Doing Life Together

wave-1913559_1280This past week, the Carolinas were being slammed by the impact of hurricane Florence. As someone who lived on tidal water and knows the fright of these storms, especially  during high tide, I continue to pray for all who are impacted. During the winds and rains, it is scary. Trees bend and fall, lights go out and you sit in the dark wondering what will happen. The power of the storm takes you back.

How do you stay calm when the winds rage around you, knocking down trees, power lines and flooding your home? The dark and unknown can be unnerving.

In the natural, it is almost impossible. The mind gives way to anxiety and worry. We see the power of the storm and feel helpless to stop the damage. We realize how frail life is and how easily swept away we can be.

But with God, peace is promised even in the storm. God is aware of the raging storm wether it is a storm of nature or one that rages within us. Through it all, He  is with us. We don’t face difficulty and uncertainty alone.

With the sea raging around him, the apostle Peter had to step out in faith to meet the Lord. The minute he took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink. For a moment, Peter underestimated  Jesus’ power, presence, and knowledge of his troubles. But to his credit, Peter shifted from doubt to what he knew to be true. Only God can calm the storms in our lives and bring peace. Only God can stop an anxious heart from fear.

Today the storms rage. But God is aware and can calm your heart and bring peace. These are not empty words. Peace in the storm is what God promises.

Psalm 112:7-8–He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look triumph on his foes. 

2 Thessalonians 3;16 Now may the Lord of peas himself, give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. 

hustle-and-bustle-1738072_1920“I have a headache. Do you think I should have it checked out? What if it is a brain tumor? I saw something on the internet that sounded like my symptoms and the person died. Should I go see my doctor?” Living with a hypochondriac can be challenging. A hypochondriac has a lot of body complaints and minor things become major.

It is normal to worry now and then about health, but when someone worries to the extreme and it interferes with their life and those around them, that is a problem. If they talk frequently about illness, make frequent doctor visits, search the Internet for diseases and symptoms, think any pain is a sign of something serious, check their body for sickness, and feel no relief from medical tests, they may be suffering from something called Illness Anxiety Disorder.

Illness Anxiety Disorder (IAD) is a psychiatric disorder that involves being convinced they have illness even though their are no or few symptoms. It is a newer term for hypochondria. It is characterized by excessive worry and fear about illness. It is often brought on my major life stress, history of abuse and/or illness and other mental health disorders.

Learning more about the illness can help you understand what contributes to the problem. This can also increase your patience and empathy and help you with tips to cope and not enable the problem.

Be supportive, but don’t show too much concern and try to stay neutral in your answers. Express that you understand their struggle, without encouraging their obsessive thoughts. Put a time limit on the conversation so that you don’t reinforce illness talk.

Try to discourage the person from excessive worry, checking, research, and reassurance-seeking. Don’t reinforce their obsessions or compulsions by automatically buying in to the health concern, by helping them with excessive research, or by giving reassurance too frequently.

You can also discourage excessive doctors’ appointments and point out the drawbacks of making too many doctors’ appointments (such as cost, stress, time, inconvenience, and additional fears that may result from what the doctor said or from lab results). Encourage a counseling session instead to work through the anxiety.

Preoccupy the hypochondriac with fun activities. When they start complaining about their aching bones, suggest a walk around the block. Tackling the perceived pain through physical activity is a good way to make them forget about it.

Remind them that God invites us to cast his cares on Him. So, encourage the person to unload those health anxieties onto our Savior. Allow him to shoulder the burden and carry them. Use this verse from Deuteronomy 31:8 to encourage. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.   


navigation-2049643_1280We all know how tough it is to parent teenagers in this technology driven world. There are a host of concerns that we have to navigate that are new to parenting. One of those concerns has to do with tracking our kids using locator features on cell phones.

You’ve probably seen the television commercial with the parents looking at their phone and realizing their son is not at college orientation. They laugh and find it amusing. We watched and didn’t laugh. Instead it sparked conversation-is this something we parents really want to do? Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should? (A message we have also instilled into our kids!)  And how do our teens and young adults feel about parents following their every move? I personally find it a bit unsettling, especially the older my children become.

The two main issues around tracking your kids are trust and safety. Let’s tackle the upside first. We have always told both of our children that if they ever find themselves in an unsafe or uncomfortable situation, call or text us and we will come and get you. We’ve had to do this once. And it was up to our teen to make that judgment call. It was a good call and we were proud of her for problem-solving and making that decision. Hopefully, we will not have to make good on this promise too many times, but the location finder could be a life saver if we needed to find our children fast.

Other teens and young adults I know have diabetes, allergies and other medical conditions that might need immediate attention in a crisis situation.  The location tracking could again be an important aid in getting to them quickly. So tracking gets big points for increasing safety.

The downside of tracking is the trust issue. For example, a tracking mom was furious when her daughter was located in a part of town she was told to avoid. What the tracking device couldn’t tell the mom was that her daughter was lost. Siri was rerouting her all over the place due to construction but eventually she found her way to her friend’s house. The daughter was upset that her mom didn’t trust her. The mom was fuming because she thought her daughter was being disobedient. The incident blew up and trust was broken.

That said, when you have a teen who has broken trust, tracking for a period of time can be a way to rebuild that trust. Broken trust requires accountability in order to repair relationships. Tracking locators could help that process. In cases of trust violations, I would be comfortable using the tracking for a period of time.

Generally speaking, the older a child becomes, the less tracking I would ever want to do. I prefer to discuss expectations with my children and build their autonomy. Their time to go it alone comes faster than most of us realize and they need to practice making decisions without parents hovering over their shoulders (or phones in this case) all the time.

I think back at my own development and was happy to have a little anonymity when it came to making stupid mistakes. Would I have wanted my parents to know I hitch hiked to another college campus in my cheerleading outfit one night after a game? No, but when I did it, I realized how stupid and unsafe it was and never did it again. Why? Because my parents taught me well. I had a moral code and compass and was expected to use it when I was out of their sight. Trust me, when parenting is done right, your voice is the head of that child when they are acting out. It is true that teens and young adults, because of their undeveloped brains, won’t always make the best decisions, but they need a little space to fail and learn from their mistakes.

My best advice is to use location trackers for safety reasons only. We have a device that my young adult can turn on if she needs to and wants us to know where she is. Sit down with your teens and young adults and talk about when it would be appropriate to track and how those features will be used. Then be true to your word!

Next, tell them you could track them but won’t because you want to trust them. Add a little guilt and say, “I need to be able to trust you. Don’t let me down. You are a great kid and can make good decisions.” Tell them you expect them to practice good sense and think before they act. Unless they have given you reasons not to trust, let them try. Build their independence.

Whatever you decide to do about tracking, be upfront with your children. The worse thing is to track them and not tell them. When they find out (and they will because they are more tech savvy), you have broken their trust.

If you do parent well, even when they mess up, they will tell you. Then, you can use the situation as a teaching moment and extend grace.

Do you agree or disagree? Parents, love to have you weigh in this one.  

friends-409403_1280You take a selfie. Then you look at it and begin to edit– a new filter, better angle, crop here and there. Make your teeth look whiter, your lips bigger…OK now it is ready to publish.  No big deal except plastic surgeons are noting a new trend. Rather than bringing in Kendall Jenner’s picture and saying, “I want those lips,” people are bringing in their altered selfies and saying, “Make me look like that.” Social media has altered our looks thanks to the filters and edits.

When a person becomes obsessed with looking perfect on Snapchat, it could trigger body dysmorphic disorder.Body dysmorphic disorder is part of a spectrum of obsessive compulsive disorders in which a person believes that a part of their body is flawed. This creates an excessive preoccupation and distress and negativity in terms of self.

In some cases, selfie obsession could be a factor in developing body dysmorphic disorder. And the ability to edit and Photoshop yourself leaves an unattainable image of beauty. Imperfections can be erased. If you are dissatisfied with your body and want a smaller waist or a different size nose, enter the world of magical editing. Voila! You appear as an image of yourself.  And it is immediate.

Boston University’s Department of Dermatology recently published an article in  JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery on the topic of Snapchat dysmorphia-a condition they believe is triggering the psychiatric disorder body dysmorphic disorder  A wish for plastic surgery to correct this internal struggle is being made more and more. But of course, an external correction doesn’t correct an internal struggle. Approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy are needed, not plastic surgery.

At the 2017 annual American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstruction Surgery, plastic surgeons began to identify this trend of surgery requests to look more like selfies. Body dysmorphia or not, concepts of beauty are being heavily influenced by Snapchat and Facebook. The impact of repeated images of editing perfecting is taking a toll on body acceptance.  We want to look like our pictures and plastic surgery can help achieve that end.

Next time you Snap away, think of how you edit your photos. Are you preoccupied with how you appear and is this creating a dissatisfaction with who you are? There is a fine line between acceptance and obsession. For many people, it is going to take a lot of reassurance to help them be happy with who they are and accept their imperfections.

What are your thoughts about this?