19 May 2011

6 months

In honour of being married 6 months, the following are some wedding pictures:

Being married has been good. Life hasn't always been easy for us both in the last few months (nor was planning a wedding exactly stress-free :)) and sometimes things have been hard. It is a challenge to be ourselves while also making room for the other person to be him/herself. But it is a challenge and adventure that is worth every struggle: not only have we learned to be more comfortable being ourselves around the other, we've been delighted to discover more who God has made us to be.

16 May 2011

Becoming partly vegetarian

I'm not a vegetarian, although for simplicity's sake I often say I am. Matthijs and I simply don't eat a lot of meat - partly because of how we feel about the treatment of animals in the over-industrialized meat industry and partly because I wonder if eating meat is really a good use of the world's resources. A lot of food energy goes into feeding animals, and I can't really justify participating excessively in that.

In the Netherlands, being vegetarian (or eating only organic meat) has become fairly normal. Even in Canada and America, many people have begun eating less meat and wondering about the implications of the 'food industry' in relation to the family businesses where the cows are known by name. Becoming more aware of why people might want to choose not to eat meat is something worth becoming aware of (even if your father was a butcher :)). A friend of mine, a pastor in middle of nowhere Minnesota and a big meat-eater, has written a good blog entry (Compassionate Eating as Care of Creation) about becomeing more aware: in it, he links to a booklet on the topic by Matt Halteman from Calvin College.

Although I hope that more people will become more aware of the issues involved with eating (or not eating) meat, I hardly hope that everyone immediately stops eating meat. It's not something I know I want to entirely give up! Matthijs and I do eat meat, but we try to limit ourselves to fish (where the issues are somewhat different) or organic/biological/free range meat. Other than tofu, we don't eat 'official' meat replacement products - I mean, if the point of my not eating meat is a better use of the world's resources, it seems strange to be okay with all the resources extended to making processed fake meat. Instead, we take in extra cheese and nuts and vegetables and lentils and enjoy even more the special occasions when we do eat meat (like Easter season and Sundays :)).

15 May 2011

Exploring Den Haag

When Matthijs and I have had a free day during the weekend, we've often used it go exploring. And what better place to explore than the treasures right around the corner?

A couple of weeks ago, we'd gone biking to Kijkduin (just south of Scheveningen). I'd had in my head that there was an attraction worth seeing there - a large bowl-shape in the ground - but as I had no idea what it was named (nor exactly how to describe it), I'd hoped that we'd somehow just bump into it. And biking along a bit outside of Kijkduin, we noticed a set of stairs to nowhere and a concrete passageway, so we decided to check it out. And we found the strange ellipse I was looking for: the "Celestial Vault." We also managed to discover a monstrous ball of concrete around the corner. And the adventure was complete :)

Today's adventure was the Panorama Mesdag, a museum dedicated primarily to the display of Mesdag's panoramic painting of Scheveningen. You walk up stairs and then you come into a huge room under a canopy with several metres of sand extending from the display area to somewhere before the painting that covers the entire room in a circle. The painting is displayed 14 metres away from you (it is 114 metres long!) and the sheer size and distance of it (and the hiding of the top and bottom of the painting) give it a feeling of being almost real. It was a place I'd been meaning to visit for some time, and it was definitely worth finally seeing!

And upon leaving the Museum, we saw that the Mesdag Collection just happened to be open and free today. And since it was around the corner, how could we turn down the opportunity to keep exploring?

Both adventures reminded me how much I love (and would recommend) exploring 'just around the corner' - and being open for what new adventures might pop up in a day. Matthijs's willingness and enthusiasm to share these adventures with me only makes them more delightful :)

14 May 2011

Community as a place to love

Being immersed in the community events of Easter weekend, one of the things that struck me the most was how community provides us a way to love others.

In 'regular' life, it's quite possible to interact with very few people. The interactions we do have with people often remain limited to customary greetings, discussion of the weather or sharing plans for the weekend: unless we've known people longer, more than this makes most people feel uncomfortable. Even though families usually form an exception to this, as do church communities (especially ones with small groups), there's still not a lot of opportunity or push in our society to show concern for others different than us in any kind of non-abstract way.

In community, however, there's the challenge and desire to reach out to those who are very different (and not always so lovable). And sharing meals together and doing dishes together creates a level of intimacy that sometimes makes it either to get past the socially polite conversational norms. That doesn't mean that conversations in community are necessarily deeper: what with all the organisation necessary, it can be hard sometimes to get past all 'to-do' lists simply to ask how others are doing.

Yet, simply being together and trying to pay attention to others opens my eyes to others - and warms my heart to them. And so the stubborn child who refuses to eat becomes less annoying and more of a delightful puzzle - and I can become aware of the mom's patience (and not just wonder about how competent she is). And I learn about people's parents or holidays - and I delight in how faces light up when you ask about their (grand)kids or coming adventures. And we can laugh together about crazy cat stories or about the dangers of biking in Amsterdam - and somehow the other persons stop being 'other' and simply become family.

Sometimes we love others because we want to be needed. I know that I struggle with wanting too much to be appreciated (and chosen as best) by others. Perhaps community helps also with that - because even the neediest person who joins the community doesn't need my love: it's the love of so many in the community that makes the difference. My love simply gets to be part of that whole work that God is doing. And seeing as God is involved in it, it's hardly surprising that I also receive love from those in the community - sometimes in unexpected ways.

06 May 2011

'tis the season

Spring has come - and the weather here has been perfect, almost to a fault. It has been sunny for weeks on end, with only a couple of hours of rain here and then.

And what has spring brought with it?
- tulips: one of the train routes from Den Haag to Amsterdam goes right through the tulip fields, and for a couple of weeks I enjoyed the glorious red and yellows coming from the fields.
- visitors: if you're going to come to Holland, now is the time to come - Wednesday I toured Amsterdam with an aunt and uncle and next week a former housemate and an old prof of mine are in town.
- cat hair: Even if I brush the cat, it still feels like petting him leaves us both covered in fur. It looks like it's finally starting to get better, which is good, because seeing clumps of fur on the ground only a day after we've vaccuumed is definitely starting to annoy me.
- moving: today and tomorrow I get to help with moving - first friends and then family. And we're starting to make more definite plans for our own move to Amsterdam.
- new energy and new projects: the coming of spring has increased the appeal of biking and walking. And spring brings new energy, energy that I'm devoting to getting back to the fascinating sentence/paragraph structure in Ezekiel, including the putting together of a paper/presentation for a conference in July.

To help you enjoy the season, here's some picture of the tulip fields from previous years: