the disease. I watched him struggle as tremors and dexterity worsened. Eventually, common tasks like buttoning a shirt became impossible without help. And walking evolved into a slow, painful, awkward experience. But I never heard him complain. To the contrary, he maintained an incredible sense of humor, dignity, and grace notwithstanding the inelegant demise the disease suffered upon him during his latter years.

Nine years ago I began to notice an occasional, odd tingling in my left hand. Over time the tingling became more sustained before changing into full-fledged tremors. Finally, I visited a neurologist (when I was fifty-eight years old – I’m sixty-four now). I still vividly remember sitting in stunned disbelief when she said I had Parkinson’s. (Trivia question – the average age of diagnosis has fallen from 72 to 58 over the last couple of decades. Why?)

For medical geeks out there who may be interested in the pathology involved, Parkinson’s is caused by an irreversible loss of certain dopamine producing brain cells called neurons. By the time symptoms appear, 80% of the brain cells have already died. Notwithstanding lots of promising research with things like stem cells and deep brain stimulation, the disease remains incurable.

Adding insult to injury, about a third of all Parkinson’s patients develop dementia.

Symptoms (tremors) can be moderated through a therapy of dopamine drugs for a while but eventually they lose effectiveness as the disease progresses. Forty years ago my grandfather took the exact same drug I currently take. Not a lot of progress in that regard.

And Parkinson’s is an equal opportunity disease, affecting more than ten million people of all walks of life around the world. About a million of those people live in the U.S.

Most people know at least one person personally who has dealt with the disease.

Some of the notables who have suffered (or currently suffer) from Parkinson’s include Pope John Paul II, Johnny Cash, Robin Williams, Linda Ronstadt, Muhammad Ali, Billie Graham, George H. W. Bush, Salvador Dali, Janet Reno, Sir Michael Redgrave, Vincent Price, and Michael J. Fox. The latter, of course, has courageously dealt with Parkinson’s for more than a quarter of a century. He has also led the charge in raising Parkinson’s awareness through the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

In my typical long winded way, I have finally reached the point of this essay.

In response to my diagnosis, I have taken up writing as therapy. (I’m even learning to use speech recognition software to type!)

Last year I wrote a short story about a soldier’s struggle with Parkinson’s entitled Morning Chemical Assault (http://www.crfenergy.com/morning-chemical-assault.html ).

This year I used the story as a means to raise $500 for the Fox Foundation by posting it to my Facebook page.

I wish each of you the best in your own Parkinson’s journey, whether as a patient, caregiver, family, friend, or in any other capacity.

Thanks,

Your shaky friend,

Chuck (a/k/a Alasdair)