Monday, 31 December 2012

Annal 190: Tale from a Year in Review

 It's New Year's Eve.

And I haven't written in about three weeks.

I would apologize for this, except for that it has been a very full, very fun three weeks and I have been thoroughly enjoying myself :)

I spent a week with Charming in Ontario (and find myself more than ready for another visit... this long distance thing is not much fun), and while there was able to visit with some of my extended family.  The funeral for my cousin's son occurred while I was down there, but I was unable to physically make it there.

I met Charming's cat and managed to lure him into wanting to spend more time with me (there is something strangely satisfying about walking through the front door and watching as said cat walks right past Charming and instead comes to my arms).

After a week that went all too quickly, I returned home and have spent the last two weeks being fully immersed in my family.  We have played numerous games and had countless talks.  After more than a week of -40 weather and being couped up inside, the temperature has finally warmed and we are able to leave our house.

So that, in brief, is my last few weeks.  But that is not my focus for this post.

As I drove my mom to work today, we were talking about how things have changed in the last year.  And so I want to take some time to review all that has happened, to thank God for bringing me through it all, and to think about the coming new year.

So I started today by looking at the first post I had written in 2012.  It was detailing the beginnings of my reading Keller's The Meaning of Marriage (which I was actually given for Christmas this year), and talking about my thoughts on relationships. 

I had to laugh when I read the following post, Annal 110: Tale from Grace.  The whole post is not a laughing matter--it talks about the beginnings steps in my journey toward forgiveness for all that happened with my past church situation.  The reason I started to laugh is because of how that post started off.  It began with me stating that I had received the most wonderful piece of news ever, the news being that someone thought I was hot.

The reason I laugh is because that someone was Charming.

Apparently even then he was finding ways to wriggle his way into my emotions, no matter how unknowing I may have been :)

And right there I have what were probably the two greatest changes in my life over this last year.

As my dad, sister, and I went for a run yesterday (it was only -15), we ran past our old church.  What struck all three of us was first of all how we didn't miss it.  What really hit me was that I didn't feel this way in a bitter, grudge-holding sort of way.  Every so often I will feel a flare up of annoyance--somebody will say something that will stir up an old memory or emotion--but otherwise I can honestly say that God has helped me get past the hurt and the rejection that I felt from that entire situation.  I learned some incredibly important lessons about grace.  I learned to trust.  I learned that sometimes trusting God with a situation means you don't get the outcome you want, but that doesn't mean it is bad.  Maybe God could have given me the justice that I felt that I deserved, but what would that really give me other than some momentary satisfaction.  Instead, I have learned a little bit more what it truly means to forgive and be forgiven.  I also have a better idea now of what I want and desire in a church, of what I think is important.

Change number two involved the entrance of a Charming.  If you had've told me last January that all that transpired this last year would have transpired, I probably would have laughed in your face in a most unladylike manner.  When I wrote Annal 143: Tale from the Red Coat, I mentioned being flirted with.  Charming was one of those guys.  People kept asking me about this guy who was spamming my Facebook statuses and posts with comments, this guy who could banter with me like no other guy had been able to do.  And I just kept brushing it off.  "Oh, he's some guy I met at my cousin's wedding.  He's just a flirt."  At the beginning of May I wrote Annal 159: Tale from the Late Night Force Field.  God began a work on my heart, bringing me to a place where I was able to see all the ways He had protected my heart and could realize that He would continue to do so.  For the first time in my life, I could honestly say I was content with being single.  I was in a place where I was willing to wait.  Within a few weeks of reaching this point, Facebook spamming with Charming turned into Facebook messaging, which developed into texting, followed by Skyping, and before I knew it this guy was getting a plane ticket and coming out to see me for ten days.

I know that since the summer my writing has been sporadic at best.  This has been a year full of change.  It has also been a year of living in transition (I spent the first few months at school in Prince George, the summer months with my parents working, and the last few months in Burnaby going to school).  This has been a year of me realizing just how much I long for a little more stability.

While in Ontario, Charming's dad asked me where I classified as home.  I had to tell him I don't really have a place I call that.  The closest I come to having such a place is the Arctic where I spent my childhood, but while I would love to go back and visit there, I definitely wouldn't want to end up there.

Perhaps that has been the greatest lesson from this year and the one common factor in all the situations I have found myself in.  Despite everything God has remained constant.  He has smacked me upside the head when I needed it, He has wrapped in His arms and let me cry when I needed it, and He has woken me up to experience a morning in a fairy tale world (Annal 146).  He has proven to me over and over again that no matter what happens, He will not leave my side.  He even gives me relationship advice (there have been times when I will start to feel insecure and I can actually hear Him saying, "Now Jess, what about when Charming did this?  Or when he said that?  Do you really think you need to be insecure?").  He has shown Himself faithful.

In closing, I want to touch on my hopes for the new year.

Today I finished reading my book on the Heidelberg Catechism.  I have also been reading two other books, one on Worship from a Reformed Theology perspective, and The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson.  What has really struck me in each of these three books, is the focus on glorifying God.  All three have been discussing worship and have come to the same conclusion: it's not about the "worship experience" as Peterson calls it, but it is about being God-centred.  It is about glorifying Him, about keeping Him at the centre.  Kevin DeYoung states that "we should be, first of all, Christocentric, that is, centred on the cross of Christ.  Christ is our identity, our passion, and our hope."

In the Lord's Day 49, where the Catechism touches on the portion of the Lord's Prayer that says, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," DeYoung in his commentary makes a good point.  Here is what he says:

"The will of God is not our duty or drudgery.  It is our delight... and yet, it is a tortuous delight.  It requires struggle against sin and the fight of faith.  It means death, death, and more death.  It would seem easier for God to simply annihilate our wills and infuse our souls with His.  But that's not His way.  He prefers slow, glorious growth.  He doesn't want His will in us as much as He wants our will to be His.  He wants us to want what He wants, love what He loves, and hate what He hates."

Over the last year, God has not annihlated my will, but has instead taken me through a process of slow growth.  Justice was what I wanted, but instead I was shown the path of forgiveness.  While it wasn't what I wanted, I can only pray that because of that journey God was glorified in my life.  I didn't expect Charming, but I hope that my willingness to trust God let to Him being glorified.  My life is one of transition, where I feel like I have no home, as if I were a nomad.  Yet as I come to lean on the One who has proved Himself faithful, I hope I can glorify Him.

And that is my wish for the new year: I want to draw attention to my Creator and Saviour.  I want to live a life that is dedicated to and centred around Him.  I want to glorify Him.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Annal 189: Tale from the Snowfall

I'm not even sure how to begin today's post.  All week I have been thinking of the excitement I could portray to all of you about my upcoming break from school, my visit with Charming, my getting to see my family.  And of course Christmas.

But then Friday hit.

And it one swift move a part of me broke.

Tragedy has struck my family, and the result is that one of my cousin's sons is no longer with us.

And I don't know how to deal with this.

I have not been back to Ontario where most of my extended family is in almost fifteen years.  So I have never actually met this young man.  And maybe that is partly why my heart is breaking.  Because now I never will.

This morning I opened my curtains and discovered it was snowing.  There are some forboding skies and a very light dusting of snow that is kissing the tops of buildings and the ground.  It is beautiful.  And as I see the white covering all of the grey I am reminded that there is hope.  The grey of living up here will never disappear; it's part of the structure and design of my school.  But for now the snow brightens it... just a little.  I know it will melt soon and I will be stuck with my gloomy surroundings.  But eventually summer will come.  The grey won't disappear, but flowers will bloom and leaves will clothe the trees.

Honestly?  I have nothing else I can say right now.  All I can do is ask that you would keep my whole family in your prayers.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Annal 188: Tale from the Warcraft-Inspired Worship

I don't know when, I don't know how, I only know it happened.  At some point world views were altered and the stars aligned ever so slightly.

I have become "cool."

Yeah, I know you are all just as awed by this knowledge as I was.

It began on Monday afternoon.  I was being observed by my SA and this was the first lesson in a mini-unit I had completely designed (it was on descriptive/narrative writing).  When discussing the importance of incorporating all of your senses in writing, I described a scene from my own life.  Specifically, I described myself playing World of Warcraft.

Before I go any further I should probably insert that I was rather wary of doing this.  I didn't know these kids all that well and I had no idea what admitting such a fact would do to their view of me.  But I decided to be open and vulnerable and admitted that I played video games.

My reputation increased by about 1000 with my English 11 students.

This also led to a week where my students discovered other facts about me.  They learned that I love the Final Fantasy games but have also been known to break out The Sims 3 when I need some brainless activity to occupy my time.  They discovered that I love The Lord of the Rings and cried when Snape died in The Harry Potter books.  Upon the realization that I grew up in the arctic and a theme that has driven my life is "Stick together and don't jump in any big snow drifts," I pretty much moved into revered status in the classroom.

Maybe this just sounds like a whole lot of silliness to some of you.  But for me this is pretty huge.  I am a believer that learning takes place in a classroom where there is community, where there is a relationship between the teacher and the students that encourages trust and openness.  No, I don't believe in waving my dirty laundry in front of my students.  But I do believe that when they trust me and know me, they are more willing to try activities and lessons that I give them.  By the end of this week I didn't see a single cell phone out when giving a lesson.

This four week practicum has had some rough moments for me.  There were times when I wondered if teaching was what I was really called to do.  In the last week, however, I remembered just how much I love being in the classroom.  How much I love interacting with students.  I had a double observation on Thursday with both my SA and my FA and I cannot begin to describe how stressed I was about it.  By the end of the lesson I was convinced I had failed and that both of them would tell me to give up teaching.  That didn't happen.  My FA had nothing even remotely negative to say, and my SA had only one tiny piece of advice.  Otherwise they both thought the lesson went splendidly.

Believe it or not there is a reason I am telling you all this.

I spent the weekend with my brother and his family again (how can I say no to cuddles with the niece and nephew, decorating a Christmas tree, and a movie night out with my sister-in-law?), which means I went to church with them today.  To be honest, I found the sermon a little shallow (the pastor was talking about how we are called to love each other).  And then he came to his very last point.

He said that we love each other because it glorifies God.

The moment he said this, it was as if something clicked in my soul.

I thought of this past week, of the relationships I was developing with my class.  I thought of how it almost breaks my heart when I realize that I won't get to teach most of them next semester because they will be moving on to different classes.

I have only known them for three weeks, but the truth is I care about these kids.  I know each of them by name and I can't describe the pleasure I get from talking with them in the hallway, or watching them open up in a conversation with me.

I guess you could say I love these guys.

And today I realized that when I am in relationship with my students, when I care about them, I am glorifying God.

Sometimes it seems like so little.  Sometimes I think, "What's the point in building these relationships?  I'm only going to be around these guys for a few weeks."

Then I remember that I am created to worship.

When I am interacting with my students, I can't begin to describe how at peace I feel.  It's as if I'm fulfilling one of my purposes in life.

Today I realized that I am.

And so here's to World of Warcraft, and how it leads me to glorify my God.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Annal 187: Tale from the Army of Cuddling

My niece decided to write a song about me last night.

Or to put it correctly, she decided to rewrite a song about me.

It goes something along the lines of, "You're an auntie, in the army of cuddling."  Actually, she alternated between putting me in the army of cuddling and the army of kissing.  Apparently this means I'm open to cuddling and kissing anyone, or so this adorable five year old put it.

Last night was one of those nights where pretty much the greatest thing in the world is to be an aunt who is hanging out with her niece and nephew.  My brother and sister-in-law went out for dinner and a play last night, so when I finished my day of practicum I drove out that way to take care of the kiddies.  Along the drive my phone rang.  After putting it on speaker phone (of course), I answered.  It was my niece double-checking that I was still coming and wanting to know my ETA.  My nephew then came to the phone and told me that he loved me and that I had better make sure I pray to God that He keep me safe while driving.

What followed was an evening of legendary epicness (at least in the world of Auntie-dom).  After a supper of chicken fingers the three of us nestled in to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  And yes, I am referring to the "good" one that is narrated by Boris Karloff.  We then prepared a massive bowl of homemade popcorn and I made up hot chocolate for each of us.  Upon special request I brought my all-time favourite Christmas classic, Santa Claus is Coming to Town to watch.

(I do so love a man with facial hair).

Sadly, devastatingly so, I opened my DVD case to discover that the DVD was missing.  This was a pivotal moment in the evening: would we mope, drowning or sorrows in hot cocoa and pop corn or would auntie reach into her little bag and be able to pull out other options she had brought along?

It was the latter and the result of this decision is that my niece and nephew are now completely in love with Home Alone.

Oh yes, they were making this face and screaming all morning :)

The highlight of this great evening?  My nephew didn't want to leave my side and actually fell asleep in my arms while playing with my hair.  And my niece decided to sneak down the stairs this morning shortly before seven so that she could come and cuddle with me.

I had breakfast with my family, went to a craft fair with my sister-in-law, and then drove back to my home (pretending it was not pouring rain but instead snowing).  And now I am snuggled within the folds of a blanket while drinking coffee and snacking on the rather vast assortment of chocolate in my possession (hooray for care packages from Charming).

So why am I sharing all of this?

Because all I could think of today is how incredibly blessed I am.  I just finished the second week of my short practicum and it was great.  I was teaching this week too, and being in a classroom interacting with students was fantastic.  I discovered that ninth grade boys really enjoy talking with me, and the lovely cord that hangs from the front of my car for cold weather creates a mysterious aura about me to some of the eleventh grade boys I teach.

My dad came to town this week for a conference and I was able to meet up with him for dinner.  I haven't seen my parents in two and a half months so it was wonderful to get to spend a few hours with him.

It has been an exhausting semester with several "interesting" little hurdles that have enjoyed popping up along the way.  Yet God has brought me over them all (though not without my fair share of scraped knees).  And this week has just been one where it seems like God has given me reminder after reminder that I am loved (as I write this all I can feel is my nephews three year old arms around my neck as he says "I love you so much" while pressing his cheek against mine).

I realize this isn't something deep, philsophical, or life-changing.  But this week has been filled with moments where I have been reminded of who God is.  Not because anything "big" has happened, but because of things like my niece and nephew's excitement to spend a night with me, or because the street I drive to my school everyday is lined with trees that have been lit with white Christmas lights, or because I have been able to run underneath a starry sky.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Annal 186: Tale from the Phoenix

Something about the phoenix has always held a sort of allure for me.  Maybe it has to do with my strange fascination with various mythologies, or maybe it has to do with the fact that Albus Dumbledore had a phoenix and it was that bird that delivered the Sorting Hat to Harry, thus supplying him with the Sword of Gryffindor and aiding him to conquer the basilisk?  Who knows?  Regardless of the cause this allure exists (I had even talked with a fellow student last semester about getting phoenix tatoos... she did so, I did not).

The reason I mention this strange attraction has to do with my experience at church this morning.  I have been in this odd place when it comes to church and my devotions.  I long desperately for solidity, for truth I can really sink my teeth into and hold onto.  And I do feel like I am being fed like that, to a certain degree.  The issue is that I still feel as if I am lacking something.  I read things or hear things and while they make complete sense, they seem to lack that "clicking" feeling--that sense of resonation with my soul.

I was lucky enough to get a four-day weekend and even luckier to have my brother and sister-in-law drive into my city and pick me up to spend the weekend with them.  So this morning I went to church with them.  After the first few songs I finally had to stop.  I had figured out what was missing.

"Lord, touch my heart," became my prayer.  "Make me open."

I have said this before--I grew up in more charismatic churches.  As a result I grew up seeing a lot of dependence in these churches on emotionalism--something was an act of God only if it was accompanied by shouting, dancing, jumping up and down, or copious amounts of crying.  I don't resent this.  It has allowed me to crave the solidity I crave now, but has also created an appreciation within me for the more emotional side of following Christ.  To follow Jesus is a decision that encompasses your entire life, and thus your heart as well as your mind.  I have been in churches that tend to hover over particular sides: some are great at feeding your intellect while others dwell wholly on tapering to the emotions.

Today I saw how I had been leaning to one side in the hopes of feeding my whole.  It doesn't work that way.

Almost immediately after I prayed the above prayer, the music team started singing "Our God" by Chris Tomlin.  I love the words of the second verse of this song.

Into the darkness You shine,
Out of the ashes we rise,
There's no one like You,
None like You.

In order for a phoenix to be reborn, it must first die.  Once it has been burned up, a new life can form from the ashes.

As I have said in my last few blog posts, I sometimes tend to forget who God is.  I sometimes forget that He is the almighty Creator.  I sometimes forget that He made the ultimate sacrifice for me.  I sometimes forget who He is.

On Tuesday morning I went for a run.  It was one of the first clear days in a long time, and for the first time I was able to see the stars shining as I ran.  The only word to describe what came over me was awe.  It seemed as if my Creator had taken time to remind me of His greatness that morning.  I could have sworn those stars were shining just for me to see.

I also had my financial situation worked out.  My overaward was reversed and I was reassessed for this semester (which means they decided to give me more money).  I also just had the part of my student loan that had been deducted in September deposited into my student account.  My money situation wasn't just resolved... it seemed as if it worked out to be a miracle.

And yet sometimes I forget who God is.

This is where the chorus to "Our God" starts playing through my head.

Our God is greater,
Our God is stronger,
God, You are higher than any other.
Our God is healer,
Awesome in power,
Our God, Our God.

Sometimes life doesn't turn out smoothly.  Sometimes things are left unresolved and we don't get the answers we want.  I have never received the resolution I wanted to the whole situation with my old church.  But I have learned what it means to forgive and have learned to live with the truth that things don't always work out the way we want them to.  But that doesn't mean that God is not all-powerful and in control.  He worked that situation out, not in a way that made me "happy," but in a way that taught me more of who He is, that showed me His character, and that stretched me to grow more like Him.

And then there are situations where it seems like the miracles you wish for actually happen.  I needed a financial miracle in order to stay in school for next semester and I was able to receive it.  It seemed like I kept hitting road block after road block these last few months when it came to money.  I was tired of fighting.  I wanted to give up.

Then, in one movement, all of my road blocks were demolished.

Yet sometimes I still forget who God is.

I'm sitting here and all I want to do is weep.  I am truly an ungrateful wretch.

And then I see that image of the phoenix.  I think of the burning that is required before the bird can be reborn.  And it is not reborn into its full glory.  It still has to grow.

Burning aches and growing is painful, but both are needed to achieve maturation.

I know I am a wretch, but I also know of the amazing grace that has saved me.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Annal 185: Tale from the Relational Way

I'm currently in the process of threatening a cat I have only ever met via Skype.  This does not bode particularly well for my sanity, does it?

So this week I start the short practicum of my degree.  I get to spend the next four weeks with my SA getting to know the students and teaching a few English 11 classes.  I have spent the last week designing lessons on narrative writing based out of Lord of the Flies (which means I had to reread the novel... ugh).  After sending my first few lessons to my SA he responded with feedback so I have been spending this weekend revising them (in my head, anyway).  When not doing that I have been playing World of Warcraft with either my brother and sister-in-law, or my father (this would be why Charming refers to me as his "Geeky Girlfriend").  Oh, I have also made up some Christmas cards, watched cheezy Christmas movies, and looked into applying to the Ontario College of Teachers for when I move out that way next year.

All in all, I would say it has actually been a relative productive weekend.  But also relaxing, which is nice given the gnawing stress and tension in the pit of stomach with heading into my school!

This last week I spent a few days at home (by order of my FA--and yes, I know the acronyms are a little much... trying being in this program!), and spent some of that time working on the rough copy of my teaching credo which I will have to present in January at some point.  As student teachers our credos are our belief statements about education and are supposed to be driven by our passions.  For some people in my class, this is social justice while for others it is music.

At this moment in time, my driving statement is: "I believe in life-long learning based in thoughtful collaboration."  Sounds hokey, I know, but coming out with this point and several supporting statements has helped me realize something.

I like a lot of things.  I love to read and write or to act, and I thoroughly enjoy video games and music.  But I am passionate about meaningful relationships.  When I taught grade 5/6, my classroom became its own community and it was incredible.  I made so many mistakes that year, and if I could go back there would be so much I would change.  But I wouldn't change the relationships I was able to forge with my students.  They could be completely honest and transparent with me, and I could be quirky and honest with them.  Because of this relationship they were willing to learn from me.

Realizing this annoyed me a little at first.  See, there are two universities down here that offer Teacher Education programs.  The one focuses a fair bit on curriculum.  The other focuses on the students and on forging relationships that will allow you to understand how best they learn so that you can better help them understand the curriculum. 

I am in the latter of those two programs.  And it has a reputation for fluffiness.  I have spent most of this semester better understanding myself and how life has shaped me so that I can understand how similar forces shape my students.  I have done a lot of chalk pastel drawings and spent far more time in reflection that is probably healthy (yes, I am saying all of this with a touch of sarcasm in my voice).  And sometimes the fluffiness drives me nuts.  That's why, when I realized that relationships and community were the driving force behind my credo annoyed me because I felt like I was simply spouting off the program line.

By the end of this week I had started to respect that this was, indeed, my passion.  Then I read something interesting in my devotions today.  I finished The Everlasting Man by Chesterton last weekend and started on The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson this week.

I am almost done the first chapter which touches on how Jesus in the Way with reference to his temptations in the desert.  I want to share with you an excerpt that really struck me.

"Each of the devil's temptations has to do with the way that Jesus is the way, the way he will go about his work.  Will he reduce and depersonalize the way by imposing his will on the rocks, using them to provide for human needs, first taking care of himself and then feeding a lot of people?  Will he put on a circus spectacular, demonstrating the miraculous, ever-present providence of God to the people on the street by never dealing with them as persons?  Will he rule the world by means of a faceless bureaucracy, efficiently enacting justice and prosperity without getting his hands dirty?

"Jesus said no to each one in turn.  Jesus gave a definitive, Scripture-backed no to each temptations.  And why?  Because in each case it would have been an impersonal way, a way abstracted from relationships, a way disengaged from love, a way imposed from the ouside.  It would have been a way ripped out of the comprehensive story of salvation, and therefore ripped out of participation in people's lives... The way of Jesus is always exercised in personal ways... It is never an impersonal interference from the outside."

At another point, Peterson states that "Jesus is not interested in diverting us from life, but in revealing the "more" that is in life beyond what we can cobble together on our own, dimensions of beauty and challenge, depths of gladness, our mouths 'filled with laughter' (Psalms 126:2).  What is more impressive than the miracles that Jesus performed is that he performed so few of them... The way of Jesus is not a sequence of exceptions to the ordinary, but a way of living deeply and fully with the people here an dnow, in the place we find ourselves."

Jesus is passionate about relationships.

Today the pastor in the church I have decided to attend spoke on unity among Christians, about being united in purpose and caring for each other.

Sometimes I so utterly fail at this.  As passionate as I am about relationships, I still fail... a lot.  Like yesterday afternoon.  I went for a walk and was quickly turned around by the vast amounts of rain.  On my way back I passed a girl who was also making her way along the same path, only she was doing so on crutches.  Now I realize I couldn't have done much to help her aside from somehow carrying her and her crutches.  But I could have offered my umbrella.  And, to be honest, I felt like I should have.

But I didn't.

Instead, I kept right on walking because I was too embarassed to ask if she wanted to share my rather large umbrella.

And the rest of the way home I felt horrible.

But I didn't turn around.  Because that would have been even more embarassing.

I want to follow the Jesus Way.  And to do so, I need to follow the way Jesus did things.  Jesus cared about people.

I don't want just my career as a teacher to be a reflection of the ways of Jesus... I want every part of my life to be an image of that.  Even if it means stepping out of my comfort zone and offering my umbrella to a stranger.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Annal 184: Tale from the Reminder

Since Saturday I have started and restarted this particular post more times that I can count.  Each time it didn't seem like the write moment.  It was as if a hand was being held up and I was being told to "wait."  Story of my life, right?

As most of you who read my blog know, I had somewhat of a financial setback at the start of this semester due to a student loan overaward.  My family and friends have been incredibly gracious and have helped me out more than I could ever hope to explain.  But this semester has been tight.  And as of this last Friday I had a realization.

I can't afford school right now.

My program has an option known as Due Process.  This is where, due to financial problems or other issues that arise (like getting pregnant or something to that effect), you can take a semester off and then just finish a few months later.  On Saturday night I emailed my FA about taking this route.

This was probably one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make.  I felt like I was letting myself down, in a way like I was a failure (even though I know this is not true), and I hated the fact that it meant postponing living near Charming for an extra four or five months.  While, financially, this option would put me in a far better place, it was still a hard decision to make.

And my FA was not willing to let me make this choice until she had had a chance to fight for me.  She has spent the last few days emailing and calling around, trying to figure out what I could do to get this whole issue with my student loans figured out.  I wanted to tell her not to bother--even if they agreed to let me pay of my overaward at a later date I still wouldn't have enough money to pay for next semester.  Yesterday she sent me home from class so I could try to get in touch with people who could help me.  The result of this?  One person being away from their office, another person being in meetings all day, and the third never getting back to me.  By about four o'clock yesterday afternoon I was ready to email my FA and throw in the towel.  I appreciated her helping me fight and not wanting me to have to take a semester off, but this seemed like it was just one more roadblock and I was done fighting.

Shortly before sending this email I received a phone call from the financial aid office.  We had a lovely chat about my student loan situation and they offered for me to come in and call the loan office with them.  Turns out the overaward was from the year I took off from school to teach full-time.  I had applied for a loan, but then withdrew from classes.  Checking my bank records proved that I never did receive the money they are saying they gave me.

I just got back from that meeting.  Apparently the certificate/record from that year was deleted.  So they are recreating it for me and it looks like my overaward will be taken away.  Which means I shouldn't have to take a semester off.

It also means that there is the slightest possibility that the money I didn't get to receive this semester because they put it towards my overaward will be given back to me.

There is also the slightest chance that this will come to nothing and I will still have to go through with Due Process.  But that possibility is dwindling.

I learned something about myself through all of this.  When it comes to myself, I'm not a fighter.  I will fight if people go against those I love and care for.  But when I have to face my own odds that seem insurmountable, I don't like to cause ripples.  I'm not very confrontational.  But I wasn't allowed to do this in this situation.  People rose up to fight for me, and even though I wanted to give up, I couldn't.

Above all, I was reminded that I serve a God who is so much bigger than anything I could come up with.  He keeps throwing twists into my story that I don't see coming.  He did it with letting me teach for a year, with how he brought Charming into my life, and now He has done it with my finances.

Sometimes I forget who He is.

I guess you could say that today I got a healthy reminder!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Annal 183: Tale from some Monday Morning Mind-Blowing Imagery

I know.

Believe me, I know.

I wrote a post yesterday, and given my history over the last few months you should not be seeing a post on here until at least Saturday.

But it is Monday, the day after I wrote another blog entry, and I'm at it.

Class is starting after lunch today so that we can get some time to work on our group projects and my group isn't meeting for another two hours still, so I have time to reflect on some pretty incredibly imagery that I just came upon in my devotions this morning.

Maybe this is just me, but I have begun to notice a pattern with myself when reading non-fiction.  I tend to love the first little chunk of a book and gather great insight from it, and then for almost the rest of it find myself struggling to get through it.  Most times I can't even remember the point of the book, or the chapter I am working on.  Such was the case with Chesterton's The Everlasting Man.  When I started it over the summer I found quite a bit that struck me, but the last few months have seemed like trudging through the mud.

Something has begun to change over the last week.  Perhaps it is because I am drawing near to the conclusion of the book, or perhaps I am just in a different place, I don't know.  All I know is that I read some incredible descriptions of the death of Christ and felt like I just had to share it.  I finished the chapter "The Strangest Story in the World," and Chesterton painted the crucifixion in a light that I had never seen it.  He talks of how difficult, how impossible even, it is to add words to this part of the Gospel.  So rather than simply adding words, here is what he says.

"It is more within my powers, and here more immediately to my purpose, to point out that in that scene [the crucifixion] were symbolically gathered all the human forces that have been vaguely sketched in this story.  As kings and philosophers and the popular element had been symbolically present at his birth, so they were more practically concerned in his death; and with that we come face to face with the essential fact to be realized.  All the great groups stood about the Cross represent in one way or another the great historical truth of the time: that the world could not save itself.  Man could do no more... in the lightning flash of this incident, we see great Rome, the imperial republic, going downward under her Lucrectian doom.  Skepticism has eaten away even the confident sanity of the conquerors of the world.  He who is enthroned to say what is just can only ask: 'What is truth?'  So in that drama which decided the whole fate of antiquity, one of the central figures is fixed in what seems the reverse of his true role.  Rome was almost another name for responsibility.  Yet he stands forever as a sort of rocking statue of the irresponsible.  Man could do no more.  Even the practical had become the impracticable.  Standing between the pillars of his own judgment seat, a Roman had washed his hands of the world."

Man could do no more.

In the last two paragraphs of this chapter Chesterton drives this point home even more so.

"For in that second cavern [Christ's tomb] the whole of that great and glorious humanity which we call antiquity was gathered up and covered over; and in that place it was buried.  It was the end of a very great thing called human history--the history that was merely human.  The mythologies and the philosophies were buried there, the gods and the heroes and the sages.  In the great Roman phrase, they had lived.  But as they could only live, so they could only die; and they were dead.

"On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away.  In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night.  What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn."

I got shivers just typing that (and not just because I am freezing right now).

I don't think I have ever looked at the crucifixion of Christ in this light.  Chesterton has spent his book talking about the ways people have searched for truth and tried to make sense of their world.  And then he shows how in the coming of Christ this one great truth was revealed: no matter how hard man tries, he cannot save himself.

Man could do no more.

Like Chesterton, I really don't think I could add any more to this.  My words would be pointless.  So I leave this to your thoughts and reflections.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Annal 182: Tale from a Bowler Hat of Observations

I am currently sitting on an armchair watching my niece and nephew play wrestle with my nephew's bowler hat.  The hat that he informs me I don't wear "right" (silly hair... I should just chop it all off and then I could wear the aforementioned chapeau).  The two of them are giggling away, excitement building over the night ahead of us.  My brother and sister-in-law are making homemade pizza (actually, it was a group adventure of grating, chopping, and drinking pineapple juice), and once it is ready the five us will be nestling down in the living room for an evening of Avatar: The Last Airbender.  I'm pretty excited about this night :)

This last week has been wonderful.  I spent it at my practicum school which is a fantastic place.  The staff is incredibly welcoming and my SA (School Associate--the teacher overseeing my in my practicum) has a very similar personality and teaching style to me which I think will work well.  And several of the other student teachers are a little jealous because of my SA.

It was amazing to be in a school again.  I gained so many ideas for things to try in my own classroom, and I can hardly wait until my short practicum begins in two weeks.  Then I will get to spend four weeks in the school and will actually get to do some teaching.  Which I am nervous about, but I know the sooner I start the more comfortable I will feel.  I have the material for my first lesson and have to spend the the next two weeks reading The Lord of the Flies.  I had a wee bit of a shock when I realized just how many years had passed since I was in grade 11 and read that novel.

Words truly cannot begin to describe the peace that has flooded me this weekend.  The week had some rough moments of stress, what with being in my school and adjusting to those new surroundings.  I think one of my dreams perhaps best shows the strange mixture of excitement and stress that was my mind.

Take a moment and picture the following scene:

I have been put in prison (strangely, prison resembles my parents' lovely dining room... go figure).  This is no solitary confinement, however, for I have a prisonmate in the form of Samuel L. Jackson (not sure why he was in my dream, but in it he was).  The two of were given incredibly deadly, lethal looking blades and were to take part in a contest, the winner of which would be given a "Get out of Jail Free" card.  What was the contest, you may ask?  It was a leg-shaving contest.  Whichever of us could get the smoother shave on our legs would be the winner.  Samuel was pretty certain he would beat me.  He had been practicing.

I woke up before I discovered the better leg-shaverer.

Believe me, I have been trying to think of some deeply spiritual meaning that I could pull from this dream.  Sadly I've got nothing beyond the fact that I should continue to shave my legs everyday because I never know when such a skill will get me out of prison.

Yet despite the stress and anxiety, this week has ended with peace. 

This morning I read a few things during my devotions that really caught my attention.  In The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton, I am working through a chapter entitled "The Strangest Story in the World," by which he is referring to the story of Christ.  I am going to share a section with you that took my breath away.

"The primary thing that he [Christ] was going to do was die.  He was going to do other things equally definite and objective; we might almost say equally external and material.  But from first to last the most definite fact is that he is going to die... We are meant to feel that Death was the bride of Christ as Poverty was the bride of St. Francis.  We are meant to feel that his life was in that sense a sort of love affair with death, a romance of the pursuit of the ultimate sacrifice.  From the moment when the star goes up like a birthday rocket to the moment when the sun is extinguished like a funeral torch, the whole story moves on wings with the speed and direction of a drama, ending in an act beyond words.

"Therefore the story of Christ is the story of a journey, almost in the manner of a military march; certainly in the manner of the quest of a hero moving to his achievement or his doom."

After this, Chesteron goes on to compare the life of Christ with other epic tales or stories told of great philosophers.  He mentions Apollonius, the supposed "ideal philosopher" who, when brought before the judgment seat vanished through magic.  To this Chesterton replies:

"Jesus of Nazareth was less prudent in his miracles.  When Jesus was brought before the judgment seat of Pontius Pilate, he did not vanish.  It was the crisis and the goal; it was the hour and the power of darkness.  It was the supremely supernatural act, of all his miraculous life, that he did not vanish."

Reading these portions of the book I found myself taken back to this last winter and spring.  I recall the times when Christ revealed Himself to me as my Hero.  I remember how He pursued me, how loved He made me feel, the care and the time that He took for me, the way He made my world come alive.

And perhaps that is the best way to describe how I have felt these months since leaving school in the spring.  My world has seemed to lack that supernatural brightness.  I suppose I allowed myself to become less aware.  It was as if I had forgotten that, as the Heidelberg Catechism states, "Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God's commandments and of never having kept any of them, and even though I am still inclinded toward all evil, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, our of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me."

I have been having a hard time putting my finger on why this week seemed filled with just a little more peace.  Why, despite the stress and the worry, I could hear a Voice talking me through it all and I was able to listen to that Voice.  While doing my devotions this morning, I think I found my answer. 

I'm beginning to remember.  I'm not just looking back and thinking, "Oh wow, God really showed me some cool stuff," which I think was a bit of my problem this summer.  I kept looking back but  not allowing what happened then to affect me in the now.  I'm in a new situation right now, dealing with completely different things, but God has not changed.  He is taking the time to show me, yet again, that He is my Hero.  He is reminding me of all He has done, while showing me that He is not done teaching and leading me.  I suppose I just needed a little reminder of who of Hero really is.

This is my story.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Annal 181: Tale from a Rainy Run

Today was my first "real" rainy day here on the West coast.  I have been able to enjoy an incredibly fall with gorgeous weather, but after Thanksgiving the sunshine came to an end.  Clouds have been rolling in and today I actually got to use the lovely umbrella I was given for my birthday.  At this moment I'm sitting at my desk listening to the rain falling outside.  It's black out, so I can see nothing, but the world definitely sounds alive.

This has been a wonderful week.  I spent three days involved with some community organizations which gave me a chance to not only think about curriculum and how I could teach certain topics, but also allowed me to get to know other people in my module.  I even got to get a little crazy with them (there may or may not be video footage out there of me sailing a tugboat).  And then today I was able to actually be in my practicum school observing some high school English classes taught by my SA (School Advisor--he's the guy who gets to help me become what I hope will be a fantastic teacher).  He actually reminds me a lot of my oldest brother who is also a teacher, so I think it will work well being his student teacher.

Tonight didn't quite work out the way it was supposed to, but I am rolling with the punches.  See, I'm a small town driver, or a highway driver.  I'm not a city driver (or at least I have to drive a route a few times to really feel comfortable with it).  The reason I say this is because tonight I was supposed to head into the city to get together with people from my module.  We were all going to relax, recap our week, and just enjoy being together.  I was pretty gung-ho about this.

And then I kind of got lost.

Don't worry, this tends to happen to me.  I have become quite the expert at back-tracking :)

But the result is that I am now back at home.  On a Friday night. 

Sometimes I'm convinced I must truly be the most pathetic university student out there.  I go to bed early, get up early... I feel guilty leaving the house at eight in the morning because my housemates are all still in bed.  Someone in my module pointed out that I seem to be living as if in Charming's time zone.  Maybe there is some merit in that thought.  Or maybe I am just an old soul :)

This morning I went for a run in the rain.  It was as though overnight the world became fully immersed in fall.  The trees were a little more bare, the ground a little more clothed, and a slight mist hung about my surroundings.  Truly, it was breathtaking.

I have been working my way (very slowly I'm ashamed to say), through G.K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man.  There was one point I read today that I originally wanted to share with you all, but as I was slowly flipping through the book I came across a quotation I had underlined sometime over the summer.

Chesterton said, "Behind all these things is the fact that beauty and terror are very real things and related to a real spiritual world; and to touch them at all, even in doubt or fancy, is to stir the deep things of the soul."

As I ran this morning my soul was stirred.  To be honest, my route felt like something from a dream.  Only in my most vivid imaginings do I actually see branches adorned with red, or leaves the size of my face lying upon the ground.  Only in my imagination does mist rest upon pools of water and rain drops kiss my face as I run, unafraid of my early morning appearance.

This morning I believe God was telling me He loves me.  And after a week of trying to be more aware of Him, I kind of needed that.

Now to see what tomorrow's rainy run will hold ;)

This is my story.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Annal 180: Tale from a Zombie-Filled Thanksgiving

Being that I am Canadian I had the honour of celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend.  I travelled to my brother and sister-in-law's home about an hour away to spend the weekend with them and was also able to visit with my two sister who were there for the occasion as well as my sister-in-law's sister.  We had an incredibly full house, experienced incredibly full stomachs (mmm... pie....), and even though I am using a cliche I will say that I experienced a very full heart.

I also learned a few things about myself this weekend.

I discovered that my three year old nephew and I enjoy "drinking" each other's brains.

I discovered, thanks to the board game "Last Night on Earth," that in case of a zombie apocalypse I can beat back the undead hordes with my bare hands.  No need for shot guns or axes over here.

I discovered that trying to sing along to the cd in my car at 4am when driving my youngest sister to the airport is not a good idea.  I would love to blame it on the cold I have had for the past week... but the truth is I just shouldn't sing that early in the morning.

And I discovered, upon a beautiful walk to the market this morning, that I have been putting my life on hold.

More specifically, I have been putting God on hold.

This isn't a fun or easy conclusion to come to.  In truth, it is humbling beyond words.  Last year was a time of incredible growth for me, a time where I came to depend on God for everything.

This year has begun and I feel like all I am doing is trying to get through it.  I don't want to set down roots here.  I run at least four mornings a week.  I go to my program and get along fine with the people there.  Then I come home.  I hide out in my room and usually fall asleep between nine and nine-thirty.  Sometimes I visit with a good friend of mine here, sometimes I go to my brother's place for a weekend, and sometimes I have a Skype date with Charming.  My days are peppered with calls home to talk with my parents.  Once a week I have a phone date with my cousin.

This is my routine.

Routine is not bad.

But today I realized that I have been hiding behind this routine.  Hiding to extent where despite doing my devotions I have taken pretty much no time for God.  I stopped going for walks in the same capacity as I did last school year.  When I walk I am usually focused on something else.

I feel like I have closed myself off.  And I'm not sure why.

After dropping my sister off at the airport and making it back home just after seven this morning I went for a run.  I switched up my route and ran into the rising sun along a tree-lined road.  I listened to some worship music.  I came home, showered and unpacked, and then went for a walk.

And on this walk I finally confessed how I was feeling to God.

You see, I have been hiding and closing myself off, but I wasn't even admitting that to myself.

Through all of this I made another discovery.

I am incredibly blessed.

This year definitely has some trials.  But I am blessed.

I get to have family living just over an hour away.

I'm in an amazing program with people that I love visiting with and have the ability to develop some great friendships.

One of my dearest friends lives less than an hour away and I get to see her at least once a week.

I may be in a long distance relationship but I have a guy who actually thinks I'm special (and I guess I like him too).  And don't get me wrong, the distance REALLY sucks, but for now it means that I have a little more time to try and immerse myself into my life here.

I just got to spend a weekend hanging out with all but one of my siblings and with a niece and nephew whom I love (and who enjoy crawling into bed with me in the early hours of the morning).

I have a family that has done everything it can to support me this school year, especially given the surprises that have come my way.

Leave to God to use a zombie-filled Thanksgiving weekend to finally get through to me!

This is my story.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Annal 179: Tale from the Pumpkin Patch

I went to a pumkin patch yesterday.

It was a beautiful fall day, I wore my red coat, and I got to do all of this with a very good friend of mine and her adorable nephew.  I had forgotten how therapeutic it can be to hold a baby.  Something about cuddling, that feel of being needed and being able to at least somewhat fulfill that need, is incredibly comforting.  Prior to this I was able to play with this baby's three year old brother.  We built a lego house, played catch, and he taught me how to mow the lawn.  He also told my friend that I am from a movie.  And not just any movie, but a love story.  However, this is no ordinary love story.  It is a violent love story.

I had no idea ;)

I also discovered that the Winchester brothers from Supernatural were filming in my favourite little town out here this week.  And that they and the cast of Fringe were also filming in another nearby community.  Which led me to a decision.

When I die and these shows are filming a 50 year reunion episode or some such thing, I will happily dedicate my grave to be theirs' for the digging.

I suppose these are all indicators of the good week that I had.  I got a chance to do a group micro teaching assignment this week and was able to participate in a Terry Fox Run at the elementary school that houses my module.  While heading out for this run a grade three girl stopped in her tracks, turned, looked at me, and said, "You look really pretty."

Yeah, I pretty much died right there.

I have also been contacted by two old students in the last two weeks telling me they miss me and want me to come back to teach them.  Again, talk about a self-esteem boost.

I also purchased my plane ticket to fly out east to visit Charming in December.  72 sleeps until I leave (not that I'm counting or anything pathetic like that).

And at this moment I have my headphones plugged in and am listening to Michael Buble singing "All I Want for Christmas is You."

Today I tried out my first church too.  The last few weeks I have always been away visiting friends or family so I just went to church with them.  This was my first Sunday at home and so I decided to try out a church suggested to me by my pastors back in Prince George.

The church was huge (the sanctuary seats over 1000 people), much bigger than anything I have ever been to before.  My cynicism over church came out as I caught myself trying to pick out things that might irk me.

You know what?  Ultimately I just felt at peace while I was there.

Yes, it is a huge church and one that I will probably get lost in.  I know it has a really good young adults group, but trying to figure out how to get connected might be difficult.

And then you have the fact that I'm only here for a year.  I know I need to live like I actually live here, but when it comes to church it's hard.  Especially since this area is so huge and it takes ages to get anywhere (or so it seems to this smalltown, northern girl).  I came to the realization that what I really want in a church this year is a place where I can go on Sunday and I know that what I'm going to hear is solid teaching.  I'm so tired of leaving churches feeling angry or frustrated.  I'm tired of being cynical.  So when I sat down in this church and just felt a peace settle over me it was a welcome change.  Next week I am visiting my brother and his family for Thanksgiving (yay!!), but the week after that I think I will try this church out again.

So I had an interesting revelation over the last couple of weeks but haven't mentioned it because it sounds incredibly fluffy and I'm scared everyone will just laugh at me, or shake their heads and say something like, "There she goes again, attempting to be poetic."  But I'll share it anyway.

The first few weeks of this education program were spent getting to know who we are, what makes us tick, where we come from, and how all of these things influence us as teachers.  Most of it I just laughed inwardly at and tried not to puke.

But something hit me as I was drawing chalk pastel pictures about where I come from and writing poetry to go alone with it (yes, this is what I'm paying money to do).  The faculty member doing this with us kept driving home the geography of the places we come from and how it shapes us.

I began to think of all the places I have lived.  I thought of being a little girl in Ontario, running across the field behind our house as my brother shouted for me to "Run like the wind."  I thought of moving to the arctic where the wind chill made the temperature about -100 degrees Celsius.  Of living near the prairies or in the mountains where the winds nearly blow you off your feet (or off the roof where you are checking exhaust fans).

And then I thought of some of the posts I wrote last year.  Posts where I shared that the moments in nature when I most acutely felt God's love was in the moment when a breeze would stir, playing with my hair and caressing my face.

I never understood why such a thing would so greatly speak to me.  Why a breeze would be the perfect representation of God's love.

The answer came to me a few weeks ago.

It's because no matter where I lived and how diverse those places were, the wind was a constant for me.  Wind broke through every boundary.  It didn't care if I was living in Southern Ontario or if I was in my parka on the tundra.  The wind found me.

What better a representation of God's love?  I serve this incredible God who takes something that seems completely unrelated to His love, the wind, and uses it to wrap around my heart.

Sometimes He just amazes me.

This is my story.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Annal 178: Tale from the Park Bench

I actually started and published this post earlier today but after church, lunch, and a drive home from my brother and sister-in-law's place that may or may not have involved random periods of crying, I deleted said post and am starting afresh.  The first one was good as it helped me slowly piece together what I was feeling and identify (as much as was humanly possible), what was going on.

This week has been a great week.  Last weekend I got to explore Fort Langley where numerous television shows are filmed (like the show Once Upon a Time).

(This is me in front of what some of you might recognize as the Storybrooke Town Hall).

My youngest sister flew in on Tuesday and spent the week with me which was fantastic.  I got to spend a day in a school where grade eleven boys told me that weird girls are the best because not-weird girls are boring (hurray for the quirks!).  I am developing more friendships in my program (even discovered a girl whose boyfriend has the same name as Charming and the same strange affinity for cats).  Heck, I even walked into a parking meter on a relatively busy street in front of at least one-third of my module, proving to the world that my lack of coordination is something I will never grow out of.  We filmed short movies and I got a chance to let, for a little while anyway, my creative juices flow. 

To top it all off, I got to spend the weekend with my oldest brother and his family.  This means that Saturday morning I woke up to cuddles with my niece while this morning it was cuddles with my nephew.  We played games, I developed what is sure to become an obsession with the Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon show.  I played some World of Warcraft which mean even more cuddle time with my niece and nephew as they gave me advice on what to do (they are five and three, by the way).  I talked blogs with my brother who started his own a few weeks ago (which, by the way, I will post a link to if you are interested in reading up about various theorists and how he applies them to video games), and got to go to church with them this morning.

My point is, this has been an awesome week.  So why have I spent the weekend feeling like I would cry at the drop of a hat?  I can't even blame it on PMS.

I think I may have pinpointed my main problem, and it came from a reflection of a random event that occurred last night.  After dinner my youngest sister asked me to go outside with her because she found this lovely park bench covered in autumn leaves and she wanted to take my picture on it.

This morning, as I was reflecting upon my strange desire to want to cry, I thought of a picture I have.  It is up a park bench by a lamp post and I love it.

Five years ago God gave me a word.  I kept this word as the banner on my phone up until a year ago when I got a phone that didn't allow me to have banners.  As a result I have forgotten about it.

The word was Waiting.

Over the years it has come to mean numerous things to me, but as I reflect over the last few years I can see why God gave it to me.  No year has looked like the one before it.  No year has been spent in the same place/home.  Life has seemed like one period of transition after another.  One long period of waiting, you could say.

I was talking with my brother yesterday evening about a bit of this.  I feel like I am being pulled in multiple directions.  Part of me is here at school and part with my brother and his family an hour away.  Part of my heart is with my family back home, and part with my sister and friends that are in Prince George.  And then there is a part of my heart that is across the country.

And nothing kills me more than feeling like I'm useless.  Than knowing that someone is hurt, sad, exhausted, or lonely and knowing that there is nothing I can do to help them.  Like yesterday when Charming got in a bit of an accident (he's totally fine, by the way).  Because of my phone I didn't get the image he sent telling me about it and so I spent the afternoon with no idea of what he was going through.  When I finally found out I felt like the most useless person in the world.  There was nothing I could do to help.  I can't give my sister a hug when she needs it. 

My time has waiting has now brought me to a place where I am away from those I care about.  And this at times make me feel like my heart is in pieces.

But my Dad commented on my original post with a bit of information that has made me pause.  He told me that I have to live like each place is permanent or else the strain will be too much.  And he's right.  But it's hard because I don't want to treat this  year like it's permanent.  But I'm here.  And I'm enjoying myself here.  And I need to be here if I want to move on to the next period of my life.

It was interesting because part of what I read in my devotions tied in with what the sermon I heard this morning said.  Both dealt with the idea of the sovereignty of God (a subject that not a lot of people like to get into a discussion of).  The Lord's Day 10 in the book I'm reading about the Heidelberg Catechism discusses the first part of the Apostle's Creed and deals with who God the Father is.  It deals with providence/sovereignty.  I'm not going to get to heavily into this but I just want to mention the three things Kevin DeYoung about why we can take comfort in the idea of God's providence.

1. We can be patient when things go against us--God knows what He is doing with the pain in our lives.  Joseph's imprisonment, slavery in Egypt, and killing the Messiah were things that didn't make much sense at the time... but they do now.

2. We can be thankful when things go well--these point to the unmerited favour of God.

3. We can have confidence for the future--maybe all my worries will come true, but God will never be untrue.  He will lead me, listen to me, and I can rest in the knowledge that nothing is happening that He does not know about.

I may feel useless, but God is not.  I may be in transition and life may seem up-in-the-air, but God is constant and unchanging.  Things may happen that seem to make no sense to me (like not sleeping Tuesday night because of sharp stomach pains, a racing mind, and nightmares, or getting rear-ended, or only getting half of my student loan), but lots of things have happened in my past that have not made sense that only now can I see their purpose (my Mom's cancer or the events that led to my getting my Charming).

I'm loving being on an adventure, just hating some of the consequences of adventuring away from those I care about.  But I am here.  And God is here.  And He's got this whole thing covered.

This is my story.

*Also, here is the link to my brother's blog*

Friday, 14 September 2012

Annal 177: Tale from a Sleepy-Eyed Adventurer

It's Friday.

Pretty sure I just heard that collective exhale as everyone allows themselves to relax.  At least a little :)

I am exhausted.

Mainly mentally (this has been a week where we have discussed a lot of theoretical ideas in school and right now by brain feels like mush), but also physically (the joys of living in residence and dealing with people who have drank a little too much, campus security, and people who just like to stand outside of my townhouse talking at all hours of the night).  In fact I even had a little meltdown in my car yesterday (I hit a point where I just could not make getting stuck in traffic seem adventurous.  My imagination had apparently hit its limit).

But it is the weekend and I can feel my body beginning to relax as peace just seems to settle upon me.  And for all my exhaustion, it has been an amazing week. 

Take Saturday when I went and saw "The Taming of the Shrew" at the Shakespeare Festival.  This was a birthday present from a very dear friend of mine (we also ate at the aptly named "Juliet's Cafe").

I then got to spend the night with brother, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew which was utterly fantastic!  I got so many cuddles and just enjoyed being able to visit.  And I mean, who can argue with a very cute five year old girl coming down the stairs on Sunday morning and crawling onto the couch to snuggle with me until breakfast?

After lunch I was picked up by my friend and we made art projects at her house and drove through the most amazing smalltown ever.  Pretty sure I could happily spend my life on the mainstream of this town (but more to come of that in a later post... I get to explore said town on Sunday).

I spent two days getting to eat lunch on the quay in the community my module is based out of.  Sun bathed glory and the sound of water lapping against the shore?  Yes please!

I have made friends in my classes and actually have people to talk with.

My head is full to overflowing with ideas for teaching and I can hardly wait to be in a classroom!

This morning I discovered something in my Bible that I have never noticed before.  It was in Act 23:11.  Paul has been arrested and brought before the Jewish council.  After what has to be one of the most brilliant distraction tactics ever (he makes a statement that causes the Pharisees and Sadducees to argue with each other instead of with him) he is brought into the Roman barracks for protection.  Here is what the verse says:

"The following night the Lord stood by him and said, 'Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.'"

Did anyone else catch that?

"...the Lord stood by him."

Now I'm sure you could interpret this any number of ways.  Regardless of whether you think it was metaphorical or literal, it doesn't change the fact that the Lord was with Paul in a very real way.  I wonder how alone Paul felt leading up to this.  I know I tend to think of Paul as a guy who just isn't really phased by anything.

But this verse made me stop and think this morning.

Paul's life was one adventure after another.

But God never left his side.

No matter how insecure or inadequate Paul felt, he allowed God to use him.  In 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 he wrote,

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this [the 'thorn' in his flesh], that it should leave me.  But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamaities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Paul acknowledged his weaknesses.  But he didn't let them hold him back.  He knew that it was through his weakness that God could work.  I thought back to guys like Moses and Saul and their own battles with insecurity.  I thought of the battles they won and lost.

No matter what was going on with Paul, God was present.

I have had some moments this week.  Moments where I threw fits in my car or cried myself to sleep (not even close to as many of these moments as last week.)

And I can't believe how quickly I have forgotten that God is still present.  Sometimes I'm a real idiot.

So my focus this last week was to view whatever came my way as an adventure.  And for the most part I was able to rise to that challenge.

This week I have a new one.  This week I want to view whatever comes my way as an adventure... and I want to remember that I am not alone.  I want to remember that there is Someone else with me, and that He is the most important part of these adventures.

And I welcome you all to hold me accountable to this... because I know I need it!

This is my story.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Annal 176: Tale from some Rear-Ended Epicness

The sun was shining and I was in a good mood.  It was the third day of my program, I knew how to get to my destination and I was beginning to feel like I was getting into a groove.  I was only a few blocks from the school I was heading to when I had to stop at a red light.  There I was, chillin' at the red light, when I happened to glance in my rearview mirror.  I tensed.

There was a car coming straight for me at a speed that was not conducive for stopping.  I heard the brakes and definitely felt the impact.  I waited for the light to turn green, pulled through and pulled over to the side of the road. 

I felt sick.  Why God? was one of the first things to enter my mind (I have to be honest though... this entered my mind around the time a choice word left my mouth that I am not the proudest for having uttered).  I saw the vehicle that had rear-ended me pull over behind me.  I got out and slowly made my way around my poor car.  This was not my first accident.  This was not my fault.  I could do this.

I smiled at the woman as she got out of her car, horror all over her face, her nerves looking at tense as mine felt.

I looked at my bumper.

I looked at little harder.

How did that noise and that impact result in nothing more than a few scuff marks?  How did I not even get a dent?

I looked at the woman's car.  It was a little more scuffed and dented.  She apologized.  I told her not to worry about it.

As I drove the remaining few blocks to the school my body was buzzing with adrenaline.  Of course, this wore off mid-morning and I had a headache and some sore muscles for the rest of the day.

But otherwise I came out of it untouched.  I was alive.  My car works just fine and doesn't look worse for wear.  I didn't have to deal with insurance.  Life could continue normally.

Mind you, for the rest of yesterday and today everytime I look in my rearview mirror and a traffic light I start to panic.  My nerves tighten until the vehicle behind me has stopped... and isn't touching mine.

This got me thinking today about looking behind.  I have spent months living in reflection.  Months looking back at the lessons I have learned, on the ways that God has provided me.  And this is good.  It is good to remember.

But sometimes I get frozen in this state of looking back.  Sometimes I forget to look forward.

Today I got lost on my way to a new destination for class (this is my second time getting lost this week).  I took a wrong turn and discovered myself in Historic New Westminster (which was quite beautiful).  Yes this detour took some time out of my day, but I could still turn around and go back the other direction to the quay.  I could feel myself start to get frustrated as I was driving--frustrated that I had screwed up again, frustrated that the street I needed to turn on wasn't labeled, just frustrated.

Finally I had to stop.

I'm on an adventure.

I'm in unchartered territory.

I'm doing something I have never done before.

Will there be mistakes?  Sure.  Are they wrong?

Not always.

Sometimes my mistakes allow me to take in a historic downtown that I might not have explored before.

For my birthday a friend gave me a book entitled How to be an Explorer of the World.  This book is all about the way you view your world... seeing even the commonplace as an adventure.

Today I finally told myself to stop stressing.  To remember that I'm an explorer of the world, and this is my new world.  To take each step as an adventure.

It is good to look back.  It is important to look back.  But you need to look ahead too.  God has brought me through so much, but there is still so much to go through.  If I stay frozen in the past, and keep looking to relive things the way I did in past times, my adventures will be pitiful.  Instead, I need to put my hand in His and explore this new place that He has brought me too.  My time here is limited.  I don't want to waste it.

I had some amazing adventures this summer, from shoveling poop in a storage shed at work, to having crazy photoshoots with friends, to drastically improving my running ability, to learning how to scale ladders without fear, to falling for a guy named Charming.

But my adventures are not over yet.

This is my story.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Annal 175: Tale from my Cuddle Buddy

Thank God for dark chocolate covered macadamia nuts!  And Mog.

My sister went to Hawaii for two weeks before this school year started.  As she was gone over my birthday, she got me presents from her holiday.  For starters, there was an amazing apron is various shades of green (my favourite colour) and black (my favourite shade).  Then there were the chocolates.  For those times over the last couple of days when I have felt sanity fleeing or exhaustion settling in, popping one of those babies into my mouth seemed to make everything better.

And then there's Mog.  Mog is my bright and colourful sea turtle pillow that she gave me to brighten up my room.  See, it can get pretty gloomy here on the west coast, especially heading into the winter months.  So this pillow is perfectly bright.

Mog is also the perfect cuddle buddy.  I crawl onto my hard mattress at night, wrap my arms around him, and he just fits perfectly.  We have had lots of cuddle time over the last few days :)

(That would be Mog all nestled there on my bed).

Well, I have arrived at school and today was my first day of class/orientation.  So far over the last few days I have managed to almost not make my check-in time (construction made me late and so I arrived fifteen minutes before everything shut down... that would not have been fun), move into my room (the space on my bookcase tells me I could have packed far more books for the year), get someone ticketed (I had just received my parking spot, went to park, and someone was in it so I had to call security and then had the choice of having them ticketed or towed... this didn't make me feel like the greatest person in the world), spend a wonderful afternoon with a very good friend (she came to visit me and promised to take me to Shakespeare in the Park), discover that my room was missing its Ethernet cord so I couldn't access the internet (I'm a little concerned over how dependent I am on the internet), and I also got lost on my way to orientation today (at one point I had to pull over and call a friend so they could google map directions for me).

So it has been eventful :)

Today I went to the dollar store and bought a cheap Ethernet cord, though, so now I feel like I am connected to people again.  Which means I don't feel quite so lonely.

Yeah, I have been battling a bit of homesickness/loneliness the last couple of days.  I suppose I'm not used to not having the people I care about close to me.  Take away my internet and I felt about as secluded as a person could get! 

But I am doing better now.  And I am truly enjoying being up here.  I managed to score a room with a balcony (each townhouse has four housemates but only one of the rooms has a balcony... and I got it!).  My camping chair doesn't really fit out there, but I make it work, and today I sat out a read a couple of chapters in a Grisham novel I'm working on.  I even managed to get out and go for a short run before work this morning, which definitely helped to relieve a bit of stress.

One of my closest friends told me yesterday how adventurous she thinks I am.  I told her I don't really see it.  I see my stress, my worry, my loneliness... and I feel like a wimp, not an adventurer.  Then she pointed out the fact that I am attending a university that isn't all that close to the majority of my family and that is across the country from my boyfriend.  She said that sounded quite adventurous... and even brave.

I definitely don't feel brave.  I feel weak.  But then I remember that in those times when I am weak, God is able to fully prove His strength.  He has already been providing for me in amazing ways, ways I never would have anticipated.  He is still molding me and still making me into the woman He dreams of me being.  And all of these experiences, from the fun moments with friends to the moments where I have to call security to get someone out of my parking spot to the times where I am lost in a city I don't know, are experiences that build character.

Helen Keller said that "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."  While there are definitely times where I long for ease and quiet, I know it is these crazy times that develop my character.  And so I shall work to embrace those moments (never thought I would say that).

Because God is using them to mold me.

But for now I am going to curl up with Mog and get a good night's sleep.  All this character-building means I need my cuddle buddy :)

This is my story.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Annal 174: Tale from the Road

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say

Pretty sure this is the summation of my life right now.

Tonight is my last night before heading out to school.  I'm excited, nervous, scared... the whole shebang.  Part of me almost feels like I have slipped into student mode given my apparel at the moment (it is pretty obvious I'm not having a Skype date with Charming tonight).  I am bathed but haven't bothered with make-up.  All of my clothes except for a few outfits that are in the laundry are packed so I'm wearing jeans and a t-shirt (both of which are too big for me).  I'm sitting at my computer, bare feet propped up, a plate with pizza pops beside me.

And I'm doing everything in my power to not cry.

Today was my final shift as an electrician.  As my blog can attest to, I loved my job and the people I worked with.  Today I worked with the first year apprentice and my foreman, the same two guys I started with.  My morning began with my longest work run yet (we ran 8km at an average speed of about 11km/hr... I was pretty impressed with myself) and then I got to spend my day in the company of two guys who managed to make me feel like I belonged.  Like who I was was an okay person to be.  They even seemed to like me a little (my foreman told the big boss that they should hire me back next spring when I have a five week break in between semesters).

Okay, I am still managing to not cry.

I had to say good bye to my brother and sister-in-law as well today and my youngest sister came with me to run some final errands and pack the last of my belongings.  The children for which I am "The Babyhitter" stopped by with their mom (and my dear friend), to say good bye tonight as well.  They also gave me an Avengers lunch container (somehow school will go so much better with Captain America and Thor to gaze at) and a gift card for Starbucks (I can still drink good coffee while being a poor student)!

Tomorrow I begin the next leg of my journey.  And this part of the journey is completely unknown to me.  I have never lived where I am moving and have never attended this university.  After this year I am done school and begin a totally different adventure.

But this coming adventure scares me.  It is a great deal different than anything I am used to.  While I will be near some people I hold incredibly close, I will be away from others.  And that is hard.  I know it will be good, and I really am excited for it.  Tonight I am just going through another period of grieving as I leave behind that which I know for that which I don't.

In other words, tonight is the kind of night where all I want to do is curl up on the couch, shed a few tears, drink something hot, and be held.

Which reminds of a similar time not that long ago when I was leaving to come back for the summer.  I recall a night much like this one.  A night where my Father let me know He was present... that He was near... that He wasn't going anywhere despite the changes occurring in my life.

And I know that is true for me now.

So I will cling to the hope and excitement of this new adventure.  Of road tripping my way to the West Coast on my own (I will try to take lots of pictures and hopefully share some with the rest of you).

Here's to know that God will continue to guide and lead.  Here's to what has been an amazing summer full of surprises I never expected.  Here's to what I know will be a glorious new adventure full of new twists, turns, and lessons.

This is my story.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Annal 173: Tale from the Second Post in a Week

Wow... I'm writing my second post this week.  Given my track record over this summer this is a pretty huge thing.  I have just been mulling some thoughts over all day and find that writing them out on here works best (besides, I always enjoy seeing what others think about my mullings).

I'm currently working my way through the book Above All Earthly Powers: Christ in a Postmodern World by David F. Wells.  He chronicles the rise of postmodernism in North America (specifically the US), looks at the world views tied in with postmodernism, and then assesses the role of the church in this postmodern world (yes, I know I just used "postmodern" a lot in one sentence).  The book has been very interesting, but the last chapter has really started to delve into the role of the church, and this has gotten me interested.  At the end of the chapter he says:

"Thus it is that we have two diametrically opposed visions of life.  In the one, there is no center; in the other, there is and it is Christ.  In the one, life is but a succession of random events; in the other, lie is lived out under the sovereign rule of Christ.  In the one, we are alone in the cosmos; in the other, we are not.  In the one, salvation is humanly managed; in the other, it is divinely given.  Christianity best flourishes when the sharpness of these opposing visions is preserved, and it becomes sickened when it is not."

The next chapter begins with a quotation from Dietrich Bonhoeffer which I also want to share.

"Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church.  We are fighting today for costly grace.  Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks' wares.  The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices... Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."


I'm not going to lie, this is one of my peeves with the church (or rather, with some churches that I have attended).  The prosperity gospel and the making of the gospel what people term "palatable" bothers me.  Not only do they bother me, but I find that preaching both of them develops Christians who, when they reach a brick wall, will be crushed by it.  Christianity is no easy.  As Bonhoeffer said, it requires repentence, discipline, confession, discipleship... and most importantly, Christ.  When we lose sight of this, of the "diametrically opposed visions of life," Christianity becomes sickened.  This doesn't make it flourish.

When Charming was up visiting we were talking about youth and a focus on theology (this was when he mentioned the Heidelberg Catechism).  He has worked with youth for a while, and said one of his goals was to ground them, to help them know what they believe so that when they come across a brick wall it doesn't crush them.  When they hit a crisis of faith, they will have a foundation to stand upon.  I joked that when I hit my brick wall it did crush me... God just managed to help me crawl through the rubble and get to the other side.

Yesterday at church we were discussing what it means to be "citizens of Heaven" and to have our minds focused on "heavenly things."  We broke up into groups to discuss this and one of the things my group came up with had to do with looking at how Jesus lived.

Jesus loved.  But He didn't sugar coat things.  He forgave, but He also said "Go and sin no more."  He trained His disciples.  This didn't mean He coddled them.  He came down hard on the Pharisees, but that wasn't because He hated them.  He loved them and knew they could be so much more than what they were being. 

Jesus didn't offer cheap grace. 

This has been a summer of reflection for me, a summer where I have done a lot of looking back over the lessons God has taught me, the ways He has proved His love and faithfulness to me.

This last week as I prepare myself for school, I have started to look ahead.  I'm not content with what I have learned so far and I know there is so much more out there.  I don't want to settle into a pattern of living in the past.  I can never forget what God has done for me, but I also can't live only in those lessons.  He has laid a foundation, but I believe He also wants to build on that.  I want to live a life of costly grace.  Christ paid a price for me... I don't want to cheapify that.  Will it be easy?  No.  It will require discipline, repentance, confession, accountability... but will it be worth it?


This is my story.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Annal 172: Tale from Packing

As I write this post I am having trouble keeping my left eye open.  I am also having through seeing through the dried-out bleariness that are my contact lenses.  Both of these are a result of a half our nap I just woke up from.  See, yesterday was my monthly shift at the deli.  Which meant I started work at 4:30am (and thus awoke at 3:30am).  No big deal, right?  Except they asked me to come in again last night/this morning to help with trays.  So I got off work yesterday at 1 in the afternoon, went to an Alice in Wonderland themed birthday part for one of my faery godchildren, visited and played games with my brother and his family who were up visiting, slept intermittently for 2.5 hours, and headed back to the deli for midnight.  Where I made trays until 4 and then returned home to sleep for about 1.5 hours.  After this I said good bye to my visiting family, had breakfast, and headed over to my other brother's house to help him rip out drywall in his basement (I got to take apart light fixtures and figure out how to work his new smoke detectors since I'm the closest thing to an electrician my family has... scary thought, isn't it?).  Then it was home to shower and start packing, after which was church and then a return home where I found myself falling asleep while talking to Charming (I'm a horrible person, aren't I).

This week has been a busy week and I'm still not sure where the time went.  In six days I begin my trek back to school and I'm not sure if I'm more stressed or excited about it.  See, this past Monday was my birthday (which was wonderful as one of my dearest friends in the world left her children with her husband and came over for a 'sleepover'), and I got a letter that put a damper on some plans.  This letter had to do with my student loans.  I was informed that I because of an "overaward" they calculated that I owed from three years ago, I could not receive about half of my loan.  So I'm only getting half of the money I was eligible for and expecting.  So that came as a bit of a shock and has been something I have been trying to deal with all week.

I keep telling myself it will all work out.  I will get a part time job, or apply for a line of credit, or something like that.  I was actually having fun thinking of all the ways I could be frugal (living off of potato soup and toast).  Then I got a bit of a surprise today.

I went through some boxes of clothes as I began my packing today.  For my education program I am going to be spending a lot of time in classrooms, which means I need a wardrobe for that.  I was a little stressed out because a lot of my dress clothes from my year of teaching are looking pretty warn out and I just was not looking forward to having to spend money to buy new clothes.  As I went through these boxes, however, I discovered a few tops that I had bought over the years but never worn because I wasn't comfortable with how they looked on me.  Thanks to all of the running with my foreman this summer, I tried on these tops and they fit perfectly.  All of a sudden I have brand new clothes to wear and I didn't have to spend money on them :)

Maybe this sounds silly, but for me it meant the world.  It was just one way that God showed me He was looking out for me.  And on a day when I am physically exhausted and ready to cry at the drop of a hat because of this exhaustion (functioning on 5 sporadic hours of sleep over the last 39 hours), I don't think God could've found a more perfect way to say "I love you."

My life is changing and that is really starting to hit me now, especially since I started packing.  In a few short days I am driving myself off to school and that will begin the last year of my postsecondary education.  In less than a year I will be done my schooling and looking for work.  I have to meet new people, find a new church, and adjust to life farther away from my family.

And right now everything sees bigger than it really is.  I know this.  I know that after spending tonight sleeping in a real bed with no alarm set for the morning I will feel a hundred times better.  But for now I am mourning a bit of the life that I am leaving behind.

I know God will continue to take care of me.  I know He will continue to reveal Himself to me.  I'm looking forward to running through my new campus, the ocean and mountains providing the perfect environment to worship.  I'm looking forward to figuring out a new groove and I can hardly wait to see what God has to teach me.  I just hope I am willing to learn!

So I don't really know what the point of this post has been... I think I have just been attempting to sort through the thoughts and emotions that have been (I was going to say "scurrying" but that is much too mild of a word) forming a swirling vortex in my head.  So thank you for bearing with me and listening to this, even if it doesn't have much of a point!

This is my story.