Archive | October 2014

Why bother?

football.stadium.blindfolded

Picture me standing at center field wearing a blindfold and ear plugs, wondering if any fans are in the football stadium. That’s how I feel as I write this message. Is anyone there to join me in the battle? Is anyone listening? For over two years I’ve been posting messages on this blog, never skipping a week.

Why should I continue? What keeps me going? Having a son with mental illness (MI) can be challenging. At times it’s wearing on my emotions. It’s a daily battle to keep my focus on Him, rather than on the trials in my life. So why bother? What’s my motivation?

If there’s just one who needs renewed hope in the Lord, I’ll share encouraging verses.

If there’s just one who needs to know that someone understands their journey and isolation, pain and shame, I’ll reach out.

If there’s just one who needs to know that God can be found during the darkest times, I’ll tell of His faithfulness to us when our son needed treatment and hospitalization.

If there’s just one who wants to know what it’s like to raise a child with MI, I’ll share my story.

I’m also driven to continue for a personal reason. Writing weekly messages helps frame my thinking. This labor of love forces me to maintain an eternal perspective.  There’s something about reflecting on what God’s doing in my life. I pray, God reveals. I write, God seals the lesson.

But I’m like anyone else. I get worn out and tired of the struggle. MI isn’t contagious but it can threaten a mom’s sanity and disrupt her peaceful emotions. So I cling to Philippians 4:7 and trust that, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I find refreshment for my soul in songs like ‘Protector of My Soul.’

“O protector of my soul

You will stand against the foe

In the dark You’ll be a light for me

O Protector of my soul.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhQ8bQ6r-UE

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Blessings Found in Tears

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What’s the point of pain? Can there be blessings found in suffering? Raising a son with mental illness (MI) tested my faith. During the darkest days I had to remind myself that circumstances don’t change who Christ is. I clung to Hebrews 13:8 which promises that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” That reassured me He’s always with me and will protect and guide me. I could rest in the assurance that He hears my prayers and will comfort me.

However, that didn’t stop me from wondering, What are You doing, Lord?

I desperately needed to trust Him even though I couldn’t track Him. So I looked back to see how He worked during difficult times.

When our youngest son was four years old I looked forward to spending each day with him alone. Chris would be in school and I’d have uninterrupted time with Bobby. But a problem prevented me from living my life the way I planned. We wanted to send Chris to a Christian school. The only way we could afford that was for me to teach at the Christian school. It became clear that’s what God planned. I reluctantly followed His path, but grieved the loss of my chance to spend days alone with Bobby.

Twelve years later I contracted viral meningitis. I had to stop teaching for a year and stay home. Chris was away at college and Bobby—now Robert was in his senior year of our local public high school. Robert had been chosen to be the drum major of his competitive marching band. One day he asked me an amazing question. “Could we have devotions together? I want to be a Christian leader of the band.”

Suddenly I realized God had blessed me with the desire of my heart—to spend days alone with him. Only God’s plan was far better than I could have imagined. I treasure those times of devotions and sweet fellowship with our teenage son. Made only possible by my meningitis. Huge blessings resulted from excruciating pain.

It may not be clear to you why God is allowing your child to suffer with MI. You may struggle with understanding how He could let you endure such pain. Ask Him to give you a glimpse of His blessings.

Count your blessing one by on and you’ll see what God has done.

There’s a woman who knows what it’s like to watch a loved one suffer. Laura’s husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She wrote a song to help her process what God is doing in their lives.

Here are some of those lyrics:

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops

What if Your healing comes through tears

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

You may be thinking, “That easy for HER to say.” Not so. She’s still going through her trial.

Listen to her tell her story in her own words and then watch the YouTube of her song.

http://files.emfcdn.com/downloads/audio/podcasts/klovemsint_podcast6651_20110329.mp3

Her song on Youtube

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

The Value of a Warm Welcome

welcome.sign

I wished I could be eight again so I could be a student in her class. That’s how I felt each time I visited Kim’s classroom. Kim respected me as her administrator and also treated me as if I was the most important person in her life. Whenever I popped into her room she’d stop everything. Her face would beam with a sincere smile.

“Well hello Mrs. Chandler,” she’d say as if seeing me for the first time in months. “Boys and girls, isn’t it wonderful Mrs. Chandler had time to stop by and say hello?”

Her heartfelt greeting made me feel as if she’d been waiting all day for me to arrive.

Kim had a passion for people and made everyone feel that way. Everybody who entered her classroom benefitted from the same loving affirmation. Her greeting wasn’t a fake formality but a genuine validation of the person’s value.

Can such a simple reception impact a person? It sure made me feel appreciated and special.

We all need to know we’re important to others. Especially our children who have mental illness (MI). But they may not receive a warm welcome from others. Facial expressions that appear lifeless, tense, or sad don’t invite happy responses.

When our son Chris passes me in our home he often doesn’t make eye contact or smile. Sometimes my happy greeting is met with silence or a grunt. Training me to keep my smiles to myself.

But just as smiles are contagious so are frowns. The typical reaction to a sad demeanor is to avoid the person. The typical emotion of a mother who sees her son downcast is to feel sadness. For a long time my face reflected the helpless condition of my heart. My mind provided the directive to my response: “Nothing can be done to spark his smile, disengage your smile.”

One day it dawned on me that my sad expression only contributed to Chris’s dreary emotions. It occurred to me I could at least give him a warm greeting. Instead of contaminating his mood, I could celebrate his life. Simply by offering a loving smile and this upbeat reception: “Hi Chris.”

Nowadays I seize every opportunity throughout the day to let him know he’s important to me. Each time we cross paths I have the chance to let him know he’s loved.

Can a warm welcome really have a positive impact on our loved ones who suffer with MI? Think about the power of a look. The glare from a bully, the frown from a teacher, and the scowl from a drill sergeant strike fear in the receiver. On the other hand, the loving glance of an admirer, the proud smile of a parent, and the approving nod of a coach all inflate one’s self-esteem.

I often imagine what kind of look Peter received from Christ when he denied Jesus three times. Luke 22:61 tells us, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.”

Jesus had told Peter he would deny Him three times. So I’m thankful we don’t read, “Christ rolled his eyes and said, ‘I told you so.’”

We don’t have any details describing Christ’s look. But we have plenty of details about His love. It’s forgiving, unconditional, and long-suffering. We can extend that same kind of love to our kids who suffer with MI. We do love our children with unconditional love. But how can we offer a warm greeting in the face of depression? By relying on the One who gave Peter a loving response to His denials.

World Mental Health Day: Oct. 10th

Rick and Kay Warren

Rick and Kay Warren

Are you in secret pain? Many people with mental illness (MI) are. That includes Rick Warren’s son, Matthew. His suicide thrust the famous author (of The Purpose-Driven Life) and his wife into deep despair and grief. Pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay shared their painful story in a CNN interview with Piers Morgan.

Matthew Warren

Matthew Warren

That interview took place about a year ago, only five months after their son shot himself. Rick and Kay have mounted a campaign to raise awareness of MI. They’ve designated October 10th as World Mental Health Day. Listen to them talk about their reasons for offering the free online event. You’ll find that you’re not alone. They understand your pain. Just like Jesus.

World Mental Health Day with Rick and Kay Warren

You can read the message I posted about their tragic loss by going to ‘Surviving a Child’s Suicide.’

https://mentalillnessmom2mom.net/2013/09/18/surviving-a-childs-suicide/

Visit Kay’s site to find out more about their ‘24 hours of hope’ which they will host in two days on October 10th. You may or may not have lost a child to suicide. But if your child has MI you’re experiencing grief nonetheless. World Mental Health Day will offer you encouragement and hope. Lord willing, you’ll also find more healing as well.

http://kaywarren.com/mental-health-initiative/

 

Calgon take me away, PLEASE!

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How can water help when you’re drowning? Would staring at it help? How ‘bout tossing a coin into it, with a wish all your troubles would vanish?

Maybe you could hold it all together if your sole responsibility was to parent a child with mental illness (MI). But MI doesn’t come in a vacuum. For me it comes with being a wife, mother to my son and his wife, grandmother to their two daughters, patient of multiple sclerosis…

Perhaps water could help. A marine biologist believes water has stress-reduction qualities. I read about it in Washington Post’s article By Eric Niiler “‘Blue Mind’ explores the calming effect that water has on people.”  The title grabbed my attention.

The article, posted on Jul 28, 2014, had huge implications for people living with MI. Marine biologist, Wallace J. Nichols wrote a book entitled Blue Mind to share his research findings. He found evidence of the healing power of water.

In a telephone interview with The Post Nichols was asked, “What is ‘the blue mind?’”

He replied, “It refers to a mildly meditative, relaxed state that we find ourselves in when we are in, on or under water. It’s something I’ve been experiencing and observing my whole life.”

So the solution to our troubles lies in immersing ourselves in water. For how long? Could we go on a scuba diving excursion and return home to a normal life? I doubt it.

I do believe the key lies in water, however. Passages which involve water offer much hope. In Mark 4:38, for example, we read about how Christ, “rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

It’s easy to give into feelings of abandonment. We’re tempted to cry, “God, where are You?” It helps to know Christ’s disciples looked at the turmoil surrounding their sinking boat and assumed He didn’t care. They dared ask Him, “‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown (Mark 4:37)?’”

Christ didn’t rebuke the disciples. He rebuked the wind. Because of His love for the disciples. He wants us also to bring our cares to His throne of grace.

We can pray to the One who calmed the wind and waves:

Dear Jesus,

I don’t know why my child has MI. But I believe You care about my child, my family, and me. I praise You for Your power over all things. In the midst of this tumultuous time, calm my fears. Restore peace in my child and household. In Your precious name I pray, Amen.

That prayer could be whispered in complete confidence that Christ hears and answers. Or it could be spoken with uncertainty.

Did He hear that? Was He listening? Will He answer? It’s possible. Maybe. I hope so. What if He doesn’t?…

Rough waters give us a picture of doubt. James 1:6-8 describes the prayer of one with shaky faith.

“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do (James 1:6-8).”

When Chris was a toddler, he’d ask me for his lunch. I’m pretty sure he didn’t follow up his request with these thoughts:

I wonder if my Mom will feed me today. Did she hear me ask for my lunch? Should I ask again? Did I remember to say ‘please’? She fed me yesterday, but maybe she’s too busy today.

A young child can be certain of his earthly mother’s love and care. Jesus used our imperfect love to help us understand God’s abiding care.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him (Matthew 7:9-11)!”

His point: we can ask with certainty that God hears and answers.

It’s nice to have data from a marine biologist to validate what we know: water is relaxing. It’s also refreshing. But the living water Christ spoke about in John offers much more than quenching a thirsty mouth. Jesus promises that, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them (John 7:38).”

Several commentaries help us understand the richness of that promise.

Benson’s Commentary explains that whoever believes in Jesus, “shall not only be refreshed and comforted himself, but shall be instrumental in refreshing and comforting others.”

God’s comfort can flow through us to our hurting and vulnerable child with MI.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary provides this insight: “The comfort flows plentifully and constantly as a river; strong as a stream to bear down the opposition of doubts and fears. There is a fullness in Christ, of grace for grace. The Spirit dwelling and working in believers, is as a fountain of living, running water, out of which plentiful streams flow, cooling and cleansing as water.”

God’s comfort is limitless. No matter how often we seek His comfort, we can be sure it will never end.

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers describes the indwelling power. “There is in him a power of life which, when quickened by faith, flows forth as a river.”

We have unlimited comfort and grace flowing through us. Now THAT’S refreshing.

So I don’t cry, “Calgon take me away!” Instead I cry, “Christ, flow through me today!.”