Thursday, December 22, 2005

Annie and Augustine.

I am home!

Christine, Navy Dan, Daniel and Rachel met me at the airport with bells on. Literally. And Bacardi, since I’m a drinker now. Since then, I’ve picked up both of my parents from the airport. Our family is slowly piecing itself back together again. We await my sister, Sarah, who will return from India on the 28th, which has become our family’s Christmas Day this year.

I’ve been spending most of my time with friends and family, going to concerts and services and hotels and movie theatres and shopping malls, and preparing for the Christmas Eve services. It surprised me how quickly I slipped back into the familiarity of this setting. I wish I could keep appreciating this place and these people every moment of the day, remembering how much I missed all of them. I need to work at that. It just feels too much like normal. It’s the most natural thing in the world to wake up and come downstairs and eat breakfast with my family, to go hang out with Chris for the day. Maybe that’s a good thing. But just a few weeks ago, I was desperate for it, I would have given anything for it. So I don’t want to take any of it for granted. Especially because there is a mouse back in Vancouver waiting for me, who has somehow chewed up a sticky trap. Can you believe it? What a genius, that Melba.

Tonight some friends of mine planned a second annual caroling at the hospital trip. It was tons of fun, we sounded superb, and we made a lot of people cry. I hope the crying was a good, nostalgic, appreciative crying and not a “you sound so bad I can’t stand it” crying. But I think it was the first type. Because we even had parts and different times of entry in “O Holy Night”, thanks to Cam’s coordination and clever cueing.

Speaking of crying, perhaps I should tell you a rather embarrassing story from the plane ride here. I had this excellent idea to do nothing on the plane ride, as a sort of object lesson in waiting, in the spirit of Advent. Well we were stuck on the runway for quite a while, and the whole “waiting” thing was getting really old. So I pulled out “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” and started reading. I have been reading this book ever so slowly, and I’m not sure why, because it’s seriously my favorite book ever written. Ever read by me. Annie Dillard says everything profound I’ve ever thought about while studying science or enjoying the outdoors, and she’s more eloquent than my thoughts are. And she uses better examples than my thoughts do. She’s like a 100x better version of bioBeth.

Anyway, the big heavy metal plane finally lifted into the air, an experience that blows away my logic every time. I was reading a chapter on “Intricacy,” in which she talks about how the average caterpillar has 228 separate muscles in its head. She talks about the 2 million glomeruli we have in our kidneys: “I made them all myself, without the least effort. They’re undoubtedly my finest work.” Mostly what hit me was when she talked about the jaggedness of our planet, how a globe with bumps on it to show the mountains can’t begin to show the number of trees on each of those mountains, or the thousands of needles on those trees and the millions of little furrows on the bark of one tree. I looked out the plane window at the mountains all submerged in clouds, with clouds lapping up on them like the water around my Rock in Vancouver, and I tried to let all of that intricacy and complexity sink in. “Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery… What is man, that thou art mindful of him? This is where the great modern religions are so unthinkably radical: the love of God!” This washed over me so overwhelmingly that it made me cry, right there in the airplane. People were staring. I couldn’t stop. I felt desperate to worship this maddeningly incredible God.

Blame it on hormones, or on the emotional highs and lows of returning home, but I think that plane was some sort of a sanctuary right then – I really felt like I was meeting with a real and frighteningly transcendent, yet ultimately loving God, more powerfully than I usually do in a given worship service. Perhaps I was closer to God at that high altitude. I don’t know. What’s more, it has happened more than once; just when everything in me wants to worship, I find myself in a weird public setting. It happened when I went to see Narnia the other night. During the Stone Table part, it overwhelmed me again. It would have been enough for God to create all of that pine needle intricacy for me to discover and enjoy. But He went so much further, sacrificing Himself painfully for me, Beth, one among so many, one bundle of cells among all this detail.

Christmas seems like a weird time to be thinking about Easter, but maybe it’s not. Loren Wilkenson, one of my profs, shared this paradox-rich quote with our class on our last day of school; it’s from one of Augustine’s Christmas sermons.

Man's Maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother's breasts;
that the Bread might be hungry,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired from the journey;
that the Truth might be accused by false witnesses,
the Judge of the living and the dead be judged by a mortal judge,
Justice be sentenced by the unjust,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Vine be crowned with thorns,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might be weak,
that He who makes well might be wounded,
that Life might die.

Well, I’ll leave you with that for now. Perhaps I will post a Christmas post in the next couple days, with special returning guest Christine Kulyk, and a lot more pictures. (that’s Christmas post as in blog post, not as in the Christmas post which stands in my Vancouver house). Be sure to tune in.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The 10 lists of Christmas


Thank you for all of your prayers and e-mails. I really don’t know if I could have gotten through this past week so well without them. My parents are still in Kentucky with my grandma, they will be home soon after me. I’m mostly sad I didn’t know my grandpa better, since he lived so far away, and sad for my mom and my grandma, who are the most sad. It was a hard thing to have in the back and the front of my mind during finals. I got through all four of them, though, yesterday and today, and I even learned a thing or two, thanks to some crucial words of wisdom from Christine. If ever you need some perspective on your silly perfectionism, she’s your man. Girl. Sorry. I’m rather giddy with excitement of being done and going home and Christmas. I have run the gauntlet. It’s time to relax.

In one day and two nights, I will be home. I thought, for those of you in icy Saskatoon, I would give you a run-down of some things that might be different about me, that may have changed since I left, just so you’re forewarned. Man, do I ever like lists. What does that say about me? Does anyone know? I always make to-do lists, and sometimes I add things I’ve already accomplished just so I have the satisfaction of crossing them off. Is this psychotic? Does anyone else do this?

Without any further ado...

1. My hair looks like a mop on my head. I have not cut it in a very long while. In fact, not since I left. I didn’t want to pay for it. I didn’t want to go about the risky business of trying out a new hairdresser. I didn’t want to get my roommates to cut it with our kitchen scissors. Mostly, I was lazy. I plan to have this dealt with asap, in Saskatoon. Dawn, come back from London!

2. I have grown unaccustomed to eating at a table. Danice and I usually eat on the couch, or on the floor. Or standing up. Or we dance around the table. I have also become more accustomed to spicy, Danice-y food. Although I still sweat when I eat her curry and am forced to strip off layers of clothing.

3. I have grown very blasé when it comes to mice. Mice are a fact of life, I’ve decided. They chew through packing tape when you try to cover the hole in the wall. They set off two traps in the night, eat the bait and walk off unscathed. They give you the willies. But they’re really ok. I can deal with them for two more nights. Then I’m outta here, and the exterminator will pay us a friendly neighborhood visit.

4. I got seven piercings and a rather conspicuous tattoo. Ha. Just checking to see if you guys are still with me. No, really, I did. Yeah, they're pretty sweet. Actually, I didn’t. Just kidding. Or am I? No, I’m seriously joking. Although… never mind.

5. Fiiiive golden rings! Sorry, a little Christmas spirit slipping through.

6. I’m a drinker. I drank a whole beer one night. Just to say I did it. It was a Corona. It was a waste of a Corona. Man, beer is so gross. I really hate the taste of it. It makes me want to throw things in disgust. No matter what Danice may try to tell you about my secret beer love.

7. My brain is stuffed with random bits of 1500 years of Christian history, 2000 years of spirituality, Hebrew vocabulary and possible dates and authors of all books of the Old Testament, which I fear will slowly leak out my ears as I sit around at home. I tried stuffing my ears with cotton to prevent information seepage, but it got all caught up in several of my larger piercings. You know, the big wooden pegs they stick through your ears – that’s what I have. For real. Not even joking. Uh huh.

8. I let fancy Regent words slip out in everyday conversation sometimes. Such as: ethos, community, postmodern, contemplative, eschatological, hermeneutical, orthodox, theolog-errific, and God. And “fodder”.

9. I have become a Saskatoon and general Prairie defender. I uphold the cause of the flatlands. I make known to the general public the value of living in such a desolate place. I stand strong and firm with my fellow Saskatchewanians here at Regent. May the combines roll on, let the temperature plummet, and bring on the sky.

10. On a more serious note, I love God more. I was hoping that would happen. I love my Bible like the dickens. I love you all so much more than I ever have. Christine, Rachel, Daniel, Sarah, Mom, Dad, Jordan, Don, Jayson, Alexa, Rochelle, Robin, Sherri, Evan, Anna, Carie, Scott, Daniel, Cory, all the cell group girls, Rosemary, Denise, Christine’s mom, and anyone else in Saskatoon who is reading this – I can’t wait to talk to you. The prospect of seeing some of you the day after tomorrow makes me want to cry.

And to those of you who are reading this from Vancouver – I’ll miss you! See you in a month. Keep checking – I’ll try to update the blog once in a while with Saskatoon pictures whilst at home. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Please pray.


My grandpa died today. The next little while is going to be rough for my family. If you could take a minute to pray for us, especially my Mom and my grandma in Kentucky, I would really appreciate it.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

And a partridge in a pear tree

In the midst of a very stressful time at school, I’ve received some very unexpected, very excellent gifts. I will tell you about them. Maybe they will inspire you to give good gifts. To me.

First was the gift of a very special Christmas care package from my family, including much wonderful Christmas baking. Rachel made me a Christmas CD (because I forgot all of mine at home) and there were Christmas lights! We wrapped them around a post. Oh Christmas post, oh Christmas post, how lovely are your corners… My roommates gathered round as I pulled one delightful thing after another out of that box. Then one of them called her mother and guilted her into sending her a Christmas care package too. Tis the season for guilt.

Second was the gift of… wait for it… SNOW! You can’t even imagine how my heart leapt when I saw that snow Tuesday morning. I practically danced to the bus stop. I was prepared for a snow-less December, and then, lo and behold, it arrived! And it’s snowing again today! It is funny to see the Vancouverians dealing with it. Many of them try to use their umbrellas to protect themselves from it. My bus ride Tuesday morning included exiting the bus with about 20 other passengers, pushing the bus, and re-boarding it with a standing ovation from the rest of the people on the bus. It was great fun. Their snowploughs are the size of golf carts. How cute. The highlight for me, though, was a huge snowball fight over lunch, with about 50 Regent students participating.

Gift number three… last night. Last night was the Regent Christmas party. My friends Tora and Julia (of chili and beer night fame) planned the whole event. Tora is an ambitious music grad who transformed about twenty of us students into a chamber choir. We even sang one song in German with 6 different parts. It was incredible. I got to play piano for the carols, along with a violin, flute and French horn. Played by other people. The Gospel Choir also made its inaugural performance, with great crowd response. It was an excellent Christmasy night.

Final gift . . . This morning, a new friend of mine at Kitsilano church gave me a casserole. She heard I was busy and thought I wouldn’t have much time to cook good food. Isn’t that thoughtful? I almost started crying. What she didn’t know is that I don’t cook very good food even when I do have time.

And still in the category of the unexpected, but not really a gift… I found out an hour ago that my roommate, Eugenie, got married two days ago on the beach outside our house. Well, former roommate, I suppose. I didn’t know she was engaged. I didn’t even know she had a boyfriend. What a surprise! Congrats, Eugenie.

In other unexpected news, we have a new tenant. Melba. The Mouse. Perhaps she is replacing Eugenie. I’m not sure. At any rate, she’s not paying, and I want her out. My other roommate, Bryanna, decided to verify her presence by leaving out a small piece of paper with peanut butter on it. Apparently mice like peanut butter, and leave their tracks in it. Melba likes peanut butter. In the morning, the entire piece of paper was gone. Bryanna has now turned her attention to the business of inventing traps. Here she is with one of her milk-carton-toilet-paper-roll creations. So far, no Melba. But on the bright side, the whole situation did force me to clean my room.

So I’m going to be caught in a deluge of reading and studying from now almost until I leave for home. I have one paper left to write, and I will be writing four exams in two days, on the 14th and 15th (prayers welcome). I promise to update next Sunday, though. Thank you to all of the gift givers, and to everyone else who’s called and e-mailed to encourage me lately. Have a great week!