Archive | August 2014

Detecting Blessings

miracle.baby.McKenzie

How can you transform creepy crawly things into something beautiful? By freezing and framing them in a snapshot. That’s what I did with worms. They mimicked a lace design. What drew my attention to something I distained? A high school assignment which challenged us to photograph beauty found in unlikely places. Creating the project required a new perspective. I discovered exquisite beauty by seeing things differently. Viewing the familiar more closely, from underneath, and in unusual lighting revealed a new world of splendor.

Blessings are like beauty. We notice the ones which are easy to spot. Like the miracle baby our son and his wife just had. Infertility experts informed them they’d never conceive. So they adopted a baby girl. Then along came the “impossible”—a pregnancy. Last week I held their infant daughter, baby McKenzie. No one had to point out the obvious: my hands held God’s bundle of blessings.

Sometimes it’s harder to recognize a blessing. When mental illness (MI) hits, it engulfs life and eclipse blessings. But they’re there.

How did I find some? By viewing my situation differently. Concern over Chris’s MI was sucking me into the quicksand of despair, discouragement, and depression. In anguish I cried the prayer of a sinking soul: Where are You, God?

Determined to find Him, I set out to compile a list of His faithfulness and love. I trusted God hadn’t left me. And believed He’d been leaving trails of His powerful works along my path. I needed Him to open my heart and mind. To find evidence of His care and compassion.

Reveal Your blessings, Lord.

With pen in hand I sat silent. And waited for God to guide my thoughts.

He led me on a mental tour of His love.

The first blessing popped into my head:

Chris is stable.

Then another:

He’s safe.

And another:

He occupies himself constructively and doesn’t remain isolated.

Before I knew it, my paper was filled.

Chris works out regularly.

He sets goals for himself.

He’s responsible with money.

He laughs as refreshing humor.

He willingly helps me with computer problems….

Then a wonderful thing happened. My thoughts shifted to other areas of my life. Proof of God’s provision poured from my mind faster than my pen could write.

I highly recommend you ask God to lead you on a mental tour of His love. He’ll point out blessings.

The Psalmist shows us how to detect God’s blessings. Psalm 77 gives us a picture of turmoil which was abated by recalling the mighty works of the Lord.

“‘Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?’

“Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds (Psalm 77:7-12).’”

I’m grateful for that passage (and others like it). It’s God’s way of telling me I’m not the only one who asks those questions when things seem too much to handle. It also shows me how to find God when I’ve lost sight of Him.

As I wrote this message, a familiar song kept running through my head.

“Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your blessings, see what God hath done!

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”

Enjoy the same spiritual refreshment and be blessed by that hymn:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fMjgS4vu4o

 

 

Advertisements

Signs of Joy

Chris.Vic.Christmas  Chris.waving

What’s my remote tail wager? My smile. When our cocker spaniel was alive I’d flash a full-teeth smile in his direction. Allegro’s tail would instantly wag like fast-speed windshield wipers. Then I’d switch to a tragedy-mask sad face. He’d match my expression by freezing his tail and dropping his head. I’d alternate the faces and get the same mirrored emotion from my pet. Happy face—wagging tail…Sad face—motionless tail.

My furry family member appeared to be able to detect my mood. But detecting a person’s mood isn’t so simple. A cheerful expression doesn’t always mean someone’s happy. Many smiles conceal the opposite emotion. Like Sunday church smiles intended to hide heartaches. Or professional smiles worn to impress. Or actor’s smiles used to entertain.

I never knew how much I missed Chris’s smile until a friend asked me a simple question.

“What makes Chris smile?” she asked.

Her words released a flood of tears. My emotional dam had been holding them back.

“I’ve stopped hoping to see him smile,” I responded, choking back tears.

A toddler’s smile can be trusted. Carefree joy flashes across their face as they delight in new experiences.

As a toddler Chris seemed to smile all the time.

“He seems like such a happy baby,” strangers would observe as they offered back a beaming grin. His contagious smile would light up their faces.

That was before bullying jolted the joy right out of him. Fellow classmates taunted him. Chris’s attention deficit hyperactive (ADHD) made him an easy target. Difficult peer interactions reduced the frequency of Chris’s smiles.

When mental illness (MI) hit Chris’s facial expression appeared lifeless. No smile. No curve to his mouth. Just a flat appearance. The sparkle in his eye was replaced with a dark, dead stare. Nowadays it’s rare to see him with a genuine smile. His occasional smiles look a bit strained. Like the Kodak moment kind of poses.

Mental illness (MI) can wipe away any pretense of happiness. Facial expressions can be windows into the soul. Especially when a person has MI. The pain is so great it’s reflected on the face. The mother longs to see signs of joy in the face of her child. How long can a mom endure seeing signs of turmoil, depression, or anxiety?

Can we find any comfort from the Bible? What can we learn from scripture? Proverbs tells us what we know. “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit (Proverbs 15:13).”

We know MI can crush our child’s spirit. So the cry of our heart is for God to create in our child a happy heart. A clear-thinking mind. A peaceful spirit.

The Bible has much more to say about countenance than about smiles. That’s because smiles display superficial happiness. Genuine joy comes from deep within. It’s all about the heart.

King Artaxerxes understood that Nehemiah’s demeanor reflected his inner sorrow and said, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart (Nehemiah 2:2).”

The good news is that God can change hearts. He can do what we can’t.

What can we do? Proverbs 12:25 encourages us to speak kind words to our kids. We know they make a difference. That’s some comfort.

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up (Proverbs 12:25).”

We can also share Truth with our children, trusting that His Word will not return void. Here are just a few verses of peace, joy, and hope.

He’s promised peace:

“For he himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).”

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

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you (2 Thessalonians 3:16).”

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27).”

He restores joy:

“He fills your hearts with joy (Acts 14:17).”

He gives hope:

“You are my hope in the day of doom (Jeremiah 17:17).”

Dear Father, use these verses to comfort and heal our children.

Proof Individuals with MI Can Contribute

HappySadmask

It’s easy to laugh with the comedian, but hard to understand the man: Robin Williams. He was gregarious on the outside, yet tortured on the inside. Why was it such a shock when he committed suicide? He openly revealed his mental illness (MI). The news stunned us because he hid it so well.

The Bible tells us about such concealed torment.

“Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, and the end of mirth may be grief [Proverbs 14:13 (NKJV)]”

The Message translates that verse this way:

“Sure, those people appear to be having a good time, but all that laughter will end in heartbreak.”

Robin Williams’ emotions were like a termite-infested house covered with fresh paint. His delightful demeanor hid destructive pain. People refer to the battle he fought. They say be wrestled with demons. In actuality he struggled with a disease: severe depression. In his mind lived both unbridled humor and inconsolable depression.

Fellow actors speak of his empathy and big heart. Imagine the effort it took for him to give so much in spite of his emotional pain. With his life snuffed out, one bright lesson remains: people with MI can contribute. That should be of some encouragement to those of us raising kids with MI.

But there’s another lesson for all to learn. Something else contributed to his death. What pushed such a seemingly successful man to end his life? He had recently spent time in rehab. But that apparently couldn’t cure him of his depression. Could it be that shame and stigma compounded his inner turmoil?

As mothers who know that shame. Let’s commit to praying for an end to the stigma that surrounds MI.

Dear heavenly Father,

Move in the hearts of people. Build a culture of compassion for those with MI. Restore joy and clarity of thought in the minds of those who suffer with MI. Especially our children.

In Christ’s name, Amen

 

In Need of a Husband’s Support

Howie and Chris

Howie and Chris

Chivalry came from the most unlikely gentleman.

“Here, let me get that for you,” he offered. The blind teenager had enough vision to notice his teacher struggling to open the door. In one hand I held a heavy metal braille typewriter. The other held my bag of supplies and student files.

My student saw a problem and solved it. Like most males.

Men are wired to repair broken things. The reality is that some things can’t be fixed easily. Like a child’s mental illness (MI). Many fathers try to remedy the problem by explaining it away. Denying the diagnosis can only last so long.

How does that fit with a wife who has moved on in her grief to anger, bargaining, or depression? She needs emotional support from her spouse. When her mate is unable to provide what she needs, anger grows and bitterness can set in. Does that sound like your situation?

How can a husband care for his distraught wife if he’s not yet able to face the illness? If my blind student’s vision had been worse, he would have been unable to see my problem. He wouldn’t have come to my rescue.

What can a grief-stricken mother do when her husband can’t provide what she needs? Allow me to share what I’ve done. I don’t presume to have all the answers. I’m not a psychologist. Just a fellow mom who’s been through what you may be experiencing.

  1. Pray for God’s perspective of your husband. Imagine his need to fix the unfixable. That could only lead to helpless feelings. Think about his desire to protect his family members. Then contemplate what it would be like for him to realize he can’t protect your child from MI. Men love their tools. But no tool can reach inside your child to restore clarity of thought and joy. No gizmo can guard against turbulent emotions.
  1. Pray for your husband’s emotional healing. Look beyond your husband’s avoidance of the whole situation and see a grieving father. Any loving dad will surely feel sorrow. He won’t express it like a woman. But it’ll weigh like a concrete brick in the pit of his stomach. Perhaps your husband harbors guilt feelings. Ask God to move mightily in his heart and mind. So your husband can find forgiveness and peace from a loving Father.
  1. Ask God to provide what you need while your husband is grieving at his own pace. Through scripture He’ll speak words of healing you long to hear. Ask your Father to send a godly woman to support you. To cry with you, pray with you, and listen without judgment.

Let me encourage you. God hears your prayers. He heard mine. Howie has become attentive to my emotional needs regarding Chris. And he is gentle in his interactions with our son. God’s perfect peace has settled Howie’s heart. Yes, he’s sad. But Howie’s calm assurance comes from eyes lifted heavenward. He’s learned to let God carry the burden.

I told Howie this post would pertain to husbands raising kids with MI and asked him for any message he’d like to share. Here are his words of experience:

“It makes it easier when you realize there’s nothing you can do. It helped me when I realized it’s out of my hands. You still show love but you know you can’t fix it. That takes a long time to get to. Years.”

Howie hasn’t given up on Chris. He’s just given Chris over to God. Not given up…given over. When he seeks help for Chris, he doesn’t run to our tool shed; he goes to our prayer closet.

The centurion in Matthew faced an impossible situation with his suffering servant.  As a man, he understood authority. So he pleaded with Jesus to heal the servant.

“‘Lord,’ he said, ‘my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.’

“Jesus said to him, ‘Shall I come and heal him?’

“The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’”

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, ‘Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith (Matthew 8:6-10).’”

What got Christ’s attention was his faith. Ask the Lord to increase your husband’s faith. To help him understand the power of the greatest Contractor of all. The Repairer of lives is accessible. Just a prayer away. When pipes are leaking a man gets a plumber. When wiring is frayed he hires an electrician. When his child is ill God can provide healing and comfort. Free of charge!