Monday, September 21, 2009

Psalm 97

1 The Lord is king!
Let the earth rejoice!
Let the farthest coastlands be glad.
2 Dark clouds surround him.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire spreads ahead of him
and burns up all his foes.
4 His lightning flashes out across the world.
The earth sees and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.
6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
every nation sees his glory.
7 Those who worship idols are disgraced—
all who brag about their worthless gods—
for every god must bow to him.
8 Jerusalema]" has heard and rejoiced,
and all the towns of Judah are glad
because of your justice, O Lord!
9 For you, O Lord, are supreme over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.

10 You who love the Lord, hate evil!
He protects the lives of his godly people
and rescues them from the power of the wicked.
11 Light shines on the godly,
and joy on those whose hearts are right.
12 May all who are godly rejoice in the Lord
and praise his holy name!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cheering for the Visiting Team

I found this while organizing/sorting through some old files and stuff this past week. What a blessing to have so many in my life who cheer the visiting team with me. :)

I'm writing this ... on a Saturday morning in Boston. I came here to speak at a conference. After I did my part last night, I did something very spiritual: I went to a Boston Celtics basketball game. I couldn't resist. Boston Gardens is a stadium I'd wanted to see since I was a kid. Besides, Boston was playing my favourite team, the San Antonio Spurs. 
As I took my seat, it occurred to me that I might be the only Spurs fan in the crowd. I'd be wise to be quiet. But that was hard to do. I contained myself for a few moments, but that's all. By the end of the first quarter I was letting out solo war whoops every time the Spurs would score. 
People were beginning to turn and look. Risky stuff, this voice-in-the-wilderness routine. 
That's when I noticed I had a friend across the aisle. He, too, applauded the Spurs. When I clapped, he clapped. I had a partner. We buoyed each other. I felt better. 
At the end of the quarter I gave him the thumbs-up. He gave it back. He was only a teenager. No matter. We were united by the higher bond of fellowship. 
That's one reason for the church. All week you cheer for the visiting team. You applaud the success of the One the world opposes. You stand when everyone sits and sit when everyone stands. 
At some point you need support. You need to be with folks who cheer when you do. You need what the Bible calls fellowship. And you need it every week. After all, you can only go so long before you think about joining the crowd. 
-- Max Lucado

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tom and Aubergine Take Us to Seattle

There are not a lot of people in my world who don't know that I embarked on my first ever road trip over the Labour Day long weekend. JM, SC and I adventured down to Seattle, Washington for some shopping and some sight-seeing. We had a blast; the whole experience was just absolutely wonderful. I would even endure the stressful parts (that go along with any road trip) if it meant experiencing the same wonderfulness all over again.

The Drive Down (aka Sleepless To Seattle)

Work committments (mine) meant that we left late Friday afternoon. It took us 45 minutes to get out of Edmonton from Downtown, which we'd prepared for, it being a long weekend and all. Still, I felt it was once we were outside the city limits that we really started to get 'into' the drive down. Once the sun had set after we passed through Hinton, we traveled by the light of a glorious full moon, which cast black silhouetted mountains all night long. It was such a serene drive. ...For the most part...

We filled up Kamloops, which was the most complicated gas fill-up I've ever experienced. First off, it was around 2am, which meant I had to pre-pay with the dude in the store. Except you aren't let into the store. You pass your credit card through a box and tell him how much you want to pre-pay for. But in my case, my Visa suddenly had a fraud altert notice on it, and I couldn't use it. SIGH. Will have to call Visa in the morning. Okay, so debit card. Here comes the pin pad through the fancy box. But of course, if you don't fill up to what you authorized for, THEN you have to go back to the man on the other side of the box and get a refund for the difference. And then... can I get the washroom key? ...Again, all through the box.

Finally, we're on our way again. The car-top carrier vibrated a constant hum, despite attempts to silence it with additional bungee cords. Sometimes we managed to tune it out, other times, not so much. We gave up just outside Kamloops. Which was where I discovered the joys of the Coquihala. With the car-top carrier (not full, but still present) and the three of us, my car was not accelerating up hills at its normal capacity. And really, it's a 4-cylinder Civic. How much torque does she really have at the best of times? Well, the Coquihala is the most up and down highway system I've ever been on. On the inclines, it was all I could do to keep my car above 90km/h. I dropped down into fourth gear almost every time. But on the down grades, it was all I could do NOT to go faster than 120! There was one point where I took my foot off the gas because I was near 130km/h, and the car did not slow down on its own! Ain't no one sleeping at the wheel on that highway, I tell ya.

Finally, we reached the border. And that was easy-peasy. So, okay, Tom (the GPS system), where to now? Oh, you want me to go on that road that doesn't exist. Hmm... I'm not cool with that, Tom. We meander through the comunity of Nooksack for what seems like forEVer, and eventually hit the I-5. Hallelujah. Next challenge: getting to the hotel in Bellevue. We need to get from the I-5 to the 405, and I don't know why it was so challenging, because we did it with great ease several times over the next three days, but we missed it, had to turn around and try again. And it felt very confusing. And we were right exhausted by this point.

So we get to the hotel, ready to just crash on the beds in our hotel room, when we are informed that there is only one bed in our hotel room. Seriously?! Mix up in the reservation. Sigh. If a cancellation happens later, we can be upgraded, we are told. But right now, the hotel is full. Fine. Grumpily and wearily, we climb into bed (thankfully a king-size). ...Joy comes in the morning?

Joy and Peace Restored! (aka Saturday)

Although I only slept for two hours (solidly, at least), I was already feeling better on Saturday. While JM and SC slept a little bit longer, I went to the lobby, printed a couple maps for the day, and dealt with the Visa people. We had a lot of shopping coming up, and I needed a working credit card!

Our first fun activity of the day was The Container Store, which is like the home organization section of Ikea on steroids. They have a sign above much of their merchandise that states, "Organized. Happy." That pretty much sums it up. :) All three of us came out with perfect purchases. And as I vacuum-packed my linens this evening, I did yet another happy dance!

Seattle at Sunset by gina.blankAfter The Container Store, we headed into Seattle for the first time. Ladies and gentlemen, Seattle is beautiful. If it weren't for the overall lack of sunshine (and the fact that it's not Canada), I think I could totally live there. It's hilly, but without it feeling like the sky is closing in on you. The pace of the city is very laid-back. And everyone is so nice! We headed down to Pike's Market and checked things out there. I will need to come back to Seattle sometime when I can take a day by myself and take advantage of the photo ops down there. There was so much culture and dynamic! I enjoyed taking in the sights of the market, even if it did get overwhelming very quickly.

We ate dinner at a fun place called the Steelhead Diner, and then spontaneously decided to head to the Space Needle afterwards and check out the view. It was a good half hour walk to digest dinner and visually take in the downtown core. The Space Needle was great! I had been told it wasn't all that spectacular, but for a shutterbug at sunset, it was so nice!

By the time we came down from the Needle, it was pretty much dark, and we felt ready for a couple drinks before heading back to the hotel. We found this little place a couple blocks from the Needle called the Tilikum Place Cafe, and I cannot accurately or justifiably describe how wonderful this little place was. As we chatted about trip highlights on Monday's drive home, this little cafe came out as one of the top activities. Perhaps it was cuz we first went into this lounge that was a complete dive, I dunno. But we walked into this quiet and classy cafe, and were greeted by the nicest, most friendly staff I've ever run into. It was a family-run cafe, and you could tell that they loved what they did. The gentlemen who served us happily obliged to 'create' drinks that weren't directly off the menu, including the most accurate re-creation of my favourite drink. We chatted and sipped quite leisurely, sleep coming on, but none of us quite wanting to leave right away. Eventually we did depart. We had another exciting day ahead of us.

Shop Till You Drop (aka Sunday)

We had set aside Sunday to attack Seattle Premium Outlets, home of 110 different outlet stores, many of which don't yet exist in Canada. And even if they do, everything in them was relatively less expensive then purchasing them up here. PLUS, Alberta and Washington (and a couple other states) have an agreement that when visiting Washington, Albertans don't have to pay sales tax. It's a pretty sweet deal. We all did our own little happy dances and happy giggles in various stores. JM could have brought all of Le Creuset's kitchenwares home with her; SC found little plastic muffin holders for the muffins she takes to work (that may not sound overly exciting, but you didn't see the look of excitement on her face!); and I finally got a new windbreaker to replace my old, dying MEC one. It's from Columbia, it's brown and pink, and I love it. It also has a fleecy insert, so I can wear it into the early winter, as well (my big MEC winter jacket is not exactly trendy anymore, but it's in too good condition to justify a new one, so I would like to save it for just the -40 days). ...I also managed to grab a few stocking stuffers and such, and felt the trip was thoroughly successful. ...I have no justifications for spending any money on myself from now till the New Year, mind you!

After the outlets, we went back into Seattle for dinner, drinks, and dessert. JM and SC went for one last market jaunt, and dropped me off a few blocks before that to check out a store I'd been interested in on Saturday. Alas, it was closed, so I took advantage of the hour I had to myself and checked out a couple stores on the way to the market area, and tried to get at least a few pictures before meeting up with the girls again for supper.

They had found a little restaurant above the market area (Lowell's Restaurant), in which we sat at a window looking west across the Seattle port. And of course, the sun was in its early stages of setting, so the view was just so great. I also had the most amazing grilled cheese sandwich in the world (three cheeses, tomato, and bacon). ...After supper, we headed out for drinks and dessert. The wind had picked up, and it was relatively cold. The first three places we tried had 45-75min waits (apparently Sunday at 7pm on a long weekend is a peak time for restaurants in Seattle), but finally managed to find a place a little off the beaten track that seated us immediately. I tried creme brulee for the first time, and loved it. I also had Bailey's and coffee for the first time, and loved that, too. It was an excellent way to wind down the evening.

Upon returning to the hotel, we were finally able to upgrade our room to one with two beds (hooray, hooray!). I got a bed to myself that night; I felt very spoiled!

The Road Home (aka Smoothest Trip Ever)

We were up and at 'em quite early Monday morning to get a head start back to Canada. We had no idea what the border crossing would be like, and we knew we'd be dealing with duty and such once we got there. Plus we all had to work the next day. We went back the way we had come--through Nooksack and all that--and it was surprising how much more enjoyable it was to travel through during the day time. What a scenic little place, Northern Washington! It was also quite out of the way of traffic, and so when we arrived at the border, it was much like it had been when we'd come down: we were the only car. We pulled up to the stop, and answered the standard questions. Then we had to tell the customs lady how much money we'd spent. Julia and I were both over the 48-hour limit somewhat. "Were you guys aware of your exemption limits" "No, not really." (yeah, we kinda were, actually). The customs lady explained our limits, and how normally we'd have to go inside and fill out the forms for tax, duty and all that fun stuff. "But because you weren't aware of your exemption, I'm going to let you guys go through. But just so you're aware for next time..." and goes on to politely ask us to make sure we do our research before we next cross the border.

Once we are in the clear, all I hear is giggling from JM in the driver's seat before she exclaims, "ohmygod, I LOVE Canada!" ...Not that you reading this should take this as an example of how your own border crossing may or may not pan out on your own road trip, but we weren't really going to complain about ours.

Happily (in daylight, with a silent car-top carrier [we fixed it], and having slept the night before), we drove back through the glorious BC terrain and into our home province. Much conversation, and much music later, we drove the last stretch from Hinton home, again closing the day with a beautiful sunset behind us, and a large, rich harvest moon rising ahead of us. When I got home, I was just as exhausted as when I'd arrived in Seattle, but this time, it was the good kind of exhausted.

My summer has officially come to an end. What a wonderful finale.