March 9, 2017
Why We Speak Openly about Mental Illness with our Children

Why We Speak Openly about Mental Illness with our Children

March 9, 2017

My kids know that Mommy's brain is sick, and it has set them free.

Shortly after my 6th child was born I fell into a dark and devastating depression.  It affected every area of our lives.  I stopped functioning.  A good friend, wise and bold, pulled me aside one day and said "You have to tell your oldest daughters what is going on."  She was right.

My two oldest kids were 6 and 5. We made it age appropriate for them.  "Mommy's brain is sick." and "Sometimes I get sad or angry or tired and it's not your fault."  I let them ask questions and I answered them the best I could.  "No, I don't know when I will get better."  and "Yes, that's why I've been going to the doctor more."  We cried together.  Mourning together the chaos this sickness had brought to our lives.  And then you know what happened?  They skipped off to play, lighter and freer than ever.  Talking to my children about mental illness lifted a weight from their tiny hearts.  

We talk about mental illness in our home.  We talk about therapy and medication.  We talk about my diagnoses and we acknowledge when things are rough.   We don't share every detail with the kids, but we answer their questions and encourage them to talk to other safe adults in their lives about their feelings about my illnesses.  And I am so glad we do.

Here are 4 reasons why we talk to our kids about mental illness

We talk to our kids about mental illness so that they will know it's not their fault.   It's almost like a visible weight lifted the day I explained my illness to my kids.   They know that my moods are not a reflection of them, that they are not responsible for making sure mommy is feeling okay.   They are free to be kids. 

We talk to our kids about mental illness so that they can talk to other safe adults in their life about it.  My children have shared in the past with teachers at school and friends' moms about my illness and how it affects them.  They are free to share about their fears and hurts and frustrations in a healthy way.  Talking about mental illness gives them the words to process what is going on at home. 

We talk to our kids about mental illness to reduce the shame and stigma.  When we brush things under the rug and refuse to speak of them, we attach a shame to them, a "we don't talk about these things" sort of stigma.  We give them so much power by refusing to speak of them.

 We have a saying in our home that "secrets keep us sick."   By bringing my mental illnesses into the light, we send out that beacon that it is okay to discuss these things.   It is okay to not be okay.  

We talk to our kids about mental illness because they may face these things one day.  As much as I hope they won't, my kids could struggle with mental illness one day.  And I want them to know that it's okay to talk about it, it's okay to call it by name and to seek help.  I want them to access the services they need and seek support.  I want to model that for them. 

I want my kids to know that in whatever they face, we talk about these things.  There is nothing you can't discuss with those you love, that mental illness and addiction aren't shameful things we need to keep hidden, but very real sicknesses that require attention and help.  I want my kids to know that there is no shame in needing help.  I want to raise compassionate world changers who step boldly into difficult things and know that it's okay to discuss the things that break our hearts.

Mental illness affects the whole family.  And as much as we may try to shield our kids from our struggles, they know.  They see and feel when something is wrong.  Giving my kids the words to process what is happening at home has been powerful and freeing for all of us.   Mommy's brain is sick.  And that's okay. 

March 1, 2017
For Those of Us Who Need to Give Up Our Striving This Lent

For Those of Us Who Need to Give Up Our Striving This Lent

March 1, 2017

As I write this it is a dawning of Ash Wednesday, the first day of lent.  The time of year when so many of us give up desserts or meat or coffee or social media.  Or we recommit to a discipline instead, like morning devotions or excercise or a daily writing practice.  Some of us will wear ashen crosses on our foreheads today, as a symbol of our mortality, that we are but dust. And these are all good things.  In Mathew 6, the Lord does not say if you fast, but when you fast.  Fasting is good.  It's an opportunity to quiet our hearts and deepen our walk of faith, to prepare ourselves for the beautiful juxtaposition of greif and joy at Easter.

But the truth I so easily lose sight of, the truth that I need to hear every single one of these 40 days, nay, every single one of these 365 days, is this:  There is not a thing you or I can give up or add to our lives, not a single thing we can deny ourselves, that will make our Father in heaven love us more. 

No religious observation, no fast or feast, no prayer or devotion or sacrifice can cause the maker of the universe to increase in love towards us.  Because his love is one with his very being and there is never a moment that God is not love. 

Any lenten practice that I engage in that is not steeped in that truth misses the point of the cross. 

Perhaps, like me, you know in your mind of God's perfect and unearnable love, but you struggle to believe it in your heart.   Perhaps you still catch yourself looking desperately around you for evidence that a holy God could bask in joy at the thought of you.  But He does.  

Perhaps, like me, you are so often tempted to trivialize the perfect work of Christ on the cross by striving and failing to earn God's mercy, to buy his love with acts of sacrifice and devotion.  But we can't.

This season of repentance, this holy season of reflection and self-sacrifice, this pushing back of our greedy instincts and self consuming desires for 40 days leading up to the glorious remembrance of Christ's death on the cross and triumphant rise again is a good good thing.  It is good for our hearts that wander easily from the presence of God.  But it will not buy us a single ounce of His love. 

The stark and chilling beauty of the cross is that there is not a damn thing we can do to deserve it.  Lent is a season of self-denial, not so that we can earn the warm compassion of our maker, but so that we can come to the cross the only way we mortals can: empty handed. 

Lent begins in the cold dark days of winter and ends in the fresh sun-soaked days of spring. It's a redemption season, of sorts, awakening the world and the ground, and our hearts.  A symbol of the God who meets us in the darkness and loves us into the light.  

Friend, go ahead, give up that thing for lent.  Or don't.  Whatever the spirit leads you to do.  But either way, let us give up our striving this lent.  Let the coming 40 days be a reminder that God is radically, passionately, intently for you.  That his love rests on you, not because of who you are, but because of who He is. Not because of what you've done, but because of what He has done on the cross.

We are but dust.  And He sees our frailty, beholds our weakness, and loves us.   More than we know. 

Will you take a moment to follow me on facebook, twitter, or instagram? And thank you for reading my words, I'm honoured.
February 25, 2017
25 Christian Songs to Help Battle Depression

25 Christian Songs to Help Battle Depression

February 25, 2017

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I live with a couple mental health diagnoses.  Recently, with some suggestions from friends, I created a playlist of songs that remind me of who I am to God, and who He is to me.  I titled it "Truth to Quell the Lies" and I turn to it when I'm struggling.  Because Depression is a liar.  It distorts my sense of self and my understanding of God's love for me. This playlist helps.

But let me be clear: I'm not saying that all you or I need for good mental health is a happy little ditty, or that some piece of christian culture will fix us.  I wouldn't dismiss your pain like that. This Playlist is a tool that I use.  Just like therapy and medication and regular doctor visits and good self care are tools.  Sometimes music can say to me what words alone cannot.  

So here are 25 songs that sooth my soul when I'm hurting.  I hope they are a helpful start to your own encouraging playlist.

1. Trust in You - Lauren Daigle

2.It's Not Over Yet - For King & Country

3. Come Though Fount of every Blessing - Sarah Noelle

4. Oh How He Loves Us - David Crowder Band

5. I'll Keep On - NF, Jeremiah Carlson

6. I Hear the Saviour Say - Clarensau

7. Beautiful Things - Gungor

8. The Stand - Shane & Shane

9. Prodigal - Sidewalk Prophets

10. Nothing But the Blood - Andy Cherry

11. Live Like That - Sidewalk Prophets

12. You are More -Tenth Avenue North

13.  Lifesong - Casting Crowns

14. No Longer Slaves - Shane & Shane

15. Thy Will - Hillary Scott & The Scott Family

16.  Hello, My Name Is - Matthew West

17. It is Well - Kristen Dimarco

18. Come as You Are - Crowder

19. Psalm 34 - Shane & Shane

20. My Story - Big Daddy Weave

21. Build your kingdom Here - Rend Collective

22. I surrender All - citizens

23. Whom Shall I fear (God of Angel Armies) - Jon Bauer

24. Praise You in This Storm - casting crowns

25. Never Let You Go - Manafest

Is there a super encouraging song that I missed?  Mention it in the comments below! And will you take a moment to follow me on facebook, twitter, or instagram?
February 24, 2017
The Safety Outside of our Comfort Zone

The Safety Outside of our Comfort Zone

February 24, 2017

I recently spoke with a couple friends over coffee about feeling whole-heartedly unqualified for some of the tasks in my life.  Motherhood, ministry, writing, life in general.  Who am I to take on these tasks? Broken and bent, I felt beyond unqualified and way outside of my comfort zone.

And both friends, in different meetings, in separate coffee shops, listened patiently and quietly to my concerns and then offered the same wise response: "good."
They assured me that I was in exactly the place I needed to be.  That there is safety in being outside of my comfort zone, because I have no choice but to rely on God, and the team around me.  In over my head is a good place to be. 

I am not qualified for the life God has called me to.  I am a bible college drop-out.  Mentally ill.  A (recovering) drunk and drug addict.   I'm opinionated and bad at math and can't keep houseplants alive.  But the Lord has given me a passion.   He has given me the gifts of communication and compassion.   He has given me opportunities to use those gifts.  And he wants me to rely on Him. 

Friends, what if we are safest where we feel completely at a loss, because it is there that we have no choice but to rely on God?  It is there that we surround ourselves with a team and pledge to sink or swim together.  It is there that we ask questions and take advice.  It is when we are uncomfortable that we allow God to be God. It is in our weakest places that our eyes are open and watching for miracles.  It is there that we grow to rely on God's amazing power instead of our own power. 

If I am doing life in my own power, from a place of my own meager strength and flimsy qualifications, I am limited to achieve only the things that I can achieve.  But if I am living in the power and strength of an almighty God, there are no limits to what He can accomplish through me.  The power of the almighty God is revealed in our weakness. 

Friend, if you feel unqualified for that task before you, maybe you are.   Maybe your only hope is to call on the mighty hand of God to guide you, equip you, protect you.  Maybe you are exactly where you are meant to be.

That doesn't mean we don't work for it, that we don't study and learn and work hard.  But that at the end of the day, we rely on God.

The question is not am I qualified for this?  The answer will be a resounding no in every area of my life.  The question is, is God calling me to this?  Is this the next right thing for me to do.  And if so, will I faithfully do my best and trust him for the rest? 

We are weak.  And the Lord knows our frailty.  May we step boldly outside of our comfort zones and seek him there.