Kirsten Panachyda

Writer, Speaker, Singer-Songwriter

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Author: Kirsten Panachyda (page 1 of 7)

Staying power review

Find out more, including preorder bonuses at thestayingpowerbook.com

I am excited to tell you about a new book. Staying Power: Building a Stronger Marriage when Life Sends its Worst by Carol & Gene Kent and Cindy & David Lambert is coming out next week. 

Two years ago at a writers retreat, I met Carol and Gene Kent. I had the opportunity not only to sit under Carol’s teaching, but to chat with both of them. When it comes to building a thriving marriage in the face of severe stress and grief, they have the great wisdom of lived experience. 

When Carol, Gene, Cindy, and David put out a call to writers to share their stories of marriage pressured by circumstances for an upcoming project, I sent a submission. I am so honored to have contributed a section to this book. Recently, I read an advanced copy, and I can’t tell you how pleased I am that this book is coming into the world. I will be recommending it all over the place, but especially to parents who are struggling with parenting a kid with mental illness. 

This book is for couples experiencing the pressure of crisis that comes from outside the relationship. 

“Too often, when a life crisis hits, a marriage suffers—even a healthy one—and all the personality profiles and couples’ therapy in the world won’t keep your marriage from experiencing the tough stuff. So how do you and your spouse face the stresses put on your marriage and not only stay together but come out on the other side even more loving and committed?”

 Like any marriage, ours (Kirsten and Dan) has its strengths and weaknesses, good periods and bad. But during the crisis of our son’s three long years to stability, our personal flaws and besetting sins crashed into each other with devastating effect. My ill health, creeping depression, and feelings of failure brought out, not compassion in Dan, but darker reaction. He has a sometimes debilitating desire to do things right, to be right, to be acceptable. My suffering signaled to him that he was screwing up, doing things wrong, or else why would his wife be unhappy? His automatic response was to withdraw, to defend himself, to do nothing so he couldn’t screw up. He left me floundering in quicksand where I had thought to find solid support. And I, ungentle with his weakness, railed at him and begged, feeding his response. It was a classic vicious cycle, and eventually I longed for a way out. But I was broken and blind to hope, so I looked for release rather than restoration.

We made our way through, with a lot of counseling, effort, and failures. I wish Staying Power had been given to us at the beginning of our crisis years. We could have prevented so much heartache by putting the principles of this book into action in our marriage. As it is, you can find some of our story of how God restored our marriage, as well as some of my best advice in Chapter Two.

“In Staying Power, two longtime couples offer insights, skills, and clear direction so that you can respond to trials in a way that strengthens rather than weakens your marriage. They show you how to

 – handle anger creatively, forgive freely, and persevere together

 – nurture one another in powerful ways

 – learn new techniques for connecting both verbally and nonverbally in the midst of crisis

 – and much more.”

You can find out more at thestayingpowerbook.com

I wholeheartedly recommend this book for married couples, whether they are currently experiencing crisis or not. Life gets tough for everyone. Difficult circumstances come in every life and every marriage. Staying Power, I pray, will be a great tool to help marriages endure and thrive.

If you preorder before the release on 3/31/20, there are some great bonuses!

(I do not receive any compensation for recommending Staying Power. I will receive 5 complimentary copies as a thank-you for my contribution to the book. Maybe there will be a give-away!)

Parent Stress when a kid has mental illness

Stress can fray us physically, mentally, and emotionally when we are parenting a kid with mental illness.
Image by CJ from Pixabay

Kirsten Panachyda

The stress of caring for a kid with mental illness can take a significant toll on a parent. This experience can weaken an immune system, exacerbate existing conditions, and retrain the brain to respond in unhealthy ways to any negative stimulus. This toll, all too often, comes as an unexpected cost to a parent. I know it did for me.

We live in a suburb of Syracuse, New York. I spent twenty winters there. I thought I was somewhat inured to winter conditions, beyond the typical, mostly good-natured grumbling with strangers in the grocery store line. February and March of 2015 just about did me in. Even in a city grown used to its place on every “worst winter weather” list, people were ground down by that winter. The average temperature in February that year was 9 degrees, the coldest on record. Snow fell every single day from January 29 through March 9. Besides the constant accumulation, the snow clouds also meant limited sunshine. 

It’s hard to find enough adjectives to describe how I felt during that endless winter. Desperate. Defeated. Insignificant. Failed. Battered. Crumbled. Fruitless. Weak. Sick.

Besides the weather, we were enduring the depths of a crisis season which had lasted for over two years by then. Our son Nicholas came home from his most recent hospitalization somewhat more stable, but still suffering from daily suicidal ideation. We never left him alone, and most of my time was spent on his care, either appointments or homeschooling, or even just thinking, praying, and researching. I would never give up on hoping and working for my son’s well-being, even though some days I almost wished I could. But there was a real possibility my body would give up on me.

I started finding the shower drain clogged with clumps of hair. I was wrapping the elastic around my ponytail an extra loop. Googling “hair loss” led to a little questionnaire asking about stress six to eight weeks back. The life cycle, or whatever, of hair follicles meant that stress could show in hair loss after that length of time. Oh. Well. Yes. Maybe it had been a little stressful to agonize over whether Nicholas would be going into residential treatment.

“Did you punch me in the chest while I was sleeping?” I asked Dan one day, teasing but a little worried. “It aches when I take a deep breath. It hurts to the touch.” My fingertips felt my sternum and the pain like a tender bruise. 

Later, Dan sent me an email with the subject line “Maybe it’s this?” I opened the attached link. It led to a medical site with a short article describing costochondritis, an inflammation of the joints between the ribs and the sternum. Symptoms: sore to the touch, pain upon coughing or deep breathing.  Often brought on or aggravated by, yes, intense stress.

A week later my doctor confirmed my internet diagnosis. I was in her office for headaches, which turned out to be a sinus infection and double ear infections. I brought up the pain in my chest. Although she ran tests to make sure it wasn’t a heart problem, she agreed that it was probably costochondritis. Plodding through my days in a fog of pain and low grade fever, I waited for the antibiotics and ibuprofen to do their jobs. All I wanted was to stay under the covers in a quiet darkened room with the door shut.

Within a couple weeks, I was back in the doctor’s office. “I have this rash,” I told her. “It’s really irritated. I’ve tried putting lotion on it, but it’s spreading and kind of blistery.”

She looked at the angry blotch on my rib cage, then moved around the table to look at my back. “Ohh,” she said.

“Oh what?” I craned my neck around trying to see what she had noticed back there.

“You have shingles.” Her face was sympathetic. 

Later I was back in front of the computer, going to the few medical websites I trusted to inform accurately. An outbreak of shingles is commonly linked to a weakening of the immune system. This can sometimes be traced back to, yep, stress.

As a last straw, one morning as I put away laundry and straightened up my bedroom, I blacked out. I was turning from my dresser to get something else to put away, and then my face hit the floor. I wasn’t aware of losing my balance or falling until I hit. For a stunned few moments I could not tell if I was okay.

After some skin glue to patch up a heavily bleeding cut, a CT scan, and another prescription for painkillers, I went home from the urgent care clinic. When the bandage came off, I had a strange-looking eyebrow and a deep purple bruise that looked like goth eyeshadow. 

I wish I had known that the stress of caring for my son would require real attention, especially during the crisis years. We can be much healthier as people, and much more effective caregivers if we expect, and plan to mitigate, the effects of stress.

Tina Yeager (Licensed Mental Health Counselor)* says,  “You need to restore yourself. Adrenaline overload will cause you to get knocked out in the process whether you want to or not, because you’ll get sick.

“(Chronic stress) can cause chronic illnesses or exacerbate chronic illnesses. It can cause digestive problems, heart problems, even something as severe as stroke. People can develop fatigue syndromes or fibromyalgia. It can cause you to be unable to concentrate. You can get insomnia. Stress is not good for any of our physical, mental, or emotional systems. 

“Finding some small stress relief things is really good for a parent. You can pray while you’re doing relaxation breathing exercises, invite the Holy Spirit to bring restoration and healing. Also some exercise is really, really good. Exercise helps restore serotonin levels. And it doesn’t always take a lot of time. You could probably even do that with your child. And if they’re right there, you don’t have to worry about being vigilant about what they’re doing while you exercise.”

Remember:

  • You will experience heightened, sometimes extreme, stress while parenting a kid with mental illness.
  • Chronic stress can cause negative physical, mental, and emotional impact.
  • You can take steps to keep yourself healthy by limiting the effects of stress, if you are intentional.

Take care of yourselves and each other, friends,

Kirsten

Infusing Courage into the Soul-Weary

*Tina Yeager, who was gracious enough to be interviewed for this post and my future book, is the author of Beautiful Warrior: Finding Victory over the Lies Formed against You (click here to learn more) and the host of the podcast Flourish-meant. You can find her at TinaYeager.com.


A Home environment for mental health

Create a home that is conducive to mental wellness and recovery
Image by Krisztina Papp from Pixabay

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Maya Angelou

When my sons were little, after evening stories and a lullaby rendition of “Jesus Loves Me,” after one more drink of water or scurry to the bathroom, after the final kiss good night, I would close their bedroom door and pause. Laying my hand on the door, I would pray for them, thanking God they were tucked up safe under their covers, asking for them to become the men God created them to be.

Years later, I would go to bed after my “door prayer,” and wet my pillow, because Nicholas’s room had become a place where he was not always safe. The danger in his brain from bipolar depression sometimes made it the place of his greatest temptations, as he struggled there with dark thoughts running in a loop, insomnia, self-harm urges, and suicidal ideation.

I’ll never forget the ache I felt at the thought that my boy was not safe in our home. 

While we waited and prayed for treatment to do its work and help Nicholas stabilize, we tried to learn how to make our home a haven as much as possible. We wanted to provide an environment where wellness could increase and be nurtured. Nicholas’s condition was our motivation, but taking steps to make our home more conducive to mental health benefited all of us.

Tips from The website Taking Charge of Your Health and Wellbeing, from the University of Minnesota:

1. Go for comfort

We humans all have a strong need for safety and security and look for those attributes in our environment. We also look for physical comfort, such as an environment with the right temperature, and psychological comfort, where there is a mix of familiarity and stimulus.

2. Cut the clutter

Visual “noise” increases stress. A cluttered, dirty, or confusing environment can cause us to feel worried, sad, or helpless. 

3. Delight your senses

Choose colors that you find appealing for your walls and furniture. Place photos and objects with special meaning to you where you see them often.

4. Enhance the light

Natural light is associated with improved mood, enhanced morale, lower fatigue, and reduced eyestrain.

5. Bring nature in

Studies show that even a short contact with nature can significantly reduce stress, reduce anger and fear, and increase pleasant feelings. 

6. Reduce the roar

Be mindful about your personal noise production.

7. Don’t forget the garden

Research point to the many benefits of having a garden, and the closer it is to your house and the more you visit it, the more positive effect on stress. 

8. Start small

One way to start is to choose a room or corner that you can make into a healing space. If you already have a favorite place that you can use, wonderful. If it has good natural light and a view of the outdoors, even better. Then consider what activities you find most healing and adapt the space to them.”

Read more here:

https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/personal-environment

extra measures to keep our kids with mental illness safe when they are symptomatic.

With the advice of our kids’ therapists, we may need to consider:

1) Locking up “sharps” (knives, scissors, razors, some tools, rope, pencil sharpeners, etc.).

  • Recognize that locking up sharps is a deterrent and commitment to helping kids take time to choose better coping techniques or other help. It is never a guarantee that they will not hurt themselves. If they are determined, they will find a way, and that’s not because we didn’t try hard enough.
  • Rubbermaid and other companies sell sturdy cabinets that can be secured with a padlock.
  • Try to find a location that is accessible but out of the way for this cabinet.

2) Removing firearms from the home.

3) Moving all screens, phones, computers, iPods, etc. to communal areas of the home. 

4) Revamping kitchen and eating environments for kids who struggle with disordered eating.

5) In more extreme cases, installing cameras or locks to keep family members and their belongings protected. These should not be secret, but part of a holistic plan that includes everyone.

6) Going through the kid’s room with him or her. Tina Yeager, LMHC says:

“There’s a point where you’ll say to your child, ‘I love you so much. We’re going to go through your room, not because I don’t trust you, but because I love you. I want you to work with me and we’re going to find things that might be a temptation for you to cause yourself harm.’ Some kids, teenagers especially, are going to be very resistant, but just try to do it as reassuringly as possible.”

None of these tips will cure mental illness that needs medication and other treatment. But a home environment can support healing and recovery. Home can also help parents maintain our own wellness while caring for our kids. 

Remember that even when, despite our best efforts, the place we live feels chaotic and stressful, we still have a home in the arms of God. We can always run there for peace, healing, and a loving embrace.

The subtle temptation of special

“Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.””

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry.”

Luke 3:21-22, 4:1-2 NASB

“This is My Beloved Son.”

The Voice confirmed Jesus’ identity and commissioned His calling. Jesus came up from the waters of the Jordan river to that benediction and went away into the wilderness to begin the next stage of His life. 

I always thought when Jesus went into the wilderness, the forty days he spent fasting were a time of communion with the Father. Yes, I thought, the fasting was probably hard, especially at first, but that time of fellowship must have been so sweet. I thought the devil waited until that time was over, and Jesus was done praying and was hungry and tired before he made his move.

But a little detail jumped out at me in my last read of Luke 4. Jesus wasn’t sitting in some nice cave, talking to God. He was being “led about by the Spirit in the wilderness, being tempted by the devil.” (Luke 4:1b-2a) His retreat was less about His time with the Father and more about His time with the devil. Matthew tells us that He was led into the wilderness “to be tempted by the devil,” but this phrasing is ambiguous compared to the Luke account or that of Mark, who gives even more details of the forty days, saying, “He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and angels were ministering to Him.” (Mark 1:13)

“Being tempted.” I’m a word person, so it actually gives me a little thrill when the grammar matters so much. “Being tempted” means that it was a continual process, not a one-time event. In Jesus’ wilderness, the communion with His Father and the ministry of the angels mingled with the wearing, wearisome work of the enemy. Jesus was worn down by more than hunger when the big showdown occurred at the end of the forty days. He had been niggled and jabbed with temptation even as his physical strength ebbed. 

The devil’s attempt to derail Him coalesced into the final three temptations. These were the essence of what Satan thought would work on this Incarnation of God. He appealed to Jesus’ human desire for physical comfort: “Tell this stone to become bread.” He offered to fill the human craving for purpose and approval from people: “I will give you all this domain and its glory.” 

But the third temptation was the deepest cut. Satan enticed Him feel with His flesh His own specialness. 

“And he (the devil) led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘ HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU TO GUARD YOU,’ and, ‘ ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'” And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘ YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'””

Luke 4:9-12 NASB

If it were me, I would have longed to make that test. “I am so hungry, Father. These last weeks have been so hard. I just want to feel, really feel, the tangible reassurance of Your love and care for me. Remind me that I am precious in Your eyes. Show me the strength of our relationship.”

In fact, words like these have come out of my mouth. Sitting on a dirty kitchen floor in the middle of the night. Grieving, raging, desperate for relief for my wounded heart. “It hurts so much, God. My boy has been sick and suicidal for so long. You say You love me. Please, please show me. Fix it. Prove You love me.”

Fix it. Prove you love me. This temptation can wreck us.

Yes, this temptation can wreck us if we let it. It is the pull, not to do the wrong thing, but to believe a lie. To believe that circumstantial good is the proof of God’s love, when the worst evil in history, the cross of Christ, is the true proof. To believe that pain is the absence of God’s love, when actually we find our fellowship with Him in suffering. 

So how do we respond? The devil didn’t use this temptation on Jesus because it was outrageous. He knew it appealed to human logic and emotion. That’s why he uses it with us too. It is so very natural for us to want God to prove His love. Our defense is the same as Jesus’ answer: “It is written.”

“Now faith the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

“God demonstrated His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Friends, let’s cling to our faith in the love Christ demonstrated on the cross. Let’s press in hard, especially when we are tempted to seek the “proof” of having things go the way we want. It’s hard, I know. But God is love. It is written.

ClimbIng

Hiking is my newest adventure. Over the years, I have set physical challenges for myself. This is partly for health, partly for fun, but also an act of gratitude. My body is capable of stepping and clambering and climbing, and I am so thankful. I honor it when I use it, even slow and clumsy. I honor the God who created me. And the more I hike, the more sure my footing becomes, the more my breathing evens out, the more I stride with confidence and joy.

Little Rock Pond, Appalachian Trail, Vermont

As a kid I was an avid competitive swimmer. “Athlete” was a major component of my identity. But between the ages of 12 and 15, this was stripped away, first by rheumatoid arthritis and then by severe Crohns disease, which eventually required drastic surgery. My later teens and early twenties were marked by the sense that I was a half-invalid and that debilitating illness could return any time. I feared anything that caused physical discomfort. My joints would still flare up with hot inflammation from fatigue or overuse. I thought this was how my life would be — “fragile” was my new identity.

But then I had a baby. And I was awed at what this body that I kind of despised could do. I noticed afterward that I felt healthier. Flare-ups came less often and less severely. I walked, one mile at a time, then two, then three. I climbed a (small) mountain in the Adirondacks. I had another baby, after a difficult pregnancy. A year after my second son was born, I ran —ran — a 5K. The next year I did a triathlon, a sport I continued for 10 years. When my kids learned how to downhill ski, I did too. What a joy it was to rediscover the athlete who had been waiting in the recesses of my identity. 

I’ve never been particularly fast or skillful at any of these things, not like I was as a swimmer. When I finished in the top half of the field, I felt like I’d won. If I made it down the hill without stopping or falling, I felt like a champion. Sometimes I have been put out of commission for a couple weeks because of a flare-up. Recently I posted a picture of myself hiking a segment of the Appalachian Trail, the first time I have set foot on it. I’m pretty sure I am not capable of thru-hiking the AT, but to do segments of it is a triumph.

Okay, so what? Nice story, but so what?

The way of the sluggard is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.” (Proverbs 15:19)

What I’ve learned with my body applies to my spiritual life too. The word “sluggard” feels a bit harsh, especially for someone held back by illness. In my case, I had to face the fact that sometimes I cited illness to myself when really fear was the problem.  Fear could make me a sluggard, unwilling to push forward and put in the work. When I was doing triathlons, I made myself push past the fear so that I could actually listen to my body. Eventually, I found the limit when I trained for and completed a half-Ironman. I was proud of myself that I had finished, but acknowledged that the distance had been too much for my body, and backed off. But if I had listened to fear instead of my body, I would never have known that it was capable of the shorter distance races.

When my emotions and faith were tested in the fire of crisis with my son’s bipolar disorder, the same principles applied. I was capable of so much more strength, trust in God, and ability to fight than I ever dreamed. I also learned where my limit was, and when I needed to take action, in the form of counseling and medical intervention, to keep myself from breaking down. If I had listened to fear to determine my responses, I would never have found out how abundantly equipped I was in Christ. 

When the faithfulness required for caregiving looms like a mountain over us, it can seem easier not to climb. When the trail of practicing trust in God is a thicket in front of us, it feels safer not to venture in. If we follow the way of the sluggard, and stay unmoving at the foot of the climb or the edge of the thicket, the hedge of thorns grows around us, making everything harder, hurting us. The way of the sluggard, not moving, not putting in the monumental effort, is oh, so enticing. But practicing faithfulness begets more faithfulness. The path of the upright, the habits of work and trust, gets easier. This path leads us where we want to go.

Sowing in Tears

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. (S)he who goes to and fro weeping, carrying (her) bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing (her) sheaves with her.” (Psalm 126:5-6)

What is the weeping time  for you? What triggers it? Exhaustion? Angry, hurtful words and slammed doors? Long sleeves in summer with a stain of blood seeping through? Chronic stress? The not-knowing? A wrenching loss?

The weeping time comes to all humans. It’s all right have that painful season. Going through days with an ache in the chest and leaking eyes — this is part of life.

But what do we do with it, this period of grief and fragment? What I see in these verses is that during the weeping, we can sow seeds. Planting a seed is an act of faith. It says that this shriveled, dry thing, poked into soil, will transform. Faith accepts the weary task  that muddies hands and feet. Faith in the God of resurrection assures us that the labor of grief, there in the dirt soaked by the saline that drips off our faces, is valuable. Absence of weeping is not evidence of faith. Practicing faith during the weeping is what brings forth harvest.

During the weeping, sow seeds with faith in the Lord of the harvest.

My greatest weeping time came during the years when my son was ill and did not seem to show any improvement, and I daily feared for his life. I could not imagine a harvest of good, but God in His mercy led me to sow anyway. Some of my “seeds” that I planted in that mud:

Jesus loves me, this I know.

This I know, that God is for me. (Psalm 56:9b)

Hope in Christ does not disappoint. (Romans 5:5)

… and so many more.

Parched, misshapen little nuggets of faith, planted in rows made crooked by the fact that my eyes were clouded by tears. To me they didn’t look like they could become a field of harvest, but I believe in a God who made the world with His word and a Word Who makes heirs with His blood. 

He brings the harvest to me still.

I will always be held.

He will make all things new.

My life is hid with God in Christ.

Let’s fill our bags of seed full to the brim with seeds to plant during the weeping time.

Fabric of faithfulness

The fabric of faithfulness is woven with the threads of small choices. 

It is typical to pause mid-year and check on the goals one made when the year was newborn. My word for this year is “faithful.” I am a month late with my half-year reflection, so that should tell you something. It has been a struggle. I spend too much time on social media. I watch TV. My exercise clothes sit neatly folded, where they were laid out with good intentions. Leftover takeout shares refrigerator space with unprepared produce. My workspace is cluttered with the remnants of homeschooling, when my last kid graduated three years ago.

Believe it or not, even with all these failings, I can still see some success and progress. I have started the habit of 100 words before breakfast. Before I eat, I make myself write at least 100 words, about the length of a paragraph, on any project I’m working on. This post started with this pre-breakfast habit. It fires up my brain and helps me ease into writer mode. I achieve this most weekdays, but not all. And some days, my 100 words is all the writing I do.

I try to exercise at least five days per week, and my fitness is improving steadily. But just last week I received an email with the chirpy subject line “Your Fitbit report!” informing me I had accomplished 0 out 5 days of my goal. Still, I’m making progress, in general. Same with chipping away at the chaos in my home. My goal is to spend a few minutes every day moving forward against clutter beyond daily maintenance like dishes, laundry, and routine cleaning. It doesn’t always get done. But the other day I did empty out my homeschool planner and file the last quarterly reports from Nicholas’s senior year of high school, so there’s that.

The best of faithfulness happens first thing in the morning, when I grab a cup of coffee, my Bible and journal, and sit with Jesus. Since the morning in February 2015 when I came back to this habit and gave Him a chance to make something whole out of my shattered soul, I have missed only a handful of mornings. To be fair, this is not something I give Jesus; it is something He gives me. I can hardly take credit for my craving, any more than I can congratulate my lungs for wanting to breathe or my stomach for rumbling for food.

The Bible talks a lot more about God’s faithfulness than human’s. Our faithfulness always appears as a response to something God has done in us, like growing fruit, or entrusting us with talents. In our English Bibles, the Old Testament words for “faithful” are often translated as “true.” The Hebrew verb aman: to make firm, to support, and words derived from it (like emeth: firmness, continuance, stability, emunah: certainty, amen: sure, truly, amanah: a type of covenant) contains both concepts, inextricably intertwined. 

Faithful and true. This is the character of our God.

This year I am on the uncomfortable path of exploring my own faithfulness. Too often, I discover my unfaithfulness, the times I am not true to my priorities, my intentions, my values. How I spend, or waste, time reveals it. The little things, at the end of the day, determine if I feel satisfied, like I have purchased meaning and purpose and joy with the coinage of my time. In the tapestry of my life, what does that day’s inch-worth of stitches show?

The fabric of faithfulness is woven with the threads of small choices.

Beautiful Warrior Blog Tour: loneliness

I’ve been enjoying working my way through the book Beautiful Warrior: Finding Victory Over the Lies Formed Against You by Tina Yeager. I met Tina, a licensed mental health counselor, writer, and life coach a couple years ago, and she has shared her wisdom and advice generously with me as I seek to infuse courage into parents who need help fighting for faith when a kid struggles with mental illness. (Find out more about Tina here.) The book empowers women to find their true strength as beloved daughters of God, and to recognize and fight against myths and misconceptions that hold them back from becoming their God-created selves.

A year ago, I wrote a series of blog posts on the Painful Top Ten for parents whose kids have mental illness. Loneliness made the list, so when I got to the chapter on loneliness (Chapter 7 “Prevailing Over Loneliness) in Beautiful Warrior, I was eager to hear Tina’s wisdom and encouragement for the hurting women suffering from this heaviness in their souls. Although loneliness can and does affect people in all kinds of circumstances, women whose kids have mental illness can feels these wounds even more keenly. This chapter in particular made me stop and think through the issues through the lens of a mom who has a kid with bipolar. The questions and challenges helped me ponder the topic for myself.

Tina offers great insight about some of the factors that can exacerbate loneliness. Social media can be a great way to connect, but succumbing to comparison with social media posts can have the opposite effect. Pictures of happy families, graduations, vacations, weddings… all of these can feel like a slap when our family is anything but happy, and we don’t know if our kids will ever celebrate these milestones. When we do decide to connect, we can be beset by fears: with all my brokenness, do I have anything to offer? After experiencing ignorant and judgmental comments, can I trust other people if I let them close? Am I trying connect just to have my own needs met, or to develop genuine friendship?

Leading us to self-examination, Tina challenges us to get to the root of the fears keeping us from healthy connections. “Anchoring our relational identity in our relationship with Jesus untangles the distortions born in loneliness,” she writes. The starting point of our identity in Christ allows us to move forward with healthy relationships that combat our isolation. When we know who we are in Christ, we can trust God to fill what is empty, and to protect and mend our hearts. We can abandon our efforts to fill our loneliness by artificial means, and instead lead with love for others. In God’s upside-down kingdom economy, our lonely hearts are filled when we serve.

Most of all, we need to honor our needs for community with authenticity and the strength of our confidence as the beloved of Christ. If our only connections involve glimpsing the surface on social media, putting up facades to hide our insecurities, building walls to protect us from hurt, or trying to manipulate others into meeting our needs, we will never prevail over loneliness. Tina tells us, “A sprinkle of shared time fends off waves of loneliness.” I know it can be hard to find time to meet up with friends and nurture our relationships. Still, I urge you to make the effort. For some more discussion on the topic of loneliness, click here.

I recommend Tina’s book for women who want to live out of Christ’s strength and truth. You can buy the book on Amazon, or from New Hope Publishers, where through 7/20 you can get a 20% discount with the code WARRIOR20. If you read the book, would you leave review? It is the greatest help a reader can give an author. For more great content, visit the Beautiful Warrior Tribe Group on facebook, or go to Tina’s website, where you can read her blog and see videos on the topics in the book. Tina says, “Besides a daily latte, what keeps me going is my hope of inspiring someone like you.”

Praise in Macedonia

I have never traveled to the literal land of Macedonia. It probably has lovely places, interesting culture, kind people. But, no offense intended, figurative Macedonia is a rough place.

The apostle Paul describes it as a place where “our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within.” (II Corinthians 7:5 NASB) I’ve had little pieces of Macedonia in my life. I suspect we all have some Macedonia. Sleepless nights, crisis following crisis, frayed relationships, battles with worry. 

How about you? Have you visited this land?

My worst times of Macedonia came when my teenage son was suffering a deep depression. Therapy, medication, and hospitalizations took over our lives, but seemed to never touch the problem. After three years of “conflicts within, fears without” I had  stopped saying I was “hanging in there.” Instead, when people asked how I was, I answered, “God is hanging on to me.” 

I wasn’t trying to be cute. I knew if I was okay at all, it was because God was holding all my broken pieces in His loving hand. I praised with heavy hands raised, songs rendered silent by an aching tight throat, lips moving with the fervency of my desire to cling to Jesus. 

In Paul’s Macedonia time, he received a visitor bringing news: “But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more.”

(II Corinthians 7:5-7 NASB) Titus’s arrival didn’t rescue Paul. It didn’t solve his problems or keep his fears at bay. Paul just received news about people he loved. And he rejoiced.

Paul was looking for, and willing to receive, good from God. It didn’t come from a lifting of his afflictions, but from a comfort that ministered to his heart. He accepted that God didn’t change his circumstances, and still praised because God loved him.

In my Macedonia, when it seemed the crisis might never end, God ministered to my heart. He sent people to comfort me. News of friends came from far places to cheer me up. Small mercies loomed large. 

When one set of dire circumstances was exchanged for another, Paul wrote from prison: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your forbearing spirit be known to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:4-5) 

When I am in Macedonia, I live praise by making certain decisions:

  • I will rejoice in the Lord.
  • I will not let circumstances steal my joy.
  • I will enjoy the people, provisions, and fun He gives.
  • But I will hold these lightly while I cling to Jesus.

How do you keep praising in your figurative Macedonia?

5 Reasons I’m writing a Hand outstretched

This is how I spent snow days

1) I love history. I mean, a passionate life-long love. Learning about history has been my favorite free time activity since I was a little kid. These are notes from when I was 10:

Yes I need history books in my kitchen too

2) I love strong females, and action/adventure stories. Everything from Meg Murray (in the BOOK!), to Mary Lennox, to Jane Eyre, to Bones’ Temperance Brennan, to Princess Leia.

My son said, “Of course you own that.”


3) I have a passion for connecting dots in history. Studying overlapping timelines and cultures is revelatory to me. In school I studied Egyptians, then Greeks, then Romans. I had no concept that they interacted with each other or that one rose while another fell. Or that they traveled. So seeing which things were happening at the same time, or which things may have had cause/effect relationships changed my view of the human experience. In this context, the what-ifs can blossom and spread underground roots.

4) The time and place that my characters live, 1st century Britain, is both known and unknown. I can dive into the history, but also indulge in speculation.

5) Exploration of the human experience is what makes fiction compelling. I read or write a character in a setting that is unfamiliar, sit with her wounds and loves, and then ask, what do I know now about God? This process teaches me about trust and mercy and God’s transcendence in parts of my brain I don’t access any other way. 

Are you a lover of historical fiction?

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