Tears to Joy

Tears to Joy: November 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 30: First Christmas Card

Well I made it! 30 Posts in 30 Days and today is day 30! Woo Hoo! Some days I wondered if I'd bit off more than I could chew, but I'm pleased to say I did it!  I decided not to write about today's WEGO assignment, but instead to write about Christmas cards.

Ok, did I mention that I LOVE getting Christmas cards!!!! We usually hang them around the entryway into our kitchen. It makes my heart smile to think about all the special people in my life.

With the popularity of social media, the post office is slowly becoming a thing of the past. It is very rare to receive a "real" letter anymore. The one time of year people tend to venture into the postal world is at Christmas. I love the photo cards people send out today (Thank you Joe and Brandi for sending my my first card this year!). I also love the personal updates from friends and family. While I'm thankful for the store bought cards, I must say the ones with a personal note or photo are much more meaningful. I mean if you are going to spend 44 cents to mail a card, at least send a picture or write a personal message.

I haven't done a card yet this year -- guess I need to get diligent to do so. While I LOVE cards, I'm also tempted to create a digital card to send out just because it would be so much cheaper. I had a professor whose family created a digital video card set to music that was incredible. I wish I was more tech savvy to do that. I tried last year but I couldn't get the music to work so I never sent it out.

Hmmmmm, what to do, what to do?  I guess the important thing is letting the people you care about know just how much you care. Its the thought and not the means that counts!

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hope for the Haitians

Today we have a guest blogger, Kate Bushey. She has a heart for ministry, particularly for the people of Haiti. I've asked her to share with us a word of hope that relates not only to the Haitians, but to us as well.

On January 12, 2010 a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated the nation of Haiti. Maybe you remember this day, or maybe you don’t. I remember this day well because Haiti is, for some reason, like my second home. I have been fortunate enough to travel there twice on mission trips. Haiti is a third world country only an hour away by airplane, but I never knew how neglected this nation was until I spent some time there. In its glory days, Haiti was a popular vacation spot for rich people, but now there are few, if any rich people. I have not been to Haiti since the earthquake, but hope to return soon. After seeing the poverty when life was “normal” for them, I can only imagine the devastation that exists now.

Isaiah 61 seems especially poignant when thinking about Haiti. It says,

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,

because the LORD has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives

and release from darkness for the prisoners,

2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor

and the day of vengeance of our God,

to comfort all who mourn,

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

instead of ashes,

the oil of joy

instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

a planting of the LORD

for the display of his splendor.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins

and restore the places long devastated;

they will renew the ruined cities

that have been devastated for generations.

5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks;

foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.

6 And you will be called priests of the LORD,

you will be named ministers of our God.

You will feed on the wealth of nations,

and in their riches you will boast.

7 Instead of your shame

you will receive a double portion,

and instead of disgrace

you will rejoice in your inheritance.

And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,

and everlasting joy will be yours.

8 “For I, the LORD, love justice;

I hate robbery and wrongdoing.

In my faithfulness I will reward my people

and make an everlasting covenant with them.

9 Their descendants will be known among the nations

and their offspring among the peoples.

All who see them will acknowledge

that they are a people the LORD has blessed.”

10 I delight greatly in the LORD;

my soul rejoices in my God.

For he has clothed me with garments of salvation

and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,

as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,

and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up

and a garden causes seeds to grow,

so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness

and praise spring up before all nations.

As Christians we have a great opportunity to go minister to the people of Haiti. After a traumatic experience like the earthquake, many Haitians may feel that life is more hopeless than ever before. We can do exactly as Isaiah 61 says, and proclaim good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives, and release for those stuck in darkness.

Ultimately, this good news that we can share is Jesus, but we can also help meet the physical needs of the people. Isaiah 61 also speaks to this. We can rebuild the ancient ruins, and restore the places that have been long devastated, those places that have been neglected for generations. It is time for Christians to rise up. We can be a catalyst for the Lord’s movement in and among the nation of Haiti.

I can imagine the Haitians are ready to receive their double portion of blessing from the Lord instead of the disgrace that has hindered them for generations. Many Haitians are looking for everlasting joy. The Lord loves justice and hates robbery and wrongdoing. I fear that the Lord is looking upon us—America, and maybe even the Western world as a whole, with anger and hatred because we have neglected this nation, and robbed this nation for so long.

Maybe you don’t feel a call to go to Haiti or help Haiti, and that is perfectly okay. Maybe something has been stolen from you; maybe you have been robbed and disgrace is ever present in your life. Maybe you are waiting for your double portion. Maybe you are imprisoned by chains that you cannot see, but they are still there. Hold fast!! There is hope, and there is healing waiting for you.


Monday, November 28, 2011

When Life Doesn't Make Sense

Ok, so today I am venturing away from our assigned WEGO topic and blogging about something near and dear to my heart today. Ever get frustrated -- no infuriated -- when things seem unfair, when life just makes no sense whatsoever?  That's where I am. I'm currently going through perhaps the greatest trial to ever test my faith, and I can honestly say that nothing rational seems to be happening.
I used to believe in justice and the power of truth, but now I am not so sure. I have known we live in a fallen world, but I am beginning to see just how sinful we have become as a people. I have to say that while I am losing faith in humanity, my faith in God continues to grow. He truly is the Only one Worthy of our trust. He alone will never disappoint. He is my ROCK!

So, where is God when life doesn't make sense? He is still on the throne. Sometimes I think His heart must be grieved even more than mine. Somehow, some way, He will work all things out in this situation for my good and His glory. Right now, I don't see how, but it is this truth that gives me courage to persevere. Not only is God on the throne, but He is also carrying me through this trial. His grace gives me strength and hope.

Please pray that His will be done in my life and in the lives of the people I love. Pray that God will increase our faith in Him as we learn to trust moment by moment.

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quote Unquote...patients or consumers??

Today's challege was to go to the WEGO Health site and grab a quote and start blogging. The quote I chose is written by Paul Krugman in the April 21, 2011 edition of the New York Times.

"How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients as “consumers”? The relationship between patient and doctor used to be considered something special, almost sacred. Now politicians and supposed reformers talk about the act of receiving care as if it were no different from a commercial transaction, like buying a car — and their only complaint is that it isn’t commercial enough."

I've often wondered about this change in venacular to consumer from patient. Consumers typically pick and choose their likes and dislikes. I don't know that any people with a mental illness chose their illness. Yes, there are choices when it comes to healthcare, but really, are patients truly consumers? Since when did the term "patient" imply weakness?

When I go the my general practictioner, I go as a patient, not a consumer. I'm not interested in what she can sell me -- I want her to help me recover from whatever ails me.

I'm not sure what motivated this change, but I'm interested in hearing your thoughts. Do you prefer to be called a patient or a consumer by your doctor?

This post was written as part of NHBPM - 30 Health posts in 30 days http://bit.ly/vU09gJ

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I remember when...

I remember when dancing was the last thing I wanted to do. I was always the one everyone laughed at so I looked for any excuse to avoid dancing. At all the school dances, I was so self-conscious; I felt like everyone was making fun of me.

About six years ago, things changed. My friends introduced me to contradancing -- my oh my! Can we say fun? I absolutely love it! I still won't say I'm the most gracious on the dance floor but it's soooo much fun. Dancing clears your mind so that you think of nothing else. It's such a great stress release and fabulous exercise. You can see a contradance in action by clicking here.  So whether it's in a public place with friends or in your kitchen with the ipod, put on your dancing shoes and bust a move!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever seen the craziness I saw last night in WalMart. The big sale started at 10:00 PM and we got there just a little before. The parking lot was full and cars were parked at the neighboring hotels and gas stations. Not long after being in the store, the loud speaker announced that cars were being towed for parking on private property. At exactly 10:00 PM I heard screaming and stood back to watch as people climbed over each other snatching towels and pillows like they were the last ones on earth. People were shouting and pushing and shoving. Seriously? Is the economy so bad that we have become barbaric over a pillow.

You see, I went early to buy a mini chopper at the great deal of $2.97 for someone on my list. In less than 60 seconds they were gone. What really got to  me was seeing people walk around the store carrying ten. Did they really need all ten choppers?

Alas, as I made my way across the store, I watched in astonishment as people returned to their carts of stuff to discover that someone had snatched their cart and their finds. It was the biggest mob I've ever seen. At times, the closterphobia threatened to envelop my sanity...I just wanted to escape. The problem was...I was trapped inside this mob!

After what seemed like hours (but was probably actually only minutes) my mom and I managed to escape the mayhem.  I heard today that someone actually used pepper spray on another customer for cutting in line.

Is this what the holiday season has come to? Are we thankful on Thursday and the death angel of the Black plague the next? Ok, maybe that's a little extreme but what happened to peace on earth and good will to all men? 

Never will I ever go to WalMart when the sales start on Black Friday again.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Limitless portrays Bipolar Mania

OK, so today's blog post is supposed to assign a mascot to a particular disorder. I'm going to cheat a little and share instead about a movie that gives a glimpse into the mind of someone with bipolar disorder. Note: This movie is not family friendly. People tend to get addicted to the highs associated with mania, but like any high, they eventually crash. Julie Fast talks about this movie and you can watch her commentary by clicking here.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Spread the Love

While the holidays are a time of cheer for many, there are others who dread the holidays like the plague. Depression often worsens during the holiday season. People who are lonely often feel even more alone during the holiday season. More suicides occur in January than any other month, because of the emotional fallout that remains after a tough holiday season. I debated whether or not to write about this, because, well it’s much more chipper to talk of holiday bliss than holiday depression and anxiety. I finally decided that I had to write about this for the sake of those who are hurting.

Think about who you know that will be alone this holiday season. Remember those who have lost a loved one this past year. Think of those in prison or in the hospital. Anyone who might be feeling lonely this Thanksgiving. Make a special effort to reach out to them and show them how much you care. Small gestures can go a long way during this season to express love
and concern. Send someone a card or pick up the phone and share how thankful you are for others. Make an effort not to be self-absorbed this holiday, but spread the joy and love to others!


A Peaceful Place

Day 22: Be Present

Some people suggest that a good way to deal with stress is to step back for a few minutes and imagine a place that is peaceful for you. Today's blog assignment is to describe such a place so here goes.

I drop my flip flops by the pier, and smile as I feel the warmth of the sand between my toes. I tilt my head back, breathing in the fresh scent of sea salt. Hmmm. I continue walking until the foundation under my feet becomes solid, and feels cooler to the touch.

I pause at the water's edge, gazing at the continual rolling of the waves. Even when no one is here, the waves continue to roll -- sometimes a gentle roll and other times tumultuous. Today the tide is moderate, beckoning me to join it. Slowly, I make my way into the cool water. Ahhh, the water is so refreshing. I feel the sun on my face and shoulders, and the cool of the water makes me feel alive!

Oh how I wish this post were true right now! I absolutely love the beach. It is the one place on earth where I can go and truly let my worries go. I am to clear my mind and enjoy the space. To all of you who are at the beach now, enjoy!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Ekphrasis post

Ok, so perhaps you are like me and you are thinking what in the world is ekphrasis? This means that I am supposed to write about another art form. So, I found a Flickr Image in Creative Commons that inspires me and I am supposed to free write about it for fifteen minutes without editing the post. Here is the image and here goes my thoughts…

When I look at this picture, I am reminded of why I decided to name my blog “The Nat Cave.” Too often, we keep things hidden in the darkness instead of bringing them into the light. Mental illness is one of these areas. Because we don’t understand or are too embarrassed to share our struggles, we bury them deep within and don’t let anyone know what’s really going on inside.

Or maybe it’s some deep, dark sin that no one knows about. You’ve been able to keep it hidden from others, but inside you are dying. You hate what this sin is doing to you and who you are becoming, but fear keeps you from exposing yourself. You’d rather hide alone in the darkness, than shed light on this dark area of your life – even if that means you continue to suffer in the darkness.

Plato wrote about a man trapped in a cave that was afraid to come out into the light. Sometimes we are so content in the darkness because it is familiar. To venture into the light means to go into the unknown, which can be very scary. So, each day, millions of us suffer alone due to the fear of what might happen if our secrets were brought to light.

I’ve learned that the only real freedom comes from bringing things into the light. Michael and I hid his bipolar disorder for a long time, because we felt shame. Why? Well, for starters we didn’t understand this illness. We believed the lie that because we were Christians we were supposed to have it all together. HOGWASH! Whoever started that rumor never read his Bible.

It wasn’t until we suffered in silence for several years that we began slowly to inch our way into the light by sharing our “secret” with a few trusted people. I often wonder if we’d reached out for help earlier, would Michael still be alive?

When it comes to sin, as long as I can hide it, it can control me. I continue to sin, and often feel guilty about it, but because no one knows, I find it harder and harder to escape. To tell someone might bring shame on my name…but even more…it could bring freedom.

We all need accountability in our lives and this can only happen when we allow ourselves to be truly vulnerable with someone else. We must be willing to allow someone else to see into the dark recesses of our souls – see the good and the bad – and give them permission to speak truth to us. Only then can we begin to escape the darkness and enter the marvelous light.
As in this picture, things gain a whole new perspective in the light. What was blurred our even unseen is not only visible but often clarified in the light. The shadows are now recognizable and not so scary. The trail becomes clearer and the journey more bearable, perhaps more pleasurable.

May we all find people we trust to lead us out of the darkness and into His Marvelous Light (Ok, so now I’m singing a song…).

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J


Sunday, November 20, 2011

LOL post

Ok, so today’s post is supposed to be a funny story…

When this happened, I wasn’t laughing, but when I look back on it, I crack up. A couple of weeks ago I went to McDonald’s before class and got breakfast and coffee. When I got to work and was walking up the front stairs of the building, I stumbled. Not wanting to spill my coffee I wobbled trying to find my balance.

The problem was, I over compensated and I went down. My coffee went flying and hit the front door, bounced off and dumped out on my head as I fell. I was lying on the ground in a heap with skinned knees, and coffee dripping off my head. As I stood and entered the building, I was greeted by those who saw me fall. I was a mess. The bag holding my breakfast fell apart and my McGriddle was extra soggy. My hair was sopping wet, coffee streaks were running down my face, my jacket was drenched and my knees were bleeding. What a great start to the day!

I’ve spilled coffee many times before but never on my head. I’ve tried to find the lesson in this and I guess it’s that this was a character building day --- and that it’s important to laugh at yourself. Laughter truly is the best medicine!

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J


Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Best of" post -- Christians and Depression

Today we were challenged to re-post from our blog's archives. I originally wrote this post for a friend's blog (I encourage you to check out Melody's blog by clicking here), but I later posted it on mine as well.
At least once a month I meet a Christian who struggles with depression and feels guilty about it, because they are a Christian. So, what does the Bible have to say about living with depression? Can a Christian be depressed?

Many years ago, I began wrestling with this issue. My husband, a missionary, was struggling with depression and many of the pastors we knew and loved told him to just “snap out of it” or told him that if he had enough faith, then it would go away. I learned that Christians can and do get depressed. Just as becoming a Christian does not give instant physical health to a person, it also does not guarantee instant emotional health.

Many Christians suffer from chronic depression; they are ashamed of their depression and feel that there must be something wrong with them spiritually, or else they would be enjoying the “abundant life.” Regardless of the cause, there are times when God allows Christians to struggle in depression and the constant pain leaves many disillusioned. Paul’s thorn in the flesh is a good example of God allowing suffering in the life of a believer. We don’t know what Paul’s thorn was, but he pleaded with God to remove it and God refused. Was this due to a lack of faith on Paul’s part? I really doubt it because God used Paul in incredible ways; God used the thorn to keep Paul dependent on Him.

Why is it that so many Christians believe the Christian life should be not struggle free? Jesus warned in John 16:33, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage: I have overcome the world.” People should not be surprised by life’s struggles but often when trials arise, men and women look for somewhere to place blame. Job’s friends continually told him that his hardships must be due to sin in his life. This was not the case; God wanted to prove that Job’s faithfulness in the midst of heartache.

The Scriptures are full of examples of godly men and women who struggled with hard times. They were not all suffering due to personal sin. In John 9, Jesus and His disciples saw a blind man. The disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind? Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” The man was born blind so that God could show others His greatness.

Christians are commanded to take up their cross daily and follow Him. Carrying a cross is hard work. For millions of people, that cross is depression. Sometimes depressed believers struggle to understand why God would allow the hopelessness of depression to overtake them in spite of their faith. Depression can be a spiritual blessing, although an unpleasant one to experience. Depression often forces people to cry out to God. Millions are pleading with God to take away their depression, and at times, God refuses (like with Paul’s thorn).

How can those who are depressed find hope to endure? According to Paul, “tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” God’s sovereignty and His Word offer hope to believers who are affected by depression.

All that said, does that mean if a person prays enough, reads the Bible enough and has enough faith that the depression will go away? First, we must discover the root cause of depression. Is it a medical or a spiritual condition? There are various opinions on this issue. Basically, I believe depression can be seen as three things: a symptom, a reaction and a disease. All types of depression need treatment, but the treatments vary according to the source of the depression.

The first category views depression as a symptom, more specifically a direct consequence of sin. The depression that Jonah experienced after God showed mercy to Ninevah is a prime example of this. God’s compassion “greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.” Jonah was extremely selfish; he wallowed in self-pity which led him to despair to the point that he begged God to take his life.The answer to depression that is a result of sin is repentance.

The Psalmist said in 32:3-5 that when he kept silent, his bones wasted away and God’s hand was heavy upon him. When he acknowledged his sin to God, he found forgiveness and deliverance. If the depression is a symptom of sin, once that sin has been confessed, the depression will often lift. In such instances, the depression is a physical manifestation of a spiritual problem.

A second category of depression is reactive depression. Reactive depression occurs when a person’s life circumstances have caused a person tremendous loss, suffering or pain. Often the pain seems unbearable and the person may become depressed. Dealing with reactive depressions are often difficult because it involves changing one’s thinking while their circumstances remain the same. Counseling may be effective in helping people with reactive depression. Grief is an example of reactive depression. When a person experiences loss, he or she may experience a period of depression; this is a normal, but painful reaction to life circumstances.

The third category views depression as a disease. When the depression is not due to any specific events or circumstances, a person may have a depressive disorder and should consult a physician. Medication and/or counseling may be needed. The depression could be due to a chemical imbalance or it may be symptomatic of some other health issue. If the depression is long lasting, and you don’t know why you are so down, you should see a doctor (when possible, see a psychiatrist because they have a better understanding of psychiatric drugs).

How does someone who is depressed find light in the midst of the blackest darkness? Where is hope when life’s circumstances seem hopeless? There are numerous Biblical examples of men and women that struggled with times of despair. There are profound insights for modern believers who face depression that can be found by examining the responses of these men and women. By examining several Biblical portraits, depressed Christians can find hope to endure their own personal circumstances. The Scriptures are full of examples of godly men and women who struggled with bouts of depression. Moses, Elijah and Jeremiah all dealt with forms of reactive depression. Their recovery began when they recognized and submitted to God’s sovereignty. When they were reminded that God was in control, they became hopeful.

God is not unaware that at times His children face depression. The depression is not without purpose. While the sufferer may not understand the reason for his hardships, he can find peace in knowing that God is in control. While the sufferer may not understand the reason for his hardships, he can find peace in knowing that God is in control. While reading God’s Word and trusting in His sovereignty may not alleviate the symptoms of depression, it can offer tremendous hope. If you are a Christian and you struggle with depression, pray and ask God to show you which type of depression you have. If you still don’t know, see a doctor or a counselor for help.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Delight Yourself in the Lord and He willl Give You the Desires of Your Heart

I don't know about you, but there have been times when I've wrestled with the verse about God giving you the desires of my heart. The desire of my heart was for my husband to be healed from bipolar disorder, but God chose not to heal him, but instead allowed him to take his own life. I thought I was delighting in the Lord at the time, but was I truly? Or perhaps God's desires for me were not the same as my own.

I recently read a post on another blog that really addresses this tension, and I'd like to share it with you. I've learned that our definition of good and God's definition of Good often differ, but ultimately I want His Good and not my own, His desires over my desires. To read this blog, click here. The song by Sara Groves, "Open My Hands," can be heard here.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day 17: Let It Be

What’s something that bothers you or weighs you down? Let it go. Talk out the letting go process and how you’re going to better yourself for it.

OK, so I’m not OCD, but I do wrestle with control issues. You see, I like to think that I am in control in my life. Unfortunately, sometimes unexpected events happen that rock my world and remind me that I’m not really in charge of anything. It’s in these times that I ask myself a zillion questions and I go over every possible outcome again and again until I become obsessed with the situation. I worry. I mull. And I worry some more.

I’m learning to let it go and to trust. There are times when I cannot change my circumstances – but I can change my attitude. I’m learning to live in the present and not to borrow trouble from tomorrow (Matthew 6). This isn’t a lesson learned quickly…it seems I am continually reminding myself to take every thought captive and live in today. Perhaps when I learn to do this, I will be able to relinquish control and trust God with the outcome.

Anybody else out there have any tips for overcoming worry?

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Little Engine Post -- I think I can...

OK, for this post the instructions said to list 10-15 lines beginning with “I think I can…” I started out doing that but decided instead to share how an “I think I can…” turned into “I know I can…”

When I was a little girl, I always dreamed of writing a book. People would ask me what I would write I about, but I didn’t know. It wasn’t until six years ago that I knew what I would write. Shortly after Michael’s death, I knew that I was supposed to write our story. I remember opening a book he had given me for Christmas and inside the front cover, he had written, “I pray that one day our story will be written for the glory of God and the inspiration of others.” This was all the confirmation I needed. I began to write.

I wrote furiously for over a year, and then God placed an amazing editor in my life. We began re-writing and my first draft was condensed into three chapters, so I wrote some more. After a two-year process, I decided it was time to pursue publishing. Wow! What a gruelling process. There were times I began to doubt, and wondered if my manuscript would ever be published. There were other times I’d dream of holding a copy of my work in my hands.

Through all the heartache and pain of writing this story, I praise God that my dream will finally become a reality. Despite my doubts and fears, my “I think I can…” is coming true.

I recently signed a contract with Tate Publishing and I am uber excited to say that I hope to have a book in six – eight months! Woo Hoo!!! Thanks for supporting me on this journey and for all the encouragement. I have the best friends in the world!

So, next time you wonder, “Hmmm, I wonder if I can…” GO FOR IT!!!

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day 15 ...This one's for you baby

Day 15: This one’s for you, baby

Dedicate a song.

This Saturday, November 17, is International Survivors of Suicide Day. In honor of all of those who have lost someone to suicide, I chose the song, “How to Save a Life” by The Fray. Way too many of us know first hand the pain of wanting to rescue someone from their pain, but without success.

When people we know are hurting, we often feel helpless as to how to help. We want to reach out, but we don’t know what to do. This song sums up the frustration of wanting to help, but not being able to rescue someone from their pain. You can watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjVQ36NhbMk&ob=av3e

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J


Monday, November 14, 2011

Elevator blog

If you were in an elevator with someone and they asked you about your blog, what would you tell them?

30 second version:
Mental illness is a topic that is often neglected in the church. People don’t understand it so they don’t talk about it. My blog is called The Nat Cave because I want to bring this subject out of the darkness and into the Light. There is freedom in the Light.

1 minute version:
Mental illness is a topic that is often neglected in the church. People don’t understand it so they don’t talk about it. My blog is called The Nat Cave because I want to share with you some of my thoughts as musings as I seek to walk out of the Darkness and into the Light. I do this by sharing personal stories as well biblical and educational insights I have learned on this journey.

2 minute version:
Several years ago, I lost my husband to suicide after a long battle with bipolar disorder. We didn’t share much about his disorder because we were embarrassed and didn’t want others to think about us differently. I realize now that keeping it in the dark was the worst thing we could do. His death inspired me to reach out to others and to try and eradicate the stigma associated with bipolar disorder. Mental illness is a topic that is often neglected in the church. People don’t understand it so they don’t talk about it. My blog is called The Nat Cave because I want to share with you some of my thoughts as musings as I seek to walk out of the Darkness and into the Light. I do this by sharing personal stories as well biblical and educational insights I have learned on this journey.

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 13: Open a Book

Open a Book. Point to a page and free write for 10-15 minutes on that word or passage.

Instinctively -- There are some things in life that you just know instinctively. It’s always fascinated me that you don’t have to teach a child to do wrong – they disobey instinctively. However, usually, a child knows when they do something wrong because they will look around to see who is watching. This tells me that they also instinctively know right from wrong.

Why is it then that if we know right from wrong that we continue to do wrong? Paul wrestled with this when He said, “I know what I ought to do but I keep doing what I shouldn’t do, even though I want to do what I ought to do” (Natalie’s paraphrase). The answer is that we are all sinful…sin is our default setting.

I wonder then, when a person becomes a Christian, does the Holy Spirit begin to change a person’s instincts? I know that believers are still sinners, but my “want to” has changed a lot because of the Presence of the Spirit in my life. Does this mean that my instincts or changing? I’m not really sure…there are certainly times when my gut tells me to go for something or to avoid it at all costs. There’s also been times when I followed my instincts and boy do I wish I hadn’t.

The Bible says in Romans 1 that men have an innate knowledge of the Creator and so that we are without excuse. We instinctively know there is a God. Sure there are athiests, but every athiest I've ever met is angry at God because He didn't do something the way he thought they should, so he quit believing.

Ok, I really am rambling now. It hasn't been ten minutes but my daughter keeps calling for me so I'll stop here. Instinctively is the word of the day…what comes to your mind when you hear the word?

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Teach a Class: Helping Someone with a Mental Illness

Day 12: Teach a class: How to help someone with a mental illness

I frequently get calls from people who care about someone they suspect may have a mental illness. Others call because they are concerned that their loved one isn’t taking their medication or seems a bit “out of it.” What can we do to help the people we love who are struggling with mental illness.

When someone has cancer, people are quick to offer support; however when someone is diagnosed with a mental illness it is often kept hush hush, and those that do know about it often don’t talk about it because of the stigma associated with it.

First and foremost, love unconditionally. Your loved one needs to know that you care and that you are there for them. They need your support now more than ever. Don’t shy away because of fear – your presence in their lives can be a great gift.

Equip them with resources to find help. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill is a great resource for friends and family members. You can reach them at http://www.nami.org/ NAMI seeks to educate people about mental illness, and to offer resources.

A word of caution: Do not become codependent. Trust me; I’ve been there. People who are codependent often have good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the caretaking becomes consuming to the caretaker and can be defeating. Co-dependents often take on a martyr’s role by giving up their own needs for the sake of the person they are trying to help. In my case, I would go to Michael’s office after hours and return emails and make phone calls to try and “cover” for his inability to function at work. I did this out of both love and fear. I loved him and wanted to protect his reputation. I was afraid if I didn’t, he might lose his job.

Even though my intentions were good, ultimately my assisting was harmful. I prevented Michael from facing the consequences for his poor decisions (particularly coming off of his medications) and in doing so, I enabled him to continue making poor decisions. James Dobson wrote a book called Love Must Be Tough and I highly recommend it for people who struggle in this area.

Alas, don’t forget to pray! Pray! Pray! Pray! We cannot “fix” someone else as much as we may try, it is ultimately their responsibility to get help. We can intercede and our God is able to do the impossible. Pray daily for your loved one and be an example of Christ in their lives.

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J


Friday, November 11, 2011

If it's not broke, don't fix it

Today’s topic for blogging is what is working in your community. I decided to take this opportunity to talk about the SOS (Survivors of Suicide) Support Group that meets monthly in Clarkesville. This group is for people who have lost a loved one to suicide.

Peer-led support groups for survivors are now extensively available across the country. Peer support has been acknowledged as a valuable tool in recovery from mental health and addictions, and research is currently investigating its efficacy in suicide postvention. Unfortunately, suicide touches impacts numerous lives. According to the World Health Organization, nearly one million people die by suicide globally[1].

Researchers cite that the number of people impacted by a single suicide is between six and ten[2]. A recent study showed approximately 50% expansion in the number of suicide survivor support groups since 1996[3]. Seven percent of the U.S. population reported that someone in their social network had died by suicide within the last year, and just over one percent had lost an immediate or extended family member[4].

In short, this means that there are a lot of hurting people whose grief is complicated by the suicidal death of someone they love. These groups are a great place to connect with others who have experienced similar loss. Survivors can openly share their thoughts and feelings without fears of being judged or stigmatized, because the others in the group share a similar loss.

Being a group facilitator has allowed me to use the pain of Michael’s suicide to help someone else walk through the valley of the shadow of death. It has helped me to find meaning in his death (God often allows us to go through trials so we can comfort others). If you or someone you know who is 18 or older and has lost someone to suicide a SOS Support Group is a great place to find help. More information is available on the web. For details on the Clarksville group, email negasos@yahoo.com

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

[1] Gaffney, M. & Hannigan, B. (2010). Suicide bereavement and coping: A descriptive and interpretive analysis of the coping process. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 5, 526-535.

[2] Rawlinson, D., Schiff, J., & Barlow, C. (2009). A review of peer support for suicide bereavement as a postvention alternative. Currents: New Scholarship in the Human Services, 8, 1-20.

[3] Feigelman, B. & Feigelman, W. (2011). Suicide survivor support groups: Comings and goings, part II. Illness, Crisis and Loss, 19, 165-185.

[4] Kaslov, N., Berry-Mitchell, F., Franklin, K., & Bethea, K. (2009). Postvention for African American families following a loved one’s suicide. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 40, 165-171.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day 10: The Future of Online Activism

The future for me in regard to online activism means that I need to develop a personal website. If I want to keep readers up to date with the current trends on ministering to people with mental illness then a website is the best way for me to do this. To be honest, this is overwhelming to me. It can be exhausting keeping up with twitter, facebook, and blogging. I want to create a website, but only if I can do it well. Since my plate is already full, it may be a while before I take on this next challenge. I don’t want to burn out. While online media is a great way to connect with others, I don’t ever want to get so caught up in it that I neglect relationships that are not cyber-based.

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My personal brand

Ok, I had never really heard of a personal brand until I attended a Writer’s Conference this summer (She Speaks --- I highly recommend it!). I was really challenged to discover what the major theme is for my blog, aka my personal brand.

While I’ve thought about this a lot, I’m still not really sure. I’m passionate about so many different topics. I want to raise awareness about mental illness in churches and help eradicate stigma. I want to be a voice for the down-trodden and for those who can’t speak for themselves. I definitely want to be an advocate for others.

However, it’s also very important that I point others to our ultimate Advocate, Jesus Christ. Without Him, I could do nothing. In Him, I live, move, and have my very being. I want to challenge others to grow in their walk with him.

Forgiveness is another theme in my writing…A friend once told me that she thought my brand should be related to dancing since I prayed and asked God to turn my weeping to laughing and my mourning to dancing. God has done just that --- I absolutely positively LOVE to dance now!

So, in short, I’m not really sure yet what my personal brand might be. Be patient with me as a wrestle through this. I’m open to suggestions.

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day 8: 3 Truths and 1 Lie

Out of the four statements, three are true and one is a lie. Can you guess the lie?

1. When I was younger, I had my mouth wired shut for six weeks.
2. When I was younger, my cat had her mouth wired shut.
3. When I was younger, I had a pet hamster.
4. When I was younger, I had three imaginary boyfriends.

Can you guess the lie????

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J


Monday, November 7, 2011

Case of the Mondays

I am very blessed to work with teenagers, but it absolutely breaks my heart when I hear and see how lonely so many of today’s teens are. I can’t ever remember a time when I questioned my parents love for me. I’ll never forget the first time a student told me that no one had ever told her that they loved her. How does this happen? It breaks my heart to know that so many people feel discouraged and alone…and fear no one cares.

This weekend I participated in a ministry that tries to encourage prostitutes. Sadly, many of these women have been told their entire lives that they are worthless and unlovable. At some point, they began to believe it. It is devastating to think that these same women are someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, and at one time, someone’s classmate. We initiated conversation with the ladies by giving them a rose and a card. We wanted them to know that they are special in God's eyes.

I realized as we drove the streets how often I’ve passed by such women without giving it a second thought. They had become invisible to me. If only someone had truly seen them. Then perhaps they would have had hope of a better life. Perhaps their circumstances today might be different.

We were encouraged to write about something that gets us down and makes us sad --- this rips at the seams of my heart. I pray that I will have eyes to see those around me who are hurting, and that if no one else cares, I will. I pray that I will not get so busy that I miss the people around me.

The ministry I worked with helps women escape prostitution. They take them to a safe house and help them to get counseling. Pray that women would make the choice to call for help today!

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Day 6: If I could do anything as a Health Activist...

If I could do anything as a Health Activist, I would educate churches about mental illness. Far too many well-meaning Christians tell people that if they had enough faith then they wouldn’t be depressed, anxious, etc. When a person is struggling with a physiologically-based disorder, faith typically will not make it “go away.” God is certainly able to heal, but He doesn’t always do so.

I also know of people with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia who have been told that they have a demon, and who have attended exorcisms. This too, can be very dangerous to a person’s mental health. I’d like to work with clergy to help them better understand mental illness, and how to better minister to people whose lives are touched by it.

I am available to speak at churches or with church staffs to share resources and possible ministry ideas with them. I try to blog about such things to bring to light this topic that is often kept in the dark due to the stigma – I truly believe the stigma exists because people don’t understand. I want to do my part to bring understanding.

I address some of these topics in my book (which I hope to publish soon), and I pray that it will also be a resource for those with mental illness and those who love them.

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J


Saturday, November 5, 2011

5 Things that Changed My Life

Man, some of these posts really make you think. The first and greatest thing that every changed my life was more a WHO than a what. Receiving Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior forever changed who I am. While I still continue sin and make mistakes, I serve a God who not only forgives me, but is continually at work refining me. My relationship with Christ is my anchor and my hope. It’s a firm foundation – the one relationship I can always trust.

The second thing that changed my life was marrying Michael Flake. He was an amazing man of God who taught me to devour God’s Word. We had some great adventures, as well as a lot of heartache and pain. Michael taught me that love is truly NOT a feeling, but a choice. His life and his death taught me more about God’s agape love than I thought humanly possible.

Third would be the birth of my precious daughter. Being a mom has forever changed my life. It is teaching me to be selfless and to think of others before myself. Being a mom brings great joy in my life and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to love such a beautiful child!!

The fourth life changing event was God’s call on my life to missions. Being involved in missions, both locally and internationally, has changed my life. I’ve learned to see things from different perspectives and I’ve made lifelong friendships that I truly treasure. These trips have helped me to focus on what’s really important in life – relationships—and to recognize how easy it is to fall prey to the clutches of materialism.

The final thing that changed my life is actually a trial I am currently facing. I won’t elaborate on it since it involves people that I love, but suffice it to say that I am learning what it means to walk by faith. Things are utterly and completely out of my control and I’m learning who I can trust and who I can’t.

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J


Friday, November 4, 2011

Day 4: What happens after you press "publish"

You see, I have my computer hooked up to a pretty serious alarm system. It is wired so that after I publish a new post to my blog, sirens go off and the lights begin to flicker. In a matter of seconds, the siren ends and the disco ball begins to turn while my Bose sound system plays, “Dancing Queen.” Oh wait, that’s my cell phone.

Ok, seriously, my routine is rather dull. I usually lean back in my chair and breathe a sigh of relief after I press “publish” on the computer. Mission has been accomplished. Next, I usually tweet a link and post one on facebook. Then I go to my own dashboard and read posts on others’ blogs that I am following.

Not so very exciting, but alas, this is the pattern of publishing in my world.

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dear 18 Year Old Me

Dear 18 year old me,

Trust me when I say that the most important relationship in your life is your relationship with Christ. He is the Only One Who will never leave you or betray you. He adores you, and loves you with an everlasting love. Give Him your heart to have and to hold from this day forward.

Right now, you think when you graduate you will begin a career that you will continue until retirement. WRONG! “Your ways are not my ways,” declared the Lord. Believe it or not, His ways are much better than yours anyway. Following Christ will take you on adventures you could never have imagined in your wildest dreams. You will soar like an eagle, but you will also have times when crawling seems to exhaust all of your energy. Just remember that in those times, He is strengthening you much like the caterpillar must draw strength in order to fly.

Life will throw you some curveballs, and there will be times when they smack you straight in the face. While the bruising is painful, it will not last forever. Keep going. Keep trusting. Keep living!

Love you, (wink, wink)

Your older and wiser self!

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Nat Cave starring Natalie Flake

Day 2 - My TV Show. Your blog is being turned into a TV show.

If The Nat Cave were turned into a TV show, it would air on National Geographic. This reality show would feature me travelling around the world, interviewing locals about their lives. I’d try document on film the stories of the less fortunate, the abused, and the neglected. My goal is to help people to learn to walk out of darkness into the light of truth.

I suppose forgiveness would be a theme on the show. All of us have hurts. I had to learn to forgive my husband for the hurts caused by his bipolar disorder and for abandoning me when he completed suicide. Others need to forgive fathers who were never present, or friends who betrayed them. Bitterness can run deep and carries with it all types of negative health risks. On the other hand, researchers have learned that individuals who had forgiven a specific offender had lower levels of blood pressure, heart rate, and rate pressure product (Lawler, et al., 2003). This show would document stories of people who have experienced the freedom of forgiveness.

I’d show the beauty of creation in contrast to the horrific capacity of men to do evil in places such as Rwanda. I’d air several episodes on the genocide in Rwanda and how the people are finding healing from PTSD, and I’d want to tell the world their stories of reconciliation and forgiveness.

A television show of my life would not be complete unless it shared my story of ultimate healing and forgiveness which came from Jesus Christ. Through Christ I have found forgiveness of my sins, past, present, and future and healing in my soul. I have experienced reconciliation with the God of the universe. My life verse is Galatians 2:20 which states that “I am crucified with Christ so that I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” I would hope that others see me learning to die to my own desires and to live for Christ’s plans for my life. It is in this that I find true freedom and peace.

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

Lawler, K., Younger, J. Piferi, R., Billington, E., Jobe, R., Edmonson, K., & Jones,W. (2003). A Change of Heart: Cardiovascular Correlates of Forgiveness in Response to Interpersonal Conflict. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 26.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

30 Posts in 30 Days

OK, so I’ve been encouraged by WEGO Health to consider the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge to write 30 posts in 30 days (with 2 “get out of post free” days built in). Those of you who know me, realize how difficult this will be for me. My life is insanely busy (like many of you) but I decided to accept the challenge. Each day, we have been given a specific topic to write about. I’m going to give it my best shot!

Today’s post is about “Titles for my future book.” In some ways this is easy, because I am currently trying to get my manuscript for Tears to Joy published. This book chronicles my husband’s battle with bipolar disorder and his unfortunate suicide in hopes of assisting others to find help so that their story will have a different ending from ours.

While Tears to Joy is my working title, I’ve considered several others. I’ve thought about Weeping to Laughing or Mourning to Dancing since both are themes in my life. I’ve also considered Living the Roller Coaster Life and Looking for Level Ground.

Because I’ve recently submitted a book proposal to publishers, I will refrain from giving too many details of the book. I will say that Tears to Joy is a compassionate and practical guide to finding help and hope in the turmoil associated with bipolar disorder and with suicide. Numerous books have been written about living with mental illness from a secular perspective, but this is the first to address bipolar disorder and suicide from a biblical worldview.

Pray with me that I will find the right publisher (and that I will complete the task of 30 posts in 30 days).

This post was written as part of NHBM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

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