Morning Rhythms

This morning I was up before the sun.

A static melody fills my room as the radio alarm clicks on at “5am” which is really more like 4:50 since all my clocks are set ahead; my chronic lateness needs all the help it can get to make me be on time for something, anything.

Even though I want to snuggle down into the covers and wrap myself in the cozy denim coloured jersey sheets, I force myself to put my feet on the ground before I think twice. Half asleep, I hit boil on the already filled kettle and scoop this morning’s caffeinated drink – vanilla matcha – into a wide mug I need both hands to hold. Almost on auto-pilot I brush my hair, get dressed and gather my things for the day. Before 5:30, I am out the door, green drink in one hand, grey bible in the other. I head for the common room.

I spend the next hour or so sitting in front of the window. I journal while music quietly plays and sip my drink while reading about this week’s “spiritual discipline” of choice – gratitude. I pray and ask God to meet me, to teach me, to change me, to grow me, as I open the Word and read the Psalms. I am almost brought to tears by the beauty and emotion of the Bible’s poets. I praise the Lord for the truths I read: that He is my refugee, that He alone gives peace, that I ask and He answers, that He is angry without sin, that He delights in me, that He gives joy in the darkness. I do not feel the tiredness in my body any more. You could argue that it is the matcha kicking in but I can feel the Holy Spirit filling me with so much excitement about being alive. I ask for forgiveness for the times this week I spoke in anger, for the times I was lazy or selfish or unkind or prideful. I ask the Holy Spirit to be with me through my busy day.

I practice gratitude all the way to work. I realize that for the first time this year I can hear birds chirping in the tree on the Leblanc front lawn and think, “what a gift that is to me!” I watch pink streaks wind their way through the sky and smile to myself as I step into puddles. Whether or not it lasts, this morning feels like spring and I am grateful to be alive.

I talk to God about how much I love writing and getting to know people. I pray about the book I want to someday write and the blogs I have in the back of my head. I thank Jesus for the plans He has for me today, tomorrow, this summer and six years from now and day dream about all the countries I will visit soon. I remember my last year’s trip to Iceland and am thankful all over again for a God who fulfills the desires of my heart. I remember how I prayed last August that I would be able to find a non-profit to do co-op at this winter. I walk through the downtown core of the city I so love and cherish on my way to the job that is everything I asked God for, and more. Like the bonus of having Friday’s off to accomplish tasks for my many other commitments. I thank God that He actually does give me more than I can handle but never more than He can handle; I am grateful I have to rely on Him and not my own stubbornness and pride.

I pray for friends near and far. I pray for people I do not call friend. I pray in French and thank God for language and rain and my residents and for being a God who is “tu” and not “vous”. I stop and buy a tea. I tell the women behind the cash how grateful I am that she got up early to serve me this morning.

I get to work 20 minutes early. I sit and talk with my co-workers about how beautiful long-lasting friendships are and I think about how excited I am to catch up with my best friend on the phone tonight. What a blessing it is to have technology to keep in touch.

I sip my tea. I start up my computer. I make my to-do list. I get to work.

I gave up sleeping in for Lent and it is not easy to resist the snooze button. Sometimes I mess up, like last Friday when I convinced 3 friends to meet me on campus at 7 for prayer and then I slept through the alarm and missed it. 5am comes oh so early. But a 5am start to my day means I have time to meet with Jesus and focus my day on the Lord before the busyness of everything else kicks in and more and more I am finding beauty in this rhythm. I am truly giving God the first of my time and getting His view on my day long before the stress of work or obligations kick in. At 5am, there is nothing I need to do but sit in the presence of the Lord.

Morning rhythms, quiet cups of tea, birds chirping. I get to pray and meet with the Creator while most of Creation sleeps. Wow, if that doesn’t help me cultivate gratitude, I don’t know what will. I am so thankful for the life I get to live.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” – Mark 1:35

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God > Grades

Never have I ever written as much as I did this past semester for university. I’m not sure if it’s a 3rd year thing or just that I was lucky enough to have professors who loved written assessments but holy cow, my fingers hurt just thinking about all the typing I did! Counting only pieces that were 8+ pages, I wrote 9 academic papers this semester. Huh, when I see that number it actually doesn’t seem like that many but let me tell you, it felt like a million.

The last week of classes was, in particular,  rather brutal. In the span of 9 days, I had 3 final exams, an Arabic oral presentation and 4 papers due. I barely slept and I should have been stressed out of my mind. Shocking everyone, myself included, I was incredibly calm and focused. In comparison to last fall, in which I spent most of the exam period alternating between crying from stress and talking about how stressed I was to anyone who would listen, this semester I felt like I had everything under control, despite the overwhelming amount of work I had. I think the sheer volume of what I had to do actually helped because I felt like just finishing it would be an accompaniment, regardless of the grade that I achieved.

However, the most incredible thing I realized this finals season is just how much my perspective on grades and exam stress has changed since first year. As crazy as it might sound to those of you who don’t share my faith, I had this incredible sense of peace during exams (and really all semester) that God had this. That didn’t necessarily mean I was going to get As in all my classes but this was the first time in school that I genuinely, deep down in my soul, knew that my grades do not define me. That my best was enough, whether that meant I lost my scholarship or if it meant I got straight As, I knew I would be silly to think that something as little as getting a C+ in Arabic or failing a Statistics exam could possibly derail God’s plan for my life.

God is the Creator of the universe. He designed the tallest mountains and the deepest depths of the sea. He crafted the world’s most precise intricacies and set in motion the laws of nature. He imagined every language before any human tongue spoke it and ordered the world with incredible attention to detail. And most amazingly, I too am part of His grand, elaborate, creative and perfect design. Wow! Because of that, I am inherently enough. I was created enough.

I’ve known this in my head for years. But last year there was a time when I had to confront myself and ask “am I trusting God with school because I trust Him or because it keeps working out fine in the end? If I actually failed a class  or an assignment would I still trust Him with it and say that He is good?”. I was about to find out. I had a take home final due in my International Relations Class (which had been killing me all semester) and I had spent about 17 of the last 24 hours writing the final. I was doing OK in the class, but not great and definitely not as well as I wished I was. Finally handing in that paper felt so freeing; it was finally over, after much stress and striving.

Then I got home. A friend was going to come over before church and I was scrambling to clean my persistently messy room when I picked up a piece of paper and saw that it was one of the pages of my assignment. It had slipped off the printer and because the cover page had been there, I had just stapled the assignment and handed in, with about 500 words missing. Cue instant nausea and hysteria. God bless my poor friend Jon who showed up to my door to me sobbing and running around my room in a panic, trying to call my professor’s office, which was now closed. I tried to calm down and then Jon and I prayed for favour with my professor and TA and I emailed them both the electronic version of my paper, explaining what had happened.

As we headed to church, I was trying so hard to let it go and trust that God would make it all work together for good but I just couldn’t. I was furious with myself for not being more careful. I was mad that this class was, yet again, stressing me out. And to be perfectly honest, I was mad at God. Here I am, in university, trying to honour the opportunity I had been given to get an education, trying to do what I felt God had called me to be doing in this season of life and He, in all His power, couldn’t make sure I handed my paper in right?! Sounds silly I know but I’m sure we’ve all been there with anger that makes absurd accusations regardless of their truth. Thankfully Jesus is used to taking the ugliest parts of my human nature and drawing me closer to himself with patience, love and grace. 

We got to church just as I received an email from my professor telling me that she would not be including the missing page and that my assignment would be marked as it had been handed in. Of course, I start sobbing again and go hide alone at the back of the church. I spent the entire service in angry, crying prayer. Y’all probably think I am so dramatic and honestly, I knew I was being dramatic too. I kept telling myself it was just a paper, that it was just one class, that it wasn’t life or death but I was so distraught.

That’s when God really started getting deep into the heart of it all. Why did this academic setback send me spiralling so hard? Why did I feel like such a failure?

Even though I could say that my identity is found in who God says I am, was it really true? That afternoon, God softened my heart, drew me close in his presence and reminded me who I am. I am not an incomplete IR paper. I am not my transcript.  I am a daughter of the Highest King. I am chosen, set free and redeemed. There are plans for my life that will go beyond my wildest dreams if I am willing to give the reins over to the Lord. I had to level with God and admit that I had been idolizing academic success, for a long time. I had placed what my uOzone grade report said above what God himself said about me.

It was a hard lesson and it didn’t end that day. Last December as I headed home for Christmas I was utterly exhausted. I had had the worst four months of my entire life. Academically, personally, professionally. It had all been difficult. I was tired. So tired. My best friend and I sat in a parking lot one day and just yelled and laughed at how absurdly terrible our fall semesters had been. But then we talked about how good God is through those hard seasons.

I walked into my second semester and 2017 feeling more grounded in God’s word than ever before. I had learned what is means to hide myself in Him and His promises. I’ll be writing about 2017 year soon but for now, let me just tell you that it was been one full of grace, full of hard lessons and more anger at God and more running towards him all the same. It has been a year of growth and change and dreaming and hope. So much hope. We are so lucky to get to life this life, complete with all it’s joy and challenge.

So, who can stop the Lord Almighty? Not me and certainly not my grades. I am enough. I am worthy of the plans he has for my life because He created me, Jesus redeemed my life and I choose to value that above all else. That doesn’t mean I don’t try my very best at school – on the contrary, I believe my education is one of the biggest blessing I have been given and I want to steward it well. What it means is that I am free to do my best and have that be enough. I am free to hand things in and sleep in peace knowing that my world will not fall apart, regardless of what grade I get back. It means walking out of exams and not feeling like I’m going to melt in a puddle of tears. It means going home at the end of semester and not feeling like I just climbed into a lifeboat. Because I wasn’t drowning in the first place.

Trust God, friends. Rest in the knowledge that your best is enough. You are enough.

Until next time, Sam

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You Guat’a be kidding me

Hey there my friends! How is everyone?

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!

Last year I decided to stop talking and writing so much about desiring adventure and travel and just friggin’ do it. I went to Iceland by myself and it was a really freeing and wonderful experience that I think helped me grow a lot as a person. It’s that “shut up and go” attitude that I’ve tried to carry over into my everyday life since then, from spontaneous weekend trips to Montreal, to canoeing in new places, to trying out a new hobby, to “adventuring” in my own city to find new places to study and explore.

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.

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Friend!! He put up with me being bossy and sick and bad at Spanish for a whole week! What a guy!!

So here’s 10 things I learned over reading week in Guatemala:

  1. 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

 

 

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A real-life view of what travel sometimes looks like #dying

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

Until next time,

Sam

Praise and Puddle Jumping

Rain is often seen as a negative weather phenomenon. Something that ruins plans, keeps people inside and destroys things that weren’t supposed to get wet. It’s dreary and miserable and people pray for the sun to come out again.

Yet for me, so many times in my life, the rain has been a sign from God that He is doing something GOOD. I look back and the amount of times I was caught in the rain, only to have God grab hold of my grouchy attitude and teach me something beautiful are too many to count.

When I used to a camp counsellor, rainy days were dreaded, especially when they came back to back with no end in sight. It meant cancelled programs and sitting inside face to face with 10 little girls expecting to be entertained for hours on end. Let me tell you, there is only so many bunk bed forts and games of “Werewolf” a girl can take! One day, I was walking back from a staff meeting, rain boots on, head down to keep the droplets of rain out of my eyes. I was annoyed because skills were cancelled and I knew my sailing students were going to be behind, maybe even fail the class if the rain didn’t let up soon. Just as I turned the corner to my cabin I heard laughter and shrieking. Crossing my fingers that no one was hurt, I saw my campers, 13 years old at the time, jumping up and down in their bathing suits and barefoot, kicking up water and sticking their tongues out at each other. Almost on it’s own accord, my face broke out into a smile. I couldn’t even remember the amount of time’s I’d gone and stood in the pouring rain on the warm sidewalk in my home town, dancing and laughing as the puddles grew around my ankles. So much fun! Instead of hiding inside, my girls and I spent at least an hour, running around in the rain. We were the only ones out and there was so much joy and fun to be found when we stopped fighting what seemed like bad luck and started making it work for us.

Another time I went for a walk around the city with a couple of friends. It was our first week back from summer vacation and we walked and walked and talked for hours, catching up on everything we had missed. On the way home, we wandered past Parliament, where our country’s government sits. Suddenly the rain came DOWN. There was no escaping it. Even if we had wanted to go inside, there was nowhere to go. We starting laughing and running around, kicking water at each other, holding hands and turning our face towards the sky and letting the rain pelt our faces. I’ll never forget the beauty and pure joy of that night.

And once, just a couple of weeks ago, I got lost after taking the wrong bus. It was absolutely pouring rain and I was so far from where I needed to be. I angrily got off the bus, and started walking. Soon enough, my jeans were soaked through and there was no point even trying to stay dry. I pulled my hood back and stared at the sky. I was not happy. And yet, I felt a small voice inside tell me to start praising the Lord. Although I was walking down a street in a major city, no one else was around. I started singing the first worship song that came to my head, hesitantly at first and then really giving it, praising God with all I had as the rain pooled on the sidewalk, filling my running shoes and making mascara run down my cheeks. It was one of the most beautiful and intimate moments I had had with God in a long time.

As I walked home that night, I heard God’s voice reminding me of truths I have known for years but seemed to have forgotten in the chaos that is university. He reminded me that I am called to praise him through all circumstances. He reminded me that there is beauty in ugly things, in endings and in struggles and in rain. He reminded me that rain will always end, the sun will come. But he also reminded me that I do not have to hide. Rain will not melt me. Neither will the rainy seasons of life. If we choose to praise through the gray seasons of life, how much more quickly they will pass!

Someone I went to high school with died a couple of weeks ago at 19. I don’t know how many more days God will give me on this earth but I yearn to fill each one of them with joy and adventure. I will not risk being kept inside by rain. I will not give up mountain climbing, but I might get there by puddle jumping. And I’m telling you, splashing and dancing in the rain really is fun.

Now, as I sit in the sunroom at the back of my apartment, I listen to the rain fall and the thunder roll. God is quietly reminding me that He made me to be a storyteller and a writer and that I have neglected that dream to follow others. I hope to make a place here, on this blog to dream, encourage, write, praise, pray, and learn. I pray that I continue to pursue being more Christ-like and more Sam-like each and everyday.

After all, growth can only happen after it rains

-Until next time, Sam

(p.s. I listened to the Wanted On Voyage album by George Ezra while I wrote this if you’d like to listen along <3)

 

Kill ’em with Kindness

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

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

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Random acts of kindness.

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

Recognize humanity. 

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

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

Lift people up; be an encourager

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

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

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

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

And sometimes, a hug doesn’t hurt either.

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

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

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

5 Things 1st Year Taught Me

Wow it’s been a while! It’s crazy how fast time goes when you’re writing papers 😉

Today I went to my last class of my first year. Sorry what?! That’s right, there are just 6 exams and 14 days between me and the end of my first year. Unbelievable! Honestly, I know that’s a pretty cliché topic to write about but I definitely learnt some things from first year that I figured I share with you guys in just a quick post (before I drown in exams).

Don’t go to class if you aren’t going to engage

In my opinion, there are three types of students when it comes to class attendance. The ones who don’t go at all, the ones who go and play on their phones/computer and chat with friends, and the ones who go and actually pay attention to what the prof is saying. To be straight up here, I have been all three of these students at some point in the year. But something I’ve learned is that I would rather skip class than go and fool around. Why waste my time sitting in a lecture hall flipping through Facebook? I’m not learning anything and if that’s the case, I’d rather be sleeping. Just being in the room doesn’t mean you’re learning. If you’re taking the time out of your day to show up (and you should be), commit to it fully. Listen, process and absorb what the prof is lecturing on. Take notes, ask questions if need be and take advantage of the education you’re paying thousands of dollars for.

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Economics is soon not my strong suit and yet, here I am.

It’s easy to get involved if you’re willing to step out of your “comfort zone”

I mentioned in another post that I had sent out a ton of emails looking for a volunteer placement. Not being involved first semester was literally painful because I spent all of high school juggling all kinds of clubs and commitments and I love being busy. But this is the thing. There are so many opportunities in university if you’re willing to try new things. I’m actually typing this while I’m on shift waiting for a call to come in at Foot Patrol, the campus accompaniment service I volunteer with. I’ve spent the last couple months teaching English to Syrian refugee kids and it’s consistently been the highlight of my week. I was a (sporadic) member of a Bible study, the floor rep for my floor in residence, a player on a dodgeball team and when I had time I practiced with my school’s competitive lifeguard team. Are any of those activities I did in high school? Aside from Bible study, nope. But once I started putting myself out there, opportunities popped up everywhere I looked. Getting involved has made my first year richer; I’ve gotten to meet people in all years and all programs, having conversations with all kinds of unique people.

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A photo display I put together for our floor’s end of the year party. So many great memories!

Be spontaneous

Some of my best memories of this year have come from someone saying “Hey does anyone want to…” and then just going and doing whatever it is. Go for a walk at midnight with your friends. Show up to an event you know nothing about and participate in it. Visit a museum. Go into the little coffee shops and the strange little purple thrift shops. Buy a fish, build a fort, sleep in a tipi, have a snowball fight, sit and talk to a stranger. I don’t know what it is it but do it! Studying is important but sometimes it can wait; learn to say yes to the random, crazy, (safe), adventures that pop up.

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I loved getting to explore my new city this year

Take a risk. 

This is similar to the last point but this is a more serious note. Do the things you don’t think you can do. Being in immersion and having come from Core French is super intimidating! The amount of times I’ve hesitated to speak French this year is seriously ridiculous. And yet, when I went to my first bilingual interview, not only did I get the job but the French portion was actually my strongest part! There were so many things I turned down this year because “I’m not bilingual” or “My French isn’t good enough” and I’ll never know how many friendships and experiences I missed out on because of it. French may mean anything to you but we all make excuses for why we refuse to try something. So go for it, stop making excuses and try things you don’t know if you can do. If you succeed you’ll prove yourself wrong, and if you fail you’ll gain experience that will help you succeed the next time. You have NOTHING to lose. 

 

 

Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, you can do it.

Let’s be real. University is freaking hard. It is so not a walk in the park. At least, it hasn’t been for me. The sheer volume of work I had looming over my head 24/7 was overwhelming to say the least. But I did it . Not only have I survived but I’ve actually thrived in my new academic environment. I took classes in French for the first time, I got a GPA that I had convinced myself was impossible, I declared a minor, started learning a new language, wrote countless papers, aced tests and wrote others that did not go so well. I pulled all nighters and cried once or twice (or a lot). I had profs that I respected and looked up to, profs that were totally insane and profs that told me I had impressed them.

A couple of times, especially in first semester, I remember sitting at my desk and wondering how on earth it was humanly possible to get a university degree. Like how do people do this for 4+ years??? And yet here I am, very nearly having survived the year. It’s possible. Sometimes it’s hard. Other times I find myself furiously researching for a paper that I can’t wait to write because I am so passionate about the topic. You CAN do it. Just remember why you’re in the program you are in. Sometimes all you need to get through a week of hellish assignments is to remind yourself why you’re doing it, whether it be because you are fascinated by the intricacy and complexity of biology or because you want to work for the United Nations. Studying with a purpose makes it so much easier to get through.

I also have been really liking this Bible verse lately to give myself study motivation for exams. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:11

Obviously, school is hard work if you want to do well. But this verse reminds me and gives me hope that it will pay off and produce a harvest. University is meant to test you, train you and prepare you for the future. Although discipline is hard, it is the only way to see real progress. I learned this year that sometimes, I really do just have to sit down and plough through the stuff, whether I want to or not. The future pay off and reward will be greater than the temporary fun of procrastination.

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BONUS: Enjoy every minute of 1st year because it WILL be over before you know it

I’m sure you’ve noticed a recurring theme throughout all five of these points because if there is one thing I learned in first year it is to live in the moment, as cheesy as it sounds. Take advantage of all the time and opportunities you are given because this is life. Don’t wait to live it. I got so sick of listening to people complain about the dining hall or living in res or how they just want to move on to med school/law school/the rest of their lives. In high school you couldn’t wait to be here and now you can’t wait to leave? There are so many things to explore! We have to enjoy this time and glean all we can from it.

This year I spent 8 months learning. Not just in class, but in life and now, in just two short weeks, I’ll be moving out of my cosy little dorm room and headed off to a jam packed summer full of adventure. Crazy.

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My little nest

-Until next time, Sam ❤

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P.S. If you need some productive procrastination, check out this TedTalk on the subject, it’s pretty funny and also scarily accurate haha #thedarkplayground