Thursday, 28 February 2013

Yarning by Susan L.

There was a how-to-knit group at the centre today. I decided last minute to take part although knitting isn't something I felt needed to be learned. Childhood memories of Brownie badges and the heroic struggle to complete a twelve inch square bubbled up. More so each time I dropped a stitch. Surprisingly, memory served me well. The skills of how to start, how to hold the needles were as fresh as yesterday. There was something relaxing in the repeating motions. Just like the sense of peace I get when I hand sew a quilt. The quilts, I confess are wa-a-ay better than the lopsided, loopy rectangle I ended up with today. But then it's been many, many years since I held knitting needles. It's making me eat my own words that I tell the how-to-draw group: "Practice!" "That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love." Col 2:2

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Temperature by Susan L

Yesterday's blog stirred up the cutting pain of heart break. I was seeing my therapist so I didn't try to ignore it or squash it down. There was no need. She's a safe support to talk about such things with. My chest still feels the remenants of the searing, physical signs of grief and sorrow because these wounds still hurt. There's an ocean of good in all of this, too. I was able to recognize how much the Lord has healed me of these soul hurts. One tear at a time has washed away the guilt, remorse and the burden of false responsibility which contaminated my identity. And yes, the hate and bitterness has been washed away as well. But most significantly, not so long ago being triggered to that severity would have transported me back in time. The memories would swallow me for a while as the Lord did His work. This time I stayed in the present. I uttered my comforting catch phrase, "It's all going to be okay" without having to force myself to believe it. I knew there was going to be a tomorrow. Like the toxic mercury inside a glass thermometer, pain can be used as a measurement to affirm God's grace. Pain can measure the wonderful ability God has to heal all our wounds. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but on the day He takes us home. "And God shall 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

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

In Trust by Susan L.

It's funny what struggles crop up. Not funny ha-ha but funny sad. I've shared about the new church I 'm attending, how friendly and welcoming everyone is. On Sunday one of the elders made a point of seeking me out. He wanted to let me know if I needed anything, any help, I could contact him and he would see what the church could do. The old, cautious part of me made itself known. The part that didn't know what to do when another man kindly offered to hang up my coat. I got all flustered and made some quip about being used to independance. Chivalry is not dead. But there is a struggle rooted deep inside of me regarding the kindness of men. Historically kindness had an agenda or came with a high price. I am deeply saddened by this wary, protective mind set but then I know in my heart God will use men like these to heal my wounds. May I have the grace to recieve yet another layer of divine healing. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Rom 12:2

Monday, 25 February 2013

Of the Mind by Susan L.

I love it when science becomes a tool of validation and vindication. In brief, my friend was telling me that trauma, emotional or physical does something to the brain. Particularly if it occurs during childhood or in those vulnerable teen years. Using an EEG, doctors can measure which parts of the brain are being utilized. There is now proof that the brains of people impacted by trauma work differently: the fight/flight section of the brain runs in overdrive. Hmmm...sounds like PTS to me. Once believed to be "all in your head". Here's the really awesome part. Practising wordless prayer, being still before God, and learning to let go of intrusive thoughts allows for miraculous changes to take place. The brain is rewired. It becomes easier to cope with emotional or physical triggers. With practice, this form of silent prayer can be used to immediately lessen the impact of events like a panic attack, the brain's first response t what is percieved as a threatening situation. When in trouble reach for God. It will change your heart, your soul and your mind. "Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation ;on You I wait all day. " Ps 25:5

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Three Words, Spoken Word by Susan L.

So maybe I've been too hard on those who may not know about the impact of mental illness on countless, unnumbered lives. Maybe my in-your-face attitude is not the way Jesus would have taught. I thought...well...I thought I was doing right to fight with all my might for the oppressed, the depressed. The outsiders who dwell outside the parameters of a narrowly defined normal life. My anger, my passion obvious about the injustice of it all. Maybe my words scare people away because what I say touches home, rubbing up against denied truths that are hiding behind a stiff upper lip and concepts like that which slip and slide around your mind. Trapping you into feeling three small words, "I'm all alone" and like a stone they drag you down even further. That was my story. At least, a part of it. The part that lied and tried to hide from the images and ideas erupting unbeckoned, unwelcomed. Understanding that there was something wrong with me but afraid to lay it on the line. There was,you know, something wrong for a long, long time. A life time. Until it reached the breaking point and I shattered like a broken mirror. Razor shards cut to the truth. Three other words crossed my lips, "I need help." My very first baby step to wellness. The cautious foot putting forward as Jesus held my hand so I wouldn't stumble at all "But Jesus called to them and said,' Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them for such is the kingdom of God'." Lk 18:16

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Close Connections by Susan L.

I watched an amazing YouTube video yesterday. It was an animated spoken word poem about bullying. (www.upworthy.com) It's something I am all too familiar with so it struck home, stirring up some memories. Since I've become a Christian and welcomed Jesus into my life the Lord has used these painful events to connect me to my Saviour. I realize now there is One who experienced all the possible hurts and torments that are part of being human. My pain is a silver thread which unites me to Him in a way that is meaningful, profound and helps me try to forgive. My heart and soul connects to His and I am richer because of what I have survived. He who was mocked and flogged by those His way of life, His kindness, His love threatened. He was different, unique, loved by God... In the fickle way of humankind He was welcomed then days later, a mob mentality exploded. He was crucified without cause. I confess that inasmuch as I've been bullied, there's times I was reluctantly part of the mob. If someone else was being picked on, targeted, mocked, I was safe. God is good. He's forgiven me for my fear. May those I've harmed find within their hearts the ability to do the same. "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me first. " Jn 15:18

Friday, 22 February 2013

Placemat Therapy by Susan L.

I ran a small group today. It is a result of an experiment I did several years ago in the beginning of recovery from my mental health challenges. It used a skill learned in kindergarden coupled with some soul searching. Do you remember weaving strips of construction paper together and taking it home as your special placemat? If you would like to recapture your inner child, take one sheet, folded in half long ways. Cut it in even strips being careful not to cut all the way to the edge. This forms the foundation. On each strip, write a challenge or an event in your life which may have caused you pain. It isn't easy. Take a break if you need to. Cut another piece into separate strips longways. Before weaving them into the base, write about the good things in your life. Acknowledging skills or gifts or even hopes for the future is a good thing. The finished result...well, I will let it speak to you as it may. "However, for this reason I obtain mercy, that in me Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for life everlasting." 1Ti 1:16

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Whirlwind by Susan L.

Lesson learned: when you set the alarm to wake you, don't forget to turn it on! I hate hitting the ground spinning like a tornado but that's how my morning started. It didn't bode well for the day. It was going to be busy. That's not completely true. I had a great nap this afternoon. Something of a rare luxury but it was greatly needed.. Working has added stress to my life but it's a good stess. In time it will become more routine but today my mind slipped into "deja vu" mode. This means I can't think straight and must absolutely take a break. It's a warning sign that bears listening to. It meant leaving the busy centre shortly after my shift was done and coming home to a peaceful and quiet space. Time out isn't just for kids. "Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law, that You may give him rest from the days of adversity." Ps 94:12

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

In Doubt? by Susan L.

I'm done. Had my pity party last night. When in doubt, give thanks! Thank You, Lord, for the two weeks vacation which left me rested and able to handle everything. I know without that rest and dose of sunshine I would be slipping into seasonal depression. I would be feeling very overwhelmed by all that has happened since I got home. Thank You that car trouble waited until I was home. Thank You that You have provided for my needs in ways which surpass the imagination. Thank You, Lord, for opening the government's pockets when I desperately needed assistance. Thank You that I will be able to work as much and as often as needed now those pockets are slowly emptying. Thank You that I am blessed with a job of ministry. Guide me, Lord, may my words be Yours. Thank You most of all for the gift of Your Son just so I can know You in good times, in bad times, and even when I am feeling a little bit sorry for myself. "Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing." Ps 107:22

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Processing...Processing...by Susan L.

I am tired today. It's been a bit of an emotional roller coaster capped with dissappointing news. Nothing really serious but all I can do right now is lift the situation up to the Lord. Help me not worry in Jesus name I pray. "And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'" 2 Cor 12:9

Monday, 18 February 2013

Showcase by Susan L.

I built a new top for an old hall table yesterday. A glass display case for shells and treasures collected over the years. It's funny what I kept when I left my marital home. It's funny what was important. It seems a shame to keep these little treasures stashed away in a box under the bed. They represent trips with family, trips alone to visit family. Trips with good friends. It makes me realize just how many beaches I've been blessed to walk on. There's a jar filled with fossilized shark's teeth picked up at Nokomis Beach, Fla. when my youngest son was a boy. Paua shells and cowries from New Zealand and Fiji when I was given the opportunity to see my son and his partner who were teaching there. I picked up a fossil shell from St. Josephs beach last summer on a trip with a good friend. The Dominican Republic gave a few treasures, too on a trip to visit my daughter who was working there. Simply deciding how to display them has brought back a delightful collection of memories. It's almost like the glass cover is a window into the past. And it is Family Day after all. "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families." Ps 68:5

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Back To Church by Susan L.

It's so wonderful to be back in church. Feast after years of famine. I'm glad the Lord led me to this small, welcoming community. Although, I left today feeling shaken up a bit. I ended up questioning the path God has led me on in my discovery journey. The old second guessing routine tap danced its way into my heart and mind. Again whispers of the brutal hardness of "forgive and forget" came across loud and clear. The pastor talked about the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. He talked about how this concept isn't supposed to be rooted in loving ourselves first. This contradicts many other teachings I've heard in the past. I guess the pastor was talking about a selfish love, about putting our personal needs, wants or desires above others. This isn't self love anyways but probably rooted in past neglect or the need to prove our value. Okay. It makes sense now. Perhaps the term self love should be changed into humble Christian principals. "We are worthy. Jesus died that we may live." "For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him." Lk 20:38

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Consumer/Survivor...What? by Susan L.

Mental Health Awareness Day was this past week. Bell Canada did a fundraiser towards this cause. I'm glad although last year there seemed to be a whole week geared towards breaking the stigma of mental health challenges. Early in my recovery I had to ask someone what the name consumer/survivor meant. The consumer part means we have used medical services geared to mental illness: psychiatrists, hospitals, pharmeceuticals and the like. The survivor part means we have lived to tell about it. We have been able to overcome the often traumatic, over medicating, mass production, contemptuous attitudes rife in the professional world of psychiatric medicine. We survived what amounts to bully tactics by those same professionals. The stories I could tell of human rights violations. Those of us who use this label have recognized that traditional medicines or clinical approaches to recovery are not the whole answer. We have learned that although medications and doctors play a role, it takes a community to help us recover. It takes family, friends, peers, therapy in many forms and yes, faith. Mental illness is often rooted in traumatic events. Ignoring that truth or minimizing our experiences is incredibly detrimental to our well being. It took me a long time to recover from the brutal trauma of being hospitalized. I also had to learn for myself that doctors don't have all the answers. I don't necessarily identify myself as a consumer/survivor simply because I want so much more. I want to thrive! "...and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse." Mk 5:26

Friday, 15 February 2013

Northern Beachheads by Susan L.

I miss walking on the beach. The exercise felt good. Since yesterday was mild I took a brief jaunt up the road because the trails in the park are snow bound. The road was okay although busy with cars rushing their people home to the small village north of where I live. The shoulder was soft and sandy, cushioning my feet. It felt like walking on a beach. The walk took me to the nearest intersection, roughly a kilometer away. The road cuts through farm fields white and blanketed for this sleepy season. Snow started falling and my coat was also blanketed in a very short time. It was beautiful to watch. The walk broke the stress of yesterday. I had some sudden car trouble, had to submit a pile of documents to disability, still can't find the missing ones...it drove up my anxiety which had already been simmering nicely. It has been a challenging week. I need to examine the reasons for my chronic anxiety. Is it the same as worry? Fear? Mistrust? Doubt? Or is it a soup of all of these? My heart knows that God will provide and watch over me. Time and again He has shown me His generosity. It's my head that needs adjusting! "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life." Jn 6:63

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Valentine Be Mine by Susan L.

It was Ash Wednesday yesterday. Easter has begun. It doesn't always fall this way but this year it has. An entire season of love has arrived. There seems to be couples everywhere. In advertising, on TV, the radio. Even my church is offering a workshop for couples. It leaves me feeling a bit lonely, a bit of an outsider. While away it would have been nice to have a physical partner to share the sights with. I hear the brakes squealing in my mind with that last sentence. Being single doesn't mean there's something wrong with me. It has been a gift. Single-ness has granted me the marvelous opportunity to get to know who I am under the Lord's tender tutelage. I've learned that nothing is impossible. Mostly this season of being single has blessed me with the time and space to develop an intimate relationship with my Saviour. Countless times it has been His arms holding me as I wept and grieved and healed from the wounds to my soul. There is even laughter and shared jokes between us. May this day for lovers bless you with the opportunity to experience God's love in a real and meaningful way. It is a good thing. "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah." Ps 46:7

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Missionary by Susan L.

In acts of kindness randomly, a smile, an open door, a seat offered, an ear, simple generosity with no cost in this world. The mission field is everywhere. It was never meant to be contained in distant troubled lands trapped behind stormy, well armed borders. Strife, terror, hunger know no such boundaries. Everywhere...everywhere I say, where we walk or talk or dwell,. We go as children of the King of all kings, as instruments of His peace. It is His love that fills us empowering us to love the broken and the wanting and the lost. We'll have to trust it's not for us to always be aware how we have touched a heart, a soul, a mind. We may never realize how seeds of hope and love may forever last a lifetime like a candle in the night. Lord, let me be the servant You desire. Help me, Father, set aside prejudice and its offspring, fear. Help me, Abba, be the one to live what Your love means. I ask these things in Jesus' name, the one who loves us all. "Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity." 1 Tim 4:12

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The Second Half by Susan L.

My thoughts and prayers are with a young woman who shared some of her story with me. It was heartbreaking and horrific. She has found faith, the kind of faith based in God's unconditional love and is walking free. Her comments were based in a wisdom that can only be born in adversity and perseverance and with a willingness to change and grow. Most of all her heart's desire is to be free of all hate and malice towards those who hurt her. It makes me weep how God's word is used as a weapon to permit and justify harm. How often has the scripture calling all children to honour their father and mother been used to trap children in a cycle of abuse? How often has it been quoted to subjugate or silence a child? How often has it been used to lay blame for adult actions on the innocent? There is another part. Overlooked and ignored. "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." Eph 6:4

Monday, 11 February 2013

The Business End by Susan L.

Okay. I put the forms for the disability info that has to be filled out and returned in a safe place before I left on holiday. It's so safe I can't find them. I've searched high and low., torn apart cupboards and drawers. I searched the recycling bin, the garbage. No luck. You know the saying about no stone unturned. All to no avail. They'll probably turn up next Christmas. I've ended up using an old one, just changed the date at the top. I hope it's okay. The government can be funny about such things but the mail in date passed while I was away. I am glad for fax machines. There's something about doing all we possibly can then standing firm. I need to learn that in my heart. Second guessing my decisions eats at my peace on a regular basis. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." 1 Cor 15:58

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Home Again by Susan L.

The flight home was delayed for a couple of hours. When we landed I understood why. My goodness it snowed! Truck after truck was nibbling away at the mountains blocking several of the docking bays. Quite a sight after palm trees and gators. It was a bit of a rough road for me. The seat on the plane was at the very back thankfully beside a window. Claustrophobia, (which I struggle with) set in and a full blown panic attack erupted. I'm sure the woman beside me thought it was a fear of flying. It stunned me a bit because I was okay on the flight down but then I was closer to the front. I am glad my just-in-case-of-emergency pills were at hand and I soon was able to breathe. It left me feeling raw and shaky though and I couldn't look up the length of the plane without whispers of panic rising in my chest. I had some difficulty filling out the customs form, my mind still running in fight/flight mode. I asked the woman beside me to check it for me. Sure enough. I'd missed a couple of questions. That doesn't go over well with the customs agents. One good thing. The man in front of me didn't put his seat back which would have done me in completely. The. Lord must've whispered in his ear. The airport was just as bad. It's a rat's maze and it felt like we walked for miles to get where we needed to be. Baggage, customs, and one last security check and I was through the door. Tears had kept threatening the whole time I worked my way to the exit. It was a beautiful sight to see my friend smiling and waving as I came through the door. Not a great ending to an otherwise wonderful two weeks. It's good to be home. "But as for you, turn and take your journey into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea." Deut 1:40

Monday, 4 February 2013

God's Smile by Susan L.

I made a new friend at the pool the other day. She is all of seven years old and while her older siblings were playing a rambunctious game of water tag, she approached me with an open heart. We did the typical adult/child introductions. I asked. She answered. How old are you? What grade are you in? Where do you live? Who are your parents? After I pointed out my own mom and stepdad sitting in the poolside loungers she looked at me full of surprise, "You're a daughter?!" Then she had to figure out how old I was after telling her I was also a mom and grandmother. My heart lurched when she said a hundred and a half! Thankfully, she changed her mind and decided I was as old as all of my teeth. Twenty-three. Much more acceptable. Later I realized that seven is when you begin to get adult teeth. Childhood logic. Gotta love it. We had a few 'races' from one side of the pool to another. She chattered incessantly when we paused to catch our breath. This little girl brought back memories of my own kids at that age and made me look forward even more to when my grandchildren can come swimming with me. Her avowal to her sister that I was her "new best friend" made me think about how much is lost as we age. If only we could lay aside distrust and caution for just a little while and recapture that childhood warmth. "A merry heart does good like medicine." Prov 17:22