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Archive for April, 2013

8 Years

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Tomorrow marks a very important day in my journey.

Some of my readers will know this as my “Exodus Day” – indeed, it was a day that I left behind what I knew and ventured into the road towards freedom.

I’d like to tell the story of that day.

That term, I had been struggling with what was going on at home. I would stay at the university late or stay at a friend’s house or my grandparents’ house to escape the abuse. I had plans to move out in June or July (I can’t remember which month now). Technically, my stepfather had said that wasn’t allowed. So, I found myself a job and a place to live and simply announced it and proceeded as if everyone was cool with it. For me, it was non-negotionable.

But I was struggling emotionally. So I went to friends and shared a little of what I was going through. They supported me, I didn’t tell them much, but told them enough. We were to get together for lunch when my exams were over.

That day was April 28. And over lunch, one of my friends informed me that she was obliged to call children’s aid because there were young children in the home. I tried everything I could think of to get her to change her mind. After all, I knew children’s aid only to be anti-Christian and against families. After awhile, I realized a call was going to be made…with or without me. And I decided that I wanted to take on the responsibility of calling. So we made the call together.

And then I knew I could never go home that night.

That was eight years ago. We were studying Exodus as a Bible study at the time and I really found myself in that story. The abuse was a slavery of sorts – a slave to one’s selfish and misdirected passions. I had been freed from bondage to this way of life.

Yet – as the drama continued and I found myself with an angry family, without a home, and overwhelmed, I found myself saying that it was better at home. Yes, I knew what I was saying – but the desert isn’t a fun place either. I found myself crying out to God like the Israelites – it was better in Egypt. I remember each day as a struggle. Many days I could not fathom getting through, let alone reaching eight years.

And yet, here I am. 8 years later. I love God and know that he is with me. I am thriving in school and work and in life and enjoying all that God has blessed me with. While I have my moments, a joy and peace has filled my life and sometimes I cannot contain it. Each day I am discovering that God’s love is deeper, longer, wider, higher than I ever thought imaginable. I have learned that God’s timing is perfect (though for a perpetually impatient one like myself, I think this will be one of those things I will learn and relearn throughout my life. I have come to see how God can take what is ugly and messy and orchestrate beauty out of it. I can laugh at knowing that God loves me and knows me better than i know myself.

8 years… and there’s still pain, but there’s a lot more healing. The picture above is a clay vase made by a friend of my aunt and uncle. It has become my symbol and hope in healing. For the longest time, I had the other side visible… a woman, with her head down and in chains. And then, I turned it around at some point in my journey… we will overcome some day. I’m not sure one ever stops healing. I think healing and growth continue throughout one’s life.

But my friends and family and readers who have journeyed with me thus far…. we have overcome.

Thanks be to God.

Udon Noodles with Peanut Sauce – Original Recipe

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All quantities are approximate as I do not measure.

Tofu (extra firm) – cut into 1cm thick pieces (I cut them on a diagonal so that they were triangles)

Soy sauce

Peanut butter (I used crunchy. Make sure it is not one with sugar added or any other stuff as it will make the sauce too sweet)

Red onion

Garlic (3 cloves)

Sesame oil

sesame seeds

peanuts (1/2 cup)

water (1 1/2 cups)

hot chile sauce (2 TBSP – taste and see)

salt, pepper

udon noodles

asparagus

1. toast sesame seeds over low heat

2. Marinate tofu in soy sauce. Fry in sesame seed oil until firm.

3. Saute onions and garlic. add peanut butter, water, peanuts, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Stir until smooth.

4. Steam asparagus

5. Add noodles and tofu to peanut sauce and heat until warm. You may need to add water.

6. Serve and enjoy ūüôā

Grace

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I¬†submitted my final paper of my undergraduate years. That’s it – for real this time! I joke about this as I have returned to undergrad for various reasons at different times. And now I can pretty confidently say – never again!

Now that this term is behind me, I feel like I can share a little of the challenges and beauty that it held.

My Christmas break was not really a break. Within a few days of my final exam, I had word that my stepfather was starting his sentence in jail and for completely unrelated reasons I needed to leave my house. I started this term tired, and completely unfocused on school. The reasons for leaving my home are complex and much drama ensued the coming months, drama that to some degree is still playing out.

The youth mentorship program that we are launching this summer is exciting and definitely one of the more joyful parts of my life. But to be honest, it has been a lot of work, with deadlines for various things (including much needed funding!) spread throughout the school term. I look back over the past few months and see all that I have accomplished and shake my head wondering how on earth it all happened.

Grace.

This term has been full of grace. It does not take long to discover that I am not perfect. I mess up all the time – in big ways and in small ways. But I yearn to follow God and try. I have seen God honour and bless this yearning even when I’ve messed up big time. I have seen God provide in ways that I hadn’t expected. Financially, emotionally, spiritually, academically.

I have had professors extend grace – grace when there was legitimate reasons, and grace when really I had mismanaged my time or gotten dates wrong. I have seen consistent marks that I used to want to kill for.

I have seen God use me which is both humbling and awesome. I always find that to be an encouragement. I have experienced God’s teaching and loving correction – though very painful at times – throughout all that has happened this term.

I have been given strength when I have felt sick. Friends when I have felt alone. God’s presence and comfort when I have felt no human can understand what I am going through.

Grace has been the theme of this semester. Yes – I have put in long hours and devotion to studies, work, and the lives of those who are going through difficult times. But I never would have been able to do any of that without grace sustaining me.

I am thankful that grace is bigger than me. I am thankful that God’s plans are not thwarted by my selfishness, insecurity or mistakes. I am thankful that grace can make possible what so frequently seems impossible. I’m thankful that grace can make beauty out of anything.

Loving our enemies

One of the most wonderful things about writing a blog is that it is my space to write about whatever I think is important for the world to read. I control the comments that are allowed on the page. And at the end of the day, I have the last say. Those who wish to share their own views that go directly against mine are welcome to write their own blogpost. I force no one to read this blog. All who continue on choose to do so.

I try not to take advantage of this privilege but today I will. One thing I learned very early in life is that theology and politics can be two problematic topics that lead to extensive debate and division. This is a political post. You have been warned. Read no further if you do not wish to hear my opinion on a topic that has angered me.

The bombings in Boston are horrendous. Awful. Everything from the boy who died to the many who are killed to the bystanders and those on tv whose sense of security has been shattered by the actions to the made up stories that snopes.com has investigated. Truth be told, I cannot imagine the pain that those affected are going through right now. I feel sad and angry on their behalf.

Lots of facebook prayers and thoughts have been lifted up for the victims of this senseless violence. My prayers hold them too.

But I want to speak about the two boys who have been accused. Not to defend them. These things are unjustifiable no doubt. Nothing I say let’s them off the hook.¬†

But the hatred being offered is gut-wrenching and sickening to me. I cannot stay silent. These two boys are made in the image of God just like you and me. They are sinners like you and me. Likely you along with me haven’t murdered others. But if we take Christ’s words seriously, our hateful thoughts might as well be murder, our lustful desires might as well be adultery. And then, who among us could cast the first stone? As Miroslav Volf so eloquently argues in Exclusion and Embrace, we are quick to label¬†those sinners – those who are not like us. The way from exclusion to embrace is to recognize our own sinfulness before the cross. I don’t know about you all, but if I do that, there is enough sin in me to have me kneel before God in humility and awe that he would “save a wretch like me.” (I probably need not say that this is a quote from the beloved hymn amazing grace…. grace would not be so amazing if it saved nice people, good people even. It is amazing because despite our ugly sinfulness and constant rebellion against God, he dies for us, paying *our* penalty for sin, and what’s more – he uses us for his glory. now that is amazing).

How can we preach God is love in one breath and then speak God’s condemnation in another?

God is a God of justice no doubt. And the younger boy who is alive should answer for this. And I pray he will humble himself.

But we also stand before Christ and have to answer for the sins that nailed him to the cross. My sins may not cost another’s life or situate myself in jail. But i have hurt, used, mocked, rejected, hated.

We serve a God who took a murderer who persecuted Christ followers, bringing terror into their lives. And God met Saul on the road to Damascus in a very dramatic way – Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?

We have Peter who sought his own safety and denied the Lord 3x just moments after he promised that he would stay by Christ’s side.

Augustine was a womanizer and quite the rambunctious person getting into all sorts of trouble.

Ravi Zacharias made a very serious suicide attempt before his deep conversion.

Christ hung on a cross while his onlookers cast lots for his garments. And his words? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Meeting hatred with hatred is not going to bring about love. We must choose love. We must choose to pray for our enemies, choose to do good to them Рits not something we just wake up one day and start doing.

What do we do with the anger and vengeful thoughts? Give them to Christ. I believe Christ took on the sin we have committed but also by his wounds we are healed… our wounds inflicted by others are also healed on the cross.

Hard words?

Yes.

i have no other way to end this than with a prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.

He makes me lie down

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This morning we looked at Psalm 23. This is one of the psalms that I could probably recite by memory. But this morning, on my way to church, a phrase stood out to me as if I had never heard it before – “he makes me lie down”.

Not “he invites me to lie down” or “he asks me to lie down”. Rather, he¬†makes me.

This week I have been wrestling with insomnia and being overcommitted. I’ve been grumpy and frustrated and tired. I’ve come to see that I really haven’t made much progress on two points. One – I am a work-aholic. and two – I can’t say no.

the first one has served me well as I’ve achieved good grades while working two jobs. I’ve burned the candle at both ends to offer my best. And the latter hasn’t been all that bad lately as I’ve been able to fit everything in.

But this weekend, I have double booked myself two evenings in a row. All because I couldn’t say no. I hate disappointing people. I hate letting people down. So I say yes.

It’s not fully true that I don’t know how to say no… I’ve said no to the very things that I have been looking forward to ALL month because I’m just plain too exhausted. I think that is mostly why I’m frustrated today. Frustrated that in order to keep up my work-aholic and status, I forgo the things that give me strength and refresh me.

it is with that frustration that I engaged today’s psalm.

I think for people like me, I need God to make me – to force me – to lie down. Cause all on my own, I won’t. I’ll find things to fill my time. I will cave and quickly give over my time to refresh me. My body is telling me it cannot do anymore. So I’ve pumped it with caffeine to get through. But I’m exhausted and feel that I have nothing to give in this state.

I need to lie down. I need my soul to be restored. somehow I’ve missed that. I need rest. in green pastures. to allow me to walk through the valleys. I need to be made to lie down.

The above picture was made by a six year old boy. It is a prayer of thanksgiving for God providing for him. High on his priority list was baseball.

I think there is wisdom in that. We need things that are recreational – re-creational. Things that refresh and restore us.

May I learn to lie down in the pastures – just because – leaving aside all else. Even if it is just for a few moments. May I value the restoration of my soul as this little boy values baseball and the joy that brings him.

Authenticity, influence and social media

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I’ve always loved to write. I kept journals as a teenager and young adult, journals that have sadly been destroyed – sad, because they detail the ups and downs of my faith journey and trying to discover who God was and how he was (or wasn’t) involved in the moments of my life. Every once in awhile I have come across a writing (usually poetry) that was written during that period and I am reminded of how God has used the ability to write, to master the expression of words on paper (or a screen) to help me go through life and make it through the tough times.

I’ve blogged as long as I can remember. There has been something very satisfying in writing to the ‘world’ and yet not anyone in particular – putting out there the thoughts on faith and life that stir within me.

But my writing journey really started to shift and take shape a few years ago. I was in the hospital struggling to manage. It was post trial and post my grandmother’s passing – quite the intense year. I was asked to write out an autobiography of my life as part of healing. I don’t remember much of that time actually, but I do remember the doctor in charge of my case coming in and saying, “Elizabeth, you write with style.” Those words have stuck with me – it was significant to me that a well-published professional thought a work of mine while in crisis was written with style.

And so, I began writing more. This blog has become a creative outlet to express thoughts and concerns and ideas and reflections. And I am often amazed and humbled by the life it has taken of its own. There are people around the world who follow this blog – Christians and non-Christians, survivors and others, people I know and people I will probably never meet. Every once in awhile I will get a touching message about how my writings have touched someone, encouraged someone, supported someone, or challenged someone. I think that is one of the most beautiful aspects of being an artist of some sort – to have your art impact another person. As one of my professors once said, good art is meant to be shared.

Most of my blogging has happened while the court proceedings were underway. In some ways, I am thankful for the limitations that this had for my blog – for I knew that every word I would write and “publish” could be used in court against me. Each post is published after an honest reflection of whether I could stand by my words in the public and unfriendly courts. As I see what other people post on public blogs, I am thankful for this check in place.

My life is starting to shift though. And I am wrestling with this blog. I won’t be giving up this blog, but I am wrestling with how I want to share it. I am wrestling with *what* I should be sharing. This extends beyond the blog – what do I share on facebook as my status? On facebook I am a little more free, partly due to how easy it is to publish how I’m doing or what I am thinking (thanks facebook for asking me this daily!). In January, as the house I was living in started to breakdown, I recognized the ease at which I could vent on facebook and started a discipline of punning on facebook. I learned a lot during that time – and it made me think about how I can use facebook with purpose and integrity rather than capturing the mundane aspects of my life.

I am running a youth mentorship program this summer and connecting with organizations and people – who’d have thought my job would be primarily social networking?! I’m discerning where God wants me. I’m finding myself in various leadership positions. I have been frequently told in both encouraging and criticizing contexts that I am influential.

What does it mean to be a person of influence and to engage in social media tools? What does it mean to feel called to write and to know that some who may be diving into your story for the first time may not be ready to hear? How does one be authentic in a position of leadership.

I’ve for the most part kept work and life separate. But now it is at a point where it is too confusing and quite honestly a hassle – two different email accounts, two different websites. I spend far too much time on facebook, but again, it is all networking. Now I’m debating the need for twitter, pintrest, hootsuite, etc. I need to create a document with the different logins and passwords to keep this straight.

It seems I have a few options. First one is to simply not care. Maybe it isn’t really a problem that I blog and work in a place where I have influence and connections. Maybe this is not an issue as i discern – and as others discern with/for me – where God is calling me. But, for the first time in a very very long time, I feel hesitant about sharing my journey. If my journey was healing from cancer would I feel this way? I’m not sure. But this wrestling has been long enough that I don’t think this option is for me at this time. The second option is to keep work and personal social media separate. but that is increasingly more complex and time consuming. Also, if there are things that I need to keep separate, is this sufficient reason to question whether I should be talking about those things period?

The last option is the one I have chosen to experiment with a little. Normally this blog is shared with facebook friends. Increasingly, my readership is outside of facebook. But there are people who read my blog through facebook. I will continue to blog, but my readers will have to make their own way to the blog. This may mean my readership declines drastically. That’s ok. If people want notices of new posts, they can add their email address to the blog (only I see the email address). And, at least for now, I won’t be adding my blog to facebook.

And I plan to spend time praying through how I can best share my journey  Рin a way that honours God and who he has made me to be.

An Update on Josh

Last week, I asked my readers to pray for Josh and his family. Yesterday I knew the doctors were meeting. In my dreams, I found myself praying for Josh and throughout the day I was frequently reminded fo them. I hate waiting. I anxiously waited for them. I cannot imagine how they all made it through yesterday as I was refreshing facebook frequently to see if there was an update.

Today, on the bus ride home after my exam, I read the update. I wanted to share it to ask people to please continue praying. Once again, you see Laurie and Tim’s amazing heart and faith and gratitude shining through their words in this time.

This past year, I’ve been drawn to reading the lives of the saints, finding comfort, encouragement, challenge and inspiration in their lives. I think I’m starting to understand the idea of a “cloud of witnesses”. I’m realizing that I need this cloud of witnesses to encourage me to keep on in the difficult journey of following a crucified Saviour. I am also realizing more and more that I need to surround myself with wise and faithful Christians. Tim and Laurie are two of those people. I am thankful for their lives and witness.

Here’s the link to Laurie’s blog post on the next steps. In some ways it is difficult to read (I cried on the bus!!!). Please keep this special family in your prayers.

http://lensofmotherhood.blogspot.ca/2013/04/next-step.html