Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A No-Poo Update

I shampooed my hair the other night. And conditioned. (If you don't know why that's worth blogging about, read it here)Link

My hair was like silk. So I even though I am still happy to keep my hair clean without shampoo, I might shampoo/conditioner once a month or so and let my hair benefit from whatever all those chemicals do :) Everything in moderation!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More Thoughts on Home

I realized leading up to this vacation that I use the word home for both the house I grew up in where my parents still live, and for the apartment that Matt and I share now. It is strange to be in this situation, and I have noticed how hard it was to come "home" to Scarborough after such a wonderful time in Victoria.
It was interesting to notice that I did not feel home AT ALL when we landed, or on the drive home, although I do love how comfortable and familiar I am with Terminal 3 and the 401. When we got back to the apartment, I felt familiarity and comfort, but not really rest. My parents' home is a place of rest and safety and belonging (and I know it will be, even after my bedroom gets repainted/repurposed :P). Our apartment is... a shell I think. A home when we are living in it, playing games with friends, chasing the dog around, cooking meals, watching movies. I am fond of this place, bugs and all (so many dead bugs when we got back lol). But nothing happens here that couldn't happen somewhere else.

This somewhat melancholy realization, however, has emphasized the deep importance of my extremely great husband Matt to my comfort and safety. We were talking about being sad that our vacation had come to an end, but I was sooo happy that at least we were together here, that I don't have to be away from home AND him.

Even before returning to Scarborough, God was preparing a conversation with me about home by reminding me that true, deep satisfaction will never be permanent on earth. Even the greatest moments of contentment and peace and joy are only foretastes of Heaven/eternity/God's unbridled presence. Realizing this is always a reminder for me to guard against distractions and idolatry, to review where my time, energy and hopes are focused. Leaving home to come home, and longing for home has crystallized the truth that even more than Matt is my anchor as a partner, God has to be my ultimate anchor, who can make living anywhere a joy, who will fulfill every longing in his time, and who shapes and strengthens me through all of these experiences, from easy to hard.

Trusting that God is just as good here as at home where I feel him so much MORE is often hard. Each day back home was overflowingly, abundantly, deliciously good. I felt like love was soaking into my soul like sun soaking into my skin, and I hadn't realized that I have been thirsty, drying out little bit by little bit. It is scary to be back now, and I am afraid to lose the joy of home and the generous, flexible spirit that comes with it.

I think my instinctive response to this fear is to harden my heart to new places and people. Letting my heart stretch is not easy for me, and the more I love, I feel the harder it will be for the idea of home to ever be fulfilled for me in one place. This isn't how I want to live, but I also don't want to overcompensate by pursuing tons of shallow friendships or going broke making the apartment "homey" or other distractions to avoid ever feeling sad or lonely.

I do not believe that God would have me give up on ever feeling truly happy and at rest on Earth. BUT I also believe that God would not have me pursue happiness or rest instead of Him. He is the way.

He is home.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Coming Home

I managed to get some sleep on the flight home from Victoria last night/this morning. When I woke up, I was excited to see some cities out the plane window - city lights are so pretty from up in the sky. Then, when I looked over the plane wing (instead of behind it), I saw just a strand of intense red light in the middle of the darkness as we neared the edge of daylight (the pictures don't do ANY justice to the colours in the sky). It was special to me to get to see it because I just happened to be awake and 40 000 feet in the air. It is extra special because it is my and Matt's anniversary today! So, here are thoughts from my journal on the plane:Every day starts like this somewhere - a slash of red on the horizon that slowly widens to make a rainbow of colour, testing if this day might need to appear in black and white. The purple of this new day sinks into inky blackness stretched over the plane, and for now the wings mark a boundary line between now and then, last night and tomorrow.Behind us is night, and just now light is creeping even into that fading memory. We have slipped into today, and it is a new year.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Help and Deliverance

I was surfing around on the internet a few nights ago and came across resources to memorize Colossians over the course of a year (only two verses a week!). I kind of wanted to go for it... and I still might. But I realized that before I jump into a lofty goal like that, I should really wrap up my current memorization goal first: to learn Psalm 40 by heart.

So I buckled down, and after much muttering to myself in public places, double checking words (is it Lord or God? Hurt or harm?), I am pleased to say that I think it's all in there! I will continue reviewing it daily for a few more days at least, and I hope to review it once a week or so to keep it in my mind. Which brings me to the other thing I wanted to do - brush up on Hebrews 12. I used to know so much of that chapter! And, while we're talking about it, Ephesians 4 as well, but that has faded away even more than I should say. Let it be known I memorized Ephesians 4 before I learned and forgot all the Brazilian Portuguese to do with my semester abroad. SO. It's pretty gone.

But it is so much easier to re-learn than learn something new, and committing to finishing off Psalm 40 has reminded me of how much value there is in memorizing Scripture, of the depth that you can begin to sense when you spend an entire day focused on one verse and it doesn't get old. So before I jump into Colossians like a crazy person, I want to soak Hebrews 12 and Ephesians 4 back into my mind and go from there.

I had wanted to post more reflections from Psalm 40 as I went along, but it can be really hard to articulate. I'm not giving up, but I am not going to hold myself to the idea I had earlier of going through in order. To prove it, this tidbit I want to share now comes from the very last verse:

You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!

What struck me was this: help and deliverer are not the same things. A deliverer rescues, releases, sets free. Help... helps.
This is a bit of an echo from verse 13:

Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
O Lord, make haste to help me!

These two concepts are intertwined in the psalm, but they are not the same. For me, it is a reminder that we have to trust God - whether he delivers us from a situation or helps us through it. Sometimes I think he does both. But it strikes me how David concludes this psalm because he opened it by saying that the Lord heard his cry.

Not to sermonize (too much?) but that also emphasizes to me that when God hears our cry it is no time to stop crying out. Let God hearing your cry be the start of your prayer :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Better Than L.A. Ink

I had a good chat with God last night, and that was a gift because I had been very close to spending my evening watching Netflix. Then when I was heading to bed, I debated whether to read my Bible or go straight to sleep. My mind thought, I have already heard so much from God today, I don't really want to read my Bible because what if he says more!? I'm too tired to write it down, and I'll never remember it all, and then how will it change me. I shouldn't waste both our time.

And then God so gently said, With Matt you don't worry about remembering every great thing he has ever said to you, but those words nourish and shape your relationship all the same. You can't have too much of me, Alyssa.

God is right! I could never have too much of him, and even when I have SO much of him, that is right. I was designed to overflow with God's love. And I trust that what he wants to stick he will make stick.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Oh this heart of mine, so crafty and tricky, dressing up so nice and making me think it is so pretty.

VBS is this week, and I know it will be hard on Matt. He has been working SO hard for SO long, and now he has this five day marathon of ministry dealing with kids and volunteers and families, managing all kinds of schedules and melt-downs and thrills. This is really the home stretch because we are looking forward to our vacation next week, and we just have to make it to Saturday.

Earlier today I sent Matt a quick message while I was at work to say that I was praying for him and hoped he had a GREAT day, and I was going to say "let me know if there's anything I can do" but I didn't bother because I knew there really wasn't. Short of skipping work to go to the church (which wasn't going to happen), my contribution to his day was going to be minimal, so I accepted that. But I decided maybe it wouldn't be so outrageous for me to go by the church after work and get a drive home with him. VBS would be over, but I could hear about his day, and I figured he would really appreciate the gesture; I can't do much, but I'll do what I can do.

And as I walked to the church from the bus stop I thought how great the weather was (it's been pouring, SLOSHING down rain on and off, but this was an off time), and how pleased I was that I had decided to meet Matt instead of going straight home.

Fast forward a couple hours to when I realized that while I thought I had pure and loving reasons for going to the church today, I mostly wanted to feel good about myself, to prove that I could put Matt before myself. Because everything was pretty good when I first arrived, but the longer it took to leave (it takes a long time for the camp director to leave after the first day of VBS), the hungrier I got, and the more bored I got, and finally at the very end, all my good intentions faded completely away.

Leaving me hungry and bored.

And exposed.

It turns out I am just as bad as the people I complain about who "want to help" with VBS but only on their own terms, so they never manage to help much at all. Today I discovered that my attitude is exactly what has been driving me nuts in others - the "service" I want to give is not what is most needed, but what suits me best.

I have caught myself doing this before, stressing myself out over housework because I want to be a great wife/woman whose home is clean and welcoming and comfortable. The thing is, this goal keeps backfiring because I end up with a cleanish house and a miserable attitude (NOT welcoming, and NOT comfortable). Matt doesn't care if there's stuff on the coffee table. Killing myself to keep the coffee table clear doesn't serve anybody.

And this is important to keep in mind because I am going on a youth retreat next month that involves sleeping in tents, and I have never done that for real before. I have slept in a tent in the backyard (and had orange juice in the kitchen the next morning). I hope I really love camping. Matt loves camping, and I love Matt, and I would love to love camping with Matt SO much...

But even if I don't love it, I am committed to camping on this trip for two nights. And if it doesn't go great (I hope it goes great!!), I need to remember that self-sacrifice is not a hobby to pick up when I feel like it and abandon when it becomes tiring. I need patience and humility and God's grace for all things, but especially for when my heart runs out of steam for acting pretty.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Blessed to Have My Sister

Esther flew home last night, after a 40-day trip here and in New Brunswick.

It was so fun to have her around and get to hang out, to make a point of doing fun things like spending a day downtown and going to the zoo. It was also such a great visit because it confirmed what I already knew, that I am a lucky girl to have such a rad sister.

The thing is, with four years between us, we haven't always... known each other very well? I think that we have always loved and mostly liked each other, but four years is a sizable gap when you are growing up together, and for most of the time that I still lived at home we were just in different stages of life. Then, when I was almost 18, and she was 14, and things were just about right for us to get along and spend time together not only as big-sister and little-sister but as friends, I peaced out to university.Five years later, she is taller than me, she can crack me up, and we are able to share our hearts together, valuing the similarities and understanding we have for each other, and enjoying learning the differences we have in experience and disposition. When people first met Esther, so many commented on our similarities, and I think the imprint of our family is very strong on both of us, so that makes a lot of sense.But people who think we're the SAME are crazy; we agree on that. And one of my favourite things I learned from this visit was that my sister is a friend who comes pre-programmed to understand so much of me, and I am that for her. One of our shared traits is the recognition that we are more than we seem - that there are bits and pieces of us closed off or hidden away, and we don't even always know what's in there or why. And each of us is in progress, trying to figure it out so we can be the best version of ourselves. Our different selves :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


The mission team had their debrief last night, and I was lucky enough to go along! We were hosted by a couple from the church who have a great yard (including pool!) and newly finished basement (so when it started raining we were able to continue inside).

It was really awesome for me to be able to sit in and hear about the highlights and challenges that the team faced, to hear what different people took from their experiences, and it was exciting as each person shared how the trip has changed them or helped them going forward now that they are back home. Many youth realized they can do more than they expected, and many were humbled to realize they may not have everything "together" as much as they thought.

For me though, the biggest impact of the debrief meeting was getting to chat with our hostess, who has been away from church for the last few months recovering from a broken arm and some subsequent poor health. I have known that she isn't well for all the months that I haven't seen her, but spending time together last night it really struck me how hard it is for her to be not only stuck at home but to be to physically limited every day and fight off the discouragement that comes with all of that. Today she is very much on my heart, and it is not because she complained to me or even because things are SO bad that I can't get it out of my mind. It's just that the situation has finally sunk in for me because I saw it instead of just hearing about it.

The Bible says when one part of the body suffers, the entire body suffers, and so it is with the body of Christ. But just like our physical bodies, the only way to share in the suffering or joy of other people is when we are connected to them. Bodies have bones and muscles and nerves that connect and animate different parts of our bodies, and that physical reality is necessary. Just being Christians doesn't move us with each other's pain; living in each other's worlds until they become intertwined in our hearts is needed to forge the kind of relationships that manifest the gospel.

This is what I'm having a glimpse of anyway, and it is still sinking in for me.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Setting Goals

As you may have noticed over the last few months, I really enjoy reading on the internet, and I have been inspired by all kinds of articles and blogs and google searches to try many new things!

One interesting idea that I have come across recently is related to setting goals and is called the 3in30 Challenge. The basic idea is to set three goals at the beginning of the month that you plan to achieve by the end of the month, so you will accomplish three goals in thirty days. It's a simple concept, and it is appealing to me, but I am not QUITE ready to jump on board.

Part of the problem is my perfectionism, and it is already August 5, so there are only 26 days left in the month, and that's just not as catchy.
Another reason (because, really, I know I should just jump in where I can) is that I am super overwhelmed with hopes and dreams and goals, big and small, related to myself, my home, my mind AND to choose 3 off the top of my head so I can just jump in and get started? Too crazy.

But I am thinking of maybe trying this out come September! This way I can brainstorm, make lists, let my ADD run its course and eliminate crazy ideas that I don't need to take too seriously, and then see how it goes! I guess we'll see what happens in September :P

And just because I'm not making official, public, 3in30 goals doesn't mean I won't accomplish anything this month!

What is your goal style? Do you like setting big, long-term goals that challenge and inspire you? Or do you do better with smaller goals, building gradually toward the bigger picture?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Making Granola

Something new that I decided to try while I was on my own in July was to make my own granola. My verdict is that it was a raging success, and Matt agrees it is delicious and he would happily eat it! The one thing I will do differently next time is not add any dried fruit to the granola before I bake it. Most of my craisins turning into little cranberry rocks.

I used a recipe from that I would link to but it's a huge post because she has tons of pictures and a give-away on the same post. It boils down to:

Mix these ingredients together:
6 cups oatmeal
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup dried fruitCombine the below ingredients on low heat in a small pot, stir together and pour over oatmeal mixture:
1/2 cup oil (I used coconut oil as recommended. Pricey but healthy.)
1/2 cup honey
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 tsp vanilla

Spread the entire mixture out on baking sheets and bake at 300F. Stir after 15 minutes and every 2-5 minutes after that until golden brown.
If you are very attentive, you will see that I cooked my granola in baking pans, not on sheets. This was to make stirring easier, and it was a great success! Although I think it delayed the toasting. For me, it took about an hour to cook, checking on it every ten minutes or so, but in the end, it came out perfectly! Toasted and crunchy and healthy and yummy!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kensington Market

Matt, Esther and I enjoyed the civic holiday on Monday downtown exploring Kensington market. I do not have pictures because we were too busy enjoying our day! We wandered and window shopped in Kensington, had Mexican food for dinner, and spent the evening down at the water front. We sat on the boardwalk with our feet in the water and watched boats, and there was a really funny busker. It was a gorgeous day, and we wore sunscreen, so no regrets!

UPDATE: I found this picture on my phone. How could I forget the sun visor/welding mask Esther stubbornly refused to buy?