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Hanging On

hanging.on

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.

 

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Sharing Tips

strategies.connected

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?

Life Interrupted

IMG_6064

Nothing can bring everything to a halt like a fractured back. Several weeks ago, my mother fell and injured her back and groin. That’s why I didn’t post anything for the last 2 weeks. I drove an hour away and stayed with my aunt so I could be close to my mom’s rehab facility (coming home on the weekends to see my husband).

I would have gone back this week if my body hadn’t let me know I’d pushed it too much. I started to feel dizzy and listless. There’s only so much one can do with MS. The nonstop days with my mom started at 6:00 AM and ended at 11:00 PM. I’m grateful God provided the necessary stamina for me to be with my mom those 2 weeks.

I’ll soon get back to posting messages.

Restored

dry.bones.2

What’s the strangest thing you ever snuggled up to? Mine is a collection of skeletons. When visiting our son’s college science lab, a trio of bones lured me over. I abandoned any attempts to hide behind them and playfully peeked through them for a fun picture.

Those bones are a reminder that an entire nation shares the emotions of moms raising kids with mental illness (MI).  God gave Ezekiel the symbolism saying, “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land (Ezekiel 37:11, 14).”

Does that describe how you feel at times? Dried up, without hope, and cut off?

We feel cut off from those whose lives haven’t been devastated by MI. Parents of healthy children could never fully understand our daily challenges and hurts.

What makes us feel dried up at times? I think it’s because we try everything we know to bring about restoration. In our child. In our marriage. In our home. In our heart.

We’re designed to nurture. We thrive on tenderly caring for a hurting child. We’re not equipped to deal with helplessness when our child needs Mom to make it all better. A fact I’ve learned from experience.

When our sons were young, I felt fully equipped to mend any problem. A skinned elbow needed a Band-Aid and a kiss. Trouble with a playmate required listening and assurances that they’d remain friends. Homework struggles presented opportunities for me to apply my teaching skills. A shattered toy could be fixed with glue.

There came a time when my motherly affections couldn’t solve the problem. MI struck Chris. Glue couldn’t restore his joy. A wise word or warm hug couldn’t repair his shattered mind. Only God could repair our son’s emotions, mind, and life. Only God could repair my broken heart.

As I reflected on the word ‘restoration’ I thought about my mother’s pew. She purchased it for a dollar from our church back in the 60’s. Growing up, I loved sitting on her pew because it reminded me of services we attended in that little Episcopal church.

One of my earliest memories is of the back of the pew in church. I couldn’t see over it. So I would play with the hymnal in the rack attached to its back. My finger would trace the design in the wood. I’d peeked over at my mom and dad sitting beside me on the pew. And watch them holding hands as they listened to the sermon.

Years after my father died of cancer, my mother decided to downsize. The purchase of a smaller home meant she had to choose what to keep and what to give away. I found the old pew on her list of things to unload.

“You’re not giving the pew away, are you Mom?”

“Yes, dear,” she answered. “It’s in bad shape.”

How can she part with that pew? She and Dad spent countless Sundays worshipping on that pew.

My husband and I rescued the pew. We found an expert skilled in restoring furniture.

“Do you want me to smooth out these parts?” he asked, pointing to the dents and gashes in the wood.

“Absolutely not! That’s what makes this pew so special,” I replied. “It’s evidence that many heard God’s Word while sitting on this bench.”

Actual Pew from All Saints' Episcopal Church  Fallsington, PA

Actual Pew from All Saints’ Episcopal Church
Fallsington, PA

Chris’s MI left me like that damaged pew. It pierced my heart. The gashes in my memories are signs of sabotaged perspectives. Times when my focus on God got snagged on earthly concerns. Thankfully, God didn’t discard me. He healed my hurt and transformed my thoughts.

In His restoration process of my heart, God left holy reminders of His faithfulness. Each scar is coupled with healing passages: verses God used to encourage and comfort. The Good Shepherd of Psalm 23:3 continues to restore my soul.

God’s ways surely aren’t like our ways. He allows trials into our lives. Carries us through them, while revealing His faithfulness. Making us stronger by bolstering our faith. Just like a painful procedure I endured as a young child. A procedure that restored a ruptured artery and made it stronger.

An artery in my nose grew quicker than the nose itself. So it would spontaneously start bleeding. All attempts to stop the flow of blood failed. The only way a doctor could stop it was to apply heat to the bleeding point. Thereby sealing it. A scar would leave that spot in the artery stronger.

Similarly, God plugged my gusher of doubt with assurance of His care. At precise moments of despair, the Great Physician revealed His power, presence, and peace. Restoring my faith and making it stronger than ever.

Oh how we need God to breathe new life into us! And how we need to feel settled in our hearts. Ezekiel witnessed God breathe new life into bones. And He promised to settle the Israelites in their own land. That same God can breathe new life into you. He can settle your heart in your own home. We can face another day because His Spirit is in us.

If you need a good cleansing cry, listen to Steve & Annie Chapman’s song ‘Goodnight Kiss.’ The lyrics will take you back to the simpler times of being a mom to toddlers. Times that required endless physical stamina. Times of hurried care. But times filled with precious memories of when you could easily restore what was broken.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIpVDAqa2ug

Unbreakable

Humpty.best

 

Have you entered Humpty Dumpty’s world? Do you feel like you’re teetering on the brink of destruction? About to fall apart?

Mom’s raising kids with mental illness (MI) didn’t choose the wall we’re ‘sitting’ on. Our emotions are as fragile as our children’s at times. We wonder who will put us together again if we splinter. Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on all the king’s horsemen and all the king’s men who couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again. Our heavenly Father is the King who holds us together again. And again.

When our child has a great fall, God holds us together. His loving arms are there to catch us. And soften the blow.

Our Creator was, “before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17).”

In Him all things hold together. Creation. Our lives. Our child. And us.

The Bible assures us that we will not shatter in the face of our trial. God’s power in us is unbreakable.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:7-9).”

We have evidence of His power all around.

As long as chairs don’t disintegrate when we sit on them, we know that God holds the molecules together. As long as we can enjoy beautiful waterfall, we know God’s invisible gravity is still working.

Each season reminds us God is still revolving the earth around the sun. Each sunrise assures us God is still spinning the earth on its axis.

Life seems chaotic at times. But we can trust in His invisible order.

A magnet holds photos on our refrig. Representing God’s control of unseen forces. Birds migrate to just the right place. Showing us God is in control of guiding His creations. Water evaporates and later falls again as rain. Proving God is in control of cycles in life. Our bodies heal from colds and cuts. Demonstrating God is in control of the healing power He created in all of us.

He’s also given us visible examples of His masterful designs. Each person’s DNA proves there is order in His creations. We have visible displays of His order in each unique thumb print or snowflake. We find it in the colorful patterns on each butterfly or on Macaw birds. Exquisite symbols which tell us, “God can restore order in your life.”

We spot His power in creation. We detect it in forces like gravity. And we can sense His power working inside of us. Keeping us from breaking.

Listen to ‘Because He Lives’ and picture God holding you while He holds the future in His hands.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4M-zwE33zHA

 

Support

Support.W.verse

I’m used to swallowing corn, not vice versa. That’s what it felt like when my feet got sucked into the corn box. We were visiting Port Farms in Waterford, PA with our granddaughter. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to frolic in the corn box with her. The sea of kernels felt like quick sand. As I struggled to stand up, I got pulled deeper into the corn. My eighty-seven year old mother leaned over the rail and helped me stand.

Corn box at Port Farms in Waterford, PA http://www.portfarms.com/

Corn box at Port Farms in Waterford, PA
http://www.portfarms.com/

We all need support from time to time. Moms raising children with mental illness (MI) could use support. But the stigma prevents us from seeking assistance. We’re hesitant to reach out because we fear someone wouldn’t understand. Or worse, we worry we’ll be judged. And then be given unsolicited advice.

Yet, we certainly could use support. Logistically, financial, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Help tending to chores would be appreciated. Advice from someone who truly understands could be useful in making decisions (regarding treatment or mental health care providers). Assistance navigating health benefits would be a relief. Certainly a sympathetic shoulder to cry on would comfort our broken heart.

In thinking about the word ‘support’ I considered Moses. He faced a daunting task leading more than 600,000 people to the Promised Land (Numbers 11:21). He endured years of struggles because his journey continued for decades.  He learned that marathon misery can only be transformed to victory with God’s intervention. Moses witnessed God’s power, longsuffering, and faithfulness.

We can relate to a trial that seems to continue forever. We can identify with Moses’ role in managing everything. Moses was so busy tending to everyone’s needs that he didn’t realize it would lead to burn out. His father-in-law had to point out the obvious. Jethro asked Moses, “‘What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?’

“Moses answered him, ‘Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.’

“Moses’ father-in-law replied, ‘What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone (Exodus 18:14-18).’”

Sound familiar? Your family members come to you with a need and you fill it. “The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone”: did those words hit you like a sledge hammer?

Me? Not able to handle everything alone?

Jethro offered advice. He instructed Moses to, “Select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you (Exodus 18:21-22).”

That wasn’t the only time Moses needed support. When Moses faced the Amelekites, things didn’t go as planned.

Initially, all seemed to go well. Moses disclosed his plan, ordering Joshua to, “‘Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.’

“So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill (Exodus 17:9-10).”

Moses lifted God’s staff for his army to see. But, like many of us, Moses got weary. His arm dropped. That presented a HUGE problem.

“As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning (Exodus 17:11).”

Are you tempted to wonder what would happen if you dropped your heavy load? There’s no shame in needing support.

Moses received support from friends.

“When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword (Exodus 17:12-13).”

Sometimes God uses reliable friends to help us overcome our challenges.

Did you ever notice that you can manage everything until someone complains? That’s the last straw. It was for Moses.

Imagine Moses leading a multitude of people in the wilderness. Think of the logistics. Now picture tons of people lined up at Moses’ tent weeping and complaining. Hear them saying, “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna (Numbers 11:5-6)!”

That was their version of what we hear from our kids: “We never have any food in the fridge!”

So Moses complained to God asking, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin (Numbers 11:11-15).”

Moses was at his wit’s end. He saw no way out and didn’t want to witness his own ruin. The Lord knew Moses needed others to share his burden. So He instructed Moses to, “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone (Numbers 11:16-17).”

Ask God to ease your burden and provide support. What is it you need from Him?

 

 

Warrior

prayer.warrior

My dad is my hero because he is a great worrier.

A great worrier? Could it be that the youngster is impressed with his father’s ability to worry?

That sentence doesn’t make sense unless you’re a second grader. It should read, “My dad is my hero because he is a great warrior.” A young boy would certainly look up to a father who is in the military.

The spelling of a word can be easily corrected. But it would be vastly harder to transform a true worrier into a valiant warrior. What if the word ‘worrier’ wasn’t misspelled? Are some people great worriers?

Moms raising kids with mental illness (MI) know about worrying. We have reason to worry. Anxiety can flood our hearts with uneasiness. We fear our child will hurt himself. Or others. We’re afraid of what will happen next. Or in the future.

Our hearts are troubled. We battle anxious feelings. Is it possible to convey how we feel when parental concern turns into consuming worry? The Online Etymology Dictionary describes what it’s like. The origin of the word comes from Old English wyrgan which means “to strangle.” What a picture! Imagine worry as an enemy reaching around your throat, cutting off your ability to breathe. Visualize your hands wringing in helplessness as you succumb to the attack. Now picture your hands folded in prayer. ‘Feel’ the relief of God releasing you from the grip of worry. Take a deep breath of His peace.

Many of our children with MI have good days and bad days. On those bad days why do we succumb to worry? Feelings of inadequacy feed anxiety. The dung of doubt tends to fertilize fears. Weeds of worry choke our resolve and crowd out His peace.

I couldn’t prevent his condition, so I won’t be able to help him deal with it.

I’ve tried everything I know to help her. I’ve done everything her psychiatrist recommended. Nothing seems to work. I’m not equipped to deal with her MI.

I can’t face another day like this. I don’t think I can go on much more.

Our home—or heart—may feel like a battle zone at times. When we feel depleted, we’re tempted to wave the white flag. And give up. Those are the times to surrender our worries to God. Leaving them at His throne. We approach Him as a worrier and leave His presence as a prayer warrior.

Our prayers release the almighty power of our Father. He reminds us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).”

What does a modern-day prayer warrior look like? My mom is a great example. She prays unceasingly for her loved ones. Starting each day on her knees. Seeking God’s faithfulness, healing, and intervention throughout her day. Ending the day as she started: bowing before Him in prayer once again.

I’m grateful my mother has shown me how to pray faithfully for others. That’s what I love most about her. It’s been a comfort to pick up the phone during a crisis and ask her to pray. Knowing she will. My goal is to leave that same legacy of prayer to my children.

Heavenly Father,

Sometimes I feel limited in what I can to do help my son. Remind me that I can provide the very best: prayers offered to You on his behalf. I’m so grateful I have access to You. Knowing You love Chris more than I could ever love him. Knowing You have unlimited power to help and protect him. Knowing You’re with him wherever he goes. Help me become a greater prayer warrior.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.  

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7