Lobster… Good savage eating.

There are some foods that are just plain savage to eat.

Image from buzzfed.com.

One of those foods is lobster.

My parents went up North to visit family and brought us home some lobster.  Because they love me.  And I got the call that they had lobster for us while we were en route there to mooch their washer and dryer.  So, we did our laundry at their house and got paid in lobster (and a physics textbook I had delivered there).  Quite interesting.  I like that set up.  It works for us.

So, today, I came home for academic half day and we had lobster for lunch today.

I spread out a paper bag as a placemat, hauled over the paper towel and ripped out a couple paring knives.

I eat lobster like a savage.  Even more so than those proper people with their proper lobster eating tools.

Patrick uses the lobster tools… The picks and the crackers.  He grew up that way.  His parents bought us a set for our first wedding anniversary after they heard a story of us using crappy knives and a hammer when we were first married.

My savage tendencies were also learned… From my French Canadian fisherman family.  Newspaper, papertowel and a knife are the sole necessities.  I can dismember a lobster quicker with that knife than most can with the crackers.  And I am the slow one in my family.

So, I put on a t-shirt I wear to the gym (on that note, I haven’t been to the gym in about a month… oh dear) and got to eating.  Yes, I changed clothes to eat.  Because that is what one must do when they eat lobster like a savage.

Patrick laughed at me because I suck the juice out and I fish around the innards for eggs and I am happy as a clam whilst eating lobster, while he continues to fight with the knife.  He is getting better at the whole thing, but I get it… I have been training to eat lobster in this fashion since it was safe socially acceptable to allow me to use a knife.

Lobster eating is savage for so many reasons… The fact that the food is quintessentially staring at you is a good start.  Kind of creepy with his beady little eyes (like in the song “Lester the Lobster” that kids sang in school).  You need to impale the pulp out of the sucker to get into it and even then, you still need to gnaw on legs and such to get all the goodness out.  You crack shells and break backs and all-in-all, it is a horror movie for the poor little things.  And all that is after they were boiled alive.

It still strikes me funny that lobster is such a delicacy and that people eat them one at a time for a small fortune at fancy restaurants.  With side dishes.

I rarely eat anything else with lobster.  I just want a pot full (which is probably just as expensive as the dinner because I eat way more lobster).  At home.  Wearing an old t-shirt with juice dripping down my arms (not that I like the fact there is juice down my arms, but it is an acceptable side effect for me).

Honestly, I am a scary thing when I eat lobster.  But it is so good.  So long as I don’t think too much about how disturbing the whole concept is.

Church, birds and money… Find the similarity.

We visited the same church Patrick went to last week with our lovely newlywed visitors (the Child and her husband).   I liked it.  It was different culturally… The church is predominantly Nigerian and as such, the style of worship and preaching was different than what we are usually used to.  But, it was very friendly and upbeat.  It may not be where we call home in the end (though, who knows what God has in store for us), but I am glad to have experienced it.

The pastor was preaching  on prayer and how our prayer lives can be modeled after Jesus teaching the “Our Father” in Matthew 6:9-13.  That was all well and good.  Two things that stuck with me were the importance of praying with your spouse and that God is our source.  I am going to dwell a bit on the whole God is our source concept today.

It is easy for us to pay lip service and say that God is our provider, but I think a lot of the time, we (or at least I) still worry about every little detail and am not  very trusting when it comes to many areas in my life that God provides in.

He has never let me down.  In fact, we generally have an abundance of blessing, but I still worry and freak out.

For instance, I finally received my first paycheque of resident salary this Friday.  FINALLY (yay!).  We have been living since May with no income and things were starting to get tight.  Mighty tight.  And now the money is here.  It is all leaving by the first of the month, but nonetheless, it was provided.  Just in time for bills and all that good stuff.  But, as I sat down to do our monthly banking today, I started worrying about money for the next weeks.  Already.  And it is good to plan ahead and be responsible.  However, I really need to learn to trust that things come through, especially with God on our side.

Another instance is that I keep worrying that we will never find a church family and small group like the one we recently left.  We miss them terribly and knowing that we won’t be back to the same routine come fall is kind of disheartening.  But, the cool thing is that I didn’t know we would have something like that in the first place, yet God provided.  And He has sent all sorts of colourful people out of the woodwork everywhere we have gone.

Over and over again, He provides and proves Himself, even though He doesn’t have to.  And yet, we continue to worry.  Silly humans.  Silly Trisha.

The church we go to back home is almost always in need of something.  It is a reflection of the community it serves.  There is so much need and so much to give that there is almost always something else needed.  There is just enough money to pay whatever bills or provide whatever ministry.  Never extra.  Almost always just enough.  But, the power is always on and the church marches on.  Because people mysteriously come out of the woodwork with donations or volunteer to do things they normally wouldn’t.  Such a good example of how provision keeps you safe, but may not always be comfortable.

I have met so many people in the hospital who have significant disease and disability, who may struggle to do even the simplest of tasks.  But, who manage.

Recently, I met a single man who had worked and lived on his own for many years.  Now elderly and with a new diagnosis, his neighbor (young enough to be his grandchild) started helping him around the house and taking him to appointments.  In fact, they have gotten s-o close, he thinks of she and her husband as his children.  He has the family he never had.  At the time when he needed it most.  You can’t tell me there isn’t something big behind that.

The pastor today mentioned that sometimes God might let us keep having a bit of doubt about where means will come from so that we continue to pray and  keep in touch with Him.  He wants to hear what we need and wants to hear from us.  This is a way He shows His power and maintains communication.


Staying in touch with God all of the time.  Something we are supposed to do.  But, honestly, do we always do it?  I don’t.  Especially in the really good times.  Even though I know I should.

Some of the most trusting people who lean on God in every way have such a close relationship with Him.  And no wonder.  You need to know what he is at to keep doing what He wants.  And to keep trusting He will provide.

I want that.  I need that.  But, it is something I need to work on.  With His help.

The whole notion reminds me of the old hymn His Eye is on the Sparrow.  I have always liked it…

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,

Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,

For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,

And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;

Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,

When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,

I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

There is just something beautiful about knowing you are as protected as the little birds.  Even if you feel like you are about to get clotheslined.  It is that peace only God can give.  And I know He provides it for us if we ask.

Rude interruption… Good reasoning…

A Canadian medical student and physician interrupted a press conference with the minister of health to announce their dislike for the new cuts and policy changes that will change funding and provision of health care to refugees in Canada.

Here is the video.

I don’t necessarily agree with their tactics.  As Patrick said, it was like they were bullying the minister.  And it was rude to interrupt the press conference.

I like to think there are other ways to approach these issues.  But, I know it is a struggle to get meetings with such officials.  And that the current government has been making questionable decisions that sometimes have not reflected perspectives of the majority.

This is something that needs to be said.  It seems that the current government has been making cuts in areas that matter to us and areas that are a point of pride for our country, like universal health care, education and the general welcoming attitude.

I don’t profess to understand politics.  But, I do understand people.  And I know that the changes that are proposed and happening affect people.

My medical school had a fabulous program where the first and second year medical students do full histories and physicials on new refugees to aid their family physician.  They, in partnership with a supervising physician, do urgent consults for any particular needs and do groundwork to get people cared for in an efficient manner.  Often, this is done through a translator.

In doing this program, I met people from around the world who had seen terrifying things.  I referred a young man with kidney stones who had never seen a physician to a urologist.  I helped another young family get in contact with a dentist to help remove and repair the rotting teeth of two of their children.  I met a woman who delivered all three of her children at home on the floor who had never seen a physician and had never had a pap smear… And encouraged her to get preventative care.

This program made me aware of the fears and struggles of refugees.  That these people have nothing.  They come with the clothes on their back.   They don’t have money for medications or dental care or, well, anything in some cases.  So, the fact that our refugees get medications covered temporarily always seemed obvious to me.  Otherwise, they will just get really sick and need even more care.  It seems like the right thing to do.  Protect those you took in to protect.

The people trying to voice their opinions in this video have seen this too.  They understand the value in refugee care.  That it is more than dollar signs.  And that because we provide the extra care temporarily means that they are saving money overall.

The thing is, when we care well for immigrants, they stay in the country.  They become more healthy and can bring skills to the table.  They become contributing members of society.  They aren’t freeloading.   They are simply getting on their feet to take part in our society.

As physicians, we took an oath to “do no harm.”  Doing nothing can be passively doing harm when something can be done.  Refugee and immigrant health care are places where something can be done.

This physician and medical student are taking a stand for what should be valued and maintained.  Where cuts should be avoided.  When you can’t get meetings, when your viewpoints are avoided, sometimes extreme measures need to be taken.  Especially when speaking for people who don’t have a voice for themselves. 

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A Birthday Wok

Today was my birthday.

I am not a big birthday person.

Partly because I hate being the center of attention and partly because bad stuff tends to happen around my birthday.  Chicken pox, other illness, deaths…. They have all happened.

Patrick, on the other hand, loves birthdays.  And he loves to make birthdays lovely for me.  So, he once blindfolded me and took me for a picnic in a park.  Another time, he and some friends had a big party.  And he always seems to take me out for a good meal and has some sort of epic present up his sleeve.

This year was no exception.

I got a wok.

Now, you may be saying, “uh, Trisha… A wok?  Really?  There are way better things to get as a gift.”   But I disagree.  I have been wanting a wok since we got married.  Really, I wanted one before.  And I didn’t have one.  I would see them in stores, say I wanted one but not want to dish out the money.  Then, we saw one on the aeroplan website.  Patrick snuck around me and ordered it to be delivered to my parents’ house.  So, I got a wok.  And I am so excited.  I can’t wait to get making a stir fry.

Given that all we have done lately is run around and see people, I wanted to do something low key.  And low key we did.

We had lunch with my parents and grandparents.  There, I was asked repeatedly how old I was, if I was married and if I had kids by my lovely, pleasantly confused grandmother.

We left there and went on a mission to go for a nice walk.  The first park we attempted is right on the coast.  And today was right in the fog.  So, we had to divert to a second choice.

The park we wound up walking around is a park that we go to often.  We camp there in the summers, we went on countless dates there and Patrick proposed to me there.  So, we had a good laugh people watching and walking down memory lane.

Part of the park from the lookout.

Part of the park from the same lookout on our engagement day… 4 years ago this November.

We made a swing by to visit Patrick’s grandfather who is still talking about his party on Saturday.  Then hit my favorite restaurant in the city… Thai Hut.  Madagascar 3 was the evening entertainment of choice (I am still singing “Dadadadadadadada daaaa circus…”).

We are now watching game 6 of the Stanley Cup final.  I like the underdog, so I am rooting for New Jersey (in case you cared).  So, I am going to pay attention to that for a bit.

A lovely birthday with some lovely people.

The Big 9-0

I am not a big party or celebration person.  I pretty much like to keep things on a low key.  But, today, I went to a party I considered quite worthwhile.

Today was Patrick’s grandfather’s 90thbirthday party.  He had people drop in from his old workplace, church, community and everywhere in between.

Patrick and I posing for a picture with Granky before things get really busy.

Patrick’s grandfather, or Granky as we fondly call him is one of those people that you just can’t help but love.  And that was evident today.  You see, he was an insurance salesman.  He has the salesman smile and charm.  But, it goes deeper than that.  He is one of the most caring, friendly and loveable people we know.  And He was one of those people that could convince and encourage you to do anything.  He took in all kinds of friends and made sure each person felt welcome or loved.  He did that for me.

Granky and the grandkids.

People remember him.  His smile, his kind words.  He goes to the same dentist I do.  Everyone in the office remembers him.  Tells me to say hi.  The same phenomenon repeats wherever he is known.

Granky is a rather spry 90 year old.  Until Christmas, he was out for 1-2km walks daily, he managed his house on his own and had a zest for life that was enviable.  He, unfortunately, had a fall when being too adventurous on one of his walks and broke is humerus (the long bone in his arm) and got banged up pretty well.  That really slowed him down.  He still isn’t back to normal, but is definitely brightening.

Blowing out the candles… Only 5 of them. It seemed unfair to light a perfectly good cake on fire.

We saw his usual bright demeanor today.  Every person who walked in he greeted with a big smile.  He talked to each one.  Reflected on old times. He told many, many people that I had just graduated from med school and that Patrick and I were moving closer to home.  He was amazed to see so many people come out and continued to talk about it long after most everyone left.

This smile wasn’t just for the babies, but babies are always welcome!

It was interesting to hear what people had to say.  Granky was a strong Christian influence in the lives of many.  He was never afraid to speak his mind and to share the gospel.  No matter where… Including loudly in a Tim Hortons.  He encouraged a ton of people to pursue various endeavours.  He also had a boxer called Lady who he once had to wrangle when it uncharacteristically cornered a friend at a camp ground.  He and Patrick’s grandmother went on all sorts of road trip adventures, including tenting with a baby in the rain.  He regularly asked Patrick when we first started dating, “did you kiss her?”  Everyone had a story about him that brought a smile to their face.

With some friends.

The beautiful part of all of it was that he was so bright and had fun.  And he was there.  I think sometimes, we wait until people are dead to come out and say how much we appreciate them.  But, he had a chance to hear it.  At least, some of it.  I think that is pretty neat.

So, all in all, it was a very happy birthday for my lovely 90-year-old grandfather-in-law (where he was visited by two other friends also 90 and 91… Pretty crazy.).  As someone said today, “He made it this far, he might as well just try for 120.”

When in doubt, choose FSGS and other review course wisdom

A few life lessons brought to us by the LMCC review course.

When you think you can’t be any more bored…. Don’t… Because you can.

Read directions. Because apparently despite being in school for the last 20 years of our lives, this is not always done.

No matter how old you are, when someone asks if anyone in the room is a “cervix connoisseur,” it is funny.  Especially when later in the lecture the lecturer belts, “hey cervix specialist girl, did you know…”  (Please note, I was not cervix specialist girl… Just an innocent bystander).

Image via googleimages.com

Coffee is both a blessing and a curse.  But, a great way to remember some kidney physiology…  Remember, drinking two large coffees in a morning equals disproportionate trips to the bathroom all afternoon… Thank you caffeine for stimulating increased renal glomerular filtration and the inhibiting sodium reabsorption in the nephrons… Thank you.

The more they teach us statistics, the less we, as a whole, understand.

Apparently we are going to be doctors soon…. Why didn’t someone warn us this would happen!?!?

Image via gigglemed.com

People generally prefer an x-ray to getting a colonoscopy!?  What odds!  This after we all agreed the first course of action would be colonoscopy and the gastroenterologist (in a very animated manner) exclaimed that is what he would say too, but an X-ray is a good first step, plus is a bit more pleasing to the average person.  Then, you think about it and well, really, who wants a colonoscopy first… Except the fee for service physician performing the test?

We had one of our first odds are you will all pass this exam pep talks.  Usually they are telling us we are stunned and someone will fail.  What a step up in the world.  We might all pass!

If all else fails, this portion of the infectious disease lecture will make you never want to eat at a chinese buffet again.  Thank you professor.  Because clearly we all have time at this point in our lives to cook our own food.

Don’t you put it in your mouth…

“Kids puke… Get over it.”  This in response to a heated debate about giving vomiting children oral fluid challenges first line.

When all else fails, if you are given a bunch of glomerular diseases in an adult choose FSGS.  It is the most common, so there is a decent chance you might be right.

FSGS... Which to most of us looks and sounds like many other glomerular diseases. Image via unckidneycenter.org.

The best part is that there is still two more days of this left… 9 to 5 followed by studying at home in the evenings.  Oh joy oh bliss!

Forty Days of Water – The Halfway(ish) Point

I have reached the halfway point of 40 Days of Water (really it is 46, but who’s counting really?).  I decided it was time for an update and some reflection.

Image via Blood Water Mission.

I have stuck by my only one non-water drink per day thing and went water only for at least two days… But that just cancels out the two drinks I had on Match Day and my small group Match celebration night.  Whoops.

First of all, some clarification…  The 40 Days of Water Project is put on by Blood Water Mission to raise money for the installation of safe water wells in Uganda.  According to the site, 30% of the 32 million person population lives without safe water.  The basic premise for this fundraiser is that as a participant, I am giving up drinking all beverages except tap water during lent.  I am donating the money I would have normally spent on these drinks (or a guesstimate, since a bottle of juice is four dollars and would provide about 8 glasses).

I chose this project (as I discussed in my post “Lint”) because I have some mixed feelings about Lent, but I wanted to do something that would impact the greater community and would serve some sort of purpose.

Thus far, I have given up 44 drinks for a total of $50.

I really like water and generally choose to drink tap water as opposed to bottled water, as in reality they are one in the same (there are actually few regulations in what bottled spring water should actually contain).  There are some exceptions, for instance at my parents’ house where the water is so high in sulfites and iron it tastes smells like rotten eggs.  Here, it is not so bad, so I just drink tap water anyway.  But despite my liking tap water, I generally drink one to two glasses of juice per day, have pop as a treat when I go out to eat and drink at least one coffee per day, usually another coffee or tea with friends if I study.   So, it adds up over time, for sure!

I still find it difficult.  I don’t want to complain too much because really, that struggle is between me God and me, but it isn’t easy to forgo the beverage type treats, especially when fruit juice is good in moderation and tea and coffee are social drinks in my circle.  Generally, I have made it a joke.  I went down to hang out with a few people in my class last night and while they had tea… I had tap water… again.  They suggest I boil it and pretend it is tea.  So not the same.

Image via flickr.

The whole project has made me more aware of the money we waste on drinks we don’t really need.  Pop in most restaurants is 3 dollars and all it is are empty calories.  Juice is good, but so is real fruit.  There are more economical approaches to drinks… For instance, when I would have had juice at home, I would only really by paying about 50 cents or less, but at work, it is 2 dollars.  How much we would save and be able to give if we all cut back our non-water intake.  Especially with the mark-up on bottled water and drinks, not to mention the overall energy usage and environmental costs..

I have also become much more grateful for the fact that our water is free.  I saved $50 in just 3 weeks.  Can you imagine if you had to pay for each glass of water?  We would spend so much more.  Especially given how much water is used in cooking and cleaning.  And here we are with it at our fingertips and we don’t even really think about it.

Image via Flickr.

We don’t have to work for our water.  Just turn a tap.  Or ask awkwardly for it at a restaurant (people get very confused when you request tap water, even though pop is included in your meal).  People in other countries walk for hours, carry the water, and sometimes endanger themselves for water.  And here, we waste it with leaky faucets and 20-minute showers.

Image via flickr.

Also, I love that our water is inherently safe.  You turn on a tap, you drink… End of story.  We don’t get dysentery or giardiasis.  We have boil water orders every now and again.  Let’s be realistic, we could probably drink the water and be fine, it is more of a precaution.  But, we are protected.  Because our water cleaning system is that stringent.  What a blessing is that?  Our government is wealthy enough to manage the water that closely.  It is not like living in a place where people commonly get ill from the water, where babies die daily from diarrhea, where a safe supply may become unsafe without warning.

I am grateful that I am able to do this.  That I can learn these lessons.  That they can become more tangible.  That I have the money to be able to donate these savings to help those who need clean, safe water.  I am glad God gave me a heart for this cause and these people.

If you are interested in donating to the 40 Days of Water Project, please follow this link.

How’s your eulogy?

What do you want said about you at your funeral?

If you were to die today, does your potential eulogy share the message that you want people to hear?  Or is it lacking something?

These were the questions that we were contending with today as a small group.  Thankfully, nobody died that brought these about.

We were doing our Not a Fan study about how to become a follower of Jesus and this came up.  You see, the study comes with this DVD series that basically looks at the impact one man, who died suddenly had on his family and friends and the greater community.  He made a very significant change to follow Jesus and literally did a 180.  He stopped compromising his values and started giving all of himself to others out of love.  Today’s video portrayed his impact on his daughter, but also went to the funeral where we heard from many people he affected.  Though this was a fictional portrayal, it was moving how much one person can do when they give themselves wholeheartedly to Christ and act in true love.  The Kleenex box was passed around… And around.

Several of the discussion questions rotated around a Matthew 7:13-14, talking about the choice of path we take.  We discussed faith and works and how we all agree that Biblically, we are saved by faith alone.  But, if our faith is tried and true, we, out of our love for Jesus and His power in our lives, will be driven to do works.

We also talked about how overwhelming the things happening in this video were.  This man downsized.  Quit a good job because it was compromising ethics and beliefs.  Worked at a shelter and gave his time and money to everyone who was in need around him.  His family even took in a young teen who was pregnant after her family ostracized her.  We collectively (I think) felt overwhelmed.  We could not do those things.  It was too much.

But was it?

We talked about how at funerals; we often hear nice things about people.  How sometimes those things aren’t so true.

This will sound harsh, but this one time, I was at a funeral and almost laughed out loud.  The pastor was talking about the kind and giving spirit this person had, how they blessed those she spoke with, how beloved she was.  Now, I knew her well.  She was not kind or giving and she was harsh and nasty.  Yes, she is still a person.  But one doesn’t talk about how she yells at people and is mean.  That isn’t nice.

We don’t talk ill of the dead.  We shouldn’t speak ill of anyone.  Everyone has some inherent good.  Even if I don’t see it myself.

But, when we die, will they speak well of us because it is the right thing to do or will people want to share what we spoke into their lives.  Our witness.  Our faith.

That is what came out of our discussion.  If we were to die today, there are things we would want said in our eulogies that would not be said.  There are things we have not yet done.  We are not living our lives in the way we would want to be remembered.

I’m not saying we are collectively a group of 20-somethings who are unsatisfied with our lives.  I am saying that we are realizing that we are not striving to be as much like Jesus as we could.  We don’t always put ourselves out there.  We don’t always go above and beyond.

Then again, we also talked about how sometimes the small things we do, the things we think are nothing can become big things.

I remember this little old lady I met in the hospital cafeteria before my nuclear medicine interview in first year university.  She sat with me because there were no other free seats.  She told me her husband was very sick and dying, that she was tired and stressed.  Then, she asked why I was there.  I told her.  She smiled at me and said that was wonderful and I would be a wonderful doctor some day.  She said I should trust where God is leading me.  Then she had to leave.  It was odd.  I didn’t get why she said that.  I was training to be a technologist.  Lo and behold, what she said to me has stuck with me all these years.  She will never know.  At least not here on earth.

We talked about planting seeds in people’s lives.  How sometimes small things like saying “hello” to strangers or sharing a book or holding a door can make big differences.  How simple conversations can make huge changes that you never know about.

We came to the realization that some of what we want to be said of us is taking place in our day to day lives.  We don’t have to be superheroes.  We aren’t God.  But, there is always room to grow.

We aren’t perfect.  We will never be perfect.  But with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can grow and change and become more Christ-like.  We can do the things that we want in our eulogies.


Yesterday was Pancake Day.  Today is Ash day.   That marks the beginning of Lent.  Or as I said when I was a kid, “lint.”

Ah, childhood. Image via someecards.com

Seriously, I thought it was lint until I could read.  And even then, I was pretty sure that is what people participated in or at least how Lent was properly pronounced.  Giving things up for the fuzzy stuff under the bed… Not really, but that is what it sounded like to me.

For many people, ‘tis the season to give up something random for 40 days.  But, if you are good and liberal, it will be something easy… And Sundays don’t count… For some odd reason.  But, the whole Sunday thing depends on whom you talk to.

When I was a kid, I would always want to give up something that would be really easy to give up… One year, I asked to give up milk.  Because I really did not like milk (I wasn’t right).  Mom wouldn’t let me.  Something about not giving up stuff that is good for you.  Sensible.

Image via someecards.com

Over the past couple of years, I haven’t done the whole Lent thing.  The last thing I gave up was coffee (I am pretty sure I would now collapse from caffeine withdrawal, perhaps a sign that I should give up coffee).  I was feeling confused about where I stand on the whole Lent thing and where God stands on the whole Lent thing.  I was raised to Lent.  But I didn’t really get why we Lented (not a verb?).  My relationship with Jesus deepened, but my attachment to tradition in the religious organization sense is not there anymore.  I want to know why, not just routine.

I did a bit of research into the topic… And a lot of prayer about it.  I am not an expert on the historic basis… Just using my google-wiseness.

Many Christian faith backgrounds practice Lent, particularly Catholics.  Another few don’t… Well, they do, but not as structured or required as some others.  And even fewer reject the concept in full.

The notion that I gathered is that this tradition was created to remember where we came from and to repent of sins.  It is preparation for the celebration of Easter to come.  It was originally, when created, to be a time of fasting… Like a one meal a day, no meat, kind of fasting.  That has changed over the years.  More on that later.

The true challenge of the Lenten journey is to live and take in the words said during the imposition of ashes “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel,” or “You are dust, and to dust you will return.”  -Kristan Doerfler

The duration, 40 days is the number that reappears throughout the Bible… Jesus was in the desert 40 days, the rain fell for 40 days when Noah and friends were on the boat, the Israelites wandered for 40 years.  The number of days between Ash Wednesday and Easter is actually 46… That is where the Sundays disappear.

Interestingly, Lent isn’t in the Bible.  It didn’t start until a few hundred years after Jesus was crucified.  The concepts of fasting are, including notions of abstaining from meat in Isaiah 22:13 (that explains why many don’t eat meat on Fridays).   The Bible also talks about the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes in verses, such as Daniel 9:3 and Matthew 11:21.  Fasting is a concept written about in the Bible, though not during a set time frame… We see the power of prayer and fasting in Acts 13:2-3.  Also, in 1 Corinthians 10:31, we see that we should do everything to the glory of God, whether it be fasting or speaking.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  -1 Corinthians 10:31

In Matthew 6:1-9 and 16-18, Jesus is talking about the Pharisees and their approach to prayer and such.  He is saying that they are being showy.  Some people (not necessarily me) argue that giving something up for Lent and the talking about it and what a hardship it is can be a bit like being like a Pharisee.  I can see it in extremes, though fundamentally, I see nothing wrong with telling someone what you give up for Lent, especially for accountability.

Also, nowhere does it say that giving up something will get you to heaven.  Or make God forgive you of your sins.  Or get you brownie points.  Only Jesus gets you to heaven.  And the fasting is supposed to bring you closer to God in relationship.

My exact thoughts, at times. Image via someecards.com

Now, for the stuff people give up.  As I said, the initial Lenten season was apparently pretty serious fasting.  Now, it is a no-meat Friday for some and a no chocolate 6 days a week and such thing.  An interesting thing I am noticing is that some people are trying to gain new lifestyle habits and expand on their faith walk.  Not fasting, but the prayer side of things.  There are also very interesting movements to make Lent not just a spiritual fast, but also a movement to aid others.  One such movement that has intrigued me is 40 Days of Water.  This entails drinking only tap water Monday-Saturday (treats on Sunday allowed) and giving the money you would normally spend on the coffee, juice, pop etcetera to clean water projects in Uganda (this would also involve not drinking milk… Ha, take that Mom!).

So, back to God and me.  I have been feeling called to do something tangible and challenging.  I can’t (translate I am too big of a wimp) to do the water thing in full.  You see, the caffeine withdrawal headaches with lead to pains of migranous proportions and I get at least a quarter of my fruit and veggie intake from juice.  But, I do want to do something that has meaning and will also stretch me a bit.   A legitimate fast from something.   So, I am doing a modified (translation semi-health related cop-out of the whole program.    I am giving up all the non-tap water drinks every day of the week, with the exception of one serving of other beverage.  One serving.  To prevent the big headaches or hypoglycemia.  So, a regular (i.e. Starbucks tall) coffee or glass, none of this movie theatre sized stuff.  I figure seven of those would equate a binge on Sunday of epic proportions.  And then I still kind of fit in the challenge.  Except for my lame cop-out.

I want to make this more spiritual.  To actually connect with God through this season.  Not necessarily because it is “Lent” as such, but because it is a great thing to do, especially to gear up for Easter.  And the opportunity to do the water challenge came around.  I want to focus more on God, His provision and His sacrifice.  And at the same time make my own sacrifice.  I’m not sure if I am completely down with the whole Lent thing as a religious ritual.  Actually, it makes me a little uncomfortable (everyone is very different in their perspective of religious tradition, I am still trying to sort out what exactly I think of some of it).  But, I am comfortable with praising God and growing in my faith.  So, that is what I will do.

I am telling the Internet world this for accountability.  And because maybe someone else is looking for this type of opportunity and this is what they were looking for.  I may or may not give an update on this adventure mid-way.   I hope and pray that this will help me to know more of the sacrifice Jesus made for me, that it will cause me to seek Him more and that it will benefit those in Uganda more than me.

Small surprises from a sovereign God (and Patrick).

My life has been full of pleasant surprises and reminders from God, as well as one from Patrick (which can be a throw back to God, as well).

For Valentine’s Day and coming back after interviews, Patrick has a surprise for me.  A guitar.  Yes… This sounds like a crazy gift… But, Patrick is ridiculously romantic and I have been on the prowl for one for years.  You see, I always wanted to learn and never really had the time or instrument.  Now I have a bit more time and an instrument.  Apparently my face lit up like my face has not lit up before (at least not for a long time).  Apparently, he searched online and asked friends and got me a legitimately good guitar with a learn-to-play DVD.  My fingers are sore, but I feel like I am getting somewhere!

My new buddy and I. We make beautiful noise together.

This morning, on our way out to run errands, I opened the door to the porch and then screamed bloody murder.  Thankfully, it was not an earwig.  But a cat.  A pretty, fluffy white cat.  I am not scared of cats.  I am scared of live beings in my porch that I do not anticipate.  Apparently the landlord came in to grab a tool and didn’t close the door all the way.  And this cat got in.  Well, Patrick was overjoyed.  He loves cats more than people sometimes.  We can’t have pets here.  But it was super cute.  She was way too clean looking to be a stray.  So, sadly we had to put her back outside… In the rain.  Poor kitty.  Patrick took his good old time taking her out, though.  A lot of pats and cuddles for him.  I was more scared she would attack us.

This cat looks very similar to the one hiding in our porch this morning. Image from terrybitner.com

After parting ways with the cat, I noticed our mailbox was open.  Now, I am at an all out mental war with the mail man (please note, I am the only one having this war because he has no reason to believe the war even exists).  He leaves our mailbox open with mail in it.  Then, the rain and roof drips get in and our mail gets all soggy.  Ugh.  Clearly, he should know the angry vibes I send.   Anyway, there is a single letter.  From the school district!  Its Patrick’s first real teacher pay cheque.  He has finally had a few substitute days and thus he finally gets a teacher’s salary type payment.  This cheque was only for his first two-hour day…  He made more in those two hours than I make in two weeks as a clerk and almost as much as he makes in two days at the Y.  Wowzers!

Patrick and his big money. Yes, I altered the image so that crazy internet stalkers can't steal his identity. Point: Me.

Surprises are great.  Especially when they aren’t bad things like earwigs or moldy food.

The surprises I have been getting lately make me grateful for what I have and what I have gained (well, except the cat).  I am thankful that we have enough money that a surprise like a guitar is possible.  I am thankful that I have the musical ability and time (well, sort of) to learn to play the guitar, so that I can one day use it in worship and in relaxation.  I am thankful that Patrick will get the odd teacher cheque, as that will make a huge difference both to our finances and to our giving.  I think that how we live now will impact our gratitude in the future for what we will one day have.

A bigger lesson from these surprises is the sovereignty of God.  He really is in control of all things and takes care of us.

You see, the guitar thing has been something on my mind for a while.  I am too fiscally prudent (cheap) to purchase one on my own.  I have been missing playing music as much as I once did and was yearning to undertake something new.  Patrick knew this and got the guitar.  Sure, it is my smart spouse who made it all happen…. But working out the sales so that it is possible, as well as the timing… God.

A better example would be the whole teacher thing.  First of all, Patrick getting a substitute teaching day is pretty huge.  We have been here for three years together and he was on the list for over a year before receiving a single call (and not for lack of trying).  He had two calls in a week.  Before this happened, he was starting to be very discouraged and wondering if teaching was what he really should be doing in life.  Then the calls came.  And he did well.  A pleasant confirmation.  Plus, despite not teaching in the purest sense, Patrick has had opportunities to work for an after-school program, do supervised access work and help run our church’s wonder ministry.  If he was teaching full time, maybe he wouldn’t have had those chances… Or maybe those opportunities have made him a better teacher.  I think that this is all preparation for things to come.

Along with the teacher thing is the pay cheque thing.  It is not a lot of money.  But, aside from my line of credit, we are not making a lot of money.  By global standards we are rich and very blessed.  I am not complaining about having too little.  I am just being grateful for the bit more.  Especially given one of my student loan cheques got lost in the mail and I have had to do so much travelling this year.  Something as small and simple as this extra money will be able to put a bit more on his student loan or my line of credit. We were talking in the car about how cool it is to have a bit more to tithe this week.  And I was worried about our budget last night.

The cat… Well, how is that a sign of God’s sovereignty?  As I said, Patrick loves cats.  Today, the after school program for which he is the site leader is having an external reviewer come to assess the program.  He is stressed out.  He was up late doing paperwork and has been rehashing possible scenarios in his head.  So, he needed a break.  Something to clear his head.  And then there was a cat.  I am pretty sure I could have left and did the errands and come back and he still would have been in the porch with the cat.  It was just the thing he needed.

These surprises aren’t big.  They aren’t of the thunderbolt from the sky and blatant divine intervention categories.  They are little things that mean a lot and happen at just the right moments.  Some people may argue they are just coincidence.  But when enough of these things happen.  If you take time to listen and to pray… They aren’t.  Just look at how Ruth got from where she was to where she went and what became of that.  These are the things that keep me trusting and help me to know that someone is looking out for us, whether it is a random cat or a cheque for $86 that helps me to know we will be okay in the future.

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.  -Proverbs 16:4

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  -Romans 8:28