Cold Feat

I recently had a really swell opportunity to visit Iceland this year, and little did I know, I had never seen a breathtaking view before this trip. I mean, I have seen some incredible creations, but God floored me, beyond what I thought possible, while I was there. I even have asthma, and never lost my breath like I did because of the views in Iceland.

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When you’re in a place where see God so evidently through his creation, you never want to leave. You forget that you hate heights because your adrenaline takes over and you nearly run to the edge of a cliff — risking everything — just to take in the whole view.  And when you almost fall off said cliff, it doesn’t even phase you, because if the God of the universe can create something this incredible, He will not take you home, even a second, before He wants to. I wasn’t about to waste this opportunity due to fear. I climbed mountains. Within two days, I was so familiar with what massive waterfalls felt like. I walked through a freezing cold river, in my only pair of dry shoes, just because I could. I told the people around me about Christ. I ran down a very dangerous black sand beach at midnight. And as we were walking away, we turned around, our footprints were completely washed away. (If that water had risen while we were standing there, we would’ve had no chance of surviving those waters.) Iceland was a way for my friends and I to experience the beauty of our creator unlike ever before.
This was the most fearless I’ve ever lived. And I did live. (Maybe we probably shouldn’t have done some of the things we did but I have no regrets.)

I don’t believe we are supposed to live reckless lives, though. I don’t believe God honours foolishness. I don’t think we are supposed to act foolishly and expect God to bail us out. However, when He calls us into the crazy, and into the wild, God will honour our obedience.

Through creation, Iceland made me realize I needed to have my cup empty of fear and full of courage. In the months since Iceland, I’ve been learning if we give Him our hands, empty and willing to be filled, He will fill them. But first, we’ve got to let go of everything we’re clinging to and that takes courage.
Courage begins with prayer. It truly does start on our knees. Frequently, consistently, and boldly. 

Courage for me didn’t start in Iceland, though. It started around the same time — Iceland was just a really great jump-start week to conquering fear. I think its safe to say we’ve all probably been in a place where we were too scared to keep going. Regardless of if it’s a ride at the fair, or if it’s a trip of some sort, the expression ‘cold feet’ would be appropriate in this situation. One time I watched an episode of Myth Busters and they were testing to see if you actually get cold feet when you’re scared or if that’s just a myth. The hosts of the show had to come face-to-face with their biggest fears, while sporting a thermometer in their shoes. It was hilarious to watch them fly helicopters or have spiders crawl all over their faces. But it worked! And by the end of the episode, they had said that yes, one does get cold feet when their scared.

How then, does one find some socks? because God calls us into the wild — and that’s not going to be friendly. With all the schedules and society and bullying and struggles and loss out there — that’s anything but Insta worthy. The only answer is to take heart and be of good courage. Courage starts when we hit the floor praying — and praying expectantly for God to meet you where you’re at to rid you of your fears. The Christian walk was designed, in my opinion, to walk around with a little chill in your step. If my feet aren’t cold, then am I really trusting God enough? Get cold feet because you’re afraid, but do not let that fear hinder you from living well.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4.6-7)

In my journal the other day I wrote: “Why isn’t my fear going away? I know God loves me and has a plan. I know whatever is about to happen, He will use it. And I know that I can do all things through Christ. So why am I scared? Why does it feel like He’s being silent? Why am I still walking through this darkness? Doesn’t He know that September is just around the corner, and the thought of the future makes me want to cry, not be thankful? I’m so frustrated and scared and I don’t know why He’s not giving me peace. I do know that He is good, though. And that He loves me. That should be enough, but I’m still so scared.”

Oh. Oh, me of little faith.
Oh.

I was talking to a friend about praying specifically for peace. He and I both graduated from high school this year and we both have this fear about the fall. Although our situations are different, we’re still worried about what is our life going to look like, and if is it going to be okay.

We’re asking all the ‘normal’ questions (which I think are normal) like; Are the plans I made going to be enough? What if I never do what truly matters in life? Am I going to be okay? What if nothing works out & my life crashes and burns??

In my opinion, this fear is legitimate and also, not Biblical. I genuinely believe that He hears our prayers about fear, because He tells us over and over and over and over again in the Bible “DO NOT FEAR.” He wouldn’t tell us to abandon this emotion if He wasn’t going to 1. help us through it or 2. deliver us completely. He may just pass you a pair of socks because your feet are gonna be cold for a while. Or, He may just give you an instant, settling peace about whatever it is you’re worried about. Either way, we cannot (and we will not) live life fully when we’re worried over whatever it is we’re worried about.

I don’t know why God does what He does. I usually NEVER understand His timing and I can’t comprehend His ways. But I do know that He is good, and He will always, always do what is right. I do know that because we have a God who is in control, we don’t have to fear — we can place all our hope and trust in Him.

Okay? We don’t have to let our fears hold us back. Or make us quit uni or our gap-year plans before it even starts. You can say yes to that job. Or to that internship. Or to working at home. Or to fostering a child. Or to the unbelievably difficult thing that God is asking you to do, because He loves you. Possibly, He will pass you a pair of socks while you wait for him to change your heart, but it doesn’t start until your knees hit the floor. Your prayers are being heard, just keep praying. And keep praying.

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I don’t own any plates

This post is all about my entire future. This might seem a little ridiculous because I graduated from high school two days ago but I’m busy all summer and I have zero (solid) plans for the fall. No plane tickets purchased. No job lined up. I’m not enrolled in university or college or program for September. Nothing — nothing besides a whole inbox FULL of messages like “You have been accepted to this program” with responses that read something like “thanks, but no thanks” except a lot prettier and more strategic.

Oops…  I don’t think this is what my parents envisioned for me.

Why would I turn down so many opportunities? Ask me about each one individually, and I could probably write a 5 paragraph essay as to why I decided not to go.  Airports don’t scare me & the unknown doesn’t make me quiver & adventures won’t trigger my anxiety. Some of the reasons (or partial reasons) as to why I said no to the chances I could’ve taken are listed here:

  • I didn’t think it was going to be a rewarding investment
  • The opportunity simply did not work out
  • The more I prayed about it, the less I wanted to go
  • Another opportunity came up that I wanted more
  • God said no
  • My mom had a strong, negative
  • The idea is still on my list, it’s just probably not going to happen because it actually is unrealistic. Even though unrealistic isn’t a word I like to throw around in my vocabulary loosely.

I share this list with you, because if you’re in the same boat I am, just please know these are valid reasons. Or whatever reasons you have, those are real. Fear is real, but it is invalid. I hope you won’t be scared to take chances, but I do hope you make wise ones. Sometimes the choices we make won’t be wise — that’s okay. We’ll just get back up, dust ourselves off, and bounce back. We’re young and healthy and happy and with God before us, He will give us everything we need to serve him.

I have been beyond blessed for these opportunities, and I am sad nothing has worked out so far. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, God has a plan for my life, though. I know that He will give me an incredible opportunity to serve him in a place with people who will bless me beyond measure. I don’t know if that will be my hometown, or Georgia, or Australia, or Barbados, but wherever it is, and whoever I meet along the way, I know that He will challenge me & I won’t be able to say no.

Okay okay so what does ANY of this have to do with plates?? I’m so glad you (I) asked…

The years my two older sisters graduated from high school, their birthday / Christmas / graduation gifts were majorly knife blocks, colour-coded cutting boards, and 8-piece Correlle plate sets. Me? Nada. Okay, I got stuff, but no home decorations or curtains. I think this might be, partially, because my parents stopped remembering I was graduating. (I am the middle child, and my life has met reflected that stereotype to a T. I have accepted it.) But also, this is likely because I haven’t had any solid plans to move out next year. In fairness, I definitely haven’t had plans of staying at home, either (trust me, NOT what I want). But I don’t have any mugs or plates or silver ware to my name because I probably won’t be needing them as I won’t be buying a house or anything next year. Not that I need plates, or care if I have spoons, I’ll pick up some thrift store mugs them when I need some hot chocolate in five years — but I don’t have a solid plan for next year. I really don’t. I don’t totally think I need one, either. Part of me likes leaving my September schedule empty because I just might spontaneously go to the airport and buy a quick plane ticket someday and not come home for a few months. I would be okay with that.

I was reading Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller on my way to Boston a couple months ago & because I am too lazy to run down to my room and find the book and the chapter and the quote I am thinking of, so I’m going to summarize what I remember.
Essentially, he was talking about organizations (structured places) and how they are important and necessary. He goes on to say doesn’t like them very much, though. Something about having a set schedule of events, and programs. The longer I think about it, I realize I feel the same way a whole lot of the time. I would rather explore a country on my own than go on a guided bus tour. I would learn more if I just did the bus tour but I would have more fun if I didn’t, ya know?
Or I would rather do school my own way (online courses while travelling), than go to a university. But, because I need structure in my life, I couldn’t pull off both work & play simultaneously. So that’s why I would say yes to university, although I don’t particularly like organizations. You feel me? This is why I don’t own plates. I don’t like schedules. I don’t do well with organizations (although I am very organized).

Maybe you think I’m crazy? Maybe something I said resonated with you? Maybe both? Why would I ever second guess society? I would encourage you to think about how our western society shapes our lives, and how if you could change it, what you would do.

I don’t think I was called to graduate from high school, go straight to university, while working throughout the summers, only to graduate university and get a job, get married, and work & have kids for the rest of my life. While that does sound wonderful, it also sounds too easy.

I do eventually want all those things, and all those things are so good. And if you want to be a doctor or an engineer or a daycare worker and that’s your dream — then by all means. Run after that dream, chase it and chase it long and hard. But, if you’re going to school next year because you’ve been told you need to choose right now — at 17 or 18 years old — I would encourage you think about what you would do differently if you could. Maybe you love the idea of staying in your room for another year and working at the local store in your hometown. Maybe you just want to be a stay at home dad, or maybe you wanna be a mom but also an astronaut.

Do your thing. I don’t own any plates, and I’m okay with that. Maybe you want some wine glasses. Maybe go buy a salt shaker. Or maybe just wait until you need them. Do your thing, but please don’t sell yourself short. Chase after adventure if it’s calling your name. Take a year off, or take 5 years off. Love the life you live, and live well because it’s worth it. I promise, darling, it’s worth it.

This life I live

Each and everyday I want to live. I want to remember that I am alive and take full advantage of that. That’s what this post is about. If you would rather not read about it, you can just skip down to the bottom there, where I’ve posted some pictures, for you lay-off-the-novels-and-just-give-me-a-picture-book kids.

Being alive means more than just feeling the wind in my hair and the sand in my toes. It means I want to be quiet enough to hear him whisper in my ear to open my hands because he’s going to use them. And when I open my hands and take whatever it is He wants to give me, He also, graciously, gives me this weird thing called joy.

I made a little list about a month ago that started off as little. It is not that little anymore and it’s decreasing the storage on my phone every single day. My ‘ALIVE’ list, as I so cleverly named it, consists of some the things I love about this life — the things that make me feel alive. I want to live every single day and remind myself I’m living by adding to the list.

PURPOSE: I don’t believe we were called to live in the mundane because folding laundry is boring but listening to funny podcasts is not. When you can do both at once, you begin to enjoy the laundry. This is living.
So you see, even while I’m doing all the ‘mundane’ life things, I still want to live. I want to still feel alive. I want to embrace joy in ALL areas of my life. That’s why I celebrate the big things on my ALIVE list too.

Paul was this cool Bible guy, and he is like the ultimate Bible hero at this. And even my modern day heroes all share the same trait — they know that whatever circumstances they are in, they can count it all as joy because of the confidence they have in Christ.

 

These role models in my life have lived out these verses so well

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”  James 1:2-3

 

Here’s my list, guys. This list has taught me to stop seeing mundane life things as boring. It also has taught me to count my blessings and experience all the joy this life has to offer. I hope some of this resonates with you. I hope of some of this makes you laugh, because some of these are kind of embarrassing (see #8 for example). But really, I hope after you close this tab on your computer, you will grasp onto this life thing a little tighter, and you will be inspired to find a way to smile the next time you load the dishwasher.

// ALIVE //

  1. Reading my Bible
  2. Praying
  3. Worship
  4. Listening to I Lived, by OneRepublic, with the windows rolled down while trying to make a wave with my arm out the window
  5. Staying home all day and actually being productive
  6. Good, hot, black coffee.
  7. Having beach days at the ocean / being in the ocean / smelling like ocean / sea salt in my hair
  8. Real life fruit ninja
  9. Early morning prayers while on a run
  10. Great Spotify playlists
  11. (Pretty pictures of) Rainbows over the Miramichi river
  12. Spending time with my family in small but cute ways like waffle dates
  13. Waking up really refreshed
  14. Road trips
  15. FaceTiming my friends and family from other provinces
  16. CAMP FIRES with good conversation
  17. Reading Psalm 107 when my heart is uneasy
  18. Listening to below my feet
  19. Painball
  20. Seeing the stars at 3am
  21. Friends sending me typed out portions of verses so I don’t need to look them up myself
  22. Healthy Productivity
  23. 9 minute Oreo runs (Leaving the church and being back all within 9 minutes because of friends who cannot eat anything except Oreos) 🎉
  24. Photoshoots
  25. Cute outfits
  26. Going Christmas tree hunting with my friends’ family
  27. Fireworks at Niagara Falls
  28. The Dancing Goat. Especially the iced coffee and the lemonade and the DG veggie sandwich.
  29. Dancing and singing into my hairbrush while I get ready for school on Friday mornings
  30. Loving Friday as much as I love Monday because this has been such. a. good. week.
  31. Falling asleep to the tune of Niagara Falls
  32. My best friend asking me if I want to go on a last minute trip to Iceland
  33. Mom telling me I can go to Iceland with my best friend
  34. Calling my best friend to tell her I can go to Iceland with her and having her be excited with me and for me
  35. Friday night game nights
  36. Colour Runnin’
  37. Summer pictures
  38. Being in Cape Breton
  39. Drawing things
  40. Just dance
  41. Sunny Saturday mornings picking dandelions and climbing trees
  42. Church
  43. Waterfall catching
  44. Ben Rector on Sunday mornings
  45. Hitting 500 Insta followers
  46. Lunch / Coffee dates
  47. Hiking
  48. Frugal lifestyle
  49. Living loved
  50. Having friends over to the house in the summer
  51. Shooting stars
  52. Playing music with friends who are a lot better at music than me
  53. BUYING PLANE TICKETS TO ICELAND
  54. Going to Iceland with my best friend
  55. Eating ice cream even though I’m not supposed to
  56. Posting blog posts
  57. Making lists
  58. Completing assignments and passing in fat stacks of paper that were a lot of hard work
  59. Cleaning my phone case so it looks new again
  60. Rocking interviews
  61. Knowing at the end of the day my family loves me and my friends love me and my God loves me, more than I can imagine. Knowing that I am blessed beyond measure.

& for you novel-haters, as promised, here are some pictures I have in frames around the corners of my life to evidently remind myself I am living.

Moving Forward

“How am I going to ever go back to the way life used to be?” “When will everything finally feel normal again?” Please tell me I am not the only one who has asked these questions.. because honestly my life has revolved around them for the past 3 years. And honestly, there aren’t answers to those questions. They are real fears, and when you let them into your heart and mind, they sound like the song of 1000 giants. Thankfully, it’s not about ‘going back’ or ‘feeling normal’ at all – it’s about moving forward.

My questions have changed to ‘How do I move forward?’ and ‘How will I create a new normal?’ Truthfully I don’t know. One day at a time, one prayer at a time, I guess. I have learned a little about letting go of the past, and allowing Jesus to fill me instead of shame. That’s what I’m going to share today.

The cross.
I’m not going to explain this all to you. But I do want you to know that no matter what shame, hurt, pain, struggles, or sin you are carrying, the cross sings the song that silences the giants and sounds crazy pretty all at the same time. Because we have a saviour, to rescue us from the hurt and guilt and shame, the cross allows us to move forward.

The cross tells us that what is behind us stays in the past. It says “Ab, you can stop trying to go back to normal.” The cross shows me that there is a new, beautiful normal waiting for me to just accept. This process is messy, but worthwhile.

Stop praying to go back to how things were before this all began. Stop begging God to let your normal be your reality once again. And heres why: Our God restores and He does restoration much better than we do. When we restore something — say a car — we fix it and paint it and clean it. We get it working at the same caliber it was at before it needed fixing. It goes back to the way it was before, but it truly can never be restored back to it’s fullest potential.
I’ve noticed through my life that God doesn’t do restoration like this. He uses your broken, ugly, rusted out, ‘worthless’, pieces to create something new. Your broken pieces are no longer broken therefore you are just new. Completely.

To me, this sounds scary. I have an old friend who used to say that sin isn’t knocking over God’s sandcastles, it’s kicking sand in his face. I get scared to think that in order for God to take my broken pieces, I have to give them to him first. This includes lust, lies, habits, addictions, selfishness, and other sins we don’t like to say out loud. I have to stand in front of him and say “Sorry I thought I was better than you, and that I wanted other things more than you.” How do you honestly confess to the creator of the universe that you kicked sand in his face?

Pursuing Christ in the middle of your hurt and shame sucks. I was at a conference a few weeks ago and I verbalized some of this shame and sin to a friend who just held me and prayed with me was there with me while I told God my heart. She said to me “Ab, you don’t have to be afraid. He already knows. He loves you anyway.”

It’s not going to be pretty or cute or Insta worthy or fun and adventurous. It’s going to be an ugly mess that results in utter, unfathomable beauty.

That being said, I feel way too often as though the broken pieces are what forms me. And that those pieces are holding me together and sustaining me but they are so ugly and gross. I feel like that, okay? As dramatic as it sounds. I feel like my hurt and shame are scars that should be hidden and covered up with clothes and masks. Because the fear of what would happen to me if people found out is suffocating.

So I hide behind walls and smile at cameras and I am living with this brokenness. And I in no way, would ever want to glorify this lifestyle. Way too often in our society we hear dumb phrases like “fake it ’til you make it.” Because he created you fearfully and wonderfully, you are not to submit to those words. I know it’s so scary to stand in front of a friend or your mom and admitting to her your shame. Then ultimately, before God and tell him your heart. It might mean consequences, and it might even get messier before you feel clean — but don’t you see? You will be made NEW in the eyes of a God who already holds his love for you.

Because this is pretty much just an explosion of honesty hour, I’m going to tell you some more quick truths not to forget while you’re struggling. I have not nearly walked the entire path of pain thus far, so I need to make a list of reminders for when we have to go through this and we don’t know how.

 

  1. You are loved by God. He died on the cross for you, and with his death, he killed all the shame and guilt you have ever carried or will ever feel the need to carry again. Do not underestimate him. He is not a resource, he is a saviour. He will pull you from this, but it’s going to require some serious sacrifice — primarily pride.
  2. Pink Starbursts — always.
  3. You are loved by the people God has placed in your life. Friends and family and the people at church and the teachers and coworkers you have good connections with. Those people love you. They are more than happy to answer the phone and listen to your tears and help you walk through this and pray with you. I promise.
  4. You will breathe again. It feels like you’re carrying the weight of the universe on your shoulders and it feels like no one really notices. But I promise, you don’t NEED to let this hold your heart captive. You do not need to be bound to whatever it is you wish you could go back from. You were made to breathe again, and you will.
  5. Eat well, please. Take care of yourself. Being in this dark place will hurt and eating food that makes you feel sluggish physically, will in no way benefit your mental illness right now. So lay off on eating TOO many Starbursts and try eating a salad. You’ll thank me in an hour.
  6. Remember joy. Joy is my middle name, and it’s been something I’ve been trying to live out in my life very intentionally. You do not always FEEL joy. But you can still have it. Paul learned about it while being tortured and beaten and bruised and captured. Paul still knew joy. Remember joy, read lots of Philippians if you need a place to start.

Jesus is waiting for you to ask for forgiveness. He has already dealt with your pain and sin, He just wants you to live like that’s true. I don’t know about you, but I really do struggle to bring my wounds to the cross. It’s ugly and it’s so messy and it’s a lot to carry and it’s heavy and it hurts. Thankfully, the Lord himself said that by His wounds we are healed. He took our brokenness and made us beautiful. He doesn’t hold the sand against you. Stop letting the song of the giants get stuck in your head.

If you grew up around church like I did — you’ve heard this before. I also know that as many times as I’ve heard the story of forgiveness, I didn’t expect it to be as tough to live out as it actually is. It hurts a lot to bring all our crap to the holiness of God. It does. It takes so much courage and bravery… But that’s the beauty of God, He is with you. You don’t need to do anything alone. You just need to show up. He’s with you even then, too. What a God we serve, hey?

This is a beautiful restoration process where He picks you up from the foot of the cross and He just points you toward heaven — forward. You will never go back to the way things used to be, and that might sound sad initially, but He is about to give you a life that flourishes. FLOURISHES. Guys, come on. Do we get this? What he’s about to do in your life, especially considering everything you’ve been through is beautiful. He is making you beautiful. You are beautiful. He has made you beautiful.

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name, and you are mine” ISA 43.1

He is calling you ‘mine’. He does not want you to live bound by the burden of your faults and failures. Start living forgiven, my friend. Leave the past behind and start moving forward.

Love always,

Abby Joy.

Wholeheartedly.

I don’t finish everything I start. In fact, that’s so usual for me. How annoying, I know. I counted the amount of unfinished blog posts currently sitting on my desktop and before I tell you the number, I will just mention quickly that this very post has been sitting, unfinished, on my desktop for a while too, collecting technological dust. Weird.. considering how I talk about finishing what you start in this post. But, better late than never?? Maybe.

Alright, moment of truth. There are currently 29 unfinished blog posts on my desktop and all of them were started after November. My natural tendency to leave things unfinished is uncanny. Seriously, it’s such a habit of mine that shows up in nearly every single area of my life. Like, okay for example I’ll clean up my clothes off my floor and organize my bookshelf, but I won’t make my bed or go WASH my laundry — leaving my room a little less than half clean. Or I’ll read like the first 10 chapters of any good book, become too busy and it sits on my shelf with a bookmark for the next two years. I’ll start an assignment, do about half or less (if it’s for Biology, it’s for sure less) then I won’t pick it up until the period before.

This is embarrassing, honestly. I never thought I would admit to the world my faults and my failures and my weaknesses but here I am. I suck at getting things really done.

Student athletes show me up in nearly every single area of life. The one thing they are so good at it finishing. Even if they don’t get the best grades or they aren’t the best on the court, they still show up and work hard and give it their best. Even if everyone else already won. Even if everyone else already passed in their test, they will complete the test because they’re biggest fear isn’t of how other people see them, it’s of how they will feel when it’s all said and done.

They want the sense of accomplishment. The feeling that comes after they have done their best without the stress of worrying if they could have done it better. They get it done, and then move on. Completely.

Obviously, I cannot relate. I have, however accomplished organizing my ‘blog post’ folder into colour co-ordinated posts based on topics. But that’s not good enough. It doesn’t matter how it looks on my desktop when all those words are just sitting being unread or unused. Maybe they will never be read. Maybe no one will ever bother to read my blog. That’s okay. I still com But I can’t decide that, that’s not where I come in. I have to show up. I have to be there. And until that happens, the pretty blue and purple sections of my un-posted blogs doesn’t matter.

I don’t want to merely just ‘get things done’, either. I want my heart to be invested in the words that I write. I want to be passionate about the words I write. I want to sit down and get them written. The other day I wrote a post in less than an hour that was about 1500 words. Which isn’t super long, but I couldn’t keep the words in my heart. I just needed to write. I re-read the post from start to finish before I edited it, and I didn’t like the way I said the things I said, but my heart behind the words was authentic. I really believed in the words I said and that made all the difference in the world. My heart was in it.

I know I’m not the best writer. I know people who don’t even need to try and their voice is so pretty and real. I’m not like that, by any means. I am simply just visiting in the writers department. But the longer I type, the more I realize the words aren’t really about me at all. I mean, I keep saying the word I. I keep not mentioning Jesus, but He is my motivation. The Bible says that whatever you do, you do unto me. Also, whatever you do not do, you did not do for me. I want my writing to be an area of my life I do for Jesus. I want every area of my life to be for Jesus, but while he gave me this (platform) small corner of the stage, behind the triangle player, I want it to be all for His honour and glory. I’m starting here on the blog, in the hopes and with the prayers it will butterfly-effect into the rest of my heart and life. Join me in this today, whatever you do, do for Jesus. Let this be the beginning of intentionally loving Jesus in and through every area of your life. Post that blog post. Wash your laundry. Read the book. Write that letter. Love your enemies. Intentionally and whole heartedly follow Jesus.

My heart and my prayers go with you, friends.

wholeheartedly // with complete sincerity and commitment.

Break our hearts for what breaks Yours.

*This is a prayer I wrote in the midst of my tears and my hurt. I was reminded by a friend that Paul prayed similar things. Paul was this cool Bible guy who wrote love letters to encourage people while he was in prison. He prayed for the church almost unlike anyone else. He weeped and mourned over them. I want to encourage you in that regardless of what your going through, or how good things may be right now, God can use you. God’s heart is breaking because people whom He loves are hurting due to sin, but He is also calling us to be used to bring His heart and His miracles and His glory and His honour into the cracks of brokenness. 

**The cover picture was taken by one of my best friends while she was living in Peru last year. I think that these Peruvian kids, along with the majority of the population of the earth all need to know that there is a God who loves them. That’s what this post is all about.


Father
, beak our hearts for what breaks yours. Tonight my heart is breaking. In the quietness of the evening, alone with my thoughts and what I pray to be your words, my heart is breaking because I forgot. I forgot that people in this world are being treated as less than humans. I don’t want to forget that just because I have four walls and a roof over my head to keep me warm in the dead of winter, that there aren’t people in my neighbourhood, and in my province, and in my neighbouring provinces and territories, there are too many people who are suffering and struggling and hurting. God, let me not forget, ever again, that there are people who are hurting. 

Father, let me not forget that you love them. And let me not forget even though I cannot do anything in my own strength, I need to do everything you will enable my hands to do. 

Holy Spirit, break our hearts for what breaks yours. Give me a piece of your heart, that I may love fiercely, and fearlessly, and with reckless abandon, whatever that is gonna look like. Because it is there when you will break our hearts for what’s already breaking yours. Speak to me and let me be your voice. Allow me to see, and to be your eyes. Give me wisdom to know how to act and serve. Give me your hands and teach me how to use them. Give me your feet and spotlight a road never yet travelled. Give me the bravery and the fearlessness to reflect Christ’s attitude towards the church on this journey. Give me bread, enough for the hungry people I meet along the way, as well as enough to give me the energy to make it to the end. Give me a heart for the broken and the hurting. Give me a mind that is sharp enough to get through the weariness.  
Please, God, tell me that not every single life is precious and that every single human is longing to be loved by you. Let my heart, my soul, my mind, my strength, my hands, my feet, my relationships, my suffering, my brokenness, my joy and my thankfulness all be used and honoured and glorified in you, God. Let me not forget that you are the God of miracles. And that you can turn this world and shake it and use it all for you. Please God, let me not forget that other people are hurting, and are hurting often. And let me not forget even though I cannot do anything in my own strength, I need to do everything you will enable my hands to do. 

King Jesus, break our hearts for what breaks yours. Thank you for saving us. Thank you for making a way out of this brokenness. Thank you for giving your life for us, even though we are the least of these. Thank you for your grace that is wider and deeper and stronger than the ocean. Thank you for your words, and for your heart, and for your desire to love. Thank you for showing us what it means to sacrifice and give and serve and go and stay and work and rest. Thank you for the truth you spoke. Thank you for your infinite perfection. And thank you for loving the orphans and the hurting and those who have nothing, Jesus. Thank you for forgiving me when I forget them. And God, please keep them safe. Give them every single need they have to have. Thank you, Jesus, thank you. And let me not forget even though I cannot do anything in my own strength, I need to do everything you will enable my hands to do.

Emmanuel God, break our hearts for what breaks yours. I ask that with everything you are, and in all your infinite power and wisdom and might and fight and power and glory and beauty that you bring those who need me to me. And bring me to them. Send me. Let us bless each other with the gifts and resources that we have, and let it all be because you are God almighty who loves everyone. Break our hearts for what breaks yours, God. Let my heart be longing for the salvation of the hurting because that is what your heart is. Thank you for loving us, God. In all our mistakes and in all our failures and in all our weaknesses, Lord. Thank you for your mercy. And let me not forget even though I cannot do anything in my own strength, I need to do everything you will enable my hands to do

Hey Bell, you wanna talk? Let’s talk.

(a conversation starter)
*Todays post is about my journey with mental illness. I ask that you please do not put yourself at risk if reading content surrounding depression & anxiety disorders could (or will) be harmful to you at any degree. These topics will not be graphic, however, they will be discussed.

     Today’s post was inspired by a simple hashtag that filled our screens this past week. You remember the one, right? #BellLetsTalk. I know, I know, I’m late to the party but better late than never. Bell let’s talk day is a simple, important mission by real people, for real people. It serves as a reminder, to all of us, that people struggle. It keeps our hearts and minds in check by remembering that people who may seem to have it all together, actually do not. And by remembering that people who look like they need encouragement probably need it more than you could ever imagine, and now more than ever.
Also it reminds us that people are people, and that life is tough, and that’s okay. And that we, as humans, need to rally around each other because the way we love each other is important. Please, I begging you. Do something about what so many people all around you, or you yourself, are facing. Talk. I, along with many other people across the nation, believe that through talking, we can really get somewhere. Maybe for you, somewhere is anywhere. Somewhere is obtainable because there is a real power in words. Also, friends, I understand this is a very heavy subject. This is the reason a lot of people hold back, but I believe it needs to be all the more reason to dive into the conversation.

     My journey started in the summer of 2015, about two years ago now. I was young and I didn’t know how to deal with stress.
Let’s stop here really quick because dealing with stress is a skill set. It’s more like a trade, where you need a toolbox. Your toolbox will grow, undoubtedly with experience, but you’ll also need to work hard to learn how to use a tool. This is not always easy, but once you have it, you’ll be guaranteed to have it for life. And one more thing about this tool box, these tools come in handy so today I’m going to show you a few that I picked up along the way.
Okay, where were we? My fifteen year old self. Okay, I had no idea how to deal with stress. I barely knew stress was even a real thing. But then one day, all of a sudden, I got thrown into a massive pile of it and I couldn’t handle it. The problem was, I wasn’t supposed to handle it. I was supposed to give everything to my Jesus, for him to carry. But as a very flawed Christ follower, I told myself I was done, and I couldn’t handle the stress anymore. You see, over a period of about 6 months, I went threw like 5 major life changes. It was a lot for anyone to handle.

I started school that fall and I don’t think my palms stopped nervously sweating. I don’t think I walked into a classroom without my entire body shaking. I had panic attacks when a teacher would call on me in front of everyone. The amount of worrying I did over my grades that year was overwhelming. I can’t explain to you how it felt to worry so much about my grades in school, and then be too tired or sad to actually put the work into them. I can explain that my grades were completely fine, and the stress I put on myself about classes, was completely unnecessary.
From this, I picked up many tools. A very practical one was that of productivity. I was taught, through professionals, as well as experience that there is no point in stressing about things that I simply cannot control – this is true. But, what are you going to do about the things you can control?.. Now, I don’t worry about what the outcome of a test will be, I just do my best to do it. Until I get my grades back, I patiently wait. I don’t stress unproductively. However, I healthily use my stress to push me into being as productive as I can be, with enough breaks and rest as I need. When I get my test back, I’ll study the questions I didn’t do well on, or the ones I struggled with. As well, I’ll celebrate the questions I worked hard to get correct – as it is important to not only recognize when you made a mistake, but also to recognize when you did well – and then move on. This isn’t to say I don’t understand stressing about a test. I get that. I really do. But, I have gotten to a place where I have learned how to be healthy in managing stressful testing. A verse I want to leave with you, that encouraged me immensely is 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast ALL your anxieties on Him, because He CARES for you.

Along with my anxiety, I experienced the darkness of depression in full force. I began to cry about going to sleep at night. After I began crying through the dead of night, I never slept. When I did sleep, it was shallow and I had night terrors that were so unimaginable I think the Lord has taken most of them from my memory, so I do not need to be reminded of that darkness any longer. But through those long nights, this was how my brain coped with absolutely everything. Soon my diseases brought me to a point where I would spend the time between classes in a bathroom stall, putting scars on my legs, where no one would ever see. When I looked in the mirror, all I could see was ugly, and like 100 extra, invisible pounds, thickly covering every inch of me. Everything I ate tasted like the disgust I felt toward my own body. I couldn’t stomach, literally, the idea of food entering my body. I would study over lunch so no one would question why I wasn’t eating This is a big reason why I pushed myself hard in sports, too.
With that, too came anxiety, thought. I didn’t eat enough nutrients to get me through the day, let alone through sports practices and games all week, every week. My anxiety, as I said, set in here as well, and I started using a puffer because I my lungs would freeze under pressure. I used the steroids as an escape from the anxiety of my tough coaches, and pressure of the game, or as I saw it, just another test. These mindsets overtook my whole life.

I learned so much after coming out on the other side of these attacks, though. It landed me the score of throwing a couple more hunks of metal in my tool box. I’ll share two with you. The first one I use for depression is one I still need from time to time. There isn’t really a name for it, but I deal with my depression. I don’t just have depression. I don’t just tolerate depression, or hide from it or run from it or ignore it or deny it. I wake up, and I put one foot in front of the other, and I deal with it.  Dealing with depression means different strategies for different people. From going on walks or runs, to listening to uplifting music and reading God’s word more everyday (I recommended the Psalms, if you don’t know where else to go). Some people need to take medication, I did for a while, as it was prescribed by my doctor. Some people need professional counselling. I definitely did for a while, and still do every once in a while. (I would highly recommend getting connected with a solid, Jesus loving counsellor. These are people who want to help you, will not judge you and will always go above and beyond for you.) Dealing with your depression means intentionally taking steps, daily, to stay on your feet.  But this is what is so good about the Lord; look at what He says in Isaiah; I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear, I will help you (Isaiah 41:13). He’s 110% ALWAYS, beyond a shadow of a doubt there for you.
The second one.. let’s just call this one the hammer, also known as, arguably, the most important tool in anyones toolbox: Self love. Exercise should only be done when it’s healthy: When you’re getting the nutrients, sleep and care (hygiene) your body needs. And you should exercise. Being healthy means sleeping healthy, eating healthy and living healthy in body, mind and soul. Also, dealing physically with emotional pain doesn’t need to happen if you have someone to talk to. And seeing yourself the way God alrighty sees his beautiful, incredible master piece that he designed and created means that disgusting is a four letter word. We should be taking care of our bodies and not harm them, or sin against them because we are made in the image of God. Which means that God looked at himself, and said he wanted to physically create you to be like him – beautiful. Take care of your body (1 Corinthians 6:19), not because the Bible is a big list of rules, but because our heavenly Father loves us. He is telling us these commands because of how deep His love is for us.

I wish I had of been told this, or when I was told, I wish I had of listened. Because sometime along this journey, I quit socializing. This was a slow process. For a long time, I knew how to pretend like everything was okay. Sometimes I could even convince myself I was okay, even though I definitely wasn’t. Some days, the brave face was just too hard to put on. This was a combination of having both depression and anxiety. Some days I could do it though. I could be the fun, bubbly girl that people knew and loved. But somewhere along the line, I didn’t know how to act like her anymore. I was so crippled and tired and weary. Friends would invite me to go places and do things, but I always declined. After always getting a negative from me, eventually the invites stopped coming. I skipped out on as many church events as I could, including the regular youth group and Sunday school. The only social thing I ever did was play sports, and even then, I kept a lot to myself. I gave up on a lot of friends. I didn’t socialize with teachers or strangers by avoiding almost all eye contact.
The tool I used to get me off the ground in this situation was extremely important. Metaphorically, consider this tool to be (something along the lines of) your favourite wrench; People. Community. Communication. Talking. Opening up. Being real. Letting out your worries and problems and feelings and happiness and joyfulness and sadness into people who love being there every single tear and every single laugh along the way. When we start talking about our problems, we start to realize the people around us are going through and have gone through the same type of stuff. And we can learn a lot from each other. There are a ton of verses about how important fellowship is but I think this verse completely sums up why we need to TALK to each other about the struggles and the hardships. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” Hebrews 10:24-25.

Why am I telling you all this? What’s with the 2000 word essay? It all amounts to the realization that deaths grip is real. Suicide happens when people take a lot at their lives and say “I’m not worth it” or that “I can’t do it”. This is the extremely heavy, hard, tough, dirt, raw stuff. I had completely formed a plan to commit suicide. I’m not going to sugar coat it, to break the stigma, we can’t sugar coat it. I will spare everyone the details, though, for the sake of the emotional heaviness. What’s important is I am here. Two years later, I am here. And I don’t think I went through everything I went through if I can’t open up about it all. I haven’t hardly ever disclosed, so openly, all these details at a single time, and in a single place to a single person ever before. But I believe what satan meant for evil, the Lord used for good. His ultimate good, that would benefit us.
The pain and the loss of time, broken relationships, and stolen joy is something I can’t say I wish I could reverse, though. Because through all of it, God worked all of it out for good. He restored me – which is everything I thought could never, ever be stored. Death’s grip on my life couldn’t even hold me back from him, and that’s remarkable. God did a miracle in my life and I know I need to share it. When Bell told us to talk, they knew it would bring healing to a lot of people. But I’m here to tell you that you can have hope, too. Because in the same way that my joy had been stolen and restored, yours can be too – through the faithfulness of God Almighty, Abba Father, Emmanuel, who broke every chain I ever was being control and held captive by.

I think that’s enough for now but there’s one more thing: A little shout out to Bell for getting the ball rolling. For encouraging people to start these conversations and for donating to the cause of breaking the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. But an even bigger shout out to my God, who not only changes lives by breaking us out of the bondage of fear, shame, guilt, death, and so much more, but who will use any circumstance for the good of those who love him, and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

 

 

My heart is being flown all over Canada.

This isn’t really about anything except a mild heartbroken girl who has learned a lesson only teachable by life experience.

Okay, when I was a kid, I thought airports we’re the coolest because I loved the idea of adventure. And I mean, what kid doesn’t? Right? Now that I’m older, I’ve been on lots of planes, and of course I still love travelling. I don’t get so excited about airports anymore, though. Airports are where I’ve said some of the most heart-wrenching goodbyes. I’ve had to leave my whole world behind, a few times, just by leaving airports. Whether I was leaving by plane or by car, airports are full of sad goodbyes (happy hellos, too, I try not to forget that).

A year ago, my family and I were living in the Canadian Arctic. I remember that January, my sister, Sarah, graduated from high school a semester early. This enabled her to take a spring-summer job in Ontario.

All the flights going to civilization, in our community, left around one in the afternoon. A bunch of us went to the airport to say goodbye over our lunch breaks at noon. But because her friends and I were still high school, we had to leave before she left in order to make it to our afternoon classes. But I skipped those classes.

Instead of getting a ride back to school with my dad, I stayed at the airport and sat with Sarah until she needed to leave. We mostly sat in silence. And honestly, I don’t know about her, but the thoughts of how nothing was ever going to be the same were flooding my head. She had graduated and this was her, moving out of the house, before I could even hardly wrap my head around us not living under the same roof together.

All of a sudden, while we were sitting there, she broke the silence with words like knives that cut me deeply; “I need to go now.” We were both clenching the tears back, trying to be strong for one another. The hug, quick ‘good luck’ and ‘goodbye’ were said so suddenly I didn’t know what was happening. Before I knew it, she was gone. The moment passes so soon.

I caught a cab and went home and cried. I walked to the Tim Hortons near my place and bought a muffin, because the Arctic doesn’t have bagels. That just happened to be another reminder that in a couple hours, Sarah was going to be able to eat everything bagels with herb and garlic cream cheese – our favourite snack.

I no longer had anyone to sit with at lunch at school. We didn’t rent movies from the movie store on Friday nights. She wasn’t around to help me with my homework. I would call her and she would call me and it was okay. I realized over the next few weeks that nothing was ever really going to be the same again. I never realized she had become my best friend, and she was gone now.

I hurt so much that day. But life didn’t stop and wait for me either, ya know? I had to grow up, recognize the hurt and take healthy steps to move forward.

Sarah, and my oldest sister Jess, came home over this Christmas break and I was beyond happy to see them again. But part of my heart breaks when airplanes have to take them away. I feel like I haven’t had to chance to even say hello.

I’m telling this to you now because they’re leaving again tomorrow. They both get on airplanes and head west for another six months, and I’ll be able to meet up with them again in the summer, but I’m feeling all the same things I did last spring, when Sarah left me alone in that cold, Nunavut airport.

I wrote about that experience in my journal. I was just reading that entry tonight because I am feeling the pain of waving goodbye to my sisters who have pockets full of plane tickets. Except one thing is different, the feeling is familiar now. I know how to deal with it. I know what to expect and how to feel. And I’m still going to cry, but I’m going to get myself under control a little sooner, with a little more confidence, knowing full well that it’ll be alright.

The grads from my high school, and probably lots of high schools, all have to answer a page of questions for the yearbook.

If you could go back and give one piece of advice to your grade nine self, what would you say?

I’m going to leave you with what I wrote, as it sums up what I’ve learned: “I know I would tell that girl that high school is not going to be the best 4 years of your life, but they will be valuable. In grade ten, Jess is going to leave home for the first time. This will be tough, but she’ll be back a lot more than you expect. In grade eleven, Sarah is going to leave you. And she won’t be back as long or as often as you’d like. And both times when your sisters leave, you’ll feel scared and hurt and you’ll keep all those feelings to yourself. But I promise it’ll be okay. I promise it seems crazy but life is just teaching you a lesson you’ll need for the rest of your life, it’s just going to teach you the hard way.”

Goodness is what He has in store.

There once was two farmers, who were living in the midst of a drought. They both desperately needed rain and they both were earnestly praying for rain. One farmer stayed home, with his family, praying for rain. The other farmer left his house, and went out into the fields to prepare them for the rain. Which farm do you think God blessed with rain?

The farm that was prepared, and ready.

“‘The Lord helps those who help themselves’ is not found in the Bible, however, it is a biblical concept.” – John MacDonald.

This is such a truth, hey? The more I learn about God, the more I realized he works on the basis of our prayers and actions. He does ultimately want goodness for us, because we will use that to further his kingdom, which honours and glorifies him.

“The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” -John Piper.

I am about to graduate high school and the questions about the future keep coming my way, especially over Christmas but just in general, as well. I feel like every time the fact that I am currently in senior year comes up, I am instantaneously questioned about what my plans are. I hate it, really. Because I have some undefined plans of travelling across oceans. And other plans of hanging out on my own corner of the world. But I can’t decide which plans are my back up plans or not.

It’s so hard to know when God is closing a door, but maybe he doesn’t? Maybe with as much prayer and dedication, God will someday swing the doors open. Maybe if it looks like he’s closed a door, but he’s still given our hearts a passion, it’s not actually a closed door. Maybe it’s a challenge to preserver. I sincerely want that from God. I want a life that is lived for a purpose, even though I can’t see it. I want to act out on my passions, in trust for the name of the Lord. I want to destroy the giant of fear and uncertainty and finical instability.

I know that God has goodness in store for us. Although I still don’t have an answer when relatives and friends ask me what my plans are for the next portion of my journey, I know that I can make my choices based on the truth and knowledge that my God has goodness in store for me and my life. And maybe during the times of your life when it feels like God is closing every single door, He is longing for you to persevere. To come, humbly and together to His side and seek. Pray. Search. Because goodness awaits. And he loves you and I. He loves our hearts, as dirty and as broken as they have ever been, and He will place passions on our hearts for grab. Reach out and utterly consume. I am so ready.

I feel like right now I need to tell you it’s not going to be easy. It won’t typically be fun and more often then not, it will probably be a struggle. I want to warn you that the devil will try to hurt your heart. So here’s my discloser: While you’re out in your field preparing for rain, be on guard, but don’t give up. The rain will come.

But through the trouble you’re about to face, find your peace in him and take heart, because He has overcome the world – John 16:33

How blessed is our church to have a God who has goodness in store for us – always?

Rule 1. Peanut Butter and Oreos

I’ve written and rewritten this introduction several times. I don’t know how to tell you that this post is a list of rules I have created over this past year. This past year I lived in Canada’s Arctic, I moved back to Atlantic Canada, I have travelled and met new people and tried new things. So in honour of that, I made a list. This list has been tweaked and edited and scratched out more times than I even want to tell you, but it’s served me well.

Over the past months I have kept some of these rules in my sock drawer, (out of sight, out of mind-type thing) but I have them, nonetheless. They always seem to make their way to my heart when I need them the most. I have come to live and die by the things on this list, some more than others, so I hope in some way, by some sense you can somehow pick up one of these, every so bravely, and say

“You see this one here? This one’s mine. I don’t know how long I’ll need it, but when I do need it, it’ll be here for me.”

 

So here is a list of 10:

  1. Eat Oreos with peanut butter or don’t eat them at all.
  2. Taylor Swift’s song fifteen is beyond accurate.
    When she says “But in your life you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team” she means it.
    He will break your heart.
    This is especially true if you’re trying to convince yourself, for some reason, that it’s all going to be okay, even when you know he’s actually not good for you. It’s probably not going to work out the way you hope. Those doubts about him are your intuition and you should trust it, no matter how difficult.
    I promise you that if he’s not a hell yes, he’s a hell no. Take it from me, I learned this the hard way. Twice.
  3. Just because you can’t deal (well) with change, doesn’t mean that you should try to hold onto everything.
  4. Keep an open mind about new music, new food and new people – they aren’t always as bad as they seem and they aren’t always as good as they may seem.
  5. When writing papers, never use the words ‘thing’. It’s unclear and if your teacher is anything like mine, she will fail you on your midterm, as well as your final, if you do.
  6. Always love people hardest on the days when you feel most unloved.
    I really wrestled with this one for a long time because it sounds like a form of self-harm almost. It’s so easy to burn-out. To run out of love because you have nothing left to give because you’re never getting any love.
    But Jesus showed me that we can do all things through him. He is more than enough for us, and when you love people hardest on the days you feel most unloved, you’ll start to realize that you have to embrace the love of Jesus. Which in turn, will allow you to feel loved, as well as embrace love. It’s a cycle. And it’s not easy to grasp, and it’s a lot of work, but it was good for me and my heart and I believe it honoured Jesus.
  7. People will always be moving in and out of your life. It doesn’t always mean that you ‘didn’t need them anyway’. Sometimes, Jesus sends us people into our life for a season, and that’s all it’s supposed to be.
  8. Volunteer at soup kitchens. You’ll build relationships with genuine people and you’ll learn a lot about yourself, too.
  9. Be brave, be kind, work hard, and in humility, love more than less.
    Bravery looks like evangelism sometimes. Kindness looks like love that puts others before yourself sometimes.  Hard work looks like early mornings sometimes. Humbly loving more than less means starting conversations and doing things you don’t want to do sometimes.
  10. Somethings are just meant to be. Somethings aren’t just meant to be. This is really sad and it can hurt a lot and it’s not fair, usually. But, I promise, accepting this is a whole lot easier.