Faith from the Edges

Faith and life from the perspective of me.

Archive for the month “February, 2017”

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.

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