Thursday, March 28, 2013

Idolatry Today

I've been reading the major prophets for the last two months and one thing I keep coming across is the idea that Israel has forsaken G-d for the idols of the other nations. It would be so easy to glance over those verses, to ignore them.

This is the twenty-first century. We don't have idols anymore.

Our idols may not be of the "bow down in front of them to worship" sort today but that picture actually has a lot more to do with idols than you might think.

For the observant (and geeky) among us, you may notice that picture is actually from Doctor Who. Yes, that is Ten with his TARDIS and Donna from their trip to Pompeii. Today, we don't worship gods in the way the people of Israel did. We don't leave food in front of a statue so that the rain will fall and the grains will grow. Instead, our idols come in the form of "what do you value above G-d?"

Any "good Christian" will tell you automatically that they love G-d, they worship Jesus. But that's not what I asked. I asked what is more important in your life than the Most High?

Before you give me that kneejerk reaction, really think about it. Now I'm not saying I'm perfect and I'm not saying that I know what I'm doing. I'm sure there are "idols" in my life that G-d will reveal to me. Things I need to work on, things I'm putting above him. What would you rather do with your free time folks? Do you read your Bible? Do you attend worship services? How often during your honest, deep conversations does G-d come up?

I'm not saying you can't watch TV or read non-Christian books. I'm not saying every word out of your mouth needs to be praise to the King. We are complex people and there are various assets to our lives. But if my day ends and I spent three hours watching Supernatural but only twenty minutes in the Word of G-d, what does that say about my priorities? And even now I want to justify that. I want to qualify that with "But while I'm watching Supernatural I can be knitting my niece's blanket! And my niece is important!"

(Left, Right-my own)

Yes, Emilia is important. And I love that little girl more than is rational. Her blanket is important and it's something I spend a good chunk of my time on. But that's not the root issue. Because I could be watching the sermons I've missed instead. I could be listening to KLove. I could be praying. I choose to watch Supernatural. What does that say?

It says I'm addicted to TV and to the internet. For Lent, I reduced the amount of time I spent on social media sites. But it wasn't enough. It wasn't a sacrifice. And I can justify it. We are so good at justifying things. I can give you twenty reasons why what I did was OK. But how many of those are completely truthful?

Idols these days can take many forms. If there's anything in your life that you would hesitate to get rid of when asked to or prompted to by G-d, that might be an idol in your life.

Does that mean we can't enjoy things that aren't directly connected to the church or to G-d? I don't think so. I enjoy watching TV. I enjoy reading books. Even books that are fictional, that have non-Christian characters.

Even things that are good in your life can become idols. I've mentioned my ex before. I don't think I've mentioned how I was putting him over G-d. My engagement had become an idol in my life. I wanted Ron more than I wanted the Will of G-d for a while. Leaving him should not have been easy. And it wasn't. But it also shouldn't have taken me so long to realize that we weren't right together. That relationship never should have started if I'm honest.

What are your idols? What are you putting ahead of Him? Is it your love life? Your finances? Your entertainment choices? What is it that you tell G-d, "Not this. You can't have this."? What don't you trust Him with?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Photo Dump

There are a bunch of pictures clogging up my desktop so what better place to dump them than my blog?

(I took this screenshot of my stats the other day. It amused me how everything was multiples of three.)

 ("Good morning world" in Gallifreyan. Source got lost in the shuffle. Sorry.)
 Screenshot of my captcha a few weeks ago

Part of the knitting chart for a TARDIS hat I did as a Christmas gift for a friend

Sorry, I know that one is huge. It's the instructions for the blanket I'm working on for my aunt's unborn daughter

.The first 3 rows of my niece's blanket

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Deep in the Hundred Acre Woods...

I've been fairly stressed out the last day or two thanks to some nagging health problems (minor but irritating) and tonight was a rough bedtime shift. So tonight, I'm going to do some posies.

This is my 100th live post to this blog. (Hence the title)

Belgium is famous for French fries and there's a shop located between my family's apartment and mine that sells them for a decent price.

Caffeine free Coke Zero to wash down my fries

My knitting projects are going really well. I'm 85% done with my niece's blanket and will easily finish up this week. (A bit behind schedule but I didn't expect to have these health problems!)

Rory is fixed! My baby lives again!


I love the way I feel in my black v-neck shirts and a pair of jeans.

This morning while I was packing, KLove played some great music that I got to dance to.

Ellie is interested in Doctor Who.

Being able to get a few hours of sleep before catching the train

Hot showers


Friends who are there to calm you down when you really need a week on a beach

People willing to answer ridiculous questions

When something you've been waiting for arrives

Getting a response back from jobs

My G-d loves me! (And He loves you too!)

I'll be in London less than a month from now.

The ficlet I texted Mary Beth about returning back to London together


Jaffa cakes

And I think that's it for tonight. I want to get this posted before we leave Belgium and well my alarm goes off in 7 hours to wake me up and get going.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Morning Post

I am not sure why they let me in the kitchen sometimes. And by they I mean the synapses in my brain that fire and say "This is a good idea" or "This is a bad idea".

This morning, before my alarms went off, housekeeping knocked and because I was still asleep, it took me a few moments to respond and alert them to my presence. No I do not need you to clean. Of course, I couldn't go back to sleep so here I am 90 minutes later. I've caught up on most of my blogs and had a kitchen adventure.

I turned the water on for coffee (instant but what are you going to do?) and the burner on for my eggs. I nearly threw away the eggs I hadn't cracked into the (too hot) pan instead of throwing away the package from my sugar. Of course in this little kitchenette there's actually no freaking spatula so I made my scrambled eggs with some funky flat spoon thing. Then I tried at the same time to cut open my kebab/pita bread. So my pan sits on the stove cooling and getting crustier and crustier.

I haven't finished my first cup of coffee or my breakfast sandwich yet.

This is going to be a long day.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bittersweet Uncertainty

On the one hand, I’m excited to go back home. I’m just so tired. I love my girls and Kathrin is amazing. I could not ask for a better host mom. (Daniel’s been gone a lot this month and he works a looooot so though I don’t have a problem with him, I don’t know him half as well as I know Kathrin or the girls.) And even though I am off at the end of my day and Kathrin’s good about making sure the girls know that I’m not responsible for them and giving me a way out if I’m trying to write or knit or chat with people, there’s still a part of me that I feel like I can’t turn off. I feel guilty if I don’t help out and clean up or if I don’t play with Ellie or calm the crying baby.

It’s just part of being family I think. When Sami was little, I felt similarly. Except that really was home. (I hate that sentence. Because this is home. I'm happy here and I feel welcome and loved and I'm never going to have another family like this one. But the sentiment behind that statement, I hope you understand. That this home is one I've made whereas the one with my little sister and my mom is one that was naturally created in my life without any effort on my part.) If I was sitting around reading and my mom wanted my help, she’d yell for me. Kathrin’s too polite/generous/something for that. She’s almost apologetic when she tells me some mornings, “Vickey, I didn’t get to the dishwasher yet. Can you do that this morning please? It doesn’t have to be right now. Finish your coffee first.” Yes, the woman lets me drink my coffee before I start doing any real work. That’s not to say that she never asks for my help when I’m “off duty”. Occasionally something happens and she asks me to help with this or just make sure that kid doesn't climb out of the high chair for a minute. But even so, it’s asking not, “Victoria get your butt in here and help me with the dishes.” There’s just somehow a difference. I think knowing that Kathrin won’t ask makes me feel guilty if I don’t do it. Because if I don’t do it, she’ll do it all herself. And she never complains about it. Seriously, this woman deserves a medal. (And Kathrin, if you’re reading this, I mean every word of this. You are fantastic.)

So because there’s a piece of me that’s on most of the time, it’s hard to kind of recover. And you would think when I go out that then I’d recharge. But I’m such an introvert that going out takes a different kind of energy. Yes my social meter gets filled up but something else gets drained. There is a very fine balance within me to keep all of my meters reading “OK”. I need to be with friends a certain amount, I need to be alone, I need to be with the family, I need to be outside, I need time with G-d, I need time to be creative. I need so much to be optimal. And I don’t even know what the amounts of those things are. I just know when they’re out of whack and I typically know how to fix them. After about ten months of trying to fine tune all of those different things, you can imagine I’d be worn out.

The thought of having to start over again in just two months is almost more than I can handle some days. Which leads me to “on the other hand”. Yes, I’m excited to go home, but I don’t want to leave. I’m going to miss the ability to walk to everything I need. I’m going to miss having little girls throw themselves on my back for piggy back rides. I’m going to miss “What are you watching?”. I’m going to miss “Oh you’re coloring your Bible again? Wow that’s a lot of ‘G-d’ there.” (Noemi knows anytime I mark my Bible in purple it’s a name of G-d.) I’m going to miss Beck’s Green Lemon and Mezzo Mix and I swear to you the Nutella is better over here. I’m going to miss my little room and chatting with Kathrin after the girls go to bed. I’m going to miss “Vickey will you draw me a wizard?” There is a lot that I’m going to miss.

(Artwork: Noemi)

And there’s a lot I’m unsure of in my future. I don’t know how I’m going to fit back into the family structure. I don’t know how I’m going to fit back into American life. I don’t know what I’m going to do for a job. I don’t know how to be in America and not be in school come September. I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do. I don’t know when my love life will change or when my living situation will. I don’t know when I’ll find my purpose in life, the job I’m meant to have, the ministry I should be involved in. I don’t know how long I’ll be in Rochester. I don’t know a lot of things.

As someone in one of my Facebook groups said this week, “I know He's got it under control, but the planning part of my brain is going crazy right now”. And that’s exactly how I feel. I know He’s got plans for me. I know He’s got big plans, plans I could never dream of. But I don’t know where to start! I don’t know what the next step is. G-d’s word is a lamplight unto my feet… A lamplight. Not a floodlight. (Thank you to one of my wonderful Londonerd TA’s for that.) 

If His word shows me the next step, what do I know? What am I certain of? I’m certain I need to go home. For a bit at least. I’m not sure how long I’ll be there. I need to get my license and then a car. I’d be good at event planning I think. And I’d like to pursue that a bit more. Aaaaand that’s all I got. I also know I need to find a church to get involved in. Both somewhere where I’m getting fed and where I’m feeding. That feels like so little to go on. I really feel lost some days.

If you’ve stuck with me that long, congratulations. Seriously I feel like you deserve a cookie. I tried to divide this up into a couple different posts (because I’m nearing two thousand words right now) but I think a lot of it’s too interrelated. It makes sense how I went from one thing to another and ultimately this is my space to write. If there comes a day when I write solely for the readers, this blog will have become soulless and I will give it up.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Belgium: The First 36 Hours

If anyone tells you traveling is easy, I would like you to point them to this post. Even though it is not the hell of all experiences, it was a typical excursion I think and that just makes it clear that getting from Point A to Point B does not always go smoothly.

Because my host dad is in Antwerp for work and Munchkin has two weeks off school, we headed off on a trip Friday afternoon with two adults and three little girls. My morning started off pretty easy. We needed to do a few last minute things so I got sent to the store for milk and to the post office to mail my German train card back. When my list was cleared off, I headed home with a sleeping baby. That made my schedule so much easier. Instead of organizing my suitcase in the half hour in between getting off work and going to pick up lunch, I spent my morning shift folding and packing and organizing.

(Sorry for the crappy quality. I snapped it with my iPod.)

I finished packing and then got to do my Bible study before I headed to pick up lunch. Around 1, I went to McDonald's, ate lunch, and hung around in limbo for a bit until we left. Munchkin had fallen asleep so we got to deal with her tiredness. (When she's tired and there's the slightest cause for worry, she gets whiny and teary and though I do sympathize, it doesn't help anything get fixed faster. Unfortunately, as you continue to read this post, you will see this behavior had several reasons to come up.)

When we headed out, we got to the first train station and... our train had a five minute delay. (Setback #1) Luckily we would still have ten minutes to catch our train from the main station to Amsterdam.

That train then had a ten minute delay which increased to fifteen and then to twenty. (Setback #2) Unfortunately, our next transition time was only twenty minutes so there goes that connection.

We got on the train anyway, hoping it would make up time or we could catch a different connection, etc. But, Kathrin's train card had somehow been left behind. (Setback #3) This was actually discovered while waiting for train #1 and was the cause for Noemi's first tired whine. (Please understand I don't mean to complain about this and I don't mean it as negatively as the word "whine" sounds. It's simply a very high pitched complaint including tears that shows just how sensitive she can be. She pays attention to what's going on around her and if she thinks there's a possibility that something won't go as planned and/or as she wants it to, then this comes out. It's nothing above and beyond what other kids do; it's just so out of character compared to most of her behavior.)

Luckily, this train card issue was quickly dealt with and we were on our way. We settled in and everything went smoothly for a while. At least as far as I was concerned. Noemi and I colored in pictures and I listened to some music. The train guys told us the best course of action to take was X, then came back a few minutes later and said it was Y. Well Y meant that we had to get off at the next stop. And the baby was asleep (setback #4). We got everything together post haste and got ready to get off. All along the way, any time we had to get on or off there were nice people helping us with babies and kids and luggage. We were very blessed in that respect.

Sadly, the connection between our next two trains was quick. It was supposed to be three minutes. (Setback #5). They held the train an extra ten minutes though and we made it on with time to spare. And at this point we were in a first class car.

Let me repeat that. We were in first class.

We got settled, they gave us food, and we relaxed for a few minutes before getting to Antwerp. The one problem happened when Goose said she needed to go to the bathroom but wanted Mama to take her. Well Mama was in between Sweet Pea and Munchkin and was helping them with food. So I picked up a screaming three year old and carried her to the bathroom through the otherwise quiet first class car. Oops. Better that than pee on the seats, right? I hope they appreciated it.

The train finally arrived in Antwerp and we got off (but not without admiring the rear end on the porter who helped us disembark...) (Setback #6 was...) Our ride, Grandmama, wasn't there yet so we had to wait on the platform. When she did get there, she told us we were going back to her apartment. Which was, in my opinion, setback #7. Grandpapa got there after the rehearsal got over but Daniel wasn't with him (setback #8). When he finally did get there, he ate then took me to my apartment before going to get Kathrin and the girls to theirs.

(My apartment, viewed from the door)

(Plus bathroom...)

(And kitchenette)

So what's happened since then? I woke up today around noon and lounged in bed for a few hours. When you don't have work, a need to pee, animals, kids, or hunger, there's no good reason to jump out of bed. When I finally got up, I took a shower and drank some instant coffee. My plan was to run to a supermarket that's supposed to be about 600 meters away, grab some groceries, drop them off, then head to a cafe with a book and my journal. But then I got lost.

And when I say lost, I mean LOST. I was in the middle of a Middle Eastern neighborhood and I'd taken just enough twists and turns that I couldn't have backtracked either. Normally, I might not know how to get to where I'm going but I know how to get back to where I started. Which made today different. Of course, here in Belgium they speak French and Dutch mostly. A good chunk of people do speak English but I hate asking for directions/help. Especially when I can't even ask "Do you speak English?" in the main language of the country.

Eventually, I found the main train station so I could get home again. I stopped by a bakery and ordered the first clearly vegetarian thing on the menu (panini mozzerella). Luckily, the guy spoke English and told me where the nearest grocery store was. The store was too small though and I ended up finding another. By the time I got back, I was tired. I chatted with my mom and have been texting with friends while watching Netflix ever since. (I also ordered and ate a pizza and tiramisu but the cola I drank is hurting my throat. I'm not used to all the acidity anymore I guess.)

Now that the day is over, I'm going to knit and watch Supernatural.

Good night from Antwerp!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Life Verse: Context and Impact

This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.  
Jeremiah 29:10-14a

I have most of Jeremiah 29:11 tattooed on my arm. It takes up a good chunk of space from my shoulder along my bicep ending just above my elbow. There are days I think it takes up a good chunk of valuable space and wish I hadn’t gotten it. Then there are days like today that it means the world to me. We can’t take that verse out of context like so many do. We need to remember why G-d said this. He was speaking to a people about to be put into captivity, to be made slaves to a foreign nation. Their kings were, frankly, doing a shitty job of it, and the people were being stubborn and hard-hearted. They weren’t listening to their King and His prophets but to the false prophets who were giving them the pleasant lies instead of the truth of G-d.

(Tattoo by Sara Purr)

When I was reading this section today, I was struck by it. I knew “my verse” was coming up soon but I didn’t really pay attention to where I was. Suddenly, I was reading words I know so intimately. “For I know the plans I have for you”. Oh hello there, G-d. I felt like I got smacked from half paying attention to “Victoria! These words are important! Pay attention! Wake up!” And I went back to the beginning of the section break (Jeremiah 29:10) and reread that section. I must have read it three or four times. And then the tears started to fall.

This past hour, I’ve been an emotional wreck. Without real reason. It suddenly hit me that I’m leaving in two months. That I only have two more months here. And some days that might seem like an eternity but today that feels like the blink of an eye. In only two months, I’ll be gone. (More on the bittersweet essence of this tomorrow.) I may never walk these streets again. I’ll certainly never be a part of this family in the way I am now again. I hope that I’ll stay in touch with them for years and years to come but I know how way leads on to way and people tend to part. I don’t want that and I’ll do my best to prevent it but I’ll never be as intimately connected to them as I am now. 

So when I read those words, something hit me. And as the tears rolled silently down, my six year old sat not ten feet away from me. I don’t like when people see me cry, let alone a child who isn’t going to understand why I’m crying. Heck, I’m not sure I understood why I was crying.

It just touched me so much that G-d told His people, “You will suffer this punishment for your sin. For 70 years you will be in Babylon, but I won’t forget you. I’ve drawn a line in the sand and when that day comes, I will come rescue you. I will bring you back to prosperity and to hope. I will bring you back to the future I made for you. And when that time has passed, call on me. I will answer you, child. I will be there. I will not turn a deaf ear to your pleas, to your cries. You can tell me anything you want, my daughter, my son. If you look for me, if you come after me, with all your heart, I will answer you. You will find me. And I will bring you back from this punishment.”

The last few days, my depression has been acting up. I’ve been very out of sorts. And I’ve considered going back on my anti-depressants, something I’d hoped never to do. But the thing is with my meds, I know I have about six weeks until they kick in and I feel better. Without them, I don’t know when this cloud will lift. I don’t know when I’ll feel like me again. I suffer from seasonal affective disorder (known as SAD. Yes, seriously) so I know more sun, better weather, I’ll feel better. Unfortunately, I’ve had years that it took until June for me to feel better. Other years, I’m starting to come out of it already at this time of year. I don’t know why different years are different but I can’t predict what this year will bring. 

But I do know that G-d knows how long it will last. I really wish I could see where that line in the sand is for me. G-d told the people of Israel but He doesn't tell me. And it's always hardest to go through something you're not enjoying when you don't know when it ends. So I'm trying to trust in G-d. What really hit me today was verses 12 and 13. ("You will call on me...and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.") My word for the year is seek after all. As I've been reading my Bible faithfully and spending time with Him faithfully, I've noticed G-d working. He's given me chances to share my story and to share my passion for Him. He is good. He is faithful. He made these promises to the people of Israel approximately 2600 years ago but He is fulfilling them today still

My G-d is good.