Leadership

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Change

Change. A word that slams against my psych like a comet smashing to earth. I hate change. Even if I am the author of change, I still struggle to work through it. This past couple of years has brought change in bucketfuls. 

Three moves. 
Two cities. 
Three jobs. 
Three sets of people to work with and get used to. 
Three cars.

Three other people I live with adjusting to the same. New schools, making friends, new beds.

Along with all this change comes the usual family dynamics of growing, hormones, growth spurts, adapting, letting go, anger, attitudes, compulsions, depression, anxiety, acne, financial pressure, decisions...as I said, the usual.

And amidst all of this, I find myself changing. 

Changing my mind.
Changing my habits.
Changing what I believe.

The only constant in all of this, aside from knitting, which keeps me sane...is God.

Oh, wait...pain. The other constant in my life. 

In all of this it's amazing that I'm here, writing, sifting through the muck of life that's been trampled through the house of my soul. Yet, here I am. Writing. Oh, yeah...writing, that too.

Merry Christmas.

grace...Kathie



Friday, December 13, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like....

Well, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but I can't say it "feels" like Christmas, at least, not for some of the people I work with each day.

It's so hard when people face great hardships in their lives.

 
It feels grey. 

Lifeless. 

Lights don't sparkle.

Carols have no meaning.


 Why does that happen? What is it that makes a person "feel" Christmas? 

I don't think there is anything at all that makes a person "feel" Christmas. I just think life blots out Christmas along with all the other things that have potential to bring joy.  When things happen, sickness, loss, depression - everything else that's happening around you gets lost as the darkness consumes, feeding off you, a parasite draining its host of energy.

Life's like that sometimes.

How do we find our way from grey to sparkling lights again?

We have to spend time, deliberate time, looking deep within ourselves. For there, we find the Spirit, deposited on the day of Salvation, the day we looked to a power higher, stronger, greater than ourselves. That's where Jesus is. He is where our strength lies.

However, you have to spend time...you can't rush it.

Why not? I want joy and I want it now! I want to "feel" Christmas now! Time is running out!

No, be still. Listen to that still small voice within you.

I love this psalm.

Psalm 13 (my own paraphrase for those who are feeling grey)

OK God! How long is this gonna take? Will you leave me like this forever? 
I can't even see you! How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and
day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long am I going to have to deal with this pain and depression and loss?

I'm tired of you not answering me, Lord! Look at me, I'm helpless!
You promised to love me and I need you to light up the lights around
me and make life real to me again!

If you don't do this, the pain will win! The darkness will consume me
and people will say "Where is your God now?"

Oh, I know you're there...I know you love me. 
You know I'll trust you...why? Because I know you'll come through in your own good time.

Even though I don't feel like it, I'll sing your praises anyway,
because you've always been there before, you've delivered me again and again.

And, well...I love you.

grace...Kathie

Monday, November 04, 2013

Getting Braver

I enjoying the chance to blog for the Spiritually Speaking column at the Times Colonist these days. I've written for the twice now and both times have received encouraging feedback.

Here's the link to the online coloumn:

http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/blogs/spiritually-speaking-1.61091/faith-is-a-strength-in-illness-1.682581

I decided to be really brave and put it out there. Now, I'm not sure what such openness and honesty is going to bring my way, but I know that whatever it is, with God's help, I can handle it.

Much grace...Kathie

Monday, October 21, 2013

Not Brave for 18 Days (see end of blog post)

I sometimes wonder whether or not I'm stupid.

Now, I don't mean lacking intelligence, because...well, I know it would not be true. 

Nor does it mean I don't have any common sense, because I know I have that. 

And it certainly doesn't mean that I'm not creative and talented, well...because I have a whole family of offspring that inherited that very trait. 

So what do I mean? Well, I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, so let me explain...

Sometimes I hear people say things, and on the outside I know they're full of malarkey, but somehow, I let their words infect me like a virus and wreak havoc with my thoughts.

Take this, for example.

One day someone I look up to in my organization said to me that our organization won't accommodate you if you're sick. How awful, I thought. Oh well, I better not get sick! I better find a way to get rid of whatever is wrong with me.

Then a few years later another person said I should be careful about what I write on the internet because some people will misunderstand. They will interpret my words to mean something else. So when I write a Facebook status that says, "I have a headache today," someone will think I'm always sick. This, I'm told, would be bad for my career. This will affect where I get moved and what kind of jobs I'll be given. This will change the way people will think of me.

(Now, this is not about blaming the people who said such things to me. They were just stating the obvious and I don't hold anything against them. It's my problem.)

So, to their statements I say, "What? Really?" And I am confident that no one would do that. And if they did make a sweeping generalization about me, that's their problem. That's their perception, not the truth.

 And really, think about it...would Godly, holy people in a Christian organization actually do that? Well, apparently they would...according to some. Oh well, that's their problem.


And I believe it -  it's not my problem. I'm not responsible for the thoughts of others. I don't care what they think of me. I shouldn't be working to please them, I should only seek to please God. It's what He thinks of me that really matters. Right?

But then...I start to wonder before I post that Facebook status, who will be reading this? When I go to re-tweet something controversial, I ask myself who is reading and watching? I begin to watch over my shoulder. I begin to hide my pain a little more. When I meet with other leaders I wonder what they say behind closed doors about me. 

I must be strong. I must not let them see I am defeated. I must not be sick. Ever. Hide, don't tell them what's really happening just in case...

Such is the power of words.  Words flowing from the dysfunction of the speaker that wound, manipulate, control. Words in the mind of the listener that wind their way through the psyche, whispering shame, fear and loathing.

Every so often I catch myself and I get angry. "I will not be controlled by words spoken that seek only to manipulate and control," I say to myself that no person, or their words,  have that kind of control over me...only if I let them. Apparently, I was wrong.

So, why am I writing about this today? Well, not to long ago I was stung by someone's words. And no, they were not meant to sting. I know that. But sting they did. Why? Here's what the writer of those words said. 

"I admire you because you always speak up and are not afraid of saying the truth."

"Oh, God...if only they knew the real truth. If only they could see how easily I am tempted to despair. If only they could see this black heart that is so easily stung by the enemy's arrows, arrows provided by the words of alleged allies in the fight against evil. Oh God, what can I say to them? What should I do?" I pray...

And the voice says, "Speak the truth in love."

No, I say. Perhaps I should start another blog - make it anonymous.

No. I won't give in. Here, my friends, is the truth.

I am sick. All the time - it comes and goes. Really. 

I was diagnosed after five years of suffering and pain, with Fibromyalgia in 1991. Now, I'm in even more pain, and have been for some time now. Just this year I found out I have some kind of autoimmune arthritis. And, I've had it for a really long time, likely back when I was a teenager.

But here's the thing...I've never let it define who I am. I have pushed through the pain and kept going. I am not my illness. It is the thorn in my flesh. And God, who loves me as His child, is my strength and HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR ME.

Everything I have accomplished in this life has been through, and by, that wonderful, amazing grace that is Gods love for His world and for me, His child. I am privileged only to have been a part of His story and stand in awe and wonder at what He has accomplished through me (and my wonderful husband) here on this earth.

I must not let that testimony be taken from me by the pretense of perfection.

I am not perfect. Far from it and there's no use pretending!  Here's a few reasons why (and if you know me, you'll laugh as you read them:

  • My inside voice becomes my outside voice far too often. If there's an elephant in the room, you know it won't be long before I'm calling out its name.
  • My words are too blunt sometimes and I hurt people's feelings. Fortunately I've learned how to humbly apologize.
  • I'm have an independent and rebellious spirit - and you and I know that's just not a good thing!
  • I'm vain and worry about looking old. (And no, I don't colour my hair to hide the gray!)
  • I'm a control freak and often rely on my own strength instead of relying on God...and I often  think that's how I got this thorn in my flesh.
  • Sometimes I like people's praise far too much and have to go before the throne of grace and ask forgiveness for my conceit.
  • I am a selfish creature and like getting my own way too much. I think as the youngest and only girl I was indulged a little too much.

There's so much more, but I won't bore you with it. Suffice it to say, I am certainly not perfect.

But I am loved - by God, by my family and friends - in spite of being sick.

So, from now on I'm going to.... No, wait. I'm going to try, and sometimes fail, to speak the truth in love. I want to be honest, but sometimes I'll hide my true feelings. Perhaps that's not such a bad thing. However, I will honestly seek to share the story of God's love and grace with those willing to listen and not hide behind a veil of perfection. I am who I am - who God made me to be. And it's through all the trials and challenges of life that his love and grace refine my character. 

Here's the truth: I, Kathie, I am sick with a disease. And I'm not afraid if you read this and judge me.

grace...Kathie

PS. Now, the title of this blog will be the amount of time it takes me to actually publish this post. Just so you'll know how brave I'm not!

(October 21st - I'm still having trouble pushing "publish" )










Friday, May 24, 2013

Five Little Bones

Two positions. That's it, just two. 

Stand up or lay down flat. Hrmph! Well, at least I've progressed to two. It was just one the other day.

Frustrated over this, I've tried to keep my mind occupied with checking emails, following up with small administrative tasks I can do while lying flat with my iPad propped on my lap. I'm also researching for my next article, getting my sermon fine tuned in my mind and sneaking over to Facebook and twitter to wow my friends and followers with a ton of articles I've browsed through.

Who would have thought five little disks and an SI joint could wreak such havoc on a person? As inflammation and deterioration increase, the wonderful computer we're born with goes into triage mode and says to the muscles, "Quick! Stop those joint from moving, they're in distress!" And so they all obey, the glutes, the lower abs, the illiopsoas (a vital core muscle), hip flexor, contracting, creating spasms to warn you to stop moving because something is wrong. But, you stretch and massage and you keep moving, like you do and so NOW they decide to contract harder and trap the nerves. Well, then you're hosed, that really puts a damper on your plans! You know you're going to be in a bit of a fog for a couple of days.

What can a girl do? Knit. It's the answer to all life's problems. Off I go into my happy place and click clack away. Mighty chick with sticks - I can do anything! However, with all the frogging (rip it, rip it) I end up doing, you know it ain't so. 

Heave a big sigh. Be still. Listen to God. Listen to His Word. Receive His grace.

Oh yeah, I love that grace. 

grace...Kathie





Monday, April 29, 2013

Blowin in the Wind

The swing clanging against the railing tells me the wind is blowing pretty strong out there. I hear the voices of the kids and grandbabes running, laughing and I imagine Bronwyn's hair going crazy, her tiny hands frantically trying to reign it in so she can see.

There's a new wind blowing, a hurricane and we've been swept up in it, swirling, twirling, all our positions picked up and dropped back down on the other side of town. 

Am I excited? 

I just want to get the third move in two years over and done with. Then I'll tell you whether or not I'm excited!

Here's what I am...

...trusting in my Lord
...believing He works all things together for good
...thankful for a job that lets me fulfill my calling and passion
...grateful for the new folk I've met this year at this crazy, wonderful church
...madly in love with Ed Chiu, my friend, lover, support and my loudest cheerleader



grace...Kathie

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Sacrement of The Present Moment

Beautiful! www.kellyraeroberts.com
I'm taking time to read a good book lately,  John Ortberg's God is Closer Than You Think. Although this is not a proper review, I just wanted to write about the thoughts coming to my mind while reading it.

I confess, I spend more time knitting and watching TV, than praying or reading my bible. I know, I know, I'm a slouch of a Christian. I struggle, like most people, to keep my relationship with God alive and vibrant. I'm just not as zealous as I once was nor as I would like to be.  So this book has been challenging me to seek out God in everything I do.

Challenge is something I'm used to. Over 20 years ago I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and I sought out many different treatments, medications, exercises and diets. Some have helped and some have made it worse. At times I've suffered depression and anxiety, probably as a result of being in pain so much.

The one result in all of this is my spiritual life suffered. I think, if I'm honest with myself,  there are many times I ignore God because, well, I'm just a bit ticked off he hasn't healed me of this dreaded affliction. Other times, the brain fog that comes with this illness doesn't let me focus enough and I fall asleep when I pray, or my mind wanders. Anyone who has experienced depression will know how hard it is to motivate yourself to do anything at all, including prayer or study.

However, I push myself and continue to seek God in everything.  It's likely because I'm a minister and a leader among Christians that deep inside I know I need to practice what I preach. I desire to practice what I preach. I long for God, his Spirit, his essence, to permeate my whole being. Rather than preach from perfection, I share my journey and make myself vulnerable to those I serve. I share my longing with them.

So, in taking up the challenge to read through this book, I learned, once again, that God is everywhere and in everything I do, I am, I sense. I remember my first love. I remember!  I love what he says about the sacrament of the present moment on p.62-63:

     "I believe this can be the greatest moment of your life, because this moment is the place where you can meet God. in fact, this moment is the only place where you can meet God."
    
 He goes on to quote a book by that name written by Jean Pierre de Caussade..."The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams, but you will only enjoy them to the extent of your faith and love... To discover God in the smallest and most ordinary things, as well as in the greatest, is to possess a rare and sublime faith."

     He then says... "In the same way that every lungful of air gives life to our body, every moment in time can - if we learn to let it - give life to our soul. This moment is as God-filled as any we have ever lived."

So I wondered if I could find God in my pain. Could I take the pain and compartmentalize it, like I do to go to work,  explore, and find God there? If what he writes is actually true, I will find God.

So I did.

God was there.

In the pain.

In the moment I discovered His grace.

His grace - enough.

Kathie

*Butterfly Print "Discovering Grace" found at www.kellyraeroberts.com
  Lovely art there, check her out.





Thursday, March 21, 2013

Go Deep

Resonant leaders are attuned to what motivates themselves and others


     One of the most helpful books I’ve read since my leadership journey began is Resonant Leadership by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee. Resonant leaders are aware of and attuned to the people around them. We can see a difference in their leadership approach. They inspire us with their passion for their work and the compassion they show to others. They know the people they work with; they understand them at a deeper level because they understand what motivates them.

     No one becomes a resonant leader overnight. It’s a process that takes time and deep self-knowledge. We cannot possibly begin to know what motivates others until we know what motivates ourselves. This requires self-awareness and a state of mindfulness, which takes work. Many who aspire to leadership, or who are now leaders, fail to understand this. Many are afraid of exploring deep inside themselves and seeing what lurks beneath the solid exterior they’ve built up. Some like to keep a tight control over their emotional lives and this soul-searching activity seems fraught with emotion. It’s messy. It’s a bit scary. It might unlock and release something about ourselves we don’t want to face.

     However, if we want to be emotionally intelligent, then we have to go there. Emotional intelligence is emotional maturity. It’s becoming someone who is tuned into what emotions they are experiencing and has the ability to regulate them. It extends to an awareness of the emotions of those around you and then, through empathy and understanding, seeking to maximize this understanding and create great working relationships where mutual respect grows and creativity blossoms.
For most of us, this is a work in progress, as is learning to become more like Jesus. However, part of learning to be like Jesus is learning to have emotional intelligence.

     Jesus knew and understood those that he led. He knew the weaknesses of his disciples. He understood Peter’s impetuousness. He had the sons of Zebedee all figured out. The woman at the well was surprised when Jesus told her he was aware of her personal situation. It was the deep love Jesus had for others that allowed him to know them so well. We are reminded by Peter,  

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22).

     This applies to our leadership. Whether or not we work in ministry, business or are a volunteer coach for our children’s soccer league, we are called to love others with a sincere and deep love—especially those we lead.

     A health-care supervisor I was studying with told me about a nurse who worked for her that she dreaded having to deal with. “Every shift was difficult as he complained about others and failed to see the faults in himself,” she said. “However, as I was journaling one night and writing about this employee, it occurred to me that I was judging him and complaining about him.” As she grew in her understanding of herself, she was able to begin to deal with the difficult employee by seeing him differently. “I also realized that, as a Christian, I had to learn to love him,” she told me. “I became a different leader that day.”
Our staff knew us very well - laughter replaced tears at our farewell

    As we seek to know ourselves more deeply, we need to spend time alone with God, seeking to know him and understand why he loves us. As we cultivate a deep understanding of who we are, we will begin to understand others. And then we will begin to lead in ways that create a meaningful experience for those we lead and inspire them to join us on the same journey.

 

Delve Deeper

It takes inner strength to look at your real self. Here are some ways to learn more about yourself:
  • Journal each night, reflecting on the day and how you responded to different situations. Asking yourself “why” is a good way to keep digging deeper. 
  • Do a 360 degree evaluation for yourself, asking people you work with and for whom you work for honest feedback on your strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Find someone you look to for leadership, someone you can trust, and ask him or her to enter into a mentoring or coaching relationship with you.

Major Kathie Chiu is the corps officer of Victoria’s High Point Community Church.

Friday, March 15, 2013

More Than Words



If you want to be a leader, 

you have to know how to communicate!



Words are powerful. They can build up and they can tear down. It’s not just the words that make a difference, but the timing as well. A word properly used can bring about change in a situation that desperately needs it. The Bible tells us that “a word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11 NIV).

For those of us in leadership positions, our words are not only important, they also carry great weight. Although we must choose our words carefully, we also want to ensure that we don’t sit in silence when we need to be heard. Silence may be golden, but it quickly turns to tarnished brass if it lasts too long.

Some leaders think they’re good communicators, but they may overestimate their skills at times. Communication is more than just listening to people and giving feedback. We communicate through our facial expressions, body language and our ability to be attentive to someone. People can quickly tell if we are not paying attention or if we are going through the motions.

 No matter whether we are Sunday school teachers or business leaders, we need to pay attention to the way we communicate. There are a number of barriers to effective communication. Here are a few:

• Lack of respect by either party for the other
• Failure to establish the best medium for communication
• Assuming that the listener receives the right message
• Ignored emotions or sensitivities
• Inability to get on the listener’s level of understanding
• Intimidation by either party

If any of these are in play, the communication is over before it begins.

Good communication also involves picking up on subtle cues and being tuned in to the small things that are happening with the person we are listening to. I was listening attentively to a client as he told me how good he felt that he had worked through some of the issues he had with a former girlfriend. While he was talking I noticed his hands were clutching the arms of the chair rather tightly and his leg was bouncing up and down. His words and body were not in agreement. After a time of listening and watching, I pointed this out to him. Was there more underneath that needed attention? In the end, he decided that he still had some things he needed to work through and made the decision to carry on with his counseling sessions.

Oddly enough, it is when we are attuned to all the subtle and sometimes disturbing cues around us and in us that we begin to hear the sacred things to which God wants us to pay attention. Each conversation is an opportunity to gather valuable information about a person’s background, culture and way of seeing the world. When we pay attention to the details and tuck that information away, it helps us build meaningful relationships. Some call this active listening, but Peter Senge talks about “generative listening” in his book, The Fifth Discipline. It’s really a state of “communion” or “grace” with the other person. Here’s how Senge describes it:
 
     “To listen fully means to pay close attention to what is being said beneath the words. You listen not only to the ‘music,’ but to the essence of the person speaking. You listen not only for what someone knows, but for what he or she is. Ears operate at the speed of sound, which is far slower than the speed of light the eyes take in. Generative listening is the art of developing deeper silences in yourself, so you can slow your mind’s hearing to your ears’ natural speed, and hear beneath the words to their meaning.”

     This type of listening is a creative act. It’s divesting your mind of all your preconceived ideas of what you think you know about a person, and opening up to the possibilities that may come out of it. You may end up thinking in a whole new way.

     As you learn to listen more effectively to others, you will have the right words to say. We say the wrong things when we don’t understand the person before us and we miss out on what they really need to hear to take them to the next level. That’s because we misunderstand not only what they’re saying, but also who they are. God is interested in who we are, not just in what we do and how we do it. When leaders take time to truly know those they lead, holy, authentic communication is the result.



Major Kathie Chiu is the pastor at High Point Community Church
*This article was originally published in the Canadian Salvationist September 2012
www.salvationist.ca
copyright owned by The Salvation Army

Saturday, March 02, 2013

How Long....


Swirls of darkness surround me. I can't see. Life is over as I know it, no one cares. Why can't I get up, get out of this deep, dark hole of despair?  God, are you really there? Do you exist? Why do you let this happen to me. I can't go on living like this. If I could just go to sleep and not wake up... I could just drive to the airport with my Visa and go somewhere, escape, warmth, the sun.... my heart beats hard and fast, my chest tightening. My head is going to explode and I know my blood pressure is high.

I can tell what's happening. I'm analyzing all my thoughts desperately trying to sort the true from the false... I'm exhausted.

This is is not really me. I know that inside, somewhere distant I can hear the truth.

I'm overwhelmed.

Darkness lifts as the sun comes out and I struggle to move, speaking words of life out loud to myself like a crazy woman - can anyone hear me? They'll commit me for sure.

People, I need people. I need to connect so I'm not alone. I need to feel the warm sun and cool breeze on my face. As I get up I'm sore. My muscles ache and strain to move. I want to lie down again but I push myself up.

Just get to the computer and see if she's on Skype... she's there. A lifeline thrown out. Thank you Lord.

If you've ever suffered depression and anxiety, this will sound familiar to you. This is the monkey on my back. My haunting. My cross to bear. My curse. I don't want it. I struggle against it trying to do all I can to help myself get better. Some days I'm successful, other days I'm not.

I'm blessed to have a husband who loves and adores me. I'm not sure why he does... but, he does anyway. I can talk to him, I can warn him I'm slipping. He reaches out to me and loves me. He doesn't get angry at me, he puts up with my irritability and sharp words. I apologize but he just looks at me with love and says, "That's ok."

I love him so much.

Perhaps you don't have someone like that in your life. Perhaps you're alone or your family doesn't understand. I want to assure you - you're not alone. There are people going through the same thing day after day, struggling to hang on.

Take heart, beloved. God is near even though He seems far. Hang on to truth, not the feelings of despair.

This is my psalm when I'm sinking...

How long, Adonai? 
     Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
 How long must I keep asking myself what to do, 
          with sorrow in my heart every day?

Look, and answer me, Adonai, my God!
     Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death. 
          Then my enemy would say, "I was able to beat him;"

But I trust in your grace, your unfailing love, 
     my heart rejoices as you bring me to safety. 
I will sing to Adonai, because he gives me even more than I need. (psalm 13)

grace.... Kathie





Thursday, February 21, 2013

Let's Talk Some More

Talking about mental illness is hard. Thanks to those who commented below and also to those who sent me private messages - I understand.  This is still a very difficult topic to discuss publicly.

One of the places this is hardest to talk about is the Church. Christians are a funny lot. We want to believe that God can heal - and He absolutely can. I believe that. However, there are times that He doesn't and we have to deal with what that means.  This is one of those things for me that I struggle with.  I ask God almost every day to bring healing to my life but once in a while I just don't bother asking. Not because He can't heal me. Just because I figure He must not want to.

Do you ever feel like that?

Sometimes when the black clouds descend and I'm lost in my own world of fear and panic, I actually think that God has abandoned me. Then I begin to wonder if He's really there at all. Yes, I go down that road. I'm so thankful that I have some loving, supportive Christian friends who understand. But it's still not safe to talk about it openly in the Church. Not because people are purposely mean. It's because they don't understand. They say things that are just not helpful and then the person suffering misunderstands and feels hurt.

It's time to open up and teach our people about mental illness. Preachers and teachers need to talk about it publicly and encourage people to learn more about mental illness. We need to provide resources to them and give those suffering a safe place to find comfort and support.

It starts with us.

grace...Kathie


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Let's Talk



It was 5:00 AM. Far too early in the morning, too early for me. I usually have a difficult time waking up every morning so I knew something was not right. Here I was, wide awake.  My heart beat like a furious bass drum and my pulse was racing. It felt like I'd drank far too much coffee and had a caffeine buzz.

That was the first time. February 2009. A year after my hysterectomy and the medical trauma that ensued. The second time it happened I was driving the car to the office. My heart started to pound, my heart raced and I had an acute sense that I needed to run, like a bear was chasing me. Both times the feeling lasted for a while and then eased off.  Then they started happening every day, easing off by the afternoon.

I had no idea what was happening but since I was going to see the naturopath, I decided to tell her about it.  As I described to her what I had been experiencing, almost every day now, she listened and nodded. We decided on saliva tests to check on hormone levels and some other things. When they came back I was surprised to learn my insulin levels were extremely high, my cortisol levels were extremely high and and a bunch of other things were out of whack. Apparently they all affect each other. She recommended I see my medical doctor for tests - I did not expect that.

Tests done. Results.  Insulin resistance.  Anxiety disorder.

The one I could do something about. The other scared me.

I took time off and rested and dealt with it all naturally. I went on a diet and over the next year lost 55 lbs. I went for counseling and took natural remedies. I did not want to be on medication again. I had dealt with mind numbing depression in the past and knew about the side effects and didn't want to go there.

Within the year we lost our lovely family dog. Then my mother. A year later talk of being moved for our work.  Fear. Then the transfer came and it was traumatic. Too far. Too drastic. I thought I could handle it, but I couldn't. I thought I could do a little superwoman thingy and be strong. I had my faith, after all. God would see me through. Jesus would walk with me on the journey and take care of me. I had it all under control. I was better. Wasn't I?

By January 2012 the anxiety was relentless. Overpowering. Exhausting. Black clouds circled overhead while I clung to the desperate hope that I could overcome, I could get it under control. I longed to run away. As I drove the car to work I thought if I just kept going I could get on a plane and escape. Anything to get away from what was happening.

This is anxiety and depression. This is mental illness. And it's an awful experience.  One in five Canadians will experience a mental illness at some point in their life. Of the rest of the population, four out of five will have a family member experience it.  I've likely passed it on to my own children who have suffered it's affects. I'm now back on medication and feel so much better. Why did I wait so long?

I've been hovering over the idea of this blog entry for days now. Bell did their "Let's Talk" thing and I knew I needed to tell people. I knew I needed to be honest. I knew that as a pastor in my organization it could affect my future. I knew it might embarrass me. I knew people would judge me for it and make assumptions about my abilities in my work with my organization as a leader.

I also knew someone out there is going to read this and know they're not alone. Other pastors and those in ministry will know they're not the only ones.

When I started this journey into ministry I wanted to change the world. I wanted to make a difference and create a lasting legacy of love for God. I guess this is just one of the ways He wants me to do that.

Bravery is hard. Courage isn't courage without fear.

grace... Kathie

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Don't Kid Yourself!

There are a few things I really enjoy in life. Some are hobbies and some are part of my work. Some I enjoy more than others. I suspect a lot of us are like that. I find myself every now and then telling one of my children life can't always be about what we like to do, sometimes we have to do things we don't like in order to be able to do the things we do like. Every job has its tasks we enjoy and then there are those we least enjoy.

But what if in your everyday life you spent more time doing the things you don't enjoy doing and less of the things you do enjoy doing? What do you do?

I read a blog someone posted called How to Tell if You're Kidding Yourself   and I found it enlightening. It's all about asking yourself thoughtful questions to help you sort out whether or not you need to make changes in your life. I wondered how those questions fit into a life all about doing God's will and seeking His guidance in choosing a career or following a calling. I want to keep it in perspective. Gene Wilkes said,

"We live in a culture where the individual has been moved to the centre of the universe."

I don't want it to be about just me, however, I believe God made each of us as individuals and finding His will for my life in the context of how He made me is a valid activity. So here are two of the several questions she suggests we ask ourselves.

#1. What were my top three moments of the past year?

So, this past year has not been a normal year for me. I had to sort out the times of grief from moving away from my family, the stress and pressure from realizing my kids weren't coping the greatest with the change and the moving back and all the drama that brought with it. So what were the highlights in the past year for me?

First, the action at Christmas and the Social Services Conference in Phoenix were highlights. I love crowds and excitement. My favourite.

Another were the several moments that I enjoyed socially. While in London we were able to have a social life and had time to make friends. The people we met in London were wonderful and we felt included and surrounded by community. Several times come to mind that were fun, but the "start the car, start the car!" moment with Jill tops out as the most fun moment of the year.

Making knitted toys for the grandchildren! I loved their reactions and the toys were so darn cute! I  love being creative. I get the same feeling when someone reads one of my articles and says, "I loved your article!" I know, so narcissistic!





#2  What were my three least favorite moments of the past year?

These are not supposed to be monumental moments, but things that really drag you down on a regular basis, the part of your daily routine you just don't like and "suck the life out of you."  Again, this was hard because my year was filled with so much personal stress and grief, but after some thinking for a few days I came up with three.

First, day in and day out, boring routine. I really dislike having to do the same things over and over again.

Second, I can't work sitting in an office by myself. I can't focus and get lonely!

Third, I can't settle when I know my kids are not in a good place physically, mentally and emotionally. All our staff knew we were struggling and told us never to play poker!

When I look at these two questions and think about my gifts and talents, personality and temperament I'm not surprised at my answers. I didn't answer her other questions (you can go to the blog post and see for yourself) as I found this was enough for me to evaluate myself.

So what were my conclusions:

It all begins and ends with family!
1. Next to God, family is #1. If all is not right there, I'm no good to anyone.

2. Routine is boring, crowds are delightful, new projects are inspiring. I need action and people around me - at work and socially.

3. Creativity is vital for my mental health and quality of life. More knitting and writing! Perhaps a book!

I'm praying that God will bring more of what energizes me into my life. I'm also praying for less of those times when I have to do those boring, routine tasks and for His grace when I have to do them. 

What energizes you? What sucks the life out of you? If you ask yourself these questions and find out the answers, what are you going to do about it?

grace... Kathie






Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year 2013

A new year.  A new focus. A new look.

I'm glad it's a new year. 2012 was an eventful year for my family. We moved to London, Ontario in 2011 and in that one year made new friends and had some wonderful experiences. But only a few of us went - myself and Ed and our two youngest boys. We left the girls and their husbands and eight grandchildren, and our oldest son behind. I didn't think I'd be able to do it, but in spite of the intense grief, I was able to be present in my ministry and enjoy the challenges it presented. We learned a lot about ourselves and what we can accomplish.

However, we failed to realize how our choice would impact those we love and value the most, and in that, we learned what is most important to us. It's one thing to say what your priorities are and another thing to actually live them out. This year we learned how important is is to live out our priorities and what the consequences to ours and our family's emotional and mental health are when we make choices that deviate from them. We grew in many ways and learned the hard way to walk the talk.

God, first.  Family, second. Ministry/Work, third.

And now we're back in BC experiencing the blessing of leading High Point Community Church and enjoying it very much.

What would you be willing to give up in order to walk your talk?

Deep within each one of us is the answer to this question. You and I know the answer - and it's different for everyone. Sometimes our human desires cloud our thoughts and get in the way of seeing and hearing that answer. If you think you would never make a decision that would compromise your priorities in life - think again. It can be confusing to know just what God wants for us. There are so many conflicting messages that come at us - from friends, family and spiritual leaders. For me, I admit I'm still learning how to sort through the chatter and hear the voice of God - that still small voice - for it's the one that speaks truth to me.

I want to live in God's truth - authentically - the way He has revealed it to me - for my life. I think my ministry will grow as a result of living that way.

No, actually, I'm sure it will.

Every once in a while we all need a new focus. So this year I'm turning the dial, clicking the remote and changing the station. For me, it will be the equivalent to going from the chatter of a constant news channel to pbs and a calmer conversation. I want to talk less. I want to react less. I want to listen more - to others, to myself... to God. I want to pray more. I want to take time to be still and experience silence. Not just regular silence, but productive silence. I'm not sure if I can do this, but I'm going to try. I started this morning and I hope I can keep it up. Send me a link to this page if you see me veering from this path!

The New Year is a time for renewal, new beginnings, new thoughts and new adventures. I've had enough adventures for now, but definitely need a reboot.

A new look is important. Sometimes it's a new hair style, a new wardrobe or maybe a new house or car. For me, it's just a new look on this blog. I saw this background with books and since it's my goal to write one (one day soon, I hope) , I thought perhaps this would inspire me to write more. (Well, I have been writing for the Salvationist this winter and it's been nice to get a few encouraging comments through email, however, none of this year's columns have made it to the website.) Anyway, let's hope the new look brings the hoped for inspiration.

What about you? What is it you need for 2013?

grace.... Kathie