Friday, 30 May 2014

Birches in the Moonlight by Susan L.

  The Art in the Park last weekend in Stratford left me inspired. There was one artist who had several representations of birch trees. I thought to myself, "I could do that". So I did. Last night in art therapy. A quick hour and a half watercolour exploration of birch trees at night. It wasn't too bad but there were a couple of things I wasn't quite satisfied with. If I'd had more time, it could have been better. But still, for a first attempt, it had it's good qualities. (Thank You, Lord, I can say these things with gratitude. There was a time when nothing was good enough.)
  I enjoy painting night scenes. There's something special in the subtle colours illuminated by the cool light of the moon. Highlights are silvered. Textures become blurry, impressionistic almost. Another thing I like is the secretive quality of the invisible. Soft shadows hide many things. I suppose that is what this particular painting was about. I didn't so much paint trees as painted the darkeness that defined the trees.
  It captured my mood: shadowy and dark. It hinted at the struggles I am having right now with depression and anxiety. It depicted the timeless patience of a forest waiting for the sunrise like I am waiting for an appointment with my psychiatrist. Well, maybe not so patiently. Does a forest anticipate the sun? The hidden creatures of dawn must. Night is a fearful time for them, a hunting time.
  Lord, please illuminate the shadows.
  "For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, Now I will arise," says the Lord; "I will set him in the safety for which he yearns." Ps 12:5

Thursday, 29 May 2014

At Storybook Farm by Susan L.

  I wandered down to the horse farm yesterday morning. The sun was shining, it was lovely and warm. I handed over a waiver to the owner, taking responsibility for my own safety. This was necessary to be able to go whenever I want. She was heading into town so I had the place to my self. Sort of.
  I spent some time simply watching the swallows before heading over to a paddock with two gray thoroughbreds. I have learned the best places to scratch over the years and it wasn't long before the mare was licking her lips and chewing. This is horse language telling me of her enjoyment and that she was happy to be near by, that she wanted to be my friend. Her gelding paddock buddy also benefitted. She began to groom him with her teeth as I scratched and rubbed her shoulder and hips.
  We spent a most enjoyable half hour or so before they wandered off to nibble at the lush grass.
  There is a pair of donkeys who have free run of the barnyard. There's not much grass which helps keep their weight down. Donkeys can get fat on the smell of grass. There's one shaggy gray one with the black crucifix mark on her shoulders and down her back that I have taken a bit of a shine to.
  As she, too, enjoyed some good scratching, I pondered the cross and what it represents. Legend says God bestowed this gift on the donkey who carried Jesus into Jerusalem. Ever since then, donkeys have displayed the honour.
  It feels right to be at this farm. Tough, but right. My own barn memories bubble up. Some good, some not so good. I realised that every animal who died on my watch had taken a piece of me with it. I wasn't aware that God was part of my life at the time so there was nothing to heal the sadness, guilt and regret that a poor, frozen, newborn lamb would awaken in my heart.
  This happened despite the four hour barn checks that ran from January to March. First lambs and kids, then the calves and foals. It was a gruelling schedule. I'd sleep on the couch fully dressed because once I was in bed, there was no way I could face a February blizzard at four AM.
  I think that's why I like the donkeys so much. There's no connection, no history to overcome.
  I am thankful, too, that the Lord will heal the wounds in my heart. It's time to let them go.
  "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." Jn 10:10

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Stuff of Dreams by Susan L.

  Or should I say nightmares. The last couple of nights have been rough. I don't remember the details of last night's waking in horror but I do remember Monday's. Clear as a bell, in vivid Technicolor with sight, sound, smell and touch all present, I was buried beneath an avalanche of snow. As soon as the icy cold dream snow hit my face and I felt myself unable to breathe, I woke in a claustrophobic panic. Just writing about it stirs up the awful feeling of being suffocated.
  I'm not one for analysing my dreams. There's enough analysing goes on with the challenges of being awake! What is bothersome is that a poor night's sleep makes the days harder. And I am struggling.
  It's a shame, really. The days are finally warm and sunny. The grass is green, nature is in her youth and bursting forth, encouraged by the nice weather. The birds grub hunting in the yard or squabbling with each other over a choice morsel bring merely a ghost of a smile.
  There's a line in the book "The Shack" that struck home with me: "the great sadness". It's been slowly creeping in. Most likely because of the fatigue generated by the over-the-top anxiety of the last few weeks. These two challenges are stealing the joy from my soul.
  I have asked to see my psychiatrist earlier than the scheduled third week of June. I'm on a waiting list for a cancellation.
  It feels like such a long way away.
  I am hoping it might simply be a need for a medication adjustment. Apparently hormone changes can affect how psychotropic meds work. Yup. Got that going on. Yet the thought of changing anything or trying something different has it's own concerns. It took a long time to find out what worked. Not a pleasant process to say the least. But then, if it isn't working...rocks and hard places.
  The stuff of dreams... Lord, that I may be well. I ask for open doors, too and a speedy appointment. Oh, and the strength to persevere, to trust in Your plan. In Jesus' name, Amen!
  "He will have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities." Micah 7:19

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Telephone Solicitations by Susan L.

  We all get them. We are all annoyed by the interruptions. Supper time seems to be the best time for unwanted phone calls or late on a Sunday evening. Sellers pushing their wares on us: meat, windows, duct cleaning...I have some fun with that, playing hard of hearing. I tell them the ducks are at the pond and are clean already.
  The annoying fog horn, "You've won a cruise!" Great! But it'll cost an arm and a leg to fly to the departure city.
  Once in a while, I thank them for calling because I'd like to share the news about Jesus. Sadly, they usually hang up on me.
  The most disturbing one is the caller who identifies themselves as calling about Microsoft Windows, or about the internet server. I went along with them once to a certain point. He had me turn on my computer. That's when I asked him how he was going to help since, at that time, I didn't have internet. He hung up.
  The caller last night from Microsoft got rather aggressive. He told me several times that there was a problem with Windows and if it wasn't addressed immediately, my computer would stop working. There was NO way this person would be given access to my computer, laptop, actually. I don't do online banking but letting them in, this rather underhanded way to accessing personal info, would be like giving candy to babies. It makes identity theft easier.
  Once in, your computer could be linked to others without you knowing. Unwittingly you might become part of an underground society linked with the darker side of the internet.
  I have something to share. The calls can be stopped. I am down to roughly one call every two or three weeks and that is often a local business going through the phone book.
  It takes three simple steps:
1. Call 1-866-580-3625  It's the National Do Not Call Registry. Good for five years.
2. Call 310-BELL   Ask Bell to remove you from the list they sell to phone solicitation companies. I dealt with a young girl who didn't know they had such a thing and was surprised to find out they did.
I am not sure if Rogers does the same. It wouldn't hurt to ask if you are their customer. Make sure if  any changes are made to your account that this request stays in place.
3. Ask any solicitor who calls to remove you from their call list. They sell their lists to others. This is crucial to take the time in the beginning and with all unwanted calls. Be firm. Be polite. These people are only doing a job they are paid for and a miserable job it must be.
  It takes some patience, but within six weeks there should be a radical drop in calls.
  "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one." 1 Jn 5:19
 

Monday, 26 May 2014

Shedding Stress by Susan L.

  My big project this summer is to build a new garden shed. The small aluminum one that was beaten up by a fallen tree last summer is inadequate. And leaky. By the time I toss my snow tires in and the lawn mower, there's no room left for anything else. It's a big project which involves a fair bit of cleanup before dismantling the current shed can even begin. It was overwhelming to the point of paralysis.
  Silly me. I always seem to think everything needs to be done at once.
  With a stroke of Divine Genius, I tidied up some of the stuff that had been tossed behind it or should I say, moved it to the driveway for a trip to the dump. It'll be nice to get rid of an eyesore. It'll be even better to have a place to keep all my gardening tools together without having to trip over everything else.
  If I do a bit at a time, it won't seem such a huge task. A half hour here and there is doable.
  The dump trip does double duty. They offer free mulch. Using that on the flower beds would eliminate a lot of weeding and watering. Again, helping with the sense of overwhelm I've been living with these past few weeks.
  It's still there but the Lord is guiding me into living with a simpler life. Simple solutions, simple demands that can be fulfilled by only focusing on one small task at a time. I have no idea why I ever thought it possible to do more than that.
  "But now, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand." Is 64:8
 
 
 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Home Again by Susan L.

   Two plays and an overnight stay in a B&B. Good food, great company and even better weather. "The Man of La Mancha" was utterly brilliant. The singers were outstanding. It was a moving and powerful performance as they put their heart and soul into the music. I was sorry when it was over.
 "Alice Though the Looking Glass" was a delightful, if somewhat dark, performance. The use of costume, props and puppetry made an imagined and bizarre world work. What amazed me is the elaborate stage setting for Man of La Mancha was completely gone because Alice was performed at the same theatre, the Avon.
  There were a lot of children present for the matinee. I am sure for many it was their introduction to live theatre. There was a bit of a pantomime element to the show so the audience was involved in the performance. A couple of specially chosen children got to pull a rope that affected what was happening on stage. The actors called them by name as a rope dropped out of the ceiling. The second time released parachuting jelly beans into the audience. What fun! Then the actors tossed out handfuls so everyone could get some. It made me feel like a kid again as I caught them.
  Before going to Alice, we strolled along the river, pausing now and then to sit on a bench. Watching the beautiful swans meticulously preening each of their already gleaming white feathers or gliding along the smooth surface of the water was a performance of its own. There was an Art in the Park exhibition so we meandered through, admiring the work of many different artisans. They left me inspired.
  It was a wonderful time.
  "The eyes of all look expectantly to you, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing." Ps 145:15-16
 
 
 
 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Letter by Susan L.

  I wrote a letter to my pastor expressing my confusion about his sermons. If you would like to see them, they are at www.faithcommunity.com. (The Black Dog video is an amazing short film.) I shared a bit about my own story with depression, taking a good two and a half hours to compose. He doesn't have personal experience so it is necessary to extend grace towards him. I shared with him some of the gifts depression has given me and a bit about my own journey with a wonderful, caring therapist.
  He responded thanking me for sharing and offered an opportunity, if I would like, to share my story with the church. In a way, it felt like a bit of a brush off. "That's nice, dear." Yes, it hurt a bit, that he'd missed my points or wasn't able to hear them or apply them to his own way of thinking. Or maybe I hadn't been clear enough or forceful enough. Isn't that pride at its finest!
  Or is it possible, as a leader, that admitting a mistake to a member of the congregation is not something they do easily. We parishioners expect and often demand that our pastors, elders and their spouses be more than human. That's a tough pedestal to sit on don't you think?
  It's easy to sit and point a finger. "You're WRONG!" It's easy to walk away in an offended huff. It's harder to be patient, trusting in God for the right words, the right people to enter into someone's life so they may gain wisdom.
  For most of us, it takes seven times before we go "Ohh, that's what You meant. I get it!"
  It has not been my intention to criticize him or crucify him. I, myself, am seeking understanding and wisdom as to how to proceed from here. I can only love the pastor like Jesus does by continuing to pray for his growth as a pastor and as a man. I can only pray the pedestal crumbles.
  Trust is a whole other matter.
  "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God." 1 Cor 4:5
 
    

Thursday, 22 May 2014

In Good Company by Susan L.

  I am thoroughly encouraged by those who have left comments on Tuesday's post about potentially doing a devotional for people living with depression. It's an area we are often maligned and misunderstood not only as Christians but as part of the general public as well.
  The pastor of the church I am attending did a two Sunday sermon on Spiritual Depression. He tried to make a differentiation between that and clinical depression although it bothered me nonetheless. I don't know if he was talking about the desert days, the spiritual void, when we don't feel the presence of the Lord or if he was really talking about depression.
  I didn't attend those two services. The first one, I left prior to his sermon because of a panic attack. I wasn't up to going to church the following Sunday but instead listened to the sermons online. Any time someone I have a connection with talks about any form of mental health I like to stay informed. Even more so when the person is talking from outside the place of personal lived experience as he was. For the most part, it was informative.
  There were a couple of things that didn't sit well. He discarded the valuable use of therapists and councillors with a brief statement implying they were a waste of money. Oh, dear. I can say that because it was a debilitating prejudice of my own that had to be overcome before seeking help. Help that was desperately needed. I found (was led to) a wonderful Christian therapist and prayer was a huge part of that seven year journey.
  If you or a loved one are struggling, please seek the help you need, no matter where that may be. God is in all things.
  Then he got into the concept of self-pity, how that can cause depression. I know I blogged about that before when he tossed that in after I approached him for prayer one Sunday a while back. It has made me reluctant to approach him again for help.
  It's okay to talk about our sorrows and concerns. The Holy Spirit has often revealed the lies I believed about myself and others as I talked with my therapist. Thinking things, keeping them trapped inside and hearing them said can often bring release. Vocal purging is part of recovery and even more invaluable if the roots of depression are in trauma.
  Depression is beyond self pity. It is despair. It is hopelessness. It is an indescribable fatigue that fills the body and mind, wiping out the ability to think, feel or do anything.
  Those of us who live with this black dog, as it is often called, are in good company. David, the author of the Psalms, Isaiah, and each other. I celebrate the wealth of wisdom, resiliency, determination, insight, grace and patience found in teaching some manners to that beast.
  Within the Black River is an opportunity to know Christ with an intimacy beyond anything we could possibly imagine. It's too bad that the gifts of depression are ignored by those who do not understand, who view depression as a weakness, a failing. If they only knew.
  "I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps." Ps 40:1-2

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Horse Experience by Susan L.

  I met up with a woman who had been out of my life for a long while. She had been at my baptism in 2006 and after hearing my testimony, a two page story I had agonized over for months, approached me. She told me I was a writer and invited me to the Writer's Nest. I wasn't ready to go because I didn't believe her. It took another couple of years before the Lord released me of my disbelief.
  I continued to write, journaling prayer mostly but only within the secret pages of my notebook. After writing a poem about God I surprised myself by admitted to Him that it was good. It feels like a lifetime ago but that was the beginning of the slow growth of confidence in my writing. I'm honoured and deeply grateful to see my articles in the local paper with the word "Columnist" beneath my name.
  We met up for coffee yesterday where she invited me to a horse farm where they do horse therapy just minutes down the road. There is another farm somewhere nearby that offers the same healing opportunities except where we went yesterday is based and run on Christian philosophies.
  God is ever faithful. I was an absolute horse nut as a child. My parents blessed me with riding lessons that ended when I started working and had no time. I'd had my own assortment of horses on the farm but hadn't done much riding. Getting hurt and being unable to attend to the rest of the large menagerie of critters we had was a huge concern. Instead, we bred the mares a couple of time.
  A few weeks ago, as I drove home from Bible study, the random thought crossed my mind that it would be nice to go riding, to be with horses again. It wasn't an intentional prayer but God was listening to my heart and sent my friend as an answer.
  I may be able to write more about this another day because there was a huge upwelling of chaotic emotions. The earthy aromas, the smell of cedar shavings, saddle soap, and horse released another layer of grief. I don't regret going even though right now I am not doing so well as far as the over the top anxiety goes. It's beginning to take a toll on every aspect of my life.
  The owner, because of my horse experience has given me carte blanche to go to the farm whenever I like, to make myself at home. One of the happiest summers I had as a tween was when a friend and I spent five days a week on a horse farm. Somehow the thought of taking my sketch book and enjoying the animals sits well with my soul.
  Thank You for listening. Thank You for my friend, bless her for her obedience in contacting me. Help me, Lord, recapture peace and I ask that You do a work in my heart. In Jesus name, Amen.
  "He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler." Ps 91:4
 
 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Devotional by Susan L.

  One of the ladies at the Writer's Nest suggested I write a devotional for people living with depression. The idea has been percolating ever since because my fiction book has sort of fizzled for the moment. The biggest question is: what would it look like?
  I've been handed devotionals on different occasions, particularly when I've been in a tough spot. Bless the writers for doing them but I have found they can be a bit overwhelming. Maybe I'm going about reading them the wrong way. A page a day I believe is how they are supposed to be read. That page a day, within a book three hundred and sixty five pages long knocks the wind out of my already listless sails.
  So, first of all, the size needs to be manageable. Say, a month long. Thirty-one entries. Not just for the reader, but for the writer as well.
  I also find it difficult some days to concentrate on words, for them to make sense. Especially when I am running on overwhelm. Could art and imagery be part of a devotional? What would the images be? Hmmm, I have plenty of black and white graphic art to pull from within a series of illustrated poems I did several years ago. Because of the size, it wasn't financially viable to have it printed. They were designed to be coloured. How about a smaller version for a smaller book? Colouring is a great grounding and meditation tool.
  "Finding God in the Dark".
  Thank You, Lord for that little inspiration. Grant me the wisdom to understand what You desire for me to do.  In Jesus Name I pray.
  "He said: I am "The voice of one crying in the wilderness; Make straight the way of the Lord.'" Jn 1:23
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, 19 May 2014

Comfort by Susan L.

  I was watching the video portraying the book of Mathew. The man who plays Jesus acts the role in a delightfully warm and touching manner. He portrays Jesus with a lot of laughter. My finicky DVD player quit, following the scene where Jesus is on the mount. It was where Jesus taught the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer. That was all I needed to see I guess.
  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
  Jesus knows we will have good days and some not so good.
  "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
  This is for anyone who has suffered a loss in any form. Which amounts to every single person on the planet. I know when days are full of grief, it's hard to feel blessed. Sometimes it's hard to see a way out.
  On really bad days, it's worse at bedtime, so I imagine myself curling up to sleep at the feet of Christ where He watches over me through the night. I imagine resting a hand upon one of His feet so I don't feel so alone. His presence becomes real and a great comfort to my soul.
  Thank You, Lord, for the gift of imagination.
  "Blessed are meek for they shall inherit the earth."  All quotes can be found at Mat 5:3-5.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

At Ease, Soldier by Susan L.

  I didn't sleep too well last night. Around three thirty I realised I had forgotten to take my meds. It was too late to take them so the night was fraught with restless, haunting dreams and tossings to and fro, startling awake and drifting off again only to wake up moments later alert and listening. My meds are something I have never forgotten before. Late, yes, but forgetting? It showed me how important a tool they are for my own wellness and rest.
  I had hoped to sleep in a bit this morning. I'm glad I didn't. The birdsong this morning was absolutely beautiful. A cat bird (I think) perched in the ash tree at the side of the house. The rather unassuming gentleman ran through an amazing repertoire of sounds with the surprisingly cat-like mew interspersed. How something so small could make such a big noise was astounding. It truly helped shake off the last disquiet from the night.
  I'm going to spend the day outside, forgoing church. My reserves have been sorely depleted by the over-the-top anxiety of the last few weeks. It's time to rest and refresh. I know church is supposed to do that for us but sadly, it ends up taking a huge amount of energy for me to attend. This morning, being tired and vulnerable, it's best I don't go.
  It's hard, not feeling safe there, amidst worship and the teachings of the God's Word. But it is what it is. PTSD doesn't discriminate. In my stubborn determination to not allow the anxiety to rule my life, I forced myself to go a couple weeks ago. It didn't turn out well.
  My plan is to putter in the garden a bit, resting frequently to simply enjoy the outdoors. It looks like it is going to be a lovely day.
  And the old hymn, "In the Garden", is the song of the day.
  "Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, for You will answer me." Ps 86:6-7
 

Friday, 16 May 2014

The God of All by Susan L.

    I am tempted to leave this page blank. Words cannot begin to explain the hugeness captured in the few words of the title. How can a simple human grasp the fact that from sub-atomic to sperm whales, from dust to mountains, from earth's core to the farthest outreaches of space, He is God of all.
  Yet, He humbled Himself so we can connect to Him on a deeply personal level.
  In my brokenness, I desperately need Him to be approachable. In Jesus, He is just that. Yes, without sin, but nevertheless, fully human. I need a Man who is vulnerable and kind and gentle and forgiving. I need a Man unlike any other man who has been part of my life. I need a Man who will laugh with me at my silly, human quirks. Yet, at the same time lovingly encourage me to change, to be a woman better than I am. Without condemnation. Without anger. Without demand or expectations that I be someone who I am not or that I try and do more than I can.
  I know I disappoint Jesus on a regular basis because I bestow on Him my fear and distrust of men. That fear is a big part of my life. He understands why. There's been some hard and cruel teachers. This Man above all men is working on healing those deep and terrible wounds. Every time I meet a man who weeps, who shares his struggles with me heals that fear a little bit more. I am thankful. I don't want to be afraid.
  Forgive my fear, Lord. I trust in You to do the work in my heart.
  "Jesus wept." John 11:35

Thursday, 15 May 2014

"What's the Point?" by Susan L.

  With great thanks to my reader, I have given the inclusion of that phrase from Jesus' imagined dialog in yesterday's blog a great deal of thought. I appreciate the fact that it may have appeared to be a sinful, humanistic expression. The more I have examined it, the more I understand that those imagined words represent an outcry acknowledging all that was and is wrong with us. Jesus knew that despite His death on the cross, human kind would continue along a self-destructive path.
  His disciples knew Him with an intimacy we can only imagine. For three years they ate, slept, and travelled with Him but in the end, their human, sinful natures won out. Greed, fear, and even shame caused them to betray and abandon Him in His hour of need.
  Throughout His life, Jesus walked with the broken and the maimed. He healed, He taught, He loved on humanity like no one else ever had. It must have grieved Him that there is so much need. My pastor shared about the physical and emotional drain of a Sunday. Jesus is the Rabbi of the world.
  His Father also despaired of human kind on more than one occasion. So much so, at one point He wiped everyone off the face of the earth with a great flood. Except for a chosen few. He destroyed Sodom because of the debauchery and sin within the city walls. A chosen few were spared thanks to Abraham who prayed for them. There was one, however, who looked back as they fled for their lives and turned into a pillar of salt. (I wonder what she was thinking.)
  That imagined question? "What's the point?" was more of a request for the Lord to fill His Son with  sufficient hope for the human race despite its wicked ways so He could do His Father's will. This time, however, we have all been chosen and given second and third and forth and fifty-five chances to learn of Jesus and the love He has for us. Those same chances give us the opportunity to lose our aptitude for sin and the power sin has over us. Jesus gives us the strength to not look back.
  Maybe God answered Jesus like this, "The point is they are my children and I love them so much it hurts."
  "Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Gen 18:25
 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

A Gift of Depression by Susan L.

This is a piece I wrote for my writer's group tonight, posted early because I have an early start in the morning. I debated sharing but like always, a theme arose above and beyond the decided topic of writing a devotional or a piece based on a piece of scripture. It began in conversation. Trials and troubles, heartache and worse bubbled to the surface.
I know I often struggle with anxiety but underneath all lay a marvelous world of indescribable faith that was forged in the darkest moments of my life. I decided to share this for anyone else who has ever felt this way.

“Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.”               Mat 26:38
Those words touch my soul like no other. Each time I read them, my heart aches all over again. Jesus and I have knelt together in Gethsemane many times, the garden where choices are made. My heart breaks in hearing words uttered by Someone else at the end of their rope; Someone who is unable to face the Tomorrow Pain. I want to hold Him close, brush the hair back from His face and tell Him everything will be okay.
It is so real to me, the Garden, that I can smell the night air. It has been a place of inner sanctuary within the depths of madness. I hear the crickets chirping in the dew covered grass. The trees whisper to each other over the evening breeze. A moon dances shadows with a blue and merciless light. There’s a roosting bird somewhere overhead ruffling its feathers as it dreams birdie dreams. Beneath it all lay an agony of the soul unlike no other.
I hear His prayer, “Father, I am so alone, so afraid. Those who I thought were My friends have failed Me. One I love will soon betray Me. Another beloved will deny he ever knew Me. It hurts so much. What’s the point? There is no one to help me bear this burden. Father, I am going to die anyways. Why should I wait? Why should I suffer for those who so quickly abandon Me?”  He begs for the cup to pass Him by as I too have begged when the weight of the Tomorrow Pain was simply too much.
But, I hear our Father answer us, “Choose life, My Son... my daughter. I will give you all you need to sustain You in the dark hours to come. I will send angels in the form of men to help you bear Your cross. You are not and will never be alone. I am with you always.”
I am alive because of Jesus’ choice. The song of suicide is simply a haunting melody with no meaning anymore. And I still visit Gethsemane. It’s a beautiful garden. It’s the place where life won.
Your will, my Lord, not mine.

What a Wonderful World by Susan L.

  It looks like a warm, gentle rain fell last night. The coating of sand and dust left by the plows has been washed away exposing colours not seen for a long, long time. It feels like forever. The leaves on the trees across the road have exploded in the warmth of the last two days. Everything growing and new has an ethereal glow from a morning sun diffused and softened by clouds. Against the uniform backdrop of a gray blanket, the eruption of spring stands out even more.
  There's only a whisper of wind, barely enough to make the new leaves dance a Viennese waltz on the highest branches.
  How I hungered for spring! To see it here at last is a healing salve to eyes and spirit. The pistachio hue of the elms and poplars contrast with the golden touched cedars. The maples and ash are slower to leaf out but their gray/green bark only heightens the contrasting beauty of exploding new growth.
  The lawn and the dead trees out front are a sumptuous buffet of worms and grubs enticing devoted pairs of birds to feast. Their hop, skip, grab, a ballet of the ages.
  The house windows are open to blow out the last traces of winter cobwebs. The incense of nature fills the inside spaces: newly mown grass, water, the rich aroma of the earth. Delightful birdsong, the honking geese from the nearby lake fill the void left by a silent furnace. Vivaldi's "Spring" as performed by feathered virtuosos.
  Thank You, Lord, the winter is over.
  "And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good." Gen 1:12
 

Sunday, 11 May 2014

On Being a Mom by Susan L.

  My children are all grown up now but I remember the day when swishy, blue fuzzy sleepers ruled or superhero jammies made heroes who rescued the unseen in terrible danger. Soloist singer, Rudolph role, school plays and events. Wheezing, squeaking clarinet that grew to have a rich and lovely sound. A squawking trumpet, not so much. The milestones that mark the days racing by. Prizes, failures, try agains, study, homework, assignments, report cards, disappointments, successes, graduations. It all seems so long ago but feels like it was yesterday.
  Simple holidays. Camping began in two pup tents becoming one large becoming the luxurious abode of a slightly musty pop up trailer that needed a couple of two by fours to make sure the roof didn't come crashing down in the night. To make sure all were safe. Boy rolling over and magically appearing outside on the grass looking a bit bewildered.
  Showers needed at the end of the endless summer day to wash away the layers of grime, a dusty baptism of freedom. The romance and unabashed acceptance between a four year old and a little girl he met two sites down. Peas in a pod they ran together.
  And fishing. My daughter loved to sit with a line in the water. Bait wasn't necessary. It was the moment, the doing nothing, the peace and still of the water. Oh, how I understood the magic of that. The boys? Big, tooth gapped grins. Feisty fighting sunfish catch all of two inches long photograph moments.
  Growing pains, flues, pneumonia, broken arm, stitched up chins. Ironically thankful at Christmas when my daughter got sick. It meant no one else was. Thankful she was there to help when the reverse was true and she looked after all of us. Her cooking the meal while I spent hours with a colicky horse even though it was her birthday. I was so very sorry.
  TV arguments: sports versus anything but. Special concession of a bedroom, tiny black and white for the hockey fan who had better pre-satellite reception in the attic anyways.
  Helping hands. I miss that sometimes when my own to do list has grown rather large. Chore rotation, responsibilities. The hated hauling wood for the stove. Loved the fire though, on a bitter February night. Melted, blackened back of a dress. So incredibly thankful it didn't catch fire, that my daughter wasn't burned.
  Somehow I turned around and my little girl is a woman, my boys are men. It means goodbyes. Not forever ones but marking that the rules have changed. An empty nest, grateful my children are doing well with their beloveds. Grateful they survived the terrible turmoil, tests and trials of childhood and youth.
  Empty nest: the process of recognising mistakes made somehow wishing I could have done better, been more. I wished I had hugged them more. I wish we'd gotten a dishwasher while my daughter still lived at home (that was the deal for not having to help with barn chores, she looked after the kitchen) or satellite TV when my hockey fan son still occupied a spot on the couch.  I wish we'd gotten a pool for us, not the ducks; the one thing my youngest always wanted. I wish so much that things could have been different, less hard, less volatile, less walking on eggshell existence.
  As much as I was sad to see them go, I delighted and rejoiced in the fact that they were leaving behind a not so great environment, an environment I was unable to change.
  Empty nest. Letting go of regrets, embracing new roles, a new life, a new identity. I have grown to understand I did the best that I could with the tools I had at the time. Sometimes I actually believe it.
  What truly matters is I will always love my children so very much it hurts.
  "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise, be thankful to Him and bless His name." Ps 100:4
 

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Body Image by Susan L.

  Most of the groups I attended started their session with a meditation exercise of some form or another. One man used a brass singing bowl, another had us tapping our various body parts and saying hello to them. (I found that a bit weird.) The one that revealed some surprising results was a relaxation Yoga exercise where we were to focus on our bodies starting at our heads. The presenter softly spoke the instructions body part by body part to help us become aware of our physical  presence.
  When he got to our feet, he asked us to imagine something nice to surround them with: grass, water, whatever. I imagined Jesus washing my feet. There is nothing of this earth that was better. Tears came to my eyes at the tenderness of His touch. As the presenter took us back up the body to our head, I imagined Jesus embracing each piece of me.
  I was taken aback by how much dislike of my own body emerged; how I didn't feel it measured up. It is the world's scale, not God's, that much I realise. I am not fishing for compliments. Something else that showed up was how hard it is to accept someone saying something good about me. It makes me suspicious and leaves me wondering about ulterior motives. Lord, I choose to forgive those who have hurt me so badly, the bullies, the men, my ex and the women, too. Forgive me for having dished out my own hurtful words, intentional or unintentional.
  My back was in raw, anxiety driven knots. So much so it hurt to touch it. (Wednesday night required pain killers in order to sleep. I had needed a just-in-case-of-emergency pill to ease the stress during the first day.)  As I "felt" Jesus touch my back I realised just how afraid I am all the time.
  Of everything.
  Lord, let this be a celebration of faith. It is You Who sustains me. It is You who enables me. It is You who supports me. It's all You.
  "That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." Eph 4:22-24

Friday, 9 May 2014

Grounding Trauna Conference by Susan L.

  It's been an informative and emotional couple of days. It's going to take some time to process everything. It surprised me that I had an easy time to decide which particular sessions to attend. Its often harder for me to chose a meal on a menu!
   I will say I got tired of hearing the word "client". Somehow it seems to dehumanize the people professional therapists and the like work with.  It's not a word that appears in the peer support arena. There were a couple sessions surrounding music therapy but I chose to go elsewhere. One of the topics was about how to build resiliency in the people (clients) we work with. Another was about using creative processes, a filmmaker was the speaker, to help restore a voice to those who have experienced trauma.
  Throughout the various groups I took visual notes in a small sketchpad. The art aspect helps ground me and often a simple graphic image is able to represent complex ideas. For example two bolts of lightning, one white, one black represented good and negative energy. There were a couple of compliments and even a job offer to come and do the note taking at a board meeting. It was in Toronto so I graciously declined. Or maybe my resounding "No" held a touch of panic. Who me? Do that? In front of people? Uh-uh. No way.
  The filmmaker who was part of the second to last session I attended ended up sitting at the table with us during lunch. He was a lovely man about my own age. He admitted he was good at what he does but added that he wasn't boasting, it was a difficult thing for him to say; that he struggled to embrace his talent and acknowledge it. Tears came to his eyes as he shared this. I met in him a kindred spirit. His confession helped me realise I am not alone in that very same struggle.
  There was another dynamic to this conversation for me as well. There's something about a man who cries that brings healing to my soul. It helps me fear them a little less.
  There was miracle of answered prayer. The last thing the conference organisers did was hold a draw. I got thinking how much I'd love to win something. I could hear the child in me, hand raised shouting, "Pick me! Pick me!" However, the delightful woman sitting next to me had taken every session I had. Sometimes we sat together, other times not. I'd been grateful to have a familiar face in all the groups even though we'd just met. I silently asked the Lord to let her win instead of me. Her name was the next one picked and she walked out with a lovely basket of flowers. Praise God!
  "To each of us grace was given, according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men." Eph 4:7-8
 
 
 

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Thank You by Susan L.

  I can't begin to tell you how encouraged and humbled I am by the outpouring of support and care that has come my way because of yesterday's post. My mom, my friends H and M, and my anonymous encouragers have touched my heart. I am truly blessed.
  Panic attacks are like an emotional tornado that scatters debris everywhere. Cleanup is exhausting so I exercised some self care yesterday by going to bed around nine thirty and was asleep shortly after. Even though my nerves are still zinging, I feel a bit better prepared to face a day of things I can't put off.
  My car brakes need looking at. The snow tires are coming off. (Now that is something to celebrate!) I work for a bit this afternoon to cover the centre while the other staff are in group. Easy peasy. There's nothing tonight but a hot bath and early bed so I can face the conference that starts tomorrow.
  There's a  part of me which is concerned about the physical stress these episodes place on my body. The adrenaline system, the heart and the nervous system all take a hit every time one of these attacks happens. The fact it takes a few days for the whole kit and caboodle to calm down probably has an impact as well. I think there's a need to do some research to find out how to offset any potential long term damage.
  W5, a show on CTV, did an episode on soldiers with PTSD and how they are using service dogs to help them overcome the high levels of anxiety associated with the challenge. With the dogs, they are able to get out of the house or stop self-medicating. Some have even stopped using medications. One of the soldiers returned to active duty, dog at his side. The first such dog in the military.
  I don't know how Pumpkin would react but it's something to think about.
  "And to any hill which could be dug with the hoe, you will not go there for fear of briars and thorns; but it will become a range for oxen and a place for sheep." Is 7:25
 
  

 

Monday, 5 May 2014

Rerun by Susan L.

  With all good intentions I went to church yesterday. Was it the wrong choice? Possibly because the chairs seemed to be incredibly close to each other. There was a tall man standing in front of me amplifying the closed in feeling. The worship team was having a rollicking good time as enthusiastic and boisterous music filled the room. Niggles of anxiety began working their way into my mind. The congregation clapped merrily to the beat of the music. I jumped with each loud beat. My chest got tighter and tighter. Everything was too loud, too busy. I could feel pinpricks of tears growing in the corners of my eyes. My hands started shaking. 
  I whispered to a friend standing next to me, "I'm having a panic attack." She suggested I leave the room and head somewhere quieter.
  I didn't want to run. Well, I did, that's what the panic was telling me to do but I knew if I stayed it was going to get much worse. As I quietly slipped out the back door, one of the elders asked me if I was okay. With a negative shake of my head, I left.
  She came out and chatted with me. It was good to focus on anything but the rising tide of adrenaline. The thought of heading back into the service was overwhelming so I decided to head on home. Church will be there another day.
  There's a dose of disappointment in all this. I'd been doing well lately.
  Do you know the zingy sound fingers make on electric guitar strings? That's how my nerves feel this morning. It's a busy week with a two day conference starting Wednesday that I am stressing about and looking forward to at the same time.
  Lord, help me take it one day at a time, one moment, one breath. Help me not feel overwhelmed or anxious. Lord, be with me. In Jesus' name I pray.
  "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust."" Ps 91:1-2
 

Saturday, 3 May 2014

The Bad Guy by Susan L.

  At Wednesday's meeting with my psychiatrist I shared with him about writing my book. I confess at the moment there hasn't been much writing but that's okay there's been other fish to fry. He asked me what, if anything, I was discovering in the process.
  The bad guy: he is one piece of nasty work. He's scheming, sadistic, striving, suspicious and a whole lot more. He's just about every negative aspect of humanity all crammed into one detestable being. What surprises me is how easy it is to slip into his roll and write about his thoughts, his plans and actions. It made me realise I have a dark side; a really dark side. Writers can only write about what they know.
  It makes me glad I have a conscience and morals. It makes me celebrate that I have the Lord to keep me right. It fills my heart with gratitude because I have a Love that surpasses all understanding to drown out darker desires. Sometimes it's hard for the human part of me not to want revenge or to explode in rage. It makes me especially glad that the Lord answered prayers so that most of the time I am not bitter about my life's experiences. That is a work in progress, too, giving up bitterness and self-pity. Those toxic emotions poison hearts, minds and souls.
  The challenge for me is how to extend grace to the bad guy, the dark side of the soul. When will a chance for redemption and a choice for change be offered? After all the Lord has done for me, it's the least I can do for him. Whether or not he grabs hold of the opportunity to become something better than he is remains to be seen.
  In a way, I hope the bad guy doesn't change because writing a character that nasty is a whole lot of fun. Especially because it's only the made-up people in my imagination who have to contend with his actions.
  Besides, without the bad guys in our stories and lives, there can be no heroes.
  "When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him lest he drag you to the judge, the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison."Lk 12:58

 

Friday, 2 May 2014

An Idea by Susan L.

  I have been sitting here for nearly half an hour hoping for some sort of an inspiration for today's post. Instead I discovered one for June's newspaper column. It will take a bit of research because I decided to write about the challenges our aboriginal people face regarding mental health and addictions. It's that or talking about homelessness in our small town.
  It's not the in-your-face kind of homelessness like in the big cities because it is hidden behind closed doors. Couch surfers they call themselves. They are mostly youth who have left home or been kicked out for any number of reasons. They end up having to rely on friends for shelter and food as they struggle to finish high school. If they even do. Sometimes they are on the streets simply because they are discovering who they are and press against parental boundaries.
  Our youth run together in mixed gender packs. I talked to a high school student who is doing her co-op at the centre. I asked her if these groups formed because of the lack of family connections at home. She agreed. In many cases, both parents, or more often these days a single parent, has to work long hours to provide for everyone. Parents come home tired and exhausted. Lavish gifts replace priceless quality time. The North American culture of gotta-have's is toxic to family structure and unity.
  These young men and women are left to fend for themselves for hours at a time. Yes, they are old enough to use the stove without burning down the house but there is a sad frequency of emotional neglect happening.There's something missing in their lives so they turn to each other. All they want is a sense of family, of belonging. Somehow the latest cell phone or gaming system doesn't quite cut it.
  I'm not saying a stay at home parent is the answer. I'm saying my heart goes out to these young people. That's all.
  "Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; For your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope in your future, says the Lord, that your children shall come back to their own border." Jer 31:16-17
 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

How Easy It Is by Susan L.

    I haven't done any writing for my book lately. It's not too surprising that the shoulds are starting to squawk. It doesn't take them long to get all fired up and niggle at the back of my mind. A head cold is not conducive to creative writing for any length of time. It's all I can do to sniffle my way through my blog!
  The shoulds, boy they can be burdensome at times. Downright annoying, too. They are quick to steal peace, quick to rob joy, and even quicker to introduce you to its partner, shame. Even more so when you're not doing what you know you should be doing.
  Although, who exactly is the author of the should?
  Society? Culture and upbringing? A harsh and unforgiving work ethic? Perfectionism? Ah, yes...pride.
  I just checked out my Bible concordance to see if should was used in the scriptures. Yup, seven hundred and seventy nine times in the KJV and is pretty much equally used between Old and New Testaments. Here's the kicker. The next word is shoulder. How absolutely, positively delightful!
  The shoulds become can when we rest on the Lord's shoulders. The cans multiply when we ask for help. That is an area I truly struggle with, asking for help I mean.
  It shouldn't be. (Ha, ha!) As someone recently said, I deserve it. We all deserve it.
  (For interest's sake, I looked up several of the scriptures in my more modern NKJV Bible. Most of them have done away with the word "should". It has been replaced by solid words of action, you will, you can, you must.)
  "I removed his shoulder from the burden; his hands were freed from the baskets. You called in trouble and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah." Ps 81:6-7