31 May 2009

being healthy and alone

The topic of the most recent Catapult magazine is "alone." And the focus has generally been about the goodness of being alone. It feels that many consider being alone (too much) to be odd and being single is unhealthy - or a sign that something is wrong. And as someone who has purposely chosen to live in community - and who is deeply thankful for all the married people in my life (and the joy and support they bring each other) - I can see that there is good reason to wonder about how good or healthy or loving it is to be alone. And yet, at the same time, I want to be able to say that there is a goodness in being alone and single. And the articles found in this issue seem to capture well that struggle of living well in relationship with others and with God and knowing oneself and one's desires.

And since I feel like I've had lots of experience wondering about the goodness of being single, I thought I'd join my voice to this issue, with my article, Choosing Single. I give a couple of explanations about how I've ended up still single, ultimately recognizing that being single is less of an accident of circumstances and more of a choice. While I'd like to share the challenges and joys of my life with a husband - and share his joys and challenges, too - my desire to share my life with a spouse isn't so great that I would want to give up the life I have now or the choices I have made. And as I become more part of the community and this world in Amsterdam, I learn more and more to love these bijzonder people around me - and this crazy way of life. and I would dearly like to share my life with someone, but right now I would definitely choose being single over having to give up the life I have now.

And I have thoughts about what God has next for me - and how I might be a bit more aware of the possibilities and opportunities that God might have for me - but since God has a tendency of turning my thoughts and life upside down, I'll try not to out-think Him too much on this whole choosing single-ness thing :)

I've seen that several other articles in this Catapult issue discuss this journey of acceptance and joy in singleness - while also acknowledging that it is not perfect in itself. And I'm glad that I can add to their thoughts/sharing my own sharing of my journey of hope and longing.

29 May 2009

and just like that i'm moving!

my moving feels a bit sudden. several months ago i had written a letter to the community requesting that i be allowed to live in one of the apartments of the community (and move out of the main house). this would give me more space - more physical space in terms of having an actual kitchenette and a loft for my bedroom and more space in terms of being a bit more separate from all of what happens in the main house). but with everything that's been going on in my life and the community, i hadn't heard anything for quite awhile.

and then all of a sudden, two days ago, i was told that i could move - to this or this apartment that's also part of the community. and so i checked out the apartment that appealed more to me, thought and prayed about it some, told a few people, and decided that it would be good to move there. and yesterday i got the keys, the rental contract, and the official paperwork in order to change my address at the gemeente huis (city hall).i can move in next week already - 1 june!

and i think my biggest plans for this weekend will be cleaning and packing. good thing i have lots of practice at both!

25 May 2009

nog een meisje! (another girl)

early this morning, members of the community became the proud parents of a second daughter. Yay! Congratulations! (or as we would say in dutch, "Gefeliciteerd!")

the baby was born at home, as is typical in the netherlands. the couple lives a half floor above me - and there was apparently quite a bit of noise on the stairs early this morning as the necessary people came and went. having been camping all weekend, i was utterly exhausted and heard nothing until i came downstairs for coffee and was told that i had to ask the older sister what her new news was! shortly thereafter i bumped into the proud father and was offered a rusk with pink hagelslag (it's what the dutch serve when there's a baby girl!)

what makes this baby a bit more special for me is that she is born only 2.5 weeks after my sister also had her second daughter (Yay Emily!). and thus, as i enjoy seeing this new little girl of the community grow up, i will also have the joy of being reminded of how my newest niece is growing up back in Canada.

16 May 2009

Happy Anniversary :)

In honour of my parents' 40th Anniversary, I'm posting a poem about anniversaries with the hope that they'll have many more anniversaries to enjoy and be surprised by their marriage.

The Longly-Weds Know
(by Leah Furnas)

That it isn't about the Golden Anniversary at all,
But about all the unremarkable years
that Hallmark doesn't even make a card for.

It's about the 2nd anniversary when they were surprised
to find they cared for each other more than last year

And the 4th when both kids had chickenpox
and she threw her shoe at him for no real reason

And the 6th when he accidentally got drunk on the way
home from work because being a husband and father
was so damn hard

It's about the 11th and 12th and 13th years when
they discovered they could survive crisis

And the 22nd anniversary when they looked
at each other across the empty nest, and found it good.

It's about the 37th year when she finally
decided she could never change him

And the 38th when he decided
a little change wasn't that bad

It's about the 46th anniversary when they both
bought cards, and forgot to give them to each other

But most of all it's about the end of the 49th year
when they discovered you don't have to be old

to have your 50th anniversary!!!!

taken from Writer's Almanac 2 Decemeber 2006

15 May 2009

a slight delay - due to vacation and travelling and so forth

vacation and travels are delaying my posting more of my thoughts and pictures (from now and before this trip). a large part of the reason is that i've had a poor internet connection for much of the time - and i left behind the cord i need to import pictures from my camera. but i've also been fairly busy with visiting and networking and doing the random errands that are easier to do on this side of the ocean. and thus, i've had limited time and energy to sort through and share my thoughts and/or pictures.

hopefully, they'll come eventually - but it might still take awhile. first it's my parents' anniversary, then it's a plane trip, then it's adjusting to life back in Amsterdam, then it's a weekend camping (the pilgrimage), and then it's the community's internal newspaper (of which i'm an editor), and then mostly likely something else....
as you can see, my life will soon return to its semi-normalness :)

08 May 2009

next year - untangling work, studies and money

as much as living in community plays a huge role in my question of how to grow and move forward and what's next, there are a couple of other things that also play a role. the big ones are the following:

- my position doing research with the Werkgroep Informatica ends this summer. it's likely that we'll get a new grant to do another related project, but it'll be january at the earliest before that could come through.

- i need to have enough money to live on - and enough to travel regularly back to Canada [as you can see, there's not much question of whether i'm staying in Amsterdam - i'm still not sure how long but i've been preparing my mother for the possibility that i might never live in North America again]. and i guess i could go on unemployment benefits for awhile - but that doesn't exactly appeal to me, especially since applying for jobs is a requirement and i know that'll make me grouchy - and not so motivated to do the things i do love to do.

- i'd like to do more studying and thinking and being academic - and most of all work hard on that ph.d. of mine. i've been striving towards my ph.d. for three years now, and it normally takes four, so nobody's too worried about my not being done yet. and i've been interrupted by a couple of things - a research position somewhat unrelated to my dissertation research, teaching for 3 + 1 months in Michigan, a year of preparation in the research master, learning dutch, participating in a community, and so on. and since all these things opened up doors for letting me do what i love, i don't regret them - or that they might mean that i've added a couple of years to the date of finishing my ph.d. but since getting my ph.d opens up so many doors (for doing what i love), especially related to teaching and research positions, getting it done sooner opens up these doors sooner.

but how do these things fit? i'm not getting paid to do my ph.d. (i am still getting (thankfully!) some money from different places, most notably the Christian Reformed Church through Calvin Seminary but this grant/scholarship isn't really enough to live on, even after saving up from this year) - so i need at least some outside income. and the idea of working on my dissertation all the time doesn't really appeal to me, either. i mean, i really enjoy my research, but i also really appreciate the distraction of doing multiple things and spending time outside of my head. the community is good for this distraction and being forced back into a bit more down-to-earth world (at least compared to academics) - just as getting to be academic makes my introverted side happy and gives me a distraction from all the details and challenges and neverending work/activities that can be found in community.

and the fit i've figured out thus far is to find ways and inspiration to put more time into the academic side of things, which translates directly into writing. i'm allowed to keep my computer and office at the university so i have a place to go to work (that should help give me a work place outside of my own house, and some structure, and an excuse to go biking, which often makes me feel better :)). i'm most likely going forward with a translation project on a book on how to read the Bible (an area i want to explore more for and in my dissertation) - waiting for a/the grant to come through might take awhile there, too, though. and so i'll probably ask to "work" in the community (on top of the regular volunteering) for the first few months in exchange for paying less for rent or food. and since the first couple of months can often be hectic while many new people get adjusted to being here and things need to get organized, a bit of extra temporary help could take away a bit of the hectic-ness that a number of people in the community often experience in the first few months.

so those are the thoughts for next year - i don't think it's fully untangled (and God has a habit of surprising me so there's really no point anyways in planning things too strictly). but i like having ideas and plans and hopes for next year. it makes me excited and hopeful - hoping that next year will mean getting to do more of what i love alongside taking further steps in providing me with more freedom to do what i love.

05 May 2009

on reatreat, and walking with God via a labyrinth

i spent the last few days with friends in a cottage in the woods (overlooking a pond) at a monastery. it was good.

i had been hoping to share my love for St Gregory's monastery with Judith, Crystle and Dave for awhile already (i like sharing it with everybody, but with our history of group vacations and our combined love of community/communities, this was a visit that i knew i'd especially look forward to). and we finally got to go together and now with, Stephen, too (i especially delighted in his eagerness to attend as many services as possible (even the 4 a.m. one!)). and we enjoyed the peace of the woods, experienced the pleasure of good food (Judith and Crystle are great cooks!), laughed and delighted in each others' company, and we got to be present in a place where people had spent years praying and meeting God. and it was good.

one afternoon, the three of us women went for a walk. Crystle was eager to find the labyrinth in the woods that i had forgot i'd even mentioned to her. and we each walked along the labyrinth, using it as a tool to meet God. and we all experienced the labyrinth as a metaphor for faith.
- to one, the winding nature of the labyrinth, which created the appearance of being no closer to the goal and often feeling like you were returning to the exact same place (again!) - had a lot to say about the journey of life - that being in the same place, asking the same questions (again) wasn't necessarily a sign of not moving or not growing, but a continued journey further into growth (even if it didn't look like it!)
- to another, the overgrown nature of the path, which made it difficult to follow, was a metaphor for the difficulties of following the good path - and that even with the best of intentions of following, that sometimes life takes detours and has surprises - and you end up not quite where you expect, although this, too, is part of the journey - and with friends around, the path to the goal is easier found again.
- and to another, the labyrinth was a reminder of how others had taken these same paths - the immediate friends here but also all those who had also walked in faith to meet God (and perhaps even in this sort of labyrinth). and in following these other footsteps/journey, there was hope. a sense of hope that there was movement towards a good goal, and hope found with the others who'd share in the journey.

and i left with a sense of being allowed to meet God in the prayers and walks and the labyrinth and the retreat. and in the times of prayer and retreating, i had been reminded that i wasn't trying to use this time/place as an escape from my ordinary life, but to be better able to participate in my "ordinary" life. praying is what i'm to do - and thinking and reaching out to others is also what i get to do. i feel more hopeful and more enthusiastic in participating in this world. and that is also good.

02 May 2009

living out Easter

it felt a bit like i was fighting for Easter this year. i spent quite a bit of time in services, some in the community, a couple with the choir in the English Reformed Church, and a baptism service in the Oude Kerk. but all the different services left me with a feeling of disconnect. i started the saturday evening vigil, then went to celebrate a baptism - and heard the resurrection story at the end. then early next morning i joined in the last of the vigil, waiting (again) for the resurrection - and when the sun had risen and the candles were lit - and amidst the joy of Easter having arrived, i left for choir practice before the sunday service. and then i bumped into sleepy choir members, doing their best to be well-prepared for the service - but many still were a morning cup of coffee away from celebrating Easter. and here i was practically bouncing, amazed that i could once again celebrate new life and the hope of the impossible!

and the rest of Easter felt a bit the same. Easter was easily felt in the amazing leftovers of the Easter morning feast and a delightful walk in the park. but the barbecue, despite the joy in being able to communicate well with others (yay, for my growing dutch knowledge!) and the wonder of discovering others and seeing the world in new mays, made it hard to experience Easter. Easter, for most of those at the barbecue, was a convenient time to meet together and an excuse to have Easter eggs hidden around - Easter itself wasn't celebrated. and then later on, a relationship which had given much joy and encouragement, ended. and that felt so antithetical to Easter - for Easter is about celebrating new life, not mourning endings. and thus overall, it felt like a fight to hold onto the hope of Easter, the delighting in new life and the believing in the impossible - the impossible that with God became possible.

i'm still struggling with this living out Easter - that joy and hope and wonder. and i'm thankful Easter lasts for weeks, and i will have much practice in living with the hope of Easter.

a friend of mine, Sharon, shares her similar feeelings about struggling for hope at Easter. and i like her words of hope at the end, so i thought i'd include it here.

"Last Sunday was Easter here. Church was nice. But then something horrible happened. I won’t go into all the details because they’re not necessary, but here’s the gist: A situation in our neighborhood ended up in there being cops all over with huge guns and us being evacuated from our house for a short time.

It ended as well as we could have hoped. But that’s it: Hope. Easter is the epitome of hope realized . . . or at least it supposed to be. But last Sunday was hope gone bad. Wes and Rachel and I were talking a little later and talked about how Easter was when God gave his son back to us and some people chose suffering anyway. They didn’t want the hope they had been given. The same thing that happened here; we started the day celebrating and some people chose suffering instead. They forgot about or chose not to see the miracle of Easter.

I was completely torn up. It goes back again to that same longing for something better. I became afraid. The littlest things would startle me for the next few days. I would wake up because sleeping was bad. But being awake was almost worse. I’m sure glad I have hope. I can’t imagine not living with this hope that I have.

This Sunday was great. It was like Easter . . . it WAS Easter. It was a day full of hope realized. Isn’t this how we should live every day? Our hope HAS been realized! We really have nothing to fear. But there will always be things that break my heart. I just pray that I never forget about hope."