What saved my life during a hospital stay

First published in the BC Catholic on October 6, 2022. https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/what-saved-my-life-during-a-hospital-stay

“I’m so grateful to not be in a hospital as I was last autumn. The connections with family and friends are what saved my life during that time.”

Leaves crackled underfoot. Dappled trees surrounded the park where we sat. Jane and I ate ice cream before dinner on the first Sunday in fall. A dog came by to sniff our dessert. We pulled it away and petted him as he meandered by.

I ate whisky hazelnut and peanut butter ripple sitting in the golden sun beside Jane. We laughed and chatted, both of us procrastinating on going home to do the things we needed to do.

I soaked up the time with Jane knowing she’s leaving in a couple weeks for East Africa. A dad and his daughter threw a baseball back and forth. And I sat on the grass, relaxed with my back towards a community garden. Eating ice cream always makes me happy. Though this type of happiness doesn’t last. But sometimes I need quick wins when my mood is low. Happiness is something you can choose.

When I’m depressed, my memory helps me know that this state won’t last forever. I recall how much God loves me and rejoices in me. This makes me feel better deep inside. It doesn’t always bring a smile to my face in that moment. But it is a comfort felt in my heart.

I’m so grateful to not be in a hospital as I was last autumn. The connections with family and friends are what saved my life during that time.

In the height of mania, I wrote my monthly column while watching a football game with other patients. I was grateful for a sense of normalcy and the knowledge that I still had the skills to write when sick. It was a time of lockdown because of COVID restrictions, which made it harder on me.

I longed for hugs from family members. When I moved to a residential care facility, I was able to have visitors. I also danced in the parking lot for exercise and self expression.

Danced in the parking lot for exercise and self-expression.

My friend, Father Guy Zidago, asked me if there was anything I would like. He brought me Powerade and chocolate like I hoped he would. A couple of other priests I know prayed for me over the phone and it made such a difference to my recovery.

I have so much gratitude for the phone calls with my friends Anna and Jazz during my stay, as well as for the visits with my older brothers and my Aunt Guin, and the countless messages from colleagues and close friends.

Beautiful cards and messages brought me joy.

There are not enough words to express my thanks to all the people who cheered me on in my recovery.

It was a tumultuous time in the hospital trying new medications and hoping to get it right.

This Thanksgiving, I was blessed to be home with my family instead of eating alone in a hospital room. God redeems all time that passes. “I will restore the years that the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25)

The experience in the hospital taught me many lessons and was a sanctuary for healing my mind and body, even if it was an uncomfortable and unwanted passage.

A lesson I learned is that I am braver than I thought I was. I went through many difficult circumstances and came out stronger. I learned to have patience with myself. Because I have no control over my neurotransmitters or the chemical reactions in my brain. I had to see the illness take its course. The mania I was experiencing calmed enough that I could go home and continue to heal there.

The doctors and mental health professionals were supportive in the two different facilities I stayed in.

I remember one night when, alone in the basement of the residential hospital, I couldn’t sleep, and the staff decided to move me to a different room upstairs to be near the nurse’s station.

I was the only one in the residential hospital for a while because everyone else left. They couldn’t take anyone new until a few days had passed because there was a patient who had COVID. Everyone else was well enough to leave except for me.

It was a dark and cold night. The nurses gave me a bathrobe and gathered my bags and belongings to swap rooms. A mental health worker sat with me as I was shivering in fear and fatigue. His presence was soothing.

I remember that he worked the night shifts. I saw him when I woke up in the middle of the night. He looked out for me, sharing music or offering a prayer.

These beautiful gestures of care and protection are gifts from God. Praises bubble up because of the goodness God bestowed on me. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Forever will I praise your name.

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services.


Accepting the truth that I am good

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on September 12, 2022 https://bccatholic.ca/authors/lisa-rumpel

As plants need certain things to thrive, there are ways of thriving in the spiritual life.

My interior life felt dried up like the dirt in my planter pots. I needed a good watering of prayer and the sacraments to feel refreshed again. I was worried and my body was physically sore.

I overworked my muscles from dancing. I needed to take a break and then I fell out of a workout and prayer routine. I was in acute pain so it stopped me from feeling like I could exercise. 

In my tiredness, I neglected my prayer life.

Lord have mercy on me.

Every indoor plant I own was a gift. And my task is to keep them alive. I love admiring gardens but never took to gardening before. My limiting belief is that I don’t know how to tend to the fragile plant life. 

“To plant a garden, you believe in tomorrow.” (Audrey Hepburn) I want to become more of a gardener. Becoming a gardener is a lot like becoming a saint. 

I try to do the best thing for the plants by giving them sunlight and water.  And I seek God’s will for my daily life.  

I will search for God in all the wounded places of my heart. And in the beauty of the beach and delicate flowers. This summer I spent many days at beaches swimming in the salty water and soaking up the sunshine. I also walked through Van Dusen gardens and neighbourhood gardens enjoying lush golden chain trees and roses.

I love the poem by Emily Dickinson To My Quick Ear the Leaves Conferred because it shows how much nature fills our lives. 

“To my quick ear the leaves – conferred – 

The bushes – they were bells – 

I could not find a privacy 

From Nature’s sentinels” (excerpt, by Emily Dickinson)

My three plants: Tradescantia nanouk (purple and green), spider plant and Zamioculcas zamiifolia (with waxy leaves) are all growing to my surprise. I started to talk to them as I give them water or dust their leaves. I think I’m becoming a plant mom. 

I look forward to having more plants to tend. Jazz has many plants around our apartment which make our place feel both wild and cozy. She has a natural skill at keeping them healthy and happy. She is inspiring.

As plants need certain things to thrive, there are ways of thriving in the interior life.

I think I’m becoming a plant mom.

My first step towards a more flowing faith was to make my way to confession. If my heart is achy and my desire to pray is low, I know it’s time to spend quality time with Jesus. Confession and Mass are in order.

“The root choice is to trust at all times that God is with you and will give you what you most need.” Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love

I traveled to the Cathedral in the morning. I arrived early and the doors were locked. I grabbed an orange juice to go and sat in the park across from the church. The sun beat down on me as I silently prepared my heart for confession. 

Pigeons walked past me and one flew a little too close to my head for comfort. 

Having a diagnosis of a mental illness can be uncomfortable too. Sometimes, I worry if people will accept me for who I am in health and in sickness. I am blessed with such a supportive and understanding family. They have actively learned about mental illness and mental health to better help me. 

We all rally around each other in the good times and the bad. I have friends who will send a hot meal when our family is experiencing a trial. Knowing that people are praying for your healing makes such a difference as well. These are no small things. It’s the small things that are the big things. 

When I finished my confession and was praying my penance a sense of deep gratitude washed over my body. A few tears welled in my eyes, and I knelt in awe and wonder at God who is so loving and merciful. 

I sat in front of the tabernacle to adore Jesus. My heart felt lighter, and it filled with hope. 

And I repeated, “In the name of Jesus Christ I accept the truth that I am good. I am beautiful. I am forgiven. I am worthy of heaven.” (Fr. Crow, from Episode 97. Spiritual warfare Tell-all with Fr. Crow. on the What in the Dang Heck Podcast) https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/spiritual-warfare-tell-all-with-fr-crow-part-1

In this episode, he explains that speaking these words can renounce lies about ourselves. Especially if we say, “In the name of Jesus.” Fr. Crow says we don’t want to give demons the foothold by believing we are destined for lives of loneliness or thinking that we are fat and ugly. 

A lot of healing can come from speaking in the name of Jesus Christ and renouncing these lies.

As I sat in the pew in the beautiful gothic Cathedral, I felt loved by Jesus and renewed in spirit. Jesus says in scripture not to worry and to be not afraid. 

I will learn to garden and to trust in the unwavering mercy of God. He loves me with or without a mental illness. I will lean into his love like my ZZ plant does.


It’s OK to be a beginner

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on July 28 2022 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/it-s-ok-to-be-a-beginner

Me left, with the Roots Peruvian Folk Dance group. “I took a risk signing up for the group and I choose to reframe my nerves to be enthusiastic.” (photo from Fran)

Sweat drips down my face as I dance in a church basement in New Westminster. My back and hips start to ache.

Wow, do I need to stretch out after this! 

I dance for the joy of it and for my mental health.

I show up for myself in dance practice with the traditional dances of Peru. In May, I joined Roots Peruvian Folk Dance, a group that my friend Jazz invited me to.

When I am good at one thing it makes me feel confident. These dances are new and unfamiliar. But I’m learning them with excitement. I’ve heard that the feelings of nervousness and excitement are the same. I choose to reframe my nerves to be enthusiastic.

My mindset matters. I notice when I’m anxious and try to change my thoughts about being a beginner. It’s okay to start from less training. 

It’s okay to be a beginner. 

“Anxiety is the heat of the forge. Forging our character,” says Dr. Kevin Majeres in The Golden Hour, Episode 106, Challenging Anxiety.

My background of dancing in many genres empowers me to perform with confidence.

Jesus calls me to come and use my voice. “O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face is comely. (Song of Songs, 2:14)

In the way I move – I do it for the glory of God. He is the only one who sees me inside and out.

I took a risk signing up for the group. 

Would it be too much for me or just the thing I need?

It does tire me out and it’s very good exercise. It’s a big commitment and it’s exhilarating to perform. Practices are twice a week and we have festivals almost every weekend in the summer.

Learning a dance from a beautiful culture is a lot of fun. And it’s hard work.

My friends performing a Peruvian folk dance called the Festejo

After work one day I almost left the building without making a visit to the chapel. I felt a nudge to pray. When I got to the chapel with my worries and fears, I knelt down.

Lord speak to me.

I heard in my heart, “Draw on my strength.” I left the chapel with the desire to go to confession and Mass at the cathedral.

Practising my faith also helps to forge my character. And dancing helps me grow in virtues like commitment, self-discipline, reliability, and confidence.

I believe the Lord delights in my dancing – even if it’s not as perfect as I would like. I choose confidence for I know it pleases him.

During the Latin festival Carnaval del Sol, I felt jitters that there was such a large turnout. But as soon as I got on the stage and saw my family and friends in the front row, I relaxed. I wanted to do my best for them. I put in all my effort to perform with excellence. As well as focusing on remembering the choreography. It was easier to dance around the stage with their familiar faces looking on. 

It was nerve-wracking having a camera crew filming up close. But I ignored the fact that they were there and had fun. 

I am so grateful for my life and for the body God gave me. When I was a baby, I had a sickness that could have crippled my left arm. My parents took me to the hospital and the doctors were able to give me the right medicine to heal me. I will never forget that miracle. I am able to type out this article and do so many other things with my healthy arm. 

St. Josemaría Escrivá wrote, “Do you really want to be a saint? Carry out the little duty of each moment: do what you ought and concentrate on what you are doing. Do everything for Love. Thus there will be no little things: everything will be big. Perseverance in little things for Love is heroism.”

Whether I am working in the office or dancing on a stage I remember that I am doing it for “the love of God and the love of others,” as Deacon Bruce Fraser recently said in a homily. I am reminded “to remain centered in God.”

When I dance at the upcoming festivals, I will remain steadfast in doing it in joy and love. 

The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience podcast, is available on popular streaming services.


When art and meditation combine for spirit-filled therapy

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on June 27, 2022 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/when-art-and-meditation-combine-for-spirit-filled-therapy

This summer I want to have meditation on the top of my activity list. Because in meditating I come closer to Christ and get to know his love and mercy more. It strengthens my trust in his faithfulness to his promises for my life.

I enjoy many hobbies. Finding an activity is never hard.   

One evening after work, I opened my closet and reached for my art journal. I wanted a fun activity to do before I knocked off all my chores. Cleaning and laundry aren’t my favourite things to do. And after a day of work in the office, it’s nice to break up the duties.

It took me a while to find my glue stick and once I did, I started to rip paper and put it on the open page. Art journaling is relaxing for me. Ripped paper, magazine clippings, glue on fingers. Photographs and dried flowers are all part of the process. Finding a quote that speaks to my experience or is inspiring is a great addition to the collage.

“I started making an art journal when I was on sick leave this past fall. Coming home from the hospital I searched for art as self-care.”

I started making an art journal when I was on sick leave this past fall. Coming home from the hospital I searched for art as self-care. At Alongside You, a mental health clinic in Delta, I found one-on-one therapeutic art classes. Each class I learned how to do something different. I started with water colour painting, painting on tiles, and then wood burning. 

It was a creative space to play and learn new techniques. I recommend it to kids and adults alike. 

In my art journal the pages have acrylic paint with abstract designs. I have paper cut-outs and hand drawn wildflowers. Pieces of newspaper and postcards also make it in. 

I draw with pastels. This time I drew balloons with a little person holding on and hanging in the air. I penned a speech bubble that said, “Here I am, what do I do next?”

Trust in the Lord. That is what I always come back to. Whenever I am uncertain of my next steps or if I am worried about anything, I remember to look to Jesus. Attending Mass on Sunday and weekdays offers special graces.

“Mass is Meditation,” said Father Francis Galvan in a homily on Corpus Christi Sunday. A sacred place with moments of silence, listening to the word of God, and receiving Jesus’ body and blood. Attending Mass is an act of “caring for the self” (Father Galvan). Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist nurtures our body and soul.

Throughout the summer, I am conscious about self-care. The time spent meditating in church benefits me in mind, body, and spirit. I enjoy finding a pew to sit in and rest. It is more enjoyable when I am with family or friends at Mass. The togetherness in church strengthens my heart.  

I like hearing the bells toll as I walk toward Holy Rosary Cathedral for Mass. Deacon Richard says hearing them ring is “like God is calling you.”

A few nights ago, I heard negative voices as I was falling asleep. I didn’t let it startle me too much. And asked the Lord to take care of me. My breathing was shallow, so I focused on my breath to return to normal. I started to pray a Hail Mary and my breathing started to regulate.

The Rosary is great meditation too. Perfect for calm breathing. I pray a Rosary with the Hallow app on my commute into work. It is a peaceful beginning to my morning. 

When I meditate either at Mass or with the Rosary, it helps me believe in miracles. I see the goodness of God when I am striving to grow in virtue through prayer and works of mercy.

“It takes just a single touch from the Lord to change a condition. To reverse a health diagnosis. To set free from an addiction. To restore a lost dream. To bring a loved one home. To re-route a life trajectory. No matter how complex the issue, or how long it’s been going on … Whether you were responsible for it, or have been the victim of it … He can do it in a moment, in a single touch. Take courage, friend – Jesus can do this” (Catholic Revival Ministries).

I am praying for the Lord to dispel my unbelief. I often forget his goodness when I see sickness, tragedy, and ongoing war around me. I want to believe that the miracles he can perform didn’t stop after his resurrection. 

What art is he creating with my life? I want to be docile so that he can have freedom to make a beautiful art piece.

My podcast, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services.


God delights in you through all your troubles

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on March 24, 2022 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/god-delights-in-you-through-all-your-troubles

Seagulls dotted the field by the highway as we drove by. On a sunny Saturday I went walking in a park by the river. I chatted with my friend about her work as a teacher. The trees were still bare, so we could see the river unobstructed. The air was cool but not too cold. I held a hot drink in hand and sipped it as we talked.

Andrea mentioned what she said to her student who felt the need to fit in.

“It’s okay to be different. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. It’s okay, everyone learns in different ways, and that’s okay. The important thing is that you understand how you learn and what works for you and embrace it.”

What I felt from her sharing was that you do not need to fit in to be worthy. She also said, “We often tend to conform and be like everyone else. We forget to acknowledge our own beauty, strengths, and talents.”

Sometimes I feel unworthy because I have a bipolar disorder. I wonder what it would be like without a diagnosis of an invisible illness. Would I have compassion for others struggling with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, schizophrenia?

Or would I have missed the opportunity to meet them in hospital wards and support groups? Their presence helping me to realize I’m not alone. I’m not strange. And that it’s okay to have differences.

“What I thought was my end was only Your beginning,” declares Sean Feucht in his song “You delight in me.”

I learned so much from the kindness of the other patients in the hospital this past September. Some brought me extra orange juice, gave me the best colouring pages, and kept me company while we coloured and talked.

It was not always a comfortable place to be locked in a ward for a time with strangers. Yet they were some of the kindest people.

Some cracked jokes to make me smile, and one taught me how to play a magic trick with cards.

A few raced along beside me on the stationary bikes getting in lots of exercise. Some picked out their favourite movies to share with me.

One held my hand and twirled me around the room as I danced ballet. Some played ping-pong with me and gave me great competition.

One made custom drawings for me to take home. One taught me about football as I watched along with him.

All of this made me feel delighted in. These patients were going through all kinds of trauma and trouble. And were being thoughtful, supportive, and loving.

The nurses and doctor were also very caring. Anything I needed I could ask them for. If they were busy, they didn’t seem frustrated when asked for a phone charger or a movie. They even made popcorn for us and tea.

Sometimes I was scared of the behaviours of some of the patients who were upset. Their tempers made me want to hide away and feel homesick. My parents were so good at coming to drop off items I needed.

Because of COVID, I couldn’t have any visitors, so I waved to them through the bars of the window on the fifth floor. I blew kisses to them as they did to me. My family is such a support to me. I am so blessed and feel their delight in me. Even when things get difficult.

I also had the privilege of speaking to three priests during my stay. A friend, a spiritual director, and a professional in psychology. My phone was a way to connect with the outside world. And, oh, how I needed to!

Thinking it over, I wouldn’t change my life with an illness. Though receiving healing and a cure would be amazing. And I do notice transformations in my life through prayer and the sacraments.

God delights in me. And God delights in you.

You are a beloved child of God. And it’s okay to be different. It’s a beautiful thing to be unique.

Whatever ails you can bring you closer to the heart of the Father. I continue to bring all my afflictions to God, and he showers me with affection. His love is there for me every day. No matter what I do, how I am feeling. It never changes.

His love is indescribable. I am especially reminded when I go to Mass and receive the Eucharist.

“I know I captured all your affection. That’s the end of the story. You’ve always been for me,” Feucht sings.

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services.


How an Italian pianist and composer inspired me

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on February 28, 2022 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/how-an-italian-pianist-and-composer-inspired-me

I don’t know if it’s the cold, fog, and rain that have permeated my interior landscape. Or if it’s feeling stuck in a pandemic or having a lack of peace. Whenever I get into a funk, I look for inspiration. It could be from music, a quote from a saint, or a new colourful shirt. Where I need to look for inspiration is from Jesus.

Listening to stories of other people who have come through some sort of trial when I’m stuck in a rut gives me hope.

Alberto Giurioli, an Italian pianist and composer, and I connected on Instagram. He shared his neoclassical piano music, which is available on many platforms. I liked the first few songs I listened to, Following Yourself and Tutto è bellissimo.

I said to him in a direct message, “I’m already editing my column to your piano music.” And he replied, “Cool, glad you like what I do.”

What I found to be heartening is that he is a mental health warrior too. He’s fought to stay here when it got tough. When he was a little boy, he started playing piano. At one point he wanted to give up on learning when bored, and his hands hurt from playing a grand piano. His parents encouraged him to continue, and that is when he began to like it.

Alberto was away from family in London for a while. He was struggling to stay there and fight for his dream. When a journalist’s video of him playing a street piano went viral, that kicked off his career. He has played in many theatres that have sold out and has millions of downloads on Spotify, etc.

It is a struggle to always feel the gift of life when depressed or despairing. Though I am not depressed, I am tired of this winter and so many restraints with COVID. I pray for the end of COVID and the return to more social interactions.

In reading Scripture, the words from Matthew 8:7 jumped off the page for me. “I will come and cure him.” Oh, how I would love to receive a cure from my mental illness. And Jesus doesn’t want us to suffer. He wants us to be free of disease, addiction, and sin. I am learning to hope with greater spirit in his power to heal. I imagine what it would be like for him to heal me too. Especially when reading about the miracles he performed in the Scripture passages.

It is not impossible. It’s something that I never entertained to ask for. Until a few friends asked if I would like to receive prayers for physical healing.

My mind needs restoration. Healing for healthy neurotransmitters and rewiring of fear-based pathways .

My first response is to doubt that Jesus would ever do something this grand for me. I know someone who lives without the problems of bipolar disorder. Even though she has a diagnosis. What faith I would need to have to ask the Lord for what he desires for me!

God is good and won’t let me down. Healing can take time. And it’s amazing how I have everything I need in the moment from him. I am never left without his love.

The gift of being alive is an act of his love. He loves us, and we exist in that love.

It was a pleasure to find Alberto’s music. He offers his talent to add beauty to the lives of others. It is inspiring how he is using his gift for the world.

And when I’m bored, uninspired, or lacking peace, I ask myself if Jesus is in the centre. Have I been putting him first? Or am I disappointed with the distractions of my own making?

“He will come in His own time, and when you least expect it. Hope in Him more than ever” (The Practice of the Presence of God: A 40-Day Devotion Based on Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God).

Trusting God through the long haul even when your path forward isn’t clear is hard to do. I don’t know if I will be cured of my mental illness or if it will be a lifelong challenge. I don’t know how long the pandemic will go on. I do know that winter ends and spring will come.

I look forward to spending more time with Jesus during Lent to believe in his healing love. And to listening to beautiful music from talented artists.

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services.


A forest walk and God’s word can both bring fresh perspective

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on February 10, 2022 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/a-forest-walk-and-god-s-word-can-both-bring-fresh-perspective

Like the sounds and smells of the forest, scripture brings fresh perspective and awakens my heart.

On a cloudy day in January my brother and I went for a walk in the forest. The tall trees hid the sky. Moss covered branches reached over the path. We moved briskly through the trail.

Dog walkers and joggers passed us as we hiked around the park. We saw a juvenile eagle perched on a branch above our heads. The steady beat of our steps and the moist air refreshed my tired muscles.

While in the forest there wasn’t an anxious thought going through my head. I was present to the moment with my brother. The sounds and smells of the clear brook and evergreen trees awakened my senses. They also brought back memories of camping trips as a young girl with my family. 

I remember going to Golden Ears Park. With my younger sister I pretended pinecones were dolls. I have always enjoyed being in nature since I was in the backpack on my dad’s shoulders in the woods. Collecting rocks and shells was a large part of the fun on a beach visit.

I picked up a pink and orange rock that looked smooth. Such beautiful stones filled the path. Each one a different shape and colour. My brother led the way through the trail. I was filled with wonder as I walked the winding route through trees and creek beds. It was a meditative walk.

I have started praying lectio divina, to listen more to God speaking into my life. I open my Bible and read a passage from either the gospels, or a psalm, or a letter. I pray for an openness to hear God’s voice through the words I am reading. I pick one word that stands out from the first reading. Then a second one, and the last reading I choose a phrase that is speaking to me. 

This has been so nourishing to my soul. The words echo for me throughout the next day, giving me a feeling of safety and security. Recently from Isaiah 49:8-13 the words “establish,” and “heritage,” spoke powerfully to me. So did the phrase, “in a time of favour I have answered you.” I have been worrying about my future and these words brought comfort. 

The Lord has always provided for me in the past. Reading from the Bible I can hear God’s voice more. Words have such power. And Scripture is the living word. 

Like the sounds and smells of the forest, these words bring fresh perspective and awaken my heart. They help me to slow down and give space to hear the call of being a disciple. 

Often I fill my mind and ears with too much music, podcasts, and other media. They can block out God’s voice. I begin to falter in my prayer life and lose sight of my loving friendship with Jesus. 

Every day is a chance to begin again. To bring Jesus into the centre of my life, rather than a part of it. It’s all in my control to ask him to be my Lord and Saviour. Though faith is a gift, I pray that I will always love the Lord and that I will return to him. 

In Emily Stimpson Chapman’s book Letters to Myself from the End of the World, she says, “But you don’t need God someday. You need Him today. You need to talk to Him now and listen to Him now and call upon Him now in the midst of your crazy, chaotic, spit-up-laden life.” 

Maintaining my mental health can sometimes seem like I am fighting a crazy, chaotic life. Yet, the Lord is amidst the suffering. He is there in the anxious thoughts, or sleepless nights. And he heals me from mania and psychosis. God is so good. 

When we arrived at a babbling brook, my brother and I both stopped and marvelled at the peacefulness of the running water over the rocks. To remember it later, I captured a short video to listen to again. 

God’s grace can often work through people. The opportunity to walk in the forest with my brother was an absolute treat. And my cousin gifted me a book by Aimee Chase called Present not Perfect – A journal for Slowing Down, Letting Go and Loving Who You Are. It is a wonderful reminder to find the beauty in the moment and not be a perfectionist. 

Whether it’s pausing to smell the fresh evergreen trees or wondering at an eagle, it helps me to embrace my “wonderfully imperfect life.” (Present not Perfect)


Finding holiness is a lifelong journey

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on January 13, 2022 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/finding-holiness-is-a-lifelong-journey

Holiness – is it possible for someone with a mental illness? It’s a possibility and a work of grace for all of us. We can’t make ourselves holy on our own. Allowing the Holy Spirit to move in our minds and hearts to act in good will helps us get to heaven.

I’ve been reflecting on holiness and how my personal sin affects the community. After a recent confession, I realized I could fall more in love with Jesus. I would then want to sin less when I had my eyes on him.

We need perseverance because we are weak and fall many times. Jesus loves us so wildly. I can’t even imagine how much he loves me!

His love is immense and as hard to fathom as the size of the stars in the universe, which contains countless stars larger than the sun!

Chatting on the phone with a friend about the struggles and silver linings of mental illness, I shared my own experiences and we discussed those in our families. We then switched topics and affirmed each other on how we fight a battle for holiness in our lives. I paced my room in excited passion for the conversation we were having. We swapped back and forth different quotes, from Scripture to recent homilies we had heard.

The conversation with my friend warmed my heart to know that I’m not alone in this adventurous journey of faith. 

My favourite stories about long journeys are C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. When the Pevensie children meet Aslan for the first time in Narnia, it’s thrilling. And when Frodo the Hobbit agrees to go on a treacherous journey to save Middle Earth, it inspires me.

A video series that has been offering me enjoyment lately is Letters to Myself from the End of the World on WILDGOOSE.TV. It is a series of conversations with Father Dave Pivonka and Emily Stimpson Chapman based on the chapters of her book with the same title. I love the authentic and casual conversation they have filmed in her home.

Before watching the videos I felt in a dry, desert-like state, whereas during them I wanted to draw closer to Jesus in prayer. Prompted by the Holy Spirit after watching one video, I called up my friend and we prayed a Rosary together. I’m so glad we did; we had many intentions to pray for and the company was like a spiritual boost for the soul.

With my phone tucked in the folds of my blankets I sat in bed with my blue-beaded rosary in my hands. My friend led a Scriptural reflection on each mystery of the Rosary as we prayed. Her smooth voice softly floated from my cell phone speaker and brought me peace. My anxiety still catches up with me at night, so that evening Rosary over the phone helped me to stay calm.

It’s a blessing to have friends who I can call any time for a chat or a prayer. With chronic illness, prayer is a soothing balm. When I don’t feel like praying, I can find inspiration in someone else who does – whether it’s with friends or family, or with a popular app that contains an amazing amount of Catholic content, Hallow.

I used Hallow in the hospital last fall when I couldn’t sleep. From my hospital room I could hear trains blasting their horns at all hours of the night and early in the morning. Nurses would open the door and flash a light on me to see if I was sleeping. It wasn’t restful, so I would pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Rosary on Hallow. I listened to the soothing voices of Jonathan Roumie (Jesus from The Chosen series) and Bishop Barron as they prayed. 

I’m so happy that Jesus provides me with the people, places, and tools I need to nurture my interior life. They all help me on the lifelong journey of holiness – a path to sanctity.

We are all invited to become saints, and in the hospital I could feel all the prayers of my family and friends. They held me up and encouraged me to keep hoping for a swift recovery.

I pray I can craft a life of holiness – by picking up the cross of bipolar disorder, living a life of faith, and depending on God.

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services.


Embracing God when it feels like he’s not there

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on January 11, 2022 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/embracing-god-when-it-feels-like-he-s-not-there

Looking back I know he was with me.

You are loved. You matter. Don’t give up. Do not be afraid. These words heal and have brought me comfort many times. I need to hear these words now as much as I did a few months ago.

I believed a lie that I could do it all on my own effort.

I was doing everything in my power to juggle projects and relationships. God said, “Let me help.”

“No, I got this.”

I burned out and got sick. I was overcome with psychosis and mania. Though it’s not all my fault. Things just break down. Especially when I have a chronic mental illness. My mind is a marvellous and complex organ. The medicine wasn’t working enough for me to have balance.

In the emergency waiting room my body trembled, and I fell to the floor shouting, “I can’t do this alone anymore!”

Later my prayer to Jesus was “I can’t do this anymore. I am giving you all my projects, plans and problems. I’m stepping back. Jesus, you have the relief I need. I don’t have the answers. I can’t do life on my own. I need you, Jesus!”

Two nurses and my mom helped me off the floor into a wheelchair to take me to a more calming room. They looked me into the eyes and said, “Lisa, you’re going to be okay.”

They held onto my hands and shoulders as my whole body was shaking hard. I changed into a hospital gown and lay on a mattress on the floor of a small dark room. I was scared, shaking, and hoping for peace.

One of the nurses who took my pulse was very kind. I asked her if she had seen the Chosen series, because I felt a bit like Mary Magdalene from the first episode. Though my experience was very different. When the emergency doctor came in, he checked my vital signs. I asked him if this feeling was what jumping out of an airplane feels like.

“I’ve never jumped out of an airplane.”

Even though I didn’t feel Jesus’ presence at that moment, looking back I know he was with me in the hospital. He was with my mom and me as we checked in. He was at my side when they brought me upstairs to give me a room. And he has never left. As Father Fernando Ocariz, prelate of Opus Dei, said in his Christmas message, “God is looking at us lovingly at every moment. We are constantly accompanied by God’s love.”

Yet I still can feel abandoned. This is when I need to hear those healing words. You are loved. You matter. Don’t give up. Do not be afraid. This is where confidence in his love for me is tested.

When things are going well, I believe – without a doubt – in his love and kindness. It’s in times of darkness and trial that I am tested and find it hard to hold on to hope.

This new year will unfold in unknown ways, and I want to trust God through it. He cares for me and you with his very own life. He came to us as a baby at Christmas and promises to give us lives of joy. That is why I hold onto belief that good things are coming. That the best is not behind but ahead.

Hope doesn’t have to look like you have a smile on your face all day. It is the quiet certitude that the God who created the heavens and earth sent his son and will take care of our needs.

My experience in the hospital is proof of healing. I have come out of that place with more self-compassion, tenderness, and love.

I am working on changing negative thoughts into positive thinking. I am taking the medicine prescribed. I am doing therapy. I am attending Mass and confession. Everything that can help my body, mind, and soul heal, I am doing.

I am letting God help me with my plans and goals this year. I can. I can. With you. With you. I won’t give up. I believe.

“For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken” (Ps 62:5-6).

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services.


Is connection on your ‘have a good day’ checklist?

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on December 14th, 2021 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/is-connection-on-your-have-a-good-day-checklist

Connecting with friends is one way to turn a bad day into a great one.

The connections I make and how family and friends relate to me are what is lifting my spirits as I recover. 

Antonio Neves, speaker and author of Stop Living on Autopilot, has a checklist of five things he needs to do every day to have a good day. One of those things is connection.

Connection is my most important way to turn a bad day into a great one. Making plans with friends is for love and mental health.

On a beautiful early December day, my friend from the hospital and I walked along the seawall. Seagulls called, sun shone through the clouds, and the wind whipped our hair. Before our walk we had a brunch. We related to each other’s frustrations, wins, and hopes and dreams over eggs Benny.

I’m blessed to have a pen pal Treasa in Dublin who sends me letters and frequent email messages. Two years ago, she read an article about my journey with bipolar disorder and faith online.

Recently she sent me a birthday gift in the mail: a package of makeup, a Miraculous Medal, and a beautiful emerald rosary. It boosted my mood, as I was feeling desolated that day because I can’t do many things right now. I’m trying to be patient and take it easy.

I’m not supposed to put too much pressure on producing anything.

Treasa happens to be the same age as me and very kind and thoughtful. We exchange cards in the mail and almost daily messages. We share our daily goings-on and our prayer intentions.

When I was sick in the hospital, she told me she was visiting her church. She prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament for me to get better. It helped me feel like I would be okay.

The connections I have made from being vulnerable and sharing my story have improved my life. I have made many new friends who can relate and are inspiring, resilient individuals.

Human connection can heal a broken heart or a struggling mind. I am blessed with many deep and meaningful friendships. Some are more like family than friends.

Living in a small town, I have been feeling isolated yet connected at the same time. Thanks to coffee dates, email, and social media I am close to the relationships that mean the most to me. Our stories continue to weave in and out of each other’s lives.

My life’s tapestry is multi-faceted and it’s a creative pursuit of love. When I am snug by the fireplace reading a food memoir, I am content knowing I am loved. My Saviour, family, and friends show me that I am the beloved.

Without love, I would wither away and not be able to recover as I am doing now. When I get anxious as I am about to fall asleep, I give all my worries to Jesus. The anxiety fills my head, and I have difficulty breathing. Asking Jesus to take care of everything helps as I breathe deeply. I remember that all shall be well. I imagine the Lord holding me in his arms, and this seems to help.

I wait it out for all the uncomfortable symptoms to pass. I’m most connected to Jesus at Mass in the Eucharist or talking to him in my heart. I am nourished by his body and feel his presence more.

Treasa and I may be long-distance friends, but she sees me and checks in with me. It warms my heart.

I left the residential short-term emergency stay in the middle of October. And I have stayed in contact with two women who were companions for me there. Our 6 a.m.  breakfast club and lunch and dinnertime chats were my favourite. We would talk about what we were going to do when we were released.

We also had rooms side by side. This came in handy when we were self-isolating due to a COVID outbreak. We all tested negative but had to stay in our small bedrooms for five days. We would message each other songs and encouraging messages, and I would sing for them. They could hear the worship and love songs through their walls and said, “Keep it up!”

Connection to my friends helps fill the ache inside for love and belonging. Only God can truly fill this big ache. His gifts of relationship with his Son and the relationships we have lift us up and strengthen us. When we see his gifts of connection, we can hold on to hope.

May you find loving connection and hope this Advent and Christmas.

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services.

I’m working on a children’s book called Moody Mel. I would appreciate your support for the cost of the illustrations. Thank you for being a part of my self-publishing journey! https://gofund.me/5d8f7994


Leave “if only” behind and live in the moment

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on December 1st, 2021 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/leave-if-only-behind-and-live-in-the-moment

A bowl of hot homemade soup feeds the body well. Family and friends bring necessary companionship. And with Jesus’ love and protection, I can handle anything.

Cold weather is the perfect time to make soup, I thought to myself. I pulled out a medium-sized pot and placed it on the stove as I went searching for a few other ingredients.

Red lentil soup is one of my favourite homemade soups to make. I always top it with a swirl of pepper oil or a dollop of yogurt. This time I added a teaspoon of garam masala for more flavour.

My dad and mom came into the kitchen as the aroma of onions and carrots filled the room. I was caramelizing them in the pot. When I almost bumped into my dad, he gave me a hug. And then my mom gave me a squeeze as she took a plate from the cupboard.

The warm kitchen became smaller with so many of us in it. I didn’t mind the company though. I am at home recovering. I was in the hospital for a time after a recent episode of psychosis and mania.

My brain needs hugs as much as I do. It is sensitive to ongoing stress. New medications are taking time to work and helping me find equilibrium again. I keep reminding myself that everything is going to be okay. All things work together for good for those who love God.

When I first got sick and hospitalized at 17 years old, my family was there for me too. They are like strong trees rooted around me, offering me the care I need. When strong winds come, and they do come, I have learned to bend and sway and lean on the prayers and support of my family.

In my parents’ living room, pictures hang on an accent wall. In one there is a cluster of tall trees together, and a few other paintings show trees on their own. One scene is in a storm, and another is by a quiet lakeshore. I have come to love this set of paintings. They are loving reminders of who I have surrounding me. Through all kinds of weather, I have a resilient, caring, and compassionate family.

When I met Margaret Trudeau, the former wife of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, at a Vancouver hotel, she asked me a question. “Isn’t accepting your illness the hardest part?”

I immediately agreed with her.

That evening she shared her story of coming to terms with bipolar disorder in her own life. It was a tremendous struggle for her to accept, which ended with hope. I wanted to hear her speak after reading her memoir Changing my Mind.

When I am having a blah kind of day, I remember that this will pass and that there’s always a new day. It’s at times like this that I notice grief is wanting my attention. I never expected my life to be this way. So many twists and turns and uncomfortable side effects to medicine. I grieve, wondering what my life would have been like without mental illness.

This is when I take a deep breath and accept that I have an illness and that’s okay. Grieving is also a necessary thing to do. I don’t want to bury my feelings anymore, and so I find natural ways to let my emotions out in a healthy way.

I read the lives of the saints, especially St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Josemaria Escriva.

St. Josemaria Escriva writes about the love for the present moment in his homily “Passionately Loving the World.” 

There he advises, “Leave behind false idealisms, fantasies, and what I usually call ‘mystical wishful thinking’: If only I hadn’t married; if only I had a different job or degree; if only I were in better health; if only I were younger; if only I were older. Instead, turn to the most material and immediate reality, which is where you’ll find the Lord.”

Finding Jesus in the little moments of the day is the journey I am on. My life turned upside down at the end of summer, and I had to find peace in the turmoil. If I think about the past I get depressed and if I think about the future I become anxious. So appreciating the moment has become my best step forward.

As I heal and care for my mind, body, and soul I am mindful of how I feel throughout the day. Grief sometimes shows up too. A bowl of hot homemade soup feeds the body well. Family and friends bring necessary companionship. And with Jesus’ love and protection, I can handle anything.

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services.

“Leave behind false idealisms, fantasies, and what I usually call ‘mystical wishful thinking’: If only I hadn’t married; if only I had a different job or degree; if only I were in better health; if only I were younger; if only I were older. Instead, turn to the most material and immediate reality, which is where you’ll find the Lord.”

From St. Josemaria Escriva’s homily Passionately loving the World

Is seeking forgiveness your cross?

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on November 17, 2021 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/is-seeking-forgiveness-your-cross

Our cross is lighter when we let go like the falling leaves and forgive the people we need to. – Photo Erik Mclean

On a walk in my hometown away from the bustle of the city, I stepped out of my way to crunch a fallen leaf on the sidewalk. It was very satisfying. Earlier, I had eaten homemade roasted plum jam on peanut butter toast with decaf coffee. The colourful trees in the kitchen window became the backdrop for the birds flying. I savoured it as I did my morning fuel.

Prayer and the sacraments have become fuel for my interior life. If I try to do something on my own steam, I end up exhausted and frustrated. After participating in Mass, I am at peace for whatever comes the rest of the day. A day can need more patience, perseverance, and courage than the one before.

When I am in a season of illness from my chronic bipolar disorder, it is easy to cling to the idols of comfort and fear. I am training my will to choose the good, since my nature is so weak in turning to Jesus for anything I need. It is not always my first option. I can become bitter. My family can’t understand what it is like to hear voices or to live on a swing of emotion that can be hard to balance.

The Lord calls us to be like him by carrying our crosses. In the book Jesus the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Marcellino D’Ambrosio says Jesus takes upon himself, ‘the shame, humiliation and rejection.’ People living with a mental illness often feel this. I know I do.

I can have nightmares, poor sleep, frightening hallucinations, and obsessive intrusive thoughts. I give it all over to Jesus to transform. Often, I picture myself holding on to his neck and burying my head in his shoulders as he carries me to safety. 

As Pope Francis says, ‘Unless we pick up our cross, we have no hope of salvation.’ Thank goodness we don’t carry it on our own strength only. Jesus takes the weight of our suffering – for he too went through it. 

Our cross is lighter when we let go like the falling leaves and forgive the people we need to. When we let go, we make more space in our heart for love and compassion for ourselves and our loved ones. And it is like making room for new spring flowers. I need to forgive myself as much as others. When I make mistakes or sin, I remind myself that I am loved by God and have compassion on my actions. I make an act of contrition and set a time to go to confession when I can. Jesus wants us to be happy not glum about our sinful nature. 

Someone said to me the most difficult aspect of living out the Our Father prayer is forgiving others. I agree. It takes a lot of effort to give forgiveness on those who have injured us. 

I like the formula for forgiveness at the end of confession. It goes, ‘through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace. And I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ That feeling of peace I experience helps me to get over the discomfort of baring my soul to Jesus through a priest. 

After a recent confession I wanted to sing and dance in thanksgiving. Before I left, the priest said with the mercy and love God has shown you, show mercy and love to others too.

The freedom received in this sacrament is healing in mind, body and soul and I will keep going back to it. 

It takes all kinds of skills along with the sacraments to help me flourish again. Art journaling, walking, and visiting friends are means to my mental health. 

The quiet neighbourhood of my family home is bringing me contentment as I spend time here after a move. Enjoying walks to the pier and through the village I am rediscovering the beauty of my small town. With a pandemic and other stressors going on in my life, more moments of silence and a slower pace is what I need. 

Sometimes carrying our cross looks like finding forgiveness in our hearts. It is a lifelong journey worthy of the peace we desire and need. ‘He set me free in the open; he rescued me because he loves me.’

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience , is available on popular streaming services.


My heart is free

Written on Thursday, October 21, 2021

Clouds send rain

I walk with speed

to keep warm

Leaves blow in a

diagonal in front of


Poplars whoosh and bend

dogs bark at each other as

I sip water

and stand near

a parked boat.

My boat is on the waves

they’ve settled

and it bobs up and down

as I relax

from the tempest.

My heart is free

in wide open spaces

not crowded and

suffocated by

cement and trains.

I look for

the snow geese

in the sky

as I sip my decaf.

Life is not as smooth

as my peanut butter

on toast

but surely it is as

sweet as the

homemade roasted

plum jam

from a friend.

I praise the Lord

for this day!


Any storm can be weathered

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on September 21, 2021 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/any-storm-can-be-weathered

When we calm one part of the body, the rest follows suit.

Standing in first position, feet grounded on my soft mat and sunshine on my face, I felt the quiet release of stress. Experiencing mania again, I dug into my toolkit to find a self-care technique to help me find balance.

There are many ways for me to improve my mood. The motion of dancing changes my emotions for the better. This is something I have to attend to with the chronic mental illness I live with.

Dancing is one of my passions. I have taken lessons on many styles of dance: hip-hop, flamenco, ballroom, and ballet. I have been learning to move my muscles in new ways to get rid of extra energy or monthly blues.

When I dance or do any exercise, endorphins are released, causing positive feelings. It can feel like I flipped a switch in my brain to recalibrate. Thankfully, it is very effective.

This summer I joined an outdoor ballet class seeking the happy chemicals to find inner calm.

Suzy Q, ballerina and founder of The Ballet Lounge, brought a spirit of joy and acceptance to our class. Her little dog Gizmo accompanied her and cheered us. His fluffy little body leaned against my knees as I got to pet his silky fur. His presence soothed me and made me smile.

Reaching my arms above my head, I embraced the moment of dancing by the sea. I felt connected body and soul. In my mind I gave over my worries to Jesus to take care of.

Finding the outdoor beach side ballet class was such a sign of hope for me. A way to tenderly care for my body and soul.

We are integrated beings. When we calm one part of our bodies and mind, the rest follows suit.

My mood has been up and down like a sailboat tossed at sea. To survive the choppy waves, I need to take down the sails, put a life jacket on, and let the storm pass.

Jesus’ love is my constant. His comfort for me shows up in the hidden everyday. Smiles from friends, cuddles from little Gizmo the ballet dog, and reading the perfect Scripture verse.

We all carry scars and have our own mountains to climb. Jesus whispers to me, “I’ve got you.” And he can endure any storm. Any storm can be weathered with Jesus’ strength.

I whisper back to Jesus, “I trust in you.”

His call for us is to take up our cross and follow him. These are beautiful words, but to actively take up the uncomfortable and frustrating circumstances in my life is a challenge I face daily.

Carrying my cross on my own was never the plan. I need Jesus to shoulder it with me. It humbled me to ask for his help.

As St. Gianna Beretta Molla says, “The secret to happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all he, in his goodness, sends to us day after day.” He surely sends me all the love and help I need for in every moment. I rejoice in all the little details he takes care of for me.

Jesus carries my illness and leads me to new life. So all I need to do is be receptive and trust. In dancing, I feel whole again. The Lord delights in my ballet moves and offering of trials.

May you too find the peace of Christ in events of your daily life.

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience is available on popular streaming services.

“Cover me with sunshine. Shower me with good times.”


Hope in My Step

“I walked with hope in my step after that.” Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Me: Why does sadness come to me so often?

Great-Grandma: Emotions are a gift like the tide for the ocean.

Me: It hurts my heart to miss loved ones.

Great-Grandma: They are very close to you. Fear not.

Me: I long for heaven without suffering.

Great-Grandma: Keep moving on your journey. You will get there. Enjoy life’s path.

Me: All of it?

Great-Grandma: All of it.

I walked with hope in my step after that.

I sat in the garden and saw the whole world. A butterfly, buds, birds, cats, spiderwebs, rotting wood, sun and spirit.



A conversation with my late Ojibway Great-Grandma

Inspired by the book Embers One Ojibway’s Meditations written by Richard Wagamese

“Trust in your destiny of gold.” Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Me: What if I fail?

Great-Grandma: The Creator is within you. You will not fail.

Me: How do I not let fear hold me back?

Great-Grandma: You have opportunities to trust in your destiny of gold. Believe with all your heart.

Me: But how?

Great-Grandma: You are not alone.

I walked with peace towards my goals after that.


Choosing an attitude of hope can carry us to the next day

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on July 13, 2021 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/choosing-an-attitude-of-hope-can-carry-us-to-the-next-day

“It took many years to have the courage to share my story even to new friends. In prayer, I kept hearing Jesus tell me not to be afraid.” (Briana Tozour/Unsplash)

Splashing my toes and stretching my arms past my head, I smiled and breathed in the warm summer air. With each throw of the frisbee and swimming to catch it, stress washed away in the spray. Not even the pesky Canadian geese trying to eat our cherries bothered me.

Surrounded by dark green trees, boats bobbing on the water, and sea gulls soaring over the docks, I felt a deep peace. But our external environment alone cannot bring us interior freedom. It is our thoughts that make us feel at ease.

Sheer delight can make me forget I have a diagnosis of a chronic mental illness. Floating on my back in Cultus Lake on a weekend getaway, I felt free to be.

An attitude of hope can help us appreciate living each day as a gift.

Viktor Frankl’s classic memoir of surviving a concentration camp, Man’s Search for Meaning, observes that some of those who held on to hope to be free one day in the future lived to see it come to pass. Others said they would be free at Christmas, but when it never came to be, they gave up and died.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

I used to think and speak to myself with hurtful words. My self-worth was my diagnosis and how people treated me.

Bipolar disorder was a glaring label. I thought it would limit everything about my life and future. What could I ever be good at if I suffered with suicidal thoughts and felt numb from medicine?

The depression, weight gain, loss of friends, and dropping out of college pained me. I am a dreamer, and this experience was like a nightmare.

It must have been the day I got the diagnosis when I decided to find a way to become whole again. In the hospital, I complied with the nurses and calmed patients who were trying to escape the locked ward. I even entertained them with origami soccer ball games I made up. On walks every day to get exercise, I learned to hope again. I began to look at the diagnosis as something to solve.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves,” Frankl writes.

I wanted to step out of the shadows and into the light. “Here I am. It’s Lisa!”

My delight is in the warmth of friendship. I had not seen my dear friend for a year. It was extra special to finally catch up in person. Staying at her home for the weekend and spending quality time at the lake is a blessing I will cherish.

My friends never look at me as “less than” or “troubled.” They love me for who I am – completely, illness and all. I have received healing and learned to love who I am and who I am created to be.

I am blessed to offer up any mental suffering. It can be for my loved ones, souls in purgatory, and the whole wide world. It is a passive mortification that I can offer to the Lord in prayer.

I see now, having lived with bipolar disorder for more than a decade, that what is painful can also lead to refining.

“So that the genuineness of your faith – being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Pt 1:7).

It took many years to have the courage to share my story even to new friends. In prayer, I kept hearing Jesus tell me not to be afraid.

“Be brave!”

I hold on to my only hope, my dearest friend, Jesus. And I do not have to produce, perform, prove, or please to be worthy.

His love called me out of the shadows. And he encourages me to take time to jump in the lake and swim. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services.


Take it from a saint who survived a pandemic: ‘all shall be well’

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on June 15, 2021 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/take-it-from-a-saint-who-survived-a-pandemic-all-shall-be-well

There is a time for everything, from taking creative time alone as a writer to enjoying the companionship of others.” (Hannah Olinger/Unsplash)

Sunshine floods the coffee shop through the floor-to-ceiling windows. I lick the crumbs of my chocolate chip cookie from my fingers.

Too often I overbook myself, not leaving time to just be and to create. This weekend I have walked in the sunshine through Vancouver neighbourhoods and found a quiet time to pen a few poems. Creative time alone is essential for me as a writer. I need solitude to think and let the words pour on to the computer screen or journal at hand.

I look down at the messages on Matchstick Coffee Roasters’ cookie wrapper:

“We don’t have all the answers, but we do have pastry.”

“Life can be complicated. Take a moment to yourself and enjoy what is, or maybe what was, in this bag. We hope it brings you the nourishment (and pause) you need.” 

In times of sadness and fatigue I often have no words. These times have been challenging, with more distressing news as the weeks go on.

In order not to lose heart, I look to the sacraments, where Jesus can pour his love into me. Confession has been a source of renewal for me that I return to again and again. Attending daily Mass, I recommit myself to God. And in adoration I let the Lord shine his light in me.

Sometimes healing also looks like taking a nap. I lie down and tuck the covers under my chin. I adjust my eye mask and close my eyes. It feels so good to begin to feel sleep come over me, rosary beads in hand. I don’t have to be afraid. Mama Mary, as I like to call her, offers protection and prayers answered. And wherever Mary is, Jesus promises that he is here with me too. I can trust him. He is a faithful God. Warm waves of comfort expand across my whole body. I whisper, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

The house is quiet as I wake.

I say to myself, “Just be. Do not worry about the things you need to do tomorrow. My work is never finished. And if I don’t take time to restore, I will always feel exhausted.”

Better than the perfect words spoken at the right time has been the presence of my friends and family during times of trial. My cousin Sarah rides her bike to meet me, bringing her French bulldog in her backpack. His ears flap and his tongue wags.

Oakley has been my favourite furry companion since the day he rested his head on my knee when I told Sarah I wanted cuddles. I have seen him run with a limp in a race and cheered him on even though he ran in the wrong direction.

Sitting on a picnic blanket with Oakley and my cousin Sarah, “I know that I am loved.”

A wagging tail greets everyone Oakley meets. He is not afraid to show up in his brokenness, with scoliosis and one eye. I think that is what makes him so dear to me.

When I am experiencing the symptoms of bipolar disorder, I remember that it is not my fault. The illness comes and goes in seasons of stress.

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” said Julian of Norwich, who lived in isolation and survived a pandemic.

She experienced suffering and through it all wrote words of wisdom and hope. Her writing inspires me to continue my own work, to take the time for my craft amid all the suffering and uncertainty around me.

In the presence of my cousin, sitting on a picnic blanket with Oakley and me or in my living room, I know that I am loved.

Our greatest contribution to the world is the attention, encouragement, and love that we give to each other. We can give these things every day. And these gifts don’t cost us any money.

Ecclesiastes famously said, “For everything there is a season, and a time to every matter under the heaven.” There is a time for solitude and a time to be together.

I recently bought my cousin the children’s book Can I Sit with You? by Sarah Jacoby. It is a story about a little dog who wants to be with his owner, a growing girl, in all the happy and sad moments of her life.

Companionship is a gift, to be received and given too.

I don’t walk alone in this life. No one does. It is in difficult times like these that community matters. The presence of another makes a difference. It can save a life.

Who will you sit with today?

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast with a new name, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience , is available on popular streaming services. It is updated once a month on Wednesday.


You’re not a robot, and God can prove it

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on May 20, 2021 – https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/you-re-not-a-robot-and-god-can-prove-it

I am not a robot. I have emotions, a heart, an intellect, and a will. I have learned that “feelings are not facts,” from the cognitive behavioural techniques of Dr. Abraham Low. However, feelings can indicate truth to us: how we feel in a situation, where we need support, or our need to find peace.

My colleague Sandy Marshall, associate superintendent of the Catholic Independent Schools of Vancouver Archdiocese, shared her prayer time reflections with me recently. Staff of the superintendent’s office gather every morning at 9 a.m. to pray together. We take turns leading the prayer. We pray a decade of the Rosary for each staff member during their birthday month, and for deceased members of our community and those who need healing.

We stand at our cubicles or at our office doors – spaced out due to COVID safety restrictions, and yet we are still united. I have noticed Sandy facing towards her office window as she sits in her chair. It overlooks a beautiful view of the Vancouver neighbourhood we are situated in.

Sandy told me that she looks out of the window and focuses on the trees and then on the houses and buildings. She calls it her “I am not a robot” game, inspired by the online test to purchase tickets or to log into a website. You may have come across this when a site asks you to click on the boxes with cars or bridges or fire hydrants, and once you answer correctly, you have proven you are not a robot.

When she told me this, I exclaimed, “That’s a great grounding exercise.” As someone who deals with anxiety and panic attacks, using techniques to bring myself back to the present moment is helpful. Her window reflections are a mindfulness practice that she created on her own. I was inspired. Her exercise made me think of all the things that I have learned to help my mental health.

I have found that there is practical wisdom in mindfulness exercises. Dr. Gregory Bottaro has written a book on Catholic mindfulness, The Mindful Catholic, Finding God One Moment at a Time. In it he talks about trusting in God more and finding peace. We could all use a little more of that.

“The Lord has granted us natural means to heal and grow,” writes Lisa Rumpel. “Everything we need to live well the Lord has provided.” (Adobe)

I often need reminders to bring my thoughts back to the present moment. It is so easy to get caught in thinking traps and to forget that God is taking care of me.

I work in an office that celebrates growing spiritually, intellectually, and relationally. It is such a blessing to work with people who follow Steve Farber’s motto, expressed in The Radical Edge: “Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.” 

Sandy is one of my mentors in work and in life. As Nick Schneider, director of finance, said about Sandy, “Everything you say is quotable.” Her attention to the little things is inviting, like how she decorates a prayer centre for each liturgical season in our office. She is someone I turn to for recipes, party décor ideas, and how to gather a room.

What I love about the mission of the CISVA is the task to “develop as balanced persons spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually.” The Lord has granted us natural means to heal and grow. I have recently taken to eating more healthily with a delicious array of vegetables, protein, and grains. Everything we need to live well the Lord has provided.

It is a common mistake to dismiss practical help like medicines, therapy, and other secular resources in favour of praying harder for healing. We have the bounty of choosing good means to find peace, health, and wellness. We are human. Our energy fluctuates, and we need time to rest too.

Prayer is a gift of time to rest in God’s presence. And finding the balance of our priorities is an ongoing journey. St. Faustina wrote in her diary, “My one occupation is to live in the presence of my Heavenly Father.” 

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast with a new name, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services. It is updated once a month on Wednesday.


Making use of therapy, sleep and a good dose of laughter

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on April 20, 2021

I don’t take my dear self too seriously. And that helps me to laugh easily.

When I was walking home from work one day, my coat buckle on my sleeve caught in a fence around a tree. I had been trying to move out of the way of someone passing. With my fast pace, I got pulled back sharply, my leg flew up and I let out a big, “Oh!” I smiled at myself and was able to get over the embarrassment quickly. As I walked the rest of the way home, I chuckled quietly at how funny that must have looked. 

I don’t take my dear self too seriously. And that helps me to laugh easily. I enjoy giggling with my sisters, brothers, and friends. To have a hearty chuckle – the one that comes deep from within my belly is the best feeling. And I am always looking for more. 

I take laughing seriously. It is a wellness strategy I love to tap into. 

Last year, I took an improv class with Tiffani Sierra from Improv It Up in an online class during the first wave of the pandemic. We were a small group of individuals engaging with the power of our voice and actions. We participated in games to increase our confidence in acting with strangers. 

One game was to come up with a very ordinary skill that we were good at and make it a superhero name. My name for the game was the Ultimate Compost Emptier. We also added an action as we shared our name with an epic voice. I felt silly and strong at the same time. 

Tiffani shared how improvisation can help our mental health flourish. The arts can be healing. In her acting classes with businesses, youth, and communities they experience more freedom in expressing themselves. 

The whole improv attitude is to accept things the way they are and do something to improve the situation. It’s the “Yes, and” approach. 

In my neighbourhood, one homeowner posted a sign that read, “Silly walks,” on their fence – a nod to the Monty Python sketch The Ministry of Silly Walks. 

Immediately after seeing the sign I lifted my leg high and started hopping along. I couldn’t do it without laughing. My sister laughed along with me. That street became part of my route when I needed to do errands. Each time I walked by that house I invented a new silly walk. It became so much fun!

Living with seasons of depression often accompanied with suicidal thoughts, I have come to treasure the simple joys of life. My mood disorder leads me through many hills and valleys. Sometimes, I experience intense sadness and have a hard time holding onto hope. When I am on a downward spiral, I reach out to those around me. 

My family is always there for me. Encouraging me and listening to my worries. It makes me want to share the joy I have. I can relate to Robin Williams’ words, “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy. Because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anybody else to feel like that.” 

I make use of all the help that God has provided for me: Therapy, medicine, sleep, and a good dose of laughter. 

In his Apostolic Exhortation on Christian Joy, Pope Paul VI wrote, “to savour in a simple way the many human joys that the Creator places in our path: the elating joy of existence and of life; the joy of chaste and sanctified love; the peaceful joy of nature and silence; the sometimes austere joy of work well done; the joy and satisfaction of duty performed; the transparent joy of purity, service and sharing; the demanding joy of sacrifice. 

Savouring the simple human joys is a way to stay in the present moment. With God there is unending joy. 

I have a friend I call on the phone often and when we chat, I laugh until I cry and my sides start to ache. It’s an exhilarating feeling of being alive.

Nothing can take away the joy in my heart, which is Jesus. He is the source of all joy. When I start to feel sad, I recall all the blessings I have. “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Neh 8:10)

Will you laugh a little more knowing that in Jesus your joy will be complete?

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast with a new name, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services. It is updated once a month on Wednesday.


Finding health by walking in the garden with God

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on March 23, 2021

Our story is also about walking in the garden with God.

Tall bamboo stalks swayed and filtered the light through the trees as I walked through a path in VanDusen Botanical Garden on the weekend. A sanctuary of trees: red cedars, paperbark maples, all of them reaching to the heavens.

Lately, I have been visiting the gardens’ winding paths to look for new growth. Lenten roses, with the scientific name Helleborus orientalis, are covering a part of the garden in many varieties. I captured photos of floating blooms in a bowl of water on one of my frequent visits. It brings me joy to find such natural beauty, a real vision of God’s creativity.

Walking has become one of my favourite self-care tools in my mental health recovery kit. On lunch breaks I go for short walks in the area around my office. I am lucky to be close to many parks and gardens. I’ve learned that when I move it improves my mood.

On one of my lunch hours in the garden, a Canada goose came up from behind me and honked. Luckily, I had just about finished eating my fettuccine. I packed up and moved out of his way. He may have been hungry, and I had nothing to give him. Listening to the birds calling from the trees around me, I smiled. God cares for us more than a goose, or a sparrow. And he takes care of us all.

I marvel that I can walk, run, and dance. It’s such an exhilarating feeling to move in my body. God designed my body to be an image of him. It’s amazing to see how beautiful God is in the diversity of my own family.

While walking I find a renewed sense of clarity, creative ideas start to flow, and my muscles begin to stretch after sitting for long hours. When I walk with my sister or a friend, the conversation flows with our breath. It is calming and refreshing to be outside as the season is changing.

I love watching the light lengthen in the evenings. Sunsets brightly filling the sky with colours I want to imitate on canvas.

Being outdoors surrounded by nature, I imagine what it would have been like for Adam and Eve to walk with God in the Garden. Our story is also about walking in the garden with God.

Do we leave space for him to be with us?

Do we invite him into our hearts?

Do we ask him to light our path?

While walking I find a renewed sense of clarity, creative ideas start to flow, and my muscles begin to stretch after sitting for long hours.

Often, I picture myself walking in a garden with Jesus. His sandals are tossed aside, and his bare feet lead the way through a vineyard. Jesus reaches out to pick a grape, checking its ripeness. I follow beside him watching his every move.

We pass a cluster of trees, and I point out to Jesus that it’s a great spot for a picnic. He smiles at me. And I promise to spend more time with him.

During Lent, I reflect on how Jesus desired his disciples to keep watch and pray with him in the Garden of Olives. He was exhausted and needed support emotionally and spiritually from the closest friends he had. Contemplating his passion, I am so grateful for his suffering, dying, and rising.

I want to be close to the Lord to know his plans for me. Praying helps me to feel closer to him even if I can’t hear his audible voice. I know he can hear me.

When stress seeps into my thoughts, I look for words of truth and hope in Scripture. As a writer, I find words hold great significance. And reading holy Scripture is a like a soothing balm on my heart, as comforting as walking with a friend.

As one of the Proverbs says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (3:5-6).

I’ve often heard that action leads to finding your purpose. I’m lacing up my shoes and hoping that with each next step I take, I walk in God’s way for me.

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast with a new name, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services. It is updated once a month on Wednesday.


Oakley, the therapy dog I never knew I needed

It’s funny, I will automatically speak in a higher pitched voice as I pass a cute puppy on the street to say ‘hello’.  As the weather has been getting nicer, I have been out walking a lot more.  I have seen numerous puppies and dogs en route.  And I can’t help but say hello to them as I walk by.   It reminded me of the trip to Salt Spring Island a few years ago with my favourite little furry companion, my cousin’s dog.  

A gun metal grey French bulldog with a little white dot on his head is a warm comfort to my moody soul.  I am so thankful that this little frenchie traveled with my cousin and my family to Salt Spring Island in the Summer of 2018.  While we were in the ferry line up, I could hear his heavy breathing.   I wanted to take him out of his dog carrier and into my arms to hold him close.  Oakley stole my heart with his brown bulging eyes and his crooked legs.   Sarah had taken him in to help him heal and learn to walk again.   

On the Island, I sat on the patio with my latte, cheese and jalapeno croissant, I turned to Sarah and said, “I want snuggles.”  Oakley must have heard me because he dragged his bottom across the wood closer to me and rested his head on my thigh.   Having scoliosis made it difficult for him to walk any distance.  This touched my heart.  I stroked his short silky fur and grinned like a five year old with ice cream.  I never knew I wanted a therapy dog, until now.  

I smiled at the little fellow and held him close to my chest as we walked over puddles and craggy pavement.  His ears flapped in the breeze.  Everyone walking around the coffee shops and the boutiques squealed.

“He’s so cute!!” 

“Look at him!” 

“Nice colour!”

For a moment I felt like a proud dog mom.

We walked towards the Salt Spring Island market, my arms holding such a sweet and heavy bundle.  A young boy approached.  “Can I pet him?”  “Yes,” I said, “He’s friendly.” 

“This is my second favorite type of dog. What is your frenchie’s name?”

“Oakley.”  I said with growing pride. 

How could this four-legged pet get wrapped around my heart so quickly? He is the dog I never knew I wanted.  

Sometimes, therapy comes in soft furry packages.  

Every time I get to visit my cousin Sarah and her dog is a special day.  As for enjoying the small things, I will continue to greet pups on my walks in the neighbourhood.   


‘Riches are in relationships’

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on February 21, 2021 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/riches-are-in-relationships

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Margaretha called me every day for the next few days after I told her I wasn’t feeling well.

Her concern felt like a grandma’s would. My grandparents have passed away years ago. I only knew a couple of them. My grandpa on my Dad’s side was sick in a hospital when I was a little girl. I have memories of holding his soft, wrinkled hands as the nurses fed him. I don’t remember his funeral; I was so young. “Mimi” is what we called my grandma on my mom’s side. She lived with us for my whole childhood and teen years.

There is something so special about the love of grandparents. I miss them. And I wish I knew them all.

My 90-year-old neighbour Margaretha was happy to hear from me when I called her on my lunch break.

“Good thing it was nothing serious. Yeah, I worry.”

We chatted about her trip to Canadian Tire with her son. She bought bulbs to plant in her garden, a new variety that grows tall like hollyhocks.

“My wood-burning stove isn’t working anymore. Something is wrong with the pipe.”

“Are you going to fix it?”

“No, John says we could get a gas fireplace.”

One time pre-COVID I visited her house with my sister. We brought over our ukuleles. She welcomed us in with tea and cookies. The whole room smelled of wood smoke and roasting onions. We had to have a shower to rinse out the strong smell afterwards. It was such a nice visit, so it was worth it.

Having an elderly neighbour care about you is like having a grandparent giving you a hug. We always talk about the weather because if it’s raining it means she can’t go out in her garden, arthritic knees and all. She grew up working on a farm in Germany, so she is tireless. Margaretha always tends to the garden that surrounds her home even when she is in pain.

I am grateful for her reliable phone calls checking in to see how I am doing in the pandemic. Talking to her makes me want to trust the Lord more. He always sends me love in the way I need. Loving God and loving my neighbour are what I strive to do.

He can provide for me when I am feeling depressed or overwhelmed. Sometimes I need to wail and cry in his presence. To know that he is present in this pain, worry, and fear. If I take time for silent prayer, reading Scripture, and a good spiritual book, I am found by God. His peace warms my heart. I am his family. I bask in the joy of knowing I am his beloved daughter.

When I am full of God, I can reach out to my loved ones and be present to their needs. “Riches are in relationships, not possessions,” says Jane Trufant Harvey in Ask Him, Simple Words to Jumpstart Your Conversation with God.

My phone rang on the weekend and I couldn’t pick it up in time.

“Hello, Lisa, it’s Margaretha. How are you? I miss you. Come over.” I am sad during this difficult time when we can’t visit in people’s houses. It’s hard to accept that I can’t visit Margaretha in person at the moment. I do what I can and call her instead.

Our divine call to holiness is through the life of a family. Ordinary phone calls, visits, and conversations bring supernatural love to our relationships. As Margaretha nurtures the plants in her garden, I am going to set down strong roots to rise and grow in love. Will we seek Jesus? Will we be creative in how we can connect with our friends and family during the COVID restrictions?

I entrust the Lord with my life. I can’t do anything on my own strength. I am a child in his arms. He is taking care of me as he is taking care of you. We are to share our struggles and help each other.

As Thomas Merton says, “Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find in with another. We do not discover the secret of our lives merely by study and calculation in our isolated meditations. The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love.”

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast with a new name, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience , is available on popular streaming services. It is updated once a month on Wednesday.


Redesign your living space and unclutter your mind for Jesus

First published in the B.C. Catholic Newspaper on January 19, 2021 – https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/redesign-your-living-space-and-unclutter-your-mind-for-jesus

Jesus will see me through the winter blues. I trust that he is with me on the little blue couch in my heart. 

“Let’s move our little blue couch over there!” My sister pointed to the wall close to the kitchen.

I nodded. “That could work.”

After watching a few episodes of the Design Doctors on Amazon Prime we drew a new floor plan for our sitting room. We tired of the layout of our room that we spend more of our time in since the start of the pandemic. We looked at each of the five points of focus in interior design: light, space, colour, flow, and storage.

The piano now had pride of place with plants and lighting around it. We moved our dark furniture to be next to each other creating warmth. Our light armchairs had their own decorative pillows and a blanket draped over it for each of us to curl up in. We rearranged what was on our bookshelves, donating items that we no longer use. 

Using creative design in the home helped me to have new perspective on my personal projects. I felt like the rearranging, culling, and cleaning uncluttered my head space as well. I no longer felt stuck. I have options. I can restart, reformat, and redo what doesn’t work in writing. And I can refresh, renew, and restore relationships.

When my prayer life seemed to dry up, I remembered that Jesus takes pride of place in my heart. I needed to toss and tether all the useless junk and sin that clutters up my soul.

“We need to be reminded that every second of our survival does really mean that we are new from God’s fingers, so that it requires no more than the miracle which we never notice to restore to us our virgin-heart at any moment we like to choose,” wrote Caryll Houselander in The Reed of God.

I opened up the window to let the cold winter air in. We admired our work and I danced in the wide-open space in the centre of the room. This room was now hygge – the Danish word for coziness, comfort, and contentment. Candlelight really makes the home hyggelig (hygge-like).

We can open our hearts for Jesus to find an inviting sitting room. Oh, how I want him to be with me during the sometimes-dreary season of winter. 

January can be a very blue month for me. The dark days a struggle. With a fresh look in my home, I have a gift of change and eagerness for what the new year will bring. When I have hopes, dreams, and goals that I am anticipating, my life has purpose.

I like to pray the CCO missionary prayer. It goes like this: “… Lord, I will go anywhere you want me to go, I will do anything you want me to do, and I will say anything you want me to say …”

And then I step out in faith. Loving the people in my life, moving forward in writing my books, and showing up at work to serve. It is not that I can do it on my own. I know that the Lord loves a cheerful giver. Someone willing to be his instrument. He has a plan for me. It thrills me and worries me at the same time.

“What if I don’t measure up? What if I mess things up?” 

Moses did not reach the promised land because he didn’t entrust himself to the Lord. It’s not an easy thing to do. Daily I need to choose to trust in my King and my God. I need to believe in his majesty and mercy. I can do nothing without him. I want him to be comfortable in the depths of my heart.

Receiving the sacrament of confession is like interior design for your soul. I have been seeking reconciliation to clean out my heart. Holding onto the promise of freedom from my sin, I begin again. 

Writes Houselander, “The question which most people will ask is: “Can someone whose life is already cluttered up with trivial things get back to this virginal emptiness?” Of course he can; if a bird’s nest has been filled with broken glass and rubbish, it can be emptied.”

Jesus will see me through the winter blues. I may not always feel his presence. I trust that he is with me on the little blue couch in my heart. 

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast with a new name, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services. It is updated once a month on Wednesday. 


Prayer of a ‘silly woman in front of the tabernacle’

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on November 23, 2020 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/prayer-of-a-silly-woman-in-front-of-the-tabernacle

I am never alone. For Jesus promises, “I will not abandon you.”

Early in the morning one workday, I knelt in the chapel in our building. The sanctuary lamp flickered and glowed in the dark. It was a tangible reminder that in the empty chapel Jesus was there with me listening to my prayers. 

I watched the candle’s flame dance, its light shining. I felt a peace wash over me. The feeling settled like a wool shawl around my shoulders. I am never alone. Even when I can’t see the candle burning. 

My prayer goes something like this, “Please go with me. I am a silly woman in front of the tabernacle trying to find healing and strength. Lord, I know you can help me and all my dear ones. You are silent and strong. I know with you when everything goes wrong, You are right beside me. Hold me close to you. Never let me fear. I want to be one with you. I love you, my dear Saviour. I am worried but I put all my worries in your hands.” 

Sometimes when I pray I can hear a quiet voice, “Darling, look upon me. Do not be afraid. I am always with you. I will not abandon you. I delight in your efforts, tenacity, and smiles. Do not weary. I will carry you if you are tired. I love you. You are mine. My daughter, be brave.” 

And then after those precious quiet minutes, I picked up my lunch kit and went upstairs to my desk. I was ready to offer my day for my loved ones. I set out to work in a manner pleasing to God and my colleagues. Each phone call, email, and written report is an opportunity for prayer. 

Even if you are a student and you have a lot of studying to do, it can be your time of prayer. I often think that way about my writing. When it seems I can’t take time away from house chores or other pressing work, I remind myself that this is also a way to pray. 

I am my biggest critic. When I see some of my finished work – either my writing, podcast, or videos – I start to point out all that I did wrong. Or when I fall into the same sins again and again. 

I turn to the Lord saying, “Lord, I am your cracked clay pot. I am your unpolished art. Mould me and fashion me.” 

The beauty of that moment is, I can begin again. I can learn from my mistakes or even my beginner’s method. I can grow and adapt and change. I am leaning on the strength of the Lord in prayer and the sacraments and practising flexibility. I have a strong desire to be ready for the Lord like those wise bridesmaids who had extra oil for their lamps. 

For a whole week I had trouble sleeping. I had sensory hallucinations from my mental illness showing up along with stress. It passed and I learned that taking the rest I need is non-negotiable. I treasure the hours of solid sleep I can get, knowing that this is one key way to stay healthy. 

When there is a flurry of concern in politics and culture, I hold on to the word of God, which is true. And I look to the things that I can control which are my “thoughts, muscles and impulses” (Dr. Abraham Low, American neuropsychiatrist). I am amazed at the peace I can receive when I read Scripture and give my burdens to the Lord. It does help! 

I continue to rise and give my best. Some days I am more tired than others. I focus on what I can do and “be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction. Practise resurrection” (Wendell Berry). 

Check out my podcast, The Resilient Catholic: Shining light on your journey to flourish with Mental Health, available on popular streaming services. It is updated once a month on Wednesday.


When life goes up in smoke, keep a sense of humour, kindness and grit

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on Oct. 26th, 2020 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/when-life-goes-up-in-smoke-keep-a-sense-of-humour-kindness-and-grit

Reflecting on the loss from the recent fire sparked a resolve to live without regret. (photo News 1130)

I awoke to the sound of whirring helicopters circling in my neighbourhood. My first thought was, “Oh no, not another SWAT team stakeout.”

My sister was already eating breakfast in the dim morning light. “Can you check the news and see what’s happening?” I asked her while rushing to the coffee maker to put on a fresh pot.

As I dressed and got ready for work, my sister read out the news to me as it was coming in. “There has been a fire at King Edward and Cambie. Five businesses on the east side of Cambie are on fire. The fire started at 3 a.m. in the morning behind the café. The main intersection is closed going all ways. They safely removed the cats boarding above the sushi restaurant.”

Each time she read something about the fire, I kept saying, “Oh no. Oh no.” It is so sad.

The QE Park walk-in clinic and pharmacy that burned to the ground are two businesses I will miss the most. The owner of the pharmacy and her assistant knew me by name and took care of me. When I had trouble describing what I needed to buy, they guessed right. Two weeks before the fire, they asked if I needed a flu shot and fit me in between appointments so I could get it right away. They were so caring and kind. I will miss them.

The next day, I looked at the ruins with my sister. The smell of smoke from the charred remains of the buildings reminded me of how temporary things are. And that life can change in an instant. Even my hope in God could be extinguished if I do not live a life of ordered love.

The ruins of the pharmacy the next day.

Says Father Francis Fernandez in the fifth volume of In Conversations with God, “If we live with Christ close by our side we will need few possessions in order to be happy as children of God.” 

Reflecting on the loss from the recent fire sparked a resolve to live without regret. It shook me awake again to realize that life moves by, whether you are ready or not.

I was born with a sense of humour, kindness, and grit. These qualities help me in the unexpected anxieties that come my way. In the battle to find balance with a mood disorder. In the grieving of deceased friends, family members, and dear ones. In the interior struggle towards holiness.

I have a King who dotes upon me. He has healed me again and again. I trust he has a heaven of wellness planned for me. I often imagine walking with Jesus in a garden. There he shows me new delights, tall sunflowers, or a vineyard in bloom. What is your place of refuge to get away from it all?

This fall, I am adding more coziness and fun in my life as self-care. I relish small things that make me happy. Bird calls, perfume, new books, hugs, praying the Rosary with friends, and reading are a few of these things.

There will be things that upset us and make us worry. The Lord didn’t promise us an easy life but one full of joy. With our eyes resting on him, we can trust he will take care of us. I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly, says the Lord (Jn 10).

Will you see only the ashes from a fire? Or a sweet offering to begin again and offer everything to the Lord? My sadness at the loss of the relationships I had has brought me to a place of wonder.

What can God do with what seems impossible? What can I do to live more alive? What am I meant to do in this life? If I don’t have long to live, I don’t want to wait to do what I can do now. As Jesus said, “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit” (Lk 12:35).

Only God can fill my heart with the fullness of love. In this disorienting time of the pandemic, I need to orient back to true north. I return my gaze to my Lord who is my comfort. May he continue to pour his love into your hearts.

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Resilient Catholic: Shining light on your journey to flourish with Mental Health, is available on popular streaming services. It is updated once a month on Wednesday.


The bravest thing you can do is ask for help

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on September 28th, 2020 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/the-bravest-thing-you-can-do-is-ask-for-help

I delight in writing. Discovering the joy of writing and being vulnerable brings me such comfort and connection.

“Pick up the pen and be brave.” Five years ago, these words came in my heart during prayer. The Lord asked me to let go of the stigma and shame of having a mental illness.

I had been carrying it around for so long, it was time to surrender and to write about it.

I clung to the safety of anonymity and the label – bipolar disorder – that I lived with. I was hiding in my pain. I thought everyone who knew me would think mental illness is a weakness, not a sickness. My fears of people finding out reared in my head like ugly cartoon monsters. It was hard to shut them out. I trusted only a few people with my story for a long time.

When I opened up to friends about my story, and they didn’t run away, I knew I was not alone. For years, my identity was in having a disability. I began to see that I am not my illness. I have an illness. Language is important to live the truth of who you are.

I am a beloved daughter of God. 

This realization frees me from the monsters of shame, fear, and anger to live in abundance. 

On a recent workday, I went for a walk outside to recharge. I brought a picnic lunch with me and settled in at a wooden table in a garden outside of the Healthy Minds Centre. As I sat down, I noticed faint green writing in front of me. Written on the table were the words, “It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay, healing takes time.”

I smiled. It was what I needed at that moment. I was tense and stressed and worried. The message jumped out at me even though the words were faded from the sun and rain. 

As I sat down, I noticed faint green writing in front of me. Written on the table were the words, “It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay, healing takes time.”

I read once that “the bravest thing you can do is ask for help.” It takes humility to reach out. I turn to family and friends when I am lonely, afraid, or unable to cope. “Don’t you think the things people are most ashamed of are the things they can’t help?” wrote C.S. Lewis in Till We Have Faces.

When I spend time in prayer with Jesus, I’m made aware of my wholeness. The Lord is the ultimate physician. “It is the Lord … who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy” (Ps 103, 3-4).

He gives medicine and psychiatrists, counsellors and therapists, to bring us healing. We can’t do life alone. God, who is a communion of persons, made us to need each other.

So I began to write, and write, and write. I started to journal and write poems and short prose. I worked on writing a couple of books (these are still unpublished works). I started to write for The B.C. Catholic from the encouragement of my friends and the movement of the Holy Spirit. I delight in writing. Discovering the joy of writing and being vulnerable brings me such comfort and connection. As my favourite high school English teacher would say, “It’s cathartic.” 

My journals keep filling up. I keep Post-it notes and loose papers with ideas, musings, and quotes. My room is full of books – a small library. My reading list is always long. I spend many an evening curled up with a cup of tea and a good book. I am always looking to improve the craft of writing. I am learning from great writers like Austen, Lewis, and Tolkien. 

Finding my identity in Christ, my life has become a beautiful unfolding tale. Reflecting on it provides me with hope because the Lord has gifted me with good things and people. I am grateful for the unveiling of who I am; I look forward to who I will become. I no longer wear masks to hide the fact that I have bipolar disorder (although I wear a mask now due to COVID-19).

I’m unashamed and do not carry stigma from having a mental illness. I like the lyrics from the country song I Got a Truck by Devin Dawson, who sings “’Cause I got a song, I got a story to tell, I got a reason for living.”

And then, “I got a dream and a hope and a prayer … I got the drive and the grit and the spirit.”

We all have a story to share. There is room for all our stories. And we can be brave in sharing them because our hope is in the Lord. 

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Resilient Catholic: Shining light on your journey to flourish with Mental Health, is available on popular streaming services. It is updated every other Wednesday.


With bipolar disorder comes gifts and crosses

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on August 31, 2020 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/with-bipolar-disorder-come-gifts-and-crosses

At times I can have boundless energy. Then a few days later, I want to crawl into a ball of blankets and just sip coffee.

I woke up in a foul mood. My weekend sleep was interrupted by noise. My afternoon plans were cancelled. I had a heated and tearful conversation with my brother. A low mood settled on me at lunch. My day was crashing down like my internet connection. 

After crying a bit in my room, I joined my sister and her boyfriend on their route to the beach. My spirits kept sinking like a shipwreck. I needed to do something fast. As we were walking, a Wendy’s sign popped out to me. In an instant, I craved a Frosty. I quickly parted and lined up for a chocolate dessert. Tucking the icy treat in my book bag, I walked the rest of the way to a park near the ocean. 

Not wanting full sun, I looked around for shade. Many people had the same goal. I walked around thinking I was going to have to bake in the hot sun. To my delight, I spotted a tiny pine tree in the middle of the dried grass. I spread out my blanket and wiped sweat from the back of my neck. The tree sheltered my face as I dug into my Frosty with a spoon. 

Only a part of it had melted in the unusual heat. The light chocolate flavour glided down my throat, and I relished the moment. As soon as I had eaten the treat, I felt sleepy and lay down resting in the shade. Pine needles brushed my hair, and the heat felt like a soft blanket on my skin. I dozed to the sound of seagulls calling and bike wheels whizzing by me. Peace washed over me as I rested. I felt like a battery recharging in the afternoon sun. 

Bipolar disorder has offered me the opportunity to gain new skills in navigating the ups and downs. Being a woman, I already experience natural changes in energy, mood, and behaviour throughout the month; bipolar disorder brings an additional challenge. At times I can have boundless energy feeding it into multiple projects and loads of social time. But then a few days later, I want to crawl into a ball of blankets and just sip coffee, away from it all. It is humbling and draining.

Part of the reason it is hard is because of the expectations I place on myself. I always expect my performance to be amazing, and when it isn’t, I want to escape. I want to leave sadness behind me. But even nature has seasons. 

Now, I see the sadness was signalling to me. 

You matter. Take the time to do your creative work. You are worth it. Let the pen hit the paper and twirl. 

Just being alive is enough. There is nothing you need to prove. Don’t give up. 

I resonate with Talia Kruse, https://taliakruse.com/ a Catholic mental health coach who says, “The Lord gave me gifts, and the Lord has given me crosses – but both are to be offered up for his glory. He gave me the gift of being driven, and motivated, but he also gave me this cross of bipolar disorder which in many ways disrupts these gifts. Why would he give me such contradicting attributes? Only he knows – perhaps for my humility, perhaps for me to realize that not all things are easy. Whatever the case is, he knows and is faithful.”

Every up and down with bipolar disorder I learn something new about the faithfulness of God. He doesn’t give up on me. “With him, I do not feel alone, or useless or abandoned, but involved in a plan of salvation that one day will lead to paradise” – John Paul I Address, Sept. 20, 1978

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Resilient Catholic: Shining light on your journey to flourish with Mental Health, is available on popular streaming services. It is updated every other Wednesday.


Princess Coffee Spill

I can be royalty and imperfect, and that’s okay.

I had a macchiato puddle on my arm. In my excitement leaving the coffee shop, and on finding a bench in the sun, I dropped my cell phone and my caffe macchiato. It spilled all over my arm, dress, purse and the sidewalk.

“Oh!” the two ladies visiting each other on the bench nearby me exclaimed.

I felt the heat of embarrassment.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, thank you.” I managed to say. I felt close to tears. My tiny espresso was all over me. The cup was almost empty. I was raw from feeling so lonely.

I sat down on the sunny bench and pulled out the only napkin in my now coffee soaked pink cross body purse. The napkin itself was pathetic. It was mascara stained, lipstick stained and tear soaked from my crying/praying session in the adoration chapel minutes ago.

I unfurled the crinkly balled mess and wiped the dark creamy puddle off my arm. For some reason, it hadn’t dripped off but had collected on my skin, as if I had spent two weeks on a beach in Costa Rica.

After deciding I had felt sorry for myself long enough, I tried to see the humour in it. I wanted to laugh out loud but I didn’t want to look more like a weirdo.

So, I walked home to get out of my coffee stained blue dress. After changing and eating my delicious deli sandwich, I felt better. I even came up with a nickname for my coffee accident, “Princess coffee spill.”

This made me giggle and since I was home alone, I laughed freely. I wasn’t worried about looking normal. It’s good not to take my dear self so seriously. And I liked the nickname. I can be royalty and imperfect and that’s okay.


If there be one thing…

I hope my stories become prayers, become hopeful living.

If there be one thing for me to leave in the world. It would be a legacy. A legacy of love.

I hope my words remain etched in the fabric of life.

Stories unfold and rest in the bosom where memories are treasured.

I hope my stories become prayers, become hopeful living.

I try to be true, honest and light. There is pain and trial. With God there is might. His love never leaves me dry for long. The pen flows freely. If I sit here, a song.


Sanctifying menial tasks

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on July 21, 2020 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/the-prayer-in-doing-chores

The ordinary task of doing dishes helps me to silence the noise I am usually surrounded by and to talk to God. Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Washing dishes with pink gloves in hot suds, I had pause to think of all the good gifts in my life. The people, the growing of a dream, the crafting of a memoir. It all means so much to me. Soap suds squeaked and popped. Plates clattered together. I got lost in a hope-filled reverie.

The sun was behind rain clouds, and outside the window a bright green canopy of trees lined the street. A newness even in the overshadowing of a worldwide pandemic. There was a change. The smell of lilacs and honeysuckle in the alley wafted behind my little grey house.

Leaving the sink, I carried the trash outside. I tossed the compost in with a whump. Stretching my arms to the sky, I watched for aviator-like bumblebees passing by. The evening songbird sang high on the telephone wire. The ivy covering the gate shook in the slight wind. A smile pulled at the corners of my mouth. “I am going to be okay.”

My days are full, and my nights are calm. I have peace and joy. The Lord is my all in all. I try to give myself to him completely. Even the lost and broken pieces of my heart I give to him to find and repair. His love heals me through each relationship and time of prayer.

Often, I say, “Jesus, I trust in you. You take care of everything.” There have been many times when I have felt invisible, rejected, and lonely. And he has been with me through it all. I may not be perfect, but I am enough. I am learning to “trust in the slow work of God” and to “give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading.” 

Sometimes it is hard to follow the advice from Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, in his short piece “Trust in the Slow Work of God” to “accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”

The ordinary task of doing dishes helps me to silence the noise I am usually surrounded by and to talk to God. I long to speed ahead through the chores and in my personal projects. I can be quite impatient. “And yet,” says Father de Chardin, “it is the law of progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time.”

The slow growth in relationships and work is almost unnoticeable. But it is new. Gradually, with grace and action they take shape and mature. When I take a deep breath in nature, I am serene with life flourishing all around me. It takes a long time for a tree to stand tall in a forest. Reminding myself of the steady movement of God in my life, I can be present to all the blessings I have.

Who am I to be loved by a God so great? And yet, I have become more aware of his goodness when I reflect on my day with gratitude. I am grateful for rain-picked raspberries from my elderly neighbour. Time spent with loved ones at coffee shops I hadn’t seen in months brings such joy. The beauty of yellow roses and fragrance of jasmine flowers in nearby gardens are lovely.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever” (Ps 136:1). Instead of dreading chores, I will relish the time to clean. Finding restoration in the Lord who is with me through it all.


The joy of dancing like nobody’s watching

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on June 23, 2020 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/the-joy-of-dancing-like-nobody-s-watching

Photo by Edgar Martu00ednez on Pexels.com

On many walks in my neighbourhood, I noticed all the flowers blooming bright in the gardens. They looked like they were dancing in the wind.

I pondered, do flowers hide their colour, sultriness, softness, vivaciousness, or beauty? No, they do not hide. They let their brilliant colours shine. They let their foliage beam with what they are meant to be. I felt like the Lord was saying, “You too, let all your colours shine, beam. Do not hide your virtues, talents, and beauty. Do not hide them.”

I felt it the night I danced in the moonlight, my sense of hope renewed. Opening the creaky gate covered in ivy and slipping to my dance floor, the alley way behind the house, I felt a surge of excitement. It was the perfect spot to move free with form, expression, and passion.

In the moves of a flamenco dancer, a ballet dancer, and a contemporary dancer, I experienced joy again. After months of searing leg and back pain, my strength had returned. The muscles were not pulsing uncomfortably anymore. I could move and breathe like a dancer. For the next couple of weeks after work finished, I would dance freely in the alley with my music playing.

I tried to recall some of the choreography I had learned in my various dance classes, adding my own flair. The wide-open space was my theatre. I let my right leg do more of the heavy lifting and leaps. It was fun to jump and twirl with my long hair whipping in the wind. It felt so amazing. I was getting stronger.

When I was in the middle of the pain, I thought it would always be that way. I could not see past the discomfort. My prayers were filled with questions like “What are you trying to teach me, Lord?” And “Can you please take this pain away?” I didn’t like the suffering, and it felt like there was no end to it. It was something I offered up but had enough of.

And amazingly, time can heal wounds. Slowly, the numbness in my toes disappeared. And I could stretch and walk without trouble. Being able to dance again taught me to trust in the Lord’s faithfulness. He knows what is on my heart and gently cares for it. A few of my neighbours putting out their trash and mowing their lawns might not have expected to see me jumping for joy in the alley. But that’s exactly what they saw. I danced as if I had just discovered I had legs. It was an indescribable feeling of freedom.

I am grateful for who God made me to be and who I am becoming. I haven’t always been this free. Healing from any illness takes time. Back pain and bipolar disorder have been tools for me to lean on God more and learn that I am not in control. When I experience pain or my moods move from high to low, I can always rely on God’s unchanging love for me.

I resonated with this quote from Marianne Willliamson’s book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

So if you find yourself swaying to music, don’t be shy. Know that I probably am dancing like a flower in the wind too.


Lunch on the Patio

A poem inspired by the Japanese form of Haibun Poetry, combining prose and Haiku.

Moss covers the old shed

beside the laden cherry tree

In the neighbour’s yard

Grey squirrel climbs tree

Branches sway under the sky

Shiny cherries hang

Pink peonies fill 

A tall vase

Below the stairs 

By the light switch 

Near the door

Landlords cabin bound

Flowers a gift of kindness

From their own garden

Rooftops of Mount Pleasant homes

Clouds and trees are views from the patio 

Tortillas and guacamole 

Nourish stomachs at lunch

Wind makes the trees dance

Orange slices refreshing

Senses come alive


‘Just to be alive is a grand thing’

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on May 26, 2020 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/just-to-be-alive-is-a-grand-thing

I know that my small plans are nothing to what God has planned for me. His plans are bigger and better than mine.

Wildflowers dotted the grass around my picnic blanket. Shade from tall evergreens created a perfect spot for me to rest in. I kicked off my running shoes and let my bare feet enjoy the cool breeze. Laying down on the blanket tucked away in Queen Elizabeth Park felt like my own piece of paradise. Birds flitted from treetop to tree branch. Fuzzy bees flew by and visited pink rhododendrons nearby. The smell of ferns and evergreens reminded me of hiking trips of the past. Hunger pains told me it was near dinner.

Calling my mom, we chatted for a good half hour. Then after the conversation about our hopes and dreams, we said a short prayer together. Two young girls were sharing snacks on a picnic blanket near me. They laughed and picked up pinecones. I dug into my handbag for my red beaded rosary that my mom gifted me. Sitting with my chin titled toward the sky, I prayed the Glorious Mysteries with many intentions in my heart. 

The Lord is generous in his love. Even with all of the social isolation, I have felt community in the many phone calls, text messages, and video chats with my friends and family. We have become more creative in ways to connect. Virtual dance parties, brunches, movie dates, and Mass have become a way to bond when we cannot be in person.

God’s love cannot be undone with an outbreak of a virus causing anxiety to rise. It has been a “corona coaster” of worries and emotions for me lately. Going out in nature and hearing my loved ones’ voices over the phone has been a calm grounding. Surprising to me is my increased desire to create art, bake, dance, and laugh with loved ones.

My dream of completing my book has really been forefront on my mind. I know that my small plans are nothing to what God has planned for me. His plans are bigger and better than mine. I feel like God will bless my little “yes” in taking action. Without having my social calendar full, I am using the extra time to foster my creative pursuits. As I felt the Lord say to me in prayer, “Pick up the pen and be brave.” I have been journalling, writing poems, taking notes, and jotting ideas down. As a writer, living life vibrantly fills the well of creativity. I go for many walks, read lots of books, and fill my hours with varied activities which brings countless material to my writing desk. 

Being in an environment that helps me do the work and having the right tools is key. For the longest time, I was without a laptop because my old one crashed. Thankfully, I had backed up my files and didn’t lose seven years of work on my book. When we open ourselves up to what we believe God is calling us to, he provides the means. It’s amazing how many people he has connected me with to assist me in writing my memoir. “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you.” (Is 41:13) 

The excitement of possibility and leaning into the mystery of God’s plan helps me live through these days with hope. I will cultivate the garden of my heart, watering with prayer, acts of love, and faithful trust.

As Agatha Christie said in her autobiography, “I like living. I have sometimes been wildly despairing, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”


Hope is a muscle we need to exercise

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on April 27, 2020 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/hope-is-a-muscle-we-need-to-exercise

Experiencing acute back and nerve pain, I realize that my identity is not in all the things I can do. It’s me and my toothy smile.

When I was hit with intense pain from a pinched nerve and muscle spasm in my leg, I had to relinquish my to-do list.

Hot, sharp pain travelled up my leg, and I found that the most comfortable position was lying flat on the floor. I couldn’t stand to floss my teeth at night. Walking became limping. And breathing became a catch-and-release routine. 

My sister helped me by making dinners, making me laugh, and supporting me on short walks. She offered her shoulder to lean on. She served up patience with my constant groans and complaints about how much pain I was in.

My hope was faltering and it started to feel like this pain would be my new reality. One night my mom played ukulele over Zoom video as I lay on my back and cried. She let me choose my favourite songs. The next night, we prayed a Rosary together on a video chat. I shifted to find the best sitting position. Her smile lit up my heart. She asked the Lord to show me how much he loves me and to show me that he is suffering with me. 

There is a comfort in imagining that my Saviour is suffering alongside me. I can picture him holding my hand and giving it a squeeze when a muscle spasm shoots fiery shocks up my leg. I let my breath out that I catch and release. 

I cancelled story time with my 4-year-old godson because the pain was so strong one night. The next day, we set up a new time to video chat and to my surprise he read me a story. He read The Cat in the Hat as I moved now and then to relieve the nerve pain. His bright face beamed with excitement to share his new talent with me.

The Lord is doing a new thing. Stripped of my usual comfort and the busyness of my task list, my priority becomes peace of heart, I am aware of how intertwined my mind, body, and spirit are. Amidst hot tears I sing a song I made up, “You can take all this pain away,” hoping Jesus would take the hint. 

Experiencing acute back pain and nerve pain, I realize that my identity is not in all the things I can do. It’s not in what I can offer. It’s me and my toothy smile. It’s the fact that I was born and am alive. And what a miracle that is, that my parents met, and their parents met. I am a beloved daughter of God. 

Accepting my sister’s help is hard sometimes. I don’t want to feel like a burden. I am reminded that I am enough. I’ve read that we are human beings after all, not human doings. We are overcoming. We will always need healing from past wounds or illnesses. 

St. Paul says, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10 NIV) 

I have the Lord and he is everything to me. I trust that he can take care of everything. Even in my suffering, he is there. 

For now I must endure pain, and with each discomfort I withstand, I am molded into something new. A strength has sprung forth in me. A fierce hope in seeing what is to come. Suffering in this day is not going to keep my spirits down. Hope is like a muscle. I choose to exercise it more than self-pity. I will not give up!


Resilience and resurrection in a pandemic

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on March 31, 2020

Carving out more time for online Mass, rosary podcasts and spiritual reading, I embrace the peace it brings.

I have never felt such a strong hunger for the sacraments in the days leading up to Easter. It is a strange time that we are living in right now. A global pandemic is striking fear and panic in me and maybe you too. Worries can be overwhelming. What will happen to my family, job, finances, and way of life? It is uncertain what our lives will look like in the coming months. With all this change unfolding rapidly, we can count on the resurrection of the Lord. He gives us everything we need.

In this “darkness of uncertainty, loneliness and isolation,” we need a “change of mindset and renewal of heart,” as Archbishop Miller said in his homily livestreamed from Holy Rosary Cathedral on March 22.

Even more now, I am turning to the Lord in prayer throughout the day. I share with him all of my fears and questions about what is going on. I wonder when he will come in and calm this storm. He gives me the strength to face the difficult days.

I am discovering that the meaning of life is more than having enough toilet paper in my cabinet. Yes, I stocked up on food and planned healthy meals in the event I were to get sick. And yes, I am grateful to my landlords for leaving a few rolls of bathroom tissue at my door. Each day of self-isolation, my emotions are rising and falling, and I let myself feel the feelings. I don’t shut off all the anxiety because a little anxiety is good to protect myself from danger.

As I live through this unexpected spread of coronavirus, I am exercising the virtues of faith and resilience. Carving out more time for prayer with online Mass, Rosary podcasts, and spiritual reading, I embrace the peace it brings. I also listen to the needs of my mind and body. When I am hungry and need a snack, I find a few baby carrots or a bowl of mango yogurt to eat. When I need to move, I go for a walk or dance to my favourite upbeat songs. I am trying to accept that there is an outbreak and find peace in the moment by taking action.

On my first day working from home, I woke up to my sister making oatmeal. Adding fresh bananas, I ate it with my coffee as the morning light filtered into the living room. After breakfast, we lit candles scented with frankincense and myrrh for daily Mass. We participated in the Mass in Bishop Barron’s chapel on YouTube. We blessed each other with holy water and prayed in silence. What a wonderful rest for my soul.

Sitting at my desk to work remotely on the projects from my office, I felt grateful. It’s so good to have meaningful work, to have purpose. “Without purpose,” says Eric Greitens in his book Resilience, “we can survive – but we cannot flourish.” 

What is taking the edge off my anxiety is talking to family and friends on the phone and connecting virtually with friends and communities. Gifts are hidden in this darkness. I have joined a live stream Rosary, sung along with Josh Groban in his live performance on Facebook, watched operas streaming free on MetOpera.org, and laughed as I watched a video of penguins roam the aquarium after hours on YouTube. We live in an amazing age for technology. As my friend said, “It’s the world wide web of God’s beauty.”

The joy of Jesus’ resurrection is contagious. Because of his generous love, I am looking for ways to show up and give to others. Eric Greitens explains, “We become what we do if we do it often enough. We act with courage, and we become courageous. We act with compassion, and we become compassionate. If we make resilient choices, we become resilient.” When we believe in God, we receive a new hope-filled perspective.

While reading Scripture by my soft bedroom light before bed, I find Jesus’ words comforting, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on … But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mt 6:25, 33).

This day is a gift. Looking back at it, I breathe deeply and ask, “Who will make these days brighter?” Closing my eyes, I feel deep gratefulness for Jesus’ love for me. The light of the world brightens my heart in this uncertainty.


Home is where God is

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on March 4, 2020

A home restores. It is something we are all made for. Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

How can a place you’ve never been to before feel like home? On a cold day in February, my friend and I travelled to Phoenix, Ariz., for a retreat. Neither of us expected to feel like we had come home.

Lifting our heavy backpacks out of the cab from the airport, we laughed and smiled, admiring the variety of cacti growing in the neighbourhood. 

We would be staying at the home of a relative of a colleague of ours from the Archdiocese of Vancouver. The sun was shining, and we no longer needed our coats and scarves. When we left Vancouver at 4 a.m., the temperature was below zero. Here in Arizona, doves cooed from surrounding trees. Palm trees dotted the yards and swayed in the distance.

We stood at the front door, where a large statue of Mother Mary was the first to greet us. I knocked and the door immediately opened. A beautiful blonde woman smiled and opened her arms. “You must be Maggie!” I said. As soon as I passed the threshold, her arms wrapped me in a big hug.

Her home beautifully combined order and cheerfulness. “Can I get you something to drink? We have beer, pop, and seltzer water. Feel free to help yourself to anything. Make this place yours.”

We settled our things into her teenage daughter’s bedroom and lounged on their large grey couch. Excitedly, we told her about the retreat that would start the next day. Then she left to take her son to his older brothers’ baseball games. She promised to take us out for margaritas and Mexican food when she and her husband returned home.

I’d come to Phoenix with a worn-out heart, mind, and body. My heart was heavy, my mind was exhausted, and my lower back ached. It was no coincidence that the theme of the retreat was Restore. It was organized by Blessed Is She, a ministry for women with a mission for community and prayer.

When Maggie came back with her son from the baseball games, her younger sister Stella popped by with her 2-week-old baby. Seeing the precious baby cradled in my travelling companion’s arms made my heart swell. It was easy to notice how close-knit this family is. They live on the same block and visit each other frequently.

“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14:23).

It rained hard on Saturday morning. It didn’t rob us of our joy for the day. Stella’s husband’s brother waited outside to drive us to St. Andrew the Apostle Parish for the retreat. He is an Uber driver, and our colleague’s mother paid for our trip. We were overcome with gratitude at the generosity of this family.

My heart was under renovation. Negative thoughts had been spinning me into low moods. “I am not good enough. I am unlovable. I am alone.”  During times of worship and adoration, I heard words like a whisper fill me. “I will never leave you alone. I wanted you in your mother’s womb. No pain, no loss is wasted. Do not be afraid. You are my delight. Find peace in me. I love you, my beloved daughter. There will always be days of rain, but I am always shining brighter than the sun. I will provide for you.”

The home we stayed in for three nights was a refuge. The love Maggie showed for her family, her community, and her vocation of motherhood confirmed for me the boundless love of God.

A home restores. It is something we are all made for. We desire to belong and to be missed when we go away.

Author Annie F. Downs says in her book 100 Days to Brave, “Do whatever it takes to expand your map. Because if you go where you’ve never gone before, you will see God like you’ve never seen him before.”

God makes a home in our hearts. Our ultimate destination and eternal home is heaven.  We long to return to the heart of the Father. And now I also long to return to Arizona.


Experience joy; go fly a kite

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on November 4, 2019 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/experience-joy-go-fly-a-kite

Flying a kite is happiness. And God means for us to be happy in this life.

“Tension is needed to go to greater heights,” said my friend over dinner.

I had to agree with her. Flying a stunt kite one Sunday taught me this lesson.

Fall is a good time to get cozy and curl up with a hot drink and a good book. But instead of doing that on the weekend, my three brothers and future brother-in-law took a stunt kite to the park.

This kite was hand-sewn by my older brother. He salvaged a tent to create a functional stunt kite fitted with two types of poles. We were all excited to try this out. It was a blustery day, perfect for flying.

Standing in the middle of a soccer field, we unwound the strings and assembled the poles. I watched with wonder as the guys took turns launching the kite in the air. They controlled it by slight movements with their hands. Elbows tucked in with only wrist action. Small, focused moves.

In the first trial launches, little adjustments were necessary. Zap straps kept breaking, as the wind was strong and the poles were heavy. They switched the poles to bamboo, which made a huge difference.

I asked the brother who had built the kite, “Is this like rocket science?”

“Yes, it kind of is.”

We were all so engaged in flying the kite and helping each other to have the best flight. My worries and niggling stress from the week disappeared.

When they had each finished having a turn, they shouted, “Give it a try, Lisa!” 

I hesitated. “I won’t be good at it.”

But my youngest brother laughed. He came over to mentor me in flying the very large kite. He went over the movements needed for launching and direction. I listened to him. Nothing like a little dose of sibling competition to boost me up.

With a great gust of wind, I tilted my hands back, pointed my thumbs toward me and it took off. It climbed in the sky. All the guys were clapping and encouraging me. It was exhilarating. 

The kite pulled and strained. My mentor yelled, “Hold it tight! Pull back!” I did what he said. The kite went higher, soaring like the seagull that flew by. I dipped it side to side. I laughed as it soared. All my brothers cheered. Especially on my first try. They couldn’t believe how long it was staying up in the air. When I felt the strings go taut, it reminded me of the tension you need to hold with a partner in swing dancing.

Trees surrounded us on the borders of the field. White clouds dotted the sky and my hair was blowing in the wind. I was falling in love with God in nature. I felt connected to the earth and its marvels. The power of the wind. The softness of the grass beneath my feet and the tall waving trees tinged with yellow, red, and orange.

I felt free in the space next to my brothers where sunlight blanketed us as we looked to the sky. Flying a kite is happiness. Making it do stunts is an extra dose of joy. And God means for us to be happy in this life.

St. John XXIII said, “Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.”


Friendship: ‘Stronger relief than any medicine’

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on October 9th, 2019 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/friendship-stronger-relief-than-any-medicine

Hope pervades my heart when I am in the presence of another. “I said, ‘I am falling’; but your constant love, O Lord, held me up. Whenever I am anxious and worried, you comfort me and make me glad” (Ps 94:18-19).

Welcomed. Seen. Heard. Being at a support group meeting helped me to break out of stigma around having a mental illness.

Four years ago I walked into a neighbourhood church room with mismatched couches and chairs and was welcomed by a friendly face. The facilitator offered me a hot cup of tea. I held the ceramic mug and instantly felt more at ease. A few more people trickled in. The meeting opened with prayer and introductions.

I was surprised by how everyone there had a mental illness and yet they were working, living, and doing it all with perseverance. It’s an invisible illness. If they hadn’t been courageous and vulnerable in sharing in the group, I would never have guessed they battled mental illness too. Truly, people who experience anxiety, depression, eating disorders are fighters. It was so comforting to meet other mental health warriors who have faith in God, who is with us through it all.

Once I received a brief text message from one of the members, conveying how he had fallen ill in the last 48 hours. “Can you talk?” I sent a message back to him with a couple of questions similar to those of Kevin Briggs, who is known as the Guardian of the Golden Gate. Kevin was with the California Highway Patrol and prevented many suicides from happening by talking and just listening to the troubled souls. I asked, “Are you okay tonight? What are your plans for tomorrow?” And “I am free to chat tonight.” He responded, “I’ll call in 15.”

During that phone call I felt connected to someone who may not have had anyone else to call. After 45 minutes of listening, I asked, “Can we pray to God for protection?”

“Yes, please,” was his reply. The next day, I received an email from him saying, “It’s a miracle. I feel much better this morning! Thank you for listening to me.”

Weeks later, it was my turn to call him for a listening ear. I needed someone to talk to. Someone who understands what it’s like to have uncomfortable symptoms of illness return in times of stress.

I am inspired by Henry Fraser, author of The Little Big Things: A young man’s belief that every day can be a good day. When he was a teenager he dove into the ocean and was paralyzed from the shoulders down. When Henry was recovering in the hospital he saw a man with a similar spinal cord injury wheel himself out of the hospital in a wheelchair. He was then determined to do the same. “Disabled people need to see themselves in others. We need to see others like us achieving, living and inspiring.” Being present with members of the support group has been instrumental in pushing myself to carry on. Resilient people can’t thrive all on their own. We need the support of others.

So, starting this month, I will brave the rain and walk to the group with hopes to lift someone else up, as so many do for me. I try to view my illness as a grace. I don’t like the crippling sadness at times or the fears that invade my thoughts. But the sadness passes, and when it does, everything is sweeter.

Hope pervades my heart when I am in the presence of another. “I said, ‘I am falling’; but your constant love, O Lord, held me up. Whenever I am anxious and worried, you comfort me and make me glad” (Ps 94:18-19).

Community brings peace and the feeling that I am not alone. Our inner lives are so important. It’s a blessing to be able to pray with a friend on a difficult night, sharing in their struggle. Stronger relief than any medicine is the company of a kind and caring friend. My life matters. Your life matters.


Whether your song is happy or sad, God is listening

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on August 27, 2019 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/whether-your-song-is-happy-or-sad-god-is-listening

In these ordinary moments I realize life is all right. That we are unique and irreplaceable. We all have a song to sing.

“It’s a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering. There is no escaping that,” said Stephen Colbert in an interview with Anderson Cooper on grief. He went on to say, “There is no other timeline. This is it. The bravest thing you can do is accept the world as it is.”

As a depressed teenager I had lost sight of hope. I couldn’t come up with any reasons to live. To stay here. I didn’t understand how treasured I was. By God. By my family and friends. It’s beautiful to discover that you and I were born into this world for a purpose. That life is good even when it comes with suffering. You can’t separate joy from experiences of sadness. To experience happiness, you must also experience loss. A colourful mix of emotions makes us human.

I have been blessed with many graces to thrive as I live in Vancouver. Being surrounded by lush nature. Family close by. Fulfilling work. Diversity in dining. A welcoming church community. Friendly neighbours. And I am grateful that I can enjoy it all with my healthy body.

I’ve missed running for a month. I’ve been avoiding the summer heat! So one cool evening, I lace up my runners and off I go. Breathing in and out quickly. My muscles stretching like a cat’s after a nap. The view as beautiful as ever. Passing cyclists smile and nod, affirming my effort. Stopping at a crosswalk, I think about quitting to get dinner. But I know that further along there is a better view of the water. I push on. In slow mode.

Once at the oceanside, I breathe in deeply. Music twirls in the air as the community piano is played. After the young woman finishes a classical piece, I rush to it. Beads of sweat fall along my hairline as I play. In these ordinary moments I realize life is all right. That we are unique and irreplaceable. We all have a song to sing. God doesn’t leave us in the darkness. The light rushes in. Growth happens. And we can emerge stronger than before.

Having lived in the pit of despair gives me the capacity to connect with people on a raw and profoundly human level. Empathy, a gift of understanding someone else’s suffering; you have felt it too. Everyone experiences grief, loss, or pain. When we can share a moment with another, we promise they are not alone.

A French-speaking man smiling and moving towards the piano says, “Bravo.” I ask, “Do you want to play?” He sits and sings, stroking the keys of the brightly painted outdoor piano. Each of us giving a free concert to an intimate crowd. Making a gift of ourselves, we are “not simply a ‘being’ but always a ‘being for,’” as I heard this year at a workshop by the Pacific Institute of Family Education.

“You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit” (Job 10:11-12).

The longer I live, the more grateful I am for each breath. I will bless the Lord with my comings and goings, knowing how deeply he loves me. Knowing that he suffered too. And what joy awaits us in the kingdom that he has opened to us.


For women who feel unlovable

Love, it’s what it’s really all about. And you matter.

You matter.

One voice in the choir.


Worthy of life.

A wildflower

dappling a field.

The rock a child picks up from the sandy beach

and tosses in the waves.

Your life

intricately woven

into the fabric

of God.

The smile that heals,

the hand that comforts,

the eyes holding an

ocean of love.


It’s what it’s really



And you matter.


Confession: a Race to Mercy

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on July 30, 2019 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/confession-a-race-to-mercy

Dim lights. Knees to velvet kneeler. Quiet contrite conversation in a room as big as a broom closet. This is what it looks like to be relentless in the spiritual life.

Returning again and again to the redeeming sacrament of confession, no matter how many times I confess the same sins. It’s a race to mercy.

I don’t want to drag my feet. Instead, I give up the feeling of hopelessness. And walk right back into the open arms of my dearest friend Jesus Christ.

My goal is to confess often. To go back to the well. The Lord has living water. Refreshment for the mind and soul. And my thirst is mighty. Saints get up over and over again. They open themselves up to grace.

I never want to tire of receiving joy from confessing my sins. I fall down, but Jesus hasn’t left my side.

Once the priest has given me absolution, I drink the peace and joy of salvation. It is a precious moment when I open the door of the confessional to pray my penance. A lightness expands in my heart.

Restoration. Inner healing. Peace in body, mind, and soul. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam 3:23)

Recently, I met up with my childhood friend at one of my favourite Poke restaurants. We were ordering take-out to eat at a rooftop garden in the heart of the city. After we hugged and stood in line to order, she looked at me and said, “Something is different about you, Lisa. You look good … confident.” Smiling, I mulled over possible reasons for this compliment. No new haircut. Or clothes. Must be something else. “Well, I did come straight from confession.” A soul cleanse.

“I thought that is why you might have picked this location, since it’s near the cathedral.” She dug deeper. “How does it make you feel?”

“Fresh. Like I can begin again.” Her puzzled look diminished, and she seemed satisfied with my answer.


The conversation switched to her upcoming travel plans. We ordered our preferred dishes. My heart was singing and doing back flips. I was so happy. Hope-filled that this time, healing happened. Even if it didn’t, I know I had encountered Jesus. The peace after confession is warm sunshine on my face.

My parents modelled the blessing of frequent confession. As a young girl, I would visit the chapel on a Saturday morning with my parents and siblings. The promise of ice cream or time to play on the playground afterwards sweetened the deal. Sweeter than chocolate mint ice cream was the feeling of interior freedom.

The sacrament of confession has the capacity to shine light from inside our soul and onto our face. It’s not surprising that we become like little lamps. For the Lord is the light of the world. When we open our hearts to receive his grace, our cup overflows.

Don’t let repetitive sins weigh you down. There is always confession. Never give up! “The testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” (Jas 1:4)


Language lets us describe joy, but also sadness

First published in the BC Catholic on July 3rd, 2019 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/language-lets-us-describe-joy-but-also-sadness

A visit to Jesus in the tabernacle is an opportunity to talk to him as a friend

Sun rays dappling the sidewalk. Evening bird calls. Summer months promise us fun and relaxation. And they definitely can be filled with both. But when you have a mood disorder, happy feelings don’t always fill your brain. I remember feeling a darkness seeping into my thoughts one summer night. My mood dropped like a speeding roller coaster.

Instead of reacting with self-compassion, I berated myself for feeling depressed. “Don’t be silly! It’s sunny! Don’t feel this way! You are so weak. Why are you feeling depressed again? You’re supposed to be having fun.”

But then I picked myself up and headed out for a walk. Hope-filled music in my earbuds. I didn’t know why I was crying. I hoped no one saw the tears falling beneath my sunglasses. I kept walking. Fading light. Chalk drawings and lush flower beds. Dancing shadows on pavement. Using all my senses I focused on the present moment.

Feeling low can be isolating, so it’s the most important time to reach out. With years of experiencing changing moods, I’m more aware of the signs and symptoms of the mental illness I manage. Calling a friend or family member is on the top of my list, as is prayer.

Adjusting the dose of my medication with the help of my doctor is good too. Getting eight hours of sleep, eating healthy food, and exercising are essential. Sleep restores the serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin acts like a messenger to our brain cells. It helps to regulate our moods including anxiety and happiness. Even athletes recognize the importance of sleep. At 10 hours they have peak performance. Eight to nine hours of sleep and they are doing very well.

For me, self-care is not optional. It is something I always do. I pray to the Lord, praising and lamenting. Opening my heart with all its emotion to him who is our powerful healer. At a recent talk in Vancouver, John Swinton, a Scottish theologian, spoke about how the third book of Psalms (Psalms 73–89) is lament. “God has given us a language to describe sadness, joy.” He shares that Scripture “encompasses all of our emotions.”

On summer nights when I struggle with depression, “Darkness is my only companion.” Psalm 88, among many others, speaks of sadness. Holding fast to God’s unchanging love for me, I pray as I can. Sometimes it is through listening to worship songs that I praise him. Often it is by walking in nature. The shape of the red-tinged clouds at sunset. Scents from jasmine blossoms. And making rhubarb sauce with orange zest.

For a meaningful connection with God, I imagine visiting a lonely closed church to find Jesus present in a tabernacle and talk to him as a friend. He is with me in my darkness. He reminds me that I matter. And he delights in me. So too, you matter. You are a delight! Jesus is so close to you. The Lord’s redemptive love wraps us in safety and heals our brokenness.

Summer nights may not always be brimming with fun. But we can slow down and relax, knowing that Jesus loves us. And that, as John Swinton says, “Jesus promised a life of fullness for everyone.”


Sometimes healing comes in nature, friends

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on June 4, 2019 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/sometimes-healing-comes-in-nature-friends

Not only did our interest in magnolias hold this unlikely friendship together, but so did our ache for family, health, and happiness.

Scents from white flowering bushes were my first encounter of her incredible gardening skills.

I have walked by her garden countless times since I moved to a quiet neighbourhood in Vancouver. A tall chestnut tree stands guard in the middle of it. Bark mulch covers the ground where plants look wild and less manicured.

Her smile welcomed conversation as she raked leaves. Curly grey hair and a German accent complement her 89 years. Many weeks after meeting, I listened to stories of her trip alone on a ship to Canada from Germany, and her long working days on the family farm.

We found a shared interest in classical music; in the beauty of flowers and the simple pleasure of fresh garden vegetables. Not only did our interest in magnolias hold this unlikely friendship together, but so did our ache for family, health, and happiness.

After a run along the seawall one day I passed by her house. There sweeping the sidewalk was my dear neighbour. Arthritis and sore knees don’t stop her from spending time in her garden. Strength still flows through her aging body.

Inviting me to sit on her front steps, we enjoyed each other’s company; the sunset and purple rhododendrons that were starting to bloom; squirrels scampering; trees coated in gold.

Our laughter filled the air. My delight in her tender care of the plants connected us to the goodness of nature, new every season. From the steps at her red door, I looked up. A canopy of spring green leaves, and a soft spray of chestnut flowers filled the sky. 

Healing can come in surprising ways. The peaceful presence of a neighbour. Time to chat. Watching her pick beets from the dirt in her garden for my dinner. It comes with listening to her own story of overcoming challenges; of rough life yet resilient soul.

Her endearing character shines through her garden and her smiling eyes. Carefree timelessness restores the soul. Being too busy all the time takes a toll on my mental health. I relish moments with Margaret, which slows me down and fills my heart with love.

After only a few years of knowing her, there is a feeling of home when I walk by her garden and see her smile. Knowing I belong to God my heavenly Father, I also feel secure. His love is like a patient gardener. He tends to the thorns and weeds found in times of depression, pruning and clipping.

When life spins out of control, he finds a way to root me in hope so I flourish again. Never a day goes by without some work. My mental health withers without care. More and more I am learning to lean on God. To surrender. To trust him in everything.

I still falter. It is an unfinished work. I like to think that I am his beloved wildflower. Storms will come; winds and rain; and bugs. But he will not leave me in darkness. He loves me and will bring me to the light.

In the book of Sirach, it says, “the Lord created medicines from the earth.” (And beautiful flowers in Margaret’s garden.)

“And a sensible man will not despise them … By them he heals and takes away pain; the pharmacist makes them a compound.”

How marvelous that God gives us the means to be well. Skills of physicians, medicines, and loving relationships bring about healing. We can rely on the Lord, “for the sake of preserving life.” Do not give up hope. Hope in the Lord. He is with you always.

Why my doctor says, ‘just be boring’

“I know that the Lord has counted my days and I rest in the knowledge that he has a great plan for my life.”

Life goes by so quickly. That’s why I want to take each moment as it comes. Enjoying each day as it unfolds. 

Andrea and I walked into a cute coffee shop and ordered our hot drinks before our venture outside. I noticed the hot chocolate festival was on. An Americano is my go-to. The clouds were moving by quickly. 

We walked along the beach admiring the beautiful view and we reflected on our Lenten observances. We talked about what we would do during Lent to deepen our faith and relationship with Jesus. Times of prayer, cleansing, and getting closer to the Lord.

I want so many things, and yet I will need to be at peace with what I have right now. This time of mortification, reflection, and meditation in this Lenten season helps me to do that. I can’t do it on my own. I need companions on the journey. I call on the saints and my friends to accompany me in the Lenten season. 

With a cup of hot tea in the morning along with a prayer and a sigh, saying, “Jesus,” I start the day by thanking the Lord for another opportunity to love. I am so rushed sometimes that I forget the presence of God, yet the Holy Spirit nudges me, finds ways to remind me that he is here with me, that I am not alone. When I start to worry about my medication change or making sure I’m not anxious and get enough sleep, he is always with me. I have to be aware of my symptoms to look out for them.

Today, I can relax knowing I am in good health. Bald eagles swooped by us – their wings in flight swirling around the sky. Raindrops start falling on our shoulders, and we decide to turn back. The crunching of gravel under our shoes is the sound we hear as we pause in the conversation.

“Recalling concretely how God blessed me and guided me in the past, even when I couldn’t feel him, helps me trust He’s here now,” writes Catholic author Emily Stimpson Chapman in Letters to Myself from the End of the World. “It also reminds me that God does indeed know what he’s doing. He has a plan, and it’s good. If you’re struggling to find God in your present, try looking for him in your past. Name the blessings he poured out during times of struggle – blessings you wouldn’t have without those struggles. Then give thanks. If you need to, write it all out. Stick the litany on your mirror or in your planner. Glance at it often. Meditate upon it. Pray it. As you do, the hidden God will emerge from the shadows, and reveal himself to you. He is there. And if you cling to him, he will guide you through this present darkness. And the next. And the next. Until the day comes when there is no darkness. Only light.” – Emily Stimpson Chapman

My psychiatrist tells me often, “just be boring.” As in don’t get too excited or revved up. Because then I can’t sleep. And when I don’t get enough sleep I can get sick. I need to keep a fine balance for my brain health to flourish. 

Languishing is not fun. I don’t like being fatigued or run down or manic. My health is one of my priorities. It takes effort to stay on track with sleep and exercise. It is worth all the effort! 

Managing my time, energy, and daily routines is an ever-changing task. Some days are harder than others. Most of the time I am happy and enjoy many activities. But there are days that I am so tired it feels like I am walking in molasses. Or have a hard time even holding up my head. 

I know that the Lord has counted my days and I rest in the knowledge that he has a great plan for my life. I look forward to Easter joy and spring as the snow melts outside my window as I write. 

May you experience the great love Jesus has for you as you walk through this Lenten season.

The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services.

Personal style can help your mental health flourish

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on June 6, 2022 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/personal-style-can-help-your-mental-health-flourish

My necklace matches the flora and fauna in the garden.

How I feel in a soft sweater tucked in with my favourite pair of pants helps my mental health. Styling my outfits has helped me in my journey with bipolar disorder. I am more confident when I dress beautifully. It could be by pairing a blazer and a dress for working in the office. Or wearing a cardigan and a shirt and pant combination with a pair of pretty shoes.

I use fashion to help increase my productivity and boost my mood. I know many women who feel the same way as me. Dressing for a role increases the effort that you will give to the job.

I remember wearing a silver suit to a job interview at the Ministry of Justice in my twenties. I was nervous arriving early and had to sit a while in a long hallway. While I was waiting there, an off-duty policeman asked me if I was a lawyer. I was interviewing to be an administrative assistant. I must have looked sharp!

When I go to Mass on Sunday, I like to dress up as if I were to attend a wedding. It places my heart in a space to love the Lord more by taking extra time and care to look well.

I have two sisters, and we used to share our clothing, but some things were off limits. A few times there were squabbles about who could wear what and when to return it. When we were younger, we would wear patent black shoes to church, and on Easter we switched to white leather shoes. I enjoyed polishing the shoes to make them shine.

As a petite woman, I have learned to find articles of clothing that flatter my figure. It can sometimes be difficult to find the right size trouser or jacket. When you do, you feel just right.

God made us unique and beautiful. In Nicole M. Caruso’s book Worthy of Wearing, she shares “how personal style expresses our feminine genius.” Dressing well with our own personality gives us a sense of self-worth, though it goes much deeper than that.

On a cloudy day, I decided to wear my new pair of tan platform sandals to work with a dress. I checked the weather app, which said it would be cloudy all day. I figured that was good enough for me to wear sandals. They made the outfit pop. What I didn’t expect was the sprinkling of rain as I walked to the bus stop. I was a little cold and felt foolish. When I got to the office I forgot about the rain and remained happy wearing the sandals until I needed to change for dance class.

Shopping is fun for me because I am always on the hunt for a sale. I look for bargains and usually find something amazing on my adventure. Accessorizing with classics – scarves, belts, and jewelry – is a way to look chic.

I find inspiration from the women I work with, my friends, and in movies. When I first got sick with a mental illness in high school, I gained a lot of weight from the side effects of medications. It was disheartening. I couldn’t fit into the clothes I used to wear.

The good news is that you can dress well, whatever size you are. I found new clothes to enjoy wearing, and slowly my self-esteem grew.

My high school graduation dress was a beautiful pink chiffon vision with a white brocade bodice. I loved it because I felt like a princess in it. At the graduation dinner I danced with my dad as my mom looked on. I had a great time dancing with my classmates too, though I remember my finger swelled up, and I couldn’t pull my ring off. I used the ice sculpture for our grad class to bring the swelling down. I eventually took my ring off with ease.

Styling for me has become a way to improve how I feel. When you have a mood disorder like I do, it takes many ways to find balance. Medication, the sacraments, therapy, exercise, sleep, and even fashion benefit me too.

Next time you pull on your polka dot socks and tuck in your shirt, you just might boost your mood enough to smile a little more. It works for me!

My podcast The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience is available on popular streaming services.

How to find contentment when you are running on empty

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on May 4, 2022 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/how-to-find-contentment-when-you-are-running-on-empty

“If you, like me, have been thirsting for the Lord’s presence in your life, seek times of adoration and quiet moments of prayer.” – photo from unsplash.

I sat at a corner table in the dining area of Granville Island’s public market. The view was spectacular. Floor-to-ceiling windows offered me an unobstructed view of the ocean, city, and mountains. Cormorants bobbed in the water. Seagulls flew by. Neon-jacketed runners traversed the sea wall across from me.

Ferries and pleasure boats moved slowly. Rowers practised their strokes cutting through the water.

I ate delicious Greek food from The Sprig. It filled me up as I was waiting to meet up with friends to watch a play. I wrote notes for my next column on my phone and enjoyed people-watching.

Many passersby took photos on the boardwalk right in front of me. I watched them smile. They were enjoying the spring sunshine as much as me. My weekend was turning out to be full of activity. And I was searching for that feeling of happiness.

Lately, I have felt discontent. On a walk during the week, my roommate reminded me about having a spirit of gratitude.

I can be thankful for so much. How easy it is to forget the goodness in my life. Taking everything for granted. Reflecting on my blessings from my time in the hospital helps me to see God’s hand upon me.

He was with me when I was the only one left in the residential hospital for almost a week. I felt his presence in the encouragement and quality time from the staff members helping me feel less alone.

I had a place to dance even if it was in the parking lot to de-stress.

There was a hot meal for me every day.

My family and friends called or came to visit me when they could.

New medications were adjusted to benefit my mental health.

My doctor listened to my concerns and questions.

I found ways to calm myself when train noises kept waking me up in the middle of the night.

Even in that dark period of my life last year, I felt the Lord’s presence. It is when I get cozy and everything is going well that I tend to forget to lean on him.

I want to offer some words for the young professional woman (like me) who is discontented and running on empty. It’s time to let go of the idea that busy is better. If you, like me, have been thirsting for the Lord’s presence in your life, seek times of adoration and quiet moments of prayer. Attend a weekday Mass if you can.

Jesus waits for you to give him all your worries and goals. Celebrating the Easter season is a way to remember that he calls us, “arise, my beloved one, and come.”

Cultivate trust that God has it all in hand. And practise gratitude. When I think I have control, I can become self-reliant and forget that God provides. I try to do things all with my own strength. Jesus suffers with me and provides for every need I have, so I can breathe deeply knowing I am cared for.

Don’t give up! The Lord has a marvellous life planned for you. One of greatness. It will involve suffering because we can’t reach heaven without being tested and moulded like gold in fire. We can be so afraid of suffering. Yet some of the greatest things in life come with it. If we want to obtain any success in relationships or personal prestige, it takes work. Search out new interests and hobbies. I feel so alive when I am learning a new language or a dance.

In a homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, Father Nick said, “God’s heart is always for the suffering.” How wonderful! “How blessed are we to have a God who is determined to chase after us until we finally know and experience the wonders of His goodness and mercy!” (The Practice of the Presence of God: A 40-Day Devotion Based on Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God).

As I finish writing this piece, I am sitting on the balcony of my apartment with a blanket and tea. One of my greatest treasures is to write for the newspaper and share what’s on my heart. Not everyone wants to be so open with their struggles, nor do they need to be. I feel a special call to share that it’s okay to have a mental illness and there is healing and hope. And for this I am truly grateful. It banishes the feeling of discontent.

“I am the good shepherd, says the Lord: I know my sheep, and mine know me.” When you are running on empty and don’t know what to do, turn to Jesus, who can fill you up with love.

You can check out my podcast The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience available on popular streaming services.