Friday, April 30, 2010

Bookmark joys

Yesterday Nancie from More Than Conquerors posted some images of bookmarks she had made. We are good friends and have so much in common that I find amazing. She's a photographer and likes to make bookmarks as well. Making bookmarks gives me such joy that, although I haven't done a lot of photography for a while, I now feel like going back to it - just so I'll have some fresh images with which to make bookmarks...and calendars as well.

One of Nancie's bookmarks really spoke to me, so I decided to make one as well, using my own design. Hope you don't mind, Nancie.

My moods keep going up and down. But having creative work to do gives me great joy, especially if I can use it to remind people of God's love for them.

Here is the bookmark I designed today. I hope the words speak to you as they spoke to me this morning.

Monday, April 26, 2010


I'm painting this least, trying to. The hills at Steptoe Butte in Washington. Painting is the hardest thing I can think of doing, something I keep putting off because it's so hard. And yet I've been itching to do it too, itching to improve my technique, to create something that could be deemed worthwhile. I paint a hill and then walk away, wishing for something easier to do. Yet I don't feel like doing anything else, so I email a friend, cause I need to "talk", and now I blog.

I've had a lot of disappointments lately and this morning I woke up feeling an utter failure. I think this feeling came from the realization yesterday that the mission trip I'd had my heart set on going on next year would be too rigorous for me. The realization that a person with bipolar disorder should not be doing something that involved seven days of ministry from early morning till late at night.

I'd so wanted to experience this country and these people, that I had even started studying Spanish to prepare. My dream was to photograph the people and their churches and to write about them, telling photo stories. Oh, how I had my heart set on this!! It was good to be focusing on this too. It reduced the obsession I had about Living Room. It gave me something else worthwhile to think about.

Yet another thing that I had wanted to do but had to give up on!! (the other was the depression seminar) Do I ever need something to feel good about! Something to look forward to.

But, my friends would say, you did make 340 bookmarks in Spanish for the mission our church members went on. And you are going to Greece in a few weeks for a holiday.

Yeah, crazy aren't I? I have so much to be thankful for.

All I need to do now is turn on some good music that will anchor me to the "studio" (yeah I have a room I call my "studio":o)) and paint. And after I have painted that picture turn to something more straightforward to do. Perhaps I will post my painting when it's done...if it's good enough. That would be fun. And it's fun I need. Creative fun. It's sharing I need. With people who care.

I pray this picture will be presentable. I pray that God will settle me down and give me some peace.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Too much new

I think I'm trying to learn too many new things all at one time. I'm learning to paint in watercolour and I'm learning Spanish. And both of these are so hard, especially for a 64-year-old like me. I've never felt my age so much. Usually I feel quite young. I don't feel like a senior at all. Usually I feel vibrant, excited about what I'm doing, capable of a lot. Yet now...

Maybe I should focus mostly on painting for now. I'm taking a class and if I'm going to get the most out of it, I'll have to do lots of practising. Make some time to paint every other day or so.

In a few weeks we're going to Greece. I need to prepare for that too. My husband wants me to do something that focuses on Greece - paint it, photograph it, study the history, or write about it. Thought at first that I would try to do some painting while there, but I've changed my mind. It's photography I should do - something I know I can do. Something I know I could achieve good results with. I would like to take my water soluble pencils as well though and play with them a bit. Yet I'll need to practise a bit - learn how to use them. Oh oh! Something new to learn...again.

But today I must focus on Living Room. I must pray over that meeting. Forget about all this other stuff for a bit and be totally there for the people who come. Living Room is something I can do.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

And yet....

Psalms 42 and 43 which we studied at our last Living Room Bible study sure hit home for those of us there. We could relate to the psalmists' laments. We could relate for the thirsting after God expressed in the opening verses:
"As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?"

You'll remember the wonderful hymn based on this Psalm. How well that song ministered to me a few weeks ago when Nancie shared it with me!

As we studied these Psalms we saw how the writers expressed their depression, but clung to the hope they had in God. In spite of everything they're able to say,
"Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God."

Oh to be able to cling to God in that way! In spite of everything to be able to say "...I will yet praise Him."

These same words are repeated three times within Psalm 42 and 43.

How can we who suffer from mood disorders hang onto such faith? How can we get ourselves to the place where we can say, "...and yet I will praise Him. In spite of everything, I will praise Him."

I think we need to keep wanting God, to keep hungering for Him. We need to talk to Him. And that can start by simply saying "hello" to Him. I believe God is pleased when we yearn for Him and He will be there for us. He will show Himself. The Bible says that he who seeks will find. So true!!

God is always there. He doesn't leave; it's we who leave Him. But all we need to do is talk to say "hello" and whatever else we'd like to tell Him about how we feel and how we need His comfort and His peace.

We'll be discussing this topic at Living Room this Friday. If you're in the Burnaby area, might you like to come along? Just check the website for the information. You'd be most welcome.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The creativity kickstart

Amazing how a little creativity - a new project - colour - excitement - can kickstart a more positive mood! And once it's done, I fall back, into the verge of depression again - the unmotivated self.

In the midst of my verge of depression, I had an idea last week. No, it didn't come from me exactly. It was truly planted there by God. If you don't believe in God and are wondering about me, not believing such a clear leading from God can happen, I've got to tell you it can and does. Through my quiet time with God one day last week, the mission some of our church members are going on sprang to mind. No reason for that to happen. And through a bunch of well-led wanderings of the mind, I realized I wanted to send along some bookmarks I had made. But I didn't have enough. And besides, they were in English. The people in that country would not understand them. I decided to make some up in the Spanish language.

How the thought of such a project excited me!! It totally kickstarted a livening of the mind, return to a positive, even high, mood. I worked happily on this for several days, ending up with 340 bookmarks of eleven different designs. My obsession with Living Room was replaced with an obsession for bookmarks. I imagined what the people in this country might need. They don't have ready access to Christian literature. How could I fill their needs? How could I encourage them? As I worked, I felt like a missionary. And I felt alive.

But when the project was finished I once more returned to slumber mode. No motivation to do the many things that had been piling up around me, needing to be tended to. Good thing my husband is now paying the bills. I'm so grateful for that. But there are other things - stacks of paper - that need to be looked after. And I felt powerless to work on it. The laundry I did three days ago was still in the drier. I had no energy to take it out and put it away.

This morning I sent an email to my closest friends, crying out about my inability to find a firm place to stand. My instability. Up sometimes, down other times. It's like Satan is playing a cat and mouse game with me.

The Psalms are wonderful to read at times like this. David seems to know all about this. I found comfort this morning in Psalm 143. "...may your good Spirit lead me on level ground." (vs.10)

Fortunately I had signed up for a watercolour course a few weeks ago and my first class was this morning. Colour. Creativity. Making things happen with my hands (painting a tulip still life) instead of having things happen to me. I didn't do very well. After all, it was only the first art class I'd ever taken. But that didn't matter. I had fun playing. And I came home looking at everything in my world a little differently. I looked around me, wondering what I could paint next.

My mind and mood has had another kickstart. Another opportunity to escape possible descent into a black hole.

Will I be able to keep this up? Will I be able to keep pushing back the dark?

Ah, but I have God at my side. I have the support of loving friends. I have the will to be well and to serve God. And I'm grateful. Things could be so much worse.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Never stable?

My friend at church and I have been praying for stability for me, for an end to the ups and downs. But you know, I don't think that's in God's plans for me. I'm pretty sure I'll always been on a roller coaster. That's what it is to be bipolar and I'll just have to accept that.

I've been wondering lately what is normal for me. What is the real me? The joyous person I was on Easter Sunday? Or is it the person I became last night when my mood dropped so significantly that my husband noticed it right away? I don't know whether there is a normal me.

A friend told me I'm being over-analytical, always trying to figure out where I'm at within myself. But I need to know so I can respond with plans for days that are healthy for me. So I can plan to do things to raise my low mood or things to level me off if my mood is too high. Psychiatrists tell their patients to keep mood charts. That requires that each day you analyze where you're at.

I do know that I need to start each day with God, asking for His help, asking for me to feel His presence, asking Him to help me live for Him, no matter what my mood. I need to cling to God as I cling to the handbars of a roller coaster as I ride. It helps me feel more secure, more confident, more safe.

...And I need to stop thinking too much but do more. Plan to accomplish a few things each day. Thinking too much just encourages the onset of depression. ...Or does depression encourage too much thinking? Hard to know which comes first.

It's all about finding a balance, isn't it?

Monday, April 05, 2010

The best kind of friend

The best kind of friend you can have is someone who will cry with you when you cry and celebrate with you when you're joyous. What amazing bonds can form when a friend is so sympathetic to where you are emotionally!

I have three friends like that now, and what a treasure they are! How grateful I am for them!

During my last bout of struggles, a friend from church prayed with me when I was going through a particularly hard time. She seemed to feel what I was feeling and thus knew exactly how to pray. When I turned so dramatically, she felt my joy too - because she too knew what that kind of joy was like. She was able to celebrate with me. How good it is when you're feeling overjoyed to have someone share with you in it! We need people to share our feelings with, don't we? The good stuff as well as the bad stuff. It's so good to be understood. And yet, so often we're not. Understanding people can be so hard to find, especially when we most need them.

How often haven't you felt alone with strong feelings - whether it be pain or joy - with no one available to share with? And how good it is to have someone you can call - someone who cares! I wish everyone could have friends like that at times like this. Someone to comfort them. Someone to remind them of God's love. Someone to pray with.

I'm glad for our Living Room ministry, because here, at least twice a month, people with emotional problems can share their pains and their joys. Here we are ready to hear and to be there for each other. We have a meeting coming up on Friday and I pray that we will be in sympathy with each other - whether that means to cry with each other or to celebrate joys. I know we will be.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Mood and reality

Hi everyone. Happy Easter Sunday to you.

I need to share that my mood has taken a very big turn from what I perceived to be the verge of depression to hypomania. Don't know whether I should go into all the details of how it happened. Suffice it to say I see it as situational. The result of a spiritual awakening of sorts. A renewal that came along with Easter and my realization of what it meant to have Jesus die a horrid death for us and then to live again. I feel forgiven for the things that had been making me feel ashamed, the things that had gotten me so down. And I'm feeling joyful - freed and more fully alive. I have greater energy and was more sociable at church than I have been (though I don't think overly so).

And now I'm wondering how my friends and husband perceive what is happening to me. Do they think I'm just a "nut case" going through another inexplicable phase? Or can they see that there is a true basis for these feelings? A true basis for these moods? A reality? A truth?

Am I seeing truth in a clearer way than the average person? I wonder. I kind of think so. The story of Christ's death and resurrection and what it means is clear as a bell to me right now. In fact, in a way I've lived it with Him in some mild form over the past while.

If I am seeing the reason that we have to have joy in Christ in a clearer way, would that not naturally make me have deeper feelings about it than what's average? More joyous and in other terms, hypomanic?

And yet I musn't let this mood run rampant. Just as I needed to fight the depression, I must now again focus on keeping things stable. I mustn't do things that increase this high. Hard to do when you have so much energy. I'll try not to do things that are too exciting.

Today I will go for a walk with my husband. I'll play a board game with him. And tonight hopefully visit a friend in hospital. I pray that I will be able to feel in sympathy with her and her frustrations with ongoing depression. I pray that I don't overwhelm her with my high mood. Maybe she will temper my high a bit and that would be good for me.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

It's a battle

One of the Living Room facilitators emailed me with a comment - something I have been lax to accept but now realize there is a lot of truth in. In fact, it's something that should not be ignored. My pastor's wife pointed it out to me as well last Saturday. I'll quote some of what this facilitator said:

"When Jesus told us that if we have faith we can say to this mountain 'be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea' (Matthew 17:20) and don't doubt in our hearts, nothing will be impossible to us. We aren't told to pray to the Lord to have him remove the mountain. We speak to the mountain in his name. When a depression threatens to overtake me I don't ask the Lord to remove it. He's already given me the authority to get rid of it in his name. I refuse to receive depression and when I sense it looming, I rebuke it in Jesus' name. And if the depression persists, I persist more. If the depression doesn't lift right away, don't be discouraged. Keep rebuking it in Jesus' name. Keep praising Jesus and use your God-given capacity to get angry at that depression."

Last night and this morning I did that. I commanded the depression to leave me in Christ's name. And you know, my mind cleared and I found a new strength and confidence. And there was joy in that strength and confidence.

I'm not saying that depression is not a medical problems, but I'm saying that spiritually there's a lot we can do about it.

Now I'm going to go for a workout, something I can physically do for myself. Something else that will help clear those cobwebs. And because I've looked after my spiritual self, I am encouraged to get out there and move my body - to do all the things that are good for me. Maybe I'll even get creative. We need to look after our whole selves - and God made us into some pretty complicated beings.

God is so amazing and so good, isn't He?