Thoughts from visiting countless cathedrals

Soaring columns and colours that dance on the walls due to stained glass windows letting in the light, Gothic architecture is a pretty specific (and stunning) look. It’s one that is extremely prevalent in Spain and particularly in the many Catholic cathedrals and basilicas that sprinkle the country. As I learned more about the architectural choices and the significance behind them, I definitely grew to see the beauty in them as an offering of creativity by architects seeking to honour God and in some cases (such as the Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona), an opportunity for the entire community to come together and create a place of communal worship in the centre of the neighbourhood. Cathedrals are truly awe-inspiring and I think some cases, really do create a sacred space that draws people into contemplation, prayer and ultimately, a meeting with God.

However, I also saw a lot of excess. A lot of wealth being demonstrated by ancient royalty to prove their power and “devotion to God” while they simultaneously allowed their people to starve, while they destroyed minority communities, while they exhibited cruelty instead of love. Some of the places I visited felt so joyful and spirit filled (guys, visiting the Sagrada Familia was actually such a holy experience for me, despite the crazy crowds of people trying to get their perfect picture). But some of the cathedrals and the history behind the buildings, the context of how and when these monuments were created, made me feel sad, made the hallways feel empty and hollow and fake. Monuments to man instead of God. Wars waged over who got to worship within their walls. Monuments to the institution of religion instead of a home for the Holy Spirit to work in people’s hearts.

I’m currently working on a post about what God was teaching me about having a pilgram’s heart and mindset while travelling, as well as some just about travelling with my mom and the incredible adventure we had. For now, I want to share with you this poem I wrote while exploring one cathedral that felt like a museum to the king who had built it and a space for the Church to honour itself instead of Jesus. I am not going to say which one because I don’t think it’s important for you to know. We must acknowledge the history of spaces and also know that the Lord renews all things; who am I to say that God will not meet you in that particular cathedral in a powerful way? He met me there. In that centuries old building that felt like an empty tomb, Jesus reminded me that He is wherever I am. And He also reminded me that I am not innocent of the same sins I felt there. I too try to build up things that show the world how faithful I am, instead of just walking it out and being the church to the people I meet. I pray that this poem will be a prayer I don’t stop praying, that I continue to seek to honour God with the things I am choosing to build with this life. And you dear reader, what are you building? What do you want the monument of your life to show?

 

Holy God.

You are not contained in cathedrals.

Yet we strive,

build up impressive monuments,

instead of creating churches out of our lives.

We each want to prove that we love you the most.

Build big enough examples to see for miles,

and yet we can’t even find a smile

as we walk past yet another beggar.

So easily we forget;

you are in the rags that we turn our eyes away from.

Gilded statues and gold,

we are willing to give our money but refuse to let you hold

our hearts.

Surrender is a false concept we bury deep in the foundations

to hold up our own creations

instead of being fully present in the one You gave us.

And Jesus, I know you are with me always,

in the mountains and in the hallways

of this church.

But may I never try to keep you here.

These drafty hallways and ruby coated walls,

heaven on earth is not this at all.

Lord,

you have all the riches you need.

Instead I offer you my heart.

Please,

take away my tendency for jealousy and greed.

Build cathedrals in my soul, Lord.

May I worship you each day,

singing holy, holy, holy is the One

who has shown us all the Way

to the Father’s throne.

It is not here, not made of velvet and stone.

Instead make pillars out of faith Lord,

to hold me up when life is hard.

I can survive without stained glass windows

but losing intimacy with You,

I can’t afford.

For though I see the beauty in these walls,

when our bodies are all temples, echo chambers of your call

for each of us to know You

we shouldn’t need a massive space to prove

our faith.

Lord,

may I never create for creation’s sake,

for conquest, power or for pride.

But as an imitation of your love

that is tall and deep and wide.

God thank you for this journey,

as you carve in me a pilgrims heart

Your Holy Spirit rests in me, in my study, work and art.

Let these buildings not distract me,

or others from the truth

that it’s not about the saints and angels

but the simple joy of knowing you.

Jesus,

teach me as I worship,

with each step and every breath,

how to find You in this world of wild excess

and more importantly, in the quiet and the rest.

These buildings are stunning and some have pointed me to you.

But others are empty of the Spirit,

honouring earthly kings and their world-views.

I learned that in Spain three religions warred,

wanting power and control,

but you Lord are the Lion

who comes in as a baby, with a cry and not a roar.

Though you are the keeper

of all Creation big and small,

You sacrificed the last True Lamb

to save us one and all.

Holy Spirit,

Cathedrals do not contain you

though they amaze me with their size

You are in our daily rhythms, in our hearts,

our prayers, our minds.

Build signposts in my heart Lord,

to keep pointing me back to You.

Let me love bigger than a basilica,

so that it is You my actions point to.

Make my life a work of art

A sign that reads humbly but clear

that this is not an empty building, temple, body.

The Holy Spirit dwells here.

 

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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Transitions

Friends! It’s been a while hasn’t it? I feel like I always end up busier than I intend to be and suddenly important things get pushed to the side, like long walks catching up with friends and writing on this blog! Still, I can’t help but be grateful for the busyness; it means lots of chasing passions and meeting with people who make my soul smile!

Alas, another semester has come and gone and with it, a new transition and adventure is quickly approaching. Yesterday was my last day of co-op at Volunteer Canada, today all my residents have moved out and I had my last pre-departure training before Malawi, tomorrow I have to leave Leblanc (forever my favourite residence) and say goodbye to all my Ottawa people. Then I have a week at home before heading off next Sunday for 12 weeks in a new country, on a new (to me) continent. Wild.

This is the first time I’ve left Ottawa feeling sad to leave my home here. After first year, I went to camp for the summer. I’d only lived in Ottawa for 8 months and during that time I had rarely strayed from campus. Additionally, all my friends were also leaving for the summer and heading back to their respective homes, traveling, working at camp, etc. So leaving felt natural and although I was glad to go back in September, I wouldn’t have called Ottawa my “home”town. I even wrote a blog post about not having a “home” per say!

However, it’s been nearly two consecutive years now of living in this city.  I have adapted to this place’s quirks and it’s quiet culture. I have favourite coffee shops and I’m a regular at an open mic night. I know where to go to find green space and where to go to find quiet and where to go to embrace chaos. My network is large and supportive and I feel known in Ottawa which was something I missed a lot when leaving Barrie. I like to know people and be known and have connections in many circles.

SO this summer leaving Ottawa is sad. But it makes me all the more grateful to remind myself that I once wondered if I’d ever feel at home again. I do and I will, wherever I go. I remind myself that wherever I go, there are places I can find and call my own and people who will see me and choose community with me. This last semester especially I have found myself feeling rooted in the communities God has created for me here in Ottawa. And I have been reminded of all the different layers that make up a network. From the people I smile at when I pass on campus to my residents who I am meant to guide and support, to my co-workers at co-op and my fellow CAs, to my dear friends with whom I share my heart and my dear friends with whom I share laughs, to people in my program I can debate with and learn from and my friends in different programs who open my eyes to new things, widening my perspective, to my Christian community and my Outdoor’s community, to my people I catch up with once a semester and the ones I make sure to see every week. I am so grateful to have these intermingling and oh so important, layered, and real relationships. As beautiful of a city I think Ottawa is, it is the people I have learned to call “mine” that I will miss the most in Malawi.

Isn’t it funny how much longer it takes to fall in love with a place when you know it may be permanent? When I went on exchange I quickly felt at home in my adopted city of Geneva and I will always have a home on Kitchi sands, despite having lived there for a collective time of maybe a year. But when I came to Ottawa, it took 3 full years to feel comfy and settled here. I find that so odd.

I think it’s because it takes longer to admit that your real and permanent life is transitioning, that you are not adopting a second or third home but moving your main base somewhere new. I really doubt I will ever call Barrie home again. Not because I dislike or because there aren’t still people there that I love but simply because my career and my life will call me elsewhere. So, I think I held onto that being “home” for as long as possible, even subconsciously.

I also have higher standards for Ottawa than I ever do for temporary homes. All those layers and intermingled connections I talked about? Those take time to cultivate. Deep friendships can sometimes happen quickly but having networks of co-workers and acquaintances and classmates and church families and friends in different places take time. Having people to wave at in the streets takes time. Having the barista know your order at the coffee shop near work takes time. Having people you can ask to pray for you takes time. Your go to study people, your outdoor adventuring people, your “listen to my deepest dreams” people and your “come have a beer with me” people all take time to find. Finding all those things at once? Takes a whole lot of time!

I still love going home to Barrie too, don’t get me wrong. I was lucky enough to be born and raised in the same town so it always feels familiar and I love going to see my family. But my dad is moving provinces, my mom lives in outside the city limits now and most of my friends are also off on their own new adventures. Ultimately, my ties there get weaker all the time and to me, those relational ties are much more important than the physical streets and buildings (and even those I recognize less and less each time I visit!). They say home is where the heart is, and my family will always be a home to me but Barrie itself is less and less.

More than anything, you have to build a life in order to build a home. Ottawa is no longer just the city I go to school in. It has slowly and surely become the place in which I centralize my life. It’s my home base when I travel and the place I know the most people. It’s where I’ve invested in people and in places and in connections. And I am grateful to be sad to leave.

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Transitions have never been easy for me. I think by now I put on a pretty good face and make it seem like I’m fine but since I was little I have cried at goodbyes. I still cry every time my mom drives away and leaves me in Ottawa and I cried a little leaving my job yesterday. I just love a lot and so it makes it hard to leave ya know?

But not to fear, Ottawa, this is all just temporary. Before you know it, it will be August and I will be back to couch surf with all those lovely friends I mentioned!!!! Praise Jesus for friends with open arms and open doors because low-key I will not have a literal, physical home for 3 weeks during summer school haha.

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And on that note? I AM GOING TO MALAWI IN ONE WEEK. HOLY COW!!

I have barely let myself get excited until now because everything has been so up in the air but I have a tentative flight – still no ticket, but you know, trusting that everything will work out – and I am (almost) free from residence, work and school so now I have time to dream about my internship, the things I will learn, the places I will go and the people I will meet.

Until then I am excited to spend a week snuggling my family, hanging out in the sunshine, eating food I didn’t have to cook, hiking (hopefully), driving the car, singing in the shower and talking to Jesus about how to make this experience as impactful as possible (for me and all my soon-to-be friends in Malawi)!

Until next time,

Sam

P.s. This my 100th blog post on Sam’s Grand Adventure!! How wild is that? Thanks to all for sticking with me and my ramblings for this long!

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An ode to 2017

2017. What a year.

Thank you for being one of the best yet. Thank you for allowing me to pursue myself, to pursue passion, to pursue learning, to pursue adventure, and above all to pursue Jesus and the plans He has for me. It’s been so good.

2018: you’ve got a lot to live up to…somehow I’m believing you’ll be even better.

So here’s to you, 2017, with all your jumbled joy and challenge. Thanks for being:

 

A year of adventure and of travel.

A year of learning.

A year of working and a year of rest.

A year of strangers and of friends and of family.

A year of thriving.

A year of passion, of cultivating dreams, a year of sparks being fanned into flames.

A year of church searching and finding.

A year of getting lost and of laughing.

A year of rain dancing and mountain climbing, a year of paddle buying and canoe trip leading.

A year of address changing.

A year of deep question asking

A year of meetings and long days in a cubicle

A year of language learning and poem reciting.

A year of climbing and of hiking, of dancing and of stretching

A year of coffee shops and life chats that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.

A year of geyser watching and waterfall chasing, of cave swimming and pouring rain zip lining.

A year of book reading and blog writing.

A year of coffee drinking and bread baking.

A year of bike riding and of long walk taking

A year of chasing the future and a year of quiet nights taking it the now

A year of back porch dreaming and fairy light hanging

A year of prayer and of pensiveness

A year of breathing deeply in Creation

A year of gratitude

A year of changed plans and positive attitudes

A  year of late night essay writing, of co-op interviewing, of office hours visiting, of difficult exam taking.

A year of duty and floor meetings, of loving residents and loving my teams

A year of bucket lists actually fulfilled

A year of inspiration

A year of loving people and of being alone

A year of contentment and of peace

A year of ignition, a year of climbing to the high diving board and getting ready to leap

A year of being spontaneous

A year of being unapologetic in pursuing who God created me to be.

Sometimes a year of anger, of fear, of frustration.

Mostly a year of hope and of joy.

Always a year of Jesus, a year of faithfulness, a year of promises fulfilled.

Thank you.

2018. I am ready for all you have to offer.

 

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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happy little bookworm

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me”

-C. S. Lewis

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As a child, I was what you’d call a bookworm, in the most extreme sense. I blew through thick novels like Anne of Green Gables in second grade and often started a book in the morning over breakfast, finishing it by the time I clicked off my light at night. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. I’m not using hyperbole when I say that in elementary school I went through thousands of books.

In high school, my speed reading lost a bit of it’s steam. I became more involved in school and extracurricular activities and reading for pleasure became a little bit harder to fit into my busy schedule. Still, I managed to find time to discover new favourites and reread old ones. I even had reading traditions, such as reading 3 classics at minimum each summer and reading the Narnia series every Christmas break.

Until now. Now, I am in university. I’m a bookworm in hibernation, wound up in a cocoon of textbook readings and frazzled study sessions. I have not read a single book that wasn’t for school purposes since I moved to Ottawa. And that my friends, is a problem.

ENTER CHRISTMAS BREAK

Long awaited and much anticipated, the Christmas holiday finally arrived. 3 full weeks where I could spend whole days drinking in inky pages and downing mugs of hot tea, should I so desire. Now, let’s be real. I’ve been working over the break. I’ve had umpteen family Christmas party commitments. I’ve been sleeping more than is necessary for any one human being and grabbing coffee with as many old friends as possible. And yet, falling snow and spare time have become the perfect setting for diving into my bedside table book stack. I swear, I’d somehow forgotten how enthralling it can be to lose yourself in a story.

The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

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I might have kind of sort of…stolen this book. Or at least temporarily adopted it. A friend had left it in my room a few days before I came home and when I was packing to go, I threw it in my bag on a whim. I figured, if it was his favourite book, I should at least give it a chance. I kid you not, I opened it as soon as I sat down in the terminal to wait for my train. By the time we pulled into Union Station in Toronto, I’d eaten up more than half the pages.

The Bell Jar is not a happy book, I can tell you that. It’s beautifully descriptive and yet very blunt at the same time. It’s sad. Really sad. And yet, hopeful at the same time. The last chapter is open ended; the reader can choose to belief the best for Esther’s future or the worst. It made me think and it made my heart ache but most of all, it made me glad to be alive. Because even though there is deep sadness in the world, I still breath every second.

A Work in Progress – Connor Franta

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To be brutally honest, I wasn’t expecting much from Connor Franta’s debut book. My sister is the definition of a YouTube fangirl and in an attempt to show interest in her hobbies, I know my fair share about the whole community, fandom or whatever you want to call it. But I find that many celebrities write books just because they can; they often don’t actually have much to say.

Connor’s book was a breath of fresh air. First of all, it’s extremely aesthetically pleasing. The cover, the photos, the font, the layout, it really is a beautiful book. But hey, we’re talking about reading here!

To cut it short: it was good. He’s funny and has a strong voice that carries throughout. I actually really loved the writing and was so impressed with the clear amount of effort he put into making this book great. His antidotes are interesting and his honestly is relatable. Kudos to you Connor Franta, you caught me off guard! A Work in Progress actually turned out to be a really fun read.

The Fellowship of the Ring – J. R. R. Tolkien

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Yes, I know I should have gotten around to reading Lord of the Rings sooner. No, I don’t regret having waited until now. Why? Because reading a good book for the first time is an experience you never get back. A first reading is something to savour and enjoy because you’ll never be fully surprised by every plot twist and storyline again.

Lord of the Rings is, so far, all it’s cracked up to be. It really is an adventure, which as you all know is something close to my heart. I’m just about halfway through right now, having put it aside to type up this blog, and tomorrow I’m planning to go sit in a coffee shop downtown, and loiter,  drinking tea in a big armchair until I’m through with it. It’s been too long since I’ve spent hours truly abandoned in a story, allowing myself to forget what’s going on around me. I’m grateful this holiday for the world Tolkien created, and that I have time to immerse myself in it. One of my favourite things is all the little rhymes, poems and songs. They make the world seem even more real, like it really does have it’s own folklore and culture.

So as you can tell, my little bookworm heart is in holiday heaven. I haven’t read a crazy amount, but enough to make my heart happy and to give my imagination the chance to stretch out and shake away the cobwebs. And to top it off, I got Chapters gift cards for Christmas so last night I went on a little spree.

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Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis

I love, love, love C.S.Lewis. I’ve been meaning to read Mere Christianity for a long time and now that it will have a home on my bookshelf back at school, I’m hoping I’ll have time to read it soon.

A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson

Another long awaited read. And another adventure story, though this one really happened! I have an absolute fascination with “thru-hiking”, the practice of walking a long trail all at once, over the course of several months. My friends tease me that when my future husband proposes to me, I’m going to say yes on the condition that I get to spend 6 months hiking the Appalachian Trail first! I’ve been waiting for a soft cover (less expensive) copy of Bryson’s recounting to come out for ages.

Reading Lolita in Tehran – Azar Nafisi

I’ve just now while writing this realized that all three of these books are non-fiction, rather unusual for me. This book is the wild card, one that I picked up off the shelf just because the cover reminded me of Three Cups of Teaa book I love. It’s a true story about women in Iran meeting in secret to read forbidden classic novels and something about it just made me feel like I had to get it. I guess we will see.

Cute notecards

Like I said, I seriously love mail. I love sending it, I love getting it, I love decorating the envelopes and writing to people I care about. These cute notecards I picked up say “Have a ridiculously amazing day!”and I can’t wait to surprise my friends and family with a little bit of happy encouragement this semester!

And just because my deprived bookish brain hasn’t been able to get enough of beautifully strung together words, I’ve been binge reading blogs left right and centre. Some of favourites this week have been Life as a Dare, Ordinary Adventures, Rose and Bliss, A Journey I Call My Own, You Make Something Out of Nothing, and Untidy Grace if you want to see what I’ve been reading!

Well, that’s about all for now. To any other bookworms and book lovers out there, here’s to another great adventure, another world, another life, another read.

I’m off to find a cozy nook to hide in. I simply must find out what happens to Frodo, Gandolf and the rest of the gang.

Until next time,

-Sam

p.s. how cute is my dog with his teddy bear??

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We’ve Been To The Mountain Top (AKA Waterloo)

1-thessalonians-3_12 You know those “You had to be there” moments that are just about impossible to describe no matter how amazing they are? That’s what this entire weekend was like, but here it goes trying to explain it anyway because it was just too great to go not talked about.

 

This weekend I went to Overflow which is basically a conference for Christian youth. We come from all over Ontario, over 2500 of us to meet and praise God and learn from each other and hear amazing speakers and just have fun. This year was my 3rd at Oflo and somehow, it just keeps getting better every year. My difficulty comes when I try to describe it to friends and do it justice. I mean I kid you not, I just texted a friend describing it as ” Like we were just praising Jesus and there was a mosh pit and a guy had a chain saw and there were bouncy castles and God really spoke to me and I got to hang out with all my favourite people and see cool bands and it was basically a rave but about God with no drugs” Sorry what? I’m super eloquent about these things, I know. I’ll see if I can do a little better for ya’ll

A view of the stage during worship *not my photo*
A view of the stage during worship *not my photo*

Overflow is a really good representation of what I believe church should be about. Fun, fellowship and honest discussions about God and what a relationship with Him means. There’s no strict rules about how you should act or what you have to do to be Christian because we all realize a relationship with Jesus is a personal thing. The pastors talk about the Bible in ways you can seriously understand and make jokes we can relate to. It’s engaging, funny and real. It was a place you actually wanted to be.

Theme for the weekend
Theme for the weekend

Outside of the services, you get to hang out with your friends and encourage and build each other up which is refreshing after the gossip and backstabbing that characterises the hallways of a high school. And I was serious about the bouncy castles, not to mention hockey and basketball tournaments, a bunch of cool bands (including my new favourite, Juno award winning The City Harmonic. Seriously go check them out) and some serious dance-offs. It’s honestly nothing like what most people my age think “church” or “religion” looks like. One of my favourite quotes from this weekend was said by Mike Miller during Friday night’s session. In referring to the a-typical church services he said Seriousness is not a fruit of the Spirit! It’s okay for church to be FUN!”

And while Overflow is a ton of fun and you end the weekend filled with laughter, memories and inside jokes, you also leave having had a real encounter with God. I already knew and loved Jesus before this weekend. Tons of people at my school have heard me talk about God or my youth group so I’m known as a “Christian kid” (ironic since I go to a Catholic school haha) However I’m still learning and growing and trying to understand this crazy thing called grace, which in short is God’s love for us. As I grow closer to Him, He teaches me how to love the people around me, helps me to overcome everyday struggles and reveals His plans for my life. It’s crazy for me to think that there really is a God who love me unconditionally, knows the number of hairs on my head and my future. But I believe because He’s proven it to me time and time again. This weekend was no different. This weekend He showed up and did amazing things in the lives of all of us who were there. He taught me how to be still in the craziness of life (or the craziness of a conference room with 2500+ people) and just be in His presence. And it totally refreshed me to go back into my everyday life knowing I’m not in it alone.video So, if you’re still reading this and think I’m absolutely nuts, sorry! Well actually I’m not sorry ’cause this is my blog and I’m going to post what I want but I do know this is the first non travel related post and may not have been what you were expecting. So hopefully, you have somewhat of an idea of what my weekend was like. I can tell you it was absolutely amazing! Feel free to ask any questions about God or whatever as I’ve never really shared my faith to this extent on social media!

Some of the best moments happen on bus rides
Some of the best moments happen on bus rides

Finally thanks to our AMAZING team of leaders, TSL (my youth group) couldn’t be more blessed to have them, the Overflow team and worship band for putting on an INCREDIBLE weekend and to my lovely friends for loving me despite my constant chatter, confusion and loudness, they ROCK. This weekend will be one I will look back on with a smile for years to come as life-changing and laughter inducing!

“Take your problems to Facebook for attention, take them to Jesus for answers” 

Also, this is the song I’m referencing in the title of this post

‘Till next time everyone, I hope you have a wonderful day 🙂

P.S. I was a bad blogger this weekend and took a limited number of photos so the entire first gallery and a few other of these pictures were taken from the album on my youth groups Facebook page, credit goes to them if it’s captioned as not being mine 🙂