23 November 2007

dating amidst community

i've been dating one of the guys from the community here for a few months now. and the experience of dating in a community where we are surrounded by people who know us well has had its moments...

neither of us had any desire to keep our dating a secret from the community. and we assumed that people would figure out that we were dating fairly quickly. sure, we had been friends for the last year, but daniël and i could now be found together often enough that we assumed people would start to wonder. but time passed, we spent a lot of time hanging out with others (including a weekend away with most of the community), and yet still no one asked or teased us.

slowly people found out. a good friend of daniël's was suspicious when daniël was more interested in a text message (sms) that he received than in his friend's company. a couple of people saw us together often enough. we told a few people. and even if people hadn't noticed that we were dating, some had noticed that we were both a bit different: daniël had become more cheerful; and i had become more thoughtful and contemplative (sometimes i tease him that he got the better deal in this relationship :)). and it was good to hear and see people's reactions - and to know that they were happy for us - and wanted the best for us.

nonetheless, it remained a source of amusement for me to see how long it would take before everybody realised we were dating. a few weeks ago, a bunch of us were sitting around in the kajuit (our common living space), and i gave a fake kiss of appreciation to one of the guys here (on account of his help with the kitchen). one of the community members teased me that this was not so romantic. i responded by saying, well, of course not, i have a boyfriend. she didn't believe me at first. but nobody else in the room seemed surprised by my comment. so she checked with them to see if i really was telling the truth, and she discovered i was. and then she had to figure out who it was (and as we were all laughing at her and her astonishment, none of us helped her). she was happy to find out, although astounded that she hadn't suspected anything - and declared that she was going to talk to the other community members (and their families) to see who'd been keeping the secret from her. and well, now we're pretty sure that almost everybody knows.

and one of the best parts about dating amidst community is being surrounded by people who care about both daniël and i - and pray and hope for the best for both of us. sometimes it's a bit overwhelming to know that all these people are watching out for us (and won't always respect our privacy). but privacy is sometimes overrated. i know that we are surrounded by people who know us well - and are willing to speak up if they are worried that our relationship is poor or causing either of us to change being who we are - and who God made us to be.

we're not sure where this relationship is going. neither daniël or i knows what's next in our lives. i don't know if we'll be able to continue to work through the different expectations we have of each other and of what a relationship should be. and whether our different understandings of how to see the world will bring us to different visions of how we can best live out our lives. but for now, the relationship is good. for, as my friend (Judith) says, it brings life to both of us.

16 November 2007

another picture of life here in community

Marco moved into our community 6 weeks ago and has been sharing on his blog his experience of living here. part of his expectation in writing it is to give a bit of an account of his reactions to life here in community - and see how that changes as time goes on. if you read his accounts of community and compare it to my accounts of community life, they're fairly different. they both do paint a picture of life here - and so perhaps it's only fair for me to give you an opportunity to see another perspective of life here. not that i think that Marco has a full picture of how the community here is (nor do i :)).

yet the picture he paints of life here fits. he's right, sometimes breakfast conversations are annoying. although i have to admit i find the alert-ness quality of some of the others to be highly entertaining (you have to pay attention to a lot of subtleties, though - and be able to appreciate how and whether the amount of time a person stares at their bread contemplating what to put on it changes). and i've been contemplating lately how more to contribute to improving the atmosphere at breakfast, especially when the conversation annoys me.

and yep, sometimes there are not enough people for dishes. since i watch over the kitchen (at least kind of), this is something i pay quite a bit of attention to - and it annoys me - and sometimes annoys me a lot. so the people who tend to disappear instead of doing dishes have been approached and the hope is that things change somewhat - even if this is a re-occuring problem. and it helps, too, that i know better now that some of the people leaving without helping are off to do other necessary things...

and there are more things that are disappointing and annoying for me. but i don't want to dwell on them. if they annoy me enough, then i need to talk to somebody about changes - whether the change needs to be my attitude or my expectations or whether the change can happen elsewhere. but otherwise i'll try to focus on what is life-giving about community here.

for this, too, is a good picture of life here: a friend from the community went to the hospital today with heart problems. and it was great to see how much the community came together to reach out to him and his wife and children. it was obvious, too, that we were all grateful to hear that he's doing better.

and after chapel, a bunch of us were sitting around. daniël and i were talking about what we were doing this weekend and what we wanted to do. he mentioned how much he loved "hints" (a game of charades) and would really like to play that this weekend. and after a bit of random chatting, Petra got up and started acting. and so a group of us played. and we laughed. and the joy of having this unexpected fun together - as well as making space for each other, being able to be fully ourselves, and being spontaneous - reminded me again that this is where i want to be - and this is how i want to live my life. and so when i picture life in community, this is the picture i want to paint most - because it is the picture of how i want more and more to live my life.

14 November 2007

being able to exercise my love for teaching

one of the things i've missed in moving to Amsterdam has been the opportunities for teaching that i'd built up over the years in Grand Rapids. not that i really miss grading Hebrew quizzes, but i do miss being able to tutor people in Hebrew, mentor college students, help international students with their english for term papers, lead small groups, and even get to teach my own class a couple of times. getting to teach in a few months (and now having the time and energy to start prepping for the classes) has helped take away some of this disappointment of not knowing how to use my love for teaching here. but besides language and cultural challenges, not being able to use my gift and love of teaching is probably one of the hardest things i find in living here - and it is probably the biggest question i have in how long i will stay here.

and yet this week, i've been given a lot of teaching moments. i got to share my research on postmodern Christianity with someone here who has to write a paper on the effect of postmodernity on Christianity. i got to share my knowledge and wonder of "new monasticism" with somebody for whom this seemed to be a great possibility for her desire to take time off from studying and do some service ministry. i got to wonder about the significance of temple prostitution in ancient near Eastern cultures and about what the LORD's banning this in Israel revealed about Him. i get to teach two class periods on the Confessions of Jeremiah - and i can do and teach whatever i want provided we look at the text!

as i've been reminded more in the last couple of days of the nuisance and pain that can be caused by the reality that my choices and way of living affects other's lives and vice versa, i am thankful for being reminded of the joy that using my gifts and being myself can be a blessing to others. what makes each teaching moment special is the feeling of how my joy and excitement over the topic (and getting to share it) gets combined with the excitement and interest and experiences and knowledge of the other person, so that we are both (all) enriched by the experience.

04 November 2007

the joy of sunday mornings

on sunday mornings, i lay in bed a bit longer. but eventually i get out and shower and piddle around - read a bit, think a bit, pray a bit, and get ready for the day.

breakfast isn't until 8:45 - and i don't even have to go if i don't want to. but i do want to, because on sundays we have some kind of special cheese and eggs and bacon and juice and coffee and so on. and we sit around longer.

and after breakfast, i help out with the dishes. because i know i have the time - and some people have to hurry to get ready for church. and then most of the house goes off to church at 9:45 and i don't have church until 11, so i have the house to myself.

and so i take over the piano in the living room - and play as much as i want, as loud as i want, and sing if i want. and just generally delight in the fact that it is sunday morning and on sundays i have no "have to"s.

instead, on the best of sundays, the whole day is open. and i get to spend it with people i love - but i don't have to - so i can also sit in my room and read. and i get to go to church - and even if sometimes i don't always want to - i know that i get to - and that going to church is one way that i can be more able to meet God.

and on sunday mornings, it is easier to be peaceful and joyful and hopeful. and so i savor them as being a gift of God.