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Living in the moment

September 22, 2014 2 comments

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At the end of the summer, I knew that I was spread too thin and had to make some hard decisions about how I would devote my time as I simply could not do it all. Perhaps for the first time in a very long time, I found myself asking “if there were no limits, what would I want to  do?” So often I get caught up in the needs around and in me as I make decisions. However, I decided to explore my desires and longings as a way of discerning the path forward. It was easy – school. If there were no barriers at all, I would do full time school and prepare for (ordained) pioneer ministry. As I then pondered the barriers, I realized two things. First, God had provided a growing number of piano students who would help sustain me financially. And two, if I cut out all the other things I do, I would in fact have the time to devote to my studies.

I truly had a wonderful time on the retreat and was super excited to start classes. My first class – church planting – was invigorating. I started realizing that church planting/pioneering has long been a part of my life. Moreover, as my professor shared her story, I started to see my own in a new light. I bought my new textbooks and eagerly cracked them open to realize yet again that this is the very thing that makes me excited about life. I’m in the right place.

And then, after my first class on the Monday, my eye was throbbing in pain. So much so that I knew I needed to get it checked out. I’m not one for rushing to the doctor’s and I’ve been told I have a high tolerance of pain. I did remember enough from my days working for a veterinarian ophthalmologist that you don’t mess around when it comes to the eye! This trip to the ER led to numerous consults, CT scan and a few more untimely trips to the ER. A day would start out fine and I would end up on IV in the evening.

Before continuing with what I set out to write this evening, I do want to say that I don’t think there is much cause for worry at this point in time. Things are stable-ish at the moment and well enough to be out of hospital and wait to see a neurosurgeon. I admit the last little while has been scary and the medical jargon even more so. However, I am on top of my readings, handed in my first assignment, still have my sense of humour and a strong independent streak. So do not worry – I share this only because it gives a sense of how unpredictable my start to school has been.

At the moment, we are at a standstill. I am waiting to see a neurosurgeon which may take a little while. As symptoms emerge or worsen, I have to go back to ER for a CT scan to see if things have changed. Until I see the neurosurgeon, or until things get worse – there is little beyond pain management that can be done at the moment. Not quite the path I had in mind for this semester.

Some moments are totally fine. Others are not. Sometimes I sleep well. Other nights I’m awake because of the pain. These moments shift and change without my consent or being forewarned.

I’m not going to pretend this time has been easy – I’ve had it out with God more than once.

I’ve been learning to live in the moment. As I look at my to do list, I cannot count on tomorrow – I may have the luxury of spending the entire day doing what I will, or I may have to accept that a chapter, or even half a chapter is all that I can accomplish.

In the moments that I am well, I need to embrace them and use them wisely. I am thankful for a productive hour, morning or day in ways I never valued before. There is little room for procrastination when tomorrow is unpredictable and the determination to move forward in my studies has me striving to be on top of everything.

In the moments that I am unwell, I need to embrace them too. I don’t really have much of a choice. Normally, I try to push through – I can’t right now. Sometimes rest is all I can do.

In the moments that I am waiting for specialists or procedures, I *can* use those times – prayer, once again, has become my source of hope and peace. I have found myself without an ability to do anything except pray (not even sleep!). Amidst the craziness of all that is happening, these moments have been valued and God’s presence has been near.

I have found myself thinking about the passage that today has enough worries and that we should not worry about tomorrow. There’s lots to worry about – can I handle classes? if I can’t teach, can I manage financially? will I get my assignments done? will I be involved in the life and community of my college if I miss out? what will others think of me?

But I am realizing that I can only know the moment I am in.

Tomorrow I might feel awesome and knock off a bunch of chapters and reflections. Or, not.

But I won’t know until tomorrow. I can only live in the moment.

Courage is not the absence of fear

September 7, 2014 1 comment

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“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear” – Nelson Mandela

This past week, I have attended many social events for Wycliffe’s orientation and there is indeed much to write about. An incredible concert by Martyn Joseph, whose music is prophetic and pastoral; and a sense of homecoming as it turned out to be a meeting place for all sorts of longtime friends from various places that I have travelled over the years. A bbq and chance to reunite with alumni who I know, students from last year and to meet some of my cohort. Over the weekend, we went on a retreat – and there are many happy moments that I am recalling to mind – especially the campfire singing and drama last night that had me in pain for laughing so darn hard. It’s been truly wonderful and I’m very thankful for a wonderful few days.

But – I am an introvert who has lived the extraverted life the past few days. I welcomed the opportunity to take my cat outside on a leash with one of my textbooks and immerse myself in reading. When one friend heard about my weekend, her response was “Elizabeth, I am so proud of you.” I love coffee or walking dates. The intimate conversation between two friends. I can sometimes chat more than my extraverted friends. Introversion is not equivalent to shyness necessarily. I am often most confident when I am leading events with lots of people – my role is defined, I’ve thought about how the event is going to go, and largely, I am prepared and am not met with too many surprises. Yet, if I attend an event with lots of people – whether I know them or not – it is usually true that a lot of anxiety has been present before I get there. The conversation is not predictable and I am not in my element. I back out of events due to the fear I feel. My cave with my cat, books and cds are far more ‘safe’ than a weekend full of people I don’t know and social encounters.

I am reminded once again that courage is not the absence of fear. I met everyone on this retreat – students, faculty, staff, spouses. I introduced myself if I didn’t know them, I pushed myself to chat with people I had not met instead of sticking with the comfortable person I found. I also took care of the kids during some of the time, and I have to say – that provided a much needed haven from the anxiety-provoking chatter. And it was awesome! Awesome people with awesome gifts and stories. I loved it – it was hard for me, but I was happy that I had each conversation. I feel connected with the various people in a way that I hadn’t through orientation sessions. I’m ready to start classes and feel apart of the community!

There was one particular conversation that I would not have had if I had let the fear overtake me. I felt God lead me to a table of people I had not conversed with yet. I reluctantly sat down and peered over to the other tables full of people I already had met and wondered why I had just dived into the deep-end. Someone else joined our table and sat across from me. Our conversation led to opportunities to explore my giftings and calling in ways that I had not anticipated. Things are shifting and happening fast – and it’s exciting.

Courage is not the absence of fear – but the ability to feel the fear and do it anyways. I’m thankful for a God who pushes me out of my comfort zone to blessings that do what I naturally would hesitate to do. There is joy on the other side of courage.

Time does not stand still

September 1, 2014 1 comment

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This is a week in the calendar year that I am reminded: time does not stand still.

This picture was taken 10 years ago almost to the day. I am holding my youngest sister who turns 10 tomorrow. She is minutes old. My heart is heavy this week as I am reminded of the years – 9 1/2 – that I have missed of her life. I am privileged to have heard her first cries, laughs and see her sit up on her own. But everything else – her first word, her first step, her first dance, her first music recital – I missed. Time doesn’t stand still.

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One of my brothers turns 13 this week. In my family, we talked about the coming of age at 13 for boys (following the Jewish traditions). I wonder if there will be a special celebration for him as he marks becoming a young man. Seventeen years ago, I witnessed his birth. I had the opportunity to cut the umbilical cord and to hold him as my mom was receiving medical care. I remember him turning blue in my arms and being rushed off to be ventilated. He was in the hospital for the first week of his life and I spent a lot of time with my other siblings so that my mom and stepfather could be there. I can only picture him as this little boy who has a sense of humour and clowns around like no one else. He too is talented I gather from what the rumour weed shares. I miss him. Time doesn’t stand still.

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And today is my mom’s birthday. What a day of mixed feelings for me. In many ways, I am like her – I inherited her creative genes and workaholic-servant-attitude towards people and the church. I love puns and love music. I teach piano as a result of her influence in my life – albeit, it’s not my chosen profession. In many ways though, I am not like her for we have grown apart these 9 1/2 years. Time doesn’t stand still. She doesn’t know the person I have become, what gives me great joy or what breaks my heart. She doesn’t know the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met, or any of the things I’ve done really. While children grow and make huge strives in their early years, the past almost decade has been formative and life changing for me. I’m not the same person I was when I left home. I’m thankful for that – and thankful for the growth and change. But my mother no longer knows me.

While I ache with each anniversary and birthday, my mother’s birthday is probably one of the hardest days of the calendar year. I am reminded of how very little I know my own mother. A decade ago, I would have told you all these things about my mother and more. She was the person I admired most. I watched her love one of my siblings who was on a rough path. She wrote letters to him, assuring him of her love and I was amazed at how someone could be hurt so much and still love. Sadly, that is not the mother I know now. Unconditional love is actually very conditional when you share with others the skeletons in your house. This is probably one of the deepest wounds in my life.

If I could pass on words of wisdom to those who have family – treasure it. It won’t always be there. Death and illness do come to all. People move away physically and drift emotionally away. Time doesn’t stand still.