Monday, February 28, 2011

My Friend

A little over a week ago, I borrowed this book from a friend.
No, actually... my friend lent me this book.

Why do I fuss like that over the wording? The two sentences essentially mean the same thing, right? And I did ask my friend to recommend me a book out of her many books she's read for her seminary classes over the last couple years. She was happy to do so and lent me a couple of those to enjoy. But then, as though she was unsatisfied with the borrowed pair I was holding in my hands, she walked across the room over to her husband's pile in their basement study and grabbed this third book. He'd raved about it to her and she was planning on reading it soon. She thought I might like to read it first.

Now, I think there's a difference between the books I had meant to borrow and this third book, Courage and Calling by Gordon T. Smith. This third book was really what I needed to read...but neither my friend nor I could have known it. She didn't know where my heart had been that week...and I didn't know this book existed or that it would be so helpful at this particular time in my life.

I agreed to take it home, but wasn't sure I'd even crack it open. This was Friday.

Saturday night, Andrew and I talked for hours about my recent struggles and wrestled over what could be done to alleviate the situation for me. Sunday morning, the book must have caught my attention somehow because I started reading it and, after 5 pages or so, was completely stunned to find out it was speaking directly to the very issues I was having.

So, call me a mystic, but I firmly believe it was my Friend who lent me this book.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spending Some Time in the Psalms

I have to be honest and admit that I've been struggling.

With what? Balance. Focus. Joy.

I have been lacking in all three...thus I have been feeling spent and depressed.

The first place I turned was to the Psalms. And I say. "Thank goodness for the psalmist"! He (David) reassures me that I can be honest with God about my struggles. He also usually brings me back to the what is true, to what my knees.

I opened up to the following Psalms and felt encouraged and admonished.

Psalm 130
Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If You Lord should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You that You may be feared.
I wait for the Lord. My soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning, indeed more than the watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord. For with the Lord there is lovingkindness and with him is abundant redemption and he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
Psalm 128:1-4
How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, you will be happy and it will be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table. Behold for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.
Psalm 131
O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me. Surely, I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.

Psalm 130 especially caught my attention. I was able to break it into 3 sections as I read it. The way I see it, the first section highlights the vertical relationship...the sinner speaking to God, asking for forgiveness (presumably for failing to trust Him). The second section shows the internal struggle of waiting on the Lord...the sinner purposing in his heart to seek Him as the only one who can satisfy his soul, the only one who can help him when the darkness closes in. The last part is the horizontal effect of one who has learned to wait on the Lord. He will want to tell others about His goodness, His mercy, and His power because he will have experienced it firsthand.

The other two psalms helped me wrap my brain around the concept that 'there is forgiveness in Him that He might be feared' (verse 4 in Psalm 130). It struck me that His forgiveness actually really is a clear demonstration of His power. I remember hearing as a young girl that it isn't the mighty man who is strongest, but the one who can show restraint. God is the Almighty against whom I sin daily...and He has chosen not to crush me. He could, and His holiness demands it, but His lovingkindness won't let Him. There is hope for me yet. I must put my trust in Him and Him alone. I must fear Him like the blessed man did. He alone can help me when the darkness closes in. He alone can make me truly 'happy'.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Becoming an American Citizen

On January 31st, 2011, I woke up unsure of what the day held for me. I had played out a couple of scenarios in my mind the night before, and had concluded that the day could be somewhat uneventful... or it could go really, really bad. I quickly found out there was a third option I hadn't considered. As is often the case, I'd forgotten that God is greater than my perceived problems. Oh me of little faith.

Several months prior, I had had to face the fact that I had become very much an American in my heart. My green card was expiring and it was time to either renew it for another 10 years or apply for a US citizenship.

Earlier in my life, before we had kids, there probably wouldn't have been much of a toss up. I probably would not have considered seriously the option of becoming American. The oath would have been too difficult to stomach for me. I was Canadian and there wasn't much I wanted to change about that. Fastfoward several years into the future (or should I say the present?) and I find myself having a whole new perspective. Most of the people who are dearest to me are Americans (i.e. Andrew, our kids, his family, our close friends). But it's not only that. After living here for over a dozen years, I have come to love this land and its history...and would like to officially make it my own, for better or for worse. There are also the practical reasons...for instance, if we were to travel as a family, it would be nice to all carry American passports in the event of a disaster or some type of political uprising (which seem to happen more frequently these days). I also thought it would be nice to finally do my civil duty and vote! Lastly, knowing the Canadian government would still consider me a citizen whether or not I Americanized helped tip the scale for me. I was ready to take the plunge.

So I took the plunge. I started working on my naturalization papers and had about 4 months to make it happen before my green card expired. Apparently, 4 months wasn't enough. Or should I say, almost wasn't enough. I started getting nervous by mid-December when my interview with a migration officer had yet to be scheduled. My green card would expire on January 30th. What could take them so long to schedule an interview? I'd turned in all my paper work...completed my end of the bargain..why couldn't they just schedule the interview already? Yes, I was impatient...and no, I didn't think to pray about it.

I finally did receive the official letter letting me know my interview was scheduled for the thirty-first of January. That was cutting it close...too close. Actually that wasn't going to 'cut it' because my green card would expire the day before. Technically, I would be going in for my interview as an illegal immigrant. I tried calling the number they gave me on the form...but couldn't reach a real live person. My file number, which I had to enter in order to navigate the automated menu, kept leading me to this recording stating the status of my naturalization file... and that I was requested for an interview on the 31st. I decided to trust that they knew what they were doing. Until the night before the interview...when I started imagining the worst case scenarios.

All that worrying for nothing.
The officer who met with me on the 31st didn't even address the matter of my expired card at all. As we walked from the waiting room to her office, she sized me up and realized what I had realized myself several months before: that I was already an American at heart. So she rushed through the interview in order to add me to the list of naturalizing applicants scheduled to receive their certificates at a ceremony a few hours later that same day. Although I knew it would disappoint some of my family members not to be able to attend because of such a short notice, I also knew it would be a really good thing to be DONE. As of midnight, I no longer had official papers to show that it was legal for me to be here in the States. It wasn't a good feeling to know that technically speaking, I was basically an illegal immigrant. Sure, I had a case file that, if looked into, would prove to the authorities that I was in the process of becoming an American. But I had no way to access that file or prove it existed....

So, I didn't object to the officer's plans. I saw her move as God's providence in my hour of need. After passing the interview with no problem whatsoever, I quickly left her office, got in my car, and started texting several people to let them know about the ceremony. I was hoping that some of them might be able to attend... even if it was on such a short notice.

Two and a half hour later, my two children, several of their buddies, my two friends and my mom-in-law bunched together in a waiting room. Becky, one of my dear friends, had come with camera in hand, ready to document the whole thing. My other dear friend, Kara, was ready to videotape the event so that the rest of my family can watch it at a later date. I felt sheepish as I looked around the room and noticed that among all the naturalizing applicants gathered there, I had the largest group of supporters. It dawned on me that it would have been downright embarassing if all interested parties had actually been able to come to the ceremony. Even in that small matter, I could see that God was watching out for me. He had attended even to the smallest of details. I should have trusted Him...I should have known it would all work out because God cares for His children. I should not have worried.
Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?
Matthew 6:26-37
And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things.
Luke 12:29-30
But seek first His kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:33

Last thing: a couple of days after the ceremony, I received two congratulatory cards in the mail from some dear church ladies (the exact same card, I might add, but two different ladies). One of the ladies put everything into perspective when she reminded me that I now had THREE citizenships. I thought she'd made a mistake at first...but then a smile formed on my lips as I realized that, although God cared whether or not I became American on that day (He certainly paved the way for me), He didn't want me to lose sight of my one true citizenship.
The truth of the matter is...I still remain... an alien.