Friday, November 30, 2018

Breaking the Pattern

Sometimes relationships are tricky things. You think you are helping someone and you are actually enabling them. Or you rely on someone overly much, when you should be relying on yourself, or yourself and God.

Sometimes the loving thing to do is to let the person you love make their own mistakes and learn from them themselves. Other times, if they ask, you can offer your advice for what it is worth.

At no time should you ever try to be their personal Holy Spirit. You can't guide them to a safe haven. You can't micromanage their lives. You can only pray for them, not manipulative prayers, but prayers for their well being and safety and wholeness.

In the end, God is God for a reason. He can see the whole picture from beginning to the end. He knows the hidden motives of the heart. He can be trusted with your loved one, if you leave him or her in His hands.

It is a good thing we are finite and human. We sometimes make poor decisions ourselves and are not qualified to be divine. We can participate in the divine nature, but that is by becoming like Christ and is a process that takes discipline and perseverance. We never arrive, but are always journeying or sojourning, as strangers in a strange land.

I know enough about emotions and persuasive words to be a master manipulator. I can be disarming and charming, but I must choose not to use my powers to control others. I must break the pattern in old relationships and not fall into it with new ones. I must accept people as they are and recognize it is not my role to alter them one iota.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Liberty Principles

"Where the Spirit of the LORD is there is freedom." It is both a Scripture passage and a part of a song I once knew. Understanding this principle takes some work.

How can I be free by following a bunch of rules from thousands of years ago? Actually following the Holy Spirit is more like free-styling than following a list of dos and don'ts.

I used to make a lot of rules for myself to follow, but that is dead religion and not the pathway to Life. In the past, I have tried to punish spontaneity in others. I have insisted on my own way, which was supposedly sanctioned by God.

I was closer to being a Pharisee, than a follower of Jesus. That's how you grieve the Spirit of God and hurt the Son of God and try the patience of our Father in Heaven.

Wisdom comes by asking God for it. He does discipline, but it is for our good. He is LOVE; he grants us grace moment by moment and he promises never to leave us or forsake us. He will not leave us as orphans. Even if our parents forsake us, He will not.

No weapon honed whether in the fires of hell or in the workshop of the world, will be any match for the Sword of the Spirit. We are called to Battle, but it is a battle for our minds and hearts. What will we think about? Who will we give our fears to? Do we desire freedom enough to endure pain for a season?

He whom the Son sets free is free indeed. Following the Holy Spirit will lead us sometimes through the Valley of the Shadow, but other times to breathtaking vistas. He will never lead us where we are not willing to go, but we might end up circling the same mountain for ten to twenty years if we are as stubborn as I was.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


These last few weeks, as I have adjusted to living on my own, and learnt how to take care of myself, while in a dating relationship, have been full of joys and triumphs as well as trepidation and insecurity.

Mostly I am glad to be alive and I feel excitement to grow and stretch in ways I haven't before. For a relationship that began as a friendship and progressed into a getting to know you phase, it has proceeded slowly and with caution.

In the meantime, I am drawing closer in my relationship to God, and being blessed by Christian friends, family, and the Bible studies I attend on Tuesdays and sometimes on Fridays at the hospital. I also am reading a book called "Blessing Your Spirit" by Sylvia Gunther and Arthur Burk. I am on day 15 of a forty day journey, and so far it has been amazing.

Today there was an opportunity for testimonies, so I gave one that was short and succinct. I was surrounded by love and support and hugs. Next week is our Christmas potluck/ jewelry sale. I will miss the Bible study during the Christmas hiatus.

I spent the afternoon with my boyfriend. It was a fun, low-key time. We went to the library and then we watched a movie and he cooked dinner which was delicious.

He's meeting my family soon and I'm meeting his. It is a little anxiety-inducing, but I think it will be okay. Being vulnerable is difficult, but you have to open yourself up to receive love.

I believe in the promises of God for a good future and a hope, and I receive grace, love, and peace. My joy is fathomless, my love is strong and the river of peace is wide and I'm just knee deep.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Maxed out

As Christmas season approaches, I find myself ready to bring on the holiday magic and sparkle. I've bought all my gifts, I have vowed to buy no more, and I know my mother will hold me to that vow.

I want to be generous this year, but none of my friends are materialistic and if I want to give them something, I can bake them some brownies or send them a card. I've been spending money at an alarming rate, so it is time to retrench, and stop eating out so much.

I don't want to live in a spirit of poverty and lack, but neither do I want to become a prodigal daughter. "Give me neither poverty nor riches, but only my daily bread."

The Father knows all my needs whether emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual, sexual (that's a tricky one, but every one is a sexual being), and he will meet those needs according to his riches in glory.

I want to bless others this Christmas. My church is doing a gift drive for single mother's, but if I don't live within my own means, I won't have anything to give them.

In the New Year, I'll be able to return to work, if only on modified duties. I can feel productive again, but this month is an important time in my life. A time of resting, reflection, thankfulness, and connection. A time to grow in love, joy, and peace. A time to wait, help others as I can, recognize the pure and lovely, develop in new ways, and put a tight rein on my tongue and my charge card.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Fine Detail

If there is any physical feature of myself I am most proud of, it is my hair. I might be discontented about my midriff pudge and pot belly and my love handles, meaty thighs or large backside, but I love my long, naturally blond and sun-highlighted hair. I also recently got it cut, and I appreciate the layers and thinning out the stylist did, and now that she cut off a good three and half inches, my hair is more manageable and so much lighter. It makes me feel prettier and more confident.

I have extremely thick hair I inherited from my maternal Grandmother. It requires a lot of conditioner to keep it from getting painful tangles. Over the course of my hospital stay, I was losing so much hair, and I'd have huge knots I'd have to wrestle with. Since my hair cut things have improved, but there is still one area I seem to undercondition.

The individual hairs are actually quite fine, but the volume of my hair never needs boosting. Some people assume I am a bottle blonde, but I just sometimes get highlights and lowlights, and I haven't done that in years.

"Are not two sparrow sold for a penny? And not one of them will fail to the ground without your Father's will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31 New American Standard Bible

This passage is an old, old lesson I keep on relearning. God is aware of every detail of my body, God knows every word I will say, God has determined the exact places I will live, he discerns where I am going to go out and where I will rest. God protects me as I drive in my car, he arranges the encounters I will have in any given day. He blesses me with mentors, fellow travellers, course adjusters, referees, friends, companions, and the ultimate Comforter. He answers prayers for wisdom, self-control, joy, and peace. He teaches me lessons about love, patience, kindness, goodness and gentleness, godliness and perseverance.

He answers prayers as insignificant as a parking place, or as important as relationship guidance. My mother has taught me that praying before you go shopping is a good exercise, as you seem to find the exact right thing you are looking for.

How astounding that our Father numbers the hairs on our head and that He cares so deeply about his children. Does it bother Him when I question whether my life is worthwhile and whether I will live up to my potential? When I fret about what to wear to a particular function, or what I can make for dinner, does He give a sigh of frustration like I am some wayward teenager?

I mostly think, God must smile to see me wrestling again and again with this issue, and maybe He cheers along the infinitesimal progress I've made over the years.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Blissful Beautitudes

Today is a day of rediscovering the depths of joy, percolating inside of me, of course-corrections and detours, and of love. It could have been a routine day, but it decidedly was not. There must have been Someone in the background, subtly adjusting the scenery, and laughing into his sleeve the whole time.

It was a little humorous, I suppose, but I'm more often a serious gal, deadly in earnest... I miss jokes and barely break into smile at others' attempts at humour. If I get it, and deem it funny I may at times break into gales of laughter, but you have to catch me at a good time.

I was with someone I like, well, I love him I suppose, but he's my friend first, and my boyfriend second. But being vulnerable enough to admit that my like for him, is deepening into love like a fine wine or malt whiskey and I know him only enough to know I want know him more, leaves me feeling afraid to face rejection or disappointment.

When I sit across the table from him, or hold his hand, my heart beats steadily but faster. I worry I am in over my head, but I try to trust the process, and I adjust the cadence of my footsteps to accommodate his pace. I'd follow him to the ends of the earth, but he's settled here, and my place is beside him.

He's a gift, but his presence is what I appreciate the most. He is the most kind-hearted man I have known, and his common sense and wisdom are stellar qualities. He's also handsome, strong, and hard-working... I could go on, but it would be repetitious and were he to read this, it might over-inflate his ego.... Not that he's proud. He frequently sells himself short.

I guess what I love about him is his moral compass steadily points North. He has his vices, and I have mine, but we mutually edify each other, as iron sharpens iron. And he understands my journey to wellness, because he's been there and witnessed it from September onward.

I was to pick him up for an appointment, but I got hopelessly lost and did exactly the wrong things to find his place. It was a series of Unfortunate Events, and I regretted my stupidity, but I made it safely everywhere and eventually we were reunited to share a lupper, which was delectable and enjoyable and utterly blissful.

Monday, November 19, 2018


My heart is full and it was a day of connection and reconnection and trying to bless people only to have it boomerang back to me. I don't think one person I tried to help was more blessed than I was.

My Father's heart is full of blessings, and he promised me the desires of my heart, when they are in line with his will. I went to give my Dad a coffee and some cake, but I was more blessed myself because I got to see Amy and wish her well before her little one arrives. I went to buy one specific product at Farm Boy and I ended up not buying it but getting some awesome produce and other healthy products that might help my digestive issues.

Last night I got an old rug hooking from my Opa he had made my younger sister and I claimed back some books. In putting them away I unlocked a treasure trove of books, and actually was able to find some to let go off or give away or save it for a daughter or a niece, and stow it away. In hiding my Christmas presents away from the craft sale my dear friend brought me to yesterday, I was able to reorganize my closet and almost all my nursing text books are up there, neatly stowed away.

In reorganizing my desk I was able to set up a work station in the living room, and prepare to hang my bulletin board with the pictures I want on it, freeing up photo frames for more recent photos.

I went to visit my Mom and got a lesson on budgeting as well as the bracelet I had left, after I had just spent a bundle of skin care products... primarily eye care and sun screen/moisturizer and after sun treatment. I went there on impulse, thinking I could bless someone, but was instead blessed by the friendly cashier.

I had little time left, but I read some devotionals and finally ate breakfast. I thought I would drive and then take the bus, because I didn't want to drive downtown, so I thought I would drive to Walmart. Trying to take a short cut I drove around a beautiful neighbourhood and ended up where I started, so I had no choice but to drive downtown. I should note all of this driving would have been impossible were it not for the wonderful CAA who gave me a boost this morning, after my battery was drained a few days ago.

Last night my good friend, the emerald red-haired beauty, came for tea and blessed me with some awesome herbal teas and cookies that she fortunately also took away. Saturday I went to Dutch Toko and saw a friend of a friend, and got my cookie and chocolate and cheese fix. I went there with my boyfriend because his bank was right next door. Also I decided to tithe at my new church home, but there's no way you can put money on that kind of blessing. I watched my old pastor, in my old church home's Youtube video, but again I was the blessed one. I rediscovered a book of blessings I got years ago from and mentor, and yes I'm on day seven with 33 days to go. I also got a book from my childhood friend, and it is amazing too, but I can't find it right now, so I'm sure I've stowed it somewhere safe, and the treasure hunt will continue. Also my friend who comes and takes me on walks regularly gave me great advice....  Call it karma, or call it reaping what you sow, but sow good seeds and yank up the bitter roots of bitterness or anger or sin.

I also got three free plants from my walk after lunch with a new friend, the one I met for lunch. I also got to see a beautiful neighbourhood, meet some lovely people, and see my friend's amazing art work. Also the lunch was excellent and she treated and we are going to ceramics or pottery together sometime. And eventually I'll be able to treat, when I am working. So being a good Samaritan is actually more beneficial for the person trying to help. The whole day my emotional need for recognition and reward was met by my best friend, Jesus, and the blessings my Father bestowed was protection and peace and freedom from anxiety about all the little foxes that destroy the vineyard.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Amen Omen by Ben Harper

What started as a whisper,
Slowly turned in to a scream.
Searching for an answer
Where the question is unseen.
I don't know where you came from
And I don't know where you've gone.
Old friends become old strangers
Between darkness and the dawn
Amen omen, will I see your face again?
Amen omen, can I find the place within
To live my life without you?
I still hear you saying
"All of life is chance,
And is sweetest, is sweetest when at a glance"
But I live,
I live a hundred lifetimes in a day.
But I die a little
In every breath I take.
Amen omen, will I see your face again?
Amen omen, can I find the place within
To live my life without you?
I listen to a whisper,
Slowly drift away.
Silence is the loudest,
Parting word you never say.
I put

I used to listen to this song when I missed my sister Rachel after she went away to university. I find it touching and evocative. Of course I never really had to worry my sister wouldn't return, but I knew she would return altered and changed by experiences she would have. Change is constant in this life, but adjusting to change is the kicker. I find Ben Harper so helpful in expressing my emotions, particularly to do with mental illness or justice issues. I can't relate to being biracial, but I have a nephew who is newly born and biracial, and I do not tolerate hate or condone violence. The black rain has fallen and we are left picking up the pieces and hoping they can be reassembled.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Sisterhood of the Travelling Plants

I follow Blake Lively as well as Ryan Reynolds on Instagram. I haven't ever watched Gossip Girl and I haven't seen Blake Lively's newest work. I do remember and appreciate her work in the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. Also I give her props for being her own stylist, and always appearing on point with the perfect outfit for every occasion.

And you gotta admit... Ryan Reynolds is pretty much the Canadian born actor I adore the most. Mainly for his work in The Proposal, because Sandra Bullock is my favourite actress of all time. I also appreciate Ryan Gosling, but that's another story.

So what's the Sisterhood of the Travelling Plants?  It's the same society as the Squirrel Whisperers, and it just denotes a relationship I formed while I was in the hospital, with some kick-ass woman who was ten years younger than me, but ever so more capable and responsible. I had to stop trying to help her, because it wasn't helpful for her or me, but I was cheering her from the sidelines and I know she will make it.

Right now the plants I have that are living number one, and it's a succulent. I just have to ignore it and almost never water it. In the hospital I was trying to keep a lily and a lavender plant alive in the same container. Naturally I over watered it, so the lavender plant didn't live, and the lily plant had been on the edge, but basically had very little roots, so I pulled it out and said goodbye to the lavender plant, by leaving it out on the porch to be killed by frost and snow.

I will plan a garden for next spring. I will learn how to nurture relationships I have formed, and I recognize there is one in particular I am going to continue. I will succeed taking care of myself, while in a relationship. And I wish the same for the Squirrel Whisperer. I know she is capable of figuring out her own life and I'm proud of her.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Memory Lane

It's been over a year since I was discharged from the hospital, still not well and on all the wrong medications, after having spent a number weeks there. It took until the fall to make the necessary medication adjustments and it was nearly winter before I was cleared to start work again. Early in the New Year I found myself deep into a depression that robbed me of joy, initiative, creativity, ability to concentrate, and confidence in myself. I didn't want to do anything and found no pleasure in what had once delighted me. I took a medical leave from work and stopped blogging. I felt I had lost the close connection with God that had once sustained me.

It was a long, bleak winter, but as spring came things were starting to improve again. I began volunteering once a week and felt ready to return to work, although there wasn't an immediate opportunity for me at my agency as I had hoped for. I finally was able to complete a crocheting project I hadn't been able to finish in time for my sister's January wedding. I have a shift back at work next week and am hopeful it will lead to more.

Looking back it is a year I never want to have to repeat. Living through such a spring and summer you are somewhat insulated from the true terribleness of it, but in hindsight you think, "oh yes I did make that brilliant decision back then and I really did believe that outlandish thing to be true."

Finding forgiveness for myself and others was a seemingly gargantuan task. Miscommunication, disconnection, and carelessness of my family doctor at the time. There's enough blame to spread around to every one involved, but blaming someone for doing what you specifically asked them to do? Blaming a psychiatrist for not talking to my parents or my out patient psychiatrist? Yes, I could pin the blame on him, but it wouldn't be productive. I could blame myself too, and I have, but I can no longer blame my psychotic self for things that went down years ago. I'm trying to break the pattern, and that begins with forgiving myself and all those involved in the debacle back then.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Mission Impossible

  Remembrance day weekend was wonderful, and beyond my expectations. I spent Saturday with my mother at a Women's Conference.  Singing my heart out, and knowing no one could hear whether I was on key was liberating.  Being among women who were sold out for God was priceless, and the ministry afterward touched me exactly where I am at.

Sunday I spent going to Roman Catholic Mass, which I hadn't been at, other than the Thursdays I attended Mass at St. Joseph's hospital, since I attended a funeral of a brother of a dear friend of the family, my mother's best friend from high school days.

This service on November 11th, which I attended with my favourite male friend, was beautiful in it pageantry and appropriately somber, clear and direct in its message, and though the opening song had me near tears, nobody noticed. By the time it was over and I got into line for the Eucharist, I had been nourished and restored, and I wondered how I could have been fed by two such diverse worship styles...  Then I remembered the Holy Spirit was present in both arenas, and I carry the anointing with me, which is just a Pentecostal way of way of saying, God has chosen me for a specific task, one that is not much different than the task of any believer....

My mission today, should I choose to accept it, is to go for a walk after lunch, with my friend who often draws me outdoors in all types of weather. Other than that I have no specific plans, so I might do some cleaning (unlikely, but necessary), I'll have breakfast by nine o'clock, I'll put the garbage out and recycling out in good time. I'll make some phone calls, perhaps.

Weekly plans include getting snow tires put on my vehicle, so that will happen Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday afternoon. I am back to driving, although I am starting with small trips and working my way up to the busier streets and highways. The Brown Widow is in good shape, thanks to the careful supervision of my father.

The remaining days of the week are already taking shape. I'll have dinner with my good friend and her family on Wednesday, and Friday is shopping day. Thursday I have an afternoon appointment at the hospital.

I know the foolish virgins failed to buy oil, and that was their downfall, but I also know you can load yourself down with burdens no one asked you to carry. "Pick up your cross and follow me," yes, but also "my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Right now I am instructed to pack lightly, and tread lightly, and carry a big stick...

Friday, November 09, 2018


It is also a wonderful thing to witness God's preservation that keeps us from sliding backwards and being entangled in the traps of the enemy. For the enemy has many ways and uses many devices to ensnare our minds and draw it away from the Truth. Then our souls are lulled asleep with false hopes and we lose the feeling of enjoyment of true life and power... And do not pay careful attention to the desires of the body, but instead, trust the Lord. Though you are weak and small, and though you may fall into the company of those who are more clever than you and are able to trick you by their reason, and though you may not have an answer to their arguments, you know and can feel God's pure Truth in your spirit. Desire only to have that life brought forth in you and to have your spirit renewed and changed by God's power. (Isaac Penington, Waiting for Breathings from His Spirit, Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups: A Renovare Resource for Spiritual Renewal, Edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, p 207-208).

Isaac Pennington lived from 1617-1680, the son of the mayor of London, who joined the Quakers, then called the Society of Friends, and stood firm against the Establishment, being imprisoned six times and in jail for 5 years total. In the Society of Friends, waiting on the Holy Spirit and silence while you wait was key, as is the growth that comes through suffering for the gospel. His words speak comfort and light, hope and peace to all who suffer loss and grief.

Therefore do not be grieved at your situation or be discontented. Do not look at the difficulty of your condition, but instead, when the storm rages against you look up to him who can give you patience and can lift your head over it all and cause you to grow. If the Lord did not help us with his mighty arm, how often would we fall! If God helps you in proportion to your problems you should have no reason to complain, but rather to bless his name.

God is exceedingly good and gracious and tenderhearted. He does not turn away from the afflictions of his people in any way. This I share in tender love towards you, with breathings to our Father, that his pleasant plant may not be crushed in you by the foot of pride or violence, but instead, may overgrow it and flourish the more because of it (From thy truly loving Friend in the Truth, and for Truth's sake.) Ibid, p 210)

In my 38 years, I've eaten good and bad spiritual food, and I've been part of good and faulty prayers, but one thing that has never happened is that I have never lacked for nourishment either spiritually or physically. I grew up knowing and loving the Bible and though I didn't get braces as a young teenager, due to my Dad being in the process of starting his own business, the braces weren't necessary to my physical health. My mental health issues were very difficult for me and for my loved ones, but they led to a deepening and broadening, which wouldn't have happened otherwise. Prayer should come by the Spirit, and not the flesh or will or human wisdom, according to Penington (Ibid, p 210), and praying in haste, may cause you to repent at leisure.

For example, pray for God to break and mold and use you, and you are in for a bumpy ride, much like a rollercoaster or a ship at sea in the storm. Jesus' words in John 6:52-59, caused many to turn aside from following him, because they were difficult. But Peter said it best, when asked if he would turn away, "Who would we follow then: you have the Words of Eternal Life."

That I should stumble upon Penington's words right now, after not looking at My Devotional Classics book for about three years, is not happenstance. It was the spiritual food I needed to consume and meditate upon. It does so by reminding of the importance of silence, Bible reading, and prayer, according to the Will of the Father, by the Power of Christ's blood, and by Quickening of the Holy Spirit.

By the way, Happy Remembrance Day this weekend. Let's recognize all those who fought and died, for Canada's freedom. My grandfathers did not fight in the war, but they could have been casualities, as my Grandpa was in hiding, and my Opa could have been seized as well, to work for the Germans during WWII. Other wars were also very traumatizing to our veterans, including the war in Afghanistan, and we do well to remember our soldiers' sacrifices.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Gift Exchange

Like many people I have big expectations for a magical Christmas season with wonderful times of family togetherness and picture perfect moments. But after all the presents are unwrapped and two Christmas dinners are behind us, I find myself not only with a mild cold but a case of post Christmas blahs.

Yes, having the whole family together was special and I was spoiled by the gift exchange with lovely gifts from my thoughtful sister. Yes, I enjoy seeing more of my nephews and nieces and I appreciate having the chance to hang out with siblings and in laws that I rarely see. My Mom prepared a delicious Christmas feast yesterday and we had a record turn out to our Boxing Day extended family celebration. I truly am blessed with a beautiful family who love and care for each other.

So why am I dissatisfied? Maybe part of it is the slow pace of my return to work and all the uncertainties surrounding that. I didn't like having to summarise the last months of my life to extended family who asked me about my career. Another big contributing factor is the old game of comparison with cousins and siblings who are in much different circumstances and stages of life than myself. It is all very well to wax philosophical about the gift of singleness, but being the only one in my immediate family without a significant other makes me feel so alone.

Comparision games are unhealthy at any time. Would I wish to be a pastor's wife with five children, making do on a shoe-string budget? Then I could change places with my older sister. Would I desire my dearest female friend's life, a working mom with two precious children?  To be frank, I wouldn't want her life either. She could look at me and envy my freedom to do whatever I wanted, without reference to a husband or children. 

The point is comparision games leave a lot of things off the table. We only know a fraction of the stresses any woman or man deals with in a given day. Some things can be hidden fairly well, but if you shake a can of Pepsi or Coke, it will explode and leave a sticky mess.

So I'll keep my life; I'll likely put it in a pumpkin shell, and it should keep very well, eh! 


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Emptied to be Filled

The past four months have been a little like priming a pump. All this love, joy, and peace has been poured into me from other people, and each time I reached capacity, all this glorious spring water could overflow, like the cup that overflows in Psalm 23.

A table was spread out with a decadent feast, in the presence of both friends, enemies and frienemies. I knew there were demonic influences there, as the oppression was palpable and tangible, but I also knew I was surrounded by angels, and good people who might as well have been angels.

Eventually springs of living water could flow out, but then I became dry and parched again. So I would reach out to spiritual care, or get a new pair of pants for next to nothing or pay nothing at all for the beautiful top, or I would go to a group on gratitude, or I would attempt to play basketball or badminton, or I would attend a service on Thursday or Sunday or go to the weekly Bible study. And then once I was encouraged, and filled, and feed both spiritually and physically, I was able to help others at much as was appropriate at the time, mindful that I could only point to the source of water, whether physical or spiritual and that I could not force any one to drink.

Sometimes I made errors in judgement, sometimes I overreached, and sometimes I sinned in my motivations and execution. But I learnt to be more patient, offer myself and others the license to make mistakes and to learn from them and grow. I learnt to be kinder to myself and to others that I love. I learnt about God's Great Faithfulness, and the faithfulness of my family and friends in their unflagging support. I was taught about loyalty to a cause and to people I care about, even when I sometimes questioned their judgement. I learnt about the gentleness of the Holy Spirit, and how to be more gentle in my manner.  I discerned that those who give grace to others, receive graciousness back, and that God's grace is totally undeserved, but also totally free, with no strings attached; other than you have to accept it and realize you need it.

There is no true hierarchy in the family of God. All are merely servants, and often friends of God, but sometimes in the economy of mercy it seems backwards. To him (or her) to whom much is given, much will be demanded. Also the first are often last, and the last are often first, and the best servants are those who fade back into obscurity and go on to live quiet lives.

I don't know many things. When will I go back to work? What will happen at Christmas? How will the relationships I have formed play out?

I am certain of the solidity of my friendships, and my immediate and extended family will always have my love and loyalty, but none of us are perfect and better ways of relating will start with me. I can adjust my communication style and find the opportune moment to address certain concerns and frustrations.

I guess now I am maturing beyond my adolescence, and into adulthood, and let me tell you, adulting can be uncomfortable, but it's fun and rewarding too.

So now I have found love in so many places, I will give love in other places, but I will remember to always prime the pump, or nothing but muddy water can pour out...  Self control and discipline is the hardest fruit for me, but I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.

The secret of being content, in any or every situation?  It starts with gratitude for whom and what you already have. But developing a grateful heart is hard work, when everything you love appears to be striped away. This new heart that you receive, a heart of flesh, exchanged for the heart of stone, is more easily damaged and it becomes wounded more easily. You are more vulnerable and less in control. That vulnerability leaves yourself open to getting hurt, but in the Great Exchange, this potential wounding matters less. Life is tough, and you have to tough, especially if you're a boy named Sue; thanks for that thought Johnny Cash!

Saturday, November 03, 2018


I read an interesting article in the newspaper about the types of people who succeed and are genuine game-changers. If you look at your graduating class, if you separated them into groups based purely on academic success, you would find that the straight-A students may not end up being the most successful in life, in their career and making the biggest impact on the world. That's because they are adept at giving their teacher's what they wanted, and are conformists, and maybe not innovators. That's a major generalization, but succeeding at school by the metric of grades, does not involve the exact skill-set and aptitudes needed for success in a career.

I was academically gifted with a major preoccupation with grades throughout grade school, highschool, university, and college. Some things came easily for me, but I also put a huge effort into my schoolwork to elevate my performance from an A to an A+, getting those elusive five marks that meant too much to me. My first time dealing with failure was when I tried to take calculus at seventeen, after missing the first part of the course, and much slowed down mentally following a hospitalization with depression. Even with one on one tutoring that my mother faithfully drove me forty plus kilometres to attend, I never really got it, and my teacher allowed me to audit the course. I later took correspondence courses to finish up high school and finished History and Family Studies, and nearly completed Chemistry, but didn't get that far with Finite math. After a year of working, I started university with less than a full course load with support from the Dean. My high school grades made me eligible for a significant scholarship, though I didn't end up with the most lucrative one I was shooting for. I soon found that first year courses at university were quite manageable and something I could excell in. My academic career as an English honours and Religion double-major was very focused, and the only thing more satisfying than completing a ten-page paper, was getting it back with high praise and an excellent mark. Though A +'s were more rare than in highschool I could usually count on an A-.

I completed my degree with double honours, and while I'd like to think all that effort didn't go to waste, I did find it hard to transfer my success at analyzing literature and writing stellar papers on topics like Covenant theology and the Church Father's view of the Sacraments, into an actual bonafide career. After a few years of working, I figured graduate school in Biblical studies with the goal of being a professor was a noble and achievable goal. Though accepted to the one school I applied to, I decided against pursuing it, after a crisis in my mental health caused me to have to defer my studies and I realized there were a lot of PhD's out there who don't end up as professors, even if that is their goal. After more time working a job I would have been qualified for straight out of high school, I decided to go back to school and become a nurse. The accelerated nursing program at McMaster would get me there in two years after I completed some prerequisites. So I started correspondences course yet again in Human Anatomy and Physiology, Chemistry, and Sociology, while working my general labour seasonal job.

The most fun I had as a correspondence student, though I also found it somewhat stressful, was when I was mailed a chemistry set with every thing needed to perform a dozen or so experiments in my kitchen. Labs were never the finest part of  science courses I took in high school. I remember having a difficult time starting the Bunsen burner, and relying on my lab partner to do most of the dissecting on the fetal pig, which took away much of my appetite for lunch. Lab reports were usually okay, but not my favourite things to write. I'd rather write a test or exam. So maybe it is only in retrospect that I have such a fondness for that Chemistry set. All those chemical reactions and precise measurements, test tubes and beakers. I was close to finishing my second Chemisty course, when I got the news that I hadn't made it into the Accelerated Nursing program, and I once again dropped Chemistry since I still needed the lab component, which had to be done at McMaster and cost $500, and I wouldn't need the course for Plan B which was a college program in Practical Nursing.

Entering the Practical Nursing Program a decade after I had started out as a twenty-year-old university student, I was a mature student among many mature students of varying ages and a few who were fresh out of high school. Once again academic achievement was my strong point, though college took some time to adjust to. My style of hand-outs after fourth year university seminars in English literature and theory, wasn't appreciated by the peers who worked on our first group project on Sleep. Group projects weren't my favourite way of earning a grade, because I liked to control the end product too much, and that first group project was one of the most conflict-ridden I have ever been involved in. Thankfully I did well with the multiple choice tests, which could be somewhat tricky at times. The practical hands-on part and the placements at hospitals and long-term-care homes were more of a stretch. Though I went through a rough semester when I had to pull out of school for several weeks, and limit my stimulation during that time, I completed the program with honours every semester but that one.

But excelling at multiple choice tests does not a successful nurse make, though they may both require critical thinking skills. I am convinced that I would be a very successful life-long student, but my confidence level as I attempted to expand my skill-set as a home care nurse and casual worker at a Retirement home was rather low. I landed an assignment that had ideal hours, but didn't demand much of me as a nurse professionally. Later I would describe myself as being under-employed as I did various assignments of three or four hours at a time, including a whole school year at a kindergarten classroom. I decided to get into foot care nursing, which I enjoyed, but it was never close to full-time and didn't pay well. Stepping away from the nursing field, after a prolonged illness, I wasn't sure if I'd ever go back to it. Now I am working part-time as an RPN on the night shift in a retirement home. Though some nights can be eventful and stressful, there are others that are extremely routine with only one or two call-bells all night and the regular medications to give in the early morning. Working by myself while most of the residents are asleep, can be quite peaceful. Getting paid a nursing wage while also doing tasks like laundry and preparing the dining room for breakfast, just so a nurse is there if the residents need one during the night, is one of the lower stress nursing jobs, and a reason to do such mundane tasks with excellence.

As a university graduate, struggling towards a meaningful, successful career, a college graduate and Registered Practical Nurse, attempting to be an excellent nurse with a full-time, professionally challenging career, I have lived the truth that a top student isn't always the most professionally successful. Some of that is what I chose to study in university, and some of that may be related to my mental health challenges, and maybe a part has been the times I have given up on a particular dream like grad school. A lot of success in a career is related to your attitude and your level of confidence and willingness to try new things and to innovate.  As a nurse, I can be a professional in the health care field, with marketable hands-on skills, and I can potentially get into many types of nursing with training and job experience, but I am limited by my level of confidence and my anxiety about failure.

But maybe measurements of success cannot be as precisively tabulated as the compounds in a chemistry experiment. Maybe success in life needn't involve a high-powered and earth shattering career, just as the grades achieved in school needn't define you as a life-long learner. Maybe cutting plants in a nursery or folding laundry in the wee hours of the night, could be done with excellence and pride. Maybe overcoming obstacles  and working through failures, allowing these challenges to shape you into a more compassionate and genuine, if genuinely flawed, human being, is a path to a type of success that is rarely measured in grades or performance appraisals. I'd like to think that what I've learned through my many years of school and life, has not be wasted and that I've learned a degree of wisdom to go with my liberal arts degree and college diploma. In the end, to be a person of character, who genuinely loves, and cares for others, is a more important goal for my life, than to be professionally successful in a career.

Written 05/07/17

Friday, November 02, 2018

What I have to live for...

Some days I have a longing for the ease of death... no more struggling, stress, and uncertainty. And sometimes I dwell on it and mull it over in my mind. I know it is wrong, but it gives me a certain perverse pleasure to imagine an end to it all. But there is a reason I am still on this planet and there is a calling I have to fulfill. So what is it I have to live for?

As I write this, I admit that ideas are not flooding into my mind, vying for my attention.

Yes I once took comfort in the thought of ending my life. I wrote the above in a dark period of my life, when darkness seemed to envelop my soul, like a thick cloud of smoke. My companions were doubt, grief, guilt, anger turned inward, and apathy. The dark night of the soul is a time of silence, when you are tested and tried and toss and turn in sleeplessness. You don't know if you can trust yourself, let alone God.

I think I caused Jesus additional suffering, hanging on that cross, because I couldn't accept grace for myself. I might as well have nailed him to my tree myself and then pierced his side. Why did he do it? What am I worth to him?

I am worth the cost, because he sees me clothed in white and scarlet. He offers me gold, and incense, and myrrh, when all I want to do is fall at his feet and wipe his feet with my tears and my precious hair. I would spill it all out, and I would wipe his feet dry. But He asks, "Woman, why are you crying?"

I'm crying, because I don't feel worthy, and I'm not. But I am accepted regardless. And he takes away my filthy rags, as he sees me kicking about in my own blood, and he heals me with one look and touch, and then he clothes me with his righteousness and offers me a suit of his own armour, which may seem ill-fitting at first.

The belt of truth is important, as is the breast-plate of righteousness, and the shoes of the readiness of the gospel of peace. The shield of faith is key, but the only offensive weapon is the word of God, and Jesus Christ himself is the WORD made Flesh. He is the companion I trust the most on this journey, but I am joined by a Fellowship of fellow believers. Some I will see again, others I may not. I accept that I must leave people as I find them, and this is a hard lesson. I am not the guide on this trip.

Let go and Let God.

The Lily of Truth
Suzanne Alison