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.


Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Reunited

One of the special things about the wedding was having all my siblings together again.
Here we are in order of age.

Storybook Love

Come my love I'll tell you a tale,
Of a boy and girl 
And their love story.
And how he loved her oh so much,
and all the charms she did possess

Now this did happen once upon a time,
When things were not so complex.
And how he worshiped the ground she walked,
And when he looked he became obsessed.

My love is like a storybook story,
But it's as real as the feelings I feel.
My love is like a storybook story,
But it's as real as the feelings I feel.
~ Willy DeVille

On Sunday, August 31st my sister Rachel and her true love Joel married in a glorious garden setting just outside an old Baptist church. The weather held, despite a predicted probability of rain; it was slightly overcast at times, but when the sun shone down on the seated guests it was a little hot. The ceremony was lovely with talented musicians playing, meaningful vows, and even an offbeat poem chosen by the groom's sister-in-law celebrating abiding love and featuring zombie apocalypses. The bride was stunning and entered on the arm of her father through a long aisle guarded by tall, luxuriant shrubbery. The lovely bridesmaids and adorable flower girl preceded her. Storybook Love from the Princess Bride played on the clarinet and piano evoked a fairytale mood. The officiant delivered a short message before the exchange of vows and two brief passages of scripture were read by the bride's brother-in-law.

The short ceremony was followed by a receiving line and some light refreshments of lemonade and macarons. Pictures were taken in the beautiful gardens and the reception was located at a nearby golf course in a delightfully decorated pavilion with gorgeous flowers arranged in scientifically themed glassware celebrating the couple's backgrounds in the fields of science and engineering. A three course, delectable dinner was followed by speeches, the most hilarious by the groom's twin and best man. The emcees were the bride's brother and her cousin (and bridesmaid) and they kept the evening moving, providing some witty banter, and demanding of the guest's particular tasks they must perform before the bride and groom could kiss. The shoe game, long a staple of family weddings, revealed how much on the same page the bride and groom really were.

Dancing was exuberant at times, opened by the bride and groom's more sedate dance to Ben Harper's Forever, and drawing mainly young people to the floor. The play list was selected by the bride and groom. Meanwhile the guests mingled and watched a slide show with pictures of the bride and groom who had met as prepubescents, and had been a couple since 2011. When the bride and groom left for their honeymoon, the dancing continued for several songs, but the party wrapped up just after midnight, as many of the guests had a long drive ahead of them.

It was a beautiful wedding to celebrate a beautiful couple's true love.
Photo by Karen Langelaar 


His love was stronger than the power so dark,
A prince could have within his keeping.
His spells to weave and steal her heart,
Within her heart but only sleeping.

My love is like a storybook story,
But it's as real as the feelings I feel.
My love is like a storybook story,
But it's as real as the feelings I feel.

And he said:
"Don't you know I love you oh, so much,
and lay my heart at the foot of your dress."
And she said:
"Don't you know that storybook loves, 
Always have a happy ending."


Then he swooped her up just like in the books
And on his stallion they rode away.
~ Willy DeVille

Photo by Karen Langelaar




Friday, August 29, 2014

Thirty-Four

Today it has been thirty-four years since that August day when I came into the world three weeks ahead of schedule following a frolic down the sandhills by my vacationing mother. Yes, I am officially in my mid-thirties. Since last birthday a lot of change has occurred, most of it positive. Last school year I got the opportunity to work with a diabetic child, who was a joy to provide nursing care for, and I also started a part-time job in foot care around the time of the New Year. I attempted Zumba during the fall and winter to limited success. My fall projects were to learn how to hear God's voice more clearly and to get a foot care job and both goals were accomplished to some degree. After about six months my mentor suggested we stop our weekly phone calls and just talk as needed. During the following six months positive changes seemed to accererate as I participated frequently in Immanuel sessions, continued my daily Bible reading plan which I will have completed in another five weeks, and also began to increase my prayer walks this summer.


This summer has been enjoyable with a July visit to Saskatchewan to visit my sister, brother-in-law, two nephews, and two nieces. During my visit I decided to start a healthy eating plan my sister and brother-in-law encouraged me to try. Following my visit I had shingles which meant more time off work and missing my sister's bridal shower. In May my sister got engaged and this weekend my sister is getting married! Very excited to celebrate that wedding and to welcome another brother-in-law into to the family.

Recently I had an amazing Immanuel session that I felt had shifted something, although the last couple of days my abrasive attitude has reemerged. The session was definitely a highlight of my week and the next Sunday I got many compliments at church that I was looking good. I think my countenance had changed significantly and people noticed. Many people at church had commented that I had changed a lot in the last several months to one year, and, while the change is positive, it does make me wonder about the self-absorbed, miserable person I have been.

This fall I am hoping for more opportunities to work in home care and foot care. This past year I have had two part-time jobs that didn't quite make full-time hours. I am planning to participate in a couple of conferences this fall and I want to take some foot-care or nursing courses.

Eventually I want to find a new place to live with a room-mate and/or room-mates. I think that will be a good step to take at the right time. Living at home has been nice and affordable, but my parents aren't that far from retirement and I will need to spread my wings.

This coming year I want to continue to grow and change and develop better and new relationships with others. I want to find opportunities to help and support others and I want to be connected in a closer way with Jesus. I think this year my theme with be John chapter 15, the chapter about the vine and the branches and bearing lasting fruit. I am grateful for my wonderful family, the friendships that I have, and my supportive church family. I really appreciate my pastor and the mentors I have at church.

I am thrilled about the change that is happening in my life, and I am beginning to get excited about the future! I know there will be hard things, but I can see that even through difficult circumstances, life can be full of joy, peace, and beauty. Often it is the attitude you take to life that makes the difference, especially when God is with you and active in your life.

My beautiful cake
Birthdays are always a big deal in my family, but I have celebrated mine early this year so today will be much lower key. I am posting a picture of me last Thursday celebrating thirty-four years of life and about to blow the candle on my strawberry cheesecake, as well as a couple other photos from my birthday evening.
My sister Linda and I
Playing Balderdash

Friday, August 15, 2014

Au revior, mes soeurs

As much I am looking forward to a family wedding, I am not looking forward to saying good bye to my two sisters, as one heads off to be newlywed graduate student in Montreal and the other leaves for her first year at Laurier. After the wedding is over the family will scatter, and I will be the only one still living at home with my gracefully aging parents. This will throw in sharp relief the inescapable fact that I am well past thirty and living with my parents.

Our household will go from five to three, even as the chores get redistributed and the number of family vehicles decreases by one. Dinner conversations will be less lively, laughter will occur less frequently, and the quality of humor will begin to degrade. No longer will there be enough people for a spontaneous game of Euchre to break out. In short, life will be staler, flatter, and less meaningful.

Without my sisters, I will be out-numbered in any generational dispute. Not only will I lose valuable allies, but I will be the only one standing in the way of my parent's empty-nest hopes and dreams. This vulnerable position will end the comfortable place I have held in the family and home, and inevitably lead to my moving out into the world once again.

I will miss my sisters. Good natured and kind Christina who declines to be thanked for simply doing her job. Clear-sighted Rachel who cuts through the bs to get to the heart of any matter and who can always make me smile. Life without them will be different and far less rich.
My beautiful sisters last winter

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Regrets

If today was my last day here on earth, I would have a few regrets. Some of them are missed opportunities, like the time my English prof wanted me to present my paper at a conference and I never followed up, or all the time I wasted studying in university to achieve that final five percent when I could have been pursuing a social life or actually be focused on learning instead of marks. Some of them are experiences and relationships I have never had. I still have a longing to be swept off my feet and to be loved for who I am by someone who has yet to appear in my life. I would love to carry life inside me and to hold a child in my arms that is the consummation of a love I have for this other half.

But if I were to die today, what would be my biggest regret? Not that I didn't present a paper, or that I never was a wife and mother, but that I was so wrapped up in myself that I didn't love enough. I didn't reach out to the man in the wheelchair who asked me to help him get home in the rain, because I had a bus to catch. I didn't befriend the friendless or offer shelter to the homeless or give sacrificially of myself. I didn't care enough about those who were victims of disaster or who were hungry and without work. I didn't see the face of Jesus in those who were suffering. 

Also I wasn't grateful enough for what I had. I didn't appreciate each day and each opportunity. I didn't find joy in the little moments. I lived more in the past and future than in the present.

What I have built of lasting value? Whose life have I invested in? What gift have I given the world?

Today most likely isn't my last day on earth. I can't change the past and seize missed opportunities. I may someday have a husband and a family or I may not. But moving forward I can reach outside of myself and look for ways I can love others.

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.


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