Thursday, May 31, 2007

I went to Cambridge to study Danish

I love Europe. I love the small cars, the narrow streets of cobblestone and brick houses that are older than your parents (those ones are the newer homes). I love so many things about it here, but the best part is that I love being here with our friends. We arrived at noon yesterday (GMT) and were greeted by Colin, all wet from the rain that poured down on the British Ilse. It was a soggy but happy hour drive to the YWAM base, where we got hugs from Galya and burbles from Josh, their (not so) newborn son, who we met for the first time. He is just beautiful, and we grownups were all happy to be reunited once again. After we settled in we visited over a game of "Settlers of Catan" before walking to a local pub (The Old Bell); there we had some fish & chips and, for me of course, a pint of ale. Then it was bedtime and let me tell you, an anesthetist couldn't have rendered me unconscious faster...

In spite of getting only 3 hours of sleep in the 32 prior to my bedtime I woke up fresh and adjusted to the time change. We had our itinerary planned out for this trip, and today was our day to visit Cambridge. Cambridge is known for its world renowned university, but it's actually one of several colleges in the city. Our tour of them was limited as it was exam time (Shh, no noisy tourists while tests are written!) but we did get to see some pretty cool stuff anyways, like the inside of a marvelous church. In browsing the shops I came across some Danish language software (which I bougth), so now I can tell everyone I learned how to speak Danish fluently at Cambridge...

Tomorrow we'll visit a castle and cathedral nearby, but tonight we'll catch up on some more visiting and play some more Settlers of Catan. And the fun will just get better when Nathan & Dawn arrive tomorrow night from Lithuania!!


Kings College

The sign says "Do not lean your bicycles on the wall"

"Punting" on the river

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lock your monastery, the vikings are coming...

I'm beat. Angel & I have been busy tying up loose ends before we leave for the airport. It's nice that we're finally all packed, finished the housework and ran our errands. Now we can relax for a couple of hours before we drop the car off at my parent's house. There Angel's mom will meet us and drive us to the airport. The Edmonton International has been the butt of many jokes (I like to say that we don't have an international airport, but Nisku does). But since they started taxing passengers and using the fees to upgrade the airport it's become an attractive, if still small, airport.

It's hard to believe that the day is finally here! But it is, and I've been going around the house all morning singing, "I'm leaving on a jet plane..." It's been driving Angel nuts, but she got a big smile when I stopped in the middle of my work, started jumping up and down and yelling, "We're going to England!!" Maybe this is the way my viking ancestors felt as they boarded their dreaded long boats and set sail for a village to pillage. I think this viking is pretty tame though. Just don't get me near a monastery; who knows what dormant genes may stir...

Friday, May 25, 2007

4 more sleeps!!

Time has indeed marched on, so much so that I suddenly realized that it's this Tuesday that Angel & I leave for England! Suddenly there's a sense of unpreparedness - like we should have done a million things before we leave. Can it be as simple as packing a few suitcases and catching a ride to the airport? Apparently it is...

Angel had her surgery on Wednesday to embolyze her fibroid, and they decided to keep her overnight (it was supposed to be day surgery but they wanted to make sure her pain was being managed). I took her home yesterday morning where she slept the rest of the AM away. Then it was decided that we were going to do our pre-England errands in the afternoon; this is before heading out to Stony Plain for the wedding rehearsal Angel's shooting for this Saturday. It sort of reminded me of how my grandmother (and yours) gave birth in the morning and then plowed a whole field in the afternoon.

Anyhow we got all of that stuff out of the way, and it didn't seem like it was such a big deal to do. You know what it's like; you stress yourself out about stuff and then afterwards the stuff didn't seem so overwhelming as you made it out to be. But let me tell you, my wife (the trooper she is) paid for her insistence on gallivanting. Her leg is nicely bruised, swollen and achy, so she decided to take it easy today. A sensible idea if you ask me.

But perhaps this is an indication of how excited we are to make this trip. No force on this earth can stand in the way of us getting ready to board that big metal bird. Come Tuesday evening we are England bound. Wahoo!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Time marches on

Time is a funny thing. Sometimes we want it to slow down or even go backwards to a place we'd like to live in over and over again. Sometimes it doesn't go fast enough for us, like when we're in the middle of some unpleasantness or looking forward to a special event. Sometimes we feel that time slows down or speeds up (Einstein once said about relativity that when you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour). It would be neat if we had time machines to make time do our bidding. But the reality is that we all live in a time machine that only moves forward and moves at a rate of one second per second. Like it or not, time marches on.

I was reminded of this last week when I went into work for my weekly bus run. For years I have taken clients to the pool on a Tuesday night, and it had become my favorite day of the week. It was a great social time not only for the clients but the staff as well. Over the years different staff would come & go, sometimes a few clients decided to swim on a different night and even the location of the pool would change. But every Tuesday was swim night. So you can imagine how I felt when I went in last week to find out that swim night had been cancelled. Yup, after 8 1/2 years at Robin Hood Association, Tuesday night swim had come to an end.

Now this may not seem like such a big deal, but I was kinda depressed about this. You see, in the middle of all the changes that happen in life I believe we need some constants - some things that never change. They're the life lines we hang onto while adrift in the ocean of life. They give us a sense of familiarity and safety; an anchor that keeps us from drifting into uncharted and potentially dangerous waters. Now this sounds like a lot to make out of a silly old swim night but for me it was a big deal. As I said, it was a big social night, which meant I got the chance to chat with the staff from other residences I had formed friendships with.

But as time went by these friends moved on to other jobs and even other cities. I still keep in touch with most of them, but it's not the same as meeting them every Tuesday at the pool. The pool was my reminder of past and present fellowship. But staffing shortages have forced change upon my workplace, and now my place of memories is even a memory. I know that change is unavoidable, and that I need to respond to change in a healthy way. The clients that used to go swimming will get the chance to experience new and different outings, and they will grow as people. My friends who moved to other jobs and cities have the opportunity to grow as people in their new environment. I now have an opportunity to experience a new job placement and make new friends.

Change can be hard, but change can also be that window of new opportunity to grow as a person. It was hard to say goodbye to my friends who are now in England & Lithuania, but had they not left Angel & I would not be departing soon on the trip of a lifetime. So when I think about it it's probably a good thing that I can't go back in time because I wouldn't have any reason to make such a trip. It's also probably a good thing I can't speed it up either as the trip will be over before I know it anyways. My problem is that I need to learn how to enjoy living in the here and now. I need not fear change but to grieve the change when I need to and then move on. It's the only way I'll grow, along with everyone else.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Love is in the air...

Ah, spring. That time of the year when romance blooms like garden flowers. Some of us get hay fever in spring though... But for many young couples it's a time of year when they're thinking about love, marriage and all that good stuff. This year Angel & I know several couples who are engaged to be (or already are) married. Recently Angel did the wedding photos for a very young couple in our church, who are about the same age as we were when we got married. There are two other couples from Calvary that are getting married this summer, and in a couple of weeks Angel will be doing another wedding shoot for friends of my niece's. As well, Angel's girlfriend from work is getting married this September; not only is Angel the official photographer for that wedding, but I'll be performing the ceremony - a first for me (I'll bet you didn't know I had a licence, did you?).

With all of these young(er) couples getting married, Angel & I have felt a desire to reach out to up & coming marrieds. We've already had two of these couples over for lunch, and (Lord willing) we'd like to start a young married's home group at our church this fall. We remember what it was like for us when we first got married, and how different it was from what we've expected. In all honesty I can say that things were a lot harder than we anticipated, but also a lot better. I also think back to how Angel & I first met almost 20 years ago (yes, it's been that long!) and how drunk we were on love then...

Angel & I met in late summer of 1987 (it's scary that I have friends who weren't even born then). We were starting grade 12 and my brother & I had started attending Trinity Baptist Church in Sherwood Park, where Angel & her family attended. Angel was just another girl in youth group, and I actually had my eye on her best friend. But Angel took an interest in these new boys; however my brother & I were a bit shy and we would try to make a quick exit after church was over.

Angel had other ideas though. From her seat in the choir she could see us making our way to the doors, and as the choir made its way down the backstairs she would push past her fellow singers, run through the basement, up the main stairs and cut us off at the door. I'll always remember this short little girl, still in her choir gown, looking up at us and asking "Where are you going?" with a big smile on her face...

But like I said, I wasn't interested in Angel. I was after her friend. We went on one date, which didn't go so well. It might have had something to do with me daring her to bite my finger, which she did... Anyhow, while things went south with me & this girl, Angel & formed a friendship over the year. We'd hang out at youth group and always pair up whenever there was a youth activity that required pairing up. It seemed obvious to everyone (except us) that something was going on between the two of us. So when it came time for Angel's grad, Angel was given a choice by a family friend, who had watched us for some time: ask this boy to be your date, or I'll ask for you.

So, stuck between a rock & a hard place, Angel asked me to be her grad date. I accepted her invitation, and after the dinner we skipped the dance and found a quiet corner of the convention centre, where her grad was held, and had a long conversation. We know it was long because a janitor came along and asked, "Who are you?" When we explained that we were with the grad dinner & dance we were told it was 1am, and that everyone went home! So we went to Tim Horton's had coffee and, to make a long story short, professed our true feelings to each other and had our first kiss.

Two days later I dumped Angel. Now you're all saying, "What?! Why'd you do a dumb thing like that?" You see, during the school year I had gone out with another girl (yes, as a young man I "played the field" - platonicaly that is...) which also didn't go well. I was on the rebound still and I was confused over who I had feelings for. Yes, I know. I'm a jerk. But hey, the important thing is we got back together and walked down the isle a few years later. And ever since then I still have acted like a jerk, and Angel still loves me. If there's one thing we want to impart to the new couples we want to mentor with stories like these, it's that love is a choice that will take you to unexpected yet joyful places.

(Angel & I at her grad, June 1988)

(My, how far we've come...)