Most people hate Mondays because they mark the beginning of a work week. But this year, Mondays quickly became one of the highlights of my week. Monday evenings brought friends crowding into my living room, on the couches and on the floor, and even some standing by the door at first, so as to have an escape route if needed. Each week we gathered, a core group consistently and a rotation of guests intrigued and drawn to our funny mismatched group of Christians and non-believers. There would be chatter and shuffling and throwing off of coats as people got settled into their spots. Often someone would bring a treat: cookies, scones, chips. Mondays meant using every mug in my house for tea, an open invitation to bring along friends and quickly whispered prayers as I printed manuscripts 5 minutes before my pals arrived, prayers that the Holy Spirit would make up for my gaps in knowledge and, sometimes, for my woeful lack of preparation. And then, when most people had arrived and everyone had a pen ready, we would start.
Together we would dive into the Bible, into the book of John. As we worked our way through the book, John became our trusted narrator and eyewitness to the miracles of Jesus; we knew he was on a mission to prove his thesis that Jesus is the Son of God. We contextualized ourselves as best as we could, trying to figure out what ancient Israel was like in John and Jesus’ time, what these events and words would have meant to people then and there. And then we jumped back to Ottawa, 2020, and we asked honest questions: some nit picky, irrelevant questions, some easily answered questions, some big picture philosophy questions, and some real life “more vulnerable than we maybe would have liked” questions about who Jesus is and what he was trying to teach each of us. All of us asked questions: those of us raised in the church, who felt like we should already have every answer, and those of us who had never read the Bible before, and all of us in between. We noticed themes, of light and darkness, of living bread and water, of Jesus knowing people intimately, of people asking and seeing and believing. We shared what we had seen that made us believe in Jesus, or what we would need to see, or what we were desperately hoping to see and had yet to. We sat in tension. We came together to study and we took it seriously but, we also laughed a lot. We became friends.
And as we became friends, we chose more vulnerability and we learned more and more each week from the Word and from each other. A deep fondness for and trust in our group grew in my heart as we wandered through each passage. We became a team and as one of the leaders I learned to adapt to the strengths of my people. They didn’t need me to have prepared application questions or to drag observations out of people; they just needed me to show up. I trusted our team to navigate well together, to ask the hard questions and be engaged in trying to find answers. I trusted us to be ok with not always finding those answers, to be ok not wrapping everything up with a bow for the sake of simplicity. Unspoken, we decided to leave space to walk away still chewing a challenging question. As a leader, I trusted my team but even more so I trusted the Holy Spirit to keep teaching us throughout the week. That trust meant that I got to walk with people rather than ahead of them, to be vulnerable, to ask my own questions, and to be deeply blessed by conversations we had.
This year, on Mondays, I fell back in love with the Bible and with my community. A mixed bag of experiences with manuscript studies before, I should have had low expectations. But in September, at the start of the year, God gave me vision for this Bible study. He told me He was doing something new, whispered that I would get to watch the Holy Spirit change hearts right in my living room. He gave me specific names of people who would be there (despite some of their own proclamations), reminders of how He desires to speak to His Children, promises of investment and consistency and engagement. And He has been faithful to those promises.
God doesn’t have to let me play a role in His ever evolving story of redeeming humanity. But, thankfully, He is in the habit of letting His kids step into what He is doing, letting them see and participate in and be changed by His work, despite their (read, my) many flaws. This year, on Mondays in a small way, I think I got to watch and participate in and be changed by what He was doing through the Word in my living room. And dang, I am grateful.
Walk boldly friends, into the places and with the people the Lord has given you vision for. It’s a gift and a joy to see the ways He is making all things new. Speaking of, the song “New Wine” by Hillsong has been a beautiful ongoing conversation this year between me and God. You should give it a listen.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:1-5
Thank you for being one of the best yet. Thank you for allowing me to pursue myself, to pursue passion, to pursue learning, to pursue adventure, and above all to pursue Jesus and the plans He has for me. It’s been so good.
2018: you’ve got a lot to live up to…somehow I’m believing you’ll be even better.
So here’s to you, 2017, with all your jumbled joy and challenge. Thanks for being:
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.
So many drafts saved, so few posts published! The saga continues with the tension of this internet space, as I discover more and more about who God has created me to be, think about how to express my thoughts, figure out what I want to share here and ponder what, if any, my influence is through writing. It’s a fun journey but one that sometimes means not much actually makes its way past a draft!! To make up for it, here’s a reallllly long one with lots of pretty pictures!
Anyyyyyway. If you follow me on social media or know me in real life, you probably know that I went on a little adventure last month to a place I’d never been before – Guatemala! Wahoo! This was my first time in Latin America as a “backpacker” (LOL) since previously I’ve visited with my family but stayed mostly on the resorts, hanging out on the beaches. This was a very different experience! I also got to travel with one of my best friends and we had just the most fun time. Fair warning, this post may just be a jumble of photos and little stories!
That said, there is something very unique about international travel that I simply love. I love the process of going from one place to another, the fact that I can sit down in this mental tube and a few hours later be someplace totally different. I love, love, love the process of planning and dreaming, only to find myself totally winging it when I get there. I love meeting people I don’t interact with in my everyday life whether that means locals or other backpackers. I love the tension and being kept on my toes and having everything just be a little out of my hands. I love trying to practice new languages (I got out a little easy this time because Nick’s Spanish is a lot better than mine and he bailed me out a bit hehe!)
Not to mention, the world is crazy beautiful.
Suffice to say, Iceland lit a fire under my feet and had me checking flight prices all winter and spring. After a while, I realized that my cheapest option was probably going to be Guatemala. So I started telling all my friends that I was going and that they were invited. Some people showed interest, a couple seriously. Eventually my dear friend Nick agreed to come along and we booked flights. Over the next couple months we laughed often about the fact that we were ACTUALLY going to go.
So here’s 10 things I learned over reading week in Guatemala:
You can be as careful as you like, but you still might get sick. Nick and I were pretty careful about where and what we ate and drank because we had heard that lots of people get sick while in Guatemala (and developing countries in general) but OF COURSE, the day we were supposed to go hiking, we both ended up really sick with some kind of brutal stomach bug or food poisoning. It had us out for the count for a full day/day and a half and didn’t fully go away until more than a week after we’d been home. I actually got it worse a second time after we were home and had to take antibiotics. All that to say a) you can’t control these things and b) you can’t be bitter about it and let it ruin your whole trip. I did warn Nick on day 1 that if anything bad could happen, it would surely happen to me/us. Y’all know the deal #samproblems
2. Travelling with a friend is very different than travelling alone. Not better or worse, just different. When I went to Iceland, I loved that I was totally in control of my own time and that I was only responsible for myself. Travelling with Nick, I suddenly was aware that all my decisions had to work for another person too! There was some tension with that because I had planned most of our trip and felt responsible for whether or not Nick had fun. At the same time, he is an adult and can take of himself. So it was interesting to figure out how to balance those things and how to travel together and how to let each other do their own thing but also be together most of the time. At the end of our trip we had a really good talk about communication and sharing planning responsibilities and how to learn from this trip for future adventures together!
Also, I noticed that I am more chill of a traveller than maybe I realized? I don’t really stress and stay pretty calm in situations that could become concerning and even though I knew that about myself, it was interesting to…notice I guess, what others find stressful about travel. Nick noticed things that I didn’t even think to be concerned about and it was good for both of us to balance each other out in that way because it forced me to consider things more carefully and question my assumptions and I encouraged him to relax a bit. On the flip side (this is going to sound very contradictory), I think I am still a pretty cautious traveller. Like I said, it’s a balance. I don’t act rashly but I also don’t worry once I have made a decision.
Overall, it was super nice to have someone with me along the way, especially since Nick is one of my best friends and he and I haven’t gotten much one on one time since moving out of residence in first year so our time together was really precious to me!
3. “Dangerous” is a relative term and a little common sense can go a long way. Speaking of stress or fear or danger and using common sense, I think it’s worth noting that I never felt unsafe in Guatemala. Before we went, several people voiced concern for us because statistically, Guat has high levels of crime. However that is mostly gang related and concentrated in the capital where we did not stay. There was one situation in a taxi where Nick thought we were potentially in danger but that was more due to a miscommunication in Spanish than anything else and everything ended up being ok. One other time, we were told a particular hike was unsafe unless in larger groups due to reports of tourists being mugged which, just that stipulation made me a little nervous. But honestly, we never felt like we were in particularly dangerous place. On our part, we took some precautions like not wandering around at night or flaunting expensive things around. In general we found Guatemalans to be very welcoming people who were open to sharing their culture (although sometimes they were pushy sales people lol)
4. A week isn’t long enough to appreciate the complexity of a countries history, politics and culture. Honestly, I have little to say about this except to say that I regret not learning more about Guatemala’s history before I went, that I really loved how present and prevalent the Indigenous culture still was and that I am constantly amazed by my own ignorance to other countries’ political climates, even though I am studying international development. I have so much to learn.
5. On that note, I’m still learning how studying development shapes my world view. I felt uncomfortable by how many people assumed my trip to Guatemala was to volunteer or do some kind of development work. Aside from the fact that I am still working through how I feel about “voluntourism”, the comments also felt a little accusative, as if my chosen field of study disallows me from travelling in the developing world for my own enjoyment. Yet, in a strange way, it does. Because of my education, I see things differently. I found myself hyper aware of my privilege as a visitor, painfully aware of my relative wealth. Although I am all for tourism because it is a source of income for many people, it’s impossible to visit Guatemala and not see the inequalities, the lack of drinkable water, the poverty.
Yet, as a student of development, I was ALSO really interested in the efforts I saw being made towards empowerment – Indigenous owned coffee companies, a newly opened restaurant that was part of a women’s co-op and vocational school, Spanish schools that teach the language through politics and education on colonial history. I could see small projects and changes happening. On my end, I am constantly learning and travel is just a small part of that. Even though this was a vacation and not an experiential learning opportunity, my education has changed the lens with which I travel and it continues to challenge the way I think and look at the world.
P.s. Like I said I have a lot of mixed feelings but a definition of voluntourism I would feel comfortable with would definitely involve way more awareness and knowledge of Guat than I had and would require longer term investment than one week – but that’s for another blog post.
6. Try to speak the local language. Just try a little. In Guatemala, you kind of had to know at least some Spanish. Although, in the villages, Spanish was actually the second language for many people who spoke one of 20+ Indigenous languages as a mother tongue! Although my speaking isn’t all that great, my comprehension in Spanish is ok and because of that, I got to barter and chat and hear bits of people’s stories – my favourite was talking to our taxi driver about swimming, a favourite activity we both shared. P.s. shout out to Nick for his Spanish skills saving me when I floundered 2 out of 3 times.
7. Backpacker culture is different in different parts of the world. Previously when I’ve stayed in hostels I have found it easy to make friends and fit into the backpacker culture. In Guatemala I found it more difficult to “fit in”. Many people I spoke to had very different perceptions than I do of what traveling looks like, what it’s purpose is and why one should do it. Although I love talking to people with different points of view, I found the backpacking culture in Guat to be a little toooooo “go with the flow” for me. Not that being flexible is bad but everyone I talked to seemed to be traveling indefinitely, with no plans and no purpose, to the point where some of them were rather rude about the fact that Nick and I were in school – because in their mind, school couldn’t possibly be about anything other than conforming to societal expectations. Along with this, I found many of them didn’t seem to understand that their ability to travel in this manner is not a way of fighting back against the capitalist societal norms but actually a result of their Western privilege – hanging out at a hostel for months on end means you are wealthy enough to travel and CHOOSE an alternative to the corporate world. I don’t mean this as a judgement or to paint all Central American backpackers in a bad light because obviously there are many types of people who travel for various reasons, it was just an overall attitude difference than what I have seen other places. That said, Nick and I did of course meet some really interesting people, from a new friend from Colombia to a group Irish girls on their grad trip to a really cool German couple and an older woman on a spiritual journey. Travel always, always, always opens my mind to the diversity of people.
8. 20 is apparently still too young to be travelling. When I was 19 in Iceland I was “just a baby”. Apparently going to Guatemala at 20 still warrants “awww”s and disbelief that young people can take airplanes without adult supervision
9. Splurge on some activities but don’t forget that just being present in a new environment is an amazing way to spend time. I absolutely adored going zip lining in a National Park and I am so glad we spent a day in Chichi at the largest market in Central America. But my favourite memory from our trip is when one morning we got up and went swimming in the volcanic lake. Here’s a little blurb I wrote in my journal that day:
“This morning when I got up, I looked out and saw nothing but trees. With only two walls and no electricity, our hostel room feels more like a secret club house than a bedroom. I got up and wandered down to the lake where the sky was clear and the tops of the volcanoes were visible, towering on the other side of the lake. Carefully picking my way along the boardwalk, I went to a quiet swimming place and jumped in, the clear, cold water enveloping me and then buoying me back up to the surface. As I turned back to shore, I can hardly believe my eyes. Mountains reach up and up, covered in lush, dense jungle and spotted with coloured houses. Around the summits, fog swirls. Nick and I keep laughing because it honestly feels like we must be in a movie, it’s just so beautiful.”
The sheer joy of being a new place, seeing beauty I had never seen before, floating in blue water and laughing with my friend is a wonderful as any activity I could have planned. When travelling, make sure to take time to just be present in the place.
10. Travel always revives my sense of wonder and reminds me of God’s glory and creativity. Wow, wow, wow you guys. Guatemala is seriously incredible! And it just makes me want to see other places all the more. Seeing natural beauty and diversity always just makes me want to draw close to the Lord and praise Him for all He has created and blessed me with. One morning when I couldn’t sleep because I was sick, I went down and sat on a dock around 4am and sang worship songs as the sun rose up from behind the volcanos ringing the lake. It’s as beautiful as it sounds. Traveling around and exploring Guatemala revived my child-like sense of wonder and made me grateful all over again for the world God created.
SO that’s about all I’ve got for now I think. I guess I had quite a bit to say! I’m just so grateful for the opportunities I have to explore and live life to the fullest. Thanks as always for reading, for putting up with my ramblings and for following me along on this ever changing, ever challenging, ever exciting and ever grander adventure.
Have you ever tried to write an essay without brainstorming first? Just started writing with the hope that your thesis will magically refine itself as you spew nonsensical and unrelated facts? In my experience this is usually a late night, last minute, coffee fuelled approach to assignments. Sometimes it works out okay but the papers are NEVER as thoughtful, articulate and compelling as the ones I spend (literally) weeks researching, mind mapping, discussing, and reworking. The university paper I’ve been most proud of was one where I changed my thesis several times, discussed it with my professor and made all kinds of examples and connections that helped me understand the topic better, even if they didn’t end up in the finished project. Well put together papers take time…and I need to have an outline to know where I am going.
I find that New Year’s resolutions are too often of the former approach. We frantically make them, (often too many of them) without actually considering how we are going to make them fit together. How are we going to actually make it from the opening paragraph (January) and effectively bring them to life and expand them throughout the body of the year, wrapping them up in December in a way that is still connected? And with no grades on the line like there is in school, how do we make sure we actually finish the “2017 paper” rather than having it be left unfinished like so many other years aspirations?
As with a paper for a class, our goals for a new year need to have a theme. Something that ties them together, a theme, a thesis so to speak. That’s how I see the “one word” new years goals. The theme is looked at from different angles every day but it weaves it’s way all the way through, tying the year together from start to finish. Anyone who has been keeping up with my blog for a while would know that for the past few years I have chosen a word of the year. Previous words have included renew, courageous, and then last year still. I guess choose is not quite the right word…it’s actually a process of prayer and really asking God what HE wants this year to look like and what HIS plan is. I can make all the resolutions I want but at the end of the day I know that God’s plan is better than anything I could come up with – and He is faithful with what He promises!
That said, I actually knew my 2017 word way back in November…at least I thought I did. I was having a pretty rough semester of school and although it really did force me to be still and draw close to the Lord, it was also a season of frustration and questioning. Anyway, I think one day God just decided to take pity on me and give me some hope for the new year.
One night as I was journalling I ended up drawing a campfire (guys I do NOT draw lol) and writing under it “Lord make my heart outshine my beauty. Set sparks that will flourish into fire”. I really felt that that was a promise God was making to me; that 2017 would be a year of sparks and flourishing. Ya’ll sparks are LITERALLY hot. I associate them with excitement and fresh starts and fiery, confident growth. They START something that builds and builds into fire that can’t be contained. They are small but mighty. They can float away into the night, lost forever OR they can be fanned into something that can be seen from miles around. Guys, I was STOKED (get it?) that this was the word God was giving me for the new year. Especially after being “still” for a year…yes, lots of growth and intimacy with God but like hello 2017.
“See I am doing a NEW thing! Now it springs up, do you not see it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert” – Isaiah 43:19
So I’m all excited right? You know, I’ve got my theme for the year. It’s January 1st, I’m in church and praising and I’m all pumped for the new year and (I’m so sorry Pastor Jay) I’m not listening to the message at all because I’m just thinking about what kinds of exciting opportunities God’s going to give me this year. And then I start thinking about the phrase “she will run through fields of harvest” which is a poster I have on my wall in Ottawa and I’m thinking about how in order to reap a harvest you need to cultivate the crops yada, yada, yada. So the word “cultivate” just keeps running circles in my brain. I’m sitting there panicking and HOPING that God is not trying to change the word on me hahaha. Sparks sound exciting, cultivating sounds like WORK! But I really opened my heart and prayed about whether I was supposed to be focusing on the word cultivate instead.
I slowly began to realize that God wasn’t changing the word…He was ADDING to it. He can give me all the sparks I want. But like I said, sparks can fly away into the night, never to be seen again. Fires take time to build. It takes effort and patience. God was promising me sparks but He was also CALLING me to cultivate them.
Cultivate (transitive verb)
2. To improve by labour, care or study: refine.
3. Further, encourage.
So yeah, it will be work. But anything worth having takes work
SPARKS!!! TO CULTIVATE INTO FLAME!! Ya’ll this is exciting. I know this started as a boring analogy about thesis’ and essays but it made sense in my head. My word(s) of 2017 are now not JUST a theme but a thesis. They have a purpose that I can run with, expand, and discover. I am filled with so much hope for this year and all that it will bring!
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gifts of God…” – 1st Timothy 1:6
May 2017 be a year of passion, of friendship, of growth and of hope, of curiosity and of cultivation. Let’s do this friends.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
If you fall into a river in the middle of May… get back up and do it again??
That’s right, I was still smiling after 2 dunks in the aptly named Black River on a cloudy May 10th. Following my Switerland post titled “Today, I Fell Down A Mountain“, are we really surprised here? I was not, although I did feel bad for taking my bow paddler Lauren down with me…sorry gf! Honestly though, no one in my life is surprised at this point when absolutely ridiculous things happen to me. And if I’m honest, I kind of love it. I’m really grateful that God gives me so many funny little quirky stories to tell. It keeps me always on my toes, that’s for sure!!
Here’s the thing: those couple slips aside, I had an amazing experience at tripper training. I got a whack load of certifications, made new friends, and spent time with already good friends against the beautiful backdrop of Georgian Bay. I found it challenging to an extent; canoeing isn’t exactly my strongest camp skill. (I was always a sailor when I was a camper.) In fact, until this month, I’d never taken canoeing in any formal setting. Add that to the fact that most of the other participants on the trip had wayyyy more experience in tripping, you could say I was a bit intimidated. Here’s some things I learned from my week in the wilderness, as I worked towards becoming “Tripper Sam”!
Everyone starts somewhere. It was my first time taking any kind of formal canoeing and yet I was putting so much pressure on myself to be perfect, to be as good as everyone around me. But I was just starting out! All the others had already spent the time perfecting their strokes; they had put the work in. I had to focus on the fact that I was learning every hour I spent in that canoe, rather than on trying to measure up.
On the flip side, don’t make excuses, make opportunities to get better. Although I didn’t have a lot of experience, I wasn’t going to let that stop me or intimidate me; I tried to not make excuses. Instead, I took every opportunity to get better. I sterned (steered) the boat every chance I got. I tried solo carrying canoes on almost every portage. I volunteered to do tasks around camp that I wasn’t really sure I could do, like helping to set up tarps. I learn best by doing, so it was a great opportunity for me! Also, I asked approximately a million questions. About everything. At all hours of the day. Hey, I was trying to glean all I could- from the incredibly knowledgable instructors we had and my peers!
On that note; everyone has something to offer. This is such an important part of a safe and fun trip but it’s also just important in life. In this case, I was pretty good at tying knots. Guess all that sailing paid off! It may seem like a little thing, but I was able to contribute to the group by helping to teach different knots. I also really enjoy cooking on trip so I helped out by being sous-chef for the leaders of the meal. Someone has to cut those peppers! Meanwhile, someone else had to go over navigation and compass use with me. And Lauren had to be patient with me on the river in the rapids. We all learned from each other in some way or another over the week and it was really cool to see everyone step up and take charge in their own way.
Confidence goes a long way! Don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself by trying something new. Laughing off mistakes is the best way to handle them…trust me, I would know by now. Sometimes, you just gotta fake it ’till you make it. A big part of our trip leading certification was being confident. As a leader, sometimes you have to make decisions and just be confident in your own skills. Trust yourself, trust your team, and be willing to make mistakes when the risk is low so that when you’re in a real situation, you’ve already applied your training and are therefore more likely to make the right judgement call.
When it comes down to it, sometimes you just have to get back on the horse…or back in the canoe! My two dips in the river happened on the very first day of a week and a half of training, during the 1st of 5 courses. It would have been pretty easy to get discouraged. I’m not going to lie, heading out to day 2 was rough. I was feeling so defeated from the day before and let me tell you, a 7am start, combined with spilling your breakfast all over yourself (in typical Sam fashion) and then putting on an already wet wetsuit is not exactly a morale booster. However, once I got out there I firmly decided that it was a new day, that I wasn’t going to let anything stand in my way of learning. Fear of failure only makes failure a more real possibility. And guess what? That Sunday on the river was probably the most fun I had in the entire week. Once we started to get a hang out it, running the rapids was SO SICK. Like for real, you should try it. In fact, I’m hoping to take my 2nd white water level at some point soon. What a change from day 1! Even our instructor (who is basically the most impressive canoeist I have ever seen in my life, Marty you are a Jedi) was impressed by my come-back. And I let THAT experience set the precedent for the rest of my week, not the first. Now, I am SO looking forward to being able to take my leadership to Temagami! Can you say dream come true??
Last summer, I started talking about wanting to be a tripper and my campers, as well as some of my fellow staff, started jokingly calling me “Tripper Sam”. While “tripper” may not be my actual job title this summer, and I still need to log some more experience before I get fully certified, I am proud to have kind of accomplished that goal for myself. Thanks to those friends for believing in me before I did! Also, shout-out to the trip team – you guys were so so fun to paddle with, laugh with and learn with.
Tripper Sam, at your service
The trip crew – selfie curtsey of Grant
By the way, thanks to any of ya’ll who read this funny little blog on the regular. It may be messy and silly and often irrelevant but it’s my little pet project and I so, so appreciate any of you who take time out of your day to read my thoughts…wow, what an honour!! Thank you dear friends for joining me on my (not so) grand adventures through everyday life.
Until next time, Sam
P.s. Guys. Can we just take in how incredibly beautiful the world God created is? Like holy cow. Several times I made a point to wander off so I could sit by myself and just breath in creation. Get out of the city friends, it’s so so worth it. You’ll never feel more alive than when you watch a sunset beside a set of rapids while eating a dinner that was cooked over the fire.