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.