Today is my Sunday to keep Landon. My husband and I take turns going to church with our other kids so we each get the chance to go. Landon’s behaviors make it very difficult for him to sit in a service for very long. Thanks to technology, we have the ability to watch online.
While I was watching/listening to the praise and worship part of the service today, I remembered a praise and worship artist I recently discovered while listening to Pandora the other day. I absolutely love music as it seems to touch parts of the soul in a way that nothing else can. Beautiful, truth-filled lyrics combined with mesmerizing sounds produce this undefinable almost magical quality to me. Some songs just seem to draw me into them and keep me there for awhile. Anyway, I love discovering new to me worship artists, so I wanted to share. I encourage you to check out Jervis Campbell. I originally heard his song Friend on Pandora, then heard Let You Love Me. After that, I was hooked. 😊 Then I searched on YouTube and listened to Eden and Hold Me Together.
Here are the lyrics to Eden. Hope your day is blessed and beautiful.
Eden Written by Jervis Campbell [verse] Born and raised in the darkness still my soul did sing out of a hope that brought tomorrow Of a love that covered me And the times I felt the farthest Still your love did cling Oh by faith my feet were grounded Couldn’t fight your gravity [chorus] You’re the bones inside my body You’re the fire that fills my lungs You’re the reason I’m still standing You’re the strength to carry on And I wanna know you like it were Eden Like its only the two of us Oh I wanna walk among your presence I want to feel your faultless love [verse] So take me out from the harbor And by your light you lead, oh I wanna go to your still waters I wanna sail your silver sea And I know this life it gets harder But as long as it’s you and me Oh I wanna go in full abandon I wanna give you everything [chorus] [bridge] I just want to feel it Your faultless love
“It’s always something, to know you’ve done the most you could. But, don’t leave off hoping, or it’s of no use doing anything. Hope, hope to the last!” ~Charles Dickens
“Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all… As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.”
~Gilbert Keith G. K. Chesterton
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
The Hope Plantis the title of my first book. Somehow I totally forget that I ever wrote it. I seriously forgot! Quite honestly, it’s probably because it’s about one of the hardest times in my life. I guess in some ways I’d rather forget. I’m glad I remembered today though.
So, to sum it up briefly, the way this book came about was through some pretty horrific health problems I faced during and after the birth of my third child. I intended to write a full length book about it, but life happened, Landon was diagnosed with autism, and the chaotic life has not stopped yet. (Yes this is an excuse about why I didn’t write the long version of the book, but it is definitely true.)
However, I have an uncle who really, really wanted me to write a book. So, as a 60th birthday present for him, I wrote a much shorter version of The Hope Plant using a site called StoryJumper. My daughter used StoryJumper for several years to write her stories and encouraged me to use it too.
I didn’t use any kind of formal structure or method to write this book, I just kinda wrote it. 😊 It is written like a children’s book in that the plant is personified, and it glosses over the health problems for the most part. The overall theme of hope and the simplicity of the plant is somewhat childlike. It does mention miscarriage/death in part of the story, so that part is more adult themed. (So I obviously did not have a clear picture of who the audience would be other than my uncle at the time I wrote this version.)
All of that to say, I think at times God wants us to look back and remember how far we’ve come. I felt like the Holy Spirit nudged me today reminding me of the book and said ”Look, remember this hard time, you got through this, and you’ll make it through the difficulties you are facing now. Trust me.” What better way to remember than reading a written reminder of how God used a plant to help me have hope.
I’m not sure if this link to my book will work. I am very technologically challenged at times. 😊 The link can be copied and pasted if it doesn’t work or if you’d like to look up The Hope Plant (Tiffany Vaughn Guy) at storyjumper.com. (A funny, little caveat…some of the books listed under my name on the site are books my daughter wrote several years ago. She has always been so creative and quite the little author. 😊)
Today I pray you have hope and never lose it, no matter how dark circumstances may be in your life. We are not promised an easy, problem-free life, and often we find ourselves in difficulties that seem to almost drown us. When the storm clears and the difficulty subsides, we can look back and see (sometimes even read) of how God helped us endure. Through it all, the most comforting, reassurance of all is that Jesus never lets go of us. We can always trust in that. He is our Hope.
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. ~Romans 15:4
I’ve gotten some good feedback recently about the mental health posts I’ve shared. I would absolutely love to write more on this topic, especially if it is relatable and encouraging. I’m reading, researching, and praying for guidance and wisdom on writing more about Christianity and mental health. There are some great resources already available on this topic which I’m reading through. I truly feel this topic needs to be addressed more and the stigma of mental illness lessened and eliminated.
On another note, I recently finished reading a book called Wrestling Hurricanes (Tiffany Haines). I definitely recommend it. It was about the author’s search for over a decade to find answers for her three children’s mysterious and severe health problems…which turned out to be PANS (Pediatric Acute Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome). Through nearly two decades of struggles, Tiffany explains how she learned the depth of the concept of the Glory of God in her life. It was a super good book!
Finally, I’m thinking about the possibility of creating a devotional book with some of my blog posts. I came up with five categories/chapters/sections for the blogs and a possible title for the book. Book or no book, it makes me happy to encourage others. We will see what happens…
Valentine’s Day may not be a happy day for everyone, but whether it is or not, you will never be more loved than you are right now. Earthly love may be temporary, but Heavenly love is eternal. The song Jireh (Elevation Worship and Maverick City Music) came to mind this morning, even though I had not heard it in awhile. It’s kinda long, but the lyrics are so good.
Happy Valentine’s Day. ❤️
I’ll never be more loved than I am right now Wasn’t holding You up So there’s nothing I can do to let You down It doesn’t take a trophy to make You proud I’ll never be more loved than I am right now, oh
Going through a storm but I won’t go down I hear Your voice Carried in the rhythm of the wind to call me out You would cross an ocean so I wouldn’t drown You’ve never been closer than You are right now (Let’s sing it loud y’all)
You are Jireh, You are enough Jireh, You are enough And I will be content in every circumstance You are Jireh, You are enough
Forever enough Always enough More than enough Forever enough Always enough More than enough
I don’t wanna forget how I feel right now On the mountaintop I can see so clear what it’s all about So stay by my side when the sun goes down Don’t wanna forget how I feel right now (Jireh)
Jireh, You are enough Jireh, You are enough (so I will be) I will be content in every circumstance Jireh, You are enough (He is always enough)
He’s forever enough Always enough Always more than enough He is, He is Forever enough Always enough (He’s everything, He’s always) More than enough (yeah)
I’m already loved I’m already chosen I know who I am I know what You’ve spoken I’m already loved More than I could imagine And that is enough, oh-oh
I’m already loved (I’m already loved) I’m already chosen (I’m already chosen) I know who I am (I know who I am) I know what You’ve spoken (I know what You’ve spoken) I’m already loved (I’m already loved) More than I could imagine (more than I could imagine) That is enough (that is enough) It’s enough for me, oh
I’m already loved (I’m already loved) I’m already chosen (I’m already chosen) I know who I am (I know who I am) I know, I know what You’ve spoken (I know what You’ve spoken) I’m already loved (I’m already loved) More than I could even fathom (more than I could imagine) And that is enough (and that is enough) Yes it is, it’s enough, it’s enough
And that is enough (that is enough) What His truth says is better than anything That is enough (that is enough) What He’s declared over us, it’s true That is enough (that is enough) That is enough (that is enough)
That is enough (that is enough) Jehovah, You are (that is enough) El Shaddai, You are (that is enough) When I have You, I have everything (that is enough) When I have Jesus, I have everything (that is enough) That is enough (that is enough)
‘Cause You are enough (You are enough) You’re my portion (You are enough) You’re my portion (You are enough) More than enough for me (You are enough) Say, You are enough (You are enough) So I am enough (so I am enough) You are enough (You are enough) So I am enough (so I am enough) Say, Jireh
Jireh, You are enough (Jireh) Jireh, You are enough (yes Your are) I will be content in every circumstance Jireh, You are enough, oh-ooh (You are)
If He dresses the lilies with beauty and splendor How much more will He clothe you? How much more will He clothe you? If He watched over every sparrow How much more does He love you? How much more does He love you?
If He dresses the lilies with beauty and splendor How much more will He clothe you? How much more will He clothe you? If He watched over every sparrow How much more does He love you? How much more does He love you?
If He dresses the lilies with beauty and splendor How much more will He clothe you? How much more will He clothe you? If He watched over every sparrow (don’t you worry!) How much more does He love you? (Our Father loves you) How much more does He love you? (How much more?)
How much more does He love you? (How much more?) How much more does He love you? (How much more?) How much more does He love you? (How much more?) How much more does He love you? (How much more?) How much more does He love you?
It’s more than you ask, think or imagine According to His power working in us It’s more than enough It’s more than you ask, think or imagine, oh yeah According to His power working in us It’s more than enough (let’s go y’all)
Okay It’s more than you ask, think or imagine (so according) According to His power, it’s working in us (how much more does He love you?) It’s more than enough (how much more? Sing!) More than you ask, think or imagine (so according) According to His power working in us (how much more does He love you?) It’s more than enough (one more time, sing!)
More than you ask, think or imagine According to His power working in us (how much more does He love you?) It’s more than enough (how much more?) It’s more than enough (how much more?) More than you know (more than enough) It’s more than enough (more than you know) More than you know (more)
Jireh, You are enough Jireh, You are enough (You’ve always been enough) And I will be content in every circumstance Jireh, You are enough
And I will be content (yes) in every circumstance Jireh, You are enough
Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.
So I have been extra, extra tired lately. Like zero energy. I’ve been sleeping well at night (for me…insomniac here) yet I’m still tired. I’m not sick or anything and have been taking vitamins, etc. Life is tough living with a child with a disability, plus 2 typical kids and busy schedules. I am not complaining….I love all of my babies. (Yes, Landon’s situation is draining, but my motto is just keep swimming.)
Anyway, Wednesday I was waiting in a long line in the pharmacy drive thru to pick up one of Landon’s medications. The line is regularly long and so my older son and I planned to do some homeschool work while waiting. We brought reading and math to do, and started in on the story first. The story was an excerpt from a true story and caught my attention right away. It was about a young girl in 1856 (Abbie Burgess) who was left with the task of taking care of her family, home, and twin lighthouse towers while her father was away getting supplies. While the father was away, a terrible storm occurred and Abbie had to ensure her ill mother and siblings all survived all while tending the lights in the lighthouses. The house flooded and food supplies ran very low and had to be rationed. The storm lasted for over two weeks and Abbie had a treacherous task in front of her, but she never lost hope and God provided the strength she needed until her father returned. When her dad arrived back to the lighthouse, he told her he knew everything would be alright with the family and the lighthouses because he had faith in his daughter to see things through the terrible storm.
Okay so this story totally touched me (and might have even made my eyes misty.) I could totally relate to her feelings of having a seemingly unending, daunting task to complete all while her strength and energy were being depleted by the storm. Yet, she persevered, kept the faith, and made it through. Just as her Father knew she would.
Later that afternoon, I was catching up on a daily devotion and I ran across the verse above from Deuteronomy that I’ve never really paid attention to before. I read it a couple of times, and I wasn’t sure what it meant so I looked it up. I found an excellent commentary from BibleHub called MacLaren’s Expositions explaining the verse:
There is a general correspondence between those blessings wherewith Moses blessed the tribes of Israel before his death, and the circumstances and territory of each tribe in the promised land. The portion of Asher, in whose blessing the words of our text occurs, was partly the rocky northern coast and partly the fertile lands stretching to the base of the Lebanon. In the inland part of their territory they cultivated large olive groves, the produce of which was trodden out in great rock-hewn cisterns. So the clause before my text is a benediction upon that industry-’let him dip his foot in oil.’ And then the metaphor naturally suggested by the mention of the foot is carried on into the next words, ‘Thy shoes shall be iron and brass,’ the tribe being located upon rocky sea-coast, having rough roads to travel, and so needing to be well shod. The substance, then, of that promise seems to be-strength adequate to, and unworn by, exercise; while the second clause, though not altogether plain, seems to put a somewhat similar idea in unmetaphorical shape. ‘As thy days, so shall thy strength be,’ probably means the promise of power that grows with growing years.
So Deuteronomy 33:25 is a blessing given (in the region of Asher) to have strong, protective footwear because the areas one would have to walk through would be hard, rocky, difficult. This really spoke to me when I read it. I can totally relate to a hard, rocky road in life at times. The remainder of the verse encouraged me even more, as I have been so tired lately. It is the promise of having strength for each day for all your days.
I love the ocean and I always have. Both the lighthouse story and the verse from Deuteronomy are such encouraging reminders to me. I don’t think it is a coincidence that two reminders about enduring strength and overcoming storms came to me that day. So I wanted to share it.
Friends, I pray God provides you with the encouragement, strength, and faith you need to persevere through whatever difficulties you are facing. I know at times we all have rough, rocky paths to walk. I pray your shoes are strong and protective and that your fortitude and faith are even stronger. God promises to see you through the storm, whatever that may be.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
I often feel very grateful to God that I have undergone fearful depression. I know the borders of despair and the horrible brink of that gulf of darkness into which my feet have almost gone. But hundreds of times I have been able to give a helpful grip to brethren and sisters who have come into that same condition, which grip I could never have given if I had not known their deep despondency.
A tendency to melancholy let it be observed, is a misfortune, not a fault.
Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.
My last point, but definitely not least, from my thoughts on mental health is the idea that if a person deals with a mental illness it is:
3. An indication that the individual has a spiritual problem or not enough faith.
I have actually heard sermons and been in church services which indicated that those who were depressed or suffered from anxiety had a “spirit” of depression or anxiety. To me this type of statement seems to indicate that the illness was somehow due to a weakened spiritual state of the person. That the person had a choice in allowing some type of mental illness in occurring. The implication being that the mental illness would not have happened if the person would have been praying enough, reading the Bible enough, attending church enough, thinking of others first, etc.
Of course this line of thinking is incredibly flawed! It’s like saying a person has a “spirit of cancer or a spirit of a broken leg.” This sounds absolutely ludicrous….because it is!
Now is it possible for a person with a mental illness to not know God or need to grow spiritually? Certainly, we are all made up of a body, soul, spirit and all three are interconnected and impact the others. However, there may also be room for spiritual growth in someone who is overweight, has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc., too! Just saying. So automatically putting those who have mental illnesses in a category of “not having enough faith,” not having a relationship with God, etc. is a false notion. Other types of illnesses are not usually labeled/categorized the way mental illnesses can be by some in the church.
Those within the church or religious groups are most certainly not called to make this type of judgment about others. At most, Christians are called to examine spiritual fruit in others. Do they show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? They honestly might! And maybe, just maybe, if the spiritual fruit isn’t there, it could be because the tree (or the person) needs to be nurtured and restored to health! Also, no one is perfect! We all have weaknesses God has to help us with. Just some thoughts here…
Some of the greatest Christian leaders of all time suffered from depression. Mother Teresa, C.S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, and Abraham Lincoln are a few that come to mind. Were those individuals less than others because they carried the burden of a mental illness? I believe they were even more amazing because of it. The determination, strength, perseverance, depth of character, profound ability to love and empathize with others are just a tip of the iceberg in what made these individuals incredible. They were awesome not just in spite of, but because of their illness. Their weakness became their strength. To be sick and still shine, to lead, to love like they did, makes them seem like superheroes to me.
And to question whether or not they were close to God or had enough faith seems ridiculous. The fruit of the spirit in their life shows that. The fact that they persevered through life’s ups and downs despite the difficulties, is nothing short of amazing! God was definitely at work in the life of each of these individuals.
I guess this wraps up the thoughts I wanted to share on mental health perceptions. This topic is definitely something I feel pretty passionately about. One reason is due to the number of suicides I have personally known about. It breaks my heart that those who were struggling did not for whatever reason have the emotional/psychological support that they needed. It makes me sad to think it may have been because of a stigma that they didn’t reach out for help or others didn’t reach out to the person struggling. It is surprising and awful to me to hear it said “we didn’t know they were going through anything” or “if only someone knew.”
The stigma of mental illness needs to change. Mental illness is most definitely not an implication of an individual’s lack of faith. If anything, illness of any kind should cause those of faith to reach out, to be of service, and to offer compassion and love. We are called to love others as Christ did.
The people with very hard problems are understood by God. He knows what wretched machines they are trying to drive. Some day he will fling them away and give those people new ones; then they may astonish everyone, for they learned their driving in a hard school. Some of the last will be first and some of the first will be last.
A friend shared the following quote recently. I know people who are much more preoccupied with appearances and material things than what really matters-having a heart that truly cares about others and loving God. I read a quote the other day that said to teach your children two things and you’d taught them well: to love God with all of their heart and to have a heart of compassion for others. The things that actually matter are loving God, loving others, and sharing hope with all. The following quote by Jenn Kish (along the same lines) resonated with me too.
On the day your life is required of you, it won’t matter if you kept a clean house.
No one will ask what shade of grey your walls were painted.
There will be no chatter about the type of car you drove or how many bedrooms were in your home.
What will matter to people, is how you made them feel.
Did you make them feel loved? Less alone? Important?
Did you point them to Jesus?
On the day your life is required of you it won’t matter if you have five dollars or five million dollars.
What will matter to you, is what you did with Jesus.
My prayer has always been that others feel loved and and significant when they are around me. Never “preached” to, judged by, or ignored. While no one is perfect, I hope others feel Jesus’ love from me. All the other stuff has never been or will ever be important.
I know I share a lot about autism and yes it is probably because we deal with it on a daily basis. I wanted to share the following, not because I feel sorry for myself or because we’re having a harder time than usual dealing with Landon’s disability. I wanted to share it because I think it’s a pretty profound and very good example of how it feels to live with a child with autism. I’ve honestly never heard such a good analogy. The analogy is “having a child with autism is like living in the movie Groundhog Day.”
Awhile back I began reading a book which was recommended to Murry and I called Wrestling With An Angel (Greg Lucas). It is an excellent book written by a police officer who has a severely disabled son. If you are interested in seeing what it really is like living with a child with a disability, this is a great book to read. (Note: This is not a feel good book and kinda heavy, but very authentic and you might need some Kleenex if you do read it.) I guess the Groundhog Day analogy is a bit more light-hearted but super good and true!
A family member sent us the Welcome to Holland Poem awhile back and Murry wrote the following after reading the poem. I thought it was so good!!! Raising a child with autism is almost identical to living in Groundhog Day each and every day. We are so thankful for the encouragement, prayers, help and support we have received along this journey of having a child with a disability.
The following is what Murry wrote:
If you haven’t read WELCOME TO HOLLAND by Emily Perl Kingsley, I encourage you to read the long unabridged version. It is really good.
However, I would liken our autism experience allegorically (not exactly of course) to Punxsutawney PA… specifically in the movie Groundhog Day. It is never a vacation… Holland or Italy doesn’t exist. You are there to work. Like in the movie you realize that you were meant to learn that it isn’t about you and your dreams… you were meant to help others.
Yet, in this world you learn that you will always be stuck in the same day even if you learn your lesson… whatever it is. Lol.. Knowing you will never see Holland or Italy… you are always in Punxsutawney.
There are a lot of good things. You learn to play piano (or musical chairs), take CPR (literally for your child’s sake), save other people falling from trees (or autism panic and in other dark places)… hoping that you will do your part leading people to Heaven than you otherwise would.
Also there are great people in Punxsutawney that are loving and helpful. But most of those people don’t know they are in Groundhog Day. Only those who are also living with a child with autism.
If you know of someone who needs encouragement or someone to talk to please call a Christian who has a child with autism. We have had those people in our lives. They are always encouraging, always finding God in everything, and NOT always having the all answers… but knowing that He does.
So I couldn’t wait until February to change the decorations. 😊 I needed to tangibly “see the love.” My boys are already pulling off some of the hearts…so there may be a part 2 of the Valentine Tree. Also, I have not forgotten about Part 3 of Mental Health Perceptions and will hopefully finish writing that soon. Blessings to you today and every day.
Life is moving so fast it’s hard to keep up lately. I’m so thankful that we are over all the sickness at our house, but ready or not life is at full throttle now. With co-op/homeschool classes for the oldest child, homeschool for the middle one, and the youngest in public school, (not to mention 2 dogs, the husband’s busy work schedule, and basic day to day stuff) it can be a wild ride!
Unfortunately, lately Landon (our child with autism), has had some setbacks. His aggression at school is ramping up despite taking a combination of five different medications. It has taken us literally years and suffering through multiple trial and error attempts to get the right combination of meds that help him the most. Unfortunately, his symptoms and behaviors are curbed only for a short time before he grows, his body becomes accustomed to the meds, and things have to be tweaked or changed completely.
I really can’t adequately describe the helpless feeling I have when I get a note home about him hitting other students and teachers, having multiple crying spells, not staying dressed due to his sensory issues, etc. I don’t know what to do other than reach out to his doctor, make her aware of the situation and pray. At home he is not necessarily aggressive, but extremely hyperactive. To me, it seems the hyperactivity and sensory issues are what cause him to hit, etc., it isn’t necessarily anger. Those factors combined with the fact that he is primarily non-verbal contribute to his difficult behaviors….and boy are they seriously difficult!
I don’t remember what it feels like not to be bone tired. I wake up tired, push through the day tired, and go to bed exhausted. Despite all of this, I like to find the good in each day and consciously remind myself that God sees it all and is in control.
Friend, if you are struggling with an extremely hard situation, please know that you are not alone in your circumstances whatever they may be. Let this be your reminder that God sees you and is with you. He is reaching down to you and is aware of everything going on in your life. He has the hairs on your head numbered and promises to work all things for your good. The setbacks aren’t forever even if it feels that way. I truly believe God has a plan and purpose for everything in life. However, I know how hard it can be to find the positive parts of life when it feels like wave after wave of negatives come crashing in. So today, I chose to think about some positives instead of worrying about the not so good aspects. Here are a few pics of “good” from the last few days. What are the positive snapshots from your life lately?