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.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Annal 171: Tale from my Early Morning Reflections

Memo to self: trying to write a blog post when you are not wearing your glasses and haven't put your contacts in yet could prove rather difficult.  As such, I am blaming any errors on my slight inability to read what I am writing (yes, I am aware I could go upstairs and search for my glasses, but that would just be far too easy).

So this morning my sister took off for her end-of-summer trip to Hawaii with her boyfriend and his family (no, I'm not jealous at all... I would  much rather be here, working).  When I head to the coast for school I will get to see her briefly, but then it is good bye.

And to be honest, I'm having a little bit of a hard morning.

I guess it is finally hitting me that I'm going to be farther away than a four hour drive from my family.  My one brother and his family will be close, which will be nice, but as for everyone else the only chances I will get at seeing them are when I come home for Christmas or my end of semester breaks, or else when they are able to make it into my neck of the woods.

I'm excited for this adventure.  I really am.  And it will be good preparation for next year when I will be moving across the country to be closer to Charming (this will be my blog name for my man... because despite sometimes coming across like a complete ass, he really is incredibly sweet and charming).  Which is something else I'm excited about.

But this is still change and is still something I need to adjust to.

My birthday is on Monday and before she left my sister made me a mix CD for it.  I hopped in my car to run to the store last night and put the CD on.  The very first track was "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys.  I started tearing up at that point.

Despite a five year age gap between us, my sister and I are very close.  We weren't always (I mean, come on, what teenager really wants to have some annoying kid following them around :P ), but that changed over the last decade (which, by the way, makes me feel very old to say).  We lived together last year.  This is the same sister who made me Valentines and left them all over the house.  The one I went for walks with, talked with, laughed with, and cried with.  Heck, we even tended to get sick together.  I dreamt she was kidnapped by vampires and zombies and I had to save her.  You get the two of us and our youngest sister together and you have something that is just plain CRAZY.  We sing and dance while we do dishes.  We go for roadtrips that involve horribly off-key singing at absurdly loud volumes.

And as much as I am excited for this year and the next and all that they hold, I'm going to miss what I have had.  I'm going to miss padding around the house in my jammies with my family.  I'm going to miss my youngest sister poking fun at my crazy morning hair (because my hair truly does have a mind of its own).  I'm going to miss doing my devotions in the morning with my dad.  Coming home from work and just talking in the kitchen with my mom.  Heading over to my one brother's house for some sibling video gaming.

I know this year will hold lots of excitement.  I know it will be good for me.  I know God will get me through it because, as anyone who has read my blog can attest to, He has more than proven HImself faithful.

He took a girl who was so wrapped up in insecurity that she could barely breathe, and showed her that it was okay for her to embrace the quirkiness He placed inside her and become the woman He created.

He took a girl whose heart was in pieces because of rejection from friends and hurt caused by church leadership and showed her people who care.  Not only that, but He began to draw out the compassion that had been dormant in her for a few years.  He took hurt and pain and is making something beautiful out of it.

He took a girl scarred by past relationships and showed her how much He loves and treasures her.  And as she bacame confident in His love, He brought her a Charming who continually reminds her of her value in his eyes.

He took that which was broken and is making it whole.

When I look at that list I am completely overwhelmed by the goodness of God.  He didn't take away my hurt or my pain, but He healed them.  I know that I will have hrrd times this year.  I know being separated from most of my family, but not all (pretty sure my brother and his fmaily being only a little over an hour away is a sign of God's grace), and Charming will make things hard.  I know it will be a tight year financially.  I know I will struggle.

And I know my struggles won't disappear.

But I am taking comfort in the knowledge that God will not leave me alone in the hard times.  I am floored when I think on His faithfulness.  And I know He won't stop being faithful. 

And so I will trust.

This is my story.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Annal 170: Tale from the Confession

Okay, so I have the slightest of confessions to make.

Last Sunday I wrote a post about the Heidelberg Catechism.  Shortly after I wrote this and posted it on Facebook I also changed my profile picture.  This picture may have been of me with a man.  In the picture I may have been starting somewhat affectionately at the man whose arm was around me.

This man may or may not be my boyfriend.

And I may or may not have laughed continually at the number of hits Sunday's posting received from people who were hoping for details about this guy.

Okay, so maybe those are two confessions.

But there you have it.  I am, what you would call, "in a relationship."

Which still feels pretty bizarre to me.

For over two months now my writing has been sporadic and I have been hinting at things going on in my life.  Good things.  Well, those things pretty much entirely had to do with this guy.

I'm not going to put all the details on here because, quite frankly, he sometimes reads my blog and the last thing I need is for him to get an even bigger head than he already has :)  But I am incredibly happy.  We met four years ago at a wedding.  I was the maid-of-honour, he was a groomsman.  I don't really remember him, he remembers me.  We reconnected on Facebook roughly six months ago.  He came to visit me 15 days ago (did I mention he lives across the country?  Not so much fun there).  Apparently he likes me.

The truth is, I am floored by how all of this has come about.  You have read my posts from this spring and summer.  God truly brought me to a place where the last thing I was doing was looking for a man.  I can genuinely say that I was at peace with being single.  With waiting. 

And then something happened that I never once expected.  Not only did I not expect it, I didn't want it.  I had every intention of never falling for this guy.  NEVER.  I was not interested and I did everything I could to maintain this lack of interest.

And look where that got me, lol!

I am happy.  I feel incredibly blessed.  I am amazed that I serve a God who could orchestrate something like this... never did I imagine my story taking a turn like this.  I guess God is a far better Author than I could ever hope to be.

People have asked me if I will continue this blog and I will.  It will still be "Annals of a Christian Single" seeing as whenever I fill out legal forms I am still considered single.  My plan has always been to carry on with this blog until there is a ring on my finger and a changing of my last name.

So don't worry, you will still get to hear all about my zany and quirky life (because I know all of you were terribly concerned about that).  I will still chronicle my story, from the humorous to the sorrowful.

My journey is nowhere close to ending :)

So there you have it.  There is the update on life. 

This is my confession.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Annal 169: Tale from Heidelberg


I am aware that a rather large period of time has passed since last I posted.  As in nearly a month.  As much as I feel like a horrible person for letting my blog fall by the wayside, I don't believe in posting just for the sake of posting.  A lot has been going on--all good, so don't worry :)  But the result has been a severe shortage in time available for blogging.

So I apologize and here I am now :)

I have been thinking back over common themes in my writing in the last year and perhaps the one that has stuck out the most, at least to me, is that of church.  My own battles with past churches, a bit about my dissatisfaction with church now... that sort of thing.  I grew up going to Pentecostal churches (with a stint in the Anglican as well).  The result of this was that a great deal of emphasis growing up was placed on the experiential aspects of my faith.  My church dealt a lot with emotionalism.  The upside to this is that I know God created me as an emotional creature, and as such I also know that He speaks to me through that part of me.  Vast numbers of my posts have detailed some of these very experiences.

What I find now, though, is that when it comes to church I crave so much more.  Specifically, I crave teaching.  When I am taught something about the Bible that I didn't previously know, or something that changes how I go about reading my Bible, my faith seems to come alive.  I thrive on having my mind challenged, on having to engage my brain, on learning.

This has been something that I have been dealing with for quite a long time.  It managed to make its way into a conversation I had last week with my boyfriend where he mentioned learning the Heidelberg Catechism growing up.  I talked to my dad and it turns out he has a book on this catechism.  I am forcing myself to read it slowly (the book is designed to be done over the course of a year), and thought I would share with you parts of my journey through it.  Week one touched on the first two questions and answers of the catechism.

Question 1: What is your only comfort in life and in death?

Answer 1: That I am not my own, but belong--body and soul, in life and in death--to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.  He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.  He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.  Because I belong to Him, Christ, by His Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

Question 2: What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?

Answer 2: Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.

Wow, right?

The devotion that goes along with these questions then makes the following point on the concept of comfort:

"Comfort does not mean Christ makes all the bad things in life go away.  Comfort, as Ursinus put it, 'results from a certain process of reasoning, in which we oppose something good to something evil, that by a proper consideration of this good, we may mitigate our grief, and patiently endure evil.' In other words, comfort puts before us a greater joy to outweigh present and anticipated sufferings."

Comfort doesn't mean all the crap in life goes away.  It doesn't mean the storm will stop.  It doesn't mean all of the lights will go on and everything will suddenly become crystal clear.  If I try to take comfort in the belief that God will take away all of my pain and suffering I will live only to be sorely disappointed. 

But if I instead choose to take comfort in the knowledge that I belong to Christ, that He has saved my from my sin and my misery, and that because I belong to Him I have the promise of eternal life, then suddenly I have a greater joy to hold onto when things go wrong.  When I come up against a brick wall, I won't be crushed because God doesn't make it go away.  I will trust that He will help me climb the wall or find a way around it.

So this is what I am meditating on this week.  Next week I will move onto the next few questions of the Heidelberg Catechism, but for now I will rest in the knowledge that my comfort is in Christ.