Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Christmas List

Our flights today were late or delayed. But that's alright; the plan was to come a day early to DC, because traveling out of Canada in December is usually a recipe for delayed flights, so in arriving early, we wouldn't have to worry about missing our flight.

However, during the delay just sitting on the plane, Biruk and I made our Christmas lists from the SkyMall magazine.
Okay, not really- because I don't want someone getting the idea that I really want any of these things. However, if anyone wants a gun that shoots marshmallows, there are two different ones to choose from! Really? Two different companies created guns which shoot marshmallows?

Or how about a game that uses your brainwaves to solve an obstacle course? It's called the 'Telekinetic Obstacle Course". Hm... that just makes me think I would get a headache. But maybe I really can move a tiny fan which causes a ball to move by simply thinking about it, as this game suggests. Pay $99.95 to find out.

Now, I don't have a pet. But if I did, I think I would be trying to prevent the thing from constantly climbing on my furniture, not buying it a set of stairs to make access to my furniture more accessible. But, if you do want these stairs, they only cost $200.

Want to know your dog's DNA? I'm guessing if you're into dog shows and want to enter your dog, you already know his or her DNA and have the papers. But if you're a simple pet owner and want to know your pet's genetics; here's the perfect gift! You have to go to your vet and get a blood sample, then, 3 weeks later, you'll know what breed or breeds your dog is! Only $125. But if you have to go to the vet anyways, couldn't they just tell you?

The ad began by emphasising how comfortable the passenger sleeping on the plane must be. However, the person looks nearly dead, or at least passed out, on a small, plush hill which is resting on his legs. The man is leaning forward, face smashed against the gigantic pillow. I wish I had a picture to show! But I'm also wondering how the man even got the big pillow on the plane, because I woudn't fit overhead or under the seat. Imagine sitting down and having a pillow tall enough to reach to your chin- a little big for an airplane.

Now, I couldn't choose between these two. Both are my favorite for being the most ridiculous:

"Golfers- rid yourself of those ugly sock tan lines forever. If you always feel like people are gawking at your white feet and the unsightly tan lines around your ankles when you wear sandals or pumps, then you need the Solafeet food tanner. Those tan lines can be gone in 5 to 10 days with just fifteen minutes a day...the Solafeet is ideal for flip-flop wearers, tennis players and joggers." So, for $230.00 you can--duh duh duh: Tan your feet!

"Shape-up Pads. Add sexy curves without surgery. Just place them (which are white-people-flesh colored silicone bumps) inside your pants or undergarents to create extra curves instantly. They are lightweight with washabe and reusable silicone adhesive, they adapt to body temp and mold to body shape. They stay put even when dncing or exercising."
Exercising? You're going to insert silicone blobs in your butt when exercising?
Wait! You're gonig to insert silicone blobs in your butt, period?

So, I am in the United States at this moment. But only for the moment, I'm going to Ethiopia tomorrow.
The hotel is really nice.
Burik and I hardly ate because we had to rush to catch our next flight. Which was delayed for 2 hours. We arrived in DC after 12 am, meaning any restauraunts in walking distance were closed. So we ran to the near-by gas station. Twice. But now we're not so hungry and watching the Tiger Woods News while Biruk tries to call Addis Ababa, since I gave him the wrong arrival time in Addis- 4 hours off!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Invisible Daniel

My first thought has evolved from 'church talks'. The congregation that Biruk and I go to has been looking at the book of Daniel. Someone gave an imaginative modern-day representation of Shadrach, Meishach, and Abednego not bowing down to the idol and facing the furnace for not obeying their boss because they did not want to worship money or a business and were 'fired'. It was cute, but more so- thought provoking. We can still face idols today that we might be demanded to bow before. Often, I don't even think about some things as idols, and I might very well be worshiping them with my time and finances.

And then the thought occurred to me. Where's Daniel?
We know where Shadrach, Meishach and Abednego are; they are in front of the king, saying that God is able to save them, and even if he doesn't- they still aren't going to worship (which I find so powerful; 'and even if He doesn't' has so much faith, even in the seemingly doubt because there is a chance that He might not.) And then we know where they are because they are in the fire. Walking around! And Jesus is right there with him- a fourth man who looks like the Son of God.

Pretty powerful. If I was them, I'm sure I would have thought that I was dead. Okay- we're in the fire. It doesn't hurt anymore. And we see God. I would definitely think that I was dead.

And still the question; where is Daniel?
He's not mentioned in this chapter at all. The only chapter he's not mentioned in in the book he supposedly wrote (for the record, I do think that he wrote it).
Did the brave young man who had the faith to not eat the 'unclean' food crack and bow before the idol? And if so, why doesn't he mention his screw up? It's almost prideful to put all this glitz on the 3 amigos who are faithful and then not mention his downfall- as if he was covering up for himself.
Or maybe, he's being really nice and letting the random 3 guys who aren't ever mentioned again have the spot light in the middle of his book. He steps aside and lets this powerful story be told, even without him in the lime light.

My thoughts? I think he bowed. He got scared. He probably 'prayed about it' and convinced himself that there was a way around it; when he bowed he would start praising God in whispers so that his worship would be directed towards God instead of the idol. Or he would just be 'sick' that day and weasle out of the whole sitatuion. Instead of facing it and putting his faith in action he chickened out.
And then he felt terrible about it. He was so ashamed and so upset; he confessed to God and asked for strength. And God gave him the words to interpret the visions of the King; scary words to say to the most powerful leader in the world: 'uh- you're gonna go crazy and lose everything.'
And when he was faced with a similar obstacle, he did have the strength and the determination to face it and be faithful; he prayed. And faced a den full of lions because of it.
I think we read of a stronger Daniel (one who is human- flawed and failed, who chose to learn from his mistakes and seek the grace of God) because of this 'invisible Daniel' in chapter 3. But really, it's all speculation and I don't know.

What do you think? Where is Daniel and did he bow or not?

We leave on our trip in 2 days and arrive in Ethiopia in 4 days. I am really excited, but it's almost a forced excitement, having to will myself to look forward.

I remember feeling this way in Winnipeg- this horrible loneliness that makes we wonder if I'm slightly depressed. When I moved to Winnipeg it took me months to stop hating it; and it was only when I came to terms that it was okay to hate it that I really got over it. I still don't like that city, but I do miss plenty of people there.

And now, here in Edmonton I feel similar. It's a strange mixture; because I love seeing Biruk all the time. It's like a light went back on and that dreaded 'missing him' is gone. I love spending time with him.
But in not missing him, I now miss everyone else in my life.
And really, if the choice is (and it may very well be): to live in here in Edmonton and hate it, but be with Biruk or live somewhere else that I love and not be near Biruk, I'll take hating Edmonton.
But I hope that I don't have to hate Edmonton. I hope that I can love it here and build a life here.

I felt the worst when I lived at my other apartment. Biruk noticed almost immediately when I moved to my new apartment that I didn't complain of feeling so lonely. The new environment has helped immensely. But it's wearing off.
I think my biggest struggle is not having made any friends. And I've been here for 5 months. And it makes me question if I even can make friends here.

When we return in January, I'm starting my internship. Hoping that being busy and feeling like I have a sense of purpose again will help. I truly hope that this is just a phase that will pass and then I'll love living here.

And if it's not then I am not going to apply for permanent residency to Canada. I'll extend my work visa or something until we can decide where we do want to live.

Now I'm not asking for pity or sympathy; I just feel better when I write things and let them go. Writing and leaving it as a word document doesn't really 'let it go' the way posting it does.

And I am excited to go to Ethiopia, it's just as if there's a mental blockade preventing me from really feeling the excitement that would be typical for me. Hopefully, as soon as I'm away from Edmonton it will change.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My day by the river valley, snapping pictures

I like this one, although it kind of hurts my eyes. It's because the focus of the picture isn't in the center, and everything else is out of focus. But, since my camera likes to automatically focus, I had to tweek it to get to not focus in the center.

There were these cool trees that looked out of a painting or fantasy book- their long limbs not reaching up, but over- stretching like multiple arms over the valley towards the river; like they were perpetually blown by a heavy wind=== awesome trees!

This photo makes me want to reach my hand into it, grab the nearest branch and climb up the tree!

Completely different day from the other pictures: but these giant chairs at a near-by hotel were too interesting to not get a picture taken sitting in them. Even Biruk's feet aren't touching the ground, and he's sitting forward in the chair!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

True or False

Biruk was born in 1979.

True. The Ethiopian calendar is 8 years behind the rest of the world. They celebrated the millennium in 2008. For the rest of the world, 1979 in Ethiopia was 1987.

Ethiopian time usually has people waking up around 1-2 a.m.

True. Ethiopian time uses 2 12 hour segments, but not beginning at midnight, like our time. Instead, one beings at dawn and goes until dusk, then the next one starts again. Because they are close to the equator, there is not much of a fluctuation in sunrises and sunsets as people in American and Canada experience. Hence, if if the sun rises at 6 am, most people would be waking up around 1 or 2 (6 or 7) am.

The capital of Djibouti is Dire Dawa.

False. The capital of Djibouti is Djibouti. The connection to Ethiopia is that it used to be part of Ethiopia many years (more than 100, I believe) ago, Ethiopia sold it so that they could get a railroad put in.

Ethiopia was the first Christian country.
False. Ethiopia was the second Christian nation, Armenia the first.

Somalia is part of Ethiopia.
True. There is a region in Ethiopia called 'Somalia' it is near the border to the country of Somalia. Just as there are different tribes of people (Oromo, Amhara) there are the Somali people of Ethiopia, as well.

Ethiopia has connections to: Rastafarian, or Christianity, or Judaism, or Islam.
All of these are true. The Rastafarian religion claimed that the leader of Ethiopia Haile Selassie was the returned Christ. Many devout Rastafarians moved to Ethiopia.
Ethiopia was the second Christian country.
Ethiopia had a group of people who were Jewish, called Falasha. They thought that they were the only Jewish people still alive, they did not have all of the Old Testament, only the books of Moses. During a famine, it was discovered that these people were practicing Jews and a Jewish group paid for them to be flown out of Ethiopia so that they wouldn't starve to death. Hence, they learned that they were not the only Jewish people left in the world. Also, traditionally it is passed down that Ethiopians originated as the child or children of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
Islam has connections to Ethiopia in that Muhammad, the founder of the religion was encouraged to flee to Ethiopia to escape persecution. And the first person who did the call to prayer for the Islamic religion was an Ethiopian. There still remains a large Muslim population in Ethiopia.

There are 13 months in the Ethiopian calendar.
True. 11 months (excluding February) have 30 days in them. The remaining 5 days (6 on leap years) are added for a 'mini month' at the very end of the year. 11+ February + mini month = 13. The year also begins in the middle of September, making figuring out how Ethiopian dates correspond to the rest of the word a process.

Amharic (the official language of Ethiopia) is a Semitic language.

True. Amharic is actually a combination of Hebrew and Arabic. Many of the swear words are the same in Arabic and Amharic. Biruk's name comes from Hebrew, meaning blessed. Abba, the Hebrew word for father, is also the Amharic word for father. In reading the Bible, you may have noticed that 'Beth' means house (Beth Shalom, Bethlehem), in Amharic 'bet', or 'beta' means house.

Homer mentions Ethiopia in the Odyssey and the Iliad.

True. Iliad: book 2, chapters 29 and 146; book 3 chapter 17. Odyssey: book 1, lines 22-23; book 4, line 84 (Abyssinia)

Haile Selassie was a famous runner for Ethiopia.
This was a trick question. True or False would have been accepted. Haile Gabr-Selassie was a famous runner for Ethiopia. Haile Selassie was a ruler of Ethiopia who is much debated about if he was an evil or a good ruler. And, for some reason I quite easily discovered Haile Gabr-Selassie's sister's phone number on the internet, suggesting that I contact her if I wanted accommodations arranged for my stay.

Abyssinia is another name for Ethiopia.
True. Cush is also another name used in the Bible, which could also include parts of Sudan and Ethiopia. On a side note, if E is replaced with U and the H and one I are removed: Ethiopia -E= thiopia. -h= tiopia. - i = topia = u = utopia. Yes, it a lot of steps, but the Utopia is still pretty easily seen, and changing American to Utopia isn't quite as easy.

Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia.
True. It is still a major export. When the Italians made residence they learned about the coffee, hence cappuccinos, lattes and macchiatos can be attributed to both Italy and Ethiopia.

Ethiopia was colonized by Italy.
False. It was never colonized and Ethiopians are very proud to be a nation that was never colonized. There were 2 wars fought between Italy and Ethiopia, 1895 and 1935. The Italians occupied Ethiopia for a brief time, but they never gained power and the Ethiopians never surrendered and the Italians left. Here is a snippet from the first Italian invasion war (source: wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Italo-Ethiopian_War )
"General Baratieri planned to surprise the larger Ethiopian force with an early morning attack, expecting that his enemy would be asleep. However, the Ethiopians had risen early for Church services, and upon learning of the Italian advance, swept forth to meet it, and crushed the Italians."
After the Italians left, spaghetti and lasagna were adopted by the Ethiopians and they put their own take on it. Also, a few words remained; Ethiopians refer to a kitchen as the 'coshina', the Italian for it is the similarly pronounced; 'cucina'.

And I'm going to Ethiopia in about 4 weeks!
This was not supposed to actually be a question for this quiz. But I am leaving in the beginning of December.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Things to Know or Do When Moving to a New Apartment:

-make sure to have extra copies of your contract, besides just the one copy

-if possible, avoid the 'ingoing inspection'-because then you are guaranteed 100% to get your security deposit back, by law, because there is no proof that you damaged anything

-get a receipt for your security deposit and make a copy

-find out where the security deposit was put (since it is your money, the landlord cannot put it in his/her own account, they must put in in a separate account. In Alberta, not putting it in a separate account is finable up to $5,000)

-know the minimum housing standards

-take photos of anything in the apartment that does not meet the minimum housing standards

-know tenant rights (such as the minimum temperature required by law, in Alberta it is 22 C or 70 F)

-know what to do if those rights are not kept (how to complain to the landlord, how to make a complaint to the authorities and how to get part of your rent refunded if services are not being provided, such as heat and Internet when included with your rent)

-put a pin in the very top or very bottom of the door when leaving, to insure that no one has entered when you were out, if some one has, the pin would have fallen out (if the landlord enters for any other reason than an emergency without notifying you or getting your consent that is also finable up to $5,000 and you can report a break-in)

My mom asked me since the landlord has been so mean to me, if I think I will get my security deposit back.
So I added up all the minimum fines he would have to pay, upon my reporting of all the offenses he has done. $950 + $650 security deposit he would still have to pay me back = 1,600
I also did a quick estimate for the maximum fines he could face, which equalled around $30,000 + $650.
So yes, I do think that I will get my security deposit back.

I was thinking about it today, and I feel sorry for him. I think really he is just lonely or upset about something and it taking it out on me. Most people would take their stress out on someone close to them, who they trust and who would probably not leave because they were 'blown up' on. However, it actually makes more sense to take your anger out on someone who you don't know very well and maybe will never speak to again; your relationship won't be at risk, you won't hurt the person you care about and you will not feel guilty for it, either.

And some of the things he said to me made me realize that he is quite bitter. He thinks up ways to get back at me, to hurt me, to screw with me. Instead of thinking about what is best for him, I have become his focus (that's sort of scary, actually!).
Bitter people, or really anyone who is harboring unforgiveness becomes reactive to the person who they won't forgive, so the other person gets the upper hand, even unknowingly.
I would much rather think about other things, and have more enjoyable things to fill my thoughts than ways to hurt him or get back at him (although I do know my rights and how to respond legally if he attempts to take them away or infringe upon them). Loving him doesn't mean that I have to stop loving myself.
And that's sort of bitterness, too- you stop loving yourself because you focus so much on hating the other person, you don't even take the time to love yourself, to think about what is best for you. Instead, you do the opposite; what is the worst for them?
Loving yourself is not selfish, it's healthy. And bitterness is the opposite, and unhealthy.

The moral of this story?

Depend on God (I now have a great caretaker, nice neighbors and a sweet rent deal).
Love others.
Love yourself.
Know your rights.
Love others.
Take your anger out on strangers, not loved ones.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Restorative Justice

I'm taking a class in restorative justice, which I was interested in, but wished I could have taken it in-class with a certain professor at TUFW. I was thinking the online class wouldn't be as good.

I have learned so much in 6 lessons; it has made me read the Bible differently, understand some of the words and teachings of Jesus differently and it makes characteristics that I knew about God jump out of the pages of familiar stories. I feel like I am reading these for the first time!

The story of Cain and Abel. It's pretty short; Chapter 4 of Genesis. Cain kills his younger brother Abel, Cain is marked and has to roam the earth forever.
Rewind. Adam was told that he would have to work the earth; as a punishment. Cain is famous for being a gardner of type, in contrast to his brother, who worked with the animals. So, the punishment given to Adam, in the next generation is a blessing and a purpose; Cain learns from it and is blessed because of it. (How many modern-day punishments have that influence, other than to be deterrents?).
Cain became angry when God 'did not have regard' for his offering. The Bible doesn't say who Cain was angry with, except that he was angry. His countenance fell.
God doesn't even mention the offerings when he addresses Cain, he just asks him why he is angry- telling him that if he does well his face will be lifted, if he does not do well- sin is waiting for him. God warns Cain and gives him advice on how to deal with his anger.
What astounded me was God's interjection.
God created a perfect world, with people who hadn't sinned and their community was perfect, between humans and between God and humans. Until humans sinned.
Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden, but they remained together, having their relationship and started a family. Eve says that it was through God's help that Cain was born; community was being restored.
And then Cain is angry, and him not being at peace, even with himself (we don't know who he was angry with) put the peace and wholeness of the community at risk.
So God addresses this before there is a problem; God is proactive and preventative (our criminal justice approach tends to be reactive).
And then Cain goes and talks to Abel. And then, somehow during that Cain kills Abel.
Genesis 3:9. Adam and Eve just sinned and sewed fig leaves to cover their newly realized nakedness. God speaks, "Where are you?"
Genesis 4:9 Cain has just killed Abel. God speaks, "Where is Abel your brother?"

God's first priority when a wrong has been committed, when a sin has been committed is the welfare of his children- even the offenders (in the case of Adam and Eve). And him asking where we are might say something about how sin pulls us away from God and how deeply it affects our relationship with him.

The other important thing I noticed was God's concern for the victim. In the current criminal justice process (as my course keeps highlighting) is the lack of attention and invovlement given to victims. They are used more as evidence than treated as an important part of the justice process. They are rarely give a voice, asked for their opinion in sentencing, compensated or notified of the case (if it was thrown out and their assualter is still roaming free). This increases the injury to victims and makes it more difficult for them to heal from the offense. God asked about the victim first- it was God's priority.
We learn that Cain's sin has affected him socially; his relationship with his brother and others, it has affected his community, including the very earth- which will no longer yield to him. It has affected him spiritually, as he leaves the presence of the Lord (verse 16). It influences his future, as he is afraid that people will try to kill him (what people? Mom and Dad? Or, has God created other humans....?), as well as his career, as his former profession doesn't look too promising if the ground won't cooperate. It affects him physically- God puts a mark on him in grace, to spare him from being killed. And, it affects him mentally and emotionally, as Cain says his punishment is too great to bear (verse 13).
God made Cain address his crime, whereas our criminal justice system allows offenders to be passive instead of active, meaning that they don't have to accept responsibility (which is more than 'guilty' or 'not guility').
God addresses the areas affected by Cain's sin, in a way of restoring him and restoring their relationship. God puts a mark on Cain to protect him- taking steps to restore Cain and God's relationship, as well as Cain's relationship with others. Cain is told he will be a vagrant and a wanderer- given another role within the community (and he also built a city), as a way of restoring Cain to the community.
However, further reading into Exodus reveals that the punishment for diliberate (not accidental) murders was death of the murderer. God could have easily struck down Cain and let Adam and Eve start over with Seth. Further reading shows that 8 generations later, Lamech- the first mentioned man to have two wives- is also a murderer, of a man and a boy. (Also, when you look at the names of the children of Seth and Cain, they are very similar and both have a descendant named Lamech and one named Enoch- really, there can't be THAT many people in the world, couldn't they have been more creative with the names?). Couldn't God have limited this murders of this family by wiping out Cain?
But then the same question would apply to Cain's parents- Adam and Eve, who committed the first sin.
So, why didn't God kill Cain when it is an obvious law which God created? And since his character doesn't change, the law being stated later doesn't really change that God should uphold his own laws.

When I look at this story, instead of just reading about a murder, I see elements of God's justice which restores, which focuses on the one hurt and treatment of the offender- not so much on the crime. I see elements of the community that God intends and how offenders can re-enter the community. I see grace, I see examples of how to punish so that those in the future may be blessed because of it, I see God addressing the many systems affected by crime. I see God's restorative justice.

And as I read other passages- Jesus reinstating Peter after Peter's denial, Jesus healing the ear which was cut off with a sword, Jesus flipping tables in the Temple, the laws God gave to Moses, in God punishing whole communities for the sin of a few- the restorative justice of God keeps standing out to me.
Now, I'm sure I don't totally grasp it (who fully understands the Bible?). But I was blown away by reading the story of Cain and Abel and could harldy sleep, just thinking about the grace of God and how much love is in his justice.


Living in Edmonton has been wonderful! I get to see Biruk all the time. And when I don't get to see him all day, like on most Thursdays, I really miss him. I feel so happy spending time with him, our relationship has been blessed and is growing stronger. God has been working so many things out and paving the way for our future, it continually amazes me.

But, living here has also been really hard. I still don't have any friends. I miss playing soccer, the only real options here are to join a league, which would be an indoor league by this time. We keep looking for a church, but haven't found one yet. There have been nice ones, but they usually felt too big or I wondered if I could really call it my 'home' church. I want a group of people who love God to be in my life, to challenge me, support me, and for me to minister to, as well. Not being able to volunteer here has also been really hard. As long as I can remember I was volunteering somewhere, somehow.
We emailed this church that had a 'marriage mentorship' because Biruk and I want that. Instead of pre-maritial counseling given by a single pastor, we want a couple who has been married for a while to together give us guidance. Maybe two or three couples to give us different angles. And we wanted it to be ongoing, not just 2 sessions and then over; we wanted weeks and for them to be a support system and encouragement after we got married, too.
So, we emailed this church to ask if we could benefit from this marriage mentorship, even if we weren't members of the church. We explained that we are both Christians, just moved to Edmonton and haven't found a church to call home yet, but we also don't want to put a mentorship for our marriage on hold, either.
Someone from this church replied to say that it wasn't really mentoring, they were sessions as part of marriage counseling for someone wanting to get married in that particular church and was only available for members.
For some reason, it made me really sad. I'm not sure if I'm sad about the state of our church, that we are so closed in our congregations and being a fellow Christian means so little unless 10% of your income goes to that particular congregation. That people get married 'at this church'- I'm married if I get married before and join that church- what do they mean 'married in this church'? I'm sad that church membership means so much- where is church membership (to one particular locale) even Biblical? And ministering to fellow Christians of other churches has to even be discussed instead of a given.
And I'm sad because this is something Biruk and I both want to do, but we don't know anybody! I liked that this congregation already had people acting as 'mentors' (or so it seemed on the website) because the fellowship at that locale must have seen that they had a Godly marriage, to ask them to be mentors. We don't want to ask people who we don't know anything about, or anything about their marriage to mentor us.
And I'm sad because we haven't found a church yet, which I would really like to do. I think I'm connecting friends to church too strongly, because I am able (and willing) to make friends outside of church. And I'm definitely sad because I still have no friends (in Edmonton, I have friends all over the world, though).

However, even if they don't live near us, we know people who are married, who have Godly marriages and keep God at the center of their relationship.
Would you please give us some of your wisdom? Even if we do get mentors here, additional wisdom and experience wouldn't hurt!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Giant Fish

Fall used to be my favorite season- the changing leaves, I think was my reason. Not so much anymore, I'm not a fan of the weather getting colder. But, I remind myself that if I can live through two Winnipeg winters, I can live through just about any other cold area.
It was so nice last week- one day Edmonton was actually one of the warmest places in the world. It was warmer in Edmonton than in places in India and warmer than Miami, Florida. Not this week- I broke out the winter coat and mittens.
I got a few comments on wearing mittens, apparently it's too early. My hands don't seem to think so.

I was writing a letter to a friend of mine who has started reading the Bible. I was sharing my favorite book of the Bible with him- Jonah. It's an interesting book; a prophet not sent to Israel or Judah, but to the pagan people in Nineveh- of a country who was attacking the Hebrews. As I wrote the letter, I began to see this story in a new light; why would God send a prophet to a people other than the Israelites, telling them to repent and be saved? Because he is a gracious God.
Why would God send a fish to swallow Jonah? Because he is a gracious God. Before, I had always thought of Jonah's three days in the belly of an enormous fish as a punishment. It makes sense, after all- it's a prison he couldn't escape from. I doubt he ate or drank anything. That's pretty much the 'depths of despair'.
But, what would have happened to Jonah had the fish not swallowed him? He was tossed overboard during the middle of a fierce storm that threatened to tear apart the ship. Doesn't sound too promising for a lone person. Could he swim? Even if he could, he would probably have drowned. No one threw a life perserver after him, there was no coast guard to rescue him.
He probably expected to die.
And then, from within the waters- he is saved. He is swallowed by a giant fish and lives there, inside of it for three days.
God saved Jonah from what seems like a pretty certain death. He gave him time to repent and return to a right relationship with God and to obey God. Jonah is given another chance to go to Nineveh and tell them to repent.
Think of that- Jonah is saved from death, given time to repent and obey God. And then he is sent to Nineveh to tell the people there to repent and obey God so that they might be saved from death.
God sends a fish to swallow Jonah because He is a gracious and merciful God. And the way in which God did it maybe even made Jonah a more fitting prophet, having had such recent hands-on experience.

Tomorrow is Biruk and my 3rd year anniversary. We invented the date because we don't remember when we really started dating. We actually know the date is wrong, because we began dating just before I went to Uganda and I was already in Uganda by this time 3 years ago. But the actual day is not that important; celebrating and recognizing the time we have spent together is.
It doesn't feel like 3 years. Maybe because so much of our relationship was long-distance, but that should make it feel longer, not as if it just zoomed by. Do the years of marriage whiz by like that, too?

Saturday my brother is getting married. I will have a new sister! She's really sweet, Chris is very, very lucky. And I will be an aunt, which is a strange feeling. My best friend is also having a baby, but it hasn't been born yet, it's not the same feeling as actually being an aunt. That's three engagements and two marriages for my immediate family this year! But we are pretty happy at how our family is expanding.

And Monday is the Canadian Thanksgiving. I don't know how to cook a turkey and my oven sucks. I suggested that Biruk make the turkey and he just talked about how good the turkey his sister makes tastes. I joked to him about buying turkey lunch meat and eating sandwhiches, he didn't think it was that funny. But really, we couldn't eat a whole turkey.
Neither of us have ever celebrated the Canadian Thanksgiving, and we aren't really sure how to make this tradition.

Monday, September 28, 2009

All is right with the world again

I type this from Biruk's computer, sitting in my 2 bedroom suite.
The computer loaded up just fine this time and the wireless internet is working again.

Now I am happy about the prospect of finding a new apartment again, instead of dreading it.
I will get to control the temperature!
The main floor of the house, where the owner lives is where the heat controls are. And since he was at work all day; I was freezing! And going outside in Mary-Poppins-like wind didn't seem a much better option, either.

I should be catching up on my homework, since the internet and computer troubles today set me back. But instead, I am stuffing myself with pizza. The perfect meal after working out, right? I can do my homework tomorrow. I'm celebrating going the entire day without needing a nap!
Had I mentioned before that I was anemic?
Biruk, who takes care of me so well got me vitamins with iron. And now, for the first day in a week, I have managed to be like a normal adult instead of a toddler. My running distance isn't up to where it was before, but that will come. Staying up til midnight? I feel that that in itself is an accomplishment.
I am in much better spirits now.

I feel that I'm perhaps addicted to the internet; if it's down, I'm freaking out, if it works I'm fine. I might need an intervention.
How about a month being away from easy access to technology? Sounds like a plan.

Today wasn't good.

My computer is really old and recently the internet stopped working.
I take online courses. I'm finishing my degree through online courses.
But it was okay, because Biruk has a computer which has internet access which I was using (much to the dislike of his roommates, bceause I took the computer away from them).

Now, his computer is being weird. Is weird when a computer won't start? Won't load up?
I guess that just sucks for me.

So I'm in the library.
Guess what? They don't have any word programs. Just internet. That's great.

And I have two months to find an internship.
And I'm moving to a new apartment in November.

Wow... someone want to trade me lives right now?

Friday, September 25, 2009

September snap shot

I recently discovered that I am taking a course I don't need- Corrections.
There are about 7 courses in the field of criminal justice offered online through my school and I need to take 6 of them (2 are completed, so I need to take 4). So, I just signed up for the next one, assuming it was needed.
Nope. Is the only class not required.
Which doesn't make sense to me. If I am studying justice and ministry; for chaplaincy, counseling offenders or to work with programs that work with offenders, chances are it will be in a correctional setting.
I had to take American Policing, which is less connected to my field of service than corrections is.

After I got over my initial frustration at myself I remembered that I am already half way completed the course, so why stop now? And, I am enjoying it and learning a lot; required or not, it will be helpful for my education. And education is the ultimate goal? That and a degree that will help me get a job in my chosen field.
But, I would rather not take a course I don't need the last year of my schooling.

It's been an interesting week. I've received phone calls at all times of night and day from the same two brothers. Both good news and bad news and some that I promised to keep confidential. Although, the phone calls are long distance from province and across the ocean. I haven't lived in Winnipeg (lived and worked there) in two years, haven't seen some of these guys in three years, and still they call, even from other continents. I still get letters from them. I wonder if it is a life-long friendship or contined ministry? Both?
And, although I thought I had no connections in Edmonton, except Biruk and his friends, I guess I do. Once, when I was walking down the sidewalk I ran into someone who I used to play soccer with. I have no idea what his name is, but that's alright.
Sadly, I've not found anywhere to play a casual game of soccer, all I find are competitive leagues which segregate men and women and ages and levels. Boo!
Also, on my walk home the other day a nice black car stopped at the light and this pretty girl in the passenger seat stares at me.
And then the window rolls down and the driver leans across her to yell 'hello' at me. He's dressed nice for an interview for a job. I would have hardly recognized him- I didn't; he recognized me.

Biruk loves being back at school. He talks about his teacher all the time; how cheap he is and the funny stories he tells. Some evenings we go to a coffee shop together and do our homework; he usually studies more than the homework that he is given. I don't think I've done that- studied. I just do my homework and then cram before a test.

I've been settling into my new place. Slowly. I still have a few things that I need, like a bathroom rug and a drying rack for dishes, which we're going to pick up this weekend. My new couch- sorry, our new couch and loveseat arrived last week. I'm so happy that now I have furniture!

And, we're going to Ethiopia in about two months! I'm so excited! The weather here is still beautiful, with the leaves slightly changing. But I'm sure it will be very cold after two months. And I haven't left North America since... well, that was that short time in Haiti, but isn't that still in North America?
So, I haven't been anywhere in the continent of Africa in three years. And I've been hearing about this country for three years, so I want to experience it for myself now.
I get to have 13 months this year, as Ethiopia doesn't acknowledge 31 days in any months, but keeps a tiny month at the end of the year with 5 days in it.
And, I get two Christmases; December and January.
And I get to meet Biruk's other sisters, whom he hasn't seen for about 6 years.

So now I'm going to work on my classes, one of which I don't need.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Italy and China

The view from the back of my apartment.

I just got a YMCA membership for 10.00 (CND) per month. Or $2.50 per week. Or $0.81333 a day if I go three times a week. Pretty sweet deal, huh?

I really like the neighborhood where I live. It's on the edge of Little Italy. On there corner are two cafes boasting of the best espressos and gelato. Right down the street is the most adorable Italian grocer and deli with old fashioned cashier counters and constant Italian music playing. Sometimes I feel like I'm in Italy when I walk around this area.

Five minutes walk away is Chinatown. Busting with small Chinese bakeries and restaurants and friendly Chinese people; I went to the Chinatown library this afternoon and the librarian was so helpful! (I was using the computer, and most of the icons and other things were in Chinese and I couldn't figure out how to use it).

Fifteen minutes walk from my apartment is downtown; not bad, not bad.

Also, the coolest playground I've ever seen or been to is at the park just across the street. There is something similar to a merry-go-round in a smaller form and nearly gave Biruk a headache we spun so fast around.
And the most amazing swings! 80's movies portraying the future, the year 2020 or so would have created swings like this for their films. Imagine a large metal bowl that not only holds your butt, but you can practicaly lay in; three people would have fit on it, attached not with two ropes, but four so that you could hold on better and not flip upside down. Not like a tire-swing (although there was one, too).

The fist night, I fell asleep to firetruck sirens (and was frequently awoken by them, as well). None of that last night.
This morning, I woke up to the 'sounds of the city'; A bell clanging to alert drivers and pedestrians of the oncoming train (one of the few spots where the subway is above ground is about three or four blocks away), a dog barking, cars driving by, people chatting as they walked. All soothing sounds, not bothersome. So, I fell back asleep (so lazy, I know!).

And now, pictures of my apartment:

There are two stairs in my apartment; making it 'bi-level'. They both creak when you step on them.
The cabinet came with the apartment, as well as a kitchen table and chairs, along with a Bible left on the table, a quarter on the floor, and a battery in the corner.

Can you see the multi-colored fan blades? These fans must have been for a child's room; they make me laugh!

Bench also came with the place.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Promised Pictures

We went camping over the weekend to Elk Island National Park. Biruk took a nap and I went for a walk towards the beach. I saw the most beautiful sunset as it set behind one of the small islands out in the lake.
I took nearly 30 photos of this sunset!

But can you blame me? It was so beautiful!

I can't decide which sunset photo I like the best...

I call this one "alive" because there is just the one (true, two or three in the very background) that is alive, surrounded by all the dead flowers

I love this hammock! It was a Christmas present, which I've got plenty of use out of.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New home

I found my apartment.
No, not the one I first mentioned. I did like that one, but it was taken up in a flash before I got a chance to grab it.
So I kept looking. Housing here is expensive. Almost all the apartments within my budget were in 'the ghetto'. One place required a criminal record check along with the application.
The prices for housing here are pretty steep. It wouldn't be hard to find a 1 bedroom for 1400. Actually, that might be hard to find, as people will be willing to pay that much and be renting them!
Bachelor suites for nearly 1000? Seriously? Seriously.

It's an adorable suite in the second floor of a 100-some year old house in Little Italy. The landlord assured me that the area was pretty safe, as the Italian mafia run the nearby grocery store and try to keep their neighborhood clean and safe.

It has two bedrooms. Biruk calls the one 'storage space' (I don't think it's that small.)
And a bathtub! (I looked at a bachelor suite that was, not to mention way more expensive for it being so much smaller, but it had only a shower; that was the second turn off, after the price- nearly $800 Canadian per month).

Biruk doesn't like it, but as I remind him; I don't really like Canada, yet I'm here. So he can deal with being there for a few months if I can deal with being in Canada for a few years! I think he's already beginning to warm up to it.
I said he didn't have to visit me there, but I don't like the apartment where he lives, either. And if he wanted me to occasionally make him dinner, then he would have to come to my apartment. He consented. I'm telling you, he is gonna warm up to this place! (or am I just thinking that if I say it enough, it will be true?).

It's time I settled down. I was telling Biruk that if I don't settle down and stay in one place for a few years soon, really soon, that I will probably develop some problem where I can't stay in one location longer than 6 months. So, it's good that I'm gonna be here, make a home. It's exciting right now, but I'm also nervous about staying in one place for so long.
But, for the past two weeks something wonderful has happened; I haven't missed Biruk! Well, while he's at work I miss him, but it's not nearly as intense. It's been great to see him and spend time with him and not miss him!
But we're still in that blissful state; enthralled to just not miss one another. It's allowed us to really cherish spending time together and see one another.

We're hoping to go camping this weekend and I'm hoping to go on a photography spree and have plenty of pictures to show!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I should probably start from behind and work my way forward.

My day with K---- was good. K----'s brother was killed just before Christmas (I posted about it). Most people know or can recognize the steps of grief, but it can take 3 years to finish grieving- and that's a healthy grief, even if that sounds like an oxymoron. So, he's still sad. There were some times, while we were hanging out that he would grow quiet and and pull his shirt up all weird to cover his face.

We cleaned his car and sat on the steps outside his cousin's apartment, as K---- was 'apartment sitting'. Finally, he told my why he didn't invite me in. "They are smoking weed up there and I don't want you to have to be around that."

That made me laugh.

Then, he asked if I had my license as his was suspended. His friend needed a ride home in time for curfew. Sure, I want to support people upholding their curfew, right? However, I had a few questions about the car.

Before I said a word, K--- either read my face, or knows me that well; "You don't have to worry about driving this car. It's legit. I bought it from my uncle, it is insured. This isn't a drug car. My kid rides in this car."

Not entirely true. I've seen this car, been in this car before. With a different driver. But, K--- might not have known about that, as he was not present.

On the drive back, he was talking to his cousin on the phone. In mid-conversation he turns to me.

"Can I ask you something?"

"Sure, anything."

"Why are you driving so slow?"

I don't like driving fast! and I was only going 5 (maybe 10) under the speed limit- everyone else was just speeding!

Camp was good. I have been helping for a week at summer camp since I was about 12 years old. The all girls' camp I helped with had a younger group. Almost all the girls were raised in a Christian home, and followed all the rules.

You'd never get disrespected, let alone cussed out by a camper. You would never need to physically restrain anyone or be locked out by a camper.

This camp was very different.

It was an older group, co-ed with inner-city Canadian kids.

First off, I can't think of a single camper who brought a Bible. The camp brought a lot of Bibles, New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs. The first chapel time, the speaker spoke from 1 Samuel. No one could follow along.

Some of the campers weren't sure they believed in God, if God existed or if they wanted a relationship with him. One of my campers had no background at all, during a private time together I realized she knew practically nothing about Jesus.

Then there was the last night, when several of the campers had new boyfriends or girlfriends. So I had to station obstacles at the door so that they couldn't sneak out in the middle of the night.

One of my campers ran away and after searching for nearly an hour, we found her- off camp property and refusing to speak. While I was wondering through the woods, I remembered the story of the Good Shepherd. It would be easier to go back to chapel with my other campers, and hope that in frustration she would just come back or show up for the fun event we were having later.
My other campers needed me, too. And the other counselors needed me to help control my campers. And my co-counselor needed me.
It's probably not nearly the same thing, but the story came to mind as I wandered through the darkening woods, calling her name.

Then, we sat in silence, while she occasionally wrote on a rock. I got cold, very cold. 9 pm in Manitoba with the sun setting, sitting beside the water- means misquitoes, lots of them! I'm cold and being eaten by misquitoes and she won't tell my why she ran away, why she is upset, why she wants to go back, or what I can do to help. She won't say a word!
After 15 minutes of complete silence, I started to talk. And talk. and talk.
I talked about my life. I talked about travels. I talked about people who I admire. It was on this topic that I mentioned a man I know who is a hero, who also happens to be a Muslim.
Suddenly I heard a voice; "What's a Muslim?".
I answered, and she spoke again! And we had a slow conversation.

And I was able to share the Gospel, the Good News, with several campers.
The Good News that it is through Jesus that we are healed, not by scarring ourselves. The Good News that it is through Jesus we have hope for life, and hope to change. He makes everything new; he can renew us. The Good News that Jesus forgave us of all our sins, all of them.

I took a camper for a walk at nearly midnight. Her boyfriend had died about a year and a half ago. He had actually been my neighbor, and was shot through the eye with a pellet gun, which traveled to his brain and killed him. She was still struggling with that, still. My two co-counselors and I discussed God's hand in putting her in our cabin. One of my co-counselors' boyfriends had died two years ago while they were still dating. And another had lost her mother a few months ago. And I had known her boyfriend. Forgiveness, forgiving herself was a main topic. And then I left her, I walked up the hill and I let her be alone with God for a little while. The girl who walked back up the hill was not the same one who walked down it. All week, she was a different person.

There are other stories, too. Despite not having full Bibles, and some never using a Bible all week. Despite entering without understanding about God or Jesus, or not believing in Him; God moved. And I saw God moving in the lives of each of my campers.

It was hard. But it was good.

Now, I'm in Edmonton. The weather is great- warm and sunny. I'm looking for an apartment, so please keep that in your prayers. I found a nice one, a good deal, too. $650 per month, one bedroom with a balcony! 10 min walk from Biruk's apartment. I am looking at a bachelor this afternoon, for $725 per month- a bachelor, and it's not in a good area, either.
However, there is a whole process to go through, and I hope I can snag this one before someone else does.
And then I get to furnish the apartment. Biruk's roommate has an extra bed I can use until I find something else. But other than that I have no furniture, not a cup or a plate or a pan to cook in.
I'm not a fan of shoe shopping, and clothing shopping makes me tired. But I love searching stores to decorate my own place. Even expensive places that I could never afford I run into to get ideas from. And then Goodwill is my hero with the funky vases and unique serving bowls.
And as I look at the horrible gold-colored florally curtains in the apartment I am currently in, I remind myself that I am going to buy cloth and make my own curtains.

Biruk's family is coming up here this weekend, so I will get to spend time with them. Please keep them in your prayers; his mother has to have surgery to remove cancer in a gland in her neck (I think it's thyroid cancer, but Biruk wasn't sure). She'll be off work for a while because of the surgery, and besides Biruk sending them money, she is the breadwinner of their family. I'm not sure if she will recieve any assistance while she is off work for her surgery.

We're looking for our plane tickets to Ethiopia. I have to apply for an extension to remain in Canada, since the visa I am on now expires the end of this month and I don't plan to leave until December some time. But, there really isn't any incentive for me to leave Canada- I am studying online and I don't have children or property in the USA to be responsible for back there. So I need to show someway that I will actually leave Canada when I say I will. So, I'm going to show proof of my trip to Ethiopia to show that I do intend to leave Canada. But, I need to apply for that extension soon, so we need to get those tickets soon, too! Plus, December will be here before we know it.

New Address: Somewhere in Edmonton. Hopefully, I'll have a real address within a few weeks.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Of Dogs and Long Distance

I recently went on a camp-out/retreat, and spent a relaxing weekend with a friend. Giving me ample time to reflect. These are some thoughts, they may or may not be connected.

The family I'm staying with has a dog. I used to want a pet, but as Biruk has helped me to think more realistically about things, I see the downfalls and responsibilities, not just the positive things that go along with having a pet.
They saved this dog off of a street in Khatmandu where the poor thing was probably near death. They could have just nursed it back to health and set it free in Nepal and that would have been good.
But they didn't. They brought it into their home. They fed it, they let it sleep at the food of their beds. They brought it back to Canada with them. They named it Maya, which is the Nepali word for 'love'.
Instead of just having compassion on the dog, they went beyond; they are committed to the dog.
Usually I'm put off when people give their pets too much attention, or treat them too well; almost like a human.
But I've been learning from their committed love to this dog.

She is a handful. She attacks people if food is invovled, so she has to be put outside before people can begin to eat or cook dinner. She howls and barks at all hours (and is at this current moment).
She has to be walked each day, and yanks and pulls the whole time.
But no matter how bothersome she is, the family still loves her and is still committed to her.
The relationship is not based on their own benefit, not what they get out of it. In most cases, the dog receives and the family is simply tired, or holding a slobbery-wet shoe.
But they took the dog into their home, and they are committed to being a loving family to the dog, even when she doesn't deserve it.

A few years ago, okay, probably 10 years ago, I read Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew. I didn't fully appreciate it at the time, and maybe I don't now, either, but I do understand it better than I did then.
In his book he says "Legalism like the Pharisees' will always fail, not because it is too strict, but because it is not strict enough." It lets us believe that at some level, righteousness is attainable by our own means. If we just follow this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this, then we will be righteous.
We could imagine we were better than someone else. We could do it on our own. Through our actions we might be able to save ourselves.
"Thunderously, inarguable, the Sermon on the Mount proves that before God we all stand on level ground...We are all desperate, and that is infact the only state appropriate to a human being who wants to know God."

I hung out with my new/old friend from my last post again this past weekend. He's always wanting to 'pick up the tab' and it was bothering me, until on my way home I realized something: for most of our friendship, he had no way to be much of a friend.
I had to visit him. I was always moving, I had to write him so that he knew my address or phone number. This has been his first change to be a friend back to me.
He stepped out to grab a late-night snack, I declined because I wasn't hungry. Which left me throwing darts in the garage with his friend Nate*. Nate wanted to know how B and I were friends. I explained, and then wondered aloud how I managed to keep contact with such a compact group of people.
I'm not good at keeping up friendships over long distance. My best friend from Indiana has done a champion job at emailing me and keeping up with me and my life, but still, our friendship changed since I moved away.
I was at Spring Arbor University for 2 semesters and had plenty of friends. Two who I still talk to, and they are always the first ones to send an instant message on Facebook chat.
One of my old roomates emailed me the other day, adn I have yet to respond. I just don't know what to say to her.
Already my friends from Taylor nd I talk less and less. I haven't emailed or called any of the girls I lived with only just last month.
And then there are those friendships that lasted through years of long distance.
Other than the obvious relationship with Biruk.
The two brothers, who always know how to reach me whether I am in Calgary visiting, or living in Fort Wayne. I can't even remember when I saw them last. But when they call, there is always something to say; the words just come so easily.
I think that's what it is though. I'm horrible at keeping long-distance friendships going, they are the ones who are good at it. And the group that the originated from, despite where they are in their lives now, how we became friends, makes them seem the most unlikely group, one might suppose.
I wonder if B knows it, as much as he tries to 'repay me' for being a good friend to him, I have benefitted much from our friendship. I've learned alot, I've been blessed in alot of ways. From many of these long-distance, and strange relationships I have learned alot. Friends who I could talk to on the phone with for hours, yet we have only met in person 2 times (not B, I guess I have several friends who I have only met in person 2 times). Others who call me at the most random moments, but it just brightens up my whole day. Or paintings or drawings that people send me in the mail, although I may not have seen the person in three years.

Because of their background, or a part of their history that they went through, or where they are currently in their lives, we wouldn't be expected to be friends. It doesn't fit. Anything- age or ethincity, career or crime, economic status or any other factor makes us pretty opposite. When I think back to the passage from The Jesus I Never Knew, it makes me think about everyone being on the same level. We don't have to all be the same be meet in the same place, to be on the same level. We are all desperate in different ways. They help me to see the ways that I am desperate, God often uses people so different from me to show me how I, too, need His forgiveness, His grace. In a way, I feel more human when I spend time with people who are so real about what they have been through, or where they are right now.
I might leave smelling a little like weed, cigarette smoke, or baby throw-up; holding stolen garden flowers; but there is that sense that I can't rightly name; that I know I'm a sinner and I still don't fully comprehend grace, but...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Meeting with Friends

I had such a wonderful weekend. I spent the night at a stranger's house (my friend is house-sitting) and ate their food and introduced my friend to chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookies. She said they sounded healthy! How could she live to the age of 22 without ever eating a no-bake cookie?

And the next day a friend, whom I have never officially met before came and picked me up.

I had such a great visit with him. He convinced me to go stay with him and his family, two hours outside the city for the rest of the weekend. And then I made him wake up much too early to take me to the bus stop.
I thought it was going to be awkward, us having never 'met' in person before, but it wasn't. We had plenty to talk and laugh about. We spent the evening playing darts in his garage, and the next day making breakfast with much too much bacon and sausage.

I hope to get to spend time with him again before I leave. And we already started making plans to go on a camping trip- me and Biruk, him and his girlfriend, meet half way in Saskatchewan. Only his girlfriend doesn't like camping, so I'm not sure how that is going to work out.

It's hard to explain, being able to finally meet a friend who has been your friend for a while. All throughout the day he would just give me a hug, for no reason at all. I felt the same way- like there was time we had missed out on, and starting now we can really be friends.
Not to mention how glad I am at how his life is turning out. Perhaps 'turning out' isn't the right term, it's not just a passive thing, he is making deliberate choices that are impacting his life. It's God's movement in his life.

For the last week, I've just felt so blessed by everyone who I am in contact with here in Winnipeg. I am excited to leave, because I miss Biruk so, so much. And I don't have any plans to live or work here again, but it is nice to be back. I think Winnipeg will always feel a little like home for me because of the great relationships I've built here and the many lessons I learned, how I grew and changed during my time here (the first and second times here, when I was really a resident).

The place I volunteer at/with is going well. It's not the same place it was a few years ago. There are differences in the leadership styles and new teens come out, which is to be expected. I was leading the devotions time for the worship night and one of the leaders suggested I speak about the end times and the second coming of Christ.
This makes me smile to think about, because anyone knowing me knows I would never lead a devotion on that, let alone with rowdy teens, some of which don't even know if they believe in a God, or if they want to serve that God. And I am not going to 'fire and brimstone' them to help make up their minds! That's definitely not my style.
Instead, I took a 'criminal justice' approach, discussing typical punishments for breaking the law and how God's grace and mercy is so contrary to anything we deserve or would even dare to expect.
That's probably the biggest difference I notice. It's great that they are focused on the spiritual lives of these kids. That is incredibly important, but it should not be the sole focus to neglect the other areas of their lives.
One deals with gang issues and safety. Another struggles with being a teenage mother. A third lives with the scars of their mother having used drugs and alcohol while pregnant with them.
We can't preach the forgiveness of sins, the love of God and his saving power without addressing the issues they deal with now. Hope for all eternity includes today, Christ gives us hope for today. Hope these kids desperately need.
Hope my friends need.
That their relationships will not break apart and they can have that family they dream of.
That they can finish school, that they can find a job and support their family.
That they can overcome their addictions.
We all need some hope now, today, not just for all the rest of eternity.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Busy Busy

In a moment, I will board a bus, or van of sorts and travel to pick up teenagers.

The 'berry picking' I was supposed to help with this morning was canceled because the berries were not ripe yet (actually, a very cool program; raising money for an orphanage in Mexico, and will go on a mission trip there after a year or so, and other money made from selling the berries will go to a college fund for kids involved).
Our hiking plans were dashed with the constant drizzle last night and the pounding, flood rains this morning. It has now stopped raining, but the ground it too saturated.
Thank goodness the berry picking was already canceled! I would not want to be stuck in that awful rain!

So now, we are having a 'games day', which is promising to be fun- dutch blitz with giant cards, which must be held with two hands, the card game 'spoons', as well as a few other games that are easily 'contact sports'.

I've been meeting up with plenty of old friends. Amazed at how friendships last. I was talking to L**** on the phone the other day, and we reminisced how we managed to stay friends. We ended up talking for an hour, the time just flew by. And there wasn't that awkward silence with not having seen someone in a while, so there is nothing to talk about, or you feel that you have to re-gain trust.
L---- (not L****) and I hung out the other day, and talked last night. He's always asking me for important things! Like to be my best man, or if I will be the godmother of his child (no child on the way, just 'if').

My friend Mo-Mo lent me his cell phone for the rest of the month, which has been a great blessing. Only he forgot to tell me his other number to reach him at, and people keep calling him, because it is his cell number and I don't know where to direct them. And he has countless text messages, that I am so tempted to read (but I've been good!), I just need to meet him somewhere and show him all those text messages.

And I still miss Biruk like crazy, but since I now have a cell phone we get to talk almost everyday. I'll see him soon, I keep telling myself.

I've been really busy, so maybe I'll post pictures, but I won't be posting for a while probably.

Friday, July 03, 2009

politcally correct terms

It's been interesting, in a good way, being back in Winnipeg.
In some ways, it feels the same.
The family I am living with is still wonderful, the place I am volunteering is still full of kids and very busy and I still know so many people in the West End.
People still proposition me- ugh, and there is still plenty of crime in the area.

Its fun to walk down the street and see someone's eyes light up as they recognize who I am and come running at me for a hug. Yesterday a car skidded to a stop, yanked in reverse and halted to a stop at my feet. Contents: three males. Two whom I recognized to be older versions of the ones I remembered from before and the third who I didn't recognize right away- much too skinny and his afro was gone.
We talked about life, what we have been up to. I told them about my travels and school and such and then asked what they had done since I had seen them last.
Sadly, they answered the same. It makes me sad, when I consider how much my life has changed and all I have done and then I think that they are still doing the same, not come any further at all.
One of them informs me that the appropriate term for his line of work is a 'street pharmacist'.
That just makes me giggle every time!

And the big tough guys, who want me to know how they aren't scared of this or that pull out their cell phones to proudly show off pictures of their children and tell me how they plan on being good fathers who are invovled in their kid's lives, not just pay child support.
Tough guys?
And then they got on my case for not hugging one of them before I left.
Yeah, not tough- everybody is human, everybody needs love.

I'm doing great, but busy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Currently waiting for my pseudo-chai to brew in it's milk with ginger and cinnamon. Which makes me miss Biruk because he makes the best ginger tea, with floating chunks of ginger-root in it and that great spicy-warmth that makes it not need sugar or any other flavors.

I'm also missing Biruk because of the nearly empty bottle of mango lemonade in the fridge. I went grocery-shopping today and saw it. It's the best brand, although expensive. If you pause after each sip you feel like you just ate a mango, the texture is so real to your mouth. Biruk and I used to always buy a bottle together whenever we went grocery shopping and drink it on the ride back.

I'm also sitting very comfortably with my feet propped up on the couch and the keyboard stretched as far as the cord with allow to my lap. Listening to the kids outside, just below screaming very random things; hopefully they are playing a game, but sometimes it is hard to tell.
I move around alot. I was in a dorm room at my college, visiting Biruk in Edmonton, in my apartment, in Haiti, my apartment, soon to go to my parent's house, then to Winnipeg. Living in the moment and sucking in now is sometimes really important to do; so that I don't run past my whole life and wonder where it went.
However, there are several trips I went on that are a blurr in my mind; San Antonio, Venice and the Czech, much of my sophmore semester at Spring Arbor; all because I just kept plugging (or plunging?) forward.
I am trying to grasp that perfect balance; in allowing myself to dream and hold on to that hope of the future and what is next, yet still being 'here' now as well as not forgetting what I just did.

I helped teach English today, to a small group of Burmese woman. I was helping my friend and neighbor, as her roommate could not do so.
It's interesting how one understands English better through having to teach it. We don't notice grammar so much because we are fluent and don't think about such things.
Part of the lesson included explaining words we use with measurements of time.

IN when referring to YEARS
IN when referring to MONTHS
ON when talking about DAYS of the WEEK
ON when talking about a specific DATE
AT when referring to actual time segments

So, I invented a little upside down pyramid as an illustration. The biggest sections (years, months) use IN. The smaller segments (days) use ON. And the most precise (times) use AT, which is the tiny point of the upside down pyramid because it is so precise.
I had all the ladies extending their arms and saying IN, IN, ON, ON, AT as the kinetic part of the learning exercise.
Then, they all had to tell us their birthdate using ON (date) and IN (year).
It was fun.

I went to Haiti and came back from Haiti without a glitch. It was restful. I got to sleep in a bed. and take a warm shower (our hot water hasn't been lasting very long). And eat wonderful food! and such full meals.

Actually, thinking about it, it is quite ironic that I went to Haiti to experience these luxuries when I've been living in the USA!
But I sleep fine on the couch. I don't like air conditioning, even though we do have the option here in this apartment. And not eating good food is my own fault.

I hope that my sister's wedding was everything she wanted, even if it did start nearly two hours late and the flowers looked terrible. She looked really happy and her new husband cried. It is strange to see a 7(??) foot tall man cry.
The reception was fun, and my youngest sister ran away from the tossed bouquet; I guess she's not ready to be the next one to get married.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summer in the City

A few days ago I recieved the most random of phone calls.
B----- called me up, sounding identical to his younger brother, who I was supposed to visit while in Calgary and never got a chance to (who, coincidentally I am facebook-chatting with as I type this).
I thought he was pulling my leg, actually, because it was a Calgary number calling me.
I demanded that he prove it really was him.
So he simply said, "You wrote me a letter from Brazil while I was in H-ley last winter."
"It IS you!"
Still has the letter, tried to write me back, but my address kept changing, so it never arrived. And after all this time, he still wanted to call up and talk about life.

When our conversation ended (and I explained the very strange sounding conversation that my roommate overheard and summed up to her how I knew him and my former job, and then we laughed about how little my roommate and I actually know one another) I racked my brain trying to figure out how he managed to get my phone number. I asked him on the phone and he said that I gave it to him in the letter I wrote- the one I wrote a year and a half ago. A year before I even owned this phone.
Very strange...

And as I look back on this conversation and other events on that day (or was it the next day?), I realize the confirmation God was giving to me.

Remember all those times I felt so sure that I was called back to Winnipeg? That I was supposed to spend my summer there (I discussed some of them on this blog).

And then, life happened. My school closed. I got engaged. I graduated. I had/have classes to take over the summer. I had a place to live. I was hoping to have a baby sitting job. I had plans to move in August.
I guess 'life happened' isn't the right term, because in many of this events, I made choices, I set plans.
My plans happened.

But if I really felt called to Winnipeg this summer, it should not be based on MY plans, or MY emotions or MY anything. If God called me there, I am disobedient not to go.

And that's what it boils down to.

So, I'm going.

In about two weeks. I am going back to Winnipeg. I'm spending the next month and a half there.
Serving with a ministry, working with teenagers in various avenues; worship nights, camps, mentoring and more.
It's a really flexible schedule, so I would have time to work on my online classes as well as, more importantly, visit friends I haven't seen in a long time.

L----, my 'best man' for my non-wedding (does that mean I can always call him my best-man?)
G----, who I have only met once
B----, who I have never officially met
S----, who's brother was killed over Christmas
Netta, my 'maid of honor' for my non-wedding
The L's, who I lived with for about 3 or 4 months one year
and my former co-workers
MoMo, a roommate/friend/travel buddy
and the list could go on and on.

But, even in this, it's not really about me. It's not about me being happy with how I spend my summer. It's not about me making money. It's not about me visiting friends.
It's about me being obedient.

And I believe that I am.
God asks that I be obedient. He won't make me do any of this on my own. My own plans were bound to fail in some way or other. I'm glad he is saving me from those.
In following his plans, I have nothing to fear. He has kept me safe each time before.
My only regret is that I hesitated to follow immediately.

I think I relate to Jonah a little (except for the whole being swallowed by a whale part); Jonah still went, he just took a detour. It's not something to be proud of; I was slow to obey.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Back... home?

Fort Wayne
Spencer, IN


I'm at my new apartment, which is understocked with food staples, and overstocked with dishes. It took me 5 minutes to put the clean plates away because everything had to be just so because it was so completely full.
There are giant pink marshmallows- the size of your fist. But no white flour. I want to make bread, but all I have is whole wheat flower, and I want to do half and half.
There is also a decent amount of strawberry whipped frosting... but I still can't find flour.

There is a cat that claws a bit too much and fits the proverb about curiosity who has scratched my feet and is now climbing on the couch behind me.

I'm going to sit on the floor and knead bread while a watch a movie.

This apartment complex has a lot of immigrants. If you can't tell by the many children running around outside, playing games and enjoying the weather, because, lets face it, most of the American kids are inside watching television (not that I have room to judge, I'm currently watching a movie myself). Or, it could be the men wearing skirts... the best way to explain the wraps that that the men wear.
Or, the easiest clue for me would be the car covered in clothes.
No one is moving out, not were they thrown out, they are drying. They are using the car as a drying rack of their clean laundry. That's the dead give away for me.

I'll only be here for another day, then I have a wedding to go to.
Then I'll be home for a few more days, then head out to another wedding.
And then, then I'll be back in Fort Wayne for up to a month! that will feel nice,to stay somewhere for a little while.

Tomorrow I'm doing something new.
I'm gonna dye my hair.
I never have in all my life. Piercings, yes. Tattoos, yes. But I have never dyed my hair. I think it is time.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shrimp and chairs

Most recently: I just made the BOMB deep fried shrimp.

Never made or attempted them before, but Biruk bought shrimp at the grocery store the other day. And we didn't have the ingredients for the shrimp meal that I do know how to make, so I decided to make fried shrimp instead.

dry pancake batter
poultry seasoning of some sort (all that was in the house)
meet-meeta (Ethiopian spice)

I was amazed myself when I tried it... I wish I could have made it fresh for Biruk, but he'll have to re-heat it tomorrow at lunch. But they were soo soo soo good.

A little later: We just got back from our date.
We ended by driving around the neighborhood. The houses to the east (I think) are only a few, mostly apartment buildings, but a few shabby houses. While the houses to the west (I think) are beautiful, it's a historic architectural area.
So we drove around and looked at the houses and made up things about the people who lived in them.
A pink house with tons of bright flowers in the front yard has to have friendly people living in it.
Biruk says that the tiny grey house with a perfect lawn has two little old men living in it.
The yellow house with almost every light shining making the little house glow has to have happy people living there, right?

We don't want to live in a house, we want an apartment. There are plenty of reasons for wanting an apartment, but I did see one beautiful, tiny house that if I were to live in a house, I would want to live there. It was stone, with an arched front door that was not attached right in the middle, but was put on an angle... not crooked, I can't properly explain it.

We didn't decide what kind of family lived in that house, but we both really like it.

Before that: We had gelato and some other italian desert
It was the cutest little coffee and snacks shop.
Yellow and red walls. Framed blackboards to tell prices and drink options. No matching chairs, sofas, or any other kind of furniture. The small end tables all had drawers and inside the drawers were napkins. People wrote poems or tips to live by on them. Someone wrote something about how he was in love with the woman drinking coffee with him.

Biruk and I both wrote something on our napkin- he in Amharic and me Spanish and English (If I couldn't read his, I didn't want him to be able to read mine. But later we told eachother what we wrote). And then we left the napkin in the drawer along with the others.

And... the gelato was fantastic. I had a scoop of mango and a scoop of pineapple. Whatever Biruk had as his dessert was good, too. Tusca? Toscu? Tusco? one of those was what we had.

Earlier: We walked around Whyte Ave. Which is the 17 Ave of Calgary, Kirkwood of Bloomington, Corydon of Winnipeg... ect.

We walked past a few overflowing resturaunts, looked in the windows of several stores and even found a few that were still open. At a gift shop we found the best bright red chairs... too bad they were owned by the store and not for sale. But we did find where they got their chairs. At the remaining stores that were open, we pretended to decorate and furnish our house.

The only thing is finding a landlord that will allow us to paint our walls, because we want anything but white walls! (or pink walls, that might be just as bad).

Tomorrow we might go to Calgary, and maybe Banff, which would be awesome. Even if we don't, I'm sure we'll have fun. Writing on napkins, driving through neighborhoods, no matter what we do we have fun. But it would be really fun to go to the mountains!