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I’m only human.

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What do you think would happen if you fell apart? Would everything around you swirl into chaos? Is your greatest fear that others would find out you’re not Super Mom? If life became too much to manage for you, would you worry about what might happen to your child with mental illness (MI)?

There is comfort in knowing that if we fall apart, let others down, fail our child with MI, God understands. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. That’s His job. Christ understands the stress of life and our human limitations. He is all-knowing.

The biblical word for all-knowing is omniscient. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines omniscient as, “having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight.” This next part of our story illustrates how much I needed someone to understand why I fell apart. God, alone, knew it all.

I had reached my limit and couldn’t remain calm any longer. Like a boiling tea pot, I sounded off. Releasing my frustration. You can imagine how guilty I felt. Like a complete failure. After beating myself up, I remembered God understands everything.

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We waited to see if Chris’s new medication would work. Would it prevent another break from reality? Or would it exacerbate his symptoms and necessitate hospitalization?

At times it was hard to tell if the new medication was really working. Sometimes Chris wouldn’t answer me. I’d consider the possible reasons.

Is he refusing to answer because he’s a typical obnoxious teenager? Is he simply tired? Or is this because the medication is making his symptoms worse? Is he heading to another psychotic episode? Should I call Dr. Newman?

One night after dinner I asked him a direct question. “Chris, are you having trouble thinking?”

He only replied with a silent message. He frowned and shook his head no.

“Chris, are you having trouble thinking?” I repeated. “Answer me. Are you feeling okay?”

“I feel fine.”

“Chris, are you having trouble thinking?”

“If you don’t want to talk, you should at least say, ‘I don’t feel like talking right now.’”

He just glared at me.

Is this some sort of game? I can’t take it anymore.

Finally I gave into the temptation to show my frustration and anger.

“If you’re feeling fine and can think, then you should answer! Since you’re not talking to me I’m going to leave you. I won’t want to talk to you later. If you do this to other people, you’ll push them away from you.”

I walked out of the room and headed to my bedroom. There I flopped onto my bed. Feeling frustrated and upset with myself.

What’s wrong with me? Now I’ve done it. I’ve probably just pushed Chris deeper into depression. How could I lash out at him when he’s hurting? What kind of a mother am I?

I turned to the only One who understood it all.

Dear Father, forgive me for how I acted. You know how hard it’s been for me to remain calm. It’s only because of Your peace that I’ve been able to comfort Chris when my own heart is breaking. I’m thankful You understand all my emotions: my fears, my sorrow, my insecurities, my anxieties, my hopes … You see all I’ve done to help Chris while taking care of all my other responsibilities. As a wife, as a mother to Robert, as an administrator. You know how tired I am and how I’ve relied on Your strength. Help me. This is such a critical time. Dr. Newman needs us to give him accurate information. To figure out if his medication is working. Now’s not the time for me to give up or make things worse. You know if the meds are working. Give me discernment and Your wisdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Chris came into my room and sat down.

“Can we talk?”

I felt like saying, “Forget it! It’s too late now!”

Maybe he really is upset. He’s reaching out. Thank You, Father that Chris is willing to talk.

“What do you want to talk about?” I asked.

“It’s a lot of responsibility to be a squad leader. I’m supposed to call all my squad members and remind them to go to an after school practice tomorrow.”

“Were you able to remind all of them?”

“Yea…I did,” he answered with a concerned tone.

“You seemed worried. What’s the problem?”

He shrugged.

Knowing how demanding his band director was, I assumed Chris was worried of failing him in some way.

“If you’re worried they won’t show up, that’s not your problem. You’ve fulfilled your responsibilities. If a member doesn’t show up and your director tries to hold you responsible, remember that it’s not your fault.”

I’d recently read Steven Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  I had read his very thought-provoking statement, “The problems, challenges, and opportunities we face fall into two areas–Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence.” That gave me an idea of how I could comfort Chris.

“I just read a book by Steven Covey. He wrote about two different kinds of responses to problems. Some people focus on things out of their control. That leads to fear, worry, sadness, and helplessness. Others focus on the things they can control. Those people approach life with courage and optimism. It’s a good message for you. Keep your focus on the thing you can control. You can control your actions. You can’t control what others do or don’t do. What makes you a good leader doesn’t depend on if your members show up to practice. You’re a good leader because you did what you was expected of you.”

That conversation provided an opportunity for me to remind Chris of God’s sovereignty. So I shared my biblical view of Covey’s approach to life.

“Covey’s message left out one big circle. The circle of those things in God’s control. Christians have three circles in their lives: the circle of concern—things out of their control, the circle of influence—things that can be controlled, and God’s circle. I try to remember all things in my life are inside God’s circle—even everything in my circle of concern. That gives me hope and helps me rest in His perfect peace.”

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What a comfort: God controls all and knows everything…even when we act, well, human. He loves us unconditionally and holds it all together.

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Stability

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Why would thousands of commuters approve of the decision to shut down a bridge on a major highway? Is it because they look forward to adding more time to their already long drive into work? Could it be they eagerly anticipate the adventure of finding new routes amidst already clogged roads? Hardly! It’s because they understand the bridge is unstable. They fear what might happen. The tilting bridge could collapse.

That’s a picture of life in the home a child with mental illness (MI). Life with MI can be as flimsy as a house of cards. Normalcy and peace in the home can be as fragile egg shells. There’s instability and no one knows what might happen next. The uncertainty instills fear. Violence may or may not occur. But change is inevitable. That’s a troubling reality, a sad fact.  It’s hard for moms to accept their child won’t be the same. Can others understand?

Getting a new house, a new spouse, or a new job can be both fearful and wonderful. Wonderful because of the exciting adventure ahead. Fearful because of the changes that will occur. Change is unsettling to most people.

How can we cope? What can we do when we sense a new trial looming on the horizon?

This next part of our story provides one answer. I turned to my unchangeable Savior. Christ offered stability in the face of oncoming instability

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In March Chris behavior became alarming. He acted strangely, but different than the first time he suffered a psychotic episode. The first incident happened when he made an odd comment.

“I found the verse in the Bible about what should happen to a child who hits his parents,” he told me.

The verse in Exodus 21:15 came to my mind. ““Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death.”

“What did you think when you read that verse, Chris?”

“I think I got off easy,” he replied.

Chris still didn’t understand that his behavior was a result of his MI. Prior to his first psychotic episode he’d never been violent to us or anyone else. Quite the contrary. He was a loving and appreciative son. Often he’d thank me for making dinner.

That conversation signaled turmoil simmering inside Chris, tormenting him once again. I braced myself for another incident. Whatever that would be.

Early one week he didn’t communicate with us. He didn’t respond to our questions or share in our conversations.  He stopped smiling.  Within that week his behavior deteriorated quickly. New red flags popped up.

When I insisted he respond to us, he became belligerent.

“Don’t you ever shut up?” he’d ask.

Each day seemed worse. It took him longer and longer to respond.

“What did you say?” he sometimes asked.

I sensed he was having trouble thinking. It seemed hard for him to process information. Thankfully my teaching experiences helped me know how to respond. Some of my former students had significant processing delays in their thinking. They simply needed to hear a question repeated. So I’d repeat my questions to Chris slowly, using a minimum of words. Still he struggled to understand.

Everyone noticed Chris’s difficulty thinking. His brother, Robert, pointed it out. Chris’s teachers called to share their observations. The band director reported similar behaviors.

It progressed to the point that Chris wouldn’t even answer at all. No matter how many times we’d ask him something. No matter how slowly I’d post the question. Chris even started putting his fingers in his ears when I spoke to him.

“That’s typical teenage behavior,” some of my friends told me. Trying to comfort me.

I knew it was worse than typical teenage behavior. God gives mothers intuition and insight into their kids. Especially the most vulnerable ones.

Dear Father, I sense Chris is heading to another psychotic episode. Chris seems to be unraveling again. He’s become unstable again. Ease my anxiety.  I don’t know what we’ll be facing this time. Help me focus on Your stability in the midst of instability. Thank You that You never change. I know You’ll be faithful, just as you were last year. Once again I need Your peace, protection, and guidance.

The psychiatrist told us Chris was heading for different kind of psychotic episode. His first one caused his thoughts to race. This time his mind was slowing down.

By Thursday of that week Chris sat motionless with his head down. I knew I needed to take him to the psychiatrist.

“Chris you need to stay home tomorrow. I’ll take you to see Dr. Newman,” I informed him.

Chris silently refused. He just glared at me.

Reluctantly I allowed him to go to school. Friday was the day Chris’s physics teacher had breakfast with his students at a local diner. Our whole family frequently joined them. After breakfast Howie would take the boys to school on his way to the train station. I would drive my car to work. That morning the waitress was much slower than usual. In spite of that, the boys wanted to stay and finish breakfast.

“I’m not going to have time to take the boys to school. Can you drive them?” Howie asked me.

“I’ll drive you. Chris can take my car to drive himself and Robert to school,” I answered quickly. The time pressure caused me to make a poor decision. Chris was in no condition to drive.

When I got to work I did the final preparations for the Math and Bible Olympics. They were scheduled to be held that afternoon. I put in a call to the psychiatrist. Hoping he could prescribe a minor adjustment to Chris’s medication.

“Chris isn’t talking at all. He sits motionless with his head down. He even glared at me last night,” I reported

“I’m deeply concerned. I need to see him first thing tomorrow morning,” he said with urgency in his voice.

His tone scared me. Chris has the car. What if he completely loses it while driving home from school? I have to get to him as soon as possible.

The elementary school principal could fill in for me. She had helped with all the plans for the Olympics. The only problem was that she was pregnant. Due any minute.

“I need to meet Chris at his school before he leaves. I can get the Olympics started. Will you be able to run them?” I asked her.

“Sure. As long as I don’t go into labor!” she agreed.

Dear Father, please be the stability in this day. Keep her from going into labor. Prevent Chris from driving before I get to him.

I left work at 2:00 PM and flew to Chris’s school. I arrived there just before he left. And followed him home.

That night was Gym Night at the high school. All the students were divided into two teams (by last names, according to the alphabet). Chris had signed up for two events. One of them was Simon Says (much like the band march off). With him being son unstable, I was afraid of what he might do. I feared that if he got eliminated and the opposing team cheered, he would run to attack someone.

I watched him pacing before his events. Thankfully, he behaved normally during those events. As I watched him compete, his focus amazed me. It seemed impossible for him to hold it together under all the pressure of a gym filled with noisy spectators. Gym Night lasted several hours. All that time I studied Chris. Sitting poised and ready to leap off the bleachers if he acted peculiarly or violently.

Dear Father, please help Chris behave normally. My emotions are churned up. Please be the stability of my heart tonight.

Thankfully, the evening ended without incident. The next morning Howie and I drove Chris to see Dr. Newman. After one hour of observing and Chris and talking with us, Dr. Newman determined that Chris’s psychotropic medication was no longer working.

“We need to wean him off that medication and phase in another type of psychotropic medication,” he told us.  “This will be another very critical time. I can’t predict what will happen,” he warned. He then instructed us to, “Take Chris to see his psychologist today. Also get the paperwork started at the hospital in case Chris has to be admitted again. Call me if anything changes.”

I didn’t know what the future held for Chris. But it was enough that I knew Who held his future. God had been our stability during this instability. He’d continue to carry us through whatever was in store.

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Yes, life with MI can feel as flimsy as a house of cards. But God is our Rock and Stronghold.

“I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies (Psalm 18:1-3).”

Musical Strain

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It’s powerful. It can make people move, smile, sleep, or cry. And can change the mood of a crowd.  Music has power to influence emotions. David played his harp and freed Saul from a distressing spirit (1 Samuel 16:23).

According to Wikipedia, a musical strain is “a series of musical phrases that create a distinct melody of a piece.” Musical strain, in Chris’s case, represented stress that threatened his peace. Music contributed to his breakdown.

Being in several competitive bands is demanding. It requires endless practicing. It proved to be too much for Chris. But once he recovered from his psychotic episode, Chris wanted to return to his old routine. That included music competitions.

Chris had been released from the hospital and had finished his junior year. Thanks to gifted homeschool teachers, Chris completed his work on time and received good grades. Summer vacations to Colorado and leadership camp proved Chris was well on his way toward full recovery. But I still worried.

Chris has accomplished a lot since his breakdown. But he might still be emotionally fragile. I don’t think he’d be able to handle the stress of those music competitions. How can I allow him to subject himself to such pressure? How can I tell him not to audition?

God reminded me His power is greater than any musical composition. His perfect peace can block out the most disturbing music. Here’s how it happened:

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November was the month auditions were held for County Band (the best musicians in the county) and District Band (the best musicians in the area—several counties). That time of the month brought painful memories.

Just last year Chris auditioned for County Band and District Band. The day after his District Band try outs, he suffered his breakdown. Howie says we should let Chris enter the competition. I’ll ask everyone for prayer.

“Is it wise to let Chris do to the auditions?” many of my close friends would ask.

“If we don’t let him try out, he’ll feel more like a failure than if he auditioned and didn’t make it. He’d resent his mother controlling his life. I can’t refuse him the opportunity to demonstrate his incredible musical abilities. I don’t want to stand by and watch the added stress harm him again. That’s why I’m asking for prayer.”

We came up with a plan to support Chris as much as possible during the auditions. I made arrangements for Chris to see his psychologist immediately after the County Band auditions. Chris traveled to the auditions with his music director, Robert, and other students. I met him there and found the hosting school staff.

“My son, Chris, has a doctor’s appointment today. I’ll need to take him immediately after his audition,” I informed them.

Robert had to deal with his mother showing up at the auditions. Chris didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he welcomed my support. A reaction that both pleased me and concerned me.

District Band tryouts came next. Plans were put in place once again. I’d meet Chris at the school and take him to his appointment with the psychologist. I arrived at the school when all the students were warming up their instruments. The auditorium was filled with blaring, distorted sounds. The unrelated notes eerily resembled the “music” of a shattered mind.

What must this sound like to Chris? It can only amplify his apprehension and any distorted thought. I’ve got to get him out of this room!

I frantically searched for Chris. With a sense of urgency to free him of the noise. Usually it was easy to spot Chris because the slide of his trombone is easy to locate. Not this time. The longer it took for me to find him, the more I began to panic.

Where can he be? What’s happened to him? Was this a big mistake?

Finally I noticed him sitting on the edge of the stage. His head hung down and his shoulders were bent over. He was the only student not warming up. His pathetic appearance filled me with mixed emotions. Sorrow made my stomach feel like I’d just headed downward in a rollercoaster. But gratitude filled my heart.

I waded through the sea of instruments and musicians. When I reached him I asked, “Are you allowed to walk around?”

“Yeah. We can leave the auditorium.”

What a relief to reach the quiet, peaceful hallway. The Lord even helped me get permission for Chris to be tested earlier than scheduled.

While Chris was in a room being tested, two students walked by. They were saying unkind things about a fellow musician they’d seen last year.

“Do you remember that weird kid who acted so strange last year?” one asked.

“Yeah. He played the trombone. He was odd.”

They’re talking about Chris! I didn’t know he acted strangely last year. Not enough for others to notice. Father, why did I have to hear those unkind comments?

Thankfully, that audition ended without incident.

Soon after, we got the results. Robert and Chris made County Band. Chris also made District Band. Any musician would rejoice in such an accomplishment. In Chris’s case this represented a tremendous testimony of God’s provision. It was also proof of Chris’s determination, courage, and talent.

Dear Father,

Thank You for showing Chris that life can go on. I praise You that Your power is greater than anything. Dissonant music filled the room. But Your perfect peace inhabited Chris’s mind. You silence the discord in our hearts and our lives.

 

 

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

Rescued

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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

Choosing a Focus Word for the New Year

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What word would you choose as your focus word for 2014? Would it be ‘survive’, ‘simplify’, ‘save’, ‘family’, ‘gratitude’, ‘service’, ‘inspire’…?

My word will be ‘choose.’ I discovered it in a pool while water walking. Typically, just getting to the gym is a huge accomplishment for me. It involves ignoring the aches and pains of my multiple sclerosis.

Recently, however, exercising was more grueling. Shoveling snow off our cars had to be done. But my arms were sorer than normal. The whole ordeal got worse when I got into the pool. I heard an annoying sound coming from a nearby utility closet. Steady whirring added to the agony of my exercise. Ugh!

It dawned on me that the bothersome sound had a beat. So I chose to embrace it by matching my steps to the rhythm. Imagining the sound as a metronome distracted me from feeling pain. Synchronized jogging helped relax my mind.

Then I realized that, similarly, I can choose to have more peaceful thoughts in 2014. Romans 8:6 tells me how to accomplish that goal.

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”

The Holy Spirit can help me drown out the droning of my concerns about mental illness (MI). I can ignore the bombardment of ugly thoughts. Fears, worry, frustration, self-pity, and anger will not batter my brain as long as I remain focused on His presence.

I can also choose to have an eternal focus. With the knowledge that in heaven there will be no more tears or suffering. No more MI.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).”

So my word for this New Year will be ‘choose.’ I’ll choose to accept whatever comes my way. I’ll choose to view circumstances with a positive perspective—filtered through the Holy Spirit.

Listen to the hymn: Finding It Home.

I love to reflect on the words: “Just think of stepping on shore and finding it heaven. Of touching a hand and finding it God’s. Of breathing new air and finding it celestial. Of waking up in glory and finding it home.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1glUFnLC928

Don’t Underestimate Your Influence

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Do you ever wonder if you’re helping your child who has mental illness (MI)? His illness may prevent him from thanking you. Your spouse may not acknowledge your efforts. When we near our breaking point, we’re tempted to give up.

This message is dedicated to the countless moms who privately provide support. No one sees all you do. No one could know how you minister to your child, in spite of your broken heart. You’d much rather crawl into bed and cry … for a week or two. But there’s no time for you to grieve.

Recently, I witnessed beautiful motherly care and attention. My good friend sat beside her adult son in a mental health care facility.

She had recently totaled her car, which left her with some back pain. She and her husband had settlement the day after her son was admitted into the hospital. Her husband had paper work to do. So she went to visit her son alone (not knowing I’d come alongside her).

In spite of fighting a cold, she asked all the right questions. Presenting each one lovingly.

“Did you eat last night?”
“How did you sleep?”

“Do you like your psychiatrist?”

“Do you take a walk in the hallway sometimes?”

“Did you have group?”

“What are you thinking?”

Periodically, she gently stroked his arm. Sometimes, she allowed silence.

She reassured him without promising something that may not happen.

“Do you think I’ll be able to go to my Bible study’s Christmas party on Friday?” her son asked.

“Maybe. Hopefully,” was her honest reply.

My friend held it together while in the hospital. Until we stepped outside after visiting hours. The exit door became a faucet for her tears.

I tried to comfort her. “Are you okay?”

“I’m numb,” she said as she softly cried.

I gently stroked her back.

Will her son be released before Christmas? That remains to be seen. Will his new medication restore him to his sweet self? Time will tell.

When is it a good time to be hospitalized for MI? Certainly not at Christmas.

Seventeen years ago Christmas wasn’t a time for celebration. Our son, Chris, had to be hospitalized. Those memories mercifully have begun to fade. Visiting my friend’s son threatened to arouse painful emotions.

“Are you sure you want to go?” asked my husband lovingly. Wondering if it would be too difficult for me to relive reminders of our son’s hospitalization.

“This will be healing for me,” I answered. “I know how much it would have meant if someone sat by me when Chris was hospitalized (if you couldn’t come). Especially if that person knew exactly what I was feeling.”

So I went. And was blessed by what I saw in my friend’s compassionate care of her son.

Her son also impressed me. There he sat in a psychiatric hospital speaking about God’s Word. He quoted verses from the Bible and discussed some of his favorite stories. His shattered cognition didn’t dampen his determination to focus on the Lord. His inner turmoil didn’t rob him of his love for God. My friend can take credit for investing Truth in him. God’s Word promises that His Truth will not come back void.

Isaiah 55:11 tells us, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”  (KJV)

Can anyone relate to the thankless care you provide for your child with MI? Certainly the Lord can. He healed ten lepers, but only one thanked Him. He died on the cross for the sins of all mankind, but men mocked Him as He hung dying. Spewing anger in return for His unconditional love. Countless still ignore His free gift of salvation.

Christ surely knows what it’s like for you. He sees your faithful labors of love. So seek His approval. He’s well-pleased with you. And know this: you’re having a positive impact on your child even though it can’t be measured.

Hang in there, with your focus firmly fixed on Him.

The song “In Christ Alone” (from the Secrets Of The Vine CD) reminds us that, “Here in the power of Christ we stand.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExnTlIM5QgE