This is a deeply personal piece. I wish it weren’t. I wish I had skipped over these genes in the gene pool. I wish mental health struggles didn’t ravage families, shooting out shrapnel like loaded cannons to anyone and everything around them trying to help.
And yet—they do.
My mental health journey started before we had children. Round One for me was setting right in my head what my heart mislearned along the way for a lot of reasons. At age 27, I was simply trying to make sense of adulthood and childhood, and mesh it all together. I needed to pull out the good I learned and discard the rest, like anyone else does at that age. That time, a therapist was helpful, but chemically I remained untreated.
Round Two was third-child-post-partum. It was short-lived, and I was fairly well supported by friends and my husband. It was a brief re-dip in a dark well. I had a lot to live for. My hormones simply were not cooperating.
Round Three almost killed me. We were on a tiny South Pacific island with three young children for two years. I spent my evenings biking around looking for a place to change my sense of desperate.
(Let me emphasize that I still had a lot to live for then. Three amazing, beautiful, spunky children and a loving husband. That had not changed.)
I was all the way around the world from all that I knew, living a fish-bowl military base, ex-pat lifestyle in a beautiful setting—only Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: ADD, ADHD, anxiety, chemical imbalance, childhood depression, christ in you, Colossians 1:27, coping mechanisms, depression, Hebrews 4:15, high priest, high priest who sympathizes, hope of glory, Jesus, mental health, not just on sundays, obedient to the point of death, parenting mental health, psychopharmacology, psychotherapy, relationship with God, social anxiety, social isolation, suicidal, suicidal ideation, teens and anxiety, teens and depression, therapist
Our oldest son graduates high school, along with close to 400 classmates. Maybe even in the rain. Outside. Oh, joy! It seems to culminate in this one night, but truthfully, the past few weeks have been nonstop events on our calendar: senior awards, senior scholarships, band banquet, language awards, induction ceremony, baccalaureate, etc. It was so hectic I found myself rescheduling medical appointments multiple times on the day of some of these events. Despite syncing Apple Calendar and setting a timer on my phone, I could not keep it all straight. That panicky feeling kept creeping in insisting that I was going to miss something important.
And then there it was: That maroon and white tassel with 2018 dangling off the end of it. And I completely flashed back to 1990. Rainy day just the same, almost three decades earlier. All the nerves of exiting one chapter and entering another one rattling around like a live wire inside me.
Only this time, in 2018, it was my firstborn.
This day was the end of many things, yes, but it was the beginning of a lifetime of choices, decisions, dreams, achieving, and sometimes falling, sometimes failing.
What? Why so negative? Not the most inspiring graduation message, Bonnie!
Oh, but it is! Because the road ahead Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: class of 2018, crossroads, crown of righeousness, faith, finished the race, following God's lead, God's purposes, good and faithful servant, graduate, graduation, I am with you always, joy of your master, letting God lead, listening to God, mortarboard, personal growth, relationship with God, run the race, tassel, to the end of the age, walking with God, well done
Two years ago, I thought I could pick up some easy address-and-sticker valentines for my last elementary school child, Little Man, to bring in for 19 other happy third graders. Then he casually mentioned finding extra construction paper, and I thought: “Oh, yey! He’s making them this year!”
Settling into the lovely thought of slapping some supplies and the class list on the table, my lofty dreams of a Sunday afternoon nap were abruptly interrupted with this declaration:
“Let’s make valentines about bats! We can give them each a fact they might not know.”
Okay, yeah, my enthusiasm completely missing, I felt that Mother Guilt twang—you know, the one that comes along and reminds you there aren’t as many photos on the walls of Child Number 3. Before my mouth fully checked in with my mind, I agreed to do this, and several bat web sites later, we had more than enough encyclopedic information to delight any budding chiropterologist. Really, National Geographic Kids should be calling me any time now offering me a regular contributor gig [smile].
I started thinking about the great lengths Little Man and I went to in order to best represent his interests to the recipients and how we found the right pictures, communicated mild humor, chose words that sounded like something he would say, and offered some education along the way.
It was important to Little Man to represent himself honestly. He didn’t want to convey just any message. He wanted to remain true to himself.
When his classmates open that valentine, many of them will not even need to turn it over to see its sender. It will look and read so much like Little Man, that anyone who truly knows him, or is his daily companion, will recognize the author’s voice.
Valentine’s Day may be a loaded occasion for you. Maybe you have Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: bats, bride of Christ, chiropterologist, For God so loved the world, God's heart, God's heartbeat, God's love, God's Valentine, God's word, His beloved, In the beginning was the Word, John 1, John 3:16, knowing the author, painful Valentine's Day, relationship with God, the Author's voice, Valentine, Valentine's Day
I look at my French bulletin board hanging over my kitchen table, filled with Christmas card photos from many years and places we have lived. Along with graduations, births, weddings, and celebrations, I see broken hearts, unraveled marriages, cancer, loss, abandonment, children with developmental struggles, addiction, etc.
But you know what else I see?
Jesus. The grace of Christ in so many lives. The calling out to Him from the depths of messy life—and the answering.
It was about nine years ago that I sat on a cement bench on a small island beach in the South Pacific. It was night, and I was squeaking out a desperate prayer in a tiny voice. The weight inside my heart was holding down so much pain that if it had bubbled up full force, it would surely have broken the sound barrier. Instead, like the slow leak of a balloon, only low-energy pleas came out. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: anxiety, as the deer pants, broken hearts, communion with God, cry out to God, deep calls to deep, depression, desperate cry, devastation, grace of Christ, heart's cry, hope in God, in the deep, mourning, presence of God, psalm 42, Psalm 42:7, relationship with God, sons of Korah, steadfast love, suicidal thoughts, tears have been my food, where is God, why are you downcast
I could feel his presence as I entered each room. He had only been gone one year; past conversations and memories bopped around in my mind—random flashes of the past with no clear timeline. Dad making himself known in my heart and thoughts. His love was tangible. The house was pregnant with his solid faith and unconditional love. We missed him terribly, but we walked the legacy he set in place before us. With each step of remembrance, I felt his nod of approval, his pleasure.
It was the first time in his home since he had passed. I was so relieved his blue recliner chair was there, the leather worn in places where his hands used to push forward to fold out for a nap. The seat of it revealed the wear of a consistent presence like the dent in a blanket left by a warm dog after it gets up and stretches.
During some of our last visits, an external bladder pouch sat next to him on the floor, taking the role his cancer-ridden organ used to play. Sweet as he was, he used to ask if it would upset my children to see it. I was honestly glad they did. They remember the battle he fought so courageously and the toll it took. His robe would hang slightly open where the tube delivered its contents to the pouch on the floor. None of us minded. At the time, we were so grateful he was still with us.
I can’t look at that chair without seeing the red-white tufts of hair poking out over its high back or the freckled, hairy, lanky arms sitting on the armrests. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 1 John 4:16, abides in love, abiding in God, death, Deuteronomy 31:8, Dwelling place of God, exodus 33:14, Fullness of joy, God is love, God is near, God with us, God's presence, grief, i will give you rest, immanuel, Lord goes before you, loss, mourning, presence of God, Psalme 23:4, relationship with God, Revelation 21:3, valley of the shadow of death
It was such a relief to be wheeled into a private room (one of the benefits of an expected flu diagnosis) after a week of high fevers, chills, night sweats, vomiting, and massive body pain. God even delighted me with a feisty, redheaded nurse who got what little humor I had left in the humility of fluids coming out of me in all the wrong ways.
Earlier that day I had sought refuge at the clinic in town, only to find out I had been taking too much Extra Strength Tylenol for a few days. In my mind, you manage the flu by taking Tylenol around the clock as needed. I didn’t stop to realize Extra Strength Tylenol had different rules. Oops.
The visit there was an epic failure. The doctor spent more time berating me for my accidental overdose (later determined to not have damaged my liver after all) and treating me as if I had a pain med addiction than she did listening to my symptoms. Because none of my symptoms followed the logical order of the flu, she said everything was inconclusive and sent me home with strong orders not to take any pain meds for many days. Um, okay. Thanks for nothing. No chest x-rays ordered—just some blood work to make sure I shouldn’t be entered into a Tylenol recovery program STAT.
You see, she had tunnel vision. She was maybe six months out of med school with the script on her diploma just now drying. I am fairly patient with the learning curve, but she didn’t do her job completely that day.
As my husband can attest, I took my little plastic stomach acid depository in the car with me and contributed quite a bit to it all the way home uphill, in his very jerky stick shift car. I was in so much pain, it was all I could do. I threw fluids down my throat regularly and laid down again in agony, so defeated after a week of suffering and no answers, only to discover that without my friend Tylenol, my fever went to high levels; I was no longer able to manage my body temperature. I frantically called my husband back from dance and basketball drop-offs to collect the kids and get me to the emergency room. Operation Stop the Tylenol was not successful. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: country divided, Ephesians 2:14, God is our peace, hate, he himself is our peace, hostility, isaiah 26:3, Jesus, negativity, peace in troubled times, perfect peace, pneumonia, political angst, political conversations, political emotions, politics, relationship with God, sin, the remedy to sin, ungodly anger
Sitting on some uncomfortable bleachers, wishing I had brought some kind of back support, I watched my youngest son swim laps with his class in Lawrence, MA, this past week. He has received swim instruction here for seven years. I don’t even have to tell them he has special needs because they are so good with every child. I’m convinced the program manager can see directly into the heart and inner workings of each child within the first few minutes. She has an amazing ability to meet each child where his or her fears are and identify strengths and weaknesses. She knows what is holding them back.
As I sat there in this rare moment observing Little Man at one of his happiest places—water—I wondered if I could get away with a few glances here and there to my Kindle. I thought I was being so sly, looking up whenever I anticipated it was his turn to work on a skill in a group of five children. My timing was almost perfect.
Lifting my eyes after reading a half-page, I noticed something I wasn’t expecting this time around: Even at 10 years old, becoming more independent by the minute, my Little Man
still looks for me!
After every accomplishment, he wanted to emerge from the water to meet my eyes. He counted on my silent nod, my approving smile—even my admiration.
And I asked myself this question: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: call upon his name, eternity, eternity in our heart, eyes of the LORD, eyes of the Lord run to and fro, gentle and lowly in heart, God hears us, God sees, God's approval, heart of God, looking up, relationship with God, rely on the LORD, rest for your souls, seeking approval, take my yoke
The chemo was wreaking havoc on his body. He wasn’t able to eat and was weakened to exhaustion. Where do we go from here? We may be killing cancer cells, but at what personal cost?
It’s not easy to hear this from almost seven driving hours away. If I could teleport myself directly to Pennsylvania for these conversations, I surely would, but I was digesting my latest email update from my mother about my father, and God gave me this Scripture:
Psalm 61:3, ESV, King David speaking
For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.
I felt strongly that we could substitute the word “enemy” with “cancer” because God had been sustaining my father on and off since 1981 through six different battles with this persistent foe. It had once again rented my father’s body and officially moved in. An unwanted tenant, it was taking more than major surgery to evict it, and at this point, we needed more than the words of doctors to sustain us.
We needed a fortress. We needed to seek a safe place to cry out.
Every fortress where we huddle in and regroup must have a tower, a high place that shows itself strong and imposing on the horizon— Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: cancer, chemo, fortress, king david, my refuge, name of the Lord, place of safety, Psalm 61:3, refuge, relationship with God, safe place, speak life, Spurgeon, strength, strong tower, strong tower against the enemy, sustains, take cover, wisdom from kings, word of God, word of God is living
I was having the most peaceful, productive, encouraging day. I had just finished up a videoconference with a professional collaborating with me for a special needs inclusion ministry we were trying to build within our church. After an hour and a half of bouncing ideas around with an expert I greatly admire in the field, I drew in a deep breath, composed an email to the ministry leaders at my church, and made my lunch.
I was jazzed. Passions of mine were not only being picked back up again, but they were riding the surf into deeper waters. This is the stuff I live for! I was being equipped to do it better. That was invigorating!
Then in came Kids One and Two.
Phew, no teen angst. Happy days. They shared a few thoughts and even made me laugh. A complaint or two was offered about it being Thursday and the snacks were running out (wonder how that happens?). Everyone moved on to showers, dressing for karate and dance, and homework. If you interact with any teenagers, you know that you have to prepare yourself for anything coming at you. Kids-metamorphosing-into-adults are a complex breed. I love them but never know which persona will walk through the door.
Ah. Another few moments to ponder the peace.
And then Bus Number 3 pulled up. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 1 Peter 5:6, angst, anxiety, casting our cares, emotional health, emotional regulation, emotional triggers, He cares for you, humble yourselves, peace, peace of God, praying, relationship with God, school stress, stress, talking to God, worries
I had just finished reminding my children to be careful with my cousin’s beagle Holly. She has some spinal issues that give her pain once in a while. We’re used to being rough and tumble with our ornery Shih Tzus, but around Holly, we aim for being more delicate.
Imagine my surprise when, outside, Holly suddenly took off in a beagle dash across the side yard, giving chase like there’s no tomorrow.
I got the distinct feeling she was giving us her best, showing us what she could do, impressing us.
How does a fragile dog suddenly pick herself up and run like a strong, youthful puppy?
Motivation. Who is she running for?
Where does she get the sudden strength when she’s otherwise a bit weak?
That’s an interesting question, isn’t it?
How about you? Who are you running for?
What motivates you to be your very best?
Like Holly, I’ve been a bit Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: beagle, Chariots of Fire, complacency, draw strength, energy boost, enlarge my heart, Eric Liddell, faith in God, finished the race, fought the good fight, He renews us, kept the faith, King Solomon, lack of faith, motivation, paths of uprightness, Psalm 119_32, relationship with God, renewed strength, run and not be weary, run the race, training, way of wisdom, weariness, When I run I feel His pleasure, wings like eagles, you will not stumble