mental health

Mental Health and Christian Life

 *Full disclosure – I wrote this post MONTHS ago. I just looked to see if I could find the exact date, but I do not see it without clicking out of this screen. I think it was last semester while I was doing research for a couple of papers that I wrote on similar topics. It is a topic I have been wrestling with for a long time and am very passionate about so I’ve come back to this draft. 

I have been thinking a lot about mental health again lately. I know that is not uncommon for me. I’ve written about mental health many times. It affects so many people I love and these days we all know someone who struggles with some aspect of severe mental health whether we know about it or not.

Not too long ago I was talking to someone who mentioned how difficult it is to fake it sometimes. That pretending that you are “feeling normal” is easy over short periods of time, but if someone comes to stay with you, and you are around them for longer periods of time it becomes a lot harder to hide that you are struggling. This makes them dread long visits.

This has been prickling my mind ever since.

Why do we feel the need to pretend we feel well when we do not?

When I have a migraine and someone asks how I am feeling I don’t even consider hiding how I truly feel. I don’t see it as a sign of weakness, I don’t worry that they will think any less of me for having a headache. In fact, this past Sunday just after we finished worship practice I got the aura that signals the beginning of a migraine and right away I mentioned it to a couple team-mates. One person offered me ibuprofen and the other laid hands on me and prayed. I made it through the music at the beginning of the service and then had to go find a dark room and lay on the floor until Caleb could drive me home. I felt a little bit weird laying on the floor in the church but I wasn’t ashamed or worried that I needed to hide what was happening.

When I am feeling anxious or down or am just having a bad day, however, there is a voice that whispers “People will think you have no faith if you let them see this side of you.” “You aren’t trusting God.” “You must not be relying on his strength.” All the “helpful” Christianisms that have done so much damage to so many people.

It is so not true!

When someone shares their struggles with depression or anxiety it fills me with love for them. It shows me that they are more like me than I thought. It breaks down the lie that I am the only one who struggles. I am fully convinced that one of Satan’s greatest tool against believers is the story that others will turn away and abandon us if they knew the truth about what we struggle with. 

I don’t know about you, but I am FAR from perfect and I don’t really love being around perfect people. I cannot relate to perfect people. I like other flawed people. A person who has never struggled cannot teach me anything about trusting God through times of anxiety. You know who can? The person who has battled anxiety for 20 something years and continues to fight it.

A person who has never struggled cannot walk with me through depression because they cannot even fathom what it is like, but someone who has felt those same hopeless feelings can. These are the people who show me that I can make it through whatever I am struggling with. These are the people who encourage me to persevere.

When someone shares their struggles it opens up a chance for me to bear some of that burden with them through prayer. It allows me to be more intentional about asking questions and really listening. It endears them to me in a way that nothing else can. It draws us together as brothers and sisters in Christ because family walks through that hard stuff together. When that happens God is glorified.

It isn’t an easy thing that I am asking, I realize that. I am asking that we admit something really scary. I am asking that we try to be open about our fears even when we know they are irrational. I am asking that we share our feeling of hopelessness. If we never do these things it is very difficult to bear one another’s burdens.

Would you consider trying it? Would you also consider how best to respond if someone was this open when you ask the question “how are you”? Let’s do our best to break the stigma that is still so strong and rob Satan of a little more power.

signed

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a beginning

I can hardly believe it has been as long as it has since I last sat down and wrote for this blog. Sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago that I used to sit here daily and write. I have missed those days! Since then I have added another baby to our family, gone back to university, and so much has changed, so many new beginnings. I keep thinking longingly of sitting down to write again, then I get distracted by another paper that I need to submit for a class or a mess that needs to be cleaned up, or something else that pulls my short attention span away from this place that I have missed. Then January came and I decided, this is it. If ever there was a time to come back to this space it is now. I gave myself a little pep-talk about how this year would be busy but I would make time for this blog again.

So here I am, making time! Sitting with the lovely ladies from Writers Jam, away from my house, my responsibilities, and my Greek flashcards for an hour and a half. It almost feels as if no time has passed. It is a bit weird that it has been over a year!

I haven’t quite come up with a plan of what to write next in this space. I have been doing a lot of writing for school some of which has been a pleasure and some has been a bit of a drag, but I may adjust and share a few things here. For now, all I have is a beginning, it is nothing spectacular but it is better than nothing so I am embracing it.

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mother's day and mental health

mother’s day and mental health

Happy mothers day to the anxious, the depressed, to those battling mental illness and those believing the lies of the enemy saying “you are failing at this mom thing.”

I don’t have words that will heal your hearts or pull this thorn from your flesh, I wish I did. What I do have is the words to tell you that you are not alone. A reminder that you are loved and that these struggles do not make you a failure or less of a great mom.

You struggle on day by day doing your best to hide these hardships from your children, to smile when they look at you and fill their lives with joy even when you feel none. You speak truth to yourself even when you don’t think that you are actually listening. You wonder what is wrong with you and why you can’t just be happy, be “normal.”

What you don’t know is that when your children look at you, what they see is your strength. They look at you and see a woman who is living a faithful life when faith isn’t easy. They see you choosing to trust when your mind is screaming that you cannot. They see you making the hard choices that are only made harder because of the voices in your head telling you that it isn’t worth it. They see your perseverance. Your children look at you and see hope for their own future because of the way you continue to battle this thorn in your flesh that won’t come out.

Your life gives your children the strength they will need to face their own thorns ones day whether those thorns are similar to your own or completely different. I know because I was one of those children.

At least for today shout “shut up!” at the prince of lies who wants to tear you down so you won’t be a threat to him.

Hear my words to you today, the words HE whispers to you every day, even when it is hard to hear Him. You are not a failure, you are a conqueror. You are strong because He is shining through you even in your weakest moments. You are raising children who know that life isn’t always easy but that God is always faithful even when trusting feels impossible.

Sister in Christ, daughter of the King, hold your head high today. You are raising the people who may one day change the world and anxiety (or whatever your particular struggle is) can’t do a darn thing to stop that because you are His.

signed

 

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after burnout

after burnout

It has been almost 5 months since my website was hacked and I lost everything I have written in the past 2 years. This happened at a time of chaos in my life, getting ready to go to Africa, then coming back and jumping right back into the insanity that is my life (of my own making). Africa was exactly as I imagined it would be, what wasn’t the same was the feeling of coming back. I have been overseas before so I knew a bit of it but at the time I was still a child really, a teenager with the world open to me and very few responsibilities. This time coming back meant jumping back into the ministries I am involved in, jumping back into being a mom and my work responsibilities. I didn’t expect the emotions that came with it or even know how to explain them, I still don’t really. Losing every post I have poured my heart into for the past two years only exasperated it (a lot).

I found myself well along the road to burnout, again, with no idea how to turn it around and no idea how to even explain how I was feeling except tired.

I don’t blame Africa, that was awesome and I am dying to back, it was entirely my own fault for getting myself involved in too many things, stretching myself too thin and relying on my own strength.

Normally when I feel these feeling writing helps, but this time even my voice was tired. No words left in my over wordy life. Words have always been a way of processing for me, they help but these past few months trying to find words was so hard!

I too a step back of whatever I could and still I just felt exhausted. Every so slowly I started to feel like myself again but still the words were missing. Today was the first time in a long time that I have felt those words start to bubble up again and felt the need to sit down and write. It feels like a spring in my life which is wonderful, slowly those tiny plants are starting to poke through again and I’m starting to feel life creep into me again. Words and emotion, not sure why they have come back together but they have, they both came crashing in on me today.

So, I am back, hopefully to stay and will slowly rebuild my site and content.

signed

PS I just read Eve Undone by Alanna Rusnak and I loved it and I’m not just saying that because she is my friend! It is a short story so it’s perfect for when you want something to fill an hour or so. Seriously, check it out!

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Ghana trip

Ghana Trip (part 1)

I have been trying to find the right words to answer the questions that people keep asking about how our trip was. I think I haven’t really processed it all yet and it is so much to try to sum up into a quick answer! We loved it so much! Ghanaians are wonderful welcoming people who are so fun to be around because they are WAY more expressive than North Americans.

Paul and Anna

Ghanaians are wonderful welcoming people who are so fun to be around because they are WAY more expressive than North Americans. While we were there we taught our hostess, Anna, and her sister Millicent how to make pizza, when we told her we would teach her she danced around the house smiling and cheering. It’s wonderful. (the pizza turned out really good too) We could not have dreamed of better hosts than Paul, Anna and Millicent! We adore them and miss them so much now that we are away. Anna and Millicent are fabulous cooks and spoiled us so much! All three of them are so fun to be around, so silly and hilarious and just all around wonderful.

Millicent

The classes were great, Caleb loved teaching with Pete and Paul and I enjoyed hanging out with some of the kids what came along with their moms. Lesley and I were able to lead a small group during the second module which was on our Position in Christ. We had about 15 women in our group and really enjoyed getting to know them. We would have loved to have a lot more time with them and are looking forward to seeing them again on a future trip.

Caleb teaching in Ghana

We were able to go to a local school and teach during chapels on Wednesday mornings which was awesome. Caleb and I taught the little guys (K – grade 6ish). The younger kids don’t speak very much English yet so we had the help of a translator which was actually really fun because he was a very high energy and expressive translator who copied all the mannerisms I used when I told my story. Caleb taught the first week and I took the second one, I taught the story of Elijah with the prophets of Baal – my  favorite Bible story. (That story always goes over really well with kids.) It is pretty cool that they still have prayer, singing and Bible classes in public schools there! It seems like such a foreign thing coming from a country like Canada or the US.

We were able to spend two days with Priscilla, a very cool lady who fosters 8 children (2 have been adopted by her and her husband now, 6 are still foster kids) in Accra. These children all have special needs and some of them are fairly severe. Priscilla is so full of faith and love she practically radiates it. It was so wonderful getting to know her a bit, I would have loved to spend a lot more time with her and hope to do so next time. On top of her job being mommy and daddy to 8 little kids, Priscilla and William teach Bible classes in the nearby slums, one of the few unchurched places. They are praying about planting a church there soon. There are ways to support their ministry with children and with this church plant if you are interested….

Priscilla Pete, William and the kids Lesley

Just today we saw that the adoptions for two of these little children have gone through and they will be heading over to the US to their new families. Please pray for William and Priscilla and the children as they all say goodbye, this is always very hard but also something to praise God for! If you want to know more about their ministries you can look them up on facebook, twitter or online West Africa Mercy Ministries.

If you haven’t seen the first video from our trip you can do so here and subscribe to my youtube channel to see the next one when it comes out. I will write more and post more videos soon.

signed

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A day in London

A day in London!

One very cool treat at the end of our trip was a cancelled flight that led to about 30 hours in London. We got a hotel, rested, showered and toured London. It was a crazy day with 8 hours of walking fast all over and we loved every minute of it. (although I limped back into the hotel like an idiot while Caleb and Lesley laughed at me.)

If you haven’t seen this already, here is a taste of our amazing day in this beautiful city:

signed

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The tale of badly misconstrued measurements

It was a hot hazy day in Ghana, just as every other day had been while we were there. Harmattan was in full swing. We had been there for a few days already and I was starting to think about looking for a dress for Aurora. She had made it very clear that she wanted an African dress and some jewelry. The home we were staying at was just down a short dirt road (subdivision seems like the wrong word….) with a few houses on it a 1-2 minute walk from one of the main roads, we had to walk it every day to go to the market or get to the church where we were teaching in the evenings. We noticed that there was a seamstress right there and decided to stop in and get a quote from her, and pick out a style before heading into the market to find the right fabric.

I know a little about sewing having grown up with a seamstress for a mom (she will freak when she sees me call her that but it is true) so I knew that I would need her waist measurement and the height from nape of neck to floor. Armed with these measurements (via text to my mom) I head across the street with Lesley, Anna and Millicent ready to do business. The problem is that although Ghana is technically an English country, it really isn’t. In the city most people speak a little bit of English, you need to speak slowly (our accents….) and not use big words and you should be ok but the further you get from the city the less English they speak. In Nsawam most people speak a tiny bit at least and the people who came to the teaching spoke enough to understand and communicate quite well as long as we were careful to speak slowly and clearly. Well, this seamstress spoke none. Ok, I can handle this, I have Anna and Millicent, they are both Ghanian and speak Twi as their first language. So they rattle off with her and I just stand there like an idiot trying to be useful.

I chose a pattern and told the seamstress Aurora’s age and start to give the two measurements that I have…. Now my second problem starts. I am not good with details. This is a slight understatement. I really do try but it seems the harder I try the worse it gets. So I start giving measements to the seamstress’s assistant using the numbers and signing with my trusty hostesses there to help if needed.

“Ok. Waist – 43 inches.”

They look at me with confusion, then start rattling off to Anna again. “How old did you say she is?”

“Oh she is 7 but she is very tall so she is more like 8 in her size.”

They continue to look at me with confusion but not wanting to show how horrified they are at my ginormous offspring they calmly write it down. Waist 43 inches.

“Ok, Height – 26 inches…wait a minute….”

Luckily I realized my mistake, giggled about it and tried to explain. Ok no problem. She gave me the amount of yardage I would need and sent me on my way.

Next stop, slightly down the road there was a tailor, I would stop in quickly and ask about a boy’s shirt for Gideon. Since Gideon is a tiny little guy I didn’t bother getting measurements, he is a bit smaller than most African 4-year-olds I hung out with so this would be easy. For some reason it wasn’t. Usually even for an adult outfit this tailor just needs to see a picture of someone and can make an outfit to fit them perfectly. (seriously….skill!) I told the tailor (who spoke even less English than the seamstress, and being a man seemed to understand my signing less than the seamstress had) his age, that he is small and even showed a video of Gideon to him so he would see what he looks like. Nope, I need measurements

“Nope, I need measurements.” he told Anna, but did tell me how much fabric I would need.

We headed off to the market, chose our fabrics and brought them back later in the day. By this time I had gotten a text back from my mom with Gideon’s waist measurement and the length that the shirt should be.

“Waist – 22 inches, length – 14 inches”

“What about his shoulders?”

“Oh, I will have to ask and come back.”

My mom had already sent this measurement, but my dislexia and attention to details flared up here again. She had used numbers to write the other two measurements but had written out “five and a half” for the length of one shoulder so I didn’t notice it. (me with details….).

The next day (time difference…) I get this response:

That’s 11″, it would have been double the other one

Ok, head back to the tailor and tell him, I could do this one alone it would be easy, I wouldn’t need a translator. Caleb went with me.

“Shoulders 24 inches.”

He writes it down and doesn’t even look at me funny.

I leave feeling accomplished.

Several hours later as we are all sitting quietly studying for the evening class I start thinking over what I told him.

“Oh crap. Did I really say that?”

I check the text from my mom. Shoulders are 11 inches, the double it was from the “five and a half” in the first text. Did I say 11? I think I said 24. Where did I get that number from?!

“Hey Caleb, did I tell the guy that Gideon’s shoulder are 11 inches or 24 inches?” I called from the other room.

“I think you said 24.”

I burst into uncontrollable fits of laughter, woke up Lesley and disturbed the guys who are diligently studying. I came stumbling out of the room sobbing, doubled over and attempted to explain what I had done. I say the “double it” and doubled the 11 – except even that doesn’t really make sense because 24 isn’t the double of 11……

I began to picture what this shirt would look like. What this child would look like.

Shoulders: 26″ wide

Waist: 22″ around

Length: 14″

More fits of laughter. Oh dear. “I need to go fix this!”

Then I remembered what I had done with Aurora’s measurements and laughed even harder picturing these two freak of nature children standing side by side. Mr. Football shoulders and Miss Beachball. Oh dear. I am such an idiot!

Thankfully when I stopped in with Paul (our host) he was able to explain the extent of my stupidity and the tailor had already figured out a plan.

It was pretty hard to walk past either place afterwards though without fits of laughter.

Moral of the story: I cannot be trusted with details or measurements.

signed

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The tale of the chicken taxi

It was always very dark when we left the training sessions and headed back home. Paul had made it clear that it was safe for us to walk TO the church for sessions (just before 5pm) but walking home was not safe. It wasn’t likely that we would get robbed or hurt walking home all together, but it was very possibly that a ruffian might follow us to find out where we were staying and rob us in the night. Safety is something we are always aware of, we don’t want to put our host family in any extra danger and we don’t want to lose anything valuable, especially our passports.

As we had done every night, we walked to the road, Anna hailed a couple taxis and all the ladies piled in and started for home while the men waited for the second taxi to follow.

The taxi Anna flagged seemed like it might be trouble (it had stalled 2 times just turning around to get us and had no tail lights) but most cars here have issues so we hopped on in and started for home.

I need to pause here to mention that Anna had spent about four hours removing her awesome weave, walking down to the road side “salon” getting her hair washed, moisturized and redone with big curlers that had to sit for many hours before being taken out. It was a long process for her and had taken most of the day.

Ok, back to the story.

The speed bumps here are insane, even going as slowly as possible most cars scrape as they go over, so our driver decided to go a different way which included a fairly steep hill (We are in the middle of some small mountains here.) but avoided all but one speed bump.

After stalling for the 30th time and not wanting to start again, Lesley and I started getting nervous. We didn’t know where we were, ànd knew we shouldn’t walk at night. We were beginning to think we would likely get robbed and I would lose my expensive DSLR and all our money, we were just hoping we would make it home unharmed even if we lost everything.

I sent a text to Pete letting him know that we kept stalling and didn’t know where we were, hoping that Paul could help them find us. The mood in the car was very tense. Did I mention it’s 30C? The fumes were pretty strong too.

Suddenly, the silence was peirced as something large came flying in the window through Anna’s hair straight into the cab driver. There was screaming and flapping and feathers flying everywhere. Finally the cabbie caught a very terrified and parcially plucked bantam chicken. The car erupted in laughter. Even the driver was cracking up. A chicken….flew into the cab….into Anna’s hair….

Apparently a dog was chasing it and the taxi seemed like the safest place to be.

The driver was able to get the car started and we slowly puttered/stalled our way home still laughing hysterically.

We teased the driver alot and waved goodbye to our “chicken taxi!”

signed

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a loss

About a month ago I, along with many others, was the victim of a cyber attack. I was locked out of all of my websites for at least a month and now that they are finally back (thank you so much Zachary – Caleb’s computer genius brother) and most are unharmed, except this site. My site. I’ve lost everything I have written for the last 2 years. All gone.

Excuse while I got cry and make some strong coffee.

Ok. I haven’t actually cried about it yet but it is a pretty big blow. I know, I know, I should have backed up and I certainly will from now on. I guess I just thought that this would never happen.

Word to the wise (and to idiots like me) don’t keep it all just online! Back it up somewhere, multiple places multiple external hard drives and websites.

So now I will go pull myself together, drink that coffee and later on I will share one of my funny stories from Ghana.

signed

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