Faith from the Edges

Faith and life from the perspective of me.

New Normal


This is me this afternoon after having had a crazy busy last few days. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the busyness but for some reason my body just doesn’t. Over the last few months I’ve realised that I am settling into a ‘new normal’. This is my new normal after cancer.

When I was in cancer treatment & after I saw a therapist regularly. I highly recommend that if you are going through treatment that you find someone professional to talk to. My therapist told me that I would know when I was moving into my new normal. By that she meant I would be through the processing of all that had happened to me. Not surprisingly she was right. I’m not angry anymore or in the immediate grief or surprised. I’m okay with what happened. I’m grateful it got caught so quickly. I am learning to live with the after effects.

My new normal looks like this: my energy levels are lower, my feet will always be effected by peripheral neuropathy, I will have to take more medications to deal with that, I will be considered a cancer patient for another 4 years, and I can never walk barefoot again. So my new normal.

It isn’t what I had hoped but it is what I have. Here’s the good news, I’m alive! I have family & friends who are always there for me. My new normal isn’t what I had before diagnosis but it is still a gift. It is a gift to be alive & to continue with the work I have been called by the church to do.

Here’s what I know. I have to take rest days. I can’t function without them. I have to not beat myself up about not getting done everything that I used to get done. I’m still loved, I still do much of what I love, I am on the way to being healthy. The new normal isn’t that bad.

I’m sure this isn’t the last transition I will ever have to go through. I, also, haven’t done this alone for which I’m most grateful. For now I will live with my new normal and look forward to the time when it is just my normal. By then I won’t even remember that it wasn’t my normal at all.

Anyone else got a new normal?

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A River of Women

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River of Women

River of Women

I stand still and watch the colours wave around me

I remember my mother and my grandmothers

I think about my daughters and my nieces

I hold hands with my sister and sisters of my heart

I am in the river of women

This river which holds our blood, our tears

This river of our hopes, our dreams

I move with the colours that swirl around me

I look back and give thanks to the women who walked before me

I am in the river of women

I am surrounded by the colours of grief, the colours of love

I am filled with the songs of women and the cries of women

I am in  a river of persistence and resistance

This river flows over me, around me, beneath me and through me

I am in the river of women

I hear the voices of all the different women who I have crossed paths with

I hear the women who have been abused, catcalled, murdered just because they are women

I drop to my knees on Mother Earth and let my tears fall

My tears join others in the river of women

I am in the river of women

I am lifted up by the river of women

I remember that being a woman is to be strong, to carry pain, to give birth to new things

I look to the future and see women from there beckoning to me

I see the strong women, the Indigenous women, the women of colour hold me up

I am in the river of women

I hear the prayers of women that feed the river

I am upheld by those prayers of hope, love, persistence and resistance

I add my prayer for justice to feed the river of women

I let the river flow through me and set me on my path

I am the river of women

P.S. These are my reflections for this International Women’s Day and some art work I did while reflecting. Grateful for this day that allowed those creative parts of me to merge.

Oh my goodness, it’s time for Lent!!

Here it is Shrove Tuesday and that means, yep Lent is right around the corner! Last year I kept Lent fairly simple as I will still in recovery mode from cancer treatment. This year it seems a plan has developed by listening to the Spirit. Tools have appeared that I am hoping will be life giving and deepen my walk with Jesus through the 40 days that are coming.

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My guides for Lent

Here are my tools – Diana Butler Bass’ book Grounded, Richard Wagameese’s book Embers, and my drawing pad and water colour pencils. Each day through Lent I am going to pick up one of these. I will read and delve deeper into my spiritual life. I will pray and let the Spirit guide me as she does. I will draw and let my creativity flow in a different way than it usually does. Each day I will do one of these, I am not going to try to do all three on top of what I regularly do – that would be a bit much to say the least.

The dear one and I have a routine of saying Morning Prayer which I know will feed my thoughts and reflections during this time as well. We also reduce the amount of meat that we eat and of course there is extra stuff at church that we will be participating in. My hope, my prayer is that all of this together will lead to a holy Lent for me and for those around me.

I’d love to hear if you have any plans for Lent and what they are? Are you giving up something? Are you taking on something? Are you engaging with something new to see God’s presence in your life differently?

May you have a good and holy Lent. May you take the forty days as a way to renew your spiritual life. May you see Jesus walking with you each and every day.

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Chronic Pain is not my Friend

As most of you know dear readers I live with a chronic condition – rheumatoid arthritis – I also have bursitis in my right hip. Neither of these conditions are visible so that makes them part of the invisible illnesses that many of us live with every day. This past winter has not been great for me. We have had a lot of humid days and  not enough cold, cold days. This has meant that the inflammation in my joints has been at times overwhelming and present All The Time!

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Inflamed joints – thank you RA

This picture is one I sent my best friend and my sister a while ago. My hands were so painful that I was in tears much of that day – therefore the title of this blog. The only thing I can do when this happens is to stop, take some extra pain medications (on top of the other medication I already take) and rest. Which is what I did.

I also live with peripheral neuropathy which was caused by the chemotherapy drugs for my cancer. Not everyone who has chemo has this side effect but I do. It means that my feet have constant numbness. tingling and sometimes excruciating pain. It’s hard not feeling parts of your feet and getting used to always having some kind of shoe on because you can’t feel where your toes are. Again an invisible condition and one that I am learning to cope with.

Here’s what’s been happening lately. I am dealing with a feedback loop of pain between my RA flares and the neuropathy in my feet – which means that sometimes I can barely stand up on my feet and the numbness and tingling begin to go up my legs. Chronic pain is not my friend and it is definitely not the dear one’s friend as he has to pick up the slack of what I can’t do during these times.

Now you may be asking why I am sharing all of this with you. I mean really does anyone else need to know? Obviously I think the answer is yes, but I know others may not. Here are my reasons:

  1. When I am in pain it becomes very difficult for me to engage with anyone in a good way – whether it is on social media or in real life. I am grumpy and can barely focus on what others are saying to me or asking me to do. So when I get quiet on social media this is why.
  2. This affects my mental and emotional health – it is hard to stay sunny & energetic when you just want to curl up with a warm blanket and your cat – it is hard to get past the pain. Mostly I do but often I don’t. There is a clear connection between my pain levels and my mental and emotional health.
  3. Resting because of bad pain days does not mean I am lazy it means that I am taking care of myself. I am saying that here because we all have that voice in our heads that says things like that and I am learning to give myself permission to just stop and take care of me. If I don’t take care of me I won’t have the energy to do the things I am really passionate about.
  4. So much of what those of us with chronic pain go through is invisible and unspoken. We don’t want to be seen as whining, not strong enough, not together enough. We want to be perceived as independent, strong, capable people and mostly we are, just sometimes we aren’t. I want to be able to ask for help when I need it without the added stigma of incorrect perceptions.

Here I am today, feeling mostly okay. The pain levels are at their most manageable and I have been able to get this blog post done. My commitment to myself is to give me a break and to also give others a break. We are all dealing with stuff and we are all, mostly, doing the best that we can.

 

Mental Health – mine, yours, the other persons

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Let’s all be the light!

In the Christian church today we remember Candlemas – the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple. It is also the day when we here in the northern hemisphere recognize that we are half way between winter solstice and the spring equinox. Where I live you can definitely tell that the days are getting longer. I happen to love Candlemas and the coming of more light. It reminds me to be light whenever and wherever I can.

A year ago today the dear one went away on clergy retreat (it’s where he is at the moment as well). A week before he left I had just been diagnosed with depression as a result of having cancer – still dealing with that by the way – and I had just started my medication. For those of you who have dealt with that you will know that it takes at least  3 weeks to begin feeling the least bit better. We both thought when he left that I would be okay. Well I wasn’t. I was in tears, I was afraid, I was anxious (the twin sister to depression), I was not okay. I wouldn’t be seeing my therapist for another week and I was not okay.

It meant that on the second full day of his retreat, that I texted him and asked him to call me as soon as he could. We had agreed before he left that he would check his phone regularly to see how I was doing. He phoned me and I was in tears, so many tears, ugly tears, tears that just wouldn’t stop. He spoke to our bishop and the retreat leader and they prayed with him and sent him home. I look back at that episode and realize that I was the lowest emotionally I have ever been. I couldn’t take care of myself. The competent, independent, thoughtful, caring for others woman could not take care of herself. It was awful and I hope I never go back there again.

In my family, both immediate and extended, we talk a fair bit about mental health and how we are all doing. We have all been touched by someone who is struggling, who is on the road to recovery, who seems to be coping well. We have had honest conversations with each other about how we are doing. We have leaned on each other and continue to do so. I have friends who have had similar conversations with me about my mental health and about theirs. Mental health issues has touched everyone I know. It probably has touched you as well dear reader.

You may ask why the connection between Candlemas and mental health. The Feast of the Presentation is about an old faithful man named Simeon who took Jesus in his arms  when his family had brought him to the temple and said this:

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
    according to your word;
    for my eyes have seen your salvation,
     which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
    a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

As Anglicans many of us are familiar with that prayer being used during the service of Evening Prayer. It is about God’s light coming for the whole world, a light that cannot be overcome. I think of my mental health in this way, if I am not healthy emotionally, mentally, spiritually then I can’t be that God light for others. I am called to be that God light, you are called to be that God light and so is everyone that we know.

Today I am doing better, I am trying to get enough sleep, eat healthy and take the medication I need to help in that process. I have not so good days, but they are nothing compared to the dark days a year ago. I am thankful for that. I am thankful for the good care I have received from medical professionals, from my therapist, from family and friends, and most of all from the dear one. I am one of the lucky ones, I didn’t slip through any cracks and got the help I needed. My hope and prayer is that others can be taken care of in the same way.

Let’s all be the light for each other and when we can’t let others be that light for us. To that end here are some pictures I have taken recently that capture the light. Enjoy.

 

 

P.S. I promised way back at the beginning of the year, that I would try to do two posts a month, here’s hoping that this month is better than the last one.

Bye, Bye 2016! Hello 2017!

A lot can happen in a year as we all know. 2016 for me has been all about the recovery. Recovery from cancer treatment and then recovery from the depression caused by having cancer. Seeing my hair grow and finally being able to get it cut and then needing another cut and getting a colour! The two pictures above were essentially taken a year apart. I am so grateful to have made it through all the cancer rigamarole and to mostly be feeling more myself.

There has been much that was good about last year and I don’t want to forget that as we say farewell to this past year.

I am grateful for all the family time the dear one and I got in this year. Time with his folks, time with my folks, time with our adult lovelies, time to take an extra special holiday to the west coast with two nieces and a nephew. How much fun did we all have on our adventures each day! We celebrated his parents 60th wedding anniversary – have to admit that is a life goal of mine. We got almost three weeks with our younger daughter before she headed off on her big adventure overseas.

I am also grateful that this year has been a good one as far as my ministry within the church. I have met many fine folk in this diocese who are committed to the work of reconciliation between Indigenous and settler in Canada and in particular our part of Canada. They want to educate themselves, they want to build up relationships, they want the church to become part of that story. This work keeps me energized in so many important ways.

The dear one and I celebrated 30 years of marriage this year and that really is a high point for both of us. We have been through so much together – both good, bad, silly, humdrum, fantastic and boring. We still look at each other and are amazed by the others love and are ever so grateful.

Here’s the tough stuff. No one warns, or at least not in my hearing, cancer survivors of the high rate of depression following treatment. I mean, really, you don’t think that someone’s emotional and mental health are as important as their physical health. I have to say that throughout this I am extremely grateful to the dear one for supporting me through that and for my family doctor and my therapist – they both got me through the worst. So a shout out to all of you dealing with cancer and its treatment, make sure that you get the help you need to deal with the mental and emotional bits as well as the physical bits.

The rest of the tough stuff is the part of the world I have no control over. The state of politics in the world, the rise of racist, right wing ideologies that just freak me out! The state of our environment – if you are a climate change denier please do some honest to goodness research and let’s all work together to leave a better planet for future generations. The state of so many women’s lives – please hear this men, feminism is not out to destroy you, it’s out to make the world a better place for all of us. I honestly think we can all do better in this regard.

Here are some of my goals for 2017:

  1. To write here more often – it does me good to write and so I am going to commit to at least two posts a month. Oh my goodness, I just put that out there.
  2. To move more – generally this means walking for me, but I also need to get in the water more. I have to get over my ‘they will be looking at me’ fear and just move more.
  3. To drink different beers – so many good beers out there.
  4. To laugh as loudly and as often as I can.
  5. To support those dealing with cancer. It is those of us who have gone through it that can be the best supporters for those going through it.
  6. To pray each day – I know right, you’d think a Christian woman living out her faith would already do this- but you know I really need to dig down into this.
  7. Find a way to deal with my chronic pain that doesn’t spoil every bit of my life – those of you who live with chronic pain will know what I am talking about.
  8. Have more people over for meals, drinks, whatever and spread the hospitality around – it is good for me when I can do this.
  9. I am going to work hard at speaking my truth, standing up for justice, reminding others that reconciliation is necessary and possible, that a healthy environment is our gift to the future.
  10. To find beauty wherever I can – because my goodness this is a beautiful world and there are so many creative people out there, it won’t be hard to find – for me a big part of that will be found in my garden. Oh yes, I am already dreaming of spring.

Thanks dear readers for hanging in there with me. You have brought out the best in me and I appreciate that. Got any goals for 2017? I’d love to hear them. Going to leave you with some final thoughts from a hero of mine Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

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Happy New Year to one and all!!

 

 

My 2016 Advent Calendar

So here we go my whole Advent Calendar. I promised I would make it through the whole of Advent Word with a blog posting for each image and I did it. Thank you for reading and looking at my pictures. I am so blessed and grateful to have been able to do this for myself and for you my dear readers.

Merry Christmas to you all! Light some candles! Sing some songs! Eat lots of good food! Laugh loudly and often! Hug as many people as you can! Bless you all!

#AdventWord #Celebrate

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#AdventWord #Celebrate

There we go – we made it through Advent! Tonight there will be Christmas Eve worship and tomorrow morning will have worship as well and then as the dear one says ‘Let the feasting begin!’.

We have had some fresh snow here in central Alberta and I was thinking about today’s Advent word – celebrate. It struck me that I haven’t made a snow angel in years, so this morning I did. I came home from some errands and tasted the snow flakes on my tongue and then got down on my back and made a snow angel. I came inside with snowy jeans and felt wonderful! Such a little thing but it made me feel so good.

Here’s to celebrating the coming of God in the person of Jesus to this wonderful, sense filled world! I am going to enjoy each taste, each smell, each touch, each sight, each sound with as much delight as I can muster – for this is good news that God came into the world! Celebrate!

 

#AdventWord #Live

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#AdventWord #Live

I woke up this morning to find this beauty blooming in our kitchen nook! What a lovely Advent surprise. I love my houseplants but I especially love those that bloom.

Today’s Advent word is live – I looked at my plant and thought look how much it is living! It is just blooming, because it can and it is showing off its glorious colours, because it can. How wonderful is that. It is like a ray of deep sunset in my kitchen window and who doesn’t want some colour like that in this time of short days and long nights (at least here in the northern hemisphere). I am so grateful to have this bit of God’s creation living in my house.

To live into the incarnation is to live into God’s light and love. It is to live as full of colour and grace and joy as it is possible for you to live. To live like my blooming plant and just show off our God given gifts for the benefit of the rest of the world.

When I am happy about something I get a huge grin on my face and start bouncing up and down on my feet. The dear one loves it when I get like that. It means that things are going well in my world and therefore his world. I’d love to say that I live like that all the time, I don’t, but I am trying to hang onto those moments and remember them for other times.

Jesus said I came to give life and to give it abundantly. Here’s to more abundant, colourful, showy, gift filled life!

#AdventWord #Animate

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#AdventWord #Animate

Last night a small group of us gathered in the church that I go to. We gathered to recognize the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. We gathered to bring our longings and our griefs and place them before our loving God. We gathered to hear scripture and poetry. We gathered to pray.

Today’s Advent Word is animate and that is what we did, we animated our prayers, our griefs, our longings by writing them on stars and hanging them on the little Christmas tree. As I was sitting there thinking about what I wanted to write I was overwhelmed. I wrote on three stars – my cancer, my depression, how lonely I feel, living with constant pain and learning to manage it, how I am missing my children and won’t get to see them until early January – it all came pouring out of me. I left it there on the tree. I walked out of the church and felt lighter than I had in a long time.

To animate our hopes, prayers, longings, griefs – to write them out, to hang them on the tree, to hand them over to God – was life giving for me and I think it was for the others who were present last night. We can then make our lives full of God’s light and love and be ready to animate our faith with hope. My faith includes my struggles, my longings, my griefs as well as my hopes, my dreams, my loves, my joys. Thank you Advent for reminding me of all this.

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