Thursday, 31 October 2013

World Rocking by Susan L.

The Krasman Centre is doing up a strategic plan. Consultants have been hired to draft the directions which will guide us to where we want to be in five years. Our staff meeting yesterday was an opportunity for us to share our ideas with them. It's wonderful to know I am part of a unique and amazing organization. It's good to hear how we are highly respected throughout the mental health field. At least, the centre in Toronto is. Ours, in a small town, not so much. We're still battling ancient attitudes and prejudices surrounding mental illness. Attitudes I confess I once held myself about "those people". We have a long way to go. As much as I want to take a sledge hammer to knock some sense into our local health services and the public at large, I am one of "those people". It probably wouldn't go over very well. One thing we're thinking of doing is to put a monthly column about mental health in our local paper. Written by yours truly. One letter at a time can begin mighty changes. "And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient." 1 Ti 2:24

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Haunted by Susan L.

This isn't some Halloween story about spooks or monsters. It's about the ghosts that haunt my local, rural hospital. It's haunted by memories of visits past. I spent about half an hour in the waiting room waiting for a friend to come out of day surgery. Time compressed and vanished as unpleasant memories kept nibbling at my mind. Memories amplified by the trauma of losing my mind, of being sick and so utterly desperate for help. Suicidal even. It's why I went to the hospital. The first time, the staff were amazing. Gentle, caring and compassionate. After that, not so much even though an entire year had passed before I found myself once again in such desperate need. They had no patience for "repeat customers". That's ssd because I know now that at least eighty percent of my troubles were due to medication side effects. Suicidal ideology included. So today the ghosts have gathered. They can't hurt me. I acknowledge them and pay homage to the place I was in several years ago. With a grateful heart I lay it all at the Lord's feet. I'm heading out to the centre. Being with people is what I need today. "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand." 1 Cor 15:1

Monday, 28 October 2013

Sunrise by Susan L.

It's a rare thing for me to be getting up while it's still dark. I headed out early to help a friend. I'm glad because living snugly tucked into a river valley I don't get to see morning splendour very often. In keeping with the overcast and rainy fall yet another solid bank of rain clouds lay to the west. To the east a spectacular burst of colours celebrated the coming day. Patches of blue began to peek through the fast moving clouds. They are racing south, joining with morning commuters flocking into Toronto. This year's fall has been odd. Not the typical single hard frost that clothes the trees in glory seemingly overnight. Some trees are November naked while others are still dressed in tattered and belaboured green. I am getting my snow tires put on today. Just in case the powers that Be decide to plop winter on us. The first two weeks of November have me taking part in the daily city-bound migration, it's best to be prepared. (PREFER training) Summer tires and snow are not a good combination. "For the kingdom of heaven is like a man travelling to a far country." Mat 25:14

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Graduates by Susan L.

I shared a wonderful dinner with my youngest son and daughter-in-law. We had some laughs, some remembrances, some meaty conversations. One of the topics was the lack of jobs for our young people graduating from postsecondary schools. Most of my son's class isn't working in their field but at minimum wage retail jobs. There is something wrong. There's an expectation in our young people that an education will guarantee a good job with a six figure salary. Those are far and few between. As parents we have done them a grave disservice. In driving home the rhetoric that school=wealth we have misrepresented the truths of how businesses actually works. It takes time and dedication to build a career. Part of this is our society's mind set which demands instant gratification. Press a button, it's done in seconds. We haven't taught our children patience. Just looking at the mountain of debt our young people are carrying further affirms this idea. Money was borrowed to get that degree/diploma today! The idea of working and saving seems to have gone the way of the dodo bird. Debt isn't just the domain of the young. It's rife in our North American society. We want, we get and ignore the long term consequences of cumulating debt. "Therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken." Gen 3:23

Saturday, 26 October 2013

More Humanity Ponderings by Susan L.

My life with the Lord began nearly nine years ago. My very first prayer was "Lord, teach me to be human." My life, up to receiving Jesus as my Saviour, had been one of robotic survival. In the ensuing discovery of "self" I have discovered the Lord waiting at every turn-a-bout, every crossroads, every blind hill. He has guided my mind and pen through many journals. We slowly uncovered the lies that had kept me shackled to the empty life I once led. A Bible word study was where it began. "Woman". Can't get more basic than gender. As a victim of chronic abuse, I hated being the "weaker sex". My eyes and heart were opened by this slow and methodical search through chapter and verse. Amazingly, I found that there's so much to celebrate about being a woman. First and foremost we women are the receivers and bearers of life. It is why we were physically designed this way. We also hold within our bodies the ability to sustain life as any nursing mother knows at around three A.M. Our design makes us special and yes, terribly vulnerable. But, what a gift! In saying that, having children does not define us. It's the essence of that ability which really counts. The nurturing, life bearing nature of woman simply shows up elsewhere. It is unquenchable. Where and what this looks like is beyond my understanding. Each of us is unique and special in God's eyes. Gender is only one tiny piece of who we truly are. "And Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living." Gen 4:20

Friday, 25 October 2013

The Sixth Day by Susan L.

One of our discussions at Bible study circled around what gets in the way of our faith. The first answer in a list of many stumbling blocks was our humanity. We need to be careful. What happens when we fear and dislike our humanness? The part that inevitably lands us in hot water. The part that has us follow innumerable bunny trails in our search for perfection or happiness. A search that will inevitably end up with us falling on our knees. Can you imagine life as Dr. Spock from the old Star Trek TV series? Cold, analytical, unfeeling. Can you imagine a life without laughter? I sure can't although there was a long and terrible stretch when laughter was a rare and precious thing. Without our humanness, there's no need for God. If we hold our humanity in contempt, there's no room for Grace. We sit as judge and jury over any signs of "weakness" in others and ourselves. Where is our understanding of weakness defined? Is it from our families, our schools, the media, our culture...our church? And I am as guilty of judgement as anyone. It is an insidious, slippery foe. But I am learning. I have a great Teacher who has filled my life with wonderful role models. "But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them." He 11:6

Thursday, 24 October 2013

What's Next? by Susan L.

"What's next?" I ask and then realize it's a question loaded with anxiety. It's a question that tears away the wonderful peace of living in the present. Mind you, it's merely being curious as well. A good trait when the Holy Spirit leads and guides the seeking mind. It's an honest question, a human one, that doesn't necessarily need an answer. It would be nice, though, to have one. Guaranteed there will be changes. I just need to keep reaffirming the knowledge of Who is in truly control. It sure isn't me! Okay. This keeps surprising me. This bumping into musings on the future. It is still very foriegn. As I've said before clinical depression robs us of the ability to even imagine there is a tomorrow. I was depressed for a long, long time. As far back as I can remember. Maybe a good chunk of having this gift is what to do with the uncertainty about what may be. For me, I think the best thing is to snuggle into the arms of the Lord. Trusting in His plans, His desires, His presence which will always be there. No matter what may come. "To God our Saviour, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen." Jude 1:25

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

South Paw by Susan L.

This might be a bit of a rerun or a recap of one of the most pivotal moments in my travels along the Black River. I did an exercise several years ago, long after I had read the book "Homecoming" by John Bradshaw. It was the only thing I retained from the entire book; the only reason I am sure it ended up in my hands. It took some time to gather the courage needed to begin. The exercise involved writing with my non-dominant hand. In my case, the left. This exercise actually taps into a different part of our brains. Just as Mr. Bradshaw warns, I'll do the same: please, have a support network or person in place before trying this exercise. It can be challenging. Even heart wrenching. Yet, at the same time, it is fascinating to see what is revealed. The childish printing gave me an opportunity to listen and discover my "inner child", a concept I had once arrogantly pooh-poohed. She had a lot to say. Seven pages worth. It opened my heart as I read her story, my story, unbridled of punitive and harsh adult "codes". Those rules and judgements ingrained that corrupted how I saw the world and myself. I allowed her to share without placing my adult knowledge and perspective on what she had to say. I admit that was tough. The scrawling letters helped me remain a listener. There were a lot of really ugly attitudes. God has forgiven me for these prideful understandings and for the self hate they birthed. It's good to remember the grace of God. "The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore the eye is good, your whole body will be full of light." Mat 6:22

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

In Short by Susan L.

I don't feel much like writing. My head is still full of magical moments from the weekend. Memories to savour and replay time and again: my grandson's toothy grin when he saw me with his dad after school on Friday. Watching him play and listening to the fantastical imagination he has where boats fly and cars go on the ocean. And my beautiful grand daughter... smiling as she stumbled over my name, "Na..Na...Ooooo!" She still plays shy but that's okay. Hearing her say my name is beyond worth. Yah. Simple treasures. "Oh, that man would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men." Ps 107:8

Monday, 21 October 2013

Open Roads by Susan L.

It's about three and a half hours of driving time to get to my son's home. Going down on Friday was a visual feast. Dark and broken rain clouds left just enough room for the sun to pierce through. "Jacob's Ladders" I've heard these sunbeams called. They randomly set on fire the glorious colours of autumn. Dry, rusty brown fields of canola gleaned like brass. The yet to be harvested acres of corn shone like fine gold. Trees, robed in oranges and yellows, exploded against the shadows cast by glimmering slate gray clouds. On my way home yesterday I pulled off my route to follow a short road that led to Lake Huron. I'd been wanting to check it out for a while. For the first time the weather cooperated. I couldn't resist. The gravelled and pot hole filled lane ended at a steep bluff. The lake was furious, wind driven whitecaps dotted its surface as far as the eye could see. I am always awed by the size of this deep, blue and green lake. A narrow strip of beach was about three stories below. Wind driven waves thundered against the rock strewn sands with a roaring like the ocean surf. There were other people around so I gingerly scrambled down the steep and slippery embankment to the beach. Clumps of grass served as hand holds as I carefully planned my next step. I shook my head at this foolishness but couldn't resist walking by the water. I didn't stay long. The wind had icy fingers. Scrambling up again left me a bit breathless and images of broken limbs had teased me until I was safely at the top. The piece of brown "sea glass" stashed in my pocket made it all worthwhile. It was the perfect end to a perfect day. "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." Jn 1:3

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Weary by Susan L.

The last couple of weeks are catching up. Whirlwind busy (for me) and emotional...what?..elation? Peace? Relief? Joy? All really wonderful stuff (thank You, Lord!) but intense. All this has taken a toll on my energy level. Toss in today's early start and I am done in. It feels good though, this "tired", because a night's sleep should fix it. Normally my health is good but I've got a now familiar inner ear thing going on. It happens with some regularity. I must have squishy brains or something! Spinning rooms and wobbly walls make for great entertainment. Who needs a roller coaster? I've learned not to move my head too fast, though, then it's not too bad. It is probably contributing to my fatigue but all I can do is let it run its course. I plan on an early night anyways. Tommorow I head out to visit my son, daughter-in-law, and grand babies for the weekend...a late Thanksgiving and a very important fourth birthday. Wouldn't miss it for the world. See you next week! "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord." Ps 127:3

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Sunday Soloist by Susan L.

The young woman began her song. Her voice was so lovely it sent shivers down my spine. I couldn't tell you what she sang. The words didn't matter. I was lost in her voice and hearing music beyond what was being sung: the proverbial fifth note of the barbershop quartet. My imagination ran wild as I listened and madly penned my impressions on the church bulletin. "The angels drew back the clouds so the sweet voice of worship could reach the heavens. Like a rainbow of colours unimaginable, the notes rose. Swirling, sparkling, shining: a luminous, living, breathing song." I could sense the angels leaning on their elbows, looking down and listening. As the song rose past them to the Lord, a soft and delighted smile was on their faces. They fully enjoyed this beautiful and worshipful performance. Thank You, Lord, for allowing me to witness a most private and intimate moment between You and Your daughter. "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels." Heb 12:22

Monday, 14 October 2013

It Feels Like Christmas by Susan L.

Yes, it is Thanksgiving weekend. I just feel so blessed by the rich gifts that have come my way: good food, good conversation, laughs and the sharing of knowledge, celebrating our children, our lives and our faith. Expressions of gratitude blessed the Lord and last night's meal shared with friends. And for me especially: wellness. The biggest gift of all. To be in the present, unburdened of the past...wow! To be in a social situation, meeting new people with zero anxiety...wow! To acknowledge being blessed and be able to humbly realize it goes both ways...wow! I have caught myself smiling what feels like a Mona Lisa smile. Maybe having the knowledge and security of God's love is what made her smile that way. The peace, the joy, the quiet fireworks of Jesus' love for her filled her heart as she posed for the portrait. She smiled the mysterious smile that has puzzled art historians and academics for generations. I can hear the childhood, sing song taunt, "I know something you don't know!" Only for me it's "I know something I pray you will discover for your very own." "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love." Jn 15:9

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Party by Susan L.

A high school friend celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary yesterday. Her husband arranged a surprise party for her. It was good to see them, these high school sweethearts who have gone the distance. I don't see them often or even talk to them. It's the kind of friendship where it doesn't seem to matter. We simply pick up where we left off. The tiny house was crowded with well-wishers. It was noisy, as parties tend to be, but my anxiety failed to get the better of me. It reared its head a couple times. I simply went outside for a few minutes. It helped that I knew a lot of the people and could focus on catching up. Even if it has been a (gasp!) quarter century. I was her maid of honour at the wedding. Once again it is an honour to witness the deep and tender love the two hold for each other. May they have many more years together. Amen! "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." Eph 5:31

Friday, 11 October 2013

Change of Seasons by Susan L.

The Canada geese are noisily gathering at the lake across the road. More and more come each day. Sometimes they fly so low overhead you can hear the wind whistling through their wings. I was rather restless so I went outside to stargaze and listen to them chatter, catching up on all the news. It was a beautiful night with an autumn nip in the air. Sleep evaded me for a long while. I tossed around most of the night. Pumpkin had to duck and dodge more than a few times. It doesn't surprise me. Yesterday was a momentous day. A big decision day. I regularly doubt my abilities to make the right choice in little decisions. A big one creates quite the stir in my heart and soul. I know it was the right thing, to no longer see my therapist. My head has a habit of getting in the way. Silly head! "I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart." Ps 119:32

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Post Appointment by Susan L.

It is done. Today was my last appointment with my therapist. This change has been in the background for several months. True to form, when I'm ready, I jump in the deep end, trusting in my Maker. There's an image of the Lord turning another page in the Book of Lives. Yet another milestone in my small chapter. I feel the breeze from the page blowing through my soul. I sense His smile. We got through. I was right about the location bringing the past to mind. My heart is delighted because for sure, yes, for sure it is finished. At least this part. There will be difficulties ahead, challenges, anxieties, changes, loss...but interwoven in that is joy, laughter, play, contentment...peace. I think it's called life. Wow. I can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring. "Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage." Ps 84:5

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Tomorrow by Susan L.

I have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow. We've been on quite the journey for a long time. I know it's time for me to move on. My reluctance to make the hour's drive is a good sign. Part of the reluctance I've just realized is because she has sold her house. We have met in her home office for a number of years. Tomorrow's meeting is at her other office. We met there when my journey was at its most difficult. I'm not sure I want to be there. I am feeling very well, better than I ever have. It would be nice for it to last. Yes! There has been tremendous healing but my fear, yes Lord, fear is that the office will trigger a landslide of old emotions. It's a valid fear. It's the nature of PTSD. Or maybe (yes Lord) I need to go just to say goodbye. To all of it. Final, tangible closure. Thanks for listening. "I will say of the Lord,"He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust." Ps 91:2

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Men by Susan L.

I believe God has worked a miracle in my life because I don't hate men. The past doesn't matter any more. Bitterness has been flushed from my soul. That is the miracle. It has been a slow and tender process. A few men, just as broken at the hand of my gender, have brought healing. Their stories helped fill my heart with compassion, drowning out toxic emotions that could poison my soul. Yes, I am uncomfortable around them. Downright fearful at times. Their deeper voices can trigger old anxieties, old responses. It makes me nervous talking to them. That is probably a huge part of the stress I feel at the Bible study group. It's best to keep going and I will. Life is too short to miss out on such a wonderful opportunity. The opportunity to offer up my fears and prejudices to the Lord, to heal, to grow, to share, to learn of the Love beyond mortal limitations. "You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." 1 Pet 2:5

Monday, 7 October 2013

Authority by Susan L.

The pastor brought up an interesting thought yesterday. I've been chewing on it ever since. He gave a sermon about being a good minister based on 1 Peter chapter 5. It was unique how he humbly and willingly spoke to himself. We were witnesses to an exchange between the Lord and him. At the end, he spoke to the congregation about submitting to the authority of the church elders. He observed how many people have a huge problem with that. When the power inherent in authority has been abused it is difficult to trust anyone in that position be it pastor, boss, supervisor, teacher, spouse and so on. It's no wonder we often struggle in submitting to our Maker. Submitting begins with admitting our needs for guidance, assistance...love unconditional. Submission is the admission to a better life where we don't need to have all the answers. It is where we can begin to lay our burdens down. "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." 1 Pet 5:2-3

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Yes, my Lord by Susan L

I have written a completely different post than the one I am typing in. My heart got stirred by the Bible passage the Lord led me to this morning. Lord, there are no words for the upwelling of life and light which fills my breast. There are no words in the reflection of all that has come to pass. There are no words to describe the aching joy within me. Tears of gratitude prick at my eyes because without You, I would not know life in the richest sense of the word: feelings, hopes, fears, gladness in sorrow, peace in turmoil, contentment in chaos, wholeness in being broken, light in the darkness, forgiveness...forgiveness. I would not finally, at last know love. I am Yours. "For in Him we live and move and have our being." Acts 17:28

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Winter Residence by Susan L.

Pumpkin the cat isn't quite sure what to make of the newly relocated fish. They are now swimming merrily in the aquarium after acclimatizing to their new home. He manages to summon just enough courage to slink closer and closer each time. Curiosity getting the better of him. I am sure their size is intimidating to such a little fellow. It's just like me with the Bible study group. The first week was extremely stressful. Anxiety and panic chewed at me the entire time. The second week, it wasn't as bad. It has gotten easier each meeting. I am glad I didn't stop going because of how it made me feel. There are now moments when it is an enjoyable experience. I know there are a lot of us, be it four legged or two or even (surprisingly) fish, who are nervous when facing something outside our comfort zone: a new environment, meeting new people. It's a big list... Thank You, Lord, I needed to realize that: the anxiety isn't because of my mental health issues. It's because I am simply being human! "When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him lest he drag you to the judge, the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison." Lk 12:58

Friday, 4 October 2013

Poet's Heart by Susan L.

Every once in a while, my mind gets filled to overflowing with poetic expressions. Not necessarily in rhyming patterns. Thankfully because that can get annoying when it happens! I suppose my mind is painting with words. Brushes are replaced by vowels, consonants, verbs and nouns. Written imagery. Some if it sticks. Most often it drifts in and is lost just as quickly. A lot of it can get rather corny and nonsensical. It sure doesn't bear repeating or the cost of ink to write it down. Occasionally an idea sticks that is worthwhile putting on paper immediately or to be saved for another day. It's kind of fun while it lasts. "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Prov 25:11

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Waterproof by Susan L.

There's an old saying about not looking a gift horse in the mouth. I suppose that's because in doing so its age and health are revealed. I confess the aquarium needed to be tested. It is filled up outside to make sure the corner seals are sound. They are. It's better to have learned that outside than discovering the opposite was true in the house. Thirty-five gallons would make a huge mess in the living room for sure! Part of me is chuckling at my disbelief about this gift being too good to be true. What's with that? Is there a giant whack of Doubting Thomas in my heart? Is it because of some hidden belief residing deep within that I feel I don't deserve the very best? Maybe that and maybe more. God knows. I lay these questions at Your feet, my Lord. "For what man knows the things of man but the spirit of man which is in him? Even do no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God." 1 Cor 2:11

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Full Day by Susan L.

Had a full day's training at work today. Crisis Intervention. Once again plenty to think about: attitudes, judgements, prejudices, self awareness, triggers, boundaries, communication and listening skills. It's a big list. Most of the session was about how to listen, learning to uncover the truth behind any crisis situation. We did a role play exercise that I find incredibly powerful and empowering. One person complained. The listener just listened. At the end of three minutes, the listener shared the positive things the complainer had revealed about themselves. I "complained" about my neighbours' loud arguments, about how I had to go inside and shut the windows so I couldn't hear them. (I am trying to pray for them every time because this sadly happens on a regular basis. I don't know what else to do.) It revealed that I know what I need to do to take care of myself. (It is terribly triggering.) I respect their privacy. It's a pretty cool tool to de-escalate a tense situation. Like washing dirty windows to see the beauty inside and out. "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation." RPG 2:14

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Loud and Clear by Susan L.

My tears threaten to overflow. Tears of relief and awe and a gratitude beyond words. A rich sense of knowing nothing escapes my Lord's notice has flooded into my being. There is nothing too big or too small. If it matters to us, it matters to Him just as what matters to Him, matters to me. The fish in my pond have grown a lot this summer. They were almost too big last year for the aquarium which serves as winter quarters. I'd half heartedly searched online for a cheap used one. No luck. The season is growing late and they need to come in soon. The pond isn't deep enough for them to stay outside all year. That and it's nice to watch them. As I was returning from an appointment, one thought filled my head, "Stop at the Re-Store!" It is a second hand store run by Habitat For Humanity. It holds all kinds of new and used treasures for the home. I waffled a bit about going in but the sense of urgency was more than I could ignore. I meandered around, not sure why I was there. I checked out all the light fixtures, not that I need any. Rusty tools with mysterious purposes, electrical do-dads, the boxes of nails captured my attention. It's a treasure trove of bits and pieces. As I turned around, bumping into a trolley I hadn't noticed, I froze in wonder and delight. Sitting on top, ready to be wheeled out to my car was a nearly new aquarium in just the right size. I willingly paid the princely sum of ten dollars for it. "That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Your wondrous works." Ps 26:7