Tag Archives: purpose

To the People Who Embrace My Daughter: Depression, Anxiety, and All

Words barely express the ways your actions have breathed life into my daughter. Movement into unknown territory involves risks. Your willingness to do that does not go unnoticed. Connecting with her isn’t easy. I know that. As you know, she’s not one of those outgoing social butterfly types. She’s an observer. In addition, her mental illness, makes identifying and controlling emotions challenging. She realizes the impact of her actions and words, yet, managing the whirlwind within becomes difficult at times.

By inviting her into your space, you moved beyond the walls of fear that easily keep us from engaging. with those who seem different from ourselves. Sometimes the fears are rooted in real experiences,yet, each of us has our own narrative. You have demonstrated to others that learning how to give and receive support is a significant life skill. There is no “us” and “them.” Everyone faces their own struggles.

We, her parents, are walking in unfamiliar territory. We have gleaned much about the way our society values others as well as the assumptions aimed toward families who don’t capture the “All American Dream.” Stigmas and fear feed the perceptions of parents whose children’s disabilities appear “fixable.” When behavioral and emotional issues manifest themselves, the journey becomes a lonely one for the whole family.

You have witnessed the storm of emotions blow out of her with a breath-taking pace. Out of her mouth, harsh words may have been hurled in your direction. Yet, you saw that she was more than those utterances. The open invitation to your home created a refuge and gave her purpose. How could you have known that her desire to conquer an 8 hour day of cognitive and emotional difficulties was rooted in the reward of spending time with your family? Thank you for loving her unconditionally.

To those unsung heroes at school, you are appreciated more than you can grasp. Her struggles impact our whole family. As parents, we transport, cajole, and encourage her to embrace the school day. But the reality is that some days, we all feel wiped out my 9:00 am.

How do you fight the clutches of anxiety/depression which attempt to pull your child back into bed? Some days, the nuances of battle were apparent. She arrived with eyes, swollen and puffy. But you welcomed her nonetheless and let her sit. Sometimes, you even provoked a smile and a laugh. You far exceed your job expectations.

Thank you for loving my child. Whether you welcomed her with a simple gesture or invested time with her, your kindness reaps a harvest in her soul.

This post originally appeared here: https://themighty.com/2017/05/a-letter-of-gratitude-for-loving-my-child/

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How a “Good Thing” Can Be a Stumbling Block

Would you call your closest friend Satan?  No doubt that friends can have disagreements sometimes.  It happens.  But calling someone you consider to be your confidant, advocate and support system, the name of a  being whose only mission is to destroy seems harsh.  Especially, if the context involves your friend seemingly making known a desire that they wish for your well being.  Why on Earth would you be so angry over that interaction?

In fact, an eyewitness would most likely accuse you of overreacting.  (Do you need more sleep? Is something bothering you?)

So goes the pondering on this passage found in Matthew 16: 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Wow! Really?

Jesus invited Peter to be his friend and mentoree.  HE invited Peter into relationship. They ate together, prayed together, shared together.  They literally did life together.

I couldn’t imagine imitating Jesus in that way. And yet…we are called to do exactly that….because that’s what a disciple does….and that’s what the Holy Spirit makes possible.

I’ve learned that I need to do just what he did. And more often.  Because Jesus tuned his ears to hear the voice of his Father among the many voices calling out to him. His first priority was following the will of God.  Not his disciples. Not the crowds. Not his family.

The irony is that many of those voices represented good things:

healing

listening

friendship

Yet, none represented the BEST thing.  The BEST thing was the plan that God was laying out for him.  But Peter was not ready for what that plan entailed.  Who can blame him?  Of course he doesn’t want to hear that a death sentence awaits.  The implications of Jesus’ death are many-the most personal one being that it would leave Peter without this person who has transformed his life on Earth.

But it isn’t about Peter.

And it isn’t about all the ways Jesus could fulfill people’s needs.  It’s about being in tune with the will of his Father.

Jesus’ exhortation most certainly sent a chill to Peter  But it was truth.  Peter’s plea to Jesus represented a path that was contrary to the one that Jesus knew  he was to walk. One would be afire with the Glory of God and the other would lead away.

Satan will try hard to distract us from listening to God’s voice. Some of those distractions come in the form of “good things”: other people’s expectations, the myriad of ministry opportunities luring us, the desire to do good, even relationships.

Sometimes you get a gut feeling that the path you’re on is not where God wants you treading.   It’s that inner voice that you ignore because the way you are investing your time and resources appears to be productive.

But that “peace that passes all understanding” isn’t there.

In the last year, I’ve come to realize what happens when I don’t really listen to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit. It’s so easy to dig in and be consumed by “callings” to areas that use my skills and gifts. Being drawn to people is always a temptation of mine. But when I jump in without listening; without praying,  I feel tired and frustrated.  And, in a sense, those “good” things become my “Peter.”  They are stumbling blocks.

What is God’s purpose for you right now?  In this season of your life?  What is the “BEST” way that Jesus can be seen at work in your life? What must you give up to embrace it?

 

 

 

When Working at Target Became My Calling

The ways that God speaks into our lives constantly amaze me.

Sometimes it’s loud and blatant .

Other times, the voice comes as a whisper or a gentle nudging.

And often, it comes in the midst of an ordinary moment. Unexpected. Like a burning bush appearing among the familiar landscape.

One day, as I waited at an intersection for the light to change, I glanced up at the Target across the road. I was just passing time. Yet, my eyes connected to a sign advertising the need for overnight stockers. For some reason, the sign resonated with me.

Why? I have no idea. My husband was working. My days and nights were filled with the schedules and activity that result from having three small children.

The Holy Spirit was nudging through the most ordinary circumstances

As the light turned to green, the thoughts were packed into the back of my mind and I proceeded down the road and onto my day.

Two years later, I found myself listening to my husband share the devastating news that his company would be closing a few months later. A peace “that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7 )” permeated my heart as we talked over a coffee date about the plans for our immediate future. A few months provided a bit of cushion but still….what if he doesn’t find a job? Do we sell our house? So many questions surfaced.

And did I mention Christmas was right around the corner? I had a college degree as well as an M.Div. but I had left my pastoral position to enter a season of staying home with our children. Now what?

As we talked, my mind had not forgotten the nudge about the Target sign I had seen two years earlier. The job would entail nights at work and sleep during the day. How does one do that with a two year old? Ironically, my husband’s company did not have a current space for him to work from so he was given the opportunity to work from home.

God affirmed what had been revealed two years earlier. A new season for me was emerging.

Within weeks, I donned the red shirt and displayed my new title: Target employee.

Though the schedule often left my body exhausted, my spirit felt renewed. The job allowed for adult conversation, a means of providing financially for my family and even opportunities to look at merchandise without being yanked away by bored children.

In addition, my eyes and my heart were opened up to the life situations for many who live “under the radar.” Many people with whom I worked alongside, shared stories of broken dreams and desperation.

A wife became ill, and though retired, her husband resumed employment in order to pay bills. Two corporate executives lost their jobs in a mass lay off. Now, one worked the night shift. Many single moms worked with me. Unlike myself, they navigated sleeping in between transporting kids to school and managing other household tasks.

College students who juggled work with school also became colleagues. Here we were, an eclectic group to be sure, but serving together for one purpose. And I felt honored to be invited into their narratives.

In January, my husband found a new job which meant my job at Target was no longer necessary. I was happy to be done but a bit sad that this season was over. I was well aware that, while I had the option to leave the job, others did not have such a choice.I left with their stories imprinted on my heart and pondered how I could help others in similar situations.

Like Esther, my life entered a new season-for a divine purpose. One, that she hesitantly embraced as it came about unexpectedly and took her out of her comfort zone. But Mordecai exhorted,And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

Ultimately this season reminded me that our calling is wherever God leads us. Anytime. Anywhere. Anyplace.

When have you been ordained to “such a time as this?”

Why “Back to School Season” is Not Exciting For Some of Us

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It happens every year around July 5th…..As we walk into a store, the former 4th of July/Seasonal section transforms in the blink of an eye to shelves filled with notebooks, markers, crayons. Fall beckons even though the temperature bathes us in swelting heat. And the dread begins. School will begin soon.

For some parents, the reminder of the school season brings relief. Structure helps us all. For kids, boredom has set in and the opportunity for new friendships, learning environments and knowledge provides comfort. The issues of safety, school provided meals and childcare make the school year welcoming.

Furthermore, I think we can all attest that, by August 1, the sibling fighting season is coming to a “point of no return.”  The lure of soon-to-be peaceful hours on the homefront presents itself.

I laughed when I saw that Trader Joes hosted a “back to school” tasting party for the parents on the first day of school. I’d love to say that I felt such a sense of exhilaration but I didn’t.

For me, the sight of school supplies on July 5th, brought very mixed emotions.  My daughter struggled in school.  While kids excitedly found out the names of their teachers  we felt a lump in our throats. Would he/she see the beauty in my child that I see?  While other kids frantically called up their friends to see who else shared their teacher assignment,  the school suggested placing a familiar student in her class so that she would perhaps engage socially.

For us, it meant hoping that her teacher(s) would cooperate with the IEP easily so that I didn’t have to spend time at night emailing them about assignments. My other kids tired of being pushed aside in order to help my daughter complete her homework.  We’re talking long tension filled hours which resulted in exhaustion for my daughter as well as my husband and me.  Those days seemed to resemble a scene from the movie, “Groundhog Day.” I actually loathed going to sleep as I knew that the events of the day would all play out again the next day.

Getting my daughter to school proved to have its own challenges.

How do you manage to get a child to school on time when the clutches of anxiety/depression attempt to pull your child away from your hands ?

How do you move on with your day after dropping your child off at school after an hour long battle? Her eyes, swollen and puffy, her demeanor signifying defeat?

Don’t get me wrong.  Summer is not always a picnic either when you have a child with behavioral/mood disorders.  The lack of structure, the full on presence of everyone at home, everyday, and the lack  of respite for the parents (and siblings) from the unpredictable outbursts make Summer days tedious at times.

Yet, the beauty is that the child is in a familiar environment, and we can shape the schedule and activities around her needs.

These last few years, the approach of “back to school” season  has not brought on the dread as much as in the past. A few years ago, we made the decision to home school our daughter.  It was the best decision for our family.  This choice presents its own set of challenges but we have developed a routine that works for us.

I realize that homeschooling may not be the best solution for everyone. So for those of you who are familiar with the dread of which I speak, keep on keeping on.  God knows how much you love your child and that you want the best for them.  What can you do?

Ask for help.  You are not a bad parent because you cannot manage this school thing alone. Utilize your school village: social workers, resource teachers, aids to help your child navigate the learning environment. Furthermore, know your child’s legal rights for education. If necessary, seek advocacy outside of the district.  There are some lawyers who offer services pro bono (search for local resources).

Let your vulnerability speak of your journey. I remember one phone call with my daughter’s resource teacher in which the tears came so quickly and so fiercely, that I could barely speak.  Sometimes, others really do not understand the depth of the frustration and pain you feel for your child.

Most of all, know that God has created your child for a purpose. A sacred purpose. No one can take that away.

What can you do If you are reading this post and do not face the dread posed by “Back to School” season?  Consider the little things that can make an impact on our families in a big way.  Providing meals (even a gift card), extra affirmation to the siblings and generally listening without judgement speaks love into their souls. Pray for them.

These days can be hard.  Sometimes, the words to form our prayers are just not there. But remember this:

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. “(Romans 8:26, Msg.)

I would love to pray for you! Just leave your name (or be anonymous) in the comments.

 

 

 

 

Sometimes God’s Purpose for You is Right in Front of Your Eyes

Have you ever dreamed up big plans concerning how you can be used by God to change the world?  Sometimes God puts big plans in our hearts.  Plans so big and so overwhelming that the immediate reaction is to run; or at least find excuses.  (Let’s not forget that Moses, Jeremiah, Saul, Peter…. encountered those fears). Without a doubt, God is in the business of using us, imperfect as we are, to accomplish great things.


Yet, we easily can get so caught up in those big dreams that we lose sight of the many opportunities we have everyday  to bring the face of Christ to others. Many of those opportunities happen in the mundane, moments of our lives. Jesus regularly spent moments with those who he encountered….while traveling, stopping at a well, eating with friends.  We get so accustomed to the tasks in our routines; so distracted by the images on our electronic devices, the agendas that fill up our days,  that we don’t see others the way Jesus saw them. 

 Sometimes, we don’t see them at all.

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I am reminded of a few scenarios in which I, unexpectedly, encountered what I call “Divine” moments.  

  • Finding myself lost in a lonely hospital hallway while looking for the meeting room of a support group I attended, I encountered a man. After helping me out, he shared with me that his wife just underwent a double mastectomy earlier in the day.  He was on his way to her room.  
  • While we were cleaning out my grandmother’s space following her funeral, I engaged in a conversation with a man who poked his head in to my grandmother’s room . It was an encounter that, at first, seemed inconvenient with a man, who seemed “grumpy.” I left blessed.  (For the full story:http://stephaniejthompson.blogspot.com/2013/04/divine-interruption.html
  • Helping a woman at a party learn to use her smartphone to see pictures of her grandkids, led to her sharing about a predicament in her life and an opportunity to pray for her.

I don’t share these glimpses into my moments in order to bring glory to myself.  In fact, I’m sure I would have been blessed many more times, had my eyes been looking for the opportunities.

So…my challenge to you as well as myself is this:  When you wake up, ask God to give you the eyes of Christ.  Lend yourself to being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. 

 What would happen if you went into the bank/ gas station and actually talked to the person behind the counter?  

What if you paid for the coffee of the person in line in back of you?

What if you practice grace when the waitress/restaurant staff messes up your order?


What if you listened (really listened-you know what I mean) to your kids/spouse tell about their day?

None of us knows the stories behind those whose paths we cross in a day. Only God knows.  But what we do know is that all of us are broken people in need of grace and hope and validation that our lives matter. Sometimes, God’s purpose for you, is right in front of your eyes.

 

 

I Want to Be Known for Jumping Fearlessly Into Pools

You might be surprised when I tell you that one of the sections of the newspaper that I glance over is the obituary section.  What?! When I have this time to myself (which is precious), why would I spend a minute reading death notices about people I have never met?

Well, for a few reasons.  I actually do come across the unfortunate news that someone I once knew has passed on. Beyond that fact,  certain notices draw me in and remind me of that which we, in our culture, like to avoid: the reality that we are mortal.  Everyone. Our families friends, and ourselves.  At any moment, our lives may be affected in a very real way by the reality of death.  Glancing over the obituaries reminds me to evaluate my priorities.

One of the rewards (probably not the right term) is learning about my companions on this journey called life.  In those few  words that represent a miniscule of someone’s life (and may not be fully representational of their whole character), I learn a lot about people.  These are not descriptions of those who made headlines. Rather, these quick biographies belong to those with whom we interact and encounter in the daily rhythms of life. Sometimes, I am inspired to be a better version of myself; a more accurate image bearer of my Creator as I learn from them.  Such was the case this past week.

As my eyes focused in on the tribute to her life, her career achievements jumped out at me. Margaret was a doctor who pioneered treatments for persons affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder in the 1970’s.  Of course my heart skipped a beat because I am an advocate for families affected by autism and other mental health disorders.  I’m always interested in those individuals who are seeking to make the world better for all of us by making new strides in this field of medicine.

It is particularly inspiring to know of persons who choose to work in a field that is a filled with cultural stigma; one that doesn’t result in immediate answers and demands a passion against the odds.  And in the 70’s?

My gut reaction was, “Wow!”  That woman joins the ranks of many people -both men and women; both prominent and behind the scenes-that put rubber to the road. They follow their passion to wherever it takes them.

The thing about courage is that the more we practice it, the more it shapes all areas of our lives. And that’s where the next few words seemed to jump out at me.

“She jumped fearlessly into pools deep in caves”

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Anyone who has jumped into a pool spontaneously knows there is an element of mystery combined with freedom once that leap is made.  The water’s possible chill may shock at impact. Your stomach flutters as gravity takes it’s course. Yet there’s something to be said for knowing the refreshment that is brought will be worth the experience. I(side note: I am not advocating for jumping into water without any swimming skills and not being aware of it’s depth/or elements)  To jump into pools in caves sounds both scary yet enticing.  Plunging your physical and emotional being into something so beautiful, majestic, and yet unknown takes courage.

Courage that manifests itself in every part of your life

If you can take great leaps into these amazing physical creations by our God, surely you learn to not let fear become a blockade.  You see the other places that you are called to leap into-and you do it.  You do it because you know that, in the end, the experience will be worth it. For you and for those in your circles.

That is why, after reading Margaret’s brief summary of her life, I said to myself,

“I want to be known for jumping fearlessly into pools in caves!”

We are reminded by Paul in his letter to Timothy we are already given that power: “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.”  2 Timothy 1:7

We just must embrace it. We must believe it.

What about you?  What fears are holding you back from seeking fully the passions that God has placed on your heart?

Let’s commit to working on this together. Share your stories. We all need encouragement to take leaps sometimes, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

How a “Good Thing” Can Be a Stumbling Block

Would you call your closest friend Satan?  No doubt that friends can have disagreements sometimes.  It happens.  But calling someone you consider to be your confidant, advocate and support system, the name of a  being whose only mission is to destroy seems harsh.  Especially, if the context involves your friend seemingly making known a desire that they wish for your well being.  Why on Earth would you be so angry over that interaction?

In fact, an eyewitness would most likely accuse you of overreacting.  (Do you need more sleep? Is something bothering you?)

So goes the pondering on this passage found in Matthew 16: 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Wow! Really?

Jesus invited Peter to be his friend and mentoree.  HE invited Peter into relationship. They ate together, prayed together, shared together.  They literally did life together.

I couldn’t imagine imitating Jesus in that way. And yet…we are called to imitate him.

I’ve learned that I need to do just what he did. And more often.  Because Jesus tuned his ears to hear the voice of his Father among the many voices calling out to him. His first priority was following the will of God.  Not his disciples. Not the crowds. Not his family.

The irony is that many of those voices represented good things: healing, listening, friendship.  Yet, none represented the BEST thing.  The BEST thing was the plan that God was laying out for him.  But Peter was not ready for what that plan entailed.  Who can blame him?  Of course he doesn’t want to hear that a death sentence awaits.  The implications of Jesus’ death are many-the most personal one being that it would leave Peter without this person who has transformed his life on Earth.  But it isn’t about Peter.  And it isn’t about all the ways Jesus could fulfill people’s needs.  It’s about being in tune with the will of his Father.

Jesus’ exhortation most certainly sent a chill to Peter  But it was truth.  Peter’s plea to Jesus represented a path that was contrary to the one that Jesus knew  he was to walk. One would be afire with the Glory of God and the other would lead away.

Satan will try hard to distract us from listening to God’s voice. Some of those distractions come in the form of “good things”: other people’s expectations, the myriad of ministry opportunities luring us, the desire to do good.

But sometimes you get a gut feeling that the path you’re on is not where God wants you treading.   It’s that inner voice that you ignore because the way you are investing your time and resources appears to be productive.

But that “peace that passes all understanding” isn’t there.

In the last year, I’ve come to realize what happens when I don’t really listen to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit. It’s so easy to dig in and be consumed by “callings” to areas that use my skills and gifts. Being drawn to people is always a temptation of mine. But when I jump in without listening; without praying,  I feel tired and frustrated.  And, in a sense, those “good” things become my “Peter.”  They are stumbling blocks.

What is God’s purpose for you right now?  In this season of your life?  What is the “BEST” way that Jesus can be seen at work in your life? What must you give up to embrace it?