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.