Archive | October 2012

Hurricane

Hurricane Sandy seen moving towards the east coast of the US in this NASA satellite image taken on 10-29-12

Yesterday, a friend and I drove towards the approaching Hurricane Sandy.

Dubbed “Frankenstorm”, the storm promised to be large, powerful, and dangerous. The ingredients were enough to impress meteorologists and terrorize residents along the northeast coastline of America. The 2nd largest hurricane ever would cross land in the most populated part of our country.  A powerful Jetstream from the west and a high in the north would create a wind tunnel. Increasing the storm’s intensity.

The storm was predicted to hit our area on Monday. But, a hurricane that has tropical storm-force winds extending out to 520 miles can pack a punch even from a distance. As we drove home toward the Philadelphia area, we were grateful the wind and rain weren’t too bad.

So, why would my friend and I even think of venturing out Sunday afternoon? We wanted to connect with other families who would understand what it’s like to have a loved one with mental illness (MI).

We know there are other moms like us who have a child with mental illness. But, we wanted to meet other courageous families who know exactly what our lives are like. So, we traveled 82 miles to attend a support group meeting at No Longer Alone Ministries. Attending their Christian support group meeting was our motivation.

We left feeling blessed and encouraged. Those who attended the meeting inspired us. They told stories of how they cling to their faithful Father in the midst of deep sorrow and grief.

Each day, they live in the midst of a storm.

Some experience swirling winds of emotions, and crashing violence. Some spoke of the impact MI had on finances.

Others face an eerie silence from a once vibrant child.

All expressed an awareness of the challenges of a storm: unpredictability of their situation, loss of power, disruption of normalcy, uncertainty of the future, and destruction of lives.

All offered testimony to how God has provided. Surely God can be found in the storms of life.

Exodus 24:12 tells us the Lord invited Moses to, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here…”

That’s His invitation to us. Moses heard God speak from within the cloud.

We, too, can hear God speak to us inside our clouds. Listen to His promises.

As I watch scenes on TV which show the power of the storm, I’m reminded of God’s power and provision. His people wandered in the wilderness and God provided for their needs. Food rained down from heaven in such abundance that it couldn’t be counted.

“He let loose the east wind from the heavens and by his power made the south wind blow. He rained meat down on them like dust, birds like sand on the seashore.”  Psalm 78:26-28

That same God will provide for our needs as we journey in our wilderness.

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Is mental illness contagious?

Ever worry that you’re losing your mind? When mental illness hits home, so do unusual or unnerving behaviors. Your child may do things that seem completely out of character. You’re taken off guard. It makes no sense. Life becomes unpredictable.

It’s like walking on a tightrope that periodically gets shaken. Without any notice, turbulence begins. Your feet hold on for dear life. The only thing keeping you from falling into the abyss is one thin cord.

Only, the cord is your own mental capacities to think clearly. In order to prepare for another shocking event or action, you cling tightly.

The only rational response is to expect turmoil. Unprovoked anger, bazaar behaviors, and strange comments are the norm. Nothing surprises you anymore. To prepare for the next wave of emotion, your alert button is kept on high.

But, the grip on your sanity starts to slip. That rope is about to snap. You wonder if mental illness is somehow contagious.

Have I come to an acceptance of mental illness? Or am I losing my mind? I can’t hold on much longer.

Before you become unwound, hold onto the hope of God’s peace.

I know firsthand that you can have peace in the midst of piercing sorrow. When our son had to be hospitalized, sadness stabbed my heart. Yet, God’s perfect peace kept me from unraveling. I experienced calmness in the midst of crisis. You can too.

How?

Music soothes the soul.

David’s music eased a king’s troubled soul. Fill your home with worship music. Songs that remind you of His faithfulness and love.

Reflect on one verse each day. Feed on promises like:

You can have perfect peace. (Isaiah 26:3)

You can lie down in peace and sleep in safety. (Psalm 4:8)

You can have peace in spite of trouble because He has overcome the world. (John 16:33)

You can have peace at all times and in every way. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

You can live in peace because the God of peace is with us. (2 Corinthians 13:11)

You don’t have to be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)

Your mind and heart will be guarded. (Philippians 4:7)

God is your peace. (Ephesians 2:14)

Christ’s peace can rule in your heart. (Colossians 3:15)

The God of peace will equip you. (Hebrews 13:20-21)

He will fill your heart with joy. (Acts 14:17)

Verses about Peace

Psalm 34:14 tells us to, “Seek peace and pursue it.”

It’s yours for the taking.

Overwhelmed with Sorrow

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2

Throughout Chris’s school years, learning was easy for him. He always brought home A’s. Until one day.

Chris’s first grade teacher wanted to prepare me for the unusually low grade he would bring home that day. Since I taught in the small Christian school he attended, I ate lunch with his teacher.

“I had to give Chris a D on his math test,” she explained.

“Why?”

“He didn’t follow the directions.”

After school, Chris came to my classroom. As soon as he started to talk, he burst into tears.

“What’s the matter, Chris?”

Thrusting his math paper at me, he sobbed, “I got this paper back.”

“Why are you crying?”

“I’m afraid you’re not gonna love me anymore.”

How could he think such a thing? What made him believe my love could be turned off by a mere bad grade? How could he ever imagine my love for him was conditional?

Then it dawned on me. Tests grades with A’s were proudly displayed on our refrigerator. Chris assumed the kitchen was our hall of earned love. The place of honor reserved for excellent work. In his mind, papers with A’s were payments to gain my love.

Chris was overwhelmed with sorrow at the thought I wouldn’t love him anymore. His sadness opened the floodgates of my compassion.

“Oh, Chris, nothing will ever stop me from loving you. Not this grade. Not any mistake you’ll ever make. I will always love you.”

Chris isn’t the only one who’s become overwhelmed with sorrow.

Jesus became overwhelmed with sorrow. In the book of Matthew, Jesus told His disciples He was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” when faced with bearing the burden of everyone’s sin (Matthew 26:38). What was His response?  He found a quiet place and prayed to His father.

We, too, suffer great sorrow. In agony, we watch our child struggle with mental illness. Do we pray to our Father?

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told his disciples to pray so they won’t fall into temptation. That’s His desire for us too. He knows we face the temptation to give into our human reactions. It’s easy to become fearful, uncertain, hopeless, and depressed.

Just like Chris, go to God and honestly admit, “I haven’t followed Your directions and have neglected my private times with You. I’m afraid you don’t love me anymore. Show me Your love. Help me see Your path for my child’s life. Reveal Your presence in my house. Restore clarity of thought and joy to my son. Encourage me today. Bless me with Your perfect peace.”

Release the floodgates of His love for you.

Ask Like A Toddler

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”   Luke 11:9-13

Toddlers don’t hesitate to ask parents for what they want. Sadly, maturity sometimes leads to reluctance to ask for help.

When I taught second graders I often had parents volunteering in my classroom. They helped me with necessary tasks such as making copies and changing bulletin boards. Their extra set of hands helped with art projects. Students benefitted from an extra pair of eyes.

One day a parent volunteer noticed a student quietly shivering in my cold air conditioned classroom.

“I think that girl needs a sweater,” the alert parent whispered.

Why didn’t she just ask for a sweater? There were two adults in the room and yet she didn’t ask for what she needed. She quietly endured discomfort.

We do the same thing with God. Often, we quietly suffer without simply asking God for the relief we need. Just as our hearts went out to the little girl, God’s heart is near to you. We answered the unspoken request of that child. God sometimes answerers our unspoken requests. But, He desires that we cry out to Him in our times of need.

It’s so easy to slip into the pattern of managing everything. We take our child to the psychiatrist, make sure he takes his medication, and contact his school. We’re even proactive at saving our troubled marriage. We talk to our husbands, right? Trying our best to work through grief together. Without stopping to ask God for help.

Handling everything ourselves can be futile. Discouraging. Depressing. It can lead to a negative outlook on our situation. Turning to Him, can restore a heavenly up look on life.

I sometimes have to learn the hard way by not tapping into God’s unlimited power and love. But other times, I witness incredible answers to prayer. When I pause to send a specific request heavenward.

We read about Christ silencing the wind and flattening waves. How He healed a soldier’s severed ear and raised Lazarus from the dead. We have access to that power. Is it the busyness of life that prevents us from turning to our Father?

It’s like we’re locked in a room with open doors. Christ challenges us to knock and the door will be opened. He’s whispering to you the same question He asked the blind man, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

Ask like a toddler and wait expectantly for God’s answer. It will come!

Halloween and a Troubled Mind: A Bad Combination

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

I have multiple sclerosis (MS). Heat and MS are a bad combination. Heat and humidity make my aches more painful.

So, I avoid them at all cost. There are things I can do in my home. Lowering the temperature revives me. Air conditioning is like medicine. Closed blinds scream, “Sun, do not enter!”

But, outside searing rays are all around. Exposure to the heat seems inevitable during the summer. Am I doomed to a reclusive life four months of the year?

No! I refuse to be banished from outdoor activities. A cooling vest, a battery operated hand-held fan, and a large floppy hat protect me from burning temperatures. Life is more bearable. Avoiding a bad combination is the key.

Others know the dangers of harmful exposures.

The diabetic refrains from binging on sugar. The lung cancer patient ceases from smoking cigarettes. Sweets and smoking feed those diseases. Resisting past indulgences improves one’s health.

What should someone with mental illness (MI) avoid? Halloween. Exposure to disturbing images can’t be good for someone with MI. Such a person needs relief from distorted thinking or turbulent emotions.

Should we resign ourselves to the steady diet of ugliness October brings?

No! We can refuse to have our children’s heads contaminated with grotesque get-ups masquerading as fun costumes. And feed our kids spiritually healthy food instead. Filling their minds with joy and hope.

The Bible is our sword of defense. God’s Truth can shift the focus to pure and pleasant thoughts. That’s how we combat their troubled thinking and dark emotions.

When Chris was recovering from his first psychotic episode, I gave him a 2” X 3” Bible verse card each day.  He kept it in his pocket. That tiny card became his private lifeline in the midst of assailing ugly thoughts. During his school day, he had instant access to biblical truths.

Whenever he began to feel overwhelmed, fearful, or sad, he reached for the card. Healing promises refreshed his soul. Helping him to refocus on God’s love.

I, too, find refreshment in His Word. Reflecting on God’s faithfulness gives me strength. I feed on the promises of the Bible. They are a feast for my heart.