Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Sermon

Sometimes finding satisfaction in your life, and that elusive sense of peace and joy, comes not through the perfect set of circumstances but through a grateful attitude that recognizes your blessings and also through awareness of Jesus' presence with you in all things. For too long, I focused on things I did not have that I thought I needed to be happy. I compared myself to others and envied them with their beautiful little families, their successful careers, or their confident mastery of life. I wanted to be medication free and whole, I wanted to be thirty pounds lighter, I wanted to be married and start a family, I wanted to be sought after and admired.

But joy is found not in the desired destination, when you will have arrived at a place of fulfillment and happiness, but in the midst of the journey. There are always going to be unfulfilled dreams, unmet desires, and goals beyond your grasp. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to achieve your goals or to realize your dreams for your life. But you need to recognize that you shouldn't put happiness on hold until these visions become a reality.

So right now I could talk more about unrealized potential and unfulfilled dreams, or I could talk about the present blessings that abound in my life. I have a wonderful family; sisters who make me smile; a father who works hard and models godliness, a mother who encourages me and believes in a bright future; a brother who genuinely cares. I also am part of a church family who have ministered to me in so many ways. I have work that is meaningful and rewarding. I have had the chance to get a good education. I have a comfortable home and more than enough to eat. I have a good reliable car. I have friendships that I really value.

I also have a Heavenly Father who loves me, and a Saviour who died for me and has made me new, and a Comforter who guides me. This amazing God forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases and redeems my life from the pit in the words of Psalm 103. Yes, I am truly blessed. 





Friday, May 30, 2014

Time Capsule

Today I gave my future brother-in-law a letter I had written the summer I turned fifteen. My sister who is ten years my junior is getting married at the end of the summer to her true love after getting engaged in Zanzibar a few weeks ago. I had alluded to this letter, but today my sister asked me if I could dig it out of the folder marked Special Occasions and Mementos in my cluttered filing cabinet and show it to her husband-to-be.

The contents of the letter were primarily about my sister's vivid imagination which manifested itself in an imaginary husband and numerous imaginary children at age five. Naturally I would have to tell my future brother-in-law of this previous marriage and other cute stories of the sister I dubbed "Fuzzhead". I had written the letter in tiny cursive writing on fancy stationary and it was three pages long.

In the same time capsule was a letter to my future husband which I couldn't resist opening this evening. It was sealed with a heart sticker and was clearly influenced by the True Love Waits movement. The contents consisted of promises and prayers and wonderings I won't elaborate on, but you can probably imagine a sentimental fourteen-year-old would write. In case my future husband ever materialises, I won't get into any details.

My fourteen-year-old self had anticipated the possibility that my future husband might not exist. She was definitely a romantic, but somewhat realistic in her expectations. She couldn't imagine the course of her future life, but she remained sweetly hopeful. If I could write her a reply, I am not sure what I would say. Keep dreaming, perhaps, and keep praying, and remember your own earnest vows sealed with a heart sticker and written in loopy cursive. I wouldn't tell her that in twenty years she would be writing a blog post on a lonely Friday night, with no future husband yet in the picture.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The Bible and Me

I don't know exactly when it began, but it might have happened sometime while I was reading "A Year of Living Biblically" by AJ Jacobs. I think it dates to about that time. The book was a critique of fundamentalism and also a humorous tale in which the author decides to follow every single command in Bible. It was an interesting read for sure. Anyway it was around this time that a shift happened in the way I looked at the Bible. I had always seen the Bible as God's Word, almost in a mystical sense. I knew human authors had written it, but they were inspired to write by the Holy Spirit and what they wrote was God's message. He had guided the process whereby the books were selected to become the Bible.

I began to look at the Bible less as a divine message and more as a human creation. Not that I wholly ceased viewing it as God's word, but I began to think more about the human authors and their motivations. I started looking at the Bible through the lens of scepticism. After awhile it became harder to view it through the eyes of faith, and as God's word for me now.

I am reading through the Bible in one year. The plan has the Epistles on Sundays, the Pentateuch on Mondays, history from Joshua to Esther on Tuesdays, Psalms on Wednesdays, Poetry on Thursdays, Prophesy on Fridays, and the Gospels and Acts on Saturdays. Getting through Jeremiah and Ezekiel seemed a little like a chore. I found many days I read to get through the reading and not to hear from God. Then I wondered why I was reading it. Was it just to check off the box Bible reading on the list of what I thought a good Christian did or was it to learn and grow, listen and apply? Was I like the foolish builder who fails to put Jesus' words into practice? Was I deceiving myself by listening to the word and then not doing what it says?

I want to regain my love for the Scriptures and see them through the eyes of expectant faith. I want to be truly wise and walk in the way I should go by the light of God's word.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Changing Seasons

Even though the snow was falling this morning and is still on the ground right now and I saw gently drifting flakes this afternoon, summer isn't very far away and that means I only have a couple months left with the client I have been working with part-time at a local school. That means I have only a couple of months left to plan another job transition. My foot care nursing job still only a few hours a week most weeks, so I don't anticipate that to grow exponentially in the next couple of months.

Ideally I would like to work full-time in foot care nursing, but I am not ready to start my own business just yet. I can wait and see what other assignments I get in home care, but that seems too much of passive approach. I need to make some kind of plan to avoid another summer of little work and too much leisure.

I will definitely be sad to say good bye to my young client. I never thought I would spend time again in a kindergarten classroom, but I will miss it. I will miss being called Miss Suzy and watching children being creative and active. I will miss the controlled chaos of lunchtime and the exuberance of playtime.

Life is a series of transitions. When one season ends, another begins. Change can be hard, but each spring holds the promise of new beginnings and new opportunities for growth. I hope this summer another door will open and I will walk through with confidence. In the meantime I will work and plan as much as I can and enjoy the end of this season.



Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Dreams

A few weeks back I attended a women's conference called Awake My Soul. The theme song was Chris Tomlin's song of the same name, for which I got roped into performing a dance with flags not once but several times over the course of the weekend. The song is based on a portion of scripture in Ezekiel describing the valley of dry bones and how they come to life as the prophet prophesies.

Both key-note speakers chose to speak about dreams from God and encouraged us to dream big dreams for the impact of our lives. One speaker spoke about David's mighty men and their exploits, tying it into the theme rather ingenuously, although at the time I resisted her interpretation. At one point in the conference we were supposed to write down a dream. I sat there and struggled to write anything down at all. I ended up writing rather lamely "to find a dream". I felt like it had to be something huge, something inspirational, something sensational. Just writing "I want to get married and have a family" didn't seem to cut it. Besides did I really really want to do that? At the time I wasn't sure, but with some recent bad news I received, I am even more certain marrying might not be the wisest thing, especially if I think it will be my life's salvation.

More than ever, I feel limited and constrained in my visioning for the future. I feel limited by my mental illness. Even though I successfully completed university and later succeeded in becoming a nurse, I don't feel secure or very hopeful about my future. I know in times of stress and pressure I will always be vulnerable. I know I will have to take medication likely for the rest of my life. A friend of mine who struggles with her mental health recently had her marriage fail. I have realized that sometimes it is harder on the family and spouse of the person who is ill than on the person themselves.

My pastor recently said something about people being medicated, but not being healed. I was very much offended, as I had for many years sought a healing that would result in not being on medication anymore, but I have come to the conclusion that I need medication to stay well enough to avoid a trip of the psych ward. If God was going to heal me in that way, he has had many years in which to accomplish it. I have given up on that dream sadly.

When you need to be on medication such as I am on, being pregnant is not something that just happens sometime after you get married. It has to be carefully planned with health professionals, if it happens at all. Then too marriage and raising children are both stressful and there are no guarantees, one that you will remain well and two that you will be a good wife and mother.

I was hoping God would make me some guarantees. At the end of the conference there was going to be ministry time and I hoped that someone with prophetic vision would speak into my life and make the dry bones live. Instead we were to pray for each other and I ended up praying with two young teens and a woman I didn't know. After awkwardly participating in praying for the two teens, I explained I didn't have a dream, and the woman asked if I had had any dreams when I was a child. I mentioned when I was five I wanted to be either a singer or a missionary, but that I couldn't sing very well, I had just really enjoyed it. The woman asked me where I had wanted to go as a missionary and I said to Africa. Eventually she asked me if I had a husband or any children, and when I said I had none she asked me why I wasn't in Africa, what was stopping me. Tears came to my eyes, but I didn't explain the limitations of a mental illness or about how it really wasn't my dream any more. She said she felt I had a big call on my life.

When I came home from the conference the second day, I felt saddened by the fact I hadn't been able to write any dream down. But after speaking with another person who had attended the conference and hadn't written a dream down either, I realized that not every one needs some big, grand dream. Sometimes you need to be behind the scenes supporting others' dreams. And sometimes you just need to be faithful in your small sphere of influence, serving others.

This is the most depressing post I have written in awhile. I wish there were some way to turn it around into the most uplifting post. But I am hurting about some dreams I have already let go of, and some other dreams that I might have to give up on. I am wanting some guarantees. Yeah I would like some grand dream that would add meaning to my life, but I am no longer a dreamer. That part of me is as dead as those dry bones in the valley.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Chocoholic

It started with a box of chocolates my friend bought me for Christmas. They were assorted Lindor and the box was so enjoyable and also looked so pretty sitting in my room that I bought some more Lindor chocolates, one bag as a gift for a friend who shares my love of chocolate and one for myself to restock my beautiful box. But I ended up eating both bags of chocolate. Then I bought a large chocolate bar for my friend who I hoped to see soon. It was a brand I loved and I ate that too.

Later I bought more Lindor chocolates and managed to keep them for over two weeks without eating them. I forget exactly how many times this scenario played out, but needless to say I still haven't seen my friend and I just ate a Lindt box of chocolates that I got on sale the day before Valentines Day, a box I had intended to give to this friend. It was originally $17 and marked down to $9.99 and I also bought a box to share with my family which was gone by the end of Valentine's day. The second box sat in my desk drawer. I resisted its allure for a few days, but once I got into the box the chocolates disappeared at alarming speed. They were so decadent and luxurious, velvety rich and delectably smooth. Exquisite didn't even begin to describe them.

The amount of chocolate I have bought and devoured in 2014 is probably enough calories to feed a family of four for a week. And a lot of the chocolate was bought with the intention of giving as a gift, but I think I knew I might end up eating it. I wanted to prove to myself that I could save the Lindt chocolate for my friend and I knew he would really enjoy them, but I could not resist the Swiss luxury selection.

Clearly I have the same relationship to chocolate that some people have with alcohol. I am an addict. I need to curb my purchases of chocolate and limit my intake to an acceptable level. But chocolate gives me such delight. There is a moment of pure pleasure as it melts in my mouth and I can't stop at just one. 

My chocolate habit is sabotaging my weight loss efforts and destroying my sense of personal integrity. I have shown an utter lack of self control and I have lied to myself and others.

As a chocoholic who is out of control, I must now commit myself to zero purchases of chocolate for the next two months. I can eat chocolate in baking and chocolate I haven't purchased, but I will not buy myself any more chocolate until after Easter. I will find something else to give my friend as a gift even though I am sure he would have loved that box of Lindt swiss chocolate almost as much as I did. 







Sunday, January 26, 2014

Things I didn't realize...

... Zumba exercises do not merely consist of a close approximation of the Zumba instructor's moves, but also involve tightening the abs and butt at appropriate times. So even if it vaguely looks like you are following the basic routine, you are probably not getting the full benefits of the exercise without this crucial element. And I mean, vaguely.
.... University is not just about academics and getting on the honour roll every semester. It is about learning about yourself, exploring new experiences, and getting involved in things you are passionate about. And it is about learning how to think, not just learning about how the professor would like you to think.
.... Some opportunities are too good to be squandered. When you have an opportunity to present a paper at a conference, seize the moment and take a risk. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.
... On a somewhat related note, as much as you scorned the idea of attending school to obtain your Mrs. degree, would it have killed you to do some dating or even meaningful social interaction with the opposite sex while in university? I really think you would be a more well-rounded person.
... Sometimes you can be following all the rules, but still not be living right. It is not merely what you do and avoid doing, it is what you fail to even attempt.
... You might think you have an unique story of suffering and hardships. But chances are the person next to you who you think has a perfect life has their own set of challenges and struggles.
... You shouldn't just judge your life from how far away you are from your goals and dreams, but by how far you've come.
... Marriages aren't the happy end to the story but the beginning of a new set of challenges and demands. Getting married doesn't mean your problems suddenly go away and you are completed and self actualized. No relationship is like that portrayed in a Christian romance novel of the type you read as a preteen.
.... You might enjoy being pursued, but it is not fair to lead a person on who you already know is not someone you would see yourself dating.
... Sometimes you have to let go of friendships. Yeah it hurts, but people grow apart and it is a natural part of life.
... When you realise some one is giving you terrible advice and asking you to compromise your beliefs, you should probably go with your gut instinct and end the relationship.
... Slenderness is not a platonic form... ha ha you first year philosophy student who happened to be some forty pounds slimmer than your present self. No wonder Professor Botha was amused. Neither is slenderness some grand utopia when your problems melt away like the bulge around your middle.
... A nursing career is not for the faint of heart. It is one thing to earn your diploma and pass your registration exam. It is another to be an excellent nurse and to push yourself to become a better one.
... Failure is just a stepping stone on the road to success.
... When you can't end a blog post on a suitably high note, sometimes you should just go to bed. Cheerio!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Blog about Nothing, or How to Waste a Perfectly Good Day in Three Easy Steps

It is strange how a day can slip by and you won't even remember how you spent it and your list of things accomplished is scandalously short. Today I had an unexpected day off as the client I work with at the school where I work was sick. I had already dressed in my uniform, had breakfast, and did morning devotions when I found out I wasn't going to work. Other taking a short walk made shorter by the chill wind, a walk with the dual purpose of exercise and prayer, and arranging to get together with a colleague, and scheduling an appointment with a new client for next week, nothing particularly productive occurred. Even the walk degenerated into a time to grouse and worry about whether I really was making the progress I thought I was in my life.

Endless checking of email of which I have several accounts to keep track of and time misspent on Facebook, overconsumption of the peanut butter cup cookies I baked a couple of days ago, reading every article in the newest Macleans, and watching episodes of Seinfeld with my sisters rounded out my day. A realisation that I was about to have a negligible pay day this week followed by two more less than robust pay cheques due to time off while my client is vacationing came about midday. My parents left for their vacation at around three. I had a solitary supper, cleaned up the kitchen, and listened to my new Switchfoot cd which ceased playing as I was writing this post.

In the next week I will have a lot of leisure hours, although I do have plans to shadow another nurse, get together with a friend for an afternoon, and work with a couple of clients which will take up some of my time. Still all this time can either be well or misspent, be used to pray or worry, be spent stuffing my face or disciplining my body and mind. I can plan activities I would enjoy or I can wile away my day doing a lot of nothing.



Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Welcoming the New Year

It really doesn't seem that long ago since we rang in the New Millennium with emergency plans just in case Y2K was the disaster that had been foretold. But that was fourteen years ago. Back then I was nineteen years old and working in an assembly line in a factory. That summer my older sister was married and I began university in that fall shortly after entering my twenties.

I have since acquired a BA, a college diploma in Practical Nursing, and some life experience that I'd like to think has taught me wisdom. I am now a nurse and just starting out in the foot care nursing field after getting my certification in advanced foot care nursing this past summer. My sister is now a mother of four children and my youngest sister is seventeen and anticipating entering university in the fall of 2014.

2013 was a year of growth and change. At the end of April I stopped working with the client I had been working with full-time. At the end of June I began my foot care course and by the end of August I had my certificate. In September I began working part-time at a school while looking for a job in foot care nursing. This year has been one of personal and spiritual growth, especially in the last twelve weeks as I pursued personal goals with the help of life coach. I am growing closer to God and learning to hear his voice and I am increasing in confidence and gaining a sense of hope and purpose.

I have been spending the last days of 2013 with a dear friend. We are going to welcome the New Year with hopes of good things to come. This year I am planning on doing a devotional study about learning to deepen my level of communication with Jesus; this study was a gift from my mentor. New Years resolutions range from the mundane resolve to floss every single day to the more profound goal to deepen my existing friendships and to make new friends through a more active social life and volunteer opportunities. I also resolve to exercise more, eat less, and lose some excess weight.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fall Projects

This fall I have working on two life projects with the help of a mentor who is coaching me. One of them is jumpstarting my career as a foot care nurse and the other one is growing my relationship with God. This week something happened that could lead me on a path to discouragement and despair, but thankfully I think I will learn from this event and grow by it. My coach pointed out that were this to happen two years ago, I would have been a basket-case, but that I am not at all the same person I was then. This encourages me that I am making steady progress and that I should not give up. The night is always darkest before dawn.

The passage in "Jesus Calling" yesterday really spoke into my situation: "Leave outcomes up to me. Follow Me wherever I lead, without worrying how it will all turn out. Think of your life as an adventure, with Me as your Guide and Companion. Live in the now, concentrating on staying in step with Me. When our path leads to a cliff, be willing to climb it with My help. When we come to a resting place, take time to be refreshed in My Presence. Enjoy the rhythm of life lived close to Me" (Sarah Young, 338).

Just what I needed to hear as someone who finds a lot to worry about. I am glad Jesus is with me to be my guide, even if sometimes I don't really want to climb that cliff. Living in the now and focusing on the path just ahead of you, instead of worrying what will happen in your future life, is good advice, but it is hard to do. The message to leave the outcomes up to God, gives me a sense of peace and calm, even in the midst of times of turmoil and uncertainty.

I find that as I listen, I do hear God's voice and my relationship with God becomes based less on fleeting emotion and more based on trust and assurance. In the past couple of weeks I have worked on breaking wrong thought patterns, a work in progress which involves recognizing lies you have believed and replacing them with truth from scripture. I have also been attending more times of corporate prayer and Immanuel sessions this fall. Immanuel sessions are times when you, guided by a coach, seek a connection with Jesus in which you can hear his voice and find out what he wants you to know. He might take you to a place or memory that will help you resolve a recurring pattern in your life, or he might just tell you that he loves you, as many times as it takes you to believe it.

I will close with a passage from Psalm 27:13-14 which is referenced in "Jesus Calling" for November 19 and which inspires and encourages me in my journey this fall:
"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living, Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD."

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