Friday, July 24, 2009

Down the road again

I need to write just a bit to let you know that tomorrow we are, once more, off on a trip. We truly are taking advantage of our motorhome this year and I'm finding it very good to have those breaks away. Used to be I'd be too lazy or simply not motivated enough to do all the work getting ready to go. But the last couple of trips were so good, so beneficial to my mental health, that I look forward to it more and more. And it's good to have those times with my husband. The only thing that worries me now is what am I going to do when the summer is gone? I'm so enjoying the good weather and the opportunities to get outdoors.

I look forward to the time this holiday will give me to read. Perhaps I'll even be moved to do some writing. I'll also bring my camera and sketchbook. Isn't that what heaven should be all about? The opportunity to learn from the thoughts of others. The opportunity to be creative, to use the gifts God has given me. These are things I need to make sure I always make time for, even when I'm not on holidays.

There used to be a time when I wondered what possible use there could be in doing artwork. Wouldn't my time be better spent doing God's work? Doing "useful" things? But I'm learning that God made us to be creative people. He had good reasons for this.

I'm starting to look on the creative work I do as a form of worship. What better way to worship than to lie on the ground, focusing your camera on a little wildflower, admiring its beauty, wanting to share that beauty with others? What better way to worship than to watch a baby's every expression as you spend time photographing her?

Earlier this week I photographed a toddler. I didn't do as well as I'd like, but the experience of spending time with this little girl, fully attentive to her, was wonderful. I will have some more wonderful times making the prints.

So early tomorrow morning we'll be off again, for ten days this time. See you all when I get back. Hope that you too will find the time to do the things you best love to do.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A butterfly visits

I think I'd better write this story before I go to Curves. I've been meaning to tell you about this for days now, but first I wanted to make sure enough people had a chance to read my previous post. After that I always found some things I considered more important to do. However, it will give me such pleasure to share this with you. Mustn't wait any longer.

On our last holiday with the motorhome we stayed at a lake in an out of the way place, 26 kilometers away from a major road. Very few people live there and only the occasional car or logging truck passed on the gravel road. There was only one other party camped at the lake and they were at the far end of the campground. We didn't even get to meet them.

One afternoon, while my husband was out on the lake in his boat, catching his many fish (it's a very good lake for that), I was sitting in my comfy chair reading a fluff book. (A "fluff book" is what my friend calls a book that entertains but does nothing much else for you.)

The air was clean and warm with enough of a breeze to keep the mosquitoes away. Not too warm either, just comfortable. I listened to the sound of the many birds in the trees and bushes around me. I felt at one with nature. I felt God's presence.

At one point I looked down at my left hand as it held the book and, at the base of my thumb, noticed a tiny, pale blue butterfly with dotted wings. I sat very still and it stayed there for a bit. Then it moved to my forearm. Then to the front of my Tshirt. Finally, after this little visit it flew away. I was delighted, even more feeling united with nature, united with God.

My husband doesn't believe in God and he cynically said, "Do you believe God told that butterfly to come to you?" But no, that's not it at all. It's just that I sensed God's presence in it and the rest of all nature that surrounded me that day. God was in the trees and in the birds and in the breeze. He was in the warm sunshine. He was in the butterfly. And I became part of all that. God was in me too.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Quiet time with God

For some reason I've come to love the outdoors more than I ever have before. I was always an indoorsy kind of person. But this year, with the good weather here, I've started sitting on our patio early every morning, even before I get dressed. Our patio is like an outdoor living room. We're so fortunate to have it. And here I sit for a couple of hours, starting around 6 am (sometimes even earlier), with my coffee, journal, and Bible.

I listen to the many different birds, chirping and calling around me. I enjoy the flowers. I feel the freshness of the air - maybe a slight breeze. And I thank God for it all. And in that quiet I sense God with me in a very real way.

So many times, in my small group, I've expressed a desire to feel God's presence. I've struggled often with it. Now I've found that sitting quietly in the midst of nature, fully aware, helps me to feel God's presence. I feel at peace.

I write a bit in my journal, read a few verses in my Bible, and I talk to God about whatever comes into my head at the time, both in words that I speak in my head or write in my journal.

Because I start my quiet time so early, I don't need to concern myself with what I need to get busy with. My stomach will tell me when it's time to have breakfast and get the rest of the day moving. No need to worry my mind over the day.

Each morning is like a little holiday. Each morning is time away from my worries. Each morning is time with God. It refreshes and prepares me for the day.

I was going to tell you about a little blue butterfly that came to visit me, but got side-tracked. That will have to wait. It's a delightful story, so I hope you'll come back to "hear" it.

Praying that you will find peaceful times too.

Thursday, July 09, 2009


Yesterday morning I was reminded of the fact that I will never be a completely stable person. I thought God had answered my prayers and the prayers of my friends, bringing me to a return of joy and - I thought - stability. However, I've discovered that the great joy I was feeling was actually a bit higher than I should be. I started organizing all kinds of social functions - four within five days. Looking at my calendar, I realized I was going overboard - not very stable at all.

I called my pdoc and he has adjusted my medication: less prozac and more loxapine - quite a bit more loxapine. The need for this saddened me. I felt frustrated, knowing that - once more - my feelings, those very good feelings, were not a normal thing. Frustrated that the wonderful joyful feeling wasn't anything to be too happy about.

Yet today, sitting on my patio in the early morning, God helped me see that none of us are really stable. What I should have prayed for was a stable "place" - "a firm place" - to be. I should have asked for God's strength to be with me - God, the bedrock underneath my feet.

And I do have that strength today. I feel motivated. Today those giddy feelings of my heart dancing within me are somewhat subdued. So thankful for that, even though it had felt good. Yet it's kind of hard to accomplish things when you're so drunk with joy as well.

One thing that this dramatic mood change has given me is a deeper appreciation for God's power. If I were always stable and comfortable wouldn't I end up taking God for granted? I now realize the only person who is truly stable is God Himself. He's the only constant one. If I trust Him, He will give me what I need to do the work He has for me to do.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Sheer happiness

Wow! Over the past little while I have found out what happiness truly feels like. I've been removed from that feeling for so long that and I've become so unfamiliar with it that I actually feel kind of high, though my friends say I'm acting quite normal - just the happy Marja they haven't seen for a long time.

Looking back over the past 8 months or perhaps longer - perhaps much longer - I can see that I've been depressed, even though at times I thought I was doing alright. I wasn't doing alright. I had forgotten what it was to be truly happy.

Truth of it is that my husband had to help me with many things that I should have been quite capable of doing on my own. I've needed him so much - with cooking, shopping, cleaning, paying bills. For a long time I've been avoiding shopping, buying only as few things as I could get away with. No big shopping lists for me. Though the motivation only completely disappeared during the times I was extremely low, which happened a lot, I was very often only moderately motivated. And at those times I thought I was doing quite well. I was coping.

But things could have been much worse. I was able to keep my commitments. Living Room continued, though I had to lean on others to do the devotionals a few times. I was able to keep supporting people, though there was one time when someone asked me to pray with her and I had to tell her I couldn't. I was having too hard a time myself.

I'm grateful that God brought me through as well as he did. I'm grateful I have a ministry that is of utmost importance to me, one that gives me a purpose to live for. I'm grateful that I was able to keep clinging to God, even though I didn't always trust him as much as I should. Grateful for my husband and friends who supported me. Yes, things could have been much worse.

Today I know what joy feels like. I'm energetic, motivated. Eager to continue the work God gave me to do.

With other people in place to carry on the responsibilies of my group, I'll have time to spend the next while doing some of the broader Living Room work. Work on the manuals, the website, and - hopefully - some more writing.

I thank God for where he's brought me. God IS good.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Is this the "normal" me?

First of all I'd like to thank Susan, Paula and Tart for your best wishes while I went on a little holiday. Didn't get them until I got back, but it was nice to come home to that, knowing you were thinking of me.

I want to write about how much better I'm feeling, but think it would be best if I simply copy here an email I sent to some friends letting them know:

"Helen, shortly before we left on our holiday I wrote this to you: "Helen, I don't know what's normal for me anymore. I've been abnormal for so long that I can't figure out who I'm supposed to be."

Wes and I had a wonderful time away. A good time together. It has been a long time since I've felt as good as I have lately. This started in the days before our trip (when I wrote the above) and was especially so while we were in the Chilcotin. I woke up each morning with the old familiar feeling of joy and gratitude for my life. I feel so much more alive than I have for a long time. I feel motivated and strong. And I know this is the work of God in me, the result of a lot of prayer. I want to thank you so very much for your prayers. It's amazing how God works.

When I woke up each morning with my heart dancing within me I suspected I might be getting manic. I asked Wes how I seemed to him but he told me that I've simply become the old Marja again - enthusiastic and very alive. So this is who I'm really supposed to be? So this is what's normal? If that's so, that person has been "lost" for a very long time. But neat how God helped me not to suffer too too much. I was able to function most of the time - though not as well as I should have - but I also went into the depths many times.

Several weeks ago I wondered how I would be different once I emerge from these episodes. Because you can't go through this stuff without changing somehow. I've always found it that way. That's why - after it's all over - I never regret having gone through it. When you're in the pit you can't think of anything except that you want to die. Yet I DO come out of it and God refines me through the experience. I do believe God has a purpose for all I go through. Today I'm so much better equipped to help people like S.... I so know the feeling of riding a roller coaster, helpless to make it stop. That feeling of hopelessness. Hard as it is, I need these experiences now and then if I'm to do the work God has given me to do. I only hope he'll give me a rest from them for a while now. I need to have a chance to work. I need to be capable of strength for awhile.

While we were away I read about David's life in 1st and 2nd Samuel and I read the Psalms (esp meditated a lot on Psalm 18:20-24 in the Message). And I prayed that I could be like David - to have that kind of courage and fearless trust in God. It's something I'm working on."

Boy, do I ever need to visit all your blogs and catch up to how you're doing. I'm so sorry that I haven't been feeling up to it. I haven't been able to put too much in my life lately. Hope I will do better now.