That Question…

“So where do you see yourself in 5 years?” is actually one of my least favourite first date questions ever. I can see why a person would ask that and props to him for wanting to know about what is going on in my head in regards to my future but I always find myself squirming and trying to decide how honestly I should answer such a question. I have a bit of a reckless impulse to say “married to you, carrying our third child, living in a giant house on a large body of water, and finally being able to pursue a full time writing career.” But that kind of answer would pretty much erase any hope of a second date and would probably end the date right then and there. So I tend to hold my cards close and yammer out some words about not knowing the future and hopefully being married and published and …. vague stuff.

I feel like as a single woman in my mid thirties, I am at a standstill when it comes to a 5 year plan. There is something I very much hope and pray happens in the next 5 years but I am also quite aware that my search for a “lifetime emergency contact” might not come to anything and I could very much be in the same position then as I am now. And so I’m left trying to figure out what kind of a 5 year plan do I need to have. I don’t want to be paralyzed in waiting for something that might not happen and I also don’t want to be so busy that I don’t recognize it if it does but it’s important for me to set some goals and have some sort of plan, whether that involves another person or not.

And so I think about my 5 year plan, I think about my goals and what the picture perfect ideal scenario would look like and I think about what the opposite of that might be and I grapple with setting a plan that works regardless of my relationship status. And then it gets quite simple. Of course there are some financial goals, fitness goals, writing goals, etc but at the end of the day I want to be serving God in the right place and the right way. I want to be part of a caring community and I want to be growing in my faith and love for his people. It’s not about the checklist or stocks portfolio, it’s about being willing and available to be used by God this year, next year, 5 years, 10 years from now and so on.

So next time I get asked about my 5 year plan, I won’t shirk away from the question but boldly give a new answer that really does embody my goals and desires for the next 5 years…

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On a Rainy Easter Monday

I have been thinking about relationships a lot lately. Relationships with family and friends and… boys. I have been thinking about how easy it is to wreck these relationships and how difficult it is sometimes to see past the humanity of our family, friends and… boys and be able to love and accept these people anyway.

I have been thinking about how we hurt each other by accident or on purpose and how deep down we are all very selfish. I have been thinking about how for me, it’s difficult to talk out or fight out certain difficult issues that arise. It’s hard for me to believe that if I fight with someone, they will come back. I’m not quite sure where this idea comes from but while I can talk a tough game, I hate conflict.

I know that God is our perfect Father, Jesus is our brother and our friend forever. I know that the Holy Spirit is always with me, urging me and prodding me and guiding me through my daily life. I know this but it tends to not sink in as much as it should.

What differs our relationship with God from our other relationships in life is that He is perfect, He can be completely trusted-all the time, He is not a sinful human being.

I have had times in my life where I neglect God, where I squeeze in time with Him to ease my conscience and not because I really want to. I can go for a while without consulting Him and often my prayers can become filled with asking Him for things instead of worshipping Him and enjoying Him. What friend would put up with that?

I continue to appreciate the fact that even when I drift away a little, He welcomes me back and helps me get back on track. I can’t think of a person I know who would be okay with me saying: “I’m sorry I have been neglecting you, help me to start loving you more because right now it’s really hard.” Yet God does. He forgives my humanity, my weakness, my selfishness and He helps me move past it.

I know that as Christians we often compare our relationship with God to relationships we have in the world but it is so much more than that. It is so much better than that. We can’t hide from Him, He sees our ugliness and loves us anyway. That’s a pretty incredible thing.

And so on this Easter Monday, I am thankful for many things particularly that God made it so that we can be in a relationship with Him through His son Jesus. Incredible!

 

 

On speaking to students…

I remember watching an Oprah show back when I was in high school.. yes apparently I had the habits of middle aged housewife but I digress. On that particular show, she was talking about how she had a teacher when she was 9 who told her that she was beautiful. She explained how that single comment changed her life.

I started thinking about my own high school experience. I honestly don’t recall receiving any sort of positive validation from my teachers. No life changing comments or pieces of advice or anything. (Correction: I did have a computer teacher who told me that when I became fwustrated with my computer, I should get up and go get a dwink… valuable stuff really). However on a personal level, what I mainly remember from high school is being embarrassed. I have several vivid memories of teachers snapping at me about things and saying phrases that actually still ring in my ears. I know, I know, it’s been over 15 years.. let it go already! I have and this really isn’t a pity party post by any means. I think I’ve done a bang up job of getting on with my life and not letting a mediocre high school experience taint that but the fact that I can so clearly remember comments that I’m almost 100% sure were off the cuff, in a moment of reaction, not meant very much at all– concerns me when I think of what I do for a living.
I’m with an “impressionable age group” all day long. Not only that but this impressionable age group is entirely female. Hormones rage, emotions fly off the wall, life is all kinds of crazy. I think of how often I am not careful with my words. How I can carelessly over react and say something in the heat of the moment. Something I don’t mean very much at all. I shudder to think of what my students may take away from their experiences with me. I need to clarify by saying that it’s not often that I fly off the handle in moments of impatience.. in fact it rarely happens but I just wonder if I have said things and if some kid is going to remember that moment that her mean old English teacher said…..
I can’t focus on those things though. I can only be really careful to take the time to give positive comments to the kids I come in contact with. I need to be purposeful in praising their successes and kindly deal with their less than stelar moments. To make sure that every action I make is out of love and not anger, impatience or general tiredness… needs to be at the front of my mind. Each. And. Every. Day.
I think I’ve written about something similar before and it came back to me the other day while I was with one of my classes– thinking about words and how they have the power to completely undo a person.. or more happily– completely alter her life for the better.
I do pray every morning that God would give me love for the people He places on my daily path (prayers of an introvert right there!) and I must continue to remember that every word I say counts.

I run because he can’t.

Hanging in my parent’s basement is a calendar. My dad put it there. He uses it to keep track of the many miles he runs each month. The calendar has been blank since April. You see he, the man who has been a healthy runner for as long as I can remember, has become very sick. About 18 months ago he had a non-cancerous brain tumour removed. He miraculously recovered from that and we spent Christmas running together, for the first time. We ran lots of miles, he and I, talked about many significant and insignificant things and I loved (almost) every minute of it.  I planned to return to Canada for a bit this summer and continue to run with him as he added miles to the calendar.. but that was not to be.

You see, at the end of April he was diagnosed with a very serious kind of cancer. The word “terminal” has been used by health care professionals. This Thursday he started radiation and chemotherapy. I came home as soon as I could and will spend the summer taking care of him and being with him and just loving him. It’s all kinds of horrible. To see a person you have loved for your entire life, in pain, sick, weak… is really quite earth shattering. We are believing, hoping and praying for a miracle but at the same time, trying to accept the reality that he is indeed a very sick man.
And so the calendar continues to hang in the basement. He told me that if he can’t add miles to it, I should definitely do that. And so, with all sorts of heavy emotion, I lace up my shoes, head out the door and run along the roads we ran along together, not so long ago. In a time when I feel so helpless and unable to do that which really needs to be done… unable to cure horrible diseases and fix scary medical conditions– I look for simple solutions and coping techniques and so, I run for him because he can’t.

The Power of Love

And no, this is not about a Celine Dion song…

As I’ve mentioned before, my family is going through a pretty trying set of circumstances. I would have to say that this is probably the first really big thing we’ve had to deal with. Due to the fact that my father is a pastor, I’ve seen a lot of people go through painful circumstances but they have not directly touched me in the way that this situation has.

I have written about how I have people around me and how God has been good to me through all of it so far. I have talked about how I have good people here and at home and that has been such a blessing.

Being so far away (but not for long), adds a certain amount of extra stress. It’s quite easy to feel rather removed from the whole thing but that’s just the bad part about living overseas. I’m not complaining and honestly, with Skype and email and Viber and Whatsapp and iMessage and Facebook, I really don’t feel THAT far away but truthfully there are times that I feel alone and just want to be home.

What has been amazing is the amount of love I’ve received. Lots and lots of thoughtful emails and kind words and different people expressing genuine concern, I know that I’m not alone.

What I have learned is how helpful it is for me to know that people do love me. People can’t fix this situation, they can’t make it better but they can tell me that they are praying for me or thinking about me and that they do love me. And knowing that, helps me feel a little less alone.

Love is a powerful thing. I didn’t really realize that until just recently. To know you’re loved is its own sort of cure. I read over and over again about God’s steadfast love for us. I think it’s mentioned in nearly every Psalm. If I had a concordance I’d let you know for sure. What I do know though is that it’s important to know that such love exists.

And so, I think about all the things I have been learning through this trying time and I try to write it down so I’ll remember it in the future, whether that be on this blog or elsewhere. The next time one of my friends is going through something difficult, I’ll remember to tell them how much I love them. It is so meaningful to know that I am surrounded by love and that despite the dark times, love is present and love wins.

You don’t have to fix the big problems.

You don’t need to say the perfect words.

You don’t need to remove all the pain and sadness.

You just need to let the person know they are loved.

It often takes very little to convey that feeling but it means the world to the people receiving it. And so, all through these sad times, I know that there is still love.

On Being Awake to Others…

When you’re going through a crisis it’s very easy to become all consumed by that particular thing. It’s easy to check-out of certain situations and focus solely on what is troubling you in your life. And in a sense, I think sometimes we do need to focus on what is going on in our lives and pay particular attention to our struggles and pain, however, as we need to be able to ask for help from our friends and loved ones, we should not tune out their cries for help or their daily struggles either.

After I shared my current story with a friend, he said to me, “I was just listening to our colleague talk about this stupid situation and compared to what you’re going through, it’s such a pithy little insignificant thing.” (I don’t think he actually used the word pithy..) And I remember understanding how he could think that way, because sometimes I do too, but also realizing that less than a month ago, my greatest struggle was something seemingly insignificant compared to my current one, yet at the time, it was big to me. We all have plates filled with different things and who is to really say that one person’s struggle is any less emotional and upsetting than someone else’s?

This brings me to a realization I had yesterday. Yes, due to the fact that in my social circle here, my story is probably one of the more dramatic ones, I have become rather focused on talking about me. I realized yesterday that I had talked to one of my friends on three separate occasions this week and not once, had I asked how she was really doing. I know she’s going through a few difficult things yet I think I just sort of thought that my thing was more important and so I was very selfish in that friendship. This is not right.

We have a close family friend who has had a very sick daughter for many years. She has every reason in the world to focus on herself and her family yet whenever any of us make contact with her, she is so completely encouraging and gracious. She is always thinking about everyone around her and you can’t come away from a conversation with her without feeling lifted up and encouraged in some way. She is such a clear example of how to be during trying times. While difficult stages of life are really all encompassing, we do need to keep our eyes open to the needs and struggles of those around us. It’s not right for us to tune out other people’s needs and to solely focus on our situations. We are made to love like Christ, we are required to love our neighbours. Going through difficult times does not mean that we stop doing that. We can still love others through our pain, hurt and struggles, in fact sometimes in reaching out to others, it’s a form of therapy. It is all so very connected.

Let me not be so overwhelmed and consumed by my own particular situation that I fail to care for and love and listen to the other people God has placed in my life. 

Trust and Peace..

The past couple of weeks have been rather trying weeks for me and my family. We have been waiting for some information that will greatly affect all of us, in particular one of us. I have been amazed at how by clinging to God and His word, He equips us with all that we need. Everything.

If I were to put a label on last week.. I would call it the week I learned to TRUST in God. Yes, I’ve always claimed to trust Him but when faced with a situation where I really feel like the path He is choosing isn’t very pleasant for anyone, it’s a different story. I found that He really worked on my heart last week and got me to the point where I was able to sing that Blessed Be Your Name song and mean it. It was about clinging to His promises and trusting Him completely.

This week has been different. It’s amazing how hard it is to wait. Especially when what we are waiting for is completely unknown. Through my own time with God and through various people sending me encouragement and passages that they believed God wanted them to share with me, I learned to adopt a peace I had never experienced before. I had heard of the idea of the “peace that surpasses all understanding”.. the deep peace found in God, but honestly I don’t think I have been in a position where I needed it more than I do now. And you know what? God gave that to me. Despite the chaos and uncertainty and emotional highs and lows, deep down, I am at peace. This week has been about PEACE.

This just further illustrates to me how loving our God is to His children. The fact that He cares about us enough to help us work through our emotions… it’s really overwhelming. I have my eyes open right now (I am awake) and I can see Him reaching out to me through other people, through The Bible, through songs, through words and actions, reaching out and holding me firm.

Yes, the storm is rough and about to get rougher but I faithfully trust the Captain and I am at peace.