Two Become One.. but not like that.

I have kept a journal for ages, since I was about 9 years old I think. While during some stages of life I was more diligent about writing in it, I’ve always had one on the go. I remember in high school someone introduced me to the idea of a Prayer Journal and I thought that sounded appealing too. I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t want to give up my personal journal and combine it with the prayer one so I have had two on the go for many, many years.

If I examine my reasons for this.. well back in the day I wanted to write in my personal one about .. well “personal” things. It was mostly about boys and friendships and the daily dramas I was going through. I didn’t want to mix that up with God stuff because, sometimes I liked boys that I didn’t want to pray about and sometimes I had very ungodly and mean feelings about people in my life. So I felt like I had this double life of journals going on. I also had the far-fetched idea that I was going to be a famous writer and when I died and my journals were published, I preferred that the public read about my ever-so-exciting life of being unable to decide between two boys and musings about my humdrum life instead of see my inconsistent prayer life. Ridiculous.. on so many levels!

So this kept up for a very long time. I would write prayers to God in my devotional journal and then I would pick up my other one and scribble out anxious thoughts about men, jobs, friendships, etc. Recently, I have been writing way more in my prayer journal and it’s started to turn into a personal journal too.

One of my consistent spiritual struggles has been trying not to balance on the fence.. keeping one foot on either side and I think the separate journals is a very tangible depiction of that. I am now “all in” but my journals were not.

SO… today I started a new journal. Just one. A journal where I can record my life and talk to God about it at the same time. Imagine. I’m pretty excited because not only is it quite pretty, but I finally am at the point where I can see how I need to be transparent and open with God about all the areas of my life. I am hoping that this will be a good thing and I can’t wait to see what ends up being written on the pages.  It’s one life… so one journal.

 

 

Goodbye September

September was not my finest month. My circumstances were not ideal and neither was my attitude. You see, for the past 11 years I have always had a full-time teaching job in September. I am used to being slightly stressed and overwhelmed while scrambling to learn my new student’s names and organize myself and my courses for the year. I am used to long, tiring days and trying very hard not to start any sort of countdown. For the first time, in 11 years, I did not have a job on the First Day of School. And that rocked me.

 

I had been praying for a job for September since pretty much the previous September and spent time believing that God was going to provide just that for me. As I approached the summer, I was slightly nervous but still pretty confident that I would be working on the first day of school. As August started to show itself, I was growing a little more tense, but then a job opprotunity presented itself and I was SURE that it was what God has in mind for me. I interviewed and then spent the week panicking until I heard that.. Nope, it was not to be. Devastating. Yet I consoled myself with the fact that it would be okay.. I’d be working by September. And then it was the last week of August, the first week of September, Labour Day and then the first day of school. The only thing on my calendar was a hair appointment mid afternoon. For the first time in 11 years… I was unemployed.

 

I was upset. I was stressed out. I was panicky. I worried about my future, my rent payments, my RRSPs, my long term savings that were dwindling… I was a mess. I felt like a loser, a failure, way too similar to people I had previously judged. I didn’t sleep well. I didn’t wake up well. It took me a long time every morning to get to a place where I felt something that resembled peace. Maybe it wasn’t quite peace but it was something that resembled being okay enough to face the day.

 

I kept praying the same thing: “God, please give me a full time job and please help me to trust you.” The prayers didn’t really seem to be working.

 

A side note is that I am not entirely unemployed. I am on a supply teacher list at my previous school and happily, I was being called in quite a lot. I also had some friends in town and I enjoyed being free to spend time with them during the day. And, I have a good friend in a similar situation to me and we did meet up occasionally and discuss how this was only temporary.

 

One day I noticed the fact that September was nearing its completion, fall had started, the weather was changing, and I just wanted time to stop. I was dreading October because that means that a whole month has now gone by where I’m not teaching. What a depressing thought! But this is the thing! I basically spent the summer not being able to enjoy myself because I was so stressed out about a job and I spent September the same way. I know, deep down, that this is all temporary and that the supply teaching gig is actually pretty sweet. I know that I may never have time like this again and I suddenly realized, I can’t keep dreading the future and spending day after day miserable and stressed out. I can’t let one thing that isn’t going the way I want it to go to dictate my thoughts and mood on my entire life.

 

Also, I started to think about how there are so many things I’ve wanted to do that I was unable to do because I was teaching or too tired from teaching. But now– I have time. I actually have time AND energy. I don’t want to waste that. I want to be able to take advantage of the fact that I am in a unique situation, one where I actually have time to write the things I want to write and to read the books I want to read, and to cook the recipes I’ve been eyeing and to get back into running and yoga and all of the other things that I never used to have time to do.

 

I want to actually enjoy the fall. I want to spend time happily working away at projects that I’ve ignored for far too long. I want to enjoy being able to meet up with a friend in the afternoon for coffee. I want to remember that God has me in this moment in time, in these particular circumstances, for a reason and I want to be able to calm down and relax in that. He’s got me.

 

So now I’m looking at October, 31 whole days, and maybe I’ll get a job and maybe I won’t. I am determined to make use of this month either way, and to live each day purposefully and well.

 

I haven’t had my “doom and gloom” early morning freakouts for a while now and my prayers are no longer me begging God to help me trust Him. I realized the other day that finally… finally after ages and ages, I actually DO trust Him. I’ll keep praying for wisdom and guidance and direction and a job but while I pray, I hold onto the fact that I serve a good God, with a perfect plan and I can trust in Him for all things.

 

“Just the Highlights Please” – The September Edition

Really did mean to write a couple of proper posts but this month has been nothing short of a whirlwind and so– here’s hoping there will be some breathing time in October.

PROUD OF: Being able to maintain some amount of sanity amongst the craziness of the school year. It’s definitely been a hit-the-ground-running situation.. sometimes literally. So far I think I’m surviving and haven’t messed anything up too badly. So much of it is due to being able to spend time with God and asking Him to give me time and discipline to get things done. I love how He answers those prayers!

LETTING GO OF: Unhealthy choices. I have been working really hard at losing weight and getting fit and I’m realizing that I need to stop turning to food to ‘regulate or medicate’ myself when I’m feeling stressed or happy or sad or bored. I’m learning that it’s true that being and feeling healthy is a way better feeling than the feeling one gets after demolishing a pizza.

GRATEFUL FOR: My students. No matter what else is going on at work, it’s a happy thing to shut the classroom door and be able to teach and spend time with a great group of girls. They make me laugh even when they are driving me a bit crazy and I feel very fortunate to be part of their lives.

OBSESSED WITH: The 17 Day Diet. My friend and I are just about finished Cycle 1 and I’m really quite into it. At the beginning I thought that I would just try and hang in for the first cycle but it’s working and I’m back to being obsessed with taking care of myself. OK let me clarify that I do know that it’s possible that a diet obsession can actually become an unhealthy thing but work with me here. I have a long way to go before that becomes an issue. Right now I’m just really into making good choices and feeling good about my decisions.

EXCITED ABOUT: The Bible Study Fellowship group that I joined. I have never been part of BSF before and recently found myself part of a group here in Japan. It’s been great so far getting to know people outside of my work and having a group of women to study and share God’s truth with. I’m actually really enjoying the homework and my small group is pretty awesome!

COMMITTING TO: Reading more. It’s hard when the day is so long and I have lots of reading to do for my job but I really want to work on continuing to read my own things and not just for work. I like what happens to my thought-life when I have my head filled with words, words, words..

 

 

And so, that’s me for now. Still working away at the same things but also seeing some progress in some areas. October is looking to be busy but at the same time, I have some moments of quiet scheduled in there. And I must continue to remember what everyone who knows me knows is true: A busy J is a happy J.

50 Shades of… Disaster.

Over the past couple of days I have seen many trailers for 50 Shades of Grey, countdowns and other still photos from the upcoming movie. I have also read a few articles, written by men, detailing how we as women should not be behind this movie. That is one thing coming from a man but I am actually surprised by the lack of strong female voices in discouraging this film. The thing is, that while we as Christians should examine our own hearts and motives in viewing this film, I believe that we as women need to think clearly and logically about how us flaunting and supporting this film sends tricky and highly mixed messages to the world around us.

I have quite a few issues with the whole 50 Shades franchise, and I won’t even go into how poorly written the books are, but I will try to summarize them in a few main ideas.
OK to start off with, I can see how the general idea has appeal. A rich, young man with a painful past that causes him to be emotionally unavailable, meets a young, struggling girl, lavishes her in amazing clothes, buys her a car, etc etc. She tries to break down his emotional walls while he …. teaches her the joys of being dominated violently in the bedroom??? Yeah, the initial plot is interesting but then it goes so horribly wrong. Sure, there is something very intriguing about a rich and powerful man and I can see how we all would love to be woo’d by a man with his own helicopter, his own empire… but we’d be a lot safer to turn our fantasies toward Batman or even Donald Trump!
One of the most horrible things about this whole book series and how women are flaunting their love for Christian Grey all over Facebook and other forms of social media, is the message it is sending to young girls and men. Part of this has to do with the fact that I work with young girls and I see their confusion over grown up life. Many of them are avid readers and many of them have never actually dated a boy…yet. To have them reading such books, fills their head with such lies that it’s scary and sad. Girls with no sexual experience are viewing sex as either frightening because it hurts or unfulfilling if it doesn’t. This is so dangerous. And the true fact is, not many teenage girls have real women who can explain these things to them. We are playing with fire and they are the ones who will end up getting burned.
Also our fandom for 50 Shades is sending a very confusing message to men. In a world where we have been fighting for women to not be objectified, to be treated fairly and kindly, to show that the ideal sexual experience involves total male domination and whips and chains– undoes a lot of hard work. Recently there has been a lot of anti-porn propaganda coming out of the UK. They have been doing studies about how a man’s early exposure to porn leaves him unable to form emotional attachments in real life relationships. We have all of this evidence about how porn is harming and hurting men and then… suddenly this has blown up all over the place. We are posting our obsession with porn-lit and somehow getting away with it. What a mess!
Men also see our fascination with Christian Grey and while they most likely cannot be buying us cars or taking us for helicopter rides, they can bring a whip or two to bed with them. We are showing men that this is what every woman really wants.
I don’t believe that we want to be objectified or controlled in such a belittling way yet with every like, click and share of a post we are stating to the world around us that we are actually okay and even condone this kind of sexual activity.
So the thing is, by giving this series power and publicity, we are sending messages to the rest of the population who may or may not be interpreting them correctly. We can’t control what young girls or men are thinking but we can send messages of what is good and right and respectful behaviour. As women, it is our duty to take care of each other and the people around us. This silly book, and now movie, is doing far more harm than good and we must speak up about it.

Darkness and Light and the TV

I have always been rather into pop culture and somewhat proud of the fact that I’ve managed to stay fairly on top of most things books, music, tv and movie related. I’m not sure why I think/thought that is/was a big deal but there it is. It does help when working with 12-18 year olds to have some idea of what’s going on and I do think that it is a bit of a responsible adult thing to do.. okay whatever… it’s also really fun!

Anyway I don’t know if you’ve noticed but TV has been getting better and better these days. TV Writers are producing high quality things and it’s not just mindless silly drivel anymore.. well not all the time.

I have a few shows that I watch and try to keep up with and some are more intellectual than others. Lately, I started to watch Game of Thrones. I had been hearing over and over how great it was and how even better the books were and so I had a bit of time one Saturday and thought, maybe I’ll just watch one episode to whet my appetite and then spend the summer reading the books. Well they have these major cliff hanger endings and so one can’t just stop at one episode. Sad to say, I didn’t end up picking up the books but I did end up watching a lot of episodes.

Now– here’s the thing about that. I’m not actually proud of the fact that I’ve watched all of these. In fact I think I might be somewhat ashamed. I like to think that I can handle upsetting things and for some reason I have always been irked by people who walk out of movie theatres and so really, this is not a self-righteous rant but it’s more of a way of making sense of what I think about such things.

Madeleine L’Engle has been my favourite writer since I was eleven and she talks about how good writing shows a cosmos through the chaos. I have since developed my own stance on that which goes something like: you can take me to a deep dark place but you need to show me that there is a glimmer of light down there. I can handle seeing evil, if there is good. I believe good story telling does have bad guys and good guys and even if the lines get blurry (because quite often they do), if good triumphs in the end then it was a good story.

The thing with Game of Thrones is that there seems to be a whole lot of darkness and evil and while it is portrayed as darkness and evil, a true goodness is lacking. I suppose it is faintly present some of the time but it does not seem to be the main thread or idea. The series does not celebrate truth or light or goodness or love. I don’t find that there are any good guys, no Aragorns or Gandalfs, no one who stands out as admirable. If a somewhat decent character shows up, they seem to be quickly killed off. And so, I think I need to give it a rest. I don’t finish an episode feeling inspired or encouraged to be a better human being. Instead I just breathe a sigh of relief that I live in this current time period where women are relatively safe.

I think as Christians we need to be careful what we feed our soul with. We need to be careful with what we console ourselves with and how we entertain ourselves. No I do not delight in bloodshed or the violence in the show, in fact it’s a great show to watch if you want to cut down on evening snacking. I am interested in some of the characters but I don’t need to be dreaming about having my throat sliced open or being speared to death. We are meant to think on pure and good things and I don’t find that the show serves that purpose.

I don’t mean to be picking just on that show and recently I thought about watching the second season of a show recently popping up on Netflix but after about 10 minutes in, I realized that I don’t need those people and characters floating around in my head. It really has no redeeming value and doesn’t put me in a better place. Therefore, I am giving it a miss. I know, I hardly recognize myself.

Maybe I’m just being incredibly sensitive these days but maybe this is what I need to do to take care of my heart and thoughts. And so– this summer I am going to try to be more mindful of what I fill my head up with. (More books, less TV!!! But that’s for a whole other post!) The world is a dark enough place on it’s own and I want to read and watch and be exposed to things that show me the light and celebrate the light.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that!

 

 

On Why I Need to Stop Being Silly…

I’m pretty stupid sometimes.

I worry and I fret myself about all kind of things. I view situations as impossible to solve. I dread the future based on my own paranoid induced predictions. Silly girl.

I have been dealing with a less than pleasant situation at work for about… well since the year started. It continues to escalate and grow seemingly worse and I spend way too much of my time thinking about it. I have been trying to come to grips with the fact that being in a leadership position means that sometimes people just aren’t going to like me. I’ve been trying to make peace with that and figure out a way to deal with it. I tell you, I may be an expert at pinning quotes on Pinterest about how it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, go your own way, don’t let others affect you, people can’t make you feel badly without your permission.. or something but I tell you— they don’t really seem to work!

And so I kept praying that God would help me. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me but I didn’t expect such an immediate and unexpected answer. Yesterday, I went into work bracing myself for more awkwardness and yes, that was there but also many opportunities to discuss things. The whole day seemed to involve conflict resolution and/or “difficult conversations” and you know what– I feel so much better about everything.

Honestly, it was a bit of a rush to see such a quick answer to prayer. It was such a clear example of God going before me and opening the doors and hearts of the people I needed to speak with. And I didn’t even cry.

So I must remember not to be foolish and to trust that He really will work out all of the details and be beside me when I face tricky things.. His way of working things out is so much better than mine!

“Just the Highlights Please” – The May Edition

I feel like I can say this about every month but can you really believe it is May already!?!?! I can play “this time next month” and I will be in a very different place and that excites me. Life is busy as the school year comes to an end but that’s okay. When you can see the light at the end of the tunnel… you can handle almost anything. This school year has definitely been a stretching one and I will be happy to see it packed neatly away but there’s still much to do before that happens.

PROUD OF: Almost finishing my 9th year of teaching overseas!

GRATEFUL FOR: A workplace where conversations can take place. This has been a very difficult year in some regards but I feel very supported by the admin at my school and most of the people I work with. It’s a good feeling to know that I can talk things out with people and receive support when I need it most.

LETTING GO OF: Gossip. Yeah yeah. This is a struggle especially in such a close knit community. Working together and playing together can be tricky. Recently I was reminded that it’s so much better to speak “with” a person than “about” a person. I feel like I’ve been working on this since I was about 9 years old and it doesn’t seem to get much easier. I remember learning Psalm 141:3 “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips“. Also kind of nice to know that David had a similar problem 🙂

OBSESSED WITH: Alba and Kiss My Face products. A friend of mine started telling me all about the dangers of sulfates and… parabens (?) in hair and skin products and I quickly jumped on her bandwagon and ordered a bunch of “organic” products. I love them! Plus they are quite cheap and don’t all smell like patchouli…

EXCITED ABOUT: Summer! I am really looking forward to being back in Canada for 2 months!!! Plus I’ll be attending a workshop in Toronto for a few days (geek!) and then I have trips planned to New York City with a friend and Chicago with my sister. Two places I haven’t been to yet!

COMMITTING TO: A 20-minute 5K. Okay I said it. My running has really fallen apart lately and I am planning on coaching cross -country again and those girls are fast! So I’ve set myself a goal of being able to run a super fast 5K. I have about 3 months. I think this can happen… Goals are good and hopefully since I wrote this down and told the internet.. I’ll be more motivated to achieve it.