Archive | October 2013

Welcome Distractions

Bentlight  rainbowDevotions

Am I the only one who ever wanted to burn highlighters? After countless hours of reading textbooks in college, I had an urge to destroy highlighters. They reminded me of my need to analyze technical passages of text. Of comprehension earned after rereading a paragraph several times.

My grueling study paid off. Graduation day came. No more required reading. I could choose which books to read. Leisure reading became a passion. Especially the Bible and devotional books.

One morning as I read my devotional book, a rainbow spread across the page. As if God highlighted it with His multi-colored light. It came from the crystal I placed near my window. Often it splashed a kaleidoscope of colors in my kitchen each morning. On the walls, on the floor, on the counter…Never before did it light up the page of my book.

It got my attention. I reflected on the welcome distraction. Thanks to Isaac Newton, we know that the spectrum of colors always exists in white light. A prism simply separates the colors to reveal their beauty.

It’s the same way with leaves. Some colors are hidden. In the fall, conditions are just right for the chlorophyll (green color) to give the other colors a turn. Less light leads to less chlorophyll. Carotenoids then have their chance to reveal yellow, orange, and brown—colors that were there all along, but masked by the chlorophyll. Anthocyanins can be produced so some leaves can display red.

Hidden beauty, always there.

The sudden flash of colors took my breath away. I gasped as God reminded me, “My beauty is all around…always there. I’m always with you.”

Life raising a child with mental illness (MI) can seem very dark at times. Thankfully, God draws back the veil so we can get a peek of His exquisite Creation…evidence of His power and love.

Moses needed God to show him the way. He spoke directly to God asking Him, “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you (Exodus 33:13).”

Don’t we all seek to know God more? Don’t we hope to find favor with God?

God assured Moses, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest (Exodus 33:14).”

Wouldn’t we love to have that assurance? That God’s presence WILL go with us. And He will give us rest. Happily, we do share that assurance. Though our journey seems lonely, we’re not alone. He’s with us. Though our journey is exhausting (mentally, emotionally, physically), we have access to His rest.

Although God spoke directly to Moses, Moses needed tangible evidence of God’s presence. He requested, “Please show me Your glory (Exodus 33:15).”

Gotta love Moses for his honesty. Reminds me of a young child asking, “How will I know you’re in the audience?”

Although Moses wasn’t able to see God’s face, God allowed him to catch a glimpse of His back (Exodus 33:20-23).

Moses’ example emboldens us to ask God for evidence of His presence. In your dark place, ask God to reveal Himself. To give you tangible evidence He’s walking with you. So you know you’re not alone. Then watch for it.

The rainbow lightshow which splashed across my devotional book, though mesmerizing, can’t compare to the light we’ll see someday in heaven. Where there will be an end to darkness.

“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned (Matthew 4:16).”

Listen to Light of the World  (Tim Hughes) and reflect on His amazing love for you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aa9FIUHKIWQ

 

Advertisements

What must it be like?

wonder.contemplation

What would it take for others to understand what you’re going through?

My career in education began 36 yrs. ago when I taught students with multiple handicaps. My training prepared me to provide appropriate instruction for them. Nothing could prepare me to completely understand the challenges they faced. Until I got multiple sclerosis (MS).

Nowadays, I feel the frustration of not being able to think clearly when I’m tired. I struggle with challenges encountered when out in public. Climbing stairs never used to be so exhausting.  Greater insight brings more sympathy. Now I can empathize with my former students.

I’ve found that greater insight into mental illness (MI) helps me sympathize with our son. I often wonder what it must be like for him.

A common side effect of psychotropic medications is weight gain. So Chris chose to go off his meds. He now manages his illness himself. By limiting stressful activities. By remaining physically active.

I’m amazed at how he’s able to function without his medical treatment. He’s goal-oriented, works on computer projects, and stays active in his church. All a testimony to his determination.

It helps me to reflect on the effort he must invest to engage in routine activities.

When any of us are tired, we find it difficult to be pleasant. When we feel sick, we don’t want to interact with anyone. Reminding myself of that helps me build more tolerance. Instead of getting annoyed with his behaviors, I’m able to focus more on how he must feel. Then compassion replaces frustration. Suddenly I realize how hard Chris is trying to live a normal life. Then I know how to pray for him.

We can use the same selfless thinking to understand our spouse. What must it be like for a husband to have a child with MI? Men need to fix things. But MI seems impossible to repairable at times.

We have to assume our husband is grieving. He deals with his grief differently than a woman would. Pausing to remember that helps build compassion.

Our motherly instincts compel us to care for everyone. We identify a need and meet it. We see a problem and fix it. We’re so good at caring for others. Little time is left for us to reflect on how we’re coping.  Rarely do we stop and consider our needs.

But what about me? Who understands MY needs? Does anyone care what it’s like for me?

The good news is that Christ did more than ‘walk a mile in our shoes.’ He came into our world.

Does He know what it’s like for you to have children and a husband all vying for your attention? Yes, He felt throngs clamoring for His attention.

Does He know what it’s like for you to collapse into bed at night, fully drained of all energy (physical, emotional, and mental)? He experienced physical exhaustion. He endured the pain of the cross.

Does He know what it’s like for a husband to let you down? He gave His life for the church and suffers when His bride/people deny him or refuse His unconditional love and free gift of salvation. He knows what it feels like to be betrayed by his followers, those He loved.

Christ not only knows what it’s like, He knows how you feel. He knows your every thought and sees every tear. The best part is that He has power to do something about it. To provide just what you need.

He knows what it’s like for you to have a child with MI. Let the words of Tommy Walker’s ‘He Knows my Name’ minister to you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBmtGSuw04Y

Emotional Pain of Bullying

 

Vicki's Picture Book

Vicki’s Picture Book

“What if my son wasn’t bullied?”

Is that thought among your what ifs? Do you wonder what role bullying played in your child’s mental illness (MI)? Thinking maybe bullying caused it.

Bullying is painful for the target and for the victim’s mother.

Our son, Chris, was the object of bullying throughout school. His ADHD made him an easy target. Other kids knew how to torment him in class without getting caught. If Chris told them to stop, he’d be the one to get in trouble for disrupting the class. His belongings were often taken from him. Kids teased him at recess. Even beat him up. He got so taunted on the bus that I drove him to and from school.

As he got older, it got worse. In sixth grade Chris became a latch-key kid. My new job prevented me from driving him to and from school. He had to take the bus. When he got off the bus, children harassed him. The school district said there was nothing they could do. The police advised against taking action. Saying it would only enflame the situation. So each day when I came home I’d check him for bruises. Then I’d comfort him and repair his damaged self-esteem.

Just when things seemed like they couldn’t get worse, they did. In high school he joined the marching band. I often watched his peers walk past him as if he didn’t exist. A form of bullying that says, “You’re not worthy enough to be acknowledged.” Someone even pulled a knife on him. In college a teacher whacked him on the head with a book because he slept in class. NOTE: His medication made him drowsy.

Undoubtedly, bullying impacts mental health. The website stopbully.gov addresses the effects of bullying. They state, “Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes including impacts on mental health …”

Some children are bullied more than others. Even just one traumatic event can scar someone emotionally. It’s time to update the old adage: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never FOREVER hurt me.” Emotional scars can last a lifetime.

Ask my mother-in-law, Mary. When she was alive, she frequently told the story of an incident that happened when she was eight years old.

At home, her parents spoke Ukrainian. So, Mary pronounced ‘soup’ by saying ‘zoup.’ In second grade she told her teacher, “I’m having zoup for lunch.”

Her teacher asked her to repeat what she said.

Mary repeated it and the entire class laughed at her. Including the teacher.

Mary told that story over and over again … even 85 yrs. after it happened.

Bullying has impacted my life as a bystander, parent, educator, and administrator. That’s why I wrote a picture book to empower bystanders. Children who witness bullying are often too intimidated to tell an adult. There seemed to be a need for a book to help bystanders. One that parents and educators could use to teach bystanders what they can do to prevent bullying. Heart Eyes: Beth and the Bullies is now available on Amazon in print or as an eBook.

What’s the worst kind of bullying? Would it be when someone is threatening a person’s life? Imagine if your best friend’s father was trying to kill you? In the Bible we read about David. His best friend’s father, Saul, repeatedly tried to kill David.

David didn’t understand why he was so persecuted. He asked his best friend, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to kill me?”  (1 Samuel 20:1)

Later in 1 Samuel 30:4 we read how things got so bad that, “David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.”

Have you ever cried that much over the tragedy of your child’s life?

The same God who protected David’s life can minister to you. David strengthened himself in the Lord his God (1 Samuel 30:6). Find inner strength in the Lord your God.

We can praise God in our storm because we know He’s with us. ‘Praise You in the Storm’ by Casting Crowns reminds us of that truth.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCpP0mFD9F0

 

 

Mental Health Boot Camp

boot.camp.mental.health

My husband and I will be away on Wednesday so I’m posting this early.

I’m passing along a post from another website. It was posted on Devotional Diva’s blog September 30th.  It clearly portrays what life can be like raising a child with mental illness. While demonstrating how to maintain a focus on the Lord.

http://www.devotionaldiva.com/2013/09/mental-health-boot-camp/#comments

Rest in His love for you as you listen to “Be Still and Know” from Scripture Lullabies.

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

Encouragement for Emotional Exhaustion

calm.response

Are there days you wish you could be like Star Trek’s Spock? Void of emotions. Ever wish you could take a day off from your emotions?

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could pick and choose which emotions you’d experience? I’d keep exuberant joy, passionate love, and heartfelt compassion. And pass on sorrow, worry, depression, and frustration.

Emotions seem so hard to tame. It’s critical to control our responses to a child with serious mental illness (MI). If we don’t hide our reactions, we could enflame an explosive situation. If we reveal our frustration, we could drive a child deeper into depression.

A new perspective will help us maintain a calm demeanor. Here’s how I tried to convey that point to a teacher. As Director of Instruction, I provided support to educators. One day a teacher came to me with a concern.

“Frank comes into my class every day late. He never has all his supplies or his homework. He doesn’t pay attention and calls out regularly.”

“Why are you angry?” was my reply.

He blinked in confusion and repeated his statement.

“Frank comes into my class every day late. He never has all his supplies or his homework. He doesn’t pay attention and calls out regularly.”

“Why are you angry?” I repeated, using a casual tone.

Assuming I didn’t understand his statement, he elaborated on the points made.

“Frank interrupts my class by coming into my class every day late. He’s failing academically because he never has all his supplies or his homework. When he doesn’t pay attention he feels it’s okay to call out without raising his hand.”

“Why are you angry?” I repeated with the same calm tone.

In stunned silence he glared at me. He needed my support and expected my sympathy. And felt like he got neither. First, he needed to hear my explanation.

“Frank’s not doing it TO you. You’re the professional. You need not take his behavior personally. He has ADHD. He’s lacking the skills. I can help you by providing suggestions and support to equip Frank with improved study skills.”

Anger can make a situation worse. It’s possible to respond without being annoyed when we understand the source of the behaviors.

MI causes behaviors which mimic noncompliance. A parent demands, “Answer me.” The depressed child who remains silent can seem disobedient. A mother shouts, “Stop throwing things!” The psychotic child who throws again can appear rebellious.

Do we excuse wrong behaviors because the child has MI? No. Do we stop requiring appropriate behaviors? No. But we need not react in anger when our instructions aren’t followed correctly.

It helps to keep a focus on the source of behaviors. Allowing the Holy Spirit guide our reactions helps even more. The fruit of the Holy Spirit includes gentleness. We have access to divine calmness if we learn to yield to it. Could that be one reason God has allowed MI to enter our world? For our spiritual growth. To see Him work in our lives.

One of my favorite inspirational speakers and authors is John Maxwell. Here’s one of his quotes.

“… if you don’t have peace, it isn’t because someone took it from you; you gave it away. You cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control what happens in you.”
John C. Maxwell, Be a People Person

John Maxwell’s father once told him, “It’s not what’s happening around you that’s important; it’s what’s happening IN you.”

God is using our trial to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit: gentleness, long suffering, joy, peace, and unconditional love.

Father, help us know which battles to choose and when to ignore behaviors. Help us pause in situations to let You have victory in our emotional responses.

Matt Redman sings about God being slow to anger in his song ‘Bless the Lord.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jYLTn4fKYQ