Archive | May 2013

What is on your mind?

mind

My son once asked me, “Where do you live?” He hadn’t suddenly forgotten our address. The question could have been translated: “Do you live in the past, or do you live in the future?” It was Chris’s way of finding out what preoccupies my thoughts.

My answer: “Some people live in the past. Reliving memories of happier times. Others live in the future. Waiting for a dream to come true. I choose to live in the center of God’s will for my life.”

Chris’s inquiry got to the heart of emotional stability. Anxiety or peace. Dissatisfaction or contentment. Striving or resting.

A mother who has a child with serious mental illness (MI) might be tempted to live in the past. To reminisce of times when her child seemed care-free. Or, she may be taunted by thoughts of what the future holds for her child. Fearful that things could get worse.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy paging through the memory book of my mind. Flipping through mental images of Chris bowling with his brother, receiving his black belt in karate, or playing his trombone in Penn State’s marching Blue Band.

Another favorite mental pastime of mine is to push the time travel button in my mind. To mentally transport myself to the future with Chris. To stroll down the streets of future scenes. Take a peek at Desires Boulevard, Hopes Avenue, and Dreams Lane. Gather assurances that Chris will be okay.

But, I’ve learned that dwelling in the past or living solely for the future can lead to torment.

Philippians 4:8 tells us to concentrate on, “…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.”

Why are we told to focus on those things? If we make it our goal to fill our thoughts with such things, will it make a difference?

Let’s try it. Reflect on examples of each category. Think about how those truths would apply to the struggles you face as a mom of a child with MI.

Contemplate what is true. We know for sure certain things about God. He is alive, in control, all powerful, and accessible. He showed His love by giving His only Son. He will heal, help, protect, and answer (for your good and for His kingdom, to bring about His perfect plan).

Consider what is noble. It is honorable to love unconditionally. God enables us to bless those who curse.

Think about what is right. It is good to keep forgiving without reservation. And to pray for our enemies.

Ponder what is lovely. God’s creation reminds us of His power. He’s still in control.

Examine what is pure. Christ’s perfection provides an example of pure actions. The Holy Spirit helps us achieve holy thoughts…of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness.

Acknowledge what is admirable. Providing help and protection to the vulnerable is commendable. Doing it daily, sacrificially, and selflessly is a testimony of God’s faithfulness.

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Romans 15:5-6

Rest your thoughts on your Lord as you listen to Hillsong’s “There is None Like You.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_ofyu8vN9w

 

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Intuition

intuition

Did your motherly instinct ever contradict actions recommended by professionals? There are times to trust your gut. Our children with serious mental illness (MI) need protection. We’re their first line of defense.

Moses’ parents did what was necessary to protect their baby. “By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”  Hebrews 11:23

Years ago, I did what was necessary to protect Chris. There came I time when I had to stand up against professionals. Maybe the details of my story will sound familiar.

*******************

The day came for Chris to begin treatment in a partial-care facility. As I drove him there, I worried if the professionals would be caring. I tried to reassure myself everything would be okay.

How can I leave Chris with complete strangers? He just experienced being locked in a psychiatric unit in the hospital. The psychiatrist said he’s ready for the next step. But, I know Chris is still emotionally fragile. God will be with him there.

As we approached the facility, there was a sign directing us to a temporary trailer. The sign on the door read: “Partial-Care Temporary Treatment Facility: Due to fire, our main facility is being repaired.”

I dropped Chris off and went home. Household chores couldn’t keep my mind of Chris.

What’s he doing now? Is his day structured? Is he responding to the other patients? Is he interacting with them?

The day dragged on. Finally, it was time to pick him up. I studied Chris’s face as he approached the car. He walked slowly. Head down. No smile.

“How did it go, Chris?”

“I couldn’t stand it. I felt closed in. It reminded me of the hospital. I felt like a caged animal.”

“How was the social worker?”

“She spoke mean to me. She hates her job.”

Chris’s remarks about the social worker concerned me. Chris’s MI caused him to have a negative attitude. But, God provided discernment. My heavenly Father used my intuition to tell me Chris’s assessment was accurate.

The next day, I accompanied Chris into the facility to meet the social worker. We had a brief conversation. The most enlightening portion went like this:

“Have you worked here long?”

“Only a few years. Chris will soon have a new social worker here. I’ll be leaving soon. I’m pregnant. I’m looking for a different profession. I hate this job.”

Her comments confirmed my suspicions. Chris was right. Suddenly it was even harder to leave him. Knowing he’d be spending the day with someone who hates her job (and Chris?).

When I picked Chris up, he offered some news.

“I met with a psychiatrist.”

“How long was your meeting?”

“Only a few minutes.”

Chris seemed very agitated.

“I don’t want to go back to that place.”

Once again, God provided discernment. My intuition told me his reaction was based on a bad situation, rather than on his condition. His medication had started to help him return to the old Chris. I decided to let Chris stay home the next day (to take a break from the program).

The next day, I called the guidance counselor of Chris’s school. I wanted to inquire about homebound instruction. Little did I know, I was about to get lectured by that professional.

“I’m calling to discuss the details of Chris’s homebound instruction.”

“Mrs. Chandler, where’s Chris?”

“He’s home with me. I kept him home because the partial-care facility seemed like a detrimental place for him. The social worker admitted to me she hates her job.”

“It’s against the school district policy for Chris to be absent. You need to call our social worker.”

When I called the social worker, she yelled at me. She chastised me for making the decision to keep Chris home. In an angry tone she said, “Mrs. Chandler, you’re too over-involved.”

Too over-involved! With my own son?! Does she actually believe I’m simply allowing Chris to play hooky? Surely, she knows about Chris’s diagnosis. Lord, help me respond correctly.

“First of all, I’m the one in crisis and you’re the professional. I’d appreciate it if you’d speak to me with more compassion. Secondly, there’s NO WAY I could ever be over-involved with my son. He’s MY son. I’ll do what I feel is best for him. The social worker at the partial-care facility hates her job and was agitating Chris.”

Her reply: “Well, the psychiatrist at that facility determined that Chris is ready to go back to school.”

In shock I said, “That was based on a brief conversation with Chris, without reading Chris’s hospital records, or without speaking to me!”

“There are procedures to be followed, Mrs. Chandler. You can’t simply keep Chris home.”

“Well in lieu of anyone taking the lead, I’d be happy to take responsibility to arrange a meeting.”

The school social worker backed off and said, “The social worker at the partial-care facility is supposed to arrange a meeting. I’ll make sure it happens as soon as possible.”

I hung up the phone. Emotionally spent. But, grateful God helped me stand up to the professional who—shall we say—lacked bedside manners.

*******************

Sometimes God uses caring professionals to guide us through the mental health system. Other times, He alone provides the discernment and wisdom for us to know what’s best for our child. Either way, God equips us to do what He calls us to do.

Listen to “Lord, Reign in Me” as a reminder He’s alive and directing you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSdthxieYp4

Was there a time when your woman’s intuition directed you to stand strong against professionals on behalf of your child?

 

 

Happy Days

Chris and Bobby at Disney World

Chris and Bobby at Disney World

“Happy days.” What does that conjure up in your mind? The Fonze? Carefree times, now gone? A yearning for joy to replace mental illness (MI)?

Does your mind wander back to happier days before MI hit? Or do your senses sabotage your emotions?

One day, I visited our son’s former Christian elementary school. To attend the funeral of a loved one. I cried more AFTER the service ended. It’s because I chose to exit the building through the classroom hallways.

The familiar smell of the building instantly transported me back 25 yrs. Back when Chris was in elementary school. Back when life seemed less complicated. Back when Chris’s eyes sparkled with joy.

Funny how one whiff of a building can flood you with feelings you had forgotten. Like an electric shock, the aroma jolted my thoughts to days when Chris seemed happy-go-lucky. Memories rushed through my mind. Suddenly, I “saw” Chris bouncing into my classroom at the end of the day to share what he’d learned. I “heard” his young voice telling me what he did at recess.

I “heard” him share happy news. “Mom, we’re going to go on a field trip to the science museum. I’ll get to see what a real planetarium looks like. I can’t wait!” Echoes from the past so real they tempted me to look for an apparition.

I had shoved those scenes deep into my memory. Locked them into a trunk stored in the attic of my mind.

Don’t unpack those memories, Vicki. Don’t even consider mentally caressing them for a second. Those times are gone. Love Chris for how he is now. Be grateful for glimmers of Chris’s personality and joy.

I quickly exited the building. Barely making it to my vehicle before violent sobs overtook me. I sat in the car with streams of tears pouring down my cheeks. As painful as it was, I needed that moment of private grief.  I needed those precious reminders of the son I know and love. God ministered to me in that quiet sanctuary.  He gently reminded me that Chris is still there. Locked behind an illness that masks his joy and peace.

Other aromas spark emotion. Reminders of happy days include: ballpark franks, burning leaves, boardwalk fudge, movie popcorn, Thanksgiving turkey, new school supplies, and Grandma’s perfume.

We wonder if we’re making any difference at all in the lives of those around us. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were the fragrance that stirs someone’s heart for Jesus? 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 tell us, “In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.”  (MSG)

Imagine that…through us, God is spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.

Reflect on this sentence:

“God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade.”

Easter lilies remind us of another happy day…of when Jesus washed our sins away. Enjoy “Oh Happy Day.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a37bBm8pXSk

 

Pain

tear drop

Want some free pain management advice?

Pain. Yours or your child’s is difficult to deal with. Emotional pain can be even more debilitating than physical soreness. We’d pay anything for relief.

There’s someone who knows a thing or two about pain. Paul in the Bible experienced pain and learned how to handle it. Pretend you’re having a conversation with Paul. Here’s how the interview might go:

Do you ever feel hopeless?

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-11

I DO feel in despair. That’s easy for you to say that you can show God’s power. You don’t know what I’m facing.

“I have…been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”  2 Corinthians 11:23-28

Why didn’t you ever ask God to spare you from any suffering?

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:8-10

You’re saying you delight in weakness. Are you kidding? Why would you say such a thing? How can you possibly say you delight in weakness?

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I HAVE LEARNED to be content whatever the circumstances… I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:11, 13

I still get so discouraged when my emotional pain is so great, or when my child’s mental illness prevents him from doing the things he used to do.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”  2 Corinthians 4:16

I still don’t understand how you can have such a positive outlook when you’ve experienced so much suffering. What’s your secret?

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:18

My pain is so severe that some days I don’t think I can endure life any more. I don’t think I could focus on anything other than my pain. I’m not like you.

Others had tough times. Job lost his business and children all in one day he “got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’”  Job 1:20-21

I still need help to think of God’s power instead of my suffering.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1-2

It helps to remember that Jesus suffered worse pain for me. Many people don’t know how much pain I secretly endure. But, He understands my suffering. I’m comforted knowing He will perfect my faith. He knows I need greater faith. He’ll help me keep my focus on Him. Is that right?

******************

What would you like to ask Paul?

 Steve Green sings about that great cloud of witnesses in his song: “Find Us Faithful.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi-Mn5tRHvM

Tsunami

tsunami

Which is worse: dealing with unpredictable behaviors, or facing certain devastation? As bad as things seem, they could always be worse.

My heart goes out to moms who have kids with serious mental illness (MI). It’s not possible for me to reach out and hug each of you, so I share Bible verses of comfort.

This devotional is offered as a different form of comfort. I decided to relate a story about a mother who is facing a much greater trial than mine. Her struggles put mine into perspective. Maybe you’ll have a similar response. Or, you might read her story and realize that you’re living a worse nightmare. In that case, this story might take your mind of your situation momentarily. Regardless of your situation, I’m sure you can stand a dose of inspiration…to read about how another mom is able to find joy in the Lord. Even though she faces impending grief.

After church, I ran into a parent of two former students. Her older son, Andrew, recently graduated from high school. I knew he’d been suffering symptoms of a rare progressive neurological disease. Kim gave me an update.

“Andrew’s been diagnosed with a rare disease which is similar to childhood Alzheimer’s. David has also been diagnosed with it.”

That sentence hit me like a bullet.

Please Lord, no! This can’t be happening. Not to a family who loves You so much. Not to Andrew who has such a sweet personality. Not to David who’s only in ninth grade. How will David cope as he watches his future unfold—seeing the disease takes its toll on Andrew first.”

I stood there in shock, choking back tears. Speechless. Unable to move.

My mind swirled with questions.

How can a parent deal with the knowledge that her two sons will die young? It must feel like being strapped to a chair, watching a tsunami approach in slow motion. With nothing to do but think about the impending destruction. Dreams demolished. Emotions obliterated. Unbearable heartache.

Moses faced an impossible situation. An army of chariots quickly closed in. Millions of Israelites complained in fear. The Red Sea blocked an escape.

By faith Moses said, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”  Exodus 14:13-14

Can Moses’ advice help us?

We fight MI. Others deal with the onslaught of an incurable disease, unfair accusations, or an unexpected betrayal. Many wage a battle within of doubt, uncertainty, loneliness, mental exhaustion, or discouragement.

Regardless of our circumstances, we can all find comfort in knowing the Lord will fight for us. Our challenge: to be still before God. And wait in confidence for His deliverance.

By the way, on that day when Kim provided the update, she asked me, “Would you be willing to tell what Andrew was like in second grade? We’re making a documentary for our website. We want to educate people about the disease.”

I agreed. The Lord helped me speak without crying. You can see that documentary on The Andrew Coppola Foundation website.

Are you able to get still before the Lord? How/where/when do you do that?

Maybe Hillsong’s ‘Still’ will help you draw near to Him in stillness:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28ZZgD3Q9sQ