Category Archives: Psychology and Mental Health Issues

Have You Ever Experienced a Season of Heartbreak?

I suppose there’s no one alive who hasn’t experienced a season of heartbreak at some point. Isn’t it a universal part of each human tapestry? Every person who has loved deeply has had to cope with loss. It might not be as traumatic as losing a child or experiencing divorce. It could be something as natural as losing an aged parent or parting with your adult children when they move out of your home for the joy of marriage, or to transfer locations in order to further their career.

Although Mark Karris’s book focuses mainly on the issues facing those who’ve experienced the heartache of a major breakup, the strategies for grieving well and overcoming heartache are helpful for anyone who’s feeling the pain of loss—or even for those of us trying to prepare for the inevitable future as we see loved ones (and ourselves!) aging. Mark’s objective was to “provide a powerful, life-giving resource that will help you not only survive your season of grief but also thrive and be transformed.” That, I thought, was a very lofty goal, and personally I felt he succeeded, at least in how his book impacted my life.

But, Mark was even more ambitious that that! He also aspired to finding “powerful practices to help me embrace grieving as a liberating spiritual discipline.” Wow! Come again? Is that possible? Actually, by the time I finished the book, I understood what he meant. I can’t say that I’m free from heartache as a result of being liberated by developing appropriate spiritual disciplines to deal with grief, but I can say that I understand the many principles and practices he taught, and it’s helped me explore areas of grief that were hidden in the crevices of my heart, forgotten but unhealed because I never knew what to do with them!

I intend to keep my copy of Season of Heartbreak as a reference book, knowing that in the years ahead I will inevitably experience my own intense seasons of grief, either as I pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, or as I watch loved ones passing on from this life to the next. However, I’m willing to lend you my copy if you’ll promise to return it! Otherwise, it’s available on Amazon, although if you’re willing to buy it from Kregel Publishers directly, then they don’t have to pay a commission to Amazon. The link is:

http://kregel.christianbook.com/season-heartbreak-healing-heart-brain-soul/mark-karris/9780825444715/pd/44471X

If you’ve experienced heartache and never really addressed it, or if you’re still actively feeling the sting of pain from the loss of love, please consider reading Mark’s book. As a family advocacy and support specialist for the United States Navy as well as an ordained pastor and licensed marriage and family therapist, Mark Karris has a wealth of experience in identifying the issues, and he’s done a masterful job of teaching strategies for coping and overcoming. He has insightful chapters with provocative titles like “In Need of Story Catchers,” “Forgive to Live,” “Holy Huddle,” and “A Theology of Suffering.” And…about a dozen more!

In ostensible theory, I chose this book because I have over a thousand young adults who follow my blog, and I thought it might be helpful for them. In experiential reality, the book opened my heart to some buried, unhealed griefs and helped me in my own spiritual journey. If you have a heart that’s still beating, it’s a worthy read!

“He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

Is Anything Better than The House of Flavors?

Do you—like me—just love ice cream?  Did you know there’s a Guinness-world-record-breaking creamery
right here in Southwest Michigan? There’s nothing quite so luxurious on a hot summer day
as a scrumpdelicious ice cream treat, is there?

Homemade ice cream is probably the very best (or at least the most fun to make), but for everyday yumminess, I keep some of our local dairy’s “homemade” vanilla in the freezer for my hubby, who has been known to have an ice cream attack any time of day or night and any time of year.
However, our all-time favorite creamery is in Ludington at the House of Flavors, and we always stop in if we’re nearby!
The House of Flavors has been in the business for over 66 years, and they produce an astonishing 25 million gallons of ice cream annually!
They call themselves the Ice Cream Capital of Michigan, and with good cause! Last year I wrote about being there when they attempted to set a new record for the world’s longest ice cream dessert (which I shared about here):   https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/i-think-we-just-ate-part-of-the-worlds-longest-sundae-and-it-was-yummy/ .  

 

 

Their attempt

was a great success, 

and now the House of Flavors 

is really on the map,  so to speak!
However, they’re not just good at making amazing flavors of ice cream!
They have a full menu of inexpensive and delicious breakfasts,
 and they always have a turkey roasting on a spit (which you can almost see in the center of this photo) for their fantastic turkey dinners, 
which they serve throughout the year! 
We’ve been coming since our kids were little, and our all-time favorite treat is a round of turkey dinners but a shared “Original Pig’s Dinner.”   This one was made from four scoops of ice cream with names like Michigan Potholes, Bear Claws, Eskimo Kisses, and Tennessee Toffee, but you get to choose whatever you want…plus four toppings of your choice and whipped cream with cherries on top.Needless to say, nobody leaves the House of Flavors feeling hungry!

I know of a place even more satisfying and fulfilling than the House of Flavors.  It’s the place of quiet rest when we place our trust in the Lord and abide safely under His wings, secure in the knowledge that no matter what is going on in the world around us, God’s “got ‘ya covered!” Literally. Spiritually and physically. We can rest in the knowledge that He loves us, and like a loving father, He’s looking out for us.                      In a world of choices, I pray you will choose “the best!”   Our God exceeds anything in the Guinness Book of World Records. What other God is perfect in love, kindness, mercy, grace, wisdom, justice, and goodness? Who else is all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful, and all-present? What other religion teaches that God loves us even when we fail and has made a way to be reconciled to Him through the blood of a sacrificial lamb (Jesus)?  If you’ve never learned to love and trust this great God, I pray that you will put the past behind you and reach out to him in faith. As Jesus taught, “how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not” (Matthew 23:37).   May today be the day you join in the fellowship of those who are trusting God! How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.  They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” (Psalm 36:7-9)

(I took all the photos in and around the House of Flavors recently, except for the ones taken a year ago on June 11, 2016… the day they broke the world’s record for longest ice cream dessert!)


Sammy: Love From a Two-Year-Old

It’s been an entire month since I mentioned anything about “our” new baby in the family here in GR, but something so touching happened yesterday that I wanted to share it with you! As any of you who have children know, parenting isn’t for sissies. I have vivid memories of crazy-tired nights rocking and nursing babies, feeling dazed and totally unsure of how I’d survive the next day on so little sleep. It was in those middle-of-the-night hours that my faith became like bedrock in my soul, because as I poured out my heart to God, crying for help, I would find that He did answer. It wasn’t the power of positive thinking, and it wasn’t magic; it was mercy and grace. In the morning, I would imagine myself grabbing my machete and chopping again…trying to cut a swathe through the dry savanna grass (which was always higher than my head) so my children and I could walk on a path…The path! God is faithful.

I didn’t know sometimes from day to day if we’d survive, but we did, and I took that as a miracle. Frankly, I believe every child who grows to adulthood as a relatively healthy, spiritually and emotionally intact person is an answer to prayer and a miracle of God’s grace!

In that light, as I read my daughter-in-law’s Facebook post today, tears of thankfulness sprang to my eyes. With her permission, I’d like to share what she wrote:“There are many moments lately where life feels crazy-busy or just sort of crazy. I have come face-to-face with the reality of my own sin nature and with my inability to be a ‘perfect’ parent more times than I realized I would. So, I was having a brief moment of personal crisis today (not really… just a few quiet tears) over lack of sleep and two needy children when the Lord gave me a sweet gift through Mr. Samuel.  “Samuel was tired and having a moment of his own crisis of toddler-proportion when I brought him upstairs to try to get him to nap. While walking him around in my arms and feeling frustrated that he wasn’t sleeping, Elanor started crying with fervor. I realized that if I put Samuel down he would likely give up on napping and possibly get upset that he had lost my attention. But Samuel instead pointed at Elanor and said, ‘Sis. Feed milk.’ So I set Samuel down to take care of the baby while he contentedly played. Soon afterward Samuel told me, ‘Down. Eat, Mommy.’ After asking him, I realized he wanted me to go downstairs to feed myself. I was incredibly touched that my two-year-old would both be perceptive and giving enough to reflect God’s love in that small act.  “Crisis averted for the time being. 😉 No, he didn’t nap. Yes, food makes us more pleasant people. But especially, what an encouragement to watch my son demonstrate love.”

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly,
since love covers a multitude of sins
” (1 Peter 4:8, ESV).

Finding Beauty at the 2017 National Medical/Dental Association’s Annual Meeting

In almost 30 years of being a doctor’s wife (plus seven while he was in training),I’ve been with my husband to countless meetings, but last week I actually had the joy of being a participant! For the first time in forever, we attended the NMDA’s annual national meeting in Ridgecrest, North Carolina. I loved everything about it! Ridgecrest is a beautiful Christian conference center (like Maranatha here in southeast Michigan) nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Black Mountain, North Carolina. Although—I have to admit—the schedule (7 am-9pm) was grueling, the speakers were outstanding, not only medically but spiritually…some brilliant, some extremely wise, and some just plain funny (but also wise). There were constant opportunities to connect (Midwest Regional Meeting), and get to know people (like Dr. Jim Hines, who’s planning to run for governor of Michigan in our next election; I’m very likely to vote for him!). There were many options for break out sessions on topics that interested me: human trafficking (by a female M.D. married to a police officer in Vermont),  moral ethics, legal issues, philosophy, and Christian education (in addition to more specifically medical issues). One of the really inspirational aspects was hearing about the doctors who received various awards for outstanding medical research and service. I learned many, many practical lessons from the lecturesand left with my heart and brain stimulated and enriched. I’d like to encourage anyone in the medical field
(not only doctors but dentists, P.A. and N.P’s, nurses, optometrists, etc.)
to think about attending the CMDA conference in 2018.

On the other hand, if you’re in some other profession, I’d like to encourage you to look into the possibility of a conference geared for Christians in whatever field you’re in. And, if you can’t find something…maybe you could start something! Finally, let me end by sharing one of the most provocative thoughts I heard, which came from Thomas Aquinas 800 years ago. His question to us is this: Is it possible that our battle wounds will somehow become glorious and beautiful? In heaven, will that which we perceive of as beautiful be virtue and character, not outward appearance? I love that! Wow!! Feeling ugly or deformed here on earth? I believe the day is coming when our spirits will shine out, and the measure of our beauty will be the radiance of Christ within us. Want to be beautiful? I do!

“Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me
All His wonderful passion and purity
Oh, Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.”
(~Albert Orsborn/Tom M. Jones)

But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18).

And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).

(All photos from last week in North Carolina during the 2017 CMDA conference.)

What Happens After We Die?

Tomorrow morning I will be sitting with a lifelong friend while her husband undergoes surgery for cancer. Hopefully, the surgeons will be able to remove the cancer, and thankfully, her husband is not afraid of death. Tom is a man of great faith who knows that he will go to be with Jesus whenever he dies (and we hope that’s not for many years yet!), but I think his peace and confidence are exceptional, not the rule for people. Do you ever wonder what will happen when you die? A friend sent me the following devotional thought, and I wanted to share it with you this morning, just in case you are facing or fearing death.

~DEATH~
WHAT A WONDERFUL WAY TO EXPLAIN IT .. .

A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, “Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side.”

Very quietly, the doctor said, “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?  You’re a Christian, and yet you don’t know what’s on the other side?”

The doctor was holding the handle of the door; on the other side came a sound of scratching and whining, and as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room, leaping on him with an eager show of gladness. Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog? He didn’t really know what was in this room, but he knew that his master was here, so when the door opened,  he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing…I know my Master is there, and that is enough.” Jesus taught us: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29).No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:13-17, ESV)


Rise Up, My Love (226): Some Keys for Living in Harmony with Your Spouse

toby-mac-practice-the-pauseSong of Solomon 7:3 Two last thoughts before leaving this very sensitive, but critical subject. First, what if you are trying your hardest to do everything right, but your spouse is unresponsive or adversarial? The first and last step—as in all things—is to prayerfully look to the Lord for help and guidance. Some relationships are so damaged…some individuals are so emotionally disabled…that the marriage may need serious help from the outside—from trusted and respected counsel. But, sometimes the problems can be remedied by prayerfully studying some of the many marriage resources available.

One such book is Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, which identifies some important ways of communicating love that people most appreciate. Whether it’s by kind words or deeds, the book guides you in finding out how to speak your spouse’s “love language” so that he/she will recognize and respond to your attempts to truly love in tangible ways. Learning to love in the ways your mate wants to be loved does not usually come naturally.

My husband likened marriage to inheriting a 747 jet without having taken pilot’s training. In the light of the 911 tragedy, we now also recognize that we need complete training…not just in how to take off and fly, but how to land without disaster. Believe me, today is better than never to try getting that training!

Love is a lifetime quest. A very wise and elderly pastor once said that he thought learning to love was like learning to paint, and that his life of loving his wife was like a long mural. At the beginning the strokes were clumsy and awkward, and it was hard to recognize what he was even trying to portray, but the more he practiced, the better the painting became. Isn’t that beautiful? And, isn’t that true?

Second, what if both partners are doing everything right to the best of their ability but there is still deep, unresolved tension? That may be the time to employ the advice Paul gave in I Corinthians 7:5, “Defraud ye not one another, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” There may be rare times when your difficulties are so great that rather than joining physically, you should temporarily set aside normal physical needs (including eating!) and give yourselves wholly to prayer and fasting until God gives you the wisdom and peace you both need for the problem resolution process. Think of how quickly people would focus on solving their problems if they stopped eating food until they came to an agreement!

By the way, this is never an excuse for one partner to start sleeping on the couch, because they are supposed to be engaged together in fervent prayer. Also, the resolution never includes the option of permanent separation. Notice the last portion of the verse: “and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” If you are going to deprive your spouse of sex, consider depriving yourself of food (or at least some food you love, like desserts or salty snacks) at the same time. That will give both partners a small reminder of how serious a matter sex is!

Do you have seemingly insurmountable disagreements? Just a few years ago, my husband and I did. We spent the first almost two decades of our marriage with my husband generally making decisions that I often sharply disagreed with and deeply resented. Instead of resolving problems, we just tried to bury them and “get over” it. As the wife, I was somehow expected to always cheerfully submit to and approve of his plans…but I didn’t! He ended up with a volcano on his hands…so touchy that every time the simplest problem arose, I blew up, because it reminded me of not only the insignificant conflict at hand, but of twenty or more past conflicts where I felt I had been treated unfairly. My trust and confidence in his leadership was down to just about “0.”

Because we didn’t really pray together over problems until we both felt peaceful that we had found God’s solution, I constantly felt that my husband was basing decisions on his own judgment and will, not God’s, and I became bitter over what I believed was intense selfishness on his part. I became so unhappy that I gladly would have left the marriage did I not have the firm conviction that God commands us to remain married…happy or miserable.

Somewhere during that time, the Lord opened my husband’s eyes to my misery and softened his heart, so that he truly did have a deep desire to try to make the marriage work. When we began trying to sort through all the problems that we’d buried, it looked like…not just a mountain…but a volcano. Some nights we stayed awake all night talking. We talked for hours…days…over a year. In fact, it took about two years to work through all the past hurts and find forgiveness and healing. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t quick, but it was worth all the pain. Of course, that wasn’t the end of our struggles. We’ve gone through deep valleys since that time too. At one point our problems were so severe we needed outside help for resolution and employed Christian counseling. Today, we have a very positive relationship, and instead of longing to be free, I feel like we must be some of the world’s “luckiest” (most blessed) people!

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any trials. Alan says we’re living in the “suburbs” of heaven…the closest thing to heaven on earth. Sometimes it seems almost like heaven, and sometimes a new problem will set us back to struggling again, but now at least we know that true problem resolution comes only through praying together until God brings both partners to peace. There is great strength in unity and harmony. “A threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). In such a state, the wife’s body will be open to her husband’s touch…as long as he remembers to treat her with the same gentleness he would accord a newborn fawn!  🙂

Saturday Recipe for Lent: How to Satisfy Your Hunger Cravings

mushrooms-onions-and-peppersUsually on Saturday I’ve been sharing recipes for food, but today I thought I’d rather share a recipe for satisfying hunger generally, which came to me from reflecting on a recent message referred to as “A Theology of Food.” sauteeing-veggiesThat sounded like a crazy title to me, but by the end of the message, I understood what our pastor meant. “Pastor Jim” is working his way through the book of Romans, and we’re on Romans 14 now, where the Apostle Paul discusses eating. basket-of-fruitIt had never occurred to me that man’s first prohibition concerned food, and that both Adam’s and Christ’s first temptations had to do with food. cauliflower-fresh-headAlthough Jesus taught in Matthew 15 that it’s not what goes into our mouth but out of our mouth that can defile us, still, eating food can be sinful if it’s done to please ourselves without respect to what God wants for us. chopping-up-cauliflowerGod intended food to be a blessing and to enable us to enjoy fellowship with one another and with Him, but we can make food into an idol when we allow eating to become an end in itself and use it for personal pleasure rather than for health and fellowship. spinach-salad-with-strawberries-and-pecansI am not making the ascetic suggestion that we shouldn’t enjoy food, or that we should only eat as little as necessary to survive, or that we should never enjoy the abundant array of foods that are available to us, but (as our pastor reminded us), overeating as a form of therapy or as a fattening reward we don’t need is just plain wrong. All too often (and I’m totally guilty of this), we eat because we’re bored or lonely or tired, or feel overworked or underappreciated, or because our friends are eating…the list goes on. steamed-cauliflowerWe train our brain to get an immediately gratifying buzz from the pleasurable sensations of hot chocolate or popcorn (or whatever), and we feel a little perk from the sugar or fat, with the net effect of feeling better in the moment but fatter in the morning…which is no different from any other addictive process! frying-steak-and-veggiesWhat we really need to do is train our brain to acknowledge need when we sense it, but to take that need straight to God, asking him to fill it with Himself or show us what He wants us to do to fill it. apple-pearInvite Him into the conversation: Why do I feel this way? What is it that I really need? What should I do? apple-pear-slicedI think if we all employed that strategy, and really listened for the still, small voice within our heart (God’s Holy Spirit), we’d quickly learn to let God fill us with just what we need…and probably most of the time (unless it’s actually meal time), it would not be more food!

steak-dinner-with-vegetables-and-fruits-2I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10).

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).