Friday, March 24, 2006

My Testimony

Although I gave this testimony nearly four months ago at the first Sunday of Advent evening service at Immanuel Christian Reformed Church, I thought I would post it as a statement of faith and a very necessary reminder that my future is in God's hands. Remembering what he has already done in my life helps drive self-pity, fear, and hopelessness away.

Testimony of Suzanne den Boer November 27, 2005

“Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:1-5

That phrase “redeems your life from the pit” has a special significance to me. I know what it is like to be in a deep, dark pit and believe yourself utterly separated from God. But thankfully I also know about God’s forgiveness, healing, redemption, and love.

On May 31st, 1998 I stood before this congregation and made my public profession of faith. On that occasion I gave my testimony of how God had been with me through an extremely difficult time in my life when I was hospitalized with a severe depression. While at one point I literally believed myself in hell and was completely catatonic, there in the hospital God showed me his love in a real way. In my hospital bed I sang “Jesus loves me” and really knew in my heart that he did. During that testimony at my profession of faith, I also thanked the congregation of Immanuel for their incredible love, care, prayers, and support during this difficult time.

So why I am standing here again seven years later, having recently been readmitted to membership? I guess because my journey of faith and healing didn’t end on that day, but has continued with a few twists and turns and detours. I went through a period when I was very angry with God and doubted my faith and that I was even a “real Christian.” I didn’t think I could change, and, what is more, I didn’t want to. I felt sorry for myself and wondered what the point of my life was. If you ask my parents and some of my friends, you will be told that this period lasted for a long time---too long for some of them. Also at this time I was no longer at Immanuel, as soon after my profession of faith, I formally resigned my membership and left with my family. We attended a charismatic church that emphasised faith, healing, and the Holy Spirit. I did correspondence courses for a year, worked for a year at a factory, and then started my schooling at Redeemer College, still struggling in the basic question of “am I a real Christian?” My family eventually left the church we had been attending about a year after the founding pastor resigned. My parents started attending Flamborough Christian Fellowship where they still are today and I attended with them. There were a lot of good things about this church including Spirit-led prayer and ministry that helped me on my road to healing, but I didn’t feel completely at home there.

I started attending services at Immanuel in my fourth year at Redeemer and this past Spring I participated in the 40 Days of Purpose. This study helped me see God had created me for a purpose to love him, belong to his family, become like Christ, serve God, and be his hands and feet to a broken world and gave me hope that God would indeed complete the good work he began in me. I felt convicted that I should commit to a church family rather than casually attend church services, so this fall I started the process of again becoming a member at Immanuel. God recently confirmed to me that he is healing me in a deeper way in my heart, emotions, and mind and that I need to get my dream back, the one he gave me that I thought was lost forever. I am not at the end of my journey, but God has brought me this far and given me hope and a future. None of my pain will be wasted by God, but he is working all things for my good. I thank God for his forgiveness bought at a great price, his healing, his redemption, and his love and I know that as God helps me to become all that he is calling me to be and helps me grow in love and compassion, he will satisfy my desires with good things.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A frivolous entry about
My Austenian Obsession
Bottom right picture Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow) dances with Mr. George Knightley (Jeremy Northam). Middle picture Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) and Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen) share a tender moment long after Elizabeth's prejudice has dissipated and Darcy's pride has softened.

I appreciate all things Austenian. I have read each of Jane Austen's seven novels at least once, and my favourites I have read several times. My volume of Austen is dog-eared and the cover is falling apart. Periodically I used to rent the BBC's 1995 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice at the local video store. It was the same as renting six seven day rentals as it comes in six volumes of one hour each. Eventually I bought the DVD, reasoning it would pay for itself after the fifth viewing. I enjoy every moment of the six hours---at least once a year. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy is a happy combination that can give me hours and hours of viewing pleasure. I also own the Oscar-award-winning Sense and Sensibility and Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow and I would buy the 1995 version of Persuasion if I could get my hands on a copy. Recently I purchased the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley, a movie I saw twice in theatres and would highly recommend to anyone who appreciates Austen and/or Pride and Prejudice.
When I was a young teenager I read a lot of sentimental Christian historical romance, much of it extremely badly written, and I found Jane Austen rather dull. I'd like to think I have a refined literary appreciation of Austen's novels now, especially since I majored in English literature in university. The truth is, while I do appreciate Austen's wonderfully accurate portrayal of English society of her day and her deep knowledge of human nature, I mostly love the novels for their stories of love overcoming barriers and obstacles and love triumphing in the end with the marriage of the heroine and hero. Some in my family have suggested that perhaps I would have enjoyed living in that time and spending my days embroidering cushions, going for long walks in the English country-side, attending dinner parties, and performing elaborate dances at private balls. In reality English gentlewomen's lives were very limited, as they could not work or get the same education as men, and their only means of ensuring their future and their continuance in the manner of life to which they were accustomed was to marry and marry well.
Recently some friends and I were discussing how Austen's female characters had little to do but sit around and work with their needle, drink tea, and attend dinner parties and the occasional ball, and the irony that we all were sitting around crocheting, having just finished our tea, was not lost on us, but of course, as we told each other, our lives consisted of much more than that. I'm sure, however, that we all would love to meet the modern equivalent of Mr. Darcy and have him fall madly in love with us, bewitched "body and soul" by our irresistible charms. I think I would settle for mere possession of irresistible charms.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

I am a first time blogger and the sixth person from my immediate family to have a blog. I've considered having a blog for a couple of years, but I was galvanized into action by my youngest sister who burst onto the blogging scene at the tender age of nine a couple of weeks ago. I found I couldn't comment on her site without a blogging identity. I have been a long-time reader of my brother's blog which combines insightful analysis, creative storytelling, and sophisticated satire with a degree of random zaniness. Although I enjoy writing and it comes naturally to me, I doubted my blog would be as interesting, humorous, or enjoyable to read. My older sister Karen and brother-in-law Clint started a blog of their own recently so Clint could expound his wisdom on current issues and they could report on the progress of their international adoption. A recent post announced that Karen is pregnant and the baby will arrive in late October, so in addition to the excellent photos of prairie landscapes, crazy and cute pets, and farm-life there will be pictures of a baby boy or girl, my first nephew or niece. My sister Rachel informed me as I was writing this that she also has a blog so three of my four sisters now have a blog. My sister Christina offered to give me a few pointers so eventually this blog may be more visually exciting, although I don't take pictures myself. I am not sure exactly what the content of this blog will be.
The title of my blog comes from a passage in Matthew 6:25-34 which was my parent's wedding text. Matthew 6:28-33 reads, "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?" For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." A similar passage is found in Luke 12. In "The Message," a contemporary paraphrase of the Bible "consider the lilies" is rendered "look at the wildflowers," which is not as poetic but was available as a blogspot url. I guess I will have to be content with it (sigh). I am not the first in my family to use this biblical passage as a title and theme for their writing. For several years my Mom had a column in Christian Courier entitled "Like the Lilies" in which she wrote about our family humorously and her faith seriously. Her upcoming book, still to be published, takes many of these columns and shows her process of changing from a head Christian to a heart Christian, if you will excuse the cliche. Personally I find this particular passage very challenging. I tend to worry about my future and it is good to be reminded that God will provide what I need and will take care of me. Remembering to seek first his kingdom and righteousness and knowing how that should be worked out in practical terms in my day to day life is hard, but it's my goal and is certainly an achievable one. Since my name "Suzanne" comes from the Hebrew for "Lily" my title has an added layer of meaning, so I guess I am inviting you to consider the person Suzanne, or at least to consider my thoughts and writing. Well, I will leave the rest for a future post.