Saturday, 25 January 2014

Back Feb 7 by Susan L.

  I am off later today. There's only a few last minute items left to pack. The house is as clean as it's ever been for my houseguest. All that anxiety was for nothing, silly me. It has surprised me that it all got done! I even shovelled the driveway this morning and have time to do a post.
  Pumpkin knows something is up though. Housework might have been his first clue. He's being very attentive this morning so it's good he'll have company while I am away. I'll miss him even though he can get annoying some times. He's well taken care of: nails clipped and his toy box is full of mice to amuse him in the evenings. I must remember to tell my friend the cat likes nature shows on TV. Scurrying animals really get his attention and always makes me laugh at the futility of his hunting alertness.
  It's snowing a bit but hopefully not enough to delay the plane. My brother kindly bought me a pass for the first class lounge at the airport. That's a new experience for me. I'm more the economy class kind of gal.
  I may be able to post the odd blog over the next two weeks but that will depend on technology and access to a laptop.
  Until then, blessings to all.
  "Offer thanks to God and pay your vows unto the most High." Ps 50:41

Friday, 24 January 2014

Gifts by Susan L.

   A friend blessed me with a daily devotional, A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Another blessed me with the loan of the book by the same name. Hmmm. I think the Lord is saying something here...I'm not normally one to peruse a devotional but they have played a part in my life.
  I have an old one, picked up at a church sale: Streams in the Desert Vol. 1. It was last published in the 1960's. I rarely crack the cover but it holds another story of God's provision.
  In 2007, I was terribly ill. My mind had disappeared into the mists of sleeplessness, constant panic attacks, and thoughts of suicide. In a frenzy, but with the help of a friend who had "coincidentally" stopped by, we called a crisis line. That person suggested she take me to the hospital. I frantically threw some clothes and a few other personal items into a bag not really knowing what would happen.  
  I picked up Streams before discarding the notion of taking it with me and setting it back on the shelf. My mind was not functioning very well. Reading, I knew, was beyond me at that point. Although my Bible went with me as a talisman of faith. So did my teddy bear. Just having those two things with me brought comfort.
  I ended up being admitted into our local hospital, waiting for a bed to become available at a psychiatric facility. I know people visited. Who they all were, I don't remember. I have very little recollection of what was said, if anything. I was pretty sick.
  There are only a few memories that stick out about that time. A woman from my writer's group came in. In her hand she held a photocopy of that day's devotional from her copy of Streams. I remember clearly her saying that the Lord wanted me to have that page. She was right. I don't remember what the devotional was about, I only remember that it filled me with peace. It was exactly what I needed to hear: I was just where the Lord wanted me to be.
  It's also where I discovered that my art could be my voice.
  It's clearer than yesterday.
  As for A Thousand Gifts, I am taking it with me. I fancy sitting on the beach in the morning and reading a chapter before I start my walk.
  Thank You, Lord, that You are a God of second chances. Thank You for helping us learn obedience and the skills to listen for Your will in our lives. Thank You for Your willingness to lovingly tap me with a baseball bat on the head every once in a while. I know I need it! Amen
  "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." Jn 20:30-31

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Curiouser and Curiouser by Susan L.

  Prayers are being answered. Thank you to all who have prayed for me.
  Something has changed within my heart and mind. A new hunger for the Word has filled me with question upon question. I want to know more, much more, about the nature of God, Christ and what it means to be a believer.
  I know there's a part of me that rebels against becoming a "church member" as opposed to an attendee. It puzzles me why you have to join by taking an oath to commit yourself to a particular faith community. Yes, I understand why a police check is needed if you want to be involved in youth or children's ministry. We need to keep them safe. But the rest? I seek clarity.
  Aren't we all brethren in Christ? One body? Where and when did this practice start? Doesn't church happen when two or more meet in His Name? Aren't we the church?
  Doesn't joining one faith as opposed to another create division? Non-denominational is actually a denomination! Doctrinal differences create dissent among us. Where do those doctrines come from? I am assuming they're based in the Bible. Yet, the different Christian faiths in this world are miles apart when it comes to nearly everything except the belief that Christ lived and died for our sins. As well we share the belief there is one God over all and when we embrace Christ as Saviour the Holy Spirit can live within us. The simplicity of that knowledge has become very complicated.
  Isn't believing my church is better or has it "right", pride?
  Maybe that's my prayer for today. Lord, help us become as one, unified under the Blood of Christ. In Jesus' name, amen.
  "And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him, who fills all in all." Eph 1:22-23

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Physical Truths by Susan L.

  Yesterday's shopping spree to get what I need to go south has left me feeling very grateful. A couple of years ago, I wouldn't have been able to spend the money on new items because it simply wasn't there. It would have meant going to a second hand shop instead. It was nice to get new shorts, new pajamas, new shoes and a new bathing suit. All items that will come in handy once summer roles around. Although, when it's minus twenty-five, that feels like it's a long, long way away.
  The realities of age kicked in a bit too. The bathing suit is designed to flatter a mature, fuller figure: a Grandma suit. The kind I swore I wouldn't be caught dead in.
  I am a grandmother... and thankfully far from dead. The physical reality and wisdom of age has helped me make a prudent decision regardless of youthful oaths. At least, that's what I am trying to tell myself. The suit is more like a little sun dress than the figure hugging one pieces I wore when there wasn't as much figure to hug. Not that I've ever been unsubstantial.
  There is an added benefit to being overweight that I learned last year. I float. Never used to because I was built like a tank with broad shoulders and thick neck. My legs like were like tree trunks. Every part of me was solidly muscled from farm work like tossing bales of hay and eighty kilo bags of grain around. Trying to stay on top of the water was fruitless. I'd sink like a stone. The muscles are still there, just not as toned. I hope to change that when I return from vacation.
  In the mean time, thank You Lord, for your most generous provision. Help me not be ashamed of my lumpy, bumpy, pudgy middle-aged figure. Help me enjoy the water without being self conscious. Help me maintain my beach walking mindset when I return to the chill and bluster of an Ontario winter. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
  "By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation, You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of the far-off seas." Ps 65:5

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Results by Susan L.

  So it isn't gout. At least the doctor doesn't think so. My big toe isn't sore enough or red enough. He figures it's just arthritis and prescribed some anti-inflammatories. He sent me for a blood test to make sure and will let me know if anything shows up some time today. Thank You Lord, for the health system we have.
  Am I relieved? Yes! Does it change my determination to alter my eating and exercise habits? No.
  Weight loss will help my feet and toes. The poor wee things, having to haul all that mass around. Never mind the added health benefits of doing so!
  It probably wouldn't hurt to invest in some decent running shoes as well. Not that I run, they're just the norm in the summer. I usually pick up cheap boys shoes at Walmart. It's hard to find women's that fit and it helps not having to pay sale tax on children's shoes. Could be I've ignored the worth of the appendages at the bottom of my legs. It's time to look after them because that neglect is starting to pay dividends as neglect always does.
  "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience." Eph 2:1-2

Monday, 20 January 2014

Looking Forward by Susan L.

  The things to do list is getting longer the closer to Saturday I get: packing, hair cut, shopping, making sure the car is ready for my friend by checking windshield washer fluid and the like, organizing someone to clear the driveway if needs be...what else? Picking up a few groceries and cat supplies. And the brakes slam on with a screech. One day at a time, Sue, one day at a time. Everything will get done that needs to be done. Don't get yourself in a tizzy. That won't help.
  First things first. Doctor's appointment this afternoon. Look after the physical. That's the only priority right now.
  Help me, Lord, not get too anxious. Help me stay focused on the tasks at hand as You reveal them one by one. Help me, too, not get overwhelmed by what needs to be done. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
  "Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Phillip, "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" But this He said to test him, for he Himself knew what He would do." Jn 6:5-6

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Getting There by Susan L.

  I accomplished a lot yesterday. The floors were vacuumed and mopped, the guest room made ready, and the fish tank got cleaned. Pumkin's toy box is once again full of the knitted mice that had lost themselves under the furniture. He's got quite the collection because it is easier to knit him a new one instead of getting down on hands and knees with a ruler to fish them out.
  All in all it was a successful day. All that's left is laundry. It will only take a quick whip around before leaving next Saturday to put things in order. I have a friend who is going to stay here while I am away. She'll be company for the cat and I feel much better having someone here anyways. She sure is a blessing!
  I have a few things in mind to help with the claustrophobia on the plane. Unless the Lord has done some miraculous healing, I remember how bad it was coming home last year. This time my seat is reserved nearer to the front which should help. I'll put a small sketch pad in my purse to draw in, one of my favorite grounding tools.
  For now, I'll cast this care upon the Lord as well as all the other little worries that accompany travel: weather, driving, lineups, luggage, forgetting something, customs...the baggage of travel.
  "Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. But whatever house you enter, first say, "Peace to this house."" Lk 10:4-5

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Now I Get It by Susan L.

  It's funny, but not in a ha-ha kind of way, how quick I am to blame my mental issues when I am not feeling well. Hmm, there are still some prejudices and stigma within my own heart and mind about depression. They are slippery devils, as most judgements are.
  I had glanced through a few of my previous postings and read how much I feared depression was gaining a stronger foothold. In reality, it wasn't. The extreme fatigue, or what I was calling lack of ambition and depression, is actually part of this physical toe issue. It surprised me how quickly those assumptions were made. Instead of mental problems, my body is using its energy to fight off the toxins in my blood: a build up of uric acid that has caused this form of arthritis. No wonder I am tired. Even my blood needs a housecleaning!
  It took pain to smack me in the head and remind that there's more to health than just mind matters. My primary concern has been my recovery/discovery journey of mental reclamation and renewal. It's hard not to go there first. It's hard not to imagine the mind isn't the root cause of all that ails me. I feel much better now knowing it isn't. Physical stuff is much easier to fix. I hope.
  I know I've shared about going through some med changes anyways but right now that's the heaviest burden on my shoulders. It needs to be laid at the foot of the Cross once more. Drug changes are a process I am not looking forward to. It took so long to find what works that I am rather reluctant to begin a change. Toss in a couple difficult, traumatic hospitalizations largely because of incompatible meds and it is a terrifying venture.
   Even though the one particular drug is extremely hard on the liver and kidneys, it's the one that keeps the worst of my anxiety at bay. I have tried to wean myself off at the suggestion of my psychiatrist a while ago but only got so far because it got ugly.
  I am writing about fear now. Yes, I am afraid. That alone creates more anxiety. Oh, my goodness, rocks and hard places! And I have a chuckle at my own expense. Your will, my Lord, not mine!
  "For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ." 2 Cor 1:5

Friday, 17 January 2014

Global Soldiers by Susan L.

  Last night on Global National News they did a story about a soldier, an Afghanistan veteran, who had barely escaped death. He survived when six of his fellow soldiers had died in an attack on their vehicle seven or so years ago. It was the largest single fatality for Canadian Soldiers since the Korean war.
  This young man is well. He overcame the prognosis that he might never walk again because he had been injured terribly in the blast. He has now committed to being a full time soldier. I am glad and thankful for those mercies.
  Here's where I have a problem. The opening line to the story went something like this: "In a time when many soldiers are being diagnosed with PTSD, here is one soldier with a different story." In the interview the soldier verified that he remembered what had happened but pushed the memories aside in order that he may continue to serve. I am thankful he can do that.
  Here's what bothers me the most: PTSD is not a choice. It isn't something that can be ignored. His words affirmed the stigma and lack of public knowledge about this insidious illness. There was an underlying contempt that was obvious in regards to other veterans who face this illness every day. It's as though somehow they weren't strong enough, they weren't doing enough, they weren't working hard enough to be well. Talk about a slap in the face! As if they haven't done enough already!
  There's been no mention of the possibility that these veterans, who come home to face PTSD, most likely have faced some other trauma. They may have experienced physical or sexual abuse long before they served. It may be why these young people chose to serve in the first place, to escape something neither you nor I could possibly imagine. Repeated trauma is a contributing factor of PTSD even if the events are dissimilar. The emotional responses are often the same. It's just something to think about, that's all.
  As for the soldiers who are struggling to come forward, please do! I'd like to offer the hope that the worst of the illness can be overcome in time with help from people you trust. Talk about your experiences, all of them. You have nothing to be ashamed of.
  There is One who is already waiting to help. If you do not know Him, perhaps this may be the time to invite Jesus into your heart. He is the great Physician and in Him we can do all things.
  "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." Rom 8:28-29

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Genetic Predisposition by Susan L.

  That is one of the reasons I am dealing with this sore, gouty, big toe: genes. It's also a contributing factor for depression and other mental health issues: genes. I suppose with heart disease, liver disease and other ...eases, genetics can play a role as well. As a child of adoption, there is one big question mark around this sort of thing. I simply don't know my medical lineage.
  Last night at Bible study, we were talking about gifts of the Spirit and of God. Somewhere along the line we got talking about the judgement day. It's that wonderful day the Lord takes us home but asks us to account for how we used the gifts He had given us. I admit it makes me squirm a bit in nervousness at the idea but I am sure it is done with love. It must grieve Him that a good amount of what we are blessed with tends to lay idle.
  Early in my Christian walk, most of what I did was repenting of sin. There was a lot to be forgiven for. God is a God of grace. As each sin was confessed in times of quiet conviction, this action left me feeling a gazillion times lighter as I received His forgiveness. There were major shifts in my understanding of both Him and myself.
  I also stood in the gap for my forefathers. Their sin had been passed down from the seventh generation and beyond. One of them was impatience and disregard for female emotion. This was something that had been learned, to the best of my knowledge, from at least as far back as my great-grandmother. I had unwittingly shared that "wisdom" with my own daughter. It was a "truth" to me. This subtly taught lesson had passed down through the family. Part of healing was forgiving my ancestors. In its place I was filled with true wisdom; the knowledge that feelings and emotions are all part of the human experience. They are of God and His nature.
  There is a flip side to all of this. Good things also run in families. Musicality, patience, faith, and much more are what I like to call generational blessings. We tend to forget about that in the midst of finding fault or looking at our families through jaded, cynical eyes. Again, I stood in the gap and loudly claimed my Divine inheritance: the gifts God had blessed the generations with but were never used. It was a powerful experience because I am a child of four generational lines: birth parents and adoptive parents.
  Where this is going I have no idea. I've had a struggle to accept and believe the good things in myself. Forgive me that, my Lord, as You have many times before. I know You will unfold and open all the blessings You have given me according to Your will and plan for my life. For that I give thanks. Help me not waste the days I have left but let me be a blessing to others through Your gifts. In Jesus' name I pray.
  "By the God of your father who will help you, and by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb." Gen 49:25

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Awestruck by Susan L.

  I am sure I have shared about the gift of an eraser when I was in a psychiatric hospital, Christmas  2008. I had wanted one because I was doing copious amounts of drawing while I was there. It was a me. I was trying to communicate the only way I could because I was once again buried in the pain of the past. The staff didn't think an eraser was needed. My polite requests were ignored. I quit asking.
  On Christmas day, one of the more caring staff brought in Christmas Crackers for us: the kind with a silly tissue hat, a joke and a little prize. When I popped mine open with him holding the other end, out tumbled an eraser in the form of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I remember the shock on his face. He knew of my faith and my repeated requests.
  It brought me to tears because the Lord had provided my only desire at that time. It was a mere trifle in the grand scheme of things but it had mattered to Him. I was floored by the planning it had taken. It was more than my little, broken, human brain could take in at the time.
  After watching the Star of Bethlehem, I got thinking about my little eraser again and the logistics and planning that went in to that precise moment. Just for fun, I began to write things down on a flow chart as I contemplated doing a piece of art around the idea. There's a phenomenal amount of history just in the cracker alone. The invention of paper, gunpowder, black and coloured inks, printing presses, writing, language...those are just the surface things. Toss in exploration, boats, emigration, and personal histories, like that of the man who invented this little amusement back in the Victorian era, and it boggles the mind.
  It took the invention of the wheel to make my cracker.
  It took Adam and Eve and their expulsion from Eden to make my cracker.
  Noah, Moses, David, John, Mary, Joseph and Jesus especially were all needed for this small gift. There would be no Christmas without them.
  It took God to orchestrate all the elements necessary so on that gray and dismal Christmas day I knew He loved me beyond a shadow of a doubt. I knew I was where I needed to be.
  I am going to need a bigger piece of paper.
  "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," says the Lord, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Weighty Matters by Susan L.

  I think I've got gout in my right foot's big toe. It's the disease of the rich man, a rich diet, and overindulgence. I looked it up in Wikipedia to find out more. First of all, I thought this was an illness of men and it usually is. It appears I am in the two percent of women who can get it.
  It surprises me because I don't eat meat very often. I don't drink alcohol at all. I am, however, rather overweight: a contributing factor. Too much sugar and carbs. Laying blame on my medications only goes so far although they were the driving force behind the initial desires for those two items. Now, I confess it's a full blown addiction complete with overwhelming, violent, physical cravings for SUGAR! And, yes, weight gain is a side effect for two out of the three psychotropic meds I take which only compounds the problem.
  Toss in age, this woman's time of life and I'm hit hard with other legitimate reasons for gaining weight. All the more reason to change the way I am living. A big toe is a warning sign that all is not well. I will make an appointment to see my doctor.
  Old habits of compulsive eating have also weaseled their way into my life again. I eat when I am stressed. I've been feeling stressed a lot lately. That would be okay if my life wasn't so sedentary but then, exercise helps with stress which would help me get off of that merry-go-round. I really need a mental make-over, not just physical...
  Somehow, because I know myself, I need to find a way to be accountable in order to lose weight. My self-discipline tends to fade in the face of a DIET. It means I have to find the stamina and willingness to cook better for myself, to eat better, and exercise way more than walking from couch to kitchen. This is more than dieting, this is lifestyle changing on a grand scale.
  I am heading to Florida in a couple of weeks. That will give me the opportunity to change my eating habits and hopefully kick some of the sugar cravings. I know it did last year for quite a while after I got home before the stress/eat/eat/stress cycle took over again.
  Walking on the beach will fill hours in the day because I enjoy it so much. I only need to maintain this routine when at home by finding a way to continue with the exercise. If that means paying for a gym by making a financial sacrifice elsewhere, so be it. God will provide. He always has.
  Lord, as much as I have said I lack self-discipline, You showed me I do have that trait. Point in proof being this blog. Help me, Lord, have discipline flow over into all aspects of my life. Guide my path so I might find the support I know will be needed to lose weight. Help me not give up in the face of that needing to be seventy pounds or more.
  Forgive me, Lord, for the bad habits, for using food to fill my soul, for not having turned to You sooner. Fill me with a willing desire to make the changes needed and guide me on the paths of opportunity. Help me turn to Your Word instead of the pantry cupboard. Help me, Lord, embrace the idea that I am worth taking care of. In Jesus' name, Amen.
  "Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing." Lk 12:23

Monday, 13 January 2014

The Star of Bethlehem by Susan L.

  My Bible study group had watched a documentary, "The Star of Bethlehem", last Wednesday. I wasn't there so after I heard about it on Sunday, I found it online and watched it for myself. It is absolutely fascinating. It explains what the star was according to the mathematic formulae used by NASA and every single astronomer on the planet. This is used to chart the movement of the planets and stars far into the future and in this case, back through history. It is well worth watching because there was so much more than just the star taking place in the heavens.
  The author's findings are based in scripture. In fact, that was where his journey began.
  Just as the author of the documentary was touched and awed by his findings, so was I. God laid out the heavens, preordained since before time began, to have them form spectacular conjunctions not just at Jesus' birth but at His death as well. We're talking billions of stars here if not trillions and God knows them all by name. He laid them in patterns and knew we would call them by the names He had chosen. He knew the names of the planets as well because they, too, play a role. He knew that these events would redeem the fact they are named after Roman gods. Ironically, they had to be. Or maybe that's God's sense of humour poking through.
  He knew that we would need to know the truth of Biblical events. He knew the lawyer He ordained for the task who knew nothing of stars and constellations would question the choice He had made. He knew that same lawyer would have the tenacity and research skills necessary to find truth and prove his case.
  I lay awake for a long time last night.
  "What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You take care of him? You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honour, and set him over the works of Your hands." Heb 2:6-7

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Clean Sweep by Susan L.

  I continued with my housecleaning yesterday doing jobs that have been set aside for far too long. My kitchen cupboards are wiped out and reorganized. I purged my fridge and cleaned inside. New foil liners now sit under the stove elements. It's not that all this stuff was excessively dirty but it was rather cluttered. There's now a box waiting to go to one of the second hand shops in town. I have no idea why I had three tea pots! It's strange what accumulates over time.
  I am thankful my kitchen is tiny because in previous homes all of this would have been a monumental task. Same with the fridge. Living on my own means that most of the time it is rather empty except for a few various jars of jam, pickles and other condiments. It does make cleaning easy!
  Later today I'll tackle the pantry cupboard. Closed doors have allowed it to get rather disorganized  which surprises me. Oh! Now I know why: this task is usually done in the summer as my garden harvest was preserved and set aside for winter. Not having a garden meant no preserves therefore no organization. It feels strange because in the last thirty years there's always been something set aside except when I didn't have my own place.
  I have a feeling there's more things in there for the second hand store as well. It's more than a food pantry. It's storage for other items as well. I forget who told me that living in a small house means when something new is brought in, something has to go. I'm a bit behind on the "Go" part but that's okay. It will all get done.
  "But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates." Prov 31:30-31

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Owls by Susan L.

    Last night from across the road I heard the "Who-Who-Who?" of a Great Horned Owl. He arrives at the park every winter to sing his mournful song. I have no idea how long they live but he's appeared each January for at least five years in a row. I've been watching for Snowy Owls as well. When winters are hard they often come this far south where survival is a bit easier. They are a treasure to see; surprisingly big and beautiful with their white feathers gleaming against the snow.
  I've never seen its Great Horned relative but know his song well from many fictional or nature programs. Disney often uses this particular owl in their animated movies as teacher, companion, counsellor and conscience. In "Winnie the Pooh" Owl's spelling abilities, or lack thereof, always leaves me smiling. His simple wisdom and sage advice touches my heart.
  I don't know why an owl has been personified as wise. It may have something to do with aboriginal cultures who often venerate this impressive creature. It could have something to do with its ability to take wing in utter silence. Wisdom often appears silently and gracefully. Those simple and often quiet "Ah-ha!" moments are like being touched by a feather.
  In Christian circles that feather is the Holy Spirit. Although sometimes I wonder why the Lord doesn't use a sledge hammer. It might help me catch on to what He is trying to teach me a whole lot faster!
  My journey in Christ has always included prayers for wisdom. For me it is the other cornerstone of faith. Its sister stone, discernment, helps us become wise in the way of the Lord. Truth, patience, grace, forgiveness, healing, peace, hope and so much more arise because of these two fundamental gifts.
  With wisdom we are able to let go of what needs to be set free or shaken off. With wisdom we are able to embrace what needs to be accepted and celebrated.
  Without letting go, we cannot let in.
  Discernment enables us to recognize which is which.
  Just as I held my breath to listen to the owl last night, holding my breath helps me hear that still small Voice that is much more beloved and welcomed.
  Thank You, :Lord, for these Holy gifts.
  "'We will rejoice in your salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions." Ps 20:5

Friday, 10 January 2014

The Farm by Susan L.

  I've made several references to the farm in my writing. It was where I spent the last ten years of my marriage. What started out to be the dream of a lifetime became burdened in the harsh realities of rural life, endless renovations and raising animals.
  We found a bargain: a hundred acres with a 1920's red brick farmhouse. It was in such bad shape we really only had to pay for the land. The house was free. There was a massive 30 by 100 foot bank barn on the property as well. It too needed lots of TLC. In the beginning we were both excited by the chance to renovate the house, to restore it to its former glory.
  The first thing was cleaning up the property. There was so much junk in the barn and around the yard it was nearly two years before we got rid of it all. People would drop in to see the city fools who had bought "The Dump". We had some amazing bonfires though and were welcomed into the community with great appreciation.
  Our first house warming gift was thirteen chickens and a rooster. The following spring we got a pair of goats. Then came goslings which ended up bonding to people so they followed me around the garden and lived in the kitchen for a while. A foreshadowing of house lambs and kids. I was delighted with the novelty of it all.
  My ex would stop on his way home from work at a local market and would bring home additions to the livestock. That handful of chickens grew in a space of seven short years to become over fifty sheep and goats, a good natured bull, fourteen cows and calves, seven horses, a pair of welsh black pigs, guinea fowl, peacocks, ducks, four dogs and several barn cats. Oh, and a pair of llamas to guard the sheep.
  The financial drain this caused meant that house renovations dragged on and on. It wasn't finished until the spring after we separated and after almost all the animals were gone. It needed to be done to be sold.
  The bulk of the farm work fell to me. Everything from feeding, watering, snow blowing, mucking the hen house, raising a couple hundred meat chickens each summer, birthing, lawn mowing and equipment maintenance fell under my care. My ex would help begrudgingly to do the big barn in spring. A tough, slogging job because we deep littered the cattle for warmth over the winter. That exercise was done by pitchfork and wheelbarrow. A bobcat tractor was beyond our budget.
  Family vacations became a thing of the past. Summer holidays were spent in the hay field.
  My ex was a good worker, I'll give him credit for that. He worked off the farm often seven days a week for weeks at a time in order to fund our folly. He still found time to work on the house, doing all the tasks that can't be seen: first gutting the rooms of lathe and plaster, then plumbing, wiring, hanging drywall. It was my task to help him accomplish that and to do the finishing work: taping and sanding the drywall, painting, replacing window trim and baseboards.
  There were and are good memories. However, my ex spiralled into full blown alcoholism and became extremely volatile and more and more emotionally abusive. I simply kept on doing my best to please him while every day saw me disappear a little more. His concerns, his issues, his complaints were all that mattered.
  The gradual addition of animals had become a way of keeping me "barefoot and pregnant" because I couldn't leave the farm. We had poor fences and the cattle were always getting out. A huge liability if someone had hit them with their car. I am thankful I was able to draw the line at owning buffalo.
  My youngest son and I went away for a week one winter to visit my daughter who was working in the Dominican Republic. It was the only vacation we had the entire time we were there. It took three people to cover all I did in the course of a day.
  I'll say it again: thank God my ex had an affair. It was the proverbial straw that set me free. I'll thank Him too for the skills learned because where I live now was also a home in need of TLC and I have the knowledge to have done most of it on my own.
  "Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah." Ps 4:4

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

A Holy Mass by Susan L.

    A friend of mine gave me a gift like no other I've ever received before. On January 18, a Catholic Mass will be offered for the intentions of yours truly. I do not worship under that particular faith so I had to ask her to explain what it meant. From what I understand it is a request for a priest to pray for my soul. She assured me that although these types of prayers are often said for the dead, they are also commonly offered for the living.
  I am deeply touched by her gift. Prayer has a power beyond all reckoning.
  It was the summer of 2004. I was on my own because my now ex-husband was away, a long story. It was my responsibility to get the hay in. This meant getting the ancient equipment ready to mow the thirty acre field and when it was dry enough, bale it. I hated, feared and had a healthy respect for the steep hills that undulated through our hay field. Our tractor, a Massey 135, was from the 50's and lacked the safety features of newer models like a roll bar to protect the driver. I was acutely aware of the danger because my nearest neighbour had rolled his own small tractor and nearly died a couple of years previously.
  Thankfully he survived and kindly checked up on me a couple times a day. I was glad there was someone watching over me. I mowed as much as I could in a day under the hot sun of late June. It went well.
  The weather held sunny and warm for the time needed to dry this first mowing session.
  The baler, also from the 50's, was a much heavier piece of equipment, 3500 pounds. It strained the old tractor to its limits.  By ten the dew had lifted. It was time to start. I checked and double checked that all was hooked up, greased up and ready to go.
  My mouth was dry with fear as I mounted the tractor. I did something I had never done before: I sat quietly for a moment and prayed that I would be safe. My soul held a foreshadowing of something terrible happening.
  Jesus had yet to be a part of my life but somehow, I knew I needed to ask.
  Out in the field, the roar of the tractor, the sixty second ka-thunk, ka-thunk of the baler, the extreme vigilance needed to insure that all was running well kept me occupied. Just as I was about to head down the steepest part for the first time, eyes forward, tractor grumbling in low gear, there was a mighty crash and bang behind me. I whipped my head around. The metal power shaft had jammed and pulled free of the tractor. It was spinning freely, thrashing against the hitch and the back of the tractor because it was still connected to the heavy fly wheel of the baler. I killed the tractor's motor and leapt off. The shaft gradually slowed down and came to rest on the ground.
  There's a number of things that could have happened that day. Had the power shaft not jammed solid, my head would have been removed from my shoulders as it separated. Had the disconnect happened part way down, I wouldn't have been able to stop because the weight of the baler would have pushed me helplessly to the bottom of the hill. The heavy steel power shaft could have hit the ground and acted like a brake in the soft earth causing the baler to jack-knife.  Either of these scenarios could have flipped the tractor over in a matter of seconds. There would have been no time for me to jump clear. (I feel the fear even now!)
  It wasn't until that night that I realized my prayers had been answered. The self conscious words of one who didn't know what to believe in were heard.
  As a point of interest, the third generation farmers that now work that piece of land don't go anywhere near the hills. I was right to have been afraid. Thank You, Lord, that I am still here. And thank You for honouring my baby prayers.
  "Out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger." Ps 8:2

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Bitter Cold by Susan L.

  It's a frigid minus twenty-five this morning. Throw in a wind chill and it is well below minus thirty. You'd think there would be no living creatures around. However, there is a menagerie of footprints adorning the dusting of new snow on my driveway: mouse, bird, rabbit and a racoon whose steps came right up to the side door. I see it trying to get comfortable up the tree in my front yard. It should be tucked in to a nice cosy den but it's not. Lord, let it be healthy!
  My thoughts and prayers go out to those who are homeless in the city. I can't imagine the difficulty of surviving outside in such cold. Lord, may they find a warm place to go. Help those who need help seek the services available. Help them be willing to go inside. Bless those who offer these men and women shelter and a hot meal.
  Help me understand and help me be more compassionate towards the people who are as much Your children as those of us who worship in Your house on a Sunday. Help me recognize that there are a thousand reasons for people living on the streets, not just mental health and addictions but though hard circumstances. Help those who are there because of unemployment find work and stability.
  The Krasman Centre in Richmond Hill which is just north of Toronto has many visitors living in these circumstances. There are laundry and shower facilities set up for them. In Alliston there isn't the need. Our homeless are mostly youth who couch surf from place to place, lost and adrift from family for unknown reasons. Thankfully they have a roof over their heads. Bless those, too, who give them shelter.
  Lord, I pray for healing: broken minds, broken bodies, broken relationships, for families, and yes, even the little racoon. May your Grace, Your loving touch be with all.
  "And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake." Dan 12:2

Monday, 6 January 2014

Better Day by Susan L.

  There's a lot to be said about exercise and music. After yesterday's blog, I went out to shovel the driveway. We'd had quite the dumping of snow. I put on my iPod so there was something to listen to besides the scrape of the shovel on pavement. It was full of new music that I'd uploaded early last week: good music, the love songs of WWII, some jazz and some worship music.
  A couple of my favorite Christmas carols were in a pod cast by an Australian radio station. It was a bit strange to hear the forecast of 33 degrees while looking at snow. I know Christmas is over but hearing "Come Let Us Adore Him" and "Silent Night" beautifully sung filled me with a freshening joy. A joy that had eluded me over the holiday.
  It was just as good as going to church.
  Once I was inside, I sang along for a while, listening to the carols a couple more times. It was my own little worship service in the warm comfort of my own living room. My spirits rose a little more and I gave thanks for that blessing.
  I give thanks this morning for another driveway full of snow and the opportunity to plug in to my iPod before the day gets going. It's already a better day than I've been having lately. Thank You, Lord. Once again, You have set my priorities straight.
  "I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the Lord." Ps 104:33-34

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Today's Forecast by Susan L.

  There will be weather. Snow and more snow. So much so that the plows haven't been past yet. I guess they're trying to keep the main roads open. The driveway needs shovelling and the flakes are falling thick and fast. It will probably take a couple turns at the shovel before it's over.
  It has put a bit of a wrench in my plans for today. With a burst of energy I started spring cleaning yesterday. It feels good to get things organized. It's a task that has been put off for far too long. It helps that there will be a friend staying here while I am away. This gives me the incentive to do some major work around the place. I've noticed a rather large collection of cobwebs gathering where the ceiling meets the walls.
  These tasks have been somewhat neglected because I've had my own cobwebs gathering that have made doing anything a monumental effort. It's hard to feel motivated when depression is poking around the corners of my mind. Especially when there doesn't seem to be any reason for it. That's the hardest part of it. It doesn't have to have a reason, it just is.
  I've had it my whole life. The doctors figure that it was there since I was about seven. Dysthymia they called it, a form of low grade chronic depression. It makes day to day living a hard thing to do. It isn't as debilitating as a full blown depressive episode but makes it that much easier for those to take place. It almost feels like fighting off the flu every single day.
  It helped me to be diagnosed roughly seven years ago. I know there are others who feel the opposite but it gave me answers to the previously inexplicable. It answered many "why's?".  I know medications have helped with it too. Without them I wouldn't sleep.
  I've said lately that I am struggling. Yah, even doing my blog, a task I thoroughly enjoy has become a monumental task. Forgive me, Father, for ignoring the signs, for keeping secrets, for not honestly and openly confessing the reality of how bad things are right now.
  Today's forecast, besides the snow, will be one of hope. Guide me, Lord, so I may go and do what needs to be done before this gets any worse. If my meds need adjusting, so be it. If I need to seek counsel, so be it. I kneel before You in mind and soul awaiting Your word. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
   Jesus answered and said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." Lk 5:31

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Red Rose Animals by Susan L.

  Early in December a friend and I went to a couple of local antique markets for a wander around. In several booths there were examples of the little glass figurines that used to be included in a box of Red Rose Tea. Technically they aren't antique. I am not that old but they are considered collectables.     
  When I was little I had fairly extensive collection of them, my own glass menagerie, kept safely in the iconic purple velvet bag courtesy of Crown Royal scotch. Both bag and collection were lost during a move a long time ago. Seeing the odd example of them in the market reminded me of how much pleasure they had brought to my childhood. My mom mundanely opening a new box of tea was cause for excitement and celebration.
  I'd sit at the dining room table with my assortment of tiny animals ranging from butterflies to fish to golden retrievers and a giraffe. The harvest gold tablecloth became a place of the most wonderful adventures: an exotic golden ocean or windswept desert sands. Books became mountains as fierce and as formidable as the Andes or a church for them to attend on a Sunday. Other books doubled as rafts for the survivors of shipwrecks or floods. An imagined Noah sometimes made an appearance in that scenario. The rafts would wash up on book islands filled with other exotic creatures.
  There were tales of terrible danger and heroic rescues. Odd friendships would spring up between the most unlikely characters like an otter, a kitten and a hedgehog whose own story would help fill a rainy afternoon.
  I remember my disappointment when the animal figures were replaced by nursery rhyme characters. Humpty Dumpty, crooked houses and shoe dwelling old women had no place in my own stories.
  My friend gave me a generous collection of these figures this Christmas after I shared some of this with her. She had found some bags filled with these little creations tucked away somewhere in the market. In her gift are some old, familiar faces and some new ones like a gorilla and squirrel. They sit on the ledge of my kitchen window and as I look at them, I am transported through the years to the happy times of the Tablecloth Tales.
  Possibly, just possibly, there may be more stories hidden within them still.
  "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." 2 Cor 4;7

Friday, 3 January 2014

Prayer by Susan L

    I am more at peace since Wednesday's blog/prayer. It's only after the fact that I remember just how liberating casting my cares upon the Lord can be. It helps, too, that a good friend sent an email full of wisdom and insight regarding my last few posts.
  She reminded me that I can get awfully hard on myself at times. Forgive me, Father.
  It isn't something I even realize is happening. It has a habit of slowly creeping into my life. It's a habit of old when self esteem was non-existent; when responsibility for others' bad behaviors was dumped squarely on my shoulders.
 God has forgiven me for accepting those burdens, even when I pick them up again because letting go is a process.  Nevertheless, this is a long time habit birthed when I was lost and floundering and trying to survive each day.
  Accepting blame is an automatic response when I am feeling inadequate or depressed. "There must be something wrong with me! I should..." I suppose the two feed off of each other. It's a viscous cycle.
  There was a great deal of shame and guilt woven around not having either the desire or ambition to put up my Christmas tree this year. The 'I shoulds" were awfully loud but when I walked into the living room this morning I was relieved I didn't have to put all that stuff away. God is good.
  There's questions that need asking. "Who am I trying to impress anyways? Does it matter what others think? If it does, why?"
  These are good questions. Lord, I seek Your answers because it is only You Who need matter. Help me get right with You. Amen.
  "But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, "Your sins are forgiven you" or to say, "Arise and walk?"" Mat 9:4-5

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

2014 Prayers by Susan L.

  The day has dawned bright and sunny. A fresh coating of icing sugar snow has dusted everything making it clean and white. It's the kind of morning that speaks of possibility, of things hidden which anticipate being found: gifts the Lord has wrapped with care and can't wait to for us to open them this year. Every day is Christmas Day to Him.
  It feels appropriate to submit my wish list, my prayers, for the coming year.
  Thank You, Lord, for all the changes and growth that happened in 2013. Without You, Your grace, Your love and incredible patience, none of it would have been possible. I am eternally grateful.
  This year help me, Lord, to shake off the shackles of depression whenever it begins to wrap itself around my heart and mind. Help me break completely free of PTSD driven fear and anxiety. Help me not feel sorry for myself but give me the strength to bear my cross with a willing heart. Help me stay positive and hopeful for a future I cannot see. Please, fill my heart and mind with Your dreams and plans for tomorrow. Grant me the wisdom and discernment to know Your will for my life. May You open new doors of opportunity and help me walk through them.  Bless me with patience and determination. Guide my mouth and writing for both this blog and the newspaper column so that my words be Yours. Help me lay judgement down. Help me not feel lonely but remind me that You are always with me because sometimes in the darkness I forget. I really need your help so that I may eat better, that cooking for one becomes a joy not a struggle.
  Lord, bless my family, friends and readers that they, too, will receive a deeper knowledge of who You are. Bless them in their trials and victories. Be with them in their laughter and tears. Bless them according to Your will for their lives. Help them unwrap the gifts You have prepared for them.
  Please, be with the leaders of our countries, our churches, businesses and our schools so that sound, Godly decisions will rule. Guide our youth, the leaders of tomorrow, in Your ways.
  I surrender these things and lift many more matters of the heart that are just between You and me to You, my most gracious, loving Lord, in Jesus' Holy Name. Amen
  "I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, "This is My people", and each one will say, "The Lord is my God."" Zech 13:9