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

Dear Friend…

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Hey friends, happy Saturday!

I hope your week has been going well. It’s been a pretty busy one for me here at school. Aside from classes,work, and skating on the canal, I’ve also had interviews and training for some volunteer organizations I’ve been working on getting involved with here in Ottawa. More to come on that as soon as it’s all confirmed!

But this week I also set aside an hour of time to do something seemingly small but oh so special. I wrote a letter to a friend who’s currently living out of the country. I bought a pretty card, caught her up on what’s been going on in my life, wrote some little encouragements, decorated the envelope and then sent it off. I wrote another one to my sister, wishing her luck with her high school exams. It’s such a small thing to do but I know that when I get a letter in the mail it is so exciting. I think this is for two main reasons.

  1. It’s unusual. With the crazy connectivity of social media, we kind of have no reason to send each other “snail mail”. It’s just not a social norm anymore. Why bother when you can send someone a text and get an instant response or call them on FaceTime? So when you get a letter in the mail, it’s totally out of the ordinary and that makes it exciting.
  2.  It’s personal. Getting a letter means that someone was thinking of you. It means they took time out of their day to intentionally sit down and communicate with you, even when you weren’t together. It shows that they truly care enough to keep in touch. I think that letter writing is the most personal form of communication other than actually talking face to face.
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A letter I got a while back from a camp friend

Honestly, it’s just special. And I love doing it, it’s kind of fun to sit down and actually write things by hand and make little jokes and address the envelope….it feels novel! So here are some “tips and tricks” to send some snail mail of your own!

  1. Write naturally. This is your friend! You don’t have to try and sound the way you think a letter is supposed to sound or start and end a certain way. Greet them the way you do in real life, tell them a story. Remind them of an inside joke. Write the way you talk. It’s just an ink and paper chat.
  2. Be encouraging. Getting a letter in the mail can be such a joyful occurrence. It’s like an unexpected ray of sunshine in a regular day! So write some kind words of encouragement, tell them you’re proud of what they’re up to or that you’re grateful for their friendship. It’s just nice to hear and be reminded of the things they already know. And the best part about it being written in a letter is that they can read over it another day when they need a friendly word.
  3. Decorate the envelope. This is my absolute favourite part! It’s so fun and the envelopes look so cute afterwards. I always draw flowers and little designs on the envelopes when I send mail to people. In my mind, I also always think that it might make the mail carriers smile. It’s worth the extra time.

Maybe it’s because my love language is words of affirmation or just because I love to talk and letters are an excuse to jabber on without interruption, but I really think that writing mail is a lost art form that we should revive. I realized how much it means to me to get a card at camp the past couple of summers; getting mail literally gave me so much joy it was ridiculous. Especially when it was from my old campers!

I tend to be pretty bad at keeping in touch with people long distance (sorry friends) but writing a letter is an intentional and momentary activity: a one shot deal. I’m actually able to “talk” to people without feeling like I have to be in constant contact via Snapchat or text.

So that’s that. Just a quick little post about something I’ve been trying to do more of and why I think it’s so great. Send a letter this week to someone you love and let them know you were thinking about them!

Until next time,

-Sam

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I’m hoping Dayna doesn’t see this before she gets it, hehe!

 

 

 

 

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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A simple pause

Sometimes you need to just be.

The last few weeks have been a blur of rushing around and a flood of names, faces, places, instructions and information. Even my last blog post was written in one shot and published immediately. The rhythm of university life caught me up in it’s current before I knew what had happened. And you know what? I love it. I love being busy. I love getting to know people and exploring and learning.

But sometimes, it all gets to be a bit overwhelming. Today for the first time I felt a little buried in this new experience. I looked around and felt odd knowing that no one here really knows me. They’ve met me and I’m sure they have a general idea of who I am and what I’m like but they don’t really know me, my thoughts, my soul. Maybe that’s a little dramatic but I miss having people around who just get me. Victoria, if you’re reading this, I miss our heart to hearts and you just knowing what I mean when I sigh and wave my hands around.

I think all this is amplified by the fact that I’m sick right now and having to take care of yourself kind of sucks to be honest. I miss my mom making me soup and rubbing my back when I’m not feeling well. I guess that’s part of growing up though right?

Today, I just needed to be Sam. Completely me. Not a university student, or a floormate, or a new friend or anyone. Just me. So I went for a walk and when I got back to my dorm, I put in my headphones and listened to some worship music. This one song came on. To be honest, I can’t remember what it’s called anymore. The lyrics go something like:

Holy Spirit you are welcome here

Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere

Your glory God is what our hearts long for

These words hit me so hard today, as I was sitting in my little room at the end of the hall. Even though it’s not what the song was talking about, I felt God speaking so clearly to me…as soon as I was willing to listen.

The One who knows my soul and my being better than any human ever will, is with me. My God knows “just Sam” better than even I do. I was so overcome with peace and a sense of the Holy Spirit as I sat and there and remembered that I am not, nor have I ever been and nor will I ever be, alone. That, my friends, is the most incredible feeling in the world.  Even when I am in a strange place, with no one I know, I am known. I am known by a God who cares about my thoughts, my dreams and my passions. My God knows that I need community and I can have full confidence that He will provide opportunities for new relationships and places that I’ll feel comfortable in. Barrie, Mapleview, Kitchi…Ottawa will eventually make the list of places I call “home”.

Today, for me, that pause in my day to just be alone with God for a few minutes made me feel so refreshed, calm and ready to reassess what I had to get done, one step at a time. It helped me get my thoughts back in line rather than let myself get caught in a rut of feeling out of place.

Life is busy. Life as a student in a new city is even more so. Today I am grateful that I’ve been blessed with this experience and even more grateful that I have a God who’s got my back. Essays and readings ain’t got nothing on me!

-Until next time, Sam

P.s. How is life going for you? I hope it’s good.

My little nest
My little nest