Archive | December 2013

Don’t Underestimate Your Influence

PositiveInfluence

Do you ever wonder if you’re helping your child who has mental illness (MI)? His illness may prevent him from thanking you. Your spouse may not acknowledge your efforts. When we near our breaking point, we’re tempted to give up.

This message is dedicated to the countless moms who privately provide support. No one sees all you do. No one could know how you minister to your child, in spite of your broken heart. You’d much rather crawl into bed and cry … for a week or two. But there’s no time for you to grieve.

Recently, I witnessed beautiful motherly care and attention. My good friend sat beside her adult son in a mental health care facility.

She had recently totaled her car, which left her with some back pain. She and her husband had settlement the day after her son was admitted into the hospital. Her husband had paper work to do. So she went to visit her son alone (not knowing I’d come alongside her).

In spite of fighting a cold, she asked all the right questions. Presenting each one lovingly.

“Did you eat last night?”
“How did you sleep?”

“Do you like your psychiatrist?”

“Do you take a walk in the hallway sometimes?”

“Did you have group?”

“What are you thinking?”

Periodically, she gently stroked his arm. Sometimes, she allowed silence.

She reassured him without promising something that may not happen.

“Do you think I’ll be able to go to my Bible study’s Christmas party on Friday?” her son asked.

“Maybe. Hopefully,” was her honest reply.

My friend held it together while in the hospital. Until we stepped outside after visiting hours. The exit door became a faucet for her tears.

I tried to comfort her. “Are you okay?”

“I’m numb,” she said as she softly cried.

I gently stroked her back.

Will her son be released before Christmas? That remains to be seen. Will his new medication restore him to his sweet self? Time will tell.

When is it a good time to be hospitalized for MI? Certainly not at Christmas.

Seventeen years ago Christmas wasn’t a time for celebration. Our son, Chris, had to be hospitalized. Those memories mercifully have begun to fade. Visiting my friend’s son threatened to arouse painful emotions.

“Are you sure you want to go?” asked my husband lovingly. Wondering if it would be too difficult for me to relive reminders of our son’s hospitalization.

“This will be healing for me,” I answered. “I know how much it would have meant if someone sat by me when Chris was hospitalized (if you couldn’t come). Especially if that person knew exactly what I was feeling.”

So I went. And was blessed by what I saw in my friend’s compassionate care of her son.

Her son also impressed me. There he sat in a psychiatric hospital speaking about God’s Word. He quoted verses from the Bible and discussed some of his favorite stories. His shattered cognition didn’t dampen his determination to focus on the Lord. His inner turmoil didn’t rob him of his love for God. My friend can take credit for investing Truth in him. God’s Word promises that His Truth will not come back void.

Isaiah 55:11 tells us, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”  (KJV)

Can anyone relate to the thankless care you provide for your child with MI? Certainly the Lord can. He healed ten lepers, but only one thanked Him. He died on the cross for the sins of all mankind, but men mocked Him as He hung dying. Spewing anger in return for His unconditional love. Countless still ignore His free gift of salvation.

Christ surely knows what it’s like for you. He sees your faithful labors of love. So seek His approval. He’s well-pleased with you. And know this: you’re having a positive impact on your child even though it can’t be measured.

Hang in there, with your focus firmly fixed on Him.

The song “In Christ Alone” (from the Secrets Of The Vine CD) reminds us that, “Here in the power of Christ we stand.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExnTlIM5QgE

 

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What’s the Difference?

whats.the.diff

We’re not much different than kids. We all do it. Grab the last one. We race to the only empty parking spot at the mall. We snatch the final electronic sale-priced item on the shelf.

Kids squabble over the last piece of cake. Their arguments can get nasty. What’s the solution? Have one cut it into two pieces. Let the other choose his piece. That ensures the cutter will slice it into equal pieces. Yet, the chooser often examines the two pieces like a scientist examining evidence under a microscope. Searching for any evidence one is larger than the other. Seeking an incremental difference.

Sometimes the difference isn’t so subtle. If you have several children, you know each one is unique—vastly unlike the others. Mental illness (MI) magnifies the differences. Your child with MI requires more time, attention, and prayer. No wonder the lower-maintenance kids feel left out.

While our boys were growing up, I did the best I could. Each day consisted of the usual responsibilities: teaching, making meals, taking the boys to practices, running errands, ensuring homework got done, and grading my students’ papers. All in the context of my having multiple sclerosis.

Some days also included dealing with Chris’s MI, finding out how Chris managed during the day, picking up medication or making a doctor appointment, talking to one of Chris’s teachers…

Our other son, Rob, lost out on much of my attention. I wished things were different.

When Chris went away to college, he called home often. One day Rob said, “When I go to college, I won’t be calling that much.”

His remark had a hint of judgment to it. So I replied, “What’s the difference between you and your brother?”

Silence.

“The grace of God,” I gently pointed out. In hopes of restoring his compassion for Chris.

Chris didn’t choose to have MI. He did nothing to deserve it. It wasn’t his fault.

When Rob was in high school, I heard a teaching on Christian radio on the importance of affirming your children. I assumed Rob knew how much I loved him, but just wanted to check. “Where do you think you fall in my list of priorities?” I asked him.

“After Chris,” he replied.

His answer stunned me.

How could he not know how much I love him? Has MI stolen Rob’s sense of belonging? Has it masked my affection for him? Has this wretched disease inflicted pain on both my sons?  

I decided to make a concerted effort to assure him of my love. I wanted to convince him that I loved him more than the air I breathed. I seized every opportunity to remind him of my love.

One Friday night, Rob and the other drum major were scheduled to play the national anthem at a basketball game. Sheets of rain made it difficult to see as I drove to the high school. When we arrived, Rob hesitated. “I don’t want to walk in wearing this uniform before Kristen arrives.”

“Do you want me to see if she’s in there?” I offered.

“Would you?”

I returned (fairly drenched) with the news she’d arrived. Before Rob left the car I stopped him.

“Do you feel affirmed? Chris isn’t here. I went in there for you. Because I love you.”

How is it possible a teenager can underestimate his mother’s love for him? Same way we underestimate God’s love for us. That’s why Paul prayed on behalf of believers saying, “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.”  (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Dear heavenly Father, help us to comprehend how much You love us. Help us recognize the many ways You reveal Your love in our lives.

In Your Son’s name, Amen.

Reflect on how much God loves you as you enjoy this YouTube video I made (photographs by me and the song ‘Draw Me Close to You’ by Michael W. Smith):

http://youtu.be/x2r5Y-F64wQ

Hang onto Christmas Carols

christmas.carols

Preschoolers get words hilariously confused at times. Here’s an adorable mistake one four year old made when singing the last line to Away in a Manger. “The little Lord Jesus asleep on the head.”  Cute, but not correct. Not even close!

Another young child didn’t quite get the words right to Oh Come All Ye Faithful.

“O come, let us ignore Him.” Clearly, we’re not to ignore Him! His gift entices us to adore Him.

Singing favorite Christmas carols can warm the heart. Unless you’re trying to share the joy of Christ’s birth with your child who has mental illness (MI). Unless the songs magnify your pain by reminding you of happier times.

Engaging in familiar traditions becomes more complicated in the context of MI. Getting a family portrait for the Christmas card can be tricky. How do you get a depressed child to smile on cue? It’s a bit difficult to deck the halls while trying to keep an unstable child calm. Mental illness doesn’t take a break during family gatherings.

So why bother listening to Christmas carols? Favorite holiday tunes have powerful messages for us. Scriptural lyrics remind us of God’s love.

What Child is This?

“This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.”

When we don’t recognize our child who has MI, we can be comforted by these lyrics. What Child is this? We recognize Him. It’s Christ the King. God’s unchanging Child. Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  

“The King of kings, salvation brings, Let loving hearts enthrone Him.”

When life seems out of control, we can remember Christ is still on the throne in heaven. May He remain on the throne of our hearts.

Silent Night:

“All is Calm.”

When MI robs our homes of calmness, we can reflect on that holiest of nights—the night when God sent His Son to bring the promise of peace.

Joy to the World:

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”

When we yearn for restored joy, we can reflect on the joy Christ brought into the world and into our hearts. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can have joy in the midst of sorrow.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen:

“Let nothing you dismay. Remember Christ the Savior was born on Christmas day.”

We can reflect on those words. The Savior who came to save us from sin and death can save us from our trials. We need not be dismayed.

Mary Did You Know:

“Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man? Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will calm the storm with His hand? Did you know that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod? When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?”

When life seems unpredictable or hasn’t turned out like we’ve expected, we can think of Mary’s Child who is always faithful and reliable. We can reflect on Mary and remember she didn’t plan on being our Savior’s mother. God brings things into our lives that we don’t plan. Though we may not understand them, His plans are always perfect. The words to this Christmas carol remind us that we have a Healer, Creator, and King. We have access to His unlimited power and love.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

“Said the king to the people everywhere,

Listen to what I say

Pray for peace, people everywhere!

Listen to what I say

The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night

He will bring us goodness and light

He will bring us goodness and light.”

We can remember He will bring goodness and light to our darkest days.

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear:

“O ye beneath life’s crushing load,

Whose forms are bending low,

Who toil along the climbing way

With painful steps and slow;

Look now, for glad and golden hours

Come swiftly on the wing;

Oh rest beside the weary road

And hear the angels sing.”

Let’s rest beside our weary road this Christmas season to stop and hear the angels sing.

Quiet your hearts as you listen to Carrie Underwood sing Do You Hear What I Hear?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ad7KU9bCTAM

 

Helicopter Parenting

helicopter.parent

Can a parent of a child with mental illness (MI) ever hover too much? Many of us struggle with how to answer that question. Especially when we have adult children in the home. Daily we wonder how much advice we should give and how many rules we should establish.

Our motherly instinct tells us to protect. Parenting habits can’t easily be shut off. It’s even harder when our child is hurting. How can we stand by and do nothing?

Our 33 yr. old son wants to make his own decisions. Plan his own course for his life. I’m grateful he’s goal-driven. There’s a conflict within me that requires stifling: lovingly share suggestions or let him follow his own path. I respect the fact he’s an adult and would prefer to be living independently. So I work at giving him his own space. Let him live life the way he chooses.

It helps me to think of it as relinquishing my care into the loving hands of my Father. Letting God do the hovering.

The verse in Isaiah 31:5 paints a beautiful picture of God’s protection. We envision God soaring over His people like a mighty eagle, ready to hide His children under His wings. Preparing to swoop down and demolish the approaching Assyrian army which threatens the Israelites. Such power and tenderness!

“Like birds hovering overhead, the Lord Almighty will shield Jerusalem; he will shield it and deliver it, he will ‘pass over’ it and will rescue it.”  Isaiah 31:5

Heavenly Father, please hover over my son. Hide him from danger under Your wings. Destroy the turmoil MI attempts to inflict on him.

What about us? Don’t we also need someone to tenderly care for us? We give and give and give. Who will hover over us? Who will protect us from feeling utterly defeated, destroyed, and despondent? God will. He’ll renew, refresh, and raise us up.

Listen to the beautiful voices of Celtic Women as they sing ‘You Raise Me Up.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yfwlj0gba_k