Archives

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

Advertisements

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

Greatest Need

jeannie.bottle

Growing up, I watched the TV show I Dream of Jeannie. I still enjoy the reruns.

What if you found a genie bottle? As master over one with unlimited powers, what would you request? Healing for your child who has mental illness (MI). Healing of your marriage. Peace in your home. A vacation at a spa resort. A shopping spree at outlet stores.

It’s fun to fantasize. For one man, however, it was his reality. The Creator of the universe spoke to King Solomon and said, “Ask! What shall I give you?” (1 Kings 4:6 and 2 Chronicles 1:7)

King Solomon asked for an understanding heart to judge God’s people (1 Kings 4:9).

Think about that. Solomon didn’t ask for riches or death to his enemies. Why was God’s wisdom so important? Because he faced a daunting task and wanted to honor God.

We face as daunting task. At times MI is so consuming we don’t know how to pray. MI impacts everything: the mood in our home, daily schedules, all members of the family, finances, our marriage… It drains us mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Most of us would say we need support—help when things seem hopeless and we’re at the end of our rope. Let’s echo Solomon’s prayer:

Father, give me an understanding heart. Give me Your wisdom. Help me know what to do and how to respond today.

God was so pleased with such a prayer that He “…gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore (1 Kings 4:29).” God even blessed Solomon with more than he requested saying, “Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings (1 Kings 3:13).”

Pray Solomon’s prayer and rest in the promise that our generous Father will supply His wisdom and more!

Let’s focus on His wisdom. Let’s trust that He will guide and direct our paths. Let’s ignore other voices (from those who don’t understand our journey). People share their earthly wisdom. But God gives us His perfect guidance.

Casting Crowns remind us to listen to His voice of truth in their song Voice of Truth.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcuiuIwtpa4

Power to Cope

power.of.God

What’s wrong with bolstering someone’s self-esteem? It’s full of empty promises. Like an infomercial.

“Just invest a bit of belief in yourself and you too can become a super parent. In exchange for your effort, you’ll overcome all odds. No challenge will overtake you. No trial will defeat you. Call today and request your supply of positive thinking.”

A parent once called me seeking support for her daughter, Susan. She attributed her child’s academic failures to Susan’s poor self-esteem.

“Susan is failing in school. It’s because she doesn’t believe she can achieve success. She’s given up. She has poor self-esteem. Will you please tell my daughter that she’ll get better grades if she tries harder?”

“No,” was my blunt reply.

Silence on the other end told me my refusal shocked the mother. As Director of Instruction, it was my job to support teachers and parents. The baffled parent finally spoke.

“I know you can help her improve her self-esteem. Why won’t you tell her she can do it if she tries harder?”

“Because that’s a lie,” I explained. “Self-esteem relies on self. Believing in our own efforts can fail. The Bible offers something more reliable and powerful: God-esteem. We have assurances of His power working through us.  In Philippians 4:13 we’re promised, ‘I can do all this through him who gives me strength.’”

“Does that mean Susan shouldn’t try hard?” questioned the mother.

“No. The Bible tells us diligence is rewarded. The point is to help Susan choose a greater Source for help when things are difficult. When children learn to substitute God-esteem for self-esteem, they’ll feel more empowered. Turning to Him for help will become automatic.”

That conversation left Susan’s mother with greater hope for her child than any self-esteem pep talk could offer.

Many of us feel like Susan. There comes a day when our efforts fail. A trial hits that’s too large. A challenge engulfs us. A challenge that’s too great to overcome. Like dealing with our child’s mental illness (MI).

When faced with Chris’s MI over the years, there were many occasions when I felt my resources were depleted. I had no mental or emotional energy to handle one more crisis. Couldn’t summon any more patience to deal with mental health professionals. Wondered how I’d face another day of unpredictable behaviors. Doubted my ability to hold it together one more day.

In desperation, I ran to the Bible. Thankfully, God’s Word transformed my thinking. I realized my discouragement resulted from a belief in myself. My loving Father led me to verses which assured me of HIS POWER to help me cope.

Here are a few of those verses that became my lifeline.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid (Psalm 27:1)?”

“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord (Psalm 27:14)!”

“Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:24).”

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (Ephesians6:10).”

Do you fear you’re a failure as a parent? That’s another lie. You know how hard you’re trying. Lack of improvement doesn’t diminish your efforts.  Plug into the divine Source of power. God will strengthen you, renew your hope, and provide guidance.

Hillsong’s song  I Will Run To You reminds us to live in the glory of His grace.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdWGLm4zxEA

 

The Dreaded New School Year

school.supplies.worry

When purchasing new supplies and new clothes for your child with mental illness (MI), did you buy some new worries too? I did. Chris would have to face changes in his senior year of high school. He’d have to trust new people. Would he be able to handle the stress? Would I?

My greatest fear: another breakdown. With God’s help, Chris finished his junior year of high school on time. His studies were interrupted by hospitalization, followed by out-patient care, followed by home bound instruction. Yet, Chris successfully completed eleventh grade. I convinced myself things would be smooth sailing for Chris from then on. That happy place of denial didn’t last long.

The only thing worse than watching your son “lose his mind” is noticing some warning signs that indicate it’s about to happen again.

In October of Chris’s senior year that’s exactly what happened. From my first experience with Chris’s breakdown, I learned to notice early warning signs. When I realized Chris getting close to the edge again, I felt very helpless. I didn’t know if anything could be done. He already was on medication.

At the same time, I felt confident the Lord would sustain me as he had before. But I dreaded having to watch Chris suffer like that again.

When I picked Chris up after school he acted differently than normal—especially on days he had band practice. He either talked incessantly or fell asleep immediately. He started getting some nose bleeds, which indicated his blood pressure might be unusually high again.

I knew we had to do something, but worried there was nothing that could be done. Worry led to shame…I felt ashamed I wasted emotional energy worrying. God tells us in His Word we shouldn’t be anxious because it can’t add one day to our lives. In my mind I knew worrying wouldn’t accomplish anything (except maybe cause me health problems!). In my heart I believed God was able to do beyond all I could imagine. Yet, I feared the situation would only get worse. Sometimes our imagination is our greatest enemy.

When I took Chris to see his psychiatrist, Dr. Newman, I learned there was a very simple solution.

“We can give Chris a tiny bit of extra medication at the time of day when he experiences the most stress,” explained Dr. Newman.

“How will that help? Most of his medications cause him to be drowsy. Won’t that just make him sleep more?”

“No. When Chris experiences additional stress, his brain produces adrenaline. Adrenaline reduces the effectiveness of his medication for psychosis. The adrenaline makes his mind race so he can perform under the stressful conditions. That’s why he’s more
talkative when he first gets in the car after school.”

“Why does he fall asleep sometimes?”

Dr. Newman went on to explain. “Once the stressful condition is over, Chris experiences a “bounce” which is a sharp decline in his mental energy. That’s why he falls asleep so suddenly. It’s the way his body allows him to recover from the stressful experience.”

It started to make sense to me. It seemed like what happens to infants when they get an injection. Sometimes they cry a lot and then fall asleep after the ordeal ends (the sharp decline in mental energy following a stressful experience).

We agreed to try administering just a tiny bit of medication as needed, at just the right time of day. I was still worried. I thought it could be dangerous to increase the dosage of a psychotropic medication with a teenager who was on the brink of another breakdown.

I needed to know, “What if this doesn’t work? Could this bring on a psychotic episode?”

“That would be a mini-crisis and you should beep me. Say it’s an emergency,” Dr. Newman replied casually. His casual demeanor didn’t reduce my level of concern.

Chris would be the one who would determine when he needed the extra pill, based on elevated stress. I knew Chris wouldn’t go to the nurse to get his medication. That could make him late for band practice. Being late for practice would just add more stress. Having the nurse show up at band practice to give Chris his extra pill would be an option either. What teen would appreciate that?

The best solution: Chris would carry his own extra pill. The school nurse initially wasn’t willing to let Chris do that. The school’s zero tolerance policy against drugs was the issue. But Chris was entitled to a reasonable accommodation. A compromise was proposed to have Chris also carry a note from the nurse giving him permission to carry the pill and administer it to himself.

When I picked Chris and Robert up from school, Robert got into the car before Chris.

“How did Chris act during band practice?” I asked him.

I never realized Robert had grown tired of my asking him how Chris acted in school (all during Chris’s junior year). Robert’s response was a wake-up call for me.

“Please stop asking me how Chris acts!”

“I’m sorry, Rob. I won’t ever ask you again.”

As soon as Chris got in the car I could see for myself how things went. He wasn’t talking incessantly. He didn’t fall asleep at all. It seemed like the problem was solved and the crisis was over.

Peace returned to Chris and to me. But there would be more critical periods that year. Times when I’d succumb to worrying. Occasions for God to reveal His faithfulness once again.

God can always make a way when there seems to be no way. Let Don Moen’s song “God Will Make a Way”  remind you of His unending faithfulness, power, and love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zo3fJYtS-o

How to Discipline

discipline.right.wrong

“Stop bumping into walls!” Would it be okay for a mom to say that to her child who is blind? Absolutely not. She’d understand it’s not intentional.

“How many times do I have to tell you to stop falling down?” Would a mother of a child who has cerebral palsy ever discipline her child that way? Never. She’d show compassion rather than give criticism.

It’s easy to know how to handle those situations. Disciplining children without special needs is fairly clear as well. Maybe not easy, but we have an idea how to respond.

A toddler’s constant talking can feel like torture at times. There’s a limit to how many words a mom can hear in one day. The young mother’s mind screams, “Leave me alone! Shut up! Please, for just one hour, stop talking. I’m begging you…I can’t stand it any longer.”

She replies with all the gentleness she can muster. “Mommy needs to concentrate on making dinner right now. Why don’t you go play with your toys for a while?”

Disciplining a child with mental illness (MI) isn’t so clear.

When a child is emotionally fragile and mentally unstable, how do you handle behaviors which would otherwise be unacceptable? Responding the wrong way could be dangerous. Or, an inappropriate reaction could plunge the child into deeper depression.

When Chris first started to unravel, he talked incessantly. Little did we know, his mind was racing. He continued talking even after our repeated instructions to stop. Finally Howie and I loudly demanded, “Stop talking!” Chris’s MI prevented him to comply. We couldn’t understand his disobedience. Until he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

In the throes of a psychotic episode, Chris barked obscenities at us and punched holes in walls. He often broke things. Reasoning with a delusional mind wasn’t possible. Shouting at him would have provoked worse violence. Punishing him would have enflamed the situation.

We needed to respond calmly. Often ignoring the anger and destruction. That was the only way to defuse the situation. Preventing incidents proved better than reacting.

Does the Bible help us know how to discipline our MI children? Christ is our example.

Christ individualized His responses to those who need correction. He …

  • Used a statement (telling Peter to put down the sword he cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, telling the adulteress’s accusers that whomever is without sin should cast the first stone, telling the adulteress to go and sin no more)
  • Coupled an action with a statement (when He turned over the tables of the moneychangers)
  • Extended mercy (asking God to forgive those who were crucifying Him)
  • Gave a command (rebuking the demons in the man to come out in Mark 1:23-26)
  • Asked a question (when he responded to the Sadducees and Pharisees)

So, how do we discipline a child with MI? We follow Christ’s example. Considering the situation and the heart of our child. Seeking God’s guidance.

When Chris was a child with MI, it helped me to contemplate three things (in addition to talking it over with Howie):

  1. What must it be like for Chris to have MI? Are his actions deliberate? To what extent can he control his behavior?
  2. What would God have me do regarding a specific situation? If I lean on Chris too hard, would it be worth sending him over the edge? Is it time to extend mercy?
  3. Is Chris posing a risk of harm to himself or others? If so, what actions should I take? Is this a time to trust God for protection?

This was and is my daily prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Guide my thoughts, words, actions, and emotions. Help me know how to prevent unwanted behaviors and to respond to them. Give me Your wisdom to know how, when, of if I should react. Protect our family from any physical or emotional harm. Fill Chris with Your perfect peace and restore clarity of thought. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Let this song minister to you as it reminds you of God’s love.

Hallelujah (Your Love is Amazing)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWT3Hd6WqE0

 

 

 

 

Awesome!

Sofieloveslights

Ever watch someone take the last piece of cake? Just before you get there.

Hey, no fair! That was MY piece.

A childish reaction, right?

If you’re like me, maybe that’s what life feels like for you lately. Someone else just took your piece of the contentment pie.

You watch other people skipping through life while you tip toe around mental illness (MI). You notice others going about their day smiling. Seemingly carefree.

When will I get a chance to have fun? Or just get a break. Not a vacation—just a break. A few happy moments. Some relaxing time without having to handle emotions. Some time for refreshment away from witnessing turmoil.

Many moms who have a child with serious MI can’t get away. The child with MI can’t be left unsupervised. Or maybe it’s a teen with MI. So getting a babysitter would not be an option. Perhaps it’s a grown child with an intellectual disability who also has MI. Not many would be qualified to relieve a parent and stay with such a needy individual. To handle such complex needs.

Is it possible to find small pleasures without getting away? Has life destroyed your ability to enjoy small pleasures?

We can learn a lot from toddlers. They embrace everything with glee. Our granddaughter loved the tiny white lights in our garland. As if gazing on sparkling diamonds, she responded with an up-down sing-song, “Oo-oo!” She took each of her stuffed animals to show them. One at a time: “Oo-oo!”

Awesome pleasures can be found in unexpected places. When we least expect it. Like on a muggy summer night.

An oppressive heat wave has stalled over our region. Complete with high temperatures and unbearable humidity. Each afternoon the air is so saturated with moisture that we get a brief thunderstorm.

Last night God treated us to a simple pleasure using those uncomfortable elements. Here’s how He orchestrated it. 

Wind whipping the trees outside announced the surprise. Howie and I went outside to watch. The rain hadn’t started. We could smell it in the air. They sky looked ominous. Billowy grey clouds swirled above. Our giant evergreens swayed and danced. The menacing clouds crept closer. Howie and I bathed in the cool breeze. Such an unexpected reprieve from the heat! Ahhh.

Then the raindrops came. Plunk. Plunk. Plick. Plick. Plunk. We enjoyed the staccato music of the approaching storm. Finally the drizzle turned to a torrential downpour. Time to go inside.

“That was nice,” Howie remarked. In the same tone he’s used after watching a heartwarming movie.

We enjoyed the unexpected concert. Compliments of God.

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for sending small pleasures my way. Help me notice them. How awesome are the sights, sounds, and smells of Your surprises.

Phil Wickham wrote of God’s stormy orchestra in “Cannons”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_GNVWAo1pY