October 20, 2014: Day 29 – The Top Five Things I Have Learned About Life and Myself in the Last Twelve Months (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

IMG_0712.JPG Mentoring is organic. A year ago today I started volunteering with the Pathways to Education Mentoring program. I wanted to rekindle the desire to mentor youth and thought this program would be a good idea. At first, I could see that I was trying to force connections…as I started to be myself more and more, certain grade nines would come and connect with me. I didn’t have to pursue them or try too hard. It was awesome. I just had to let it happen, organically.

IMG_0713.JPG“Just be”. Best advice I have received in a long time. The context was when I was asking my pastor for dating advice, but I realized it could be applied in general to life and myself. As a friend, just be. Rather than over analyzing too much, just be. Someone special has given me the surreal freedom to just be, and he’s amazing. The best part of this learning is that as I have settled into living out just being me as God made me, I am finding the blessing of rest. I please people less and I explore who God made me more. I can only be me, no one else can, might as well live it out to the fullest (Psalm 139:14).

Wait, and be faithful. Learning to wait when all I want is instant gratification has been a difficult concept to grasp. And once you do finally start waiting, being faithful to God while wanting an answer is tough. For work, I was working a temporary contract that seemed to be the right fit. I felt God saying, “wait, and be faithful”, so, persevere, work hard, keep trying no matter what outcome. It was easier at the beginning of the set time frame…but when you don’t know the timing of the end result…you struggle with waiting. I want what I desire now Lord! “Wait, and be faithful,” He says, “I have everything under control.”

Let go. As I have watched a best friend learn what it means to let go, I have been trying to identify the areas in my life where I need to do likewise. There is hurt, resentment, fear, and insecurity to let go. There are relationships that were not beneficial to let go. There is the letting go of physically seeing my Dad as I grieve that loss. On a basic level, it is moving on from a frustrations, or disappointment knowing that letting go keeps me sane and chill.

IMG_0707-0.JPG Identity in Christ. Having identity in Christ at the centre of my life and who I am has brought moment by moment grace. By focusing on what Christ has done on my behalf in showing the Father’s love, I feel more confident and free. I can rest in the knowledge that I am being completed by the work of the Holy Spirit. I have hope in the midst of life’s suffering and uncertainty.

Well, I wonder what I would write about in another twelve months. Perhaps these revelations will just be built upon and strengthened.

IMG_0710.JPG

October 16, 2014: Day 28 – Season of Life (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

I loved that I was given this topic because it is a great reminder of how we often try to fit life choices and experiences into a societal blueprint rather than focusing on what the Master Architect is designing moment by moment. I was recently in conversation with a couple of co-workers regarding getting my second level driver’s licence and wanting to get a car at age thirty-one. As we were talking, one co-worker said, “My Mom says that you do things at the right time because it will make them easier”. I got instantly defensive and retorted with, “What is the “right” time? As if the timing I find myself in is “wrong”?”.

For many years of life, I have looked at circumstances through a lens that says I should have done things in a certain order to be successful as an adult. You know what I mean, the North American dream – get your license, finish high school, go to college, get married, have kids, retire… so your kids can, get their license, finish high school… etc. Ironically, at the “proper” or “normal” ages, I didn’t even give it a second thought that I missed something. I just kept on going perhaps because of being really laid back or even better due to a certain amount of resilience. Sometimes, I needed to ignore the “right” or “traditional” ways of doing things because I had other priorities to focus on. I could go into detail as to different small and big life traumas, but I won’t, I will just say that God orchestrates things in His way and His timing. Instead, I would like to share a couple of analogies come to mind as I have tried to navigate growing up and discerning what being an adult means.

puzzle-piecesOne analogy is the idea that we make choices as an adult like putting pieces into a jigsaw puzzle. Only God sees the big picture but He gives us pieces that need to be put into place. If we jam a piece in like a child pounding our fist onto the table, the overall picture looks distorted. Sometimes we have to take a piece out and try it somewhere else. Without stretching the analogy too far, it’s about taking leaps of faith and making wise decisions. I simply couldn’t focus on certain expected life things while God was teaching me about others.

sheet music Another analogy that I learned is about growing up spiritually as an adult relates to God being a composer who puts the music in front of us (His Word) and gives us a wonderful Conductor (Holy Spirit) to guide us while we play the instrument we have (our gifts, personality, life experiences). If we go off the music in front of us, the sound is distorted and the Conductor has to redirect us back to what is true. Practically, I need to be in the Word and seeking God’s direction for how to live as I am being made more like Christ (the Perfect musician).

archerLastly and perhaps the most recent analogy to come to me through a friend, we are the arrow in God’s bow. Sometimes in life we feel like we are being held back… like there is a tension between where we are and where we feel God is leading us or directing us. If you imagine an arrow in a bow and in the hands of an archer, you see that the bowstring is pulled back to the mouth of the archer. While we are being pulled back and held in tension, waiting to be released to the intended target, God is preparing us and teaching us so we are sure to hit the mark. It is usually in hindsight that we see God’s faithfulness as we are blinded by the present struggle or dissatisfaction or misdirected focus. Typically after we hit the target do we realize what He was planning all along.

Ecclesiastes 3:3-8 (NASB)

A Time for Everything

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—

A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

October 13, 2014: Day 27 – What is Joy and What Joy Do I Have in My Life? (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

Joy… what is it? It transcends feeling happy. It shows through. Joy beautifully overwhelms your soul with the unexplained mystery of who God is and how He shows love. Joy comes by the strength within and cannot be tapped into or put on like a winter coat. Joy is that eternal feeling of satisfaction in all situations. There is joy in pain and happiness because there is only One that provides joy.

I once had someone say to me, “One thing I have noticed about you is that you are happy. You’re not married, you don’t have a car, your job isn’t permanent, and you still live at home. And yet you are happy.” I first thought, “well, now I’m not happy after you pointed out all those things.” Then I realized that joy is displayed through me when my identity and contentment (or happiness) is not found in these things. I think that is what joy is…it’s deeper than having everything together or meeting certain standards.

Joy is knowing that Christ is the source of identity and satisfaction above all else. In that song “Soon” by Brook Fraser, the chorus says, “I will be with the One I love, with unveiled face I’ll see Him. There my soul will be satisfied, soon and very soon.” Real, deep, and lasting joy…So, to share what joy I have in my life, I feel the best way to say it is: I hope moment by moment that by the Spirit I would live from the identity in Christ I claim to be as the source of joy. That I would look at things through a lens that does not just see happiness but sees how God is at work.

October 11, 2014: Day 26 – Life Without… (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

I could not think of anything for this topic outside of life without my Dad. Here’s something a friend sent me just after my Dad passed away:

Monday August 26, 2013

Remembering the Dead

When we lose a dear friend, someone we have loved deeply, we are left with a grief that can paralyse us emotionally for a long time. People we love become part of us. Our thinking, feeling and acting are codetermined by them: Our fathers, our mothers, our husbands, our wives, our lovers, our children, our friends … they are all living in our hearts. When they die a part of us has to die too. That is what grief is about: It is that slow and painful departure of someone who has become an intimate part of us. When Christmas, the new year, a birthday or anniversary comes, we feel deeply the absence of our beloved companion. We sometimes have to live at least a whole year before our hearts have fully said good-bye and the pain of our grief recedes. But as we let go of them they become part of our “members” and as we “re-member” them, they become our guides on our spiritual journey.

– Henri Nouwen

I decided the best way to articulate starting to let go and re-member my Dad is by writing a letter. Here it is and it’s me and it’s honest.

IMG_0702.JPG

IMG_0704.JPG

October 10, 2014: Day 25 – A Day in the Life of a Watering Can (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

IMG_0692.JPG

I’ve decided to talk about what it is like to work in Human Resources (HR) using the above photo from the perspective of our plants. First off, you need to be crazy to work in the human resources department. The quirkier, the better.

Secondly, with the amount of things you hear and deal with in regards to employees, you cannot survive without a good sense of humour. Filterless Fridays are an excellent time for ridiculous stories and letting loose. Sometimes the filter is on for a more normal person in the team but something awesome sneaks out.

IMG_0693.JPG

The thing I love about being in HR is that I get to be a human resource. I’m not even trying to be funny…I feel like this area has opened me up and is like a conduit if my skills and abilities. Although I may have a more counselling based undergrad and am more of a techie in the department, I can see how I fit in this field.

I think what I have learned in the last year and a bit is that I thrive in a positive and supportive environment. I know that not every HR department at a company is like the one I am in, but because it’s the only one I know, I’m going to assume anyway. Without mutual recognition, a team, to me, is not really a team. It can be as simple as saying, “thank you” or “I appreciated that”. We like to use shout-outs where we write down the encouragement.

IMG_0694.JPG

Another advantage to being in HR is that you don’t have to go far when crisis hits. I barely found out about my Dad passing away and I was loved on and provided with information for bereavement in no time. I am blessed to have the kind of co-workers/teammates who know how to really be there for each other. And isn’t it usually the case that crisis can either bring you together as a team or tear you down?

IMG_0695.JPG

I am thankful to be apart of the HR team and that it has stretched me beyond what I could have imagined as a young professional.

IMG_0696.JPG

October 9, 2014: Day 24 – True Friends (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

“I see your true colours shining through, I see your true colours, and that’s why I love you… so don’t be afraid, to let them show.” – Cindy Lauper

Friendship has been one of those areas of life that I do not want to live without. I once heard a sermon that said, “Friendship is a one way street”. He was expressing that sometimes we are a friend to someone who may not be a friend to us. To be a friend is to love sacrificially and with their best interest at heart. That is tough to do because we are constantly looking at what is good for me, or what can I get out of this, or how can I be pleased today. What?! You want me to put someone else first? I have had many moments of stupid resentment because a friend hasn’t called or checked in or initiated spending time with me. But as I write this and reflect on what I think a true friend is, I realize that I have it all wrong when I put the focus on the other person. I cannot control them. I can love them.

The sermon guy went on to say, “but if you find someone who will be a friend back to you, consider yourself blessed.” Mutual encouragement. In the last couple of years I have began to see that some of my best friendships have been a beautiful balance of give and receive, carrying each other’s burdens and carrying our own load, pursuing growth and connection, and getting through the hills and valleys of life alongside someone else. I know not all my relationships are like this, in fact, I’m ok that some of them are more me showing love than receiving it… but when I do find one that is mutual, man do I cling to it.

We’re getting close to Thanksgiving and I realize that I am thankful for friendships. Throughout the many hills and valleys of singleness, good friendships have been essential. They give the opportunity to put someone else ahead of yourself when you can get stuck in self-centeredness. They sharpen you as you realize where there’s relationship, there’s conflict. Friendships give you a place to love with boundaries. I love showing love through a variety of ideas and thoughtfulness… friendship has been wonderful for me to just unleash the encouragement that wells up inside me. A note, a treat, a coffee, a hug… in friendship, I can “just be” myself.

To my many friends reading this, I love you dearly and hope you know that.

October 7, 2014: Day 23 – Favourite Children’s Story and Why? (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

When I was in grade five, ten years old, four foot three, with an unfortunate boy-style haircut (in case you need a visual), we read “Maniac Magee” by Jerry Spinelli as a class.

IMG_0691.JPG Spoiler alert! I may share too much plot if you plan to read the book.

The book starts out with tragedy and then is written much like the movie “Forrest Gump”. The kid starts running and ends up trying to find real family after losing his parents. He goes to the “wrong” part of town, interacts with other races and ages, and you are always surprised at the kid’s boldness with others. I can still relate and interact with the story even now, and I haven’t read it in decades (wow that makes me feel old).

As I grew up in a more multi-cultural city, compared to the one in the book, I did not understand why it was strange for a white kid to talk to kids in a mostly black neighbourhood. My first neighbourhood friends were from Japan, Costa Rica, Portugal, Vietnam, and England. I didn’t think about skin colour.

I also can relate to the kid in terms of multigenerational interactions. The story has a part where he becomes friends with an older man. This seems normal to me as I was the kind of kid who was taught to talk to adults openly. I was the only eleven, twelve, and thirteen year old at the church I went to during childhood. It was either talk to the adults or talk to no one my age.

In terms of boldness with others, well, I have it in spades. I ask questions that don’t typically get asked. I try new things on a whim – like the kid trying to untie the one town’s signature knot. I once had a random person bring me a Turkish coffee pot just because of a previous conversation we had about coffee while we were in line at a Tim Horton’s.

The key thing in the story that stuck with me is that after all the running, one member of one of his surrogate families finds him. It’s like in that movie “Catch Me if You Can”, he runs hoping someone will care enough to follow, to chase. The kid is found and scolded that he should know that his place is part of their family.

I keep recommending the book to a co-worker who finished reading “The Silmarillion” by J.R.R Tolkien with his son… But I think I need to find my copy and re-read the book that has stayed with me for so long. I can’t help but wonder if my perspective would be different so many years later. We’ll have to see…stay tuned.

October 6, 2014: Day 22 – If Two Colours Went to Battle, Which One Would Win? (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

As I looked at the T.V. during Monday night football, I realized that it was one color against another in terms of jerseys. When you look at the field from above, you see green against white or maybe you see purple against red. Sometimes football is described as a chess match which I absolutely love, but I think it could also be seen as a battle.

I don’t feel like it’s a very far stretch to even compare chess to battle and battle to football… I think that might be why I enjoy watching football so much. There is strategy and focus and leaning on the guy beside you to get through the situation. I mean no one’s trying to kill you in football but think about how many times in a movie you have heard one of the opponents say “I’m going to kill you!”

My favorite colour going into battle is the Seattle Seahawks. Sometimes I wonder if people will think I picked this team because they won the Super Bowl last year, however, there are many reasons why I picked them as my favorite team. For one, I went to Seattle the summer of 2013 and I loved the place so much. I think another influence was a couple coworkers really like the Seahawks and they kind of like brainwashed me into liking them as well.

As I watch football this year much more hard-core than I did last year, I realize how much I really like watching Russell Wilson manage the field. The way he coordinates plays and is willing to run the ball is not typical and is just awesome. I also enjoyed the aspect of the twelfth man: the fans.

Before being encouraged to watch more football by one of my best friends, I would love watching the Super Bowl. I looked forward to it and even spent one year explaining to some ladies at a party now the yards and downs work.

I love how football has been used as an outlet for strengthening and growing relationships. My best friend got me more into it and we have relaxed watching many games. I was at my elder’s house for dinner and then we watched a game with huge pumpkins (inside joke). Fantasy football has been really fun at work as we give each other a hard time or gloat. Lately, football has become an excuse for some sweet quality time with someone pretty awesome.

But no matter who I get to watch a game with, I have enjoy the sport, especially the Seahawks. They show the colours I want to win in battle.

IMG_0690.PNG

October 5, 2014: Day 21 – If God Were to Give Me A Written Answer, What Question Would I Ask? (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

If God were to give me a written answer, what question would I ask…one of the most complicatedly simple things to ponder.

Instinct tells me that all of the answers to life’s questions have already been written out by God by the work of the Holy Spirit in the Bible. Some of you may think what I call instinct is brainwashing or simplicity when it comes too applying Scripture to life. Perhaps you aren’t thinking any of those things at all and have already tuned out.

The question I have been asking God for years is: “Am I good enough and loveable?” From a young age, I learned that I need to prove that I was good enough to receive love. It’s a deep lie that, by God’s grace, has been brought to the surface so it can be squashed. Let me share the first time God wrote out the answer to part of this question (good enough):

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14 NIV)

I was reflecting on this verse in the middle of a school chapel and noticed how many times full is in that verse. Inside I heard, “now go and live out of that fullness.” I had been meeting with a counsellor at school due to academic difficulties and she was used by God to bring both the “good enough” question to the surface and to help direct me to Scripture to answer it. She pointed out that in the above verse, there is no measuring up to some sort of standard to receive love: “you’re good enough already” she would say. I needed to believe that because I was created or made by God that that was wonderful in and of itself. I did not need to earn wonderful, I was just was wonderful.

As to the loveable part of the question, I have been on quite the journey to trust that God’s love is unconditional. There has been much unlearning that has taken place when looking at what it means to rest in God’s love.

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19 NIV)

Trying to find only one part of Scripture where it is written is quite difficult. I could quote so many. This morning I heard a beautiful sermon on God’s unconditional love (here: John 14:15-31 Obedience, Love and the Holy Spirit). A couple things stood out – the smoothness is not where the assurance is and we are perfectly loved by God, even if we are not perfect in showing love. I needed to be reminded that God’s love is unconditionally perfect, He does not need my works or love in return, He shows self-giving love through the trinity… AND He shows His love to us through Christ’s sacrifice and the gift of the Holy Spirit. I have Him to guide me and remind me and spur me on to love Him because of the rest found in His unconditional love, not because I earned it by being good enough.

To anyone who has read this far: You are good enough because you are made in God’s image and His love is unconditional. No matter what, His love remains.

October 4, 2014: Day 20 – Do You Prefer Mornings or Evenings? (40 Days of Writing Challenge)

Ironically, I did not write this post yesterday because I wanted to sleep instead. I got up early to go to the Ride for Refuge and I got home late after seeing Conflict Wrestling. Does that mean I like both mornings and evenings? Let’s figure it out together as you read me processing out loud (If you have read this far into the blog posts, you have come to expect this approach).

sunriseMornings can be beautiful in the fact that they often signify a new beginning. His mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:22-23). I get a clean slate on what decisions I made, what words I say, and how I treat others. I love mornings when I get to wake up with ease and naturally and see the sunlight streaming in. Last year I trained to run/walk for a 5km fun run and I decided I would do this around 545am. I actually began to enjoy the quietness of waking up early and being out in the open air so early. As I got to further distances, it was such a wonderful experience arriving back home as the sun began to rise. In a practical sense, I feel like I can accomplish more in the morning than in the evening. I have noticed that I get more work done before lunch than I do in the afternoon. I have this exhilarated drive when I arrive at work and plunge into the day’s tasks or another pile of hours on a project. I do not concentrate or work well in the evening.

On the flip side, I can sometimes be a bit of a bear in the morning. If I went to bed with too much on my mind and then woke up on the “wrong side of the bed” then look out. I started to notice that my Mom would want to have a full blown conversation sometimes in the morning, so I have intentionally stayed in my room five extra minutes to wake up a bit more so I can be nicer. I also do not do well on mornings after a nightmare or when tears kept me company as I tried to sleep. I’m too raw to enjoy the morning fully and it takes me time to adjust from the night of emotional craziness.

20140928_190251

Evenings bring a different dynamic. Look at the above sunset! It’s gorgeous living on the twelve floor of an apartment building when the sun sets and your bedroom is filled with this orangey-pink glow. You can’t mimic it or capture it with a camera really, you just need to experience it. I enjoy that evenings give me an excuse to get out of the apartment also and spend time with friends during the week. Not many friends want to do something in the morning of a weekday before work. I love that with the evening you get stars and the moon. The sky is beautifully painted with little specks of glowing light. One time while I was looking out my window from my bed, I noticed a star in the sky that was incredibly bright and I could not take my eyes off of it. It filled most of the window and gave me a child-like sense of wonder as to whether it was a planet or not.

I don’t accomplish work stuff well at night. I cannot stay focused as I start to get tired from the day’s activities. I did not do well as a student because I would often choose sleep over studying. I convinced myself that sleeping was more important than handing in an assignment on time (I know some of you are cringing at this, and trust me I learned that this does not work in a job). In hindsight, I wonder if I would have done better in school if I had woken up earlier and worked on assignments. *shrug*

I think the conclusion is that I prefer mornings. I feel so much more productive when I can say I accomplished a, b, c, and d before noon. I love getting up early to go to the farmer’s market on a Saturday or heading to my favourite coffee shop. I think, like I said earlier, mornings bring a fresh start and I often need that.