After 10 years… it’s done!

Yesterday I wrote my final, final undergraduate exam. It was the completion of a long term project that started 10 years ago when I began my post secondary education in 2002.  After seven years of homeschooling my children through their early years of elementary school, I enlisted them in public school and I enrolled at the local university college. It was a long journey from then to now and the realities of family responsibilities and limited funds occasionally inhibited my scholastic goals.

I enjoyed the years that were filled with family-orientated activity, yet I was able to take enough college courses to satiate my love for learning. Then, two years ago, I started taking a full course load and commuting 96 km to a university where I worked to complete my degree. Yesterday was my last day and as I took the familiar drive to the university I was listening to my Bible on CD and in Ephesians I contemplated the point that God has a specific call on everyone’s life.

Ephesians 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Now, I know it doesn’t say “some to be students”, but the truth is that God calls and sets out directions for each person, and they are different for different people.This has been very obvious in my case; not many women my age are back at university!  

I know that I am an anomaly. If I had a dollar for every person who has said to me “I’m glad it is you, I have no desire to go back to university” I would have a substantially smaller student loan. For others, the idea of me pursuing post-secondary education was met with responses that ranged on a continuum with ‘unpractical’ at one end, to ‘down-right-selfish’ at the other end. But I also had encouragement throughout the past decade.

Particularly I am grateful for the instruction from a dear friend who gave me guidance in truth at a pivotal time. At about the 3 year mark I almost quit. In fact I had quit. My schooling was causing too many problems and costing too much money, so I didn’t take any classes for two terms. I felt a part of me disappear and although I continually brought this before the Lord I couldn’t get the desire for more schooling out of my heart and head. Erroneously I believed that God was asking me to give up my schooling. You know… the old kill-joy, traditional subservient view that if you like something too much it must be wrong; especially if it costs money and time that could be devoted to others (especially your kids and husband).  Then, in a conversation with this friend I heard the truth. After a tearful conversation in which I had just confessed that I was struggling with giving up my dream of further education, she said bluntly: “Doris, go back to school.” I did. And my kids and husband were in total agreement and support!

Now I know that this has all been part of the process of being faithful to who God has called me to be.  As I graduate, I will be surrounded with some fellow graduates who were in elementary school when I started! But, I won’t think about that. I know I am an anomaly. But I also know that I am doing what God has called me to do. He gave some to be this and some to be that. I am so grateful with the opportunity to be what he gave me these past ten years!

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living in color

So how is the New Year going?   Did you make any New Year’s resolutions or set some new personal goals for 2011?

How do you feel about resolutions?  Over the years I’ve heard many different opinions about how to and how not to start off a new year and many came from u-tube videos, sermons or just from conversations over a cup of coffee.  I’ve heard New Year’s resolutions described as a new page, fresh beginning, and a chance to start again. And I’ve heard New Year resolutions also portrayed as guilt inducing, set-up to fail scenarios and I’ve even heard them condemned as being a sin.

In my own experience I have embraced, celebrated, regretted and cried over New Year resolutions… but mostly I’m amazed at how time flies.

Ever since the new millennium, every year just looks weird!  2011 looks like the date you’d see in a sci-fi movie.  Especially when I look back to the memorable 1980’s – the decade when I was a teenager, graduated, got married and had my first baby – it does seem like time has flown by.

But another year has started and this time of year does its ‘magic’ on people like me. I’m a ‘game plan’ type of person.  I’ve always had some form of a daytimer (if you’ve had one, you know what I’m talkin’ about).  Sometimes I bought them, other years I made my own. Printing off pages and schedules and organizing them in mini files in my carry-around notebook.  I can come up with the best game plan; organized, concise, filled with large goals, small goals and then daily time slots to enhance efficiency. I’ve even done the color coded thing… with red scheduling for exercise and blue for school, green for work… you get the picture (in full color). And when I was really on my game I’d even have a Bible verse inserted in my scheduling to ponder throughout the week.

Now I’m more into computerized scheduling, and I’m trying to resist the color coding because I find it much easier to create an impressive schedule than actually keep it! I can spend lots of time color coding and organizing a great looking schedule BUT it’s another story to keep that schedule.  All the fancy colors, creative fonts and lofty aspirations looked impressive enough – and it is fun to create – but it was much easier to make a plan than to keep it. It seems easier to come up with new ideas than to implement what needs to be done.

This morning I was reading through Philippians and there was a verse that literally jumped out in Technicolor.  Philippians 3: 16 “…let us live up to what we have already attained.” Paul is admonishing the Philippians to live up to what they know to be true.  In a portion of his letter when he is addressing how each should live, he basically says – ‘just live the way you know you should; live up to what you know is true’.

How about this for a New Year resolution: live up to what I already know.

Be the person I know I am.  Live life as I know the best way how.  Make the right decision because it is the right decision. Treat people the way I know they need to be treated.  Schedule my day the way I know it needs to be lived.

This reminds me of a saying I previously had in one of my daytimers (yes… in fancy script and bright colors).  To paraphrase it: “I don’t seek to teach you anything new; I strive to remind you of what you already know”.

So as I start 2011, I am once again ignoring the enticement of creating a ‘new life’ or a ‘new me’.  Instead I am seeking to live 2011 according to what scripture says.  I want to live up to what I already know.  This simple black and white message should provide a kaleidoscope of contexts for each day.

Copywrite © Doris Born 2011 – Permission granted to use and reproduce with proper citation

light

We were heading home from a family reunion in Calgary Alberta.  It wasn’t a planned gathering; it just sorta happened.  One family decided to visit another family and soon a snowball effect transpired as grandparents, cousins and siblings decided to converge at the one sister’s home. Families came and went as their schedules allowed and visits overlapped as some arrived while others departed throughout the week. Our first night there we had over 25 people sleeping in various places all around the house. During the day we played games (Dutch Blitz and TBGE – “the best game ever”) watched movies, cheered on Team Canada’s junior boys’ hockey team, sipped café lattes and just sat amidst love and commotion of all these people everywhere. It was loud, fun and a bit random; just like my ‘life’ tends to be.

A couple days later we headed back to BC.  We quickly discovered the highway was covered with a sheet of ice.  We drove, or should I say ‘slid’ along the trans-Canada for less than twenty minutes when we decided to turn around and head back.   It just wasn’t safe.

About six hours later we headed out again, and although we could still feel the occasional swerve, we slowly made our way back home.

We traveled in darkness and the reflection of the highway signs detailed our route notifying us of the places we were passing through. But we could see nothing beyond the shine of our headlights.  We had been traveling for about four hours when a sobering realization hit me.  Because of our departure delay we had just traveled through one of the most beautiful parts of world without seeing any of its beauty.

There are few sceneries that rival the beauty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.  Of course I’m biased, but if you have ever taken the Trans Canada Highway through the Rocky Mountain National Park, I think you might agree with me.  The mountains line each side of the highway and are majestic in structure and magnitude.  Especially during the winter, the sun reflecting off the snow-capped ridges contrasting against the bright blue sky is particularly breath taking.

The original plan had been to drive through the mountains during the day which was forecasted as clear and crisp.  But the roads played the tune “Slip-sliding away” and we had to change our travel plans and drive through majestic beauty in the dark… with my heart singing the blues.

The next day, after we arrived home safely, I opened my bible to look up some passages that were highlighted during the family impromptu-reunion.  Specifically, my sister’s sister-in-law (yes, it was an ‘extended’ family gathering) had referenced 1 John.

I read the following:

“God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. 6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1: 5-7 NLT)

I immediately thought of the uselessness of traveling through the Rocky Mountains in the darkness.  Sure, we got to our destination, but the joy of the trip was robbed.  Because of the darkness we couldn’t see the beauty that we were driving right through.  Those majestic mountains, reaching up into the sky displaying the contrast of pristine forests and rock face, were invisible in the night sky.  The mountain passes, frozen waterfalls and winding ravines were there, but we couldn’t enjoy their beauty because we traveled in darkness.

In this upcoming year I want to walk in light.  I want to see the beauty around me.  I want to enjoy each day in relationship with God, because in him there is no darkness.  Living in the light is allowing God to show us when we mess up.  It means allowing his forgiveness to not only free us from our guilt but also giving us a venue to extend forgiveness to those who hurt us. Walking in the ‘light’ enables us to journey each day at peace with God and in healthy relationships around us.

As we travel through 2011 my wish for all of us is that we live in the light. I pray that our journey will be in fellowship with God so that we can see and enjoy the splendor of each day.

Life-altering paradigm shift

It has been almost two months since I blogged.  It has been a very full fall. I have returned to school full time. 

Call me crazy, but I have wanted to do this ever since I left high school.  I attended Bible College with the idea of taking some bible classes before I returned to university to pursue a degree.  While there, I found God’s “Will” for my life, and within a year after meeting my husband, Will, we got married.  That was, ohh… about 23 years ago!

Our new life together was fun and filled with exciting work/ministry opportunities and we had no money for further education.  Some things haven’t changed – that last sentence still describes our life today!

I had always planned on going back to school but decided that I didn’t want to spend four years in school only to have to put it all on the shelf as I was pretty determined to do children “full time” during their early years.  So… we had kids.  Four children in five years to be exact.  I’ve always tried to be efficient with my time. HA! It was more the philosophy that if you are going to be crazy… you might as well be good and crazy.  Go big or go home, baby!

When we enrolled our youngest child into the local public school (each had a few years of homeschooling before then) I registered at our local University College.  I had found a friend who was going through the same life-altering paradigm shift and we decided to do this new adventure together.  We car-pooled and sat beside each other in class. We studied together, competed for grades, and consoled each other when our marks were not what we thought they should have been.  Mostly… we debriefed.  Each professor had his/her own agenda and some of the class material was a bit of a culture shock.

Then, my school buddy left me in her dust as she fast-tracked her studying career and a couple years later she graduated.  I cried when she completed her degree because I felt so proud of her… I think I even took some of the credit for her success.  I also cried, because I was still plunking along taking one or two courses a year. But mostly I cried because she beat me. I am terribly competitive you know.

Then, this past year ‘things’ happened.  It became clear that this was the time for me to have another life-altering paradigm shift.  It was my time to go to school full time. I am attending a university 100 km away.  I spend three days in the city, and four days at home and I still work with FL.

Why? I already have my dream-job. I am doing what I want to do but I want to do it better. I could learn on my own, through self directed study and most of my life I have done this. But there is more to this story.  I also need to be faithful to be the person that God has created me to be. I know that when God creates each individual he sets plans before us and in our hearts.  I know that this has been part of my design.  I love to study, I want to learn more about my world, culture and what research has revealed and I also want the degree to substantiate my learning. 

At least that was the game plan. And then mid-terms hit.  Did you know that November is called suicide month at most universities? The pressure is high. After finishing a 150 multiple-choice midterm exam, I walked out of the class room thinking: “I don’t need to do this…I have a life, I already have a job… and I’m really feeling too old for this.”

One sleepless night in the midst of term papers, presentations and exams I felt waves of panic sweep over me.  Now, if you know me, you know that I am not a ‘worrier’. I’ve never been the ‘stay-up-at-night–and-worry’ type of person (or parent for that matter). I usually have a deep trust in God’s faithfulness and sovereignty. But this was a bit much.  Pressure from school was unrelenting, the grades were disappointing and I could never seem to catch up the two weeks I missed when we were in India.

I tumbled out of bed, found my bible and turned to Isaiah 43.  I’m 43 years of age, so I am meditating on this chapter for the year. This is what I read:

“I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
   I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
   they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
   you will not be burned;
   the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the LORD your God,
   the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;”

Life is hard, but it will not be enough to pull me under.  I am stressed and feeling overwhelmed, but I will make it. Why? Because God is the LORD and he is with me. 

The waves of panic and doubts bowled me over me.  I felt a drowning sensation and had seriously contemplated giving up.  But, I won’t quit.  Not this term.  I don’t know about the future, but I know that today I can do what I am meant to do. 

Call me crazy? This is my life-altering paradigm. I’m trusting God each step of the way, for today and each day.

heading back to school

Late last night I stressed out. It was past my bedtime and I knew that I was losing it.

I had spent the day trying to finish work-related stuff and I was cleaning up the house so that I could feel a sense of control before the upcoming chaos.  I can‘t explain it, but the organization of my mind is directly influenced by the state of my kitchen.  A kitchen sink filled with dirty dishes severely interferes with transmitting messages through the synapses in my brain. I can’t think if the kitchen is in a ‘tip‘.

So with rubber gloves and a dish rag I tried to take control of my life.  After the kitchen there was the laundry, the telephone messages and the plaque splatter on my bathroom mirror that needed attention. It was getting close to ‘turning into a pumpkin’ time when I realized I hadn’t even packed my school stuff. The clock struck twelve and I started falling apart.

I have been dreaming for years about going back to university full-time.  I started my post secondary education in 2002.  I put my youngest child into the local public school (after home schooling all four of our children through grades 1 to 4) and I enrolled at the local university college. It took me until the spring of 2010 to complete the two year associated degree. My friends tease  that I am a ‘slow’ learner but life with four children and limited funds often inhibited my scholastic goals. I enjoyed the years of car pooling children to various sporting and music events and I was able to take enough college courses to satiate my love for learning. But this fall, things are changing.  I am fast-tracking my post secondary education.

So there I was.  On the eve of starting my full-time studying career, I was having fits of anxiety.  And do you know what the ultimate stressor was?  I didn’t know what to wear.

I know.  Call it shallow.  Call it very Cinderella-with-no-gown-for-the-ball.  It was the irrational, insecure part of me that totally took over.  I’ve never been overly concerned about my wardrobe, but this time it’s different.  I am attending the same university that my daughters are.

I’m not worried what people will think of me but in my late night ‘melt-down’ I realized that I am terrified that I will embarrass my kids.  I want them to be proud of me.  They have been very affirming about me attending university, but in my late night stress-out all I could think of was: “what do I wear so I will fit in… I don’t want to look old, but not ‘trying’ to look young… cool and confident but not stand out-ish… why are all my clothes so old?”

Can you hear the ludicrous rant in my head? It gets worse.

From the closet I went to my desk.  How do I carry my books, my lunch, a change of clothes and my laptop? I had three back packs to choose from: my son’s old backpack with the Canuck’s logo, the backpack my daughter used when we traveled Africa in 2001, and a ripped one that I’ve been using while attending our local college for the past… how many years? All of sudden the backpacks looked old and worn. It’s never bothered me before, but I almost went mad wishing I had bought a new one for my ‘first day’.

I’m a psychology major and studying people has always been an interest of mine. The very first psych book I read, when I was 15, was called “Why am I afraid to tell you who I am?” After reading that book – I was hooked. But it doesn’t take profundity in psychology to  figure out what happened last night; stress and anxiety was misplaced and directed towards my attire.

My wardrobe is NOT where I have built my security.  I know that my kids are proud of me because of the relationship I have built with them.  My attire doesn’t change how they feel about me. And I am comfortable with who I am and were I am in life.  The anxiety was just a normal reaction to change.  And this fall is going to be filled with change.

This morning I wore a different outfit… not the one that my frazzled brain had picked out the night before. The last-night angst was replaced with an overwhelming sense of excitement and thankfulness for this next stage of the journey. I grabbed my travel mug of hot coffee and jumped into the front seat of my friend’s car. I carpool with her for an hour then I take transit for 45 minutes to the university. I’ll stay a couple of nights in the city and then transit and car pool back. Who ever said the journey would be quick and easy?  But I’m excited.  My family is behind me and I’ve already started reading some of my text books.  Yes, I’m a “keener”.

And as for the wardrobe dilemma? We hadn’t even gotten to the end of the block before I split coffee across my lap.  I was trying to stuff that blasted bulky backpack at my feet. I think I just might buy a new one…

pray love party

The movie ‘Eat  Pray  Love’  is showing in our town theater.  I read the book a couple of years ago and the main thing I got out of it was the incredulous fact that someone could actually be paid to travel for a year and then write a book about it.  How do I get one of those jobs??

This past summer I’ve been reading and slowly working through a book  in the scriptures – the first letter written by Peter who was one of Jesus’ disciples.  Just before I headed out on a road trip, a friend gave me a tape series on this book.  I listened to a verse by verse teaching of 1 Peter while I meandered through the winding mountains passes and as I sped along the straight ribbon of highways slicing through miles of vast grain fields.

Did you read that last sentence? Now.  Where can I get that job that pays me to travel and write?

Back to 1 Peter.  In the fourth chapter Peter gives us his own version to the secret to living life.  Pray, Love, Party.

Pray – keep clear minded so that you can pray.  The original text literally tells us to be sober-minded.  That is the opposite of being drunk. The state of drunkenness is a place of being disconnected from reality, being anaesthetized so that the pain of life can’t be felt. Peter admonished us to live in reality; to be completely present so we can pray.  By praying we allow God to be part of the hurts in our lives and we look to him for complete sustenance in each day.

Love – love each other deeply.  This is the “agape” type of love.  The deepest type of love that is used to describe how God loves.  It encompasses a moral and social sense of love.  The only way that we can love others like this is to be filled up with God’s love first; we must be connected to the source of love.  This type of love allows us to offer forgiveness and overlook other peoples’ faults.

Party – have people over.  The original word for ‘hospitality’ is founded in the Greek word “philos” which is the word for friendship.  We were never meant to walk through the journey of life alone.

After these three commands, Peter acknowledges that we all live life differently because we are individuals that are created uniquely.  Where we spend our focus and time will be different simply because of the way we were created and what God has enabled us to do. But we all need to pray, love and party.

The main difference between Elizabeth Gilbert’s book and the letter written by Peter is the focus of life.  The impetus for Elizabeth’s eating, praying and loving was to answer the question; “am I happy? how can I be happier?”  Peter’s admonition to pray, love, party is for a completely different focus; to connect us to God and experience him in each part of our lives.  He wraps it up by saying: “so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:11)

I probably won’t ever get a book contract to travel and write but I am delighted that you have chosen to read my blog.  I hope that as you start organizing your fall schedule you’ll put on the top of your priority list to pray, love and party. Even more importantly – I hope that you will connect with the God who hears our prays, enables us to love and provides us with friendships along the way.

trail maintenance

The sky was the bluest of blues and the dazzling white mountaintop glacier spilled into a lake of turquoise glass.  The scenery was breath taking and I’m sure I would have been enraptured by the beauty around me… if I could have seen it!

Instead, my hubby and I spent the entire three hour hike looking at our feet as we picked our way along the badly maintained trail.  What should have been a glorious hike turned into an endurance trek as we literally had to watch each step we took.

The trail had eroded into a web of roots that were just waiting to catch our boots and send us sprawling.  If we weren’t tripping over massive entwining root systems then we were jumping from rock to rock.  We literally couldn’t take a step without careful care.  It was exhausting.

“Just a little bit of trail maintenance would be nice…” my husband muttered behind me in his signature understating humour.  A little?  Are you kidding me?  It needed tonnes of trail maintenance!

Two weeks earlier I had been hiking in the Revelstoke Mountains with a friend and we came across a crew with picks and shovels.  They were maintaining the trail.  It was hard work and I saw the sweat dripping down their faces and saturating their t-shirts. That trail was absolutely beautiful and we thoroughly enjoyed the surrounding view.

As my husband and I tripped along the eroded trail I couldn’t help but compare the two trails. Maintenance is important!

Same with life.

We only have a couple more weeks before summer is over and the new fall schedule starts.  Do you need time for maintenance? Some self care? A few more days of vacation? |Perhaps you need to plan some intentional respite time before the fall schedule starts up again.

Or perhaps, you need the maintenance of the other variety.  The hard work and sweat inducing type.  .

I know that my path in life can often looks like the eroded trail. Sometimes I’m not willing to do the ‘hard’ work to make sure that I’m maintaining my life.  It’s easier to switch off life’s pressures by turning on the tv rather than doing what I know needs to be done.

As I stumbled over the roots and rocks along this crazy hiking trail, I knew that my heavenly Father was talking to me.  I love my bible and I enjoy time with God in mediation and prayer.  But then other times taking time to read my bible or spend time with my God is more like discipline.  I know that it needs to be done but it can seem like hard work.  Especially when I know that there are some things that God is pushing me towards: forgiving someone who has hurt me, or asking for forgiveness when I’ve blown it.  Taking criticism, being gracious to someone when I’d rather punch them in the nose.  Is it just me, or do you also battle selfishness?

This is the trail maintenance that I thought of as we plodded through the eroded trail.  If I don’t take time to deal with some of the issues in my life, I’ll miss the beauty and adventure that is all around me.  I’ll be so busy wadding through mistakes I’ve made and hurts that I’m carrying that I’ll never be able to  look around and enjoy the view… an abundant life.

Trail maintenance is taking time to connect with God.  Letting him fill me with his divine love and then following his lead in some ‘hard’ work. Allowing him to maintain the trail for me.

How you connect with God will be your (and His) preference.  But can I suggest that you don’t delay? We’ve only a couple more weeks before the fall schedule starts again.  It‘s time to do some trail maintenance.

If you walk a maintained trail, you won’t be trippin’ nearly so much.  And you’ll also enjoy the view.