Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Self Pity? by Susan L.

  On Sunday I approached my pastor for prayer following the service. It was a struggle to get to church because of how I've been feeling lately: depressed and overwhelmed. After I shared briefly with him what was going on, his prayer included the request that I not allow self pity to continue. His words, not mine. It's got me thinking. Thinking hard. Is he right?
  There's more grief to this than self pity but he doesn't know me that well. There's a good chunk of fear nibbling away at me too. I guess I am still coming to terms with an illness that can rear its ugly head out of nowhere. Having the panic attack at my Bible Study potluck dinner before Christmas has left me shaken and uneasy. Will I ever find peace? Will the fear of being triggered, of having nightmare memories erupt out of nowhere ever be a thing of the past? Lord, will it end?
  I've worked hard to get as far as I have come. The Lord gave me the strength and guidance. Self pity has been set aside time after time. It had to be because forgiveness towards others and myself is crucial to recovery and to my walk as a Christian. Self pity or a permanent victim mentality stifles that ability. Laying blame and pointing fingers do not encourage healing or letting go.
  The gift the Lord gave me, that "git r done" mindset, has allowed me to vanquish many of my demons. Although, part of my recovery happened when I finally realized I was a victim. This was the moment when I fully understood that the abuse wasn't my fault. It was incredibly healing.
  Once in a while, I'll indulge myself. The "woe is me" comes out as I've blogged on more than one occasion. Right now I am angry at my pastor, at my mood, at feeling powerless before these sneaky foes of depression and PTSD. Maybe that's what this is about more than anything.
  Here's the nugget: I am angry at myself because I can't fix this! No matter how very hard I try, how much I write about recovery or use my wellness tools, my mental health issues are always hovering in the background just waiting to bite.
   I am trying to do the best that this little human can.
  That, my friends, is self pity in all its finery and in its company are hopelessness, despondency, worry, pain and fear.
   I guess the pastor was right. Lord, forgive me. I am so very tired.
   "The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail." Is 58:11

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Guitar by Susan L.

  I had been asked what I would like to do to celebrate my milestone birthday this coming April. There are certain members in my family who like to plan ahead because it's a significant one, the big five oh. I'm not sure what to do. I don't want a big party, just a family dinner.
  A summer road trip through the Maritimes was one idea because that was where I spent a good chunk of my childhood. I haven't been back since we moved to Ontario in the seventies.  There's the house my dad built in Dartmouth to see and travelling around the Cabot Trail. If it was timed right, there's the Highland Games in Antigonish to revisit as well. However, that kind of trip wouldn't be much fun on my own.
  Then I decided that learning to play the guitar would be a nice thing to do. I'd love a piano but my house is too small. Besides, playing at other people's homes brings them joy as well.
  My brother lent me his very nice guitar to try out before making an investment in my own. There's a couple of things that are challenging. I think my fingers are too short to do the chords. They might be a bit thick too because is hard for me to hit just one string. Following my experimenting yesterday there might be some residual nerve damage to my index finger, it's still numb. I have strength in my hands from playing the piano, maybe too much.
  Music has been a huge part of my life for as far back as I can remember. My parents blessed me with lessons and opportunities. First the organ, then the flute. Here's a thought: perhaps I should blow the dust off my flute instead and join a local orchestra. I'm rather rusty so it would take some practicing to get me back where I once was. It's been a long time since it was played.
  It's all about making a joyful noise one way or another because it's only by the grace of God that I am here.
  "Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name." Ps 96:1

Saturday, 28 December 2013

The Ending by Susan L.

  The Lord set before me a rather unpleasant task. The sick racoon. I had posted on the twenty-third that he had died, he hadn't but was merely sleeping. It was mostly wishful thinking on my part. I just wanted this problem to go away. It didn't. I also felt it wasn't a topic to share over Christmas.
  I decided that night keeping him comfortable was only prolonging his death. I took it over to the conservation area across the street and let it go figuring he'd wander into the woods. The night was frigid so I prayed it would speed up the inevitable, that hypothermia would aid his passing. It didn't. The next morning revealed he had returned to my back yard, still alive but in the throes of the illness, Canine Distemper. I prayed he would die soon. It's an ugly illness.
  When I got home from work, he was still living but hadn't moved from the spot I'd found him in that morning. Enough was enough although I was sorry I didn't own a gun. A two-by-four was the best weapon at hand to dispatch the poor fellow. It's only by the grace and strength of God I was able to put the raccoon out of his misery.
  Again, thanks, Farm, for the hard lessons learned: that I know how to kill in one of the quickest, kindest ways.
  As gruesome a job as it was, a weight lifted off my shoulders in watching him breathe his last. No more suffering for the little fellow. I had struggled terribly with keeping him in the box and letting nature take its course which is why he'd been let go. That course of action was cruel, plain and simple.
  I was annoyed at our local Humane Society, that they didn't have a volunteer with a gun to come and take care of these creatures. Leaving them to die from such a terrible sickness is far from humane. Having a no euthanasia policy is incredibly cruel in circumstances where there is no treatment, no hope of recovery. As they told me, body disposal in these cases is a ditch at the side of the road.
  I know they import small animals from Quebec like hamsters and guinea pigs because Quebec has a euthanasia policy. I have no idea what retrieving these animals costs but it's sad that there isn't the money necessary to help end the suffering of the local racoons who have contracted this vicious disease. In a period of three days they had received numerous calls about them.
  How much does a bullet cost?
  But then, the Lord knew where to send the little racoon. I just pray He doesn't send any more. This was not a task I'd care to do again.
  "Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it." Gen 2:15

Friday, 27 December 2013

Mystery Calls by Susan L.

   I had a strange text last night. It started with a "Hi". I didn't recognise the number so I asked who was texting me. This generated a sarcastic response asking me to guess. My reply was that I didn't know and didn't think this was funny. That only elicited another cheeky answer.
  In a stroke of "genius", I phoned the number and got a name from an answering machine. It was a young man I had never heard of. Including his name in my next response and telling him he was probably texting the wrong number ended our conversation.
  This isn't the first time I've had this sort of thing take place. It happened when I was texting someone, not knowing they'd changed their number. The receiver played this same question and answer game that left me rather rattled. It took several messages before they finally told me I had a wrong number.
  It does upset me. These kind of mind games. This passive/aggressive behaviour triggers a whole lot of  emotional stuff. It's like an electronic home invasion that leaves me jittery and fearful with my heart pounding a mile a minute. At least with an actual phone call, you can hear the other person and know right away if they are who you want to speak with.
  But then, someone who knew me used the phone in the small hours of the morning to play the same guessing game not that long ago. I may of shared this before but it fits in to today's blog as well. I am ninety-nine percent sure it was the tree guy who didn't get the business to take down my tree this summer. He was closely connected to my ex-husband and extremely drunk when he called. His connection isn't why he didn't get the contract. I simply found someone less expensive.
   It's all sad. These little things, this lack of courtesy and respect are just the tip of the iceberg of a far greater problem...Lord, save us from ourselves.
  "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." 2 Ti 2:2

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Damage by Susan L.

  As I travelled south to be with family for a most enjoyable Christmas, I couldn't believe the damage done by the ice storm. Even just a few kilometers away it looked like a tornado or hurricane had ripped through the area. Sadly, countless trees were either down or shattered by the weight of the ice. The giant weeping willows seemed to suffer the worst; their soft and tender wood no match for the frigid mantle. Tree after tree had tangled branches and massive limbs piled in a heap at the bottom of their broken and naked trunks. It wasn't just the willows, ancient maples and towering elm suffered much damage as well. Many will not survive because their trunks, their life giving hearts, were split and shattered as they collapsed under the ice.
  It was a stunning drive though: glistening silver, soft gray and crisp white as far as the eye could see. I found it hard to keep my eyes on the road because even street signs and traffic signals wore gleaming, whiskery icicles. Mundane things like wire fences and mailboxes became objects of art and beauty.
  It's going to take a long time to get everything cleared up, months even. Many of the sidewalks along the city roads of my route were impassible due to fallen trees and limbs. Like the willows, they lay in a tangled heap that will be difficult to clear away safely. Not surprisingly I believe there are a good number of people who are still without power and may be for a while yet. Things are a mess.
  Hopefully, and I pray, it will warm up enough to melt everything on the trees before there is any kind of major snowfall. That would only pull more trees and power lines down.
  Like the ice storm of 1998, this is a weather event for the history books.
  Lord, encourage those who face the monumental task of clearing the damage. Keep them safe. In Jesus' name. Amen.
  "Man goes out to his work and to his labour until the evening." Ps 104:23

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

O, Holy Night! by Susan L.


To all my readers worldwide, 
A Very Merry Christmas!
"And she brought forth her firstborn Son,
and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths,
and laid Him in a manger."
Lk 2:7

Monday, 23 December 2013

Be Patient by Susan L.

  The racoon didn't survive the night. It's a mercy. Thank You Lord for taking him swiftly as I had asked. Apparently there is an epidemic of Canine Distemper affecting racoons in our area. The gentleman from the Humane Society said there have been fifteen calls about them in the last three days or so. It doesn't affect humans. (This was an error, he was merely sleeping. Dec.28/13)
  Weather history has been made again. The ice storm has devastated most of eastern Canada from Niagara Falls right through the Maritimes. Toronto's majestic trees toppled like matchsticks under the weight of ice and pulled down miles of power lines. There are power outages everywhere. Some may be as long as three or four days, if not longer judging from the damage.
  Most major airports were shut down but hopefully by today they'll be up and running.
  I don't know why news anchors always choose the person with the biggest complaining skills. It makes me shake my head.
  I am truly sorry your flight was cancelled, that your anticipated trip to the sunny south has been cut short but airports don't let planes fly if doing so could kill people. I am sorry you are cold but power needs to be restored to hospitals and emergency services first. I am glad the city is offering shelter for anyone to stay where there is heat and power thanks to the Red Cross. Making sure the water treatment facilities are up and running is pretty important, too. Mr. Ford, mayor of Toronto, I am sorry your shower was cold but be thankful that in being a city dweller there is running water when the power goes out.
  Toronto is not the only area hard hit by this storm. Hydro crews are working in conjunction with the Ministry of Natural Resources as hard as they can to clear power lines and roads. Roads are more important. Emergency services need to be able to go where they need to go. If the boom truck can't get to the blown transformer, there will be no power anyways. Please thank them for doing all that they can because clearing a massive tangle of branches, wires and trees is neither an easy or safe job. It must be done carefully and methodically. Some of those branches weigh hundreds if not thousands of pounds. A slip of a chain saw can be deadly. A rogue branch can kill or seriously maim a fragile human.
  I ask if you have access to some kind of heater to obey the owner's manual. If it says not to use it indoors, don't! Life is too precious a commodity to risk bending the rules.
  I know Christmas is just around the corner. A barbequed turkey is just about the tastiest thing in the world. If the scalloped potatoes end up being potato chips, so be it. Enjoy!
  "But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift." Eph 4:7

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Processing by Susan L.

  The Lord has seen fit to lead another animal my way. As I was shovelling the massive pile of ice and snow the plow had kicked up over the end of my driveway I noticed a racoon. The fact it was out in the middle of the day alarmed me. I watched it for a while as it wandered around the yard, occasionally falling on its side. These are not good signs. It was a young one, probably born this year, and severely underweight. It showed no fear of humans but was not aggressive in any way. It came when called. I got the attention of a neighbour and he came over. The racoon followed him to a source of food they leave out for the feral cats in the neighbourhood. I don't know if it ate anything or not.
  The racoon came back shortly and as he got closer, thanks to my farm experience, I noticed that not only was he in severe respiratory distress but he was blind in one eye. My first thought was that he had been a pet dump; that someone had raised him until he was big enough to "survive in the wild", something no creature raised by humans can do even if they are wild animals. I thought he might have pneumonia and was suffering from exposure.
  God has given me an opportunity to atone for the ferret earlier this year, a situation where I have felt I could have done more.
  I trapped this poor, sickly fellow in a big plastic bin using my snow shovel to steer him. Sick animals need to be handled carefully. Thanks Farm, for the knowledge of how to handle such a situation. I tossed in a blanket and have wrapped the bin in an old sleeping bag to try and make him more comfortable. I made a  few phone calls and got hold of a wild animal rescue organization.    
  Sadly, she told me it sounds like Canine Distemper, an illness that has been devastating the racoons in our area. He probably wasn't a pet dump after all but in his sickness he turned to any help, any kindness, he could find. There's nothing that can be done to cure him. All I can do now is wait for my local humane society to get in touch with me. He needs to be humanely and safely disposed of.
  Regardless of the outcome, this time I've done all I can. Thank You that You are a loving God; a God of second chances... and third... and fourth. Amen.
  "Then He said to them, "What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?" Mat 12:11

Icicle Dream Land by Susan L.

  It's freezing rain outside so the power was out this morning for a bit. Once again, the generator came in handy. Nothing can stand in the way of me getting my morning coffee! I've left it set up outside just in case it happens again. I also did the "Be Prepared" thing by getting in some extra gas for it last night.
  Still, it is beautiful and magical out there. Every branch, every twig, every spare bit of grass poking its nose out of the snow is coated with ice. I've experienced history though and know first hand what havoc these storms can bring. Thankfully, the forecasted rain should soon stop.
  Our farm was just on the southwestern most boundary of the ice storm that trashed eastern Canada back in 1998. We were only 63 hours without power. Others had it far worse. Especially Quebec. Some people were weeks without. Lives were lost. Livestock by the thousands had to be slaughtered or died. Large dairy operations and hog operations are utterly dependant on hydro.
   I remember walking up the nearby hill. The sun was shining by this time and everything was stunning beyond words. The whole world as far as we could see was coated in silver and gold. In the distance, we could hear tree after tree crashing down under the weight of its icy mantle. It also pulled down massive hydro pylons. They buckled like matchsticks under the weight of the ice.
  A couple weeks later, we were sitting in the house when the ground shook as though something had exploded. We thought the chimney had collapsed. A quick look outside showed that everything around the house was okay. It was only  during my nightly barn check that the cause was revealed. A slab of ice and packed snow, seven inches thick, twenty-five feet wide and a hundred feet long had slid off the barn roof. It had shattered into pieces when it hit the ground. It was that explosive impact we had heard and felt in the house. Thankfully nothing was standing underneath when it slid loose.
  There are some events you never forget: history in the making.
  "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." Mat 2"2

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Depression Confession by Susan L.

  It could be because of having to fight off this cold thing that I'm struggling really hard to get some kind of excitement/delight about Christmas. I have had a bad headache now for five days, a sinus issue that is related to changes in the weather. We've had storm front after storm front roll through which makes it worse. Changes in barometric pressure aggravate the situation. If it doesn't get better soon, I'll head to the walk-in clinic. It's probably a sinus infection.
  Making decisions about what I am doing on the twenty-fifth is challenging, a sure sign that depression is rearing its ugly head. The future is hard to envision or plan for. When forced to make a choice regarding future events I feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a fast moving car. White noise fills my head, speech becomes difficult, the fight/flight instincts kick in. Right now, this response is kicking in when I am deciding what to have for dinner! This is not a good sign.
  I need a big siren on the top of my head that flashes "Red Alert!!!" when things are "breaking down". That's a term I learned in WRAP. I also learned what to do to prevent the situation from getting worse.
  I pray for guidance then look after my physical needs: plenty of rest, good food, trying to avoid known stressful situations. Secondly is try to simplify and prioritize what has to get done by taking it one step at a time. A big list is not helpful.
  The first thing I am going to do is take my own advice. I am off to the clinic. I've had enough.
  Thank You Lord, that I have access to this kind of health care.
  "I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion." Prov 8:12

Friday, 20 December 2013

Shhhh! by Susan L.

  There's an anticipatory quality to the air outside. It's still and calm, the sky is an ominous dark gray. Nature is waiting with bated breath for the forecasted snow storm we're supposed to get over the next twenty-four hours. A few damp snowflakes have fallen sporadically; a winter practice run.
  I lived on a farm in the latter years of my marriage. It helped me develop a sensitivity to the weather. A couple of old-time farmers shared their own proven weather lore with me. I hated seeing winter sun dogs, those rainbow like reflections on either side of the sun. When it looked like there was three suns in the eastern sky it meant there was going to be a ton snow. Summer wisdom was part of it too, particularly important during hay season: no dew in the morning meant rain by nightfall. It meant busting a hump to get the hay in before the rain came.
  I always did a barn check before turning into bed just to make sure everything was okay. The only night I didn't was Christmas Eve. This was an Irish tradition my ex was adamant in following. I think it was the only tradition that didn't involve alcohol. I wasn't allowed to go to the barn because the animals were praying on that very special night.
  Other nights I had often stood in the barn enjoying the peace of the animals at rest: cattle, sheep, goats all peacefully chewing their cuds after dinner.  Even if there was a raging blizzard outside, inside the old bank barn was another world. The animals' warm breath would steam and swirl slowly upwards before vanishing into the rafters. The few barn cats would be puddled in a heap with the young goats in order to stay warm. We had a pair of Welsh Black pigs that would tuck in under a mountain of straw. Both of those ladies snored like thunder.
   It wasn't hard to imagine the animals praying. I had seen them at rest often enough.
  Around that time in my life was when I began to wish for Something more. Most of all I wished with all my heart that I could truly believe it was real, that God was there, listening to the animals.
  The best thing? Now I know it is and He was. He even heard me.
  "Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Lk 2:10-11

Thursday, 19 December 2013

In the News by Susan L.

    There's been a news item that has me a bit concerned. A woman travelling to the US was recently denied entry because she had been hospitalized following a suicide attempt in early 2012. Police were not involved at that time. The border guards would not let her through because her "mental illness" made her a "risk to others and herself". In order for her to travel to the US, she had to see one of only three psychiatrists that are recognized by American authorities. Isn't that a slap in the face to all the other highly trained professionals who help those struggling with mental health challenges?
  The American Homeland Security stepped way beyond its rights. Discrimination is discrimination. There are lawyers involved now.
  Here's the million dollar question: how did they know? Our medical records are supposed to be confidential. If the police were not involved, there would be no police record that they legally had access to. How did her health matters become public knowledge?
  This has happened more than once. She isn't the only one and it's only the US border that has had any issues.
  Yes, there is an investigation into this matter but in this day of Google, any news item, any personal info from Facebook, photos, history, blogs, anything where your name appears...it's there for the reading by anyone. That, my friends is a frightening prospect when it becomes a weapon of power.
  Sadder yet is that situations like this only drive discussing mental illness and suicide deeper underground and sets us back decades.
  "For man does not know his time: like fish taken in a cruel net, like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them." Eccl 9:12

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Not Well by Susan L.

  I'm struggling a bit with today's post. Ideas seem to be rather illusive this morning. I'm not feeling so great physically. Not the stomach bug but I went to bed early last night shivering, feverish and aching.  As a result, there were some pretty strange dreams which were disturbing enough to wake me on a regular basis throughout the night. I don't recall what they were but they've left me feeling unsettled and edgy.
  It happens. Thankfully not very often. It's been a couple of years since I had a cold or flu or whatever this is. It is a bit of a trigger because prior to my diagnosis of depression, I had a debilitating cough that dragged on for nine miserable months. Masked depression it's called. The body reacts when the mind is not well. It was so bad at one point that I tore the muscles along my spine and rib cage by coughing. Because it was mentally based, physical treatments didn't work.
  The cough still appears once in a while, a warning sign that I am particularly stressed. It means I'd better pay attention to what is going on.
  Meanwhile, knowing this is a physical thing, I've got to mother myself. A nice, sweet cup of tea and toast sounds really good this morning.
  "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Mt 6:34

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Deck the Halls by Susan L.

  I plan on finally putting my Christmas tree up. It's been relegated to the non-priority list while I madly knitted and built the presents for my family. It isn't a huge tree. It's designed tall and slender so it doesn't take up much floor space in my tiny living room. There are only a few presents for friends to place underneath because the biggest part is done.
  A couple or more years ago, that bothered me. I was used to the mountain that came from having the kids at home and a bigger family of numerous in-laws, nieces and nephews. The impact of divorce can make itself felt in so many ways.
  The "D" word isn't one I often use because of its ability to stir up so many emotions, even now. It has surprised me by appearing here! Art therapy, here I come...
  Which is what happened that couple/three/four years ago. (Time has a habit of blurring.) Anyways, I constructed a good sized nativity scene out of paper mache. It took me hours to create, paint and ornament each piece. Just getting the camel to remain vertical was a challenge! The time it took brought me through a bit of a rough patch because the previous Christmas I had been in the hospital following my second breakdown. At the time, I was afraid it could happen again.      
  God is good! As I made each piece: the angel, the shepherds, the sheep, kings and camel, ox and ass, Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus, it gave me the opportunity to pause and reflect on the true meaning of the holiday. The gift of Jesus is the best present I could ever ask for or receive. It is He who belongs under my tree and that is where I now lovingly arrange my rustic nativity scene. Jesus' presence is enough to fill the deepest want.
  And so began the reclamation of Christmas by literally building new memories and in embracing new traditions that were all my very own.
  "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant." Lk 1:46-48

Monday, 16 December 2013

The Long Road by Susan L.

  It's nice to be home safe. The drive down to my son's took an extra forty-five minutes because the roads weren't that great. Lots of blowing snow made the roads iffy so I was glad I left home when I did. Coming back today was the same with snow packed roads and occasional heavy snow. I also drove through some pockets of sunshine which made the newly blanketed trees and houses stunning. Even the wild turkeys were enjoying what little heat the sun was throwing today. I passed several flocks perusing the fields of corn stubble. I guess they were gleaning for dropped kernels under the snow.
  I passed only one car in the ditch and ironically it was a police cruiser that had slipped off the side of the road. He must've been making a U-turn but the bank was just a bit steeper than he realized. I am sure his fellow officers will have a great time teasing him because where he was stuck, the roads were good. I am glad he wasn't hurt at all,  probably only his pride was wounded.
  It was wonderful to see the kids even though my daughter-in-law and my two grandchildren had a tummy bug. I sure hope it isn't catching. That didn't stop the rest of us from feasting on some amazing food. I wish my son had cooked like that when he lived at home. Although, my waistline is probably happy he didn't!
  My grand-daughter was delighted with the rocking chair I made her and my grandson was delighted with his gift as well. It was a wooden story box with paper and drawing supplies so he could write and illustrate his own stories. I included a large, ornate imagination key that is similar to the one I wear all the time. I had told him it helped unlock my stories.
  And now the count down to the best night of all...for the Story of Stories to be retold.
 "And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit." Lk 1:41

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Before the Snow by Susan L.

  I am off to my son's shortly for a couple of days. It's our family Christmas celebration today. The weather forecasters are calling for snow, ten to fifteen centimeters or more, which isn't that much but my route takes me through a fair bit of open farmland. The winds could be fierce which means visibility might not be that great. I admit I am a bit worried but not enough for me to cancel going. The car has snow tires and four wheel drive should it be needed. I hope to get there ahead of the worst of it anyways although a three and a half hour drive on a good day might end up being a long haul.
  Yes, I'll do all the Canadian smart things like packing snow pants and a heavy coat, hat and extra mitts as well just in case something happens. I'll throw in a blanket, too. Hmmm, it's a good excuse to take some chocolate! I have a candle. Apparently in emergencies it can heat up the car quite nicely. I've just used it as an air freshener in the summer, the baking heat releases its scent.
  I've got to go get ready: do the dishes then pack up my suitcase and the car. God willing, I'll be back in a couple of days. To any other travellers out there, may you have a safe and blessed journey.
 "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Ps 119:105

Friday, 13 December 2013

Ground Control by Susan L.

  I took some down time yesterday and last night. Playing some new music, a selection of love songs from WWII, while doing the last of the gift wrapping helped alleviate most of the remaining jangling nerves. I watched a movie on the internet and went to bed early. Simple pleasures that help ground me and keep me from being swallowed by memories I'd much rather forget.
  Last winter I invested in some polar fleece sheets for my bed. They are wonderfully warm and cozy but prone to static electricity. I was getting painfully shocked every time I rolled over even after using copious amounts of fabric softener in the wash. Attaching a small piece of copper wire to the metal part of my bedframe that was long enough to touch the floor eliminated the threat. My bed is now grounded. Pumpkin was happy about that too because kitty ears and noses are very sensitive!
    January and February can be bad for static as well. The cold, dry arctic air makes me wish I had a piece of copper wire hanging from my coattails. Carpet and metal doorknobs are an almost lethal combination. The "crack!" can be heard for miles. So can my hissing cries of pain!
  It's difficult in the moment to contend with triggers. Like static, I often don't know a charge is building until a connection is made. The emotional pain can be as quick and as painful as touching that doorknob. So much so that where I am, who I am with, vanishes into the mists of memory.
  Last night's movie, "After Earth" starring Will Smith was all about grounding; about "taking a knee" when panic is ensuing. It was about focusing on the moment: sight, sound and smell in order to reconnect to the present. God is good. It was something I needed to see.
  Lord, help me remember these lessons when things are beginning to fray at the edges or when I am suddenly shocked. Help me remember to take a knee before You. Help me remember that the thread that connects us is far more than copper; that in You I am grounded and safe.
  "I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live." Ps 116:1-2

Thursday, 12 December 2013

It Might Take a While by Susan L.

  I did it again. Lack of self-care. Anxiety and its twin, fatigue, caused by being far too busy has left me feeling like broken glass this morning. Getting everything ready for this weekend's family Christmas, going to a work-related dinner party Tuesday night, back down to the city to see my psychiatrist in the morning, and not enough sleep or quiet time all came to a head last night.
  I ended up having a significant panic attack at my Bible study group's Christmas dinner. The noise, the topics of conversation bringing to mind the foul spectres of Christmas past, music in the background that was just a tad too loud...I should have stayed home. Being severely triggered on many fronts has left me a bit raw this morning and still somewhat teary. The "big sad", to quote a friend, is nibbling at me.
  There's a level of embarrassment too. I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
  There is also the realization this morning that I could have left sooner. Hindsight is a cruel master. So is the thought, "What will they think of me?" had I fled.
  How proud I am, sticking it out, not "creating a scene" by speaking up to question the conversations and their impropriety when the elders didn't. Sadly, the topics were questionable for those of us who follow Christ. It ended up with me "creating a scene" anyways and fleeing like a whipped dog.
  I don't know what to do.
  It grieves me that the triggers were in areas I know the Lord has done some amazing, divine healing. Obviously the hurts are still there; enough to ignite the over-riding fight/flight protective response of a panic attack. I don't know what to do about that either.
  Yah, I said it a couple of days ago, the rug is inside me.
  Forgive me Father, for that belief.
  "I, therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called." Eph 4:1

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Metaphorically Speaking by Susan L.

  Change. The image which came to mind is those few loose coins floating around the bottom of my purse. They're a hidden treasure buried beneath the usual assortment of purse items: wallet, eyeglass case, notepad, umpteen pens and crumpled receipts. These can be rather illusive; the dimes, nickels and occasional quarter that are only searched for in "emergencies" like when the debit machine isn't working at the local coffee shop. (Thank You, Lord, for these riches!)
  Change. I know it's there, buried somewhere. I know it's something I could be using all the time. It's just that sometimes it's simpler not to look; to let my purse get heavier and heavier until it begins to hurt my shoulder. Then and only then do I dump everything on the kitchen table to purge the contents.
  Change. It's amazing how much lighter a purse gets once the loose coins are gathered. I usually tuck the smaller ones away in my piggy bank for a rainy day. The larger coins, loonies and toonies, are returned to my wallet. When I see the small fortune amassed, sometimes enough for a few groceries, I wonder why I waited so long!
  Change searched for is an opportunity after all.
  "Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "what are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you? And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver." Mat 26:14-15


Monday, 9 December 2013

Aloneness by Susan L.

   This is the one of the times in the year when living on my own becomes a bit of a struggle. The long nights seem to go on forever before it's time for bed. Not that I am prepared to go actively hunting for a partner on the internet or some dating site. I much prefer to leave this in God's hands. The who, when and if are all up to Him. But like I said, I get lonely sometimes.
  It strikes when there's a mountain of garden work. It touches my heart when the snow is a foot and a half thick on the driveway and I've already shovelled it once. Mealtimes, when I have a cold, or just admiring the view out the kitchen window all stir up the sense of aloneness.  It would be nice to turn to someone and say, "Hey! Look at that!"
  It would be great to share a laugh at the cat who thoroughly enjoys watching nature programs on  TV; the hunter in him stirred up by scurrying images.
   It's there when I sit by myself on the patio in the summer after the grass is cut and the flowerbeds are weeded enjoying a cup of coffee.
  It's hard not to have companionship when the Lord does a major housecleaning. I've often called a friend when things get stirred up just to hear a living, breathing person say, "It's all going to be okay." but that's becoming a rare event as I am becoming well.
  It's the everyday, the mundane events that make me wish for companionship.
  Now I've had my pity party, here's the truth of the situation. I have good friends. I have my faith. God is with me in the mundane and loves to hear of my delight in His creations. As for the snow, the singing birds accompany me or the stars light up the night. Pumpkin's purring presence on my lap comforts me, too. My Lord is with me in all these things. Do I really need anything more?
  "For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep of His hand." Ps 95:7

Sunday, 8 December 2013

At the Core by Susan L.

  It was a day of revelation for me. Some truths about who I am got revealed. Core stuff. Stuff I didn't know existed.
  A good chunk of the last several months has been ostrich living: do what I need to do but keep my head down. Obsessive knitting, gaming, or TV has filled the time when I wasn't at work or church or writer's group or Bible study. Unless I was blogging, I turned my brain off. It's a coping skill called numbing and has a long history in my life. It is a survival mechanism. I knew it wasn't healthy but was helpless to stop it. Now I know why I was doing these things.
  Being well is scary. The fear it will collapse simmers at the back of my mind every single day. Every day I wait for the depression and PTSD to rear their ugly heads.  I have been waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me as it has so often in the past. That's why I turned off my brain. The rug is inside of me.
  The walls came tumbling down when I realized I was guarding my wellness with the ferocity of a cornered animal. It isn't pretty. I have been protecting my growing confidence, too, unwilling to let anyone or anything take that from me. That isn't pretty either. I'm sure there is an oath in there "No-one will ever hurt me again!" Maybe I didn't say it out loud, but it is there. Those words became the solid, dark, massive stone that is the foundation of my own rapidly growing walls. They were plastered with invisible notice boards, "Keep Out!"
  Thankfully the Lord has placed good friends in my life. Thanks for having the courage to speak up and for helping to destroy them before they got too big.
  Forgive me Father for my fears and help me live in vulnerability and openness trusting in Your plans for my life.
  "Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how. So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard." Mat 27:65-66

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Freedom's Path by Susan L.

  Core beliefs are understandings about ourselves that impact how we think and how we behave. They can be positive or negative.
  How do I recognise a toxic core belief? I have learned to follow the trail that begins when I have a negative thought about myself, usually behind the word "too". For example, voicing the idea that I am too fat is only the tip of the iceberg. Underneath that idea is a whole cluster of other ideas, each connected to the other. 'I am too fat"= unattractive = a disgrace = weak = unmotivated = undeserving, and so forth...it can get rather complicated sometimes. "Un" words feature a lot.
  I have found at the centre of one of these clusters is a core idea, like a foul seed that all these other false understandings grow from. It always amazes me where they began. Echoes of childhood taunts  often feature. "Sticks and stones can break my bones and names, they hurt and haunt me."
  The devil loves to build on these ideas because there are so many open doors. Life lessons hammer home the same understandings time and again. The devil is not creative, he can only work with what is there.
  Undoing is God's gift. Uncovering is also in His realm. His "un" words are verbs, actions of His love, grace and ability to heal us. The freedom comes as I repent of believing these negative core ideas and in making the choice to forgive those who had helped create and sustain them. Some of the most harmful beliefs were packaged in generational baggage, passed down through the ages. My own attitudes about my gender stretched as far back as Eve!
  As for the weight thing, coupled with abandonment issues prayer had revealed, the Lord showed me that I thought myself unlovable. He's repaired my heart and mind. The "un" is gone. And that's where my journey started, with the breakthrough, life changing, idea that yes, yes and yes!  I am worth loving!
  And that's a core belief to treasure.
  "That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man." Eph 3:16

Friday, 6 December 2013

Published by Susan L.

   It's cause for celebration. My first column was published in yesterday's local paper. I am a bit thunderstruck by the whole thing. Thanks go to God and the good woman eight years ago who spoke these words over me at a blessing circle, "You have a voice and it's worth listening to."
  I didn't believe her. How could I? My life, my marriage had taught me otherwise.
  But that was then, this is now. As I have worked my way through the past to find my identity, somehow my voice has showed up. As ungodly core beliefs were replaced by God's truth, it enabled me to begin opening up. They were the "truths" the world had driven home and I embraced them because they were lessons that repeated themselves time after time: beliefs that eroded my confidence, the understanding that I was worthless and was invisible. I was simply "just sue" and didn't matter. Trauma is a cruel teacher.
  Repentance, forgiveness: the tools of inward and outward healing. Coupled with a desire to change enables me to lay every single lie that has been discovered at the foot of the Cross. Many tears have been shed to help wash my soul clean. This is a work in progress. Ungodly core beliefs can be slippery devils.
  Old behaviours still pop up once in a while. The habits of a lifetime, the understandings of a lifetime are deeply ingrained. God is patient. He lovingly reminds me of His take on things.
  Now the challenge is learning when to be quiet because I regularly contract foot in mouth disease! A vocal hazard of humanity.
  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." Mat 5:6

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Sadness of It All by Susan L.

  Several years ago in a deep prayer moment with my Lord, He allowed me to hear the cries of humanity; the tortured weeping of those crying out to Him. The terrible sound of desperate want and need was muted for my ears and lasted only a millisecond. That brief moment was all my human heart and mind could handle.
  I felt the Lord's anguish for us. I loved Him even more.
  It was a significant healing moment for me. It helped ease my distrust of people in general. It helped me realize that there are others who would understand and it was time for me to begin to share my own story. It was time to take a chance.
  All of us suffer. 
  We do awful things to each other.
  Yesterday was a day of listening for me. It was a day for others to open up and share their burdens, to gamble their own trust in another human. I am honoured by that trust and as I sit here typing, I weep for them, for what they've been through.
  My mother's heart wishes I had a magic wand. I wish I could give those gentle kisses we give childhood booboos that would make it all better. I wish...I wish it were that simple.
  "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Rev 21:4

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Childhood Favorites by Susan L.

  I needed to take some downtime last night from frantic, anxiety building Christmas preparations. I thought I'd search online for some sort of animated movie to watch. I enjoy them immensely. My son rolls his eyes at me and says my DVD collection should belong to a nine year old boy!  
  My hunt led me to two of my childhood favorites, stories that have stayed with me all of my life.  They had been Christmas specials when I was a child but had disappeared into thin air. Someone had posted them on YouTube a couple of years ago much to my delight!
  Both of them are stories by Oscar Wilde: The Happy Prince and The Selfish Giant. They were both produced in the early seventies. The colour has faded a bit, but the artwork is stunning.
  I figured out why they were no longer put on TV. Both are terribly politically incorrect. Unless you are a Christian. Which is too bad because they are stories about love; about caring for those less fortunate. I don't want to reveal too much but they depict God's and Jesus' love for Their most precious possessions: us. Both are tales of redemption, God's greatest gift.
  My reaction to the shows was just as I remembered. My heart was filled a child's gratitude that there was a Something, a Someone much bigger than I watching over me. An ache filled my adult heart that once again drove home the fact that even though I lost sight of my Maker for a long, long time, He has never lost sight of me.
 The nights as a child when a swallow's death made me weep, when I would sing myself to sleep with the lullaby/prayer, "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know" have been honoured. A thousand fold.
  "And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world." Jn 12:47 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

School Talk by Susan L.

  One of our local Catholic schools has the grade eights do a project on a local not-for-profit organization or charity. They research their subject and do a presentation. The class votes on the one they want to donate their annual fundraising activities to. Part of their assignment is to invite someone from the organization to speak to the grade seven and eights.
  A lovely young woman chose the Krasman Centre because mental health matters affect her personally. A co-worker and myself went to speak to the classes yesterday. They asked some great questions.
  For me, it isn't about the money. It was a wonderful opportunity to speak to these young men and women about mental health, peer support and recovery. It was an open door to sharing with them about the importance of reaching out if they are struggling. Hopefully, we were able to nip some prejudices and stereotyping in the bud.
  As we drove back to the centre and debriefed, both of us were pleased to have had this opportunity. I'd do it again in heartbeat! But here's a question, why isn't mental health part of our school curriculum? Sex ed, Canada's food guide and gym are mandatory. This should be, too if it already isn't in the schools. If a few health classes are devoted to talking about mental health and those classes save a life...cost shouldn't be a factor.
  Mental health can affect children as much as adults.
  "Then He spoke many things to them in parables, "Behold, a sower went out to sow." Mat 13:3

Monday, 2 December 2013

Direct Entry by Susan L.

 It feels a bit strange to skip the manual part of my blog experience. Up until now posts were written longhand first. One finger typing is so slow I wanted to be certain about what I was posting. It was easier than having to edit everything as each entry evolved. I'm not sure I like skipping that step. Maybe because of my age, pen and paper feel more personal. Or perhaps it can be called being slightly eccentric.
  There's a huge part of me that doesn't fully trust technology. It's probably because many years ago I saved all my favorite recipes onto floppy discs and threw my cookbooks out. I had decided to embrace the modern age. There was one for a pineapple upside-down cake made from scratch but cooked in the microwave. It was delicious! Needless to say, the disc technology is obsolete. So is the cake, sigh.
  Or maybe that's a good thing. A redemptive thing.
  When my marriage failed, I walked away with very little from the house. It was my choice to do so because I wanted a fresh start. There's only a few things I wish I had taken, sentimental objects more than anything like photos of when my children were little. As for the rest, the Lord has been faithful in providing for my needs every single day. And then some!
  Hmmm...Maybe there's a cake recipe online...
  "The Lord will answer and say to His people, "Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil, and you will be satisfied by them." Joel 2:19

Sunday, 1 December 2013

New Technology by Susan L.

  Sometimes when that still small Voice beckons, it's easy to ignore. Yesterday wasn't such a day. My friend H and I decided to go wandering around a couple of local antique markets. More for the pleasure of window shopping than anything else. I had debated not going because I have so much to do to get ready for Christmas. It didn't last long, my heart was filled with a sense of urgency. I absolutely had to go.
  Beside one of the massive antique markets is a flea market that is only open on weekends. I left H to meander around the antiques and began a quick perusal of the aisles. If you want a biker based t-shirt or a new purse, socks or bakery goodies, it is the ideal place to go. None of that interested me. On a side aisle was a booth displaying new and refurbished laptops.
  I stopped in my tracks. They were incredibly inexpensive compared to the new ones I had priced at a local computer store. The young man was very helpful and patient with me. I don't know much about this kind of thing so I was a bit wary. Flea market technology? Who knows what I'd end up with.
  The fellow I was talking to suggested I walk around a bit before deciding what to do. As I headed off to find H, the thought crossed my mind "It would be nice to talk with a previous customer to verify this business". With H at my side, I returned to the booth only to meet a man who had been dealing with them for years. He said that they were an amazing company and had always done right by him. They have been around since 1990. The fact that the owner had his home address and phone number on their business card tipped the deal.
  All of this is so "God"! I did get a laptop. Nothing fancy. More of a glorified typewriter that can hook up to my cell phone for the internet. So the big thing about all of this? No more blogging with one finger on my tiny cell phone keypad. Four hundred posts done that way was enough!
  Thank You Lord, for once again providing for the desires of my heart. You are so Awesome! And Thank You, too, for the stamina to get this far!
  "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, for He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant." Lk 1:46-49