Friday, 28 February 2014

Something to Concider by Susan L.

  I shared a bit about my struggles at Bible study on Wednesday. Yes, I went. Courtesy of one of my little pills because my anxiety about returning was through the roof.  I almost backed down. There were number of reasons. Returning to an environment where there's been a huge trigger and its partner panic attack is difficult. There's one particular grocery store in town that is avoided like the plague because it is too big, too busy and the site of more than one panic attack. That's okay, shopping at a smaller store suits just fine.
  There was a level of shame as well on Wednesday or maybe embarrassment about my meltdown. I don't know these people too well and they don't know me. Although, deep within me rests the knowledge there is nothing to be ashamed of. Still...
  I told them how part of the prayer journey had helped me come to accept that PTSD and its side effects will be a part of my life until the day I die. Afterwards, one of the group leaders said to me with kindness and compassion that it might not be wise to put limitations on God's power to heal.
  There was a lot of anger that came through in the art. Some of that was because of the years and dedication spent in becoming as well as I am only to find myself violently transported back in the muck.
  I humbly acknowledge that the Lord was the source of the determination and the tremendous amounts of healing I have experienced. He provided the means for me to have the help I needed. He answered my prayers time and time again. In choosing life, it took hard work for it to become more than a monochromatic existence. The mental and emotional challenges have been overcome with faith for the soul, therapy for the mind and medications for the body's chemistry: an all encompassing treatment.
  Perhaps by facing down a place where I have been triggered, difficult as it is, it will bring healing. It may help my brain become rewired and through exposure diffuse a potentially volatile reaction. A mental vaccination. This was just something I hadn't thought about: the physical changes related to trauma.
  It was the Lord who gave me the courage to return to the study. In Him I trust. As for complete healing? I hope one day...Guide me in all ways my Lord.
  "I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; with my mouth I will make known Your faithfulness to all generations." Ps 89:1

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Missed the Boat by Susan L.

  When I first went house shopping, we pulled into the long driveway of a little harvest gold raised bungalow. There was a teenager, fourteen or fifteen years old, standing at the end of the driveway. He was unkempt and forlorn looking. When the real estate agent and I spoke to him, he told us he was not to speak with us but was only there to let everyone know when we had left.
  The place was clean enough but the smallest bedroom, just a cubby hole of a room, had a bare mattress on the floor. That was it. No closet, no clothes, no other belongings. There were none of the trappings that usually fill a boy's room. There was a stained and tired carpet on the floor.
  Using holes that had been kicked into the closet wall of another bedroom I peeked into the attic. It seemed that was why the holes were there. Besides a good, healthy amount of insulation, there were a couple of pot plants and a small arm chair up there.
  There were two beds in the unfinished, graffiti covered basement. All in all, there were six or seven people living here. It must have been crowded.
  I said the other day that the house bore evidence of someone with a temper. Once I moved in and had met the neighbours, they shared stories of police visits, the fact that the mother was rarely there and when she was, she had her own addiction issues. They shared stories of loud parties and violent arguments. Their stories made me very sad. I had just escaped a similar environment.
  Back to the boy. He's been in my heart lately. All I can do is pray for his soul because I don't know where he is. Hopefully he got out. Collection agencies called here this morning looking for his mother even though I've lived here for nearly seven years. I had been thinking about him anyways.
  I regret not calling children's aid that day but I assume neither had the neighbours. Not that it makes my inaction right. However, the police were familiar with the address and living conditions of this young man. I am saddened that nobody, myself included, cared enough to see to his well being long before he had to stand guard.
  May he find his way to You, my Lord, the best Father he could ever have. Forgive us our sins, our fear, our indifference my God. Be with this young man wherever he is. In Jesus' name I pray and ask that anyone who reads this post pray for him as well. Thank you.
  "Honour your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." Eph 6:1-4

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

What Happened to H? by Susan L.

  No, not my confidant, advisor and camping buddy, I spoke with her just yesterday about getting together on the weekend. I am talking about pronouns, the big H, as in He, His, Him. Actually, He is my confidant, advisor and friend as well and did go camping with us. There's a whole book of His wisdom thankfully available at my fingertips that mostly goes where I go even if I never crack the cover. It's there with me, a tangible representation of God on earth.
 Like any good friend, He's always willing to listen, teach and lovingly encourage cutting the bad junk out of my life. He never condemns, just convicts me to change: to let go and let in. He does this with the utmost respect for my free will and ability to choose.
  What I want to know is when did the Lord's pronouns lose the capitals? Was it a movement to make God into someone our size, a seemingly more approachable deity? Or was it a push to save ink at the printing companies. A capital H uses more ink than a little h therefore cuts in to the bottom line. It may be only pennies but they add up because of all the big H's in one New King James Bible.
  Either way, or maybe because I am a bit old fashioned it bothers me a lot. To read modern, updated English translations of the scriptures without that capital feels disrespectful to me.
 Perhaps it may be because of my childhood High Anglican training where we never walked in front of the cross without turning and acknowledging its presence. It's only late in life that I realize what the significance of that small gesture was. It's about honouring and respecting what was done there.
  For us.
  Now bear with me for a moment as I think this through. I think I'm sitting on a very high horse.
  I am sure someone years ago wrote a letter of complaint about the fact that women stopped wearing white gloves and hats to church or weren't wearing pantyhose. Oh, my, scandalous! What IS this world coming to!
  But then, I am gently reminded, the Lord meets us where we are. Some of us connect to the infant Jesus, or the Son. Others relate to the Man. He is all things to all people. Me, I go to Daddy... Abba... my heavenly Father when in need. If someone relates to Jesus as Big J, who am I to judge or condemn such an intimate, playful nickname.
  Got it!
  It IS about choice. I don't have to read a modern translation of the Bible if it doesn't suit my philosophy or personal faith. I can ink in capitals in a newer publication if that's what I feel I need to do. As for everyone else, if it takes a little h to open a huge window to something wonderful, all I can say is "God's will be done."
  "When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, "Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man." Mt 15:10-11

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Morning Song by Susan L.

  "Let's Go Fly a Kite" from Disney's Mary Poppins came through loud and clear as I did my morning chores: feed cat and fish, open the blinds, put the kettle on. It's an odd choice but I have no say in the matter. It did have me smiling and waltzing to music only I can hear. Pumpkin gave me a peculiar look. A nice way to start the day. It took the edge of wanting to drown the silly cat because he had been relentlessly pestering me to get out of bed waaay too early. I think he only wants the warm spot I vacate because he has disappeared after breakfast. Maybe I should poke his nose, see if he likes it when he's trying to sleep! Grrrr...gotta love him.
  Fluff and feathers. It feels nice to write about the mundane, to give myself a break from the angst and struggle of the past week.
  I used to babysit a neighbour's boys. The youngest was only in school part time so I'd try to find things we could do together once the farm chores were done. We had a kite hanging in the garage so one especially windy spring day I suggested we fly it. The kite was a large, rainbow diamond that looked lovely against the blue sky as it fought and tugged against its stringy tether. The little fellow got tired so he asked me to hold it for a while. As he passed the string to me, I dropped the spool. Off it bounced following the kite as it sailed away across the road free as free could be.  
  The two of us went tearing after it to try and catch it. Through a neighbour's yard, choked grass fields, marshy areas...a good kilometer before the spool got tangled up in a scrawny tree and we were able to reel in the kite. The boy was afraid I would be angry but I was laughing too hard at the situation, wet running shoes and all. I was desperately grasping for air and couldn't say a word. It had been quite a chase!
  I looked at him and said between gasps, "You and I, well, we learned a very important lesson today. You'll have to share what we learned with your mom when she picks you up."
 His four year old, big blue eyes watched me intently. This was important!
 "Never... let... go... of... the... string!"
  He caught my sense of the ridiculous and began to giggle. It was my fault the kite got away after all. We both chuckled at ourselves most of the way home, the kite wrestling in my grasp.
  His mom was barely in the door when he shared this stone tablet lesson. She looked at me strangely. She had no idea what he was talking about.
  I wonder if he remembers this bit of sage wisdom.
  "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." Jn 3:8

Monday, 24 February 2014

Time by Susan L.

  One of the collages produced in this art marathon contained numerous images of clocks and watches. Some were whole, others cut into pieces. There were even images of clock innards, the hidden works. They grace a background of black and electric blue: the colours of anxiety.
  Initially, I thought the clocks represented traumatic event in my life which is what drew me to them. I have prayed and meditated about the piece and realized it is more. The clocks represent the nature of PTSD, how time can warp and compress, becoming meaningless because a trigger can drop me into a five senses memory. The present vanishes into the power of recollection. The clocks are a symbol of grief, too. There were a lot of them. There has been a lot of tough stuff.
  Once I realized this, I also realized that to God, time has no meaning. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. We have worked forward through history so I may come to know Him better. The time only matters to us because we are mortal. It's only with God that memory can take us forward.
  A bit of guilt and shame reared its ugly head in these timepieces. The "I Shoulds" came through loud and clear. But then, I did a reassessment about what has happened in the decade since my marriage fell apart. There are many memories missing from that time; held in a watch case. It is something I struggle with, the vanished days, I only know God was with me throughout those dark and terrible times.
  Time can compress and fold in on itself. I loved it when my little boy, dressed those one piece, blue, fuzzy, vinyl footed pjs would swish down the hall going a mile a minute. It feels like a lifetime ago. Huh...It was yet, I can still smell baby shampoo.
 Thank You Lord for the good things.
  "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." Rev 1:8


Sunday, 23 February 2014

Heart and Home by Susan L.

  My fridge has started making some rather unnerving noises. There's a slight grating sound when the motor kicks in. The growl goes away when I firmly tap the freezer door though. (Nothing like a good smack to stop it complaining). This may mean it could give up at some time in the near future but meanwhile, I'll simply keep an eye on it. Good thing it is rather empty. When the time comes, I'll have to make the choice between having it repaired or replaced. It could cost as much to fix as it could to buy a new one. Too bad. I don't think it's that old.
  I am glad I am not a fridge.
  This one came with the house when I moved in. That's how I got my stove, too. They were fairly new but both bore evidence of someone with a terrible temper. The house did as well. Fist prints in the doors, holes in the walls, dents and scratches, the profanity covered wall in the basement. (The first thing I painted over.) The pots 'n pans drawer under the stove is bent and tends to slip off its wheels. A quick lift and it closes nicely. I know all about slipping off my wheels!
  Most of the evidence is gone, plastered and painted over. Only I know what lay beneath. I have given thanks time and again that I have the skills to redeem this little bungalow with it's stories of violence and neglected yard. In a way, the two of us have healed together. I know that having the house or garden to work on has given me the incentive to keep going on many a dark day.
  The doors haven't been replaced yet and there's still some trim work to do in the living room and kitchen. The bathroom needs redoing. Whatever. It's a work in progress. Just like me.
  Thank You, Lord, I can see the humour in the fact that right now, You are gently lifting my derailed drawers off the floor. It feels good to laugh!
  "For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross." Col 1:19


Saturday, 22 February 2014

Searching...Searching by Susan L.

  It's been a week since I started this mini journey. There was no art the last couple of nights because working had left me very tired. As much as I love my job, being "on" takes a tremendous toll especially when my own stuff leaves me feeling anxious and raw.
  So where am I? I found a picture of a movie sign, the one that is snapped with the act, scene, and take number on it just before the director says, "Action!" Of all the images I've cut out this one came with an especially loud voice. It's PTSD, the playing and replaying of scenarios. It represents my own acting, pretending, fooling myself and others for so many years that things were OK. I still do it to a certain degree although it fizzles pretty quickly because of the huge amount of energy it takes to sustain the illusion. The reserves are gone. That is a good thing.
  And I am realizing that this is part of being human anyways. All of us have different places in our lives where we behave accordingly, don't we? Our work persona is so different from how we are on a pajama Saturday morning. It's just that we sometimes get lost in the roles we play: spouse, parent, child, employee, boss.
   I don't want PTSD to handicap me or my actions or choices. The reality is that what I want and what is the truth of the matter are two different things. Help me see this as a gift that will teach me kindness, grace, prudence and patience.
  It's about battling fear. On the heels of that comes shame, regret, is what it is, the truth of how I am feeling. I know logically there is nothing to be ashamed about. It's just, well, a whole lot of baggage whispering in my ear.
  My heart is heavy this morning, my Lord. Help me be like L. Col Chris Linford says, a "Warrior Rising".
  "Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation. Give heed to the voice of my cry, my King and my God, for to You I pray." Ps 5:1-2


Friday, 21 February 2014

What's Up by Susan L.

  First of all, thanks to those who called to check up on me after I missed two blogs. The first was by choice. The second because I had left the cord for my cell phone at work so therefore no internet at home. The phone doubles as a router. Even though I am in the middle of a challenging time and the concern shown lets me know I am very much loved, sometimes there are "normal" reasons for things happening.
  On Wednesday a co-worker and myself went to the local military base to hear L. Col. Chris Linford, author of "Warrior Rising", share his story of PTSD. His wife was there too, sharing her side of the story. It was open, honest, and touching. Their sharing touched my soul on many levels. This was the twenty seventh such talk.  In a bold move, they are travelling the bases throughout Canada to offer truth and encouragement to other soldiers and their spouses who may be struggling about coming forward. His website is Eventually, a video of this talk will be posted there.
  I've spent the last six days in the art as I had planned. During that time I have made some decisions. There needs to be a break from the Bible study group. My own PTSD is running a bit high right now. The hyper-vigilance, high anxiety part can cause noisy situations to be almost unbearable. I need as much quiet as possible in order to continue working: my highest priority.
  Part of the art was about coming to terms with the fact that this will be a life long situation. I confess there was a tear or two shed over that. Just like everyone else on this big blue ball, there will be good days and not so good days. However, an episode could be triggered by something as simple as someone's cough. The picture-prayers helped me realize and accept this loss of control.
  For me, what's important is how I handle being triggered. That's where the recovery part comes in. That's where grace and patience come in. If I can't extend them to myself, how can I ever offer it to others?
  Making the decision about the Bible study is not a failure. I'm not running away. The image of a little child shyly hiding behind their parent's legs comes to mind. Only I am tucked safely behind the Lord's!
  For now, that's where I need to be.
  "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." Heb 6:11-12

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

GPS by Susan L.

  God Positioning System.
  The people, the experiences, the challenges and victories in my life have all happened for a reason. More often than not that reason eludes me and I am left stumbling and puzzled by events. This morning I recalled a prayer from a short while ago asking for a way to draw nearer to the Lord. Well, didn't He go and place me in a situation where a ferocious trigger would derail me. He knew that would result in me turning to Him. Prayers answered. It has left me left humbled and grateful.
  Like the beautiful tissue paper snowflakes falling gently outside my kitchen window, the lessons I've learned over the weekend sit softly in my heart. It's hard to put words to them but like the ground, the simple truths lay piled in a fresh, new coating: the white of innocence.
  God placed me in the position where I could learn more about His love, His grace, His kindness and patience. It's a place where I can repent without guilt or shame for falling prey to old understandings. It's a place where I can stop beating myself up for reactions I have no control over because I don't! He's okay with that. It's nothing to do with not having forgiven those who have trespassed against me because I have chosen to do so, over and over and over again. And again and again for good measure. Still feeling the pain of these hurts is not a forgiveness barometer. Although one day I hope to be healed of that completely.
  That's it. GPS. Grace positioning. In spite of it all or because of it all I am who I am. God is good.
  "Love...bears all things, believes all things, endures all things." 1 Cor 13:7

Monday, 17 February 2014

Fruitful Labours by Susan L.

  How do you share the intangible? "Soul speak" has no words just impressions that speak volumes, wordless understandings that become part of the core of my identity and grow my understanding of God's truth. I have prayed in pictures and been answered in the same language. Even the backs of selected images spoke to me as I applied glue to their surface. What was there often made me smile.
  My friend, H, had a chat with me about my "control freak" question. As we spoke I realized that in producing this art, the collages, I have to set myself aside and allow the Spirit to guide me. There is no plan, no idea, no form that pre-exists. Design becomes an action, a flow, a living process where cutting or tearing paper are part of the prayer. Control is utterly and completely surrendered.
  Because of the gift of surrender and trust in the Lord (that's what it takes I have just realized: trust in He who has brought me through so much.) within the darkness, beauty is revealed. From fear, comes encouragement. From anger comes determination. From condemnation comes acceptance. From despair comes hope. From darkness comes light. From lies comes truth and honesty and openness and wisdom. One cannot exist without the other.
  In a word: redemption.
  As for the surrendering bit, the Lord has given me lots of practice. Just so you know, it took quite a time for me to be comfortable with it. And yes, I fought tooth and nail before finally understanding what He was asking of me: to trust Him.
  "But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God." 1 Cor 2:10

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Results by Susan L.

  As I worked on the art yesterday, a gradual understanding began to grow in my mind. I have done copious amounts of work around the traumatic incidents in my life. I had to in order to move forward. Many of them are now a source of great comfort once I found the Lord in each of the memories.
  Here's the answer: I am angry at the inner time bomb, the emotional reflex that leaps up when I am triggered. It can take over in a matter of seconds. I feel betrayed by my own body and mind because there is nothing I can do to stop it. It just happens. It's like the inner me and the outer me are marching to the tune of a different drum yet are still part of the same band.
  Sure, I could live like a recluse to avoid triggering situations but what kind of life is that? I could live numbed, a skill long mastered. But, having shut down feelings is a terrible way to exist: an emotional desert. Nothing could pay me to return to living that way like I did for so many years. The worst part is it shuts out the Holy Spirit and the voice of God who I hear with my heart every single day; whose presence I seek every morning so I know I am not alone any more.
  The same thing happens, I lose sight of God, when I am triggered only instead of being shut down, I am bombarded with emotions: can't think, can't pray. I'm whipped into memories of events long past. Many of which a healing path of forgiveness and grace has long since been walked. Yes, God created us wired for instinctive fight/flight responses. I wish He would turn it down a notch.
  Someone once called me a control freak. Am I? Is that what's this is about? Loss of control? 
  I want is to be at peace with the challenges faced in living with PTSD.
  God forgives me for shutting down, for falling apart. Now the question is: can I forgive myself? Can I stop being angry about life circumstances that contributed to me developing and having to live with this illness?
  I really want to. The Lord knows I don't hate those whose roll in my life were a huge part of being this way: a testimony to how great the healing hand of God is. Just don't let me be bitter about the cross I have to bear.
  Yes, Lord, back to the art. Be with me, amen.
  "Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still... Selah... Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord." Ps. 4:5

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Sabbatical by Susan L.

  I have decided to do a little weekend retreat: an art jam of my very own. There's still an emotional stew bubbling away in my heart. Laying it before the Lord in pictures helps make sense of it all. It also helps me hear His take on things.
  I am going to go back to my trusted collages unless He leads me elsewhere. Flipping through magazines and pulling out words or images helps me bypass the logical, controlling, human factor. The trick is to not think about what I am cutting or tearing out. It's visual journaling. Heart to paper. No brains allowed only feelings.
  Until the image is finished.
  I'll sit back, look at what has evolved, and have a quiet tete a tete with my Maker.
  It's been a long time since I have done this, except for Thursday. I am craving the process like a dose of rich, dark, chocolate. It can be hard sometimes but nevertheless sweet as I anticipate those "Ah-Ha!" moments that only prayer can bring.
  So, glue sticks ready, paper, magazines, scissors, and a cat that may need some convincing to stay off the the top of my mountain.
  "My heart is severely pained within me...fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me. So I said, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah."" Ps 55:4-7

Friday, 14 February 2014

Back to Basics by Susan L.

  I've missed doing art therapy so yesterday I had my own little session at the centre. It helped tremendously in diffusing the emotional remnants from Wednesday's intense trigger. It helped that a friend was there to debrief with after I'd finished the collage. She both validated and gently pointed out that things aren't as dark as they felt or as they appeared in the image I'd produced. (Which I knew in the back of my mind). In saying that, she also recognized the truth of how I was feeling. More importantly, she honoured the place I was in and respected my right to be where I was.
  That was the biggest part of the trigger on Wednesday, my feelings were dismissed and subtly condemned as "wrong". A life long story being played out once again. It's also a lie of a lesson I have struggled very hard to break free from.
  It felt good to have someone affirm my take on the situation. It felt good to have that take acknowledged as real, not just some unimportant whimsy. There had been a lot of second guessing going on, a mental battle, as I had carefully torn the pieces from a variety of magazines. The "I should" was awfully loud.
 I am sure part of this piece was simply getting the shock of my emotional reaction down on paper. My heart ached and broke once again to that point where it felt like I was having a heart attack. That familiar pain alone transported my mind to a few different horrible memories.
  Part of the grief too was the source of the trigger. It had happened in a place I had hoped to feel safe in.
  Honestly? I had gone into Wednesday's meeting already anxious, raw and vulnerable. It had taken one of my just-in-case-of-emergency pills for me to stay. I don't want to run from challenging situations. That only compounds social anxiety and would lead to an unhealthy, fear based isolation.
  Well, I took it all to the Lord in a form of pictorial prayer and am already on the upside of the great sadness that threatened to overwhelm me. It's all good.
  "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom 8:38-39

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Letting Go by Susan L.

 Yesterday my psychiatrist chatted about relationships or rather my willingness to enter into a romantic involvement. It appears that for him it is some kind of barometer for wellness because he's brought it up before. I'm not so mad at him this time like I have been in the past when this extremely sensitive subject arises.
  I know the Lord has promised me someone who I will feel safe with. I know it will take a man of God to help close the wounds in my heart from previous male experiences. I know it will take a woman to help heal his own wounds regarding women. We will help each other that way. Where and when I will meet him is up to the Lord. I definitely don't want to shop on line for such a man or at least, I don't feel I am ready to begin that journey.
  There's still a lot of stuff close to the surface that needs to be prayed through. I was badly triggered last night by a man I believe is living with a mountain of supressed anger even if he is unaware of it. It comes out in his tone of voice. His mannerisms and aggressive way of talking, so much like my ex's, generated the instinctive survival reaction learned in my marriage. I froze like a rabbit in a car's headlights even though there was no threat to me personally. I wanted to run but there was no where to run to. Feeling tongue tied, afraid and helpless, tears followed soon after. Lots of them. Emotions overwhelmed my mind.
  I thought I was past this...I want to be past this...Will I ever?
  And I hear that still small Voice saying, "It's okay to stand up for yourself and what you believe in. You are worth it."
  Help me, Lord, learn to stand in love not fear. Help me love this man as You do in spite of his, our, brokenness. Help us grow in Your love.
  "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagles." Ps 103:2-5


Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Writer's Nest Topic: Something Squishy by Susan L.

  John 11:35
  It's a hard old world: hard knocks, hard times, hard rows to hoe.
  Yup. It's hard all right.
  Trials, tribulations, tears, fears, and woe don't you know.
  Losses, tyrannical bosses, crime all the time...
  Jesus wept.
  Disasters, calamities, storm torn roofs, winter chill, can't pay the bill,
  High prices creep higher while everything else shrinks except life expectancy.
  Death, divorce, murder, suspicion, anger, hate...despair... it's all there, every single day, every hour, every minute.
  Twenty-four hours news casts offer a macabre display bookended by commercials to buy this, need that, you're nothing without...
  Gloating, boasting, scheming, thieving, coliseum thumbs down are what pass for entertainment. Is this really reality TV? The worst of the worst of human traits displayed for all to see and pick a victor from a line up of what's supposed to be the world's best.
  Hard as nails prevails.
  Jesus wept.
  Sickness, aches, pains, drains on energy, do more demands on days that never seem long enough.
  Yup. It's hard all right.
  Lotteries prevail yet pale in the hidden truths of losses, of bankruptcies, of gambling addictions. "Winner! Gangon!" her melodious voice cries out. Bells and whistles draw the dollars in.
  Cradle fold to age old we're taught money can buy happiness.
  Jesus wept.
  Iron will is a term of respect. No quarter given or even a nickel to the homeless, the poorest of poor. Only contempt is generously spent on the needs of the needy.
  Assumptions, presumptions, other's shoes cast aside in distain. There's a willful wisdom that knows better all the time. There's a pride that derides anything less than perceived perfection.
  Too fat, too thin, too tall, too small, too light, too dark, can't win. Too old, too young, too much of too but what can you do? Give up? Surrender? To render a life unlived before it's even began by a hand that held such promise but couldn't see beyond this...
  Jesus wept.
  It's a hard, old list but hear this: there's something softer, lighter, kinder, brighter than anything that was or ever will be.
  Jesus wept His tears to wash away the fears, the pain, the strain, the angst, the stain of being human in a hard, hard world.
  His heart is something squishy and soft and forgiving giving, not hard or iron clad or mad. It's just sad because His love for us has made it so.
  And the squishy heart that He gave me lets me weep alongside Him for those whose lives I've lived in the time when hard was all I knew. I know in my once hardened heart what it means to be away from my heavenly Father, Son and Spirit. I will say life is much better with Them.
  In letting go of my own iron will, in learning to be filled and thrilled with joy because of this unimaginable love, I've learned life doesn't have to be so hard,
  And in the face of it all, big and small,
  Jesus laughs with me.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Compliant Victimization by Susan L.

  There's a show on TV called Criminal Minds. I don't watch it very often because I find it to be rather gruesome at times. However, more than once, a concept is introduced that leaps out at me. I Googled "compliant victimization" that was mentioned on the show a couple of days ago and learned more about this idea. It has given me some answers regarding my own behaviour in the past.
  Generally speaking, this idea is about children who have been chronically sexually abused yet remained silent. Abusers are adept at placing responsibility for their actions on the victim. I'm not talking about the violent predator that snatches children from a schoolyard. They are very rare. This is the much more insidious abuser who has generally been placed in some situation of trust: a family member, coach, or teacher. There's an automatic acceptance of their authority from a child's perspective. They are groomed and seduced by someone who has an ulterior motive. A child is bent to their will and their desire and only wants to please.
  I remember a girl in grade eight who came out from behind the stage curtains in the gymnasium and shared that the gym teacher had "felt her up". She was pale and shaky. None of us knew what to do or say. I wonder what ever became of her. I know the teacher was never held accountable. Then I wonder how many more young girls fell prey to him.
  People often wonder why children don't stop this behaviour. Really? By the time any physical abuse takes place, the child is already trapped in a web of secrecy, fear and/or a sense of inclusion. The web can be built in minutes with the right words. Children trust. It's what they do automatically.
  As for being compliant or willing, abuse victims are pretty messed up. The word no has been taken out of the equation by the abuser. If  actions are disguised as a game, even children who don't want to "play" will continue to take part. It may be fear, it may be shame, it may be because a precedent had been set and they don't feel they can stop "playing" because it might hurt their "friend's" feelings. Such are the thoughts of a child.
  Sadly, the onus is placed on these young people. Questions are asked of children that only compound the shame and stigma of being a victim of abuse. To ask a child why they didn't say no is to place adult logic on a situation that is mentally and emotionally illogical.
  The idea of compliant victimization has helped me understand a little but more about why I stayed in my marriage so long. The foundation was laid for further violations of dignity, rights and autonomy early in the relationship. There were tacit, unspoken understandings of my "place" in the relationship which were etched in stone. I simply did not know how to change my situation. Fear, shame, guilt, and a desire to get it right kept me trapped. I was the responsible one. There was even an attempt to hold me responsible for his affair. Not!
  Thank You Lord, once again, for setting me free. May Your mercy and tender grace heal those who have lived with abuse in any form. May they find peace. In Jesus' name I pray.
  "He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him." Dan 2:22


Monday, 10 February 2014

Friendships by Susan L.

  Did I mention I missed my friends while I was away? That's a good thing.
  Friends are something I've only acquired late in life. Oh, I had friends when I was younger but moving away or having them move away ended those relationships. I had a hard time trusting people, too, having been the butt end of many practical jokes. Bullies did their share in making it hard for me to be open with people. Being in an isolating and controlling marriage for so long taught me it was easier to stay home rather than face the wrath of my spouse on the rare occasions when I did go out to socialize.
  I still connect with a high school friend who made sure we stayed in touch through the years. She was a big help when my youngest son was little and would often pop over to keep me company. That gradually fizzled because of the fallout I had to face when she left. It was easier to say no to her visits.
  I heard a term yesterday, "compliant victimization". It is applied to child sexual abuse victims but I think it is much broader than that especially when there is chronic abuse in any form. Just something to think about.
  Anyways, a couple of years ago another childhood friend connected with me via Facebook. She had moved away in grade nine and had been a wonderful friend as I settled into life in Ontario after moving up from Nova Scotia three years earlier. That was a difficult transition for me. I went from playing with Barbie dolls to a situation where kids were already dating. I had searched for her myself off and on through the years and was delighted she found me. It's as though the years melt away whenever we talk. Some day I'd like to visit her in Texas.
  The Lord has blessed me with many new friends since I left my husband. Some have continued to be part of my life. Others have come and gone, their reason and season fulfilled.
  Being a friend to others has helped me master a whole new skill set. God's gifts of discernment, patience, grace, loyalty, acceptance, humour, and the biggies: love and trust are now a constant part of my life because of the people, the friends, He has brought my way. None of us were meant to go it alone.
  "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from my Father I have made known to you." Jn 15:15

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Getting Settled by Susan L.

  The suitcase is unpacked. The laundry done. The few special shells I brought home have been brushed with mineral oil to help preserve them and bring out the colours. Later today I'll wipe off the excess and put them in my display table. It's the glass topped box I built last year with an old, cast iron, Singer sewing machine treadle as its base. It's nice to see them all the time instead of having these simple souvenirs of many travels stashed in a box somewhere.
 On Monday past, mom had company at the condo for a couple of days. It was fun to introduce them to shelling on the island. I was asked how I found the "good" ones. For a few moments I blathered on about low tide, getting up in the morning, how every day it was a different beach with different opportunities, and so on. But when I said, "More often than not, it's simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time." I felt the air hum.
  Shortly after this conversation I headed down to the beach for my morning, delightfully bare foot, walk/shell hunt. The beach was crowded already with other walkers and shellers. The air was warm, the sun bright, the water gently lapped at the shore. There was an excitement in my heart that something special was going to be found this morning, more so than other mornings. Sure enough, an hour into my walk, along a path many others had walked before, just at the edge of surf and sand was a beautiful, caramel coloured, horse conch shell about four inches long. The biggest one I'd ever found before was maybe half an inch long. Even those were rare.
  My mom's been going to Sanibel for twenty-eight years and has never found one like it. My words had  proven prophetic. I guess that's why I felt the air hum. With a silly grin and an offering of gratitude for this simple treasure, I knew it was God's doing that I was in the right place at the right time.
  Thank You Lord for simplicity. For simple times and simple treasures. Thank You Lord that I am no longer swept up in the rat race of "gotta haves"; that my life is one where great enjoyment is found celebrating the wondrous works of Your hands.
  "So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good." Gen 1:21

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Home Safe by Susan L.

  I arrived safely home yesterday. The mountains of snow that had fallen in the last two weeks utterly blew me away. Thankfully there was a lull in the weather so my plane was on time. My friend had good driving conditions to get to the airport. It was only rush hour traffic that slowed her down a bit.
  It was good to be home. I was ready. I missed my morning routine of coffee and blog. I missed my friends and co-workers too. They were often in my thoughts as I roamed the beach or lay by the pool.
  I had better flights this time with no where near the claustrophobia that had challenged me last year. A dose of my just-in-case-of-emergency pill that takes the edge off  anxiety and a seat that was nearer to the front of the plane did the most good. I even enjoyed it!
  Looking out the window always amazes me. At night, far below the plane, strings of tiny lights connect clusters of other lights forming earthly constellations. It reminds me of how we Christians are connected by the Holy Spirit and how our light shines brightly in the darkness. There's something, too, about being above the clouds that is wonderful and heavenly at the same time.
  "Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains." Ps 36:5-6


Saturday, 1 February 2014

Sanibel Shores by Susan L.

  The beach stretches as far as the eye can see. It is full of people dressed in vibrant Florida gear, the kind of clothing that befits a holiday. They are bent over, as am I, or hunkered down, or carry long handled, screened scoops. All of us searching for that perfect shell. There are literally piles washed in by salty tides. The waves rattle with a joyful noise as they repeat an ages long rythymn against the coast. It's a sound I think might be unique to these east/west islands.
  Colours never named tease the eyes in seeming chaos. Sunset colours. Dawn colours. Rainy afternoons. Watery suns of January blizzards. Bright midday explosions of colour catch the eye. It's as though the sky lay at your feet. Checkerboard patterns, dots, swirls, rays, adorn shapes of seemingly infinite numbers. All of this changes twice a day, every day at the whim of tide and wind.
  It's hard to not look down and I have to remind myself to look up once in a while. A sandpiper scurries away once he knows I've seen him. Terns, gulls, pelicans and other mysterious birds rest on a sand bar just off shore. They squawk and preen after an early breakfast. It sounds like a meeting of the House of Commons. I've seen dolphins just off shore, too.
  This morning there was a lot of seaweed. It adds its own rainbow: avocado and ivory strands, creams and coffees, chocolates and butterscotch. Sponges in vibrant reds or dusty grays that I've only ever seen on nature shows pop up every now and then. I jumped as one moved only to reveal a crab dressed in an incredible mimicry of a green and lumpy sponge. Tomorrow it might be all gone, pulled back into the Gulf of Mexico by the tides retreat.
  The scene is ageless and eternal yet runs to a twelve hour clock and as I try to capture it in pen and ink, the image is long gone except in memory. Here, the "now" rules.
  "When I concider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him?" Ps 8:3-4