Saturday, February 26, 2011

grad reunions, weddings . . . reminders of singleness or something more?

Do you ever find yourself at the point where you wonder where the time has gone? And how it could have gone so fast? Then you begin to take stock of your life and compare where you are actually at to where you imagined you would be at this point. Some things have gone completely differently than you imagined - some things have gone exactly as you thought - and there are still some things you are hoping will happen.

That is the place I found myself about a month ago when I got the Facebook invite to my 10 year grad reunion. I had to recheck the year, because I was sure that it could not be that time already. But it is - 10 years after a graduation in 2001, is 2011 - this year. I started to think about all that the last 10 years had been filled with - and all that was still missing that I thought would happen in this time.

The more I thought about it, the more I found the list of things I felt were still missing in my life growing. And that list grew at a much faster rate than the list of all that had happened. It seemed as though there were a lot of things in the list of what I felt was missing that seemed to somehow be bigger or more important than the things I had done.

I really was not sure I wanted to go to my grad reunion when I got the invite. For the most part, school was not the greatest for me friends-wise and so by high school I really had given up on trying to really make friends. I had people I could sit with in class and have as lab partners, but not really friends. And so I was not sure that I wanted to go to my grad reunion ALONE. It seemed that it was little more than a reminder that I was still single - long past when I thought I would get married. I had always thought I would have a husband to take with me to this event.

And really, did I need my grad reunion to be another reminder that I was still single? Last May my youngest sister got married . . . before me. And this May, my other younger sister is getting married . . . before me. I do not begrudge them at all. They have both found amazing guys that I am glad are my brother-in-laws. But I always thought because I was the oldest I would get married first. I knew the world did not work that way, but I thought it anyways. For the last 16 or so months, my world has had a lot of wedding talk happening in it. Sometimes it is good - sometimes it gets to be too much and I wish I could hide from the world.

So I have been left to wonder how I will choose to view these events. Will I choose to see my grad reunion as little more than a reminder that my life is not what I had planned? (As if my plans have any bearing on what God plans anyways.) Or will I choose to go and enjoy catching up and use the reminder that it has been 10 years to focus on all that has happened in my life, rather than what has not? Will I choose to see my sisters' getting married before me as a reason to be depressed that I am still single? Or will I choose to celebrate their love and welcome my brothers (even when they try to shove cupcakes in my face)?

I sometimes think that in a world that sets us up to always want more - always want the best - to never be satisfied with what we have, it would be easy to look at these events and see only the downside of them, to see them as only reminders of singleness for longer than I wanted. But, I wonder if instead, they need to be turned into opportunities to praise God for what He has done in our lives.

I may not have been married, or bought a house, or any of those plans I was so sure would happen in the last 10 years. But I know that I have done many things - graduated from college, found a better job than I imagined I could, moved out with some great friends - and that God has done some incredible things in me as He shapes me more and more in His image. Those are things I need to focus on. Those are the things that matter. And as I choose to focus on the things that God has done in and through me, the other things fade into the background. The desire and hope for them does not go away - and I do not think it should. But what is most important takes over the larger part of my life and other things fall better into the places they should be.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

thoughts on valentine's day

*I had every intention of posting this yesterday, actually on Valentine's Day, but I ran out of time to do a proper edit before I had to leave for Bible study and so it had to wait until today to be posted.*

I have to say, as someone who has been single for all but one Valentine's day in my almost twenty eight years, Valentine's day has not always been my favourite day. Some years it has passed with a hardly a notice of what day it was, some years I've spent it with other friends who were also single, some years it has been a day I dreaded as it grew closer and then I hated the entire day.

The last few years, some of my friends have planned girl's nights for February 14, that they called "ro-tic" nights (romantic, without the man). The name may be a little bit odd, but the sentiment was that if we got together, it would be a better night for all of us than if spent it at home alone. And it was a much better way to spend the evening - in the company of good friends, food, chocolate, and laughter. We have celebrated the love of our friendships with one another through spending time together on what could otherwise be a lonely night.

At Bible college, it was renamed "single's awareness day" by those who would find themselves without a date for that night. A bit of a depressing name for such a day, but when you're still single in mid-February in a place that is commonly called "bridal college" it can be a bit of a depressing day. Especially because, if everyone was to be really honest, even if finding a husband/wife is not their primary reason for being at Bible college, it's something that crossed their mind when they were considering it, and I don't know if there were many, if any, who would have been opposed to meeting their future spouse while were there. And so it became "single's awareness day" - the day when everyone who was single felt like that fact was amplified.

Valentine's Day as a child always seemed to be an exciting day. Your envelope in the classroom at school (that you had decorated beforehand) would be filled with Valentines from your classmates. You never considered the rule: if you don't give a Valentine to everyone in the class, you don't give out any Valentines. You were just excited to get them. For me, there was always a Valentine and candy or chocolate from my parents and from my grandparents. It was, overall, a pretty fun day. I wonder if maybe, this is what Valentine's Day should continue to be like.

But, somewhere along the way, as we grew up, Valentine's Day changed . . . a lot. And it became a day filled with expectations for those who have a significant other. And a day that is hated or dreaded by many singles. Is this really how it should be? Or can we recapture some of the excitement we had about it as children?

As much as I have not really liked the name some people have for a night with friends on Valentine's Day, I wonder if the sentiment is not more of what we need on this day. A time to celebrate and appreciate our friends and family and the love we have for one another. Obviously, this includes love for a husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend - and I don't want to take a day to focus on that away from anyone. I just wonder if we need to expand what we think of Valentine's Day being about to include more than just that significant other, to include all those in our lives that we love, care about, and appreciate.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

i need to blog

In the last few weeks as I have considered discontinuing my blogging or at least slowing down on how often I post, I have discovered that I cannot give up my blog. I love to write. And while much of what I write will probably never be read by another, I need the space to sometimes share my thoughts. So, on that note, my blog will continue. And it will continue to be as sporadic and inconsistent as it always has been. I may go a couple of weeks without a post, or I may post multiple times in a day. All I know is that this blog will continue to exist for you faithful few who read it.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Psalm 15

Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
     Who may live on your holy hill?
He whose walk is blameless
     and who does what it righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart
     and had no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbour no wrong
     and casts no slur on his fellowman,
who despises a vile man
     but honours those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath
     even when it hurts,
who lends his money without usury
     and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
     will never be shaken.

Upon first read through, living up to all that is listed in the psalm as what it takes to enter God's presence seems impossible. We may do well at most of these things most of the time, but not all of them all of the time. We know we are far from perfect. Thankfully, as disciples of Christ, we do not to try to live up to these standards in our own strength. Jesus has already made a way for us to enter God's presence - our living up to certain standards is not required for that. We also have the Holy Spirit living in us to help us to live these things out in our day to say lives.

Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?
The writer of the psalm is clear that not just anyone can enter into God's presence. In the Old Testament, the sacrifices and laws were what made people able to enter God's presence. As new Testament disciples of Christ, Jesus has made a way. But, having access to God's sanctuary through Jesus' sacrifice for us, does not mean that there should be no change in the way we live our lives.

He whose walk is blameless
What does it mean for our walk to be blameless? How can we, as fallen creation, ever have a blameless walk?Elsewhere in Scripture, the words perfect, upright, without blemish are used for the same word in the original language as is used here. The literal definition of the word blameless as used in these verses speaks of being unimpaired, whole, innocent, having integrity. That is a rather high standard on our own. But, it is something that is achievable with the Holy Spirit in us. I do not know too many people who do not desire to live a life of integrity no matter how hard it may be. Part of that is choosing to avoid willful or planned sin. We choose to avoid that, rather than planning to sin and just ask for forgiveness after we have indulged.

And who does what is righteous
To be righteous is to act in a morally correct manner. The righteous person does what is right simply because it is right.

Who speaks the truth from his heart
Speaking the truth in all situations is important. But the most important part of speaking the truth is that it comes from the heart. Sometimes speaking the truth can be difficult or painful, but when it comes from the heart, it is coming from love and care for others. When contemplating speaking the truth in a tough situation, the question to ask is whether the desire to speak the truth is coming from a heart of love or from a desire to be right or better than the other person.

And who has no slander on his tongue
Slander is speaking poorly or destructively of another person. There is nothing good or positive about slander. That is why it should be avoided. Our speech about others should not slanderous.

Who does his neighbour no wrong
We should be seeking to do what is good and right to those around us, not what is wrong or harmful. On the surface, this seems rather obvious, but in practice, it can be much more difficult that we really care to acknowledge.

And casts no slur on his fellowman
No matter what makes a person different from us, there is no reason for us to speak poorly or derogatorily of them. All humankind has been made in the image of God and deserve our respect.

Who despises a vile man
A vile man is one who is one whose behaviour is morally wrong. To despise them means that we are disgusted with the behaviour of that person.

But honours those who fear the Lord
What does it mean to fear the Lord? To fear the Lord means to have a respect and awe for who God is. It is not a fear in that we are hiding from Him because we are afraid we will be punished for something. It is a fear that causes us to realize how great He is and how worthy of all our respect and honour and worship He is because of who He is.

Who keeps his oaths even when it hurts
Throughout Scripture we are told to keep our word - to keep our promises. When we say something, we are to follow through on it. Sometimes doing so may cause us pain - financially, emotionally, relationally, physically - but we are to follow through with that promise anyways.

Who lends money without usury
Usury was the word for interest in the Old Testament Law. Israelites were not to lend money to fellow Israelites who were poor and charge them interest to make money off their backs. God's command was to be generous in helping out those in need without expecting something in return.

And does not accept a bribe against the innocent
No matter what they payout might be - financially, relationally, materially - we should not accept it if it means harm will be done to an innocent person.

He who does these things will never be shaken
This psalm is describing the life of someone who is following God`s commands and ways. This person is building a firm foundation for their life and deepening a relationship with their heavenly Father. They will be able to stand even in the midst of life`s storms.