Category Archives: Courage

Joys and Challenges

DesignI haven’t written on here in a while. Life has been a bit of a whirlwind as I continue to move forward as a Missionary Appointee of TEAM. There have been lots of ups and downs as I prepare to move to the other side of the world to do God’s work. As my time to move to the Czech Republic gets closer each day, my excitement for this journey increases, as I also recognize, and prepare myself for, leaving behind everything I know.

The joys that have come out of this process have been too many to count. Number one is, without a doubt, the chance to share God’s incredible love and power through what He is doing in my life.

My life has changed drastically over the last decade – from the girl the who spent days in bed due to depression, and would, at times, stand at her front door for hours because her anxiety wouldn’t allow her to open it and walk through – to the woman who is on fire for Jesus and is being sent half way across the world to share the gospel. And I take zero credit for this transformation.

I can tell you: Nothing is impossible with God. God is GOOD!

God took the broken mess that I was and transformed me from the inside out.

How do I thank Him for that?

One way to honour His grace and mercy in my life is to obey Him. So when He said, “I want you to go to the Czech Republic as a full time missionary”, I said “Ok.”

And here I am, almost a year later since He first called me to this.

Another incredible joy has been the people I have gotten to meet and connect with as I have engaged in support raising and training.

My fellow missionaries, whom I met at Missionary Orientation, who have become friends and family, and who I am cheering on as they all prepare to go to their respective countries.

The staff at TEAM, who have been unbelievably supportive and available at all times for any needs, questions or care.

I have had the privilege of meeting new people within my church community as I share God’s calling on my life at small groups, ministry groups, and during a Sunday morning sermon.

I have been able to meet with people within my community who have a connection to the Czech Republic, such as a Kingsville pastor who spent many years in ministry in Prague. He has shared his knowledge of Czech, the people and the needs that are there, as well as offered advice on living there, and connected me with people who currently reside in and around Prague.

Yes, God is good.

I have been blown away by the generosity of people throughout the first 3+ months of support raising. There are so many who have partnered with me because they believe in what God has called me to. There are people I have never met who have become monthly partners or one time donors because they heard me speak at church or heard about me through my friends or family.

Yes, God is good.

But I am not going to pretend these past few months have not had challenges. Support raising has been steady, but it has also been more difficult than I expected. In the past I have only done short term trips, where I needed a specific amount of money (usually $2000-3500), and support raising for ongoing monthly partners is quite different.

I am also very good at getting in my own way. I am still mastering the art of patience, and still learning to let go of control. Daily I need to remind myself that I am NOT in control. God has this – He started it and He is going to provide. It’s not about me.

Hopefully one day I’ll get it. Until then, I will continue to remind myself.

I am also starting to think about things that I am leaving behind. I am trying to process as much as I can now, and start the greiving process, in the hopes that it will help when I actually leave.

I am facing the fact that I won’t be here for my nephew’s 5th birthday or my niece’s 7th. I won’t be here when my other nephew graduates middle school, or when my older niece turns 16.

There will be many family gatherings without me. I won’t be able to grab dinner with my parents, or take my sister’s kids to the movies. Friends will get married and have babies, and start new jobs, and I’ll watch from afar.

It’s going to be challenging. There will be times of struggle.

But I am not going to change my mind about going.

I still have no fear about moving to the other side of the world.

I am not going to slow this process down for a minute.

Why?

Because God said “go”. He is making a long time dream of mine real.

He is the one who brought me out of darkness, and changed me from the inside out.

He is the one who promised to never leave me.

He is the reason I need to go to the Czech Republic because His unending love is so amazing and so powerful that I have to share it with the Czech people.

Wherever He leads, I will follow.

Because He is the one who saved me.

So I will embrace all of the joys and all of the challenges.

I will miss the family gatherings and birthdays and celebrations that happen while I am gone. I will miss the weddings and babies and graduations.

Because it’s not about me.

There are people suffering because they don’t know God. There are people without hope because they haven’t opened their hearts to His love.

How can I stay in my comfortable life when He asks me to go?

Everyone has a calling in life, a purpose He has given you.

Mine is to go out into the world and make disciples.

But I am not doing it alone. Everyone who has partnered with me in prayer and monthly or one time givings is going with me. All of my loved ones are going with me. And most importantly, God is going with me.

If He is for me, who can’t stand against me?

I invite you to check out my profile page on TEAM. And if you are interested in supporting my missions, you can click on ‘Give Now’.

https://team.org/about/profile/1638

 

 

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Drop the Crutch

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I have spent two decades enduring the judgement of others because of my depression. I have witnessed looks of pity, looks of fear and even looks of disgust. I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost a job. I’ve heard people call me “crazy”, “unstable” and “insane”.

And I have proved them all wrong.

Now my battle is not only with my disease, but with the stigma that still surrounds mental illness. I’m not insane. What’s insane is that there is still such a lack of compassion and understanding for those who suffer.

I am not defined by my depression. My illness doesn’t dictate what I am capable of or what I can achieve. And I want everyone who struggles with mental illness to know that about themselves.

It breaks my heart when the world tells them they’re not good enough and they simply agree. They pick up their crutch and limp away in shame and sadness.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Mental illness does not have to control your life. There are ways to fight it and win. Don’t allow yourself to use your struggles as a reason to give up or give in. There is help. There is support. There is hope.

I know this because I’ve experienced it.

I’m not saying it’s an easy journey. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and it’s a continuous battle. This disease is a vicious monster that can easily take down the strongest of the strong. It will rip you apart inside and poison your soul until you believe your life isn’t worth living.

I get it.

The pain I felt inside used to be so unbearable that I would purposely burn myself with boiling water just to escape that feeling for a few moments; I just wanted to feel something else, even if it was physical pain.

It’s brutal.

I get it.

But the fight is worth it. Don’t give up and let the attack overcome you. Don’t stop battling back. Don’t accept defeat and surrender.

It’s easy to give up on yourself and your life. Sometimes it does seem like the only option. And it can be easy to blame everything on your mental illness.

Didn’t show up for work? It’s because of my depression.

Missed your child’s first play? It’s because of my depression.

Stood up a friend? It’s because of my depression.

The world says we’re broken, so we act broken. Instead of fighting back, we use our illness as a crutch, as an excuse.

And yes, there will be times when your illness will honestly keep you from commitments. There will be days when you honestly physically can’t get out of bed. Believe me, I know. I once wet the bed because I was too depressed and out of it to get up to go to the bathroom down the hall. (How’s that for honesty?)

Depression is a horrendousĀ disease that no one should have to experience. But if you do, if you are in that heart-wrenching battle, keep going. Keep fighting. Find support. Ask for help.

If you do, each day will get a little better. Each day will get a little easier. Each day you will get a little bit stronger.

Until you can finally stand on steady ground.

And you can finally drop the crutch.

 

Please feel free to share this or other posts of mine.

Deep Thoughts at 2am…

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As my title for this post indicates, it is 2am, and I am enduring a sleepless night. Being up in the middle of the night is nothing new for me, although it hasn’t happened in a while. It is usually something that goes hand in hand with my depression, but I’m not depressed tonight.

When I tried to go to bed a few hours ago, I knew sleep wasn’t going to come though I continued to try. I knew it wasn’t going to come because I was facing feelings of anger due to something that happened earlier in the evening. I felt I was taken advantage of.

For many years I was constantly taken advantage of. I was lonely, and desperate to fit in and be accepted, so I let people take advantage of me. I let them walk all over me, and then I turned around and asked them to do it again.

I’m not like that anymore. I know who I am and what I am worth, and I won’t let others treat me poorly. And if standing up for myself means not being accepted, I’m ok with that.

But tonight, when I felt taken advantage of, it unlocked some buried feelings and I got angry. Angrier than was necessary probably, but sometimes we can’t control our feelings. They race to the surface and force us to deal with them directly.

Those negative feelings brought up other negative feelings, and my anger became sadness and self pity as I began to question certain things. I was feeling sorry for myself.

In an attempt to calm myself down, I grabbed my adult colouring book (yes, I have one and don’t knock it until you try it šŸ˜Š), and began to colour a page of flowers.

My heart and my mind both calmed.

And a little voice whispered, ‘It’s not about you.’

And everything snapped back into perspective.

That little voice, that reminder was all I needed to pull myself out of my self pity. To pull me out of the thoughts of what wasn’t right in my life, and what I may be missing in my life.

Because it’s not about me.

I am not here for me.

I have a purpose in this world, just like everyone else. But that purpose is not to make me as happy as possible or to give me everything I desire.

My purpose is to make life better for those around me. My purpose is to spread love and joy.

It’s so easy to focus on all that is going wrong. It’s easy to blame things on everyone else. It’s easy to sit alone and feel sorry for myself.

But that accomplishes nothing.

While it is still not right that someone took advantage of me and my helpful nature tonight, I can control how I respond to it. I will still stand up for myself. I will still not allow someone to treat me that way.

But I also will not let it lead to anger and triggers of past experience.

I can’t control the way someone else behaves. But I can control how I react.

And I have that voice in my head to remind me that this one incident is so small in the big picture.

That big picture is not about me.

So I have released the anger from earlier in the evening, and I have forgiven the person who triggered it.

I can sleep peacefully, and face tomorrow (well, today) with my usual positive attitude.

Goodnight.

 

Trying to be Fearless

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This time of year makes me anxious. Actually, scratch that – this time of year scares the hell out of me. Not because it’s getting colder and ice and snow are on the way. Not because the days are shorter and darkness comes early and leaves late.

It’s scary because this is the time of year that my depression usually attacks. It’s not predictable – I don’t know what day or time it may surface. It’s possible it may not show it’s ugly face at all. However, based on past experience over many years of this war, it will likely appear sooner or later.

This time last year I was living at my parents’ house, jobless, collecting sickness benefits, applying for disability, and sleeping more than I was awake. It was a nasty time. There were specific things that lead to such a dehabilitating breakdown a year ago that are not an issue now, but it doesn’t mean I am safe. There is no security with depression.

However, things are much better now than they were then. I have a job that I love where I am surrounded by good people who treat me well and are positive influences. I am living on my own in a nice house, with a great roommate and two beautiful dogs. I have a little side business of creating and selling jewelry that is doing better that I ever expected. I am going to a new church and co-leading a women’s Bible study, where I am getting to know some amazing women. I am actively trying to meet new people and develop strong friendships.

Yes, I am miles ahead of where I was a year ago.

And this year, in the face of a possible battle with my depression, I am trying to be fearless. I am being proactive and building strength and support in order to fight if the need arises. I am getting ready to face it head on instead of hiding under the covers.

So, what does it look like to be fearless in the face of depression?

In the last couple of weeks I have read a few articles on comedian/actress Sarah Silverman. While her talent and humour are to be applauded, they are not the main reasons I admire her. I admire her because of her willingness to openly discuss her struggles with depression. She does not shy away, but is becoming a huge voice for those who suffer with mental illness. She is brave to speak up, especially since she is in an industry that centers around image.

To me, she is fearless.

Some have said I am brave for sharing my struggles with depression, for writing this blog, for being vulnerable. And I suppose at times, I am brave.

However, I still hide my depression from many. No one I work with knows about my illness. And there are still times when things are bad that I suffer in silence. I disappear into my torturous world for however long it lasts and hide it from everyone around me. I convince myself I am keeping it secret to protect them. But am I really?

Often when people find out that I deal with depression, they are surprised. They say they never would have known because I am so happy and positive all the time. They don’t realize how hard I work to be happy and positive. It does not always come naturally or easily. They also don’t realize that on some days, I wear a mask. I am a great pretender.

Does this make me fearless? To pretend things are fine when they are not?

Some days and in some cases, it does. There are certain situations when putting on a mask and hiding what’s going on is necessary. And in some cases, I have ‘pretended’ my way to feeling better for real.

But I also believe that being fearless is being real. Being real about what I go through and allowing others to hold me up. It doesn’t mean I have to let the whole world know what’s going on inside, but it’s letting in those I trust and those who care about me.

So often, people who are viewed as fearless are those who jump out of planes, climb mountain sides, run into a burning building to rescue others, or go to war. And I agree that those people are fearless.

But fearless doesn’t always have to be so big.

Fearless can be asking for help during tough times.

Fearless can be honesty with those around you.

Fearless can be sharing your struggles.

Fearless can be putting on a happy face when needed.

Fearless can be simply getting out of bed on a really bad day.

So am I fearless? I am trying to be.

I have had many many battles with my depression and I have won every one, so that helps in being fearless. But it’s a never ending war.

And I think fearless doesn’t necessarily mean being without fear. It can mean moving forward and facing your challenges despiteĀ any fear you have.

I don’t think I will ever be cured of being slightly afraid of my depression. But that does not mean I can’t stand fearlessly against it.

Please feel free to share this or any of my other posts with others.

Brave

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Brave is defined as feeling or showing no fear; having courage; putting one’s self in a possibly dangerous situation.

Lately I’ve heard the word brave come up in the news and seen it in social media to describe Caitlyn Jenner. For those who have been living under a rock and are not aware, Caitlyn Jenner used to be Bruce Jenner before transitioning into the woman she is now.

Caitlyn has been at the forefront of all news, tabloids and social media since she was revealed on the cover of Vogue. Some are praising her and offering support. Others are judging and putting her down.

And whether or not you agree with or understand her choice, I believe brave is a fantastic way to describe her. What she did took courage, knowing that she would face judgement, ridicule and cruelty from many, but choosing to do it anyway in order to be true to herself.

People stop and take notice when someone makes a brave choice like Caitlyn Jenner. They are quick to acknowledge the courage of firefighters, soldiers and police officers. And I agree that they all should be admired and called brave for what they do.

But there are also so many every day acts of bravery that go unnoticed. You don’t have to save someone from a burning building to be brave.

So, what does it look like to be brave in daily life?

For a kid starting at a new school, showing up that first day is brave.

For someone who has anxiety, simply leaving their home is brave.

For someone with depression, getting out of bed takes courage.

For a teenager who stands up for the kid getting bullied, that is brave.

For a woman giving her phone number to the man she likes, that is brave.

For the man quitting a job he doesn’t like to follow his dreams of starting is own business, that is brave.

For the abused woman who packs up her kids and leaves her home for good, that takes courage.

For the university student who refuses the joint that everyone else smokes, that is brave.

For the man that drinks too much, putting down the bottle is brave.

For the couple going to marriage counselling, that is an act of bravery.

For the 3 year old who goes down the big slide for the first time, that takes courage.

We are surrounded by acts of bravery every day. They should inspire us, motivate us and move us. Yet we often fail to see them or acknowledge them, whether it is ourselves or someone else who has been brave.

If you asked the people in your life if they thought of themselves as brave, what would they say?

I bet most would say no. Because they’ve never saved a life or gone to war or captured a serial murderer. Because they’ve never swam in shark infested waters, or run into a burning building to get someone out, or stepped in when a friend was being beaten by bullies.

They don’t view themselves as brave or courageous.

What they don’t realize is that every time they do something that scares them, even just a little, they are being brave.

Whether it’s driving on the highway, or killing a spider, or going on a roller coaster, or asking someone out, or trying snowboarding, or swimming in the ocean, or going to a counsellor, or starting a new job.

If it is something you fear, but you are doing it anyway, then you are brave.

And we all do things that scare us or make us nervous.

Therefore we are all brave.

My depression makes me anxious all the time, and as a result, there are a lot of things I fear. But I refuse to miss out on life because of fear and anxiety.

Even though there are days when getting out of bed or leaving the house scares me, I can’t let that fear hold me back. It may take me a little longer to do those things, but I do it.

Fear will not stop me.

It doesn’t have to stop you either.

I am brave. Every day, I am brave.

You are too. Embrace your courage. Take hold of it and move forward with it.

Be brave.

 

 

 

Dear Little Girl

A few weeks ago, my counsellor gave me an assignment to write to myself as a young girl when my family was living in the Caribbean. We lived in St. Kitts for nearly 4 years, and the reason my counsellor wanted me to write to the girl I was then is because I still have wounds that have not fully healed from the time I spent there.

I was 8 when we moved there and 12 when we moved back to Canada. I went to an island school where I was one of only a few white kids. I was harassed and bullied because of the colour of my skin. I was called names and purposely left out of things. I was hit a few times by other kids, and even spat on once. I had a few friends in the beginning, but they quickly dropped off as they were ridiculed for playing with ‘white people’.

I was so excited when we moved back to Canada because I thought I would just fit in here since it was my home country. It didn’t work out that way; I came back with a funny little accent, a mix of English, American and Kittian, I was incredibly shy, and I was more than a little damaged. I was once again bullied and harassed.

It has been nearly 20 years since we left St. Kitts, but there are still things that, even today, will trigger a memory and open up old wounds. And that is why I wrote to the little girl I was. And here is what I told her:

Dear Little Girl,

I know life is hard for you. I know you feel completely alone and unwanted. I know you are confused and wondering why they are so mean to you. I know your days are filled with sadness and dread, and your nights are filled with tears and anxiety. I see you withdrawing, isolating yourself more and more, shutting out the rest of the world. And I understand.

I wish I could hug you and comfort you. I wish I could wipe your tears and hold your hand. I wish I could stand beside you and stop those who hurt you. You have no idea how much I wish I could make things better for you.

What I can do is tell you that you will survive this. It does get better. The pain, sadness, emptiness and anger you feel will one day begin to heal. You will learn from what you are experiencing. This hurtful time will teach you to be kind, compassionate, giving, nonjudgmental, and generous. It will cause you to develop a heart for those who are treated unfairly, those who feel alone, those who feel unloved. You will one day fight for them in the way no one fought for you.

I warn you that things will get worse before they get better. You will struggle more and face challenges that you can’t image. You will experience pain that you are not sure you can survive. But you will survive. There is a strength in you that you cannot fathom. This strength will surprise you with its power and determination. It will come barreling through during times when you don’t think you can go on. You will be on the edge, ready to give up completely, and your strength inside will fight its way to the surface and fight for you when you don’t feel you can fight anymore.

You will never give up, no matter how much you may want to. You will come dangerously close to ending it all, but you will never follow through. Something will always stop you. Your strength, your will to live, your love, and your hope. You will hold on to hope during times when you are not sure it even exists. You have a fighting spirit, a fire in your eyes, and no matter how many times someone or something tries to put that fire out, a spark will always remain.

Precious girl, you will experience such love and joy and peace in your life. You will know heartache, but the happiness you experience will push you through that. The hope you have and the strength within you will get you through things you never thought possible.

And you, darling, will experience the greatest love imaginable when you find Jesus. Knowing Him, trusting Him, accepting His unconditional love will give you a peace that will cradle your soul. He will be your rock, your stability. He will carry you when you are too weak to keep going. He will whisper His love to you when feel unworthy or unwanted. Through Him, you will find purpose, a reason to live. He will give you courage and will always walk beside you. He will turn a light on inside you that will shine out of you and allow you to live the life intended for you.

Knowing Jesus will not mean life will be easy or that you will always be happy. You will suffer and face difficult times. You will cry out to Him in dark times, begging for the pain to go away. But be patient. He will use your struggles and your suffering to create good things. He will use you to help others, to comfort others, to listen to others, to lead others. Take comfort, sweet girl, for He has a plan for you.

Little girl, I ask you to be brave. Those who are hurting you don’t really know what they are doing. They are just young too. Their actions and their words may stick with you and create lifelong wounds, but those wounds will help you create good. Those wounds will help you love. Those wounds will allow you to help others.

You are here for a reason. You have a purpose. And that purpose is so much bigger than what is happening right now. You are strong, stronger than you can possibly imagine. You are a beautiful, precious child of God’s. And you are going to be ok. Have courage, little girl. I promise it will get better.

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This is me, about age 9, at home in St. Kitts with my dog, Freckles. That ugly brown dress was my school uniform.

Please feel free to share this blog with others

Never Alone

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I am not naturally an open person. Various experiences in my early life caused me to shut down and keep everything bottled up. For years I never let anyone in. I lost the ability to trust, so I tried to handle all of my struggles on my own, which often didn’t work out too well.

Over the last few years, I have been learning to be more open. I am learning to share what I am feeling and going through, although I am not great at it. I have been blessed with amazing people in my life and so I have learned to trust again.

But my instinct is still to bottle everything up. My instinct is to isolate myself and deal with things alone.

I have been living on my own for the past two weeks while my parents are on vacation. This is the first time I have really been alone in months, and it is the first time since my breakdown in October.

For weeks leading up to my parents departure, I was nervous about being on my own for three weeks. Then they left and a couple of days later my anxiety went through the roof.

I became paranoid about things like leaving the stove on, not locking the door, not closing the garage door or leaving my straightener on when I left the house. I started checking all of these things over and over before leaving the house. One day, I even turned around on my way to work to confirm yet again that I had shut the garage door. Even when I hadn’t used the stove, I feared it was left on.

Even after checking and confirming that doors were locked, the stove was off and my straightener was unplugged, I was plagued with worry until I got home again.

I had a couple of panic attacks because of this anxiety.

When I saw my psychiatrist I told her what was going on and she began asking me lots of questions, and I realized she was trying to determine if I might have OCD. She made a slight change to my meds to see if it would help.

I don’t know yet if the med change has made a difference. What I do know is that these anxieties have surfaced because I am alone.

Except that I am not.

Yes, I am living alone in the house for three weeks, but I am far from alone. Last weekend at my church gathering, I shared with my prayer group that I was experiencing heightened anxiety as a result of being on my own right now. I told them everything I was going through, and a weight was almost immediately lifted from my shoulders.

They prayed for me, and I know they have been continuing to pray for me because I can feel it. And suddenly things are different this week. The anxiety is not gone, but it has been eased. Instead of checking if my straightener is unplugged 10 times, I am checking twice. The same goes for the stove, locked doors and garage door.

I am calmer, and trusting myself that I have done what I need to do before leaving the house. I still go through a checklist in my head as I go out the door, and I may run back to check one more time, but I am not panicked over it anymore.

Because I am not alone. My parents are checking in regularly, my sister is calling me, my friends are texting and calling. I am alone in the house, but not alone.

Sometime in the next year, I am going to need to move out of my parents’ house and be on my own again. This is something that I have been worried about. But I am less worried now. Just because I live alone doesn’t mean I will be lonely or anxious. I’ve learned that this week. I can function on my own. I can get to work on time. I can plan social events. I can make it to my commitments.

I am doing just fine.

And I know that if anything were to happen, I have countless people I can call for help and support.

So often in this life, many of us feel completely alone. But sometimes it is because we choose to isolate ourselves. We shut people out and fail to acknowledge those around us who love and support us. Those who want to know us, those who want to help.

I have been reminded of that. And I hope you know that too.

We are never alone.

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