Farewell to the Fraser Valley

It’s strange to come and go from a place so quickly. Just eight months ago we packed up another U-Haul and arrived in Chilliwack. This weekend we leave. We moved to Chilliwack in a step of faith, trusting that it was the right choice for us at that moment. And now we are doing it again, moving on in faith to the next era of our lives. In truth, there have been times in the last eight months when I thought coming here was a mistake. I hold some great memories of the Fraser Valley but there were a lot of challenges too and some unhappy moments. It wasn’t an easy move and I don’t know if our next one will be easier or harder. What I do know is that we made the right decision when we came here and I think we’re making the right decision now. I know that God provides and I know that I can trust Him. More than maybe anything else over this past year I’ve learnt that God goes with me. Some days that’s harder to remember than others, but it is true every day. He’s been with us here in Chilliwack and He’ll continue to be with us on the Coast. God is good.

To the people we’ve met here in Chilliwack: Thank you. Thank you for opening your homes and your lives to us. Thank you for feeding us, for praying for us, for teaching us, for introducing us to the best donairs in town, for letting us hold your babies and give them back when they start to cry, for welcoming us when we showed up unannounced or stayed later than anybody else. Thank you for making our eight months here better, brighter, and more memorable. I hope my path crosses again with each and every one of you.

In conclusion, I thought I’d share some of my favourite photos of the last eight months, here in the Valley.

Heron on the snowy Hope River, November 2011

Free pie on my birthday at the airport! November 2011

Target shooting at Castle Fun Park on my birthday, November 2011

Fall leaves at Fairfield Park, early December 2011

Peter and I made a pie, December 2011

Hope River, January 2012

Island 22, January 2012

Exploring Mission, January 2012

Sunset on the highway, January 2012

Sunset in our neighbourhood, February 2012

Fraser River at Island 22, February 2012

Island 22, February 2012

Island 22, February 2012 (Photo Credit: Peter)

Stormy skies over the dyke by Camp River, March 2012

Bike ride along the dyke, March 2012

Trail on Teapot Hill, March 2012 (Photo Credit: Peter)

View from Teapot Hill, March 2012

Snowed-in canoe by Post Creek, March 2012

Frozen Lindeman Lake, March 2012

Us at Lindeman Lake, March 2012

Rainy day reflections at Hope River Park, March 2012

Sunset at the library, March 2012

View of Harrison Lake from Bear Mountain, May 2012

Jet overhead on Bear Mountain, May 2012 (Photo Credit: Peter)

Country mailboxes, May 2012

A visitor at our window, May 2012

Apple blossoms and farm land on Fairfield Island, May 2012

Horse grazing by the river, May 2012

A place to sit by the Fraser River, May 2012

Trail through the Blue Heron Nature Reserve, May 2012

Fraser River, 2012

Vedder River, May 2012

Chilliwack, May 2012

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The Bachelorette in Praha!

I’ve been excited all season for this episode! I love Prague – it’s one of my favourite cities. It’s full of beautiful architecture and scenery and fascinating culture and history.

That’s me in Prague!

I’m actually kind of disappointed that no one said Prague is the perfect place to fall in love. Anyway, I had fun watching Emily and her men wander around Prague and visit places I’ve been to so I thought I’d share some of my own pictures from way back in the olden days of 2008!

They showed a lot of trams going by old buildings. I’m sympathetic because in some of the downtown areas, it’s hard to not have a tram in your shot.

This is a statue by the palace where the guys met Chris Harrison.

I was surprised how empty that area was when they met good ol’ Chris. It must have been very early in the morning.

This is the astronomical clock in Old Town Square that Emily and Arie look at.

Tyn church.

As for the episode itself, there weren’t many surprises. Arie seems like the frontrunner. I loved her time with Jef. (I so wish I had visited the library they went to! How gorgeous was that place?) I thought Sean wandering through Prague calling Emily’s name was hilarious – as if no one told him where to go. And as if Emily really would be just walking home all by herself. She seemed really happy to see him, a lot happier than any moment on her date with Wolf.

I wasn’t surprised she sent Doug home but I felt for the guy when he made that last, desperate plunge and kissed her in the middle of her good-bye speech.

I was surprised by how suddenly and strongly I wanted Wolf to stay. Not because I saw any connection between him and Emily but because Chris (who I wasn’t much of a fan of to start) got so annoying so quickly. Chris, I’m not saying you’re immature because you’re 25, I’m saying you’re immature because you act really freaking immature!

In the end though Arie, Jef, Sean, and Chris will all be taking Emily home to meet their families. Pretty much my favourite episode of any season.

Red roofs of Prague.

Oh, and did you catch the cutest moment of the show? When Wolf and Jef hugged good-bye, one of them said, “I love you.” Well, Wolf, at least you’ll always have your buddies.

Welcome to Summer (Fraser Valley Flood Edition)

Today is the first day of summer and it’s warm and a little muggy outside. The forecast, however, is still full of rain. You know what rain and warm weather do to rivers?

They flood! This is the slough a few blocks from our house. It’s overflowed its banks in a major way. For reference, this is what it normally looks like:

My photo, taken in January.

This is just a slough – it’s the Fraser River that has people in the province a little more antsy. We do live in the floodplain of the Fraser, here in the valley, but we are in an area protected by the dykes. Still, it’s a bit of a relief that we’ll be out of here in little more than a week.

The water is barely moving and the cottonwood fluff (I’m sure that’s the scientific name) has built up in a dam of white. It was floating all through the air along the river and I was extra thankful for allergy medication. In the last month here I’ve had seasonal allergies, something I’ve never experienced before.

Fortunately, the bees are surviving.

Again, for reference take a look at this photo from March:

And a couple more taken from the bridge.

So much cottonwood fluff! So many sneezes!

Am I crazy to think that living near the ocean seems so much safer?

Packing Up and Moving On

This has been my morning so far…

Hi Emily!

Watching The Bachelorette and packing. Believe it or not, all of those boxes you see there are full of books. And there are more I have yet to pack. I have a lot of books. While Emily sent Ryan home, I took pictures off of the walls and wrapped them carefully. You can see here there taking another sip of wine as Ryan tries to convince her of how wonderful he is. On the one hand, I too once wrote out a list of the top attributes I hoped to find in my life partner. On the other hand, I never ever read that list out to somebody on a date. You marry a person, not a list. Peter doesn’t match every item I put on that list when I was sixteen but he has many other and greater qualities. I was happy to see Ryan go and not surprised that Travis didn’t last long. I’m surprised that “Wolf” is still around – I don’t see any connection between them at all.

Now I’ll have to find something else to amuse me while I continue to pack. It’s strange to see our walls looking so bare again. Packing this time around is different than before since I’m dividing our things – some for storage and some that we might need or want in the next few months.

Some of the books I want to have handy over the summer and beyond.

Fortunately (or unfortunately?), the weather is making it really easy to stay indoors these days. Aside from sunshine on Friday (during which two friends and I seized the opportunity to go to the park), it’s been rain, rain, rain. But summer is coming…

New growth on a coniferous tree.

Book Review – Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott

“A wise and searching novel about the fine line between being useful and being used.”

That’s the quote from Elizabeth Hay displayed on the cover of the copy of Good to a Fault (Freehand Books, 2008) that I got out of the library. It’s a good quote –a succinct and accurate description of the novel. Good to a Fault was a finalist for the Giller Prize, usually a sign that a book is well written and deserves to be read. So I read it. And, yes, it’s well written and it follows a fascinating story.

Clara Purdy is 40-something, divorced after a brief marriage years previous, and drifting in her life after the deaths of her parents. She owns a house, has worked at the same job for twenty years, and goes to church on Sunday. We are introduced to her with the following, precise, paragraph.

“Clara Purdy had been drifting for some time in a state of mild despaire, forty-three and nothing to show for it. Her racing heart woke her from dreams at three each morning to fling the covers away, angry with herself for this sadness, this terror. Six billion people were worse off. She had all the money she needed, no burdens – she was nothing, a comfortable speck in the universe. She felt smothered, or buried alive, or already dead.”

That’s a great description of the depression that can settle on the middle class. “First world problems”, we call it sometimes. It’s an aimlessness, a lack of purpose, and our society can seem full of it. Purpose comes barreling into Clara’s life one day when she makes a left at a traffic light and hits another car. From there her whole life changes when she decides to take in the family that was living and travelling in that car. Three kids, an undependable father, a thieving grandmother, and a mother who’s just been diagnosed with cancer.

You might be able to predict the problems that arise out of this situation. All sorts of question about guilt, fault, and decency are raised. How much should Clara do for this family? What is right? What is expected? Endicott doesn’t cram these moral questions, or their answers, down the reader’s throat but instead artfully raises them, offers some options, and lets us decide. There’s not much I like more than a writer who respects her readers.

Add to that, the book is very readable. Endicott is skilled at creating a sense of urgency out of a seemingly mundane existence. From early on in the novel, questions and secrets are raised, compelling enough to draw the reader in and make you want to keep reading.

My faults with the novel are small but enough for me to be unable to say I fully enjoyed Good to a Fault. While I can see the positives of Endicott’s book, I wasn’t left with that rush and satisfaction a great novel brings. The point of view jumps from character to character, often within a single paragraph. Although the transitions were usually clear I still found it jarring and it frequently took me out of the novel as I paused to trace whose head I was in.

My major fault with the novel though was largely a personal one. The character of the Anglican minister, Paul, who becomes involved with Clara was hugely unrealistic to me. Without giving away too much of the plot, I believe that any minister who engaged in the behaviour that Paul did would also be going through a massive personal crisis. Not doing so tells the reader that Paul doesn’t take his faith seriously and if that’s so, we really have no idea who Paul is. Not to mention that it’s an inaccurate portrayal of a Christian minister – something I don’t take lightly. Clara, on the other hand, is shown questioning her beliefs and this gives her a depth that makes her more sympathetic.

In the end, I would recommend Good to a Fault to any reader interested in emerging Canadian literature, or simply an enjoyable but thought-provoking read. However, if you really want to be challenged in moral thought, there are finer novels available.

God is Good. All the Time.

Yesterday I shared what I’d read in the Bible that morning (Matthew 6:25-34). How God seemed to be telling me to relax, to let go of anxiety and trust in Him. Last night our car broke down. After we’d pushed it home, I remembered what God had reminded me of just that morning. It’s a pretty cool moment when you realize that your heavenly Father gave you some prep for a hard time.

We don’t yet know how much damage there is on the car or what it will cost to fix it – could be a lot, could be less. But what I am thankful for is that it broke down just a block from our house so that we could get it home easily. It happened on a quiet street so when we suddenly stopped moving, we weren’t endangering others or in danger ourselves. Frankly, it could have been a much more dangerous situation and it wasn’t and I’m really grateful for that. It’s hard to be thankful for something that will cost us money that we’d rather spend in other ways. But I worship and believe in a Heavenly Father who loves me dearly and knows what I need. I worship a God who tells me not to worry about tomorrow, who promises me He will take care of me. Even if it doesn’t look the way I think it should.

So today I hold on to the lesson that God is teaching me.

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

It Didn’t Belong to Me in the First Place

“We have the idea that we can dedicate our gifts to God. However, you cannot dedicate what is not yours. There is actually only one thing you can dedicate to God, and that is your right to yourself.”

Oswald Chambers, taken from My Utmost for His Highest, which is an awesome daily devotional book. And that’s from a girl who isn’t really into daily devotional books.

Add that quote to this passage I read from Matthew this morning:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’. For the Gentiles seek after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

That’s from Matthew 6:25-34 (the boldedness is mine). Some days it’s easier to see what the message is. Today, I think it’s relax. Let go of your anxiety. It all belongs to God. Let Him take care of you.

Why I Went to University

“We’ve bought into the idea that education is about training and ‘success’, defined monetarily, rather than learning to think critically and to challenge. We should not forget that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers. A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death.”               Chris Hedges

I know of Chris Hedges as an author but I haven’t read his work so I can’t say whether or not I agree with him in total but a friend posted this quote to Facebook and it struck me as exactly what I’ve been thinking about education for a long time.

At the beginning of my university career I was dabbling with the idea of a double major and taking a lot of history courses. One of the best classes I took was Medieval European History. When we studied the formation of universities I was struck by how different our ideas of education and university are now from their origins. Universities weren’t formed to provide people with jobs, they were places where those with the leisure and finances could gather to learn and to exchange ideas. Knowledge alone was the goal. I don’t know exactly where the purpose of universities veered from this path but my thought is that it’s fairly recent. My generation are, by and large, the children of baby boomers. Our parents, if they went to university, could usually be confident of securing jobs when they came out. A university degree made them stand out from the crowd. Because of this, many of our parents encouraged us to go to university. Not to learn more necessarily, but to ensure that we would go on to have steady and successful  careers (ie: make money). And we believed that to be true. So we took on student debt or our parents took on debt or we worked long hours between classes and we got that coveted degree. (This study from StatsCanada looks at the increased numbers of university graduates as compared to their parents.)

You don’t need to look far in Canada to see disillusionment among university graduates. We’re in debt, we’re educated, and we’re unemployed. Some of us go back to school to earn more degrees, hoping that will make us stand out. Some of us settle into jobs unrelated to our degrees. Some of us move to Chilliwack. I know not everybody my age has a university degree but it is also my experience that having a bachelor’s degree in your twenties doesn’t make you stand out in a crowd. I would go as far to say that if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree many employers will wonder what’s wrong with you. Even if a degree isn’t necessary for the job.

Were we lied to? Perhaps. Perhaps our parents had unrealistic expectations. Perhaps universities are just businesses looking for our money.

Both of my parents have university degrees and so I always expected to follow suit and pursue post-secondary education. Going in to grade 12 I didn’t know what I wanted to study or where I wanted to go to school. I remember being frustrated with my high school counsellor who offered no more guidance than the basic Arts program at UBC. I considered delaying university and working for a while but also felt there was a lot of stigma around doing that. I happened to read an article in the newspaper about the Creative Writing program at UVic and I’m sure to this day that God led me to Victoria. I have never doubted that I went to the school I should have and studied what I should have studied. That said, I have a Fine Arts degree and so I never had much expectation of falling into a job after graduation. I also graduated from university in 2008 – not the finest financial year in our country’s history.

I loved university because I loved what I studied. I loved being surrounded by people who also loved literature and words and art and were passionate and talented. I loved being able to learn from professors who were talented in their field and interested in what I had to offer. I loved taking courses that ended up having nothing to do with my actual degree (like Medieval History and Music). For me, my years at UVic were perhaps the only time in my life that I will be able to devote myself entirely to learning. Because I wasn’t pursuing a “practical” degree, I simply tried to gain as much knowledge as I possibly could and become a better writer than I was when I started. I graduated from university a smarter, more well-rounded individual. And I think that’s exactly what university should be for.

If I have kids one day and they don’t want to go to university, I don’t think I’ll have a problem with that. If they want to be plumbers, I’ll support that because tradespeople seem to be doing well and someone’s gotta take care of me in my old age. Mostly, I just hope I have kids who want to learn and see value in education, wherever that might be. I’ll tell them that university is great but don’t expect it to make much difference in your job prospects after you finish. I’ll tell them that knowledge is important and I want them to chase after it, not simply financial gain.

So, yes, many of us who are recent university graduates have not gotten out of university what we thought we would. I don’t think we’re wrong to be upset at a system that led us to believe something that wasn’t true. Let’s look farther back though for our expectations of university. Let’s put a higher value on knowledge, not just the amount of money we can make after graduation. Let’s move away from the expectation and pressure to have a university degree and instead embrace the pursuit of knowledge, wherever that may be found.

Book Review – Real Marriage by Mark & Grace Driscoll

“Our goal cannot be to fix our husbands or even to save our marriages, but rather to glorify God by submitting to our husbands, trusting that His commands are those of a loving Father who not only wants our lives to work but to be ones of worship.”

The above quote, from Real Marriage by Mark & Grace Driscoll, sums up the right approach to reading marriage books. This isn’t self-help, it isn’t a cure-all, it’s an expansion of knowledge. God gave us minds to think and learn and reading books about marriage can be really helpful. But, bottom line, your spouse belongs to God, and so do you.

As I’ve previously shared, I’ve been listening to Mark Driscoll’s sermon series “Real Marriage”. Mark Driscoll is the pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle and he’s pretty prolific. I enjoyed the sermons and got quite a bit out of a few of them and so was curious to read the book, “Real Marriage” that Driscoll and his wife, Grace, wrote. I’m glad I did but my general impression is that it wasn’t necessary to listen to the sermons and read the book. The material is pretty similar in each and so you could really pick one or the other. The book is perhaps a bit more detailed, as well as providing more perspective from Grace, so if you had to pick one, I’d recommend the book. (Plus, I like books.)

One of the things that made this book stand out from others I’ve read is that half of it is devoted to sex. I’ve read Christian books that talk about sex and I’ve read Christian marriage books that talk about sex but Real Marriage devotes a lot of space to the topic. I’ve heard that it’s been criticized for this but I thought it was bold of the Driscolls to do so. One chapter in particular was well-laid out, I thought. In it, the authors list various sexual practices and habits and then discuss them in three different ways. 1) Is it lawful (according to both our society and the Bible)? 2) Is it helpful? 3) Is it enslaving? This was a great way to look at sexual behaviour, particularly the distinction that something that may be lawful is not always helpful. Or that an act that may be helpful can also become enslaving. This idea really comes from God, as expressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:23. “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up.”

The Driscolls approach the topic of sex boldly, with none of the shame or shyness that is unfortunately so often found among Christians. They celebrate sex as a gift from God, when used appropriately. Having both the husband and wife perspective also added a lot to it. The following quote summed up some of the male/female differences nicely when it comes to sex, “For a wife, sex comes out of a healthy relationship, whereas, for a husband it leads to one.”

Which isn’t to say that the whole book is about sex. The Driscolls also stress friendship as the basis of a marriage in the chapter “Friends with Benefits”. I wholeheartedly agree with this. Although friendships outside of your marriage are very important, I think you should have a best friend type of relationship with your spouse. The Driscolls describe this as a face-to-face relationship, one where you discuss issues and spend time together. (As oppose to a back-to-back relationship or a shoulder-t0-shoulder relationship.)

The sermon and chapter that I personally found the most helpful from Real Marriage was titled “The Respectful Wife”. I wrote about listening to that sermon in more detail in this post, so all I’ll say here is that if you’re a woman wondering how to be a Christian wife, it’s a great listen/read. I found it very helpful. Here’s a quote from that chapter:

“The culture’s lie is that a woman’s worth decreases when she submits to her husband. The truth of the Bible is that a woman’s value does not increase or decrease if she submits, because her value comes from being created in God’s image”

(And something I wrote about singleness, which although it comes from a different book, I think it relates to this too.)

In the end, Real Marriage had a lot in it that was helpful and interesting and made it a worthwhile read for a Christian couple. I’d say, If you’re going to read one book about marriage, make it The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller. (I reviewed it here) The Kellers book has many of the same ideas but, I think, a broader scope and is better written. (The switches in Real Marriage between Mark’s perspective and Grace’s were not always smooth for me.) But if you’re interested in a wide perspective on Christian marriage, add Real Marriage to your list.

A favourite quote:

“It is the Holy Spirit who gives us desires that are deeper and stronger than sinful desires. Thus, a holy life is the most passionate life, that does not settle for petty things like sexual sin but rather passionately pursues the glory of God in all things.”

A Rainy Tuesday Bachelorette Update

It’s a grey and rainy day so let’s begin with this picture of the rhododendron bush in my parents’ backyard.

Don’t you feel better now?

I spent a lovely weekend in Vancouver, getting to see some friends I’ve missed. I love that city. I get so excited from the moment I hit the outskirts. There’s so much happening, so many beautiful little corners and moments.

Like hanging out with these two and eating yummy bread.

Sunday afternoon, Granville Island

Fortunately, we have the Bachelorette to look forward to. Since the first week, a few of my picks have been sent home. Arie, Ryan, and Doug have all had first dates with Emily and are still around; Nate was sent home on a 2-on-1 date. Emily said she didn’t see them together and that he was perhaps too young but I think it’s because he doesn’t know how to pronounce “quinoa”. So now I have to amend my final 4 picks. Let’s see…

Arie – Right now, I would guess that Arie will be the last man standing. Or, rather, the last man getting down on one knee. Emily told him that when she’s alone, he’s the one she thinks about. Their attraction seems very mutual. Plus, his impersonation of Doug as the Hulk made me laugh.

Jef – Is Jef the first hipster to feature on the Bachelor franchise? Can you be a hipster and be on the Bachelorette? Why did he think khaki shorts and blue knee socks were an appropriate cocktail party outfit? And yet, I like Jef. He seems like a normal person with a normal crush on Emily. And she has a crush on him too. In other circumstances they would probably do okay. I don’t see them working out in the Bachelor world but I think Emily likes him enough to keep him around for a while longer.

Emily likes sparkly dresses.

Doug – The single dad who, when asked what his faults were, said he spends too much time with his son. Good job interview answer, Doug! But really, what do you say? It’s a first date – in the real world you have enough time (hopefully) between meeting and marrying to discover the other person’s faults naturally. Like that Emily runs errands in her pajamas. Although, this episode, we actually got to see that one of Doug’s faults is that he can’t take a joke when he’s stressed. I did think he handled Chris’ antagonism decently well. Not great, but at least he didn’t retaliate.

Sean – This guy kind of came out of nowhere on episode 3 when Emily’s friends fell in love with them. Since then he seems to be rising steadily in Emily’s eyes. I think he’ll probably have a date soon and he’ll continue to do well. Do you think they’d have the blondest babies in the history of the world?

As for the rest of the doomed bachelors…

Alejandro – We haven’t seen much of the Colombian mushroom farmer yet but what we have shows us that he’s a young, decent guy with perhaps a bit of an edge, a wild side. I don’t see any sparks flying though and he and Emily seem too different.

Chris – Emily keeps telling Chris he’s so attractive and I really don’t see it. There’s nothing wrong with Chris but there’s nothing that makes me think he’ll last to the end. He’s too confrontational.

John (aka “Wolf”) – She kept him around on the 2-on-1 date but I think it’s only because Nate seemed really, really young. I predict John won’t last much longer.

Kalon – Full of himself. My guess is that the producers are the ones keeping this guy around. We keep seeing previews of Emily telling someone to get out and I really hope it’s either Kalon or Ryan.

Ryan – He started out decently. He had a cute moment with her in the first episode, he got the first date, and then he just went nuts. Or, perhaps more likely, he could only hold in his true cocky nature so long. This guy is pretty in love with himself and was last seen speculating how great it would be if he were the Bachelor, how he would open himself up and everyone would be so blessed to see that. He’s told Emily she can’t get fat, that she’s a trophy wife, and that if you “ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying”. I really hope that last one referred to the sailing contest, not his philosophy toward relationships. Emily told Chris Harrison that she sees how Ryan tries to manipulate her, but then she kept him around for another week. Please, please send him home soon!

And one more Vancouver picture: