Thursday, December 30, 2010

Making a hobby out of a chore

Such a neat thing when something that was a chore becomes a hobby!

Through most of my marriage cooking was a hobby for me. I enjoyed trying out a wide variety of recipes, eager to see the results. My thinking was that if I had to cook every day I might as well make a hobby out of it. I might as well make it fun.

Now this truly spoilt my husband because, over the past few years it has become something I had to do - a chore. My time and energy went into other things. My husband felt I was failing him. He was so accustomed to having interesting meals - something different almost every day of the month.

Now that I've decided to gather all our favourite recipes from those years into a cookbook, I've become almost obsessed about cooking...well - pretty high on it, anyway. What fun it is to go through my boxes of cookbooks and uncover all those recipes for things I used to cook! I always made it a habit to put remarks with the recipes I tried, because if I didn't I'd never remember what was good, or excellent, or not worth making again. That's making it easy going back now.

The fun thing about cooking good meals is that you want to be able to share them with people. Now I'm starting to dream up dinner parties with various people.

Next week Wednesday my son is coming over for his birthday celebration. I'll be making his all-time favourite, Six O'Clock Twist. Rotini with a very cheesy sauce including bacon. He's been raving about it to his gourmet-cook wife. I remember him telling his Grade Two teacher about it over thirty years ago and bringing her the recipe. Hmmm...I wonder if he'll still like it as much as he did then, now that he's grown accustomed to his wife's great cooking. We'll see.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My splintery platform

Several weeks ago I turned over leadership of my Living Room group at Brentwood Park Alliance Church to my co-facilitator, Mark. I thought my emotional health was too unstable and wanted a strong facilitator for the group. My on-again off-again depression was proving to be too much. Thought I should have a break and return when I was stronger. (I attended the last meeting, but left everything to Mark to run.)

I've had a good rest, turning my energy to cooking and to spending more time with my husband. Now I'm wondering whether I'm ready to return to full leadership. I hesitate because I still have down times. I'm still not stable. But - I wonder - will I ever be completely stable? I expect not. Does that mean I should not lead a Living Room group? I don't think that's the case.

I think facilitators who deal with mood disorders are always in danger of falling into depression or rising to mania or hypomania. When these problems get bad it's so good to have a co-facilitator to take over for awhile. But I'm learning that I'll never be perfect and I should take back the leadership when I've started doing better - when I've had a chance to have a good break.

A friend gave me Dear Jesus, a devotional book written by Sarah Young. Those devotionals are proving to be the perfect thing for me to start my early morning quiet times with.

This morning's devotional helped me in my struggle to decide whether or not I should return to leadership. The author - and I along with her - asks Jesus:

Dear Jesus,
"I want to be available for the display of Your Power and Glory. But I feel more like a splintery, unfinished platform than a polished ready-to-use stage. I may not even be safe enough for Your performance, since some of my boards aren't nailed down properly."

and Jesus answers:
"Beloved, no matter how polished you might become, you could never be good enough for the display of My radiant holiness. However, I have chosen you to reflect My Glory, despite your imperfections. Moreover, your weakness is the ideal stage for the exhibition of My Power. Your part in this drama is to look away from yourself and gaze at Me in My awesome splendor. Forget about your unworthiness and delight yourself in My glorious Being. Watch while I perform great things for you."

Yes, I need to look away from myself and my imperfections and look at Jesus. I need to forget about the feelings of unworthiness that have been plaguing me and think about Jesus and what He can do...and all He has done. I need to say to myself, "Forget yourself, Marja. It's not about you at all."

I'm preparing my heart for our next meeting on January 14th. Looking forward to sharing Jesus with others who suffer from mood disorders. Looking forward to sharing how He can work in us and through us, in spite of our imperfections. As Jesus said,
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

Friday, December 24, 2010

Blessed Christmas time

What a blessing my strategy to fight depression by planning a cookbook project! Although I've struggled with on and off lows, I've been motivated to cook and bake - to gather all our favourite recipes from the over forty years we've been married.

Taking up a new creative project has been my coping technique for dealing with depression almost since I first started having bipolar disorder. It helps me keep my head above water. It gives me a purpose for the day - something more colourful than the chores - more colourful than the things I have to do.

This is my third day in an up mood. So good to feel this way! Today I'm baking Stollen, an involved recipe, but I've reserved most of the day for this job.

My husband gave me a wonderful early Christmas present, Brian Doerksen's new CD, Level Ground. I believe his songs have in large part been responsible for bringing me up, for encouraging me. How the words speak to me! They are perfect for people who deal with mood disorders. On his website, Brian says,

"Worship is not always about bringing God our best and brightest. Sometimes it's about bringing God our pain and grief. Sometimes it's coming just the way we are! God wants to give us more than permission to feel - he wants to step into the middle of our feelings and be present with us; even in our suffering . . . even in the middle of our emotions. So let the tears flow . . . let the laments be sung . . . and don't even think about apologizing!"

I'm feeling so well that I'm tempted to invite my Living Room group for an open house. Someone has to eat all those cookies! But a friend and my husband are warning me against it. My road has been far too rocky lately. How can I be sure I will be well enough to handle the stress?

Darn!

Nevertheless, I will enjoy what I do have planned. My son and his wife and my mother are coming to have a turkey dinner with us. And we're planning on having a couple - old friends - over for New Year's Eve.

We will have a good Christmas. And I hope you will too.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My prayer

I read a prayer written by Max Lucado in his gift book called Shaped by God. How that impacted me! How I want to make that my prayer! How I would like to be drawn from the fire - well again, firm and solid so that I can be God's instrument! But you know what? I think it's starting to happen.

Lucado writes:
Ah, to be your instrument, O God,
like Paul to the Gentiles,
like Philip to the eunuch,
like Jesus to the world,
...to be your instrument.
To be like a scalpel in the gentle hands of a surgeon,
healing and mending.
To be like a plow in the weathered hands of a farmer,
sowing and tending.
To be like a scythe in the sweeping hands of a reaper,
gathering and using.
To be...an instrument for noble purposes.
To be honed and tuned,
in sync with your will,
sensitive to your touch.
This, my God, is my prayer.
Draw me from your fire,
form me on your anvil,
shape me with your hands,
and let me be your tool.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jane's letter to God

Jane from startingitover sent me a comment to my last post that I think would be better published here as a separate post. I thank you very much, Jane, because I found great encouragement in it.

Jane wrote, "When I was in the hospital, I wrote a "letter to God" when I felt in the state you are in (I had posted it on my blog)... and it's a letter of pain, but one that pleads of hope. I'd like to share it with you."

"Letter to God"

I am going to believe that you haven't created depression and you haven't left me. I am going to believe that even though all I see is darkness all around me, that you are beside me and you are light. I am going to believe that you love me and care for me and I am not alone because you are with me, even though I feel more alone than I have ever felt. I am going to believe that you keep your promises to us to have a life full of hope and purpose instead a life full of damnation and suffering. But just because I believe all these things, it doesn't mean that I feel them.

I feel the opposite of what you promise. It makes it difficult to want to be alive. I feel worthless and confused. I feel hopeless and insecure. I feel sad and scared. I want to run and hide. This darkness... perhaps it's a gift to hide the terrible emotions that are attached to my very soul. All the sleep... perhaps it's a gift to ignore the voices I hear when my mind is tired. All the withdrawal from others, perhaps it's a gift to others that I am not spreading my negativity and a gift to myself from creating a bad impression.

There is no conclusion. I am going to believe that you wrote a good end to this story and that in time, i will be exposed to the ending that you have in mind, not the ending that i have in mind when i'm in this destructive state. I guess for that, healing needs to take place. I know you heal. But i don't understand your timing or ideas behind healing. I guess one day I'll find out.

Love, Jane

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Isolation

I can see why most people isolate when they're depressed. People don't know how to respond to you when you're untalkative and glum. And it's so difficult to pretend to be cheerful when you don't feel it inside. It's so hard to be sociable. And you feel so unlovable, though you need love so badly. So...what do you do?

You hide and suffer in silence.

I've tried reaching out, but it doesn't feel good. I feel I'm a bother and am putting a damper on everything for everybody.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death
(Psalm 13:1-3)

David sure understood. What a comfort to read psalms like this and realize I'm not alone with such thoughts.
"But," he says "I trust in your unfailing love"

At least, you understand, God. You have compassion. "Thy compassion it fails not." I pray that I'll find sufficiency in the knowledge of your love.

Not for myself alone

Several weeks ago, when I was in huge depths, feeling very bad about myself - feeling ashamed for how needy I had become - I read something that encouraged me. In a Yancey book I was reading he said something like "We don't just live for ourselves alone." And this reminded me that I shouldn't think so much about myself - about how I feel and about how I'm behaving so pitifully. I can reach out to others with what I'm learning through all this. Perhaps not at this moment, but sometime in the near future.

This morning I read something I had underlined in my Bible:
This is how we know what love is: Jesus laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. (1 John 3:16)

That's how I would like to be. How I hate what this disorder does to me when I think so much about myself! It's not how I want to live. I want to be other-centered. And I pray this morning once more that God will help me be that for others. To live for others, and not just for myself.

This morning I'm not feeling great. Plans I had made to make peppernuts with a little girl would, I think, be too ambitious a project for me. I don't know if I'd have that kind of energy. I don't know if I'd be a cheerful companion for her.

I will focus instead on helping my husband with a project of his - bottling some wine. I can be myself with him and he would appreciate my help and my company. If I'm going to be there for others, I need to start with my husband. If I only have a little bit of energy to put out, I need to spend that energy on him. To live for him, the partner God gave me. That man who has given me such great support for 41 years.

Monday, December 13, 2010

With thanksgiving

I continue to struggle some days, and other days feel like I've turned the corner, only to find I haven't. But this morning I feel good. And for that I'm thankful.

Yesterday, as I was dealing with anxiety issues and searching for God, so wanting to feel Him close, I stumbled on an old Living Room devotional about practising God's presence through giving thanks. I quoted Mark Buchanan from his book, The Rest of God:
"The best way I know to embody...Godward orientation is thankfulness. Thankfulness is a secret passageway into a room you can't find any other way. It allows us to discover the rest of God-those dimensions of God's world, God's presence, God's character that are hidden, always from the thankless."

I've been thanking God this morning for my ability - in spite of the way I've been feeling - to find satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment in cooking and baking. And my current interest in cooking is encouraging me to invite close friends over to share meals with us. Nothing fancy. Just a basic meal is what they'll be getting. But I WILL use recipes that are special for us. Favourite dishes that will go into my cookbook.

This morning I think of my dear husband who is so enjoying my cooking and showing his delight. How fortunate I am to have him. He's so patient with me as my moods keep shifting. So comforting when I'm feeling low. The way to his heart is definitely through his stomach. You should have heard him chatter eagerly as he ate his supper last night. A neat thing from a man who doesn't generally talk a lot. Such a good thing that I'm able to cook right now! Thank you, God, that in spite of my low moods I'm able to do this.

I've been reading Philippians 4:6-8. How true Paul's words are! How I need to take them to heart! "...in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present [my] requests to God." and think about all good things: "whatever is true...noble...right...pure...lovely...admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things."

Praise God! This morning I'm thinking good things.

Friday, December 10, 2010

You hem me in

Such a comfort it was this morning to read Psalm 139. Isn't it neat how reading scripture will affect you in different ways each time you read? Depending on where you are emotionally?

I'm thankful this morning that I feel like tidying the house. I really feel like doing things. Not with a lot of energy or a lot of joy, but I want to have things in hand so I can continue on with the project that is giving me a sense of purpose right now - the cookbook project. That's what I'm hanging onto right now.

...and it's high time I prepared our house for Christmas. I need to do some decorating - get in the spirit.

I love Psalm 139 - where David says:
Where can I go from you Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

Yeah, off and on lately, I've been making my bed in the depths. But this Psalm promises that He is there with me. I can rest in that assurance.

It's a Living Room day today. I've turned over the leadership to my co-facilitator until I'm feeling stronger. Right now I feel I need to be supported and don't feel as strong about giving support. So glad I have someone in place to take over that role.

I will focus on doing the things I feel I can best do. Putter around the house. Try to make Christmas happen as well as I can. One day at a time. Just very thankful that I feel up to things today. Very thankful to know that God is with me - through all my ups and downs.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

My response to God

I had a good day yesterday, a blessedly good day. The day before had been an awful one - one of the worst. Yes, I seem to be going up and down again. Better than having every day a bad one though, eh?

Yesterday I went for a workout and baked two batches of Christmas cookies. I felt so encouraged. And I prayed hard that this upswing would continue. I begged God to help my good mood stick around.

But this morning - as I'm not feeling quite as positive - as I'm feeling a worn-ness, I wonder if begging God for wellness was really the right attitude to take. Shouldn't I just have faith that He WILL help me overcome? Rather than this begging, shouldn't I just trust?

In his book The Land Between, Jeff Manion wrote how "Our response to God while in the Land Between [the trials we go through] is what will determine whether our journey through this desert will result in deep, positive growth or spiritual decline." As the Israelites, wandering in the desert, needed to trust God to provide, I too need to trust God...daily.

God is with me, whether I'm up or down. I need to find encouragement in that knowledge. I need to realize that, even if I don't "feel" his love, it IS there. And I need to rest in that knowledge and wait patiently for Him to lift me out of the mire and mud of my low times.

Ah, but it's the nature of the disease to forget all about that, isn't it? It's the nature of the disease to feel like things are hopeless. What a tragedy!

And yet...today I will trust. I will have faith. God is good and He will provide what I need for today.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

When a glimmer comes

As I'm riding on waves of depression, I'm reminded of how important it is to take advantage of the occasional glimmer of light that comes along - those times when I become interested in doing something that might offer a way out.

I felt good about myself a couple of days ago when I managed to bake my husband's favourite cake for his birthday. Then I came across an old recipe for a favourite meal I used to make years ago. I cooked it up for his birthday dinner and had my son and his wife come and share it with us. I felt good about myself. Quite a switch from the way I had been feeling.

Stumbling on that old recipe reminded me of a project I started years ago, putting together a collection of our favourite recipes. And, I thought, maybe changing gears will get me out of this funk. Maybe I should pick up that old project again and publish a little cookbook. My 65th birthday is coming up next year. What better way to celebrate than to gather together all my favourite recipes from a lifetime of cooking?

I remember many years ago how I often picked up a fresh new project whenever I felt depression coming on. Quite often that was exactly what I needed to get me interested in life again. And two Christmases ago, during a particularly bad time I put together a calendar using my flower photography. That helped make my mood a little less black. Yes, I believe creative projects can do much to help a person through those bad times.

So tonight, after spending half the evening in bed, feeling quite miserable, I got up and started looking through old recipes. I picked out some that needed to go into the book for sure. And I picked out others that I'll have to test again to make sure I want to include them.

What is particularly good about this project is that it will help me get interested in cooking again. And I know for sure that will make my husband very happy.

Yes, when that glimmer of interest in something comes, we need to take advantage of it. Grab hold of it and do it. Just do.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Unforced rhythms of grace

My pastor pointed out Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-30 to me yesterday, verses that have given me great encouragement in the past. The NIV version reads:
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

How often I've felt burdened and stressed and needed that kind of rest! So encouraging that Jesus promised us a yoke that is easy to bear. These words help me so much to want to follow Jesus - to do as He did; to live as He did - as much as I can. These words are comforting and give me a feeling of peace. They promise that I can follow Jesus without stress. Not like I have been doing lately - the kind of stress that burned me out and caused such depression.

Eugene Peterson's version in the Message has an even greater impact on me:
28-30"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

Yes. I've been tired and worn out. Burned out. I want to recover my life, to get my passion and energy back. And all I have to do is to walk with Jesus and live the way He did. Actually, not such an easy thing to do. But there's a promise here that a better way to live can be learned. Jesus promises not to lay anything on me that is too heavy or ill-fitting. How comforting to know that!

God has equipped me to do a work for Him that only people like me, those who have lived with mood disorders can do well. And that's to comfort others who suffer as I do. That kind of work is not heavy for me. It fits me well. But I need to walk close to God. I need to keep company with Jesus.

Unfortunately, my bipolar disorder causes me to have moods that make all this hard to do. During episodes I start feeling and thinking in ways that I truly cannot help. I'm so thankful though to have friends who will help remind me of the way God wants me to live. Friends who will help kick me out of depression by reminding me that I'm loved. Friends who will help me regain proper perspective. This kind of support is priceless.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Great is Thy faithfulness

Last night as I talked to a friend about how depressed I've been lately and the hopelessness I felt, she reminded me of how it is teaching me how to be sympathetic to others who suffer as I do. And that provided me with a glimmer of something positive that I know will come out of this. Because yes, it's compassion that has provided me with the most meaningful work I've had in this life - the building of a Living Room ministry.

This morning I once more sat - as David so aptly described it in Psalm 139:8 - making "my bed in the depths." Feeling quite sorry for myself. Feeling quite hopeless.

A friend's email woke me up when she said, "Which verses are you going to lean on today?" and "...what are you going to do today that will help you be more positive? What is something you can do today that will give you a sense of enjoyment and fulfillment?"

My thoughts went to my other friend's comment last night about compassion. Another glimmer of hope. And I thought of the hymn that always draws an abundance of tears from me when we sing it in church:
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

I am reminded of God's great compassion and love for me - something these lyrics always bring home so clearly for me. I am also reminded of Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5;
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

At this moment I feel encouraged. I don't always have to be a victim of this illness. I can turn around and use what I learn to help others.

I just pray that during the waves of negative thinking I've been experiencing the encouragement I feel at this moment will last. I pray that this will provide the food I need to keep me going.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Before I had support

Many years ago, before I had the kind of supportive friends I have now, I spent months at a time in my bedroom. Only coming out for meals and to try to do small things like emptying a dishwasher or tidying a bit. Most of the time, though, was spent in the bedroom in deep depression. I don't remember at those times having anyone I could reach out to. My husband pretty well left me alone, immersed in his projects. Those projects are probably what helped him cope with my condition.

And I wonder, is it the support of close friendships - truly loving relationships with godly friends - that have kept me in more recent years from such very long isolated depressions? Is that how reaching out has benefited me? I don't know. I just don't know. All I know is that I have some very special friends now to whom I can talk about my feelings and thoughts.

Thing is, I feel I've been over-burdening two or three with phone calls and emails - to the point of clinging, something I'm very ashamed of. That isn't nice for anyone, even those who understand what I'm going through. I wish I could change, and yet I feel powerless to do that. Do any of you have such problems?

Not nice to think of yourself as someone who is a bother to others. It isn't like me to be that. I want to support others, not be a burden. And I do support many. I have supported many. Yet that doesn't count for anything when the tables are turned and I am the one who's having a hard time.

A couple of years ago I attended a meeting of suicide survivors - family of people who had committed suicide. The stories they told was that most of the people who had taken their lives did so because they hated so much being a burden to their loved ones. I hate that too. I hate being the kind of person who clings for dear life to her friends - searching for a way to have her needs met. So needing to hear that she is loved. How I despise that about myself! How I despise my self-centeredness at times like this!

I know this is all part of the depression I'm living with. These are symptoms many of us suffer when we're that way. I know I'm not alone. And yet I wish I could be stronger.

I've been focusing on scripture this afternoon. It helps me feel better, but the better feelings don't last. I just pray I can escape this soon, though these feelings have been such a big part of what I've lived with lately. I wonder if I will ever overcome them and become the strong me again. The supporter me.

The pain of being misunderstood

I have a need once more to talk about the need for understanding of people with depression. I've done a lot of writing on this topic, trying to build understanding for the sake of those who live with mental health problems.

Unfortunately, recent experience is showing me that it is impossible for a person to be fully understood by someone who has never experienced depression themselves. In actual fact, talking to such people about your pain is dangerous. It can lead to more pain than the depression itself. You set yourself up for rejection and we all know how painful rejection can feel. It can be worse than the depression itself.

The only truly safe people to talk with are those who have been there. Or - the very rare person who walks so closely to Jesus that he/she is willing and able to give himself fully and understand in the way He understood. To be compassionate, in the midst of not having been there themselves is a rare thing. It takes the person who is - for a little while - willing to put him/herself in the shoes of the suffering person and to suffer with this person - in the way Jesus did. Few people are able to do this. Everyone has their own life to live - their own problems. And, when we're depressed we do tend to be awfully self-centered - not a very becoming thing. In the midst of our problems, we do need to strive for other-centeredness.

This shows me how important it is for those of us who do understand, to comfort others in the way we have been comforted. To love in the way we've been loved by our most merciful Father in heaven. At least to remind each other of His great love for us.

We who live with mood disorders so badly need each other. We so badly need to encourage each other to go to that most compassionate person of all - Jesus Christ. He suffered greatly for all of us. He too was rejected by friends who didn't understand what He was going through. His disciples slept in the Garden of Gethsemane while He was suffering. Not willing to stay awake and be with Him. Not understanding the severity of what He was dealing with.

He knows what suffering is and knows the pain we feel. His pain was far greater than ours. He gave us His all. Can we give our all to each other? Kind of doubtful. We are human and self-centered, especially when we're in the midst of depression.

We need to turn to Jesus. But we also need our friends around us. As friends we need to show each other the love of Christ, because that's sometimes the only way we'll remember that He's there - through the hands of another Christ follower who will show God's compassion to us in real terms.

Let's reach out our hand to others who suffer, in the name of Jesus.

All the more makes me believe in Living Room, though at times it can be a difficult responsibility to bear. We who lead Living Room continually need to turn to God, the One who can strengthen us, in spite of our great weakness. It's God's work, after all. Not ours.

28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.


"His understanding no one can fathom." How wonderful to have Someone whose understanding is greater than we could ever imagine. We need to rest and find peace in that knowledge.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Where is God calling?


At the bottom of my emails is a quote I get something out of each time I read it. Always something else. Always new and different, depending on where I am in my life. And my life - like everyone's life - is forever changing. Always something different to focus attention on. Always different things happening. Some troublesome stuff; some good stuff. Joyful times and sad times.

But I'd better get to the quote. I want to share it with you and see how it might affect you in your life:

"The place God calls you to is the place where your
deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."

- Frederick Buechner


Over the past few years God has called me to different places, each of them exciting and wonderful. Each of them a challenge. Each of them doing good in some way. Each of them bringing me to a place that straddled my joy and the need I saw in the world. It was always a narrow place to be - a narrow part of the road God took me on. Always a narrow focus to address some very particular needs.

I wrote a book called A Firm Place to Stand in an effort to help Christian readers (both those who have mood disorders and those who need to understand them) realize that it's possible to have a mental illness, yet maintain a close relationship with God. And - in spite of having a severe mental disorder - to actually find some meaning through the living with it.

And I started Living Room, a Christian peer support ministry for people with mood disorders. It started with a group that met in my church's basement and has now grown to ten groups in Canada. I'm sure though, that there are many more groups than this, judging by the many who have ordered manuals and down-loaded them off the Living Room website.

Now, at this point of my life when I'm reaching 65, I feel God nudging me again. Nudging me to make changes in what I do with my life. I feel nudged to return to my photography. I'm a child photographer at heart and long to spend more time using this gift God has given me. I've never mentioned my photography website here but would like to invite you to have a peek at an old site that I have up. Just to share with you this joyous part of me. Please do have a look at www.candidsbymarja.com.

And so I'm praying: "Where next, dear Lord? Where should I spend my next few years? How can I best serve you at this stage of my life? Where are You calling?"

And...what does Buechner's quote say to you. Where is God calling you today?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Mom at 96





Last week I took my camera when I visited Mom. I had wanted to photograph her for a long time. At 96 she still has such a wonderful spirit, in spite of her dementia. "Pleasantly confused" is what the staff at her home call it. How fortunate I am that she is still so good to visit!

In spite of her old age and her 25% vision, Mom will not put her crocheting down. She absolutely needs something in her hands to do. If she didn't she would feel useless. And she's not ready to be useless. So she makes afghans for babies, as well as some for adults.

The yarn she's working on in these pictures is not the easiest to work with. She complains about how it keeps splitting as she works. I've offered to buy some different yarn for her, so she can leave this project and work on something easier and more pleasant. But no, true to her spirit she is determined not to let this blue yarn go to waste. So she perseveres. I admire Mom's perseverance. She doesn't give up, even when things get difficult. I've seen her work for hours, trying to unravel a tangled ball of yarn, not wanting any to go to waste.

It makes me wonder, is that where I got my perseverance from? Is that how I inherited my never-giving-up attitude about the work I'm engaged in? Is that where I got my desire to always make new things happen? Whether it be photography or a writing project? Is that - together with my dad's equally creative spirit - how I came to be the person I am? I don't doubt it.

And, I mustn't forget her joyful spirit. She frequently feels lonely. Not many visitors, no friends left, fairly immobile. Yet she remains cheerful - most of the time - friendly towards the other residents in the home, not needing much to bring on a smile. She does love people. Something else I've inherited from her.

Today I feel fortunate for what my parents have given me. They weren't perfect parents - as, I suppose few are - but I need to be thankful. For they helped make me what I am.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Writing - putting it all on paper

In a promo to his new book Philip Yancey said, "For a writer, nothing really counts in life until you put it on paper." What Good is God? sounds like it's going to be an excellent read and I've already ordered a copy, looking forward to its delivery. Yancey is such a wonderfully honest writer, a writer after my own heart.

And what Yancey said here is so true for me. As my life carries on I'm finding more and more that I really am a writer. There are very few things that happen to me, very few things I think or feel, that I don't feel compelled to share in some way - whether it be in emailed letters, articles, books, notecards, blogposts, or speeches that I write out. I like to send comments to what others have written, and yet so precious few other people do.

I'm constantly puzzled why others don't seem to want to share in the way I do. So much I write receives no response. A point of view I expressed via email to a group of members of my church - something I had hoped would spark some written discussion - received responses only from the pastor and one other person. And when I posted a comment on a church online forum, no one responded.

But I guess not everyone has time for such things. And I guess it's not as easy for everyone to write letters. I'm learning to understand.

I send many emails to friends and receive great satisfaction and comfort from sharing with them what's in my heart. And yet I wonder, are they getting tired of me? When they see my name in their inbox, do they think to themselves, "oh no, not another one"?

And yet I can't not write. Each email is a necessity in my mind, though my husband calls it an obsession. Don't know if it is or not. I comfort myself by thinking, "I'm a writer. That's what I do. That's what I need to do. That's what God made me to do." I feel like Yancey feels, nothing in my life counts until I've written about it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The positive about depression

Hi everyone, especially those who today happen to be feeling depressed but need a bit of a lift. I understand how hard it is to recognize the positive in something when all you can feel is the ugly feeling of nothingness. But will you try?

In 2007, at a time when I had far more wherewithal to blog than I do today, I wrote the following. I'm hoping it will encourage you.


I've had Susan Bernard's post on depression open for days, intending to add some thoughts it stirred up in me. But I've been too lazy to use my head for a while and have - I'm sorry - had to put off blogging for a while. But today is the day I will try to address it.

Susan quotes from a book by Jonathan Zeuss, M.D.:

"Depression is a quest for vision; its essence is transformation. Depression wells up and encompasses us for a time in a state of painful, dream-saturated formlessness, but its true purpose is to provide the opportunity for healing insight, renewal, and reintegration..."

One of my favorite books on depression is New Light on Depression by Harold G. Koenig, M.D. and David B. Biebel, D. Min. Much of the book deals with depression from a Christian perspective. I think it's Biebel who said, "...depression's saving grace is not that it can be conquered but that it puts depressed persons of faith in touch with deeper truths about reality, spirituality, and themselves than might otherwise be known." (Yes, I think I understand more about life than those for whom life has been easier.)

He goes on to say - and this is a little bit of a different positive angle I can really relate to:

"Having one's capacity for serenity and joy restored is little compensation for the agony of despair, much less the 'despair beyond despair.' The only true compensation for depression has to do with the sense of purpose and fulfillment that comes from redemptive involvement with others in distress, sharing the comfort we've experienced. This is the true route to joy."

In my own way, I've found a purpose that I probably would not have had, were it not for my bouts with the effects of bipolar disorder - especially the depression. I've come to think of depression as fodder, something bad out of which good can come. Though I suffer as much as anyone while I'm going through it, I know it will help me to help others. And helping others IS "the true route to joy." It truly is.

And, today, the purpose I found for my struggles - the formation of Living Room - is alive and well and last month celebrated its' fourth anniversary (even though we didn't actually have a party, or even a cake. Maybe we'll do that next year, when we're five years old).

Another thing I need to draw note to. I wrote in 2007 how depression had been the major thing I had to deal with in my bipolar disorder. Today I can honestly say, the main thing I deal with is hypomania. Most of my struggles now involve not going higher, or more joyful, than I should be. But I have a lot of support and a psychiatrist who has a good understanding of me and the meds I need (though I think he's a bit befuddled right now).

This is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. I hope you all have a great day, whether you celebrate alone or with family and friends. I hope you'll be able to count your blessings, even if you ARE depressed :))

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Global anti-stigma bike ride

A man called Michael Schratter is riding his bike across 30 countries and 6 continents to raise money and awareness about mental health and to battle the stigma surrounding mental illness. You may have heard of him. He keeps this blog as he rides. http://www.ridedonthide.com/blog/ Apparently he's all alone on this journey - no companion.

A couple of weeks ago Bev Gutray, executive director of CMHA, BC Division encouraged me to let people know of his trip so that they can help him somehow. I know, myself, the best I can do is to keep him company through blogging - making comments on his blogposts. Letting him know he's not alone. I do hope I will find the time to do so, but will do my best.

Might you be interested in doing the same? Could you put yourself in Michael's shoes and realize what it's like cycling so many miles...alone - for the benefit of people with mental health problems? For the reduction of the stigma that still exists? What a great sacrifice he's making!

Would you be able to donate to the cause?
Would you be interested to share your story at www.ridedonthide.com?

Go to http://www.ridedonthide.com/how-you-can-help/ for a variety of ideas of how you could help.

Any of these things would be greatly helpful.

And...tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, at least here in Canada. And if it's not Thanksgiving where you live, I pray you will have lots to thank God about, nevertheless.

Friday, October 01, 2010

In need of a lifesaver

I wrote the following in November of 2008. I don't remember writing it, but there are clues there that make me realize it was indeed me. I can still relate. I still have the same needs at times. Though I do know I have a lot of supportive friends, I do sometimes wish that I did not have to reach out to them as much as I need to. And I do wish they would call me a bit more often when they know I'm in trouble. People do tend to be afraid to contact friends suffering from emotional problems. I think it's understandable. It's so hard to know what to do or say when you haven't experienced such troubles yourself.

I’ve wanted to write for long time about how Christians could best offer support to their depressed friends. As someone who has needed support for over forty years of struggle and having given support for the last two, I believe I am well qualified to give such advice.

Today, after over a month of increasing depression, I wish someone would call me and throw me a lifesaver. Though people say they care and that they’ll be there for me, they seldom call and I feel that to call them I would just be a bother. I call them, but that’s not like being thrown a lifesaver. It would be nice if they would reach out to me once in a while. Then I would truly feel supported and cared for.

I feel less and less able to do the things that are required of me, more and more wishing I could go on strike and forget about my commitments. I’m afraid I might sink.


How helpful it was to have a friend call with a plan to do some Christmas baking with her when I’m feeling better! That became a window of hope for me, giving light and giving me energy to do some things again.


My memory is poor - very poor. I don't even remember writing this. Neither do I remember ever actually ending up baking with this friend. Never-the-less, she did something wonderful for me in giving me something to hope for. She didn't push me to come and bake with her immediately, sympathetically recognizing that it was beyond me at the time. Such a comfort not to be pushed into something I wasn't able to enjoy just yet.

PS: Over the last two years since I have written that, I think I've learned something. I learned that others have problems too and that I should not always consider my needs greater than theirs. I need to - even in the midst of my own struggles - reach out to them and consider their needs too. I need to call them to find out how things are in their life. We all need to care for each other.

And you know, when I do that my depression doesn't affect me as badly.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Waiting patiently

Hi everyone,

This morning, in scanning the Psalms, something I often like to do because I always find something that encourages and comforts me, I landed on some verses in Psalm 37 which I had marked awhile ago. It has been meaningful to me in the past and is again today. Might it be something that would inspire you as well? I'm quoting verses 3,4, and 7a.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the Lord
and he will give you the desires of you heart.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him


We have to trust and keep serving Him while we rest in His goodness, eh? And we will need to wait patiently until the time is right for Him to give us the desires of our hearts.

My desire today is to have the strength to continue what I have been doing and to have a right hand person who has the time and passion to work alongside me on a regular basis. But I know too that I will have to have patience and wait for God's timing.

I hope you'll all have a wonderful Wednesday.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Talk about disorganization!!

Hi guys,

Gotta share something with you. Next week the proverbial "poop" is going to hit the ceiling at my home. With so much happening in my life right now. With such trouble staying organized already, with a big award to accept next Friday and needing to at least look cool calm and collected for it, things are going to be upside down at my house. Will you pray for me?

The ceiling in the dining area of our kitchen was damaged due to a roof leak months ago. Now it has to come down, with loose insulation from above it coming down with it. A new ceiling has to be put up. We have someone coming next Wednesday and the work will take about a week to complete.

That means emptying out that area of the kitchen from everything in there - the cabinets with dishes, cookbooks, all the junk that has collected over the past many many years we've lived here. And I will start having to pack up china as soon as I can, not leave it to the last minute - because things are always coming up that need more urgent attention.

And there will be dust!! Oh, will there be dust! Seeping into everything. Will we even be able to stand living here while this is going on? Don't know about me. Maybe I'll live in my bedroom for awhile. That's always a good place to hide away in.

...and on top of all that, we'll be putting up fresh wallpaper (which we still have to select) new carpeting, new window covering, and a new light fixture (my husband no longer likes the macrame one I made years ago).

I don't do well with stress. And...talk about stress.

Well, at least this morning, during my quiet time, I was able to write up an acceptance speech to give at the award ceremony on Friday. It will take some editing I'm sure, to make it truly ready, but the pressure on me for that has pretty well evaporated.

Today is housecleaning day. A day to be domestic. How I welcome Saturdays! Time to tidy up the many messes that have accumulated over the week. I've put on some of my favourite music. Can play it loud today since my husband is out for awhile. I'm not bothering anybody.

And maybe I'll even be able to start packing away some dishes today. I'd be ahead of the game.

Next week WILL come together - with some good planning - and keeping God at my side.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Let us not become weary

This morning I opened my Bible and - almost immediately - came to Galatians 6:9, a verse I underlined long ago:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.


And, as my mind thinks on, I remember some people who I've heard rest totally in the Bible's message "by grace are ye saved, not by anything you do." They might quote, as one example, Ephesians 2:8:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.


And yes, God saved us - not because of what we can do for Him. However, we should not take what Paul said out of context. We need to read on to what the next verse says. Ephesians 2:10:

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.


God created us to do good work. He created us to help bring God's kingdom to earth. (As Jesus taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven) Wouldn't our lives on earth be far more useful and satisfying if we could work for Him who has done so much for us? Wouldn't we have a lot more joy when we bring in a harvest? Let's not give up doing what we believe in. We don't need to get weary. Not when our strength comes from God - and He's always willing to supply us with that strength when we rely on Him - when we do His work.

Ah, it felt good to share that with you!

Well, Max my cat is asking for his breakfast. And I guess I should have mine as well.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An award - wow!!

Hi everyone. I need to share with you some exciting news. Something happened that blew me away. Two days ago I received a call from the executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division, telling me they were honouring me with their Outstanding Community Volunteer Award. I'll copy here what she sent me in an email:

"The Board of Directors of the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division would like to honour you with our Outstanding Community Volunteer Award for your dedication and commitment to creating better understanding and support for people with a mental illness through your work in faith communities. Your establishment of the Living Room, a church-based peer support group for people with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorders is an example of creativity, innovation and support. Your approach to partnership with the Mood Disorders Association of BC to ensure there were trained facilitators and appropriate resources is an example of building on the strengths of existing mental health resources to reach out to a broader community. You have made a difference not only in your life but in the lives of many. You have made the discussion not only ok but safe and supportive in the faith community. THANK-YOU on behalf of the volunteers, staff and branches of CMHA throughout BC."

I've been feeling dazed ever since I heard. It's so humbling to be recognized in this way. So good to know that my work has been noticed and that it is considered important.

At the dinner they want me to talk about what a difference Living Room has made in my life. How have I been changed by it? How have I changed in the process of helping other people?

It will take some thought to answer that well. But I know one thing. I will have to tell them how I have had to rely on God in a big way. I could not have done the work I've done without His power, without receiving strength from Him by going to Him daily. Living Room is God's work and not my work at all. All I've had to do is be His hands and voice for Him as I followed where He led. It's the only way I could have done the work I've been doing. I could not have done this on my own.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Courageous people needed

I realize that I need to write again. Have had the urge - feeling the pressure to express the many things that have been coming to mind lately.

One thing I'd like to comment on is an article with the title, Misconceptions, an excerpt from my book, A Firm Place to Stand, as published on the Hope and Healing website.

How angry and frustrated I felt as I wrote that! I haven't felt that way for quite a while. Guess working on changing things - being in the thick of responding to the injustice of stigma with the Living Room peer support ministry - has helped lessen my anger. Because I know we now have something to counteract it.

We now have a place where Christians can go and talk openly about their mental health problems and be helped spiritually at the same time - given full love and acceptance. Christians with mood disorders can talk freely here, secure in the knowledge that they won't be judged.

Now all we need to do is make Living Room available to more people. No small task. It's not easy to start a new group. Many things need to be in place. Each group needs two facilitators, spiritually mature people who have developed the skills to cope with their own mood disorder. Each group needs the support of their church and their pastors. They should also be able to form a partnership with a mental health organization that could help them with resources and - if possible - some training.

All this might seem overwhelming to many who would like to help. They need a passion, a deep desire to help others and a trust that God will help them - knowledge that they're not doing this on their own. These would-be facilitators need to be willing to step out in front of their congregations and openly share what they're struggling with. They need courage.

Ah, if you're reading this and have considered starting a group, please don't let all this discourage you. Remember that all good things - all the injustices that have been part of history - had to be fought hard for by courageous people courageous people who are willing to pray and step out in God's help and strength and power. This is how the world was gradually made a better place. It is how the Kingdom of God has to be built.

Are you willing to work for God's Kingdom here on earth? (Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven) Are you willing to improve the lives of Christians who live with mood disorders? Do you want to help encourage them by reminding them that they can rely on a God who loves them immeasurably? Would you like to fight for what is right, rather than be a victim of injustice?

Do you have that kind of courage?

Monday, September 06, 2010

Bipolar no fun

I've been toying with the idea to post again, though my moods are still not stable. I'm finding I'm rapid cycling and even at times having mixed moods - depression and high together at one time. Don't ask me to describe it or tell you how it works. It just does.

But I need to write. To express all the thoughts and feelings that I have inside. So much on my mind.

What prompted me to post now, at this point, is the re-publishing of an article I wrote a long time ago. How I regret having written that piece! How I wish I could take it back! But it has been published in quite a few places and there's no way to go back.

The title of the article is "Finding Meaning in a Life with Bipolar Disorder", which also happens to be the subtitle of my book, A Firm Place to Stand. The latest place it was published was here.

I wrote (cringe) "Mental illness is not all bad. I have lived with bipolar disorder for over forty years and have found it has many benefits. I couldn’t imagine living without it and am not at all unhappy with my life." And - oh my goodness - I want to take that back.

Bipolar can be horrific. It can ruin relationships, break families apart, totally make life unbearable. I am finding that now. It's taking all I've got to try to cope. It's taking all I've got to keep trusting God. It's taking all I've got to try and make me a person my husband can bear to live with. This is so hard on him!!

Yes, having this disorder has helped make me the person I am - creative, compassionate, and I draw close to God daily. But I'd rather not have it. I'd rather my life were easier. I'd rather I wouldn't make a fool of myself as often as I do. I'd rather be able to have better control over my emotions. How I wish I could be stable!!

Today I had to back out of a speaking engagement because I simply couldn't commit, didn't know how I would be at the time of the event. There are too many things I simply daren't do, because the stress of it might trigger an episode. When I'm well I can speak quite well. But when I'm down I simply shouldn't try.

Yes, I've accomplished a lot with Living Room. But I'm finding myself less and less able to keep up with the work I've started. And I long for someone who could eventually take the baton from me and run strong, in good health, able to lead an army to champion the cause of Christians living with mental illness.

So, yeah, bipolar disorder is a bummer. I wish I could be normal. And yet, I need to say with the psalmist, "and yet I will praise God." He's my only hope.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Taking a wee break

Hi everyone,

I feel bad that I haven't posted anything for awhile. It's been hard to focus on it. Though I know I'm depressed, please don't think things are hugely bad. But I know I have to pace myself. Unfortunately blogging is one thing I will have to put on hold. I truly hope it won't be too long - because I do love to share here.

Take care and may God bless you.

marja

Monday, August 09, 2010

Distractions and uncertainties




Wow, have I been wanting to write here! But the time never seemed to be right. There have been so many distractions in my life keeping me from doing the reading and writing I would just love to do. Yet, I have been photographing. And that's good.

The photography has been good relief from all the heavy stuff that has been happening for me lately. The pictures here were taken at our church picnic a week ago. I've come to look on photography as a form of worship. So glad I've been able to focus a bit on that in the midst of the troubles and uncertainties I presently live with!

My mother is still in hospital, so we are still uncertain as to when we can take a break away or whether we'll be able to get away at all. Last Tuesday was especially difficult. While my husband and I visited her she had a heart attack - mild, but I could see we almost lost her. Things turned out ok though. She recovered and today she is perky, crocheting in her bed and wanting very much to go home.

That same Tuesday two other close friends were admitted to the same hospital. Thank goodness, though. One was sent home yesterday. And the other one is doing delightfully better.

On top of all these happenings, I went to the Willow Creek Leadership Summit on Thursday and Friday. Such a wonderful event! I learned so much! Though I must say it was an awful lot to take in. One of the speakers said it was "like drinking from a fire hydrant." That's one reason I played hookey Thursday afternoon. Another reason I skipped out was that I was fed so much good stuff Thursday morning that I needed to go home and digest it and journal about it.

The topics I found so useful were on team building and casting vision. I so need to try harder passing along the passion I have for Living Room to the people I'd like to work with. Because yes, I am trying to build a team to help me with the broader work of Living Room - the work outside my own group that meets at my church. In September Living Room will have its fifth anniversary and I have for a long time very much needed a team, built of people from my church, to help me carry the vision forward in a stronger way.

But right now it's summertime. And I need to take some time to relax and read. Time to get my mind away from Living Room. Time for myself.

Today I pray to God that I will be able to discipline myself to quieten myself and spend some time reading and focusing on Him.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Mom



It's 3:30 in the morning and I am wide awake, ready for the day. Wow has my sleep cycle ever gone awry! I've been going to sleep earlier and earlier and waking up increasingly earlier. Yesterday morning it was 4:00. This morning before 3:30. And yet, I feel that I'm getting enough sleep. It's only in the evening that I start fading.

This morning I awoke thinking of my mom. She has been in hospital for a week now with congestive heart failure. The seriousness of this is starting to sink in. She continues to have chest pain and shortness of breath.

Mom will probably never be as able to look after herself as she has. She will probably have a lot of trouble walking and be in need of someone to help her go to the bathroom and get dressed. And yet, when I visited her yesterday, her spirit was still all there. She was a delight to visit. And she is still crocheting - even in her hospital bed.

The truth is starting to sink in. Mom probably won't live long with this condition. Prognosis is poor for people of any age. And for a 96-year-old it must be so much worse. But I must talk to her doctor about this. Maybe today if he's available.

So glad Living Room is having a break this month. When I planned to take a break I didn't know all this stuff with Mom was going to happen. God must have known I would need the break and led me. And I need to let Him keep leading me.

Just don't know now what will happen with our holiday to the Chilcotin. We long for it so much. But Mom will have to be stable if we are to go. And I don't know if I would want to leave if she were still in the hospital. Don't think I'd enjoy myself. I'd just worry. It probably wouldn't be the responsible thing to do.

After church today there will be a picnic in the park across the street. I look forward to that. Will bring my camera and photograph all the children. I've been wanting to do that for a long while. This would be a good opportunity.

And yet I'm feeling a sadness. Guess that's understandable and okay. I look forward to the light breaking outside so I can go sit out there. It's always healing to spend time on the patio - time with God.

The picture is one I took of my mom and dad many years ago. It's an accurate reflection of their spirit and good sense of humour. That spirit is still alive in Mom now and how I appreciate it! And how I will miss her when she's gone!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Daisies galore



Yesterday morning I sat once more on the patio in my muskoka chair enjoying my delicious quiet time as the day broke. Waiting - my camera ready - for the sun to rise over the cedars to illuminate the daisies. Hoping that I would be able to capture the little finches - or whatever those little birds are that have been coming around - as they played amongst those flowers I love so much.

But alas, all that came was a hummingbird, buzzing for a moment by the fuschias. And then, lo and behold, a raccoon came down out of the cedars, walking towards me. I managed a quick shot of it.

Later, while I was on my third mug of coffee, the light on the daisies was good and I was able to shoot them at their best. They're wonderful, even if there aren't any little birds playing amongst them. Such a clean beauty - such free flowers - such an expression of joy.


I'm so grateful for this peaceful morning time - time to enjoy God's creation and experience His presence.

On a not-so-wonderful note: My 96-year-old mother is in hospital, probably with a blood clot in her lungs. Also a heart problem. Our holiday is cancelled and life has become a bit strange. A focus on Mom while trying to enjoy some rest, even if we can't go away.

Yet I'm thankful for these quiet times. Thankful for the joy my daisies bring.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Chickadees in the daisies


A wonderful morning quiet time on the patio this has been - lots of time to think and pray. But in future I must keep my camera handy as I sit out there. This morning a flock of chickadees came by, spending quite a bit of time in the Shasta daisies just a few feet away from where I sat. What pictures that would have made! Little birds in the midst of my favourite flowers.

I've been doing a lot of praying about next week's holiday we were planning with our motorhome. Don't know if it can happen. My mother has come down with the flu - bad news for a 96-year-old. Pretty hard to go far away, so far out of reach of her.

Other things are happening. We had our cat Max in to the vet a couple of days ago for tests. He has all the symptoms of diabetes. If that's what it is, we may end up being tied down more than ever. Imagine having to give him insulin shots daily! And our neighbour, who usually looks after him when we're gone, would not be able to do this. My husband and I are the only ones who can really get close to him. We should find out the test results today.

Besides all this, there are at least three friends who are needing a bit of care. I'd really like to help two of them out with a pot of soup or something. Would have liked to do this earlier, but I just didn't have the time. And one of them I worry about and feel I need to stay close to right now.

Ah, but how I looked forward to going to the Chilcotin! It's a special place for us. Quiet. Very few people. Good fishing for Wes and wonderful quiet times for me. I looked forward to lots of uninterrupted reading. Time with God and with my husband. We needed that time.

This morning, though, I thought of a park close to town where we could alternatively go for a few days. We could be close to Mom and keep tab on her daily. Golden Ears Park is beautiful, with lots of good hiking trails. Maybe this is where God wants us to go for now. We'll see.

Today is a Living Room day. Thank God I haven't had too much to do to prepare. Mark, my co-facilitator will lead the devotional time. So good to have him as a partner. Not that I don't like doing devotionals. It's a blessing to do so. But things have been terribly busy and it has been good to have someone else do the preparation instead of me.

Today's meeting will be the last of the summer. We will take August off to rest and relax.

The picture? My husband Wes at a lake in the Chilcotin. Note the loon in the background. I just love the cry of the loon in the stillness.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Out on a limb


Oh, do I ever want to share Pastor Don's sermon about Zacchaeus with you today! At least parts of the very meaty, inspiring, Spirit-filled message that came through to me yesterday. I've been trying to transcribe bits of the sermon which is online in its entirety for you to listen to right here. Yes, I've been trying to transcribe, but it's so hard. There's just too much good stuff and transcribing word by word is hard. I'll zero in on a wee bit though:

You all know the story, I'm sure. Zacchaeus, the short, greedy and rich tax collector, in a very undignified manner climbed a tree so he could have a look at Jesus passing by. He was curious to see this person who seemed to like people like him - people who had been rejected by others. I think he must have had a deep longing for someone who would love and accept him.

To his surprise, Jesus looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." (Luke 19:5) In Pastor Don's words, "It turns out that, while Zacchaeus was on a quest to see Jesus he discovers that Jesus is on a quest to find him." Yes that's exactly the way God works, isn't it? I've found it out in my own life. When we seek God, we'll always find Him, because He's actually seeking us as well. And how good that feels! To know that we mean so much to God that - though the world is filled with such multitudes of people, we are special enough to God that He seeks us out.

Pastor Don continues: "All around us people are seeking - searching for something. They have tried different things but nothing is working for them. They haven't rejected Jesus; they've rejected the legalistic religion in the church. If they would just meet someone who is a follower of Christ who would see them the way Jesus sees them, not wanting to just dump a bunch of religion on them! [but just listen to them.]"

"Contrast how the people in the crowd saw Zacchaeus and how Jesus saw him. When Jesus sees us he sees someone different than what we see. If we would only see ourselves the way Jesus see us, our lives would be instantly transformed." and "If we would only see others the way Jesus sees us! Jesus invites us to see people in the way he sees them. He sees people of great value and great worth."

So good - isn't it? to know God loves us so much. So good to know we can pass on that love to others.

If this seems kind of piecemeal, I'm sorry. Might be best if you listen to the entire sermon. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Honestly speaking


I was thinking of sitting down with my journal - my black book journal - tonight. I have so much happening inside me. So much I need to process. And then I thought, why not journal in my blog tonight? Why not be honest in my blog, even if it's a guarded honesty?

Today I happened to look back at some of my posts from years ago, from those times when Living Room was a fledgling group, totally unaware of where it would end up. And boy was I honest. Refreshingly so. I don't know what has happened with my blogging. It has become hard to know what to share and what not to share. I guess that's why I've come to do so little of it, while years ago I posted almost every day. I wish I could be that person again. What has happened to me?

I suspect that it has something to do with Living Room having become so well known. I want to keep some of what's happening quiet. Telling you all the tough stuff I deal with as a result of it might not be such a good thing. Would you lose confidence in me, its leader? And telling you all the good stuff would be like I was tooting my own horn.

Yes, I have far more responsibilities weighing on me than I did years ago. I don't feel as free. There's a big work connected to me now. I think it has changed me somewhat.

And yet I am the same person I was in that I have a mood disorder that at times makes me a very needy person. Just over the last while I've had to struggle again with realizing that I've become too self-centered, complaining to a friend about how overwhelmed I felt and the stress it was causing. I wanted mothering. I wanted compassion. But I did not remember that she herself has a lot on her plate too. I need to be there for her too.

That kind of self-centeredness - that overconcern about myself - crops up far too often. But it's a common symptom of our illness, isn't it, both when we're high and when we're low. Yet I know I need to fight it. I learned long ago how thinking of others' needs ahead of my own can be a source of healing. And I must tap into that.

So, today I was in pain. Remorseful for how I had complained to someone who never complains but carries her load with and eager courage, trusting that God will help her. How I need to learn from her!

This friend used to have a role of caregiver for me, mothering me when I needed mothering - something that happened often. But I've grown up a lot and she no longer mothers me in the same way. I don't need her in the same way. She has come to expect me to be a more mature friend, a friend with whom she can share equally. In her eyes I'm not as much a victim as I used to be, but a conqueror. I should be happy about that and accept that role, no matter how weak I may at times feel. And, like her, I need to trust that God will fill my needs and help me with my workload. After all it's His work I'm doing - not my own. It's God who is actually doing the work. All I'm called to be is a foot soldier for Him.

...and maybe I should pray more when I'm feeling so overwhelmed. Maybe I should remember to start each day by giving it all to Him.

The photo? A little girl on a balcony in a village on the island of Naxos in Greece. Cute, eh? I love that hair.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Comforted


Crazy how you can make a little thing into something so big that it threatens to take you down into depression, eh? The feeling of rejection I talked about a few posts ago caused recurring pain. I think because I was focusing on it so much instead of forgetting it and moving on. But I was preparing a devotional for Living Room on the topic and was analyzing the topic to bits - hanging on, trying to learn from it, when perhaps I should have, for my own good health, shrugged it off.

But I didn't shrug it off. I hung onto the source of the pain and it kept hurting. I studied the why and the wherefore, especially for those of us who live with mental illness. I tried to understand what to do with the pain so I could pass what I learned on to my group on Friday. I also talked about how to escape the pain, to avoid having it take us down into depression. And we talked about how we can live so that we avoid the feeling of rejection.

The pain kept coming back as I focused on the problem. Finally, a talk with my pastor Don resolved the issue for me. He told me some things which comforted me greatly. I shared his words with the group and I will share them here with you:

"Be who you are, who God made you to be, and know who you are in His eyes. You are a person of great value and worth to God...ultimately what matters most is not what I think, or even what you think or others, but what God thinks. His first and continual and last thoughts of us are overflowing with love and grace."

What comfort those words gave me!! And this truth is what I passed on to the group at various intervals. Yes, we need to live our lives knowing who we are in God's eyes and be strengthened in that knowledge. Then rejection won't affect us so powerfully.

The photograph? I took it many years ago. It means a lot to me because I identify with the little girl. God comforts us like that if we go to Him, doesn't He?

Monday, July 05, 2010

Cats


Just want to share a picture. No further grand theme to this post. Just want to touch base with bloggerland. There are a lot of stray cats wandering around in the Greek islands - most of them pretty mangy. This guy was begging for some tuna from the sandwich I was eating. I couldn't resist sharing some with him.

My mood? Getting over some decidedly low times last week. Strange, I had no problems in Greece. I think being in a lot of social situations like I tend to be here at home causes problems for me sometimes. I'm just too sensitive. And yet I love being around people. It's important to me to be around my friends. Go figure.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Morning has broken


An amazing answer to prayer: My friend in hospital has improved by leaps and bounds. Two days ago she wasn't allowed her clothes because she was still so suicidal. Today she will probably be allowed an accompanied pass, meaning she can leave the hospital if she has someone with her.

Her spirit is so up. She is so grateful, praising God. She delights me so much and gives me such joy.

The day after she turned around so well I was sitting in my favourite chair on the patio having my quiet time, feeling very grateful. I noticed the sun shining on our hanging fushchia basket. I noticed how it illuminated one of the blossoms beautifully and decided to photograph it. As I was shooting a few pictures, a bee flew into the frame. How special that bee made the picture! It takes the picture from being an ordinary picture of a flower to being something a bit more special. God's work, eh?

That very day I made a bookmark from it for my friend, a bookmark celebrating her turning from darkness to light. "Morning has broken."

I'm praising God this morning. He is so good. He answers prayer.



To read more Thankful Thursday blogposts visit Lynn.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Feelings of rejection

Do you think that people with mental illness feel rejected more than those who do not deal with such illnesses? What I'm talking about is a feeling of rejection from a group that in general aren't harboring stigma. I believe very much that they do, though a friend of mine doesn't understand that. She says that everyone suffers feelings of rejection sometimes.

I belong to a loving, accepting church, and yet I often find myself going home with a cold, awful feeling. A feeling of having been ignored or rejected. I'm sure much of this is only a perceived feeling. I'm sure people at church would be quite surprised that I would feel that way. These feelings often trigger a depression that takes a while to get over.

Is it me? Is this the lot of people who live with mental illness? Is it easier for us to feel rejected? Perhaps due to having an illness that is generally stigmatized? Perhaps due to our oversensitivity and insecurity?

A friend of mine is in hospital. I've talked about her in previous posts. One of the major triggers for this episode was her perception that she was being ignored at church, excluded, rejected. She had needed someone to connect with her in a real way. She told me that all she had needed was a hug. A friend told me that someone had talked to her. Yet apparently that wasn't enough to dissolve her feelings of aloneness. She was a really needy person that day.

I wouldn't fault anyone though. How are people to know of her need? Perhaps all they saw was a withdrawn person who didn't seem to want to talk. Someone who was hard to approach. How are they to know what's going on inside her?

I want to bring this topic for discussion at the next Living Room meeting. Do others experience this? How does it make them feel? What do they think causes it?

And we need to search out what we can do about these feelings. The important thing we need to remember is who we are in God's eyes. I think part of our problem is an insecurity. We need to learn to be secure in the knowledge of God's love...and secure in the knowledge that God's people do love us, even though they don't always understand our needs.



Yet another photo from the Greek island of Paros. The colours we see everywhere - blue and white.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Peaceful morning


I'm thankful to God for the wonderful peaceful morning I had today. I got outside at 5:15. It was still a wee bit dark, but not too dark to journal or read. Such a wonderful place to sit, under the canopy, with the green garden all around me and the birds singing. How God has blessed us with this home!

Thank God for my friend's life. She struggles so much and almost died a few days because she couldn't bear her life anymore. But you God sent a lady, an angel, to speak to her and to remind her that there are people who love her. And I do so love her. She feels like she's a bad person, and yet I know her to be so good and kind. Thank you, God, that I can be there for her as she works through her depression. I'm thankful for her faith in you and how we can talk together about your love.

Thank you, God, for another friend, L, who just emailed to let me know she's thinking of me and praying for me. She pointed me to Isaiah 61, asking me if I had read that lately. I will have to do that. So precious to have friends who will share like that with me.

Tomorrow we have a Living Room meeting. We'll talk about our tendency to worry - our tendency to forget about God's presence. How can we stay close to God and trust Him so that we don't need to worry so much? We'll look to God together.

The photo? Another little taste of the Greek islands for you. It's fun to share.



Thankful Thursday is hosted by iris. You might want to visit her and visit the links to others' expressions of gratitude.

Hope you all have a happy, peaceful day as you work and play.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thankful on Friday


Just before going on holidays I agreed with my friend Nancie from More than Conquerors that I would try to take part in Thankful Thursdays - something many are doing - setting apart one day each week to truly focus on all I'm thankful for.

Now I'm back, and I've already missed a Thursday. That's because I was too busy doing something I'm thankful for to even think of blogging. So this week I will post my gratitude on Friday, one day late. Better than not at all, eh?

What I'm really thankful for is that God created us to be creative people. I've received such joy from doing photography again and I know it's something I mustn't let go. Yesterday I worked almost non-stop, preparing my pictures to show on a digital frame. I was selecting, cropping, adjusting, and re-sizing. I was so happy to see that there were a lot more good ones than I thought I'd have. I've still got it in me.

I like reading in Genesis how God created the earth and everything in it. I like reading how He saw "that it was good." And what joy that must have given Him. If creating a few images gives me joy, imagine how great His joy must have been!

I attributed my good mood while we were in Greece to the bright sunlight and to not having any stresses to worry about. But when I think of it, I think a lot of it was also the focusing on photography that made me feel so well. And I can see how I mustn't let it go so long again.

I want to photograph children again. I really need to set aside some time to do that. My play-time - my non-mental-health-work time.

I will continue posting some of the pictures I took in Greece. Simply because it's fun to share. What's the good of doing all that work if I'm going to hide it, eh?

The above picture is a street in one of the villages we visited. There was so much wonderful texture in the walls - so much old stuff. And many many cats.



To read more Thankful Thursday visit Iris.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

One little pill - abilify



For the first time in years my pdoc is changing my antipsychotic medication to something different. Reason? Tremors that have been bothering me for years. And the fact that I'm on two antipsychotics. He's uncomfortable about that, thinking he's over-medicating me. Perhaps with the abilify he's now putting me on I can make do with only one.

So this morning I started. I took one small dose of abilify and reduced the old med a little. Trouble is, I've had an uncomfortable stomach all day and am pretty sure that one little pill is the culprit. One little pill giving so much discomfort!

But I need to give this a good shot. Guess I'll have to live with the discomfort for awhile and see if my body will adjust.

Anyone else out there had experience with abilify?

My picture? The base of an old church on the island of Paros.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Back to work

We've been home from Greece for four days now. Good to be back. But I'm still handicapped by jetlag. Last night I slept from 10:30pm to 3pm. Just not enough sleep. It's been like that ever since we returned.

I'm happy to be back in my work. Happy to have been able to attend Living Room on Friday.

My mood has completely levelled off and I think I need to thank Greece for that. The light was so bright. And I had nothing to think about but wandering through the white-washed streets with my camera and eating and drinking in the outdoor restaurants. The food, by the way, was wonderful. Such variety!

But it's good too to be back to my work. I can only go so long without purpose in my life. I do love to care for people and to make Living Room things happen. Living Room is exciting. So many people coming to believe in it and wanting to start their own group.

While I was away I read a book that drew my attention to Isaiah 28:16. And it so much speaks to what Living Room should be built on:
I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem. It is firm, a tested and precious cornerstone that is safe to build on.

I've had this in mind all along, but somehow the way this verse is worded defines it so very clearly. Jesus is the foundation stone of Living Room. That foundation is firm, a tested and precious cornerstone that is safe to build on.

I hope to start posting more regularly in the next while. That will also give me an opportunity to share some of my pictures from Greece, as I do here. One of our favourite things to photograph were the many arches. This is a typical Cyclades street scene, one of hundreds we photographed.