Sunday, 30 September 2012

With a Twist by Susan L.

Yesterday was the perfect day to rip out the remnants of my veggie garden, harvesting the few edibles that were left. This past spring I invested in a small electric tiller because my garden is a fair size and I dreaded turning the soil by hand. Should have got one years ago. It chews through the sandy soil in a matter of twenty minutes sparing the two or so more hours it would have taken with the shovel. My compost pile is empty now, having been spread on the garden before tilling it. I needed space before hacking away at my perennials so I'll have more compost come spring. Sorry, folks, but it got me thinking about snow. Why has no one invented a tiller that doubles as a snow blower? There's weed wackers that have chainsaw or edgers or any number of implement attachments. A tractor's power shaft runs innumerable pieces of equipment as well. Ah,well, I'm not an engineer. Do I really need a snow blower? Thankfully I'm able to shovel my thirty foot driveway and it is something I enjoy, at least until the end of February. God has sent people occaisionally when I needed help to clear the four foot mountain courtesy of the snow plow several days in a row. I wouldn't part with any of the machines that make my life easier: washer, dryer, stove, fridge, kettle, toaster and yes, my cell phone has become invaluable as well. (Me, who dragged my heels before getting one.) It was last year's model but has more bells and whistles than I'll ever use. This meandering ramble is at the foot of one question: Whem did invention become the mother of necessity? "And do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." Gal 5:1

Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Fashion of Grief by Susan L.

As an addition to the grief blogs I've been thinking that perhaps the one year official deadline was started in the Victorian era. Back then, you, as a woman, would buy your black mourning dress and it was all you were allowed to wear in "proper" society. There were strict restrictions on entertaining and socializing. Windows and mirrors would be draped in black which I am sure created an environment of feeling isolated and abandoned in an hour of need. Keep in mind, Victorians didn't bathe like we do today fearful of the impact full body bathing would have on their health. Understandably so because the lack of sewers meant that water was filled with all sorts of diseases. A wash of hands and face were their nod at personal hygene. The only bits of flesh visible. The clothes weren't laundered only their undergarments and lets toss in lice and bedbugs for good measure. I'll bet there were many a woman who couldn't wait to take that dress off! At some point we lost part of our humanness for fashion, for societal acceptance and yes, religious propriety. I'm wondering, too, what the poor women did who couldn't afford mourning clothes. The men could get away with a black arm band but the women? Or was the luxury of mourning only granted to the upper and middle classes? I am sure it was because the poor were concidered mere, unfeeling cattle. Either way, we tend to be hard on those who are trying to come to terms with a deep personal loss and often fail to understand it is a process that neither doctrine or fashion should dictate. Our role is to be as loving and as supportive as possible, no matter how long the grieving process takes. "Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor." Zech 7:10

Friday, 28 September 2012

Grief Continued by Susan L.

An excerpt from God and the Black River. The Lord has had me return time and again to specific memories simply because of the profound impact they had on my understanding, not just in regard to how I saw myself but how I saw others as well. Trauma has a way of twisting how we view the world and ourselves. Most of all these key events impacted my impressions about who was supposed to be a loving God. He's forgiven me for my outbursts of rage at him. There was one key incident that most likely contributed to the formation of my Black River when I was a child. I had no idea how much I had been hurt because he hadn't hurt me physically. I thought since there were no bruises, there was no damage. The fundamental wrongness of this idea had to be grieved. It wasn't okay. I had to grieve that this idea had been scemented in everything I thought or did The grief poured out. This incident had a lifelong cost and cost me a life. That was the first step. The show opener. I thought I was done. Forgive and forget. Not. And I would sigh in resignation. Here we go again. The problem was the memories still had power over me. Freedom didn't happen in one year, one sitting or even ten. Some things took only minutes to let go of, some things. are still in the works. I lean heavily on my supports when the Lord takes me along this side creek. It is hard. Sometimes I even said, "No, I'mh not ready." I grieved my losses: the inability to trust "nice" people, the inability to accept kindness. I grieved the loss of innocence and the door that was opened...the list goes on. Recovery is possible because God taught me how to grieve: in my art, in my personal writing and with my voice.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Thoughts on Grief, Part One by Susan L.

This is an excerpt from my book God and the Black River: Grief is an unrecognized gift; a treasure trove that holds within five small letters everything that defines us as human. It is not all runny noses and headaches. Just ask any one who has gotten the giggles at a funeral. Everything that happens to us is a new beginning With every new beginning, something is lost or left behind. Grief is how we honour our losses, how we express perhaps regret, sorrow and even anger. Grief is another form of honesty. Grief, in my trip on the Black River, has been the beginning place of tremendous personal growth as I have explored my losses and how they impacted me. I learned the five stages of grief don't necessarily fall in an orderly fashion. Sometimes you hit a stage many times before finding closure. When we think of grieving it is almost always asscociated with the death of a loved one. There are countless, compassionate books to guide us through and beyond surviving that life changing loss. I have discovered grief is far more common than that. It is an every day event. Just listening to the news can trigger grief. I don't know where the time line for grieving was started, the mandatory/maximum one year deadline. My experience has been that you are open to criticism and judgement should it take longer to ' get over it' and, true to human nature, the same thing happens if we don't appear to grieve long enough! No matter what your sorrow or loss has been. Take all the time you need. Grief is such an incredibly complex and deeply layered emotion. It is a wonderful opportunity to be honest with God about how you feel. It is an opportunity to be honest with ouselves as well. For me, the time spent pouring out my grief was the birthplace of my heart being able to forgive. "Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance, the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning." Ecc 7:3-4

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

A Walk on the Wild Side by Susan L.

Yesterday afternoon was so lovely that I went for a walk in the conservation area across the road from my house. It's quiet this time of year because the campers, the picnicers, and swimmers have all gone home. The air was rich with autumn smells, fresh and earthy. Sometimes I pause for a while to sit and watch the fish leap out of the water after some juicy morsel that flew too close to the surface. They gleam in the late afternoon sun and the splash surrounds them in liquid fire. There is a quality to the light just before the sun goes down that gives everything a luminescence glow. Photographers call this the golden hour because colours are more brilliant. White asters shine like miniature stars, the wild grapes are a velvet purple. The pockets of leaves that have begun to shed their green dresses shimmer in golds and bronze and silver. The path is littered with footprints: human, dog, racoon, mouse, and occasionally deer leave their mark as well. Beaver tracks lead across the path fron land to water where they have dragged carefully chosen branches to store in their winter larder. I am surprised by just how far they forage. There are old cedars surrounding the path towards home. One of them erupts from the ground like a six fingered hand. Leaves and debris from seasons past are cupped between the massive fingers creating a stable base in the center. I often stand in the middle, finding comfort in the security of the tree. It is an earthly, tangible place that reminds me, God has truly got the whole world in His hands. "We will enclose her with boards of cedar.8:9" Song _

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Pointing Fingers by Susan L.

I have a small confession to make. When I found out my book, "God and the Black River" didn't win or even place in the Word Alive Press 2012 contest it has set me on my heels a bit. It was my first book and it would have been nice to get some feed back but that doesn't happen. Logically and realistically it doesn't surprise me. I'm sure they had many books to choose from. Mine was about a touchy subject, mental illness and faith. For some reason the two are supposd to be mutually exclusive. I can personally relate to Job and the experiences he had with well meaning people who beat him over the head for his trials. Somewhere they mention God's punishment for Job's obvious to them sins against God. I'll give Job credit because he didn't take on the burden of false responsibility. That has been a large part of my discovery journey: actually differentiating between my mistakes or poor choices and letting go of others poor choices that were laid at my doorstep. Abusers are really good at blaming their victim. It is so easy to blame someone else for our actions rather than look in the mirror. In saying that, I've also come to the understanding that our thoughts and actions are often based on the "truth" we understand at the time Truth, like the Black River comes in many forms and is a fluid,living thing. To find the real truth, God's truth about us, about our experiences we only need to ask the question, "Why...?" It has been a process of patient revelation as I have learned God:s take on everything. And,yes, my truth has evolved as He grew me into the place of repenting having believed in the lies in the first place. There is much to see in a mirror. Oh, He only gave me as much truth as I could handle. "And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." Jn 8:32

Monday, 24 September 2012

Fluff by Susan L.

It can't all be serious and deep. For some reason I can't seem to put anything together even though there is lots to ponder and wonder about. It's silly questions that are filling my mind: Where do fruit flies actually come from? How can one person make so many dishes? Why do spiders always appear on the book you are reading? Why does silence make your ears hum? Where IS Waldo anyways? How come a melted ice cube make such a big puddle? Why is it so hard to clean Jello up? That's enough. I hope everyone had a great day! "He ( God) will yet fill your mouth with laughing and your lips with rejoicing." Job 8:21

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Cost Factor by Susan L.

Yesterday's PREFER (Peer Recovery Education for Employment and Resiliency) Summit was based on the subject of dignity and suggested that Peer Supporters are actually Dignity Workers. I found this term fascinating. The speakers were amazing. Nora Jacobson has done a tremendous amount of research on the subject and the role dignity plays in our lives, inside and out of the medical system. She drafted a model of dignity part of which is: "Human dignity is the inherent and inalienable role that belongs to every human simply by the virtue of being human." Oh, how we miss the mark. Myself included. God, forgive me. She went on to say that whenever people meet, professionally or socially, it is a dignity encounter where that attribute is either promoted or violated. The medical mental health system is very good at violating our dignity and, if I might add, unfortunately our seniors know this well also. "It's all in your head!" There has been a bit of an outcry about the financial burden involved in implementing Dignity Based forms of care. The thought just occured to me...we wouldn't need mandatory sensitivity training! There is a couple of sad things about this: one, that it needs to be adopted in the first place and two, money is even a factor. "Please" and "Thank you" don't cost a penny. "Walk as children of light." Eph 5:8

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Short and Sweet by Susan L.

It's amazing what happened today. Half way into the city for an all day conference my body let go of the last shreds of anxiety that my mind had gotten a fresh perspective on two days ago. And I hurt, muscle aches that remind me of tossing hay bales around for eight hours. It's a good ache though, my shoulders are where they are supposed to be, not wrapped around my ears. It is good to be home. My mind has been stretched and listening to the people who have been at the forefront of the peer support movement filled my heart with the desire to be the best I can be. It was a good day. Thank You, Lord

Friday, 21 September 2012

A Different Approach by Susan L.

So glad I saw my awesome doctor yesterday. He is a gem in the psychiatric field. He listens and truly cares about my well being. The long and short of my recent chronic anxiety: I grew up with a low grade chronic form of depression. It has been a constant companion since I was a child.It is extremely difficult to catch or diagnose because unlike major depression the symptoms are almost non existant. It's hard to explain but here goes: it's like living in a large,echoing room where everything is too bright or too loud. Or perversely monochromatic at times. You head is in a perpetual state of Deja Vu. Feelings and emotions are subdued if,as in my case, not completely numbed. A coping skill. Everything is done day by day, moment by moment. The future doesn't exist. It has taken nearly six and a half years of therapy, two hospitalizations (mostly because of incompatible medications), months of playing finding the medications that do work. This has only happened since my depression was diagnosed in 2007. I have spent hours facing down my demons that were birthed in a long history of abuse and trauma. I even needed to learn about emotions and how to express them. I'm still learning. All of this had to happen to get me to this place where, as I said in my f.irst blog,"I dare to dream" Ironically, this is a possible cause of my anxiety. Life has become so different over the last twelve months and even more so since August. So many good things are going on. I feel connected and grounded. All I need is some time to settle in to this new me that has evolved. God is with me all the way. "They (words) are all plain to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge. Prov 8:9

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Communication Skills by Susan L.

Yesterday was yet another anxiety filled day so I reached for pencil and paper. Glad I see my doctor today, there may be a physical reason for this. However, it was amazing how many little things that I was concerned about. Silly things like getting around to bringing my goldfish in for the winter and needing to take a load of stuff to the dump. It sure doesn't take much to overwhelm me! Art is a huge tool for me. A picture truly does paint a thousand words. My recovery began with art when I drew the face of the grieving, angry woman locked deep inside. My walk as a Christian began eight years ago at the drafting table which became my altar. The approach is the same as the writing: blank paper, pencil in hand, I wait and pray for the Lord to show me what lay in my heart. He proves faithful every single time. Collage, cut and paste images or words are glued down, has been a main tool for me. It helped when things were really bad. I just flipped through a magazine without thinking and cut out whatever grabbed my fancy. It was amazing how the result usually ended up on a theme. Good and bad. The art has also been an opportunity to worship, celebrate, and play before the Lord. Something about cut and paste makes me feel like a child again. And a smile comes to my lips imagining just how big God's fridge must be where He hangs our masterpieces. "Then He (Jesus) said to the man," Stretchout your hand." OMat 12:13

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Bits and Pieces by Susan L.

Writing this blog surprises me every day. (Twice today because I need tomorrow off). There is always inspiration, always an idea. I just plop myself pen in hand in front of my journal. That's how it starts and I wait and listen... I see my therapist tomorrow which is why this entry is being done now. We've been together a long time but it takes time to build a new life with new understandings. It takes time to let go, to grieve, to be angry, to be repentant, to be able to trust. Mostly the time has been invested in understanding and growing in the vision of how God sees me. That takes practice, this believing good things about outselves. It takes mistakes and more sometimes starting all over again It just takes time. The best thing? There are no deadlines. i am that i am. "Gather the fragments that remain, so nothing is lost." Jn 6:12

And a Good Morning! by Susan L.

It was nice to wake up with a smile on my face this morning. Sometimes the brain is a little slow on the up take. The smile should have come about twelve hours ago. No sooner had I posted yesterday's blog about feeling overwhelmed when the phone rang. It was my psychiatrist's office calling to change my appointment. Again! It annoyed me, this was the second time it was changed. He is in Newmarket and as much as I like driving it still requires some mental preparation. What do I want to talk about...the concerns I have about how I am feeling on this lower dose of anti-anxiety medication...I can talk to him about pretty much anything. He's one of the good ones. I was still a bit miffed when I went to bed or perhaps a good chunk of that was simple dissappointment even though I am seeing him Thursday. This morning's smile came when I realized the Lord had cleared my schedule today. It can be a much needed day of rest and play! For that I give thanks and will take full advantage of it. Everything else is in the best of Hands. And any residual overwhelming feelings just went, "poof!" "I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." Is 41:10

Monday, 17 September 2012

Carosel by Susan L..

It's going to be a short entry today.I'm feeling, once again, overwhelmed with everything and nothing. The need-to-do's are nibbling at my peace. The have-to-do's are making me feel panicky. I truly hate feeling this way... And the words, "a new kind of normal" by author Carol Kent come floating to mind. Those words have been crucial to my recovery long before I read her inspiring book. I've bandied the word 'recovery' around even though it isn't true to the essence of my journey. 'Dis-covery" is. Simply because it has all been about learning new ways to live. The old ones were based in the sickness of life long, chronic depression and were merely coping skills, not living in the truest sense of the word. I performed. I existed. I coped amazingly well. I got by. Then I crashed. Big time. Twice. Three. Four... I'll be honest. When I get feeling even slightly overwhelmed it frightens me because I don't want to end up in that place of such darkness. Mind you, gold mines are dark. And let's be honest. Maybe I'm just having a bad day. I can live with that. "I will remember the works of the Lord." Ps 77:11

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Autumn Blooms by Susan L.

September is half gone. Never have the busy days felt longer but the weeks seem to race by. This is the very first year in forever that, so far, my emotions failed to perform their annual dip starting in mid August as the days grow shorter. Historically, the months leading up to Christmas have been filled with dread. Early November is rife with difficult anniversaries and has been the worst time of the year. It really does help to have the ability to envision and dream of possibilities... Wow. What a gift. Thanksgiving is around the corner and a time when I like to take an inventory of how far my recovery journey has brought me I've worked hard to get here and this time of reflection and gratitude helps keep everything in perspective. It also stops me from over doing it because of the need to acknowledge that true Wellness contains fragility. Thank God. Every single creature on this marvelous planet contains that fragility. Without it there would be no need for relationship with our Creator or our fellow persons. Healthy relationships I might add. The ones that nurture, challenge and stretch us to be better people. The ones that encourage, celebrate, comiserate with us. Mostly, the relationships that accept us just as we are.. Can you imagine a world where we treated each other as the rarest of rarest flowers? "I am my beloved's, And my beloved is mine. He feeds his flock among the lilies." Song 6:3

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Empty Nest by Susan L.

A small cup of woven grass was carefully concealed in a patch of tall, waving brome grass now dry and whispery. Summer was being replaced by cooler days and the nest lay empty, its purpose fullfilled. Strand upon strand of warm, strong horse hair had been spun to encircle the inner bowl; gray from my chubby Arab mare, black from the numerous bays that graced my fields and ginger from my rather insane chestnut thoroughbred. The tiny song sparrow who had sung his heart out in the fading day must have spent hours with his mate in gathering everything. Not just the grasses which formed its home but each strand of hair must have been scouted out along the wire fences where they would frequently snag. With sharp eyes, intent on business, the pair must have scoured the dark interior of the barn or the weed choked barn yard searching for these special building materials. The fact that the nest lay empty spoke volumes about the pair's success who had chosen this tucked away building site. There was no egg that had failed to hatch. Later, with great amusement I had watched the parents feeding their chicks when they were nearly as big as mom and dad. The chicks, safe in the nearby shrubs would puff and flutter and cheep their demands for MORE FOOD! The nest now abandoned as too small for their voracious appetites. This little treasure was found after most of the horses and livestock were gone. My own last chick had headed off and not too far in the uncertain future I would fly away myself. It was the end of a twenty year journey. As I looked at each hair I remembered something about all of the horses who had come and gone: mares and foals, a pony, another insane chestnut mare who was too dangerous to keep... It helped me understand that an empty, abandoned nest is truly full of stories. "You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are aquainted with all my ways." Ps 139:3

Friday, 14 September 2012

Twenty Plus by Susan L.

I'm glad it's raining today. The yard and gardens were beginning to look a bit wilted. Again. As of yesterday, I've found twenty four-leafed clovers in my yard. The area where I found the first dozen has expanded into other clover patches beside it. It might be "just" a biological quirk where some of the plant's DNA got scrambled but it has made for a bit of fun for me. I have no idea what the neighbours think seeing me squatting down and looking intensely at the ground for minutes at a time. They all know I have one of "those kinds" of illnesses. My search is usually in the same place because I've discovered that what I miss on one day will turn up on the next. I've shared this story of plenty with others and have discovered many people who found "just one" or others who sigh they've never found a four leafer themselves. It has got me thinking and I have a question, several questions actually. Why do we feel that small blessings are all we deserve or rather,why do we stop looking for more when a good thing comes our way? Is it cultural? Now don't be greedy, others have less than you...Is it religious? Us undeserving sinners and something about a rich man...Or is it simply that it is hard for us to accept that which is abundantly good? Only part of the human confition is meant to relate to suffering. We need it to draw us closer to Jesus.. Do we need to deny joy or stop looking for more? In doing so are we slamming the door on all the blessings which are part of our divine inheritance? Is not the greatest act to live with a rich sense of expectancy and childish delight in the treasures our heavenly Father places on our paths. "I (Jesus) have come that they man have life, d that they may have it more abundantly." Jn 10:10

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The Richness of Here by Susan L.

I'm going to talk some more about poverty simply because according to Stats Canada I live below the poverty level. Far below. I'm not looking for handouts, not at all it's just that this issue of poverty ties in to some of what I learned in a recent seminar on anti-oppression. It really set me on my heels and caused me to reexamine all that we, as Canadians ; in my case a white, female over forty take for granted. I never realized just how precious these things are that have always been just a matter of course. Things like being able to walk to our car (I have a car!)that until getting a new one I rarely needed to lock. the door. There are excellent roads to drive on when I need anything. Anything is always there. I can shop alone in shorts if I want to after stopping at the bank where I have my own account. The teller and the shop keepers understand me. No translator required. My fundamental education was free. I can read and write. I can also play the piano. All the books I could ever want, no matter the subject are freely available at the local library. No ne tells me what I can't watch on TV...I have a TV and a stereo! All the water I need comes out of the tap and my lights magically turn on with the flick of a switch! There is soap and toothpaste in the bathroom (indoor plumbing! ) My mail is delivered and the garbage is picked up. Forgive me Lord for complaining about having to sort it. I have garbage. I was hospitalized after being transferred by ambulance to a special facility for people with the issues like mine. There is a social support system that has provided fr me in my hour of need Poverty? Not really. And thank You, Lord that I can write this blog. Thank You that it has drawn me back into Your Word with the help of a concordance and the three different versions of the Bible which grace my desk. Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us." Ps 90:15

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Richness of Poverty by Susan L.

To I was sick for a very long time. Not that anyone knew, I didn't know myself. It took my brain departing from the narrow paths of reason to find me seeking help. Initially it felt as though a thief in the night had stolen all the things I valued or was it all the things I found that gave me value? Work was out of the question. I thrashed around, stopping,starting, trying again before surrendering to this new reality. I had tried my best because I enjoyed my job. "Work." How we place such importance on the not so simple task of providing for our needs: a roof, food, clothes, a car, a phone, a computer, the list is endless. At the age of 43 and for the next two years I lived with the help from my wonderful parents to pay the bills,working the odd job gardening or painting as I was able thankful I had my very own roof and the luxury of a car. Living out of town it was more of a necessity to be able to access my supports that have helped me as I yook on the toughest job I had ever done. The quest for recovery from the currents of the Black River. It was hard, this "charity". It was harder to admit I needed long term financial help. My folks had done all they could. "Oh, my goodness! I have grown up to be, a welfare bum!" With the princely sum of $423 a month." It was a tough pill to swallow. Yes, and with a grateful heart, the medications necessary to my recovery were paid for or these meager funds would have been gone with the snap of a lid. It's a terrible choice to have to makr:drugs vs a roof which you end up losing anyways because paying bills is beyond your ability because you are sick and can't access the help you need and because you no longer have an address, the financial support vanishes. (A true story although not mine.) I believe and hope it's only temporary, now being assisted by CPP disability. I have enough to get by because I've learned what I can do without: satellite TV, meat, new clothes, bubble bath, fewer hair cuts...The Lord often blesses me with a meal out courtesy of my friends. I am rich beyond measure in that aspect. Life is simpler this way because I've discovered the hidden wealth of giving of ourselves, when we offer a shoulder to cry on, when we share our knowledge or teach someone a new skill. I have been immeasurably blessed by those who have nothing but the clothes on their back. Our uniqueness is a blessing to others, no matter our station in life. I am thankful for these trials and wouldn't have changed any of it fo the world. They have made me a kinder, gentler person. "He (Jesus) saw the city (Jerusalem) anwept over it saying, "If only you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace!"" Lk19:41-2

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Joy Unbound by Susan L.

The Lord's laughter is in the trees As they cavort and rustle in the wind, Tickling Heaven's belly. His merriment squeaks in the chirping crickets As they sing to the day In search of love and life eternal. Muffled giggles flutter in the soft beat Of a butterfly's wings While they dance among the flowers Drinking the sweetness of being. A chuckle is teased from His lips By the raucous nonsense of geese As they splash and squabble in the water. Gales of utter abandon swoop In the shrieks and gleegul cries Of children as they, too, Splash and squabble in the water. A harmony of life. The Lord's soft and muted pleasure Is wrapped in dulcet tones of lovers As they embrace His love for them. His silent mirth reverberates In the warm company of good friends As they share a quiet time. Everywhere rings with the pure Clear tones of Heaven's Joy-- For our joy is in the listening Closely and hearing Our Father's pleasure. 09/07

Monday, 10 September 2012

Same Bat Channel by Susan L.

I'm having a bit of a hard time concentrating. My brain is whirling with a dozen different things. My anxiety is creeping up. I feel it in my face and the pins and needles pricking at my arms and legs. There's a heavinesdin my chest, a tightness rather. My teeth are clenched. All signs of an impending panic attack My doctor is weaning me off of the medication that has helped. We've only lowered the dose by a quarter over the last twelve weeks. I don't know...just wait and see. It takes time to adjust. Meanwhile, I decided to write in my back yard even though the passing cars seem unbearably loud; another warning sign: hyper-vigilance. Half the battle, if not more in working toward recovery is being self aware. I know these signs and I have a utility belt full of wellness tools. Kind of like the one Batman wore in the old TV show. Things like sitting in my back yard listening to the wind blowing through the pines. It sounds like the roar of the surf.. I watch the shadows dance...my breathing slows down. There's always my justincase emergency pills if I need, too. It's taken a while to find what works and to be okay with the fact that sometimes nothing does so it's better to go with it . Fighting an attack just makes it worse. I just did too much today. That's all it takes for the PTSD part of my challengs to act up. And there's another busy day tomorrow. Lord, be with me. Amen. I think I'll have a peanut butter sandwich. "And He said," My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."" Ex 33:14

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Not So Stationary by Susan L.

I wandered through the hallowed grounds,symbols of piety sprouted in order along the paving-stone path.With an artist's eye I appreciated the careful skill that made these: how folded arms drew the focus to the Figure, larger than life.Shining, gleaming statues cast in earthy bronze caught the light, to last for eons just as the Story they tell has lasted. They puzzled me; their flower borders forcing distance, passive guardians of their Station. I watched bumblebees feast for a while yet longed to get closer, to admire the skill that depicted the human Form wrapped in linen that folded with weight imagined. I longed to peer into the face of Christ, to comfort Him because He looked so sad, so bewildered. And I asked myself, "Was He really sad?". He knew His purpose. He knew His calling. He knew His Father's heart. I have a picture on my wall at home, the face of Jesus laughing a belly laugh that seems to have been surprised out of Him by some small delight. Then I remember how the sins of one man brought me to my knees. He bore the weight of millions. Once again I look at the photos of the statuary Tale. The sad countenance is gone. I see the Prince of Peace. _______________________________________________ I had been overwhelmed by the grandeur at Martyr's Shrine preferring the simple things that connect me to my Lord. Once again He was faithful. The fourteen stations were dry except for a single drop of water that hung like a diamond from the hand of Christ as He fell for the very first time. "The wellspring of wisdom is a flowing brook." Prov. 18:4

Saturday, 8 September 2012

It Was a Pilgrimage After All by Susan

My initial impressions of Martyr's Shrine weren't so good. The massive gray stone church towered over the driveway. There were three flights of stairs leading up to the front door,which was locked. The two bell towers on either side of the door made it feel more like a medieval castle than a house of God. We worked our way around to the side where the door lay open and inviting. Once inside,memories of church washed over me: no laughing, no skipping, no running and for goodness sakes, sit still! It was all so serious. The Anglican ritual: stand, sit, kneel, stand, sit,kneel...Later, I was in the youth choir (anything to get out of Sunday school) and we had to kneel the entire time the congregation filed past us to recieve communion at the front. It was a regular occurance for one of us to drop like a stone. Came close myself one hot Sunday morning, my choir robes stifling in the still, stuffy air. I remember entering the cramped robe room and someone took a look at me. The next thing I knew I was sitting down with my head between my knees. Lost in memory I wandered out of the Church and explored the grounds, walking the stations of the Cross which are beautifully laid out. I've never done this before. God whispered to me the entire time and helped me see past the religious trappings and pomp. Clouds were gathering, heavy with rain and thunder so I wandered back into the Church. I had the place to myself except for a man who was meticulously vacuuming the carpets. The quiet droning hum of the machine made me smile because it restored the common touch and made God's House a Home.. God meets us where we are every single time, in a cathedral, in a hospital, in loss, in celebration...the list is endless and I stand in awe of His Grace.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Tommorrow's Post Today...Daytrip! by Susan

It was another first today. I learned how to silk screen an image onto fabric. A cartoon rooster crowing "COFFEE!" At the top of his lungs now graces a baggy, gold T-shirt to sleep in. The process was very interesting. Most of the process is in carefully cutting the image out of clear acetate. Small pieces are kept to block the ink from going through the silk. It was challenging especially before we turned off the ceiling fan! This project got me thinking about how far I've come over the last five years,since I was hospitalized the first time following a complete breakdown. It got me thinking how piece by piece I've attained a level of wellness that even a year ago I wouldn't have thought possible. There are lots of pieces involved. Finding the right medication was the hardest. They aren't the whole answer but it helps an awful lot. Good friends, peer support, a good psychiatrist, and an awesome therapist have all had a hand in me getting to this amazing place. They weathered the storms as the traumas and abuse of my past were slowly cut away.The things worth keeping have been saved in my heart. Thank God for all the supports He placed on my path. Anxiety is still a part of my life, part of living with Post Traumatic Stress. It might always be, I don't know. I get overwhelmed easily, too. It's much better than it used to be when I would get paralyzed in the cereal aisle at the grocery store trying to decide "Cheerio's or Corn Flakes" as the tears came bubbling up. I still focus on small pieces, one at a time but what I love the most is when God finally shows me the big picture all the little bits have made. Maybe this IS something to crow about myself? "Look what God can dooo-oo!" "Let Your loving kindness and Your truth continuously preserve me." Ps 40:11

Self is Not a Four Letter Word by Susan

The monthly meeting for the PREFER program was last night. The acronym stands for Peer Recovery and Education for Employment and Resiliency. It is one of the few training opportunities that is based on the recovery model vs the medical, clinical approach. It is free. The application process simple. There are no tests. Lived experience in mental health and/or addictions is the only requirement. If you want to know more call 1-888-780-0724. I'm doing this to learn how to be a better minister to others. I've discovered the importance of being able to minister to my self. I don't know where I heard this but it has stuck with me, "If you can't love yourself,God help your neighbour"! This isn't a selfish concept but rather the recognition that we need to learn to be kind to ourselves by making sure that mentally, physically, spiritually ...the whole package is in balance.It's about the necessity of learning to rest and play as well. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit after all. "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;I will guide you with my eye." Ps 32:8

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Simple Pleasures by Susan

What I love the most about the Black River is I get caught up in a current like remembering the childhood angst of being bullied and I find myself side tracked.A swirling eddy sweeps me aside into the hidden depths of rememberance. I spent a couple of weekends at a friends cottage, Amber Lee Bayer, down in the Maritimes where I spent my formative years.The weekends lasted forever. The cottage itself is rather vague; just an impression of paneling and plywood and a melamine table with rusty chrome legs.What leapt to mind was the drive home. They drove a huge station wagon which was really cool because we got to lie down in the back. (Before seat belts were mandatory!) It was really late and we were supposed to be sleeping. As if! The two of us lay side by side snuggled underneath a musty, itchy old blanket. We cushioned our heads on folded arms that soon began to tingle. The car rattled and thumped over the gravel before finding smoother roads and settling into a drowsy hum. The two of us stared up through the back window at a fantastically unbelievable sky littered with millions of stars. The jeweled, magical night was hemmed in by scary, shadowy trees that reached over the road. It was a moment of complete and utter joy. "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child." 1Cor 13:11

Peering Into the Dark by Susan

The good news first: Starting in January I will be working two days a week as a peer support worker at the Krasman Centre in Alliston! It is so exciting because I believe utterly in the healing power of shared experience. Whether or not you live with mental illness or diabetes or cancer, those who share our path for a reason or just a season have a way of helping us make sense of it all. It's funny but not in a "ha-ha" sense but when I first became a Christian nearly eight years ago I was so wary of anything that didn't involve the church or strictly Christian circles. Thank God He removed that judgemental, suspicious and yes, prejudicial way of thinking. I am constantly blessed in these tributaries of the Black River by the people I meet with a deep unwavering faith in God. He is often a topic in quiet conversation or prayers for each other. The people who have come alongside all know one thing: they can't change the course the Lord has layed out for me. They can only give me the space and freedom to explore what works for me to manage my illnesses. I now have an arsenal of coping tools some of which were gleaned from others. Some I collected on my own: prayer, journalling, art, music or even something as simple as running my hands under water to ground me when a panic attack seems imminent. What works for me may not work for someone else. It's all about exploring options and stepping through open doors but most importantly allowing others to come along side and say, " I understand.". We are not alone. "They found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His (Jesus') cross" Mat 27:32

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Pheonix and Faith by Susan

Recovery is a universal word. It applies to anyone who works through adapting to changes. The loss of a loved one. Physical changes like illness or even ageing. Even a new job takes time to recover from and learning to adapt. The list is endless. It isn't easy, the cyclical nature of recovery because there are good days and some not so good. And really life itself has good and bad. One of the things I've discovered is learning to embrace the bad days, too. There is beauty in suffering. The times of trial are where we learn alot about ourselves when we are in a place where the sun doesn't shine. Only the Son shines here. PHEONIX From the ashes I will arise,searing,burning hot in the Glory of the Lord./ His Holy fire,the flight of my passage as I soar across the sky/ shall consume me over and over to rise again and again/ For the Glory of the Lord./ The Father will mold the fires of my passion shaping me to His desire upon desire for my life./ Each rebirth from the hearth of the Father shall shape me in unrecognizable beauty./ Each rebirth shall render a heart forged with desire upon desire for Him. "He will sit as a refiner a purfier of silver." Mal 3:3

Monday, 3 September 2012

Of Sparrows and Wishing Wells by Susan

My garden was lacking something so I decided to build a wishing well. It was a Friday and I debated buying the wood so I'd have a project for the weekend. Financial sense took over but it wasn't without some sadness that I passed the hardware store on my way home. On the following Tuesday, after taking a friend home, I drove past the store again. There's a place where they put old skids for the taking. There was quite the pile and I debated whether or not to stop. It was too hot so I kept on going. God is good. My heart was filled with the urgent desire, "Go back!" So I did a u-turn and went back. Everything I needed was there: 2x2's, 2x4's, and thin boards for the roof. I only needed to pull the skids apart. My wishing well stands about three feet high and reminds me every day that His eye is on the sparrow. "Delight yourself also in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart." Ps 37: f

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Drawn and Quartered by Susan

Most of my days are spent at the Krasman Centre. It's a drop-in place for anyone who has dealings with mental health and/or addictions. It is based on the peer support premise: nobody understands better than someone who's been there. This organization has been my lifeline and gave me purpose when I had none. It gave me a safe place to go, to force myself up and out the door every day no matter how lousy I felt. This summer has brought an opportunity to return something to the people who took such a vested interest in helping me as I worked my way to recovery. I volunteered to run a "How to Draw" class. This is new to me and makes me think deeply about the process I go through when creating an image. Even to the point of being aware of how I hold my pencil. Most importantly I've discovered is sharing how I look at things; how I break them down into shapes and shades. Training the pencil means training the eye. I celebrate the courage of these wonderful people. They have cast off the past discouragements at the hands of well meaning teachers and parents who told them they would never be an artist. I celebrate their willingness to step outside their comfort zone to explore a whole other world. Most of all. I celebrate their joy as they.toss the lies into the Black River. "Therefor with lovingkindness have I drawn you. Again I will build you and you shall be rebuilt." Jer 31:3

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Questionable Beliefs by Susan

In a surge of confidence this spring I submitted a little book to the Word Alive Publishing contest. It bears the same name as my blog "God and the Black River". The winners are to be announced in August some time. It's September first and no word yet./ I have high hopes but niggling worms of insecurity nibble at my excitement.It's a touchy subject, being about mental illness and a walk with Christ. For some reason the two are supposed to be mutually exclusive of one another. "If you have faith this shouldn't be an issue"./ I believed this myself...if I prayed harder...if I ignore it...if only I knew the 'right' words...Judgment at it's finest. / I was blessed with the opportunity to speak at the local church about thiseAfterwards a few people approached me,thanking me for speaking up. Others passed as far from me as the small lobby would allow. I was greatly saddened by this because if my topic had been heart disease or cancer or MS, it wouldn't have generated such fear./ Mental illness is also a physical disability. Simply put, brain chemicals and the electrical conductors just don't quite works the way they are supposed to. It has nothing to do with the inability to "pull up your socks". Personally, my socks got really stretched to the point they couldn't stay up any longer! I needed help, medical help. / Actually, I had no choice. God made sure of that...something about us being both physical and spiritual./ Fully 25% of the people in our pews live with mental illness in some form or another. How we hide behind our smiles.:/ "The Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness." Ps 41:3