Tag Archive | peace

Signs of Joy

Chris.Vic.Christmas  Chris.waving

What’s my remote tail wager? My smile. When our cocker spaniel was alive I’d flash a full-teeth smile in his direction. Allegro’s tail would instantly wag like fast-speed windshield wipers. Then I’d switch to a tragedy-mask sad face. He’d match my expression by freezing his tail and dropping his head. I’d alternate the faces and get the same mirrored emotion from my pet. Happy face—wagging tail…Sad face—motionless tail.

My furry family member appeared to be able to detect my mood. But detecting a person’s mood isn’t so simple. A cheerful expression doesn’t always mean someone’s happy. Many smiles conceal the opposite emotion. Like Sunday church smiles intended to hide heartaches. Or professional smiles worn to impress. Or actor’s smiles used to entertain.

I never knew how much I missed Chris’s smile until a friend asked me a simple question.

“What makes Chris smile?” she asked.

Her words released a flood of tears. My emotional dam had been holding them back.

“I’ve stopped hoping to see him smile,” I responded, choking back tears.

A toddler’s smile can be trusted. Carefree joy flashes across their face as they delight in new experiences.

As a toddler Chris seemed to smile all the time.

“He seems like such a happy baby,” strangers would observe as they offered back a beaming grin. His contagious smile would light up their faces.

That was before bullying jolted the joy right out of him. Fellow classmates taunted him. Chris’s attention deficit hyperactive (ADHD) made him an easy target. Difficult peer interactions reduced the frequency of Chris’s smiles.

When mental illness (MI) hit Chris’s facial expression appeared lifeless. No smile. No curve to his mouth. Just a flat appearance. The sparkle in his eye was replaced with a dark, dead stare. Nowadays it’s rare to see him with a genuine smile. His occasional smiles look a bit strained. Like the Kodak moment kind of poses.

Mental illness (MI) can wipe away any pretense of happiness. Facial expressions can be windows into the soul. Especially when a person has MI. The pain is so great it’s reflected on the face. The mother longs to see signs of joy in the face of her child. How long can a mom endure seeing signs of turmoil, depression, or anxiety?

Can we find any comfort from the Bible? What can we learn from scripture? Proverbs tells us what we know. “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit (Proverbs 15:13).”

We know MI can crush our child’s spirit. So the cry of our heart is for God to create in our child a happy heart. A clear-thinking mind. A peaceful spirit.

The Bible has much more to say about countenance than about smiles. That’s because smiles display superficial happiness. Genuine joy comes from deep within. It’s all about the heart.

King Artaxerxes understood that Nehemiah’s demeanor reflected his inner sorrow and said, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart (Nehemiah 2:2).”

The good news is that God can change hearts. He can do what we can’t.

What can we do? Proverbs 12:25 encourages us to speak kind words to our kids. We know they make a difference. That’s some comfort.

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up (Proverbs 12:25).”

We can also share Truth with our children, trusting that His Word will not return void. Here are just a few verses of peace, joy, and hope.

He’s promised peace:

“For he himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).”

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).”

“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).”

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27).”

He restores joy:

“He fills your hearts with joy (Acts 14:17).”

He gives hope:

“You are my hope in the day of doom (Jeremiah 17:17).”

Dear Father, use these verses to comfort and heal our children.

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Not Alone

Not.alone

Whoa! I didn’t see THAT coming!!!

Our lives had become less stressful and more uneventful. Chris seemed more stable. Life felt somewhat normal. The turbulence of Chris’s mental illness (MI) had disappeared. Or so I thought. It simply took up residence inside me! I never expected inner turmoil to hit me. Not when things seemed to be resolved. Chris had appeared to have recovered from his psychotic episode. God had helped me hold it together during the time Chris needed me. It made no sense that I’d start losing it for no apparent reason.

This part of our story illustrates how God met my personal needs. When loneliness and torment hit, God provided: freedom from my anguish, strengthening of my heart, restoration of my soul, protection of my sanity, assurances of His presence, and healing as a result of His comfort.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

MI had shaken our lives. But our household seemed to be recovering. We were picking up the pieces of our lives and moving on. Just like the calmness that follows an earthquake. But just like with an earthquake, I experienced aftershocks.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines ‘aftershocks’ as, “an aftereffect of a distressing or traumatic event.”

My mind, body, and emotions were reacting to the traumatic events surrounding Chris’s hospitalization. Painful reactions hit unexpectedly. Without obvious provocation.

December 1997 was a tough month for me. The holiday season brought many reminders of the previous year. Buying gifts, baking cookies, addressing cards, and … band rehearsals.

Something would trigger a memory and I’d experience a flashback. Before then, I didn’t know much about flashbacks. I had mistakenly thought flashbacks only happened to soldiers who had witnessed horrific things in battle. Suddenly they became very real. Too real. My mind and emotions would instantly be rocketed back to the Christmas season of 1996.

Like the time I attended a faculty meeting. Teachers were meeting with the music teacher to discuss details of the upcoming elementary Christmas program.

“First graders will be singing ‘Joy to the World’,” she explained.

She began playing the carol. Memories of Chris playing that song sabotaged my thoughts and emotions. All I could hear was his trumpet playing the tune in a distorted way. His voice, almost audible, echoed in my mind saying, “When I sound the trumpet by playing the song the right way, the world will end.”

The flashback unleased suppressed emotions. My heart began pounding. The dam, holding back months of tears, started to leak. Before it erupted, I quietly excused myself and headed for the nearest bathroom.

Obviously the year before I hadn’t processed what I’d seen. Hadn’t dealt with my emotions. No wonder. I had been consumed with helping Chris return to reality.

Flashbacks caught me by surprise. Causing my emotions to spill out. I found myself falling apart at unexpected times and inopportune places.  The more my mind periodically replayed awful scenes, the deeper my depression grew.

The enemy taunted me with fears that I might lose my own mind. But I trusted in the promise that, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).”

Dear Father, Your Word says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you (Isaiah 26:3).” Oh how I need Your perfect peace! Help me through my grief and flashbacks.

I rested in my firm belief that, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind [Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)].”

A sound mind. That was my goal. God was the Glue that held me together. My divine Sanity Preserver prevented me from tumbling into a deep pit of inconsolable despair.

I felt exhausted all the time. So I ate foods with carbohydrates, hoping they’d give me the energy needed to face each day.

During this time of flashbacks and depression, sound sleep eluded me. I needed rest. Like God’s people who wandered forty years in the wilderness. God knew they were tired and fearful. So He gave Joshua the perfect words of encouragement for them. Joshua relayed the message and said, “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you after he said, ‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’”

When I read Joshua 1:13 it felt like God was speaking to me.

Thank You, Father, for Your promise to give me rest.

The familiar twenty-third Psalm offered new hope for me. It guaranteed my soul would be restored. And promised me His presence and comfort.

“He restores my soul;He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me [Psalm 23:3-4 (NKJV)].”

Each flashback threatened to break my heart once again.

“God, help me!” is all I could utter. Offering up the prayer of a drowning person. God threw me His Life Saver in the shape of Psalm 31:23-24.

“Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints! For the Lord preserves the faithful … Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord  (NKJV).”

Yes, Lord, my hope is in You. Thank You for hearing my cry. I praise You for strengthening my broken heart.

My carbohydrate diet led to weight gain. I gained lots of weight. That motivated me to go to Dr. Kent (the physician who first treated Chris when he became out of touch from reality).

“What can I do to deal with my fatigue?” I asked.

Knowing what I’d been going through with Chris he asked, “Is it possible you’re depressed?”

“I guess it’s possible,” I replied.

“I’ll write you a prescription for Prozac. That should help remove the cloud and help you sleep better.”

Reluctantly, I took the medication. If I’d learned nothing else, I’d learned to take MI seriously. Even my own depression.

Once the holiday season ended, I began feeling much better. As Dr. Kent predicted, the medication lifted the cloud and helped me sleep better. So I stopped taking the Prozac. There were a few more months before the next critical period. During those winter months, things remained uneventful with Chris.

Work got busier for me. In addition to my usual responsibilities as Director of Instruction and Director of Special Education, I was planning a Math and Bible Olympics for the school. Applications for new students began pouring in. With not enough time to do everything at work, I read the applications at home. I was back to spending time working at home. But this time I was careful to spend a more reasonable amount of time. Mindful of my need to stay focused on Chris’s well-being.

During that winter the Lord led several parents my way who had children with some sort of MI. Many of the mothers expressed trouble dealing with their situation. I wasn’t alone in my struggles.

One of our neighbors told me her daughter had symptoms of a head injury.

“Kelly has suffered a head injury. We don’t know what caused it. And we don’t know what the future holds for her. Life has become so uncertain.”

“I have some idea what you’re experiencing. Chris suffered a psychotic episode a year ago. His MI turned our lives upside down,” I confided.

My news helped the mother feel safe to admit the truth.

“Actually, the doctors told us Kelly’s symptoms are psychosomatic. They didn’t find any evidence that she suffered a head injury.”

“A psychiatrist would know what’s best for Kelly. Let me know if you want the name of a good psychiatrist.”

“I’m not convinced she didn’t have a head injury. Please don’t tell anyone what I’ve told you,” was her only reply.

Apparently the mother couldn’t deal with the thought of her daughter having MI. It seemed easier for her to continue believing the cause of the symptoms was related to a head injury.

Another mother told me she had to take medication to treat panic attacks.

“My son’s MI has caused me to get panic attacks,” she confided.

Several parents asked me for advice. Many wanted to know how to get their children with MI to agree to speak to a psychologist. One father of a teenage son with MI asked a slightly different question.

“My son isn’t happy with the psychiatrist he’s going to. His MI prevents him from going to school. If he discontinues treatment, he’ll never get back to school. What should I do?”

“Find another psychiatrist,” I answered.

He answered in an exhausted tone, “Yeah, I know that might help. I just can’t seem to find the time or the energy to even begin looking for another doctor.”

I completely understood.

Another husband and wife were contemplating putting their seriously depressed son in foster care. A mutual friend shared the news with me and added this judgmental statement:

“Can you believe they would even consider abandoning their own son?”

“Unless you’ve experienced what they’re going through, you can’t begin to understand what it’s like. You can’t possibly imagine what it’s like to have a child who is suffering from an illness you can’t see or measure. You can’t know the pain of having a child who rejects your love or attempts to nurture and comfort. And there’s no break to the misery. Because of the nature of MI, parents can’t get out together. They go months without any respite time for themselves.”

It helped to discover I wasn’t alone. Knowing others who were experiencing MI comforted me some. Not nearly as much as the realization that God was with me at all times. His constant presence comforted me. I found true rest and perfect peace in His presence.

His steadfast companionship yielded great strength and courage. I faced each new day with the assurance He’d be with me. When I started to feel emotionally fragile, Deuteronomy 31:6 restored my confidence. Reminding me to, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” And He never left me.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

You may be experiencing flashbacks or struggling to recover from bad experiences with your child’s MI. Ask God for His grace by praying the words of Psalm 25:16-17.

“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.”

 

 

Musical Strain

Trouble.Spirit.black

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:

♦♦♦♦♦♦

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.

 

 

Unprepared & Sad but Unflinching

eyes.Sofies.to.side

Fans don’t flinch when a soaring hockey puck rockets towards them. Why? Because of the protective glass separating them from harm.

That gives us a picture of God’s protection. When mental illness (MI) takes aim at our lives, we can envision the invisible hand of God enfolding our family members … our hearts … our minds.

How can we face our worst fears? By trusting in the One who can protect and provide. That’s the key to inner peace when an incoming strike from MI looms on the horizon.

MI can discombobulate our life and throw us off-balance. Leave us feeling torn apart and sad. Worn out and worried.

Torment doesn’t have to saturate our soul in the midst of tremendous sorrow. Peace will replace anxiety as we trust Him more. We hold onto the promise that, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Last week I shared the first part of our story [‘When Mental Illness (MI) Hit Home’]. In 1996 Chris had begun to unravel. His reality had given way to unstable thoughts and fractured emotions. My heavenly Father provided guidance and started helping me through my grieving.

This second part of that journey demonstrates my need for God’s peace and protection. Chris needed medical care. God faithfully provided.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

“Howie, Chris is having a breakdown. He needs help. I can take him to school tomorrow. The school psychologist, Jack, will know what to do.”

During the night, I didn’t sleep well. I heard Chris go in the bathroom a lot. He turned on the shower about five times. When everything became quiet, I got up to check on him. The bathroom door was closed. I assumed Chris fell asleep in the bathroom.

The next morning, somehow I got Chris dressed and in the car. As I drove, I explained what was happening. Even though he seemed incoherent, I felt the need to prepare him. Maybe it was my way of pretending the whole thing was normal.

“Chris, you’re probably mentally ill. You need some medicine to feel better. You’re going to talk to someone who is trained to help.”

Memories of my own childhood flashed in my mind. My father experienced a breakdown. He took medicine for depression and led a successful and happy life. That provided some comfort.

At school, I explained my situation to the headmaster.

“Chris’s mind has snapped. He’s lost it. I brought him to see our school psychologist,” I bluntly reported.

“Take Chris home. I’ll call when Jack arrives,” Bill replied.

I returned home with Chris. When we walked into our home, I noticed something alarming. Our dog’s eyes looked totally bloodshot, swollen, and almost bleeding. My mouth dropped open when I noticed her wet fur. Frozen in my tracks, I stood staring at her in disbelief. As if Chris read my mind, he explained what happened.

“I put her in the shower to get the blood off. I slapped her. She wouldn’t sit when I asked her to. She kept going for the dog treats.”

I realized Chris kept Zelda in the bathroom with him during the night. He harmed the dog he loved. The dog that comforted him many days after school. I gently stroked Zelda while waiting for Jack to call. Tears streamed down my face. Chris continued pacing. Mumbling to himself.

Soon after, the psychologist called. I explained the situation.

“Bring Chris to school. I’ll talk with him and find out what’s going on,” Jack instructed.

After a short visit with him, the psychologist concluded Chris was having a psychotic episode (commonly referred to as a nervous breakdown).

“I know a good physician who can evaluate Chris.”

We drove to Dr. Kent’s office. Once we arrived, the nurse ushered Chris and me to a treatment room. Jack briefed Dr. Kent in another room.

The nurse asked the routine question, “So, why are we here today?”

“Because I’m mentally ill.”

Chris’s answer shocked both of us.

“Is that right?” she asked me.

I nodded yes.

She took Chris’s blood pressure (which was soaring) and rushed out of the room.

Dr. Kent and Jack came into the room. Each of them locked onto my eyes with their stares. Dr. Kent pressed his lips tightly together. As if trying to keep the bad news from escaping his mouth. Jack shifted his gaze to the floor. As if searching for some other way to deliver the message. Their silence spoke volumes. I knew Dr. Kent agreed with Jack’s initial diagnosis.

After a brief observation, Dr. Kent explained the plan.

“First, we need to stabilize Chris. Bring him back to reality. After that, we can deal with what caused the episode.”

His soft, quiet word conveyed compassion. As he spoke, I could tell by his expression this was serious. Although I understood his words, it all seemed surreal.

Dr. Kent continued. “Chris should be hospitalized. But, we’d like to avoid that if at all possible. Would you be willing to try to stabilize him at home, Mrs. Chandler?”

“Yes.”

I knew it would be risky to have Chris around people—even his own family. But during the day, Howie would be in work and Rob would be in school. I’d do anything to keep Chris from being hospitalized.

The assurance of God’s presence always comforted me. So I gave myself a pep talk.

Shift your gaze, Vicki. Trust Him. God’s promised His protection and guidance. He’ll be with you. He’ll show you what needs to be done.

It would be important to create a safe environment. Deep down inside, I knew I couldn’t protect myself from a young man who was bigger, stronger, and smarter than me. Chis had a black belt in karate. I hid all our knives and scissors. The rest would be up to God.

Oh Father, keep us safe. Protect me during the day. My mind is tempted to panic. My heart is aching to scream out. I’m struggling to keep my composure. Chris needs me to remain calm. Fill me with Your perfect peace. Help him sense Your peace.

I had no idea what would happen each day. No idea how bad things would get.

In the most trying times, many of us tend to fear the worst. “How will I ever get through this?” we worry. “This situation seems so horrible—so impossible to solve … I don’t want to think about what will happen next.”

In the midst of uncertainty, we can be sure of God’s care. When MI hits, God provides people who can help. Our loving Father can help us remain calm in the midst of the crisis.

We may not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future. The song ‘He Already Sees’ by The Collingsworth Family has such an assuring message, with encouraging words: “He sees the rainbow when we see only clouds.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25ryU9Jbt0Q

 

 

Sleep

TeacherwithJesus

“What makes a good teacher a good teacher?” I asked my second grade students.

Some described the character of an excellent educator: “Nice, truthful, helpful, loving, responsible, respectful, patient, joyful, has the right opinions (not having bad opinions of people), and a good example.”

Others focused on the training and talents which produce a superior teacher: “Goes to college, knows how to teach, knows how to discipline (at the right time, giving consequences, letting the kids know that you still love them), good memory, makes good decisions, smart, observant, creative, and finds ways to make learning fun.”

A few provided adorable advice: “Pays attention to papers when grading, writes fast (for when students make lists), knows how to tell time, comes early and not late, and stays wake.”

Good to know: stay awake when teaching!  That last piece of advice conjured up visions of chaos.

chaos.classroom

We all know the drill: stay awake during work, sleep at night. Not everyone can sleep soundly. Some endure restless nights.

Mothers who have children with mental illness (MI) sometimes stay awake—all night. Too many nights. Praying or pondering. Wondering or waiting. Listening or crying.

Chris is a young adult. But I still have trouble falling asleep when he’s out. Sweet slumber eludes me amid tormenting thoughts. Where is he now? What is he doing? How is he acting? Are people being kind to him?

I fight those thoughts with prayer: Dear Father, protect Chris from anyone who would seek to harm him physically or emotionally.  

How can a mom turn off mothering? By turning it over to the One who never sleeps and leaving it in His hands.

“He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:3-4)”

Sometimes I fall asleep praying for Chris. Other nights God’s promises comfort me.

“My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” Psalm 119:148

Do details of life with MI stalk you during the night? The Psalmist tells about his trouble: concerns which hounded him all night.

“When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. (Psalm 77:2-3, 11-12)”

Has MI rendered you inconsolable like the Psalmist? Follow his example and meditate on God’s past faithfulness. Reflect on His power and love.

Thoughts of His help translate into praise.

“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 63:6-7)”

Are you literally afraid to go to sleep? Fearful of what might happen during the night. Picture His divine protection.

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)”

God promises to give you peaceful rest.

“When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. (Proverbs 3:24)”

Maybe anxiety plagues you during your waking hours. Psalms assures you of His consolation.

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. (Psalm 94:19)”

Dear Father, turn our restlessness into Your perfect peace. Help us leave our concerns at Your throne. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be still and find rest in Him as you listen to ‘Still’ by Hillsong.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXywFuTf65I

MI: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

dog.good.text.2  dog.bad.text  dog.ugly.text.use.3

Can Mental illness (MI) ever be good? One account in the Bible shows how “MI” came in handy.

King David faked insanity to escape the enemy. David, out of fear of King Achish of Gath and his servants, “pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. (1 Samuel 21:13)”

Insanity led to David’s deliverance. “Achish said to his servants, ‘Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?’ David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam… (1 Samuel 21:14-15 & 1 Samuel 22:1)”

Other than that story, I can’t think of anything good about MI. Can you?

So that’s the good of MI. What’s the bad of MI? The bad is when it seeps into a healthy person’s psyche. Contaminating thoughts. Selling lies.

A former second grade student of mine, Alex, had exceptional language skills. Rarely had I witnessed such amazing articulation. His verbal expression even impressed his peers.

The time came for students to give an oral book report. As expected, most were nervous. Surprisingly, so was Alex. He faced his classmates frozen. Unable to speak. Why would HE be afraid to do a presentation?

It became obvious the enemy was feeding him a lie. Telling him, “You can’t do this.”

I took him out in the hall to give a pep talk. Thankfully, as a Christian educator, I could use scripture to melt his fears.

I assured him by saying, “2 Timothy 1:7 tells us God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear. What He calls us to do, He’ll enable us to accomplish. Philippians 4:13 promises, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ The truth is that God has blessed you with wonderful speaking skills. He’ll help you give your oral book report.”

Still afraid, he asked, “Can I do it tomorrow?”

I granted him permission to wait, knowing his parents would echo my words from scripture and pray with him. He did okay the next day. And remembered God’s faithfulness. In third grade he sang a solo during a Christmas concert—in front of hundreds of people.

Alex suffered a common fear: public speaking. Never before that day had he demonstrated anxiety. His behaviors weren’t a result of MI.

Some of our children suffer anxiety disorders. They face overwhelming fears which can be crippling. Or battle worries which are constant. Their symptoms aren’t temporary like those experienced by Alex.

Other forms of MI can be equally debilitating. Our children need help to overcome challenges related to their illness. Sadly, instead of support, we receive judgment from others.

The ugly truth about MI is that some people think our kids are pretending to have anxiety or depression. Assuming their behaviors can easily be controlled. Outsiders jump to wrong conclusions and pass negative judgments. “It’s a character flaw, a ploy to gain power, or manipulation to get out of doing work.” All beliefs are wrong. Anyone who has ever experienced MI would tell you they’d do anything to feel better. Sadly, our children who have MI aren’t faking it like King David did.

Another ugly truth about MI is that some people think the child should “just snap out of it.” The assumption driving such incorrect thinking is that the symptoms are temporary. Outsiders advise, “Just talk to your child and he’ll stop acting that way.” The false belief is that reasoning would be all that’s necessary to improve behavior (like it did with Alex).

God healed Alex from his irrational fear. Can our heavenly Father do the same for our children who suffer from MI? Certainly He’s able. I witnessed an extraordinary miracle in the life of an adolescent. You can read about her transformed life in the message I posted August 21, 2013 entitled ‘Anxiety.’

The wonderful Truth is that God is able to help us through our own challenges, heartaches, and loneliness of MI.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)”

Another wonderful Truth is that Christ overcame death. May you be encouraged by that reminder of His limitless power. Be blessed by this song as you reflect on His second coming.

‘Glorious Day’ by Casting Crowns

Preparing for the Storm

winter

What do ants and Solomon have in common? Wisdom.

“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 4:30).”

“Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer (Proverbs 30:24-25).”

Why do I care about that little fact? Will I ever be a king? No. Will I ever be an ant? No! But the ant teaches me an important lesson. Be prepared.

This winter we’re getting slammed with snowstorms. I just cleared snow off our cars. Again. sad.face  Whew! Now I can rest.

Yesterday I got my invitation to join the preparedness party. Local meteorologists sent this announcement:

Who: All ‘guests’ living in the northeastern section of the US

What: Another impressive storm: a massive clipper system, followed by an arctic blast

When: All day Tuesday and into Wednesday morning

Host: God would provide the decorations. Snow and plenty of it.

Dress: Layers of clothing, boots, hats, mittens…

I joined all the invited ‘guests’ who headed straight to the food stores to stock up. I wound my way through crowded aisles grabbing all the items on my list. The expressions on people’s faces said, “I’m so done with all this snow. Enough!”

Getting ready for storms requires certain rituals. We reluctantly engage in them. Experience has taught us it’s wise to be prepared. We can weather the storm if we’ve planned ahead.

How ‘bout the storms of life? Do we prepare for them? Hardly. Most people don’t even entertain thoughts about facing a trial. But mental illness (MI) forces us to expect anything. It can hit any day or any minute. A child with MI can be unpredictable.

Often it seems turbulence in the home (due to MI) can’t be controlled any more than swirling winds in the sky. Are there things we can do to minimize the impact of an emotional storm? Yes.

Stockpiling would be the recommended strategy. During calmer days, load up on Bible verses. Mentally fill all the corners of your brain with passages from scripture. Then when troubles come, God’s Word will sustain you.

During some of our most horrific moments, it wasn’t possible to sit and read my Bible. Dangerous situations dictated that I stay alert. Often, in the midst of a crisis, a verse popped into my head. One that comforted me. Verses like:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).”

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you (Isaiah 26:3).”

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).”

Word to the wise: be ready for anything. The time to prepare is now. Feast on His Word. Then, just as I rested after clearing off the cars, rest—in Him.

Only our Lord can prepare our hearts. Reflect on His perfect work in you as you listen to ‘Sanctuary.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxB9VH3cCN4