Faith from the Edges

Faith and life from the perspective of me.

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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#AdventWord #Abide

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#AdventWord #Abide

I wake up in the dark at this time of the year – it can be rather gloomy and then we get a sunrise like the one that I captured today. It was amazing. Pinks and yellows streaking across the sky. I actually stepped outside in my pj’s to capture the moment. I stood there quite awestruck by the beauty and glory.

I realized I was abiding in the light of God and the love of God. It felt like such a moment of grace and truth.

I had a rough day yesterday – not surprising as my invisible, chronic illness, otherwise known as rheumatoid arthritis, has been acting up – so this morning’s sunrise was a lovely, gentle reminder that through everything I am held up in God’s love. That I need to remember that even when I am having a rough day. That sunrise has stayed with me all day and I have been aware of being held up and loved.

I am going to hold onto that as we walk into Christmas week and celebrate the coming of God’s incarnate love and light in the person of Jesus. I will abide.

#AdventWord #Prune

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#AdventWord #Prune

This is my favourite rose bush. It has beautiful red, double blooms on it. It blooms from June right through to the end of September. The rose is called Emily Carr from a series called the Canadian Artist. It is hardy for where we live, which is a great thing.

In the spring we will have to prune as this rose only blooms on new growth. For now we are letting it rest. You can tell from the picture that it is winter here in central Alberta. You prune when it is the right season for the plant.

We all need pruning from time to time. To take out the dead areas, the sick areas. those parts of our life that are not blooming the way they should. It’s hard being pruned. You don’t really want to let go of any part of yourself. The good news for me is that God prunes when we most need it, when it is the right season for us. We may not always see it that way to begin with, we may protest that the part of our life that is being pruned is really needed. It is only in hindsight that we see that we have become a better person because of that pruning.

For the moment I think I am in the resting stage, just like my lovely rose bush, resting and waiting. Those who know me well know that there has been a lot of pruning over the last few years. Mostly I’m thankful, some of it I am still trying to process. I am trusting that the pruning I have gone through will allow me to bloom in new and delightful ways.

#AdventWord #Simplify

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#AdventWord #Simplify

Yesterday and for a lot of days I did some cooking to get ready for Christmas. I lot of the cooking and baking I do is to give away as gifts for family and for friends. The picture above is of me stirring some maple fudge.

I started doing this a number of years ago as a way to simplify our gift giving. We have never had a lot of money but I have always loved to bake and cook for others, so I came up with the idea of making homemade goodies for family, friends and parish leaders. It has been and is a way of honouring the relationships and working with our budget.

By simplifying our gift giving we have been able to be generous to others without it costing a crazy amount of money – just my time, which has been fine with me. I think of this gift giving as counter-cultural because it goes against the spend, spend, spend philosophy that is behind much of gift giving.

Simplifying is to make room for other things. Things like prayer, generosity, time. Each Advent I work on that. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Here’s to more of the simple gifts in life.

#AdventWord #Open

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#AdventWord #Open

Yesterday like many Anglican parishes the church I go to had its annual Lessons & Carols service with the Christmas Nativity told by the children. As you can see from the above picture the children needed a little help from their parents/grandparents. Because of that we all became a little more open to hearing the Christmas story.

We all need help from time to time and we especially need help to dig into what it means for God to become incarnate through Jesus. We need to open our ears, our eyes, our hearts and our minds to get some sense of what this mystery is. The coming of God into the world, through Jesus, is a mystery. The biggest mystery of all. It is at the core of the faith that we call Christianity. It is what makes us who we are – we all become God’s children because God came to the world in the person of Jesus.

Here’s to becoming more open to this mystery, more open to the joy, more open to God’s love for each us. During this last week of Advent I will work at opening myself up to that mystery that is the Incarnation.

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