Africa, Benin, Contonou

Hey everyone!
Me again.

Just popping on here with a quick little update to let you all know some real cool things.

1. I’m going to Contonou, Benin, Africa!!!
2. I’m super excited!!
3. I wish I had of payed more attention during French class!

Benin is a tiny little country in West Africa that has managed to capture a portion of my heart the last few weeks. One day some friends and I we’re having a conversation and they invite me to join them on a 2 week trip to Benin, Africa to hang out with kiddos & love & serve them!

I couldn’t have been more excited about the opportunity & I decided to jump on it. A month later, I am sitting here to bring you the news that all the paperwork is filled out & I am so ready for this.

Here’s the story: While I was at the wedding back in Canada, I was able to hang out with some old family friends who I completely adore. This couple, Don & Erin, had been missionaries in Benin, Africa where Don was born and raised. (Did we catch all that? Good.) It’s a french speaking, really tiny country in the corner of the content. with a mission organization called SIM (which i will talk more about in a second). And when Don met Erin back in Canada at Bible school.. the two of them got married and moved to Benin for full-time ministry. After tragedy struck their family & they buried their little boy in Benin, Don and Erin followed a prompting by the Lord to return to Canada.

Benin is still very much on the hearts and lives of the Longworth family, though. That is why Don & his father, under SIM, are leading a team to go back to Benin. And they are bringing their oldest girl, Mahayla (10yrs old) as well!!

Don and Erin were talking to some of us about this trip, and sharing their hearts around it a little bit. And when Don mentioned how they were looking for a couple more team members, but the deadlines were coming up as this trip begins the end of August. I piped up with my spontaneous little voice and said “well, I live in the UK, so basically I’m already halfway there. If you’d like me to join, I’d love to come!”

& the rest is history.

Below is a little bit more insight into the trip — what it will look like & what I’m trusting God for.

WHAT WILL I BE DOING? I will be working with a team of people who love Jesus & who love kids to put on VBS-like events for children who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. So very often children who have this diagnosis are rejected within their communities. The goal of this trip is to allow these children to make friends, to be loved, and most importantly — to encounter Jesus Christ.

WILL I BE GONE FOREVER?! It’s safe to say unfortunately not. Someday I might be called into full-time ministry in Africa.. but not right now haha. This trip is for 2 weeks! August 29th – September 11th. I am beyond excited!

SIM? Serving In Mission. SIM is a global mission organization that sends missionaries to the ends of the earth “Serving Where Christ is Least Known” is their motto. I have many highly respected friends who are working with / have worked within this organization. SIM values excellence in all they do, to effectively preach the gospel and reach the globe with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I cannot wait to be a small part of this!

WHAT AM I LOOKING FORWARD TO THE MOST? Hanging out with kiddos. Literally I will sing and dance and laugh and cry and pray with them all day every day for hours and hours & that makes my heart so excited.

WHAT AM I LEAST EXCITED FOR? Honestly, spiders. I’ve always been fortunate enough to live in places that don’t have deadly critters that just might show up in your shoes.. so I will be following every safety precaution because I do not want to die.

Okay.. so that’s all super fun. Yes. I’m going to Africa. There are three ways I am asking for support!

** another side notation; I very much appreciate you. I don’t take your time and resources lightly. And as a token of said appreciation, I will be mailing out letters to all my supporters. (I know, more words from Abby! Who doesn’t want that?!) I will include some fun facts about Benin & other fun surprises, so I’d jump on that bandwagon ASAP;) But please let me know if you’re praying for me, or giving towards the trip. All you’ve gotta do is let me know how you’re choosing to support me and shoot me an email with your mailing address!

Firstly; your words. I would love to hear from you. If you’ve ever been to Africa, or ever desired to go. If you have any good stories or cool friends from Africa, let me hear it! I wanna know.

Secondly; I need y’all to pray about this. And I mean please get on your knees when you’re done reading this and PRAY. Please hold a spot in your time with the Father each day to pray for me. And I say please do this first because as much as I appreciate your words of encouragement and your finical support, prayers are simply just much more powerful than any of that.

Here’s what I am SPECIFICALLY requesting prayers for:

1. For the team: Janice. Heather. Don. Jim. Mahayla. And myself. pray that in these next weeks leading up to us jumping on airplanes, that we will…

Be healthy & safe. this will not only allow for travelling to go well, but for us to maximize the opportunity we will have in Benin.
Be spiritually prepared for whatever it is that we are about to encounter. I believe we’re about to step onto a battleground for a spiritual battle. Those are won first and foremost on our knees.
Have all the funding / resources we’ll need for flights, vaccinations, supplies, the unexpected, everything

2. Pray for the kiddos / families we have the opportunity to minister to, that they will..

– Hear & understand the gospel. Benin is a French-speaking country, and although I grew up in a bilingual province.. French is not my thing. So pray that God will speak to them, because really, I can’t.
– Be loved and know true love. This is one of the biggest prayers of my heart in leading up to this trip. My prayer is they will learn how to be loved by God and learn how to love him back. This will transform the way they love themselves, as well as each other. This is the deepest prayer of my heart, so I ask you would join me in this, if nothing else.

3. Pray that I will..

– Have peace about the funding I need for the trip. Money is the biggest burden on my heart over this trip right now, and I don’t believe it was ever designed to be that way. When Jesus said “Go into the world and preach the gospel” He did NOT say “Before you go into the world and preach the gospel, please pray that you will have all the resources you will need, because that might be an issue”. Heck no. Jesus just said go. And I just said “Lord, send me”. And He just said “GO”. So forgive me, however I am in need of peace that passes my understanding over this.
– Be safe. Benin is such a cool country. But man are their some deadly critters around there. Pray so that no harm does happen. Although the medical insurance is paid for & the vaccinations have started, I don’t want to be naïve to the danger. However I don’t want to live in fear of it, either. I know that when we join together in prayer, powerful things happen. So I ask you to pray for safety.

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Thirdly; Here’s the best part.. the money chat.

Yes. I will need help to get there. To be 100% honest, in so many ways I wish I had of known that this trip was going to come up. I would’ve planned my money differently & not needed to be in the position of asking for help.. But maybe financial vulnerability is probably good for me & just maybe God knew what He was doing;) So as a result, I do need help to afford this trip.
The total cost of the trip is $2500.00 CAD / £1450.00 GBP

I feel a little bit sick when I look at those numbers, which is totally ridiculous because I know that God can handle it, very quickly.

I would like to ask you to consider donating to the cost of the trip. If you would like to do that, there are several different ways you can do that.
Please keep in mind that no donation is too little. When I was a kid, I would give my $5 bills to missionaries. And I thought it was the sun & the moon & the stars. It really wasn’t, but it was my faith that moved the mountains. So it did matter. It did count. It added up and it amount to something. I desperately don’t want you to feel scared to drop even $5 in the basket if that is on your heart. Or don’t even make it an even number if you don’t wanna. If you’re more comfortable with £7 than you are with £10… then by all means.

Whatever you’re situation, I want you be encouraged that this IS an encouragement for me. I appreciate your heart, if you do so choose to give.

Canadian friends! (Love you guys!)
Here are the steps to donating online:
Follow this link
Enter any donation amount
Under “name/number” you will write: Abby McQuarrie / 049306
Click “Add to Basket”
Complete the secure Visa form while following the on-screen instructions.

UK friends! (Love you guys, too! Shout-out to y’all!)
Please just notify me, and I will give you the account information to sponsor me from SIM UK!

* There is also a way to donate through the post, however SIM has encouraged donations for this trip to cease through the mail due to the short amount of time there is left before the trip, and in case anything happens, they don’t want to risk this.
** BUT! If you do wish to send donations through the mail regardless, please just contact me and I will give you all the deets!

Thank you for being with me on this adventure, I cannot wait. I literally could not be more excited, I don’t think! Here’s to whatever it is God is about to do in Benin!


A list of note for your adventures

Me too..
Let’s chat.

“What are you going to do with the mountains in your way? Because you have to decide. Because you’ve always got a choice. And because there will always be mountains.
Are you gonna let them tower over you and let the shadows in the valley scare you? Are you going to sit around at the base of the mountain and say ‘some day I’ll see the top’? Are you going to try to avoid the inevitable & go around them? Or are you going to — dare I say — accept the challenge? Will you climb it – and then jump and shout and scream and be oh, so excited when you get to the top because you absolutely crushed it?
You’ve always got a choice – what are you going to do with the mountains in your way?”

I decided to climb it. I didn’t just dream about it any more. I slammed the door in fear’s face and decided to go beyond the shadows. I didn’t just toy with the idea any longer. I decided that mountain will not define where my feet can go. I am going to climb it. And it won’t be easy. I had a moving day. That means the bags got packed and my feet hit the ground running towards a new destination.

“You’ve always got a choice, todays the day to decide. Work towards your goals and when you get there – it’ll all just be the beginning of something far greater than you ever could have imagined”

I am no expert on moving, transitioning, or travelling but I like to think I am. I have become accustomed to moving around lots, taking big trips, and having extended time periods of just “enjoying being where my feet are”.
Although it hasn’t been that long since I moved outta my parent’s house — I’ve been learning a whole bunch of new things and I know that now is the best time to give you some hints about what to take and what to leave behind. 
But more importantly, I’m going to do my best to show you how to do that while saying goodbye to the life you’re leaving behind. All while preparing for the life you’re about to have.

Today, you’re getting a list. If you think something will work for you, keep it in your back pocket and hopefully it comes in handy when you go to grab your passport next time.

My moving advice:

I — when I recently moved, it was not forever but I had to fit everything into 3 suitcases. Out of all the things I had to leave behind, I brought my favourite blanket and its still the best choice I could have made. That is a piece of home for me. Carry a piece of home with you when you move. (Other ideas: a mug, or some pictures from home.)

II — a mug is also a good idea (and I wish I had of brought one with me, but I didn’t. My friend always does this when she travels, and she’ll pass her mug to the flight attendants when offered tea. Home wherever she goes!)

III — I always send my old friends my new address right away and THIS MATTERS because my friends are gems and they always write me. Having their hand writing in my fingers makes my life feel like its all in one place, even though they’re all over the world.

IV — you find you’re in a new culture? It is IMPORTANT that you respect that with all your capabilities. It doesn’t matter if you understand it or not. You’re allowed to ask questions, but never never never criticize. NEVER. If you think it might be offensive, it probably is. I can’t believe I need to say this in 2018, but it appears that some people still have yet to get the memo.
Whatever is culturally appropriate, YOU are the foreigner — YOU need to adapt. It sucks. Do it anyway. Learn the new language and stop calling trousers ‘pants’.

V — I obviously brought all my favourite pictures of my people, too. I also rearranged the room I was given. Between my pictures and my new layout, I felt like my room was actually my space.

VI — when you’re on a trip, send your friends pictures of all the pretty things you see. Don’t flood your Facebook with 20+ pictures everyday. You also don’t need a 34 picture Insta-story. No one cares about your life that much. But your friends will feel more apart of your new life this way, and you will get to have real conversations about what you’ve done and experienced. It’s a win-win for everyone. I understand sharing the adventure on social media is so fun, but please just stop sharing Facebook albums with 482930 different angles of a cool statue you saw in the middle of Europe.
Not to say DON’T create a Facebook album. Because you should be excited to share this — just be mindful of how much you’re posting. Because social media is to connect you with your friends — but you want to use your space to add important things to each others’ life.

VII — If you’re starting a new job, get to know your coworkers. Be a blessing in their life; someone they can look forward to seeing. If your coworker drives you absolutely nuts.. pray for her and love her anyway.

VIII — moving away from good friendships are hard work. It means you’ve both need to put in more effort. And sometimes it will feel like a one-sided effort, but really, it’s good. 

IX — Moving into new friendships, you feel like you can’t let the new people in your life down EVER. You still need to make a great impression, right? 
W r o n g.
If you start a friendship with this mentality, that person will begin to expect it and you’ll never know when to just stop and be yourself. You’re still new, you’re allowed to let people down because you’re not holding them up. Just be yourself. This is all a process, usually it’s more messy than we’d like to post on Instagram, but it’s worth it 1000x for golden, authentic friendships.

X — just because you’re living on your own doesn’t mean you can leave the dirty dishes in the sink forever. You’ve got a sink — do the damn dishes.

XI — just because you’re living on your own doesn’t mean you can leave the clean dishes in the dish-rack forever, either. You’ve got shelves and cupboards — use them.

XII — just because you’re living on your own doesn’t mean doing laundry is optional. Actually FOLD YOUR CLOTHES. AND actually PUT THEM AWAY. Those close have a home, and it’s not on your floor.

XIII — candles are always great.

VIV — so is tea.

XV — go to dinner (or just desert and tea) alone once or twice if you’ve never done it before. No one here knows you, and it 1. just saved you from cooking and 2. switched up the scenery a little bit. Also bonus: 3. It’s really healthy to know how to appreciate your own company every once in a while.

XVI — Go for a walk instead of watching Netflix next time. It’s way more rewarding.

XVII — speaking of walking, while on a road trip, get out of the car and walk around. Walk down some train tracks in the middle of nowhere, or walk to a cool land mark. My mom made us do this all the time on our recent road trip. I hated it because I just wanted to get the miles over with, but those road-side rest-stops on the trans Canada hold some good memories.

XVIII — speaking of road trip memories, my mom and I also had slushy adventures. We hit up ALL the 7/11’s across the country and back. But really, we tried to find as many fun slushy flavours as possible (it was summer). It kept us sane by giving us something to get excited about every once in a while. Even if you don’t go on a cross-country slushy hunt, you can look for good coffee or spruce trees or whatever you’re into while on a roady, it’ll be worth it, hands down.

XIX — When you move, you will probably forget your keys once or twice. You might loose your bus pass and you’ll get lose. Oh and it won’t be pretty. It will take mistakes like these to mold your character into the beautiful person God created you to be. It’s part of staying in the same place, too — you finally have time to make dumb mistakes like that. It’s an important part of life.

So you’re one step closer to being ready to go. You decided to pack your tooth brush? That’s probably a bad idea — just pack a new one. Bringing old tooth brushes is honestly a pain because you need to use a ziplock bag or whatever. Then a little water goes into the bag then you feel uncomfortable and ugh just throw a new one in your carry-on.

Have fun, safe travels, and adventure with your whole heart — where ever the planes may take you.

you’re worth it.

Babe, don’t try to convince yourself you’re not worth it. 

you’re worth effort. To put in effort, and to receive effort.
your’e worth sacrifice. To be sacrificial, and to sacrifice.
you’re worth rest. To rest, and to give rest.
you’re worth the hard work. To work hard, and to be worked hard for.
you’re worth dignity. To have self-respect. To be respected.
you’re worth love. To love, and to be loved.
you’re worth skillful writers. To read, and to share.
you’re worth Netflix. To watch. Sometimes.
you’re worth health. To be healthy, and to encourage health.
you’re worth kindness. To be kind, and to receive kindness.
You’re worth disciple. To be disciplined & to accept discipline. 

Okay so we’ve all been there, yes? We are about to do something EVEN THOUGH we probably (definitely) will regret it later. Pure selfishness, however, has already seeped into our minds, resulting in us doing that dumb, stupid thing we know we shouldn’t.

This is often a struggle when unhealthy people want to be healthy again.
I have been on somewhat of a health journey this year. To cut back on things I shouldn’t eat and to start eating things I should. A little exercise here and there.

‘I’ve got this’ I thought.
Wrong. I thought wrong.

About two months into this, I was doing quite well until one day (dramatic dun-dun-dunnn) when I was eating out with friends. Against my better judgment of ordering a pretty salad, I opted to go for some crispy onion rings. (my ultimate weakness). The truth is, this wasn’t a moment of weakness or a setback. This was lack of discipline.

Discipline is a word that scares me.

Usually it means I have to give up what I want and replace it for something I want less. But what if we can change that? What if instead of looking for instant gratification, we start believing in real satisfaction.

I was chasing the immediate desire instead of the ultimately best choice, so I made a decision I would regret later. This concept is applied to nearly every choice we make in life.. As we get older, we (theoretically) become more disciplined in making good choices.

I started regretting my onion rings after it was all said and done. I drove home thinking “I’m not satisfied right now EVEN THOUGH I had the power to give myself the real satisfaction.

The things we most often regret in life rarely truly give us satisfaction we wanted anyway.

We’re a lot alike, you and me. We both have struggles. We both have strengths. We both feel things deeply, or sometimes not at all. But mostly, we do things we know we shouldn’t do, yet we still do them. We look at that menu and even though we know we shouldn’t, we exchange our money for the plate of greasy, unsatisfying fries instead of leafy greens that will make nourish and cleanse our bodies. In the same way, we

The power lies where I have control. I can control what I consume, what activities I participate in, what relationships I form, what appointments I make, how I react in different situations, and the list is endless.

The amount of things about our day that we are responsible for is endless.

There are so many hours of our day made up of habits we’ve passively allowed instead of intentionally creating. I want to be a woman who lives intentionally and who is self-respected for her ability to not just quit choosing the wrong thing, but replace it with something better. See, it’s not just about never ordering the fries and going hungry. No. You replace it with a salad.

Healthy habits come in a far greater variety than just what we put on our plates. I do not want to put an emphasis what I think you should or should not eat. I’ll always advocate for you to choose the healthiest lifestyle that you can, though.

Making choices is making a lifestyle. Self care. Self respect. Hygiene. Nourishment. Education. Therapy. The way you respect yourself is the way you should respect others. God says to respect others as though they are higher than oneself, yes. However, YOU have the responsibly to allow Jesus to set set that bar as high as it can go, and then some. God will allow you

David said it best when He proclaimed “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderfully are your works, and my soul knows it very well.”

See that last part? MY SOUL KNOWS IT VERY WELL.

How is your soul supposed to know you are beautiful — the very thing you are building walls around? And how is your head supposed to hear that when your heart isn’t in it?

Darling, you were created to praise him. Can you praise Him with the same breath that David was breathing. I believe we can. I believe we can get on our knees – in the middle of all the good-yet-hard choices. In the midst of the bad decisions. In the struggle of the way we are actively choosing what we want NOW. As opposed to choosing what HE wants us to choose.

Maybe you’re a full time student with no time. Maybe you think you’re just a name-less face in a city. Maybe you’re a mom with ketchup on your sweater. Or maybe you’re broke. Maybe you’re broken. Or maybe you don’t know where to start. I can sympathize with how tough it is to go through life believing you’re not worth the attention you should be giving yourself. But think of it as a form of worship.

Realize that you’re worshipping Him by taking care of His creation — yourself.

His most beloved creation.
Live loved, babe. Live like He loves you. Live like you are worth it.  

Love always,

Abby Joy


PS. Jack this is for you. Not because it is necessarily a message for you, but rather it is a message I could write because of the influence you have had in my life. Thank you.

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.


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.

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.

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
  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.


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.

, 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).