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God knows.

parched land

From the ground, the residents may not be able to see the impending doom. But I could see that the river was drying up. That’s because I was in an airplane.

Are you like that river? Are your mental, emotional, and spiritual resources drying up? Is it getting harder and harder to find one more drop of compassion? One more trickle of tenderness? Has your energy evaporated? Are you just so tired? Worn out. Do you fear your caregiving drought is on the horizon?

No one can really tell how dried up you feel, but God knows. Things look different from His vantage point.

There are times we wish that we could just get away. Or at least mentally escape the concerns about our children with mental illness (MI). If only we could refrain from worry, even for just one day. Do our husbands or loved ones know just how much we need a break? Maybe not, but God knows.

Can a mom temporarily put her concerns on pause? If she did, who would attend to the needs of her most vulnerable child?  Isaiah 41:17 promises that “The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them” (Isaiah 41:17).

God will not forsake us or our children. God knows we need to be rejuvenated. Isaiah 35:1-2 assures us that God will restore life in a parched land. As we walk in our MI wilderness, we’ll witness God’s restoring power.

“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom …they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God” (Isaiah 35:1-2).

I’ve learned that God is able to provide quiet moments with Him in the midst of chaos or uncertainty. He has arranged times when I could take a mental break from my responsibilities. The key was putting ALL my cares in His hands. The challenge was to trust that God knows all—what I need and what each of my family members need.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

Completely relinquish your child into the hands of God who loves him more, knows all, and has unlimited power. Trust God to give you a much-deserved break. God knows you need it!

Listen to Yalonda Adams’ song, ‘Still I Rise’  where she rejoices that, “God is able to strengthen me.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tfj-UDua9RE

 

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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

reaching.out.2.God

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!

Better than a Resolution

center.4.life

Things shift our focus.

The death of a loved one causes us to look back and reflect.

January 1st signals the time to look ahead.

An airplane window beckons us to look down.

My husband always lets me have the window seat when we fly. On one flight, I stared out the window of the plane and spotted something symbolic. An entire housing development surrounded a baseball diamond.  As if to say that the lives of all the residents centered abound baseball. That got me to thinking.

I’ll bet some people’s lives DO revolve around baseball. What does my life revolve around? What’s at the heart of my life?

Like most Christians, I immediately thought of the Lord. My family came in second.

My mind continued to wander.

What do I think about most? What occupies my thoughts? What uses up most of my mental energy? What do I pray most about? What has impacted me the most? What has broken my heart more than anything?

Funny how a mind can wander. Especially when there’s lots of time to think.

It didn’t take me long to answer those questions. My son who has mental illness (MI) has captured much of my energy: mental, emotional, and spiritual. I’m sure that’s the same with you, if you also have a child with MI.

As I think of the year ahead, selecting a New Year’s resolution hasn’t crossed my mind. The date on a calendar won’t change my life-long resolve to be the best mother I can be for Chris (and my other son, his family, and my husband).

People make resolutions, then break them. Moms raising kids with MI can’t afford to break their resolve.

We resolve to continue supporting our vulnerable children. Take them to therapists. Help them adjust to treatments.  Advocate for them. Comfort them. Protect them. And pray for them.

What lasts longer than any resolution? A mom’s love. Especially a mom’s devotion to her child who has MI. The more our kids hurt, the more determined we are to help them.

Shakable VS Unbreakable

The mind is involved in listing resolutions. Good intentions drive resolutions. Thoughtful decisions formulate resolutions. Cracks in commitment occur when temptations arise. New priorities cause us to abandon resolutions.

Something much more powerful shapes a mother’s response to her child with MI. Love drives her actions. Motherly instincts solidify her determination to protect and comfort her child. Her love is unbreakable.

So, rather than begin a new year with resolutions, we start each day with our unshakable determination to:

  • Worry less, and trust God more
  • Succumb to anxiety less, and rest in His peace more
  • Watch TV and check out social media less, and seek His Word more
  • Strive to design our own plans (for our child’s life) less, and yield to God’s plans more
  • Talk less and listen more (to our child and to God)
  • Lecture less, and encourage more

Will we succeed every day? Absolutely not! But God’s faithfulness will never fail. At the end of 2016, we will be sure of one thing:  God kept all His promises.

 

Standing Together

stand.togthr

I had selfish reasons for asking my friend the question. “Is your daughter still dealing with depression?” Truly, I wanted to know if her daughter’s medication was helping her deal with the demands of life. I had been praying for her. But, I also needed to hear how my friend was dealing with her daughter’s mental illness (MI). If she could hang onto her faith, then I’d find renewed confidence in my own faith. An encouraging word from my friend would remind me that God is able to help us in the midst of a very dark time.

Happily, I found that the new medication was helping. What’s more, my friend expressed unwavering faith. Her strong trust in the Lord bolstered my faith.

If she can keep her eyes on the Lord through this trial, I can do likewise.

Godly friends can show us the way to handle great sorrow. When the enemy tries to saturate our soul with fears, they serve as living examples of how it’s possible to rely on God’s peace.

It reminds me of Paul’s inner struggle when he wanted to see his fellow believers in Thessalonica. Satan had been hindering Paul from going to them.

“For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way” (1 Thessalonians 2:18).

Has your child’s MI made you feel like Satan is blocking your way, keeping you from moving on?

How did Paul respond?

“So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain” (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5).

He got to the point where he couldn’t bear it any longer.

We can relate to that, can’t we?

What did Paul do? He sent Timothy to go to Thessalonica. He needed to know if his fellow believers had been under similar temptations. He needed to know that their faith remained strong.

Timothy’s encouraging report comforted Paul.

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 3:7-8).

We gain strength from each other when we stand firm in the Lord. It’s uplifting to hear that a fellow believer has remained strong in the midst of dark trials.

Those of us who have lived many years supporting a child with MI can encourage others who are new in their journey. We can share how God revealed Himself in the midst of trials. And those starting their journey can be encouraged to persevere.

We can relate stories about how God has been true to His promises. And bolster a fellow mom in her faith walk.

We can tell about God’s faithfulness, and others will gain strength to carry on.

We can endure our own trials when we know others are finding strength in the Lord. Because we share the same living God. Who cares for us, helps us, strengthens us, provides for us, protects our children, and comforts us.

We’re connected in raising children with MI. And we’re connected in our faith. We can carry on by encouraging each other in our unwavering faith.

Remember, Paul needed to reach out to fellow believers. And so do we.

Desert Island Paradise?

Diamond Head Honolulu, Hawaii

Diamond Head
Honolulu, Hawaii

Would you pick up a travel brochure that advertised, “Visit the Land of Sorrow”? Perhaps it would at least grab your attention.

Curiosity might tempt you to peek at the inside pages. You’d read:

The Land of Sorrow promises to be both exhilarating and frightening. There will be times of fear, followed by times of fun.

Pass through the parched Desert of Dried-up Dreams. Then, visit the Island Paradise of Joy-filled Living.

You’d quickly return the brochure to its fellow unwanted pamphlets. That kind of trip wouldn’t appeal to you. The destination would sound all-too familiar. Kinda like life which includes raising a child with mental illness (MI)—a rollercoaster life.

Recently Genesis 41:52 grabbed my attention. My daily devotional included the verse, “God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow” (MSG).

Prosperity in the land of sorrow?

Curiosity tempted me to peek inside the Bible and find out the context.

Genesis 37, 39, and 40 set the stage. Those chapters describe Joseph’s land of sorrow. Out of jealousy, his brothers threw him into a pit and left him to die. Then, they realized selling their brother would be profitable. So, they lifted him out and sold him to the Ishmaelites, who took Joseph to Egypt. There, the captain of the guard’s wife lied about Joseph. So, Joseph was cast into prison. While in the dungeon, Joseph interpreted the chief butler’s dream. Joseph hoped that when the butler was released, he’d convince Pharaoh to release him. But, when the chief butler got released, he forgot all about Joseph.

Then came Joseph’s prosperity. Two years later, the butler finally remembered Joseph. He told Pharaoh that Joseph could interpret his dream (Genesis 41:1-13). Joseph assured Pharaoh, “God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (Genesis 41:16b). Joseph’s interpretation pleased Pharaoh so much that he said, “‘You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you … See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt’” (Genesis 41:40-41).

That was just the beginning of Joseph’s prosperity. He and the people of Egypt enjoyed seven years of abundant food. Pharaoh gave Joseph a wife, who bore him two sons.

That’s the part of the story which includes the intriguing verse.

“He named his second son Ephraim (Double Prosperity), saying, ‘God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow’” [Genesis 41:52 (MSG)].

The context gave me insight. Joseph endured hardship in the land of Egypt. Later, he enjoyed prosperity in the same land. It encouraged me to read about someone who experienced an easy life after tremendous hardship. His God could do the same for me. So I read on.

Just as God had instructed in Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph stored up food during the seven yrs. of plenty to ensure he’d have food during the seven yrs. of severe famine. Genesis 41:53-54 reveals the wisdom of God’s advice.

“Then Egypt’s seven good years came to an end and the seven years of famine arrived, just as Joseph had said. All countries experienced famine; Egypt was the only country that had bread” [Genesis 41:53-54 (MSG)].

Can we relate to Joseph?

He was treated unfairly by his brothers, by the captain of the guard’s wife, and by the chief butler. It can seem unfair that we’ve been charged with raising a child with MI (especially if we’re also dealing with other challenges).

Like Joseph, we’ve gone through times of sorrow. We’ve watched our children suffer losses, experience turmoil, or endure depression and anxiety. Some of us have witnessed our children bear paranoia or psychosis.

Joseph prepared for the oncoming famine by storing up grain. We can prepare for the possible re-emergence of MI symptoms by storing up verses.

Pharaoh told his servants, ““Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” (Genesis 41:38).

The same Spirit, which was in Joseph, is in those of us who have received Christ as our Savior. The Holy Spirit will give us wisdom and discernment to help our fragile and vulnerable children.

We still may get hung up on the taunting question of why. Why did God allow MI to strike our children?

Joseph’s story offers us an end to that torment. Joseph understood that God had a plan for his life. So, he was able to forgive his brothers. He told them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

That presents us with a great challenge. Can we view our circumstances from a heavenly perspective? We may never fully understand God’s purposes for the trials we endure. But, we can be sure His plans are perfect and His love is endless. When life doesn’t make sense, God’s Word calms our fear and confusion. His unchanging Truths help us trust God even if we can’t track Him.

Dear Father,

Help me look past my circumstances that seem so unfair at times. Give me have an eternal perspective. Please prosper me and my family in our land of sorrow. Lead me to verses that I can use during stormy days. Verses that will remind me of Your love and faithfulness. Be gracious to restore joy and peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Strength to Endure

08-18-2007 11;08;50AM

Chris: Earliest Weight Lifting

Our son beamed as he pointed to the broken drum head hanging on his wall.

“Why are you smiling, Rob? We paid good money for that.”

“Not everyone can drum so hard they damage a Kevlar drum head!” he boasted, still beaming.

Apparently, the destroyed drum head symbolized superior drumming abilities. Rob obviously had enough strength to pierce the bullet-proof material of his drum head, while beating his sticks to the rhythm.

Our sons have been in top physical shape for decades. When Rob and Chris were in fifth and seventh grades (respectively), they earned their black belts in Tae Kwon Do. Both of them continued to work out regularly. Rob went on to earn a black belt in Aikido. Currently he does CrossFit workouts (a grueling fitness regimen of high-intensity movements). Chris works out daily, lifting weights and pushing himself to his limit when running.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have such strength? I’d settle for just a drop of their energy!

It’s inner strength I need most. Join me for a moment as I step into my fantasy world. I’m imagining that I could touch Chris’s muscles and instantly my heart would be incased in steel protection. It could no longer be shattered by sorrow, worry, grief, or torment.  Chris’s muscular power would be translated into emotional stamina in my body.

Okay, back to reality…

Raising a child with mental illness (MI) requires unbreakable feelings, emotions that can withstand a tornado of trials. No, we can’t tap into someone else’s physical strength or even borrow their emotional fortitude. Happily, we’ve got a better Source of strength.

Think for a moment about what this verse says: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).

His Spirit lives in us. Our all-consuming struggles tend to make us feel as if God’s abandoned us. We feel so distant from Him. But, if we truly believe Romans 8:11, then we couldn’t get any closer to our Father. He abides in us.

How do we benefit from His power? Here are just some ways.

Power to calm

Those of us who have received Christ as our Savior have God’s power in us. The Holy Spirit, dwelling in us, will comfort our hearts. The power that created all things and conquered death can surely calm a mom’s aching heart.

Power for emotional strength

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

Power for prayer

Our problems seem so complex. At times, we don’t even know how to pray. We’re not alone. Paul also tended to be prayerfully speechless. He offers us the solution in Romans 8:26 when he points out that, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Paul’s recommendation: Turn it over to the Holy Spirit.

“Today, Holy Spirit, I’m too broken to utter a prayer. I’m relying on You to intercede. Thank You for carrying my concerns to God. In Jesus’ name, Amen”

Power to continue

Life that includes MI is so … constant. So daily. We can face another day because we believe that, “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28a).

Power to live by faith

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get so tired of trying to figure out how to deal with MI (how to minister to my son, how to solve the problems, how to get other family members to understand…). Galatians 2:20 gives me hope that I can switch from mental fatigue to faithful living.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

A Whole Pack of Power!

“O Lord, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in the day of affliction…” (Jeremiah 16:19).

“O God, You are more awesome than Your holy places. The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people” (Psalm 68:35).

“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage” (Psalm 84:5).

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


Our son, Rob, has tremendous strength because of CrossFit. Jesus’ cross makes us fit. We are divinely Cross Fit. We’re emotionally equipped to deal with whatever MI will do to our kids. Because we face our trials in His power.

Run

Run.Is.40.31

“Cherish the moment,” said our seven-year-old son. Chris stared across the water gazing at Tom Sawyer Island. His first visit to Disney World captivated him. Even a child could appreciate the serene paradise.

Have you experienced moments like that? Times that you wanted to freeze time?

I’ve collected several “cherish-the-moment” memories. Periodically I “page through” those mental images. I’m sure you’ve got similar snapshots in your mental photo album. Most of my favorite memories are those of family members. Like these:

Our Dream-Come-True Day

Our Dream-Come-True Day

Beach Blessings: Chris and Rob with my mom

Beach Blessings: Chris and Rob with my mom

Chris reciting Luke 2:8-14

Chris reciting Luke 2:8-14

Listen to Chris’s own words:

Some of my treasured moments capture my greatest passions. Like God’s creation and music. Here are two of those “cherish-the-moment” snapshots:

Second Honeymoon Moment: Hawaii Cove

Second Honeymoon Moment: Hawaii Cove

I once had the opportunity to attend a musical performance of   “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band. Prior to that experience, I had never heard such perfection in music. [Treat yourself to a sample by listening to them perform John Philip Sousa’s march “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”]

Those of us raising children with mental illness (MI) have an additional category of special memories. We relish ordinary activities more than most moms. Like going on a family outing that’s stress-free. Or watching our child interact happily with a friend.

Recently I added one of those moments to my collection. Chris participated in a 5K run. He asked me to take pictures of the event. Howie joined me as we stood in the rain watching the participants. Joy flooded my heart as I watched Chris run along the route. He looked so focused and fit.

Chris.5K

After the race ended, the three of us enjoyed a celebratory meal at Red Lobster. All throughout dinner, Chris chatted happily about the event.

I’ve savored that memory and reflected on it often. God spoke to my heart saying, “I delight in watching you run your race.”

I imagined God running alongside me, guiding me, protecting me, and cheering me on. Can you envision that same scene? THAT’S a memory we can all share!

Our Companion has promised that, “When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble” (Proverbs 4:12).

Our other son, Rob once ran a twenty-six mile marathon. He told me that most marathon runners “hit the wall.” It’s a sudden wave of fatigue that sets in at about 20 miles into a marathon. God has entered us in the MI marathon. Sooner or later we all have moments of fatigue. When we feel as if our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual resources have been depleted.

At those moments, how do we go on? By focusing on the end of our race.

“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).

When we’re worn out and weary, God encourages us by promising that, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Man’s GPS (Global Positioning System) will only help us navigate as we travel roads. We have access to a far better system: GPS, God’s Positioning System that helps us navigate through life.

When we’re unsure where to turn, Scripture provides guidance. We can say with assurance, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Marshals guided runners along the course.

Marshals guided runners along the course.

“In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6).

Our race in life will also be followed by a wonderful meal. I look forward to the feast that will be in heaven. An angel foretold of it saying, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19:9).