Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas: a time to be still

I recently came across a blogpost I wrote four years ago and thought you might like to hear it. This will be our devotional at Living Room today. So...even if you're far from a group, you too can take part with us. I hope you will be blessed by these thoughts.


(From a blogpost written by Marja (http// on
December 4th, 2007):

Last year's Christmas was a stressful time for me. I truly suffered from all the negative aspects of the season: the huge number of fliers coming to the door irked me; the full parking lots at the mall overwhelmed me; the stores with the Christmas music and the pushing of goods bothered me. The materialism of it all - the having to live up to all the traditions, when I wasn't in the mood - the pressures of going to parties and having to entertain family at home were more than I could bear. I saw it as a chaotic time, one I wished I could escape.

But - blessing of all blessings - this year is different. I feel at peace. I don't feel pressured. I'm enjoying the season. And this started happening even as I was struggling with depression over the past few weeks. That's truly amazing! Thank God!

So I went to church this Sunday - the first Sunday of the Advent season - eager for Pastor Don's sermon. He didn't let me down. He talked about how Advent should be a time of quiet waiting - a time to look forward to Jesus' coming.

Unfortunately Christmas has become a time of chaos for many of us, when it should be a time of awe and wonder. Just think of it: the child Jesus who was born was God, come to earth to walk amongst us. He came to show us who God is and what he's like. He showed us God's great love and illustrated his amazing grace.

Christmas is very much a time of fantasy and nostalgia, a time when we try to recreate feelings we had in the past. But recreating those feelings can be difficult in the lives we're living today. We often end up with pain when we can't do it. But if we could remember to focus on Jesus, the whole reason we are celebrating, perhaps we could escape the pain and lighten the expectations we put on ourselves. Perhaps we could escape all the noisy stuff and the chaos.

The time leading up to Christmas should be a time for stillness, a time for peaceful reflection. Think about what a mystery God's coming into the world was! Think of the awe and wonder of it all!

Why make a big anxious fuss over Christmas, the season where we talk about peace and joy? Do what feels is best for you in the mood you’re dealing with at the time. Spend time with family and friends. But, most of all, spend time with God.

God says to you and me:

“Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

“Step out of the traffic! Talk a long, loving look at me, your High God…” Ps. 46:10 (MSG)

Unfortunately, it's difficult for me to even focus on Christmas at all this year. My 97-year-old mother isn't doing very well and, other than the care she receives from her nursing home, I am the only family member who cares for her. The only one who visits. That's sad. But you know, there are many things in her attitude that inspire me. I do enjoy my visits and must try to do so often - no matter how busy I am.

She came up with such beautiful words a few days ago. When she was in the ER, she missed her crochetting so much. How she wished to have it there with her while she waited those many hours to be tended to! She referred to her work as her "sweet comfort." What a wonderful way to describe what creative activity can offer us!

And then, a day or two later, back at the care home - happily back at work again - she told us how her "willpower won't leave her alone."

What a wonderful message this is for those who are willing to listen to this lady. And how much those who don't visit are missing!!

Perhaps I should forget a lot of my busyness - at least, simplify as much as possible - and focus on celebrating Christmas with Mom. Spend quiet - with God time - along with her.

Friday, November 18, 2011


I've felt very tired lately. Bordering on burn-out maybe?

My open house last Saturday did not go as I envisioned. Not nearly as many people turning out as I had thought would. But the weather was horrendous - lots of rain and wind. I was touched though every time I saw someone arrive, braving that weather. How good it was to see them! Quite a few of my Living Room gang. And the living room was almost always filled with people - lots of good visiting. Although I didn't sell much we had a wonderful time - and that's most important, isn't it?

I'm trying to rest now. Trouble is, every time I try to rest my mind runs away with me. I'm doing far too much thinking. And when I think things, I feel a need to share. I end up making phone calls and writing emails. Thankfully I haven't called anyone too many times, though - I don't think. One person I called three times yesterday. But I think she understood the need and she knows that she was helping me. Good for a person to know when they are helping you. Good not to just complain about your feelings but to show you're willing to listen to a person's advice and take it to heart. Friends don't want to feel like they're helpless to help you. They want to feel they're able to do some good.

I always try too to learn what my friends are going through. I want to pray for them too. I'm not the only one with troubles. Everyone has some kind of troubles. Some kind of burden. I don't just want my friends to be there for me. I need to be there for them too. Support is a two-way street. We need to be friends to each other.

And...listening to others about what is happening in their lives helps take my mind off myself. A very healthy thing.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Talk went well, although...

Have to let you know that the talk at Regent went well. I felt calm - exceedingly calm. Not nervous, not shaking as I had been the couple of days before the talks. And I knew it was because people were praying for me and I prayed for myself. Trouble was - and I feel bad about this - I'm pretty sure I talked far longer than I should have. Sharon ran out of time and at the end had to cram an hour of material into half an hour. I feel bad about that.

But my presentation at the very end of the lecture, where I talked about Living Room, went much better. I was able to cram everything into 5 minutes and yet feel I said all I needed to say. The note I ended on was that it would be so wonderful if the whole church could be like Living Room. A place where people can be authentic and not have to hide painful things they live with because of shame.

My mood is still very unstable. Literally up and down like a yo-yo. And I worry. What am I going to be like on Saturday - that day for which I invited probably over 100 people to my open house?

How I need to surrender these anxieties and trust in God! Think I'll go to bed with a mug of cammomile tea and focus where I should. On Jesus and not on me.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Manic high but trying to hold steady

Just checking in to let you know things are...well, kind of high. Please pray that I'll be able to stay connected, feet safely on the ground. Finding my "firm place to stand" in God. Yes, every time I do stop to think of God and who He is and what He means to me, I come together a bit... Till I get busy again.

But I take comfort in the knowledge that people are praying for me. I don't think most people understand what exactly it is I'm dealing with. Physical pain is so much easier to understand, isn't it?

Tomorrow I take part in Sharon Smith's lecture at Regent College, speaking to upcoming pastors. I will tell them what it's like to live with bipolar disorder. I will describe what my life is like now-a-days. Can I help them understand? Even a little bit? Enough so that they'll be compassionate towards others who have bipolar disorder? Enough so that they'll know how to offer support?

Then, on Saturday, I'm having an open house to show my photographic work in the form of bookmarks, notecards and framed prints. In typical enthusiastic manic fashion, I must have invited a hundred people. I'm working hard at staying organized enough to get ready for that.

I need to stop worrying, though. I need to trust that I CAN stay organized. Everything is on track so far. My husband is supporting me. God is with me.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Everyone needs compassion

As some of you know, I write letters to God - most days - whether I'm up or down. And this morning, while I was writing I was reminded of a song that we often sing at church that starts with the words, Everyone needs compassion. Those words always speak to me in a big way when we sing them.

And, as I went to my computer to find the song on youtube, I reread my last couple of posts. How honest I was! I was shocked by my honesty. And yet, you know, it was a comfort to share with someone. Few people understand what a person like me goes through. Most don't want to hear about it, thinking I talk too much about myself. And yet, how will people know how to pray for me if I don't share when I'm going through tough stuff? So often I've heard from people who had loved ones die by suicide say, "If he/she could only have told me! If only I'd known!" Yet before the actual act, people don't want to know, do they? Not the average person.

In the end, it's only Jesus who has true, pure compassion, isn't it? It's only He who truly understands. And how we need to be sure to stay close to Him! How we need to keep the communication between ourselves and Him open!

I had a friend email me this morning, telling me she had read my last posts. And she was sorry she hadn't been praying for me. But that's ok, she had a lot of her own things she was dealing with. And that's how it is for most people. But you know, neat thing: as the result of my honesty, she was honest with me and told me what she had been dealing with! I so appreciated that! It's such a privilege when people share with me what they're dealing with. And, you know, it takes my mind off myself and that's such a good thing.

I wish when I share openly with people they would see it as permission to share their tough stuff with me too. Then I'll feel that I have a true friend. Someone I can share with. We can pray for each other.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Fellowship with Jesus

Although I hesitated to share my last post with you, wanting you to be able to trust me as a leader, I did need to be honest. My readers need to understand the effects of bipolar disorder on us. If I'm going to be honest - which I always try to be - I need to share the hard stuff too.

But please know, that in my quiet time this morning I've come to a different place.

Shortly after I wrote my last post I emailed my pastor saying, "[my good friend] would probably be reminding me that it's the evil one getting me down. He likes to attack at times when he feels his own work most threatened. I need to fix my eyes on Jesus and remember how He suffered but did not give up. He died and rose again. And I must rise again - up from the death - the lifelessness and emptiness of depressed feelings. I must take God's hands and arise again - up from what was like a death bed last night. There's work to be done. Yes, I'm reaching for God's hand this morning."

My pastor has often quoted Philippians 3:10-11, his life verses - something I've in the past had a lot of trouble understanding. But this morning I fully understand them:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Depression - not self-centeredness

I dived down into the depressed part of my cycle last night. And all I could think of was a wish to die - how I would like to end it all.

Self-centered? Some people would say so. But how can you be otherwise when you can't think of the possibility of living beyond this moment in time? When you can't bear the thought of continuing this life. It has become too hard.

And yet, earlier in the day I made special brownies that my celiac friend will be able to eat. And I looked forward to surprising her with them today. It's not like all I think about is myself. I also coached an immigrant in English conversation, talking lots about her - not just myself.

No. I don't think it's self-ceneteredness that is bringing me down. I don't think other-centeredness is preventing me from going there. The moods come - unbidden.

Last night all I could think of was how I would like to swallow a bottle of pills and just go to sleep forever. I'm tired. Tired of the constant ups and downs. I want to get off the roller coaster.

Today - thank God - I'll be seeing my counselor, a Christian. Finally someone who I can talk with about this. Someone who's a Christian.