Monday, May 28, 2018

New Beginnings

I am sitting here in my too-tight shorts, damp with sweat, in my messy bedroom, thinking back to a svelte, enthusiastic me and wondering how I can lose some of the weight while regaining the passion. I haven't written here in forever, perhaps a symptom of the lack of enthusiasm, and I was just looking over some unpublished entries that I will likely never post. Life continues to go on, and I've been working the night shift part-time as a nurse for over a year now. I am planning on moving out of my parent's house in July and living with a roommate in the main floor of a house not far away. I still have to sign the lease, and I worry about all the expenses of independent living. I've applied for another line which would be six additional shifts a month and would mean leaving the night shift behind while taking on a lot more responsibility. 

So in a best case scenario, I love independent living, making my own dinners and keeping a tidy house, I get more shifts at work and love the challenge and additional income, I become disciplined in my eating habits and get regular exercise, watching the pounds melt away. Meanwhile I expand my social life and become involved in some volunteering or hobbies. I get along well with my room-mate and make new friends.

I won't get into too much of a worst case scenario in which I find independent living unaffordable and isolating, and my eating habits only worsen while I live in squalor and discord. I definitely will miss the perks and benefits of living with my parents, but I can't do so forever.

New beginnings can be hopeful, but they can also be scary. No stage in your life can last forever, and eventually you have to face up to all the responsibilities of adulthood and take ownership of your life. At thirty seven years old, I need to embrace my independence and step forward into a new phase of life.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Passage of Time

Since my last post, I have two new nieces, Amanda Grace, fifth child of my oldest sister, and Casey Michelle, first child of my third youngest sister, I've started a new part-time nursing job working nights at a retirement community, after spending some weeks working at a greenhouse, and I've lost more than fifteen pounds. By the end of this summer, my brother will be married, my Dad will turn sixty-five and be one year from retirement, and I will be thirty-seven years old. Needless to say, time is passing by, mostly undocumented on this blog.

Overall I'm doing better than a year ago, and much better than two years ago. I still need to find a little more purpose to my days, but at least I am working and working in my field. Also my mental health has seen a big improvement.

I've never really had a five year plan or ten year plan for my life, but I'm not at the place I might have expected five years ago or a decade ago. Eleven years ago, I aspired to be a professor in the field of biblical studies. Five years ago, I was a novice nurse. Dreams for my life would have included getting married and having children, maybe owning a home, and having a full-time successful career.

When I was twenty-nine, I made a list of thirty things to do before I turned thirty which I posted on this blog here. Some of these things I have accomplished or made some progress in, but other ones I still haven't done all these years later. I have yet to take a pottery class, join a book club, travel to a foreign country other than the US, perform ten consecutive push-ups successfully, go on an overnight canoe trip, play even a single tennis game, and I've never even attempted a lemon meringue pie. Making these goals was a fun exercise and it did encourage me towards completing some of them.

I'm wondering if I should make a formal five year and ten year plan with concrete goals to work towards. Life is unpredictable, especially when dealing with a mental illness, but if I don't make any plans or goals, it might just pass me by.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Nope, Just Fat

In July of 2014, I began following the Trim Healthy Mama plan after being introduced to it by my sister. By December of that year I had lost twenty-five pounds and I continued to lose weight in the early months of 2015. I was very disciplined in my eating, cutting out sugar, and alternating consuming meals with higher fat and low carbs with eating meals with more carbs and low fat according to the principles set forth by sisters and THM founders Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison, leaving at least three hours between meals and ensuring each meal had sufficient protein. While it wasn't the first time I lost a significant amount of weight, it was the first time my weight loss was unconnected to a change in medication.

I stopped following THM when I landed in the hospital in April of 2015 and apart from a brief period in the fall of 2015, I haven't followed it since that time. My gradual weight gain was at first unalarming, but it continually crept up. I am now thirty pounds above my ideal weight and I know I am eating way too many treats and unhealthy foods and not exercising enough. My clothes are tight or no longer fit at all and my waist-line is bulging. Each month I seem to add another three or four pounds.

Recently I resolved to cut out sugar again as much as possible for the four weeks of November, but this resolution did not survive long and I soon was eating my Mom's home made chocolate chip cookies without restraint.

This past week someone at my volunteer job asked me if I was expecting a baby, concerned that I should not be carrying too much in my supposed pregnant state.

Today after stepping on the scale and seeing yet another two pound gain, I decided that I could not continue in this manner. While I have not decided to return to THM as yet, I do need to again have some restraint in the way I am eating. Too often I eat because of boredom or because something tastes good and I just want more of it. So I am going to discipline myself to cut back on portions and stay away from sugary foods and late night snacking. I am also going to go on more walks, at least five times a week.

Maybe instead of gaining another five pounds over the Christmas season, I will actually be able to have a modest weight loss. If these measures don't get any results, I just may reconsider trying Trim Healthy Mama again.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Chasing the Wind

I recently was challenged to write a mission statement for my life at a class I am taking on Wednesday evenings. There were several questions meant to stimulate thought about what is important in your life. As I answered them I realized that I am living a life with limited vision, disconnected from my values and that ways I once used to renew myself physically, mentally, and spiritually have fallen into disuse. My life has narrowed and become purposeless.

It is not simply that I have become unproductive without meaningful employment and engagement. It is also that I have failed to prioritize my friendships and relationships and become self-absorbed and unloving.  In my spiritual life my connection with God is at a low ebb and beliefs I once held so firmly lack conviction. I barely pray, no longer do personal devotions, and can't remember the last time I truly worshipped. I find myself mouthing the words to songs at church or not singing at all. 

I believe in the importance of compassion, but am wrapped up in myself and acts of kindness go undone. I value integrity, but I am not true to myself and what I once believed.

Do I love others in concrete ways each day? Do I live intentionally and with purpose? Am I a good friend and loving sister and daughter?

I realize a mission statement is something you want to work on and aim for, and may not reflect the realities of your present life, but I can barely articulate let alone live out my vision and values. For someone who used to consider the lilies and once wrote so passionately about my beliefs, it is a wake up call to rediscover my sense of purpose and reignite my passion. For some reason, I can't envision this awakening happening without a renewal in my relationship with God. Life seems utterly meaningless and directionless without him.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Linda and Mike's Wedding

Linda and Mike thanking their guests
The father/daughter dance
The beautiful bride and handsome groom
Christina the bridesmaid and Mom
Me before the reception began
John and lovely Camille
Rachel the bridesmaid and Mom looking gorgeous

Linda and Mike's wedding on January 2nd was a wonderful occasion to celebrate with a special couple. It was a smaller wedding at a beautiful venue in Peterborough. After a brief ceremony, with a small wedding party, which included a young ring bearer and two adorable flower girls, there were appetizers served before the three course dinner at 5:30 pm. The bride's brother was the Master of Ceremonies and he kept the evening moving well with speeches and games and even a poem he had written for the occasion. The bride was absolutely stunning in her lovely gown and shared many kisses with the handsome groom throughout the dinner. Instead of clinking glasses, guests had to perform a specific task. The couple turned a stellar performance at the shoe game, clearly very self-aware. After dinner there was a dance, begun by the bride and groom and continued into the evening by many of the guests. Instead of cake, the bride had chosen to serve gourmet butter tarts which were relished by those guests who weren't already over-stuffed by the rich fare. The wedding favours were small maple-leafed shaped bottles of maple syrup.  It was a lovely way to begin a New Year, surrounded by family and friends and celebrating a beautiful couple and their love.

Christina and George
Julie the veteran flower girl with the two bridesmaids and mother of the bride.

George, Christina, Camille, John and I

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top Ten Blessings of 2015

Although 2015 has been a tough year, I think as the year draws to close, it would be good to focus on the blessings and joys. So here are the top ten highlights of the year.

1. My two jobs as a home care nurse and foot care nurse gave me meaningful work and satisfaction. Although I haven't been working full-time since April and I decided not to continue with the foot care position in November, it was a blessing to have work, and I grew in confidence through these positions. I am hoping to get back in to the swing of things this winter and work my way back up to full-time work.
2. The church I attend has been a source of encouragement and love. The people there have prayed for me and showed caring in countless ways.
3. Immanuel prayer has been a major blessing, especially during these last months of illness and recovery. My pastor met with me many times this spring, summer, and fall and helped me heal and grow. There have been others who have coached and mentored me as well.
4. My family has given me such support and love throughout this time. My parents have prayed for me and been there for me. My siblings have shown caring and shared fun times together.
5. My friends have been so supportive, loving and encouraging. I have enjoyed hanging out with them and they have understood when I haven't been myself. They are truly a blessing in my life.
6. The Bible study I attended starting this past August at People's church has been a source of encouragement, support and edification. The ladies there have been beautiful examples of Christ's love in action and sharing times of worship together has been wonderful. The study on Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World has also challenged me and helped me grow. Winning the door prize the first night was pretty sweet.
7. The clinic I attend has been amazingly supportive and beneficial to my recovery. My doctor is one of the best and my nurse is also very good. The social worker and others at the clinic have also helped me immensely.
8. This summer and fall there were many trips and fun times. Spending time with Aunt Marnie on a road trip, celebrating my brother's birthday with him, enjoying time at a cottage near Peterborough, visiting family in Montreal and Ottawa, and visiting my older sister and her family at Cochrane, Alberta have all been delightful. I also enjoyed volunteering for a few weeks for a local candidate this election.
9. The blessing that my future brother-in-law has been to me, my sister and our whole family is an answer to prayer. He has helped her make tough choices and supported her through them. His love for her is very evident and I look forward to celebrating their wedding with them on January 2nd. It has been wonderful to have the whole family together this Christmas.
10. The faithfulness of God and his unconditional love have been very present in the past year. He has given me hope and strength to face tough stuff. He has protected and guided me, and brought me healing and restoration.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Joy

"Behold I bring you tidings of great joy, which will be for all the people. For today in the city of David is born to you a Saviour who is Christ the Lord." So the angels spoke to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus. As I celebrate Christmas, with all its trappings of gifts, large quantities of food, and family togetherness, I want to pause and reflect on the birth of my Saviour and Lord, the Word who was made flesh and came to dwell among us. This birth of the Son of God was a humble one, but it brought to our world peace and joy. Jesus was truly was love come down to live among us, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

That the God of the universe would humble Himself to take human form, that the Christ would become a servant of those who would later reject and scorn him, that He would empty himself so that we might be filled, that he would come to earth with the purpose of offering Himself as our perfect Passover Lamb, that is the wonder of Christmas. Let His love be born in our hearts today and let His peace saturate our spirits.

May we never forget that the babe who was born and announced by the angels to the shepherds is the same King now seated at the right hand of God. He is our Great High Priest, interceding for us. He is the Good Shepherd who lay down his life for the sheep. He is the Firstborn of all Creation and the Bright and Morning Star. He brings us light and life, salvation and deliverance, freedom and the Father's love.

This Christmas may we be filled with inexpressible joy and experience the wonder and amazement that Mary and Joseph and the shepherds felt so many years ago. May we marvel at this extraordinary gift that came in such an ordinary form.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Ideal Match

I don't know if I believe there is just one soul-mate for every one, but some people just seem ideally suited for each other. I know relationships are a lot of work, but some couples make it look more like a delightful task than an onerous duty.

If I look at my parents, who have been married almost forty years, they just seem right for each other. They complement each other and treat one another with both respect and a deep love. My older sister and her husband, who got married fifteen years ago when they were in their early twenties, are a model of devotion and consideration four kids later. While they have gone through difficult seasons, they have weathered them and emerged stronger and more united. My second youngest sister has been married a year and a half to her husband and their marriage is an equal partnership where each one considers the needs of the other and respects the other's differences.

As for my sister who is getting married this January, I can see signs of mutual respect and love between her and her fiancee. They seem to click and complement each other in a beautiful way. They have built their relationship solidly on a foundation of love for God and caring for each other. 

I guess couples can grow together or grow apart. And when it is about how to serve the other person, rather than how the person can serve you, that's when relationships work.

As a single person, I don't think marriage is the answer to my life's fulfilment, but I aspire to a relationship such as my parents have. I want that partnership where we can work together for a common goal and vision. I desire that closeness and that deep affection. I want to believe that at the right time, it will happen. I have had to learn the hard way that just because you desperately want a relationship to work, doesn't mean it will. In the end, marriage is a gift, but singleness is also a gift and a season of freedom where you are not tied down by the needs of a partner or of children. It is a choice to enjoy the season you are in, and trust that God knows what is best for your life.

My parents at a Blue Jay game this past July 1st.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Devotional Junkie

Somehow things have gotten out of balance with my devotional life. It started with signing up for daily meditations to be emailed each day to my inbox. I now have five to eight each day plus three to five chapters of Bible readings sent to my email. Then I also signed up for a daily Bible reading plan from one of the apps on my phone. I already read Jesus Calling, My Utmost For His Highest every day and sometimes Jesus Lives and Jesus Today. Every week I read from Devotional Classics and another devotional called Ancient Christian Devotional. Depending on the day or week there might be more devotionals I dip into. Basically I am deluged with devotional readings.

With so many readings each day and week, my prayer life is somewhat limited and I can't internalize so many truths at once. I am left feeling spiritually dry and dissatisfied at the end of the day, as I realize despite everything I have read I haven't really connected to God or spent any time thinking about applying the truths I have read about. 

This week I was reading an excerpt from St John of the Cross and realized some of the seven capital sins he discusses may in actuality be part of my life. They are secret pride, spiritual greed, spiritual luxury, spiritual wrath, spiritual gluttony, spiritual envy, and spiritual sloth. It was quite eye-opening to see how things you may view as virtues, like diligence in devotional readings, when out of balance or done for the wrong reasons, can actually become a vice, or that you can actually be too spiritual, prideful in your own pious acts, or overly greedy for spiritual consolation, addicted to the feelings that more and more reading and religious activities give you. Maybe in all this activity, I am actually pleasing my own self and not walking in true obedience to God. Perhaps he wants me to humble myself, exercise simplicity and moderation, be content, at peace with him and where he has placed me, filled with joy instead of envy, strong in the power of his might rather than relying on my own strength.

I know something has to change so that I spend less time reading and more time praying, less time seeking consolation and more time seeking and enjoying God, less energy keeping up with what I think I have to do and more energy seeking God's will for my life. There is something to be said for moderation in all things and although Christ has already spoken to me about this lack of balance, I have not acted on it and decided how to scale back and simplify my routine. I think I seriously need to consider how best to spend time with God in a way that I hear from him, actually apply what I have heard, and simply soak up his love and grace and peace. I need to be devoted to God without being a devotional junkie.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Addicted to the Written Word

One of my favourite movies which I have seen countless times is "Ever After" in which there is a library scene in which Danielle, the Cinderella character, pronounces herself "addicted to the written word." One of the reasons I chose to be an English major is my love for reading and writing, although I have never read dense philosophical works such as "Utopia," which is Danielle's favourite book. There is something about holding a book in your hand or looking with proprietary pride at the collection of books in their own particular order on your shelf. I have loved books from a young age when my Mom would read to us books such as Dr. Seuss or Henry's Awful Mistake. My older sister belonged to a book club that would send her books in the mail. My Mom read us E.B. White and CS Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle, and JRR Tolkien. To this day, I can't read Lord of the Rings without hearing every song in her less than melodious voice.

I don't think I could get used to a world without books. I hoard paper and have almost all my papers from university still and some from college. I even have a couple of projects from high school I have kept all these years. Lately I have more books to read than I have the concentration and focus to delve into.

I am a long time fan of fiction, especially historical fiction or classics both English and translations from world literature. But now I also enjoy non-fiction such as memoirs and inspirational stories, histories, and devotional works. 

I have kept many books I had in university although in the interest of space I have had to let go of some of them. This fall I was able to pass along some of my nursing texts to someone who was taking the same program, freeing up room on my shelf. This summer I got an Ikea shelf at a garage sale which attaches to the wall and holds my journal and cookbook collection as well as reference books and miscellaneous other books I have acquired over the years. As an English major I would spend Christmas break and summer breaks reading my book list. One of my professors counselled us to read every book twice, because there were things that only became clear in the second reading. I admit I never managed to follow this advice.

Saying goodbye to a book, even if I know I will never desire to read it again is a traumatic event. Books are like old friends. I still remember with fondness my maternal grandparents' book collection and how they would take us to the used book store every spring. My grandpa would allow each grandchild to select five books and that's where I got my copy of Gone With the Wind and Little Women. When my grandparents passed away I didn't take as many of their books as I would have liked to have in my possession. My Mom continues the family tradition by getting us discount books each Christmas. 

My favourite book in the world is the Bible which I have loved ever since I excelled at answering questions in the back of our Bible story book at age five. I still remember my kindergarten teacher telling us Bible stories in her own words while we sat together on the carpet. As I child I used to correct Sunday school and Bible teachers when they got a fact slightly wrong.  I have a number of study Bibles and several different versions. I even have a Greek New Testament. I love the stories, tracing the history of redemption, and the cadences of the language particularly in the New International Version. There is something about reading the Psalms, or a chapter from Job or Ecclesiastes, or a particularly beautiful passage in the prophets that is a special experience that you can't find in any other book. The New Testament is full of both stories about Jesus and the early church and the teachings of Jesus and the apostles that contain truths I want to internalise. Also the fact that the Bible is God's word by human authorship adds value beyond good literature. From my years of hearing the Bible read there are quite a few passages I know by heart. It is one thing to know the Scriptures though and quite another to live them. It is sometimes a long distance from the head to the heart, and then there is putting into practice what you have learnt.

I have a dream of writing a book myself some day. I would want it to be a wise book and something that could help other people. I have read and now own a book on the healing power of writing your story which also has writing exercises in it, so maybe I will start to do a little bit at a time. Even if I never got it published I think it would be a worthwhile project that would help me on my healing journey.

Fair Weather Report

I have been enjoying a couple of days with a friend who came to visit from Toronto. While she was here I got the call that I will have three training shifts this week, so I am pretty excited about that and a little nervous as well. Today I will drive my friend to her parent's place in Brantford where she will be visiting for the holidays and then Wednesday it is back to work!

After so many months being off work, it will be a good feeling to be a nurse again and help my clients with their health concerns and daily routines. I hope I will get into a healthy rhythm of work, rest, leisure, study, exercise, and devotional time. I have had the luxury of so much time to myself which I could fill with long walks, Bible studies, times of prayer, and lots of blogging. Now I will have to budget my time a little more and prioritize the things I want to do.

This has been a very strange December weather-wise. Instead of snow we have got rain and fairly unseasonable temperatures. I don't think we will have any snow this Christmas, but I am really looking forward to the whole family being together. Tomorrow we are decorating the tree we cut last week and my sister from Montreal will be here. 

I am feeling very blessed and have a lot to look forward to in the next few weeks. I better get going though as my friend had been napping and now is awake. It doesn't do to ignore your company!