Migrating Elsewhere

 

Hi, everyone. As you may have guessed from the title, I will probably not be posting new blogs on Xanga much in the future. I am still trying to figure out how best to export or backup my site, and until I get all that figured out (if one of you has suggestions, feel free to pass them on!), I will still leave my site up, even if there is no new content. I look at my time here fondly, and it’s been fun to read your blogs. Thank you for taking the time to read mine, as well. If you would like to continue reading things from me, my new blog is: http://2251miles.posterous.com/

Thanks again!

Hello World

For those who followed me from Xanga, it seems silly to re-introduce myself. As a side note, I have searched high and low for some way to copy my Xanga here, as I found out the hard way that Posterous isn’t doing that currently. No luck so far, but I figure I may as well jump in here and write something anyway. If anybody has had luck porting over from Xanga and would like to share, I’d be up for advice.

I moved over here simply because it was time for a change. Xanga was all right for my college/post-college days, but times are changing and so am I. There are many “commencements” in life, and I feel that commencing to a more “adult” blog is an appropriate move for me right now. This leads me to the new blog name. Those that know my story know that I transplanted from the southeast US to western Canada. The distance of that journey was approximately 2,251 miles. Quite a long way, which I am also using as a metaphor for my life. The farther you travel, the more different things look. I know I still have quite a journey ahead of me, and I know there are still a lot of milestones to cross. I hope to keep traveling and eventually cross them all. Thus, the blog title. It represents the journey I’ve taken so far and the one that is still ahead of me.

  I’ve had quite a few life changes happen since I last posted. I got a new job, and last month, I also got my Canadian permanent residency. It’s a good feeling to know I finally have a permanent home here, and I don’t really have to worry about being separated from my husband. I am proud to be (pardon the expression) “Canamerican.” That’s all for now in the way of introductions (or re-introductions, as the case may be). Thank you for reading, and I look forward to the Posterous leg of this blogging journey.

Turning Pages

I gave my resignation notice at my current job today. I’ll start a new job at the end of the month.

Is it okay to admit I’m nervous? Current job: provided financially, got me some experience. New job: will be a bit tight financially for the first three months, then will provide more or less equivalent to current job; will also give me lots of experience; this location is a startup so there is much promise of what could be…it just hasn’t had a chance to get there yet.

I have many faults that I am aware of, and many more that I’m sure I don’t know about yet. One of them is my penchant to take the path of least resistance. Usually, that’s not too hard for me in moral terms (not always); however, in day to day life-living terms, it is always hard. I’d rather stick to what I know; for that matter, I’d rather stick to what I’m good at. I’d rather be safe than sorry. I’d rather start early than finish late. Basically any of those “rather” type sayings could be applied to me. I have a fear of pushing myself because I believe I’ll set myself up to fail.

Even with this job, although I know it’s the best thing to do right now, I find myself already nervous. Will I fail? Will the money be enough? It’s like the minute I choose to stick my neck out there, my mind is already playing devil’s advocate.

I’ve heard the advice: When you make a decision, commit to it and don’t look back. I agree. I don’t know when my nerves will go away, but I’m going to keep looking ahead, despite them.

The Stalkers

I recently had a birthday; I’m getting closer and closer to thirty. That kinda sucks, I won’t lie. I actually called thirty my stalker recently. However, I think I can still remain sort of objective about it. After all, if I’m able to say to other people that they aren’t old yet at thirty, I should be able to believe it for myself. This birthday wasn’t the greatest, though. And it wasn’t because of what we were or weren’t able to do for my birthday. I mean, goodness, last year, I was in Hawaii with my husband, seeing Bill Cosby live. That’s not exactly something you can top or even replicate every year.

The reason this birthday was hard was because thirty isn’t my only stalker. There’s another one looming behind it. It’s the fear of failure. I guess when we’re younger, we have fewer doubts and inhibitions about ourselves, so it’s not really a stretch to believe we’ll do incredible things. When I was younger, I wanted to be a writer. As it is, I don’t even have a consistent career path. It seems that most other people my age have at least decided on a career and gained experience in that field. I’ve been all over the place.

I’m basically wondering if it’s too late to keep dreaming about something that’s just not happening. Theoretically, you should never be too old to pursue you dream. However, realistically, you can be. If you’re writing your first book at eighty, you’re probably too late to make a career out of it. Worse than aging, worse than looking older, is that fear that I’ve missed the opportunity to do something I always wanted to do, and that it’s too late for me. And just like thirty, I have a feeling that stalker won’t be leaving anytime soon.

Quesedillas and Forgiving Myself

Last night I think I had my first instance of my husband teaching me something about God. People say that this sort of thing happens–your spouse and your children end up teaching you profound things about God without even knowing it.

This is what happened:

My hubby’s been sick with the flu this week. He is feeling better, but I guess he didn’t feel like cooking last night, which was understandable. However, usually he is the one cooking at our house. Growing up, my mom never really taught me how to cook. I can follow recipes, and that’s about it. Before I moved out of the house, I had to beg her to write down some of her recipes for me. I just started cooking for myself about 4 years ago–it was the first time I had a kitchen and no cafeteria food from school. Granted, with my only guinea pig being myself, I wasn’t too picky. What I made would’ve had to been absolutely disgusting for me to not eat it. And as for cooking methods–well, as long as it got cooked, what was the problem? I would plan out my meals for the week, go to the store and get the ingredients needed, and block out half a day or so to get whatever it was actually prepared.

Contrast this, if you will, to my hubby. I would have no trouble believing that he has been cooking since he was 4 (whether this is actually the case or not, I don’t know). If you’ve ever seen the T.V. show Chuck, there’s a character there called Captain Awesome; as you might guess, he is awesome at everything he does. In some ways, my husband is kinda like that. He’s not perfect, but he has lived decades more experience of life than I have, and he’s only 4 years older than me. He’s worked in preschool, restaurants, nursing homes, you name it. So his cooking skills are far superior to say, mine. He takes pride in his cooking, as he should. Unlike me, he doesn’t need time to plan; he can whip up something on the spot. Did I mention he can bake cakes, too? Like a 15 lb. death-by chocolate cake, or a cheesecake? And he can do piping and roses? Yeah. So, when you put someone like him in a kitchen with someone like me, it doesn’t take long for him to see me butchering something and feel the need to intervene. It wasn’t long into our marriage before the cooking just sort of became his thing. I guess it’s easier to do it right the first time yourself than have to redo stuff with someone else. I always felt bad for screwing up what he was trying to do, so I was pretty relieved for the “way out;”–that could be at least one area where I wouldn’t be a disappointment. He told me that if he ever didn’t feel like cooking, he’d let me know, and I could do it.

So, all this being said, you can imagine my nerves last night when he informed me that I was cooking. The options were either quesedillas or butter chicken. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough chicken for butter chicken (that would’ve been great, as you only have to cook chicken and then dump the mix in it), so I had to make quesedillas. I have consumed tons of quesedillas, but nobody’s ever taught me how to make them (it wasn’t in my mom’s book; she never made anything other than tacos). I knew the general idea: cook some chicken and onions, put it on a tortilla, put cheese on somehow and melt it, and fold it in half and cut it. However, I didn’t really know the mechanics of how everything worked. But I thought I should try. I put some oil in the skillet (way more than necessary, I later found out), put the chicken in with some burrito seasoning, put in (white) onions, and cooked it. Once it was cooked, I realized I had waaaay to much oil. I drained it out best I could, and then told him I needed help figuring out how the cheese works (he was immersed in a video game, so I had to ask 3 times before he actually heard me).

He came in, saw what I had done, and sighed. He said he’d thought that i knew how to make quesedillas, which I had to confess I didn’t. He told me where I had gone wrong (I only needed a couple drops of oil, if that; also, most people use green onions rather than white onions), and he stepped in and completed the job, adding spices and cheese, and instructing me about what he was doing and why. It was helpful. But of course, I still felt bad for screwing up such a seemingly simple dinner. He told me, “Don’t feel bad. Everyone makes mistakes; it’s part of the learning process.” I said, “I know, but I wish I could’ve made these mistakes before, so that you didn’t have to see them and deal with them.”

I’ll stop the story there. Last night’s quesedilla flub stuck with me, and as I was washing dishes today, my statement was echoing in my head, and I realized my attitude with my husband has some parallels to my attitude with God. The Christian life is a journey, and we all make mistakes along that journey. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean you’ll automatically not screw up. It means that you feel conviction when you do, and you’re given grace to move on. I became a Christian as a very young kid, so I’ve lived most of my life with that belief system. Yet I’ve had some screwups, even as a Christian, that I’m not proud of. That I continue to beat myself up for. That I know I should’ve known better than to fall into. Thinking back on it after last night, I realize I say the same to God: “If I had to make these mistakes, I wish I could’ve made them before I became a Christian, so that You didn’t have to see them.” (I realize that God sees everything, but at least I wouldn’t have to drag His name in the dirt with me.) When you make those mistakes in a pre-Christian life, it’s more excusable because, well, you weren’t a Christian. You didn’t know any better. But I struggle giving myself grace for screwups made in the last few years, because I should’ve known better. God says it’s all part of the learning process, but I’m still beating myself up because years into the “marriage,” so to speak, I’m learning that I don’t know how to make quesedillas after all.

I’m not sure what this will mean in terms of forgiving myself and letting myself move on, but it was definitely enlightening to see that parallel of me being hard on myself playing out not just in my spiritual life, but in my personal life.

I Miss the Days When One Could Believe

I know this is going to come off as a bit of a rant. It probably is.

In the past couple weeks, I’ve found myself in more situations than normal which required me to choose between belief or suspicion. Someone asking for help. Someone saying they already know how to use a piece of expensive equipment. In the first case, we were suspicious, then believing, then realized we should have remained suspicious, and ended the relationship. In the second case, I was believing, but was then told that because the equipment is expensive, I should’ve been suspicious and made absolutely sure that person knew how to use it.

When did we go from being “probably trustworthy” to “probably lying?”

I am often more quick to believe the best about people. Of course, that’s the nice way to say it; the more honest way to say it would probably be, “I can be pretty gullible.” It’s easy to recognize spam in your inbox–you know there is no Edith Coleman or whoever wanting to give you their entire inheritance. (Though I have wondered just how computer-virus-infected and broke someone would be if they responded to all those spam ads.) When you’re looking at a real live person in the face, though, how do you know? Especially since you can’t lump all people into the same category?

For example:

With the recent incidence of the guy asking for help, I was okay with it initially; as a one-time thing, I’m not gonna make a big deal out of it. But when he kept coming back, I started feeling quite uneasy around him. I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I was scared. My husband happened to meet him during this time, and had a long chat with him, and gave him some vouchers to help out. I expressed my concerns to my husband about some the info I had overheard him sharing with this guy (the town we live in, where he works, etc.). His response was more or less, “I was praying for discernment. Where’s your faith?” Well, of course, then I not only feel guilty, but also feel like a lousy Christian in general to boot. As I said, the story ended with the guy continuing to come back, asking for more, and his story was getting sketchier and sketchier, so we finally told him no more. I haven’t heard anything since.

VS.

This story happened about 2-3 years ago, I think it was. Where I live, there’s a big festival thing that comes around every year. The city population swells by at least a million people, who are from all over the world. My then-boyfriend (now husband) was working at a booth there, and I was waiting in a parking lot to pick him up. Two African ladies approached me (I call them that because they were dark and obviously decked out in African clothes): an older lady, and a girl who looked like she was about 12. They started asking for directions to a certain destination or if I knew the way to a train station that would take them there. I didn’t, but I told them my boyfriend was coming and might know. I called him to explain, and he said he would be there in a minute. They said they were tired and asked if they could sit down, so I let them sit in my car. I got out a piece of gum, and they asked for some, too. I gave them the pack, expecting them to take one piece each, and they proceeded to keep my whole pack. They were kind of starting to get annoying when my boyfriend came. He was acting different–very professional, almost intimidating demeanor. Long story short, these ladies really had no idea where they were going. We ended up driving all over the city for at least an hour. The ladies were chattering loudly in the back, and my husband was shooting me the occasional, “You see what you’ve dragged me into?” look. He finally had to flat out command them to be quiet so he could think. A gas station map and (at least) another half-hour later, we dropped them off at their party. They thanked us over and over again. My husband told them they should be thanking me, because if it were up to him, he wouldn’t have done it. The lady was calling me her daughter and saying “God bless you” and all that. Once the coast was clear, he pretty much asked me what the heck I was thinking. I tried to explain that I was just trying to help them out and such. At this point, he told me he had heard a news bulletin just the other day that police were looking in the vicinity of the festival for a couple killers who were also female. He said for all he knew, they could’ve been the killers; the young girl (who was sitting behind him) could’ve pulled out a knife and stabbed him. Of course, I felt awful and was expecting to not have a date after all, considering all that hassle I had just put him through. Amazingly, he still wanted to hang out. Maybe that’s why we’re married now.

But you see what I mean? To fully quote Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” It’s like the options are either step out on faith and possibly get burned, or keep to yourself and be safe.

Even things that you would think would be a given aren’t a given anymore. With the equipment, the person telling me this was from a reputable group. But I was told we need to be sure since the equipment is expensive. I understand making sure expensive investments are protected. Just because we’re blessed with something doesn’t mean we can be careless with it. But can we really take no one at their word anymore?

I must admit, I’ve never known a world where people can be trusted. Perhaps the closest I’ve had to that was living on seminary campus, where you’re on a hill well away from town, and all your neighbors are seminary students. Where I grew up, though, you always locked your door, and there were sections of town where you doublechecked to make sure your car door was locked. You always parked near a street light. You never picked up a hitch hiker. This is just the way things are.

But I have to say, I wish that weren’t the case. I miss the time when you would help someone on the street, because people still had some pride and wouldn’t be begging unless they were truly desperate for help. I miss the time when people kept their promises, and if they said something, you could bank on it. I miss the time when people could at least initially be trusted–when people were who they said they were.

Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know that time again; at least, not until heaven. But it does make you grateful for the bit of heaven-on-earth that can be found in people who are trustworthy.

The Answer to My Question

Yesterday, I sort of got an answer to the question I asked back last month (the “prosperity gospel” thing) . . . in another Jean Twenge book, haha. I forget her coauthor’s name, but the book is called The Narcisissim Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. I was waiting for a friend who I was supposed to catch a movie with, and Chapters was right there, so why not? I read through the first few chapters, and then had the thought that maybe this book addressed my question of whether the GenMe culture has affected the church’s self-perception of its role in the world–specifically, the swell in recent years to “do great things for God.” Are we setting out to do great things for God because that’s what Scripture calls us to do, or are we setting out to do great things for God because we want our names associated with something big and seen, and if it helps God’s kingdom, it’s a bonus? Or, at least, as I found examples of both extremes and the in betweens in the Bible, are we majorly overemphasizing one extreme at the expense of the other?

Well, the authors implied an answer in Chapter 15 of this book, and the answer is yes: we want something great, but for ourselves more than God. One interesting–and disturbing–observation they made was that of the top 5 largest churches in America (as of 08), 4 have somehow adopted the “me culture.” The largest church, and therefore the example they spent a few moments on, was Joel Osteen’s church. Osteen is known for messages basically along the lines of, “If you have the faith/desire that God will give you stuff, God will give you stuff,” and “God wants you to have the best things in life [usually stuff].” (Ironically, a few years back, his wife was fined for being rude to a flight attendant, so I guess all the stuff doesn’t bring about the character stuff that God seems to find important.) People have flocked to his message; their church is so big, they use a stadium now. The authors mention that the stadium walls are covered with “perfectly airbrushed” photos of Joel Osteen, and quotes from him as well. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. And I gotta say, how much can you be committed to God and His word when the walls of your church are covered with photos and quotes, not of God or Scripture, but of yourself and your words? I suddenly remembered the line in the Bible that says in the last days, people will be lovers of themselves rather than lovers of God. You may be asking, “Well, what about the churches that don’t give in to ‘Me Culture’? What about the churches that don’t offer rewards up front?” According to the authors, these churches are dying. The churches that have adapted to “Me Culture” thrive, while the other churches are struggling to stay afloat. After all, as we all know, church has become a shoppable commodity, like anything else, so why would one stay with a “boring church” when they can go to a church with fancy programming and high quality coffee? (I say this sarcastically, but also humbly, because I recognize that pull in myself to be a part of something new and different and affirming to my life.) To be fair, to be a lone ranger standing against the torrent of cultural downpour is an exhausting and uphill battle. For every person who hears one “be selfless” voice, that person will also hear millions of “be selfish” voices coming from every angle. It’s much easier to go with the torrent–even if it means selling out–than to go against it. However, the more that decide to just “go with it,” the more selfishness will go accepted and unchecked. We need every “selfless voice” we can get.

The authors go on to widen the scope a bit from culture in religion to culture in volunteering. More people are volunteering now than before. However, volunteering has also become a graduation requirement in many high schools, and kids (I don’t remember whether it was the majority or just some) admit that if it weren’t required, they would probably not do it. The authors point out that marketing volunteerism also plays into the culture of selfishness. I did a quick Google search for “volunteering poster” for some examples, and I saw catch phrases like: “Make a Difference,” “Let Your Voice Be Heard,” and “Take Action.” The “hook” idea is that you are being heard, making a difference, taking action, changing the world, etc. Yeah, other people benefit, too, which is great, but don’t you want to have an impact and change the world? Here’s the ticket! You can make yourself known for something, but unlike everyone else who wants to be known for something, you can make yourself known for doing something good! Again, a hint of sarcasm, pardon me. I honestly hadn’t noticed that even calls to volunteer are laced with cultural selfishness. In fact, the understood subject of all of those phrases above is You! Granted, the proof is probably more the phrasing than the grammatical structure–I tried to think of a volunteer ad that wouldn’t include “you,” and I couldn’t. These catch phrases are operating more from the basis that volunteering is fulfilling to you. In fact, how many of us have heard, “You get so much more than you give”? It’s almost being painted as this circle where you give your time/money/etc., and it all comes back to you somehow, whether via thanks, memories, etc. I wonder if we would still volunteer if there were no benefit to us. If, for instance, you paid your own way to Haiti, volunteered for a week, and then had your memory erased when you came back, would it still be worth it to go? Okay, now I know I’m rambling and getting a little sci-fi, so I’ll leave it at that. My conclusion ultimately has become, I think, that we should do what God asks us to do. He chooses what we do, and we follow Him; we don’t choose for ourselves. If we choose how we will serve, we will be much more likely to fall prey to the desire to be seen and known, rather than the desire to be told, “Well done” by the One Who matters most.

All this is to say, though, that the call to selflessness–the call of the cross–seems to be increasingly drowned out, even by believers. As a whole, we are seeking justification rather than conviction, and I am included. Thinking on these things brings tears to my eyes.

Every Tuesday, some men from my church have a Bible study, and the leader sometimes lets me in on what passage they were looking at. This was today’s–harrowing, but appropriate to close with, I believe:

1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

 5“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’

 8“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

 13“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

 15“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

 16“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ 19You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

 23“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

 25“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

 27“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

 29“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

 33“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

 37“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”      -Jesus in Matt. 23