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God knows.

parched land

From the ground, the residents may not be able to see the impending doom. But I could see that the river was drying up. That’s because I was in an airplane.

Are you like that river? Are your mental, emotional, and spiritual resources drying up? Is it getting harder and harder to find one more drop of compassion? One more trickle of tenderness? Has your energy evaporated? Are you just so tired? Worn out. Do you fear your caregiving drought is on the horizon?

No one can really tell how dried up you feel, but God knows. Things look different from His vantage point.

There are times we wish that we could just get away. Or at least mentally escape the concerns about our children with mental illness (MI). If only we could refrain from worry, even for just one day. Do our husbands or loved ones know just how much we need a break? Maybe not, but God knows.

Can a mom temporarily put her concerns on pause? If she did, who would attend to the needs of her most vulnerable child?  Isaiah 41:17 promises that “The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them” (Isaiah 41:17).

God will not forsake us or our children. God knows we need to be rejuvenated. Isaiah 35:1-2 assures us that God will restore life in a parched land. As we walk in our MI wilderness, we’ll witness God’s restoring power.

“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom …they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God” (Isaiah 35:1-2).

I’ve learned that God is able to provide quiet moments with Him in the midst of chaos or uncertainty. He has arranged times when I could take a mental break from my responsibilities. The key was putting ALL my cares in His hands. The challenge was to trust that God knows all—what I need and what each of my family members need.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

Completely relinquish your child into the hands of God who loves him more, knows all, and has unlimited power. Trust God to give you a much-deserved break. God knows you need it!

Listen to Yalonda Adams’ song, ‘Still I Rise’  where she rejoices that, “God is able to strengthen me.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tfj-UDua9RE

 

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Worry Workout

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There’s a lot to worry about working out.

Do any of these questions reveal your inner thoughts?

Why did I skip my work out? Why can’t I get disciplined and work out regularly? How will I measure up to others exercising who have well-toned bodies? How often will I have to work out before I get trimmer? Why bother?

We bother because research proves it’s helpful. Certain benefits can be linked to exercising. Those benefits motivate us to get to the gym. Sometimes.

 Wishful Thinking

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if working out could eliminate worry? The more we’d run, the more peaceful we’d feel. All worries would disappear. That would certainly motivate me to get to the gym!

Moms raising kids with mental illness (MI) are given good reasons to worry.

We find ourselves on the worry treadmill. Fears elevate our heartbeat. Anxieties cause us to sweat.

Why isn’t he smiling? What happened before he got home? What is he doing in his room? Why is he isolating? Has he taken his medication? Has he eaten today? Why hasn’t he showered? Why isn’t he talking? …

 Wonder about Worrying

Does worrying help?

That question is asked in the recently-released movie, “Bridge of Spies.” The plot surrounds actual events that occurred during the Cold War in the ‘60s. Tom Hanks plays the part of an insurance lawyer named James Donovan. Donovan is appointed to defend a Russian spy named Rudolf Abel. Several times during his conversations with Abel, Donovan observes, “You don’t look worried.” Abel’s reply each time is the same: “Would it help?”

The spy didn’t appear to be asking a rhetorical question. The pointed look on his face hinted at a more instructive question. It seemed like he wanted Donovan to consider if worrying would even help.

That’s our challenge. Consider if worrying helps. The passage in Matthew 6:25-34 tells us it doesn’t.

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? … Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:27, 34).

That whole passage assures us that God will take care of our needs.

 Wonderful Workouts

Paul, in his letter to Timothy, compared physical exercise to godly living. He pointed out, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1Timothy 4:8).

A spiritual workout has eternal value. But, what is a spiritual workout?

It involves toning up our spiritual muscles by daily praying, reading the Bible, following God’s guidelines, and telling others about Him. Simply put, we step on the spiritual treadmill and…Read. Pray. Show. Share … Read. Pray. Show. Share … Read. Pray. Show. Share … Read. Pray. Show. Share …

Our spiritual workout also involves rest. We rest our hope on the One who is still on the throne. The “music” running from our biblical earbuds remind us, “We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10).

So we don’t need to rest our hope on medications or therapist for our kids. Like the psalmist, we can say, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him” (Psalm 62:5).

Finding Peace during Cold, Dark Times

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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

 

In Knots

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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.

 

Getting Away: Guilt or Gratitude?

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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)].

 

 

 

Thanksgiving: Praise and Prayers for Those Suffering

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What comes to mind when you think of the word ‘spread’ at Thanksgiving? For most people, that word conjures up fond memories of a huge feast. A golden turkey surrounded by Aunt Sally’s stuffing, Cousin Sarah’s sweet potato topped with marshmallows, Ben’s bean casserole, and more. Followed by another spread of desserts. Apple pie a la mode, pumpkin pie, and the ever-popular Grandma’s homemade chocolate cake.

Sitting around the holiday table with loved ones can be uncomfortable—in more ways than one. We pig out on the food. And wind up stuffed. Uncle John raises awkward conversations. And we wish we could crawl under the table.

As Thanksgiving approaches, a mother raising a child with mental illness (MI) might have additional things on her mind. Instead of enjoying fond memories of a food spread, some of us fight emotions. Fear spreads as we conjure up thoughts of worst-case scenarios.

Will my child with MI be stable enough to join in the celebration? Will other family members be accepting of him? What if his symptoms emerge? How will others react if he doesn’t eat? How will I respond to probing questions? Can I bear seeing him sitting in a corner all alone another year?

Most Americans pause to thank God on Thanksgiving. Surely, those of us raising kids with MI have a list of praises for God at this time. That He’s protected our own sanity, if nothing else. Wouldn’t it be a relief if Thanksgiving was also a time to send prayers for those who are suffering?

We may feel alone in our journey, but we’re not the only ones who suffer. Everyone suffers at one time or another. President Lincoln demonstrated his awareness of that fact in his Thanksgiving Proclamation. Find his words of compassion in a portion of that proclamation:

“I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans. mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.”

Lincoln was referring to the suffering of the nation faced with civil strife. He invited citizens to pray for ‘the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.’ Those same words could be applied to us.

Here’s my Thanksgiving Day prayer for you:

Dear Father,

I thank You for how You’ve provided for mothers raising children with MI. For those who have seen Your hand in their lives and who have seen improvement in their children. I’m grateful for Your protection. For each mother reading this, I now ask that You give ‘full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union’ in her home.  May Your love spread in the hearts of each family member. Bless each one with a truly joyous Thanksgiving Day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Cast

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Imagine having enough money to hire someone to worry for you. The designated worry wart would provide you with care-free thinking and peaceful emotions. Their job description: take on all your anxiety. Specific tasks would include: wringing hands, enduring sleepless nights, and imagining worst-case scenarios (however unrealistic). The trusted employee would promise to: never share any of their negative thoughts or painful emotions with you, never offer you any advice to improve situations, and never pass along encouraging words to you.

Sounds like an enticing proposition, huh? It would only work if you turned over your concerns completely. Holding anything back would keep you in the worry loop. Maybe having enough money for that extravagance isn’t your biggest problem. If you’re anything like me, the complete release would be the greatest challenge.

Why do I find it so hard to leave my concerns at the throne of God?

Recently football gave me insight into why I withhold my cares. A quarterback has to fully release the ball in order to be part of a successful pass completion. Once he throws the ball, he relies on the skill of the receiver to catch it. Not every ball is caught. Athletes are human.

But we have access to a perfect Receiver. If we toss our cares heavenward, God has promised to receive them. However, we must fully release them. We know He has the almighty power to handle our problems. We sometimes lack the willingness to trust Him with all the details.

Here’s a peek into my half-hearted trust:

Heavenly Father, please protect Chris as he ventures into the city. Thank You that You go with him wherever he travels. I know You love Chris with a love more perfect than mine.

As night falls and Chris hasn’t yet returned, the worries I held back begin to emerge.

Did Chris wear warm clothes. What if he missed the last train out of the city? Has he been harmed?

I’m like a quarterback who thrusts his hand forward, while keeping his fingers tightly gripped on the ball. What’s the point of worrying? Do I really think it will do any good?

My worrying leads to guilt feelings. I feel like my faith is weak and I’ve failed in my walk with the Lord.

Thankfully, God knows I’d need assurances. He leads me to these reminders:

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken (Psalm 55:22).”

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).”

The next time I’m facing a potentially worrisome event, I’ll picture my thoughts tucked inside a football. With my mind’s eye focused on God, I’ll imagine throwing the package full of care His way. And “watch” my fingers unfold from the ball and fold again in prayer.


Raising a child with mental illness (MI) can be a lonely journey. Other words which include ‘cast’ come to mind. Like castaway. Do you feel like you’ve been cast aside? Left all alone like a castaway?

Have you been so devastated that you feel downcast? On the brink of depression?

Imagine Christ putting a cast around your heart. Like a cushion to stabilize your emotions while they heal. Feel His arms embrace you. And cast your eyes upon Him.

The lyrics of “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus” remind us of the benefits of shifting our focus towards Christ.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.

Rest in His peace as you listen to ‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus’ by Alan Jackson

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO4uIyz_d90