Living Life with the Psalms

When I am sad, the Psalms teach me how to cry out to God. When I am anxious, the Psalms remind me that God will never leave me. When I am afraid, the Psalms teach me that God’s power is stronger than my fear. When the sin in the world gets me down, the Psalms show me that it’s always been this way, and God is still God. When I hate, the Psalms teach me to pray.

When I am confident in my own strength, the Psalms teach me that it is probably misplaced. When I am happy, the Psalms show me how to return thanks to God. When I am content, the Psalms teach me to hope beyond contentment in this life. When I am fixated on this or that thing before me, the Psalms lift my vision to see a bigger picture of God’s glory. When I believe I am deserving, the Psalms teach me that everything I have is a gift from the God who loves me.

I try to read a Psalm every day. I fail. But this is my method: I take the date – 16/7 – and use it to pick a Psalm. Two days ago (14/7) I read Psalm 147. Today was a but trickier. First I read Psalm 67, and then 61 (16 reversed). I’m not great at reading from 1-150 (I stop and then feel like I have to start again, but this method is freeing, and lets me read a variety of Psalms.

Why not give it a go?

Date a Girl who Reads

This, from Rosemarie Urquico:

You should date a girl who reads.

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes, who has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she has found the book she wants. You see that weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a secondhand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow and worn.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas, for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry and in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who read understand that all things must come to end, but that you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

Morning

Slivers of light peeked their way around the edges of the curtains this morning, beckoning me to rise and explore this new place. I declined. I closed my eyes and drifted back into my dreams. The sunbeams grew increasingly impatient and danced across my eyelids tempting me with the hope of a new day. I rose. I pulled back the curtain to be greeted with an empty field. A curious donkey poked his head around the side of the barn as if to say, ‘why hello there. Welcome to my farm’.

I feel very welcome.

helmut newcake

I’m in love. Not with a man oddly named Helmut Newcake, although I could certainly fabricate a story to that effect. Rather, on a friends advice, I went in pursuit of a gluten free patisserie in Paris. And found it. I’m going back. Maybe every day til we leave.

20131205-230029.jpg

Food intolerances and travelling don’t go so well together, so when we decided to spend a month in France, I wasn’t expecting to be able to eat much. No bread. No cheese. No garlic. No butter. I distinctly remembering pursuing the idea that I would live on carrots, eggs and rice. I’ve lived on less.

This is why helmut newcake is such a treasured discovery: everything in the store is gluten free. Everything. And I’m not talking a simple flourless chocolate cake. No. There were chocolate eclairs, passion fruit tarts, lemon meringue pies, salted chocolate tarts, pistachio something’s, Madame de Fontenay’s and so much more. Yum yum yum!

20131205-225933.jpg

Everything about this cafe oozes cool. It is quaint and homely. Not overly decorated, but simply tasteful. The cabinet of pastry beckons you ‘come, taste and see’. Nothing tastes gluten free, it simply tastes delicious. The tea is served in delightfully small fine china teacups, and the coffee is surprisingly good. Even if you’re not a coeliac or intolerant to gluten, if you’re ever in Paris, this is a brilliant spot for morning or afternoon tea.

20131205-230455.jpg

20131205-230509.jpg

helmut newcake.
La pâtisserie sans gluten.
I’ll be back.

Home.

There are a million tiny thoughts circling around the periphery of my mind. I cannot decide which one to grasp hold of. It could be the dreaded farewell of one of my best friends coming up on Sunday. It could be that today I moved out of college permanently. It could be the uncertainty of future friendships. It could be any of the thousand little tasks to be done before Monday. It could be that this time next week I will be in Paris.

They sit there, threatening to jump into my consciousness and overwhelm me with grief or excitement or fear or busyness. Their presence destroys me a little. Partly because I know they are there. Partly because I don’t know what to do with them except wait.

In the meantime, I sit on the worlds most comfortable couch, enjoying the view of a wild green garden, the sound of birds playing in the bird bath, and my mums gluten free, dairy free, fructose free, but curiously not flavour free tabbouleh.

Ah, home. I like it here.

Adieu.

4 years. 8 semesters. 104 weeks.

23 essays. 21 exams. 1 critical reflection. 2 book reviews. 1 sermon series. 1 presentation. 1 project.

4 mission weeks. 3 sermons.

This is the end.

This time last year I said goodbye to a group of people who had become such a huge part of my life. The sadness sat over and around me like a fog. I don’t quite know when or how it eventually lifted. I have been waiting for it to descend again. It hasn’t. I have not yet cried about finishing college and leaving this ragtag group of people who have taken up residence in my heart.

But as I pack up my room I am filled with nostalgia.

I remember the day I moved in. I remember driving my parents car into the driveway at number 28 and being parked in by Kylie. I remember how it only took one trip in the car to bring all my stuff in. I remember feeling intensely insecure and uncertain. I remember being afraid of becoming one of ‘those’ Moore College people. I remember unpacking and feeling certain that this room with its green feature wall would never feel like home. I remember sobbing myself to sleep the first night I slept here, not sure of who I was, why I was here, or what the next one year, three years or even four years would hold. I remember the unfamiliar hallways and fixed meal times. I remember feeling like I was on camp. I remember not knowing anyone. I remember feeling like an outsider.

And then we graduated into second year. Finally we weren’t ‘first years’ anymore. I remember thinking how hard the work was. I remember the whole year feeling like a massive high. I remember feeling comfortable in my friendships. I remember welcoming Kate and Tam on to our corridor. I remember the feeling of knowing what I was doing because I could help them. I remember writing and essay on the resurrection of Jesus and talking about it with my barista. I remember welcoming little Annabelle into the world. I remember the comfort of not having to say goodbye to anyone from our year.

Third year was a vacuum. Not the excitement of first year. Not the delight of graduating in to second year. Not close enough to the end to see it. Just stuck in the middle. I remember the terror of panic attacks. I remember the kindness of Katie who would sit with me during them. I remember the tears. I remember the confusion. I remember a lot of sleepless nights. I remember the stars. I remember Paul and Ryan letting me lie on their couches and just be. I remember Michael’s lectures on the Christian life. I remember the love-hate relationship I had with ethics. I remember learning in a new way that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

All of a sudden we were in fourth year. I remember deciding to do both my electives and audit a subject in first semester (not my finest moment). I remember the pain and joy of Shapers. I remember becoming real friends with lecturers. I remember the moment I discovered what I wanted to do with my life. I remember wanting to do a project, and then wishing I hadn’t, and then glad I did. I remember wanting to make the most of the limited time with people. I remember being too tired to make conversation. I remember being thankful for friends with whom to be silent. I remember wishing Sarah and Kylie were here. I remember the way God provided new friendships. I remember the feeling of satisfaction.

And so much more.

And now we are finished. I feel like I blinked and suddenly it’s over. There are too many things to miss. Too many things to grieve. Studying together, not only with brothers and sisters, but with friends. Living together, and the unusual delight of just popping by to say hi. Learning together, both being taught and teaching each other.

I used to think that I made the decision to come to college because I wanted to be trained to do my job better. I wanted to spend time studying the Bible to grow in my knowledge of God so that I could teach others. Now I realise that God brought me here to break me. Never have I been so aware of my own sin, my own faults and failures. Never so aware of God’s unfailing, unending and unchanging grace. I am not the same person I was when I came here.

I wait for the fog of grief to descend. I am certain it will come.

But for now, Moore College, I bid you adieu.

Barely standing

I am barely standing.

Standing is about all I can do right now. It feels like I’m standing in the middle of a whirlwind. I feel a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

20131009-164413.jpg

The world whizzes past too fast for me to hold on. So I stand and watch. Sometimes I manage to grasp a moment, hold on to it for a moment, but before I know it, that moment has freed itself from my grasp and returned to the whirlwind. All I want to do is scream, ‘STOP!’ I wish there was a pause button for life. I need a moment.

But I don’t get the moment I want. I can yell as much as I like and it won’t stop the whirlwind. It won’t do anything except get a bunch of strange looks and concerned faces. I have no power here.

I take comfort in the fact that someone has that kind of power. The kind of power that stops a whirlwind. This is the true story of when Jesus calmed a raging storm, as told by The Jesus Storybook Bible.

20131009-172435.jpg

20131009-172508.jpg

20131009-172530.jpg

20131009-172548.jpg

There are so many things to love about this story, but here are just two.

1. Jesus calmed the storm with a word. No excessive shouting. No magic. His powerful word. And that was it. It was quiet. He has the power to do what I could never do.

2. This quote from the last page:

Jesus turned to his wind-torn friends. “Why were you scared?” he asked. “Did you forget who I am? Did you believe your fears, instead of me?” […] Jesus’ friends had been so afraid, they had only seen the big waves. They had forgotten that, if Jesus was with them, then they had nothing to be afraid of.

I am like the friends of Jesus. I see the whirlwind. I see the madness. I don’t see the end. But right here, this story, it reminds me that Jesus is with me. I don’t see him, but I trust him, and he has promised that he will never leave me.

The steadfast love of the Lord

I read Psalm 107 this morning. Two things struck me.

First, this phrase is repeated four times:

‘Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!’

It comes after a report of some kind of human distress, be it being lost in a desert, being imprisoned, being sinful and hungry, or being caught in a storm at sea. In each situation the people in question suffer in their respective conditions until they can bear it no longer and then, only then, do they cry out to God. And He acts. He saves them from their distress. It makes me wonder why they didn’t cry out earlier. It makes me wonder why I don’t.

Second, the very last verse is this:

‘Whoever is wise, let him attend these things;
let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord’.

There are so many ways that God has lavished his love on us. I see this in the blue sky, the bright sunshine, the spring breeze, the jacaranda trees, my beautiful friends and family, and the unbelievable freedom I enjoy.

I am spending today considering the steadfast love of the Lord. And I am thankful.

Blessed are the cheese makers

I’m preparing for the digital meltdown. The irony of posting this article, written on an iPad, on my blog is not lost on me. Nevertheless, I have this fascination with bygone eras, especially the ones where traditional skills like carpentry, navigation, and cheese making were common, and where you knew a blacksmith, a cobbler, and a seamstress. In my mind, that place is much calmer than the present, although I know that’s probably not true. Partly in an effort to reclaim lost skills, partly to delight in making fresh cheese, and probably partly as procrastination, a couple of friends and I have been learning how to make cheese.

We started last year with ricotta. It’s so easy. Heat milk. Add vinegar. Stir. Strain through cheese cloth. Voila! Ricotta.

20130928-224850.jpg

Today we made haloumi. It’s less easy. Heat milk to 34 degrees. Add rennet. Sit in a water bath at 34 degrees for 45 minutes. Cut into cubes. Increase water temperature to 40 degrees. Strain through cheese cloth. Apply pressure. Let sit for half an hour. Chop into large pieces. Poach in whey for half an hour. Remove and cool. Salt. Leave for 2 more hours. Let sit in brine for 24 hours. A little bit more work, but still, voila!

20130928-225334.jpg

If there is ever a digital meltdown and life as we know it falls apart, at least we’ll have cheese.