God With Us

I have five grandchildren. Three live about 30 minutes away while the other two live with their parents in the apartment on the far side of my kitchen.

Other friends have grands who live hundreds or even thousands of miles away. To develop close relationships with their little ones, they have established very specific and deliberate ways of staying in touch, like regular Skype calls or recording readings of favorite children’s books. Those strategies are somewhat effective, but all ache for hugs and lap time.

On the other hand, my little darlings burst into my space off and on all day long. Their raucous laughter echoes through the house. Periodically I hear the pads of their little feet thundering down the hallway. And when their precious hearts are broken, sobs reach my ears instantly. 

Our relationship is immediate and always. We never have to find the right time zone or settle for blown kisses. This precious intimacy is possible because I am WITH them. 

When the angels declared to Joseph in a dream that “‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭1:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬), they were announcing that the God of heaven and earth would never again be far off. He would make His home among them and be WITH them.

Caring for our loved ones who live with mental illness can be a lonely and isolating journey. This Christmas let us rejoice in the truth that we are never alone, that God is always near. Let us celebrate the miracle of “Immanuel”—God WITH us.

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Great AND Good

Sometimes it seems there is just little to be thankful for. When our loved ones living with mental health difficulties are going through a rough episode, when a change in treatment has caused an upheaval, when we run out of ideas on where to find help next, it’s often impossible to be grateful.

That’s when we turn our attention from our circumstances and look at our God who is great and our God who is good. 

Perhaps, like me, that was the first prayer you learned: “God is great and God is good and so we thank him for our food.” So much faith and theology are packed in those few words! Think about it: If God were great (mighty, powerful, omniscient) but not good (loving, kind, generous) how could we ever muster the nerve to trust Him? On the other hand, if He were good but not great, how could He actually do anything to address our needs?

But our God is both great and good, which takes us to the natural response captured in our childhood prayer: God is great and God is good, so (therefore, and because He is) we THANK Him. Full stop. Yes, we can thank Him for food and for other stuff, but how much deeper is the gratitude that thanks Him for who He is!

When we can’t give thanks for the things happening in our lives, we give thanks to the God who shows His greatness and goodness in our lives.

At our Thanksgiving meals this year, let’s not stop with just thanks for our food. 

Let’s bring praises to God for:

  • His unfailing love. It’s the kind of love that isn’t capricious or conditional. Instead it is love that never gives up, never fails and is always present.
  • His unwavering faithfulness. The God who has answered prayers in the past is the same God who will attend to your needs now.
  • His almighty power. God can accomplish all He desires to do.
  • His gracious forgiveness. It’s more than accepting the fact of our failures; through Christ, His forgiveness restores and redeems.
  • His ever-present comfort. This is our God who extends new mercies every new day.
  • His surrounding peace. It is always there; we just need to walk in it.

The holidays may bring upheaval for our loved ones and for us. Our circumstances may be dismal. But as we adopt a posture of thanks for our great and good God, we can find hope and peace, and maybe even a slice of joy.

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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