Sunday, 29 April 2012

Annal 157: Tale from the Compliment

Last night I received what was one of the greatest compliments I have ever received.  I was at a birthday bbq for a friend and after eating a group of us made our way outside to the bonfire in the backyard.  While visiting a friend across the fire from me stopped, looked at me, and informed me (and all those around us) that in my red coat I looked like a character who had just stepped out of a novel.  That I belonged in, dare I say it, an Austen novel.  Another friend then remarked on how the wind was perfectly blowing my hair, adding to that image. Apparently I belong in Europe and not here.  After a horrible moment of realizing how hard it can be to take compliments (another friend finally looked at me and said, "That is one of the nicest things I have ever heard"), I accepted and thanked them for the compliment.

Now for some of you, that might not sound like much.  But for a woman who often identifies with Anne Elliot and longs for the relationship of Emma and Knightley, it was pretty much one of the most wonderful things I have ever been told.

I'm thinking that red coat may have been the greatest purchase of my life :)

I was also informed yesterday that I have beautiful hair and today that I looked really nice.  Both of these were from the mouth of a five year old.  A five year old I am taking on a date tonight.  First words I heard this morning after he ran through the house upon hearing me moving around upstairs were "We're going on a date!"  I went for a run this morning and had this little body thrown at me and the words, "You were gone so long!  I missed you!  Where were you?" were issued forth upon me.

And now I am sitting in the living room with my oldest nephew watching Kung Fu Panda after taking him to McDonalds for said "date."  If I ever find a man half as excited to go out with me as this little guy was today I will feel pretty darn special :)

Not only did I receive my acceptance letter into the program that I wanted (showing me where I will be living next year), but I also got my acceptance into residence there (meaning I will have somewhere to live).  Interesting tidbit about these residences: the university has many different residences but because of my status in life I qualify for  only one of them.  I am single and so cannot live in the family dwellings, but am also too old to live in all of the other ones.  This brought a chuckle to my lips when I discovered it.

I think the only word to really describe what I am feeling right now, and have been this week, is hope.  God has been so good to me.  I have lacked no opportunities to visit and touch base with people, I have been welcomed and accepted, but more than that I feel so excited about the future.  A year from this September and I will *hopefully* be working as a teacher.  I can go anywhere to do this, and I find that thrilling.  This adventure I like to call my life is taking a turn and the excitement building as a result is unbelievable!

But for now I shall enjoy my summer.  I will work, I will touch base with friends and hopefully develop some friendships further, and no doubt I will have many more dates with a little five year old who likes to say "Why do you need to do your make-up?  You are pretty."

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Annal 156: Tale from the Chapter

So before I come to the main point of this posting, let me fill you in on what the last few days have looked like for me, what with returning from school.  My oldest brother and his family are still up and visiting (it was quite a feeling to come back Saturday night to a VERY full dinner table.  Both of my brothers were present with their wives and both of my sisters with their boyfriends.  Plus my parents.  It was awesome!).  So yesterday I took my three year old nephew to McDonald's for a lunch date.  There is nothing quite having a little boy look adoringly at you and grow excited that he is going on a date with you.  And then today I took my niece to Tim Hortons for a timbit and coffee date.  She informed me that I am not only cool but also a rockstar.  And to think, I had no idea!

I also have a rather sore face above my upper lip.  My nephew thinks the coolest thing in the world is to pinch my lips together to give me a kiss.  Which is really cute!  But it also means that I have little scratches all above my lips from his fingernails.  Oh well!  C'est la vie!

I had a bit of a freak-out this morning though.  I got all settled in at the dining room table with my oldest brother as we were preparing to play so Warcraft III together (my other brother was going to come by later and play with us as well... because that is what cool siblings do... game together).  I went to open up my computer and got what my one brother dubbed "The Blue Screen of Doom."  My computer would not start.  Add this to the tension I have been feeling over not knowing what is happening with school next year and I'm sure you can imagine the emotional mess I was.

So after about five hours of running a system restore I came in late this afternoon to discover my computer had come back to me!  I think I may have to name it now... something truly epic. 

Which brings me to the main point of writing today.  After spending the afternoon relaxing in the backyard with the family around a fire I came inside.  I decided to take a bath in hopes of relaxing even more and forgetting the stress about school.  On my way to do this my phone went off, telling me I had a new email.  So I checked my email.

Drum roll, please.

I got accepted into the program I wanted to get into!!!!!!

It is an incredibly program and also a one year intensive one, which means that my next September I shall be loosed on unsuspecting teenagers!!!

All I keep thinking about is God's faithfulness.  How he has provided for me yet again.  How despite my uncertainty and my fear He has remained constant.  I am sad that a chapter of my life has come to a close, but I am also incredibly excited for this new one.  And while I may not know much about this new chapter, at least I know the setting!

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Annal 155: Tale from a Finish Line of Sorts

Yesterday I crossed a finish line of sorts.  You see, I went to the university and wrote this Geography exam.  The thing about this exam was that it was my last one for the semester.  Which means it was the last one for my degree.  Which means I finally have a Bachelor of Arts degree.

I left the university, walked out to my car, got in and suddenly found myself laughing and dancing from my seat.  This has felt like a long process.  This degree has been eight years in the making.  Some of those were years of full-time classes, some of part-time classes, and some where I worked ot save money.  There were hard times and not-so-hard times.  There were times when I laughed harder than I ever thought possible.  There were also times when I thought the tears would never stop.  At some points I was convinced I was never going to survive.  At other moments it seemed as if my joy was complete.

As I got in my car and drove away from the university, embarking on the four and a half hour drive back to my parents' place with a car full of boxes and suitcases I couldn't help but smile.  That which had seemed so far off, at times unattainable, was done.

Talking with a friend yesterday it really struck me just how faithful God has been.  All the times I thought I would fail, all the times I did fail, He was my strength.  He carried me.  He got me through.  In the morning I was lying on my couch, feeling overwhelmed.  The grief associated with leaving friends behind, studying for my final exam, and just playing the waiting game about which school will accept me for next year... all of it was building up.  As I rested my head against the back of the couch I had an image.  It was an image of my resting on the lap of my Father, His arms holding me close while He whispered to me, "It's going to be okay.  It's going to be okay."

And it is.  I look at all God has brought me through and I know that He will get me through the rest.  Will that make it easy?  No.  Will it be fun?  Probably not.  But He is faithful.  And He is good.  And thanks to Him I can officially sign my name with a BA at the end.  Thanks to Him I have crossed one of many finish lines.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Annal 154: Tale from the Cheesy Bread

I was robbed last night.

This robbery took place right under my watchful gaze too.

Worst of all was the fact that I smiled and laughed at it.

You see, my niece decided that I didn't really need to eat all of my cheesy bread for dinner last night... so she stole it off of my plate and ate it.  She's just lucky that I was so happy to see her I didn't care she was taking my food!

So my brother, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew spent the night last night.  They were travelling through on their way to see my parents (I will be joining them tomorrow when I am done my last exam).  I haven't seen my niece and nephew since August and I still cannot believe how much they have grown!  She will be five shortly here and he just turned three.  I got so many cuddles in the short period of time they were here... it was wonderful.  My niece and I even had a sleepover.  The three of us also had a pretty epic ninja battle in the hallway as they were leaving.  It looked like I was going to win until my nephew pulled his deadweight move (he just kind of sprawled out on top of me.  I was stuck).  After this he used his plastic ninja blade to brush my hair... and my teeth (that was a little odd).  My niece then took said blade, held it to my throat in a threatening manner, and then smiled and handed it over to me.

Talk about a lot of excitement for one morning!

While talking with my brother and sister-in-law last night, my niece misheard our conversation.  This resulted in her coming over to me and asking, "Auntie, do you have children?"  I answered in the negative which resulted in the most commonly asked question among kids: "Why?"  I gave her the answer I usually give young children: "Because I'm not married."

Well, she thought this was the most interesting thing ever.  She sidled up next to me and with a conspiratorial glint in her eyes whispered in my ear, "But who do you love?"

Is my not-quite five year old niece supposed to be asking her aunt things like that?  Is this what I get for allowing her to "read" my copy of Pride and Prejudice before she was a year old on my bathroom floor?  Is it because I was introducing her to Audrey Hepburn movies by the time she was a year and a half?  Is it because I let her steal my cheesy bread off my plate at dinner last night?

I tried to tell her that I love her.  She wasn't buying it but she did let the question drop.

I still smile when I think of the encounter.  You see, I love being an auntie.  I love having sleep-overs, going down the slide, and playing ninjas with the kids in my life.  I love the fact that kids don't just appreciate your imagination, but fully embrace it.  I love being woken up in the middle of the night by a little girl who just wants to cuddle.  I love waking up in the morning, sneaking down the hallway, and despite my crazy hair and pajamas there was a little guy who smiled big, cried "Auntie!" and ran into my arms for a hug.  The same little boy who thought it was fun to sit on my counter and help me make coffee.  The same kid who would give me a hug, crawl on my lap, and start stroking my hair (Oi!  I am such a sucker for that!). 

So is there any deep lesson from this blog?  No.  Just me acknowledging how I have been so blessed with the family that I have (even if they do steal my food and think it odd that I have no children!).

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Annal 153: Tale from the Comparison Game

Pretty sure we have all played the comparison game.  You know the one.  It's where you (ladies) look at another woman walking past you.  For about the five seconds that she is in your line of vision you do a thorough comparison between her and yourself.  She is so much skinnier than you are.  Her hair looks perfect while your own looks like it jumped out of the '80s.  She has a man on her arm gazing adoringly at her while you have no one.  She is beautiful.  You just... aren't.

Sometimes we play the game in reverse.  Sometimes you look at another woman and think how your butt is definitely smaller than hers.  Pretty sure your eyes are more striking.  You look skinnier than her.

It is a brutal game.  We do a number on our own self-esteems and learn to tear others apart to make ourselves feel better.  It's kind of like a gladiator arena of the mind.

I don't know if guys deal with this comparison game like women do.  Or if they do it is probably just to a different extent.

The fact is: we always compare where we are at with where others are at.

I'm incredibly guilty of this.  I do it in multiple areas of of my life.  For a long time I would compare how my relationship with God was with how others' relationships appeared to be.  As long as I "appeared" to be doing better than them I figured I was okay.  Or I would compare my single, still-in-school self with the women I knew who were several years younger than me and already married with children.  Or there is just the good old physical comparison.

It is a nasty, nasty cycle to get caught up in.

The other day I was reading in, shock of all shocks, The Hope of the Gospel, and MacDonald sad something interesting.  Here it is:

"...the doer of right grows better and humbler, and comes nearer to God's heart as nearer to his likeness; grows more capable of God's own blessedness, and of inheriting the kingdoms of heaven and earth.  To be made greater than one's fellows is the offered reward of hell, and involves no greatness; to be made greater than one's self, is the divine reward, and involves a real greatness.  A man might be set above all his fellows, to be but so much less than he was before; a man  cannot be raised a hair's-breadth above himself, without rising nearer to God."

When I went for a walk yesterday morning I was mulling this statement over in my mind.  At that time I was thinking of all the times I have tried to make myself greater than others, or at least on par with others, to feel better about myself.  I thought of the times I have compared myself to some of those closest to me: my family.  I had to come to a realization that I couldn't focus on trying to be like my siblings, or excel at something just a little bit better than they did.  What good would that do?  Would I be any greater?  No. 

This morning while getting ready I was thinking over a conversation I had with a friend about the comparison game. 

Why is it so hard for us to accept that we were created who we are, and that rather that trying to attain what someone else has we should instead be trying to rise nearer to God? 

I thought of the various things I have read in the Old Testament.  Of Saul who wanted to be great and ended up failing.  Of Joshua who wanted to be great before God.

I don't want to play the comparison game.  I want to realize that who I am is who God created me as.  I want to strive toward the ideal that He has in mind, not the ideal that I or society have in mind.

I want to be great in His eyes.

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Annal 152: Tale from the Boxes

For a single woman still attending school I have a whole lot of crap.

People have told me this (okay, my father has told me this every time he has to help me move), but I didn't really realize it until I started packing this time around.  I think I have had to purge about six boxes worth of things... at least.

Anyway, I am taking a break from packing because I am hoping that by writing this post I will get some clarity into my head.

My sister left today to visit her boyfriend's family and to see our family and she will be gone for a few days.  Now, I don't mind being alone; in fact, I relish solitude.  But today is a bit of a rough day.  I went for coffee with a friend this afternoon and had to say good-bye.  While I will still see her over the summer, it was hard to know that our weekly movie nights are done, or our random photo shoots.  I had lunch on Monday with other friends and had to say a few more good-byes.

A few posts ago I mentioned how I felt like God was closing a chapter in my life and beginning a new one.  I talked about the excitement I was feeling over it.  Today I think I am in mourning.

Purging boxes means that I have to go through everything in them and decide what to keep.  Some, like the pin my grade six French teacher gave me when I left the Arctic, were easy to throw away.  Others were easy but caused a lot of pain.  I found birthday cards from people that stirred up so many memories.  I remembered past church involvement, how during that time I received cards signed with "Love."  Which made me think of the pain and sorrow that accompanied leaving that church.  I found pictures students had drawn for me over the last seven years while I was working in schools.  I even found the amauti that my parents had had made for me when we were living in the North (this is a parka with a large hood.  Women would keep their babies in the hood because it would keep them warmer.  Mine was a five year old version that I could carry my dolls around in).

I have cried so many times today it isn't funny. 

I finished packing my room and moved into the kitchen.  As I started putting mixing bowls, tea towels, and wine glasses into boxes I was reminded of the instances behind each of their arrival in my possession.  Some were gifts when I had first moved out on my own.  Some were garage sale purchases with friends that I had once been incredibly close with and who I now have very little contact.  Before I knew it was I sitting on my kitchen floor and the tears were flowing again.

Trust me, I know this sounds incredibly pathetic.  In fact, I know it is pathetic.

I feel like a door is being shut.  I don't know what door that is, and maybe that is why I feel as if I am mourning.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still incredibly excited for whatever new adventure God has in store for me.  But I also feel like some part of my life is coming to an end.  And that is sad.

And so I shall pack some more boxes, cry some more tears, and smile at a few more memories.  I will push through this.  I will try to keep myself occupied (my home has truly never felt more empty and quiet than it does right now). 

But above all I will try to trust and hope that God has this whole adventure thing worked out.  He hasn't left me yet, and I know He isn't going to leave me.

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Annal 151: Tale from the Dream

I had a bit of a bad dream last night.

It wasn't as if the dream was horrible and gruesome.  Truth be told it simply involved a whole lot of darkness.  In it, my sister and I were wandering through our house and it was pitch black.  Something else was in the house with us, and while we could feel its movement, and sometimes catch glimpses of something blurring the dark, we had no idea what it was.  My sister was gripping my arm and kept freezing.  I was trying to move forward, trying to get to the entryway where there is always some measure of light, no matter how minute.  My sister was pinned to her spot and as I tried to move us forward something brushed in front of us.

This was when I woke up.

See, it doesn't actually sound all that frightening.  But you know that feeling when you wake up from a nightmare and you're scared to look around your dark room, scared of seeing something from your dream?  Try waking up with that sensation only you are also in the midst of packing so there are actually strange shapes EVERYWHERE in your room.

There are many things I remember from my childhood, but perhaps one of the ones that sticks with me the most (besides the family "rules" of: Stick together and don't jump in any big snowdrifts.  No drinking, no drugs, no smoking, no sex, and no ritual animal slaughters of any kind), is what to do in the case of nightmares.  Sometimes I would pull myself from my bed and rush to my parents room (I find I am a little old to do that now... and living on my own).  But usually I was too scared to do this.  Usually I felt frozen in my bed, not sure whether to keep my eyes open so that I wouldn't fall back asleep or to close them so that if something from my dream were to materialize I wouldn't have to see it.  But everytime I went to see my Mom she would pray with me.  She would pray me to fall back asleep, to have good dreams, and for God's peace to fill me up from the top of my head to the tips of my toes (I find that now when I pray for myself and others to have peace I use this same phrase).

And so I learned that when nightmares occurred, I could pray.  I could pray for peace.

Perhaps the most comforting thing for a child to know when they have a nightmare is that they can rush to their parents' room or call out and within moments there are arms around them, holding them tight.  My Mom has come rushing into my room more than once while I was growing up because I called out to her, too scared to get out of my bed.

But my parents left me with a legacy that I don't think I fully realized until I was thinking about my dream this morning.  They taught me to go straight to God when I woke up scared.

Last night I woke up and my heart was racing.  It sometimes seems silly that bad dreams will still have that effect on me (I'm an adult, I shouldn't have them anymore, right?).  What I find interesting though is that the first thing I do now in situations like this is to pray.  I pray for protection.  I pray for peace.

And you know that instant comfort that came as a child when your mom or dad would give you a hug, tell you everything was going to be okay, and then put you back to bed?  God has never failed to do that for me.  In the times when I feel like such a child, where I want to cry in the night, where I am scared, He is right there.  He wraps me in His peace and puts me back to bed.

I don't think I have ever been so grateful as I am right now for parents who taught me that in all things I could go to my Father.  Parents who comforted me while at the same time showing me that there was Another who could comfort me even more.

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Annal 150: Tale from the Door-Keepers

I'm supposed to be planning out essay questions for some finals.  But the one isn't until Monday night and the other Tuesday afternoon.  And it is only Friday.  And Friday morning at that.  I have plenty of time to worry about that stuff (can you tell I have yet to be bit by the motivation bug?). 

Most of my bedroom is packed up now, and all of my books are in boxes... which is a little sad for me.  I still don't know what is happening in September and packing tends to remind me that I am still in limbo.  At the same time I also find packing exhilarating.  The knowledge of a new adventure, that at some point I will be unpacking these boxes in a completely different location... and I do feel ready for adventure.  Although entering my bedroom is an adventure of its own.  There isn't really a spot to put all the boxes as my sister and I pack up, so mine are all in my room.  Which means that trying to get to my bed is the equivalent to scaling Mount Everest (not that I would really know since I have never scaled Mount Everest, but you get the picture).

Have I mentioned how much I love George MacDonald?  I was telling my cousin yesterday that normally I fall in love with literary characters--this time it is with an author.  A nineteenth century author.

I mean, check out that beard!  And the hair!  And let's not forget he was Scottish as well.  And he does have a rather nice pair of eyes.

But I digress :)

The point is I have never before read a writer whose words so stir my soul and seem to speak directly to me.  I have read plenty of authors, and have enjoyed them and learned from them and been inspired to grow by them.  But with MacDonald it is different.  I finish one book by him and I have to start another.  I start reading and have the most difficult time pulling myself away.

Anyway, today I was reading his chapter on sorrow in The Hope of the Gospel.  There are plenty of good quotations throughout this chapter but I want to share one from the very beginning with you.  He says:

"Still, I repeat, a man in sorrow is in general far nearer God than a man in joy.  Gladness may make a man forget his thanksgiving; misery drives him to his prayers.  For we are not yet, we are only becoming.  The endless day will at length dawn whose every throbbing moment will heave our hearts Godward; we shall scarce need to lift them up: now, there are two door-keepers to the house of prayer, and Sorrow is more on the alert to open than her grandson Joy."

I began to think of how true this is in life.  How often Joy arises from Sorrow but how in time I forget my thanksgiving.  It is in the sorrow, in the misery, in the grief, that my heart is more readily turned to God.  I think of the times I want to curse God in my sorrow.  The times in my grief that I yell at Him and blame Him.

MacDonald says something a little later that also rings true.

"Begin to love as God loves, and they grief will assuage; but for comfort wait his time.  What he will do for thee, he only knows."

When I grieve, when I am despairing, the last thing I want to do is remove myself from my own selfishness.  The last thing I want to do is love as God loves.

And yet that is what we are called to do.

This is not an easy thing to do.  It is not easy to love as God does when inside it feels like you are dying.  But then I am reminded of the quotation I shared with you in my last post.  I am reminded that when I choose to rise there is Someone who is more than willing to carry me when I am too weary to walk. 

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Annal 149: Tale from the Tempestuous Relationship

What has been one of my most passion-filled relationships has come to an end tonight.  To say I am sad for the tempest to have died down would be to lie.  This affair was not of a healthy sort.  My emotions were continually rising and falling.  One day all was sunny while the next I was stricken with fears of incompetence.

My relationship with Postcolonial Literature is over.

The exam is written.

No longer does the course haunt my every movement.

I am free.

True, I still have three exams to write, but this one is over and it was definitely my hardest :)

I also got a chance to visit my students from last year yesterday!!!!  It was one of the best moments ever!  I got so many hugs and smiles, and even some tears.  I had to perform the "Teacher Dance" (which is truly the lamest dance move in the world but for whatever reason my kids loved it... probably just the fact that I made a fool of myself).  They have grown so much in the last year... I couldn't believe it.  They, of course, told me I was getting more random and weird with age, to which I respond that weird people have way more fun.

Man, I miss teaching!  I can hardly wait to be done school and starting working.

Speaking of which, I am still waiting to hear back from schools about where to do my education degree next year.  If anyone wants to pray about the whole situation, prayers are definitely appreciated on this end!

I read something by MacDonald this morning that I wanted to share with you all, because I felt like it summarized perfectly this semester for me.  Here it is:

"There can be no good news for us men, except of uplifting love, and no one can be lifted up who will not rise. If God sought to raise his little ones without their consenting effort, they would drop from his foiled endeavour. He will carry us in his arms till we are able to walk; he will carry us in his arms when we are weary with walking; he will not carry us if we will not walk."
I keep trying to write a comment about this quotation and each time I end up erasing it.  I suppose MacDonald can speak for himself, but I am curious what others think of this.  I know it struck a chord with me.

Well, this Freed-from-Postcolonial-Literature gal is going to go and read... for fun... something that is not related to school!

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Annal 148: Tale from a Sun-Kissed Face

It has happened.  Again.

I thought I had at least another month but, alas, I was wrong.

I spent several hours outside today dispersed among three different walks.  I walked downtown with my mother and sisters this morning.  I took a leisurely stroll through a field and down residential streets with a dear friend in the early afternoon, and then walked across town and back in the late afternoon.  It was simply glorious.  The sun was shining and while there was a wind it seemed as if it was always blowing my hair back from my face in a rather romantic gesture.

A lack of romance arose after dinner when sitting in the living room with my dad and friend.  My hairline was a little itchy.  I noticed some bumps but thought nothing of it.  Then my nose itched.  My fingers found a few more bumps.  The skin around my collar bone began to itch.  By this point I knew what was happening and ran to the bathroom.

Sure enough I was looking a little red in places and was breaking out in hives.

Have I mentioned how much I love my sun allergy?

For those newer to the blog about four years ago I developed a mild sun allergy. In May or June, typically, as the weather warms up, my skin has to go through a slight adjustment period.  Last summer was so cold and the weather so inconsistent that this adjustment period did not end.  This year, because the weather has been so warm this early, apparently this period has started a little sooner than expected.  So tomorrow I shall have to go in search of some sunscreen.  I have always said that this time is the closest I ever feel to being a vampire!

Hives aside, this Easter weekend has been incredible.  Sunday morning I went for a walk.  The sun was shining and the breeze carried with it a sense of the fantastic.  I came across a field and before I knew it I was running to its centre and spinning, arms outstretched to the heavens.

For a moment in time it was as if the world of fantasy that I have always loved merged with my reality.

I was reading in The Hope of the Gospel this morning and something George Macdonald wrote struck a chord within me.  He said, "The child sees things as the Father means him to see them, as he thought of them when he uttered them.  For God is not only the father of the child, but of the childhood that constitutes him a child, therefore the childness is of the divine nature."

Reading Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia or Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings has always stirred a longing in me for worlds such as those, for adventures of epic proportions.  They cause a longing for eternity within me while at the same time creating a realization that I do not live in Middle Earth or Narnia.  This can often lead to a sort of despair.

Yesterday morning it was as if I caught a glimpse of the world as God meant for it to be... of the world He thought of when He uttered the words to create it.  Colours were brighter, sounds clearer, smiles truer.  While the longing for eternity is still there I also discovered a hint of the existence one could have here... now.

Last night my sister and I were discussing views of the world and how the choices people make impact how they see the world.  Life is brutal, ugly, hurtful... this is true.  Yet it is also beautiful and hopeful.

I want to make the choice to view life through the lens of a child... to see this world as God intended it.  This does not mean that I want to live a life only seeing "happy" things.  Winter rested in Narnia and evil overtook it.  All hope appeared to be lost in Middle Earth.  But maybe if I allow God to show me what He sees, I can show His love and His hope to others.  Maybe I can be that warrior princess with the sun-kissed face and flowing hair in a way that had never occurred to me before.  Maybe God's story and His adventure are far grander than any epic dreamt by human mind.

He is, after all, the greatest Storyteller.  And I want my life, this story He has placed me in, to bring such glory to its Author that none will be able to deny His power and ability.

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Annal 147: Tale from Ghouls and Babies

Quote of the evening goes to the movie Face Off: "If you dress like Halloween, ghouls are going to try to get in your pants." 

Thank-you, John Travolta.

So my sister and I made it to our parents' place yesterday right around lunch.  The drive was gorgeous.  For the first hour and a half my sister and her boyfriend were sleeping, so I drove through the mist-strewn mountains while listening to instrumental music from The Hunger Games.  I'm not a speeder when I drive, but I always find myself on the look-out for police cars... and EVERY vehicle looks like a shadow car.  I blame this paranoia on an experience from when I was sixteen and I found myself in a rather rough area of a rather large city with three other teenaged girls.  Before I knew what was happening I was running from some police officers.  But that is a tale for another day ;)

Late this morning and early this afternoon a group of friends got together to celebrate the birth of a good friend's little boy.  He was born in February but as I was at school they graciously held off the shower until I could come back.  It was a fantastic time.  Our group was comprised of seven and ranged from my mother, to four married women with young children, to myself and one other single woman.

I find baby showers enthralling.  You listen to the stories women have to tell about all sorts of things and before you know it you find yourself joking about becoming a wet nurse to put away a little extra money for the summer.  My friends thought this was a fantastic idea as they figured this would entitle them to some holiday time :)

The truth is I found myself feeling incredibly blessed today.  I was surrounded by women I care a great deal for and who also care for me.  We are at different places in life yet none of that mattered.  Being a single woman, particularly the single woman who is away for a good chunk of the year at school, simply means that I am entitled to more cuddling time with the numerous babies who were present!  As I have said before, it also puts me in the role of a faery godmother.  I get to be the eccentric "aunt" who buys classic novels for newborns (this little guy received The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn).

I was also reminded of what God has brought me through.  As I gazed around the table at this intimate group of friends I saw friendships that had almost disappeared due to hurts and misunderstandings, and yet to which came healing.  I saw childhood friends who I was able to grow up with.  There were newer friends, people who came into my life at various times, who have been constant sources of comfort and encouragement.

What I find interesting is that as I try to give to God the love that is His, He showers even more of His love upon me.  Sometimes it is in the mist that shrouds the trees as I drive through a mountain pass.  Othertimes it is in the smiles of friends as we celebrate new life.  Still other times it is in the drool of babies as they cuddle close.

But I realized something else at this baby shower.

Life is changing.  Some friends are settling into life with two kids, other friends are moving away.  I feel like this coming summer is going to represent the end of an era for me.  My life is changing as well.  I have no idea where I will be in five months time.  In less than 18 months I could be done all of my schooling and settling into a completely new place, beginning a brand new adventure.

Yet despite all of the changes, despite the ending of some adventures and the dawning of others, I am reminded of the unchanging nature of God.  I am reminded that no matter where I end up, no matter what happens, there is One who will never change.  I can place my hand in His and know that come hell or high water, I can trust Him.

So here's to friendships, old adventures, new adventures, and the One who remains constant and true.

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Annal 146: Tale from the Fairy Tale

This morning I awoke within the realm of the fairy tale.

This isn't even typical over-exaggeration like you have probably come to expect from me.  I'm still convinced that when my eyes opened this morning I was in such a tale.

Yesterday was a glorious day.  Besides the experience that I shared with you all, I finished reading Phantastes by George Macdonald and so went for a walk before catching the bus up to the university for my second-last class of the semester.  There is a song sung by an old woman with young eyes (I am convinced that when age has weathered me I still want my eyes to remain young) in Macdonald's book.  It goes like this:

Better to sit at the water's birth,
Than a sea of waves to win;
To live in the love that floweth forth,
Than the love that cometh in.

Be thy heart a well of love, my child,
Flowing, and free, and sure;
For a cistern of love, though undefiled,
Keeps not the spirit pure.

That song stuck with me for my walk as I discussed it, among many other things, with God.  It seemed to tie in with my earlier experience of worship.  I realized that I had been on the receiving end of God's love consistently--this is not a bad thing.  But simply living in a moment of storing up that love is not enough.  I need to show that love.  Give that love.  So yesterday I started by returning that love to God.  It was amazing.

Despite all of this I was feeling somewhat ill by that night.  I ended up staying in all night and went to bed around ten-thirty.  I still awoke throughout the night, but when I was sleeping it was the slumber of true restfulness.  When I awoke this morning it seemed like I was Sleeping Beauty, awakened by True Love's kiss--I was ready.

Then came the truly Fairy Tale-esque moment.  As I stretched in bed, my eyes still closed, I heard a faint sound.  It persisted and then began to develop.

There were birds singing somewhere outside my window.

It was as if a magic spell had woven itself around my heart and I could not remain in bed any longer.  I nearly hopped from my bed and rushed to get ready.  In almost no time at all I and my red coat headed out for a morning walk.

It was crisp but the sun was shining and the song of the birds followed me throughout the entirety of my walk.  The sky was that spring shade of blue, not as deep as it is in the summer but lacking the frosty edge of winter.

This is no secret I am revealing to you: I am a hopeless romantic.  Words, poetry, fairy stories... they all speak to an inner part of my being.  What I discovered today is that I am not the only hopeless romantic.  God is too.

All morning I have felt like the maiden of a tale being pursued by a Knight so faithful and so true.  A Knight at whose command the birds sing and the sun shines.  A Knight whose hands envelop my heart, holding it safe and keeping it warm.

As I returned home from my adventure I found myself dancing along the walkway to my entrance.  For one brief moment I was transported to another place where I was instead dancing across stepping stones in a creek.  Even now, wrapped within the folds of a blanket and typing this message I am convinced that I am still within the fairy tale.

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Annal 145: Tale from the Call

I received a call today, but not the sort that you are probably thinking of.

Last night was another rough night.  Not with dreams so much, but just with tossing, turning, and an overall restlessness.  I woke up frustrated this morning.  My stress has drastically diminished--it makes no sense to me why I am having so much trouble sleeping.  I ended up not going to my women's Bible study group this morning since when my alarm went off my head felt as if it weighed about three times more than usual.

So I got up, made myself as presentable as I could, and took my car for an oil change.  I then walked home, cleaned the kitchen, had breakfast, did my devotions, and then started cleaning the bathroom.

The call came while I was eating and doing my devotions.

This call was not of the variety that involved my cell phone.  This call was a stirring deep within that I have not felt to such an extreme in a very long time.

I have felt a little unsettled today.  I honestly have no idea why, especially because of the peace I experienced yesterday.  This left me feeling completely boggled.  I was reading a bit in Gospel Wakefulness and also started The Hope of the Gospel by George Macdonald.  At the back of mind was the knowledge that I was unsettled, but I kept trying to push it away.  I guess I figured if I tried to ignore the feeling it would disappear.  I have worked with kids for many years--I should know by now that ignoring only makes it more prominent.

While reading it seemed as if one word was being imprinted on my mind, my heart... my very being.  This was the call I received.

The word was Worship.

When at my parents' home with their piano I love to play and sing.  When I do this it is as if something within me connects straight to God.  Everything feels aligned.

I don't have a piano here.  And I rarely just start singing when I am alone.  But today I experienced an urgency to worship like never before.  So I took my computer into the bathroom and played some music while I was cleaning.  In a post from last year I shared a song by the group Fee called "Everything Falls" with all of you.  I started off listening to it and singing along.  The song reminded me of the various things that have happened this year--of how life seemed to be falling apart.  I thought of the church issues, my mom getting fired, adjusting to being back in school, issues with identity, and the long road to forgiveness.  And I was reminded of how through it all God was there.  The chorus sums up the ways that God got me through. 

"When everything falls apart,
Your arms hold me together.
When everything falls apart,
You're the only hope for this heart.
When everything falls apart,
My strength is gone,
I find You mighty and strong,
You keep holding on,
You keep holding on."

This was good.  It caused me to reflect. I thanked God and finished cleaning the bathroom while singing along. Then I started carrying my computer back to the living room.  While doing so another song started to play.  It was by the same band and called "We Crown You."  There is more to the song than what I included below, but this was the part that really struck me.

[Verse 1]
All hail the power of Jesus' name
The wonders of his grace, our Saviour
All bow before the King of love
Our Treasure and our God, Redeemer

There is none more holy, great, and mighty
No one like our God

King of Kings and God of grace (We crown you, we crown you)
Our Redeemer strong to save (We crown you, we crown you)
High and holy lifted up
There is none more worthy Lord
We crown You Lord of all

I sat on the couch and was all of a sudden overcome by this song.  Every word seemed to ring within.  An intensity built in my chest until before I knew it I was driven from the couch and found myself on my knees, crying, singing, worshipping.

That was when I understood the call.

I have thanked God.  I have been in awe of Him.  But in that moment I was struck by His holiness, His greatness, and His grace.  There is no one who is more holy, more great, and more mighty than God.  No one.  And I couldn't remember the last time I stilled myself before Him and just gave Him all of my focus, my energy, and my mind.

God has spent so much time showing me who He has made me to be.  And despite all I have learned and all the ways that He has left me in awe of Him, I honestly could not remember the last time I just stopped and focused on who He is.  Not just on what He has done for me, but on who He is.  Everything else has somehow incorporated a focus on myself.  I'm not saying this is bad, I'm just saying that one also needs to focus on God for who He is.  For there is none more holy, great, and mighty.  There is none like Him.

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Annal 144: Tale from a Much-Deserved Starbucks

For the record I haven't actually received the much-deserved Starbucks that I put in my title.  But I will be getting it in a little over an hour and believe me... it has been hard-earned.  Why, you may ask?  Allow me to tell.

As of today I finished the final essay of my Bachelor's degree.  And by finished it, I mean edited it, put together my Works Cited page, and will never read it over again. 

Words cannot begin to describe the relief that I am feeling.  I woke up this morning feeling sick to my stomach.  Part of this had to do with a horrible sleep.  I'm not sure what has happened this semester to make me such a light sleeper, but I woke up a couple of times and each time I woke up had trouble falling back asleep.  I would lie in bed for a good half-hour or so with my mind racing.  I almost got up at 4:30 for good.  Of course, at the same time I was sleepless I was also dealing with some disconcerting dreams that were intermingled with good dreams.  The disconcerting ones just gradually became more and more creepy as my night progressed, almost like a replay of the same dream but each time it became more intense.  By the time my alarm went off at six my heart was racing and didn't really calm down until I climbed on the bus over an hour later.

Add to that the fact that I had set aside today for editing this final paper, the roughest and least favourite of all my papers, and I barely held down my breakfast.

But none of that matters anymore.  Because the paper is done.  And in just over an hour I will be running to Starbucks with a friend :)

Despite the stress and the unsettling dreams I cannot begin to describe to you the peace that I have felt through it all today.  Do you ever have those moments where it just seems like you are more aware of God's presence?  Like when I finished my paper I could have sworn I my heart heard a "Well done.  I knew you could do it."  I have consistently felt as if His hand has been in mine today, as if He has repeated to me over and over, "I haven't forgotten you.  I see you.  I love you.  I've got your hand."

I serve a good God.  Sometimes I question His goodness.  Sometimes I could swear that He is mocking me, that He doesn't care, that He is standing in the distance watching me nonchalantly, unconcerned with me.  But despite everything He has brought me through this schoolyear.  I don't know what next year is going to hold for me with schooling, but I know that no matter what it brings He isn't going to abandon me.  And yes, should next year find me lamenting my lot in life I give you all permission to remind me of this posting :)

I am amazed at what God has done.  At who He is.  At the ways He has proved over and over again that He does not change.  That He desires a relationship with me.  That He cares about the details.  And more than anything I want to glorify Him.  He deserves so much more than I can, and do, give Him.  Today has been a reminder of that.

Today has also been a day of rejoicing.  Which means I am totally going to break out some incredibly awesome dance moves.  You know the kind--they're the ones where people nod their heads in understanding and say, "So THAT'S why you're still single!"  :)

Such is the life of a Christian single.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Annal 143: Tale from the Red Coat

I did something rather daring today.  For me anyway.
After church today I went to the mall with a friend.  We both happen to have a love and appreciation for Old Hollywood.  She purchased a red spring coat for herself a few weeks ago and I have been green with envy ever since.  I tried it on last night and fell madly in love with the jacket.  So today we went in search of my own coat.

And we found it!  The perfect jacket for me!

But the outfit was not complete.  We decided that neither of us could leave the mall looking like ourselves.  So several stores later we emerged from the building and were driving through the city wearing red jackets, our hair covered with scarves, and some Old Hollywood style sunglasses in place.  My friend, a gorgeous brunette, we dubbed Audrey Hepburn.  I got to pretend to be Marilyn Monroe.

Did I mention that we may have added some red lipstick into the mix? :)

The truth is, this is not something I would normally do.  I am typically the kind of girl who dresses in darker colours and tends to blend into the crowd.  My winter coat is a bright blue, which was rather bold of me when I bought it last year, but still belonged in the blue and black colour range.  Going for red was a pretty big deal.

But this friend tends to do this to me.  She is one of those people who brings out my crazy side.  She is also the reason I have been going around all day humming "Maneater."

I have also had a real confidence boost over the last few weeks.  It's silly, I know, but for the first time in a very long time I have actually felt desirable.  I have felt attractive.  Mix that with a friend who is willing to do crazy things and you have me blowing bright red kisses at a camera wearing sunglasses I never would have thought to buy.

The problem with this sudden boost in confidence is that a lot of it is based on the fact that I have actually had people flirting with me.  Many of you have been reading my blog for a long time, and some of you know me personally.  I am not the girl guys usually flirt with.  I am the girl guys go to for relationship advice.  I'm the girl guys tell when they have fallen for someone else.  I'm the girl who gets to be in the wedding party for the wedding of a guy she has previously cared for.

Those aren't confidence boosting experiences.

The problem?

I don't know how to deal with this kind of stuff.  For now I am doing just fine--I have fortified my heart so that words don't wreak havoc on my emotions.  But words are definitely my love language.  Which means I don't really know how long my fortifications will hold.

I don't want to wake up one morning and find my self-esteem in shambles... yet again.  In some ways I feel like this is a sort of testing ground.  God has been speaking to me about identity for a while now.  He has been a rock for me to cling to when I all I wanted to do was collapse in the desert and die of exposure.  He brought me through a really rough place. 

Right now I feel great.  Confused, sure, but good about myself.  I guess what scares me is not knowing what that is based in.  Do I feel good about myself because I am resting, abiding, in Christ?  In His love?  Or because some guys have decided to pay me a little extra attention?

Don't get me wrong, I don't think it's wrong to enjoy a confidence boost from some flirting.  But am I allowing my identity right now to be determined by it?  Because if I am, what will happen when the attentions stop?  What will happen when the protections I have in place crumble and I really take to heart the things that are said, resulting in another scar when my heart realizes it has all only been in "good fun?"

I truly believe that God has a purpose for me.  As I said before I may not be a warrior princess, but there is a desire within me to fiercely fight for and protect those He loves and calls me to protect.  I want to walk in Him, to have my identity, my being defined in Him.  Then, and only then, will I truly know the glorious beauty He has created me to be.

Such is the life of a Christian single.