Summer Reading – Hope Prevails

Things don’t always go as planned. Life comes at you sideways sometimes and knocks the wind right out of your sails. You can go from smooth sailing to rough waters in the blink of an eye.

Have you ever been through a tough time that you are now thankful for?

I know I have had my share of difficult circumstances, but God has been so faithful to see me through! I can look back with a grateful heart on things that I never would have chosen, but God in His infinite wisdom allowed me to endure.

Pain and suffering are not something that we would necessarily want for ourselves but sometimes it is the vehicle that God uses to sanctify us. No one knows this better than Neuropsychologist Dr. Michelle Bengtson. As a Doctor and a Christian, she shares her journey through depression from her perspective in her new book, Hope Prevails.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11

Michelle writes about what worked for her and what can help you if you are battling depression. Michelle wants you to know that you are not alone. She wrote this book to offer you hope and to dispel some of the myths and lies about this condition.  Michelle’s approach treats depression physically, emotionally and most importantly spiritually, treating the whole person. Traditional treatment doesn’t address the spiritual side.

Dr. Bengtson does a great job of addressing the spiritual side of depression throughout Hope Prevails. She addresses what depression is, where it comes from, and ways to treat it, but most importantly she addresses what depression does to a person spiritually and how that perpetuates depression.

Each chapter in Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression is filled with truth and biblical wisdom along with practical steps to take. At the end of each chapter, she gives you a prescription, Your Rx, these thought-provoking questions and action items are steps that you can take to help you find healing. She also includes a recommended playlist of praise and worship music to uplift you and concludes each chapter with a special prayer.

An Excerpt from Hope Prevails:

In the valley of my depression, the enemy tried to convince me that no one cared, not even God. For a while he had me convinced, and I took my pain and anger out on God. Can I share with you a little something I learned, though? God is big enough to handle my anger and yours.

One evening the pain of the darkness dragged me so low that I wondered aloud where God was in my suffering. Did he even care that I felt like a surfer battered against the rocks within a vast, lonely ocean? In my agony and desperation, my wonderings turned to angry venting. I told God of the pain deep within my soul. I held nothing back as I lost control in an angry outburst like a volcanic eruption.

When I had no more words to say and was physically spent from my vulnerable expression of the depths of my pain, I sensed a quiet gentle voice whisper within me, “Well, at least you’re now talking to me.” It wasn’t a condemning correction but more a lighthearted reflection to help me see the truth in my ways.

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Dr. Michelle Bengtson is a board certified clinical neuropsychologist with more than 20 years of experience in the diagnosis and treatment of medical and mental disorders in children, adults, and seniors. She has been in private practice for more than a decade of that time. Speaker, author, and doctor, Michelle is also a woman—a wife, mother, and friend. She has experienced her share of trouble and trials and knows the pain of losing someone she loves as well as the despair that can follow trauma or illness.

Combining her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith, Dr. Bengtson is on a mission to instill hope in the hearts of those who are suffering from or caring for those with ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, developmental disorders, head injuries, dementia, and the neurological side effects of illnesses such as Epilepsy, Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, and Cancer, as well as psychiatric disorders such as Depression, Anxiety, and Bipolar Disorder.

Everyone goes through hard times, but you are not alone. Hope is the key to the survival of your soul. Dr. Michelle Bengtson provides sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. She instills hope to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm.

I highly recommend Hope Prevails for anyone struggling with depression, or if you have a family member or friend who suffers from this condition. Visit Dr. Michelle Bengtson’s blog where she offers a free book on how to help a loved one with depression.

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A Special thank you to Dr. Michelle Bengtson, The Blog About Network, The Blythe Daniel Agency, and Revell for providing me with a signed copy of Hope Prevails for me to review and giveaway along with the goodies above!

Leave a comment about a tough time that you have been through and are now thankful for in the comment section below and share this post on social media with the hashtag #HopePrevails for a chance to win a signed copy of Hope Prevails, along with this beautiful scarf, hope bracelet, and dog tag all reminders that hope prevails!!

 

Hope for the Future

On April 9th, my first devotion for Philanthropy Fashion was published on their website Philanthropy Fashion Blog.  I would like to share it with you here today in case you missed it. See my original post on Hope for the Future at PhilanthropyFashion.com and be sure to check out the rest of their site while you are you there!

“Each of us has a capacity for God and an ability to relate to him in a personal way. When we do, he brings to us pardon for the past, peace for the present, and a promise for the future.” – Ralph Bell

Whenever life doesn’t seem fair, remember God doesn’t miss a thing! He sees everything that we go through. He knows each detail of our lives. Trust Him. His plan for you is good. Aren’t you so glad that we can believe that the Lord has good plans for us? He declares to us in Jeremiah 29:11 that we have hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” 

[ctt template=”2″ link=”cxv20″ via=”yes” ]Our hope comes when we put our faith and trust in Jesus.[/ctt]

In the book of Matthew, Jesus invites us to come to Him. 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus begins with an invitation, and He invites us to come to him. He wants us to know Him. He desires a personal relationship with us because he loves us. As we come to Jesus weary and heavy laden with the problems of our world and with the guilt of sin, we exchange our burdens for the gracious gifts of a loving Savior. When we confess our sins and cast our cares upon Him, we trade that heavy weight of sin for love, peace, forgiveness, grace, hope, and all of the gifts of the Spirit. This exchange makes our burden light. In Jesus, we have peace and rest for our weary souls because of what He did for us on the cross of Calvary.

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As we approach Easter, it is my prayer that you will draw near to Jesus and experience afresh his great love for you. If you do not know Jesus as your personal Savior, that you would humble yourself before Him and embrace His Great love for you. Cast the cares of this world and the weight of sin at the foot of the cross. Let the blood of Jesus cleanse you from sin so that you may walk in the newness of life that Christ freely offers.

For those of you who are believers, my prayer for you is that your love for your Savior would grow stronger each day. I pray that you would hunger and thirst for Jesus like you never have before and that you would pursue Him with renewed passion. As you fall more in love with Jesus that you would pour out the love of our Savior on those all around you who so desperately need Him.

Praise the Lord that when we place our faith and trust in Him, we have the hope of everlasting life, and because of that we have a bright hope and a future.

Don’t believe the Lies

When we were kids on the playground at school, we used to call each other names. Some were terms of endearment, others were not so nice. I can still hear echoes of voices from my childhood saying, “I am rubber and you are glue. What bounces off of me sticks on you.” As we have grown up, we internalize some of the names we have been called.

What names have been STUCK on you? What do you tell yourself about who you are? Which voices do you listen to?

Did you know that you have a very real enemy who likes to call us names and accuse us? In Revelation 12:10, John says:

“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.'”

The enemy tells lies about us and he lies to us. He tells us that we are guilty, unforgiven, not enough. We can either listen to the voice of the accuser, or we can choose to believe we are who the Lord says we are.

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In the book of Ephesians chapter 1, we learn about some of the spiritual blessings that we have in Jesus Christ. He has names for us also, and because we are in Christ we are:

Blessed

Chosen

Predestined 

Adopted by Christ 

Accepted in the beloved 

Redeemed 

Forgiven 

Enlightened 

Given an Inheritance 

Glorified in Christ

Sealed 

Assured 

We have:

Faith in Christ

Wisdom in Him

Hope in Christ

Power in Christ

Ephesians 1 (ESV)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Blessings in Christ

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it to the praise of his glory.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Aren’t you so glad that we have the voice of truth? And if you are in Christ, then his character qualities are your real identity! Regardless of what names we are called by ourselves or by others, we need to be secure in the knowledge that we have inherent value and worth because we belong to Christ!

 

Learning to Show Grace to Myself

*** UPDATE 2017 ***

I posted this last year on Labor Day weekend. What a difference a year makes! In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, life, as we know it on the Texas Gulf Coast, is far from normal. Yet this post still resonates with me on this Labor Day Weekend, but for different reasons. I still need to show myself some grace, because as much as I would like for things to get back to normal, things are still a little topsy turvy right now, and I need more grace than ever.

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I am my own worst critic and tend to be very hard on myself! What about you?

My type-A personality drives me to accomplish much, and I have a difficult time relaxing. I set up very high expectations for myself and then feel defeated if I don’t live up to my self-imposed “righteous” standards. I put unrealistic expectations on myself and my family. I think my house should always be spotless, and that my kids should always behave and do what I think they should do. I drive myself to perfection, especially when I undertake any outside projects or events. I work myself up into a frenzy and push myself to exhaustion.

I believe it is a biblical concept to strive for excellence in all we do, and I get this from 1 Corinthians 10:31:

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

[ctt template=”2″ link=”4cYBr” via=”yes” ]It is a good thing to want to do everything to the glory of God and to strive for excellence.[/ctt]

However, if I am so hard on myself that I feel guilt or shame because I haven’t lived up to my own expectations, then I am only hurting myself.

 

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This week in Bible Study, we discussed our battle with sin and the power that we have as Christians to live a life pleasing to God based on Romans 8. The first thing we read is Romans 8:1.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

I don’t know why I expect perfection from myself—the only perfect person to ever walk this earth was Jesus. Not only that, but He came here to save me. He came to set me free from the bondage of sin and death, and He doesn’t want me to feel condemnation.

[ctt template=”2″ link=”p5WKw” via=”yes” ]I am beginning to learn to have grace with myself when things don’t go as I have planned.[/ctt] I am human, and I am going to make mistakes.

Romans 3:23, says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Most likely, I will continue to disappoint myself and others along the way, but I don’t have to feel condemned. I must choose to believe that I am flawed, but forgiven.

[ctt template=”2″ link=”GSNW_” via=”yes” ]Does anyone else struggle to show themselves grace or am I alone in this battle? [/ctt]

Today, I choose to show myself grace. Instead of driving myself to perfection, I elected to enjoy this Labor Day weekend with my family, and try to catch up on some much-needed rest.

I hope you enjoy a wonderful Labor Day weekend and find rest in God this week!

 

Prayer Update for Connor

I broke both of my arms last Spring and was unable to do anything for myself, my family or my home for several weeks. I was a little out of it from the pain medicine and completely forgot to pay Connor’s insurance policy. Connor was attending a school for kids on the Autism spectrum that cost over $4,000 a month. We only paid a portion of the monthly fee because his health insurance paid for the rest of it. Connor was on a Cobra policy and was immediately dropped from the policy when they didn’t receive payment. I was devastated! I began crying out to the Lord for help and praying for wisdom as to what to do with Connor.

It was during this time that we took him to see a Functional Neurologist in Dallas in July 2015. He diagnosed Connor with PANDAS, which, according to the PANDAS network:

“PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections) occurs when strep triggers a misdirected immune response results in inflammation on a child’s brain. In turn, the child quickly begins to exhibit life-changing symptoms such as OCD, anxiety, tics, personality changes, a decline in math and handwriting abilities, sensory sensitivities, restrictive eating, and more. PANDAS Network estimates that PANDAS/PANS affects as many as 1 in 200 children.”

Connor was also diagnosed with Autoimmune Encephalitis. The Autoimmune Encephalitis Alliance defines it as  “a rare and serious condition in which the immune system attacks the brain, resulting in impaired brain function.”

The part brain of Connor’s brain that was affected is the part that controls his motor function. His gross motor, fine motor, speech, and language were all affected. We also learned that Connor had about nine different eye conditions. He couldn’t focus, his eyes weren’t equally yoked, and he couldn’t visually track just to name a few problems.

The most heartbreaking part of all of this is that he had been living with all of this for 15 years! He did not get diagnosed until the age of 16. After years of going to doctor after doctor, Connor was misdiagnosed with PDD-NOS, an Autism spectrum disorder. We are so thankful for the brilliant doctor who finally correctly diagnosed Connor, and we began treatment shortly thereafter.

Connor began weekly IVIG treatments. According to Medscape, “Immune globulin products from human plasma were first used in 1952 to treat immune deficiency. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) contains the pooled immunoglobulin G (IgG) immunoglobulins from the plasma of approximately a thousand or more blood donors. Initially, immune globulin products were administered by intramuscular injection.”

IVIG is a miraculous drug! Connor received weekly home infusions, and we started to notice a difference in Connor almost immediately. IVIG is a very expensive drug, to the tune of almost $6,000 a month and it is not covered by insurance. For Connor’s condition, it is considered to be an experimental treatment.

After six months of treatment, Connor had his last treatment on Mother’s Day 2016. He has to be off the medicine for 8 weeks before he can be re-tested to see if the antibody is still present in his brain. In the interim, Connor is in Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Vision Therapy, swimming and golf lessons.

Connor is an entirely different person then he was a year ago. We are so thankful for the accurate diagnosis and treatment that he has received. Please continue to pray for our sweet little man and that Connor’s brain would be completely healed. To God be the glory!

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us!” -Ephesians 3:20