Sunday, December 02, 2007

The end of an era

I do believe the end of this era arrived long ago. A look at the scarcity of blog posts over the past months is sufficient to prove this. I guess I’m just accepting it. Yes, I’m finally accepting that it is time for me to close down this blog.

I’ve been reluctant to just do it, and close it off, because it has been through this blog over the past 2 years that I have rediscovered my love of writing. I haven’t been posting- I haven’t been writing much at all, actually- but the desire to write remains a fire in my belly. I will keep writing, but not here. It’s time to start on some other writing projects, which have been percolating for too long.

I’m a bit sad about this, because this blog has been such a neat experience for me. There is a lot of me on here, and big pieces of my journey have been traced. It’s kind of like looking through a photo album and reliving important events, experiences, seasons and relationships; it’s a neat personal record of two years of my life. I suspect that even years from now, I will look back on it with sentimentality, gratitude, and a bit of a patronizing smile, remembering the person I was in my twenties.

I may blog again at some point in the future, it’s actually quite likely. But this is the end of Up From Here. Before I close it down though, it’s important for me to thank those who have read the rambling thoughts of Jennifer MacDonald over these few years. I can’t thank you enough: first of all, simply for reading my thoughts, secondly, for your gratefully received comments, emails, and words. I’ve been humbled by those of you who have faithfully returned, even after my months of delinquent posting. Thank you!

And I guess, that about wraps it up.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Meticulous planning

I've been reviewing my "List of Things To Do Before I Die", and I don't seem to be getting very far ahead with it. The rate at which I check items off is no match for the rate at which I add them. The more I experience, the more I want to experience. The world is so interesting; there are so many things to do and learn. I can't get enough of it.

The major change in my life, moving from Pioneers to this new company, has me thinking more about the big picture of my life. I want to be pro-active with the decisions and directions that my life takes, thinking about things and making choices, and not just letting it all happen to me. I have this fear, of reaching my twilight years and having big regrets of a life not experienced, and risks not taken.

Of course, meticulous planning will never pay off the way I expect. This past weekend I found myself in New Brunswick, sharing at a Ladies' Breakfast at the church I grew up in, and again in the Sunday evening service. Four years earlier, I had stood in front of them and shared about my desire to serve with Pioneers. This time I stood in front of them, formally closing that chapter.

What have I learned? A whole lot of things, but for the purpose of this blog post, I'll focus on one: life is a continuous series of unexpected turns. My thoughts of the future always have some sense of stability attached to them, but I'm beginning to wonder.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Time to end the blogging sabbatical

As you can see, I've taken a long break from blogging. I took the whole summer off really. I think it's time to start writing again.

There have been some big changes in my life in this time... ok, just one really. I've left Pioneers, and started a new job. This has been one of the reasons that I have been silent on here. Usually I process a lot of my thoughts on this blog, but I didn't feel like it was appropriate for me to share while there was uncertainty and decisions yet unmade.

It's all done now; I started a few days ago at my new company. It's a big adjustment going from "non-profit" to "for-profit", to name just one of many changes.

This whole thing about "leaving the ministry" has been interesting to me as well. I have some thoughts about that which I may process on here one of these days. I really worried a lot about what people would think, but knew I couldn't make my decisions based on a perceived need for the approval of others.

Anyway, I'm back (in the blogging world) and am officially announcing the end of my sabbatical.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The luxury of silence

One of the comments from my "Saturday night services" post really surprised me. Mark said, "keep blogging Jennifer, we need your voice." The reason this comment stuck out to me was that this issue of using my voice, was exactly what I was wrestling with God about. Two of my mentors have also spoken specifically into my life in the last few weeks about this, affirming the need for me to use my voice.
At another point in my life, with that kind of encouragement, I wouldn't have hesitated to inflict my voice on others. At this point though, I am a bit more realistic about what I have to offer. Sometimes there is wisdom in what I have to say, and sometimes people do benefit. At other times, I make a fool of myself, and say exactly the wrong thing. Choosing to use my voice means simply to use it, releasing control of when or if it is valuable. When I hold tightly to control how I speak and present myself, what I say loses its value. It becomes a sermon, rather than a sharing of a broken life with which others can identify.
It is a little less than reassuring to move forward with this knowing that the calling to use my voice, like life in general, is messy. Sometimes I would rather stay silent. In silence, I can avoid the kind of self-disclosure that exposes my weaknesses. My calling is not to be wiser or smarter than anyone else; it is to live an authentic and transparent life. I'd much prefer the luxury of the facade. I'd love to speak only when words of profound wisdom well up inside and roll off my tongue (or fingers, as I type). Such luxury however, is not mine, and so here I am. Messy, complicated, ironic, hopeful, and occasionally wise.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Self-indulgence and disillusionment

I bought a Keith Urban cd today. I bought it for the same reason that I rented my favourite romantic comedy last week: I'm avoiding the indulgence of bitterness and disillusionment. I've shared with some recently that I don't believe in romance. Of course I know what I am supposed to believe; I'm talking about what I actually believe, or in this case, don't.
I'm not so self-absorbed as to believe that it doesn't exist at all. My parents aren't faking. After nearly thirty years of marriage, and having faced a number of challenges together, they've built a relationship that is beautiful to see. Many of my friends are also in relationships that are a joy to behold. For my single friends, I have endless hope that love is around the corner for them. For myself though, I just don't believe it.
Of course I hope I'm wrong. That's why I'm listening to Keith Urban today, and refusing to indulge in a bitterness that will build impenetrable walls. Maybe someday I'll find out that I'm wrong. In the mean-time, there's a lot to enjoy in life.

The Uncensored Version

I woke this morning with the certainty that someone was praying for me. It's a nice way to start the day. I had gone to sleep amidst angry prayers, and woke to the warmth of being enveloped in the love of Jesus. I wish words could do justice to the experience of God in life, but they can paint only the smallest picture with which to identify.
I'm glad to be honest with you all about my life, and my faith. My life is an open book to my close friends, and that's how it is with God as well. Obviously He knows me better than I know myself, but I still tell Him everything. It means a lot to me to be able to be honest with God in my prayers. I share a lot with my closest friends, but God gets the uncensored version. (My friends are shuddering right now... there is an uncensored version??) It occurred to me this morning what a brat I am with God sometimes. I let loose on Him a lot more than with anyone else. That's the reality. Should I feel ashamed of that, or try to clean it up?
I think it is kind of like how we are with family. The closest people in my life are those who have fought with me. They've seen the worst sides of me, and still accept me. I often say that I can't be really close with someone if we have never fought.
This is not to excuse my being bratty with the Creator of the Universe. I'm wrong of course, every time. I won't contest that. I am thankful though, that He gives me the freedom to be myself around Him. I can be honest, and be my bratty self with Him, and He accepts me unconditionally. Until I am faced with contrast, I didn't realize how hard I try to please people. Until being totally free in one relationship, I didn't realize how much I work at being likeable, and unoffensive to the people around me. It's freeing really, to have a place where I don't have to worry about being "too much" for the other party in the relationship. With God, I never need to fear that I will ask too much. I will never be too needy. He will never be disgusted with my weakness. He'll never stop to re-evaluate whether I am worth the effort of relationship. He will never be shocked and horrified by what He sees in me. He knows me. He loves me. He is at work in me, refining me, teaching me what it means to live my life in Him, letting Him love people through me. I'm a brat, but I don't have Him wrapped around my finger. He lays clear boundaries that give me security. He always chooses what is best for me, though I don't always understand it. I rail at Him, cry to Him, and lean on Him, and in the end I know I am safe with Him. The weight of the world that I carry on my shoulders is lifted by Him.
I know some people call religion a crutch. I don't know about "religion", but I know that I find life in my relationship with God. Pass me the crutches- my legs are broken anyway!

Pioneers blog

Ok, we've taken the plunge.

The organizational blog I talked about before is launched. I now have my personal blog here, and my Pioneers blog. If you're interested, you can see it here.

It's going to take me a bit to get into the flow of it. I'm nervous, and excited about it at the same time.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Saturday night services

I used to go to North Park by myself for Saturday night church services. Occasionally I'd go with a friend, but most often by myself. It was often a very lonely experience, as I never seemed able to connect with people my age. I'd go in by myself, sit among strangers and enjoy the service, then go home.

Now I know a lot more people, and I get plenty of good heart-to-heart fellowship with other believers... but the church service is not where that happens. The service for me is often a place where the heaviest things on my heart reveal themselves, urged to silence no longer. I sit or stand there during the extended worship time after the message, and just talk to God, wrestle with Him, and cry out to Him, all the while being reminded of truth through the worship songs.

Tonight I went to church with a friend, and as I sat there, blinking back tears, and trying to keep my lip from quivering noticeably, I remembered why it was convenient to go alone. :)

I don't want people to see me crying, but I don't want to pretend I'm stronger than I am. I wasn't crying noble tears tonight because I was moved and inspired by the worship. I was crying because amidst all the songs about surrender, I most certainly did not want to surrender. How's that for an admission? :) I have a sense of what He is asking of me, and I don't want it. I want Him to see that it costs too much, to see that I am too weary, and He should ask someone else.

He'll win of course. Not because He'll force me, but because I can't imagine living another way. I feel like Moses right now, at the burning bush, telling God that He's got it wrong. The youthful enthusiasm that once drove me has faded and dried up: I'm only 26, how can this be? Now I'd be content to live in the wilderness, with the simplicity of a life looking after some goats or sheep.

I'll choose Him... because in my heart I want Him. For tonight though, I couldn't just sing words that my heart wasn't in. For tonight, I'm still wrestling it through with Him. I know I'm being bratty, but really it's trust in Him that frees me to ask Him any question, confident that He'll have an answer. The process is just a bit painful sometimes.