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Anxiety

stuffedbunnygraduating

Picture a girl clinging to her stuffed bunny on her first day of school. Now picture her as a sixth grader.

That’s how I first met Leah. It didn’t surprise me. Her application clearly stated Leah suffered from separation anxiety.

As the director of instruction of our Christian school, it was my job to process student applications. The headmaster and I felt led to accept Leah. We believed God could do a mighty work. Leah was transferring from public school to our Christian school. The exposure to God’s peace in our school could help Leah overcome her separation anxiety.

Leah’s parents were very supportive. They said they’d put us in touch with her psychiatrist.

I spoke with Leah’s mother before the new school year began. Mrs. Jones prepared me well, providing information beyond the usual school records.

“How did Leah’s last school year go, Mrs. Jones?

“Leah needed home-bound instruction for most of fifth grade,” Mrs. Jones explained.

“How many days did she attend school?” I asked.

“During the last quarter we gradually weaned her from home-bound instruction. Each week she attended more hours.”

“Did she eventually make it for an entire school day?” I inquired.

“No. She couldn’t make it. Often the school had to call me because she experienced a panic attack,” her mother answered.

“What were her panic attacks like?”

“She’d complain of stomach aches and headaches. She’d ask to go to the nurse.”

“Did the nurse find any evidence of a physical illness on those occasions?”

“Never. The psychiatrist recommended that I pick her up from school when her anxiety reached that level. I had to bring her home every day.”

Leah’s mother gave me the name and number of the psychiatrist and encouraged me to speak with him.

When I called the psychiatrist, he laid out a plan.

“If Leah complains of any physical ailments and asks to go to the nurse, send her. If the nurse determines that Leah’s physically well, she’ll bring Leah to you. Casually ask Leah about school and things in her life. Your calm demeanor should help her relax. If she complains of any physical discomfort, tell her that the nurse said she’s fine. Then quickly change the subject.”

As the school administrator, I’d be the person to determine if we needed to call home and ask Mrs. Jones to pick her up.

We put that plan into action. The first week of school I needed to call her mother twice. Mrs. Jones picked her up. Even during that first week, however, Leah was able to remain in school for several entire days. Maybe not in class, but in school. Sometimes all she needed was to talk to her mother on the phone. That calmed her. I’d then take Leah for a walk outside and she’d relax enough to go back into the classroom.

By the end of the year Leah was attending entire days. She still carried her bunny, but rarely needed to go home. Her visits to the nurse diminished. She and I met only occasionally.

On the last day of school I asked to speak to her in my office.

“Leah, you’ve made it to the end of the year. God has helped you overcome your anxiety. I’m so grateful to Him and proud of you. Let’s thank the Lord.”

After a time of prayer, I presented her with a gift. I gave her a miniature graduation cap for her bunny.

“It’s time for both of you to graduate. You’ll be graduating sixth grade. Your bunny will graduate from school. He’ll no longer need to accompany you next year. You’ll be fine on your own with God’s help.”

Leah attended seventh grade without her bunny and without needing to go home. She never again needed to call her mother from school. Later in the year, Leah even slept over a friend’s house. Quite a remarkable accomplishment and testimony to God’s faithfulness in her life!

Leah went on to attend college and get married.

We’re not very different than Leah.

Don’t we also worry? Forgetting God is in control.

Aren’t we vulnerable to fears? Allowing our thoughts to be consumed by the what if’s.

Aren’t we prone to the contaminated thinking of the culture which tells us we can solve all our problems? Believing we don’t need God.

Like Leah, our minds are easily led astray. Forgetting how much God loves us and our kids. Paul knew that danger when he warned, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).”

What a comfort we have in the reminder Peter gives us to, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).”

Let your mental anguish melt away as you listen to “You Are My Hiding Place.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElVC6rfX3Z8

 

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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

I blew it.

failure

I’d reached my breaking point. I managed to keep my composure when Chris was in the psychiatric unit. And then held it together when he got treatment in the partial-care facility. He was on the road to recovery. But, my emotional stress built as he transitioned back into school.

Chris started going to some band rehearsals after school. When it came time for a performance, I was concerned.

Will he be able to handle the pressure? Will he act normally in front of everyone? Will his peers ask him why he wasn’t in school?

I sat in the auditorium waiting for the program to begin. Not relaxed, but uneasy. Days leading up to the performance, we had Chris practice what he’d say if curious students asked him why he wasn’t in school. He would simply reply, “I was sick and now I’m feeling better.”

Where is Chris now? What’s he doing back stage? I hope he doesn’t do or say anything to embarrass himself or his brother. I hope he remembers what to say if anyone asks him why he was absent.

My thoughts were interrupted by a parent I didn’t know well. She bluntly asked, “What did you think of Chris’s partial-care facility?”

How does she know where Chris was? Does everyone know? What a rude and insensitive question!

I mustered up the strength to respond. As casually as I could I answered, “How did you know Chris was receiving treatment in a partial-care facility?”

“A friend of mine had a daughter there when Chris was there?”

Great! Just perfect! I guess everyone knows our business. I suppose it’s impossible to keep Chris’s friends from finding out.

I responded without looking at her, “It was okay.”

Maybe she’ll get the message I don’t want to talk about it. Just leave!!!

I couldn’t believe I actually answered her intrusive question. Instead of politely telling her she shouldn’t have asked me.

People just don’t understand how upsetting it can be to have a loved one who is mentally ill.

It wasn’t possible for me to simply enjoy the band performance without someone reminding me Chris was recovering from his illness.

Several days later, Chris and I were in the car. He brought up the partial-care therapy. For the millionth time! Chris needed to process the experiences. I wanted to just forget it. Our needs collided that day.

“When I was in the partial-care unit, they didn’t care about the patients. It was horrible. The counselor was mean to me. We had to sit there all day and talk about drug abuse. Even though that wasn’t my problem.”

In sheer frustration, I lost my temper. I yelled, “I got it, Chris! I know it was a nightmare for you! I’m sorry you had to go there! I’m tired of hearing about it.”

The three months of stress had taken its toll on me. I spoke harshly to Chris. Afterwards, I felt tremendous guilt.

I’m such a failure. How could I speak to Chris so meanly? He’s still so vulnerable. But, I just can’t take it anymore.

I couldn’t allow myself to wallow in self-pity.

I need help. Maybe, I’m not the worst parent in the world. I’ll talk to Chris’s out-patient psychologist. He’ll give me his honest opinion on how I’ve handled our crisis.

The psychologist assured me, “You’ve been handling things amazingly well considering the circumstances. You’ve persevered for a long time. You need to take time out for yourself. Get some rest and relaxation. Find some time for entertainment for yourself.”

Soon after, God provided some needed encouragement.

Chris and I spent some time walking by a creek. As we strolled along, I reminisced.

“When I was younger, I used to sit for hours on a rock in a creek near our house. I marveled at God’s creation. When surrounded by God’s creation instead of the world (man-made thing and earthly troubles), I found peace. It was comforting to see God’s power and love demonstrated in His beautiful creation.”

We walked closer to the water.

“Look at that water before the boulders. See how calm it is. As long as it’s perfectly still, it can reflect the sunlight. Now look at the rippling water falling from the boulders. See how the light sparkles in that water? Listen to the soothing sound of that gurgling water. It’s so soothing.”

I went on to relate it to our lives.

“The creek is a picture of our lives. There are calm times, followed by turbulent times. During calm times, if we can remain perfectly still, we can reflect the Son’s love. Even during turbulent times, we can reflect His love. But, in a more vibrant way. God can be found in our difficulties. And glorified the most through our trials. See farther down the creek? The water is still again. Your life will be calmer again, too. God is helping you pass through this turbulent time.”

I’ll always cherish that day with Chris. The analogy I shared with him, reassured my heart as well.

Did you ever feel like you blew it?

Decades ago, Simon & Garfunkel sang “Bridge over Troubled Water.” Listen to the words to the song and imagine God singing them to you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjNgn4r6SOA

I Can Relate to Adam Lanza’s Mother

ChrisChandler

My son, Chris

In the wake of yet another mass shooting, many want to know what the Connecticut gunman’s mother knew.

As a mother of a son with mental illness, I have an idea. Assist News Service posted an article I wrote. Check out that article.

http://www.assistnews.net/

Overwhelmed with Sorrow

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2

Throughout Chris’s school years, learning was easy for him. He always brought home A’s. Until one day.

Chris’s first grade teacher wanted to prepare me for the unusually low grade he would bring home that day. Since I taught in the small Christian school he attended, I ate lunch with his teacher.

“I had to give Chris a D on his math test,” she explained.

“Why?”

“He didn’t follow the directions.”

After school, Chris came to my classroom. As soon as he started to talk, he burst into tears.

“What’s the matter, Chris?”

Thrusting his math paper at me, he sobbed, “I got this paper back.”

“Why are you crying?”

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

How could he think such a thing? What made him believe my love could be turned off by a mere bad grade? How could he ever imagine my love for him was conditional?

Then it dawned on me. Tests grades with A’s were proudly displayed on our refrigerator. Chris assumed the kitchen was our hall of earned love. The place of honor reserved for excellent work. In his mind, papers with A’s were payments to gain my love.

Chris was overwhelmed with sorrow at the thought I wouldn’t love him anymore. His sadness opened the floodgates of my compassion.

“Oh, Chris, nothing will ever stop me from loving you. Not this grade. Not any mistake you’ll ever make. I will always love you.”

Chris isn’t the only one who’s become overwhelmed with sorrow.

Jesus became overwhelmed with sorrow. In the book of Matthew, Jesus told His disciples He was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” when faced with bearing the burden of everyone’s sin (Matthew 26:38). What was His response?  He found a quiet place and prayed to His father.

We, too, suffer great sorrow. In agony, we watch our child struggle with mental illness. Do we pray to our Father?

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told his disciples to pray so they won’t fall into temptation. That’s His desire for us too. He knows we face the temptation to give into our human reactions. It’s easy to become fearful, uncertain, hopeless, and depressed.

Just like Chris, go to God and honestly admit, “I haven’t followed Your directions and have neglected my private times with You. I’m afraid you don’t love me anymore. Show me Your love. Help me see Your path for my child’s life. Reveal Your presence in my house. Restore clarity of thought and joy to my son. Encourage me today. Bless me with Your perfect peace.”

Release the floodgates of His love for you.

What if…

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”  (Romans 15:13).

Chris survived his first psychotic episode that hit during his junior year in high school. With the help of excellent home bound instructors, he even finished the year on time. God was faithful.

The night before his senior year, lots of what ifs filled my head.

What if marching band proves to be too stressful for Chris? What if other students say something to him about his hospitalization? What if teachers are too demanding? What if he can’t make it to the nurse’s office to get his medicine? What if his friend isn’t in any of his classes? What if no one sits next to him at lunch? What if…

‘What if’ is usually followed by someone’s greatest fear, their worst case scenario. But suppose ‘what if’ was followed by someone’s greatest hope, their best case scenario.

Calm assurances would replace doubts and fear. There would be no limit to what could follow ‘what if.’

Here’s how it would sound:

What if God filled Chris with His perfect peace? What if the Lord arranged for Chris’s friend to be in several of his classes? What if several people sat with Chris at lunch every day? What if Chris remained content and clear thinking in spite of a stressful band director or demanding classes? What if I felt God’s presence during Chris’s school days?

What if I created new habits that led to transformed thinking?

What if I woke up and cast all my care on God, instead of worrying about what my day will be like? What if I eagerly anticipated how God will help me instead of feeling unsupported?

Jesus told his disciples not to worry about what they will eat, drink, or wear. Proof of His provision surrounded them. God’s care could be seen in the lilies of the field and the birds of the air.

Can you imagine a bird pacing around with her head down murmuring, “What if I don’t find any food? What if I can’t make my nest in time?”

Jesus assures us we’re more valuable to Him than any bird. There is no limit to the joy and peace we can have as we trust Him. The Holy Spirit will fill us to overflowing with hope.

What ifs can torment or comfort depending on our focus.

Oh heavenly Father, increase our faith!

Feeling Helpless

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. ”  (Psalm 8:3-5)

Most of us would rather go through a trial ourselves than watch our children in turmoil.

When our kids struggle, we do all we can for them. We help in different ways, depending on the problem and the age of the child. Sometimes, we provide physical assistance. Other times, our children need a listening ear and a prayer. Older ones might want guidance or advice.

Sometimes there are limitations to what we can do to help. The ongoing pain our child experiences can pierce our own heart.

When my son, Chris, was in kindergarten he struggled with his behavior due to his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Every day after school, his teacher asked to speak to me about something he did wrong.   Even though Chris was trying as hard as he could to behave appropriately, his impulsivity got him into trouble.

We did all we could at home. We prayed with him, taught him how to behave, shared appropriate scripture, and even role played situations he might encounter in the classroom. The problem seemed impossible to solve.

How could I help my son understand that God still loved him in spite of his circumstances? How could I teach him (and myself) that God would help him with this problem and all his future problems?

Around that time, my mother gave Chris a chrysalis. Such exquisite beauty! The beautiful oval-shaped creation looked like an earring. Resembling a pale green porcelain vase dotted and lined with gold. God created it and all things simply by speaking, “Let there be…”  Such power!

God provided an answer to the cry of my heart. He showed me how to explain God’s love and power to my son.

I pointed to the chrysalis and said, “If God can create such beauty simply by speaking it into existence, then He can certainly help you with any problem.”

God’s creation demonstrates His power and it draws us closer to His love. This stanza of God’s Garden by Dorothy Frances Gurney (London: Country Life, 1913) expresses it well:

The kiss of the sun for pardon,

The song of the birds for mirth,–

One is nearer God’s heart in a garden

Than anywhere else on earth.

When it becomes unbearable to watch our children cope with their struggles, we can look to the One who overcame death. He provided a way for us to have everlasting life. He also provided a way for us to live victoriously while on earth. He gave us the Helper.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. ”  John 14:26

How do you endure watching your child suffer with mental illness?