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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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)

 

Books and Bike Rides

I’m supposed to be studying Arabic. After a couple of weeks of stalling, my tutor has promised a vocabulary test on Tuesday. Instead, I am sitting on my back porch watching the streaky pink clouds created by the sunset. So much beauty in something ending eh?

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My actual view at this exact moment! Yay for the back porch! Yay for blurry photos!
I’m thinking about what it is like to have a different kind of summer than the ones I am used to. I am used to morning dips and constantly having no voice from singing songs all day and watching kids thrive and succeed and being tired and happy constantly.

Now, I’m remembering how lovely and foreign it feels to have down time. I literally cannot think back to a time (probably grade 8?) when I wasn’t happily but exhaustingly overcommitted. It’s funny because my roommates joke “you’re never home!” and I feel like I’m home more than I have been in years.

I am remembering the joy of sitting in a public library and drinking in an entire novel in one night. I am making last minute plans to ride bikes along the canal or sit and chat in the park at dusk.

I am challenging myself. I wrote on my (very long, because I do love being busy) summer bucket list that I wanted to “learn a new skill….leaving camp doesn’t mean leaving behind that curious, inquisitive and eager to grow part of me” Every summer at Kitchi I chose one new skill to learn. Some of them I took to more than others – last year I really truly committed to improving my solo canoe skills. I didn’t want that to end this year. Surprisingly, I’ve realized that I really like rock climbing. Despite being unarguably terrible at it, there is something wonderful about having so much room to learn and improve.

I’ve also thrown myself head first into improving my outdoor skills. I’ve already gone on my first canoe trip to Algonquin park, assisted with teaching a beginner canoe course, and spent a day running a river in Quebec down big rapids, qualifying myself for the “white water list” at the Ottawa Canoe Camping Club; now I am able to go on more whitewater trips and continue to improve my eddy hopping and ability to “play” in rapids.

I’m remembering how to say no. To go to bed early and not feel like I’m missing out on my one and only chance to socialize. To be ok with not going climbing tonight because I paddled all day yesterday and not every day has to be crazy and full. I’m remembering that it’s ok to not have plans for a night, that sometimes reading on the porch and eating a good dinner and having a shower and going to bed is a perfect and wonderful and happy evening. I’m remembering how it feels to not have 20 things “to do” hanging over my head and how it feels to have plans that are flexible. I thrive being busy but I am also embracing quiet downtime (especially since I know it will disappear come September). This season of freedom and flexibility is rare.

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I’m meeting with an Arabic tutor and for the first time, I feel as though I can actually speak Arabic. Some days I leave our sessions wanting to sing and dance because I am so proud of myself and others I’m so frustrated with what feels like a lack of progress that I feel like I could cry. But I am learning. I am actually talking. I am listening to music and reading Arabic poetry and pinning cue cards with tricky words up in my office. I am pursuing language for the sake of it and I am finding more beauty and skill than I have in two years of classroom learning because I want to be able to excitedly explain to my tutor (who is such a gem of a human) that I saw Justin Trudeau at work rather than stressing about getting 62% on a midterm.

Speaking of work – holy cow, I am learning so much. Some days I come home and wonder why I am bothering to sit in a cubicle and reclassify files. But most of the time, I am overwhelmed by how much I am learning and how applicable it is to my studies. For those of you who don’t know (hi new friends!) I study International Development in university and this summer I am a Jr. International Development Officer with Global Affairs Canada #blessed. In my first week, I was tasked with assessing project proposals from Civil Society Organizations looking for funding for youth internships. In on of my classes last semester, I had to write a project proposal for the final assignment and 3 weeks later I was assessing REAL LIFE PROPOSALS. It was kind of surreal and has made me that much more excited to go back to class in the fall.

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On top of that, my team is full of welcoming people who are genuinely passionate about their jobs. I think it is easy to see the government as an faceless institution filled with paper pushers and people who just want to make money. However my experience at GAC thus far has been mostly that of meeting people who believe in the work they are doing and are passionate about Canada and the countries Global Affairs works in. Last week I had the chance to sit down with a manager from another team because I’m really interested in the field of food security and wanted to know some more about what that team does in our branch. The managers are busy all the time but this man took almost 1.5 hours to sit with me and discuss his career path and what he loves about his field and his job. He was so passionate! I left inspired and grateful for the opportunity I have to interact with people who are at the government not because it’s always fun (hello bureaucracy!) but because we need people who care about their work. And the actual team I work with on a daily basis are fantastic. They are always encouraging me to go to presentations, listen in on conversations and trainings and helping me to make the most of my time there. I don’t always love sitting in a cubicle and I miss the island, but I have no doubt that I am blessed to be exactly where I am meant to be this summer.

So that’s where I’m at this summer. I am waking up early to read my bible with my morning tea and riding my bike to work. I’m drinking wine on a Tuesday with a friend and having hours long conversations about compassion and justice with my roommates and making curry and playing with our (Nicole’s) cat. I’m out on the water as often as possible and I’m speaking Arabic as often as possible. I’m reading and watching Netflix and growing herbs on my windowsill. I am meeting new people and spending time with friends I lost track of through the year. I am both incredibly busy and  overwhelmed with free time.

I am learning to embrace change and challenge and sleeping in on Sundays. How is your summer going?

Until next time,

Sam

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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

Plotting, planning, praying, dreaming

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Hello there 2017! Welcome! I’ve been waiting for you with an expectant heart and a whole lot of hope for the beauty that will unfold in the next 365 days. Well, 364 days now I guess.

Exactly one year ago today I posted my 2016 goals and wow, does that feel like a long time ago. In a way, it feels like it’s been three years because every 4 months, my life changes and starts a new chapter. It’s hard to believe that this summer, 1st year and this past semester have all shared a year. And what a year.

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Out of those three chunks, summer was definitely my favourite. Although I won’t be returning to camp this year, the memories and connections I made on Beausoleil will be carried with me forevermore; I am so grateful to have been a part of the magic that happens on Kitchi sands, one last time. Whenever I think about those months I can’t help but smile and for that I am grateful.

On the other hand, this past semester was a very challenging season for me. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t enjoying school. At all. My professors were nearly all terrible teachers who really didn’t care about the subject they were instructing and I just became so disillusioned with my education. My grades fell below the standards I hold myself to and I found myself often questioning why God had me in such a place. Other aspects of life were great; I enjoyed my new job, made some new friends, and joined the executive of a club. But school became a source of frustration, discontentment, difficulty and a sense of futility. It took me a while to be okay with saying “this semester wasn’t great”. Because my life wasn’t totally falling to pieces, I didn’t feel like I had a right to be frustrated. Honestly though I have never wanted a semester to end more in my life.

Now that I’m out of it though it’s really cool to look back and see where God was in all of it. It wasn’t a fun season but I’ve grown from it for sure. My statement that “my identity is found in God and not my grades” was put to the test. I learned to trust Him more, to remember that in all stages, His plan is greater and He is still God. I learned to be still and content in every season. And I realized that sometimes I will do everything “right”, put in the work and still have things not work out; and that’s ok.

SO

2017

A new semester.

A summer coop.

My first solo travel.

A fresh start.

And a whole lot of unknown.

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It would be easy to stay frustrated going into second semester but I actually feel so refreshed and hopeful for what is to come. One bad semester does not mean development isn’t what I’m meant to be doing. One bad semester does not mean I can’t learn Arabic. One bad semester is a learning experience that is going to STAY confined to ONE semester.

So now I turn to planning. I turn to praying and asking God what He wants my year to look like. I start plotting out my goals and journalling my hopes. I let myself dream about all the big and scary and challenging and wonderful things 2017 is going to bring.

I started deciding to prioritize sleep. 8 hours shouldn’t be a treat…my life is so much better when I get enough sleep.

I’ve started laying out study plans to get myself where I want to be academically.

I’ve resolved to stop being afraid of Arabic and start LEARNING it for it’s own sake rather than for the grades attached to it.

I’ve started applying for internships.

I’ve discovered where I need to say “no” in order to fully invest myself in everything I do; nothing I do deserves half of my heart. I want to be truly present in few places rather than distracted in many.

I will make time for people but also make time for myself.

I’ve promised to give God the 1st of my time rather than whatever energy I have left at the end of the day. I’ve resolved to ask Him more questions and learn more about what it means to live and love like Jesus.

I’ve resolved to rediscover what it means to be curious. What it means to learn because something catches my interest. To read books not assigned in a syllabus and attend conferences to meet others with the same interests. To go to office hours and get to know my professors.

I’ve started praying for more grace and wisdom.

I’ve started asking for more passion.

I want 2017 to be a year that often makes me a little uncomfortable. A year to seek that flip flop in your stomach before you do something new and the rush of accomplishing something you never believed to be possible.

I am going to continue to try to make my bed. It just didn’t stick this year haha but one day I will be a person who’s room is presentable!!

And on that note, I am going to have an open door. I’m not working in rez because it’s free. I want to know the people I live with. I want to have conversations that go past “how’s school going?”. I want to be a person of warmth and welcome. My door will be propped open more often this semester.

I’m going to stop buying things that don’t serve a unique purpose in my life, consume more intentionally and truly appreciate my possessions.

I’ve decided to work on being healthier, to eat food that makes me feel ready to take on my day, to go back to swimming, to go on more hikes, to prioritize mental wellness.

I’ve decided to stop watching Netflix…not forever, not because it’s inherently bad but because there are so many other things I want to do.

I’m plotting ways to see more of the world. Iceland and then, who knows where!

I’ve decided to write when I want to and not when I feel like I have to. I’ve decided to keep learning guitar.

I’ve sworn to journal more, to keep records of the beauty of life.

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A new year isn’t a revolutionary thing. Life isn’t going to change just because the date did. *Sidenote: it’ll take me a solid month to start getting the date right at the top of my notes* But it is a benchmark, an opportunity to leave the past in the past and start anew, to allow yourself to dream and plan and seek new visions. This isn’t an itemized list like last year. Rather, it is a global overview of values and actions that I want to take to make this year the best it can be. I want to put every minute of my time to it’s BEST purpose, whether that purpose is studying, laughing, truly resting, writing, working, talking or whatever. Everything has a time and a place.

I want 2017 to be a year of balance.

What are you dreaming of?

-Until next time, Sam

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P.s. Stay tuned for my new word of the year!! I’m super excited about the theme and vision God has given me for 2017 and can’t wait to share that with you all soon 🙂

P.s.s. I did indeed finished the sweater I resolved to knit. Thought you ought to know.

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Throwing it back

Hey friends! Hope all is well in your crazy lives whether you are back at school or working full time, I hope that you’ve been finding some time here and there to get out and enjoy the last few weeks of sunshine. Summer is slowly on it’s way out…I can feel it in the air! Soon it will be time for ankle boots and blanket scarves and I’m not going to lie, I am pretty excited.

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This is my “loving life” smile

This post is going to be the first of several that are pretty different than what I am usually up to around here. Today I stumbled upon a blogging challenge called “Blog-tember“, run by Bailey Jean at Brave Love. It’s basically a series of prompts, one everyday of the month to get you blogging everyday. I know, I know, I’m a little bit late to the party but hey, September has been a little (read, a lot) busy for me between completing my programming requirements for my job, going to meetings, adjusting to new classes and catching up with all my friends here in Ottawa. Suffice to say, I haven’t been thinking about blogging much. But I’d like that to change, I really would. Blogging is something I do just for me, because I enjoy it. So when I saw this challenge, I was curious. When I saw what the topic was for today, I knew it was meant to be!

See, today’s prompt is: A list of your favourite blog posts you’ve written. 

The reason that made me so excited is that earlier today, I did that. Totally unknowingly. I was updating my “About Me” page and decided to include a list of my personal favourite posts to give new readers a place to start. This challenge was meant to be! So here they are, my favourites from the past couple of years. Some are ones that just mean a lot to me personally and others are ones that I am proud of. It was a good reminder today to read through these posts and see how far I’ve come. It made me remember that writing is a passion God gave me for a reason and that I need to be using it.

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Speaking of throwbacks, here’s one from when I was just starting to explore Ottawa last year

Have a look through if you’d like, before I bombard ya’ll with a new post everyday (!!!) for the rest of the month! Here’s to making habits and forcing myself to do the things I love and often put off.

Monday Morning

Grateful

I Found My New Favourite City

Nepal – Shaken not Shattered

A simple pause

I will remember

15 things I learned in 2015

Crossing Oceans

Like a Bird

5 Things 1st Year Taught Me

Shawarma dajaaj min fadlik – Reflections on learning Arabic

Adventures in tripping – a little flippin’ never hurt!

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Thanks for reading. Praying you’re having a great evening and that something I wrote may make you smile 🙂

Until next time,

-Sam ❤

Anticipating Greatness

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September, the season of endings and of beginnings. An exciting time, a nerve-wracking time, a new adventure time. It’s back to school, it’s the last of warm days and it’s beautiful and sad all wrapped up in one. It’s bike rides and trips to the Farmer’s Market and hugging friends you haven’t seen in a while, it’s saying goodbye to summer and it’s printing syllabi and updating your calendar. It’s when we look out over the school year to come, a fresh slate of tests not yet written and challenges not yet faced. What are you expecting this year? Are you apprehensive of what’s to come? I know I was.

This morning I woke up to an email from Blackboard, my university’s “virtual campus”; it was a notification that one of my economics professors had posted the syllabus for the course. As ridiculous as it might sound, my heart literally started racing and I was so nervous to open the file. Economics was my worst class last year and I am so anxious about going back to it this year, especially with two courses in the same semester, one of them in French.

This is just one example of the apprehension I’ve been feeling about second year. For me, summer has been over for almost 3 weeks, as soon as I left camp and came back to Ottawa for Community Advisor training. This year, I’ll be living in residence, watching over first year students and hopefully helping them to have a safe, fun and successful first year. That is an added responsibility that I need to account and make time for! I’m super excited about it but still! Tomorrow is the first day back at classes and I am definitely feeling nervous about all the work that is about to rain down on me and consume my life; but it will only consume me if I let it.

On Sunday I was in church and the woman leading worship said something that really stuck with me. It was about the difference between apprehension and anticipation. I looked up the definition of the two (as I often do) in order to make sure I clearly knew the difference.

Apprehension – anxiety or fear that something unpleasant will happen

Anticipation – the act of expecting or looking ahead to something with pleasure. 

It was one of those moments that I was caught off guard by the realization that this was God speaking clearly and directly to ME. I hadn’t even noticed the negative attitude I had been having towards the coming year. I was hiding my anxiety with “cautiousness” and “being realistic”. Neither of those are bad things but I was using them as reasons to not allow myself to be excited about year coming up. I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty optimistic, glass half full type of person, so it’s not normal for me to be like that. In fact, one of my favourite verses in high school was 2nd Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-decipline.” I loved it so much that I had it written out and taped on my wall but I think that I’ve still somehow forgotten!

I’m not meant to fear the future. I’m not meant to live expecting things to go badly. God has created this incredible world and put us in it, to live and learn and explore. So this morning I opened the email, read over the syllabus, and will go to the class tomorrow anticipating that it will go well, that I’ll learn something interesting. Fear is normal; letting it consume your life is not. This fall, I’m trying to re-learn how to surrender my apprehension to God and let him replace it with anticipation. The future is full of possibilities. Yes, some of those possibilities include hardship or difficulty or heartbreak. But they are just that, possibilities. This fall, I’m choosing to look forward with anticipation, expecting not just goodness, but greatness. 

Today, I went adventuring with a friend. We rode bikes along the canal, lined with trees while the sun shined brightly. We sat and had coffee, we walked through our favourite park and we sat at a lookout over the city. It was fun and warm and carefree. It was a great day. There are many more great days to come: deep chats in my new dorm room, friendships with my residents, (even if sometimes I have to break up their beer pong games), adventures through the beautiful city I get to call home, learning about the world and the people God created and hopefully lots and lots of laughter. Yes, school is going to be a lot of work, and yes, I’m going to have to learn to manage my time and schedule to balance school, work, life and self-care. But that’s okay. Because those are all exciting things that God has blessed me with. 

Anticipation – to expect or look ahead with great pleasure. 

Life is exciting if you let it be. So to all my friends going to back to school tomorrow, or sometime this week. Let’s be anticipatory. Let’s expect GREAT things from this school year. Let’s have good attitudes and a willingness to learn. We are blessed for the opportunity to live and learn in Canada. Let’s act like it. Let’s act like we have sprits of power, love and self-dicipline.

That’s all I got for now. I’m surprised how nervous (damn, there’s that word again eh?) I am about hitting “publish” on this post. Vulnerability here folks. All the more reason to do it I guess. Hopefully someone out there in the big world of cyberspace gets something out of my silly realizations. God is always teaching me, even if I’m sometimes an inattentive student. So, good luck with September my friends. Let’s make it a great one

-Until next time, Sam ❤

P.s. Here are some pictures of my last couple weeks settling into my new job/home. They do make me more excited for all that is to come!!