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No Shame

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How do you feel when you’re at a gathering and parents begin bragging about their kids? A mom raising a child with mental illness (MI) might not feel comfortable sharing achievements like, “My child started eating again…My child smiled and talked cheerfully yesterday…My child doesn’t isolate; he exercises regularly and fixes computer problems…”
We secretly celebrate our child’s victories. Why? Maybe because we think others wouldn’t understand. Honestly, it’s also because we harbor unnecessary shame. The stigma of MI stifles us.
We feel judged. Most of us imagine what others must think about us raising a child with MI. Some have actually been judged. People, who have no clue what challenges we face, have acted like experts. As if sitting on their self-imposed thrones of perfect parenting, sharing their wise advice.
In our thoughts we imagine revenge: You should TRY living just one day in my life and see how you’d cope!
We can related to the psalmist who said, “May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace” (Psalm 35:26).
Surely, those who judge us should be the ones who feel shame. Yet, we’re the ones who are made to feel shame.
We don’t deserve to be judged. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if others could understand? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone could let everyone know we didn’t do anything to cause our child’s MI?
God did just that for Job. The Creator of the universe set Satan straight in his judgment of Job.
“Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’” (Job 1:8).
Even though Job had God’s stamp of approval, he was still made to feel shame when his friends made accusations. Job felt powerful shame. In his physical condition Job felt emotional torment. He revealed his needless shame by saying, “If I am guilty—woe to me! Even if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head, for I am full of shame and drowned in my affliction” (Job 10:15).
How can we remove the ugly cloak of shame others place on us? By proclaiming with resolve,
“Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:7).
The easy-to-read version of Isaiah 50:7 gives us a simpler way to memorize it: “The Lord God will help me, so the bad things they say will not hurt me. I will be strong. I know I will not be disappointed.”
The Lord protects our hearts from needless pain and then fills our hearts with praise.  The blooming trees and flowers remind me that God’s able to restore joy.
“For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations”
(Isaiah 61:11).
Have a shame-free and joyful day!
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Rain to Wash Away Confusion

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“Mother Nature is confused,” reported the meteorologist. The roller coaster temperatures of early spring led him to that conclusion.  Weather reporters often get the weather wrong. We can’t blame them. They’re not God. They’re not in control of the weather. So I can excuse a faulty weather prediction.  But I take issue with a false statement. The meteorologist can’t give “Mother Nature” credit for controlling weather.

Even the report, “God is confused” would be inaccurate. God isn’t confused. I’m sure He knew just what He was doing when He sent a burst of snow on April 9th.  Those of us who were weary of winter moaned. But the fact that we have seasons is evidence that God still IS in control.

After Noah finally exited from his ark, he built an alter to the Lord to worship Him. God promised never again to destroy every living thing. He said, As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Genesis 8:22).

When things in our world go wacky, there’s comfort in the knowledge that God still IS in control. We may be confused about what’s happening in our lives. We may wonder why our most fragile child has to struggle with mental illness (MI).  We’re not alone. I’m guessing at some point everyone wonders what’s going on. They ask, “How did I get here?” and “Why is this happening?”

The Israelites wandering in the wilderness became confused when they became hungry. Confusion caused hundreds of thousands of God’s people to complain.

“In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.’” (Exodus 16:2-3).

God had freed them from captivity. But things seemed much worse.

They wondered, How did we get here?  Why is this happening?

I’ll bet you’ve wondered the same thing when you watched your child with MS suffer. In your confusion you may have wondered, How did we get here?  Why is this happening?

Jacob also must have been confused. He had made a deal with Laban to work seven years for him so he could marry Laban’s beautiful daughter, Rachel. But after Jacob fulfilled his end of the bargain, Laban tricked Jacob and gave him his other less-beautiful daughter, Leah. And required Jacob to serve Laban for seven more years to get Rachel as his wife.

Jacob must have wondered, How could this happen to me?  It’s so unfair.

I’ll bet you’ve wondered the same thing. After you’ve invested all your best efforts and your child still has MI, your confusion may have caused you to wonder, How could this happen to me?  It’s so unfair.

Jacob’s son, Joseph must have also been confused. His brothers conspired to kill him and then decided instead to sell him to the Ishmaelites (who later sold him to the Egyptians).

Joseph must have wondered in his confusion, How did I get here? What did I do to deserve this?

But Joseph’s bad times turned good. His master saw that the Lord was with Joseph. So he elevated Joseph to the position of overseer.

“From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field” (Genesis 39:5).

But soon Joseph’s good time turned bad again. Potiphar’s wife wanted Joseph to lie with her. When he refused, she falsely accused him of a crime. And Potiphar threw him into prison.  Here’s what Joseph said to one of his fellow captives, a butler:

“I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.” (Genesis 40:15).

Joseph was echoing his father’s confusion as he wondered, How could this happen to me?  It’s so unfair.

After two years, Pharaoh called for Joseph to be taken out of the dungeon to interpret his dream. God gave Joseph the interpretation of the dream and its meaning. Pharaoh elevated Joseph to be over his house, all the people and over all the land of Egypt. Things were once again good in Joseph’s life.

Where was God during all Joseph’s trials? Had God abandoned him during the tough times? Through good and bad time, the Bible tells us that the Lord was with Joseph (Genesis 39:2-3, 21).

During our darkest days, we may also wonder, Where is God? No matter what the weather, the seasons are proof God is real and He is with us.

“But God was always there doing the good things that prove he is real. He gives you rain from heaven and good harvests at the right times. He gives you plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” [Acts 14:17 (ERV)].

Dear Father, remove all confusion from our minds. Fill our hearts with joy once again. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

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

 

Perspective

One Perspective

One Perspective

Another Perspective

Another Perspective

 

 

 

 

 

Finish this sentence: when it starts snowing, I …

Maybe you find delight and:

  • Pray for a day off from school
  • Go skiing
  • Earn tons of money removing it
  • Take pictures
  • Make a snowman

Or maybe you dread it and:

  • Scream, “Not again!!!”
  • Search for a sitter for the kids
  • Hurt your back shoveling

When I taught 2nd graders, faint snowflakes would spark an avalanche of excitement. Teachers would dread it. Students would love it.

The invasion of the frozen precipitation would threaten to sabotage my lessons. It often seemed as if the winter storm had blown their attention right out the window. I’d have a choice: to maintain my dismal perspective of the situation or join them in their delight.

I found it helped to adopt my students’ perspective. Rather than fight to win back their attention, I’d embrace their exhilaration. They simply needed the opportunity to release their enjoyment.

“Boys and girls, it’s snowing outside. We’re all going to celebrate at the same time. I’ll dismiss you row, by row. Once everyone is assembled by the window, I’ll open the curtains and we’ll all explode with enthusiasm. Get it out of your system so you can concentrate on your lessons when you return to your desks.”

Recently we got hit with another snowstorm. My first reaction was disgust.

Great. Now I’ll have to clean the snow off my car so I can get to the store.

With my car finally snowless, I was ready to get on with my errands. I grabbed my purse and also my camera.

Maybe I’ll want to take some pictures.

At first, all I noticed was the filthy dirty snow that lined the street. Definitely not a Kodak moment. I had to force myself to look beyond the cinder-splattered snow to find spotless snow scenes.

I wondered. Can we force ourselves to view our circumstances differently? Is it possible to find pleasant thoughts among the unhappy experiences of raising a child with mental illness (MI)? I think so.

If I was able to deliberately ignore the dirty snow and focus on the pure white snow, I can make a conscious effort to view my trials in a new way. I can occupy my thoughts with of MI, or look for God’s pure and perfect purpose in allowing it. I can search for His hand in the situation.

If we searched for Him in the trial, what would we find?

Like the Israelites, we’d become more certain that He is the LORD our God who brings us out from under our burdens.

“ ‘I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.’”  Exodus 6:7

Like the Israelites, we’d discover others seeing God’s power in our lives.

“for the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”    Joshua 4:23-24

Like Christ’s disciples, we’d witness His works in afflictions.

“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

“Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.’”   John 9:1-3

Like the Mary and Martha, we’d see God glorified through the trial.

“When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was…Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.’”  John 11:4-6, 14-15

May God help you find Him throughout your day today.