On the No-Shower Days

Battle-weary from warring with worry, dazed and confused from the hard fall after the rug got pulled from beneath your planted feet, and insulated in isolation from the human interaction you desperately need, you find yourself staring at that familiar image in the mirror.  If only you could sneak in a 5-minute date with the tub.  A little too familiar?  A few too many no-shower days?

When life is providing challenges, it’s easy to fall into a few of Satan’s well-hidden traps.  If we learn to become vigilant and become skilled at recognizing and disarming them, we stay steady on our journey, and the no-shower days don’t hold as much power as they otherwise would.

Let’s visit a few of the deceiver’s favorite go-to snares otherwise known as lies.

Catastrophizing.

This is where you imagine the worst of outcomes.   Your inner Buzz Lightyear is screaming, “This will last to infinity and beyond!”  This present affliction has to be the absolute biggest and baddest of all big and bad things.   In this place, convincing yourself that this difficult day is destined to be repeated for the next 365 comes easy.  Words like “never” and “forever” and “always” ricochet in your brain space, piercing any positivity you might cling to.  You obsess over the current cause of your hygiene hiatus and believe you will never again shower.  Each of us have our own bait-lines that when swallowed, pull us into the abyss of despondency.  What are yours?

Ruminating. 

In an article titled “Rethinking Rumination” in Perspectives in Social Science, the authors give an excellent definition for rumination…

“rumination is a mode of responding to distress that involves repetitively and passively focusing on symptoms of distress and on the possible causes and consequences
of these symptoms. Rumination does not lead to active problem solving to change circumstances surrounding these symptoms.  Instead, people who are ruminating remain fixated on the problems and on their feelings about them without
taking action.” 1

If your thoughts have become the equivalent of a bad vine on YouTube, identify them now.

Enumerating.

Keeping track of your woes?  Adding up insults?  Tabulating troubles?  Multiplying misery?  How often do we count our burdens when we should be counting our blessings?  Becoming an accountant for the adversary is nothing but nonproductive.   It’s easy on the sans-bath days to start a lengthy list of all you do for the others in your life.  What are you logging into your mind’s ledger?

Generalizing.

Sweeping generalizations, the labeling of all of life.  One terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day does not mean they all will be.  Even if the present circumstance does permeate more time than we would choose, it will get better.  It will get easier.  We become healthy when we accept, adjust, and adapt.  Have you painted over a brilliant fine line of promise with a wide brush stroke of generalization today?

Victimizing.

It is far too easy to adopt a victim mentality on the hard days.  Human nature seeks to place blame on someone or something tangible.  We step right into the snares called “If only” and “why can’t”.  Here’s the deal;  bad things happen, people fail us, not everything comes with a labeled reason.  No matter what the source of your pain is, you get to choose whether you will live as a victim or victor.  Taking control of your thought life is the first step in becoming the latter.  Who do you tend to “blame” for your no-shower days?

The Solution:  Spirit-filled mindfulness. 

Mindfulness, apart from spirituality, is defined by Psychology Today as:  “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

Mindfulness tells Buzz Lightyear that he’s overly dramatic.  When truly mindful, we can be aware that this no-shower day is actually a no-shower hour because we are simply in the moment, hour, day.   It grounds us in this truth:

Therefore, don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.  Matthew 6:34

See, even the Father instructs us to stay in the present!

With spiritual mindfulness, we can purposely list our blessings,  identify joy in mundane moments, cultivate a garden of gratitude as children of a loving God who holds the future we fear.

Rejoice always!  Pray constantly.  Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1Thessalonians 5:16-18 (HCSB)

Here’s the best part!  As Christ-followers, we have an abundance of help.  We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be discerning of our thoughts and motives.  He is waiting to gently and graciously expose those destructive thought patterns which make us so vulnerable to Satan’s lies.

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit – the Father will send Him in My name – will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.  Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.    John 14:26 (HCSB)

When we allow The Spirit to control our thought live vs. dialing him up for damage control, our no-shower days aren’t so distressing and the image we see as we pass the mirror is not that of a worried and worn-out woman, but that of a gentle and quiet spirit who just happens to be tired.  Big difference, my friends.

In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.  And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  Romans 8:26-27 (HCSB)

So, you there with the greasy hair and the baggy sweats, know first that you are loved fiercely by your Father God.  Become obsessed with that.  Ruminate on that.  Count the ways He loves you.

BE MINDFUL OF HIM WHO LONGS TO FILL YOUR MIND!

For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth , or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39 (HCSB)

Make a plan for your next no-shower day.  Right now!!!  Here’s your have-ready list:

  • Scripture verses that hold great meaning to you personally.
  • A positive statement in BIG letters for a prominent place.  i.e. “This too shall pass” or “I am loved by the King” or “He knows”.
  • A dry erase marker for your bathroom mirror.  Draw a happy face every time you visit that room.  Don’t forget to smile back at it.
  • Start a blessings list now and add to it ON your rough days.
  • A play-list of your favorite inspirational music.

Blessings my friends!

 

(1) (http://drsonja.net/wp-content/themes/drsonja/papers/NWL2008.pdf)

 

 

 

 

 

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2017: The Year of Coming Out

Living With Mental Illness

 2016 was the year of secrecy.

 When my husband and I first met our daughter at six weeks of age, we knew her prenatal drug and alcohol exposure was already wreaking havoc in her pitiful little body.  As the years unfolded, despite stellar early services, the remnants of her early, undeserved chaos showed itself in mental illness, the severity of which became realized in heart-wrenching ways over the last year.  As her parents, we worked hard to keep things under wraps as we hoped we could find our way to some normalcy; the kind of normalcy others don’t question.  Some may call it naive to hope she could somehow walk away from the seriousness of her mental illness and begin to function as a typical teen, but I call it hope.  It is with hope, that I become brave.  It is with hope for her future, my future, and the future of others who are tormented by minds that betray them that I come out in 2017.  I think there are four good reasons to go public.

  • To be a voice.  Our loved ones need their chaos explained through coherent words.  Speak what those scars across her arm really say.  Speak what was behind his seemingly cruel and hurtful behavior.  Describe to those who care to be involved what it feels like to be the one suffering from the specific illness(es) you are well-versed in.  Yes, its okay to confirm acceptance is not the same as understanding.  If anyone should understand the mind of my mentally ill child, wouldn’t it be me, her mother?  Yet, there are things that I will never fully comprehend.  I can, however, accept her as she is and do my best to explain her in a way that honors her humanity.
  • To remove stigma.  Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.  Mental illness is not a chosen path no more than cancer would be.  Genetics are not chosen.  Early-life trauma is not chosen.  Continuing to hide our challenges only serves to multiply the stigma as it screams “be ashamed”, “be guilty”.   Look, we are all fallen people, and any of us are but one step away from a diagnosis that would be our mark of disgrace.  Strip stigma of its power!
  • To advocate.  When we advocate, we are a champion, a spokesperson (the voice), and a crusader.  When we are the advocate, we are one who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy.  Both of these take some education on our part; training, so to speak.  Advocating for our loved one runs the whole gamut from teaching other family members all the way to petitioning our legislating bodies.  It is impossible to do this well without becoming experts ourselves.  It is our responsibility to further the causes that bring hope and help to those fighting the myriad of mental illnesses.
  • To receive support.   After months of expending enormous amounts of energy I didn’t have trying to carefully guard our secret, I had come to a place of isolation, loneliness, and fatigue.  After a recent crisis, it became apparent I no longer had the strength or desire to continue battling with no backup.  Quite honestly, our life looks very different from those who have typical teens, and there is nothing to be gained by hiding that.  Is it hard? Yes!  Worth it?  Without a doubt.   Self care?  At its finest!

Welcome 2017!  May we meet your challenges with renewed strength, goals,  and the bravery to be bold.

Becoming Nothing for Everything: An open letter to mothers of special needs kids.

Dear Tired Momma,

As I sink into the hot water, exhausted, and all is silent except for the ticking of the wall clock,  I also feel myself sinking into the nothingness that comes in battle.  It’s a familiar place yet one I hate to revisit. ” Again, Lord?”  “But Lord, I thought we were good!”

You know it well.  Life was operating at the status quo, your norm, and then……

So, as I soak in this tub, I start strapping on psychological armor, turning off emotions, allowing nothingness to envelope me, I’m struck by the contrast of emptying myself to the soothing warmth of the water covering my weary body.

Nothingness asks for you to be clinical, concise, goal directed, and it often turns you icy.  Nothingness is when your own fear means nothing.  Your own desires mean nothing.  Your own future plans mean nothing.

Your own desires are nothing….because Everything is on the line…again.

Everything is what you do.  Everything has come to define you even when you fight for your freedom.  Everything needs the systematic, robotic approach.  Everything requires all of you.  Everything results in you turning into a cold and calculated assassin, taking out what ever threatens your EverythingEverything can turn you into the crazy mother, fist pounding the table, steely-eyed, and demanding words spoken in a voice that doesn’t sound like our own while glassy-eyed professionals watch you, but you know that Everything needs you to fight with every ounce of strength she doesn’t have.   

Everything survives when you are willing to become Nothing.  THAT, sister, is sacrificial love.

I’d say that’s pretty Christ-like parenting, right there.

Momma of a special one, your shoulders drop and you sigh as you read this because you know, don’t you?

I’m not writing to be psychologically correct, I’m leaving that to the professionals.  I’m writing because it’s when we are raw and honest and transparent that our struggles can be used for good.  It’s when we get brave and share what we hold in secret that we can give another momma some hope, something to cling to!

Yes, I know you don’t feel anything but a bone-deep fatigue.  I know you don’t feel that sweet momma love that comes with our tiny innocents.  I know you can’t find joy in your Everything right now.

Yes, I know you feel enormous guilt because you can’t find that all-consuming love and that palpable joy that is instinctive to mothers.

Yes, I know the tears flow in spite of a disconnect to any true and identifiable emotion.

Yes, I know that in spite of covering those previous battle wounds with the band-aids of experience, the scabs are getting scraped off and the oozing is just a slow trickle of sadness from somewhere deep within.

I want to suggest you don’t feel tender love at this present time because God is holding your heart out of your chest.  Its weight is simply too much for you.  Its wild beating must be calmed by the very One who created it, by the One who created your Everything.  Its screaming, raw emotions are too much for you to comprehend, to contain. You can’t be directed by it!  So, He holds it while you and your nothingness go to work…to battle.

When you are ready, He stands with his open hands, holding your beautiful, intact heart, and releasing it back to you. He has infused it with all His love, and it is overflowing, ready to abundantly pour over your Everything.  That’s the beauty of it!  We never have to remain in that empty place!  God has all you need, oh he is champion of HIS beloved Everything.  Remember, it is His Spirit within you who has given you the strength to wage war on His child’s behalf.

  Your Everything was His Everything before the start of time.

For now, allow yourself to crawl up onto Abba’s lap.  Allow Him to wrap you in his arms.  When a quiet moment comes, and it will come, go there.  Sit with Him while he holds your heart.  Cry with Him.  Rest in Him.  Accept His peace.  Give him Everything, for he loves her more than you do.  Give him your nothingness, and he will give you your full and rested heart.

Sister, this is a way of life we moms of special ones need to embrace.  Our Everythings require much, but our Abba is bigger than all the heartaches, disappointments, failures, and flat out scary unknowns special needs can throw at us.

Know, this day, that what you are doing will always make a difference, even if you don’t see it on this side of heaven.

Know, this day, that all the days you become nothing to benefit your Everything are pleasing to your Lord.

 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’  Matthew 25.40  NLT

Know, this day, that you are not alone.

With love,

Everything’s momma

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day – 2015.

Today, September 9th, is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FASD) Awareness Day.  FASD Awareness Day takes place around the world with communities traditionally pausing at 9.09am, the 9th minute of the 9th hour of the 9th day of the 9th month of the year, representing the nine months of pregnancy.  I’m feeling like this isn’t happening in enough communities, so I’m turning on a bright light in my corner of the world.

What is FASD?  I’ll let the CDC explain.

Different terms are used to describe FASDs, depending on the type of symptoms.

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS): FAS represents the most involved end of the FASD spectrum. Fetal death is the most extreme outcome from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. People with FAS might have abnormal facial features, growth problems, and central nervous system (CNS) problems. People with FAS can have problems with learning, memory, attention span, communication, vision, or hearing. They might have a mix of these problems. People with FAS often have a hard time in school and trouble getting along with others.
  • Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND): People with ARND might have intellectual disabilities and problems with behavior and learning. They might do poorly in school and have difficulties with math, memory, attention, judgment, and poor impulse control.
  • Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD): People with ARBD might have problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones or with hearing. They might have a mix of these.

FASD became deeply personal the day our family received the phone call that a precious, 6-week old baby girl needed placement.  The next day, the “bonus baby”, our Emma Rose arrived, and so did our new way of life.  It would take at least 3 blog posts for me to explain the details of our life, especially the first few years.  Suffice it to say, we were blessed with just about every Early On service available and multiple physicians from multiple specialties.  My words of  “I will never take a fetal alcohol baby.   I will never take a Crack baby” became, “She’s a fighter.  She will overcome.  We will do whatever it takes.”  Here is the humbling thing:

God has a way of turning our “nevers” into “forevers”.

It’s then about our embracing and celebrating them instead of resenting them.  Oh, the blessings we would miss if we had it our way!  One look into those endless eyes, one diaper change, one feeding, one night in our crib, one snuggle and there it was….she was ours!

I wish I had kept a journal of all the people who were instrumental in her early years so she could read the stories of love poured into her and prayers poured over her.   Countless stories of our oldest daughter always being the second mom and being my backup caregiver.  Our oldest son swaddling her tight and rocking like a mad man while he watched Monster Garage until she could finally relax to sleep.  My Mom weeping over her, holding her stiff little body while she screamed in pain while Mom prayed for her healing.  My husband and I never feeling more in God’s will than when bonding with, loving, and nurturing our wounded baby.  Our neighbors loving her always with unconditional love and acceptance even when finding  this child, unannounced, in their house.  (She was an escape artist in spite of alarms on doors!)

So, today, on FASD Awareness Day 2015, I honor my very brave and strong survivor daughter by exposing a piece of our family’s fabric that sometimes looks pretty tattered and worn.   We aren’t always good at the challenges FASD offers but today, I honor her by being a voice.

Some who live with FASD were basically “pickled” throughout their prenatal period by alcoholic moms, and in the past we have focused on those easier to diagnosis, well-documented cases.  Now, we must be proactive in our education of women.  We know so much more!  NO time is a safe time to drink.  A college student’s ONE-TIME weekend of binge drinking  can result in a child with FASD.  Physicians used to look at kids with certain facial characteristics and make an FASD diagnosis based on whether or not those were present.  Now, we know that those facial characteristics are found in a very small portion of kids who still have FASD.  The damage to the brain in the quickly dividing cells of an infant happens at all stages of pregnancy, and oftentimes, Momma doesn’t know she’s pregnant when she partakes.  Alcohol, the great toxin:

Of all the substances of abuse (including cocaine, heroin, and marijuana), alcohol produces by far
the most serious neurobehavioral effects in the fetus.”
—Institute of Medicine Report to Congress, 1996
Consider this too:
Alcohol can trigger cell death in a number of ways,
causing different parts of the fetus to develop abnormally.
 
Alcohol can disrupt the way nerve cells develop, travel
to form different parts of the brain, and function.
 
By constricting the blood vessels, alcohol interferes with
blood flow in the placenta, which hinders the delivery
of nutrients and oxygen to the fetus.
 
Toxic byproducts of alcohol metabolism may become
concentrated in the brain and contribute to the
development of an FASD.
– FASD Center for Excellence.
Fellow moms, please have these conversations with your teens.  You don’t have to have the big, scary sex talk to educate them on the dangers of alcohol while pregnant.  Your future grandchild will thank you.  That’s a sobering thought, right?   I’m pretty sure most of us are completely unaware of the devastating impact even a small amount of alcohol has on a developing brain.  Below is a link for more information:

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/documents/fasd_english.pdf

So, what to do if you’re pregnant and have consumed alcohol?  Be honest.  Tell your OB/GYN and then tell your baby’s pediatrician after his/her birth.  If you are making an adoption plan for your baby, tell your caseworker.  It is imperative that they document the information.  Here’s why…..getting a diagnosis of FASD is incredibly time consuming and difficult without Mom’s honest admission of alcohol use.  Children go years without the proper treatment and worse off, the proper education, discipline, and care.   Love your baby unconditionally by making that a well-documented part of his or her medical chart so that if problems do arise in the future, your baby will have the benefit of a quicker diagnosis and hence, appropriate services.

So, on this FASD Awareness Day, I wanted to educate in general and be a voice for individuals and families with FASD, and  I wanted to be a cautionary voice to women.  If you are struggling with FASD yourself,  I want to leave you with God’s voice straight from HIS heart to your’s, to our Emma’s heart,  to every man, woman, teen, and child who was traumatized by alcohol or other substances before birth.  God has a love letter for you!  Read Psalm 139.  Below is my very loose paraphrase from verses 13-16.

I created your inmost being; I know exactly how your mind works even when others don’t.  I know your heart.

I knit you together in your mother’s womb: I planned you even if she didn’t.

Praise me because I fearfully and wonderfully made you and I don’t make mistakes: You are an exquisite masterpiece.  I adore you.

You weren’t hidden from me as the toxins took their toll.  I knew this was happening:  Trust me enough to be okay with not understanding the whys.

I saw the consequences of her choices:  Know that I cried.  Hating her will destroy you.  Choose forgiveness.

From the beginning of time, I have had big, amazing plans for you regardless of your beginnings. Rely on me, hold my hand.  I’ll walk you into the future.