Thinking Out Loud

June 12, 2018

The PTSD Aftermath of a Painful Loss

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:30 am

Canada’s Andrea Calvert has just released Not Alone: How God Helped Me Battle Depression through Word Alive Press. She’s also the daughter-in-law of some close friends who shared some of her story with me. I’ve been following her on Twitter and also just became aware of her blog, Inspiring Life Chats, where she’s been writing for nearly a year.

I want to begin with the publisher’s synopsis of the book, and then share a short excerpt Andrea sent us just for readers here.

Publisher Info:

Angry and hurt, Andrea didn’t want to have anything to do with God. How could she when, one day shy of her eighteenth birthday, she had to watch her mother being wheeled into the operating room of Toronto General Hospital to receive a liver transplant? How could a God that “loved” His people allow them to suffer so badly? Why did she have to spend so much time in and out of hospitals, watching the strongest woman she knew endure test after test? Watching this happen, Andrea came to the conclusion that no god would do that.

Then, on April 27, 2011, it was time to say goodbye. After ten long months of waiting for a second organ donation, Andrea’s mother made the decision to let go-it was the hardest thing Andrea had ever dealt with up to that point. The loss of her mother led her into a downward spiral of depression, PTSD, and anxiety. Andrea lost years of her life and still battles to this day with keeping her depression under control.

Jesus reached down and opened Andrea’s eyes at the darkest point of her depression. Searching for a way to deal with her pain, she called out to Jesus, who answered her prayers and called her back into His loving arms. What He has done in her life is nothing short of amazing-Jesus gave her purpose again!

This is her story…

Book excerpt:

I saw a therapist and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. I’d never considered depression and anxiety as an “illness.” I always figured that if you were suffering from an illness, you had a problem with your physical health, not your mental health. Mental health related to things like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, and I didn’t have either of those, so I was fine.

I absolutely hated myself. My feelings of failure returned, and I withdrew into myself. It was like taking five steps forward and ten steps back. I went back into the darkness. Depression is often like this; once you’ve dealt with some past hurt, you only have a few days before the next issue rears its ugly head. It’s a constant uphill battle. Even when you think things are going really well, someone can trigger an old memory and you’re right back where you started.

There I was, back where I’d started, after five months of counselling and six months of medication. I had to start over. In essence, I was “back on the couch” for more sleep. In actual fact, I’d been couch-bound for about six months. I’d never really freed myself from the lack of self-worth, anxiety attacks, and isolation. I thought no one wanted to be around me, because I certainly didn’t want to be around myself.

Even at rock bottom there was someone there with me. He had always been there. When I saw Mom under a mountain of hospital blankets, He was there. On the phone saying goodbye to her before she went to Toronto that rainy October night, He was there. Through the ten months of sickness and the “Liver That Never Was,” He was there. And now, when I needed a lifeline from the depths of darkness, He was standing up, dusting off His white robes, and getting ready to extend His hand. Jesus. He was with me, and He was sending someone to me. He was bringing me back to Him.

The 118-page paperback is just the right size for those who find themselves in the aftermath of a traumatic loss that is causing stress and depression. Priced at only 11.99 CDN it’s also affordable to give away to someone in the middle of such a situation.

ISBN 9781486616107 | 11.99 US / 11.99 CDN | Distributed to stores by Anchor Distributors and Spring Arbor (US), Word Alive (Canada) and available for customer purchase wherever you buy books.

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May 26, 2016

Straight From a Faithful Heart

Lisa ElliottA guest post by Lisa Elliott

In August, 2009 Lisa and her husband David lost their oldest son Benjamin after a heroic battle with cancer at age 19. This loss greatly impacted many others, including ourselves, and I wrote about it at that time. Shortly after, she wrote her story in The Ben Ripple which we reviewed here. We also featured Lisa’s writing in a Facebook excerpt from those days. Recently I stumbled across a more recent article and knew that I needed to help her share it with a larger audience. As I wrestled with whether it was a better fit with Christianity 201 or Thinking Out Loud, I realized I wanted to share it with both sets of readers.

I’ve made it a habit over the past number of years to visit a graveyard every Sunday before church. My purpose, you ask? To metaphorically, but in a very tangible way, and strategically before engaging in a worship service, put to death anything in my life that is dead or dying and especially those things preventing new life from taking root and producing fruit in my life in accordance with John 15. You see, I’ve experienced firsthand that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; but Jesus came that we may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).

You can be sure that the Enemy of our souls wants us to do anything but produce lasting fruit or enable us to live an abundant life—least of all, in our relationship with the Lord; the Lover of our souls, the One who died to give us life and who, in fact, is our life (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

I hope you would agree that God has called us to so much more, even in this life, than what we’re often willing to settle for! He’s called us to not merely survive, but rather to thrive; whether it is in our relationships, in our investments, in our ministry, in our vocations, in our churches, or in life as a whole! Unfortunately, the sad reality is that many don’t! Rather, they forfeit the abundant life that He offers for a mediocre, lukewarm survival.

So what does it mean to thrive vs. survive? Here are some principles I have learned to thrive on:

  • Life is too short to pretend; to simply fake it until we make it. God calls us to be real, authentic, and transparent, especially in our relationship with Him (A good example is David in the Psalms).
  • Life is too short to waste our time, energies, and resources on people who suck the life out of us rather than on those whom we can mutually invest in life-giving ways (Proverbs 13:20).
  • Life is too short to use our time on activities that only serve the purpose of wasting our time. Time is precious to the Lord and we need to use it wisely (Ephesians 5:16).
  • Life is too short to exist merely for the sake of a paycheck or a pension (Luke 18:18-23; Mark 8:36).
  • Life is too short to let the fear of failure, the fear of man, or the fear of the future control us and deprive us of all that God has for us (Psalm 20:7; Matthew 6:25-34).
  • Life is too short to indulge in shallow, idol, and meaningless conversation and miss out on meaningful conversation about life and death issues (2 Timothy 2:16).
  • Life is too short to hold grudges against people who will hold us captive as long as we allow them to (Colossians 3:13).
  • Life is too short to obsess over keeping physically healthy when we should be investing in our spiritual well-being (1Timothy 4:7-9).
  • Life is too short to put off investing in and enjoying a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord until “there and then” when we could be investing and enjoying it in the “here and now”(James 4:13-15).
  • Life is too short to tolerate gossip and slander when instead we should be encouraging one another, and all the more as the day of Christ draws near (Hebrews 10:24-25).
  • Life is too short to wait for life to happen when we can choose to make life happen (Proverbs 4:6-10)!
  • Life is too short to allow the boulders in our life to be obstacles rather than opportunities to climb to higher heights (Galatians 6:10).
  • Life is too short to waste our time longing for the life that was seemingly so much better in Egypt instead of remembering the God who saved you from slavery and brought you through the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8).
  • Life is too short to wander in the wilderness when God calls us to a land promised to us that is full of life and growth and fruit in abundance (Deuteronomy 8)!
  • Life is too short to hold onto the past so dearly that you don’t have the capacity to grasp and embrace all that God is extending to us through the outstretched arms of Jesus (John 3:16).

The bottom line is that life is too short to settle for anything less than what God wants for His children. The question is what are you going to settle for?

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21).

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).


Casting Crowns has a song that fits so well into what I’m trying to say. You might want to have a listen:

Lisa Elliott is an award-winning author of The Ben Ripple; Choosing to Live through Loss with Purpose and Dancing in the Rain; One Family’s Journey through Grief and Loss. She is a dynamic inspirational speaker; often described as “refreshingly real” as she passionately shares the life-changing truths and principles of God’s Word in her ministry, Straight from the Heart. Additionally, she has appeared on Christian television and radio and is a regular contributor to Just Between Us Magazine. Lisa is also a pastor’s wife, mother of four (3 on earth, 1 in heaven), and is thrilled to have recently joined the grandmother club. She and her husband, David presently live and serve the Lord together in London, Ontario.

Visit her website — there are more articles in the “Straight from a … Heart” series — at www.lisaelliottstraightfromtheheart.webs.com

Like her on Facebook at Lisa Elliott – Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author

Lisa’s books can be purchased directly from her, greatcanadianauthors.com, Amazon, Indigo/Chapters, and Christian bookstores across Canada and throughout the U.S. via Anchor Distributors.

September 14, 2014

Remembering Our Friend

Filed under: personal — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:09 am

ToshiShe blew into our community a few years ago like a breath of fresh wind. We got to know her as a worship leader in one of our area churches. There was something about Toshi that was simply different and not just her unusual name.

So yesterday, when word went out that God had taken her home after a 17-month battle with cancer, a lot of people were asking, “Why?”  No matter what answers to the why questions I might pretend to hold, I found myself joining them.

Diagnosed just days after her wedding to John, they spent their entire married life together under the cloud of her illness. Even so, she continued to be a blessing to others. 

And when a proposal went out to have a fundraising concert for her last year, it seemed relatively speaking like the whole town showed up. She brought a lot of people together. 

She was 43. Someone has said that instead of speaking of short lives and long lives, we should speak of small lives and big lives. If impact on others is the metric, then Toshi lived a big life.

It’s hard to imagine this community without her. It’s hard to imagine the world without her. She made a difference.

Things stick around online forever, so to Toshi’s two young children; if years from now you find yourself reading this and you have a need, you can always return to this community and say, “My mom was Toshi.”

I promise you we will remember.

 

 

April 30, 2012

God Meets a Family in the Midst of Crippling Loss

After my time serving on staff at a local church came to an end, we took a two-year break from that church and attended another in town, somewhat renown for its children’s ministry and Bible teaching. The pastor at the time was an excellent speaker, and his oldest son, Benjamin, was in a Sunday School class with our oldest.

Flash forward more than a decade and we learned that Ben had been diagnosed with a form of leukemia. To say this seemed to hit close to home was more than an understatement. It seemed to me like only yesterday the kids were saving seats for their dads at a Sunday School Father’s Day party by crossing their legs over the empty chairs next to theirs. My wife heard about a Facebook group, Pray for Benjamin Elliott, and as new feeds came in, she would forward them to me by email. Praying for Ben became part of our nightly prayer routine as a family.

After it looked like Ben had triumphed over the disease, sadly he relapsed; and not longer after, the Facebook group was renamed, The Ben Ripple; mostly because it appeared that the stories which rippled out from Ben’s life and death were impacting so many lives both near and far. Ben’s mom, Lisa Elliott carefully crafted each post, and the thought did occur to me that someday, this material might benefit a greater readership, and sure enough, much of the material from those Facebook posts have been gathered together into a book of the same name, The Ben Ripple.  (I suspect this will not be her last book.)

I asked my wife to take another look at those Facebook entries through the book, and share a few thoughts from a mother’s perspective.

The Ben Ripple is a challenging read.  Walking through another person’s pain and loss, even in retrospect, takes some doing, especially having been one of the followers of the ‘real time’ Facebook updates, which comprised an honest, hopeful and wounded journaling from a woman of faith and intelligence whose life was suddenly shaken loose.

In this book, Elliott brings back those first raw outpourings, ties them together with some more objective reflections on what was happening in the family’s lives at the time and closes each chapter with practical suggestions for those dealing immediately with cancer, and for those on the periphery who just want to not say or do the wrong thing.

Her writing is both skilled and passionate, drawing the reader closer to understanding and empathy with a situation that most of us will never experience –  the loss of a child –  and one that more and more of us live through – fighting cancer.  She takes time to explain the treatments, with their setbacks and successes, and to appreciate the medical professionals who were involved in her family’s lives.

All in all, it is important for us to know stories like Ben’s.  The places where God meets us face to face, and the places where he stands quietly behind us.  What the family next door might be going through and what they may deal with from one day to the next.  It’s been said that we live in a world that has forgotten how to lament — to cry out to God our pain and fear and loss.  This book is just such a thing, but like so many of the laments in Scripture, it ends on a note of “nevertheless…”  The possibility of healing, the value of trusting, the necessity of faith in one who loves us.

The Ben Ripple is a remembered and continuing journey well worth walking.

~Ruth Wilkinson

The Ben Ripple is published in paperback by Word Alive Press and available through them in Canada and through Ingram and Spring Arbor in the U.S.   A copy was provided to Thinking Out Loud by Graf-Martin, a Kitchener, Ontario based promotion and publicity agency which comes alongside Christian publishers to provide key titles with enhanced visibility.

July 29, 2010

For Those Who Have Suffered a Loss

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:05 am

Lisa Elliott is a mother of four, closing in on the first anniversary of her son Ben’s passing away due to cancer.     Her writings on Facebook (group name: The Ben Ripple) would — and I believe someday will — fill a book.

Ode to Joy

This past few weeks and as we draw closer to August 19 when it will be one year since Ben changed addresses David and I have been incredibly sad. This past Sunday in particular, for no specific reason, was extremely sad and emotional for me. It wasn’t my typical “tidal wave” of emotion that hit me. Rather, it was more like a “tsunami” and it took me under for most of the day.

But for those of you who are worried that I’ve lost my joy – have no fear. I find her every Sunday at church! In fact, she saves me a seat in the back row and remains with me until the last person has evacuated. Joy has been a gift to me. Let me describe her to you:

Joy understands the pain of losing someone you love. (Joy lost her father 14 years ago this past Sunday.)

Joy told me on Sunday that some days it’s easier to just be numb because to feel is to be in pain. (I thought that was very profound.)

Joy also knows that God can only heal pain when we allow ourselves to feel it.

Joy is soft-spoken and a woman of few words, but her presence assures me that no words can reach into the deep places of my heart that are meant for God alone.

Joy gives me the time and space I need to meet God in my pain.

Joy stands aside and doesn’t interfere with what God is doing in the deep inner recesses of my heart.

Joy doesn’t try to fix me. Joy has no words of advice for me. Joy just listens.  She fully realizes that the kind of healing I need, God alone can give.

Joy is okay with my pain.

Joy knows full well that sometimes there are just no words to describe my pain.

Joy lets me be real about my raw feelings and doesn’t leave my side just because I’m having a bad day.

Joy reminds me that although the pain never fully goes away, it will get easier to deal with in time.


Joy assures me that eventually I will remember happy memories of Ben with a smile on my face and not just a tear in my eye.

Joy demonstrates to me that life can go on, making new memories and learning new things about God as I do.

Joy rejoices with me and my small baby-step victories.

Joy has told me that it’s okay to want to be alone to rest, recover and take the necessary time to heal.

Joy has warned me to be real about my pain and not try to conceal it.

Joy celebrates the ways that God is using my pain to reach others and sees the potential of the “ripple effect” in and through my life.

Joy allows me to worship through my tears.

Joy sings alongside me and my pain in a beautiful harmony.

Joy lets me be sad when I’m with her and has shown me firsthand that joy and pain can truly co-exist.

Joy sounds an awful lot like another joy I know; the joy of the Lord. Yes, I have grown to love the person Joy but she would be the first one to remind me that the joy of the Lord that is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10)

“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence” (Psalm 16:11).

This is my “Ode to Joy”

“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy” (John 16:20).

July 13, 2010

Blessed Are

This is a combination of two blog posts from July 2008…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3)

Author and theologian Monika Hellwig gives us the following:

  1. The poor in spirit know they are in need and can’t help themselves.
  2. The poor in spirit know not only their dependence on God and on powerful people but also their interdependence with others.
  3. The poor in spirit rest their security not on things but on people.
  4. The poor in spirit have no exaggerated sense of their own importance and no exaggerated need of privacy.
  5. The poor in spirit are less interested in competition and more interested in cooperation.
  6. The poor in spirit instinctively appreciate family, love and relationships over things.
  7. The poor in spirit can wait, because they have learned patience.
  8. The fears of the poor in spirit are more realistic and exaggerate less, because they already know they can survive great suffering and want.
  9. When the poor in spirit have the gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not like a threatening or scolding.
  10. The poor in spirit can respond to the call of the gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.

~found in files; original source unknown

Part Two: The Beatitude Creed:

I believe that the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of Heaven.
I believe there will be comfort for those who mourn.
I believe that being meek is a good thing and that those who give everything will inherit the earth.
I believe that those whose heart is set on seeking righteousness will find it.
I believe the merciful will receive more than they think they deserve.
I believe the pure in heart will be blessed and will see God.
I believe that those who long for peace and do more than others think is safe are children of the living God.
I believe in a place of safety for those who are hurt for trying to do the right thing.

I believe that being poor, and ignored and weak, and sick and tired and broken and messed up and kicked around is not as spiritually dangerous as being self-satisfied and clever and well-clothed and well-fed and degreed and creed-ed and important.

~posted July 17th, 2008 at A Life Reviewed blog – Joe and Heather live in Coventry in the English West Midlands

May 8, 2010

The Grief Ripple

Filed under: Christianity, Faith — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:56 pm

A year ago at this time I was asking blog readers to join us in praying for Ben Elliott, an 18-year old who was stricken with leukemia.   Ben and my oldest son Chris were briefly in the same Sunday School class together.    Sadly, Ben’s body lost the fight; it would be wrong to say that Ben did, Ben really didn’t lose anything.

But his family definitely felt a loss.   In the time leading up to Ben’s death, his mom, Lisa, kept a Facebook page going titled “Pray for Benjamin Elliott.”   In it she chronicled all of the medical and emotional highs and lows of Ben’s battle with this disease.   Afterward, she kept posting articles and the page was renamed, “The Ben Ripple.”   Like the concentric circles radiating from the a center, there have been many, many ripple effects from all who were involved in or heard about Ben’s life and passing.

My wife forwards these to me, as I’m not on Facebook, and I was struck by something this week that was so trivial that Lisa had placed it in parenthesis.   I want to release it from its parenthesis for your consideration:

…Have you ever given thought to the fact that there’s no word to define a grieving parent? Someone who has lost parents is called “an orphan”. Those who have lost spouses are called “widows” or “widowers”. But there is no word that depicts what it is to be someone who has lost a child. Hmmm

In all of the debate over the doctrine of God in The Shack, many people missed the author’s primary purpose:  Dealing with “the great sadness” that presents itself in many of our lives.    It may be a loss such as Lisa and her family must deal with.   It may be relationship that ended, or one that never happened, or the one you’re in that leaves you totally unfulfilled.   It may be the children you lost in childbirth, or were never able to conceive.   It may be the opportunity that passed you by, the business that failed, the promotion that you didn’t get.    No matter what, many have a “great sadness” in their life, and often find ourselves saying, as Lisa put it so well:

There’s no word to define it.

All we can do is cry out to God:

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.   (Rom 8: 26-27)

If you wish to read some very well-written expressions of a mother’s pain in the loss of a son, I cannot recommend Lisa’s page enough. Unfortunately, there’s nowhere online I can direct you at this point, other than to join the Facebook group and subscribe to future items.   If you live in Ontario, Canada; Lisa is available as a public speaker for events including all-day women’s retreats.

If you got here from WordPress or Google tag-surfing, and you’re going through your own great sadness, let me encourage you not to “write off” Jesus just because of some previous experience with church or organized religion.    Speak to him in prayer, believing he hears our cries, and trust him to meet you in some way.   Leave a comment here and I’ll send you some off-the-blog possible next steps.

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