The Truth about Mental Health: For you and for your children


I would like to proclaim a truth about mental health:

It just is.

Mental health is something we all have. I know we’d like to relegate it to people with some diagnosable illness, someone far different from ourselves, or some distant cousin that no one talks about, but you have it. I have it. We all have it.

Mental health is part of all of us. It’s made up of our neurons and hormones and synapses. It’s made up of our emotions, our sensory system, our experiences, our heredity, and our relationships.

We have this gigantic part of us that we are ignoring, wishing, hoping-for-the-best that it stays on the up-and-up.

Let’s proclaim a new truth together: Mental Health is.

We all have it. It’s a part of us. Sometimes it’s happy and doing well. Sometimes it’s struggling. Some of us struggle with it more, others of us less. Sometimes it needs treatment, medications, and more support than we’d like, but it’s better that way; peaceful, functioning well with some help. But it’s important to understand that it’s a thing inside each of us, not relegated to someone less than, outcast, or disconnected. It may look different in each of us, more dramatic perhaps in some of us, mostly happy in others of us, but it’s always there, a part of us, woven and knit in us by our Creator, messed with by a world full of sin.

In today’s podcast I present more on this truth. I pray it helps lighten the shame associated with mental health, for us and for our children.

Sometimes, we think we need to “keep it together.” We need to be at the top of our mental health game and so does everyone in our households.

When we read Proverbs 22:6:

Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it.

we think “training them up right” means that we just need to teach them the Word, good values, good morals, good character, and then they’ll be able to “keep it together.”

Truth: It doesn’t work like that.

Training them up means sharing hope and sharing the struggle. It means gathering around the Word so that when the hard times come we know where to turn and so do our children. It means helping them learn that there is no shame in sharing the burden, getting help from experts, and being honest about brain chemistry, individual needs, and when mental health goes awry.

Our children won’t be perfect. We won’t be perfect. Often mental health is out of our control, out of their control; but it is never out of God’s control. He is in the realm of synapses and emotions and struggle too. He is God of even this- when it’s good, when it’s bad, and when it’s ugly.

Truth: We all have mental health.

Let’s normalize that. Let’s rejoice in the gift of one another for support and encouragement when we each need it. Let’s thank the Lord for the creation of medicines, for doctors and nurses and therapists who are in the know, for hope in a God who values our tears when we’re hurting and holds our arms up in the triumph…for us, and for our children.

 

I Love My Shepherd Podcast, Episode 17: The Truth about Mental Health

Bright Green is the Color of Hope – The Gift of Life in Infant Loss


Genevieve and I met on a non-discript day in September, I imagine. Genevieve and I bonded sharing a tiny little office off the chapel of Concordia University in Chicago, Illinois.

Young and fresh and full of theological ideologies just waiting to be hammer out, we spent a fair number of hours gabbing about which classes were our favorites, bad boyfriend breakups, and philosophical dissertations on the lectionary selection of the week.

We grew up. We met handsome men, who were chasing after the Lord and could keep up with our theological rants and so we married them. We grew out. We each moved. We lost touch a little. Then Facebook worked its magic on the world and we vowed not to lose touch again.

We liked each other’s feeds. We commented on recipes we thought we would each like. We rejoiced together as babies were born and ministry happened and life did its thing. Then my world fell apart, and Genevieve was there.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be my turn, 3 years later, to hold Genevieve when her world fell apart. February 7th we should have welcomed Sebastian Alexander Sigmund Wagner to the world.

If the world were perfect, if Adam and Eve would have kept their grubby hands off that apple, we would have. Instead, we welcomed this precious little boy into his eternal rest in the arms of His Savior.

I created the Written in Iron Ink series of the podcast to reflect the testimonies of all the brave and courageous people I know going forth in this life and letting God write His testimony across their lives, their struggles, their joys, their losses, and their triumphs. When we go through stuff we want to know that it isn’t for naught, that God is at work, that ministry is being done, and that through it He ministers to us, and He ministers to His people.

I was blessed to sit with Genevieve and Rev. Geoffrey Wagner last month and talk about God’s work in and through the life of their stillborn son.

God has written a message on Sebastian’s tiny little life and the Wagner’s are the first to tell you that His message is Hope.

Our hands are grubby too. Adam and Eve aren’t the only ones to deal with the consequences of sin. From that day on our whole world struggles against the darkness of a world groaning for Christ to heal it. Death is our reality, and sometimes death that comes far too soon. The Wagner’s, in this podcast, help us to clarify God’s grace for the unborn, God’s work in every single life He creates, and the testimony that our Savior works for ministry to and among one another in times of grief.


Here are a few of the highlights:

Every pastor needs a pastor. Every pastor’s family needs a pastor.

Grief is an individual process and requires a judgement free zone. Spouses grieve differently from one another. Children need to grieve. Others who offer support and grieve alongside are a gift.

The promise of the Gospel is heard in the womb. We cling to the promises and the grace of God, the Word of God, rather than our own abilities and doubts. God works His testimony and ministry happens through the tiniest of lives.

I Love My Shepherd- Episode 16

Written in Iron Ink – Infant Loss

Resources for infant loss:

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep- Infant loss photography

Molly’s Bears – more than just a teddy bear

Grieving the Child I Never Knew: A Devotional for Comfort in the Loss of Your Unborn or Newly Born Child

Share – A National Organization for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support

Star Legacy Foundation: Stillbirth Education, Research, and Awareness

At the Death of a Child – booklet on infant loss and baptism

I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy (book)

 

Easter Scavenger Hunt


Easter egg hunts were one of my favorite church memories as a child. Plastic eggs filled with chocolate and other treasures dotted the church lawn like they came down with the rain overnight. Hard boiled eggs were dyed by someone’s loving hands and then hid near bushes and trees. Let’s be honest, though, these were the slightly less desirable bounty, left by the big kids for wide eyed preschoolers and toddlers slowed down by wonderment.

Easter egg hunts meant our parents didn’t have to drag us out of bed bleary eyed for Sunrise service. All they had to say was “Happy Easter!” followed by that blessed phrase, “He is Risen!”

We knew what that meant- grace, joy, Easter Breakfast, and you’ve got it- the Egg Hunt.

Stuff like this matters for kids at church.

While the message may not be as overt as the Sunday School lesson or the Children’s Sermon, it does share grace with them in a way that I don’t think our adult brains can comprehend. Eggs-schmeggs, sure, but to a child’s heart this speaks something different –

“I matter in this place.”

“I am seen in the Body of Christ.”

“My presence is not just tolerated, but welcomed and invited here.”

“These people speak my language, and I want to be a part of it.”

This layer of care for our church kids guides hearts to be open. Those little ears (and big ears) hear the message of Christ from your lips and then see the love of the Savior in action. They connect the dots between real life, real truth, real action, real faith and His real Word.

Once I was involved in children’s ministry, as an adult, and then bringing my own kids to church on Easter morning, I found the Great Egg Hunt fun, but lacking. It was special, great for photos and joy-filled church memories, but not quite what I was going for as a teaching moment. There had to be, not a better way, but something different to help direct the kids to the Word in a fun way, with treats, because, you know, Easter. 😉

So, I googled and pinterested the topic to death. I found lots of great ideas and alternatives. Praises to the Lord for creating many ideas, minds, and a zealous Spirit!

I would reference blog posts and idea makers here, but I really scanned about 47 different ideas and decided to create my own.For my own children’s ministry I decided to write my own Easter Scavenger Hunt. I do encourage you to look through Pinterest and search engines for similar blogs and ideas, however, since the origin of the idea for an Easter Scavenger Hunt isn’t mine.

This is an easy and fun alternative to help kids and families connect the treats they receive from your church or family gathering on Easter morning to the Word of Life. Each item in the Hunt is chosen for a specific reason that is linked to a Bible verse, for instance…

Betrayed with a kiss – Hershey kisses
Judas’s payment- silver coins
Romans 5:8 – chocolate cross

And more!

You hide the items for the Hunt around the church or lawn, your house, a park, anywhere, and give families the list of verses to read with the corresponding items.

 

I have attached the PDF of my own Easter Scavenger Hunt to make it easy for you- just print and duplicate!

Easter Scavenger Hunt PDF

If parents are still eating Easter breakfast, ask for volunteers or members of your youth group to help little hands find their treats. I wouldn’t necessarily disclude the youth from this hunt, though. I guarantee those bigger hands are going to want to get in on these treats, and they are an often forgotten age group who like fun and creative ways to learn the Scriptures as well. You could make them work harder to figure out the items by only giving them the verse list. This is especially fun if you’re feeling ornery. You could also give the kids an extra bag of the goodies and tell them to give it to a friend who didn’t get to go to church on Easter morning. You can trim your own hunt to make it smaller, or you could add to it.

Now I want to show up at all your churches and family events to see how you all used the hunt! Please share pictures or stories in the comments section so we can all share in the fun!

Easter joy to you all!

It is by His grace-filled death and resurrection that we are Saved, Redeemed, Set Free, Restored, and Made New. Let’s go share that message with big and little ones everywhere!