Friday, April 7, 2017

The joy of a church family

written January 2015

     I didn't go to church often as a kid. We moved a lot too so I never knew what it was like to have a church family. I heard the saying at times from an uncle who influenced my faith in God early on but I didn't understand the meaning of church family.

                I married my husband when I was just 18. Our second date was to church. At the time his church was very small & I soon began to recognize church members. I got to know them & became casual friends with them. The church was over an hour away so my husband & I later joined another church nearby. I soon fell in love with the church members & began to understand the real meaning of a church.
                As I attended women’s Bible studies & later parenting classes with other pregnant women I got to know these families more. We prayed together, joked together & over 6yrs our kids grew up together. Sadly some families moved away, the church split up and we grew away from church as my family grew.
                I felt the emptiness without a church or church family but life kept me busy with 3 young kids & homeschooling. I also started to have issues with chronic pain & illness. We tried a few different churches but none of them clicked with us. Life passed by & my children grew.

                About 4 1/2yrs ago my youngest two children got baptized at my in-law’s church. The same small church had now grown into a huge church. While I watched my two children being baptized I knew we had to find a church. I prayed that night for God to lead us to a church. I prayed in detail about the things we were looking for in a church. Key things were it was close by, small, had a great youth program & so on. The following morning I called my husband, he leaves for work very early & I like to call him eat morning to touch base. He told me our van had broken down that morning while he was voting for an election. I asked him where it broke down & he said "at a church." I half listened then as he told me he had to walk home.  I interrupted him knowing God had answered my prayer. I asked him the name of the church & started looking it up online as he spoke about our broken down van, I was praising God for answering my prayer to quickly. Long story short we went to church that Sunday. It was everything I had prayed for & I knew without a doubt that was where God wanted us to be.

                The moment we started attending our new church I knew the true meaning of church family. We had two women from the church bring us dessert after our second visit to church. We had church members we didn't know greeting us like long lost family. We had offers for rides home as our van kept breaking down at church & only church. We joke that God didn't want us to leave church. I was over whelmed with the love & acceptance we received from our new church family.
                Church family to me means that they are our brothers & sisters in Christ. I love our church members as much as I do my own family. I have heard that stated before & this love is love from God. It is over flowing from me. I really can't describe it but what still astonishes me is that my church family feels the same way. The fact that we have members in our church who love me is still amazing to me. I've fought low self esteem most of my life & it still amazes me when I know someone cares for me.

                I hope & pray that everyone can feel this way about their church & their church family. I think everyone should feel this way. I saw a friend of mine on Facebook speak with love about her church family & I was thrilled. I told her "The love is amazing isn't it?" She replied "I know. It is."
                The love of God should over flow into church members. I think that is one of many God's gifts to us all. We need to use that love & express that love. I admit that this is something I still struggle with at times but often I just can't help it. I find myself telling church members on Facebook that I love them & I do. I really do love this person like family. It is still odd for me to see me say something like that.

                God has torn down the walls I use to keep around my heart. The love of God is so powerful. I pray you feel this same way about your church & your church family.  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

How to talk to your kids about mental illness & suicide

written in January 2015 & published in Molly Green's sample magazine


       Suicide is a tough to talk about for many reasons. I will admit for a long time I never thought of bringing up the topic to my kids. Most adults do not understand suicide so how can you talk to your kids about something you don't understand. I'm sure some people feel it is inappropriate to even think about talking to your child about such a thing. But, the sad fact is troubled children are choosing to commit suicide. Suicide among children and teens is being discussed in the media more than ever. I think most parents would agree they would rather their child learn about sensitive topics at home than on the playground.
                Not many people understand the pain someone feels when they decide to end their life. It is even harder to understand that pain in a child or teen. I understand because as a teenager I tried to end my life more than once. I was about 13 when I started to think about death. I know how it feels to feel that you can talk to no one. I understand the feeling of being lost & alone even when you have a loving family surrounding you.  I never want my kids to feel this way. I know that no parent wishes this pain on a child.

                So how does a parent talk their child about suicide? Where do you start? What do you say & what don't you say? I'm far from an expert but as a parent I have tried to be open & honest with my children even when it comes to something as serious as suicide. I hope my suggestions can be a helpful starting point for your family. 
                1.  What exactly is suicide? How do you explain it? - Suicide is the act of choosing to end one’s life.  I approached this subject with my kids when we had something happen with a family member. I kept the details short & to the point. I explained how this someone felt very sad & wanted to die. I told them that we didn't know exactly what was going on but they are now in a safe place getting help. 

                Some children may accept brief answers like I gave my children but other children may feel the need to ask more questions. It is ok to say that you do not know the answer or understand why.

                Some children may ask how someone kills themselves. My children did ask this at one time and I was honest. My children were about 9, 11 & 13 when we had this discussion so I we talked about the different way people can die from natural causes & accidents. I then told them that sometimes someone who wants to die will take medication they don't need which can make them very sick and they die. Or other times someone may use something else to help them die like a gun or knife. I felt it was important to answer their questions honestly.

                When explaining why someone chooses to end their life it is important to discuss mental illness especially if mental illness runs in the family. I explained mental illness to my kids as an illness in the brain. I told them that "Sometimes a person’s brain can cause them to feel sad all the time & their thoughts get mixed up." We talked about mental illness such as depression and feeling sad all the time. I told them that with depression it is more than just feeling sad for a moment and able to get over it quickly. I told them depression is like a rain cloud that hangs over you all the time and you can’t get rid of it. We talked about how often depression is very treatable & it is rare that medication doesn't help. I think it is up to the parent on how far to touch on the subject. Let your child's lead you too. 


                2. Books on mental illness, death & suicide - I feel that if you educate yourself & your children on mental illness you are taking steps in helping prevent suicide. There are many great books out there about depression in parents & children.
I was in therapy for depression on & off from the time I was about 15 to my late 20s. At one point when my oldest was 6 & she was curious about my visits to talk to a doctor, so my therapist allowed her to come to a session. My therapist had a book about a little girl whose mom was depressed. This really helped my daughter understand that my sadness was not due to her and that sometimes mommy can just feel sad. I do not remember the name of the book we read but there are many great books out there to help you discuss these topics with your kids. 

Books- (these links are affiliate links to Amazon)                                                    
When My MommyCries: A Story To Help Families Cope With Sadness by Crystal Godfrey - This is book about a little girl whose mother is depressed.
Hot Stuff to Help Kids Cheer Up: the Depression andSelf-Esteem Workbook by Jerry Wilde - This book gives kids healthy ways to handle depression.
Sometimes I get sad by Jane Ratcliffe : A book about a little girl fighting depression
Bart Speaks Out About Suicide by Jonathan P Goldman : Written for young kids about a dog whose owner committed suicide

3. Who are the trusted adults in your child's life? - I think the final step in talking about suicide & mental illness is making sure your kids have someone they can talk to. Those who commit suicide often feel alone & unheard. Kids need trusting adults in their life. These are adults your child can go to when they feel they can't go to you. I know that when I was a troubled teenager I felt there was no one at all I could trust. I felt so alone. I didn't want to tell my parents how I felt. Since we moved a lot I didn’t have any family around me and I didn’t have a lot of friends so I couldn’t speak to their parents either. We didn’t attend church. I felt very alone and lost.

So think of a few people you trust. Who would you want your child to approach if they couldn't come to you? Ask your child who they would go to if they couldn't talk to you? I'd say something like "Joy's mom is very nice isn't she? You know if you ever feel you can't talk to me about something you can talk to her." I think giving your child permission to talk to someone other you gives them a lot of freedom and trust. 

                I hope that suicide never touches your family. I hope that being able to be open & talk about this with your children it will provide a safety net for them if they ever have thoughts about suicide. Maybe your discussions will one day guide your child to help a friend who has thoughts of suicide. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Home

Written September 2014

"Home is the nicest word there is."  This is my favorite quote from Laura Ingalls Wilder. But, at times I wonder if other people feel the same way I do about home. I've always been a stay at home wife, mom & a homeschooling parent. I'm often at home. I'm happy at home. I enjoy being around my children & as far as I know they enjoy me too, that is depending on their moods. I have three teenagers
                I've worked hard to create a home environment that is comfortable. I'm not good at decorating, most of our house has white walls, cluttered rooms & has a good lived in look. When I visit my friends' homes, their home feel so cozy, look clean & often decorated nicely with country charm. I use to feel that since my home didn't look like a photo out of the magazine, then I wasn't a good homemaker. I am not a natural homemaker at all & clean to me at times can be as long as you see the floor we are ok. I once joked to my husband, "Cleaning with kids in the home is like shoveling snow during a blizzard." He didn't miss a beat & replied "But, sometimes you have to get the car out of the drive way." I didn't think it was very funny at the time.
                
 Over the past 20yrs of being a stay at home wife & mom, I've learned that a home is not the way your home looks, it helps to have a nice looking home, but that is not the point when creating a home.
                 
 So what is the point? I think it has to do with the feeling inside the home, the family that lives there & the way people feel when they visit. Is your husband happy to come home after a long day of work? Do your kids happily rush into the house glad to be back home after a vacation? Do your friends feel welcomed?
                 
     As I was writing this my 13yr old son asked me what I was writing about & after I told him I think he summed it up very well. He said "We represent our home."
                
     It took me a long time to learn this. I've noticed recently some of my kids' friends seem to enjoy our home. My oldest is 18 & her best friend who is also 18, house sat for us when we went on vacation. She told me how much she enjoyed her time here & has asked us when are we going to go on vacation again. That made me feel that just maybe I'm doing something right.

                I've had people say to me "How can you stand being at home all the time?" I don't drive due to medication I take & I'm prone to migraines which can effect my vision without warning. The moment my oldest learned to drive someone said to me "Well, at least now you can get out of the house." My first thought was "Get out to do what?" I have three children & a home to care for plus I'm homeschooling them. I don't have time to just get out of the house & even if I did what would I do? Waste gas to go to the mall & look at things I can't afford to buy? Of course I didn’t say that out loud. 

                I think what finally convinced me that I've made a good home was when my 18yr old got her first house sitting job. She told me she was going to come over to visit the following morning. She couldn't stand to be away from us too long. She had been gone 12hrs at the most. I smiled knowing she was eager to come back home.

                I enjoy being at home & so does my family. I don't want to get out or away from my home. A home should not be a place that you want to escape (yet sometimes stay at home moms &/or homeschooling moms need to escape from their children), home should be a place of joy & relaxation. I think that is the key to having & making a good home. Our garage may look like a home out of hoarders, dishes may pile up & laundry is calling my name, begging me to fold it, but we are happy at home.    

Graphics from - PC Hugclub