Mental Health Awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This month I will have a series on mental health based on my experiences through walking this path with my children, especially my teenager. The series of posts are based on conversations with my sixteen-year-old daughter who has been struggling with depression and anxiety for most of her life. In trying to make the right decisions for her, I have had many wrong thoughts and said many wrong things. As a parent, I have needed guidance and a place to ask for advice in this journey. Your experiences may be different than mine. You may not agree with what I have said or done, but until are in the same place with the same circumstances, you may not understand my position. These are our experiences and I hope they are helpful to those in a similar place.

Myth 1: Everyone has anxiety/feels sad sometimes. It’s not that serious, I can handle it on my own.

We each have some levels of anxiety or sadness, but when it takes over your life to the point you can not be a productive employee, wife, husband, parent, student, etc., you can not handle it on your own. You have to reach out for help. Talk to your doctor, pastor, anyone close to you who can help connect you with a counselor. When your mental health is controlling your life, you will need help to get to the root of your anxiety/depression. Even if you are a professional at pushing your anxiety down and covering your depression with working harder, fake smiles, or binging on tv, that is not healthy. At some point, you will explode.

In the case of your child, children handle anxiety and depression in different ways. Some talk openly, some shut down. Some cry, some get mad. Some hide in their bedrooms for hours, some don’t want to be alone. When something seems off, trust your gut. Start reading, researching, and gathering tools to help your child open up. There are links to resources here for kids to verbalize their emotions. When your child’s mental health gets to the point they can not maintain a positive school life, positive relationships with their peers and siblings or they refuse to talk to you, you may need to find some professional help. Also, if you see some polar opposite behaviors that make you wonder, “who is this child?” that’s a red flag that your child may be crying out for help. We may joke about extreme behaviors in the toddler years or puberty, but when the behavior goes beyond typical to almost scary, you may need to seek help.

Myth 2: I need to pray more, study more scripture on anxiety, and be a better Christian so I can get rid of my anxiety/depression.

Early in our anxiety journey, I wrote scripture on index cards and gave them to my daughter. I thought, “more scripture would surely help her feel better.” While scripture, prayer, and improving your spiritual life are essential, they won’t solve the problem. When you are dealing with an illness, physical or mental, you have to get to the root of the illness or anything you try to do will be just a band-aid. Medicine to treat the symptoms may be necessary but unless you work to get to the root of the illness the medicine will be a band-aid for whatever unresolved fear, trauma, grief, or hurt you may be experiencing. Prayer, scripture, and walking with God are essential for working through anxiety and/or depression, but you can not allow it to be the band-aid to cover up whatever the real issues are. A professional counselor can help you dig and find the root of the struggle.

At the beginning of my daughter’s mental health illness, she was in an active youth group at church, but pushing more scripture and “religion” on her caused her to feel worse. She was struggling with her mental health and then became more depressed because she was “failing” in her faith. Helping your child know she is heard, believed, and fully loved by her parents and by God no matter what is going on in her life is exactly what she needs. She will know she has advocates walking along with her as she gets the professional help she needs on her mental health journey.

3. Admitting my child needs help makes me look like a bad parent.

There have been plenty of moments where I feel guilt and shame over my child’s mental health. In a perfect world, we would all be perfect parents, parenting perfect children. In reality, we live in a broken world and we are broken parents, parenting broken children. Yes, God makes us whole, but without Him, we are all walking in brokenness. If your child has diabetes, you get the insulin and all of the tools to help him through his illness. If your child has asthma, you would get an inhaler and nebulizer to help him breathe better. When children have so many emotions to navigate in a society that is turning up the volume on all their fears, sometimes their brains can not handle the weight of the emotions. Their brains do not fully develop until their twenties. As their parent, getting them the help they need to navigate their mental health shows courage and the deepest sense of love that you will do whatever it takes to help your child, including owning up to your fears and failures. Confess them and release the to God. Do not let those feelings linger. By believing and helping your child, you are proving what a loving and compassionate parent you truly are.

4. Everyone has negative voices in their heads, just ignore them.

Intrusive thoughts are still a road we are navigating. Some intrusive thoughts are minor, but some get quite serious and scary. Hearing what thoughts my daughter has going on in her head is quite shocking. She has never acted on her intrusive thoughts, but she is aware enough when she needs to be more cautious in certain situations. Her thoughts are not easily ignored. They get so strong and loud that she needs medicine to help turn down the volume. As she works through counseling, we hope to get to a place where she won’t need the medicine anymore, but as of right now, I am allowing her to have the help she needs to feel better and function.

5. Counseling doesn’t work.

I used to believe this because I had never experienced it working. Then I realized there are several factors at play. First, a counselor is not a magician able to “fix” a person within a few sessions. You are way more complicated than that. Second, all counselors have different methods of counseling. There are different therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) but counselors have their method for how they approach therapy. My current counselor is the best counselor I have ever had. Her approach is what I need in this season of my life. My daughter is on her fourth counselor in three years. This one has been her best so far. She has been the most comfortable with her approach and is more willing to open up and talk. If one counselor doesn’t seem like the right fit after several visits, move on. A good counselor will be understanding and want you to get the help you need no matter where you find it. Third, the faster you open up, the more progress you will make. You have to go each appointment committed to getting better. Opening up with no “off-limits” topics will put you on a quicker path to healing. Fourth, when it comes to teens, when they are ready to feel better they will have to come to that decision on their own and utilize the tools the counselor teaches. As I said, my daughter is finally making progress in her mental health after seeing four different counselors. Let me add, I do not believe that a Christian counselor is always the best route to take. It depends on your child and how she connects with the counselor. The therapist should respect your family’s faith and not go against that no matter what. We have been to two Christian counselors and two secular counselors. Currently, she is making the most progress with a non-faith-based counselor, but it is with much prayer that God is helping her break free from things that have contributed to her anxiety and depression.

I hope this list helps you lay aside any myths or misconceptions you may have about mental health or counseling. Next week I will talk more about our story and navigating mental health challenges with my sixteen year old. I have updated my Resources page with links to mental health websites.

If you have any questions you would like to ask regarding this topic, feel free. I will anonymously incorporate the answers into my blog posts. You can e-mail me at leahlivelyblog@gmail.com Subject: Mental Health

May Newsletter Releases Tomorrow!

My May newsletter is coming out tomorrow. Head over to the home page sign up if you are not already on my mailing list! There are details on my new Bible study as well at the graphic for the chronological Bible reading plan.

Mother’s Day Gift Idea

Need a unique idea for Mother’s Day? Grab one (or both) of my Bible studies from my website or Amazon. In depth study of the book of John or Acts in 30 days. These studies are made up of concise questions to help you think about what you read without all of the “fluff”.

Head over to my shop in the menu above or Amazon!

Newsletter Info

Here is a link to a Facebook Live I did today about my newsletter coming on April 1.

https://fb.watch/4zmzwwnAhg/

More details will be here on the blog tomorrow!

And so it begins…

This is the beginning of Holy Week.

Without this week, there would be no hope.
None.

Each day, you and I would walk around weighed down by guilt and shame of sin.

This week, the steps Jesus Christ took to the cross, to the tomb, and to his resurrection changed the world and ejected Satan from his hold on all of us.

Your sin and mine were nailed to the cross and died.

Your sin and mine were buried in the tomb and left there.

Our lives were resurrected with Jesus.

Is evil still present in the world? Yes.

Does evil have to have a grip on you? No.

Live in freedom. Walk with Jesus. He knows where he is going. Do you?

A Broken Record

As a mom of four, I often feel like a broken record. I need a recording of myself saying, “please put your plate in the dishwasher, pick up your room, put away your clothes.” Is that even a thing anymore? Broken CD? DVD?

I am old enough to remember my little blue record player. I quickly learned records that are heavily scratched repeat themselves over and over. Tiny scratches don’t make much of a difference. The needles of the record player pass over the scratch without much of a disturbance. But an actual broken record is heavily scratched with deep gouges on the surface.

2020 & 2021 have sounded like a broken record as the same cycle of news stories, and global pandemic media coverage has etched deep gouges into my soul, leaving me weary. 2021 is almost 2020 on repeat.

If you have been reading through the Bible chronologically, you are finishing Deuteronomy and headed to Joshua. Reading Deuteronomy feels like a broken record doesn’t it? Over and over, God reminds the Israelites through Moses all of the statutes they are to remember and follow to live in the land God promised. You may be thinking, “Ugh, I read all of this in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. What is the point? It’s like a broken record.”

The Israelites are a broken people. Life in Egypt introduced them to idol worship and corrupt practices. They wandered the desert for 40 years because of their disobedience. Their brokenness and stubbornness etched deep scratches into their lives and God has had to repeat his words to them. He is a loving father, trying to teach his children how to live and honor Him. God had many blessings waiting for them, but they needed to understand what is required of them. God also had to remind them of who he was and who they were in him because of his deep love for them. They were no longer slaves, but children of the one true God. He told them, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” (Leviticus 26:12)

I love my children. My broken record moments are teaching my children responsibilities to help them be productive in their adult lives. It would be cruel to tell them my expectations one time and expect them to remember. Repeating my instructions and guiding them on the right path is part of my job as their mother, understanding they will make mistakes along the way.

I am thankful God is a broken record with me by reminding me of his commands and promises over and over. As I have walked through the chaos of this past year, His simple, broken record reminders, have helped me get out of bed, place my feet on the floor, and walk into all He has for me each day.

P.S. Do you need some broken record reminders from God today? Here are some verses from Deuteronomy to encourage you:

Deuteronomy 1:30 Deuteronomy 2:7 Deuteronomy 4:29

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Deuteronomy 7:7-9 Deuteronomy 10:17

Deuteronomy 11:7 Deuteronomy 14:2 Deuteronomy 20:4

Deuteronomy 29:29 Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Deuteronomy 31:6 Deuteronomy 32:3-4

March Plan & Tips

How is your read-through going? To be honest I am a bit behind, but I’ll get caught up this week. If you are behind, no worries! Thankfully this isn’t a race. The important thing is that you are spending time in God’s word each day.

My daughter asked a great question this week. She said she felt like she wanted to get closer to God, but didn’t know how. I had two responses for her:

1 – Open the Bible. Pick a book and read a chapter a day. If you are a new Christian, or (like her) wanting to get closer to God, I recommend holding off on the chronological read through. Pick one of the first four books of the New Testament. I recommend John (and even wrote a Bible study on it here).

2 – Trust God’s Voice. When you feel God urging you to do something, follow that urging. Hearing God isn’t through an audible voice. It is sensing His guidance in your life. My daughter felt the urge to get closer to God, to know Him more. This was not an accident. God is always trying to pull his children closer. If you feel God’s urging, follow it. That is how you know get to know his “voice”. The more you follow, the more you can feel His guidance in your life. If you ignore His voice, you won’t know what it sounds like when He’s trying to speak.

Open your Bible, friends. You are called to be mature in your faith. While we will never know all there is to know about God and his Word, one way to move toward maturity is through getting to know your Creator through reading the Bible consistently.

If you struggle to make time, ask God to help you. Ask God to help you carve out time to open your Bible. Bring a Bible in the car. As you sit and wait for appointments or in the car rider line, it will be time well spent.

Listen to the Bible. There are many audio Bibles to choose from online, as well as Bible apps that offer audio features. Turn off the negativity on the radio during your commute and listen to scripture.

You can do this friends! Ask God to help you make it a consistent part of your day. He will do it because He always wants His children closer!

Here are some helpful sites:

Bible Hub

Bible Gateway Audio Bible

The Bible Recap – podcast for explaining the Bible

Happy March, Friends!

Lost in Leviticus

Here we go again…


I remember trying to read through the Bible multiple times over the past several years. I do well with Genesis and Exodus. The story is somewhat easy to follow and keeps my attention. Then comes…Leviticus.


If you are reading the Bible through this year, reading through chronologically with me, or with another group, you may be having the same difficulty and asking yourself: What is the point of all of these laws? Do I have to follow all of them? Isn’t God being picky?

I am writing to tell you today, don’t get lost in Leviticus.


As with many other confusing portions of the Bible, you have to look at this book within the context of the time it was written.


I am not writing off the Ten Commandments. I am not telling you not to worry about Old Testament Law.


Let’s think about who these people are and why God would be giving very specific laws related to worship, sacrifice, festivals, the tabernacle, etc.


Here is a quick summary: The people of Israel are the descendants of Jacob and his twelve sons. They lived in Egypt because of the famine on their land. Joseph brought his family to Egypt to provide for them. Eventually, the Israelites grew so large the Pharaoh was threatened so he enslaved them. Four hundred years later Moses arrived on the scene to deliver them from their slavery.


The key to understanding Leviticus is in the space between the books of Genesis and Exodus within 400 years. The people of Israel spent 400 years immersed in another culture with another religion drastically different from the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.


Every law given by God to Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness was meant to undo the culture and religion ingrained in them for 400 years. The laws of Leviticus were given to the Levi priests over the tabernacle and the people of Israel. God’s main goal was holiness. He wanted his children to be the complete opposite of where they came from, set apart, and different.


The Egyptian religion was a part of their daily life. They believed multiple gods controlled every part of their lives. As children, we studied the gods as mythology, but the Egyptians spent their lives appeasing the gods to keep the peace, order, gain help, and have protection. These were gods that never came into the presence of the people. They remained in their invisible realm as the Egyptians exhausted themselves to keep the gods happy.


God wanted his children to change that lifestyle. He didn’t want the people to appease him. He wanted an actual trusting, loving relationship with them. He wanted to be in their presence, but they had to know and understand who they were dealing with.


God gave the Israelites instructions on sacrifices, festivals, and the tabernacle because their previous experience was so corrupt. They were dealing with a much different God.


God also had to address the “picky” sins. He had to emphasize the importance of their relationships with one another, pointing out their sin. God is serious about sin and anything that makes keeps you enslaved is sin. He released them from physical bondage by making them physically pack up and go. He also had to release them from their spiritual bondage, but they had to pack up their sin and selfish desires to focus on a holy God.

Constantly striving to live free from the bondage of 400 years of sin sounds like an exhausting process. God gave the Israelites weekly practices like the Sabbath, to help them rest and keep them focused on resting in His presence. He also gave them regular festivals and holy days to observe, again giving them guardrails to keep them on the path to freedom.

Fast forward 1400 years…God gave us a way for our sins to be eternally forgiven along with a permanent way to stay on track, his son, Jesus Christ. The animal sacrifices in Leviticus ended with the ultimate sacrifice of God’s son. Once and for all, Jesus is the final atonement for our sins (making us right before God). His death and resurrection also gave us another gift, the Holy Spirit. Admission of sin, believing in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for your sin, and confessing Jesus is the Son of God allows for the Holy Spirit to come into your life and help you walk daily in a relationship with God. You will get distracted and fail, but the payment for that sin has already been made, you do not have to be enslaved by it.

So, as you read through Leviticus, don’t get lost. Use it as a time of prayer, asking God to point out the sin and bondage in your own life. What are you enslaved to? Are you walking toward God’s holiness or focused on your desires? The sacrifice has already been made. Ask the Holy Spirit to guard your heart and keep you on the right path toward holiness.


Spending time on the 600 Levitical laws will make you want to give up reading God’s word because it appears boring and unrelatable! Ask God to help you relate it to your life. Don’t get lost in Leviticus.

P.S. You can read more about becoming a follower of Christ, here .

Hope

I don’t typically join in with the latest craze. The bigger the bandwagon the more likely I run in the other direction. I am not being self-righteous here, I am just stubborn. Don’t tell me what to do, who to follow, or what to watch. Ha! Most shows I watch are because I have found them enjoyable not because of their popularity at the time.

Choosing a “word of the year” was something I didn’t want to hop on the bandwagon for either, but when I actually asked God about He had a different idea. God gave me a word during my time reading in scripture. Many Christian influencers talked about their “word of the year”, but through my own time of prayer, God placed a word on my heart to be my focus. I know when God speaks and gives me a word because it won’t leave my mind. It keeps popping up throughout my day and won’t leave me alone.

Last year, my word of the year was “Pray”. Did God transform my prayer life to the point that I am praying long drawn out prayers every morning? No. Did he deepen my prayer life so that my prayers are more God led than whatever words Leah utters? Yes. Over the course of 2020, God would wake me up in the middle of the night with specific things to pray for. I prayed for people and situations that I would have never thought to pray for on my own, especially wake myself up during my precious sleeping hours to pray for them! One of those times, I wrote down a specific event involving specific people God told me to pray for. Several months later I now know exactly why God needed me to pray and I am so thankful He chose to wake me up for an entire week for that purpose.

This year I prayed for God to give me a new word if he had one for me. This year the word is “Hope”. I know God is a God of Hope, but when the world gets so loud and I allow the noise to interrupt my life, my hope gets drowned out. I am asking God for my eyes to be opened to the hope in every area of my life, but I know he will do exceedingly and abundantly more than I could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

God confirms in little ways that yes, this was the word he wanted my to emphasize in my reading, studying, and prayer time. Funny enough, before I had decided on the word “hope”, our family randomly chose two movies to watch on New Year’s Eve and the lead female actress was named Hope. I had never seen these movies and had no idea what the characters names were. Tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor.

For the first time, I have also chosen scripture that speaks to the hope I need in my life. Paul writes in Romans 8:24-28 about hope that is not seen and hope that needs patience as I wait. While I am waiting, the Holy Spirit will groan for me when my prayers are silent. These verses end with the promise that God will work all things together for good. Scripture memory is a weak area of spiritual life, but these verses say “the Spirit helps us in our weakness”!

This year, I am reading through my Bible chronologically, and each day, I ask God to show me hope within His pages of scripture. I write “hope” at the top of my journal pages as I am ready and waiting to receive the hope he has to show me.

Have you chosen a “word” for the year? Spend some time praying and ask God to confirm a word for you. If it is His will, he will show you in a variety of ways. Ask him to confirm that word over your life with eyes wide open.

Blessings,

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