Wednesday, May 15, 2019

So I guess I'm done parenting.


That title was a joke.  There is no such thing as being "done" with parenting. But I'm in a season now that sort of feels like it.

Last weekend, my oldest child graduated from college.  She's actively seeking a job (career!) now.

My middle child has recently begun a full time job in his chosen career field.  And he LOVES it.

My youngest is graduating high school at the end of the month and then getting married a couple weeks later before beginning college in the fall.

In every practical sense, this Mom gig of mine is done. I mean, I've gotten them from my uterus to adulthood successfully.  (Of course, my husband was here, too, so I wasn't doing this alone.)  But the thing is, from the outside looking in, by the world's standards, when a kid reaches 18, our parenting job is done.  Side note: I laugh hysterically every time I hear that information presented because I think I've done more 'parenting' since my kids have reached adulthood than I ever did before.  But put that aside for a minute and allow me a few moments to tell you a little something about parenting.  And please don't shoot me if you're a mama of little ones who feels like you'll die before you make it to bedtime tonight.  (I promise, you'll make it.)

These grown-up children of mine were infants about 5 minutes ago.  I sincerely don't even know how this happened.  I still think of myself as a young mom of three babies.  I have such in-depth, vivid, fond memories of those years when they were little.  I was a stay at home mom so I was there for literally everything 24 hours a day. I mean, a lot of that is scattered with exhaustion and crying (theirs and mine), giggles, messes and tantrums, and yet more exhaustion.  But gosh those memories are strong.

However, everything since then has FLOWN by at rocket speed.  It's like once they hit school age and I went back to work, the monotony of every day life took over and the years passed so quickly.  I forget that I'm in my forties until I look at my auto insurance bill or check out the effects of gravity and aging in a mirror.  I know that we've all heard old grandmas say it for years, but it's so true: Don't blink... it is over so fast!  Our kids' childhoods are fleeting.

Savannah, I remember:
Tiny clothes on hangers. Picture books in the bedroom floor. Drowsy viewings (over and over) of The Lion King ("the kitty movie"). Eye muscle surgeries. Defiance and obstinance.  Adorable, tiny, thick, pink glasses. Winnie the Pooh, Arthur, Rugrats.

Samuel, I remember: Tiny blue outfits. Toy trucks and strewn tissues from full boxes of Kleenex.
Easy naptimes. Early morning cartoons and workout videos. Ear tubes. Laughter and jokes. Lucky Luke, Rescue Heroes, Bob the Builder.

And Sarah, with you I remember: Teeny pink dresses and blankets. Hand me down books and toys. Big hair bows. Ear tubes and allergies. Sneaking Easter baskets into closets and whole packages of gum under the kitchen table. Dora the Explorer, Clifford, Rolie Polie Olie.

And then it happened....
Band instruments, braces, puberty, "the talk", driver's ed, first jobs, first cars, boyfriends and girlfriends, formal dances, football games, bonfires, pep rallies, UIL competitions, power lifting meets, school clubs, college applications, scholarship applications, college visits, college registration.

And somehow, here we are.  Nearly 23 years since this mama gig began, the biggest part of my job is done.  It's been a good run.  I feel like I've done okay.  In fact, I think I've done a pretty damn good job.

I did the math. There are 936 weeks from the time your child is born until they turn 18.
That means I've had 936 Sundays to take the kids to church, 936 Mondays to launch them into new weeks and attempt to push them to face it with a positive light.  936 Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays to love them and encourage them.  936 Fridays to celebrate surviving another week.  936 Saturdays to rest and relax and do something fun with them.

I'm sure I haven't always been so positive, encouraging and uplifting, but I pray that the good outweighs all the screwing up, yelling, arguing, occasionally over-parenting and fussing.  I pray they walk into adulthood with more good memories than bad.  I'm fairly sure they will.

I hope they remember snuggling in mom and dad's bed any night they needed us.
Designing, cutting & painting Pinewood Derby cars.
Camping trips, campfire building lessons, archery and target shooting.
Dance classes & recitals.
Gymnastics classes.
Swim classes.
Watching mom doze off at the theater while watching "Up" (and a hundred other movies & TV shows at home.)
Summer reading programs---at the library and at home.
Summer chore lists.
Attending Awana, Missionettes, Royal Rangers, and VBS.
A trip to Disneyland and our friend's Bar Mitzvah.
Road trips.
The summer we had a Stay-cation and visited lots of cool local places.
All the times we watched Jumanji in hotel rooms.
The year that their cousins lived with us.
Christmas mornings.
Thanksgiving dinners.
Resurrection eggs.
Band concerts.
Shopping for Samaritan's purse Christmas box children.
Making summer bucket lists.
Reading books & saying prayers together at bedtime.
Slumber parties in one bedroom or another.
The first time we all watched Friends together from season 1 through 10.

I could list a thousand things that I hope my kids remember as they stretch their wings and fly, but it would take a thousand years to list them all.

Above all else, I hope they know just these 2 things.  To my kids:
1.  I love you and will always, always be here for you.  My heart wants to explode with pride as I watch you bloom & grow.  You are amazing human beings and I'm honored to be your mom.
2.  God loves you so much more than your dad & I do.  You were always just on loan to us from Him.  We've tried to out-love Him for years but the truth is, we just can't.  He will always love you a million times bigger than we do.  As long as you trust in Him, lean on Him for every decision and always treat other people with the kind of mercy and grace and love God gives to you, you'll be okay.  If you trust Him and know how faithful He is and do your best to honor Him all your life, then my job means nothing because that knowledge and understanding is far more important than literally anything I could teach you.

Maybe we are nearing the finish line of this childhood thing.  I feel like I'm on the last leg of this first long relay run and I'm sprinting for the end at this point, just clinging to the baton and looking for the runner ahead of me to hand it off.  But it turns out, there is no runner up ahead.  Just my kids & Jesus.  So I'm stretching out my arm and passing the baton to them.

Press on, kiddos.  You've got this!  And if you look to the sidelines, Dad and I will be there, cheering.

Proverbs 3:5-6  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Redemption


Tonight a prayer reminder buzzed on my phone. One glance was all it took to bring to mind a million heartbreaks that led to the need for these prayers.

Bad decisions, sins, mental health, immorality.  Stuff that has wrecked a family & left behind a path of unfathomable consequences.  So much hurt, so much destroyed.  Lives changed, pain & sadness.  It feels like a mass of horrible wrapped up in a layer of ugly intertwined with a whole lot of sorrow.

As I talked to God about it, I asked Him what to pray.  I mean, sometimes situations leave us questioning what on earth we can possibly request of Him to fix the situation.  Where to begin healing?  Who most needs hope?  Is there any way possible to remedy the destruction?  Is there a way to repair what's broken?

As I prayed, I told Him of my heartache and it was in those moments He reminded me of a book I read years ago that completely wrecked me and changed the way I view my faith.  I recently bought a copy for a friend so I guess it's been in my head lately.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers was *THE* book that made me start reading fiction again.  After years of reading ONLY the stuff necessary for information in parenting or pregnancy, I had lost the desire to read for pleasure.  A group of moms in my MOPS group (and about a dozen other random ladies I knew) all began talking about this one particular book all at around the same time.  They kept nudging me to read it and while I couldn't imagine ever having time for something leisurely like reading a 300+ page book, I finally caved.

Oh.
My.
Soul.

Guys, this book is the book of Hosea (from the Old Testament) re-told in a modern language.  It's set in the California gold rush time period, which is entirely off my normal reading radar.  I usually hate historic fiction.  But this book... I can't explain it.  As you read the story of the main character, a girl sold into prostitution at a young age, your heart breaks for her.  And then when her husband arrives in her life and falls in love with her & then buys her out of sex trade, you cheer with excitement for her.  And then she runs away from him, again and again.  And she turns from his love for her because she can't imagine how anyone could possibly want her.  She flees his home and his arms again and again.  She wants all he has to offer her-- love, comfort, companionship, security, marriage -- but she can't bring herself to believe anyone would ever actually want her, all of her, with all her baggage and the ugly past.  Michael Hosea (her husband) continually pursues her, continually brings her back home and forgives her lovingly, wiping her tears, bandaging her wounds, holding her close. 

I'll spare you the whole story, but as you read the book, you can see a reflection of our relationships with God in the story.  We have an ugly story, a nasty history, a painful past....and then God chases us down, wipes away our old life & covers our scars and pains with His compassion.  And as believers, we know what we should do, we know how much we relish His presence.  We feel fulfilled, comforted and so refreshed when we let Him be the Lord of our lives.  But we still run away, we retreat into our old lives of garbage now & then.  We see that old sin nature rising up from time to time. But God's grace chases us down, dusts us off and pulls us back in again & again, keeping us right where we belong. 

His redemptive mercy is so profound, so beyond my comprehension!

As I prayed tonight for this painful situation, as I asked God what I could pray, He whispered to me.  "Redemption."  He reminded me of how He loves us, how He'll always pull us back, how nothing we can confess to Him will *ever* shock Him or make Him love us less.  How there is always, always a path back to holiness.  There is always a way to His arms.  There will never be a situation that is too far gone for Him to redeem.  Somehow, someway.  I smiled as He reminded me not to worry about the end result, but to let Him cover it.

Oh Father, how quickly we try to solve problems or find ways for you to work.  What a beautiful reminder to trust you to take care of things.

And like Hagar, I will run back to your arms again & again.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

How the Reeves family celebrates Easter 2018

In years past, our Easters have looked quite different.  How we've chosen to celebrate is a little bit of a mish-mash of lots of things.  I'll explain.

When the kids were very young, we made a conscious decision to not really do any of the Easter bunny/Easter basket stuff.  We wanted to make sure they were clear that this was a day about celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.  We bought new children's books every year about the day and what it's all about.  We found little Easter trinkets & novelties at the Christian bookstore and online.  We made Resurrection Rolls (more about that later) and created empty tombs from Play-doh.  We bought a box of Resurrection Eggs and began including those in our special day.  We went to church and talked about the stories the kids heard and learned.  So they never lacked in having a holiday celebration, it just maybe didn't look like what happened at the homes of their peers.  And we were fine with that.  They were too little to care anyway.

When they started school, they began doing egg hunts there when they'd have the class party.  We explained that there were a lot of things that people do for Easter and that some people chose to include egg hunts, bunnies and candy.  They never seemed to be disappointed that we'd skipped that part of the festivities in the past.  But to make sure that they didn't miss out when their friends talked about having tons of candy & stuff, we started buying some candy each year just for fun.  In a household where we don't buy or eat tons of candy, it was a special treat!

When my kiddos were 9, 5 and 4, their cousins came to live with us.  We wanted to integrate them into the family and make them feel at home, so we decided to include a little of the stuff they'd been doing each year into what we were doing.  We kind of blended the worldly stuff & the spiritual stuff, so both sets of kids got a whole new appreciation for Easter that year.  Our kids were introduced to baskets and bunnies and egg hunts while my niece and nephew learned more about the resurrection and Jesus.  It was one of the sweetest Easters ever and I was sold on continuing our Easters that way -- with a little bit of each type of celebration.

The kids' cousins only lived with us a little over a year, so by the time the next Easter rolled around it was back to just my children.  But they'd really enjoyed all the silly fun stuff the year before, so we continued it.  Ever since, our annual Easter celebrations look like this---

About a month before Easter when all the candy hits the shelves, I buy a bag of jelly beans.  For myself.  ha ha!  I never liked jelly beans until all the cool varieties came out.  Starburst, Jolly Rancher, Sweet Tart and Laffy Taffy all make great jelly beans.  The regular old fashioned ones are just gross.  But I buy the bag of yummy ones & munch on them over the course of a few weeks leading up to the holiday.  [Yes, I realize this has NOTHING to do with how the rest of the family celebrates, but I figured we were going for full disclosure here...]

On Good Friday, we attend our church's worship service.  Some years we've had to miss it due to work schedules and such, but we try to make it every year.

On the Saturday before Easter, we dye eggs and make Resurrection Rolls.  I figure the eggs are pretty self-explanatory, so I won't elaborate there.  But the rolls are fantastic.  You take a big marshmallow, which represents the body of Jesus, dip it in melted butter (which represents the oils they annointed his body with for burial.)  Then you dip that into a mixture of cinnamon & sugar, which represents the spices they prepared his body with.  Then you take it & wrap a crescent roll around it.  This represents the burial cloth that they wrapped his body with.  Then cook them according to the cresent roll package.  When done, the marshmallow (his body) is gone...and that represents the empty tomb.  He is no longer there--but we can still smell him, taste him.  Not only are they yummy, but they're a great visual lesson for little ones.

When the kids were younger, we'd hide a few eggs around the yard for them to go hunt at some point on Saturday afternoon or on Easter itself, but they outgrew that by their adolescent years & we just hand them a hollow chocolate bunny instead.  They don't seem to mind these days!  :)

On Easter morning, we go to church.  I realize this isn't unusual--we always go on Sunday morning--but I just wanted to note this is part of our holiday.

On Easter afternoon, we come home and, even though our kids are basically grown now, we all sit down together & open the resurrection eggs and remember what each one represents and the story it tells.

Our kids were never told as little ones that a bunny brings a basket to their house.  The one or two random years that we did a basket at all, they knew it was from us.  I'm not sure why but even when I was a child, I never thought the Easter bunny was an actual, real thing.  I'm not even sure if my parents ever introduced the idea of the Easter bunny to me.  Anyway, they've never believed in a bunny.

No matter how the celebrations have varied over the years, our kids have always known that for our family, Easter is about worship and focusing on the resurrection of Christ.  No matter what the rest of the world does or how they celebrate, for us it's never been about bunnies and eggs and candy.  That's just a fun thing people do on the side, but the real focus has always been Jesus.

We've researched and we know that the original holiday has pagan roots and that early Christians really just sort of latched onto a holiday that was crudely celebrating a fertility goddess and attached it to a Biblical day we want to remember and celebrate.  I understand that some Christians choose to ignore the day altogether because it has such an ugly history & the roots are anything but Christian in nature.  I can respect that.  But for me and my house, we choose to take the bad and flip it on its ear and turn it into something good.  Maybe that's bad or wrong.  Maybe not.  I don't know.  What I DO know is that regardless of what anyone else is doing, *I* am celebrating what my Savior did for me.

Monday, July 24, 2017

I am SO selfish.

I think we all know that deep down we are selfish, ugly creatures who want everyone to be at our beck & call every minute of the day.  We try to cover that, but I think, at heart, deep down, we all just really want the world to revolve around us. I try my best and really make an effort to be joyful & patient & grateful in all things.  And while I often succeed, there is definitely a deficit in my life, usually connected to my family and especially when I am inconvenienced or made to run late.  How dare they!  How quickly my gratefulness goes right out the window when my husband or kids make me have to go out of my way to serve them, wait on them or they make me more than 10 seconds late to something. (Don't I sound like a delight to be around?)  This morning, God used my husband to remind me of my less-than-patient, self-focused nature.  Here's how our morning went.

Yesterday, Larry preached at a church in a neighboring town. We planned for me to hold off on grocery shopping for the week 'til after we cashed the paycheck from that. Last night, we discussed that the bank might or might not allow me to cash the check since it was written to him. Rather than risking them not letting me get the money, we decided that I'd follow him to the bank this morning and he could cash it and then hand off the cash to me & he'd head on to work.  (You need to know this info to follow the rest of the story.)

So at about 8:15, we left the house.  I was in my PJs in my van and Larry was dressed to the nines in his crisp, starched shirt & ironed pants.  He was just ahead of me on the drive, in his truck.  We didn't reach the end of our neighborhood before my low tire warning light came on.  I grabbed my cell phone from the console & called Larry to ask him to follow me to the gas station so we could put some air in my tires.  But he didn't answer.  Grrrr.  We got to the next stop sign and I honked at him & held up my phone and gestured to it, waving perhaps a little more urgently than was required.  I was frustrated that he didn't immediately answer my call!  I mean, isn't that why we have cell phones?  ANSWER IT when I call you, dude!  After my honk & point moment, I re-dialed his number and he picked it up.  I told him my light had come on and he had me drive around him so he could look at the tires & see which one looked low.  He noted that one seemed a tiny bit lower than the others & told me which gas station to drive to.  He followed behind me making sure I was safe, didn't have a blow out or anything like that.  As I drove, I thought how sweet it was, how gentlemanly to follow slowly behind me and make sure I was okay.

When we got to the gas station, he grabbed the (greasy) air hose & drug it around my van, adding air to the appropriate tire.  When that didn't turn off my warning light, he checked the other 3 tires & added a little air to all of them, just in case.  That still didn't shut off my light so we came to the conclusion that the (slight) drop in temperature overnight must've triggered it.  Sigh.  Technology.  My sweet husband now needed to wash his hands & wipe the sweat from his brow (good grief, the humidity!!) and he wanted to buy a drink before he could leave.  I told him I'd go ahead and leave and head to the bank & wait for him there, to which he nodded his approval.

When I pulled into my parking spot to wait for him, I pulled out my phone & turned on my data.  I tapped my Facebook app icon and opened a status update screen to type out a brag on my sweet husband.  I wanted my friends & family to know how kind and caring he was, willing to get dirty & wait on his wife, handling a menial task I could've done myself later in the day.  I wanted to point out how thankful I am to have him and how blessed I feel to be his wife.  His tender generous care for me had touched me and I wanted to pay him a public compliment.

In the middle of typing that, my phone rang.  Now, some of you may not know it but I'm more of a texter, so when my phone rings at all, I sort of dread it.  I'm an introvert in the worst way.  If I can come up with any reason at all to not answer & just let it go to voice mail I will.  LOL  I know, it's bad.  I realize that's why I have a phone--so people can reach me--but if I'm in the middle of typing a status on facebook, a phone call is just an irritation.  I mean, come on folks....don't cut into my facebook time by calling me.  (Insert heavy eye roll & major sarcasm here.)  But I sighed & answered the phone.

It was my dear, sweet, caring husband.  He stated that his "hey dummy light" had come on. (that's what we call the low-gas light on our cars)  He was going to have to stay at the gas station a few more minutes to gas up his truck.  I rolled my eyes, irritated that he'd let his gas tank get so low.  I tell him all the time to stop & get gas.  I tend to believe that once you hit the half-tank mark, you need to start looking for a station to fill up.  After all, that second half of the tank seems to disappear rapidly and I am fearful of being stranded somewhere without gas, so that's how I handle it.  A quarter-tank makes me borderline frantic.  MUST GET GAS NOW!!!  But he's sort of a daredevil and likes to see how low he can get before he HAS TO get gas.  So right then & there, I was frustrated that I'd have to wait on him longer because he hadn't followed my suggestions and gotten gas sooner. Ugh.  Men!

Then he told me that he realized when he'd switched his holster from one belt to another this morning, he'd left his badge on our dresser.  And he was going to need that today!  He asked if I could run back to the house and get it.  He would finish gassing up the truck, go cash the check & then meet me somewhere with the cash.  I lovingly (outwardly) agreed but inside I was mad.  I mean, this guy is the worst about forgetting things and I have driven hundreds and hundreds of miles over the years bringing him things he left at home. This was like the 5-millionth time I've done this for him.  I can't tell you how many phone calls & texts I've gotten to bring him stuff that he needed at work.  Or the million frantic shouts to come help him find this or that item because he's forgotten where he put it.  I mean, geez. Put it up in the same place every time and you won't have to hunt for your keys, phone, glasses, etc.  Sigh. And this was his BADGE he'd left at home. What on earth?  Why can't he remember such a big thing that is crucial for his job!!??  I mean, come on.  It's not like he left a pen at home.  He's a plain clothes detective.  Cops need their badges!!  Grrrrrr.

When I hung up with him, the status update screen for Facebook was still on the phone screen.  You know, the one where I was typing out a brag about how wonderful & sweet my husband is?  The same screen I'd pulled up 3 minutes before to compliment my husband was now the screen that was taunting me & reminding me of my deeply, profoundly selfish ways.  It reminded me how rapidly I can cycle from feeling blissful & happy & joyful to being ticked off, irritated and wanting to punch someone.

Ouch.  Conviction is like that.

I shut off the facebook app and made the 2-3 minute drive to my house, walked inside and grabbed the badge and started back to the van before Larry called to tell me he was already done and almost back to our house.  I don't even know how he finished that quickly, but he did.  And about 2 minutes later, we met on the parking lot of a nearby school for me to get the cash and give him his badge. I wished him well as he left for work.  (by the way, he was now late for work but never seemed to be upset that he was in that predicament because of me!)  Before he left, I made sure to tell him how much I love him, how God had used him as an instrument this morning to remind me to settle the heck down & stop being so darn selfish, how grateful I was for him--even if he is a forgetful goofball sometimes.

Thank you, Lord, for using my husband to remind me today how richly I am blessed, how much I need to work on my selfishness.  Show me a way to be a blessing to him in return today!

So I need to ask you this: 
Do you struggle with this too?  Do you have the utmost patience for everyone else in your life but you find yourself becoming very quickly aggravated by those closest to you?  Do you find yourself so self-focused that you miss blessings and kindnesses extended to you?  Can I suggest that we all stop today and really pay attention to our responses to our families and those we hold dear?  Can we reset our sights and consider others and be thankful?  This is a hard lesson for me to learn. Maybe it is for you, too?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Here we go again!

You may remember that last spring (2016) I had a bit of a cancer scare after a mammogram.  (You can read that story HERE.)  When that was all over, the doctor told me in person, then again on the phone, and again in a letter that I was fine for a year.  No sooner follow up was needed.  Of course, this spring came and went and I lost track of time & dates and didn't get my annual mammogram scheduled until June.  Oops!

Once you have had a "suspicious finding" you have to get a diagnostic mammogram & ultrasound for a few years until the doctor declares you able to go back to just a regular mammogram.  (The difference is the number of images they take & awkward positions you must get into to take them.  ha ha!)  So last Monday (June 19) I went in for my tests.

Fortunately, my tumor that they found last year had not changed or grown.  It was still right where we left it with its little metal clip/marker attached.  So that was good.  But then they found a new issue.  The doctor said that it could be one of two things....and after a biopsy last Thursday (June 22) it was declared to be an intraductal papilloma.  While IPs are not typically cancerous, they do tend to turn into cancer if you leave them in there....so the standard treatment is to have surgery & remove them.  {You know...unless you're a daredevil & like to live life on the edge & take a wait and see approach.....but I'm not comfortable with waiting to see if this thing will be cancerous in another 6 months.  NO thanks!}

So today, we went to the surgeon's office & scheduled surgery.  It's a fairly simple outpatient day surgery procedure and from those I have spoken to in the last week, the recovery is not too bad.  I've been told that recovery is only about a week and most of that is just because you have stitches and are sore---not really because you're in horrible pain or anything.

Surgery has been scheduled for Tuesday July 11.  I'm recording this info here so that in years to come I can look back & remember the timeline for all this.

I'm just hoping that this can be my last year to have to do any poking & jabbing & cutting in this area.  I'm kind of all done with that stuff. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

My statement about mental health:

I've thought through this post numerous times but haven't been able to figure out quite the right words or timing to post it. Tonight I'm just going to dive in & say what I'm thinking and I pray it comes out right. I pray that you read this and understand my heart.  I pray that you can really LISTEN and soak it in and absorb what I'm trying to say because it is so heavily, deeply, powerfully engraved on my heart.  This is something I am passionate about.

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For years now, 4 out of the 5 members of my household have struggled, in one way or another, with a mental health issue. I won't go into detail about which family member deals with which thing. That's personal & I will always strive to protect my family's dignity and safety.  If you know our family personally, you may know the details.  (And if so, please do not comment here with any specifics.  Join me in protecting our family!)  Or you may know us & have NO IDEA that we've been dealing with anything at all.  (If so, surprise!)


For years, I've watched people's reactions when they find out the facts about my family.  Learning that this person sees a psychiatrist....or that this one sees a counselor... or this one takes meds every day...or that one has been hospitalized...   Some nod and smile, hug and encourage, understanding full well the depth of what it's like to live with or support someone who deals with a brain chemistry imbalance. (Those people make me want to hug them & invite them into my inner circle for s'mores and late night talks.)  Others ask rude questions or insinuate it's "all in your head".  Others have pointed fingers & asked which side of the family has these issues---were they passed down through genetics?  Others have made a point to talk about how those with faith in their lives shouldn't be dealing with these things, that if we prayed enough or believed strongly enough, we wouldn't have these issues.  And still others turn up their nose, gasp in shock or otherwise cut us from their lives because they believe that somehow having a mental health illness/disorder/issue is something to be ashamed of.

As I type this tonight, I am looking back on the past 20 years of having one psychiatric drug or another in my medicine cabinet. Sometimes I've had a combination of several drugs in my medicine cabinet.  I have heard people compare mental health to other chronic illnesses-- diabetes or asthma, for example-- and they have talked about the similarities. Both require long-term medications, continual care by a doctor, potentially a hospitalization now & then to get back on track when things go awry, and taking care of oneself to prevent those "flare ups".  There is so much truth in all of that and I can appreciate the comparisons.

But here's the kicker:  no one looks at you funny if you have diabetes.  No one judges you if you have asthma.  No one thinks a person with Crohn's disease is a monster or somehow dangerous.  No one assumes that a person with Cystic Fibrosis is apt to 'snap' and hurt someone. There is no stigma attached to most chronic illnesses.  But there IS to persons who deal with mental illness.

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Why is that?

We all understand when a person has a heart problem that their heart is 'sick'. We all understand that diabetes means a person has a 'sick' pancreas.  We know that having asthma means having 'sick' lungs.  So why can't we accept that mentally ill people have a 'sick' brain?  Why can we understand that those conditions are medical in nature but we look at mental illness as some other sort of thing altogether. Why can't we as a society see that mental illness is just as much an illness, too?

The definition of mental illness I most often relate to people is a condition where the chemistry of the brain gets out of whack.  I know it is much more complicated than that, including all sorts of genetic, environmental, and biological factors.  And the conditions that fit the mental illness category are as diverse as can be, but most are classified by how they affect a person's mood, behavior and thinking. With all of them, you see a doctor, do testing before a diagnosis, take meds to help with the problem and go on about your life. None of these conditions were ones the person asked for.  None of them are the person's fault or were somehow 'caused' by a bad choice.  None of them were planned for or desired.  Most of the people affected have zero desire to spend their life in doctor's offices or taking a handful of medication every day....

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You know, JUST LIKE those who have diabetes, asthma, cystic fibrosis, crohn's and all the other chronic illnesses you can think of.... Image result for mental health stigma

It's time for us to do SOMETHING about this overwhelming, seemingly never-ending thing that  people have stuck in their heads about children and adults who have a mental illness.  STOP IT.  These conditions are very real, very hard to manage sometimes, very hard to 'own' (because of the stigma!), very hard for caregivers and family to support.  These conditions are no less medical in nature than all the other chronic illnesses I mentioned here.

I'm not sure I ever REALLY grasped all this before I was faced with it myself.  But, being face to face with individuals who are fighting daily to stay on top of their illness, I can tell you one thing for sure:

These persons are fully capable of living normal lives, looking just like you, going to school or work, carrying on a regular lifestyle, having successful relationships, embracing physical activities, becoming parents, caring for others, being members of the PTA, serving on the neighborhood watch team, teaching Sunday School and so much more.  I doubt you have any idea just how many people you interact with every single day who are dealing with things like anxiety, depression, PTSD, Bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, ADD/ADHD, eating disorders, PPD, SAD, Disassociative Disorders, phobias and on & on & on.

Seriously, let's put this 'second class citizen' treatment to rest.  A person with mental illness is no less human, no less capable of emotion than anyone else.  So dig up your compassion glasses & put them on.  It's time to stop the ignorance and the awful stigma.  After all, can you tell which of these people suffers from a mental health condition & which do not?





Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Sosh Meeds

 
I've been sucked into the abyss that is social media.

I seem to live and breathe Facebook and Instagram. Every funny, serious, interesting, thought-provoking, deep, light & humorous thing that comes my direction in life appears in some form or fashion in the "sosh meeds."  {which is my silly, cheesy, faux-teenager word for social media when I'm talking to my teen daughter}

I have neglected this blog.
I have neglected time spent face to face with other actual human people.
and worst... I have neglected prayer time. And Bible reading.

I'm a mess, folks.

I know, I know.  Most of us are. And most of us are re-evaluating things in life this week.  It's almost time for a brand new year so everything is suspect and we all feel inclined to wipe out anything that might remotely take away from the beauty of the life we've been given.  Maybe that's what this is.

Sure.  I could throw out my smart phone and disable all my social media accounts.  Perhaps I could move my family into a cabin in the wilderness.  That would do the job.  But I have found that there are GREAT opportunities to connect, to minister, to love, to find (and give) compassion, to laugh, to share, to grieve alongside long-distance friends...all via social media.  So it's not all bad.  But I think, like most of us, I have to find a way to rein that in.  I'm not sure how I'll pull it off, but I'm open to suggestions.

How do you handle it?