Friday, May 10, 2013

On dead dreams and babies named Joy

To really understand something and to get the truth out of it, we need to understand it within it's original context. Everyone knows the verses that have been taken out of context in the scripture and used to declare curse or blessing inappropriately.
I think if I elaborate further, most of my readers will nod, annoyed, as they already know this and agree with it.
But we probably all do it; read half of David's Psalms, praising God and skip the 'curse my enemies' portions and all the exact detail David likes to use in describing how he wants God to avenge him. I don't think its really a bad thing during our personal devotion time (but, hopefully we are not focused on revenge during that time with God!).

Today I was thinking of entering into my quiet time with God by reading a Psalm; an uplifting, cheerful one to partner with the bright morning and my delicious pineapple for breakfast.
I accidentally opened to Lamentations. Not exactly a cheerful book.

I read the chapter with the famous verse:
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; 
 his mercies never come to an end; 
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness."  Lam 3:22,23

Isn't that just so nice? I'm tempted just to read that part and no further.

But I read the whole chapter, starting with the beginning, which is not so nice.
Verses 17 - 19 I found very fitting to explain my situation when I was living in Edmonton:

"Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is.
I cry out, 'My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!'
The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words."

And I consider which homelessness was more frightening, more bitter.
On crutches, dependent on friends and taxis and cars of friends. With only about 100 lbs total of everything I owned- mostly clothing and shoes and two winter coats. But I was surrounded in love and daily encouraged.

Able bodied, complete with a vehicle on my own and mere blocks away from an apartment I had claim to, full of furniture, electronics, and plenty of possessions. In this, even paying rent to the friend I stayed with, I felt as though I had nothing, I felt like I was in poverty so much deeper than lack of material things.

That "dark pit" as Jeremiah refers to, rightfully has to be acknowledged. We should not ignore or suppress it, Jeremiah says "I will never forget this awful time..."
Maybe not in the sense that one can never forget, but to chose to acknowledge pain and that part of one's life. Everyone has some dark pit, some desperate time that they would like to skip over and just jump ahead to the nicer verses, more pleasant part of their lives. "God is faithful! His mercies are new every morning!"
Which is entirely true.

But we only really understand this truth because of times when God showed himself to be faithful - which probably happened through a hard-time. Acknowledging a difficult time in our lives allows us to genuinely attest to the faithfulness of God.

Jeremiah leads into the famous verses with this: 
"Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this...
Great is his faithfulness, his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, 'The Lord is my inheritance, therefore, I will hope in him!'"

Because Jeremiah acknowledges his pain, and inspite of it dares to hope, it makes it all the more powerful.

Jeremiah declares that the Lord is his inheritance. Before, he said that everything he had hoped for was lost. Good.
Good? Yes, good!
Because now, his hope is in God and God has become his inheritance, his success, his definition of prosperity. His own dreams have been destroyed, yes, it's sad. But they have been replaced by a hope in God and in something so much greater than his own miniscule dreams.

I'm officially divorced now, and don't feel as though I need to be apologetic about it. I also don't feel ashamed about it. However, I feel often awkward mentioning this fact among Christians or at church when I am meeting new people because they are often awkward about it.
They want to comfort me, which is nice, but the painful part and the struggle is over, I'm fine.
They want to offer me hope - "oh, you're still young and have your looks, you'll get another man." Which is VERY awkward and I want to back out of that conversation immediately.
They want to make suggestions, "Next time you need to date someone who is ____" (fill in with whatever word you chose, I've probably heard it) or "That's why you shouldn't date someone from another culture..." (Since I live in another culture, I guess I am setting myself up for failure, by their frame-of-mind). So I just nod and smile, because I don't really want to respond to that and start a conversation on that subject.

Or, they pity me, which is probably the worst of all. Because I don't feel bad about anything, I don't have regrets and I probably didn't bring up the subject, because I don't want sympathy or anyone to feel bad for me. But they asked, and therefore, I answered.

Not very long ago, my Canadian family and I were discussing futures and relationships. Now, they know pretty much all the details, and have faithfully prayed for me and talked for hours on the phone when I needed it. They knew how hard it all was and how much pain I went through and all that I lost or gave up. They have a pretty good understanding of my 'devastation.' Mama mentioned the fear that something that happened to me could similarly happen to one of her daughters- that she would marry a man who would stop loving God and it would devastate her whole future.
And I remember that I smiled, as ridiculous a response as that seems. I smiled.

We cannot control the future, we can't control other people. I mentioned that what if her daughter married a wonderful man, they had children together, a great marriage, but the man died early on in their marriage.
I can think of a woman in particular, with one young child and pregnant with another when he husband died of an aggressive cancer before the second child was born.
Yes, her life was devastated.
Yes, my life was devastated.
Many things can happen to us that devastate our lives. Even small things that hurt us, they don't have to be huge, gigantic life-changes.
As someone described, this woman would have been destitute - while 7 months pregnant and a baby on the hip - had God not stepped in and done a miracle.
She named the baby Joy.
And within only a few years, this hopeful woman remarried, immigrated to Canada and now lives in a cozy cottage on and island in British Columbia.

Our lives might be devastated, Jeremiah certainly believed that his life was. But, God is still in control. And when we make him our inheritance, we are not devastated, we are hopeful - joyous.

I reminded Mama that she had raised her daughters to be women of faith, who depended on God. No matter what happens in their future - car accidents, cancers, spouses or storms - what God has prepared for her daughters, the future he planned cannot be taken from them. His future for us is strong enough to withstand any devastation.

A lot of my hopes and dreams have changed, some are completely gone. And that's okay, because compared to what God had for me, they were small dreams. And this future God is laying before me is so wonderful that, while I understand the sympathy is well-meant, it seems very inappropriate.

So please, don't pity me. My hope and my future is in God, not wrapped up in a homeless, impoverished life. And while I acknowledge the darkness that he has taken me out of, I remember that "The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!"

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Belated Birthday Post!

I was so busy I forgot about my birthday post!
And now already, I started on some of my goals for next year. Happy Birthday to me! 

25 things from last year

1. Received regular massages *. Wonderful. Several covered by work, others reduced cost by Groupon or Craigslist promotions. Completely worth it!

2. Sold my first vehicle (to a non-family member). It was fairly easy, considering Kijiji/Craigslist. Not interested in having another car anytime soon!

3. Met my new niece. * She is beautiful and smart and quirky.

4. Met my new brother-in-law *, and enjoyed Christmas with his welcoming and unassuming family.

5. Met my god-daughter *. She is curious, but shy and has a beautiful smile.

6. Vacationed in British Columbia; saw Vancouver, Victoria and the beautiful Salt Spring Island.

7. Enjoyed kayaking off of Salt Spring Island, where I held my first live star fish! 
old paper with hand drawn number 26 on wood background Stock Photo - 13171646

8. Went whale-watching in Victoria, which was amazing and a whale swam directly under and lept out of the water 
directly beside our boat. It was so exciting and the Orca whales were gigantic!

9. Visited Jasper National park*. It was beautiful and so much fun.
10. Took the cheap bus from Toronto to Philadelphia, which allowed me the privilege of sitting next to a Libyan man who described how he participated in the rebel movement, complete with hand grenades and automatic weapons.

11. Played in a co-ed soccer team for the summer- our team won the championship! We were awesome, and one game I played exceptionally well and scored something like 3 or 4 goals in the game.

12. Ruptured my calf muscle. Horrible. Don't ever want that injury again. When my leg finally healed, my calf muscle was visibly smaller and had lost muscle compared to the other. And the pain! Never gain.

13. Used a wheel chair and cane as essentials mobile assistants. It was not very enjoyable, and buses rarely stop for 20-something looking women waving canes because they will not be fast enough to reach the bus stop.

14. Used the Canadian health-care system. I've been paying for it for years, but never really needed more than a regular health-check up. Finally I need it- for x-rays, screenings for surgery, physical therapy- and I feel like it totally failed me. So inefficient, slow and redundant.

15. Learned how to Salsa, Merengue and Bachata. I'm better at the Merengue and my favorite is when my dance partner spins or turns me- so much fun!

16. Was temporarily homeless. Again. I started off January 2012 living with a friend, sharing her itty bitty apartment, and also began January 2013 at a different friend's home, sleeping in her basement.

17. Sold or gave away everything I owned except a few clothes and sentimental items, including: a bed, dresser, desk, sofa and love seat set, television, restaurant, housewares, and a car to start over.

18. Lived in a stranger's home. She was on vacation, so I stayed at her apartment. I thought it was a little awkward at first, but it was a great living situation for 3 weeks and helped me out a lot. I recommend a home-stay or short-term housing rental for anyone moving to a new city.

19. Worked a temporary job in customer service. I hated hated hated hated it. It was a horrible job with lots of lying, apologizing, sucking up and not actually doing much for the customer.

20. Had some Ugandan/Congolese kids visit me in Edmonton which was so exhausting. I felt like I had to entertain them, feed them sooo much food. Kids are a lot of work!

21. Went horseback riding in Red Deer with a friend – his first time ever on a horse and he loved it!

22. I saw the northern lights!!!* I remember it distinctly- I was working an evening shift and just got off work and I thought they were strange spot lights, the type clubs put up for events. Except these were green, and horizontal, not vertical. When I really saw them, suddenly I saw a lot; shimmering, shaking yellow and green across the sky. It was amazing.

23. Started rock climbing again. There were not many places or decent places to climb in Edmonton- but plenty in Toronto, including outdoor climbing! I am even getting a membership to a climbing gym.

24. Finally tried zumba. So much fun, an I actually feel like I am getting a cardio workout, too.

25. Moved to Toronto! I love it here, and hope to stay for a long time.

26 things for the future:

1. Go hiking in Banff +++

2. Surf ++ (or attempt to surf)

3. Be a good nanny. I really enjoy my part-time job as a nanny and want to make the most out of it, for myself and the little boy I watch.

4. Volunteer in the area of justice again. I have contacted Prison Fellowship and the Toronto Jail, hopefully, I can begin volunteering soon!

5. Continue in work in the area of criminal justice. I have a part-time position, and I hope that in the future it becomes more secure, permanent and potentially full-time.

6. Go sky diving! jump out of an airplane and speed towards the earth? YES! But only tandem with a certified instructor to pull the parachute for me.+

7. Improve in my soccer ability. I haven't actively pursued my skills, only being able to endure the running. But I would like better footwork and ball control.

8. Move from Canada +++

9. Speak Amharic fluently +++

10.   Lead a program for groups of teens ++

11. Touch a dolphin +++

12. Learn how to make yogurt +++

13. Go to Spain +++

14. Be more conversant in Spanish +++

15. Do something with my writing. I have begun writing more again and I would like to submit some of it to poetry contests, or magazine articles, or SOMETHING! Not so much for me or money, but so that I can improve and grow and see productivity from something I really enjoy doing.

16. Drive a standard/stick-shift vehicle +++ (I started to learn, but it just made me too nervous)

17. Return to Phi Phi Island +++

18. Take a pottery class! I really enjoy pottery and would like to get my hands into clay.

19. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro.+
20. See the Grand Canyon, and not just from some fenced-off viewing area, but get down in there and hike parts of it, stand in the canyons and look up. +

21. Go to New Zealand.+

22. Learn different dances, I've been looking into break dancing and African-fusion classes. I just need to find time and a budget with rock climbing and soccer as regular activities.

23. Get laser eye surgery. I've wanted this for a while- no more glasses, no more contacts. +

24. Find a home church in Toronto where I feel community, encouraged and challenged and where I can also serve.

25. Visit Algonquin Park, for hiking and kayaking.

26. Be happy! 

* denotes on my list from last year that I completed
+ denotes on my list from last year that I still haven't completed
++ denotes on list for two years running
+++ denotes on list for three years running