April 29, 2010

How the Cookies Crumble

Typical fortune cookie:
A couple weeks ago, I went for Vietnamese food with my roommate. For some reason, Vietnamese restaurants (at least this one), give fortune cookies.

Lynsey's fortune cookie said something like, "A close family member will have wedding bells in their life soon."

Guess what? Within two days, her brother called to say he was engaged.

My fortune cookie said, "The next full moon brings an enchanting evening."

Tonight is the next full moon. And it has been a delightful evening, with a great tea-date and back-to-back skype calls. One of them even included an episode of The Office. (enchanting isn't quite the right word)

moral of the story: Even fortune cookies get it right sometimes.

April 26, 2010

Idle Hands & Idle Minds

Idle hands are the devil's tools.
(here, my hands do the devil's work of melting snow)

I think that's the saying. My personal adaptation for today is:
Idle minds are the devil's playground.

When you clear my schedule of deadlines and projects and generally, anything of major substance, my mind is left free as a bird.

Free to dream, which I'd been looking forward to.
Free to freak out, which I hadn't anticipated.

Turns out, I'm not quite as amazingly zen-like as I thought. Once I started stressing a little, it was surprisingly easy to let it keep growing. I daydreamed all the things that could go wrong with the uncertainty and changes in my life. I had conversations with friends that were half reassuring and half commiseration. I berated myself for freaking out when I have SO many blessings I could be enjoying instead.

One day, I found myself thinking, I wish I could go back to October. October was a good month.

But the thing is, October was actually kind of stressful. I felt inexplicably sad in October. And unsure. And work was busy. Six months later, I look back and think October was great. Because I know how things turned out. Because the uncertainties of October became clear in November.

And I realized that in six months, April will probably be a very good month, provided I don't waste it away in irrational worrying.

So finally, after ten days of unpleasant neurosis, with the aid of wise counsel, some honest conversations & a fair bit of prayer, I have concluded:
I need to stop thinking so much and live in reality.

(here, my hand says STOP to the sun. Like my mind says STOP to fear)

Allow me to break this down:
a. Stop - I'm in control of this situation, because I am in control of my thoughts.
b. thinking so much - thinking is good, but it is possible to overthink. This is unwise.
c. and live - I need to be living my life as it is unfolding, fully present in today, not caught up in what could or could not be the future.
d. in reality. - my fears come down to "what ifs" and the thing about "what ifs" is that they are not reality. I need to act and think and respond to the things that are certain, not the things that my head decides will be.


Practical application for Beth's life?
1. Make plans. Don't "keep busy" to avoid thinking, but don't give myself days of nothingness with only my thoughts for company. Sometimes my thoughts are not friendly.
2. Refuse to dwell. I often have to tell myself to redirect my thoughts, to "let go" and trust that "time is your friend."
3. Celebrate. There are so many good things and people around me. I'm gonna focus on making the most of them.
4. Know Jesus more. Reality. Truth. These things matter to me and my sanity. And, I believe they're summed up in Jesus.

April 24, 2010

Pippi & Pinky

My housemate Tom commented on my socks today. He said I look like Pippi Longstocking.


I had forgotten about Pippi Longstocking. I loved her as a kid. She was spunky, rich, independent, adventurous, red-headed and otherwise amazing.

Her full name is Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim's Daughter Longstocking. How can you even compete with that!?!

Also, Wikipedia tells me: In one episode of Pinky and the Brain, when Brain asks Pinky if he is pondering what Brain's pondering, Pinky replies with "I think so Brain, but me and Pippi Longstocking... I mean, what would the children look like?"

HA.
HA.
HA.

I also forgot how much I love Pinky and the Brain. My time-wasting on Youtube skills have produced the following gems:


I bet parents around the world hated all the swears their kids dropped trying to duplicate those tongue twisters!



(I didn't even know of IKEA yet...)


Did I know American Gladiator?? Would I have recognized ANY of the pop culture references? This show was brilliant. I need to watch it all now that I'm an adult.

Magical Movies

Back in 2006, two movies came out. (Okay, a lot more than two movies came out. But I'm only looking at two of them today.)

The Prestige


and The Illusionist.



I remember watching The Prestige and loving it. Four years later, I've finally watched The Illusionist. Also loved it (thank you, Jonathan for a great Christmas gift two years ago!). They're surprisingly similar for movies that came out within two months of each other:

  • Period pieces set in 19th century Europe.
  • Magicians are the main characters.
  • Women complicate things. (Two actresses I wish were classier, for the record.*)
  • Illusions are amazing and stupefying.
  • Plot twists abound.

I'm not sure what it is that sucked me in to both flicks. Perhaps the lovely costumes. Perhaps the thrill of illusions and wondering how it all works. Perhaps because the stories aren't as easy to predict as most. I like having to try.


I'm ill-qualified to review either movies with any more critical thought than this...and feel like I'm not thinking with my best brain-power either (I blame this lingering malaise).

But I will comment that Amelia is one of my favourite friends to watch movies with, because she is so agreeable when it comes to my random remarks and commentary.

THAT is a lovely dress.
- Yup.

That scene? Entirely so that we'll like Eisenheim. So when he gets in trouble, we want him to win.
- Hm. I can see that. He IS a good man.
That's what they want us to think!

You know, I've never found a goatee so attractive before.
- Yeah, it does look good.
(we admire Edward Norton's facial hair for a moment)

You know, she's quite beautiful.
- Yup. Makes me feel great...
(we admire Jessica Biel's perfection for a moment)
(why are we girls like this?)


Ooh, she's wearing pants!
- She's very democratic, remember?

Amelia hates magic because she knows that it's a trick. I like magic for that very reason. I find it fascinating (and sometimes creepy) that we can be deceived so thoroughly. To get really deep for just a moment, how do we know can we trust our experiences?

I think too much.

I need to end this ramble somewhere, so I will ask two questions.
1. If you've seen both movies, which do you like better? Why?
2. What are your thoughts on magic/illusion - like/dislike? Are magicians charlatans or masters of a craft?


*I think what makes me less than enthused about Jessica Biel and Scarlett Johansson is that they both seem happy with their status and reputations as sex symbols...my thoughts on which could easily turn into another entry altogether. Perhaps someday soon.

April 23, 2010

My Eyeballs Hurt

A few years ago, my roommate Wendy and I established a rule. If you preface a statement with, "I know I'm being a whiny baby..." you're pretty much allowed to say whatever you want. And then those listening affirm that yes, you are indeed a whiny baby. But they like you anyway.

So. I know I'm being a whiny baby...but my eyeballs hurt. I have some sort of strange sickness whose symptoms include: fever, general aches, throbbing head, aching eyes. Interestingly, my throat is fine.

I have no energy to make food for myself, so I ate some slightly-stale cheerios with the last of the milk, poured myself the last of the apple juice, and am now munching on chocolate chips. Mmm, delicious.

I might watch some TV, but kind of wish I could do that with my eyes closed.

Woe is me.



(Because it is Friday, you should all watch this video. This is the exact antithesis of my neighbourhood.)

April 21, 2010

Unplugged

On Saturday night, I closed my computer, unplugged it, and didn't turn it back on until this afternoon. (brief exception: skype date on my boyfriend's birthday...totally allowable as part of the realities of long-distance!)

This was a much needed break for me. I have a wide-open schedule for the next six weeks, and the last thing I want is to find myself at the end of May, wondering where it went and what I'd done with myself. I know how easily I get sucked into the wonders and banality of the internet, so I decided to start things off sans computer & TV. It was easier than I thought it would be. I've made my list of things to accomplish. I feel confident that I won't default to hours of online thumb-twiddling when there are people to see, things to create, and big thoughts to reflect on.

I was also reminded how often I go online or watch TV when I am tired of thinking, or if I'm looking for escape. I couldn't do that these past few days. Instead, I had to sit with my thoughts. Own up to my fears. And decide what to do about them. Which is good for me. But never easy.

I'm glad I unplugged. I'm glad for the chance to evaluate what I do and why, to take time to listen to God, and to be purposeful in how I plan to use this six week gift of "free time."

Speaking of unplugging, I have long been a fan of Lauryn Hill's Unplugged album. Here's a great song about refusing to buy into lies and deception - something I've been thinking a fair bit myself.

April 17, 2010

The Words Don't Agree

This afternoon was the third round of writers' group.

As you know by now, we start out with a reading and then a little window of time to write a creative response. Today's selection was from The Baltics, a series of poems by Tomas Tranströmer.

The lines that inspired me were:
something wants to be said but the words don't agree
and
...the humming chorus full of mistaken words

So I wrote.


The Words Don't Agree

I hear your words clearly,
but between my ears and my mind
run twisted train tracks
that change them,
flip them,
inside out.

By the time I know
what has been spoken,
their meaning is mistaken,
replaced by years
of other voices
saying other things.

Your words are forced
into the form of my refrain;

A song written painfully,
endlessly,
pressing louder,
refusing to bend to interruptions,
entanglements,
or counter traffic.


(Perhaps your voice
will be the one
to straighten crooked paths
and sing a louder song.)

Why Sunroofs Exist

video
Summer of 2007. Coming home from Colorado. Good times were had, and this is evidence of that fact.

(reminiscing is fun)

I Amuse Myself

Things I said yesterday that made me laugh:

"I really want to touch your edamames."

"The thing is, it's not about getting into the Chocolate Factory. It's actually about being friends with Willy Wonka. And yes, in this illustration, Jesus is played by Johnny Depp."

April 15, 2010

Music: Most Highly Recommended

Today's album of choice is Upstairs by Shane & Shane.

I purchased this album in Edmonton, summer of 2004. It was a whim, and I had no idea that it would become the spiritual staple in my life for the next four months.

Revisiting this album after a long hiatus was a fascinating experience. With the first chords of Psalm 13, I nearly started crying. Even without closing my eyes, I could picture my little bedroom with a couple of air mattresses and built in shelving, and a possible mould problem... I have such clear memories of lying there listening to this album over and over on my roommate's portable CD player.

(Yes, on CD.)

The summer of 2004 was not an easy one. But it was a good one. I told someone today that it was a "milestone-marker" in my life.

Even now, I love every single song on this album - an incredibly rare occurrence. Each song has some line, some rhythm, some thing that gets me in the gut or in the heart or that place that makes me say, Daaaaaaaaaaang.

I don't think I have any more words to tell you how these songs affect me. So I'm going to give you a sampling and leave it at that.

The Answer


Psalm 13


(I have only ever listened to this album, and am afraid to try any other songs, for fear of being disappointed.)

Boat on a Beach


A Sunset & Boat @ Kits CP
Originally uploaded by bethaf.
I was surprised by how many boats were pulled up on the shore at Kits Beach this evening.

I was also surprised by how many times I walked through clouds of marijuana smoke (Not literal clouds. But the scent did waft across the path quite often).

I was not surprised by the fantastic conversation I had with my dear friend Ali. She is a delight. That's the only word for it.

April 14, 2010

A Red House


A Red House Square
Originally uploaded by bethaf.
Aside from the boarded up windows, wouldn't this make a delightful little home?

April 13, 2010

Douglas Coupland Is a Genius

This year is Penguin's 75th anniversary, and Douglas Coupland has a special role to play.

Speaking to the Past. Check it out. Do it. He's encouraging creativity among the masses at the same time!


Goal #1 for my funemployment:

I'm going to make one this week.

April 10, 2010

Cat Sat

I have been cat-sitting for almost two weeks. The family returns tonight, and I feel a bit relieved.

Don't get me wrong, I like their cat. It's the cuddliest creature known to mankind. It comes when called (usually) and likes nothing better than kneading a place on my lap to lay down on. I haven't had to touch the litter box, and it kept my feet warm at night.

However, these are the things that remind me why I don't plan on owning pets in the near future:
  1. They shed. Everywhere.
  2. They need constant, daily attention. You can't just leave them on their own for two weeks.
  3. They don't understand facial expressions and subtle communication. This means I'm left with violent urges when annoyed.
  4. They lick disgusting things and then think they can lick me.
  5. They kill things (at least, this cat did. On the front step, leaving only the mouse entrails for me to clean up... *shudder*).
  6. Their food smells gross.
  7. They cause allergies.
  8. They wake up earlier than I do in the morning. Or at least, earlier than I would if I weren't in charge of feeding them.
  9. They make laptop work difficult. (see below)


I think that's it. You were fun, Licorice. But I'm glad you're not mine.

April 9, 2010

Sunshine On My Window Today...

There is sunshine on my window. Which made me think of this song. Then I listened to the lyrics and realized how apropos it is for today.



(I am a mixed bag of emotions.)

Lent: A Glorious Failure

You know what?

I didn't do such a great job of my Lenten plan.

But you know what else?

It doesn't really matter.

Not because Jesus doesn't matter, or because it is okay to make commitments and then blow them off.

It doesn't matter because my inability to follow-through on something as simple as starting my day off with Jesus doesn't actually affect my identity. That is what Easter is all about.

My pastor preached a great sermon (bottom right corner of the page, or you can find it on iTunes) from one verse on Sunday. He broke down Romans 8:1 into four fantastically simple parts, which we discussed last night at my small group. Here is a super-brief summary:

Therefore - in light of chapters 1-7...(good chapters, folks)

there is now - now: already, so soon, at this very moment AND finally, after waiting so long

no condemnation -
we no longer need to fear judgment from God. At all. God gave us his best when we were at our worst, and we are free.

for those who are in Christ Jesus -
implies that there are those who are not in Jesus. BUT that there's an offer out there if we want to be in him.


No condemnation.
Even for failing at Lent.

Today is a new day, and I think it's going to be a good one.

April 6, 2010

This Week's Playlist

Back in the late fall, I put together a playlist on my iPod, made up of the songs that stood out to me as I thought about the unknown changes ahead.

So now that I'm in the midst of those changes, I thought I'd highlight what I'm listening to during my last-week-of-work.


KT Tunstall - Through The Dark

best lines:
Try to find a light on somewhere
Try to find a light on somewhere
I'm finding I'm falling in love with the dark over here



Ingrid Michaelson - Overboard


best lines:
I could write my name by the age of three
and I don't need anyone to cut my meat for me.
I'm a big girl now, see my big girl shoes.
It'll take more than just a breeze to make me

Fall over, fall over, fall overboard, overboard.



Capstone - I Will Worship

I can't find a music video for this on Youtube, which is a shame. These are the lyrics:

My soul yearns and even faints
for the courts of the Lord
My heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God

So I will worship you till my breath runs dry
And soar upon your Word like eagles fly
Till my breath runs dry, till my breath runs dry
This is my heart's cry

April 3, 2010

The Inside Scoop

In my last post, I promised a more full explanation of the November turning point. So in a rare moment of transparency, I've decided to just lift it straight out of my journal. And then I'll add a few thoughts I've had since then.

The context: I'm in Tofino and have set aside a day to think and pray through whether or not I should stay with my current employer.*

The journal:
...I have a rich life - no financial concerns, decent health, multiple close friendships, and many opportunities to enjoy the culture and nature of the city I am in. i'm so grateful for this, God. You have truly given me many, many good things.
And yet one thing weighs heavy on my heart. This issue of job/work/occupation/calling. I am not content where I am. Although I am seriously considering an external change, I need to examine my own heart and be willing to make internal changes before or instead of changing my situation...
I want to model a life that is simple and not overly structured, getting out of a bubble of church life. I want freedom to figure out who I am, to try vastly different things and to be uncertain. the people are a huge pull for me to stay, but cannot be reason enough...
I don't feel angry. I feel sad, and there are a few things that still frustrate me. But I understand that these changes take time...

The moment:
I took a break from the journal and went out to the beach to listen for God. The peace in my heart continues, and I feel confident that my attitudes and motivations are more right than if I had made this decision before this fall. I am reminded of what God said to me back when I decided to apply to work here - "Beth, this is the step of faith that I want you to take right now. And when I want you to take the next one, I'll tell you."

I stood for a long time, just watching the waves crash in. A verse came to mind:

Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
(Psalm 42:7)

What a beautiful thought. Standing on the shore, I felt in my heart the beauty of the moment, and I thought in poetry, desiring to capture the moment and the scene in some sort of portrait. And it felt like God said to me, "This is how you see the world - in poetry and pictures. Embrace that. Stop fighting for a more "pragmatic" approach to life and enjoy the way you're wired. Delight in it. Delight in me."

The conclusion:
Since November, I've been doing a lot of thinking. And what it boils down to is this. The past four years have been instrumental in developing my general identity and "calling" as someone who is loved by God and loves Him in return. There is now a level of certainty and rest in my heart that I didn't know during university. And now, from this base, I think it's time to start building on my specific identity and calling as Beth. Someone who's been writing silly stories and poems since grade school. Someone who loves to look at lovely things, and uses music to identify and process her emotions. Someone who is happiest in nature, solitude, and shared laughter.

Just before I moved to BC, in the fall of 2006, a group of friends prayed for me. One of them shared that as she prayed, she had an image in her head of a tree. It was sparse and there were no leaves, because it was winter. But what you couldn't see was what was happening below the surface. The tree was putting out roots, sucking in nutrients and preparing for the fruitfulness of spring. She said to me, "Beth, I think that you're heading into a winter season and it may be hard, but you're putting down roots..."

I forgot about this for a long time, but it's come to mind recently. I feel like this season of preparation and nutrient-sucking is heading into a time of new growth and fruit-bearing. And that is both exciting and scary.



*my day was structured around some ideas in a book called Listening to God in Times of Choice by Gordon Smith. I highly recommend it if you're making a decision.

April 1, 2010

A Great Big Life Update

I haven't been blogging much this week because I have been thinking and waiting and revising plans that have been in the works for months. But I don't want to stay silent til all the puzzle pieces are in place - if I did, I don't know that I'd ever blog again.

So I'll start last summer and bring you up to speed...

July: I'm enjoying my new role at work, the travel plans and variety of tasks I'll have. I've committed to this spot until the spring, by which point I hope that God has shown me what the next step/thing is.

August: My job description changes a bit, which is a little bit sad. No jaunts to Asia after all. But I'm enjoying myself, and begin contemplating a move back on campus. And back east. I begin reading Courage and Calling by Gordon Smith.

September: Vacation in Saskatoon is surprisingly lovely. Towards the end of it, I start feeling sad. I don't know why, but this feeling lingers all month. Eventually, I identify that I feel grief, like I am mourning a loss or a change that is coming.

October: I have a chance to visit Toronto and Montreal, weighing the possibility of moving to either city. I leave both places feeling great sadness, because I love my coworkers there but know that neither job opening is the next step for me. I begin reading Courage by Gus Lee.

November: Another week of vacation. This time I go to Tofino and have a profound moment with Jesus on the shore. It is the coming together of things I have been reading and thinking on for months…and just because this post is long, I'ma save the details for another entry.

December: In the midst of work, I take time to make sure that I am not mishearing God or rushing things that ought not be rushed. I go home for Christmas. I meet a boy, but don't know that it's significant - yet. I go to a conference with work. The same place where, four years earlier, I felt confident of what next step God was asking of me. It is good to be there again, physically and spiritually.

January: I am contemplating when I will finish with my employer. My responsibilities wrap up at the end of March, but I don't feel fully settled about leaving then. A random email shows up, mentioning an opportunity for English teachers to go to the DPRK (North Korea). I follow it up on a whim. Then I decide to apply. Then I decide to go.

February: Turns out the boy I met thinks I'm great. Really great. I go to Scotland for 10 days with work, which is a great trip but confirms that I'm ready to be done here. I am praying for people to come with me to DPRK. The boy and I start dating. We've met once in person. I'm going to an isolated country for 3 months. His own future is dependent on the next six months. Are we crazy? Maybe a little. But we're both okay with that.

March: A fantastic couple decides to come with me and we start prepping for adventure. I volunteer for the Paralympics. I start wrapping up my job responsibilities. I go to Ontario to see my family (and now the boy) before I go overseas.


Then this past week:
Saturday – I come home from Ontario to find out our landlord isn't renewing our lease. We all will need to move out by the end of May. I won't be here, so I'll need to move before I leave for DPRK.
Sunday – I am tired and stressed.
Monday – By noon, I am feeling like I can tackle the move & the prep left before I leave. Then I get a phone call. DPRK is on hold. Indefinitely. All my plans? Back up in the air.
Tuesday – I have to make a decision. By the end of this week, I will have no work on my plate.
Wednesday – I meet with some big bosses. We talk. I tell them about the last six months. They tell me about the exciting projects I could work on.
Thursday – I call HR. I have my checklist, and I have my last to-do list. I have to pick a final date, but I don't want to, because as long as it's unsettled, it doesn't seem real. I am hemming and hawing, and afraid to put this in writing, but I think I've picked April 9. Because it's not going to take me longer than that to do what needs doing.


Deep breath.

So where does that leave me? Well.

In a week, I'll be unemployed.

I'm in a long-distance relationship that is fantastic so far, but not a sure thing. We're realists. And we're optimists. I like that about us.

My lease is up at the end of May. I've been considering a move back to Ontario since September... It might make sense to move then. But am I sure it's what I want?

Between now and then, I'd like to hang out with my friends. Get into trouble. Travel somewhere – close or far, I don't care. I do have a visa to get into China in the next 3 months, so that might be an option...but with no longterm income, maybe not a wise option.

Really, I don't know.


I guess I'm left on the cusp of the unknown. A certain boy sent me a text message earlier this week that read, "You're like the allegorical myth hero on the brink of adventure, looking back at his small town home. Just one more step forward..."

Adventure awaits (A faith adventure, if you will).

My little home town has been a safe and lovely place for the last four years, but it's time to go.

I have a feeling it's going to be messy and glorious and a lot of fun.
And all of you are invited along for the ride.

Changes

I changed my blog template. Do you like? Does anyone even come here anymore or do we all just use google reader (other than my mom, who I know comes to see the comments :)?

I have to blog about more and unexpected changes in my plans that have occurred this week. But I'm waiting for tomorrow to happen first.


The End.