Wild Fire Humility

They’ve said I should be a lawyer, because

I’m awfully good at talking.

A full steam ahead,

one track mind

and a stubborn heart,

an articulate tongue

and an eloquent argument.

I love a good debate and I’m full of ideas

that seem to make my brain a dam that will

inevitably break.

Yes,

this girl knows how to talk.

And yet, I am learning more and more

how to listen.

To quiet my soul,

to bite my wild fire tongue.

I am writing a new definition for

the word humility. (I keep my own dictionary

because I used to like to think

I know everything. )

Now, I pass my notebook around

and let other people add

their personal thoughts and commentaries.

Handwriting I can’t read in English,

let alone the addition of scripts

I have never learned. My definition becomes one

of many colours

and experiences that breathe the air

of every country in the world.

Each face I meet knows something I don’t

 

I am welcoming the taste of

the stones of ignorance that are harder to swallow than pride.

Welcoming the cold water shower that wakes me

from the sleepiness of my privilege.

I am opening my eyes wider than before.

I am tuning my ears to different channels.

I am engaging with people who ran on different train tracks

than my fast moving mind.

I am sitting down in the quiet with those who can’t stand up in the chaos.

I am letting humility be the fire running wild in my heart

 

Trust me,

I still love to talk.

But now,

I seek to expand my own definition

by also becoming a listener.

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Just some unedited ramblings from this soul under construction

Until next time,

-Sam ❤

Throwing it back

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.

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This is my “loving life” smile

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.

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Speaking of throwbacks, here’s one from when I was just starting to explore Ottawa last year

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.

Monday Morning

Grateful

I Found My New Favourite City

Nepal – Shaken not Shattered

A simple pause

I will remember

15 things I learned in 2015

Crossing Oceans

Like a Bird

5 Things 1st Year Taught Me

Shawarma dajaaj min fadlik – Reflections on learning Arabic

Adventures in tripping – a little flippin’ never hurt!

Leader-what?

Thanks for reading. Praying you’re having a great evening and that something I wrote may make you smile 🙂

Until next time,

-Sam ❤

Can I ask you a question?

Have you ever been in love?

For the past year or so, I’ve been (somewhat awkwardly) asking this question to friends, family and strangers alike, in an attempt to gain perspective on something that has been fascinating and baffling humans for as long as we’ve existed. It’s a topic that has been pondered in mythology, become a cliché in movies and been dreamed of by many.

My follow up question is always some variation of “Did it change you, teach you something or give you a new perspective?” Although these may seem like super inappropriate questions to ask perfect strangers, I don’t think we should ever avoid talking about life and our experiences with it, the good, the bad, the confusing, and the awkward. In fact, this little survey of mine has led to some of the most honest and interesting conversations I’ve ever had. Some people panic when I ask the question, some people are very open and happy to talk about it, some people kind of look at me weird but still answer, others get philosophical on me. Still other times, people totally shut me down and that’s cool too if they don’t want to get personal.

So what’s my point? I guess I ask because I feel like love is something that can never be clearly defined. It’s perceived by each of us differently. Personally, I know for a fact that I have experienced love but have never been “in” love. If I don’t have any “in” love experience to draw on and it doesn’t have a definition, my only way to learn more is by asking people. On the flip side, it’s not so much learning about love that is the purpose behind the question. What I’m really hoping for when I ask is to get a perspective on that person. Because love tends to be so personal, I feel like an individual’s thoughts about it can tell me so much about them. Sorry for being nosey friends, I just wanna get to know ya!

For real though, I wish more people went straight for the real questions. This habit arose out of pure desperation not to have the “What’s your name, major, home town, residence and favourite colour?” one more freaking time. Like, yes, cool, I’m glad that you’re from Toronto like every other person I’ve talked to today. Please, tell me something you’re passionate about or a person in your life that you really admire. Maybe it’s not “have you ever been in love” but I challenge you to ask a question this week that forces you to learn something real about a friend or a stranger. One of my other friends this week said that she likes to ask strangers on the bus what their favourite quote is and why. Sure you may never see that person again but hey, you made an effort to connect with another human!

THAT IS ALWAYS WORTH YOUR TIME.

Anyways, I’m not sure if this interests any of you, or if you just think I’m invasive and annoying but I’ve been learning a lot from asking the deep questions. Either way, I’m probably going to continue to talk about love with all. If you ever see me, let sit down and chat over coffee!

Love you all for taking time out of your day to listening to my ramblings. The adventure always continues.

Until next time, Sam

P.s. I’m living the island life at my camp for the summer so my blog appearances may be fairly sporadic for the next couple months. I’ll do my best though!

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Shawarma dajaaj min fadlik – Reflections on learning Arabic

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Homework

The first time I ordered shawarma in Arabic, I made sure to go by myself. I’d mentioned it before, as a joke, with a friend from class one night when we decided we desperately needed to go get some chickeny, garlic sausey deliousness. At the time, it had been just that, a joke, but as I sifted through my very limited Arabic vocabulary I realized I had all the words I needed to say “I want a small chicken shawarma with water please”. So I did it. I planned every syllable and still tripped over it.

The first time I spoke in Arabic spontaneously was when I was volunteering, teaching English to kids who had just arrived in Ottawa as refugees from Syria. I’d spent the last half hour trying to teach a table full of 6 year olds how to count and although they could write out the numbers and chant them out in order, I knew they weren’t making the connection with what “One, two, three, four…” actually meant. So I ran my finger down the page saying “Wahid, one. Ithnayn, two” etc. Their eyes lit up with understanding and they immediately starting babbling at me in Arabic. Obviously, I didn’t understand much but for the rest of the time I volunteered there, I would answer questions about my life in Arabic and get taught names of animals or foods by the kids.

I am one (school) year into learning this beautiful language and my life is already richer because of it. Often, when I get asked about my program I hesitate and wonder whether or not I should say my minor as well as my major. Partially because I don’t know if that’s something people do and partially because I know a lot of questions will follow haha.

The first question is usually why. There are so many reasons I chose to study Arabic but even I myself wasn’t sure if it was the right choice. I really considered taking Spanish again as my third language; I had studied and loved it in the past and knew that after 4 years I would be able to have a decent level of fluency. I had this nagging feeling though that if I did that I would regret it. I knew that I would always look back and have a what if moment, wondering if I had missed out on an adventure because of fear and the desire to take the easy way out. I knew Arabic would be difficult and unlike anything I’d ever done. I also knew that the eye-catching script intrigued me, that I wanted to unlock a new part of the world.

In high school I became really interested in language learning, not for the sake of the languages themselves but for the people that each one allowed me to meet. The thought that there were suddenly thousands of people I could connect with with each new language I learned filled me with excitement (and sadness that I can’t learn them all!) I struggled through French, forcing myself to get better, to be able to laugh and joke with my Swiss friends in their native language. I memorized Spanish verb conjugations in the hopes of one day being able to understand some of what my friend Bradley said when he teased me about my accent. I learned songs in American Sign Language, accumulating vocabulary quickly, amazed by Deaf culture. I recently met someone at church who is Deaf and because I knew a little sign, she invited me to have coffee with a group in Ottawa. I didn’t get a chance to go but I’m hoping to in the fall. How cool is it that learning even a few words in a different language creates an opportunity for connection with people that you otherwise may never have even learned the name of?

Learning the language has been difficult, I’m not going to lie. Even just learning the alphabet was hard. I remember that on the first day of class my professor told us that 9 of the letters had no French or English equivalent sounds. And real talk, I probably still sound ridiculous when I speak. But I try to savour the little successes, like handing in my first page long piece of writing, seeing on Memrise that I hit 500 words learned, or ordering shawarma. I’m enjoying it and its connecting me with new people and for me, that’s what it’s about. That’e enough for me.

I’ve also gotten to learn more about Arabic culture, because of conversations sparked when I got asked what I study. Once I mentioned it and the boy I was talking to, who was from Lebanon, sat and talked with me about his country and language, religion, politics and media portrayals for over two hours. How cool is that? Next year, as part of the requirements for my minor, I’ll be taking culture classes as well.

One year in, and swirls and dots that used to mean nothing to me are now sounds, words and names. No, I’m not exactly sure how they will tie into my future career, although yes, I do have some ideas. For now, I’m letting my professor laugh at me as I fall asleep in 8:30am lectures. I’m studying in the laundry room where no one bothers me while I say the same word over and over and over again. I’m writing the same few sentences again and again, still amazed that I can read this script. And yes, I’m eating a whole lot of shawarma dajaaj. Suffice to say, it’s an adventure.

-Unti next time, Sam ❤

Chatter…

The rush of adrenaline, the last minute talking yourself into it, the butterflies and the potential beauty of the unknown. 

Adventure

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I love exploring even if it means getting lost. I love changing scenery, new experiences and the pure fun of muddling through language barriers with new friends. I love unexpected rain and getting on the wrong bus. I love travel too, but that’s not really my point here.

My point is, I am not about living a mundane life. I cannot and will not be satisfied with ordinary. That’s not how God made me. I firmly believe that God gave me a soul that craves adventure and exploration. He gave me a burning curiosity, a relentlessly questioning mind and a desire to experience as much of this world as possible.

Example A: Next week I’m taking canoeing courses to become a certified canoe tripper which is a dream I’ve had for years. I’m going to learn how to paddle rapids, deal with emergencies in the wilderness and lead trips of people. It’s going to be so fun, so challenging and an adventure for sure!

Example B: I don’t have many requirements when it comes to dating but: he’s gotta love Jesus, it’s be nice if he was taller than me and he has to be okay with love seeking out the adventures in life. Because I plan on living this life pursuing God and pursuing the joy of new experiences. Therefore my future husband, whoever he is, is going to have to be cool with that. I plan on living in the mountains of Nepal for goodness sake! Good luck man, whoever you are :’) (yes this was a fairly random point, get over it ya’ll)

To go back to my original point, simply stated, I want to soak up all this world has to offer and try scary things. The comfort zone is not a place I’d like to be familiar with.

So yeah. I don’t really know what this post is about or if it has any point at all. I’m just late night dreaming about how cool our world is and how excited I am to explore it. I mean, I titled a blog about my life “Sam’s Grand Adventure”…can you tell yet that I like excitement and the extraordinary wonders of day to day life? Simply being alive everyday is an adventure in and of itself. No one has ever been Sam before and everyday is an unknown. How absurdly wonderful.

Seriously, I’m pumped! Life is cool, the world is incredible, humans amaze me, and God is good. God is good, always.

Psalm 37:4 says to Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” WOW. How lucky am I to have a God that creates such a magical world and then, because He loves me, fulfills my desire to explore it? Answer: Blessed beyond measure.

For real though, I’ve been pretty blessed so far and I can’t imagine all the things God has up His proverbial sleeve for my future. Ready to climb mountains, stomp in puddles, chat with a stranger in a book store, drink new flavours of tea, laugh until I cry, sit in silence beside a lake and walk through the stalls of a bustling market place.

Yep, I think that’s all I have to say for now. You may return to your regularly scheduled Facebook scrolling. #Sorrynotsorry for interruption. 😉

Until next time, Sam ❤

 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles…and Buses…and Subways

Hey friends! How’s life?

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The girl who lives next to me in residence mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I always greet people with “friends” and since then I’ve been very aware that that is almost become a catch phrase of mine. But really, I do it because I mean it. I love all the human beings I know, with their little quirks and personalities and I consider everyone to be my friend. Including you dear readers! Anyway, that was a side bar. Sorry for being distracted.

Speaking of being distracted, it’s been close to a month since my last post! Where oh where does the time go? Even now, I really should be doing my economics project or studying for my history midterm but hey, we all need study breaks sometimes. And at least blogging is “productive procrastination”. Life is just busy!
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Since I last wrote, I’ve been on two “adventures” that included actually leaving city boundaries. One was a weekend trip to Quebec City to experience Carnevale and the sweet charm of Old Town. I’d been before and seriously loved it and it didn’t fail to meet my memories expectations. We explored, we ate, we shopped, we drank Cariboo (the signature drink) and visited the ice palace, we tried “tire d’erable” and danced in the snow and went to a nightclub. We made new friends and spoke lots of “Franglish”. It was so much fun. I almost didn’t go because I didn’t really have the time or the money but I am so glad that I did. (My pictures here just didn’t want to upload…imagination ooooh, ahhhh, poutine, pretty buildings.) UPDATE: pictures are here now!

 

Secondly, I just came home from a week in the Dominican Republic! Although I was sassily told this week that by a friend that he “got more tan staying in Ottawa” than I did by going away, it was really relaxing and nice to spend time with my family (Mom, sister, aunts and family friends). I just lay on the beach and read and napped and played in the waves all week long. And, was sorely disappointed by the dismal Spanish skills…I seriously need to brush up! (In all my spare time right?) One day we left the resort and toured through the city of Purto Plata. My favourite part was when we took a cable car up one the highest mountains in the country. It was so beautiful! Ya’ll know I got a thing for mountains. There was a national park at the top and I dragged Mal up and down several winding forest paths to see the lagoon and visit a cave.

Honestly, it just felt good to have a change of scenery. I get so antsy staying in one place for too long and this was the first time I had been on a plane since coming home from my exchange, almost 2 years ago exactly. As the title suggests, I took just about every form of transportation possible to get from Ottawa to Toronto to Porta Plata and back but I loved it. I love airports and train stations. I love how everyone is basically trapped together in this little building. And then, as if someone dropped and shattered a glass, we go flying to every corner of the globe, sending friends, family, strangers…everyday to new places. All kinds of people can be there all at once, for all different purposes. Are they scared, excited? Where are they going? Is someone meeting them on the other side? I don’t know, it just makes me think and want to people watch. Airports have a lot of potential and they make me happy 🙂

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That’s all for now, just a little update post. Kind of random and a little messy but that’s ok with me. I hope it’s okay with you too. Best of luck to those of you with me in the midterm grind. We got this! Smile today. Put on some happy music and do a little jig in your room or your car or right outside on the street. You’re alive! You’re alive and today, today is a good day to be human.

-Until next time, Sam

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P.S. Oh wow! I almost forgot. If I’m doing a life update, I have to include my two new volunteer assignments! I’ve started both of them now.

Foot Patrol. Basically, this is a service at my school that runs weekdays from 8pm-2am that offers walks to people who don’t want to walk at night alone. I go on Mondays from 8-11 and myself, along with a partner are able to walk people home so they feel safe, or just have some company. I love to walk and I love to talk, so basically, it’s the best thing ever.

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Sage Youth. This is a literacy organization that I am SO excited to be working with. Although it has programs all over the city, the one that I am currently helping with is with the Syrian refugee children that have recently arrived in Canada. Once a week, I go and help teach English to kids, many of whom have never spoken the language before. I went for the first time today and it was so chaotic but so fun. They are eager to learn and so polite and all of them want “teacher” to hear them read over everyone else haha. Some of them are just learning the alphabet. Anyway, I’m looking forward to next week.

That’s all, just thought I’d share how I’ve been trying to get involved. It feels good.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Night Musings

Sundays are for sleeping in and brunch with friends, for catching up on readings and spending time with Jesus. Sundays aren’t always a day of rest but it’s best when they are. Today was one of those lazy, lovely Sundays.

It’s not very often I just lie in bed, awake but still cozy in my blankets and nest of pillows. Today I did. Well, actually I got up and made a tea, got my bible and then climbed back in. I did my devotions and lay and thought about life for a while. Just when I had almost convinced myself that I was going to be productive today, BAM. An old high school friend texted and asked if I wanted to have brunch. Should I have said no? Probably. But I didn’t, because life chats and crêpes from Cora’s are better than the library life any day.

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We ended up coming back to my residence afterwards because Michelle lives off campus and wanted to see what LeBlanc is like. For me, trying to see my friends and our interactions from an outsiders point of view was so interesting. She kept commenting on how close we all seem to be and it made me grateful all over again that I get to spend this year living in such a close knit and fun community. And at the same time, I got to spend my afternoon with someone from home. It felt like my two worlds were mixing, just a little. It was so fun talking to someone who knows the same people I know and misses some of the same places and things.

I didn’t end up making it to church (which, by the way, I think I’ve found one) because I was having trouble figuring out the bus schedules to get there. But my God isn’t contained to a building or a group of people. I went to my room and listened to some worship music and dreamt about the future and prayed for my friends and read some theology blogs. I just got to hang out with Jesus. Anyone who could hear my music through the wall (totally a possibility in res) probably wondered why on earth I was listening to the same song over and over again. But sometimes words just speak to my soul and show me God in a clear and powerful way. Today that happened with the song “All the Poor and Powerless” by All Sons and Daughters.

 When it was finally time to get a start on my homework, I made a “To Do” list on my desk whiteboard, as I always do. Today though I decided to start with a bible verse to keep myself focused. This verse really made me think today and I posted it on Instagram with a caption: 

Started my “TO DO” list with some encouragement tonight. Right now my “wherever” happens to be the desk in my dorm room. Definitely not all that exciting and not exactly frightening nor requiring of courage. But the fact of the matter remains that God is WITH me. Whether I’m at a desk or on top of a mountain (please?) I can rest easy with the knowledge that God’s got my back. Also, with Arabic and Econ at the top of that list, I’mma need the back up.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened. Do not be dismayed. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” -Joshua 1:9

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And now, I’m here. Sitting at my desk, more behind in homework than I should be and yet completely satisfied and content. Working hard is important but so is having days of rest. Thank you Sunday for being so lovely. You’ve set the stage for a wonderful week.

Until next time,

-Sam

Learning to be Still

 

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Study central

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still – Exodus 14:14

Even though I have only been back at school for a week and a half, it already feels like months have gone by. Between finding classes, switching courses, buying textbooks and catching up with friends, it seems as though Christmas break never even happened.

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Very busy “TO DO” list this week

Last semester, I ended up being really, really stressed out, particularly in October when I had the bulk of my midterms and papers due. Although I don’t regret my first semester of university, as I learned a lot, this semester I’m making a concerted effort to be more organized, prioritize what’s important to me and make school not so much a struggle but a season on my life to enjoy to the fullest. I made myself a list of 16 goals (I’m ambitious okay) that I’ve actually been looking over at the end of each day and trying to ask myself if I made most of them happen that day.

And it’s incredible how much of a difference some of those things have made even in just the few short weeks I’ve been working on them. I’m not going to lie, getting up at 7am every day is not my favourite thing in the world and my floormates are not super impressed by my insistence on my “bedtime” of 11pm. But SERIOUSLY my days feel like actual, full, productive days! My friend Tati wrote a great post this week about becoming a morning person and  it’s crazy how much of a difference it makes. And the libraries are so quiet in the morning, having a cup of tea and ploughing through a couple of chapters of econ or history can be accomplished before most people are even out of bed.

But in the last week or so, I’ve been realizing something else that is important: knowing when to be still. Between classes, readings, working out, volunteering, clubs, friends, errands etc., I sometimes have to take a minute to be still, and just breathe. I talked about this actually last semester as well but clearly didn’t learn my lesson.

Which brings me to the point of this point. Every year, I choose a word to focus on, kind of a theme for my year. Last years word was courageous . This year, nothing was really coming to me and I kind of had decided to just go with “Joy” since one of my goals was to “choose joy”.

But then I went away to Wintercon, a weekend retreat with my school’s Christian fellowship. It was a time to get to know each other and learn about the “good news” of the gospel. It was definitely an amazing experience. Upstairs they had this prayer room which was absolutely beautiful and peaceful.

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p.c. Steve Kim @ stevekinsung.wordpress.com

All weekend however, I had a song stuck in my head that I used to sing with my choir in high school. The lyrics go:

When the oceans rise and thunders roar

I will soar with You above the storm

Father you are King over the flood

I will be still and know you are God

The word still really stood out to me, in two senses. One, for me to be still, in the busyness of life, to take time and just be in God’s presence. And secondly, still as a steadfastness, a continuation, an “even now”, an always. Since being in school I sometimes find myself just trying to get through it so I can move on with my life, forgetting why I’m here. But this weekend I was really reminded that God still has  plans for me, that the passions and promises he has given me are still remembered and that he is still with me everyday. In particular I really felt affirmed and renewed passion about my call and love for Nepal which I’ve written about here and here. My friend Dayna is actually there right now (as was my friend Tori about a month ago) and hearing their stories and seeing their pictures just makes me so much more excited for when the day comes that I finally get to go and explore this place I feel inexplicably drawn to. These are some of Dayna’s pictures, so of course photo credit goes to her!

So that’s my word for the year. Still. It will be interesting to learn how God can bring about incredible adventures for me, even when I am patiently standing still.

Sorry if this hasn’t been a super interesting post for you guys to read! This one has been (and let’s be real, several of my recent posts are as well) a lot of personal reflection and letting my thoughts spill out onto my blog…not to fear! I’m trying to come up with some fresh and interesting content soon so stay tuned!

Until then, I hope you’re having a lovely day. Pro tip: studying with a facemask and a cp of tea is pretty not bad.

-Sam

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Not a great picture but I got glasses for the first time this week. What do you think?

2016-A year to truly LIVE

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It’s January 2nd, 2016 and I’m currently curled up on the couch with a cup of chai and some Christmas cookies. The house is quiet. I’m wearing a pink fuzzy onesie. My dog is sleeping (and literally snoring) beside me. Life is SO good.

It’s only two days into the New Year and 2016 is already treating me well. I came home on New Years after the count down and sat and chatted with friends until 4 in the morning. On the 1st, I got to go back to my old job and work with my favourite co-worker from high school. Then my sister and our friends picked me up and I went to their house out in the country for a sleepover and movies. It’s been so relaxed and nice. I feel so blessed to be able to spend the first week of the year at home in Barrie, catching up with friends and family, going for long drives, sleeping tons and preparing myself for the semester (and year) ahead.

Looking out over a whole new year is both exciting and nerve -wracking but most of all, hopeful. There are so many possibilities and adventures waiting to happen. I know that as long as I continue to trust God and give everything I do my full effort, life will always be full of opportunity.

That being said, I love to take New Years as a time to look at my life and find areas that can be improved. I’ve learned over the years that many people don’t keep the resolutions they commit to on January 1st. But for myself, I need goals and benchmarks to work towards. What better time then the start of a year to set up goals? Sure, some may get broken or not turn out exactly the way I hope but if I don’t try, things will never change. And I find that even having them written out (and this year published online for anyone to read!) makes me way more motivated to stick to them and make things happen! I’m never one to step down from a challenge and I LOVE the feeling you get when you’ve worked hard for something and you succeed. Some of these are little, some of them are big. Some will require an everyday commitment and some can be accomplished in one go. Some of them may seem silly to you, or unrealistic. Maybe some of them ARE unrealistic. But I’m writing them down, big and small. And I’m committing to 2016 being better than 2015. I’m committing to these goals and all that they may entail. So here they are, in no particular order, 16 goals for 2016.

1. Speak more French.  I moved all the way to Ottawa, in large part due to the fact that it is a bilingual school. I take classes in French. I’ve made Francophone friends and, for goodness sake, I live in the French residence! Want to know what I don’t do? Speak French. Like ever. I know that I’ve lost a lot of my vocabulary since coming home from Switzerland, that I make a lot of grammar errors and that I have a strong accent. But I need to just get over myself. I’m going to try to speak French this year whenever I can, rather than just when I have to. 

2. Swim 200km. I thought a lot about this number. 100 seemed like too little to be of significance. 300 seemed unattainable. So, 200 it is. This fall, I finally got committed to going to the pool and was swimming 3-5 times a week. It became less of a chore and something I actually looked forward to, a reward after a long day of studying. It’s something I really, really want to continue and commit to in 2016 because it makes me feel so much better to be working out consistently. By putting a number on it, I have something measurable to commit to long term. And, I just think it will be cool to look back on and actually know how far I swam when I add it all up at the end of the year. Good thing I got a new bathing suit for Christmas!

3. Read the Bible. ALL of it. Go big or go home right? Something I’ve been really struggling with is making time to read my Bible and do devotions since going to university. Someone in the Christian fellowship posted in our Facebook group today, asking if anyone wanted to do a reading plan to go through the Word by the end of the school year. Perfect for me, short time frame and accountability. After that, I’m hoping it will become habit. I’m starting today and if you’d like to join me, this is plan I/we’re following. You read all the chapters across the row and move down the columns each day.

4. Finish the sweater I’m knitting.

5. Cut down on social media. I seriously waste WAY too much time on my phone. Before bed, when I wake up in the morning, in the dining hall if I’m eating alone, as a way to procrastinate while studying. Most of that time is spent flipping between Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I’ve decided to disable Twitter for the time being as it is the least useful of my social media accounts and to just make a conscious effort to check my media less often. It’s a major unnecessary time waster.

6. Keep my GPA high enough to renew my entrance scholarship for next year. This is going to be a tough one, but I’m determined (and luckily, on track after 1st semester). Grades aren’t the most important thing but I do pride myself in working hard to achieve them. I want to use the opportunity I’ve been given to get an education and my goal is to get a GPA of 8.5/10 in order to renew the $3000 scholarship I was given this fall. I’ve learned a lot about how best to study after first semester and get the grades I want without losing my mind. The biggest one is stopping procrastination and prioritizing my health as much as my grades. And remembering that all-nighters are not my friend. Time management IS.

7. Blog once a week. This is a big one for me. Over the Christmas break I’ve remembered just how much writing means to me. It’s something I’m so passionate about and blogging is an amazing way to practice writing consistently. And it’s fun. And it’s not stressful. And I feel like it’s part of God’s plan for my life. Making time for it (an “non-essential” activity in the world of school) is going to be hard but that why it’s a goal; something to work towards.

8. Reclaim my mornings. Or…claim them…for the first time. Let’s get this straight. I am NOT a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. I’m happiest sleeping until noon and staying up past 2am. But I read this blog a few weeks ago about making mornings a productive and enjoyable part of your day. I’m kind of tired of jumping out of bed 10 minutes before class, gulping down coffee without eating breakfast and bemoaning my 8:30 classes. SO I’m going to try my very hardest to get up at 7am. That gives me time to go for a swim before class or just sit and have a tea and read my Bible (yes, two birds with one stone!), or make myself an omelette to have a good breakfast. Don’t worry, I’m still going to let myself sleep in once in a while but I’m praying that God gives me the strength to approach mornings with joy and productivity this year!

9. Find a church to call “home”. Being involved in a church community is so important to me and I’ve yet to find a church in Ottawa to call home. I went to one for several weeks in a row and though I was good to go but in December I started to strongly feel like God was telling me that it wasn’t where I was supposed to plant myself for these next 4-5 years. I’m praying that I’ll find somewhere I can find fellowship and actually GROW my faith.

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10. Eat healthier. I know this is pretty basic but I noticed in the last little while how much BETTER I feel when I’m eating well and limiting my intake of sugar and processed food. A bit of a challenge with a 24 hour dining with a dessert bar and unlimited french fries but I’m going to do my best to eat salads and fruit and veggies and chicken and all that good stuff rather than pizza and ice cream!

11. Make my bed. A little thing, but in my small dorm room, makes all the difference.

12. Invest less in things and more in experiences. For Christmas this year, I asked to go on a family vacation instead of getting tons of unnecessary “things”, so we’re going to the Dominican Republic during reading week (YAY). I’m going to spend my Christmas money on a winter retreat with my school’s Christian fellowship and a trip to Carnaval in Quebec City. These are adventures that I will cherish far more than clothes I don’t really need or random things that just take up space. This year, I’m going to focus on doing things rather than buying things.

13. Spend more time outside. I want to go on a canoe trip this summer. I want to go hiking with my best friend. I want to sleep under the stars. I want to jump in lakes and eat lunch under the trees. I want to skate on the canal and go for long walks with friends and feel the cold winter air in my lungs. Like I mentioned in a recent post  I realized that being outside in the world God made seriously feeds my soul and makes my life so much better.

14. Pray intentionally. In high school, I loved making prayer lists and taking time to go through them and pray for people by name, for situations in the world, for really whatever God put on my heart. I believe that prayer has power and interceding on the behalf of others makes my soul sing. This year I want reintegrate intentional prayer into my life.

15. Volunteer. Again, this was something I was really passionate about in high school but have let slip since starting university. In high school I learned how to serve without expecting anything in return and God gave me so many opportunities to show love through the giving of my time. I learned that the least glamorous jobs are the ones that need doing, like stacking chairs or cleaning toilets or sorting paperwork. Over the break, I went with my old youth pastor to the Salvation Army and helped make and serve dinner. It was just a few hours of my week but they so appreciated having some extra hands around. My life in high school kind of revolved around my many volunteer commitments and I LOVED it so so much. I want to find that again and make this year not just about me. I’m not sure how I’m going to volunteer (I’ve been sending tons of emails out) but I’m willing to do whatever God gives me the opportunity to do. One thing I’m really excited about is the possibility of teaching swimming lessons to kid with special needs but I’m still waiting to hear back from them (who knew volunteer placements could be so hard to find??) However it turns out, people are important to me and therefore so is stepping outside of my own desires and putting time aside to serve others practically.

16. Choose joy. Last but definitely not least. Funnily enough “Choose joy” has been my Twitter bio for the last year or so but I don’t feel like I’ve been taking my own advice as of late. Emotions are fickle but I can CHOOSE to be joyful in every situation and every moment of 2016. The absolute best definition of this that I found was in a devotional by Rick Warren :

“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation” 

In 2016, I am going to be assured of God’s plan for my life, I am going to delight in the seemingly mundane and I am going to praise the Lord for every blessing in my life.

I think that what I’m most excited about for this year to to just GET BUSY. It’s so easy to feel  caught up in day to day life and go through the motions rather than actually living life. In December, a leader from my high school youth group was killed in a car collision at the age of 24. When going through his things, they found a painting that he had made and put up on his wall. It read “There’s more to living than being alive” and that phrase has been rolling around my brain ever since. Colin was an amazing leader, a man of God, a role model, an artist, and a person who loved humbly and practically. He LIVED. It’s made me think so much the last couple of weeks about what I want my life to look like.

This is life. This is all it is. It’s the day to day. For me right now, it’s going to school, it’s living in res, it’s late nights studying in the library. But I’m not going to wait to start living. In high school, I was always so crazy busy. I made time for things I loved. I volunteered, I wrote, I followed crazy dreams (see Switzerland), I sought God, I knit, I read. And I thrived being busy and involved in life. I guess, to sum up all of these goals I could have just said

“Stop procrastinating, stop wasting time and start remembering what it’s like to be passionate”. 

Because isn’t that what it’s all about? God put me on this earth for a purpose. I’m pursuing that purpose with my education but I know that there is more to life than books and papers. This year, these goals, are all just another step in my attempt to do life the best that I can, to live, to love people, to follow God, to be adventurous.

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2016, I’m coming for you. I’m ready to live this year, present and joyfully. I’m ready for the adventure a fresh new year brings.

And you, dear readers? Thank you all for taking the time to read and be a part of my life. It humbles me and makes me so incredibly thankful that people actually take the time to read my thoughts and follow my attempts at the blogging world. Thank you, a million times over. And welcome to the New Year. You too have an opportunity, 365 days to live out however you choose. What are you going to do this year? What goals will you set? How are you going to live life as an adventure?

-Sam

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15 things I learned in 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reunited with my not-so-little sister

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

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

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Camp friends make good pen pals

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring it on, New Years.

-Sam

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