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Posts Tagged ‘help’

I am less than a week away from two glorious weeks of vacation. And of course, we are in the midst of a horrendous heat wave in the part of the world where I live. So instead of bustling about, I’m sitting in front of a fan, praying for the weather to break.

I’ve got most of the big things in place to be away. I have the bulletins finished, just need to pick up one set from the printer. I have the readings selected and ready to go for the weeks I’m away. I have pastoral calls prepared for this week.

What I’ve not done yet is prepare my clothes, plan the itinerary and start packing. All of these things are fun but I need to get other things done first, including cleaning my house. Ugh. If only the weather would cooperate, so I could get up and do something without dissolving into a puddle, that would be awesome. C’mon Mother Nature, help me out here.

I am looking forward to two weeks of travel, leisure, yoga, stretching, fabulous food and drink, sleep and nature…not necessarily in that order. I have a new journal that I’m taking with me. I’ve not yet started writing in it, and I’m not sure why. But I’ll get there.

So, for the next couple of weeks, blog posts will be non-existent, but I promise to share all kinds of loveliness when I get back.

Can’t wait to get off the treadmill of “busy” for awhile. To redirect my rhythm and finally start to feel better. I am excited to feel better, for what will feel like the first time in a long time. But I can do it. I know I can. I have to.

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Today has been a strange day. I usually wake up raring to go, have things to do, places to go, people to see, and yet today, I just wanted to go back to bed. I got my Beloved off to work, fed the dogs, fed myself, and cleaned up the kitchen. Then I had a shower, got dressed and double-checked my schedule. It was shaping up to be a good, albeit busy day. I got to the office and checked messages. One from the Municipal clerk. So I called her back.

She wanted to know if I would pronounce the invocation on the new council members on the 1st of December. I was touched, and honoured, and thrilled. When I said yes I don’t know who was more excited…the Clerk or myself. I wrote it in my calendar and then started thinking about what I would say and what I should wear. Something to look forward to.

Then I got a call from a parishioner who is being discharged from hospital today. I tried to figure out the best place to schedule her and realised I didn’t have as much time as I thought. I am having tea with a friend today. I have had to cancel a few times and I promised myself that I would not short change her. So I rearranged my schedule and will be picking up the parishioner at a better time for her and for me. It means that I am shortening an appointment I have with a parishioner this morning, but it will work out okay.

This learning to take care of myself and honouring my time is challenging…but I think…maybe…perhaps…I am learning how it do it better…or at all.

Look at me go!

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This is my second week back to work after a four-week medical leave. I actually was back a few days before my official return, simply because there were things that needed my attention, such as the death of a parishioner.

Last Wednesday we had her Celebration of Life at the Church and it was incredible. The parish family, her friends and family gathered to say farewell. Four years prior we had gathered to say farewell to her husband. There were many references to G’s celebration of life as we honoured S. Her three grandchildren took part; the eldest wrote a eulogy and the younger two assisted with communion.

On Saturday I joined a couple together in marriage. D and A met at a bereavement support group and over the next year or so they became friends and then even closer. At the beginning of their service five candles were lit. The outer two candles represented their late spouses and were lit by the children. They then lit the next candles for their parents. The parents took their candles and lit a unity candle. All five candles burned during the service. It was a wonderful way to remember the late spouses, who really were the reason for their meeting.

Yesterday I buried a 34-year-old woman who leaves behind a 13-year-old and a 9-year-old daughter. G and E were baptised at the Church two years ago. Their mum, grandma and aunt were baptised the week after. Both were glorious celebrations. The gathering at the funeral home chapel was very somber and sad. L’s husband R wrote and delivered a eulogy, as did G and E. By the time the eulogies were finished the entire chapel was in tears, sobbing, wailing, it was awful. Open and raw grief.

I wasn’t sure what to do.

So I told the story of how I met L, through her daughters. And people laughed. And laughed some more. The readings chosen were very poignant and during my homily there were more tears, but this time they were tears of acceptance, of love, of understanding.

We know that L is gone from our sight, but she remains in our hearts. She will live on through her family. And with a family of the size it is, her legacy will last for generations.

It was, bar none, the most challenging celebration of life I have ever presided. Seeing the faces of her parents, her husband and her daughters made my heart ache. Then hearing the stories during the reception, people seeking out people they did not know, and sharing stories of L made the grief feel bearable.

It will take a while for the dust to settle. E told me she wants to come back to Church. Her father agreed, and so did her sister. It will be wonderful to welcome them home; that we may bear some of the load for them, as their parish family.

Days like these describe humble me in ways that defy description. Knowing I have had the opportunity to journey with so many families is such an incredible honour.

The phone rang recently with the news of another young person, dying unexpectedly in Halifax. Nine months ago we buried his father, and six months ago we buried his mother. I cannot imagine how his brother is feeling. But once F comes home to be laid to rest, we will do our best to keep his memory alive.

Moments like this remind me of the frailty and fleeing nature of life. We do not know what the future holds and should live each day to the fullest. But we also need to refresh and refill ourselves. That is a lesson I am learning.

During my time off I decided I would honour myself better than I have been. I would take my day off, and would not push myself too hard. I turned the page on negative thinking, and negative self-talk. I decided I would begin after my leave by starting over, loving myself and those I encounter. It will be an ongoing journey, and I am confident I can do it. One step at a time.

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All my life I have struggled with naming my emotions. As a child I was not allowed to be angry. Raised voices were a “no-no” in my house. We were to be bright, happy yet silent as children, an interesting combination.

As a child I learned to be a pleaser, and if my Mam or Dad were angry/upset, I would do everything I could to make them happy; overachiever, overworking, entertaining, being the clown, etc.

Growing up, if I was presented with an angry or upset person my first instinct was to make it better for them. Recently, I’ve found myself feeling a heightened sense of outrage at the injustice I see around me. I am experiencing emotions, without really understanding what they are.

For example, this morning I was driving in the village and as I approached one of the two intersections with traffic lights, I had the green light, so continued through the intersection. At that exact moment an elderly man was making a right hand turn against the red light. He did not see me. Thankfully I was able to stop before we collided.

As I sat in the intersection he gave me a disgusted look, yelled “bloody women drivers” and waved me through. I had stalled my car on an incline, so it took me a few seconds to get the car running again. Instead of waiting for me, he continued on his way, making a sharp right turn at the next street.

I was fuming, and felt that I had every right to be angry. But it wasn’t until several hours later that I could actually name the emotion of anger. I had every right to be angry. But I also had every right to be grateful that we did not collide and nobody was injured…other than egos and pride.

Lately I am realising that the predominant emotion I am feeling is anger…almost to the point of rage. By nature I am a caring person. I take satisfaction in doing for other people. It is in my vocation to give emotionally, spiritually, etc.

I believe part of the reason I am now on a medical leave is because I am feeling such great anger and frustration. I feel that many of the people in my life, especially in my immediate family, are taking much more than they are giving. Instead of seeing that I am doing for them because I want to, I am feeling anger that they are not reciprocating and/or they are not appreciative.

I am not supposed to do things to receive thanks. And yet, right now, it is something I need.

Why is that?

I am, by nature, an optimistic, balanced, happy person. But not lately. I’ve been surly, miserable and downright snarly. I raise my voice much more often, I feel an emptiness inside and I’m looking for something to fill it. Most often, it’s chocolate. But the thing is, the chocolate isn’t filling the void. It’s expanding my waistline.

Slowly it is dawning on me that I am looking for everyone else to make me happy, instead of seeking to make myself happy. I want everyone to behave the way I feel they should; instead of accepting them for who they are.

One of the most destructive enabling behaviours is the phrase “It’s just the way s/he is”. There is a parishioner who is a bully. He shouts, insults, bangs his fist on the table, in order to be heard and to get what he wants. It is hard work to deal with him. And when I challenge him on his bullying behaviour I am taken aside and told “It’s the just the way he is”, or “he’s much better than he used to be”. Neither of which are acceptable.

I believe that everyone should be held accountable for their behaviour and that everyone should do their best to understand how the other person is feeling. Seldom is this behaviour extended to me and, I have to admit, it upsets me.

Slowly but surely I am realising that there are very few things I can control. The only emotions I control are my own, especially once I name them and own them.

The Canadian Mental Health Association came out with this great chart meant for children, to identify what it is they are feeling. I think I need one for my office, so I can identify what I am feeling. It’s strange to be 46 years old and unable to identify basic emotions.

Life is a learning curve and lately the curve has been steep.

If I were to make a list of the things that make me happy they would include taking a bike ride through the village; walking the dogs; doing yoga outside; yoga inside; dancing around the house like a fool; writing letters to friends; reading a novel; writing in my journal; taking a warm, soothing bath with epsom salts and baking soda; blogging.

As I look at this list, I realise I don’t do any of these things as often as I should.

I will do more things on that list on a more regular basis.

Starting now.

Some realisations that have come to me are: My happiness does not depend on anyone other than me.
I have every right to be angry and express that emotion. Further, I can express anger without guilt. I can disagree with someone without being a bad person. And if that person thinks I am a bad person, that is their emotion to own; not mine.

I do not have to be held hostage by a crippling fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. It never stopped Jesus. And aside from the crucifixion, it worked out alright for him (in the end).

I have been mired up in anxiety, angst, frustration, anger and rage. It’s time to do, say and live in a way that makes me happy.

That’s not selfish; it’s self-care, and self-loving.

So that will be what I focus on for the rest of 2014…and perhaps longer than that.

Starting now.

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It seems that since Easter, things are not slowing down, and yet I am.

I am in a state of perpetual exhaustion. I’ve been to the doctor and she has sent me for blood tests. Something is wrong with the blood tests and I have to and get more done. On Monday afternoon I am scheduled to have another mammogram with “bonus” screens, and an ultrasound to follow.

My beloved and I are overdue to see our Marriage Counsellor and I think it will be a good thing for us to do. I am worried about my health and my body is beginning to tell me that I cannot continue at my usual pace.

Tomorrow there is a special vestry meeting at the Church and I was supposed to get some stats together. I have not. And I will deal with the fallout tomorrow. To be honest, I don’t really care what is expected of me tomorrow at the meeting. My Wardens are in charge, I need to be there. And if I get asked about stats, I will tell the truth. They aren’t done…and won’t be for tomorrow.

The month of May is going to be full of engagements. Some will be good, some will be difficult and most I am approaching with dread. What I am is tired. So very tired.

I don’t know how much time I will find to write. I think I hear my bed calling me now…

Until soon…

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In my job I am occasionally called on to listen while someone is in crisis. My usual reflex action was to listen, make noises (such as “Mm-Hmm” or “Yes, yes” etc) and to be thinking of what I was going to reply as the person was speaking. It was not usually effective and more often than not, left me feeling more anxious than when I sat down with the person.

Since I’ve started studying Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, I very aware of how I sit, how I come across, ensuring I am approachable and non-threatening.

A lady in my congregation is struggling with depression. She’s got anxiety that overwhelms and almost cripples her. She’s honoured me with her trust, in sharing when she’s in a shaky place and she’ll ask if she can come and have a chat. I always readily agree.

Recently she went on a cruise with her husband. A first for both of them. She was terribly fearful of the cruise, but knew it was important to her husband so she felt she had to go. The therapist she was seeing blamed her depression on her son’s suicide four years ago, and said that until she sorted herself out with that she would continue to be depressed. This therapist was not a good fit for her, and thankfully, she recognised that in herself.

What I do is not therapy. I am not a therapist. I am a priest, a spiritual advisor, and occasionally a confidante.

When she comes to see me, we sit in my office and I ask her how her day is going. She talks, and I listen. I may nod my head, but I don’t make affirming noises as they irritate me (so I can only imagine how irritating they are to the hearer) but I make sure to keep my focus on the person, without staring.

Often there are pauses. Sometimes she takes my hand or I take hers. Often there are tears. And through it all God is there. On Sunday, this lovely lady told me she wanted to resign from one of her multiple ministries in the Church. I accepted her resignation with sadness, but thankfulness and understanding.

She wanted to talk about the guilt she felt for “abandoning me” to that ministry. I listened to what she was saying and affirmed her gifts. I did not say “don’t be silly” because she’s already dealing with guilt. She doesn’t need to feel silly as well. When I told her of the ministries I saw her undertaking and loving service she had given the Church for several decades she brightened.

Someone had seen her…really seen her. She was being celebrated and honoured. And it will continue to happen. She has promised to continue as a resource for Parish information to me. She has promised if she doesn’t like the way I take on the ministry that she will tell me. And I have promised that she will always have my complete and utter support.

Tonight I am sitting down with a new friend who has been battered through his young life, by the Church. I am the first person of faith that he has reached out to in decades and I am both anxious and honoured to be meeting with him tonight. I have no agenda other than to listen. I will not take notes. I will be wholly and mindfully present.

I suspect there may be some tears. And lots of laughter as we have similar senses of humour. And at the end, perhaps there will be prayer.

I know that I am not God. I would not want God’s job. I’m too judgmental to be God.

I know that I am not Christ. I would not want Christ’s job. I’m too selfish to be Christ.

All I can be is me. All I can do is listen. And if, in being who I am, and listening as I do, I can help someone feel a little less lost, and little more found; then I have succeeded.

And it will be a good day.

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It was a great time on vacation. I spent the best part of the first week sleeping. I knew I was exhausted, but I had little comprehension of just how exhausted I was. I look rested, I feel rested and at the same time I’m feeling quite overwhelmed.

I have had difficulty keeping focus since I got home. The house is in a perpetual state of disarray, and I’m trying to get laundry done, as well as organize the next couple of weeks. I will be very glad when school starts and swimming lessons finish so I can return to some kind of routine.

Being away I had a lot of time to think. About who I am and what I want. I have realised that I don’t have the physical strength to do many of things I really want to do. I wanted to take up running again, but I don’t think my joints will handle it. I wanted to do all kinds of things, and yet I didn’t get many of them done. And I guess, that’s okay.

So right now I’m dealing with a full-blown CFS flare. My body aches, my joints are warm (which is not good), my sleep is interrupted, not restful and I’ve got more verbal and cognitive confusion than usual.

I likely could have used one more week, but the reality of the parish means it’s not possible. I came back to a massive pastoral issue that needed to be dealt with and still needs to be dealt with. And there is the joy of an out-of-town wedding on Friday/Saturday, then another wedding the weekend after.

So it simply never ends.

I’ve had a houseful of people since I got home and I can’t find a moment’s peace. And it doesn’t seem to matter. So, I need to breathe, remove myself, and try to be gentle with myself.

After two more emails I will. Honestly.

I am glad to be back. I am.

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Here in the small Southwestern Ontario community in which I reside, there have been thunderstorm warnings all week. And yet, aside from a brief 10 minute shower yesterday, we have not had one clap of thunder; one bolt of lightning; one stiff breeze.

I have been “blessed” with headaches since puberty. Most recently they were pinpointed as primarily stress-related headaches due to clenching my jaw and grinding my teeth. I wear a guard at night (which is INCREDIBLY sexy) so I don’t clench while I sleep, and yet there are times, especially when I am driving, that I catch myself clenching my teeth. Then I end up with jaw pain and headache.

Also, I was recently diagnosed with barometric pressure-related migraines. Nothing will make them stop until the storm comes. So for five days I’ve been in increasing amounts of pain and for five days I’ve been disappointed. I just stopped typing to stretch my arms and jaw and realised I’d been clenching. Again.

There is a lot of work to be done on the outside of the rectory. Two dogs have more or less killed the lawn by the front porch. The pup has decided he likes to eat flowers, so we have to be careful where, and if, they are planted. I’ve decided to move the gravel path we have in the front, which is not particularly usable, and replace the gravel with organic mulch. It will still have cement stones, sort of “stepping-stones” but there will be a softer place to walk, and it will be much better for the dogs.

Our female has decided she doesn’t like gravel, and she will do a complicated dance to step around the gravel and onto the hard packed dirt rather than step easily from the gravel to the steps. She’s also had a couple of infections in the pads of her front paws, so we need to make the path more dog friendly. The pup seems to have stopped eating the gravel, which is also good.

So the past few days, in the middle of the night, actually; while I’ve been waiting for the storm to come that doesn’t; I’ve been thinking of what I want to do to change the appearance of the outside of the rectory, using the resources we have (repurposing them) and purchasing a minimum of new resources.

It’s one of those projects that will awesome when its done, but will take some time to get there; as one thing depends on another to get finished. While I want the rain to come, I also want to get the projects started, but I don’t really have the time to start them until Friday.

SO, with my luck the rain will come as my spade hits the ground, and providing there’s no lightning, I may solider on. I’ve worked in the rain before, why not now?

I pray for the rains to come, the earth to cool and the humidity to leave. I also pray for the people of Alberta; who have had the rains come and forget to stop. We live in a world filled with oxymoron and while we may get frustrated we still soldier on.

I have had the lyrics to a song that the counsellors at the Diocesan Church Camp sing during communion. “Let it rain, let it rain, open the floodgates of heaven, and let it rain”. Its hypnotic when the song starts and often someone will rap “Jesus loves me” over top of the chorus. I am due to be there next week and am very much looking forward to hearing that song…

And in the meantime, I’ll get some more sparkling water, and draw yet another diagram of the proposed “after” picture of the side yard.

“Open the floodgates of heaven, and LET IT RAIN!!!”

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It seems that over the past year I’ve been in a process of change. It seems that everything around me is changing. And while some of the changes are difficult and some are downright awful, there are some that are uplifting in nature.

Our congregation has been in a great state of change for the past year. We have had four significant losses to the community and there’s another one that will be happening sooner, rather than later. To be completely honest, hospital visiting is not something I enjoy. I am grateful for a long walk from the parking lot to the hospital room as it gives me a chance to psych myself up for conversation. I don’t do small talk very well.

Most often I sit in silence if it’s the parishioner and me. If there is family present I will chat with them. And then turn my attention to the parishioner. There is always prayer, and the family as well as medical team are invited to participate. Sometimes there is anointing or communion. And at the very centre of it is God.

Lately there has been a great deal of pastoral care needed in the congregation. On Tuesday alone I did four pastoral calls, usually I do one or at the most two in a day. But Tuesday it ended up being four. By the end of the day I was absolutely wiped out. And I have been having difficulty sleeping since then, most likely because I’m not decompressing properly. I know I need to focus more on my yoga. And as soon as I get busy, my self-care takes a back seat. And that has to stop.

I am determined, this summer, to make healthier choices for myself. Healthier choices in what I eat, what I do, how I move my body, how I care for my body. And it will be awesome. I need to move myself up on the list, because right now, I sit on the bottom of the list.

The struggle I often have is whether or not I “deserve” to take the time for a massage, a pedicure or highlighting my hair. And while I know it’s appropriate and necessary to do those things, there are times when I think I should be spending that time caring for others.

*sigh* Just when I think I’ve got my perspective back, it changes. And it means that I need to change and be gentler with myself.

It is true that I am my own worst enemy and harshest critic. And that’s okay, I guess? I think what I need to do is to silence the criticism, and stop beating on myself. I am in a process of reinvention of myself, my home, and my life.

This afternoon I’m going to spend some time outside, doing some clearing up, moving some planters, filling them with soil and getting ready to do some planting, which I plan to do tomorrow afternoon.

I work hard and I am good at what I do. God has given me strength that I never knew existed, to care for people, to love them (even the difficult ones) and to connect with them.

There will always be one more email to send, one more phone call to make, one more floor to sweep, one more person to visit. So I need to be militant with myself, that I deserve to have this time as much as anyone else.

And I need to give myself permission to say no to things that are not life-giving or necessary. I need time for me. And that’s okay.

It’s almost time to tidy up my desk, put things away for my next office day and get ready to have lunch with a colleague. Today is going to be an easier day then the first part of the week. And that is truly awesome.

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Yesterday was an emotional, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of day. It was a day with shifting priorities hour by hour. I made a couple of decisions relating to self-care and that is something that is still very new to me. Listening to my body and responding positively, rather than ignoring my body and paying the price for that.

Dinner last night was awesome. The atmosphere was gorgeous, the crowd was friendly, the food was amazing. And I didn’t have to eat it all. I had a glass of wine, the first glass in weeks. I savoured every bite of my supper and I ate slowly. When I noticed my dining companions finishing their meals, I stopped eating. And felt sated. Thankfully my husband finished what was on my plate so I wouldn’t be tempted to overeat.

The conversation was delightful, the company was terrific and I even decided to indulge in dessert. And I ate the whole thing. We got home and were just letting the dogs out when my cell phone rang.

The parishioner who has been in Palliative Care for the past week had slipped peacefully away. I got changed and headed into the city. When I arrived the family was gathered around his bed and he did look peaceful. He was still warm, so with the families permission I anointed him and we held hands and prayed. We gave thanks to God for his life, we thanked God for the time we had with him. We asked God to continue to support the family during this difficult time and remain with them as they adjust to life without their grandfather/father/in-law/husband.

We then gathered in a quiet room and talked about his celebration of life. Then we emptied the few things that were at the hospital, including a certificate of appreciation for volunteer work he had done in the city. We walked collectively outside to our cars and drove in our respective directions. One grand-daughter was driving grandma home. Her parents were going to meet her there and get grandma settled and then they were going home.

The entire family looked exhausted and relieved that his suffering is now over. The funeral home was called, the dates were set for visitation and funeral and now we wait.

As I was driving home I reflected on the number of times I have made this drive. Thinking about the families who have invited me into their family to comfort and to support. The blessed sacredness of being with someone at the time when they leave this life for the next. And giving thanks to the Creator for the gift of their life.

I had also received news while we were out at dinner that an 84-year-old parishioner had survived open heart surgery and was in recovery. Her recovery was considered amazing, and her daughter-in-law was convinced it was because of the prayers that surrounded her mum. I agreed as well as giving thanks for the skill of the surgeon and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

On Sunday afternoon we are to have a community event that would have brought three congregations together for a service of story and song with a potluck supper to follow. The initial response was quite positive from all three congregations, but as the event date was chosen, the interest seems to be waning.

Most of the choir from one church won’t be in attendance. Half the choir from my church won’t be attending. None of the choir from the third church will be attending. I’m meeting with a colleague and friend this morning to look over the details of the service, and a still small voice in my is getting louder; telling me to postpone the service until the fall, and concentrate on walking with the community through this period of loss.

Postponing the service would be for mostly selfish motives, as it would save me a great deal of work. And yet I also feel it would be honouring the family of the man who has just died.

An executive decision will be reached this morning and we will go from there. I know in my heart where I’m leaning. And if my colleague still wants to do it, we will. And it will be what it will be. I’m too tired to be concerned about what happens next, I’ve got many other things on my mind.

And so today will be compartmentalised with a box for celebration, a box for mourning, a box for administration, a box for housework, a box for motherhood and a box for wifedom. And with the sure and certain hope of the resurrection, there will be an afternoon nap or a very early bedtime for me.

Tomorrow is a day off for me. And I believe it will be able to honour that. Going to spend some time with myself tomorrow, and do a few fun things. The rest can and will wait.

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