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Discouraged?

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Colonial Williamsburg

Ever notice that fears feed discouragement? You’re afraid of what might happen to your child with mental illness (MI) and your worrying grows. The problems inflate to a size too massive to handle.

I can’t begin to figure it out. What if school problems get worse? What if his new medication doesn’t work? What if our insurance won’t cover the new medication? What if we can’t find a better therapist? Giving up isn’t an option. Where can I go to escape this trial?

You’re not alone in wanting to escape. Take Elijah. He was so fearful that he felt completely isolated. He went into a cave. There he cried out, “‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.’” [1 Kings 19:10 (NKJV)]

The Lord met Elijah in his loneliness. He spoke to him in just a whisper.

“And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice” [1 Kings 19:10-12 (NKJV)]

Listen to part of what God told him:

“‘Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’” [1 Kings 19:18 (NKJV)]

Elijah had become so discouraged that he thought that he was the only person left who had not bowed to Baal. Boy was he wrong! A whopping seven thousand others in Israel had remained faithful to God.

Things aren’t as bad as they seem. God understands our despair. He has words to encourage our hearts. He’ll meet us in our loneliness and discouragement. Not in the wind, or an earthquake, or a fire. But in a still small voice. We just need to tune into God’s soft messages. But how do we do that?

The Lord gave me insight when our piano was being tuned.

A friend of ours came to our house to tune our piano. While he worked, I did my devotions. The piano tuning drew my attention away from the Bible. I wondered, How is he able to tune our piano by ear?

Then I realized he had developed his keen musical ear as a music teacher. The more time he spent listening to notes, the easier it was for him to discriminate between pitches.

My mind shifted back to my devotions, but then continued to wander again.

How can I develop a keen ear to hear God’s voice? Probably the same way. The more I listen to His words, the easier it will be for me to distinguish His voice from all the other noises in my head. But how can I hear God’s messages for me?

With the piano-tuning serenade in the background, God whispered to me. “Remain in My presence and you’ll hear My voice.”

Remain in His presence. That’ll help me get my heart tuned up. 

With deeper focus I searched for verses about being in God’s presence.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast”  (Psalm 139:7-10).

His presence never leaves us.

“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence” (Acts 2:28).

His presence fills us with joy.

“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence” (1 John 3:19).

Our hearts can rest in His presence.

So next time I’m discouraged, I’ll rest in His presence and tune into God’s still small voice.

 

Reaching Out

Reaching out

If you really want to find out if others understand your journey, it’s possible. There are other moms raising kids with mental illness (MI).

Reaching Out To Other Moms

Why do we want to know we’re not alone? Maybe it’s because:

  • It helps to know there actually are other mothers who know what it’s like to raise a child with MI.
  • We want to know that there are other moms (like me) who do all they can to help their child with MI, and still have times of turmoil. That tells us that those behaviors truly are challenging. It’s not that we have overlooked something. Caring, attentive mothers still have to face HARD times. There’s a limit to what we can do. That’s the nature of the illness.
  • We need to know other moms face the same struggles and still survive. That gives us some hope.
  • Moms in similar situations can show us other ways we can help our kids.
  • We can find empathy without judgement.

So I searched for like-minded moms. I stumbled on a blog where a mom, Christina Halli, shared her story. For one year she posted messages relating what it’s like to raise a son with numerous conditions. That’s right, throughout the years, her son has displayed symptoms of MANY different conditions associated with MI.

What struck me was how many people visited her blog, and shared their situations. Her blog was filled with TONS of stories, each one more horrific than the next. Each one just as heart-wrenching.

As I read the countless comments posted, my heart filled with sorrow. My eyes puddled up with tears. Because I could relate to their private pain. So could you.


 

Here are a few links for you to read for yourself.

On HealthyPlace.com you’ll find Christina Halli’s personal story calledLife with Bob.

Christina began her story with a brief introduction, About Christina Halli, Author of the Life with Bob Blog.

A sample of one of Christian’s posts: “A Letter to My Son with Mental Illness on Mother’s Day


 

Reaching Out to Find Something More

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My experiences have shown me that horrific details are just part of my story. God is a HUGE part of the picture.

We can grasp what we really need. Just reach out and grasp what God offers.

  • When faced with discouragement, He gives divine endurance.
  • When faced with horror, He loads us with abundant hope.
  • When faced with uncertainty, He uplifts us. The God of the future assures us He’s got it all under control He’s still on the throne.
  • When faced with helplessness, He provides heavenly wisdom and holy promises.
  • When faced with chaos, He responds with compassion.
  • When faced with overwhelming needs, He overwhelms us with His love and protection.
  • In our sorrow, we experience the supernatural peace of God.
  • In our loneliness, we feel the Lord’s presence.
  • In our fears, we find a faithful God.

Think it’s just for me? He’s reaching out to you, too!

Thanksgiving: Praise and Prayers for Those Suffering

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What comes to mind when you think of the word ‘spread’ at Thanksgiving? For most people, that word conjures up fond memories of a huge feast. A golden turkey surrounded by Aunt Sally’s stuffing, Cousin Sarah’s sweet potato topped with marshmallows, Ben’s bean casserole, and more. Followed by another spread of desserts. Apple pie a la mode, pumpkin pie, and the ever-popular Grandma’s homemade chocolate cake.

Sitting around the holiday table with loved ones can be uncomfortable—in more ways than one. We pig out on the food. And wind up stuffed. Uncle John raises awkward conversations. And we wish we could crawl under the table.

As Thanksgiving approaches, a mother raising a child with mental illness (MI) might have additional things on her mind. Instead of enjoying fond memories of a food spread, some of us fight emotions. Fear spreads as we conjure up thoughts of worst-case scenarios.

Will my child with MI be stable enough to join in the celebration? Will other family members be accepting of him? What if his symptoms emerge? How will others react if he doesn’t eat? How will I respond to probing questions? Can I bear seeing him sitting in a corner all alone another year?

Most Americans pause to thank God on Thanksgiving. Surely, those of us raising kids with MI have a list of praises for God at this time. That He’s protected our own sanity, if nothing else. Wouldn’t it be a relief if Thanksgiving was also a time to send prayers for those who are suffering?

We may feel alone in our journey, but we’re not the only ones who suffer. Everyone suffers at one time or another. President Lincoln demonstrated his awareness of that fact in his Thanksgiving Proclamation. Find his words of compassion in a portion of that proclamation:

“I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans. mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.”

Lincoln was referring to the suffering of the nation faced with civil strife. He invited citizens to pray for ‘the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.’ Those same words could be applied to us.

Here’s my Thanksgiving Day prayer for you:

Dear Father,

I thank You for how You’ve provided for mothers raising children with MI. For those who have seen Your hand in their lives and who have seen improvement in their children. I’m grateful for Your protection. For each mother reading this, I now ask that You give ‘full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union’ in her home.  May Your love spread in the hearts of each family member. Bless each one with a truly joyous Thanksgiving Day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Hanging On

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God used that stubborn maple tree to draw me closer to him. Here’s how.  Each year we get our gutters cleaned out. But only after the trees surrounding our house have shed all their leaves.  Every tree in our neighborhood had released their leaves. Except the one closest to our house.

Our gutters couldn’t be cleaned until all the leaves on that tree were gone. Why did I become so frustrated with that maple tree? Because it represented one more thing I couldn’t control.

Health is one thing we can’t fully control. Not the health of our loved ones, or our own. Those of us raising kids with mental illness (MI) have learned that lesson the hard way.

In addition to our son’s MI, my husband’s health made me feel a bit helpless. His gallbladder needed to be removed.  As we waited for the day of surgery, I didn’t stray far from home.  At any moment, he could suffer another gallbladder attack.

My imaginary jar of control was filled to the brim. I was successfully handling daily chores—Howie’s and mine. Howie and I controlled what he ate, being careful not to add any fat to his diet. I was even able to control how much attention I’d give to my own physical symptoms (growing fatigue, worsening back pain, annoying runny nose and sore throat…). God helped me ignore all my own pain as He gave me endurance.

The tree became the straw that broke my control container. I couldn’t check off ‘gutters cleaned’ from my to-do list until that tree cooperated!

Why are you hanging on for so long? Let them go!

Those two words, “hanging on” echoed in my mind.

Hanging on … Hanging on …

 Hanging on can be good or bad.  I wondered if I had been hanging onto thoughts of the life I dreamt for Chris. Before his MI hit, he seemed on track to lead a fulfilling life. First there’d be college and then a job. Followed by life with a family in a suburban home.

God had other plans. I wondered if I’d fully accepted God’s plan for Chris. Then I reminded myself of God’s faithfulness. He had enabled Chris to graduate from college. Since then, Chris has remained active.

My deliberate shift in focus back to God’s faithfulness reminded me of what Jonah expressed. For three days he lived inside a great fish, ensnared by his surroundings. Finally Jonah turned his heart to God and said,

“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” (Jonah 2:7-9).

When we feel our life ‘ebbing away’, it helps to remember our Lord and cry out to Him.  Our Creator, who kept Jonah alive in a fish, will sustain us. He’s the God of nature who controls all things. Who has power to do more than we can imagine. Who loves us more than we know.

So here’s the good part of hanging on. When we hang onto God, we can relinquish all control to Him, trusting that He’ll care for us and our family.

Maybe we can’t relate to being swallowed by a great fish. (I can’t remember the last time I heard about someone on the news surviving such an ordeal!) It’s easier to envision wandering in a wilderness. In Psalm 63 we read about how David clung to God when he was in the wilderness.

Perhaps you’re wandering through a period of emotional drought—void of joy and peace. Let David’s words be your prayer to God:

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:1-8).

Hang in there and cling to God.

 

Waiting for the Payoff

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What’s the point of all we do? No one thanks us for showing unconditional love to our child who has mental illness (MI). No one knows our heartache. Or our loneliness. What keeps us going? How do we continue to support our child with little or help or no recognition?

We don’t see the fruit of our labor like other moms raising kids without MI. There are days when discouragement sets in. Thoughts of our child’s future taunt us.

Will he ever be fully healed? Will joy and peace ever return to him? Will he ever find his place in life?

We’re tempted to shake our fist at God and cry, “Why do you allow this misery to continue?” How is it possible to resist the temptation to lash out at God? By remaining in His Word and clinging to His promises.

How do we face another day? What does keep us going? Certainly we’re driven by our steadfast love for our child. We’re also propelled by the rewards God promises.

Matthew reminds us that there will be an eternal payoff.   He tenderly shifts our focus by saying,

“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20).

Eye on the Prize:

MI tempts us to abandon our faith in God. For those who trust in God, Jeremiah offers encouragement.

“… ‘your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me, says the Lord’”  [Jeremiah 39:18b (NKJV)].

For those who earnestly seek Him:

I can’t imagine dealing with MI without access to a real and living God. When earthly reality gets shattered, I can rely on the Truth that God exists. He not only invites us to turn to him in our distress, but He promises to reward us for doing so.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

For those who persevere under trial:

When things get tough, it helps to have someone cheering us on. Teaching was especially tough for me when multiple sclerosis (MS) hit. My husband kept assuring me, “You can do this.” God reassures us that we can endure with His help. He doesn’t say, “See if you can make this for one more year.” That would sound IMPOSSIBLE. He calls us to trust Him one day at a time. Just like when He told the Israelites wandering in the wilderness to trust Him for manna for each day. For those of us who trust him afresh each morning, He promises a reward.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

The online Oxford University Press dictionary defines “persevere” as to, “Continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.”

Is that a picture of your efforts? Do you continue to do all that is within your power to help your child, even though deep down inside you suspect it won’t make a difference?

James tells you that you will be rewarded for persevering under trial—for ministering to your child in so many ways and for such a long time.

For those who run as God’s athlete:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

Running the race God has set before us involves strenuous effort, self-control, and concentration.

In the face of MI, we focus solely on fixing our child’s problems. Like a marathon race, our track requires strenuous effort. We can say we ended the day victoriously if we devoted strenuous effort to seek God in the trial.

Ours is a daily battle of fighting fears, self-pitying thoughts, and anger.

When circumstances take a turn for the worst, I’ve had to deliberately interrupt my own negative thinking.

Why must I have to face this AGAIN? I’m just so tired of—No! Dear Father, put a hedge about my thoughts and emotions. Block out any negative thoughts. Help me deal with this situation. Give me steady emotions and Your wisdom.

We can exert self-control. Self-control that will be seen in our gentle responses to our child, regardless of his actions. Restraint that doesn’t come from self-will, but from the Holy Spirit in us.

We can demonstrate a constant concentration on our goal. Many of us function with a clear focus on heavenly matters, in addition to life’s pressing concerns. Yes, we help our child find good treatment, compassionate therapists, and a purpose for their life. In the midst of it all, we also remember to invest Truth into his heart. We share verses and pray with him. And we remind him that God’s power is greater than any problems. We reassure him that God is still on the throne.

Run your race with renewed confidence. God will enable you today and reward you for all eternity. He’ll give you treasures in heaven and a crown of life. That will truly be the best payoff ever!

Sharing Tips

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I’ll bet you’ve discovered ways you can survive raising a child with mental illness (MI).

In addition to clinging to God and His Word, I’ve found ways to validate God’s faithfulness. And ways to help me abandon my unnecessary guilt trip.

Watch the video I made. “Join me” in a park and connect with me in a more personal way. Here’s the link to the brief video titled ‘2 Tips for Moms Raising Kids with MI’:

https://youtu.be/SW0BRUx2mM0

What practical strategy could you share with others?

Prepared and Protected

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I wonder if I’ll get a few good pictures at this renaissance fair.

Photography is my hobby. All my cares disappear when I’m involved in a photo shoot. It’s my escape. I get so focused on the next image to capture that I can ignore everything. Once, I was oblivious to the fact that mosquitoes were biting me. The breathtaking sunset seemed to activate only my visual senses. That outing yielded stunning pictures, and two armfuls of mosquito bites!

Whenever I go on a photo shoot, I’m excited if it yields just one fantastic photograph. However, the renaissance fair didn’t hold much promise. I entered the fairgrounds and disappointment hit. At first glance, nothing seemed snapshot-worthy. No good Kodak moments presented themselves. But, I wandered around snapping pictures anyway.

Nothing really excited me. Until I came upon the birds of prey. A thin rope surrounded three birds, each tethered to a perch on the ground. The owl grabbed my attention. I’d never been so close to a live owl. Inches separated me from the gorgeous bird. I could have reached out and touched it. But, I resisted the temptation.

Suddenly, loud clanging sounds pierced the silence. Behind me, two costumed men were having a sword fight. Each time their swords clashed, the owl spun its head around. The huge eyes stared in my direction. I stood mesmerized. Suddenly, I jolted to my sense, set my camera on the sports function, and snapped away.

Humans do something similar when on high alert. Someone shouts, “Heads us!” and we duck. A ball is thrown in our direction and we automatically protect ourselves. If only we can hold that picture in our mind as a symbol of what to do with mental illness (MI). At the first indication that more challenges are being hurled our way, the best thing to do would be to lower our head in prayer.

Our reflexes protect us from physical injury due to an incoming ball. Can we likewise learn to respond with instant prayer to incoming trials? Can we get better at responding quicker with spiritual protection? When we see our child slipping, can our immediate response be to bow our heads in prayer?

That’s not always my immediate reaction. Here’s an admission: initially my emotions drive my reactions. Worries come. Tears flow. Problem-solving thoughts swirl in my head. It’s not my automatic response to seek God’s help.

So here’s my resolve: When sorrow is heading to my heart, I’ll strive to get better at seeking God’s protection—FIRST.

By the way…isn’t the phrase, “heads up” the wrong thing to scream? Shouldn’t we instead shout, “Heads down?” While contemplating those words of misdirection, I considered using them for spiritual protection. If I can keep my spiritual “heads up”, with my heart lifted to God, I just bet I could face the next trial with more of His peace. Make sense?

Here’s my plan. The next time I sense things are shaky with Chris, I’ll repeat to myself, “Heads up … Heads up … Heads up …” That’ll remind me to turn my heart heavenward, bow my head in prayer, and trust Him. I know He’ll remind me of His faithfulness. And that He’ll provide the peace and protection needed. In addition, He’ll help me prepare for whatever by giving me His wisdom.

Most of us have a first aid kit. We’re prepared for any physical injury or illness. In our heart, we can have a MI first aid kit: prayer and God’s Word. That’s a kit which will keep us prepared, protected, and at peace.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).