Don’t forget to update your links! I’m now blogging at Great, Big, Beautiful (http://greatbigbeautiful.wordpress.com).

See you over there!

You can keep up with me over at Great, Big, Beautiful! No longer a wedding blog, I’ll be posting about all of the things I normally post here, as well as some updates on newly married life.

See you over there!

(wherein Tara makes her father, her fiance and all the boys from her Comp Sci classes overflow with pride)

We are in the process of setting up our future married abode and a major part of that process is setting up the internet.

The installation guy came Monday morning to activate our line and set up the modem. He was a friendly, chatty man and had things done in short order. The line was activated, the modem set up, and away he went.

It was then that my adventures began. He had the wired internet set up, but we still needed to set up the wireless internet. And as M was at work, by “we”, I mean “me”.

M sent me a quick text telling me the location of his Airport Express (a wireless router, for you non-Apple people). He also told me it would be a fiddly process, but I was welcome to begin if I so wanted.

Seeing as the cable from the modem was a) short and b) in a corner, I most certainly did want. And so I began.

Step 1: Connect the Airport to power and the modem.
Step 2: Connect the laptop wirelessly to the Airport.
Step 3: Type the Gmail URL into the web browser.
Step 4: Watch as nothing happens.

This, it seems, was the beginning of the fiddly part, which continued throughout the whole rest of the process.

I began with a tip from M to use the Airport Utility (a program for configuring the wireless router). After much fiddling, I finally found the program and opened it up. It claimed two errors: a lack of internet connection (despite being connected to the modem) and a lack of proper settings. Switching the modem cable back and forth between the router and my computer, I was able to look up some forum advice. I tried doing a hard reset of the router. Then a Factory Default reset. Neither seemed to be working. After some more research (and re-reading the articles M sent me about the process), I realized that it was in fact working just fine.

The only indication the Airport Express gives you as to its status is a light. Solid green if it’s working just as it should; flashing amber if it isn’t. I was expecting the resets to produce a green light, but it would only do so if the other errors were resolved. The amber light flashed faster when I performed the reset steps, and this indicated that it had been reset.

So I went back into the Airport Utility and saw that it was still listing two errors. I clicked “Configure…” and it took me through the steps for setting up the router. I named the device, gave it a password, created a wireless network and named and passworded it, and then connected my computer to the network.

And nothing happened.

By this time, it had been at least an hour (which, however, included a break as I chatted with my mom on the phone).

The error was still Internet Connection, or rather, a lack thereof. I couldn’t understand it. The router was clearly plugged into the modem and the modem was clearly connected to the internet.

I went back into the Airport Utility and it gave me two options for configuring the IP address: either through DHCP or manually. It was on DHCP and showing the amber light, so I switched it to manually (why not?). The light changed to green.

Woohoo! It worked!

I was relatively certain that there had to be more set up for Manual than just what I had done. But the light was green, so I happily typed Gmail into my browser. And, unsurprisingly, nothing happened.

But then I had a thought.

I unplugged the modem (forcing it off) and plugged it back in (forcing it on again).

I still had the Airport Utility open to the error page and when the modem was plugged back in, I watched as several errors popped up in the Utility and then were resolved as the Airport linked back up with the modem. And then the Internet Connection error popped up. It lingered longest of them all, until suddenly, it disappeared.

And the light turned green.

And here I am. Online.

“God loves them, too.”

I’ve started reading (and loving) the blog Seraphic Singles. Interesting choice, seeing as I started reading it just as I am about to stop being one. But I can’t resist the writing. It is snappy, clever, loving, and unapologetic. She has beliefs that she does not back down from. It’s very refreshing.

She writes about all kinds of things, and occasionally responds to letters from her readers as “Auntie Seraphic”. She often coaches her female readership that, when annoyed with the male species, to spend a day or two or three, looking at every man you encounter and saying to yourself about each one, “Bless his little heart.” The principle being that repeated well-wishings of good to your neighbour makes you actually start feeling that way. Lead with your head and the heart will follow.

That phrase hasn’t worked for me for a couple of reasons.

First, when she says it, it sounds like a loving, motherly phrase, but whenever I hear myself saying it, it sounds like I’m being condescending. As the effort is in order to respect and love your fellows, feeling condescending is not a step in the right direction.

Also, I’m feeling the need to bless more than just the male half of the population.

I have become very critical recently. (I would define “recently” as the past several months– perhaps longer.)

It started off innocently enough. The driving quirks of the town I’m currently living in are very different than the quirks of the town I used to live in. It would baffle, confuse and frustrate me, and to let off steam, I would playfully snarl against the other drivers, primarily to amuse myself and the other passengers in my car.

I’m not sure when it happened, but I’ve come to realize that the little snarls and snippy comments made about other people (no matter how anonymous) were slowly stripping away at myself and my ability to love other people. I found myself, not too long ago, snarling at other drivers with actual menace and frustration. Thankfully, other drivers cannot hear me, but I would be ashamed to know that any of them have seen the expression on my face.

On the one hand, I have a right to it. There are some people on the road who are jerks, plain and simple. But on the other hand… God loves them, too.

There’s a Jars of Clay song that I love, called There is a River. One part of it goes,

So, give up the right
To control the waves that empty out your life.
Above wild skies
Are the rays that break the shadows we design.
Give it up, let go
These are things you were never meant to shoulder.

The River in the title is referring to Jesus Christ.

It is the first line of that excerpt that gets me. “Give up the right.”

It is my right to be angry at the people who cut me off and bully me on the highway. But when I think that God loves them, too, my anger melts.

When I say, “God loves them, too”, I don’t mean it condescendingly or judgementally. When I say, “God loves them, too”, I mean, God loves them in the way He loves me. I am precious to Him. I am so precious to Him that He would, and has!, died for me. And He loves me even when I do things that are not worthy of His love (like snarl at and criticize other people). And if God loves me the same way that He loves everyone else on the planet… then everyone I encounter is precious to Him. And everyone I encounter is so precious to Him that He would (and has!) died for them. And He loves them, even when they do things that are not worthy of His love.

When you love someone, you tend to want to please them. And when you love someone, you tend to want to love the things and people they love. So if I love God and He loves everyone, shouldn’t I try to love them, too? For me, the antidote to my critical attitude is stopping myself by saying, “God loves them, too.” And, by the power of His Spirit, I start wondering what the person’s story is, and what their motivations are. And then I begin to empathize with them, and, strangely, miraculously enough, I begin to love them.

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
-1 Thessalonians 16-18

This verse popped into my head last night.

I am a big proponent of Scripture memorization, precisely because of your mind’s ability to do that–randomly recall verses that are often applicable to what you’re facing or what’s on your mind.

I was feeling grumpy, though I can’t remember exactly why–I suspect it was in large part to do with the fact that I was also exhausted–and I was thinking about something that was making me feel more grumpy, when this verse cut into my train of thoughts.

Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances… even this one, I realized.

I don’t have much else to add; but I’ve been thinking about this almost all day. How can I be joyful and give thanks in whatever circumstance I’m in? Even this one? (Whatever “this one” may be.)

This is a worthwhile discipline to learn.

“Slow down,” Mom’s voice urged me.

I was sitting by the front door, leaning against the wall, waiting for a bandage and some Polysporin. In my haste to get to a friend’s birthday celebration, for which I was already shamefully late, I had closed the front door on my heel. It was surprising to me how immediately debilitating this minor injury was. I was moving too quickly, had pulled the door hard and almost instantly crumbled to the floor. It startled both of my parents who were each near the door as I left, but Mom immediately examined the wound (scraped, but not cut) and prescribed a bandage and disinfectant. As she disappeared to retrieve those things, she called behind her, “Slow down!”

And I have slowed down. In part due to her advice and in large part because a bruise has formed, giving me a little bit of a limp when I walk with shoes on. If I go too fast, the shoes press against the bruise, so I am forced to go at a much slower pace than I am used to.

I had a conversation with a friend several days ago, and through it, I’ve realized just how little society values rest. I’m not talking about laziness or slacking off, but about genuine, restorative rest.

The Bible prescribed rest for the Israelites in the Old Testament. On the seventh day of the week, you were to rest. On the seventh year, you were to rest your fields (and thereby rest your household). On the seventh sabbath year, it is to be a year of Jubilee, where debts are canceled, etc.

I’m not saying we should go back to this system, but this shows just how important rest is. That God laid these things out in the laws of the Israelites demonstrates how important it is for us to rest.

But our society–Christian and not–struggles to rest. There is so much to be done; it is difficult to justify taking a day and not doing any of it. Eventually, though, our bodies thrust it upon us, either through illness or exhaustion or stress/anxiety/depression that forces us to take a step back and reevaluate where we are at.

My mom’s words echoed with me as I drove into town.

“Slow down.”

This minor injury was not my body revolting against me. But I think there are times where God allows things to happen, small inconveniences or injuries, to force us to slow down. This injury was my own fault. I was allowing myself to feel pressured and stressed and flew out of the house. My body was ahead and my feet were behind and my heel received the brunt of the error. And it’s made me realize that I need to slow down.

I need to do things in a timely manner, but I need to reevaluate where I hurry. In this particular circumstance, I realized that, at most, I could arrive 5 minutes earlier, but I was already late and had already alerted the host to my lateness. In the grand scheme of things, 5 minutes either way would not make much of a difference.

I’ve realized, too, that with the wedding coming up, I need to slow down for the sake of myself (my own stress and anxiety levels) and for the sake of those around me. If I am stressed and flurried, my fiance, family and friends will probably likewise feel stressed and flurried. If I am calm, they are more likely to feel calm.

Everything will get done and everything will be done well. Hurrying will not get anything done faster or better; it will only make me feel hurried.

So this is my motto for the next little while: “Slow down.”

“The Millennial generation [could] see churches closing as quickly as GM dealerships,” says Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources.

[source]

Wow…

And here I am saying I wish that there were more churches open more often.

I think we’re missing the point of what it means to be relevant.

This is coming out a little more stream-of-consciousness than normal, so my apologies up front. I was thinking just now, why is this happening? How have we screwed this up?

And then I was like, we need to be more relevant, which instantly triggered a flood of thoughts and images of all the things Christians do to be more “relevant”. But no, I thought, not like that. That is the wrong kind of relevance.

Our relevance is trying to show the world that “we’re hip, we’re happening, we know what’s going on. That show? Haha, yea, we watch it. What? Sure, it’s crude, but this is what peeps our age do, right?” And we use the word peeps because we’re pretty sure that’s how the rest of the world talks. A lot of us don’t really know, though, because we’ve been raised by Christian parents, in Christian communities our entire lives. But, you know, we need to look relevant.

And that comedian? Totally funny. Sure, he’s pretty degrading, but man, you guys watch him, right? Yea, eh? So funny…

And that book that’s all the rage is totally my favourite. I mean, you know, after the Bible, but whatever, man, the Bible’s just this thing I read, man, and actually, it’s pretty cool. You should check it out. You know, or not, whatever man, it’s not like it’s changed my life or anything.

I’m being a little facetious. I’m also not trying to suggest that we isolate ourselves… What I’m trying to illustrate, though, is that we’re doing relevance all wrong. We’re trying to make it look like we are cool.

I think the logic goes something like this: the world around us responds to what’s cool and trendy. We need to make ourselves (look) cool and trendy so that the world will respond to and be attracted by us. In doing so, we will give the Gospel the best chance of being heard by the world around us.

How many of you were a little startled by the word “Gospel” up there? I can’t be the only one. As I was typing it, I was like, “whoa, I haven’t encountered that word in awhile!”

That’s because “the Gospel” is Christianese. It’s church-speak. We all know what it means, but there are lots of people who don’t, so we’ve excised it from our vocabulary to make us seem “more relevant”, which is actually a good thing (we can’t assume that people know what we’re talking about), but we’re also losing the word itself, because, rather than explaining it, we just don’t address it at all.

We’re being relevant, but it’s the wrong kind of relevance.

It is not important at all that the world knows that we know what’s going on. It is not important at all if we watch Lost or read Twilight or browse lolcatz. It doesn’t matter if we know who Lady Gaga is, or have political passions, or are disgusted or proud of the way world affairs are handled.

It doesn’t matter because it’s an act.

Now, let me slow down a little and say that people truly do enjoy these things for their own sake.

The problem is when we say we enjoy them to try and pretend like we’re relevant.

It’s like arriving at a new job where everyone in the office is completely into hockey. Until the moment you stepped in the door, you’ve never liked hockey, but suddenly, to even survive as you’re finding your feet, you have to quickly identify yourself as one of them (a hockey lover) in order to be accepted and in order to have your work even trusted.

But you don’t like hockey. You’re pretending you do, but you don’t. The problem with this? Eventually people will see through you and they’ll trust you even less than if you were just upfront with them at the start.

What if you walked in and everyone was talking about the game last night, and when they asked what you thought, rather than giving a fake, “Oh, yea, wow, what a game…*cough*” what if you said, even hesitantly or uncomfortably, “Oh, I actually missed the game…”

“Whadya mean you missed it? It was the game of the season!”

You don’t need to push it, but what if you were to say, “I have to be honest… I’ve never really been into hockey…”

You’ll get looked at strangely, maybe even avoided or looked down upon. But what if you were to then prove through your work ethic and kindness that you actually enjoyed being there and were a person who could be trusted (you know, except for that darned hockey-hating thing). And maybe slowly, eventually, someone would come up to you and say,

“So, like… If you don’t like hockey, what the heck do you do with your evenings?”

And then you’d get the chance to tell them about golf. What the similarities are between golf and hockey, what are the differences, why you prefer golf and how it’s changed your life.

This is sort of a silly example, but being relevant isn’t knowing what’s going on in the culture around us. Being relevant is showing how the Gospel changes things, makes life different, makes life better. I’m not talking big house, fast car, hot spouse kind of better. I’m talking deep and meaningful satisfaction, purpose and hope kind of better.

Relevant is coming alongside a friend who is mourning and letting Christ’s love and empathetic sorrow shine through your actions.

Relevant is treating everyone, even the annoying co-worker or friend with dignity, love and respect.

Relevant is acknowledging that the world is broken, that our own lives are broken, but showing how Christ has come into it and is fixing, shaping and growing us, even when we fail.

Relevant is sharing with the world that those feelings of guilt and anxiety deep in their hearts come from the wrong things we’ve done that separate and distance us from God, but that Christ chose to die in our place, to take the punishment for all of our wrongdoings and to give us the gift of new life, here and hereafter, if we would choose to follow Him.

Relevant is being honest and open in our failures and successes, confessing when we’ve done wrong and being humble when we’ve succeeded.

Relevant isn’t being aware of what the latest, hottest thing is. It is opening ourselves up to another, stepping into a person’s life, sharing, growing, living, loving and showing, not how we are relevant to them, but how Christ is relevant to us.

I think it’s worth re-writing the entry on relevance in our English-to-Christianese dictionaries.

(author’s note: As this is a long post, I thought I’d try something new: headings! “My Favourite” is the introduction, followed by four main points: “Polished”, “The Love Stories”, “The Experience of Regret”, “Resolutions”, and concluded by “In Sum”. Is it easier to read this way or more confusing?)

My Favourite

Though Pride and Prejudice is, I would say, my favourite book, Persuasion is my favourite Austen book.

This sounds a little convoluted, especially as Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice are, in fact, both by Jane Austen.

Polished

There are different kinds of favourites, though. Pride and Prejudice is, I think, the better book. It is more polished, for one. Persuasion starts out with two or three chapters where you, as the reader, are left seriously bored and confused. It appears, in these chapters, that Austen has chosen a male as the primary protagonist, and a silly one at that, both of which are uncharacteristic for Austen’s stories, and the second which makes for an unengaging tale. Should I be, the reader wonders, engaging in this silly man’s concerns or should I be laughing at him? No direction is provided until midway through chapter two as to whom the sensible character in the story is, and it isn’t until chapter four that the narrative voice switches over and rests on Anne as the primary character through whom the reader should perceive the story.

While the narrator in Persuasion settles on the silly Sir Walter Elliot at the start and then moves three chapters later to settle on Anne Elliot for the rest, the narrator in Pride and Prejudice settles on no one, maintaining an amused but distant view until we reach Elizabeth. And while the narrator is fairly omniscient (seeing and hearing things that Elizabeth does not), the world view (what is valued, etc) of Elizabeth is maintained from start to finish.

The Love Stories

The two main love stories in Pride and Prejudice are common, and if not experienced by the reader, highly sympathized with.

The first is that of Elizabeth and Darcy. The reader watches and delights in the transformation in both as their initial dislike for each other melts into respect, then regard, then love.

The second is that of Jane and Bingley, another romance that we sympathize with: being separated by circumstances outside of the control of the characters. Even if we haven’t experienced that kind of separation, we desire the resolution of their relationship as much as we might desire the resolution of our own broken relationships.

There is a pseudo-third romance in the story, between Lydia and Wickham, but there is not much love on either side. It is closer to selfishness and opportunism for each. Another reason I call it a pseudo-romance is because I believe that its main purpose is to highlight just how deep Darcy’s love for Elizabeth has become. Even though Wickham has wronged him, and Darcy wants nothing to do with him, Darcy is willing to embarrass himself to find Lydia and Wickham, allows himself to be present to insist on Wickham marrying Lydia, is generous enough to pay most of Wickham’s debts to allow a good start for the newly married couple, and is still deeply desirous of marrying Elizabeth, even though it will mean being forever tied to the man he so despises.

That is an aside.

The Experience of Regret

What I think so draws people to the romances in Pride and Prejudice is that they are easy to relate to. The characters are easy to step into (it is easy to see the world from their perspectives), the whole story comes to a comprehensive and satisfying conclusion, and — and I think this is what does it for a lot of people — none of the characters suffer any kind of irreparable regret.

Persuasion, on the other hand, is a love story founded on regret. It is heart-wrenching reading the stories in Pride and Prejudice and the characters suffer through many trials, but they have so much emotional support and satisfaction that, though they are suffering personally, they are never suffering singly. Jane and Elizabeth have each other for support, as well as their wise Aunt Gardiner and Charlotte Lucas, Darcy and Bingley have each other, there is a great deal of affection between Bingley and all of the Bennets, and everyone has family and friends all over town.

The relationship between Jane and Elizabeth, though, is the defining relationship in the book, with regards to safety from regret and suffering. They are dear and intimate friends, and though they don’t feel the need to do so for everything, they know that they will always have the freedom and support to share anything that they encounter. They know they can go to each other for advice, and they perfectly balance each other out when it comes to perceptions of the world and the people in it.

Anne Elliot in Persuasion is fairly isolated, if not in actual fact, at the very least when it comes to like-minded individuals. She lost her mother at a young age, she is drastically different from both of her sisters, and even her closest friend in the neighbourhood is still quite different than she is. As well, the greatest suffering she experienced in her lifetime (breaking off an engagement seven years before to a man she truly loves), she did so without a sympathizer for her true feelings. Even in the narrative present, she suffers alone and in silence when this man again arrives on the scene.

Resolutions

Pride and Prejudice also resolves a lot faster than Persuasion does. The resolution in Pride and Prejudice comes within a year of the arrival of troubles. The resolution in Persuasion takes nearly eight years to arrive. The former is more satisfying to the impatient human heart (“Lord God, why is this trouble still with me?”). The latter is, perhaps, more reflective of what actually happens. Repairing damaged relationships requires the reparation of damaged hearts and wounded pride. It requires humility and patience and buckets of forgiveness and grace from one party to the other. As much as we’d like that process to take no longer than a year, the heart is the part of our bodies that takes longest to heal, thus the delay in Persuasion is, though less immediately gratifying, perhaps more realistic and more deeply satisfying.

In Sum

When someone asks what my favourite book is, I say Pride and Prejudice because it is the better book. It is more highly relate-able and I know it will be enjoyed by a first-time reader (especially a first-time Austen reader) to a greater degree than Persuasion.

Persuasion, however, is my secret favourite. I pull it out and read a love story that is bathed in regret, and watch, if not with elated joy, at least with immense satisfaction and contentment the long-awaited, -desired, and -needed resolution of it.

Dear Fellow Commuters,

We are not in a hurry.

I know it feels like we are, but I promise, we’re not.

Let me first address the exceptions:

If you or a passenger in your car is violently ill or badly injured, you are in a hurry.

If you are rushing to a close friend or family member who is violently ill or badly injured, you are in a hurry.

If Barack Obama has just called you to let you know he’s stopping by your house for dinner at six, and it’s five o’clock now and you have nothing in your pantry, you are in a hurry.

But as for the rest of us, I think it might just make everyone a little happier during the day if we remember that we are not in a hurry.

The problem with being in a hurry is that you feel stressed and flustered. And when you feel stressed and flustered, you’re more likely to take risks while driving. And when you take risks while driving, you’re more likely to cause problems for others on the road.

I think I read somewhere that adrenaline is good because it sharpens our senses and allows us to do things that we wouldn’t necessarily be able to do otherwise. If this is true, that means you would be able to drive a lot better when adrenaline is flowing through you than otherwise (your spacial sense, ability to judge and compare speeds, general external awareness, etc, would all be increased), but this applies to you and no one else on the road. If you cut someone off, you totally cleared them and motor on with a greater boost of adrenaline (cuz, woot, you definitely just pulled that off!), but they will be forced to react. Maybe they’ll slam on their brakes and someone will have a fender bender (either them, or someone further down the inevitable chain reaction), or maybe they’ll swerve (perhaps unnecessarily) and get in a little wreck themselves. Or maybe nothing will happen, except that they will receive a surge of adrenaline, but rather than it being one of accomplishment, it will be one of danger avoidance, which will increase their own stress level.

At the very least, when you act out your stress, you will feel even more stressed, because you are reinforcing it.

However, if you are stressed and you act calmly (you force yourself to act calmly, if need be), you are rebuking your stress and it will eventually dissipate, leaving you feeling at peace, instead of frazzled, when you arrive at your destination

Late for a meeting? Call in for it and then say you’ll join them in person as soon as you get there.

Late to pick up your kid? Call ahead and give a (generous) ETA. (Does the drive take you 10 minutes? Say 15 so you don’t feel the pressure.)

Late for dinner? Call your spouse/housemate/date and say you’ll be there soon.

And when you arrive, apologize humbly and gratefully.

And the next time, leave earlier. Whether that means turning the lights off at home a half hour earlier so that you get a little extra sleep, whether that means setting your cellphone alarm to let you know when you need to leave, whether that is being just a little more disciplined and looking up how long it will take you to get somewhere and then adding 10 minutes for the inevitable last-minute things you need to do (grabbing your purse, returning for the extra shoes you forgot in the house, the time it takes to walk to your car, etc), do it!

And if you find yourself late on the road again, call ahead and then remember, I am not in a hurry.

We’ll all be a lot happier and a lot less stressed.

I’m going to keep harping on this, because I really want to know!

What makes the special people in your life special? Click here to comment!

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