26 April 2011

Easter has come!!

Easter has come!! And with those words, the whole world appears somehow different. It is a world filled with more hope - not because of anything I have done, but simply because Christ has arisen. In comparison to the wonder of the Easter story, the troubles and worries that I might have all fade. And since Christ has conquered death, how can I doubt that He can work in and through me?

25 April 2011

Knowing that I am loved

I know that Matthijs loves me. It's obvious in what he says and does (and how patient he is with me). But I got to see another level to that love the other night.

Matthijs and I were sleeping on the top bunk of a bunkbed contraption (hoogslaper in dutch). At five in the morning we both awoke to a crash - and the first thing I hear from Matthijs is my name, clearly conveying his concern that my falling out of bed was the source of the crash. Thankfully it was only the cat knocking something over.

And I felt moved that when awoken from deep sleep, my well-being was the first thing that came to Matthijs's mind. His love for me is something that clearly goes to the core of his being, and knowing that someone loves me that much feels pretty great.

22 April 2011

Hearing the Passion Story anew

Last Sunday in church, we read the whole Passion story from the gospel of Matthew: from Jesus'entry into Jerusalem until his death and burial. Then this past week, Matthijs and I listened to Bach's Matthew Passion. It was good simply to listen again to the story.

What struck me most this time was Judas. I've always found it strange that Jesus, in front of the other disciples, says that Judas will betray him (perhaps it is more strange that the gospels record no apparent reaction from the rest of the disciples). Yet, this time I found it less strange - a lot had been going on that week, and I expect that the disciples were all a bit overwhelmed at that time - a suspicion that seems confirmed by their inability to stay awake with Jesus to pray. And then when everything happens with Gethsamene and Jesus being captured, it is no surprise that they followed their gut reaction to disappear.

Judas's realization that what he did was wrong - that he had participated in sending an innocent man to his death - also stayed with me. Judas often becomes an easy 'bad guy.' Yet, his recognition that he was wrong, his desire to change things, and his utter despair over what happened (despair that caused him to kill himself) challenge my perceptions of him as evil. Wrong: yes; evil: no. And the saddest part of the story is that Judas killed himself on Good Friday before ever knowing what makes the day good: that his sin was part of God's plan to redeem the sin of the whole world.

13 April 2011

A bad news week in the Netherlands

It's been a bad week in the news in the Netherlands. On Saturday, 6 people were killed in a store in Alphen aan de Rijn. It's a city not so large and not so far away from here - just a short hop on a train from Leiden or Gouda.

Last week Wednesday, someone from Iraq who was denied asylum in the Netherlands set himself on fire in Dam Square, just around the corner from where I used to live.

It's a lot of tragedy - and it all has felt so close by.

I wasn't expecting it to get any closer by than that, though. Fortunately, it looks like (as of 6:30 this evening) that there will be one less tragedy in the news, even if I did get a bit of a scare.

When I tried to turn on the oven around 5, I had noticed that the gas was turned off. I figured I'd let Matthijs figure out the problem when he got home. And although I'd heard some noise on the street, I figured it was just someone fixing up the gas problem - and after living in the Red Light District, it hadn't really dawned on me that it was anything unusual. But eventually I looked out the window. And there were two policemen across the street with guns pointed at my house; a whole group of them just down the street, and the street had been closed off. When I googled, I discovered that somebody had threatened to set himself on fire. The police are now debriefing beside the store next door and I saw that they walked off with the suspect. And Matthijs has been allowed into the street again. I'm thankful that nothing happened. But I think the cat and I will need some time to adjust to the anxiety caused by being so close to another possible tragedy.

08 April 2011

25 kilometres on the bike plus a soccer game

Yesterday, I got to play soccer. The challenge is that I do that in Amsterdam, and it's in the evening. In order to catch the first possible train home (so I can be home at a semi-reasonable hour), I head out towards the closest train station shortly after the game. Generally, it works out great: Most of the stadiums are a reasonable distance from a train station, I get to play soccer, and I'm not home too late (or I come home late with Matthijs on Thursday nights since he has choir rehearsal).

There's just one problem. No matter how great the fold-up bike is, 25 kms is a significant distance on it in one day. And I don't think it particularly helped with my energy for the soccer game :( But at least we won, and today I'm not sore. Yet, I will admit that after 25 km and a soccer game, I'm happy with staying home all day and doing nothing more physically demanding than typing, doing dishes and vaccuuming :)

03 April 2011

Thirsting for one's baptism

This morning in church, the pastor passed on a beautiful image.

He gave salt to a woman preparing for baptism: so that she might become thirsty for her baptism. It was a wonderful tangible reminder of the longing to baptism, a longing that I don't know if many of us, in preparing for baptism (or profession of faith), know/knew exactly how to give expression to.

02 April 2011

not feeling entirely myself

In the last few months, I have been struggling emotionally. And it's been hard at times, especially as there are so many great things in my life:
- being a newlywed. Matthijs is great - caring and concerned. We laugh together lots, talk about lots of things together, and I know he loves me just for who I am. And I love him a lot.
- time to work on exegesis stuff and do fun projects, like translating and writing and stuff like that. And I can work on my dissertation stuff and not worry about making enough money to make ends meet.
- good friends and family who I know love me.

So how can I be unhappy?!?!?

The obvious answer is that my world has been turned upside down. On the life events stress test, I can tick quite a number off - and I moved in with someone whose also had some major stress life events (i.e., marrying me :)). Added to this was all the stress involved in planning a wedding and hosting family, plus the distance between me and the community in Amsterdam - one of the more foundational parts of my life - it is not surprising that I've been struggling with questions about who I am, what I want, whether I'm good enough for what I want to do, and so on.

As much as I know that my friends and family will support me as I go through this, I don't really know how to talk about it. Sorting through what's going on in my own life - and allowing God to bring order to chaos - while also trying to do work are challenge enough without also taking on the challenge of having to talk about what's been going on - and trying to explain how it's possible that I can be joyful and excited at times and other times apathetic or in need of a good cry. And I feel more fragile with all of the questions and changes in my life - I feel overly sensitive to the possibility that I'd be judged or rejected. And I'm afraid of having to listen to simplistic answers that don't take into account all the complicated things going on in my head and heart.

I'm still not all that interested in talking about things - it still feels like a wound that hasn't entirely healed. Yet, my writing about it here is a sign that I believe that God is bringing more order to the chaos going on in my head and heart - and that there is hope that by sharing this, good might be done. First, by giving words to things that people who care about me might have suspected but weren't sure how to ask - or what to say (you don't have to say anything). And second with the hope that others might be helped: I know I am not the only who has struggled in this way. And there is something healing and hopeful in sharing the struggle.