Tuesday, April 25, 2006

bit by the travel bug

I've never been one of those people who needed to do the backpack-across-Europe thing. I've always wanted to drive across Canada and see my own land first as it is vast, varied and beautiful.

But my trip to Vietnam last summer made me want to travel and experience cultures that are different than mine (though I am not Vietnamese, I could relate to the cultural values a lot being raised to think more Chinese than I may realize most days). The Territories of Canada and Africa were first to come to mind as places that I want to experience that are quite different than what I know.

Today I saw The Constant Gardener. There were many excellent elements of the film, but the cinematography was simply breathtaking and gorgeous. Despite the seriousness and despair of the film's depiction of Africa, it still reminded me of my desire to visit this part of the world. I've always thought it to be a beautiful, colourful and lively people, culture and land. And my favourite animal (the giraffe) resides there!

I'm thankful that my job periodically provides opportunities to travel. May will bring a week in Atlanta, and I just received news today that I will be able to go to New York to help with a conference for work in June... I am excited and grateful for the opportunity as I loved the first taste I enjoyed of it back in 2003. I am a light packer and didn't spare any room for extra shoes so I was trekking around town in my open-heeled shoes (clogs) during the blizzard of the century that happened to coincide with our visit. But because of the blizzard, I was able to meet up with a friend whom I didn't even know was in town who had her work cancelled that day.

I think what I enjoy about travelling is that it gets me outside of myself, my usual routine, and my comfort zone to experience God and his creation in new ways. I've seen God tangibly involved in my travels, protecting me, directing my steps, filling my heart with awe and appreciation for the diversity of his creation of people, cultures and lands. In such a vast world to us, it blows my socks off that God cares for each person on this planet so tiny to him.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

my kitchen goddess sister

I know, it kinda sounds like an Amy Tan title, but this is all I have to say so far about my awesome sister. She's simply a kitchen goddess, come down to visit me and bless me with her gooey cinnamon buns from scratch. I mean, who makes cinnamon buns from scratch anymore nowadays in the age of instant-everything?

My sister Flo spent four hours in the kitchen making these cinnamon buns. I don't spend four hours doing anything in the kitchen. There's a reason why cookies are my favourite thing to make -- 7 minutes to beat and put on the pan, 7 minutes to bake, 7 minutes to clean up. To her, it's no big deal, but to me, making anything with yeast just sounds too complicated and intimidating. The more mysterious to me, all the more power to her kitchen prowess!

We took some of these buns to Kat's birthday party and they were quite the hit. All in all, it was an awesome day full of sugar, laughter and celebration.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

hitting a wall

I so should not be procrastinating right now. But I've so been hitting a wall lately, several times.

Ever since the leadership assessment weekend has been over (it was three weeks ago already), I've totally crashed, productivity-wise, spiritually and socially. Not having clear structure and deadlines these past weeks have taken its toll.

But good thing for my sister coming in town tomorrow. I've accomplished more in these 3 days than I have all the past three weeks knowing she is going to be here. I also cleaned up big time in time for her visit. I was vacuuming my room and thought I'd vacuum my keyboard to clear off some of the dust. Oops. Not such a great idea. I lost my left shift key to the powerful suck of my machine.

I'm looking forward to trolling the city with her. She finally caved in and switched over to digital SLR and we are going to take some historic walks around town with a focus of taking photos. After feeling a bit of distance between us, this past week we've talked on the phone for some 6 hours or so (not all at once). Nothing quite like good phone time and talking about boys to bond :)

I was going to take the whole week off to spend with her, but I have to teach a course with Renae and Susan. It's the Basic Christian Story, one that I'm familiar with from having informally teaching it to many ESL students who have come to our church in the past.

One of the walls I'm hitting is having "dead" eyes in looking at material I am too familiar with. I really need a fresh look at the material for this Basic Christian Story course, and for the prayer course that we've been doing for 5 years now. Three years is the usual mark I lose interest and hit the wall. I'm two years beyond it in the prayer course arena now. And I'm not quite sure what to do about it.

I'm hitting a wall too with craving to really meet God. I feel like I am coming to the dinner table to spend time with him, and then when I get up to leave, I feel like I haven't really eaten at all.

I wonder if it has to do with all the spiritual house cleaning I am doing in working on my 12 Step process right now. I've unearthed some destructive roots and pains lodged deep within my heart that I need to let God dispose of that are preventing good things from growing, but I'm not sure how. On the one hand, there's a feeling of a sense of relief to come into the light on some of these things; on the other hand, it's damn uncomfortable .... exposure always brings an intial sense of squinting "ouch! it's too bright and it's hurting my eyes! Make it stop!" I think that's human nature to want to squirm away and stay in the shadows on the things we are most ashamed of.

Overall though, I know I am in a great season of life and I'm really trying to enjoy it, despite the ebbs and flows of wall-hitting.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

a different look at easter

Easter totally came and went and tumbled right by me this year. (I can see the value of maybe trying to observe Lent next year...)

To be honest I've been stuck in church-inertia the past few weeks and have found it difficult mustering the desire or energy to go. I know it's at those times I need most to reach out and connect with my spiritual family, but the inertia has been strong this time around.

I had a majorly hard time hauling my butt outta bed for the day of prayer on Good Friday at my church. I actually skipped out on the first half of the day. But as usual, at the end of the day, after spending the afternoon in talking with others and God, it was exactly what I needed. It was so good to get out of myself and look to others and the world, bringing their needs before God in prayer.

The Good Friday service was appropriately somber and good to remember that this is the day that God died (thanks for the wording, Joc...). It's the day that Jesus, God's son, was cut off from his Father God for the first time since he had been in perfect communion with him since the beginning of time and creation. All so that I would not be cut off from God.

I still feel shallow in my understanding and experience of this, but I suppose this the essence of the faith journey is a lifetime of rediscovering and tasting this truth in new ways. It amazes me that when Jesus came back to life and appeared to the disciples there are times they simply don't even recognize him ("they were kept from recognizing him" Luke 24:16) and it's only "until their eyes were opened" (Luke 24:31) that they can recognize him. I think that's a cue I can take in praying for myself and others, that eyes would be opened to see Jesus as he really is. No amount of trying harder on my part, or on the part of others, can bring those spiritual "aha! I see!" moments.

Easter Sunday our Eastside and Westside groups convened as one church downtown at the Roundhouse Community Centre. I basically ended up missing the service altogether as I was putzing around greeting and directing people, and helping Carla with lunch and Lee Anne with the Easter egg hunt for the kids.

As much as I craved being able to simply rest and take in the service, I quite enjoyed myself participating in other ways. Being outside in the hall away from all the action, there were moments of quietness I found myself having a spirit of prayer for various parts of the service as they went on and for specific people as they came to mind.

After the Roundhouse, we headed back to our home base at the Westside building for Camper's "graduation" (i.e. ordination) service. When I walked in, the room was filled with the fresh scent of lilies. After all the hustle and bustle of hosting everyone at the Roundhouse, coming back to the Westside felt like coming back home. It was like having a party at the Roundhouse for the community, then coming back to the Westside was like having a coffee to really relax after all the guests have left.

That feeling of "ah, I'm coming back home" is one that I think I needed to feel to remind me in light of my church-inertia what I am really missing. I have been given such an amazing gift of friends and spiritual family. "My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

apology for narcissism

Our staff meeting on Tuesday was particularly good for me this week. It woke me up from myself.

We started off by praying for a specific situation of sexual exploitation happening in Central Asia and for the larger issue worldwide. Then we prayed for a few key leaders in our midst who are all seeming to be undergoing tough challenges and spiritual attacks of various sorts recently. I particularly and necessarily needed to feel the weight and help carry the burden for others. It was exactly what I needed to get out of my self-focused funk in my little cave as of late.

As I felt the weight of the present trials and difficulties of this world, I was tempted to be too weighed down with the heaviness of magnitude of some of these situations and questionning of God asking why there had to be such pains and injustices in this broken and clearly imperfect world. Yet in my momentary heaviness I was glad for this opportunity to look up from my navel which I had been gazing at too much recently. I've been more aware since that point in this week of my navel-gazing and simply got tired of it.

Last night as I found myself yet again working through and over-focusing on myself, I actually got tired of myself and tired of thinking about myself. So I took a nap. (I had a headache too, which was too easy a reason to complain for myself, so my strategy was to take a nap so I could wake up fresh with a new beginning, which is one of the things I love most about waking up, either from a night of slumber or an afternoon nap.)

Waking up from my nap was like the much needed turn of tide in our prayers for the latter half of our staff meeting. We had started with the heavy burdens of evil and trial in the world and in our own lives, yet we necessarily concluded our meeting by praying for several encouraging happenings and "God-on-the-move" activities coming up. No doubt there is a correlation between all these good things happening in the spiritual undercurrents of our city and the spiritual hits our leaders are taking.

When we face a setback spiritually, the temptation is far too great to be discouraged and dragged down, rather than seeing it as an indication that we might be causing enough flag-waving in the spiritual realm to invite attention to ourselves. In our weakness and despair is always an opportunity to find our strength and hope in Christ. We must lift our gaze to Jesus. It is a matter of survival.

I'm tired of focusing on myself and writing all my blog entries on that topic. If I'm tired of this, there's a good chance you are too, so I do apologize for the heavy dose of narcissism in this blog as of late. If you catch me putting a whole entire post on the topic of me, myself, and I anytime soon again, please please do everyone a favour and stop me from indulging in my self-reflections and spare you of them too. Seriously! Please, and thank you!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

saying no, weddings + a stylin' vote

When my friend Jackie asked me to consider being her wedding coordinator, my first reaction was laughter. Then was a normal human reaction of feeling flattered to even be asked. Then there was my firm and clear response, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Normally I can tend to have a problem saying "no" to inviting tasks, but there are some instances where I don't have to think hard to come to my definitive "no" reply:

First scenario guaranteeing a "no" response: When something is way, way , way out of my area and experience, I will flat out say no.

Now there are certainly those times where it's like "hey, that's something new, different and unknown to me, I'm up for the challenge to try something new and learn." What I'm talking about here are the opportunities that are so clearly not in my realm or reality that they are beyond reasonable consideration, for my sake and for the sake of the asker-of-the-favour.

Coordinating a wedding is one of those things that I wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole. I haven't even been to that many weddings, considering the age of life that I'm in and considering the amount of people I know who've gotten married (I have a pretty wide network, but the majority of those relationships are not close ones to garner wedding invitations).

I've never even been in a wedding before as an adult. Flowergirl-hood doesn't count as I was too young to pick up any helpful wedding know-how... making it through without getting itchy from the lace on my dress or turning around to look at anyone in the pews was enough challenge then! I'm missing the inside-out perspective of the goings-on of a wedding. [Woah! Am I hyphen-happy or what?!] Bottom line is I'm too ignorant there to be of any real help!

Second scenario guaranteeing a "no" response: When Mike Woodard (a former director I had in my last job) would ask me to do things, I would say no.

This surfaced in an ironic way during one of my performance reviews. I listed in my version of the review that one of the weaknesses I needed to work on was my inability to say "no." In his version of my review, Mike listed "saying no" as one of my strengths. Well, I don't think I've ever said no to someone as much as him, simply for the reason that he kept asking me to do things that fell into category #1 and fell beyond my scope!

So if you ever want to exploit my weakness in saying no, ask me anything in my area of interest or skill. I'm a sucker for helping out with things I enjoy.

Anyway, I digress... all this to get to the point of this post. I am going to be in my first wedding this summer, and am fortunate to have the bride's friend create my dress so that it's hopefully wearable again. (Thanks Viv for being so thoughtful to this end and not making me wear something ridiculous!). Melissa has put some great work into the designs so far and we are getting close to choosing the winner.

The polls are now open... for those so inclined to voice their opinion, which of the following designs (or elements of designs) do you think is best? Which should I say yes to, and which should I say no to?

Friday, April 07, 2006

a black hole sucking gobs of time

Yeesh! I can't believe I just spent the past three hours adding my favourite/regularly-read links to the side of my blog. As if I don't already spend enough time online.

After wavering all afternoon, I decided to choose to be social and went for a visit with my grandparents, then eventually had a good time with Jocelyn and her friends celebrating her acceptance to grad school. I haven't had a proper visit with her in a matter of years, yet thanks to technology (namely, blogging, and next in line is e-mail) I don't feel all that out of touch with her. Of course, online is not nearly the same as enjoying her lively intelligence and humour in person! :)

Anyway, deciding to go for both these visits was a small victory of sorts, choosing to crawl out of my little independent-work-filled hole for the night. And then, on the way home, I "passed" another little "test" of sorts (for me considering my food issues, anyway) and managed to let go of my leftover food to a panhandler rather than hoarding it for myself.

And now, off to bed!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

reflections from the ballet mirror

So this morning I started my ballet classes at Kits Community Centre. Might as well post about it since I'm at the office now killing time waiting for my email to get back up and running.

I wondered who might sign up for a Thursday morning class in Vancouver. You never know what kind of weird hours Vancouverites work, since there are so many small businesses, creatives who work their own hours, and so many who take their play seriously. The other day on the bus the guy beside me was telling his friend how he woke up at 11am an worked for an hour, then got on the bus. Sounds like Vancouver to me!

Anyway, so there's 12 people in the class, which is on the large side apparently. The instructor is an older white woman. Then there was other older white woman and a guy (yes! a guy!). The rest? All Asian, most of them international students. Now that is Vancouver for ya.

It was fun to get back into it, but I was reminded again of a few things about myself.

1. I wish I could be an expert now. I'm not particularly patient at waiting for progress and want to be good at everything now. Sadly, my perfectionism and this impatience keep me from trying new things too often, because I dislike the discomfort and awkwardness of beginnings and practice.

2. I hate being told what to do. There was this one woman beside me who apparently is not a beginner who pointed me onto the same page as the instructor. What's she doing in the class again? And why do I always get stuck next to the "experts" in these classes -- like the practically professional calligrapher in the Tim Botts class I took last summer?

3. I'm pretty independent and bluntly anti-social when I want to be and ran off out of the class right after it was over, rather than sticking around and getting into conversation with anyone. Yeah, yeah, I'm on Step 1 in admitting that my over-independence is a problem. Tonight I was going to visit my grandparents and then go to Balthazaar's to help a friend celebrate her acceptance into grad school. But I'm wavering -- I'd rather bury myself in my work at home tonight. (Yes, I'm addicted to my work too).

Just yesterday a friend from Edmonton emailed to ask me if I could host one of her friends in town for a week. Normally I think I am a pretty hospitable and social person. But then these types of requests act as a mirror and remind me I'm not actually that welcoming. I love to host people I know. And I only like to do so when it's convenient for me (this guest would be arriving the evening of my birthday and staying for a week, and I'd be giving up my room). But with people I don't know, I'm just more reluctant, or downright unwilling.

Everyone loves their friends. That's the normal, natural, easy thing to do out of our own capacity. It's going beyond, and loving others outside our natural love-radius -- either people we don't know personally or people we know but dislike -- which demonstrates itself as this other-worldly, supernatural love that comes from God-who-is-love himself. Thank God he doesn't only love us when it's convenient for him.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

my pretty pink slippers

When I was in my first year of university, a friend of mine accused me of being boring and undaring with my choice of shoe colours. She had reasonable grounds for such an accusation because 95% of my shoes at that time were black. The other pair that made up the remaning 5% was white.

My habit of black shoes persisted until recently. During my shopping spree in Seattle, I bought a turquoise pair of shoes which I've been wearing around the house for the time being, until it's warm enough to wear some of my brighter matching tops outside as the summer weather arrives.

Then yesterday, I was quite excited to buy some new ballet slippers... a first pair since those by-gone days of lessons that stopped at the age of eight. I have fond memories of my ballet classes (save the time I forgot to bring my dance gear to school for my after-school lessons, so my Grade 3 teacher drove me home to get it, then to my lesson, but in the hurry I forgot to pack my tights and felt so self-conscious about wearing my purple knee socks in class that I couldn't enjoy myself that day.)

I decided to take ballet lessons, starting this week (hopefully the class has enough people in it so they won't cancel it) for several reasons. I miss the freedom of creative movement; somewhere in the way of adulthood, I've become hindered in that freedom. More than that though, my hope is that ballet will help me get back to that same carefree awareness I had of my body as a little girl. I want to be comfortable in my own skin as much as I can and enjoy this God-given gift that is my body rather than keep working toward some crazy ideal that doesn't exist for me.