Archive | January 2014

What’s beautiful?

Multnomah Falls Boulder

Multnomah Falls Boulder

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

“Get a picture of that boulder!” interrupted my husband. The excitement in his voice yanked my attention away from the breathtaking waterfall. I matched my gaze in the direction of his eyes, expecting to find a thing of beauty. Nothing in that direction moved me. We entered into a sort of I Spy game.

“Which boulder? Where is it?” I inquired.

“To the right of that big tree,” he directed.

The hunt went on for quite a while. Part of the problem: what he found beautiful looked like a huge rock to me. I finally realized which boulder took his breath away.

Beauty certainly IS in the eye of the beholder!

I kept my opinion to myself and snapped the picture.

What do you find refrigerator-worthy? My aunt places snapshots of sunsets on her frig.

Most parents display their children’s school work. Like me. Years ago, Chris’ test papers decorated our kitchen. Learning came easy to him, so he earned a multitude of A’s. Each one found a place of prominence on the refrigerator.

Then one day Chris got a low grade. Mostly for not following directions. He presented the paper to me in tears.

“Why are you crying?” I asked.

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

“Oh, Chris. NOTHING will ever change my love for you. Nothing.”

Chris mistakenly interpreted my pleasure in academic excellence as a measure of my love. I assured him of my love. But his comment made me rethink which papers were refrigerator-worthy. Only the ones which demonstrated great effort were awarded a spot with the comment, “I love you because of who you are. Let’s celebrate your effort.”

How ‘bout your parenting? Do you feel it wouldn’t qualify for a place on a refrigerator? Are you hard on yourself? Is your child’s mental illness (MI) making you feel like a failure? Do friends, relatives, and educators feed your personal assessment? By judging you on your child’s behavior? You’re probably not alone. Many of us focus on our child’s performance rather than our own effort. No wonder we feel unworthy of joining the refrigerator representatives of success.

Do you think there’s nothing beautiful in how you manage your child who has MI? Shift your criteria from what you can’t control to what’s within your ability to demonstrate. You’ll find beauty in your endless effort, unconditional love, and heartfelt prayers.

Celebrate the impact you have in your home. You light a dark mood with your joy. Turmoil that invades your home can’t rob you of God’s peace. When MI causes conflict between family members, you appeal to the One who can intervene. Trusting the Mediator, who reconciled mankind to God through His death, to heal relationships.

Outsiders define good parenting by what they see. Without knowing the challenges you face. Thankfully, the Bible challenges us to be God-pleasers rather than man-pleasers (Galatians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:4). Align your definition of beauty with the biblical definition. What pleases our heavenly Father?

“For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory (Psalm 149:4).”

He loves you for who you are. You’re a child of the King. Amazing!

“…The prayer of the upright pleases him (Proverbs 15:8).”

Your prayers delight Him. Imagine that.

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).”

In spite of insurmountable trials, you maintain your hope in Him.

What’s beautiful to God? You are.

What’s beautiful about God?  He’s patient and longsuffering. He’s accessible. He’s on the throne. He’s never changing. He gave His only Son to die for our sins. He sent the Holy Spirit to live within us.

There’s undeniable beauty in God’s power displayed in creation. We find beauty in His Word and promises. We experience it in His sovereignty and power. We depend on His abundant hope and perfect peace. And rest in His unconditional love and faithfulness.

We anticipate the ultimate beauty: His promise of heaven where there will be no more MI or tears.

Reflect on the beauty of God as you listen to Phil Wickham’s song ‘You’re Beautiful.’  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfhb0_tmrbc

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2014 Winter Olympics

winter.olympics.logo.use

Looking forward to watching the Olympics? So am I. Click on the link below for your 14 pg. printable version of NBC’s TV coverage (I used the info. provided by Sports Media Watch and created a pdf document). Share it with your friends!

Winter Olympics 2014 TV schedule

Other helpful links:

NBC’s TV coverage

Schedule of all the Events

Preparing for the Storm

winter

What do ants and Solomon have in common? Wisdom.

“Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt (1 Kings 4:30).”

“Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer (Proverbs 30:24-25).”

Why do I care about that little fact? Will I ever be a king? No. Will I ever be an ant? No! But the ant teaches me an important lesson. Be prepared.

This winter we’re getting slammed with snowstorms. I just cleared snow off our cars. Again. sad.face  Whew! Now I can rest.

Yesterday I got my invitation to join the preparedness party. Local meteorologists sent this announcement:

Who: All ‘guests’ living in the northeastern section of the US

What: Another impressive storm: a massive clipper system, followed by an arctic blast

When: All day Tuesday and into Wednesday morning

Host: God would provide the decorations. Snow and plenty of it.

Dress: Layers of clothing, boots, hats, mittens…

I joined all the invited ‘guests’ who headed straight to the food stores to stock up. I wound my way through crowded aisles grabbing all the items on my list. The expressions on people’s faces said, “I’m so done with all this snow. Enough!”

Getting ready for storms requires certain rituals. We reluctantly engage in them. Experience has taught us it’s wise to be prepared. We can weather the storm if we’ve planned ahead.

How ‘bout the storms of life? Do we prepare for them? Hardly. Most people don’t even entertain thoughts about facing a trial. But mental illness (MI) forces us to expect anything. It can hit any day or any minute. A child with MI can be unpredictable.

Often it seems turbulence in the home (due to MI) can’t be controlled any more than swirling winds in the sky. Are there things we can do to minimize the impact of an emotional storm? Yes.

Stockpiling would be the recommended strategy. During calmer days, load up on Bible verses. Mentally fill all the corners of your brain with passages from scripture. Then when troubles come, God’s Word will sustain you.

During some of our most horrific moments, it wasn’t possible to sit and read my Bible. Dangerous situations dictated that I stay alert. Often, in the midst of a crisis, a verse popped into my head. One that comforted me. Verses like:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).”

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you (Isaiah 26:3).”

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).”

Word to the wise: be ready for anything. The time to prepare is now. Feast on His Word. Then, just as I rested after clearing off the cars, rest—in Him.

Only our Lord can prepare our hearts. Reflect on His perfect work in you as you listen to ‘Sanctuary.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxB9VH3cCN4

Heads up!

Violin.down  Violin.Up

“Heads up!” What happens if you don’t heed that warning? You take your chances. A ball may be rocketing right toward your face! Athletes need to remain attentive.

Keen attention is required for students. Some demonstrate it and some don’t. Those who don’t pay attention in class risk failing tests. To help distractible students, I seated them beside classmates with extraordinary powers of concentration. The children with tremendous focus provided good examples. The inattentive students learned to follow the lead of their neighbor.

How can an eight year old demonstrate consistent focus? Maybe it’s because he gets lost of practice looking up. His small stature requires tilting the head to look at those in authority. The vast difference in size reminds the youngster of the adult’s greater power.

That gives us a picture of what we can do. Tilt our heads to the heavens toward the One Who has great power. Mental illness (MI) can loom so large in our lives. What if we looked up to God more often? Would our perspective change?

Photography offers a symbol of a transformed viewpoint. My new passion is snapping pictures from the ground. Looking up reveals surprises. Things appear much larger and more beautiful. Like the two pictures of the violin. I took several photos so we could advertise it on Craig’s List. Looking down, I captured a beautifully-crafted instrument in a humdrum context. The picture I took looking up made me smile. Surrounded by the sky, the violin became part of God’s creation.

Likewise, we can view our journey with God’s plan as the backdrop. With that perspective, MI shrinks in its size and power over us. It becomes just part of God’s canvas for our lives.

Come with me as I usher you into God’s Museum of Sovereignty. Stroll with me as we pass by paintings on the walls. Each one depicts a different life. We arrive at the portrait of your life. Pause and study the Artist’s work. At first glance, swirls of dark colors depict turmoil. Linger a bit and let the divine details draw you in. Search for the significance behind each stroke.

Behind the shadows of your trial, you see splashes of His light illuminating your path. Suddenly you spot the beauty of His faithfulness. As you peer closer, you detect glimpses of His purpose. You contemplate the Artist’s meaning behind the characters and scenes.

Trace the stream of your teardrops. They flow down the Mountain of Comfort and dissolve into the Pool of Insight. His power and love become as crystal clear as the water. Gratitude fills your heart. And you smile.

When MI becomes so complicated and you don’t know where to turn, remember the advice: heads up!

Close your eyes and see the violin surrounded by endless sky. Imagine that the violin represents your life. Think of the sky as God’s abundant hope. His endless peace envelopes your life. With eyes still closed, reflect on the sculpture He’s forming in you. He who begun the good work has promised to be faithful to complete it.

We often begin our day praying for no problems. Hoping our day will be perfect. Rather than anticipating His perfection in the midst of trials.

Without a heavenly perspective, MI can certainly hammer us until we hang our head low in hopelessness. The Psalmist experienced such despair. He gave us the perfect example of self-talk in Psalm 42:5 & 11, Psalm 43:5. We can join him by saying, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

There it is. The ‘heads up’ we need. Look up to One Who is bigger than any of our problems.

Hebrews 12:1-2 reminds us to look up in our journey.

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Reflect on God. He is above all things and thinks of you, above all else. Let Michael W. Smith’s song ‘Above All’ bless you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjYiEyu8Si8

What’s left?

whats.left.2

Not many can do it. See the person behind the deformity. Or the personality buried under the disease. Or the potential masked by the illness. Thankfully, there are people who can see others differently … with heart eyes.

My cousin gave me a gift by sending me this email after Christmas: “I can’t tell you how much I was impressed with Chris and how thoughtful his gifts were.” That one sentence satisfied my desire for others to see the Chris I know and love. It quenched that desire like a sip of water in a desert. My cousin saw past Chris’ mental illness (MI) and acknowledged some of the qualities that make him special and unique.

Moms of kids with MI can see glimmers of their child’s personality. They can detect the potential in their child with seems invisible to others because of MI. How they yearn for others to see what makes their child unique and special.

What’s left after MI invades a life? It seems to destroy joy, demolish dreams, and damage family relationships.

MI can’t ruin everything. It can’t rob the person of their identity. It can’t steal IQ, creativity, or thoughtfulness. Even when those qualities aren’t demonstrated, they’re still there.

Certainly, MI has no power in the spiritual realm. It can’t erase salvation. If your child accepted Christ as his Savior, he’ll have that Gift for eternity. MS can’t separate your child (or you) from the love of God. Neither can it disintegrate your child’s God-given purpose. God’s still on the throne working out His perfect plan (though we may not see it or understand it).

I’m grateful to have a cousin (and other relatives) who sees Chris’ qualities, loves him unconditionally, and shares that love liberally. You may not have such a relative.

But, we all have Someone who knows the qualities of our children who have MI. The One who gave His life for them knows their potential and their pain. And He knows our deepest desires.

The Psalmist compels us to follow his prayerful example found in Psalm 139:1-6. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”

In John 10:14, 27 we read of Christ’s assurances. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me… My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

God’s more than a drink in the desert. He offers living waters. (John 7:37-38)

His life flows within us. The power of the Holy Spirit is ours now and forever. The Creator of the universe loves you and your child.

A small child scribbles a picture for us. We gaze at it with delight. Marveling in the beauty of it. Not the exquisite artistry, but the beauty of the love behind it. Let’s do the same with the plans God creates for us. We may not see a beautiful portrait of our family at this time. But, by faith, we can delight in His great love for us.

Reflect on the perfection of His creation as you listen to ‘Wonderfully Made’ by Scripture Lullabies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPisc3PODOo

Choosing a Focus Word for the New Year

choosing

What word would you choose as your focus word for 2014? Would it be ‘survive’, ‘simplify’, ‘save’, ‘family’, ‘gratitude’, ‘service’, ‘inspire’…?

My word will be ‘choose.’ I discovered it in a pool while water walking. Typically, just getting to the gym is a huge accomplishment for me. It involves ignoring the aches and pains of my multiple sclerosis.

Recently, however, exercising was more grueling. Shoveling snow off our cars had to be done. But my arms were sorer than normal. The whole ordeal got worse when I got into the pool. I heard an annoying sound coming from a nearby utility closet. Steady whirring added to the agony of my exercise. Ugh!

It dawned on me that the bothersome sound had a beat. So I chose to embrace it by matching my steps to the rhythm. Imagining the sound as a metronome distracted me from feeling pain. Synchronized jogging helped relax my mind.

Then I realized that, similarly, I can choose to have more peaceful thoughts in 2014. Romans 8:6 tells me how to accomplish that goal.

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”

The Holy Spirit can help me drown out the droning of my concerns about mental illness (MI). I can ignore the bombardment of ugly thoughts. Fears, worry, frustration, self-pity, and anger will not batter my brain as long as I remain focused on His presence.

I can also choose to have an eternal focus. With the knowledge that in heaven there will be no more tears or suffering. No more MI.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).”

So my word for this New Year will be ‘choose.’ I’ll choose to accept whatever comes my way. I’ll choose to view circumstances with a positive perspective—filtered through the Holy Spirit.

Listen to the hymn: Finding It Home.

I love to reflect on the words: “Just think of stepping on shore and finding it heaven. Of touching a hand and finding it God’s. Of breathing new air and finding it celestial. Of waking up in glory and finding it home.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1glUFnLC928