Left Behind…

I have this fear. 

I’m afraid of being left behind. 

Before all of my pentecostal friends start thinking I suddenly believe in the rapture, let me clarify. 

I’m a natural born leader and so I’ve become used to leading. Even in situations where I’m following, I always have the mindset that being a good leader also requires me to know how to be a good follower. And so I follow so that I can lead more effectively. 

As a leader, I fear being left behind. I fear being in the places that don’t seem to make sense because they are not how I imagined they should be. 

I fear being the one who still is unsure what to do with my life.
I fear being the one who still is living the student life.
I fear being the one who still hasn’t found someone special to share life with.
I fear being the one who is still so uncertain about so many things.

The have are certain areas in my life where I always thought that I would lead the way because I’m a leader and that’s what we do. Instead, I feel like I’ve become the follower.

This is not the kind of following I would have chosen. It’s uncomfortable. Sometimes the feelings it brings are enough to knock me out. Sometimes the frustration and discouragement this kind of following leaves me with attempts to push out every spark of hope. 

It’s in these moments that I find myself having really brutally honest conversations with God. It’s in these moments that I question Him, I accuse Him of not knowing what’s best, of not wanting good things for me. These are the moments where I tell God that the grass must be greener on the other side. I play the comparison game. 

I scroll through my facebook feed and I see the pictures and the statuses. And without even realizing it at the time, I wage war against hope. I give into believing that God is not worthy of my trust because He has robbed me of being able to lead the way in the areas where I think I should be leading. And I buy into the lies that tell me that it’s my fault that things are this way. And so I believe that I will always be left behind. 

And this kind of thinking becomes like streams of poison in my life. Poison that corrodes all joy and trust and self-worth. It breaks down my ability to respond to hard things with courage and confidence. I become beaten before the fight even begins. Everything that doesn’t go my way essentially becomes another arrow sent from heaven aimed straight at my heart. God no longer becomes my refuge and protector, He slowly becomes an enemy only out to get me and make me suffer. 

I’ve believed these lies for too long. I’ve let these streams of poison kill too much joy. I’ve let myself believe that I am a victim of God’s “not so great” plan for my life. 

And the thing is….I’ve decided that it’s time to fight. 

It’s time to fight against comparison.
Against believing that if your life doesn’t look like you think it should, like the lives of those around you, that this must mean that you have been left behind. 
It’s time to see things in new light. 

When I spend all of my time focusing on the things I don’t have, I miss the things I do have. I miss the opportunities that I have the chance to live in. I miss the daily joy. And maybe the grass isn’t actually greener on the other side. Perhaps it just looks that way in the pictures. Maybe all the things I’m experiencing right now are God’s protection, they are His way of demonstrating just how much He loves me. When my hand is right up against my face, it’s blurry, I can’t tell that it’s a hand. It’s only when I move my hand away from my face that I get a new perspective and I start to understand what’s really going on. I’m starting to think that this is actually the case for most of us. 

We need to help each other out. We need more honesty, less pictures of the perfect life and more pictures of our messiness. I want to recognize that most of us haven’t arrived yet and flaunting something that I’ve got that they don’t have (yet) can actually be really hurtful. 

My story is not being written exactly how I thought it would be. It’s got a few different twists that I didn’t plan on taking and the bumps never seem to be in the places I anticipated but isn’t this the beauty of life? If my life would have turned out exactly as I planned it, the reality is that I think I would be bored. I would miss all of these people that I’ve gotten to meet, I’d miss the unique places I’ve gotten to visit, I wouldn’t know the depth that longing and waiting creates in a person’s soul. And I won’t have the celebration that I’m going to have when some of the things I’m waiting to figure out actually happen. And as I write this, in a way I feel like these words are healing to my soul. They are words of restoration to the places that have become bitter and disappointed. And they are words that I have to keep fighting to speak. This battle is a daily one for me. It’s the one I wake up with in the morning and go to bed with at night. 

Choosing joy is just that, it’s a choice. And it’s one that I’ve failed to choose too often. 

And I want to change. 

So consider this my acknowledgment that I need to change. Because at my core I believe that God sees, and He knows all about it. 
And that this moment, this hour, this day, this week, this month, this year, 
this is not the end of the story. 

And me, and you, and that person sitting across from you on the subway, we are not, nor have we ever been…


The History I Never Knew…

I didn’t really know what I was going to. All I knew was that it was some type of First Nations conference and it was in Montreal. I met with my supervisor the week before and she told me that she wanted me to go to the conference not knowing anything, having a blank slate. So myself and three others that I met on the way to the conference, headed to Montreal for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
There were lots of seminar options to attend so we were free to pick and choose. Three of us decided to spend our first morning at the conference attending a showing of the film We Were Children. At this point I still wasn’t sure what the conference was really all about. The next two hours were an absolute smack in the face. Throughout the next 2 days I would come face to face with a part of my Canadian history that I never new about.
What was I attending exactly? The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or the TRC “has a mandate to learn the truth about what happened in the residential schools and to inform all Canadians about what happened in the schools. The commission will document the truth of what happened by relying on records held by those who operated and funded the schools, testimony from officials of the institutions that operated the schools, and experiences reported by survivors, their families, communities and anyone personally affected by the residential school experience and its subsequent impacts.” So I was at a nation wide TRC event. Here’s a little more info. about the issue…
“Residential schools for Aboriginal people in Canada date back to the 1870’s. Over 130 residential schools were located across the country, and the last school closed in 1996. These government-funded, church-run schools were set up to eliminate parental involvement in the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual development of Aboriginal children.
During this era, more than 150,000 First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children were placed in these schools often against their parents’ wishes. Many were forbidden to speak their language and practice their own culture. While there is an estimated 80,000 former students living today, the ongoing impact of residential schools has been felt throughout generations and has contributed to social problems that continue to exist.
On June 11, 2008, the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government of Canada, delivered a formal apology in the House of Commons to former students, their families, and communities for Canada’s role in the operation of the residential schools.” (click for link)
This is the history from the TRC website. However, it’s one thing to sit and read it, it’s another thing to hear the stories in person. From the moment I began watching the film, I realized that I have been completely ignorant of a genocide that happened in my very own country. The film depicts the life of two children who were sent to two different residential schools. They are stripped of their entire identity, forced to learn and speak a language foreign to them, forced to adopt a religion unknown, and made to feel shame and guilt for being born a Native. The film also reveals the horrible physical, sexual and emotional abuse done to the children by the clergy. There were several points during the film where I wanted to throw up because the treatment towards the children was so brutal to watch. At the beginning of the film it was announced that there were health aids standing by if anyone needed to talk about what they were seeing. About halfway through the film one of these health aides came down our row and sat down beside our group, we weren’t quite sure what she was doing. I glanced at her through the corner of my eye; she put her hand on the gentleman sitting in front of us. The man was large, well built and looked to be in his early 60’s, and he was also part of the First Nations community. The woman put her hand on his shoulder and it was then that I saw the tears that were streaming down his face. I watched this man for the rest of the film, and tears continued to fall from his eyes. It dawned on me that while I was watching a film, this man was reliving very real events that happened in his life. This wasn’t just a movie; this was the story of his people. I can’t get that picture out of my head.
What followed that afternoon was an opportunity to be a part of a sharing circle. A large group of people gathered, many from the First Nations community and many who weren’t. We sat in a circle of chairs. Many of us wore earpieces to hear the discussion in our own language because the conversation went back and forth between English and French. It was a time to discuss reconciliation and how we get from here to there. There was a moderator but people were free to speak, and each person was allowed up to 5 minutes. I listened intently and took notes. I heard many survivors of the residential schools speak and share parts of their stories. I heard some speak who were very angry at the government, at the church, at the white people who are ignorant of the history. I heard the message over and over again that an apology means nothing if there is not a change in treatment, if the actions of the party apologizing do not change.
The next day our group sat in on one of the main sessions where a very large crowd gathered to hear a panel of people from various walks of life discuss reconciliation. Again, I listened intently and took down notes. After this seminar we attended another seminar where we heard a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide speak. There was a short time for responses and questions afterwards.
I also took some time to walk around and look at some of the different rooms that were set up. There was one room that was called the “church’s listening area”. This was a room where the four main denominations (Catholic, United, Presbyterian, and Anglican) that were involved with running the residential schools set up tables with pictures of the classes and information available for members of the First Nations community that were trying to find and identify family members. This area was also for the churches simply to listen to members of the First Nations community.
There were areas where different organizations set up tables promoting healing and social justice. There were large boards being displayed that gave the history of the First Nations people in Canada. There were boards that showed what life was like in the residential schools.
These were a couple parts of the boards that gripped me…

A little Aboriginal boy in his uniform.
I’ve been trying to write about my experience in Montreal all week. In part I feel like I still don’t know much at all. Another part of me has been trying to work through the tension that this happened and I didn’t know anything about it. Why didn’t I learn about it? Are we even teaching it in our schools? Do most Canadians even know that this happened? I took pages and pages of notes but to summarize them, these are the thoughts and quotes that have stuck with me the most:
  • The church was instrumental in seeking to assimilate the Aboriginal race. They did it in God’s name. They taught the children to speak “God’s language”. They also raped and molested and beat and mocked innocent children. They went against their own holy scriptures. There was no love, no respect, and no justice. One native man angrily said that it’s either that your institution is evil or your God is evil, which one is it? He demanded that we clean out our church.

  • One woman said that what the residential schools created was a “diocide”. This is killing the idea of God in the child so that they spend their life looking for him.

  • One man said, “there is no one and nothing that can give us back what we lost over this tragedy. I wonder what I would have become.” 

  • The government and the church used the school as a venue to destroy the human spirit. Another woman said that there was nothing left of her when she came out of these schools.

  • “They did a good some at assimilating some of us”. “I didn’t want to be aboriginal.”
  • “I was ashamed but I forgive myself for believing what I was told about me.”

  • A non-aboriginal that has worked in high levels of government commented that if white people had the type of living conditions, limited access to clean water and education that many aboriginal people do today, there would be hell to pay.

  • Perhaps the comment that shocked me the most was that “our present life is actually built on a cultural genocide”. 

I guess there was a big realization for me that many, if not all of the issues surrounding the First Nations community today are a result of the residential schools. There were generations leaving these schools with no identity and with so much hatred for themselves and others. Many turned to drugs and alcohol and suicide. There were thousands of people who were robbed of a childhood and who didn’t know how to be parents. All they knew what the abuse. There’s a reason that things are the way they are today.
Once you know it, you can’t unknow it. One non-aboriginal woman said that this is deeply uncomfortable, but have we ever been comfortable when we grow? Another man commented that “reconciliation is not a spectator sport, it’s a contact sport…or initially a collision sport.” Both of these individuals are correct.
Several people have asked me what I’m going to do with this information, with the things that I’ve learned? I’m still figuring that out. But for starters I’m going to encourage you to watch this film and talk about it with others: We Were Children
I’m going to tell you to read about the First Nations history and educate yourself and others. Check out the TRC website. Or read articles…check out this one from the CBC website.
You see mutual respect means that we all have the same opportunities. Aboriginal children need to have the same right to life and hope that we want our own children to have. These things that happened were not dreams or myths, they were real events that occurred in our history. And unless we want this dark history to be repeated, we need to educate people on what happened, why it happened and why we can NEVER EVER let it happen again. We need to promote consciousness and social awareness. In the words of one woman that spoke “why wait for a big disaster to happen before we help each other?” Let’s start now. Let’s begin in our everyday lives, in our everyday relationships and contact with other human beings. Let’s start with educating our children, our friends and our family. Let’s ask questions.
For someone who loves the Church, it absolutely broke my heart to learn about the role that the church had in these events. More than that, as someone loves God, it breaks my heart that the church was instrumental in forming an identity about him based on lies and hatred. It’s my prayer that reconciliation will happen not only on behalf of the government and the country but on behalf of the church.
One thing is for sure, God did not do this. I believe God’s heart was and continues to be broken over this tragedy and over every single child that was robbed of their innocence and their childhood. I also believe that God is in the business of reconciliation and of putting people back together.
So may we become people who are not ignorant of our own history. May we commit to becoming humble reconcilers and promoters of peace. May we let the stories of real people move us to action and may we idle no more. 


Why "Waiting" Should Not Be Overrated…

The one and only year that I went to a Christian school was my grade eight year. I had a fantastic, young and passionate teacher. I still remember when one morning during devotions she talked to us about waiting. She used this Kleenex box demonstration, in which the Kleenex box represented her heart. Every time she dated a guy she gave away pieces of herself (her heart) to him. So my teacher went around to different boys in the classroom and would put piles of Kleenex on their desks that represented how much of herself she gave to each guy (for illustrative purposes). When she finally met the one she wanted to marry and give herself fully to, she couldn’t, because her Kleenex box was empty. She had given so much of herself to the other guys she had been with that she could not give her whole self to the one she was now going to marry.
I’ve never ever forgotten this illustration. In fact, I even used it once when I was speaking a few years ago to a group of Jr. High students about dating.
Moving up a few years…when I was 16 the song ‘Wait for me’ by Rebecca St. James was my anthem and Rebecca was my role model. She was the beautiful girl faithfully waiting to meet her husband, the one God had chosen for her.
A few years after that I was given the book ‘When God Writes Your Love Story’, that I read with high hopes. I can’t remember if I finished it, but I got the just.
I grew up in a family and in a youth group where I was always encouraged to wait.
Wait for what you might ask?
Yes, wait to have sex until I get married…
But not just that!
For me waiting has always been about so much more than that.
Waiting has meant a commitment to personal and spiritual growth. It’s meant learning to trust God. Waiting has made me deeper. It’s been the struggle that I go to bed with at night and wake up with in the morning.
I am a lover of Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. If you know me well, then you know I often refer to my future husband as “my Gilbert”. My movie case is full of love stories.
When I meet people, I always ask them how they met, how they came to love one another and of course, how how he purposed. I love to hear the stories. They move me, they give me hope and they remind me that God is really good at writing love stories.
You see, I’ve been praying for my future husband since I was a little girl. I pray specifically for his life, for the kind of man that he’s becoming, for the choices he is making, and that he will be able to wait.
A few years ago I was having coffee with a good friend. She got married in her late 20’s and she dated a few guys before she met the one she would marry. The advice she gave me that day has never left me since. She said that she wished she would have prayed early on that she would be able to just meet and date her husband because she had regrets from her other relationships. In a lot of ways, that’s become my prayer. That I would be able to wait for the right person, not giving pieces of myself away to the wrong person.
In a world where waiting has become overrated, where marriages are ending left and right and where having friends with benefits is common, some may think that this idea of waiting is rather silly.
However, I can’t think of something more beautiful, to be able to say to someone someday that I’ve been praying for your life for so many years. I wonder what would it feel like if someone said that to me? The days that seemed long and hard and lonely might be forgotten in that moment.
You see, I think learning to wait has shaped and molded the person that I am today. It has also made me realize how much a person can change and how their ideals can change too. The things I want in life now are not the things I wanted when I was 16, or 20 or 23, but I couldn’t have known that then.
So yes, I watch the love stories because they remind me to celebrate love.
And yes, I occasionally still listen to ‘Wait for me’ by Rebecca St. James, however cheesy it might sound.
And I think I’ll always refer to my future husband as ‘my Gilbert’.
But for those of you who think you are silly for waiting or you feel awkward because you are single….please don’t. Your time of waiting will make you deeper, more ready for what’s to come. Use this time to get to know yourself, who you are, what you like and what you don’t like. Learn to be a good friend. Find movies with stories that fill you up and remind you of the kind of story you’re waiting for.
Cause the truth is, YOU are worth waiting for!
Yours truly,
The Kindred Spirit 

Round 2 of Coffee…

I can remember the night like it was yesterday. The air was warm and yet slightly crisp for a fall night. The lights glistened and the noise of traffic and people filled the city space. I was downtown Toronto with two of my most favourite people in the whole world, my parents.
I realize it’s not everyday that you hear someone talk this way about their parents, but then again, you probably don’t know my parents. I will admit it a thousand times, I’m a very lucky girl. Living independently over the past two years has only served as a big reminder of that. I love my parents but not just because they me life and raised me but because they’re just two of the best people I know. They love to have experiences, they love conversation, they like to travel and they’re bent on not getting set in their ways. They like to think about things, especially their faith. They love to meet interesting people. When we’re together we laugh and we tell stories and we remember why life is such a gift. They are the people who I desperately seek advice from on almost everything, because what they think matters to me, and because too often than not, the words they give me change my perspective on life.
So this past September, on the weekend of my 25thbirthday, my parents drove to Toronto for the evening to take me out for a special birthday dinner at Marche. If you’ve never been to this restaurant you really need to go, it’s one of those places you have to experience at least once. So we went and we sat at a cute little table under a large skylight, surrounded by white lights in green trees. And for the next few hours we ate food that made our taste buds spring to life, and by candlelight and white lights we talked and laughed and shared stories. And a while after the first round of dessert coffee, they decided it was time for the second round of coffees. I love having coffee with people; it’s actually one of my favourite things to do. I’ve been on enough coffee dates to know that there are only certain people and certain circumstances that make you entertain the possibility of a round 2 of coffees. And so on this perfect night, we enjoyed round 2 of coffee because there was nowhere else we wanted to be than right there, in that moment, with each other.
This is the memory that I can’t get out of my head. It was everything about that night. It was being in the city, it was the pizza my Mom and I shared, it was watching my Dad’s eyes light up while he ate one of his favourite desserts, it was the feeling I got inside when my parents stood up to go and get round 2 of coffee. It was the realization that there wasn’t anywhere else they had to be; they just wanted to be there with me. Tears come to my eyes as I think about this night and as I consider that this is what it feels like to be loved. This is what it’s like to be fully present with someone. This is what it feels like to all of a sudden realize that those people are not just your parents; they’ve become two of your closest friends.
And when my counselor tells me to close my eyes and think about a memory that makes me feel safe, and seen, and heard, and loved, this is what I think about.
And when my mentor talks to me about Jesus just wanting to be present with me, this is the memory that I compare it to. Because if this is what it’s like for my parents to just want to be with me, then what might it be like for my Heavenly Father to just want to be with me?
I don’t know if my parents know just what that round 2 of coffees meant that night, but for me that second cup of coffee was a spiritual experience in every way.
Utterly thankful,
The Kindred Spirit

Sometimes You Need to Leave…

As I sit here and write this I am flying high above the clouds, on my way home to Toronto after a wonderful weekend spent in the South.
I’m a firm believer that sometimes in order to remember why you love a place, you have to leave it. Even if you leave for just a short time, for the good of your heart, and your mind and your soul, for the good of your story you need to go. As I look out the window and see the moon shine on the clouds beneath me, and every now and again catch a glimpse of the land below, I am reminded that I am so small and insignificant. Yet here I am surrounded by gifts, starting with the very blood that runs through my veins and gives me life.
Airports are one of my most favourite places. I know, I’m weird. People from all over the world in one place, everyone on the go with some place to be. I sit and I watch them. I wonder about their lives. Where do they come from? Why do they dress like that? What is their story? Why does she look so sad? Why is that man wearing a dress? I listen to the accents, to the languages, I hear them talk on their cell phones and wonder where their homes are? The men and women in uniform walk past and I look in their eyes. I can’t help but wonder where they will serve and if one day they will give their life for their country? Are they afraid? All of a sudden I can find myself sitting beside someone from across the world and if only for a 2 hour flight, isn’t is strange that our stories will collide for such a small amount of time, probably never to intersect again? There is no other place like an airport.
I blink and I’m in another country, and it seems like another world. I’ve been here many times before but it always feels different. The culture is not what I know and yet I’ve seen it in the movies. I’m shocked that the portrayal isn’t that far off. And as I’m swept into the south, I am also swept into the presence of people that I love so dearly. And for one weekend we laugh and cry and watch hours of Dr. Quinn Medicine woman. I spend hours holding the most precious baby that I’ve ever laid eyes on. I shower him with kisses and hugs and whispers of “I love you”. We make fun of each other’s accents, we reminisce about times past, memories that feel like they were just yesterday and at the same time seem so far away. We celebrate new life and the heartaches that have brought us to this place. We aren’t who we used to be. Time has made us deeper, scarred us in a way but if we could, would we choose to go back?
At the end of the day, I lie in bed and check my phone. I read updates of home. I think about my life there and my present reality, they are so different. My heart can’t help but feel overwhelmed with thankfuls. How can I be so blessed? Why me? I have been showered with gifts and so easily I forget them. I’m sorry. Illuminate my sight; I don’t want to miss what is all around me.
The moon is beautiful tonight. I’m closer to it up here but it still seems so far away. Where did this weekend go? I blink and I’m in another country and it is indeed another world. This is why I love to travel. This is why I love the rush and the hustle and bustle and newness of a different place.
Because sometimes you have to leave to remember what you have.
Sometimes the money that it takes to get you there just doesn’t matter, because your soul needs those people, needs that place, needs to know what it’s like to come back. Sometimes your eyes need to see the moon from the other side of the clouds. We need to “awe”, we need to “wonder” and be overwhelmed with our own smallness.
Sometimes leaving isn’t just about going; it’s about opening yourself up to the God of the universe who is bigger than we can comprehend. It’s about letting Him amaze us. It’s about letting Him make us feel small, so we remember how big He is.
So, maybe you need to leave, even for a short while, so you can remember the things you don’t even realize you’ve forgotten.
And the funny thing is, sometimes the leaving makes the staying all the more richer.
Yours truly,
The Kindred Spirit

WARNING: NAKED MAN on the 4th Floor…

You know those days that are supposed to go according to plan? The ones that are scheduled and timed in order to keep you on track. And then all of a sudden the day is here and it’s happening and you realize that there is nothing about this day that resembles your plan whatsoever!?!

Today was that day.

I’m taking an art class this semester, to be more specific, it’s an art appreciation class. I’m learning how to appreciate art (insert joke here). We were assigned to write an art exhibition critique. So we had to choose a museum from a list we were given, and then choose an exhibition from a list given, and then choose a specific art piece in that exhibition to critique. The class is very small and so a few of us decided that it would be fun to go on this “field trip” together. Our museum of choice was the Art Gallery of Ontario. So since today was a reading day we figured that I’d pick everyone up at school around 9:45am, get to the museum around 10:30am, spend an hour or 2 in the museum and then grab a bite to eat before heading back. That was our plan.

I have a good friend who is known for his sense of direction. I figured I might as well just ask him to tell me the best way to go rather than to consult my GPS, since I don’t really like using those things anyways. I texted him fairly late last night to get the route. So this morning I arrived at school and picked up the motley crew. It was a grey and rainy day so we put on the tunes and cruised to the city. I thought we were taking an odd route but I trusted my friend’s directions completely and didn’t give it another thought. We chatted and laughed and took the opportunity to get to know each other better. And about an hour passed and we were still driving. I kept thinking that we should be arriving any minute because my friend had told me the route, and we all trusted him and his directions would not lead us astray. Another 30 minutes passed and still no museum. I pulled the car over and consulted the map. I gasped. We had overshot the museum by….well….by a lot! So we found our way to the gardener and started the trek back to the city. One of the girls had to go to the bathroom very badly and so of course we got stuck in major traffic! We finally found the museum and managed to locate a parking lot a few blocks away. It was still raining. We were all starving so we opted to eat before we hit the AGO. We were on the hunt for a pub and just before we stopped to eat at The Black Bull, we passed this guy on the street….for real….

It’s Gregory Smith, the actor. He’s from Rookie Blue, one of my favourite shows, and no I didn’t stop him on the street to get a picture. I mean come on, I’m not that girl! 😉

We enjoyed a great lunch and again asked for directions for the AGO. We somehow managed to overshoot the museum again so we had to walk back the way we came.

Once arriving at the museum and checking our coats, we spent the next 2 hours observing and appreciating art. I got separated from the group at one point and wandered up to the 4th floor, I was interested to see what art exhibits were up there. As soon as I walked onto the floor I saw a sign that said “live art class in progress”. I thought that it would be interesting to watch for a bit so I headed in that direction. I walked in the room and saw a circle of artists sketching. I looked to see what they’re sketching…


I froze. At first, I thought he was a statue.

Nope, he moved ever so slightly, not on purpose. He was real and very very naked. It was a good thing that last week our professor had us read an article on christians and nudity in art because I might have been more shocked had I not read it. But seriously, how does one just bare their entire body openly to an entire room and whatever onlookers that may happen to wander in? And do you think that perhaps on the sign they could put “Live art class in progress. WARNING: NAKED MAN!” Just saying.

We finished at the museum and headed home. We hit rush hour traffic but half the car was snoozing at that point. I think I dropped the last person off just before 6pm.

It’s funny because there was absolutely nothing about today that went according to my plan. Yesterday I began praying for the Lord to illuminate the areas of my life where He is so present and where there are gifts that I miss because my eyes become fixed on other things that I think I’m missing. Today I spent a few hours downtown Toronto with a wonderful group of people. As we sat around the table at lunch we all reflected that in any other circumstance it would be very odd and probably very unlikely that the 4 of us would ever hang out like this. And yet there we were, wet from the rain, tired from the drive and all trying to write a paper on a topic that we don’t really have any knowledge of. I didn’t think that I’d spend the day laughing and getting to know the storiess of these 3 individuals, I was going to go in, get the information and get out. Today was a crazy, unexpected day that was full of so much laughter. I doubt that I’ll ever forget it.

Sometimes those days that don’t seem to go according to plan, those days might actually be God taking the opportunity to throw a handful of gifts your way!

So thankful that today I had eyes to see.

Yours Truly,

Dear 16-year-old Self…

Sometimes I wonder if I knew what I know now 9 or 10 years ago (say that 10 times fast), how much would it change things? Would it change anything at all? What advice would I give my younger self straight from my much wiser, older self (please note the sarcasm)?
These are a few of the things that I think I would want my 16-year-old self to know…
  1. Math never gets easier, just accept it and move on.
  2. Put that bowl of chips away! Seriously, 9 years from now you are still going to be trying to work off the damage that they’ve done!
  3. You really don’t need to figure out what you’re going to do with your life right now. I know the guidance counselors are telling you that you have to have it all figured out but you don’t. And those kids who think they do have their future pegged down, there’s a good chance it’s not going to play out exactly the way they think it will. Relax!
  4. It’s ok not to worry so much. That stomach disorder that you think is going to ruin your life, well it’s not going to. You’re going to figure out how to manage it and all that worry is really only making it worse. So just breathe, it’s all going to be ok.
  5. Do yourself and favour and stop saying you want to be married by 25! You’re going to get there and not be married and do you know what, it’s actually ok! You’re going to meet people and learn things about yourself that are going to change you. And you could have never learned those specific things if you were married. Don’t rush God’s timing.
  6. It’s not cool to buy all of your clothes 2 sizes too big. First of all, every shopping trip you go on with your Mother will end up with you both in tears. I know you hate your body right now, I know you feel ugly and sometimes just wish you were invisible. I know you hide in your oversized clothes. It won’t always be like this. One of these days you are going to lose some weight. You are going to buy your first pair of jeans and a bra that isn’t just meant for sports. You’re going to colour your hair and actually like layers! You’re going to learn how to wear make-up and jewelry and you’re not going to cringe every time you look in the mirror. The frump years will end and you will blossom. So stop telling yourself that you’re worthless. Stop saying that no one will ever love you! Stop scarring yourself with those words because in 10 years you’ll still be dealing with the deep wounds they’ve left.
  7. Stop yelling and arguing every time you’re mad, it doesn’t help anything. Take it down a notch; it’s ok to be wrong. It’s ok to say I’m sorry. It’s ok not to have the answer. Realize that the people you yell at are the people who you love the most, think about what kind of words you use.
  8. That boy, you’re not going to marry him. Don’t waste your time fretting about him. You can do better. Enough said.
  9. I know you’re grieving. I know your family is broken. I know it feels like those things will never be whole again, but they will. Time is going to help ease the pain. Your family is going to heal. You will never forget him, but you will come into a new normal. One day you’ll share his story and you’ll talk about all of the ways that it has changed your life and impacted who you are. You’ll never forget; it will become a part of who you are. And one day your family will sit around that same table and they’ll talk and laugh and life will be full again. Trust me.
  10. Jesus really does love you. You live with this fear that you’re the exception to his love. You worry that He’s out to get you. You don’t think you’re good enough or worthy enough for His love. You think you have too many questions, too many doubts, that you are too screwed up. You’re not. He really does love you, all of you. And He’s going to help you as you walk with Him. He is going to lead you, He’s going to protect you from some things that you can’t see right now. Don’t be afraid to really trust Him. Let go of all those things you hold so tightly to, just take His hand. Release your heavy load. You are so loved girl, you are so loved.
  11. It’s going to be ok, it really is. I know some days are harder than others but you’re ok. Don’t give up, keep going. Remember to laugh and give thanks, it will make a difference. Be intentional in the way that live and love and lead.

I’m not sure if had I heard those things at 16, I would have listened to them or believed them? Just writing them out I can feel some of the pain that I carried then. Sometimes in order to see how far you’ve come, you have to stop and look back to the journey you’ve taken.
Lord, thank you that I’ve never had to walk any road alone.
When I meet with younger girls, the things I wish that I had known when I was their age often leak into our conversations. It might be the natural caregiver and protector in me, but I think it’s also that I feel such a strong desire to see people living full and rich lives. But sometimes life just has to be our teacher and it doesn’t matter if I’ve been told or warned ahead of time. Some things we can only learn when we walk through them, as hard as it is to say. Maybe in 10 years I’ll write another letter to my younger self, hopefully some of these lessons won’t need to be repeated!
Yours truly,
The Kindred Spirit

New at Church? Welcome to the Club…

At the beginning of September I started a brand new adventure: I moved into my own little apartment. It’s really the perfect little set up for me. I have a cute little place in my aunt and uncle’s basement. For a girl who didn’t grow up with family around (other than my brothers and parents) I am absolutely loving having my aunt and uncle and two little cousins upstairs. It’s been one of those sweet gifts from the Lord, which only He could have arranged. In light of this new move I’ve been on the hunt for a church that is a little closer to my neck of the woods. I’ve recently found one that I really like so far; it’s actually the church that my Mom found the Lord in so it’s kind of neat being there. The only thing is that I only know two people, my Mom’s cousin and his wife, who luckily feel as close as if they were actually my aunt and uncle. Other than that, I know no one. Not one single soul.

Before my family moved to Wainfleet, I spent the first 4 years of my life living in Stouffville, where my Dad was the youth pastor at the Stouffville Missionary Church (now called East Ridge). Then we moved to Wainfleet where my Dad became the lead pastor of the Wainfleet BIC Church for about 19 years. Now he’s in a role where he helps to lead other pastors. So sufficient to say, I was born into the church. I’ve always belonged, even when I may not have felt like I did. I’ve always known pretty much everyone at church and vice versa, and I’ve always been overly involved in church life, being the social butterfly that I am. I’ve never understood what it really feels like to not belong.

Until now…

I wake up on Sunday morning and decide that I’m going to do it; I’m going to go to a new church. So I get ready, hop in my car and find the place. I walk in to the church, it’s fairly large and the service has just begun. There are people everywhere. Where do I sit? I look around acting like I’m looking for someone so the usher doesn’t suspect that I’m actually terrified because I came here alone. I walk up the aisle and choose a seat. I feel like people are looking at me because I’m alone. Do they wonder if I’m a Christian? Maybe they pity me because I’m alone?

I can’t even sing, I feel sick. Should I stay? Of course I should stay, if my experience is that bad by the end of the morning, I just won’t come back.

Is this what it feels like? Have I become the target for “church hospitality”? I can’t be, I’m already “saved”. But, maybe I’m still a so-called “target”.

The tables in my head for a moment: you say you welcome new people, here’s your chance, prove it!

The service continues. There’s a guest speaker. Why is there always a guest speaker when you’re trying to get a feel for a “regular Sunday”?

The service ends and I’m frozen in my seat. What should I do? Leave? Go to the guest centre? I hate this, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.

Everyone is visiting. The young people are all crowded together. People are having coffee, kids are running around, there’s laughter. No one seems like they’re in a rush to leave. I like that, it reminds me of my childhood. Could I belong here?

I can’t escape the feeling like it’s a club and I’m not part of it.

I feel completely rescued when my Mom’s cousin and his wife somehow recognize me and chat for a while. They both hug me and I feel so relieved, there’s nothing like family. After they leave, I decide to go to the newcomers table. I meet a lovely lady, who knows my parents, small world. She talks to me for a while and introduces me to her husband and son. We have more mutual friends that we talk about for a while. I ask about small groups and college and careers. She says it’s happening right now, if I want to go.
I freeze.

Um, no, well, um, maybe next time. Maybe you can show me where it is and maybe next week I’ll try to go.

After a quick tour I make my exit. My first Sunday impression is good, I think I’ll go back next week and maybe go to the College and Careers group.

I do indeed go back the following week. I walk to where I think the College and Careers meet. I don’t see anyone. I can’t escape the feeling of the club again. There’s people running around, they look at me but no one says anything. I feel lost. Maybe I shouldn’t go this week, it’s too soon. What if I get there and it turns out to be the “I just graduated from high school” type of college and career group? There’s nothing wrong with that, I’m just not in that zone anymore. I wait for a few minutes. I feel like a total idiot. I’m leaving.

I book it out of there. I have this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Is it this hard to belong somewhere? What happens when I actually meet people, people that have probably known each other for years and have histories together and inside jokes and stories only they know? Will they welcome me? Will I feel safe and accepted?

I become introverted in these situations. I can’t help it.

You say you want me to come but do you really want that? Do you really want to know my story? Is there actually room for me here?

Do you know how much courage it took for me to walk through those doors, to sit in your gym, to fill out a visitor card?

Because before now, I didn’t know.

Because I’ve always been in the club.

Until now…

Even though it’s terribly uncomfortable, I’m thankful that I’m experiencing what it’s like to not belong, to be new and to come alone. I’m thankful because I want to believe that it’s these kind of experiences that shape how you lead, how you really learn to create a welcoming space, how you become a person that makes people feel safe and accepted. I don’t want to forget that sometimes just parking your car and getting up the nerve to walk into the building takes courage. And I don’t want to forget that maybe there are people that will walk through those doors and leave feeling like they’ll never be part of the club, so what’s the point?

But most of all, I don’t want to forget the message that I think Jesus himself would say to anyone who feels forgotten, invisible or alone:

You are not.

So I’m thanking the Lord for new experiences that are giving me new clarity and perspective. And I’m praying for courage to try and meet some new people in a new and unfamiliar place.

And just maybe I’ll find out that it’s not a club after all.

Yours truly,

I’m Not a Feminist…Seriously, For Real…

I am a strong woman.

It works against me and it works for me, depending on the day.

But even though I might be strong, I’m also possibly the most sensitive person you’ve ever met and you’ve probably never even realized it. Sometimes when I’m at my most vulnerable I pretend to be my most strong.

I’ve grown up being more than encouraged by my family that I matter as a woman and that God loves me just as much as a man; and that because I am a woman I have no less to contribute to this world than the male gender does. I have been raised by parents who have shown me that women can and should lead right alongside men. I’ve been raised by parents who view marriage as a mutually submissive relationship. And so naturally, I’ve learned to lead. Not just that, I’ve learned to love leading.

I am mentored by two women who inspire me with their gifts and abilities and their love for the Lord and boy oh boy, are they women who can lead!

This year I’ve been overwhelmed to find out that there are quite a number of people around me don’t believe that God designed women to be pastors and teachers in the church. This past summer I spent my time doing a pastoral and teaching internship.
Can you feel the tension here?

I know that there are a large group of people who live with this belief but I didn’t know they were so close to me.

You see I’m convinced that it in fact is biblical for women to lead and I’ve done some study on the topic. But I don’t write this to get into some type of biblical or theological debate because I don’t actually think that will make any difference. For me there’s another side to consider, it’s the side that I don’t think some of these people see. It is the sensitive under the strong.

It’s the question of whether you really realize the implications of what you’re saying, what you believe and what you hold to? It’s the fact that most often it becomes about power, about making others feel small.

Whether I have to sit on a certain side of the church.
Or whether I’m not permitted to speak.
Or perhaps just not permitted to teach.
Or I have to be called a director and not a pastor when I the same credentials as you.
Whatever it is, do you realize you’ve put me in a box?

Because what happens when God has given me a story to tell?
What happens when I have gifts to lead?
What about when I sense every door open to be a pastor? When I hear God whisper the word “lead” to me?

Am I to listen to your word, to your interpretation and not God’s leading in my very own life?

There is this story; it’s actually a scene from a movie that my Dad loves. He’s told me the story so often that it’s ingrained into my mind. It’s from the old classic “Chariots of Fire”. Here’s a brief synopsis of the movie…

The story, told in a flashback, of two young British sprinters competing for fame in the 1924 Olympics. Eric, a devout Scottish missionary runs because he knows it must please God. Harold, the song of a newly rich Jew runs to prove his place in Cambridge society. In a warmup 100 meter race, Eric defeats Harold, who hires a pro trainer to prepare him. Eric, whose qualifying heat is scheduled for Sunday, refuses to run despite pressure from the Olympic committee. A compromise is reached when a nobleman allows Eric to compete in his 400 meter slot. Eric and Harold win their respective races and go on to achieve fame as missionary and businessman/athletic advocate, respectively.

When Eric Liddell accidentally missed a church prayer meeting because of his running, his sister Jennie scolds him and accuses him of no longer caring about God. Eric tells her that though he intends to eventually return to the China mission, he feels divinely inspired when running, and that not to run would be to dishonour God: “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

I love this part of the movie purely for what I believe is its insight into the very heart of God. To not run would be to dishonor God because God created Eric to run, so choosing not to run would be living in a way that is untrue to how God made him.

So what if God made me to lead and to teach? What if somehow I come alive when I lead? Would it be dishonouring to God to choose not to live and act in a way that He created me to?

This isn’t really even about me personally. I’m not sure I want to be a pastor and when it comes down to it, I personally probably prefer the lead pastor to be a man. But I had a chance this summer to do a 3 week teaching series as a part of my pastoral internship and I loved it. I loved what I learned about God and His word through my study and message preparation and I love that I got to share that with people. And I do love to lead and there are situations that I get put in where I feel like to not lead would be a denial of the gifts that God has entrusted me with.

So there’s this tension when I cross paths with the “women shouldn’t lead because God didn’t mean for them to” mentality, simply because I cannot in any way believe that there is a solid foundation for its truth. And if you really know me and you still believe this, then what does that say about how you view me as a person?

What I’m not trying to do is go on some feminist power trip here. I actually do think there are certain roles that men and women should have that cannot actually overlap. I have some male friends who lead in a way and demand a respect that I’m still uncertain a woman ever could. But does that mean it couldn’t happen and does that mean that it shouldn’t?

Because in the end I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me to lead, and when I lead, I feel His pleasure. 


P.S. I’m not a feminist, just for the record. 

Bring It On 25…

I’ve been 25 for almost 2 weeks now and do you know what?

It’s fantastic!

After being somewhat terrified of turning 25, I’ve decided 25 it is going to be the greatest thing E.V.E.R!!!!

That’s right, EVER…and let me tell you why…

At 25, I have never been more excited to embrace all that I am. And by that I mean to accept who it is exactly that God has created me to be. I don’t want to be afraid any more and I don’t want to hide any more! No more saying that I’ll just figure it out later.  This is the time and I’m ready!

This is the age where I’m finally starting to feel comfortable in my own skin. Me, with these hips and this smile and this hair and yes, this junk in the trunk (shake what yo mama gave you)!

This is the age where I’m finally realizing that man, and I mean man…if you want some, come and get some! And no, I don’t mean what you’re thinking! What I mean is that if you can’t see my beautiful heart and the love that I have to offer and come and get yo-self some…then sorry bud, your loss! I’m not chasing you down! And for the record…this is a new philosophy that I’m living and breathing.

This is the age where I’m learning to love more deeply, to see more clearly and to cut myself a little slack.

This is the age where I want more of Jesus; I want to know Him as my father and as my friend. I want to search more deeply than I have been, I want to listen more than I have been and I want to be more open than I have been.

25 is the year for more joy, less guilt, getting in shape, celebrating more, learning the Greek language, new friendships, new experiences, new responsibilities and new opportunities.

And I’ve decided it’s going to be fantastic.

So bring it on mid-twenties, I’m ready for you!

The Kindred Spirit

P.S. Please don’t go too fast, if 25 needed this much processing, I think 30 is gonna need a bit more!