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.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


One of the special things about the wedding was having all of 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

Photo by Karen Langelaar
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.

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


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 accelerate 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 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


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. 

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