Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Mono Cliffs Conservation Area by Susan L.

  I suppose one set of trees looks pretty much like all the others. The location is different though, therefore the habitat is different. This park is at the foot of the Niagara Escarpment where H and I found a few treasures we'd never seen before. A Hart's Tongue fern which is so rare the Ministry of Natural Resources asks that you report its location. I'd have taken a picture but it was too far off the path and they ask for all visitors to stay on the path in order to protect the fragile environment.
  Our mushroom hunting found several different varieties as well as a foul smelling, stink horn mushroom. I thought something had died. We found it by the buzzing clouds of flies circling around. We weren't able to identify the specific species because someone had kicked the tops off.
  That happens a lot. Especially to mushrooms growing close to a path. Which is a shame. The point of a conservation area is so everyone can enjoy the biodiversity of a particular area.
  The path we took meandered around the lowlands at the foot of the cliff. Just a couple of decades ago this area was open grasslands. It is slowly turning back into the original forest that once covered this farm field. There are traces of agriculture: stone hedge rows, pieces of split rail fence, a row of ancient maples marked what we figured was a farm lane at one point. It's nice to see it returning to forest.
  There were lots of apple trees. Some may have been an orchard at one point, the rest sort of popped up in clumps. The smell of fermenting fruit reminded me of apple cider. I wonder if the local deer have a party at night when no one is around.
  Next time we go to this park, we'll head to the trails at the top of the cliff. It provides spectacular views, hidden caves, and ancient bonsai cedars clinging to the cliff face.
  Once again I am thankful for these places that are only a short drive away.
  "If you will walk in My ways, and if you keep My command, the you shall also judge My house, and likewise My courts; I will give you places to walk among these who stand here." Zech 3:6

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

New Beginnings by Susan L.

  Perhaps I should call it a time of harvest in keeping with the season. Sunday's premier opening of yours truly on the flute went really well. It helps that the congregation is looking at the screen where the words to the music are shown and not at the band. It helps, too, that God's grace and peace filled me and wiped out any jittery nerves.
  I did find having a microphone pointed my way a bit intimidating. That is new. Any band I've ever played in hasn't used them. Still, the Lord's calming hand on my heart didn't make it an issue.
  The team leader has written some more flute parts for the Thanksgiving service. One of them is rather high. I wrote to her last night, telling her that I had to scrape the bottom of the memory barrel to remember how to play the highest notes. She wanted to know if I could perform what she had written. Forgetting isn't surprising. It has been thirty or so years. In a matter of moments, my hands remembered how to play the high, sweet notes. Thanks be to God.
  Having enough breath to sustain them? That needs some work. My somewhat flabby core muscles need to be built up as well to support the air going out.
  The interview for the Patient and Family Council at the hospital went well. Part of me wants to do this, part of me is reluctant to take on the commitment. I'll leave it in God's hands. They'll get back to me some time next week to let me know if I've been accepted or not.
  It's good to have all of this coming my way. Fall tends to be a slippery time in regards to my mental health. The night closing in earlier usually leaves me feeling a bit depressed. It's good to fill this time with things to look forward to. The opportunity to make new memories to replace the old, sad ones is wonderful. Maybe the title of today's post is appropriate after all.
  "Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, 'Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?' But he answered and said to him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.'" Lk 13:7-9

Saturday, 26 September 2015

For the Men by Susan L.

  I truly hope I don't come across as a man hater. Yes, at times I struggle being around them as you all know. Yes, I am as wary as a deer and slow to trust the other half. But hate? No. Challenged to let go of preconceived ideas? Yes.
  The Lord has brought some wonderful men into my life, even if they aren't connected to me personally. I have seen the love they have for their spouses and children. I have seen the gentle side. I have seen the little boy all men have within.
  Compassion has overflowed as I witness their struggles. The Lord has set in a place where I can listen to their heart's stories. He has blessed me by allowing me to minister to those men as a friend. In being there for them, my own heart is being healed.
  Bless these men who go against cultural "norms" and allow themselves to be vulnerable.
  Last Christmas the Centre delivered Christmas gifts to all the people living in shelters or domicile housing in our area. There were nearly 650 small presents for men and women. It broke my heart to see the lack of funding for men's shelters. The poverty was shocking. The lack of hope was incredibly sad. It made me wish a couple of times for the finances to tear down the tired, ramshackle houses these forgotten men existed in and be able to build them a new home.
  It also sad that there is such a lack of services for men. It's a whole lot harder for men to qualify for any sort of assistance. The unwritten rules are a whole lot tougher. The written rules are rarely bent. There are a limited amount of shelters. Men are not welcome at the places who help women overcome sexual abuse even if they have been abused themselves. There is limited help for either gender who are the abusers. (99.9 percent of the time, an abuser has been abused.) The list could go on regarding what is not available when compared to the resources out there for women.
  My own struggles aren't really against men. They are against the conditioned responses to toxic lessons ingrained over twenty years of marriage by a broken man. His occasional foray into scripture was to simply ram home that women must obey their spouses. The rest was never mentioned.
  Thank You, Lord, I can acknowledge that now: his brokenness. I pray he finds You.
  "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, house cannot stand." Mk 3:24-25

Friday, 25 September 2015

Portrait by Susan L.

  My daughter is an amazing photographer so I was thinking of asking her to do some professional portraits of me. It would be nice to have a decent picture to use as a profile image. I'd have to go the whole nine yards with make-up and clothes, a minor point. The thought crossed my mind it would be neat to do it like the old oil portraits painted by the masters. In those, the sitter held items representative of their status or interests. A king held his sceptre for example.
  So what would I hold? There would have to be some symbol of faith. I could hold a simple jar containing scissors for sewing, brushes for art, a small tool of some sort like a ruler for the wood working, and a pen for writing would work. My flute or some staff paper could represent my love of music. Perhaps we could take the image while I sat in front of the piano.
  I am sure my daughter will have some ideas too.
  The reason this has come up is work has approached me to do some public speaking. A company has approached them looking for someone to share their mental health journey. They are a music marketing company but as their charitable work, they focus on mental health.  Work asked me because I was a visitor first then became staff.  They also asked me because apparently I am a good public speaker.
  It's an honor.
  I am not committed yet. I'm still waiting for some details, for them to call me direct to see what exactly they are looking for: the timeline and so forth. There needs to be some more information. I need to be sure there is enough time to prepare what I am going to say.
  It's funny. I can stand up and talk to a roomful of people with confidence but sitting in a crowded room causes me anxiety. It's gotta be God.
  "I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms; But they did not know that I healed them. I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them." Hos 11:3-4

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Doing Better by Susan L.

  The only thing to do is laugh at the irony in making a decision about my anxiety meds actually causing more anxiety! I am in a much better place today having made a choice. There's also been some thinking about yesterday's post. Especially the question about who I thought I was letting down.
  There's been an awful lot of conditioning in my life regarding male authority.
  "They are always right and are not to be questioned. You must do as they command no matter the cost. It isn't your place to dare go against that authority. It is your responsibility to keep them happy."
  Those are some hard and ugly lessons. They are impossible to live up to. I know. I tried for a long time at a huge personal cost.
  My psychiatrist isn't like that at all. He's a good guy who has done much to heal me regarding the male gender. I know he will be fine with my choice to make an increase but still, the old ghosts are squirming. OOoooOoooooOoooooo!
  Give it a rest already!
  Let's look at all of this under a different Light. I've come a long, long way in seven years (since my second hospitalization). Or should I say, the Lord has brought me a long, long way. Recovery hasn`t been a straight line journey. It`s been a cycle of forwards, and I hesitate to use the term backwards because that is judging my med increase as a negative thing. Which it isn`t. That is a world view. It is really something to celebrate as a step forward in loving myself as God loves me.
  We`ve started a study on the book of Revelation in my small group. I`ve been doing a lot of thinking about the Alpha and the Omega, Who was and Who is and Who is to come. Time has no meaning. There is no past, present or future with God.
  As I`ve worked through the matters of mind and heart to learn the truth, to uncover the lies like those mentioned above, it`s been an opportunity to move forward through history. So if I look at the increase as a `now` moment, it is new and has never been done before. Praise God!
  ``And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ``Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.`` Rev 1:17

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

MIdnight Thoughts by Susan L.

  I had a fair bit of trouble getting to sleep last night. The brain was running on overdrive. The song I've been picking away at writing kept bubbling up as well as a whole whack of other unwanted memories. My back and stomach were in knots, fuelled by anxiety.
  I've upped my medication a tiny bit. Why I feel this needs to be justified is a good question.
  Part of me feels like this is a failure but with the sun shining, not so much. Saner heads prevail. Chronic anxiety can burn the adrenal system up which is probably worse than the impact my meds have on my liver and kidneys. (Not drinking alcohol is a big help there.) Burn out can lead to fibromyalgia. It can lead to chronic exhaustion because there is no more juice to get up and go. I am sure blood pressure and stomach troubles fit right in to that list of potential maladies.
  So back to the failure part. My heart says it isn''s the head that needs to come on board because as much as anxiety is a mental thing, in my case it is also a physical response.
  Am I really letting anyone down? My psychiatrist? Family? Friends? God because I don't trust Him to help me through this?
  Nope. It's me. There's no grace being shown here; no compassion or patience. I've been bulldozing over the warning signs that things are getting pretty bad for a while. It's an old habit and I'm good at hiding behind a fa├žade of "everything is okay". That can only work for so long before something breaks.
  I felt my mind slipping sideways yesterday. That is downright scary. There was a marked disconnect with the world around's not a pleasant feeling. Having a constant deja vu experience is perhaps the best way to describe it. It's an automatic self defense response that happens when things are too loud or too busy. When it stays that way...That's why I decided to up my medication: before it gets any worse.
  So, Lord, thank You for helping me be so completely aware of what is happening and for guiding me in the direction I need to take. Bless the scientists and the medical professionals who have given us the tools to look after our physical needs. Thank You, Lord, that You have given us the Holy Spirit to look after our spiritual needs. Thank You for the love and grace you have so generously poured out. Forgive me for my pride. Forgive me for slipping back into the old ways of relying on my own strength. Be with me while I wait for the increase to have effect. In Jesus' name I pray.
  "Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by." Ps 57:1

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Tiffin Conservation Area by Susan L.

  This isn't the first time H and I have visited this park which isn't that far from us. It was a perfect day for hiking if that's what you want to call it. We leisurely followed one of numerous trails through the park on a quest for mushrooms. Not the edible kind, but anything and everything that might poke its head out of the brown, leafy carpet or old decaying logs.
  It takes a bit of practice to spot them but I
found by looking for anything circular in a space filled with jagged edges and straight lines, they seemed to pop out of nowhere. Bits of twig, leaves, or location makes no two mushrooms exactly the same which is why I like photographing them. They have personality.
  We didn't find any elves or fairies though. Or Smurfs for that matter.
   Instead there was a breathless sense of awe about the place. Maybe it was the late September sun that gave everything an ethereal glow or perhaps the quiet rush of leaves worshipping the heavens helped create a church-like atmosphere. Either way, it did much to ease the anxiety that I've been struggling with so much lately.
  God is good.
  Sunday's sermon before the walk was about being at peace and not being anxious about anything. I've struggled with that particular scripture for a while now because it's not that I am worried about getting ahead, or paying bills or having the next best thing. The simple fact is, due to trauma, my body is hard wired with the fight/flight response that is chronically going off even when there is nothing to fight or flee from.
  I am not sure if this is supposed to be the cross I am to bear. My prayers are that there will be a miraculous healing. My prayers are that I will find peace and contentment. Your will be done, my Lord.
  "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Chris Jesus." Phil 4:6-7

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Tidy Up by Susan L.

  I spent a couple of hours in my rather creepy, cobwebby basement. Well, maybe it's not so creepy. There are plenty of windows and lights down there.
  There was a fair bit of sawdust clinging to the walls and floor (and webs) that the broom had missed on previous sweepings. (That's right, blame the broom!) My mom shared a trick my dad used: wet sawdust makes a great sweeping agent to keep the dust down. It made a huge difference. There's something, too, about cement floors. No matter how often you sweep, there is always dust.
  It probably wouldn't hurt to pull the dryer vent hose out and vacuum it. It's something I rarely think of but it can become a fire hazard if too much lint gets in there. I must also call the furnace guy and get him to come and give the furnace a tune up before winter rolls in.
  The camp kit is all put away. The tent has been hanging in the basement so the floor could dry completely before storing it. It's nice that it has an umbrella type framework so it doesn't need to be set up completely. I covered everything to help keep it clean should I decide to do a project that will make more sawdust.
  One of these days I'll get round to making a proper workshop with piping or hoses attached to the power tools. They will be connected to a shop vac. That should eliminate a lot of the dust that otherwise gets spewed into the air by wizzing blades.
  It's nice that it's now tidy down there. If only I could find a scrap metal guy willing to haul the old, out-of-service, cast iron wood stove up and out. It probably weighs a couple hundred pounds if not more. I've waltzed it around from place to place using a piece of two-by-four as a lever. It's time it was gone.
  Thank You, Lord, for the energy to do all this. Amen.
  "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Col 1:2


Saturday, 19 September 2015

Check-In by Susan L.

  The world seems awfully loud. The "BOOM-BOOM" music pouring out of little cars with noisy, supposedly fashionable, mufflers, trucks braking, even the cricket chorus is beginning to grate. TV can only be handled in brief sessions. (That's not necessarily a bad thing, though.) Still, this noise sensitivity is a huge warning sign for me. I think it's a good idea to take stock of what is going on.
  The last med reduction from a couple of months ago may need to be reversed. I've done what my psychiatrist asked and didn't increase it after our last appointment. He thought it might need some time for my body to get used to the lower dose. It's the one that helps with sleep and anxiety.
  Sleep hasn't been too great but that may have only been the heat. Poor sleep doesn't help things either. It's the pins and needles, what feels like nerves firing incessantly in fight/flight alert, and the noise sensitivity, that are becoming difficult to live with. It leaves me feeling stressed and tired.
  Or it might be that I need some time to get used to the fall schedule. The first Bible study of the year, where I had to fight down a panic attack, had left me feeling drained. It may be merely sensory overload that caused things to flare up. It was a long, busy day Thursday. Yesterday I decided to start going back to the worship team rehearsals. That went okay. I simply took one of my just-in-case-of emergency pills as a bit of self care. It helps to de-escalate the hyper-awareness while leaving me relatively alert and functioning.
  We made a joyful noise and it was most enjoyable.
  I think the anxiety is caused by simply being in a smallish room with a number of people. And maybe going to the rehearsal might have been asking too much of myself this week.
  It is frustrating.
  There is a danger in turning away from these opportunities of fellowship with like minded people. Not just from a Christian perspective but because most of the time I am alone in a quiet house. It would be far too easy to continue staying isolated. That would only make things worse in the long run. It would be that much harder to go anywhere.
  So where does that leave me? Determined not to let the good things in life be stolen away. Perhaps all that is needed is some more time, some more "exposure therapy". I'll continue my med regimen as it is for now unless things become decidedly worse.
  Thank You, Lord, that You will sustain me in this time of transition. Amen!
  "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you will receive them, and you will have them." Mk 11:24

Friday, 18 September 2015

Teacher by Susan L.

  Today is my art group. We've switched from acrylic painting to working in pen and ink, one of my favorite mediums. Facilitating the art program is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job and brings me great pleasure. There's something indescribably wonderful about planting seeds of ability and seeing newly found gifts bloom.
  Pen and ink is incredibly versatile and comes in a variety of different tools that can create a wide array of effects. There's the classic pen nib and ink pot. I like using a sharpened twig dipped in ink to create landscapes. It has a natural feel to it because the lines aren't a uniform weight. It does mean surrendering some control because sometimes the ink does its own thing. They aren't mistakes, it's organic!
  There's gel pens and ballpoint, each with it's own unique look. There's micro fine technical pens as well for those who prefer extreme detail. Using a brush loaded with water to paint over the lines softens them and like using an ink wash (ink diluted with water), helps add depth to whatever is being drawn. Not all commercial pens bleed when wet, it's a matter of finding out which does.
  Different paper can also add something to ink works. Bristol board is nice to work on because of its smooth finish. There are papers available at art supply stores specifically for working with ink but I like to save a penny where possible.
  I've found doing a picture step by step with everyone doing the same thing is an effective teaching method. I think today we'll do a landscape with an old barn (another favorite subject). We'll utilize ink washes to add atmosphere: a stormy sky in the background.
  I can't wait to see what unfolds!
  "Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him, rejoicing in His inhabited world, and my delight was with the sons of men." Prov 8:30-31

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Gibson Hills by Susan L.

  It was a lovely day for a hike. The term "hike" is used rather loosely. It was more of a wander, a pause to take in some beauty, and a meander on again. The rolling hills caused a few huff and puffs as we climbed and descended, following the path. Makes me realize I need to do this more often.
   The land for these trails was donated for public use. Minutes out of town, it's a whole other world. The trails wander through open meadows, second growth forests and along farmer's fields.
  The recently planted winter wheat created a lush green carpet covering acre after acre. A lovely foreground for the view of trees and fields, well kept barns, and the far off purple mounds of the Niagara Escarpment.
  The fall flowers were in full and glorious bloom. The goldenrod, the purple and white asters and a few, late blooming Queen Anne's Lace offered up a sweet buffet to the bees and butterflies. There were several Monarchs drifting from flower to flower which are a delight to see. The orange was bright and fresh, a sign of youth. A couple of Praying Mantises flew away, startled by our appearance but landed close enough so we could admire them. We wouldn't have seen them if they hadn't flown away they are so well camouflaged.
  H practiced using her new camera. I took a few moments to snap some pictures with my phone, playing with the panorama feature. Somehow the pictures don't  do the countryside justice.
  We ambled down into a ravine with much older trees towering overhead. The rolling, boulder strewn ground meant it could never be farmed so the trees had a chance to grow to a monumental scale. Some towered at least a hundred and fifty feet over head.
  There were sections of collapsed split rail fence now moss covered and neglected tucked away in the woods. It amazes me that they were probably set down over a hundred years ago. The white cedar rails, split by some long gone hand, seem impervious to the passage of time. Only the rounded softness of the wood gives a hint to their age.
  Part of our quest was a search for mushrooms to photograph but the high, dry, sandy soil didn't appear to be the kind of earth they need to grow. That's okay. It's an excuse to find another place to hike.
  Hints of autumn colour are visible all around. A few branches here and there punctuate the still green canopy. It won't be long before the whole area is ablaze with the glorious reds, yellows and oranges that mark an Ontario fall.

  "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth." Mat 5:5

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Concerns by Susan L.

  The day has dawned warm. The sky is clear except for a light haze the sun will burn off before too long. H and I are heading to one of the local hiking trails this morning for a much needed dose of nature. It's been difficult being inside after our trip. Mowing a rather overgrown lawn isn't the same as being outside and simply looking and listening to everything that is going on.
  It's mushroom season. The cool nights, heavy dew and warm days are perfect growing conditions. Their astounding array of colours can be breathtaking on a micro scale. Some are miniature, delicate parasols poking out of a mossy bed. Others grow thick and strong, bursting through the leaf litter. The majority are inedible but that's okay. Sometimes beauty is simply for beauty's sake.
  I was very pleased to see some honey bees at the bright pink blooms of the sedum last night. They have been noticeably absent all summer. They are in trouble due to pesticide use. At least there have been plenty of other pollinators like bumblebees, wasps and other insects. Glad to see they seem to be faring okay. There are countries in the world where all the fruit trees have to be pollinated by hand because the use of pesticides has wiped out the insects. That's a frightening omen and a lesson we should take seriously. The honey farmers are. They are lobbying to have the use of the particular pesticide that is so harmful to bees banned. God grant them success.
  There's a flower in my front garden that is prone to aphid infestations. I'll probably tear it out next spring but in the mean time it supports a whole microcosm of connected lives. There are ants patrolling the stems, protecting the aphids for their sweet water waste. Ladybugs feast when the ants aren't there to chase them off. Mostly they've been the orange ones intentionally imported years ago from Asia due to an aphid infestation on food crops. Those suckers bite unlike our indigenous little red jewels.
  There was a news article that they found some Asian Carp in Lake Ontario. It's an accidental import that has devastated US waterways. They have no natural predators. They have voracious appetites and eat everything in sight. They wipe out native fish. Their huge size and the fact that boat motors make them leap clear out of the water make them dangerous to humans. They found three but if they are anything like mice where seeing one means there is at least seven nearby, we could be in trouble.
  Lord, forgive us for what we are doing to this planet and the natural world You created. Amen.
  "Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." Gen 1:26

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

One Voice by Susan L.

  The CEO of our local hospital is forming a volunteer Patient and Family Council in order to better serve the community. It's unusual for a small, rural hospital to have a forum like this which speaks volumes about its forward thinking leadership. There was an ad in the paper asking for applications so I decided to apply. I got a phone call yesterday asking if I'd come in for an interview.
  I am hoping to be accepted as an advocate for mental health. Thankfully work has endorsed this so I will also be a representative of the Krasman Centre.
  My own mental health experiences with the staff there haven't been too good once I was a repeat visitor. Although, there are some shining stars within the staff. Time and again I've heard stories about the harsh and callous treatment towards those who only go to the emergency department as a last resort. The ER is often the only local resource for people who are struggling. This is especially true for people who lack transportation or the funds to find help elsewhere.
  Can one voice make a difference?
  You bet it can.
  Huh. Could that be confidence?
  Yup. A confidence based on first hand knowledge. I've had feedback from my newspaper column affirming its value.  
  Years ago I spearheaded a battle against a large, industrial cattle farm that had moved into the area. It was successful because the township listened, as did the various government ministries involved. It started out as an esthetic issue but as my knowledge grew, it became a health and environmental one. (The impact of this type of farming is staggering!) It took a few years but eventually bi-laws were put in place capping the 3000 head operation. Neighbouring townships followed suit.
  So, Lord, use my voice as a champion for those who are unable to speak. Help me find the words. Grant me strength for the interview. In Jesus' Name I pray.
  "To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice." Prov 21:3

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Epiphany by Susan L.

  One of our fireside conversations was about fears. Snakes came up but also my own struggles with claustrophobia. Elevators are okay. It's only when the closed in space is dark, like under the sink or in a closet. Even talking about it causes my chest to constrict and my mouth to dry up.
  Rattled and uneasy, I went for a walk to the washroom down the road from our camp site. A prayer fell from my lips. Gazing upwards at the small patch of star strewn sky visible beyond the tree canopy, I heard a small voice cry out.
  "Because that's where monsters come from."
  I remember being afraid of the monsters in the closet as a child but I never thought it would or could be something that affects grown up sensibilities. So much for that theory. But with this realization, a whole avalanche of understanding has poured over me.
  My closets don't have doors. There weren't any when I bought the place. I now understand my reluctance to install them. The cupboard under the sink rarely gets cleaned out. It's a deep corner cupboard where reaching into the back to get my watering can causes me to hold my breath and grit my teeth.
  I am not going to call this a silly fear. Yes, I know there are no monsters in these places. It's a core belief, a deep understanding of a "truth" that has woven its way into the fabric of life. It calls for prayer and meditation. It calls for gentleness because something happened that birthed the monster. My trust is in the Lord that I will find the reason. His will be done. Amen!
  "Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father." Lk 9:42

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Home Again by Susan L.

  Except for rain the first night, the weather was perfect for camping. Unseasonable but not unbearable warm temperatures meant for comfortable hiking, wading along the beach and sleeping.  There was much laughter, many celebrations of faith, and a lot of wonderful heart to heart conversations around the fire.
  The heat wave had pretty much killed off the bloodthirsty insects like mosquitoes, deer and horse flies. The birds were mostly silent, the season for singing long past.  A loon and an owl graced us for a few moments with their haunting songs. Chipmunks chipped and swore at each other throughout the day. There was much fighting and squabbling as they scurried about frantically gathering stores for the upcoming winter. The thunk of acorns hitting the ground punctuated the silence of the night.
  Georgian Bay is beyond beautiful with its boulder strewn beaches. Some rocks are as large as houses and invite climbing. Smaller ones provide a place to sit with toes in the water. The rush of waves slows your breathing down. The vast expanse water makes you feel like you are at the ends of the earth.
  There's a timelessness about the place yet at the same time, there is an awareness of the vastness of time. Colourful boulders broken off of the immense Canadian Shield by the last ice age are worn down to stones then polished down to pebbles and finally ground down to sand of a thousand shades. The waves and the weather will continue their work long after I am gone.
  These pebbles washed up at my feet as I sat contemplating nothing much, merely delighting in the feel of the sand and water. I couldn't resist picking them up. It was like having life in the palm of my hand. The white one is translucent, my pink palm visible through it. The black one has flecks of sparkling beauty and reminded me that even the darkest of days have moments of brightness. The others spoke of other days, of sunrises and sunsets; those that are past and those that are yet to come. All of them spoke of memories worn down by the love of God, their harsh edges smoothed by grace.
  The feather was found on the walk back to the car from the beach. My heart did a little dance of delight because when all is said and done, everything rests under the shadow of the wings of the Almighty.
  "Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler." Ps 91:3-4

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Final Prep by Susan L.

  It seems to be less of a rush and panic getting ready for camping. Having all the equipment organized (it was all on a skid in the basement) and knowing what to expect helps a lot. Having a designated tool kit helps, too. It means I don't have to fuss around finding duck tape and mallet and so on. It's almost all ready to go!
  Hopefully this time I won't forget anything too important although we are only an hour and a bit away from home so a worse case scenario would mean a return trip.
  There's three of us going this time so my little car is packed to the roof. There's even stuff on the roof rack.
  I am going to zip into town for a hair cut. The heat is supposed to hold out for another couple of days so it needs to come off!
  "So I will sing praise to Your name forever, that I may daily perform my vows." Ps 61:8

Monday, 7 September 2015

Heat Wave by Susan L.

  It's been hot and muggy now for several days. Well up into the thirties or the forties if you add the effect of humidity. It's unusual for this time of year. I'm glad. H and I are heading up to Awenda to camp for a few days. It's meant packing everything from a bathing suit to flannel jammies and sweaters because it's supposed to cool down by Thursday. At least it will be warmer than the last time we did a September trip! Still, it doesn't hurt to pack extra blankets just in case.
  It has put a damper on any kind of physical exertion. When simply raising a glass of water to your lips breaks a sweat, the lawn can go ahead and get shaggy. Instead a good amount of time has been spent at the piano thoroughly enjoying composing some little songs. Some are worship with lyrics...personal musical prayers I suppose. And why not. I use art to pray. The others are short, classical style ditties.
  Sometimes it's really nice living on my own.
  In a way it's a bit like doing a collage where random images gathered without too much thinking end up as a unified piece. I sort of bang away at the notes until I hear something I like. With a bit of luck, I can duplicate what was just played. It doesn't always happen. Oh, well. It doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. All that is written down is the melody line in my rather questionable musical shorthand that sometimes even I find difficult to read!
  The act of creating. It means a lot to me whether it is in art, woodworking, music or writing. There's a great deal of joy in making something out of nothing. It's a place of recapturing innocence and rest and celebration. It's a place of letting go and letting in.
  The hardest thing is to let go of a critical eye or ear for that matter because it isn't about the completed piece, it's about making the journey.
  "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." Gal 5:1

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Where is Trust? by Susan L.

  In thinking about all this, I realized that trust is already a huge part of my life. Whenever I get in the car and go somewhere, trusting it will start and that I'll arrive safely at my destination. Crossing the road is sort of the same idea although making sure it's safe is something we are taught from babes. "Look both ways." Which on the one-way street where the centre is seems silly but there have been cars come the wrong way.
  Then coming home, trusting the house will be there. There's house insurance just in case it isn't.
  Eating prepared food from a can. The trust is in the manufacturer that it was prepared properly so there's no chance of food poisoning. Tap water, too, although there have been instances where it has been contaminated. There's a trust in both manufacturers and government employees that if there is an issue, the public will be warned.
  Even flicking a light switch on. We are blessed to live in a country where the power rarely goes out. It does occasionally which is why I have a back-up generator.
  Cutting the grass or using power tools also have an element of trust although maintaining those tools as well as being careful and alert is prudent. Trust is not the same as being aware of danger or believing we can ignore those dangers at our own peril.
  But these are all worldly things and even though the trust is there, there appear to be conditions surrounding that trust.
  It's no wonder we have such a difficult time trusting in the Lord.
  Yet, as I reflect upon the past, He placed people in my life when I needed them and continues to do so. He made sure my physical needs were met. That hasn't stopped. He has blessed me with countless little gifts that have come my way just when I needed them. One of them was a laundry tub! Nothing was too big or too small for Him. Every time my heart gives a little leap of gratitude.
  There needs to be some more work on that heart, Lord. Thy will be done. Amen!
  Well, look at that: a prayer of trust! There's some hope for me after all! :)
  "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." Mat 7:7-8

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Trust Defined by Susan L.

  What exactly does "trust" mean?
  Funk and Wagnall define it, and I'll bypass the business use, as a confident reliance of the integrity, honesty or justice of another; faith. Something committed to one's care. That's the noun. The verb, or action, of trust is to rely upon, to allow to do something without the fear of consequences, to expect with confidence or hope, to depend upon.
  My concordance, a book that lists individual words in the scriptures and where they appear, also has Greek and Hebrew translations for each word. 
  Hebrew states its meaning to build up or support, to be firm or faithful to trust or believe, to be permanent or quiet, to be true or certain. It also adds, in another form that it means to be bold, confident, expectant, secure, to have hope, make refuge, to be restful and in a place of strength. There is also one form that means to fear, be grievous, hope, look, tremble, wait carefully. I suppose that is almost akin to awe.
  The Greek states that trust is defined as a refuge, a security or assurance or being in the place of confidence, hope and surety. It also is used to define a track or passageway.
  There's a lot packed into those five little letters.
  So how does all this become immersed within the fabric of my existence? A good whack of receiving is in the letting go. For me, it's the letting go of the expectation that I will be betrayed or tossed aside. To make the move from living with expectations as my friend H commented yesterday into a life of eager expectancy for the future will take a tender nurturing of trust. Trust cannot be built without taking chances or at least having the willingness to gamble on an unknown outcome.
  I think, too, there needs to be prayers for discernment. Utter trust is reserved for God. People, not so much.
  That's enough heavy thinking for this morning.
  "For the Lord is the God of knowledge." 1 Sam 2:3


Friday, 4 September 2015

Trust by Susan L.

  In the beginning of my walk with the Lord, I had done a couple of word studies in a quest to learn more of God and of myself. Using my Strong's concordance I looked up every single scripture containing a particular word. The first one was "woman". Gotta start with the basics. The next one was "love". In that study I quickly learned my worldly take on love was not God's love. Both times were wonderful opportunities to grow and I haven't done one since. There were other things going on that rendered me incapable.
  I am thinking I should do one on "trust" and make it a Word study.
  We received an email at work from an organization offering workshops on understanding the impact of trauma on social and emotional well being. Their mission statement was, "Helping people whose tomorrows don't exist." It struck a chord with me.
  I want to be able to dream of tomorrow. Oh, I know I've blogged some future plans but believing they will come true is a whole other ball game. That takes trust and perhaps understanding why the fear of failure is so pervasive.
  Thank You, Lord. It wasn't always me who failed. I do know that. At least, in my head. It's that ugly, heavy burden of false responsibility settling onto my shoulders again. Perhaps that's part of the fear of failure as well. I don't want to get blamed for something not being exactly as it should.
  Abusers are adept at shifting the responsibility of their actions onto their victims. I can't say that enough. Not just for me but for everyone. Not that I am in any way shape or form in that situation any more but lessons learned take a long time to unlearn. Conditioned responses take time to un-condition (if that's even a word). Even if they are unlearned, they have a habit of creeping back like a spider from the basement. It may be small but its web is mighty.
  So there it is. Food for thought.
  "Let the Lord be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant." Ps 35:27

Thursday, 3 September 2015

In Your Hands by Susan L.

   I don't feel much like writing this morning. There's been a lot going though my mind that needs some thinking through. There's been a lot of questions, too; vague ponderings about life, relationships, love and faith. No, this isn't a crisis, it's more of a tearing down of walls and letting God's take on things in. As I said a few posts ago (not sure exactly when), I've been shuffling along, desperately trying to maintain the status quo, trying to maintain a precarious grip on my lifestyle. It's safe.
  There's a problem with that. It takes a whole whack of energy and doesn't allow for new ideas, new realizations, new truths. It pounds growth opportunities into the dust. So, here I am, humbled and accepting. Repentant, too. I've been letting fear rule me and as I have thought about it, there's a lot of fear in my life. (Bless You, Lord for Your forgiveness.)
  There's a fear of my own mind. It ran away a couple of times. Will it happen again?
  There's a huge fear of people. Understandable but it makes me reluctant to venture out into new relationships or social opportunities. I think dragging my heals and making excuses about learning the worship team music is mostly social anxiety...
  Fear of failure. Boy, that covers pretty much everything. Thank You, Lord for pointing that out to me.
  Okay. How do I define success? It isn't about how much money there is in the bank. Been there. It drains you dry because there is never enough. It isn't about being a famous writer or artist or musician idolized by thousands. I have a hard enough time with being in church!
  Perhaps looking at success is the wrong approach. Maybe what I am looking for is confidence. The kind of confidence that comes from knowing in every fibre of my body that I am loved by the greatest Love of all. It's the side effect of believing in that whole heartedly! It's a confidence that comes from the ability to let go of the garbage without rancour or bitterness. It's the confidence that comes from acknowledging where I've erred or where there's room for improvement but not beating myself up about it.
  So. This kind of confidence...where does it come from?
  And I hear the answer, "Trust".
  "Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah." Ps 61:1-4

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Federal Election by Susan L.

  Since when were elections won on a platform of slamming the competition? The federal Conservatives have done nothing but malign their Liberal opponent, Justin Trudeau on repetitious and numerous TV commercials. (Thanks for displaying your ability to waste money.) They are pushing the concept that because of his youth, he's "just not ready" to be prime minister. The ad's tag line is "nice hair, though".
  Seriously? What has hair got to do with ability? Or age for that matter.
  So, federal conservatives, what is your platform? What benefits are going to happen if I vote for you? What changes will you make for the benefit of all Canadians? There hasn't been a whisper since the campaigning started. Which happens to be one of the longest ones in history. Who's holding the fort?
  Are you running for election based on the surety that you are already in power?
  This great country is being spent into oblivion. Our national debt is staggering. We are facing a recession. The dollar is down. The poverty rate is growing as are taxes. The middle class is becoming extinct as the gap between the have's and the have not's grows wider all the time.
  Yet time after time, there are news items reporting millions of dollars being misspent or misappropriated under your watch. How about some due diligence?
  Thank You, Lord that I can freely rant about the government without fear of repercussion. Thank You, Lord that You will provide the leadership this country so desperately needs. Thank You, Lord that You will guide me in my vote when the time comes. Thank You, Lord, that You will guide the leadership in efforts to restore financial balance. Bless them with wisdom when it comes to spending our hard earned dollars.  But most of all, bless them with Your presence in their lives that they may come to know You. In Jesus' name, amen!
  "The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." 1 Pet 5:1-3

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Echoes by Susan L.

  Someone was talking with me and I have no idea how the conversation ended up with them telling me about someone they knew: a young man living on social assistance. The person telling me about him made the comment, "I don't understand, he was brought up better than that. Work ethics had been instilled in him from childhood!" (Slight paraphrasing)
  I was flabbergasted and didn't know what to say without revealing that I was partially assisted by government disability payments. (Was it shame or discretion?) Without them I wouldn't have gotten where I am today or even be able to help others get over the stigma of needing assistance.
  I heard my own judgements in his statement. That same mentality made it extremely difficult for me to even apply for the assistance. I remember commenting to my therapist that never in a million years did I imagine I'd grow up and have to put out my hand for financial help, to become one of those people.
  The hardest part was accepting the fact that I was unable to work. That "can't" had become part of my vocabulary. It was also difficult accepting that even filling out the paperwork required the help of my mental health worker. It was a long, slow process because at the time even deciding what to have for supper threw me into a whirlwind of anxiety. We filled out the numerous, probing pages a bit at a time as I was able. It took months.
  To the fury of my psychiatrist who had filled out the medical part, the application was denied. I sent a letter of intent to appeal. My file was reviewed and approved. Part of me strongly believes that the denial is simply routine. There are probably many people who give up, who are simply unable to take it to the next step or lack the supports to make that happen.
  I'd like to have a candid conversation with the man who made the comment. Living on social assistance is challenging. Living below the poverty level takes careful managing of finances. There is often barely enough to cover rent never mind buying groceries or paying a hydro bill. If you are lucky enough to live in geared-to-income housing, the payments are even less. The food bank in town does a roaring business.
  In saying all this, gratitude sweeps over me. Yes, it's tough. This is an expensive country to live in. But now that I am able to work a bit, with careful managing of my finances, I have just enough to get by and still have a few luxuries like a car. Although in this country it is more of a necessity unless you live in a place with public transit where the cost of living is even high. Thank You, Lord, for Your provision.
  I also believe that I am not alone in coming to terms with needing help. The majority of people I meet wish their circumstances were different, that life was different. That somehow they could be well enough to provide for themselves. I pray for healing for all of them.
  "When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbours, lest they also invite you back and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just." Lk 14:12-14