Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Annal 68: Tale from Apartheid

Last night I finished reading Philip Yancey's What Good is God? and I am still pondering the effects of it on my life.  I started reading this book back in December or January, and it has been a slow going process, but to be honest I am fairly certain the timing has been God's.  I have hinted in past entries of some of the things that have been going on in my life over the last six months (ie. my mother getting unjustly fired, the seeming loss of friendships due to being single but also because of switching churches).  In April, about two weeks after my mother left her job, I picked up this book and was reading about Yancey's visit to South Africa in 2006.  In it he mentions something that I want to share.

"Bill Clinton tells of a conversation he had with Nelson Mandela.  'Didn't you really hate them for what they did?' Clinton asked.  Mandela replied, 'Oh, yeah, I hated them for a long time.  I broke rocks every day in prison, and I stayed alive on hate.  They took a lot away from me.  They took me away from my wife, and it subsequently destroyed my marriage.  They took me away from seeing my childre grow up.  They abused me mentally and physically.  And one day, I realized they could take it all except my mind and my heart.  Those things I would have to give to them, and I simply decided not to give them away.'

"Clinton pressed him.  'Well, what about when you were getting out of prison?  I got my daughter Chelsea up and we watched you on television as you walked down that dirt road to freedom.  Didn't you hate them then?'

"Mandela said, 'As I felt the anger rising up, I thought to myself, They have already had you for twenty seven years.  And if you keep hating them, they'll have you again. And I said, I want to be free. And so I let it go.  I let it go.'"

Yancey goes on to describe how Mandela's attitude set an example for all of South Africa.  He later visits the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and while there a young, white South African says, "In view of what we did and how we treated them, they had the right to take every one of us whites, line us against a wall, and shoot us in the head."


It seems like it should be such a simple concept, but the practice of it is perhaps the most difficult lesson I have ever learned.  It has only been in the last month or so, as I have been "coming into my own" as my sister puts it, that I realized how much hurt I have held onto from the past.  It is hard to lose friendship, and even harder to watch pain being done to those you love and hold dear.  And yet in the view of what I quoted above, who am I to hold onto my bitterness?

Shortly after the issue with my mom, my family was watching The Passion of the Christ for Good Friday.  I came away thinking, "Who am I to withhold that which Christ so freely gave?"

I sometimes think that as singles we can get into the mindset that everyone is somewhat against us: friends, strangers, church members, even God.  I know I sometimes fall into that.  We become a minority in many Christian settings, and seem like the group that people just don't know how to handle.

But in the view of so much grace, who am I to hold onto hurts that, quite frankly, pale in comparison to so much other pain out there.  I know God is still working on me, and I know that forgiveness can be a long and painful road, but it is a road I need to walk, and I know that there is One who will help me along it, for He is the one who made that road.

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Annal 67: Tale from Roof Fiddling

I feel like I am going to become a well of information!  I finally have my philosophy on dating and marriage figured out, and I am convinced you all need to read this.  You see I was watching Fiddler on the Roof last night and that was when I figured all of this out.

First of all, we need to stop being picky as having a bad husband is nowhere near as awful as having no husband.  When Tzeitel complains that the last man the Matchmaker tried to create a match for her with had no hair, her mother's response was, "You want hair, marry a monkey."  So pickiness is not a good trait.

If you gather with your single friends and sing "Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match," you are pretty well guaranteed to not marry any men the Matchmaker brings your way.  But you will marry men your parents will not approve of... at first.

Men, if you want to get a girl to dance with you, you must clap your hands, stomp your foot, and yell for her to "come."  Then, and only then, will she dance with you.

If you ever want to introduce yourself to a girl, wait until a bunch of jerks are pestering, tell them to get lost, and then tell her that you notice her at the bookstore all the time.  Then offer her the book you have stragegically placed in your pocket.  If she still doesn't acknowledge you, continue to walk beside her, petting her cow, and tell her all about yourself.  But you must be sure to say you are "a pleasant fellow, charming, honest, ambitious, quite bright, and very modest."  This works like a charm and you are guaranteed to win her over!

I could continue on with the list, touching on Tevye's amazing dance moves and how everyone needs to dance like him (I wait, I did just touch on that) but I will stop.  At the start of the movie, Tevye comments that everyone in his village is like a fiddler on a roof.  They are all trying to create their own beautiful tune while maintaining their precarious position on the roof.

Last night all I thought about was how that pertained to the story of the movie, but this morning I started thinking about how at times we must all feel that way.  Sometimes I feel like I am trying so hard to make something of myself, to create music that will surpass time itself, while trying not to fall to pieces.  If there is one thing I have learned, it is that life can fall apart in an instant.  Sometimes we go through phases where we never know what will happen within the next few days, months, or even hours.  I have learned that life happens, and it is out of my control, and that I am not capable of staying up on the roof with my own strength.  I need others who will stay on the roof with me so we can help each other to stay up.  But more importantly, I need to make sure that my roof is attached to a house whose Foundation is sure.  Because even if my roof seems to collapse, my Foundation isn't going anywhere.  Sometimes the people who are on the roof with you will change, and other times you will feel as if you are all alone on it.  We all go through seasons like that.  But those are the times when you learn to depend on Him upon Whom your house stands.  He isn't going anywhere.

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Annal 66: Tale from the Jaw Line

Oh... my... goodness...

I just had one of the greatest nights ever... not that that means a lot to most people since my idea of having a life is not overly exciting right now.  All that aside, though, tonight was just great.  I still break out laughing as I think over the conversations had.

The adult pastors at the church my sister and I go to decided to have a group of us over tonight.  They used to host a small group for the college and university students but it was looking like it wasn't going to happen.  However they had some of us over for appetizers and dessert and informed us they were going to continue on our small group.  This was some of the best news I have ever heard!  The two couples who head up our small group are some of the most amazing, loving people to walk this planet.

In case you couldn't tell, I am a little bit excited about this.

Well on top of this exciting new, we had some of the most random conversations ever.  Like when my pastor decided he should try to hook me up with a guy from Slovakia.  And then he informed us all of the importance of strong jaw lines.  This led to a talk about praying for spouses, the affects of I Kissed Dating Good-Bye on youth group experiences (really, you haven't lived until you have had youth leaders jump down your throat because you think dating is okay), and how a single, Christian woman's life is over by the time she hits 25.  I think you can already tell the sort of direction this took.

What was wonderful was just how refreshing it was to be around married people who accept you where you are at.  Who tell you that just because you are a single Christian female passed 25 does not mean your womb is going to shrivel up.  Your life is not over because you are single.

I know this is not a very profound blog post, I just wanted to write because I honestly feel so blessed right now.  I can't put my finger on it, but I know that God is doing something in my life right now.  I feel as if He is unsettling me, but at the same time filling me with His peace.  Life is changing, and that is okay.  I don't have all the answers, and that is okay.  I will have highs and lows and He will be the One who gets me through them, and that is okay.  He is God, after all; I think it is safe to trust Him.

On a side note, ladies, I have it on good authority from my pastor that you want men with strong jaw lines.  Apparently they are very attractive, or so he says!

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Annal 65: Tale from the Soul's Secret Signature

So I am obviously still on my C.S. Lewis kick because he is the inspiration for tonight's blog post.  I am currently sitting cross-legged on my couch cooling off from doing a Jillian Michael's workout.  You want to sweat in the comfort of your home?  Yeah, she will make you do that, that's for sure.  The point is, I pulled out my computer, opened up a new post, and pondered what to write.  A quotation from The Problem of Pain kept coming to me, and I hope it inspires you the same way it did me.  It is in the final chapter of the book and the chapter is entitled "Heaven."  It is a lengthy passage, but bear with me, it is worth it, I promise.

"There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.  You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread.  You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that.  Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw--but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realize that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which we are transported.  Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of--something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat's side?  Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain at best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for?  You have never had it.  All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it--tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that die away just as they caught your ear.  But if it should really become manifest--if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself--you would know it.  Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say 'Here at last is the thing I was made for.'  We cannot tell each other about it.  It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives [or husbands] or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife [or husband] or friend or work... Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it--made for it stitch by stitch as a glove made for a hand."

I know that's a lot to digest.  But I also know that it spoke directly to my soul.

How often do I rant about my quirks and wonder why God made me so odd?  Why is it that waiting for the bus on a misty morning stirs my soul?  Why does the sound of rustling leaves seem to be the trees calling for me to join them in their dance?  Why is it that I like BBC dramas, literature, video games, fantasy, and science fiction when at times there appears to be no line to connect them?

I love the idea of a secret signature of the soul.  Suddenly my oddities no longer seem so odd, but rather are what make my soul unique.  I was made this way "stitch by stitch" because I was made for my place in heaven.

So please don't ever become discouraged with what appear to be your own quirks.  Don't try to hide them or get rid of them, or pretend they don't exist because others don't understand them.  They are part of the secret signature of your soul, and were stitched there by a God who loves you more than any other person will ever be remotely capable of loving you.

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Annal 64: Tale from the Odious Selfishness of Mankind

So for my Victorian Literature class one of the novels I read is by Wilkie Collins and is entitled The Woman in White.  It is a true, Gothic novel, and I was rather engrossed while reading it last night when I came across a quote that just seemed to me the post perfect ever.  And so I wanted to share it all with you.

Mr. Fairlie, a self-diagnosed sick man who keeps to his room and despises being depended upon has just been asked to be depended on.  His response?

"Nothing, in my opinion, sets the odious selfishness of mankind in such a repulsively vivid light, as the treatment, in all classes of society, which the Single people receive at the hands of the Married people... Husbands and wives talk of the cares of matrimony; and bachelors and spinsters bear them.... I am bound, in the harmless character of a single man, to relieve my married connexions of all their own troubles.  Poor single people!  Poor human nature!"

That first sentence was really what did me in.  My poor sister had to put up with me laughing throughout the night.  Although even she agreed that there was truth behind these statements.

What I find interesting is how little things change.  This novel is from the Victorian era and now 150 years later some of those same thoughts still exist.  Single people, especially in church settings, can still be treated like the outcasts of Christian society.  Why?  What is so wrong with us that married people will often abandon us at the drop of a hat?

All that being said, I thank God for the close friendships with my married friends that He has given me.  I have friends who still value my friendship despite my "position" in life (now I sound like I have been reading too much Austen).  He has truly blessed me in that capacity.

Well, this is a shorter post, I moreso just wanted to share those few lines with you all as they worked well to brighten my evening!  Anthropology is calling me now, and I must immerse myself in the foundations of Archaeology!

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Annal 63: Tale from the Drowned Rat

Have you ever seen a drowned, or at least soaking wet, rat?  I have not, but I have seen wet dogs that closely resemble rats, and as such feel justified in the title of this entry.  It rained all day yesterday, the result of which was a somewhat wet me waiting to catch the bus up to the university. 

A friend kindly pointed out to me that in British Literature the heroine always goes through some sort of an emotional journey, which ends up being symbolized by her travelling through the rain.  Just as she collapses, unable to go on any further, she is swooped up in the arms of some hero and taken to safety.  I don't know about you, but this sounds like a fantastic idea.  Sadly, I have never  been one to be allowed to follow the norms set about by literature, and so my story is slightly different. 

I have had a somewhat emotional journey, things which perhaps one day I will get into a little more, but for now suffice to say that my heart has been broken and has had to be mended.  Therefore I feel that I am about due for a symbolic walk in the rain.  I had this yesterday morning when I was making my way to the bus stop. 

Now, just when you think my hero should come riding in on his noble steed to save me and take me up to the university, a hero did come in.  But he wasn't on horseback.  He was driving a bus.  And he didn't swoop me into his arms, but instead opened the doors to the bus early so I could jump on and avoid being further soaked.  He even wished me a "Good morning."

Yeah, how's that for a romantic encounter?

I then had to walk home from the bus stop at the end of the day.  By the time I unlocked the door I was pretty wet, pretty dirty, and overrall not the most attractive creature on two legs.  How do the women in the BBC movies make getting caught in the rain look so good?  They have the perfect mix of vulnerability and not-running make-up.  It is no wonder men always want to rush to rescue them.

This morning I was reading in 1Peter 3 where Peter is describing the relationship between a husband and a wife.  He talks about how women should not focus on adorning their outer appearance, but instead on adorning their inner appearance.  He uses the term "imperishable beauty" (this is the the English Standard Version).  This got me thinking.

What does imperishable beauty look like?  Peter lists some examples, but I wondered what others thought about this.  What does beauty that doesn't wash away in the rain look like?

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Annal 62: Tale from Monster in the Basement

Blast you, Christian Victorian romance novels I read as a child!!!! 

Okay, I feel somewhat better now that I have gotten that out of my system. 

I am taking a Victorian Literature course this semester, and yesterday was the lecture where we are given an introduction to life in Victorian England, specifically gender roles as that is what the course will be dealing with.  Growing up I read Christian romances from just about every era, but I always wanted to live among the Victorians.  Beautiful gowns, balls, walks through gardens, afternoon teas... does it not sound simply delicious?  Alas, my bubble was burst last night.

Did you know that Victorian women were supposed to fit the idea of the "Angel in the House"?  They were supposed to never leave the home, but also do nothing productive beyond sewing, embroidering, and some reading.  Too much reading of intellectual works would render you too intelligent, while too much reading of scandalous works would leave you open to the temptations of the world.  You didn't cook or take care of your own children, and you never left the house unaccompanied.  In fact, you didn't even own a key to your own house.  When you did receive visitors, they were only allowed to stay for fifteen minutes, and you must never discuss anything controversial or philosophical.  All must be perfectly shallow.  Your job was to symbolize all that is pure and to remain untainted by the world.  This was because your husband was the provider.  In order to prove himself a true, Victorian male, he had to be able to go out in the world, live tainted by it, and provide for his family.  He needed his wife to remain pure so that she would anchor him to all that was good.

I don't think I would make a very good Victorian woman.  I like children (hence teaching), I enjoy baking and cooking (when mine and my sister's somewhat limited resources allow for it), and I definitely enjoy having a key to our home so that I can take off whenever I want.  I cross-stitch, but that is the extent of my sewing, and think I would go absolutely batty if I was expected to live my life in complete seclusion.  I have this horrible feeling that I would become the "Monster in the Basement" which Victorian society lived in such fear of.  This would be a woman that no one knew what to do with.

All this being said, it is probably a good thing I don't fit the Victorian ideal as I really wouldn't want to marry the ideal Victorian man either.  You know the saying "stiff upper lip"?  Yeah, that pretty much summarizes how men were supposed to live.  They were to show no emotion but to always portray a face of pure calm.  Nothing was to faze them.  Words and expression are somewhat important to me (I keep a blog... I figure this makes sense).  I have a really hard time if I don't know what another person is thinking, especially if I can tell that they are feeling off.  Stoicism doesn't really do it for me; I can't say as I find it very attractive.  Communicators?  Yeah, that's hot (at least for me).To be with someone who never talked, who never shared what was going on in their mind and their heart would drive me insane. 

Did I mention that insanity is another characteristic of women who would have been seen as monsters?

The moral of this tale?  Some Christian writers, especially those who do historical fiction, really need to make sure they research more than just clothing styles and the odd social custom when writing books.  Otherwise you have have girls, like me, who grow up engrossed in this romantic ideal that never fully existed.  So while my view of Victorian England has crumbled around me, at least I have realized that it was a good thing I never lived then, as I would have never belonged.

Side note:  there is a street near my home called Rochester Crescent.  Coincidence?  I think not!

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Annal 61: Tale from my Buddy Clive


Sometimes I like to pretend that I am more British than my several generations removed allow.  When such an urge comes upon me, I like to use words such as "Oi."  That being said, I also like to say "Huzzah" when cheering.  I suppose this means I am simply odd.

The reason for the "Oi" was simply my way of describing this passed week.  It has gone well, and I think I will enjoy my courses, but it has still been a week.  That being said, I think the tangent about being British will work as a nice little path as I discuss hanging out with a good friend of mine.  His name is Clive, though I prefer to call him Jack, but you may know him as C.S. Lewis.

For my birthday my cousin gave me a collection of Lewis' works as I have always wanted to read his writings.  I grew up on The Chronicles of Narnia and loved any quotations of his I read.  So I have spent the last... two weeks or so engrossed in this collection.  I am currently reading The Problem of Pain and last night had somewhat of a revelation.  I want to share with you a passage from it.  He is talking about suffering experienced by "good" people.

"Let me implore the reader to try to believe, if only for the moment, that God, who made these deserving people, may really be right when He thinks that their modest prosperity and the happiness of their children are not enough to make them blessed: that all this must fall from them in the end, and that if they have not learned to know Him they will be wretched.  And therefore He troubles them, warning them in advance of an insufficiency that one day they will have to discover... I call this Divine humility because it is a poor thing to strike our colours to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up 'our own' when it is no longer worth keeping.  If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer.  He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is 'nothing better' now to be had."

I was floored upon reading this.  Especially considering how it tied into another quotation a friend shared with me, from George Macdonald.  It says:

"My fit wages may be pain, sorrow, humiliation of soul: I stretch out my hands to receive them. Thy reward will be to lift me out of the mire of self-love, and bring me nearer to thyself and thy children: welcome, divinest of good things!"

I am fairly certain God has been trying to tell me something.

Last night I crawled into bed and couldn't fall asleep right away.  So I started praying.  I had already had one breakdown on God earlier in the day (I blame the stress of school), and while this was not a breakdown, it was the culmination of several weeks (perhaps even months) and thoughts and feelings.  I began to hand everything over to God.  My hopes, my dreams, my fears, my expectations... everything.  I handed over the things I was scared to hand over. 

I don't want to only turn to God when my life is in shambles.  I have been in that place before, and while He got me through it, I want to walk with Him in the good and not just the bad.  Whatever He has for me, even if it be pain or sorrow, I want to accept it because He knows that the things I hold onto will not be enough for me.  He knows that He is the only one who can satisfy. 

Sometimes I lose sight of this. 

Often times I lose sight of this.

My life is not my own.

While I think this lesson is important for everyone, I think that as singles it is especially so.  Especially as Christian singles.  Sometimes we lose hope.  People tell us to pray, to "just be content with God and then He'll bring you your special someone," and that "you are amazing; God will bring that person soon."  But for often than naught those words and phrases ring hollow.

Lord, remind me of Your truth.  That the things I place my hope in are not enough to make me blessed, or to make me happy.  Only You can do that, Father.

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Annal 60: Tale from Moving

Oi... I don't think any other word more accurately describes how I am feeling at this moment in time.  The last week has been spent packing, moving, driving back home, driving to a neighbouring city's airport, and then driving back to where I am now living.  I calculated it, and with highway driving alone, I have driven about 1250km since Saturday.  Needless to day, I was rather excited to hop on the bus this morning and have someone else cart me around.

My sister and I are almost fully moved into our basement suite now.  I finally finished unpacking my bedroom last night, and all that is left now is to hang up pictures on the walls.  I think we have managed to blend our styles fairly well.  We have a little table with a dish to keep our keys in, and standing watching over this dish is my sister's statue of Gollum.  We have posters from The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Wolverine hanging on the walls in our hallway, blended with my somewhat Victorian-era furniture.  Ecclectic?  I think so.  But so far it is working for us!

Last night we were invited to the movies by some friends, so we went to go see The Help.  I have not read the book, but I have to be honest, I haven't laughed that hard in a movie, or been so closely moved to tears, in a long time.  My personal favourite moment was when the main character's mother informs her that her eggs are dying.  The main character is only 23.

This did make me realize something though.  And this something may be brought to mind because I am getting reading to head to my class on witch hunts, thus reminding me of a previous blog entry.  Somethings don't change all that much.  In the movie, the heroine is not understood, or fully accepted, by her friends because she has gone to school, gotten a degree (and not a degree in getting a husband), and is single.  While I have never experienced anything as blatant as what she does, to this day, in some communities (but seemingly specifically in churches) this view is still held.  People just do not always know how to treat you when you do something "against the norm."

That being said, I must confess to loving being back at university.  This is the time where social divides seem to disappear, where there are no "cool" kids and as such, I feel like I belong.  I am surrounded by other people who are attaining degrees and preparing for careers, and so the emphasis on being single is not nearly as strong.  This is refreshing.

Does this change the desire to meet someone and settle down?  Heavens, no!  But when I am here, it almost feels like God's gift to me.  A reminder that perhaps I am not so strange, that my quirks are not so pronouned as to make me an  undesirable.  It suddenly becomes much easier to see aspects of my personality as His artistic works, and less the result of some strange mutation.

All of this being said, I must take myself off to class now, and shall continue mulling over my thoughts another day.

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Annal 59: Tale from an Autumn Day

Today truly felt like the first day of fall.  The sky was a dark, foreboding grey, the leaves are starting to turn, it rained, and there was a brisk feel about the air.  It was a day when one should stay inside by the fire, wrapped in a warm blanket, reading a book, and drinking tea.  Instead of doing this I chose to, along with two friends, take pictures for the day.  We visited another friend's property, and then went to the an old train platform for our photo shoot.

It was brilliant.

A day that started off leaving one melancholy, turned into a day of utter joy.

I love weather like this.  I always have.  Something about it stirs every creative impulse within me, convincing me to act upon it, typically through writing, although today that expression came through a camera (and was dependant upon others as I am no photographer).

The thing with weather like this is that it always fills me with longing.  I become convinced that there is so much more to life than what I am experiencing at that moment.  As if a veil exists that is just barely dividing me from something else.  As a child (and not so young child) this longing made me think of The Chronicles of Narnia.  Melancholy days would find me in my closet, searching for a way into another world.  As I grew older, I found that the wind through the trees seemed to whisper to my inner being, beckoning to me to come and dance among the trees to the song the wind was  composing.  Laugh if you will, but that feeling has yet to leave me.

While I fully believe that any creative pulse within me is God-given, I wonder to what purpose.  What good does dancing among the trees provide for humanity?  Is there really any purpose to it?

Other times I wonder if this is simply God's way of speaking to me, like the caress of the wind.  Is this longing within me to be caught up in nature's song simply my heart crying out to be near its Creator?  It is strange, but in these moments where my heart feels so unsatisfied and desires be loosed from its seeming constraints, I also feel closer to Him who created my heart.  It is as if my recognition that something is missing, that there is more than what I see, allows room for God to let me know He is present. 

And so I shall watch the trees sway to the wind's rhythm; I will close my eyes and listen to the sound of their song.  And as I witness creations worship of the Creator, I will allow my heart to be caught up in worship as well. 

Such is the life of a Christian single.