Saturday, 31 October 2015

Bits and Bobs by Susan L.

  I missed worship team rehearsal. In true Sue fashion I showed up a day late. It's a regular occurrence for me to get mixed up on dates and times. That and not paying attention to my email. Oh well. I'll go early Sunday for the pre-service practice and see how it goes. I've some time today to practice as well.
  There's a load of junk to take to the dump today. It's been sitting in my car for a couple of weeks and I need the space to put my snow tires in. They're being put on Tuesday. I am thankful the weather has held off on the snow.
  There's still a bit of garden work to do outside. Leaves need raking although getting out the lawn mower to simply mulch them and blow them into the flower beds along the fence might be easier. My sandy soil can always use more organic matter and it helps keep the weeds down.
  I am going to H's for dinner tonight. She made a venison chili. I plan on making Johnny Cake, a cornbread, to have along side. That's one of the best food combos ever! It goes really well with fish chowder, too.
  There was no chance yesterday to work on my manuscript. When I have to leave a project for whatever reason, it leaves a big hole in my life. I crave getting back at it. Hopefully I'll be able to squeeze some time in today to put brush to paper even if the light isn't as good as at the centre.
  I am still processing the change of heart regarding my anxiety. It takes some time to weave a new understanding into the fabric of the mind. Yesterday I shared with my friends at the centre about what has been going on. As I spoke of God's healing, it made it more real, more tangible. Isn't there something in the scriptures that encourages us to speak life into God's truths?
  So that's it. A bit mundane but it is a much needed break.
  "A time to gain, and a time to lose; A time to keep, and a time to throw away; A time to tear, and a time to sew; A time to keep silence, and a time to speak." Eccl 3:6-7

Friday, 30 October 2015

Part Three by Susan L.

  As work continues on the third illuminated text, I have a greater appreciation for the monks who started this art form. They didn't have bright fluorescent lights to see by or central heating to keep them warm.  Sitting for hours doing minute and detailed work is as exhausting as tossing hay. Hands cramp, eyes blur, back and nether regions ache. I'm left as out of breath if I'd been running a marathon because even breathing can make a brush wander. It isn't only the physical toll but also the mental one. Being in the zone of deep concentration turns the brains to mush after a while.
  With the exception of the letters and the black outline, all colours have been applied by brush. I have no idea how many hours the monks would work each day seeing as their day was broken up by calls to prayer. Four hours at a stretch is about the maximum I can handle.
  It is a labour of love though. And seeing as my view on suffering has been altered, the aches and gasps have become a sacrifice. It isn't just a physical one but also a sacrifice of time. Each page has taken upwards of forty hours to complete from when I first put pencil to graph paper until the last touch ups are done. A monk devoted his entire life to producing just one Bible. Looking at their beautiful work I am sure forty hours is only a fraction of the time it took to complete a single manuscript.
  I also want to be sure to give God the glory for the images surrounding the text. It's through His inspiration and guidance they took shape.
  As each page was roughed out with graph paper and pencil, I wondered what the monks used to lay out their designs or did they trust in the Lord to guide their quills.
  I also mused on how they learned their skills. Did young scribes practice on the scraps of carefully prepared animal hides left over from cutting the pages out? Maybe that's where designs were laid out as well before being meticulously copied onto the final piece.
  Lord, thank You that I have paper, pencils and erasers. Thank You for those long ago monks who have inspired this latest artistic venture. To You be the glory!
  "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Eph 2:8-9

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Domino Effect by Susan L.

  God has done a great work in my heart and I am deeply and humbly grateful for it. I see the anxiety, once a foe, as a place of comfort. It's a battle scar, a badge of honour for a war well fought. It represents all the things the devil orchestrated to crush and destroy me because the last thing he wanted was for me to be saved.
  And I am. Forever. In spite of it all or perhaps because of it all.
  The anxiety is nibbling away still but it fills me with peace nonetheless. It's lost its power over me.
  Letting go left a great big hole and for a while I wept over the harm we do to each other, the careless words, the thoughtless acts of violence. Tears were shed for all humanity: that beautiful, messed up, wonderful, lost, lovely, creation of God.
  I have no idea what is going to happen next. As the tears were shed, hope entered in. Praise God!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Layers of Grief by Susan L.

  As much as I am trying to fool myself into thinking everything is honky dory, that I have accepted my situation with grace...who am I kidding?
  H sent me a beautiful and wise email about turning all the hurtful things in my past into an offering of sacrifice. Instead of being victimized, or seeing myself as a victim, she offered up the challenging idea to turn myself into an alter for the brokenness of others. Just as Christ did when He suffered and died on the cross. That way my burdens and struggles become a way to connect with His pain and the love that helped Him through those terrible last days of His life.
  "Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do." Luke 23:34
  Bear with me, folks, this isn't pretty.
  The human part of me rages against the unfairness, the cruelty, the losses, the broken dreams...It rails against the lost days of a mind that vanished when life got too hard. It seethes at having a permanent reminder of my past greet me every morning when, as soon as I open my eyes, the claws of anxiety begin their work for the day. It rages against how powerless I am to change things. The fires of fury rise up because of this inner rebellion and the constant fear that feasts on it.
  Like biting metal, the coppery taste of bitterness makes itself known.
  I tried so the end, it didn't matter.
  But the end of myself...I found Jesus.
  In the end, He was there for me when the madness swept me away. He was in the tears, in the anguish of my soul. He gave me purpose when purpose vanished. He gave me love when I thought myself nothing but dust and ashes. He nurtured trust tenderly and slowly never asking more of me than I could give.
  He patiently continues to unwrap the grave cloths that blind me. He gives me grace and forgiveness as I grow to understand more of Him. He helps me choose to forgive those who hurt me.
  He gave me life. In turn, I give this life to Him.
  It's choice I hang on to the rage and bitterness or do I let it go?

  Forgive them Father, in their brokenness, they know not what they have done.
  Forgive me Father, for in my brokenness, I have harmed others.
  Thank You, Lord, for lighting the way.
  And once again, I am forever changed.
  "Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Mat 11:28-30

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Victim by Susan L.

  During Sunday's sermon, one thing stood out although I don't remember the context. The word "victim" leapt out and got the wheels turning. It got me thinking about this last uprising of anxiety and what it did besides make life incredibly difficult.
  It re-victimized me. It turned back the clock.
  I've said before that I am this way because of choices other people made. Which is true. I was also really good at accepting the role of responsibility which crippled my own ability to make better choices which then opened the door to more negative influences; a treadmill life of always running, trying to make it better, but never getting free. Abusers are good at making sure that's how it is. 
  But that was then. This is now. Where, in Christ, I am free.
  Yes, because of the Post Traumatic Stress, the past can jump up and bite me in the nether regions. My body is hard wired to a fight/flight response if I feel I am in danger. That danger doesn't have to be real. A sight, a smell, a sound...the rattle of beer bottles used to be a huge trigger. The bottles weren't a danger, the sound was like an alarm bell warning that things could get really ugly. My body responded accordingly, no thinking required.
  I've struggled with some of the scriptures that talk about anxiety. Especially the ones that encourage us to cast our cares on the Lord. In high anxiety mode, I am not thinking. I don't get racing thoughts. It feels like there's bees buzzing in my head. My body screams, "RUN!!!!".
  Hmmm, the anxiety arises when I don't feel safe from a real or perceived threat. Not feeling safe causes anxiety. Ouch. That's a nasty hamster wheel and one I'd be more than happy to get off of.
  I've done a lot of work to prayerfully take apart triggers over the years by looking for Jesus in the key memories that birthed them. The beer bottles are an example. The sound still has the ability to raise my guard but it doesn't send me over the edge like it used to. Praise God!
  I don't want to be a victim although I confess it was a huge part of the last couple of weeks. Forgive me for that Lord, and thank You for bringing it to my attention. Allowing myself to remain a victim is a step towards bitterness. I definitely don't want to be bitter because that has a toxic effect on everything.
  Lord, help me free my life of triggers. Help me defeat the illness of my mind and body. Help me rest in Your peace and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that, in You, I am safe.
  "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 64:7

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Small Success by Susan L.

  I missed doing my post yesterday due to some technical difficulties. God it resolved. (How's that for a divinely inspired typo! The word was supposed to be "got". It just might become my new catch phrase!)
  We had rehearsal last night. I went with some trepidation. It's always tough returning to a place where there's been a melt down. 
  On the drive over, a brief prayer put me under the wings of the Almighty. A thermos of tea with lemon verbena in it replaced my usual plain water. It helps calm me. The flavour and the warmth also help ground me in the moment. Oh, and I wore a comfy flannel shirt, another grounding tool: feeling the soft fabric next to my skin. As is the team leader's standard poodle when he comes over for an ear scratch. It helps me as much as he enjoys the attention. Touch and focusing on the texture of anything has always worked as a way to turn down what's happening inside my head and body.
  It's important to override bad memories by making new ones especially when simply being somewhere is triggering. As much as anxiety is so much part of my life, I don't want it to rob me of opportunities to grow and heal. So last night was good memory making. The ghosts of two weeks ago were challenged and silenced. Praise God!
  I'll take the same tea with me for tomorrow's service and, of course, lean into the Lord's protection. The tea also helps with having a dry mouth when plain water didn't seem to help. It could be nerves or due to my meds but it makes playing the flute like trying to whistle after eating a soda cracker. I am glad the tea serves the purpose.
  Things are looking up!
  "So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who were sanctified." Acts 20:32

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Hidden Struggles by Susan L.

  I've been doing a lot of thinking about my eating habits which are not good. It's something that came up in my one hour counselling session last week. (Two week ago?)
  It's challenging to cook for one. It's also a bit overwhelming at times. Eating well isn't just about turning the stove on. There's the decisions about what to cook. There's the groceries to be brought in and put away even before a knife touches the cutting board. There's dealing with a limited budget vs. the high cost of nutritious food. Then there's the clean up afterwards. It's so much easier to grab a peanut butter sandwich or something else slapped between a couple slices of bread.
  Which is not good for body or soul. Once in a while I get on a kick and seem to do better for myself but it quickly fizzles. Or maybe I am simply making excuses. Or not. These are real issues for me.
  I used to love grocery shopping. It's about the only kind of shopping that was ever enjoyed. Wandering through the aisles, checking out the different items, experimenting with different meals. It used to be fun. Now it's an exercise in not getting overwhelmed by the variety or the high cost of everything.
  There are "healthy" frozen meals. TV dinners they were once called. Most of them are full of salt which I find unpalatable or are as bland as paper. That and most of them need to be heated up in the oven which seems a waste of hydro for one meal. The amount of processing probably leaches out most of the goodness anyways even if these quick meals consist of mostly vegetables.
  Lord, I lift this up to You. This temple of the Holy Spirit is not being looked after. Forgive me for my negligence and help inspire me to do consistently better. In Jesus' name I pray.
  "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." 1 Cor 6:19-20

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Taking Liberty by Susan L.

  Most of the scriptures are designated by the masculine: he, him, his. It sort of leaves us women as a bit of an afterthought. Which isn't true of God. He holds us as high as the Adams of this world.
  When I designed the initial capital letter of this verse I wanted to incorporate the feminine, hence the S wrapped around the actual H that begins this verse. It was a way of making the he into a she without sacrificing the way it is written in the Bible. For me, it ads the personal touch to a verse that has sustained me through this rough patch.
  I am pleased with the finished results for my first try at this ancient art form. As I worked on it over several days, investing many hours, it gave me a greater appreciation for the monks and their masterpieces. Most of this was done at the centre under bright florescent lights. I can't imagine doing such fine detail by the light of a candle but they did!
  I've started working on another one. The nights are drawing in earlier so it's nice to have something to keep my hands busy, to pass the long hours of an autumn evening. The light isn't good enough at home to do the final work but I can still sketch out the design using graph paper.
  It also helps me get out of my head for a while so I can ignore the little, niggling claws of anxiety that seem to be with me all the time. I pray I soon hear from the counselling service even though I place my trust in God that the timing will be perfect.
  "For the Lord will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; Joy and gladness will be found in it, Thanksgiving and the voice of melody." Is 51:3

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Something New by Susan L.

  The Friday art group at the centre, in keeping with the pen and ink theme, was learning how to do illuminated lettering. Not that I am an expert, it was simply a chance to introduce another way of using liquid inks. We designed our initials and will colour them in next Friday using gold and various other colours. In true Sue fashion, I had to finish mine right away.
   I've been inspired to take it to the next level and illuminate part of Psalm 91. It's been a crucial piece of scripture over the last little while that has helped me find some peace during the worst of the storm.
  This even went as far as making myself a quill pen from a wild turkey feather picked up a long time ago. That didn't work out so well but I have a better idea about how it's done. (Thanks to the internet.) Next spring, when the neighbourhood Canada geese are moulting, I'll go out and pick up some wing feathers so I can try again. I didn't use the quill but relied on a regular gel pen to do the black outlines.
  I drew out the various images on graph paper and when satisfied, did a trick learned in art college. Scribbling over the entire back using a soft, dark pencil then lightly wiping it down with a small piece of tissue creates a poor man's carbon paper. When the image is drawn over, while being held in place with some masking tape, it transfers to the good copy.
  It will take some time to finish. Painting all the details is tiny and meticulous work. It isn't meant to be rushed but instead the hours spent give an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the verse, to memorize it, and to celebrate God's word.
  Somewhere or another I learned that the monks would intentionally leave one mistake on each page. Perfection, they believed, was only for God. What a wonderful way to illuminate God's grace for us imperfect humans!
  "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south." Ps 107:1-3

Monday, 19 October 2015

Election Day by Susan L.

  And I thought deciding what to have for dinner was difficult!
  The Federal Conservative ad campaign consisted almost entirely of smear ads against the Liberal party. Because they are in power I guess they are relying on that fact to keep them there. Not that their track record is great. They've been adept at quiet cut backs which hurt those most in need. Hospitals, disability benefits, the elderly and other social programs have all suffered under their regime.
  The New Democratic party, the far left, is a no go for me. While they enthusiastically support social programs, taxing the rich to give to the poor, I am not sure they'd be great for the Canadian economy. Many years ago, Ontario rebelled against the Liberal and Conservative provincial parties and put an NDP premier in place. The economy suffered greatly, taxes soared, as did inflation.
  Even voting Liberal is an iffy proposition. They, too, have a record of tax and spend.
  There are a couple of smaller parties in the running. The Green party, proponents of the environment, may have a good grasp on those issues but I am not sure how able they are to run the rest of the country. The Christian party is running on a platform of Christian fundamentals. As much as I'd like to see some of their ideas put through, they are simply too small to make that happen.
  So it's back to the big three: Liberal, Conservative, and NDP.
  Judging from the polls, it is going to end up being a minority government, where two opposing parties combined are bigger than the one in power. Which means four years of nothing much changed or accomplished.
  Lord, thank You that I can speak freely about all this without fear of retribution. Thank You that we have the right to vote and that those votes are what make the decisions. Thank You that there are options.
  I pray for the party who wins the election; that sound minds, sound business practices, ethics, and honor be part of their mandate. I pray everything they undertake will help this great country thrive.
  Guide me, Lord, as I cast my vote today.
  "Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land." Ps 85:9

Sunday, 18 October 2015

First Snow by Susan L.

  In true Canadian fashion the glorious colours of last weekend were ripped away by the north wind, a precursor to the snow squalls and flurries of yesterday and this morning. In true Canadian fashion, I thought this first snow lovely as it fell in tissue flakes, promptly melting as it hit the ground. In true Canadian fashion, come February, I won't think it so pretty!
  It is unusual to have snow this early. I don't even have my snow tires on yet! Next week. I am sure the garage will be busy with everyone scrambling to get their winter treads on. 'Tis the season after all. 
  I'm glad we went for the hike at Mono Cliffs Provincial Park last week, taking advantage of an unusually warm fall day. There's a couple of lookout spots and a staircase that leads down into a crevasse in the cliff face. I've been there on my own when the park wasn't so busy with other beauty seekers and it's like sitting in a medieval cathedral. Breaks in the stone frame stained glass glimpses of the trees above and below.
  Life has a tentative grip on the rock face. Moss, ferns and small but ancient trees ornament the irregular rock face. Silver lichens shine in the dusky light. It's a beautiful place to simply pause and rest.
  We opted to take a side trail to get away from the crowds once we'd walked along the lip of the cliff and explored the crevasse. It wasn't long before the noise of laughing families drifted out of earshot. Only a couple of other hikers had ventured into this part of the park. Like us, they were seeking the quiet.
  It was a lovely trail. I think it's the nicest one in the entire park. Meandering up and down rolling hills into massive stands of maple trees then down into cosy cedar glens. It opened up about half way through on a small, shallow lake that shone like a sapphire in the late afternoon sun. Tiny fish jumped for their supper leaving rippling rings as evidence of their efforts.
  In places along the trail, tiny streams bubbled up from nowhere, their laughing waterfalls and cascading trills a small reminder of spring torrents. Board bridges or old fashioned corrugated paths made by lying logs side by side helped get us through some of the wetter places.
  One thing about fall hiking is the quiet. A raven's harsh croak was the only birdsong we heard. I guess the rest are either heading south or getting ready to. I'd like to visit the lake come spring. It must be an ideal spot for waterfowl to raise their young.
  I feel blessed that there are places like this so close to home: roughly a half hour drive away. I feel blessed to live in a country with such unique diversity to its landscapes. I feel blessed and oh so thankful to be writing about it and in doing so am once again on the paths of exploration.
  "Sing to God you kingdoms of the earth; Oh, sing praises to the Lord, Selah." Ps 68:32

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Thanksgiving Cards by Susan L.

  Last Sunday in church they handed out post cards for us to fill out. We were supposed to give thanks for another member of the church and either hand the card to them or turn it in and it would be mailed out. One was handed to me. Yesterday's post delivered two more to my door. I am deeply touched by the anonymous writers' words.
  I couldn't fill mine out. It was simply too overwhelming at the time. Which is sad, really. I will post a thank you on the church's FB page.
  Robbie Burns once wrote, "If only we could see ourselves as others see us." He wrote it after seeing lice crawl up the neck of a be-wigged, wealthy woman. It's true of the good things too. "If only..."
  I've done similar but different exercises in the various recovery groups I've attended. Pieces of paper are passed around to give us the chance to speak positive things into each other's lives. It feels just as good to give out word gifts as to receive them.
  Something else, too, it takes seven words of praise to offset the damage done by one negative comment. Maybe that's why it makes it so hard to accept the good things said about us. Hmmm, maybe the next time I have the opportunity to facilitate or co-facilitate a group I'll have the participants read the praise sheets to each other. Hearing good words might help it sink in.
  Thank you, as well, dear readers for the support you've given me.
  "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." Heb 12:1

Friday, 16 October 2015

Fallout by Susan L.

  I've been left feeling rather sad about the whole anxiety situation of the past week. The panic attacks caused my mind to stir up memories of the first time I was hospitalized. Even though it was eight years ago come Halloween, it is still as fresh in my mind as if it was yesterday. Traumatic events can do that. Triggers have the ability to compress the clock. What's the song? Let's Do The Time Warp, Yeah...
  There's been a lot of healing in those years, praise God. Still, I am broken mentally even if hormones played a dastardly role. The seeds of anxiety were there to be amplified.
  The idea of safety has been drifting around my mind. What does that mean exactly? Feeling safe? It's a hard one especially when one of the biggest threats to security is inside my head and now my body has jumped onto the rebellion band wagon.  
  There's a lot of grief in those words because I did not choose to be like this. In a way that's the hardest part of all to come to terms with...but then, trying to shut emotions down takes a phenomenal amount of energy that simply isn't there anymore. And there are good emotions in there too. Shut down is an all or nothing endeavour. So it's best to get on as best I can by leaning into the Lord more than I have been.
  I think I mentioned about avoidance in a previous blog. Even though most of what I do feels "risky" or "unsafe", isolation is not the answer. Yes, I cancelled all extra curricular activities this week because my over stimulated adrenalin system needs some time to recover as does my mind. It does make venturing out more difficult but I am determined to not let the anxiety take the good things in my life away.
  "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." Ps 61:3-4

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Taking Steps by Susan L.

  On Tuesday, the only counselling service I could find ended up being through the Catholic Family Services. I called the number. They are in Alliston only on Tuesdays. It was a free, walk in counselling service. So I went. There was a parking spot right across from them on the busy main street. I lay it all in the hands of Divine provision. Even though the counsellor was a young man, I gained some insight during our hour long chat. I've asked to register for some short term assistance, about six appointments. I'm on a waiting list for now.
  The picture is part of a collage I did yesterday about how anxiety feels. I find it helpful to put images to the feelings. It helps to contain the emotions. The shark is from a home d├ęcor magazine. It was meant to sell paint but it really struck a note with me.
  It was pretty bad. Scary bad as I told H.
  Then last night the switch was turned off or more like it was turned down to the familiar, constant companion. Turns out hormones were a huge contributing factor. My body was running through a cycle that I thought was done with last winter. I guess not. Lord, let this be the last. Hormones I learned, thanks to reading an article sent by my good friend H, can amplify emotions. And they were amplified through the roof. Hormones or no hormones when you are in the midst of it, it can be paralyzing and frightening.
  My body is starting to wind down from panic mode. It'll take some time for it to remember how to relax.
  One of the things I uncovered while speaking with the young man was that locking my door at night didn't make me feel safe. It's something I hope to explore further. It's pretty significant.
  He tried to direct the conversation a couple of times by pointing out my negative thinking and suggesting I reframe those ideas. (I pray he learns the best counsellors sometimes only need to listen. I also pray that he learns he doesn't have to fix anything.) It made me smile.
  Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, where you do that, has always felt like a band aid to me. It may work for others but I want to get to the root of why I think the way I do. Knowing from past experience, by taking the time to explore, it then becomes a heart change not just a head change. Negative core beliefs don't stand a chance when they are held up to the Light.
  Thank You, Lord, for opening doors for me. Thank You, for Your divine guidance in all that I pursue.
  "It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear." Is 65:24

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Options by Susan L.

  Options come with decisions.
  I have decided to try and find a local therapist/counsellor to help me get to the root of all this anxiety. It's time to ask for help. Lord, I trust in You leading me where I need to go.
  My psychiatrist responded quickly to the note I sent him Sunday about all this. They've put me on the cancellation list so hopefully my appointment will come sooner than mid November. He also suggested doing another med increase but I'll hold off on that.
  These two little things have helped. It feels as though a tiny step of progress has been made.
  It was a better day yesterday: a jammy day. I puttered around the house, made a decent chicken curry for dinner and watched a movie. Even though it was a lovely day, I decided not to get into the garden. It can wait a while yet. However, it has made me reluctant to go out today.
  I will. There are pamphlets and resources at the centre that might help me find what I am looking for in regards to a therapist.
  That's it for now.
  One baby step at a time.
  "And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice." Jn 10:4

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Exploration by Susan L.

  Lord, I seek Your insight, Your wisdom and the guidance of Your divine hand as I do some thinking about the way things are; about the anxiety, and the panic attacks. Yup. Had another one beginning to roll in just as the service was ending. The loud man trigger wound an already vulnerable me up again. But then again, You helped me stay together long enough to finish the last song, "You Have Been So Good to Me", and You have in more ways than I ever imagined possible.
  I truly believe You have called me to be part of the worship team. I have felt the insistence of the Holy Spirit many times before and in obeying His voice, miracles have happened. I trust in another miracle.
  There is much joy in making music. I am sorry that my posts or words haven't revealed that I do find joy within the words of praise. There's even a greater joy in resting under the shadow of Your wings and feeling the peace that surpasses all understanding wrap itself around my anxious heart. Thank You for covering me today during the service, for making me feel safe. Thank You that I played well and sang well and for Your grace when the right note eluded me.
  I will get in touch with my psychiatrist because there is always the possibility that my meds are no longer working. I've been on the one for anxiety for several years now and it isn't unusual that the body grows immune to them. If that's the case, guide my doctor so any changes or transitions are in the right direction and that any side effects are minimal.
  Help me accomplish the tasks I've been putting off that are only adding to the feelings of overwhelm. Help me break them down into manageable pieces. Help me glorify Your name in all that I do, in all that I am. Help me rest so that my body and mind is restored and more able to cope with the day to day routine that also has me feeling overwhelmed right now.
  I give it all to You, my Lord.
  "I will freely sacrifice to You; I will praise Your name, O Lord, for it is good." Ps 54:6

Saturday, 10 October 2015

It's Ba-aaack! by Susan L.

  There's a knot in my stomach that feels like I swallowed a medicine ball. There's bands of tension wrapped tightly around my ribcage. It's been like this for a few days now. It's hard to ignore. It's disheartening to say the least. Maybe meds aren't the answer to getting rid of this devil on my back: anxiety. Lord, guide me. Help me. I so desperately want to be free of this.
  I had a panic attack at worship team rehearsal last night. Sigh. I sat there looking at the sheet music that suddenly became absolutely foreign to me. It was only a bunch of dots on the paper. Then the tears came. And the shakes. It was a piece I was to toot my flute for.
  There were three flute songs planned for tomorrow's Thanksgiving service. One had some difficult timing. We did sort that out last night by giving me places to breathe. That's kind of important. The other is an accompaniment to a soloist, the third was this one. I opted to sing it instead although, because I'd been practicing the flute part, the words and melody are unfamiliar. The two others have enough of a performance element to them to make me want to do my best.
  I had said to the team leader that I'd be okay with learning three pieces a week. I think paring it back to two would be a good example of self care. I still have to learn the words and tune of all the others as a singer. Usually there's five songs.
  It doesn't sound like much or perhaps I am expecting too much of myself.
  So I am rather teary this morning. Teary and weary. And frustrated. And there's a good whack of anger in there. But there's also a good whack of gratitude, too, for the miracle the Lord works in my life every single day...He gives me the strength to leave the house when sometimes it would be so much easier to stay isolated, to give up the fight, to let the anxiety win.
  I know doing that is only an illusion of being safe. It would make the anxiety worse in the long run.
  H and I are going for a hike later today and getting together for dinner. A couple of hours in nature with the autumn colours kissing the trees will be a delight and restful for the soul.
  "Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance." Ps 42:5

Friday, 9 October 2015

NIMBY by Susan L.

  There was an article in our local paper about one of the small neighbouring towns just north of here. Everyone was all in an uproar about a potential, privately run, alcohol and drug rehab treatment centre that is hoping to open their doors in their community.
  It took me a while to remember what NIMBY stood for...Not In My Back Yard.
  The organization has only put up a sign about their plans. There's still a lot of red tape to work through because the site they purchased wasn't zoned for such an endeavor.
  The calls flooded the mayor's office. People were afraid.
  "Imagine the nerve! Bringing those kinds of people who would use such a place, here! Druggies, drunks and criminals! It won't be safe to walk down the street! I have children and don't want them exposed to those types of people!"
  I can hear them. It's the same sort of attitude that greeted the methadone clinic before it opened its doors here in town. Not in my back yard! Thankfully the clinic was able to open anyways.
  It's the same sort of ignorant prejudice that even the Krasman centre faces. "Those people should all be locked away!" (That is an actual quote taken during a public survey.)
  So here's the truth. These are human beings: men and women who could be mothers, fathers, brothers, sons or daughters who are trying to improve their lives. Rural communities are incredibly under resourced. We need these places. People need these places.
  They save lives plain and simple.
  Mental health and addictions go hand in hand. Until an addiction is addressed, it is hard to get out from under the mental health challenges. It's a long and winding road to recovery. I celebrate the sheer courage and determination it takes to begin that journey.
  The persons I have met who face these dual challenges inspire me. I am honoured to be called a friend by many of them.
  "Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, "This Man receives sinners and eats with them."" Lk 15:1-2

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Challenges by Susan L.

  Last night we began a new study on the book of Revelation. It's the third week but we've been trying a couple of different studies until we found one that helps make the book connect to our present circumstances. I confess it's a struggle for me. The biggest challenge is becoming excited about Christ's return. It's a future thing and my life is such a moment to moment embracing of the now that it's hard to imagine a tomorrow.
  That, and it's like speaking a foreign language; talking or imagining what the future might hold.
  Is my reluctance to think about the future because I am afraid? Afraid of what?
  Rug pulling. Forgive me Lord but I live with an expectancy of disappointment. It's easier not to get my hopes up. It's more than having been let down by others, it's that I've let myself down, too. We do live in a broken world with broken people. May God's grace save us from ourselves.
  I think I also need to stop thinking of goals as ghouls.
  There is one future tense passage in the scriptures, not sure exactly where it is, that has helped me get through some really tough days. The one where, one day, God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be no more pain, nor sorrow, and the former things will pass away. There will be a time when the Lord holds me close and everything, mind and body, will be healed.
  Anxiety will vanish like the mist.
  If that's all I can hope for at the moment, I think that's a pretty good place to start.
  "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honour and power and might, be to our God forever and ever, Amen." Rev 7:12

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Eraser by Susan L.

   For some reason this memory keeps popping into my head. I've blogged about it before but seeing as Thanksgiving is coming up, it's a great little gratitude testimony of God's limitless generosity.
  It was the second time I was hospitalized where I spent copious amounts of time drawing to help me get through the ponderous hours of a psych ward. I asked the staff for an eraser several days in a row but one wasn't forthcoming so eventually I gave up asking.
  It was over Christmas in 2008 and one of the kinder nurses bought the pop open Christmas crackers for everyone still there sharing their turkey supper. There was an eraser in mine in the shape of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I'll never forget the nurse's face when he saw what bounced across the table. Even I was stunned not believing what I was seeing!
  Maybe it's because we are studying Revelations and this small miracle speaks to me of the infinite authority of God. I start following the rabbit trail from the moment the eraser came into my hands. Every time my imagination travels the trail, I am completely awestruck by everything that was put in place to make sure I got my heart's desire. It was such a little thing, too.
   The nurse bought the crackers out of his own pocket. He chose the right box which had been shipped to the right store. The manufacturer assembled the prizes and crackers because someone had invented them a couple hundred years ago. I am not sure where Rudolph came from but he is definitely part of someone's inspired imagination.
  Somebody designed the eraser which was made of nylon. There's a whole slew of invention going right back to the discovery that rubbing two sticks together makes fire.
  Then there's the human factor. Every single person involved was born to become part of this incredibly complicated tapestry of life: from the nurse who handed me my cracker to the designers and inventors of everything from paper to gunpowder to electricity. Their lives predestined them to become part of mine at a time when I really needed to know I was loved.
  I had chosen to remain in hospital over that Christmas. It must have been tough on my family. I felt bad about it but had no reserves left to face the organized chaos of a family dinner. But then, God knew exactly where I would be long before my feet trod the earth.
  "Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." 1 Cor 4:1

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Fish In by Susan L.

    It was difficult to get a good shot of the aquarium. The warmer water made the pond fish more active. The new surroundings made them a bit skittish as well. I felt bad for the big one. She raced off with a splash of her tail and slammed her nose into the glass with a resounding thud. No harm done though.

  The photo is misleading. The big fish is probably twelve inches long from nose to tail, almost too big for the size of the aquarium. Well fed and the bigger environment of the pond meant she grew some more this past summer. Apparently, gold fish grow to the size of their home.
  I have no idea how long they live but she is at least six years old. The smaller fish on the right is one of her offspring from two summers ago. I got rid of the male after that so at least there's no more babies to contend with. Not that many survive. They get eaten by the bigger fish. Flushing any that survive down the toilet or throwing them away is not something I can do even if they are just fish. It seems cruel.
  Previously, I gave a bunch to a friend who has a man made pond completely isolated from any other waterway. It wouldn't be good to put them into an environment where they can spread. There's already enough trouble with invasive species without adding gold fish to the mix. The downside to that is a Great Blue Heron who treats the pond as her (his?) own dinner buffet. I have no idea how many fish, if any, have survived but that's okay, it wasn't me doing the dastardly deed.
  My friend wasn't impressed when all her expensive koi went down the bird's gullet.
  They also have a turtle that was once ours as well: a non-native red eared slider. She was a gift to my son when he was four and is still going strong twenty-nine years later. She probably had many a meal of goldfish fry, too.
   Thank You Lord for the animals You have blessed my life with. Thank You for the experiences and joy they bring. Thank You for blessing me with Pumpkin and his incredibly loving nature.
  Bless the animals, Lord, wild and domestic. Our lives wouldn't be the same without them.
   "The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein." Ps 24:1

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Answer by Susan L.

  The phone rang yesterday just before I had to leave for work. It was the woman from the hospital who had interviewed me for the Patient and Family Council. They have all the people they want for now but will keep my file handy in case anything regarding mental health arises.
  Part of me is relieved. In going through the application process, it felt like I was biting off more than I could chew. They only met once a month but the role included many hours of research, education and report writing. It was a good experience though, going though the application/interview process.
  Then there's the part of me that's sad and frustrated that the treatment of mental health patients is placed on the back burner. Our local hospital needs much in the way of improving the care of a terribly vulnerable part of our population. That part is growing at an alarming rate as well.
  Hmm, perhaps I could go ahead and write a report to send to them anyways. It's not like the improvements would cost the hospital very much money. Treating people with dignity, kindness, compassion and sensitivity doesn't have a dollar factor attached to it. It's free.
  It wouldn't hurt to help the staff become trauma informed as well. Traumatic events are the root of mental health challenges and addictions. Being treated callously or punitively only adds harm to existing hurts.
  Then there's the medication issue. I know from personal experience: meds that are supposed to help can cause a person to be suicidal and confused. It's a scary place to be in. The first thing a psych ward or hospital does is change your meds if you are on any. That alone is a difficult transition never mind having to battle the symptoms of whatever ails your mind. It can last for weeks.
  I'm thinking too that in the initial phase of my recovery, I believed that a pill held all the answers; that somehow a doctor could fix me and make me as good as new. Isn't that what we are taught? "Take two aspirin and call me in the morning." I am much wiser now. They are only one tool.
  Or maybe I'll simply send the link for today's post to the woman in charge of the council.
  It's something to pray about. Your will, Lord, not mine. Your plan, not my own. Amen!
  "It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear." Is 65:24

Friday, 2 October 2015

Decisions, Aaaargh! by Susan L.

  I am trying to make a decision regarding the upcoming Art Therapy session at the centre. Should I sign up? Part of me wants to. Part of me is wrestling with adding another obligation to what is on my plate right now. Which is plenty I think. Especially with the worship team now having added rehearsals and Sunday participation to my routine.
  Or not. It's on a Saturday afternoon and runs for eight weeks leading up to Christmas. There have been some things going on in the background that would be wonderful to explore in a safe environment. At the same time, knowing how easily stress moves in when life is too busy...I'm not quite sure it would be a good idea. Still, it's been a while since I took part in a group and it's something I've missed.
  It is such a wonderful opportunity for healing, growth and letting go. It is only a couple of hours long. Yet the effects can linger especially if a rock gets overturned and something crawls out from underneath it. Mind you, I do have a bigger Rock to smush whatever might crawl out.
  This is getting me nowhere. The nays and yeahs seem to be tied.
  Lord, help me see clearly if this is something I should do. Guide me on Your path, Your choice for the future. I trust You will sustain me no matter where Your path takes me. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.
  "Moreover He said to me: 'Son of man, receive into your heart all My words that I speak to you, and hear with your ears.'" Ez 3:10

Thursday, 1 October 2015

First Frost by Susan L.

  We've been spoiled up until now with an unseasonably warm September but it was bound to happen: a thin layer of ice on the car windshield has appeared this morning. The hostas took a beating and are resembling blanched spinach. There have been some trees changing colour but this frost will really bring on the glorious fall mantle of reds and oranges. It means it's putting away time.
  The fish and pond pump need to be brought in, the garden hose drained and stored away, plants need cutting back. All part and parcel of the annual cycle. It would be a good idea to fire up the generator and maybe top it up with some fresh gas. Just in case.
  It's a lovely time of year to be outside. There's no mosquitoes or deer flies or horse flies that take such pleasure in feasting on tender human skin.
  It's better for sleeping, too.
  Cooler nights combined with my med increase has made a huge difference. Instead of waking up six or seven times it's down to maybe one half conscious recognition that it is still night. It has made a huge difference in my ability to handle the day to day routine as well as all the extra stuff that starts up this time of year.
  It's wonderful having that nagging ghoul, anxiety, off my back. It's probably why I've been so tired these last few days. The body needs rest to recover its resources. They were pretty well used up.
  There is much to be thankful for.
  "So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, will give You thanks forever; We will show for Your praise to all generations." Ps 79:13