Keeping Up Appearances

They had been together for twenty years.  The first ten had been relatively happy but after the loss of their child, their marriage started to crumble.  They went for counseling and things improved but only for a while.  They tried unsuccessfully to have other children.  They thought of adopting but decided not to.  The wait period was too long.

They thought of going for more counseling but felt too embarrassed to do so.  At church they acted like there was nothing wrong with their marriage.  When people looked at them, they saw a couple who were still going strong in spite of their loss.  They didn’t see the pain that was beneath the surface as Sarah watched other mothers holding their children or as husbands put their arms around their wives, their faces reflecting the love in their hearts.  All they saw was the artificial smile on her face when she and Bill walked through the front door of the church and were greeted by the elders at the entrance to the sanctuary.  No one knew the turmoil that had become a daily part of her life.

How much longer could she continue with this charade?  She wanted a real marriage not an artificial one.  She was tired of keeping up appearances.  Either they were going to make this marriage work again or they were going to call it quits.  The latter terrified her.  She couldn’t imagine being on her own again after being with Bill for twenty years.  The idea of starting all over again at the age of forty-nine was daunting.  She thought of what the people in church was say if she and Bill were to split up.  Neither of them had committed adultery so, why end their marriage?  Why not get counseling?  Why not try to work things out?  In their eyes, she and Bill had no grounds for divorce.  And what if they decided that they wanted to end their marriage and then, later on down the road, one of them decided that they wanted to get married again?

The words of Jesus came flooding through her mind, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.  And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11, 12).  She didn’t want to be labelled an adulteress should she decide that she wanted to find happiness with someone else. 

Should she do as her mother did?  Her parents’ marriage was not a happy one yet they stayed together.  There had never been any divorce in the family and they didn’t want to break that tradition.  She had watched how miserable they both were, the love between them fade until it was gone.  All the while, they pretended that things were fine between them when they were around friends, other family members and in church.  Only she and her brother knew that it was all a charade, that their marriage was artificial.  She didn’t want that for herself.  She didn’t want to pretend like her parents did. She saw what years of pretending had done to them.  It wasn’t until after her father’s death, that her mother started to live again.  The spark was back in her eyes.  She never remarried but she lived the rest of her life in content.

Sarah had vowed that she would never go through what her parents did and yet, here she was, twenty years later facing a tough choice about her marriage.  What should she do?  Divorce Bill and be happy or stay with him and be miserable?  Getting up from the bed, she knelt down beside it, her head bowed and her hands tightly clasped.  “Lord, please tell me what to do.  I love Bill but we are no longer happy together.  I don’t want us to continue to live like this.  I know you hate divorce and I never imagined that our marriage would end like this but I know that you want us to be happy even if it means that we can’t be happy with each other.  Please help me to make the best choice.  Please…”

The tears started to fall so she reached over to grab a handful of tissues from the box and something fell on the carpet.  She picked it up.  It was last week’s church bulletin.  She had left it on the bedside table, meaning to read it when she had the time.  She turned it over and her eyes fell on an announcement.  It read:

Courageous Hearts

The pace and pressures of life place enormous strains on a marriage. Couples often find themselves merely coexisting. They share the same house and split the bills, but that’s about it. Courageous Hearts helps couples rebuild vital connections in their marriage through clear communication and healthy ways of resolving conflicts.

Our Courageous Hearts Retreat is designed to restore communication and rekindle affection encouraging you to have a healthy Christian marriage.

Listed below the announcement were the dates of the retreat and a phone number. She got up from the floor and left the room, holding the bulletin, her mind racing.  That evening after dinner, Bill sat next to her on the sofa.  “Morris gave me this” he said, handing her a small card.  Morris was their next door neighbor and an elder in their church.  She took it and glanced down at it, her eyes widening.  It was the same announcement that was in the bulletin.  She looked up at him and asked, “Do you think we should go?”

He nodded.  “I am willing to give our marriage another try, if you are.”

“I am.”  It was worth another try.  She felt that this was what God wanted and she trusted Him to know what was best for Bill and her.  She had heard of marriages almost on the brink of divorce being restored because of one of these retreats. Perhaps, the same miracle could happen for Bill and her.   After all, with God anything was possible…

unhappy-couple-413919

Women and Postpartum Depression

For 1 in 8 women, new motherhood is anything but joyous – Health.com

Mother In Nursery Suffering From Post Natal Depression

Postpartum depression is a very real and very serious problem for many mothers. It can happen to a first time mom or a veteran mother. It can occur a few days… or a few months after childbirth – Richard J. Codey

Recently on the news I saw that Drew Barrymore admitted that she suffered from postpartum depression after she had her second daughter.  It was a short-lived experience.  It lasted about six months. She was grateful for the experience because it was a constant reminder to stay present in the moment.  Her motto was, “one thing at a time.”

I have heard quite a bit about postpartum depression but this time I wanted to educate myself about it and my heart was touched by the experiences women go through.  First of all, I want to point out that it’s a real and serious condition.   I was appalled at how women with postpartum depression were treated.  Stigma, disbelief and lack of support from others prevent them from getting the treatment they desperately need.  So, they suffer in silence.  How terrible it is for a woman who has images of her child drowning in the bathtub or being smothered on his burp cloth, fearing for her sanity but is afraid to say anything so she keeps it from her husband for as long as she could. And how sad it is that a woman should feel judged for taking antidepressants for postpartum depression because of the mistaken belief that depressed mothers are self-centered and weak.

Women who have postpartum depression feel a triple whammy of the stigma reserved for people with mental illnesses.  Not only are they brought down by what many expect to be the happiest even in a woman’s life–the birth of a child–but also total honesty about their emotional state could invite scorn or even a visit from social services (Health.com).  

“We’re suffering from an illness that cannot be seen.  We don’t have a fever, swelling, vomiting, or diarrhea.  No open wounds that will not heal–at least not the kind you can see with the naked eyes.  So, many wonder if we’re really sick at all – Katherine Stone

Psychologist Shoshana Bennett, founder and director of Postpartum Assistance for Mothers endured two life-threatening postpartum depressions in the mid-1980s, at the time when help for women in her condition was hard to find.  “I was quite suicidal.  My doctor told me to go and get my nails done,” Bennett recalls.  Can you imagine going to your doctor because you are feeling suicidal and being told to go and get your nails done?  It didn’t help that she had an unsympathetic mother-in-law who, believe it or not, had been a postpartum nurse for years.  The mother-in-law had given birth to five children and had not suffered from baby blues with any of them.  When Bennett’s husband asked his mother what was wrong with his wife, her response was, “She’s spoiled.  It’s not just about her anymore.”

Bennett’s husband was angry, confused and upset with her.  Bennett hated herself and things got worse after her first child was born.   She was 40 pounds overweight and very depressed.  She went to her ob-gyn for help.  When she told him, “If life’s gonna be like this, I don’t wanna be here.”  His response?  He laughed and said that all women go through this.  So, there was Bennett, suffering from postpartum depression, with no support or help.  It was her own experience that motivated her to become a licensed therapist, specializing in postpartum depression so that she could counsel women who are going through what she did.

Sometimes women are given medications with terrible side effects.  Katherine Stone experienced this when the first psychiatrist she went to treated her with four or five medications.  She had to find a practitioner who specialized in the treatment of postpartum mental disorders.  She discovered the hard way that no all psychiatrists are experts in treating postpartum depression. “So many psychiatrists don’t understand the condition, don’t have the tools to treat this, and aren’t trained in varying ways in which women with this disorder need to be cared for,” she says.

It is recommended that you ask your ob-gyn, nurses and social workers if the hospital in which you delivered offers postpartum depression services or sponsors support groups for new moms. Ruta Nonacs, MD, Associate Director of the Center for Women’s Health at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, recommends, “Call Postpartum Support International (800-944-4773) to find a support group near you.  I also recommend seeing your family doctor.  They’re treating people with depression all the time and can also help with referral to a therapist.”

How can you tell that you have postpartum depression?  There are three postpartum conditions – baby blues, depression and psychosis.  Here are the symptoms outlined by Mayo Clinic:

Postpartum baby blues symptoms

Signs and symptoms of baby blues — which last only a few days to a week or two after your baby is born — may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Crying
  • Reduced concentration
  • Appetite problems
  • Trouble sleeping

Postpartum depression symptoms

Postpartum depression may be mistaken for baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and last longer, eventually interfering with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth, but may begin later — up to six months after birth.

Postpartum depression symptoms may include:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Fear that you’re not a good mother
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.

Postpartum psychosis

With postpartum psychosis — a rare condition that typically develops within the first week after delivery — the signs and symptoms are even more severe. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Obsessive thoughts about your baby
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Paranoia
  • Attempts to harm yourself or your baby

Postpartum psychosis may lead to life-threatening thoughts or behaviors and requires immediate treatment.

For more information such as when to see a doctor, what your options are or how you can help a friend or a loved one, click on this link.

Why do some women suffer from postpartum depression while others don’t?  According to Marcie Ramirez, Middle Tennessee coordinator for Postpartum Support International, “People with a history of mental illness have a high risk, as do people on either end of the age spectrum–young mothers or older mothers.  If you have a history of minor depression, panic attacks, or OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), you are at a higher risk for postpartum depression.  A mother who experiences a traumatic birth is more likely to develop postpartum depression, as are new mothers who have a history of sexual abuse.  Bipolar disorder is a big indicator for postpartum psychosis, a very serious form of postpartum depression that affects about 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 new moms.”

Other predictors of postpartum depression are:

  • marital difficulties
  • stressful life events such as financial problems or loss of a job
  • childcare stress
  • inadequate social support
  • having to are for a child with a difficult temperament
  • low self-esteem
  • unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
  • being single
  • lower socioeconomic status
  • postpartum blues (Babycenter.com)

An article in the Daily Mail says that a woman’s risk of post-natal depression increases if she has a Caesarean section.  According to researchers, women were 48 per cent more likely to experience depression if they had a planned procedure rather than an emergency one.  Some women choose to have a Caesarean because they are afraid to give birth naturally, have had a previous childbirth trauma or want the convenience of a scheduled delivery.

Postpartum depression should be taken seriously.  Women are so overcome with fear and anxiety that they are afraid to be in the same room with their babies.  This affects them being able to bond with their babies which is vital to their development.  Women need to talk about their feelings, no matter how painful they are.  They need the support of their husbands and families.  “A functioning, healthy mom is vital to the family unit, and getting mothers with postpartum depression professional help can ensure that they avoid years of needless depression,” says Ramirez.

Advice for mothers who are experiencing depression is, “do what’s best for yourself so you can do what’s best for your baby” (Health.com).    Ann Dunnwold, PHD, a Dallas-based psychologist who specializes in postpartum depression, says, “The key is to have it on your own terms.  Sometimes the mother-in-law will come over to be with the baby, but what the new mom needs is for her to do the laundry.  To help, everyone needs to ask themselves what the mom really wants.”

There is hope for women suffering from postpartum depression.  The key is finding a health professional who specializes in treating it and who won’t brush you off or make light of it.  There are medications and treatments that can relieve or even reverse postpartum mood disorders. Don’t wait to get help.  Don’t suffer in silence.  Speak up.

If you know a woman who is going through postpartum depression or are married to one, please help out as much as you can.  Make sure that she gets enough sleep and encourage her to speak with her healthcare provider.  Encourage her to get some kind of support.

If you are suffering from postpartum depression, here is a list of postpartum depression support groups.  Perhaps reading stories of mothers going through what you are going may help. You’re not alone.   Help and hope are available for you.

Mature woman gives solace to crying adult daughter

Mature woman gives solace to crying adult daughter

Sources:   http://celebritybabies.people.com/2015/10/21/drew-barrymore-postpartum-depression-people-cover/?xid=rss-topheadlinesMayo Clinic; Baby Center; Postpartum Depression Progress; Health.com; Daily Mail; Brainy Quotes; Healthscope

Religious Freedom At Risk in Nepal

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers1 Peter 3:12

Not so long ago, Nepal was devastated by two earthquakes and as a result lives and homes were lost and now the people face another potential loss that could be just as devastating. They are at risk of losing their religious freedom.

Riots and protests are going on in response to a recent draft of the country’s constitution; a process that’s been in the works since the Nepali monarchy was dispelled in 2007. Many are demanding that Nepal return to its traditional religious roots, while religious minorities fear for their freedom to practice and share their faith if this draft of the constitution goes unchanged – Gospel for Asia

Currently the constitution declares that Nepal is a secular state and protects people’s rights to worship freely.  However, this could change if the government decides to go along with those who are calling for the country to return to its traditional religion.

If you’d like to learn more about the Nepal Constitution and how you can pray, please visit the GFA webpage here: http://www.gfa.org/nepal/constitution/

Pray

Many of us live in countries where we can freely worship. Religious freedom is a right that no one should be denied.  We and our children have the right to go to church and worship God in safety.

Let us pray that the new constitution will allow God’s people to continue to practice and share their faith.  The enemy is fighting to prevent the Gospel from spreading and this is why religious freedom in Nepal is under attack.   We must remember that he is a defeated foe and that God is in control.  Together we can make a difference.  Let us lift up our Christian brothers and sisters in Nepal in prayer and ask almighty God to impart His wisdom on the Nepalese government so that the country remains a place where religious liberty is preserved and protected in spite of those who want to do away with it.

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails muchJames 5:16

In Need of Prayers

In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, And His children will have a place of refuge – Proverbs 14:26.

The earthquake in Nepal left more than rubble in its wake.  It left heartbreak, loss and uncertainty.

When I look at Drastaa’s weathered face, I see unimaginable pain and devastation.  I see someone who has suffered a crippling loss.  She lost her only grand-daughter.  The girl was only 16 years old.  She had gone in to the forest to gather firewood when the earthquake struck, killing her.  That day when Drastaa woke up, little did she know that her world would be turned upside down and that she would be facing the future alone.

Her life is like a heap of rubble.  She has no idea how she was going to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life.  The odds are stacked against her.  She’s elderly.  She’s a widow.  She can’t work to support herself.  Life for widows in Nepal is hard and they are victims of discrimination, isolation and rejection.  In addition to the stigma that is attached to widowhood, she had to worry about the spreading of diseases because of the unsanitary conditions and the monsoon season which is typically lasts from mid-June to mid-September.  A monsoon can seriously hamper relief and recovery efforts.

“As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13).  Pray that Drastaa will receive this comfort and the help she needs to get back on her feet.  Ask God to reveal Himself to her, letting her know that she is not suffering alone.

Nepal Earthquake Survivor Photo

Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; And let your widows trust in Me – Jeremiah 49:11.

Nepal Earthquake Survivor Photo

When the earth started shaking, Tarana’s husband rushed inside their home to look for their children, unaware that they were safe outside. The house collapsed on him, and Tarana is now widowed, caring for five children on her own – Gospel for Asia

When I read about what happened to Tarana’s husband, it brought tears to my eyes.  I was touched by this family’s tragedy.  In a matter of minutes, Tarana’s had lost her husband–she was a widow and her five children had lost their father.   He had gone into their home, risking his life the save them.

What is going to happen to Tarana and her children?  They are homeless.  Their house was reduced to rubble.  Where could they go?  Who would help them?  How is she going to rebuild their lives?

I encourage you to pray for Tarana and her children.  Pray for their protection against disease and danger.  I read that in the wake of the earthquakes, the UNICEF is working with the Nepalese government to stop child trafficking as the organization feared that there was a surge in the number of cases.  According to Tomoo Hozumi, a UNICEF representative in Nepal, “Loss of livelihoods and worsening living conditions may allow traffickers to easily convince parents to give their children up for what they are made to believe will be a better life.”  The traffickers promise education, meals and a better future but in reality, many of these children end up being “horrendously exploited and abused.”

As a widow with no source of income and raising five children, it is possible that Tarana could be approached by traffickers, promising her a better future for her children.  Pray that God will watch over them.  He is now the Father of these children and He will guard them.  “…He will save the children of the needy” (Psalm 72:4).

Drastaa, Tarana and all of the other survivors need our prayers.   Gospel for Asia offers these suggestions for prayer requests:

  • Comfort and hope for those grieving
  • Protection from disease and danger
  • God’s provision and sustenance for relief teams
  • Many to understand Jesus’ love

I applaud the work that GFA Compassion Services teams have been doing.  They “have touched many lives through relief events during the past several weeks. They’ve focused on reaching remote, hard-to-reach villages where many lost homes, possessions, and sometimes loved ones.”

If you feel impressed to reach out to these survivors and you want to find more information on GFA’s relief work in Nepal, please visit http://gfa.org/earthquake/nepal.

Now, my God, I pray, let Your eyes be open and let Your ears be attentive to the prayer made in this place – 2 Chronicles 6:40.

Sources:  Global News; The Weather Network; United Nations News; Gospel for Asia

Breakdown in the Closet

MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe, explores the realities and ideas of a new global generation of mothers through art, stories, and powerful new voices. The exhibition aims to turn inspiration into action helping fuel a worldwide movement of advocates for mothers’ human rights and advances in maternal health. Just recently I got an email from them to vote for our favorite community piece. The voting ended February 29.  The finalists were very impressive.  They were as follows:

Each of these stories represents an important, and unique, aspect of motherhood around the globe.  I voted for Birthmarkings because it explores self-image and how our bodies change after we have children.  Some women feel self-conscious and unattractive.  I never felt unattractive because of my husband.  He always made me feel beautiful.  My self-image after birth has not changed.  My changed body is a reminder for me of how blessed I am to be a mother.

The winner of this competition is Humaira Abid’s Breakdown in the Closet.  What a concept.  Six wooden hangers in a closet–two of them bare.  These two hangers depict the pain and disappointment that comes along with miscarriage—a frequently unspoken part of many women’s experiences of pregnancy and motherhood.  The clothes look so real.  It’s hard to believe that they are made of wood.  We see the mother’s dress and the father’s pants and shirts.  This is a family wardrobe.  A husband and wife are expecting a child but tragedy strikes.  On the floor between the mother’s and the father’s clothes, we notice something that stands out in sharp contrast–the red baby shirt.  This is meant to represent the mother’s miscarriage and both parents’ loss.

Humaira explains that this work is a part of a series called “RED” named such because the color red represents love, passion, blood, anger, and loss–all strong emotions. Yes in the subcontinent, red is the traditional color of bridal dresses, and often is associated with love, sexuality, and fertility. Yet in some parts of Africa, red is a color of mourning and death-often associated with the color of blood. She herself suffered from miscarriages so she knows how tough this can take both a physical and emotional toll on women.

As the winner, Humaira Abid receives a US$1,000 prize, with $500 going to the artist and $500 going to a nonprofit charity of her choice!  Notes to Women congratulate this amazing artist who uses her work to a very painful experience for women.  Unfortunately miscarriage is very common, occurring in about one in five pregnancies.  Some women feel a strong sense of guilt, even though it is not their fault. These are natural reactions.

Breakdown in the Closet brilliantly and skillfully addresses a topic that is very difficult for women.  Humaira’s work recognized internationally for its originality and excellence has earned her a gold medal. Her work has been exhibited in Malaysia, India, Mauritius, Nepal, Kenya, Dubai, Bolivia, Germany, Russia, UK and USA. Humaira graduated from National College of Arts Lahore, Pakistan with Honors in the year 2000. She majored in Sculpture, with Miniature as her double minor.  We salute this internationally renown artist who uses her art to take action against the issue of gender inequality.  Brava Humaira.

We are pleased to announce that last month Humaira had her first child.  Congratulations, Humaira.  We wish mother and baby all the best.

If you are interested in seeing more of Humaira’s art, check out her website at:  http://www.humaira.com.pk/

I am from a country and society where showing your emotions and expressing your opinion is not welcomed–especially if you are a woman. Many experiences and roles of women are not properly appreciated. They are simply considered to be their duty or part of life.

I am trying to raise these issues through my work, which counters the stereotypical image of women in a male dominated society. In an environment where women have a considerable way to go to become full partners of men, I want my work to reflect the aspiration for gender equality.

Source:  http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/facts/miscarriage.htmhttp://mama.imow.org/yourvoices/breakdown-closet

Agatha Christie

I have watched her characters Miss Jane Marple, an astute spinster whose sharp eyes miss nothing and the meticulous, funny mustached Hercule Poirot come to life on the screen and today I thought that it would be fun to find out a little bit about Agatha Christie. 

She came from a well-to-do family and was taught at home by a governess and tutors.  She never attended school and she became adept at creating games to keep herself occupied at a very young age.  A shy child, unable to adequately express her feelings, she first turned to music as a means of expression and, later in life, to writing.  I can relate to this.  I am more comfortable expressing myself through writing.

In 1914, at the age of 24, she married Archie Christie, a World War I fighter pilot. While he was off at war, she worked as a nurse. It was while working in a hospital during the war that Christie first came up with the idea of writing a detective novel. Although it was completed in a year, it wasn’t published until 1920, five years later.

Two years later, Archie asked Agatha for a divorce.  He had fallen in love with another woman.  What a blow that must have been for her.  This happened in the wake of her mother’s recent death.  Perhaps she was unable to cope with these two major upsets in her life, Agatha disappeared causing an uproar in all of England as everyone wondered what had become of the mystery writer.  Her disappearance was a mystery in itself until three weeks later when the police found her in a small hotel, apparently suffering from memory loss.  Thereafter, it was never again mentioned or elaborated upon by Christie (http://christie.mysterynet.com/).

In 1930, Agatha found happiness again with an archaeologist, Max Mallowan.  She met him on a trip to Mesopotamia.  Christie’s travels with Mallowan contributed background to several of her novels set in the Middle East. 

I always wondered what it would be like for Poirot and Miss Marple to team up on a mystery or two but Agatha had a very good reason for not permitting this to happen.  “Hercule Poirot, a complete egoist, would not like being taught his business or having suggestions made to him by an elderly spinster lady.”  I found it amusing that Agatha found Poirot insufferable while she was fond of Miss Marple.  Still, as insufferable as Poirot was, he was popular.  The public liked him so Agatha had to resist the temptation to kill him off.

Agatha had her fans and she had her critics.  Others have accused her of anti-semetism and of stereotyping.  Christie often characterised the “foreigners” in such a way as to make the reader understand and sympathise with them; this is particularly true of her Jewish characters, who are seldom actually criminals.  I noticed that in a few Poirot episodes, that the guilty party referred to him as a “foreigner” with much distaste. 

Still, Agatha Christie Agatha Christie was revered as a master of suspense, plotting, and characterisation by most of her contemporaries (Wikipedia).  And she has created two of the greatest fictional characters of all time and has swept us into the exciting twists and turns of great mystery plots.

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”

Agatha Christie

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