Doing Life Together

isolated-1188036_1920The doctor isn’t God.

I have a favorable opinion of medical doctors. Right now, I am training student doctors to become physician one day. Physicians have helped my family many times through the years, but they are not God and need to be questioned. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially concerning the care of an elderly parent.

A few years ago, my mom took a turn for the worst. Suddenly, she was not making sense. She was talking about crazy things so my dad took  her to the hospital. The emergency room doctor listened to her, examined her and referred her to the psychiatry ward. When my dad called and told me, I couldn’t believe it and asked why the doctor wanted to send her to the psych unit. He said, the doctor suspected dementia.

Now, I know dementia doesn’t manifest overnight. A sane woman doesn’t go from having a sound conversation with her daughter to talking crazy the next few days because of dementia. ‘Dad, put the doctor on the phone.”

When I spoke to the doctor, he noted some elevated labs but was convinced that given her age, this was probably dementia.

“I know my mom, talk to her everyday. She does not have dementia. Did you check for Urinary Tract Infection? She does have a history of these and right now, my dad is her caretaker.”

Turns out, he did, but the lab didn’t run the correct test. Mom had a massive Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and was experiencing a delirium-like state, which explained why she sounded crazy. As soon as she was treated with medication, she returned to her old self. NO dementia, just old age and a UTI!

I get that the emergency room doctor was seeing patients piling up in the waiting room the day he saw my mom. But this was my mom and I had to question what he was about to do. He didn’t know her like I did. And his recommendation did not make sense so I questioned. And I pushed. Thank goodness, or she would have ended up on a mental ward not getting the appropriate help. And thank goodness, I had a physician who valued the input of family.

The moral of this story is that doctors are not God, but  people! They get busy and miss things. And while I have complete respect and appreciation for the training and expertise (trust me, their medical training makes them worth every dollar they get!), they receive but they are people  and don’t always get it right.

They need you to participate in care. So don’t be afraid to question and push when you know that they could be missing something. The patient’s family knows the patient best. And in our current medical climate in which time with patients is a precious commodity, be the advocate for a family member. Speak up. Collaborate with your physician. If something doesn’t feel right, tell him or her. It could mean all the difference in care.

smiley-1041796_1920Are you happy? Surprise, Disney is not the happiest place on earth despite their heavy marketing!

If you want to be happy, forget the theme park and move to Norway! That’s right. Norway is the happiest place (country) on earth. The ranking is based on a number of social and economic factors that impact happiness.

Despite the chilly weather, Norway ranks high on caring, community, freedom, generosity, health, income and good governance. In Scandinavia, is human connection and community that matter, not wealth.

According to the World Happiness Report 2017, Norway surged to first place and the U.S. dropped from 13th to 14th due to what is being called a social crisis in the U.S. –a loss of trust, corruption, rising inequality, and isolation. In addition, American are becoming more mean spirited-and mean-spirited behavior affects mental health and happiness.

So what is our take away from this report? A simple reminder that wealth and stuff doesn’t bring a sense of community and support. Things do not improve our mental health. A loving community, with people to support and care for for another, brings good mental health to people in a country.

Building a supportive community should be part of the mission of the American church. In a day and age of increasing isolation, disenfranchisement, anger and hostility, the church can become a place of community, support, hope and care. And while happiness is not the goal of the Christian believer, a life of contentment and joy is possible with a relationship with God. Jesus’ command is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor.

Wouldn’t it be great if the Christian church could be one of the happiest places on earth because of the love of Christ and the impact that love has on caring for one another.

sad-864399_1920“It’s hopeless! Nothing will change and I just feel so discouraged.” Depression has a voice that comes from our thoughts. The voice of depression is hopeless, anxious and negative—all counter to the Word of God.

When you listen to the voice of depression, you give the enemy a stronghold, an area of your life in which to defeat you. So we fight those negative thoughts, behave positively and renew our mind through the promises of God. Here is how to do this:

  • Acknowledge the depression (Proverbs 12:25)
  • Trust in God to help you (Ps. 46:1)
  • Praise Him despite the circumstances (Ps 34:1)
  • Speak hope to into the situation (Ps. 39:7)
  • Renew your negative thoughts through the positive Word of God   (Phil. 4:8)
  • Take steps to correct your behavior. Take care of your body and get active. Make yourself do Don’t wait to feel better. Act your way into feeling better.
  • Address the causes of the depression that deal with your thinking and relationships -e.g., deal with anger, settle family conflicts, resolve inappropriate guilt, forgive those who hurt you, etc.

Nothing is hopeless or impossible with God. Be encouraged. God’s Word gives us several examples of people struggling in the depths of despair -Moses, Job, Peter, the Israelites, Naomi, the prophet Jeremiah, David and even Elijah when he fled to the hills to escape Jezebel.

The most powerful example is Jesus: The night He grieved in the garden over His impending death, “…He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed” (Matt. 26:37). Jesus, confronted with despair and all alone, responded by praying even more earnestly. He submitted to the will of the Father. As He was nailed to the cross, He thought of others. Facing death He was concerned that we be forgiven, that His mother was cared for, that the thief next to Him enter glory. What a model for us: Confront our darkest times, submit to the will of the Father, turn our attention to the needs of others, and praise God for the victory of the cross.

ballet-1971600_1920Affirmation is powerful!

Katie walked off the ballet stage. Having danced her heart out, she came flying into my arms. Beaming like only a mother can, I reached down, kissed her and said, “You were beautiful, wonderful and of course, the best dancer on the stage. I am so proud to be your mom, not because your performance was terrific, which by the way it was, but because you were expressing the gift God gave you. He too is pleased. And using dance to express worship to God gives Him joy.”

As the words left my mouth, I was more than “just mom”. I was a woman of influence, shaping my daughter’s thoughts about herself.

As a therapist, I know how important it is for all of us to be affirmed. I know the power of parental words in a child’s life. We don’t “spoil” our children by praising them. We acknowledge the unique talents and gifts that God has given them and then encourage them to use those gifts for His glory. Parents are always positioned to be chief influencers of their children. When we misuse that influence, problems can erupt.

I’ve counseled many people who long for parental affirmations but never received them. Instead they were pushed to perfection, verbally assaulted, emotionally neglected, or privately shamed, resulting in years of insecurity, low self-esteem or struggles with addiction and eating disorders. They move from relationship to relationship, trying to recreate the “good mom or good dad” they desperately desired. Looking for external validation, they seek and occasionally find. But what is found is never enough because the need to please and be affirmed runs deep.

So how can you, a mom or dad, aunt or uncle, grandmother or grandfather, or professional person become someone of positive influence in a child’s life? Praise often. You can’t spoil a child when praise is honest and genuine. Children do not get big headed or become prideful because of praise, an argument I commonly hear in the church. But rather than only praising performance or success, learn this important principle described by author and apologist, Os Guinness, in his book, The Call. “The greatest deeds are done before an Audience of One, and that is enough.” Ultimately, the only important appraiser of our efforts is God.

If you had parents in your life who affirmed you, be thankful. If you are now in a position to be an affirmer, do so. But if you are one who still feels the sting of childhood hurt, there is hope. Someone wants to affirm you. He sees incredible potential and purpose in you. And His influence supercedes failed parenting. He is God and is calling you to Him. As you learn to please only Him, He will affirm and delight in you.

So when my daughter seeks my affirmation, I freely give it but my response is more than praise for a job well done. I am influencing her to think about who she is and who she will become. My heart is for her to know that she not only dances for me, but for that Audience of One. And if I fail a time or two in my affirmation, she will remain confident because she knows that her primary audience, that Audience of One, never fails to give her what she needs.