Sunday, 29 June 2014

All of Creation by Susan L.

  There are microscopic creatures living in the bubbling, acidic waters of geysers and volcanic pools. There are complex animals at the bottom of the ocean near boiling, volcanic vents spewing out lethal chemicals. These creatures eat what would kill us. There are red worms that live in glaciers. I suppose Emperor penguins could be part of this group known as extremophiles. The male penguin holds a single egg on his feet, tucked safely under the warmth of his belly, for sixty-five dark and blisteringly cold Antarctic days.
  Plants communicate via chemicals. This isn't the sole domain of  the movie "Avatar". It really happens! When one is attacked, damaged or nibbled on, it changes its chemical structure to affect its flavour. Neighbouring plants of the same species respond, changing their own chemical signature. Is that why grazing animals only nibble at one area for a couple of bites then move on?
  Forests grow in mathematical precision. The seemingly chaotic explosion of growth is actually a fractal. They are incredibly common in nature. Simply put, it is where the base, like a tree trunk or vein within us, splits which in turn splits, and splits again. Researchers discovered that one large tree was the centre of its own fractal of trees: big, small, smaller, right down to the seedlings surrounding it.
  I read or heard somewhere that for us humans to have evolved from apes, it would have taken a genetic mutation a day for us to reach the variety of people who dwell on this planet in the short time we've been here. A day, not a generation. Big difference.
  My head is spinning as I contemplate the infinite variations within the human, animal and plant species who share this world with us. As I listened to the different birds singing this morning, I am left in stunned and indescribable awe of the greatest Creator of all.
  "When He established the clouds above, when He strengthened the fountains of the deep, when He assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters would not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; and I was daily His delight." Prov 8:28-30


Saturday, 28 June 2014

Irrepressible Life by Susan L.

  It's the kind of day out there already that will require rotational gardening. I'll have to follow the shade around the yard as I tend to my rather neglected gardens. The forget-me-nots have all gone to seed and need pulling. There's grass that is trying to gain a foothold as grass relentlessly does if you don't stay on top of it. I have one clump of plants in the back that might be sunflowers or weeds. I'll leave them. I like surprises like the native ferns that made an appearance.
  I once heard someone say even a rose can be a weed if it isn't growing where you want it to.
  I have several varieties of hostas because most of my gardens lie in the shade. I divided some last year and planted them under the pine trees. These offspring have leaves which are twice the size of the parent plant. I guess they thrive in the acidic soil caused by all the pine needles  I hadn't known that.
  I've had columbine wander in from the neighbour's yard. It's beautiful and delicate purple flowers are a treat for the eyes.
  About three years ago, a pine tree began to grow in the middle of a massive maple tree stump. I've left it and plan on pruning and shaping it into something that might be seen off the coast of Georgian Bay. It'll be an outdoor bonsai, twisted and bent by imaginary wind.
  There was a heavy dew last night. The water droplets are making everything sparkle and shine in the light. Mowing the grass will have to wait until it's a bit dryer, probably this evening after the worst of the heat has passed. It always amazes me how this country can go from forty below to forty above over the course of a few months.
  I'll be good to get outside despite the heat. My anxiety isn't as constant as it was. It merely comes in waves. Pushing a wheelbarrow around should take the edge off or if anything provide a distraction. The garden's good for that. And it puts me on my knees.
  "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Mat 11:28-29

Friday, 27 June 2014

Baby by Susan L.

   The young couple next door had a little boy a week ago. He's a tiny bit of a thing, barely over six pounds, but just lovely. I popped over yesterday to meet my new neighbour and to give them a gift of a quilted growth chart for him. His mom was really pleased with it and its farm motif. It fit right in with the animal theme in the baby's room. I'm glad and definitely give God the glory for leading me in that direction. Even the colours match the baby's room. Again, praise be to God.
  It gives me great pleasure to make them. Choosing fabric, finding buttons or other bits to adorn them is a bit like a treasure hunt. I sew everything by hand because I like sewing by hand. There's something therapeutic in the repetitive action. There's something prayerful about taking the time needed and exercising patience as each creation unfolds one stitch at a time.
  I can thank my son for the inspiration. He asked me to make a growth chart for my grandson when they lived in New Zealand. My son wanted something portable, that they could take with them as they moved around rather than use a door frame that gets left behind. Making a mini, crazy quilt, wall hanging with an embroidered ruler up the side and space to write age and date seemed the best option. It simply rolls up when it needs to be packed away.
  I can also thank my dearly loved aunt as well who is no longer with us. She's the one who taught me years ago how to make a crazy quilt, the easiest of all quilts. There's no exactitude in the pieces of fabric, they are all different shapes and sizes. They are sewn onto a backing piece which makes it easier than trying to sew the pieces directly together. Whenever I make one, be it a wall hanging or throw to snuggle into, she come to mind. As I iron each piece flat, or use the scissors she gave me (JUST FOR FABRIC, NEVER, EVER, EVER, USE THEM ON PAPER!) I hear her teaching me about the tools of the quilter's trade. The products of her lessons are her legacy. I think she'd like that.
  "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." Prov 16:9

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Huge Relief by Susan L.

  I am so thankful to have a son who is tech savvy. We got my laptop up and operating yesterday via a teleconference. In a flash of understanding I realised why it was acting up so I've made a note to self: don't close the lid until the machine is totally shut down. That's the only thing I've done differently that could have caused the laptop to act up. It was slightly confused. To sleep or not to sleep, that was the question.
  Now, if only I could find something to write about...Lord, please inspire me.
  There's the mundane, the chore list. There's the check in around how I am feeling this morning, still somewhat depressed and overwhelmed. My place needs some TLC inside and out. Windows need washing, gardens need weeding, camp stuff can be put away, clutter needs to be purged. Yup, plenty to do but the outside stuff will have to wait until it dries up after the rain of the last couple of days.
  Apparently another tornado touched down just south of here during Tuesday's ferocious storm; not as bad as the one north of here that hit last week but still damaging. My thoughts and prayers, once again, go out to those affected.
  I don't like thunderstorms and I was glad I was at the Centre on Tuesday when the storm rumbled through. Three quarters of an inch of rain fell in a matter of minutes. The sky turned dark enough for the streetlights to come on. The wind formed miniature whitecaps on the water flooding the street. It was brief but ferocious.
  It leaves me wondering how many more there will be this season. Hopefully none.
  "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority." Acts 1:7

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Technical Difficulty by Susan L

My laptop is stuck in sleep mode. It may be some time until I get it fixed. I'll do my best to continue my blog as I started: on my phone. I guess after the long weekend, it didn't feel likestarting up again!
  "Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Mat 6:34

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Things I Learned at Camp by Susan L.

  It is much warmer at night in June than in September. A skinny air mattress is much more comfortable for me than the thick one that constantly threatened to toss me onto the floor. A folded duvet under my sleeping bag prevents the chill rising from the ground. A pillow is not necessary. (Oops, I knew I forgot something!) There are a gazillion hidden birds in the trees who greet the promise of dawn while it is still dark. Off brand mosquito repellent works really well. So do the cheap mosquito coils from the dollar store. I really don't like vault toilets (concrete outhouses). Fireflies also live in the woods, not just open spaces. Owls only make their presence known when the campground is nearly empty. Coffee tastes extra good outside. It gets darker earlier in the trees than in the open. The quiet zone of a campground isn't necessarily quiet. A thin cushion stops the canvas seat of a folding chair from cutting into the back of my legs. Spring firewood is really crappy but smoky, also a mosquito deterrent and it makes hotdogs absolutely scrumptious. Marshmallows, not so much. Racoons are bold as brass. So are chipmunks. The sand is hot at the beach. The water, cold.
  But most of all, troubles seem to vanish for a while. Walking along a trail enveloped in the trees of God's green cathedral fills the soul with peace. Listening to the water splash among the rocks, a hymn of worship, fills the heart with a sense of the eternal nature of God. Watching the flickering flames of a campfire infuses the soul with the sense that nothing else matters but being in the here and now.
  Thank You, Lord for all Your creations.
  "So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power, and Your glory." Ps 63:2


Friday, 20 June 2014

In Touch by Susan L.

  It was the final night for art therapy this spring. We take the time to review our pieces before using the time to finish up anything that needs to be completed. I didn't feel like pursuing any new creation. Instead the urge to write about the nightmare picture from a couple weeks ago, the one I cut the little bird cage out of, took hold of me.
  I got honest and felt the Lord looking over my shoulder as I wrote to my ex. It was about the dark legacy of that relationship, the PTSD, and its accompanying fear and watchfulness which is the state of my existence. I learned these crippling skills well within that twenty year span and wept sorely as the truth of how I felt came out.
  There's still a lot of raw emotion this morning. It was a tough night. I am thankful to be going away for the next three days, to be with good company. It's one of those times when living on my own can be incredibly lonely.
  I am not going to brush this under the table with an acknowledgement that plenty of good also came out of that relationship. I know it did, such as my beloved children. This open dialogue with my Lord is about grief. It's about the reality of my every day challenges. I am not going to band aid this with a strict religious forgive and forget denial of my feelings. The cost is too high.
  My trust is in the Lord that He will lead me into healing, heart forgiveness and finally the peace that surpasses all understanding. Just as He as done so many times before.
  "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." Eph 6:13

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Tornado by Susan L.

  My thoughts and prayers go out to those people in Angus who where hit by the EF2 tornado on Tuesday night. It's only about fifteen kilometers from my house. I watched the storm roar through from my living room window. Although all I could see were the treetops whipping around as the temperature plummeted within seconds, a sure sign of potential tornadoes. I knew if I lived in the open the rain would have been falling sideways, the storm was that ferocious.
  Thankfully, no one was killed. The tornado, with 180 kilometer winds was strong enough to pick up patio stones and toss them like a child throwing Lego around. It threw an eighteen wheeler onto its side, ripped roofs off houses, where they landed three doors down and stripped the walls and shingles away from others. Further away, a barn was picked up and wrapped around a house.
  There is one thing that amazes me about this type of storm. One house, where an entire wall disappeared, the bricks, sheathing, insulation, drywall all gone. The news crews showed a picture of the bedroom where the furniture was visible from the street. The bed still had two pillows resting against the headboard as if nothing had happened. The houses standing beside the swath of destruction were also spared, not a shingle was out of place.
  I pray patience for those who have been impacted. I pray the insurance adjusters move quickly to help those who want to get their lives back. I pray that during the investigations, the retrieval of personal belongs, and the rebuilding of lives that no one gets hurt. I ask that the police guarding the street from potential looters be safe as well. If they catch anyone, I pray that person will get the help they need to overcome what forced them to steal in the first place. I pray for honesty and integrity in the contractors, that there be no outrageous pricing, no taking advantage of those who are in desperate need of their services.
  But most of all, I pray that You, Lord, will use this to bring Your children into the fold. I pray their eyes be opened to the miracles that took place amidst the destruction. In Jesus' name, Amen!
  "The Lord has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet." Nah 1:3

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Tweaking by Susan L.

  Had a good visit with my psychiatrist. We decided to do some adjusting of the medications I am currently using starting with my anti-depressant. It's a huge relief there's room to work within what has proven safe for me to take, that a complete change will hopefully be unnecessary. I left his office feeling much better. I pray the slight increase in the dose will work but should know in a week or so.
  He told me to email him an update at that time. In the meantime I have the lemon verbena tea and my JICOE (Just in case of emergency) pills should the need arise.
  He also reminded me that I was doing okay in April. It's easy to forget being well when you're not doing so well. It does feel like a lifetime ago. It's been a long six weeks.
  A few years ago I was sitting out on my little front porch enjoying a particularly beautiful summer's evening. There was something strange in how I felt, sitting there. It took a few moments to identify what that was. I felt content. It only lasted a few minutes before disappearing as the light vanished from the day.
  That wonderful feeling has popped up here and there since then. It is rare, though.
  I guess, in this day and age and even without mental health struggles, it's an illusive emotion. It's difficult to simply rest in the moment when a chore list, a grocery list a gazillion miles long waits on the kitchen table. The demands of family, work and whatever else fills the day robs us of the opportunity to simply rest in the enjoyment of doing nothing.
  In the mean time, there's a lot to do to get ready for a three day weekend of camping. I'm looking forward to it. My hope is to do a fair bit of drawing, inspired by the rock strewn beaches of Lake Simcoe. It will be good to get away, to gain some perspective on all that has been going on lately.
  "Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it." Lk 17:33

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Squirrely by Susan L.

  A black squirrel with a red tail visited my little pond for a drink. I've never seen one like that before. It makes you wonder who his parents were. Is a he a product of a mixed marriage? Or is he simply a genetic abnormality, a throwback to ancient days? I wonder what all the other black squirrels think? Do they laugh and point tiny fingers at him? Mock him? Or are they jealous of his beautiful, bright tail? Hah, this is imagination fluff, putting human characteristics on animals.
  It's like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer all over again only its, um, at the opposite end. Oh dear. Names are racing through my brain. Really? Red Butler in Gone Like the Wind? Thank You Lord for the laugh. It's a great way to start my morning.
  I am off to see my doctor this morning. Hopefully we will be able to start to address the anxiety medicinally while I pursue other therapy options to help get me through. I had a good chat with the art therapist last night, a lovely woman, to discuss options or possible venues to continue with the art therapy.
  Lord, I lift this up to You. Bless my Doctor with insight and direction. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
  "You drew near on the day I called on You, and said, "Do not fear!"" Lam 3:57


Sunday, 15 June 2014

Twenty-four Hour Enlightenment by Susan L.

  I met with a friend for coffee yesterday. We had a good chat about what is going on with me right now. She is a peer, a co-worker and we go back quite a ways, since I first went to the Krasman centre long before either of us were on staff. It helped me sort a lot out. She also affirmed, based on all that is going on and through her own personal experience with that challenge is that most likely my meds aren't doing what they should and are a huge contributing factor to this mini-meltdown.
  In a way, that's a good thing. It helps take the pressure off. This isn't all my fault. It isn't feeling sorry for myself as the Pastor said. It isn't a lack of faith. It isn't a lack of prayer. It isn't because I haven't forgiven those who have harmed me. There is an element of truth and reality though, a foundation for the emotional vortex that swept over my heart and soul. In that, I seek further healing and insight so I may be set free.
  My therapist and I had a brief conversation via email. I decided not to see her instead opted to trust the supports I have available to get me through this storm. (Hence meeting a friend yesterday.) There are a couple of other options available as well. There's equine therapy close at hand and I emailed my art therapist asking about ongoing opportunities once the group comes to an end on Thursday.
  But most of all, I can ask for help. With anything and everything I think I should be doing by myself like taking down the old shed, taking a load to the dump, or any other demands. Even when H and I go camping next weekend, if  we need a hand setting up the new dining tent, there's nothing wrong with going next door and saying, "Hey, would you...?"
  Needing help is NOT a weakness! Keep drilling that into my head, Lord, help make it easier for me to fall back into someone's arms. It has bothered me terribly that I couldn't do that seemingly simple exercise at the conference. It was one of those wake up, life altering moments telling me there is something needing to be changed in my life. Trust takes practice. It takes a willingness to be hurt or let down. It takes a willingness to become vulnerable.   Man, it's a scary thing to do!
  But you know something? God has filled me with the ability to ask, to gamble trusting people while I lay within the assurance of His loving embrace. I am eternally grateful for that.
  "I (wisdom) love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me." Prov 8:17

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Hitting the Wall by Susan L.

  Or maybe instead I've gone through that little door that was written about yesterday.
  Our student ran a short and sweet chocolate meditation group yesterday at the centre. It was her first official group and she did a fine job. Her soft voice had us all focused on a piece of dark chocolate as it dissolved on our tongue.
  However, as the chocolate was melting, so was I. Maybe because it put me in a position to relax. Probably because it caused me to drop my guard, to drop the tight rein I'd been keeping on my emotions. There was nothing to do but let the tears flow down.
  Lord, why does crying make me feel ashamed?
  It surprised me, this upwelling of grief, that terribly complicated emotional stew. I knew a good chunk of it was because I've been trying so darn hard to keep doing all that is required all by myself. It takes a huge amount of energy to pretend all is well.
  Lord, why do I feel I need to pretend, to try so hard, in the first place? What am I trying to prove? And for whom?
  I thank God I work where I do. This sort of thing happens all the time and we all rally around to support the person who is in distress in whatever way they need. It doesn't matter if you are staff or a visitor. It's what we do. We are a family.
  Lord, why is it when it happens to me I feel I let everyone down? Why did I feel I had to hide in the office? Is it because I was working and therefore shouldn't be "weak"? Why do I even consider tears as weakness? Why did I leave work early when the truth was I didn't want to be alone?
  Lord, why am I so afraid of asking for help? Why couldn't I fall back into someone's waiting arms?
  Thank You for the courage to finally send an email to my therapist requesting an appointment. Yes, I haven't seen her in a long time but right now I am terribly confused and hurting.
  Lord, why do I feel I need to defend that decision?
  Lord, You are the God of growth and truth. I celebrate the fact You have answered my "Whys?" many times, often within the span of a blog post! I know this collapse of the fa├žade is an answer to prayers, I feel Your hand on my heart. I trust You will lead me and heal me of my wounds. Forgive my pride, Lord, and lead me into forgiveness. All of this, I pray in Jesus' name.
  "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it." Jn 14:13-14

Friday, 13 June 2014

Sense Comes Knocking by Susan L.

  Thanks to all. Your prayers for me are being answered. I suddenly "remembered" yesterday about my just-in-case-of-emergency pills. My personal choice has been to use them only when a situation caused me to need a bit more help. Panic attack avoidance. Just having them in my purse is often enough to help me through an event with confidence.
  It dawned on me last night that it wouldn't hurt to take one anyways just to give this ole body a break so I took one a few minutes before the art therapy group. They take effect in roughly ten minutes but aren't strong enough to leave me unable to function. It was wonderful. I played with coloured inks and created a lovely image of a tree that was a gazillion miles away from last week's darkness.
  The couple, three hours, of being relaxed reminded me there is a whole other world out there: the one not riddled with anxiety. Thankfully, there is a bit of a hold over this morning. My body is doing the remembering for me.
  I know I haven't written about much else this last little while. Like Alice in Wonderland I've been hunting for a key. There has to be way to enter that little door leading somewhere else besides the room I've been trapped in.
  There is more than one key you know.
  Faith. Without it, I would have ended up in hospital again, things have been that difficult.
  Assurance. I know God is with me every step of the way.
  Patience. Oodles of it as I wait to consult with my doctor about what slow and cautious route to take.
  Trust. The Lord will steer him and I in the right direction.
  Grace. For those who don't understand that the anxiety is not a controllable entity. Yes, it can be tamed or muzzled for a while. Only God can lead me through healing and release.
  Quadruple grace. It would be easy to embrace the role of victim. It would be easy to point fingers at the people and situations which opened the door to traumatic events. I could be so angry and bitter that I am left dealing with the fallout of PTSD. Really, it's okay. I have my Lord.
  (Whoa! Hold on a minute. That stirred up something in my heart the size of a key to the city. Maybe I am angry after all because no, it's not okay. I am not okay. I have not been okay. Every day has been a struggle. My Lord, I need to have a little chat with You about this.)
  But most of all, there is love. For my Lord and Maker who leads me into truth. For my mom who is a great encourager. For my patient and understanding friends who have put up with my whining on more than one occasion. For the thoughtful people at my church who sent me an encouraging card. For the wonderful people who take the time to comment and encourage me through the blog.
  "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--the Spirit of truth." Jn 14:16-17

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Alternatives by Susan L.

  When I was away with my folks in Stratford, the woman who ran the B&B had different teas available. She had one, lemon verbena, that was supposed to relieve anxiety. It did. In fact, after having a cup, I felt slightly stoned. Voila, my anxiety disappeared for a couple of hours which was wonderful. Yesterday, I went hunting to find some here in town.
  The health food store carried one pound bags of loose leaf tea but I wanted to make sure it wouldn't interfere with my prescriptions even though it feels like they aren't working anyways. No sense in compounding the problem. The sales woman didn't know of any adverse reactions so she suggested I talk to a professional. Good advice. A brief consultation with my pharmacist didn't provide any answers. The reference book they use had no information about lemon verbena interfering with other medications.
  A one pound bag seemed a lot. Especially if it didn't have the required effect. The B&B had the tea in prepared tea bags so I knew it had to be sold somewhere. I'd looked for it at my regular grocery store last week. They didn't have it. There was no choice but to go into the bigger store, the one I avoid like the plague because it overwhelms me, to see if there was any there. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
  Squashing down my nerves, a quick prayer, I entered the store focusing on the only job at hand: tea investigations.
  They have a fairly large organic department. None of the teas had lemon verbena. Their non-organic coffee and tea department is large as well. I found one with a bit of the herb in it made by TAZO called Zen Tea. It's probably not as potent as a tea made straight from the leaves so I figured, come what may, a little bit can't hurt.
  It had the desired effect. For a couple of hours, my chest loosened, the knots in my stomach eased. It was absolutely wonderful. Still, I'll only allow myself one cup a day just in case until I talk with my doctor: five days and counting.
  "And God said, "See I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food."" Gen 1:29

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

A Walk in the Park by Susan L.

  It was a tough choice not to go to my writer's group last night but it was too much to ask of my anxiety filled heart and mind. I decided instead to go across the road for a walk in the park. Exercise is supposed to help with stress and I needed to get out of my head for a while. It was an evening of utter calm, a waiting sort of evening. Soft, silver clouds muted the sun. A sun dog affirmed the forecast for rain. It's a good thing. Leaves are hanging limp from the lack of moisture this spring. There was a lot of humidity in the air that carried each sound. The swish of rubber shoes along the grassy path seemed foreign and intrusive in the green cathedral of the cedars that line the beginning of my route.
  There wasn't a breath of breeze. For interest's sake, Deep Woods Off works. I walked through clouds of mosquitoes and not a single one landed on me. A deer fly pestered me for a bit, its buzz extra loud, before it got a whiff of the bug repellent and left me alone. Good. Their bites are nasty.
  Parts of the river are terribly low and coated with scum. It is stagnant in places. I've never seen it look so bad. It's heartbreaking really. What are we doing to our waterways? It is good habitat for the huge carp though, who snuffle along the silt covered bottom looking for bits of edible delights. The water was so low in places, their back fins broke the surface as they swam around.
   A wood duck pair squawked and scrambled away as I approached. Their days old ducklings hard pressed to keep up. The male is incredibly beautiful although I only caught a fleeting glimpse of him.
  Moments later a muskrat splashed into the shallows, startled by my loud, swishing presence. A glimpse is all he allowed before submersing himself completely and vanishing from sight.
  The campsites were empty along the short stretch of road included in my circular route. It then enters a pine plantation. I was taken a bit by surprise when I noticed how much these trees have grown over the last few years. A few early crickets offered a tentative symphony from the long grass bordering the path. I stood for a moment listening and breathing in the sweet aroma of pine.
  It did me good, this little walk although next time I'll wear running shoes instead of crocs so my steps are much quieter. Who knows what I might see?
  Before turning into bed after a quiet night with no TV, I went outside to watch the fireflies for a bit. It was a nice way to end the evening. I feel much better this morning. Still anxious but better.
  One more week until I see my doctor. Thank God.
  "Lord, all my desire is before You; and my sighing is not hidden from You." Ps 38:9

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Why Do I Do This? by Susan L.

  Okay. Volunteering. Committing myself to extra demands when I know I am already stretched thin.
  I offered to cook lunch at the centre this week. We've lately eaten wonderful middle eastern cuisine thanks to a visitor who offered her time. I felt we needed to do something truly Canadian: a Tortiere made with ground beef and pork. It demands a pastry from scratch. Yummy! The plan is having potato wedges and a salad to accompany it.
  It's got me in an all too familiar, frantic dither. It's a lot to do to get ready for lunch. I am left wondering why I volunteered in the first place.
  A stroke of Genius! Thank You Lord. I can ask my co-worker to help by making the salad and wedges. She makes amazing potatoes. Or there's no harm even backing out if I need to because my mouth has me stepping up to the plate time and again with no regard for how I am struggling right now.
  Ignoring the warning signs of a tight chest, sensitive hearing, and knots in my stomach doesn't make them go away. It's time to be honest and ditch the ostrich act.
  I wonder if all this anxiety is the Lord teaching me to delegate. Something that doesn't come easily. Asking for help is another ongoing challenge.
  So here's the question: why is it so difficult?
  Even as I typed it, I heard the answer. I don't want to be a bother and worse, it's a huge challenge to have to rely on others. That's not gone too well in the past for me. At the Trauma conference, we did the exercise where we are asked to fall blindly backwards into the waiting arms of  a person who was going to catch us. I couldn't do it. I tried several times. It wasn't happening. Just having a person standing directly behind me made me nervous. It's not her fault but it was a bit of an eye opener.
  My self esteem is tied up in this as well or should I say in this case it's simple pride. Ouch. Those nasty, "I Shoulds..." ring through loud and clear drowning out the "I needs..."
  Yet, and I've said this to others, when we don't ask for help, we are robbing others of the opportunity to bless us. We deserve to be blessed! (There's something not quite right with that idea but I'm not sure what. For some reason it has the alarm bells ringing. Help me find truth, my Lord.)
  There's a huge whack of self-esteem, as opposed to pride, and trust issues going on here. Hence the volunteering which is the ingrained, pervasive lesson of societal teaching: we are worth what we accomplish.
  Lord, thank You that You are my great Teacher. There are a lot of  undercurrents in today's blog. Forgive me my sins of pride and denial. Help me find truth and healing from all You choose to reveal. In Jesus Name, Amen.
  "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on a rock." Mat 7:24

Sunday, 8 June 2014

God's Shadow by Susan L.

  My Anonymous commenter made a valid point about being under the wings and shadow of the Almighty. If we stray too far, the sun will fry us.
  There were chickens on the farm. A hen would cluck and snuggle her babies beneath her if it was too cold, too hot, raining...any time the elements had the potential to harm her little ones. She'd sit there all puffed up with sometimes as many as ten fluffy chicks hidden beneath her. She always seemed to know exactly when they needed to tuck into her.
  For me, turning to the art or doing my blog is my way of snuggling in. They are opportunities of connection to God's Spirit, of knowing He's standing right beside me with His hand on my shoulder. If I miss a post, my day somehow doesn't feel "right". When there is no art therapy group, I hunger for the opportunity of a safe place to spend time in visual prayer.
  Yes, I often do this by myself but having others nearby who lovingly point out the positives makes it easier to see God's truth. Sometimes the emotions make me unable to see beyond the expression of pain. And yes, I also do many gratitude pieces celebrating God's presence in my life.
  In a way, depression and anxiety are gifts. Just getting through the day and accomplishing anything that needs doing is far beyond my own ability. I know this. I don't like feeling unsettled or heavy hearted but it is what it is. The faith God has blessed me with knows beyond the conscious, the logical, to trust in His mystery, His ability to heal, His plan for my life and His love.
  I've heard many Christians talk about the desert days when they couldn't feel God's presence. Having spent forty years in the wilderness before I knew Him on an intimate and personal level, this thought terrifies me. I know the hopeless existence apart from the Holy Spirit. My constant prayer is that the Lord will never put me through a time of spiritual famine.
  Yes, I may wander a bit but never very far before I go racing back to the safest place I know. Like a young chick exploring its world, I am quick to seek the reassuring presence of my Lord: the place where it's just Him and I.
  "Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing O mountains! For the Lord has comforted His people and will have mercy on His afflicted." Is 49:13

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Drought by Susan L.

  It's been well over a month since we've had any significant rain. The grass has barely grown since I mowed it last Sunday. The flower beds needed a good soaking last night, the poor things were rather wilted. My sump pump is still running albeit not as frequently. I have no concerns yet for my drinking water. It's an advantage to living in a river valley where there is an underground river my sand point well taps in to and one that survived the drought of a few years ago.
  I drive past ploughed fields and can't help but feel for those special people who struggle to eke a living from the land. It's worrisome times for a farmer. Seeds planted haven't germinated. Those that have are stunted and struggling. The hay crop is only half the height it normally is this time of year.  It's an expensive proposition putting the seeds into the ground. Because of all the snow, a lot of the crops were planted late to begin with. The fields were too wet to work. 
  It will affect us all.
  Nearly everything we eat is based in agriculture from the obvious steaks on our barbeque to the apples in our pies. Anything that uses canola oil or corn will face an increase in price. And food has been getting expensive already over the last couple of years as gas prices have also crept higher. The packages are smaller, too.
  I honestly don't know how young families get by. I feel for the seniors and the disabled who live on a limited income. Food dollars simply don't go very far. Rarely do prices go down even in a bumper crop year. Once increased, they stay increased.
  Lord, I know You are the Great Provider and Comforter. Be with those who are struggling and filled with worry about everything from the weather to wondering where the next meal is coming from. Thank You. (It wouldn't hurt to send some rain, too. Thank You for that as well.) In Jesus' name I pray.
  "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" Mat 7:11

Friday, 6 June 2014

Respite by Susan L.

  I have no words to describe my appreciation for those who offer words of encouragement and understanding. It means a lot to know I am not alone in my struggles. I am thankful, too, for healing opportunities like last night's art therapy session.
  On the drive there, I always take the time to surrender each session to His tender care. Sometimes the oddest things come to mind. In the eighties there was an animated short about a bird of paradise trapped in a shimmering cage. There were no lines, it was done to the music of Zamphir's pan flute. This little film was something I never tired of watching because the whole thing was indescribably beautiful. The image of a bird in a gilded cage inspired me.
  As we were settling in, one of the others in the group mentioned a love of the pan flute. This is not an instrument you hear about every day. That's when I knew the bird cage was crucial to the evening's art no matter what else should evolve.
  I began to paint the images of my nightmares, my fears, the ravening black dogs of depression. All the things that have me feeling trapped and betrayed by my own mind. (Thank You, Lord for the ability to do this.) It was terribly dark and disturbing: black and red swirls of colour, muddy greens and grays. Monsters and evil shadows filled the page edge to edge. 
  As I had gathered up supplies to begin this process, I took a small piece of gold paper for the bird cage and a black, flocked scrap to use for the bird. I hadn't wanted to paint them instead opting to cut the shapes out. As I glued the bird into the cage and the cage onto the background, sadness overwhelmed me. They were so tiny compared to the overpowering darkness of the background.
  In sharing about my piece, one of the others in the group mentioned that the cage, while not letting the bird fly away, it also protected it. God's hand touched my soul. A giant weight lifted as He reminded me that He is my Cage, my Protector, my Provider and Strength.
  When the group was over, I had one last task to complete. I carefully cut the bird cage out of the darkness. I couldn't leave it there. The moment I did, the dark, swirling, terrifying reds of the background became, within the cage, the beautiful colours of a summer sunset: God's redemption.
  "He shall cover you with His feathers, and under his wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday." Ps 91:4-6

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Pep Talk by Susan L.

  It feels like I am repeating myself but I suppose after a few hundred posts it's inevitable. It's challenging to come up with different ideas when, on an emotional level, I am really struggling. That seems to be all that's in my head, the borderland of tears. Depression sucks up a lot of energy. Daily tasks feel monumental although when I felt slightly better on Tuesday, the vacuuming got done. And the dishes.
  Patiently, patiently, the Lord will enable me.
  I thank the Lord for my stubbornness. Or rather, tenacity. There's still two weeks until I see my psychiatrist unless there's a cancellation. When he first accepted me as a patient, the wait time was nine months until our initial appointment. It was worth the wait. He's an excellent and caring doctor. I held on then, I can persevere now.
  Patiently, patiently, the Lord will sustain me.
  Part of this morning's shadowland is a nightmare of two nights ago. It hasn't helped. I had an incredibly vivid dream about my ex. I woke in despair wondering why, after all these years, he would stalk my sleep. The body has a memory. It remembered how I felt during my marriage, the walking-on-eggshell fearful existence of living with a volatile alcoholic. It's hard to shake the memories: real world and dreamland. But, that was then, this is now.
  Patiently, patiently, the Lord will renew my mind.
  Another of my warning signs that things are not great is simply how loud the world is. Do you remember the corny 70's TV show the "Bionic Woman"? She had super hearing. I can relate. The cars driving past my place make a lot of noise. It makes me jumpy, too. Which in turn, compounds the fatigue which in turn amplifies the depression. This is one hamster wheel I'd like to get off.
  Patiently, patiently, the Lord will release me.
  So that's it. I give it all to You, Lord. Your time, Your will for my life.
  "The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Zeph 3:17

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Leaks by Susan L.

  I thought I'd be able to write a celebratory blog this morning about, of all things, an air mattress. They're only good if they hold air. Which, as I discovered at my son's on the weekend, mine doesn't. Within minutes, my nether regions were touching the ground and it's one of those foot high luxury models. 
  A half inflated air bed is like sleeping on jello. A roll over to once side flattened it while the opposite inflated. It popped me out on the floor with absolutely no grace or mercy whatsoever! Thankfully no one was watching or I am sure they'd have roared with laughter at the sight! I was while at the same time not wanting to wake anyone. My goodness, stifled hilarity can be painful!
  At my son's, the escaping air had revealed its general whereabouts with a soft hiss (air mattress giggles?) so I went hunting last night to find the offending hole. (Teach you to toss me out on the floor!) It didn't take long. The noise and air whistling by my hands made the spot obvious. There was a tiny slit in one of the seams. A couple layers of duct tape (great stuff, that) and I thought I had it fixed. Once bounced, twice shy. I left the mattress inflated overnight to discover it must still have a leak somewhere.
  I had checked the remainder of the seams for holes last night. This one must be less obvious. A silent teeny, tiny pinprick. The hunt begins. Or maybe I need to invest in a couple rolls of duct tape to do all the side seams. Or simply invest in a new mattress.
  But then, sleeping on the ground...if it is good enough for my Lord...
  "And He said to them, "When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?" So they said, "Nothing."" Lk. 22:35


Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Summer by Susan L.

  Yesterday summer thundered in, literally. This morning is already hot and humid with glowering clouds racing overhead. There will probably be more thunderstorms today. Good because we desperately need the rain. It's been a dry spring.
  Window closing season is upon us. I never used to shut the house up in the morning to keep the heat at bay but started doing that here a few years ago. It helps offset the fact I have no air conditioning. Not that I want it, a couple of fans suit me just fine. It only takes a few nights to get used to the hum.
  I like the windows open at night. The lilacs are in bloom and it's a lovely perfume to have wafting through the house.
  I'm not complaining, far from it after the long, cold winter we just had. It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that barely a month ago there was still snow piled on one side of my driveway. You'd think after nearly forty years in Ontario, I'd be used to this but each summer seems to surprise me.
  H and I are going camping in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to it. Hopefully by then the mosquitoes will have lessened a bit. They are pretty bad this year. There's a part of my garden that I haven't weeded because of the thirsty little monsters. Getting my mail is an adventure in swatting because there are so many. Mowing the lawn means a bath in bug repellent.
  I love the fact we have four distinct seasons. Each one comes with its own challenges and its own blessings. It's hard to decide on a favorite. The glorious colours of autumn versus the explosion of spring green. Winter blizzards while safely tucked inside versus the long days of summer. In a way, they are all favorites.
  "When I consider 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

Monday, 2 June 2014

Weekend Adventures by Susan L.

  I was down at my son's for the weekend. His birthday was on Friday so we went to the Toronto Ripley's Aquarium that sits at the base of the CN Tower. It's been at least fifteen years since I was downtown. It sure has changed!
  The aquarium houses an astonishing array of fish and other aquatic creatures despite it's small size. Once inside it feels much larger. Floor to ceiling tanks astound the senses.
  There's even one of those tunnels that lets you go beneath the shark tank. There was a large, silver fish that bore evidence of the unwanted attention of a shark reminding me that these are the great hunters in the ocean.
  What astounded me the most was the wide range of colours and patterns in the various fish, both freshwater and saltwater. Everything from intense pink and yellow to vibrant purple to indigo blues to metallic silver filled the tanks. Dots, stripes, blotches, unlimited combinations of the three dressed many fish in wonderful finery.
  They had several types of jellyfish in their own tanks whose delicate ballet was amazing to watch. They were one of my favorites.
  God's infinite creativity was fully on display.
  "So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded." Gen 1:21