Green walls and my picture of Jesus

The washing machine quit (we got a new one) and the peonies are blooming beautifully.

I’ve had a hard time in May and June.  So much up and down.  So many tears.

I felt sick for days (and still do) about the story that is all over social media these days of child sexual abuse at the hand of a missionary man in Haiti. I don’t even have words to address this heinous evil.  And besides, they’ve all been said by someone else.  I just pray and pray that the right steps are taken by all involved and that justice is served and that those precious victims’ lives are given loving spaces to heal.

“But I thought missionaries were supposed to be good people,” said Liesl.  That’s what we all thought, dear.

Last Sunday evening I poured the olive oil out of the vial Dan uses for anointing with oil and washed it.

(If you aren’t a Bible person, here are verses in James 5 that explain this practice.

14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.)

We’ve used that little vial four times in the years that Dan has been pastor.  Once for my brother Kevin, who passed away with a brain tumor at age 27. Again for our friend Mary and later for her mother, Edith.

And this time it was for me. I’ve had days in the past month when I just didn’t think I could go on.  It isn’t just the depression, it’s terrible anxiety too.  I never really knew what people meant when they talked about anxiety.  But now I do.

I’d been meaning to ask for anointing for a long time already.  Then I’d start to feel better and kind of forget about it.

But it was Time.

We had a nice little service.  Lots of tears and kind encouragement.  Friends laid hands on me and prayed that I could be healed from this mental illness that stalks my life.  Afterwards, Dan’s face was wet and he very seldom cries.

(He told me later that he was thinking about us dating and how much he wanted to marry me and how he didn’t know what was in the future for us and that he would pour oil on my head someday and lead in prayer for my healing.)

I have only shreds of faith.  But I prayed that God would honor them.  And that others would have faith for me.  And that whatever the outcome, I’d be surrendered to God.

Well I didn’t wake up Monday morning with all things looking clear and bright.

In fact, Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week were some of my darkest yet.  At least that’s what I wrote in my journal.

I don’t know why God heals some miraculously and others through time and medication and therapy and natural supplements. I think He’d be glorified most by my supernaturally being healed at the hands of a humble handful of people in BayTree, Alberta.

But as much as I want to choke on the words, maybe I need to suffer a little while yet, as 1 Peter 5:10 so aptly puts it, before I am restored, confirmed, strengthened, and established.

I’ve been seeing a Christian therapist in Grande Prairie. Her name is Beth and she’s warm and kind. I talk about my feelings easily and people say they are praying and they care and that they’ve struggled with depression too. But I guess it’s good for me to talk to someone who can give me tools for overcoming my chaotic thinking.

Besides that, the beautiful green walls of the waiting room at the counselling office and the classical music playing are so calming that that in itself makes the visit seem worthwhile.

How do you picture Jesus? At the suggestion of my therapist, I have been trying to practice Listening Prayer, which simply means opening your heart and being quiet. It’s so hard because I want to talk and talk.

Anyway, viewing Jesus as a friend sitting right beside me helps. But I struggle over picturing Him. I can’t stand to have Him in skinny jeans and converse sneakers and short hair, a picture that some people might find comforting.

But the long white robes of the Bible story books don’t work either. Not in BayTree, Alberta in 2019.

I’ve come to peace with a picture that’s kind of in between the two I described. Loose fitting clothing in neutral colours, a rope belt over a tunic, and long hair. (Sorry, CLP.)

I remember a ladies’ talk at a fellowship meeting of missionaries in Belize and the leader was saying that she pictures herself coming to Jesus on a throne with her requests. She is bowing low, and He puts forth his hand and offers her acceptance into His throne room.

Another lady spoke up and said she pictured Jesus to look like Labe, her husband. He had a beard and kind eyes and I loved it that she felt that way about her husband.

I could say the same about my husband looking like Jesus.  Except Dan might be a shade too good looking. Because the Bible says that Jesus on earth didn’t have beauty that made people desire Him.

I think our view of Jesus needs to balanced between what both of those ladies saw when they pictured Him. Right now, when I lie on my bed in tears, I need the comforting friend picture.

It’s been lovely to talk to my friends again here. Do tell me how you picture Jesus if you are His follower.

(Here is a 9:50 pm walk on the longest day.)

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Has He slammed the door on His compassion?

We are having unreal lovely summer weather. At least to me. Some of our northern neighbors think it’s too hot if it gets above about 20 C, which is about 68 F.

Actually, it WAS lovely weather. Now the smoke from forest fires three hours or so away is consuming us. I feel so sad when I think about fires raging and firefighters working so hard. And I shouldn’t complain about the smoke because we’re not in the least bit of danger like so many are. But it’s really depressing after one has waited so long for summer.

I guess I’m posting again because I’m really struggling this week with despair. It’s so crazy how changeable this walk with bipolar has made me. The despair is like a physical weight on my chest.

The doctor says it can take years to find the right combination of medications for this disease. I just want relief NOW. TO STAY. FOR GOOD.

Every morning I choke down a handful of meds, natural supplements and my probiotic drink–and pray for healing through them.

Psalm 77:7-9:

Has the Lord rejected me forever?
    Will he never again be kind to me?
Is his unfailing love gone forever?
    Have his promises permanently failed?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
    Has he slammed the door on his compassion?

I feel like a broken record.

But would you pray for me? I just want to be a joyful mom and wife and neighbor, with a semi organized life.

My thanks list is so long and I have a good life. Why the hopelessness?

What’s your biggest struggle and your biggest thanks today?

Make my day and tell me about it.

❤️❤️❤️

 

 

I Want to be the Strong One

 

I don’t want to be the one at the table crying about my hard, hard day.  I want to be the one listening to you talk about yours and pouring you another cup of tea.

I don’t want to be the one lying on my bed and wondering how I can get up and make another meal.  I want to be like my honoured blog friends who are fostering, opening their hearts to more instead of trying to get by with less.

I’d like to be the one telling you what worked well for me, not the one trying out yet another medication and choking down natural products to help my mental health every morning.  I used to be that healthy one, not the one focused on every slight change my body makes as a doctor tries to help me get just the right cocktail of medication.

I don’t want to be naval gazing.  I want to be world changing.

I don’t want to be the one walking through deep waters.  Can’t I be the one running on solid ground for a change?

Jesus, you know I long to be wiser and kinder and more humble. You know how I heard this morning that every breakdown can be a breakthrough.

I pray that somehow You’d use this mess for something good.

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I write about my struggle because it’s so real and it dogs my steps.  I write because you are understanding.  I write because putting things into words helps me to leave them there and move on.

As you can probably see by my frequent posting on facebook and instagram and even here on this blog, I’ve had some very good weeks of stability.  I think I’m in for long weeks of good days and then I fall back.  But I’m SO grateful for the good days and how they seem to be outnumbering the bad lately.

I washed all our bedding the other day and hung it on the line to dry.  And oh….those crisp sheets have never felt and smelled so good!  This may not seem like a big accomplishment to you, but if you had known how many hours I spent on our bed and how long it had been since it had been washed, you’d be celebrating too.

Dan and I had a long talk about social media the other night.  He wonders why we love it like we do and if it’s healthy to be so connected.  I told him about how I felt as an isolated northern mom when I first got facebook and started writing.  I remember writing about the dog being in the flowerbed.  I tried to write about it in a way that would make people want to read it. And they did!  They laughed at my story.  They told the stories of their own dogs in flowerbeds and how mad it made them.  I felt understood.  And for once I had found a place to put all the thoughts that swirled around in my head that felt like they were meant for more than just a journal entry.

But I worry about the things Dan does too. Do I really need to track the progress of my friend in Virginia’s sweet, chubby baby?  I only met her once.

The daughter of our fellow missionaries in Belize goes to Italy. Do I really need to be there poring over pictures of her amazing  trip and feeling like life in BayTree, Alberta is preeetty boring?

Do our children need to follow every move of their favorite band?

I go through stages where I feel like my social media use is healthy and other times when I know it’s not.  When I’ve been at my lowest mentally, I could hardly look at it, so feeling like using it again seems like so much fun.

How do you use it for a tool but not a weight in your life?

I do like it for how it helps me to know even my neighbors and church friends in a different way.  I love how it connects me more to my family far away.  And the honestly close friends that I’d never know if it hadn’t been for blogging and facebook.

But yeah.  All good things in moderation.

I need to get going on this day.  It’s the first official day of vacation and everyone is still sleeping at 9 a.m.

If you are on facebook or instagram, just ignore the photos below. And excuse the poor quality of some of them.

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Mother’s Day, 2019.  We’re missing Victoria, who will be home this coming week, Lord willing.

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This little doodebug is almost 17 and graduated this year.  He used to love to play that he was Moses from the Bible story book picture that he adored.  The antler on the floor was the scythe Moses used to kill the Egyptian. Oh dear! Such violence. 😦 (That pink wall and floral couch together.  Ugh.)

A happy May day to you!

 

I Think of Her

I thought of her this morning when I piled cheese high on two lasagnas–my wise, strong mother who made good food out of next to nothing.

I thought of her when I didn’t know what meat to get out of our over-full freezer for supper last week.  Would it be chicken or roast beef or burger or salmon?  I could even go with pork chops or dig out the ham.  And there’s that liver that’s languishing in the bottom.  But oh dear.  What SHOULD I cook??

I thought of her when I scrubbed my stained bathtub and felt angry again about brown dugout water and a treatment system gone wrong and that we can’t ever decide what we should do to remedy things.

She told us stories of filling rosehips with peanut butter and trying to pickle lettuce. (Neither went over well, she said.)  She told us stories of oatmeal every morning and puffed wheat on Sundays for something special.

She told us stories of seeing air through cracks in the logs above her babies’ beds and of goats who kept her grass trimmed.  We knew well the story about the cougar she and dad heard screaming when they were out late one night on foot.  And the one about Dad flagging down a freight train using the red lining of his coat.  Mom was in labor with my brother David and Dad and Mom lived 30 miles back a railroad track with no road to the nearest town with a hospital, a little burg in the mountains called McBride.  They actually made it to the hospital in time, even though the train got stopped in a tunnel for a while and had to be pulled by another train or something.  We were always a little disappointed that it didn’t climax with David’s birth in the caboose.

All these exciting things happened before I was born.  The eighth of ten children, I came in easier times.  The only hardships I remember were having to wear what I thought were ugly hand me downs and going easy on things like raisins and cheese and chocolate chips.  Well.  There was also driving old vehicles and having breakdowns and forever giving up our beds for company.  But my little hardships were only character building.

When I was a teenager, we even ate at restaurants occasionally when we traveled.  And there came a day when cheese was always in the fridge.

When Mom and Dad married as two young things in Pennsylvania, they discovered that they both had a dream of moving west and having a family of ten children.  So they set out to realize those dreams in an old car and trailer with an 8 month old baby and another on the way.  Their first home was a two room shack in the mountains of British Columbia in a little settlement that couldn’t be reached by road. The rent was $10/month.  They arrived by train and started to eke out a living, with Dad working all week in camp with a crew that was surveying for a road.

Mom cleaned and painted the shack and made it home.  She fought with generator-powered wringer washers that wouldn’t start, carried water and wood, and learned to bake in a wood stove, where her cakes ended up done on top and gooey on the bottom.  Later someone told her how to clean out the bottom of the oven and her baking improved.

She told me today on the phone that Dad would get her a water supply before he left for the week, but when she ran out, she would carry her baby on her hip, largely pregnant with the second child, and go get water a quarter of a mile down the road at the train shed, where there was a well with the old-fashioned rope for lowering the bucket.  She got water there until it came up with a mouse in it one time.  After that Dad had to get her water from farther away and fill the rain barrel for her.

She had brought canned cherries and vegetables and some jars of canned chicken from the east.  Dad shot a moose and it was also canned up for the winter.  During their first year in the west, Mom saved her last precious jar of chicken for Christmas day.  She dipped the pieces in flour and fried them and she and Dad ate them for Christmas dinner.

With a few brave souls making the West their home, their family and friends in Pennsylvania wanted to see the place for themselves.  Mom tells about getting postcards from people back east saying they were coming to visit.  She’d calculate the days it probably took for the letter to reach them and the time it took for them to travel the miles and she’d bake fresh bread and make a chocolate cake and some oatmeal cookies.  And then they wouldn’t come and the family would eat the bread and the cake and the cookies and the company would show up when the pantry was empty.  There wasn’t a phone for miles around and who was to know?

One aunt that came to visit sat around and wiped tears all the time.  Mom didn’t know whether she was crying for herself and the hardships of the trip, or crying for Mom and her hard life.  With no fridge or freezer, their guests were offered canned milk, powdered milk, or goat’s milk from a neighbor down the road to go with their cereal in the morning.  This particular aunt didn’t take any cereal.

When Mom would worry over the mud and the puffed wheat and the outdoor bathroom for guests, Dad would tell her not to mind, it was more fun for the company if they had a bigger story to tell when they got home.

Mom and Dad often gave up their bed and slept on the hard kitchen floor when they had company.  They probably did it for the lady whose travel journal Mom picked up when her guest was gone for a bit.  In it she read.  “Got to Jess Peachey’s.  Many miles back in the sticks.  Yard full of dandelions.  Outhouse in need of shaping up.”

Through the lonely days and lots of babies and cold weather and canned moose meat, Mom’s spirit was indomitable.  She sang when she did her laundry, scrubbed her diapers hard to make them white, and starched up her little boys’ shirts for church on Sunday.  She had her third baby six days after her oldest turned two and potty trained them all at eighteen months.

Mom took time to stimulate her babies by sitting them near her on the counter while she worked and singing them funny songs from her childhood.  She mended tired socks and made the old houses cozy with pretty curtains and re-upholstered chairs. She tells me that in that first year she was okay with being so far from all she knew through the week, but on Sundays after the four families of the Mennonite community gathered for church, she would have given anything to hear her own mom say “Stop in for lunch.”  But there were 3000 miles between her and those words.  She and Dad would go back to their little house and eat a quiet lunch.

She got grumpy and tired and worried and bossed her husband around too.  She struggled with assurance of salvation and had a sharp tongue.  But today she tells me that she never really fought depression in a big way, even though she was sometimes lonely.  I think there was just too much to do and she didn’t have time to get down.

Today my children have six kinds of cereal to choose from.  I run to town when the milk supply is low.  My water might be brown-but it’s right there and it’s hot.  I call my sisters when I’m lonely.  I communicate with the world on Facebook.  I hate it that we’ve had so many power outages lately.  And what a pain it is when the internet is down for a few hours.

I don’t really long for the good old days.  I’m not here to romanticize the hardship.

But some days I wonder how it all stacks up and how we will learn the hard lessons of life.  Do difficulties make stronger people?  Are my children destined for wimp-dom?

I guess that’s why I make them eat liver sometimes. It’s why when they talk about having a huge house and a perfectly matched table someday that I remind them that God might call them to serve in a remote village in India with no plates at all.  (I hope He does.)

I guess it’s why I also want to cultivate gratefulness.  And world awareness.

Surely there is still inner strength to be found in a life with lots of food choices and more clothes than we know what to do with.

Sometimes He Uses Zoloft

It has been so interesting getting your email requests for the story of my short experience with the bipolar battle.  I thought I had mostly facebook friends as blog readers (because I link it there), but it seemed like the majority of people who requested an email copy were ladies with names that sounded like Mennonite housewives from Pennsylvania.  Not all of them were, of course.

Different ones of you wrote that you battle(d) post partum depression and I felt like the story I just wrote didn’t address depression much at all, being mainly composed of my bizarre experience with a manic episode.

But three years ago I wrote about PPD for a writing group I’m part of and I’ve been wanting to share that story sometime on my blog.  I can’t believe I didn’t do it earlier.  But I was scared because it talks about using drugs for healing.  I guess I’ve been emboldened.  Hopefully it’s not that I’m feeling brave because I’m headed into another manic high. Horrors!

{See, since I told you the unspeakable, I can now joke about it. 🙂 That brings me great relief.}

If you want a really excellent post about anxiety and depression, read this by Christopher Witmer.  My daughter sent it to me this morning.

Oh…if you are on Instagram you may have already seen this, but here’s an igloo that Dan and I built with the children this weekend.  It’s sitting on a very green lawn at the moment.  The children decided to try sleeping in it on Saturday night, but only lasted till 11:00, when they came in because it was cold.

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And without further adieu, here is my PPD story.  It’s much shorter than the last one, thank the Lord.

Sometimes He Uses Zoloft

I stared mindlessly at the frozen Alberta landscape through the big living room window with its sheer white curtains and green and rose floral valance The bleak whiteness outside held its cold, grey grip on my soul. I turned away. Could that actually be the baby crying again? I had just put him down for a morning nap.

The bleak greyness spiraled down, down into a familiar black hole. I couldn’t stop the tears as I picked up my little boy from his white crib with pink and blue hearts painted at the head of it. He was perfect, so brown-eyed and round and dark-skinned.

What was the matter with me anyway? I had it all. Warmth, security, a healthy little son, people who cared, good books to read-even though I didn’t seem to have time to read them. I even had an extra handsome husband. And he was gentle to boot.

Of course when I looked in the mirror, I knew one reason I was sad. My chest was flat and the dark circles under my eyes were enough to scare anyone away. How could my husband love me? Nursing a baby had taken so much out of me and my already too-thin arms hung scrawnily beside me. My baby was fat and happy, though. I held my son against my bony collarbone and my tears fell on his face. I tried to smile at him and he smiled back, too little to understand a mama who cried more easily than she smiled. At least I hoped he was too little to be affected. What if he wasn’t? The thought made me cry harder.

Oh Jesus, if you care, why don’t you just take my life? I’m so miserable and I make others miserable and they’d all be happier if I was gone. Dan could find a pretty, happy wife and Alec would have a mom who had energy to be a pretty, happy mom. What a hypocrite I am, pretending that I am a Christian, yet wishing I could die, not knowing at all the joy and peace and all those things that Christians talk about. Oh Jesus…Jesus. Jesus, have mercy.

And that bleak greyness that spiraled into blackness became my life. There were days when the sun shone and I felt stronger and smiled a little more, days when I could believe that maybe God loved me after all. But always it came back to taunt me and I fell deeper and deeper into the black hole. “I just feel like I’m at the bottom of a deep hole and I just can’t get out,” I bawled to my sister.

I’d cry and pray, repent and journal, cry and pray some more. I’d read promises from the Bible and try to start out fresh for just one day, believing in God and His love and purpose for my life. But each time I’d fall, the hole got deeper and I felt more hopeless. My husband Dan was kind, but he felt helpless with a wife who loathed herself and wouldn’t listen to reason. My church friends prayed for me and my sisters listened to me when I talked and reassured me that I really was okay, even when I knew otherwise. Family suggested that I talk to my doctor. It never seemed to be the right time. I felt terrible for the way I felt about God and the guilt made the hole deeper and blacker. Reading the Bible felt like a slap in the face, all those commandments that I couldn’t keep, people like David and Paul bubbling over with the majesty and wonder and love of the Creator, who had made me to become this person I despised.

Sometimes when I would drive somewhere, I’d wonder what kind of an accident would take my life painlessly. One especially desperate day I confessed to my sister on the phone that I had thought about taking a lot of Tylenol or doing something, ANYTHING to escape the misery of my guilt-laden, God-criticizing hell of a life I was living.

When Alec was close to a year old, I finally talked to our family doctor, telling him briefly about the deep, black hole. He listened kindly, saw my tears, and sent me to a wise little psychiatrist. She listened to me, wrote out a prescription for Zoloft, assured me that it was non-addictive and would actually rebuild instead of just masking chemical imbalance, and sent me on my way.

I was skeptical, ashamed that I needed drugs, but desperate enough to try them.

They helped. I took them for seven years, through two more pregnancies and a move to Belize. While in the sunny Caribbean, I slowly weaned myself off of them.

I still struggle daily with negativity and oversensitivity. There are times when that blackness veers closer to my mind than I wish it would. But now I know the warning signs.

Pills can never cure a soul that’s not at peace. But in my experience, they helped me begin to think clearly enough to take care of the things that brought the terrible turmoil and self-hatred, the thoughts that brought me low and kept me groveling.

I believe God heals through diet programs and exercise and rest and His beautiful Word and health professionals and caring friends. I also believe He sometimes uses Zoloft.

Story

Hi there,

Some of you are saying you can’t access the story I emailed to you and others can.  If you’d just send me an email at dugoutwillow@gmail.com, I will try to send it a different way.  And it’s easiest if you send me an email instead of a facebook comment or blog comment. That way I can just click reply instead of copying and pasting addresses from facebook or even here on the blog. Or if you haven’t heard from me at all yet, please just resend an email.  I may have missed someone.

The resend will have very small print.  Sorry about that. The Word file I sent is better.

You live and learn. 🙂 I apologize for the inconvenience. And I’m sorry for myself too. 😉

Also, a few of you commented on yesterday’s blog post and didn’t include your address. So if you commented anywhere and still didn’t receive the post, please email me and I will try to send it to you.

Yes, I’m a little overwhelmed, but it’s a good day to be at the computer.  It’s snowing a beautiful snow that would be so lovely in December, but doesn’t look very pretty in May.

Good day to you.  Enjoy your tulips or lilacs or whatever is blooming and green for you.

I was going to plant flowers this evening, but a big rainstorm came up right after supper and put an end to that idea.

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Dan is out with his cows, the three oldest children are with friends, and the three youngest are having a movie night. So that leaves me alone. I don’t mind. But I’ve exhausted what’s of interest on social media, eaten too many dried mangoes, and taken a wall hanging out of a quilt frame. And now I’ve come out to the porch to lie in the hammock and breathe in the scent of our flowering tree.

Earlier this year, I’m not sure which month (and I’m toooo lazy to look it up in my diary as I should), I was struggling really badly with restlessness and lack of purpose-especially in my down time. I just “didn’t know what to get at”, as my mom used to put it. Social media held NO meaning. I thought of watercolour painting, but felt hopeless about that. I couldn’t concentrate enough to read books. I’m not really a handwork person, but I do find hand quilting relaxing and fun. My sister Linda got the inspiration to piece a little wall hanging for me and give me something to do in my restless moments. (Have I mentioned before that she is a gem?)  She thinks now that it looks more like a baby quilt than a wall hanging. I could give it away as a baby gift, hang it on the wall,  or drape it over the side of the couch. What would you do with it? I suppose that quilted wall hangings are not exactly in vogue  right now—but that doesn’t really matter. I quilted and listened to 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson when I could concentrate and knew that my sister loved me.

And it was fun to take the quilt out of the frame tonight and realize that there was something to show for the hard, long winter and slow spring.

I shouldn’t take pictures of this thing before it’s even bound, but I’m impatient like that.

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284554D2-8D83-45AE-87E0-E382F448399CI took a quad ride with Andre the other night and this was our view on the way home.

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We celebrated our baby turning 10. And we marvelled over how cute she was when she was two.

Victoria is home from teaching in Oregon (happiness!)  and she is always good at finding four leaf clovers.

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The world is very green and I know again why we live here.

That is all I have to say. Sorry for being so boring.  And I’m sorry for repeat pictures if you’ve already seen them on Facebook or Instagram. I’m thinking that maybe I should quit linking my blog to those sites. That way you guys wouldn’t feel obligated to read it and comment and it would go to people who are seeing what news there is for the first time.

See you later.

❤️❤️❤️