On Reconciliation

For the last two days, I’ve had the opportunity to attend the Ontario Library Association Super Conference in Toronto. To say it has been enlightening would be the understatement of the century. I have enjoyed it immensely, and I’ll do a follow up post with some of my sketch notes and thoughts, but I did want to mention one thing that really challenged me.

The keynote speaker yesterday afternoon was Wab Kinew. I will be entirely honest – I had not heard of him before. I have read Boyden’s The Orenda, so I had that connection, but I was otherwise unfamiliar with him. 

Anyone who keeps up with Canadian current events will know about the TRC report and the 94 recommendations that have been outlined in it. It is undeniable that we have a really ugly past when it comes to our nation’s relationship with indigenous peoples. The notion of reconciliation can seem overwhelming and I’m sure there are many who are desperate for examples of what it looks like. Kinew’s late father provided a poignant example, taking the matter into his own hands, by personally extending reconciliation with representatives (e.g. the pope) of the Catholic Church. To see these ultimate acts of forgiveness touched me in such a profound way.

I continue to be reminded of the brokenness that is present in our world, and how we so often make terrible decisions due to ignorance, misunderstanding, or fear of the other. Regrettably, as long as we live, we will continue to see things that are hurtful and unjust. However, I have been challenged in two ways:

  1. To consider more deeply what it means to be an ally to the aboriginal peoples of Canada
  2. To demonstrate forgiveness daily in my own life because He first forgave us

Thank you Wab for your message, and for what you are continuing to do in the name of reconciliation. 

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An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

I recently finished reading Jen Hatmaker’s 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. If you’ve spent any amount of time with me in the last few weeks, I will have mentioned it. I talked about it incessantly.

In a nutshell, the author – Jen – embarked on a 7-month project to examine and reduce seven areas of excess in her life. She started off with food, consuming only seven types of food the whole month. Then she moved on to clothes, wearing only seven items the whole month. And so this continued. During the very last month, she committed to praying seven times a day – each time with a different focus.

There were definitely moments in the book that challenged me to consider whether I would be willing to part with some of the excess that exists in my life. We live a very fortunate and blessed life, but what good is that if it isn’t shared with others? What does it mean to be the hands and feet of Jesus? How does a modern day Christ follower live out their life according to His purpose with His blessings? I definitely want to do a rendition of this project for myself, but I’m not yet sure what this will look like. For a little while, I thought maybe I could focus on a different global issue to learn about so that I might be able to pray more boldly and take specific action in that arena. However, I think part of what this book draws out is the need to take action against seemingly mundane choices that we make, and to be more conscious of the areas of excess in our own life.

In the mean time, I shall continue pondering the convictions that I have, but if you haven’t read this book, I highly suggest it. And if you’re in the KFPL service area, I’m returning my copy to the library on Monday.

 

35.

It’s been a weird week. Andy has been really inconsistent with his eating and sleeping tendencies, which makes for lots of unpredictability and more nighttime wake ups than I would expect. That leads to grumpiness on my part and just a general lack of unattentiveness. I had a mini meltdown yesterday where I started to silent cry while feeding him his lunch, most of which ended up on the floor. He was crying too. It wasn’t pretty. 

Despite these moments of weakness, Andy  continues to bring joy and smiles. And he continues to pull himself up on anything. 

   
Yesterday, we decided to go on a family walk around our neighbourhood. Andy fell asleep in the carrier before we even left the house. (Tangent – I wore him on my back yesterday in the carrier and it made vacuuming SO much easier)

 One of the interesting things about living in a still-expanding subdivision is that there are model homes to visit. Both homes were new to us and one in particular really amazed us! There is something to be said about smart layouts. Having a big home with lots of wasted space definitely is not better than a smaller home where everything is well-used. Speaking of homes, Kelvin introduced me to House Tweaking earlier this week. Their home is probably my dream home. 

Another thing he showed me – all the beautiful swaddles at modern burlap, which we would more likely use as a wall hanging because we don’t swaddle Andy anymore. Such truth in these quotes! 

On the reading front, I’ve got a few books on the go. Just finished Shani Mootoo’s Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab and will be starting Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. A friend ordered Teach Us to Want by Jen Michel Pollock for me and I am enjoying the author’s candidness so far in this. Also reading Rick Richardson’s Reimagining Evangelism, which is giving me a fresh perspective on what it means to share my faith with those around me. Highly recommended! 

A Wife of Noble Character

I sometimes think of myself as a frenetic busybody who can merely aspire to a slower, more intentional life. True, I have uncharacteristic moments of thoughtful introspection. But it seems most of the time I am going at least 10 km/h above the speed limit (25 if we’re on the highway). Today, aided by some wise words in Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, I had an uncharacteristic aha! moment – a recognition that despite being on maternity leave, I am still thinking of myself as a worker first and a mother second.

Twitter chats. Courses. Reading. It seems I am moderately addicted to the accumulation of knowledge. Some might think of this as a good thing. But then I thought back to my time with Andy last night. It was somewhere between 7 pm and 8 pm (I know this, because I was trying to engage with both him and #engsschat). When I looked at him and talked with him, he gave me the biggest smiles. At the same time, I noticed he kept looking at the computer screen whenever I tried to type with one hand while holding something else in the other as a distraction. “What’s going on over there,” he must have been thinking, “and how come they’re more interesting than me?”

Now, I don’t want this post to come off as a “woe is me for being a terrible person” post, because I recognize that learning to incorporate a new area of identity is always difficult. But I do want to share a few of my inner thoughts.

Naturally, I gravitated towards Proverbs 31, the quintessential passage that all Christian wives tend to pick apart, analyze, and compare themselves to. I remember the first time reading it after I had gotten engaged. “Dang, this woman has totally got it together,” I thought to myself, “Is this even possible?” (It is, by the way – I am lucky to have met some amazing women who live out this passage). And though I would be lying if I said I’m not sometimes envious of these women, their togetherness, and their humility, I also try to remind myself to be gracious when it comes to my own shortcomings.

So here it is – Proverbs 31…with a few of my own thoughts.

A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.

I am blessed in that I have an amazingly supportive husband. If you were to ask Kelvin whether he has full confidence in me, he would probably say yes, but this is possibly more a reflection of his good leadership than my inherent ability.

She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.

Not on good days. Not when she’s had a full night’s rest. ALL days. What about those days when I bring nothing at all?

She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.

Diligent and connected. Aspiring to this.

She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.

Okay, this is one I struggle with constantly. In the mornings, I have reverted to sleeping in again with Andy while he’s in our bed. Perhaps going to bed before 12:30 might help with this. Also need to do a better job – a much better job – of the whole providing food for my family. Having charcuterie plates for dinner are nice every so often, but not when they become the norm because I’m too lazy to get groceries and actually put some forethought into what we’re having for dinner.

She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

Again with the diligence. And this woman is a savvy investor! When we were going through pre-marital counselling, we both said that I would deal with the finances. This has not turned out to be the case. Kelvin handles our investments, financing, and most of our credit cards, while I merely pay for some of our home utilities and one or two credit cards.

She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.

I do work hard most of the time. But this accounts for only 2 lines out of 43.

She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

This woman is seriously hardworking. And has the home economics down.

She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.

Beyond just giving money to charity, this woman actually takes matters into her own hands and advocates for the marginalized. I am so often wrapped up in my own life that I do not give pause to issues that I really should care about.

When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

I need to learn to sew.

Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

In my actions, I need to consider also how this affects Kelvin’s reputation. He is really building something amazing with work and I need to support him in those things.

She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.

Again with the sewing.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

This is perhaps the tallest order. Strength. Dignity. Foresight. Wisdom. Self-control. A combination of things that you don’t find in every 20-something. And these are things that take time to nurture.

She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:

Though Andy is not old enough at this age to be able to “call me blessed”, I do hope that we have a really good relationship as he gets older. I want him to trust me, to know that he is loved, and to see me as someone who is an example to him – a good example. And this definitely starts with me spending more quality time with him. And sharing the things that are on my heart, and that I’m passionate about.

“Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

And here’s the kicker. Fear of the Lord. My time spent with the spiritual disciplines is lacklustre, and I know that until this improves, my soul is not rich soil for the working of the Spirit, and thus I am not effective in the doing of God’s good works.

All this to say that I am reminded once again of how much more I have to strive for, but also how I am encouraged, knowing that I serve a gracious God who gives us new opportunities each day to draw near to Him.

Loving the City

I came to Kingston 9 years ago at the peak of my formative years – an idealistic 17-year old who had known the comforts of suburban Toronto for all of her conscious past. The plan was to spend 5 years here, get myself a superb education at one of the nation’s best universities, and promptly return to the GTA to settle down with a government-employed husband and raise 2 kids.

Clearly, God had other plans.

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That was me. During frosh week. In front of my residence, Chown Hall, which was at the time an all-girls residence (this has since changed, I hear). How do you know I’m a first-year university student? Well, I’m wearing a lanyard for one. And that lanyard isn’t attached to a student card holder in my back pocket; it is around my neck. Also, I clearly have no regard for the fact that my shirt and my shorts look terrible together. Knowing that over 100 other people are wearing a similar uniform probably helped.

I must admit. During the first two years of undergrad, most of my focus was insular. And by insular, I mean within a 1 km radius of Queen’s campus (save for the odd taxi ride to the local mall, since I hadn’t quite figured out how to ride transit that far). Exploring the city meant taking the bus to Loblaws for some groceries. Or doing silly things like walking up Montreal Street late at night to the KFC because we were craving fried chicken, only to realize we probably should have checked the store hours (this KFC is now a Rexall). I would say I had a very small view of the city I would be spending the next four years in.

Slowly but surely, this circle opened up. Volunteering and various practicums brought me into Kingston (and even Amherstview) schools. Curiosity drew me to local establishments and events. I began dating someone (Kelvin…who now happens to be my husband) who was born and raised in Kingston. Needless to say, I came to realize that there is life in Kingston beyond University Avenue. By the end of fourth year, with my degree in hand, I would say that I really liked Kingston.

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Kelvin and me at my BAH convo. Check out his outfit before he requests I take this picture off the internet.

It was at this point that the idea of staying in Kingston long term began to present itself. I opted to do my placements in Kingston during my year at the Faculty of Education, just to keep my options open. I began connecting with amazing people outside the university, and local organizations like the Kingston Arts Council. I wanted to hear and share stories from people who lived in Kingston, so I planned an event called Kingston Through My Lens.

Before I knew it, it was the summer of 2011. I had just graduated from the Faculty and had been accepted onto TDSB’s Eligible-to-Hire List. It was time to move back to Toronto, at least for the time being.

But again, God had other plans, and by the end of August, I found myself back in Kingston for good.

Two weeks ago, Dwayne Cline from Hughson Street Baptist Church in Hamilton came to speak at our church (full audio here). A self-proclaimed rural boy, he never thought that God would call him to minister in the city. And yet, this firecracker of a speaker is living and serving and raising his kids in the inner core of Hamilton. He shared with us some thoughts on this passage in Jeremiah, one of Kelvin’s favourites.

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
— Jeremiah 29:5-7

Somewhere between buying a home here in Kingston, and standing in the shade of the beautiful Isabel Bader Centre, with an unobstructed view of Lake Ontario, it dawned on me…I love this city. I love how creative this city is. I love that people are so willing to take chances on you and invite you into the city’s conversation. I love the food and the outdoor space and how “rush hour” means waiting 2 lights instead of 1 for a left turn.

But this passage got me thinking: How am I impacting the city that I live in? And how am I living intentionally in the place that God has called me to be?

If you had asked me in 2012 whether I felt I was doing this, I would have been able to say, without a doubt, yes. But since I started working more permanently, I feel like I have disengaged somewhat from Kingston. This was a sharp reminder that we exist, and our churches exist, to really minister to the community that God has placed us in.

I am challenged to demonstrate my love for this city by engaging once again with it and with the people that make it what it is. I want to take the time to really enjoy our local culture, and to listen to the stories of those I meet. But above all, I want to pray for this city, and to seek the peace and prosperity of this place we now call home.

Kelvin and I both have opportunities this year to make a difference in the lives of people who are here in Kingston – those who are here permanently as well as those who are just passing through. It’s about time we take them.

the art of being a woman

In a world where so much of who you are seems to be wrapped up in the external – in accomplishments, in appearance, in possessions – it is immensely refreshing for my soul to be reminded of what true beauty is.

Growing up, I had subscriptions to your typical teenage girl magazines – Seventeen, YM…I cut pictures out of them to make collages – collages full of photoshopped women, advertised beauty products, and the like. I’m happy to say our subscriptions have grown up since then. We now welcome Kingston Life and Spacing into our home, in addition to my professional magazines. About a year ago, my husband introduced me to a magazine called Darling. I was moved by its mission and intrigued by the way it distinguished between eight female personas. I promptly subscribed to their online content, and I will admit it is probably the only feed that I read in its entirety.

I’m someone who has often found her worth in achievements and in an ability to get things done. This has served me well on a number of occasions. However, it has also left me utterly devastated more than a few times.

At church today, our speaker touched on the reality of our brokenness as people and our deep need for healing and restoration. I was challenged to consider the reign that God has (or doesn’t have) over all aspects of my life, and I couldn’t help but be convicted of the fact that I have yet to allow him to make an indelible mark on my life. When people see me, do they see someone whose life has been transformed by Christ? Sadly, I don’t know that they do.

All of this brings me to the ideas of identity, worth, and beauty. What does it mean to be a woman, and to live well? Undoubtedly, all women are unique, with different aspirations, different values, different needs. However, I believe there is a certain something that we should all be striving for, to live life on earth with purpose and meaning that extends beyond just the here and now. As a mother, every day I am learning to understand and accept the changes that have occurred in me (mentally and physically) since taking on this new role. I have some seemingly abrupt new ambitions. I have a slate of new responsibilities. And simultaneously, I have a new image of myself to either accept reluctantly or work hard to reform.

In short, it’s a tough act to balance.

And so, I am thankful for the care and thoughtfulness that goes into a magazine like Darling. For curating content that inspires and uplifts and is authentic. In an attempt to foster what I think is a very healthy mindset, I’ve ordered the most recent issue of Darling and I can’t wait to receive it.

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11.

This was one of those weeks during which I was reminded of God’s sovereignty and goodness in our lives.

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Andy had his 2-month check-up (a little late, yes…) on Wednesday, and this big boy is in the 97th percentile for weight! At our appointment, our doctor had trouble getting his red reflex, which is a test they do to make sure that optically everything is okay with your baby. She told us not to worry, and referred us to the ophthalmology department at one of our local hospitals. Worst case scenario? He has something called retinoblastoma and he will need surgery to remove his eye.

Naturally, that’s one of the last things you want to hear from your physician.

It’s times like this that we are so thankful for the people around us who support us, encourage us, and most importantly, pray for us. We sent messages and emails out right away to let our small groups know the situation. This was at around 11 am. God works in amazing ways, including placing great friends in our life (including one who is a resident in the ophthalmology department!), and by 1 pm, we were seeing the paediatric specialist at the hospital. We praise God that Andy is indeed okay, and at the same time, we are also reminded of the inevitability of one day having heartbreaking circumstances to deal with.

While I was waiting for the ophthalmologist, I got talking in the waiting room with a couple from Brockville whose daughter was born quite premature. She was 3 months old and had just been released from NICU. For the last few months, they had been staying at Almost Home, a local charitable organization that provides “a place of comfort and respite for families whose children are receiving medical treatment in Kingston area hospitals”. My heart goes out to families in that position, and I’m going to find out more about the organization so that I can nominate it at our next 100+ Women Who Care meeting.

Beyond this, Andy is sleeping for about a 6-hour stretch at night, which is marvelous for me :) I finally get a chance to rest in the evening and do things, like write this blog post. And read. I love reading. I went a little crazy last night and requested about a dozen books from the OCT library. I’m looking forward to receiving them.

On the note of PD, this is the last week of a MOOC that I’m taking. I completed the assignment and posted it for feedback on a discussion thread…but didn’t submit it. Super fail. Especially because that process is worth 45% of my grade. I was seriously bummed on Monday (like super grumpy and angry at myself), but I attempted to right my wrongs by submitting my final assignment for another MOOC that I’m taking (which ends next week) about 5 days early.

I’m also beginning to plan for our trip to Nashville (should we rent a car?). Suggestions for restaurants to try and places to visit would be much appreciated.

Why We Sing

I love contemporary worship songs. I love the words, the emotions they evoke, and the overall experience. But what are we missing when we forget about hymns? I was reminded today in Sunder Krishnan’s book “Loving God With All You’ve Got” that

God doesn’t ask us to sing to show us off before an audience. He doesn’t ask us to sing so that He can get some glory to fulfill some deficiency in Him. He asks us to sing so that our hearts can be stirred by a noble theme, so that we can begin to love Him with all our hearts, so that we can become that much richer in our souls. The costs of not singing is colossal. It is we, not God, who stand to lose if we refuse to sing.

Time to get a hymnal.

Goals for 2013

In my last post, I mentioned that I may or may not sit down to write some goals. Today, seeing as how I have not yet been called in to any schools to supply, I figured that would be a good thing to do. I have had goals float around in my head, but it’s nice also to have them on paper. Here they are!

Financial
– Pay off wedding entirely
– Replenish TFSA to $2000
– Open a joint account

Professional
– Organize an EdCamp in Kingston
– Begin an LTO
– Do professional reading at least every other day

Spiritual
– 
Become a member at Bay Park
– Serve in the worship ministry
– Pray powerfully
– Initiate a mentoring relationship (this is a continuation of my goal from last year)

Personal
– 
Write to my grandparents at least twice a month
– Be a good wife (vague, I know…)
– Swim at least twice a month
– Eat no chips or chocolate (exception made at weddings)

While we’re at it, let me update you on how I did with last year’s goals:

Financial (moderate)

  • Bring my TFSA to $5000 – COMPLETE! I literally just made it, with $1.26 over my goal as of December 31
  • Pay off all the financing I have – STANDSTILL… I did pay off all my outstanding financing from 2011, but we are now financing the roof
  • Take on the full mortgage by the end of the year – COMPLETE! And I am very happy with the low interest rate we have
  • Have $5000 in savings by year end – FAIL… I still have a little ways to go to reach this goal

Professional (good)

  • Keep an updated resume and portfolio – COMPLETE! This wasn’t too tricky. There wasn’t much to add to either
  • Attend 3 workshops or conferences – STANDSTILL… I maybe went to two?
  • Take an AQ course – COMPLETE! I now have Spec Ed Part 1 :)
  • Grow my Twitter PLN to 100 people – COMPLETE! And I hope to keep growing next year

Spiritual (poor)

  • Complete my bible reading plan every day – DISCONTINUED… I decided it was too intensive for me to do the plan again after completing it last year. Still, my devos were less than regular
  • Read at least 5 Christian books – FAIL… I probably read three, and started a fourth
  • Update my worship binder – STANDSTILL… I did update it some, but there are still many songs I am missing
  • Actively search for a mentor – STANDSTILL… This is a tricky one. I have hopes that this year I will be able to establish something more solid

Personal (good)

  • Buy a bike or a scooter – COMPLETE! And I cannot wait for spring when I can bring her out again
  • Bring my BMI down to 21.7 – COMPLETE! Thanks to my new bike, Joshi’s Holistic Diet, and my bout of tonsilitis -__-
  • Practice guitar regularly (at least 3x/week) – COMPLETE! I love playing guitar, though maybe I should try to play in keys other than E and G
  • Communicate with my family at least 2x/week – COMPLETE! For a while, I was calling my parents every day. I need to keep this communication up though

It is unfortunate that my spiritual goals did not fare well. Alas, I must remember the bigger picture, and keep pressing on. I have faith that this will be a better year.

In 2013

This past year literally flew by. In the span of 12 months, lots has changed. I am now engaged to be married, happily working my three jobs, and part of a healthy and vibrant church community. Life is good.

Originally, my plan was to sit down and make some resolutions for this upcoming year (and perhaps in the next few days I will), but I’ve realized that my hope for this year really comes down to this verse from Philippians:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

I want to be a better teacher, a better daughter, a better partner, a better friend. But most of all, I want to learn to trust more deeply in my Father in heaven.

Conviction

A question posed in “Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret”, a book by Taylor’s son and daughter-in-law, which is due back to my church library today:

We may have more wealth in these days, better education, greater comfort in traveling and in our surroundings even as missionaries, but have we the spirit of urgency, the deep, inward convictions that moved those who went before us; have we the same passion of love, personal love for the Lord Jesus Christ? If these are lacking, it is a loss for which nothing can compensate.

goals for 2012

it’s that time of year again! here are my goals for the new year – as i accomplish them i will update or add more :)

financial

  • bring my TFSA to $5000
  • pay off all the financing i have
  • take on the full mortgage by the end of the year
  • have $5000 in savings by year end

professional

  • keep an updated resume and portfolio
  • attend 3 workshops or conferences
  • take an AQ course
  • grow my twitter PLN to 100 people

spiritual

  • complete my bible reading plan every day
  • read at least 5 Christian books
  • update my worship binder
  • actively search for a mentor

personal

  • buy a bike or a scooter
  • bring my BMI down to 21.7
  • practice guitar regularly (at least 3x/week)
  • communicate with my family at least 2x/week