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I’m home with Jasper today. My wife is out having some “me” time, which contrary to her own wishes, I think is good for her. She spends the whole week, all of her waking hours, taking care of our son. So this is a necessary break for her.

One struggle that I’ve had over the past week is battling the clock. That is to say, I feel as though there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get what I need (or want) done. From the time I get up to the time I lay down, it seems like a go-go-go ferris wheel. I suppose things calm down on the weekends, especially at a time like this when Jasper is asleep (for a nap). Clearly I’m not the only dad to suffer from this dilema, though that brings little comfort to my heart.

I think this probably puts pressure on our marriage as we struggle to cope with our roles and then find the time for each other. I suppose that’s an additional problem: dealing with the problem of solving the problem. Humph.

Sometimes I feel as though I’m spinning in vertigo, out of control, not sure what it is that grounds me. I’m only brought back into a standstill when I see things from an eternal viewpoint, which makes this moment of strange and ethereal spinning seem like a blip on the radar. God is with us, always, never to leave us, never to forsake us. That is an eternal message to those who can read, and an eternal promise to those who believe.

A constant theme in my life, one that’s not particularly healthy, is that of worry. I worry about so much these days, and it seems as though I’ve placed or accepted too much pressure on my shoulders. Fatherhood has given me much more to think about each day, and I find myself so stretched for time.

I worry about job security, even though I know I shouldn’t. First of all, it’s fleeting. Work today, no work tomorrow. It’s possible that I won’t have work tomorrow. God knows this, and I know that God knows this. But somehow, I worry about not having work, about finding work, about retaining work, about doing better at my work. Shouldn’t I simply be handing this over to God, and say, “Hey, um, God, can you handle this all for me?” And He does!! That’s the point.

I find myself worrying about Teachers’ College applications and getting into a university. I keep asking myself, what am I supposed to do if I don’t get in? How am I supposed to figure things out from there? Again, the answer is found in God, but I fail to search for the answer there.

I worry about money. I worry about finances. I worry about having too few resources to get things done. I worry about three to six months down the road: will I have enough then?

And the simple answer is, yes, I will. How do I know this? I have God’s promise. He will never leave us, never forsake us. He always provides for his people. I know this as a work in progress, and I have faith in this. But how great is my faith? I must admit that at times my faith isn’t very big. Sometimes my faith gets overshadowed by my worry, and in effect, by my own sin.

If you’re worried, like me, there is only one saving solution. God. His word, His love, His embrace.

I’ve been working now for about five weeks, give or take. Yesterday was not particularly stressful, but I think my pride has been bruised a few more times than I’d prefer. I think the simple fact that I’m on temporary contract through an agency means that I’m “cheap labor.” I’m not alone in this respect, as there are a few other “temps” working there, but I strongly feel that it’s unacceptable to call someone “just a temp,” or to think of the most mundane and menial task available, and then  force it on the temp.

I know that God’s teaching and correcting me the whole way, and I do stretch to see what it is that God’s got in store for me at this job. One month ago I leapt for joy at the prospect of work; now I’m sinfully complaining about my own human frailties (i.e., sinful pride). Am I too good to do the worst job? Do I really think that I shouldn’t be doing that job? Who am I to question God’s jobs for me?

Good questions to ask, but it doesn’t necessarily dampen the fire under my collar when I’m ignored in the kitchen or blank-faced in the hallway. There’s always a creepy feeling that people will point and laugh at me, that Temp, that guy who can’t get full-time work, and how much education does he have?

I often wish to project an image of myself that may or may not exist. And perhaps that’s why I’m so particular, obsessive about my wife’s appearances. The fact that she tries should be enough for me. But instead, I find myself obsessing over how she looks simply because of how it reflects my image. And that’s utterly unacceptable.

It’s like what Paul said in Romans (though not the same context): I want to do what I should do, but I end up doing what I shouldn’t do. I want to love my wife for who she is, and I don’t want to be so obsessive about looks and appearances; instead, I obsess all the time about her appearances, resulting in not truly accepting her for who she is.

Wow. I’ve revealed way too much here, but that’s the essence of blogging. It’s out. Done.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my wife, my son. They’re the two most important people in my world. But this problem that I’m dealing with has been a dark shadow over me for the past four months, ever since we returned to Canada. Either I’ve been influenced unconsciously by popular fashions and culture, or I simply haven’t been on my knees enough about it. I think it’s probably the latter.

Now that the weather is getting a little too cold to sit outdoors at lunchtime, I often go underground with my packed lunch, to a food court where there are plenty of chairs and tables. It’s there that I feel like such the little fish trying to swim upstream, or at least, trying to get somewhere in a river of people. The smells of the fast food outlets and the constant noise and movement can be somewhat overwhelming. However, the warmth and relatively clean environment keeps me coming back.

Today I had an interesting encounter with a young man who sat next to me at one of the counters. I was finished eating my rice and pork and onto my apple, when this youngman turned to me and said, “Man….there are so many girls! I can’t concentrate on what I’m eating!”

Much to my amusement, I told him that I was married and that once you’re married, you stop looking at “girls.” With a rather innocent look on his face, he repeated what I said in a question form, and we had a nice little laugh together. Yet that wasn’t the interesting part.

In between bites of my apple and a little reading, he mentioned the prices of flights to Orlando. The Flight Centre’s store was directly across from us, and the price board was clearly in our view. We talked about the prices, the taxes and other surcharges, and agreed that the stated prices weren’t to be trusted. Again, that wasn’t the interesting part.

The interesting part came when he said he wanted to go to Europe to “learn.” He told me of how his brother explained to him how living on a shoestring for six months, traveling and working, would bring him a good life’s education. He would work odd jobs or menial ones, in return for a wage and some experience, and of course a lifetime’s worth of memories.

After he left, I turned once to watch him leave among the crowds, this young man with dreams swimming in his head, swimming in a sea of suits and corporate-types. I couldn’t help but think of him as a true star among the crowd. His plans, his dreams, his hope to travel to Europe and “learn,” seemed so different from the regular conversations I have daily. Here was a laborer with a destination in mind.

What really got me excited was the resonance of youth and optimism: there was freedom, adventure, and youthfulness in his words. And so I found myself staring at the map of the world (in Flight Centre) with this young man’s words in my head, doing what I often find myself doing: daydreaming. I looked at New Zealand, down there, beautifully shaped and divided. I imagined life in Alaska, that thin archipelago that stretches westward from the North American continent. What would life be like there? How different would life had been if I had been raised there?

It’s the vastness of the world that startles me, even though I’ve travelled across those massive seas. I suppose the adventure is more of a drug or a pacifier for something larger. I’ve often read that this wanderlust is inherent in men, that we tend to have a deep desire to explore, to take risks and face up to challenges. And I know that life has enough challenges as it is, and there’s no need to voluntarily seek out more challenges.

The thing I learned today was that this young man’s fire got him going; now I need to ask God to help me find mine, and to keep at it.

I happened to notice that a lot of readers are coming to this site using search words about “good attitudes for work” or “godly attitudes for work” or “god and work and underemployment.” 

As it’s now Sunday here in Toronto, I feel as usual on a Sunday evening at around this time: a little sad, a little lamentful of a weekend gone and past. With daylight savings in effect, the 5:43 PM light seems so strange to me, and I’m starting to pray that my attitude would be godly tomorrow morning. I’ve had two nights of mild anxiety over work. I know that a lot of my anxieties can be sourced to my sinful pride.

Pride always wreaks havoc in our lives, as all sins do, and I know that whatever it is that I’ve been so anxious about, or displeased about, it usually boomarangs back to my prideful self. I get anxious about my underemployment, my image as an underemployed and overeducated employee, my worry about not having work, my worry about having to reveal what I do for work. The thing is, once the eyes are off God, things turn ugly really fast.

I have work. I get a pay cheque. I live simply and frugally. I have no debts. I have a loving wife. I have a son who is often an exclamation mark each day. I have money in savings and investments. I have a warm apartment to live in, clean sheets to sleep on, hot water to take a shower, food in the refrigerator, filtered water to drink, and clean and pressed clothes to wear.

So why do I fret?

Why do I ignore these blessings and focus on things that are merely feeding my pride?

I don’t have a firm answer for you. I know that thanksgiving, a grateful heart is a cure for pride, or at least its kryptonite. I can wail away and sulk in my own sense of pity, but nothing’s going to change the fact that I’ve been blessed with so many things in abundance!!! Yes, I don’t have X, Y, or Z, but look, God’s already given you A through to V! What is it that you want, and why do you want it?

More money. A better job. More status. A car.

These are soooooooo self-centered, especially since I wrote about the depression I felt when I didn’t even have a job. And now I secretly (now openly) want these world things.

If you would, please pray for and with me. Pray that these worldy things, though not bad in and of themselves, would not become my idols. Pray that I would have some perspective on these things. Pray that God would provide these things IF required in my life, and pray that I would learn to live with God’s complete guidance in my life. This means that although I don’t have that car or that great job, that I have a reassuring and familiar presence in my life: Yahweh, or God with us. He knows what I need, and He’ll be the one to provide it.

I’ve just spent the last hour and a bit writing short experience profiles,  and one medium length essay about teaching. It’s such an interesting discipline to be able to write something in limited space, maximizing both style and content. Blogging allows me to write freely, without as much attention to style (and arguably content).

It’s also a time to reflect on all of the great teaching experiences I’ve had overseas. China was my first, so it always has a special place in my heart. Taiwan is where I met my wife, and it was a teaching experience that had a steep learning curve. As I wrote in my experience profile, Taiwan came in early days and I made so many teaching mistakes. If making mistakes is such a good teacher, then I must have had the best teacher in Taiwan!

I wrote about Japan and the mixture of classes I had there. From kindergarten kids to housewives, from retirees to engineers: this is the great variety that private language schools offer in Japan.

At the top of my list was Thailand: most recent, longest time spent, and best memories. My son was born there, my wife and I spent or 3-year honeymoon there, and we developed the most ties there. My duties extended beyond the classroom, moving into adminsitration and planning duties. I am, of course, so thankful for that opportunity.

At dinner tonight I found myself a little worried about the application. I think any time the question, “What if” pops into mind, there is a likely chance that the thought turns negative. What if I don’t get a job? What if it doesn’t happen? What if I don’t get in?

The only answer to those soul-gripping questions, especially when the string of possible answers turns negative, is to let God answer for you. There’s no need to answer the possible question. God’s in control: He’ll answer for you! At the end of the day, He’s the one who’s in control of your life, so He’ll deal with the “What if I don’t get in?”

If you’re doubting, let God do all the talking for you. (And that’s my own voice trying to reassure me!)

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What I’m reading now

"Wanderlust: A Social History of Travel," by Laura Byrne Paquet (Fredericton:Goose Lane Editions, 2007) "The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping malls, and the Search for Home," by Pico Iyer (Toronto: Random House of Canada, 2000). "Outliers: The Story of Success," by Malcolm Gladwell (New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2008).

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