Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Mortal Coil by Susan L.

  After typing in yesterday about shrugging off this mortal coil, I began thinking about its meaning. I looked it up this morning to find out where it came from. My high school English teacher would be pleased that some remnants of Shakespeare remains in my mind. The phrase is from Hamlet, "Shuffle off this mortal coil." It's in his "to be or not to be" soliloquy.
  The image of a human figure wrapped in barbed wire came to mind to represent the coil of existence. Its sharpened barbs would prick and jab which, for me, represents all the trials in this ole world.
  Barbed wire is nasty stuff to work with. My hands bear a couple of scars from farm fence repairs. It's so nasty that one of the local townships banned the use of it on line fencing; the fences that border roads and neighbour's properties. I believe a landowner got sued by a trespasser who hurt themselves on the barbed wire as they climbed over onto private property. It's a backwards world sometimes.
  It helped keep the cows, goats and horses in their pasture. But guess what? It didn't work for sheep. Their thick fleeces protected them from the thorny barbs. As they passed under or over the barbed wire, their wool would snag on the tines rendering them useless. The wire fence ended up dotted with little balls of fleece.
  The same thing happened with an electric fence. Their thick fleece protected them from the charge running through the wire as they ducked beneath it. The wool would wrap around the wire insulating it for the goats who merrily followed the sheep out of the paddock into the back yard of the house. I gave up trying to keep them in. As long as they weren't on the road, no harm done.
  The swallows and song sparrows liked it. It gave them wonderfully warm nesting material once they'd unwrapped a few strands from the barbs and wire.
  It just goes to show you: a sheep cannot be contained.
  "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. " Lk 12:32
 
 

Monday, 30 March 2015

Lazarus by Susan L.

  I've been thinking about Lazarus lately. How had he felt when he died? Did he despair? I don't know much about Jewish beliefs in the afterlife. Jesus has given us Christians hope for what lay beyond death, for an eternity with Him when we shrug off this mortal coil.
  Jesus called Lazarus to life after he was dead for four days. Scripture says he was bound in grave cloths. Did he come out looking like a mummy wrapped head to toe in white linen strips? Did he stumble because his legs were bound and his muscles unused for days? I believe his face was covered so he wouldn't have been able to see much. The linens would have been covered in dust from the tomb so breathing through the fabric must have been difficult. Did the people gathered to witness this miracle recoil in horror at the sight, fearing what lay beneath? Is that why Jesus commanded them to remove the wrappings?
  I've visited this story many times. Like the linen wrappings, it's a healing story of many layers. I know why I am here again. It's the same reason the Lord asked me to join the worship team at church. My insecurities and self doubt are rooted in the past, in the tomb the Lord called me from. And yes, fear is a huge part of this. It's about remaining a victim instead of moving forward with confidence into the life Jesus called me to live in the fullest.
  I'll need help to let go of the ghosts that hold me back, my own grave cloths, that stop me from living without fear. It's about letting go of the spectre of PTSD that would steal my future and stop me from growing into something more than I am. Even if the symptoms flare up or a trigger derails me, it would only be like looking into the tomb. Besides, a triggered response is another way to know what to hold up to the light so more healing can take place. I no longer have to live there.
  As I spoke with the worship team leader on Sunday about joining the team, not only did I mention the organist/pianist ability but also, much to my surprise, that I play the flute although it's been many years. Practice would surely bring that up to snuff. I also offered my voice because it's not half bad either but like the flute, it's a bit rusty.
  The linens fell away.
  Thank You, Lord, for Your forgiveness and grace. Thank You for calling me out of the tomb. Thank You for placing people in my life who continue to help unwrap the person You made me to be at the dawn of time.
  I'll never know what I am capable of without stepping outside my comfort zone. Involvement with the team will be challenging but in a good way.There's much to learn and re-learn. It will be wonderful sharing my deep love of music with like minds. It'll be even more wonderful playing or singing for the Lord as part of His body.
  I pray against the spirits of overwhelm and anxiety and self-doubt. In Jesus most precious name.
  Those dusty wrappings are not needed any more. Hoooyah!
  "Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise." Heb 10:35

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Fluff and Feathers by Susan L

  There's an old wives tale that says when you see your first Robin of spring, what it is doing will forecast the year ahead. I saw two rather plump specimens sitting contentedly on my front lawn earlier this week. Their lack of motion supposedly means I'll have a quiet year. Had they been busy, it means a busy year. I've never really tested the theory. Life is pretty busy regardless of what the Robins say. I have no idea what seeing two means.
  I'm happy to see them! For us Canadians, it symbolizes that spring has finally arrived.
  Sometimes the males don't migrate. I don't know how they know the winter will be mild enough for them. That is a rare event, to see a flock of these beautiful, red breasted birds in the middle of January. Maybe environment Canada should hire them as forecasters. Human weather people don't seem to get it right as often as they should.
  It's nice to see the ducks and geese returning. The river and lake nearby are a stopping off point for many on their way farther up north. It's a lovely day today. Maybe after Church I'll take a walk through the park and see what's there.
  There's a few plants in my garden that get full sun. The crocuses are up beside the house, their flower buds filling out. It won't be long until they bloom. They began growing while there was still snow around them. It always amazes me how plants survive the bitter cold.
  The melting snow has also revealed a mountain of branches on the ground from the tree out front. Once the burn pit is uncovered, that's the first thing to tackle. I can't wait to be outside!
  "Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance." Is 55:2
 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Anticipation by Susan L.

  I shared during prayer request time at my Bible study group that I felt that something wonderful and exciting was looming on the horizon. There's been a sense of anticipation in my heart but I have no idea what it is about. Or maybe I do...more on that later.
  So here's the question. Is this how most people feel every day? That may sound like a strange question but having a sense of the future is foreign to me. Depression is good at snuffing out anything beyond the moment. Not that I've been depressed, meds and therapy have done wonders. I have had glimpses of what may be since I began my recovery journey but for the most part am reluctant to dwell on those hopes.
  Fear is a huge part of that. The carpet has been pulled out from under my feet so many times...hope has been dashed as the fight for survival has taken everything I've got and more. Thank You, Lord, for Your sufficiency. Even talking about a future stirs up unease and a dash of anxiety.
  Maybe I'm looking at this all wrong. The fact that I can hear whispers of what may be is cause for celebration. It's a sign of wellness!
  Which leads me back to this sense of something new coming.
  It's about the music.
  I've been playing the piano for hours at a stretch lately. The more I've played, the more I am able to acknowledge I'm getting pretty good. Not to sound boastful, there's been hours of practice to hone this ability. My playing is a hybrid between organist and pianist. It's different. Unique. A special gift from God. (And Mom, who drove me countless times to my lessons.)
  Here's the thing. As I've sat playing in what has become my own private worship time, there's been a building internal pressure urging me to join the worship team at church. It's the same Voice that led me to join the church in the first place. That Voice is pretty loud right now.
  This is waaaay outside my comfort zone.
  "Will the way I play fit? Will it work? Will I be good enough?" the insecure child in me asks.
 And God says, "This is a getting-out-of-the-boat exercise in faith. Trust Me."
 What else can I say but okay? I'll speak to the team leader on Sunday despite the knots in my belly.
  "Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name." Ps 64:3-4
 

Friday, 27 March 2015

Words to Make You Weep by Susan L.

  "You only need more faith" has to be the cruellest "comfort" words spoken by Christians. It basically means, "Get over it! Suck it up! I don't have time to listen to your nonsense!"
  More faith doesn't make miracles. God does. More faith doesn't put an end to troubles, trials or difficult times. God does that, too. Those five little words are like a knife to the heart of those already in pain. They can throw a person into incredible despair that they simply aren't doing enough, believing hard enough, praying hard enough...the list goes on. And the guilt and shame moves in.
  God promised us He will give us sufficient for the day.
  There's another saying that, in a clumsy attempt to comfort, also chews us up. "God never gives us more than we can handle."
  Yes.
  He does.
  Often.
  Because then, and only then, do we learn to lean into Him. It's when we've nothing left that our faith truly shines. All it takes is a thimble full of belief, a hope in His Grace, and a willingness to surrender; to say, "I can't do this on my own any more. I need Your help."
  God's gift of sufficiency comes from Him.
  I think of Peter getting out of the boat in a raging sea when Jesus called to him, "Come." The Lord wasn't angry that he couldn't do the walk on his own. I am sure He smiled at him as He stretched out His hand to bring the frightened man up from beneath the water. I am sure He was pleased that Peter had trusted Him enough to get out of the boat in the first place. He might have thrown His arm over Peter's shoulder as He led their way back to the boat.
  When I was a young girl, I would walk beside my dad. My little hand was too small to hold his hand so I would hold his index finger as he gently cupped the rest of my hand in his rough and work worn palm. I never felt safer.  
  God's sufficiency is the hand of Jesus. Can you imagine how that must have felt to hold the hand of our Savior? It would be warm and soft yet strong and comforting in the midst of a storm.
  Thank You, Lord, for being my Father's hand when times are more than I can handle.
  "But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased." Mat 14:30-32
 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Tech Frustration by Susan L.

  I am so computer illiterate. In trying to install protective programming, everything has gone to the dogs. Mind you, the scan of my hard drive has sped up the machine so perhaps it is going as it should. It just takes so much time so now I am hard pressed to get the blog written before needing to get ready for work. Grrr. Perhaps this little venture into the world of computer maintenance should have waited until later tonight.
  Does anybody like realizing how much they don't know?
  Last night's Bible study was a bit different. We tested our Bible knowledge with a series of multiple choice questions. It spanned the Old and New Testaments. I didn't do so well. Not that this was for a grade or prizes or anything like that. It was simply meant as a tool for education and discussion.
  The Lord has remained faithful in leading me to the daily scripture included in my posts. Whenever I have needed to use a scripture in conversation, He always, without fail, brings the appropriate one to mind. Yes, I can't quote chapter and verse, but the words are always there.
  There are a few stories I know really well: Joseph's, the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, the Passion story, God's armor. The Lord has made them extremely real to me by inspiring my imagination, creative writing and art. For that I am eternally grateful.
  Or maybe I am being too hard on myself. The Bible has only become a major part of my life in the last ten years which, as I've shared, have been difficult to say the least. Yet, it went with me as I travelled the madness of the Black River. Its mere presence grounded me in the knowledge that God would never leave me nor forsake me no matter where I was.
  That concept was fodder for many conversations with my Maker as we broke through my distrust and fears of abandonment, of being cast aside or left behind. It took a while.
  Lord? I am torn between relying on my trust in You and getting down to the nitty-gritty of actually memorizing Your Word. Either way, fill me with a hunger to learn more. Help me explore the fantastic stories with a fresh eye and with a mind open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus' name I pray.
  "Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us and subdue our iniquities." Micah 7:18-19
 
 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Fifth Note by Susan L.

  My uncle is a tenor in a barbershop quartet. I've only heard him sing once at a church luncheon. As his group was performing, the blend of voices created an indescribable sound. I could feel the music pressing in on my eardrums. It became something more than simple exquisite, four part harmony.
  I spoke to him afterwards about it. He said barbershoppers call it the fifth note, a sound produced when everyone is in perfect pitch, balance and harmony. It's as though a fifth person was singing with them.
  Years ago while I was living with friends my journey with the piano began. They had a baby grand situated in a living room with a cathedral ceiling. The instrument and the acoustics were superb. The simple song "Chopsticks" even sounded extra special.
  It was where I began to develop an emotional connection to the music I was playing. While technically skilled, somehow I had never been able to feel what was being played.  Changes in volume, or expression, were only put in where my music teacher told me to. I now know the disconnect was because of the blanket of low grade depression or dysthymia that had wrapped my soul for most of my life. Thank God it is no longer there.
  As I sat before the polished baby grand, freedom inspired by something inside/outside myself began to grow. I began to experiment with the melodies, to add flourishes and counter melodies. It became something more than notes on a page. My heart's song began to unfold.
  A friend lent me the movie "August Rush". It's not one I had ever heard of before even though Robin Williams has a role. It's about an orphan child, a musical protégée, who has the ability to hear the music in all of creation. Man made city chaos becomes a symphony of sound and staccato rhythms. Blowing wheat in a field becomes an ethereal chorus of strings and flutes. The moon and the stars add their own sweet, sweet sound.
  It is an incredibly poignant and beautiful movie that stirred my heart and mind. More than anything it drove home my gratitude for the people who came before me; for those who gave me the opportunity to hear God's voice in the music. I want more. I want to hear the song He hears. I want to hear the sound of creation groaning.
  And God whispers, "Selah".
  "Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day." Ps 96:1-2
 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Here Goes by Susan L.

  Helping both my boys with their new homes has filled me with a cartload of desire to do some more things around my own place. Toss in spring and my mind is going a gazillion miles an hour. Perhaps starting with some more purging is the best place to begin. There's simply too much stuff in my little home.
  Everything that is behind closed doors needs sorting. Those are the places where clutter breeds, where objects are stuffed for lack of a better place to keep them. "Out of sight, out of mind" as the saying goes. I need to listen to my own advice. If it hasn't been used or looked at in six months, it's gotta go! Thankfully, none of the bedroom closets have doors so they're not bad.
  But then there's the "just in case" that wars with purging. A battlefield of epic proportion!
  I've more empty jam jars than Smuckers. Will I make jam or pickles again? Maybe...I missed having home made strawberry jam in the pantry cupboard. The second hand store is a good source for Mason jars if I need to get some instead of hanging on to mine. But, if the jars aren't handy, chances are the jam won't get made in the first place. Yah...battlefield...And that's just one item in there.
  My son moved a small bundle of bits and pieces of wood. There was one that was perfect for levelling a cupboard. See? His "just in case" was needed after all even though I rolled my eyes at someone having to carry it from the moving van. But who am I to judge!
  I started this process in the fall after re-painting my living room. It's time to roll up my sleeves and get down to it.
  Look out stuff! Here I come!!
  And there's something else. The Lord has proven His care towards me by providing everything I need: from a home to an eraser. There was even a new laundry tub someone put out at the side of the road. I think I need to treat purging as an act of trust in God. As He has provided, He will continue to do so.
  ""So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." Then He said to His disciples, "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat' nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing."" Lk 12:21-23
 

Monday, 23 March 2015

Triumphant Return by Susan L.

  It was a whirlwind, achy, satisfying weekend. I went down to my son's to help with the move into their new home. It was three days of organized chaos.
   On Friday, my son's mother-in-law put the first coat of paint on the guest bedroom as I painted the second coat on the living room. My son moved his collection of pets: tarantulas, an aquarium with an assortment of tropical fish and another with four Firebelly toads. Hearing them chirp in the night was a blast of spring music. It's a time consuming task. The cats were much easier to relocate!
  Saturday morning, the day of the move, I was up early to put a second coat of paint on the bedroom. After that, the walls and the upper cupboards in the kitchen were scrubbed as we waited for the truckload of things to arrive.
  There was a handful of young people who helped with the actual move. Tossing furniture around is a bit beyond me now. We moms began unpacking and sorting out the kitchen. Even if everything else is stacked in boxes, it's good to be able to put your hands on a spoon or a mug.
  It was a good move. No one got hurt, nothing was broken, no one lost their temper despite the fatigue by the end of the day. By four thirty, the truck was empty and the moving helpers left after having a feast on pizza and a drink.
  My son and I continued to putter, clearing a path to the couch by taking boxes to their assigned rooms, organizing others into neat stacks, tidying up the copious amounts of paper and cardboard on the back deck,  By eight o'clock, it was time to stop.
  We were all sore and utterly worn out.
  God bless the makers of Tylenol! Springtime muscles aren't the best for hard, physical labour.    
  Needless to say, when I got home yesterday after helping move the rest of the random bits from the apartment and putting a third coat of paint on the bedroom (yellow does not easily cover green!) I collapsed on the couch. Pumpkin was glad to see me home and demanded much deserved cuddle time.
  "Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!" Ps 107:21
 
 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

V Formation by Susan L.

  A small flock of half a dozen seagulls flew overhead a few moments ago. Their brilliant white plumage gleamed in the morning sun against an incredibly blue sky. What drew my attention to them was the fact they were flying in a V like ducks and geese do. This may not be out of the ordinary or maybe it is. I don't think I've seen that many in that kind of formation before. Usually they are scattered throughout the sky.
  Maybe they've learned something from the geese.
  Thanks to National Geographic shows, I know why they fly in the V. The lead bird breaks through the forces of wind and air. A current of air swirls behind the bird that the followers use for added lift and so on down the line. They barely need to move their wings to stay aloft because of the trail blazer. When the leader gets tired, another bird takes its place. The energy conservation that results from the V means it's easier to fly the distance.
  There have been many human trailblazers as well. There are those who's ground breaking work created a recovery based way of dealing with mental health. Others continue to nurture and improve the seeds of these ideas. There are the great scientists, from the first one who created fire to those who discovered and harnessed electricity. Inventors who harnessed steam to power motors came before those who gave us the diesel engine and the space shuttle.  Moses, King David, Mathew and the other disciples have left a legacy of language in a Book that provides millions with comfort and encouragement. Everything around us has its own story of creation with leaders who lifted others to make something better, to build upon their efforts. When they grew tired, others have stepped in to fill their place.
  And Jesus. Although I am not sure how "proper" it is to compare Him to a goose but He is truly the wind beneath our wings. Best of all, we are the flock of a Trailblazer who never tires. In Him, the V is for victory!
  "And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, "This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." Likewise He also took the cup after supper saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you."" Lk 22:19-20
 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Moving Assistant by Susan L.

  My youngest son and his wife have purchased a new home. I went down yesterday to help him move some furniture from his mother-in-law's home. The big move is Saturday.
  It was most enjoyable spending some time chatting as we drove there and back. We had a quick lunch at Tim's before unloading the rental van. He is a kind and personable young man with a delightfully quirky sense of humour. He made of point of chatting and laughing with the cashier and sandwich maker, people most of us take for granted.
  They were delighted with his attentions. They weren't flirty, they simply acknowledged that there was a living, breathing human person behind the counter.
  When I worked retail at a hardware store, those type of people were the best. I'd bend over backwards to help them get what they needed simply because of a momentary kindness. There were the other type of people as well, the ones that treated me as a "less than" person because I worked retail. It's tough feeling invisible.
  I am guilty of forgetting that. "Hurry up and get what I need and get home" is the mantra of most of my shopping. It's the same with standing in line at a checkout. Both are valuable moments where human connection is possible. Our kind words may be the only ones anyone gets be it the teenage boy behind the till or the elderly woman standing behind you.
  What's the line from the movie Avatar? "I see you."
  Help me Lord, be better at sacrificing my own agenda, taking my head out of the sand, and looking around.
  "I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts." Is 65:2
 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Mathew 6:9-13 by Susan L.

  I've been doing a lot of thinking about the Lord's Prayer. It's not been anything concrete, just random musings over the meaning and significance of those few words. It struck me that most of the time I say it without truly leaning into the incredible seriousness and joy the prayer contains. It  rattles off the tongue so fast there isn't time to think on what is being said. This prayer was learned in school before it was banned and like all things familiar and repetitive, it has lost its significance over time. It's a shame because it is an incredibly powerful prayer that contains every single aspect of what being a Christian is about.
  Yesterday at church, the video teaching was on that exact subject. Much of what was taught mirrored my own rather vague ideas.
  I thought I'd do something a bit different by breaking down the prayer to help cement its heart into my own. This is merely a preliminary sketch.
  "Our Father". First of all, as yesterdays teaching said, this identifies Who we are praying to so there is no interference. For myself, it speaks of belonging. God, the Father, is ours and we are His. Forever!
  "In heaven". We need to put the address like mailing a letter that way it doesn't land in another father's mailbox. There's only One who could hear us.
  "Hallowed be Your name." He is our most holy One, above all, Beloved, Pure beyond human understanding.  Like grains of sand on a beach the name of God is infinite. He is far more than Father. Creator and Provider. That's something I'd like to explore in more detail: the names of God.
  "Your kingdom come." I had thought it might mean a call to speed the day the Lord Jesus returns. That's is part of it. It's also an intercessory prayer against the forces of evil who are bound and determined to keep us from our Lord.
  "Your will be done." That's a biggy. And I pray, help me set aside that which would keep me apart from You. Help me surrender to the tender leading of the Holy Spirit. Help me hear His voice. I desire with all my heart that Your will for my life be the path I choose.
  "On earth as it is in heaven." There would be nothing that separates us from Jesus. What else? This line confirms that heaven is a real place that is way better than this earth we labour on.
  "Give us this day our daily bread." This doesn't mean just PBJ's for lunch. And I pray, feed my soul, my spirit, my life with a daily dose of Your presence. Oh...It's a gift! We don't have to do anything to earn this feast except ask.
  "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Repentance and forgiveness. The King James version uses the word trespasses instead of debt. It's a reminder that we are to forgive others as Jesus sacrifice on the Cross allows us to be forgiven our sins. It's a reminder that we can hurt others just as we've been hurt. It edifies compassion, grace, and love.
   "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." And I pray, help me be strong in face of temptation or anything that would try to separate me from my Father, my Saviour, and the Holy Spirit. It also acknowledges our foe is very real and that particular being is focused completely on our destruction. In Christ, he has no power.
  "For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever." I give it all back to You, my Lord. May every aspect of who You created me to be: creative, determined, and capable and Your gifts of righteous anger, passion, gentleness, gratitude, patience, trust and faith be used to glorify You. (That's my own celebratory list of ten!)
  You are the Author of my destiny. Glory and praise to God above.
  I'm open to more thoughts on the Lords Prayer. Please feel free to comment.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Random Meeting by Susan L.

  I bumped into a woman who used to come to writer's group. We had a nice chat in the middle of a crowded store. She shared how the Lord was helping her find out who she was. It has me wondering if this is something fifty to sixty year olds do as part of life's journey.
  If we have children, they hopefully are moving on in their own lives by this time. Parent, mother, father, provider, and a whole slew of other identifiers become obsolete. It leaves a great, gaping hole where once they were used to identify ourselves.
  These labels only identify what we do, they don't get down to the nitty-gritty truth of our personhood. That takes some often heart wrenching exploration.
  I say that because we need to unlearn much of who we think we are in order to make room for new ideas and understandings.
  Hurt builds lies.
  We live in a world of hurt.
  Hurting people hurt others.
  In our own brokenness, we pass our hurts and misunderstandings to the next generation. Our worldly "truths" make sure that happens. We know who is the author of those. It serves the devils interest to destroy God's truth.
  It is so easy to believe the negative about ourselves. God will forgive us for doing that, if we ask.
  Here's the challenge: to believe in the good things about ourselves. To learn how to celebrate and be thankful for the gifts the Lord has given us.
  Here's another challenge: can you list ten things you like about yourself?
  What's the old saying? If we can't love ourselves, God help our neighbour!
  "But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk." 1 Cor 7:17
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Morning Rush by Susan L.

  As the sun creeps up over the trees, the water begins to burble. Ditches, streams and rivers fill their banks with fast and deep running water. Snow banks crumble under the assault of much missed warmth. Patches of earth and pasture peek out. Noisy flocks of seagulls swoop down searching for delectable tidbits uncovered by the sun.
  The buried drain pipe for my sump pump runs through the front yard to the culvert that passes under the road. The constant flow of water must stop the ground from freezing because it's the first area to melt and expose the grass, or what's left of it. The running water must make a toasty environment under the snow. The entire length is marked by miniature mole tunnels and little piles of excavated dirt. It's nice to know my basement's water issues keep someone happy!
  It won't be long before spring clean-up outside begins. My neighbour's ditch will be the first to rake because it is littered with bark and broken branches from the tree that fell this winter. The tree was in my yard. It's the least I can do. They chopped up the massive trunk and helped clear the road when it fell.
  This year's project is the finishing touch of new flower beds in front of the shed. They'll need to be dug up and planted. I've plenty of time to think about what to put in them. That part of the yard is still buried under a foot of snow!
  But best of all is being able to have bare foot moments in the garden and feeling the sun warmed earth and grass beneath my feet. Life at it's finest!
  "For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; The time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land." Song 2:11-12
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, 13 March 2015

Early by Susan L.

  In messing around with my clock last weekend, I must have fiddled with the date. My clock automatically jumped to daylight savings time last night so instead of getting up at what I thought was eight forty-five it's not even eight o'clock. This is a good thing. Last night was full of nightmares. Perhaps cheese and crackers before bed wasn't such a great idea.
  Or maybe they were in keeping with all the emotional stuff that got stirred up over the last couple of days. Could they be the mind's way of dealing with feelings that need a safe outlet? They weren't pretty. In fact, had the behaviours acted out in the dreams been real, I'd be sitting in a patrol car wearing handcuffs. It's disturbing to think the mind could be so graphically violent. Thankfully, they were just dreams.
  Yup. Cheese. It'll do it every time.
  Still, I am taken aback by the intense response seeing the farm generated.
  This could go two ways. I could beat myself up for not being totally "over it" after all this time. But that's a world view. Or it might be better to turn it into a cause for celebration by recognizing how much the Lord has healed in my heart. One day...some day... I hope...
  So let's celebrate. The woman who lived on the farm will always be a part of me. Her teeth gritting sheer determination to keep on going is a gift. I think of Martha who, in spite of her grief over the death of her brother, left the home in her time of mourning to seek Jesus. She knew the only way to find ease from her pain was through Him. I doubt she had resurrection in mind.
  The Lord has polished His gift of determination. It's no longer reliant on my own strength (most of the time. I do slip up occasionally!) He continues to refine it, direct it and shape it so that my will becomes His will.
  And the best part in is once again being able to acknowledge I'll never have to go it alone again.
  Ever.
  And you don't either. If you haven't embraced Jesus as Lord, I ask you to take this time to invite Him into your heart and your life. Your age doesn't matter. Your situation in life doesn't matter. Who you are doesn't matter. Where you live doesn't matter. It's never too late for a new beginning, a resurrection of your very own.
  "And he (Lazarus) who had died came out (of his tomb) bound hand and foot with grave-clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Loose him, and let him go." Jn 11:44
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 12 March 2015

More Memories by Susan L.

  We had a staff meeting yesterday at my co-workers home. She lives in a house where I used to do housekeeping for the elderly couple that lived there. It's a lovely, old, stone farmhouse that sits on a hill overlooking a valley. The farm I lived at is tucked in at the bottom and can be seen from the back windows.
  It was strange being back there although the stone house has undergone extensive renovations over the last decade that have turned it into a beautiful home. It's nothing like I remember.
  Looking at my old home stirred up a mountain of memories. Some were funny and delightful experiences but mostly it was sadness that reached into my heart.
  Abuse doesn't necessarily mean physical assault. There are other insidious was to gain control, to abuse. Isolation, having no money, the silent treatment, rage, blame, not being allowed to speak...it's all about power. I did a good job of fooling myself and everyone else that everything was wonderful.
  I was swept up in a hopeless battle believing that if I did more, if I tried harder, then my ex would be happy. That was my purpose. It was the role I'd been carefully groomed to assume from the get go. Yet, in reality and with the ability to look back, I had been spiraling ever downwards into a deep depression. I truly think having the animals to tend to is all that kept me going, all that forced me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
  I hope my children can forgive me. I was running on empty.
  For a long time, part of me still believed it was my duty to respect him, to justify his behaviors, but most of all to never criticize or advise him. The pedestal he was on was pretty high. It took some time to tear it down.
  Yes, there were good times, too. I've shared some of my farming experiences on the blog and utilized those to write other stories as well.
  The view from the hill was bittersweet but it was seasoned with the deepest gratitude that the Lord reached in and saved me from myself.
  I won't be able to give chapter and verse today. I got called into work and have no Bible with me.
  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son."

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Borderline Personality Disorder by Susan L.

  That has to be one of the cruelest diagnosis. So much so that even the newest version of the DSMV (the psychiatrist's diagnostic tome) no longer calls it that. It is now classified as a socialization disorder. The previous label is one that creates the ideology that it is all our fault we're sick, that there's something wrong with us.
  It's one that was slapped on me in my first hospitalization prior to its name change. It literally felt like I had been slapped. It left me awash in guilt and shame that I was less than...It took a while to get out from under that diagnosis which in itself is also traumatizing but God proved faithful and helped me do that.
  Here's what I've learned about it since then:
  First of all, recovery is possible.
  Secondly, it is rooted in trauma. One of the coping skills in dealing with trauma is to slap it into a box and bury it deep within ourselves. Sometimes it's so deep we have no memory of those events. Along with the trauma, pieces of us get frozen and shut down. It's the mind's way of protecting itself. The more traumatic events in our life, the more fractured our personhood becomes.
  Thirdly, there is some discussion about a new diagnosis called complex Post Traumatic Stress which basically says the same thing: our personhood, our identity, is fractured and non-cohesive because of events beyond our control. It has nothing to do with our personality!! It`s about doing what is necessary to survive.
  I have often thought of a kaleidoscope during my walk of self-discovery. All the tiny pieces of coloured glass represent events in my life that contain pieces of my whole identity in Christ. Together, and by holding them up to the Light, they have the ability to create a beautiful and complete image.
  "Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, though the veil, that is, His flesh." Heb 10:19-20

Monday, 9 March 2015

Screaming Jays by Susan L.

  The rasping screech of Blue Jays always takes me back in time. When I was little, we'd go and visit  family friends of my dad in New Brunswick where he grew up. We'd set our pop up, canvas top trailer in the yard beside their old country farm house. The Blue Jays would sing their rather unmelodious song early in the morning from the pussy willows that lined the back of the yard. I can still smell the sun warmed canvas and remember lying there, listening, happy as a clam.
  Mrs. Morgan still cooked on a wood stove. The memory of her home made biscuits and preserves still has the power to make my mouth water. It fascinated me that she kept her flour in a kitchen drawer and not the bag it came in. I was even more fascinated by how quickly she whipped up a batch of biscuits without seeming to measure a thing. The metal sifter, with its metallic scrape softly echoing the jays, would create a fluffy, pristine mountain of flour on the counter. A dash of this, a splash of that, roll 'em out and toss them in the oven. She made it look so easy!
  There was a rocking chair beside the stove that begged to be sat in. Her large cat was more than happy to share as long as he got petted. I was more than happy to sit there while the adults talked of adult things as they polished off the last of the breakfast biscuits and coffee. Back and forth, feeling my long hair move in unison with the timeless rhythm of the chair. The cat purred like a diesel engine under my gentle attentions.
  It was the time when I could still hear bats. Their noises are now, sadly, far outside the range of my adult ears. Back then, their tiny squeaks filled the night sky as they hunted the fireflies that flickered in the air and turned the lawn into a magical carpet of stars.
  The plants in the sun porch, so many the tables groaned under their weight. The grill in the upstairs hall floor to let the heat from the stove upstairs. The Devil's Paintbrushes, a wildflower that filled the meadow across the road with flaming yellow, orange and red. Fishing in the stream that ran through the back of the property. My dad freaking out when I caught an eel. (The only time I ever saw him lose his cool!) My brother falling on a rake and putting the spike through his hand. The sound of the Morgan's grown up son playing the bagpipes. Seeing the house where my dad was a boy. The country store that sold everything from candy to nails.
  Thank You Lord, for the good times. I don't mean the rake, but the rest of it for sure!
  "So He said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who as left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life." Lk 18:29-30
 
 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Waaah! by Susan L.

  There's going to be a bit of a whine and cheese party this morning. I'm still not well. Better. But not a hundred percent which probably means it's viral because the antibiotics didn't kill the bug. This thing, virus, whatever has sapped my strength and has me feeling a bit frustrated and cranky as well.
  Maybe it's a good thing I live on my own! Pumpkin doesn't take it personally when I push him away despite his frequent and often obnoxious, in my face, demands to be cuddled. I'm glad he's so affectionate, just not all the time! I am not resting on the couch to serve him! See? Cranky!
  Which leads me to wonder about the doctor's diagnosis and her quick decision to write the prescription in the first place. This heavy, long lasting chest cold is everywhere.
  It's been in the news many times how our antibiotics are no longer working due to over-use. Is this an example? I know I would have been disappointed if she'd told me it was a virus and there was nothing she could do. Which begs the question: how much of a doctor's evolution to being a mere pill pusher is our own fault?
  We live in a society that demands quick solutions for everything. Instant gratification in the pursuit of happiness and health. I have been shaped by it as much as anyone.
  I watched an old black and white movie last week that was filmed during the war. One of the lines leapt out, "We'll buy something to make us happy." I shook my head in dismay. The brainwashing to buy bigger, better, newest has been going on for a long time. The credit card companies love it.
  I used to be like that, using material things to fill a void, a longing, the sense of being so alone.
  Jesus has helped set me free step by step. Even when I slip back into the old ways, He gently brings me painlessly back to His.
  One of the greatest myths of Christianity is that once Jesus is embraced as Lord and Saviour, we have to give up everything we enjoy or own. That's where His grace comes in and the space to discover exactly what a walk with Christ means for us personally. Now that's something to chase the crankies away!
  "But Ruth said: "Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God." Ruth 1:16
 
 
 

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Gift Exchange by Susan L.

 An anonymous author left the following comment on yesterday's post, "You will be blessed using your gifts for others." Thank you for that blessing. It is most gratefully received.
  It isn't why I did the drawings. I wasn't looking for any sort of recognition or payment either earthly or otherwise. It was simply a matter of using skills honed over the years to fill a need. Which, as I sit here pondering that statement, is really an offering of gratitude for those who provided everything I needed to grow my abilities. May they be blessed!
  Pens, pencils, paper, lots of erasers, crayons, paint, canvas, rulers and school. That's where I mastered the now mostly extinct skills of a graphic artist. It's pretty much all done on computer now. Nevertheless, the skills learned about design and layout are transferable and have helped shape my home and gardens.
  We all have within us a creator who has the ability to take nothing and make it something. The trick is to find our voice, our song that only we can sing. This means setting aside all the "You will never..." comments that cripple us. It means forgiving those who said such harmful things.
  It means taking a chance and trying something. Maybe it's for the first time. Don't give up. The skills will grow over time.
  Every single masterpiece or published book or featured garden in a magazine has a whole boatload of failures behind it. Every single scientific breakthrough is built on what didn't work. I am sure there are great chefs who tossed a smoking dinner in the trash once or twice.
  Go for it!
 
 
 
  "Then God said, "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."
  So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." Gen 1:26-27

 
 
 

Friday, 6 March 2015

Drawing by Susan L.

  The centre is sprucing up their web site and interface page. It was rather utilitarian so they asked for some creative input. I suggested putting some faces on it. That would enable our mandate of inclusion to come across visually. Originally, we thought about using some of the free images available online but weren't sure about copyright.
  A couple years ago, a woman had her photo put on a politician's flyer. The designer had used a royalty free, stock photo. This woman was rather upset because she didn't believe in what this particular political party stood for. It's left me to wonder if there would have been the same reaction if someone's photo was used for a mental health venue.
  To solve this problem, the artist in me volunteered to draw some faces.
  The idea went clear out of my head until Wednesday morning. In dire need of a haircut I made an appointment. My bangs needed colouring too, a long process. So that afternoon, sketchbook in hand, I went and got beautified. Imagining faces and sketching them in pen and ink used up most of the waiting time while the bright red dye did its thing to my hair.
 Yesterday as I spent a couple of hours drawing and colouring the final copy, one thing struck me as possibly being an issue. It's hard to draw a multi-cultural group of faces without relying on stereotypes but the message that all are welcome needed to be clear. Hopefully they won't offend anyone.
  It took a lot longer than I thought it would but that's okay. Besides, it's not really work when it's so much fun. One of the images even raised a chuckle. It wasn't my intention to draw a young Woody Allen but when glasses were added to one of the men's portraits, there he was...sort of.
  "O Lord my God, I cried out to You; and You healed me." Ps 30:2
 
 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Apple Crisp by Susan L.

  It's community lunch today at the centre. My co-worker is going to heat up some broccoli and cheddar soup that was in the freezer. There's heaps of buns in there as well thanks to a donation. We have two large bags of apples from the Good Food Box order so I volunteered to make an apple crisp today. The apples are rather small so it'll mean a good amount of peeling. It might be prudent to bring my own peeler. The ones at the centre are fairly new so they don't work the best and well, every cook has their own preference.
  There's something heartwarming about the smell of cinnamon and apples baking. It creates an aura of comfort and home. It sets the tummy rumbling in anticipation. Mmmmm...can't wait! I know the soup will be delicious. It always is.
  My co-worker used to be a chef. Talk about being spoiled! And even though I've done my own share of cooking over the years, she has taught me a thing or two. Like taking the time to roast the bones being used to make soup stock. This adds a mountain of flavour.
  I've learned more than cooking from her. She has modeled the fundamentals of peer support from the moment I walked in the door as a visitor. I've learned from the best.
  Learning how to do peer support has helped me be a better Christian. It's an exercise in grace, patience and compassion. Taking the time to be there for another person is all peer support is. Just being there to listen, or hold a hand, cry together or to have a laugh is the one of the greatest gifts we can give another person.
  Connection.
  It's even better than apples and cinnamon.
  "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord." Rom 8:38-39
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

In Jesus' Name I Pray by Susan L.

  I am going to offer a warning like the news stations did. The contents of this blog may be disturbing to some readers.
  To have the former Provincial Deputy Minister of Education charged with owning child pornography and being charged with other offenses related to the exploitation of young children is appalling. Praise God that no one, at this point, has come forward as a result of his personal behaviour.
  If there is anyone who has been impacted directly by him, I pray the courage of a lion will fill your heart so you can speak up. A grave abuse of authority has taken place. You did nothing wrong. And that applies to anyone and everyone whose childhood was cut short.
  However, those who produced the images that he shared have done a tremendous amount of damage to these exploited children...unimaginable damage.
  So. How not to judge and condemn these men and women who do such things to children...I don't know if I can do it, my Lord.
  Yes, I understand that 99.9% of the time, such offenders have themselves been exploited. Help me, Lord, find compassion for them as well. It's a sad comment about how long this type of behaviour has ridden the undercurrents of our society. The sins of seven generations...Help me, Lord to pray for these broken people, that they may turn aside from the path they have chosen.
  Babylon...the internet...where anything and everything is available with a single keystroke.
  How can we stop this? How can we make it right? How do we save these children?
  Bless the brave police who have made it their job to infiltrate these dark and secret societies. Bless them for their determination to end the exploitation of children. Lord, be with them and comfort them as they witness horrific things far beyond the scope of anything we could possibly imagine. Thank You, Lord, we have these knights of righteousness doing battle on our behalf.
  "These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords, King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen and faithful." Rev 17:14

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

No Idea Whatsoever by Susan L.

  It appears that the worst of the bronchitis has been licked. I'm feeling much better. Woo-hoo!!
  It took fifteen minutes of write and delete to come up with that gem. It's one of those mornings when the subject matter of the day's blog fails to materialize.
  Watching the wildlife flutter and scamper through my front yard has me somewhat distracted. A small flock of bluejays, a trio of mourning doves, a pair of cardinals, a sprinkling of chick-a-dees and a squirrel have blessed me with their appearance. The squirrel is a good sign. It has to be warmer out there seeing as he or she decided to leave its nest. That's another Woo-hoo!
  It must've been a hard, long haul for these little creatures. Although the squirrel still looks rather plump. If it's the same one I saw in the fall, it started the winter with copious rolls of fat on its small frame: furry love handles. Good thing. It must've needed all its reserves.
  I wonder if the little songbirds hunker down together in a clump, sharing body heat on bitter winter nights. They must be even more grateful for the warmer temperatures than I am.
  I haven't heard the great horned owl this year. He normally sings his own mournful woo-hoo in the long, frigid nights of January and February. Perhaps he has moved on to the great forest in the sky.
  Do animals go to heaven? I believe they do. They have a spirit, a life force, given to them by God at the moment of their creation. Just like us. Only we humans have souls as well.
  Can you see it? Flocks of brilliantly shimmering, bejeweled birds swooping over the Throne of God. Their sweet voices joined with ours as we sing, "Praises to God Most High! Halleluiah! The Creator of all Creation!"
  "Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold I make all things new." Rev 21:5
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, 2 March 2015

Truths by Susan L.

  The sun dogs proved false. March came in like a lamb. We had no snow yesterday although it did end up cloudy for a good part of the day. We had more snow on Friday morning which was bizarre because the sky was clear except for wispy clouds way up high. The few snowflakes were tiny crystals that glittered like flecks of silver in the sun. It only lasted moments but was stunningly beautiful.
  Saturday I lounged around the house still not feeling up to snuff. A knock came to my door in the middle of the afternoon. When I answered it, the person standing there generated a whole whack of suspicion. He wasn't a big man but sported long salt and pepper hair. His beard reached the middle of his chest...B-I-K-E-R! My heart fluttered in alarm.
  He could have been anywhere between fifty and sixty-five years old.  I wouldn't be a good detective because once the biker idea raced through my head, I sort of froze up.
  I'd seen his newer pick-up truck stopped in the road earlier and wondered why he had pulled into my driveway. The sirens were going off in my head like the old red-alert on Star Trek.
  Then he spoke.
  "You wouldn't happen to know who might own an old dog, mostly blind. He's a brown spaniel type. I found him wandering around the road. He can't see very well, his eyes are clouded over and, well, I don't want him getting hurt. He's wearing tags but I thought I'd ask if you knew him or where he belongs."
  After he spoke, I noticed he had the kindest blue eyes that mirrored his concern for the old dog. It left me feeling sad that presumptions and assumptions had been the first response to his appearance.
  I wasn't able to help and only later remembered seeing the dog on the south side of the river wandering around someone's yard.
  He decided to take the dog home and call the humane society. At least the tags would guarantee a reunion.
  So...my middle class prejudices were put to the cross (again!). Social and cultural conditioning and even family attitudes can fuel the flames of division. Thank You, Lord, for bringing this into my awareness. May I be a better person for it.
  Out of curiosity, I wonder what he thought of the middle aged, hair-all-amuck, pajama wearing woman who answered the door...
  "I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness." Jn 12:46