Thursday, November 20, 2008

Girls Weekend

This weekend I got away for a fantastic girls weekend in L.A. My friend Teresa has been going through some significant health issues, so all of her best friends planned a secret surprise for her. A couple of her close friends are high-profile actresses, and they treated us to quite a program. Annie told me she'd have her assistant "arrange a ride" for me from the airport on Friday--I was picked up by a limo and taken through Beverly Hills to her beautiful house. All the girls gathered that evening, while another friend brought Teresa to Annie's house thinking she would be just having a quiet evening with a couple girlfriends. Well, it wasn't quiet! The eight of us gave her the shock of her life, especially the two of us that had flown in. The weekend was packed with fun: ordered-in brunch up in the outdoor cabana, a private yoga instructor who came to the house, a fantastic dinner out for which someone picked up the tab, getting to hear Teresa (a musician/songwriter) play a gig at a club, a big after party at Annie's house, and then a couple days of just chilling with Teresa, window shopping and lingering for hours over coffee. It was wonderful and I was spoiled to death, but at the same time, I was so ready to get home to my amazing husband and daughter and more sane lifestyle. While their life may be glamorous and exciting, it also felt chaotic and exhausting. I was so happy to be home to the peace and love and simplicity of my home and family.

The baby got lots of lovin'!

The eight of us.

With Annie.

With Teresa.

A must see...

Along the same theme as "Billy"...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Billy the Goat

Here's an e-mail David sent to our Tuesday night small group a couple days ago:

Hey all!

If you were not able to attend last week, you may be wondering why Jeremy has referred to a "goat." Therefore, I shall explain. Last week, the home group topic was "Give us our daily bread," and we began to recognize all the ways the Lord provides for our daily needs. For example, I shared one blessing Megan and I had just experienced. We needed a new floor lamp, but were hesitant to spend the money to buy a new one; therefore, we decided to pray about the decision. The next day, there was a floor lamp, free for the taking, standing by the door as we left Regent. Excitedly, we took the lamp home, but found that it had a burned-out bulb, and this was no ordinary bulb - it was a tube bulb that goes in lamps that gives a variable light. I was a little disappointed that God gave us a free lamp, but then required us to buy an expensive bulb; however, before I had the chance to go buy a new bulb, a worn-out lamp appeared by our dumpster, and inside that lamp was the exact bulb I needed, and it was still good! Seriously, only God does cool things like that! God has allowed us to keep our money and spend it on his kingdom.

So...enter the other aspect of "give us our daily bread." As believers united in one body with Christians around the world, God has chosen us as his agents to make sure our brothers and sisters do not go hungry, so when we pray "give us our daily bread" we are also entering into Jesus' commandment to take care of one another:

Matthew 25: 34-36: Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

Therefore, we have decided that as a small group, we should consider entering into radical discipleship for God's glory - the feeding of our sisters and brothers. This begins by both praying for our needs and thanking God for his provision. We often have a habit of praying before meals, but are we really expressing thankfulness to God for our meal? As we pray, we may be surprised in the way God supplies our needs. When God surprises us by meeting a need, we may wish to bring an offering for our jar at home group. I have placed $5 into the jar in thankfulness for our lamp.

Secondly, this may include intentionally doing without something so that we can provide for the needs of others. For example, I typically spend $1-2 for breakfast and $3-4 for lunch. If I were to fast for one (or both) of those meals, I would not only gain the spiritual blessing from Jesus, who promises "those who drink the water I give them will never thirst" John 4:14, but I will also be able to set aside the money I would have spent for my food, and put it into the small group jar.

Our end goal is to buy a goat (or something equivalent) for a village. Maimonedes (a Medieval Jew) defined the highest form of charity as this: "Money is given to prevent another from becoming poor, such as providing him with a job or by teaching him a trade or by setting him up in business [or providing a goat, trout pond, cow, etc.] and not be forced to the dreadful alternative of holding out his hand for charity. This is the highest step and the summit of charity's golden ladder."

This may sound ambitious, but all we can do is test what James means when he says, "You do not have, because you do not ask God" (4:2).


Dave mentioned our most recent little God-gift: the lamp. We had another huge God story just a couple months before that, which has spurred on our faith for this endeavor of living more trustfully and justly.

It was the beginning of September, and we were keeping and using some things for our old housemate, Alesha, while she was spending the summer in Africa. The main thing was a kitchen table (and a floor lamp!) We knew she was coming home soon and would need everything back, so we began looking on Craig's List to see if we could find something for a good price. I had in mind what I would really love: a round, dark wood table with a leaf we could add to extend it for more. For a month there was nothing like that for sale, all too big, too small, or Ikea tables that sell for about as much as you pay for them new. We were disappointed, especially realizing the amount we were hoping to spend would not be enough. So we began to pray about it. Novel idea. Then the call from Alesha came. She would come for a visit on Friday, and I knew it would be helpful for her if we could give it back even though she wouldn't ask. We were down to the wire. That week we e-mailed about a cheap table that would do but then it ended up being sold already anyway. Friday morning I went for a little playdate with Heather, our pastor's wife. We were outside with the kids playing, when we walked into the garage to get the bikes. And there was my table. It was exactly what we were looking for, exactly.
"What are you doing with this table?"
"Oh, we've been trying to get rid of that for months. Do you want it?"
Uh, yeah. And for free too.
It was perfect timing, and perfect that Craig's List had been so lacking, and perfect that our one option had already sold. It was such a testimony of provision, and we wondered why we don't pray about every little thing before buying it. Which made us decide to change that as much as possible. Here's our lovely table, empty and surrounded by friends, as well as a couple of our living room while I'm at it to give you a feel for our apartment, which seems cozier than the pictures capture:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Church, Regent, and the Everyday

These shots are from after church this morning. Cora looked so cute in her little gray jumper dress and navy pea coat!

My wireless on my laptop has fizzled. I can either hook up by cord that limits me to one location at our house--on one side of our couch that's not my favorite--or use David's laptop when it's sitting around. The extra effort for e-mail, Facebook, blogging, etc. means not very much correspondence with friends, but much greater productivity in my work and household. Now when I go to the Regent library, I actually have to just work and can't get caught up in returning e-mails or checking friend's blogs. But it is also partly responsible for my own irregularity. Hopefully at Christmas time it will get fixed when we're home in the States.

Cora's Grammie, Dave's mom, is here visiting. She is here for two weeks altogether, and my life has so much more space, it's lovely! It's so fun to go to the library for the afternoon and come home to a hot chicken potpie and a happy Cora with her beautiful art projects and a clean house. We have friends here whose mother lives with them and cares for their toddler while they both study. We're thinking this is a really good situation. Whatever happened to multi-generational households, anyway? Compared to the hectic way our lives usually run, this feels so peaceful. Perhaps we just try to cram too much into life. I've been thinking a lot lately about our pace and what I might do to alleviate it a bit. The only thing that comes to mind is to quit studies and be a stay-at-home mom, especially with Baby Girl on the way. But then when I think about it and consider it, it just doesn't feel right. Studying alongside David does feel right. God is moving and changing us in great ways, and it just has to be a mutual thing right now. I can't imagine it any other way. I'm beginning to recognize that the guilt I put on myself for allowing the house to get dirty or serving thrown together meals or not giving Cora as much time as I'd like is really falling prey to other's expectations for the "good woman", not a Godly guilt over being misaligned with God's will.

Right now, our university lives are hitting the particularly busy time of the semester, which is why it's been AMAZING to have the extra hands. My big research paper for Christian Thought and Culture is due next week, so I've been trying to synthesize the very difficult subject of the early church Christological controversy over Monophysitism, or the idea that Christ has only one nature. The Council of Chalcedon determined the orthodox Christian view that Christ has two natures, human and divine, within his one divine person. By emphasizing Christ's divine nature over his human, this 5th and 6th century movement ended up with a false and unbalanced conception of Christ. For them, the predominance on the complete and perfect union of both natures into one within Christ in the incarnation was the basis for the deification of humanity. I'm loving it, because studying these Christological heresies of the early centuries is not just studying dead relics; an awareness and knowledge of them is crucial in order to be discerning of where they crop up today, which they do. You can see how an unbalanced emphasis on Christ's deity could lead to some theological errors: a dualistic view of the material and spiritual where the value of the world (beauty, practical everyday life, the physical welfare of humanity) is viewed negatively, whereas mysticism and ascetic monaticism is elevated; a misunderstanding of Christ's present humanity and his intercession for us in heaven; an obscuring of the extent of Christ's sufferings and how he can identify with us.

Anyway, I get a little excited about this stuff, but my original point was just to tell you a bit about what Dave and I are working on. My "Women's Faith and Development" class is moving along at a fast clip; it's like a bookclub, only one that meets every single week. So I have to read a book and write an interactive paper on it each week, and then we spend the classtime, 10 amazing women and a fantastic teacher, in lively discussion. Dave has one particularly intense class, Hermeneutics, which also is a paper-a-week class on the various ways of interpreting the Bible. His other ones are a bit more moderate: Everyday Spirituality bringing together the way we can find God in the ordinary of life; and Christian Education and Equipping, a course by one of our favorite professors, the well-known pastor and speaker Darryl Johnson. For that course he has to write his own Bible study course--he's working on one on John 14. He also just completed a huge group project critiquing and analyzing a study course. His group chose Christianity Explored. Dave was elected to the leadership role of the group, which also meant he carried the bulk of the weight. So that's our Regent life.

Dave is also doing his Supervised Ministry for his MDiv degree at our church, Dunbar Heights Baptist. He is predominantly involved with worship. He has put together what looks to be an amazing worship night next Sunday night, getting all kinds of people involved from the church to lead short creative segments which will help the congregation understand the way we can worship through our work, hobbies, and all of life. He has put a lot of energy into this, and it looks like it's going to be really exciting. He's also hugely involved in all of the Advent preparations, conducting a choir (in which I'm singing) and other special music, writing Advent liturgy, etc. Now he's also started up an after-service prayer ministry. He's really enjoying being a part of the church leadership team, feeling like this is really where God has given him passion and gifts.

Well, that's just a taste, perhaps more of a taste than you wanted, of what this semester is looking like for us right now.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Goodbye, October

October is my favoritest month of the year and I am loathe to see it go. Not only does November sound more dreary and usually look more dreary, but it also means the second half of the semester which is always much more stressful and exhausting and deflating than the first half: deadlines threaten and the subject material has lost its freshness. October is exciting and gorgeous and energizing. November is just a month to get through on the way to December, where things pick up again. This October was particularly full of wonder for me. The Vancouver weather was like never before (yes, we've only been here two years, but old Vancouverites were equally astounded by the beauty.) We had little rain and brilliant colors. Two days ago however the rain set in, splashing all the leaves to the soggy ground, and it promises to be a very rainy November to make up for the lull. The month included many lingering walks in the massive forest that flanks our street, trips to the market, sails, a spontaneous visit from my dear Teresa, and a long weekend on secluded Mayne Island with my parents in a tiny cottage on the water, surrounded by wildlife as well as tons of ripe blackberry bushes and apple trees, whose pickings found their way into lots of cobblers and morning oatmeal.

Last night, Halloween made an excellent farewell to the lively month. We went to the festival at our church. Cora dressed as a ballerina and looked beautiful. She had a blast running around with her friends, eating popcorn and the little bit of candy we allowed her, winning a cake on the cakewalk, and playing the games.

Winning the cakewalk

Working diligently to open up a box of candy.