Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Sarnia Bound by Susan L.

  I left from work an hour early on Friday so it wouldn't be dark driving down to see my son and his family. Instead of dark, the fog was thick. Traffic lights were barely visible. The cars ahead even less so. I dreaded the next three and a half hours if this was how it was to be the whole way down.
  Not only do I head sort of southwest, but the drive goes downhill. Once out of the "highlands" of home, the fog lifted. Much to my relief.
  We've had record breaking warm temperatures the last little while. Most of the snow is gone except in amongst the thin forests that line parts of the highway. It looked like the last remaining clumps of snow were trying to return to the sky. These frozen patches, caressed by warm air, created swirling pockets of mist that crept across the road.
  All the creeks and rivers were churning and overflowed their summertime boundaries.
  Every sort of rain made me constantly fiddle with the windshield wipers. Sometimes they were only needed sporadically. Other times they needed to be on full force as brief, but mighty torrents of water thundered against the windshield. A combination of muck and mist churned up by passing cars only added to the switch fiddling.
  A little over an hour and a half from my destination, the sky ahead became black and ominous. A rare, mid-winter thunderstorm vented it's fury at being wakened early in the season. Flashes of lightning cut the sky or massive bolts charged towards the earth. The very air rumbled and snarled and echoed the crack of violent, blinding strikes.
  Was this storm going to be between me and where I needed to go? Dread filled my heart.
  It was hard not to watch the fireworks and keep my eyes on the drive. Good thing most of the roads are straight as an arrow. As time and distance were eaten up, the storm, thankfully, moved clear of my route.
  On my right, over lake Huron, was a sky of gold and silver. A small patch of blue played hide and seek with glowing, pristine clouds. I felt I was seeing a glimpse of heaven's sky. It was all the more breathtaking against the bruised purples, grays and greens of the tattered back edge of the storm. This glorious sight didn't last long as the sun disappeared behind another bank of dense, but far less foreboding, dove gray clouds.
  It's a long drive from here to there. I am thankful the Lord makes each trip special and unique.
  "He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters, Who makes the clouds His chariot, Who walks on the wings of the wind, Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire." Ps 104:3-4

Friday, 24 February 2017

Taking a Break by Susan L.

  I am looking forward to spending some quality time with my son and grandchildren so there won't be any posts for the next few days. It's a much needed break from all the soul searching!
  Two nights ago, at 1:20 in the morning, there was a large, metallic crash. A terrified, primeval, scream erupted from deep within before I was even fully awake. The noise had been in the bedroom! Scared out of my wits, it didn't take long to realize there was no one there. Still shaky, I got up to get a glass of water and to investigate what had made the noise.
  A small duffle bag kept on the closet shelf had, for some unknown reason, fallen. It had been the metal pieces of the shoulder strap hitting the floor that had wakened me.
  Relieved, I went back to bed but it took a long time to fall asleep again.
  I was rather reluctant to go to sleep last night. The cumulative effects of nightmares and this fright makes being asleep not exactly feeling safe. My midnight, terror filled voice still haunted me.
  It's a good thing there's an opportunity to have a break.
  "When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice." Ps 63:6-7

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Take Five by Susan L.

  On my way to pick up a friend who is part of my small group, I had to pull over for a few minutes to fill out one of my anxiety worksheets. After leaving the centre at four, the tension had begun to build the closer it got to our weekly time for group.
  I was early enough picking up my travel companion that there was an opportunity to pull over, take five and examine what was going on.
  It was mostly being terrified of a smack down because of having shared my struggles the week before. Historically this has happened on a regular basis. Pastors, doctors, nurses, councillors, a spouse, and other people in my life who breached trust and abused their authority by demeaning and negating my valid needs. They left a wake of damage and only reinforced the lesson that it isn't okay to reach out.
  Lord, I need to do a lot of forgiving. Forgive me because I don't think I can right now. You see, even though I underlined the idea of my needs being valid, it's something that's hard for me to believe.
  So why do I think having needs is such a bad, weak, undesirable thing?
  Bear with me...
  I am afraid to have needs. Understandably so. The need for help either physically or emotionally led to being bullied, abused, isolated, disregarded and demeaned.
  I am afraid to ask for help. Again, understandably so. The same reasons apply.
  I am afraid of having to pay a price for needing help...

  This is tough.
  Lord, You know my heart, that deep inside me is the desire to forgive all those who have hurt me. Thank You that I don't hate these people, a baby step towards freedom. Please continue to help me grow and let go. Help me let go of the anger about all of this. Please, please diffuse the powerful memories that re-victimize me and cripple my ability to move forward. In Jesus' name I pray. AMEN!
  There wasn't any fallout in group from last week's confession. Thank You, Lord for surrounding me with people worthy of trusting.
  "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."" Rom 1:16-17

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Outside by Susan L.

  Southern Ontario had a record breaking warm weekend. Taking advantage of this spring like weather meant going for a walk three days in a row. My fitness level could use some work.
  Saturday I chose to stay on the road, hiking north past open fields blanketed with snow. It sparkled and shimmered beneath the brilliant sun. Rushing water carved its way across the low parts with a gurgle and a laugh. Canine footprints crisscrossed the field; maybe a fox or possibly a coyote. The prints had melted enough to make a positive ID virtually impossible. When they entered into a grassy and overgrown part of the field I thought that perhaps they could belong to a mouse hunting fox.
  It always surprises me how much life is out there even in the bitter cold. Earlier in the week I'd witnessed a mole scurrying across my back yard towards the house. It must have been a nervous time for him (or her) being that exposed to the numerous feral cats in the neighbourhood. I suppose living in and around the houses is a bit safer than the grassy fields where his more rural neighbours live. Later I put on my tracker hat to see where it had gone. Thankfully, not into the house!
  Sunday afternoon, H and I ventured into the park. The sun hadn't melted much of the snow in amongst the trees so the path was slippery and slushy in places. It was calm and sheltered close to the ground while gusts of warm wind made the tree tops groan and moan. Trunks and branches ground against each other with a nails-on-a-chalkboard screech. She held up a handful of snow to the light. The puff and fluff of the last snowfall had melted into ice diamonds: beauty that nearly took my breath away. We both wondered what the Inuit would call this type of snow.
  Yesterday I ventured up the road again. A little farther this time. It doesn't take long or very much for the fitness level to improve.
  What had been snow blanketed fields only two days prior were now gooey mud and ice covered puddles. Under the golden heat of the sun, the ice cracked and snarled and popped. I'd never heard this before unless I'd intentionally stepped on ice, a favorite childhood pastime. The sound fascinated me. I tried to imagine what the noise must be like when the ice breaks up on a lake. It would have be amplified a thousand fold.
  It felt good to get out of my head for a while. Feeling the warmth of the sun as I raised my eyes closed face to the sun felt good as did the warmth on my back as I hiked north. Still, it is only February and even though the warm temperatures are supposed to continue, it's a sure thing that there is bound to be a bit more winter.
  "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?" Ps 8:3-4

Monday, 20 February 2017

Discernment by Susan L.

  I haven't filled out too many of my worksheets but that's okay. Instead there's been many hours of quiet contemplation as anxiety itself is being pulled apart and understood.
  Not all anxiety is bad. Excitement creates the same tenseness, the same increase in blood pressure. Excitement and anticipation are the motivational face of anxiety. They are "run to" emotions instead of "run from" even though the physiological response is nearly identical. It's wonderful to be able to recognize the positive face of this constant presence in my life.
  I've been led to think about hyper vigilance, the unspoken need to always be on guard "in case something bad happens". It's like being caught in the dryer, spinning around. Hyper vigilance creates anxiety, the "A" word causes hyper vigilance. By looking around and acknowledging the dangers in a given situation as well as how an environment is safe has begun to dismantle the need to be constantly alert and ready to run.
  In reality, danger is everywhere: slippery sidewalks, a hot stove, traffic, knitting needles 😃. Yet there are just as many efforts to keep people, me included, safe. Salt for the ice on the roads, a habit of making sure the stove burner is turned off, street lights and crossing guards...laughing at the idea my needles are going to become possessed and attack me.
  Part of what has evolved over the last week is patience instead of self condemnation. What I now recognize as having been a lifelong companion will take time to unravel. Many of the things that make me anxious seem childish but in giving myself permission to feel this way regardless of an adult's logic has also helped. Is a fear of spiders logical?
  There is a growing ability to acknowledge and be thankful for the times when fears have kept me safe. Danger was very, very real while driving the tractor in a hilly hay field so therefore I was ultra careful (and incredibly anxious the entire time). Hmm, simply writing about it sent a wave of adrenaline through my system. It's a big anxiety trigger even though it is only a memory. God willing, I'll never have to sit behind the wheel of a tractor again.
  Which affirms the connection between present anxiety and the past. Most of what makes me anxious has been with me a long, long time. Thank You, Lord, for helping me unravel the mess. Thank You for providing clarity, understanding and compassion.
  Thank You, Lord, for helping me finally listen to what is going on in my body and brain.
  "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds." 2 Cor 10:3-4

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Beautiful Day by Susan L.

  It's wonderful to see the sun shining in a brilliant blue and cloudless sky. Simply looking out the kitchen window has lifted my spirits after a rough night of disquieting dreams and graphic, violent nightmares.
  There are also signs that the hyper vigilance is easing. Every single muscle from my head down to my tiny toes is aching. Who'd have thought that relaxing could be so painful?! The feeling is welcomed because it's a tangible sign of improvement.
  There was a chance to talk with my boss yesterday about what's going on. We came up with a strategy to help me continue doing my job. (There were doubts.) If necessary, if the anxiety starts to escalate, I can go into the office and close the door, taking as much time as needed. Thank You, Lord, that I work in a peer support environment that is so willing and gracious to accommodate when things aren't going well.
  Yes, there are laws in place in Canada for every workplace to exercise care for their employees' needs. When it comes to mental health, some are not so willing to help.
  We both had a good laugh after telling her about feeling the pressure to knit all 600 pairs of mitts for the Christmas gift drive!
  I heard someone mention about the need to have other people in our lives to "keep it real". This wave of sharing my own struggles has had a mountain of benefits. Best of all, the burden that was weighing me down now has many hands helping me bear it. I've also been blessed by having others speaking life into the dark place that was dragging me down.
  Sometimes the lies can be so believable that it's easy to forget they are lies meant to destroy any shreds of self confidence. Hmm, the words, "self confidence" caused a burst of adrenaline and the knots in my stomach to tighten. I think there's a need to do a worksheet on that idea. Self confidence isn't pride. Why do I think it is?
  That's it for today. It's a good time to put on my hiking boots and head out for a walk. It's too nice of a day to waste.
  "For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner?" Rom 3:7

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Demolition Derby by Susan L.

  Rather than facing down the anxiety with a blank piece of paper, there was time before work to create a small form, an anxiety worksheet. There are a few prompts to help me focus in the midst of the screaming heebie-jeebies. It starts with location then has space to break down feelings. There's room to explore the source of those feelings and any questions that might pop up. Lastly is the question, "Where is Jesus?" It is only a quarter page in size. Small helps the process become not so overwhelming.
  Extremely anxious before meeting with my pastor and his wife it was nice to have this small tool to use. As I jotted down the emotions, in the midst of worry and fear was a real and most enjoyable sense of excitement. It's easy to lose the good stuff when the bad seems so overwhelming.
  I spent some time using the back of the page to walk through a process of repentance and forgiveness. There's a lot of oaths that were uncovered in this step like, "I have to do this on my own" or "I can't rely on anyone being there for me"..."Needing help is a weakness". There was a lot of choosing to forgive those who helped reinforce those beliefs. It also meant I had to forgive myself for believing them.
  Some of these oaths are deeply rooted in past experiences. I've prayed through them many times but they keep popping up in different ways and in different areas of my life. As much as the thinking part of my brain knows they aren't true, it takes time for head knowledge to become heart knowledge. I don't expect one small worksheet to uncover everything but these small steps have already eased my state of mind.
  It's okay if this isn't done every time anxiety rears its ugly head. That's another thing. I don't have to.
  That's another area that was revealed. Knitting mitts has also generated anxiety because I absolutely had to knit as many pairs as possible for next year's gift drive.
  "God gave me the ability. He provided for the wool. Do something with it!"
   Somewhere along the line, I took on a responsibility that wasn't mine to have. There was no trusting God's ability to provide those nearly six hundred gifts. He's forgiven me for that.
  Will knitting mitts continue? Yes, but with joy in my heart at being able to serve in some small way. I don't have to knit 600 pairs! (Sheesh, Sue, what were you thinking?!)
  Thank You, Lord, that Your patient and gentle convictions come with the ability to laugh at myself.
  "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." Jer 31:34

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Strategy by Susan L.

  One of the upcoming workshops at the centre is how to make paper mache piggy banks. In art therapy I discovered the power of sealing something into an envelope. It's a way of containing emotions or bad feelings. I was inspired to make a "worry bank" instead of a piggy. There weren't any balloons to use for forming the body of the bank so I swung by the dollar store on my way home.
  Rather than getting involved in the mess of paper mache, a bright purple box with a ribbon to tie it closed felt perfect. It's important, being able to lock the worry away. Wanting to decorate the box, I found a book of stickers to colour (another wellness tool of mine). One of the pictures was a bird sitting outside its cage. Inside the cage is a heart. It's a powerful image that reflects my desire to find Jesus in the cage of my anxiety. (I say I found all this stuff but I know Who put them there for me to find.)
  The point of the worry bank is the need to carry pen and paper. When possible, I'll allow myself to explore the anxiety and hopefully (and prayerfully) discover the reasons for being anxious. They will be written down then later placed in the box and sealed away. It's like putting them into a vault never to see the light of day again.
  I know I don't have to figure it all out but by doing this, I am taking authority over something that ruled my life for far too long. It's also taking steps to haul the darkness into the light. It's being honest about what's going on. Suppression leads to depression, fatigue, and being overwhelmed.
  This idea is a smorgasbord of therapy practices like Mindfulness, Immersion Therapy, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Traumatic Incident Reduction Therapy. I've taken a little bit of this and a little bit of that from all of them. They are all wonderful tools but the one thing that is lacking in all of them is allowing the Lord to speak into my heart and mind. I've added a simple, yet very important prayer, "Where is Jesus?"
  The heart in the bird cage was a wonderful reminder that He is in all things and with us in all things. It's us who loses sight of Him, not the other way around! Those three little words focus my mind and heart on Him in the midst of chaos.
  Thank You, Lord for giving me a plan which I surrender to Your will and desires for my life. Thank You for providing everything. Thank You that I will hear Your truths in all of this.  In Jesus' name. AMEN!
  "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Rom 4:23-24
  PS: This was a concept I had a hard time understanding until last Sunday when the definition of "justified" was shared as: "just-as-if-I'd never sinned". Awesome!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

? by Susan L.

  This post has been started a half dozen times. Not surprisingly considering the chaotic nature of my mind right now. It's jumping all over the place.
  I've been thinking about worry or should I say, the Lord has been revealing the areas in my life that are filled with worry. Maybe, for understanding's purpose, the question is, "What am I afraid of?" The two go hand in hand. Forgive my pride, Lord, for thinking that I didn't worry.
  Fire. The cord to my electric kettle was beginning to short out. When I forgot to unplug it and left the house...yup...worry. I finally bought a new kettle although why it took three days to arrive at this sensible answer is...the thought of going into a big, busy store.
  Not being or even feeling safe. There's an overwhelming sense of a possible "something bad happening" everywhere and any when. Nothing specific comes to mind but in writing it down, I realize how much a part of my life this undercurrent of anxiousness is and has been for a long time.
  I need to exercise some compassion right now. Not feeling safe has been a huge part of my life. Events and experiences have driven home the lesson that I wasn't safe time and again. A generalized sense of impending doom is a symptom of PTSD. Thank You, Lord, that this can be an opportunity to practice grace as well.
  It's not something I've thought much about before or even realized the impact this has in so many ways. Simply locking my house door at night (a sensible thing to do) only drives home that there's something big and bad in the world that might get me.
  Having the door locked means that someone can't get in if help is needed.
  Worry: heart attack, falling, tripping over the cat, stabbing myself with a knitting needle, or worse, poking my eye out, breaking a leg, a hip, cutting off a finger in the workshop or kitchen, a fire on the stove, the neighbour's bonfire, enclosed spaces, having to clean out the cupboard under the sink, spiders crawling on me at night, bedbugs (I don't have them), hydro use, doing laundry during prime time rates, floods due to the power failing or the river nearby overflowing, being trapped, being paralyzed by anxiety and not being able to get out of the house...wow...The devil's darts seem to have found a prime target.
   On the other hand, not locking it (which I did for years) is an open door to "something bad happening".
  Oh, catastrophizing is also symptomatic of PTSD.
  Sheesh! There's a few thousand hours of therapy. (Thank You, Lord, for the laugh at my own expense.)
  This is about control isn't it? God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the power to change those things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. In Jesus' name I pray.
  And thank You for helping me see things through Your eyes.
  "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins." Mk 2:22

Monday, 13 February 2017

On Reaching Out by Susan L.

  Before church on Sunday, I spoke with my pastor's wife about my increasing struggle with anxiety. Blogging about it and speaking about it diffuses its power. I could feel myself relaxing a bit for the first time in weeks.
 Even so, having someone sit beside me who blocked my "escape route" was enough to set the alarm sirens off again.
  I know, logically, that this person wasn't a threat. I know, logically, that there wasn't anything to flee from. I know, logically, that church is a safe place.
  I wish it was as easy as simply "getting over it", of telling myself there's nothing to be afraid of. I wish the fight/flight response would fly away. I wish the automatic takeover of my emotions and adrenal glands would up and leave!
  It's a vicious cycle. An adrenaline rush stirs up memories like leaves before a gale force wind. Those unwanted memories feed the adrenaline.
  Part of our church's foundation is that of community. We are being encouraged to lean on each other in times of trial. It's hard for me. Wary when it comes to relationships, gambling a tentative trust in others takes a huge amount of what...courage? Determination? Or maybe it's simply because I've reached a point where there's no choice but to reach out. It's a "git 'er done" moment.
  When I got home, I could feel myself spiralling into despair. I had backed out of doing the painting for the fundraiser. It's beyond my abilities right now. It was also a huge sign that things are not good. So. Choices. Do I sit and wrestle my demons on my own? Or do I reach out?
  I thought about talking to the worship team leader. I thought about calling my small group leader. I ended up emailing my pastor after battling down my fear of trusting someone I don't know that well.
  He doesn't usually check his inbox on a Sunday but felt led to check his mail moments after I had sent the letter. I was surprised, and most grateful for, how soon the phone rang.
  In the midst of trials, there is much to celebrate and be thankful for.
  It's reassuring to know that everything will be okay. God has got this under His wings.
  I felt better after talking with my pastor. Sharing my struggles cut the load in half. Just like blogging about it helps me find the good in all the mess. We are meeting later this week. Right now, it's about getting through to the end of March when I go for an inner healing appointment at Singing Waters: another step towards overcoming my foe.
  Prayers are greatly appreciated.
  "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. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Eph 2:8-10


Saturday, 11 February 2017

Anxious Days by Susan L.

  It's a struggle, having an anxiety disorder. Jesus' words about casting cares, trust in God, be anxious for nothing ring in my ears. Here's the catch. I don't worry. I don't stew over paying bills. I don't fret about how much money is in the bank. I am definitely not caught up in consumerism, the "need to have stuff". There is always enough to eat in the cupboard. I don't even get worked up about playing on the worship team any more which was more of an insecurity than a worry.
  Okay, maybe that's not a hundred percent true. I was a bit worried when we had a small ice storm last Tuesday in case the power went out. It didn't last, the worry I mean, because I am now prepared for that possibility. Mentally running through the steps of setting up the generator was a proactive way of lessening the concerns. A brief prayer that the Lord would wake me if I was asleep when the power failed eased my mind. It's something He's done before. He's also filled me with urgency to go home NOW if I was out. Anyways, the power stayed on and the coating of ice had melted by morning.
  I thought about having to head out to the grocery store this morning. It was only a random, brief thought but a wave of adrenaline washed over me. It's like the red alert sirens on Star Trek going off. The logical, cognitive part of my head knows I am more than capable. My heart knows there is nothing to fear in this simple task. It's the primitive part of my brain that's running on hyper alert.
  It has been for several weeks now.
  It's affecting my sleep. The tangle of bedding in the morning is proof that the nights have been filled with disquieting images and nightmares. There's none of that gentle slide into waking up for me. One moment I am asleep, the next fully alert as the last unsettling dream quickly fades.
  I try and ignore the anxiety and for the most part it's possible. Mostly I've been plodding on despite what my body is telling me.
  Have you ever drunk too much caffeinated coffee and it's left you jittery and tense? Or felt a sugar rush? That's what it's like all the time.
  It's exhausting. I'm exhausted.
  Lord, I lift this post up to You. Thank You that You have sustained me. In and through You, much has been overcome. For that I am grateful. Still, I hunger for peace, for rest and contentment. Heal my body and brain of the short circuits that generate my anxiety. Help me find patience and ease my frustrations and yes, the worry about the anxiety taking over my entire life. Help me not be afraid of having panic attacks. In Jesus' name I pray.
  "O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water." Ps 63:1

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Water, Water Everywhere by Susan L.

  "And not a drop to drink."
  There are over 100 Indigenous communities in this wealthy, water rich country who have been on boiled water advisories for decades.
  The provincial government just admitted to overpaying civil employees to the tune of seventy million dollars. Part of that mess is many aren't being paid. All because of a computerized paycheque system that has failed miserably. I shudder to think how much the program cost in the first place.
  Billions of dollars were wasted on the long gun registry which was cancelled after floundering around for years. Those who break the law won't register their guns so it was a pointless exercise to get handguns off the streets.
  The federal government spent millions on fireworks and a bunch of other celebratory geegaws on New Years Eve to launch the year of Canada's 150th birthday.
  Admission to Federal parks is free this year. Most of those are way up north and only accessible by those who can afford a trip. I'd gladly give up my free entrance for a child to have fresh drinking water.
  A freshwater well can be dug for around ten to fifteen thousand dollars. I don't know how much a water treatment plant costs but I am sure it's a fraction of the squandered dollars the government keeps wasting. There's also the option of installing water treatment systems in each house. UV light kills a heck of a lot of bugs in the water.
  The inquest into Missing and Murdered Indigenous women keeps being delayed, postponed, and patronized by quaint platitudes of "doing it right". Having a blond haired, blue-eyed woman in charge of this inquest somehow doesn't seem right. Why isn't someone who has first hand knowledge of Indigenous culture leading the way?
  So. While Canada celebrates its 150th, Indigenous people are mourning 150 years of oppression.
  While I support helping refugees, I am also asking our government to step up, right the wrongs, and rescue the families living in abject poverty and despair without delay! I am asking the government to build adequate sewage and water treatment plants for those who have waited far too long to get a glass of water from the tap.
  Let's not wait another hundred and fifty years to do the right thing.
  "For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." Gal 5:13

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Thank You by Susan L.

  Lord, thank You for helping me get through the busy-ness of the past several days; for the safe travels on highways and bi-ways. Thank You that I arrived when I needed to while accomplishing everything on my to-do list; that the car ran fine; that the windshield washer fluid didn't run out. Thank You for making sure that I positively had to refill the reservoir before going anywhere yesterday because it was nearly empty.
  Thank You for providing the funds to cover gas and parking and paid bills and for the gift of free tickets to the concert.
  Thank You for music in all its forms...well, maybe not rap or heavy metal but that's a personal preference. Thank You for the dedicated musicians who performed beautifully. Thank You for creating images in my mind as the music played: ice bergs and polar bears and January snows.
  Thank You for the freedom to worship and the joy found in making music with the team.
  Thank You that the weather in Florida is great so my folks can enjoy their winter break all the more.
  Thank You for the brave souls who hosted the conference on mental health, that attendance was amazing. It was wonderful that there were so many Christians interested and willing to hear about "Ministering in the Mess" and in doing so, many misconceptions and misunderstandings were put to rest.
  Thank You for Dr. Katz who cares so deeply for his patients. Bless him with strength and energy as he goes about his day. Thank You for sustaining him despite having been awake most of the night after serving in the ER. Thank You for his dedication.
  Thank You for the joy Pumpkin brings despite his typical cat preference for chasing and unravelling balls of yarn or when he rubs his head against my knitting needles. It makes me smile when he sits and stares at me until I get out the laser light and give him a run about chasing it. Watching him watch TV nature shows always makes me smile. I am glad of his company, the furry lap blanket that he is.
  But most of all, thank You for this life. Even though there are days when gratitude seems impossible to find, I know You are with me.
  "We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near." Ps 75:1

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Senses by Susan L.

  It has been a busy weekend. Saturday, I went to a one day conference, "Ministering in the Mess", hosted by my co-worker and another lady from the community. It was about how to minister to people living with a mental illness. I was pleased that they had an amazing turnout. It did me good to hear the messages again as well because I'd been struggling at work lately. My heart wasn't in the job.
  Church and playing on the worship team started yesterday off wonderfully. A quick escape then I picked up a friend to go to Oakville for an afternoon concert by the Oakville Symphony. I admit it took some speeding to get us there in time although my speeding barely kept up with traffic.
  After the concert was a mandatory, but brief, stop at my son's to see (and show off I might add) my new grand-daughter. She has grown a lot!
  We didn't stay very long because the roads had been sloppy and I didn't want to drive after dark in those conditions. The car must have gone through half a tank of windshield washer fluid!
  I was home in time for the Game. Superbowl LI. It broke records. It was the biggest come-back story in the entire history of football. Terrible blunders. Amazing catches. Mistakes and redemption. The first Superbowl to go in to overtime. It was a joy to watch. The crowd must have been deafening!
  Today is another day of running. Off to Newmarket to see my psychiatrist. There's a few errands to do before I go like getting gas and picking up windshield washer fluid.
  I volunteered my artistic skills to help do some fundraising for our church benevolent fund. More specifically, for a teenaged Syrian girl who came to Canada as a refugee. All her life she had extremely bad vision, to the point of being nearly blind. Special contact lenses have corrected the problem. She can see for the first time in her life.
  The optometrist waived his fees but the lenses need to be paid for.
  It seems appropriate that a painting will be part of giving someone sight. It will be put up for silent auction, hopefully in a public place, not just at church.
  I need a frame so a stop at a second hand store in Newmarket would be a good place to look or maybe Walmart. The subject hasn't been decided on but a northern Ontario themed landscape might be the direction I take. Lord, I trust Your leading on this. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
  "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." 1 Cor 2:9

Friday, 3 February 2017

For the Refugees by Susan L.

  It may have been mentioned before that I have a thing for disaster movies. The endoftheworldasweknowit which, most of the time, only affects the USA seeing as that's where most of the movies are made. Her mighty memorials are repeatedly destroyed by aliens and weather. A photo op of the tattered Stars and Stripes always finds its way into the movie at some point. The geek who is maligned by disbelievers in their crackpot theories ends up being the hero. Their theories are always proven right in the end and the fanatical, close minded general or politician or competing scientist is utterly discredited.
  That about covers the plot line for every disaster movie I've ever watched but they still draw me in.
  There is the odd movie that destroys other world icons thanks to special effects. I've seen the Ferris wheel in England, the Eiffel Tower, and the Great Pyramids all fall thanks to laser beams or tornados.
  I don't know why I like them. Maybe it makes me feel smug, snug and secure in my little house in Canada, my little world of routine. It's not one of the great wonders of the world so therefore it's safe. But is it really?
  Theendoftheworldasweknowit happens to people all the time because bombs have a way of falling on homes, hospitals and schools. Guns have a way of killing mothers, fathers, children, youth, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and the family dog. All because of our human need to control and oppress those who are different than us or who have something we want.
  The discovery of gun powder was quickly turned into a weapon, not just pretty fireworks.
  A quest for bigger and better weapons created the Gatling gun that massacred an entire African nation who were only armed with spears and courage. Those with the guns were regarded and honoured as heroes.
  Tanks, bombers, cruise missiles...chemicals, designer viruses...
  Distrust and suspicion built the atomic bomb.
  Hatred, ignorance, prejudice, fear...no natural disaster has ever generated the death toll that human hands have.
  We live in a world where disaster movies are playing all the time only...they...aren't... movies. They are real.
  God forgive me for my complacency. Forgive me for regarding others with distrust and suspicion. Forgive me my prejudices and judgements. Help me make my small place in the world better. Help me live in and through You. In Jesus' name I pray.
  As followers of Jesus, it is in our hands to change the world. He is our "geeky scientist" with the answer no matter what His maligners might say.
  That answer is love. AMEN!
  "Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Jn 16:32-33

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Mental Meanderings by Susan L.

  There was a disturbing incident in town a couple of days ago. A man was walking his dog after dark on one of the main streets. They were attacked by three coyotes. The man eventually managed to beat them off. The dog is what they were probably after but still, it's bold. I know they will kill and eat cats. They must be starving to try and overpower a human.
  It's unusual behaviour for coyotes who are normally shy of people. They will probably be hunted down and either removed from the area or exterminated. At least, I hope so. Behaviour like this means small children are at risk. Coyotes aren't afraid to attack in broad daylight if they are hungry enough.
  I wasn't going to say anything about the mosque shooting in Montreal. It's been a hot topic of conversation. Emotions are running high. Resentments, fear, sadness and anger swirl amongst the words. And, sadly, hate.
  I am sad that it happened.
  H and I went and saw the movie "Invisible People". It's about three African-American women who were crucial to NASA's ability to get a man in space in the 60's. It was a great movie.
  I mention this because, at the time in the US, segregation was normal. At work, these women had to drink from brown mugs, their coffee made in a designated "Colored" coffee pot.
  White people got white mugs.
  This is symbolic of the mindset of the time, that anyone who wasn't white was less than.
   It's happening again.
   Coyotes are circling for the kill.
  "Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Lk 11:2-4