Saturday, April 26, 2008

She Came In Through The Bathroom Window

Off to Ottawa this morning. See you Sunday night with pictures!


I'd nibble those paws, if I didn't know where they'd been.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Superbad Habits

So I'm pretty sure I forgot to mention it officially, but I found a new homechurch! I liked my old homechurch too, its only fault being that it is held on Monday nights, the same night as my winter and summer classes.

I like this new homechurch for the same reasons I like my old one - good atmosphere, friendly people, good discussion, and they have cats. Priorities, people. It also has the added bonus of being hosted by someone I actually already knew from church, so I felt at home almost instantly.

This week's discussion revolved around last Sunday's sermon, the first in a short series called Superbad (and NOT to be confused with the movie of the same title!), which brought to light some issues and attitudes surrounding sin, and how sin is dealt with. Of course the base understanding is that our sin is atoned for by Christ, but how do move on from there? If we are in the habit of committing the same sin, or beating ourselves up in the hopes at that we'll do better next time, are we being transformed? I know personally I struggle as a 'repeat offender' - I can't seem to break the cycle of certain bad habits, and just as Joel shared in the sermon, I too have had several people tell me not to fret - those wrongs are righted by Christ! That's very, very well and good, but it does little to help me as I struggle with what almost seems to be a dual nature. Read Romans 7:15-24 for a better idea of what I'm talking about here.

Andy, our homechurch leader, had us read Phillipians 3:4-6 to contrast the previous verses.
4though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
I'm still chewing on these two, but I believe Andy's point was the arrogance that legalism can tend to breed - "I did this, this, this, and this, so I'm that." - versus the humility of grace. Take a look at verse 24, and realize that this is the same man who wrote the above:
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
Paul is one of those guys, possibly even the guy of the bible whom I love to hate and hate to love, I've grown into his teachings and writing over the last while, though I still find myself at odds with some of the things he says. However, dude lived an amazing life and these two passages go to show the struggle that Paul, like this rest of us, endured all of his believing life. Externally, I may look like I have things pretty together, and I've fooled myself on numerous occasions into thinking that I really do have it all together. But then, as one of the other women put it last night, I get out of bed. I ought to get up every day thanking God and asking what I can do to serve today, but most days I fall into the same routine of doing pretty much exactly the opposite. Habit. It can be killer.

That isn't to say all habits are bad, of course. This blog is becoming one of my better habits. Keeping my room clean (which it has been, for the most part, for at least the last two weeks) is another. That may sound incredibly juvenile, but think about what your room says about your self-esteem, your work habits, etc. And learning a routine has been healthy, too.

Anyways, someone else also raised the point that if we happen to fall through on a promise we make or a habit we've tried to break, we're often very hard on ourselves. If a friend or a child or family member were to make the same mistake, we'd likely respond in a compassionate way. Help them back on the horse, so to speak. We often don't show the same healthy compassion towards ourselves. Have you ever found this? I'd never really thought of it until this person brought it up, but I'm pretty sure I'd never treat anyone around me to the kind of things I've said to myself over the past few months. Are there time-outs for verbally abusing yourself?

As the night wound down, there was one more thing that was said that made a very relieving click in my head. In OT times, of course, whenever the Israelites broke a law, they were required to make a sacrifice. What hadn't occurred to me was the sacrifice had to be presented at the temple - the dwelling place of God. Doing wrong literally brought the Jews to God's doorstep. Living under grace as we are, we aren't required to make sacrifices in the same way, as the price has already been paid. But, as I suggested above, how often to we find ourselves at God's feet when we've done something wrong? I can honestly say, my habit is to give myself a good duffing before I even consider praying it over. I'm actually quite amazed to realize it, because that's not grace at all!

Does anyone else find this? Or is it the opposite for you? I know I've also swung the other direction, where I simply shrug off whatever it is I've done, too disappointed in myself to deal with it. Sometimes, I'm not even disappointed. It's going to be an interesting few weeks.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

This Day Is Just Full of Win

When I received my $46.02 cell phone bill for my $25-a-month plan the other day for the nth time since signing my contract with Canada's own Beaver-Friendly phone company, I consoled myself - patted myself on the back, even - with the knowledge that while I'm stuck with the darn plan for the next 2.5 years, at least I take darn good care of my phone! I entertained such foolish notions until in a fit of characteristic absentmindedness I threw my shoulder bag into the wash last night, having made a super-human effort to remove all keys, pens, wrappers, and certain assorted - ahem - feminine care products from every one of its dark corners, but assuring myself that my phone was in my other purse. Of course, we all know that the phone not only rode the Wild Washing-Machine Express, it took a stray tampon as its traveling companion too! Neither party survived, naturally. I'm hoping that the restorative April sunshine will save my forgetful butt.

At least I own the cleanest, most-expensive, non-functioning $25-a-month phone ever.

And I Have No Idea Why There Was Suddenly A Train In The Front Yard, Either

Okay. I confess. I stayed up until 3 AM last night reading stories about the challenges of being a pregnant woman in this day and age, because even though I doubt I'll ever marry and have kids of my own, I'm still fascinated by babies(!) Even though I have way more important things to do, like you know, SLEEP.

So of course, when I finally did go to bed, I dreamed that I was not only pregnant, but pregnant with the world's biggest baby and could barely move under the weight of my massive abdomen. And then my water broke in my nana's kitchen - and boy did it ever break - and then my alarm went off at 9 AM.

Unfortunately, I hadn't had the 11 hours of sleep I had the previous night, else I would have laid in a half-conscious state and mentally childed myself for being stupid. I fell groggily back into bed until my boss called at 10 AM asking if I could work a few hours on what's looking to become a very heinous Saturday (I can't, unfortunately - Ottawa). I mustered all the faculties of speech I could to tell her so, and then collapsed back into bed.

And dreamed that I my nana's house now not only located somewhere in the hilly escarpment countryside, it going to be the temporary location for my workplace, complete with mismatched end tables draped in table cloths. As I stood in the kitchen wondering the obvious - what are the customers going to think when they realize the furniture doesn't all match - my boss (mother of the boss who called on the phone) wandered downstairs in a pink fluffy housecoat looking
miserable. She's not feeling well, but hey, now that we've got this great new location she can lie down on the overstuffed couch in the basement and not worry because oh I know you and the others will do such a great job you're such a great team, you dream team, you. And so she disappears downstairs and customers start arriving and asking for menus which I can't find because this a house and not a restaurant and where is the cook and hey come back here I need to finish explaining duties and shoot that woman sitting at the kitchen table is giving me the skunk eye. And then all my staff went off to play in the fields with the shirtless boys working outside next door and I was left trying to convince one of the customers to have a Gloucester instead of a Somerset, while wondering who in their right mind ever thought this was a good idea.

Who's going to stay up till 3 AM tonight? NOT ME!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I woke up in the most confused of states this morning. One of the joys of possessing both an active imagination and a highly visual mental atmosphere seems to be a very vivid, realistic dream life. This morning's sleep-induced fantasy was exceptionally bizarre and contained enough reality that I lay in bed for a full 20 minutes sorting out whether I had a place to live in the fall and whether or not I needed to get on the phone and argue mum and dad into staying in Waterdown.

Dreams described in words are rarely ever as lucid, but essentially what happened seemed to stem from an offhand comment my dad made about he and mum leaving for Saudi Arabia to live eventually (though nowhere in the near future, thankfully). In the dream, my parents had not only decided they were moving to Ottawa - they had bought a house there, and traded our house here for a smaller one up the street. My brothers and I would continue to live in Waterdown while they left for an early retirement. This alone caused much mental chaos, as both of my brothers nowhere near secure in their future plans and aren't even working, while I'm struggling to pay for my last year of school... where will the money for groceries come from? How can I keep house and be a fuller than full-time student? Add to that the weirdness of buying the house from my childhood friend, and having to coordinate as we move their stuff into our old house and our stuff into theirs while mum and dad pack their bags and leave without so much as a kiss on the cheek and a wave...

It was all terribly confusing, but thank goodness it was a dream. It's not a good indication of my mental state though, is it?

And it makes me all the more nervous to visit Ottawa this weekend. Mustn't let my parents get any crazy ideas...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

This past week

It's sad in a way that I kept track of my last week in order to inform you all of the happenings in my life, but at least I can accurately say where the time went when asked.

It's been a busy week!

I worked a few days here and there, which actually wore me out enough that for a few glorious days I was actually tired and in bed at around 11 PM, rather than the usual 1 or 2 AM... which allowed me lots of wakeful time during the day on Friday to take a walk. A 3 hour walk! I can't tell you how excited I am that spring is here in Waterdown! Here are some signs to prove it!

Look, you can see the driveway again!

I wasn't the only one soaking up the sun, either

This mallard male was watching out for his lady-friend on the shore of Grindstone Creek.

Mum and I agree, we're planting crocuses next year! They look so nice!

I took about 130 photos, mostly to continue fooling around with the light settings on the camera. I'm still learning, as you can see. Many of these had to be heavily tweaked.

Saturday was a busy day, as I attended Meg's bridal shower, the C4C summer project going-away party, and my nana's birthday party. The whole day had me travel from Hamilton to downtown TO to north TO to Burlington and back home again, and once again the van proves she's still got an ounce of life in her! Unfortunately, I only have pictures of the shower, but they're pretty swell:

That's Meg on the left, with Cheryl and Chenene, two gals from York on her right. I love the colours!
"Boxers, or Briefs??" Meg thinking hard during the 'How-Well-Do-You-Know-Your-Future-Spouse-And-How-Can-We-Exploit-You" game!
Cheryl, our 'bride' during the toilet-paper brides game. I still think we should play this more often...
Loghan, the littlest bride!
Meg's present-opening chapeau...

It was great to see so many people together all in one day, though the birthday party of course turned into an argument about money and careers. Oh so fun.

I've been finding it harder and harder to stay focused again. Of course, it's easy to while away hours on the computer, but it's also a crime to do so because of the weather. I tried to sit down and read on my walk, but the bugs and the sights and the sounds were just too distracting. I'm going to have to figure out some kind of action plan. Tomorrow's plan includes getting up early and heading out for a walk/hike, and then working away the 'hot' hours of the afternoon on school-related things. I'll be crafting a Scotland update within the next 24 hours as well, which I'll post here. Lots to look forward to...

In the meantime, I'll leave you all with this final picture. My coworker Angela (the one holding the money and wearing the ridiculous(ly awesome) floral muumuu) invited me over for an Asian-inspired murder-mystery dinner a few weeks ago... with hilarious results. Can you guess which one is me?

It took us four hours to figure out who the murderer was, but by golly was it ever funny seeing everyone dressed up and playing their characters. It was a horribly stereotypical perspective on Asian culture.. but all in good fun, right? ;)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The End... Sort Of.

On Tuesday night I finished my art history exam after three hours of writing, set my pencil down, and let out the biggest sigh of relief I think I've sighed all year. With that last exam under my belt, I've almost kicked off the last of this winter term. Just a few odds and ends to take care of before the end of April, and I get to launch into my summer theater course full-swing!

This week has been interesting and very rewarding. It's the first week in a long time that I can say convincingly that I've put in a good work effort. I studied hard for my exam, I worked like a dog yesterday and today, and last night I was even in bed and asleep before 11 PM - nothing short of a miracle.

The outlook for the next few weeks is busy. I've got a portfolio to work on and put together, and I've agreed to organize our offerings for a city-wide rummage sale for work. I'll be learning to bake scones, I've just attended my first night of homechurch in months and loved it, and of course I'm doing my daily study and reading. It feels nice to be working on a variety of things, and go to bed tired rather than buzzed and anxious.

I won't get much more in-depth than that, as I'm quite tired from work and there's a chance that I'll get called in again tomorrow. Thanks for reading, folks, and I hope you're all well. A more lively version of myself will hopefully be around tomorrow to post thoughts on tonights homechurch and more of Chapter Two!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

N'awlins Belle

I don't wear it often because it's a bit too flashy for everyday use, but when I saw this choker in the Spanish Market of New Orleans 5 years ago, I had to have it. I feel like a pirate princess whenever I wear it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Here comes the...

What a fun afternoon! My friend Bek is getting married in a month(!) and had her bridal shower today. I've never ever been to a bridal shower, even though I've hosted oodles at work. We had delicious treats, huggled Bek a lot, and played toilet paper brides. Oh, and then she got a mountain of presents (including both the practical and the scandalous!) - which she and Luke totally deserve. I'm so happy for them both, and for all my other friends getting married this summer. You all guys rock, and I hope God blesses all of your marriages!

Liz, myself, Nicoleta(!!) and Alma, just before Bek arrived

Oh so much sweet, sweet food

Such a cute centerpiece!

The bride-to-be, in her prototype TP gown...

A preview of one month from now!

Seriously, congrats, you guys.

Swimming in the Sea of Tea

I bought a new mug today from work!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hold on tight to those dreams

Reason, and Chapter Two

There is just no way to reason about playing 6 hours of games when I should be studying.

What is it about a vast expanse of free time that screams "Go, play!", when I know I should be studying? ...Okay, maybe it's a stupid question.

How about, Why do I choose what's bad for me, even when I know what's best? The time I wasted last night is time I wasted in the full knowledge that there was and is something more valuable I could be spending my free evening doing. And I don't just mean studying, either.

See, something I did do yesterday was read through the second chapter of Don't Waste Your Life. The further I get, the happier I am I decided to pick it up again. The chapter, titled Breakthrough: the Beauty of Christ, My Joy, is very much applicable. I'm not a student of literature, and my encounters with literary study have been few, especially since coming to university. I consider this a shame. However, Piper's criticism of scholarly treatments of literary text resonated with me. In several courses I've been encouraged to apply my interpretation of a particular reading, to override the author's intentions with my own vision for what their piece meant. But, in so doing, we start to muddy things! As Piper states, "If there is only one life to live in this world, and if it is not to be wasted, nothing seemed more important to me than finding out what God really meant in the Bible, since he inspired men to write it. If that was up for grabs, then no one could tell which life is worthy and which life is wasted." (p. 24) His point being, by deciding to interpret and apply the text as you see fit, the reader robs the text of the author's intended meaning. If we understand the author of the bible to be God, who is Love, Truth, Justice, Wisdom, and Strength, among other things, then would it not make sense to seek with every fiber of our being to discover the meaning of his words?

The rest of the chapter Piper spends explaining how he continued to learn The Obvious and seek objective meaning from the bible... and of course, the answer to The Meaning Of Life. Now, reading this nearly two years after becoming a Christian, his words are far less shocking to me, though no less potent: God's intent is to display his glory, and our purpose is to glorify him by delighting in him. To be truthful, though I'd of course heard this over and again for the last almost-two years, Piper's explanation of this truth is one of the most eloquent I've read, and easily one of the most comprehensible! I, like Piper, have been wrestling for the last few months with, as Piper puts it, "what is right, and what is inevitable" (p. 31) (emphasis mine). What is right is that we glorify God, and what is inevitable is that we seek our own happiness. As someone who's dealt with a lot emotionally for the last 3 years, it would of course be a natural response to seek happiness. What I have honestly struggled with is that glorifying God and my happiness have seemed two entirely different things!

Some fundamental part of me (the part that bears the thumbprint of my maker, no doubt, as well as the Holy Spirit) has always recognized this as a problem, a glitch in my understanding. I laughed a little ruefully when I read further, "Compounding the problem was that many who seemed to emphasize the glory of God in their thinking did not seem to be enjoying him much. And many who seemed to enjoy God most were defective in their thinking about his glory." (p. 31) In some ways, to me, desiring God seemed... undesirable. Icky. Between watching fellow Christians fling bible verses heedlessly at Atheists and skeptics, the arguments between denominations, and the constant struggle between my real self vs. my ideal self, my own faith had begun to leave a bad taste in my mouth. So, Piper's revelation that glorifying God and being happy are one and the same was something of a revelation for me as well, one that has challenged me to take my study of God's message to us much more seriously. "God created me - and you - to live with a single, all-embracing, all-transforming passion - namely, a passion to glorify God by enjoying and displaying his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. Enjoying and displaying are both crucial. If we try to display the excellence of God without joy in it, we will display a shell of hypocrisy and create scorn or legalism..." (ibid.) (Emphasis mine - this definitely home)

Piper explains further on what exactly is meant by 'glorify', and I have to say, although I probably understood this word on some level, the cultured part of my mind always flinched when I heard it (much like words like, 'evangelize', and 'religious') - it seemed narcissistic. But, why SHOULD he get all the glory? Being Love, Truth, Justice, Wisdom, and Strength (as I mentioned before) has a lot to do with this. To be honest, it's still something I'm wrapping my head around. Piper offers the helpful metaphor that glorifying God is like magnifying God, in that if you magnify God as a telescope magnifies planets and stars, you are making something that is unfathomably large appear very clearly. Our lives are meant to show God more clearly - this is done by enjoying him. Again, part of me thinks this is amazing, and part of me thinks this outrageous.

I think what twisted the knife through my little heart, though, was a section on love that bears the title, "Does Being Loved Mean Being Made Much Of?"

Why yes, John, I believe it does.

Oh, shoot, is that wrong? This, unfortunately, is a belief I've held so close to me that I'm having a hard time escaping it. It became painfully obvious during my last relationship, but I have little doubt it has existed much, much longer than I'll ever recall. I still suffer from extreme self-interest - I will admit it. The fact that this blog exists is in part a testimony to that. The fact that my computer is full of pictures of myself is another. Pipers words are the smack upside the head that I have sorely needed for so very long: "Love is doing what is best for someone. But making self the object of our highest affections is not best for us. It is, in fact, a lethal distraction. We were made to see and savor God - and savoring him, to be supremely satisfied, and thus spread in all the world the worth of his presence. Not to show people the all-satisfying God is not to love them. To make them feel good about themselves when they were made to feel good about seeing God is like taking someone to the Alps and locking them in a room full of mirrors." (p. 33)

As I sit and write, and consider how this post started and where it is ending, something seems painfully clear to me. When asking myself how I can continue to fritter away useful time on worthless things, I normally cite a lack of motivation. But in so doing, I'm exempting myself from the more obvious issue - I can't even choose what is best for myself.

Sorry for another epically long post, it was probably as hard to write as it is for you all to read. I promise I'll post more cat pictures to make up for it!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Of Spring and Things

Well, I can't say this is an all-time low in the world of blog frequency, but to have been silent for six months is unacceptable! I won't stand for this!

So here I am.

To be truthful, I've been meaning to jot something down here just to get the ball rolling, but never seemed to come up with anything EPIC enough to break the silence with. I finally decided life is pretty hectic as it is, I don't need to wait around for EPIC!

So, school is almost done. I think the score for this year was something like School: 99 Erin: -3, but perhaps I'm exaggerating. In truth, I struggled a lot with staying focused and handing things in on time, really basic things that they're supposed to beat out of you in the primary grades. Actually, I was worried for a while that my procrastination was something recent, that I was some kind of super student before university... and then I found some old journals and they pretty much confirmed that I'm just a born procrastinator. Always have been, always will be.

So I've decided that this summer, I'm going to kick the pants off of my procrastination habits, say goodbye to useless things, timewasters, and anything unworthy of my attention. Yes, folks, it's true: this is the Summer Of Getting Things Done (SOGTD)... I'll think of a better acronym later. Oh, the irony.

I feel like I've raved to everyone, but just in case I missed you, I'll be working as a Manager Extraordinaire at Tea at the White House, my workplace of the past 6 years. I'm pretty stoked, as they've been nothing but stellar. If you're ever passing through Waterdown, come on over and visit - the odds are pretty excellent that I'll be working!

Apart from work and school, I've decided to start reading John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life, one of what seems to be about a dozen Christian standards, apart from the bible itself. To be truthful, I've been avoiding this book nervously, with a decent reason. When it was first given to me (lent, I should say...), I was maybe a week and a half out of my breakup, totally emotional, and just starting to open up to God. I was kind of at the point where I wanted to know What The Big Deal Was about God and life, and after discussing this with a coworker, she let me borrow her copy of the aforementioned book. I think I got about 3 chapters in before I burst into tears. Mum eyed the book suspiciously, and told me maybe I shouldn't read it if were going to make me upset. While she had a point - I definitely wasn't ready to read Piper's firm views on The Meaning of Life - I KNEW that I was faced with the truth that my life was meant to be changed by God. Terrifyingly, my whole world was going to change... if I let it. So, needless to say, the book and it's contents were at the same time meaningful, but wholly undigestable at the time.

So I shelved it, thinking I'd pick it up again when I'd come to terms with where things were going. Almost two years later, I'm a little more stable, a little more mature... but not so much of either that I couldn't use a good smack in the face. Realizing that I have a terrible addiction to the internet and that I also don't to spend the summer indoors hovering near the glare of the computer screen like a moth, I decided that it was time to un-shelf that puppy and Stop Wasting My Life.

I have to say, I'm glad that I have. I'm only one chapter in, as I'm taking time to think and push back on what I've read, but Piper's a bit more gentle than I remember him being. I'll update you with my thoughts when I've gotten a little farther.

Sorry this post was so long, and kudos to you if you made it this far. I'll try and break things up a little in the future!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Happy News

This will be a short one, but a bright one. As the title suggests, I've got happy news! Last night I attended my first night of homechurch in Carlisle, and needless to say, I'll be going back. A welcoming atmosphere, good discussion, and there was even a bit of worship at the beginning and many people offering up prayers at the end. Somewhat different from previous experience, and thankfully so. I'm really quite happy that this fits into my schedule, too (although somewhat precariously, as it's right after class on Monday). So praise God for that! No more traveling into Burlington!

Also praise worthy: It seems that since Summit, 3 new decisions to follow Christ have been made on campuses across Canada. This is just what's been recorded, too, so who knows how correct that number is. It's awesome all the same! Thank you God for new brothers and sisters!

Sharing and surveying tomorrow! Keep praying! And have a great week!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Designer vs. Herself

Over the past four years in the York-Sheridan design program, I’ve come to realize something. When it comes to design (and anything else, really), I’m my own worst enemy. The struggles I’ve faced since day one in this program almost always stem from a decision I’ve made, an attitude I’ve had, etc. Who I am and what I believe shapes me as a student and as a designer. How I work and what I work on does not hinge on the typeface I’ve chosen, the colours I use, or the layout I employ. It all comes down to character, to the interest I take in the world around me.

I think it’s also fair to point out that ‘designer’ is not something I often refer to myself as, and if I do, I do only for clarity or convenience. In the past, this has caused problems. By dissociating myself with the design profession, I created a huge apathy for my studies and even for the world around me. Over the course of the past year, I’ve learned that apathy cannot be an option, even if I don’t necessarily want to be categorized and placed in the ‘designer’ box. It’s been a process of identity, and a process of widening my view of the world. Being honest, I struggled a great deal to get where I am today, even if I am not that far from where I started. Thanks to apathy, I failed courses in my first year. Working harder in my second year, I did well at first, but quickly ran out of steam. Just doing the work wasn’t working. I wasn’t satisfied. And yet, I resisted engaging the program I was now committed to. It took me another two years to realize that even if I wasn’t a designer, I’m still part of this global community, and I still have an active role to play. If being a designer meant being constricted, how could my role be rethought?

My faith journey has had a large part in rediscovering purpose and vision for school and beyond. It may sound cliché or simple-minded, but looking back, the process was actually the most mind-expanding experience I’d had in my university career (no thanks to any course or instructor of mine, or the university as an institution). This past summer, I had the opportunity to spend three months in Halifax, working a job (as a cook), working in ministry, and building relationships. It’s probably the most un-design endeavour I’ve taken part in since I started the program, which was, at the time, part of the point. After three years of fighting my way, I was exhausted and a bit disillusioned, and was more than happy to escape from York, YSDN, and anyone who wanted to talk about either. Imagine my dismay, then, when I was appointed the team’s designer and asked to produce advertisements, brochures and a yearbook-like production for my team mates. I struggled with this for a while, dreading the possibility of not finishing, and dreading even more what people might think of the work if I did. Now, there is a difference, I realize, between working for your friends, and working for a large company. As I was encouraged to persevere, however, I began to enjoy myself.

I began to enjoy design.

The assignments I had been given were the same as any I had received from YSDN. The time frame to complete them was much shorter than what I am used to. I even pulled an all-nighter or two. What changed?

The answer might be overly simplistic. At the height of my doubt over completing the large yearbook, one of my team mates consistently assured me, “Fear not, Daniel.” It was a line she got from a children’s video. Brushing aside the question of age-appropriateness, I considered her statement. My concerns with style, with minute details, etc. suddenly took a back seat to why I was working on this book, who I was making it for. In all my time working on projects and striving to meet the standards set before me, I had shut out the larger body of design theory and practice, and the world that my work would be sent into. As I had learned with ministry, design doesn’t occur in a vacuum. I started to care about design because I started to care about the world around me. I stopped worrying about style and form and focused more on who I was trying to reach. Design stopped being an end and started to become a means. And then, to my horror, I started to enjoy myself.

I felt the shift more acutely when I read Michael Bierut’s Warning: May Contain Non-Design Content. Upon reading it, I felt like making myself a t-shirt that read, “Warning: Non-Designer”. Of course, thanks to the thousand and one assignments I needed to complete before the next day, it never came to fruition, but I appreciated Bierut’s honesty all the same, and almost sighed with relief as he explained, “My stupid layouts…were simply no more and no less than a whole lot of empty-headed graphic design. And graphic design wasn’t enough. It never is.”[1]

As a designer (I get a funny tingle every time I think of myself as one of ‘them’ now), it’s so easy to get worked up over the look of whatever we’re working on, and forget why we do what we do. Late nights and early mornings spent glaring at computer screens with bloodshot eyes wondering hopelessly if any of this would ever be worth it, and feeling as though I already knew the answer was ‘no.’ I was never going to be a graphic designer. I wouldn’t let myself, and I wouldn’t let them make me. Bierut’s words could have been my own as I realized over the summer that I had very nearly thrown away an opportunity to impact the community around me: “Not everything is design. But design is about everything. So do yourself a favour: be ready for anything.”[2] Design, funnily enough, isn’t about design. It’s about clarifying, expressing, evoking, inciting, explaining, directing. If you can’t reach the people you’re trying to reach, if you’re designing for the sake of design, I’d say you’ve already failed. I should know, I spent three years perfecting the artform.

[1] Michael Bierut, “Warning: May Contain Non-Design Content”, Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) 13.

[2] Ibid., 13.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Something a little lighter (but definitely not shorter)

This won't be totally palette cleansing after the last post, but it will probably be shorter.

This weekend, of course, was Summit - Campus for Christ's annual fall retreat. Amazing people, amazing worship, amazing speakers, and of course, an amazing God made for an amazing weekend. It was definitely a little more laid back feeling than last year, which is probably because I didn't meet nearly as many people or share my testimony 40 times... I definitely did meet a number of very quality people from schools across southern Ontario and met up with old friends from projects past.

The Leonard Beuhler (sp?), the President of C4C Canada (now called 'Power to Change') and Mike Woodard, national director for Campus for Christ (the campus ministry) were the speakers for the weekend. I want to say that the talks they gave were pretty usual, but when God is involved, of course, things are never usual.

Addressing the crowd of students a number of times, Leonard's talk on the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and how important being filled with the Spirit is in following Christ really stuck out to me. Especially when he put a slide up depicting the Spirit-filled individual (full of the fruits of the Spirit) and the attributes of a carnal Christian. When asked to pinpoint which attributes of the latter we could identify with, I was dismayed that I needed both hands to count. It wasn't so surprising, I guess. I have been struggling these past few weeks (see post below for a good example), but I figured that things were pretty good. I'm someone who believes we're filled with the Spirit upon making a decision for Christ. I felt the immediate impact the moment I became a Christian, but I have to admit, the 'feeling' doesn't always carry.

I'm probably doing a very inadequate job of making this clear, but I'll try my best. Basically, I've got the Spirit, but I've been doing a poor job of relying on Him to help build my relationship with Christ, and lead me in life in general. My prayer times and devotional times have really suffered a blow since school started, and I've been doing a pretty bad job of missing 'dates' with God. I can't remember if was Leonard or not who pointed out that 'you wouldn't miss a date with a boyfriend or girlfriend... the same should go for God.' Ouch. "Sorry, Lord, doing ______ was more important than hanging out with you." I've slowly been relying on my own strength more and more, and more and more I'm missing quality contact with God. Spiritual suffocation. Ick.

So I'm so glad that even though my initial attitude was "Ok, we've gone over this before", God still (as usual) got the point across. I'm definitely challenged to commit more time to prayer and devos than I have been, and while I'm starting tonight effectively, something really cool starts tomorrow that I want to let you know about...

2000 for 500: Asking God to Draw Students to Faith

If you're a student or staff with C4C, you've probably heard of this new prayer initiative. Last year, 143 students made a faith decision, and this year, we're asking God for another miracle: 500 students to make the decision to enter into a relationship with Jesus, with special emphasis on Quebecois and Muslim students - two of the most unreached student groups across Canada. There's a chance on the website to sign up for a 15-minute prayer slot, or you could just pray as you're led to over the course of the week (and beyond!). I'm encouraged. Very encouraged. And I'll definitely be praying for these goals, and hopefully going sharing more regularly. I've been challenged to step up in faith, that's for sure.

This is getting long, but I'm adding this as well because it's on the more serious side of things. I was totally encouraged to have a number of fellow students, who are praying about where God is calling them, approach me and ask about the projects I've taken part in. This is really an answer to prayer. You obviously don't need to go on a project to reach people, but stepping out of your comfort zone to a) raise support b) go to a foreign place and c) engage total strangers in faith discussions is a huge leap of faith and shows so much commitment to working for the gospel. It's also an amazing way to build faith and character, and grow closer to the Lord. So obviously I want others to experience all these things and more, and thus I was more than happy to discuss my experiences, the challenges, the joys, and everything in between with people who are considering project. Praise God for that!

I ended up meeting up with a fellow Scotland projectile, Hilary, and we had some excellent and challenging talks about Scotland, where we're at in our lives with that, and whether or not we're feeling the call to go back. Well, I guess there's no arguing we're feeling called. I've been feeling a tug ever since Halifax began to come to a close. Seeing the project video and retracing my experiences with those interested students and with Hilary really made a light flicker on in my heart. Scotland is still a nation desperately in need of God. That hasn't changed. We saw a lot of fruit for two weeks of work, but there is still so much more to be done. So, while I haven't officially applied or confirmed that yes, I am going, I am definitely keeping Scotland in my prayers, and will hopefully start the application process in the upcoming weeks. If you're feeling it, you could also partner in prayer with me over this.

Also growing in my heart is a desire to go back to Halifax. I feel this much more strongly than Scotland (though I do feel a strong pull to return to both places), and had a chance to sit down with a few staff members and students to talk about the process of applying to and experiencing STEP (a year-long internship on a Canadian campus, ideally Halifax but I'm satisfied with any campus) in Halifax. It seems crazy to even look at the words I just wrote and think about what they mean. Jen from U of T shared on stage how she felt called to STINT, but doubted the possibility. It wasn't until she finally gave in and agreed with God to apply that she felt peace about her decision, and saying now that I'm going back to Halifax fills me with both peace and excitement. After what seemed like just a taste this summer, I'm already ready to go back to Halifax and share Christ with others, and see believers built up in their faith. I'm already fairly sure about heading back to Halifax next summer as a projectile (with some of this year's projectiles potentially as interns, this could make for a lot of fun, and definitely a very passionate team!)

Going back means a lot of things, as does STEP. I can't number them all here (we'd be here all night), but I am definitely keeping both Scotland and Halifax (the places and the projects) in my prayers. I'm fully confident that God'll let me know where I'm supposed to be. Wherever I'm called, I'm excited to go for God.

Oh, and for those of you waiting on an update about the Halifax project that just passed, I should have that finished next weekend and sent out shortly afterwards. Expect it to contain information about upcoming projects.

Praise God for an awesome weekend and hundreds of students on fire for God. Keep praying and persevering!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tough stuff.

Apologies to the avid blog readers for the length of time between posts. I'm doing much better at this than I thought I would, so, hah! (Warning you, this is going to be a long one.)

Normally I write down the bulk of my thoughts in a journal and then post the really interesting/thought provoking (hah!) stuff on here, but today I'm working without the filter. Between class and work and everything else, being 'real' has been hard and I'm feeling like I just haven't been honest with myself. This isn't a 'woe-is-me' post, it's just some tough stuff.. Because being reborn isn't all puppies and roses, right? And maybe we'll all gain some insight.

I saw some old friends today, friends I lived with in first year, actually, which was awesome. I was praying pretty hard for a familiar face today, so praise God for that. One of them, Ted, just got engaged, so congrats to him! I am happy for him... Really.

...what, that didn't sound convincing?

Okay. I am genuinely happy that he's happy and in love and planning to spend the rest of his life with a wonderful woman. But it's happening more and more now. Every time I hear about another engagement (this is the third in the last year), it feels like the rug is getting pulled out from beneath me. I literally get chills. I get scared.

Yeah. Scared.

It's completely foreign, and yet totally familiar and comprehensible. I used to panic thinking about death. Now I panic about life. Married life. Or maybe, a lack thereof...?

Okay, okay, so maybe I'm not so weird. I know there a lot of single people out there who also get that funny tummy clench when they hear yet another one of their friends is getting hitched, wondering when, if ever, they too will be waltzing down the aisle. My mind practically explodes every time I think about the ifs, whens, whats, and hows of relationships. We should be so lucky that that's all that explodes, given the need to issue biohazard suits after my last relationship meltdown...

I guess my real issue is this - and this is pure, down-to-earth, realness, folks - I've know where I've been, I know what I'm capable of (or incapable of, sigh), and... well, it's scary. We're capable of a lot of good things, but we're also capable of a lot of really, really hurtful things. You don't need blunt force to do a lot of damage. Heh, I don't need to rehash that. And so life moves on, right? I did find God, and I did come to understand more about relationships. Through sermons, through friends, through two amazing projects. Everything seemed pretty bright and shiny, coming home from Halifax, with fresh passion and fresh perspective. Maybe I was ready for this relationship thing.. you know, with boys. And that's when I realized it.

I'm terrified to be in a relationship again. Or, terrified that I'll never get there. I'm not a fun, fluffy type. As my DGL Wendy said this summer, "You're into really, really deep relationships. Shallow isn't good enough." (Well, it was something like that. I'm paraphrasing). And see, there's two problems here that are tied in with all this:

A) First (and importantly), it means God's not getting in on the ground floor on this one. Trusting God with money, no worries. Trusting God with school, no worries. Trusting God with my love life... well, logically, who better to trust, right? And thus we reveal problem number 1! I'm a control freak when it comes to relationships. I'm sure I'm not the only one, but it pains me so much to admit that I can't let something so important rest in the hands of the one who'd give it the utmost of care. I would love to have a healthy, happy relationship with someone I care deeply about. Which leads us to our second point...

B) Because I'm so defensive and uptight about potentially having another person hurt me again, or worse, hurting someone else myself, and because I've definitely struggled with godliness and purity in relationships before, I'm, well, defensive and uptight. Which not only makes for poor romantic relationships, it makes for poor ANY relationships. And therein lies a fault of mine, that I've admitted before. I'm intensely physical, and for as long as I can remember, relationships, especially the romantic kind, are validated through physicality. Not only that, I quickly realized how to manipulate my relationship (I'm being very specific now) in ways that resulted in that physicality. I was just validating myself. 'Boyfriend' became 'convenience'. Not much relating going on there.

And then things tangle slightly further. Part of giving up control to God means... well, giving up my agendas. My desires. Dying to myself. "Those that strive to touch a star oft stumble of a single straw."

Straw, thy name is Ess-ee-ex. (that's 'sex', for the phonetically challenged...)

Really, as complicated as this all sounds, it's pretty simple. I want what God wants, because I know that's best. But I also know that I've got a powerful sexual nature that can, if allowed, get absolutely out of hand. Sex isn't bad, kids. But it's best expressed when it's constructive (i.e., an expression of love, self-sacrificial act, not a method of control, etc) However, most situations where I find myself, well, in need, are not constructive situations, and so I'm constantly beating back on this supposedly healthy urge. Following me here? To be doing this constantly is, well, exhausting. Obviously. Or I wouldn't have written you an essay about it. Duh.
And I'm sure I'm not alone.

And that's kind of the point of writing all this, I suppose. Because I made a promise a long time ago (about a year now, to be exact) that I would start being more real, more the woman God intended me to be. And I realized that there were going to be potholes and roadblocks along the way. But rather than cover them up or pretend like they're not there, I'm sharing, because maybe this will encourage someone else. And hey, I feel encouraged just writing this down. It's a daily battle, for all of us. The enemies we fight may look different, but we all know the outcome, and we can take hope in that. I found incredible hope in a verse from Hebrews the other day, so I'll share it with you in parting:

"In bringing many sons to glory, it was
fitting that God, for whom and through
whom everything exists, should make
the author of their salvation perfect through
suffering. Both the one who makes men holy
and those who are made holy are of the same
family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.
He says,
'I will declare you name to my brothers;
in the presence of the congregation I
will sing your praises'
And again,
'I will put my trust in him.'
And again he says,
'Here am I, and the children god has given me'
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too
shared in their humanity so that by his death he
might destroy him who holds the power of death -
that is, the devil - and free those who all their lives
were held in slavery by their fear of death.
For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants.
For this reason he had to be made like his brothers
in every way, in order that he might become a
merciful and faithful high priest in service to God,
and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted,
he is able to help those are being tempted."
(Hebrews 2:10-18)