I want to write.
But sometimes, I’m afraid.
I have a lot of thoughts always running through my mind and when they stay there, they are somewhat safe. Safe from the judgment of others, safe from the self-inflicted shame I feel from pretending I know what people will think and say. Safe from the discouraging comments that I might get.
And so lately, I let those thoughts that I’m afraid to write stay somewhat safe.
But tonight, I’m fighting the urge to keep them far away from a page that anyone could read. Tonight, I have a spark of courage.
I recently moved from the city to a little house just outside the hustle and bustle of Toronto, in what some may call the countryside. I grew up in the country, like the real country, with cows and the constant smell of manure, and having long bus rides because the closest school is a few towns away. So this little house doesn’t really feel too much like the country I grew up in, but it certainly is a far cry from being downtown. I named my new home Rose Cottage and it’s everything my heart could dream of for a first home. I’m utterly undeserving of such a gift but my heart has never been so grateful to my Father who gives good gifts.
I will say though that I never imagined I’d be here. Living in a cute little house, learning to cook and garden and how to fill a hole with dry wall plaster. How did I get here? It has dawned on me how God moves you from one place to another to another and somehow the thing before prepared you for the thing you’re in now, and you never saw it coming.
It seems to be that the art of adulting is really just about realizing that life rarely goes as planned and it’s easier to jump on board than to fight it. All this to say, I’ve become pretty good at fighting it. It’s easy to have a brave face in public but I can’t escape the mirror when I come home. I look into it and so often I feel broken. And in those moments of discouragement, I hear every negative thing that was ever said to me. I hear the lies I’ve come to believe about myself repeated over and over again until my heart feels like it’s been stabbed repeatedly. I fall into bed exhausted from the tears, from the weight of the fight, from the lies I’ve tattooed all over my being that have left scars.
Sometimes being alone does this.
In the quiet, I hear “NOT GOOD ENOUGH”. Not pretty enough. Not smart enough. Not skinny enough. Not spiritual enough. Not brave enough. Not enough. Not Enough. Not Enough.
I wonder how many others carry these scars with them? Our shame keeps us silent.
Writing about it feels dark and heavy. I don’t want to stay in this place and yet in certain seasons, the fight feels too big to let go of, it’s easier to hold tightly onto discouragement and comparison and blame.
GOD…. Do you know how this feels? Do you see me in my weakest moments? Why them, why not me? When will it be my turn? Why can’t my life look like that? What’s wrong with me that I’m here, stuck in this place and not there, thriving in that place?
But what if they are asking the same questions that I am?
What if the big secret is that deep down, we all don’t feel like we’re enough. And we put on brave faces to pretend that we aren’t struggling right now.
But what if the struggle is what is making us deeper? What if the struggle is the gift? What if I can’t see the whole picture? If I saw the struggle as a gift, would it change how I live? Would it change how I think about God? Would it change how I approach my everyday life?
I was driving somewhere a while ago and I can’t remember exactly what had happened but I had just heard about a situation that evoked a profound response of empathy in me. I started to tear up and then tried to figure out why a situation which I wasn’t really that close to was causing such a stir in my soul. And in that moment, I was aware that the pain of my own struggle was making me deeper, more empathetic, more compassionate and more aware of the people around me. God was changing my heart in ways that only a temporary sense of pain and hurt could accomplish. And in those moments, I was thankful.
I’m a feeler – I feel things deeply, which is a blessing and a curse. There are moments in my life where I’m overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness and it’s so easy for me to see that life is good and beautiful and full. But there are also moments where discouragement clouds my vision and I feel the sting of unfulfilled longings and the tension and fear of trusting an unknown future to a known God.
The struggle is part of my story and likely yours too. And maybe it’s time to realize that all good stories involve some kind of struggle and pain and disappointment. But we can’t stay there in those dark places forever. We have to let them move us to the next thing. We have to let them make us deeper human beings – more compassionate, more loving, more generous, more aware of the people around us.
It’s time to believe and embrace that God has more of life for us and that how things are today might not be how they are tomorrow.
After all, it’s all just a gift. So may we take a hold of this gift, in our good days and in our dark days, and remember that the best stories come from both the good and the bad.
I like to choose a word for the season I find myself in. Sometimes it’s a word that I need to hear, and see and write down over and over again. Sometimes it’s a word that I want to be or that I need to remember that I am. I’ve found that the word I choose shows itself in layers, in different places and in people who I least expect to find it in.
I’m not sure how I go about choosing the word but somehow it finds me. I like to think that God speaks it to my heart in the silence. I’ve come to believe this because my word usually seems to perfectly connect with my season. Strange, I know, but divinely so.
My word in this season is courage. Here’s why this word is connecting with the deepest parts of my soul right now…
Courage is one of those words that means something different for every person and in every situation. Courage is deeply rooted in who we are, in our stories and in the choices we make everyday. Courage is always a choice that we get to make. Courage is something that can grow and it often begins so small and tiny and fragile. Courage is always evolving as we evolve.
I want to have courage.
I want to fight against the voices that tell me I can’t do something.
I want to keep trying, even when all I seem to do is fail.
I want to believe that people can change, if they choose to.
I want to be a person who gives second-chances and more grace.
And in my life, these things demand courage.
I have a friend who recently lost his brother, who was also his best friend. Sometimes when we talk, he tells me that he wishes this could have just happened to someone else, someone who he doesn’t know, someone across the world. Why did it have to be him and his family? He knows that somehow, someday God will redeem this and it won’t hurt so bad, but right now it hasn’t been redeemed. It hurts everyday and he doesn’t know when the anxiety of his grief will hit him next, because that’s what grief does. And so he keeps going, somedays in a complete fog functioning on very little sleep. And some days his grief makes him suffer in silence and other days he shares it. This is courage – to keep going when you’re broken and when your story hasn’t been redeemed yet.
I have another friend whose life hasn’t turned out as she thought it would. She’s been through some things that have ripped her heart out and thrown it in her face. Yet, she’s let these things soften her heart and despite unfulfilled dreams, she keeps asking God what he’s up to next. Sometimes she tells me about the things she’s trying and the places she’s visiting and the things she’s learning on her own and I’m amazed at her. She is a woman of courage, and I don’t even think she knows it.
I recently had a conversation with another friend who has been deeply hurt by people who she thought were on her team. She invested her whole heart into her work only to have it end in a way she never expected. And as she cried the kind of tears that can only come from a broken heart, she talked about wanting to figure out how she can be a person of grace when things haven’t gone as she thought they would because she speaks it, but now she has to live it. She is living courage out in the flesh. And while my heart breaks for her, she is inspiring me with her courage.
Sometimes courage is asking the second question.
Sometimes courage is going to that wedding alone.
Sometimes courage is going back to school when you’re 50.
Sometimes courage is letting yourself say no to another thing.
Sometimes it’s having a conversation that is uncomfortable and awkward.
Sometimes it’s saying I’m sorry.
Sometimes it’s walking through those church doors.
Sometimes it’s asking for help.
Courage is the choice we get to make.
So in this season, I’m learning about what it means to have courage right where I find myself. And my courage may not seem like courage to you, but it’s mine and it’s the stuff that’s changing my heart. And some days for me, courage just means being ok with not being ok because I’m giving voice to the things that shame tells me to keep silent.
So where are you choosing courage? It’s ok to let it start small and fragile because I’m telling you…
It will grow and it will become part of your story and it will make you deeper. But maybe courage isn’t your word for this season. Maybe there’s another word that’s changing and challenging you. And if that’s the case, my prayer for you is simple:
I was recently reading a book about relationships. The book explored how we learn to act in relationships and what actions are learned behaviours that we picked up somewhere along the way. We all get this choice about whether a relationship is worth us unlearning those behaviours that cause the other person pain (and in turn ends up hurting ourselves) or creates an environment that doesn’t feel like safe space. The choice to unlearn behaviours can be really hard and we often discover some really ugly things about ourselves during the process, but I think that’s the difference between relationships that work and are centered around grace and truth, and those that aren’t.
I’m finding that at the root of many learned behaviours is shame. Shame is that feeling that we are not enough, that what we did or who we are is bad, this sense that we will never meet the bar. Guilt often goes hand in hand with shame and I’ve become convinced that many of us are walking around with this deep sense of guilt and shame. Throughout history, the church has been an excellent producer of shame in people. The strategy to make people feel so guilty and ashamed of themselves that they must get “saved”, or the missionaries who compel us to give money by shaming the way we live so we give out of guilt, instead of joy. Guilt turns life into a “have to” instead of a “get to”. Shame makes us hide in dark corners and tells us we have to struggle in silence or else we will not be accepted.
But how did we learn shame? Can you sit and remember that exact moment when it entered your life, when you first felt like you weren’t good enough?
I sat and thought about this for a while and then it came to me and it brought tears with it, suddenly as I relived that moment in my mind, the sense of shame was so real all over again. Growing up, I was always slightly overweight. I blame my grandmother who introduced me to cinnamon buns as a toddler when I was going through a phase of not eating anything, until I met those buns. Needless to say, I’ve always had a little junk in the trunk. My second grade teacher never really seemed to like me, even though I tried everything I could to make her happy. We were doing a math lesson and all I remember is that she decided that she would weigh each one of us in the class and put the number on the board so eventually we could add them up. I froze. I knew I was a bit heavier than some of the kids but more than that; I didn’t want to step on the scale in front of everyone. I didn’t want them to know how much I weighed. I waited until the end hoping she might forget me by accident. She didn’t. I stepped on the scale and I weighed more than most of the kids in my class. Everyone snickered and whispered things. I sat down at my desk and at the age of 7, I felt complete and utter shame. It was that day that I learned to hate my body, a behavior I’m still trying to unlearn 20 years later. It was that year I developed a stomach disorder because I went to school nervous and worried everyday. What would the teacher make me do, what would the kids say? I was 7 years old when I learned what real shame felt like. Not the kind where your Mom scolds you for hitting your brother, the kind that takes root in your soul and reminds you daily that you are not enough. Not skinny enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not tall enough, you are not worthy of love or respect or being treated with equality.
There are few of us that walk around with a sense of entitlement but there are many of us walking around with the sense that we aren’t worthy of anything good.
I have too many conversations with people who tell me they don’t feel like it’s safe to bring their junk into the light; they are too ashamed and too afraid of what others will say. And I get that. The church can be the most frightening place to bring any type of sin and shame to the surface.
And that’s not ok.
And no, it shouldn’t be like this.
This is not how God created us to live. This is the stuff he longs to free us from. And so I don’t want to be silent any more and hide in my dark corner because my shame has made me feel so afraid and so alone.
The truth is that I am not alone and neither are you. You don’t have to struggle alone. I absolutely believe that Jesus doesn’t want to throw another stone at you, he wants you to know that you are loved, you are known and you are seen. And it’s ok. There is more life for you so don’t waste it hiding in the dark.
Like I wrote earlier, the choice to unlearn behaviours can be really hard and we often discover some really ugly things about ourselves during the process. Unlearning to cling to shame and guilt is no different. The process can be messy and bring up stuff we’ve tried so hard to hide and it’s a daily struggle. But I want to be a person who offers grace and truth to people and I can’t do that if I haven’t let those things invade my own life and my own relationships. This is the journey of faith and it’s where Jesus longs to meet us. We were never meant to cower in the corner; we were made to live in the light with other people, working our junk out together.
This is the Jesus way and it’s the stuff that makes for the deepest and most meaningful relationships. So let’s dump the shame and live in grace. We just might discover the “more” we’ve been longing for.
In the midst of my “transition year”, I’ve found myself learning some new things.
For a long time I felt like I was sitting on the bench watching the game and all I wanted to do was play. I felt the ache of wondering if God had forgotten about me or if I just wasn’t the type of person he was looking for. I felt like he didn’t see me. Even as I sit here and write these words, tears well up in my eyes because I know that deep ache, that deep longing to be seen and known. I know the deep ache of watching your friends get married, of holding one baby after another wondering if that will ever be your story. I know the ache of wondering if there will ever be anything for you, if what you do really matters and wondering if you were gone, would anyone notice. I know the desire to have meaningful friendships that give you life and the struggle to find a place to belong. And I know what it’s like to walk into parties and church and other special occasions alone, I get what that can do to a person after they’ve done it for the 20th time.
What will the rest of your life look like?
What’s next for you?
Any way you frame it, this is the question I’m pretty sure almost every new graduate is facing. Please map out what the next 10 years of your life will look like! Um, I’m sorry, I can’t even map out the next 10 days!
At first, I was overwhelmed by this question because I felt like I needed to have something profound to say. Oh, I’m thinking about doing a masters or I’ve got a few things lined up, I’m just weighing out my options. Of course there’s always the number one Christian cop-out – “I’m praying about it.” And actually, it’s true.
But here’s the thing – I think most of us are asking the wrong question. We don’t realize that the way we ask about someone’s plans is actually inferring that they have to have a plan. It’s sending the message that what we are doing at the time isn’t good enough. It’s actually communicating this idea that we need to know what comes next or what the next 10 years will hold and here’s the question I have for you – why? Where is the adventure in knowing exactly what I’ll be doing for the next 10 years? I’m not against having goals; I think goal setting can be very important. But having goals is different from knowing exactly what your life will potentially look like for the next 5 years.
Why don’t we ask questions like: What’s God teaching you right now? What are you loving about life right now? Do you have people around you that are pouring into your life and that you do likewise? What are your dreams for the future? What is filling your mind these days?
We are not promised tomorrow, next week, next year or 10 years from now, and so I’m much more interested in knowing where a person is at right now then where they’ll be in a couple of years.
Some of us have this expectation that when we graduate, we know what job we will do and of course we will do it for the rest of our lives. But the world just doesn’t work like this anymore. What I originally went to school for is definitely not what I’m doing now. But nothing is ever wasted. My previous experiences have shaped who I am and brought me to the place I’m in now.
So to answer your question of what’s next for me? I’ll let you know when I know, but in the mean time why don’t we talk about what’s happening in the now.
(insert high intensity, cliff hanger music here)
The answer is….YES!!!! Come May 3rd, I will be walking across the platform to receive my degree….hooray!
I moved to the city 3 years ago. I was looking for adventure, for meaningful friendship, and for love. I also wanted a degree and the whole expanding my mind through knowledge thing was somewhat attractive to me at the time.
So I saved my pennies and hoped OSAP would cover the rest and in good faith I moved from y small country town to the big city of Toronto. I remember having a few conversations with some of the locals and I would laugh when they’d question why in the world I would ever want to move to the city, as if it was hell itself. But I needed something different, new faces and sidewalks and subways. I needed to know there was more then what I had come to know.
Well a few years later, I can proudly declare that I have survived my Bible college education, I have managed to go on some pretty neat adventures, meet some fabulous new faces, navigate public transit….and I’ve still yet to find love, but there is hope.
Here are a few things I’ve learned in the past few years about life, Bible College, taking risks and living in the city…
- It’s highly conceivable that the major you start with won’t be the one you end up with and if it is, you probably have changed it more than once because after all, university is about trying new things, testing out new ideas and changing your mind!
- You will make lots of friends and acquaintances while you’re in school and sometimes it’s hard to know which ones will stick and who the good eggs are. Be intentional about your friendships or you may come to the end of your degree and look back and wonder if some of the people you spent your days with really know who you are at all. So be a good friend, ask questions, take an interest, get to know people’s stories and let people enter into yours and don’t be afraid to let the bad eggs go.
- Geese just might be the worst creatures known to man.
- Toronto is one of the best cities in the world. I love venturing downtown and I am continuously amazed by the endless possibilities of things to see and do. Sometimes just going downtown with no agenda is the best adventure of all!
- It is possible to attend Bible college without getting your MRS or your ring by spring! Seriously, I’m living proof that not everyone finds their soul mate in Bible college and do you know what, that’s ok. Sometimes it’s just nice to know that there is more waiting beyond the Christian school bubble.
- “Christian sports” is a total oxymoron! Anyone who has participated in Christian athletic leagues can probably vouch that it’s way worse than many regular leagues.
- The “freshman 15” happens to a good number of us, and trying to get rid of it while still eating cafeteria food is almost impossible!
- Sometimes the best friendships you will make are the ones you least expect to happen; the ones that catch you by surprise.
- Debt sucks….make a financial plan and suck your educational experience dry so that you leave no stone unturned. At least when you’re paying off your education you will know it was worth it.
- Your university experience will change every year. Every September new people will come through the doors, new leadership will take charge, new classes with new profs will begin. What was last year will be no longer and the easiest way to tackle this hurdle is to just go with the flow and embrace the newness, until it becomes familiar. But you will look back when you’re done and see that the changes made for a more eclectic experience.
- If you can, go to counselling. Your twenties are prime time to work your junk out – even those of you who think you don’t have any. It’s actually one of the healthiest and caring things you can do for yourself, so don’t let the stigma scare you off. Schools often provide free counselling services to their students and honestly, there’s no better time to process your life and your stuff then while you’re in school and have someone willing to listen and care.
- Find a mentor….find someone who inspires you and who you think can speak into your life. Ask them if they’d be willing to mentor you for the year and then commit to meet with them regularly. This was something I did my very first year of school and it’s been one of the most impacting relationships of my entire life and it’s helped me get through the really tough moments of my time at Tyndale.
- Ask questions. When I was in college, I was nervous and it was hard for me to ask a question out loud because I worried about what people would think. A few years later when I started university, I found my confidence and would regularly ask my profs questions during lectures. This was one of the most freeing experiences for me and I honestly believe that being able to ask questions has helped me have greater success academically and spiritually. There’s a good chance that if you have the question, someone else in the class has it too!
- Grace changes people. This is a lesson that I’ve learned first hand this year. It is one thing to talk about grace but it’s another thing to have someone offer it to you when you don’t deserve it….and this is the stuff that breaks down people’s walls and that gets at the deep stuff. And so we need to have grace for others and for ourselves….because sometimes we just can’t do it all, even though we want to.
- There’s a really good chance that the place where you come out will not be the place that you thought you’d come out at. This fact in itself can be cause for great distress, disappointment, and even anger, not to mention panic attacks! While I obsess over the other people who seem to have their lives figured out, I often wonder if this type of uncertainty or lack of direction is just part of life for some people. I wonder if living in this sense of the unknown can actually be one of the greatest adventures of them all. I’ll let you know in a couple of years if I find this to be true.
I have these moments where I think back to when I began this adventure and I don’t know where the time went? I am reminded to live fully present right where I am, because life goes by too fast. I’m so thankful for the adventure of the past few years and although I go forward with some uncertainty and a little bit of worry, I’m hopeful and excited for what the next chapter of life will hold and the new people that will stumble across my path.
So cheers to hope and living fully right where you are!
It was a slow Saturday at work a few weeks ago when I overheard a rather disturbing conversation outside. There was a group of boys, one older man and a few young adult guys sitting around a table after having just played some type of sport for an hour or so. I figured it was some type of outreach group where you use sports to share Jesus. I think I was right.
After the sports were over was when they sat the boys down for the devotional. They gave them pizza too – a good way to get boys to sit still. I listened as one of the boys, probably around 11 or so shared his testimony. He talked about the time when he learned about the rapture and how when Jesus comes back, those who didn’t accept him will be left behind. He talked about how he didn’t want to be one of those people left behind so he accepted Jesus into his heart. As I listened to this boy, I couldn’t help but feel completely disturbed. The older man spoke after the boy and at this point I figured he would try and clear things up a bit about the rapture, but he didn’t. Instead he went on to talk about the rapture and how to not be left behind.
In that moment it took every bit of self-control not to march out into that hall and give that guy a piece of my mind and tell him that the rapture isn’t even biblical! To say that those left behind movies are nonsense!
But whether or not you believe in the rapture isn’t the point. The rapture itself is not why I felt so distressed that day…the real reason is that I couldn’t help but feeling like this is a shining example of how people miss the point. You have a group of young guys sitting around a table, some of them probably knew little about Jesus, and of all the things you choose to talk about, the rapture wins. You have this brief window to tell these kids about this Jesus guy and instead of inspiring them, you make Jesus out to be a bargaining chip – choose Jesus or get left behind.
And we wonder why we have kids growing up with an inaccurate picture of Jesus and wanting nothing to do with faith.
This weekend is Easter and tomorrow many of us in the Christian faith will celebrate Good Friday. It’s the day when Jesus was crucified; when he said “father forgive them, for they know not what they do”; when the veil was torn in two. It wasn’t a good day for Jesus but it was a good day for us. It was the day when God poured out everything to reach us, to give us a chance at real life. This isn’t a story of choose Jesus or go to hell, this is a story of love and sacrifice and making a way where the was no way. On Sunday we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. It is the ultimate party day of the Christian faith because it represents everything that Jesus offers us – hope, new life, and freedom from death!
The Easter story beckons me to remember that following Jesus shouldn’t be about avoiding the rapture or escaping hell – the story of Jesus is about how to live out the kingdom fully right here and right now. It is about being invited into something that we just don’t want to miss. Jesus said he came to bring life to the fullest – this is the truth of Easter.
This is the story I wish those boys could have heard. I wish they could have heard about this Jesus who wants to give them life, and not just save them from death.
This is the story I hope you experience this weekend. I hope that it won’t be about death or escape for you, but I hope it will be about life and celebration and resurrection.
Don’t let yourself miss the point or you might just miss the party!
Apparently today is not just a day for April Fools pranks, but also for engagements.
It’s a dangerous move choosing to announce your engagement on April Fools Day. In fact, I’m still wondering how many of the engagements that appeared on my Facebook newsfeed this morning are actually legit? I’m forced to play detective and read the comments and search for picture proof of the actual proposal act. I blame April Fools for not being able to trust my own friends who are declaring that they are engaged, pregnant and/or moving!
Perhaps I would just assume that everyone is lying or “joking” but then I’m caught off guard by that one story that is in fact true! Now I question every other post again. Ugh, you’ve got me!
This has made April 1st just another day to lie to your friends, waste their time and cry wolf. When you’re really engaged, do you think I’m going to believe you?
(Sigh) Ya, I totally will.
So for those of you who got engaged, congrats!
For those of you who pretended, I hope you know that your single, naive friends might be planning their revenge!😉
Happy April (and hopefully the arrival of Spring) to the rest of you non-engaged, non-pregnant, non-movers!
When I think about this year, I think about a year that has felt like I’ve been battling the feeling of barrenness. It’s been a season of having moments where I’ve been overcome with shame and inadequacy. It’s been a season of constant worry for the future, with a constant struggle to believe that I can trust God. In my desire to be transparent and vulnerable, I admit that sometimes it feels like I’ve only been hanging onto Jesus with my pinky. It’s like the photo by Michelangelo that depicts God stretching towards Adam and Adam just lazily flopping his hand out. I am that picture.
And yet I believe that the picture is true, God is stretching towards me and somehow has a firm grip on me. I choose to believe that this season of barrenness will give way to new life. I don’t know when or how, but I choose hope.
The other day a few other students and I were leading our class through a worship experience. I opened our time together by praying this prayer over all of us. It strikes me as a prayer that I really need to pray every morning. As I earnestly speak these words aloud, I think there is something that happens in me. I don’t know exactly what it is. Maybe it’s freedom? Maybe it’s this sense of not needing to pretend with God, because I’ve just swung the doors wide open and revealed all of the stuff piling up?
I don’t understand what happens in me when I lay it all on the table before Jesus. But I can tell you that I go through my day differently. And maybe it’s for this reason alone that I need to release my stuff more often.
And maybe it’s what you need to do today too?
To the one who knows me as I really am and still loves me.
Today, I bring all of me –
my hopes and my fears,
my dreams and my doubts;
the part of me that likes to please other people
and the part that genuinely desires you.
I bring all of me –
My anger and my past,
my goals and my priorities,
my flagrant forgetfulness of your glory,
and the familiar memories of my pain.
Here are my loves,
here are my needs,
here is my hurt,
here is my desire.
I bring my gifts as well.
All that I have and all that I am –
the abilities you gave me,
the training I’ve acquired,
the motivation to do good,
the strength of my convictions,
the influence I have with others,
the interests and passions that inspire me.
I bring you my stuff –
so much stuff, that I’ve cluttered
my heart and my home with.
I bring you my stuff as well.
I bring all of me –
my relationships and my needs,
my sins and my pride and my portfolio.
Time at work.
My all –
my eyes and the things I look at,
my tongue and the words I say,
my ears and my hands and my feet,
my heart and my mind and my soul,
and my will.
The cursing part,
the complacent part,
the depressed part,
the apathetic part,
the lazy, lonely, misguided, power-hungry me.
I bring you my all.
I bring you myself.
Even the hesitation I have to pray this prayer,
even the pride I have for praying it,
Even the fear that you might take me seriously
and expect all of this from me.
Even those things
I bring them all
and offer them, to you here, today.
Somehow in our broken states, Jesus is reaching for us. It’s that picture above. To the one who knows me as a I really am: thank you.