Pray First

We’ve all been there. We’ve all been lost in situations where we were totally helpless, completely hopeless and utterly terrified. It might have been in the midst of a loved one’s mental health crisis. Or we may have been navigating a devastating financial loss. Perhaps it was in the midst of a heart-wrenching relationship struggle. No matter the circumstances, we have found ourselves desperate and desolate and thinking, “I guess all we can do is pray.” Continue reading

Reality of Mortality

Most caregivers are readily aware of their own mortality. Concerns about provision for our loved ones (who struggle with mental illness) after we ourselves are gone hover on the all-too-quickly-approaching horizon. Even when we are young-ish. Even when we are healthy. Even when we have ample resources for the future. When we are no longer able to be there for them, who will care for them like we do? Who will love them as we have? Who will understand them as we have learned to? Continue reading

I Spy

Do you remember the children’s game, “I Spy”? Someone identifies an object of a certain color in the room, discloses the color and everyone else guesses which object of that color the person has chosen. “I spy something red,” they may say. And so the others guess, “the chair,” “Susie’s scarf,” “the barn in the painting.” The amazing thing is that once the color is mentioned, all the items with that color start “popping out” and you see it everywhere—in subtle nuances and in showy splendor. Continue reading

Loving Lepers

“And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.” Mark‬ ‭1:40-42‬ ESV

The man’s name is unknown. He is just “leper” to us—unnamed and unclean. He approaches Jesus. Really? Aren’t lepers supposed to stay out of the way, unnoticed and unseen? What was there about Jesus that emboldened the leper to come to him? Continue reading

Five Truths for Caregivers

Philippians 4-8There are so many ways families dealing with mental illnesses can tie themselves up in knots. Misinformation, stigma, internal guilt, ignorance and denial all contribute to confusion, condemnation and hopelessness. Sometimes we feel like we are slogging in quicksand while hurriedly trying to find answers before we are swallowed alive. Other times we find ourselves paralyzed, unable to make decisions. And always we feel overwhelmed.

But even though supporting a loved one dealing with mental illness can feel like being caught up in whirlwind, there are a few tethers of truth we can hold on to as we weather the storms. Continue reading

Guest Blog: Locusts’ Aftermath

joel 2-25My husband, Nelson, asked if he could share a few thoughts with you. Nelson is often my “silent partner,” the one who speaks softly and thinks deeply. As I mention in the opening of Sparks of Redemptive Grace, we believe our lives “weren’t supposed to be this way”; but Nelson has taught me over and over again that we never misplace our faith when we anchor it in the One who prepares our path.

Locusts’ Aftermath      By Nelson Downing

Years ago, when our journey with mental illness began and we started to understand the severe, chronic and persistent nature of bipolar disorder, we also learned that it is common for a person to become “stuck” at the psychological and emotional maturity of their first episode. Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled, describes it this way: Continue reading

Single Spark of Hope

 

I’m the first one awake in my household most mornings. I grope my way in the darkness to resurrect myself with a cup of coffee as I curl up in my favorite chair. In the stillness and silence I turn on one soft lamp and then begin to read, pray and mentally prepare for the day. Gradually dawn streams into the room. Once again the light overcomes the darkness and I can see beyond my book to the rest of the room and down the hallway.

For so many years we were lost in our journey amid the darkness of mental illness. There were so many days when we couldn’t see where to turn or how to find our way. At times we felt the darkness would overcome us and we would be swallowed by the uncertainty of it all. Continue reading