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Grace in the Wilderness: An Introduction

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Chris and Teri Bledsoe, for Family Matters, share their story to help readers know that it's possible to see grace in the wilderness when times are challenging.

We definitely don’t have an Instagram family. Not even close. We’re not saying our children are not beautiful, because they are. We’re just saying that no amount of cropping or color-saturating or captioning can make where we are as a family “look pretty.” That’s if we’re honest. And if we have anything to give here, that’s it. Honesty.

In fact, there are not many places where our family “fits” these days. At church, almost no one wants to hear our story. It makes younger parents feel too vulnerable. It makes our leaders feel unhelpful. And it makes a whole lot of people feel judgmental.

We have four children, and two of them have mental illness. The “illness” half of that diagnosis is easy to swallow because it evokes sympathy and hopes for a cure. But the “mental” half is a lot messier. We got a prayer letter yesterday from a family whose daughter is battling cancer. The letter pulled at our heart-strings as it should have. But it also prompted the lonely notion that we don’t have that kind of story to tell. Who takes casseroles to the family with a mentally ill child?

This mental illness journey is not new to us, but we know it may be brand new to you. And we remember. We remember how hopeless we felt. We remember the other feelings too. Loneliness, helplessness, frustration and anger that somehow we’d been cheated out of the normal family we thought was our due. We remember how a diagnosis felt like an answer, a complicated one for sure, but what we hoped would solve everything and get us back to normal. We remember when one diagnosis was all we could handle.

Seventeen years ago we learned our second had issues that made sitting, focusing and concentrating in school a monumental challenge. But, as it turned out, this was just the beginning. These learning challenges were the dandelion some unseen breath blew over two of our children. The seeds germinated and now they battle a host of issues, like bi-polar and borderline personality disorders, processing disabilities, emotional disregulation, to name a few.

Bad to worse doesn’t begin to describe the journey. We know what it’s like to look for a way out of a crisis that we’re only beginning to realize may be our “now” for the rest of this life.

But we have learned to look for something else, too. Like we said, all we have is our honesty, and this is equally a part of it. Jeremiah 31:2 says, “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness.”

Our goal in these posts is to be as honest and as hopeful as Jeremiah was in this verse. To never deny that, yes, swords can cut us and leave us with scars, and, yes, life can be a veritable wilderness. But, no, that isn’t all there is to it. Yes, we can survive all that. And we can find something far greater than survival in this particular now, even if now is the stigmatized, barren, painful wilderness of mental illness in your beloved child. Even there, we can find grace.

“Grace in the wilderness.” We like the sound of that. It captures our story the best way we know how. It’s a long story, so get ready for more of it, if you’ve got the courage to join us. Our prayer is that as we unfold a few chapters of our lives that you, too, will begin to see grace in your wilderness. Because it’s there.

Written by Chris and Teri Bledsoe 

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