This is what I do, don't try to understand how I do it; I don't really know either

Love

Love is my 8 year old making me a salad for breakfast.

Love is my daughter waiting five years to go to camp and then one camp morning leaving her friends to call her mom just to say hello.

Love is my 14 year old going to the movies and diner with his grandmother.

Love is my daughter who whispers in my ear that she will always love me no matter what.

Love is little things that amount to big things. Love is the daily and the dirty. Getting into the grind of life and falling on your knees. Love is sacrifice. Love is work and effort. It makes you sweat, makes you strong. Love builds you up. Love is sometimes leaving and sometimes running full speed ahead. Love is more than an emotion, it is choices. Love makes a difference.

Love is messy, very messy.

It doesnt always look like we think it should, and sometimes it stares us in the face.

Sometimes we miss it.

It can grab hold of you and never let go.

It can die for you on a cross just so you don’t have to be eternally apart.

 

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A New Chapter

I am about half way through my trip to Africa and I have come undone. What a great and also painful place to be. There is so much going on in my life personally that I am trying to manage in the background and in the foreground I am confronted daily with how much bigger than me life is.

I have seen amazing things. Stories of resilience and strength. I have also seen the worst of humanity. The more I see, the more I wrestle with how I fit. I can never watch life like it’s a show on TV. I have never been a sit on the bench person. I want the world to be better because I have been in it, and that doesn’t happen by not getting your hands dirty.

I have learned that effectiveness happens when you are strategic about the work you do. There is so much that is possible and if more people would even do SOMETHING, the world would be a significantly different place. They say 20% of people do 80% of the work. So figuring out where the best place is to invest my time and resources is important but also a great challenge because the needs seem never ending- not just in Africa, but in every country in the world. Developed countries like to pretend they have it all together, but reality is that there are huge issues in those countries as well – they just have a fancier ball gown to wear to the prom to cover the problems.

I think it’s fitting right now to be wrestling with where I fit on the global stage when there will be so many changes in my life when I get back home. It’s time again to turn a page and write a new chapter. Blank pages can be scary but I’ve stared them down before and ended up writing great adventures. This will be no different. The same God who was with me then is with me now and His love for me hasn’t changed. Below are lyrics to the song we sang in church last Sunday. They are reverberating through my mind and heart.

Our God

Chris Tomlin

Water You turned into wine

Opened the eyes of the blind

There’s no one like you

None like you

Into the darkness You shine

Out of the ashes we rise

There`s No one like you

None like you

Our God is greater, our God is stronger

God You are higher than any other

Our God is Healer, awesome in power

Our God

And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?

And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?

And if Our God is for us, then who can ever stop us?

And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?

Then what can stand against?

Then what can stand against?

Follow Your Why

There is a lot of writing involved in getting your MA and your PhD but for me there is additional writing because I am applying for scholarships. I had to write an essay for one and thought I would share it with you. It’s the basis for why I do what I do.

Here was the criteria:

An essay of no more than 1,000 words specifically describing how you “followed your why” and contributed to advancing positive social change in one or more of the following areas:
a. Influencing the lives of others
b. Mentoring a colleague
c. Making a positive impact in your community *

Following our why is critical to success in life. “Your WHY is what drives you to action: A thirst for knowledge, a commitment to your family, a desire for change in your community,” Walden University Follow Your Why (2018). Your why is what will change you and those around you at the same time. It is the foundation for what we do. Having passion is important but as Kimathi Kaumbutho points out, “passion is fleeting,” (2017, May 11).  Your why will remain constant and at time fuel your passion, but when your passion fades, your why will keep you moving forward. Kaumbutho talks about days he wanted to stay in bed, but he put in the hard work anyways because his why was that he wanted to inspire others.

I have goals of making a difference in those around me and also those around the world. My why is because I should not be where I am. Where I have come from and what I grew up with determined a trajectory that was bleak and dismal. I chose to not allow my circumstances to determine my future. I wanted something different, something more and I was willing to do whatever it took to make that happen. Walden is not “looking for people who follow the crowd. We’re looking for people who follow their passion. People who have the courage to make a change,” Walden University Follow Your Why (2018). I embody this principle.

I have been told I could not make it, and to not try to achieve what I was working towards. I have evaluated the feedback and the source, then evaluated myself, my why and my options and decided that giving up was not what I would choose. There have been many days I wanted to give up, to stop trying and just let life pass by. The conceptualization of what achieving my goals looks like has been the force for me to continue on. Each goal that is realized enforces the hard decisions I have made to keep going, and that all the effort is worth it.

Showing others who come from difficult backgrounds that they can achieve their dreams is my why. At times I did not believe in myself, but among the naysayers, there were also those who profoundly believed in me. I want to be one of those people who sees in others what they can not see in themselves. We live in a broken world, we are hurt and we hurt others; but these things don’t have to define us. We need to see in each other whats under the surface. We need to be real, dig deep and live vulnerably. “We seek to belong and to contribute, to cherish and be cherished, in the places we work and live. That is what success is,” Asghar, R. (2014, January 22).

I have followed my why to bring positive change first and foremost to my children. I want them to have a much different childhood than my own. This meant I had to change myself so I could lead them by example. I have not yet arrived by any stretch but I am not who I was. I would not be disappointed if they turned out like me, but I definitely want them to go even further. I have also been involved in youth outreach since I was a youth myself. Youth are our future and though it means change will take longer to come, it will come as we shape and develop them to be people who know who they are and follow their why.

On a global scale, I have been involved in various ways politically for many years. This has been an effort to bring change federally, provincially and municipally. Currently, I volunteer as a parliamentary riding leader for the ONE campaign. We are an advocacy group with a goal to end extreme poverty. I also own a company that works with international students. These students are primarily high school age and they come from all over the world for long and short-term programs to Canada. My staff arrangesnay their living accommodations with families. I have developed a mentor program so while the students are here, we are connecting with them and pouring into their lives so that when they return home they are not the same. I have seen amazing things happen in lives through building these relationships.

My future goals are to complete my Ph.D. in public policy and administration while using my research to bring reform to the youth justice systems in developing countries. I have already made connections to start this endeavour and I am excited to begin the process that will ultimately have an impact on the future of developing countries. I will achieve these goals by following my why and showing others that they can overcome their circumstances.

Living By Moments

I love to get there. I love that feeling after a really long drive, of having arrived. It excites me to cross things off a list – I have a deep sense of satisfaction when I accomplish something. I am an achiever. I get a lot of things done because it feels good to get things done. I have always just wanted to get there and not really stop along the way because I always felt that the joy was in the end, not in the journey.

I’m getting older and learning. I don’t think I will ever not be satisfied at the end or driven to get there, but I am learning to enjoy things along the way. My life has been filled with trauma and pain. so really is it any wonder that I would just want to get to the end. When your in pain you just want it to stop, so you just get through it.

Last week I was hurting and in between my sobs I said to myself, feel this. Don’t just get through it, but feel it. My custom has been to clench every muscle and curl up tight while riding the roller coaster and just make it through. The belief is that once you are on the other side it’s over, but that is false. What you went through comes with you, unless you feel it. It’s like these emotions wait and they sneak up on you. Some will never go away – I have pain that will always be with me, but if I feel it at the time it happens, it has less power when it comes back. The more I feel it, the more I acknowledge and process it, the less it can overwhelm me. It’s that simple but not that easy.

If I break life down into moments it is easier. There are good moments and bad ones and you need to live in both. The bad moments are easier to deal with if you think of them as moment. Moments pass. When I think of them as moments I feel as though I can put it in the palm of my hand and look it over. I can examine it from different angles and take it apart. I can see why it hurts or how it came to be. Understanding helps with healing.

Of course we want the good moments to last longer but they are also only moments. I am learning to enjoy them when I have them. I often focus on the big picture – which isn’t bad, but sometimes you miss the beautiful details that only come by taking the moments. Maybe the end isn’t what you want, but don’t miss the moments on the way. Both good and bad make us who we are. We will always have the moments we want to keep stored in our memory.

I’ll never forget jumping on the trampoline with Susan and the babies. Riding my bike as a kid with the wind rushing through my hair and I felt like I could go anywhere. Each of my children being born (including the one who died). Laughing with my best friends, which happens often, but never often enough. Being surrounded by my family and eating tacos. Teaching my kids to read. The moments when I know I have impacted the life of a young person in a positive way. Finishing my degrees. Watching the city lights at night and standing on the edge of the majestic ocean.

These are all my moments. I get to keep them. The good and the bad make up my life.

I want to live it and feel it. All of it.

Original Sin vs Purity

I’m not going to do a theological debate here, nor state any verses for either theological side regarding the doctrine of original sin, but what I am going to do is explore the implications. So please bare with me whichever camp you are in.

The doctrine of original sin leads us to a conclusion that we are born sinful. We enter this world as damaged goods. Something, or moreover, someone, that God created is tainted and tarnished. His perfect creation, through no fault of their own at that point, have become unworthy of the presence of God. That’s what we are taught.

How does one live to their full potential believing that they are damaged? I know this life well because it’s not only how I was taught spiritually, but also what I believed because I was abused as a child. I fully embraced the concept that I was damaged goods. I should take what I can get because who wants something already used. No point holding out and no point striving for the top: that had already been taken from me.

BUT THOSE WERE LIES

There was a revelation to me in my early 20’s that I was not damaged goods. I asked God where he was when all those things happened to me, because I believed that He loved me, but that He (being holy) could not look at me when it was happening. I was shown that He was right there with me, crying and hurting just like me, and because of what was happening to his precious and perfect daughter. He never left me. He never viewed me as tarnished or tainted.

I made bad decisions based on the lies that I had believed and in that moment I knew that he did not hold them against me because he understood, but He wanted better for me. I had never felt pure in my life and at that moment, for the first time, I felt pure. That was the most amazing feeling I have ever had. Nothing can compare to the feeling of being given something you never felt worthy of. My life changed, my decisions changed, my everything changed because I knew I was pure.

What an impact on our decisions when we understand our value. No one will ever take that feeling of purity away from me, because to me it is sacred. What would our lives look like if we knew our worth? What would our world be like if our decisions were based on the fact that we are created in the image of the almighty, holy and pure God?

Pretending vs Faking

I can’t stand fakers. I really have no patience  or empathy for someone who fakes life, their intentions or who they are. One of my core values is integrity and faking goes directly against that value. It’s like scraping nails on the chalkboard of my inner being.

Today I had to spend a lot of time pretending and I thought it important to note the difference. There are things in my life right now that mean that for quite some time to come, any day can be detailed at any moment. One email, one phone call and I fall apart. That happened this morning. It started with an email that led to a phone call, and I fell apart. I was a weeping ball of mush, self questioning, life questioning and wanting to run away. Intense pain will do that. I liken it to being a scared kitten. You might scratch at things that are good and trying to help you. You might make sudden and erratic movements. It’s important to move slowly and breathe. I took the breathing part too fast though and ended up with an anxiety attack 10 minutes before I am supposed to be on a video conference for work. Fun times.

So I pretended. I got on the video call and did everything I could recall from my theatre classes in high school and I pretended to be ok. I fought tears for the first 20 minutes but I eventually gained a good hold and the minute I got to click the end button it all came out, but I made it through what I had to do. I wasn’t faking, but I was pretending and there is a difference. I dont think fakers are very honest with themselves so how can they be honest with others? Someone who pretends does it out of necessity. It is permissible to not tell everyone you encounter that your not ok, but it’s not healthy to not tell anyone. Someone has to know, hopefully more than one person, but people who you can trust and who can help.

It does not cross the value of integrity to pretend so you can still function as a mom, as a businesswoman, as a friend – as whatever you need to be. I think we err on the side of pretending too often (especially to our kids) but there are necessary times, because unfortunately life doesn’t grind to a halt to let you fall apart and have time to recover. So while your in that stage, you can pretend just to get through. You do need to take steps to recover though, or your just faking.

Don’t be a faker.

so speaking of recovery, I’m going for a run.

Companion to My Soul

I felt very alone growing up. I didn’t have a really close friend until high school. There was no one to share my thoughts, hopes, dreams or fears with. I needed someone who could see my heart.

The relationship I yearned for is the relationship I see between Jesus and John. J. Philip Newell describes John as one who listened for the heartbeat of Jesus, and Jesus showed the secrets of his heart to John. They had a mutual indwelling: John 15:4 – Abide in me as I abide in you. John was the disciple whom Jesus loved, as he self described himself. Johns gospel is very, very clear about his relationship with Jesus and the intimate love he felt.

Newel uses a term, “Companion of my soul” as someone who has kissed you into greater wholeness in your life. Its like, “looking into one anothers heart to release depths that hitherto we have not known.” He says that “when you find someone who looks into your soul, it releases streams of yearning for life and creativity and peace”. Someone who looks into your soul hurts with you, they experience joy with you, they live life with you. They can be a friend, a mother, a brother, a grandfather or a lover.

I am so blessed, beyond blessed, to have as many companions of my soul that I do. As I mentioned, it wasn’t always this way. I know what it feels like to have no one to share your soul with, to bare your soul with. I also am very aware that not everyone has that either. Some don’t even have one companion to the soul and that is the feeling of sheer and utter aloneness, emptiness, unworthiness. I think the Goo Goo Dolls encapsulate this in their song.

“Iris”

And I’d give up forever to touch you
‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be
And I don’t wanna go home right now

And all I can taste is this moment
And all I can breathe is your life
When sooner or later it’s over
I just don’t wanna miss you tonight

And I don’t want the world to see me
‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand
When everything’s made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am

And you can’t fight the tears that ain’t coming
Or the moment of truth in your lies
When everything feels like the movies
Yeah, you bleed just to know you’re alive

And I don’t want the world to see me
‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand
When everything’s made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am

I just want you to know who I am
I just want you to know who I am
I just want you to know who I am

 

We are yearning for someone to look into our heart, to know who we are, to be a companion to our soul.

What if the pain in the world comes from a lack of companions of the soul? What if that’s what we need to heal? This is not an easy solution because to find a companion, means you have to be one. You have to risk vulnerability and opening your heart to share what is there in order to have that connectedness. Too often people have taken that risk, been rejected and shut down. There is no other easier solution than to risk again. Find the right person and take the leap of faith. It’s worth it. My life is better because of these relationships. No amount of wealth could compare to the richness of having a companion of the soul.