Monday, 31 December 2012

The Weight of the Matter by Susan L.

So I've done it. Made the leap. Took a chance and bought a set of bathroom scales. Three dollars at the Dollar Store squashed the financial reasonings for not owning one. My psychiatrist had encouraged me to do this over six months ago. Something about self care. I avoided it like the plague because now I have to face the reasons why I struggle with diet and preparing healthy meals for myself. That, too, is self care. My body's a temple...or should I say cathedral! Ha ha! Can I eliminate sugar from my diet? That sounds like a good place to start. Help me, Lord, overcome the cravings that were initially medication driven but are now mostly habit. Hmmm. You are wonderful,my Lord and can do marvellous things. Let my life be a testimony to Your Grace. Guide me, Lord, in discovering the self fullfilling prophesies I have spoken over myself like the constant toxic affirmations that I crave sugar! Set me free, Lord, as I ask Your forgiveness for saying such things and I ask that You replace these ideas with Your Word. In Jesus' name, amen. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Mat 4:4

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Meandering Streams by Susan L.

It fascinates me how time and memory have the ability to compress. When a recollection comes to the forefront of our thoughts, the days, weeks or even years vanish in an instant. Four Christmases ago I was in the assessment ward of a psychiatric hospital. It sometimes feels like yesterday. I have no idea where the years have gone... That's not a hundred percent true. The days since were spent putting one foot in front of the other without hope but with purpose. That purpose was sheer survival and all about finding an identity that lay shattered and broken in all the garbage. I am probably repeating myself here but I believe that trauma causes us to encapsulate pieces of our identity. This is a form of protection from the pain of these events. I want to be clear, trauma is very subjective. There is no sliding scale, or rating or comparison. What affects one may have no impact on someone else. It doesn't matter. If it causes pain, it is important and I know Someone wants to hear about it. It is surprising how much is contained in what seems a silly little event according to worldly standards. Not the flashback consuming events but in simply remembering. As a little girl, I would sing myself to sleep.'Silent Night' a year long favorite. Even then I was seeking something outside of myself: knowing I belonged. "For You have delivered my soul from death, My eyes from tears,and my feet from falling. I will walk with the Lord in the land of the living." Ps 116:8

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Shopping, Two by Susan L.

It was a whirlwind shop yesterday. I used to hate shopping for clothes. It helped that the money was there, courtesy of the ODSP work start up funds, and the post-Christmas sales were awesome. The money went a long way. I think the pleasure yesterday was rooted in something much deeper than mere finances. It's another part of my foundation of truth clicking into place. As much as I love large flannel shirts and hoodies, it felt good to dress in a way that mirrored my growing self confidence with new clothes of my own choosing. Not that I am ungrateful for hand-me-downs or for the second hand stores which have mostly clothed me these last many years. Far from it. A garbage bag full of clothes felt like Christmas. It's just that the mirror used to reflect the shame of being fat and ugly and worthless. I confess the weight thing is on going. The meds don't help, that's for sure. In looking back, I was never truly fat. Built like a tank maybe when wrestling animals, hay and fifty kilo feed bags was the norm. Fat? No. Now I will classify myself as Rubenesque like the women painted by Peter Paul Rubens back in the early 1600's. Beautiful is definitely in the eye of the Beholder. "For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation." Ps 149:4

Friday, 28 December 2012

Shopping! by Susan L.

I've got a butterfly mind this morning. Topic after topic is flitting through my head coupled with delightful thoughts of how I am going to spend my Christmas bounty: grocery gift cards (my pantry is rather bare), hardware store cards, and money for much needed new clothes for work. I was truly blessed this year. It's the hardware store cards which have me really excited. Do I buy practical things like a new sink for the bathroom? I have the flooring. Can I afford a new toilet as well? The tub is okay...hmmm, I'd need baseboards and new taps...Should I buy the table mounted belt/disc sander that has me drooling and would make the pleasure of toy making that much easier? Should I invest in wood carving tools? At some point in my life I would like to build a carosel horse but there are many skills to master in order to achieve that dream and, I believe, a few more tools like a band saw and planer. Isn't that a snapshot of life in general? We need special tools and skills in everything we do. Lord, I surrender this bounty to Your guidance. You know what I need or what needs may arise in the future. Help me spend wisely. In Jesus' name "And God is able to make all grace toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work." 2 Cor 9:8, Amen.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Three R's by Susan L.

It snowed quite heavily last night and because my little house is sheltered by the surrounding trees, the snow lay thick on the driveway. There's probably a good fifteen to twenty centimeters waiting to be shovelled. It's our first real snowfall of the year and I 'm glad it happened after all the holiday running around was done. It's nice, having the old year tucked away a few days before 2013 starts. The ground is clean and white. Underneath the snow seeds, bulbs, and green things wait for their season to begin again. To hold a hope for the future; to believe in the possibilities of tomorrow! What a gift! For myself, an even greater gift is being free of fear and worry about the coming year. (For the most part anyways. I am only human after all.) Thank You, Lord, for the three R's that roll off the tongue like music to the soul: Redemption. Release. Restoration. Profound promises with profound meaning. "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples." Jn 20:30

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Dear Father by Susan L.

The Christmas eve church service and the singing of "Silent Night" brought me to tears. It seems, Father, that I cry easier these days. This is a good thing. These were tears of relief and thankfullness. "Thank You!" feels so inadequate although You say in Your word that we are to give thanks...these simple words fail to capture the brightness and up-welling light that floods my heart and soul. I humbly give thanks then according to Your instructions( Lord You know my heart,) for the birth of Your Son, Jesus, who has been my own Star in the east and has guided me safely through the darkest nights and days. Words are not enough. Amen. "I am the Light of the world." Jn 9:5

Monday, 24 December 2012

Tidings of Comfort and Joy by Susan L.

Don't you hate when you wake up with a start, your mind a torrent of random thoughts? Life is pretty busy over the next three days. Mental lists of what I need to do, to take, and where I need to be are rattling my cage a little. Busy and me don't mesh easily. Once the coffee was poured I decided to take this time to ground myself in the Lord. In amongst the rest of the thought parade the Christmas carol "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" began to play. I heard this carol at a concert last year. My heart heard the familiar words and I began to grasp what the simple words "God rest" truly meant. Rest in God. God will bless us with rest. Take time from our labours. Ease off the frantic socializing. Place our sad, wounded or grieving hearts in His hands. Forgive, or make the choice of wanting to if that's all we can do right now. Rest assured God can and will do the rest. "Selah". The big one. Pause. Reflect. Meditate. Contemplate. Inhale. Wait. Surrender.Exhale. As the carol sings, "For Christ was born of Mary upon this Christmas day." "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people." Lk 2:10

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Ahh, Relaxation! by Susan L.

With a mad flurry of flour my nod at Christmas baking is done. Mincemeat tarts with my own green tomato mincemeat. A tiny apple pie with a smattering of white chocolate chips and tons of cinnamon is cooling on the rack as well. It sure makes the house smell like Christmas. The rest of the night is my own. I need this time to gather my thoughts, to take the time and focus on the real reason for Christmas. There needs to be some time to unwind after being away for a couple of days, too. I was visiting my elderly uncle. His birthday was yesterday and I like to take him some of my preserves. They remind him of his childhood and I enjoy listening to the memories the mason jars bring to mind. I think he may have been a bit of a rascal. When I am there, or anywhere for a couple of days I get slightly homesick though. I find the city too noisy, busy and bright. Country living spoils you and I treasure the silence that is here. I may or may not blog over the next couple of days so I offer everyone, city mice and country mice alike a most blessed and wonderful Christmas. "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men." Lk 2:14

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas Sorrows by Susan L.

So I gather that the world didn't end last night. There might be some out there who are disappointed. I feel a real burden to reach out to those who may be contemplating the act of suicide. This is a hard time of year for many but I can tell you you're not alone. I get that this is hard to believe. Boy, do I get it. There really are people out there who care. They mind the Warm Lines, the Crisis Lines, even the Dial a Prayer if you think that it might help. You don't even have to tell them your name if you don't want to. There may be a family member or friend or someone you barely know who would be blessed by your talking to them. Yes, I said blessed. You would be surprised by who has worn your shoes. Our circumstances may not be the same but I've wanted to give up many times over the last eight years. I can tell you, it will get better. The road may be bumpy and rough. I cannot promise that it will be easy but then good things, worthwhile things never are. Thinking about suicide is an opportunity to make a choice or take a chance in trusting the stranger at the other end of the phone or by being vulnerable in sharing with a friend what is troubling you. "Together we stand, divided we fall." Churchill, I think.. or as the Bible says, "My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding." Col 2:2

Friday, 21 December 2012

Secret Santa Revealed by Susan L.

On Wednesday at the staff meeting we all took part in a small Secret Santa gift exchange. Thankfully I knew the person well whose name I'd drawn earlier. The staff member who had drawn my name was at a distinct disadvantage, me being so new, but I tell you, her gift was one of unimaginable worth. She has met me on various occaisions because she is the coordinator of the PREFER (www.cultureofrecovery.com) and either faciltates or is present for most of the trainings I have attended so far. She gave me the gift of words: a beautifully written letter sharing her impressions of who I am. She also framed a word collage made with key words from her letter. It was lovely, thought provoking, and very, very sweet. As I read the letter out loud in front of the staff, her kind words struck home. Right to the very fabric of my being. I ended up having a good cry Wednesday night. Tears of the deepest gratitude this little human could offer to God were blended with a tinge of sorrow. Mostly they were tears of relief and unbound hope because E's letter showed me once and for all the worst is over. I am reluctant to say I 've arrived but we're getting there one day at a time. It just dawned on me Who really was the Secret Santa". Thank you my Lord. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Rev 2:29

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Incentives by Susan L.

I haven't been shy about the fact that I am on disability. Now I am starting part-time work and I called my Disability Support Worker to get the ins and outs of what that means. They will deduct half my earnings from my government cheque and pay me a hundred dollar working bonus. That's a tough pill to swallow but nevertheless the way it works. I am and will still be living below the poverty level although the extra earnings will help out a lot. For the time being my meds, a huge expense and totally necessary to my wellness, are covered. Years ago I was a finger pointer at people on social assistance. It wasn't a pretty finger. In coming to understand the returning to work policies, well, it isn't much of a carrot is it? But then again, living with limited funds has greatly simplified my life and I know that in truth I am very, very rich in friends, family, and in that simplicity. God has provided for me time after time. I will continue to trust in His generosity. "I will lift my eyes to the hills--From where comes my help? My help comes from the Lord." Ps 121:1

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Short of It by Susan L.

It's been a very emotional day. Hit the ground running in a panic because I thought I was going to be late for a ride to my very first official staff meeting at the Krasman Centre in Richmond Hill. In actual fact I was right on time and a bit more relaxed because once I shook off snooze button brain and thought a bit. The laugh at my own expense was a good way to start the day. There is more but tonight is tree night. I want my Christmas tree up with the Nativity Scene safely installed beneath it. I was richly blessed today beyond all imaginings (my eyes are leaking a bit). The simple gift of words adorned my heart like the most precious of rarest gems. I just want to lay these words at the feet of Christ. "Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again." Jn 10:17

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Still No Tree by Susan L.

So, the Christmas tree is still in a box in the basement. Last year it was up the first week of December. This year...well, it's been busy. Having my family Christmas this past weekend meant a bit of a rush so there's simply been no time. Never mind the fact that my living room was converted to a rather chaotic art studio with paints, brushes and varnish scattered all around. At least it's tidy now and the space in front of the window is ready for the tree to grace its position of honour--front and center. I made a paper mache nativity scene a couple years ago. This treasure is placed under the tree in lieu of presents. It represents what is truly our Greatest Gift. This fills the empty space to overflowing that was once chock full of presents when my children were younger. It's a bit of a milestone when Christmas becomes simpler and less frantic, when there isn't the copious amounts of food preparation, wrapping and running around like the proverbial headless chicken. This is a mixed blessing as most blessings are: a blend of loss and celebration. I have to acknowledge the years that have come and gone while being faced with the challenge of aging gracefully. A smile comes to my lips: I am aging into Grace. "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." Pet 1:2

Monday, 17 December 2012

Undercurrents/Undertow by Susan L.

When a group of Psychiatric Survivors meet there is always an edge to our voices when the topic of conversation turns to our struggles with medications. Just as an aside, the term Psyciatric Survivor was coined by those of us who have been through that particulately thorny branch of the health system. I acknowledge that I am one of the lucky ones, read: blessed. After roughly four years of trial and error, my own meds are doing what they are supposed to do. That is: help me live a rich and fullfilling life. I no longer survive, thankfully I am thriving. It's easy to make decisions when you are well and the brain is not bogged down by depression or trauma. It is easier then to let someone dictate what you need when you are not well and desperately seeking relief. Does this mean it's okay? Depends on our individual circumstances. I guess the anger that swirls and eddies is not because of the meds themselves but because of how our basic human rights are tossed out the window once we've been labelled " mentally ill". It's the only illness that automatically assumes incompetance without trial. Oh, and it's the only one that portrays us as mass murderers if we don't take our pills. Scary thought. "Yeah though I walk through the valley." Ps 23

Sunday, 16 December 2012

All Bases Covered by Susan L.

My love of woodworking enabled me to build a Noah's Ark for my grandson's Christmas gift. It felt like the right gift although I wasn't sure if, at three, he knew the story behind the boat and all the two-by-two animals. Prior to the rest of the company arriving, we were spending some quality time together which translates into reading to him. His love of books is obvious. We shared a couple of stories about Bambi and he wanted me to read them a third time. I asked if we could read something else so he chose another book for me to read twice as well. Yes. You guessed it. It was the story of Noah's Ark and the great flood. The Little Golden Book had belonged to his mother when she was a little girl but now graced his bookshelf. I was thunderstruck and filled with awe by everything God organized behind the scenes for the moment my grandson lifted his red and blue ark from the box I had wrapped it in: the trees that were grown to not only provide the wood for the ark and animals, but the pulp for the paper the little book was printed on thirtyish years ago. There was ore discovered and mined to manufacture the necessary screws and hinges. My own uncle had given these things to me. Even he played an unknowing part...wow. Mind boggling, isn't it? "And that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." Jn 14:20

Saturday, 15 December 2012

The Illuminated Path by Susan L.

As I drove the four hours to Sarnia, the sky was grey and somber. As I got closer to my destination, swords of sunlight pierced the clouds, Jacob's ladders. The light was striking and beautiful. By the time I was half an hour away, the clouds had vanished and the sun was out in full force. Driving along the lakeshore of lake Simcoe, a lake so big you can't see the other side, it was lovely to see it sparkle and dance. The weather mirrored my goal. I was heading to family and celebration. I felt doubly blessed. I hadn't made a single wrong turn, either! It is going to be a great day. "I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, in a straight way in which they shall not stumble." Jer 31:9

Friday, 14 December 2012

Let the Celebrations Begin by Susan L.

I'm off to Sarnia today for a couple of days My son is hosting our family Christmas tomorrow. My daughter is going to be away later in the month so we are getting together early. It's going to be nice, I'll be able to spend some quality time with my grandchildren. There's still lots to do this morning before I leave. It's a little hard to focus on this entry so I am cutting it short. It's nice doing Christmas early because it leaves the 25th open to focusing on what the day represents without a whole lot of rushing around. Thank You, Lord, for safe travels. "She will bring forth a Son and you shall call His name, Jesus." Mat 1:21

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Your Will be Done by Susan L.

I have begun a little journey that is entirely an exercise in leaps of faith. On Tuesday night, I asked one of the ladies in my writer's group, Brenda Wood, published author and speaker (brendawoodauthor@yahoo.ca) to help me with my little book "God and the Black River". First leap: Asking someone outside my close circle of friends to read my work. Second leap: Emailing the manuscript. This may not seem to be a big thing for many people but I don't have a clue how to send something that is 23,000 plus words. Hopefully, there is someone at the centre who can help me. Third leap: Actually self-publishing the manuscript as an E-book. Brenda has a contact who does this for a very reasonable cost. It's much less expensive than publishing actual paper books and as someone on disability, funds are rather limited. Besides, this is the way of the future isn't it? Fourth leap: This is the biggest one for me. To believe in future possibilities and make plans accordingly. I am not going to use the word 'goals'. That is too scary. The old song comes to mind, "One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus." Amen to that! "For the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw nearer to God." Heb 7:19

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Wishing Star by Susan L.

This magical tale begins with the magical words, " Once Upon a Time"... There was a tiny, tiny star just to the left of the moon. Her twinkling face only stood out on the darkest of darkest nights when her neighbour Moon who had been up all day was tucked snuggly into bed. Far below her lay the Earth that gleamed in blue, brown, green and white. It was a precious jewel hanging in the depths of space and was a beautiful sight to see. The Little Star was sad because she knew when someone on Earth looked up they couldn't see her like the other stars. She often wondered why she'd been made so small and dim. For ages and ages, a very long time, she hung there so forlorn until one day she heard a great big Voice say, "Little Star, it's your time to shine!" "Who's that?" she asked, "What do You mean?" She felt a bit afraid even though the Voice was a wonderful Voice full of life and love and music. "Little Star, I am God. I Am that I Am. I am the One who made you and set you in the midnight sky at the very dawn of time. I have a very special job for you that only you can do." The wonderful, marvelous Voice replied. "You see, Little Star, if you had burned too bright, your twinkle wouldn't have lasted. The special time that draws very near is the day I made you for. You will shine brighter than the sun all night and all day." The Little Star thought and thought then thought some more. She grew curious and more curious so she asked the Voice, " God? Is this really true?" A deep and gentle laughter echoed through the heavens. "Oh, Little Star, have faith and believe that when I say you are a chosen one, I have chosen you. You are to be the beacon, the guiding light to all the people on Earth." Your light will lead them, kings and shepherds to the place my son will be born." "But, I don't know how to shine!" The Little Star felt tears gather in the corners of her eyes. She wanted to do this job so, so badly. "I can't do this job on my own!" She cried to God. "I'm so very small!" "Silly Little Star," she could hear the smile in God's voice, "I am going to help you because you are right: this is a task you could never do alone. I am with you now just close your eyes and see." She heard a great, big, huge breath being drawn in. With a soft, "Whoosh!" it passed all around her, tickling her rays. The Little Star's eyes opened wide with surprise as within her heart a Power filled her with so much joy she thought she would burst! She couldn't hold it in! The Little Star began to grow and grow and grow. She became the biggest, brightest star in the sky and had the biggest, brightest smile on her face. "Thank You, God," she shyly said, "now what am I to do?" God answered her, "Look below at the tiny town of Bethlehem. See that stable hidden behind that inn? That is where my Son shall be born. See those kings far in the west? They will come to worship my Son, the baby Jesus who will be waiting for them in the stable's manger just like I planned. Your rays in the eastern sky will light the place where this special Child with a special purpose waits for His time to shine," The Beginning

In the Moment by Susan L.

This daily blog is challenging me this morning. A thousand--well, maybe only ten or twenty-- different ideas are flitting through my brain but there doesn't appear to be anything to sink my teeth in to. I guess I'm not really present. Last night was the Krasman staff Christmas dinner. It was nice to be included even though I've only worked a handful of days. It ended up being a rather late night. Tonight is my writer's group Christmas dinner. It is always a heart warming evening of fellowship and sharing. Thoughts of the upcoming weekend, my family Christmas, are percolating in the mix of memories and excited anticipation of good things. A shopping list is part of that even though there's only a few things left to get ready. Thank You, Lord, for the celebrations of life. Thank You, Lord, that the joy I feel this year is loud and strong. "For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's life but to save them." Lk 9:56

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Greatest Meal by Susan L.

Hallowed halls...light askance...Muted coloured glass...Still...Quiet...Drumbeats of rain echoes worship...Organ song...fading...Still...and peace...Quiet murmurs...rustling clothes...Trembling soul reborn...Awed...Tears mixed...Sorrow...Gratitude...Understanding...The grape...The grain...The Blood...The Body...Blessings drawn within... That piece was written several years ago and yesterday at church it came to mind as Holy Communion was celebrated. It had been a long time since I last partook of this gift. I've been struggling with some guilt about not attending church for so long. Yesterday cleared my conscience. Between the songs chosen, the pastor's teaching, the scriptures read and Communion, the Lord blessed me with affirmation after affirmation that I was and have been exactly where I was meant to be all this time. The Lord showed me that He had been teaching me every single day in my writing and art no matter what it was for. It's nice to know I never strayed very far after all. Jesus was born and died so that we may know our Father. That is the best Christmas Gift in the universe and for all time. "Thank You" just seems so inadequate, but Thank You, Lord for everything. " But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." Mat 26:29

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Church Bells by Susan L.

This morning brought me awake with snatches of Christmas music dancing like sugarplums in my head. It was a nice way to wake up;so much better than the teeth jarring buzzer of my alarm clock. For some reason, even though I set it last night, it didn't go off. Hmmm...is this a good thing? I've started going to church again these last couple of Sundays. It's a small gathering held at the local arts centre. It has been many months (years?) since I've regularly attended worship because where I used to go became too big, too noisy and far too busy for me to cope with. Shopping at Zehrs would have been easier as my anxiety over rode my ability to take part in the service. There's a word in the book "Watership Down" by Richard Adams, what the rabbits in the story call "tharn". It means the feeling of a deer in the headlights or a mouse caught in the shadow of a hunting hawk. It's a good word that exemplifies the feelings of what living with PTSD is like when instincts kick in; however misguided they may be. Being on high alert and hyper vigilant is not condusive to being at peace before the Lord. I am glad He understands and thankful He continues to help me overcome my illness. Lately, I had begun to hunger for fellowship and waited patiently for the Lord to lead me to a safe place where it wouldn't be so overwhelming. God is good. It feels like I have come home. "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." Jn 4:24

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Master Chef by Susan L.

It's chocolate truffle time. All the ingedients have been gathered together to make what has become a Christmas tradition over the last few years. They are easy and require minimal effort. Gone are the days of baking cookies by the dozen: shortbreads, pinwheels, sugar cookies, squares and pies. Now I don't have the need. Whew! It was just another stresser in the busy days before Christmas. I am going to make some mincemeat tarts though. I made green tomato mincemeat at the end of the garden season. The spices should be nice and mellow by now. It's yummy stuff and a great way to use up those unripened tomatoes. Usually the apples needed are gleaned from the side of the road but there weren't any this year. The pioneer breeds of apples add a special taste of their own. Do I miss the days of baking? No but I sometimes miss the days of eating! What I like the most is that now there is more time to think about the real meaning of Christmas. God was busy in His kitchen, too as He gathered together and blended all the ingedients that would lead to those far and wide to gather in a stable to worship His Son. Mary's conception, Joseph's acceptance, the trip to Bethlehem, the star, the three kings, angels, shepherds, and even everyone who filled all the inns in town all fullfilled the part they needed to play to create the greatest story ever told. "Behold the virgin shall be with child,and bear a Son, and they shall call His name, Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." Mat 1:23

Friday, 7 December 2012

Unanswered Ponderings by Susan L.

This can be a hard time of year for so many people. The recent loss or not so recent loss of a loved one can often be felt so acutely in a season geared to family gatherings. May God be with you at this time. Oddly enough, my own father has been in my thoughts lately although he's been gone twenty-nine years this month. His sudden death at 62 came as a shock to all of us. It hit me hard at the time being the ripe old age of nineteen. My Mom has since remarried to a wonderful, caring and compassionate man. He is a blessing to all our lives. My dad was a child of the Great Depression, a WWII veteran, and educated to grade 5. After that, self-taught and bi-lingual. He eventually rose to the ranks of upper/middle management in a large mortgage and housing corporation. He always had a hammer in his hand, constantly upgrading and improving or downright building the homes we lived in. The smell of sawdust reminds me of him. He achieved so much and I wonder what his thoughts would be on how my life turned out: divorced, and living with mental illness, not able to work full time (at this point) but relying on government assistance to get by. I know he was highly prejudiced about "those lazy _______!" It's funny how much this matters to me...one day we'll have a chance to talk. In the mean time, I 'll trust in a greater Father to uphold me and sustain me throughout this period of transition and recovery from the depths of the Black River. "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Lk 12:33

Thursday, 6 December 2012

No Small Gratitude by Susan L.

Thank You, Lord, for treasures sent, The weakened man, the woman bent, By age or life or strife. Who have within a heart of gold, Who have aided me in ways untold, By simply being there. Thank You, Lord, for the paths You laid, And although they walked sore afraid, Their hands reached out to help. The lives You planned have met with mine, A tangible, visible, Holy sign, That You are with us all. "For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you,'Fear not, I will help you.'" Is 41:13

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Side Order by Susan L.

Yesterday a conversation took place at the centre. I asked if anyone would mind me blogging about it. Confidentiality is very important to those of us who go there so, with permission and some artistic license (my memory ain't what it used to be) here goes: "I am suffering from insomnia. I've started a new medication and one of the side effects is insomnia. That's all I need! Why can't side effects be more like this?" "You will get the perfect amount of sleep and will wake feeling rested and alert. There will be no weight gain. In fact your weight will automatically settle at the perfect size and shape of a super model. Your mind will become as sharp as a tack; complicated math problems will be a breeze. You will be able to remember where you left your purse or keys or what you needed the moment you enter a store. Lactation will occur only if you are a nursing mother. You will not shake or twitch except on the dance floor. Eyesight will parallel that of a bald eagle. Your hair will become thick and shiny. The only concern about liver and kidneys is how to get your kids to eat them!" At the time we were all laughing, so able to relate. It does the heart good to poke some fun at the trials we face. However, and I am sure this is the story for all medications no matter the illness, it can be a tough call to decide whether or not to take the stuff when the phisical cost can be so very high. I pray my friend will find what is needed to improve the quality of their life with minimal side effects to contend with. Medications do perform a much needed role after all in helping us live with illness; mental or otherwise. "So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, "Your God, whom you serve continually, will deliver you."" Dan 6:16

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Same Old Song by SusanL.

My mind is full of Christmas this morning: the need-to-do's, the gotta-hurry-up-and-do's. I know it will get done in time, it always has but today needs to be a bit of a rest day. There is some residual after effects due to yesterday's anxiety explosion. It has left me feeling a little wrung out and cautious. This anxiety thing is a little hard to swallow some times. It bears keeping in mind that I am a gazillion times better than when I was first diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2007. In the beginning it took all my energy simply to leave the house. With God at the helm, most of the traumas at the root of this illness have been worked through. The all consuming flashbacks are now just painful memories...I confess, I'm being awfully hard on myself because... Hold on a second. If I had a broken leg or other visibly physical disability it wouldn't matter that I was unable to do all the running around my shopping list required. You know, I keep getting tripped up by my own attitudes about Mental Illness. They are so deeply entrenched in my psyche. The devil's litany rings out: weak, useless, incompetent, failure, blah, blah, blah. Liar! Thank You, Lord for Your persistence in helping all of us understand the truth of how You see everything that impacts our lives. The good, the bad, and the ugly are redeemed through Your love for us. "In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, for You will answer me." Ps86:7

Monday, 3 December 2012

Red Alert by Susan L.

So I had a busy day running here, running there. This and that to pick up. There were a couple of items on a short grocery list so I decided to pop in to the local Zehrs. I had to give up shopping there quite a while ago. It's massive. It's busy. So much so th aat the last time I was there a full fledged panic attack set in and my cart was abandoned into the capable hands of a stock boy. He looked terrified, seeing this grown woman in such a state. The tears were threatening to spill over as my entire body and mind screamed, "RUN!!!!". So I did. Today, weaving my way through the busy produce section trying to find the milk which I figured was at the far end like it always is; something about impulse purchases along the way. I looked down the length of the store and it did one of those special effect thingies where the far end seemed to stretch even further into the distance. My chest tightened up, my lungs froze, my head starting edging into full panic mode. I looked at my empty cart and headed for the exit. Okay, I still don't do busy very well and putting my body into high alert mode is not good. It does take a toll both mentally and physically, all those endorphines and adrenaline can be used up. Not good. I got my milk at the local drug store and surprise! Surprise! I saved twenty cents! "Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You." Ps 56:3

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Connect-the-Dots by Susan L.

It was a clear night and the plane was humming along nicely at thirty five thousand feet. Far below, tiny pinpricks of light were clustered together illuminating towns and cities. Like a vast spider web single rows of evenly spaced sparks linked these clusters to each other. There were few places left where there were no lights at all. This was a dream and when I woke it was with a greater understanding of what being Christian means. We are the carriers of Light in the darkness, that's just one part. This dream truly demonstrated just how connected we are within the Spiritual internet that spans the globe. Yesterday's blog was about housework, so was a friend's. (It's nice to know I am not alone in that struggle.) When I was in New Zealand, the little chapel I attended was discussing the same topic as the church here at home, half a world away. On another occasion while in hospital, someone brought me a photocopy of a page from the classic devotional "Streams in the Desert". I had debated bringing my own copy, one I had barely looked at since acquiring it at a church sale but ended up disregarding that urge. This person, who I didn't know very well brought me a treasure that assured me I was exactly where I was supposed to be. The list of these mini-miracles is far too great to share. They happen far too frequently to be mere coincidence...unless "Coincidence" is one of the many names of God's Holy Spirit. Thank-you Lord, for such a priceless gift. "He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers ofliving water." Jn 7:38

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Willy Nilly Silly by Susan L.

Saturday. Chore day. Laundry, floors and dust. I don't know when this started but it seems that we must: Scrub and clean and wipe and shine, Until we see our faces, In things we own that were never meant to see our faces in!!------ Gotta love the silly stuff. I don't know about you but housework is an area I struggle with. Give me spade, lawnmower or pruning shears and I am content as content could be. Or better yet, give me the opportunity to use my sliding compound mitre saw; the Nirvana of tools! There's something comforting about the smell of sawdust. A smell I grew up with because my Dad was always renovating something. It is amazing how much clutter one person can generate. Where does it come from? Mind you, my friend told me my living room is my studio. There's a sewing project on the go, a half finished dollhouse, my paints and brushes litter the coffee table because I am working on Christmas gifts as I watch TV. Whew! Organized chaos! Just let me find space for my Christmas tree. Hmmm...that's going to take some thought... "And Sarah said, 'God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.'" Gen 21:6

Friday, 30 November 2012

Milestones by Susan L.

Set the bar, reach for the top, Be all that you can be! An average life isn't good enough... You've "failed", don't you see? The highest grades, the honour roll, Skipped a grade? Better yet! Oh the shame of a hard won C in math A subject you just couldn't get. Goals are all around us In this world where we abide, Even subtle ones of what beauty should be That tear us up inside. The fancy new car in the driveway, A house that fills the yard, Signs you've finally made it! But, isn't paying for it hard? The poor broken man, the single mom, The addict and the ill, Who find their lives on society's fringe, A swallowed, bitter pill. How come these milestone markers Become millstones round our necks? Especially when we come up short To goals we never set.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Shifting Gears by Susan L.

Folks, today's blog is short and sweet. My mind is distracted by a Christmas children's story that has bubbled up to the surface. I am going to have to focus on that for now because it's only halfway done and I want to see how it ends! "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase." 1 Cor 3:6

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

On the Fringe by Susan L.

After the Krasman Centre closed last night I bumped into a man I know. We talked at the side of the road for almost an hour. As I listened, I got really angry. Not at him, but about his situation and all that he is struggling with. There is a terrible injustice being done here. His gender has caused many doors to be slammed in his face even though at this time in his life he desperately needs help. He's heard it all: what happened doesn't matter, forget about it, you're lazy and just making excuses. His gender interferes with the willingness of the local support agencies to help him. He is feeling all alone and lost. As his story unravelled I admired his courage to be above and beyond the "manly" stereotypes of our society. He spoke to me of the matters of his heart, telling me time and again, "I've never shared this with anyone." I am truly blessed to have been entrusted with these things but in saying that, this situation far exceeds any help I have to give. Please, hold 'R' up in your prayers that doors will be opened for him and that his heart will be opened to the healing power that is within the realm of God. Thanks and oh, the fact that I have a heart for this man after all I've been through...well, that is defenitely by God's grace alone. "I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you. Lk 7:27

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Post and Beam by Susan L.

Many an hour has been spent in an elderly barn when I lived on a farm and was performing my duties as midwife, mucker, groom or nurse. The barn's construction fascinates me: how huge trees, each one unique, are shaped into beams according to their nature. They are painstakingly notched so cross beams can nestle securely into the massive uprights: giant mortise and tenon jounts. Smaller logs are trimmed to brace these joints, four or two to a post and are also used as rafters which tower far above the hay loft. The roof becomes shelter for all beneath, domestic creatures and wild life. When a barn is emptied of livestock, the old stone foundations will begin to crumble in the cold. It is their heat and moisture that keeps the walls from succumbing to heavy frosts and bitter nights. Most of the wooden bank barns that we see today are anywhere from eighty to a hundred years old. The wood inside that may have weakened over time has been braced or new has been shaped to step into the place where the old has vanished altogether. Sometimes iron is called in to reinforce the larger joints or cables that stretch side to side, each wall supporting the other. Barns speak to me about community. People supporting people in a thousand different ways be it as a peer or in our churches. What I love the most about old barns is when the wind outside is high and furious, these timbers creak and sway like a sailing ship of old. Flexibility and strength are deep within the very fabric of their bones. "The Lord will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand." Deut 28:8

Monday, 26 November 2012

Open House by Susan L.

I had a whole bunch of random thoughts coursing through my brain on the forty-five minute drive to Newmarket this morning. Brilliant ideas that escape me now I am home. They were scattered in between the Christmas songs playing on the radio that for some reason had me singing along at the top of my lungs. I seem to only know the first verse. As a piano player those are usually the only lyrics that nestle between the notes. I'm glad no one was listening as I butchered the rest of the songs. I love the music of the season and the words drove home that this is a time of giving that was established over two thousand years ago. I feel led to do the evangelical thing. Lord, let me be kind. Eight years ago I took a chance on the Lord. That's what it was. I gambled on accepting Jesus as my saviour because I had nothing to lose. It wasn't an easy decision because the song of suicide drowned out my capacity for thinking clearly. Couple that with a suspicion of religion, it took hours for me to realize that truthfully I had nothing to lose in this arrangement. I am here today because of that choice. Jesus, whose birth people around the globe celebrate, is the Great Gatekeeper; the One Who opens the way to God's Spirit of truth. Jesus opens the gate so we can begin our journeys along the path of peace. Mine was and is the Black River. Jesus is the Gift of God that meets us where we are without judgement, without condemnation,...with sorrow perhaps because we humans tend to end up in some ugly messes. But that's okay too. We are imperfect creatures. I just want to plant some seeds. This is the season of Christ-mas. Think about what you know or maybe what you don't know about the Lord. I pray you will find the answers you need. I do know this for sure: God is waiting, anticipating with complete and utter delight for your gift to Him. The simple gift of your heart. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Eph 2:10 NOTE: The Greek word for workmanship is "poeme". We are God's poetry. Pretty cool, eh?

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Are You Listening? by Susan L.

The parade was a success although I think it was the coldest night so far this season. We were bundled up under blankets in the back of the truck but that bitter Northwest wind just infiltrated our bones. The cold impacted the turnout as well. There were a lot less people than last year. The children lining the road were priceless, frozen toes and noses didn't seem to matter. One little boy, around three years old, was bent over fussing with his chair and blankets, not looking up at all. His one free hand continued to wave at the passing parade. Talk about dedication! There was a gentleman stamping his feet and rubbing his shoulders trying to get warm who gave our Krasman Centre float a big thumbs up. For me, that made the work, the cold all worth while. If only one person comes in because of us being in the parade, that's good enough for me. I have no idea how often the words "Merry Christmas!" were shouted out by everyone involved in the parade from toddlers who struggled with the pronunciation to seniors who have seen many parades pass by. There's something extra special about not having to worry about being politically correct. It is a thing to be treasured that we have the freedom to say these wonderful words of the season without shame or guilt or fear. We live in a great country! And the words were music to my tongue and ear because I meant them and recieved them with my heart and soul. "Behold, a sower went out to sow." Mat 13:3

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Sleigh Bells Ring by Susan L.

Tonight is the Alliston Santa Claus parade and the Krasman Centre is putting a float in. We did this for the first time last year and had a wonderful time. It was a terrific opportunity to create new memories about Christmas which historically has not been the best time of year for me. I know I'm not alone in voicing that sentiment. This opportunity challenges all of us who take part as well; to be brave enough to put our faces out there on a float to prove to the world there is nothing to be ashamed of. "Give Yourself the Gift of Recovery" is our banner and summarizes what the Krasman is all about. The crowd's reactions were interesting as well. It saddened me but at the same time proved the necessity of what we are doing when people who, once they realized what we represented, looked away. Their fear of the cheerful "Merry Christmases" being offered to everyone from the "crazy people" in the back of the pickup apparent on their faces. Others gave a cheer or a thumbs up, honouring the gamble all of us had taken in going public about mental illness. Particularely in a small, rural community. I look at it this way: if only one person in the entire crowd seeks help, freed by the knowledge that they are not alone, I thank God for Santa Claus and the parade. So, if you're there tonight and if you should overhear a person asking,"What's that about?" Please share with them on our behalf: the Krasman is a peer run, recovery based drop in centre for people living with mental health and or addiction struggles. It's a great place. Thanks. We need your help to break the stigma and prejudices that prevent many from seeking help. It's never too late. "But we are not of those who draw back to perdition but of those who believe to the saving of the soul." Heb 10:39

Friday, 23 November 2012

Need I Ask? by Susan L.

The idea of "permission" created an avalanche of understanding. Simply by living in this world with its laws and unwritten cultural rules we are blanketed with rights grudgingly given to us by a higher authority. The law makers, our bosses, teachers, parents, pastors, the list is endless. For example, as kids we even had to ask if it is okay to use the bathroom. How many times has that permission been denied? Yes there has to be boundaries for our own safety amd the safety of others or the world would be a far more dangerous place. We even seek permission to express our feelings. "Stiff upper lip" and all that nonsense forces us to deny our emotions. Societal restrictions bind us and condemn us to silence should we be too happy or boisterous, too angry, or we're taking too long to heal from a loss: a loved one, a marriage, a job, innocence, hope...That list, too, is endless. Someone once said to me at the very beginning of my recovery. "You're having way too much fun!" It was like having a bucket of ice water being poured over my head. Too much fun?! What?! I felt the weight of my inner pain settle on my shoulders and was swamped with exhaustion. I turned to them and said,"There are nights it is all I can do to crawl into bed with my clothes on. It is just too much to put my jammies on." I was trying to fool them and myself that things were better than they were. That question gave me unspoken permission to make a choice: come clean or continue hiding the reality of what was going on like I always had. I had come there for a reason risking my new-found understanding that I was worth loving . After this exchange I slowly opened up and began a journey through the hardest, darkest years of my life. So if I need permission to feel happy? That's okay. I give myself permission to accept that. ;) "Stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again by the yoke of bondage." Gal 5:1

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Martinis by Susan L.

As I left my therapist's office yesterday I said to her, "I feel like a James Bond martini: shaken, not stirred." We both laughed but it was an appropriate metaphor for the profound change that had taken place during our time together. She truly is a gift from God. On Monday night I was reading a book and was surprised into reading something that triggered a very powerful memory of a childhood incident of sexual abuse. On the heels of that, images of self harm reared their ugly head; the bedfellows of dark rememberance. There's a couple of good things about this: one, the memory was not a flashback. Flashbacks consume you, transporting you into a memory and the world around you vanishes. It doesn't matter where you are. Once triggered they simply take over your entire consciousness. They themselves are terrifying, never mind the subject matter. This time that didn't happen.What unsettled me was I was sure this particular event was a closed book, that I had worked it through painful moment by painful moment with God at my side. So, yes, through the grace of forgiveness and the blessings of Truth, the terrible impact this had on my life and perceptions has been redeemed. In all of this what concerned me was whether or not I was trying to undermine my own well being; that a self-destruct mechanism was at work. Was this a preemptive strike to wreck my joy before someone or something else could do it for me? (Shadows of the ax.) The second good thing was my mind was all over the map yesterday until God's words fell from my therapist's lips, " You know, Susan, the grief, the mourning is finished." Those words shook me to my core. Tears of relief, joy, gratitude, understanding and peace pricked at my eyes. I felt another piece of my foundation in Christ fall into place because I AM in a good place. I am allowed to be here, allowed to be happy and content...It is kind of sad though that I need permission but I'll leave that for another day. Help me, Lord, believe Your truth with all my heart and soul and mind. Amen. "To him who overcomes I will give the right to eat from the Tree of Life which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." Rev 2:7

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

With Thanks by Susan L.

The two days of Crisis and Suicide Prevention training were very powerful. Lots to think about: my prejudices, mindset, and ideologies regarding someone who is feeling suicidal. I know they are there, I've used them on myself every time I was in that place of giving up; when living with the heartbreak in my mind and soul was just too hard. In reality I didn't want to die, I just needed people to come alongside and help me bear my burden. I am so thankful for these opportunities to learn because they give purpose to all that I've been through. There is a reason for everything it's just that when we are in the thick of trials and tribulations it makes no sense as to "Why?" Answers come. We only need to be patient. It's all good, every day, every experience. All of it. "A man has joy by the answers of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!" Prov 15:22

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

In Brief by Susan L.

In talking about suicide and opening up the dialogue about death, we are really talking about life and hope and potential. "But I am poor and needy; Yet the Lord thinks upon me. Ps 40:17

Monday, 19 November 2012

Crisis Intervention by Susan L.

So today's training focused solely on Crisis Intervention. Tomorrow is a full day regarding Suicide Prevention. For today roughly half of the teaching was about communication/listening skills. The other half was spent in exposing the strengths that each of us bring to the table. This knowledge is crucial because we are the tool. For those of us who struggle with low self esteem it was quite the eye opener to realize just how much we have to offer simply through our own life experience. The key point today was about listening, really listening. It is so important to be able to hear what someone is saying beneath the pain and confusion in their hearts and minds. We are our own experts and we all know what we need. Sometimes we need help wading through the garbage that gets in the way. It was a good day but I left with a cautionary thought: whenever I am in the position or role as a peer support worker in a difficult situation prayer absolutely comes first. It most likely will be a private chat with the Lord because only He knows and understands our ways. "I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing shall be added to it, and nothing shall be taken away." Eccl 3:14

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Gift of the Rose by Susan L.

Part of me wondered if yesterday's blog was to be the end-- a climax to the previous 81 blogs. That's how my recovery usually works. Labour for days or weeks, immersed in an issue seeking answers followed by a soul lifting revelation as Truth is revealed. There would be a period of assimilation as these new ideas would solidify before I would bow my head once more and utter my prayer, " Live me, love me, show me, grow me. I want more of You, my Lord." I confess,too, that my mind is doing its second guessing routine about making yesterday's blog public. It's that wee voice telling me I shouldn't boast...( slight pause) Declaring, testifying about God's work isn't boasting and yes, in posting it my heart is placed in a position of vulnerability before you, my readers. That is very scary. However, those few hundred words represent years of dedicated work that began the moment Jesus entered my life: November 9, 2004. "Who am I?" was asked because everything I had known was stripped away in one fell swoop: wife, mother, farmer...there was literally nothing left to give me any sense of identity. Only an invisible empty husk. I shouldn't say that. I knew who I was: failure, inadequate, useless, ugly. The old teaching, " If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" kept me from admitting the truth of how I felt about myself. And shame, blankets of shame covered all. It was about two years after my marriage suddenly ended the November night my now ex-husband confessed his infidelity to me. (For which I am now deeply thankful.)I was attending a four day conference at a local evangelical church. For four days I silently wept in the back, God's presence finally drawing out the long held in tears. What happened on the final day was the beginning of self esteem as the Lord spoke to me through my tears. "You are worth loving." All of us are, you know. "He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound." Is 61:1

Saturday, 17 November 2012

For All To Hear by Susan L.

On November 10, 2004 I asked my new-found Lord the question, "Who am I?" Deep within Black River was His answer, "This is who you are not." He began to swim beside me. I struggled to understand Love and the River proved true to its course by showing me what Love was not. The word, "but" does not exist in true love. It requires no limitations or correction or justification. God's love simply is and always will be. My fractured personality, carefully constructed and wrapped in my own armor had been created in the desperate mode of survival and self-preservation. The armor was cast aside and my heart opened in taking the huge risk to become vulnerable and open. God showed me the Martha-me who had accomplished so much, driven by the need to perform, to please others, to get it right. She embraced the once hated Mary-me, the sensitive, gentle, fragile wounded spirit of my femininity. Mary taught me how to weep with joy or to allow the healing tears of grief to fall. Through her I learned to identify and embrace the myriad blessings of emotion. Decades had been spent with a numbed heart and mind within the Black River of depression. This was all new to me. Mary forgave Martha's hate and the two became united. Martha had been the one who led me to kneel before my God and surrender my life to Him when Mary nearly gave in to the pain and heartbreak of living. The River taught me to reach out my hand when the current tried to sweep me under, a drowning woman. I learned I was worth helping and that God would place others in a position to honour the couragous gamble it took to ask or even admit,"I need help." It was always there and no longer would I need to go it alone. As I slowly unpacked the nightmare boxes of the traumas, the abuse, the beyrayals that had been sealed tight to survive, bit by bit God's take on these events began to disempower them. I learned I can forgive everything mentally but knew only God can heal my heart. I remember these things and the pain and bitterness is being slowly washed away through the grace of God. I learned we can be healed from the deepest scars and wounds. It has been a struggle, this discovery of "self". It has not been easy to admit my sins, my faults, mu erroneous ways but these have been confessed and continue to be confessed as I grow and learn. Not because of harsh condemnation but through God's lovinthe g correction has the poison of regret been cast aside. I could only do the best that I could with the tools I had at the time. It is all any of us can do. Most of all I learned the power of claiming God's truth before others. I am learning to ignore the knotted stomach and feelings of shame as I proclaim my birthright and my true identity. I embrace the woman God made me to be. Not with pride but with reverence because she would not exist without the Lord at her side. I am a creator: mother, artist, gardener, author, woodworker, seamstress, musician. I am a leader, teacher, peer. With God as my strength I am a soldier, an explorer, His gatekeeper, and most importantly I am His child. Within that inner child is the ability to laugh at the ridiculous and appreciate the simple things in life like the summer sun on a field of grain. This child contains my ability to play, to pray and to be simply in the moment, still and quiet before God. Martha,Mary, the child. They are me and I am them. It is a good thing God has made. Abba, I reclaim the black November memories and place them at Your feet. Your will be done in Jesus name amen. "And I (Jesus) have declared to them Your (God's) name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." Jn 17:26

Friday, 16 November 2012

The Ax's Shadow by Susan L.

Last night's art therapy brought up the shadow of the ax. It's hard not to anticipate the ax falling when in reality everything in my life is going so well. My history taught me well because so much has been damaged at the hands of others or by circumstances beyond my control. Rest assured that even as I write this, the un-truth of this idea (lie) is loud and clear. As I drew representations of the areas of my life touched by trauma within the outline of an ax, it made me realize that this is a chronic concept. What bothers me is that these feelings of dread are so pervasive in my life. They aren't loud, just sly whispers that cause me to second guess or doubt everything I say or do. I understand the foundation for this dread. It's not surprising at all: a history of emotional and mental abuse has a cost. Most of the lies learned back then have been sent back to the manufacturer. The rest of this joy stealing darkness will vanish in time as confidence grows. Besides, I know in my heart and soul I am under a far greater Shadow now. "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." Ps 91:1

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Take It Easy! by Susan L.

The snow tires are finally on! The oil's been changed and the car put in order for the winter...note to self: pick up washer fluid! Now I can relax about the possibility of snow. The PREFER training this coming Monday and Tuesday is a little intimidating. Not just travelling two days in a row into the city but the subject matter of Crisis and Suicide Prevention is a pretty loaded topic. My own November memories of being in that place of utter despair are as vivid as the moment they took place. It is an extremely traumatizing event to live through. It's taken nearly four years to come to terms with my two hospitalizations: the memories and the gaps of time that vanished when my mind left the building. Yes, I was in a major depression but combining that with the wrong medications...medications that ended up amplifying my symptoms instead of helping me. It was a disaster waiting to happen through no fault of my own. Recovery from these life altering events has come slowly, just as it has taken time to find the right meds. I have spent alot of time exploring my own prejudices in regards to mental illness: gender role, background, the North American culture, Christianity and personal history had created a toxic attitude. When that attitude is aimed at within, well, it gets messy and confusing. Boy, we can be hard on ourselves. "Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to words of knowledge." Prov 22:12

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Ink by Susan L.

At Writer's Nest last night the theme was "Coming Home" where I read my November 1st blog... I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Barrie waiting for a friend who... The pen and I have explored... My father was a WWII veteran... Folks, this isn't working for me today. Forgive me, Father, I've tried to take control of the pen this morning and haven't submitted my will to Yours. Help me be still, in Jesus' name, Amen. "For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life." Prov 6:23

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Blunt Axes by Susan L.

The Canada geese from the park seem to be rather agitated this morning. They keep flying over the house making a tremendous racket, squawking, wings whistling as they flap. At first I thought little white feathers were drifting down after they passed but shortly realized that it was scattered snow flakes. Feathers would be better. Their soothsaying cry of, "Winter! Winter!" gave me the kick in my pants to finally call my mechanic to make an appointment to install my snow tires. Tis the season after all and while I'm in the shed, out comes the snow shovel to rest in its place of honour at the side door. The Girl Guide/Scout motto of "Be Prepared" comes to mind., Those are rather intimidating words aren't they? How can we be prepared for a future we know very little about? Yes, weather happens. We're in Canada after all but I'm talking more along the lines of our lives. For most of my life being prepared meant waiting for the axe to fall. Many times the good things in life were shattered by un-looked for events. Even my illnesses and the journey along the Black River were events I don't think anyone would be prepared for. There is still a small piece of me that still waits for the axe even though it is the antithesis of a life of faith and belies the power of the One I know will guide me along the paths. Some lessons take longer to unlearn and one day this particular shadow will vanish just like the passing shadows cast by the geese over head. "But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation." Heb 6:9

Monday, 12 November 2012

Misdirection? by Susan L.

It's a relief to get rid of all the junk in the basement. My trip to the dump on Saturday ended up being a bit of an unplanned adventure. It wasn't where I thought it was. My travels took me up roads I've never been on and it was surprising to find little subdivisions tucked in and around the many county forests that are scattered through the. Countryside just north of here. Often these plantations of pine trees have hiking trails through them and may include some second growth forests as well so there is a variety of eco systems to check out. Not that there would be much in the way of wildlife because most of the birds have enviably flown south already. The weather was not very nice anyways. Part of me, the "busy" me just wanted to get to the dump and get home again. Frustration tried to creep in each time. I made a U-turn but then I decided to throw caution to the wind and actually let myself enjoy the drive. I saw my deer. A lovely three point buck cutting through someone's front yard. He brought a smile to my face. Minutes later a township workman just happened to be parked at the side of the road. He told me where the dump was. Was I lost? Never. "For everyone who asks recieves, andhe who seeks, finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened." Lk 11:10

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Purse Strings and Poppies by Susan L.

One hot summer's day I pulled in to the local gas station. There were several green jeeps with a dozen or so ferocious looking soldiers in full battle dress waiting patiently. Their rifles were slung over their shoulders or held casually on their laps. These green faced men were extremely intimidating at first until I noticed one of them happily enjoying a giant purple freezie. It drove home the fact that underneath the trappings of war they were still just boys. When I entered the gas station, the solidly built rather stereotypical commanding officer stood aside and growled at me, "You go right ahead, Ma-am, we're not quite ready yet." He opened the door for me as I left, thanking him. His actions touched my heart. Chivalry is not dead. Canada is a good country but lately there have been more and more news items about how our military and veterans are treated. Many live below the poverty line and those who become disabled during their time of service often don't get the support they need: physically or emotionally. There is something fundamentally wrong with the system. The men and women who serve our country deserve better. It is their lives that have been laid on the line time after time in war and in Canada's role as a peace keeping nation. To send them in to the thick of trouble inadequately equipped is another grievous shame to our country. To the soldiers, I salute you all and stand with you in your battle on the home front to change the status quo. "Lest we forget." "A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor, but he who hates covetousness will prolong his days." Prov 28:16

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Make a Start by Susan L.

It's a little tough to focus this morning. Stayed up too late watching a movie. Slept in a bit too long but the sleep is appreciated. The leaves on my lawn are crying, "Rake me!". My gardens are shouting, "Cut us back!". The bags of renovation waste in the basement are the loudest "Take us to the dump!" Niggling worries about finances. Deciding what to make my kids for Christmas. The fact that the snow tires aren't on my car yet and a dozen other things of the day to day busy-ness of living flash through my mind. List making is something I rarely do because a long list usually ends up with me staying in my jammies feeling utterly exhausted and overwhelmed before I've lifted a finger. It is a mild day today. I think I'll start with the dump run and see how things go from there. Thanks, everyone, for helping me priotitize my,"Honey, do..." list. Nothing ever ends without a beginning and I also give thanks that I have a car, a home and the hands to work with. Yah, the dishes in the sink mean I've eaten today. "And also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labour--it is the gift of God." Ecc 3:13

Friday, 9 November 2012

Molehills and Mountains by Susan L.

  Driving home last night after getting together with friends I came along the back roads. It was very dark, the moon nowhere in sight. For some reason as I skirted the conservation area the thought of a deer leaping out in front of me caused me to slow down, heart pounding, brow furrowed in worry. Not that seeing a deer is a bad thing, just not right in front of my bumper.
  With nervous eyes flicking side to side watching carefully for glowing eyes I eventually came to the stop sign that marked my road. About four feet in front of me, as I slowed down to make the turn, a little, black vole went scurrying across the road. His feet were going gangbusters. It had to have been an Olympic record because he was across the road in under three seconds flat!
  The Lord defenitely has a sense of humour. All the excessive worry about deer amounted to nothing but a member of the mouse family! I laughed at myself the rest of the way home.
  But then again, there have been times when that still, small Voice has warned me about deer that were crossing the road in the early hours before sunrise. Once a warning came about falling branches on a stormy, viscious night. Seconds later, my headlights picked up a huge tree that had fallen and completely blocked the road. If I hadn't slowed down, my car could have been totalled.
  "But He made His own people go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock; and He led them on safely, so that they did not fear." Ps 78:52-53

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Connections by Susan L.

It does the heart good to see the cloud cover of the last two weeks vanish. Last night the stars overhead were particularly brilliant. It made the dark and moonless walk to the end of my driveway to retrieve my recycling bins very pleasant as I paused often to look up. Most of the constellations are unfamiliar to me. I can only pick out the two dippers or bears and Orion's Belt come spring. I wish I knew more. Maybe that phone app that you hold up to the sky could be a neat thing to have. It's a thought. Another thing that has me fascinated about this is that someone named these seemingly chaotic combinations of stars in order to make sense of it all. A grown up dot-to-dot. That same someone looked up at the exact same sky I see, only milleniums earlier.. I felt the weight of time that becomes timeless. These crisp, cold and clear autumn nights make scraping the frosted car windshield first thing in the morning truly worthwhile. "And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man (Jesus). 1 Cor 15:49

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Change of Heart by Susan L.

Tonight is the monthly PREFER meeting (Peer Recovery Education for Employment and Resiliency: www.cultureofrecovery.org). It's in Richmond Hill, thankfully conciderably closer than north Toronto. I live just outside of town in a rural community. Going to these meetings and trainings in the city has opened my eyes to many things on both fronts. Affordable housing in both areas is sorely lacking so poverty is a shared issue and becoming more prevalent. Therefore the issue of homelessness arises. While far more common in the city, my town has its share. The city is blessed with public transportation whereas we have none. The nearest bus stop is half an hour away by car if we want to go somewhere out of town. Taxis are offer the only in-town transportation. Thankfully, they help out with discounted rates for those with proof of need. The Krasman Centres in both town and city have funding until the end of December to bring people in who need to be in an environment of support and recovery. I pray that there will be more available in the new year because winter is so very long. To be a forced shut-in due to lack of financial resources could have devastating effects on those in need. I used to believe that people living with addictions or mental health problems were simply taking the lazy road. I realize now the two go hand in hand and are a huge barrier to overcome. Poverty does not help. It is a viscious cycle to break. I salute those who have come forward and done the impossible by admitting you need help and have gambled on the possibility you ARE worth helping. Those who have yet to reach this point, please believe you ARE worthy, too. Each and every one of you. "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me." Phil 3:12

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Bull's Eye by Susan L.

While watching a YouTube video I could feel fingers of disquiet enter my heart and mind. It was a brief lecture delivered by a man who believed passionately about what he was talking about. The subject was very interesting but I found him hard to listen to because he came across to me as being very angry. An arrow had struck home. When it ended I felt unsettled and nervous but didn't understand where this was coming from. Bits of old feelings began to surface particularly the part that lived constantly like a deer in the headlights. I was surrounded by very angry men for a long time. The deer mode meant the anger wouldn't come my way. I love the "ah-hah!". It has been difficult for me to attend church. My anxiety disorder makes being in crowds utterly exhausting. Loud crowds are even worse. I realize now that there is another reason: forceful male voices trigger the wounded woman in me. That's okay and based on my experiences perfectly understandable. Consciously I recognize that these men, preachers and teachers are not angry, just intense in how they express themselves. Eventually I believe hearing such men will no longer be an issue because in the beginning of my recovery this trigger would have devastated me for days. Now the awareness comes within moments and the emotional fallout is embraced, accepted, and given back to God. He will heal me in His good time. "I will both lie down in peace and sleep; For You, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." Ps 4:8

Monday, 5 November 2012

Blooming Ideas by Susan L.

An orchid has graced my living room since the spring. Most of the flowers, white with purplish spots, have fallen off. Only two companions remain. It must like the eastern exposure of the large window because yesterday I noticed some new buds forming on the stick-like stems. I was thrilled to see them. I've heard they can be finicky and tempermental. Conditions need to be just right. The only fertilizer I give any of my house plants is a dose of water from my aquarium. The fish have kindly deposited a plethora of nutrients in the water. It seems to work really well. Coming back from the city on Saturday a driver in the passing lane raced by only to slam on his brakes a couple of feet behind another car. It wasn't travelling fast enough although both were speeding. He flashed his high beams and continued to sit on the heels of the other car. Accelerate, brakes, lights, pull back, repeat. The lead driver seemed oblivious and made no effort to pull aside to let the car pass. Eventually, the tail-gater swooped into the slow lane, roared past and swung into the fast lane mere inches past the front bumper of the other car. The roads were wet and I am thankful there wasn't an accident. Can you imagine a world where we treated each other with the care needed to raise a rare and delicate flower? This Earth would be a world of concideration, gentleness, and nuturing. To quote Louis Armstrong, "What a Wonderful World." "You who dwell in the gardens, the companions listen to your voice--Let them hear it!" Song 8:13

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Slip of the Thumb by Susan L.

"Tyrone doesn't live here." At least that's what I texted a friend when a message came through, "Ty I'll let you know." For sure she fell off the couch laughing. I nearly did when I read her reply, "Ty...thank you!" Testing new technology has become an area of exploration for me, often with hilarious results that leave me chuckling at my lack of knowledge. I was checking out the message feature on Facebook with another friend.. (Fb I had to ask!) She was sharing about an upcoming workshop she was facilitating on the coming weekend. I asked what it was about so pleased with myself for treading on new ground. The balloon popped up,"typing." That's odd, I thought because this friend is passionate about organic gardening and sustainable agriculture. I typed in a couple more questions and the balloon replied, "typing". Oh. I started laughing. A good rich belly laugh at my folly. The computor was letting me know my friend was typing a response! She is not a typing teacher. Silly me! It is so important when our wires get crossed to question what we think we understand. Sometimes our perceptions affect our hearing. "The truthful lips shall be established, but a lying tongue is but for a moment." Prov 12:19

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Fraudsters by Susan L.

For those of you who don't follow me on Facebook where I posted this story I want to take this opportunity to add to an often shared warning. It bears repeating. On Thursday around supper time I recieved a call from someone claiming to represent a computor company. Sorry, I didn't catch the name. The woman sounded highly professional and serious but the two second delay clued me into the fact she was probably in India. I decided to play along just to satisfy my curiosity. She informed me that during a recent time on line my computer had picked up a couple of folders that were dangerous and could cause a system meltdown. I asked for her help.(I could almost hear her thoughts, "Hook, line and sinker!"). She told me to go to my computer where she would walk me through "fixing" the problem. Then I confessed "I don't know how you are going to help me. I don't have internet at home." She hung up abruptly. Lesson learned, although I knew better than to do anything she said. Never allow unsolicited callers anywhere near your computer even if they claim they are calling from a major company like Microsoft. Once connected these people could access personal, banking and private information. Your computer could be enlisted into an underground network for illicit activities without you being aware. Please, be careful. There are unscrupulous souls out there. Pray for them. Repentance brings God's grace into their lives. "A band of robbers takes spoil outside. They do not concider that I(God) remember all their wickedness." Hos 7:1

Friday, 2 November 2012

Mo-vember by Susan L.

Everywhere you look, in what is fast becoming a global event, ragged sprouts of whiskers are showing up. Mustaches and beards are being grown to raise money for cancer research. This worthwhile event raises millions of dollars and gets bigger each year. Thank you, men. It brings a whole new meaning to " in your face!" Just like cancer, every single person on this planet will be touched by mental illness either personally or through someone we love and care for. It,too, knows no boundaries: age, gender, race mean nothing. Most of us don't hesitate to buy ribbons, daffodils or even lottery tickets to raise much needed funds for various good causes. Seeing as we are heading in to the season of giving I ask everyone to donate sonething to mental health: TIME. Please, go on line and spend a few moments reading about mental illness. That is all I ask. What we understand, we no longer fear. www.cultureofrecovery.org www.cmha.ca "He who keeps instruction is in the way of life." Prov 10:17

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Identity Embraced by Susan L.

The night was a lifetime ago when I had a dream: Beneath a bleak and glowering sky, Red rimmed by a sun clawing its way to bed, I stood in a field burnt, singed, By fire roaring through, born of lightning. The once dry and rustling grass now smouldering ash and clumps of death. A fence untouched by flame or cinder Stretched beyond the distant black and smoking hills. Barbed wire, sharpened spikes, ran from post to post, Strand upon strand upon strand like a jagged sneer Across the desolate waste. A gate stood before me: Red tubes of iron and might blocked the path Dressed in a suit of soot and dust. Fear of tresspass, Fear of what lay on the other side Swept through my breast. Dry mouthed I reached for the chain binding the gate closed. Hot against my palm it burned, Leaving tatoo trails behind as it dropped. Swirls of ash followed the chain as it rattled free, Jacob Marley's ghost, And the gate swung open, Creaking, Groaning with the effort of movement. Bursts of green flowered horizon to horizon. Bursts of evening birdsong cascaded up and down. Bursts of yellow and purple wildflower scent filled the air. Bursts of stars littered the sky as the sun vanished, All beautiful beyond imaginings, My senses were filled with delight. I did not know who the gate was opened for. I did not know the "why?". I only knew as I stood aside I was Keeper of the Gate. In waking times where the gray upon my head is more pronounced, The sadness in my eyes has become less pronounced, Still, the lines of care have etched themselves deeply on my brow. These troubled years have brought me to the place My Lord, my Light intended. I have become a Gatekeeper, Just one of many and many more who serve the best we can. Dreams have been fulfilled. And I believe. Thank You, Jesus "And I (Jesus) will give you the keys to the kingdom of Heaven." Mat 16:19

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Sandy by Susan L.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the people along the eastern coast of the United States following the devastation caused by hurricane Sandy. To those who lost loved ones, may you be comforted. To those who lost their homes, may you find community. To those whose homes were damaged by flood or fire, may you find the strength to rebuild. To all I pray you have found a safe haven where you can rest until life settles into normal once again. Although normal may not be what it once was. May God bless the first responders: the firefighters, paramedics, police, military and volunteers who have offered their hands in any way they could. May all of you and those in the medical profession find the stamina to continue doing the work that you are doing. Lord, I ask, too, that those troubled souls who would do harm by using this catastrophe to loot or steal would be stopped or aprehended. May they find grace within Your arms. "For You have been a strength to the poor, A strength to the needy in his distress, A refuge in the storm." Is 25:4

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

In the Wee Hours by Susan L.

It's one forty-five in the morning and rather unusual that for some reason I can't get to sleep. The hampsters in my head are going a gazillion miles an hour...the fierce wind. Will my huge tree out front stay standing? The power going out...my basement will flood in no time once the sump stops. What if the sump pump blows? Did I take my meds? I think I did. ...most of this is beyond my control and in the grand scheme hardly catastrophic. When I was starting to get really sick I would wake up in the middle of the night and journal for a couple of hours with a cup of tea at hand. Earl Gray that I keep for special occaisions like needing to unwind. Served with toast and peanut butter this combo is one of my best sleep encouragers. There's a huge part of my brain doing my 'second guessing' number. Have I said the right thing? Did I screw up some how? Probably. I am human after all. Okay. Most of this wakefulness is because of fallout. Never in a million years would I change what happened this weekend but it has triggered an avalanche of my own memories. They are so vivid I can smell the air and hear the echoes. I remember exactly how I felt: lost, terribly sad and heartbroken. How confused and panicky and desperate. Oh, so desperate. And so very, very tired. There is a slight pause as I watch the scenery in my mind's eye. This is a good thing. These memories, while vivid, no longer have the power to consume me like they used to. Thank You, my Lord, for these are just the ghosts of Novembers past and have helped to make me the woman I am becoming through Your loving care. Good night, all. "But the night shines as day. The darkness and the light are both alike to You." Ps 139:12

Monday, 29 October 2012

Circles by Susan L.

I missed yesterday's blog due to an urgent matter that utilized all my peer support understandings. It even delved into unfamiliar waters where I have had no training yet until next month. It had a good ending though and that is all that matters. There is something wonderful and humbling about being in a position to "pay it forward". It is so awesome to be able to do what someone did for me when I was at my worst. It truly makes me appreciate all the rough times because they are now a treasury of experience to draw from. We can never pay people back for the things they do for us. All we can do is offer our gratitude to God that such wonderful people who touch our lives in the good times and not so good times. We would be lost without them. "This is My commandment that you love one another as I have loved you." Jn 15:12

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Upon a Star by Susan L.

It was wonderful to see my three year old grandson last night in Newmarket. My eight month old granddaughter took one look at me and screamed. Note to self: see them more! They had come up from Sarnia last night to help my daughter move today. Amidst boxes and over slices of pizza we had a good visit and it was nice to have a few moments of quality time with my children and grandchildren. My son and his family moved back to Ontario in the spring from New Zealand having spent a number of years teaching there. Jai, my grandson, left his best friend behind and misses him terribly. What happened at bed time drove home how astute children are. He began to cry. An unusual occurance. My son talked with him for a while to find out the reason for his tears. Jai was terrified that after his Aunt She-she moved he would never see her again because in his brief experience, that was what moving meant: goodbye forever. After some gentle reassurance he settled down to sleep although I am sure there were some worries about what the next day would bring. My heart went out to the little guy. How I wish we had the ability to protect our children from the hurts of the world, big and small. How I sometimes wish for a magic wand to make it all better. How I wish we really could keep our children safe from harm. I wish...and I pray. "That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love." Col 2:2

Friday, 26 October 2012

From the Paint Pot by Susan L.

I am still pondering the image that came out in art therapy last night. It was a small piece on ragged edged watercolour paper. An impressionistic field and trees in the height of summer covered most of it. I know this part isn't original but I painted a window hanging in mid air that cast a shadow on the meadow. The view through the window was the same landscape dressed in winter. The trees were bare and the snow lay white and thick on the ground. It is in essence a gratitude picture because I am so thankful that the art itself has given me the ability to look through the window of my soul. Many a dark and grieving image has enabled me to express my hurts when words failed. The page or canvas contained them for me and made them a little bit smaller. Even when my mind left the building. I still have images from then but don't recall having done them at all. Art was my first, tentative conversations with God because in the beginning I believed I had no voice. There is an unfinished quality to this little piece. Part of that is because my humble thankfulness knows no end. The other part is the universal acknowledgement that every single one of us is a work in progress under the Master's brush. "Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve Him." Dan 7:14

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Seeds of an Idea by Susan L.

As an experiment last summer I decided to grow a grapefruit seed. Several actually. Using one of those multi- purpose, handy-dandy containers from Chinese take-out I placed some potting soil in the bottom. I soaked it well, stuck in a handful of seeds and covered it with plastic wrap. A mini greenhouse for my window sill. About ten days later they began to sprout, peeking above the soil. I chose the healthiest two and transplanted them into bigger pots. One is doing well. The other suffered from a lack of water and lost most of its leaves. Oops. They are about two feet tall now. That worked so the next seed to try was lemon. They are actually a bush and easier to make a Bonsai miniature tree from. Like the grapefruit I have one that is healthy and one that is barely alive. I think I over fertilized the poor thing. There's a metaphor in there somewhere! "Teach me, and I will hold my tongue; Cause me to understand when I have erred." Job 6:24

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Been There by Susan L.

This is a difficult subject fraught with opinions, judgements and condemnation. I know because that is how I used to view people who harmed themselves or drastically attempted suicide. Both self harming and suicidal ideologies have come and gone during my life, rising and falling with the currents of the Black River. Once upon a time they were secret thoughts I never dared to share with anyone in case they thought like me: I was a nutcase, weak, and selfish. In my ignorance I didn't realize that these ideas are a symptom of clinical depression. I know better now. Even the medications used to treat depression can fuel these symptoms. That knowledge comes first hand as well. It has taken several med changes to find one that didn't haunt every waking moment with dark desires. God brought me through although it was touch and go a couple of times. Self harm isn't the domain of the "mentally ill". When we don't eat properly, or deny ourselves sleep. When we don't exercise or relax, or even allow the time to gather with friends and family. I think the biggest one is when we fail to ask for help, something I still struggle with at times. Perhaps the next time someone we know shares their thoughts of self harm we can honestly reply, "You are not alone." "Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another." 1 Pet 3:8

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

For Goodness' Sakes by Susan L.

It has been a long, slow road to discovering self esteem. That sense of worth which is rooted in the simple fact we all are the beloved children of our heavenly Father. When I realized belittling my creativity or down playing the finished result was a slap in the Lord's face it helped me to see with fresh and honest eyes some fundamental truth. I have worked hard to do what I do. Like self esteem all our abilities need nurturing. It takes risk, too, to try new things and sometimes land flat on our faces. It is hard to silence the inner critic and for me very hard to share what I have created either in writing or art. This is because there is a piece of me in everything created. Shame or disregard is not humility. Our creativity is as much a part of us as breathing or blinking. I celebrate talent, giftings if you prefer, because each one of us was designed to be a little creator under the tutelage of the best possible Scribe, Muse, and Inspiration. "The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and a good report makes the bones healthy." Prov 15:30

Monday, 22 October 2012

Eye of the Beholder by Susan L.

Yesterday was cause for celebration, thanks to all of you. My blog reached the 1000+ hit mark. Words aren't enough to tell you how much this means to me. It has been an uphill battle to get me to confess and share my creative abilities. Sins are so much easier. Why is that I wonder? Yah, I knew the answer even before I typed the question. Boy, can we be hard on ourselves. It is so easy to find flaws and faults that consistently undermine the value of our gifts. Leaving typos on my blog has challenged me tremendously as an obsessive proof reader. I just had to accept the truth that editing on a small touch screen can be too difficult some times. Especially when the key pad pops up and hides where the cursor is. "Cursor", what an appropriate name. Many a time has a frustrated word crossed my lips during these futile attempts to produce perfection. Then I start laughing at myself. Old habits die hard. "It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect." Ps 18:32

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Timeless Roads by Susan L.

Seven years ago when I finally walked away from my marital home I was living in a basement room with no windows, no phone, no TV. I spent many hours in my van driving aimlessly along the back roads in and around Orangeville. Often I would park at the side of the road simply to admire the view. I would use this time to pray or journal undisturbed by the noises of town living. Often there would be tears. It was not an easy time. A good friend said that the Lord had set me aside for special treatment. It helped take the sting of loss away. The reason I am writing about this is I remember one particularly tearful park. The road in front was hilly and wound around the November countryside. It vanished from sight behind a couple of hills or clumps of trees only to reappear in the misty distance. I was feeling rather terrified because I had no idea what lay ahead or where my life would take me. That broken road assured me that even though the road ahead was not in full view, the Lord would keep me from straying from the way He had planned. It gives me comfort now, this rememberance. I mentioned recently how troubled I am by the blocks of time that were lost when I was really sick. Today I can let them go. They were just the roads behind the trees. The road was still there. That's all that matters Thank You, Jesus. "You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forever more." Ps 16:11

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Final Point by Susan L.

What a beautiful morning! It's amazing the difference a relatively decent night's sleep can make. On Thursday I went to Zellers to see if they had the special mattress covers that seal critters in or out. There were cheap vinyl ones but I felt a squeaky bed is not particularly conducive to good sleep. That and I thought they might be a tad hot in the summer. The woven breathable ones only had measurements on them. They weren't labled according to mattress size. I have no idea how big a double bed is! My brain began to do its panicky thing. The what ifs tore through my thoughts. I decided to root around a bit and found at the back of a shelf a queen sized cover in the material I was looking for and wonder of wonders it had a yellow clearance price sticker on it! There were signs posted everywhere about additional reductions to these yellow tagged items. Throwing caution to the wind I decided bigger is going to work for me. As the cashier rang up my purchase no additional savings showed up. I was rather disappointed and mentioned to the young woman about the signs. She did some investigating and a couple of phone calls later led to good news. There was an additional sixty percent off! Woo-hoo! God knew what I needed for some peace of mind. Once again He made it possible for me to afford a rather expensive item. And that is the last thing I'll say about this matter. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of Lights." James 1:17

Friday, 19 October 2012

Oh, no! by Susan L.

I was supposed to visit my son this weekend. It's my grandson's third birthday on Saturday but I am not sure if I inherited any unwanted guests from the trip last week. I am staying home, just in case. This weekend means a major house clean and I picked up some bug killer because these bites are terribly nasty. I have so many that it's hard to tell if there are new ones added. Here's hoping there's not. And, yes, I am rather ticked off at the retreat management for not being more vigilant. 200+ bites are not gotten from a brief infestation. So this is a short one. Folks, would you pray for me that when I am done cleaning there will be no survivors? "And he shall cause the house to be scraped inside, all around, and the dust that they scrape off shall pour out in an unclean place outside the city." Lev 14:41

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Mirror Images by Susan L.

There's more to reflections than just remembering or peering into a mirror looking for yet another gray hair. Robert Burns penned the saying, "If only we could see ourselves as others see us." He had written this as a derogatory comment having seen a woman all beautified, powdered and wigged according to the latest fashion of the times. There were lice crawling around her neck. Also common at the time. I wonder what she saw in her looking glass? I believe we DO see ourselves as others see us, mostly to our own detriment. It isn't as obvious as vocal put-downs but the information is absorbed unconsciously. It's a broken mirror and a broken reflection. It's the unconscious part that nibbles away at our souls because these ideas can become so pervasive in how we treat both others and ourselves. It's like the trees along the bank of a smooth river whose image in the water is broken and twisted by the breeze. They look like trees but something isn't quite right. We are a mirror, too. I am guilty of projecting on to others my now old ideas of gender role and differentiating between men and women. I am guilty of unknowingly teaching the code of silence because some things aren't supposed to be talked about or questioned. I am guilty of passing on a whole manner of hard and often cruel ideas. Many of those are handed down generation after generation. These ideas are not of God and He has forgiven me for my ignorance and continues to lead me along the waters of enlightenment. It pays to pause and reflect. To examine our hearts and listen for God's truth. "For the Lord has comforted His people, and will have mercy on His afflicted." Is 49:13

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Bountiful Harvest by Susan L.

This time of year is when I like to pause and reflect. Part of this is driven by the awareness that the next several weeks are filled with the difficult anniversaries of some of the most traumatic events in my life: the sudden dissolution of my twenty year marriage, coming a hair's breadth away from taking my own life as a result, and two years later my first trip to a mental hospital. The second was twelve months later. There's more so let's just say the Black River swept me along for a long time. This year is different. Better different. However, a conversation I had with a friend helped me realize just how much has been done, how many challenges have been overcome and faced down. Like him I sometimes feel that it shouldn't have taken eight years to get to this place. But that's not the right way to look at it. In past Novembers I've tried to write a timeline of events but end up having to face the truth of missing blocks of time when my sanity left the building. It's so hard to reconcile myself to that reality although one day those times will be restored. I just need to be patient. My walk with the Lord began November 9, 2004. My re-birthday. The Lord grabbed me from the brink of suicide and threw me His Life Preserver so I didn't drown. Sometimes He nlessed me with a Life Boat as well as the currents of the Black River grew dangerous. It wasn't a lack of faith that kept me there. It was faith that by being there God could lead me into wellness and wholeness and life. Today I looked at the River and saw ghostly reflections of the past. These events no longer define who I am yet there is still a very human grief entwined within the truths God has shown me. Maybe I will always grieve the hurts but at the same time in my Heart of hearts this truly is a season of harvest, feasting and celebration. No one or nothing can ever take that away. Thank you Lord for this scripture of patience: "To everything there is a season, a time to every purpose under Heaven." Ecc 3:1