Monday, January 14, 2019

PSYCH INFO: RECOVERY FROM GRIEF

Q. The sudden death of a friend of mine has devastated me and many others. I go from anger, to depression to feeling numb. I can’t eat or sleep and I keep thinking about the violence done to her. I’m confused as to why this happened. The world no longer seems rational or safe. What can I do to get back to normal?

A. The death of a loved one is more difficult to accept when it happens to someone in the prime of life and when it is due to a violent act on the part of another person. There was no illness, no time to prepare for the loss of your friend and it is difficult to understand how anyone could or would deliberately kill her.
        
Your anger, shock and grief are normal reactions to this loss. A range of emotions and reactions accompany loss - anger, guilt, sadness, fear, as wells as difficulty eating, sleeping and concentrating. Confusion about the meaning of life also is common. We wonder, why would God allow this? The reality of death and our own vulnerability is something we can no longer deny.
        
Grieving is a process and it takes time. You will have days in which sadness and tears overwhelm you. You will have days in which you push back your feelings about it and feel numb. The numb periods are necessary in order to continue to function, do your job, take care of family needs and get some relief from the inner pain. It is essential though that you allow yourself to grieve. Choose times when you can let your feelings out. Talk over your feelings with a friend and cry on their shoulder. No one should grieve alone. 
        
You may experience regrets and guilt feelings about your friendship - wishing you had been more helpful or supportive. These are normal reactions to grief. Talk or write out these feelings of grief. Focus on happy memories also, not just on your regrets.
        
You may replay in your mind the events surrounding her death or have nightmares about this. Your heart and soul are trying to face the reality of what has happened. Talk and write about your most fearful thoughts. During the day time when you need to work, use thought stopping to turn off the fearful thoughts or images. Thought stopping involves talking back to the thoughts with a comforting thought (such as “God is my refuge and strength”) or replacing a negative image with a positive one. There are a number of other things you can do:

 If you are unable to eat or sleep, are depressed and unable to work, medication and counseling can help you function. Counseling is essential if extreme symptoms continue very long. 

Attend a grief support group. Grief Share, an excellent group, is available at many churches.

Read books on grief. A few if these are: Where Is God When It Hurts? by Philip Yancey, Recovering from the Losses of Life by H. Norman Wright, When Life Changed Forever by Rick Taylor, Roses in December by Marilyn Heavilin, Confessions of a Grieving Christian by Zig Ziglar, Splashes of Joy in the Cesspools of Life by Barbara Johnson and Dawn of Hope by Eldyn Simons. 

 Hang onto your faith. Turn to God through prayer, scripture and your church for help and support. Faith gives us hope and comfort in difficult times. 


“You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7

Blessings, Dottie


Monday, January 7, 2019

Overcoming the Winter Doldrums



Q. I dread winter. I hate driving to work in the dark and driving home in the dark. I hate being cooped up inside most evenings and weekends because it’s too cold or snowy or icy to go out. I become bored and depressed every year around the first of January. 
       
My husband and children don’t seem to mind being cooped up. They stretch out in front of the TV for entire weekends.  We can’t move to a warmer climate because our jobs and families are here. What can I do to make the winter bearable for me?

A. For most of us there is a post-holiday let down that often coincides with very wintry weather. The cold, dark days of winter are difficult for most of us. There are a number of things you can do that will help you find some enjoyment in the winter months.

1. Spend a week thinking about what you do like or enjoy about winter. Make a list and add to it as you think of things. For instance, my list would include taking brisk walks, time to relax and do nothing, the warmth of a fire in the fireplace, and the beauty of new fallen snow.

2. Once you have made your list keep it where you will see it often and focus your mind on these things whenever a negative thought about the winter creeps in and begins to depress you. Some of your depression regarding winter is due to your negative thinking about it.
       
3. What are your goals in life? What is your purpose? If you know the answers to these questions you can find things to do to move you toward your goals - even in the winter.
       
4. Use the winter months to accomplish some of the things you usually put off doing. Clean closets, put pictures in photo albums, write letters, cook special meals, play with your children letting them suggest the game or activity, invite friends over for soup and sandwiches.
       
5. Think of fun things you can do at home with your husband or family. Rent a funny movie, play board games or card games, make taffy or fudge, cuddle with your husband while he watches football.

6. Don’t be stuck in the house every evening and all weekend even if your husband and family like it that way. Find places to go. There are inexpensive or free activities many places. You can take a class that interests you. You can visit a museum. You can volunteer to help someone in need. You can be active in a church.

7. Find some alone activities that you enjoy and do them when the rest of the family is lounging by the TV. You can knit, crochet or work on crafts. You can read a good book. You can exercise indoors.
       
8. Learn to enjoy winter sports. Ice skating, sledding and skiing are available during some of our winters. When it snows, get out and build a snowman in your yard!
       
9. Do something different. This is one of the best ways to overcome boredom and depression. It sounds too simple to be true but it works. We tend to be stuck in routines of behavior that are repetitious and not spontaneous. When we do something different we step out of our rut. 
       
I hope these ideas will help you enjoy your winter. 

“Consider it all joy, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2-3

Blessings, Dottie


Monday, December 31, 2018

Sabbath Rest: Take Time to Slow Down and Rest


Q. Life is too busy. We are constantly under time pressure to get chores done, go some where, and do something.  I yearn for time alone, time to unwind and time to enjoy my family. We seem to only achieve rest and relief while on vacation. How can we lessen our busyness and stress? Can New Year Resolutions help along this line?  

A. “I’m too busy” seems to be a universal refrain in today’s world. We’re so overwhelmed by the demands and activities of each day that life doesn’t feel easy, pleasant or peaceful. We long to be calm and serene like Mary but we’re more like busy Martha. Some people even take pride in busyness, perhaps feeling important because of it. Our society pushes and pressures us in this direction and has convinced us that “down time” is wasted. But is it?

If we are spending our days in frantic effort with no time for rest, joy, serenity, or even fun - what are our priorities?  Have we lost sight of what we want in life? Have we lost sight of what God wants for us in life, as well? New Year Resolutions or plans along this line are in order.

Wayne Muller, in his book Sabbath: Remembering the Sacred Rhythm of Rest and Delight, suggests we have forgotten the Sabbath. The Hebrew word for Sabbath is “Shabbat” and means to stop, to rest. Most faiths prescribe some period of time each week dedicated to worship, singing, giving thanks, sharing meals and resting. It’s a time for being nurtured and renewed. It’s a time to let go of work and responsibilities. 

Mueller suggests that “rest is not just a psychological convenience; it is a spiritual and biological necessity.” If we’re sleep deprived and exhausted we’re not effective in any area of our life. Rest enables us to meet the demands of life with joy and ease and this improves our effectiveness in our work as well as in our relationships.

We don’t want to return to the legalistic or routine keeping of the Sabbath as our parents or grandparents observed it, but we can make the decision to find time for rest. Our Sabbath rest can be an hour, an afternoon or a Holy day. Many other activities will tempt you from your plan. Modern life seduces us away from Sabbath rest if we let it.

Here are some ways to create Sabbath rest.
1. Reevaluate your values and goals. Talk over with your family how you will make time for Sabbath rest. List the values you follow and the ones you would like to follow. Share these with your family. Change your activity schedule based on these values.

2. Give thanks before meals. This can be a meaningful time of connection for the whole family. You can also give thanks when you first wake up in the morning before you even get out of bed and at night before you fall asleep. Prayer and thanksgiving are restful activities that remind us of our blessings and of a power greater than us.

3. Pause during the day, take three deep breaths and pray or meditate. Tie this to some regular activity such as every time you stand up or sit down.

4. Pamper yourself. Take a nap or a leisurely bath. Both are good for your health. You don’t have to feel guilty about relaxing. 

5. Turn off the TV and the telephone during dinner. Create a regular period of uninterrupted time with your family and with yourself.

6. Take time for worship on a regular basis. It will restore your soul.
One of my favorite hymns says: “There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God, a place where sin cannot molest, near to the heart of God.“ When we draw near to God he draws near to us.

“Come to me all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29 NLT

Blessings, Dottie


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

BEST BOOKS READ IN 2018


Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
By Bryan Stevenson                                                   

Just Mercy is a sobering account of a multitude of injustices done against many blacks and poor people by the criminal justice system in the United States. Caution: This book will make you cry and will make you very sad. Yet we need to know about this and do what we can to help correct the many problems. Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer, has built a non-profit organization to represent people wrongfully imprisoned. He has worked tirelessly for decades and has managed to save hundreds from life in prison. The most unbelievable injustice includes children as young as thirteen being put in solitary confinement for life! Stevenson’s writes with warmth, kindness and intense emotion. This is a powerful book.


God and the Transgender Debate: What Does the Bible Actually Say About Gender Identity?
By Andrew T. Walker

God and the Transgender Debate is a ground breaking book! Andrew Walker lovingly and thoughtfully describes the issues, problems and caring solutions for helping people struggling with gender identity. He spells out the fact that we must love every person as Jesus did. We must listen to them to understand their struggle. We must accept them and learn from them. We must also help them understand that we are all sinners, we are all created in the image of God, and we are all created as either male or female.

Should feelings about who I am trump what my body says about who I am? Walker tells about a white man in his thirties who interviews college students and asks them what they would say if he said he is woman? What if he said he was Chinese? What if he said he was seven years old and wanted to enroll in first grade? What would they say if he said he was 6 ft 5” tall? (10 inches taller than his actual height.) None of the students would say he was wrong. They said it was OK for him to view himself as very tall, or Chinese, or a woman.

Walker gives a wealth of information. A chapter on how to talk with children about this issue is excellent, loving and helpful. He also has a chapter in which he answers questions and a chapter on how the church must lovingly deal with this issue. I hope many will read this book and learn from it. I hope parents with children facing this culture in their schools will read this book. Walker offers valuable information and insights along with loving kindness, grace and truth. Here’s the link for You Tube “College Kids Say the Darndest Things.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4S0gHlKiho


Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve
By Lenora Chu                                                                                

Little Soldiers is an excellent, detailed book about the educational system in China. Lenora Chu, an American journalist and her husband move to Shanghai to live. Chu’s parents had emigrated from China and she was an American citizen born and raised in Texas. Her husband was a blond American with Norwegian roots. He worked in China with the Peace Corp for some years as a young man and was eager to return there. They settled in Shanghai both with jobs there. When their son, Rainey, was three they enrolled him in a Chinese school. Rainey was a rambunctious toddler. The school was very authoritarian. Toddlers were held captive in small chairs and punished or even banished if they didn’t obey every order.

Chu writes in depth about their experiences with Rainey and how he adapted. Chu had many misgivings and uncertainties about continuing Rainey in the system. Over a period of several years she details their journey and she goes on a quest to understand the effects of a Chinese education on children. She befriends Chinese students in their teens and in college who share their ideas about education. She visits Chinese schools out in the country where poverty and poor teaching prevail.

She describes the extreme pressure on the children and on their parents regarding home work and testing. This becomes more extreme as they approach the higher grades. She ultimately decides that the early years of Chinese education with memorization, high expectations and very hard work produces more intelligent children who then can reason effectively and still be creative in what they do.

This is an excellent and thorough exploration of the Chinese educational system. Parents, grandparents, educators and all who value learning should read this and be informed. Hopefully the information here will influence the American schools to expect more from young children.          

          
Educated: A Memoir
By Tara Westover

Educated is an amazing memoir of the author’s life growing up with an abusive, disturbed, fanatic father and a disturbed brother. She is the youngest of seven children, five of them boys. She grew up in the mountains of Idaho and received no formal schooling.The family avoided all medical treatment, using natural remedies even for serious injuries. The book is disturbing, going from one accident or injury to another. The family dynamics are shocking and unbelievable. 

Tara, tough and strong, worked with the men and boys through her childhood as well as with her mother concocting various health remedies or learning to be a midwife. When seventeen she left the family against her father’s will and enrolled at Brigham Young University. This transition was not easy. Nor was it easy for her to come to terms with her past. She has a list of degrees including a PhD in history from Cambridge. As an adult she struggled with how to stay connected to her family without being sucked back into the morass.

I couldn’t put this book down. I read it in two days. This book is disturbing. It is also a New York Times best seller.

Blessings, Dottie



Monday, December 17, 2018

The Miracle of Christmas!


Christmas is a happy, festive and joyful time. We celebrate Christmas with gifts, fancy meals, family gatherings and we enjoy marvelous, joyful worship. But in the busyness of the season do we miss the holy meaning of Christmas? Do we know what Christmas is really about?

It’s about the greatest miracle of all! The Incarnation of Jesus as a baby. Christ assumed human form in the person of Jesus and is completely God and completely man. The Son of God existed before the world was created. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through Him and apart from him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:1-3)

The divine Son of God existed with God and took on his human body in the womb of Mary. He was not the son of Joseph. He was the Son of God. Mary was a virgin and God impregnated her. Can you imagine this?

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Emmanuel, which means, God with us.“ (Matthew 1:23) In this scripture Matthew is quoting from Isaiah 7:14. Scholars for centuries didn’t know this could be taken literally. They were expecting a different kind of Messiah. This is a promise greater than anyone expected. Mary is pregnant with the Son of God!

Angels run all through this holy story. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.  And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:31-33)

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:34-35) Have you ever seen an angel?  Can you imagine this happening to a teen-age girl? What an amazing revelation!

When Joseph learned Mary was pregnant he planned to quietly end their relationship. Then an angel appeared to him in a dream and said: “Do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. And you will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21) And Joseph listened and married Mary in spite of what the neighbors must have said.

Another angelic appearance came at the birth of Jesus. An angel appeared to the shepherds and said, “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior – Yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will recognize him. You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snuggly in strips of cloth!” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God: “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to all whom God favors.” (Luke 2:10-14)

How amazing that must have been for these shepherds to hear the angel’s message and then to see a vast number of angels praising God and announcing the Good News. Can you imagine the awe and wonder of this? Only Almighty God, the King of Kings, Our Holy God would do this. Coming as a baby cost Jesus much. He gave up indescribable power and glory to become one of us.

There were witnesses to all these events and they have been studied and written about and pondered over for centuries. The star that guided the wise men from the East also attests to the divine nature of Jesus. He was both divine and human. He lived on earth, grew up and taught his disciples to love God and follow Him. And he died to save us. And he rose again! The Christmas “story” is the most amazing true story told and it is a TRUE story. It is His Story. Don’t miss this. Ask Jesus into your heart this Christmas.

“Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

Blessings, Dottie





Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Christmas Story for Families

Q. Our families will be with us on Christmas day including a number of children. My wife and I want to recognize the birth of Christ in addition to our usual gift exchange and feast. Any ideas about this?

A. The best idea I can think of is to read the Christmas Scripture. We have done this with our family, including the children in the reading. We assigned roles to a Narrator, Angels, the Prophet, Shepherds, the Magi, Priests and Teachers and Herod. Children enjoy this; learn from this and like being involved. Our NIV script is below. The Narrator reads the black print.

The Birth of Christ as told in the Bible
Matthew 1:18-24
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,

ANGEL: "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
PROPHET: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Luke 2: 1-10 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them,

ANGEL:"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
                                                                                                                         
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 
                                                                                                                           
ANGELS: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,

SHEPHERDS: "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told.

Matthew 2:1-12 12 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked,

MAGI: "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.

PRIESTS & TEACHERS: "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: " 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said,

HEROD: "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.


Christmas Blessings, Dottie




Tuesday, December 4, 2018

CHRISTMAS AFTER DIVORCE


Q. I’m a single parent of two children. My husband asked for a divorce last January; the divorce was final in June and he remarried in July. I’m depressed about the breakup of my marriage and overwhelmed at the thought of celebrating the Holidays. The children are still adjusting to the changes - we’re now living in a small apartment and they see their Dad every other weekend. How can I get through the Holidays? I want to give my children a happy Christmas in spite of all the changes. What do you suggest?

A. The first Christmas after a loss or major change in a family is difficult for all concerned. We go through a grieving process with any loss - not just when someone dies. Christmas often intensifies feelings of depression or loss because it is “supposed” to be a happy family time. 

It’s helpful that you’re living in a different place this year. One reason grief intensifies at Christmas is due to memories from the past that include the person we’ve lost. Being in a different location, without all the reminders of the past will make it easier to not let memories intrude on current enjoyment. You may want to change some of your usual Christmas routines for this reason.
       
Recognize that this Christmas will be different than previous Christmases. Talk this over with your parents or other relatives who will be involved in celebrating with you. Relatives grieve when a divorce occurs in the family, so they are dealing with sadness also. They may hesitate to talk about their own grief unless you share yours. Sharing your feelings will help all of you through the grieving process. Do this as you plan for Christmas so all will be prepared for the ways in which this Christmas will be different.
       
Talk with the children also about plans for this Christmas and about the fact that it will be different without Daddy there. It’s OK for your children to see some of your tears or sadness. It may even help them share their pain. Explain to them that we all grieve when there is a loss. But also reassure them that you will all be OK.           

Give your children as much of your time and attention as you can. This may seem impossible with all you have to do. Include them in the planning for Christmas. Let them help with household chores as well as with shopping, gift wrapping, and decorating. A few minutes listening to them and enjoying them at bedtime can also make a big difference to a child. Give hugs, kisses and say “I love you.”

You must also be very good to yourself during this difficult period of time. Single parents carry a double load of responsibility anyway and then to add to this the grieving process that follows divorce plus the extra “work” of preparing for Christmas and the result can be overwhelming. 
       
There are many ways you can be good to yourself. Don’t expect things to be perfect. Do only what is essential. Take time for yourself. Spend time with friends who love you and who lift your spirits. Accept help from others. Don’t hide your feelings, share them. See a counselor if you have no one else you can talk openly with or if you are seriously depressed, anxious or overwhelmed.

Focus on the deep meaning of Christmas. An Advent calendar and   Christmas readings each day can be enjoyed by all of you. Most churches have special Christmas programs throughout the month. Take your children with you to these and enjoy the music and the deep meaning of Christmas.

I hope these ideas will help you have as Merry a Christmas as possible.

“For unto us a child is born…” Isaiah 9:6

Blessings, Dottie