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What’s beautiful?

Multnomah Falls Boulder

Multnomah Falls Boulder

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

“Get a picture of that boulder!” interrupted my husband. The excitement in his voice yanked my attention away from the breathtaking waterfall. I matched my gaze in the direction of his eyes, expecting to find a thing of beauty. Nothing in that direction moved me. We entered into a sort of I Spy game.

“Which boulder? Where is it?” I inquired.

“To the right of that big tree,” he directed.

The hunt went on for quite a while. Part of the problem: what he found beautiful looked like a huge rock to me. I finally realized which boulder took his breath away.

Beauty certainly IS in the eye of the beholder!

I kept my opinion to myself and snapped the picture.

What do you find refrigerator-worthy? My aunt places snapshots of sunsets on her frig.

Most parents display their children’s school work. Like me. Years ago, Chris’ test papers decorated our kitchen. Learning came easy to him, so he earned a multitude of A’s. Each one found a place of prominence on the refrigerator.

Then one day Chris got a low grade. Mostly for not following directions. He presented the paper to me in tears.

“Why are you crying?” I asked.

“I’m afraid you’re not gonna love me anymore.”

“Oh, Chris. NOTHING will ever change my love for you. Nothing.”

Chris mistakenly interpreted my pleasure in academic excellence as a measure of my love. I assured him of my love. But his comment made me rethink which papers were refrigerator-worthy. Only the ones which demonstrated great effort were awarded a spot with the comment, “I love you because of who you are. Let’s celebrate your effort.”

How ‘bout your parenting? Do you feel it wouldn’t qualify for a place on a refrigerator? Are you hard on yourself? Is your child’s mental illness (MI) making you feel like a failure? Do friends, relatives, and educators feed your personal assessment? By judging you on your child’s behavior? You’re probably not alone. Many of us focus on our child’s performance rather than our own effort. No wonder we feel unworthy of joining the refrigerator representatives of success.

Do you think there’s nothing beautiful in how you manage your child who has MI? Shift your criteria from what you can’t control to what’s within your ability to demonstrate. You’ll find beauty in your endless effort, unconditional love, and heartfelt prayers.

Celebrate the impact you have in your home. You light a dark mood with your joy. Turmoil that invades your home can’t rob you of God’s peace. When MI causes conflict between family members, you appeal to the One who can intervene. Trusting the Mediator, who reconciled mankind to God through His death, to heal relationships.

Outsiders define good parenting by what they see. Without knowing the challenges you face. Thankfully, the Bible challenges us to be God-pleasers rather than man-pleasers (Galatians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:4). Align your definition of beauty with the biblical definition. What pleases our heavenly Father?

“For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory (Psalm 149:4).”

He loves you for who you are. You’re a child of the King. Amazing!

“…The prayer of the upright pleases him (Proverbs 15:8).”

Your prayers delight Him. Imagine that.

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).”

In spite of insurmountable trials, you maintain your hope in Him.

What’s beautiful to God? You are.

What’s beautiful about God?  He’s patient and longsuffering. He’s accessible. He’s on the throne. He’s never changing. He gave His only Son to die for our sins. He sent the Holy Spirit to live within us.

There’s undeniable beauty in God’s power displayed in creation. We find beauty in His Word and promises. We experience it in His sovereignty and power. We depend on His abundant hope and perfect peace. And rest in His unconditional love and faithfulness.

We anticipate the ultimate beauty: His promise of heaven where there will be no more MI or tears.

Reflect on the beauty of God as you listen to Phil Wickham’s song ‘You’re Beautiful.’  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfhb0_tmrbc

What’s left?

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Not many can do it. See the person behind the deformity. Or the personality buried under the disease. Or the potential masked by the illness. Thankfully, there are people who can see others differently … with heart eyes.

My cousin gave me a gift by sending me this email after Christmas: “I can’t tell you how much I was impressed with Chris and how thoughtful his gifts were.” That one sentence satisfied my desire for others to see the Chris I know and love. It quenched that desire like a sip of water in a desert. My cousin saw past Chris’ mental illness (MI) and acknowledged some of the qualities that make him special and unique.

Moms of kids with MI can see glimmers of their child’s personality. They can detect the potential in their child with seems invisible to others because of MI. How they yearn for others to see what makes their child unique and special.

What’s left after MI invades a life? It seems to destroy joy, demolish dreams, and damage family relationships.

MI can’t ruin everything. It can’t rob the person of their identity. It can’t steal IQ, creativity, or thoughtfulness. Even when those qualities aren’t demonstrated, they’re still there.

Certainly, MI has no power in the spiritual realm. It can’t erase salvation. If your child accepted Christ as his Savior, he’ll have that Gift for eternity. MS can’t separate your child (or you) from the love of God. Neither can it disintegrate your child’s God-given purpose. God’s still on the throne working out His perfect plan (though we may not see it or understand it).

I’m grateful to have a cousin (and other relatives) who sees Chris’ qualities, loves him unconditionally, and shares that love liberally. You may not have such a relative.

But, we all have Someone who knows the qualities of our children who have MI. The One who gave His life for them knows their potential and their pain. And He knows our deepest desires.

The Psalmist compels us to follow his prayerful example found in Psalm 139:1-6. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”

In John 10:14, 27 we read of Christ’s assurances. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me… My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

God’s more than a drink in the desert. He offers living waters. (John 7:37-38)

His life flows within us. The power of the Holy Spirit is ours now and forever. The Creator of the universe loves you and your child.

A small child scribbles a picture for us. We gaze at it with delight. Marveling in the beauty of it. Not the exquisite artistry, but the beauty of the love behind it. Let’s do the same with the plans God creates for us. We may not see a beautiful portrait of our family at this time. But, by faith, we can delight in His great love for us.

Reflect on the perfection of His creation as you listen to ‘Wonderfully Made’ by Scripture Lullabies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPisc3PODOo

What’s the Difference?

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We’re not much different than kids. We all do it. Grab the last one. We race to the only empty parking spot at the mall. We snatch the final electronic sale-priced item on the shelf.

Kids squabble over the last piece of cake. Their arguments can get nasty. What’s the solution? Have one cut it into two pieces. Let the other choose his piece. That ensures the cutter will slice it into equal pieces. Yet, the chooser often examines the two pieces like a scientist examining evidence under a microscope. Searching for any evidence one is larger than the other. Seeking an incremental difference.

Sometimes the difference isn’t so subtle. If you have several children, you know each one is unique—vastly unlike the others. Mental illness (MI) magnifies the differences. Your child with MI requires more time, attention, and prayer. No wonder the lower-maintenance kids feel left out.

While our boys were growing up, I did the best I could. Each day consisted of the usual responsibilities: teaching, making meals, taking the boys to practices, running errands, ensuring homework got done, and grading my students’ papers. All in the context of my having multiple sclerosis.

Some days also included dealing with Chris’s MI, finding out how Chris managed during the day, picking up medication or making a doctor appointment, talking to one of Chris’s teachers…

Our other son, Rob, lost out on much of my attention. I wished things were different.

When Chris went away to college, he called home often. One day Rob said, “When I go to college, I won’t be calling that much.”

His remark had a hint of judgment to it. So I replied, “What’s the difference between you and your brother?”

Silence.

“The grace of God,” I gently pointed out. In hopes of restoring his compassion for Chris.

Chris didn’t choose to have MI. He did nothing to deserve it. It wasn’t his fault.

When Rob was in high school, I heard a teaching on Christian radio on the importance of affirming your children. I assumed Rob knew how much I loved him, but just wanted to check. “Where do you think you fall in my list of priorities?” I asked him.

“After Chris,” he replied.

His answer stunned me.

How could he not know how much I love him? Has MI stolen Rob’s sense of belonging? Has it masked my affection for him? Has this wretched disease inflicted pain on both my sons?  

I decided to make a concerted effort to assure him of my love. I wanted to convince him that I loved him more than the air I breathed. I seized every opportunity to remind him of my love.

One Friday night, Rob and the other drum major were scheduled to play the national anthem at a basketball game. Sheets of rain made it difficult to see as I drove to the high school. When we arrived, Rob hesitated. “I don’t want to walk in wearing this uniform before Kristen arrives.”

“Do you want me to see if she’s in there?” I offered.

“Would you?”

I returned (fairly drenched) with the news she’d arrived. Before Rob left the car I stopped him.

“Do you feel affirmed? Chris isn’t here. I went in there for you. Because I love you.”

How is it possible a teenager can underestimate his mother’s love for him? Same way we underestimate God’s love for us. That’s why Paul prayed on behalf of believers saying, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Dear heavenly Father, help us to comprehend how much You love us. Help us recognize the many ways You reveal Your love in our lives.

In Your Son’s name, Amen.

Reflect on how much God loves you as you enjoy this YouTube video I made (photographs by me and the song ‘Draw Me Close to You’ by Michael W. Smith):

http://youtu.be/x2r5Y-F64wQ