Friday, February 27, 2015

Plenty of Fish

The moment I decided to attend the Christian singles mixer party my friend was hosting, I hadn't pictured myself as the only female attendee for the first part of the evening. But there I was, the wall flower, sitting encircled by a half-dozen eligible men in a dimly lit bar inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's the Raven, awkwardly making conversation with help from an icebreaker game. Scarlett O'Hara surrounded by adoring beaus I was most definitely not. When the other two women showed up, they sat together at the bar and put their icebreaker games in their purses, meaning I won the door-prize for the women by default.

I tried not to think about how disappointing this event might turn out for every one, and focused on small talk and polite conversation about work, hobbies and interests. One man turned out to be not only a winter camping enthusiast but also a registered nurse who was an expert in foot care nursing, having run his own business for over ten years. I was able to glean some valuable information from him as I am also a foot care nurse.  Another man was a recent immigrant from Lebanon who was a scientist worked in the food industry. Yet another was an outdoorsman who was a machinist. They all seemed like decent people. A couple men offered to buy me a drink, but I declined as I rarely have alcohol.

Gradually the small crowd dwindled to four people, counting the hostess of the event. We sat at the bar and discussed our work and cultural and family backgrounds. Since I had won a gift certificate for the bar, I attempted to buy a drink, but it is hard to order something that has no alcohol or sugar at a bar, and bars apparently don't charge for water garnished with a lemon. When I realised that this elementary fact should have been obvious to me, I was rather embarrassed to have offered payment. My next thought was to order a drink for some one else, as I didn't think it likely I would be returning to this venue, but the two people I asked had already imbibed their personal limit of one drink for the evening.

At ten the music was cranked up, but no one was dancing. Conversation became more difficult due to the noise level. My friend and I made plans to go back some time to use the gift certificate, and we exited the bar together along with the last man to leave the singles mixer party, who happened to be the registered nurse. He offered me contact information so I could ask him for professional advice regarding foot care. It wasn't the evening I had expected, especially since the last event my friend planned had had ten times as many people show up and more of a gender balance. Still it certainly was a stretching experience, and more of an adventurous Saturday night than I am used to having.




Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Perspective

There two totally different ways to look at life. One is of a history of failures, setbacks, disappointments, and missed opportunities. The other is a story of lessons learned, challenges faced, holy encounters, and blessings in disguise.
 In the last little while I have had two disappointments. The one today I didn't handle very well, and in a moment I seemed to have lost all the progress I thought I had made. Negative things came from my mouth and they seemed very true and realistic, but in fact, they had the truth all twisted and distorted. 
This may be a challenge I have to overcome, but it is not the end of my journey. God does have a good plan for my life, but my life at times includes learning from failures, struggling through setbacks, dealing with disappointments of things I have wanted but are not God's will, and sometimes missing the mark. Through it all, God is working all things for my good and he is drawing me closer to himself. 
God knows the desires of my heart, and he created my heart. He is good, faithful, and true and as I delight myself in who he is and what he has done, he will fulfill the desires of my heart and also recreate my heart to be more in tune with him. Some of my desires may change in the process and as my life unfolds, I may understand better why God has said "no" or "not yet" or "wait" for petitions I have made to him. God wants me succeed at the things he has designed and purposed for me to do and he knows the end from the beginning. If I ask for his guidance, direction and wisdom, I can trust him to answer my prayer. He is able to do so much more than I would ever ask or imagine.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

How to Find One's Life By First Losing It

Being self-absorbed comes naturally. If there is a mirror in the room, chances are I am checking out my reflection, even as I am conversing with other people. When I get a hair-cut, I want people to notice and compliment me. Since I lost some weight, I weigh myself with even more frequency. Often in conversations, I catch myself bringing the discussion back to myself, which is my favourite topic though maybe not as fascinating as I think. Though I receive many spontaneous compliments, sometimes I am guilty of fishing for one. At times, I spend so much time looking inward, I fail to notice people with needs all around me.

Self-denial on the other hand, goes against my natural tendencies. How I can give of myself sacrificially to others is not immediately obvious to me in any given situation, More on my mind is how will this affect me and my plans or how does this person feel about me.

Selfishness is my default setting. If I don't try to put myself in another person's shoes or attempt to think of others, I won't consider their needs above mine.

It is all too often all about me. That's why I find Jesus' words so challenging as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson: "Any one who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I  am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?"

I guess if I am truly following Jesus, instead of just talking about following Jesus, he will lead me in this way of self-sacrifice and show me how it is done. He has already demonstrated a love that was willing to suffer, to empty himself, to give his life as a sacrifice. In his life, he was a servant, obedient to the Father. Even though he was God, he made himself nothing. My life has to become about him and about the people he has placed in my life. I need to radically change my focus and only then will I find my life as it was meant to be lived.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Of Darkness and Dawn

When the thought crossed my mind again, I realised it had been awhile, really quite some time, since it had transversed the well-worn path etched into my brain. I did not welcome its return. It was a thing of winter, of gloom, of dark, bare, empty places and of despair. It stank of hopelessness, fear, and death.
Four simple words: I want to die. This recurring thought most often emerged when I faced something difficult, when I was stressed, or when I contemplated the future, not in a dreamy, optimistic light but in a nihilistic, nightmarish view. I want to die. Sometimes I dwelt on the thought, other times I pushed it aside. Most of the time, it had no semblance of truth, nothing more than a shadowy presence. It dissolved into nothing when forced into the light. But always it came back.
I want to die. If it had ever been true, it wasn't now. I want to live. I want to grow, to stretch, to burst into glorious bloom. I want to develop in many directions, to be a channel of vitality, to foster life.
I want to live. I want to experience delight and joy, beauty and passion. I want to be grateful for each breath, to breathe in goodness and exhale grace. I want to live... truly. I want my path forward to be "like the light of the dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day" as the ancient writer described the way of the righteous. This proverb was given to me as a word of promise last year. Though darkness is real, by God's grace I will see that dawning brightness.
I want to live. I want to born anew as Jesus once told Nicodemus. It is a thing of spring, new beginnings, of light, and hope. It is truer than the darkness ever could be.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Top Ten Blessings of 2014

It is time to reflect on the blessings of the past year. I am feeling a little blue as family Christmas time draws to a close and I heard some sad news today. Also I know 2015 will begin with me facing up to some challenges that I postponed dealing with. I think making this list will help me focus on the positive side. This idea was inspired by my sister who wrote her own top ten list on her Christmas card.

1. Working with a client who was a joy in a kindergarten of all places the first half of 2014
2. Spending time with treasured friends whether while attempting to master Zumba or playing a friendly game of Euchre or Scrabble
3. Getting my feet wet with a part-time foot care nursing job and meeting some wonderful clients
4. Drawing closer to God through Immanuel sessions and Sarah Young's devotional writings
5. Visiting Karen, Clint and their wonderful family this past summer in Saskatchewan
6. Gaining health and losing weight and inches since starting Trim Healthy Mama in July (twenty-five pounds lost and now at my goal weight)
7. My wardrobe makeover courtesy of my stylish sister and her friend 
8. Receiving more compliments than I can realistically keep track of
9. Rachel and Joel's beautiful summer wedding and happiness in marriage
10. God giving me the gift of hope 

Sunday, December 07, 2014

A Hard Lesson

There are certain lessons that seem to take me decades to learn. One I haven't mastered yet is "Do not worry" although I have been writing about it since my very first blog post. Another is how to follow the biblical recipe for true contentment, as Paul explains in the following verses, as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson:


  • I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in  the One who makes me who I am.     Philippians 4:11b-13 The Message


I can't say I've reached the same point as the apostle Paul, when he wrote these words. It is very easy to be discontented about the things that are not happening in my life or things that are not going in the way I would like. It is very easy to annoyed by little things that a deeply contented person would just brush off or not even notice. On days when patience is in short supply, my mood is darkly disappointed, and the last thing on my mind is the recipe for being content in every circumstance, I tend to view my life as a portrait in things I lack, things I absolutely must have to be happy. 

But I don't need a successful career, my ideal match, or to be married with children in order to be happy. I don't need my every wish fulfilled and fantasy realized. I need a change in perspective, to view my life in light of the blessings I have received and gifts I have been given. I need to realize that no matter what my situation, whatever material blessings I have or don't have, I can still make it through my life with true contentment and joy, not based on my circumstances but based on the One who gives me my identity, hope and purpose. I am a child of God, a member of Christ's body, a citizen of heaven, God's workmanship called to share God's love and to do the work God prepared for me to do. I have been given much; my hands are full. I have everything I need for life and to fulfill my calling, I have been supplied with all I require to trust and to obey God. Through his strength I can master this recipe!

I wish I would learn this difficult lesson thoroughly and apply its principles faithfully in my life! I hope it won't take many more years to learn it well.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Last Friday Night

Last Friday night found me composing yet another online dating profile. It was either that or write a blog post and I was drawing a blank on a good topic to write about. There is an art to writing a good profile, revealing enough but not too much, sounding intelligent but not cocky, being honest but not sounding like a total dweeb who spends their Friday nights writing online dating profiles. A brevity and conciseness in your responses is key, as is highlighting your good points and showing no signs of your neuroses and hang-ups. It is best to leave blank those questions that, if answered, would reveal your utter lack of experience in the area of dating relationships. For a Christian dating site, you should avoid cliches as much as possible, but also strike a balance between emphasizing the required godliness of your husband and admitting that you do not demand perfection. An over-ask is almost as fatal as an over-sell. A hint of a sense of humour and a slight display of quirkiness and a degree of creativity in your answers helps.

With such a profile you will be certain to attract any number of men, some of whom will astonish you with their effusiveness and others who will delight you with their unintentional humour. Someone will write you from jail, another from a foreign country. There will be divorcees and widowers with children, single men who ask why you have never married yet, and men older than your father. There will be those who send you a form letter, slightly personalized, full of links and contact information, and those who ask you a simple sardonic question. There will be those whose profiles are an instructive sermon on environmentalism or their own brand of Christianity they are fully convinced of. Some will give you their Skype address, others their email despite rules to the contrary. Some will have obvious baggage from past relationships, others will emphasize their need for a submissive wife.

But you will continue to wait out your ten day trial period, because there is always the chance that there will be someone extraordinary in their normalcy and at the same time ideally suited for your quirks, someone truly fitting all your stated criteria and some of your unstated ones. On such slight chances you pin your hopes.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Two Paths Diverged in a Yellow Wood

(With Apologies to Robert Frost)

"Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls." Jeremiah 6:15 (NASB version)

Sometimes you think you are headed in one direction, only to discover you still don't know where life might take you. Life has been a mixture of overabundant compliments on my new stylish clothes and trimmer figure and disappointments to do with my professional career. I have spent time gazing lovingly and narcissistically at myself in the mirror and time stewing about the future and my prospects. I had written a blog post a couple of weeks ago all about my current life... the triumph of my weight loss, the joys of a new wardrobe and the successful shopping trips preceded by the weeding out of five garbage bags of unstylish, unflattering, worn-out, or ill-fitting clothes, and finally my newest job working at a school doing a feeding program to which I could wear all these wonderful new-to-me clothes. This was before Thanksgiving and I was pretty thankful to have much closer to full-time hours, although I felt bad for the nurse who I had replaced from another agency and how unjust the situation was for her. When the job returned to her, I felt it really was the right thing to happen and I just regretted I was left with some gaping holes in my schedule.

Last weekend I went to Ancient Paths, a seminar I struggled to describe to a friend. There was teaching about communication, critical times of blessing in the life of an individual and family, and how to bless your children or parents. There was also time for ministry in a small group. I received some healing and encouragement and had some generational things dealt with. While I didn't agree with some of the viewpoints expressed by the teacher in the videos, I did learn a lot from him and overall I was blessed by my participation in this seminar.

This week I spent some of my extensive leisure hours just enjoying the lovely fall colours and walking through the woods and across the city-scape, appreciating the beauty as the leaves blanketed the path or swirled down gently from the trees. This evening I both coached an Immanuel session and was the recipient to an Immanuel session and it was good to connect to Jesus and hear what he had to say about all the things I have been thinking about. It is comforting to know I can trust him and he has a good plan for my life and that I am moving forward, even if I don't yet know the way or where the path will lead. 

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Poor Prose, Powerful Prejudice

When I was finishing my last half year at Redeemer University College, I took a creative writing course. I had dreams of being a writer, but had written mainly essays and papers while in university. I hadn't tried creative writing since high school when I penned a twisted fairy tale for my English ISU, and was told that it didn't qualify as a short story exactly, but that it was well-done. In my class on British novel in university, I did write an additional scene to Jane Eyre, and in Contemporary Fiction I wrote an additional scene to The Color Purple, and I also took a class in Expository writing, but that was pretty much the limit of my creative output.

When I began the Creative Writing class, I hoped it would encourage me to be more imaginative again like when I would get up early to type stories on the computer such as my story about the missionary kids who were kidnapped, or my tale of a princess who was being forced to marry an evil villain, but was helped by a prince in disguise. Of course I would be writing something that actually would qualify as a short story, real literature such as I had spent my university career analyzing.

Anyways my imaginative flow was rather constrained for this class, perhaps because I was focused on trying to please the professor, whose own writing I had read. I did better with the poetry, because I had never read any of the professor's own poetry. My first short story was about a club singer who serenades a man from the audience and I forget what else happens, and its most memorable feature was its title "For Whom the Belle.... Sings." My main short story was set in a thrift store and entitled "Thrift Store Steal" and was about a university student who worked part-time at the thrift store and planned to buy a wedding dress that was for sale, but a volunteer, who frequently took the best items from the store, took it for her daughter, resulting in a confrontation with the university student cashier. The thrift store and wedding dress were both well described, but the ending to the story when the university student quits her job dramatically and grabs a lawn ornament on her way out which she may or may not pay for, did not impress my professor who felt it weak and unsatisfying.

I have been thinking of this story lately, because it occurred to me that some of the judgments that my protaganist made about the volunteer's daughter being too overweight to fit the dress, underemployed, and still living at home are all things that have been reflected in my own life. A fourth judgment, the fact that the daughter could no longer conceivably wear white, according to my rather judgmental character at least, does not fit with my life situation.

It makes me wonder about the power of judgments we make. At the time I wrote this story, I thought an university education in liberal arts would stand me in good stead and I would likely never be underemployed despite the fact I was majoring in English literature and Religion. Also I had long been prejudiced against older people still living at home. My first would-be boyfriend,who I met the year I worked at a factory before I started university, was still living with his parents at age thirty-something and that was one of three reasons I wouldn't date him, the others being he didn't attend church regularly, and our age differences were too great. I was nineteen at the time, and rather immature. This guy ended up getting his own apartment and started attending church more regularly, but we never ended up dating since I still thought the age difference was too great. We emailed back and forth for awhile, but his tales of girls hitting on him at his security job became tiresome and I very cruelly blocked his email address. He then sent me an email from another account, in which he explained that his new girlfriend was buying them a house and it was by the lake and that he wouldn't tell me how much it cost. I congratulated him in an email and then blocked that account too.

I am now older than he was when he was living at home. I am still living with my parents and I have two part-time jobs which currently are not giving me a lot of hours, and I wouldn't fit into the size five wedding dress either, though I have been trimming down of late. I now think you should be careful how you judge another person even in fiction. Just because someone is not married at thirty-something doesn't mean there is something wrong with them. And people may live with their parents at an advanced age for a lot of different reasons and they shouldn't be looked at as a lesser species of being for that reason. Also judging someone for their size is very shallow and cruel.

I really would like to develop my creative side again and write something imaginative, well-crafted, and powerful, something not stunted by trying to please a teacher, and maybe featuring a protaganist not reflecting my own prejudices in amplified form.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Facing the Giants

When anxiety causes you to say no to an opportunity for work, to not try something new, to stay within the safe confines of your narrow life, you know it is limiting your potential to grow and the fullness of your life. When your stomach gets in knots just thinking about your next shift, when you lay awake considering various disasterous scenarios, when your mind races to think of an excuse for yourself not to pick up that challenging assignment, you know anxiety is robbing you of being the best nurse you can be. When you don't step forward to do what you sense God is asking you to do, when you focus on your limitations, when you picture yourself failing spectacularly, you know you are allowing your giants to keep you from the promised land.

I am trying to learn to follow Jesus' command not to worry about tomorrow. I am attempting to trust God to provide for my day to day needs and to focus on seeking his kingdom first. While I may be making some progress in these attempts, I still need to be reminded to "consider the lilies."

Yes life is more than food and the body more than clothes. Yes worrying accomplishes nothing of value and is borrowing trouble from the future and bringing it into the present. But how to face life with faith instead of fear? 

To move forward, I need to face these giants and know that with God's help I can conquer them. I can't be afraid of failing. I need to take that first step in trying something new. Before reaching for an excuse, I need to explore further and then decide if it is an opportunity I can seize, something that will help me to grow, a chance to put into practice what I have learned. I need to be wise and make the most of the opportunities that I have. I can rely on God's promise that if I trust in him with all of my heart, not relying solely on my own limited understanding, but acknowledging him in everything, then he will guide me in the right path.


Blog Archive