Transitions

Friends! It’s been a while hasn’t it? I feel like I always end up busier than I intend to be and suddenly important things get pushed to the side, like long walks catching up with friends and writing on this blog! Still, I can’t help but be grateful for the busyness; it means lots of chasing passions and meeting with people who make my soul smile!

Alas, another semester has come and gone and with it, a new transition and adventure is quickly approaching. Yesterday was my last day of co-op at Volunteer Canada, today all my residents have moved out and I had my last pre-departure training before Malawi, tomorrow I have to leave Leblanc (forever my favourite residence) and say goodbye to all my Ottawa people. Then I have a week at home before heading off next Sunday for 12 weeks in a new country, on a new (to me) continent. Wild.

This is the first time I’ve left Ottawa feeling sad to leave my home here. After first year, I went to camp for the summer. I’d only lived in Ottawa for 8 months and during that time I had rarely strayed from campus. Additionally, all my friends were also leaving for the summer and heading back to their respective homes, traveling, working at camp, etc. So leaving felt natural and although I was glad to go back in September, I wouldn’t have called Ottawa my “home”town. I even wrote a blog post about not having a “home” per say!

However, it’s been nearly two consecutive years now of living in this city.  I have adapted to this place’s quirks and it’s quiet culture. I have favourite coffee shops and I’m a regular at an open mic night. I know where to go to find green space and where to go to find quiet and where to go to embrace chaos. My network is large and supportive and I feel known in Ottawa which was something I missed a lot when leaving Barrie. I like to know people and be known and have connections in many circles.

SO this summer leaving Ottawa is sad. But it makes me all the more grateful to remind myself that I once wondered if I’d ever feel at home again. I do and I will, wherever I go. I remind myself that wherever I go, there are places I can find and call my own and people who will see me and choose community with me. This last semester especially I have found myself feeling rooted in the communities God has created for me here in Ottawa. And I have been reminded of all the different layers that make up a network. From the people I smile at when I pass on campus to my residents who I am meant to guide and support, to my co-workers at co-op and my fellow CAs, to my dear friends with whom I share my heart and my dear friends with whom I share laughs, to people in my program I can debate with and learn from and my friends in different programs who open my eyes to new things, widening my perspective, to my Christian community and my Outdoor’s community, to my people I catch up with once a semester and the ones I make sure to see every week. I am so grateful to have these intermingling and oh so important, layered, and real relationships. As beautiful of a city I think Ottawa is, it is the people I have learned to call “mine” that I will miss the most in Malawi.

Isn’t it funny how much longer it takes to fall in love with a place when you know it may be permanent? When I went on exchange I quickly felt at home in my adopted city of Geneva and I will always have a home on Kitchi sands, despite having lived there for a collective time of maybe a year. But when I came to Ottawa, it took 3 full years to feel comfy and settled here. I find that so odd.

I think it’s because it takes longer to admit that your real and permanent life is transitioning, that you are not adopting a second or third home but moving your main base somewhere new. I really doubt I will ever call Barrie home again. Not because I dislike or because there aren’t still people there that I love but simply because my career and my life will call me elsewhere. So, I think I held onto that being “home” for as long as possible, even subconsciously.

I also have higher standards for Ottawa than I ever do for temporary homes. All those layers and intermingled connections I talked about? Those take time to cultivate. Deep friendships can sometimes happen quickly but having networks of co-workers and acquaintances and classmates and church families and friends in different places take time. Having people to wave at in the streets takes time. Having the barista know your order at the coffee shop near work takes time. Having people you can ask to pray for you takes time. Your go to study people, your outdoor adventuring people, your “listen to my deepest dreams” people and your “come have a beer with me” people all take time to find. Finding all those things at once? Takes a whole lot of time!

I still love going home to Barrie too, don’t get me wrong. I was lucky enough to be born and raised in the same town so it always feels familiar and I love going to see my family. But my dad is moving provinces, my mom lives in outside the city limits now and most of my friends are also off on their own new adventures. Ultimately, my ties there get weaker all the time and to me, those relational ties are much more important than the physical streets and buildings (and even those I recognize less and less each time I visit!). They say home is where the heart is, and my family will always be a home to me but Barrie itself is less and less.

More than anything, you have to build a life in order to build a home. Ottawa is no longer just the city I go to school in. It has slowly and surely become the place in which I centralize my life. It’s my home base when I travel and the place I know the most people. It’s where I’ve invested in people and in places and in connections. And I am grateful to be sad to leave.

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Transitions have never been easy for me. I think by now I put on a pretty good face and make it seem like I’m fine but since I was little I have cried at goodbyes. I still cry every time my mom drives away and leaves me in Ottawa and I cried a little leaving my job yesterday. I just love a lot and so it makes it hard to leave ya know?

But not to fear, Ottawa, this is all just temporary. Before you know it, it will be August and I will be back to couch surf with all those lovely friends I mentioned!!!! Praise Jesus for friends with open arms and open doors because low-key I will not have a literal, physical home for 3 weeks during summer school haha.

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And on that note? I AM GOING TO MALAWI IN ONE WEEK. HOLY COW!!

I have barely let myself get excited until now because everything has been so up in the air but I have a tentative flight – still no ticket, but you know, trusting that everything will work out – and I am (almost) free from residence, work and school so now I have time to dream about my internship, the things I will learn, the places I will go and the people I will meet.

Until then I am excited to spend a week snuggling my family, hanging out in the sunshine, eating food I didn’t have to cook, hiking (hopefully), driving the car, singing in the shower and talking to Jesus about how to make this experience as impactful as possible (for me and all my soon-to-be friends in Malawi)!

Until next time,

Sam

P.s. This my 100th blog post on Sam’s Grand Adventure!! How wild is that? Thanks to all for sticking with me and my ramblings for this long!

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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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Quiet Moments in the Crazy, Busy, Goodness of a Life Being Lived as an Adventure

I can finally breathe.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in the student neighbourhood beside campus, drinking tea, listening to the classic coffee shop music and enjoying watching the people come and go.

Today is the first day since the middle of August that I have nothing I absolutely have to do. No commitments and no responsibilities. Yes, I should study. And yes, if my residents ask me a question I’m going to answer it because that’s just me. Yes I could prep for my interviews next week or I could finally get around to balancing my budget for a trip I led or I could do the research I haven’t had time to do for my volunteer project. But honestly I’m going to take full advantage of this unexpected time off.

Let’s be real, if you know me, you probably know that I would never have planned a “nothing day”. I absolutely thrive when I am busy and productive and surrounded by friends and adventure. And so, that’s what I planned for this weekend. I planned my third Outdoor’s Club trip in three weeks. I planned to take 10 people to the Adirondack mountains in New York state, my first time to go there. I spent three weeks planning logistics and signing people up and running around collecting gear and making sure everything was ready to go and I packed my bag, ignoring the fact that I was tired and my weekends off were meant to be restful, not stressful.

See I’m not that good at saying “no”. And apparently I’m not that good at listening when God is trying to tell me to “stop”.

Let me tell you all the things that went wrong while I was planning this trip:
– People didn’t show up to sign up and we spent days running all over campus to collect money
– A driver dropped out
– Then we found another driver
– Another driver dropped out
– Then we convinced another exec member to come and be a driver
– Then we realized no one had sleeping bags or tents and all the club ones had been rented out
– So we spent the day before the trip running all over the neighbourhood, posting on Facebook and tracking down as many sleeping bags and tents as possible.
– Then we couldn’t find the stove we were planning to take
– Finally at 10:30am the DAY OF THE TRIP – a driver cancelled because they were sick. After everything else, I almost wasn’t even surprised.

So, I took one for the team and I didn’t go. We managed to squeeze everyone else into the remaining two cars and I stayed home, after three weeks of thinking, planning and preparing for the trip. I was really sad but after running through all the options, this was the only one that really made sense. I’m not looking for praise for sacrificing my trip for everyone else to be able to go (which is what I’ve gotten from a lot of friends) because honestly, it just reminded me of all the things I’ve learned about being a leader over the years. A leader puts the team before themselves – I wasn’t necessary to the trip and I didn’t HAVE TO go. There are two other leaders still there and I was the least necessary to the well-being of the trip because I didn’t have experience in the location. And as the president of the Outdoors Club, I put in so many hours of organization to allow other people to experience the wonder and transformation I’ve always felt outdoors. I didn’t want to take this experience away from anyone else and so it made sense for me to give up my adventure so others could have theirs. That’s what a leader does sometimes.

So here I am.

And last night and today as I was getting ready for my unexpected day off, I reminded myself that everything happens for a reason, that God the Father knows what I need long before I do. Although I thought what I needed was a day in the cold mountain air, a day spent pushing my body to it’s limits and climbing and doing something new, God had other plans. I have to continuously remind myself that when you surrender your life to God, you surrender the right to be angry when plans change. A long time ago I surrendered having total control over my life and I asked God to led me down the paths that are the BEST for me. Not just good or better but BEST.

Trust me, I thought the mountains were a good path. I still think it would have been a great weekend. But I can see God’s hand in this. If I truly believe that God knows me better than I know myself AND that He cares for me and gives good gifts (I do believe that), then I also have to trust when He changes plans on me. That belief also means trying my best to take changed plans with a positive attitude and an open heart to learn from whatever situation I find myself in. I think it wasn’t so much the mountain adventure that wasn’t God’s best for me – it was the constantly being responsible for others that I needed a break from. I didn’t even realize it before now but I think I needed a weekend to be just Sam. Not a CA, not a leader, not a student, not a friend or anything else. Just me.

I’m taking this “weekend off” as I nudge from God that I need to slow down. That I need to remember to do simple things, to have Sabbath times in my life, whether or not that ends up being a Sunday morning. I need to be taking time to breathe.

Today I am drinking coffee and taking time to blog. I’m going to go finish my book in the park and I’m going to go to the mall and buy new jeans. I might do some readings for class but only if I feel like it. I’m going to go for a long walk and listen to worship music and maybe see some friends. And tomorrow I’m going to go to church which I haven’t done in weeks because it’s been a month since I’ve been in Ottawa on a Sunday.

And come Monday, I’ll be back to my crazy life; don’t get me wrong, I love it. This semester is full of light and life and goodness and excitement. I’m actually really thriving in the busy, crazy goodness of it all. For the first time in a long time this season feels like I am exactly where I need to be. I feel like I am doing the Sam things and that God is preparing me to springboard into even more exciting seasons. I’m truly so so happy. I’m taking six classes in three languages and I’m in my favourite residence with amazing first years, I’m running a club that I love and am so passionate about and I’m volunteering with a food security project at the university. I’m applying for coop jobs and spending time with people who I am incredibly blessed to have in my life. I’m spending lots of time outside and lots of time with Jesus and my heart feels happy and full.

I just need to remember that it’s ok to take a break from the chaos, EVEN WHEN the chaos is GOOD. Life is crazy and busy and above all full of goodness and sweet, simple gifts from God. I just need to remember that it’s ok to say “I can’t sorry. I just need to go have a coffee and be Sam.”

Thank you Jesus for knowing what I need long before I do. I’m so blessed.

 

Plotting, planning, praying, dreaming

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Hello there 2017! Welcome! I’ve been waiting for you with an expectant heart and a whole lot of hope for the beauty that will unfold in the next 365 days. Well, 364 days now I guess.

Exactly one year ago today I posted my 2016 goals and wow, does that feel like a long time ago. In a way, it feels like it’s been three years because every 4 months, my life changes and starts a new chapter. It’s hard to believe that this summer, 1st year and this past semester have all shared a year. And what a year.

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Out of those three chunks, summer was definitely my favourite. Although I won’t be returning to camp this year, the memories and connections I made on Beausoleil will be carried with me forevermore; I am so grateful to have been a part of the magic that happens on Kitchi sands, one last time. Whenever I think about those months I can’t help but smile and for that I am grateful.

On the other hand, this past semester was a very challenging season for me. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t enjoying school. At all. My professors were nearly all terrible teachers who really didn’t care about the subject they were instructing and I just became so disillusioned with my education. My grades fell below the standards I hold myself to and I found myself often questioning why God had me in such a place. Other aspects of life were great; I enjoyed my new job, made some new friends, and joined the executive of a club. But school became a source of frustration, discontentment, difficulty and a sense of futility. It took me a while to be okay with saying “this semester wasn’t great”. Because my life wasn’t totally falling to pieces, I didn’t feel like I had a right to be frustrated. Honestly though I have never wanted a semester to end more in my life.

Now that I’m out of it though it’s really cool to look back and see where God was in all of it. It wasn’t a fun season but I’ve grown from it for sure. My statement that “my identity is found in God and not my grades” was put to the test. I learned to trust Him more, to remember that in all stages, His plan is greater and He is still God. I learned to be still and content in every season. And I realized that sometimes I will do everything “right”, put in the work and still have things not work out; and that’s ok.

SO

2017

A new semester.

A summer coop.

My first solo travel.

A fresh start.

And a whole lot of unknown.

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It would be easy to stay frustrated going into second semester but I actually feel so refreshed and hopeful for what is to come. One bad semester does not mean development isn’t what I’m meant to be doing. One bad semester does not mean I can’t learn Arabic. One bad semester is a learning experience that is going to STAY confined to ONE semester.

So now I turn to planning. I turn to praying and asking God what He wants my year to look like. I start plotting out my goals and journalling my hopes. I let myself dream about all the big and scary and challenging and wonderful things 2017 is going to bring.

I started deciding to prioritize sleep. 8 hours shouldn’t be a treat…my life is so much better when I get enough sleep.

I’ve started laying out study plans to get myself where I want to be academically.

I’ve resolved to stop being afraid of Arabic and start LEARNING it for it’s own sake rather than for the grades attached to it.

I’ve started applying for internships.

I’ve discovered where I need to say “no” in order to fully invest myself in everything I do; nothing I do deserves half of my heart. I want to be truly present in few places rather than distracted in many.

I will make time for people but also make time for myself.

I’ve promised to give God the 1st of my time rather than whatever energy I have left at the end of the day. I’ve resolved to ask Him more questions and learn more about what it means to live and love like Jesus.

I’ve resolved to rediscover what it means to be curious. What it means to learn because something catches my interest. To read books not assigned in a syllabus and attend conferences to meet others with the same interests. To go to office hours and get to know my professors.

I’ve started praying for more grace and wisdom.

I’ve started asking for more passion.

I want 2017 to be a year that often makes me a little uncomfortable. A year to seek that flip flop in your stomach before you do something new and the rush of accomplishing something you never believed to be possible.

I am going to continue to try to make my bed. It just didn’t stick this year haha but one day I will be a person who’s room is presentable!!

And on that note, I am going to have an open door. I’m not working in rez because it’s free. I want to know the people I live with. I want to have conversations that go past “how’s school going?”. I want to be a person of warmth and welcome. My door will be propped open more often this semester.

I’m going to stop buying things that don’t serve a unique purpose in my life, consume more intentionally and truly appreciate my possessions.

I’ve decided to work on being healthier, to eat food that makes me feel ready to take on my day, to go back to swimming, to go on more hikes, to prioritize mental wellness.

I’ve decided to stop watching Netflix…not forever, not because it’s inherently bad but because there are so many other things I want to do.

I’m plotting ways to see more of the world. Iceland and then, who knows where!

I’ve decided to write when I want to and not when I feel like I have to. I’ve decided to keep learning guitar.

I’ve sworn to journal more, to keep records of the beauty of life.

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A new year isn’t a revolutionary thing. Life isn’t going to change just because the date did. *Sidenote: it’ll take me a solid month to start getting the date right at the top of my notes* But it is a benchmark, an opportunity to leave the past in the past and start anew, to allow yourself to dream and plan and seek new visions. This isn’t an itemized list like last year. Rather, it is a global overview of values and actions that I want to take to make this year the best it can be. I want to put every minute of my time to it’s BEST purpose, whether that purpose is studying, laughing, truly resting, writing, working, talking or whatever. Everything has a time and a place.

I want 2017 to be a year of balance.

What are you dreaming of?

-Until next time, Sam

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P.s. Stay tuned for my new word of the year!! I’m super excited about the theme and vision God has given me for 2017 and can’t wait to share that with you all soon 🙂

P.s.s. I did indeed finished the sweater I resolved to knit. Thought you ought to know.

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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 ❤

Anticipating Greatness

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September, the season of endings and of beginnings. An exciting time, a nerve-wracking time, a new adventure time. It’s back to school, it’s the last of warm days and it’s beautiful and sad all wrapped up in one. It’s bike rides and trips to the Farmer’s Market and hugging friends you haven’t seen in a while, it’s saying goodbye to summer and it’s printing syllabi and updating your calendar. It’s when we look out over the school year to come, a fresh slate of tests not yet written and challenges not yet faced. What are you expecting this year? Are you apprehensive of what’s to come? I know I was.

This morning I woke up to an email from Blackboard, my university’s “virtual campus”; it was a notification that one of my economics professors had posted the syllabus for the course. As ridiculous as it might sound, my heart literally started racing and I was so nervous to open the file. Economics was my worst class last year and I am so anxious about going back to it this year, especially with two courses in the same semester, one of them in French.

This is just one example of the apprehension I’ve been feeling about second year. For me, summer has been over for almost 3 weeks, as soon as I left camp and came back to Ottawa for Community Advisor training. This year, I’ll be living in residence, watching over first year students and hopefully helping them to have a safe, fun and successful first year. That is an added responsibility that I need to account and make time for! I’m super excited about it but still! Tomorrow is the first day back at classes and I am definitely feeling nervous about all the work that is about to rain down on me and consume my life; but it will only consume me if I let it.

On Sunday I was in church and the woman leading worship said something that really stuck with me. It was about the difference between apprehension and anticipation. I looked up the definition of the two (as I often do) in order to make sure I clearly knew the difference.

Apprehension – anxiety or fear that something unpleasant will happen

Anticipation – the act of expecting or looking ahead to something with pleasure. 

It was one of those moments that I was caught off guard by the realization that this was God speaking clearly and directly to ME. I hadn’t even noticed the negative attitude I had been having towards the coming year. I was hiding my anxiety with “cautiousness” and “being realistic”. Neither of those are bad things but I was using them as reasons to not allow myself to be excited about year coming up. I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty optimistic, glass half full type of person, so it’s not normal for me to be like that. In fact, one of my favourite verses in high school was 2nd Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-decipline.” I loved it so much that I had it written out and taped on my wall but I think that I’ve still somehow forgotten!

I’m not meant to fear the future. I’m not meant to live expecting things to go badly. God has created this incredible world and put us in it, to live and learn and explore. So this morning I opened the email, read over the syllabus, and will go to the class tomorrow anticipating that it will go well, that I’ll learn something interesting. Fear is normal; letting it consume your life is not. This fall, I’m trying to re-learn how to surrender my apprehension to God and let him replace it with anticipation. The future is full of possibilities. Yes, some of those possibilities include hardship or difficulty or heartbreak. But they are just that, possibilities. This fall, I’m choosing to look forward with anticipation, expecting not just goodness, but greatness. 

Today, I went adventuring with a friend. We rode bikes along the canal, lined with trees while the sun shined brightly. We sat and had coffee, we walked through our favourite park and we sat at a lookout over the city. It was fun and warm and carefree. It was a great day. There are many more great days to come: deep chats in my new dorm room, friendships with my residents, (even if sometimes I have to break up their beer pong games), adventures through the beautiful city I get to call home, learning about the world and the people God created and hopefully lots and lots of laughter. Yes, school is going to be a lot of work, and yes, I’m going to have to learn to manage my time and schedule to balance school, work, life and self-care. But that’s okay. Because those are all exciting things that God has blessed me with. 

Anticipation – to expect or look ahead with great pleasure. 

Life is exciting if you let it be. So to all my friends going to back to school tomorrow, or sometime this week. Let’s be anticipatory. Let’s expect GREAT things from this school year. Let’s have good attitudes and a willingness to learn. We are blessed for the opportunity to live and learn in Canada. Let’s act like it. Let’s act like we have sprits of power, love and self-dicipline.

That’s all I got for now. I’m surprised how nervous (damn, there’s that word again eh?) I am about hitting “publish” on this post. Vulnerability here folks. All the more reason to do it I guess. Hopefully someone out there in the big world of cyberspace gets something out of my silly realizations. God is always teaching me, even if I’m sometimes an inattentive student. So, good luck with September my friends. Let’s make it a great one

-Until next time, Sam ❤

P.s. Here are some pictures of my last couple weeks settling into my new job/home. They do make me more excited for all that is to come!!

 

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 ❤

Choosing Joy When Stress Is Looming

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And sometimes you deserve a treat 😉

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

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Source 

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

 

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

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

-Until next time, Sam

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

 

Like a Bird

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:31

I’m starting to truly realize how transient life as a student can be. Thinking back, in the last two years I have lived in 3 different cities, not including the two months I spent on an island at camp. Right now I live in a residence building with a lease of just 8 months and then I will be back on the island for 3-4 months. 6 months from now I’ll presumably be back in Ottawa but as of now, I haven’t got a clue where I’ll be resting my head. Home (as in Barrie) isn’t home anymore. But neither is Ottawa. And what about when I start co-op terms? I’ll be displaced to different cities for 4 month stints where again and again I will have to make friends and try to carve out space for myself. It’s kind of scary. It’s kind of exciting. It makes me feel sort of floaty and untied. I was never the kid who moved around a lot when I was younger. I went to my elementary school for 10 years and my high school for 4. We changed houses a few times but I always lived in the same 5 kilometre radius. I’m not used to being so unanchored. When I went back to Barrie at Christmas, I drove around and just looked at all the familiarity. The gas stations, parks, schools, intersections and street corners that had made up my childhood world.

I don’t know why this makes me feel so strange. After all, the wanderlust is strong. I love exploring new cities and breathing the air of new places. I thrive off of meeting new people. I think it’s not so much the fear of what’s new but the loss of what’s old that makes me feel uncomfortable. These may seem like one and the same but I don’t think they are. Switzerland was incredible and stretching and a learning experience. But I always knew I was coming home at the end. Now, I don’t even know where home is. I mentioned in one of my posts at the end of last year that I realized how important family is but missing family is not the same as missing home. 

Just out of curiosity, I looked up the definition of the word home. There were several definitions, especially because the word can have so many functions within a sentence. Two of them however really caught my eye.

Home, noun: the place where one lives permanently, particularly as part of a family or household

Home, verb: to move or be aimed toward (a target or destination) with great accuracy 

Ok, so I’ve pretty much accepted that for my time as a student I am not going to have somewhere that I “live permanently”. What about the second definition? To be aimed toward with great accuracy. This reminded me of a homing pigeon, which can find it’s way where it needs to go and yet always knows it’s way back to where it came from 

I am homing. I do not have “a” home, but I am homing. I will navigate these next years, always moving, always aimed towards something new and fresh and yet I will remember my home; I will find my way back from time to time. And one day, one day, I will settle and be permanent. But for now I am in transit like a bird.

What’s the target? I don’t know. I’m trusting God with that one. I do know that if I keep trusting Him, my steps will continue to have great accuracy. I will get to explore and learn and find new corners of my heart for each person and place that I learn to love. And in that way, I will always be “home”.

-Until next time, Sam

Some pictures of places I’ve called home the past two years. Where will be next?