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Prodigal

Prodigal.father

Most mothers who have an adult child with mental illness (MI) and young children share the same fear. Losing a loved one.

Years ago, I asked my second graders to write their worst fear. Most of the eight year old children were afraid of losing a parent. I can relate to that fear. My worst fear is that my son, who has MI, will be missing.

If your child with MI is a prodigal, you may feel that no one understands your pain. But any parent would have some inkling of the trauma you experience every day. Just the thought of losing a child can elicit a gut-wrenching response.

That’s why the news of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370’s disappearance and Washington’s massive mudslide is so riveting. We’re captivated by the mudslide tragedy and follow CNN’s coverage of the missing airplane. Expressions of distraught loved ones convey the horror they feel. Tears seem to bleed disbelief that their loved ones are gone. We shudder to think of them enduring such sudden loss. Any parent, who has lost a child even for a few minutes, can imagine the horror. We can understand their desperation. So we pray for an end to their nightmare.

I experienced the terror of a missing child when Chris was only five. His teacher had chosen me to be one of the chaperones for their field trip to the zoo. As we strolled past all the animals, my hand stayed locked onto Chris’s tiny hand.

We spotted the birds of prey. The northern bald eagle captured my attention. It seemed safe enough to release Chris’s hand for just a second to snap a picture. But I was wrong. While focusing on the eagle, a huge mob of children and parents surrounded us. Chris got swallowed up in the crowd. When he didn’t see me, he thought I’d left him. So he went looking for me.

I took the picture and reached out to grab Chris’s hand. A sea of unfamiliar faces surrounded me. None were Chris’s!

Sheer panic instantly set in. My heart began to pound. I desperately searched for him, screaming his name. “Chris! Chris!”

Tears clouded my vision. Thoughts of what may have happened to him assaulted me.

Please God, please let me find my son.

Miraculously, I spotted him hiding behind a bush. He had been afraid that a stranger might take him. So he hid. My son was safely reunited with me. What relief!

Twelve years later, Chris was missing again. This time it happened during his first psychotic episode.

Chris’s fractured emotions caused him to have mood swings. His negative mood swings usually had a sad or depressed tone. But one week that type of mood swing was distinctly different. Chris seemed very angry and full of rage. It seemed like he wanted revenge. Things quickly escalated.

We were returning home from a trip to the mall. When I pulled into the driveway, Chris stepped out of the car and ran away.

I sprinted into the house to get help. “Howie, Chris is missing!!! Help me find him!” I screamed.

We drove off in different directions. As I searched in our neighborhood, fears tormented me.

This can’t be happening! This is a nightmare. Why didn’t we get him to the hospital? At least he’d be safe there. If he kills himself, he’ll be with the Lord. Oh, I can’t bear to think about that. I’ve GOT to find him.

Praying aloud pacified me enough to hold it together.

“Oh Father, please help us find Chris. Protect him. Guide me. Help me know where to look.”

I decided to stop home to see if he had returned. And found evidence he had come home briefly. Long enough to knock over his brother’s drum set and trombone. He’d also taken a computer off the desk and placed it on the floor.

I hopped back in the car to resume my search. Emptiness filled the pit of my stomach.

How is this ordeal going to end?

Once again I stopped home. A message on our answering machine revealed his location. A neighbor called to say he was there. Chris had been accusing us of abusing him. Thankfully, the neighbor called us and not the police. It must have been evident that Chris wasn’t in his right mind.

Gratitude filled my heart for his safe return. A sense of peace replaced the emptiness in my stomach. But that wasn’t the happy ending. Only brief relief from the chaos of his MI.

The parable of the lost son gives us a picture of a parent’s pain. In the story, the prodigal son came to his senses and returned home. Luke 15:20 hints at the father’s vigil.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

How did the father see his son while he ‘was still a long way off?’ He’d been staring into the distance, scanning the horizon every day hoping for his son’s return. Can you picture him straining his eyes? Spending endless hours peering into the distance? Do you know what he felt?

Many parents don’t know what’s become of their missing child—their vulnerable child who has MI. Can there be any comfort?

During my two experiences, I found comfort in the knowledge that God was with Chris. My heavenly Father knew Chris’s location and had the power to protect him. God also protected me emotionally and mentally. While Chris and I were apart from each other, nothing separated us from God’s love.

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Steve & Annie Chapman sing of a parent’s prayer when their child is a prodigal.

‘Turn Your Heart Toward Home’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNvafd0FzGc

Don’t Give Up

leaf.drifting

Drifting…Lost Direction

Recently I’ve been feeling like a dead leaf. Lifeless and lacking purpose. Drifting without direction. Discouraged and defeated.

Surprisingly, raising a son with mental illness (MI) didn’t do me in. My multiple sclerosis (MS) hasn’t conquered me. My thwarted writing plans snarled me. Leaving me sinking in quicksand.

Strange how we can handle the big problems. And how smaller disappointments demolish our determination. So what was my final knock-down punch?

The marketing plan I created to promote my picture book hasn’t been yielding the intended results fast enough. My throne of self-sufficiency has crumbled.

Howie noticed my discouragement and lovingly said, “Don’t worry, Vic, we’ll figure it out.”

“I think that’s been my problem,” I replied. “I’VE been figuring it out. I need to figure HIM out.”

Since I can’t control the course of my MS or the symptoms of Chris’s MI, I’m starved for control. My problem has been this obsession to control things. I want to control SOMETHING in my life. Can you identify?

Our power to manage everything associated with MI is limited. MI prevents our kids from responding to our love.

Do you reach out to your child only to have him shut down? Is your comfort rejected?

Sometimes our well-meaning efforts backfire.

Do your peaceful words only enflame his anger? Does your child refuse to follow your advice? Do you intervene on your child’s behalf only to be misunderstood? Have you sought the advice of countless specialists only to have no clear diagnosis?

We encounter obstacles and dead ends.

What tempts you to give up? How many times can you get knocked down and rise again? How long can you support your child who has mental illness (MI) without seeing any improvement?

Quitting isn’t an option. What mother could ever abandon her most vulnerable child? So we try and try. Even though nothing seems to help our child with MI.

The eagle can provide insight into why our efforts fail. Instead of relying on its massive wingspan (average 6’ – 7.5’), it waits for the perfect conditions to step off its peak.

It soars and glides with less effort because it goes with the flow of God’s winds. Air currents, such as slope updrafts (winds that runs into a mountain and are forced to rise), enable the eagle to rise without flapping its wings. A massive eagle can simply float upward by catching a ride on rising bubbles of hot air called “thermals.”

eagle.soaring

Like the eagle, we can wait for God’s perfect timing. That will keep us from flapping in our own strength. We can depend on His power to carry us through the journey.

Those of us who are downcast have this promise: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)”

Picture that. God’s hand cradling you. Then imagine Him gently lifting you up. In due time, He’ll uplift your countenance and soothe your emotions if you trust Him with all your cares. He’s sure to guide you along HIS path.

Feeling weary? Tired of the trial? In a pit of hopelessness? God’s Word promises you’ll soar like an eagle if you hope in Him.

“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)”

God saw my problem: the anguish of my soul.

“I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. (Psalm 31:7)”

God provided the solution: the Anchor for my soul.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (Hebrews 6:19)”

Let’s trade anguish for the Anchor. Let’s not lose hope. Or give up. Let’s keep doing our best and trust God for the rest.

Following God’s lead through trials gets easier. His constant faithfulness demonstrates the Truth of His Word. His love never fails.

The group Jesus Culture reminds us in their song ‘One Thing Remains’ that God’s love, “never fails, never gives up, never runs out.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_KXsMCJgBQ

Sleep

TeacherwithJesus

“What makes a good teacher a good teacher?” I asked my second grade students.

Some described the character of an excellent educator: “Nice, truthful, helpful, loving, responsible, respectful, patient, joyful, has the right opinions (not having bad opinions of people), and a good example.”

Others focused on the training and talents which produce a superior teacher: “Goes to college, knows how to teach, knows how to discipline (at the right time, giving consequences, letting the kids know that you still love them), good memory, makes good decisions, smart, observant, creative, and finds ways to make learning fun.”

A few provided adorable advice: “Pays attention to papers when grading, writes fast (for when students make lists), knows how to tell time, comes early and not late, and stays wake.”

Good to know: stay awake when teaching!  That last piece of advice conjured up visions of chaos.

chaos.classroom

We all know the drill: stay awake during work, sleep at night. Not everyone can sleep soundly. Some endure restless nights.

Mothers who have children with mental illness (MI) sometimes stay awake—all night. Too many nights. Praying or pondering. Wondering or waiting. Listening or crying.

Chris is a young adult. But I still have trouble falling asleep when he’s out. Sweet slumber eludes me amid tormenting thoughts. Where is he now? What is he doing? How is he acting? Are people being kind to him?

I fight those thoughts with prayer: Dear Father, protect Chris from anyone who would seek to harm him physically or emotionally.  

How can a mom turn off mothering? By turning it over to the One who never sleeps and leaving it in His hands.

“He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:3-4)”

Sometimes I fall asleep praying for Chris. Other nights God’s promises comfort me.

“My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” Psalm 119:148

Do details of life with MI stalk you during the night? The Psalmist tells about his trouble: concerns which hounded him all night.

“When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. (Psalm 77:2-3, 11-12)”

Has MI rendered you inconsolable like the Psalmist? Follow his example and meditate on God’s past faithfulness. Reflect on His power and love.

Thoughts of His help translate into praise.

“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. (Psalm 63:6-7)”

Are you literally afraid to go to sleep? Fearful of what might happen during the night. Picture His divine protection.

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)”

God promises to give you peaceful rest.

“When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. (Proverbs 3:24)”

Maybe anxiety plagues you during your waking hours. Psalms assures you of His consolation.

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. (Psalm 94:19)”

Dear Father, turn our restlessness into Your perfect peace. Help us leave our concerns at Your throne. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be still and find rest in Him as you listen to ‘Still’ by Hillsong.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXywFuTf65I

Rescued

wave wave.2  wave.3

Listen to me!!! The sister of an unstable woman tried to warn police.  She told authorities that her sister was, “talking about demons prior to leaving the residence with her three young children.”

The NY Daily News article provides the account of what happened next. The police followed up and stopped Wilkerson’s car. They found no evidence of an unstable woman at the wheel. She appeared calm and the children seemed happy. The officer sent her on her way. Unfortunately, symptoms of mental illness (MI) aren’t always recognized by strangers—even officials.

Wilkerson’s sister had every reason to be concerned. She sensed doom.

Hours later, bystanders watched in horror as Wilkerson drove her SUV directly into the ocean. Witnesses heard the children’s screams for help and sprang into action. Ordinary onlookers sprinted toward the SUV.  Hurdling over waves, they reached the vehicle before it got swept into the ocean. Thankfully, those bystanders rescued all three children. Just before waves engulfed the vehicle and swept it away.

The outcome could have been tragic. Why didn’t the authorities heed the sister’s warning? Ineffective laws prevent authorities from taking action when a family member senses danger. Often the danger isn’t apparent to others.

When we’re brave enough to reach out to others, do they understand?  Usually not. How can they? Should we expect them to know what it’s like to live with someone who denies having MI and refuses treatment? Would they be able to comprehend our sense of helplessness? Sometimes relatives or church members even blame us for our child’s behaviors. Little do they know how much we invest into the lives of our kids with MI. How hard we try. How much we pray. How often we cry.

Some of us get to the point when we realize our own need for help. Does reaching out help? Sometimes. Some of us have found well-qualified health professionals. Perhaps you’re like many who have taken your child to several doctors and received a different diagnosis from each.

Or maybe you’ve mustered the courage to confide in others. Only to discover that even relatives or church members misunderstand. Instead of support, they pile on blame.

Are you tempted to drive into the ocean of despair? See Christ in your storm of life and reach out to Him.

Reaching out to God always helps! Our heavenly Father is in the business of rescuing His people. When Pharaoh’s chariots pursued the Israelites, God parted the Red Sea.

God’s people rejoiced and sang, “I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.

“The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

“Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?

“The Lord reigns for ever and ever. (Exodus 15:1-2, 11, 18)”

Aaron Keyes wrote about God’s power in ‘Song of Moses.’ See if you can relate to those lyrics:

Though the storms of hell pursue, In darkest night we worship You

You divide the raging sea, From death to life You safely lead

 Oh praise the Lord our mighty warrior 

Praise the Lord the glorious one

By his hand we stand in victory

By his name we’ve overcome

Life will not engulf us. We will not drown in MI. In our darkest night we CAN worship Him. By His hand, we’ll stand in victory.

Let those lyrics minister to you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TI8yTeMv0Uo

Silence is Golden

silence

When words don’t seem to help our children with mental illness (MI), what can we do? Keep quiet. Silence is powerful. I learned that the hard way decades ago.

In college, my friend, Dave, got one of THOSE middle-of-the-night phone calls. The caller delivered heart-wrenching news.

Dave’s first reaction: he called me.

“Vicki, my best friend was killed in a car accident. I need to see you.”

Why is he calling ME? I suppose it’s because we share a strong faith in God. But I’ve never experienced the death of a loved one.

I sought advice from my roommate.

“Karen, the roommate you had for three years died suddenly last year. What should I say to Dave?”

Karen advised, “Nothing. Let him talk. Or just sit quietly with him. Share a hug and a tear.”

After college, my husband and I kept in touch with Dave and his wife, Trish. We were closer than friends— more like family. They had their first child, Ryan, around the same time we had Chris. Soon after, they had Kevin and we had Bobby.

One day, I got another call from Dave.

“Vicki, Ryan went to be with the Lord today. He drowned in our pool. We’re coming over.”

Ryan was only two years old.

My roommate’s wisdom helped once again. When they visited, we simply hugged, cried, and prayed. And listened to what they had to say. Dave shared even more disturbing information.

To add to the horror of it, we learned that Trish’s and Dave’s mother and father lost a child when they were young parents. Both sets of grandparents were reliving their own nightmare.

So when Ryan died, Dave sought advice from his father. “Dad, you’ve been through this.  What advice can you give me?”

He simply answered, “Son, you speak of your faith.  Now it’s time to use it.”

Another opportunity came for me to practice silence in the presence of someone grieving. I was the assistant director of an overnight week-long Christian summer camp for children with disabilities. One of the campers, Bruce, experienced a tragic loss just weeks before camp. His single mother died, leaving his aunt to raise him. The aunt chose to send Bruce to camp. Our staff had training and experience with children with intellectual disabilities. She hoped we could minister to Bruce.

Alex, Bruce’s counselor, sought my advice. “Bruce is having trouble getting to sleep at night. He just cries. What should I say to him?”

“Nothing. Just spend time with him. Silently pray for him.”

Those of us raising kids with MI sometimes feel helpless. We’re unsure how to help our vulnerable and fragile children. It’s comforting to know that our silence speaks volumes. It says, “I’m here for you.” Our gentle touch says, “I understand and care.”

What about our grief? It’s hard to see our loved one suffering. Why does God delay in helping our children?

The death of Lazarus provides an answer. Mary and Martha sought the Lord to heal their brother.

“Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.’  When Jesus heard that, He said, ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. (John 11:3-6)”

The word ‘so’ can lead to some confusion about this story. The strange thing about the events in this scene is that Jesus remained where he was for two more days apparently because of His love for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. If Jesus loved them so much, why didn’t he rush off right away? Jesus gave them a hint of the great work He would do and the reason for His delay: so ‘that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’

Jesus explained his delay again to his disciples.

“Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him. (John 11:14-15)’”

When Jesus finally arrived on the scene, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days.  Both his sisters struggled with a common torment many of us struggle with: If only…

“Now Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’… Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. (John 11:21, 32)’”

But Jesus gently reminded them of the reason for His delay:

“Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God? (John 11:40)’”

God is working out His perfect plan in His timing. He’s still in control. Even of the weather. Eastern US has gotten record amounts of snow this winter. Each snowfall is a reminder of our forgiveness. We stand before God ‘white as snow’ because of Christ’s blood. Reflect on His love as you listen to ‘White As Snow’ by Maranatha Singers.

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

MI: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

dog.good.text.2  dog.bad.text  dog.ugly.text.use.3

Can Mental illness (MI) ever be good? One account in the Bible shows how “MI” came in handy.

King David faked insanity to escape the enemy. David, out of fear of King Achish of Gath and his servants, “pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. (1 Samuel 21:13)”

Insanity led to David’s deliverance. “Achish said to his servants, ‘Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?’ David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam… (1 Samuel 21:14-15 & 1 Samuel 22:1)”

Other than that story, I can’t think of anything good about MI. Can you?

So that’s the good of MI. What’s the bad of MI? The bad is when it seeps into a healthy person’s psyche. Contaminating thoughts. Selling lies.

A former second grade student of mine, Alex, had exceptional language skills. Rarely had I witnessed such amazing articulation. His verbal expression even impressed his peers.

The time came for students to give an oral book report. As expected, most were nervous. Surprisingly, so was Alex. He faced his classmates frozen. Unable to speak. Why would HE be afraid to do a presentation?

It became obvious the enemy was feeding him a lie. Telling him, “You can’t do this.”

I took him out in the hall to give a pep talk. Thankfully, as a Christian educator, I could use scripture to melt his fears.

I assured him by saying, “2 Timothy 1:7 tells us God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear. What He calls us to do, He’ll enable us to accomplish. Philippians 4:13 promises, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ The truth is that God has blessed you with wonderful speaking skills. He’ll help you give your oral book report.”

Still afraid, he asked, “Can I do it tomorrow?”

I granted him permission to wait, knowing his parents would echo my words from scripture and pray with him. He did okay the next day. And remembered God’s faithfulness. In third grade he sang a solo during a Christmas concert—in front of hundreds of people.

Alex suffered a common fear: public speaking. Never before that day had he demonstrated anxiety. His behaviors weren’t a result of MI.

Some of our children suffer anxiety disorders. They face overwhelming fears which can be crippling. Or battle worries which are constant. Their symptoms aren’t temporary like those experienced by Alex.

Other forms of MI can be equally debilitating. Our children need help to overcome challenges related to their illness. Sadly, instead of support, we receive judgment from others.

The ugly truth about MI is that some people think our kids are pretending to have anxiety or depression. Assuming their behaviors can easily be controlled. Outsiders jump to wrong conclusions and pass negative judgments. “It’s a character flaw, a ploy to gain power, or manipulation to get out of doing work.” All beliefs are wrong. Anyone who has ever experienced MI would tell you they’d do anything to feel better. Sadly, our children who have MI aren’t faking it like King David did.

Another ugly truth about MI is that some people think the child should “just snap out of it.” The assumption driving such incorrect thinking is that the symptoms are temporary. Outsiders advise, “Just talk to your child and he’ll stop acting that way.” The false belief is that reasoning would be all that’s necessary to improve behavior (like it did with Alex).

God healed Alex from his irrational fear. Can our heavenly Father do the same for our children who suffer from MI? Certainly He’s able. I witnessed an extraordinary miracle in the life of an adolescent. You can read about her transformed life in the message I posted August 21, 2013 entitled ‘Anxiety.’

The wonderful Truth is that God is able to help us through our own challenges, heartaches, and loneliness of MI.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)”

Another wonderful Truth is that Christ overcame death. May you be encouraged by that reminder of His limitless power. Be blessed by this song as you reflect on His second coming.

‘Glorious Day’ by Casting Crowns

Greater Than World-Class

Hawaii.Le.Mer

Le Mer Restaurant, Hawaii

Ever been to a five-diamond restaurant? I did only once. My husband and I went on the vacation of a lifetime. We traveled to Hawaii and splurged on an extravagant dinner. What made it so spectacular? Superb food. Unobtrusive service. Romantic ambiance. And a breath-taking view. The reflection of the sunset on the ocean, just outside our window, whispered, “Welcome to Paradise.”

How does a restaurant achieve a five-diamond status? Our son, Chris, worked for the AAA Club several summers. Often callers inquired about their Diamond Rating Definitions. Chris could articulate the distinction between different levels of service. For example, at a five-diamond restaurant diners would discover that their needs were not just met, but anticipated.

Our children who have mental illness (MI) require five-diamond attention. We attempt to anticipate their needs.  When Chris finished treatment for his psychotic episode, I wanted to prepare him for his return to high school.

“If anyone asks you why you were absent for so long, just answer, ‘I was sick and now I’m better.’”

I wondered if Chris would be able to handle any stress. So I contacted the principal.

“If Chris feels overwhelmed, I doubt he’d ask permission to leave class. He might not want to face any questioning in front of his peers. Would there be a way for him to leave class inconspicuously?”

“I’ll give Chris a “gold pass. All his teachers will be instructed that if Chris presents the pass to them they should excuse him—with no questions asked.”

The principal even provided a safe place for Chris to go on such occasions. Chris could report to a person who would be available and qualified to help him with his stress. Three staff members were identified: one on each floor of the huge school building.

Was I able to provide five-diamond protection for Chris? No. I couldn’t anticipate all his needs. That reality sometimes led to my own anxiety.

Those of us raising children with MI are keenly aware of our child’s fragile mental stability or of their shaky emotional well-being. We’d love to keep them in a protective bubble. But we’re simply not able to provide for their every need.

What are we to do? Wring our hands in anxiety or fold them in prayer? Folded hands aren’t a symbol of resignation. But a position of hopeful expectation. When we pray for our kids, we’re not giving up; we’re giving THEM up—to Him. It’s relief for our grief. We can rest in His loving care.

In the Hands of God, our child receives BETTER than five-diamond service. His care is more perfect than anything we can provide. Jesus reminds us, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8)”

What a comfort to know that the One who created our child knows his needs even before he asks! And He knows our own thoughts too.

Raising a child with MI can be a lonely journey. Often we wonder if anyone understands. Even our own spouse can’t seem to comprehend how we need to be supported. We wish someone would know our deepest thoughts. Thankfully, we can turn to the One who knows better than we know ourselves. How many of us offer this as our prayer to God?

“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. (Psalm 139:1-6)”

It is difficult to comprehend His love. When I contemplate my status as His child, I begin to understand.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1-3)”

May you be lavished with His love today.

Reflect on His love as you listen to Scripture Songs’ ‘Behold What Manner of Love – 1 John 3:1.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3U9GJf6B7mc

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

Preparing for the Storm

winter

What do ants and Solomon have in common? Wisdom.

“Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt (1 Kings 4:30).”

“Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer (Proverbs 30:24-25).”

Why do I care about that little fact? Will I ever be a king? No. Will I ever be an ant? No! But the ant teaches me an important lesson. Be prepared.

This winter we’re getting slammed with snowstorms. I just cleared snow off our cars. Again. sad.face  Whew! Now I can rest.

Yesterday I got my invitation to join the preparedness party. Local meteorologists sent this announcement:

Who: All ‘guests’ living in the northeastern section of the US

What: Another impressive storm: a massive clipper system, followed by an arctic blast

When: All day Tuesday and into Wednesday morning

Host: God would provide the decorations. Snow and plenty of it.

Dress: Layers of clothing, boots, hats, mittens…

I joined all the invited ‘guests’ who headed straight to the food stores to stock up. I wound my way through crowded aisles grabbing all the items on my list. The expressions on people’s faces said, “I’m so done with all this snow. Enough!”

Getting ready for storms requires certain rituals. We reluctantly engage in them. Experience has taught us it’s wise to be prepared. We can weather the storm if we’ve planned ahead.

How ‘bout the storms of life? Do we prepare for them? Hardly. Most people don’t even entertain thoughts about facing a trial. But mental illness (MI) forces us to expect anything. It can hit any day or any minute. A child with MI can be unpredictable.

Often it seems turbulence in the home (due to MI) can’t be controlled any more than swirling winds in the sky. Are there things we can do to minimize the impact of an emotional storm? Yes.

Stockpiling would be the recommended strategy. During calmer days, load up on Bible verses. Mentally fill all the corners of your brain with passages from scripture. Then when troubles come, God’s Word will sustain you.

During some of our most horrific moments, it wasn’t possible to sit and read my Bible. Dangerous situations dictated that I stay alert. Often, in the midst of a crisis, a verse popped into my head. One that comforted me. Verses like:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For 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 8:37-39).”

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you (Isaiah 26:3).”

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).”

Word to the wise: be ready for anything. The time to prepare is now. Feast on His Word. Then, just as I rested after clearing off the cars, rest—in Him.

Only our Lord can prepare our hearts. Reflect on His perfect work in you as you listen to ‘Sanctuary.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxB9VH3cCN4

What’s left?

whats.left.2

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