I’m sitting on the porch of a cabin in Roan Mountain, Tennessee. A gentle spring rain soaks the garden, and a small waterfall caused by a plugged-up gutter falls in front of my Adirondack chair. My porch-side perch overlooks a roaring, rock-filled creek. Across the creek a hill ascends at a nearly vertical pitch, rhododendron jutting over the water. The white flowers of a lone dogwood pop against the lush green backdrop.
It is chilly this morning, so I’m wrapped in a cocoon of fleece: fleece robe, fleece jacket, and two fleece blankets. Sipping a cup of hot tea, my body radiates heat, except for that spot where the breeze creeps under the blankets and tickles my bare legs.
My husband Wally, oldest son, Matt, and I drove down from Ohio earlier in the week. Wally and Matt backpacked a piece of the Appalachian trail the first two days we were here, while I hung out at the cabin. When they returned yesterday, they overflowed with tales of spring beauty on the mountain. Wally and I went on a wildflower hike not long after they returned, to drink in the spectacular sight of the forest floor covered with a blanket of white, purple and yellow violets, red trillium, wild iris, and blooming mayapples. Most beautiful of all was the pink lady’s slipper, nodding her head under spear-like leaves of green.
Normally, this would be a piece of heaven for me, and I would be soaking it all in, writing poetry, holding hands with my husband as we walk the trails, snuggling in front of a fire in the evening, chatting with Matt about the flora and fauna of the Roan, looking forward to my book when I crawl into bed. Actually, my plan for these four days was to finish the young adult novel I’ve been working on for the past two years.
Instead, I have been stuck on a treadmill of worry. Since our son Joel’s move to Safe Haven Farms, he has begun cycling again. We dealt with this all through his adolescence, but it had finally subsided in his early twenties. In the midst of the cycle, which comes around every 3-4 weeks, he can’t stop moving. Walking 8-10 hours a day on the farm where he lives, his inner anxiety propels him forward, even past the dropping point. He lashes out at anyone around him with his hands, and, for the first time in his 27 years, has begun lashing out at physical objects.
My heart is breaking. How can I help my son? What should we do? I pray. I make lists. I make doctor appointments. I wait, sometimes for months, to get in to see certain doctors. I wrestle with other doctors who make me feel as if I know nothing, even though I have valuable information regarding my son that they don’t have. I pray some more. I worry. I obsess. I toss and turn in the middle of the night. I am on the merry-go-round from hell.
Four words sum it up. I am a mess.
This morning, I open Macrina Wiederkehr’s book, Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God, to her meditation on 2 Corinthians 12:9: “…but he (the Lord) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”” Macrina chooses the words, “my power is made perfect in weakness” for her meditation. I’m drawn to different words. Four words jump off the page and speak to me:
“My grace is sufficient.”
I take them into the quiet. After ten minutes, only one word remains.
I open my thesaurus. God’s grace is enough. God’s grace is adequate, plenty, ample, satisfactory.
As I lay in bed last night between 2 and 4 a.m., I implored God to stop the merry-go-round in my brain so that I could sleep. What to do? What doctor to see? What advice to take? What meds are helping? What meds are making matters worse? What to do about the day program? What to do? What to do? What to do?
Finally, in exhaustion, I spoke four words to God. I repeated them over and over, a mantra to out-shout out the never-ending questions circling in my mind.
Can’t live like this. Can’t live like this. Can’t live like this.
This morning, on this porch in the rain overlooking a creek that never quits flowing, God spoke four words back to me.
My grace is sufficient. My grace is sufficient. My grace is sufficient.
I open my eyes and take in the beauty surrounding me. The crystal clear water flowing over ancient stone. Lush green rhododendron ready to burst into bloom. Moss growing on the trees. Birdsong.
I thank God for our son, Justin, who, while we were gone for the weekend, made the long drive out to Safe Haven Farms to pick up Joel and drive him all the way back into the city to go to the zoo. For the community of parents that make up Safe Haven Farms, for last night’s monthly dance and the joy Joel found in that. For our friends, Amy and Dirk, who are at this very moment picking Joel up to accompany them on a long-distance errand they had planned for today. For our son, Matt, who, for the first time, is enjoying Roan Mountain with us. For my husband, Wally, who discovered this piece of heaven with me nearly twenty years ago, and who returns with me on a regular basis.
I take a deep breath, and thank God for reminding me that even though the Enemy wants to rob me of joy, I can step off the merry-go-round by declaring these four simple and powerful words, a mantra to see me through the hard times:
God’s grace is sufficient. God’s grace is sufficient. God’s grace is sufficient. God’s grace is sufficient.