Posts tagged For Times of Trouble
THE TROUBLE WITH TIME
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The look of panic on my sweet wife’s face is forever etched into my mind. The time we feared most had come. Mitchell’s urine bore evidence of catastrophic organ failure, his vitals were on a steady decline and we didn’t know if we had days, hours or minutes left with our son.

The trouble with time is we always seem to think we’ll have enough of it. I don’t know why we’re built that way ... that mostly in times of trouble when we stand to lose everything, do we re-discover everything that really matters.
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

The drugs we administered to Mitch were both a blessing and a curse; a blessing because they kept him from suffering from the pain of organ failure and a curse because they kept his mind foggy and distant. We were blessed with the greatest hospice nurse to ever walk this earth. She was exactly what we needed during this dark time … a tender mercy for which I will thank Heaven the remainder of my days. She was there to guide and council us every step of the way – but because she didn’t live with us, we were left to face the majority of our time alone with our boy. That scared us.

Prior to hospice, all we knew was children’s Tylenol and sunscreen … then suddenly we were administering morphine and other powerful drugs to our child. All we wanted was to go back to the days of macaroni and cheese and band-aids, scraped knees, and children’s books. But that was not our lot in life.

I’ll never forget our first encounter with our hospice nurse. She was kind, compassionate, strong, and direct. In a way, most unexpected, she was soothing to Natalie and me … parents who felt very much like children, fragile and frightened. This hospice nurse reminded us of what our DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) form meant. She told us that if Mitch was is in trouble that we were not to call the ambulance, perform CPR, or any procedure that would prevent death. Now that he was home on hospice, her job was to help our son’s transition of death happen comfortably. After this good nurse left that first day, I remember going to my bedroom, closing the door and falling to my knees. I wept and wept. I prayed as I have never prayed before. “Take me!” I plead with my Father, “Please, take me instead. I would endure any suffering if it spared my son.”

After a period of deep, tearful grief, I found myself back on my feet again. With feeble knees, I tried to bear the burdens of my family on my shoulders – but I soon realized I could not take away my family’s suffering. I could only walk with them and love them and do all I could to support them. Though I wished to carry it all, I realized that was not the purpose of life and that we must all experience joys and sorrows on our own if our souls are to grow truly.

Though I tried to be strong for my family, this good woman, my dear wife, was the strongest among us. I will always honor her for her strength and wisdom during this impossible time. I stood then, and continue to stand today, deep in her shadow.

So, there we sat on the edge of the abyss, our son hanging by a pebble and slipping into the darkness. I sat on the edge of his bed in tears, wondering how I could have been a better husband and father. I made plenty of mistakes, and those mistakes weighed on my soul for a season. I wasn’t so upset with the occasions I might have been more patient with my children – for I knew we all make those mistakes, and I always made things right with my kids. Instead, I began to contemplate the time I wasted pursuing lesser, trivial things. I wanted to go back in time and invest that squandered time into my family. It wasn’t a lot – but enough to hurt. Enough to cause a little regret.

The trouble with time is we always seem to think we’ll have enough of it. I don't know why we're built that way ... that mostly in times of trouble when we stand to lose everything, do we re-discover everything that really matters.

ON TROUBLE & DISCOURAGEMENT

Fall was almost in full swing when Natalie and I took our kids to a nearby park.  We decided to visit one of the older parks, where the trees were mature, and blankets of earthy leaves covered the ground.   

I can’t do much about trouble, but I can find ways to rise above it and be grateful for life. 
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

Mitch was known to do a funny, signature skip and hop when he was happy.  I’ll share a video of that soon.  Because his muscles were growing weaker each day, his happy skip became more uncoordinated and labored as time went on.  That never stopped him from doing it, however.  In fact, as his body grew weaker, his sense of happiness seemed to grow stronger.  I always enjoyed watching him at the park; sometimes, in the distance, Mitch would have a conversation with himself, then suddenly it was as though he was struck by a bolt of joy and he began skipping out of the blue.

On this occasion, when Mitch tried to skip, his legs gave out, and he fell.  Ethan, his older brother, quickly reached down to see if Mitch was okay and offered to help him up.  My heart swelled with gratitude for my family and the lessons of love and service my children continually taught me.  At that moment, I was overcome with an impression that despite the hardship our family was facing, Heaven was using that experience to help shape us – not just Mitch, but all of us.

Over the last few years, I’ve watched my surviving children cope with grief in their own, unique way.  It has been a difficult and sometimes dark, treacherous journey.  I don’t write about those experiences because I respect my children’s privacy – but I will say, it hasn’t been easy.  Sometimes the grief journey was made more difficult by outsiders meddling, other times our grief was made complicated by inexperienced psychologists, forever shutting the door of a young mind in need of that kind of help.  In my book, which will be completed soon, I share some of the challenges we faced and what we learned because of it.  I hope it helps others who navigate their journey with loss as we share a kind of “if we could do [certain things] over, we’d do this differently” observations.

I wish weren’t so, but our troubles after Mitch passed were just beginning, and we had to navigate a labyrinth of issues that were as complex as they were bewildering.  During that difficult time, I remembered F. Scott Fitzgerald observation on the difference between trouble and discouragement, “Trouble has no necessary connection with discouragement. Discouragement has a germ of its own, as different from trouble as arthritis is different from a stiff joint.” 

I am certainly not immune to discouragement – and sometimes trouble stirs those feelings up.  But when I remember Mitch, who never let his troubles make him feel discouraged, I’m reminded to step back and recognize that trouble is only temporary.  Discouragement, if not managed, can become a chronic condition.

As I consider this tender moment between little brothers – I’m reminded that no matter my troubles, I can step back and find gratitude for something.  In fact, I can find gratitude for many things.  Anymore, I’m beginning to see that it’s not trouble that weighs us down … it’s discouragement.   

I can’t do much about trouble, but I can find ways to rise above it and be grateful for life. 

FEAR & COURAGE*

The door to my home office burst open with a big waft of air … “Chris, guess what?” Natalie said with a smile.  I was so startled by her sudden entry, I began to worry a pipe broke in our basement apartment and that our few newlywed belongings were being washed away.  “Is everything okay?” I said anxiously.  She paused, “I’m pregnant.” 

In that singular moment, I was overcome with two emotions.  On the one hand, I was excited because I always wanted to be a father.  At the same time, I was frightened and said to myself, “I am so inexperienced with life … am I ready for such a responsibility?”  Ready or not, we were going to have our first baby and it was up to me to rise to the challenge of fatherhood.  We were poor as church mice, trying to fight our way through college and full-time jobs.  I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say I was afraid of the future.  I was young and afraid. 

In life or in the face of death, there are moments every human will shudder with fear … and somehow, some way, we must find a way to take up courage to face the things that frighten us. 
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

Soon our little daughter joined our family and my heart was spilling over with love. She was a most precious little girl and I loved seeing her personality emerge.  Over the next few years, I saw her become an independent, feisty and compassionate little girl. Ever since she came into my life, I have tried to fiercely protect her from people who might use or take advantage of her. My greatest desire then and now is to help her see her true worth – for I love her so. Thus began our family – under less-than-perfect circumstances and in many ways under a shadow of self-doubt and fear.

By the time Mitchell was diagnosed with DMD, Natalie was already pregnant with our 4th child, Wyatt. Fearing our newest baby might have DMD, a medical professional suggested we think about aborting our baby. We dismissed the notion wholesale because we valued life more than our inconvenience. What’s more, although Mitch was diagnosed with a fatal disease, his tender life was still worth living. For he found much joy in his life, and so did we.    

We were prepared to accept our baby no matter what physical challenges he might have. As mother and father, we would stand united and love our child with all we had. We were still afraid of the future, but we faced our fear with whatever faith and courage we could muster. That was the best we could do. I suppose that is the best anyone can do.

So on this day, I’ll never forget our newborn sleeping peacefully on the examination table as Natalie took on a most ponderous demeanor. This was the moment we would discover if Wyatt had DMD. She seemed to look upon him as if to say, “Sweet baby of mine, no matter how heavy the burden, I will carry you all the days of my life.” Such is the magic of motherhood.

A blood test would soon reveal Wyatt was perfectly healthy and fear retreated like the evening tide. That night, I knelt at the side of my bed and tearfully thanked my Father for my family. I was grateful Wyatt was healthy. I was also grateful we were blessed with Mitch, broken wings and all. Though I felt inadequate, I promised to do my best to be a dad and asked that He would somehow make up the difference.

Whether I’ve faced professional insecurities or deeply personal self-doubts, I have confronted my fair share of fear, worry, and discouragement. What if I ran from fear? What if I turned my back on fatherhood and abandoned my family when we discovered Mitch was sick? I would have missed one of the most profound blessings of my life. Everything that has ever scared me, when confronted, has made me stronger.

In life or in the face of death, there are moments every human will shudder with fear … and somehow, some way, we must find a way to take up courage and face the things that frighten us.

No matter how much I want to, I cannot know the future. So, when I face fear or the unknown, I try to remember the phrase “Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” Then, I do what my sweet wife taught me years ago, I take the next best step.


These are images of Wyatt having blood drawn to screen for DMD.

There is a profound story surrounding little Wyatt: an answer to prayers, his birth and his life.  That story is shared in our Tender Mercies presentation.

THE PASSAGE OF TIME

Tomorrow night marks the anniversary of a sacred time in my life. I'll never forget how the weight of grief settled on my shoulders the night my son passed away. The heavens, it seemed, grew dark and all became black. It was only in that moment of pitch darkness that my spiritual eyes began to adjust and I started to recognize what seemed like little flecks of light. Only these flecks were symbolic of tiny blessings. It didn't take long for me recognize how many of those blessings were connected to each other. What I discovered in my moment of darkness was Heaven was always there; guiding and directing our lives to shape us into better beings.

As I reflect on the life and loss of my son, I also recognize the many tender mercies that accompanied his difficult journey. If Mitch was not alone, then I think it's safe to say none of us are either.

I am reminded that when things get especially dark, I must pray for eyes to see things as they truly are. Then, and only then, can we get a glimpse of a much grander design. To our pleasant surprise, we will begin to see Heaven's tender mercies spread across the passage of time.