November 21, 2018

Lessons from Down Under ... by Jocelyn Faire

The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Anaïs Nin

The year was 2009. Over the previous months, I'd begun to realize that my marriage was likely to end up as a cold statistic of those that do not survive the loss of a child, never mind two. Plans for a move to Australia were shaping up. My sister asked me “Joc, what do you want to do?” I didn't know. I wanted my life to return to what it had been, but that was not to be. Death is rather irrevocable that way, but surely God wanted our marriage to survive as much as I did. I had always wanted to live in another country, but could I leave the one I'd spent my entire life in? My only daughter was returning to live in Africa. The next question Rita asked: “In five years time, which will be the bigger regret—to go or to stay?” How could I know the answer; but I thought the bigger regret would come from not trying. And what did I have to lose?

My scaled down belongings for my new life were packed into three suitcases, along with a large mix of uncertainty and anticipation. My new job location, the Mount Hospital was a private hospital in Perth with eleven operating theatres. Yes, they called them theatres.
The nursing recruitment team had arranged an airport limousine pickup, and a fruit basket was delivered to the hostel ... my only address at the time. I had almost two weeks to adjust to my new surroundings and find a place to live before my first day of work.
Western Australia has the perfect mix of aqua blue skies, sunshine, white pounding waves crashing along miles of uninhabited shore; the ideal spot from which a healing journey should take place. And I was ready for the going ... 
With trembling in my knees and thick with anticipation, I walked up to the private hospital on my first day. It was surprising to discover that the head nurse that interviewed me, had been let go the week before I arrived. But I had little time to focus on the political climate, as I was struggling to get my feet on the ground. I did not know a soul in this country, and no one knew mine.
I could understand why it was called the land down under, everything seemed opposite ... they drove on the wrong side of the road, you flipped the light switch up to turn it off and down to turn it on. This confused me on several occasions, but none as bad as when I turned the lights off in the middle of surgery. The Ozzie slang bears little resemblance to Canadian English. With every fiber of my being I concentrated to comprehend the surgeon's call for instruments ... it was a snap not a hemostat, a honey not a meniscus shaver. The nurses were called sisters, sistah. The Ozzies added r's to words that had no r's and words that ended with r's had them omitted. A good idea became a good idear, water became wattah. Some days were holy and religious days ... Jesus Christ was called upon so many times (in vain) I thought I should be baptized with the saline solutions that flushed our patient's knees. Some days were animal days with continual references to the Fox, (those little animals are not allowed in Canadian theatres) the surgeon was always asking what the fox is going on, or something to that nature ... it took me a week or two to understand that the fox was the Australian doctor swearing and me not understanding his accent. When I heard him talking about a fox, it was not as offensive as the swear. I had never experienced this amount of profanity in any OR I'd ever worked in. Operating rooms are stressful to begin with, but when your co-workers are not supportive, the stress increases. I had not realized when I arrived, new management was in place. (The reason the head nurse that I was interviewed by had been let go, and many staff were upset with the changes.) The environment became toxic and within months I realized I was unable to stay, but what was I to do. The nurse manager sounded threatening after a conversation in which I raised my concerns ... “you do realize that our hospital holds your immigration Visa?” she said to me. Without a job, I could not stay on in Australia. This was an incredibly difficult time ... what to do now? I'd left all behind in the hopes to make a new start here, and to take the time for healing. This was far from healing. Two things that helped: prayer and emotional support from my sisters in Canada, and the knowledge that I'd already been through some of the worst life case scenarios. God had taken care of me in the past, and I chose to believe he would again.
And what a burden lifted from me after I submitted my resignation. When I pondered “what was that all about?” My sister reminded me that the job offer was what I needed to get into the country. Since nurses were needed, the immigration officer granted me an extra year on my Visa in order to find a job. Australia turned out to be a wonderful place of healing. I met many wonderful people and learned a lot about myself. Through another nurse, I heard about Dr George O'Neil's Fresh Start clinic, a faith-based organization for people with addictions. The doors opened for me to get involved there. This was a huge learning opportunity with amazing staff. My life and moving on were bolstered by the amazing opportunity that lay in the midst of job loss.

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" Romans 8:15 The MSG

An update for those of you that were praying for Bella, the little girl transported emergently from N Africa ... she is out of the emergency phase, has begun a treatment program. The family will not return to N Africa for at least two years. Prayer support is still needed in this next adjustment phase. Thank-you for praying.  

November 20, 2018

Finding the Words Through the Fog - Denise M. Ford

For the past eighteen months I have struggled to regain some remnant of myself. Like the woman of Proverbs 31:25-26 I have longed to simply stand in “strength and dignity,” to “laugh with no fear of the future,” to “speak forth with words of wisdom and kindness.”  Instead instability and awkwardness have been my surprising companions following a concussion, otherwise known as a traumatic brain injury. 

I tried to stay positive, using the term “surprising” and not “frustrating” to describe the annoying way that the resulting brain shut-down threw its heavy cloak over me. Oh surprise! Continuing my work as a church administrator brought on double vision and horrendous vertigo. Oh surprise! Grocery shopping required wearing dark glasses so I could hide amidst the aisles, pretending to find something while in fact I was lost in a fog of anxiety. Oh surprise! Concentrating on a conversation or pulling thoughts forward for reasonable discourse meant I needed to take a break to regain any sense of normalcy. 

Eventually I relinquished my job at the church to focus on my recovery.  I had to reimagine my life from one whose purpose entailed helping and encouraging others, to one who herself required support. Surprise! I had to struggle to find my way out of days in which my only goal seemed to be: what do I let go of today?

Pre-concussion, I had taught different Bible studies, writing devotions to give more meaningful interpretations of what we were studying. Now I found I could not handwrite or be on a computer for more than 30 minutes at a time. After that surprising mental workout, I needed to rest and regroup to allow my brain time to refocus itself.

Forward to this November, as I am finally regaining the endurance to provide encouragement to others. My fear of the future wavers between, “Oh what will the surprise be today?”  to “How will I provide meaningful joy to others?”  Like the woman of Proverbs 31, I have begun to laugh again. To set goals despite the obstacle of my brain trauma, and to trust in the wisdom and kindness that will guide word after word as I put pen to paper. This month as I determined to write again a new desire awakened inside of me.  I realized I still wanted to believe that God spoke clearly and loudly within me.  As I wrote I heard these words:

“Here, here I am giving you the thoughts, the ideas, the intricate way of processing life in beautiful metaphors.  Here I am placing it firmly within your grasp and waiting, waiting for you to trust me, to let go of your fears, to let go of your prescribed outline of what and where you should be and how you should be serving Me.  Here, here I am giving you the starting line.  Will you step over it?  Will you trust Me and walk on the path I have cleared for you?  Here I am giving you the courage, the perseverance you need to continue on the path.  Here I am providing everything, everything. Here this is where you begin.  Will you trust me, will you move forward? Will you let go and wholeheartedly let me lead you?”

My response, though still somewhat limited by indiscriminate avalanches of brain fog: “Lord, as You have called me to do, I stand firm in my faith and trust in You, as I seek the words you would have me speak.”

November 19, 2018

Behind the Cover by Eunice Matchett

Last Thanksgiving, I had the privilege of spending the weekend with my daughter, Cynde, in Cold Lake. I loved visiting with her and her family and helping her in her home decor store.  But this time a new experience for me presented itself. An estate sale.

As per normal, unaware of protocol, I shadowed Cynde–until I saw a bookshelf holding some aged books. Thoughts of looking for furniture my daughter could take to her shop and ‘shabby’ evaporated. I started at the top shelf and inspected the books one by one. The novels were all books I’d read and owned many of them myself. But I found a reference book I could not leave behind. It was a hard cover called “History of England by G.M. Trevelyan.” And the dust cover was in better shape than some I’ve seen in bookstores. Delight swept through me. I’d found a treasure and I hugged it tightly while my daughter made her purchases.  Because she bought several pieces of furniture, they gave me the book. I smiled. Double blessings in one day.

After I returned home, I curled up in my reading chair and opened my new book. Several pages of notes and English royalty family tree diagrams I hadn’t noticed at the estate were tucked between the cover and the first page. My toes curled back to my heels in glee.

As I sifted through the papers, something clicked in my ever-roaming brain and I paused to ponder what was lurking beyond the perimeter of my conscience. I’d found a book, and regardless of its age, it was in excellent shape. There was nothing out of the ordinary there. The title had grabbed my attention, making it something I wanted to acquire. Still nothing special about that. Then, it hit me, and my heart raced. Once I sat down to spend time with my new accusation, I found its real treasure.

My thoughts flew to the many times over the years new families had attended our church. I’d dutifully introduced myself and invited them to my home for coffee or to a community event. Most of the time, the people didn’t show up.  This I understood. Like me, they were shy. But what I hadn’t grasped was by giving them an open invite with no actual time  I’d put the responsibility of continuing interaction on them. My face burned.

If I had, like I had with my new book, lived in the moment, and invited them for brunch after the service that day, they would have more than likely accepted. But I had missed a beautiful opportunity to open communication and discover the treasures hidden between the pages of these families.

The realization left me humbled, but at the same time awed. Humbled, because I had neglected being a blessing to others and awed because God had used insignificant, unwanted book wedged between many others on an unwanted shelf to sharpen my dulled awareness.  

November 18, 2018

Clearing the Wall - Gloria Guest

She was my editor. And, in my opinion, she was my workplace bully.

I’m not talking about corrections or suggestions on my work. I wish I was. I am talking about an editor who I did not believe adequately had my back but who seemed to be competing with me; an editor whose ethics I felt, clashed with mine and gave me little to no room to discuss it. But it was when I changed my mind about taking an offered position to work from the office rather than continue to freelance, that I started to feel ignored whenever I came into the office by the entire staff, including herself.

Fortunately I had the experience of working as a reporter under a previous editor for a different newspaper in which I had maintained an excellent rapport. It was this background experience that gave me the wherewithal to come to the understanding that this problem between me and my editor was not all me; that I didn’t deserve to feel like my thoughts and ideas were shoved aside or that my integrity was being diminished. And I certainly didn’t deserve to feel ignored. And upon a lot of reflection and an open conversation with her, I came to understand that this was not a healthy place for me to be. Besides working as a reporter, I also wrote a weekly column. I loved writing my column. The day that I quit, I knew who would be asked to replace me in writing it before the door even closed behind me. Painful.

Obstacles. They stretch behind me in my life like the hurdles in a race; many of them knocked over. Of course I haven’t finished the race; there is still time for improvement. There is a lot of hard work behind me but also ahead of me. But I do get tired. I was very despondent for a long time after I left my job. Depression started to roll into my life like a heavy storm.  I had more tools this time, learnt from years of counseling and did work hard at trying to keep it at bay. Yet it was persistent and strong. Isolation, with my husband on the road and just moving to a new community, definitely didn’t help. Past emotional problems that I thought I had recovered from, loomed again. And worst of all perhaps was the fact that the joy of writing had left me again. And although I had known that everything was not my fault with my editor, I now pretty much believed that it was. My hurdle had turned into a wall of depression.

I’ve had a son in the Canadian Armed Forces for the past ten years now. When he was initially taking his first year of training in Kingston, Ontario at the Royal Military College, the parents were invited to a weekend to watch the different squadrons compete in a grueling obstacle course. If there ever was a perfect object lesson on getting through life, this is it.  We followed our sons’ squadron through the course and no matter how hard, how many struggled, how many fell, they never quit. It was up and on to the next one. And then they came to the Wall. This one was considered the greatest challenge. And this one required every ounce of their strength as a team. Nobody would be getting over it by themselves. Our sons’ team had practiced the Wall relentlessly. In the end they didn’t win the obstacle race but they were the team that cleared the wall the fastest. It was a thrill to watch the teamwork which it took to clear it. And it’s stuck in my mind during some of my darkest times. Will I let the Wall defeat me? Or any of the other obstacles placed in my path? Some obstacles can for the most part be run with just myself and God. And He truly has carried me through. Yet with the Wall, He calls me to join with others; to not isolate; to allow myself to care for others and let others care for me. Only in that way will I clear the Wall.

In the past year I have taken stock of some of the good that has come from the bad; the open doors (even if just a crack) from the closed.

-If I had continued to work at my fast paced reporter job I never would have had the time that I have had to welcome my two (now seven, but at the time 4 year old twin grand-daughters) into our family. With my new found time I spent countless hours with them and they and I truly bonded as grandma and grand-daughters. I then also had the joy of welcoming their baby sister and had time to enjoy the three of them and be a support to their parents J And to top it off we had a fourth grand-daughter join our family this year (my military son and his wife's child.)

-In my attempt to take some small steps to write again I took two writing classes from the University of Toronto. I wasn’t able to continue due to financial and other reasons but I found the encouragement of strangers and especially my instructor uplifting. Maybe I really could write again.

-I entered a story into the Inscribe Christmas Anthology. This became my first published article since my newspaper days (other than a poem in Inscribe and my blogs) and my first attempt at getting any of my writing published beyond a newspaper. A small step yes, but an important one for me and a lesson in teamwork. It was a friend who suggested and encouraged it and it was Inscribe who gave me the opportunity and allowed it to happen. Thank you Pam. And thank you Inscribe.

There are other steps I have taken to clear some of those obstacles. It has undoubtedly been a hard, long struggle in my life again. I can’t say that I’m over the Wall yet. But I won’t quit trying.

With Remembrance Day just past, and my son currently serving in Latvia/Lithuania he has been on my mind a lot. I’m so thankful for all of our serving Armed Forces past and present. And I’m grateful beyond measure for one young soldier that I call my own; who gave and continues to give his mother a tremendous object lesson in clearing the hurdles and obstacles in my life. Thank you Gareth.

Gloria  resides in Caron, Sk., with her husband and two cats where she continues to clear the obstacles of life including the Wall.

November 17, 2018

Life Lessons Learned Through Having Cancer by Lynn Dove

No one likes those valley experiences.  We want to stay on the mountaintop and bask in the sunshine or Sonshine as some may call it.  The thing is, I tend to learn the most life-changing lessons not on the mountaintop but down deep in the valley.  Look at Psalm 23, particularly verse 4. 

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

The Lord is with me always, but it is in those valley experiences, I cling to Him for survival!  On my own strength, I would not be able to get through those dark valleys, and I learn the greatest life lessons during those most challenging times.  

In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  My mother had passed away from the disease in 1990 and I felt a great sense of foreboding at my initial diagnosis.  I had two young children and a teenager, and I cried out to God about the unfairness of this situation not just for me but for my husband and children.  How could He allow this to happen to us?  Fear and trepidation threatened to overwhelm me until God began to reveal a greater plan and purpose for me and my family through this experience with cancer. 

The first life lesson I learned quickly was that I was not alone.  God never leaves or forsakes us during crisis times. (Deuteronomy 31:6)  I experienced His Presence profoundly throughout my cancer journey.  God's Word was a constant Source of comfort and encouragement.  I was surrounded by an amazing support system of family, friends and church family.  People poured themselves out in service to my family and to my own specific needs.  The freezer was filled with food, the house was regularly cleaned, my children were looked after, and when I was too weak from chemotherapy treatments to attend church, the Worship team came to my house for a private time of worship!  

The next life lesson I embraced was that God did not want me to "waste" this experience.  John Piper wrote an article I read and took to heart about 10 ways to waste your cancer.  If God had purposed that I go through this experience, I knew He would be glorified in it.  God gave me the strength and wherewithal to face the surgeries, and chemo treatments with as positive an attitude as I could muster.  This allowed my young children to not be fearful and we could talk openly and honestly about cancer and about how God was good no matter what was happening to me.  I prayed with my surgeons and nurses, and had opportunities to share my faith with them.  When I joined a women's support group for those going through breast cancer, I prayed for those precious women who were in the throes of battle with me.  I have had numerous opportunities then and now to share my journey with cancer either through writing about it, or speaking about it.  In a 9 part series on my personal blog, "Journey Thoughts", I wrote about my cancer journey about what it means to be a "Thriver", because that is exactly how God changed my entire perspective about surviving to thriving through cancer.

Lastly, I do not take for granted the time God has given me this side of Heaven.  I would not wish cancer on anyone, nor would I like to go through that journey again.  That said, I praise God for healing me and allowing me the opportunity to experience Him in ways I never would have had it not been for cancer.  I pray I did not "waste" cancer, but used that valley experience to draw closer to God, to point others to God, and to always remember the life lessons that He taught me along the way.

Lynn Dove is the award-winning author, of the YA “Wounded Trilogy”- a contemporary Christian fiction series with coming-of-age themes.  A wife, mom, grandmother, and free-lance writer with articles published in several magazines and anthologies including Chicken Soup for the Soul books, her blog, “Journey Thoughts” is a Canadian Christian Writing Award winner.  Readers may connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and at