Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Annal 184: Tale from the Reminder

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

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

I can't afford school right now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes I forget who He is.

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

Monday, 22 October 2012

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

I know.

Believe me, I know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man could do no more.

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

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

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

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

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

Man could do no more.

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

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Annal 182: Tale from a Bowler Hat of Observations

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

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

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

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

Take a moment and picture the following scene:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is my story.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Annal 181: Tale from a Rainy Run

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

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

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

And then I kind of got lost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is my story.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Annal 180: Tale from a Zombie-Filled Thanksgiving

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

I also learned a few things about myself this weekend.

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

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

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

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

More specifically, I have been putting God on hold.

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

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

This is my routine.

Routine is not bad.

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

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

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

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

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

Through all of this I made another discovery.

I am incredibly blessed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is my story.