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