Sunday, 6 June 2021

From there to here...100 days sober!!


“Addiction and  codependency are defined as an unhealthy reliance on

the control of exterior things in order to fill interior needs.”*


“We shall be restored to sanity as we turn away from codependent engagement with the flesh and turn toward the revitalizing source of the Spirit.” *


*stolen quotes from Serenity - A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery (pg 139)


From the time of my first babysitting job, I decided that if people couldn’t fill my needs, I would meet my own needs to shore up my self-esteem and my ability to spend my own money the way I wanted. This manifested as buying something new with every pay cheque and has progressed, over many years, into a spending compulsion which not only fed me physically (eating out, lattes, sugary treats) but emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I learned to create a rush of well being (spike in dopamine) and numbing (escaping) pain and hurts without succumbing to drugs or alcohol (prideful much!).

 

I tried everything to quit; spending plans instead of budgets, cash envelopes instead of debit, gift cards instead of credit cards; yet, with online shopping I found myself scrolling for an endless amount of time looking for the best deal. All while robbing Peter to pay Paul; paying down minimum amounts only to spend it all again! (truth be told I was numbing pain and hurts)

In December 2020, I did the math which woke me up to the extensive damage of this compulsive habit;

I was spending on average $50/day which translated to over $15,000/year!

I was spending on average 60 minutes/day scrolling for the best deals which translated to 365 hours/ year!

And more if I counted social media like facebook which enticed and tempted me with the best new thing to fix all my problems which translated to spending an additional 600 hours/year!

I also spent countless hours mentally obsessing over adjustments required to the spending plan and despite it all here I was with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. With such an insurmountable amount of debt came the belief that I would never be free from it so my mindset was “oh, well! This is impossible! Another few hundred dollars won’t change it so why not buy it anyway.” 

WOW!! Imagine what I could have done with $150,000 over the past decade instead all I had to show for it, was stress, angst, shame and frustration. Oh and many things that I neither wanted or needed including gift giving (buying tea cups on sale from my favorite provider to get free shipping, the best deal and gifts to give away - win-win right?), subscriptions for music, kindle, audible, streaming, eating and exercising not to mention all the clothes and yarn or other craft supplies a girl could ever want or need.

 

Don’t be fooled by society’s mindset, not all people are addicted to shopping online and spending extravagantly. Stop believing that it is okay to buy on credit and spend beyond your means. Like anything else, if taken to extremes it can ruin you.


Perhaps my experience has left you wondering how to manage your own spending compulsions. Or perhaps you are curious to know how I have managed to overcome this compulsion all the while recognizing that spending is a part of day to day life.


First came the wake up call which shook me out of denial.


Then I admitted to God, myself and my husband that I was powerless over this compulsion and asked if we could work together to put boundaries in place to help me overcome and be accountable! 


I have had a few failed attempts before reaching this milestone. I held back for a bit due to buying Christmas gifts and any good deal that caught my eye. Then on 2 occasions I barely reached over the 21 day mark as a result of giving in to the need to numb emotional hurts and pains. 


I am grateful for these relapses because they have caused me to take my compulsion and recovery from it seriously.


Because I have all this time on my hands, I am creating new and better habits which serve me well in every area of my life. Leaving the past behind me, the future ahead, and the present focused on grace, growth and gratitude through faith, meditation/prayer, 12 step recovery meetings and a circle of friends that keep me honest, accountable and loving well (more on that later). 


I am also grateful for the pandemic! Yes, the pandemic, because in my day to day spending it has made it easier to stay away from non-essential purchases. I have guarded myself from all inclusive stores like Wal-mart, Giant Tiger, and Canadian Tire by choosing to order my groceries for pick up or shopping with a local grocer. My online shopping has been limited to needs and my husband and I will browse through fb marketplace before deciding to purchase new elsewhere.


Today marks my 100 days sober milestone! To God alone be the glory! Thanks to HIM, I am learning to live life satisfied, sustained and sane.


Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Battlefield of the mind - dealing with should statements

Last week I discovered another mind trap that has kept me stuck in a self-defeating mindset as a result of thinking "I should or I should not".

I have since recognised that these should thoughts are arbitrary standards that I have set to unnecessarily criticise myself, others or the world. Some examples of this type of thoughts are as follows;

"I should have seen that coming."

"I should have done that differently."

"I shouldn't feel this way."

"He should treat me with more respect."

I have been most guilty of criticising myself particularly when trying to speak about my feelings.  When asked how I feel I often respond with a simple "fine" or "good" because my default thinking and looped script tells me "I shouldn't feel". As far back as I can remember, I have tried to be invisible to others by being good and as a result have tucked away and numbed my emotions to the degree that it has become difficult to regulate and express genuine positive emotions. 

Negative emotions on the other hand, have been easily expressed and poorly regulated. Emotions like, irritability, anger, jealousy; emotions that have trapped me in sarcastic, criticising or judging behaviors with myself and others. As a result of these scripts I have come to many dead ends. Thankfully, once I become aware of a dead end, I am quicker to make a U-turn which allows me to break the old default thinking pattern.

I know it will take time and practice/discipline however, by living in the present rather than in my head I can more easily name the emotion - validate it - release it and let go; moving on to what's next.

Finally, I am beginning to personally grasp what the bible says about renewing your mind.

And so, dear brothers and sisters,[a] I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.[b] Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2.

Prayer: May God bless you with wisdom and clear discernment to choose loving behaviors. In Jesus' name. Amen

Sources: Cognitive distortions - when your brain lies to you ; bible and life experience.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Battlefield of the mind - dealing with catastrophic thinking


As far back as I can remember, I have had this tendency to get easily irritable when things do not go as planned (more specifically, according to MY plan).

In the past week to 10 days, I have been using the SWITCH app, developed by Dr. Caroline Leaf, to address some ongoing toxic thinking, rumination and catastrophizing. Thoughts that at their root determine that I am often thinking the worst, waiting for the other shoe to drop and that life (everything) is hard. My thought life has been one of grumbling and martyrdom; but why? Better yet how do I change it? It is not as easy as keeping my mouth shut; biting my tongue is painful; and repressing my emotions sometimes leads to an explosion that comes at others out of nowhere.

Finally, at day 7, when I began to focus on the concept for the day, the dam broke. I gathered awareness about my attitude and how often I choose to catastrophize and grumble about my circumstances, big or small, rather than get excited and accept the challenge as well as make an effort to stay in the now and embrace the opportunity to do something I enjoy with my husband.

This new awareness enabled me to keep my mouth shut without the need to bite my tongue and a morning which I thought would be ruined due to my catastrophizing became a key lesson in communication.

Here's a glimpse of what I was thinking when we headed out to go kayaking that day

- we will get caught in the rain, what a disaster
- listening to you chattering is hard
- not knowing the way is hard
- the slope down to the river is hard
- getting into the water and then the kayak is hard
- paddling towards the same direction is hard

Yet, I chose not to speak these thoughts out loud and silently prayed for an intervention so that I could keep putting into practice what I have learned and embrace an attitude of of gratitude and excitement.

If you ever want to challenge this attitude and know who is in control - get into a tandem kayak with your spouse. Here communication, patience and grace are key - working with each other instead of against each other is critical - there was no room for my irritability, self-centeredness, need to be right, or warden voice. Even Sean's frustration was left at the shore line. It was a glorious unfolding.

PS - As I reflected on the roots of my attitude and misgivings, I found it difficult to put into words why I often behave in such ways.

So I identified the toxic thought - if only
Then associated the emotions - frustration and irritability
Connected to the information - I messed up
Then associated the emotions - regret and guilt
And connected the information - if only I had done it differently

Time and time again this circular reasoning has set me up for a negative feedback loop. Yet I still can't put my heart into the root cause of it. Clearly, I self-sabotage a fun and good time as you can tell from my thinking prior to my kayak journey. Clearly, I prefer to be in control of everything. Neither of these mindsets serve me well yet they cling to me like a dirty rag. And, despite that fact, I have hope for change as I learned a few things from this experience.

The root of my toxic thinking is about how I feel about myself, not others. Although these words were penned by  Melissa Maimone, Radiant Midnight, they aptly put into words my own feelings. " I feel ashamed that I so easily fail at being the person I want to be." and "realizing how little control I have had over my mind is terrifying. All of it makes me feel vulnerable and naked."

Secondly, it is never too late to change my attitude or start a new practice. God's mercies are new every morning.

And lastly, pausing before I speak will go a long way to decreasing regret and guilt.

Practice the Pause!
Pause before judging.
Pause before assuming.
Pause before accusing.
Pause whenever you're about to react harshly,
and you will avoid doing
and saying things that you will
later regret.
- Lori Deschene

The following is a link to an article that describes catastrophizing and what you need to know to stop worrying. (Healthline article re. catastrophizing )

Saturday, 27 June 2020

In honour of my sister in love


I saw a honeybee yesterday, she assured me that everything would be okay and encouraged me to carry on and bee the change we want to see in the world. We beelong together - Together like the hard-working and loving community of a beehive coming together for a higher purpose. The honeycomb reminds us that nothing is impossible when we stick together.
At the time of our last visit with Michèle and Jeff, we had a few minutes “just us girls”, precious minutes that I will cherish forever. The words she spoke seemed insignificant at the time, merely more words about the beauty of nature, the differences between species and a great analogy for community and sisterhood. Upon further reflection, I began to truly reconcile, the power of such imagery – the glory of God’s creation and how Michèle, despite her buzzyness, knew and enjoyed the desires of her heart!
The bible tells us that “gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Proverbs 16:24 (ESV). From the first time I met Michèle she had only gracious words for me. She adopted me as her sister in love and affirmed how beautiful I was (something I struggle with accepting for myself to this day) by calling me Bella. She was a fountain a joy, a blessing to us during Sean’s cancer journey, and loved us even though our goals and dreams were not her own. You could say that we were a different species working toward the same goal of helping others but in different ways.
As we spoke, I identified with her description of the bumblebee’s daily journey - traveling from flower to flower – up to 100 kms a day to collect pollen. While bumblebees also produce honey, they do so in small quantities because come winter they each go their separate way and fend for themselves as a lone ranger who finds some real estate and settles – I identify with this behavior because as an introvert, I often need to go off by myself to recharge and Michèle respected that. 
Michèle was more like a honeybee; living it up, making her home above ground allowing others to experience her joy as she deployed her sting to rally her 50,000 sisters to hit their mark and come together fashioning a honeycomb filled beehive that has certainly changed the lives of many.
The life of a queen honeybee is truly one of community. She doesn’t travel without an entourage. She isn’t left alone. She has enough help to take care of her and her young. The sole responsibility of the queen bee is to lay eggs – she is a life-giver. She does not hibernate, buzzing in the hive until the weather allows her to go out again. In the meantime, her daughters cluster around her to keep each other warm. A strong hive like Michèle’s has community that numbers in the tens of thousands.
Yet, now she rests in the Promised Land – a land flowing with milk and honey. And her legacy lives on through her daughters.
Keep the hive alive, sisters!



Saturday, 22 June 2019

My God is Faithful, He provides hope in His Mercy (sermon from Bible School, April 2018)


Good evening and welcome to Dr. Joyce Boucher and all my fellow ministers of the gospel. Thank you for taking the time to listen and engage in the messages that God will speak to our hearts.
Allow me to begin with words penned and sung by worship artist Paul Baloche last night, because they aptly echo the words of Jeremiah and capture God’s heart and those of rebellious people who have known great suffering and desire to return to God.

I once was lost, I walked away
The road was dark, I could not see
My hope was gone, the pain was real
But your mercy
you felt my fear
You heard my cry
you ran to me
With your mercy
Your loving-kindness
It leads me to repentance

Each Fall, I pray for a word to carry me through the next year. None have impacted me more than those found in the book of Lamentations in a season of darkness. During this time, God’s healing words of mercy and hope penetrated the depths of my heart and through the meditation of Lamentations 3:21-26

But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
I came to understand that My God is Faithful, He provides hope in His Mercy.  But for God this would not have been possible.
Jesus longs for His Word to be understood and awaken the desires of our heart because information without application never leads to transformation. Yet the longest journey we will ever take is the 18 inches from our head to our heart. I confess that I am guilty of hindering this process – out of resistance, fear and disobedience. I either retreat or busily make everything a task to check off my list instead of embracing the process much like I did with this message at first. I must say however, last night’s worship event brought a completely different perspective – instead of foregoing worship to work on my message, I chose to participate – WOW! What an answer to prayer – finally I did like Mary and sat at his feet instead of being a busy Martha as I usually would have done in this case.
Perhaps, you too may have found yourself so busy that you have overlooked intimate relationship with our God. It’s been said that “if Satan can’t make you bad he will make you busy.” B-U-S-Y simply means Burdened Under Satan’s Yoke.
My own busyness became my sin, the sin that took away from my time with God. I was on the verge of a burn out… (truthfully, – I was clinical depressed and unwilling to ask for help or admit my suffering). While God is not to blame for the depression, and it wasn’t my fault neither, my lifestyle, repressed emotions and avoidance of cautionary warnings were not helpful.
Today marks the 5th anniversary of the day my world and I came undone, and I stopped denying the depression that held me captive. – after 10 years in the same job, I found myself without, as the result of a reorganization. During this time, I desperately searched for God through whichever means I could find. Most days I could barely utter a simple prayer like “Jesus help me” let alone read, write and memorize scriptures and confusion would set in – I was stuck in a downward spiral of anxious thoughts. Then I came across mindful worship – Thank you God! This audible meditation on Lamentations 3:21-26 repeated over and over “His mercies are new every morning” it gave me hope – it built me up and encouraged me to reach for His new mercies. That as Paul states in 2 Corinthians 4 “our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that…will last forever! don’t look at the troubles we can see now; but fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For they…will last forever.” As an act of repentance, I surrendered my worry, anxiety and fears to God and He began to restore me. Within a short period, I began to hope again particularly when like Jeremiah, I remembered this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
 Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
No matter the suffering that you may be facing rest assured in knowing that God’s Word provides Healing, Prayer and Encouragement particularly when we Obey. Hope without Obedience is empty and deferred or unfulfilled hope.
The story that unfolds in the book of Lamentations has been a healing balm to my hurried heart and wild mind. My prayer for you is that it gives you freedom to process your emotions, question the how and why of your darkness and call to God for restoration despite the mess. Now of course we cannot fully appreciate the significance of Chapter 3 without looking at it in context of the entire book. In these acrostic poems, all neatly organized despite the chaotic theme of the story, God’s heart is revealed through the prophet Jeremiah. As the story progresses, Jeremiah moves from horrible loss and shame to restored hope and prayer for renewal. He mourns for Jerusalem, reveals to us God’s mercy, the consequences of sin and eternal hope during suffering. Jeremiah warns people to repent and return to God; this is seen in Lamentations 3:39-41 (Then why should we, mere humans, complain when we are punished for our sins? Instead, let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the Lord. Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven.) Furthermore, Jeremiah pleads for restoration and reminds us to ask for God’s mercy and grieve with God (mourn for what he mourns and be broken for what breaks him) – Once we trust God, obey him and demonstrate a willingness to change then he can “contend” with us. (Jeremiah 2:9a)
In the first chapter, we see that because of immoral living, Jerusalem suffered God’s punishment- despite warnings “She defiled herself with immorality and gave no thought to her future. Now she lies in the gutter with no one to lift her out.” (Lam 1:9) Because of Jerusalem’s ongoing defiance and disobedience, God exacted judgment. Essentially, all of Jerusalem’s sources offering a sense of security were lost- the people had a choice to seek the Great Comforter, by repenting and returning to God or trusting only in themselves which ultimately led to desolation.
          Then, we get a glimpse of God’s compassion through Jeremiah’s lament “I have cried until the tears no longer come; my heart is broken. My spirit is poured out in agony as I see the desperate plight of my people.” (Lam 2:11). How much greater is God’s sorrow for his people. With everything taken from them– they were vulnerable, weeping and open to seeking forgiveness from God – this was an opportunity for them to experience God’s faithfulness and mercy as demonstrated in Chapter 3:21-25 the same verses that encouraged me to seek God wholeheartedly, to hold on to hope despite suffering and to ask Him to become A SIGNIFICANT part of my life AND ALLOW ME TO fully experience His rescue and restoration through love, mercy and hope! May he do the same for you!
In chapter 4, Jeremiah tells us of how God’s divine anger is satisfied. Because of the people’s sin there was destruction, guilt and poverty. Jerusalem was under siege for two years and couldn’t get out of the protection offered by their walls to get food and water – hope was gone!
Finally, in the last chapter, Jeremiah pleads for restoration. He recounts the plight of Jerusalem asking the Lord to remember them. In verse 21 he prays “Restore us, Oh Lord and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had!
God is faithful to his promises – if he follows through on punishment for disobedience then we can rest assured that he will follow through on restoration and blessings when we choose to repent and turn to Him. We can be confident in His great promises for the future.
The book of Lamentations reveals God’s merciful character. It shows us that despite our waywardness and sin we can hope in His faithfulness because he delights in showing unfailing love.
It’s not enough to gather information about God, we must activate our faith and choose to believe without seeing despite our circumstances. It has also ignited in me compassion for anyone wrestling with mental health and a desire to help set the captives free.
My final words to each of you as you go and make disciples - Do not be discouraged at the intersection of sorrow, suffering and surrender because there you will also find your Savior. Be encouraged for Great is God’s faithfulness.




Sunday, 27 August 2017

"Jesus I will cling to you come what may" Even if by Mercy Me

Image result for images for jesus i will cling to you




It has been a long and challenging week and if I were to count the days I would be discouraged to note that too many of my days (over half of the month, every month) are spent directly dealing with the results of chronic illness and the other days are spent recuperating, making up for lost time and numerous attempts at living life and getting well. Chronic fatigue, migraines, anxiety, joint pain, digestive challenges and heart palpitations - all plague my body in the here and now yet I can truly  echo the words of this song knowing that it is well with my soul because I choose to cling to Jesus come what may.

The testimony that Bart Millard shares with his fans about his son Sam's struggle with diabetes resonates to the depth of my heart. If there is one thing that I would add it is that on some days I long to be normal - days where I don't need to inject myself to prevent anemia, go to sleep early so I can make it to work the next day, take medication at the onset of a migraine, turn off all the lights and block out noise for what seems like days or get shot up with adenosine to convert my heart rhythm from 200 beats to 100 or less.

This week was particularly draining because I experienced all of the above and more - yet at the onset, before the noise began to crowd my mind and heart - God poured out this song. And being that I often ask why, it caught my attention and played over and over in my mind until it brought a huge relief and smile to my face in the midst of my ambulance ride to the hospital Saturday night...

I struggled with calling 911 because sometimes my heart converts on its own and I didn't want to put anybody out - my need to be right and pride kept me from turning to prayer first. Finally, while I was waiting this song played in my heart anchoring me to the truth of who I am in Christ and reminding me that he has already won the battle - that like Sean's cancer journey - this is but a bump in the road and a journey I must walk - on good days it's easy but on weeks like this I have been left wondering and then these words echoed in my heart reminding me of God's mighty power, his faithfulness and his goodness and that all I need to do to experience it is believe in him, be anchored in hope, show faith and pray for strength to sing "It is well with my soul".

I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don't
My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

    You've been faithful, You've been good
    All of my days
    Jesus, I will cling to You
    Come what may
   ‘Cause I know You're able
    I know You can
    May this song encourage you as it has me, never give up, this world is only temporary and God is greater than     all your ups and downs combined. He has not forgotten you and can and will use us for his glory despite our         circumstances. May you be richly blessed.
    








Friday, 25 August 2017

Trust, Seek, and Love with your whole heart!

Image result for images of whole heart by brandon heath


I heard a song on the radio earlier that reminded me how simple it can be to live a Godly life and began to wonder why I often make it so complicated? There's the rub for me - when I ask myself why;

- I am seeking to understand with my mind instead of my heart
- I am seeking to control the outcome instead of trusting that everything will work out
- I am seeking to justify my own feelings by comparing and judging instead of loving unconditionally

Yet according to the truth of the Bible, I am not asked to do any of those things; I am simply asked to know and obey God and while that may appear daunting it can be as easy as one, two, three, when I choose to

1) Trust in the Lord with all my heart (Proverbs 3:5)
2) Seek God wholeheartedly (Jeremiah 29:13)
3) Love the Lord my God with all my whole heart, all my soul, all my strength, and all my mind. And, Love my neighbor as myself. (Luke 10:27)

With this I can open my whole heart fully to God and then he can enter into my pain and brokenness to heal me so that I can grow in loving kindness, mercy and peace.

I have come to firmly believe that I am nothing without God and it is songs like this that cause me to ponder and discover who I am rather than asking why. Songs like this give me the courage to be open, honest and responsible with my life's struggles so that perhaps maybe God will use me to encourage others.

To hear the song in its entirety or read Brandon Heath's message on whole heart simply click on the link below.

May you be richly blessed as you come to discover God for yourself.

The less I trust you, the less I grow
The more you love me, the more I know
I don't have to be afraid to show all of me, all of me
Where there's hurting
Where there's sorrow and shame
Enter into the pain
Where there's hurting
You show me what healing can do
Where there's hatred
You show me how kindness can move
Where there's fear deep inside
I won't run, I won't hide
I'll give you all of me
So that you can see
Every broken piece and open up my
Whole heart, whole heart
And love you with my
Whole heart, whole heart
I'll love you with my whole heart
My whole heart