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Prepared and Protected

wisdom.sm

I wonder if I’ll get a few good pictures at this renaissance fair.

Photography is my hobby. All my cares disappear when I’m involved in a photo shoot. It’s my escape. I get so focused on the next image to capture that I can ignore everything. Once, I was oblivious to the fact that mosquitoes were biting me. The breathtaking sunset seemed to activate only my visual senses. That outing yielded stunning pictures, and two armfuls of mosquito bites!

Whenever I go on a photo shoot, I’m excited if it yields just one fantastic photograph. However, the renaissance fair didn’t hold much promise. I entered the fairgrounds and disappointment hit. At first glance, nothing seemed snapshot-worthy. No good Kodak moments presented themselves. But, I wandered around snapping pictures anyway.

Nothing really excited me. Until I came upon the birds of prey. A thin rope surrounded three birds, each tethered to a perch on the ground. The owl grabbed my attention. I’d never been so close to a live owl. Inches separated me from the gorgeous bird. I could have reached out and touched it. But, I resisted the temptation.

Suddenly, loud clanging sounds pierced the silence. Behind me, two costumed men were having a sword fight. Each time their swords clashed, the owl spun its head around. The huge eyes stared in my direction. I stood mesmerized. Suddenly, I jolted to my sense, set my camera on the sports function, and snapped away.

Humans do something similar when on high alert. Someone shouts, “Heads us!” and we duck. A ball is thrown in our direction and we automatically protect ourselves. If only we can hold that picture in our mind as a symbol of what to do with mental illness (MI). At the first indication that more challenges are being hurled our way, the best thing to do would be to lower our head in prayer.

Our reflexes protect us from physical injury due to an incoming ball. Can we likewise learn to respond with instant prayer to incoming trials? Can we get better at responding quicker with spiritual protection? When we see our child slipping, can our immediate response be to bow our heads in prayer?

That’s not always my immediate reaction. Here’s an admission: initially my emotions drive my reactions. Worries come. Tears flow. Problem-solving thoughts swirl in my head. It’s not my automatic response to seek God’s help.

So here’s my resolve: When sorrow is heading to my heart, I’ll strive to get better at seeking God’s protection—FIRST.

By the way…isn’t the phrase, “heads up” the wrong thing to scream? Shouldn’t we instead shout, “Heads down?” While contemplating those words of misdirection, I considered using them for spiritual protection. If I can keep my spiritual “heads up”, with my heart lifted to God, I just bet I could face the next trial with more of His peace. Make sense?

Here’s my plan. The next time I sense things are shaky with Chris, I’ll repeat to myself, “Heads up … Heads up … Heads up …” That’ll remind me to turn my heart heavenward, bow my head in prayer, and trust Him. I know He’ll remind me of His faithfulness. And that He’ll provide the peace and protection needed. In addition, He’ll help me prepare for whatever by giving me His wisdom.

Most of us have a first aid kit. We’re prepared for any physical injury or illness. In our heart, we can have a MI first aid kit: prayer and God’s Word. That’s a kit which will keep us prepared, protected, and at peace.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

Wishes

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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.”

 

In Need of a Husband’s Support

Howie and Chris

Howie and Chris

Chivalry came from the most unlikely gentleman.

“Here, let me get that for you,” he offered. The blind teenager had enough vision to notice his teacher struggling to open the door. In one hand I held a heavy metal braille typewriter. The other held my bag of supplies and student files.

My student saw a problem and solved it. Like most males.

Men are wired to repair broken things. The reality is that some things can’t be fixed easily. Like a child’s mental illness (MI). Many fathers try to remedy the problem by explaining it away. Denying the diagnosis can only last so long.

How does that fit with a wife who has moved on in her grief to anger, bargaining, or depression? She needs emotional support from her spouse. When her mate is unable to provide what she needs, anger grows and bitterness can set in. Does that sound like your situation?

How can a husband care for his distraught wife if he’s not yet able to face the illness? If my blind student’s vision had been worse, he would have been unable to see my problem. He wouldn’t have come to my rescue.

What can a grief-stricken mother do when her husband can’t provide what she needs? Allow me to share what I’ve done. I don’t presume to have all the answers. I’m not a psychologist. Just a fellow mom who’s been through what you may be experiencing.

  1. Pray for God’s perspective of your husband. Imagine his need to fix the unfixable. That could only lead to helpless feelings. Think about his desire to protect his family members. Then contemplate what it would be like for him to realize he can’t protect your child from MI. Men love their tools. But no tool can reach inside your child to restore clarity of thought and joy. No gizmo can guard against turbulent emotions.
  1. Pray for your husband’s emotional healing. Look beyond your husband’s avoidance of the whole situation and see a grieving father. Any loving dad will surely feel sorrow. He won’t express it like a woman. But it’ll weigh like a concrete brick in the pit of his stomach. Perhaps your husband harbors guilt feelings. Ask God to move mightily in his heart and mind. So your husband can find forgiveness and peace from a loving Father.
  1. Ask God to provide what you need while your husband is grieving at his own pace. Through scripture He’ll speak words of healing you long to hear. Ask your Father to send a godly woman to support you. To cry with you, pray with you, and listen without judgment.

Let me encourage you. God hears your prayers. He heard mine. Howie has become attentive to my emotional needs regarding Chris. And he is gentle in his interactions with our son. God’s perfect peace has settled Howie’s heart. Yes, he’s sad. But Howie’s calm assurance comes from eyes lifted heavenward. He’s learned to let God carry the burden.

I told Howie this post would pertain to husbands raising kids with MI and asked him for any message he’d like to share. Here are his words of experience:

“It makes it easier when you realize there’s nothing you can do. It helped me when I realized it’s out of my hands. You still show love but you know you can’t fix it. That takes a long time to get to. Years.”

Howie hasn’t given up on Chris. He’s just given Chris over to God. Not given up…given over. When he seeks help for Chris, he doesn’t run to our tool shed; he goes to our prayer closet.

The centurion in Matthew faced an impossible situation with his suffering servant.  As a man, he understood authority. So he pleaded with Jesus to heal the servant.

“‘Lord,’ he said, ‘my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.’

“Jesus said to him, ‘Shall I come and heal him?’

“The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’”

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, ‘Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith (Matthew 8:6-10).’”

What got Christ’s attention was his faith. Ask the Lord to increase your husband’s faith. To help him understand the power of the greatest Contractor of all. The Repairer of lives is accessible. Just a prayer away. When pipes are leaking a man gets a plumber. When wiring is frayed he hires an electrician. When his child is ill God can provide healing and comfort. Free of charge!

Amazing Moms

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The most amazing moms have nothing. Think about it.  That’s when they have to rely completely on God. That’s when they shine.

Take, for example, two widows in the Bible.

One of the women had an encounter with Elijah. God had directed Elijah to see her. We read about their meeting in 1 Kings 17:8-12.

“Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.’ So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, ‘Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?’ As she was going to get it, he called, ‘And bring me, please, a piece of bread.’

“‘As surely as the Lord your God lives,’ she replied, ‘I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.’”

Now THAT’S desperate! She had no husband, not enough food to feed her son, and felt impending death. But God had other plans.

Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land. (1 Kings 17:13-14)’”

What did she do? “She went away and did as Elijah had told her (1 Kings 17: 15).”

That response inducted her into the Hall of Amazing Moms.

Dire circumstances didn’t dampen her trust in God. Her faith in Him didn’t waver. What a display of trust in the Lord! Maybe temptation taunted her to feed her son first. Who would blame her? A perfect stranger delivered a challenge. Did she believe him for the promise? No. Her firm belief rested on God and His faithfulness.

The result?  “So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah. (1 Kings 17: 15-16).”

Let’s peek into the life of another widow.

“The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, ‘Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.’

Elisha replied to her, ‘How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?’”

‘Your servant has nothing there at all,’ she said, ‘except a small jar of olive oil. (2 Kings 4:1-2)’”

Think about her life. No husband, creditors coming to take her sons as slaves, and only a small jar of olive oil to feed her family. Maybe the enemy slithered into her thoughts, tormenting her by saying, “Your husband revered the Lord. Your God abandoned you.” No wonder she cried out to Elisha. Wouldn’t you? I’d be screaming, “Help! Someone PLEASE help me!!!”’

Then Elisha gave an odd response. He said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side. (2 Kings 4:3-4)”

I don’t know about you, but I would have asked Elisha, “Don’t you get it?!!! What part of ‘only a small jar of olive oil’ didn’t you understand?”

Not that widow. By faith, she collected jars from her neighbors. I’m guessing her neighbors may have known she only had one jar of olive oil. Maybe they thought, “What does she plan on doing with empty jars? She’s lost it. Poor woman.” Obviously, she didn’t care what her neighbors thought.

By faith, she followed the rest of Elisha’s instructions. Like the other widow, her faith in God didn’t waver, in spite of her dire circumstances.

“She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another one.’

“But he replied, ‘There is not a jar left.’ Then the oil stopped flowing.

“She went and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left. (2 Kings 4:5-7)’”

Those widows weren’t supermoms. They were amazing women of faith, with an unshakable trust in God. They were a lot like us—desperate mothers. Crying out to God, “Please help my family.”

Don’t let their powerful message melt away. Magnify it in your mind. Listen to their encouraging words. As they whisper, “Cling to Him and His Word. He’s faithful. Just cling to Him and His Word. In your emptiness, you have everything. Cling to Him and His Word.”

Their testimonies inspire us to remain strong in our faith. We can trust God, in spite of our circumstances.

Years ago, I used to experience attacks due to my multiple sclerosis (MS). During those times, I couldn’t teach because the attacks rendered me listless. I couldn’t function. A close friend asked, “What verse are you leaning on?”

Her question encouraged me. It told me she knew I clung to God’s Word during difficult times. She also knew the Bible is the Living Word of our Father. It speaks to every believer, offering truths and promises needed for each trial.

What verse are you leaning on for your current trial? Don’t have one yet? Here you can borrow one of my favorites: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” (Psalm 91:1-2)’”

God cares about desperate moms. He fights for us. Whatever we fear, He’s our mighty warrior. By His hand we stand in victory.  By His name we overcome. Listen to those words in the song by Aaron Keyes: ‘Song of Moses.’

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

Where to Find God

Sofieeggs

Kids love Hide and Seek and a good Easter egg hunt. Finding things brings such delight!

Think you’re too old to play Hide and Seek? If you’re like me, you seek God during dark trials.  Finding Him would bring you such delight—and peace.

How can God be found?  July 4th will give us a reminder.  What’s the secret to spotting fireworks? Simple. Look up. In the darkness you’ll find beautiful lights.

Sounds easy. Not so easy when we’re trying to find God in our struggles.

Where are You God? Are You still there? My child’s in torment. How can I help him see Your hand in his life when I can’t find you?

It’s hard to trust Him when we can’t track Him.

CAN God be found? Does He want us to find Him? Yes.

Psalm 14:2   tells us, “The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.”

In Hebrews 11:6   we read His promise that, Anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Deuteronomy 4:29  even tells us how to seek Him.

“But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.”   

Psalm 63:1  gives us an example.

“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.”

1 Chronicles 22:19  tells us, “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God.”  

In Matthew 4:12-16 we read about the fulfillment of God’s promise. That Light will come into the world. God sent His Son to provide light in darkness.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”  Isaiah 9:2

His light is much more than a beautiful burst of colors that brightens the sky and quickly disappears. His light illuminates our heart with lasting and perfect peace.

“…because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”  Luke 1:78-79

Where is His light? Remember what you do when you enjoy fireworks: look up. He’s hiding in plain sight.

He can even reveal Himself to your child who has mental illness (MI). Read how he did it for our son:

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God revealed His presence and protection to me when Chris was out of touch from reality. I experienced His faithfulness when Chris was in the psychiatric unit. I felt His peace when Chris went to the partial-care unit. Chris, however, still couldn’t see how much healing had taken place because he was busy making up schoolwork.  His torment pierced my heart.

“God doesn’t love me. Why did He let my life get so shattered?”

I had no response. Only a plea for God.

Father, please help Chris know You still love him. Reveal Yourself to him.

Soon after, God answered my simple prayer in two powerful ways.

Chris gradually weaned back to school. Starting first with only one or two days a week. Building up to a full week. He even started going to musical practices. This was a risky move because it involved a great deal of stress. Students had to audition to be in the jazz band at Chris’s school. The director selected professional-level music. During Chris’s recovery, he hadn’t practiced his trombone. Was he ready? Could he handle the pressure?

One day, the band traveled to a nursing home for a performance. One of the other trombone players, Adam, didn’t show up. So, the director asked Chris to play his part (without any preparation or notice!)

As they were walking up to the stage, he turned to Chris and said, “I need you to play Adam’s part.”

Chris proceeded to sight read the other part perfectly! He even spontaneously created an improvisation solo that would fit the background music. Chris’s fellow musicians were stunned to witness what Chris was able to do. They didn’t’ know the half of it. They didn’t realize he was recovering from an illness that affected his mind.

God revealed His love and faithfulness to Chris when he took several tests. Anyone would be stressed at the thought of taking a pre-calculus test. Chris had to make up SEVERAL in just ten days. On one of the make-up tests, there was a problem none of the other students got correct. But Chris got it correct!

Chris finished that school year on time with all his work made up, earning nothing lower than a B on his report card. A report card which included several college level AP courses.

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Yes, God can reveal His love and faithfulness even to our children who have MI.

Hillsong’s God is Able

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CJfdfNWjRw

Agony

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Yesterday athletes’ agony became America’s agony. The bombs that blew up in Boston tore through flesh and emotions. Confusion gave way to fear and thoughts of terrorism. A marathon turned into mayhem.
All our hearts go out to the people in Boston. Those who lost loved ones. Those who were injured. Those whose dream of finishing the marathon was severed by an act of terrorism.

What’s your version of a mom’s agony? Having a child with mental illness (MI) missing, losing that child to suicide, suffering the anguish of innocent lives taken at the hands of your child with MI, or experiencing the daily challenges of the child living at home (disrupting the peace in the family, trying to stay calm so as not to trigger violence or break from reality)?

Rick Warren just experienced the horror of losing a child with MI to suicide. An unbearable tragedy. Inflicting unimaginable pain.

The parents of the Aurora Shooter suffered the anguish of innocent lives taken at the hands of their son. Who could withstand such public shame in the midst of that nightmare? A nightmare that doesn’t end.

A mother of a missing child battles relentless torment. Dealing with the daily struggle to fight back fears. Fears of what might be happening to her vulnerable son or daughter.

Anyone struggling with the daily challenges of MI in the home knows how it can wear you down…almost cause you to lose your own sanity.

Each person’s trial can be agonizing at times.

According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, the definition of ‘agony’ is: intense pain of mind or body.

Does that describe your state of mind? Is your pain intense?

Is your mind troubled by thoughts of what’s happening to your child? Or do fears of what might happen plague you?

Regardless of the details of each mother’s trial, there are some similarities. Helplessness. Exhaustion. Strain on a marriage. Heartbreak for siblings who don’t get equal attention. Agony.

Christ experienced agony. He knew exactly what would happen to Him. He’d experience emotional torment from the soldiers’ mocking. The soldiers He’d die to save. He’d endure physical torture from the beating, forty lashes, and crucifixion. He’d suffer unfamiliar spiritual pain from the weight everyone’s sin.

As the day of His crucifixion approached, what did He do?

“Being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Luke 22:44 (NKJV)

God honored His earnest prayers and enabled Christ to carry out God’s plan. To willingly die for our sin.

“So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’
‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied.
‘I am he,’ Jesus said.” John 18:3-5 (NIV)

We can survive each day by depending on the Lord. For Him to provide hope, guidance, healing of minds and marriages…

When our pain becomes agony, we can follow Christ’s example and pray more earnestly. God will honor our prayers and enable us to carry out His plan for our lives. To willingly face another day in anticipation of His faithfulness. God is bigger than any problem we face or fear. Nothing is impossible to Him.

Let Hillson’s song ‘This is How We Overcome’ minister to your heart:

Wait for it…

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What are you waiting for?
That can be taken two ways:
1. What do you wish would happen?
2. Why aren’t you doing something? What are you WAITING for? Do something!

Sometimes I ask God the second way. I don’t like to wait for answers to my prayers. Does anyone?

When our son Chris was in college, I drove him home to see his brother march at a high school football game. On the way to the high school, the cars came to a complete stop. No cars were moving on the highway. It became evident we would not make it to the game on time.

In sheer frustration, I reported, “Well, we’re stuck in a traffic jam.”
He replied with glee, “My first traffic jam!”
That familiar inconvenience was a new and exciting adventure for Chris. All the sights and sounds fascinated him. He delighted in the sounds of sirens whirring past us. The people getting out of their cars and the people in the oncoming cars gawking at the scene intrigued him. So, I opened up my lunchbox and we enjoyed some leftover snacks. And prayed for the accident victims.

Okay, so it’s possible to enjoy waiting in a traffic jam. But, how can mothers of children with mental illness (MI) be happy about waiting for restored joy and peace? How long must we wait for our child to have clarity of thought?

What does God think about our impatience? As parents, we know how annoying it can be. When traveling, children often ask “Are we there yet?” When heard incessantly, it can feel like TORTURE.

Now imagine a trip that takes 40 years to arrive at the destination. That’s how long it took the people of Israel to reach the land God promised them. Imagine the parents hearing their children ask, “Are we there yet?”

Thankfully, God doesn’t get annoyed when we bombard Him with daily questions. “When will You restore my child’s sweet personality? When will You heal my marriage? When will my life be normal again?…”

When God delays his answer, we can react in our usual impatience. Or we can respond like Chris did in the traffic jam. It could become an adventure of looking for the mixed blessings and lessons we might learn along the way.

In our weariness, our heavenly Father coaches us with His pep talk from Psalm 27:14. “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!”

Children are good at asking for what they want. In fact, they’re good at DEMANDING what they want. In spite of the same denial, a young child will ask to do something repeatedly. Finally, in desperation the child will plead, “Please. I’m begging you!” Sometimes the child will ask, “Why not? Why can’t I…?”
A parent doesn’t always want to give an answer. The answer may lead to an argument. So, the parent replies, “Because I said so.” Our no’s don’t mean we don’t love our child. Often it’s in our child’s best interest to say no. “No, you can’t stay up all night. No, you can’t have five cookies. No, you can’t date when you’re only 13.”

At times, we’re the same way. Waiting and hoping for something. Asking God again and again. Pleading with Him. “Please God. I’m begging You!”

Waiting is too hard. We ask, “Why not?” Inside we sulk. How can God’s “no” or “not yet” be in our best interest? Why would God have us wait to see our child’s mental stability restored? Why would He make us wait to see our child joyful once again? While seeking those answers, we might miss what He’s giving: comfort, strength, an eternal perspective…

Moms can’t be happy unless their kids are happy. How we desperately want our child with mental illness to be happy!

While hoping for the thing you most desire, hope also in God. Good self-talk would sound like, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” (Psalm 42:5, Psalm 42:11, Psalm 43:5)

Mental reminders of His promises will restore peace while waiting. Tell yourself, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3)

What are you waiting for?