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Dragons in our Lives

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Chinese Lantern Festival Philadelphia, PA

I didn’t stand in fear of the dragon. In fact, its beauty amazed me.  The vibrant colors lit up the dark sky.  It was just one of countless structures in the Chinese Lantern Festival.  It could do me no harm.

But dragons in our lives are another thing. Like the dragon named Mental Illness (MI). Knowing what it’s done in our child’s life, could anyone embrace that creature as a thing of beauty?

The poet, Rainer Maria Rilke seemed to suggest just that. In his Letters to a Young Poet  he explains, “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

It seems that Rilke would have us view MI as “something helpless that wants our love.” Seriously?  Such twisted philosophy comes from a man who lived his entire life rejecting Christianity. He searched for deeper meaning in life by writing poetry. His poems, therefore, reflect a troubled inner self.

In The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge he writes, “How is it possible to live when after all the elements of this life are utterly incomprehensible to us?” What a sad view of life!

Those of us who know God and who have an intimate relationship with Him gain an eternal perspective of trials. We have a clear vision of what He has done in the past, how He provides for us in the present, and what He will do in the future.

We see God as the One who has already triumphed. As the One who is greater than any challenges before us. And He is the One who will banish the dragon deceiver. Revelation gives us a picture of God’s ultimate power over deception.

“And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.  He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.” (Revelation 20:1-3).

“The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Revelation 12:9).

The deceiver of nations contaminated Rilke’s view of God. He prevented Rilke from finding God in his search for life’s meaning. That deceiver led him astray from knowing God. So Rilke created his own twisted version of God.

But that deceiver of nations does not have to deceive us. We need not listen to that voice that taunts, “God isn’t able to help your child. He’s not even working….” The Bible assures us God IS alive and working in our lives.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

There may be times in our journey that we wonder where God is. But He is faithful to reveal Himself in our darkest days. And His light is more beautiful than the dragon lantern’s vibrant colors that lit up the dark sky. He’s done it for me and he’ll do it for you.


Here’s a peek at some of the photos I took of the Chinese Lanterns. Click on the link below and enjoy a diversion from your day:

http://play.smilebox.com/SpreadMoreHappy/4e4451774e7a59344e444e384f5459314f4441314f444d3d0d0a

 

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What can we do in the face of threats?

God.is.light

He is our light & salvation.

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He is our light & salvation.

Rock

He is our light & salvation.

God.stronghold

He is our light & salvation.

The bombings in Brussels happened so far from us, yet the reality of such an attack weighs heavy in our minds. Americans know that terrorism can happen anywhere. So we can relate to the fear that’s engulfed the people of Brussels. Certainly, we can’t know the terror they experienced and are still feeling. But media reports give us some idea.

FOX News Network’s online article, “At least 31 killed in terror attacks at Brussels airport, Metro station” describes the horror travelers witnessed today. The scene was described as harrowing, with blood everywhere. Like a war scene.  There was confusion, chaos, and crying. The exploding bombs sparked panic. People ran to escape, but were unsure where to flee. Some were left dazed. Most were filled with fear.

Horrific events like this put things into perspective. Moms raising kids with mental illness (MI) may know one kind of fear. The kind that grips a mother’s heart, day in and day out. Fear of what might happen next. Many worry their child’s life will be lost to suicide or to a drug overdose. Many feel their child’s life has already been lost, in a sense, to MI.

Most of us haven’t been victims of mass destruction.  We watch the news and can only imagine such terror. We hear witnesses’ accounts of how life had been suddenly ravaged. And we begin to pray for them.

All of humanity holds their breath, wondering where the next attack will hit. But we’re all determined not to give into the taunting fear.  So we grapple with this question: What can we do in the face of threats?

Fear is fear. It’s an emotion that contaminates our calm at one time or another. Countless stories in the Bible tell of fear triggered by approaching threats. God has included those stories so we have examples of how to respond. We can open the scriptures and hear some of those heroes whisper words of wisdom.


Abraham shows us how to handle fear.

Abraham “did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:20-21). 

I wondered if I could be as “fully persuaded.”

How do people get persuaded? I contemplated. Undeniable facts are presented. So I reasoned:  if I want to have that same unshakable faith, I should reflect on the undeniable facts about God. He is real. He cares for me and my loved ones. He will never leave me. He has power to do what He has promised.


Still I needed more of a pep talk from another Bible hero. I found it in 2 Chronicles 20.

Jehoshaphat shows us how to face fear.

One king knew what it was like to face an attack from Syria (and other armies). Notice how he felt and what he did.

First: “Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:3-4).

That’s what the citizens of Brussels and all over the world are doing: seeking help from the Lord, and gathering together to pray. That’s what a mom can do as well. Seek the Lord and ask others to pray.

Next: Jehoshaphat acknowledged God’s power and remembered what His past victories. He said, “Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?” (2 Chronicles 20:6-7).

To bolster our faith, we can also reflect on what God has done.

We can also acknowledge God’s power and remember how He has worked in our lives and in the lives of our kids.

After that: Jehoshaphat made a remarkable statement. He boldly proclaimed that, “If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us” (2 Chronicles 20:9).

His was a declaration of faith in God, no matter what. Jehoshaphat knew that details and situations don’t change God. No matter what, he believed God would hear and save them. Jehoshaphat’s example inspires us to also believe that God will hear and save us from our troubles.

Next: Jehoshaphat told God why he was afraid, and asked God to provide wisdom and victory.

“O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

Likewise, we can also tell God why we’re afraid, and ask God to provide wisdom and victory.

Following that:  Jehoshaphat, even before he went to fight his enemies, bowed before the Lord and worshipped. He even appointed people to sing praises to God.

“Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. Then the Levites of the children of the Kohathites and of the children of the Korahites stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel with voices loud and high … And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: ‘Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever’”  (2 Chronicles 20:18-19. 21).

Jehoshaphat and his people worshipped God even before knowing the outcome. If he can do that, so can we. By faith, we can worship the Lord even before we know the outcome. Because we know He’s faithful.

How did God respond? The spirit of the Lord said, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s’” (2 Chronicles 20:15).

God reminded the people that the battle is His. We can be assured of the same fact: the battle we’re fighting is His. God is bigger than any battle.

Jehoshaphat reassured the people, “You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:17).

We can stand still and watch God work, with the assurance that God is with us.

 How did the battle end? God had the armies defeat themselves.

“The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another. When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped” (2 Chronicles 20:23-24).


What we can learn from courageous spies:

There are others in the Bible who show us how to face fear.  The Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land. Before they crossed the border, God gave them instructions.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites’” (Numbers 13:1-2).

Fear defeated some of the spies because of what they saw. They reported, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are … We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:3b-4a).

We’re tempted to look at the giants in our lives and say, “Game over!”

Thankfully Joshua and Caleb kept their focus on the Lord. They reported a future victory, despite the size of the enemy. And bolstered the peoples’ faith by saying, “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (Numbers 14:8-9).

We need not fear; the Lord is with us.


Daniel’s friends show us how to deal with fear. Just being thrown into a fiery furnace, the said, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

We, too can be certain God will be with us. Regardless of the outcome, we can still worship the king of all Kings.

What did God do? He walked with them in the fire and spared their lives.

The king responded in his astonishment, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25).

God walks with us as we go through burning trials.


 

David and other psalmists show us how to remove all fear.

The psalmists knew about fear. David and others kept their focus on God. Fears of their enemies vanished in light of God’s power.

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

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2).

“Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken” (Psalm 62:2).

“He will not let you fall. Your Protector will not fall asleep. Israel’s Protector does not get tired. He never sleeps” [Psalm 121:3-4 (ERV)].


I added those verses from psalms to photographs I took. As my gift to you, I’ve included four reminder cards at the beginning of this posting.

Let me leave you with words from Isaiah. I pray they’ll echo in your mind during uncertain times.

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Fear not.

Gratitude and Sorrow?

Choose.PS

How many decisions do you think you make each day? Adults make an average of 35, 000 decisions each day.

Some are good, some might be bad, and others might be—hard …really hard…like choosing to be grateful in the midst of sorrow.

Is it possible to choose gratitude in hard times? What might happen if we surrender to sorrow? That decision could lead to the deadly D’s. With us being sucked into the abyss of depression, despair, and discouragement.

Sorrow could be a perfectly normal feeling for a mom raising a child with mental illness (MI). If a child says something bazaar, starts to unravel, refuses to eat or talk, cuts herself, lashes out in unprovoked anger, or abuses substances, sorrow would be a typical emotion. What mom wouldn’t feel deep sorrow while watching helplessly as her child slips away or heads towards disaster?

We wonder what is happening to our MI child when he is away. It’s easy to let our imagination get carried away. For our own mental health, we have to refuse to entertain those fears. When I’m tempted to go down the worry path, I consciously begin to count my blessings.

I’m grateful Chris lives with us. And that he involves himself in constructive activities, rather than isolating. I’m grateful he’s goal-oriented. And that he works to achieve those goals, instead of being unmotivated.

I’m grateful for times we have positive interactions. And that he initiates happy conversations, rather than shutting us out.

I’m grateful when I get glimpses of his intellect, musical ability, or technology talents. And that he’s willing to share those gifts with us from time to time.

Sometimes it’s not that easy to shift emotions. What can we learn from real people in the Bible? The Bible is full of decisions people made.

Some decisions were bad: Jonah decided to run from God’s will.

Some decisions were courageous: The boy David chose to stand up to a giant, in God’s power.

Some decisions were good: The Good Samaritan chose to help the victim of a robbery.

And some decisions were hard: The biological mother of a child told King Solomon to spare her baby’s life and give the boy to the other woman who falsely claimed he belonged to her (instead of dividing the child and giving one half to each woman).

The Psalmist gives us an example of how to deal with negative thoughts and emotions. Many times the writer calls out to God in his despair. Often his cry of fear or sadness is followed by a sharp turn in focus. One tiny word helps him rejoice in God. The word “but” represents a deliberate decision to reconsider his situation in light of God’s power and faithfulness. Essentially, he says, “My situation seems hopeless. But God is able to support, help, deliver, protect, strengthen, and give peace.”

Here’s a list of those “But Verses in Psalms“.

Matt Redman sings about choosing to bless the Lord in all circumstances—good or bad. His song “Blessed Be Your Name” includes these lyrics:

You give and take away

You give and take away

My heart will choose to say, Lord

Blessed be Your name, Lord

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qp11X6LKYY

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

 

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!

In Knots

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Williamsburg, Virginia

“Grandpa has a sore belly,” our daughter-in-law explained. Our granddaughter wouldn’t have understood pain from a gallbladder attack. But she surely could sympathize with belly pain.  So could lots of us.

The booming gluten-free industry is proof my husband’s not alone in digestive misery. People suffer from Celiac Disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Then there’s the ‘itis conditions’: colitis, diverticulitis, gastritis, pancreatitis, and more. A simple google search of ‘digestive illnesses’ yields a long list of miserable conditions. All of which can make your stomach feel like it’s been through a meat grinder.

Mom’s raising kids with mental illness (MI) know another type of stomach pain. The kind that results from worry and stress. Concern can cripple our digestive systems. Rendering us sick with belly pain. Leaving our stomach in knots.

What can ease that kind of twisted torment? Think about what parents to do ease the belly pain of a toddler. We softly stroke their tummy. Our heavenly Father can unknot our stomach when worry twists it like a strand of Christmas lights. Not only will His loving hand soothe our pain, but He’ll replace it with His perfect peace.

If MI has left you in knots, join me in using Psalm 90:15-16 as your prayer:

“Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory” (NLT)

Stop and reflect on the phrase, “gladness in proportion to our former misery.” We serve a God who promised to, “turn their mourning into gladness,” and to, “give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13).

He will restore your joy. Because He loves you that much.

 

Better than a Resolution

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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.