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.

 

Kill ’em with Kindness

Have you ever had one of those days where simply everything seems to go wrong? Maybe you get a bad grade back, have a fight with a friend, or you’re simply stressed, tired and overwhelmed. It’s easy to feel alone in those times. In fact, I don’t know about you but sometimes when I am having one of those days, I intentionally isolate myself , which is so not a healthy way of handling stress. I do it because I don’t want to bother other’s with my problems however we ALL need people in our lives who are willing to be our community, even when we think we’d rather just do it on our own.

I’ve written before about how much I value community and my desire to have people in my life who truly know me . However, today I want to talk about how you can be an encourager and a bright spot in someone’s day, even if you’re not a close friend. See there is one community we are all a part of; even with nothing else in common, we are all human beings. We all need to feel valued, noticed and appreciated. As members of the the human race, each of us are involved, inherently, in community with each other. We share this space and sometimes we cross paths with each other at just the right time.  You never know who around you may be having “one of those days” and just need someone, anyone, to step up and be a source of kindness and community.

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Random acts of kindness.

We’ve all heard this one before and yet we really don’t practice it as much as we should. In the past week, I’ve been really inspired by those around me to do more out of pure generosity and kindness. When my mom was here visiting last week she paid for the meal of a lady sitting near us by herself. No real reason, Mom was simply doing something to make a stranger smile (my mom inspires me all the time btw, she’s one of the kindest people I know). This week I came home after a super long day to a note and bag of treats from a couple of residence. Last night my co-worker Marley put a chocolate outside all the CA’s doors with a characteristic about us that she admires. Thank you Marley. Today I watched a university student sit and have coffee with a man who had been panhandling outside the Starbucks. I really admired her genuine interest in his life and the time and attention she put into their conversation. All around us each and everyday are opportunities to step outside of ourselves and really see the people we occupy space with. Candies, coffees and conversations are small moments that pass but the thought behind them is what makes a difference. Kindness is a simple way to remind people that they are not alone.

Recognize humanity. 

Treat people like people. I mean this in two ways. Firstly, a couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a man named George while I was waiting for a bus. He was clearly intoxicated and seemed to have a mental illness. I watched him approach several people on the street to ask them where to find something and they literally pretended not to see him and kept walking. I’m not going to lie, sometimes the people I see downtown Ottawa make me nervous but this time I was determined to do what I know we should all do: treat him like a person. We ended up having a lovely conversation and you know what he said to me? “I’ve been here for 3 days and you’re the first person in Ottawa to be nice to me”. WAKE UP CITY. Come on! How many of us live here? How many of us walked past George in those three days? How many other “Georges” do I walk past everyday? This wasn’t an act of kindness on my part, it was simply seeing him for who he is: a man who I believe is loved and cherished by God and therefore should be shown love by me.

On the other hand: see humanity in those who don’t like to show weakness. Sometimes all your stressed out friend needs to hear is that they don’t have to have it all together. Don’t make people into superheroes. As weird as it might sound, I sometimes need people to remind me that it’s OKAY to be human, to have bad days and to fail at things. We live in a society that teaches us to act like we are perfect and ignore those who are not. Instead, let’s all see each other as flawed people and love anyway.

Lift people up; be an encourager

I want to introduce you all quickly to a friend of mine. This is Lila. I’m pretty sure her default setting is laughter and aside from being absolutely stunning, she is also one of the most joyful people I have ever been lucky enough to meet; she has a heart that truly echoes the Lord’s. I don’t see her very often and yet on an almost daily basis I am blessed by her.                             14705703_10207243238827022_5351751920915094075_nThat’s because Lila takes every opportunity she gets to lift people up on social media. She posts inspiring messages on Facebook in case someone is having a bad day and writes beautiful quotes on Instagram. Here, I’ll let this speak for itself:

“Happy Monday Kings and Queens!
Just a quick positive reminder of the day; You matter. You make the world a more beautiful place just by being in it. You are lovely in all ways. You are loved by the Creator of weeping willow trees and the stars in the sky. You are incredible.
NEVER forget this. I want to be a constant reminder to people that they matter. It doesn’t matter where you are at, where you have been, or even where you are going.. You matter and I want to make sure you do not forget it. Enjoy today beautiful humans– there is SO much out there for you to explore and enjoy. Praying for y’all 🌻☀️🌸” – Lila

How encouraging is that?? This is one of many quotes I could have chosen; notes and reminders like these often pop up on my  feed from this lovely gal. She knows how to love with her words, both in general messages like this and by publicly acknowledging her friend’s strengths and gifts (p.s. she deserves a huge shoutouts too). You don’t have to be all over social media but you SHOULD make a habit of speaking life and blessings over people. Tell your friends what you love about them. Tell people that you appreciate them. Remind people that they are loved.

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Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Treat people with kindness. Show love. Be generous with your time. See the humanity in another person and step into community with them, even for a moment. It could make all the difference in their day.

And sometimes, a hug doesn’t hurt either.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. – Colossians 3:12

Have a great night my lovely friends. Until next time, Sam.

P.s. I always love when bloggers write what they were listening to while they wrote. I’ve had an acoustic version of the hymn Come Thou Fount and Rend Collective’s campfire version of Oceans on repeat this evening!

15 things I learned in 2015

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2015 is winding down and it’s certainly been one of the biggest years of my life so far. I graduated high school, spent another amazing summer working on Beausoleil Island, moved to a new city and started university. Suffice to say, I learned some things over the last 12 months. Here’s 15 of them!

1. Things change. Things will always change. Life evolves and you have to learn to be content in every season and every opportunity you get given, even if that means closing the door on a good time in life.

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2. I am more capable than I knew. If you ever want to push the limits of your capabilities, go be a camp counsellor for a summer. You will learn more about problem solving, relationships and thinking on your feet than ever before. From canoe trips gone wrong and first aid situations that went right to defusing cabin conflict and telling bed time stories, working at camp this summer taught me that I am capable of more than I ever would have thought.

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3. Grades matter, but not as much as effort. In university I had to learn pretty quickly that good grades weren’t going to come as easily as they did in high school. But I also realized that knowing I had put everything I had into my work made me prouder than getting an A. Effort and work ethic mean a lot more than a number.IMG_20151114_163238

4. There are likeminded people everywhere. I promise. You might think you won’t find anyone who shares your sense of humour or your love of Doctor Who but I swear, if you’re willing to be social, you will find people to talk to.

5. T.V. is a waste of free time. Go for a walk, have coffee with a friend, have a nap, read a book, workout, bake cookies, draw, whatever. The less free time I had, the less tolerance I had for watching T.V. I realized that there were so many things I’d rather be doing than staring mindlessly at a screen. (Note: movie nights are always an exception…especially Disney movie nights)

6. University is hard. I swear, it feels like no one ever told me that before I went. It was all about how fun it is, how exciting it is, a new adventure etc. But holy heck, the workload is cray! It definitely takes getting used to and really good time management skills. Get a calendar. Use it. Don’t write a paper at 5am the day it is due.

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7. University is also fun. Despite the papers, midterms and long nights in the library, university IS an adventure. Living in residence and having friends around all the time is a blast. Exploring a new city is exciting. Freedom is awesome. And learning is actually amazingly interesting when you’re passionate about the subject.

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8. You can learn a lot from sucking at things. I’m not a fan of being bad at things. It stresses me out. For example, I hating driving at first because I sucked but, unfortunately, that is how you learn. The worse you are, the more room there is for improvement… but only if you’re willing to stick it out. This year I did a lot of things I wasn’t so great at; economics, driving, Arabic, using public transit, dodgeball etc. Guess what? It was hard, an I got better.

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First place in Res Dodgeball…and I swear, I actually helped.

9. Family is more important than I’d realized. It wasn’t until I moved away that I truly appreciated my parents. I missed my sister more than I expected and seeing everyone at Christmas was amazing. Although, they will also drive you nuts within a week of being home, guaranteed.

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Reunited with my not-so-little sister

10. Advil is expensive. So is toothpaste. And cereal. And shampoo. And socks. And deodorant. I never really grasped the value of money until this year when I had to buy things that had always just been there. Life costs money!!!

11. Snail mail is literally one of my greatest pleasures in life. I don’t care if that is a stupid life lesson, I learned this year just how much it means to me when someone takes the time to write me a letter. It’s a fun surprise when you get it, it means and lot and it is seriously just so FUN! Why did we ever stop sending mail?

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Camp friends make good pen pals

12. Nature gives me energy and revives my soul. Going from spending the entire summer outside and on a national park to living downtown in the capital city was quite an…adjustment. I’ve always loved the outdoors but this year I realized how much trees and lakes and stars make me feel alive haha. Not to mention, nothing beats long talks under the stars. This summer I lay on a dock and watched a meteor shower and talked about life until 3 am. Those are the kind of moments you don’t forget. In Ottawa, walking by the canal and seeking out parks quickly became a priority.

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13. Taking time to destress and do things you love is important. Little things that you enjoy are important for mental wellbeing and avoiding burnout. I like knitting, writing, catching up with friends, going for a walk or swimming lengths when I need to clear my head. Even when I’m crazy busy, making time to destress and do Sam things is important.

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14. Community is vital. For the first time in my life this year, I found myself in a place where I didn’t know a soul. I thrive off of relationships with others. In Barrie, I had an amazing group of friends, an amazing church and two families that loved me. Then I spent the summer at camp living with a whole bunch of my favourite humans . Suddenly I was in Ottawa, not knowing anyone. Thankfully, LeBlanc is the best (lebest) residence in the entire world and I quickly found a close community in the 3rd floor. Shoutout, heyyyy guys! I learned this year how valuable community is. Having people you can laugh with, trust and be comfortable around is what makes life fun.

15. Trust God. So many changes this year, it’s been kind of a whirlwind. There have defiantly been times when I questioned if I made the right choices. Thankfully, I’ve had the faith to continually put my decisions in God’s hands because I’ve learned that when I do, things always turn out better than I could have imagined. My God is faithful, and I am blessed beyond measure. When I don’t know what to do, trusting God is the answer to every problem because with Him, I don’t fear the future.

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Well, that’s definitely not everything but it’s what I can think of at the moment. It’s been a good year, definitely one that will be looked back upon as a turning point and a learning curve.

2016, I look forward to welcoming you in. I’m ready to give this next year my best shot and, I’m sure, rack up some more ridiculous stories.

Bring it on, New Years.

-Sam

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Grateful

Sometimes at night I like to think about all the things I am grateful for. The list often quickly becomes longer than I had expected.

I think it’s normally really easy to get caught up in the bad in life or the struggles we face. We focus more on what we don’t have than on the things we do and more on the things we want than on the needs that have already been fulfilled without our even having to ask. Stopping for just a few minutes to record the little things in life that make me happy and grateful is one of the easiest ways to keep myself looking at the positive and to remind myself how truly blessed I am.  Here are the things that I am grateful for tonight.

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– Laughter. The kind that makes your eyes water and your belly hurt, the kind you can’t stop or control. Best when accompanied by good friends.

– A warm bed, a home. To me, it seems normal and expected. Reminding myself that it is a privilege and not a given is important.

Warm spring rain. All rain is good, but this kind is special. It smells like new beginnings.

Tea. Need I say more?

-A God who loves me despite all my faults. I am the farthest person from perfect that I know but I am blessed enough to serve a God that looks past that and loves me unconditionally either way.

Access to healthcare. The dentist terrifies me but having untreated cavities sounds worse. Medicine may taste bad but I am so beyond lucky to have it when I need it.

-Peace. Both in my heart and in my country

-Poetry. Beauty expressed in words is my favourite

– Community. I am part of a church family that supports me, a school with more spirit than we know what to do with and I have world class friends and family members. What more could I want?

– Dreams. I mean this in two senses. One, who doesn’t like a fantastical sleep full of adventure and intrigue? It’s like a movie in your head! Also, dreams and vision for my future. It’s fun having things to look forward to and to aim for.

– Quiet time alone. Yes, I am an extrovert. Yes, I like to be alone in the silence sometimes!

– Thought provoking conversation. Let’s talk about life and have debates about complicated topics. I’ll learn and maybe, I’ll teach you too.

– Singing. In the shower or in the car, I will belt it out whether it sounds good or not. God gives us so many opportunities to choose joy everyday and music just makes my soul sing…so obviously I have to actually sing.

-Colours. How can you look at a tiny flower in bloom or the blue of the sky and not feel lucky to be alive and in such a vibrant and colourful world?

Honestly, this list could go on and on and on. There are so many things in my life that I feel so blessed to have. Are some of these trivial? Yep. But I’m choosing to try and find joy in even the smallest aspects of my life. Once you start looking, you may find you’ll never stop finding blessings in disguise.

No idea if this was of any interest to anyone other than myself but, c’est la vie right?

-Until next time, Sam

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