A Question of Sanity: Mental Health & the Church

A week after the sad news that actor and comedian Robin Williams took his own life, the shock has worn off. His suicide has brought a lot of talk to the forefront about mental health issues. That’s about the only good that can really be said about something as tragic as this.

robin-williams-quoteQuestioning Our Sanity

It also goes to show that you never know what will drive a person to take such a drastic and irrevocable act. I’ve had moments in my own life when I’ve wondered how I was going to get through another day. I’ve also had periods of severe depression and questioning my own sanity.

In those dark moments, what has made the difference is my relationship with Jesus. I long to be with Him, but not at the expense of what it would cause my family. That is what I think in my rational moments.

When you suffer with mental illness or depression it is easy to get caught up in negative thinking and feeling like there is no way out.

Over the past few years since the healing of my mother wound, I’ve become free of a lot of the ‘demons’ and internal voices that wanted me to believe I was not sane, too different, too emotional, too whatever.

stop-the-stigma-of-mental-illnessA Change in Perspective

As I came to understand that some of my own compulsive behaviors were not necessarily defects of character, but were symptoms of my ADHD, I started to give myself more grace. And eventually I turned to medication—something I never could’ve done in the past. I watched what medication did to my mentally ill mother. It scared me and scarred me.

I’ve been on medication for my ADHD for over eight months now. It isn’t a panacea, but it has made a difference in my life. Better yet, my son’s successes with medication for his ADHD have turned his life around. Because of our experiences, I am now a believer in the need for medication. No more white-knuckling it for us.

Mental illness, depression, and yes, ADHD, are real health problems in our society. They have carried a stigma for far too long. Isn’t it time that changed?

Mental Health & the Church

I’ve been blessed to be a participant in and serve in Celebrate Recovery (CR), a Christian 12-step program that helps people deal with their hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Those hang-ups are often thought of as addictions like alcohol and drugs.

depression quoteUnfortunately, the general public commonly believes that CR is a program for ‘those people.’ Being in CR has shown me that we are all ‘those people’ because we all have some sort of struggle that we need Jesus’ help to overcome—including depression, anxiety, rejection, and struggles with shame and worthiness.

Because of my passion for spiritual and emotional healing and my affiliation with CR, I was particularly pleased to hear about a bigger movement in the Church to address mental health issues. In March 2014, the Gathering on Mental Health and the Church, involving Catholic and Evangelical cooperation, was hosted at Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA.

Celebrate Recovery: A Safe Place to Share

Saddleback Church is also the founding church of Celebrate Recovery, where I recently attended the annual CR Summit. Just as CR has been one of the signature issues at Saddleback, Senior Pastor Rick Warren is also taking on the role of mental health in the church as a signature issue there. And John Baker, founder of CR, is developing new teaching materials to address mental health issues.

Your struggle is not identityI’m excited to see the implementation of this new information in our teaching materials. CR leaders are not trained counselors or medical professionals. As facilitators of spiritual and emotional growth, we are also keenly aware of how emotionally empty, depressed, or alone people can feel when they enter recovery. (We’ve been there ourselves.) We are on the lookout for suicidal tendencies and refer people to the help they need. Our chief focus is to provide a safe place for people to share their struggles, to feel accepted, and to know that they are not alone.

Depression feeds on isolation.

After a personal testimony was shared at the conference in March, Pastor Rick Warren commented to the presenter: “Your chemistry in your brain is not your character and your illness is not your identity. You are a follower of Christ who struggles with mental illness, but your struggle does not define you… Jesus defines you.”

Overcoming that kind of stigma and identity struggle is just one of the ways Jesus shows up through the ministry of Celebrate Recovery. It gives hope to the hopeless.

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Looking for a Celebrate Recovery program in your area? Click here to find a meeting near you.

For more information about Celebrate Recovery or to read recovery related blog topics, check out CelebrateRecoveryOnThePlateau.org.

On Mission for God, Part 2 ~ Surprise Me, God

In Part 1 of this series on my mission trip to Spain in the fall, I wrote how I was taking a leap of faith with my public announcement and asking for donations.  I’m happy to report that my prayers were answered; I am walking on solid ground.

Actually I will be flying through the air nine weeks from today, on Wednesday, September 24, 2014.  (I’m starting my countdown calendar on the right sidebar of my site.)  However, I won’t be flying to Spain, not directly anyway…

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Counting down–9 weeks until I leave on mission.

Praying for the Mission

My prayer all along has been to align my will with God’s will for this mission, for spiritual revival in Spain, and for the timing of the mission to align with His timing.  As a person who used to earn my pay as a project manager, it is often hard for me to let go of control when working in ministry settings.

In early June, I sent out an appeal letter to friends and family to support my mission, as well as emails, and the public announcement on my blog.  Then I was inundated with family commitments and travel that pushed all of my preparations for Spain on the backburner.

I know that was God’s way of building my trust muscle.  Not only that, I chose to take myself out of the reporting of any updates on who was contributing to the mission and how much.  I didn’t want my attention on any mission planning or obligations.  I released it all to Him and began to pray a new prayer:  “Surprise me, God!”

I wanted and NEEDED God to surprise me.  Surprise me He did…in multiple ways.

Surprise me GodGod’s Amazing Surprises

My first surprise was how God has already provided a large portion of the financial provision needed for the mission.   So far, donations are $2,125 including the $1,000 match by Celebrate Recovery at Pine Lake Covenant Church, who is sponsoring the mission.  That was truly welcome news—allowing me to purchase my airfare last week!

I also received word that the 10-day organized prayer journey segment of my mission was postponed until 2015.  As a prayer warrior for Spain, that came as a bit of a disappointment to me. However, when God closed that door, He opened another—a really BIG surprise.

I was able to accept a long-standing invitation to speak at a church in Grenoble, France, where my mission partner (and American missionary), Marvin Klein, lives.  I will arrive in France one week before the CR conference in Spain, giving us time to prepare for the conference and to travel together with him and his wife to Madrid.

CR internationalRevised Mission

While the second surprise dramatically changed the physical itinerary of the mission, it did not change the timing or focus for the CR conference in Spain.  In fact, it supplements it and builds on that in new ways.  Not only am I and PLCC CR investing in a partnership with Spain, we are also building on our relationship with Marvin, in France, and possibly other areas where he has global connections.

The revised itinerary also provides more dedicated time at the church in Rivas, with leaders and at prayer meetings.  While I prayed globally for unity in God’s Church in Spain last summer, and for spiritual revival in their country, I didn’t have opportunities to pray one on one with people.  I know the Lord is answering that desire of my heart through this new avenue—His surprise for my time in Spain.

Next Mission Steps

In preparation for the mission I am attending the annual Celebrate Recovery Summit at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.  I will also be speaking at the CR meeting at Pine Lake Covenant Church on Monday, August 18 at 7 PM.  I will share more information about my Call to Spain, provide a mission update, and share new training information from the Summit.

Click on above image to donate to the mission.

Click on above image to donate to the mission.

This mission is still not fully funded.  With the revised itinerary, the new donation goal now stands at $3,000 (a reduction of 25% of the original estimates) to cover travel, meals, and materials to hold the conference.  Won’t you please consider giving to this mission of hope and healing—not just for Spain, but to share the message in France as well?

Please Join God’s Work Abroad

The easiest way to donate is to use the secured giving link that directs all monies to the church for the mission.  All donations through this link or mailed directly to the church (information here) are tax deductible.

This mission is also in need of prayer support.  To pray for the mission now and while we are traveling and teaching, fill out my contact form on this site.   My on-going prayer request is for the remaining financial provision to be secured in advance of the trip, for protection and safety for our travels, and for receptivity to the CR materials and spiritual revival in Spain and France.

Surprise me, God!  Surprise us all!

I invite you join God in what He is doing in Spain and France by supporting and praying for this mission, and you too can plant seeds of change across the world.

 

Now the Lord had said to Abram, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1, NIV)

A Letter on Leaving the Nest

For the parents whose children have recently left the nest…and to their children as well.

My Book About Me

Journeys To Mother Love

He’s gone…my firstborn child graduated from college last month.  Then we packed up his belongings and settled him into an apartment 500 miles from home.

The last several weeks have been a frenzy of activity, including his 21st birthday.  I had glimpses of the emotion that I knew would come.  But none was as surprising as the wave that hit me when my son returned a letter to me I had written him when he left for college almost four years ago.

We were cleaning out his room, sorting what to take with him, what to keep at home, and what to get rid of.  He isn’t the sentimental type and asked me if I wanted to keep the letter. Naturally I agreed. While his focus and attention remained on sorting his belongings, I snuck away to read the letter…and the tears came.

I was surprised by the things I…

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I borrowed the title for this post from the 1969 song written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.  Not that the Rolling Stones are a source of spiritual wisdom or Godly counsel, but these words are in line with scripture.  The song goes on to say “but if you try sometimes, you might find, you’ll get what you need.”

Click above image to view concert performance of this song by the Rolling Stones.

Click above image to view concert performance of this song by the Rolling Stones.

I have one simple example that has been running through my mind a lot these days as we transitioned our son Evan from college graduate to gainful employment 500 miles and two states away from home.  It started when he was a senior in high school going through the daunting college admission process.

Playing the College Game

Evan had taken a very challenging schedule of AP classes throughout high school.  Before that he attended the full-time gifted program offered in our school district.  It was a place ripe with talk and preparations for students to attend the top colleges in the nation.

We, and my son, bought into that dream until just before the first colleges started to send out their admission decisions.  We knew the odds were not necessarily in his favor, but we also knew how bright he was.  After much prayer, I started to have an inner sense that he may not get accepted.

usnewsbestcolleges2012_360_191God’s Ways are Higher

The morning before the first decisions were to be posted online, my devotional reading was based on Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

I knew God was preparing me for the rejection, which in turn helped me to provide guidance and encouragement to my son.  The rejections and waitlist letters came one after the other.  It was a difficult time for him, and for us.  There was much disappointment.

IMG_8136Four years later, with the clarity of time and perspective, we can see how God turned that heartache into a huge blessing for my son.  It started with an award of a scholarship and direct admittance into the department that he ended up majoring in earlier this month.  That major was not something he had previously considered as a career.  Yet this week he started a full-time position in his chosen field at one of the top companies in the computer chip industry.

A Lesson in Trusting God

Shortly after these events happened and while still in high school, Evan submitted an essay for a scholarship with the writing prompt of ‘trust.’  His essay quoted Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  While he wasn’t awarded that scholarship, his essay did reflect a humbling posture and ability to move on with a new sense of purpose.

I thank God that Evan didn’t get what ‘we’ wanted for him.  Instead our son got the educational opportunities he needed to succeed.  He (we) also got a valuable lesson in seeking God’s will and trusting Him.  He learned firsthand that the Lord provides us with what we need, and not necessarily what we want (from Matthew 6:25-34, not the Rolling Stones).  I hope and pray he carries that lesson with him as he launches into this new season of adulthood.

Congratulations Evan and to the Class of 2014!

Congratulations Evan and to the Class of 2014!

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

 

On Mission for God, Part 1 ~ The Leap of Faith

I’ve got a big announcement to make!  And since today marks the 10-year anniversary of my first Celebrate Recovery meeting, the timing seems very anointed to me.  Drum roll please…

…I’m returning to Spain!  However, this trip is not for personal or business purposes like last summer.  This trip is at the invitation of a Spanish missionary whose Protestant church I attended last year.

Send.meOn Mission for God

My return trip to Spain is a charitable mission sponsored in part by Celebrate Recovery (CR) at Pine Lake Covenant Church in Sammamish, WA, where I serve.  A small team of CR leaders and I will hold a recovery conference in Rivas, a suburb of Madrid, in October.

There is a long story behind how all of this came to be—one I’ll be sure to share in time.  Today’s post is Part 1 of a series of updates I plan to do about this mission of healing.  I have briefly blogged about it here and on the Celebrate Recovery ministry site.  With today’s announcement, I’m directing my readers’ attention to the pages on my site with more background, how to support the mission, and with detailed mission information.

Hebrews 11.1A Leap of Faith

Today’s announcement marks another BIG leap of faith for me.  Although I’ve seen the Lord’s hand all over this mission, and I’ve had some time to accept this new Call on my life, I am still hesitant and a bit nervous.

This all comes at a time when my life is incredibly full.  My son is graduating from college and moving out of state this month.  Next month Pedro is launching his American movie composing careerMy mind, my time, and my heart are all divided.

A few days ago I heard the CR testimony of a French missionary who will meet me in Spain this fall for the mission.  Part of his testimony described the early stages of his call to France many years ago.  It so resonated with where I am at today, and my greatest fears.  (I am learning a lot from him.)

Spanish flag face paintingIt is asking for donations to support this cause—risking the rejection, being at the mercy of others’ generosity, and trusting God to provide the funds.  ($3,000 is a lot of money by my standards, but not God’s.)  I’m incredibly grateful that the CR ministry is matching up to $1,000, making donations go twice as far.

I know people serve abroad and go on short term mission trips all the time.  I’ve always admired them—their passion and their faith.  I never thought I would be called on mission.  However, I cannot deny what I experienced last summer in Spain.  And even more, I cannot deny that the Voice of the Lord has been speaking to me and preparing me for this Call.  I’m learning more and more how to listen and how to respond in faith.

Facing my Fears

That means I have to face my fears, commit to this mission, and walk in blind faith.  It reminds me of a famous scene in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”  Indiana, played by Harrison Ford, takes a step off a cavern ledge into the air.  Death surely awaits him.  But instead a narrow bridge mysteriously appears preventing his fall and allowing him to cross to the other side (video below).

 

I am stepping off that ledge today by publically seeking financial and prayer support for this charitable mission.

  • To subscribe to prayer and mission updates, fill out my contact form on this site.
  • If you decide to donate, please know that every gift to this mission, large or small, is helping to bring healing and revival in a country that is one of the least evangelized in the world.
pray-give-go

Click above image to donate online.

So I invite you to partner with me to plant seeds of change across the world.  Will you help bring that bridge across the cavern into view so my steps are on solid ground?  Here I go…

Click the links below for information about the mission, to pray for the team, or to donate:

Celebrate Recovery Mission to Spain

How to Donate & Pray for the Mission

Detailed Mission Information

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

Remembering Wanda

The community of women that I scrapbook with lost our fearless leader Wanda rather suddenly earlier this month.  Going out in style, Wanda passed away on National Scrapbook Day.  She had just laid her husband to rest a few months earlier after serving as his primary caregiver for several years.  We were all looking forward to this new season of Wanda’s life, where she could rest and relax.  But that wasn’t part of God’s plan.

Remembering Wanda 01

A toast to our courageous cheerleader!

Celebrating Wanda

Today I will be attending Wanda’s memorial service.  But a few weeks ago, one of her best friends, and a fellow scrapbooker, opened her home to our scrapbooking community, Wanda’s Croppers, to celebrate Wanda and to share stories of her life.  It was a beautiful evening with wonderful food accompanied by a champagne toast to her.

We all shared stores about Wanda going back as far as 40 years when she first met her husband, although most of us met her in the past two decades.  Tears and laughter intersected as we grieved and celebrated her life.

The Art of Scrapbooking

As a writer who is also passionate about scrapbooking, my blog has become a reflection of both crafts.  I spend time searching out just the right image, captioning them when needed and writing stories that I hope inspire and intrigue others.  My scrapbooks aren’t just photos stuck to a page; they are stories and works of art.  These creative endeavors go hand in hand for me.  So Wanda shows up in a small way every time I publish a new post.

Digital scrapbooking page courtesy of Jenny, my long-time scrapbooking buddy.

Digital scrapbooking page at a retreat with Wanda, courtesy of Jenny, my long-time scrapbooking buddy.

Wanda was a courageous, caring and Godly woman who inspired us to share our legacy and family heritage through the art of scrapbooking.  Her legacy touched hundreds if not thousands of people as the passion of storytelling through digital and handmade scrapbooks will be passed down for generations to come.  She left a mark on us all.

A Tribute to Wanda

When Wanda’s croppers got together a few weeks ago, I wrote my thoughts down on paper in advance.  Below is my tribute to Wanda from what I shared that night.  I hope it gives you some inspiration to consider your legacy and treasure the moments you have with those you love.

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Pedro’s scrapbook inscription.

“Pedro, May this book serve as a remembrance of the wonderful adventures we shared together in 2010 and mark the start of a summer filled with wonder and awe.  Remember—that is what the Lord tells us to do—not to live in the past, but to give us hope for the future and to keep us grounded in His promises.  I hope this book serves as a spiritual marker of the wonderful things that God has in store for us if we are open to His leading.”

That is an inscription that I wrote on the inside cover of a digital scrapbook that I gave to Pedro after the first summer he spent with our family.  How I toiled over that album.  It was my first one with the Creative Memories software.  I was rushing at the last minute to upload the files hours before my precious coupon would expire on New Year’s Eve.  And Wanda helped me all along the way as she did with subsequent albums as well.

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Always at ease behind the camera, and planning that next scrapbooking page in our minds.

That is what Wanda was all about, helping us to preserve our memories—and our stories.  So tonight I want to share with you some of my memories of Wanda and what she meant to me.

First of all, I have to admit that the news of her passing hit me pretty hard—surprisingly so.  I didn’t consider myself close friends with Wanda like many of you here are.  But I greatly admired her.  She was a kind and giving soul.

When Pedro’s CD was released, she was one of the first to buy it.  She told me how much she enjoyed playing it on her drives over the mountains.  She let me play Pedro’s music and sell it at the crops and retreats.  The same was true with my book.

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CD and book display at one of Wanda’s crops.

I’ll never forget attending her first Open House when she returned back to Western Washington.  She took time out of the event to sit down with me and tell me how moved she was by my story.  She actually apologized for not saying something to me sooner.  No apology was needed.  But she wanted me to know.  She wanted to have that connecting time.

When Creative Memories (CM) filed for bankruptcy, I reached out to Wanda to pray for her and for the business.  I knew it was her passion and financial provision.  None of us wanted CM to close its doors, and we didn’t want Wanda to be cut off from her livelihood.  I knew what it was like to be a CM consultant.  Back when I started scrapbooking, I signed up to be a CM consultant for a few years.

She worked hard at her business.  A former teacher, she was the perfect consultant—always doing crop talks and teaching us new tricks and tips.  There was never any hard sell or pressure.  She was just interested in keeping us motivated to keep working on our scrapbooks.

Sharing my tribute to Wanda.

Sharing my tribute to Wanda.

Wanda was our leader—a cheerleader to be more exact.  She fed us, wined us, dined us, and nurtured the parts of us that connected to our families or whatever scrapbooking project we were immersed in.  She knew it was important to us and she made it important to her too.

My heart aches for the loss of this woman and the community of memory keepers that she mentored and invested in in sacrificial ways.  She will be missed in so many ways by her family and friends.  But this group of women will miss her in an entirely different way with a grief that will connect us beyond tonight and beyond Wanda’s public memorial.

Every time we get together again to scrapbook Wanda will be there in spirit.  It will be hard to not notice that empty void that she once filled.  We unexpectedly got a glimpse into that in February as we gathered at a retreat while Wanda was caring for her husband who had just been put on hospice.  He died a few days later.  We never imagined that this would soon be her fate as well.

Wanda's granddaughter

Wanda’s newborn granddaughter.

I thank God that He took her in such a beautiful way, how He timed her departure to be with her husband so quickly, and to see her first grandchild days before she passed away.  The time between those few hours when we got the shocking news of her cancer and her passing were surreal to me.  It was hard to pray for her when I knew all hope was gone for her recovery.  But I prayed for her family and what they were all going through.  And then her son gave us all a gift when he posted her tribute on Facebook hours after she passed away.  It was as if God wrapped it up with a bow Himself.

Tonight, I’m very grateful that this gathering was planned for us so that we can openly celebrate and grieve the loss of this friend who was so passionate about life, about her family, about her faith, and also about scrapbooking.  I know she is looking down from above at us now.  I think she is probably taking photos of the entire event and planning a 2-page spread that she can show off to her new friends in heaven.  So let’s all stop, look up, and smile for her camera one last time.

Save us a place at the crop in heaven Wanda!  We miss you!

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Wanda’s Croppers

Today’s memorial service will be surreal once more to be together with Wanda’s Croppers and not have her there with us.  I think it will bring us together in a way that maybe scrapbooking couldn’t—in our shared grief.  Some of us will create scrapbooking pages in tribute to her.  I am choosing to write and craft this tribute to her.

In closing, I’m sharing with you the same scripture I inscribed on Pedro’s scrapbook:

He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate.  Psalm 111:4

Wanda was one of those wonders we will always remember.

This post is happily shared with Christian Mommy Blogger/Felllowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

When it’s Time to Let go of Our Children

There’s a pain in my heart—not just figuratively, but physically too.  My first-born child is moving away after he graduates from college next month.  I’ve known for a few months, but it hit me in a new way recently—something I wasn’t prepared for.

moving-outEaster Family Time

We had a wonderful time on Easter with my son home from college for the day.  We went to church together as a family.  We shared our meals together.  We talked on and off during the day about his post-graduation moving plans—buying a car, renting a moving van, and looking at apartments online.

It was all very official and business-like.  The project manager in me was running wild thinking of all the tasks to do before the official moving day.

While my husband was taking our son back to school, I tucked our other son into bed.  We reflected on his older brother’s eminent departure.  That was when it hit me—and the pain started.  It is an uneasiness that hovers over my heart and tells me to pay attention to what my body is trying to say.  It was the first signs of my need to let go.

Living in Uncharted Territory

I’ve lately felt like I am living my life in uncharted territory.  My parents both passed away in recent years, more than forty years after their divorce.  More than that though is because I didn’t get much guidance from them in my formative years.  I was never close to them and my teenage years were rather rebellious.  I never really knew what it was like to live in a normal home with two loving parents.

My alma mater

My alma mater

When I left for college at the tender age of seventeen, I didn’t give my mother’s feelings much thought.  I just wanted to be out on my own and away from my dysfunctional home environment—one that included an alcoholic stepfather and an unstable and mentally ill mother.

The only extended return home from school was for the holidays my freshman year.  There was a fire in my bedroom while I was away at college that first semester.  The belongings I left at home were ruined.  It was a startling homecoming gift.  That was the final straw for me.  Goodbye, family!

Turning the Tables

Now the tables are turned.  My son is moving away—not just to the university in the city 25 minutes away.  He is moving out of state—a short one-hour flight or eight-hour road trip by car.  We are packing up his belongings and saying goodbye.  He is starting his own life in another state—without any friends or family nearby.

I know our present home environment doesn’t compare to the chaos and emotional unrest that I experienced in my youth.  But I also know what it is like to be young and ready to leave the nest.

My son is ready.  He is mature.  He has done well in school.  We are very proud of him.

heart let goLetting Go Well

As my heart ached on that evening, I also wondered what it was like for my mother when I left home.  Did she care?  Did she yearn for me?  She wrote me lots of letters while at college.  I didn’t appreciate those either.

It is hard to look at myself with this new lens—the one who is letting go of her first-born child.  I don’t like what I see—how I treated my mother.

I want to let go well.  I don’t want to be like my mother.  I don’t want to be a clingy mom either.  Like I said, I am living in uncharted territory.  I don’t have the answers, but I do recognize the warning signs.

It is time to let go again.

This post is shared with Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays.

In Search of a Mother’s Love

There is a hunger inside of me sometimes.  We are all born with it—the desire for love and relationship.  From an early age we are taught in life how and who fills that need.  It is generally filled by our parents.  In most cases, the responsibility falls on the mother.  But what if that mother isn’t equipped to take on that role or isn’t capable of bonding with the child?  What happens to the inner need?

Longing for LoveThe Longing for Love

The need doesn’t go away; we just find other ways to fill that emptiness and hunger for love and relationship—in either healthy or unhealthy ways.  I didn’t know that or understand the affects that my mother’s mental illness had on me until about ten years ago when my unhealthy ways of relating and compulsive behaviors finally caught up with me.

I’ve done a lot of healing work and spiritual growth in that last decade.  I now serve in a ministry where I can come alongside others who are also struggling with the hurts from the past and seeing themselves as God sees them.  Even though I know with my whole heart that Jesus came to give me life and ultimately fill my need for love, there are still times when life can get me down.

I still have a longing to be known and to know others.  It is a longing for deep relationship.  It is the search for a mother’s love that was lost.

Looking for Love

I’ve lived my whole life this way—being self-sufficient without close siblings and without involvement and emotional attachment from my parents.  I didn’t know what I was missing because I didn’t experience it.  Now, after a decade of healing and recovery work, I know.  I know because I have started to more intensely experience the loss of the women in my life who helped me to heal.

michelle-ventor-reason-season-lifetime1When I started recovery, I had virtually no female friends—only a few through work.  I didn’t know how to be a real friend.  As I started my recovery journey, I observed real authentic vulnerability in other women.  I was hungry for that.  I let down my walls and embraced this new way of relating.  There was freedom gained by not being a secret or thinking that I was the only one who experienced that depth of pain.

Those bonds formed felt sacred to me.  They became my mother, my sisters and my daughters.  Those relationships have been hard to let go of over the years.  Insert the ever increasing presence of social media, and I begin to wonder who my friends really are.  Do I want quality in my relationships or do I want quantity?  I choose quality, but that has its cost too, as it’s hard to fit in the time to maintain the intimacy.

Missing my Mother

Mother’s Day 2014 marks four years since I last saw my mother alive.  Her passing and end of life forgiveness poured love back into me in a whole new way—her love and God’s love.  And still the loss of never getting to know her as a person keeps me searching at times for the love and mentoring of a mother.  My inner child (my little Ardis) still longs for my real mother’s love.

look_into_the_mirrorI wish I could’ve had more time with her.  She’s generally not far away though.  If I slow down long enough to look for her, she stares back at me in the mirror, smiles, and tells me that she loves me.  The knowledge and hope that I will see her again in eternity makes the longing fade into the distance once more.

May your Mother’s Day be filled with the love of your family or other important people in your life.

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

A Lenten Journey Surprise

As I’ve done the last few years, I prepared for Easter with a Lenten fast from alcohol and sweets.  What was different this year was that much to my surprise my 16-year-old son decided to observe a fast as well.

lenten-journeyHow it all Began

About the same time that Lent began, my son and I started a new bedtime routine.  We read a daily devotional and then prayed together.  On the evening of Ash Wednesday, he asked me about the ashes on my forehead which led to a conversation about Lent.  (By the way, observing Lent, or Ash Wednesday, is not exclusively for Catholics as some mistakenly believe.)

The next day after school he announced he was giving up video games for Lent!  My heart leapt for joy at his sacrificial offering.  I don’t remember what I said that night.  I didn’t ask him about giving anything up himself.  When he told me his decision the next day, he was excited.

My husband and I have had discussions with our son about the amount of time he spends on video games in the past.  Sometimes those discussions turned pretty heated, and he’d lose his gaming privileges.  We’ve also suggested alternative ways of using his leisure time.  Nothing else ever seemed to interest him.

And that's not all of it!

My son’s video game collection–and that’s not even all of it!

However, as Lent started my son was excited to share his choice—and even recognized how hard it would be.  Those first few days he admitted to me that his thoughts would turn to gaming.  He learned to turn his attention elsewhere — sometimes to God, and other times to his studies.  Those thoughts diminished over time.

The End of the Journey

As the 40-day journey grew closer to Holy Week, we talked about what he would do after Easter.  Would he return to his old gaming behavior?  Would he continue his fast?  I shared with him my previous Lent experiences—ranging from returning to immediate gratification with candy on Easter Sunday to abstaining for a prolonged period.  He has opted to return in moderation.

What excites me about this year’s pilgrimage to Easter is not so much that he stopped gaming, it’s that he (and us together) started a great ritual of connecting at the end of the day.  I would often forget, and he’d remind me to join him for our devotional and prayer time.  He also started reading the Bible again and occasionally writing in a journal.

My son and our dog, one of his best friends.

My son and our dog, one of his best friends.

In God’s Timing

I know a lot of this is only possible because my son made a decision to try medication again for his ADHD a few months ago.  He is a changed person.

The medication has given him access to areas of his brain that before were preventing his behaviors from aligning with his desires.  It has allowed him to establish new homework routines, focus on his studies, become more social and succeed in school.  In turn, he is now making more adult decisions and able to find a part of his self that was inaccessible before.

I’m very thankful that we went down this road with him.  I’m grateful that he persevered over the last few years.  I praise God for His timing in all of this (yet again!) and how my son is actively pursuing his relationship with Him.  I’m also glad that I was able to model something to him in the past and that he caught that behavior on his own.

Surprised by God

I had hoped that my son would actually write this post for me (another thing we talked about during Lent), but he is busy with his studies.  He did, however, quickly volunteered to help with the photos and captions.

Surprised by GodWhen I asked him what he’d like to share about his Lenten Journey, he said, “It was a beneficial experience for me.  It helped me to know God better and do well in school.”  That’s a lot to get out of a 16-year-old who is filled with new hope and finding his way in life.

As far as my fast, I’m still abstaining—for now.  I’m embracing the joy of getting to know my son in a deeper way.  That was my Lenten surprise.

Did God surprise you on your journey toward Easter?  I’d love to hear your story.

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

 

The Denial of ADD/ADHD

Today’s blog post is especially hard for me to publish.  I wrote it over a week ago, but was too nervous about publishing it.  Then yesterday I sat down to write again and ended up with another post related to the same thing, but with a different twist.  God is telling me I need to get this out.  If you have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), you will perfectly understand my hesitancy.  If not, maybe you can gain better insight about someone you know who has it.  So here goes…

In the 2+ years that I’ve been blogging I have only referenced my ADD in two posts, Living in a State of Overwhelm and Using Our Weaknesses.  Since writing those posts in the fall of 2012, I’ve pretty much continued to white-knuckle my ADD.  After all, I’ve had it all my life, but I haven’t always known it.

Definition of insanityTrying Something Different

When I re-entered the therapeutic process last fall, my ADD kept coming up as a major reason behind many of my behaviors and thought patterns.  It was pretty eye-opening to me.  Then, as I watched my son, who also has ADD and does not take medication, grapple with another challenging year in high school, we jointly decided to give medication a try.

So what’s the big deal?  People take medication for ADD all the time.  When you live in the shadows of a mentally ill parent like I did with my mother, it influences what you think about the mental health profession and specifically about mind altering medication.  The thought of taking medication for ADD hit too close to home for me.

I watched from an early age how my mother was dependent on medication.  I watched her deterioration, her delusions, and her impulsive behavior.  It scared me and scarred me.  I did everything I could all my life to prove that I was not like my mother, going so far as to stuff my emotions and hide who I really was.

Times have changed; and the stigma over mental illness has slowly diminished in America. Besides that, ADD is a neurological disorder, not a psychiatric one.  My ADD and my black and white thinking clouded my judgment on that too.

Full circle quoteComing Full Circle

When I entered recovery ten years ago I used Biblical principles and the 12 Steps of Celebrate Recovery (CR) to help me address many of my compulsive (ADD) behaviors and related character defects.  However, I didn’t know I had ADD at the time.  While attending CR, I was also attending deep healing classes.  I still couldn’t really look at my mother wound.

It wasn’t until the passing of my mother in February 2011 that all of that changed.  That was the basis and impetus behind writing “Walking My Mother Home” published in Journeys to Mother Love.  If you’ve read my story, you know that God gave me miraculous emotional healing and huge revelations in my identity.  He gave me the boldness to share my story and to start writing.  But that wasn’t the end of the story.

Now in 2014, three years after those revelations and ten years after starting my recovery, I am coming full circle.  It took a long time, but God had to put all the pieces into place for me to even consider trying something different—like medication.  In the process, I get to model it for my son and support him in his struggle.

We both started taking ADD medication over the holidays.  So far, I am very hopeful.  Even without changing anything else in my life, I’ve noticed differences in my mental acuity and don’t feel so anxious and overwhelmed.  With these simple changes, I have already changed my perspective on the value of medication for ADD.

hope for the new yearHope in the New Year

Living in denial and white-knuckling it just didn’t work for me.  It doesn’t work for anyone—whatever their hurt, habit or life-long struggle.  Step 1 in Celebrate Recovery reads:  “We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Yes, my life has been unmanageable largely due to my ADD for a long time.  So in 2014, I am choosing to apply recovery principles and the 12 Steps to this area of my life.  In so doing, I am moving toward a deeper understanding of myself, and growing in Christ.  I have much Hope in 2014.

What about you?  What are you doing in 2014 that gives you hope?

  • WELCOME to my site!

    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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