Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I LOVE LLOYD


Lloyd lives in the Philippines. He works for linksys. He answered the phone at 10:30 pm when I called about my wireless router problem which had unexpectedly appeared most inconveniently on Friday morning just when I needed to send some emails and do some research for my weekend trip. Risha in India (who works for Bell) managed to circumvent the router and get me up and running on a dial-up internet connection on Friday morning so that I could get my work done and I left the router issue for later. Later happened to be tonight as Dean tackled the problem and tried to reset the router but nothing seemed to be working. He gave up. Then I picked up the phone and called for help. After 61 minutes and 18 seconds, Lloyd had managed to navigate through several dead end problems, reset my IP address, upgrade the firmware, reconfigure my router and get both of my laptops running again on a secure wireless network! I actually startled him at one point when I uttered a loud, "Oh my goodness!" as a screen that had been refusing to load finally appeared and I could not contain my excitement! Lloyd said, "You scared me, ma'am!" So polite.

Here are my Lloyd lessons:
1. Call for help when you need it. There are people out there who know more than you do and can help you. To expect that you can solve every problem yourself is a delusion.
2. Be patient. Don't get frustrated at the dead ends that you run into or the tiny steps you have to take, some of them over and over again, without seeing any big results. Anyone listening in on our phone conversation or sitting in the room with me would probably have left from boredom as after 50 minutes nothing much seemed to have been accomplished. Keep going and don't give up. The breakthrough might come at minute 55.
3. Reset. Upgrade. For some reason, my router had reverted back to a default setting (perhaps a power failure) and needed a major reset and upgrade. Don't think that the patterns you established in your life years ago will never need readjusting. Upgrades and resets are a necessary part of learning and maturing and moving forward.
4. Be thorough. Cover every angle with care so that you don't miss something you might need later on. Just one slip when typing a password will deny you access to everything.
5. Don't get easily overwhelmed. Overwhelmedness (not sure that is a word) very often results in inaction. START the process and keep going, one step at a time. I really didn't want to call anyone at 10:38 pm (who would answer the phone at that hour anyway?) but Dean convinced me to try. Thanks, Dean.
6. Develop the ability to trust someone else when you can't see where it will all end. I didn't question every direction Lloyd gave me, I just did what he said.
7. Communicate. Because Lloyd was not in the same room with me, I had to make sure that he knew exactly what I was seeing on my screen or doing at all times so that he could direct me correctly.
8. Be thankful. Whether your wireless network is up and running or you are limited to only one dial-up connection or if everything is offline for a bit...be thankful. And look for creative ways to accomplish what you need to do. There is never only one way.

God bless Lloyd!

This is a picture of a playground in St. Catharines Ontario taken on May 28, 2007.

waiting...tick tick

It is now 12:42 am on Wednesday and I will leave in 30 minutes to pick Dean up from the airport. Way past my usual bed-time (unless I get into a book and then I have been known to stay up past 2 am - it is always, "Just one more chapter.")

Since I have 30 minutes, I am reading a chapter in The Message and writing something here. This verse strikes me as I read Job 6: "When desparate people give up on God Almightly, their friends, at least, should stick with them."

What would make you walk away from a friend? Many of our friendships are so cheap that we sell them for an insult or a misunderstanding or a moment of hurt and even just because it becomes inconvenient. Unfortunately, I have been in religious and church settings where the slightest hint of scandal or shame caused all the so-called faithful and righteous friends to scurry away from embarrassing or sinful scenes. Jesus was a friend of sinners and I can't really think of many people who aspire to imitate Christ in this area.

Real friends never leave. Even if you ignore them for long periods of time, perhaps reject their advances, and even change your beliefs, real friends are still there...waiting.

1:06 am. Time to change my clothes and pick up my best friend.

Monday, May 28, 2007

drive-by

I just returned from a little trip to visit friends in the Toronto area and got somewhat bored after a few hours behind the wheel, so snapped a few pictures with my camera while driving. Note: this is not really a recommended activity while driving due to obvious safety issues - I kept my eyes on the road by just pointing and clicking and not really looking at the viewfinder to see what I was shooting. It seems more unpredictable and exciting that way, anyway.

The first one is of me passing a Schneiders truck. For your information, Schneider Foods is located in Kitchener, Ontario and is one of the largest Canadian producers of premium quality food products, at least that's what their website states. It appears I was somewhat hungry at that point?
The second one is an attempt to get a picture of The Big Apple, a tourist attraction that features a large red apple almost 40 feet tall near Colbourne, Ontario. My timing was impeccable as not one but TWO big trucks passed in front of my camera just as I snapped the photo.

It was a nice day for a drive, but I did hit one or two patches of rain so the unsettled, constantly changing sky was marvelous to watch. Here was a particularly nice section of stormy cloud and sunshine fighting it out.

Of all the great chats I had with good friends, old and new, on the trip, one comment that stood out was from Trevor. He had just witnessed the death of someone in their church from cancer and said that what was most meaningfully remembered at a service celebrating this man's life were not his community and business accomplishments (of which he had many) but the family vacations and times spent together. I had just been discussing a possible road trip with good friends and was wondering if this was a good use of our limited time and resources right now. Well, what would I rather spend my limited time and resources on but being with people whom I love and value and investing in their lives? Let me make good and meaningful memories, not just impressive success stories.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

one day

I was away all day yesterday at a leadership seminar and by the time I got home, several things had changed. Where there were no flowers before, this dark violet iris now bloomed. And where there was life, it ceased to exist as one of Dean's childhood friends died. It is amazing how much can change in one day.

Though usually life moves at a rather sedate pace as day after day turns into year after year and the young become old, there are times when changes happen suddenly and you find yourself surprised and somewhat unprepared for the abruptness of it.

I just started to read the book of Job this week. He says, "We take the good days from God - why not also the bad days?" Dean is flying out for a few days to attend the funeral in Manitoba and say a few words at the service. I don't know what to say or even how to pray in these situations for death is a confounding thing, but this is the kind of thing that Jesus specialised in: not alleviating all our suffering, but bringing resurrection when all hope is gone. Jesus, bring resurrection. You are our only hope.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

the crumb theory



There are crumbs on my desk. I know they were left there by Dean. Sure, there are often crumbs on my desk. Some I dribble there as I often have lunch or a snack while I read and type or work, some the cats track across the flat surface they like to pace across on their way to the window or just to look at me and get some attention or to beg for a bite of some goody, some come from that mysterious place where dust and dirt and debris are manufactured and distributed freely for all to enjoy equally.

I was just reading an article on faith and proof and that got me to thinking...though I did not see Dean drop any crumbs on the desk, I KNOW they are from him. I have no proof (though I suppose DNA tests or fingerprints might be conclusive) except that I know he was here today and there are things present that I did not make. Sure, I could blame it on the cats, but I know what cats make and that looks different. You don't always have to see it to know it is true.

I just started to read the book of Job today and love the introduction given my Eugene Peterson. Too often we use suffering as a reason to call God's power or goodness into question. Mr. Peterson, instead, puts forth that suffering calls OUR lives into question. He also notes that this book is one of the strongest anti-religious books of the Bible as the platitudes of Job's friends are dismissed as knowledge without compassion or depth. Despite our best efforts, we cannot prevent suffering, we can only enter into it and look for God.

This is a barbed wire fence at Finnegan's farm.

Monday, May 21, 2007

flowers+dog+litter+pants

Don't worry, I am not turning into a planto-phile, but a flower is one of the most magnificent displays of colour one will ever see with the naked eye (and with a camera). I caught this one at Finnegan's farm on the weekend. Right after I took that picture, this dog came over and said hello and begged me to take his picture. He is up for adoption if anyone is interested.



I am trying out a brand new litter product on the cats. This one promises to be less smelly and last longer. One can only hope. It is also REALLY noisy! It might wake me up at night! This got me to thinking...what if the master of our lives decided to change something basic that we take for granted every day? Like the stuff we walk on? Or the liquids we drink? Or the height of the sky? Part of the beauty of the brain is that it gradually gets used to things so that we are not always bombarded with sensory signals; it only alerts us to something new. Take a moment and see if you can feel the clothes on your body - after wearing them for a few minutes, the body ignores that sensation because it is constant and harmless and not worth bothering the brain over. This process lets us prioritise the input we get every day from our world. Unfortunately it also renders us numb to some things that perhaps we should never lose the wonder of.

After being married for 20 years, you get so used to the other person that you tend to become less reactive to some things: it is a mixed bag in my opinion. I no longer freak out when Dean drops salsa on the floor or steals all my covers, but my heart no longer flutters every time he enters a room (only about half the time), though I do still jump everytime he grabs me from behind. I can sometimes finish his sentences, usually predict where he is going with a song when we play music together, and most importantly, am starting to more consistently cook meat to his liking! I guess the important thing is though I treasure the small sensations, they are very temporary and I should not be too sad to have them linger for only a short while, sort of on the same plane as knowing, "Yes, I did put pants on today because I can feel them!"

This gives way for the grander, more memorable and considerably more important things to have the proper prominence and attention. I can tell when there is something wrong in Dean's world. I can communicate the same love and affection in new and sometimes unorthodox ways. I don't have to spend any time worrying about whether or not I have pants on, but actually enjoy all kinds of different styles and colours of pants. I don't have to worry about whether or not this relationship will last, but instead, can enjoy and explore the variegated nature of this affection.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

ferguson thoughts


Random Saturday night thoughts having very little to do with this picture of a Ferguson tractor at Finnegan's market this morning:
Tired. Watering the lawn while I type this, moving the sprinklers every 30 minutes. Got home at 2 am this morning after partying with friends for Dean's birthday: ribs, bowling, DDR, air hockey, and other amusements. Woke up way too early to feed the cats and never went back to sleep for some silly reason. Feel like I need some time to think and pray and listen and not be driving somewhere in the car - its been that kind of a week where all the activities clump together. My watering permit runs out tomorrow. Yeah and boo. I don't like the watering ritual, but I also want the new seeds to grow big and strong. I trust God with my lawn. Pizza tastes very good if you have not had it in a long time. I can't imagine living with a king husband like Esther did and you can only go see him when he calls you. Isn't the point of being family the togetherness of life? Not alone, not alone. I am not alone. There is someone in my bed pretty much every night, there is someone I can always call or talk to and hey, some people like to spend time with me. Smile on my face. I am very full of food and drink. 7 more minutes till I move the next sprinkler. Blink.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What?

For most of my life, I have been asked the question, "What?" What do you do? What are your goals? What do you want to do? What do you want to accomplish in life? So I, in one of my compliant phases, started to ask myself the same questions as they seemed to be important ones, or at the very least, popular ones. "What?" is a very hard question to answer, I discovered. Not being a very linear thinker and not having a definable profession don't help, either.

This week I was finally freed from the question of "What?" Or rather, I narrowed it down to ONE "what" question that negates the need for any others. Here is the only "What?" question I believe is worthy of my attention: What part of the character of God is my life supposed to show and bring to this world? If I know the response to this, all life's questions and answers fall into place much easier. Decision-making becomes a snap (okay, not exactly a snap, but I like the sound of the phrase - reminds me of some commercial for a wonder gadget...see, I told you I was not a linear thinker!)

Since I know that God has asked me to display what a faithful friend looks like, I do only those things that fall in line with this characteristic, or do things is such a way that this comes through, at least to the best of my ability.

So now if you ask me, "What do you do?" I can honestly and usually fairly quickly reply: I am friendly!

This picture is of my nephew, John, doing what he loves.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

the V word


I have been challenged on my not-so-healthy habit of using my overactive imagination to develop scenarios of how I would like things to turn out in my life and relationships. You might say I am a hopeful and positive person, but why don't we just call it what it is: fantasizing.
Expectations for things to turn out in a certain way (always to my advantage, of course) are just a set-up for disappointments which lead to emotional turmoil and depression when things go wrong. This in turn causes stress and perhaps bitterness and anger and I end up being less than productive for a period of time as I recover from the devastation.
I don't have to be devastated -I just have to give up my fantasies. My hope should never be in a certain scenario anyway - it should be in God's ability to be true to his character. That never disappoints.
I have been following a discussion online stemming from a post that says all this vision casting is counterproductive and kills (murders) the life of a church or relational group of people such as a family. Very interesting indeed. I would not state things quite as strongly, but I do agree that spending days in a room with people writing a vision or mission statement seems relatively useless in my mind (except when government regulations demand a document of said nature). Writing out a vision statement has very little to do with reality in most cases. I am not knocking those leaders who feel this is how they work best, but I personally am learning that God is the initiator and I am the responder and I must trust him day by day to reveal what is important for this time. Trusting God to lead me takes all the stress out of having to make my life a success by any one's standards as I strive toward some man-made goal.
The goal is Jesus. The vision is of Jesus. Anything else falls short.
This picture is of my friends' dog, Millie, who thinks this look will manipulate you to feed her. This post was written while eating a homemade banana bran muffin and sipping chai green tea.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

the Saturday list


1. We went to a swing dance class last night. What fun. They made the females change partners all the time so I got to dance with pretty much every guy there. At first I didn't think I would like that, but it was great: you meet lots of new people and learn to follow signals better instead of relying on knowing your partner. And what a difference a confident partner makes!
2. We also slid into the end of a Pink Floyd cover band show at Club Soda. Really quite good. The light show was amazing and the musicianship not bad at all. One amazing guitar solo!
3. This morning was telemarketer frenzy! What are all those people doing up on a Saturday morning calling me? Sorry, I was sleepy and had very little voice this morning so I just said no thank you and wished them a good day.
4. I am out of orange juice again. This has happened TWICE in the last 2 weeks. I must get better at OJ inventory management.
5. I like Dean. We went out to lunch with a friend of ours yesterday and I found myself saying wonderful things about Dean and how I wanted to be there for him. I could tell he really appreciated that. I need to do that more - let my words and actions reflect my affections in a big way. Who do you like? Let the world know!
This is the sky I saw while standing in my front yard on Thursday.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

if life gives you fire hydrants...

I am eating lunch. After that, I will go outside and make a 7 by 10 foot lawn around the oh-so- inconveniently-placed fire hydrant in my driveway. What can one do? When the fire hydrant cuts into the middle of your double driveway...you make a lovely patch of grass around it as if highlighting a priceless statue you imported from Italy especially for that prominent spot in your front yard.

I just hauled 525 litres of dirt home in my little Echo (that's 756 pounds) and I don't think the car was quite built for that kind of weight. The nice guy who loaded the bags of topsoil into my car expressed some concern as the wheel wells sagged down on top of my tires each time he tossed another bag in. I agreed that it was not optimum, but told him I would be careful on the way home and it should be okay. Well, not only did I drive circumspectly for the 7 or so kilometers to my house, I decided not to stop at the Dairy Queen on the way home to buy the box of buster bars I wanted as I figured those few pounds might just have proved to be the last straw for little Echo-car.

Well, this writing is turning into procrastination, so I raise my Perrier to getting a fine piece of lawn seeded this afternoon. I will post a picture when I am done.

NOTE: I am done and it looks great -yes, I know it's just black dirt, but there are seeds in there, believe me! Here is a picture of the newly framed hydrant, my trusty Echo, and if you look closely, you can see a little red bird on the ground between the car and the house. Oh, and after I finished I went and got those buster bars from Dairy Queen - YAY!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

yottapixels and beyond



This is a tree just outside of Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario. I took this picture last November at way too low a resolution by mistake, but I think it gives the tree a cool jagged effect. At least that's what I tell myself.

Here is a story from my past that I have been thinking about lately: I was visiting a church one night with friends and the worship was wonderful and the Spirit was strong and most everyone there sensed God's presence in a tangible way. The worship leader stopped playing and we all just stood in silence for a bit, revelling in the sweetness of it. Then he said, "I think God is saying, 'It doesn't get any better than this.'" Before I could stop myself or even think about what I was doing, I found myself jumping up and down in the front row and yelling, "Yes, it does! It gets WAY better than this!" The worship leader graciously accepted my words and embraced them (love ya, Dan) and no harm was done other than Dean getting embarrassed (sorry, Dean). He has since come to mostly enjoy my unpredictable ways.

This phrase has become a sort of motto for my life since then. There has to be more to God than I have experienced, there must be more depth and breadth to his love than I know, he must be wiser and kinder and more powerful than I can imagine and more willing to make himself known than I ever give him credit for. When I think of him, I am quite certain that I underestimate his good intentions and his faithfulness. Sort of like my low resolution photo up there, my picture of him falls apart and pixelates into fuzziness all too quickly because I cannot hold the entire image of God in my mind or heart. His details are too minute for me to grasp and his largeness way beyond my peripheral vision. God is bigger and smaller than I can know or experience. You can zoom in or zoom out all you want with the most powerful instruments we have and never see his entire scope. The sweetest moment I have ever experienced will never be as good as it gets because God is always capable of more. The question is never how vast or powerful God is, but how much of Him am I willing to open my arms to and embrace. Will I let myself be overwhelmed?

A yotta pixel is 10 to the eighteenth power times larger than a megapixel.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

green stuff and brown stuff



I worked outside for a few hours yesterday on my flowerbeds, getting them ready for the growing season. I don't really like gardening and was sucked into the vortex of jardinage by one of my friends who managed to appeal to my desire to have a colourful and beautiful yard that would increase the resale value of our home. I like being outside and I don't mind manual labour, but for some reason, I just don't get the appeal of plants.

I knew I could not procrastinate this work any longer as things were already beginning to sprout and weeds and mulch had to be removed, soil turned, plants trimmed, and several bulbs replanted. Yesterday being a gorgeous day, I donned my favourite shorts that I can't bear to throw away even though they have a rip in them and started to dig in the dirt. Every 10 minutes or so I found myself coming inside to get a drink, go to the bathroom, get another tool, ask Dean a question, eat some yummy dark Belgian chocolate, or blow my nose. It was kind of obvious that I would rather be doing something else. My least favourite part of the day was digging up 2 plants that were invasive on a scale that was Borg-ish (Star Trek reference there). They were spreading and intertwining themselves with plants several feet away and also getting into the lawn and no no no, we will have none of that in my garden, so I ripped them out.

At one point, I forgot my prejudice against gardening for a moment and actually got a little excited by seeing some green shoots in the midst of a bunch of brown and limp leaves. I gently ripped away the dead leaves and stems and cleared the dirt of debris, then pushed some freshly turned soil up against the shoot, covering its roots, but leaving its green bits perky and bright against the black earth. And then something clicked in my mind. This gardening stuff really isn't that complicated. You simply remove the things that are not alive and encourage the things that are living and growing. Make it easier for them to grow. At that point, I lost some of my timidity as a gardener who felt they didn't quite know what they were doing and became more confident and committed to my task, completing all the cleaning up of the flowerbeds, replanting and watering in good time to make a supper engagement downtown with friends.

God made us and other living things to grow. I can't make this happen, I can only observe it and help or hinder it. The most important thing I can do is work with this God-given natural tendency to increase and flourish and get bigger and more mature and bear fruit, and simply trim off or get rid of those things that are dead weight, last year's fruit, anything that does not have green in it anymore, or anything that is hindering the sprouts.

This is a picture of one of the sprouts in my garden, taken this morning.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

allergies


This is a picture of Tea's back paws and her tail that I took today.
Yesterday a friend talked to me about being healed of her allergy to milk. I got really excited about that because not only do I have way too many friends that suffer from this (including my husband), there is another allergy that I wish everyone could be free from in order that they could spend more time at my house: an allergy to cats.
This morning on my way to my last French class of the semester (yay!) I remembered that a girl who used to live with us was healed of her allergy to cats when she moved into our house.
Yes, I reminded myself, God can and does heal these things. A few of us have been talking at church for awhile about wanting to see God heal allergies and when I received the news from my friend this week, I pumped her for information. What were the keys or steps to her getting healed? She gave me a very interesting answer. She said that the first thing she had to do was stop "owning" the sickness/malady and this is evident in the way we speak about these things: "my allergies are acting up, my migraine is so bad today, etc. That really struck me. I also am prone to make illness or weakness part of my identity when it is in my body and thus, render my prayers void when I ask God to take it away while firmly holding onto it as a part of me.
What things do I truly want to be "mine?" Everything else, may I let it go.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A&L&L



Here is another amazing Namibia photo taken by Greg Beaudoin. I love the contrast of the road against the sand.

I had a bit of a meltdown on Sunday night during worship. We were singing the words, "All I need is You, Jesus." Well, everyone else was singing them and I was just standing there, mute in front of the microphone, trying to stop being distracted and focus on God, when I again heard these words..."Do you believe it?" Argh, so often I get in a spiritual setting and am surrounded by all these faith-filled words, especially in songs, and I do desire to utter true things and the things that I hope for and believe in, but no, I cannot say things lightly and really, don't want to. So anyway, Awa (the worship leader) had given me permission to sing out anything spontaneous and when I found my heart stirred, and saw her encouragement, I started to sing. It was a bit of a mess as I floundered, singing that I wanted to sing the phrase but the word ALL was just too big and I didn't know what it meant and could not describe it because it was not me (whatever that means) and then had no idea what came after that, so asked God to help my unbelief and then I was empty, I had nothing left to sing. Interesting. Usually I find myself singing these wonderful inspiring things about God and love and nice stuff, so this was a bit strange.

The room was silent for a good while after that, except for one woman crying out at times, and several people were kneeling and no one said anything for a long time. I was kind of clueless and didn't know what was going on, but hey, I can sit silently and wait on God. So I did. I told God I was sorry for the words that might not have been all that clear or worshipful in my song but I really didn't know how to sing and MEAN the world ALL. I wanted to, but I did not know how. And then I was reminded of the songs of David, full of heartfelt longings, beratings at his shortcomings, and even strong words for his enemies. David did not withhold himself when he came before God in worship, you always saw the real man and his struggles, not just a man who had come through the hard times and learning times and was smiling on the other side of them.

Then Frank spoke on God being our shepherd and we need to know 3 things: We need to hear his voice. He knows us. He calls us to follow. Yes, I can hear God. He knows me and is okay with who I am right now before I am fully mature. I will follow him.