Not Painting the Sea

Being in British Columbia made me wish that I was a painter. Despite usually feeling like my words are sufficient to paint images in people’s minds, these views had me speechless which happens very rarely.

One day I went hiking with my family and left them to continue the trail while I climbed down to the rocky beach. Kicking off my sandals and walking out onto the rocks, I feel more like a foreigner than anything else. My feet are soft, from summers spent on sandy shores in Georgian Bay, years of running through Beausoleil Island and Killbear Provincial Park. This pebbled beach, rolling under my feet and pricking the soles when a bit of shell peaks through, it feels different. It’s hard to believe this is the same Canada I know and love.

I get to the edge of the water, breathe deeply through my nose, inhaling the salty smell. This too is new. Canada, from sea to sea to sea, for me has always been a land of lakes, where I can dive deep, look up and watch the sunlight filter through the marbled green and blue water. I will not even try to open my eyes in the ocean.

The waves lap against my toes and my feet remind me that they are hurting on the rocks; the sooner I go in, the sooner I can float and let them rest. But the water is cold and it is not a hot day. My favourite black bathing suit, which I’ve been carrying around for days hoping to get close to the ocean, has been left in the car. I didn’t expect this hiking trail to led me to the water. Still, my red jumpsuit will dry quickly I suspect and I don’t know if I’ll get another chance to swim this trip. Now or never.

I clumsily walk into the waves, trying not to fall. A little girl runs toward the water a few meters away from me; clearly she is BC grown because she doesn’t even flinch at the rocks splaying out from under her feet. Her grandma trails behind and we look at each, smiling. I remember that I now look more adult than girl.

“Is it cold?” She asks me.

I smile again and nod. “I’m trying to convince myself to do it, just to dunk and get it over with.”

“It’s not bad, come on!” the little girl is kicking and splashing between us.

She’s right. My legs and feet have adjusted and I know the rest of me will too as soon as I convince myself to get in. I turn around to face the shore, count to three and fall backwards into the shadowy, rolling water. It’s a trick that always works but my breath still catches for a minute as the cold water engulfs me.

And then I let myself breath deeply. Lake or sea, water is water and I always feel at home when I’m floating. My clothes billow out around me but for some reason, it doesn’t feel scary, like swimming in clothes sometimes can. My lips taste the salt and my hair, loose and long, fans out around me, bits of it sticking around my neck and chest. The grandma has taken the plunge too and she and the girl are pretending to be dolphins; I can’t help but grin, remembering all the hours I spent kicking and spinning in the lake back home, sunlight dancing in patches on my skin, as I pretended to be a mermaid. To see me now, in the sea itself, long hair and bright eyes, I can almost fall back into the fantasy.

I start paddling out, awe struck by the mountains on the horizon. It’s this moment that leaves me feeling without adequate words, this moment where I curse my “lack of creativity” and wish my fingers knew the secrets of replicating the Artist’s greatest works. It’s a view all made of blue, the sea the sky and mountains layered in the distance. As if someone started at the bottom and ran out of ink as they shaded skyward, the mountains rise in groups of bluish gray, getting lighter as they dance towards the sky. Mountains always seem to me to be to be vibrating with their own rhythm and life, despite their strongly grounded roots.  The trees here look different too. Like Christmas trees in fairytale giants’ homes, they cluster around the base of the jagged hill. From far away, they don’t look green, but rather almost black, a contrasting border to the mountain shades. How wondrous it is that this fairytale view too is the country I call home.

I’m not sure how long I floated there, thinking about how small I was. Just floating in the sea and wondering at the mountains. Eventually my family comes into view over the ridge high above the beach and I know it’s time to go. My uncle is coming down for a minute; I think he wants to touch the sea before we leave. As I climb out of the water, my hair and clothes suctioned to my body, my uncle and the little girl’s mother on the beach are staring at something just behind me. My uncle points and I turn around.
“Orcas” someone shouts.

I stare at the horizon, straining without my glasses to see something far away. To my surprise, I see a fin rise up much closer than anticipated, maybe 100 feet or less from where I had floated minutes before. I watch, mouthing “wow” to myself again and again, unable to come up with anything else, as the rolling waves reveal three orca whales passing by close to the beach. I can hardly believe how lucky I feel; I shared water with these creatures. Their smooth black and white bodies are clear to see, despite my lack of distance vision. My uncle is trying to get a picture or a video but I feel rooted to the rocks, my tender feet forgotten. I want to be present in this moment with Creation. The rollercoaster movement of the orcas, up and down, coming into view further left each time, feels like a gift, handed specifically to me by the Creator. Lord, if you wanted me to fall in love with B.C., you’re doing a really good job of it.

Eventually, we can’t see them anymore as they round the corner of the island. The women tells us that despite coming here, to this beach, every summer of her life, she has never seen whales here, not ever before. I can’t keep the smile off my face; what a gift God has given me today. My feet could dance, even on the rocky shore.

I grab my shoes. I take one more deep breath of ocean air. Nature has so many smells and I’ve grown to love each one. From the mossy dampness of the forest, when you crawl out of your tent in the quiet morning after a storm, to the sprigs of lavender that dot the path in the meadow in late August, to now this salty, brisk, wild smell of sea in British Colombia, a new puzzle piece in my Canadian mosaic. I take one last look at the view. Even though the whale friends have disappeared, this view can hold it’s own for awe and wonder. The mountains in their magnitude, crashing into the bluer sky and melting into the untamed waves evokes in me gratitude, hope and a sense of adventure that fills my soul and reminds me, the way something beautiful does everyday, how glad I am to be alive.

I feel a moment of sadness, knowing that I am not a painter; I will never be able to replicate with misty edges and smudged colours, this picture that my mind will slowly let fade. But it’s ok. this feeling of foreignness and home, of wonder and of awe, of being small and one with Creation. This feeling will come again. I serve the Greatest Painter and He is always sharing with me His favourite pieces of art.

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Canoe with me

There’s something about sharing a canoe with someone.

You’re in each other’s space.

Moving forward as one, you can’t leave this person

behind.

Sometimes there is silence.

Except it’s never really silence because

your paddles are swishing through the water,

sending droplets flying and crashing down,

making noise in nature.

But when the other person says nothing, not even the biggest splash

can break the barrier.

Other times,

the banter flies back and forth without effort.

You make each other laugh and share silly stories

about the time you fell in a mud puddle at a school cross country race

or when you melted your compass into the plastic map case,

leaving it too close to the fire.

Voices echoing into the wide wild that surrounds,

two people connect

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Roots

Curled roots with deep dug holds in the dirt,

the dirt and rock

of the place I call home.

This land has twisted itself into every fibre of my being.

Growing up riding

on Dad’s shoulders, hikes through

Awenda and summer nights spent

learning how to imitate a barn owl

“Who cooks for you, who cooks for you, who cooks for you allllll”.

Setting fires, long lazy debates about

log cabin or teepee styles,

an afternoon spent rubbing sticks together

and wishing for sparks.

Butterfly catching

and fishing,

holding snakes and thinking

how cool it is to live in Canada.

Swimming until my parents swore I must be part fish,

doing everything to be on the water.

Put me in a rowboat, a sailboat, a canoe,

I need to be out there.

Laughter ringing through the woods,

recounting tales that made me known as

the storyteller.

Long hilly trails,

tears and sweat under a solo portaged canoe,

the moment when you finally see the water again.

Weeks of my life spent in the wilderness of Temagami.

Months of my life spent on the Island of Beausoleil.

All the years of my life, spent on the rocky, hilly, grassy, sandy, forest filled, sunshine blazing, cold air in the morning country of Canada.

Home.

Now, I wake up in the middle of the night,

to firetrucks raging down the road outside my downtown window.

My tent stays wrapped, buried in my closet, next to my backpack.

Sometimes I wear my hiking boots to school.

My souls cries out for

trees and wide spaces

for sunrises and quiet places.

For rainy afternoons on the back porch with a guitar,

for heart to hearts in a tent in the dark,

for swearing we were about to be eaten by a bear

and actually being woken by a raccoon in the cabin.

For quiet songs by the campfire,

glazed eyes entranced by the dancing flames and crackling leaves.

For moments of feeling small, laying

under the stars.

Talking about the future

or wondering who used to do the same things

long ago.

I can’t feel the earth beneath all this concrete.

The buildings wrap tendrils

around my lungs,

make it hard to breathe deeply;

they make it hard to truly be me.

 

 

 

Leader-what?

Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t – Bill Nye 

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What does it mean to be a leader? My job this summer is to take this question, sift through my own experiences and try to teach 15 year old kids what it means. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

  1. A leader believes in their own abilities
  2. A leader know their weaknesses and works towards improvement
  3. A leader knows when to step back, watch and listen
  4. A leader knows how to gain respect without having to raise their voice
  5. A leader can come in all shapes, sizes, ages, genders, and personality types.
  6. A leader is respectful, responsible, inclusive, caring and honest
  7. A leader overcomes challenges
  8. A leader doesn’t just show the way, they go the way and lead by example
  9. A leader has a sense of humor and is able to laugh at themselves
  10. A leader is only as good as their attitude and commitment to their team

It’s pretty late at night and I’m just pondering the things I’ve learned this summer so far. I think I’ve learned a lot more than I’ve taught. Thanks, chillens.

Leadership is a funny thing. It is often made to look effortless by the people who do it well. And yet, it’s freaking hard guys. It’s hard to have that much responsibility, whether you are leading a song at campfire or leading a canoe trip. Anytime you are in charge, there is pressure there.

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I guess I’m just impressed. I’m impressed by my kids, both last month and this one. I’m proud of last months kids; of how much they learned, of how they came together as a team and of how they grew as individuals. Even more so, I’m impressed by the August kids. They have only been here for 5 days and I can already see them thriving. They take initiative to help clean the dining hall. They encourage each other to try new things. They smile a lot. They have positive attitudes (even if they roll their eyes at my uncoolness). They help younger campers and volunteer to sing at campfire and set high goals to push themselves to be better.

lshipWho am I to teach them?

I’ve gone through this program. I’ve had leadership roles, I’ve been a “leader” many times. Yet, I’m still always winging it. I’m still learning everyday through trial and error. I guess that would be:

11. A leader never stops learning. They never stop setting goals for themselves and aiming to be better people.

12. A leader inspires others to want to be better too. That’s what my kids have done. 

They’ve made me want to be a better leader.  I still have a long way to go.

Until then, I guess I just keep doing my best and learning from everyone I can. From my co’s who amaze me everyday by being the incredible people they are, from the kids who have left me and changed my life, from the kids who are here now and keeping me on my toes day by day, surprising me with their maturity and insight. I can’t imagine a more rewarding job. Thank you leadership…I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer has in store.  Please, teach me everything you can in these next few weeks. I always grow the most on Kitchi sands.

And maybe, just maybe, I’m teaching them something too.

Until next time,

-Sam

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My Compass Points North

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“Be aware that this area is like ‘Algonquin on steroids’: some lakes are bigger, the portages are tougher and the hills rockier” – The Adventure Map, Temagami 2

About 2 weeks ago, I led my very first canoe trip. It was one of the most intimidating, most exhausting, most inspiring, most challenging and most rewarding things that I have ever done. In about 2 weeks, I’ll be doing the same thing all over again with another group of 15 year old kids. Just the thought of it gives me butterflies….except this time they are butterflies of excitement rather than the nervousness I felt this time last month.

As most of you know, I just did my tripper training in May of this year. I didn’t even get to warm up and lead a trip in the areas around camp that I am familiar with. Instead, I jumped right into a 5 day adventure in Temagami on a rather remote route that I had only paddled once, four years earlier. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. I’m using my journal (which came with me on trip) to help me with the details of this post and looking at the ones leading up to the trip, I wrote almost everyday about my fears before our departure. I think that’s normal though. I was about to have the lives on 18 people in my hands. I was the one calling the shots. I was responsible. And holy hell, I was nervous about it. All I could do was pray for courage, patience and sound judgement.

I’m not going to give you all a play by play of our route because lets be real, you probably don’t care. I am going to try to give you all an insight into my feelings on the trip, as well as the hardest and best moments. Just for some background, I was leading a trip that consisted of myself, my co-faciliatator Liam and 16 of our leadership participants who are 14 and 15 years old. The trip was a loop in the southern part of Temagami that totalled 90km and included 7 portages of varying lengths. Temagami itself is incredibly beautiful…clear blue waters, wind swept old growth pine forests, tall rock faces, small and pristine portage in only lakes. It is the true north and a stunning definition of Canadian wilderness.

Day one was fairly uneventful. We made it to our site in early afternoon and had a lot of fun hanging out, swimming, exploring and getting to know each other (although dinner was a disappointing fail). One of the coolest things about trip is the bonding that happens. Without any outside distractions, you get to know the people you are with very well. Liam and I quickly realized how awesome our trip group was – wonderfully hilarious and so much fun to be with. I can’t brag about my kids enough.

Looking at our map, we knew that day 2 was going to be our longest day on the water so we got to bed early. Sure enough, it dawned a beautiful day but I was really nervous about navigation. Relying solely on a map and compass versus knowing the area like I do around Kitchi was super intimidating. Not to mention, everything looks the same!! The trees, the water, the islands. Looking at the map and then looking up and trying to figure out which little piece of land you are looking at is pretty difficult. Lucky for us, we passed lots of friendly cottagers and between taking bearings, I got into the habit of calling out “Which island are you?” every once in a while to pinpoint where we were on the map. We were never lost but it was a nice way to assure myself we were on the right track.

But day 2 was also my lowest point as a tripper. We were stopped for lunch after our first real portage. It was only about 75m and took us over 40 minutes to accomplish because the kids just didn’t quite get what portaging was all about. The wind was picking up and we were about to head out into the stretch of what I knew was going to be most difficult to navigate. The kids were already complaining about being tired. I was overwhelmed by the weight of it all and truly thought I might cry. Liam looked at me and asked what I wanted to do; I needed to make a call. I knew we had to keep going, and more importantly, I knew that I had to put on a brave face for my team. So that’s what we did. I took a bearing, we packed up the canoes and off we went. That day we were on that water for 11 hours, portaging a total of 5 times and completing a huge chunk of the trip. It was long, it was hard and I was so, so tired. Yet that night I was so proud of myself. We were safe and we had accomplished our goal. I knew then that I could do this.

The next day was the “Death March”. A very long, hilly and rocky portage that is notorious for making L1 trip hell. I don’t want to bore you with the details but it was another long and challenging day. The highlight however was meeting up with the other half of the group and spending the night at a campsite together. We swam at a beach all together with crazy waves – it felt more like we were in the Mediterranean than the Canadian North. Those carefree moments laughing and playing with the kids, all together and relaxed after a couple hard days is something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. That’s the point after all. That’s why we do this trip. It’s to form connections and make lasting memories. That’s what it’s all about.

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In the past, I don’t think I ever really understood how many things a trip leader has to be thinking about at once…until I was actually doing it. One of the kids made a comment at the site one night that I was making leading look effortless. I mention that only because I remember thinking the same thing about my tripper when I was in L1 and it is only now that I realize just how many things she was juggling at once! From checking the map and compass, to watching the weather and assessing risks, making sure everyone is feeling well, drinking water etc, setting up camp, coordinating food, communicating with camp and still acting like a regular human being who interacts with everyone on the trip…Liam and I both were surprised by how constantly focused and busy we were.

I love being out on the water. I love laughing with kids and cooking outside and the feeling at the end of a portage when your whole body hurts and you have a huge sense of accomplishment. I’m proud. And just to put it out there, it’s in huge part thanks to the amazing instructor I had; more than once i found myself repeating to the kids something he had told me on trip. Marty, if you’re reading this, thank you.

I can’t wait to do the trip again with new dynamics and new adventures. Never stop challenging yourself friends, you can do things you never thought possible. Also, confidence is key; trust your own abilities.

Until next time,

-Sam

p.s. Shoutout to Liam MacLeod…there is no one else I’d have rather had with me on trip. Your humor and support kept me calm and you made me keep going when I was the most overwhelmed. I appreciate you a lot.

 

Adventures in tripping – a little flippin’ never hurt!

If you fall into a river in the middle of May… get back up and do it again??

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Kitchi Tripping Crew ft Marty

That’s right, I was still smiling after 2 dunks in the aptly named Black River on a cloudy May 10th. Following my Switerland post titled “Today, I Fell Down A Mountain“, are we really surprised here? I was not, although I did feel bad for taking my bow paddler Lauren down with me…sorry gf! Honestly though, no one in my life is surprised at this point when absolutely ridiculous things happen to me. And if I’m honest, I kind of love it. I’m really grateful that God gives me so many funny little quirky stories to tell. It keeps me always on my toes, that’s for sure!!

Here’s the thing: those couple slips aside, I had an amazing experience at tripper training. I got a whack load of certifications, made new friends, and spent time with already good friends against the beautiful backdrop of Georgian Bay. I found it challenging to an extent; canoeing isn’t exactly my strongest camp skill. (I was always a sailor when I was a camper.) In fact, until this month, I’d never taken canoeing in any formal setting. Add that to the fact that most of the other participants on the trip had wayyyy more experience in tripping, you could say I was a bit intimidated. Here’s some things I learned from my week in the wilderness, as I worked towards becoming “Tripper Sam”!

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Outdoor Pursuits

Everyone starts somewhere. It was my first time taking any kind of formal canoeing and yet I was putting so much pressure on myself to be perfect, to  be as good as everyone around me. But I was just starting out! All the others had already spent the time perfecting their strokes; they had put the work in. I had to focus on the fact that I was learning every hour I spent in that canoe, rather than on trying to measure up.

On the flip side, don’t make excuses, make opportunities to get better. Although I didn’t have a lot of experience, I wasn’t going to let that stop me or intimidate me; I tried to not make excuses. Instead, I took every opportunity to get better. I sterned (steered) the boat every chance I got. I tried solo carrying canoes on almost every portage. I volunteered to do tasks around camp that I wasn’t really sure I could do, like helping to set up tarps. I learn best by doing, so it was a great opportunity for me! Also, I asked approximately a million questions. About everything. At all hours of the day. Hey, I was trying to glean all I could- from the incredibly knowledgable instructors we had and my peers!

On that note; everyone has something to offer. This is such an important part of a safe and fun trip but it’s also just important in life. In this case, I was pretty good at tying knots. Guess all that sailing paid off! It may seem like a little thing, but I was able to contribute to the group by helping to teach different knots. I also really enjoy cooking on trip so I helped out by being sous-chef for the leaders of the meal. Someone has to cut those peppers! Meanwhile, someone else had to go over navigation and compass use with me. And Lauren had to be patient with me on the river in the rapids. We all learned from each other in some way or another over the week and it was really cool to see everyone step up and take charge in their own way.

Confidence goes a long way! Don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself by trying something new. Laughing off mistakes is the best way to handle them…trust me, I would know by now. Sometimes, you just gotta fake it ’till you make it. A big part of our trip leading certification was being confident. As a leader, sometimes you have to make decisions and just be confident in your own skills. Trust yourself, trust your team, and be willing to make mistakes when the risk is low so that when you’re in a real situation, you’ve already applied your training and are therefore more likely to make the right judgement call.

When it comes down to it, sometimes you just have to get back on the horse…or back in the canoe! My two dips in the river happened on the very first day of a week and a half of training, during the 1st of 5 courses. It would have been pretty easy to get discouraged. I’m not going to lie, heading out to day 2 was rough. I was feeling so defeated from the day before and let me tell you, a 7am start, combined with spilling your breakfast all over yourself (in typical Sam fashion) and then putting on an already wet wetsuit is not exactly a morale booster. However, once I got out there I firmly decided that it was a new day, that I wasn’t going to let anything stand in my way of learning. Fear of failure only makes failure a more real possibility. And guess what? That Sunday on the river was probably the most fun I had in the entire week. Once we started to get a hang out it, running the rapids was SO SICK. Like for real, you should try it. In fact, I’m hoping to take my 2nd white water level at some point soon. What a change from day 1! Even our instructor (who is basically the most impressive canoeist I have ever seen in my life, Marty you are a Jedi) was impressed by my come-back. And I let THAT experience set the precedent for the rest of my week, not the first. Now, I am SO looking forward to being able to take my leadership to Temagami! Can you say dream come true??

Last summer, I started talking about wanting to be a tripper and my campers, as well as some of my fellow staff, started jokingly calling me “Tripper Sam”. While “tripper” may not be my actual job title this summer, and I still need to log some more experience before I get fully certified, I am proud to have kind of accomplished that goal for myself. Thanks to those friends for believing in me before I did! Also, shout-out to the trip team – you guys were so so fun to paddle with, laugh with and learn with.

 

By the way, thanks to any of ya’ll who read this funny little blog on the regular. It may be messy and silly and often irrelevant but it’s my little pet project and I so, so appreciate any of you who take time out of your day to read my thoughts…wow, what an honour!! Thank you dear friends for joining me on my (not so) grand adventures through everyday life.

Until next time, Sam

P.s. Guys. Can we just take in how incredibly beautiful the world God created is? Like holy cow. Several times I made a point to wander off so I could sit by myself and just breath in creation. Get out of the city friends, it’s so so worth it. You’ll never feel more alive than when you watch a sunset beside a set of rapids while eating a dinner that was cooked over the fire.

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RIP Sandy Grey Falls –  p.c. Grant B.

 

 

Rising Sun

“Our great Redeemer, glorious Saviour, Your name is higher than the rising sun. Light of the morning you shine forever, Your name is high than the rising sun….Hallelujah, King above all, simply to speak Your name is praise. Hallelujah, now and always, forever we lift Your name in praise. Hallelujah, our God, you reign.” – Rising Sun, All Sons and Daughters

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Oh the joy that comes from knowing the Lord. This weekend was one in which I was just so overwhelmed by how much our God loves and what a joy it is to be in His presence.

Good Friday, a day designed with sadness in mind, a day when innocent blood was shed so many years ago. Oh Jesus, I’m sorry, and I really am grateful. Thank you. And yet, because my God is love, even the darkest of days are filled with laughter and joy. I observed the day at church in the morning, and I have to say, a choir completely made up of senior citizens is enough to make anyone’s heart happy. In the afternoon, I baked bread that was eaten faster than it could cool. My night, I spent in worship. I showed up to a room called the Bible House around 7, hardly knowing anyone and spent the next 4 plus hours worshiping my God, a good Father who loves deeply, widely, and fully.

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Silent Saturday. A regular day. Nothing special about it, except a growing anticipation of the celebration to come and the quiet peace that comes from already knowing that He has and will overcome. I try to be pensive and consider seriously the sacrifice that Jesus made but this year, sadness is not a part of that. This year, I am filled with a steady stream of joy, bubbling just below the surface of my smile.

Today. Today, my Easter morning started at 6:30am with a beautiful sunrise. This was more than just a “pretty” sunrise. It was breathtaking. Vibrant and strong reds and oranges flooded the sky, peeking between buildings and reflecting on the canal as I made my way to Parliament Hill. How fitting that Resurrection Day was ushered in by a glorious sunrise. I remember thinking how much I love this city, how lucky I am to live in the capital. As the day dawned, I worshiped and prayed with friends and strangers alike on Parliament Hill. How blessed I am to live in a country where I am free to love Jesus.

After the sunrise service, I made my way to a breakfast hosted by my schools Christian fellowship. It’s almost sad how excited I was to sit on a real couch. After, I went out for second breakfast (because who doesn’t eat copious amounts of eggs on Easter??) with my friends, who have truly become family. I don’t know if they noticed but I was so overwhelmed with love for these people this morning. Coming to university I never dared to hope I would find friends as great as these and for neither the first time nor the last time today, I was shocked by how blessed I am.

12895380_1056086091115530_531127622_n.jpgThis afternoon, after a quick nap, (hey, the 6am wakeup call was rough ok?) I put on a brightly coloured dress, curled my hair and headed out in the sunshine to a church that I think I may be starting to call “mine”.  Dani and I were so surprised by how warm and sunny it was. The air smelt like springtime… and not going to lie, we may have embarrassed ourselves by singing out loud as we walked to the bus stop. But hey, what are you going to do when the sun is shining and Jesus is risen?!

Church was so, so, so good. Like, it always is but today it was just so full of life. Oh how I love Easter. The worship was genuine, filled with off beat claps, and all different voices intertwining. The message was hopeful and made me excited for the future. We prayed with a group of students from another university and chatted with people after service. We sat under the big window and felt the sun on our faces.
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As I was sitting there, I literally felt this indescribable, inexplicable joy rise up inside of me and I wanted to run out into the sun and dance and sing and shout because I am SO BLESSED. Blessed to be alive, to be saved, to love and be loved. A wave of peace came over me and I was reminded of God’s incredible goodness, not just today on Easter but always, everyday, now and forever.

And for the first time in a long time, I felt words rushing to my mind, my tongue, my fingers. I’m ready to write again. When there is so much beauty in the world what can I do except try to get it all out on paper? Pray for me that I find…no, make the time to pursue this passion and gift that I’ve been given.

So Happy Easter everyone. Today was a day the Lord had made, beautiful and victorious. I spent it rejoicing and being glad. Did you? #choosejoy

The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory – Psalm 118:14

-Until next time, Sam 12910930_1056086274448845_1140488705_n

 

 

Monday Morning

This poem was inspired by a TED talk given by Shabana Basij- Rasikh filmed at TEDxWomen

MONDAY MORNING

It’s Monday morning. My alarm clock crackles to life, filled with static it begins to play the latest pop hit. My eyes open. Okay, one eye opens. I squint at the numbers, shining much too bright, much too early. It’s 6:52am, if I don’t get up I’ll be late for school. I hit snooze and roll over.

It’s Monday morning and in Afghanistan, a girl who looks nothing like me opens her eyes. She needs no alarm; she rises with the sun and starts to get ready. She doesn’t want to be late for school.

The radio clicks on again, it’s 7:17, I’m definitely going to be late. I roll out of bed, throw on my uniform and glare at my reflection in the mirror. It’s Monday morning and I’m not “feeling” school today.

She wraps a scarf around her head, letting only her eyes peek out. You can’t see underneath but, she’s smiling. It’s Monday morning and her fingers are crossed that today she can go to school. Last week it was cancelled; she’s not sure why.

Mom drives me to school and I half listen to her lecture about not missing the bus, half wonder if I’ll be able to get away with a nap in English class. It’s Monday morning, I’m too tired to even consider trying to do any work.

She is led to school by her little sister…or little brother depending on who’s asking. She can’t leave the house without a male escort; this way they can both go to school. It’s Monday morning and they take a different route than last time, avoiding suspicion.

I arrive in first period, find my classroom in the long hallway, sit down with 20 other students. I barely hear the lesson and chat through the work period. It’s Monday morning and even the teacher doesn’t really care. I count the hours until I can go home

She arrives at a one room house, sits down with 80 other girls, each of who know that what they are doing is forbidden. She keeps both eyes on the teacher but one ear towards the door. It’ Monday morning and whispers are flying that their secret is out. She stays because she wants to learn how to solve the math equation on the board.

The other girl and I go through our day, same earth, different worlds.

The worst part of my day is when the café is out of chicken salad wraps. The worst part of hers is when the soldier enters the room. I complain to my friend while eating pasta instead. He puts a gun to her head. I mutter “School makes me want to die”. He pulls the trigger.

She just wanted to learn to solve the math equation on the board.

I won’t hear about her on the news, no one will know she’s gone, she’s just one Afghan girl. But if I did, if I saw her face maybe I wouldn’t say she looks nothing like me. Maybe I would see the sparkle in her eyes and know that we both love to debate, love to sing, love people. Maybe, maybe not. But I won’t know because I won’t see her. And I won’t know that she’s gone. I won’t know that she died for something I take for granted.

It’s Monday morning. The other girl is gone. I am still here, wishing I weren’t. A girl who looks nothing like me was still just a girl. She just wanted to learn how to solve the math equation on the board.

Tomorrow is Tuesday morning. I will get up and moan about school again, she won’t get up at all.

Courageous

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them because the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you” – Deuteronomy 31:6 

It’s January 2015, season of resolutions and fresh starts. While some may approach this with a cynical attitude, I love that people take this opportunity to make changes, to have a benchmark to look back on and to have a timeline for goals. A year seems like a long time in the present but in the grande scheme of things, it is actually just a fraction of life. The last year of my life brought me so many ridiculously amazing opportunities, it sometimes felt like I was living in a dream and I can’t wait to see what 2015 will bring for me in all areas of my life.

Something I did last year for the first time was have a word of the year. I honestly cannot for the life of me remember where I first heard about it but basically the premise is that you pick a word that you want to be representative of your year, something you want to strive for or learn about or focus on or improve. My word of 2014 was chosen on a whim on night early in January and I really had no idea how much of an impact it would have on my growth over the past year. The word was renew.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed, day by day” – 2 Corinthians 4:16

Throughout the year, the word would come up when I would least expect it, in bible verses, in conversation and in my life and I feel like it was truly a year of renewal and growth.

So after last years success, why would I not pick one this year?

Courageous

I don’t think I even know what it means to be courageous, but I’m willing to learn. Here goes nothing. 2015, a year of being courageous

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Back in the Land of Maple Syrup

Home sweet home! Sorry for the post delay, I wanted to have pictures but had temporarily “lost” my phone (it was on my chair in my French class duh)

Home
                                         Reunited with my baby sissy ❤

So as most of you probably know, I have now been back in Canada for just over a week and am not quite sure how I feel about it. As happy as a I was to see everyone, I really, really miss my friends and family in Switzerland. I miss speaking French so much. I love to think in French now as much as I can which means I accidentally start responding in French to my family sometimes. Why does English sound so harsh now? 😦 And speaking of French, I can now see just how sad and pathetic our language courses are in Canada and it’s horrible because now I have such a passion for the language and want to learn and improve and my class watched an English movie today that had zero relevance to our class. I wasn’t impressed.

Sorry, end of rant…for now 😉 #strongopinions

I was also super excited to get Benny Lewis' new book! Check out his awesome language learning blog of the same name!
I was also super excited to get Benny Lewis’ new book! Check out his awesome language learning blog of the same name!

So last week I flew home with a whole ton of other exchange students and although it was an extremely long and tiring day it actually was quite fun. The entire back of the plane was other returning exchange students and I had a group of fabulous friends that I sat with (5 to 4 seats much to the stewardess chagrin haha). There were games of life, lots of pictures, checking out cute (and very weird) boys, Franglish, laughing and generally being loud and obnoxious followed by reunions with our familys and friends. What more could ya want?

My first day home was wonderful too. Two of my bestest friends showed up and surprised me while I was still in bed so I talked their ears off for a while, got some Timmie’s and Thai, hung out with another bestest friend, bumped into a billion (okay it was four) people at Chapters, went to movie with my Marmee and sister and was jet-lagged yay! (The last part sucked. Jet-leg and I are not friends.)

So basically, I’ve just been trying to settle back into life here, catch up with friends, catch up with SCHOOL (send help) and trying not to miss Suisse toooo much. I also have to figure out what I’m going to blog about now!

This is unrelated but  I learned a new hair thing
This is unrelated but I learned a new hair thing