Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Reaching out

I had a call from someone I didn't know last night. She had huge anxieties and depression and was reaching out. Looking for someone who could give her an answer to her problems. Looking for someone who could alleviate the pain. And yet, all I could do was to listen with compassion. I could have prayed with her as well, and am sorry I didn't. Somehow I didn't feel I understood her well enough at the time to be able to pray. I should have tried though. But I was tired and all I could do was listen.

She reminded me of myself when I'm deeply depressed. Then I also reach out, looking for someone who might be able to help me. Looking for someone who can take away the pain. And yet, there is so little we can do for each other in cases like that, isn't there? Except to show each other we care and to remind each other of God's love. And assure each other that this pain won't last forever. That doesn't help much though. When you're deeply depressed it feels like it will never go away. Hard to believe otherwise. You cannot see the light. You cannot feel hope.

How we long for someone to just fix us when things are so bad! It's so hard to trust in the pills, in the doctor...and even in God. So hard to believe in a better future! And yet it is trusting - it is believing - that does help you recover. It takes time and patience.

This morning I'm praying for this lady out in the Valley. I'm praying she will recover soon. I'm praying she will believe that she will recover. That God is there for her, looking after her. Just wish I'd done that last night, while she was on the phone with me.

Monday, March 21, 2011

God's gift of creativity

On Friday we'll be discussing creativity at Living Room. This is one of my favourite subjects. Such a juicily interesting thing to discuss!

I'm a very creative person and it's mysterious to me how ideas and inspiration come to me. I'm often in awe of what God has helped me produce. Not that I'm such a wonderful artist. I feel very little has to do with my own efforts. Yes, I put forth the time and energy, but I know the actual creativity - the talent and ability - come to me through the Holy Spirit.

Look at the cookbook idea that I've told you about in an earlier post. That was such a good idea, I know a good thought like that could not come from me alone. The inspiration for it was planted within me by God. Spoken into me by the Holy Spirit. I simply cannot take the credit for as good an idea that. That project has benefited me so much! I'm enjoying cooking again. I'm sharing recipes with friends. I'll be using photography in it, another activity that's important for me to keep up. And, it has been good for my marriage. The way to my husband's heart is very much through his stomach :))

And how the Holy Spirit is alive within me as I work to capture candid photographs of children! The process is exciting, captivating and satisfying.

God gives every one of us creative gifts. He has made us in His image, and - being the greatest Creator - creativity is part of what He passes on to us. Creative gifts include more than just arts such as painting, music and photography. Planning a party or other event, decorating a home, cooking dinner, are all creative pursuits.

How we need to be thankful for the creative gifts God gives us! We need to use them and develop them. Life truly becomes meaningful when we use our gifts to serve God and others. But, don't forget to simply enjoy what God has given you too. Praise God for your gifts and use them to enjoy all aspect of life.

What creative gifts did God give you? Are you using them?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A goal for living room

Hi everyone,

I feel so bad that I don't write here more, especially when I'm reading neat stuff and thinking neat things I would love to share, if I could just take some time.

Pastor Don also gave an inspiring sermon on boldness I wouldn't mind sharing more about. But I'll let you hear it yourself. The sermon can be heard on the Brentwood Park Alliance Church website, here. The questions Don opened with were:

What is it that you would care enough about to take a stand regardless of the risk or the cost to you personally?

What would be your motivation to take such a stand?

There is one thing I absolutely do need to share with you at this point though. The Global Living Room initiative which is dedicated to giving access to as many people as possible to Living Room groups, now has its own fund set up. We can now accept donations and will have a "donate" button on our website soon. This will mean more freedom to really get to work spreading the word about this form of faith-based Christian support for people with mood disorders.

Two days ago we set a goal - an ambitious goal - but I believe one that is within reach. We want to see Living Room in all communities in the Greater Vancouver area and the Fraser Valley by the Fall of 2013. At the same time we will continue reaching out to the world beyond this corner of Canada, encouraging such Christian support in communities elsewhere.

A group started recently in Miami. And another group is close to starting in Atlanta. A young adult group will have its first meeting tomorrow at Simon Fraser University. Please pray for the facilitators of all these groups. Please pray for the many people who could benefit from this faith-based support.

Tonight I'm going to camera club and will enter the picture above in our print competition: Bougainvillea from a Greek isle.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Finding meaning...revisited

“Mental illness is not all bad.” That’s how I began an article about finding meaning in a life with bipolar disorder several years ago. How I regret having written those words today! I know the message I was trying to convey with the piece, but using those words tend to make it look like I was making light of disorders that I know from experience are serious and cause unbearable pain.

Mental illnesses ARE bad, as some of the comments on this article pointed out. But I also know that we need to adopt a positive and hopeful view.

At the time I wrote the piece I was thinking of what the apostle Paul said in Romans 8:28: “…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I truly believe that and have experienced it in my life.

Yet we need to recognize the honest truth. Mental illness can be devastating. As many as 20% of people with manic depression (as bipolar used to be called) take their own lives. It causes break-downs of relationships. Many lose the ability to support themselves. And then there’s trying to deal with people’s misunderstanding…the stigma…!

I have found meaning in life. Abundant meaning. But that doesn’t take away the suffering mental illness causes me and so many others.

Last year was very unstable for me, with much rapid cycling – periods when my moods shifted rapidly from low to high. Many times these shifts would happen within hours; sometimes within days. I never knew how I was going to be. There were sleepless nights and almost total loss of appetite. Eventually the rapid cycling gave way to solid depression and anxiety. Often I felt riddled with feelings of shame and guilt. I didn’t like the needy person I had become. I had to cancel out of commitments, feeling terrible to have let people down. I became suicidal at times, at one point asking my pastor to please remind me why I should live. Such is the loss of reality and perspective depression can bring on.

But I continued spending time with God daily and in between the bad times found much joy and comfort as well. At sunrise one morning I made one of the most meaningful photographs I’ve ever done. I considered it a gift from God, revealing to me His awesome nature. Yet I continued to be unstable. The effects of bipolar disorder are not easy to shake.

At times my husband didn’t trust leaving me on my own, giving up two or three fishing trips he needed for his own enjoyment and emotional well-being. His usual patient and laid back attitude gave way to emotional struggles of his own. Our relationship suffered. For the first time in our 42 years of marriage we needed counselling. Thank God, the counsellor was a good one who helped us learn how to weather the storm together.

In early December I had an idea to gather all our favourite recipes from our life together. These will become a little book to share with friends and family. This project helped me focus on cooking and made what had become a difficult chore into a hobby again – a source of enjoyment. This healthy activity did much to stabilize me. I can now see how such inspiration did not come from me alone. It was very much a gift from God.

I don’t think I would have appreciated such a gift without having gone through some tough times. I don’t think I would have as great reason to be thankful. I, along with the psalmist David, can sing “…and yet I will praise him!”

In New Light on Depression, (Zondervan, 2004) the book David B. Biebel, D.Min. wrote along with Harold G. Koenig, M.D., he said, “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." [emphasis mine]

How true that is! I’m now able to give support to others who live with mental illness through my faith-based Living Room support ministry for people with mood disorders. I can share with others what I’ve learned about God’s unfathomable love. I can offer heart-felt compassion because I understand the pain of depression. How good that makes me feel! That’s my compensation.

Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 1:4 hold true for me as I work with my ministry. I praise God “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received.”

This is how I found meaning…and joy.