Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The best laid plans...

Do I have a story for you! I hesitate to tell it now, because it might not be over yet. But I have nothing better to do right now, as you will soon see from my story. It is the story of two plans - mine and God's.

Beth's plan

Saturday, Dec. 8
- go to Jacob's Well brunch
- spend the rest of the day studying for Theology exam

Sunday, Dec. 9 - the day of rest!
- lead worship
- hang out with Paul & Sarah Williams family in the afternoon (they are Regent profs)
- watch a movie with Danice in the evening

Monday, Dec. 10
- write Theology exam
- spend the rest of the day doing Hermeneutics paper

Tuesday, Dec. 11
- hand in Hermeneutics paper
- spend the rest of the day doing Ethics paper

Wednesday, Dec. 12
- hand in Ethics paper
- mark one hundred and twenty Old Testament final exams

Thursday, Dec. 13
- hand in Old Testament exams
- fly home

- be a maid of honor in Christine's wedding

Ok, I hope that didn't bore you. As you can see, every hour of my week was planned. I was in complete control. It would be tight, but I would get everything done. I always do. Here's where my story gets exciting.

God's plan

- same as Beth's plan

- Beth will lead worship.
- Beth will go to the Williams' house. There, she will agree to help Hannah make gingerbread for a school project.
- While using a hand mixer (one of those long skinny ones with a blade at the end) for the first time, Beth will foolishly use her finger to try to get some butter out from behind the blade, and will accidentally turn it on at the same time, mangling the top section of her finger.
- Beth will not faint! She will be proud of herself.
- Beth will go to the emergency room with Jonathan (who lives in the Williams' basement) and Emilia (their 10-yr. old daughter, who has been to the hospital a lot). She will get 4 stitches and a huge bandage.
- Beth will go home to be comforted by Danice with some hot chocolate and Bailey's.

- Beth will write her exam as planned. (her left index finger is cut up - her right hand is still fine to write). It will go well. Beth will gain confidence, and will grow more sure that she can still complete the week as she had planned - this finger thing was just a little test from God to see if she would persevere.
- Beth will return home and begin typing her Hermeneutics paper, with the huge gauzy bandaged finger only slightly slowing her down.
- Beth will go to fill up her water bottle to take another extra-strength Advil for the finger pain. Clumsily reaching for the water with her bandaged finger, she will accidentally spill it all over her laptop keyboard.
- Beth will call her father in a panic, and he will spend the next four hours explaining how to take the computer apart and dry it off. Danice will help, and the landlords upstairs will donate various screwdrivers and other tools.
- After all the work, Beth's dad will conclude that the hard drive has been affected. It is the worst-case scenario they were dreading. Beth will not be able to access any of her files, including the half-finished Hermeneutics and Ethics papers due in the next couple of days. Her computer is fried. She will cry a little. But Beth's dad is pretty sure he can restore her files when she returns home on Thursday with her poor, wet computer.
- Beth will e-mail her two professors (using Danice's computer) and ask for extensions for the first time in her life. She will find her professors to be very understanding.
- Beth will finish the day by ordering pizza with Danice and watching "Spaceballs".

- Beth will sleep in for the first time in weeks.
- Beth will realize that she has no work to do. No work she CAN do. Nothing she can accomplish.
- Beth will go to school and help make Tuesday soup, ensuring that she does not cut off any more fingers.
- Beth will sit in the library and leisurely write a blog, surrounded by hundreds of panicked, busy students.
- Beth will marvel at my strange, twisted mercy.
- Beth will realize that I am in control of her week and her life.

- Who knows?

So there you have it. It has been a crazy, difficult, sobering couple of days, but the result has been a lot of learning and a lot of grace. I have felt God with me through the whole thing. I have experienced the kindness of many people I hardly know (Ceri, who took care of me right after my finger was cut, Jonathan, who took me to the hospital, Paul and Sarah, who prayed for me before I left, my landlords, my roommates, my professors), and I have been extremely grateful for the love and care of those closest to me (especially Danice, who let me cry with her and brought me seriously spiked drinks, and my family, who comforted me over the phone).

Thanks to those of you who have been praying for me. I'll be home soon - with a couple papers to finish, but hopefully much more rested and thankful than I would have been had my plan worked. And ready to celebrate with Chris and Dan!

If anyone would like to see a picture of my finger without the bandage on (I like to call it Frankenfinger), I will e-mail it to you - I didn't want to gross everyone out on the blog!

That's all for now... I hope....

Sunday, December 02, 2007


Lately I feel about as "gushy" as the rainy-snowy slush covering the streets outside. I did a lot of walking around in it today - it's the sort of slush that splats out from under your boots and leaves you with sopping pant legs, a higher liquid-to-powder ratio than the more solid Saskatoon type. It's actually the type that we get for a couple days in April in Saskatoon, when everything melts. So it's weird to have slush for Advent instead of Lent.

Anyway, the point was that I feel gushy. Sappy. Sentimental. I don't know why, but I feel like I'm feeling things more strongly. Any emotion I experience is forceful and cries out to be expressed. Like a second adolescence. Or an early menopause of mood swings.

Maybe it's because it's harvest time. My prof, Dr. Stackhouse, encouraged my class by reminding us that when we're in busy times like the end of term, it's kind of like when all the farmers go out and bring in the crop - you work overtime and live a very "unbalanced" life. He prayed not for balance, but for our health. Maybe the stress of this time is making me unbalanced - in a different way than he intended to communicate. I had a mini-breakdown with Danice, as I realized how little time and how much work I have left this term. I was also realizing that I DO let my health suffer at the end of term - I survive on very little sleep. Danice said that in my old age, I am not going to look back with joy on all my good marks at Regent, because I will already be dead, since I'm not taking care of myself now. Wise words. So I set some goals for sleep, and I'm going to try to fight my workaholism and perfectionism as much as I can. Please pray for me! Last night I went to hear Joyce speak at the Canadian Youth Workers' Conference, and she was talking about Sabbath, reminding us that God didn't let the Israelites forget about Sabbath during their harvest and planting times. So here I am, practicing Sabbath in harvest time, and trying to get a good sleep. But I still feel gushy.

The whole emotional thing may have started over Reading Week. I had a great time being at home, doing "wedding-ish" things with Christine, sitting in on one of Rachel's uni. classes, and watching a lot of "Planet Earth". And seeing my brother's play, "Les Miserables," twice - it was incredible. I can't believe how many good vocalists that high school has right now - when I went there, we had to scrounge for one or two good male singers to hold it together. But Daniel was really something else as Jean Valjean. I don't even think I'm being overly biased as his sister... the applause was so long after his solo "Bring Him Home" that the orchestra had to start playing to keep the show moving. The "emotional" stuff definitely hit me as I watched him - I teared up quite a few times, and I still do sometimes when I listen to the soundtrack. I think it was mostly pride in seeing Daniel up there, so mature and talented, tackling the role and the songs with confidence. He just seemed to exude the moral strength that Valjean has in that story, and it didn't really seem like he was acting - I mean, he really does have that kind of integrity and strength, and it was powerful to see it portrayed on stage in a way I rarely realize when he's just my little brother on the phone. I guess all of that, rolled up with a dramatic storyline and beautiful songs, is enough to make any big sister cry. Ok, I'll stop embarrassing him now. (Photo taken by Rachel or Wing Go)

I had the chance to see a very different kind of drama today, and get emotional all over again - the Eastside Story Guild put on a presentation at Grandview Calvary church this morning. This is a multicultural group of kids and youth whose mission is to "tell stories" - to interpret stories from the Bible in a way that incorporates their own stories. Their story this time was the exile to Babylon, interwoven in a very interesting way with the story of Native Americans in Canada and the residential schools. Many of the storytellers were Native. I started crying when these little kids dressed up as Babylonians attacked the Native Americans and pulled their children away from the Native elders, who really seemed heartbroken. With adult actors, the whole concept might have seemed forced, but the kids took the edge off just enough to really make it sink in deeply. The drama ended with a drumming/dancing circle as we all received communion, which was in the form of cranberry juice and bannock, in true Native American style. I think the whole thing hit home because we've been talking about the residential schools lately at Jacob's Well. A lot of people in the Downtown Eastside, including some of our friends at Jacob's Well, are receiving their settlement money this month - some will receive thousands of dollars all at once. We've been talking about how money doesn't bring healing, and how it can be morally hazardous for anyone to receive that large a sum of money at once, let alone people living among the temptations and complexities of the Downtown Eastside. I'm praying that this effort to compensate these people for their pain is not going to cause further pain.

One of my favorite "gushy" moments - yesterday I went down to my rock, as usual. Two minutes after I got there, I saw a few tiny flecks of white fall on the rock. It was the first snow, and I was just in time to witness it! Yep, I teared up then too. I don't know if it's self-centered to treat snow in Vanc
ouver as a gift just for me, but that's always how I interpret it. I remember when I was in Belgium for Christmas, and it snowed there for the first time in several years, and I just stood outside and soaked in God's love for me. So I'm pretty sure he did it just for me yesterday too, just to make things feel more like home, and more Advent-y. The leaves were kind of funny-looking, sticking out of the snow...

So there you go. I'm a mess. And I'm trying to figure out how to move from sappy sentimentalism to a more meaningful place - I think emotions can lead me into a kind of understanding at a deeper level than just head knowledge, but I have to really live with them and mull them over and sometimes do something creative with them - write a poem, or at least a journal entry. Which I rarely give myself time to do!

I want to make it clear that I did NOT cry or otherwise show emotion when the Riders won the Grey Cup. I gave a high five.

Considering it is harvest time, this will likely be my last post before I head home on the 13th, in time for Chris' wedding. Expect wedding pictures! I wish you all a wonderfully expectant advent season, full of deep emotions that bring meaning and understanding.