Monday, 31 March 2014

A Little Late by Susan L.

  I had a chance to be outside today. The sun is warm, the snow is melting, I saw a local robin...spring is springing. The red-winged blackbirds, chickadees and the grackles are singing up a storm out there. The turkey vultures have arrived as well although I haven't seen the pair that nests across the road yet. All that's left is the swallows. When they come, winter is definitely over. And about time!
  There are lots of branches in the yard that the melting snow is revealing. The ice storm did a lot of damage. Can't wait to have the first bonfire in the back yard but it's still buried under two feet of snow. Part of having the wonderful shade in the heat of the summer means the snow lays around a little longer. There's a couple of small cedars that have gone missing. I hope they didn't break off but are just bent over. Time will tell.
  I remember how much fun it was as a kid this time of year. Being outside and playing in the puddles and rivers that ran down the street. I remember how good it felt to take off hats and mitts and heavy winter coats. How wonderful it was changing into rubber boots that weighed a fraction of heavy winter ones that by spring developed a rather offensive odour.
  Our farm was in a valley so the field behind the house was a river for a few days. My son used to love going out and splashing around. Guaranteed the inside of his boots would be soaking, a sure sign he'd enjoyed himself. At one point we had a lake in the front yard. He would sit on the picnic table with a stick in hand and fish. Didn't land anything though except a whole lot of fun.
  It does the heart good: sunshine, warmth and being outdoors. I've missed it.
  "His name shall endure forever; His name shall continue as long as the sun. And men shall be blessed in Him; All nations shall call Him blessed." Ps 72:17

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Getting Lost by Susan L.

  For the last couple of weeks, I've been working on my novel. I've been able to ration my time spent and am content with what is done each day. An answered prayer for sure. Even if it's only a couple hundred words, that's a couple hundred words more than the day before. If I miss a day, that's okay too although I don't want to. It's been most enjoyable getting lost in this unfolding imaginary world.
  This is only the first draft so I know there are many areas that need improvement. I know there are parts that could be fleshed out a bit more to make it more real. The dialog is sometimes stilted and juvenile but that's okay. Perfection takes time. That, too is an answered prayer. The story doesn't have to be fully polished right off the bat. The focus is about getting the plot line down, the bare bones of events and developing the characters. I haven't mapped out a plan for the book because goal setting tends to overwhelm me. The neat thing about working this way is I have no idea what is going to happen next. I simply travel alongside my characters and record the events as they unfold.  (I know, I set a goal to write a bit every day but that's just a teeny weeny one that is actually a prayer. It is the Lord who blesses me with the stamina and determination to accomplish what I would like to have happen.)
  Writing this novel is connecting me to the way God works in our own lives although His plans were laid out before the dawn of time. His book of names is way more complicated than my own little tale. His is a cast of billions with connections and events and plots and subplots that boggles the brain. Choices made generations ago that the Lord anticipated affect who and where we are today. There's a story in Acts about an influential Ethiopian who is converted to Christianity. Today, two thousand or so years later, that African country is mostly Christian because of his choice. Like I said, mind boggling.
  "So he (Philip) arose and went. And behold, an man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet." Act 8:27-28

Friday, 28 March 2014

Haunted by Susan L.

  Why is it sometimes the most seemingly mundane things stick in our memories? Or maybe they aren't so mundane, that's why they stick. One particular event has been haunting me the last several days, enough so that it is drowning out my morning song. Hopefully writing about it will erase its strength. This isn't the first time I've had this come to mind. Like I said in my title: haunted.
  When I was in Brownies, somewhere between six and eight, we had the fire department give a talk on fire safety. As we all sat cross legged on the floor, the fireman showed a movie about what to do and what not to do in a fire. He assured us the movie wasn't real but I remember three particular parts that have stayed with me through the years.
 One was a little boy sleeping on the top of a set of bunk beds. He sat up and collapsed because of the smoke that was filling the room. I remember the fireman said that usually the person on the top bunk doesn't even wake up at all. Most of the time they simply die. Needless to say, when we had the opportunity for my boys to have bunk beds, I wouldn't allow it. Zero floor space was better than the alternative.
  The next scene was in the master bedroom. The mother stood up. As she reached for her pink satin housecoat she collapsed to the floor. Smoke had filled the room.
  The last was a little boy in little boy flannel pajamas cuddling a teddy bear. He was trying to get to the front door. He was waving his hand, trying to see through the smoke that filled the hall but like his brother and mother, he collapsed. His teddy bear rolled away from him. He was only steps from the exit. The fireman commented that this was where they often found people.
  The adult me knows that the boys and their mother would have started coughing and choking long before becoming unconscious. The adult me knows it was all special effects. The adult me knows they were actors performing a role. The kid in me believed every moment. This was a day and age when violence and drama were the sole domain of Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner and maybe Walt Disney. Definitely not real.
  I don't think there were home smoke detectors on the market at that time so this was a terrifying thought to fill a child's head with. This was all done with the best of intentions of course and I will always remember to keep low should a fire break out. My smoke detector always has good batteries.
   I just wonder if anyone else was so deeply impacted or if anyone else remembers.
  Now, isn't this an interesting thought: sensitivity is not a weakness.
   On a more pleasant note, there's a large Pileated woodpecker scouring the dead tree in my yard for breakfast. There are chunks of wood and bark flying all over the place. A rare sight. Thank You Lord for this gift. It is greatly appreciated this morning.
  "And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!" 2 Ti 4:18

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Getting Sorted by Susan L.

  I've been plagued by anxiety over the last couple of weeks. That knot in the stomach, shoulder hunching, jaw gripping emotion has taken over every waking moment. It's exhausting. Restless, nightmare filled nights sure haven't helped the situation. Last night I went to bed early and managed to sleep in despite Pumpkin's efforts to get me up early. It's not so bad this morning, thank the Lord. A good rest makes the day brighter.
  I need to ask myself, "What am I asking myself to do?" It helps assess what is going on behind the scenes. The question helps me sort out the necessary from the frivolous.
  You know what's missing? Someone to bounce life stuff around with. Does that make sense? Yes, I have the Lord, no question in my mind that He is in all of this, that He is with me. Sometimes I need someone to simply listen.
  I just received a spiritual smack upside the head. I am doing my friends a grave injustice by not reaching out, by isolating myself which, I confess, I have been doing. Not a healthy move. Simons are in our lives for a reason. Yet, part of the anxiety is caused by needing to reach out. Isn't that a kicker! There's still a lot of fear and, dare I say shame, around asking for help. Old habits and old responses die hard don't they?
  I am not looking to be fixed. I am not looking for answers or maybe I am. I am not looking for someone to tell me what to do or organise my life. That only makes things worse. It just encourages the perpetuation of the life long lie of a lesson that I am unable to make decisions or choices that are "right". Right for who?
  Thank You, Lord, for there lies the answer I wasn't looking for. Most of this anxiety episode is being driven by ancient history and situations that have stirred up the old junk. I am not the broken woman I once was although she will be a part of me forever. Mental illness doesn't mean mental deficiency. I don't need to justify my choices or feelings or even excuse them for existing. I shouldn't have to. I shouldn't have to validate my every move. I have my reasons for doing what I do. Those reasons are deeply personal and aren't necessarily mean to be shared. They are between my God and me. That should be enough.
  "Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross." Mat 27:32

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Drug Testing Continued by Susan L.

  It was a very restless night for me. Nightmares of future possibilities haunted me through the wee hours of the morning. It was a grim future because I got wondering where the line would stop as far as drug testing welfare recipients would go. Will it end at illegal substances? What about testing for nicotine or alcohol? What about prescription drugs? They can be abused just as easily as street drugs. I know this is in the US but Canada is often quick to follow their lead.
  If the government is concerned where the welfare dollars are going, what about a person who is struggling with obesity? They aren't spending their welfare dollars the "right" way. Obesity can be a result of a food addiction. However, poverty and obesity go hand in hand. Just think about what is donated to the food banks. Pasta, baked beans, peanut butter, and tinned anything are the usual fare.
  I don't want to appear ungrateful, far from it. It provides a unfortunately much needed resource. It is just a comment on the reality of the situation. Here's some food for thought, Kraft Dinner is a slap in the face when you can't afford to buy the milk and margarine to make it with. So is peanut butter when you can't buy bread because your entire welfare cheque barely paid the rent and the hydro bill is looming on the horizon.
  I used to rant about people on welfare, judging them harshly as lazy, leeches, good-for-nothing. God has forgiven me for that because as I said yesterday, I became one of those people. Applying for welfare was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Swallowed pride tends to choke on the way down. That office was the last place I had ever imagined myself to be in.
   I understand that because of the state of the US economy, their unemployment rate is higher than ever. My heart goes out to the business executive who lost everything and has ended up going hat in hand to the government just to feed her children. The savings in the bank are gone. They simply ended up walking away from the dreams and hopes of youth. This is probably a scenario that is repeated time and again. She's someone just like you and I.
 Government dollars are stretched to their limit but I wonder at the expenses incurred by mandatory rehab because it doesn't work. Oh, maybe for a while but we humans tend to rebel when something is forced down our throats. Also, abstinence is easy while we are in a place where the needs to fulfill an addiction are nowhere near. Then there is the cost. I think the US figure was around $36,000 for one person's treatment. Welfare in Canada runs around $7200 per year for a single person. Doesn't make sense to me especially since according to Mississippi's testing, the number of people living with addictions on welfare is less than the general public. It is a rare case.
  True freedom from any addiction begins when someone wants to change their life.
  And I wonder too, wouldn't that money be better spent catching those who deal in illegal drugs, those who introduce our youth and yes, children, to the "pleasures" of intoxicating substances? If there is no source...but that's a pie in the sky dream.  
  My apologies to the police, they are doing the best they can with the inadequate resources they have to fight this war. Now here's the question, why are they so underfunded? Honestly, I believe the drug trade is a huge contributor to the global economy that no government can afford to stop completely. Just something to think about, that's all.
  Like I said, nightmares last night. And again, I am thankful because we live in a country with the social safety net we have. We are truly rich even without butter and milk.
  "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" Mk 8:35-36

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Welfare and Drug Testing by Susan L.

  I had a chance to watch a bit of American TV over the weekend. There was a news item about Michigan wanting to implement a drug testing regime for people receiving welfare from the state. Mississippi already has such a law in place. Their reason for this law is they believe if you need to get drug tested to get a job, you should be tested to receive welfare. It turns out that illegal drug use among welfare recipients is less than that of the general public. Such laws have been overturned in other states by the U.S. supreme court.
  This strikes me as a slippery slope. Already there is a great divide between the haves and the have nots. The Mississippi law states: if a person newly applying for welfare tests positive they must go through a ninety day rehab program. They will be tested a month after. A positive result means welfare is suspended for thirty days. Another positive could result in a year long suspension.
  Will the next step be sweeping up the homeless and testing them? What will happen then? Are they going to be treated like human garbage and eliminated? Who will be next? The disabled? It has happened more than once when one aspect of humanity has been ruthlessly slaughtered because of something as simple as faith. Do we want to adopt ideologies that smack of discrimination like some countries that still regard birthright and skin colour as being acceptable, or not?
  I understand the government wants welfare funds spent on food and shelter, not drugs. Although in Canada, it honestly doesn't fully cover either food or shelter. That's why we need food banks. However, why is drug testing mandatory for only one aspect of those on the government payroll? Shouldn't it be standard across the board for all government employees to be drug tested? Yes, they are receiving a paycheck for work performed but if that money is spent pursuing illegal activities, why are they above the consequences like mandatorily attending rehab when those in need aren't? It is still our tax dollars. What about using harm reduction as a viable option?
  It's the "us and them" mentality that has me so concerned. I believe for most people, welfare is a last and desperate resort. I know in Canada, the application process is utterly lacking in dignity, compassion and respect for those applying for assistance. My own brief experience was demeaning and difficult. The end result was four hundred and fifty dollars a month which was paid back to the government when I received disability support. Welfare was a loan and honestly, a fraction of what a single person can live on for a month although I am grateful for having these social safety nets. Otherwise I would have lost everything I have worked so hard to achieve.
  Drug use is a symptom of other, greater issues. Keep in mind that illegal drug use or the abuse of prescription drugs isn't the sole domain of the poor but is rife among the middle class and the wealthy. It can affect highly educated people as well as those who aren't. Addictions do not discriminate. Mental illness and abuse are huge contributing factors for self medicating. It takes courage and determination to break away from an addiction. It takes ongoing positive support. Ninety days might not be enough because addictions can last a lifetime.
  "For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial." Mat 26:11-12

Friday, 21 March 2014

Tools by Susan L.

  I'm heading away for a weekend visit with my son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. It's been too long. My laptop is coming with me because they are going to set me up with Skype. This will mean more face time with the kids, older and younger. My solid, utilitarian machine doesn't have the bells and whistles of a higher end model. Thankfully, they have an old web cam that will work just as well as a built in camera. Or so they say. Not that I doubt them, it's technology I am wary of.
  I'm slowly being dragged into the twenty-first century whether I like it or not. Technology isn't something I think about even though it is so interwoven into my daily life. What once was startling and new and amazing becomes as routine as using a spoon to slurp some soup.
  It's all about tools and using them according to their design.
  I also have an arsenal of imaginary spiritual tools that I carry with me in an invisible utility belt. It looks like the one the old Batman used to wear that held bat rope, bat scissors...corny as anything but nevertheless serves as a good jumping off point for a bit of very serious whimsy.
  Let's see, what have I got? The belt itself is made of colourful, densely woven threads of gratitude. Prayer is in the biggest pouch front and centre. The Sword of the Holy Spirit hangs from a loop. God's Word sits in an open pouch and is ready to be used. The scriptures are remembered when they are needed although the chapter and verse reference often eludes me. Creativity and imagination are in two different pockets at the back. There's a little pocket overflowing with wellness tools like remembering to run my hands under warm water to ease a panic attack. There's a small bag clipped onto a metal hoop. It holds experience.
  I could go on but anything I ever want or will ever need is at hand. It holds a whole lot more than its small size would imply. This is God technology. Nothing beats it.
  "Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace." Eph 6:14-15

Thursday, 20 March 2014

A Question of Gossip by Susan L.

  It grieves me to the very bottom of my soul when I listen to people swept up in sharing someone else's business. It makes me sad when I hear harsh, condemning words tossed about like nothing when it is about another person, another human being, another one of God's wonderful but broken creations. It is sad, too, when compassion is swapped for judgements about how someone else lives.
  We don't know the situation. We don't know the history. We don't know what the struggles are. Yes, their life isn't like ours but isn't our own life far from perfect? Jesus calls it specks and planks.( Mat. 7:3) Who are we to compare or sit in judgement over them?
  There is a difference between gossip and needing to speak to someone about an event or situation that impacts you personally or when there may be children at risk. It is different if the conversation is driven by a need to understand, not a need to know and tell. There's a difference if we honestly want to help another but don't know what to do. There's a difference if another's name is mentioned with the words "I forgive."
  Discussion is discrete. Gossip doesn't care who is listening to what it is saying.
  Gossip revels in another's difficulties. Gossip celebrates mistakes and shortcomings. Gossip hurts and not just the one who is being gossiped about. It hurts the one who is doing the talking. Gossip cannot be trusted. Gossip seeks attention  It thrives on hateful words. Gossip seeks to fill its own needs.
  Thank You, Lord, for this:
  Gossip is an addiction: verbal numbing.
  Like any addiction, could it be a symptom of unhappiness? Or low self esteem? Could it be that one who uses gossip doesn't know how much God loves them? Could it be they are uncomfortable with silence? Why? Is it about being lonely? Could it be that sharing gossip generates a rush of adrenaline and creates a physical high? Could it be they learned this when they were a child and witnessed others doing gossip? Maybe they are afraid of being left out or letting others in. Do they hate who they are? If they are so hard on others, are they harder on themselves?
  How they must be hurting...Oh, Lord... how terribly sad.
  Fill me with grace, my Lord, and the loving strength to speak up when gossip touches my soul. It cannot thrive if there are no ears to listen. Help me guard my own tongue should I get swept up in the seductive song of gossip. In Jesus' name, Amen.
  "But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill. Selah." Ps 3:3-4

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

On Turning Fifty by Susan L.

    The only other birthday that has given me pause or angst was when I turned forty-five. Five years ago I was struggling with depression and the turn my life had taken. Five years ago I was terribly sick still although much healing had taken place. It feels like ages have passed. Next month is one of the biggies. Fifty: five-o. Ouch. Like I said, birthday milestones haven't bothered me before. Perhaps it's because in earlier years being busy with children, the farm, home renovations and the like haven't left any time for reflection.
  There is a group of women I know who will reach the same milestone in and around the same time. We've had several chances to talk. Most of the conversations are spent wandering down memory lane as we discussed the evolution of television, music, technology. The "remember whens" were thick as one recollection brought to mind another. We relished the freedom we had as children to play outside. On the heels of that is grieving the state of the world and our youth who rarely get outside. A conversation that has taken place every generation I am sure.
  We were born in the last years of the baby boom, 1963-64. Too late for Elvis and the Beatles to have been part of our teens. Too late for flower power. In a way our sense of place was defined by being on the outside or too late to be part of great societal events or, perversely, too early. Most of the technological advances would be the realm of our children. Although, I vaguely remember my mom turning on the TV in the middle of the day, an unusual event, so we could watch one of the Apollo rocket launches. In black and white. Even that was nearing the end of its funding.
  Doug and Bob Mackenzie, popular characters on TV who poked fun at our Canadian identity, drove fashion, eh. In high school, work boots and plaid flannel shirts were all the rage for boys and girls. Jeans were worn so tight they may have well been sprayed on. It's a wonder our innards are intact.
  But that's all surface stuff.
  I would like turning fifty to be an opportunity to discover my place in the world unhindered by job titles and duties. As hard as it was, the last difficult decade was spent weeding the garden of my soul. Seeds of understanding have been carefully nurtured as I struggled and continue to struggle with mental health challenges. Hopefully, and prayerfully, the next decade will be one of harvest. Maybe that's what being fifty is all about.
  "But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates." Prov 30:31

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Rewired by Susan L.

  Sometimes an emotional response over powers a logical one. Yesterday's rant wiped out the validity of rewiring our brains. It is an incredibly flexible and amazing organ. Rewiring can be done after a stroke or a major head injury. The brain develops new, learned paths enabling the person to walk and talk again. The Traumatic Incident Therapy I did, as part of my recovery from PTSD, has probably done the same thing.
  I know I've talked about TIR before but this is what it is: submersing myself in a particular event. By reliving what happened, the old paths open up. The hurt, fear, heartbreak and the rest of the intense emotions rise to the top. By talking about what was happening within the path of the memory diffused their intensity. It's like holding them up to the light. I am thankful I had a Christian therapist who guided me through this process. I mentioned yesterday about finding God in those memories. I also found truth and the ability to forgive. Being forgiven was a huge part of these journeys as well.
  God was always there even though when most of these events took place I didn't know Him like I do now. As soon as I found His presence, the intense negative emotional charge was diffused. Now these events are a source of comfort which always amazes me. Most of my brain's automatic emotional response to triggers surrounding the event was rewired if you want to look at it from a physiological point of view. I just never thought of it that way before.
  I also understand that this type of therapy isn't for everyone. I made sure I had a network of support around me each time we went through this process. It was hard but also, for me, incredibly rewarding.
  Maybe the Happy Thought Therapy isn't something I'd embrace because most of my life was lived by putting on a happy mask. I was good at it. I even fooled myself. But illusions are illusions. Cracks appeared that I simply ignored.
  I am afraid that the Happy Thought Therapy, in labelling itself as the way to wellness, might ignore the impact of traumatic events or the value in other forms of treatment. Statistics prove nearly everyone with a mental health challenge has experienced trauma. Sadly, it's part of the package. I would hate for this recovery tool to end up being a hammer that nails a lid onto something someone needs to talk about. ("Smile, Darn Ya Smile!")
  I am afraid too, that it might knock down someone who is already living with the understanding that anything they have to say is worthless or how they feel doesn't matter. Chronic abuse is really good at driving that particular lesson home.
  I've been there. That's why I feel the need to speak up about this matter.
  It boils down to this. We, everyone, not just those who live with mental illness, have the right to chose what works for us. We have the right to try different things. We have the right to say no if something doesn't work for us. We have the right to express our emotions in a way that harms no other. We have the right to feel what we feel...There's a whole page of our rights at the center, I can't remember them all but it's a powerful page.
  And I realize, too, as I am searching for today's scripture that we, as Christians, have one other wonderful way of taking down the enemy: God's Word. Oh, amazing Grace!
  "Then Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well." Lk 18:42

Monday, 17 March 2014

News Item by Susan L.

  Last week on Global News there was an item about overcoming depression. I forget the name of the doctor or organisation that was doing a study about how people think. They talked about rewiring the brain of a person living with depression or bi-polar disorder by having them think positive thoughts. In some cases there was success and they were extremely excited about these findings.
  I couldn't figure out why this bothered me so much until this morning. I hear echoes of well meaning people, "It's in your head. Snap out of it. Think happy thoughts." The dreaded, "Others have it worse. What have you got to be depressed about?" The blame for feeling depressed is once again laid squarely on the shoulders of the person who is struggling. More often than not that person has absolutely no say in the matter for feeling the way they do.
  We've been blamed long enough. It isn't a choice. It develops because of many things none of us have any control over: genetics, life experiences such as trauma, hormones as in the baby blues, upbringing and so on. To blame thoughts is to negate all these other influences. I'm not blaming anyone or any thing in particular. That makes me just as bad as those who have blamed me for my illness. One of them was a psychiatric doctor no less who told me I need to "think about what I am thinking about." His words were like a whip to my soul.
  His generous contempt paralysed me for months. Afraid to think, afraid not to think.
  How could I not think when flashbacks erupt all on their own? How can healing take place if I don't think about the situations which have impacted my health and wellness? Tough as it is, my choice was to submerge myself in the memories of trauma and work my way through them. (Yes, I had help in this process, a lot of help.) I had to find God in those terrible events because I could no longer live with the memories locked away. It was too exhausting to "put on a happy face".
  If I had listened to this doctor, Lord knows where I would be. This was an opportunity to break free of the "Doctor knows best" ideology rampant in our society. He did not know what was best at all.
  Yes, I am still angry about the whole situation but at the same time, thankful. I learned a lot from that experience. Because of this doctor, I took control of my own recovery and learned to stand up for what I knew I needed.
  "Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me." Mic 7:8


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Worlds Away by Susan L.

  It took a bit for me to get organised and back into the book. I had to reintroduce myself to the characters, their strengths, and their weaknesses. It was a most enjoyable afternoon, almost a vacation by escaping to this made up world. I was able to tweak what was already written so it made more sense as far as a time line of events taking place. The where's and when's now fall in order, the gaps between are more realistic. In one spot there were people getting off their horses twice, something else that I must remember to watch out for: duplicate actions or dialogue.
  In the mean time, I am excited about what is going to happen to my heroes today. And the bad guys because their days are numbered. Everyone has their own index card so I can keep track of who is who, what they look like, what their talents are. To have a character's eyes change colour part way through a book isn't a good thing but trying to remember all the details is difficult for me especially since I have a large cast. Therefore, in a stroke of Inspiration: index cards.
  Who'd have thought writing a book would involve so much paper! And I have a laptop now. It wasn't that long ago when books were written on a typewriter. Before that, the typesetting was all hand done. Before that, scripts were hand written and books were hand bound.
  I'm glad I took typing for two years in high school. Dare I say they were manual typewriters? Click, click, clackity, click, PING! Zzzip! I still remember the marching song our instructor played to get us into a steady rhythm for striking the keys. The song was played over and over and over.
  It was a different world. Word processors were just beginning to make their appearance. You could view and edit five characters visible on a tiny screen. Wow, what technology! Now, with the power of a laptop able to hold millions of characters at the touch of a button anything is possible. Thank You Lord, for human creators.
  "And there, in the presence of the children of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written." Josh 8:32

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Short Fuse by Susan L.

  So peer support is all about being there for someone. It takes many shapes: a laugh, a shoulder, an exchange of knowledge, encouragement, a game of cards. (I do like my lists!) The most difficult thing for me to lay down is the desire to fix or advise. The human, mother-knows-best, part of me sometimes wants to smack someone upside the head and shout, "Get with the program already!" Then I smack myself because that is not support coming from a place of grace and patience.
  How did Jesus do it? And even as I typed that out, the answer came, "God, silly." Of course!
  Tempers were short this week, anxiety ran high, frustrations bubbled up. And that's just me but I definitely wasn't alone. Nearly everyone I meet has had enough of winter and the bitter cold. Kudos to those who live where winter lasts a whole lot longer and to those who enjoy the snow. It's just not my cup of tea.
  I think most of these negative influences are there because of not being outside for any length of time except to shovel the driveway again.  (Oh...Thank You, Lord, I have a driveway and a shovel.) I don't downhill ski. I attempted cross country years ago but that was more like cross country falling. (Thank You no limbs were broken.) I thought snowshoeing might be something I'm interested in but that desire doesn't last long. (Thank You that I would be physically able to try.) The other considerations are the cost.(Thank You that my basic needs are met and then some.) Winter activities don't come cheap. Or maybe that's just an excuse to stay inside. (Thank You as well that I have an inside to stay in that is nice and cozy.)
  Therein lay another answer. Thank You's make things a whole lot better. God's answer to snuffing out a short fuse before a temper tantrum explodes.
  "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all you iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies." Ps 100:2-4

Friday, 14 March 2014

Here Goes by Susan L.

  I started writing a fantasy fiction novel quite a while ago inspired by a short story written for the Writer's Nest. I liked the character but had a million questions: how did he get where he was? What happened to him? Who is he? What's he like? Did he have friends? What's his world like?
  This curiosity enabled me to start writing a book about him and what has ended up being a rather large cast of characters. Initially, the story poured out as I followed them on their adventures. When they got to a complicated battle scene between, of course, the forces of good and evil, I got stuck. It was confusing working out what was happening on both sides.
 There were some rather interesting dynamics that had evolved as well: betrayal and subterfuge. I am not a very good chess player so it has really stretched my abilities as a strategist. It was hard keeping track of who was who. If a writer can't keep track, how can we expect a reader to? In frustration and feeling overwhelmed, I stopped writing.
  The book has been in the forefront of my mind, answers to a prayer from a short while ago.  Yesterday I pulled the manuscript out and read all that was written to this point, around a hundred pages. Once again I am excited about what is going to happen next even though I haven't a clue. The battle scene is still overwhelming so more questions came bubbling up.
  A tool is needed to carry on the story; something, some way of sorting out the mess and organizing my thoughts. My quick prayer for such a thing was answered before it was finished: draw a map of the battle zone, marking where the different characters are to help clarify the situation in my mind. It works for the military so why not for the imagination?
  The weekend is coming so my plan is to re-enter this imaginary world uninterrupted by responsibilities. Once again I'll submerge myself in Tellurian Plane and the people who live there. It is exciting to see where the Starfather leads his followers.
  Help me Lord, find balance and inspiration in Your word as I write this magical, mystical story of lives lived in faith. Help me stay determined to see it through to the end.
  "The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord." Prov 16:1

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Nightmare by Susan L.

  Dreams rarely stay with me come morning but this one has. Even the anxiety that swept over me in the dream is still settled on my chest. It's silly, really but then many nighttime imaginings are. In this one, I got trapped in an elevator after it dropped a couple of feet. There were other people there as well. I am rather claustrophobic but strangely, elevators have never been a problem. In the dream however, I panicked big time and it woke me, heart pumping madly, in the small hours of the night.
  I have no idea what the significance of this is, if any. It might have been Pumpkin jumping on the bed. He isn't a small cat by any means. He's woken me up before by shivering hard enough to shake the entire bed on a few cold nights. It's a wonder I didn't dream of earthquakes and yes, I throw a blanket over him, poor fellow.
  I am rather reluctant to explore the hidden meaning of dreams. There's enough of that when I am awake. Hidden meanings that is. And boxes, if an elevator can be considered a box. They are built by assumptions, presumptions, expectations, experiences, judgements and plain old ignorance. I confess most of those are my own. They are part of the human condition after all but the Lord is and has been opening them one at a time. He's been patiently helping me dump the contents in the trash.
  Then there are the good boxes: beautifully wrapped Christmas or birthday presents, new shoes, tea, and my favorites, cookies and chocolates!
  Better yet are the things that don't belong in boxes: God's love, faith, His Word, our own and other's potential, possibilities, hope, joy, peace, healing, patience, grace and gratitude. Jesus and the Holy Spirit top out a list that has the potential in itself to be infinitely longer.
  Help me live life, Lord, outside the box.
  "And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster box (KJV) of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the box and poured it on His head." Mk 14:3

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Writer's Nest Topic: Creation/Nature by Susan L.

  God's Cathedral
  There is an entrance nearby to the conservation area across the road. It only takes a few steps south to get there but sometimes it feels much further. On a hot August afternoon the sizzling heat from the pavement causes the air to buckle and twist in the distance. Most of the insects and birds have fallen silent, seeking refuge from the baking merciless sun. The pervasive zzzzz's of a warmth loving cicada slices through the day from somewhere in the distance. It is loudly answered by one nearby hiding safely out of sight near the top of a tree.
  The only other sound is rubber croc footsteps. They crunch and swish along the hard packed gravel embracing the edge of this unnatural black, seamless river. Man-made smells of tar and oil choke out all other fragrances. A car roars past in a blast of breath holding hot exhaust and a smattering of pebbles against the road and skin.
  The sun falls harsh and unforgiving on the shoulders. It isn't far to the gate but already droplets of perspiration begin to gather. A quick face wipe with a t-shirt sleeve only dries the face for a short moment. Already the tongue cries out for water.
 It's a relief to slip through the gate and enter another world away from harsh chemical smells. There is only a ragged and sagging fence line holding the two apart, man and nature, but it feels like miles and miles between them. Stepping off the gravel, the soft swish of ankle tickling grass and spongy ground are a relief to the feet.
  A couple of paces past the gate, man-made smells are wiped away. Dodging the stinging nettles which have sprung up over the last couple of years and by turning right, the short, sun lit grassy path changes. It is blanketed by cool shadows, old leaves and fallen twigs. Feet make no sound here. On either side mature fiddlehead ferns, beginning to turn brown, wave and rustle in the small breeze that manages to penetrate the woods. Mosquito season has long passed. The surrounding wetland is baked and firm because of the lack of rain.
  The cedar forest's rich and aromatic scent brings back memories of being a little girl watching my dad work on the boat he had built. I sat perched on a stool in the carport as he sanded it to a fine finish. There was a carefully manicured hedge along one side, only that day it was the quiet rush of rain that amplified its wonderful, clean, scent. Sawdust and cedars often bring that day to mind when my dad gently lifted me up to perch out of harm's way.
  Now, however, is one of those moments when sadness blankets my soul like the stifling heat of the sun suffocates the earth. There is a purpose, a direction, for this short foray into the woods in spite of the day. Not far from the gateway is a special tree. Its split trunk, five giant fingers, break through the earth and reach towards heaven. This has become a place of sanctuary; a place of prayer.
  Standing in the centre, back pressed against the solid safety of a massive thumb, my heart opens and is opened to honest confessions. A few tears mingle with the perspiration on my cheek. For now, just being here helps simplify life. Worries and concerns blow away with the breeze. Grief and pain are released. Gratitude acts like a salve for the soul. I hear God's voice in the creak and moan of branch on branch as the cedars sway, rocking me gently.
  "I am yours, you are Mine; for now and forever more."
  "If she is a wall, we will build upon her a battlement of silver; and if she is a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar." Song 8:9

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Research by Susan L.

  I went on line and did some looking around. I wanted to know the statistics for the hospital regarding mental health visits. It shocked me. Mary McGill, an independent service affiliated with the hospital, has eight hundred referrals a year. They are the ones who come and do an assessment when someone is in crisis at the ER. Family doctors can recommend those in need as well. It doesn't have to be via the hospital. Mary McGill provides short term counselling too. This number doesn't reflect those already under their care, who utilise their psychiatric professionals on a regular basis.
  I've heard the statistics, one in five of us will be affected either directly or indirectly by mental health.  Yada, yada, yada...However, to have two or more new people a day in this small town desperately needing help is a much more personal number. It's one I can relate to.
  I pass them in the grocery store. I open doors for them at Walmart. I patiently wait for them to cross the street. I bump into them at Tim's, at church. Wherever people are, they are there too. My head rapidly filled up with questions. Why? Who? And more importantly, how can I help? How do I connect these people with the Krasman? How do I direct them to an environment that lives and breathes the ideas of recovery and hope?
  How do I get them to come in out of the cold?
  I know how alone I felt following my own hospital stays. There was shame, self-recrimination, guilt, embarrassment, and an agony of the soul unlike anything I had ever experienced. God, Who gave me the strength to call the Krasman in those terrible dark days after I was sent home, saved my life and just being there has helped me reclaim it piece by piece.
  Thy will be done, my Lord. Guide me to do Your will. If I can help just one...
  "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Ps 139:23-24

Monday, 10 March 2014

Baby Goldfish by Susan L.

   The only three surviving offspring of my female Fantail Goldfish's huge egg laying capacity last summer are beginning to change colour. Up until now, at a couple of inches or so, they've been a silvery hue accented by touches of black along their back. Now there are hints of gold and white appearing around their heads and gills. It's neat watching this process having seen them from when they were black, small fry difficult to see among the water lilies. They were maybe half an inch long and their only chance of survival was dodging the hungry mouths of the bigger fish in my back yard pond. Their mother included. She had no qualms about eating her own young.
  I had no qualms in letting them. My pond and their winter quarters inside can only handle so many fish. I'd sooner they ate the smaller ones because it would be hard for me to flush them down the drain. Letting them go into the conservation area is a big no-no because they will thrive in that environment and put our indigenous species in harms way. Goldfish eat a lot and can live a long time.
   This is only the first colour change for the fish, the white phase. Over the next couple of years, if they live that long, they will gradually be robed in their adult colours. My four adults at five to seven years old range from white with gold patches to gold with white patches. Huh, must be a colour theme, the cat is the same: orange and white.
  I initially thought this was going to be a blog about metamorphoses but I am distracted by the changes outside and talking about the pond. I can hardly wait to sit on the patio and watch the fish swimming contentedly around. Right now, the blue jays are singing. The chick-a-dees, and cardinals are adding their own song. It's downright and wonderfully noisy! The smell of spring is in the air despite the huge blanket of snow laying on the ground. It will be a while before I can even get to the patio. The sun has some warmth bringing a little red squirrel into the pine trees searching for any pinecones the birds missed. It won't be long until the grass needs cutting, I hope!
  Seasons, evolution, trials, tribulations, transformation, song, beauty, patience, anticipation...yup, life at it's finest. Maybe it is about metamorphoses after all.
  "For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Acts 22:15-16

Sunday, 9 March 2014

So Here It Is by Susan L.

  I've had my rant. Now here's the truth of the matter. A large percentage of people who are admitted to a psychiatric facility, often because they are suicidal, end up committing suicide within two weeks of discharge. Yes, we have the hospitals. Yes, we have good, basic health care that is free but the system is on overload. There aren't enough doctors. There aren't enough medical and clinical supports to help those making the transition from institution to home life. On the other hand, sometimes the medical system does more harm than good. I've had my share of that end of the stick.
  I do recognise the value of the medical profession. I've come to realise that doctors alone don't have the ability to help us recover but do provide one aspect of wellness: medications, should we chose to use them. Perversely, a terrible side effect of meds is suicidal ideation. I've ridden that pony twice. Both times landed me in hospital, voluntarily. I had to fight not to be "Formed". I wanted the help!
  Following my release, I relied on an established relationship with a therapist who saw me a couple times a week. Still, there were a hundred and sixty six hours left over when I was on my own. Knowing I needed more, I began calling numbers: a sexual assault counselling service which sadly ended up with the counsellor only wanting to man bash, not a healthy or healing environment. Mary McGill signed me up for a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy group that was weeks away. I tried group therapy with the York Region Abuse Program, an hour's drive away. It didn't go well. But I tried.
  My pastor at the time was ill equipped to deal with mental health issues in his flock. That is sadly part of the reason I stopped going to that church over and above the noise and anxiety large Sunday services generated. I have recently offered to speak at the ladies group about mental health but that door hasn't opened yet. They do host various speakers from all over, just not a "crazy" one. It's in Your hands, Lord. Am I angry? Perhaps. I pray for Christians who struggle in silence, not knowing where to turn, not knowing where they will be accepted for who they are.           
  Thankfully, the peer based Krasman Centre is where I ended up, not that I knew what peer support was back then. They gave me a reason to get up and out of the house every morning. That's all that was needed, a reason to keep going while my body adjusted to medication changes and I went through a rapid withdrawal from others. I've ended up finding a home away from home, good and caring friends, and now a job I am most passionate about. Thank You, Lord, You have blessed with so much.
  The gap between discharge and finding resources that suit each individual in a community is where peer support work can really shine. A study done in the United States connecting discharged patients with ongoing peer support meant a higher chance of survival. Peers care and recognise that hospitalisation is extremely traumatising. We recognise that it takes time for meds to work or for our systems to be cleaned of any residue. Nobody knows or understands better than someone who has walked the mile.
  This connection is even more necessary in a rural community than in the city with lots of  resources a bus ride away. Yes, a preliminary study is being done in Toronto with a newly formed network of paid peer support working within the mental health community although it relies heavily on volunteers. The States have already verified its success so I don't understand why their study needs to be repeated. It's a financially viable system that ends up saving thousands of dollars in health care. Even when the peer supporters are paid well there's plenty of savings left over. I just wish they would hurry it up a bit so it spreads north where it is so desperately needed.
 More importantly, peer supporter saves lives. How do we put a price on that?
  "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." Mat 7:7

Saturday, 8 March 2014

A Bit of a Rant by Susan L.

  It was the PREFER (Peer Recovery Education for Employment and Resiliency) Summit today. My friend E and I drove down to the city in order to attend. We ended up leaving early very disappointed for a number of reasons. . It's wonderful that peer supporters are gaining a foothold in major hospitals. It's wonderful there are so many opportunities in the Toronto area for peer workers to have gainful employment. It's wonderful that the city has so many resources for everything from housing assistance, addictions support and mental health recovery options. Gay or straight, you have your own resources. Male or female, the same. All of this is within a bus or subway ride. There were more acronyms tossed around this morning than are in a can of Alphabet Soup!
  We are the only two people, who have taken the PREFER program, living in a rural community. All the Toronto talk was irrelevant to our situation. Yes, Alliston is lucky to have a Krasman Centre, the Mary McGill Centre and a CMHA office with case workers to support those in need. The Krasman is a drop in with limited hours of operation even though statistically we serve a huge percentage of the local population. Mary McGill is only by doctor referral unless you are in crisis at the ER and then only before 8 PM. If you don't have a doctor, their door is closed and accessing their counselling and group therapy services is impossible. The CMHA is there but sometimes the waiting period for a case worker can be months long. To see a psychiatrist it is anywhere from nine months to a year wait...they also need a doctor's referral. If you end up with a doctor god (and there are lots of those) who is offended and uncooperative when you want to take control of your life and your recovery it's back to the drawing board. Yes, GPs will refuse on occasion to treat a mental health patient as well. Isn't that scary. Again, you are shut out of being able to access important resources.
  Then there is the issue of how to get there. We don't have public transportation. Taxis are expensive because disability income is often limited. Once rent and hydro are paid for there isn't anything left. Food is provided by the food bank. That is a whole other rant.
  Our local hospital, one of the best equipped rural hospitals in Canada is great if you are having a baby, a breast exam, or stitches. If a mental health crisis arises, it can be hit or miss as to how you are treated by the ER nurses and doctors. More than one visit and you are considered a nuisance even if you have no other supports in the community. Even if it's been over a year since the last crisis. Recovery is not a straight line event. Most of us who have ended up there have literally nowhere else to go and it is a last resort and the last place on the planet we want to be. Especially if by going to the ER, we are in a position to be stripped of our basic rights and the spectre of being "Formed" arises. That's a seventy two hour hold in a psychiatric facility without our consent, if not longer. That should only be used if you are a danger to yourself or others. It should not be used as a standard admitting practice.
  We are twenty years behind the city in regard to basic mental health care and awareness. Words like dignity, respect, autonomy, rights, and simple compassion often ring empty within the rural medical system. The Krasman is a jewel because we believe in all these things. We know that when these are restored, miracles happen.
  I know, I know....see a need, fill a need. E and I had a great discussion about how to bring mental health knowledge in a rural community into the twenty-first century. It will probably come kicking and screaming. A couple of ideas surfaced on the drive home that we will pursue, voluntarily. As for myself, who is on partial disability, all I can do is trust that the Lord will provide the finances for gas and travel. I pray He will help me walk softly while carrying a big stick and open doors for us where we will do the most good. I pray as well that closed and prejudicial minds will be opened.
  "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." Prov 16:9

Friday, 7 March 2014

Not a Clue by Susan L.

  I have no idea what today's blog will be about. More rural memories are surfacing, some good, a lot are not so good. I have a nasty headache this morning, a built in barometer that lets me know a change in the weather is coming our way. That's hampering the creativity, too. I haven't been sleeping that well either. I close my eyes and it's morning, feeling like no time has passed at all.
  Can I whine some more? The old saying "Others have it worse" comes to mind. I find this a rather unchristian philosophy. It's a guilt ridden statement isn't it? It's shaming, punitive and harsh. That's just my thoughts.
  There was an item on the news talking about the melting snow come spring. What's lying on the ground is equivalent to at least five inches of water if not more. Five inches over an acre is a lot of water. I live in a valley. A vivid dream I had the other night about the nearby river flooding is making me a bit nervous, too.
  When we lived on the farm it was tornado dreams because we were just on the edge of tornado alley and a couple had ripped through close to home. Whenever a sudden storm swept in, I watched the sky like a hawk. I'll take a flood over that any day. As for melt water, there isn't anything I can do about it but keep the generator handy in case the power goes out and get as much as possible off the basement floor. An excuse to clean down there.
  I know these are "stuff" worries. I know that, in Christ, all will work out in the end. (Oh, must remember to put my rubber boots on the basement stairs. They won't do much good if they end up being buckets!) And Lord, I know you have blessed me with the ability to take such things in stride, to git 'r done, and to see the ridiculous in circumstances far beyond my control. Many a laugh I've had at myself and the messes I've gotten myself into. Thank You for that!
  "Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad." Prov 12:25

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Training Complete by Susan L.

    I am now a certified First Aid and CPR responder. It's something I had wanted to do but never got around to doing. Thankfully, work provided the opportunity. There's been lots of experience though. You don't live on a farm with a large amount of animals without learning how to recognize things like broken bones or how to handle major lacerations or other wounds. Even the brief section on emergency childbirth brought back the experiences of many new lives being brought into this world. That was the best part of farming when everything went well: two front feet and a nose came first.
  It was precious watching the mothers with their young. Most of the time they had a natural instinct that lead them into successful motherhood. Each critter had its own maternal call that was different from their regular conversational moo or baa. They would gently clean their offspring, sing to them their mother's song, and had this amazed look in their eye, "Wow, this is my baby! Beautiful!"
  The ones who complained the most during labour were the goats but they are sissies when it comes to any kind of discomfort. Everyone else just took it in stride although when the cows were nine months pregnant and getting close to delivery, you could tell by the moans and groans they were tired of hauling the extra hundred pounds around. I used to give the ladies back rubs which they thoroughly enjoyed. Part of that was because when they went into labour, they trusted me being nearby in case they or the calf needed help. Any new mother that big can be dangerous to humans if they feel their baby is in danger.
  Sometimes the mothers didn't have a clue especially if it was their first time being a mom. They would spin around, wanting to see their baby, not realizing that milk was at the other end. The babies knew it was there somewhere and would be very persistent in the chase for breakfast despite their wobbly legs. They brought many a smile to my face as they learned which leg came first. Eventually their mother would stand still with an awed expression on her face as the first sloppy slurps meant success. "Hey! That feels good!"
  Most of the births took place between January and March. Only in hindsight do I question that decision. It was something we could control. It meant life was extra hard for everyone. It meant twenty-four hour vigilance. Cold is a quick killer. Still, being up at the barn dressed in two pair of socks inside heavy winter boots, long johns, layers of clothing and an artic rated snow suit as I froze my nether regions off was worth it. Being able to witness these miracles or help in times of trouble was a job I'll never forget.
  Even if there wasn't always a happy ending I learned skills that have served me well: things like patience, waiting, and most importantly I learned how to be still, calm and quiet for considerable lengths of time. Those abilities have transferred over into my Christian life and have served me well in prayer, in art and in writing. It's all about the "Selah".
  "A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel." Prov 12:10

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Short 'N Sweet by Susan L.

  It's an early start today. Work is sending us for First Aid and CPR training for the next two days. I'm looking forward to it. The last time I did first aid training was when I was in Girl Guides more years ago than I care to think about. A lot of it stayed with me though because when something happened, the skills and knowledge were there to handle the situation although only once in my life did it involve a life and death matter. It's something I'll never forget.
  My neighbour's tractor slipped and rolled onto him one Mother's Day. His daughter frantically called us before phoning 911 because she knew he wouldn't survive long enough for them to get there. My ex was an expert in heavy lifting, thank God. It was part of his trade so he threw a long board into the back of the station wagon and we went flying up the road.
  My neighbour was pinned under the back tire. It was this that saved him because my ex was able to get the board under the wheel and leveraged enough power to raise the tractor a fraction of an inch. It was just enough for me to slide him to safety. My long ago training kicked in. I was so careful in moving my neighbour because I didn't know what may be broken. His nearly unrecognizable blackened face caused by not being able to breathe for so long began to regain some colour, a good sign. He was conscious so I kept talking to him, calmly giving orders left and right.
  "Get a blanket, we need to keep him warm. Lock up the dogs because they may interfere with the emergency crew. Someone watch for the fire fighters."
 My neighbour is one of the less than one percent who survive a tractor roll over. He had many broken bones but thankfully his back was fine. He is doing well to this day.
  We simply did what had to be done but this event gave me a much greater respect for the firefighters, ambulance drivers, paramedics and police because they face these situations every single day. God bless them for what they do. This also taught me to be extra careful when on my own tractor which probably saved my life in return.
  "I will leave in your midst a meek and humble people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord." Zeph 3:12

Monday, 3 March 2014

Coincidentally Speaking by Susan L.

    Many years ago, just after opening my heart to Jesus,  I was in a terrible state: angry, feeling trapped and just wanting to run for as long and as hard as I could. After driving to a local conservation area after work I began to I had my now obsolete Discman plugged in to my ears. For an hour or so I stormed the paths blind to everything around me.
  Gradually, the anger began to ebb away. Tiredness crept into my bones. As I drew nearer to where I was parked I decided to take off the headphones. There was a staircase that wound its way up a sheer cliff just before the parking lot. I stopped a couple of times to simply listen to the forest as I perched on landings in among the branches of the trees at the bottom. Not only was I tired, but a peace began to fill my soul.
  I stood outside the car for a bit to dry off. It had been quite the workout. I remember saying, "It'd be nice to see a deer my Lord." I was struggling with living in town after being in the country with its open spaces, birds, wildlife and fresh air. A car pulled out of a laneway. I watched it pass by, giving the driver a small smile and a country nod. As it disappeared over a hill, a lovely young deer leapt over the fence across the road. She stood in full view for a few minutes before heading into the conservation area.
  As I drove past where she had entered, I saw her contentedly grazing on the sweet green grass within the sanctuary. I carried on leaving her to her pleasure feeling incredibly blessed. My small, off the cuff prayer had been answered.
  I no longer believe in coincidence. Like many other things that have unexpectedly crossed my path, be they love tokens like the deer or new friends there is a reason for them to be there. Even the challenges that at the time of the deer were yet to come are all part of a grand plan long laid down by my Lord. Forgive me Lord for fighting my destiny in You.
  "The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I have been established from everlasting, from the beginning, before there was ever an earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no fountains abounding with water, before the mountains were settled, before the hills, I was brought forth." Prov 8:22-25

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Movies, Magic and Mystery by Susan L.

      I watched a couple of animated family movies on YouTube yesterday. They were kind of fun. Corny. But fun. There were dragons and heroes, swords and goblins fighting over ruling the planet. A long time ago someone told me I shouldn't watch such unChristian movies but following that advice quickly faded away because I enjoy a good fairy tale. Besides, one of my own favorite fantasy, good versus evil, fiction pieces was written by a Christian. It's called "Lord of the Rings." There's another great series for children, too: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It's full of magical beasts yet contains the fundamental Christian truths of faith, hope and redemption. The Lion is a metaphor for Jesus after all.
  The Harry Potter books and movies have been condemned by people of faith even though they got children reading who had never read anything for pleasure until they were published. It was almost a witch hunt when the movies based on the writings of Dan Brown were released. Those condemned books helped set me on my road to faith before I came to the Lord. I began to seek my own Holy Grail but wasn't sure what that was. It was the beginning of a mental pilgrimage. God used what was at hand because He knew very shortly I would need Him more than I ever had. A life and death event was drawing near but He had long ago laid a plan to save me. Dan Brown happened to be a part of that plan, thank God!
  We read the scriptures, using it as a great "How To" book but forget that it is full of the same sort of magic and mystery we love in our fairy tales. We become book bound, legalistic and religious Christians forgetting that even our faith is outside the realm of paper. Yet, within those pages, a young woman is used to miraculously bring the greatest Gift to mankind: God on earth. There are defeated demons, angel messengers, talking bushes, and people raised from the dead. There are prophecies about the future. Walls fall at the sound of a trumpet. Food falls from Heaven. Water flows from rocks. Oceans are divided. There is a set of invisible yet very real armor with a Sword to beat all swords. There are tales of principalities and powers outside the realm of our daily existence yet affect us in ways we often don't see until we are delivered of their influences with the wonderful words, "I forgive...forgive me." There is talk of the beautiful lands where we go after leaving this mortal place. How magical is that! It's an ancient, truthful saga of Good against evil that is relevant even today.
  I think most of us enjoy a redemption story when the underdog takes on the world and wins. It could be a sports movie about a dog that plays basketball, or angels in the outfield, or fields of dreams. We love magic and miracles in any shape or form. The story line may be slightly different but guaranteed, its parallel is in the Bible somewhere. Maybe talking with our children about Mr. Potter and showing them who he is based on is a great way to open a dialogue about Someone much greater.
  "When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came and worshipped Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." Immediately his leprosy was cleansed." Mat 8:1-3

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Horn Tooting by Susan L.

  I had a nice letter from my contact at the local paper ( thanking me for doing my monthly column on mental health. It's like a mini Christmas because I never know which week it will appear. I, in turn, thanked the paper for giving me the opportunity to do what has become a very successful outreach for the Krasman Centre. There's been new people in and phone calls from those who hadn't known we existed.
  We have tried so many things as outreach. Even putting a table in the local home show didn't have the results we had hoped for. Flyers posted on bulletin boards throughout the town, personal visits to the various doctors and clinics barely had an impact. Word of mouth has been the greatest way of getting our name out there. It had become very frustrating because the common statement from almost every one who comes in is "I wish I had known you were here a long time ago."
 We've been our current location for a good number of years although we weren't always the Krasman Centre. We were a drop-in just the same with similar ideals. It is sad that the more medically based organizations in town undervalue the impact of a peer support environment. But that's a whole other issue.
  This little three hundred odd word column has boosted my confidence as a writer. They have been published just as I have written them with no edits or corrections. It's nice that they contain a piece of me and aren't simply a dry piece of information with no personal connection. I am glad the paper let it be that way because it makes it a whole lot easier to write from a peer perspective.
  It's not something I think about too much, being good I mean. In a way, I do take my creativity for granted. Like the art, the words are simply there. Like the art, sitting and waiting on the Lord enables the paintbrush of words to decorate the page. They are a gift I like to share, to use to bring joy to others or as a way of expressing myself.
  What is stopping me from finishing one of the books I have started but ended up overwhelmed by the size of them? What is stopping me from sending one of my children's stories to an editor or publisher? Perhaps I need a writing buddy to hold me accountable and give me deadlines. Or maybe I need to take a writer's course to learn the trade better. Hmm, that's a thought. I think I'd like to do that.
  I've got internet at home now. An online course with project deadlines just might be the ticket to finding some sort of potential income through writing. It's all about confidence isn't it?
  "But whatever house you enter, first say "Peace to this house." And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the labourer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house." Lk 10:5-7