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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The Happiness Illusion

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016 – Something you wish more people knew or believed

“Don’t worry, be happy”

To be honest, I think happiness has become an idol for so many of us. It’s an end goal, something everyone wants but no one seems to have. We think that if we can just “be happy”, everything difficult in our lives will work itself out.

Happiness is so fleeting, so temporary. It comes and goes daily. It’s dependant on your circumstances and can all come crumbling down when life gets hard. It’s inconsistent. It all depends on “how you feel”. Sounds pretty depressing right? I sound like a total downer. Why? Because I don’t need to be happy…I’ve found something better.

What I wish more people knew is how limited happiness is when compared with joy.

Joy persists through anything life may throw at us. It is deep seated contentment in every season of life. It is the thrill found in everyday beauty. It’s the triumph that comes from knowing that everything is going to be okay. Joy is an inward peace and consistent state of knowing how truly blessed and utterly lucky we are to live. Joy is like happiness on steroids!

The thing is, joy doesn’t come from external factors. It actually (and some of ya’ll may disagree with me here) can only come from God. One of the verses I have been trying to really reflect on lately is Romans 15:13. “May the Lord of all hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” I believe that joy is a gift God offers us freely; it is one of the fruits of the spirit and he is wants us to be so filled with this uncontainable and thrilling sense of joy that it overflows out of us. 

I didn’t want this to be a “I wish more people knew God” post (although I do wish that). What I was really trying to express here is the inadequacy of a feeling we chase, thinking it is the ultimate goal in life. I wish more people knew and believed that there is more for them in this life than than a feeling that comes and goes with the tides. Expect more! Expect consistency. When you find true joy that comes from the Lord, you’ll come to realize that it is possible to be content wherever you are; no matter your season, no matter your circumstance. Joy is something that can come with you wherever you go; no chasing required, no let down at the end of the day. Joy is the complex fulfillment of the simple happiness we have learned to desire.

I wish more people believed that joy > happiness

“A joyful heart is good medicine” – Proverbs 17:22

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Choosing Joy When Stress Is Looming

 

Spring? Is that you? I think it might be!

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The weather the last couple of days has been absolutely incredible here in Ottawa. On Sunday it was over 20 degrees (celsius) and the sun was shining all day. A lot of people are actually rocking sunburns around campus right now because they didn’t think they needed sunscreen in April haha. A grave error to make; Canadian weather can never be predicated!

At 9:30 this morning I wrote my history final which unfortunately for me was only my second out of six exams I have this semester. Lots of my friends at other schools (and even some here) are already done and home but I’m not even half-way yet! In light of that, I figured I’d give myself a break and write a little post about how I’ve been staying sane and joyful even with the stress of exams looming over me in case you’re still with me in the struggle (or if you’re in high school and haven’t started exams!)

One of my goals for this year  was to choose to be joyful in every situation. However as we all know, stress can be overwhelming and quickly consuming, making it really difficult to stay positive. This exam season, I’ve been making sure to prioritize my mental health and find ways not to let stress swallow me up. They are simple tips but sometimes a reminder is all we need to encourage us to do the little things in life!

Go for a walk – This is my number one way to destress or take a break. Being outside in the fresh air, especially with the beautiful weather we’ve been having, is the best way to clear your head and come back refreshed and ready to work. It’s active so it gets you up and away from your desk and it always reminds me how lucky I am to live in this beautiful world. Walking along the canal in the sunshine makes me feel joyful without even trying. Although, yesterday I may or may not have gotten lost and taken 2 and a half hours to find my way home…yes, my life is a gong show. But hey, it was an adventure at least!

Dance/sing/listen to music – Pretty much everyone can agree that listening to music can affect our moods. Whether that you need to be energized or calmed, picking good music is key to any study session. Even if you’re someone who can’t focus with music playing, I would still recommended throwing on some upbeat tunes when you take a break. The other day I had a mini dance party in my room to Shake It Off by Taylor Swift, all by myself. Did I look ridiculous? Most definitely. Did it make me laugh? Yep. Just letting loose and doing something silly like dancing and singing to a pop song makes me feel more relaxed and able to go back and conquer that next chapter of economics or whatever I’m working on.

Change up the study space – For me, I’ve learned that studying in my room is a no-go. I will, invariably, fall asleep and take an accidental nap. Therefore, finding different places to study on (and off) campus has been really important for me this year. Try switching it up and finding somewhere new to work. This week I’ve been sitting outside with my books a lot but I also like the common room in my res, the library, other buildings on campus, coffee shops and even the laundry room (it’s quiet and no one cares if you study out loud). Having a study space where I feel productive empowers me to deal with stress.

img_20160414_152357.jpgTake care of yourself- eat and sleep. This is pretty self explanatory and gets drilled into our heads by every study tip source EVER. Eat well and please, please, please sleep the night before your exam. You will feel overwhelmed and stressed if you’re trying to study or write a test on 3 hours of sleep. Not to mention, choosing to be joyful is really hard when you don’t even have enough energy to get through the day.

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And sometimes you deserve a treat 😉

Have confidence –  Self-confidence? Sure. But even more than having confidence in myself, I find it essential to have confidence in God and His plans. Confidence that no matter how these exams go, there is a plan for my life and that my worth is not wrapped up in my grades or my accomplishments. With that in mind, I can have a settled assurance that everything will be okay and this freedom allows me to be unrestrained by stress. It enables me to put my full effort into everything I do, secure in the knowledge that my best is good enough. When my confidence is anchored in God, it can’t be shaken by something as simple as words on a page. The best part: when you’re confident, you’re more productive because you know that you are capable of producing the results you want. Let’s be real, if you put the time into studying, you will do fine; the more confident you are, the better you’ll be able to perform under the pressure of exams. Believing that God’s got your back is the best way to make full use of your talents and abilities.

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Source 

Let it goooooo. -The most stress is that which we put on ourselves. A healthy amount of pressure is fine and can even be helpful; I know I work best when the pressure it on. There comes a point however where it stops being healthy and we start beating ourselves up. You can do your best and nothing more; be kind to yourself. Prepare for your exams, go in and write them and then let it go. Rehashing things in your head after the fact doesn’t help anything so try to just live in the moment and be glad that they are over. You did it!

 

Whether you’re one exam in or have just one exam left, I believe that you can survive the end of the semester. School is not the end of the world, nor is the stress worth it. So stay joyful and do the best that you can; it’s all anyone can ask!

Good luck, and remember…summer is coming! I can feel it in the air 🙂

-Until next time, Sam

Rising Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Until next time, Sam 12910930_1056086274448845_1140488705_n

 

 

Gallivanting into the future

Hey friends!

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Long time, no see. Sorry about that. School this year is kind of kicking my butt. Not so much that the workload is bad but that I’m really struggling to find motivation. It’s odd; I love my classes but I wish I could just go and have these long discussions about politics and economics and the world and poetry and not have to do random assignments that have no impact on the real world.

Anyway, not really the point of this. Today was an absolutely lovely day filled with music and good friends and hope for the future, so I figured I’d write a little something even though it’s late and I should be in bed.

Now that I can drive, having the car for a night is such a treat. I love having the freedom to want to do something and then just being able to go and do it. Tonight, I was out with some friends and then decided to stop by another’s house for a quick visit. I had just come to the top of a huge hill in our neighbourhood when I quite literally had my breath taken away by the beauty of the sunset. The entire sky was taken up by it and I felt so glad to be alive in that moment. Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by all the bad taking place in the world.

Last week I visited a courthouse in Toronto and witnessed an hour or so of a murder trial and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. And then there is the earthquake in Nepal which makes my stomach twist and my heart hurt every time I think about. And I don’t know if any of you see it around you, but the people in my life lately seem to be so confused or angry or hurting. But tonight I was reminded that there is so much good in the world. A friend of mine, Lauren, recently came back from doing missions work in India, Scotland and the Congo and was talking about seeing terrible things in the world but still being able to walk away and say “But God is faithful”

But God is faithful

In every situation, in every moment, God is faithful.

There is a verse in Hosea that I absolutely love and it goes

Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth – Hosea 6:3

The sun always rises and God is always faithful. I think one of the things I love most about that verse is that he will come to use like winter rains. Most of us, I think can agree, winter just is not fun. Maybe for a little bit, around Christmas, but mostly, cold, wet and gloomy is not what I prefer. But God comes. In something we may perceive to be bad, God comes.

I guess what I’m getting at is this. There is evil in the world. There is. And you know what? It sucks. But there is also good. There are sunsets and sunrises and good friends and warm tea and laughter and an entire world to discover. And there are people who work towards finding the good like the lawyers at the trial I visited and aid workers trying to help rebuild in Nepal. And there are people who will just give you a hug and tell you that you matter (if you ever need that, just let me know, I really love hugs, and you dear reader). Best of all, there is a God who loves us, fiercely and passionately and relentlessly. I just feel blessed to have been given a shot at life and I can’t wait to explore.

I want this to mark the start of a new beginning for Sam’s Grand Adventure. Because, sorry to say, there are no “adventures” looming in the future. There are no plane tickets booked, no bags waiting to be packed. But there are things to learn and people to talk to and ridiculous situations to get myself into. I’ve been associating adventure with travel but honestly, just living is an adventure. How cool is it that everyday is unique? That today, you had conversations you will never have again, that tomorrow is (as cheesy as it is) is actually a mystery? Not to mention, if you want a real adventure, try giving your future over to God. You’ll end up doing crazy stuff that pushes you out of your comfort zone on a daily basis, like asking a stranger to have coffee with you, or deciding to perform poetry that you wrote live in front of people or acting out life advice in the bookshelves of Chapters. Maybe thats just me, my life is basically a comedy show.

So if you’ve read all the way to the end, koodos to you! I know this has been long, and kind of all over the place. But yeah, that’s where I’m at. I think the whole time I’ve been blogging, I’ve been so worried about making it good and making people want to read it. But it’s called Sam’s Grand Adventure. I’m Sam, and if you stick with me, maybe we’ll learn some things together. I’m going searching for the good and trusting God to help me find it.

I’d be honored if you came along for the ride!unnamed  – Sam

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

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

 

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

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

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

Theme for the weekend
Theme for the weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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