Archives

Finding Peace during Cold, Dark Times

0.2.13.14

When does the season match emotions? When the sun isn’t shining and the temperature hits below freezing. That’s when some people get seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Cold and grey winter days can lead to depression.

What does SAD have to do with moms raising kids with mental illness (MI)? We can relate to the strong urge to hibernate during the winter seasons of life. Times when it seems like the journey will never end. When our discouragement meter plummets lower than subfreezing temperatures. Wouldn’t it be nice to escape by crawling into bed for days? Wouldn’t it be refreshing to curl up in a warm blanket and dream of the carefree days before MI hit?

The reality is that moms raising kids with MI can’t take a week off. Thankfully, the reality is also that God can surprise us with His peace during the darkest days.

Recently I wrote a devotional for Rest Ministries—an online Christian ministry for people with chronic illness or pain. The message, ‘Winter Surprises’ may encourage you during the long winter months on the calendar or in your life. I created a YouTube video (using photos I took) to accompany the devotional. It’s my prayer that you’ll find refreshment while watching that video (about six minutes long). Here’s the link:   https://youtu.be/bownpnIV7hE

 

Advertisements

In Knots

IMG_8601

Williamsburg, Virginia

“Grandpa has a sore belly,” our daughter-in-law explained. Our granddaughter wouldn’t have understood pain from a gallbladder attack. But she surely could sympathize with belly pain.  So could lots of us.

The booming gluten-free industry is proof my husband’s not alone in digestive misery. People suffer from Celiac Disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Then there’s the ‘itis conditions’: colitis, diverticulitis, gastritis, pancreatitis, and more. A simple google search of ‘digestive illnesses’ yields a long list of miserable conditions. All of which can make your stomach feel like it’s been through a meat grinder.

Mom’s raising kids with mental illness (MI) know another type of stomach pain. The kind that results from worry and stress. Concern can cripple our digestive systems. Rendering us sick with belly pain. Leaving our stomach in knots.

What can ease that kind of twisted torment? Think about what parents to do ease the belly pain of a toddler. We softly stroke their tummy. Our heavenly Father can unknot our stomach when worry twists it like a strand of Christmas lights. Not only will His loving hand soothe our pain, but He’ll replace it with His perfect peace.

If MI has left you in knots, join me in using Psalm 90:15-16 as your prayer:

“Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory” (NLT)

Stop and reflect on the phrase, “gladness in proportion to our former misery.” We serve a God who promised to, “turn their mourning into gladness,” and to, “give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13).

He will restore your joy. Because He loves you that much.

 

Strange

IMG_9202

In the midst of the Christmas gift-giving, my mother noticed something odd. With a frisky tone of voice, she pointed out, “Howie’s listening to a glass … we’ve lost him.”

All eyes shifted to see my husband, who in fact was holding a glass to his ear.

Howie explained, “My ears are hot and the cold glass—”

“No need to explain,” interrupted my mom, playfully. With a frolicsome smile, she spun her hand at the wrist as if wiping his explanation away.

Her implied message, said in jest: we love and accept you no matter what you do.

Here’s the thing about strange behaviors: some are easy to accept. Others: not so much.

Strange, Funny, and Humorous:

Some strange actions tickle our imagination and make us laugh. Like unusual things captured on YouTube videos.

Babies are always a favorite subject in YouTube videos. Like the ones in these “Funny Baby Videos”:

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

Add music and narration to funny animals and you’ve got a hilarious funny animal video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOr8ryJUOyQ

Strange, and Not So Funny:

Mom’s raising kids with mental illness (MI) often witness strange behaviors in their own homes. Seeing our children act in unusual ways is far from funny. It’s concerning and heart-breaking. The strange happenings seem so foreign to “normal” life. We convince ourselves we’re the only ones enduring such an abnormal existence.

If people could peek into our home, they couldn’t possibly understand such bizarre behaviors. No one would believe what’s going on in our home.

The fact is there are countless other moms who WOULD understand. Because they’ve also faced what we’ve faced. There is nothing we’ve experienced that hasn’t been experienced by other moms throughout all time. And since others have experienced and are experiencing what we’re going through, we’re not alone. Others understand.

Solomon guarantees that, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

We can be sure of Solomon’s insight because, “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 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 4:29-30).

So Peter cautions us, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

Strange and Accepted:

Think about your child who has MI. Is there anything he would do that would make you stop loving him? Are there any behaviors that would seem so extreme that you’d lose your compassion for him? No. Your love is unconditional.

The rest of the world may think our kids are a bit odd and seek an explanation. But, like my mother, we simply say in our hearts: “No need to explain.” And love them no matter what.


 

NOTE: This message is not to imply that life with a child who has MI is full of strange behaviors. Unexpected behaviors may occur, but they’re not constant. Life is simply complicated. A lot like everyone else’s life: full of ups and downs, twists and turns. Happy times and hard times.

 

Getting Away: Guilt or Gratitude?

YOKE.1

Twin Oxen, Williamsburg, VA

“We won’t be able to go on our vacation,” a friend told me. Her son had just been admitted to a psychiatric unit again. “I don’t think it would be right for all of us to take a trip while he is in the hospital,” she explained.

“Now would be the perfect time for you to get away,” I assured her. “He’s being well taken care of and will be safe while you’re gone. You need to enjoy some rest and relaxation with your other family members.”

It’s only natural for a mother to stay close to a sick child. You don’t have to tell us. When it comes to having a child with mental illness (MI), tending to a sick child is endless. Months and years pass without any breaks. There’s never a good time to get away.

Recently my husband and I planned a three-day trip to Williamsburg. With limited funds, we chose to travel on Thanksgiving Day when the hotel rates would be considerably less. Low gas prices made traveling by car doable. We could afford to take a mini-vacation. But we couldn’t afford to take our son. I fought guilt feelings.

 We should take Chris along. He never gets to go on vacations. How could I even consider leaving him on Thanksgiving?

But I knew I needed to get away. WE needed to get away. It would be good for our marriage. It was necessary to be proactive, to protect our marriage. A healthy marriage finds time for the couple to be together.

It’s just not easy to get away, especially when you have a child with MI. Before this trip, Howie and I had taken trips. Mostly to see our grandchildren. Other trips had been coupled with Howie’s business trips. It had been ten years since Howie and I had gone away just the two of us to spend time alone together.

To ease my conscience, I wondered what God thought about us taking a trip. Matthew 11:28-30 came to mind.

Jesus has the answer for people like us who are dog-tired from daily burdens. He recommends, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

In Colonial Williamsburg I spotted two oxen pulling a cart. I stood close enough to reach out and stroke their fur (but wasn’t permitted). Standing next to them was like standing next to a small car. Their massive muscles revealed overwhelming power. Yoked together, they could carry huge loads.

Suddenly I remembered the words of Matthew 11:28-30 and felt gratitude instead of guilt. It was as if God had sent those oxen as a reminder to me. I heard God whisper, “I know you’re weary and burdened. Give Me your burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and find rest for your soul.”

Maybe you can’t afford to get away even for a brief trip. Instead of getting away, imagine going to—going to Him. The one who will give you rest.

“Rest for your souls”: is that what you need? God is powerful enough to carry any load. Another version of Matthew 11:28-30 may describe your situation, your need, and your rest-giving Lord.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly”  [Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)].

 

 

 

Handle With Care

palm.of.hand

We all know what to do about a shaken can of soda. Let it settle before opening it. Otherwise it will explode and foam will shoot out.

Do you feel like a shaken can of soda?  Is your heart like that carbonated drink? Unsettled. Does it first have to settle before you open up and talk about what mental illness (MI) has done to your child and to you? Are you afraid that if you release your emotions, raw emotions will gush out? And you may never stop crying.

We want to feel settled. More than that, we want peace. Peace for our child. Peace in our home. Peace in our heart.

Reflecting on Peace:

I gravitate to verses about God’s peace. Recently I discovered one tucked at the end of 2 Thessalonians.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).

Can you guess what caught my attention? “In every way” I yearn to have peace at all times. But I never considered having peace in every way.

What does peace ‘in every way’ mean? Hum…

After checking several commentaries, I learned how God can give us peace ‘in every way.’ It means we can have peace in every way we are unsettled.

  • Peace from outward threats: betrayal, accusations, danger … physical harm that may come to our child
  • Peace from loss: of the death of a loved one, of a job, of good health, of a marriage, of a prodigal child, of a friend moving, of a child off to war … of the contentment our child used to enjoy
  • Peace from inner turmoil: worry, jealousy, discontent, fear, insecurities, anger, depression, anxiety, feelings of inadequacies … concerns for our child

Recalling Peace

An infant sleeping is the perfect picture of peace. Back when our son, Chris was first born, I loved watching him sleep. I’d gaze into his precious face and catch a glimpse of serenity.

If only I could have frozen those moments in time. Those were days when Chris’s life was filled with peace.

On occasion I dare to reminisce—to recall carefree days before MI hit. It’s painful to think of what MI did to my dreams for Chris. Hopes for an untroubled life were dashed by the harsh realities of illness. Peace was snatched away.

Yet I still sometimes entertain thoughts of happier days when Chris was young. Strangers often observed, “He’s such a happy baby.” And he was.

Etched on my heart are snapshots of family fun. Like times when Chris climbed a tree with his brother or played a board game with his father.

But I can’t linger in the past too long. Because my joy gets sucked into the quicksand of sorrow.

I never expected his life to turn out this way. I just wanted him to be happy and have a peaceful life.

I see his strained smile and know that, “Even in laughter the heart may ache” (Proverbs 14:13a).

Then I remember the God of all peace can fill Chris with true contentment.

Clinging to Promises about Peace:

Hang onto promises God gives us about peace. That’s what helped me through times of greatest trials in Chris’s life. I clung to promises about peace like, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Picturing Peace:

Focus on an image of divine peace. Imagine laying your head in the palm of God’s hand. Picture yourself resting in the Creator’s mighty hand. The King of all kings has said, “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16a).

That’s a place we can always find complete contentment. In His hand our security is sure. Like a parent walking a toddler across a busy street, our Father keeps a firm clutch on us. Jesus assured His followers that, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me … no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29)

Reach out to the God of all peace who holds your life in His hands. And you’ll join the psalmist in praise:

“Let everyone bless God and sing his praises; for he holds our lives in his hands” [Psalm 66:8-9 (TLB)].

Human hands can’t fix MI. But the mighty hand that created the universe can handle your life with great care. Hear Isaiah whisper, “This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: ‘I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand’” (Isaiah 42:5-6a).

 He will guide you through your journey. A journey that demands peace.

So, cry out for God’s peace. Cling to His promises about peace. And reflect on the Lord of peace who gives you “peace at all times and in every way.”

Reach out to Him and He’ll handle you with care.

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace

(Numbers 6:24-26).

Banish Worries

look.up

I love ‘but.’  It’s a powerful word to declare moving day on worries and cares. The Psalmist loved using it. It helped him focus on Someone bigger than his problems. He deliberately shifted his focus to God. No small accomplishment, given his problems. I can’t begin to understand what it’s like to flee from approaching armies. I can, however, relate to the writer’s raw emotions. His difficulties: affliction, rejection, sorrow, loneliness…

I’m guessing that most moms raising kids with mental illness (MI) can relate to unrelenting challenges. Symptoms our children struggle with evade our comfort. We’re powerless to fix their thinking or soothe their emotions. As the battle continues with MI, a war wages in our own minds. We’re tormented by worries and cares.

The tiny word ‘but’ can be our best defense. It has the power to helps us shift our focus. It represents our deliberate action to climb out of the pit of worry. And consider the Almighty: what He’s done, what He can do, and who He is. With our thoughts fixed on God, we begin to see that His power is greater than any problem. The One who overcame death can surely help us through the trial we face today.

Read the following list of verses from Psalms. It just might become your personal pep talk to shove away all anxieties. And fill your mind with thoughts of God’s greatness and love.

After you read the list, write your own version. It might go something like this:

“My heart is shattered as I watch my child in torment. Can I cry any more tears? Can I withstand another day? I lie awake fearful, imagining what might happen to him if this treatment doesn’t work. Does anyone fully understand what I’m going through? I feel so lonely. And so tired…But, I know that God will sustain me, as He has done so many times in the past. He’s shown me how to comfort my child. He’s led us to compassionate and caring professionals. I know He’ll strengthen me physically and emotionally. He is my refuge and strength. In Him, I can find rest and peace.”


Psalm 3:1-3

“Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, ‘There is no help for him in God.’ Selah But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.”

Psalm 13

“How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him’; lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved. But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”

Psalm 18:18

“They confronted me in the day of my calamity, But the Lord was my support.”

Psalm 31:10-14

“For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away. I am a reproach among all my enemies, but especially among my neighbors, and am repulsive to my acquaintances; those who see me outside flee from me, I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel. For I hear the slander of many; fear is on every side; while they take counsel together against me, they scheme to take away my life. But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God’”

Psalm 34:19

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all.”

Psalm 41:7-10

“A11 who hate me whisper together against me; against me they devise my hurt. ‘An evil disease,’ they say, ‘clings to him. And now that he lies down, he will rise up no more.’ Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. But You, O Lord, be merciful to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them.”

Psalm 59:1-4, 16

“Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; defend me from those who rise up against me. Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloodthirsty men. For look, they lie in wait for my life; the mighty gather against me, not for my transgression nor for my sin, O Lord. They run and prepare themselves through no fault of mine. But I will sing of Your power; yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; for You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble. To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; for God is my defense, the God of my mercy.”

Psalm 69:1-13

“Save me, O God!  For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is dry; my eyes fail while I wait for my God. Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; they are mighty who would destroy me, being my enemies wrongfully; though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it. O God, You know my foolishness; and my sins are not hidden from You. Let not those who wait for You, O Lord God of hosts be ashamed because of me; let not those who seek You be confounded because of me. O God of Israel. Because for Your sake I have borne reproach: shame has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my brothers, and an alien to my mother’s children; because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.  When I wept and chastened my soul with fasting, that became my reproach. I also made sackcloth my garment; I became a byword to them.   Those who sit in the gate speak against me, and I am the song of the drunkards. But as for me, my prayer is to You, O Lord, in the acceptable time; O God, in the multitude of Your mercy, hear me in the truth of Your salvation.”

Psalm 71:13-16

“Let them be confounded and consumed who are adversaries of my life; let them be covered with reproach and dishonor who seek my hurt. But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and Your salvation all the day, for I do not know their limits. I will go in the strength of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.”

Psalm 73:26

“My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 77:1-14

“I cried out to God with my voice – To God with my voice; and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search. Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah. And I said, ‘This is my anguish; But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.’  I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples.”

Psalm 86:14-16

“O God, the proud have risen against me, and a mob of violent men have sought my life, and have not set You before them. But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth. Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me! Give Your strength to Your servant, and save the son of Your maidservant.”

Psalm 88:3-4, 13

“For my soul is full of trouble, and my life draws near to the grave. I am counted with those who go down to the pit; I am like a man who has no strength, But to You I have cried out, O Lord, and in the morning my prayer comes before You.”

Psalm 102:4-5, 8, 11-12

“My heart is stricken and withered like grass, so that I forget to eat my bread. Because of the sound of my groaning my bones cling to my skin. My enemies reproach me all day long, and those who deride me swear an oath against me. My days are like a shadow that lengthens, and I wither away like grass. But You, O Lord, shall endure forever, and the remembrance of Your name to all generations.”

Psalm 109:3-4

“They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, and fought against me without a cause. In return for my love they are my accusers, But I give myself to prayer.”

Psalm 119:23-24

“Princes also sit and speak against me, But Your servant meditates on Your statutes. Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.”

Psalm 119:61-64

“The cords of the wicked have bound me, But I have not forgotten Your law. At midnight I will rise to give thanks to You, because of Your righteous judgments. I am a companion of all those who fear You, and of those who keep Your precepts. The earth, O Lord, is full of Your mercy; teach me Your statutes.”

Psalm 119:69

“The proud have forged a lie against me, But I will keep Your precepts with my whole heart.”

Psalm 119:70

“Their heart is as fat as grease, But I delight in Your law.”

Psalm 119:78

“Let the proud be ashamed, for they treated me wrongfully with falsehood; But I will meditate on Your precepts.”

Psalm 119:81

“My soul faints for Your salvation, But I hope in Your word.”

Psalm 119:87

“They almost made an end of me on earth, But I did not forsake Your precepts.”

Psalm 119:95

“The wicked wait for me to destroy me, But I will consider Your testimonies.”

Psalm 119:113-114

“I hate the double-minded, But I love Your law. You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.”

Psalm 119:161-162

“Princes persecute me without a cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your word. I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure.”

Psalm 119:163-165

“I hate and abhor lying, But I love Your law, seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous judgments. Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.”

Psalm 141:7-8

“Our bones are scattered at the mouth of the grave, as when one plows and breaks up the earth. But my eyes are upon You, O God the Lord; in You I take refuge; do not leave my soul destitute.”

Encouragement

Make.way.wldns.3

What would help you through the day? No matter what your situation, my guess is that you could use some encouragement. That’s what I’ve needed while raising a child with mental illness (MI).

I remember several times during my journey with Chris’s MI that the future wasn’t simply uncertain; it seemed hopeless. Normalcy had halted. Routine activities weren’t possible. I wondered if mental stability would be restored to Chris. Or if he’d ever feel joyful again.

Those were times when Chris struggled most to regain mental stability. Times that left me facing a battle in my own mind.

I don’t know if I can endure this trial. How can I minister to Chris when I’m feeling so discouraged, sorrowful, and afraid? How much more of this can I take?

Verses like 2 Thessalonians 2:16 helped me hang on. It promised that God, Himself, would encourage me.

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

‘Eternal encouragement’: imagine that! God has given us everlasting encouragement. What a surplus!!!  Surely, He could provide a portion of that to me today.

I faced a relentless onslaught of worries. My solution was to listen to one particular song which assured me that God was still in control. Don Moen’s popular song “God Will Make a Way” reminded me of the promise in Isaiah 43:19.

“See, I am doing a new thing! … I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).

Here are some of those lyrics:

God will make a way

Where there seems to be no way

He works in ways we cannot see

He will make a way for me

 

He will be my guide

Hold me closely to His side

With love and strength for each new day

He will make a way, He will make a way

What seems impossible to me is possible to God.

It renewed my hope to believe that God would make a way, when there seems to be no way. So I listened to that song over and over and over. Until that Truth echoed in my mind and until the promise filled my heart with encouragement.

What seems impossible to me is possible to God.

 Listen to Don Moen’s popular song “God Will Make a Way.” Let the lyrics minister to you and give you God’s good hope and a portion of His eternal encouragement.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zo3fJYtS-o