I Remember

Each Remembrance Day, I think of 3 things (usually in this order):

1. Mr. Miles. It’s easy to take memorial-type holidays for granted when you have no personal stake in it. Several years ago, I had a very personal stake in the welfare of deployed troops. What would have normally been one of the happiest times of my life was actually one of the loneliest and scariest. I had no idea what he was facing on the other side of the world. The chance to talk to him on the phone, even for 5 minutes, became more valuable than money. I would kick myself for days after if I missed one of those calls. Mr. Miles had a lot of close calls. At any of those points in time, I easily could have lost him. I am very fortunate; other families and spouses were not so fortunate.

2. Pte. Kevin McKay. I can never remember his name, but I can never forget how his story ended. I heard about Pte. McKay not long after Mr. Miles returned home. McKay was killed 2 days before he was scheduled to return home. Two days. Let that sink in a minute. His family probably felt confident that the worst was over. They were probably getting really excited. Maybe they were in final preparations for a “Welcome Home Kevin” party. They were probably relieved that their son would soon be out of the war-torn country and safe at home. And then he was taken. Even thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. I cannot imagine the level of grief they felt. It’s one thing to be on pins and needles for however many months hoping your relative is okay. It’s a whole other level to have held on for that long and to have your patience rewarded with death. Every Remembrance Day I think about Pte. McKay’s family and friends.

3. World War soldiers. The World War soldiers didn’t have most of the luxuries we have today. Communication took much longer. People didn’t talk about or prepare for PTSD. And there wasn’t a great survival rate. These soldiers were some of the bravest. They fought in spite of the hardships. I don’t know that they even expected to come back; and I think it’s safe to say they weren’t in it for the danger pay. They were fighting for the good of the people.

So, this Remembrance Day, please take a moment to think about and thank those who were lost, whether in body, mind, or spirit.

 

Chuvernment

I don’t want to be so bold as to assume that I’m the only one who has thought about this connection, but I will say I find it ironic that in the US, where church and government are separated (theoretically anyway), church and government are actually dealing with similar flaws at the moment.

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Pope Francis made an astute observation last month in an interview. He essentially commented that the Church has been “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception–to the point that we have lost our way. I tend to agree. I think part of the reason people have been leaving the church (Catholic or Protestant) in droves is that we’ve made a switch. Instead of Christ being the centre and the starting point for Christianity, we have given that spot to our “pet issues.” So, instead of being the crowd that preaches the love and forgiveness of Christ, we’ve become known as the crowd that is “anti-fill in the blank.”

We are so concerned with being good “sanitary saints” that having real compassion for others actually frightens us. We don’t want to take the challenge of compassion because it’s too messy and unpredictable. So, while maybe we could look at the “forest of the gospel” instead of our favourite “issue trees,” we choose the trees instead. We’d rather tell ourselves that the moral principles we hold dear will eventually effect people for the better than actually learn about the people to whom these principles will apply.

To me, the current US government shutdown just seems to be another version of this “ideals war.” Each side has a “pet tree” that they don’t want to lose sight of, so they are focusing on it and trying to drown out the rest of the forest–even though the purpose of the forest is so much bigger than just one tree. The government officials would rather have a record of being “the guardians of stopping Obamacare” or “the guardians of Obamacare” than the record of “the people you can count on to put self interest aside in favour of their constituents.” I think that might be the saddest part of all. In both church and government, their original purposes for existence are good, and both can help the general population greatly. But, when maintaining your pride and your ideals supersedes the people you are supposedly helping, the people lose.

Does this mean ideals need to be tossed out the window and never discussed? I would say no. However, I think it is important to keep them in perspective–to keep “the main thing” the main thing, and let the rest fall into place when the time is right. For the church, the main thing is loving God and loving people. For the government, the main thing is working together to create a just and orderly system where a nation’s people can thrive.

So, come on, US government. The Church is remembering the people now. It’s your turn.

But There Are Expectations…

In the last several months, I’ve noticed a rash of articles about twentysomethings. If I were to try to summarize them all into one tidy sentiment, it would be, “There’s no cause for panic if you don’t have life all figured out in your twenties; there is no schedule.”

There’s only one problem with this rationale: it’s unrealistic.

I like to think that I generally don’t obsess over what people think of me, but for this logic to work, everyone would essentially need to go through life with blinders on. 

I’m not saying it’s right; I’m saying it’s reality.

Life confusion is more forgivable in one’s early twenties because at that point, society sees the person as just starting the “adult journey” (and even then, anyone who’s spent decent time at a university can attest that the word “adult” here is often a figurative term). However, the later you get into your twenties, the more expectations you start to feel. Eventually, your eyes wander to the lanes on either side of you, and the inevitable comparison begins.

If you’re not married, you start noticing that most of your Facebook newsfeed has to do with engagements and/or weddings. People either try to push you out into the dating scene, or they leave you be–and you wonder what’s wrong with you. If you’re in a relationship, the question becomes, “When will you get married?”

If you’re already married, repeat the first sentence of the previous paragraph, but replace “engagements” and “weddings” with “babies.” Based on my experience and observation, most people will leave you alone for the first year, maybe two. But, definitely by year three, the baby question will start floating your way–sometimes from people you barely know! You want to treasure alone time with your spouse? Nope. You aren’t sure what your respective expectations on having children are yet? Nope. You can’t even financially afford a dog right now, much less a child? Nope. (Often) in the eyes of the questioners, these are not good reasons. You need to get on it right now–you’re not getting any younger, you know. As friends’ profile pictures morph into new infant faces, comparison is there.

Perhaps one of the hardest ones, in my opinion, is the career expectation. I’m not talking about the “Generation Me” twentysomethings fresh out of university that waltz into an interview at a multimillion dollar corporation demanding $100,000 per year salary. I’m talking about people who are willing to pay their dues and let their work speak for itself. Again, there is an unstated expectation that by age 30, you should have your crap together: at least a life plan (far as spouse and kids are concerned), a good stable job, and prospects for the future. You may even feel sure that you have those things, but again–the eyes start wandering. In the left lane, you see someone who’s younger than you and has already traveled the world. In the right lane, you see someone who’s younger than you and already has a “C” in front of their work title. And you really start to question where you are in life.

Now, I’m not saying the younger ones didn’t work hard. They probably worked very hard. What I am saying is that because the expectation exists that from age 20 to age 30 is your timeline to set yourself on a good path in life, it becomes incredibly difficult to remain objective when your perception is that you are being outgunned by a young gun. You start to wonder, “What did I do wrong?” or “What could I have done differently?” Being older, you should theoretically have more in your bag of tricks, but your bag’s running low.

Even social lives are not free from comparison. While you may not be envying the college student who comes to class hungover, it’s harder not to envy the friend who just went on a group vacation in Australia, or a coworker with amazing industry connections.

All this to say: while I am sure that those articles preaching “be your own person” and “follow your own path” are well-intentioned, in my opinion, they’re full of crap. If we all lived in isolation chambers? Absolutely. The rate at which you excel in your own life would not matter one bit. However, right or wrong, because we live in each other’s peripheral vision, eventually, we all succumb to comparison. Spouses, children, career, social life–these are all cultural milestones. In a way it’s almost like cultural gamification. There is always another level to achieve, but many of the hardest levels come fairly early in the game. And, I think, that’s part of why the expectation exists: if you can’t master those first challenges quickly enough, how long will you survive? 

As someone stepping out of the “proving ground” of the twenties, I hope that I can keep up with the rest of the world!

Hooray for Rooibos!

I recently re-stocked up on some rooibos tea I had been trying: tiramasu, vanilla cream, and “magic.” All very tasty.

The only problem was, the tea leaves kept going through my infuser and ending up in the bottom of my cup.

Even if your tea is otherwise enjoyable, choking on the last swig never is…

Yesterday, I tried pouring my water and then dropping the infuser in for a few minutes instead of pouring water over the infuser. No more leaves!

I realize this isn’t particularly groundbreaking after so many months of not writing, but if anybody else is having this problem, you may not have to buy another infuser! Try this method first!

On Dreams

If I were being honest with both you and myself, I would have to admit that random eureka moments are rare for me. So, I was surprised when one kind of smacked me in the head today at work.

Since my birthday several months ago, I have been conscious of getting older, but in the negative sense–“look what you haven’t done yet.” Today, the flip side of that statement dawned on me. Yes, I am getting older, but that means that now is the time to do the things I’ve always wanted to do. I am limited in how I can do stuff, but those limitations are not complete barricades. I have no kids. I have lots of free time. My bills aren’t exactly minimal, but they are at the lower end of what they will be in the course of my life. Now is the time to do something.

As I was at work, I felt an unexpected sense of exuberance as I contemplated not putting my dreams off any longer.

Then I went home and started googling the fine print of those dreams.

And now I feel stumped all over again. Do I have what it takes? Am I even any good at what I want to do, or do I just think I’m good enough? Do I even know what the hell I want to say?

It’s easy to say, “Don’t doubt yourself; follow your dreams” to someone who is obviously freakishly gifted; say that to just anyone and–well, you’ve seen American Idol. I don’t want to be that person who, come hell or high water, will do something, not realizing that realistically,  she has no business doing it.

I do still think that if I’m going to do a big project, this is probably a fortuitous time to do it. However, I also need to think long and hard about if I would be doing it for real and valuable reasons, or just to say I’ve ticked off one box of things I’ve always wanted to do.

I Am Not a Delicate Flower (or, Why I Screen Certain Calls)

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A friend shared a quote with me not too long ago, and I found it quite accurate. I don’t have the source, but the quote goes something like this: “The church tends to treat female believers like women first, and Christians, a far distant second.”

I think that quote best encapsulates why I have a love-hate relationship with women’s events. On one hand, yes, I am female. I know that having “girl friends” is important, just like a guy having “guy friends.” It’s something we all need. And I can have fun shopping or goofing off with makeup as much as the next girl. But I also like to play video games and shoot guns. The photo above was a few days after I shot a few high-caliber rifles for the first time. Granted, I avoid the high-kick guns now if possible because I remember how painful that bruise was. But, at the time, I was also proud of myself. I had earned it. Where are the women’s events for someone like that?

I’ve only been to 2 specified “women’s events” ever, so I do realize I can’t judge them all like this. But there were similar patterns to both. One was a small gathering. There were lots of flowers and frilly things, and pregnant women, and a warm fuzzy devotion time. The other one was a Beth Moore conference last year. I went for a friend; I didn’t want her to be stuck in the group with nobody remotely her age. I have nothing personal against Beth Moore; I think it’s great that women (especially in conservative circles) are leading more and being recognized for their giftedness. But when I walked into the stadium, there were sparkly things and butterflies and pink/purple drapings everywhere. It was like My Little Pony, Barbie, and a glitter bomb had been thrown together and exploded. And there were gift baskets, which were a nice gesture, but even those had equally puzzling things. (Sorry, no, I don’t need a decorative stake to put in my nonexistent garden/houseplant.) And it didn’t help that Mrs. Moore was addressing us as “girlfriend” every fifth sentence or so. I don’t even call my girlfriends “girlfriend.” And it was a shame, because she did have some good things to say. But, the saturated environment was distracting to me. My husband had a guy’s weekend the same weekend, and after the first meeting, I told him I was very tempted to find a fake ‘stache and try to sneak into his thing.

I had been fairly at ease with my decision to avoid traditional women’s events. Although I knew I needed that community, I also felt very out of place in it–not “girly” enough. But that conference pretty much cemented my decision. I made sure to “miss” calls from certain church ladies who I knew were only calling to notify me of the next women’s group meeting. After church one Sunday, one of them caught me to invite me to their Easter gathering–which included Easter bonnets. Seriously? Bonnets and glitter and butterflies and pink everything–is that what femininity is nowadays? 

Don’t get me wrong, modern society’s view of women has some major flaws. But at least the idea is out there that you don’t have to be Paul Bunyan to be a good man, and you don’t have to be Scarlet O’Hara to be a good woman. Yet, this concept doesn’t seem to have reached the traditional church at large. Essentially, the only choices there are either big community with sugary, powderpuff femininity, or little/no community with realism and peace of mind. 

I haven’t given up on female community–though, truth be told, I think my odds are at least better with females my own age. But it’s still quite troubling. I mean, women in the Bible certainly weren’t all rainbows and butterflies. In Judges, Jael drove a tent stake through a guy’s head. For all I know, she may have been barefoot and pregnant, but either way, she was still a badass. I’m not looking to do anything like that, but I am looking to learn something concrete and practical. Yes, women need to vent sometimes (case in point, this post) and do weird girl things like bawl at movies and eat lots of ice cream; I am not exempt from that. But PMS, body image, families–these things are not all that defines being a woman. I don’t need hearts and flowers and butterflies and to be called “girlfriend” every five seconds. I’m female; I get it. Off days aside, I’m more or less used to that by now. But I’m also living life in a world where there are problems and issues bigger than how pretty I feel. And as a Christian who just happens to be female, shouldn’t I be equipped just as much as the guys so that I can also have something positive to contribute to those issues?

That’s why I say if all you have is frills and glitter, you can keep it. I’ll hang out with the guys and do something productive.