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Royal Treatment

God.hold.us

Someone of great influence is working to extinguish the stigma associated with mental illness (MI). That comes as music to the ears of moms raising kids with MI.  Who is the person? The duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. Talk about the royal treatment!

Check out the title of an Associated Press article:

Kate Middleton would get her kids mental health help if they needed it

The weight of her words could do much to turn the tide of needless shame millions of moms feel. A portion of that well-written article helps us understand how sincere she is in her campaign.

“She called for change, writing that ‘with mental health problems still being such a taboo, many adults are often too afraid to ask for help for the children in their care.’”

How does it make you feel when you hear that other adults are too afraid to ask for help for their children suffering from MI? I don’t know about you, but it reinforces the fact that I’m not alone in my journey. I’m not alone in trying to shield my son from others, due to the stigma that surrounds MI. I’m not alone in fearing that unkind people might judge, tease, or look down on my son.

Kate’s backing up her words with action. She’s the guest editor for The Huffington Post UK’s recently-launched series called “Young Minds Matter.”  On that site, Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge, states, “We know there is no shame in a young child struggling with their emotions or suffering from a mental illness.”

In 2015, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge supported UK’s first Children’s Mental Health Week. She videotaped her support of UK’s charity a Place2Be. Hear her talk about that charity in her own words:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWYV3zPXx64

In 2016, she created another video for Mental Health Week. In that video, Kate is speaking directly to young children. Listen to how well she relates to children:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21jqtJ-UB_w

Those involved with the Young Minds Matter campaign hope it will go global. Their goal is to help children around the world feel loved, valued and understood.

That’s what we want for our children also. Not only do we have an earthly royal advocating for loving treatment. But we have a heavenly Royal who wants everyone to love one another.

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39).

1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. Our King of all kings not only wants us to share His love, but He will envelop you in His love. Picture resting in the palm of His hand.

“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 63:6-8).

 Let Elvis Presley’s song, “One Pair of Hands”, minister to you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezF8kteNLIE

Guilt Extinguisher

delight.Lord

It was my first year teaching and already I felt like a failure. Every time I asked my supervisor for something, she denied my request. Each time I suggested an activity for my multi-handicapped students, she shot it down. “No,” was all I heard from her. Never any positive feedback. Only negative remarks.

I’m a rotten teacher. I thought I was well-trained. Obviously not. When am I going to figure this out?

I felt so inadequate.

After two years I got reassigned to a different unit. My new supervisor praised me often and supported all my ideas. Fellow teachers elected me to be their faculty representative. That’s when I realized I wasn’t a failure as a teacher. For two years I had accepted the lie my former boss had inflicted on me.

Some of us do the same to ourselves. Mental illness (MI) masks our efforts. Our child’s illness demands more from us than other children. Mothers of healthy kids enjoy seeing the fruit of their labors. Not us. So we assume we’re doing something wrong. Guilt contaminates our self-evaluation as a parent.

My child’s not getting better. I must be missing something. There must be more I should be doing.

Sometimes the smoldering guilt leads to searing shame of imagined past infractions.

Why didn’t I see this coming? I should have recognized the warning signs and gotten him help sooner. What did I do wrong?

Have you beat yourself up lately? Are you carrying around bags full of shame, as if on an endless guilt trip? Don’t get discouraged if you’re trying as hard as you can, but don’t yet see results.

The outcome doesn’t necessarily correlate to effort.

If our efforts can’t always improve our child’s state of mind or emotions, they do they matter? To God they absolutely matter! He alone sees all we do. He alone knows how long we’ve endured in the midst of our own sorrow.

Many moms raising a child with MI don’t get encouragement, acknowledgement, or praise. In the absence of positive feedback, feelings of inadequacy and guilt can creep in. What can eradicate needless guilt? Seeing ourselves as God sees us.

I think it helps to focus on what pleases God. To reflect on things that delight Him. The next time you’re tempted to feel lousy as a parent, study this list. Consider how much God is pleased with you.

God delights in:

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

Your well-being: “May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace. May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, ‘The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant’” (Psalm 35:26-27).

God desired that David’s troubles would cease, and that he would enjoy a time of rest and tranquility. Our unchanging Father desires the same for you and your child.

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

Your prayers: “The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him” (Proverbs 15:8).

A gentile and quiet spirit: “Let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” [1 Peter 3:4 (NKJV]).

The righteous that walk faithfully with God: “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God” (Genesis 6:8-9).

Showing His kindness, justice, and righteousness: “‘Let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I  ‘delight,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:24).


MI can be fertile ground for seeds of needless shame. Left unchecked, weeds of guilt can stifle healthy spiritual growth. The next time your mind is infested with thoughts of parental inferiority, focus on God.

Psalm 37:4 tells us that God wants us to delight in Him.

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

The Destroyer of sin and death can eliminate your feelings of guilt. And replace them with an assurance of His unconditional love for you.

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

Listen

listen.pray

It was worse than the teacher described.

“Observe my lesson and you’ll see that Rick doesn’t pay attention—at all!” The seventh-grade history teacher invited me to see for myself what he witnessed on a regular basis. As administrator, I provided instructional support to teachers. Often classroom visitations provided insight.

On the day I observed, the teacher was reviewing for an upcoming test. Mr. Jones wrote on the smart board. The students copied. He wrote. They copied. Suddenly, he broke the pattern.

“This next fact will be on the test. Listen up!” He stated an important date in history, but didn’t write anything on the board. Not one student wrote the critical fact!

When the lesson ended and students had left, Mr. Jones was eager to hear my reactions.

“Well, did you see what I was talking about?”

“Yes. Rick wasn’t paying attention. But, you’ve got a worse problem…I’m not sure how carefully all the other students are listening.”

I didn’t drop that bomb without offering support. Soon after, I taught a mini-lesson on how to take notes. The twenty minutes I invested resulted in better note-taking skills and improved grades.

Teachers need students to listen. Likewise parents need their children to listen. Adults require kids to listen—to pay attention and to obey.

However, a child with mental illness (MI) may not have any desire to pay attention. Our son once said, “I’m apathetic. I just don’t care anymore.”

His desire to listen declined. Mine increased. I hear a sound in the middle of the night and strain to detect if there’s a problem. Chris often sleeps during the day and goes out at night. He prefers working out at his gym when there are less people around. Although he’s an adult, I still find it difficult to sleep soundly when I know he’s out.

Moms have perfected the skill of sleeping with one ear open. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines that skill as being ‘alert to catch an expected sound.’ We listen to hear the door open and close, signaling our child has arrived home.

Many moms raising kids with MI have also trained their ears to listen to the tone in the child’s voice. Subtleties in their child’s communication help a mother gauge emotional well-being. I’ve learned to be attuned to Chris’s pace of his speaking. Faster speaking lets me know his mind is racing a bit. Sometimes I can detect a slight strain in his voice which signal elevated tension. Careful listening is key.

Emotions can block careful listening in children with MI. My emotions affect me similarly. I’ve discovered they block my careful listening to God. I approach God with all my problems and sorrows. Never giving Him a chance to speak to me. I bow my head and my words are off and running. I reach the finish line and say, “Amen.” If I communicated that way with friends, I’d find myself friendless in no time!

I’m sure God has things to say to me. In my personal walk with Him, I read His messages in the Bible. And hear His direction for my life through other believers (sermons, Christian radio speakers, saved friends and family members).

I want more. I want to learn how to settle my heart before God when I pray. So I can hear what He wants to tell me. I’m finding it so hard to clear the thoughts which clutter my mind. If I can teach seventh graders how to listen better, certainly God can teach me how to hear His voice. Not receiving audible words, just connecting with His thoughts. I’m sure if I seek His help, He’ll gladly teach me how to listen to Him.

And I know He’ll do the same for you.

“Therefore consider carefully how you listen (Luke 8:18)”.

You can be sure He listens to you:

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you (Jeremiah 29:12).”

Whole

heart.healed

What’s the dream of a mom raising a child with mental illness (MI)? For many of us the answer is found in the word ‘whole.’ Our greatest desire is for the broken child or family to be whole again. So our broken heart can rejoice once again.

It seems impossible to ignore the shattered pieces of a child’s life. We do all we can to put them back together again. But often feel like Humpty Dumpty’s king’s horses and king’s men who could put Humpty Dumpty together again. We would understand the cry of the king if he moaned, “What made Humpty Dumpty so fragile? Why didn’t he just roll away, unscathed?”

An army of why’s attack:

Why did this happen?

Why can’t any restore clarity of thought?

Why doesn’t anyone understand?

Why do we have to endure another holiday that’s overshadowed and complicated by MI?

Why can’t life just return to normal?

We writhe in emotional pain as we stand defenseless. Our arsenal of answers is empty. The barrage of why’s batters our soul. Leaving us secretly broken.

How can we feel whole while waiting for restoration?

If we love the Lord with our whole heart, we can crowd out sorrow. Sadness will remain, but God will refresh our soul. He did that for me as I searched His Word for verses about loving Him completely. He’ll do it for you.

Your situation may differ from mine. But God is the same. May He bless you as you read the following verses.

God requires us to love Him with our whole heart.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:).”

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 10:12).”

“The Lord your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 26:16).”

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).’” Also found in: Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27

God blesses those who love Him with a whole heart.

“‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel (1 Kings 2:4).’”

“So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil (Deuteronomy 11:13-14).”

“The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 30:9-10).”

“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart (Jeremiah 24:7).”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).”

A prayer asking the Lord for an undivided heart.

“Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever (Psalm 86:11-12).”

Praise results from a steadfast love of the Lord.

“My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music (Psalm 57:7).”

My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul (Psalm 108:1).”

“I will extol the Lord with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly (Psalm 111:1).”

“I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart … and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness … When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me (Psalm 138:1-3).”

Our challenge:

“But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul (Joshua 22:5).”

 

Desperation

desperation

What picture could represent desperation? What image would fully convey helplessness and hopelessness? Is it possible to depict an extreme situation that is intolerable, unbearable, shocking, and dangerous?

Rather than capture the essence of dreary desperation in a portrait, I prefer to focus on beautiful desperation: my desperation to know more of God’s love. Yet how could I ever describe His love when I haven’t come close to grasping the depths of it? The more I seek it, the greater I understand it. A right focus is the key.

Perspective is everything in dealing with life that includes mental illness (MI). Those of us raising a child with MI have a choice. We can choose to maintain an earthly perspective of the challenges we face. By contemplating all the problems, and striving to find solutions. Or we can shift our focus heavenward to gain a divine view. To seek God’s wisdom and path.

Each fall I used to explain multiple sclerosis (MS) to my second graders. I was grateful God had given me a message to share with my students. My MS gave me a lesson no teacher’s manual included. I could show them how to face trials in life. Perspective is everything.

“When you face hard or sad times, you have a choice,” I’d tell them. “You can either focus on the problem or on the Truth. The Truth is that God’s in control. He is greater than any problem you face. He has a perfect plan for your life and He’s faithful to fulfill all his promises: to comfort, help, and guide.”

“Does it hurt to have MS?” they’d ask.

“Sure it stinks to have MS,” I’d answer honestly. “But that doesn’t change who God is. I know He loves me. God’s love is perfect, present, and endless. We may not understand it or always feel His love. But we can be sure of it.”

The lesson ended with one of their favorite songs, ‘Jesus Loves Me.’

“Sing the song slowly so you can think about each word,” I’d instruct them.

I often need a personal review of that lesson. MI trials can blindfold my spiritual eyes at times. Making it hard to see God in the situation. But those situations in life don’t change who He is: a loving Father who is still on the throne. Keeping a watchful eye, with His constant love. So, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).”

Even MI can’t separate us from God’s love.

It seems impossible to describe God’s love. But there’s one picture that captures the heart of a Father. It’s a painting of His Son dying on the cross for us.

I’m desperate to fully understand God’s love. Is that possible? Or is it like trying to hold water between our fingers?

trying.2.hold.water

Ephesians tells us Christ’s love surpasses knowledge.

“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).”

I may not come close to knowing the full measure of God’s love for me. But I’m certain that keeping my eyes on Him will help me through the challenges that accompany MI. I need Him to guide my responses.

Years ago I held a critical position that forced me to keep a correct focus. As a school administrator, serious problems came to my attention every day. If I didn’t handle them carefully, they could blow up in my face. If I reacted poorly, I could enflame the situation or spark a conversation malfunction (AKA: an argument). So my daily prayer each morning was:

Dear Father,

Guide and direct my thoughts, words, actions, and emotions. Give me Your perspective on situations and people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

He faithfully answered that prayer and gave me His wisdom. Guiding me to His solution for every problem. So I’m sure that if I want to know more of His love, all I need to do is ask Him to reveal it.

As a mom raising a son with mental illness (MI) I’m desperate to know more of His love—for me and for Chris. Hillsong’s ‘The Greatness of our God’ echoes my prayer: to increase my understanding of His love and calm my fears. Here are some of my favorite words in that song:

Give me grace to see

Beyond this moment here.

To believe that there

Is nothing left to fear.

 

That You alone are high above it all.

For You my God, are greater still.

 

There is nothing that can ever

Separate us from Your love.

No life, no death, of this I am convinced.

You my God, are greater still.

Be blessed as you listen to that song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vf2YJAG84_8

 

Wishes

jeannie.bottle

What’s your favorite old-time show? One of mine is I Dream of Jeannie. Who doesn’t fantasize about having a personal Jeannie? We fantasize because it’s fun to imagine obtaining what we’d never be able to gain. But we know such power is false. God’s power is real. So what would be your greatest request of God?

Here’s what one mom asked Jesus to grant for her sons:

“Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

“‘What is it you want?’ he asked.

“She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’

Sounds like a reasonable request to ask. If you’re going to seek favors from the King of kings why not request the best seats in heaven?

Before mental illness (MI) struck your child, were you like that mom? Did you wish only the best for him? Did you have grand aspirations for him? MI has a way of adjusting the prayers for our kids.

Listen to how Christ responded to that mom’s request.

“‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’

“‘We can,’ they answered.

“Jesus said to them, ‘You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father (Matthew 20:20-23).’”

Christ’s response hinted at the sons’ future suffering. He also foretold of the suffering He would endure on the cross.

That familiar passage offers hope to me, for life in heaven and for my time on earth. I’ll be eternally grateful for Christ’s gift of salvation. He endured agony and sorrow for my sake. He experienced extreme torment, pain, and suffering. Therefore it’s a comfort He understands my son’s torment and pain.

Christ sympathizes with my sorrow as well. Not only does MI cause distress to Chris, but it brings tremendous heartache to me. Jesus knows what it’s like to endure deep sorrow. It helps when Someone understands what I’m going through.

Like any mom of a child with MI, I yearn for the day my son is restored to good mental health. The restoration of Israel described in Isaiah 54:11 symbolizes what I envision for Chris.

“You poor city [Afflicted one]. Storms have hurt [battered; tossed] you, and you have not been comforted. But I will rebuild you with turquoise stones [gems], and I will build your foundations with sapphires [or lapis lazuli] (EXB).”

Like any mother, my greatest desire is for Chris to be content. I pray for the GREAT peace God promised Israel in Isaiah 54:13.

“All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.”