Creating, Creation, Creator

Sometimes, my pride seeps through.

It likes to take credit for the things that “I” do.

My words dance and reverberate

with power

and I accept the compliments

“you’re a great writer”.

I wish I had the courage

more often to say,

thanks but no thanks,

I was actually such a mess today.

And then God met me

in my wild, tangled up mind,

met me with words the way He designed

for me and Him to know each other.

 

See everything in this world

echoes His beauty

every stunning thing you see

is just a fraction of His truly

magnificent Creation.

And all creativity is

just us trying to imitate

Dad.

 

Abba knows best and so

He guides

with gentle hands,

allows our still learning fingers

to paint green rolling hillsides,

to smash together crooked pottery,

and write crappy lines of poetry.

Our mortal souls

see Creation and let out sighs

of elation

and then we set to work, trying

to express our never ending awe.

 

Like children learning to speak

our parent’s language,

Creation evokes in us a

desire to Create.

Paintbrushes and music scores,

woven baskets and dances that make bodies into

moving magic,

we each become more and more dramatic

as Life

becomes inspiration for Art.

 

I meet God

best among trees and poetry.

Creation and Creating

help me know deeper

my Creator.

And remind me always

that I am an Imitator.

I want to be known

as a someone made out of

clay,

shaped more and more each day

by the One who imagined

each grain of wheat and blade of grass,

forms rainbows and icicles that shine like glass,

the Maker who sewed together

all the wild fish in the depths of the sea.

All the things the Lord created

and he still want to meet with me

through creativity.

Wow.

 

And so together we meet and He

teaches me to write,

speaking to me and through me

and my face lights up

and I can’t help the smile on my face

as I glimpse

Love.

 

I am a writer,

a storyteller too.

They are beautiful parts of

how God made me and I want

to share them with you.

But don’t forget for a minute

I am just the vessel

for the True Author’s words

when I meet with him in quiet or while listening to the

chirping of birds.

 

I lean in,

let Him show me.

I put pencil to paper

and tentatively at first,

I begin

to Create.

Return

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any poetry, friends. Here is one inspired by the parable of the Prodigal Son that I performed at a church “Slam Sermon” this evening. It’s a little messy and unedited but I love the way God teaches me through my creativity, that I get to write inspired by the First Author. I got a little emotional as I read this evening because even when I’m “doing good” with God and with life, I am reminded that I too am a bit of a mess, that I have a tendency to hide my weaknesses and failures, that I try to deal with them alone, and that every single time, the Lord calls me by name and seeks me out. He is the One who leaves the 99 to come after the one and throws a feast when we return. What a wild grace we’ve been given. What a kind Father we have.

Return.

A voice in the chaos cuts through

the rain and the tears

the insults and the jeers,

return.

Return,

you who have squandered

and wandered away,

hidden in caves

and turned your face

to hide the scraps and the pain.

Return

the voice calls,

because I see the bruises

that don’t bloom on the skin

but attack from within and

slither through veins

in ways you can’t begin to explain

the mental haze that has found you,

made you lose your ways.

Return

say the voice

because I have heard

coins clash together in scenes that feel blurred

as exchanges are made and

you smile as pleasures

are handed your way

but at the end of the night,

lonely, sad and frustrated

you just want

to take flight and escape

what you have created.

Return

though your clothes are dirty

and you feel unworthy.

Return

not as a thief in the night

slinks back and hopes to avoid being seen

come in the morning when the sky is blue

and the trees are green.

Return.

Return,

in the light

so that He can greet you

in the way that is right

for a Father

to embrace his Sons and Daughters.

Return,

to a love so reckless

that it kicks up its heels,

an outrageous love

that revels and reveals itself.

A love that does not hide,

loves fully and with pride

in it’s Beloved Creation.

Return.

Return,

urges the voice

and He will run calling out for all to hear

the one I love was far

but now they are near

Return,

the voice reverberates

through all the other noise.

Somewhere a man awakes

looks around at all he has destroyed

He rises and looks towards the door

Return

the voice whispers

with love the man

no longer feels he deserves

return

and you will learn

how the Father longs

for his children

and does not reserve

love for only those who are “worthy”.

Return,

all are welcome,

those broken and thirsty.

Return

from hard work in the field

or a wild life abroad

the voice calls them in

not caring where they have trod.

Return,

the voice

says

I have been waiting.

With love anticipating,

always hopeful,

never hating.

Watching the door for you.

Return,

now is the time,

the Father waits

to wash away any shame and crime.

Return

to Perfect Love

to Divine embracing

return to being fully known

instead of always chasing

more.

A King’s feast awaits,  not just the crumbs

Here is your home

where you can always come

So now,

without fear

or condemnation

come boldly

and be cherished

by the Maker of Creation

And the Father will smile and

with the same voice He will say

all I’ve wanted

for years has come true today.

For you, My Child

have returned.

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Morning Rhythms

This morning I was up before the sun.

A static melody fills my room as the radio alarm clicks on at “5am” which is really more like 4:50 since all my clocks are set ahead; my chronic lateness needs all the help it can get to make me be on time for something, anything.

Even though I want to snuggle down into the covers and wrap myself in the cozy denim coloured jersey sheets, I force myself to put my feet on the ground before I think twice. Half asleep, I hit boil on the already filled kettle and scoop this morning’s caffeinated drink – vanilla matcha – into a wide mug I need both hands to hold. Almost on auto-pilot I brush my hair, get dressed and gather my things for the day. Before 5:30, I am out the door, green drink in one hand, grey bible in the other. I head for the common room.

I spend the next hour or so sitting in front of the window. I journal while music quietly plays and sip my drink while reading about this week’s “spiritual discipline” of choice – gratitude. I pray and ask God to meet me, to teach me, to change me, to grow me, as I open the Word and read the Psalms. I am almost brought to tears by the beauty and emotion of the Bible’s poets. I praise the Lord for the truths I read: that He is my refugee, that He alone gives peace, that I ask and He answers, that He is angry without sin, that He delights in me, that He gives joy in the darkness. I do not feel the tiredness in my body any more. You could argue that it is the matcha kicking in but I can feel the Holy Spirit filling me with so much excitement about being alive. I ask for forgiveness for the times this week I spoke in anger, for the times I was lazy or selfish or unkind or prideful. I ask the Holy Spirit to be with me through my busy day.

I practice gratitude all the way to work. I realize that for the first time this year I can hear birds chirping in the tree on the Leblanc front lawn and think, “what a gift that is to me!” I watch pink streaks wind their way through the sky and smile to myself as I step into puddles. Whether or not it lasts, this morning feels like spring and I am grateful to be alive.

I talk to God about how much I love writing and getting to know people. I pray about the book I want to someday write and the blogs I have in the back of my head. I thank Jesus for the plans He has for me today, tomorrow, this summer and six years from now and day dream about all the countries I will visit soon. I remember my last year’s trip to Iceland and am thankful all over again for a God who fulfills the desires of my heart. I remember how I prayed last August that I would be able to find a non-profit to do co-op at this winter. I walk through the downtown core of the city I so love and cherish on my way to the job that is everything I asked God for, and more. Like the bonus of having Friday’s off to accomplish tasks for my many other commitments. I thank God that He actually does give me more than I can handle but never more than He can handle; I am grateful I have to rely on Him and not my own stubbornness and pride.

I pray for friends near and far. I pray for people I do not call friend. I pray in French and thank God for language and rain and my residents and for being a God who is “tu” and not “vous”. I stop and buy a tea. I tell the women behind the cash how grateful I am that she got up early to serve me this morning.

I get to work 20 minutes early. I sit and talk with my co-workers about how beautiful long-lasting friendships are and I think about how excited I am to catch up with my best friend on the phone tonight. What a blessing it is to have technology to keep in touch.

I sip my tea. I start up my computer. I make my to-do list. I get to work.

I gave up sleeping in for Lent and it is not easy to resist the snooze button. Sometimes I mess up, like last Friday when I convinced 3 friends to meet me on campus at 7 for prayer and then I slept through the alarm and missed it. 5am comes oh so early. But a 5am start to my day means I have time to meet with Jesus and focus my day on the Lord before the busyness of everything else kicks in and more and more I am finding beauty in this rhythm. I am truly giving God the first of my time and getting His view on my day long before the stress of work or obligations kick in. At 5am, there is nothing I need to do but sit in the presence of the Lord.

Morning rhythms, quiet cups of tea, birds chirping. I get to pray and meet with the Creator while most of Creation sleeps. Wow, if that doesn’t help me cultivate gratitude, I don’t know what will. I am so thankful for the life I get to live.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” – Mark 1:35

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God > Grades

Never have I ever written as much as I did this past semester for university. I’m not sure if it’s a 3rd year thing or just that I was lucky enough to have professors who loved written assessments but holy cow, my fingers hurt just thinking about all the typing I did! Counting only pieces that were 8+ pages, I wrote 9 academic papers this semester. Huh, when I see that number it actually doesn’t seem like that many but let me tell you, it felt like a million.

The last week of classes was, in particular,  rather brutal. In the span of 9 days, I had 3 final exams, an Arabic oral presentation and 4 papers due. I barely slept and I should have been stressed out of my mind. Shocking everyone, myself included, I was incredibly calm and focused. In comparison to last fall, in which I spent most of the exam period alternating between crying from stress and talking about how stressed I was to anyone who would listen, this semester I felt like I had everything under control, despite the overwhelming amount of work I had. I think the sheer volume of what I had to do actually helped because I felt like just finishing it would be an accompaniment, regardless of the grade that I achieved.

However, the most incredible thing I realized this finals season is just how much my perspective on grades and exam stress has changed since first year. As crazy as it might sound to those of you who don’t share my faith, I had this incredible sense of peace during exams (and really all semester) that God had this. That didn’t necessarily mean I was going to get As in all my classes but this was the first time in school that I genuinely, deep down in my soul, knew that my grades do not define me. That my best was enough, whether that meant I lost my scholarship or if it meant I got straight As, I knew I would be silly to think that something as little as getting a C+ in Arabic or failing a Statistics exam could possibly derail God’s plan for my life.

God is the Creator of the universe. He designed the tallest mountains and the deepest depths of the sea. He crafted the world’s most precise intricacies and set in motion the laws of nature. He imagined every language before any human tongue spoke it and ordered the world with incredible attention to detail. And most amazingly, I too am part of His grand, elaborate, creative and perfect design. Wow! Because of that, I am inherently enough. I was created enough.

I’ve known this in my head for years. But last year there was a time when I had to confront myself and ask “am I trusting God with school because I trust Him or because it keeps working out fine in the end? If I actually failed a class  or an assignment would I still trust Him with it and say that He is good?”. I was about to find out. I had a take home final due in my International Relations Class (which had been killing me all semester) and I had spent about 17 of the last 24 hours writing the final. I was doing OK in the class, but not great and definitely not as well as I wished I was. Finally handing in that paper felt so freeing; it was finally over, after much stress and striving.

Then I got home. A friend was going to come over before church and I was scrambling to clean my persistently messy room when I picked up a piece of paper and saw that it was one of the pages of my assignment. It had slipped off the printer and because the cover page had been there, I had just stapled the assignment and handed in, with about 500 words missing. Cue instant nausea and hysteria. God bless my poor friend Jon who showed up to my door to me sobbing and running around my room in a panic, trying to call my professor’s office, which was now closed. I tried to calm down and then Jon and I prayed for favour with my professor and TA and I emailed them both the electronic version of my paper, explaining what had happened.

As we headed to church, I was trying so hard to let it go and trust that God would make it all work together for good but I just couldn’t. I was furious with myself for not being more careful. I was mad that this class was, yet again, stressing me out. And to be perfectly honest, I was mad at God. Here I am, in university, trying to honour the opportunity I had been given to get an education, trying to do what I felt God had called me to be doing in this season of life and He, in all His power, couldn’t make sure I handed my paper in right?! Sounds silly I know but I’m sure we’ve all been there with anger that makes absurd accusations regardless of their truth. Thankfully Jesus is used to taking the ugliest parts of my human nature and drawing me closer to himself with patience, love and grace. 

We got to church just as I received an email from my professor telling me that she would not be including the missing page and that my assignment would be marked as it had been handed in. Of course, I start sobbing again and go hide alone at the back of the church. I spent the entire service in angry, crying prayer. Y’all probably think I am so dramatic and honestly, I knew I was being dramatic too. I kept telling myself it was just a paper, that it was just one class, that it wasn’t life or death but I was so distraught.

That’s when God really started getting deep into the heart of it all. Why did this academic setback send me spiralling so hard? Why did I feel like such a failure?

Even though I could say that my identity is found in who God says I am, was it really true? That afternoon, God softened my heart, drew me close in his presence and reminded me who I am. I am not an incomplete IR paper. I am not my transcript.  I am a daughter of the Highest King. I am chosen, set free and redeemed. There are plans for my life that will go beyond my wildest dreams if I am willing to give the reins over to the Lord. I had to level with God and admit that I had been idolizing academic success, for a long time. I had placed what my uOzone grade report said above what God himself said about me.

It was a hard lesson and it didn’t end that day. Last December as I headed home for Christmas I was utterly exhausted. I had had the worst four months of my entire life. Academically, personally, professionally. It had all been difficult. I was tired. So tired. My best friend and I sat in a parking lot one day and just yelled and laughed at how absurdly terrible our fall semesters had been. But then we talked about how good God is through those hard seasons.

I walked into my second semester and 2017 feeling more grounded in God’s word than ever before. I had learned what is means to hide myself in Him and His promises. I’ll be writing about 2017 year soon but for now, let me just tell you that it was been one full of grace, full of hard lessons and more anger at God and more running towards him all the same. It has been a year of growth and change and dreaming and hope. So much hope. We are so lucky to get to life this life, complete with all it’s joy and challenge.

So, who can stop the Lord Almighty? Not me and certainly not my grades. I am enough. I am worthy of the plans he has for my life because He created me, Jesus redeemed my life and I choose to value that above all else. That doesn’t mean I don’t try my very best at school – on the contrary, I believe my education is one of the biggest blessing I have been given and I want to steward it well. What it means is that I am free to do my best and have that be enough. I am free to hand things in and sleep in peace knowing that my world will not fall apart, regardless of what grade I get back. It means walking out of exams and not feeling like I’m going to melt in a puddle of tears. It means going home at the end of semester and not feeling like I just climbed into a lifeboat. Because I wasn’t drowning in the first place.

Trust God, friends. Rest in the knowledge that your best is enough. You are enough.

Until next time, Sam

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Quiet Moments in the Crazy, Busy, Goodness of a Life Being Lived as an Adventure

I can finally breathe.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in the student neighbourhood beside campus, drinking tea, listening to the classic coffee shop music and enjoying watching the people come and go.

Today is the first day since the middle of August that I have nothing I absolutely have to do. No commitments and no responsibilities. Yes, I should study. And yes, if my residents ask me a question I’m going to answer it because that’s just me. Yes I could prep for my interviews next week or I could finally get around to balancing my budget for a trip I led or I could do the research I haven’t had time to do for my volunteer project. But honestly I’m going to take full advantage of this unexpected time off.

Let’s be real, if you know me, you probably know that I would never have planned a “nothing day”. I absolutely thrive when I am busy and productive and surrounded by friends and adventure. And so, that’s what I planned for this weekend. I planned my third Outdoor’s Club trip in three weeks. I planned to take 10 people to the Adirondack mountains in New York state, my first time to go there. I spent three weeks planning logistics and signing people up and running around collecting gear and making sure everything was ready to go and I packed my bag, ignoring the fact that I was tired and my weekends off were meant to be restful, not stressful.

See I’m not that good at saying “no”. And apparently I’m not that good at listening when God is trying to tell me to “stop”.

Let me tell you all the things that went wrong while I was planning this trip:
– People didn’t show up to sign up and we spent days running all over campus to collect money
– A driver dropped out
– Then we found another driver
– Another driver dropped out
– Then we convinced another exec member to come and be a driver
– Then we realized no one had sleeping bags or tents and all the club ones had been rented out
– So we spent the day before the trip running all over the neighbourhood, posting on Facebook and tracking down as many sleeping bags and tents as possible.
– Then we couldn’t find the stove we were planning to take
– Finally at 10:30am the DAY OF THE TRIP – a driver cancelled because they were sick. After everything else, I almost wasn’t even surprised.

So, I took one for the team and I didn’t go. We managed to squeeze everyone else into the remaining two cars and I stayed home, after three weeks of thinking, planning and preparing for the trip. I was really sad but after running through all the options, this was the only one that really made sense. I’m not looking for praise for sacrificing my trip for everyone else to be able to go (which is what I’ve gotten from a lot of friends) because honestly, it just reminded me of all the things I’ve learned about being a leader over the years. A leader puts the team before themselves – I wasn’t necessary to the trip and I didn’t HAVE TO go. There are two other leaders still there and I was the least necessary to the well-being of the trip because I didn’t have experience in the location. And as the president of the Outdoors Club, I put in so many hours of organization to allow other people to experience the wonder and transformation I’ve always felt outdoors. I didn’t want to take this experience away from anyone else and so it made sense for me to give up my adventure so others could have theirs. That’s what a leader does sometimes.

So here I am.

And last night and today as I was getting ready for my unexpected day off, I reminded myself that everything happens for a reason, that God the Father knows what I need long before I do. Although I thought what I needed was a day in the cold mountain air, a day spent pushing my body to it’s limits and climbing and doing something new, God had other plans. I have to continuously remind myself that when you surrender your life to God, you surrender the right to be angry when plans change. A long time ago I surrendered having total control over my life and I asked God to led me down the paths that are the BEST for me. Not just good or better but BEST.

Trust me, I thought the mountains were a good path. I still think it would have been a great weekend. But I can see God’s hand in this. If I truly believe that God knows me better than I know myself AND that He cares for me and gives good gifts (I do believe that), then I also have to trust when He changes plans on me. That belief also means trying my best to take changed plans with a positive attitude and an open heart to learn from whatever situation I find myself in. I think it wasn’t so much the mountain adventure that wasn’t God’s best for me – it was the constantly being responsible for others that I needed a break from. I didn’t even realize it before now but I think I needed a weekend to be just Sam. Not a CA, not a leader, not a student, not a friend or anything else. Just me.

I’m taking this “weekend off” as I nudge from God that I need to slow down. That I need to remember to do simple things, to have Sabbath times in my life, whether or not that ends up being a Sunday morning. I need to be taking time to breathe.

Today I am drinking coffee and taking time to blog. I’m going to go finish my book in the park and I’m going to go to the mall and buy new jeans. I might do some readings for class but only if I feel like it. I’m going to go for a long walk and listen to worship music and maybe see some friends. And tomorrow I’m going to go to church which I haven’t done in weeks because it’s been a month since I’ve been in Ottawa on a Sunday.

And come Monday, I’ll be back to my crazy life; don’t get me wrong, I love it. This semester is full of light and life and goodness and excitement. I’m actually really thriving in the busy, crazy goodness of it all. For the first time in a long time this season feels like I am exactly where I need to be. I feel like I am doing the Sam things and that God is preparing me to springboard into even more exciting seasons. I’m truly so so happy. I’m taking six classes in three languages and I’m in my favourite residence with amazing first years, I’m running a club that I love and am so passionate about and I’m volunteering with a food security project at the university. I’m applying for coop jobs and spending time with people who I am incredibly blessed to have in my life. I’m spending lots of time outside and lots of time with Jesus and my heart feels happy and full.

I just need to remember that it’s ok to take a break from the chaos, EVEN WHEN the chaos is GOOD. Life is crazy and busy and above all full of goodness and sweet, simple gifts from God. I just need to remember that it’s ok to say “I can’t sorry. I just need to go have a coffee and be Sam.”

Thank you Jesus for knowing what I need long before I do. I’m so blessed.

 

Praise and Puddle Jumping

Rain is often seen as a negative weather phenomenon. Something that ruins plans, keeps people inside and destroys things that weren’t supposed to get wet. It’s dreary and miserable and people pray for the sun to come out again.

Yet for me, so many times in my life, the rain has been a sign from God that He is doing something GOOD. I look back and the amount of times I was caught in the rain, only to have God grab hold of my grouchy attitude and teach me something beautiful are too many to count.

When I used to a camp counsellor, rainy days were dreaded, especially when they came back to back with no end in sight. It meant cancelled programs and sitting inside face to face with 10 little girls expecting to be entertained for hours on end. Let me tell you, there is only so many bunk bed forts and games of “Werewolf” a girl can take! One day, I was walking back from a staff meeting, rain boots on, head down to keep the droplets of rain out of my eyes. I was annoyed because skills were cancelled and I knew my sailing students were going to be behind, maybe even fail the class if the rain didn’t let up soon. Just as I turned the corner to my cabin I heard laughter and shrieking. Crossing my fingers that no one was hurt, I saw my campers, 13 years old at the time, jumping up and down in their bathing suits and barefoot, kicking up water and sticking their tongues out at each other. Almost on it’s own accord, my face broke out into a smile. I couldn’t even remember the amount of time’s I’d gone and stood in the pouring rain on the warm sidewalk in my home town, dancing and laughing as the puddles grew around my ankles. So much fun! Instead of hiding inside, my girls and I spent at least an hour, running around in the rain. We were the only ones out and there was so much joy and fun to be found when we stopped fighting what seemed like bad luck and started making it work for us.

Another time I went for a walk around the city with a couple of friends. It was our first week back from summer vacation and we walked and walked and talked for hours, catching up on everything we had missed. On the way home, we wandered past Parliament, where our country’s government sits. Suddenly the rain came DOWN. There was no escaping it. Even if we had wanted to go inside, there was nowhere to go. We starting laughing and running around, kicking water at each other, holding hands and turning our face towards the sky and letting the rain pelt our faces. I’ll never forget the beauty and pure joy of that night.

And once, just a couple of weeks ago, I got lost after taking the wrong bus. It was absolutely pouring rain and I was so far from where I needed to be. I angrily got off the bus, and started walking. Soon enough, my jeans were soaked through and there was no point even trying to stay dry. I pulled my hood back and stared at the sky. I was not happy. And yet, I felt a small voice inside tell me to start praising the Lord. Although I was walking down a street in a major city, no one else was around. I started singing the first worship song that came to my head, hesitantly at first and then really giving it, praising God with all I had as the rain pooled on the sidewalk, filling my running shoes and making mascara run down my cheeks. It was one of the most beautiful and intimate moments I had had with God in a long time.

As I walked home that night, I heard God’s voice reminding me of truths I have known for years but seemed to have forgotten in the chaos that is university. He reminded me that I am called to praise him through all circumstances. He reminded me that there is beauty in ugly things, in endings and in struggles and in rain. He reminded me that rain will always end, the sun will come. But he also reminded me that I do not have to hide. Rain will not melt me. Neither will the rainy seasons of life. If we choose to praise through the gray seasons of life, how much more quickly they will pass!

Someone I went to high school with died a couple of weeks ago at 19. I don’t know how many more days God will give me on this earth but I yearn to fill each one of them with joy and adventure. I will not risk being kept inside by rain. I will not give up mountain climbing, but I might get there by puddle jumping. And I’m telling you, splashing and dancing in the rain really is fun.

Now, as I sit in the sunroom at the back of my apartment, I listen to the rain fall and the thunder roll. God is quietly reminding me that He made me to be a storyteller and a writer and that I have neglected that dream to follow others. I hope to make a place here, on this blog to dream, encourage, write, praise, pray, and learn. I pray that I continue to pursue being more Christ-like and more Sam-like each and everyday.

After all, growth can only happen after it rains

-Until next time, Sam

(p.s. I listened to the Wanted On Voyage album by George Ezra while I wrote this if you’d like to listen along <3)

 

40 Days of Friends

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In high school, if you were going to drive me home, you had to know one thing: my driveway was a place of heart to hearts. Friends would often take me home and end up still sitting in the car with me hours later, talking late into the night about school, family, friends, relationships, faith, the future or just about anything else we could think of. Even my mom came to know that if I wasn’t home when I had said I would be, she only to had to look out the front window and chances were, I’d be there, either talking to or listening to a friend. I’m not sure what it was (and still is) for me about talking in the car but I suspect it’s largely the total absence of distractions. No other people talking, nothing to get up and do, no where to go. For however long we sat there, we had each other’s total attention. And because catching a ride home each day was inevitable, these chats happened fairly regularly.

How often do we actually give people in our lives that kind of time to be heard? Not sure about anyone else but I am brutal at making time for people, especially if they aren’t in my pathway, if I don’t see them while just going through my everyday life. University is BUSY!  I have a full course load, I have a job that can be unpredictable, I volunteer, I’m on the executive of a club, I’m learning languages and studying and applying for summer jobs and going to church and, and, and, and. It’s not like I don’t want to connect with people, it’s just HARD to make TIME. If you know me, you probably know I’m really bad at keeping in touch with people. It’s not that I don’t love you, I’m just BUSY (or so I say, as I binge watch Netflix).

But here’s the deal ya’ll. Friends and relationships are one (of if not THE) most valuable gifts we have been given in this life. Whether it’s a sit down coffee date, a quick text to let someone know you are thinking about them, a FaceTime with those far away or a walking home and chatting instead of sticking your headphones in your ears, we all could do well to start finding and making time for those we love, those we miss and those we wish we could get to know better. Let’s be real, I bet you could name 5 people right now that you should reconnect with or catch up with.

SO. What am I going to do about it?

As you may or may not know, today is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent, the forty days leading up to Easter. For Christians, it is a time of reflection and often a time when people give something up in order to better reflect on the gifts God’s given them. So this year, I’m giving up complacency in my relationships. I’m giving up excuses and I’m giving up my tendency to wave my hands and say “I just don’t have time”. The point of Lent is to, for 40 days, be super intentional about acknowledging Christ and preparing your heart for Easter. I believe that sacrificing my time and other hobbies to be present in the lives of those around me, and by taking the time to really see them for the person God created them to be is a great way to worship the Lord and acknowledge all He has blessed me with.  Friends are SUCH a blessing and I need to acknowledge that more by stepping outside of my own desires to watch Netflix or ignore people when I just don’t feel like socializing. We all want to feel noticed and appreciated and this season I want to make my people feel seen and heard.

SO. Here’s the plan.

40 days, 40 friends. 40 ways to celebrate the people I get to do life with.

Some of them will be family, some will be Ottawa friends and others old friends who live far away. Some will be acquaintances I’d like to know better and at least a couple will probably be total strangers. I want to see what happens when I intentionally acknowledge, appreciate, connect with, celebrate, communicate and love the people that God has placed in my life.

JOIN ME!! I’ve started making a list of those I want to connect with over the next month and a bit and I’d love if any of you wish to be a part of this adventure. Let me know if you’d like to connect. Whether you celebrate Lent or not, I think our friendships are so important to prioritize. And I’m being realistic here. Relationships are a two way street. I may not be able to connect with each one of these people this month. The point is, I’m going to try.

And one other important thing: I am going to PRAY for them. Each day, I’m going to pick one of the names on my list and pray intentionally for them by name throughout the day. I believe that prayer has power and that it is a way for me to care for my friends, even when they are far away or too busy to hang out. Friends,heads up! I’m coming for you, ready for all the heart to hearts, all the hugs, all the cups of tea and the texts and Facetimes and whatever else you need to feel loved and seen. I love you all and I look forward to sharing time with you soon ❤ And if not, know that you’ll be in my heart and my prayers!

I’ve gone through stages of my life where Lent has been either something I did just for the sake of doing and other times when I didn’t observe it at all because I didn’t want to be “just going through the motions”. I was convicted today that God doesn’t require anything from us; His sacrifice is enough. Giving things up for Lent and/or taking on new habits/disciplines is NOT something we have to do to be saved or to make God love us more, yada yada yada. The intention to grow closer to Him. Lent isn’t meant as a requirement or something to check off your list of religious chores but as a way to be more aware about your relationship with God and the grace that comes with it.

I just really love Jesus and I really love the people He has placed in my life. I’m super excited to spend the next 40 days thanking Him for my friends, lifting them up in prayer and HOPEFULLY spending lots of time listening to their stories and being present in their lives. Isn’t that what we all want, to have people who are really present in our lives?

Until next time, Sam

Cultivate sparks – a 2017 thesis statement

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Have you ever tried to write an essay without brainstorming first? Just started writing with the hope that your thesis will magically refine itself as you spew nonsensical and unrelated facts? In my experience this is usually a late night, last minute, coffee fuelled approach to assignments. Sometimes it works out okay but the papers are NEVER as thoughtful, articulate and compelling as the ones I spend (literally) weeks researching, mind mapping, discussing, and reworking. The university paper I’ve been most proud of was one where I changed my thesis several times, discussed it with my professor and made all kinds of examples and connections that helped me understand the topic better, even if they didn’t end up in the finished project. Well put together papers take time…and I need to have an outline to know where I am going. 

I find that New Year’s resolutions are too often of the former approach. We frantically make them, (often too many of them) without actually considering how we are going to make them fit together. How are we going to actually make it from the opening paragraph (January) and effectively bring them to life and expand them throughout the body of the year, wrapping them up in December in a way that is still connected? And with no grades on the line like there is in school, how do we make sure we actually finish the “2017 paper” rather than having it be left unfinished like so many other years aspirations?

As with a paper for a class, our goals for a new year need to have a theme. Something that ties them together, a theme, a thesis so to speak. That’s how I see the “one word” new years goals. The theme is looked at from different angles every day but it weaves it’s way all the way through, tying the year together from start to finish. Anyone who has been keeping up with my blog for a while would know that for the past few years I have chosen a word of the year. Previous words have included renew, courageous, and then last year still. I guess choose is not quite the right word…it’s actually a process of prayer and really asking God what HE wants this year to look like and what HIS plan is. I can make all the resolutions I want but at the end of the day I know that God’s plan is better than anything I could come up with – and He is faithful with what He promises!

That said, I actually knew my 2017 word way back in November…at least I thought I did. I was having a pretty rough semester of school and although it really did force me to be still and draw close to the Lord, it was also a season of frustration and questioning. Anyway, I think one day God just decided to take pity on me and give me some hope for the new year.

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Me, all of 1st semester (source)

One night as I was journalling I ended up drawing a campfire (guys I do NOT draw lol) and writing under it “Lord make my heart outshine my beauty. Set sparks that will flourish into fire”. I really felt that that was a promise God was making to me; that 2017 would be a year of sparks and flourishing. Ya’ll sparks are LITERALLY hot. I associate them with excitement and fresh starts and fiery, confident growth. They START something that builds and builds into fire that can’t be contained. They are small but mighty. They can float away into the night, lost forever OR they can be fanned into something that can be seen from miles around. Guys, I was STOKED (get it?) that this was the word God was giving me for the new year. Especially after being “still” for a year…yes, lots of growth and intimacy with God but like hello 2017.

“See I am doing a NEW thing! Now it springs up, do you not see it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert” – Isaiah 43:19

So I’m all excited right? You know, I’ve got my theme for the year. It’s January 1st, I’m in church and praising and I’m all pumped for the new year and (I’m so sorry Pastor Jay) I’m not listening to the message at all because I’m just thinking about what kinds of exciting opportunities God’s going to give me this year. And then I start thinking about the phrase “she will run through fields of harvest” which is a poster I have on my wall in Ottawa and I’m thinking about how in order to reap a harvest you need to cultivate the crops yada, yada, yada. So the word “cultivate” just keeps running circles in my brain. I’m sitting there panicking and HOPING that God is not trying to change the word on me hahaha. Sparks sound exciting, cultivating sounds like WORK! But I really opened my heart and prayed about whether I was supposed to be focusing on the word cultivate instead.

I slowly began to realize that God wasn’t changing the word…He was ADDING to it. He can give me all the sparks I want. But like I said, sparks can fly away into the night, never to be seen again. Fires take time to build. It takes effort and patience. God was promising me sparks but He was also CALLING me to cultivate them.

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Cultivate (transitive verb)

2. To improve by labour, care or study: refine.

3. Further, encourage.

So yeah,  it will be work. But anything worth having takes work

SPARKS!!! TO CULTIVATE INTO FLAME!! Ya’ll this is exciting. I know this started as a boring analogy about thesis’ and essays but it made sense in my head. My word(s) of 2017 are now not JUST a theme but a thesis. They have a purpose that I can run with, expand, and discover. I am filled with so much hope for this year and all that it will bring!

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gifts of God…” – 1st Timothy 1:6

May 2017 be a year of passion, of friendship, of growth and of hope, of curiosity and of cultivation. Let’s do this friends.

-Until next time, Sam

p.s. yes I know I’m a month late, sorry not sorry

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Illuminating Faith

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I have seen it but because by it I see everything else – C. S. Lewis

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I wrote this quote in my journal on Sunday, intending to ponder it some more when I got some spare time (hahahahah) and today it suddenly started appearing everywhere I looked. I saw it on Twitter, it was used as two Instagram captions on my feed and a friend quoted it out loud to me. I figured I was supposed to take notice. Here are my thoughts today.

This weekend I went on a canoe trip with a bunch of complete strangers. I have to say, no matter who you are with, there is something absolutely magical about sitting around a campfire, dark skies and crackling wood. I, for one, am mesmerized by fire. Aside from the beauty of it, campfires seem to spark vulnerability. 

Strangers. A diverse group. Undergrads and PhD candidates and people who weren’t even students anymore. Canadians and exchange students. 9 people in the woods together by chance. And yet sitting around a campfire answering questions like “what do you care about”, “what is your biggest dream in life”, “tell us about a place that means something to you”. Vulnerability. All weekend, I had this total peace of being exactly where I was supposed to be, knowing firmly that God had placed me on this trip, with these people for reasons I will never fully comprehend.

In the canoe during the day, mentioning my faith and ending up having life chats about how good and faithful my God is. Praying with and being prayed for by a total stranger because my God doesn’t do randomness; He always has a plan.

In the tent at night having long discussions about faith in the darkness, trying desperately to explain how present Jesus can be in my life; struggling to show two new friends (both atheists) how I look around at the fiery changing trees and the lake, misty at dawn, and see the hand of an incredible artist. How it makes me want to shout praises at the top of my lungs. How faith is so much more than naively pushing logic aside to feel comfortable. Not being very convincing and yet having one of them ask me the next morning as I sat by the water if I was thinking about God’s role in my life. I think he was teasing me and yet, my heart smiled at the thought that something I said had stuck with him even a bit.

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Being able to breath in fresh air.

Listening to stories as sparks rise up in the smoke. Getting to know people’s passions and histories and dreams and senses of humour.

Getting lost on the way there and getting locked out of the car on the way home.

Climbing to the top of a cliff to look out over the trees and water, having to sit and catch my breath but knowing in that moment how blessed I am to be able bodied and alive.

Writing a list in my journal titled “Things I am Grateful for Today” and having it spill over and fill more than 4 pages.

Lazily waking up to the sound of rain on the tent walls, smiling at a friend while everyone else still sleeps and not moving, just enjoying the quiet of morning.

The way nature has a way of evoking prayer from my every breath, connecting me to Creator God and making every other thought one of praise and thanks.

Laughter

Singing

Cold mud squishing between my toes as I push a canoe off the shore, almost tipping it over

Kneeling alone in a canoe pivoting and paddling, circling the small island where everyone sits eating lunch. Pride and contentment in the satisfaction of practicing skills I worked so hard for. Getting to share those skills with others, sharing my passions

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Sharing “no-bakes” with people

Racing the other boats, laughing and yelling as the two boys in my boat splash me in our excitement to win.

Cooking food over a fire, slightly burnt and smoky, better than anything I’ve had in weeks

Hugging goodbye at the end of the weekend, promises of sharing pictures, Facebook requests, catching each other for a drink sometime. Hugs from friends, no longer strangers

This weekend was one of complete rejuvenation. It filled my soul and gave me joy. In a place I’d never been, God catered to my heart’s desire for adventure. He gave me people to love even for just a short period of time. He gave me natural beauty and deep questions and conversations that went past the surface. He gave me a time of prayer and vision and hope for the future.

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I don’t believe in Jesus just because of faith. I believe in Jesus because I see Him permeate every aspect of my life. He is active and present. He gives GOOD gifts. He is faithful. He fulfills the desires of our hearts. He rejoices in our success and is the quiet whisper of peace and grace when we struggle. He is a master storyteller, weaving threads I would have missed, never forgetting a single detail, introducing characters at just the right time, crafting a plot of adventure and victory. Like the sun, He illuminates my days, allowing me to see the world as a place that is inherently good and full of light, despite the darkness that seems to swallow the streets and fill the news.

Today, I had a hard day. Mondays are long for me and this was not a very nice one. But God is present. Today, this quote by C.S. Lewis (one of my favourite authors) was all the reminder I needed of His faithfulness today and everyday.

This weekend is my answer to my friends in the tent when they ask how I know God is real.

Faith is the choice to put God’s perfect gifts into perspective.

Joyful until next time, Sam

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The Happiness Illusion

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016 – Something you wish more people knew or believed

“Don’t worry, be happy”

To be honest, I think happiness has become an idol for so many of us. It’s an end goal, something everyone wants but no one seems to have. We think that if we can just “be happy”, everything difficult in our lives will work itself out.

Happiness is so fleeting, so temporary. It comes and goes daily. It’s dependant on your circumstances and can all come crumbling down when life gets hard. It’s inconsistent. It all depends on “how you feel”. Sounds pretty depressing right? I sound like a total downer. Why? Because I don’t need to be happy…I’ve found something better.

What I wish more people knew is how limited happiness is when compared with joy.

Joy persists through anything life may throw at us. It is deep seated contentment in every season of life. It is the thrill found in everyday beauty. It’s the triumph that comes from knowing that everything is going to be okay. Joy is an inward peace and consistent state of knowing how truly blessed and utterly lucky we are to live. Joy is like happiness on steroids!

The thing is, joy doesn’t come from external factors. It actually (and some of ya’ll may disagree with me here) can only come from God. One of the verses I have been trying to really reflect on lately is Romans 15:13. “May the Lord of all hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” I believe that joy is a gift God offers us freely; it is one of the fruits of the spirit and he is wants us to be so filled with this uncontainable and thrilling sense of joy that it overflows out of us. 

I didn’t want this to be a “I wish more people knew God” post (although I do wish that). What I was really trying to express here is the inadequacy of a feeling we chase, thinking it is the ultimate goal in life. I wish more people knew and believed that there is more for them in this life than than a feeling that comes and goes with the tides. Expect more! Expect consistency. When you find true joy that comes from the Lord, you’ll come to realize that it is possible to be content wherever you are; no matter your season, no matter your circumstance. Joy is something that can come with you wherever you go; no chasing required, no let down at the end of the day. Joy is the complex fulfillment of the simple happiness we have learned to desire.

I wish more people believed that joy > happiness

“A joyful heart is good medicine” – Proverbs 17:22

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