Tag Archive | love

Real or Unreal

Macaw

The Macaw caught my eye. Was it real or stuffed? Soon I found out.

The aisles in the tropical bird store were crammed with supplies for bird-lovers. I stepped back to snap a picture of the feathery creature and knocked into a shelf of feeders. “Uh-oh,” flew out of my mouth proclaiming my fear that they’d all topple over.

“Uh-oh,” echoed back.

Did I just hear that? To confirm my suspicions, I repeated my reaction. “Uh-oh.”

“Uh-oh,” bellowed back the refrain from the perch. That parrot, asserted itself by honking, “Uh-oh!”  As if mocking my clumsiness. Proclaiming my private mistake to the entire store.

Thankfully, a parrot can’t repeat unspoken words. Ideas hidden in peoples’ minds are safe.

“A penny for your thoughts.”  Would you reveal your most intimate thoughts so cheaply?

That phrase won’t necessary buy accurate information from a child with mental illness (MI). You might only get silence or a glare.

Years ago, when I attended part of Chris’s appointments with his psychologist, the doctor would ask, “So Chris, what are you thinking?”

Chris often looked at me as if to say, “I’m not gonna say anything with her here. My thoughts are private.”

Can you blame him? Would you willingly reveal your every thought? Certainly not the ugly ones.

Thankfully, most of us can suppress vindictive, angry, impure or judgmental thoughts. We put the mental brakes on opinions that threaten to contaminate our conversations. We resist the temptation to blurt out impressions like, “Wow! I can’t believe she …” We stifle our speech when feeling, “I wish he would just …”

Foreign thoughts that invade our thinking are annoying. It could be worse. What if we couldn’t trust our thoughts? That would be horrifying. That’s what it’s like for individuals with MI who hear voices. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish real from unreal.

We can help children who hear voices by suggesting how to distinguish between real and unreal. Those that spew hurtful or hateful messages are most likely not real; they’re symptoms of MI. The best offense is to fill their minds with undeniable Truth. God is real. He loves them.

We need to remind ourselves of that fact. God is real. And His love for us is very real.

Troubles seem to stalk our families. Bazaar behaviors become the norm. We seem to stumble through dark days searching for an ounce of hope. Praying for normalcy.

I don’t know about you, but there were days I thought I’d simply ignore the reality of MI in my life. As if I could will it away with positive thoughts.

Today, I’m going to be at peace.

But anxious thoughts would ambush my plan. Worries would pounce on my artificial peace. And pound away at my awareness of His presence. Sometimes I’d experience more subtle attacks. My focus would meander throughout the day. Carefree thoughts would focus on this chore and that errand. Then curiosity would lure me down dark paths in my mind.

I wonder if Chris is sitting alone at lunch. Did he remember to ask the teacher for testing in a quiet setting?

Such seductive contemplation would suddenly entrap me. I’d find myself snarled in my own deception.

Chris can’t be okay because no one is there to help him.

Then I’d come to my senses and remember God wouldn’t abandon Chris. At those times, I refused to allow concerns to trample my trust in Him.

How could my trust in God be unshakable? Because of who He is.

In my training to be a vision support teacher, I had to experience what it’s like to be blind. The professor instructed me to wear a blindfold and follow a sighted guide. My level of trust depended on the person leading. If I knew he’d protect me from injury, I relaxed. If my guide had difficulties paying attention, I peeked under my blindfold. Knowing I had to depend on myself.

The more I know of God and His love for me, the more I can rest in His care. I assure myself: “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 62:5-6)”

Thank You, Father, that You’re very real. Your Word is true and I can depend on Your love. Make Your presence known to me today in greater ways. Align and synchronize my thoughts with Yours.

God answers, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)”

Rejoice in His strength as you listen to Hillsong’s ‘Believe.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbIXoPblF8Q

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What’s left?

whats.left.2

Not many can do it. See the person behind the deformity. Or the personality buried under the disease. Or the potential masked by the illness. Thankfully, there are people who can see others differently … with heart eyes.

My cousin gave me a gift by sending me this email after Christmas: “I can’t tell you how much I was impressed with Chris and how thoughtful his gifts were.” That one sentence satisfied my desire for others to see the Chris I know and love. It quenched that desire like a sip of water in a desert. My cousin saw past Chris’ mental illness (MI) and acknowledged some of the qualities that make him special and unique.

Moms of kids with MI can see glimmers of their child’s personality. They can detect the potential in their child with seems invisible to others because of MI. How they yearn for others to see what makes their child unique and special.

What’s left after MI invades a life? It seems to destroy joy, demolish dreams, and damage family relationships.

MI can’t ruin everything. It can’t rob the person of their identity. It can’t steal IQ, creativity, or thoughtfulness. Even when those qualities aren’t demonstrated, they’re still there.

Certainly, MI has no power in the spiritual realm. It can’t erase salvation. If your child accepted Christ as his Savior, he’ll have that Gift for eternity. MS can’t separate your child (or you) from the love of God. Neither can it disintegrate your child’s God-given purpose. God’s still on the throne working out His perfect plan (though we may not see it or understand it).

I’m grateful to have a cousin (and other relatives) who sees Chris’ qualities, loves him unconditionally, and shares that love liberally. You may not have such a relative.

But, we all have Someone who knows the qualities of our children who have MI. The One who gave His life for them knows their potential and their pain. And He knows our deepest desires.

The Psalmist compels us to follow his prayerful example found in Psalm 139:1-6. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”

In John 10:14, 27 we read of Christ’s assurances. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me… My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

God’s more than a drink in the desert. He offers living waters. (John 7:37-38)

His life flows within us. The power of the Holy Spirit is ours now and forever. The Creator of the universe loves you and your child.

A small child scribbles a picture for us. We gaze at it with delight. Marveling in the beauty of it. Not the exquisite artistry, but the beauty of the love behind it. Let’s do the same with the plans God creates for us. We may not see a beautiful portrait of our family at this time. But, by faith, we can delight in His great love for us.

Reflect on the perfection of His creation as you listen to ‘Wonderfully Made’ by Scripture Lullabies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPisc3PODOo

What’s the Difference?

whats.the.diff

We’re not much different than kids. We all do it. Grab the last one. We race to the only empty parking spot at the mall. We snatch the final electronic sale-priced item on the shelf.

Kids squabble over the last piece of cake. Their arguments can get nasty. What’s the solution? Have one cut it into two pieces. Let the other choose his piece. That ensures the cutter will slice it into equal pieces. Yet, the chooser often examines the two pieces like a scientist examining evidence under a microscope. Searching for any evidence one is larger than the other. Seeking an incremental difference.

Sometimes the difference isn’t so subtle. If you have several children, you know each one is unique—vastly unlike the others. Mental illness (MI) magnifies the differences. Your child with MI requires more time, attention, and prayer. No wonder the lower-maintenance kids feel left out.

While our boys were growing up, I did the best I could. Each day consisted of the usual responsibilities: teaching, making meals, taking the boys to practices, running errands, ensuring homework got done, and grading my students’ papers. All in the context of my having multiple sclerosis.

Some days also included dealing with Chris’s MI, finding out how Chris managed during the day, picking up medication or making a doctor appointment, talking to one of Chris’s teachers…

Our other son, Rob, lost out on much of my attention. I wished things were different.

When Chris went away to college, he called home often. One day Rob said, “When I go to college, I won’t be calling that much.”

His remark had a hint of judgment to it. So I replied, “What’s the difference between you and your brother?”

Silence.

“The grace of God,” I gently pointed out. In hopes of restoring his compassion for Chris.

Chris didn’t choose to have MI. He did nothing to deserve it. It wasn’t his fault.

When Rob was in high school, I heard a teaching on Christian radio on the importance of affirming your children. I assumed Rob knew how much I loved him, but just wanted to check. “Where do you think you fall in my list of priorities?” I asked him.

“After Chris,” he replied.

His answer stunned me.

How could he not know how much I love him? Has MI stolen Rob’s sense of belonging? Has it masked my affection for him? Has this wretched disease inflicted pain on both my sons?  

I decided to make a concerted effort to assure him of my love. I wanted to convince him that I loved him more than the air I breathed. I seized every opportunity to remind him of my love.

One Friday night, Rob and the other drum major were scheduled to play the national anthem at a basketball game. Sheets of rain made it difficult to see as I drove to the high school. When we arrived, Rob hesitated. “I don’t want to walk in wearing this uniform before Kristen arrives.”

“Do you want me to see if she’s in there?” I offered.

“Would you?”

I returned (fairly drenched) with the news she’d arrived. Before Rob left the car I stopped him.

“Do you feel affirmed? Chris isn’t here. I went in there for you. Because I love you.”

How is it possible a teenager can underestimate his mother’s love for him? Same way we underestimate God’s love for us. That’s why Paul prayed on behalf of believers saying, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Dear heavenly Father, help us to comprehend how much You love us. Help us recognize the many ways You reveal Your love in our lives.

In Your Son’s name, Amen.

Reflect on how much God loves you as you enjoy this YouTube video I made (photographs by me and the song ‘Draw Me Close to You’ by Michael W. Smith):

http://youtu.be/x2r5Y-F64wQ

A Trip to the ER

magnifyingglass

“Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.”  Psalm 34:3  (NKJV)

When life includes mental illness (MI) how can having one more complication be good? Those are times God uses other people to magnify His love for us.

We headed off to the ER. Thankfully, it was for me and not our son, Chris. I’d rather endure my physical pain than relive any emotional pain of Chris suffering.

It all started a week ago with me vomiting on Wednesday night. So I only ate several tiny crackers on Thursday. Which I vomited Thursday night. The pain in my abdomen didn’t feel like a typical intestinal bug. So Friday I drove myself to the doctor, ignoring the searing pain of each bump and turn.

The doctor prescribed antibiotics and anti-cramping medicine. “If you don’t feel any better by tomorrow, go to the ER,” he instructed me. “They’ll run tests to determine the cause. It could be anything…food poising, diverticulitis, a gall bladder attack…”

Friday I followed the doctor’s instructions to drink colorless fluids, take my meds, and eat a bland diet.

Saturday morning I tried eating some applesauce. My loss of appetite prevented me from finishing off the snack-size container. Could only manage about a tablespoon.

By 10:00 AM Saturday morning, my condition hadn’t improved. Howie and I decided to head to the ER.

We provided necessary information. They did some tests. We waited for results and provided more information. Eight hours later they admitted me and had a diagnosis. My enlarged gall bladder, complete with a gall stone, caused all the pain and discomfort.

The decision was made to remove it. IV antibiotics had to be administered to reduce the size.

My first night in the hospital proved to be exactly what others joke about. The constant interruptions. Time to wake up and take meds. An hour later, time to check vitals. Next hour, time to see if the IV is okay. I was well-taken care of and weary.

Sunday morning Howie came to visit. Soon after, Chris arrived. What a blessing to have him come! The sweet time we spent together in the hospital almost made my pain worth it. Chris was so caring and compassionate.

“Are you okay, Mom? How are you feeling? I’ve been in hospitals and I know it’s hard to get a good night sleep.”

“Yeah, Chris. You can say that again. Nurses coming and going…the IV machine beeping and then sounding an alarm when the tubing had too many bubbles… …announcements on the intercom…and even a lullaby song played over the intercom announcing the birth of a baby born in the hospital.”

Howie and Chis left after a short visit. Later Sunday afternoon Howie called.

“When Chris and I were leaving the hospital, Chris asked the doctor if he could do anything to stop the announcements from being made on the intercom outside my room.”

What a considerate gesture! Chris made an effort to guarantee me better sleep. Even though the doctor had no power over the  intercom, Chris’s thoughtfulness made my day.

Sunday night Howie came for another visit carrying a beautiful yellow vase full of flowers. He showered me with small gifts. Things I didn’t even know I’d need: warm footies for my feet, Chapstick, the recharger for my cell phone…

That second night in the hospital I still endured pain and interrupted sleep. But my heart was full of the love shown by Chris and Howie. God used my enflamed gall bladder to magnify His love in my life.

During trials, I’ve learned to be on the lookout for God’s love messages sent through others. He surely sends them because He’s surely there. And surely cares.

Yesterday when I arrived home from the hospital another of God’s love messages greeted me. This time sent through the loving hands of former colleagues. On their first day back to school, those dear friends and Christian educators took the time to sign a get-well card for me. Their card was like a bouquet of blessings filled with promises of prayers.

Thank You, Father, for magnifying Your love for me through family and friends. Help me make it a priority to magnify Your love. To open Your Word and closely examine how You show Your love. How beautiful You are the closer I am to You!

Magnify the Lord as you listen to Great Is Thy Faithfulness By Cece Winans

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60o3UP4Kjwg

Photo Shop

Bird Paradise digital 007 fixed Bird Paradise
Wouldn’t it be nice to photo shop your life? Tweak imperfections in relationships the way photographers tweak photographs?

Just for fun, imagine the possibilities.
Let’s delete shadows of painful memories. Click! Regrets of parenting mistakes gone.

Now, blur specific painful scenes. Click! Stories your child told of being bullied or ignored can no longer be seen in your mind’s eye.

Next, air brush ugliness away and smooth out edges. Click! Tension in the family dissolves.

Don’t forget to crop out unwanted emotions. Click! Anxiety and worry are gone from you and your child who has mental illness (MI).

Let’s try reducing the noise that clutters up a marriage. Click! Resentment is replaced with clear communication.

Finally, use the red eye tool to remove the tear-stained, sleep-deprived inflammation. Click! A false façade hides deep sorrow.

Sadly, it seems impossible to remove painful memories, erase regrets, smooth away tension, restore a marriage, sleep peacefully, and stop the tears.

We walk from peaceful days into the darkness. Why?

I discovered a wonderful symbolism of God’s ways when I tinkered with tools in Photo Shop.

My newest pastime is altering photographs. I’ve recently learned how to change the background of pictures.

I captured a nice picture of a macaw. The context of the cage pulled my attention away from the bird’s pretty colors. I wondered if I could improve the picture.

When I switched to a black background, the glorious colors exploded like fireworks in the night. I gasped in awe at the result. Once distractions were removed, the exquisite rainbow of colors became strikingly vibrant.

Has MI plunged you into darkness? The Designer of the universe knows how to focus your attention on Him. The darker the trial, the brighter His presence. Suddenly all that’s seen is His vibrant love.

The complicated context of our lives masks God’s presence. When our lives are uneventful, we rarely notice Him. So, God switches the background.

Walking in darkness conjures up images of someone stumbling. It stirs up ugly emotions: fright, uncertainty, loneliness…But, God ways aren’t like our ways. He knows when we walk in darkness, we look harder for Him.

In our darkest of times, God’s presence captivates our attention. His love comes alive. His comfort reaches out to us. His peace calms our heart.

Words in the Bible, once a multitude of verses, become God’s personal message to us. The Bible, previously our Daily Bread, becomes a true feast for the heart. Our lifeline. We witness His faithfulness and learn to depend on His promises.

My camera has a switch for automatic. But, I prefer using the manual switch. I like to be in control.

Have you got your life on manual? How’s it working for you? Try switching to automatic. Let God capture your heart. He’s perfecting His masterpiece. Your family portrait is framed in His perfect plans. Wait for them to be fully developed. What He’s begun, He’ll complete.

For now, we see only in part. Like this small glimpse of a snapshot.
stainedglasscrop
God sees the big picture.
stainedglass
Ask God to give you His heavenly perspective.

Reflect on God’s Hand in your life as you listen to Chris Tomlin sing ‘Take My Life’

Clearer Thinking, Calmer Emotions

“Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”  Psalm 31:24  (NKJV)

Do you wish your child could have clearer thinking and calmer emotions? Is that your wish, your prayer, or an impossible dream?

It’s easier for me to reflect on the care-free days of the past. My thoughts often drift back to before Chris entered elementary school. Those memories draw me back to simpler times. I welcome those daydreams. They help me relive times when Chris seemed happier.

Back then, observations from complete strangers sounded like, “He’s such a happy little boy.”

It’s true. Chris smiled all the time, up until he turned five.

That’s when struggles at school sucked that smile right off his face. Difficulties caused in part by his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

But those struggles don’t come close to the challenges of mental illness (MI).

Nowadays, it’s rare to see a relaxed smile on his face.

How I yearn to ease his pain. Remove any torment.

That’s why I love to hear occasional comments from him which give me a glimpse of happier emotions. Recently Chris shared, “I’m more content than I’ve ever been. It’s nice to have freedom from responsibilities.”

What mother of a child who has MI hasn’t wished she could put a band aide on her child’s turbulent emotions? Kiss away memories of rejection. Vacuum the fog from her child’s mind.

But we can’t change thoughts and feelings. There is One who can. Why do we have trouble trusting God to do that mighty work?

We trust teachers to care for our kids and police officers to protect us. Unwavering faith in machines is demonstrated every day. People enter an elevator without fearing it will crash to the basement. They trust it will gently deliver them to the selected floor. Meals are prepared with confidence that ovens will cook instead of explode and burn. Most of us find security in locks and alarm systems.

We even trust forces of nature we can’t see. Sliding boards are monuments to our belief in gravity. Sails are installed on boats as proof of our trust in the wind.

Why can’t we trust God who has all power and perfect love? The Creator of the universe, the One who conquered death, can surely work mightily in the hearts and minds of people.

When I’m resigned to “fact” that my son will always suffer with MI, I’m denying the power of God. Living in the past because realities of today are too hard to face is no way to live. Resignation and denial can be overcome by hope. Hope in a living and loving Father.